Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > The Restoration Drama > Earlier Attacks in this Period on the Stage: Rymer’s Short View of Tragedy
  Vanbrugh and Perrault Jeremy Collier’s Short View  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

VI. The Restoration Drama.

§ 16. Earlier Attacks in this Period on the Stage: Rymer’s Short View of Tragedy.


Twenty-eight years before the death of Vanbrugh—in 1698—Jeremy Collier 4  had startled the town with his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, and as Congreve and Vanbrugh are arraigned therein with especial bitterness, something must here be said of this unforgotten, acrid controversy. The attack upon literature was not new. Evelyn had already deplored the licence of the stage. In his preface to Prince Arthur, Sir Richard Blackmore had complained that the poets used “all their wit in opposition to religion, and to the destruction of virtue and good manners in the world.” The old question of art and morals had been debated with rare intelligence by Robert Wolseley in 1685, by way of preface to Valentinian, and Joseph Wright, in his Country Conversations (1694), had protested against the attacks made by the stage upon virtue and the clergy. Jeremy Collier, then, addressed a public inured to his argument, which he pressed with a ferocity beyond the reach of his immediate predecessors. A clergyman and non-juror, Collier was indicted for absolving Friend and Parkyns at Tyburn, and, refusing to give himself up, was outlawed. As a critic, if critic he may be called, Collier was a patient pupil of Thomas Rymer, whose style, method and paraded erudition he most faithfully mimicked. He did but apply the “good sense,” wherewith Rymer demolished Shakespeare, to the comedies of his time. Indeed, it is not too much to say that had the Short View of Tragedy not been written, we never should have seen the Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage. When Rymer says: “Should the Poet have provided such a husband for an only daughter of any noble Peer in England, the Blackamoor must have changed his skin to look our house of Lords in the face,” and roundly declares “that there is not a monkey that understands nature better, not a pig in Barbary that has not a truer taste of things” than Othello, you see the cupboard from which Jeremy Collier filched his good things.   28

Note 4. As to Jeremy Collier’s general activity as a historian and essayist, see post, Vol. IX. [ back ]

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  Vanbrugh and Perrault Jeremy Collier’s Short View  
 
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