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Barnwell be the loftiest tragedy, and the New- which power has achieved over its earthly gate Calendar the sweetest collection of pathetic frame. In short, it is the high duty of the tales. To name those instances, is sufficiently tragic poet to exhibit humanity sublimest to refute the position on which they are in its distresses-to dignify or to sweeten sorrow-to exhibit eternal energies wrestling with each other, or with the accidents of the worldand to disclose the depth and the immortality of the affections. He must represent humanity as a rock, beaten, and sometimes overspread, with the mighty waters of anguish, but still unshaken. We look to him for hopes, principles, resting places of the soul-for emotions which dignify our passions, and consecrate our sorrows. A brief retrospect of tragedy will show, that in every age when it has triumphed, it has appealed not to the mere love of excitement, but to the perceptions of beauty in the soul-to the yearnings of the deepest affections-to the aspirations after grandeur and permanence, which never leave man even in his errors and afflictions.
Equally false is the opinion, that the pleasure derived from tragedy arises from a source of individual security, while others are suffering. There are no feelings more distantly removed from the selfish, than those which genuine tragedy awakens. We are carried at its representation out of ourselves, and "the ignorant present time,"-by earnest sympathy with the passions and the sorrows, not of our selves, but of our nature. We feel our community with the general heart of man. The encrustments of selfishness and low passion are rent asunder, and the warm tide of human sympathies gushes triumphantly from its secret and divine sources.
It is not, then, in bringing sorrow home in its dreadful realities to our bosoms, nor in Nothing could be more dignified than the painting it so as to make us cling to our selfish old tragedy of the Greeks. Its characters were gratifications with more earnest joy, that the demi-gods, or heroes; its subjects were often tragic poet moves and enchants us. Grief is the destinies of those lines of the mighty, but the means-the necessary means indeed- which had their beginning among the eldest by which he accomplishes his lofty purposes. deities. So far, in the development of their The grander qualities of the soul cannot be plots, were the poets from appealing to mere developed the deepest resources of comfort sensibility, that they scarcely deigned to within it cannot be unveiled-the solemnities awaken an anxious throb, or draw forth a of its destiny cannot be shadowed forth-ex-human tear. In their works, we see the catascept in peril, and in suffering. Hence peril and trophe from the beginning, and feel its influence suffering become instruments of the Tragic at every step, as we advance majestically along Muse. But these are not, in themselves, those the solemn avenue which it closes. There is things which we delight to contemplate. Va- little struggle; the doom of the heroes is fixed rious, indeed, yet most distinct from these, are on high, and they pass, in sublime composure, the sources of that deep joy that tragedy pro- to fulfil their destiny. Their sorrows are awful, duces. Sometimes we are filled with a delight their deaths religious sacrifices to the power of not dissimilar to that which the Laocoon ex- Heaven. The glory that plays about their cites-an admiration of the more than mortal heads is the prognostic of their fate. A conbeauty of the attitudes and of the finishing- secration is shed over their brief and sad and even of the terrific sublimity of the folds career, which takes away all the ordinary in which the links of fate involve the charac- feelings of suffering. Their afflictions are ters. When we look at that inimitable group, sacred, their passions inspired by the gods, we do not merely rejoice in a sympathy with their fates prophesied in elder time, their deaths extreme suffering-but are enchanted with ten- almost festal. All things are tinged with sancder loveliness, and feel that the sense of dis-tity or with beauty in the Greek tragedies. tress is softened by the exquisite touches of Bodily pain is made sublime; destitution and genius. Often, in tragedy, our hearts are ele-wretchedness are rendered sacred; and the vated by thoughts "informed with nobleness" -by the view of heroic greatness of soul-by the contemplation of affections which death cannot conquer. It is not the depth of anguish which calls forth delicious tears-it is some sweet piece of self-denial-some touch of human gentleness, in the midst of sorrow-stances attendant on the death of some "glorious triumph of exceeding love," which suffuses our “subdued eyes," and mellows our hearts. Death itself often becomes the source of sublime consolations: seen through the poetical medium, it often seems to fall on the wretched "softly and lightly, as a passing cloud." It is felt as the blessed means of re-uniting faithful and ill-fated lovers-it is the pillow on whic the long struggling patriot rests. Often it exhibits the noblest triumph of the spiritual over the material part of man. The intense ardour of a spirit that "o'er-inform'd its tenement of clay"-yet more quenchless in the last conflict, is felt to survive the struggle, and to triumph even in the victory
very grove of the Furies is represented as
And how rich a poetic atmosphere do the
The Romans failed in tragedy, because their
love of mere excitement was too keen to per- | mit them to enjoy it. They had "supped full of horrors." Familiar with the thoughts of real slaughter, they could not endure the philosophic and poetic view of distress in which it is softened and made sacred. Their imaginations were too practical for a genuine poet to affect. Hence, in the plays which bear the name of Seneca, horrors are heaped on horrors-the most unpleasing of the Greek fictions (as that of Medea) are re-written and made ghastly-and every touch that might redeem is carefully effaced by the poet. Still, the grandeur of old tragedy is there-still" the gorgeous pall comes sweeping by"-still the dignity survives, though the beauty has faded.
death have deprived it of its terrors. In Shakspeare, the passionate is always steeped in the beautiful. Sometimes he diverts sorrow with tender conceits, which, like little fantastic rocks, break its streams into sparkling cascades and circling eddies. And when it must flow on, deep and still, he bends over it branching foliage and graceful flowers-whose leaves are seen in its dark bosom, all of one sober and harmonious hue-but in their clearest form and most delicate proportions.
The other dramatists of Shakspeare's age, deprived, like him, of classical resources, and far inferior to him in imagination and wisdom, strove to excite a deep interest by the wildness of their plots, and the strangeness of the incidents with which their scenes were crowded. Their bloody tragedies are, however, often relieved by passages of exquisite sweetness. Their terrors, not humanized like those of Shakspeare, are yet far removed from the vulgar or disgusting. Sometimes, amidst the gloom of continued crimes, which often follow each other in stern and awful succession, are fair pictures of more than earthly virtue, tinted with the dews of heaven, and encircled with celestial glories. The scene in The Broken Heart, where Calantha, amidst the festal crowd, receives the news of the successive deaths of those dearest to her in the world, yet dances on-and that in which she composedly settles all the affairs of her empire, and then dies smiling by the body of her contracted lordare in the loftiest spirit of tragedy. They combine the dignity and majestic suffering of the ancient drama, with the intenseness of the modern. The last scene unites beauty, tenderness, and grandeur, in one harmonious and stately picture-as sublime as any single scene in the tragedies of Eschylus or Shakspeare.
In the productions of Shakspeare, doubtless, tragedy was divested of something of its external grandeur. The mythology of the ancient world had lost its living charm. Its heroic forms remained, indeed, unimpaired in beauty or grace, in the distant regions of the imagination, but they could no longer occupy the foreground of poetry. Men required forms of flesh and blood, animated by human passion, and awakening human sympathy. Shakspeare, therefore, sought for his materials nearer to common humanity than the elder bards. He took also, in each play, a far wider range than they had dared to occupy. He does not, therefore, convey so completely as they did one grand harmonious feeling, by each of his works. But who shall affirm, that the tragedy of Shakspeare has not an elevation of its own, or that it produces pleasure only by exhibiting spectacles of varied anguish? The reconciling power of his imagination, and the genial influences of his philosophy are ever softening and consecrating sorrow. He scatters the rainbow hues of fancy over objects in themselves repulsive. He nicely developes the "soul of good- Of the succeeding tragedians of England, ness in things evil," to console and delight us. the frigid imitators of the French Drama, it is He blends all the most glorious imagery of na- necessary to say but little. The elevation of ture with the passionate expressions of afflic- their plays is only on the stilts of declamatory tion. He sometimes, in a single image, ex-language. The proportions and symmetry of presses an intense sentiment in all its depth, yet identifies it with the widest and the grandest objects of creation. Thus he makes Timon, in the bitterness of his soul, set up his tomb on the beached shore, that the wave of the ocean may once a day cover him with its embossed foam-expanding an individual feeling into the extent of the vast and eternal sea; yet making us feel it as more intense, from the very sublimity of the image. The mind can always rest without anguish on his catastrophies, however mournful. Sad as the story of Romeo and Juliet is, it does not lacerate or tear the heart, but relieves it of its weight by awakening sweet tears. We shrink not at their tomb, which we feel has set a seal on their loves and virtues, but almost long with them there "to set up our everlasting rest." We do not feel unmingled agony at the death of Lear; when his aged heart, which has been beaten so fearfully, is at rest-and his withered frame, late o'er-informed with terrific energy, reposes with his pious child. We are not shocked and harrowed even when Hamlet falls; for we feel that he is unfit for the bustle of this world, and his own gentle contemplations on
their plots are but an accordance with arbitrary
The plays of Hill, Hughes, Philips, Murphy, and Rowe, are dialogues, sometimes ill and sometimes well written-occasionally stately in numbers, but never touching the soul. It would be unjust to mention Young and Thomson as the writers of tragedies.
The old English feeling of tender beauty has at last begun to revive. Lamb's John Woodvil, despised by the critics, and for a while neg.
lected by the people, awakened those gentle pulses of deep joy which had long forgotten to beat. Here first, after a long interval, instead of the pompous swelling of inane declamation, the music of humanity was heard in its sweetest tones. The air of freshness breathed over its forest scenes, the delicate grace of its images, its nice disclosure of consolations and venerablenesses in the nature of man, and the exquisite beauty of its catastrophe, where the stony remorse of the hero is melted into child-like tears, as he kneels on the little hassock where he had often kneeled in infancy, are truly Shakspearean. Yet this piece, with all its delicacies in the reading, wants that striking scenic effect, without which a tragedy cannot succeed on the stage. The Remorse of Coleridge is a noble poem; but its metaphysical clouds, though fringed with golden imaginations, brood too heavily over it. In the detached
scenes of Barry Cornwall, passages of the daintiest beauty abound-the passion is every where breathed tenderly forth, in strains which are "silver sweet"-and the sorrow is relieved by tenderness the most endearing. Here may be enjoyed "a perpetual feast of nectared sweets, where no crude surfeit reigns."-In these-and in the works of Shiel, and even of Maturin-are the elements whence a tragedy more noble and complete might be moulded, than any which has astonished the world since Macbeth and Lear. We long to see a stately subject for tragedy chosen by some living aspirantthe sublime struggle of high passions for the mastery displayed-the sufferings relieved by glorious imaginations, yet brought home to our souls, and the whole conveying one grand and harmonious impression to the general heart. Let us hope that this triumph will not long be wanting, to complete the intellectual glories of our age.
REVIEW OF CIBBER'S APOLOGY FOR HIS LIFE.
[RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW, No. 2.]
THERE are, perhaps, few individuals, of in- determination not to repress it, because it is tense personal conciseness, whose lives, writ- part of himself, and therefore will only increase ten by themselves, would be destitute of interest the resemblance of the picture. Rousseau did or of value. Works of this description enlarge not more clearly lay open to the world the the number of our intimacies without inconve- depths and inmost recesses of his soul, than nience; awaken, with a peculiar vividness, Cibber his little foibles and minikin weakpleasant recollections of our own past career; nesses. The philosopher dwelt not more inand excite that sympathy with the little sor- tensely on the lone enthusiasm of his spirit, rows, cares, hopes, and enjoyments of others, on the alleviations of his throbbing soul, on which infuses new tenderness into all the the long draughts of rapture which he eagerly pulses of individual joy. The qualification drank in from the loveliness of the universe, which is most indispensable to the writer of than the player on his early aspirings for scenic such auto-biographies, is vanity. If he does applause, and all the petty triumphs and mornot dwell with gusto on his own theme, he will tifications of his passion for the favour of the communicate no gratification to his reader. He town. How real and speaking is the descripmust not, indeed, fancy himself too outrage- tion which he gives of his fond desires for the ously what he is not, but should have the bright course of an actor-of his light-hearted highest sense of what he is, the happiest relish pleasure, when, in the little part of the Chapfor his own peculiarities, and the most confi- lain, in The Orphan, he received his first apdent assurance that they are matters of great plause-and of his highest transport, when, interest to the world. He who feels thus, will the next day, Goodman, a retired actor of note, not chill us by cold generalities, but trace with clapping him on the shoulder at a rehearsal, an exquisite minuteness all the felicities of his exclaimed, with an oath, that he must make a life, all the well remembered moments of grati- good actor, which almost took away his breath, fied vanity, from the first beatings of hope and and fairly drew tears into his eyes! The spirit first taste of delight, to the time when age is of gladness, which gave such exquisite keengladdened by the reflected tints of young enter-ness to his youthful appetite for praise, susprise and victory. Thus it was with Colley Cibber; and, therefore, his Apology for his own life is one of the most amusing books that have ever been written. He was not, indeed, a very wise or lofty character-nor did he affect great virtue or wisdom-but openly derided gravity, bade defiance to the serious pursuits of life, and honestly preferred his own lightness of heart and of head, to knowledge the most extensive or thought the most profound. He was vain even of his vanity. At the very commencement of his work, he avows his
tained him through all the changes of his fortune, enabling him to make a jest of penury, assisting him to gather fresh courage from every slight, adding zest to every success, until he arrived at the high dignity of "Patentee of the Theatre Royal." When "he no revenue had but his good spirits to feed and clothe him," these were ample. His vanity was to him a kingdom. The airiest of town butterflies, he sipped of the sweets of pleasure wherever its stray gifts were found; sometimes in the tavern among the wits, but chiefly in the
golden sphere of the theatre,-that magic circle" made of one blood," and equal in the sanctiwhose majesties do not perish with the chances ties of their being. Surely the art that produces of the world. In reading his life, we become an effect like this-which separates, as by a possessed of his own feathery lightness, and divine alchemy, the artificial from the real in seem to follow the course of the gayest and humanity-which supplies to the artisan in the emptiest of all the bubbles, that, in his age the capital, the place of those woods and free of happy trifling, floated along the shallow but airs, and mountain streams, which insensibly glittering stream of existence. harmonize the peasant's character-which gives the poorest to feel the old grandeur of tragedy, sweeping by with sceptred pall—which makes the heart of the child leap with strange joy, and enables the old man to fancy himself again a child-is worthy of no mean place among the arts which refine our manners, by exalting our conceptions!
It has sometimes been objected to the thea
The Life of Cibber is peculiarly a favourite with us, not only by reason of the superlative coxcombry which it exhibits, but of the due veneration which it yields to an art too frequently under-rated, even among those to whose gratification it ministers. If the degree of enjoyment and of benefit produced by an art be any test of its excellence, there are few, indeed, which will yield to that of the actor. His ex-trical artist, that he merely repeats the lanertions do not, indeed, often excite emotions so guage and imbodies the conceptions of the deep or so pure as those which the noblest poet. But the allegation, though specious, is poetry inspires, but their genial influences are unfounded. It has been completely established, far more widely extended. The beauties of by a great and genial critic of our own time, the most gifted of bards, find in the bosoms of that the deeper beauties of poetry cannot be a very small number an answering sympathy. shaped forth by the actor, and it is equally Even of those who talk familiarly of Spenser true, that the poet has little share in the highand Milton, there are few who have fairly read, est triumphs of the performer. It may, at first, and still fewer who truly feel, their divinest appear a paradox, but is, nevertheless, proved effusions. It is only in the theatre, that any by experience, that the fanciful cast of the lanimage of the real grandeur of humanity-any guage has very little to do with the effect of picture of generous heroism and noble self- an acted tragedy. Mrs. Siddons would not sacrifice is poured on the imaginations, and have been less than she is, though Shakspeare sent warm to the hearts of the vast body of had never written. She displayed genius as the people. There, are eyes, familiar through exalted in the characters drawn by Moore, months and years only with mechanic toil, Southern, Otway, and Rowe, as in those of the suffused with natural tears. There, are the first of human bards. Certain great situations deep fountains of hearts, long encrusted by are all the performer needs, and the grandest narrow cares, burst open, and a holy light is emotions of the soul all that he can imbody. sent in on the long sunken forms of the imagi- He can derive little aid from the noblest imagination, which shone fair and goodly in boy-nations or the richest fantasies of the author. hood by their own light, but have since been He may, indeed, by his own genius, like the sealed and forgotten in their "sunless treasu-matchless artist to whom we have just alluded, ries." There, do the lowest and most ignorant consecrate sorrow, dignify emotion, and kindle catch their only glimpse of that poetic radiance which sheds its glory around our being. While hey gaze, they forget the petty concerns of their own individual lot, and recognise and rejoice in their kindred with a nature capable of high emprise, of meek suffering, and of defiance to the powers of agony and the grave. They are elevated and softened into men. They are carried beyond the ignorant present time; feel the past and the future on the instant, and kindle as they gaze on the massive realities of human virtue, or on those fairy visions which are the gleaming foreshadows of golden years, which hereafter shall bless the world. Their horizon is suddenly extended from the narrow circle of low anxieties and selfish joys, to the farthest boundaries of our moral horizon; and they perceive, in clear vision, the rocks of defence for their nature, which their fellow men have been privileged to raise. While they feel that "which gives an awe of things above them," their souls are expanded in the heartiest sympathy with the vast body of their fellows. A thousand hearts are swayed at once by the same emotion, as the high grass of the meadow yields, as a single blade, to the breeze which sweeps over it. Distinctions of fortune, rank, talent, age, all give way to the warm tide of emotion, and every class feel only as partakers in one primal sympathy,
the imagination as well as awaken the sympathies. But this will be accomplished, not by the texture of the words spoken, but by the living magic of the eye, of the tone, of the action; by all those means which belong exclusively to the actor. When Mrs. Siddons cast that unforgotten gaze of blank horror on the corpse of Beverley, was she indebted to the playwright for the conception? When, as Arpasia, in Tamerlane, she gave that look of inexpressible anguish, in which the breaking of the heart might be seen, and the cold and rapid advances of death traced-and fell without a word, as if struck by the sudden blow of destiny-in that moment of unearthly power, when she astonished and terrified even her oldest admirers, and after which, she lay herself really senseless from the intensity of her own emotion-where was the marvellous stage direction, the pregnant hint in the frigid declamatory text, from which she wrought this amazing picture, too perilous to be often repeated? Do the words "I'm satisfied," in Cato, convey the slightest image of that high struggle-that contest between nature long re
See Mr. Lamb's Essay on the Tragedies of Shakspeare, as adapted to representation on the stage--a piece, which combines more of profound thought, with more of deep feeling and exquisite beauty, than any criticism with which we are acquainted.
pressed and stoic pride-which Mr. Kemble in | ration of their works. Shakspeare seems to
late on his memory. The best benefactors of
Still less weight is there in the objection, that part of the qualities of an actor, as his form and voice, are the gifts of nature, which imply no merit in their possessor. They are no more independent of will, than the sensibility and imagination of the bard. Our admiration is not determined by merit, but by beauty; we contemplate angelic purity of soul with as tender a love as virtue, which has been reared with intense labour among clouds and storms, and follow with as delighted a wonder the quick glances of intuition as the longest and most difficult researches. The actor exhibits as high a perception of natural grace, as fine an acquaintance with the picturesque in attitude, as the sculptor. If the forms of his imagination do not stand for ages in marble, they live and breathe before us while they last change, with all the variations of passion-and "discourse most eloquent music." They sometimes, as in the case of Mr. Kemble's Roman characters, supply the noblest illustrations of history. The story of Coriolanus is to us no dead letter; the nobleness of Cato is an abstract idea no longer. We seem to behold even now the calm approaches of the mighty stoic to his end-to look on him, maintaining the forms of Roman liberty to the last, as though he would grasp its trembling relics in his dying hands-and to listen to those solemn tones, now the expiring accents of liberty passing away, and anon the tremulous breathings" of uncertain hope for the future. The reality with which these things have been presented to our youthful eyes is a possession for everquickening our sympathy with the most august instances of human virtue, and enriching our souls with palpable images of the majesty of old.
It may be said, that if a great actor carries us into times that are past, he rears up no monument which will last in those which are The work before us, however, may afford to come. But there are many circumstances better consolation than we can render to actors; to counterbalance and alleviate the shortness for it redeems not the names, but the vivid of his fame. The anxiety for posthumous re-images of some of the greatest artists of a cennown, though there is something noble in it as abstracted from mere personal desires, is scarcely the loftiest of human emotions. The Homeric poets, who breathed forth their strains to untutored ears, and left no visible traces of their genius, could scarcely anticipate the du
tury ago, from oblivion. Here they are not embalmed, but kept alive-and breathe, in all the glory of their meridian powers, before us. Here Betterton's tones seem yet to melt on the entranced hearer-Nokes yet convulses the full house with laughter on his first appear