1699 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Oldmixon

Charles Gildon, in Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1699) 109.



This Gentleman is of an ancient Family of Oldmixon, near Bridgewater in Somersetshire. As for the particulars of his Life, I can say little of them, only that he has given the World a Pastoral, called,

Amintas, acted at the Theatre Royal. The Title Page lets us know, that it is taken from the Aminta of Tasso, and the Preface informs us of the ill Success it met with on the Stage: which indeed cannot be attributed to the English Author's Performance, which is as well as the Original wou'd allow; but, with Submission to our Author's better Judgment, I must needs say, that Pastoral it self, tho' never so well writ, is not a Subject fit for so long an Entertainment as that of the Stage. This the Ancients very well knew, and therefore they wisely confin'd it to a narrower Compass, as is evident from the Idyllia of Theocritus, and the Bucolics of Virgil: For the sedater Passions (which our Author himself attributes to a Shepherd's Life) of these Innocent People represented in a Pastoral, cannot afford so lively Pleasure to an Audience, as may ballance the Length of their Attention, that must of necessity grow languid, and tyr'd, with so very calm an Emotion, which is still kept active by the more violent Passions, proper for Tragedy. This extending of the ancient Pastoral to so unreasonable a length was, as well as Farce, an Italian Invention, and not one jot the better, because cover'd with so great a Name as Tasso's. I cou'd never find that Authority wou'd silence the Sentiments of Nature and Reason; and Tasso, that has been guilty of Absurdeties enough in his Epic Poem, must not be suppos'd infallible in his Pastoral. After all, I am of Opinion, that it is but a weak Refuge to fly to the Opinion or Taste of a Foreign Nation, from the Judgment of our own; for I'm satisfy'd that there are not fewer Men of Sence, in England, and a great many more of Learning, than Italy affords us. Aminta might please there, but if we judge by our Taste of Poetry, and with ours by the Ancients, it pleas'd without Reason, and only perhaps for the Novelty, or, which is yet most likely, because it was sung in Italy, that Musical Nation minding more the Performance of the Composer, than Poet. All that can be said for our Author is, that in an ill Choice, he has equal'd his Original, and in some Places improv'd it.