« ForrigeFortsæt »
Now, assuredly, it is a matter of high interest to observe in what manner, and with what powers, a writer
To the Editor of the Universal Mag. would endeavour to simplify the drama in a period like the present,— when the purest specimens of artificial elegance, and the grandest productions of untutored Nature, unite to teach him what to avoid, but are so fascinating and so beautiful; meanwhile, that they are more likely to tempt him to follow them as guides than to avoid them as quicksands.
The comedy of Miss Baillie is of that simple, unmixed species, which may be denominated characteristic. The characters are not strongly marked, nor opposed to each other in bold lines of contrast, but gently intermingle, and exhibit their peculiarities in soft degrees of difference. It is thus, no doubt, that characters appear on the real stage of the world; but we cannot readily believe that a tame and literal reflection of the features of society is the style of representation calculated for the admonitory school of Thespis. The historical painter uses marked contrast, and a strength of delineation almost emblematical of character, rather than strictly imitative; and surely the dramatist would be correct in following his example? But Miss Baillie appears deficient in the great fundamental qualification of a comic dramatist -humour. Divide comedy into as many classes as we please; particularise and describe these classes as the characteristic, the satirical, the witty, the sentimental, and the circumstantial; still, it is the business of the comic mure to "show the very age and body of the time its form and pressure," and the talent required for the successful achievement of this salutary purpose has ever been, and ever must be, humour.
REMARKS on the GENIUS of
EW circumstances, connected with literature, could excite more curiosity than the attempt of an individual to compose a series of plays illustrative of the effects of the whole range of the stronger passions; especially when it is understood that the adventurer meant boldly to view both sides of the impassioned countenance, and was sedulous to depicture the ridiculous as well as the tragic results of those conflicts to which the human bosom is subject.
The present is an interesting period for so adventurous and novel an endeavour. When the poets of Greece first woo'd the coy and many-tempered muse of the drama, the people were refined, and Homer had incul. cated chaste and critical opinions concerning the structure and attributes of poesy. On the other hand, Shakspeare laid the foundation of the English stage during an era which (as far as regards poetry) was rude as winter, and dark as midnight. The consequences were precisely those which might be expected.— The productions of the Grecian muse were lofty, polished, and sentimental: all that art could perform was effected; but nature and the muse maintained an injurious and immeasurable distance. The grand, though trackless, flights of Shakspeare's genius were directed by an aim entirely opposite. The human passions formed the basis of his plays, and tints warm from Nature's own pallet were employed to bestow effect on the rude but captivating and faithful picture. Still, from a want of acquaintance with the works of those who had Jaboured to deduce precepts of art from the results of experience, he
frequently so mingles the passions in To turn agreeably some proper the course of one representation, that it seems probable the greatest possible effect is not regularly elicited from materials so productive, although the wonderful and unprecedented power of his self-dependent
But how rarely is this quality the possession of a female bosom! The ranks of literature boast of females conspicuous for wit, eloquence, penetration, and strength of judgment;
genius must be admitted by all. but not of one who could display the
"Humour is all; wit should be only brought
least resemblance of the humour personages are possessed of strong and evinced by Shakspeare and Cervantes, original leading features. Miss BailSterne and Fielding. From habits lie's versification is not of that smooth of education, indeed, it would appear and uniform description which Adthat females have little opportunity dison first introduced to dramatic of cultivating this propensity. The writing. Her transitions are quick, desirable delicacy with which their and her manner judiciously adapted minds are usually nurtured, denies to the variety of her characters. In them that full, broad view of the short, her tragedies consist entirely coarser parts of life, from the con- of natural sentences, harmoniously templation of which it is probable arranged. our humorous authors derived that If Miss Baillie had never read glowing maturity of faculty which Shakspeare, her genius would appear has enabled them to convulse a world prodigions. But it is evident that she with laughter, and to render vice has studied him with profound and midespicable merely by exhibiting it as nute attention. Still, she is far remote irresistibly ridiculous. Be the cause from all servility of imitation. She what it may, we cannot admit that has endeavoured to imbibe his cast Miss Baillie possesses humour. Her of thought, not tamely laboured to comedies are pretty, tasteful, and di- copy his manner, as was the case verting. The characters are usually with Rowe. And this, it must be drawn with undeviating accuracy, observed, is precisely the mode in But there is a general want of strength. which Sir Joshua Reynolds recomStill, occasional flashes intervene, so mends every student in the sister art replete with observation and so finely of painting to form his genius. Such elucidative of character, that criticism imitation is, indeed, not more proforgets its office, and we forgive the fitable than it is rational and noble rest of the scene for the beauty of a It would be poor and mean to give a single passage. mere parody of those abrupt exclamations and profound remarks which distinguish Shakspeare's characters from all others: but it is liberal and ingenious to analyse the vein of mind and mode of perception which enabled Shakspeare to represent nature and human circumstances in colours so just and attractive.
But who shall hastily appreciate the merit of Miss Baillie in tragedy? Here she stands alone among the moderns, and agitates the passions with true poetical magic. Her plays are written in strict attention to that rule of Aristotle which declares terror and compassion to be the legitimate objects of tragedy. The passions of love and hatred are among those on which she has already exercised her pen; and from these opposite materials she has succeeded in achieving a similar result. In regard to the unities of time and place she is neither strictly chaste (according to the practice of the ancients) nor wantonly licentious, as was so frequently
Such is the degree of imitation to be noticed in Miss Baillie; and when we observe that her judgment of mankind keeps pace with the fidelity of her imitation, and that her warmth of fancy at least equals her strength of judgment, how surprising must it appear that all her pieces, except one, are strangers to the stage! We have now a solemn and massy pile erected
the case with the greatest dramatic as a national theatre, which a spectator would be led to suppose was constructed for the exclusive representation of elevated tragic composi tions. Yet, in this building, sing-song farces and "inexplicable dumb shew" chiefly prevail; while plays, like those which have led to the present remarks, are to be found only in the closets of the few who have sufficient industry and good-taste to seek for dramatic merit in the tomes of neglected plays,
genius that the world ever produced, And this temperate medium appears well calculated for the great purposes of the drama, since it permits a display of the growth and progress of passion, without affording scope for such a wild, excursive detail of incidents as destroys the simplicity and harmony of the fable. Her characters are genuine, distinctly marked, and well preserved. Even the subordinate
rather than in the thin volumes of Et de vos fictions le mélange coupable
Qui de votre heros veut rabaisser la gloire
Your constant reader,
On the INJUSTICE which has been done to the MUSE of TASSO. SIR,
has been frequently, and not unaptly, compared to a telegraph, which repeats without comprehending, and transmits a decision without knowing the meaning or penetrating the secret.This is strictly true with regard to Tasso, whose works, in consequence of one of Despreaux's satirical shafts, have become the slander of little tongues: Tasso, however, would not have been treated with such severity and injustice, if our immortal Addison had not become the echo of Boileau's malicious comparison, made in all appearance for the sake of the rhyme.
The lines stand thus:
Now the safest way of ascertaining the value of an author's opinion is to compare him with himself: if we pursue this plan in the present instance, we shall find that, upon the whole, Boileau, however he quarrel with the structure of his poems, highly applauds him in other respects, and ranks him even with Virgil himself, whom, as a model, he had most happily followed. This is the testimony of that same Boileau, in his Critical Dissertation on the Joconde of La Fontaine. He observes,
He, however, gives a note, wherein he says, that a nobleman gave this decision in his presence.
One reason, amongst others, for the satirist pronouncing so harshly against Tasso was, that he disliked the nature and the machinery of his Poem of Jerusalem delivered, which he thus expresses in the third canto of his Art of Poetry:
C'est done bien vainement que nos auteurs
Comme ces dieux eclos du cerveau des
La Fontaine à pris à la verité son sujet de l'Arioste; mais en meme temps il s'est rendu maitre de sa mateire ce ue'st point une copie qu'il ait tiré : un trait apres l'autre sur l'original; c'est un original qu'it a formé sur l'idee que l'Arioste lui a fournie. C'est ainsi que Virgile a imité Homere; Terence Menandre, et! TASSE VIRGILE.
De la foi d'un 'chretien les mysteres terribles
No argument is wanting to shew the high rank of Tasso as a poet after such a confession from Boileau; and if Mr. Addison had either attentively read Tasso, or the whole works of Boileau, he would not so inconsider ately have condemned the first epic poet in the Italian language, nor have left imprinted on the mind of his readers a censure equally illiberal, uncandid, and unjust.
I may probably hereafter enter more fully into the real merits of Tasso, who is but imperfectly known through the medium of Hoole's Translation, and by a comparison of passages shew, that he merits to be classed in the first rank of epic poets.
I remain, &c.
EMILIUS AND SOPHIA; OR TH
Mettent a chaque pas les lecteur en enfer :
L'evangile à l'esprit n'offre de tous côtés
that the accompanying work will be worthy a place in your Magazine, you are at liberty so to use it. I translated it, in
moments of leisure, from the works of Rousseau, a writer whose name I pronounce with reverence. It is but a fragment: yet, such a fragment as bears all the impress of its author's genius. I have the less scruple in offering it to you, because, as far as I know, it has not been translated into English for though a sequel to his Emile, it was not published till after his death. Under such circumstances it may, perhaps, be read with interest by those who have perused his former work a work for which Rousseau aid of himself (with culpable vanity) that he deserved a statue of gold to be erected to his memory in every kingdom of Europe.
I remain, Sir, &c. .
London, Aug. 11, 1810.
PS. The following abstract of the preliminary observations by the French editors, will serve to explain the scope of this work.
which he had relinquished to carry on
We now present to the public the only part of it which he had written, and we candidly confess that we bring it forward with a degree of repugnance. In proportion as the picture which he delineates has all the marks of its sublime author's genius, in that proportion is it offensive. Emilius mad, Sophia degraded! Who can endure such a picture? But let us not impute this to Rousseau: we know it; it was no part of his plan or intention. Would he, himself, have debased his noblest work? Sophia was guilty, she was not despicable; imprudent connections were the cause of her faults and her misfortunes.
Remarks upon the following Frag
Why, it may be asked, did not Rousseau finish this melancholy narrative? Why did he not conduct Emilius and Sophia to that final happiness which every reader must wish them? Had he lived, bad he finished this work, he doubtless would have done so; and it will ever be regretted that this most interesting off-pring of his genius must remain unfinished, for where is he that can take up the pen to conclude what Rousseau began?. EMILIUS AND SOPHIA; OR THE RECLUSE. Letter the First.
It must be confessed that the only benefits upon which man can calculate, are those which his soul treasures up and hence, the only effectual means perhaps of providing for his felicity, is to give him sure antidotes against the ills of fate, either in enabling him to repair those ills by the force of talent, or to support them by the power of virtue. This was the great object of Rousseau in his Treatise on Education; and the following work is intended to prove that
I was free! I was happy! Oh my preceptor, you fashioned my heart to taste of happiness, and to crown it you gave me Sophia. A rising offspring added the charms of paternal solicitude to the bliss of love, and to the warm and glowing effusions of he had accomplished his object. By friendship. All indicated a happy existence; all promised a soft decline of life, and a peaceful death in the arms of my children. Alas! where are now those blissful hours of fruition and of hope: hours, when the future added charms to the present; hours, when my heart, drunk with joy, each day ingulphed ages of feli
placing Emilius in difficulty, by subjecting him to a series of calamitous events, which the most intrepid individual could not encounter without shrinking, he has endeavoured to shew that the principles in which he was brought up from his youth were those which, alone, could render him superior to those difficulties. The city. All, all is vanished as a dream. idea was a fine one, and the execu- All is lost; wife, children, friends : tion would have been no less interest- all even to the intercourse with my ing than useful, for it would have fellow creatures. My heart, alas! brought the moral of Emilius into has been torn from all its dearest ataction, have justified it, and rendered tachments; one only now remains, it amiable but death prevented Rous- and that one trivial; a lukewarm love seau from raising this new monument of life; a life whose only happiness is to his glory, and to resume this work that it is free from remorse. Should
I long survive my losses, Heavens! structions from my pleasures. All men recal with affection the sports of their infancy. I am, perhaps, the only one who mix not with those soft remembrances the tears of nature which they cause. Oh! that I had died while an infant! I should then have known life without its pains.
When I had attained the years of manhood, my happiness suffered no interruption. At the age when influenced by my passions I formed my opinions fron reason, that by which others were deceived pointed out to me the road to truth. I learnt to judge judiciously of the things which surrounded me, and of the interest which I ought to espouse; I passed my decisions from principles at once simple and true; neither authority nor opinion could corrupt them. To discover the mutual affinity of things, I first studied the analogy which each separately bore to myself: thus then, from two known terms, I was soon enabled to discover the third. To become acquainted with the universe, as relative and interesting to myself, my first great aim was to beconie acquainted with my place; that assigned, all was then found.
what will be my fate? an isolated being, grown old in sorrow, and doomed (secluded from the sight of any human being) to terminate my existence with Providence alone to close my eyes..
In my situation then, what can induce me to regard with complacency a life I have so little reason to esteem. -What but remembrance, and the consolation of being in the order of the world, and of submitting with cheerfulness to the all-wise decrees of God. To all that was dear to me I am dead; impatiently and fearless I await that awful moment when I shall be summoned to immortality, and shall rejoin that which I have lost.
But you, my dear preceptor, do you yet live? Are you yet mortal? Are you yet upon this earth an exile with your Emilius: or do von already habit those blest abodes, that place of immortality with my Sophia? Alas! wherever you may be, to your Emilius you are dead. Never more will these eyes behold thee: but in my heart thy image is indelibly impressed. Never did I better. know the value of thy instructions and care, tiil cruel fate inflicted on me her blows, and deprived me of all but myself, and that despair itself has not been able to annihilate. Hardly dare I hope these papers will ever meet thy eve. Doubtless they will perish ere the sight of man is cast upon them. But I care not they are written: I have collected, have joined them: I will still continue, and to you do I address them. To you will I relate these sad remembrances, which elate and wound my heart. To you will I disclose myself, my sentiments, my conduct; and that heart which you have moulded in my bosom. I will be a man; he must either be a brute confess all, both the good and the or a God. Inadequate then to the bad; my misfortunes, my pleasures, task of protecting me from all the and my faults; and I do not hesitate various affections by which we are to athrm I shall confess nothing attached to things, you at least learnt which can dishonour your work. me to choose, to suffer my soul to receive only the most noble, and to attach myself to the most deserving objects of my fellow creatures; to extend, as it were, le moi humain" to all humanity, and thus to preserve myself from the detested passions which concentrate in us.
I also learnt that the greatest wisdom consists in being content with whatever is, and to regulate our heart according to our destiny. Often have you told me, that that is all which depends on us, every thing else being necessity. He who obstinately struggles against his fate is always least wise and most miserable; and the unnecessary trouble which he gives himself to alter his situation, exceeds the anxiety he before experienced. He rarely succeeds, and when he does he gains nothing. What sensible being can always exist without passion, or without attachment? He cannot
While yet young I tasted of happiness; it commenced even with my birth: ought it not then to cease before my death? The days of my youth were days of joy; passed in li berty, in bliss, and in innocence; never did I learn to distinguish my in