« AnteriorContinuar »
ON THE DRAMA.-Ducis' SHAKESPEARE, AND JOUY'S EYLLA. Could we exclude from our thoughts duad or a triad of lofty intellects to all the literatures that are or have been occupy exclusively the sacred spot, in the world, and might we be allow- that should be as a shrine around the ed to imagine, in the fond prospective centre :-in the breathings of their of our country's glory, an ideal litera- genius there should be nought intelliture, the most excellent for it to rea- gible to vulgar souls, and the inhalise, the product of our imaginations bitants of the more remote regions would, we rejoice to think, but wan- should admire and ridicule them alterder a little beyond existing reality. nately, not knowing of what nature or Indulge us, gentle reader, in half a species they were. But there the while column of castle-building :-we will would we preserve them separate in suppose our embryo literature, a tract the midst, for the illumination and deto be occupied—a Parnassus, if you light of the chosen few, and there please ; and we will have it bounded, would we betake ourselves at times, to not by a circle, for we hate mathema- listen and to love, to pray in poesy, tical precision, but circularly, obedient
“ And feast upon high thoughts.” to natural and pleasing variety. We should ordain several internal and si- This precisely is the statistics of milar lines, dividing our ideal domain English poetry. Milton, Shakspeare, into compartments, the outer assigned Spenser, extend their mighty forms to general and vulgar taste, the inner athwart the entire region ; in them to the refined and ennobled, with the the school-boy may discover the terseintermediate of course allotted accord- ness, the rhyme, the declamatory aring to their proximity to the limits or dour that enchant him from them the centre. Thus having arranged the blue may pick out the similes, the what mere earthly architects call their points," the charming passages,” that ground-plan, would we proceed to dis- seem to it (for it is of the neuter gentribute the genius that should occupy der) the infallible tests of poetrythe space. First, we should take while the critic and philosopher may from the moon, the sun-beam, or feast their seventh sense in their pages wherever such things areengendered without prejudicing the adorations of two or three master-spirits, very giants inferior votaries. Next, lie on the borof intellectual might; and we would ders, yet firmly entrenched within the have them, colossal-like, extend them- limits of the poetic region, Pope, Dry, selves from the centre to the extreme den, Goldsmith, Campbell, Moore, and verge, that there might be established a thousand others,—those affable Mua few strong links or bonds of union ses, whose wings are visible to all the between als the future tastes of our world, and beyond whom seven-eighths empire. Having completed this great of that world fancy that there is nought task, we may suppose ourselves some- but unfathomable space. Neverthewhat exhausted, and inclined to re- less, in that space, supposed unfapose; nevertheless, our leisure should thomable, are the mightier thrones and be employed in peopling the outward bowers of intellect, open only to the limits with neat, dapper, little wits, select, the beloved of the Muse. Few elegant in form, and fashion, and con- are the thrones yet occupied, but can tour, but without that might and sub- still be distinguished through the misty limity of intellect, which would be halo that obscures and glorifies the reuselessly expended on the confines of gion, seated aloft, the Bards of Chrisliterature. Then for a time would we tabel and the Excursion. But a truce (tel est nature) take our ease, whilst with these visions, the pigmy race lately propagated, mul
" That do haunt tiplied even to swarming, rousing us at length to exertion by its monoto- Which mocks his ordination, and obeys
Man, still the idle marshaller of fame, nous murmur. Upon this would we By turns oblivion, and by turns the gust lustily set about finishing the good of mode the call of pedant, or of fool.” work, and would send to the east and the west, to the beauteous regions of The great difference between France the rising and the setting sun, -to the and England, with respect to taste and sixth heaven, where the most filtered letters, is, that the latter possesses two spirits dwell, and we would create a literatures, the former but one. Our
mighty poets seem, like the Egyptian birth of his stupendous offspring. But priests of old, to have made use of two no such spiritual alchemy could take species of symbols, and to have insti- place, while listening to the amphituted two modes of worshipping the brachic verses of French poetry,– Divinity, of whom they were the mi- which march like a horse that had lost nisters. They not only indulged in one leg, and strove to canter on the those bursts of poetic spirit, that ad- other three :-How identify ourselves dress and subdue the universal heart with poets who cut out their verse of man, but they also scattered here with a pair of scissars, and whose and there the traces of an exclusive reign over thought is limited to the and remote spirit. They held not only polishing of rhymes, and the arrangethe general clue to the heart, but like- ment of cæsuras--fellows of no phywise a thousand others more indivi- siognomies, no characteristics, no disdual and delicate, which they could tinguishing features, save that one pursue without losing sight of the files his lines twice as carefully as the grand one; they wielded not only the other? thunder that strikes and convulses the The colour and stamp of a national whole earth, but also the subtle and literature will always be found to deelectric flashes, that scan or illumine pend on the balance between the aca particular spot. Their minds were, tive and passive powers of intellect like Dante's Hell, depth within depth, between genius and taste. And as posabyss within abyss, of the profundity session, we know, is half the law, the of which even themselves were uncon- first of these which leaps up and asscious. Hence, in the knowledge of sumes the pre-eminence, will be apt them there are degrees, and those who more or less to preserve the ascendanstrive to know them, penetrate, each cy during the whole course of the lito the depth that his capacity allows; terature. Civilization demands taste, and all, at their unequal heights, shout and creates the vague feeling, which to one another through the abyss in is the foundation of that faculty, even which they are lost, and marvel, and before there exists an object that can grow cholerous, that his fellow sees employ it. If this civilization be the not as he does himself. In France first in the world, or, what is the there is nothing of all this--Blaise en- same, appear to itself the first, as was joys and catches all the beauties of the case with ancient Greece, the craRacine, fully as much as the spectacled ving of taste-of that passive faculty critic in the orchestra ; and if men of apprehending and enjoying beauty, have different opinions of the author's having no precedent, no model, no merits, it takes rise in the prosody; substratum to exist by, calls upon
the never in the thought. Our great poets, active power of genius to give it food, as we have said, extend along our two and to bestow upon it the matter and divisions of literature : the shilling form of life. In this case genius and gallery weeps over Hamlet and Othel- taste spring up together, like twinlo,
sisters, and soar hand in hand to per“ But unto us they have a spell beyond,” world perfection is the greatest phe
fection. This phenomenon, for in our aye-even beyond the tear of sympa- nomenon, could never have taken thy, and the agony of a too intense in- place, but in the peculiarly formed terest. We associate ourselves with state of society that arose among the the poet-we enter into the mechan- early Grecians. It was first of all neism of the spirit that produced so glo- cessitated to be original in its judgrious a scene-we imagine anew the ments and ideas; it was limited and thing, and are not content to perceive, compact, and the cry of applause or but create it afresh. We enjoy the condemnation, even when directed to shades, the niceties, the purposes, the the most trivial effusions, was that of crannies of the human heart, into a whole people; it was roused by all which the master-spirit pierced, the the excitative passions of human nathousand beauties that must havedropt ture; but above all, its civilization was unconsciously from his genius :—while so rapid, owing to these circumstances, the tragedians act Hamlet, we act that neither power of the intellect had Shakspeare, and, identified with the time to start beyond the other. bard, we produce, as it were, a second In all the subsequent formations of society, the vague craving of taste, ly versed in the beauties of the rude which we think universally the prie Provençal Muse, and the greatest mismum mobile of literary undertaking, fortune that ever befel modern literawas not constrained to call upon its ture, is that they were not permitted own or its country's exertion—it had to perfect that exquisite and original wherewithal to gratify itself: the Ro- vein of poesy; and this they would man satiated this rising sentiment in have done, we have no doubt, but for the productions of Greece, the modern the confounded classical knowledge Italian in those of Rome. Hence, the that was flung upon Italy, and which infant taste, which is, as it were, the all the world seems to thank for the first lever to be used in raising a na- revival of letters - for our part, we tion's literature from the dust, instead curse it, as the inhumation of Euroof being made to rest on a national pean originality in works of genius for fulerum, lost all its powers when found- ever. And if we in future make use of ed on a foreign basis. Thus put into this term, or of its synonyme, nationaction, it might raise up a literature, ality, it must be in a comparative but never a national one, a literature, sense ;-to be original is henceforth which, created upon an imitative and denied to nations as to individuals ; ideal basis, can have no influence or the veil has been removed from the empire but upon those who are ini- past, and it hangs palpably over the tiated into it, ---who have gone through present and the future, inevitablyovera probation of study, and have meta- shadowing the genius of mankind. morphosed themselves into those ano- Whilst modern societies were yet malous monsters, that filled the ranks young, while they were yet alive to of defunct criticism; whose souls were the traditions and prejudices of their in the pages of Aristotle, and whose ancestors, and ere the classical taste language was the cant, without the in, had spread so far as to destroy all nagenuity of the schools. These became tive attempts at literary exertion, there the body, to which literary produc- yet remained hopes of escape from tions were to be addressed these few thraldom, in the chance that a being hundred pedants became the populace, of genius would start up amongst the the tiers etat of literature, and the ranks of society, and erect by his rights of the people, in taste as in pom powers the national body of feeling litics, became usurped by an impere into an independent empire of taste, tinent aristocracy.
classic of itself. The three natious We have thus far supposed, that, in with which we are best acquainted, the view of European society, taste afford examples of the different degrees was self-created and mature-ready to of success attendant on this struggle
. call forth the active power, ere the an- France was sterile in poetic genius; cient writers were offered to its avidi- her civilization demanded taste, and ty. This is not at all correct, nor is having no productions of her own to the contrary so that the ancient wri- erect it on, she was compelled to borrow ters first awoke dormant taste. The it completely and altogether. Hence, rays of classic literature struggled but to the eyes of remote ages France leaves with partial success to break through a blank in the literary map of Europe. the clouds of ignorance that enveloped Posterity will go to the fountainthe middle ages—we were going to say, head of every thing, and her volumi. that ancient literature had been sifted nous riches will necessitate her confifor the use of the learned of Europe; ning herself to the fountain-head alone: if so, it was the bran that was handed -she will read Sophocles, and having to them, and the flour that had been done so, will not commit the tautololaid up. The Greek was not at all gy of reading Racine. In Italy, the known, and the Latin but littleOne event of the strife is doubtful; it was of the most curious considerations in a drawn battle; the classics and rothese matters is offered by the ac- mantics are still in active opposition, quaintance of the middle ages with and although the chief compartment the events of the siege of Troy, so mo- of literature, the dramatic with her dified through a thousand compilations presents as yet but a void, the future and translations, that the original story genius of the country possesses a vista of Homer becomnes utterly invisible. in her romantic taste, through which The fathers of Italian poetry were ear- she may look to possess an independent
theatre.* From political causes this ranks of society--the rudeness of vulis not likely, but there are hopes the gar life was to be found in the habits French have none. In England, the of knights and dames, while the chispirit of independence has overcome in valrous feelings of high birth were every point, -religion, politics, litera- communicated to the followers and ture: the latter is completely founded vassals. When manuscripts became on a modern at least, if not altogether numerous, the learned began to sepaon a national basis, and the little of an- rate themselves from the nation, and
cient sentiment that exists compound- even poets, affecting to avoid vulgar: ed with it, is not more than what has ity, began “ to powder their talk
naturally become current throughout with over-sea language." But when all ranks of society. Hence, to enter the art of printing came into use, liinto the penetralia of our poetry, to terature completely separated itself render the taste for it exquisite, it is from vulgar feeling-which, after all, necessary to read but itself-it is not is the only national one; and thenceover Pantheons or classical dictionaries forward, tales and epics struggled to that we must prepare ourselves to en- erect themselves on a fantastic basis joy it—but in cultivating our own neither foreign nor domestic. The English mind, simply English in this, scenes were laid in a fancied region, that to a superior degree it is reflec- of which the customs, the terms, the tive, deep-thoughted, and moral. To atmosphere, suited the preconceived
recapitulate our system, taste, or the ideas of no living person. The poet É passive faculty of the mind, has been reckoned on a limited class of polite
in France always predominant over and idle readers, who were willing to á genius or the active facúlty. The lat- step beyond their natural and habitual
ter has been but a consequence of the feelings for the sake of enjoying novel former, and has been dragged after it, imaginations. The mass of a nation like a cock-boat in the wake of a ves- will not take this trouble, even if they sel of war. In Italy, they have been be called upon to do so; they cannot balanced pretty nearly. But, in Enge dispense with the atmosphere of naland, genius has always led the way ; tionality that involves their taste and taste, confined to its proper limits, and 'tis well that they cannot; if they is but an adjunct of it—a polypus ad- could, then would be an end of na: hering to its mass, and assimilating it- tions. Thus the produce of imaginaself to the varying colour of that on tion, as soon as it comes to exist otherwhich and by which it exists. wise than orally, contracts itself from
The discovery of the art of print- its former expansion over the whole ing, which is considered to have ex- people, and tends to centralize itself tended the sphere of literature, has in a kind of literary aristocracy. To had really the opposite effect, at least this thereis one greatcheck-one grand with respect to works of imagination. and noble link, to unite and reclaim These, as long as they were oral, were literature to its original sense of nanecessarily national ; the jongleurs and tional feeling--this link is the Drama. menestrels, although they might reckon The Drama is a poetry which, in its
a few lords and princes among their legitimate scope, must be addressed to í ranks, were in general from the lowest all ranks of society-must wear the
order of the people; their chant was common garb, and speak the common addressed not to the nobles alone, but language of all. It is the forum, to chiefs and vassals united, to the where all ranks meet, and are but mingled assemblage of the feudal hall. equals ; where the base of mankind There could be nothing exclusive in unlearn their ferocity, and divest themtaste-one single feeling animated all selves of their callousness; and where,
* This sweeping clause is perhaps unjust. The Filippo and the Conspiracy of the Pozzi, by Alfieri, are exceptions to his rigid reverence for the antique ; in the former, which was his first, there is a tenderness and passion in the loves of Carlo and Isabella, which the poet never condescended to in his subsequent pieces. His other tragedies on modern subjects, Don Garzia, and Maria Stuarda, are among the worst of his produce tions. We shall change a word one day or another with Mr Cam, respecting his contempt for Alfieri's most original and Aristophanic comedies. Vol. XI.
likewise, the noble and gentle must A dramatic genius, take our word dispense with artificial feelings, and for it, must be a dramatic genius, and know, that whatever be the shell, the nothing else. Melpomene is enough kernel is at best but a man.
for any one gentleman, and he who A literature, in order to be any will coquet with half-a-dozen muses, thing—at least any thing more than a may make up his account to be jilted. shadow or an imitation--must be na- by all. Byron will never write a trational: and to be national, it must gedy, though he sent ten dialogisms to establish as its basis, that part of it- the Albemarle-street Press in a twelveself which embraces and spreads its month—“ hot and hot," as he said roots amongst the entire mass of the himself on a memorable occasion. people. Of old, this part was its oral Scott will never write a tragedy, for verse, and at present, we may repeat, all Mr Jeffrey's exhortations ; the this part is still its oral verse—its dra- worthy poet has been for these many
It would be superfluous here to years fairly up to his neck in prose, inquire, whether the poets of the pre- and Heaven keep him there. Besides, sent day are proceeding right or wrong, we know what abortions are produced or to censure them for building a su- by these god-fathering sort of comperstructure, while they neglect the mendations. Sheridan told Miss Edge foundation. Let them proceed, each
worth to write comedies—that it was to fulfil that to which he was called ; just the path that would suit herit is a fruitless endeavour to turn the and she produced, wonderful to relate, stream of Helicon, nor would it be to as stupid a volume as ever issued from much advantage to divert from their the back settlements of Paternosteremployment the adorners of an edi- Row. There is but one literary counfice, or the workers in stucco, and sellor in the world worth attending to, compel them to apply their fínican superior to all the Reviewers and Mahands and utensils to the laborious gazinists, from John o' Groat's to the task of rearing a foundation. All we Land's End-id est, in vulgar phrawould hint to those worthy bards, who seology, the Maggot. When he bites, have been so successful in the walks obey him, and when he does not, of narrative and monologue, is to be- why, e'en let the world go its own ware entering upon the Drama with way, in God's name. the confined and individual character We have defined the Drama, in its which they have developed, and cer- original scope, as oral verse.
The tainly perfected in their other under- more it retires from answering this takings. The Drama does not deserve definition, the more does it cease to be put off with a jaded muse, or a be dramatic; and what is a drama second-hand style, worn out in the that is not dramatic? Ask Lord Byservice of tale and song. One of ye, ron and his non-descript talks. A my worthies, has tried and failed- poet that writes to be read may become he is as talented almost as any among
unmindful of his readers-he is indeye; 'twere well not to imitate his pendent of them in a manner-he disfall-a dramatist may rise when ye unites them both in time and place as are no more ; and 'tis far more ho- to the act of passing judgment upon nourable to be reproached with ne- him. Even of the few that read, there glect as to the stage, than to be con- are but fewer still whose taste and previcted of a failure. Besides, success judices he is bound to consult. Since even is a dishonour in the present state he addresses himself to individuals, so of our theatres :- do not the plays fa- litary individuals, it is but individual bricated in Cockaigne live--ay, live originality he need aim at ; originality three whole nights ere they expire ? on the broad basis of general and shall you, ye heroes of the Muse, tional feeling would be too weighty but walk by their sides, and live and a task. To write for the stage, if that die the ephemeral space allotted to stage be what it should be, free and such caterpillars ?
popular, is a more serious underta" What ! die !
king; it will not be sufficient in this Be decently interred in a churchyard
case to deal out an affected vocabulary With stinking rogues, that rot in winding
to a narrow class, or to cater to the sheets,
prepared appetites of a few delicateSurfeit-slain fools, the common dung o' nerved gentlemen. The production the soil.”
will be represented before a section of