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venturous in action, strange, wild, and extravagant in invention. Human life took the shape of a busy, voluptuous dream, where the imagination was now lost amidst "antres vast and deserts idle ;' or suddenly transported to stately palaces, echoing with dance and song. In this uncertainty of events, this fluctuation
. of hopes and fears, all objects became dim, confused, and vague. Magicians, dwarfs, giants, followed in the train of romance; and Orlando's enchanted sword, the horn which he carried with him, and which he blew thrice at Roncesvalles, and Rogero's winged horse, were not sufficient to protect them in their unheard-of encounters, or deliver them from their inextricable difficulties. It was a return to the period of the early heroic ages; but tempered by the difference of domestic manners, and the spirit of religion. The marked difference in the relation of the sexes arose from the freedom of choice in women: which, from being the slaves of the will and passions of men, converted them into the arbiters of their fate, which introduced the modern system of gallantry, and first made love a feeling of the heart, founded on mutual affection and esteem. The leading virtues of the Christian religion, self-denial and generosity, assisted in producing the same effect. Hence the spirit of chivalry, of romantic love and honour!
“ The mythology of the romantic poetry differed from the received religion: both differed essentially from the classical. The religion or mythology of the Greeks was nearly allied to their poetry : it was material and definite. The Pagan system reduced the gods to the human form, and elevated the powers of inanimate nature to the same standard. Statues carved out of the finest marble, represented the objects of their religious worship in airy porticos, in solemn temples and consecrated groves. Mercury was seen * new lighted on some heavenkissing hill;' and the Naiad or Dryad came gracefully forth as the personified genius of the stream or wood.
All was subjected to the senses. The Christian religion, on the con- . trary, is essentially spiritual and abstracted: it is the evidence of things unseen.' In the Heathen mythology, form is everywhere predominant; in the Christian, we find only unlimited, undefined power. The imagination abne broods over the immense abyss, and makes it pregnant.' There is, in the
habitual belief of an universal, invisible principle of all things, a vastness and obscurity which confounds our perceptions, while it exalts our piety. A mysterious awe surrounds the doctrines of the Christian faith : the infinite is everywhere before us, whe. ther we turn to reflect on what is revealed to us of the divine nature or our own.
“ History, as well as religion, has contributed to enlarge the bounds of imagination; and both together, by showing past and future objects at an interminable distance, have accustomed the mind to contemplate and take an interest in the obscure and shadowy. The ancients were more circumscribed within the ignorant present time'-spoke only their own language—were conversant only with their own customs—were acquainted only with the events of their own history. The mere lapse of time then, aided by the art of printing, has served to accumulate an endless mass of mixed and contradictory materials; and, by extending our knowledge to a greater number of things, has made our particular ideas less perfect and distinct. The constant reference to a former state of manners and literature is a marked feature in modern poetry. We are always talking of the Greeks and Romans they never said anything of us. This circumstance has tended to give a certain abstract elevation, and ethereal re. finement to the mind, without strengthening it. We are lost in wonder at what has been done, and dare not think of emulating it. The earliest modern poets, accordingly, may be conceived to hail the glories of the antique world, dawning through the dark abyss of time; while revelation, on the other hand, opened its path to the skies. So Dante represents himself as conducted by Virgil to the shades below; while Beatrice welcomes him to the abodes of the blest."
The French are the only people in modern Europe who have professedly imitated the ancients; but from their being utterly unlike the Greeks or Romans, they have produced a dramatic style of their own, which is neither classical nor romantic. The same article contains the following censure of this style :
“ The true poet identifies the reader with the characters he represents; the French poet only identifies him with himself. There is scarcely a single page of their tragedy which fairly throws nature open to you. It is tragedy in masquerade. We never get beyond conjecture and reasoning—beyond the general impression of the situation of the persons-beyond general reflections on their passions-beyond general descriptions of objects. We never get at that something more, which is what we are in search of, namely, what we ourselves should feel in the same situations. The true poet transports you to the sceneyou see and hear what is passing—you catch, from the lips of the persons concerned, what lies nearest to their hearts ;-the French poet takes you into his closet, and reads you a lecture upon it. The chef-d'æuvres of their stage, then, are, at best, only ingenious paraphrases of nature. The dialogue is a tissue
. of common-places, of laboured declamations on human life, of learned casuistry on the passions, on virtue and vice, which any one else might make just as well as the person speaking ; and yet, what the persons themselves would say, is all we want to know, and all for which the poet puts them into those situations."
After the Restoration, that is, after the return of the exiled family of the Stuarts from France, our writers transplanted this artificial, monotonous, and imposing common-place style into England, by imitations and translations, where it could not be expected to take deep root, and produce wholesome fruits, and where it has indeed given rise to little but turgidity and rant in men of original force of genius, and to insipidity and formality in feebler copyists. Otway is the only writer of this school, who, in the lapse of a century and a half, has produced a tragedy (upon the classic or regular model) of indisputable excel. lence and lasting interest. The merit of · Venice Preserved' is not confined to its effect on the stage, or to the opportunity it af: fords for the display of the powers of the actors in it, of a Jaffier, a Pierre, a Belvidera : it reads as well in the closet, and loses little or none of its power of rivetting breathless attention, and stirring the deepest yearnings of affection. It has passages of great beauty in themselves (detached from the fable) touches of true nature and pathos, though none equal or indeed comparable to what we meet with in Shakspeare and other writers of that day ; but the awful suspense of the situations, the conflict of duties and passions, the intimate bonds that unite the charac.
ters together, and that are violently rent asunder like the parting of soul and body, the solemn march of the tragical events to the fatal catastrophe that winds up and closes over all, give to this production of Otway's Muse a charm and power that bind it like a spell on the public mind, and have made it a proud and inseparable adjunct of the English stage. Thomson has given it due honour in his feeling verse, when he exclaims :
“See o'er the stage the Ghost of Hamlet stalks,
There is a mixture of effeminacy, of luxurious and cowardly indulgence of his wayward sensibility, in Jaffier's character, which is, however, finely relieved by the bold, intrepid villany and contemptuous irony of Pierre, while it is excused by the difficulties of his situation, and the loveliness of Belvidera ; but in the Orphan' there is little else but this voluptuous effeminacy of sentiment and mawkish distress, which strikes directly at the root of that mental fortitude and heroic cast of thought which alone makes tragedy endurable—that renders its sufferings pathetic, or its struggles sublime. Yet there are lines and passages in it of extreme tenderness and beauty; and few persons,
I conceive (judging from my own experience) will read it at a certain time of life without shedding tears over it as fast as the “Ara. bian trees their medicinal gums.” Otway always touched the reader, for he had himself a heart. We may be sure that he blotted his page often with his tears, on which so many drops have since fallen from glistening eyes, “ that sacred pity had engendered there.” He had susceptibility of feeling and warmth of genius; but he had not equal depth of thought or loftiness of imagination, and indulged his mere sensibility too much, yielding to the immediate impression or emotion excited in his own mind, and not placing himself enough in the minds and situations of others, or following the workings of nature sufficiently with keenness of eye and strength of will into its heights and depths, its strongholds as well as its weak sides. The “Orphan’ was attempted to be revived some time since, with the advantage of Miss O'Neill playing the part of Monimia. It, however, did not
entirely succeed (as it appeared at the time) from the plot turn. ing all on one circumstance, and that hardly of a nature to be obtruded on the public notice. The incidents and characters are taken almost literally from an old play by Robert Tailor, called · The Hog hath Lost his Pearl.'
Addison's Cato,' in spite of Dennis's criticism, still retains possession of the stage with all its unities. My love and admi. ration for Addison is as great as any person's, let that other person be who he will ; but it is not founded on his “Cato,' in extolling which Whigs and Tories contended in loud applause. The interest of this play (bating that shadowy regret that always clings to and flickers round the form of free antiquity) is confined to the declamation, which is feeble in itself, and not heard on the stage. I have seen Mr. Kemble in this part repeat the Soliloquy on Death' without a line being distinctly heard; nothing was observable but the thoughtful motion of his lips, and the occasional extension of his hand in sign of doubts suggested or resolved; yet this beautiful and expressive dumb-show, with the propriety of his costume, and the elegance of his attitude and figure, excited the most lively interest, and kept attention even more on the stretch, to catch every imperfect syllable - speaking gesture. There is nothing, however, in the play to xcite ridi. cule, or shock by absurdity, except the love scenes, which are passed over as what the spectator has no proper con ern with ; and however feeble or languid the interest produced b: a drama. tic exhibition, unless there is some positive stum 3-block thrown in the way, or gross offence given to an audience, it is generally suffered to linger on to a euthanasia, instead of dying a violent and premature death. If an author (particularly an author of high reputation) can contrive to preserve a uniform degree of insipidity, he is nearly sure of impunity. It is the mix. ture of great faults with splendid passages (the more striking from the contrast) that it is inevitable damnation. Every one must have seen the audience tired out and watching for an opportunity to wreak their vengeance on the author, and yet not able to accomplish their wish, because no one part seemnd more tiresome or worthless than another. The philosophic mantle of Addison's Cato,' when it no longer spreads its graceful folds on