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A VENETIAN STORY.

Rosalind. Farewell, Monsieur Traveller: Look, you lisp, and wear strange suits: disable all the benefits of your own country; be out of love with your Nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think that you have swam in a Gondola.

As You Like It, Act IV. Sc. 1.

Annotation of the Commentators.

That is, been at Venice, which was much visited by the young English gentlemen of those times, and was then what Paris is now - the seat of all dissoluteness. S. A. (1)

(1) [Roger Ascham, Queen Elizabeth's tutor, says, in his "Schoolmaster"-"Although I was only nine days at Venice, I saw, in that little time, more liberty to sin, than ever I heard tell of in the city of London in nine years."-E.]

[BEPPO was written at Venice, in October, 1817, and acquired great popularity immediately on its publication in the May of the following year. Lord Byron's letters show that he attached very little importance to it at the time. He was not aware that he had opened a new vein, in which his genius was destined to work out some of its brightest triumphs. "I have written," he says to Mr. Murray, " a poem humorous, in or after the excellent manner of Mr. Whistlecraft, and founded on a Venetian anecdote which amused me. It is called Beppo-the short name for Giuseppo, — that is, the Joe of the Italian Joseph. It has politics and ferocity." Again"Whistlecraft is my immediate model, but Berni is the father of that kind of writing; which, I think, suits our language, too, very well. We shall see by this experiment. It will, at any rate, show that I can write cheerfully, and repel the charge of monotony and mannerism." He wished Mr. Murray to accept of Beppo as a free gift, or, as he chose to express it," as part of the contract for Canto Fourth of Childe Harold;" adding, however, "if it pleases, you shall have more in the same mood; for I know the Italian way of life, and, as for the verse and the passions, I have them still in tolerable vigour."

The Right Honourable John Hookham Frere has, then, by Lord Byron's confession, the merit of having first introduced the Bernesque style into our language; but his performance, entitled "Prospectus and Specimen of an intended National Work, by William and Robert Whistlecraft, of Stowmarket, in Suffolk, Harness and Collar Makers, intended to comprise the most interesting Particulars relating to King Arthur and his Round Table," though it delighted all elegant and learned readers, obtained at the time little notice from the public at large, and is already almost forgotten. For the causes of this failure, about which Mr. Rose and others have written at some length, it appears needless to look further than the last sentence we have been quoting from the letters of the author of the more successful Beppo. Whistlecraft had the verse: it had also

the humour, the wit, and even the poetry of the Italian model; but it wanted the life of actual manners, and the strength of stirring passions. Mr. Frere had forgot, or was, with all his genius, unfit to profit by remembering, that the poets, whose style he was adopting, always made their style appear a secondary matter. They never failed to embroider their merriment on the texture of a really interesting story. Lord Byron perceived this; and avoiding his immediate master's one fatal error, and at least equalling him in the excellences which he did display, engaged at once the sympathy of readers of every class, and became substantially the founder of a new species of English poetry.

In justice to Mr. Frere, however, whose "Specimen" has long been out of print, we must take this opportunity of showing how completely, as to style and versification, he had anticipated Beppo and Don Juan. In the introductions to his cantos, and in various detached passages of mere description, he had produced precisely the sort of effect at which Lord Byron aimed in what we may call the secondary, or merely ornamental, parts of his Comic Epic. For example, this is the beginning of Whistlecraft's first canto : —

"I've often wish'd that I could write a book,
Such as all English people might peruse;

I never should regret the pains it took,

That's just the sort of fame that I should choose:
To sail about the world like Captain Cook,
I'd sling a cot up for my favourite Muse,
And we'd take verses out to Demarara,
To New South Wales, and up to Niagara.

"Poets consume exciseable commodities,

They raise the nation's spirit when victorious,
They drive an export trade in whims and oddities,
Making our commerce and revenue glorious;
As an industrious and pains-taking body 'tis
That Poets should be reckon'd meritorious :
And therefore I submissively propose

To erect one Board for Verse and one for Prose.

"Princes protecting Sciences and Art

I've often seen, in copper-plate and print;
I never saw them elsewhere, for my part,
And therefore I conclude there's nothing in '

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