Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

unhallowed flame, and proffers all that splendour, luxury, and earthly enjoyment can yield, to induce her to forget Florencio ; while on the other hand, a death of lingering torture and undying shame are brought in fearful array against her to shake her constancy. In vain the fearful alternative is pressed on her startled senses, her steadfast virtue firmly resists his advances. She is content to brave all that malevolence can accomplish rather than fail in her love, and she earnestly exhorts Florencio to do the same. The hope of a happy reunion in another state of being sustains her resolution, and the devoted fair one is consigned by the unrelenting Froilan to the executioner-is doomed to the stake.

But the rage of the infuriated priest, unsated still, rests not here. It is not enough that the objects of his vengeance are to suffer a cruel and ignominious death; the king himself must be engaged actively in person to assist at their punishment. He is waited upon in the fifth act by an officer of the Inquisition, who presents him with the torch which, in the royal grasp, is to kindle the fire of the auto-da-fé in which Ines is to be consumed. On her way to execution, when passing the palace, the distracted maiden breaks from her guard, rushes into the presence, and throws herself at the feet of Charles. He is fully couvinced of her guilt, and will not think of mercy, when a ring, worn by Ines, attracts his notice. It was one which had belonged to her mother: it was given by him to his early love; and a miniature, which is next produced, brings conviction to his mind that the being he is about to sacrifice is no other than his long mourned, never-forgotten, but cruelly-abandoned offspring. The weakness of the bigot bends to the uncontrollable emotion and fond affection of a father, but his timidity fears to oppose the solemn sentence of the Inquisition which has condemned her to the flames; even yet he hesitates to believe her innocence. Froilan appears, not merely thirsting for blood, but fearful that her escape will seal his ruin ; and, therefore, in opposition to the wishes of the king, insists that offended Heaven can only be appeased by her destruction. His awful remonstrances overwhelm the feeble Charles with anguish and dismay, and work him into a violent frenzy, in which religious terror strives with natural affection. The soldiers of the faith appear with the Grand Inquisitor to perpetrate the deed of blood. The struggling victim is seized, she wildly clings to the king, and calls upon him, as her father, to save his guiltless child. Overwhelmed by the tumult of conflicting feelings he swoons.

Froilan is anxious to take advantage of this circumstance to hurry on the execution. He calls upon the soldiers and the officers of the Inquisition to disregard the unmeaning ravings of the chosen agent of hell. She is torn from the arms of her still insensible parent to be conducted to the stake, when Florencio starts from the crowd, rushes on the friar, and stabs him to the heart. With this incident the drama concludes, and Ines is supposed to be restored to her father and her lover.

Such are the plot and leading incidents of a tragedy which has delighted all Madrid. From the sketch we have given it will be seen that the most gorgeous splendour may fitly be connected with the deep interest which belongs to the principal scenes. But beside this, the language is bold and appropriate, and the characters, though vividly drawn, have a sufficient reference to nature to make the spectator warmly sym

pathise with the perils and sufferings of the principal personages. There are some original touches in the part of the king, which faithfully portray the gloomy horrors formerly inspired by the belief in witchcraft. Froilan, though a villain throughout, has some moments of compunction which shew that his own mind is accessible to that harrowing dread of the future, which he successfully labours to infuse into the bosom of another. He loves, and is self-persuaded that were that love returned he could live to virtue. He describes himself to have combated long with the passion which consumes him; and the picture which he draws of the struggle he has made against the foe of his peace is in parts eminently pathetic. The following speech may be taken as a specimen of the skill and power with which the author has performed his task. Froilan.

Óyeme . Un año
luché con este amor para vencerlo;
lucha penosa, sin igual, tremenda,
cual la lucha de Dios con el infierno.
Hui del mundo, y mi fervor piadoso
buscó de un claustro el sepulcral silencio.
Al pie del ara me postré rogando,
y su marmol bañé con llanto acerbo.
Mi cabeza cubrí con vil ceniza;
crüel cilicio atormentó mi cuerpo;
mi mano armada de nudosas cuerdas,
regó con sangre mis rasgados miembros;
escasas yerbas mi alimento han sido,
y mi único descanso el duro suelo.
Pensé que Diostan penitente vida
al fin premiara sofocando el fuego
de mi funesto amor

! Vana esperanza!
! Cuanta mas penitencia, mas deseos !
Do quier tu imagen me persigue: la hallo
en la celda, en el claustro, hasta en el templo;
y en la Virgen que miro sobre el ara,
si la llego á implorar, tu rostro encuentro.
Plegarias dirigir á Dios procuro,
y espresiones de amor solo profiero;
y si pienso en la gloria algun instante,
separado de tí no la comprendo.
Mira este cuerpo flaco, estenuado,
contempla este semblante macilento;
son aun mas que de ayunos y cilicios
estragos del amor que arde aqui dentro.
Pues tanto sacrificio Dios no acepta,
á mi pasion de hoy mas todo me entrego.

Mia tienes que ser."
Which may be thus freely paraphrased :-
Froilan. For twelve long months I with my nature strove,

Fled from the world, and scourged my trembling flesh;
In the damp abbey's dark sepulchral aisle -
In the lone cloister's melancholy shade.
And at the altar's foot I breathed my prayer,
That strength might be vouchsafed from heaven or death.
In sackcloth clad, with bare and bleeding feet,
My scalding tears on the cold marble fell,
And on the rugged earth, my nightly bed.
But even penitence desire inflamed;

[ocr errors]

Thy image haunted me, and bending low
Before the holy Mary's awful shrine,
Her name I breathed, but worshipp'd thee and Love.
Look on this worn emaciated form,
Nor stripes nor fastings have reduced me thus;
I am consumed by Passion's baleful fires;
And since my prayers remain unheard above,

Here, Ines, HERE, thou must-thou shalt be mine,"
The animated passion with which Florencio pleads his love, and the
bright and glorious images his mind associates with the beauty and
purity of his mistress, come in fine contrast to the foregoing.
Florencio. O! it were little to declare I love!

Deem it not sin to say that I adore !
When wrapped in fervent prayer, the pious mind
Soars to the heaven above from this poor orb,
And pictures there, before the Eternal's throne,
The virgin conqueror of Beelzebub :
Then, radiant halo circling her chaste brow,
Her eyes shed light and glory on the world-
Her smile, with sacred transport, fills the soul:
And, while we listen to her tuneful voice,
The glowing firmament breathes love and joy.
As beautiful as she, and not less pure,
I know my Ines; and, as angel's love,
To her the aspirations of a heart,

Thrilling with ecstacy, I offer."
The melancholy character of the king is drawn with great force.

King. The Most High has proved
Deaf to my prayers, and childless I remain.
As the wolf watches for his trembling prey,
My brother sovereigns now expect my death,
To share among them my divided states.
O grief ! O infamy! shall sacred Spain,
Of Europe once the terror and the pride,
Sink with this wretched frame into the grave !
And can I only to my country leave

A legacy of discord and of shame ?"
Whether a tragedy go admired hy the Spaniards of the present day
would succeed on our stage, is a question on which the most experienced
caterer for public amusement could not safely pronounce. When, how-
ever, it is remembered what wild extravagance has been imported with
advantage to the bringers, we risk little in saying it would not be a very
hazardous experiment to bring forward in an English dress a play which
contains many interesting historical reminiscences, and which is cer-
tainly ingeniously contrived and powerfully written. It ought not,
however, to be merely translated. To do justice to the Spanish poet,
it must be re-written, we had almost said re-conceived, on the plan of
" the original, if we may venture on such an expression, by an English

poet. Were that done, and some improvement effected in the catastrophe, Carlos Segundo might run as splendid a career in London, as that which has been accomplished in Madrid.

[ocr errors]

THE MANAGER'S NOTE-BOOK.—NO. XI]1.*

MRS. BILLINGTON,

“ Music rules the world above

Music is the food of love."
“How sweet her notes do float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty vaulted night!
At every fall, smoothing the raven down
Of darkness till it smiles.”-MILTON.

CHARLES WeichsELL was a native of Freyburg, in Saxony, and a musician of much merit; he came to England, was appointed one of the band of the foot-guards, and was also in the orchestras of Drury Lane, the Opera, Vauxhall, &c.; he died suddenly at Fulham, on the 26th of March, 1811, in his eighty-third year.

Miss Frederica Weirman made her debut at Covent Garden Theatre on the 18th of October, 1764, in Andromeda, in the after-piece of “Perseus and Andromeda,” which she performed only a few nights, and does not appear to have acted anything else. In the summer of 1766 she appeared at Vauxhall, as Mrs. Weichsell; there she sang every year till her death (twenty seasons). In 1771, she sang at Covent Garden for Champness's benefit; and in November, 1775, appeared at the same theatre, in Mandane, which she repeated several times during the season, and played Polly once. She was engaged two seasons at the oratorios, and sang at several second-rate concerts ; her voice was power. ful, strictly harmonious, and resembled the tove of a clarionet; but her recitative was unskilfully executed, as she had no pretensions as an actress. Previous to her engagement at Vauxhall she married Mr. Weichsell : she died at Knightsbridge on the 5th of January, 1786, aged forty-one, having lived apart from her husband two years.

Elizabeth Weichsell, afterwards Mrs. Billington, her daughter and eldest child, was born in Litchfield-street, Soho, 1769.

Mrs. Weichsell was in the custom of taking an annual benefit-concert at the little Haymarket Theatre, and it was at one of them that our heroine made her first public appearance.

The advertisement says :

“On the 21st of March, 1776, Mrs. Weichsell's grand concert at the Haymarket. Singing: Mrs. and Miss Weichsell, who will sing a Scotch song, and play a concerto on the pianoforte; a concerto on the violin by Master Weichsell. Boxes, 108. 6d. ; pit, 58. ; first gallery, 3s. ; second gallery, 28."

Upon this occasion the debutante's singing was thought little of; but her concerto on the pianoforte was considered very far superior to anything ever before heard from a child only seven years of age ; at Mrs. Weichsell's benefit, the following year, she did not sing, but again played a concerto in a very superior style.

Miss Weichsell's first master was Schroeter, an excellent teacher, celebrated for the purity of his style and delicacy of expression, who took more pains than usual to cultivate so promising a pupil; her father attended to her musical education with a strictness and severity scarcely to be justified.

* Continued from No. ccxiv., p. 232.

At their mother's benefit in April, 1781, Charles and Elizabeth again played their concertos, and were so greatly improved that they excelled nine-tenths of the most celebrated professors of the day.

The following year Mrs. Weichsell had a concert and ball at the Paul's Head, Cateaton-street. After the concert, Master and Miss Weichsell opened the ball with the minuet de la cour.

In 1783 Mr. James Billington, who played one of the double basses at Drury Lane Theatre, was one of her instructors; like another Abelard, he made the science of love one of the principal subjects of his lessons; she, like Eloisa, listened to his lectures with delight; and, when she was not much more than fourteen, he became her master for life. His attentions to her were too obvious not to be observed by her parents, who endeavoured, too late, to prevent the result which took place; after a very short acquaintance, they were married at Lambeth; such hasty matches seldom end in good.

Almost immediately after their marriage the happy pair went to Dublin, and there Mrs. Billington commenced her vocal course, on the 5th of January, 1784, in Orpheus and Eurydice; Orpheus, Tenducci; Eurydice, Mrs. Billington. Miss Wheeler, of very inferior abilities, caused her great mortification, from the superior applause and respect which she received. Mrs. Billington was on the point of quitting the stage; and, strange to say, Miss Wheeler obtained a three years' engagement at Covent Garden, at twelve pounds a-week; where she appeared in September, 1789, in Rosetta, while Mrs. Billington remained unnoticed. She was, however, left with the whole field to herself in Dublin, and the public very soon discovered the treasure they possessed, and had so long neglected.

In Dublin she became an object of universal attraction, and it is said that even the representative of royalty himself was unable to resist her charms. Be the reasons what they might, she quitted Dublin sooner than she intended, and, on her arrival in London, had an interview with Mr. Harris, of Covent Garden Theatre. He proposed that she should play three nights upon trial, which she refused, and nothing less than twelve nights would she accede to. So great was her distrust of success, that she considered this as a last experiment, and determined, in case of failure, either from want of powers or self-possession, immediately to quit the stage for ever. In this negociation she required 121. a-week, to which Mr. Harris objected, that being the salary given to his first singer, Miss Wheeler, whose reputation was established. Miss Wheeler's reputation being quoted threw Mrs. Billington into a state of excitement, and she declined entering into any engagement. Harris, however, before he left her, arranged for twelve nights' performance: and the bills announced, on the 7th of February, 1786, that Mrs. Billington), from the Theatre Royal, Dublin, would make her first appearance on that stage, on Tuesday, the 14th of February, in Rosetta, in “ Love in a Village.” Miss Wheeler's reputation still stuck in her throat, and she trembled for the result of her début. She then applied to the friends she had made in Dublin, and, by the influence of one of them, their Majesties commanded the performance; and, though she had been regularly advertised for the Tuesday, on the previous day,

« PredošláPokračovať »