« AnteriorContinuar »
is impossible to hear a word that passes on the stage at any greater distance from it than about the sixth or seventh row of the pit, unless there is an absolute silence and attention preserved in every part of the house. Now, as this silence and attention are never preserved in any part of the house, it necessarily follows, that every thing which takes place on the stage is absolutely unintelligible to almost every person present, except the few who are situated in the front of the pit. I declare to you, that this is an unexaggerated statement of my own experience on the subject. I have repeatedly been to every part of the house, and found that, except when I was in the front of the pit, I could as little judge of the performance, and be as little amused and interested by it, as if I had been anywhere else. I have said that the persons in the pit actually come to see and hear the performance; and consequently they pay a tolerable degree of attention to it: but nothing like the same degree that is paid by the same class of persons in a French theatre. As to the other parts of the audience, the performance is on ordinary occasions quite a secondary matter with them: they go to the theatre to shew themselves, or to meet with their friends, or to escape from their enemy-ennui, or because they have nothing else to do, or because if they do not go they cannot have to say tomorrow that they were at the theatre last night; (and if they had not this to say, what could they say ?)—or they go for any reason you choose to imagine, except to see and attend to what is going forward on the stage. To expect an Englishman to go out of and forget himself, in order to attend to what “ does not concern him," as he would say, would be a most unreasonable and unphilosophical expectation
indeed, and one which he would consider as a mere impertinence. suppose he has nothing better to do than listen to Romeo making love? or watch Macbeth scaling the dangerous heights of ambition? or be tossed bither and thither with Othello on the tumbling ocean of passion? or accompany Hamlet, as he pierces the depths of our mortal life?-I can assure you that he is able to find much more attractive and edifying subjects of cogitation. He is thinking of the money he made yesterday by the turn of stocks, and that which he shall make tomorrow by a projected speculation; or of the new house he is building on Clapham Common, and how he shall furnish this or that room in it; or of the new horse he bought to-day, and means to sport in the Park tomorrow; or of fifty other things equally instructive and interesting,-all of which he can think of at the theatre as well as any where else, otherwise he would not go there.
From all this it results that the audience part of an English theatre presents a scene which in a Paris theatre would be considered as one of actual disturbance and confusion; and during the continuance of which, or of a tenth part of it, the performance would not be permitted to proceed for a moment. During the first act of the play (which is frequently the most interesting, and always that which is most necessary to be attended to in order to the proper understanding and appreciating of what follows) you are amused with the perpetual opening and shutting of box doors and the audible calls of “ Mrs. so and so's places ;" for if you have taken a place, it is quite maurais ton to arrive at it before the performance begins. This, added to the perpetual whispering, and frequently the audible talking, which surrounds you in all the
boxes; and the mingled sounds of singing, shouting, laughing, whistling, cat-calling, quarrelling and fighting, that proceed at intervals from the two galleries, the frequenters of which wisely and naturally enough take the best means they can of amusing themselves, since their distance from the stage precludes them from hearing, and almost from seeing, any thing that passes there;—this, I say, altogether presents a scene little to be expected in the national theatre of a polished people; but still little to be wondered at when the size of the house is considered, and when it is remembered, too, that the English are a people who cannot for any length of time go out of their individual selves, even in search of amusement; or, rather, who cannot find amusement in anything which takes them out of themselves.
When I have noticed that with their want of regard to what is due to the sex, the men frequently wear their hats and great-coats in the boxes; sit in front while there are females sitting behind; rise between the acts and sit on the front of the boxes, with their backs to the audience; get up to go away in the middle of an interesting scene, and thus force the whole company in a box to rise and let them pass; and commit various other breaches of good-manners and decorum of the same kind; I have told you enough to let you know that an English theatre—with all the splendour of its embellishments, the beauty of its scenery, and the grandeur of its effect as a coup-d'ail—is sadly inferior to a French theatre as a place of elegant and refined amusement for a polished and intellectual people.
I now willingly turn to the English actors, lamenting that they do not meet with audiences more worthy of them, or (which perhaps amounts to the same thing) that they have not moderate-sized theatres, where they could create for themselves such audiences ; for, to be able to see and hear some of the best English actors, and not to yield them attention and admiration, seems to demand a degree of uncivilized insensibility which can scarcely be supposed to belong to a nation that could produce such actors. And, in fact, the general admiration and even enthusiasm which the actors I am speaking of excite, and the brilliant and just reputation they enjoy (by reflection, I suppose, from the few who really do see, hear, and appreciate them, to the
many who do not), prove that a very great share of the fault belongs to the enormous size of the theatres, and the consequent necessity, or at least the temptation, that a great portion of the audience are under (since they go there for amusement and pay so dearly for going) to do what they can to amuse themselves.
EPIGRAM, FROM THE ITALIAN OF PANANTI.
“ Pentiti a un dissoluto moribondo." Repent, my son,” a friar said
To the sick patient on his bed.
At the stairs' foot, thy soul to catch.”
Why, like an ass,” the inonk replied.
REPÚBLIC OF PLATO.* SUPPOSING; however, that in spite of all these unfavourable circumstances, a genuine philosopher'should be really formed these same obstructions will render him altogether impotent in effecting improvement, and will condemn him to an inactive and silent existence. There is no ally with whom he can combine to produce results of genuine benefit; the people are averse to him, and are excited to the manifestation of their hostility by the interested parties who flatter their opinions. (p. 221.) The same politicians, who would joyfully have embodied his eminent powers in the prosecution of their own partyviews, become his most bitter enemies when he aims at a real reform. (p. 222.) He is ill-versed in those intrigues and petty expedients which form the chief accomplishment of the politicians of the day, nor can be maintain a constant struggle for the possession of power. His time has been employed in the acquisition of the important task of legislating beneficially for mankind, and he is therefore necessarily inferior in the arts of cabal, to those who have paid no attention to any loftier study. (p. 213.) Such, among others, are the circumstances which drive the real philosopher into retirement, and render so striking a combination of excellent qualities unproductive of any beneficial result. And thus the apparent inutility with which, in the actual state of human institutions, even the perfection of philosophy is reproached, is most satisfactorily explained.
But it has been already remarked, that the tendency of the system would be to withdraw the finest intellects from the cultivation of philosophy, by holding out uncommon inducement to temporary cabal and political intrigue. Philosophy therefore naturally becomes the department of inferior and secondary spirits, who, eagerly springing into the place which the removal of their superiors has left vacant, arrogate to themselves that respect which so important a science, even in this degenerate state, never fails to command. Incapacity and narrowness of views 'conspire with the demand for immediate patronage in recommending to them that bastard and wretched (volla kai pavia) morality, built upon popular sophisms, (προσήκοντα ακεσαι σοφίσματα) which merely Aatters the prevailing tastes. And thus the worthless characters and talents of those who cultivate philosophy are also completely accounted for.
There is no mode of remedying the melancholy depravation of this mother-science, except by an amelioration of the system of government. “ No existing government," says Plato, “is worthy of a real philosopher.”+ To present a proper stimulus to the developement of philosophy, and a sphere in which at may really become effective, it is indispensable that the system of government should be re-constructed, and that there should be established in the state • a power guided by the same views as those which would dictate the regulations of the Platonic legislator.": It is no wonder, says Plato, that the generality of people reject
* Continued from page 76. * Μηδεμίαν άξίαν είναι των νυν κατάσασιν πόλεως, φιλοσόφο φύσεως. p. 225.
1 Διήσει τι αεί εγείναι εν τη πόλει, λόγον έχον της πολιτείας τον αυτόν όπερ και το και νομοθέτης έχων τες νόμες ετίθης. p. 226.
these doctrines. They have never seen any thing of the kind realized; they bave never witnessed a virtuous man, or a virtuous class of men, at the head of a government; nor have they ever been accustomed to hear honourable and free addresses, connectedly devoted to the discovery of the truth. "(pp. 227, 228.) The community are not to be indiscriminately condemned, but endeavours are to be used to unfold to them the philosophical character, and to dissipate the obloquy which has been heaped upon it, by a calm statement of facts ; in order that they may not imagine that we are eulogizing those whom they are accustomed to hear called philosophers.* If they see the matter in this light, will they not alter their opinions? The reason why the people are unfavourably disposed towards philosophy, is on account of those who have improperly intruded themselves into the science; who are full of hatred and insult towards each other, and whose discourse consists of nothing but personalities. I The genuine philosopher has neither leisure nor inclination for this war of abuse. He desires only an opportunity of applying his principles. And if a demand should arise for his interference—if he should be permitted to mould human institutions and manners, according to that pattern which study and meditation have traced out to himself—it will be generally acknowledged that from him alone can the public virtue and happiness emanate. (p. 230.)
Should a king or ruler endeavour to apply these principles, there is great probability that he would fail and be ruined in the attempt. But some one or other, in the lapse of ages, must at last succeed; and he would not find it impossible, in establishing the Platonic regulations, to create consent on the part of the citizens. $
Having thus exposed the manner in which a vicious government de bases the current philosophy, Plato next unfolds, more in detail, the process of education by which the mind might be best adapted for the all-important task of guiding and governing mankind. In early youth his chief attention would be given to the body, to render it strong and healthy, to prepare it for military fatigue, and to make it an efficient minister of a philosophical mind. || The boys are also to be taken within sight of battles and danger, and their behaviour under these circumstances to be watched. After this, the mental exercises are to be presented to them; + for Plato would not apply the least severity to enforce learning, in case of reluctance on the part of the pupil. He is of opinion, that no compulsory acquisition ever impresses itself deeply on the mind; that slavish machinery should not be brought to bear upon a freeman; and that the youthful genius may be more fully detected and appreciated, if there is no forcible interference with its proceedings. (pp. 276, 277.) Arithmetic, geometry, and mathema
Μή πάνυ έτω των πολλών κατηγόρει, &c. p. 229. * *Η είει τινα χαλεπαίνειν τα μη χαλεπώ, ή φθονεϊν τω μή φθονερό, άφθoνόν τε και πράονόντα και εγω μεν γάρ σε προφθάσας λέγω, ότι εν ολίγοις τισιν' ηγεμαι αλλ' εκ εν τη πλήθει, χαλεπήν ότω φύσιν έγγίγνεσθαι. ibid. ,
1 To χαλεπώς προς φιλοσοφίαν τις πολλές διακείσθαι, εκείνες αιτίως είναι τις έξωθεν μη προσήκον επισκεκωμακότας, λοιδορεμένος τι αυτούς και φιλαπεχθημόνως έχοντας, και άει περί ανθρώπων τες λόγος ποιημένος. ibid.
και Εθέλειν ποιείν τας πολίτας. p. 232. Η Υπηρεσίαν φιλοσοφία κτωμένος. p. 227. + Παϊσιν έσι χρή προβάλλειν. .
tical astronomy, will form the chief object of their study. For all mental application ought, in Plato's opinion, to be subservient to one grand end-to withdraw the mind from the contemplation of particulars, which are ever variable and fluctuating, and to fix it upon those eternal ideas of which these particulars are the manifestations. By this method alone can the knowledge of truth and good be attained. To unfold therefore the ratiocinative powers; to enable a man to penetrate by means of his intellect, extricated from the disturbing influence of sensation, into the essence and reality of things,* is the leading purpose of all instruction. This power of investigation and analysis, accompanied with the capacity of stating and illustrating its results in conversation, is called by Plato the dialectic power.f Mathematical studies appear to him highly conducive to the formation of this power ; inasmuch as the particular subjects of the reasoning hardly arrest the mind at all, but transmit it onward to the general truths which are the object of research. (p. 264.) Plato says, however, that this leading purpose was not recognised in the actual state of mathematical tuition. (p. 263.), Astronomy also he remarks to have been abused in the same manner, (p. 268,) and also music. (p. 269.)
But though the creation of this dialectic power be the ultimate design of the Platonic education, yet it is no part of our philosopher's system to commence the teaching of it at an early age. If communicated thus prematurely, it will, he thinks, be misemployed, and diverted to childish and paradoxical contention : and since it requires less skill to refute by means of sophistry, than to ward off a sophistical attack, children will make use of the art indiscriminately against truth and falsehood:—their means of discerning the former from the latter will thus be impaired, and a sceptical indifference generated in their minds. (p. 280.) For these reasons Plato proposes a preliminary education of the particular sciences (T por aideia, p. 276). From the time of the completion of their bodily training, until twenty years of age, (p. 277,) they are to be employed in these particular studies, the principal of which seem to be geometrical and mathematical. I At that age, the most eminent among them (oi a pokpıévres) are to vary, in some degree, their mode of study. Their attention is to be brought more to the points of union and contact among these sciences, and they are to be taught to abstract what all have in common, from that which distin• guishes any one in particular. They are thus to be gradually withdrawn from particulars, and approximated to the study of general truth. § By this previous noviciate their aptitude for dialectic exercises will be measured; and, at thirty years of age, those whose forwardness is the most distinguished || are to be advanced to a more honourable post, and are considered fit to embark directly and avowedly in that important study. They are to employ themselves exclusively in this exercise for five years. At thirty-five years of age, they will com
* Δια το λόγο επ' αυτό και έσιν έκαςον ορμά. p. 270.
$ Τα χύδην μαθήματα σάισιν εν τη παιδεια γενόμενα, τέτοις συνακτέον, είς σύνοψιν οικειότητος αλλήλων των μαθημάτων, και της το όντος φύσεως. p. 277.
|| 'Εκ των προκρίτων προκρινάμενον. p. 278. + 'Επί λόγων μεταλήψει ενδελεχώς και συντόνως μείναι μηδέν άλλο πράττοντι. p. 281.