« ElőzőTovább »
most inclusive definition of the comic. He gives many other definitions, but this will serve very fairly to summarize them. Basal elements in the laughable are "mechanical elasticity," "fundamental absentmindedness," the "distinct impression of a mechanical arrangement"; M. Bergson is never tired of repeating these things, and the starting-point to which he ever and again returns is represented by the words "something mechanical encrusted upon the living." Now let us consider the mechanical something encrusted upon poor Square which brings down our laughter upon him. Certainly it was inelastic in him to bite his own tongue. The mistake may have been due to absentmindedness; he would have fared better, no doubt, had he removed his thoughts from philosophy and bent them all upon his plate. We may agree that to bite the tongue during a didactic address at the dinner-table is undoubtedly an individual imperfection calling for an immediate corrective. It is, in M. Bergson's phraseology (or, to be more exact, in that of the English translation he has approved), to indicate "a special lack of adaptability to society." But is that not to put a rather portentous point upon a misfortune incident to all? If any one of us behaved after biting his tongue in sharp contrast to the way in which he had behaved before, would not that also be laughable? Would it not be all the more laughable by virtue of our realization that to bite the tongue on occasion and appear ridiculous is the common lot? But no. M. Bergson will not have anything to do with such words as "contrast" or "surprise"; the cause of laughter lies deep in the "automatism" of poor Square; there is something mechanical encrusted upon him whether or no he may never in all his life have bitten his tongue before, some trait inimical to society which society must forthwith
humiliate. Had M. Bergson taken any of his instances of the comic from Fielding or from Shakespeare, instead of almost exclusively from Don Quixote and the plays of Molière and Labiche, he would, one thinks, have had greater difficulty in pushing through his thesis in total disregard of such a fundamental distinction as that between laughter "with" and laughter "at." For this is what he has done.
It is when we come to a consideration of the comic in the theatre that we really tremble for the influence of M. Bergson. After all, another book may be written by another philosopher about the laughter in which we do not "always find an unavowed intention to humiliate." There is already a wise and brilliant essay in Meredith's name directing attention to Shakespeare's "laugh of heart and mind." But as regards M. Bergson's series of specifics for the writing of comedy, one is much afraid the fat is already in the fire. It is here that his insistence upon the "mechanical"-with the Jack-in-thebox, the Dancing-jack, and the Snowball as the only archetypes of what he calls "high-class comedy"-becomes most dangerous, because most readily acceptable. Indeed the mechanical is already accepted. The one comic effect in Shakespeare's splendidly unrigid comedies which we feel would be thoroughly congenial to M. Bergson is the conventional exit of Launcelot Gobbo, bowing to one and stepping back upon another of the friends of Bassanio, you will remember, in a manner supremely mechanical, but entirely without warrant in the text-in fact, an "encrustation upon the living" play, for which unimaginative managers are responsible. If we may take a moment to glance at the influence of M. Bergson upon the writing of modern comedy, as well as upon the manner of presenting the old, let us consider the following passage:
And laughter will be more pronounced still if we find on the stage not merely two characters, as in the example from Pascal, but severalnay, as great a number as possible-the image of one another, who come and go, dance and gesticulate together, simultaneously striking the same attitude and tossing their arms about in the same manner.
As great a number as possible! This is the very heresy of contemporary farce, which goes upon the mechanical assumption that six unhappily married couples are six times as amusing as one, and that if one baby is funny triplets must needs be a scream.
Having merely remarked on the contradiction which one finds implicit in this book between the "mechanical" as at one and the same time the objectmatter to be aimed at by comedy and the spirit in which the blow may most forcibly be aimed, one must venture a suggestion as to why the latest of M. The Outlook.
Bergson's works is unsatisfying. Bergson has chosen to illustrate his thesis in large part-indeed mainly-by reference to the theatre, and he does not move with his accustomed mastery in the theatre. His book, apart from its dangerous attempt to confine the spirit of comedy within the scheme of a philosophy, is remarkable principally for its omissions. Nothing is said concerning hysterical laughter or laughter which is perverse or stupid merely-the laughter at Hamlet. No allowance is made for. the graduation of taste in its qualifying effect upon laughter: the people who found nothing but the laughable in Maeterlinck's tragedy must, ipso facto, have been visiting upon the play a righteous humiliation for its special lack of adaptability to society. Synge's art, a mingled yarn of laughter and tears together, must altogether evade the definitions of the professor.
REST AFTER TOIL.
The lute at last is dumb;
Have I not sung my suits;'
Avoided parents' boots!
To hearts how prone to harden
How dampish underfoot!
Sweet angel, to this sinner,"
BOOKS AND AUTHORS.
To their illustrated series devoted to the Art Galleries of America, L. C. Page & Co. add a volume descriptive of The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Other Collections of Philadelphia. In appearance, the book is uniform with the earlier volumes in the series, the first descriptive of The Art of the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and the second devoted to the collections in The Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The author of the present volume is Helen W. Henderson, who has made a thorough and loving study of the art treasures contained not only in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but in the other collections of Philadelphia, -the Pennsylvania Museum, the Wilstach Collection and the collections of Independence Hall and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The volume is something more than a handbook. It is full of personal and historical details and discriminating appreciation and criticism. Sixty or seventy fullpage illustrations reproduce some of the most striking and important works in the various collections.
The final tragic drama of "The Ring," "Götterdämmerung," has been translated by Oliver Huckle and beautifully printed and embellished by the Thomas Y. Crowell Company. The plot relates, as is well known, the story of Gutrune and the Dwarf against Seigfried, the death of that hero and the suicide of Brunhilda on his pyre. Mr. Huckle has used a clear, flowing, un-rhymed verse, varying his metre according to the necessities of the poem, and omitting entirely that over-ornateness in phraseology of which Wagner was so constantly guilty. The poem gains greatly by this simple stateliness and the author closes the cycle of
dramas, for whose presentation in English he has done so much, most worthily. Without the help of dazzling stage pictures the poems seem more aloof from ordinary life than usual; the magic potions, and death-bearing rings, and dragons, and Valhalla burning up in the sky, are incredibly remote.
Another translation, fully as well done into English and distinctly more believable, is the "Three Lays of Marie de France" made-over into modern verse by Frederick Bliss Luquiens. Marie was an educated lady of the French Court in the latter part of the twelfth century and a very popular writer of her day. Her poetry was, according to the custom of her age, narrative. The stories rendered are "Sir Launfal" a distinctly different Sir Launfal from Lowell's-"The Maiden of the Ash," "The Lovers Twain," and all bear a close relationship to the Arthurian Legends. This fact has influenced the translator so that the resemblance to Tennyson's "Idyls" is salient, and, while the lines do not sing with Tennyson's exquisite music, the form, the whole conception of transcription from one age and language to another, is identical. The effect, moreover, is charming. Henry Holt & Company.
An unusual personal and pathetic interest attaches to the slender volume of verse, "Hard Labor and Other Poems" by John Carter, which is published by the Baker & Taylor Co. John Carter is a name which conceals the identity of a man who passed five years or more in a Minnesota penitentiary, for breaking into and robbing a railroad station. The crime was committed when he was but nineteen, a homeless tramp stealing a ride upon a freight train, from which he was thrown by the crew one cold Novem
ber night. He stole but $24.00, but the crime carried with it a ten years' sentence, which was shortened by executive clemency when attention was attracted to his case by the unusual quality of the verse which he sent out from his cell to the paper published in the penitentiary and later to the magazines. The poems in this book would command attention, aside from the tragedy of the conditions under which they were written, but a knowledge of those conditions gives them peculiar poignancy as the expression of moods attending prison life and the deliverance from it. These lines from the "Ballade of Misery and Iron" illustrate the remarkable quality of the book: Haggard faces and trembling knees, Eyes that shine with a weakling's hate,
Lips that murmur their blasphemies, Murderers' hearts that darkly wait: These are they who were men of late,
Fit to hold a plough or a sword.
If a prayer this wall may penetrate, Have pity on these my comrades. Lord! Poets sing of life at the lees
In tender verses and delicate; Of tears and manifold agonies
Little they know of what they prate. Out of this silence, passionate Sounds a deeper, a wilder chord.
If a song be heard through the narrow grate,
Have pity on these my comrades, Lord!
The new "Life and Times of Cavour" by William Roscoe Thayer will immediately take rank as an authority. The author, already well known as a writer on Italian subjects, has displayed in these volumes with distinction a grasp of historical movements, the results of an enormous amount of research and a facility in putting briefly the essential quality of a person or a situation. The biography begins with an account of the youth of Ca
vour and his preparation for a public career. He early recognized that this was his bent, but for many years because of his liberal opinions he was kept in private life. During this time, however, he served a good apprenticeship for the statesmanship to which he was to devote his life. He travelled in France and England, administered the large estates of his family, edited the Risorgimento and finally, after the second constitutional election in Piedmont, took his seat in Parliament. The story of his life now becomes the story of European diplomacy. How Cavour developed Piedmont and guided Victor Emmanuel, watched every move on the part of the Powers and used every opening for the credit of his country is told with clearness and skill. The situation in 1859 when he played Louis Napoleon, England and Austria until he forced Austria to declare war is described and explained so vividly that the reader feels all the joy of the contest. Cavour walked a careful path after the return of Napoleon to France; the book shows in detail how he handled the complications in connection with Garibaldi, and Mazzini and affairs after the expedition of the Thousand. Not the least of his triumphs was the result of his long and difficult diplomatic relations with England in the sympathy of that country with the establishment of Victor Emmanuel on the throne of United Italy. The book reveals Garibaldi in all his strength and weakness, his charm as well as his childishness and vanity. As a whole, the biography is more a record of the action of Cavour's mind than a personal biography, but one gets, besides much knowledge of the times, a real impression of "the little spectacled man" whose statesmanship puts him in the class with Bismarck and Lincoln. Houghton Mifflin Co.