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Indeed, such a catastrophe would not have been alien to the genius of Mr Maturin, who, in the present, as well as in former publications, has shown some desire to wield the wand of the enchanter, and to call in the aid of supernatural horrors. While De Courcy was in the act of transferring his allegiance from Eva to Zaira, the phantom of the former, her wraith—as we call in Scotland the apparition of a living person—glides past him, arrayed in white, with eyes closed, and face pale and colourless, and is presently afterwards seen lying beneath his feet as he assists Zaira into the carriage. Eva has a dream, corresponding to the apparition in all its circumstances. This incident resembles one which we have read in our youth in Aubrey, Baxter, or some such savoury and sapient collector of ghost-stories; but we chiefly mention it, to introduce a remarkable alteration in the tragedy of Bertram, adopted by the author, we believe, with considerable regret. It consists in the retrenchment of a passage or two of great poetical beauty, in which Bertram is represented as spurred to the commission of his great crimes, by the direct agency of a supernatural and malevolent being. We have been favoured with a copy of the lines by a particular friend and admirer of the author, to whom he presented the manuscript copy of his play, in which alone they exist. The Prior, in his dialogue with Bertram, mentions “the dark knight of the forest,
So from his armour named and sable helm,
He dwells alone; no earthly thing lives near him,
Bertram is afterwards discovered alone, wandering near the fatal tower, and describes the effect of the awful interview which he had courted.
Bertram. Was it a man or fiend ?– Whate'er it was
So sweeps the tempest o'er the slumbering desert,
The description of the fiend's port and language, —the effect which the conference with him produces upon Bertram's mind,-the terrific dignity with which the intercourse with such an associate invests him, and its rendering him a terror even to his own desperate banditti, is all well conceived, and executed in a grand and magnificent strain of poetry; and, in the perusal, supposing the reader were carrying his mind back to the period when such intercourse between mortals and demons was considered as matter of indisputable truth, the . story acquires probability and consistency, even from that which is in itself not only improbable but impossible. The interview with the incarnate fiend of the forest, would, in these days, be supposed to have the same effect upon the mind of Bertram, as the “metaphysical aid” of the witches produces upon that of Macbeth, awakening and stimulating that appetite for crime, which slumbered in the bosom of both, till called forth by supernatural suggestion. At the same time, while we are happy to preserve a passage of such singular beauty and power, we approve of the taste which retrenched it in action. The suadente diabolo is now no longer a phrase even in our indictments; and we fear his Satanic Majesty, were he to appear on the stage in modern times, would certainly incur the appropriate fate of damnation."
' [“I take some credit to myself,” says Lord Byron, “for having done my best to bring out Bertram. Walter Scott was the first who mentioned Maturin, which he did to me with great recommendation in 1815. Maturin sent his Bertram, and a letter without his address, so that at first I could give him no answer. When I at last hit upon his residence, I sent him a favourable answer, and something more substantial.” Bertram was successful. But Mr Maturin's second dramatic attempt proved a failure. Lord Byron terms Manuel “the absurd work of a
To return to the present work-We observe, with pleasure, that Mr Maturin has put his genius under better regulation than in his former publications, and retrenched that luxuriance of language, and too copious use of ornament, which distinguishes the authors and orators of Ireland, whose
... exuberance of imagination sometimes places them
in the predicament of their honest countryman, who complained of being run away with by his legs. This excessive indulgence of the imagination is proper to a country where there is more genius than taste, and more copiousness than refinement of ideas. But it is an error to suffer the weeds to rush up with the grain, though their appearance may prove the richness of the soil. There is a time when an author should refrain, like Job, “even from good words—though it should be pain to him.”—And although we think Mr Maturin has reformed that error indifferently well, in his present work, we do pray him, in his future compositions, to reform it altogether. For the rest, we dismiss him with our best wishes, and not without hopes that we may again meet him in the maze of fiction, since, although he has threatened, like Prospero, to break his wand, we have done our poor endeavour to save his book from being burned.
clever man,” and, “with the exception of a few capers, as heavy a nightmare as ever bestrode indigestion.”]