網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

-of heavenly love and infernal malignity and in this story, a being whom we are long led baseness will receive their wonder and their to believe is not of this world—who speaks praise. They call this POWER, which is in in the tones of the sepulchre, glides through reality the most pitiable weakness. It is be- the thickest walls, haunts two distant brothers cause a writer has not imagination enough to in their most secret retirements through exhibit in new forms the universal qualities their strange wanderings, leads one of his of nature and the soul, that he takes some victims to a scene which he believes infer. strange and horrible anomaly as his theme. nal, and there terrifies him with sights of the Incompetent to the divine task of rendering wildest magic—and who after all this, and beauty “ a simple product of the common after really vindicating to the fancy his claim day," he tries to excite emotion by disclosing to the supernatural by the fearful cast of his the foulest recess of the foulest heart. As he language—is discovered to be a low impostor, strikes only one feeling, and that coarsely and who has produced all by the aid of poor tricks ungently, he appears to wield a mightier and secret passages! Where is the policy of weapon than he whose harmonious beauty this? Unless, by his power, the author had sheds its influence equably over the whole of given a credibility to magic through four-fifths the sympathies. That which touches with of his work, it never could have excited any strange commotion, and mere violence on the feeling but that of impatience or of scorn. heart, but leaves no image there, seems to vul. And when we have surrendered ourselves gar spirits more potent than the faculty which willingly to his guidance—when we have applies to it all perfect figures, and leaves them agreed to believe impossibilities at his bidding to sink gently into its fleshly tablets to remain - why does he reward our credence with dethere for ever. Yet, surely, that which merely rision, and tacitly reproach us for not having shakes is not equal even in power to that detected his idle mockerieś? After all, too, which impresses. The wild disjointed part the reason is no more satisfied than the fancy; may be more amazing to a diseased perception for it would be a thousand times easier to bethan the well-compacted whole; but it is the lieve in the possibility of spiritual influences, nice balancing of properties, the soft blending than in a long chain of mean contrivances, no of shades, and the all-pervading and recon- one of which could ever succeed. The first is ciling light shed over the harmonious imagina- but one wonder, and that one to which our nation, which take off the sense of rude strength ture has a strange leaning; the last are numthat alone is discernible in its naked elements. berless, and have nothing to reconcile them to Is there more of heavenly power in seizing our thoughts. In submitting to the former, from among the tumult of chaos and eternal we contentedly lay aside our reasoning faculnight, strange and fearful abortions, or in ties; in approaching the latter our reason brooding over the vast abyss, and making it itself is appealed to at the moment when it is pregnant with life and glory and joy? Is it insulted. Great talent is, however, unquesthe higher exercise of human faculties to re- tionably exhibited in this singular story. A present the frightful discordances of passion, stern justice breathes solemnly through all or to show the grandeurs of humanity in that the scenes in the devoted castle. “Fate sits majestic repose which is at once an anticipa- on its dark battlements, and frowns." There tion and a proof of its eternal destiny? Is is a spirit of deep philosophy in the tracing transitory vice—the mere accident of the spe of the gradual influence of patricidal thoughts cies—and those vices too which are the rarest on the hearts of the brothers, which would and most appalling of all its accidents-or finally exhibit the danger of dallying with evil that good which is its essence and which never fancies, if the subject were not removed so far can perish, fittest for the uses of the bard ? from all ordinary temptations. Some of the Shall he desire to haunt the caves which lie scenes of horror, if they were not accumulated lowest on the banks of Acheron, or the soft until they wear out their impression, would bowers watered by “Siloa's brook that flows produce an effect inferior to none in the works fast by the oracle of God ?”

of Ratcliffe or of Lewis. The scene in which Mr. Maturin gave decisive indications of a Flippo escapes from the assassins, deserves to morbid sensibility and a passionate eloquence be ranked with the robber-scenes in the Monk out-running his imaginative faculties, in the and Count Fathom. The diction of the whole commencement of his literary career. His is rich and energetic-not, indeed, flowing in first romance, the “ Family of Montorio,” is a calm beauty which may glide on for everone of the wildest and strangest of all “false but impetuous as a mountain torrent, which, creations proceeding from the heat-oppressed though it speedily passes away, leaves behind brain.” It is for the most part a tissue of mag- it no common ilsnificent yet unappalling horrors. Its great

" Depositing upon the silent shore faults as a work of amusement, are the long Or memory, images and gentle thoughts and unrelieved series of its gloomy and mar

Which cannot die, and will not be destroyed." vellous scenes, and the unsatisfactory expla “The Wild Irish Boy" is, on the whole, innation of them all, as arising from mere hu- ferior to Montorio, though it served to give a man agency. This last error he borrowed farther glimpse into the vast extent of the from Mrs. Ratcliffe, to whom he is far inferior author's resources. “ The Milesian” is, per. in the economy of terrors, but whom he greatly haps, the most extraordinary of his romances. transcends in the dark majesty of his style. There is a bleak and misty grandeur about it, As his events are far more wild and wondrous which, in spite of its glaring defects, sustains than hers, so his development is necessarily for it an abiding-place in the soul. Yet never, far more incredible and vexatious. There is, perhaps, was there a more unequal production

alternately exhibiting the grossest plagiarism rendered popular, not by its poetical beauties, and the wildest originality—now swelling into but by the violence with which it jars on the offensive bombast, and 'anon disclosing the sensibilities, and awakens the sluggish heart simplest majesty of nature, fluctuating with from its lethargy. “Manuel,” its successor, inconstant ebb between the sublime and the feebler, though in the same style, excited little ridiculous, the delicate and the revolting. attention, and less sympathy. In "Fredolpho," “ Women, or Pour et Contre,” is less unequal, the author, as though he had resolved to sting but we think, on the whole, less interesting the public into a sense of his power, crowded than the author's earlier productions. He together characters of such matchless deprashould not venture, as in this work he has vily, sentiments of such a demoniac cast, and done, into the ordinary paths of existence. events of such gratuitous horror, that the His persons, if not cast in a high and heroic moral taste of the audience, injured as it had mould, have no stamp of reality upon them. been by the success of similar works, felt the The reader of this work, though often dazzled insult, and rose up indignantly against it. Yet and delighted, has a painful feeling that the in this piece were passages of a soft and characters are shadowy and unreal, like that mournful beauty, breathing a tender air of which is experienced in dreams. They are romance, which led us bitterly to regret that unpleasant and tantalizing likenesses, ap- the poet chose to “embower the spirit of a proaching sufficiently near to the true to make fiend, in mortal paradise of such sweet” song. us feel what they would be and lament what We do not, however despair even yet of the they are. Eva, Zaira, the manaic mother, and regeneration of our author's taste. There has the group of Calvinists, have all a resemblance always been something of humanity to redeem to pature-and sometimes to nature at its most those works in which his genius has been passionate or its sweetest-but they look as at most perverted. There is no deliberate sneera distance from us, as though between us and ing at the disinterested and the pure-no cold them there were some veil

, or discolouring derision of human hopes-no deadness to the medium, to bafile and perplex us. Still the lonely and the loving, in his writings. His novel is a splendid work; and gives the feel- error is that of a hasty trusting to feverish iming that its author has “riches fineless” in pulses, not of a malignant design. There is store, which might delight as well as astonish far more of the soul of goodness in his evil the world, if he would cease to be their slave, things, than in those of the noble bard whose and become their master.

example has assisted to mislead him. He does In the narrow boundaries of the Drama the not, indeed, know so well how to place his unredundancies of Mr. Maturin have been neces- natural characters in imposing attitudes—to sarily corrected. In this walk, indeed, there work up his morbid sensibilities for sale or seems reason to believe that his genius would to “ build the lofty rhyme" on shattered prinhave grown purer, as it assumed a severer ciples, and the melancholy fragments of hope. attitude; and that he would 'have sought to But his diction is more rich, his fancy is more attain high and true passion, and lofty imagi- fruitful, and his compass of thought and feelnation, had he not been seduced by the admi- ing more extensive. Happy shall we be to see ration unhappily lavished on Lord Byron's him doing justice at last to his powerswritings. The feverish strength, the singular studying not to excite the wonder of a few blending of good and evil, and the spirit of barren readers or spectators, but to live in the moral paradox, displayed in these works, were hearts of the good of future times—and, to this congenial with his tastes, and aroused in him high end, leaving discord for harmony, the the desire to imitate. “Bertram,” his first and startling for the true, and the evil which, howmost successful tragedy, is a fine piece of ever potent, is but for a season, for the pure writing, wrought out of a nauseous tale, and I and the holy which endure for ever'

REVIEW OF RYMER’S WORKS ON TRAGEDY.

(RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW.]

These are very curious and edifying works. viewer. We will select a few passages from The author (who was the compiler of the Fæ- his work, which may be consolatory to modern dera) appears to have been a man of considera- authors and useful to modern critics. ble acuteness, maddened by a furious zeal for The chief weight of Mr. Rymer's critical the honour of tragedy. He lays down the most vengeance is wreaked on Othello. After a slight fantastical rules for the composition which he sketch of the plot, he proceeds at once to speak chiefly reverses, and argues on them as “ truths of the moral, which he seems to regard as of of holy writ.” He criticises Shakspeare as the first importance in tragedy. one invested with authority to sit in judgment “ Whatever rubs or difficulty may stick on on his powers, and passes on him as decisive the bark, the moral use of this fable is very ina sentence of condemnation, as ever was structive. First, this may be a caution to all awarded against a friendless poet by a Re. I maidens of quality, how, without their parents'

consent, they run away with blackamoors. “ Horace describes a soldier otherwise, Secondly, this may be a warning to all good Impyger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer. wives, that they look well to their linen. “Shakspeare knew his character of Iago Thirdly, this may be a lesson to husbands, that was inconsistent. In this very play he probefore their jealousy be tragical, the proofs may nounces, be mathematical."

'If thou deliver more or less than truth, Our author then proceeds happily to satirize

Thou art no soldier.Othello's colour. He observes, that “Shaks “ This he knew, but to entertain the audience peare was accountable both to the eyes and with something new and surprising against to the ears.” On this point we think his ob- common sense and nature, he would pass upon jection is not without reason. We agree with us a close, dissembling, false, insinuating rasan excellent modern critic in the opinion, that cal, instead of an open-hearted, frank, plainthough a reader may sink Othello's colour in dealing soldier, a character constantly worn by his mind, a spectator can scarcely avoid losing them for some thousands of years in the world.” the mind in the colour. But Mr. Rymer pro Against “the gentle lady married to the ceeds thus to characterize Othello's noble ac- Moor,” Mr. Rymer cherishes a most exemplary count to the Senate of his whole course of hatred. He seems to labour for terms strong love.

enough to express the antipathy and scorn he “This was the charm, this was the philtre, bears her. The following are some of the the love-powder that took the daughter of this daintiest : noble Venetian. This was sufficient to make “ There is nothing in the noble Desdemona, the Blackam rwhite, and reconcile all, though that not below any country kitchen-maid there had been a cloven foot into the bargain. with us.”—“No woman bred out of a pig-stye A meaner woman might as soon be taken by could talk so meanly." Aqua Tetrachymagogon."

Yet is Mr. Rymer no less enraged at her The idea of Othello's elevation to the rank death than at her life. of a general, stings Mr. Rymer almost to mad “ Here (he exclaims in an agony of passion) ness. He regards the poet's offence as a kind a noble Venetian lady is to be murdered by of misprision of treason.

our poet, in sober sadness, purely for being “The character of the state (of Venice) is a fool. No pagan poet but would have found to employ strangers in their wars; but shall a some machine for her deliverance. Pegasus poet thence fancy that they will set a negro to would have strained hard to have brought old be their general; or trust a Moor to defend Perseus on his back, time enough to rescue them against the Turk? With us, a Blacka- this Andromeda from so foul a monster. Has moor might rise to be a trumpeter, but Shaks- our Christian poetry no generosity, no bowels ? peare would not have him less than a lieute- Ha, ha, Sir Launcelot! Ha, Sir George ! Will nant-general. With us, a Moor might marry no ghost leave the shades for us in extremity, some little drab or small-coal weuch ; Shaks to save a distressed damsel ?". peare would provide him the daughter and heir On the “expression," that is, we presume, the of some great lord, or privy.counsellor; and poetry of the work, Mr. Rymer does not think all the town should reckon it a very suitable it necessary to dwell; though he admits that match : yet the English are not bred up with the verses rumbling in our ears, are of good that hatred and aversion to the Moors as the use to help off the action." On those of ShaksVenetians, who suffer by a perpetual hostility peare he passes this summary judgment: “In from them,

the neighing of a horse, or in the growling of *Littora littoribus contraria.'»

a mastiff, there is a meaning, there is as lively Our author is as severe on Othello's cha- expression, and may I say more humanity, racter, as on his exaltation and colour. than many times in the tragical flights of

“Othello is made a Venetian general. We Shakspeare. Having settled this trivial point, see nothing done by him, nor related concern- he invites the reader“ to step among the scenes, ing him, that comports with the condition of a to observe the conduct on this tragedy." general, or, indeed, of a man, unless the killing

In examining the first scene of Othello, our himself to avoid a death the law was about to critic weightily reprehends the sudden and inflict upon him. When his jealousy had startling manner in which Iago and Roderigo wrought him up to a resolution of his taking inform Brabantio of his daughter's elopement revenge for the supposed injury, he sets Jago with the Moor. He regards their abruptness to the fighting part to kill Cassio, and chooses as an unpardonable violation of decorum, and, himself to murder the silly woman, his wife, by way of contrast to its rudeness, informs us, that was like to make no resistance."

that Mr. Rymer next undertakes to resent the

“In former days there wont to be kept at the affront put on the army by the making Iago a

courts of princes somebody in a fool's coat, soldier.

that in pure simplicity might let slip something, “But what is most intolerable is Iago. He which made way for the ill news, and blunted is no Blackamoor soldier, so we may be sure the shock, which otherwise might have come he should be like other soldiers of our acquaint- too violent on the party.” ance; yet never in tragedy, nor in comedy, nor

Mr. Rymer shows the council of Venice no in nature, was a soldier with his character ;

-quarter. He thus daringly scrutinizes their take it in the author's own words :

proceedings.

"By their conduct and manner of talk, a -some eternal villain, Some busy and insinuating rogue,

body must strain hard to fancy the scene at Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some of Venice, and not rather at some of our Cinque

ports, where the baily and his fishermen are scenes as this have made all the world run knocking their heads together on account of after Harlequin and Scaramoucio. some whale; or some terrible broil on the “The several degrees of action were amongst coast. But to show them true Venetians, the the ancients distinguished by the cothurnus, maritime affairs stick not on their hand; the the soccus, and the planipes. Had this scene public may sink or swim. They will sit up been represented as old Rome, Othello and all night to hear a Doctors' Commons matri. Iago must have quitted their buskins; they monial cause; and have the merits of the must have played barefoot ; for the spectators cause laid open to 'em, that they may decide would not have been content without seeing it before they stir. What can be pleaded to their podometry, and the jealousy work out keep awake their attention so wonderfully ?" at the very toes of them. Words, be they

Here the critic enters into a fitting abuse of Spanish or Polish, or any inarticulate sound, Othello's defence to the senate; expresses his have the same effect: they can only serve to disgust at the “ eloquence which kept them up distinguish, and, as it were, beat time to the all night,” and his amaze at their apathy, not action. But here we see a known language withstanding the strangeness of the marriage. does wofully encumber and clog the operation; He complains, that

as either forced, or heavy, or trifling, or in. “Instead of starting at the prodigy, every coherent, or improper, or most improbable. one is familiar with Desdemona, as if he were When no words interpose to spoil the conceit, her own natural father; they rejoice in her every one interprets, as he likes best; so in good fortune, and wish their own daughters as that memorable dispute between Panurge and hopefully married. Should the poet (he con- our English philosopher in Rabelais, performed tinues) have provided such a husband for an without a word speaking, the theologians, only daughter of any peer in England, the physicians, and surgeons, made one inference; Blackamoor must have changed his skin to the lawyers, civilians, and canonists, drew look our House of Lords in the face."

another conclusion more to their mind." Our critic next complains, that, in the second Mr. Rymer thus objects to the superlative act, the poet shows the action (he “knows not villany of Iago, on his advising Desdemona's how many leagues off”) in the island of Cy- murder. prus, without “our Bayes” (as he pleasantly "Iago had some pretence to be discontent denominates Shakspeare) having made any with Othello and Cassio, and what passed provision of transport ships for the audience. hitherto was the operation of revenge. DesThe first scene in Cyprus is then “cut up” in demona had never done him any harm; ala way which might make the most skilful of ways kind to him, and to his wife; was his modern reviewers turn pale with envy. After countrywoman, a dame of quality. For him noticing the preliminary dialogue, Mr. Rymer to abet her murder, shows nothing of a soldier, observes, “pow follows a long rabble of Jack nothing of a man, nothing of nature in it. Pudden farce between lago and Desdemona, The ordinary of Newgate never had the like that runs on with all the little plays, jingle, monster to pass under his examination. Can and trash, below the patience of any country it be any diversion to see a rogue beyond what kitchen maid with her sweetheart. The Ve- the devil ever finished ? or would it be any innetian Donna is hard put to it for pastime; struction to an audience? Iago could desire and this is all when they are newly got on no better than to set Cassio and Othello, his shore from a dismal tempest, and when every two enemies, by the ears together, so that he moment she might expect to hear her Lord, might have been revenged on them both at (as she calls him,) that she runs so mad after, once; and choosing for his own share the is arrived or lost.” Our author, therefore, murder of Desdemona, he had the opportunity accuses Shakspeare of “unhallowing the to play booty, and save the poor harmless theatre, profaning the name of tragedy, and wretch. But the poet must do every thing by instead of representing men and manners, contraries; to surprise the audience still with turning all morality, good-sense, and hu- something horrible and prodigious, beyond manity, into mockery and derision."

any human imagination. At this rate, he Mr. Rymer contends, that Desdemona's must outdo the devil, to be a poet in the rank solicitations for Cassio were in themselves with Shakspeare.” more than enough to rouse Othello's jealousy. Mr. Rymer is decorously enraged, to think “Iago can now (he observes) only actum that the tragedy should turn on a handkerchief. agere, and vex the audience with a nauseous “Why,” he asks in virtuous indignation," was repetition.” This remark introduces the fol- not this called the tragedy of the handkerchief? lowing criticism on the celebrated scene in what can be more absurd than (as Quintilian the third act, between Othello and lago, which expresses it) in parvibus (sic) litibus has tragedias is curious, not only as an instance of perverted movere? We have heard of Fortunatus, his reasoning, but as it shows that, in the perform- purse, and of the invisible cloak long ago ance, some great histrionic power must have worn thread-bare, and stowed up in the wardbeen formerly exerted, not unlike the energy robe of obsolete romances; one might think of which we, in witnessing this tragedy, have that were a fitter place for this handkerchief been spectators.

than that it, at this time of day, be worn on the • “Whence comes it, then, that this is the top stage, to raise everywhere all this clutter and scene; the scene that raises Othello above all turmoil.” And again,“ the handkerchief is so other tragedies at our theatres ? it is purely remote a trifle, no booby on this side Mauritania from the action; from the mops and the mows, could make any consequence from it." the grimace, the grins, and gesticulation. Such Our author suggests a felicitous alteration

of the catastrophe of Othello. He proposes, and swaggering like two drunken Hectors of that the handkerchief, when lost, should have a two-penny reckoning.”. And finally, alludbeen folded in the bridal couch; and when ing to the epilogue of Laberius, forced by the Othello was stilling Desdemona,

emperor to become an actor, he thus sums up “ The fairy napkin might have started up to his charges: disarm his fury, and stop his ungracious “This may show with what indignity our mouth. Then might she (in a trance for fear) poet treats the noblest Romans. But there is have lain as dead. Then might he, (believing no other cloth in his wardrobe. Every one her dead,) louched with reinorse, have honestly must wear a fool's coat that comes to be cut his own throat, by the good leave, and with dressed by him; nor is he more civil to the the applause, of all the spectators; who might ladies-Portia, in good manners, might have thereupon have gone home with a quiet mind, challenged more respect; she that shines a admiring the beauty of providence, fairly and glory of the first magnitude in the gallery of truly represented on the theatre."

heroic dames, is with our poet scarce one reThe following is the summing up and catas- move from a natural; she is the own cousintrophe of this marvellous criticism:

german of one piece, the very same imperti• What can remain with the audience to nent silly flesh and blood with Desdemona. carry home with them from this sort of poetry, Shakspeare's genius lay for comedy and hufor their use and edification? How can it mour. In tragedy he appears quite out of his work, unless (instead of settling the mind and element; his brains are turned-he raves and purging our passions) to delude our senses, rambles without any coherence, any spark of disorder our thoughts, addle our brain, pervert reason, or any rule to control m, to set our affections, hair our imaginations, corrupt bounds to his phrensy.” our appetite—and fill our head with vanity, One truth, though the author did not underconfusion, tintamarra, and jingle-jangle, be- stand it, is told in this critic on Julius Cæsar ; yond what all the parish clerks of London, that Shakspeare's.“ senators and his orators with their Old Testament farces and interludes, had their learning and education at the same in Richard the Second's time, could ever pre- school, be they Venetians, Ottamites, or noble tend to ? Our only hopes, for the good of their Romans." They drew, in their golden urns, souls, can be that these people go to the play from the deep fountain of humanity, those livhouse as they do to church-to sit still, looking waters which lose not their sweetness in on one another, make no reflection, nor mind the changes of man's external condition. the play more than they would a sermon. These attacks on Shakspeare are very curi

There is in this play some burlesque, some ous, as evincing how gradual has been the inhumour, and ramble of comical wit, some crease of his fame. Their whole tone shows show, and some minicry to divert the specta- that the author was not advancing what he tors; but the tragical part is clearly none thought the world would regard as paradoxical other than a bloody farce, without salt or or strange. He speaks as one with authority savor."

to decide. We look now on his work amazedly; Our author's criticism on Julius Cæsar is very and were it put forth by a writer of our times, scanty, compared with that of Othello, but it is should regard it as “the very ecstasy of madnot less decisive. Indeed, his classical zeal ness.” Such is the lot of genius. However here sharpens his critical rage; and he is in- small the circle of cotemporary admirers, it censed against Shakspeare, not only as offend- must “gather fame" as time rolls on. It aping the dignity of the tragic muse, but the peals to feelings which cannot alter. The minds memory of the noblest Romans. “He might,” who once have deeply felt it, can never lose exclaims the indignant critic,“ be familiar with the impression at first made upon them they Othello and lago, as his own natural acquaint- transmit it to others, by whom it is extended ance, but Cæsar and Brutus were above his to those who are worthy to treasure it. Its conversation; to put them in fools' coats, and stability and duration at length awaken the atmake them Jack Puddens in the Shakspeare tention of the world, which thus acknowledges dress, is a sacrilege beyond any thing in Spel the sanction of time, and professes an admiraman. . The truth is, this author's head was tion for the author, which it only feels for his full of villanous, unnatural images—and his name. We should not, however, have thus tory has furnished him with great names, dwelt on the attacks of Rymer, had we re. thereby to recommend them to the world, by garded them merely as objects of wonder, or writing over them— This is Brutus, this is Cicero, as proofs of the partial influence of Shaks. this is Cæsar.” He affirms, “ that the language peare's genius. They are far from deserving Shakspeare puts into the mouth of Brutus unmingled scorn. They display, at least, an would not suil or be convenient, unless from honest, unsophisticated hatred, which is better some son of the shambles, or some natural than the maudlin admiration of Shakspeare, offspring of the butchery.” He abuses the expressed by those who were deluded by Irepoet for making the conspirators dispute about land's forgeries. Their author has a heartiday-break-seriously chides him for not allow- ness, an earnestness almost romantic, which ing the noble Brutus a waich-candle in his we cannot despise, though directed against our chamber on this important night, rather than idol. With a singular obtuseness to poetry, puzzling his man, Lucius, to grope in the he has a chivalric devotion to all that he redark for a flint and tinder-box to get the taper gards as excellent and grand. He looks on the lighted-speaks of the quarrel scene between supposed errors of the poet as moral crimes. Bruins and Cassius, as that in which "they He confounds fiction with fact-grows warm are to play a prize, a trial of skill in huffing in defence of shadows--feels a violation of

« 上一頁繼續 »