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will require sagacity and profound penetration, as well as a minute and accurate knowledge of facts, to fathom such a man's motives or principles; and we shall watch with some degree of anxiety the progress of a work that is intended to describe and defend a personage of such importance, and, as intimated, to vindicate his policy.
ART. VI.-1. The Bride of Messina: a Tragedy; with Choruses. By SCHILLER. Translated by A. LODGE, Esq. M. A.
2. The Patrician's Daughter: a Tragedy. By J. WESTLAN MARSTON. 3. Old Maids: a new Comedy. By SHERIDAN KNOWLES.
WE wish to avoid all controversy with regard to the moral effects of the stage and to confine ourselves on the subject of the drama to the literary merits of the pieces which come before us. One thing is manifest relative to this topic, that play-writers and playhousegoers we are sure to have in the present state of society. In these circumstances it becomes our duty as journalists to watch the progress and to pronounce upon the character of dramatic productions, welcoming such as appear to be the purest and the most elevating in point of sentiment, so that public taste may not be degraded beyond its present condition, by such pestiferous pieces as have frequently been written for the stage, and perused in private by persons too susceptible.
Each of the three productions before us have claims upon our approval as compared with the majority of dramatic works. The Bride of Messina is one of Schiller's most characteristic works, and has been translated by a person who is evidently not merely a ripe scholar in the language of the original, but is possessed of a poetical temperament, which, if not akin to that of the celebrated author, is at least such as that he appreciates the beauties and peculiarities of the piece, and can transfuse them into his mother tongue. A remarkable feature in this modern tragedy consists of the choruses which are introduced in observance of the ancient models, the dramatist's idea being that the poets of those distant days "found the chorus in nature, and for that reason employed it. It grew out," it is further observed, "of the poetical respect of real life. In the new tragedy it becomes an organ which aids in making the poetry prominent." This opinion and short account may induce some of our readers to examine the work and to test for themselves the soundness of the poet's theory.
The Patrician's Daughter is by a writer who also entertains a theory of his own, but which may be questioned. He says, "Consider our merchant when he returns from 'Change; the poet as he walks unnoted in our streets; the calm demeanour of the agitated diplomatist; the smooth brow and accustomed smile of a regnant
beauty, while jealous rivals wound with courtesy, and torture selon les règles. What suspense! what aspirations! what subdued emotions! There is truly stuff for tragedy in the age of civilization."
Now, although it may not be right "to limit to the past, the dramatic exhibition of our nature," for this may be "virtually to declare our nature itself radically altered," as Mr. Marston observes; yet tragedy must present something more active and full of storm than suspense, aspirations and subdued emotions: therefore dramatists find it convenient for the most part to recur to periods when the conventionalities of civilization had not reduced manners to a perfect smoothness, and the actions of the highest spirits of the age to a dead level. "The Patrician's Daughter" itself is not merely very deficient of action, but while the author proposes to himself to picture human nature as exhibited in very modern times, he falls back upon an age most celebrated in the history of the British drama for his metaphors and much of his phraseology, instead of giving us the real language and life of the period to which his plot belongs: thus, if not virtually declaring our nature itself to be radically changed, intimating that passion and deep suffering cannot find adequate expression in the language of our times. But Mr. Marston has otherwise fallen into error; for he has not taught the highest and noblest lesson towards the correction of modern conventionalities, making the catastrophe arise from the pride and ungenerous conduct of the hero, rather than as the result of vindicating grand principles, or of any lofty impulse.
The antagonism and the fatal circumstances which destroy the Patrician's Daughter, arise from the pride of a low-born man of genius having had to endure the contempt of a family of high station, according to the conventionalities of society. Mordaunt is the victim at first of this pride of rank, for having aspired to the hand of Lady Mabel Lynterne, whose father is an earl, cherishing the most exclusive aristocratic feelings. The earl's sister, Lady Lydia, discovering Mordaunt's aspirations, by misrepresentation and strategy causes a scornful refusal to be given to him, although Mabel had begun to entertain a love for her over-sanguine suitor; and he leaves the noble Lord's stately mansion, after the following
Before we part, I have a word or two
For Lady Mabel's ear.-I know right well
The world has no tribunal to avenge
An injury like mine; you may allure
To aspirations of a dream-like bliss,
From which to wake is madness; and when spells
Its motives, feelings, energies, and hopes,
Deep crime, that you commit. Had you for sport
Lydia (to the Earl.) Is't meet that longer you should brook this censure?
Mordaunt (disregarding her). And is it then no sin,
To crush those flowers of life, our freshest hopes,
Which know no second growth? To cast our faith
By which the soul walks fearless through the world,
The Earl. Well! sir,
Mordaunt. Yes! but its issues
The Earl. Hither! Mabel.
(Mabel reels forward and falls into her Father's arms.")
Several years elapse before the opening of the next scene; during which interval the rejected lover has received a title, and has become distinguished in public and political life. He is now the accepted suitor to Lady Mabel, and a grand marriage is on the eve apparently of solemnization, a company of guests having assembled
to witness the ceremony. Still, Sir Edgar Mordaunt's bearing and conduct are remarkable and mysterious. For example, he indulges in a string of speeches that have an ominous tone, which terminate in a peremptory refusal to wed the lady who now with parental approval undisguisedly loves the low-born but at length exalted man of genius. Here is part of his explanation :
"Mordaunt. Encouraged thus, I straightway sought the Earl, Entreated his permission to be ranked
As Lady Mabel's suitor, when it pleased her
I hasted home ;-in a few days the tale
Mirth to a thousand jesters.-What presumption
To have a heart! I own that fault, however,
Is not patrician. Now for once be men
Have you loved ever? known what 'tis to stake
[Moves towards the door.
Pierpoint (drawing his rapier). You shall not quit this house,
Mabel (who rushes forward and arrests his arm.)
[Mordaunt regards her earnestly.
(Haughtily.) He is not worthy of it.
The wreck and the misery caused by this specimen of refined or rather mean revenge become tragic enough before the curtain drops. Now, whatever objections may be made to the conduct of the plot, it cannot be denied that there is great power in the passages quoted, just as there are many proofs throughout the piece of manly feeling, and much beautiful writing. He is no common-place workman who could in the manner shown give dramatic effect to cold convention; although we think he should have preached a more attractive and ennobling lesson than that founded on the principle of dudgeon.
With two short extracts, containing power and beauty that require no preface, we close our notice of "The Patrician's Daughter."
"Mordaunt. 'Tis our Time's curse
The generous, the high-hearted, and the pure,
And yet, what art so practical as that
Which showing what men should be, nourishing
By portraiture of those possessing them,
After which it were well that ours were fashioned?"
Here follow sentiments of a kindred tone :
"Mordaunt. Is not yon sunset splendid?
But we may see that often, and it bears
Mordaunt. Indeed it does
However proud, or great, or wise, or valiant
When yonder globe is ashes, as your sires,—
Knowles's "Old Maids" abounds with manly sentiments and direct appeals to nature, without the sickly affectations of the fine school