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MEDON. And why have you not chosen your examples from real life? you might easily have done so. You have not been a mere spectator, or a mere actor, but a lounger behind the scenes of existence—have even assisted in preparing the puppets for the stage : you might have given us an epitome of your experience, instead of dreaming over Shakspeare.


I might so, if I had chosen to become a female satirist, which I will never be.

MEDON. You would at least stand a better chance of being read.

ALDA. I am not sure of that. The vile taste for satire and personal gossip will not be eradicated, I suppose, while the elements of curiosity and malice remain in human nature ; but as a fashion of literature, I think it is passing away ;-at all events it is not my forte. Long experience of what is called “the world,” of the folly, duplicity, shallowness, selfishness, which meet us at every turn, too soon unsettles our youthful creed. If it only led to the knowledge of good and evil, it were well; if it only taught us to despise the illusions and retire from the pleasures of the world, it would be better. But it destroys our belief-it dims our perception of all abstract truth, virtue, and happiness; it turns life into a jest, and a very dull one too. It makes us indifferent to beauty, and incredulous of goodness; it teaches us to consider self as the centre on which all actions turn, and to which all motives are to be referred.

MEDON. But this being so, we must either revolve with these earthly natures, and round the same centre, or seek a sphere for ourselves, and dwell apart.

ALDA. I trust it is not necessary to do either. While we are yet young, and the passions, powers, and feelings, in their full activity, create to us a world within, we cannot look fairly on the world without :-all things then are good. When first we throw ourselves forth, and meet burrs and briars on every side, which stick in our very hearts ;-and fair tempting fruits which turn to bitter ashes in the taste, then we exclaim with impatience, all things are evil. But at length comes the calm hour, when they who look beyond the superficies of things begin to discern their true bearings ; when the perception of evil, or sorrow, or sin, brings also the perception of some opposite good, which awakens our indulgence, or the knowledge of the cause which excites our pity. Thus it is with me. I can smile,-nay, I can laugh still, to see folly, vanity, absurdity, meanness, exposed by scornful wit, and depicted by others, in fictions light and brilliant. But these very things, when I encounter the reality, rather make me sad

and take

away all the inclination, if I had the power, to hold them up to derision.

than merry,


Unless by doing so, you might correct them.


Correct them!

Show me that one human being who has been made essentially better by satire !

Oh no, no! there is something in human nature which hardens itself against the lash-something in satire which excites only the lowest and worst of our propensities. That avowal in Pope

I must be proud to see
Men not afraid of God, afraid of me!

-has ever filled me with terror and pity.

MEDON. From its truth perhaps ?


From its arrogance,—for the truth is that a vice never corrected a vice. Pope might be proud of the terror he inspired in those who feared no God; in whom vanity was stronger than conscience; but that terror made no individual man better ; and while he indulged his own besetting sin, he administered to the malignity of others. Your professed satirists always send me to think upon the opposite sentiment in Shakspeare, on “the mischievous foul sin of chiding sin.” I remember once hearing a poem of Barry Cornwall's (he read it to me,) about a strange winged creature that, having the lineaments of a man, yet preyed on a man, and afterwards coming to a stream to drink, and beholding his own face therein, and discovering that he had made his prey of a creature like himself, pined away with repentance. So should those do, who having made themselves mischievous mirth out of the sins and sorrows of others, remembering their own humanity, and seeing within themselves the same lineaments so should they grieve and pine away, self-punished.

MEDON. 'Tis an old allegory, and a sad one—and but too much to the purpose.


I abhor the spirit of ridicule, I dread it, and I despise it. I abhor it, because it is in direct contradiction to the mild and serious spirit of Christianity; I fear it, because we find that in every state of society in which it has prevailed as a fashion, and has given the tone to the manners and literature, it has marked the moral degradation and approaching destruction of that society; and I despise it because it is the usual resource of the shallow and the base mind, and, when wielded by the strongest hand with the purest intentions, an inefficient means of good. The spirit of satire, reversing the spirit of mercy which is twice blessed, seems to me twice accursed ;-evil in those who indulge it-evil to those who are the objects of it.

MEDON. “Peut-être fallait-il que la punition des imprudens et des faibles fut confiée á la malignité, car la pure vertu n'eût jamais été assez cruelle.”

That is a woman's sentiment..

ME DON. True-it was; and I have pleasure in reminding you that a female satirist by profession is yet an anomaly in the history of our literature, as a female schismatic is yet unknown in the history of our religion. But to what do you attribute the number of satirical women we meet in society?

ALDA. Not to our nature ; but to a state of society in which the levelling spirit of persiflage has been long a fashion, to a perverse education which fosters it; to affections disappointed or unemployed, which embitter the temper; to faculties misdirected or wasted, which oppress and irritate the mind; to an utter ignorance of ourselves, and the common lot of humanity, combined with the quick and refined perceptions, and much superficial cultivation; to frivolous habits which make serious thought a burthen, and serious feeling a bane if suppressed, --if betrayed, a ridicule. Women, generally speaking, are by nature too much subjected to suffering in many forms have too much of fancy and sensibility, and too much of that faculty which some philosophers call veneration, to be naturally satirical. I have known but one woman eminently gifted in mind and person, who is also distinguished for powers of satire as bold as merciless; and she is such a compound of all that nature can give of good, and all that society can teach of evil


MEDON. That she reminds us of the dragon of old, which generated between the sunbeams from heaven and the slimo of earth ?


No such thing. Rather of the powerful and beautiful fairy Melusina, who had every talent and every charm under heaven; but once in so many hours, was fated to become a serpent. No, I return to my first position: it is not by exposing folly and scorning fools that we make other people wiser, or ourselves happier. But to soften the heart by images and examples of the kindly and generous affections,—to show how the human soul is disciplined and perfected by suffer

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