senses as to give a perception of disagreement, with not enougl of belief in the internal motives,--all that which is unseen,--te overpower and reconcile the first and obvious prejudices.* What we see upon a stage is body and bodily action; what we are con. scious of in reading is almost exclusively the mind, and its movemeits : and this I think may suficiently account for the very different sort of delight with which the same play so often affects us in the reading and the seeing.

It requires little reflection to perceive, that if those characters in Shakspeare which are within the precincts of nature, have yet something in them which appeals too exclusively to the imagination, to admit of their being made objects to the senses without suffering a change and a diminution,--that still stronger the ob. jection must lie against representing another line of characters, 'Which Shakspeare has introduced to give a wildness and a supernatural elevation to his scenes, as if to remove them still farther from that assimilation to common life in which their ex. cellence is vulgarly supposed to consist. When we read the incantations of those terrible beings the Witches in Macbeth, though some of the ingredients of their hellish composition savor of the grotesque, yet is the effect upon us other than the most serious and appalling that can be imagined? Do we not feel spell-bound as Macbeth was? Can any mirth accompany a sense of their presence? We might as well laugh under a consciousness of the principle of Evil himself being truly and really present

But attempt to bring these beings on to a stage, and you turn them instantly into so many old women, that men and children are to laugh at. Contrary to the old saying, that 6 ing is believing," the sight actually destroys the faith : and the mirth in which we indulge at their expence, when we see these Creatures upon a stage, seems to be a sort of indemnification which we make to ourselves for the terror which they put us in when reading made them an object of belief,—when we surrendered up our reasoti to the poet, as children to their nurses and their elders, and we laugh at our late fears, as children who thought they saw something in the dark, triumph when the bring


with us.


* The error of supposing that because Othello's colour does not offend us in the reading, it should also not offend us in the secing, is just such a fallacy as supposing that an Adam and Eve in a picture shall affect us just as they do in the poem. But in the poem we for a while have Paradisaical senses given us, which vanish when we see a mar and his wife without clothes in the picture. The Painters themselves feel this, as is apparent by the aukward shifts they have recourse to, to make them look not quite naked; by a sort of prophetic anachronism, antedating the invention of fig-leaves. So in the reading of the Play, we see with Desdemona's eyes, in the seeing of it, we are forced to look with our own,


And wake with the lips that we dip in our bowls
That divinest of music, congenial souls.'
So saying, he led through the dining-room door,
And, seating the poets, cried, Laurels for four !"
No sooner demanded, than lo! they were there;
And each of the bards had a wreath in his hair.
Tom Campbell's with willow and poplar was twin'd,
And Southey's with mountain-ash, pluck'd in the wind;
And Scott's with a heath from his old garden stores,
And with vine-leaves and Jump-up-and-kiss-me,* Tom Moore's
Then Apollo put his on, that sparkled with beams;
And rich rose the feast as an epicure's dreams;
Not epicure civic, or grossly indlin'd,
But such as a poet might dream ere he din'd:
For the God had no sooner determin’d the fare,
Than it turn'd to whatever was racy and rare.
The fish and the flesh, for example, were done,
On account of their fineness, in flame from the sun;
The wines were all nectar of different smack,
To which Muskat was nothing, nor Virginis Lac;
No, nor Lachryma Christi, though clearly divine,
Nor Montepulciano, though king of all wine.t
Then, as for the fruits, you might garden for ages,
Before you could raise me such apples and gages ;
And all on the table no sooner were spread,
Than their cheeks next the God blush'd a beautiful red.


* The brilliant little tri-coloured violet, commonly known by the name of Ileart's-ease.

+ I do not profess to have tasted these foreign luxuries, except in the poetry of their admirers. Virgin's Milk and Christ's Tears are names given to two favourite wines by the pious Italians, whose familiarity with the objects of their worship is as well known as it is natural. The former appears to be a white wine ; the latter is of a deep, blood-red colour.Muskat or Moscadell is so called from the odour of it's grape, and is enthu. siastically praised, among a number of other Tuscan wines, by Redi in his Bacco in Toscana. His favourite however seems to have been Montepul. ciano, which at the conclusion and climax of the poem is pronounced by Bacchus himself, in his hour of transport, to be the sovereign liquor.

Onde ognun che di Lieo
Riverente il nome adora,
Ascolti questo altissimo decreto,
Che Bassareo pronunzia, e gli dia fe,-
Montepulciano d'ogni vino è il Re.
Then all who bow down to the nod
of the care-killing vintager God,
Give ear and give faith to his edict divine,
That Montepulciano's the King of all Wines

[ocr errors]

in, in an interval of speaking, to make us believe that we hear
those supernatural noises of which the isle was full : the Orrery
Lecturer at the Haymarket might as well hope, by his musical
glasses cleverly stationed out of sight behind his apparatus, to
make us believe that we do indeed hear the chrystal spheres ring
out that chime, which if it were to inwrap our fancy long, Milton

Time would run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled vanity
Would sicken soon and die,
And leprous Sin would melt from earthly mold s
Yea Hell itself would pass away,

And leave its dolorous mansions to the peering day.
The Garden of Eden, with our first parents in it, is not more im,
possible to be shewn on a stage, than the Enchanted 'Isle, with
its no less interesting and innocent first settlers.

The subject of Scenery is closely connected with that of the
Dresses, which are so anxiously attended to on our stage. I
remember the last time I saw Macbeth played, the discrepancy I
felt at the changes of garment which he varied,—the shiftings and
re-shiftings, like a Romish priest at mass. The luxury of stage.
improvements, and the importunity of the public eye, require this.
The coronation robe of the Scottish monarch was fairly a counter-
part to that which our King wears when he goes to the Parlia.
ment-house,-just so full and cumbersome, and set out with
ermine and pearls. 'And if things must be represented, I see not
what to find fault with in this. But in reading, what robe are
we conscious of? Some dim images of royalty-a crown and
sceptre, may float before our eyes, but who shall describe the
fashion of it?' Do we see in our mind's eye what Webb, or any
other robe-maker, could pattern ? This is the inevitable conse-
quence of imitating every thing, to make all things natural.
Whereas the reading of a tragedy is a fine abstraction.
sents to the fancy just so much of external appearances as to
make us feel that we are among flesh and blood, while by far the
greater and better part of our imagination is employed upon the
thoughts and internal machinery of the character. But in acting,
scenery, dress, the most contemptible things, call upon us to
judge of their naturalness.

Perhaps it would be no bad similitude, to liken the pleasure
which we take in seeing one of these fine plays acted, compared
with that quiet delight which we find in the reading of it, to the
different feelings with which a Reviewer, and a man that is not a
Reviewer, reads a fine poem. The accursed critical habit, the
being called upon to judge and pronounce, must make it quite a
different thing to the former. In seeing these plays acted, we are



It pre

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

affected just as Judges. When Hamlet compares the two pictures of Gertrude's first and second husband, who wants to see the pictures ? But in the acting, a miniature must be lugged out; which we know not to be the picture, but only to shew how finely a miniature may be represented. This shewing of every thing, levels all things: it makes tricks, bows and curtesies, of importance. Mrs. S. never got more fame by any thing than by the manner in which she dismisses the guests in the Baisquet. scene in Macbeth : it is as much remembered as any of her thrilling tones or impressive looks. But does such a trifle as this enter into the imaginations of the readers of that wild and won. derful scene? Does not the mind dismiss the feasters as rapidly as it can? Does it care about the gracefulness of the doing it? But by acting, and judging of acting, all these non-essentials are raised into an importance, injurious to the main interest of the play.

I have hitherto confined my observations to the Tragic parts of Shakspeare; in some future Number I propose to extend this inquiry to his Comedies; and to shew why Falstaff, Shallow, Sir Hugh Evans, and the rest, are equally incompatible with stage representation. The length to which this essay has alerdy run will make it, I am afraid, sufficiently obnoxious to the Amateurs of the Theatre, without going any deeper into the subject at present,


ART. X.-The Feast of the Poets.

Like most of the poetical inventions of modern times, the idea of Apollo holding Sessions and Elections is of Italian origin; but having been treated in it's most common-place light, with a stu. dious degradation of the God into a mere critic or chairman, it has hitherto received none of those touches of painting, and combinations of the familar and fanciful, of which it appears to be so provocative, and which the following trifle is an attempt to supply. The pieces it has already produced in our language, are the Session of the Poets by Sir John Suckling, another Session by an anonymous author in the first volume of the State Poems, the Trial for the Bays by Lord Rochester, and the Election of a Poct Laureat by Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham,

ART. XI.--Classical Antiquity of the English Language:

MR. REFLECTOR, The classical tone, which your Publication has assumed, will, I am sure, lead you to patronize an attempt, the object of which is to shew, that so far from our being indebted to the Greeks and Romans for the whole of our learning, it is not improba. ble, that those ingenious people derived much of their phrase. ology, and many of their customs, from us : at any rate I have traced so close a resemblance between their and our own expres. șions, that it seems difficult to decide who were the inyentors and who the borrowers. It is well known, that the Greeks derived most of their mythology and astronomy from Egypt and India : þut by the same arts by which the modern French have gained to themselves the credit of all the new improvements in Chemistry and Natural Philosophy, that subtile nation so blended what they stole with their own original inventions, that it is almost impos. sible to draw the line between them, and say which part belongs to their ingenuity in inventing, and which to their judgment in selecting. I cannot pretend to say, that this attempt on my part is wholly original. The witty Dean of St. Patrick was the first who pointed out the close analogy which subsisted between the two languages; and few men of reading, I believe, are now igno. sant, that the Greek appellative Bellerophon means nothing more than our English term “ Billy Ruffian :" that a vow of perpetual virginity brought upon the son of Tydeus the name of Die-a-maid or Diomed; and that the monarch of Macedon is indebted for his more sonorous title to an antipathy for eggs, which obliged all his servants, who did not share in their master's aversion, to throw those glutinary eatables under the grate immediately upon his ap, pearance, and the signal for such discharge was “ All eggs under the grate,” which gradually melted into the name of Alexander the Great. The specimens, which I shall produce as indicative of a close alliance between our own language and that of the classics (and from which I would deduce one of these conclu. sions,“either that we may safely contest the claim of antiquity with any nation now subsisting, or claim a superiority in classical attainment over all nations,—the substantịation of either of wbich claims will be no small honour to my native country, and no trifling compliment to my own patriotic affections will be drawn principally from the same standard as that from which Dean Swift has derived his conclusions; viz. from those, who are generally called the low and vulgar. The terms of fashionable life are fluco


« ElőzőTovább »