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that the Chartists contemplated the iniquitous act of setting fire to London. But what would have been the issue if they had ! Setting aside the ruinous sacrifice of property, the fountain of employment, and the source to which healthy industry looks for all its honours and emoluments, can any man contemplate without horror the inevitable bloodshed that must have ensued? The bloodshed of the innocent and the guilty -- of those who sympathise with the working classes, and have laboured in their own province for their welfare and advancement of those who have lived useful and silent lives, promoting in their sphere good works of charity and unostentatious righteousness - and of the evil multitudes, for whom there could be no escape, against whom in the hour of adversity every door would be shut, and every heart frozen. When were civil or political wrongs ever redressed by acts so calamitous and inconclusive? To destroy is not to establish, and the distinction cannot be too frequently or too urgently enforced. The Chartists aim at setting up a constitution of their own; they have openly avowed their tenets — no mistake exists as to their ultimate objects. How can they so grievously deceive themselves as to suppose that this new constitution can be set up by the instrumentality of pillage, murder, and lawless confederations against the peace of the country? Can any solid foundation be laid in the ruins of society? Where is the moral force that comes to sustain these demands ? Where is the intelligence that gives them dignity and power ? There is no moral force, no intelligence, in bludgeons and knives. The wise and thoughtful, who view this miserable desecration of the noblest attributes of freemen - the right to reform their institutions - regard all these savage and incoherent exhibitions with mingled sentiments of regret and aversion.
Before we dismiss the book which has led us into these reflections, we are desirous to express our admiration of the incidental and lucid truths that are scattered through its pages. The spirit of the book is, in our conception, wrong; but in arriving at his dark and finite conclusions, Mr. Carlyle elucidates many glorious problems by the way. He sees the mighty wants of his fellow men; but he is insensible to their destiny. For him there is an abyss to which all things tend, and in which they must be engulphed. His creed is without hope -- his labour without progression. Yet his genius is above all this, and seems to dispel with its effulgence the gloom through which it moves. We dare not surrender our trust in him, in spite of all he has written in this book; and we may yet find occasion to justify the confidence with which, even in the midst of misgivings, he has inspired us.
SPIRIT OF MODERN TRAGEDY.*
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath, nor motion,
Upon a painted ocean.
There pass'd a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye,
A something in the sky.
The upper air burst into life!
The surfaces of things, always deceitful, never signified the “ truth within " less adequately than in this present time. Old forms and old customs remain with little change; but they are no longer implicitly believed in. The same circumstance is observable in the ideal world. Men are grasping onward. We agree with Mr. Carlyle that the present age is not an age of faith ; but certainly it is not one of indifference: for though old things are losing their hold, yet the belief in good is strong and the search after it incessant; therefore are we essentially in an age of transition and progression.
Is it possible, then, to believe that in such a time of aspiration and endeavour, of hope and disappointment, men would not willingly fly to the various forms of the higher drama for relief, or for sympathetic expression of their varied emotions? Is it possible to doubt that in the depths beneath the stagnant surface of this painted ocean" whereon we have lain “a weary time,” there is a vital spirit stirring and sounding through the hollow caves ?
The poetry of Shelley, essentially undramatic as are its lustrous and erratic forms, may yet be regarded as a type of the spirit which, bursting into life, is rousing the mighty
power of dramatic genius from its long sleep; breathing, as it does, earnestness, melancholy, exultation, voluptuousness, spirituality; made up of elements conflicting, yet harmonious, forcing the passions into action, and impelling the imagination into infinity.
The outward circumstances which have repressed the dramatic power for so many long years, will yield before its awakening strength. It was fettered by legislation in a licentious and frivolous age, and has lain inert in its bondage through a stagnant unprogressive one; but it will rise ere long in renovated youth, or in a new and mighty youth of its own, and another grand era of the highest order of drama may be anticipated in English literature. Let our men of genius work on, without lack of energy, and rather full of hope than discouragement from the “mighty past;” for, as Schlegel finely says, “there is no monopoly of poetry for certain ages and nations.”
The public in general know nothing of the secret spirit at work in respect of dramatic poetry. Under present circumstances it is impossible that they should. There is no stage except for two or three established favour
* Cosmo de' Medici, an Historical Tragedy. By R. H. Horne. Templeman. 1837. The Death of Marlowe, a Tragedy, in One Act. Saunders and Otley. 1837.
Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. By A. W. Schlegel. Translated by John Black. Second Edition. Templeman. 1839.
ites. There is no demand for published and unacted dramas. The few authors who have been able to encounter the heavy expense of publication, are not read. The majority are obliged to keep their works locked up in manuscript, or, it may be, have not heart or hope to put forth works (which, for aught we can possibly know to the contrary, might solace, purify, and ennoble the world), but are condemned to dilute their thoughts in some mechanical employment, or some wasteful walk of ephemeral literature.
This is the moment at which the true spirit of criticism is called upon exert itself. Criticism, properly exercised, is the readiest, perhaps the only means, whereby men will become aware of the power that is among them. “ Notices” we have in abundance; but a genuine tragedy, or a refined high comedy, cannot be duly “noticed.” Dealing, as both of them must, with a variety of character in action, they require the most careful study. Tragedy, more especially, wherein the subtle workings of the passions, their conflicts, and their terrible results, are evolved, is no subject for the examination and judgment of a hurried moment snatched from other pressing demands upon his time by a fully employed and common-place critic, who, after a hasty glance, "puts on,” as Coleridge humorously says, “ the seven league boots of self-opinion, and strides at once into a supreme judge, and, blind and deaf, fills his three-ounce phial at the waters of Niagara, and determines positively the greatness of the cataract to be neither more nor less than his three-ounce phial has been able to receive."
Nor is it even capable of appreciation by the minds of men of acknowledged power, unless they give it the requisite time and study. Let any one consider, in imagination, the different sort of impression which would be diffused among the public concerning the greatest works of our elder dramatists, and Shakspeare particularly, if only a hurried perusal had been bestowed on them by their reviewers, when compared with that impression which is now prevalent, after the careful and elaborate attention which some of the finest minds of successive times in our country, as well as of foreign nations, have bestowed upon them. Forty years ago, when Coleridge delivered his course of lectures on Shakspeare at the London Institution, he was thought to utter a series of startling paradoxes; the shallow wit of Voltaire, shallow in this instance, and the dullness of our own commentators, had so obscured that glorious sun of poetry. But enlightened criticism, simultaneously with Schlegel in Germany, and from that period downward in this country, cleared away the confusing vapours; views analogous to these seeming paradoxes are now established truths, and no one will again talk about the “anomalous, wild, irregular genius of Shakspeare.” This is an illustration of the power of criticism for evil and for good.
It is in the power of every critic, if not to bring to his task the comprehension of the great masters in an important department of literature, at least not to undertake such a task unless he is conscious of a sympathy with genius, and a reverential though discriminating exertion of study upon its manifestations. In such a spirit we commence a review of two tragedies which appeared in 1837 by a living author.
Nothing can be more unlike than the form of these tragedies. “Cosmo de' Medici ” is very long; containing much matter unnecessary and even extraneous to the action, and combining within itself scenes properly belonging to the comic drama, to melo-drama, to broad farce, with many passages containing the finest elements of epic poetry. The “Death of Marlowe," on the other hand, is condensed to the utmost point. It is the very essence and sublimation of a tragedy ; not a sketch or outline, be it observed, but the inward germ of gigantic nature. If -lengthened, which it
might be, all additions would ramify outwards from the vital spirit within. Opinion has varied as to “ Cosmo de' Medici.” Some of the hebdomadal authorities, from whom we should have anticipated at least the show of criticism on such a work -- rare, to say the very least of it passed it over with sundry off-hand remarks. Even the Athenæum evaded criticism with a few extracts. Amidst much praise and admiration, there have been many examples of the censure naturally provoked by so heterogeneous a form of tragedy. It is quite plain that the old romantic school is too strong and coarse a mixture for our delicate modern stomachs. The faults and prodigal redundancies of " Cosmo de' Medici” have been seized upon; and, lying on the surface, have hidden from many the grandeur of the main action.
The fifth act, alone, which is interrupted by none of these disturbing influences, has been nearly without a dissentient voice pronounced of the finest order of dramatic power. On the " Death of Marlowe " there has been no diversity of opinion. With one voice it has been proclaimed the genuine work of a great dramatic genius - a production nearly faultless. That " it is a masterly specimen of the concentration of a world of life, passion, and sympathy," the judgment publicly passed on it by the elegant poet and critic to whom it is dedicated, remains as its final verdict.
Had only one of these tragedies appeared, Mr. Horne might have been set down, either as a diffuse writer, one who was “utterly incapable" of that fine, close style of composition essential to the action of the drama; or as a poet who could only write for mental appreciation, on perusal, “ utterly incapable” of working out his characters so as to fit them for the stage. Fortunately for the good cause, he has published both. A careful study of either would, however, have been sufficient for a true appreciation of his genius. The contrast between these tragedies is only in their outward form. With whatever difference in the elements of character and in the mode of working, they share alike the essential principle of the true tragio drama.
The grand principle embodied in the character of Cosmo is a passionate sense of justice, in combination with a high intellect, and a determined will to guide his actions unerringly by that principle. The tragic result descends upon this powerful nature, from its encountering another, equally in. dividual, but totally opposite (that other being impulsive, sensitive to the highest degree, enthusiastic, imaginative); and, from circumstances fraught with anguish to both, driving them into collision. The strong and practical nature of Cosmo cannot sympathise with that of Garcia, which he conse, quently misinterprets at the very moment when the fate of the latter is placed in his hands. That fate is sealed unjustly. The error is discovered too late, and a profound tragic result becomes inevitable.
“ The tower of man within,
Ravaged by storms that howlingly sweep through —" had stood firm, based on its strong foundation of Right. The foundation iş removed, and it falls a ruin; yet stately and noble in its fall.
This is the tragic principle evolved in “ Cosmo de' Medici ;” a principle, it will be observed, most noble in its conception, depending on the conflict of noble natures, without the intervention of vile and base passions, and worked out by the operation of mind upon mind, not by the accidents of outward cireumstance. The unity of the passion and action is entire; the result is brought about by the natural and inevitable course of the passion. The abiding impression it will leave on the mind is that of power, fixed
there by the contemplation of a grandly executed development of noble humanity, conveyed in a strain of lofty and impassioned poetry.
Examined in its parts, perplexing and unpardonable faults mix with high excellences. Some of the subordinate characters are mere excrescences, and whole scenes in which they figure might be removed without influencing the course of the action : others, however, of the subordinate charaeters are well conceived and sustained throughout; and even among the scenes which are unnecessary to the action, two or three possess so much merit as to forbid our regret that they are there; while others are totally out of harmony with the rest. At the worst, however, the action is only retarded by these redundancies; nothing confuses or interferes with its course. The style is vigorous : sometimes the versification is rugged, lumbering, halting, and unmusical ; but it always swells and rises with
the passionate scenes, and becomes salient as the waves of a coming storm as it pursues its impulsive course. One cause of a general want of melody is clearly attributable to the author's evident passion for crowding too many ideas into a single line. Similes, metaphors, and allegories, conveyed by colossal impersonation, are all at times associated with the very passion they are intended to illustrate, which is violently struggling beneath, and only not smothered by reason of its “inveteracy of purpose.” The following portion of a speech of Garcia will explain our meaning:
“ These blows do harden me, and make the deed,
Appalling once, seem common as a cloud,
The criticisms of Coleridge, on whatever subject, are generally exquisitely fine, though not always applicable. The following remark on the “ Dramatic Scenes” of Barry Cornwall would have applied more closely to Coleridge himself in his dramatic poems, than to the individual for whom they were intended. “ Dramatic poetry,” says he, “must be poetry hid in thought and passion - not thought or passion disguised in the dress of poetry.” This is a subtle truth, and explains one of the errors into which Mr. Horne has frequently fallen in this tragedy; for although the presence of thought or passion, or both, is always implicit, there are many occasions on which it is extremely difficult to disencumber them from their poetical imagery, which is frequently of a gigantic and substantial character, dashed in like some of the frescoes of Michael Angelo. The conclusion of the foregoing passage, where the prodigious image of icy Despair, erewhile so tyrannising and now prostrate and melting away before the feet of its late enslaved victim, — is a sufficient illustration. One more, however, as an extreme, not to say stupendous characteristic, we cannot omit. Cosmo, having determined to put his son to death by his own hand, utters this epic invocation
“ Cos. The solid earth beneath me seems to rock;