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which the acting of Lear ever produced in me: but the Lear of Shakspeare cannot be acted. The contemptible machinery by which they mimic the storm which he goes out in, is not more inadequate to represent the horrors of the real elements, than any actor can be to represent Lear: they might more easily propose to personate the Satan of Milton upon a stage, or one of Michael Angelo's terrible figures. The greatness of Lear is not in corporal dimensions, but in intellectual ; the explosions of his passion are terrible as a volcano they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that sea, his mind, with all its vast riches. It is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on—even as he himself neglects it. On the stage we see nothing but corporal infirmities and weakness, the impotence of rage; while we read it, we see not Lear, but we are Lear-we are in his mind - we are sustained by a grandeur which bafles the malice of daughters and storms; in the aberrations of his reason we discover a mighty irregular power of reasoning, immethodized from the ordinary purposes of life, but exerting its powers, as the wind blows where it listeth, at will upon the corruptions and abuses of mankind. What have looks or tones to do with that sublime identification of his age with that of the heavens themselves, when, in his reproaches to them for conniving at the injustice of his children, he reininds them that “they themselves are old ?” What gesture shall we appropriate to this ?—what has the voice or the eye to do with such things ? But the play is beyond all art, as the tamperings with it show; it is too hard and stony-it must have love-scenes, and a happy ending. It is not enough that Cordelia is a daughter, she must shine as a lover too. Tate has put his hook in the nostrils of this Leviathan, for Garrick and his followers, the showmen of the scene, to draw the mighty beast about more easily. A happy ending !-as if the living martyrdom that Lear had gone through-the Aaying of his feelings alive-did not make a fair dismissal from the stage of life the only decorous thing for him. If he is to live and be happy after—if he could sustain this world's burden after-why all this pudder and preparation ?-why torment us with all this unnecessary sympathy ?-as if the childish pleasure of getting his gilt robes and sceptre again could tempt him to act over again his misused station-as if, at his years, and with his experience, anything was left but to die.'-Works (1818), vol. ii. p. 13.
The whole of this essay, and that “On the Artificial Comedy of the last Century,' in the first Elia, cannot be surpassed. Like the essay on the genius of Hogarth, which is now, we believe, in part at least, a constant accompaniment to every collection of Hogarth's prints, its practical excellence is such, that, when you have once read it
, you are inclined to wonder how you could ever have methodized your feelings and taste upon the subject without the light which it has imparted. It sets you right at once and for ever. One consequence of its pregnant brevity was that a swarm of imitators fastened upon it, sullying its purity and caricaturing its manner,—writers who added nothing to what Lamb had shortly yet adequately done, but who materially injured his fame by being vulgarly associated with him ; and whose showy, disproportioned, rhapsodical essays upon Shakspeare and the contemporary dramatists, disgusted all persons of sound judgment, and went very far to bury again under a prejudice what their discriminating leader had but newly recovered from oblivion. We have been more earnest in bringing forward, in the prominent light which they deserve, Lamb's merits as a critic and restorer of much of our most valuable old literature, not only to vindicate them from a derogatory association, but because they have been greatly overlooked in the more general popularity which attended and will, we predict, constantly attend the miscellaneous essays of Elia. From the same cause, and in more than an equal degree, his poetry, exquisite as much of it is, is really almost entirely forgotten; in fact, nocuit sibi,-just as the transcendant popularity of Waverley, Guy Mannering, and Old Mortality made the world almost lose sight for a time of the splendid chivalry, the minstrel ease, the Homeric liveliness of the Lady of the Lake, the Lay, and of Marmion. Lamb's poems are comparatively few in number and inconsiderable in length; but in our deliberate judgment there are amongst them some pieces as near perfection in their kinds as anything in our literature,-specimens of exceeding artifice and felicily in rhythm, metre, and diction. His poetic vein was, we think, scanty, and perhaps he exhausted it; he was not what is called great, yet was,
We may make such a distinction, eminent. He has a small, well-situated parterre on Parnassus, belonging exclusively to himself. He is not amongst the highest, but then he is alone and aloof from all others. We cite the following piece, though it may perchance not please all palates, as an instance of the very peculiar power of which the seven-syllable line, --so well used by George Wither, and sometimes by Ambrose Philips, though branded as namby-pamby by Pope and Swift,-is capable. It is, we conceive, the metre in which the most continuity of thought and feeling can be expressed in our language :
A FAREWELL TO TOBACCO.
The plain truth will seem to be
And the passion to proceed
More from a mistress than a weed.
Sooty retainer to the vine,
Thy begrimed complexion, Half my love or half my hate :
And, for thy pernicivus sake, For I hate, yet love, thee so,
More and greater oaths to break That, whichever thing I show,
Than reclaimed lovers take
'Gainst women :- thou thy siege dost lay
Henbane, nightshade, both together,
Of thy favours, I may catch
And still live in the by-places Some collateral sweets, and snatch And the suburbs of thy graces; Sidelong odours, that give life
And in thy borders take delight, Like glances from a neighbour's wife; An unconquer'd Canaanite.? —
Works, vol.i. p.32. To pass to things in a very different strain-his Sonnet · On the Family Name' is another great favourite of ours :
• What reason first imposed thee, gentle name,-
No deed of mine shall shame thee, gentle name.'-ib. p. 65. We are sensible how largely we have filled our pages
quotations ; but our object is to do justice to Lamb, and to put those of our readers,—and we fear there are many,--to whom Lamb's writings generally are unknown, in possession of specimens of his genius which may speak for themselves. The following beautiful lines must please every one :
· The SABBATH BELLS.
74. Of equal, or even greater beauty are the lines On an Infant Dying as soon as Born ;'—but we can only venture to place before our readers two sonnets pre-eminently characteristic of Charles
Lamb, and condensing in little the feelings and aspirations sctatered throughout almost all his works, and especially his most charming essays in Elia. We commend the perusal, with our best wishes, to the Utilitarians of England and America :
The heaven-sweet burthen of eternity.' * Deus nobis hæc otia fecit,'—he adds, after he had retired from his labours in the India-Hlouse.
Now let the reader, curious in the characteristics of oddity and genius, turn to the essay on the Superannuated Man' in the second Elia. Hear a little of the old Clerk's account of himself shortly after his liberation :
• A fortnight has passed since the date of my first communication. At that period I was approaching to tranquillity, but had not reached it. I boasted of a calm indeed, but it was comparative only. Something of the first flutter was left; an unsettling sense of novelty ; the dazzie to weak eyes of unaccustomed light. I missed my old chains, forsooth, as if they had been some necessary part of my apparel. I was a poor Carthusian, from strict cellular discipline suddenly, by some revolution, returned upon the world. I am now, as if I had never