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alternately exhibiting the grossest plagiarism and the wildest originality-now swelling into offensive bombast, and anon disclosing the simplest majesty of nature, fluctuating with inconstant ebb between the sublime and the ridiculous, the delicate and the revolting. "Women, or Pour et Contre," is less unequal, but we think, on the whole, less interesting than the author's earlier productions. He should not venture, as in this work he has done, into the ordinary paths of existence. His persons, if not cast in a high and heroic, mould, have no stamp of reality upon them. The reader of this work, though often dazzled and delighted, has a painful feeling that the characters are shadowy and unreal, like that which is experienced in dreams. They are unpleasant and tantalizing likenesses, approaching sufficiently near to the true to make us feel what they would be and lament what they are. Eva, Zaira, the manaic mother, and the group of Calvinists, have all a resemblance to nature and sometimes to nature at its most passionate or its sweetest-but they look as at a distance from us, as though between us and them there were some veil, or discolouring medium, to baffle and perplex us. Still the novel is a splendid work; and gives the feeling that its author has "riches fineless" in store, which might delight as well as astonish the world, if he would cease to be their slave, and become their master.
In the narrow boundaries of the Drama the redundancies of Mr. Maturin have been necessarily corrected. In this walk, indeed, there seems reason to believe that his genius would have grown purer, as it assumed a severer attitude; and that he would have sought to attain high and true passion, and lofty imagination, had he not been seduced by the admiration unhappily lavished on Lord Byron's writings. The feverish strength, the singular blending of good and evil, and the spirit of moral paradox, displayed in these works, were congenial with his tastes, and aroused in him the desire to imitate. "Bertram," his first and most successful tragedy, is a fine piece of writing, wrought out of a nauseous tale, and
rendered popular, not by its poetical beauties, but by the violence with which it jars on the sensibilities, and awakens the sluggish heart from its lethargy. "Manuel," its successor, feebler, though in the same style, excited little attention, and less sympathy. In "Fredolpho," the author, as though he had resolved to sting the public into a sense of his power, crowded together characters of such matchless depravity, sentiments of such a demoniac cast, and events of such gratuitous horror, that the moral taste of the audience, injured as it had been by the success of similar works, felt the insult, and rose up indignantly against it. Yet in this piece were passages of a soft and mournful beauty, breathing a tender air of romance, which led us bitterly to regret that the poet chose to "embower the spirit of a fiend, in mortal paradise of such sweet" song. We do not, however despair even yet of the regeneration of our author's taste. There has always been something of humanity to redeem those works in which his genius has been most perverted. There is no deliberate sneering at the disinterested and the pure-no cold derision of human hopes-no deadness to the lonely and the loving, in his writings. His error is that of a hasty trusting to feverish impulses, not of a malignant design. There is far more of the soul of goodness in his evil things, than in those of the noble bard whose example has assisted to mislead him. He does not, indeed, know so well how to place his unnatural characters in imposing attitudes-to work up his morbid sensibilities for sale-or to "build the lofty rhyme" on shattered principles, and the melancholy fragments of hope. But his diction is more rich, his fancy is more fruitful, and his compass of thought and feeling more extensive. Happy shall we be to see him doing justice at last to his powersstudying not to excite the wonder of a few barren readers or spectators, but to live in the hearts of the good of future times-and, to this high end, leaving discord for harmony, the startling for the true, and the evil which, however potent, is but for a season, for the pure and the holy which endure for ever'
REVIEW OF RYMER'S WORKS ON TRAGEDY.
THESE are very curious and edifying works. The author (who was the compiler of the Fadera) appears to have been a man of considerable acuteness, maddened by a furious zeal for the honour of tragedy. He lays down the most fantastical rules for the composition which he chiefly reverses, and argues on them as "truths of holy writ." He criticises Shakspeare as one invested with authority to sit in judgment on his powers, and passes on him as decisive a sentence of condemnation, as ever was awarded against a friendless poet by a Re
viewer. We will select a few passages from his work, which may be consolatory to modern authors and useful to modern critics.
The chief weight of Mr. Rymer's critical vengeance is wreaked on Othello. After a slight sketch of the plot, he proceeds at once to speak of the moral, which he seems to regard as of the first importance in tragedy.
"Whatever rubs or difficulty may stick on the bark, the moral use of this fable is very instructive. First, this may be a caution to all maidens of quality, how, without their parents'
consent, they run away with blackamoors. Secondly, this may be a warning to all good wives, that they look well to their linen. Thirdly, this may be a lesson to husbands, that before their jealousy be tragical, the proofs may be mathematical."
Our author then proceeds happily to satirize Othello's colour. He observes, that "Shakspeare was accountable both to the eyes and to the ears." On this point we think his objection is not without reason. We agree with an excellent modern critic in the opinion, that though a reader may sink Othello's colour in his mind, a spectator can scarcely avoid losing the mind in the colour. But Mr. Rymer proceeds thus to characterize Othello's noble account to the Senate of his whole course of love.
"This was the charm, this was the philtre, the love-powder that took the daughter of this noble Venetian. This was sufficient to make the Blackamoor white, and reconcile all, though there had been a cloven foot into the bargain. A meaner woman might as soon be taken by Aqua Tetrachymagogon."
The idea of Othello's elevation to the rank of a general, stings Mr. Rymer almost to madHe regards the poet's offence as a kind of misprision of treason.
"The character of the state (of Venice) is to employ strangers in their wars; but shall a poet thence fancy that they will set a negro to be their general; or trust a Moor to defend them against the Turk? With us, a Blackamoor might rise to be a trumpeter, but Shakspeare would not have him less than a lieutenant-general. With us, a Moor might marry some little drab or small-coal wench; Shakspeare would provide him the daughter and heir of some great lord, or privy-counsellor; and all the town should reckon it a very suitable match yet the English are not bred up with that hatred and aversion to the Moors as the Venetians, who suffer by a perpetual hostility from them,
'Littora littoribus contraria." "
Our author is as severe on Othello's character, as on his exaltation and colour.
"Horace describes a soldier otherwise,Impyger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer.
"Shakspeare knew his character of Iago was inconsistent. In this very play he pronounces,
'If thou deliver more or less than truth,
"This he knew, but to entertain the audience with something new and surprising against common sense and nature, he would pass upon us a close, dissembling, false, insinuating rascal, instead of an open-hearted, frank, plaindealing soldier, a character constantly worn by them for some thousands of years in the world."
Against "the gentle lady married to the Moor," Mr. Rymer cherishes a most exemplary hatred. He seems to labour for terms strong enough to express the antipathy and scorn he bears her. The following are some of the daintiest:
There is nothing in the noble Desdemona, that is not below any country kitchen-maid with us."-"No woman bred out of a pig-stye could talk so meanly."
Yet is Mr. Rymer no less enraged at her death than at her life.
"Here (he exclaims in an agony of passion) a noble Venetian lady is to be murdered by our poet, in sober sadness, purely for being a fool. No pagan poet but would have found some machine for her deliverance. Pegasus would have strained hard to have brought old Perseus on his back, time enough to rescue this Andromeda from so foul a monster. Has our Christian poetry no generosity, no bowels! Ha, ha, Sir Launcelot! Ha, Sir George! Will no ghost leave the shades for us in extremity, to save a distressed damsel?"
On the "expression," that is, we presume, the poetry of the work, Mr. Rymer does not think it necessary to dwell; though he admits that "the verses rumbling in our ears, are of good use to help off the action." On those of Shakspeare he passes this summary judgment: “In the neighing of a horse, or in the growling of a mastiff, there is a meaning, there is as lively expression, and may I say more humanity, than many times in the tragical flights of "Othello is made a Venetian general. We Shakspeare. Having settled this trivial point, see nothing done by him, nor related concern-he invites the reader" to step among the scenes, to observe the conduct on this tragedy." ing him, that comports with the condition of a general, or, indeed, of a man, unless the killing himself to avoid a death the law was about to inflict upon him. When his jealousy had wrought him up to a resolution of his taking revenge for the supposed injury, he sets Iago to the fighting part to kill Cassio, and chooses himself to murder the silly woman, his wife,
that was like to make no resistance."
Mr. Rymer next undertakes to resent the affront put on the army by the making Iago a soldier.
In examining the first scene of Othello, our critic weightily reprehends the sudden and startling manner in which Iago and Roderigo inform Brabantio of his daughter's elopement with the Moor. He regards their abruptness as an unpardonable violation of decorum, and, by way of contrast to its rudeness, informs us,
“In former days there wont to be kept at the courts of princes somebody in a fool's coat, that in pure simplicity might let slip something, which made way for the ill news, and blunted the shock, which otherwise might have come too violent on the party.”
"But what is most intolerable is Iago. He is no Blackamoor soldier, so we may be sure he should be like other soldiers of our acquaintMr. Rymer shows the council of Venice no ance; yet never in tragedy, nor in comedy, nor in nature, was a soldier with his character;-quarter. He thus daringly scrutinizes their fake it in the author's own words: proceedings.
-some eternal villain,
Some busy and insinuating rogue,
Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office.
By their conduct and manner of talk, a body must strain hard to fancy the scene at Venice, and not rather at some of our Cinque
ports, where the baily and his fishermen are knocking their heads together on account of some whale; or some terrible broil on the coast. But to show them true Venetians, the maritime affairs stick not on their hand; the public may sink or swim. They will sit up all night to hear a Doctors' Commons matrimonial cause; and have the merits of the cause laid open to 'em, that they may decide it before they stir. What can be pleaded to keep awake their attention so wonderfully?"
Here the critic enters into a fitting abuse of Othello's defence to the senate; expresses his disgust at the "eloquence which kept them up all night," and his amaze at their apathy, notwithstanding the strangeness of the marriage. He complains, that
"Instead of starting at the prodigy, every one is familiar with Desdemona, as if he were her own natural father; they rejoice in her good fortune, and wish their own daughters as hopefully married. Should the poet (he continues) have provided such a husband for an only daughter of any peer in England, the Blackamoor must have changed his skin to look our House of Lords in the face."
scenes as this have made all the world run after Harlequin and Scaramoucio.
"The several degrees of action were amongst the ancients distinguished by the cothurnus, the soccus, and the planipes. Had this scene been represented at Old Rome, Othello and Iago must have quitted their buskins; they must have played barefoot; for the spectators would not have been content without seeing their podometry, and the jealousy work out at the very toes of them. Words, be they Spanish or Polish, or any inarticulate sound, have the same effect: they can only serve to distinguish, and, as it were, beat time to the action. But here we see a known language does wofully encumber and clog the operation; as either forced, or heavy, or trifling, or incoherent, or improper, or most improbable. When no words interpose to spoil the conceit, every one interprets, as he likes best; so in that memorable dispute between Panurge and our English philosopher in Rabelais, performed without a word speaking, the theologians, physicians, and surgeons, made one inference; the lawyers, civilians, and canonists, drew another conclusion more to their mind."
Mr. Rymer thus objects to the superlative villany of Iago, on his advising Desdemona's
Our critic next complains, that, in the second act, the poet shows the action (he "knows not how many leagues off") in the island of Cy-murder. prus, without "our Bayes" (as he pleasantly denominates Shakspeare) having made any provision of transport ships for the audience. The first scene in Cyprus is then "cut up" in a way which might make the most skilful of modern reviewers turn pale with envy. After noticing the preliminary dialogue, Mr. Rymer observes, "now follows a long rabble of Jack Pudden, farce between Iago and Desdemona, that runs on with all the little plays, jingle, and trash, below the patience of any country kitchen maid with her sweetheart. The Venetian Donna is hard put to it for pastime; and this is all when they are newly got on shore from a disinal tempest, and when every moment she might expect to hear her Lord, (as she calls him,) that she runs so mad after, is arrived or lost." Our author, therefore, accuses Shakspeare of "unhallowing the theatre, profaning the name of tragedy, and instead of representing men and manners, turning all morality, good-sense, and humanity, into mockery and derision."
Mr. Rymer contends, that Desdemona's solicitations for Cassio were in themselves more than enough to rouse Othello's jealousy. "Iago can now (he observes) only actum agere, and vex the audience with a nauseous" repetition." This remark introduces the following criticism on the celebrated scene in the third act, between Othello and Iago, which is curious, not only as an instance of perverted reasoning, but as it shows that, in the performance, some great histrionic power must have been formerly exerted, not unlike the energy of which we, in witnessing this tragedy, have been spectators.
"Whence comes it, then, that this is the top scene; the scene that raises Othello above all other tragedies at our theatres? it is purely from the action; from the mops and the mows, the grimace, the grins, and gesticulation. Such!
"Iago had some pretence to be discontent with Othello and Cassio, and what passed hitherto was the operation of revenge. Desdemona had never done him any harm; always kind to him, and to his wife; was his countrywoman, a dame of quality. For him to abet her murder, shows nothing of a soldier, nothing of a man, nothing of nature in it. The ordinary of Newgate never had the like monster to pass under his examination. Can it be any diversion to see a rogue beyond what the devil ever finished? or would it be any instruction to an audience? Iago could desire no better than to set Cassio and Othello, his two enemies, by the ears together, so that he might have been revenged on them both at once; and choosing for his own share the murder of Desdemona, he had the opportunity to play booty, and save the poor harmless wretch. But the poet must do every thing by contraries; to surprise the audience still with something horrible and prodigious, beyond any human imagination. At this rate, he must outdo the devil, to be a poet in the rank with Shakspeare."
Mr. Rymer is decorously enraged, to think that the tragedy should turn on a handkerchief. Why," he asks in virtuous indignation, "was not this called the tragedy of the handkerchief? what can be more absurd than (as Quintilian expresses it) in parvibus (sic) litibus has tragedias movere? We have heard of Fortunatus, his purse, and of the invisible cloak long ago worn thread-bare, and stowed up in the wardrobe of obsolete romances; one might think that were a fitter place for this handkerchief than that it, at this time of day, be worn on the stage, to raise everywhere all this clutter and turmoil." And again," the handkerchief is so remote a trifle, no booby on this side Mauritania could make any consequence from it."
Our author suggests a felicitous alteration
of the catastrophe of Othello. He proposes, that the handkerchief, when lost, should have been folded in the bridal couch; and when Othello was stifling Desdemona,
"The fairy napkin might have started up to disarm his fury, and stop his ungracious mouth. Then might she (in a trance for fear) have lain as dead. Then might he, (believing her dead,) touched with remorse, have honestly, cut his own throat, by the good leave, and with the applause, of all the spectators; who might thereupon have gone home with a quiet mind, admiring the beauty of providence, fairly and truly represented on the theatre."
This may show with what indignity our poet treats the noblest Romans. But there is no other cloth in his wardrobe. Every one must wear a fool's coat that comes to be dressed by him; nor is he more civil to the ladies—Portia, in good manners, might have challenged more respect; she that shines a glory of the first magnitude in the gallery of heroic dames, is with our poet scarce one re
The following is the summing up and catas-move from a natural; she is the own cousintrophe of this marvellous criticism:
german of one piece, the very same impertinent silly flesh and blood with Desdemona. Shakspeare's genius lay for comedy and humour. In tragedy he appears quite out of his element; his brains are turned-he raves and rambles without any coherence, any spark of reason, or any rule to control him, to set bounds to his phrensy."
"What can remain with the audience to carry home with them from this sort of poetry, for their use and edification? How can it work, unless (instead of settling the mind and purging our passions) to delude our senses, disorder our thoughts, addle our brain, pervert our affections, hair our imaginations, corrupt our appetite-and fill our head with vanity, One truth, though the author did not underconfusion, tintamarra, and jingle-jangle, be- stand it, is told in this critic on Julius Cæsar; yond what all the parish clerks of London, that Shakspeare's “senators and his orators with their Old Testament farces and interludes, had their learning and education at the same in Richard the Second's time, could ever pre-school, be they Venetians, Ottamites, or noble tend to? Our only hopes, for the good of their Romans." They drew, in their golden urns, souls, can be that these people go to the play- from the deep fountain of humanity, those livhouse as they do to church-to sit still, looking waters which lose not their sweetness in on one another, make no reflection, nor mind the changes of man's external condition. the play more than they would a sermon.
"There is in this play some burlesque, some humour, and ramble of comical wit, some show, and some mimicry to divert the spectators; but the tragical part is clearly none other than a bloody farce, without salt or savor."
These attacks on Shakspeare are very curious, as evincing how gradual has been the increase of his fame. Their whole tone shows that the author was not advancing what he thought the world would regard as paradoxical or strange. He speaks as one with authority to decide. We look now on his work amazedly; Our author's criticism on Julius Cæsar is very and were it put forth by a writer of our times, scanty, compared with that of Othello, but it is should regard it as "the very ecstasy of madnot less decisive. Indeed, his classical zealness." Such is the lot of genius. However here sharpens his critical rage; and he is in-small the circle of cotemporary admirers, it censed against Shakspeare, not only as offend- must "gather fame" as time rolls on. It aping the dignity of the tragic muse, but the peals to feelings which cannot alter. The minds memory of the noblest Romans. "He might," who once have deeply felt it, can never lose exclaims the indignant critic, "be familiar with the impression at first made upon them-they Othello and Iago, as his own natural acquaint- transmit it to others, by whom it is extended ance, but Cæsar and Brutus were above his to those who are worthy to treasure it. Its conversation; to put them in fools' coats, and stability and duration at length awaken the atmake them Jack Puddens in the Shakspeare tention of the world, which thus acknowledges dress, is a sacrilege beyond any thing in Spel- the sanction of time, and professes an admiraman. The truth is, this author's head was tion for the author, which it only feels for his full of villanous, unnatural images-and his name. We should not, however, have thus tory has furnished him with great names, dwelt on the attacks of Rymer, had we rethereby to recommend them to the world, by garded them merely as objects of wonder, or writing over them-This is Erutus, this is Cicero, as proofs of the partial influence of Shaksthis is Casar." He aflirms, "that the language peare's genius. They are far from deserving Shakspeare puts into the mouth of Brutus unmingled scorn. They display, at least, an would not suit or be convenient, unless from honest, unsophisticated hatred, which is better some son of the shambles, or some natural than the maudlin admiration of Shakspeare, offspring of the butchery." He abuses the expressed by those who were deluded by Irepoet for making the conspirators dispute about land's forgeries. Their author has a heartday-break-seriously chides him for not allow-ness, an earnestness almost romantic, which ing the noble Brutus a watch-candle in his chamber on this important night, rather than puzzling his man, Lucius, to grope in the dark for a flint and tinder-box to get the taper lighted-speaks of the quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius, as that in which "they are to play a prize, a trial of skill in huffing
we cannot despise, though directed against our idol. With a singular obtuseness to poetry, he has a chivalric devotion to all that he regards as excellent and grand. He looks on the supposed errors of the poet as moral crimes. He confounds fiction with fact-grows warm in defence of shadows-feels a violation of
poetical justice, as a wrong conviction by a jury-moves a habeas corpus for all damsels imprisoned in romance—and, if the bard kills those of his characters who deserve to live, pronounces judgment on him as in case of felony, without benefit of clergy. He is the Don Quixote of criticism. Like the hero of Cervantes, he is roused to avenge fictitious injuries, and would demolish the scenic exhibition in his disinterested rage. In one sense he does more honour to the poet than any other writer, for he seems to regard him as an arbiter of life and death-responsible only to the critic for the administration of his powers. Mr. Rymer has his own stately notions of what is proper for tragedy. He is zealous for poetical justice; and as he thinks that vice cannot be punished too severely, and yet that the poet ought to leave his victims objects of pity, he protests against the introduction of very wicked characters. "Therefore," says he, "among the ancients we find no malefactors of this kind; a wilful murderer is, with them, as strange and unknown as a parricide to the old Romans. Yet need we not fancy that they were squeamish, or unacquainted with many of those great lumping crimes in that age; when we remember their Edipus, Orestes, or Medea. But they took care to wash the viper, to cleanse away the venom, and with such art to prepare the morsel; they made it all junket to the taste, and all physic in the operation."
Thus does he lay down the rules of life and death for his regal domain of tragedy: "If I mistake not, in poetry no woman is to kill a man, except her quality gives her the advantage above him; nor is a servant to kill the master, nor a private man, much less a subject to kill a king, nor on the contrary. Poetical decency will not suffer death to be dealt to each other, by such persons whom the laws of duel allow not to enter the lists together." He admits, however, that "there may be circumstances that alter the case: as where there is sufficient ground of partiality in an audience, either upon the account of religion (as Rinaldo or Riccardo, in Tasso, might kill Soliman, or any other Turkish king or great Sultan) or else in favour of our country, for then a private English hero might overcome a king of some rival nation." How pleasant a master of the ceremonies is he in the regions of fiction-regulating the niceties of murder like the decorums of a dance-with an amiable preference for his own religion and country!
These notions, however absurd, result from an indistinct sense of a peculiar dignity and grandeur essential to tragedy-and surely this feeling was not altogether deceptive. Some there are, indeed, who trace the emotions of strange delight which tragedy awakens, entirely to the love of strong excitement, which is gratified by spectacles of anguish. According to their doctrine, the more nearly the representation of sorrow approaches reality, the Our author understands exactly the balance more intense will be the gratification of the of power in the affections. He would dispose spectator. Thus Burke has gravely asserted, of all the poet's characters to a hair, according that if the audience at a tragedy were into his own rules of fitness. He would marshal formed of an execution about to take place in them in array as in a procession, and mark the neighbourhood, they would leave the theaout exactly what each ought to do or suffer. tre to witness it. We believe that experience According to him, so much of presage and no does not warrant a speculation so dishonourmore should be given-such a degree of sor- able to our nature. How few, except those of row, and no more ought a character endure; the grossest minds, are ever attracted by the vengeance should rise precisely to a given punishment of capital offenders! Even of height, and be executed by a certain appointed those whom the dreadful infliction draws tohand. He would regulate the conduct of ficti- gether, how many are excited merely by curitious heroes as accurately as of real beings, osity, and a desire to view the last mortal and often reasons well on his own poetic deca- agony, which in a form more or less terrible logue. "Amintor," says he, (speaking of a all must endure! We think that if, during character in the Maid's Tragedy) "should have the representation of a tragedy, the aubegged the king's pardon; should have suffered dience were compelled to feel vividly that a all the racks and tortures a tyrant could inflict; fellow-creature was struggling in the agonies and from Perillus's bull should have still bel- of a violent death, many of them would retire lowed out that eternal truth, that his promise was-but not to the scene of horror. The reality to be kept that he is true to Aspatia, that he dies for his mistress! Then would his memory have been precious and sweet to after ages; and the midsummer maidens would have of fered their garlands all at his grave."
of human suffering would come too closely home to their hearts, to permit their enjoyment of the fiction. How often, during the scenic exhibition of intolerable agony-unconsecrated and unredeemed-have we been comMr. Rymer is an enthusiastic champion for pelled to relieve our hearts from a weight too the poetical prerogatives of kings. No cour-heavy for endurance, by calling to mind that tier ever contended more strenuously for their the woes are fictitious! It cannot be the highdivine right in real life, than he for their pre- est triumph of an author, whose aim is to eminence in tragedy. We are to presume," observes he gravely, "the greatest virtues, where we find the highest rewards; and though it is not necessary that all heroes should be kings, yet undoubtedly all crowned heads, by poetical right, are heroes. This character is a flower, a prerogative, so certain, so indispensably annexed to the crown, as by no poet, or parliament of poets, ever to be invaded."
heighten the enjoyments of life, that he forces us, in our own defence, to escape from his power. If the pleasure derived from tragedy were merely occasioned by the love of excitement, the pleasure would be in proportion to the depth and the reality of the sorrow. Then would The Gamester be more pathetic than Othello, and Isabella call forth deeper admiration than Macbeth or Lear. Then would George