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Your mother may think I am a Tory, because I voted for a man of that party in the last election. It was the only occasion on which I ever did vote for anybody, and at the next election I mean to vote for a man of the other party; the character of the man, and not the party which he belongs to, being in both cases the ground of my vote.
After the publication of “Van Artevelde,” Taylor's fame as a poet was established. The felicitous subject, the exquisite style, the picturesqueness of the story, and the striking aphorisms attracted wide attention and fame, and it has held its place very well in England even to this day. As late as 1875 Taylor wrote to Lady Pollock: “Old “Philip goes on just as he has done for forty years, selling about two hundred copies per annum.” In 1877 he published a complete revised edition of all his works. They are contained in six volumes. Other dramatic poems of his are “Isaac Comnenus,” “Edwin, the Fair,” and “The Virgin Widow.” The last two have considerable merit, though the scene of them is laid in the least poetic part of Anglo-Saxon history.
“Van Artevelde,” however, is about all that is worth reading of these volumes. It is the highest literature, and will long preserve the name of Henry Taylor.
A FORGOTTEN DRAMATIST.
EveRY now and then we see the name of Joanna Baillie mentioned, and the wonder is expressed if any of her once celebrated works are now read. It is extremely doubtful, except by the very curious and the very persistent, but there was a time when her works were in the hands of everybody and her fame overshadowed that of Wordsworth and Coleridge, of Southey and Shelley. Walter Scott declared her to be second to Shakespeare, and Byron said she was the only woman who had ever written tragedy. Scott, Southey, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb, Byron, Shelley, and Keats were her contemporaries, and all joined in praising her. In the early years of the nineteenth century she was considered greater than any of these, not only by the public
at large, but by the critics. She survived them all, and saw her own writings disappear from public view and be forgotten, like herself, while the works of those to whom she was considered so superior have become the imperishable treasures of the language. She was born in Scotland in 1762 and died in London in 1851 in her eighty-ninth year, having long survived her contemporaries, her dramas, and her fame. It was in 1799, when Miss Baillie was in her thirty-seventh year, that a volume entitled “A Series of Plays” was published anonymously. It contained two tragedies, one entitled “Basil” and the other “De Montfort,” and a comedy entitled “The Tryal.” In the introduction the author explained that these plays formed a portion of an extensive plan hitherto unattempted in any language, and that was a series of plays the chief object of which should be the delineation of all the higher passions of the human heart—each play exhibiting in the principal character some one great passion in all the stages of its development from its origin to its catastrophe. The volume attracted immediate attention ; in fact, created a sensation. It was considered a
most notable event in the annals of the drama, and curiosity was excited as to the authorship. The sensation became all the greater when it was discovered that these vigorous and original compositions were written by a young woman of quiet and retiring life, whose most intimate friends had never suspected in her such extraordinary powers. The town rang with her praises, and Walter Scott in the introduction to the third canto of “Marmion” paid a beautiful tribute to her genius, describing her as the “bold enchantress” who seized the harp of Avon,
Which silent hung
Mrs. Barbauld, writing to a friend, relates how
amazed she was to find that the author of the plays
was not one of the already celebrated writers to
whom they had been attributed, but “Miss
Baillie, a young lady • Hampstead, whom she 5
visited, and who came to Mr. Barbauld's meeting all the while, with as innocent a face as if she had never written a line.” Miss Baillie was now one of the celebrities of London. The world of fashion and of gayety lionized her. Famous men paid honor to her, and Sheridan, the manager of Drury Lane theater, insisted on producing “De Montfort.” John Philip Kemble and his sister, Mrs. Siddons, were then at the height of their fame, and they appeared in the leading parts. Never was public expectation wrought up to a higher pitch, and the critics foretold a new era in dramatic literature. In April, 1800, the piece was produced, but in spite of the transcendent acting it failed. The play was not quite damned, but when the curtain fell there was a genuine sigh of relief. After a run of eleven nights the piece was withdrawn. “De Montfort” illustrates the passion of hatred, but the hero is a bore. He hates Rezenvelt, but the motive is far from sufficient to account for such an all-comprehensive hatred as De Montfort shows. The tempers of the two men are uncongenial, they have been rivals from boyhood, and Rezenvelt, in a duel with De Montfort, disarms him and spares his life. This simply in
tensifies the latter's hatred, and in the dénouement