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after what we have just said, we shall not be expected to submit our own opinion to that judgment, yet we owe it so much of deference at least, as not to differ from it essentially, without assigning our reasons. Mr. Payne tells us, that he has had no hesitation in adopting the conceptions and language of his predecessors, whereever they seemed likely to strengthen the plan which he had prescribed to himself.' We have no right to dictate to authors; they may, like Mr. Payne, adopt whole scenes from their predecessors; we certainly have a right to a little more honesty and explicitness in their acknowledgments : and while we agree with him, that no assistance can be available without an effort almost if not altogether as laborious as original composition,' we would yet observe that the labour of adaptation is different in kind from that of composition, and entitled to a different degree of praise. One of the predecessors to whom Mr. Payne is under great and unacknowledged obligations, Nathaniel Lee, in the dedication of his Brutus, speaks thus: “There are some subjects that require but half the strength of a great poet : but when Greece or old Rome come in play, the nature, wit, and vigour of foremost Shakspeare, the judgment and force of Johnson, with all his borrowed mastery from the ancients, will scarce suffice for so terrible a grapple.” That there is a difficulty in rendering interesting to an English audience subjects taken from the Greek or Roman history, the experience of all our dramatists who have attempted them, sufficiently demonstrates—"even Shakspeare's Brutus,” says Lee, s with much ado beat himself into the heads of a blockish age, 5 and Jonson's Catiline met no better fate." It is not, however, we conceive, in any excessive loftiness of the subjects, or peculiar blockishness' of the audience that this difficulty consists; for after all, the loftiness of a subject in reference to the reader or spectator depends mainly on the author who treats it. Shakspeare is certainly not less raised above his audience in Macbeth or Hamlet, than in Coriolanus, or Julius Cæsar, and they who have been delighted with the two former, may be well supposed, so far as intelligence is concerned, to be capable of receiving pleasure from the two latter. The truth seems to be, that the subjects which have been most commonly selected from classic history have in themselves two defects, which render them impracticable in almost any hands for the English stage; they are too familiar to us in all their details as historical facts, and they are chiefly of a political nature. The interest of the drama must in the main be personal, though it may borrow indirect aid from the national feelings of the audience; it is unfortunate, therefore, that the Roman history has been more resorted to for subjects, than the far more romantic annals of Greece : for of all histories, the Roman is that in which
personal character and individual interest are the most swallowed up by what is public and political.
The judgment of Shakspeare, in this respect, is altogether astonishing of his three great Roman plays, two, Coriolanus and Mark Antony, are rare instances of direct violation or forgetfulness of that national spirit which we have been describing; the in
terest in them is almost wholly personal; and, in the third, (Julius in Cæsar) he has dexterously contrived to rivet our attention rather
on the qualities, the friendships, the quarrels, and the misfortunes
of individuals, than on the public cause for which they are conHitom tending. In his English historic plays this is still more remarkHable; he has indeed appealed to our feelings as Englishmen, in the L. wars of France and England, but when the scene is laid at home,
he makes the interest entirely personal ; it is not on public revoluLlen tions, a discontented people, or rival factions, that he suffers us to dwell
, these are lost in such characters as the tragic and moralizing Richard, the impetuous Hotspur, the chivalrous Harry, shaking of his profligate companions, the ambitious and diabolical Gloucester, the stern and sublime Wolsey.
It is not easy to say how Shakspeare would have obviated the difficulties of Brutus, if he had chosen such a subject ; for in spite of the opinion of Voltaire, who calls it “ the subject, perbaps, of all others, the most fitted for the English stage," it certainly seems to us objectionable in an eminent degree, and for many reasons. The fall of Tarquin, and the conspiracy to restore him, are events which, whether true or not, we know familiarly as historic factsany alteration or addition is a palpable contradiction of our received faith ; at the same time the facts themselves are too meagre and too strictly political to suffice for the interest of a regular tragedy. Accordingly, the naked history has been departed from, more or less, by all who have written on the subject.—Love has been universally one grand ingredient for filling up what Voltaire calls“ le vide de la tragédie,' and he has professedly made it le næud nécessaire de la pièce.' Lee has introduced a . Teraminta,' natural daughter of Tarquin, and Mr. Payne has his Tarquinia. This alone makes a material change in the character of the conspiracy; but Mr. Payne has wandered still farther from the history; he has given Tarquin a faithful army, and strong camp at Ardea, sunk all mention of his intriguing ambassadors, bestowed on Brntus but a single son, and though he has made that son perish for an attempt to fly with Tarquinia to her father, yet we are by no means assured from any thing that appears in the play, that there Was any regular conspiracy for the restoration of the monarch ; or if there was, that the unhappy Titus was ever acquainted with it. This last refinement is a striking proof of deficiency of judgment : it was necessary that Titus should be an object of interest,
Lee and Voltaire have therefore made him an unwilling and repentant partner in the treason; but it was necessary also that his death should be strictly equitable, for the justification of Brutus, they have therefore made him consenting to the treacherous design of opening the gates which he was intrusted to guard. Mr. Payne had no way of making us feel for him, but by so diminishing his guilt, that we become dissatisfied with what seems a mere strained and severe punctilio in Brutus.
These, however, are faults of conception ; let us see whether Mr. Payne has been more fortunate in the execution of his plot. He has commenced at so early a period of the story, that it was necessary for him to represent the simulated madness of Brutus, and he attempts an imitation of the shrewd and biting simplicity of the clowns and fools of the older drama. This, in any case, must have been a difficult character to write; it demanded the most original humour ; but the difficulty is doubled when the folly was to be assumed only for a time, by one, who was soon to throw it from him indignantly, and become the hero of the piece. this, Mr. Payne has wholly failed; his Brutus is neither a madman, a fool, a wit, nor what he ought to have been, a compound of all three. With none of the wildness of the first, the simpleness of the second, or the mercurial lightness of the third, he is in a perpetual and unsuccessful attempt to say bitter things covertly; and with all the aid of an unmeaning stare, and monotonous voice, the only wonder in the minds of the audience must have been, that so bad an actor was allowed to play his part undiscovered so long. -But if the mad Brutus is a complete failure, the sober Brutus is not less so—and the failure is the more unpardonable because the difficulties are not so great. It required a particular vein in the author to conceive and write well the former part of the character, which a man might have been without, and yet have given an adequate representation of the latter. But he who fails in this latter, should renounce the wooing of the tragic muse maturè sanus ;
for Brutus sober, is by no means a difficult character or one out of the common walks of tragedy. From the moment that he lays aside his masque of folly, he becomes pre-eminently simple and single minded; he has no conflicting passions in his heart, or double pur, poses in his conduct, and he is exhibited not under a variety of trials, but exposed to one only, and under circumstances which, though they aggravate the severity of the test, yet leave no room for uncertainty, or wavering conduct. With none of those difficulties in which Mr. Payne might have failed without disgrace, Brutus is yet in many respects a highly tragic character, and in many places might have given scope to the most solemn strains of moral declamation, or the finest bursts of eloquentand pathetic poetry;
so that without writing a good tragedy, the author might have been in some measure redeemed, by showing himself a true poet.
We should, in any case, be sorry to speak with unnecessary severity; and if Brutus were likely to be the last production of its author, we should gladly have let it sink unobserved into the oblivious tomb which is gaping for it; but the applanse with which it has been received on the stage, may prompt Mr. Payne to another effort, and we are therefore bound to express our opinion promptly and decidedly. We declare, then, that he appears to us to have no one quality which we should require in a tragic poet; he has neither comprehended nor arranged his subject properly, he has not surmounted its difficulties, nor profited by its advantages :-we will not dwell upon his faults, the foolish and presumptuous imitation of one of the most beautiful speeches in Shakspeare, the absurd mummeries, and pantomimic tricks, too long tolerated with patience by an audience, which might have commanded for their delight and instruction, the noblest productions of human nature,-it is enough to say conscientiously, that we cannot find in the whole play, a single character finely conceived, or rightly sustained, a single incident well managed, a single speech, nay, a single sentence of good poetry.
(We have not had the opportunity, in this his native country, to see Mr. Payne's tragedy. It appears to have received favour from British audiences, and the Editor of the National Gazette observes, that—though not entitled to high favour, as a dramatic poem "it certainly fares the worse with the English critic, for the author's being an American-a circumstance, which, taken in connexion with his youth and situation, would, where national animosity had not stifled every generous feeling, have procured for his performance, an exhibition of its brightest parts and a more lenient sentence on the exceptionable. He may yet, and we trust that he will, in spite of the ruthless judgments of British prejudice and rancour, become a more praiseworthy dramatic poet, than some of his contemporaries whose muse has received the profound homage of the Quarterly
[From the Quarterly Review.--Lond. Sept. 1819.] Art. XIII.-1. Laon and Cythna, or the Revolution of the Golden
City. A Vision of the Nineteenth century, in the Stanza of Spenser. By PERCY B. Shelley. London. 1818. 2. The Revolt of Islam. A Poem, in Twelve Cantos. By Perce
B. SHELLEY. London. 1818. This is one of that industrious knot of authors, the tendency of whose works we have in our late Numbers exposed to the caution of our readers-novel, poem, romance, letters, tours, critique, lecture and essay follow one another, framed to the same measure, and in subjection to the same key-note, while the sweet undersong of the weekly journal, filling up all pauses, strengthening all weaknesses, smoothing all abruptnesses, harmonizes the whole strain. Of all his brethren, Mr. Shelley carries to the greatest length the doctrines of the sect. He is, for this and other reasons, by far the least pernicious of them; indeed there is a naiveté and openness in his manner of laying down the most extravagant positions, which in some measure deprives them of their venom; and when he enlarges on what certainly are but necessary results of opinions more guardedly delivered by others, he might almost be mistaken for some aritul advocate of civil order and religious institutions. This benefit indeed may be drawn from his book, for there is scarcely any more persuasive argument for truth than to carry out to all their legitimate consequences, the doctrines of error. But this is not Mr. Shelley's intention; he is, we are sorry to say, in sober earnest :—with perfect deliberation and the steadiest perseverance he perverts all the gifts of his nature, and does all the injury, both public and private, which his faculties enable him to perpetrate.
Laon and Cythna is the same poem with the Revolt of Islamunder the first name it exhibited some features which made the
experiment on the temper of the public mind,' as the author calls it, somewhat too bold and hazardous. This knight-errant in the cause of a liberal and comprehensive morality' had already sustained some 'perilous handling in his encounters with Prejudice and Error, and acquired in consequence of it a small portion of the better part of valour. Accordingly Laon and Cythna withdrew from circulation; and happy had it been for Mr. Shelley if he had been contented with his failure, and closed his experiments. But with minds of a certain class, notoriety, infamy, any thing is better than obscurity; baffled in a thousand attempts after fame, they will still make one more at whatever risk,—and they end commonly like an awkward chemist who perseveres in tampering with his ingredients, till, in an unlucky moment, they take fire, and he blown up by the explosion. Laon and Cythna has accordingly re-appeared with a new name, and a few slight alterations. If we could trace in these any sigus of an altered spirit, we should have hailed with the sincerest pleasure the return of one whom nature intended for better things, to the ranks of virtue and religion. But Mr. Shelley is no penitent; he has reproduced the same poison, a little, and but a little, more cautiously disguised, and as it is thus intended only to do the more mischief at less personal risk to the author, our duty requires us to use his own evidence against himselt, to juterpret him where he is obscure now, by himself where he was plain before, and to exhibit the fearful consequences' to which