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lectual offspring: there is a vulnerable part of each, which Death with his dart, or Time with his scythe, may sooner or later strike down to oblivion.*

The unprecedented sale of the poetical works of Scott and Byron, with the moderate

success of others, proves that a great change had taken place both in the character of authors and in the taste of readers, within forty years. About the beginning of the French revolution scarcely any thing in rhyme, except the ludicrous eccentricities of Peter Pindar, would take with the public: a few years afterward, booksellers ventured to speculate in quarto volumes of verse, at from five shillings to a guinea a line, and in various instances were abundantly recompensed for their liberality. There are fifty living poets (among whom it must not be forgotten, that not a few are of the better sex-I may single out four; Miss. Joanna Baillie, Mrs. Hemans, Miss Mitford, and L. E. L.) whose labours have proved profitable to themselves in a pecuniary way, and fame in proportion has followed the more substantial reward. This may appear a degrading standard by which to measure the genius of writers and the intelligence of readers, but, in a commercial country at least, it is an equitable one; for no man in his right mind can suppose that such a rise in the market demand could have taken place, unless the commodity itself had become more precious or more rare, or the taste of the public for that kind of literature had been exceedingly improved. Now poetry, instead of being more rare, was tenfold more abundant when it was most in request; it follows, therefore, that the demand was occasioned by a change equally creditable to the superior talents of those who furnished, and the superior information of those who consumed, the supply.

* In reading the foregoing passage at the Royal and London Institutions, the author distinctly remarked, that as he could not be supposed to speak invidiously of any one of the great poets impacated in the qualified censure, he did not think any other apology necessary either to themselves or their admirers there present, except that, deeming such censure applicable to contemporaries in general, he had named those only who could not be injured in their established reputation, or their honourable feelings, by the fraukness of friendly criticism; and who could therefore afford to be told of faults which they had, in a small degree, in common with a multitude of their inferiors, who have the same in a inuch higher.

The market, however, has much fallen within these last ten years, and the richest dealer long ago invested his capital in other funds, much to his own emolument and the satisfaction of more customers than any author living besides himself can boast. Lord Byron did worse ; but I am not the judge of his morality here. I shall only remark upon him in his literary character, that had he always selected materials for his verse (Milton uniformly did his best) equal to the power which he could exercise upon them, his themes would never have been inferior to the loftiest and finest which he adorned in that golden era of his genius between the publication of the first and the fourth cantos of Childe Harold, which era, believe, comprehends all his masterpieces; nor would his execution ever have fallen below that which, by a few touches, could strike out images of thought equal to Pygmalion's statue in beauty; while, with a breath, he could give them an earthly immortality, and by a destiny which no revolution in language or empire can reverse, send them forth to people the minds of millions of admiring readers in all ages to come. He might have done this, almost infallibly, in every instance in which he condescended to put forth the whole strength of his intellect, and lavish upon the creation of an exuberant fancy all the riches of a poetical diction, unrivalled among contemporaries, and unexcelled by any of his predeces

Yet no modern author who can lay claim to the highest honours of Parnassus has written a greater quantity of perishable, perishing rhyme, than the noblest of them all.

In this sketch it is not necessary to expatiate on the particular merits of any other class of poets, these



two masters of the lyre having been more followed than the rest, not only by the servile herd of imitators, but by many men of real talent, who had strength and stock enough of their own to have come out in their original characters, and spoken in their own language. The consequence has been just as it ought to be: there is not one copyist of either Sir Walter Scott or Lord Byron who is popular at this . hour; and it may be safely foretold, that not one production resembling theirs, which is not theirs, will last thirty years. There is a small but peculiar class of versifiers, which deserves a word of notice here, if it be but a word of reprobation. The leaders of this select band of poetasters are men of some fancy, a little learning, iess taste, and almost no feeling. They have invented a manner of writing and thinking frigidly artificial, while affecting to be negligently natural, though no more resembling nature than the flowers represented in shell-work on lackered grounds, and framed in glass cases by our grandmothers, resembled the roses and carnations which they caricatured. They think, if they think at all, like people of the nineteenth century (for certainly nobody ever thought like them before), but they write in the verbiage of the sixteenth, and then imagine that they rival the poets of Elizabeth's reign, because they mimic all that is obsolete in them, which in fact is only preserved in Spenser and Shakspeare themselves, because it is inseparably united with what can never become obsolete,

thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” not less intelligible at this day than when they were first uttered. It might be shown that the finest passages in our ancient writers are those in which the phraseology has never become antiquated, nor ever can be so till the English shall be a dead language. This school must pass away with the present generation, as surely as did the Della Cruscan of the last century.

The Drama.

Is it not remarkable, while we are rich beyond precedent in every other species of elegant literature, îhat in the drama we should be poor even to pauperism, if that term in its technical and degrading sense may be so applied ? Not a tragedy that can live on the stage, its own element, beyond the date of a nine days' wonder, has been produced for many years. The phantasmagoria of the Castle Spectre, the magnificent but anomalous Pizarro, the crazy Bertram, are not exceptions, unless they can be shown to be legitimate tragedies, which, by the power of mind over mind alone, obtained not a temporary, but a permanent triumph,-a triumph that must be renewed as often as they are performed. The Stranger, immoral and insidious as it is, long maintained its ground by the aid of consummate acting in its most exceptionable character; but it must be acknowledged by its warmest admirers that the catastrophe is achieved by a coup de main, a trick of pantomime at last, which amounts to a silent confession of failure, that after all the cunning and elaborate preparation to secure success to the interview, the hero and heroine, like Harlequin and Columbine, could only be reconciled in dumb-show! The Gordian knot of the delicate dilemma is cut, not disentangled; and the imagination of the most enraptured spectator dare not dwell for five minutes behind the curtain after it has fallen upon the scene. The first word uttered by either party there would dissolve the enchantment at once: Irs. Hall must be Mrs. Haller still, and the Stranger a Stranger for ever. Yet when I name Miss Joanna Baillie, Miss Mitford, Lord Byron, Milman, Sotheby, Sheridan Knowles, and leave my audience to recollect other able writers. of tragedy, among our contemporaries there is evi. dently no lack of great talent for this species of com- . position, that may delight in the closet, however the taste of play-goers may have degenerated so as to disrelish any thing either highly intellectual or highly poetic on the stage.

It is vain to say that many pieces bearing the name of tragedies have been brought out which deserved a better fate than they experienced ; for whatever may have been the cause of their miscarriage, the fact, the fatal fact remains, that this age has scarcely produced a tragedy which can keep its hold as a tragedy in representation; and short of this, whatever be the merits of some of the prematurely slain, they were only dialogues in blank verse. Desert is nothing in such a case, except it can enforce its claim; unless an audience cannot help being pleased, it is idle to argue upon the duty of their being so. The homage exacted by genius is that which cannot be withheld, although it is voluntarily paid. It would seem as if the age of tragedy, as well as that of epic poetry, were gone for ever; both belong to a period of less refinement in the progress of modern society than the present. This is not the place to attempt a solution of the paradox.

But comedy, --gay, polite, high-spirited comedy, might have been expected to be carried to perfection amid the vicissitudes of the last thirty years, when the energies of men in every rank of life being stimulated beyond example by the great events continually occurring at home and abroad, boundless diversity of character and pursuits must have been ever at hand to furnish materials for scenic exposure ; while the popular mind, incessantly craving for keener excitement, would eagerly have seized upon any novelty in the form of dramaticentertainment. Every novelty, except such as genius alone could bring forth, has been presented on the stage, and accepted with avidity by the frequenters of the theatre ; but no offspring of intellect and taste, at all comparable to the numberless progeny of the same in every other depart

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