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sh, las: Ith the queas. I
I observed a group of saloios stretched on the ground near the roadside. These people informed me of my mistake ; adding that, as for cutting across the country as I proposed doing in the dark towards Cintra, it was out of the question, owing to the extreme ruggedness of the mountains. I therefore took their advice, and tying my horse to a furze bush, laid myself down amongst them to await the dawn. After some time, on my asking one of them what hour he conceived it might be, he rubbed his eyes, and surveying the heavens for a moment said, “ We are within an hour of the Trindades (matins), for I see that the flock is far advanced, 'so is the wolf; the crook is already perceptible, and the shepherd will soon appear;". upon which he aroused his companions, the loads were replaced on the animals' backs, and they all moved on again towards the “ Grande Cidade.” '- pp. 317–319.
Our author is never tired of eulogising the industry, temperance, patience under privation, and the intrepidity of this manly race when uncontaminated by the corruption of the capital ; and we can agree in his declaration that they need only a better government to elicit energies and cultivate virtues equal to those of any people on earth. Their agriculture is as primæval as their simple manners; for in Portugal, until lately, improvement had been unknown for two hundred years.
· The old patriarchal custom of “ treading out the corn" with oxen in order to shell it is still in use in Portugal; and each animal has a woman walking immediately in his rear, following with outstretched hands to receive that which, if it reached the ground, might defile and conglomerate whole heaps of grain.
. In the making of wine, neither presses by means of steam (a thing unknown in Portugal) nor machinery of any kind are used. Our delicate females, who sip with such winning grace the juice of the Douro grape, are (yet) to know that in the very liquid which they receive through their lips human feet, the trotters of the rude peasantry, have soaked; for no other machinery is here used in the process of wine-making.
- The carts made use of in Portugal for every kind of purpose are heavy and clumsy beyond conception. The wheels are immovable on the axletree: the diameter of the former, which are solid, is usually but three feet; and their greatest thickness is towards the centre, the cir. cumference of the wheel being comparatively narrow, and bound round with iron, which is fixed on with huge nails. The axletree is of wood, and from ten to twelve inches thick; and this and its wheels move together with an abominable squeaking and groaning under the clumsy body of the cart, which is shipped (not fixed) on it.
As an apology for the hideous noise just mentioned, the peasants allege that without it the oxen would not draw so well, or perhaps not at all. This may indeed be true, for it is possible to accustom animals even to greater absurdities. The carman places himself in front of the bullocks' heads, touches or pricks them with his agulhað (goad), and, speaking to them at the same time, thus puts them in motion. The equipment would not be complete if the beasts' heads were unadorned with figas and veronicas; and the cart itself, to keep off spells, invariably displays on some part of it that well known specific, a horse-shoe. This same emblem of a good kick seems to have operated as a bugbear on the supernatural personages of every people in Europe.
“When going along the road, the Portuguese male peasants are invariably heard singing. Love is generally the burthen of their doleful ditties; for such they indeed are, and of a most intolerably drawling kind. The women also tune up their trebles to no better effect than their spouses ; nothing being so monotonous as their airs, or so discordant as the execution of them. The women are, however, by no means wanting in wit or repartee : for on a friend of mine seeing a saloia going along on a burro, followed by a string of those animals, and addressing her with “ Adeos, mai dos burros,” Adieu, mother of asses, she answered immediately, “ Adeos, meo filho,” (Adieu, my son,) with the utmost coolness and composure.' --- pp. 328–331.
As an appropriate continuation of these accounts of the peasantry and their manners, we have, lastly, some very graphic notices of the aspect and architecture of Portuguese hamlets, village-churches, &c., with accurate descriptions of the country, and of its various and luxuriant productions, both in the northern provinces and south of the Tagus. But we have no space to follow the writer through these details, nor yet to dwell on his full account of the execution of the political conspirators of 1817, to which we before referred, and which closes his original, amusing, and in many respects very valuable little work.
ART. VIII. The Martyr; a Drama : in Three Acts. By Joanna Baillie.
pp. 78. London. Longman and Co. 1826. UPWARDS of twenty years have past since Miss Baillie first came before the public, as the author of “ Plays on the Passions.” This was a bold venture on the ocean of popularity, and she encountered the usual inclemencies of that most perilous and capricious navigation. But if her course was daring, her argosy was strongly built, and in scorn of all impediments she reached the place of fame.
All things are in a perpetual advance to improvement in this artificial world of ours; and the dexterity of authorship has improved like the rest. No author of the present time, commencing a new track of composition, would make the formidable blunder of which Miss Baillie was guilty in her very outset. The art of our day doubly merits the ancient title of a “ Mystery.” The soul of success is found to be secresy : mankind are but children of a larger growth ; and the same passion for discovering things withheld, which makes the delight of a nursery-riddle, wraps up in solemn interest the silliness of a novel of “ The Fashionable World,” or a tiresome and exhausted mélange of heavy invention and mangled history.
Mystery is an old source of the sublime; man is an investigating animal; and upon those two broad and venerable foundations is raised the fabric of modern celebrity, - that various extravagance of architecture, from the gilded and grotesque modern
erections of the opulent and feeble adorers of the muse, prose or poetic, to the solemn and frowning ponderousness of plundered romance, and chronicles forgotten.
Miss Baillie was blamably ignorant of all this, and she suffered accordingly. Her first volumes, it is true, did not bear her name, but this was from mere female timidity, and, to her misfortune, when the timidity wore off, she allowed her name to appear. The step was perhaps that one of all her life which she still considers as most under the guidance of her evil star. So long as the name was unknown, the authorship was admired. The “novelty of the conception, the masculine vigour, the natural eloquence, the truth of description, the poetic fervour,” in short, all the common-places of criticism on the alert to make its handsomest display, were lavished on this new competitor of Shakspeare.” It has been asserted even that a panegyric of the most potential species was already prepared, on suspicion of its being the work of a noble earl, high in the distribution of northern office; and that Shakspeare was taught to keep his distance from the “ more than rival glories” of this illustrious and poetic donor of briefs, coifs, and sinecures. But Miss Baillie, having among her feminine virtues that one of not being able to keep her own story, broke the spell at once. The noble lord and his patronage vanished : the panegyric was devoted to the lustral fires; and, like the old work of witchcraft, a single word had the power to smite the fairy gems and silks, the bowers and palaces, into stones and straws, smoke and shealings.
There is nothing so utterly unacquainted with the art of for: giving as unprovoked injury. And from the first bite of vindictive criticism to the present antipathy; from the original burnished and lofty venom of the pursuer, to this hour of his reluctant dusteating and angry humiliation, the victim has been molested. It must always gratify the persecutor to know that his persecution has not been without effect; and he may be indulged with the fact that Miss Baillie's career has undoubtedly been thwarted. The natural improvement that practice gives to a vigorous spirit has been withheld: the fear of malignant criticism has checked the heart of a woman accustomed to the conventional respect paid to the sex; and we have now, after years of silence, but an offering rather of her piety than of her muse, and giving less the character of her genius than of those feelings which require no aid of genius to make them amiable and suitable to her sex and her religion.
Yet, in all our sincere deprecation of the unlicensed and unjustifiable harshness with which this author's works were visited, we must not disguise our own impression, that Miss Baillie's tragedies were not fit to renovate our dying stage. They were “dramatic poems,” and no more: they possessed poetic power, noble conception of character, and fine imagery. But they wanted the vividness, the minute and various identity, and the rich and bold originality essential to the first rank of the tragic drama. The genius that shall come commissioned to stand above the great theatric city of the dead, and bid it awake, must have a visible grandeur and a living authority about it, such as we have not yet seen. Whether agencies of this rank appear among us at appointed times, like the period of comets, descending into our system to shed fresh influence, and re-light the decaying fires of the sphere, or "come with the casual visitation of the flash from the cloud, they always vindicate their origin. It is impossible to mistake them for the dubious generation of the lower air: their impression is on a great scale, and their power is plain, sudden, and irresistible.
Miss Baillie's ambition to write a tragedy upon each passion was bold, but it was destitute of all poetic calculation. Not satisfied with even the rashness of building tragedies upon those incongruous foundations, she must hazard the still more hopeless labour of writing a comedy upon each topic. That she failed in this task is not wonderful, for no human powers could be expected to succeed. To adopt a single passion for the grand impulse of a tragedy would be as contrary to nature as to adopt a single organ for the whole bodily functions of man. It was contrary to the entire nature of the drama, whose purpose is to exhibit man as he is, the creature of all passions, urged by a conflict of powerful impulses, and placing his virtue in the success of the good over the evil, as we place the interest of his character in the struggle; — no serene philosopher, moving under one master-influence to his secure object, but an intellectual champion descending into a field with danger on the right and left, whose every step must be won by hazard, and where all is dubious till the moment when some grand display of energy, or some brilliant illustration of fortune, places him in the path to final victory.
It is allowable that the hero should have a master-passion; that love, or power, or jealousy, or the thirst of military renown, should exercise a vigorous and predominant influence over him. But all interest perishes when all doubt is at an end : the unrivalled supremacy of any single passion extinguishes all doubt. We must thenceforth calculate the conclusion without the possibility of error, and without a moment's anxiety. The navigation is no longer across an unknown sea, and under capricious and stormy gales. The adventurer goes forward under the sure guidance of an irresistible agency, sweeps straight for the harbour, and tranquilly defies the quicksand and the storm. .
The truth was, that Miss Baillie's performance was in opposition to her theory: her heroes were not those solitary and unnatural abstractions, those concrete passions and monstrous homogeneities which she announced them to be. The breast of the lover was open to other impulses than those of perpetual adoration. Ambition was not always burning the heart, nor jealousy dropping into every crevice of its sensibilities her overflowing gall. The man was not alto
man in himed, and it seep the
gether' g mummy, with all that was human in him, the whole fine and counterbalancing construction within, extracted, and its place filled up with the new and solitary ingredient that was to keep the form together, when it was no longer fit for any place but the grave. Her taste compelled her theory to give way, and she became a powerful tragedian by the force of nature.
With her fine qualities it is deeply to be regretted that the state of the British stage was such as almost instinctively to lead the yielding mind of a woman into the less sure and splendid path to excellence. For the last two hundred years tragedy had been rapidly on the decline. With all our habitual scorn of French taste, we had yet submitted to the supremacy of the French tragic drama. Its stateliness, formality, and coldness, which had probably suited the frigidity of those court etiquettes, and other grave affectations brought in by a foreign dynasty, had become fashionable; while the true spirit of the British drama was left to sleep in the monuments of Shakspeare and his illustrious contemporaries. All the popular tragedies half a century ago were translations from the French. Racine and Voltaire were the idols to which our freeborn necks were summoned to bow, and men like Aaron Hill and Murphy were the sole and unhappy resource of our Melpomene.
The illusion was, however, magnificently sustained by a succession of performers of the first rank. The Mossops, Barrys, Pritchards, and, pre-eminent above all of his own or any other day, Garrick, gave living power to those feeble imitations, and established the foreigners by an unwilling treachery to their English allegiance. Those times were the Augustan age of the British theatre. Why they have left us so hopeless of their return, why the high emoluments of the stage have not been able to attract some spirits of rival talent to the spot where they might exercise so brilliant a supremacy, or why with our increased population, with our more extended and general acquirement, and with the more courteous reception of the actor in society, the stage seems to take the reverse path of every other public exertion, and be determined to perish while every art and science of man and nature is assuming a loftier stature, and drinking in new youth at the fount of public patronage and prosperity, are questions which require more extended discussion than we can here bestow upon them.
But it is remarkable, that even the popularity of Garrick suffered, when in the boldness of an innovator he dared to bring forward the old drama, and play Shakspeare. His unrivalled personification of that splendid group whom the first of poets had less pictured than created, less invested with the noble shows and semblance of our nature in its grandeur and beauty, than 'filled with the boiling blood and the living soul, though received with admiration, yet more than shared its triumph with works whose VOI.. 11.
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