Слике страница

he would have seen something like a wink or a covert glance passing between the two worthies as they enacted the above scene, which might have led him to suspect that they knew each other better than Miladi supposed : it was only on the previous evening, be it stated, on her own authority, that she had made the acquaintance of the romanticist, whom she describes as having something of an exalté in his air, in his open shirt collar, black head, and wild and melancholy look.” The dialogue that ensues with the classicist after the disappearance of the other, is quite as ridiculous as the foregoing one, and quite as well calculated to give her Ladyship a fit of the doubts,” though it does not appear that she suffered by them a second time. We may mention, before leaving this subject, that when the romanticist told her, in the extract we have just made, that Othello was in preparation for the Theatre Français, he told her truth; but, if we are not very much mistaken, the other piece of information he communicated—that Hamlet and Macbeth are stock-tragedies at that theatre-could only have been related by a gentleman of great fertility of imagination. Othello, we know, was actually performed, and went off tolerably well until the final scene, but then the nerves of the Frenchmen were put to a trial they could not by any possibility endure. The sight of a Moor and an Infidel, endeavouring to smother a lady and a Christian, so completely aroused all the gallant and religious sensibilities of the audience, that shouts of terrible, abominable, resounded from every part of the house, and Monsieur Othello was (theatrically) damned for his wickedness. As far as we know, he never showed his copper-coloured visage again at the Theâtre Français, but contented himself thenceforward with running after poor Desdemona, and stabbing her behind the scene at the opera, where this minor exhibition of cruelty is tolerated in consideration of the roulades, with which he smooths her passage into the other world.

Speaking of theatres puts us in mind, as the story-tellers say, of a remark made by her Ladyship in the chapter she has devoted to the theatres of Paris, which we wish to notice. She says, “it is strange, that among the many men of genius who have treated the subject of the unities, none should have clearly laid it down, that the great object of dramatic composition is the satisfaction of the audience, no matter by what means.” What a fine thing it is to be endowed with uncommon powers of original thought! It is so delightful to be able to belie the assertion, that it is too late now to think of propounding any new idea, every thing having already been said that can be said about anything ! Here, ye croakers about modern degeneracy, here is something that should cover you with confusion and shame. Lady Morgan, after having read all, aye,

all, that has been written about a certain subject by all the “many men of genius” who have treated it—which it would only require the lifetime of a Methuselah to do-has discovered an idea relating to it, which is to be found in none of the works of those “many men of genius,” and this she has revealed for the edification and astonishment of the world, in the sentence we have quoted above. How every lover of new ideas now living, should bless his stars for having cast his existence in the same period as that of her Ladyship! It is, however, our melancholy duty, to be obliged to deprive our generation of the glory which would be shed upon it by such an intellectual invention as the foregoing. Though it has undoubtedly never been adverted to in any way, since she so asserts the fact, by any of the “many men of genius” who have exercised their minds upon the topic of the unities, yet by a singular chance we have fallen upon something very much like it in the petty effusions of two or three subordinate scribblers, who have presumed to hint at what was not excogitated by their betters. One of those effusions is a paper called a “ Preface to Shakspeare," written about fifty years ago, as we have discovered, after long research and a great deal of trouble, by a certain Samuel Johnson, who dubbed himself Doctor, and published likewise, if our investigations have informed us rightly, other works, under the titles of “The Rambler,” “Rasselas,” “Biographies of the British Poets,” &c., and tradition even says that he attempted a dictionary of the English language. Another of those effusions is an “Essay upon the Drama,” by a person called Walter Scott, who, it is affirmed, is still in the land of the living, but where he dwelleth, and what other productions he hath printed, we have been able to obtain no clue for finding out. It must indeed be confessed, that neither of those individuals has so "clearly laid it down" as her Ladyship, that the audience should be pleased, “no matter by what means," though they certainly have intimated that its gratification ought to be one of the principal objects of a dramatic author. They were foolish enough to think, that to pander to the tastes of an audience, if corrupt and vitiated, is paltry, is despicable ; that to consult its inclinations when at war with sound taste or proper decorum, is to do the work of those who are influenced only by a love of sordid gain, reckless of every pure and elevated feeling—that “the end of all writing is to instruct, the end of all poetry, to instruct by pleasing.” This is the difference between the sentiment of the authors and that of the authoress ; but were that same Samuel Johnson now alive, sooner than maintain an opinion in any the slightest manner at variance with one expressed by her Ladyship, he would, -as he was ready to do, according to his own avowal, when asserting something that was denied by persons

scarcely more important than himself, "sink down in reverential silence, as Æneas withdrew from the defence of Troy, when he saw Neptune shaking the wall, and Juno heading the besiegers.”

We do not wish to insinuate that her Ladyship has derived any advantage from consulting the pages of either the Preface or the Essay to which we have alluded. By no means. Nothing would be more unjust ; for how could she be indebted for any thing to what may be contained in a couple of insignificant pamphlets, whose scarcity is such, that we might almost suppose our copies of them to be the only ones in existence ? How they came into our hands, is a point we leave for elucidation to those who find pleasure or profit in unravelling mysteries. There is, to be sure, a wonderful similitude throughout, between her reflections upon the classical and romantic drama, and those which may be read in the Essay ; but this circumstance must unquestionably be considered one of those "remarkable coincidences" that every now and then prompt the cry of 6a miracle !” It must, else, be accounted for, by supposing that the author of the Essay is gifted with a power over future operations of mind, similar to that which was possessed over future events, by the wizard who warned Lochiel against the fatal day at Culloden, and that he is thus enabled, by his “mystical lore, to make

“ Coming ideas cast their shadow before.” Seriously, however, the observations of her Ladyship on this head, furnish as nice an instance of plagiarism as we recollect. The best of the matter is, that after filling nearly a couple of pages with remarks, amongst which not a single original idea is to be found, save perhaps the rather novel one, that in Macbeth the interest is suspended at the death of Duncan, and does not revive until that of the tyrant is at hand;" she winds up with saying, “obvious as this train of reasoning appears, it has been overlooked equally by the opponents and the sticklers for the old canons of criticism ; a lamentable instance of the influence of authority, and of the spirit of party, on the judgments of the most cultivated minds." This is a sample of modest assurance in perfection. There is another remarkable coincidence" in these volumes, between the biography they contain of General Lafayette, and an article about “the Nation's Guest” in a number of the North American Review for 1825. But we leave it to our contemporary to take her Ladyship to task for this appropriation of his property.

In our foregoing remarks we have confined ourselves, in great measure, to some of those portions of the volumes before us, which are most susceptible of ridicule, though we have ad

verted to only a few even of those—there are others, however, that would require a graver tone. The sickly sentimentalism about Ninon de l'Enclos, La Vallière, Madame d'Houdetot, and other strumpets-such “free" conversations as those which are detailed at page 138, in the first volume, and page 108, in the second ; especially as they were held in the presence of a young girl, her Ladyship's niece, who was doubtless one of the chief causes why so many gentlemen came “pour faire leurs hommages” to the aunt-and various expressions upon matters appertaining to religion, deserve reprehension in no measured terms. But we have not space enough at our disposal to bestow any further notice upon these, or to glance at other parts of “ France in 1829–30," although we have reaped but a small portion of the harvest which it contains.

And this is the writer who pretends to enlighten the world upon the “state of society” in one of the greatest countries of the earth! This is the work by means of which she flatters herself that such an object is to be effected, and this too, (proh pudor') is the kind of work that can be republished in our country with a certainty of success! Should the fact come to the knowledge of posterity, what will be thought of the literary taste of this generation? We have, however, a cause for consolation-if that can be termed consolation which ministers only to selfish vanity, and is a source of pain to every better feeling-in the assurance that the literary history of future times, judging from the experience of the past, will present similar instances of depravity of intellectual appetite. We wonder now, how our ancestors could have relished what we regard with indifference if not with disgust, in the same way that our taste in some respects will be a matter of surprise with our descendants, and as theirs will be with those by whom they may be succeeded on the stage of life. Every age, since books have been written and books have been read, has furnished, and we may therefore assert, every age will furnish, reason upon reason for making the remark of the philosophic author of the “Caractères,” that not to hazard sometimes a great deal of nonsense, is to manifest ignorance of the public taste" c'est ignorer le goût du peuple, que de ne pas hasarder quelquefois de grandes fadaises." We do not wish to deny that Lady Morgan has been gifted with a modicum of talent ; even in the work before us, there is occasional evidence of natural ability, which, had it been properly cultivated and modestly employed, might have earned for her honourable fame. But what advantage-we speak, of course, with reference to reputation; as to pecuniary profit we have no doubt that she has found her account in her “fadaises,' or else they would not have been multiplied to such an extentwhat advantage, we ask, has she derived from her faculty of

scribbling, except that she has made herself pretty widely known, and ridiculed wherever she is known? Presumptuous ignorance, and overweening conceit, have, in her case, completely nullified, nay worse, have converted into a curse, in some respects, what was intended every way for a blessing. If Lady Morgan would forego her mongrel idiom, and use the English language; if she would confine herself to subjects with which she has some acquaintance; if she would substitute a simple in the stead of her inflated style; and above all, if she could forget herself, she might write tolerably well; but there are too many ifs to render it probable, or even possible, that the defects to which they relate will ever be overcome. This being the case, we take leave of you, Miladi, not with the au revoir of which you are so fond, but with the parting salutation of Louis the Fourteenth to James the Second, when sending him with an army to recover his forfeited crown, “Adieu, and may we never meet again.”

ART. II.-Physiologie des Passions, ou nouvelle Doctrine des

Sentimens Moraux ; par J. L. ALIBERT. Chapitre XI. de l'Ennui. Physiology of the Passions ; or a New Theory of Moral Sentiments. Chap. XI. of Ennui.

This book is neither exact nor eloquent. The thoughts are not precise ; the expressions are vague; and, of consequence, the reasonings of no value. The attempts at rich displays of imaginative power are contrasted with a want of invention; and illustrative stories, of feeble execution, are lavished abundantly in lieu of physiological facts. The volumes are too insipid to cheat an idle hour of its weariness ; they rather engender fatigue than relieve it. The author will never enter the true elysium of glory; he has not substance enough to proceed straight up the ascent;

but will certainly be “blown transverse into the devious air." Like most of the literature of the day, this new Theory of Moral Sentiments is essentially transient. It will pass, like anti-masonry, without

producing an era. Yet the chapter on Ennui is tolerably sensible. It is neither brilliant nor acute; but gives a superficial sketch of that state of being with considerable accuracy. To be sure, it is not from a Frenchman, that the best account of ennui should be expected. Of all nations of Europe, the French have the least of it, though they invented the word; while the Turks, with their untiring gravity, their lethargic dignity, their blind fatalism, their opiumeating, and midnight profligacies, have undoubtedly the largest share. But the Turks are only philosophers in practice; the

VOL. IX.-No. 17. 5

« ПретходнаНастави »