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With but a single political element, and that a democratic one, guarded by the state governments, it is hard to see whence convulsion is to spring. We can readily perceive a current in our history,—we have said above, that we are in progress, in common, with the rest of the world ; but we cannot discover that opposing obstacle which is to cause it to overflow. M. de Tocqueville has truly said, that there are no parties in the United States. To this very hour, the line between those of 1797 is so little appreciated, that were Hamilton to read the history of the present administration, democratic par excellence as it is termed, he might almost term it ultra federal. It is so hybridous that the writer before us does not hesitate to say of its chief, that he is, fédéral par goût et républicain par calcul. Indeed, what administration of the present century has been otherwise? What the outs call power, the ins deem prerogative. The elder Adams made a federal war against France,-Mr. Madison a republican one against England. In the mean time, the two parties had changed places and arguments,—the - same philippics answered for both. An honourable senator, not at present with those in power, but who was so in 1812, now finds them useful a third time.
It must be, then, in the over-expansion of the popular element that we are to seek the evils that are to overthrow our government. The peril can come from no other quarter. however elevated, who should dare assume the power even to post a soldier at the gate of the palace, would make a suicide of his own greatness. There is a living monument to the memory of miscalculating ambition, within a day's hard riding of the capitol. The people will have no tribunes but of their own choosing. The idea of an aristocracy is absurd. What is to constitute it? Wealth, in a country where property is divided once in thirty years ? Political distinction, where the people change their servants almost with every change of the moon? War? Frontier fighting is almost at an end; and we have no other field of glory. Family ? Whose—“Tully's or your own ?" Ten men against ten millions would be fearful odds. To us aristocracy is a legend, and nothing more; it sprang from the mail-clad barons of the dark
but no germ of feudality was ever imported hither. It will come to us only with the resumption of iron armour; but in the mean time the word is of wondrous use in the cant of party politics. The rostrum resounds with it, and we have known it borrowed to tag the sentences of reverend senators. The real aristocrat (we beg pardon of etymology) of America is he who would lord it over the people, not by force of a great name, great possessions, or the strong hand--resources of a by-gone age, but by the meaner, though surer, arts of the tribune-the
misuse of good institutions, the perversion of lawful ends, and all the practices of bad ambition. He is the demagogue whom you may see in the comitia showing his scars, or shouting in the senate-house, Appellamus ad populum-appellamus ad populum. He it is who alternately stimulates and restrains the people for his own ends, beginning by gaining their confidence, and ending by betraying it-like Lysander, eking out the lion's hide with the skin of the foe. He prates to them of liberty, by which he means license; and tells them to dictate their will to their servants in office, instead of awaiting the slow process of the constitution. He obstructs their way to the government in order to level the government to them. He counterfeits right to produce wrong, as savages lay green turf over a pitfall. He is the aristocrat of fraud.
If the respect and love of the American people for their government and laws are ever to be destroyed, it will be through such arts as these. Their fidelity will be sapped, not stormed. The reverence and affection which are felt for the authority of the constitution, diminish or increase with the diminution or increase of the dignity and purity of those who administer it. The choice of influences is always with those in power. If they do their duty to honour and conscience, there is no danger of the consequences. Posterity will right those to whom the present is unjust. We trust much to the virtue and mind of our countrymen. They are proof, as they have heretofore shown, against the violence of power—they are now undergoing the more dangerous ordeal of its flattery. Should they survive the test unharmed, the future will be almost cloudless. Should the issue be disastrous they will be the sufferers, but liberty is sure of a resurrection. We have watched the serious portents of commotion in the tumults of the last two years, and at times we have almost apprehended the rush of a wild and universal riot over the country to the overthrow of all true freedom. Yet have those portents left us not altogether without exultation, for they have discovered to us that the love of order is yet predominant, and that the turbulent element has thus far been controlled, if it cannot be extinguished, by the coolness of patriotism, and the severe majesty of the laws. The volcano is yet ribbed in by the snows of Ætna
“Et, quamvis nimio fervens exuberet æstu,
Scit nivibus servare fidem; fumoque fideli
ART. VIII.--1. Hernani, ou l'Honneur Castillan. 2. Marion
de Lorme. 3. Angelo, Tyran de Padoue. Troisième edition. Drames. Par Victor Hugo. Paris, 1835.
Since what the author of the pieces above named has been pleased to call the “admirable revolution of 1830," a remarkable change has taken place in the character of the popular literature of France ; of that most dependent for its existence upon the varying taste of the populace-novels and dramatic works-particularly the latter. That the political vicissitudes which agitated the nation and the world, from the reign of Louis XIV to the restoration of the Bourbons, were without a corresponding effect produced immediately upon the lighter class of letters is undeniable; though we shall not hold ourselves bound to account for a fact not less singular than certain. Perhaps the chief cause of the phenomenon may be that the minds of men were too much absorbed in the stupendous scenes enacting on the great theatre of life, during that eventful century, to heed the exhibition of the passions or follies of men on a more limited scale. After the return of the exiled sovereigns to the throne, in the state of tranquillity and increased freedom of the press, enjoyed by the French, the influence of the same mutable spirit which had been already at work in every department of social life, began to be felt in literature; but it was not until the reign of Louis Philippe, that the advocates of the liberal ystem broke forth into unrestrained freedom, and boldly threw off even the pretence of respect for the usages of the old school. The liberty so newly obtained, soon ran into licentiousness. The writers fancied that, in freeing themselves from the yoke of the everlasting unities, they were entitled to dismiss all regard for the decencies of life; and that the proper reverse for the formality and antiquated stiffness of the adherents to the classic system, was the extravagant and mischievous license in which they indulged. Within the last three or four years, the romantic writers, or freethinkers as they might be termed, at the head of whom are Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, have fully established their supremacy over the popular mind. That they have obtained this influence by a degree of extravagance and immoralit; unparalleled in the preceding history of the drama, and the temporary success of which is an appalling comment upon the state of morals and taste among the people that encourage such productions, may be proved by an examination of their works.
Victor Hugo pays homage to the genius of Shakspeare, by acknowledging that he has reached the utmost perfection of
dramatic art-uniting the grand and the true; yet the French poet, in his professedly humble imitation, entirely loses sight of his model in the boundless sea of exaggeration into which he launches; nor shall we pretend to say what portion of sublimity or truth he has retained. Certainly, if in divesting the tragic muse of her stately classic garb, he has given her full license to rove abroad in her night gown and slippers, she employs the liberty he has bestowed in a manner to reflect little credit upon his discretion.
In the preface to Angelo, his latest production, our author inculcates the necessity of making the drama a vehicle of instruction. “Be enchanted,” he says, “ with the drama ; but let the lesson be within, and be discovered whenever we attempt to analyse a creation so vivid, so beautiful, so poetic, so passionate, so magnificently invested in velvet and silk and gold. In the fairest production of art there should be severe thought, as a skeleton within the frame of a beautiful woman.” “ The drama, as the author of this work would make it, as a man of genius could make it, ought to give to the crowd a philosophy, to ideas a formula, to poetry its muscle and its life-blood, to those who think a disinterested exposition, to thirsty sculs a beverage, to secret wounds a balm, to each a counsel, to all a law.”
How is it, meanwhile, that M. Hugo essays, in the spirit of his precept, to blend instruction with amusement, to charm and delight, and lead captive the fancy, while he conveys to the mind an important lesson of practical utility? How does he offer this secret counsel and law to his fellow-citizens? Is it by representing a chivalric monarch of la belle France, seeking his midnight amusements in the lowest haunts of infamy, deceiving honest credulity, and destroying innocence, as in his drama of Le Roi s'amuse? Is it by painting a being stained with fouler crimes than, we would hope, ever disgraced humanity, at least in one individual, and holding her up to compassion as an object of interest, because she is not destitute of the natural instinct of love for her offspring, as in Lucrèce Borgia? Is it by investing a courtesan with every grace and quality of loveliness, and seeking to enlist our sympathies by depicting her as a martyr, as in Marion de Lorme ? Or, is it, as in his last work, so eloquently praised by the French critics, by rewarding the constancy and devotedness of his amiable heroine, by furnishing her with a steed and a lover to run away from her husband?
“I will, perhaps, endeavour some day," says our author, “to explain in detail what I have wished to do in each of the separate dramas given to the public within the last seven years. When that period shall arrive, the literary world will
doubtless be furnished with M. Hugo's reasons for the exhibition of scenes so disgusting and atrocious, and the choice of plots so hideously at variance with every principle of good taste. We shall then be prepared to admit much in extenuation; but till that explanation, and for the sake of our dramatist himself, we wish earnestly he would hasten it, we must be permitted to protest with all our might against the examples hitherto presented, of the new dramatic school over which Victor Hugo presides in France. That our readers may have some opportunity of judging the merits of some of the masterpieces of the modern French drama, we shall offer analyses of a few of Victor Hugo's pieces, selecting the least exceptionable, from a pardonable reluctance to admit into our pages aught that would sully, them, though sanctioned by the civil authorities in Paris, and lauded by the voice of the “ universal nation."
Of Hernani, the earliest represented among the author's plays, he says :-" Hernani n'est jusqu'ici que la première pierre d'un édifice qui existe tout construit dans la tête de son auteur, mais dont l'ensemble peut seul donner quelque valeur à ce drame.” What are to be the uses of the structure composed of materials such as he has employed, we cannot even conjecture; certain it is, that the edifice casts already a portentous shadow over the plain it was designed to adorn. This piece has been rendered into English, and represented at some of our theatres; being unable, however, to obtain the published translation, we shall offer all the extracts in our examination of it, in a version of our own. The scene is at Saragossa ; the design is to exhibit the stern inflexibility of Castilian honour. Donna Sol, the heroine, is beloved by a chieftain of banditti, but betrothed to her uncle, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva. She has yet a third lover, who is no other than Don Carlos, King of Spain, afterwards chosen emperor at Aix-la-Chapelle. The scene opens in her chamber, where her duenna waits to receive Hernani; Don Carlos unexpectedly arrives, and compels her to conceal him in a closet, whence he bursts upon the unsuspecting lovers in the midst of their interview. Before, however, their respective claims to the lady's favour can be decided by the sword, the uncle enters, with servants, and demands the meaning of the fray. Don Carlos discovers his rank, and shields Hernani from the wrath of the old man; while the bandit, after giving vent in a prodigious soliloquy to his indignation and thirst for revenge, departs
to make preparations for carrying off the fair Sol on the succeeding night. In this enterprise he is no more successful; the indefatigable king, who has overheard the appointment, reaches first the spot VOL. XIX.-NO. 37.