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This sight, associated with my morning's adventure, was too much for my over-burdened spleen, and I sought relief in a loud, convulsing laugh, which must have rendered his situation still more distressing, but for the world I could not have refrained. When the first explosion was over, I heard the lady storming at my friend, for exposing her, and Harry protesting his innocence with so much niaiserie, that it brought on a second fit. My ecstasy was at its height, when bounce open flew the door, and the enraged lady, with flushed cheeks and flaming eyes, stood before me. "I beg pardon, madam; but ha! ha! ha! I beg pardon for he, he, he !-but only look at A. B. there, and you will ho, ho, ho!-Oh my sides, how they ache! You'd have laughed, Harry, at my sweet Y. Z., and now I cannot help laughing at your charming F. P.; upon my soul I cannot, madam-ha, ha, ha." The contagion had by this time spread to my friend's nerves, and he chuckled and apologised in a most diverting manner. Meanwhile the lady, bloated with rage and disappointment, vented herself in terms more spirited than genteel. She was one of your plump, red-faced Pomonas, who would have done credit to an apple-stall; she had been ripened by good fifty summers, and exhibited a most voluptuous contrast to my lean sallow friend. Her passion was quite exalted enough for tragedy, and would have produced a tolerable catastrophe had she found any weapons, or had we not sidled round the table, out of her reach, begging pardon at every step for our unavoidable mirth, and declaring ourselves sorry that she had given herself so much trouble in calling. At length, her vocabulary of abusives being exhausted, and she herself tired out with menacing vengeance, she retreated down stairs. When composed, I related my adventures with Y. Z., which furnished fresh fuel to our merriment. We agreed to manage our future interviews in a cleverer and more serious manner, forsooth, by each of us receiving the visits destined to the other, in the character of agent. By the contrivance of a small pane cut in the door, we might previously inspect the applicant; this might be concealed from view, by placing a table, with books and scientific apparatus, against the door. It has been so neatly effected, that the glass appears to belong to a camera-obscura, standing against the wall, and a thick curtain at the back of the door prevents the light from being transmitted. We gave meetings to all correspondents; but the difficulty of choice seems to have increased with the number. But though they do not suit our taste, we are convinced they would be quite acceptable to other men in search of wives. This has suggested to me the idea of opening a commission-room in the wholesale line, since joint-stock companies are out of fashion. To prevent all puffs and imposition, each customer shall produce a certificate of birth from the parish register; also a regular attestation, sworn before Sir Richard Birnie, that he or she is a proper character; besides a report, from the Lord Chancellor, that he or she has been tried in his court, and found to be of good temper and sane mind, and no bankrupt. The fees shall be regulated on a moderate scale; so much for advertising; so much for a peep; an interview, so much. Prospectuses shall be forthwith published, to be had of all booksellers and newsmen. Inquire, for cards, of the Union Insurance Office.
THE EPIC AND THE ROMANTIC.
THIS is not intended to be a lecture upon comparative poetical anatomy; nor do we propose to measure the proportions of the epic and the romantic, by the foot-rule of Horace, or Boileau, or Castelvetro. All the world knows that an epic poem is the most beautiful, the most perfect, and the most sublime work, of which the human mind is capable; and all the world very discreetly regards it as a point of religion to be in ecstasies whenever the name of Homer or Virgil is mentioned. But ecstasies, however orthodox, are not always at command; and there are few more painfully laborious efforts, than that of working one's self into a fine frenzy of admiration for the occasion; so that we have sometimes thought it would be a mercy, if means could be devised, to relieve good people from the necessity of fevering themselves in their anxiety to maintain a character for classical taste. With this charitable end in view, we design, at a convenient season, to invent some sobriquet, or some disparaging phrase, for each of the heroic bards-something short and pithy, but not too definite in meaning, like "Le clinquant de Tasse;" which, aided by a damning shake of the head, and with nose upraised to the proper angle of contempt, might be drawled out with quite as much effect as could be produced by the most elaborate panegyric.
With regard to the romantic, the difference is, that no one considers himself under any obligation to admire it; and yet enjoy it we do, with an intensity of enjoyment as boundless as it is unforced. We luxuriate in it; we feast upon it in silence and in secrecy; we put it under our pillows; we curtail our twelve hours' natural rest, and wake up to read it; it supplants the very newspaper on our breakfast table. We speak not here of the modern mongrel romance, in which ghosts, charnel-houses, monks, inquisitors, and thumb-screws, in all their various combinations of horror, stir up the morbid imaginations of young damsels lounging on sofas; but of the genuine old chivalrous romance, which sings of
Loves and ladies, knights and arms,
Metaphysicians explain our extravagant delight in these brilliant creations of the fancy by observing that the germ of romance is deeply rooted in our nature; and that in short we all romance, each according to the measure of his gifts. Sismondi sagaciously conjectures, that our pleasure arises from the utter impossibility of deriving any instruction from the romantic; a recommendation, by the bye, which, however strong, might perchance be sometimes found to apply to works in other branches of literature. Be this as it may, it is strange, that while there are directions without number for the composition of an epic poem, so that every school-boy knows all about unity and entirety, beginning, middle, and end, no chart has yet been laid down for the guidance of the romantic writer. shall endeavour to supply a few hints upon the subject.
The first thing the author has to do, is to bespeak unlimited cre
dence; to insinuate that none but a dolt, or a vulgar fellow, could venture to disbelieve whatever he, in the plenitude of his pen, thinks fit to advance :
Why then should witlesse man so much misweene,
Che'l volgo sciocco non gli vuol dar fede,
Having thus cleared the ground, the next step is to provide his characters. And here he will derive much assistance from Johnson's accurate description of the component parts of a drama. “To bring a lover, a lady, and a rival into the fable; to entangle them in contradictory obligations, perplex them with oppositions of interest, and harass them with violence of desires inconsistent with each other; to make them meet in rapture, and part in agony; to fill their mouths with hyperbolical joy, and outrageous sorrow; to distress them as nothing human ever was distressed; to deliver them as nothing human ever was delivered, is the business, &c." The only improvement that can be suggested, in order to render this outline available to the romantic writer, is, that instead of one lover, one lady, and one rival, there should be a score of each at least; for the peculiar merit of the genuine romance is, that it disdains unity; it is as fond of pluralities as a parson.
The lovers should, generally speaking, be constant to their mistresses, until they are transfixed by brighter eyes. If, however, the author is daring enough to introduce a paragon of constancy, "true as the needle to the pole," poetic justice demands, that the paragon should go mad. And this he must do, whether his mistress repays his affection with kindness or ingratitude. For, as he of La Mancha says: This is the point and refinement of the design: a knight, who turns madman, because he cannot help it, can claim no merit from his misfortune; but the great matter is, to run distracted without cause."
But the delincation of madness is attended with no small difficulty, as well on account of the thousand varying shades of insanity itself, as of the dim evanescent line, which separates the madman from the transcendant genius. For example, when Orlando, 'that most classical of maniacs, offers his dead horse in exchange for a living one, and requires boot::
Con qualche aggiunto il ronzin dar mi puoi
There appears nothing very mad in the request; seeing that persons who are acknowledged to have their wits about them, are constantly in the habit of selling and exchanging horses as good as dead. The only part of the transaction that borders upon insanity, is the candour with which he acknowledges the single defect of an animal, unexceptionable, as it would appear, in every other respect. The safest course therefore is to follow precedent. It would not appear to be of much consequence, whether the lunatic upon the first access strips off his armour, as Orlando did; his breeches, as Don Quixote did; or his boots, according to the example of Bombastes. He is bound, however, to travel naked right a-head, like a mad dog, without declining to the right, or to the left, "from one to other Ynd;
swimming seas; tearing up forests by the roots; destroying man and beast; sacking cities by way of a melancholy, gentleman-like recreation; kicking donkeys to such a height, that they appear like birds in the air; feeding on bears and wild boars-not Westphalian hams-but wild boars raw, with their hides on:
E di lor carne, con tutta la spoglia,
Più volte il ventré empì con fiera voglia.
These are the general outlines, which may be filled up, ad libitum, with frantic extravagancics.
As it may be necessary at the conclusion of the work to cure the madman, a few words as to the mode of effecting this.-Great writers are at variance respecting the treatment of Orlando. Ariosto, following that most veridical of chroniclers, Turpin, "che mai non mente," relates, that the Paladin's loving friends ducked him well in the sea:
Lo fa lavare Astolfo sette volte,
E sette volte sotto acqua l'attuffa ;
whence, no doubt, is derived the modern practice in cases of hydrophobia; and that then Astolfo presented to the nostrils of the wellsoused Paladin, a smelling-bottle, or snuff-box, containing his wits, for which, the said Astolfo had had the kindness to travel to the moon on a hippogriff. Fortiguerra, on the contrary, insists that Orlando underwent the merciful discipline of our private mad-houses-a good drubbing every hour, spare diet, and abundance of water:
Cinquante bastonate a ciascun'ora
pane asciutto, ed acqua della gora ;
E ritornaro Orlando in sanitate
Molta acqua, poco pane, e bastonate.
We are bound to confess, that highly as we approve of the ducking. the latter part of Ariosto's cure appears to us somewhat far-fetched, like the whale in Scott's "Pirate;" and that considering the decay of the breed of hippogriffs, and the very remote chance of a renewal of our communication with the moon by means of balloons, we are inclined to give the preference to Fortiguerra's prescription; perfectly agreeing with him, that nothing has such miraculous power in bringing people to their senses, as fasting and blows.
Ma il mangiar poco, e il molto bastonare,
Che fa tornare il senno ad agni cosa.
It is scarcely necessary to observe, that the lovers should be fierce fiery warriors, breathing death and defiance. A suit of Hector's or the fifth Harry's armour; the breast-plate of Solomon; a sword tempered by David, that will slice rocks as easily as a cheese-paring; a diamond shield like that possessed by Spenser's Prince Arthure:
Men into stones therewith he could transmew;
A steed "Whose rapidity the lightning even envies," or like unto that of Hudibras
That beat, at least three lengths, the wind.
These are every-day matters, which will naturally occur to the poet's mind. "Impenetrable armour," says Hobbes, enchanted castles, invulnerable bodies, iron men, flying horses, and other such things, are easily feigned by them that dare." We only mention them, because they may be serviceable, when the hero faces an army singly, which he will do upon an average once a week. "In those days," observes the unaffected biographer of the illustrious Antar, "there were knights who could encounter a thousand, and even two thousand, of the most obstinate horsemen; having always the advantage, and ever unhurt." On these occasions he will take heads from their shoulders, as he would pluck apples:
Del capo lo scema,
Ariosto, with a degree of modesty-an amiable dread of offending the most incredulous ears-insinuates, that perhaps the force of an earthquake might have equalled the force of Rogero:
Forse il tremuoto le sarebbe uguale.
There are some exploits in that pattern of romances," Antar," which are worthy of the consideration of the romantic writer, as well on account of the simple style in which they are narrated, as because they are no vulgar, common-place feats. The following may serve as a specimen: "He raised her up in his hand like a sparrow in the claws of a devouring hawk; and as he dashed her violently to the ground, her length nearly entered into her breadth."......" He cleft his vizor and wadding, and his sword played away between the eyes, passing through his shoulders down to the back of the horse, even to the ground; and he and his horse made four pieces; and to the strictest observer it would appear that he had divided them with scales." This has been imitated by Ariosto:
E gli nomini fendéa fin sul cavallo;
And by Fortiguerra.—
E lo divide in due veracemente.
"He wrested a horseman from the back of his horse; he raised him in his hand like a pole; and whirling him round as a sling, he struck a second with him down; he precipitated the two, and made them drink of the cup of death: "-which exploit also has served as a model to the romantic writers of Europe.
Among the rest he takes one by his heele,
"Where he struck he cleaved asunder, and where he pierced, he annihilated; and when he shouted at the horses, their feet shook
* Sir John Harrington's translation of the Orlando Furioso.