« PreviousContinue »
« John Murray," lay athwart my is Fengo, which Shakspeare trans.. writing-table; and pounced upon mutes into a very unlocal one, inthis star as the brightest among the deed,Claudius ; thereby, however, innumerables, judging from'a hasty evincing his determination to presupervisal. Shall I specify a few of serve the majesty of tragedy even in the innumerables ?
the names of his personages, and that, There is MONTEZUMA, for instance; though the name of Claudius is not but I make it a rule never to read once pronounced in the drama. Spenany thing about Wild Indians: Pi- ser, on the other hand, is deservedly zarro introduced quite as many sa ridiculed for christening even his vages as a civilized man needs be clowns by such unsavoury N or M's acquainted with. There is tragedy as Hobbinol, Cuddy, and Colin Clout. enough, God knows! in the old world, Names may be historically true, nay, without sending us a-peak to the appropriate and natural, yet poeticalAndes or Oroonoko for outlandish ca- ly ugly nevertheless. « What's in a tastrophes ; and for mine own poor name!” you say; "a rose, by any part, whilst the dagger and the gown other name would smell as sweet.” Ay, rejoice in their ancient properties of verily; but tragedies are not always killing and clothing in a gentlemanly roses; and with our dear Juliet's manner, I shall prefer seeing those leave, a tragedy must have pronunclassical methods exhibited on the ciable names, euphonous, and such as stage, to all the transatlantic be- may become the lips in uttering witchery of leopard-skin petticoats, them. How trippingly off the tongue belts, and baldrics of beads, baubles, rolleth Sweet Sigiferth! or Genclinquant tin, and shining braziery, tle Gunilda! It may seem hyperwith tomahawks and ostrich-feathers critical to object to a tragedy on acinto the bargain.
count of its name or the names of its There is The PROUD SHEPHERD's characters; but a true poet's ear Tragedy, i. e. no tragedy at all, but will instinctively feel offended by the a poem in eighteen departments, least deviation from perfect harmony, nicknamed
by the au- and therefore, when we meet inharthor.
monious names in a tragedy, it is a Then there is the DUKE OF MERCIA, prima facie presumption that the auwith a villanous Scandinavian and thor is no poet, or worse, a bad one. Saxon Dramatis Persone, such as: The fault is exactly of the same speFrithegist and Sigiferth, Edric and, cies as a fault in metre, though less Algitha, Morcar, Ğunilda, Ethelmar, in degree; they are both marks of an Uthred and Gothmund. Truly, what ear of no very delicate sensibility, of the Duke of Mercia's merits may be, a soul not over nervously alive to the I am not competent to determine, sublime and the beautiful. You inasmuch as I did not scan them; might as well say, that a harsh verse, but this I know, that Melpomene or an unmusical cadence was unimporherself couldn't write a good tragedy tant. The green-sick girl, or she with such jaw-breaking baptismals who preys on the garbage of a circu. and clusters of consonants in her lating library, will show you that pen's mouth every moment, as the there is a natural affection in the huabove; nor (for I will go farther), man mind for beautiful names: BeShakspeare. In fact, Shakspeare verley and Julia, Montgomeri and wouldn't pitch upon a subject which Matilda, are frequently the talismamade it necessary to adopt such nic support of a novel, of greater a hideous nomenclature. But what efficacy to charm a milliner or a do I talk of necessity, for? In his milk-sop, than words graven on the Lear, whilst he in some measure pre- seal of King Solomon to fascinate a serves the appellatives Gonorill, Ra- genie. In short, you may call me gan, and Cordella, as historical, he fool, or fastidious, or fribble, or what had the humanity to mollify their as- you please, but I would as soon be perity, and make them poetical also. set down to decypher a slab of bieThe Danish Chronicles, whence heroglyphics, as to read through a tratook his fable of Hamlet, denominate gedy full of friths and firths, anek the philosophic prince Amlethus, goths and githas. Being, indeed, the Gertrude Gerutha; the king's name very sport of my antipathies and pre
judices, I fly all mental contact That drank the dews' which fell from Luowith those truculent progenitors of cifer, qurs, unless they make their approach of power potential to unchain the slave under feigned names, as Gertrude Of wayward destiny ?- If such there be, and Claudius had the policy to do: By the Great Power that made thee
(Shaking Scevola violently by the arm.) I regard them as native wild Indians,
Scevola. Who comes here? and would with as little reluctance
(Looking to the right.) kiss an Abiponian she-Centaur or an Rinaldo. (Recovering himself.) Esquimaux-Venus, as sit in their Too much of this ... &c. company for an evening's entertainment. Mason, in his Elfrida, which My opinion exactly coinciding with Voltaire aptly superscribed tragedie Rinaldo's, I here shut the book. barbare, wrote them down as com
But Durazzo. Yes, Durazzo is pletely as involuntarily; with me, at evidently the production of a gentleleast; for I never could bear the man and a scholar, a man of good sight of a Gothic dramatis persona,
taste and considerable poetical abisince reading the aforesaid barbare. lities. It is written with great puFinally, as to this weighty onomato- rity and elegance of language; and nomical affair: if I should be so the beauty of many of its lines and lucky as to obtain your concurrence, passages is green to the eye of the Gentlemen, in the opinion that good soul. What a very chaste and pic-. names are better than bad ones, you turesque description is the following: will act on the hint of a friend ; if not—in God's name, lay your next
One evening, in the wood that skirts the scenes in Muscovy or Cathay, and I wander'd forth alone. The weary sun
city, christen your personages, Dolgo- Had stoop'd his forehead from the mounrouki, Razoumoffski, Hum-fum,
tain brow, and Te-totum. By the bye, Du- On which it just had lean’d, as if to rest razzo (or Dooratso) and all the tra- After the wond'rous journey of the day: gedies of the present day, sin not a The herdsman sought his humble cot, the little in this little particular: their flocks dramatis personæ are neither indica. Their fragrant chambers, and the birds tive nor sonorous. What have we next?
To nestle in their leafy villages.—(P. 21.) WERNER.-—Ah! my lord ! my
Here is another beautiful passage : Byron! CLEMENZA, OR THE Tuscan OR
- Durazzo addressing Zelinda, PHAN, in Five Acts. This is a
Turn not away-speak, prithee-speak asplendid thing! Ex. gr.
gain ; Rinaldo. Yes! I shall behold her! For not the Thracian bard could touch a Ha! But where! With whom !
string (Distractedly--A short pause.) So melting sweet, when plaintive Echo stole Under the self-same roof!-by heavens at His music on the waters of Despair, hand
As in that accent bless'd me.-(P. 45.) The priest to make them one, and make me -mad!
It may not be easy to decide the Scevola!--Come hither, kind Scevola palm between this second quotation
(What follows in a lowered and al- and the following from Otway, al
tered tone, but with frantic rapi. luding also to the human voice :
dity, and seizing hold of Scevola's Is there no nostrum that can purge the Methought I heard a voice
Sweet as the shepherd's pipe upon the brain, And steep the soul in sweet forgetfulness? When all his little flock's at feed before
mountains, By wizard wild reveal'd, or elfin sprite, That nightly course the caverns of your
him.- (Orphan, Act 5, Sc. 2.) isle,
But, at all events, if the sweet What time the frowning moon resigns her
pastorality and more distinct imagery reign To the bright horrors of the vast volcano ? of the latter entitle it to any preOr comes within thy ken no friendly fay's ference as abstract poetry, it is much Strong potion, brew'd from dark Sicilian more than counterbalanced by the weed,
superior keeping and propriety of the
former : for Zelinda, like the Thra- know the efficacy of such passages, cian bard, is supposed to bewail a as well as I do, my friends; and yet, lost lover ; whilst Monimia, in Ot- in the teeth of your knowledge, you way's tragedy, compares the ago- neglect introducing similar awakennized voice of Castalio, who has ers, and run away after some evajust murdered his brother, to the nescent prettiness or other, to please cheerful though wild sound of a Master Mawkish and Miss Maudlin shepherd's pipe on the mountains. in the boxes, forsooth.
There are also some passages of But no more of this at present; force in Durazzo; though by no there are some of you more deficient in means so powerful or numerous as energy than the author of Durazzo; effective tragedy requires. Thus: when I come to your tragedies, i
shall rate in a proper style. I come amongst you a competitor,
The dramatists of this day would To answer taunts with tauntings. When appear, to a less profound observer the wind
than I am (who can spy out the cause Scolds at the sea, the sea rebukes the wind in our present ultra-refinement of With lips of foam ; and when a comet mind), to have entered into a con
starts Into our system, angrily he glares,
spiracy for the exclusion of every That the bright multitude of stars turn pale their genius in the end they, as tra
thing which might possibly assist To see the mighty stranger pass along.
gedists, should aim at. Action is the
essence of drama ; nay, its definition: Again :
business, bustle, hurly, and combusThe vulgar animal we tie by day,
tion dire, are indispensable to effecKeeps fiercer watch by night;
and nobler tive drama ; at least, if pathos run not brutes
very copiously through the piece, in Catch vigour from abuses. Feed the lion, which case action may be partly comHe's tame; 'tis famine lights a soul of fire pounded for by tears, though, perWithin his ribs, and crowns the savage, haps, not without some hazard. But King !-(P. 69.)
that essence and these indispensables,
you, Gentlemen, seem, with one conThese would act well; and ac sent, sedulously to avoid meddling waken that interest in the bosom of with; to shun as you would fire and an audience, which must necessa- brimstone. You seem to think that rily sleep under the lullaby of con- the whole virtue of tragedy lies in its tinuous poetry, however beautiful. poeticity; and the softer, the sweeter, 1s it possible for the playhouse to the more soul-soothing, the more doze in such a storm as this:
hushing the poetry is, the better I conjure you, by that which you profess,
you think it, though the audience go (Howe'er you come to know it), answer me:
to sleep under your noses. Though you untie the winds, and let them rate, if you don't think thus, you fight
write as if you did. One great inAgainst the churches ; though the yesty strument of keeping an audience on
the fret of attention, is a good plot; Confound and swallow navigation up ; an excellent reason, as it would apThough bladed corn be lodged, and trees pear with you, to select bad or inblown down;
different ones. Oh! so as we deliver Though castles topple on their warders' forth poetry enough, what a-plague heads;
have we to do with plotting ? You Though palaces and pyramids do slope Their heads to their foundations; though
either poke into the crevices and the treasures
corners of history, real or fictitious, Of nature's germens tumble all together,
for insignificant events, which you Even till destruction sicken, answer me
neither amplify nor adorn by addi. To what I ask you.
tion or decoration, as Shakspeare Macbeth, Act 4. Sc. l. might have ensampled you; or, be
ing the architects of your own stories, Why, if well mouthed, this is suf- your designs are so light and graceficient to shake the very dome of the ful, so economical in point of matetheatre, and bring the gods down, rial, and of so very Corinthian an head-long, into the pit. You all order of elegance, that they are nearly JULY, 1823.
invisible to the gross sense of our interest of a tragedy fairly depends popular eye-sight.
on its plot; but sometimes it
be The tragedy under consideration is supported in the person of one of the deplorably meagre in the item of story. characters. Thus the plot of the ReIt has no interest whatever of plot venge is very insipid ; but the energy or construction. There is no one and vindictive grandeur of Zanga's great or absorbing action to engross character keep our attention on duty. our attention by its magnitude or Now, Durazzo hath not even this intensity: neither is there any in- personal or individual interest. The genious perplexity of incidents, to hero, Durazzo, is an indecided, inbe unravelled by the catastrophe, definite indescribable. He is “ and keep the mind actively suspend character at all"; he is perpetually ed during the process of disentangle. contradicting his own sameness, neument. Terror and Pity, without one tralizing this action by the next; he at least of which tragedy is a farce, “ divides himself and goes to bufare neither of them excited. Curio- fets" about what he shall be, and is sity is not roused, nor anxiety soli- nothing after all, not even a vacilcited. Sir, the author of Durazzo, lator; he is as shapeless and incomwill you allow me to ask, what pact as the man in the moon. In. you mean by expending so much consistent without being natural, his excellent poetry on such a miserable villany excites no horror, his magplot? Your language betrays too nanimity elicits no applause. We much knowledge of Shakspeare, and care little about what becomes of too sanguine an admiration of him, him, inasmuch as we have not the to let me suppose you ignorant pleasure of knowing his true characof the overwhelming interest with ter. Alonzo and Zelinda are fully which he thought it necessary to in as interesting as Alonzo and Leonora vest his fable. And if you be not in the Revenge; and excite much ignorant of this, why do you not at- about the same disquietude in our tempt to imitate it, as well as to bosoms for their ultimate happiness. copy his sustained language, which Benducar (the lady's father) is the you do with considerable success ? most spirited person in the drama; Surely you can't think, that you may and by the same infelicity of which dispense with what he thought neces- Dryden complains in Paradise Lost, sary? But, indeed, I most invidi- where the Devil is the prime object ously single you out from your com of attraction, is a much more propeers for vituperation upon this minent character than the nominal point, whilst you are not a whit and intentional hero. So that, in
« the true blank of mine eye,” brief, the whole interest of this drama than your dramatic brothers of the like that of most of its cotempora, day. There is as much action, as ries) contained, not, as it should much business in the last act of Mac- be, in its dramatic attributes, but in beth, as in the five-and-twenty of its attributes not essentially dramaSardanapalus, Mirandola, Evadne, tic, viz. its abstract poetical quaDe Monfort, and Durazzo. I shall re- lities, which are beautiful as poetry, cur elsewhere to this text; for an imp but as nothing else. of Beelzebub is at my elbow, pulling I can no more, at present, but subthe sheet from under my pen, so that scribe myself, Gentlemen, I have but time for a few valuable Your very respectful humobservations more on Durazzo. The
The devil would have his due, and ran away with our Correspondent's MSS. before he could sign his name.-ED.
LETTERS TO A YOUNG MAN WHOSE EDUCATION
HAS BEEN NEGLECTED.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER.
ON THE ENGLISH NOTICES OF KANT. MY DEAR Sir-In my last letter, limited notice of my subject, which having noticed the English, the Ger- the nature and proportions of my man, and the French, as the three plan prescribe. In a short letter it languages in which the great com- cannot be supposed possible, if it merce of thought and knowledge, in were otherwise right on this occathe civilized world, is at this day sion, that I should undertake an anaconducted; and having attributed lysis of a philosophy so comprehenthree very considerable advantages sive as to leave no track of legitimate to the German as compared with the interests untouched, and so profound French; I brought forward, in con as to presuppose many preparatory clusion, as an advantage more con exercises of the understanding. What spicuous even than any I had before the course of my subject demands insisted on, the great originality and is, that I should liberate the name boldness of speculation which have and reputation of the Kantean philodistinguished the philosophic re- sophy from any delusion which may searches of Germany for the last * collect about its purposes and pre150 years. On this point, as it stood tensions, through the representaopposed to some prejudices and gross tions of those who have spoken of it mis-statements among ourselves, I amongst ourselves. The case is this: naturally declined to speak, at the I have advised you to pay a special close of a letter which had, perhaps, attention to the German literature already exhausted your attention. as a literature of knowledge, not of But, as it would be mere affectation power: and amongst other reasons wholly to evade a question, about for this advice I have alleged the which so much interest + has gather- high character and pretensions of its ed (and an interest which, from its philosophy : but these pretensions objects and grounds, must be so have been met by attacks, or by durable), I gave you reason to ex- gross misrepresentations, from all pect, that I would say a few words writers within my knowledge, who on that which is at this time under- have at all noticed the philosophy in stood by the term German Philosophy this country. So far as these have -i. e. the philosophy of Kant. This fallen in your way, they must naI shall now do. But let me remind turally have indisposed you to my you for what purpose; that you may advice; and it becomes, therefore, not lay to my charge, as a fault, that my business to point out any facts
Dating from the earliest works of Leibnitz, rather more. + I have heard it alleged as a reason, why no great interest in the German philoso. phy can exist, or can be created amongst the English— that there is no “ demand for books on that subject :"-in which remark there is a singular confusion of thought. Was there any demand' for the Newtonian philosophy, until the Newtonian philosophy appeared ?- How should there be any demand' for books which do not exist ? But considering the lofty pretensions of the Kantean philosophy, it would argue a gross ignorance of human nature to suppose, that no interest had already attended the statement of those pretensions whenever they have been made known: and, in fact, amongst thoughtful and intellectual men a very deep interest has long existed on the subject, as my own experience has been sufficient to convince me. Indeed what evidence could be alleged more strong of apathy and decay in all intellectual activity, and in all honourable direction of intellectual interests, than the possibility that a systematic philosophy should arise in a great nation near to our own, and should claim to have settled for ever many of the weightiest questions, which concern the dignity and future progress of the human species-and should yet attract no attention or interest ? We may be assured that no nation, not thoroughly emasculated in power of mind—i. e. so long as any severe studies survive amongst her, can ever be so far degraded. But these judgments come of attending too much to the movements of what is called “the literary world : " literature very im. perfectly represents the intellectual interests of any people: and literary people are in a large proportion as little intellectual people as any one meets with.