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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 1.djvu/451

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409
HINTS FROM HORACE.

To gaze when sable Hubert threats to sear
Young Arthur's eyes, can ours or Nature bear?280
A haltered heroine[1] Johnson sought to slay—
We saved Irene, but half damned the play,
And (Heaven be praised!) our tolerating times
Stint Metamorphoses to Pantomimes;
And Lewis'[2] self, with all his sprites, would quake
To change Earl Osmond's negro to a snake!
Because, in scenes exciting joy or grief,
We loathe the action which exceeds belief:
And yet, God knows! what may not authors do,
Whose Postscripts prate of dyeing "heroines blue"?[3]290


Above all things, Dan Poet, if you can,

Eke out your acts, I pray, with mortal man,
  1. "Irene had to speak two lines with the bowstring round her neck; but the audience cried out ['Murder!'] 'Murder!' and she was obliged to go off the stage alive."—Boswell's Johnson [1876, p. 60]. [Irene (first played February 6, 1749) for the future was put to death behind the scenes. The strangling her, contrary to Horace's rule, coram populo, was suggested by Garrick. (See Davies' Life of Garrick (1808), i. 157.)]
  2. [Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775-1818). (Vide English Bards, etc., l. 265, n. 8.) The character of Hassan, "my misanthropic negro," as Lewis called him, was said by the critics of the day to have been borrowed from Zanga in Young's Revenge. Lewis, in his "Address to the Reader," quoted by Byron (in note 3), defends the originality of the conception.]
  3. In the postscript to The Castle Spectre, Mr. Lewis tells us, that though blacks were unknown in England at the period of his action, yet he has made the anachronism to set off the scene: and if he could have produced the effect "by making his heroine blue,"—I quote him—"blue he would have made her!" [The Castle Spectre, by M. G. Lewis, Esq., M.P., London, 1798, page 102.]