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NAHUM TATE.

It is amusing, if not edifying, to observe the manner in which all works of general reference, save à very few, repeat in regular succession the idlest inventions, and the clumsiest distortions of fact. In literary history this is especially the case, and we can trace in dictionary after dictionary, life after life, note upon note, some blunder copied with slight variations by book-makers, who lacked the honest industry to investigate, or the ingenuity to detect falsehood.

So because Tate was put into the " Dunciad," and Warburton sought to crush him, he has ever since been treated as a malefactor and impostor. In "The Pictorial History of England" he is described as "the author of the worst alteration of Shakespeare, the worst version of the Psalms of David, and the worst continuation of a great poem.' Now it nevertheless does so happen, that his alteration of "King Lear" kept possession of the stage for nearly a century, and that Dr. Johnson admits that when an attempt was made to play the tragedy as Shakespeare wrote it, the public decided in favour of Tate; that in

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seeking to dwarf the sublimity of Hebrew poetry by English rhyme and metre, he has only failed where every one else has done so; that his Version of the Psalms has for more than a hundred and fifty years been used in our Churches; that it was in itself no small thing to be Dryden's coadjutor; and that the parts of the continuation contributed by Tate have such merit, that Sir Walter Scott, not prone to be charitable towards him, is compelled to conjecture that they underwent the revision of Dryden..

He was doubtless only a second-rate man; but does he deserve to be damned in one sentence as a tenth-rate scribbler by those who very probably have read but a small portion of his works? In another compilation,* full of inaccuracies, he is assailed with acrimony, and treated with contempt. That he was the friend of Dryden, the protégé of Dorset, and Laureate for a quarter of a century, even those writers so hasty and indiscriminate in their censures will not deny. We may perhaps show that, however extravagant in tragedy, he was as a dramatist tolerably successful in comedy, farce, and opera; that he has done some good service as an English Psalmodist, and that he is not utterly unworthy of a brief, if not a eulogistic memoir.

Nahum Tate's grandfather and father were both clergymen. It is to be regretted that he did not adopt the hereditary profession. Coleridget has declared that all literary men should have some source of income besides the pen; and there is no lack of instances to show that first as well as second-rate men of letters may live and die in indigence; and that in one age refuge may be sought in the Mint, in another in the Insolvent Court. His father, Dr. Faithful Teat, (for in this way was the name spelled until Tate adopted the English orthography of the Irish mal-pronunciation) was minister of Ballyhays. He

* Lives of English Dramatists. Lardner's Encyclopædia. + Biog. Liter.

was educated at Winchester, but expelled from that school; and became the author of some poems and theological works. During some disturbances in Ireland, he gave information against a party of rebels, who wreaked their vengeance by robbing him on his way to Dublin; while a part of the gang simultaneously plundered his house, and treated his family with such severity that three of his children died from the cruelties inflicted on them. After residing some time in the lodgings of the Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, he was appointed to preferment in Kent, but finally returned to Dublin. He is supposed to have been inclined to Puritanical opinions; but the surmise may have arisen from the fact of his giving his children (which was the fashion with this party) scriptural names.

Nahum was born at Dublin in 1652. He was for some time at Belfast under the tuition of a master whose name was Savage, and he matriculated at the age of sixteen, at` Trinity College, Dublin. Of his university career nothing whatever is known. He appears to have determined on not adopting a profession, and came up to London to seek his fortune as a literary man. He was so fortunate as to gain the friendship of Dryden and the patronage of Dorset. His earliest production was a volume of poems in 1677. It consists of a great many verses on subjects the most heterogeneous. One composition laments "the present corrupted state of Poetry," and is, doubtlessly, a striking example of the decay of which it complains. There are some erotic lays replete with the quaintest and most elaborate conceits. The last stanza of a poem called "The Tear," reminds us, of (but we must not compare it

with) Mr. Rogers' simple and beautiful lines on the same subject. Tate's are:

"It shall be so. I will convert
This tear to a gem-tis feasible;
For laid near Julia's frozen heart

"Twill to a diamond congeal;

And yet, if I consider well,

These tears of Julia can forbode no ill

The frost is breaking, when such drops distil."

But the booksellers who catered for the taste of the small reading public of that day did not remunerate our poet very liberally for these effusions; so he betook himself, at once, to the stage, then the best source of income to authors.

His first production was "Brutus of Alba, or the Enchanted Lovers," a tragedy. It was dedicated to the Earl of Dorset with the usual amount of flattery, and the poet tells his patron that to lay this tragedy at his feet transports him more than the greatest success on the stage could have done. The play was originally to have been called "Dido and Eneas," but Tate with much modesty feared to attempt "any character drawn by the incomparable Virgil." The plot is founded on an old story told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who gives the descent of the Welsh Princes from Brutus the Trojan. This Brutus, according to him, came from Troy to Albion, killed a race of giants who occupied this country, and then built London. Tate applies the incidents of the fourth book of the Æneid to this fabulous hero; and as it is his first and most original drama, the reader may be amused by a short account of the plot, which is interesting from its daring absurdities. The scene is laid at Syracuse. Brutus, Prince of the Dardan forces, has been cast by a storm on the shore of Sicily. He is brought into the presence of the Queen of Syracuse, who at once falls hopelessly in love with him. With him is his son Locrinus, who signalizes himself by slaying in a quarrel a young Syracusan, the son of Soziman. Brutus, with much magnanimity, gives up his son to justice; but upon the youth

explaining to her Majesty that he was entirely in the right, and the dead man entirely in the wrong, she instantly pardons him, and makes Soziman, who is described as a designing lord, her secret enemy. Brutus is so much distracted with grief for the loss of his friend Assaracus, who has on his voyage suffered shipwreck, that he cannot at first reciprocate the royal regard. Meanwhile, two ambassadors arrive from Agrigentum to demand the Queen in marriage for their lord and master, offering the alternative of war in case of a refusal. Her Majesty valorously and haughtily spurns the proposal. Soziman, however, resolves in a soliloquy that the tyrant of Agrigentum shall have the Queen's person while he allots to himself the sceptre of Syracuse. In the midst of all this, the lost friend, Assaracus, arrives. Brutus is in ecstasies of joy. Then ensues a tender scene between the Queen and her confidante Amarante, in which the royal lady confesses the soft impeachment of being over head and ears in love with Brutus. So ends Act I.

In Act II., the Agrigentine ambassadors and Soziman intrigue, and a plan is arranged by which Soziman is to be put in possession of the throne of Syracuse, on the condition of the Queen being delivered up into the hands of the King of Agrigentum. Meanwhile, her charms have won her another lover in Assaracus, who declares his passion in a very rough and blustering style, informing her that he has been so unfortunate as to have become enamoured of her, that he is very sorry for it, and hopes she will in no way encourage his advances. She replies that she will endeavour to be as reserved as he wishes, but confesses in a soliloquy that she cannot but admire the odd grace of his surly passion. Brutus and Assaracus are both invited to join her Majesty in a hunting expedition. Next follows an interview between Brutus and the Queen,

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