« IndietroContinua »
Be scattea'd like the April rains of Heaven :
Now, as I write, lo! thro' my window streams
Is bowed to golden gods of vulgar birth.' pp. 58–59. The succeeding and tragical part of the story is perhaps the least skilfully managed. Marcian, wandering one day, in his bridal joy, is appalled by the sudden apparition of Julia's first husband, who turns out not to have been effectually drowned —and instantly flies with her in distraction from the Italian shore. The following description of their disastrous voyage is the most powerful piece of poetry that has yet proceeded from Mr Cornwalls pen—and might do honour to any name that now graces our literature.
' –The day-light sank, and the winds wailed about
The barque wherein the luckless couple lay,
Bared like a grave its bosom silently ;
-At first the dolphin and the porpoise dark
O thou vast Ocean ! Ever sounding Sea !
pass like visions to their viewless home, And come again, and vanish: the young Spring
Such a sup
passions may silence the voice of humanity; but it is, I think, equally against probability 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. pression 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 to 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 gaiety 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 unequalq The character of Lord Bacon is clo
quent, 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 dew drops, 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 businesses 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 aliitudo” 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 sum 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 was 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 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 VOL. XXXIV. Ņo. 68.
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 contradic. tions 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. Fiveand-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
in his despair, was my wish like him to live, like him to die : it was an idle thought,