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ingly. Besides, the royalists enter- self and Paul Meurice, into rhymed tained deep-rooted prejudices against verse, to be represented at the everything English, attributing, as Theatre Historique. Alexandre Duthey did and still do, to English mas had become the proprietor of example the introduction of systems this new theatre, with the avowed which they hold to be fatal to the intention of introducing the masterpeace of their country. Admiration pieces of the English, Spanish, Itaof the British Constitution they do lian, and German schools; and the believe to have been the primary audience, as if to be reminded each cause of the first revolution, and the evening of a design so worthy of a immediate cause of that of July, man of letters, entered a porch which As in politics, so in philosophy. looked like a temple, dedicated to Locke they regard as the source of the poets of other lands; for round a cirmaterialism of the 18th century. cular ceiling, on an azure ground, Even Cousin, at the present day, stood the figures of Shakespeare, upholds this strange doctrine; which, Calderon, Alfieri, and Schiller. As if true to any extent, would only be Othello had preceded by a few true to this--that minds of particular months the revolution of July, se cast only appropriate partially and as Hamlet appeared almost on the eve much of foreign speculation as agrees of 1848, and amidst the ruin caused with their own habits of thought. by the republic was that of the The French only see one side of T'heatre Historique. As far as it Locke, while, having charged political went the experiment proved, we bemisfortune and philosophical error lieve, not unsatisfactory. The public on England, and renouncing her reli- showed themselves, at all events, gious reformation altogether, they better prepared for the reception of were in no favorable mood for allow. Shakespeare. The language had of ing. Shakespeare to rush in and late been more studied, and English dethrone Corneille and Racine. Pre- literature better appreciated. The judices of another kind procured recollection of Mr. Macready's per: this party allies amongst the public at formance at the Theatre des Italiens, large. Priests of a new literary faith, a couple of years before, was still our young Romanticists, moved by vivid." That fine actor had been pro: unreflecting enthusiam, placed Shake- nounced by Parisian critics more speare in the foreground of the battle, truly classic than any one of whom and that not for his own sake alone. the French stage could boast. Classic, They did not, with exclusive devo- as applied to acting, meant, in the tion to one revered object, profess the French vocabulary, the attainment of simple idea of making their country- the pure ideal, and this ideal was men acquainted with a great foreign exhibited in the performances of poet. Only Germans appear capable Hamlet and Macbeth. This, in itself, of this sort of self-abnegation and was a blow to the cant about Shakepower of repelling mixed motives. speare being the opposite of classic. They had their own romantic dramas On Dumas himself, as upon all the ready to be excused and vindicated leading literary characters of the day, by the English example. This only the acting of Mr. Macready made a excited the stronger repulsion against profound impression ; and when the an author held responsible for the popular dramatist himself had bed new heresies. In fine, the awful come manager, and by the time he figure of the great Bard of Avon offered his own version of Hamlet, was thrust into the midst of strife, prejudices were not entirely effaced, and we must not wonder if, under yet had hostility completely ceased. such circumstances, few bent the We regret to have to make a heavy knee..
aceusation even against M. Dumas, Since that period there has been and his to-partner, M. Paul Meurice. only one attempt to represent a play Their version of Hamlet was fair of Shakespeare, with some approach enough, until they came to the catasto fidelity to the original. It was trophe. True, they omitted some towards the close of the year 1847 scenes, as, for example, the opening that the celebrated Alexandre Dumas one of the play itself, so indispensacaused Hamlet, as translated by himbly necessary for the preparation ; and they made some slight transposi. “ More an antique Roman than a Dane," tions ; but all this was pardonable when compared with the monstrous
is one to whom, with his devoted ness of their inverted catastrophe. As
friend, we say — the king dies, the ghost appears, and “Good night, sweet Prince, proceeds to pronounce the decree of And fliglits of angels sing thee to thy rest." heaven on the king, the queen, Laertes and Hamlet. For the king Dumas and Co.'s derangementno pardon ! In the case of the queen we thank thee, Sand, for teaching us there are des circonstances attenuantes. that word,"--proves that however Laertes is already sufficiently pun- generally impressed with the grandeur ished, and may die comfortably. of Hamlet, they had no subtle insight Hamlet is condemned--to live! This into the character of the Prince of is a fall from literary labor to the Denmark. inost clumsy theatrical contrivance ; We have now seen how Shakeand in this scenic effort Dumas speare has been treated by French and Co., in parting with Shakespeare, adapters, arrangers, and derangers. abandoned the Horatian rule :
Ducis was the first to take liberties
with the object of Voltaire's sneering If in a portrait you should sce a handsoine condemnation. Voltaire in his latter woman with a fislı's tail, would you not days rather retracted the hasty conclulaugh, and call the painter mad ?
sions of his earlier and cruder studies,
and Ducis thought he reconciled all In order to screw on this incon- differences by arranging Hamlet acgruous tail, Horatio is thrown aside. cording to the classic models of the Now it is the sterling friendship of period. Heaccordingly treated ShakeHamlet and Horatio which is our .speare as at this day we see trees and own binding link of sympathy with shrubs "arranged" in the royal Hamlet. We are not quite satisfied gardens of Versailles: that is to say, with his conduct towards Ophelia, nor cut into formal shapes, as if nature indeed towards any one else ; and it is herself, in presence of royalty, should a wonderful proof of Shakespeare's appear in an artificial dress.
The genius, that, despite his vacillations Bard of Avon was presented at court and splenetic bursts of weak temper, with wig, waistcoat, rutiles, buckles, we are made not only to sympathise and sword; yet it is said that Talma so keenly with his sufferings, but to could discern the great spirit through respect him so profoundly. It is be- the tawdry disguise, and rose to subcause he moves on the verge of the limity in “ To be or not to be.” M. awful bourne, invested with his dead De Vigny had the honour of being father's presence, and because though the first to exhibit Shakespeare in all that is human of him staggers and integrity and truth. Why circumgrows faint, yet his mind's eye ranges stances were against him and his galreverentially through the superna- lant companions, Barbier de Wailly tural--it is on this account that we and Deschamps, we have already extremble like himself, and shrink as he plained ; and why we believe the day does from the execution of his promise of victory not to be far off, we have to the Ghost. Between him and all rather suggested than dared to affirm. other human beings that appearance Sure do we feel, however, that it of the royal Dane has created separa
would be better to leave Shakespeare tion, except with his friend Horatio. alone than dress him up in false coBy the perfect virtue of his friendship lours, and in 2 sort of Harlequin is the latent strength of Hamlet's soul patch-work. With all our heart do made manifest, and the noble heart we protest against such profane inconfo: whom Horatio would at the last gruisms, whether attempted by a moment have shown himself
Dumas or a Sand.
OUR narrative of the life of James Montgomery was, in our first volume for 1855,* brought down to the publication of the "World before the Flood," the most popular of his poems. Montgomery was now in the forty-first year of his age, and in the full maturity of his powers. Of power, in any sense of the word, Montgomery exhibited little in his earliest verses. His "Prison Amusements" was one of the dullest poems we ever read; but in every successive work he threw aside commonplaces, and at last worked out a pure and clear style. The conventional language in which verse was then written, was adopted in all he at first wrote. What was peculiar in Montgomery was, that with this conventional language was united the dialect of the 66 religious world.” Each of these faults was a passport to the admiration of the half-educated; for each addressed itself to prepared sympathies, which obeyed the magic of familiar words and forms, and Montgomery seemed for a while the slave and victim of Spirits whom he was soon able to command. It is probable that even yet he is by many persons admired for the poems in which his language is cast in the old moulds of the conventicle, and of the De la Crusca school. A few stanzas occur, in almost every one of his lyrical poems, happily conceived, and written with great beauty of expression; but he soon descends from these heights, and we are reminded of the audience whose admiration he is seeking, and from whose sight he fears he has risen too high. The kindliness to him of Southey and Aikin, who, through their reviews, made his name known to a better, if not a larger class of readers than he was able to command before, had the effect,-of which the poet himself was perhaps unconscious -of compelling him in his later writings to think in sympathy with a
higher order of minds than those which he first sought to interest. It is scarcely too much to say that the change elevated him in the scale of being. Among the most interesting things which his biographers have preserved, are a few letters of Sou they's. Southey saw in poems, which with less genial critics had excited only ridicule, the manifestations of true genius; and,-always generous--had done what in him lay to bring the works into public notice.
In the eleventh book of the Paradise Lost, Adam is shewn the fate of his posterity. Some sixty lines are employed in describing the state of the ante-diluvian world
Dublin University Magazine, vol. 45, p. 318.
The passage of which we have given a few lines, and the whole of which ought to be looked at by any one interested in the subject of Montgomery's poem, suggested "The World before the Flood"-Milton's was an expansion, or rather a translation into picture of a few verses of the fifth chapter of Genesis-Montgomery's
imagination is inspired by both. We are told that, wishing to print some shorter poems in companionship with one of greater length, as in the case of his "Wanderer of Switzerland" and "West Indies," he was looking out for a subject for the longer poem to which his fugitive poems of the last year or two might be annexed, and found it impossible to disengage his mind from the scriptural narrative of Enoch's translation, which he connected with Milton's paraphrase; and that on one Sunday morning, while he was going to his place of worship, this vision of the World before the Flood 66 rose like an exhalation"-that the poem was rapidly written and sent to a friend for the purpose of being forwarded to the Longmans for immediate publication. The poem as at first conceived and executed was but one-third of its present length. His friend, instead of sending it to the publisher, returned it to the poet, suggesting alteration and extension on a large scale. This led to the manuscript passing through several hands, and to a great deal of inconsistent criticism. The poet bore it with great good humour, and sought as far as he could to please every body. The old scruples against religious poetry, as adding or taking away from the Scripture, were suggested by his own disturbed mind, when he was agitated by discussions from without and misgivings from within, on all the possibilities and impossibilities of his theme. The friend who had advised him to enlarge the poem beyond its original plan Parken, the editor of the Eclectic Review - wrote reasonably to him :
"In your poem," says Mr. Parken, "there is no intention to deceive: there is no probability that any person will be deceived; and if the whole world were to be deceived, not a single feeling would be excited or a single action performed which would not be sanctioned by enlarged views of our nature, or which would be in the smallest degree detrimental to the happiness of a single individual. If I wanted proofs, I would only cite the apologues and parables of Scripture, some of which, if not all, are unquestionably fictitious. The use of fiction in literature appears to me exactly analogous to the conception of quantities in mathematics, or, to come home to my own peculiar and favourite studies, to the statement of
imaginary cases for the determination of points in law. Many cases may be imagined which probably never did occur in real life, but which might have occurred, may occur, and some time or other probably will. All the truth involved in the real case is equally involved in the imaginary one; and surely there is nothing very immoral or pernicious in getting instruction before an event actually takes place, which would be sound and salu tary afterwards. If there is any objection to the use of fiction in connection with facts of sacred history in a poetical work, it must rest upon the extraordinary power of fasci nation and illusion which the highest order of poetry possesses. The popular creed with respect to the fall of man, the war of the angels, and the character of Satan, is probably derived at least as much from Paradise Lost' as from the book of Genesis or of Revelation. Happily there is but little variance between them; and as to what there is, a moment's reflection detects the illusion, and the Bible is always at hand to dispel it. May your poem do as much harm as Milton's in this way, and as much good by graving re ligious facts and principles on the public
Parken read parts of the poem in manuscript to a large party, one of whom, writing to Montgomery, mentioned that Southey who had heard something of the intended poem, regretted that it was written "in the heroic couplet-the least adapted, as he maintains, for a long poem, and especially such a poem. Blank verse he recommended, and I am disposed to coincide with him." Pleasant letters those for the poor printer whose poem was already written. Were he not a pious man he would have pitched to the very devil all these devilkins, who were worse than the most fantastic of those who tormented Saint Anthony. Had the devils of his own office rebelled against him, and the types become mutinous and formed themselves into words suggestive of murder and revolution, when he bade them speak of nothing but love-as Anacreon's lyre would speak only of love when the poet called for heroic song-our poor friend could not have been more surprised. Blank verse, indeed !— why, of all things in the world, rhyme was what he liked best; in fact, in his earlier poems it was all in all-and he had often gone far for a rhyme when it would not come-? Was it not he who wrote the unfor gotten lines→
Should some rough unfeeling Dobbin,*
Seriously, the complaint that the poem was not written in blank verse, coming from one of the committee appointed to examine it, could not but have stirred the blood of the most lethargic Moravian that ever indulged in the comfortable torpor of a Greenland winter. Montgomery thought it best to appeal to Southey himself. He sent him a considerable portion of the poem in manuscript, and from him he received the comforting assurance that he " never should have objected to the heroic couplet, if it had often been written as you write it with that full and yet unwearying harmony, well varied, but never interrupted." Southey's letter is too long for extract, but to any persons wishing to estimate Southey, and to learn the facts of his early life, as told by himself, with reference to their effect upon him as a poet and a man, this letter is well worth attentive perusal.
Montgomery visited London in the spring of this year, and remained for what are called "the May meetings." It would be unjust to Montgomery not to transcribe the following passage from a speech of his, delivered three years afterwards, at a Sunday school society :
At this enchanting season, when an inrisible hand is awakening the woods, and shaking the trees into foliage,-when an invisible foot is walking the plains and the valleys, where flowers and fragrance follow its steps,-when a voice, unheard by man, is teaching every little bird to sing, in every bush, the praises of God,-when a beneficent power, perceived only in its effects, is diffusing life, and light, and liberty, and joy throughout the whole creation,-at this enchanting season, who would not love the country? Who would choose the filth, and continement, and tumult of the town? I love the country; I love the month of May; yet the month of May, when the country is most Leautiful (had I freedom of choice), I would spend in London? And why? Because in that mouth the assemblies of the people of God are most frequent and most full. Then, too, the tribes from the provinces go up to worship there at the anniver
Montgomery: "I heard Campbell deliver one of his Lectures on Poetry at the Royal Institution, before one of the most brilliant audiences I ever saw assembled on such an occasion." Holland: "Was Lord Byron present?" Montgomery: "He did not make bis appearance that evening, and I was disappointed in the expectation I had entertained of seeing him. You could not look upon the company without recognising some individual eminent in rank or distinguished in litera ture but the moment the lecturer begun, I had no longer a disposition to regard the cele brities about me. He read from a paper bes fore him; but in such an energetic manner, and with such visible effect, as I should hardly have supposed possible. His statements were clear, his style elegant, and his reasoning conclusive. After having wound up the attention of his hearers to the highest pitch, brought his arguments to a magnifi cent climax, and closed with a quotation from Shakspeare, in his best manner, off he went like a rocket! This lecture was the more striking, from its contrast with that de livered by Coleridge the evening before, from. the same rostrum. In the former case, the, lecturer, though impressing us at once, and in a high degree, with the power of genius, occasionally accompanied the most sublime but inconclusive trains of reasoning with the most intense-not to say painful-physiog nomical expression I ever beheld; his brows being knit, and his cheeks puckered into deep triangular wrinkles, by the violence of his own emotions. But, notwithstanding the frequent obscurity of his sentiments, and this painful' accompaniment, when the lecture closed you could not say you had been disappointed." Everett: "What were the subjects of the lectures?" Montgomery:
Campbell's was on the French and English, rhyming tragedies, and Coleridge's on Greek tragedy." Holland: “I think Campbell has the best managed powers of any living poet, and exceeds Coleridge as much in taste as he is inferior to him in the deep pathos of pure genius.' Montgomery: I believe that is about the fact: whatever Campbell under
"Dobbin, a word chosen to express a rude inhuman fellow.”