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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

§ 18. Its Invective and its Fallacies

It was Collier’s supreme error to confuse art with life. He had but one touchstone for the drama, and that was the habit of his kind. He laid it down for an axiom that nothing must be discussed upon the stage which was contrary to the experience of his own blameless fireside. He assumed that the poet was an advocate for all the sins which he depicted; that, if he brought upon the stage a thief or an adulterer, he proudly glorified theft and adultery. Never once did he attempt to understand the artist’s motive or point of view, to estimate the beauty and value of words, to make allowance for the changing manners of changed times. His mind was not subtle enough to perceive that, in Congreve’s words, “it is the business of the comic poet to paint the vices and follies of human kind.” As he could see no difference between art and life, so he could not separate satire from the thing satirised. That lord Foppington is held up to ridicule did not hinder his condemnation. His famous comment upon Juvenal convicts him of absurdity. “He teaches those vices he would correct, and writes more like a pimp than a poet.… Such nauseous stuff is almost enough to debauch the alphabet, and make the language scandalous.” And he does not understand that, if Juvenal be not justified, then he himself is guilty of the crimes which he imputes to Congreve and Vanbrugh.