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ducing the ever-increasing multitude of decisions to any fixed and intelligible principles. Thus his labours are not directed to a visible goal—nor cheered by the venerableness of old time—nor crowned with that certainty of conclusion, which is the best reward of scientific researches. The lot of a superficial student of a dry science, is, of all conditions, the most harassing and fruitless. The evil must
increase until it shall work its own cure— until accumulated reports shall lose their authority — or the legislature shall be compelled, by the vastness of the mischief, to undertake the tremendous task of revising and condensing the whole statute law, and fixing the construction of the unwritten maxims within some tolerable boundaries.
REVIEW OF THE DRAMATIC LITERATURE OF THE AGE OF ELIZABETH.
If Mr. Hazlitt has not generally met with impartial justice from his contemporaries, we must say that he has himself partly to blame. Some of the attacks of which he has been the object, have, no doubt, been purely brutal and malignant; but others have, in a great measure, arisen from feelings of which he has himself set the example. His seeming carelessness of that public opinion which he would influence —his love of startling paradoxes—and his intrusion of political virulence, at seasons when the mind is prepared only for the delicate investigations of taste, have naturally provoked a good deal of asperity, and prevented the due appreciation of his powers. We shall strive, however, to divest ourselves of all prepossessions, and calmly to estimate those talents and feelings which he has here brought to the contemplation of such beauty and grandeur, as none of the low passions of this “ignorant present time” should ever be permitted to overcloud.
Those who regard Mr. Hazlitt as an ordinary writer, have little right to accuse him of suffering antipathies in philosophy or politics to influence his critical decisions. He possesses one excellent quality, at least, for the office which he has chosen, in the intense admiration and love which he feels for the great authors on whose excellences he chiefly dwells. His relish for their beauties is so keen, that while he describes them, the pleasures which they impart become almost palpable to the sense; and we seem, scarcely in a figure, to feast and banquet on their “nectared sweets.” He introduces us almost corporally into the divine presence of the Great of old time— enables us to hear the living oracles of wisdom drop from their lips—and makes us partakers, not only of those joys which they diffused, but of those which they felt in the inmost recesses of their souls. He draws aside the veil of Time with a hand tremulous with mingled delight and reverence; and descants, with kindling enthusiasm, on all the delicacies of that picture of genius which he discloses. His intense admiration of intellectual beauty seems always to sharpen his critical faculties. He perceives it, by a kind of intuitive power, how deeply soever it may be buried in rubbish;
and separates it, in a moment, from all that would encumber or deface it. At the same time, he exhibits to us those hidden sources of beauty, not like an anatomist, but like a lover: he does not coolly dissect the form to show the springs whence the blood flows all eloquent, and the divine expression is kindled; but makes us feel it in the sparkling or softened eye, the wreathed smile, and the tender bloom. In a word, he at once analyzes and describes, so that our enjoyments of loveliness are not chilled, but brightened, by our acquaintance with their inward sources. The knowledge communicated in his lectures, breaks no sweet enchantment, nor chills one feeling of youthful joy. His criticisms, while they extend our insight into the causes of poetical excellence, teach us, at the same time, more keenly to enjoy, and more fondly to revere it. It must seem, at first sight, strange, that powers like these should have failed to excite universal sympathy. Much, doubtless, of the coldness and misrepresentation cast on them, has arisen from causes at which we have already hinted—from the apparent readiness of the author to “give up to party what was meant for mankind"—and from the occasional breaking in of personal animosities on that deep harmony which should attend the reverent contemplation of genius. But we apprehend that there are other causes which have diminished the influence of Mr. Hazlitt's faculties, originating in his mind itself; and these we shall endeavour briefly to specify. The chief of these may, we think, be ascribed primarily to the want of proportion, of arrangement, and of harmony, in his powers. His mind resembles the “rich stronde” which Spencer has so nobly described, and to which he has himself likened the age of Elizabeth, where treasures of every description lie, without order, in inexhaustible profusion. Noble masses of exquisite marble are there, which might be fashioned to support a glorious temple; and gems of peerless lustre, which would adorn the holiest shrine. He has no lack of the deepest feelings, the profoundest sentiments of humanity, or the loftiest aspirations after ideal good. But there are no great leading principles of taste to give singleness to his aims, nor any central points in his mind, around which his feelings may revolve, and his imaginations cluster. There is no sufficient distinction between his intellectual and his imaginative faculties. He confounds the truths of imagination with those of fact—the processes of argument with those of feeling—the immunities of intellect with those of virtue. Hence the seeming inconsistency of many of his doctrines. Hence the want of all continuity in his style. Hence his failure in producing one single, harmonious, and lasting impression on the hearts of his hearers. He never waits to consider whether a sentiment or an image is in place—so it be in itself striking. The keen sense of pleasure in intellectual beauty, which is the best charm of his writings, is also his chief deluder. He cannot resist a powerful image, an exquisite quotation, or a pregnant remark, however it may dissipate, or even subvert, the general feeling which his theme should inspire. Thus, on one occasion, in the midst of a violent political invective, he represents the objects of his scorn as “having been beguiled, like Miss Clarissa Harlowe, into a house of ill-fame, and, like her, defending themselves to the last;" as if the reader's whole current of feeling would not be diverted from all political disputes, by the remembrance thus awakened of one of the sublimest scenes of romance ever imbodied by human power. He will never be contented to touch that most strange and curious instrument, the human heart, with a steady aim, but throws his hand rapidly over the chords, mingling strange discord with “most eloquent music.” Instead of conducting us onward to a given object, he opens so many delicious prospects by the wayside, and suffers us to gaze at them so long, that we forget the end of our journey. He is perpetually dazzled among the sunbeams of his fancy, and plays with them in elegant fantasy, when he should point them to the spots where they might fall on truth and beauty, and render them visible by a clearer and lovelier radiance than had yet revealed them. The work before us is not the best verification of these remarks; for it has more of continuity, and less of paradox, than any of his previous writings. With the exception of some strong political allusions in the account of the Sejanus of Ben Jonson, it is entirely free from those expressions of party feeling which respect for an audience, consisting of men of all parties, and men of no party, ought always to restrain. There is also none of that personal bitterness towards Messrs. Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, which disfigured his former lectures. His hostility towards these poets, the associates of his early days, has always, indeed, been mingled with some redeeming feelings which have heightened the regret occasioned by its public disclosureWhile he has pursued them with all possible severity of invective, and acuteness of sarcasm, he has protected their intellectual character with a chivalrous zeal. He has spoken as if “his only hate had sprung from his only love;” and his thoughts of its objects, deep rooted in old affection, could not lose all traces of their “primal sympathy.” His bitterest language
has had its dash of the early sweets, which no. changes of opinion could entirely destroy. Still his audiences and his readers had ample ground of complaint for the intrusion of personal feelings, in inquiries which should be sacred from all discordant emotions. We rejoice to observe, that this blemish is now effaced; and that full and free course is at last given to that deep humanity which has ever held its current in his productions, sometimes in open day, and sometimes beneath the soil which it fertilized, though occasionally dashed and thrown back in its course by the obstacles of prejudice and of passion. The first of these lectures consists of a general view of the subject, expressed in terms of the deepest veneration and of the most passionate eulogy. Aster eloquently censuring the gross prejudice, that genius and beauty are things of modern discovery, or that in old time a few amazing spirits shone forth amidst general darkness, as the harbingers of brighter days, the author proceeds to combat the notion that Shakspeare was a sort of monster of poetical genius, and all his contemporaries of an order far below him. “He, indeed, overlooks and commands the admiration of posterity; but he does it from the table land of the age in which he lived. He towered above his fellows “in shade and gesture proudly eminent;' but he was but one of a race of giants, the tallest, the strongest, the most graceful and beautiful of them ; but it was a common and noble brood. He was not something sacred and aloof from the vulgar herd of men, but shook hands with Nature and the circumstances of the time; and is distinguished from his immediate contemporaries, not in kind, but in degree, and greater variety of excellence. He did not form a class or species by himself, but belonged to a class or species. His age was necessary to him; nor could he have been wrenched from his place in the edifice, of which he was so conspicuous a part, without equal injury to himself and it. Mr. Wordsworth says of Milton, that “his soul was like a star, and dwelt apart.” This cannot be said with any propriety of Shakspeare, who certainly moved in a constellation of bright luminaries, and drew after him the third part of the heavens.’” Pp. 12, 13. The author then proceeds to investigate the general causes of that sudden and rich development of poetical feeling which forms his theme. He attributes it chiefly to the mighty impulse given to thought by the Reformation— to the disclosure of all the marvellous stores of sacred antiquity, by the translation of the Scriptures—and to the infinite sweetness, breathing from the divine character of the Messiah, with which he seems to imagine that the people were not familiar in darker ages. We are far from insensible to the exquisite beauty with which this last subject is treated; and fully agree with our author, that “there is something in the character of Christ, of more sweetness and majesty, and more likely to work a change in the mind of man, than any to be found in history, whether actual or feigned.” But we cannot think that the gentle
influences which that character shed upon the general heart, were weak or partial even before the translation of the Scriptures. The young had received it, not from books, but from the living voice of their parents, made softer in its tones by reverence and love. It had tempered early enthusiasm, and prompted visions of celestial beauty, in the souls even of the most low, before men had been taught to reason on their faith. The instances of the Saviour's compassion—his wondrous and beneficent miracles—his agonies and death, did not lie forgotten during centuries, because the people could not read of them. They were written “on the fleshy tables of the heart,” and softened the tenour of humble existence, while superstition, ignorance, and priestcraft held sway in high places. These old feelings of love, however, tended greatly to sweeten and moderate the first excursions of the intellect, when released from its long thraldom. The new opening of the stores of classic lore, of Ancient History, of Italian Poetry, and of Spanish Romance, contributed much, doubtless, to the incitement and the perfection of our national genius. The discovery of the New World, too, opened fresh fields for the imagination to revel in. islands, and golden sands,” says our author, “seemed to arise, as by enchantment, out of the bosom of the watery waste, and invite the cupidity, or wing the imagination of the dreaming speculator. Fairy land was realized in new and unknown worlds.”—“Fortunate fields, and groves, and flowery vales—thrice happy isles,” were found floating “like those Hesperian gardens famed of old,”—“beyond Atlantic seas, as dropped from the zenith.” Ancient superstitions also still lingered among the people. The romance of human life had not then departed. It “was more full of traps and pitfalls; of moving accidents by flood and field: more way-laid by sudden and startling evils, it stood on the brink of hope and fear, or stumbled upon fate unawares,-while imagination, close behind it, caught at and clung to the shape of danger, or snatched a wild and fearful joy from its escape.” The martial and heroic spirit was not dead. It was comparatively an age of peace, “Like Strength reposing on his own right arm:” but the sound of civil combat might still be heard in the distance,—the spear glittered to the eye of me. mory, or the clashing of armour struck on the imagination of the ardent and the young. The people of that day were borderers on the savage state, on the times of war and bigotry, though
their view, without disguise or control. All those causes Mr. Hazlitt regards as directed, and their immediate effects as united by the genius of our country, native, unaffected, sturdy, and unyielding. His lecture concludes with a character, equally beautiful and just, of the Genius of our Poetry, with reference to the classical models, as having more of Pan than of Apollo:-" but Pan is a God, Apollo is no more ?” The five succeeding Lectures contain the opinions of the author on most of the celebrated works produced from the time of the Reformation, until the death of Charles the First. The second comprises the characters of Lyly, Marlow, Heywood, Middleton, and Rowley. The account of Lyly's Endymion is worthy of that sweet but singular work. The address of Eumenides to Endymion, on his awaking from his long sleep, “Behold the twig to which thou laidest down thy head is become a tree,” is indeed, as described by our author, “an exquisitely chosen image, and dumb proof of the manner in which he has passed his life from youth to old age, in a dream, a dream of love!” His description of Marlow's qualities, when he says “there is a lust of power in his writings, a hunger and thirst after unrighteousness, a glow of the imagination unhallowed by anything but its own energies,” is very striking. The characters of Middleton and Rowley in this Lecture, and those of Marston, Chapman, Deckar, and Webster in the third, are sketched with great spirit; and the peculiar beauties of each are dwelt on in a style and with a sentiment congenial with the predominant feeling of the poet. At the close of the Lecture, the observation, that the old dramatic writers have nothing theatrical about them, introduces the following eulogy on that fresh delight which books are ever ready to yield us. “Here, on Salisbury Plain, where I write this, even here, with a few old authors, I can manage to get through the summer or the winter months, without ever knowing what it is to feel ennui. They sit with me at breakfast, they walk out with me before dinner. After a long walk through unfrequented tracts, after starting the hare from the fern, or hearing the wing of the raven rustling above my head, or being greeted with the woodman's “stern goodnight’ as he strikes into his narrow homeward path, I can take ‘mine ease at mine inn' beside the blazing hearth, and shake hands with Signor Orlando Frescobaldo, as the oldest acquaintance I have. Ben Jonson, learned
themselves in the lap of arts, of luxury, and Chapman, Master Webster, and Master Hey
knowledge. They stood on the shore, and saw the billows rolling after the storm. They heard the tumult, and were still. Another source of imaginative feelings, which Mr. Hazlitt quotes from Mr. Lamb, is found in the distinctions of dress, and all the external symbols of trade, profession, and degree, by which “the surface of society was embossed with
wood are there; and, seated round, discourse the silent hours away. Shakspeare is there himself, rich in Cibber's Manager's coat. Spenser is hardly returned from a ramble through the woods, or is concealed behind a group of nymphs, fawns, and satyrs. Milton lies on the table as on an altar, never taken up or laid down without reverence. Lyly's En
hieroglyphics, and poetry existed in act and dymion sleeps with the moon that shines in
Lastly, our author al- at the window; and a breath of wind stirring
ludes to the first enjoyment and uncontrolled at a distance, seems a sigh from the tree
range of our old poets through Nature, whose under which he grew old.
Faustus disfront soothes Mattheo, Vittoria triumphs over her Judges, and old Chapman repeats one of the hymns of Homer, in his own fine translation.” Pp. 136, 137. The spirit of this passage is very deep and cordial; and the expression, for the most o exquisite. But we wonder that Mr. Hazlitt should commit so great an incongruity, as to represent the other poets around him in person, while Milton, introduced among the rest, is used only as the title of a book. Why are other authors to be “seated round,” to cheer the critic's retirement as if living-while Milton, like a petition in the House of Commons, is only ordered “to lie upon the table " In the Fourth Lecture, ample justice is done to Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger and Ben Jonson; but we think the same measure is not meted to Ford. We cannot regard the author of “"Tis a Pity she's a Whore,” and “The Broken Heart,” as “finical and fastidious.” We are directly at issue, indeed, with our author on his opinions respecting the catastrophe of the latter tragedy. Calantha, Princess of Sparta, is celebrating the nuptials of a noble pair, with solemn dancing, when a messenger enters, and informs her that the king, her father, is dead:—she dances on. Another report is brought to her, that the sister of her betrothed husband is starved ;-she calls for the other change. A third informs her that Ithocles, her lover, is cruelly murdered;—she complains that the music sounds dull, and orders sprightlier measures. The dance ended, she announces herself queen, pronounces sentence on the murderer of Ithocles, and directs the ceremonials of her coronation to be immediately prepared. Her commands are obeyed. She enters the Temple in white, crowned, while the dead body of her husband is borne on a hearse, and placed beside the altar; at which she kneels in silent prayer. After her devotions, she addresses Nearchus, Prince of Argos, as though she would choose him for her husband, and lays down all orders for the regulation of her kingdom, under the guise of proposals of marriage. This done, she turns to the body of Ithocles, “the shadow of her contracted lord,” puts her mother's wedding ring on his finger, “to new-marry him whose wife she is,” and from whom death shall not part her. She then kisses his cold lips, and dies smiling. This Mr. Hazlitt calls “tragedy in masquerade,” “the true false gallop of sentiment;” and declares, that “any thing more artificial and mechanical he cannot conceive.” He regards the whole scene as a forced transposition of one in Marston's Malcontent, where Aurelia dances on in defiance to the world, when she hears of the death of a detested husband. He observes, “that a woman should call for music, and dance on in spite of the death of a husband whom she hates, without regard to common decency, is but too possible: that she should dance on with the same heroic perseverance, in spite of the death of her father, and of every one else whom she loves, from regard to common courtesy or appearance, is not surely natural. The passions may silence the voice of humanity; but it is, I think, equally against probability,
fairest flowers were then uncropped-and to putes in one corner of the room with fiendish the movements of the soul then laid open to faces, and reasons of divine astrology. Bella
and decorum, to make both the passions and the voice of humanity give way (as in the example of Calantha) to a mere form of outward behaviour. Such a suppression of the strongest and most uncontrollable feelings, can only be justified from necessity, for some great purpose-which is not the case in Ford's play; or it must be done for the effect and eclat of the thing, which is not fortitude but affectation.” The fallacy of this criticism appears to us to lie in the assumption, that the violent suppression of her feelings by the heroine was a mere piece of court etiquette—a compliment to the ceremonies of a festival. Surely the object was noble, and the effort sublime. While the deadly force of sorrow oppressed her heart, she felt that she had solemn duties to discharge, and that, if she did not arm herself against affliction till they were finished, she could never perform them. She could seek temporary strength only by refusing to pause —by hurrying on the final scene; and dared not to give the least vent to the tide of grief, which would at once have relieved her overcharged heart, and left her, exhausted, to die. Nothing less than the appearance of gayety could hide or suppress the deep anguish of her soul. We agree with Mr. Lamb, whose opinion is referred to by our author, that there is scarcely in any other play “a catastrophe so grand, so solemn, and so surprising as this " The Fifth Lecture, on Single Plays and Poems, brings into view many curious specimens of old humour, hitherto little known, and which sparkle brightly in their new setting. The Sixth, on Miscellaneous Poems and Works, is chiefly remarkable for the admirable criticism on the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney, with which it closes. Here the critic separates with great skill the wheat from the chaff, showing at once the power of his author, and its perversion, and how images of touching beauty and everlasting truth are marred by “the spirit of Gothic quaintness, criticism, and conceit.” The passage, which is far too long for quotation, makes us desire more earnestly than ever that an author, capable of so lucid and convincing a development of his critical doctrines, would less frequently content himself with giving the mere results of his thought, and even conveying these in the most abrupt and startling language. A remark uttered in the parenthesis of a sarcasm, or an image thrown in to heighten a piece of irony, might often furnish extended matter for the delight of those whom it now only disgusts or bewilders. The Seventh Lecture, on the works of Lord Bacon, compared as to style with those of Sir Thomas Browne and of Jeremy Taylor, is very unequal. The character of Lord Bacon is eloquent, and the praise sufficiently lavish ; but it does not show any proper knowledge of his works. That of Jeremy Taylor is somewhat more appropriate, but too full of gaudy images and mere pomp of words. The style of that delicious writer is ingeniously described as “prismatic;” though there is too much of shadowy chillness in the phrase, adequately to represent the warm and tender bloom which he casts on all that he touches. And when we are afterwards told that it “unfolds the colours of the rainbow; floats like a bubble through the air; or is like innumerable dewdrops, that glitter on the face of morning, and twinkle as they glitter;”—we can only understand that the critic means to represent it as variegated, light, and sparkling: but it appears to us that the style of Jeremy Taylor is like nothing unsubstantial or airy. The blossoms put forth in his works spring from a deep and eternal stock, and have no similitude to any thing wavering or unstable. His account of Sir Thomas Browne, however, seems to us very characteristic, both of himself and of that most extraordinary of English writers. We can make room only for a part of it. “As Bacon seemed to bend all his thoughts to the practice of life, and to bring home the light of science ‘to the bosoms and business of men, Sir Thomas Browne seemed to be of opinion, that the only business of life was to think; and that the proper object of speculation was, by darkening knowledge, to breed more speculation, and ‘find no end in wandering mazes lost.' He chose the incomprehensible and the impracticable, as almost the only subjects fit for a lofty and lasting contemplation, or for the exercise of a solid faith. He cried out for an ‘oh altitudo' beyond the heights of revelation; and posed himself with apocryphal mysteries as the pastime of his leisure hours. He pushes a question to the utmost verge of conjecture, that he may repose on the certainty of doubt: and he removes an object to the greatest distance from him, that he may take a high and abstracted interest in it, consider it in relation to the surn of things, not to himself, and bewilder his understanding in the universality of its nature, and the inscrutableness of its origin. His is the sublime of indifference; a passion for the abstruse and imaginary. He turns the world round for his amusement, as if it were a globe of pasteboard. He looks down on sublunary affairs as if he had taken his station in one of the planets. The antipodes are next-door neighbours to him: and doomsday is not far off. With a thought he embraces both the poles; the march of his pen is over the great divisions of geography and chronology. Nothing touches him nearer than humanity. He feels that he is mortal only in the decay of nature, and the dust of long-forgotten tombs. The finite is lost in the infinite. The orbits of the heavenly bodies, or the history of empires, are to him but a point in time, or a speck in the universe. The great Platonic year revolves in one of his periods. Nature is too little for the grasp of his style. He scoops an antithesis out of fabulous antiquity, and rakes up an epithet from the sweepings of chaos. It is as if his books had dropped from the clouds, or as if Friar Bacon's head could speak. He stands on the edge of the world of sense and reason, and gets a vertigo by looking down at impossibilities and chimeras. Or he busies himself with the mysteries of the Cabbala, or the enclosed secrets of the heavenly quincunxes, as children are amused with tales of the nursery. The passion of curiosity (the only passion of childhood) had
in him survived to old age, and had superannuated his other faculties. He moralizes and grows pathetic on a mere idle fancy of his own, as if thought and being were the same, or as if ‘all this world were one glorious lie.” He had the most intense consciousness of contradictions and nonentities; and he decks them out in the pride and pedantry of words, as if they were the attire of his proper person. The categories hang about his neck like the gold chain of knighthood: and he “walks gowned' in the intricate folds and swelling drapery of dark sayings and impenetrable riddles.” Pp. 292–295. The Eighth and Last Lecture begins with a few words on the merits of Sheil, Tobin, Lamb, and Cornwall, who, in our own time, have written in the spirit of the elder dramatists. The observations in this lecture, on the spirit of the romantic and classic literature, are followed by a striking development of the materials, and an examination of the success of the German drama. Mr. Hazlitt attributes the triumph of its monstrous paradoxes to those abuses and hypocrisies of society, those incoherences between its professions and its motives, which excite enthusiastic minds to seek for the opposite, at once, of its defects and blessings. His account of his own sensations on the first perusal of the Robbers, is one of the most striking passages in the work. “I have half trifled with this subject; and I believe I have done so because I despaired of finding language for some old-rooted feelings I have about it, which a theory could neither give, nor can it take away. The Robbers was the first play I ever read; and the effect it produced upon me was the greatest. It stunned me like a blow; and I have not recovered enough from it to tell how it was. There are impressions which neither time nor circumstances can efface. Were I to live much longer than I have any chance of doing, the books I have read when I was young, I can never forget. Five-and-twenty years have elapsed since I first read the translation of the Robbers, but they have not blotted the impression from my mind; it is here still—an old dweller in the chambers of the brain. The scene, in particular, in which Moor looks through his tears at the evening sun from the mountain's brow, and says in his despair, “It was my wish like him to live, like him to die: it was an idle thought, a boy's conceit, took first hold of my imagination,-and that sun has to me never set !” While we sympathize in all Mr. Hazlitt's sentiments of reverence for the mighty works of the older times, we must guard against that exclusive admiration of antiquity, rendered fashionable by some great critics, which would induce the belief that the age of genius is past, and the world grown too old to be romantic. We can observe in these I,ectures, and in other works of their author, a jealousy of the advances of civilization as lessening the dominion of fancy. But this is, we think, a dangerous error; tending to chill the earliest aspirations after excellence, and to roll its rising energies back on the kinding soul. There remains yet abundant space for genius