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cated; these very names are a well spring of noble and delicious recollections. But our memory is jealous, and our associations require a careful touch: if actions and passions are assigned to these well-known beings which are not familiar to us, we are incredulous, and, what is fatal to illusion, we pause to examine and reflect: nay, we may even go so far as to say, that let Voltaire tell us what he will of Tancrede and Alzire, we will believe it all; all we know of them is from him, but it is in vain that Racine quotes Pausanias for the existence of Eriphile, her substitution for Iphigenia still strikes us as a poor subterfuge of the dramatist, contrary to the received faith of Grecian poetry, and consequently irreconcileable to our sympathies. Let us not, however, be too sweeping in our dispraise, the Romans of Corneille, when uninfected by the gallantry of Clelia and the romancers, are noble personages. Esther and Athalie have the highest of praise, in never jarring on our most delicate associations, those of our religious history. Voltaire, though his Asiatics are from the court of the grand monarque, is more successful

in other countries. The old French chivalrous character is well drawn in the Gabrielle de Vergy of an inferior writer, Du Belloy.

There are some excellent observations on the effect of the French character on their drama, their politeness and perpetual aim at brilliance, but we must refer to the work for them. "Les personages ont rarement l'air de se croire seuls entre eux, et ils se tournent toujours plus ou moins en face des spectateurs." Neither let us pause to wage war against the "thrice-slain" confidants, nor to criticize their mode of unfolding the plot, the regular dialogue between the prince and his favourite, two noblemen, or the heroine and her confidante, which invariably calls to mind the sage question of Mr. Puff's friend: "Pray, Mr. Puff, how happened it they never told all this before?"— "What! before the play began!" Had our theatre never been Frenchified, the Critic would not have been true satire. A word or a fault we think not touched on by our author, the perpetual description of their feelings put into the mouths of the actors, it is not by their language and manners that they be tray their secret emotions; if they are afraid they fairly tell us, that they are "glacès d'effior;" if they are angry, they coolly inform us that their blood boils. We say nothing of their Alexandrine and their rhyme; it is their highest praise that they sometimes surmount its disadvantages. The difficulty is indeed eulogized by Voltaire, but he forgets that it exists in its greatest force to the poet, the mere mechanic versifier, who having no flow of ideas to curb, no excursive inspiration to fetter, may soon conquer it to an habitual facility. Their poetical diction, in spite

of

of the pomp of Corneille, the exquisite purity of Racine and the force of Voltaire is meagre and circumscribed. There is a set stock of metaphors, and modes of expression everlastingly recurring, and this is the sure consequence of an established poetical diction. It is a death blow to poetry. The early French drama assimilated itself to the Spanish, Corneille is deeply imbued with this character. Corneille is always grand, even till his grandeur becomes monotonous, but in spite of this and the want of femineness in his females we cannot read or hear him without a sort of elevation, and kindred soaring of the spirit. Polyeucte is our favourite; but we avoid details. Racine is of a milder nature. The clear felicity of his language, which even a foreigner may taste, his unaffected erudition, the spotless delicacy of his females, and every thing in Athalie extort unqualified praise; we should add the two last acts of Andromaque, had the lovers of Hermione any names but those of Orestes and Pyrrhus. Voltaire plays too incessantly the philosopher; Alzire, with all its beauties, is too evidently a lecture on toleration, but he excites a deeper and more powerful emotion than his great predecessors, and had the taste to shun many of their defects. We differ from M. Schlegel in the selection of the five chef d'œuvres of Voltaire. Merope, after detracting all that belongs to Maffei far surpasses Semiramis, which, by his own criticism, is a lamentable failure. Zaire certainly wants oriental colouring, and Orosmane owes no little to Othello; the Christians are admirable. We forget the atrocity of Mahomet in the interest excited by his victims; he is not an Asiatic, but voluptuousness and ambition are his leading features, and there is a terrible and sombre character of power attached to him, at which we involuntarily shudder.

In the lecture on French comedy the minor authors, Regnard, Destouches, &c. are sketched with great skill, but we think the estimate of Moliere the greatest failure in the book. There is an apparent wish to decry his merits in opposition to the French Aristarchi; but it is not done as usual, by a bold and argumentative attack, but by petty blows and a sort of carping at particular faults. We are not indiscriminate and exclusive in our admiration of Moliere; the perpetual impudent valet and familiar chambermaid are not only irreconcilable to our notions, but wearisome from their frequency; sometimes, as in George Dandin, he is decidedly immoral, he borrows fearlessly from all quarters: but for lively pictures of French manners, for the foibles and lighter vices of our kind, for careless touches by which the character is completely betrayed, Moliere is inimitable. He is not perhaps the first comic poet of human nature, but he is of society,

We

We are now arrived at the grand division of classical and romantic poetry. Perhaps it would be sufficient answer to those critics, who are so infatuated with a prejudice for certain conventional forms, as to regard every thing which is not cast from these moulds as barbarous and contrary to truth (for such is their jargon) were we simply to lay before them the analogy, which exists between the English and Spanish theatres. Two nations of totally different character, climate, manners, and religion, totally unconnected in a literary point of view, have yet adopted the same dramatic rules, the same disregard of the unities, the same contrast of tragic and comic scenes; surely a very profound and powerful principle of our nature must be acted upon, that such different minds should derive such common delight from a common source. The genius of ancient and modern poetry, we have shewn above, to be diametrically opposite, the forms of poetry must vary with its character; to reproach us therefore, that we do not conform to the models of the ancients is as reasonable as to reproach the painter with an absurdity for his endeavour, by the rules of perspective, to represent on a flat piece of canvass, figures at a great distance from each other, and for not bounding himself to the powers of sculpture, a single connected groupe. The unity of transfiguration is not the same with that of the Laocoon, but is it therefore to be despised for want of unity. The whole analogy is finely unfolded by our author, the Grecian poetry, like sculpture, aimed at shaping isolated figures or groupes to ideal excellence, the eye grasped the whole: our own, like painting, has a wider range, delights in strong contrast, and leads the sight through a gradation of various successive images.

Shakespeare has ever been and ever will be the boast and glory of Englishmen, when he is not, farewell to the English character! The Puritans proscribed him, the profligates of Charles the Second's reign depraved him to their obscene humours, but all that remained English preserved their love and reverence for him, our poets, our philosophers bore testimony to his honour. We must unwillingly pause to convict M. Schlegel of a gross error, had not the name of Milton been concerned we should have pardoned and passed it over. M. Schlegel argues from the lines in the Allegro

"And sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native woodnotes wild."

That Milton was blind to Shakespeare's higher excellencies. But he forgets that Milton is providing his mirthful man with pleasures. Would not the Midsummer Night's Dream be better suited to the follower of Euphrosyne than Lear or Othello?

Othello? Is M. Schlegel ignorant of the sublimest praise ever conferred by poet on poet?

"What needs our Shakespeare for his honour'd bones,

The labours of an age in piled stones?" &c. &c.

Our

But all the rest is admirable, the universality of Shakespeare's genius is deeply felt, and finely appreciated. He it is, whose mighty magic embodies all stations of life, from the meanest to the loftiest, even to supernatural existences in their several forms of light and darkness. The clown and the king, the madman and the philosopher, the witty debauchee and the solemn misanthrope, the lovesick girl and the witch of the blasted heath, the spirit of health and the goblin damned, move before us each in their own sphere. Even national character is caught with indisputable truth. What is more Italian than Romeo and Juliet ? The passions, the prettinesses of the language, all breathe that warm and voluptuous atmosphere. What more French, as Frenchmen they were, than the half chivalrous, half courtly romance of Biron? Othello is not so much a Moor in visage as in heart. What is more Roman than Coriolanus? more stoic than Brutus? Shylock is not merely distinguishable by his beard, his love of money and his Phaisaical hatred of Christianity proclaim his origin more surely and more positively. English national character is shewn in all its progress of civilization from Falconbridge and Hotspur, Talbot and Clifford, to the haughty courtliness of Wolsey, and the meek christian spirit of Cromwell. Are we then, on account cf a few anachronisms and errors of geography, to consider Shakespeare as an ignorant and thoughtless writer, who cast forth his diamas without study, and without any regard beyond their temporary success? We think it impossible; the atoms of Epicurus, as our author says, are hardly more absurd than such a doctrine. Shakespeare was poor in what is usually called learning; he understood, and here we differ from M. Schlegel, little Latin and no Greek. But he was rich in the knowledge of all that delighted his time; the splendid poetry of those days, the foreign novels from which he drew his foreign manners, and he was profoundly versed in English history, which happily in his time was not an elaborate system of political philosophy, but a living picture of the manners of past ages. All his classical knowledge, with the exception of the common mythological allusions, may, we firmly believe, be traced to one book, the translation of Plutarch. Above all, the exterior forms of nature were familiar to him, and his own peculiar domain, the human heart, had no secrets for his piercing vision. Whence then these inaccuracies? Mr. Schlegel's solution is ingenious, he believes them intentional. Shakespeare

Shakespeare generally wrote from the chronicles and novels that were familiar to his hearers; he thought it dangerous to his more material improvements, if he startled them with a correction of every trifling blunder; he deliberately sacrificed petty accuracy to general effect.

But Shakespeare is charmed ground; we must break the magic circle and depart, earnestly recommending to our readers the two lectures of M. Schlegel, as a splendid illustration of the manner in which our great poet should be read and felt *.

We are delighted to find some mention of those writers, whe are seated at the foot of that eminence, on which Shakespeare is enthroned in solitary greatness. It is their misfortune, fine poets as they are, ever to call to our minds the immense interval between themselves and their mighty master. M. Schlegel only names Lilly and Marlow of Shakespeare's predecessors. Lilly was a cold pedant, Marlow's Edward the Second closes admirably. It appears to us that Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus to silence, by his superiority in their own style, the popular plays of his time, Tamburlaine, the Spanish Tragedy, &c.-as Hamlet says to Laertes, "Nay, if thou'lt mouth, I'll rant as well as thou." Chapman aims at condensation and force till he not only wants ease, but becomes obscure. To Heywood, as our author observes, we owe the domestic tragedy, falsely supposed an invention of modern date, and which has never since been written so totally without affectation. Why does not the heart-rending nature of the woman killed with kindness supersede the false sentimentality and dull immorality

*We are sorry that M. Schlegel has thrown a little air of suspiciousness over his panegyric on Shakespeare, by his positive decision on the authenticity, nay excellence of the supposititious plays. Did we not know the wilful pleasure a critic finds in singularity, and a German's innate affection for paradox, it would much invalidate his testimony. Omitting all external evidences, the internal is positive against him. One proof will suffice. The language is not Shakespeare's. Most writers are generally simple, from choice or poverty, and by this simplicity set off their rich and splendid bursts. With Shakespeare it is the inverse. His natural tone is one full abundant flow of metaphor and imagery; when he is simple it is for effect. In these plays the language is easy, but not copious nor figurative, and therefore not Shakespearian. We have no doubt, and Farmer is on our side, that the most valuable of these pieces, Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cromwell, and the Yorkshire Tragedy, are among the 220 plays which old Heywood "had an entire hand in, or at least a main finger."Locrine is mere trash, apparently by the same hand as the Mayor of Quinborough.

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