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selves out to be. They were all, according to their own story, made up of splendid errors and useless virtues, and were unanimously unhappy. It was for a time a most ludicrous evil; for nothing can be more ridiculous than to see a small mind playing the egotist, and describing the agony of its feelings at the same time that it is hunting for a rhyme, and seeing that the line contains the requisite number of syllables. This folly has in a great measure past away; and the Waverley imitation fever, which succeeded, has been much more rational in its motives, and creditable in its results. True, historical novels have become almost as much a drug in the market as fashionable ones. The public is beginning to get tired of the portraits of defunct kings, queens, and courtiers; and the number of great men that have been resuscitated and made to speak in the first person singular, has become alarming. Indeed, our novelists are perfect literary resurrection-men. Many persons, because the great magician, Walter Scott, can raise the spirits of the past, and make them act and speak as they were wont, think they can do the same but the public do not. It is far from pleasant to see these liberties taken with the mighty dead, except by one as mighty as any of them, Shakspeare excepted. Still there has been much talent, learning, and research displayed in works of this description, by Horace Smith, Mr. James, and others, which might have gained for their authors great credit with posterity, as they have already with the present generation, had not their merits been overshadowed by those of their immortal prototype. As it is, they will as surely go to the "oblivious cooks” as every word of this essay will be forgotten next week by the people who read it. For our own poor taste, after Sir Walter Scott, in the
present age, give us Washington Irving's portraits of great dead men. His Wouter Von Twiller, William Klieft, and Peter Stuyvesant, are three as finished pictures in the fine, quiet, rich old Dutch school as any one need wish to look upon.
But the greatest field for imitation is theatricals, and here it is of the very worst species. The beauties of a great actor are never attempted to be copied; they are too difficult; but any unfortunate peculiarity or bad and vicious habit is seized upon with avidity and fondly cherished. Because John Kemble was troubled with an asthmatic-complaint, all the Rollas, Catos, and Hamlets that came for some time after him were likewise troubled with asthma, and a short. dry cough; with Macready came the almost ridiculous stateliness of gesture and fastidious arrangement of the garments, without any of his fine qualities; and Kean's fame has
been the means of introducing many a young mars on the stage, who could do nothing but imitate those little Keanisms and physical defects which occasionally disfigured his beautiful intellectual acting. A would-be vocalist, with the voice of a raven, thinks himself a good deal like Braham, because in singing he can hold his hat precisely as he does, and has succeeded in catching a few of that gentleman's peculiarly awkward gestures. Talking of singing—is the prevailing admiration of Italian music and performances counterfeit or real, or a little of both? Is it in imitation of the English who imitate the French in this respect, or is it a genuine indigenous feeling? The Italian is a noble school of music, and it would be gratifying to perceive a gradual relish for it; but it is apt to create mistrust to see the exuberance of admiration expressed for it all of a sudden by a large party of people, nineteentwentieths of whom are neither familiar with the music nor the language; and we are afraid there is some truth in the anecdote now whispered round the city, of a party of musical cognoscenti having been thrown into a fit of enthusiasm by what they supposed to be an Italian gentleman's manner of giving a composition of Cimarosa's, but which, words and air, eventually turned out to be a genuine Welch ditty, howled out by one Taffy ap Shen
kin, of Glamorganshire ! Certain it is, that many things pass off with great eclat when sung in a foreign language by signors, signoras, or signorinas, which would sound vilely from the mouth of plain Mr. Jobson, Mrs. Brown, or Miss Dobbs. The blunt tradesman had really some reason to be astonished when on inquiring if “signorina” did not literally mean in Italian “great singer," he was given to understand that it was merely equivalent to the simple English word “Miss." We recollect a gentleman of the name of Comer, formerly of this city, who used to sing an Italian air with American words to it—“When the banners of freedom are waving"—without producing any marked effects ; but no sooner did the same gentleman replace the Italian words, “ Non piu andrai," than it was instantly recognised as something extremely fine, and vociferously encored. Now, without meaning to undervalue worthy foreigners who reach these shores, it is probable that there is no small quantity of affectation in the admiration expressed for them, and that the majority applaud without having any definite idea on the subject, in imitation of the few who are supposed to know. Such foreigners are, at the same time, both overrated and not sufficiently appreciated-overrated as a whole, and not appreciated in detail, for what is really meritorious. Our
harsh northern dialect may not be so well adapted to musical composition as that of the "sweet south," but it does not follow that every Italian composition and singer must of necessity be superlatively fine; and allowing our general inferiority, a song in a language which a man understands, will always, affectation aside, be more grateful to his ear than the mere tinkle of soft sounds. The one, indeed, goes no further than the ear, while the other, through the medium of the understanding, reaches the heart, and any song that does so is worth twenty others that do not. If people would take the trouble to consult their own judgments, feelings, and common sense on such subjects, instead of being carried away by vague ideas and learned-looking words, they would find it to their interest ; as it is, they let others inoculate them with opinions which in time they come to believe their own.