Abbildungen der Seite

of Manutius, as expressed in the passage from his commentaries here given, is the most difficult to resist. But it will be observed, that there is much vagueness in the evidence which Manutius gives, as having carried conviction to his mind. One Bernard Justin, it seems, leaves his library to a Nunnery;

-in the catalogue, is found the title of the treatise of Cicero, de Gloria ; but, upon a search being afterwards set on foot, the book is no where to be found. Now, Alcyonius being physician to the Nuns, and having had free access to the library, and being homo improbus, a man of bad character, (in the opinion of Manutius,) he doubtless stole it and appropriated it to his own use. This, we think, it will readily be granted, is but an inconclusive piece of reasoning. It is supported by Manutius's critical opinion of the book itself. He avers, that in his opinion, there are passages in Alcyonius's treatise de Exilio, which Alcyonius himself could not write. Manutius, it must be allowed, was an excellent judge of the peculiarities of style, and of the difference between that which was Cicero's and that which is Ciceronian. He was likewise, of course, well acquainted with the talents of the man who had long been the corrector of his press. On the other hand, it is a very difficult thing to say what an individual can or cannot do, upon an acquaintance however intimate. And in the case of Alcyonius, it is proved by the fact, that two orations which he afterwards published after the taking of Rome, against Charles V. and the barbarities of his army, materially increased his reputation, and manifestly proved him to be possessed of talents for which he would not previously have been given credit. Moreover, it does not seem very clear how Alcyonius could make much advantageous use, in a treatise on Exile, of passages filched from a treatise on Glory. He must, indeed, have been a very ingenious botcher, who could so curiously introduce the purple rag into his coarse foundationwork, as to deceive the sagacity of such a man as Bentley. Bentley, however, it seems from the letter of Mencken, saw nothing in the treatise of Alcyonius which looked like plagiarism. Though to this averment is added an exception, which considerably deteriorates the value of this testimony: for Mencken adds, as from the mouth of Bentley, that what is quoted in Alcyonius from Cicero on Glory, the same form part of the fragments of that work which still remain. Now we have carefully examined the little work of Petrus Alcyonius, and with confidence can assert that it does not contain any of the fragments of Cicero's treatise de Gloria : and, therefore, are justified in saying either that Dr. Bentley, in the moment of conversation, hazarded an assertion, which on a proper examination of the book he would have found unsupported by fact, or else that J.

Burchard Mencken had misrepresented what fell from the lips of Dr. Bentley. However this may be, the question of the dishonesty of Peter Alcyon must still remain a moot point-his memory must still be darkened with a shade of suspicion ; though we, in charity, recommend to our readers the noble maxim of the English law, to hold the accused as innocent until he has been proved guilty. And this, probably, will not take place till the discovery of some still existing copy of Cicero's lost work.

This, we fear, is an improbable event; but the exploits of Signor Maio, in the libraries under his care, forbid us to despond. We understand that it was the opinion of the intelligent Lord Hutchinson, that the MS. had been traced to Constantinople, and that he had some reason for supposing it to be buried in the library of that city. During his lordship’s residence in Egypt, he used every possible means to obtain the liberty of inspecting that literary sepulchre, but in vain. His lordship is said to have declared, that he would have gladly sacrificed all his military honors to the glory of having rescued, from the hands of barbarians, Cicero's Treatise on Glory.

“Cedant arma togæ; concedat laurea linguæ.” We fear, however, that all the hopes which have been entertained of recovering the lost decades of Livy and other classical MSS. from Constantinople, either has or will prove an old, though not unpleasing illusion, which the inferences to be drawn from the accounts of Dr. Clarke and Dr. Carlyle, in Mr. Walpole's Memoirs of Greece, are well calculated to dispel. The forgotten and vamped up apartments of the Constantinopolitan seraglio—the Arabic translations of the Escurial—the yet to be discovered remains of ancient Persian literature-have all been successively pointed out to the eager scholar, as the secret depository of the treasures which his soul thirsts after. We fear, that his researches, in these quarters, will only appear feasible in the enthusiastic ardour with which we are apt to fume and swell in the retirement of our own closets; and that a nearer approach to the site of the spots, where our imaginations have built massive cases in dusty and neglected recesses, with countless shelves arranged in regimental order, and groaning beneath the weight of ponderous volumes, will cause to vanish the fairy vision : reminding us of the stories of our youth, where the silent ghost appears at the bed-side, and beckons the affrighted dreamer to follow its steps to some damp and choked apartment, where, being arrived, the awful guide points out to the delighted beholder the rusty ring, which, being raised, will disclose the buried treasure. The dreamer pulls and exerts himself, and with the exertion he awakes, and the stoney apartment vanishes from his aching sight. We would not wish, however, to discourage the literary pilgrim who is disposed to wander in search of these gems, which the unfathomable caves of Byzantium, Persia, or Spain, may bear; but on the contrary, in despite of the anticipations in which we have for a moment indulged, would . be glad to join in the hunt, and raise the view-holla with as delighted a cry as any classical enthusiast in the country. .

ART. XII.—Chester Mysteries, * MS. in the Harleian Collection,

British Museum. Coventry Plays, MS. in the Cottonian Library, British Museum. Hawkins's Origin of the English Drama, 3 vols. 8vo. Oxford, 1773. Dodsley's Select Collection of old Plays, 12 vols. 12mo. 1744.

As it is one of the objects of this work to trace the history of literature, and particularly the literature of our own country, it is our design, in pursuance of that plan, to present our readers with a series of articles on the English Drama; more especially of that part of it which is most ancient and little known, except to antiquaries and professed scholars. Before, however, we can enter upon this task, with any pleasure either to our readers or ourselves, it will be necessary to take a review of the earliest specimens of the dramatic art in this kingdom, if we may be allowed to apply the term of art to compositions as inartificial, as crude and jejune, as can be well imagined. It will, at all events, prepare the way for more interesting disquisitions and more agreeable extracts than those with which we shall

* The Fall of Lucifer was represented by the Tanners. The Creation, by the Drapers. The Deluge, by the Dyers. Abraham, Melchisedech, and Lot, by the Barbers. Moses, Balak, and Balaam, by the Cappers. The Salutation and Nativity, by the Wrights. The Shepherds feeding their flocks by night, by the Painters and Glaziers. The three Kings, by the Vintners. The Oblation of the three Kings, by the Mercers. The killing of the Innocents, by the Goldsmiths. The Purification, by the Blacksmiths. The Temptation, by the Butchers. The Last Supper, by the Bakers. The Blind Men and Lazarus, by the Glovers. Jesus and the Lepers, by the Corvesarys. Christ's Passion, by the Bowyers, Fletchers, and Ironmongers. Descent into Hell, by the Cooks and Innkeepers. The Resurrection, by the Skinners. The Ascension, by the Taylors. The election of S. Matthias, Sending of the Holy Ghost, &c. by the Fishmongers. Antichrist, by the Clothiers. Day of Judgment, by the Websters.

commence the present series. Let not our readers, however, be startled at the ominous words Mysteries and Moralities, for we fairly give them notice, that it is not our intention to enter into a recondite detail of their origin, or even to give any very minute account of them. All we mean to do, is to make a few desultory observations on this kind of composition, and on the interest which they excited in our unlettered ancestors; and to give such specimens of them as will enable the reader to form some opinion of the nature of the first rude attempts of our dramatic muse. Religion, which has in all countries first excited dramatic representation, was the subject of the Mysteries or Miracle-plays, as they were sometimes denominated. These productions were either founded on different parts of the Old and New Testament, or on the legends of the Saints ; but the former description were chiefly prevalent in England. They sometimes consisted of detached historical events, as in the old Mystery of Candlemas Day, or the killing of the children of Israel ; and, at other times, of a succession of such events, even from the creation of the world to the day of judgment; or it might be to a less remote period, as in Bale's Mystery of The Promises of God from the fall of Adam to the incarnation of our Saviour ; but these were, in fact, rather a collection of distinct mysteries than a continued drama. The latter class of these sacred exhibitions, it must be confessed, comprise a sufficient space of time, and could not, with a greater degree of ingenuity than fell to the lot of their composers, be rendered much more comprehensive. The very early writers of these productions, however, appear to be altogether guiltless of any knowledge of the rules by which the drama is governed in more critical times, and therefore ought not to be adjudged criminal for any infraction of them. Notwithstanding this total disregard of one of the most important unities, which a short time ago would have been sufficient to rouse the ire and contempt of the most placid critic, and the absence of the still more essential qualities of the drama, we conceive it will not be either useless or unprofitable to dwell, for a short time, on what constituted the chief intellectual entertainment of our forefathers. At what time such exhibitions were first introduced into this kingdom, is not accurately ascertained; but it appears from Fitzstephen, who wrote about the year 1174, that religious plays were even then by no means uncommon. The oldest Mysteries now extant, and in all probability the first which appeared in the English language, are the Chester Mysteries, written by Ralph Higden, the Chronicler, and exhibited at Chester in the year 1327, at the expense of the different trading companies of that city. Mysteries were acted on solemn festivals in the churches, or at some place near to them in the open air, by the monks, and

mpanies year 13 the chiede

rsonagene Almie part

subsequently by the students at the universities or public schools. The learned fraternity of parish clerks of London also cut no inconsiderable figure in these theatrical representations; for, in the years 1390 and 1409, they exhibited a play at Clerkenwell for eight days successively, at which most of the nobility and gentry were present. One cannot help admiring the unsuspecting innocence of our ancestors on this subject. The gravest personages are introduced speaking in the most ludicrous manner :-the Almighty Creator of the universe almost always fills a conspicuous part among the Dramatis. Persona of these sacred plays; and, if we are to take his character, as there delineated, for their conception of it, what a strange earthly notion must they have had of the divine Intelligence and his attributes! If such a character were drawn of him in our days, it would be considered absolute blasphemy: but our progenitors, in the simplicity of their hearts, and in the absence of the divine record itself, considered it as gospel-as authentic “as proof of holy writ.” The Devil, too, was not unfrequently introduced : John Heywood says, in the Four P's,

“For oft, in the play of Corpus Christi,

He hath play'd the Devil at Coventrie.” A Mystery was, in fact, neither more nor less than a few chapters of the Bible stripped of all their simplicity-of all their solemnity, and of all their poetry, and converted into English verse. From the Miracle-plays, founded on the more mysterious part of the New Testament, into which it was frequently necessary to introduce allegorical characters, arose a species of drama called Moralities, which entirely consisted of such personifications. In the Moralities, some progress was certainly made in the drama." They indicate," as Warton observes, “ dawnings of the dramatic art : they contain some rudiments of a plot, and even attempt to delineate characters and paint manners.” If they do attempt to delineate character, we must confess we think it a lamentable failure; but they most assuredly afford us a picture of the manners of the times, and as such are highly valuable. As to plot, too, they have but small pretensions; and we cannot but consider Bishop Percy's proposition, that in the Morality of Every Man “ the fable is constructed upon the strictest model of the Greek Tragedy ;” and that, “except in the circumstance of Every-Man's expiring on the stage, the Sampson Agonistes of Milton is hardly formed on a severer plan,” as not a little extravagant. The plot is, in few words, the summoning of EVERY-Man, who represents the human race, out of the world by death. EVERY-MAN, in this extremity, applies to Fellowship, Kindred, and Riches, for relief, but they successively forsake him; he then has recourse

« ZurückWeiter »