Obrazy na stronie

No. 3.




'Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.' Ir is difficult to say whether credulity or its opposite has been more hurtful to society. Many are too easy of belief, and delude themselves and the world by following every novelty, and grasping at flitting shadows. But, taking the more intelligent portion of mankind, we think they are apt to err in a different direction. Leaning to the training they have received at college or school, instead of thinking independently, they imagine that they have reached perfection, and they believe too little. They forget that, though all else is fixed and stationary -though the nest of the bird and the den of the beaver were just as perfect thousands of years ago as they are now-mind is progressive; and its progress is often so marvellous, that it is astonished at its own discoveries, and can hardly believe them to be true. Or, if a Newton should himself believe in the laws of gravitation, and a Galileo be persuaded that the earth moves round the sun, yet all the world continues long to think the reverse, and not till presented with many a strong proof, does it yield a reluctant credence to the new discovery. Steam, in its various applications, met at first with much opposition, and no small share of mockery and derision. Nor do we wonder at this. If, sixty years ago, Dr Johnson had been told, as he sat ruminating by the fireside, waiting for his favourite beverage, that the tiny volume of white smoke issuing from the spout of his teakettle was a power quite competent, in certain circumstances, to blow the house to atoms about his ears-to rebuke the waves, and set even the hurricane at defiance -he would have listened to the intelligence with no ordinary degree of astonishment. Well do we remember how incredulous we were ourselves when Henry Bell, some thirty years ago, left Glasgow, for the first time, in the little Comet, amid the jeers of sailors and the mysterious whisperings of the crowd about leagues with the devil and temptings of providence. Not one of them would venture on board the steam-ship. Perhaps even Henry Bell himself did not then foresee many of the mighty changes which this new power was destined to produce. Certain it is, that, whatever his reflections might be, the multitude did not perceive the coming revolutions. It is only after a slow and searching trial of the power and influence of steam by sea and land, that the world has at length awakened to the conviction that it is destined to change the whole aspect of society. Without moralizing farther on the rude reception and indifferent treatment which this strange power met with


at our hands on its first appearance, we intend shortly to glance at some of the changes which it is now working on the face of the world.

Annihilation of distance is one of its most obvious results. Steam-power is now of universal application, and is fast gaining a kind of omnipresence. To whatever side we turn, by sea or land, it meets our view, puffing and snorting like a thing of life. The earth is girdled with railroads. The sea is studded with steam-ships. On friths and rivers, on the sacred streams of India and the frozen lakes and rapid torrents of America, on the calm Pacific and the stormy Atlantic, the thin cloud of smoke stretching athwart the face of the sky tells us that the steamer is or has been there. On land, too, it is rapidly acquiring the same ubiquity. By its gigantic power we are propelled through water at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, and over the land at double this amount of speed! Geographically, every spot on earth retains its wonted position; but virtually, by means of this lightning speed, space is annihilated, and the ends of the earth are brought together. Railroads unite towns in the same country; steam-boats form the connecting links by sea, and bind different countries together. The transition is so rapid that distance vanishes, and the whole earth becomes one vast family. How different from the years of our own boyhood! Not long ago it was a serious journey from Edinburgh to Glasgow-so serious, we are told, that men made their wills before setting out

and now we can pass from the one city to the other as quickly as a good pedestrian can accomplish a journey of eight miles! A trip to London or Paris is no more thought of now than a drive of ten miles to the country was wont to be! Under the influence of this conjuror, the surfaces of large continents shrivel in size-the mighty rivers of America curtail their vast dimensions, and dwindle down into streams-seas lose half their breadth and oceans are shorn of their unmeasured bounds.

Our steamers have frequently rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and are now plying on the Ganges, to the no small amazement of the natives, who gather in crowds upon the banks to gaze at the fire-ship! India was thus brought comparatively near us; but should the enterprising Pacha of Egypt open a railway through that country, it will be brought nearer still; and, instead of six months, we shall be able to write some twenty days for the transit to Bombay. The passage to America, instead of consuming six weeks, is reduced to fourteen days; and, once upon the transatlantic shore, we are swiftly carried several thousands of miles into the 'bowels of the land,' by literally climbing the rapids of her majestic rivers.

On land, too, our rate of travelling is trebled. We are hurried along at Mazeppa speed. No quadruped can now keep pace with us. We are prestoed (if we may coin a word) from one city and country to another. There is a process of centralization going forward, by which things afar off are brought nigh. The world is undergoing a compression similar to that to which a bale of goods is subjected in the Bramah press, when it is squeezed into as little bulk as possible, for the purpose of exportation! We humbly believe that, ere long, the present speed on land will be doubled-men in remote regions will draw their chairs nearer each other by two-thirds at least and the world will be traversed from pole to pole in some fifty or sixty days!

Who does not perceive that punctuality in the receipt and despatch of intelligence is another fruit of this new power? We were accustomed to say that time and tide wait for no man.' The proverb has become obsolete; and now no man waits for either time or tide. At a given hour, without regard to tide or weather, away goes the packet with the foreign mail, heedless whether the wind blows fair or foul; and she reaches her destination, distant though it be, with almost as much precision, in respect of time, as the village post-boy, who runs only some half dozen miles! Our remote garrisons are no longer doomed to lie sleeping on the bosom of the becalmed waters, waiting till patience is exhausted for the arrival of the long-expected mail. The poor soldier who loiters on the steeps of Gibraltar, or on the shores of Malta, can reckon, almost to an hour, the time when he shall hear from his home; and friend hastens to the shore to meet friend, at a given period, calculating on the certain arrival of the steamer; and if she is not in port at the precise hour, it is not long till, by the aid of the telescope, she is descried in the offing, beating the smooth waters with redoubled energy, as if anxious to keep her time and reach her destination. It is unnecessary to add, that the railway train is still more punctual, and can regulate its time almost to a minute, on a distance of fifty or sixty miles! We require not surely to tell the merchant and the trader of the almost incalculable benefits which this undeviating punctuality will confer on them. The man must be blind indeed who does not see them, and heartless indeed who does not gratefully acknowledge them.

It was long an interesting speculation with many, what would be the effects produced by steam-boats and railroads on certain kinds of employment? Would horses become useless? Would whole classes of men be thrown idle ?-High authorities were wont to give forth frightful oracles on these and kindred subjects. Public and private roads were to be deserted-hotels were to be annihilated-commercial travellers were to be seriously injured and the world to be turned topsy-turvy! The result has proved that such fears were unfounded. We cannot conceal from ourselves the fact that great changes have been wrought-that terrible convulsions have taken place. But when was any change of importance effected without partial suffering to some? When was any great victory gained without some shedding of blood? Wellington wrote in his despatch from Waterloo-Such a desperate action could not be fought, and such advantages gained, without great loss. In the changes which are continually going on, in consequence of the discoveries of art and science, certain classes suffer for a time; but it is only temporary. It has been so here. Some hands have been thrown idle for a season. Many small traders have been driven from their long and well-loved beats, and some innkeepers have been compelled to leave old and favourite localities; but a little time has healed these sores, and the issue is by no means so fatal as was dreaded; in most cases, it is quite the reverse. By the new facilities, travellers have been multiplied an hundredfold; men have left their homes who never stirred before, and traffic has been wonderfully increased; the weaver's web, which he was accustomed to carry to his employer, is now transmitted by railway; and, by these

and a thousand other means, the demand for men, waggons, and horses, is now greater than before; hotels have increased in number; and the public roads, instead of being deserted, in those English counties which are most intersected by railways, have actually yielded a better revenue than before by seven per cent.! Men have made the discovery that a saving of time is a saving or money. The multitude of passengers has produced competition in conveyances; and fares are now so low that, even in passing to and fro in the same city, we find it cheaper to ride than to walk! Thus, though there has been a revolution in some old establishments, there has been no reduction in the demand for manual or animal labour, in consequence of the introduction of steampower. It were easy to fortify this statement by statistics, but our limits forbid entering on details.

Before we leave the physical and turn to the social and moral aspects of the question, there is one other topic which claims our notice. It is one, we are persuaded, which still weighs heavily on many timid minds, who are either destitute of data on which to form a correct judgment, or who, perhaps, have suffered personally or relatively by steam travelling, and are still writhing under it. We refer to the comparative mortality of travelling by steam-the danger to human life by this mode of conveyance. We do not embrace in our calculation the fearful destruction of life in the American steam-vessels, though even these would not upset our opinion. But, taking in the whole range of steam operations by sea and land, connected with the British dominions, we are shut up to a conclusion the very opposite of that to which we came when we first found ourselves whizzing through the air at the rate of thirty miles an hour. Then we thought it doubly dangerous; now we think quite the reverse. It is almost universally confessed that steam-ships are safer at sea than sailing-vessels. The question of danger, then, refers chiefly to travelling on railroads; and this we affirm, on good and sure ground, to be not more dangerous than other modes of conveyance. It must be admitted that the speed and momentum of a railway train are incalculably greater than those of a mail or stage coach. Yet, if the latter, as in the case of serious accidents, has been often sufficient to destroy life, what more can the former do? The momentum of a body rushing through the air at the rate of ten miles an hour, and met by some sudden obstruction, will just prove as certainly fatal as if it had double the speed. Some raw recruits, who are familiar with the musket, and do not fear it much, are terribly afraid of artillery, forgetting that the musketball kills just as surely as the cannon-shot.

A careful induction of facts is the best way to settle this question. Considering the immense numbers who now travel by railway, it is quite fair to collect the amount of deaths and accidents caused by all other kinds of conveyance together, and place them in the opposite scale to those of the railway. Now, we have no difficulty in admitting that the danger of railway travelling would be greatest at the outset, while men were but imperfectly acquainted with the best and safest mode of management, and while every company was free to manage as it chose. We go back, then, to the early years of the great railways, and what is the result? About ten passengers killed out of forty-four millions! This is an astounding, a most consoling fact. It proves to us beyond the possibility of doubt, that, under proper management, the railroad, with all its speed, is by far the safest mode of travelling, when we take into account the vast multitudes who run to and fro upon it. Let any one take a million of travellers by all the other modes of conveyance put together, and we are quite sure the number of accidents will be greater far, as well as the absolute destruction of life.

We hail this new power, then, as a boundless blessing to the world in its physical effects; nor is it less beneficial in its social and moral influence.

The facilities of intercourse between cities and large


towns, and the remote rural districts, will tend to equal-new power, in many other ways, on social and internaize the markets over the whole country. Small towns and tional life. It renders more secure our commercial revillages, at a distance from larger ones, used to obtain lations with other lands. We do not now trust to mere smaller prices for their produce in proportion to the dis- surmises respecting the state of foreign countries; but, tance and the difficulty of sending it to the leading markets. in less time than we once took to dream and speculate The greater the distance the smaller the price, gradually on the subject, we take our berth in some gallant steamdescending in a sliding scale. Each place had its own ship, and visit personally the scene of our solicitude, and price. So marked was this till of late, that a competent assure ourselves on the spot as to the safety of our proauthority assures us, that, were a man to fall from the jected enterprise. Had steam navigation existed in 1825, clouds on any of the great roads leading to London, by British capitalists could scarcely have suffered as they simply asking the price of butter, and then referring to did from the failure of their South American speculathe statistical tables which show the prices of provisions tions; and, at a later period, many of our countrymen all over the kingdom, he could tell very nearly the pre- would in all probability have been spared those severe cise distance from the metropolis! We know from ob- losses from North American bonds, which drew from the servation, in our native locality, which is a large town, pen of Sidney Smith such torrents of wit and sarcasm. surrounded by many smaller ones at a distance of twelve Facility of intercourse would have brought us warning in or fifteen miles, that, until railways began to diverge time to avoid these quicksands. from it in different directions, provisions, in these smaller towns, were much cheaper than in the large central one, simply because the transmission was difficult and costly; but now the markets in the district are equalized by the frequency and facility of intercourse. At first sight, some poor people might demur at these changes, and deem them evil; but they soon found out their error, for capital began to flow back upon them in return for those stores which helped to lower the provisions of the poor in the densely crowded city; and though their own food became a shade more costly, money was more plentiful, and they were better able to purchase the necessaries of life. Thus, since steam communication has become so frequent, we find salmon and other fish carried almost alive from the Tay to the Thames; bullocks, instead of being driven great distances, 'larding the lean earth' as they proceed, are now killed in the districts where they are reared, and conveyed by railroad or steam-ship to the great metropolitan markets. The prices of these commodities are thereby more equally adjusted-lowered in the place of consumpt, and raised in the place of production; and capital is likewise more equally distributed than before.

But loftier results than these are flowing, or shall yet flow, from this facility of intercourse.

Besides, steam, in its various applications to travelling, gives a prodigious accession of power to public opinion, on any question of interest. Time was, when London was virtually so remote and inaccessible, that new measures could be introduced into Parliament, and made part of the law of the land, before they were heard of by a large proportion of the United Kingdom; but now, through the influence of steam, the inhabitants of the most remote corners of our island are speedily made acquainted with any change in our national laws that may be contemplated, and thus time is afforded for the expression of public opinion respecting such changes. It is not difficult to see how railroads and steam navigation will promote the peace of the world. Sovereigns will avail themselves of it, as well as the people. The rulers and the ruled of different nations will meet face to face; and instead of believing, as hitherto, that they are natural enemies, they will soon discover that they are sworn friends. The recent visits of the Emperor of Russia and the King of the French to Britain, as well as other continental powers of smaller note, will tend greatly to strengthen the good understanding that prevails, and secure the peace of Europe and the world: and but for steam, it is not likely these visits would have been made!

But there is another way in which steam-power will promote peace. We know that the more destructive the weapons of warfare, the less likely will the nations be to proclaim war, and the more speedily will their disputes be settled when they do. Consider the change necessarily produced in the art of war by the use of steam-ships! Think of their facility of access to any shore! Think of their fearful accuracy of aim and their destructive power, and we shall have fewer national quarrels about trifles. There will be no long and harassing wars-no seven years' sieges-no impregnable fortresses! Britain's bulwarks are not now secure against a foreign foe-her wooden walls are comparatively defenceless against the assault of the steam-ship. She has herself afforded proof of its tremendous power in late events. If the Pacha of Egypt rebels against his master the Sultan, England sends out her steam-frigates to batter down Acre, once deemed impregnable; Mehemet Ali succumbs, and retires within his proper dominions. The Emperor of China, whether right or wrong, is compelled to yield before this terrific power, and submit to the dictation of the Barbarians! Britain, America, and France, are each possessed of this mighty agent. It preserves the balance of power; and so long as they maintain a good understanding with each other, it secures the peace of the world. What would a Napoleon or a Nelson have done-what tactics would they have adopted had this engine of destruction been at their command?

It has been said, that were it possible for all men to meet and hold converse with each other face to face, they would soon come to be of one mind on all important subjects. We know well that distance and the difficulty of obtaining a personal interview often foments divisions, and fosters diversity of sentiment; while freedom of intercourse destroys prejudice, dissipates misapprehension, and restores harmony and order. This principle will, no doubt, operate powerfully on the larger as well as the more limited scale. It will influence the disposition of nations towards one another, as well as families and individuals. Men are now travelling who never stirred from home before, and thousands are riding on railroads or sailing in steam-boats who were wont, when they travelled, to plod their weary way on foot. Under the old regime, a broad line of separation was drawn between the different ranks of society; but now, rich and poor, peer and peasant, meet and mingle in the same conveyance; they look each other in the face; they recognise in one another the great lines of our common humanity; and, though distinctions of rank still remain, there is more melting of heart, and more blending of kindly feelings, if not greater similarity of sentiment, among all classes of the community. Majesty itself now runs about in steam-ships and special trains; and men begin to discover that it is not quite so marvellous or so monstrous a thing as they were accustomed to suppose. The peer finds out that the peasant and the artizan are by no We have left little space to discuss the higher branches means so abject as he thought: and the poor man en- of our theme. In combination with cheap literature and lists the sympathies of his superiors, who formerly penny postage, it will greatly increase and accelerate the treated him with haughty scorn. Men rub noses, and diffusion of knowledge. Art, literature, science, will all become friends. Each class learns something from all receive the benefit of this new power. History and geoothers. As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the counte-graphy will be more thoroughly and more universally nance of a man his friend.' known. The sacred prediction will receive a literal fulfilIt were easy to trace the modifying influence of this ment- Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall

be increased. By the friction of personal intercourse, and by comparison of the labours of eminent men in different countries, who formerly had but little intercourse with each other, more brilliant results may confidently be expected, and every fresh discovery will more speedily become the property of the whole world.

But one reflection now remains. Have we used this new and gigantic power wisely, and to the best possible advantage? Have we engrafted upon it every high and holy enterprise? Is it to be thought that He who reigns in heaven, and rules the destinies of earth, has permitted us to girdle that earth with railroads-to penetrate the mysteries of science-to plunge into the midst of uncivilized lands, for mere commercial and political purposes? Has he no higher object in view, than the extension of trade? Shall not this be one of the great subsidiary means for regenerating the world? Shall not the same spirit of enterprise that carries our ships to every shore, carry the messengers of peace to every land? What can more efficiently open up the earth for the reception of British Bibles, than the gigantic strides of British science? The very same power which produces tracts and periodicals by millions, and sends them swift as winged messengers to the dwellings of the poor at home, can not only produce Bibles by myriads in a short period of time -but it can now waft them in a few weeks to the most distant shores of the world!



DAVID GARRICK, whose name occupies the most conspicuous place in the annals of the British drama, was born at Hereford, in the month of February, 1716. His family was of French extraction. Monsieur Garrick, his grandfather, had taken refuge in England, along with numbers of his countrymen, on the revocation of the edict of Nantz. Peter Garrick, the French merchant's son, and father of the famous performer, entered the British army, in which he rose to the rank of captain. He chanced to be at Hereford on a recruiting party; and there his wife, who was daughter of a clergyman at Lichfield, gave birth to the subject of this sketch. Soon after this, Captain Garrick retired on half-pay, fixing his residence in his wife's native town. The more elementary parts of his education over, David was sent, at the age of ten, to the grammar-school of Lichfield. Even at that early period of his life, the bent of his mind was apparent: he displayed more love of mimicry than zeal for learning. Strolling players were his delight; and he got up, when only eleven years old, a little performance of his own, in which he figured, among a juvenile company, as Serjeant Kite. In this way the child was father of the man; and as Pope lisped in numbers,' so Garrick gave proof in boyhood that his vocation was the stage.

Such a turn, if distinctly developed, seems to have met with no encouragement from his parents. They sent him, in his fifteenth year, to his uncle, a wine-merchant in Lisbon, at whose counting-house they meant him to be trained to business. It would not do, however; the drudgery and dry detail of a mercantile occupation, in its earlier and humble branches, did not suit his light and mercurial temperament. He came home in about a year, and resumed, with somewhat better success, his classical studies. A few years after, we find him under the care of the celebrated Samuel Johnson, who was at that time beginning the world with a few pupils and boarders, in the neighbourhood of Lichfield. This was the commencement of an acquaintance which lasted for life. Both Johnson and Garrick, however, were dissatisfied with obscurity and seclusion. The one was tired of imparting, while he wished to acquire; the other of acquiring, while he wished to impart. Each longed, in different departments, to make a figure in the world; and then, as now, the world was-London. Accordingly,

on the 2d of March, 1737, the famous pupil and his still more famous master set off, in the same coach, for the British metropolis. A letter of that date, from a gentleman in Lichfield, contains a passage which will gratify the curious in literary biography. Garrick,' writes he, and another neighbour of mine, one Mr Samuel Johnson, set out this morning for London together. Davy Garrick will be with you early in the next week; and Mr Johnson goes to try his fate with a tragedy, and to see to get himself employed in some translation from the Latin or French.' Such irreverent mention of undeveloped genius is apt to excite a smile in those who have witnessed its achievements, who have been accustomed to think of Davy Garrick' as Shakspeare's best living interpreter, and to whom 'one Samuel Johnson' has ceased to be a great unknown.

Garrick, on coming to London, betook himself first to the study of law, and was entered accordingly at Lincoln's Inn. This he soon abandoned, either from want of inclination or from want of funds. Shortly after, the death of his uncle, who had just arrived from Lisbon, put him in possession of £1000. He now went to Rochester, where he placed himself under a teacher of mathematics. While here he lost his father, whose widow, in little more than a year, followed him to the grave. They left three sons, of whom David was the second, and two daughters.

Geometry, to the mind of young Garrick, was no more enticing than law. In either of his earlier pursuits, 'unstable as water, he did not excel.' Returning to London, he entered into partnership with his eldest brother, who carried on business as a wine-merchant. Here he was attracted into his congenial sphere-frequented the theatres, became a member of the theatrical clubs, associated with the actors, and criticised the drama. This soon determined his future course. In two years he dissolved partnership with his brother; and after some time spent in the study of characters, he regularly assumed the profession of a player. In the summer of 1741, he then a young man of four or five-and-twenty-made his first appearance, under the feigned name of Lyddal, in the city of Ipswich. Here his merits were at once recognised; and he was emboldened to offer himself to the more fastidious regards of a London audience. He accordingly appeared at one of the minor theatres, in the character of Richard the Third (always a favourite with him), on the 19th of October, 1741, and continued his performances throughout the season. His success was prodigious. Drury-Lane and Covent-Garden were deserted; and all the wit, rank, and fashion of the metropolis flocked to Goodman's-Fields. From this time his powers were universally acknowledged; and he continued, till his retirement in 1776 (a period of thirtyfive years), indisputably and unapproachably at the head of his profession-facile princeps of the British stage.

To enter, as his feeble and turgid biographer has so laboriously done, on the details of Garrick's dramatic life-to give an inventory, with tedious minuteness, of the characters which, year by year, he personated, and the stages on which he played-would be equally useless and uninteresting. Neither our space nor our inclination permits us to devote whole chapters to a dramatic row, or to utter magniloquent rant on Garrick's trip to the Continent as the setting of the theatrical sun. No two volumes could be more meagre and unsatisfactory than that farrago of trashy gossip, and still more trashy criticism, which Mr Arthur Murphy has given to the world as a 'life' of his friend. We have a great deal, indeed, about an absurd drama of his own, called 'The Orphan of China,' to which Garrick, it seems, was shy of acting as protector. We have a great deal, also, of impertinent criticism of Shakspeare, who is admitted to have been ‘a superior genius,' and to have produced in Macbeth ‘a well-drawn character! But his proper subject is left to shift for itself. Of Garrick the actor we have little; of Garrick the author, less; of Garrick the man, nothing. Almost the only anecdotes that occur in the work, worth

[ocr errors]

the trouble of extracting, are connected with him who writes the life, and not with him whose life is written. Of these, one is suggested by its author's darling performance, the unfortunate 'Orphan of China.' On the day of its introduction to the public, Mr Murphy dined in company with Foote, the celebrated wit. During dinner there arrived a note for the author, from Mrs Cibber, a popular actress of the day, which contained, in reference to the play, the rather profane assurance, I shall offer up my prayers for your success.' To this Foote appended the comment, 'Mrs Cibber is a Catholic; and you know they always pray for the dead. His words, it need not be added, proved prophetic. The other anecdote relates to a farce by the same writer, entitled The Apprentice.' On the day after it was acted, Garrick and Dr Munsey paid him a visit. The former entered the dining-room, but his friend seemed bent on ascending the stairs. 'Dr Munsey, where are you going?' said Garrick. Up stairs, to see the author,' said Munsey. Pho! pho! Come down, the author is here.' The doctor accordingly entered the dining-room, and addressed, in his free and easy way, the master of the house-You scoundrel, I was going up to the garret. Who could think of finding an author on the first floor?' The remaining outlines of Garrick's life may be given in a few sentences. Playing now in London, now in Dublin, for about £500 a season (a sum which would now-a-days be thought paltry in the extreme for a first or even a second-rate actor), he continued to accept engagements for about five years. At the end of that period he became joint patentee and manager of Drury-Lane; an elevation which cost him £8000, and continued in that post, which was the climax of his ambition, during the remaining thirty years of his theatrical career. In July, 1749, he married an opera dancer, an Austrian by birth, but named, for the sake of euphony, Violetti. She proved a most affectionate and estimable wife.

On the 10th of June, 1766, Garrick, to the infinite regret of its frequenters, took leave of the stage; and having sold his share in Drury-Lane for £37,000, went to spend the evening of his days to his villa at Hampton. He did not long survive his retirement. Disease in the kidneys made rapid inroads on his constitution, and on the 20th of January, 1779, he breathed his last. On the 1st of February, his remains were interred in Westminster Abbey, several of the nobility acting as pall-bearers, and the train of carriages in attendance reaching from the Abbey to Charing-Cross. He was buried in Poet's Corner, near Shakspeare's monument, a proximity which probably suggested the idea of the epitaph on his own:

To paint fair nature, by divine command,
Her magic pencil in his glowing hand,
A Shakspeare rose; then, to expand his fame
Wide o'er the 'breathing world,' a Garrick came.
Though sunk in death the forms the poet drew,
The actor's genius bade them breathe anew;
Though, like the bard himself, in night they lay,
Immortal Garrick call'd them back to day;
And till eternity, with power sublime,
Shall mark the mortal hour of hoary Time,
Shakspeare and Garrick, like twin stars, shall shine,
And earth irradiate with a beam divine.

This epitaph, though not without its merits, is disfigured by the false taste and the false judgment of the age. Of all reputations that of an actor is of necessity the most ephemeral and evanescent. His fame is nearly as mortal as himself. To posterity his genius is merely traditional; it is from his cotemporaries alone he can elicit a warm admiration, or a hearty applause. To represent the conceptions of the ever-living Shakspeare as indebted for their future vitality to a man thus doubly dead, is therefore the height of absurdity. The universal charmer must not be named with even the most successful of the fleeting series of his interpreters-interpreters who may enhance, but who do not create, the spell that binds the nations. The star of Shakspeare's genius shines clear and calm; the acting even of Garrick is but the momentary blaze of a rocket, or rather the flash of a meteor, which is only seen when falling.

Of the immense disparity between the function of the poet and that of the player, no one could be more sensible than Garrick himself. Shakspeare he regarded with the most intense veneration. To impress his beauties on an artificial age-to wean the public from his unworthy rivals, and assert for the great national dramatist his due supremacy-was the aim of his professional life. Emphatically enough, though somewhat bombastically, he avowed it to be his principle, to lose no drop of that immortal man.' His enthusiasm expressed itself in the projection of a Shakspeare jubilee, which was held accordingly at Stratford-upon-Avon in the autumn of 1769, on which occasion he composed and recited an ode in honour of the immortal dramatist.

[ocr errors]

Although this and similar efforts are very far from being failures, they are all, notwithstanding, suggestive of the truth, that it is one thing to act and another to write naturally. Garrick was more in his element when versifying in a lighter vein. Here is an epigram on a snarling critic, who had published an ironical petition from the letters I and U, complaining of their being transposed by David Garrick, Esq., in such words as virtue pronounced vurtue, and ungrateful pronounced ingrateful:

If 'tis true, as you say, that I've injured a letter,
I'll change my note soon, and, I hope, for the better.
May the right use of letters, as well as of men,
Hereafter be fix'd by the tongue and the pen!
Most devoutly I wish they may both have their due,
And that I may be never mistaken for U!

On the point of his professional reputation, Garrick was peculiarly touchy. He dreaded, he felt sore under, and he schemed to avert, ebullitions of critical spleen which he could have well afforded to despise. The lines just cited, pleasing and humorous in themselves, are still a proof and product of this weakness in his character. The address he delivered on the night of his last appearance, exhibits at once a more agreeable trait in his disposition, and higher power in writing. Before bidding farewell to the stage, he had signalized himself as the liberal and zealous supporter of a fund for the relief of decayed actors. To this fund the proceeds of his last appearance were devoted; and the prologue he composed for that occasion presents, in pleasing alliance, his benevolence and his wit. Here is part of the address :

Might we but hope your zeal would not be less,
When I am gone, to patronize distress,
That hope obtain'd the wished-for end secures,
To soothe their cares who oft have lighten'd yours.
Shall the great heroes of celestial line,
Who drank full bowls of Greek and Roman wine-
Cæsar and Brutus, Agamemnon, Hector,

Nay, Jove himself, who here has quaff'd his nectar--
Shall they who govern'd fortune cringe and court her,
Thirst in their age, and call in vain for porter?
Shan't I, who oft have drench'd my hands in gore,
Stabb'd many, poison'd some, beheaded more,
Who numbers slew in battle on this plain,
Shan't I, the slayer, try to feed the slain?

Suppose the babes I smother'd in the tow'r,
By chance or sickness lose their acting power-
Shall they, once princes, worse than all be serv'd?
In childhood murder'd, and, when murder'd, starv'd!
Can I, young Hamlet once, to nature lost,
Behold, O horrible! my father's ghost,
With grizly beard, pale cheek, stalk up and down,
And he, the royal Dane, want half-a-crown?

[ocr errors]

In addition to some eighty prologues and epilogues, Garrick was the author (conjointly with Colman) of one admired comedy, The Clandestine Marriage,' as well as of several farces and interludes, popular enough in their time, but not calling for any special notice here.

In his personal character, Garrick seems to have been universally loved and respected. That he maintained in private life that propriety of feeling and action which induced him to correct the licentiousness of the stage, his intimacy with Samuel Johnson and Hannah More is a sufficient pledge. The latter has left a pleasing testimony to his domestic decorum and happiness, as well as to the personal excellence at once of Mrs Garrick and himself. 'I can never cease,' she writes, to remember, with affection and gratitude, so warm, steady, and disin

« PoprzedniaDalej »