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undervalue it, that his representations——though perhaps not entirely destitute of foundation in truth—ate commonly different from the opinions of the world in general on the same topic. Like Hamlet, though on much less laudable grounds, he was nothing if not critical; and it may be added, that he was seldom critical without appearing illnatured. Satire was so intimately mixed up with his composition, that it may be doubted whether his most serious orisons were not occasionally tinctured with it. Yet in what he says of the opera of Mazarine, and of the impudent and presumptuous Lully, there is not an atom overdone. Of the opera, its greatest, indeed only praise is, that it gave the French stage precedence in decoration, and conferred upon it the credit, such as it is, of having been for a century and a half a model for scenery, machinery, harlequinades, irrational pomp, posturing, fiddling and capering to the rest of the world. From that period pageantry and nonsense usurped the rights of the drama, and shared with tragedy its influence over the taste of Europe, till at last it entirely corrupted it.

But forc'd, at length, her ancient reign to quit,
She saw great Faustus lay the ghost of wit;
Exulting Folly baild the joyous day,

And pantomime and song confirm'd her sway.* Quinault, though severely satirized by Boileau, who probably levelled his wit more at the opera than the poet, and rather meant to discountenance the former than to deny the talents of the latter, certainly possessed a poetical genius far above mediocrity, and has been praised by a variety of accomplished critics. Voltaire, who cannot be suspected of dealing too liberally in panegyric, has observed, that. “ artless and inimitable strokes of nature “ frequently appear with interesting charms in the compositions of « Quinault."

Lully, an Italian exotic, was early transplanted to the rankest hotbed of vanity and sensuality existing at that time in Europe. At tne age of ten years he was made a page to Madame de Montpen. sier, niece to Lewis the Fourteenth; from which place he was removed, and made an under-scullion in the kitchen. He was, however, so distinguished for a genius and natural tendency to music that he received instructions from a master so successfully

* Doctor Johnson's prologue on the opening of the theatre royal Drury. lane, in 1747.

and became such a proficient on the violin that he was recommended to royal notice, and soon after made by the king superintendent of his music. On the recovery of Lewis fron'a dangerous indisposition, Lully composed a Te Deum which proved fatal to him: for during the performance of it, in his enthusiasm of beating time, he struck his toe with such unlucky energy against something that lay in his way, that it produced a gangrene which terminated in his death.-To Lully, however, the French owe the perfection (whatever its degree may be) to which their music has been brought.

Voltaire's sneer at the bad taste for music in England if partially applied, was perhaps not altogether unfounded: for Cambert, completely eclipsed by Lully, left France and passed over to England, in 1662, where Charles the Second made him master of his band; and in 1682 PURCELL, the great British musician, immortalized by his own compositions and the praise of Dryden, remarked that “it was time for the English to loathe the levity' of “their neighbours;" speaking generally, however, the sarcasm was unjust, illnatured, and untrue, as every musician even of moderate knowledge and taste will testify, who considers that Gibbons flourished in England long before that time, and that Blow had lived and died before Voltaire uttered that sneer. Of Gibbons it is conceded, that his compositions were far superior to all those of his age; and Blow was in his time little less celebrated.

Of Lully's arrogance several curious instances are transmitted to us. Those are of so rank a kind that they could scarcely be believed if they were not fully authenticated.—Quinault having composed some scenes of the opera of Phaeton submitted them to the academy, who gave an opinion upon them, in conformity to which they were altered by the author, and on reviewing them in their corrected state approved of them and acquiesced in the alterations: Lully however, believing himself superior to both the poet and academy, and inflated with vanity, took upon himself to correct the piece, and even to forbid any appeal from his alterations, though they extended to one full half of the work. When Thomas Corneille wrote his Bellerophon, Lully worried him almost to death, and carried his preposterous intrusion so far that that respectable poet had several times an intention of abandoning the piece altogether; and when with difficulty persuaded to continue his labour, was unable to accomplish it without gratifying the presumptuous intruder with an addition of about two thousand unnecessary lines.

Had the great Corneille stood firm to his post with the spirit and perseverance becoming a man of genius, at that crisis wlien the wayward projects of Mazarine were struggling to lower the public taste to a relish for the stupid vulgar nonsense of the opera—had he even remained neuter, and left the vile innovation to make its own way unassisted, tragedy would have maintained its station, and common sense and classical taste would have none of those mortifications to encounter which they now so constantly experience from that insane and unnatural exhibition, opera; and that disgust. ing, loathsome outrage upon nature and reason, pantomime.

It is a painful task to mark the degradation of genius and merit: yet it is one which cannot be at all times, with propriety, declined. We have already observed,* that Corneille, exiled by the puppetshow mummery of the opera, had, to his great loss, retired from the stage; but that at the end of three years, yielding to mistaken prudential motives, he condescended to lay his honourable ambition at the feet of contemptible expediency, and to prostitute his astonishing talents in giving support and grace and currency to an innovation which he, in his heart, despised and execrated; that he composed for the purpose his Andromache, and that, to their temporary satisfaction and eternal shame, the people of France saw their greatest dramatic poet,--that poet who was and ever since has been the principal luminary of their stage,-dancing in, as partner and fellow candidate for applause, with the scene painters, mechanists and carpenters of the playhouse.

The historian, from whom we collect these facts, seems to have been so disgusted with the subject, that he could not enter with the minuteness which it perhaps deserves, into the description of all the particulars of the puppet-show set off, in the Andromache, by the brilliant talents of Pierre Corneille. He, however, states that the principal object of admiration was a real, living Pegasus, slung in so peculiar a way that he sprang into the air and seemed lost in the clouds. It seems that the poor horse which was used for the purpose, was kept without food till he was almost starved into madness with hunger, and in that condition was fastened in the

* See page 338, Volume III.


flies to a cord with pulleys so constructed that, by a counterpoise, his own weight would carry him to the other side of the stage. When it was the proper time for master Pegasus to make his appearance, a man on the opposite side, so concealed as not to be seen by the audience, held out a sieve of oats to the eager eyes and keen nostrils of the famished animal; stimulated by which tempting sight, the creature pawed and curveted and neighed most vehemently. When by these means the poor brute had attracted the attention and applause of the audience for a sufficient length of time, the' rope by which he was restrained was suddenly let loose, and, with a sudden plunge, he leaped into the air, through which he was conveyed, in a state of suspension, to the clouds which shut him from the sight and left the imagination of the audience at liberty to follow him to his baiting place among the stars.

Oh, what a falling off was there and how uncomfortable must have been the emotions of the great Corneille to see a tackled horse sharing the plaudits of France with him, and the success of a piece of his ascribed to the movements of that animal. It is “ true," says the relater, “ we have seen living horses in the “ Italian opera; but none of them had to boast of the warlike “ ardor of the Pegasus in Corneille's tragedy of Andromache; his “ movements were admirable, and certainly contributed very ma" terially to the success of the piece.”

Never did folly or rashness produce more sinister effects than this perverted prudence of Corneille. In that chaotic, addledegglike mass, the public brain, the properties of tragedy could no longer be distinguished from painted canvas, machinery, and flying horses: the play no longer was the principal object, but a mere uninteresting medium for the introduction of scenes and machines. The brush of the scene-painter de faced and buried from sight the strokes of the poet's pen; and for simplicity, beauty, vigor, or elegance in style, artful conduct of fable, interesting situation, natural incidents, or affecting catastrophe, the people had neither time nor approbation to spare from their centaurs and mermaids, their flying dolphins and dragons of pasteboard and paint.

It has been judiciously observed that, had Corneille done his duty, he might have stemmed the torrent of innovation till it had spent itself and passed away into oblivion. If he had had at once the spirit to resolve on its extirpation and the policy to meet it half way, for the purpose of destroying it, it could not have subsisted long. He then stood in public opinion infinitely higher than all the dramatic poets put together. Adored by the people, and independent in his circumstances, he had nothing to fear, and was competent, if not immediately to control, certainly to mould the public taste into what shape, and ultimately to give it what direction he might have resolved upon. If, instead of first recoiling with disgust, he had affected a temperate disapprobation only, and said to the people “ One part of this new business is admirable: I mean the improvement in the scenery; for our scenery has hitherto been very defective and mean—inadequate to the purposes of necessary illusion, and unworthy of the dignity of the tragic muse; but your machines and mechanical operations are abominable; however ingenious in themselves, they disgrace the drama, and degrade tragedy to the base level of pantomime;"—the judicious would not be at this day tortured as they are by such senseless representations. But instead of doing so, he first fluctuated, then gave himself up, devotedly to the capricious fashions of the times; and, in a word, became a mere purveyor to that kind of half pantomime.

Encouraged by the success of his tragedy of Andromache, he the next year (1651) brought out a kind of heroic comedy, intitled Don Sanche de Arragon, which, though it had some success at first, owing to the machinery, added nothing to his reputation, and was finally withdrawn from the Parisian boards, and represented only in the provinces. The piece was no doubt unworthy of his muse: it was taken from two Spanish productions, which had themselves been borrowed from romances, and, owing to that circumstance or more probably to his constructing it merely for scenic and mechanical effect, it was so inartificially conceived, and so very lamely conducted, that he became inextricably entangled, and was obliged to cut the knot he could not untie by bringing down a person from the clouds to accomplish the catastrophe. Corneille, in fact, seems to have now forgotten that he was a poet, and to have sunk into a mere pantomime projector. Being neither comedy, nor tragedy, nor opera neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring, as the saying is, this heterogeneous piece of his failed even of its temporary expected productiveness, was actually prohibited, and very much impaired the reputation of the author.

The next year he made another experiment with still less success. He wrote a tragedy called Nicomede, upon a plan which he himself confessed to be very extraordinary, tacking to the

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