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and brave, but he waits till fortune seeks him ; Hotspur is gallant and brave, but he pursues fortune as if he loved the chase rather than the prize. Shallow passes for a wag beside the imperturbable gravity of his cousin Silence ; and Silence becomes a wise man, because he does not talk as much nonsense as Shal-. low. Such, too, is the effect produced by the contrast of different feelings in the same individual, according to the incidents of the moment and the scene. The ill-divining soul of Juliet sees sorrow where every thing promises success and eventual happiness -Romeo feels an unaccustomed joy when misery and death are close at hand. Falstaff, in the presence of the prince, is with all his freedom a flatterer, and seems now and then a little of a fool; but alone, he is shrewd, calculating, and observant. Polonius is the wiser in his own house, because he is silly at the palace.
It is not improbable that Shakspeare was induced as much from observing the effect this contrast produced, as from a desire of copying nature, to blend in the same drama scenes and characters highly comic and tragical ; and although some critics have censured him for doing so, if he has attained by it these two ends, his success is the best answer to their speculations. Whatever may be the case with persons who have acquired their theatrical taste from the exhibition of the classical drama; it is not to be denied that to an American, English, and German audience, sensations of delight eminently arise from the intermixture. No one ever failed to enjoy more strongly the lively wit and noble spirit of Beatrice, from the one being chastened and the other excited by the suffering of her cousin. Is the inimitable humour of Twelfth Night injured by the affecting story of Viola ? or the melancholy of Hamlet rendered less touching by the careless jests of the clown, which spring so naturally from his character and situation ? It is easy enough to lay down rules and then to judge of and settle the effusions of genius by them; but the critic who does so, is like the theorist in natural science, who is more ready to bend facts to his notions, than to change his views from observation of the truth. It is the same in tragedy and comedy—the same in all literature;and that author will be most successful in exciting emotions of sadness and of joy, who observes the manner in which they are, rather than that in which it has been settled they ought to be aroused.
It is this mode of judging, which, in our opinion, has led the celebrated reviewer of Moliere, the writer who of our own days is most usually correct as a critic, as he is far superior to his cotemporaries in the variety and brilliancy of his genius, to err in his comparison of the two great comic writers of modern times, and to form an unjust estimate of the powers of his own countryman. In adopting the definition of Dr. Johnson, that "comedy
is a dramatic representation of the lighter faults of mankind, with a view to make folly and vice ridiculous,” he has indeed chosen that which best illustrates the peculiar genius of Moliere, but one which is far too confined to be generally correct. If it were so, then would tragedy as opposed to it be nothing but a delineation of the crimes of men in order to make them detestable; when in truth, with a range far wider, it embraces scenes and characters where love, misfortune, madness, and various passions unconnected with crime, excite sensations allied to any thing rather than detestation. If it were so, then would that which has been transmitted to us as comedy, from the earliest times, be thrown aside as misnamed, and Menander, and Terence, be erased, with Shakspeare, and Beaumont, and Fletcher, from their place on the roll of comic writers. If it were so, then we acknowledge that the writer of a good farce, on any daily folly, is entitled to the rank of these great poets, since certainly one single end of making folly ridiculous is there more steadily pursued. Against this, however, we earnestly protest. Comedy, as distinguished from tragedy, is the representation of scenes calculated to excite less painful emotions, but not merely such as are ridiculous-those emotions which are aroused by the occurrences of the world around us, which as they are seldom tragical, so are they often far removed from what is ludicrous—and in our opinion, that comic writer is most successful who hits this medium—the medium of real life. This is the higher and better end” of Comedy, much more true as a picture, much more useful as a lesson, much more delightful as an exhibition of genius and feeling, than the selection of a few particular foibles, and the exaggerated or even faithful delineation of them, in such manner as to excite ridicule and contempt. We are willing to admit, that, as Moliere is easily superior to all comic writers but Shakspeare, so, considering comedy in the latter sense only, he may be allowed also to surpass him—but if the wider range which we contend for be allowed, then must the French writer be acknowledged as his inferior, since his delineations, though done with inimitable skill and knowledge of his subject and of human character, are almost entirely confined to the follies of his own day—now certainly as obsolete as Malvolio or Don Armado—and hypocrisy, jealousy, the silly affectation of fashion and letters, the trickery of servants, and the knavery of physicians, constitute nearly every thing on which his pieces are founded. The comedies of Moliere may be said to hold the same relation to those of Shakspeare, that Gil Blas does to the novels of Sir Walter Scott;-it will perhaps be generally acknowledged, that in the delineation of the domestic manners of an age and nation, and in the exhibition of a few inimitable personages, the French novelist is far superior to his modern rival--but we look in vain for the variety of character,
incident, and humour—the fertility of invention—the pictures of youth, beauty, and affection-the scenes of deep interest, which, without ever touching upon tragedy, have yet nothing in them of the ludicrous or ridiculous—in fine, for that which we are disposed to consider not as “higher and better than comedy," but as the highest and best species of it. Shakspeare's comedy is that of nature-Congreve’s and Farquhar's that of art, or rather of manners, and though Moliere's does not reach quite the artificial character of the later English school, it may be classed with it rather than the earlier. To this characteristic is Shakspeare indebted for his enduring fame :-So wonderfully true to nature are his comedies, that they are still the most popular, even among those classes of society to whom the occasional and necessary delineation of local manners which they exhibit, must be entirely obsolete; indeed, in his comedy he seems to have yielded himself up with entire freedom to his genius and turn for observation, seldom fettering himself with the regular stories and delineations of individuals which he selected in his tragedies, but roaming at large over the wide field that was open before him—now jesting at stupidity, cowardice, and folly—now bringing on the stage the shrewd buffoonery of the clowns, which was common in his own times or those just preceding them—now indulging in the quick lively repartee, and sparkling dialogue of wit and fashion -now tinging his humour with scenes of constant affection, of gentle love, of rural pleasure, of wild enchantment, and of dazzling romance-now portraying with evident delight the whimsical scenes of vulgar ignorance and low life, heaping his characters together with a profusion as wonderful as their diversity -always dashing on as if the flow of imagination and invention could never be exhausted, and imparting to the whole that pervading character of sweetness, of good nature, of amusement free from spleen, of fancy and of ease, which, if his comedy be superior to his tragedy, as Dr. Johnson has thought, may be justly assigned as the cause of it.
Art. III. -Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, LL. D. Poet Laureate, &c. In 2 vols. Svo. London : 1829.
We have copied only two of Mr. Southey's titles. The names of the various learned societies of which he is a member, are arranged in a picturesque way on the title page of the new book. Our readers will take it for granted that a writer so voluminous
and notorious, could not fail to gain admission into most of the Royal academies and philosophical institutes. Of the British productive literati, with the exception of Sir Walter Scott, he is perhaps the best known, or most familiar to the American people. The greater part of his poetry, and two at least of his prose-works, have been reprinted in the United States. There are, we believe, American editions of the Curse of Kehama, Thalaba the Destroyer, and Roderick, and of Espriella's Letters, and the Life of Nelson. His large Histories, and his Book of the Church, are in some of our public libraries—to be consulted, rather than perused, and, we hope, to be remembered longer than several of the poems. For our own parts, we deem more favourably of these, than do the majority of the critics, and could go through Roderick a second time with the interest arising from a romantic story well digested, rich descriptions, valuable sentiments, and happy versification.
We should hesitate, however, before we ventured to call Mr. Southey a poet in the higher and broader sense. Immortality is not his lot. He ranks only with the most respectable of the class, appertaining to almost every age, who supply the cravings of their contemporaries for novelty in verse; whose compositions are bound up in new collections, mentioned, or perhaps dipped into by the next generation, and then buried under the mass of what is provided in like manner for the second and each succeeding race of bibliomaniacks. Simultaneously with his Colloquies, the Laureate has issued a duodecimo filled with two poems and appended notes-All for Love, and the Pilgrim of Compostella, which also lie on our table. These pieces are, nearly throughout, symptomatic of a woful degeneracy in his
He has been unlucky in his choice of topics, and has fallen into the most puerile singsong. Trash of this description, if it did not appear with the sanction of name that commands some deference, or excites some curiosity, would be treated, in England, with silent contempt, or noticed only to be ridiculed with merciless asperity. The author has not announced it as designed for the Infant Schools, or for the silliest or most infatuated of the admirers of the Lake manufacture. There is nothing worse among those effusions of Sir Walter Scott, Byron and Wordsworth, by which a complete contrast is furnished from the same minds with unquestionable specimens of genius and taste.
It is understood or believed, that Mr. Southey from time to time condescended to wield his hackney pen against the institutions and character of the American people; and for this he was properly requited by one of our own authors conspicuous for energy of patriotism and pungency of wit. The Laureate has certainly turned his attention oftener and more directly to our republic, than is common with his literary brethren ;-he has col
lected American books and admitted the visits of American travellers; and according to report, erst designed to indite a regular narrative of the colonization of New England. America is frequently remembered in the Colloquies; some little dew of praise is vouchsafed to individuals of the north, with whom he had become acquainted ; but the strain in which our government and the condition of our interior coụntry are described, argues extraordinary ignorance and prejudice. This, together with the hatred he evinces to the early puritans and all popular freedom, should cause his friends to deprecate the execution of the literary project just mentioned. As book-worms, we have eaten through the Colloquies, and as reviewers we shall skim over them, not merely because American concerns are harped upon in several, but in consequence of the peculiarities which we distinguish in the work, and in the situation of the author.
Mr. Southey is of a species not yet existing on this side of the Atlantic; a veteran man of letters who has acquired a diffusive reputation, a "genteel sufficiency," a snug and romantic retreat, a many-languaged and many-shelved library, by a multitude of productions in prose and verse, good and bad, sent forth singly or in couples, through a long series of years. The great quantity of matter with which he has been able to replenish his mind and supply the press and the trade, is accounted for by his natural aptitude for literary pursuits, his necessary diligence in his profession, his knack with the pen—the effect of talent and exercise, copious indexes and common-places, and perhaps the use of stenography. Such a scribe is an omnis homo for the London booksellers;—they are sure of quartos, duodecimos, and critical articles from this source, whenever they may want them ; and they can afford to pay for them—what with the repute of their ready operative, the intrinsic merit of much of his labours, and the constant and omnivorous demand for new volumes, as such, in Great Britain. Recluse among the lakes, seated at ease in his welllined study, near enough to the metropolis to maintain himself au courant on all questions and publications, he forms all sorts of compounds, keeps various irons in the fire,-treats subjects so numerous and diverse that the world never knows what may not come next from his prolific laboratory. These two volumes of Colloquies are a sample of the farrago which he ventures to serve up to the public-a medley of sense and nonsense, crudities and refinements, whimsical theories and plausible disquisitions, sentimental lamentations and vehement invectives, acrimonious bigotry and philanthropic charity, legendary lore, borrowed aphorisms, frank confessions,-a leven of egotism working in the whole. He enjoys not only the privilege of printing such effusions, but the advantage of having them invested by the bookseller with the most elegant dress, embellished with beautiful
VOL. VI. NO. 11.