« PreviousContinue »
LINES ON THE GRAVE OF A CHILD.
Oh, sweet my baby! liest thou here,
Ah, no! within this silent tomb
Oh, sweet my baby! round thy brow
The yew was green,-and green to me
I have a flower, that press'd the mouth
Although its leaves look pale and dry,
How blooming to a father's eye!
Oh, changed the hour since thou didst rest
Oh! can I e'er forget the kiss
May'st thou repay that kiss to me
high placed in Smithfield.-CHURCHILL.
The labour we delight in is precisely that which has seldom been selected by critics of a common order; it is the labour of tracing merit to its farthest recesses, of evincing its claims, and procuring its reward. The prosecution of this object hath exposed us more than once to the fury of the bigoted and the ignorant, and even writers of clear comprehension and sound probity have sometimes quarrelled with our motives, and disputed our deductions. This, however, may be explained by the words of honest Brantome : Que c'est d'avoir affaire à une langue et plume venimeuse, qui, quand elle est piquée, n'espargne rien. Such, at least, is the solution that experience has taught us to admit, and that anger, for we cannot conceal our feelings, excites us to apply.
In pursuance of this system, we went on Wednesday, the 6th of September, to Richardson's theatrical establishment in Bartholomew Fair, and we should falsify every notion with which the gaiety, splendour, and elegance of that delightful resort has impressed us, if we were to refrain from bestowing our enthusiastic approbation upon the taste and spirit with which its entertainments were pervaded. The liberal, acute, and enterprising Lessee of this concern had announced an entire “ change of performance each day;" but owing to the truly electrical effect of the pieces originally produced, the public voice necessitated their repetition, and for eight-and-forty hours they were suffered to pursue their triumphant career of success, without abatement or interruption.
Fully conscious that the literary attributes of his theatre demanded the most serious consideration, the Proprietor devoted himself with intense ardour to the production of pieces distinguished by their poetical merit. For this purpose, a gentleman, well known in the world of letters by his designation of A. B., was re
gularly engaged, and the first fruits of his classical pen have been an “entire new tragic melo-drame,” called the Roman Wife; or a Father's Vengeance! and an “entire new comic pantomime," called Harlequin and the Devil! or, the Drunken Friar. The unprecedented success of these dramas might be fairly substituted in the room of criticism, but we owe too much to the cause of talent to shrink from the delightful, though elaborate duty it has imposed. We shall therefore proceed to furnish an outline of these magical pieces, and the archives of the stage have never been graced, it is probable, with a tragedy or a pantomime so happily planned, or so powerfully constructed.
Without entering into any disquisition upon the comparative merits of melo-drame and harlequinade, we shall abide by the common rule of precedence, and deliver our sentiments upon the first, before we attempt to develope the claims of the latter : a different course of proceeding will, perhaps, be expected from us, but we shall still take the liberty to follow our own ideas, and reserve the discussion of that abstract point till a fitter opportunity.
Gonzaria, Duke of Milan, is the parent of Horatius, whose mother died in child-bed, owing to the unskilfulness of her accoucheur. The passions of this aspiring youth, for want of maternal restraint, have led him into various excesses, in the course of which, though but forty-seven years of age, he has clandestinely wedded Eudocia, a virgin of unparalleled beauty, but vulgar connexions, without the sanction or privity of his royal father. This indiscretion arouses the fury of Marcia, Princess of Florence, who had fallen in love with his parts, and abetted by the whole military, marine, legal, clerical, and parliamentary strength of Gonzaria's dukedomn, she pursues Horatius and his bride with unrelenting animosity. The upshot of this pathetic tale is soon told. Horatius and Eudocia are ensnared by the arts of their enemies; the duke assents to the death of his only son; and the headsman is on the point of performing his hateful office, when the Spectre of the deceased Duchess interferes, mollifies the rigour of Gonzaria's decree, and not only restores the loyers to life, but in. vests them with a plenitude of its enjoyments. They then shake hands with the ghost, the curtain falls, and the audience go out of the booth, This plot, as it must immediately be seen, is not at
tenuated to that degree of labyrinthine intricacy which the appetite of a modern audience requires. Still, however, it commanded a fixed attention, and possessed a 'deep interest, alone interrupted by simultaneous bursts of applause, elicited by striking situations and complicated incidents, from numbers that were hourly increasing in judgment and respectability. This may be considered as a test of success, and the drama was therefore, without arrogance, classed high by Mr. Richardson himself amongst the most favourite productions of the Smithfield stage.
We think, however, that the chief merit of this popular play is much more fairly to be deduced from the brilliant coruscations of its language than the marked attributes of its characters, or the mazy windings of its fable. In support of this opinion, we shall adduce a few of the most striking speeches, for which we are indebted to the permission and kind assistance of the manager, who has favoured us with the loan of his MS. The following rich specimen of moralization is taken out of the mouth of a dignified ecclesiastic:
Life, my respected son, is like the sport
Maintains his credit, though he cannot save his bacon. In the subsequent extract from a colloquy between Horatius and Eudocia, of course at a time when their marriage was broken off, we hardly know which to admire most, the sober prudence of the heroine, or the calm resignation of the hero :
Hor. O, what like woman in the world appears !
Eud. Cease, my Horatius, cease, nor waste thy lays
Hor. And dost thou love me?
Eud. I could live with glee,
Hor. Now by the powers of love, the lease I hold
Eud. Hold, my Horatius, hold ; more slow and sure;
Hor. Death and the devil ! can my charmer stoop
* The “Saffron-hill” here mentioned is “ Saffron-hill” in Milan, a place, like the spot which resembles it in London, of polite resort. For a parallel reference to Devonshire in Spain, see " Lock and Key,” a farce by Hoare, 8vo. 1796.
+ This, it must be confessed, has all the air of an imitation from a well-known writer, in whose tragi-comedy of the “Queen of Arragon," fol. 1640, Act 2, Sc. 1, we find nearly the same phrase :
“ Base is the wight that thinks.”