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of which any age or country could ever boast, are in his “ Select Speeches" provided for the delight and improvement of posterity, wrought by him into a shape which bids defiance to the outrages of accident or time.
With these impressions fresh on our mind, we hasten to congratulate this country while we announce that Dr. Chapman has now ready for the press a series of AMERICAN SPEECHES, preserved in the same way, and, we dare to say, selected and executed with no less ability. In this respect America will have a considerable advantage over the old countries: for here, the practice of reporting has been coeval with the practice of public speaking, so that few speeches of any consequence have been entirely lost; yet as the shape in which they have been transmitted is rather precarious, a form of greater bulk and importance is necessary to secure to them permanence, and place them beyond the reach of accident or oblivion.
A publication of that kind being confessedly of the first national importance, it must impart satisfaction to every thinking American to hear that the execution of it has fallen into the hands of a person in all respects so well qualified for such an undertaking. If to perpetuate the eloquence of America, and to transmit the most correct and noble domestic models for the instruction and imitation of the rising genius of the country be a desirable object, what man can be more able to accomplish it than a native American, of approved genius-bred a scholar-trained even from his boyish days to range in classic ground, and from natural taste, as well as education, an enthusiastic lover of eloquence? In the prefatory remarks to each speech in the selection already published, it is easy to perceive that the author has not contented himself with a barren admiration of the eloquence of others, but is himself no common proficient in that enchanting science. Nor need we go farther for a proof of this assertion than a piece which now lies open before us, and which, merely because accident has thrown it first in our way, we extract for the beauty of the writing, although there are some points of opinion in it from which we must for ever cordially dissent. PREFATORY REMARKS OF Dr. CHAPMAN TO Mr. PITT'S SPEECH ON THE UNION.
“ Notwithstanding what has been urged to the contrary, it will “ not be difficult to show that the administration of William Pitt “ was eminently distinguished by the maxims of an enlarged wis
“ dom, and of the most liberal, enlightened, and beneficial policy. « There entered into its views nothing sordid, or low, or vulgar, or “ wily, or diminutive. The traits of his political conduct partook “ conspicuously of the expansiveness of his mind, and the genero“sity and elevation of his nature. The proofs of this position may “ be displayed in a brief summary of the leading measures of his u political life.
« William Pitt was the honest, and faithful, and zealous advocate s of parliamentary reform so long as prudence warranted it.
“ He corrected the abuses, mitigated the violence, and restrained " the injustice of the India government.
“ He constantly opposed, with all his weight and authority, the « slave trade.
“ He resisted the dangerous and unconstitutional principles " which were advanced in the memorable discussion concerning “ the regency
“ He cooperated* to settle by a declaratory statute, in a way the “ most favourable to the rights of the subject, and against the sen“timents of the highest legal characters, the important doctrine of 5 libel.
“ He established, with different countries, treaties of commercial "intercourse as liberal, as they were reciprocally advantageous.
“ He took steps to guarantee the balance of power, and to pre"serve the peace of Europe, which were acknowledged to be dig. “ Dified, wise, and magnanimous.
“ He acquiesced in several concessions to the catholics of Ireland, " and was known to be disposed entirely to relieve them of their « restrictions and disabilities.
6 He succeeded ultimately, by the most consummate manage“ment, in effecting a union between the sister isles, thus strength" ening, by knitting together, the detached members of the empire.
“ While the surrounding states were torn asunder, and demolishlied by the hand of conquest, or the ebullition of a poisonous influ“ ence, and all Europe was menaced by calamity and ruin, he not só only protected his country against this array of terror, but push" ed her on by a steady and vigorous impulse in a rapid course of 65 anexampled prosperity and improvement.
" Dark, and sinister, and inauspicious as this season was, he
* With Mr. Fox, the originator of the law.
“ meliorated her finances; he extended her trade; he increased her " manufactures; he promoted her agriculture; he multiplied her « naval and military means; and taught her the salutary lesson, that « she had wealth, and spirit, and power to combat, as long as she “proved true to herself, the aggregated and invenomed hostility of u the world.
“ Much as was accomplished by this exalted and efficient mi. “ nister, it is presumable that had he been cast on times less “ untoward and disjointed, he would have done still more for « his country
“ From the conviction of reason, perhaps biassed in some degree “ by the general habitudes of his political thinking, and the force “ of inherited prejudice, it is probable he would have directed his « attention to prune away the defects of original construction, as “ well as those corruptions which have since been introduced into “ the British constitution; thus rendering it as just, and perfect, in “ its theoretical proportions, as it is acknowledged to be excellent « in its practical operations.
“ To us, indeed, it would not be easy to select a statesman whom “ history has recorded, that effected so much for his country, or “ who lays claim to so large a share of the admiration and gratitude “ of posterity."
ANECDOTE OF GARRICK. It is remarked, that if you deprive a wit of applause, you knock him
up for the night. Garrick was an instance of this: he was once invited, as a wit, to be the fiddle of the company, and for some time amused them highly by playing off his wit on a respectable clergyman in company. Garrick very familiarly slapped him on the shoulder; the clergyman looked at him very coolly, and said “Sir, I don't know what you mean by treating me in this manner; I never offended you, nay, I never saw you but once before, and then I paid five shillings for it.” This so confounded Roscius, and the laugh went so completely against him, that he could scarcely open his' lips for the remainder of the evening.
KING LEAR, AND Mr. COOKE IN THAT CHARACTER. The tragedy of King Lear has been considered as of all theatrical productions the greatest favourite of nature—and the representation of the old monarch the boldest undertaking it is possible for an actor to hazard. A celebrated foreigner, astonished at the performance of Lear by Garrick, was tempted to investigate the whole play. His analysis of it has been for many years before the public, but, we rather suspect, is now out of print. It is a long time since we read it; but the impression it made was too deep ever to be effaced. To speak generally, that candid and intelligent foreigner held the character of King Lear to be the very first production of the human mind, and after telling why, he speaks to his correspondent to the following effect:-(we do not pretend to answer for the words, but the substantial meaning was this)—“ You will agree with me, that the tragedy I have “ thus described is the first dramatic production of nature: but you << will say where can an actor be found to perform the character of 6 Lear?'-How will you be astonished then, when I affirm that it “ is performed here by a person of the name of Garrick, whose “ representation would almost persuade one to imagine that the
power of the poet is even exceeded by that of the actor."
In his observations on this tragedy, Doctor Johnson scarcely falls short of the foreigner alluded to. “ There is no play," says he, 66 which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. “ The artful involutions of distinct interests--the striking opposi« tion of contrary character—the sudden changes of fortune-and " the quick succession of events,-fill the mind with a perpetual « tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which « does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct 6 of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the
progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's
imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is “ hurried irresistibly along."
Of the play of King Lear, as written by Shakspeare, in truth too much cannot possibly be said. The same praise, however, cannot be extended to the barbarous mutilations of it exhibited on our modern stages. The most paltry scribblers, the most barbarous literary empirics, though dull as the fat weed that rots on Lethe's banks, have self-possession enough to think they can improve the greatest of all dramatic poets, by alterations which serve only to despoil him of his beauties, to gratify their own exorbitant vanity, and to deceive and pervert the taste of the public. This itch for alteration has been carried to a blamable extent in a variety of plays. That those of Massinger, Wycherly, and other writers, could not be performed in our days without alterations is too true: but in pruning them of their licentious passages, more taste and judgment in dramatic writing are requisite than fall to the share of one in a hundred of those self-erected reformers. But it is the praise of Shakspeare, that he and Ben Jonson are the only dramatic writers of that time who have not shamefully deformed their works with obscenity: and yet of all writers Shakspeare is the one who has suffered most from pretended reformers. They are but few who can form a conception of the havoc made and daily making in his works, of which not one acting play has escaped some sort of mutilation.
Nothing can be a stronger proof of the shallow vanity of man than this, that when seized with the itch of alteration, he always makes choice for his cobbling work of that subject which he thinks most excellent. Thus the most ruthless alterers of our great bard have been some of his greatest admirersmas if they liked him so well, that they wished to become partners with him in his fame. Dryden, who was an enthusiastic admirer of Shakspeare, and was, we believe, the first that justly appreciated his merits, was also the first who set the example of mutilating his works, and patching them up with balderdash of his own. “ Shakspeare," says he, in his dialogue on dramatic poetry, “was the man who, of all modern, " and perhaps of all ancient poets, had the largest and most compre66 hensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, " and he drew them, not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes
any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too." Yet this high opinion was entirely overwhelmed by either the vanity or the necessities, or both, of Dryden, who immediately afterwards fell merci. VOL. III.