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leave an unbounded liberty to pure imagination and fiction (otfr favourite provinces), where no critic can molest, or antiquary gainsay us; and yet (to please me) these fictions must have some affinity, some seeming connexion, with that little we really know of the character and customs of the people. For example, I never heard in my days that midnight and the moon were sisters; that they carried rods of ebony and gold, or met to whisper on the top of a mountain: but now I could lay my life it is all true; and do not doubt it will be found so in some pantheon of the Druids, that is to be discovered in the library at Herculaneum. . The Car of Destiny and Death, is a very noble invention of the same class, and, as far as that goes^ is so fine, that it makes me more delicate, than perhaps I should be, about the close of it. Andra.sU sailing on the wings of Fame, that snatches the wreaths from oblivion to hang them on ber loftiest Amaranth, though a clear and beautiful piece of unknown mythology, has too Greek an air to give me perfect satisfaction.
Now I proceed. The preparation to the chorus, though so much akin to that in the former act, is excellent. The remarks of Evelina and her suspicions of the brothers, mixed with a secret inclination totheyounger of them (though, I think, her part throughout wants re-touching) yet please me much, and the contrivance of the following scene much more. Masters of IVisdomfno, &c. I always admired; as I do the rocking stone, and the distress of Elidurus. Evelina's examination of him is a well invented scene, and will be, with a little pains, a very touching one; but the introduction of Arviragus is superlative. I am not sure whether those few lines of his short narrative, My strength repaired, it boots not, that I tell, &c. do not please me as much as any thing in the whole drama. The sullen bravery of Elidurus, the menaces of the chorus, that Think not, religion, &c. the trumpet of the Druids, that I'll follow him, though in my chains, &c. I last thou a brother, no, &c. the placability of the chorus, when they see the motives of Elidurus'* obstinacy, give me great contentment: so do the reflections of the Druid on the necessity of lustration, and the reasons for Vellinus's easy escape; but 1 would not have hiai seize on a spear, nor issue hasty through the cavern's mouth. Why should he not steal away, unasked and unmissed, till the hurry of passions in those, that should have guarded him, was a little abated? But I chiefly admire the two speeches of Elidurus; Ah, Felliims, is this then, &c. and Ye do fcase on me. fathers, &c. the manner in which the chorus reply to him is very fine; but the image at the end wants a , little mending. The next scene is highly moving! it is so very good, that 1 must have it made yet better.
Now for the last act. I do not know what you would have, but to me the design and contrivance of it is at least equal to any part of the whole. The short-lived triumph of the Britons, the address of Caractacus to the Roman victims, Evelina's discovery of the ambush, the mistake of the Roman tires for the rising sun, the death of Arviragus, the interview between Didius and Caractacus, his mourning over his dead son, his parting speech (in which you have made all tne use of Tacitus that your plan would admit), every thing, in short, but that little dispute between Didius and him; "Ti* well; and therefore to increase that reverence, &c. down to Give me a moment (which must be omitted, or put in the mouth nf the Druids), I approve in the highest degree. If 1 should find any fault with the last act, it could only be with trifles and little expressions. If you make any alterations, I fear it will never improve it; I mean as to the plan. I send you back the two last sheets, because You bid me. 1 reserve my nibblings a.nd minutiae for another day.
TO MR. MASON.
Cambridge, Dec. 19, 1747.
A Life spent out of the world has iis hours of despondence, its inconveniences, its sufferings, as numerous and as real, though not quite of the same sort, as a life spent in the midst of it. The power we have, when we will exert it over our own minds, joined to a little strength and consolation, nay, a little pride we catch from those that seem to love us, is our only support in either oi these conditions. 1 am sensible I cannot return you more of this assistance than 1 have received from you; and can only tell you, that one who has far more reason than you, I hope, ever will have to look on life with something worse than indifference, is yet no enemy to it; but can look backward on many bitter moments, partly with saUsfacVOL. iv. 19
tion, and partly with patience; and forward too, on a scene not very promising, with some hope, and some expectations of a better day. The cause, however, which occasioned your reflection (though I can judge but very imperfectly of it) does not seem, at present, to be weighty enough to make you take any such resolution as you meditate. Use it in its season, as a relief from what is tiresome to you, but not as if it was in consequence of any thing you take ill; on the contrary, if such a thing had happened at the time of your transmigration, I would defer it merely to avoid that appearance.
As to myself, I cannot boast, at present, either of my spirits, my situation, my employments, or fertility. The days and the nights pass, and I am never the nearer to any thing, but that one to which we are all tending; yet I love people that leave some traces of their journey behind them, and have strength enough to advise you to do so while you can. I expect to see Caractacus completed, and therefore I send you the books you wanted. I do n >t know whether they will furnish you with any new matter; but they are well enough written, and easily read. I told you before that (in a time of dearth) I would borrow from the Edda,