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Essays,' &c., has stated the grounds for his within themselves a principle of art.

“ This belief that the Lear' of Shakspere may

intellectual ferment can never cease, as long sustain a comparison with the master-pieces as the question shall be mooted as a contest of the Greek tragedy. “The modern prac- between science and barbarism- the beauties tice of blending comedy with tragedy, though of order, and the irregular influences of disliable to great abuse in point of practice, is order ; as long as we shall obstinately refuse undoubtedly an extension of the dramatic to see, in the system of which Shakspere has circle ; but the comedy should be as in traced the first outlines, nothing more than 'King Lear, universal, ideal, and sublime. a liberty without restraint-an indefinite It is, perhaps, the intervention of this prin- latitude, which lies open as much to the ciple which determines the balance in favour freaks of the imagination as to the course of 'King Lear' against the 'Edipus Tyran- of genius. If the romantic system has its nus,' or the 'Agamemnon,' or, if you will, beauties, it has necessarily its art and its the trilogies with which they are connected; rules. Nothing is beautiful for man that unless the intense power of the choral poetry, does not owe its effect to certain combinaespecially that of the latter, should be con- tions, of which our judgment may always sidered as restoring the equilibrium. 'King disclose to us the secret when our emotions Lear,' if it can sustain that comparison, may have borne witness to their power. The be judged to be the most perfect specimen employment of these combinations constiof the dramatic art existing in the world.” tutes art. Shakspere had his own art. To We can understand this now. But, if any discover it in his works we must examine writer before the commencement of the pre- the means which he used, and the results to sent century, and indeed long after, had which he aspired."* These combinations, talked of the comedy of 'Lear' as being of which Guizot speaks, were as unknown "universal, ideal, and sublime,” and had to what has been called the Augustan age of chosen that as the excellence to balance English literature as the properties of elecagainst “the intense power of the choral tro-magnetism ; and poor Nahum Tate did poetry” of Æschylus and Sophocles, he not unfitly represent his age when he said of would have been referred to the authority Lear,' “ It is a heap of jewels, unstrung and of Voltaire, who, in his letter to the Academy, unpolished, yet so dazzling in their disorder describes such works of Shakspere as form- that I soon perceived I had seized a treaing "an obscure chaos, composed of murders sure." The principle of appropriation here and buffooneries, of heroism and meanness, is exquisite. But, after all, we fancy that of the language of the Halles, and of the Tate was something like the cock in the highest interests.” In certain schools of fable, who, having found the jewel, in his criticism, even yet, the notion that 'Lear' secret heart wished it had been a grain of “may be judged to be the most perfect barley. Be this as it may, he set to work in specimen of the dramatic art existing in good earnest in the stringing and polishing the world,” would be treated as a mere process. Let us proceed to examine the visionary conceit; and we should still be character of his workmanship. reminded that Shakspere was a “wild and Coleridge has remarked emphatically, irregular genius,” producing these results what every diligent student of Shakspere because he could not help it. In France must have been impressed with, the striking are still heard the feeble echoes of the con- judgment which he displays in the managetest between the disciples of the romantic ment of his first scenes. The first scene of and the classic schools. M. Guizot stated, Lear’ is very short, perfectly simple, has no some twenty-five years ago, with his usual elaborate descriptions of character, and conacuteness and good sense, some of the mis- tains only a slight and incidental notice of takes into which the opponents of the ro- the events upon which the drama is to turn. mantic school had fallen, from not perceiving Of course Tate rejected this scene ; and, that the productions of that school contained

*• Vie de Shakspeare.'

without the necessary preparation of the To quit the toils of empire, and divide dialogue between Kent and Gloster, he brings His realms amongst his daughters. Heav'n at once Edmund before us in the soliloquy,

succeed it, “ Thou, nature, art my goddess." Shakspere,

But much I fear the change." in his soliloquies, makes his characters pur. To which Kent replies sue a certain train of ideas to a conclusion ; and, by causing them to think aloud, he is “I grieve to see him enabled, without the slightest violation of With such wild starts of passion hourly seized propriety, to give the audience a due im- As render majesty beneath itself.” pression of their latent motives. He very We may be sure that, if a dramatic purpose rarely employs this expedient, but he never

would have been served by a description of employs it in vain, or goes beyond its legiti- the temper of Lear, instead of an exhibition mate use. We have an example in the

of it, Shakspere would have introduced such soliloquy of Iago at the end of the first act

a description. But that was not his art; it of Othello ;' and the soliloquy of Edmund in the second scene of ‘Lear' has precisely sions by such clumsy and commonplace

was for the jewel-stringer to convey impresthe same object in view. Tate, not understanding the art of Shakspere, and having to notice in Tate's introductory scene—Edgar

means. We have one more new combination no dramatic art in himself, makes the soli

and Cordelia in love. Of the results of this loquy an instrument for telling the audience

combination we shall have presently to what has happened ; and instead of exhibit- speak. In the mean time, let the lovers ing the management by which Gloster is explain themselves through the nine lines made to distrust and hate Edgar, he gives in the preparation of which Tate has put us a narrative of the affair, which Edmund

out his poetical strength :tells to the audience under the pretence of talking to himself:

Edg. Cordelia, royal fair, turn yet once “With success I've practised yet on both their easy natures.

And ere successful Burgundy receive Here comes the old man, chafed with the in

The treasure of thy beauties from the king, formation

Ere happy Burgundy for ever fold thee, Which last I forged against my brother Edgar;

Cast back one pitying look on wretched A tale so plausible, so boldly utter'd,


Cord. Alas! what would the wretched And heighten'd by such lucky accidents, That now the slightest circumstance confirms

Edgar with him,

The more unfortunate Cordelia, And base-born Edmund, spite of law, in

Who, in obedience to a father's will, herits."

Flies from her Edgar's arms to Burgundy's ?" It is no part of the plan of this notice to The second scene of Tate, like the second point out the differences between the lan

scene of Shakspere, exhibits the trial by guage of Tate and the language of Shak- Lear of his daughters affections, and the spere. It is with the conduct of the drama subsequent division of the kingdom. It was only that we wish to deal. Gloster, of course, perfectly clear that, in changing the dramatic after this preparation, enters in a furious situation of Cordelia, Tate would destroy passion.

her character. But it is not within the The main business of the tragedy, by range of human ingenuity to conjecture Tate's arrangement, has been thus inade how effectually he has contrived to render subordinate to the secondary plot. But Lear one of the loveliest of Shakspere's creations is not quite forgotten : Gloster says to not only uninteresting, but positively repulKent,

sive—he has produced a selfish and dissimu“My lord, you wait the king, who comes relating Cordelia. These are the first words solved

which she utters :




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“Now comes my trial. How am I distress'd into a French intrigante. She does not proThat must with cold speech tempt the choleric fess as her sisters professed, not because she king

wanted the “glib and oily art," but because Rather to leave me dowerless, than condemn she desired to accomplish a secret purpose,

that was to be carried by silence better than To Burgundy's embraces !"

by words—she would lose her dower that “Of the heavenly beauty of soul of Cor- she might marry Edgar. One more spedelia, pronounced in so few words, I will cimen of the Tatification of Cordelia, and not venture to speak.” This was the im- we have done. The love-scenes, be it underpression which Shakspere's Cordelia produced stood, go forward ; and in the third act upon Schlegel. In the whole range of the Cordelia, herself wandering about, encounShaksperean drama there is nothing more ters Edgar in his mad disguise. “ The tardiextraordinary than the effect upon the mind ness in nature" of Shakspere is thus interof the character of Cordelia. Mrs. Jameson preted in the production which “ Garrick has truly said, “ Everything in her seems to and his followers, the showmen of the scene," lie beyond our view, and affects us in a have inflicted upon us almost up to the premanner, which we feel rather than perceive.” sent day, under the sanction of Dr. JohnIn the first act she has only forty-three lines assigned to her : she does not appear again Cord. Come to niy arms, thou dearest, till the fourth act, in the fourth scene of

best of men, which she has twenty-four lines, and, in the And take the kindest vows that e'er were seventh, thirty-seven. In the fifth act she spoke has five lines. Yet during the whole pro- By a protesting maid. gress of the play we can never forget her ; · Edg. Is 't possible ? and, after its melancholy close, she lingers

Cord. By the dear vital stream that about our recollections as if we had seen

bathes my heart, some being more beautiful and purer than a

These hallow'd rags of thine, and naked

virtue, thing of earth, who had communicated with

These abject tassels, these fantastic shreds, us by a higher medium than that of words.

To me are dearer than the richest pomp And yet she is no mere abstraction ;-she is

Of purpled monarchs.” nothing more nor less than a personification of the holiness of womanhood. She is a

Need we exhibit more of the Cordelia which creature formed for all sympathies, moved is not Shaksperes ? by all tenderness, prompt for all duty, pre

The mixed character of Shakspere's ‘Lear' pared for all suffering ; but she cannot talk | has been admirably dissected by Coleridge:of what she is, and what she purposes. The “The strange, yet by no means unnatural King of France describes the apparent re- 'mixture of selfishness, sensibility, and habit serve of her character as

of feeling, derived from, and fostered by, the “A tardiness in nature,

particular rank and usages of the individual ; Which often leaves the history unspoke

the intense desire of being intensely beloved,

-selfish, and yet characteristic of the selfishThat it intends to do."

ness of a loving and kindly nature alone ;She herself says,

the self-supportless leaning for all pleasure “ If for I want that glib and oily art,

on another's breast;— the craving after To speak, and purpose not; since what I well sympathy with a prodigal disinterestedness, intend,

frustrated by its own ostentation, and the I'll do 't before I speak.”

mode and nature of its claims ;-the anxiety, But the conception of a character that the distrust, the jealousy, which more or less should fill our minds without much talk, accompany all selfish affections, and are and withal magniloquent talk, was something amongst the surest contradistinctions of mere too ethereal for Tate: so Cordelia is turned / fondness from true love, and which originate

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Lear's eager wish to enjoy his daughter's human feelings,—& father's concentrated violent professions, whilst the inveterate love ;-all these traces of what Shakspere habits of sovereignty convert the wish into only could effect, are utterly destroyed by the claim and positive right, and an incompliance stage conception of Lear, such as has been with it into crime and treason ;-these facts, endured amongst us for more than a century. these passions, these moral verities, on which When the “showmen ” banished the Fool, the whole tragedy is founded, are all prepared they rendered it impossible that the original for, and will to the retrospect be found nature of Lear should be understood. It is implied, in the first four or five lines of the the Fool who interprets to us the old man's play."

They are implied, certainly, but the sensitive tenderness lying at the bottom of character which they make up is not described his impatience. He cannot bear to hear that by Shakspere. When Regan and Goneril “the Fool hath much pined away.”—“No speak slightingly of their father, immediately more of that, I have noted it well.” From after he has been lavishing his kingdom the Fool, Lear can bear to hear truth; his upon them, it is not the object of the poet jealous pride is not alarmed: he indeed calls to make us understand Lear, but to make us a pestilent gall," "a bitter fool;" understand Regan and Goneril. This, again, but the was Shakspere's art:—Tate, the representative

“Poor, infirm, weak, and despisd old man," of the vulgar notion of art, must have defined character—something positive, some in the depths of his misery, having scarcely thing generic—a bad man, a good man

anything in the world to love but the Fool, a mild man, a passionate man—a good son, a

thus clings to him : cruel son. Upon this principle the Lear of

“My wits begin to turnTate is the choleric king. Because Goneril Come on, my boy: How dost, my boy? Art characteristically speaks of the unruly cold? waywardness that infirm and choleric years I am cold myself.—Where is this straw, my bring with them,” Gloster, in Tate, is made

fellow? to say of Lear,

The art of our necessities is strange,

That can make vile things precious. Come, “ Yet has his temper ever been unfix'd, Chol'ric and sudden;"

Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my

heart and, as if this were not enough to disturb an

That 's sorry yet for thee." audience in the proper comprehension of the real Lear, we must have Cordelia call him And all this is gone in the stage Lear. The “the choleric king,” and, last of all, Lear “universal, ideal, and sublime” comedy, of himself must exclaim, in the trial-scene, which the Fool is the principal exponent, “ 't is said that I am choleric.” And now, then, would have been incomprehensible to the that we have got a choleric king-a simple, Augustan age. We are quite sure that Tate unmixed, ranting, roaring, choleric king, he would have got rid of the assumed madness is in a fit condition to be stirred up by “the of Edgar, if he had not found it convenient showmen of the scene." Charles Lamb would for the purpose of tacking a love-scene to it. be immortal as a critic if he had only written As it is, he has brought the mad Tom and these words :—“Tate has put his hook in the the mad king into juxtaposition. We do nostrils of this leviathan, for Garrick and his not suspect Tate of comprehending the followers, the showmen of the scene, to draw metaphysical principle upon which Shakspere the mighty beast about more easily." All worked, and which Coleridge has so well the wonderful gradations of his character expounded:-“ Edgar's assumed madness are utterly destroyed ;-all the thin partitions serves the great purpose of taking off part of which separate passion from wildness, and the shock which would otherwise be caused wildness from insanity, and insanity from a by the true madness of Lear, and further partial restoration to the most intense of displays the profound difference between the

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two. In every attempt at representing consecration of Lear's madness. It agrees madness throughout the whole range of dra- with all that is brought together ;-the night matic literature, with the single exception of the storms—the houselessness—Gloster Lear, it is mere light-headedness, as especially with his eyes put out-- the Fool- the in Otway. In Edgar's ravings, Shakspere semblance of a madman, and Lear in his all the while lets you see a fixed purpose, a madness,—

-are all bound together by a strange practical end in view; in Lear's there is kind of sympathy,confusion in the elements of only the brooding of the one anguish, an nature, of human society and the human eddy without progression.” Tate has left us soul! Throughout all the play is there not this contrast; but he has taken away the sublimity felt amidst the continual presence Fool, which completes the wonderful power of all kinds of disorder and confusion in the of the third act of Shakspere's ‘Lear. The natural and moral world; - & continual Fool, as well as Edgar, takes off part of the consciousness of eternal order, law, and shock which would otherwise be caused by good ? This it is that so exalts it in our the madness of Lear, whilst he yet contributes eyes.' to the completeness of that moral chaos The love-scene between Edgar and Cordelia, which Shakspere has represented—“all ex- in the first scene of the first act of Tate's ternal nature in a storm, all moral nature Lear,' was an assurance, under the band convulsed.” A writer of very rare depth and seal of Tate, that the play would end and discrimination has thus described these happily. He might be constrained, in the scenes of which Edgar and the Fool make impossibility of wholly destroying Shakspere, up such important accessories :—“The two to exhibit to us some of the most terrific characters, father and king, so high to our conflicts of human passion, and the most imagination and love, blended in the reverend striking displays of human suffering. He image of Lear-both in their destitution, yet could not utterly conceal the terrible workings both in their height of greatness—the spirit of the mind of Lear, which had been laid blighted, and yet undepressed the wits gone, bare by the “explosions of his passion.” But and yet the moral wisdom of a good heart he takes care to let it be understood that left unstained, almost unobscured—the wild there is nothing real in this; that all will be raging of the elements, joined with human right in the end; that, though the flames rage, outrage and violence to persecute the helpless, the house is insured; that a wedding and a unresisting, almost unoffending sufferer- dance will terminate the play much better and he himself, in the midst of all imaginable than the “dead march” of Shakspere. “Cormisery and desolation, descanting upon delia,” says Dr. Johnson, “ from the time of himself, on the whirlwinds that drive around Tate, has always retired with victory and him, and then turning in tenderness to some felicity. And, if my sensations could add of the wild motley associations of sufferers anything to the general suffrage, I might among whom he stands—all this is not like relate, I was many years ago so shocked by what has been seen on any stage, perhaps in Cordelia's death, that I know not whether I any reality; but it has made a world to our ever endured to read again the last scenes of imagination about one single imaginary the play till I undertook to revise them as individual, such as draws the reverence and

an editor." sympathy which would to belong This was a bold or a lazy avowal in properly only to living men. It is like the Johnson; for Aristotle describes the popular remembrance of some wild perturbed scene admiration of the tragedy which ends happily of real life. Everything is perfectly woful in for the good-characters, and fatally for the this world of woe. The very assumed madness bad, as a result of the “weakness of the of Edgar, which, if the story of Edgar stood spectators;"+ and though Johnson vigorously alone, would be insufferable, and would attacked Aristotle's Unities—or rather the utterly degrade him to us, seems, associated


* Blackwood s Mag.,' vol. v. as he is with Lear, to come within the

+ • Treatise on Poetry'-Twining's Translation.


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