Page images
PDF
EPUB

gle strange fire” with the lights of heaven. He did his best, however, and called in the aid of ancient and modern bards to enable him to dispute the too exclusive empire of heaven in her bosom.

“‘Why are you so silent, Eva 2' he said, as they returned from the conventicle which the Wentworths frequented.—“I was thinking of that fine text.”—“What was it 2 '-' What was it?’ said Eva, almost relinquishing his arm, from a feeling stronger and more unpleasant than surprise, for she had no idea of any one forgetting the text so soon.—“I have a bad memory —or a bad headach,” said De Courcy, trying to smile away her amazement—“ or, perhaps, I would rather hear it from your lips than those of that dark-browed sallow man.”—“It is little matter,’ said Eva, ‘from what lips we hear the truth. The text was, God is Love.’”—“Oh, Eval' said De Courcy, under an impulse he could not resist, “do we require any thing more than this dark-blue sky, this balmy air, those lovely stars that glitter like islands of light in an immeasurable ocean, and point out our destination amid its bright and boundless infinity, to tell us that “God is Love?' Why must we learn it in the close and heated air of a conventicle, with all its repulsive accompaniments of gloomy looks, sombre habits, dim lights, nasal hymns 2 Are these the interpreters the Deity employs as the intimations of his love 2°–" They are,' said Eva, awakened to an answer, but never thus awakened for more than a moment—“they are. For to the poor the gospel is preached, and they seldom feel any thing of the atmosphere but its inclemency, —to the sick, and they cannot encounter it,--to the unhappy, and they cannot enjoy it.’”— P. 142-144.

It was scarce possible that this conflict should have long continued, without the lover becoming colder, and more sensible to the various disagreeable points of his situation, or the beloved condescending to descend a few steps towards earth from the point of quietism which she occupied. De Courcy began to relax. Ball-rooms, billiard-tables, and theatres disputed the charms even of Eva's society, since he could only enjoy it in the gloomy conventicle, or scarce less gloomy mansion of the Wentworths; and then, alternately repulsed by her coldness, and exasperated by the officious zeal of Wentworth, or the more studied insults of Macowen, who looked upon his addresses to Eva as an interference with his own views. At the moment when the irreconcilable difference between his sentiments and habits, and those of all in Dominic Street, became less capable of disguise, and just as the good man Wentworth was triumphing in an approaching controversy, in which a Socinian, a Catholic, an Arian, and an Arminian were, in knightly phrase, to keep the barriers against twelve resolute Catholics, De Courcy discovers in the papers the arrival of Madame Dalmatiani, the first singer, as well as the first tragic actress in Europe. This lady was pronounced, by the general report of Europe, to be a Siddons, a Catalani, a La Tiranna, with all the terrible Medea graces, all the Muses in short, and all the Graces embodied in the form of a female of exquisite beauty. To De Courcy's ill-timed eulogium on this celebrated performer, Wentworth answered in a strain of triumph. “Every histriomastrix, from Tertullian down to Prynne and Collier, might have been raised from the dead with joy. He cursed stages, stage-plays stage-players, frequenters and abettors, from Thespis down to Mr Harris and the committee of Drury-Lane, lamp-lighters, scene-shifters, and candlesnuffers inclusive, not forgetting a by-blow at De Courcy for visiting those tents of Kedar.” The votary of the drama and its abominator parted in mutual wrath, and De Courcy had an additional motive, besides those of curiosity and interest, to go to the theatre: he desired to show his independence, and his sense of Wentworth's illiberal prejudices. To the theatre, accordingly, he went, and the appearance and effect produced by this celebrated actress, is thus vividly described.

“A brilliant audience, lights, music, and the murmur of delighted expectation, prepared Charles for a far different object from Eva. What a contrast, in the very introduction, between the dark habits, pale lights, solemn music, and awful language of a conventicle, and the gaiety and splendour of a theatre He felt already disposed to look with delight on one who was so brightly harbingered, though it was amid a scene so different his first impressions of passion had been received and felt. The curtain rose : and, in a few moments after, Madame Dalmatiani entered. She rushed so rapidly on the stage, and burst with such an overwhelming cataract of sound on the ear, in a bravura that seemed composed apparently not to task, but to defy the human voice, that all eyes were dazzled, and all ears stunned ; and several minutes elapsed before a thunder of applause testified the astonishment from which the audience appeared scarcely then to respire. She was in the character of a princess, alternately reproaching and supplicating a tyrant for the fate of her lover ; and such was her perfect self-possession, or rather the force with which she entered into the character, that she no more noticed the applauses that thundered round her, than if she had been the individual she represented; and such was the illusion of her figure, her costume, her voice, and her attitudes, that in a few moments the inspiration with which she was agitated was communicated to every spectator. The sublime and sculpture-like perfection of her form—the classical, yet unstudied undulation of her attitudes, almost conveying the idea of a sybil or a prophetess under the force of ancient inspiration—the resplendent and almost overpowering lustre of her beauty, her sun-like eyes, her snowy arms, her drapery blazing with diamonds, yet falling round her figure in folds as light as if the zephyrs had flung it there, and delighted

to sport among its wavings; her imperial loveliness, at once attractive and commanding, and her voice developing all that nature could give, or art could teach, maddening the ignorant with the discovery of a new sense, and daring the scientific beyond the bounds of expectation or of experience-mocking their amazement, and leaving the ear breathless—All these burst at once on Charles, whose heart, and senses, and mind, reeled in intoxication, and felt pleasure annihilated by its own excess.

“It was for the last scene she had reserved her powers—those astonishing powers that could blend the most exquisite tones of melody with the fiercest agitations of passion, that could delight the ear, while they shook the soul. She came forward, after having stabbed the tyrant to avenge the fate of her lover. Her dress was deranged—her long black hair floated on her shoulders —the flowers and diamonds that bound it were flung back—and her bare arms, her dark fixed eyes, the unconscious look with which she grasped the dagger, and the unfelt motion with which from time to time she raised her hand to wipe off the trace of blood from her pale forehead, made the spectators almost tremble for the next victim of one who seemed armed with the beauty, the passions, and the terrors of an avenging goddess. Applauses that shook the house had marked every scene but the last. When the curtain dropt, a dead silence pervaded the whole theatre, and a deep sigh proclaimed relief from oppression no longer supportable.”—Vol. i. p. 160–164.

It cannot have escaped the intelligent reader, that this superb Queen of terror and sorrow, this mistress of all the movements of the human heart, is the highly accomplished, brilliant, and fascinating Zaira, the mother of the simple, retired, and evangelical Eva ; and it can as little escape his penetration, that she is about to become the unconscious rival of her unfortunate child, in the affections of the fickle De Courcy. The death of her wretched husband had left Zaira possessed of the wealth which her talents had acquired, and she was now come to Ireland, with the hope of obtaining from her father, some lights concerning the

destiny of her infant child. By his stern injunction, she retained her borrowed name and public character. De Courcy had a nominal guardian, a silly man of fortune, called Sir Richard Longwood, whose silly wife had presented him with two daughters whom we must pronounce rather too silly for the rank which they are represented as holding in good society. At the house and the parties of Lady Longwood, De Courcy is thrown into the society of Zaira, rendered doubly dangerous by her various talents and extent of cultivation, as well as her brilliancy of taste, feeling, mind, and manners, forming so strong a contrast with the uniform simplicity and limited character of poor Eva. Yet it was Eva whom he visited after the first evening spent in the fascinating society of Zaira, ere yet he paid his respects to the syren whose image had begun to eclipse her in his bosom. “Eva and her aunt were at work; the room was large; the dark-brown paper, two candles dimly burning on the work table, the silent quiet figures that sat beside it, the shelves loaded with volumes of divinity, the still sombrous air of every thing ; no musical instrument, no flowers, no paintings; what a contrast to the scene he had last witnessed, and to the scene he was hastening to 1 "-P. 199. Here he asked for books, and had his choice of Sandeman's Letters, Boston's Fourfold State, Gill on Isaiah, or Owen on the Hebrews. Milton was the only author of genius permitted to hold a place on these well-purged shelves. Milton, De Courcy began to read, but was soon silenced by Mrs Wentworth's severe remarks on the lapse of that great

« PreviousContinue »