« AnteriorContinuar »
De Courcy in vain attempted to assimilate his conversation to that of the party, by quoting such religious works as were known. to him. The chilling words. Arminian' or 'heterodox' were applied to those popular preachers whose sermons he ventured to quote; and even Coelebs was appealed to without effect, as he was given to understand that Hannah More, however apostolical in the eyes of Lord Orford, was held light in the estimation of the present system. Thus repulsed from the society of the gentlemen. When he arrived in the drawing room, the same monotonous and repulsive stillness; the same dry circle (in whose verge no spirit could be raised) reduced him to the same petrifying medium with all around. The females were collected round the tea-table; the conversation was carried on in pensive whispers ; a large table near them was spread with evangelical tracts, &c. The room was hung with dark-brown paper; and the four unsnuffed candles burning dimly (the light of two of them almost absorbed in the dark bays that covered the table on which they stood), gave just the light that Young might have written by, when the Duke of Grafton sent him a human skull, with a taper in it, as an appropriate candelabrum for his tragedy writing-desk. The ladies sometimes took up these tracts, shook a head of deep conviction over their contents, laid them down, and the same stillness recurred. The very hissing of the tea-urn, and the crackling of the coals, was a relief to De Courcy's ears.' I. 69, 70.
Notwithstanding the gloom and spiritual pride in which she . had been educated, the beauty and sweet disposition of Eva burned with pure and pale splendour, like a lamp in a sepulchre; and De Courcy nourished for her that desperate attachment with which youths of seventeen resign themselves to the first impression of the tender passion. He becomes in love--to pining, to sickness, almost to death; and at length prevails upon his worthy and affectionate guardian to make proposals for him to the guardians of Eva. Mr and Mrs Wentworth both urge the utter impropriety of their countenancing a connexion between young persons so opposite in religious opinions; but are gradually compelled to give ground,—the former by consideration of De Courcy's worldly wealth, to which his religious opinions had not rendered him indifferent,--and his more amiable wife, by her compassion for the state of the young Eva, and her discovering that he had awakened sentiments in the breast of Eva corresponding to his own.
De Courcy is therefore received, on the footing of an acknowledged lover, into the house of the Wentworths, exposed however to the persecutions of the father and many of his visiters, who were resolved at all rates to achieve his conversion. - Charles at first yielded from timidity, or answered from com- .
VOL. XXX. NO. 59.
plaisance, but at length found himself, by the pertinacity of the disputants, inextricably involved in the mazes of controversy. Every hour he was called on to discuss or to decide on points above human comprehension ; he was pressed with importunities about his spiritual state, which was represented to depend on his adopting the separate creed of every individual speaker, with all its divisions and subdivisions, and shades of difference, that seemed to him to give to airy nothing “ a local habitation and a name.”' p. 117.
Even when he turned from this persecution to Eva, he did not at all times find the relief which he expected. Her purity, her inexperience, her timidity, and the absolute subjection of her mind to religious feeling exclusively, prevented her from understanding or returning the warmth of affection with which her lover regarded her. She was cold and constrained; blamed herself for the slightest deviation into worldly passion and human feeling-in short, the person in the world least qualified to return the affection of an enthsiastic young Irishman. Her accomplishments were upon the same narrow and constrained scale as her feelings. She could discourse exquisite music, but not one earthly song; and the warm expressions of human passion which occurred in her evangelical hymns, were only addressed to the Deity with an amorous pastoral feeling, which seemed to her lover equally unsuitable and nonsensical. Again, Eva, in her little sphere of enjoyments, cultivated drawing; but it was only that of flowers -objects as pure, as fair, and as inanimate, we had almost said, as herself. To feelings of imagination and passion, she was equally averse and impassive; and such appeared to be the tranquil purity of her still and orderly existence, that De Courcy felt it almost criminal to strive to awaken her imagination, to delude her with the visions of fancy;' and that it resembled the attempt of the fallen angels in Milton to 4 mingle strange fire' with the lights of heaven. He did his best, however, and called in the aid of antient and modern bards to enable him to dispute the too exclusive empire of heaven in her bosom.
“ Why are you so silent, Eva ?” he said, as they returned from the conventicle which the Wentworths frequented." I was thinking of that fine text.”_" What was it ? "_" What was it?” said Eva, almost relinquishing his arm, from a feeling stronger and more unpleasant than surprise, for she had no idea of any one forgetting the text so soon.- *I have a bad memory—or a bad headach,” said De Courcy, trying to smile away her amazement—" or, perhaps, I would rather hear it from your lips than those of that darkbrowed sallow man.”_" It is little matter,” said Eva, “ from what lips we hear the truth. The text was, “God is Love.'” “Oh, Eva!” said De Courcy, under an impulse he could not resist, “ do we require any thing more than this dark-blue sky, this balmy air, those lovely stars that glitter like islands of light in an immeasurable ocean, and point out our destination amid its bright and boundless infinity, to tell us that "God is Love? Why must we learn it in the close and heated air of a conventicle, with all its repulsive accompaniments of gloomy looks, sombre habits, dim lights, nasal hymns ? Are these the interpreters the Deity employs as the intimations of his love ? "-" They are,” said Eva, awakened to an answer, but never thus awakened for more than a moment, " they are. For to the poor the gospel is preached, and they seldom feel any thing of the atmosphere but its inclemency,—to the sick, and they cannot encounter it to the unhappy, and they cannot enjoy it.” p. 142-144.
It was scarce possible that this conflict should have long continued, without the lover becoming colder, and more sensible to the various disagreeable points of his situation, or the beloved condescending to descend a few steps towards earth from the point of quietism which she occupied. De Courcy began to relax. Ball-rooms, billiard-tables, and theatres disputed the charms even of Eva's society, since he could only enjoy it in the gloomy conventicle, or scarce less gloomy mansion of the Wentworths; and then, alternately repulsed by her coldness, and exasperated by the officious zeal of Wentworth, or the more studied insults of Macowen, who looked upon his addresses to Eva as an interference with his own views. At the moment when the irreconcileable difference between his sentiments and habits, and those of all in Dominic Street, became less capable of disguise, and just as the good man Wentworth was triumphing in an approaching controversy, in which a Socinian, a Catholic, an Arian, and an Arminian were, in knightly phrase, to keep the barriers against twelve resolute Catholics, De Courcy discovers in the papers the arrival of Madame Dalmatiani, the first singer, as well as the first tragic actress in Europe. This lady was pronounced, by the general report of Europe, to be a Siddons, a Catalani, à La Tiranna, with all the terrible Medea graces, all the Muses in short, and all the Graces embodied in the form of a female of exquisite beauty. To De Courcy's ill-timed eulogium on this celebrated performer, Wentworth answered in a strain of triumph, · Every histriomastrix, from Tertullian down to Prynne and Collier, might have been raised from the dead with joy. He cursed stages, stage-plays, stage-players, frequenters and abetters, from Thespis down to Mr Harris and the committee of Drury-Lane, lamp-lighters, scene-shifters, and candle-snuffers inclusive, not forgetting a by-blow at De Courcy for visiting those tents of Kedar, ' The votary of the drama and its abominator parted
in mutual wrath, and De Courcy had an additional motive, besides those of curiosity and interest, to go to the theatre: he desired to show his independence, and his sense of Wentworth's illiberal prejudices.
To the theatre, accordingly, he went, and the appearance and effect produced by this celebrated actress, is thus vividly described.
• A brilliant audience, lights, music, and the murmur of delighted expectation, prepared Charles for a far different object from Eva. What a contrast, in the very introduction, between the dark habits, pale lights, solemn music, and awful language of a conventicle, and the gaiety and splendour of a theatre! He felt already disposed to look with delight on one who was so brightly harbingered, though it was amid a scene so different his first impressions of passion had been received and felt. The curtain rose ; and, in a few moments after, Madame Dalmatiani entered. She rushed so rapidly on the stage, and burst with such an overwhelming cataract of sound on the ear, in a bravura that seemed composed apparently not to task, but to defy the human voice, that all eyes were dazzled, and all ears stunned ; and several minutes elapsed before a thunder of applause testified the astonishment from which the audience appeared scarcely then to respire. She was in the character of a princess, alternately reproaching and supplicating a tyrant for the fate of her lover; and such was her perfect self-possession, or rather the force with which she entered into the character, that she no more noticed the applauses that thundered round her, than if she had been the individual she represented ; and such was the illusion of her figure, her costume, her voice, and her attitudes, that in a few moments the inspiration with which she was agitated was communicated to every spectator. The sublime and sculpture-like perfection of her form,the classical, yet unstudied undulation of her attitudes, almost conveying the idea of a sybil or a prophetess under the force of ancient inspiration,--the resplendent and almost overpowering lustre of her beauty, her sun-like eyes, her snowy arms, her drapery blazing with diamonds, yet falling round her figure in folds as light as if the zephyrs had flung it there, and delighted to sport among its wayings; her imperial loveliness, at once attractive and commanding, and her voice developing all that nature could give, or art could teach, maddening the ignorant with the discovery of a new sense, and daring " the scientific beyond the bounds of expectation or of experience, mocking their amazement, and leaving the ear breathless-All these burst at once on Charles, whose heart, and senses, and mind, reeled in intoxication, and felt pleasure annihilated by its own excess.'
* It was for the last scene she had reserved her powers,--those astonishing powers that could blend the most exquisite tones af melody with the fiercest agitations of passion, that could delight the ear, while they shook the soul. She came forward, after having
stabbed the tyrant to avenge the fate of her lover. Her dress was deranged,- her long black hair Aoated on her shoulders,—the flowers and diamonds that bound it were flung back,—and her bare arms, her dark fixed eyes, the unconscious look with which she grasped the dagger, and the unfelt motion with which from time to time she raised her hand to wipe off the trace of blood from her pale forehead, made the spectators almost tremble for the next victim of one who seemed armed with the beauty, the passions, and the terrors of an avenging goddess. Applauses that shook the house had marked every scene but the last. When the curtain dropt, a dead silence pervaded the whole theatre, and a deep sigh proclaimed relief from oppression no longer supportable.' I. p. 160-164.
It cannot have escaped the intelligent reader, that this superb Queen of terror and sorrow, this mistress of all the movements of the human heart, is the highly accomplished, brilliant, and fascinating Zaira, the mother of the simple, retired, and evangelical Eva; and it can as little escape his penetration, that she is about to become the unconscious rival of her unfortunate child, in the affections of the fickle De Courcy. The death of her wretched husband had left Zaira possessed of the wealth which her talents had acquired, and she was now come to Ireland, with the hope of obtaining from her father, some lights concerning the destiny of her infant child. By his stern injunction, she retained her borrowed name and public character. i
De Courcy had a nominal guardian, a silly man of fortune, called Sir Richard Longwood, whose silly wife had presented him with two daughters, whom we must pronounce rather too silly for the rank which they are represented as holding in good society. At the house and the parties of Lady Longwood, De Courcy is thrown into the society of Zaira, rendered doubly dangerous by her various talents and extent of cultivation, as well as her brilliancy of taste, feeling, mind, and manners, forming so strong a contrast with the uniform simplicity and limited character of poor Eva. Yet it was Eva whom he visited after the first evening spent in the fascinating society of Zaira, ere yet he paid his respects to the syren whose image had begun to eclipse her in his bosom."
Eva and her aunt were at work; the room was large; the darka brown paper, two candles dimly burning on the work-table, the silent quiet figures that sat beside it, the shelves loaded with volumes of divinity, the still sombrous air of every thing ; no musical instrument, no flowers, no paintings; what a contrast to the scene he had last witnessed, and to the scene he was hastening to!' p. 199.
Here he asked for books, and had his choice of Sandeman's · Letters, Boston's Fourfold State, Gill on Isaiah, or Owen on the Hebrews. Milton was the only author of* genius permitted to