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spiracy, and says, that all may be yet repaired. His only fear arises from the provident and sagacious spirit of Gaston, and of him he is determined to dispose. Here the third act ends, and, taken altogether, it must be acknowledged to be full of imperfections. Montfort's generosity, in forgiving so premeditated a crime, is exceedingly unlikely ; and the determination on the part of Lorédan to proceed in the accomplishment of his original intentions, presents him in an unfavourable light. The interest, too, undergoes a considerable declension. The conspiracy has been detected; and if it be afterwards successful, that circumstance arises more from the weakness of Montfort, than from the intrepidity of those who are involved in it. These defects indicate a want of experience in the author ; at the same time, he shews great skill, and even power, in the conduct of the scenes which are liable to these objections; and, with good acting, the force of the language would, in the representation, in a great measure hide these imperfections from the general notice,
The fourth act commences with an interview between Amelia and Loredan. The latter, with a wild and haggard aspect, conjures her to hear him for the last time: he asks her for the letter which was deli, vered to her, for the purpose of ensuring her safety, and the use she has made of it. She confesses that she has revealed the fatal secret to Montfort, and acknowledges her passion for him in this despicable line :
Mes coupables transports, mes feux ont éclaté. Nothing can be worse than this. It exemplifies those defects of the French stage which are visible to the most superficial observance, and which induce so many to undervalue their substantial deserts. This expression is the very quintessence of common-place—and of commonplace of the worst kind. She who has been made the depositary of a dreadful secret, by the man who sacrifices his own honour by his anxiety for her preservation, should be furnished by the poet with some most impassioned apology for such a breach of trust. But in place of seeking, in the eloquence of enthusiastic love, allied with the nobler sympathies of humanity, for a justification of her conduct, the lady is contented with declaring that her flames have broken out. The expression “Mes feux," which occurs so often in French tragedy, and the many other trivialities by which real passion is wasted and reduced in French versification, cannot be too strenuously reprehended. How often do we meet " Madame," rhyming with the wretched expletive of “ flamme," and that even in the works of the best poets. The reader is congealed by such frozen common-place. When such paltry phrases intrude themselves in the midst of real passion, they are the more censurable from the vitiation which they produce of what would in itself be beautiful, if unattended with these miserable sophistications; yet the writer who employs them is rather guilty of haste and negligence, than of mediocrity. He is invited to the commission of these defects by the obvious coincidence of the rhyme-he is importuned by the very facilities which offer themselves to his ear, and verifies the boast of Boileau, that he taught Racine how to rhyme with difficulty.
(To be concluded in our next.)
THE MISERIES OF REALITY.
SHAKSPEARE. I wish I had been born in that bloom and spring of the young world which modern phlegmatists presume to denominate the fabulous ages. To have died then would have been better than to live now; for methinks I might have left a name alone whose shadowy existence should have been sweeter than my present dull and lustreless vitality. When the beautiful Helle fell from the golden-fleeced ram into the sea, since called the Hellespont, I might, perchance, (for I am as stout a swimmer as Leander,) have supported her fainting loveliness to the Propontic shore:-might I not have arrested the flight of Cupid when the fatal curiosity of the trembling Psyche shook the oil from her suspended lamp and broke his slumbers; or have assisted Arethusa in the rescue of Proserpine, when “swarthy Dis” tore her from the flowers that she was gathering
“ in Enna's field, beside Pergusa's lake,” and so have left my name to be entwined with those rose-like nymphs in the unfading wreaths of poesy !--Of one thing I am confident; I should have joined the expedition of the Argonauts. My feet would have instinctively hurried me to the sea-shore,
“ When Hercules advanced with Hylas in his hand,
Where Castor and Pollux stood ready on the strand,
Gave the signal to the heroes, when they jump'd on board;" for even now I have taken the same leap with my imagination. I feel myself shaking hands with the warriors and demigods, the sons of Jupiter, Neptune, Bacchus, and the winds, who formed the glorious crew; I taste the banquet and hear the music in the Cave of Chiron; I see the enamoured Naiads stretching up their white arms to pull the blooming Hylas into their fountain as he stoops to fill his vase; and I feel myself a partaker in the adventures with the Harpies and Sirens, and all the magic and mystery of Medea and the Golden Fleece. What a delicious perpetuity of stimulus and excitement, when the unexplored world was not only a continual novelty, offering fresh nations and wilder wonders with every new coast that was navigated or country that was explored, but supernatural prodigies. “Gorgons, and Hydras, and chimeras dire,” established themselves in every lone mountain and sequestered cave; and the woods, waves, and fields were peopled with satyrs, fauns, and nymphs, while innumerable deities, hovering in the elements, occasionally presented themselves to human vision. In those imaginative days the faculties of man kept bounding from one enchantment to another. All nature was ready-made poetry, and life itself the very quintessence of vitality.
Oh, the contrast of the present !- We have passed through all the stages of civilization, and arrived at the antipodes of the fabulous; the world is in its old age; the fountain of its young fancies is as dry and dusty as a turnpike-road. We have fallen upon evil days, ay, and upon evil tongues too, for there is a suicidal rage for destroying the imaginations of our own youth, and degrading into bald, hateful alle. gory all the poetic visions and romantic illusions of the world's infancy. It is a dull, plodding, scientific, money-getting, measuring, calculating, incredulous, cold, phlegmatic, physical age-a tangible world, limited
to the proof of sense-a horrible æra of fact. We have dragged up Truth from the bottom of a well, and looking through her muddy spectacles, refuse to see any thing beyond our nose. If it appear too startling to aver that ignorance is bliss, I can maintain, from my own experience, that it is sometimes a misery to grow wise. With what awful wonder, not untempered by delight, have I, when a boy, contemplated a Will-o'-the-wisp, or Jack-o'-lanthorn, especially if he performed his luminous minuet in the vicinity of a church-yard; and how intensely was I interested in Dr. Shaw's account of the mysterious ignis fatuus which attended his whole company for above an hour in the valleys of Mount Ephraim, in the Holy Land; not to mention the numerous ballads and stories illuminated by the presence of this ominous flame. Alas! it never appears to me now, and if it did, I should only recollect that one nasty philosopher has assured me it is generated by putrescence; another maintains it to be gaseous; and I bave the satisfaction of reflecting that, under a new modification, I may every night see those fine old mysterious personages,Jack and Will, imprisoned in a lamp, and shedding their innocuous light upon the gutters of Thames-street and Pudding-lane. Their near relation, the fire-damp, the destructive agency of which, in 'mines, has riveted my attention to many a tale of terror, has, by another lamp, been rendered so passive and uninflammable, that he now takes fire at nothing, and affords no materials for sympathy or fear.
Thunder and lightning have lost many of their sublime associations, since I have learnt the theory of their production. Every theatre contains a Salmoneus—the electric fluid has been brought down from Heaven by a Prometheus in the shape of a kite, and we have even converted it into a plaything, bidding it stream from our knuckles at the working of a glass machine. Not content with familiarizing and degrading every thing that was grandly real, we have utterly annihilated all that was strikingly illusory. As to the man in the moon, whose features I could once distinctly recognize, I take it for granted that he has long since been had up, or rather down, to Bow-street, and committed as a vagrant. The Patagonian giants of Magellan, and the nine-feet high Tartarians of Ferdinand Mendez Pinio, have no more real existence than the Brobdignaggians of Swift; and as to the “Anthropophagi and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders,” our cursed good sense compels us to laugh at them as ridiculous and unwarrantable fictions. Let no author calculate on being able to invent any thing permanently supernatural and appalling; all his impossibilities will be realized, his mysteries familiarized. Does the reader recollect the Spectre Boat in Coleridge's Ancient Mariners, or the Storm Ship in Washington Irving's story of Dolph-Heyliger, which, to the consternation of nautical eyes, was seen ploughing up the waves, at the rate of ten knots an hour in a dead calm, or sailing with great velocity right against the wind and tide, manifestly impelled in this preternatural manner by spectral or diabolic influence? These watery apparitions have lost their terrors: the boiling of a kettle has dissolved the mystery; an impalpable vapour performs all these prodigies at once, and we go to Richmond and back in the steam-boat, against wind and tide, by the aid of no other demons than a copper of water and half a chaldron of coals. Ghosts of all sorts have been compelled to give up the ghost, and the Red Sea must possess incres dible shoals of exorcised apparitions. The unicorn is defunct as an imaginary animal; it has been recently discovered in the interior of Asia, and now only lives in stupid reality. A stuffed mermaid, according to the papers, has already arrived in the River Thames, and will shortly be exhibited in Piccadilly. Sphinxes, griffins, hyppogriffs, wiverns, and all the motley combinations of heraldry, will, probably, be soon visible at sixpence a head; while the thought-bewildering family of witches, wizards, and conjurers, spite of the demonology of King James and the authority of the sorceress of Endor, have been all burnt out and obliged to move over the way-into the verge of history. Oar judges no longer, like Sir Matthew Hale, fall upon their knees after condemning an old woman to be burnt for witchcraft, and thank God that they have not departed from the approved wisdom and venerable institutions of our ancestors; but content themselves with applying the same phraseology to other abuses equally inhuman, and alike destined to correction in the progress of light and reason. Oberon and Titania, and Puck and Robin Goodfellow, and all the train of “ urchins, ouphies, fairies green and white," who were wont, with tiny feet, to imprint the mystic ring upon our meadows, and drop the magic tester in cleanly chambers, whither are ye fled? Ye are gone, with the “ giants of mighty bone and bold emprise,” to people the belief of less sensual nations, leaving us to grope our lonely way through this ignorant present, these dark ages of the mind, this night of fancy, this tomb of the imagination.
I myself, simpleton that I am, have been instrumental in defrauding my mind of some of its most hallowed and romantic impressions, by joining the rabble rout whom the peace vomited forth to penetrate into all the sanctuaries of the Continent. What vague and reverential notions had I of the interior of a Catholic church !-how deeply interesting to read, at the commencement of a romance, that “the evening bell was just tolling for vespers, when the beautiful Donna Clara, attended by her Duenna, entered the great church of St. Ildephonso, at Madrid !”-and what a rich association of gorgeous shrines, lovely nuns, choral monks, mellow symphonies, floated up at the bidding of this simple exordium! I have stood in these churches. Heavens! what a revulsion! It is like being admitted behind the scenes at a theatre. I have seen them used as a thoroughfare by porters and errand-boys, making a short cut from one door to another, first carefully dipping their dirty fingers in a puddle of holy water ;-I have gazed upon shrines of tin and tinsel faring in the sickly light of two farthing rushlights;—I have beheld nuns, old, ugly, and corpulent, with a bundle of keys, relics, and trumpery at their girdle ; and as to getting a glimpse of even one that was loveable--filthy hags! I wouldn't cross a five-barred gate to kiss a whole convent.
Rousseau's Hermitage, spite of its pastoral appellation and the glowing eloquence with which he has painted its rural charms, I found to be a vulgar cockney edifice; while the woods of Montmorenci, beneath whose shades his Muse received inspiration, have dwindled down into a quincunx of poplars. A vineyard which my imagination had clothed with all sorts of scriptural and poetical embellishments, appeared, upon actual inspection, little more romantic than a potato-field, and infinitely less picturesque than our Kentish hop-grounds.—This was a violent slap on the mental face, but my elastic hopes still sug
gested a consolation : France, said I, is a flat, unlovely country--the least interesting in Europe ; but Clarens, the groves of Clarens, which fired the imagination of the sensitive author of "La Nouvelle Heloïse," and inspired those eloquent outpourings of love which — short, I fed upon the expectation of these leafy landscapes, until I arrived in Switzerland, when, with a throbbing heart, I hurried to the scene of enchantment, and was horrified by a grisly apparition of stumps, the hallowed woods having been lately cut down by the monks of St. Bernard to supply fuel for boiling their miserable broths and pottages. Oh, the sacrilegious, soup-eating old curmudgeons! Still sanguine, I looked forward to Rome: the eternal city could not, at all events, disappoint me. On my arrival, I engaged an erudite Cicerone, who took me to one of the most celebrated remains of antiquity, consisting of a few mouldering walls scarcely elevated above the surface, which I found, according to the researches of the most learned investigators, was the unquestionable site either of a theatre, or a forum, or a palace, or public baths, but they had not yet settled which. Few of the other ruins were better defined or appropriated; and as to the locality of the ancient city, the topographers agreed in nothing but in ridiculing each other's decisions. Thus I went on, trampling down some beautiful illusion at every step I took, shattering with my carriage-wheels all the fair forms which my imagination had set up by the road side, and perpetually substituting the real for the ideal, to my own infinite loss in the exchange.
But I saved nothing by returning home; for the farther mischief which I had refrained from perpetrating myself, had been committed by others. The whole earth had been rummaged by restless tourists : my table was loaded with travels, and my pathway beset with panoramas desecrating every thing that was holy, familiarizing the romantic, and reducing the wild and visionary to a printed scale of yards, feet, and inches. The new world is now as neighbourly as the New River, and the Terra Incognita is as well known as the Greenwich Road. Athens is removed to the Strand, the North Pole to Leicester Square ; Memnon's head, with a granite wedge for a beard, is set up in Great Russel Street, the Parthenon is by its side, the tomb of Psammis is open to all the passengers of Piccadilly, Alexander's sarcophagus may be seen every day except Sunday, Cleopatra's needle is on its way to Wapping, and all the wonders of the world are become as familiar to the cockneys of London as the Chelsea Bun-house or the pump at Aldgate.
All my waking dreams are dissolved, and I might define myself as a two-legged matter-of-fact, but for the fortunate circumstance that the illusions of my sleep seem to become more vivid as those of the external world fade and die away. The nightmare has not yet been put in the pound, or carried to the green-yard. The phantasms of the brain, conjured up by the wizard Moon and the sorceress Night, are beyond the jurisdiction of travellers, painters, or allegorists. No meddling Ithuriel starts from amid their shadows to withdraw the veil of fancy and show me the dowdy features of truth; thither, therefore, does my imagination delight to escape from this benumbing world of matter and reality, so gladly abandoning itself to the wild abstractions of dreams, that I pursue them long after I am awake, and when they melt into day-light I can almost sit down, like Caliban, and cry to sleep again.