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'tis much to the honour of the taste then prevalent in Weimar, formed under an influence of an amiable and discerning princess, that Emilia Galotti' was performed very frequently, and always to full houses. The part of Odoardo was played by Eckhof, and was undoubtedly his first character. Madame Mecour as Emilia, Böck as the prince, his wife as Claudia, and above all, madame Seiler as Orsina, united to do justice to this chef-d'oeuvre of dramatic poetry. The * Grateful Son,' by Engel, was also in my opinion wonderfully impressive, and my reigning favourite next to ‘Emilia Galotti. I soon persuaded my young companions to engage with me in performing both these pieces at our hours of play, and I alternately undertook every character.
Nothing could equal the veneration with which I at that time regarded any actor, how moderate soever might be his professional talents. Could I but throw myself in the way of one off the stage so as to hear him speak, I was transported in no slight degree; but if I could contrive only to speak a single word to him myself, my ecstacy exceeded all bounds, and I thought myself honoured beyond the common lot of mortals. Well do I remember how I used to go every Sunday to a person of the name of Hensel, to learn what plays were to be performed in the ensuing week, for at that time play-bills were not given out as at present. At home I made all things subservient to my theatrical mania It was not enough for me to perform a pastoral drama occasionally on a birth-day, every new piece that fell in my way must instantly be mur. dered by myself and my corps. At length Í obtained possession of Gerstenberg's Ugolino,' an excellent drama, and well deserving of a much higher reputation than it has hitherto obtained. I regarded it as an inestimable treasure, since, as containing but few characters, I thought it admirably adapted to our private performances. It never once occurred to me, that though the characters were few in number, every
one, to have justice done it, required an actor at the very head of his profession. I undertook the part of Anselmo, and perorated it with all the fire of my ardent imagination.
I mentioned above, the grand pantomimical ballets. These were performed in a very superb style at Weimar. With transport do I now recall to remembrance the brilliant representation of 'Idris and Zenida,” • Orpheus and Euridice,”Incle and Yarico,' the
Amazonians, and many others. The latter was not the less powerfully recommended to me, from the hints for it being furnished by Musæus.
These ballets had the same effect upon my senses as the regular drarnas had upon my feelings, and I soon devised means for imitating them also. I made myself a little theatre, first of wax, then of paper, and at length of wood. Those among my youthful associates who could paint, were employed upon my scenery, and my mother and aunt were set to work at patching pieces of silk together, to make dresses for my puppets. They danced their solos and pas de deux by means of wires, and the lightning was made by semen lycopodü blown through a quill into the candle. Thus was every new ballet pre. sented to the public by Messrs Koch and Schutz speedily exhibited upon my private stage. The taste for this kind of toy soon spread among the children at Weimar, and no long period elapsed before almost every boy had his Lilliputian theatre, while my vanity was not a little flattered by being constantly applied to for instruction in the use of the diminutive machi. nery. Oh! condemn me not, ye wise, for dwelling so long upon these childish sports; the powerful influence they had on my future character is surely a sufficient excuse for such loquacity!
But even in the meridian of my joys, happened that dreadful fire which laid the palace at Weimar in ashes, when consequently the theatre, which was within its precinct, that ultimatum of all my wishes, of all my happiness, was demolished for ever. This tragical event took place on the very day when Diderot's • Père de Famille' was to have been played; a feast to which I had looked forward with more than com. mon delight-delight alas, never to be realised !
The company was now dismissed, and retired to Gotha. Oh, how many a shower of bitter tears did I shed at their departure! Yes, I must once more repeat it, 'tis to the impressions made upon me during that period, that I owe the principal features of my present character.* From a firm conviction of its utility in forming the taste and morals, I strongly recommend to all parents and tutors, if fortunately they live in the vicinity of a well regulated theatre, to carry their children and pupils very frequently to that school. A good drama is the most speedy and effectual of all mediums through which to communicate instruction to the infant heart, to awaken in it an abhorrence of vice, to impress it with a love of virtue, and to excite it to everything great and good. The objection commonly made, that frequent attendance upon theatrical amusements tends to dissipate the minds of children, I consider as wholly futile. Never did I pursue my studies with greater assiduity, never did I make a more rapid progress in them, than when inspired by the hope of having my diligence rewarded with permission to attend the theatre in the evening : whereas, on the contrary, when this charm was lost, I sank for awhile into a state of extreme apathy and indolence.
Should any one here exclaim, with uplifted hands, “ What an impious wretch! to admonish parents
* J'ai toujours reconnu l'esprit des jeunes gens, au détail qu'ils faisaient d'une piéce nouvelle qu'ils venaient d'entendre; et j'ai remarqué que tous ceux qui s'en acquittaient le mieux, ont été ceux qui depuis ont acquis le plus de reputation dans leurs emplois. Tant il est vrai, qu'au fond, l'esprit des affaires, et le veritable esprit des belles lettres, est le même.-VOLTAIRE.
against taking their children to church, and recommend their being carried to the play !”-I can only answer with a shrug of my shoulders, “ I am not responsible if the sermon and the drama, two paths intended to lead to the same termination, do not equally answer the destined purpose. Whatever contributes towards improving the morals of mankind, I regard as sacred, without considering what appellation it may bear. "Were the same effect produced by a sermon, as by a play, I would recommend the one as earnestly as the other ; but till can be convinced that this is the case, I must hold to my present opinion. What if sermons be preached gratis ! is that a reason why they should be dull and tedious! is that a sufficient excuse for wearying the patience of an audience? Let me ask any man upon his conscience, whether, if he must be compelled to choose between two evils, he would not rather see a bad play, than hear a bad sermon?”
I had been now for some time a scholar at the gymnasium at Weimar, an institution in which there was then great room for improvement. I commenced my career in the third class, in which the pupils among other useless things were all compelled to learn Hebrew. Was it then surprising that instead of attending regularly at the school hours, I should often spend that time privately with a schoolfellow, who was educated, or perhaps I should rather say spoiled, by an over fond uncle, when we were commonly occupied in forming plans for acting plays. I remember well that we once determined on performing The Busy Idlers,' and had actually been employed for several days in writing out the different parts, before we perceived that it was the severest satire possible upon ourselves.
In the second class our studies were ordered somewhat better, though even there the pupils were employed in many things, which, to say the truth, answered no purpose but to murder time. Among
be reckoned the making of Latin verses, which was expected of all the scholars, whether they had talents for it or not. The worthy Musæus, much against his inclination, was our tutor in this branch of learning. But if some of our time was misemployed, it must also be acknowledged that we acquired much valuable learning and knowledge at this seminary. This was indeed principally to be ascribed to the attention and judgment of the excellent man above-mentioned. By him we were exercised in writing letters, and it is well known that nobody ever excelled more in epistolary writing than Musæus. An hour in every week was besides devoted to poetry, and as this was on a Saturday, I always looked for. ward to that day with particular delight. The forms observed on these occasions were thus regulated :
At the appointed time Musæus came among the class, and enquired whether any scholar had a poetical composition of his own to produce, for this was very properly a perfectly voluntary thing on the part of the youth. Yet he scarcely ever failed of finding some bashful wooers of the muses, who with downcast eyes signified that they had been taking a canter upon Pegasus. The rostrum was immediately resigned to the juvenile poet, who ascended it and read his production, while the master walked up and down in silence with his hands behind him. At the conclusion of each piece, the work was criticised by the latter, though not with the same severity as is customary among the critical corps in the world at large. When the original productions were exhausted, this class of orators were succeeded by those who had only learned by heart the works of others, as exercises in declamation. But here too all was voluntary. Each individual selected for himself, or took no share whatever in the exercise, entirely at his own option. These recitations concluded, Musæus here criticised the delivery, as in the former instance the composition, in both giving his reasons for every remark that