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port bespeaks. A third characteristic is this, that Shakspeare's observation was preceded by contemplation. “ He first conceived what the forms of things must be, and then went humbly to the oracle of nature to ask whether he was right. He inquired of her as a sorereign : he did not gossip with her. Shakspeare describes feelings which no observation could teach. Shakspeare made himself all characters—he left out parts of himself and supplied what might have been in himself - nothing was given him but the canvass. (“ This fact does honour to human nature, for it shews that the seeds of all that is noble and good are in man: they require only to be developed.") This canvass which Shakspeare used, formed his stories. The absurdity of his tales has often been a reproach to Shakspeare from those who did not comprehend him, as Johnson, Pope, &c. But Shakspeare had nothing to do with the probability of the histories. It was enough for him that they had found their way among
people. Everybody admitted them to be true, though childish in the extreme. There was once upon a time a king who had three daughters, and he said to them, “ tell me how you love me, and I will give my kingdom to her that loves me best.” And so one daughter said, &c. &c. From such stuff as this Shakspeare has produced the most wonderful work of human genius, as in Othello he produced the most perfect work. “ In the three first acts he carried human feelings to the utmost height, there
fore in the two following they seem to sink and become feeble: as, after the bursting of the storm, we behold the scattered clouds dispersed over the heavens.
Coleridge's digressions are not the worst parts of his lectures, or rather, he is always digressing. He quoted Mrs. Barbauld under the appellation of
an amiable lady,” who had asked how Richardson was inferior to Shakspeare? Richardson, he allowed, evinces an exquisite perception of minute feeling, but there is a want of harmony, a vulgarity in his sentiment ; he is only interesting. Shakspeare on the contrary elevates and instructs. Instead of referring to our ordinary situations and common feelings he emancipates us from them, and when most remote from ordinary life is most interesting. I should observe, this depreciation of the interesting in poetry is one of the most character. istic features of the new German criticism. It is always opposed by Schiller to the beautiful, and is considered as a very subordinate merit indeed. Hence the severity of the attacks on Kotzebue, who certainly is more interesting to nineteen out of twenty than Shakspeare. C. took occasion, on mentioning Richardson to express his opinions of the immorality of his novels. The lower passions of our nature are kept through seven or eight volumes, in a hot-bed of interest. Fielding's is far less pernicious; " for the gusts of laughter drive away sensuality.”
P.S. Coleridge called Voltaire “ a petty scribbler." I oppose to this common-place, in which arersion is compounded with contempt, Goethe's profound and cutting remark : " It has been found that certain monarchs unite all the talents and powers of their race. It was thus with Louis XIV: and it is so with authors. In this sense it may be said that Voltaire is the greatest of all conceivable Frenchmen." I abhor Bonaparte as the gates of hell, yet I smile at the drivellers who cry out c'est un bon capornl. Damn 'em both if you will, but don't despise them.
PROSPECTUS OF LECTURES IV 1811. London Philosophical Society, Scots Corporation Ilall, Crane Court, Fleet Street.
R. COLERIDGE will commence on Mon
day, Nov. 18th, a Course of Lectures on Shakspeare and Milton, in Illustration of the principles of Poetry, and their Application as grounds of criticism to the most popular works of later English Poets, those of the Living included.
After an introductory Lecture on false criticism, (especially in Poetry,) and on its causes: two thirds of the remaining course will be assigned, 1st, to a philosophical analysis and explanation of
all the principal characters of our great Dramatist, as Othello, Falstaff, Richard III, Iago, Hamlet, &c. : and 2nd, to a critical comparison of Shakspeare, in respect of Diction, Imagery, Management of the Passions, Judgment in the construction of his Dramas, in short of all that belongs to him as a Poct, and as a dramatic Poet, with his conteniporaries, or immediate successors, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ford, Massinger, &c. in the endeavour to determine what of Shakspeare's merits and defects are common to him with other writers of the same age, and what remain peculiar to his own Genius.
The course will extend to fifteen Lectures, which will be given on Monday and Thursday evenings successively. The Lectures to commence at halfpast seven o'clock.