Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

sense of the word--though quite enough so to interest the majority of readers. But by popular is meant fashionable, which is a very different thing, and may exist or not, in its particular phase, no longer than-next seek. The wits of the court of Charles the Second made trifles fashionable and of importance which nobody cares for now. Lord Byron made little rhymed tales fashionable, such as the “ Giaour” and the se Bride of Abydos," which, but for better writings of his, would, before now, havo perished. If Keats had been a lord, he would have made the heathen mythology fashionable by his poem of!" Hyperion;" which, however, will not perish, and may perhaps one day make it fashionable stills Meantime, if booksellers were wise, they would give full play to every man of genius; for fashion, after all, in literary matters, does not create what it follows, and genius sometimes leads it without the help of ranka Walter Scott was not in fashion when his revivals of old stories in verse set a fashion in literature, inferior as they really were to their reputation: His novels, partly by the help of the fashion he had created, but more by their wonderful merits, extinguished even the Nobler strains of Lord Byron. There are instances, even in our own times, of writers becoming popular in other walks of literature, in spite of the very hostility of fashion. . In France, Italy, and Germany, the love of the ancient mythology has never ceased to exist, since the poets revived it. French literature abounds, if we are not mistaken, in popular and compendious mythologies. At all events, Dumoustier alone is an evidence of its popularity; and the poetry of the Classicists has never given it up. In Italy, besides its being mixed up from first to last with the current literature, there is a publieation in several volumes, the "Dizionario d'Ogni Mitologia,” which is & popular enlargement of the French work of Noel. We are glad to see that the plan of referring to the fine arts in these works--we mean to the mythological illustrations furnished by statues and pictures as well as books has been adopted in a late compendium of ancient fables, written by a lady for her children, entitled “ Tales of the Classics *.” As to the Germans, they are too great universalists to abandon any true source of the beautiful, Wieland and Goethe himself must perish, before the beautiful and ever youthful forms of old Greece shall cease to possess their haunted groves, in common with the gloomier and more questionable visions of hypot chondriacal self-seeking. The day-dreams of health and love stand as good a chance in the long-run (pray believe it), as the nightmares of the sublimest German that ever slept upon crime aud à pork-chop.

ܐܸܬ ܢܐܬ

These prose versions of old poetical stories, if done well, are excellent prepará tives with children for the more grown narratives of the original.

MONTHLY COMMENTARY.

Malibran-De Bourrienne's Madness—Reading and Writing-Dangerous Doctrine

of the Arabian Nights-Medical Corporations-Editorial Autocracy.

MALIBRAN.—Three songs of Malibran now fill a house, and would probably, well managed and duly changed, make the fortune of a theatre. Her fame is not merely European, it is of the deux mondes. Her genius is universally acknowledged, and universal hands are never weary of applauding her, and the press takes up the note of praise and re-echoes it from one end of its dominion to the other. Amateurs in listening to her forget to be critical, and judges can find no fault. She is surrounded by private worshippers, who, when she but affects to nod, fly to attend to her slightest wishes. The means of life are too abundant with her to be made a subject of calculation : who measures or thinks of the quantity of the air he breathes ? Genius both delights in its own exercise, and revels in the admiration it excites in others. Malibran enjoys a perpetual triumph of both kinds. It is usual to class the professional actor or singer somewhat low in the scale of society: but is there any ether position that, looking to the human being itself, its passions, its objects, its desires, relatively placed so high above all the points of comparison that are ever presented to its mind, as that of the individual on whose breath nightly hangs the rapture of thousands ? Oratory is not a high art when we analyse the character of its productions, and examine into the faculties which go to make up its triumphs, but estimate it by its power over mankind. What matters it that the electric vase is cold and powerless after it has communicated its shock? The orator takes up his thousands in the palm of his hand, and wields them at his pleasure ;--they rise, they fall, at his command ;- now they are still as death ;—now they roll tumultuously like an ocean after the settling of a storm. Look into the causes : it is perhaps an eye that electrifies, -a voice which thrills through the frame and swells into a diapason that strikes the nervous mass of a multitude with illimitable, incalculable undulations of physical exquisiteness. If, then, originality or profundity of ideas go for little in oratory, when it is looked into the singer and the orator, it will be seen, use very similar means, and, indeed, the effects most closely resemble each other. Conceive such an instrument as Malibran, used, or choosing to act for herself, in any great agitation of the masses, who could calculate the effects ? What if, during some epoch of some revolution, in which the guillotine is not the only argument, a Malibrau were to announce a scene of song,—well selected, or original, at any rate as original as Mirabeau, that is to say, the work of a few other minds given only to supply materials,-could not she so play upon the feelings of a multitude as to bring back very forcibly to the experience of the people the lyric times of old? Could she not dismiss her audience ripe for action? And what can oratory do more? Let us, then, reform our classification ; let us not class genius like Malibran's with common arts. She is a Demosthenes in her way; and perhaps the only name to be mentioned with hers is Sappho, who had the luck to live in the time of lyric opportunity. We are remote admirers of Malibran, or we would do our best to induce her to try a fine, but altogether novel, occasion for ascertaining the power of oratorical song, Many causes at this moment conspire to fill the public heart with sym. pathy for the cause of Poland ; let Malibran give half-a-dozen evenings to the reconstruction of a nation. Suppose that, with a few assistants, she got up a night or two of patriotic lyricism. Moore, and Campbell, and Procter, would aid her, if she wanted aid : something like interlude might easily be got up by the Poles themselves to give her relief; but neither on poets, nor musicians, nor coadjutors, would we have her depend. Divine music, and the true voice which always raises superhuman feelings in the human heart, are enough: liberal teaching would go by lightning. We would ask no charity : the gift is to be done by sym. pathy, and not by money ;---and perhaps we are less interested in the particular success of the Polish cause than in the universal triumph of genius, of which this would be the proof and the example.

Malibran we recollect on her coming out was coldly received, almost contemned; generally termed an imitator,-the only sign of approbation arose from the supposed nearness of the imitation of Pasta. This was at the King's Theatre, when we remember in her first character she introduced an extraneous song; for this crime she was nearly thrown back. At the little Haymarket Theatre her one or two songs, intro duced without reference to anything on earth, fill the house and serve London for talk. How is this? Who is changed ? Malibran or the public? Mademoiselle, at that time, was only seventeen, and may be supposed to have improved; but the public is an old and an incorrigible jade; we fear there is but little good in her.

De BOURRIENNE's Madness. They who read the Memoirs of Bourrienne with interest, and in this country that number was not small, will learn with regret that a late visit to one of the lunatic institutions of France revealed the melancholy form of the poor ex-secretary of the mighty ex-emperor. What a termination to a tortuous career! What a mystery is the brain! Read the Memoirs of Bourrienne, and say who appeared to have a cooler head, a more worldly view of life, a more exact appreciation of character and of events than the author; and yet all of a sudden the mental structure totters and down it comes with a crash, involving all it reaches in eternal confusion, irremediable ruin. De Bourrienne is only one of very many whose intellects have sunk under the intensity of the Napoleon era. But the remarkable feature of mental disease of this character is, that the cord snaps on the instant. Compare Bourrienne's Memoirs, just finished previous to this melancholy event, from end to end, the close is as collected as the beginning; there is neither flagging in vigour of thought nor in fulness of information, and yet no sooner was the work done than the machine stopped. The brain is material, but the intellect follows none of the laws of matter; it does not decay, it disappears and leaves its place vacant. “Il ne faut qu'un léger accident, qu’un atôme déplacé pour te faire périr, pour te ravir cette intelligence, dont tu parais si fier. One of the best works that has lately appeared in Europe on the awful subject of mental disease is that of Dr. Uwins ; he gives himself up not to theories little less wild than the hallucinations of his patients, but to observing and recording the phenomena that present themselves in the cases that come before him. Can anything be more eloquent than this description of a state of active nullity, a volition dead, and a power of thought spinning away without balance, weights, or guide ? “ I have asked patients sometimes their motives for refusing to speak, and the answers I receive are various. In one instance I was struck with the affecting account a patient gave of his feelings. It seemed, he told me, “ As if I could and could not, or as if I would and would not, in such a strange way, that though silence was the result of the conflict, I felt in a manner guilt connect itself with my silence.' Well may we exclaim with Hamlet, . What a piece of work is man!!!

The insanity of the great men of France is not of the suicidal character; suicide is more common in France than in England, but it is far less mad. Intensity of occupation and anxiety in France may be abruptly stopped at the gate of the Maison des Fous, but it is rarely terminated by the razor. In that country they have their Junots and their De Bourriennes, in this we have our Castlereaghs and our Romillys. Looking at the tragical fates of so many of the prime movers in events during the last fifty years of European politics, the moralist may be tempted to say, the paths of glory lead but to the premature grave, or to a still darker abode, the cell of the lunatic. But let 110 mistake be made, the deaths of the illustrious obscure make no noise. Perhaps moro men have fallen victims to the fox-chase than have thrown themselves into the Curtian gulf of politics. While Whitbread was sacrificing himself to his Majesty's opposition, his Majesty's brother, the Duke of Kent, was catching his death of cold in snipe-shooting. Lord Althorp will survive the tremendous labours of the last session, while news comes that the wealthy Sir Harry Goodricke has just died of otter-hunting.

READING AND WRITING.–There has been a good deal of controversy this month among the public writers on the value of such portion of literary education as is included in the arts of reading and writing among

and laborious classes of the people. All the disputants appear to have overlooked the real nature of these accomplishments. In themselves they are strictly mechanical. Learning to read is no more in itself than learning to play the flute, and does not indeed require intellectual capacities of so high an order. To read, is simply to connect a sound with a sign. To write is still more mechanical ; it is the art of making very simple signs which it has been agreed upon shall represent a certain number of sounds. The mental processes em ployed in acquiring and practising these arts are of a very mean kind. No sound human being was ever found incapable of them. But they are instruments of stupendous power, and it is the uses to which they may be applied that has caused so much confusion respecting them. Under the old and clumsy methods of instruction, these arts were so slowly and painfully acquired, that, incidentally, numerous ideas were collected which contribute still more to complicate the notions attached to the subject. But in the midst of other improvements, the mode of commu- : nicating a knowledge of these arts in the least possible time has been discovered. By the Lancasterian and other methods of teaching, the art alone is acquired, and in the least possible time, so that the incidental addition of a few ideas is lost. If then a boy, immorally educated, is taught also reading and writing, he is in nothing, or by very little, raised in intellectual cultivation, while two powerful iustruments are put into his

the poorer

hands. Thus the child of a pickpocket or burglar will probably be neither pickpocket nor burglar, he will probably be a begging-letter writer, a forger, or an embezzler. If, on the other hand, a child be morally educated, these instruments of power will, according to his moral impressions, be turned to use.' Like all power, howerer, they expose the possessor to temptation; and the greater the pressure of this force, the greater ought to be the moral and guiding power. A servant ungifted with the noble art of reading manuscript will not open letters or pry into secret papers--they tell him nothing. But if he can so read, then some sense of right and wrong, and the habit of moral conduct, is necessary to strengthen him against the temptation of curiosity. This is a small case of very universal application. But while a temptation is afforded on the one hand to do evil, there is also presented the means of instruction, the taste for reading is not an unbalanced good : it depends in part on the books read ; the chance, however, perhaps is in favour of a wholesome result: From these considerations, it is manifest enough that literary education is so far from being a substitute for a moral one, that, on the other hand, it demands that a higher moral power should be exerted in order to steady and direct the progress of the human vessel. Reading and writing are like a too powerful steam-engine in a small and weakly boat--the helm is disobeyed, and the timbers are shaken to pieces. The helm, in these cases, is instruction, moral and religious.

DANGEROUS DOCTRINES OF THE ARABIAN Nights. The newspapers tell' us that the censorship at St. Petersburgh has prohibited the importation into Russia of the “ Arabian Nights' Entertainments," lately translated into German by Professor Habicht. What are the revolutionary principles of the Arabian Nights? How can the politics of Bagdad affect those of St. Petersburgh? Where is the libel on the Holy Alliance? Is it in the story of Sinbad the Sailor ? And is despotism typified by the Old Man of the Sea, who would ride on Sinbad's shoulders, and would not be thrown, and who, the more Sinbad struggled to get him off, stuck in his knees the harder, kicked with his heels, and so aggravated the inconvenience of his mere weight, that the oppression became intolerable? Or, perhaps, arbitrary power sees its likeness in the fisherman and the giant who rose out of the iron pot, and threatened to pat an immediate end to the existence of him, the being who had been the sunconscious cause of erecting him into a great power. Is it supposed that the people will take the hint of cajoling the giant into the pot-again, and once more cast him to the bottom of the sea, there to remain for ever?:

[ocr errors]

MEDICAL CORPORATIONS -The licentiates of the College of Physicians have petitioned the House of Commons against the privileges of the College. The petition occupies a column of the morning papers, and is signed by a great number of the most distinguished medical names in London, whom the public, that knows little about these matters, 'will be surprised to hear are not in the enjoyment of all the honours, as well as most of its profits.” Surely nothing can be more absurd' than that a distinction should exist in the profession, turning neither upon skill, knowledge; practice, or fame, but on the fact of being educated at one of two Universities, where, in truth, medicine is not taught! But, then, is it more absurd than a good many other things in the same profeso

« PoprzedniaDalej »