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dialogues of exquisite poetry-four or the only poet who has lately written five situations (such as, by the way, for the stage. Maturin's Bertram was we must not give now-and, when effective; but Maturin cannot write so much was accomplished, their task verse. And, again, with a vast deal of was complete.
energy and imagination, Maturin has There is this essential difference be- 60 much of the wildness and irregutween an old tragedy and a tragedy of larity of the sixteenth century school the present day, that the one was a about him, that his plays, since Bero work merely of genius; the other tram, have not been successful. Inmust be the work of genius combined deed, it stands, I think, past all queswith art. Your modern dramatist must tion, that the mass of men who now not only produce the diamond, and write for the stage, are of those who polish it, but he must set it, and set (from whatever cause) have not found it, too, according to a given form and the more profitable fields of composi. fashion. He is limited, first, as to the tion open to them. length of his piece ; very much limit. It would extend this article to a ed indeed as to the choice of his sube length beyond the limits of a magazine, ject; and, what is more, his fable if I were to point out even a few inmust arrive at a consistent-reason- stances of the laxity in which our earable-termination. Give him excel- lier dramatists indulged, and of the lence to his heart's content through advantages which, even independent the first four acts of his play; and yet of their irregularity, they possessed one good round absurdity in the fifth over the modern writers; but there act shall defeat him. He may be fee are two propositions which I may lay blettite--trashy; still, so that he down, I think, without fear of contrakeep his way evenly, he may hope to diction :-such tragedies as those of pass muster; but let him commit a Beaumont and Fletcher, (and the other single thumping non sequitur, (and our authors of their school,) if they could golden dramatists generally commit- be written now by libraries, would be ted about two in every act let him of no value to the stage ;-and such break course only once, and his ruin tragedies as are demanded by the taste is inevitable.
of the present day, those authors proI cannot doubt that there are poets, bably would not, and perhaps could and many to be found at the present not, have produced. day, who could produce in abundance, But if the altered tone and taste of the same irregular kind of drama.which society in the modern day, may acpassed current in the days of Massin- count for some apparent abatement in ger and Fletcher ; but these men will the force of our English tragedy, that not endure the drudgery of writing same change, as regards comedy, will plays to suit the strictness of modern be found to operate with still greater fashion, when they may attain fame force. and fortune (far greater) by twenty Those great natural sources of subs roads less rugged. The rule and com. ject, which supplied material to the pass is, in any shape, so abhorrent to old writers ;-which were drawn upon genius. It is so much more delight first by Fletcher and Massinger, afterful to write a book like “ Beppo" or wards by Dryden, then by Shadwell, “ Don Juan," where a man puts down and, still later, by the school of Con. everything that comes uppermost, and greve, Wycherley, and Farquhar ;writes carelessly forward. Take now of those sources, scarcely one is left to tice, for instance, whether almost all the dramatist of the present day. A our modern acting tragedies are not freedom from all restraints, of moraliwritten by men of comparatively slight ty, or even of decency, was the birthpoetic faculty? Byron, indeed, has right, if I may so express myself, of a produced dramatic poems, (and very poet of the sixteenth century. His dull things dramatic poems commonly free license was the soul of everything are;) but I can scarcely think that he did. Vice furnished his plot; vice Byron wrote with any view to repre- pointed his dialogue ; vice was in his sentation on the stage. Coleridge wrote characters in his interest-in his wit. one tragedy,—and an excellently good He lashed vice, sometimes, it is true; ove, although he was unfortunate in but, even in lashing, he paraded it. the acting of it,-Kean's acting would Even where he affected to give a momake it tell ;-but Coleridge is almost ral tone to a play, his morality was al.
ways reserved for some absurd recan- velopement of those matters which it tation in the last scene;-he exhibit is usual to conceal. Half the point ed the sin, and lived upon it, through (even of the dialogue) of Farquhar four acts and a half of his piece, and and Wycherley, lies in their constant protested against it in the denouement, popping out of bold sentiments and when he wanted it no longer.
unexpected truths. All their heroes I will not say whether this course are, to the multitude, exquisite felshould, or should not, be forbidden; lows to be amused with ;-they are but I say, that it is forbidden upon the so eternally saying that out, which stage at the present day. Few of the common people only venture to think. older comedies-few indeed of the date We are told, that our modern coof Congreve or Farquhar-are acted medy is weak, and flimsy and farci. now. The few that do still keep the cal; that it shews the pertness of stage, may be said to linger rather soda water, rather than the spirit of than to live. They are acted more and champagne. I take that simile readimore rarely from season to season; ly, for it suits my own purpose:when acted, they are barely endured ; Soda water, rather than champagne, and they will shortly be acted no is the drink of the present day. There longer.
is a want of stamina, it is said, about To wonder that similar plays are our modern writers of comedy. How not written, when, if they were write is it possible for a man to intoxicate ten, no theatre could dare to produce us, if we will drink nothing stronger them, is as absurd as to expect that a than milk and water? How shall the modern comic poet, cramped as he is, modern comedy writer display a viand shackled, at every corner and on gour, if he has it? In what form-in every hand, should produce the same what style of dramatic character-shall free, bold, dashing, daring picture, he embody his strong conception ? which the old artist painted, whose The lady cannot (now-a-days) speak pencil moved at liberty
her mind freely-the lover (of the If the appeal to any passion-no drama) must set bounds to his pasmatter what—is to be cut off, a cer- sion—The honest gentleman, time out tain quantity of excitation, and con- of mind, has been notoriously a dead sequently of interest, must be lost. weight upon the stage ;-and from the Vice, even where it offends, almost “ gay bold-faced villain," who was the constantly merits attention. A fire life of all our old comedy, the draan execution—a public riot-these are matist of the modern day is entirely sights which give birth only to pain- shut out. Into the depths of the huful sensations; and yet multitudes man heart, the dramatist is now forflock, even at personal risk, to gaze bidden to penetrate. He has the ape. upon them. The same disposition ries of fashion to work upon, instead may be found existing in all times of the propensities of nature. He may and in all places. Murder, in ancient burlesque, if he can, the follies and Rome, was a popular spectacle. The fopperies of society ; but he must not Spanish auto da fe interested hundreds, give the drama that interest which it who cared for the preservation of the held in the hands of his predecessors, faith not a farthing. A boxing-match, by either exhibiting or chastising the a bull-bait, a theft, or an accident in real vices of mankind. the street,--the smallest of these in- I know I shall be told that, subject cidents, will attract a crowd of spec- to all these checks, comedies have been tators in London now. In short, that produced--and sterling comedieswhich is uncommon, and especially within the last few years. I admit the that which is in any way forbidden, fact, and it forms part of my argument. will always be attractive to the great If the authors of those comedies quomass of human kind. No one cares ted have done so much under restraint, to see that done which may be done how much more would they not have with impunity by everybody. Who accomplished, if the field had been ever thought of going to look at a open to them? Sterling comedies have grocer selling figs?-but a thief draws been produced, but how few they are a crowd round him, because he is the in number! The fact is, that, under exception to the common rule. Three- modern restrictions, the labour of profourths of the charm in the comedy duction is too great. There is so litof our old dramatists, lie in their de- tle variety of subject left, that effective comedies cannot be numerous. For the great object (in the school of Fletchlast ten years, I believe, nothing like er) was to throw the hero, or heroine, genteel comedy (and perhaps genteel into such a situation as must, of itself, comedy is the only sterling comedy,) excite attention. How the party was nothing in the shape of genteel comedy to be got into that situation, or how has appeared at all.
he was to be got out of it again, were I say again, that the labour of pro- minor considerations, or rather no conduction now is too great. In Fletch- siderations whatever. er's vein, or Farquhar's, a man would Without quoting extreme examples, run on for ever. The mere esprit of like the Unnatural Combat of Massintheir characters, and the force of their ger, the Woman Huter of Fletcher, or situations, would do sufficient alone to the 'Tis Pity she's a Whore of Ford carry a play through. But what a without referring to instances so mondifferent principle of producing effect strous as these, there are examples to do we see at work in the School for be met with at every step in the wriScandal! There is more labouring of tings of the sixteenth century, of those points, more expenditure of epigram, certainly effective situations to which in that single play, than would have I now advert. Shirley, in one of his sufficed for sixteen comedies of Shir- plays, makes a young lady of rank enley, Massinger, or Fletcher. And, after trust a secret of vital importance to all, the reliance of the piece is upon the servant of her father, and the vila display of art, rather than a dis- lain afterwards forces her to yield up play of nature. There is epigram in her chastity, on pain of having this sea abundance in every scene, but very cret discovered. Now the whole struclittle of that gaieté de coeur which ture of this play of Shirley's is of the charms us in the older writers, and clumsiest description, but it was eviwhich was a quality (unlike epigram) dent to the author, that he might deinexhaustible where it existed. No pend upon a very strong interest in oue would suppose the School for Scan- those scenes where the treacherous serdal to have been written in three weeks, vant bends his mistress to his purpose. or a month, under the influence of cla- Again, in the Maid's Tragedy of ret half the time, and of exuberant Beaumont and Fletcher, a young noanimal spirits the other half. In fact, bleman having married Evadne, to the reign of genteel comedy is pretty whom he is devotedly attached, is told nearly at an end. The force of a play by her (ceteris parihus) in her chamnow has changed its former bearing. ber, on her wedding night, that she Clowns and coxcombs were minor per- despises him, and that she has only sonages with the older writers—the submitted to marry him, in order to gentleman was the author's organ for cloak her intrigue with somebody else. the diffusion of jest and gaiety. But the In the more modern play of The point of honour now has passed into Mysterious Mother, the manner in other hands; the gentleman is but an which the Countess falls in love with appendage to carry on the plot of the her son is most ingeniously contrived, piece, and the author's reliance is upon and it is impossible not to be carried some tailor-some Jew with a hump forward, to a certain degree, by such ed back-some fop-some Frenchman, an event; but still the interest here, or other ridiculous personage, who may as in the two former plays, is interest be pushed through a series of farcical upon which modern feeling will not dilemmas, and whose mishaps (not suffer a play to turn. his triumphs) are to form the amuse. In comedy, take the point of Shir. ment of the audience.
ley's excellent play, The Gamester, And the older writers, both of tra- where the husband believes, that, by gedy and comedy, beside that irregu- a series of contrivances, he has unwitlarity in which they were indulged as tingly become accessory to his own to plot-beside that appeal to one par- dishonour. The scenes between Wildticular source of sympathy which gave ing and his wife, while he is under them sure means of cffect whenever a this belief, are spirited (and can hardwoman was on the stage—besides this, ly fail to be so) in a very high degree ; they selected such subjects, and such but the whole matter is such as the incidents, for their plays, as could not stage, now, cannot talk about. fail to produce strong interest ; and So, again, in another of our old upon that interest almost alone they Dramas, where an old law is supoften depended for their success. The posed to be discovered, which condemns all people to die at forty, the one,) from the beginning to the end of anxiety of heirs—the searching of his works, which might not be read church-books for registers and the aloud in a circle of ladies, without seizure (personal) upon grandfathers, exciting an unpleasant emotion. great-uncles, and elderly ladies-all Admitting, as who can question it, this is very laughable in the reading, the splendid genius of the old writers but it would not do now for stage re- -admitting that their plays are, for presentation.
any but stage purposes, so superior to For, among those inclinations inse- our modern trifles as to admit of no parable from our nature, which the comparison with them, still, I think, usages of society compel us to conceal that it was to the subjects which they or deny, is the propensity to laugh were allowed to select, and to the freesometimes at the misfortunes of cur dom with which they were permitted fellow creatures. I will not admit this to write, more than to any general sudisposition to be, per se, any argument periority in talent over the moderns, of evil feeling; for I am convinced that that they were indebted for the vigour, there are circumstances under which and above all, for the fertility, of their the best regulated mind might be dis pens. Nature, in all her shapes, must posed to laugh even at the commission be powerful ; and from nature, in any of a wrong.
shape, they were allowed to paint. Sultan Selim, for instance, goes the Where they have condescended to deother day to put out a great fire in scribe humours and fashions, it must Constantinople, and, seeing the fire be remembered, that we now look at men backward to face the danger, or- such descriptions as curious from their ders three to be thrown into the flames antiquity. An antick of the day of by way of encouragement to the rest. James the First, or Charles the seThis act is atrocious, but we laugh cond, will excite interest with those (I think) notwithstanding.
who pass over a modern coxcomb with Again, the story of the monkey at contempt. Bartholomew fair.-A showman of wild I cannot believe but that either the beasts has his booth inclosed with can author of Don Juan, or the author of vass, but a boy takes advantage of a Anastasius, could produce, with ease, nook in the cloth, and peeps from time the same irregular fancies which sucto time at the exhibition for nothing. ceeded, as plays, with Fletcher and A monkey within (piqued, probably, with Massinger. I cannot help thinkat being beheld gratis) watches his ing, that the author of Waverley might opportunity with the felonious peeper; write historical plays with admirable and, when he peeps again, pokes a effect, if he would devote his attention skewer into his eye. Now, one does not to such a style of writing; but I be exult a jot here in the suffering of the lieve that he gets too much, both of boy, but one would purchase such a fame and money, by his novels, to be monkey, and adopt him as one's son. tempted to adventure on a less certain
And, without multiplying cases in and less profitable pursuit. which the older writers, both of co- And I think, to go farther, that medy and tragedy, have dwelt upon even those who do write for the stage, matters forbidden to the stage at the changed as it is for I maintain that present day, I think it will be obvious the change is in the stage, and not in that (except only perhaps Shakespeare) the power of writing for it-I think they all of them have taken that course, that even some of these, judging by and, more or less, succeeded in it. what they have produced in their tramShakespeare, certainly, whatever his mels, might have brought forth pieces irregularities or excrescences, did not, not unworthy of at least the second upon principle, always take the easiest class of writers of the 16th century, if path to effect; and the consequence they had enjoyed the same advantages is, that there is almost the same dif- which those earlier writers possessed. ference between his plays and those of — This some being understood as dishis contemporaries, as there is between tinctly excluding those gentlemen who the poem of Don Juan, and the novels assist our patent managers in making of the Author of Waverley, whose the public taste even worse than it most singular attribute perhaps is, that need be; and who are content to act, he constantly contrives interest with either by the year or by the piece, as out touching upon the more unseemly illustrators to the work of the decorapassions of mankind; and that there tor and the machinist. is not a line, (at least I don't recollect
THE MEMORABILIA OF WILLIAM FAUX." When we first saw a book an- up the page and had, perhaps, never nounced by the title of “ Memorable even heard it whispered that the auDays in America," we of course ex- thor of a modern masterpiece may pected something about Cortez, Pi- wear the same pair of slippers with its zarro, General Washington, or, at the reviewer. lowest penny, General Bolivar or Sir The spirit of Grub Street has alGregor Macgregor. But the “ Me- ready made its way into the rozions morable Days” now in hand, turn out prima facie most remote from its pesto have no relation to the doings of any tilential influence. It infests the very such memorable men. The days are core of uction:-No matter for the bulmemorable in the language of this au- lion-epaulettes, the anchor-button, thor, simply because they are fre- the iron-bound hat no matter for quently the subject of conversation the colonel, the captain, or the K.C.B. at his own fireside. He himself is his -it is still the author we have to do own and his only hero,--and the days with. When the modern commander he spent in America are thus qualified of one of his Majesty's frigates hapin the true spirit of Mrs Quickly, who pens to light upon a new coast, the dated from the era of Goodwife Keech very first thought that comes into his the butcher's wife's coming in to bor- mind, is whether the costume of the row a mess of vinegar.
natives will look best in line-engra. There is a great deal of bonne-foi, ving or lithography. For every letter or, if you will, of bonne-hommie, about he sends home to his mother, there this. The moment we saw what the are three to our friend John Murray : man's drift really was, we pricked up and when he reaches London, after our ears, we freely confess it, with a three years' absence, he bids the hack, double sprightliness. This is the age ney-coachman drive to Albemarle of pretensions and make-believes the Street, before the Admiralty.-Aidesgreatest of all luxuries, is a book write du-camp, as they are galloping about ten by one who knows nothing about the field of batile, consider the outthe tricks of book-making—and that lines of the clouds, and observe how a author may be sure of success, who esta distant hill will come in, if they live blishes, as this man does, by the very to pen a description of the affair. wording of his title-page, (that is to Lieutenants of the heavy dragoons say, when it is understood rightly,) - pick up hits and graphic touches, when a clear and indubitable right to be a town is sacked. Even men-of-war's considered as one of “The Fine men have all their eyes about them for Bodies."
effects and ideas when the grog is Authorship and book-making will piped : and John Nicoll himself, gay be the end of books and of authors: deceiver that he is, does not kiss his this is God's truth ; but those only pretty convict, without a sly notion who are somewhat hackneyed in the that she will make a pretty paragraph. ways of literature, will at once ac- - People will woo and marry an'a', by knowledge it to be so. Good Hea- and by, we take it, only that they may vens! through what a vista do we be able to paint more from the life the look back upon those days wben we delicate whimsies which sharpen“ the should as soon have thought of turn- edge of that day's celebration."-But ing to the shipping corner as to the Mr Jeffrey once embodied the whole publishing corner of a newspaper - soul of authorship in three syllables. when we read through fifty volumes We were sitting close by him in the without having the smallest guess wlio High Court of Justiciary, when a possessed the copyright of any one of tolerably sentimental-looking mur. them-when we devoured a quotation derer was called up to receive sentence without having the remotest suspicion of death-(this was Ante Chaldæum that it might be put in merely to fill Scriptum)“ Well, now," said the
• Memorable Days in America : being a Journal of a Tour to the United States, principally undertaken to ascertain, by Positive Evidence, the Condition and probable Prospects of British Emigrants; including Accounts of Mr Birkbeck's Settlement in the Illinois ; and intended to shew Men and Things as they are in America. By W. Faux, an English Farmer. London, W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, 1823.