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cannot say anything half so pointed and just, as that which we now, in conclusion, quote from Mr. Miller's Essay :
" It is peculiarly unfortunate, that at a conjuncture when the number and magnitude of the affairs which press upon the consideration of the Legislature require its members to display more comprehensive views and greater resolution and activity than at any antecedent period of our history, both Houses of Parliament, and especially the House of Commons, should debate so much and settle so little. Instead of displaying the energy and foresight which characterizes statesmen, or the despatch which belongs to men of business, nothing whatever is done which can by possibility be deferred; and what is done, is done in haste, and done badly. In this state of the great council of the nation, it can hardly be
expected that the law or the administration of justice should meet with more close or continuous attention than other affairs of equal moment. Some relief is given, more is promised, and with this the executive servants of the Crown think the country ought to be contented. But the extent of public patience may be overrated. Those official persons who think that the safest course for them is to remain as passive and quiescent as they can, who calculate that with some amendments and additions the same system of law and judicature which has already lasted so long will last their time or for ever, take a very imperfect survey of the scene which lies before them. Their position and that of their predecessors is essentially different. As the mass of the people become more intelligent, law and legal proceedings are scanned by greater numbers and with greater keenness; as litigants become more poor and less submissive, costs of suit are paid with greater difficulty and reluctance; while the movements of courts of justice, but especially of courts of equity, unhappily become more slow at the very moment those of every other branch of business are becoming more expeditious. These concurring causes sufficiently point out the propriety of setting seriously and systematically about a revision of every branch of the jurisprudence of the country before it be too late.”
ART. III. 1.-Hernani, ou l'Honneur Castillan. Par Victor Hugo. Paris. 2.-Marion de Lorme. Par Victor Hugo. Paris.
3.- Le Roi s'amuse. Drames. Par Victor Hugo. Paris. The writings of M. Hugo appear to us to exhibit a most entire and perfect picture of the present moral and intellectual state of French literature and the public mind of that country. This gentleman's works are already numerous, and additions to them are daily announced; they are full of the virtue and vices which may be said in some
measure to possess France. His popularity and influence are alike great with his countrymen ; and his productions exercise great power over the French literary world at this moment. M. Hugo's writings being conceived in a very republican spirit, are likely to increase the breach between old forms and new ideas. This peculiarity of his works has rendered him an object
of distrust to the government, and has often subjected his plays to an arbitrary prohibition.
We have less fault to find with the execution of these works, than with the spirit in which they are conceived. M. Hugo has abundance of ability; pity it is so ill employed. His style is vigorous, startling, and effective ; but his power wants repose, his contrasts are often harsh and unmellow, and his effects are frequently theatrical. We do not now speak of those dramatic situations which are essentially good, only in proportion as they are theatrically effective. These M. Hugo conceives powerfully, and introduces skilfully. But his language, his feelings, his spirit, is theatrical, (not dramatic); his very thoughts attitudinize, and we object to that; it is, however, a national defect, and to expect hiin to be entirely free from it, were unjust and unreasonable. It is no small merit, that he has succeeded in rendering the cramped versification, to which his language condemns him, so natural and so pathetic. Poetical it never can be ; but it is an unspeakable relief to have got down from the stilts of the dramatic jargon of Louis the Fourteenth's time. M. Hugo, to be sure, goes to the other extreme; and if the muse of Racine and Corneille wore high heels, powder, and a hoop, his Melpomene, on the other hand, runs dishevelled, and slip-shod to boot; which is not altogether so well. It is to be hoped, that the golden mean will be discovered ere long.
The prefaces of “ Marion de Lorme," and “Le Roi s'amuse," contain some curious politico-literary facts ; which exhibit in a striking light the want of principle, since more openly manifested, in the tyrannical restraints imposed by the French government upon the freedom of the press ; and also place M. Hugo's own character in a favourable point of view, of which, we are happy to say, he seems fully aware. If conscientious self-approbation be a blessing, M. Hugo seems highly blessed. We believe him to be an honest man, in spite of his asserting so energetically himself.
The play of “ Marion de Lorme” was written in 1829, but, submitted to the revision of the censure, was vetoed, and remained a forbidden thing, until the “ admirable revolution,” (as M. Hugo styles it) of 1830, let loose upon the public, as the first-fruits of its beneficence, the torrent of obnoxious matter which had been accumulating in the receptacles of the censure.
At this juncture, M. Hugo was vehemently solicited to bring out his piece ; but, unwilling to base the popularity of his work upon a momentary political excitement, he very prudently declined pro. ducing it then.
M. Hugo had, it seems, on the accession of Charles the Tenth, in a fit of enthusiasm for a monarch who exclaimed against literary censorship, indited a royal canton in praise of the said liberal monarch.
Recollecting this, at the time when the revolution of the Three Days had civilly dispensed with the royal services of Charles, he, from a motive of delicacy, forbore celebrating the triumph of the people by the enacting of his long-forbidden piece ; not choosing, to use his own words, “ to be one of the vents by which the public anger should exhale itself.” Of his merit in this proceeding, as of his merits generally, as we before observed, M. Victor Hugo appears to enjoy a comfortable conviction. A more appropriate occasion, in his opinion, offering, he produced his play, which, like his other performances, was rapturously received by his admiring countrymen-we will presently see how deservedly.
It seems that “ Marion de Lorme” was written before “ Hernani,” although the latter piece, not falling under the disapprobation of the censure, was represented upwards of a year previous to the production of the other. To these succeeded “ Le Roi s'amuse," written in 1822, produced at the Théâtre Français, and, on the day after its first appearance, withdrawn by order of the government on the score of immorality.
The indignation of the author, though very natural, was quite ineffectual in restoring his piece to the honours of public exhibition ; and the preface, which he published with it, contained a statement of facts, which became his sole mode of appeal to the “enlightened public mind." In this preface, we find some curious passages; the following, for instance ;--M. Hugo is speaking of the prohibition of his play :-“ And who is it that this tyrannical exercise of power has singled out to attack ? an author, [the gentleman means himself ] so situated, that if his talents are doubtful, his character is not; an honest man; one professed, demonstrated, and proved to be such ; a venerable and rare thing in these times." There follows a whole page of self-consolation much in the same style; and we really feel the less hesitation in offering any criticisms upon M. Hugo's works, that he seems so cased in proof-panoply of selfesteem, that we should think he was invulnerable to all shafts of censure.
A little further on, he assigns as the real reason of the interdiction of his piece, a certain line in the third act, (we are sorry that, our knowledge of court scandal does not enable us to indicate it to the reader,) which it seems may be construed into no very flattering allusion to Louis Philippe. At the same time that the author disclaims all intention of making such allusion, forbearing even now to proclaim the offensive sentence, which, thus quoted, it seems would immediately suggest its own application, he holds the revelation in terrorem over the refractory monarch, wbo, professing to be a republican people's king, has thought proper to give himself the despotic airs of a king of the old school.
“Hernani,” the first-written of those at the head of this article,
is by no means so iniquitous in its plot as its successors. Some rays of humanity yet struggle through the improbability of the fable, and the author's fancy is not yet overrun with those diabolical conceptions with which some of his other works abound, to the dismay of all good Christians and sober-minded creatures who attempt to read them.
The heroine, Donna Sol, is betrothed to her uncle, Don Ruy de Silva ; but, in the mean time, her affections are engaged by an unknown cavalier, whom she receives in secret, and who is the chief of a horde of brigands.
It appears that the King of Spain, Charles the Fifth, is also enamoured of her; and the difficulties of the lady between her three lovers, and the various perils and escapes of Hernani, her favoured one, take up the first part of the piece. The old Don, however, afraid that he shall die before he gets married, if he does not make haste, carries off his fair niece to one of his strong-holds, and they are on the point of celebrating their nuptials, when the whole castle is thrown into confusion by the arrival of Hernani, in the disguise of a pilgrim. Finding his mistress, as he conceives, unfaithful, he immediately proclaims himself as the robber chief, upon whose head a princely price was set ; but the old lord assures him, that if he were the Devil in person, the rights of hospitality would be extended to him, and his life and liberty be secure while under his roof. He leaves the lovers together, not at all suspecting his niece's low-life attachment to the highwayman ; and presently returning finds his bride locked in the arms of Hernani. . The worthy old gentleman's rage then knows no bounds, and he is about to fight with the traitor on the spot, when news is brought that the King is before the castle, in pursuit of Hernani. Now, though it does not irk Don Ruy to kill the gentleman who kissed his niece, it is quite against his ideas of propriety to give up a man who has sought shelter under his roof. He therefore conceals the robber, and stands the brunt of the King's rage unmoved, who, unable either by entreaties, commands, or threats to obtain the bandit, at length desires the old lord to give up either Hernani or his niece, Donna Sol; upon which the poor old man, faithful, as he conceives, to the laws of honour, and ignorant of the King's passion for his niece, delivers her up to his Majesty, who departs in peace with his prize. No sooner are they gone, than Don Ruy draws Hernani from his place of concealment, and insists upon prosecuting the duel they had begun together ; when, happening to mention the hostage which the King had been pleased to accept, Hernani, in despair, informs him of the danger in which he has placed his niece, by surrendering her to the monarch. All other thoughts now give way to the desire of both to recover the young lady ; and, putting aside their animosity for a short time, they agree to assist each other in rescuing Donna
Sol from her perilous situation ; Hernani pledging his solemn words to old De Silva, that, that object once accomplished, he will give up his life to his honourable old enemy; and, in token of this, he gives him his own bugle-horn, telling him, at whatever time and in whatever place he pleases, to sound it, when he (Hernani) will at once surrender himself to his vengeance. This bargain made, they sheathe their swords, shake hands, and set off, the best friends in the world, in pursuit of the lady.
The fourth act consists chiefly of the failure of a conspiracy formed against Charles the Fifth, at that moment elected Emperor, and his magnanimous forgiveness of the conspirators, among whose number are Don Ruy de Silva and Hernani, who, upon this occa. sion, throws off his assumed character of a bandit, and claims the princely privilege of wearing his hat before the King, being no less a personage than his kinsman, John of Aragon.
"The new-made Emperor, however, has no idea of being hard upon any of them ; forgives them all, restores Hernani to his noble rank and princely possessions, and moreover, with infinite generosity, relinquishes all his pretensions to Donna Sol, whom he places safe and sound in her lover's hands. How she came there just then it is difficult to imagine, the scene being laid before the tomb of Charlemagne in Aix-la-Chapelle. That, however, does not much matter; the public is not apt to be particular in these points, and, when all ends wells, all is well in their sympathetic opinions.
All parties are now satisfied; the Emperor with himself and his new dignity, Hernani with his mistress, and she with him. Old De Silva, however, is by no means well pleased at this transfer of his bride, and the fourth act closes with the general joy of the whole company, excepting him alone.
The conclusion is rapid. The fifth act celebrates the marriage feast of Don John of Aragon and Donna Sol. His father's palace has received him again ; and revelry, and mirth, and music fill the scene. At length the gaudier light of pleasure dims, the guests withdraw, and the lovers are left alone in their happiness. At this moment, which, in conception and execution, is by far the most striking of the piece, the fatal horn sounds Hernani's summons, from all his full-blown joys, to death. The old lord De Silva appears, and claims the fulfilment of Hernani's oath. In vain the latter, unmanned by the exceeding bitterness of leaving life when crowned with all its imaginable blisses, implores a short delay. The stern old man insists upon his right, and presents a vial of poison to the youth. This, however, Donna Sol seizes, and drinking the one half, gives the rest to her husband, both of themi presently falling, like stricken flowers, at the feet of the obdurate old noble, who ends the piece by killing himself, and going, as he himself declares,