Page images

tain hydrogen and azotic gas. This latter offers, in a gallori, of carbonated lime, 11 and a half; of carbonated soda, 19 and a half; of sulphur, 8; muriat of soda, 2; carbonat of magnesia, three-quarters. The carbonat of lime is held in solution, by an excess of carbonic acid, amounting to about sixteen cubic inches in a gallon. The sulphur is in a state of sulphurated hydrogen.

* XII. On the Orbits in which Bodies revolve, being acted upon by a centripetal Force varying as any Function of the Distance, when those Orbits have two Apsides. By the Reverend J. Brinkley, A.M. Andrews' Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin.

This article will not admit of abridgement.

As we find it impossible to conclude the volume in a single article, we shall vary its contents, by turning to the department bf polite literature, reserving the antiquities for the close. This class contains two essays by Mr. Preston; viz. 1. On the Choice of Subjects for Tragedy ;' 2. • Reflexions on the Peculiarities of Style and Manner in the late German Writers, whose Works have appeared in English, and on the Tendency of their Productions.' .

The object of the first essay is to oppose an-observation in a periodical journal, that recent events are not the proper subjects of tragedy. In opposition to this remark, the examples of Æschylus and Sophocles, of Seneca in Octavia, of Shakspeare, in the wars of the houses of York and Lancaster, Henry VIIIth, &c. of Dryden in Amboyna, of Rowe in Tamerlane, &c. are successfully adduced. The law was originally promulgated, with a reference to the subjects of the epos.

In the second essay, Mr. Preston combats, with singular force and success, the strange conduct of the modern German dramatists, and ridicules the sentimental bombast and the absurd improbabilities of their stage, while he reprobates, in the most indignant style, their artful sophistry, their apologies of the worst crimes, the varnish of sentiment, with which they gloss over the most atrocious villanies. Their plagiarism from the English authors is properly noticed. Mr. Preston tells us, that he is unacquainted with the German-a circumstance we should have otherwise discovered, and which has led him into some trifling errors, though it has prevented him from detecting some absurdities still more striking, some artful glosses of a worse tendency, than any which he has noticed. The most terrific incident of Burger's Leonora occurs in the Suffolk Miracle.

• It may be remarked, as another peculiarity of the German writers, that amidst their love of horrors and their affectation of the sublime, they have had the singular felicity of finding sources of the great, the terrible and the pathetic in all that is commonly held to be little, contemptible and ridiculous; and, descending a step below domestic tragedy, they have introduced a new kind of drama, which, for want of a more appropriate term, may be called straw tragedy, and which climbs into the garrct, or dives into the cellar, for its heroes and heroines, and is founded on the loves and heroic acts of beggars and bunters, of thieves and cut-purses, of tailors and seamstresses; on such transactions as an insurrection of journeymen against their employers, which has furnished Mr. Foote with his “ Tragedy for warm weather.' The incidents, which to an English writer appear highly ludicrous, and become the grounk work of a Beggars' Opera, are adopted by a German and become the subject of an horrible tragedy, full of portentous incident and deep distress.—Macheath and his gang soar into the clouds of bombast; they moralize on the inequality of human conditions, and consider themselves as the vicegerents of Providence, commissioned to rectify the caprices of fortune. Polly Peachum and Lucy Lockitt perplexed in the extreme, between disinterested love and tender friendship, resolve, at the same moment, on the most heroic sacrifices, and mutually determine, each to devote herself for the happiness of her lover and her rival. The combat of friendship and gene. rosity is carried on, throngh many high-wrought scenes ; at last, the young ladies agree to end the sentimental contest, by poisoning themselves and their lover, and all three expire together embracing and embraced. Lockitt informs against old Peachum, who is broken on the wheel, for the amusement of the audience. Macheath's band set fire to the prison, and so the piece concludes. P. 24.

[ocr errors]

This ambitious spirit of the German writers occasions, in all their. productions, another trait of family resemblance, which is excess; a straining at something superlative, an attempt to surpass nature, that produces only contorsion and grimace. Their incidents are in excess, of horror, and of burlesque, that exhibit revolting spectacles or contemptible farces. Their personages are also in excess; there is nothing of the just size or proportion of nature, but all are giants or dwarfs. There is no true delineation of character. All the lines are aggravated, all the features are overcharged into caricature. Their heroes and heroines are Bedlamites ; their comic characters merry Andrews and cinder wenches. When they would depict passion, excess, excess still predominates. They want the keeping, the reserve, the chastity of manner inseparable from probability and nature. Their virtues attempt to rise to something super-human, and fall into their contraries; they are lost in the clouds of romance and extravagance, or involved in the mazes of chimerical and unintelligible refinement. Their dramatic exhibitions of vice are monsters redeemed by no virtue; they carry their malignity and guilt to an excess unexampled in the history of our species, and only to be found in what fancy may have feigned of the diabolical nature.

Abominable, unutterable, and worse
Than fable ever feigned or fear conceived.

Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire ! The unwearied predilection for a display of the most atrocious crimes is peculiarly characteristic of the German muse, and is naturally con.

[ocr errors]

nected with what we have already noticed, a fondness for the exhibi. tion of dreadful spectacles,

• Verbera, carnifices, robur, pix, lamina, tæda. · The want of moderation is particularly obscrvable in the affectation of excessive feeling, of tenderness and sensibility in the extreme; of naïveté and simplicity, without bounds. Innumerable instances of this occur in most of the German compositions with which we are acquainted. This sentimental style, this rage of being very very natural, even to a degree of artificialness that is disgusting, predominates too much in the best German writers, such as Gæthe and Wieland, and abounds in almost every page of Kotzebue. The German writers, not satisfied with this display of excessive tenderness and sensibility, seem to consider the representation of passion as the great business of a poet, and the impassionated vehement style as his great perfection; and in the attempt to pourtray passion and feeling there is no discretion; these writers are all for a raging vein, a part to tear a cat in. They tear the passion to tatters, to very rags. It is not merely that sorrow is sunk, in such a superabundance and complication of cala: mity, such an excess of torment as real life never experienced, and human nature could not endure; that love is sublimed into frantic ravings and fiend-like jealousy, and breathes nothing but poison, poniards and self-destruction ; that in the magnanimous, the heroic, the fierce, the vindictive, all is effort, and you perpetually see the writer standing on tip-toe, strutting and straining to reach something extraordinary ; but the Germans, in their pursuit of the sentimental and impassioned, write, as if they sought to persuade themselves and their readers, that the indulgence of passion is the great business of life and the great privilege of humanity. P. 29, : Our author moreover—and his remarks merit particular attention-finds in the German dramas those innovating principles, to which all our late misfortunes may be traced. The restraints of law, of government-the gradations in the ranks of social order—the unequal distribution of property-are the subject of perpetual declamation and resistance.

Every motive is inculcated, which may induce men to be discon. tented, with the government under which they live, or, indeed, with any government, and to become active partizans of anarchy and disorder. The miserable condition of the many, tlie luxury, the pride, and avarice of the few, the insolence of office, the corruption of courts, the crimes and vices of kings and sovereigns, the wickedness and oppressive arts of their ministers, are themes of constant declamation, and are painted in the blackest shades of exaggeration. Many of these things we may potently believe, but we hold it not honesty to have them set down. The precepts of morality, the rules of decorum, established customs, received opinions, and even the principles and sanctions of religion are treated with contempt, and exploded as vulgar errors, and priestcraft, fitted only lo impose on weak understandings, and overawe litile minds. The doctrine of absolute decrees and fatalism, the irresistible power and unquestionable dominion of pas.

sions are inculcated; and their influence and sway held up to view, as a full excuse for the broadest deviations from rectitude, the grossest enormities of conduct. The heroes are robbers, cut-throats, suicides, poisoners and parricides. The heroines are devoid of chastity, the slaves of passion, fearless of shame, unawed by God, they talk blas. phemy and call it sentiment. The blasphemous exclamations against Providence, in the Leonora of Burger, the ferocious and criminal Thapsodies of Charles de Moor and his associates, in the Robbers, and particularly the Minister throughout, may serve to establish and illus. trate my assertions. In fact, the writers of the German school seem to imagine, that, as the initative arts have the physical power of representing objects good and bad, pleasing and hideous, so, their professors have the dangerous privilege of exhibiting to public view every object, that lies within the compass of physically possible representation, without regard to the principles of sound morality, or the rules of correct taste, which forbid the representation of some things, as licentious, and criminal; of others, as too horrid and disgusting.' P. 44.

These are strong colourings; but, on the whole, they are fair representations, and this essay merits considerable. commendation. It is, perhaps, too much dilated, and wants that comprehensive energy which would make it more striking, which would add momentum and effect to doctrines which require, in these times, the strongest support. We have dwelt longer on it, in order to extend, if possible, the sphere of opinions so truly judicious, at a period so necessary for their propagation.

(To be continued.)

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ART. V.- Commentari intorno all' Istoria della Poesia Ita

läina, ne' quali si ragiona d'ogni Genere e Specie di quella,

&C. Commentaries on the lIistory of Italian Poetry; containing

an Erumination into its different Orders and Species, written originally by G. M. Crescembini, and re-published by T.J. Mathias. 3 Vols. ll. 45. Boards. Becket. 1802.

FEW writers in the class of polite literature have composed more voluminously than Crescembini; and still fewer of those who have composed so voluminously, have either deserved or obtained the same success. The Commentaries here re-pub-. lished by Mr. Mathias constitute but a part-yet, perhaps, the most entertaining part-of a work composed by Crescembini, in six volumes, quarto, of which the third edition was published at Venice, in 1731, by Lorenzo Basegio, and entitled Istoria della volgar PoesiaHistory of Tuscan or Italian Poetry. These Commentaries are introduced by an address from Mr. Mathias to poetic and learned English readers: it is written

in the Italian language, and with his accustomed facility and enthusiasm for Italian literature. To this is subjoined a life of the original author, composed by the abate Michel Giuseppe Morei, from which we shall select the following narrative.

Crescembini was born October 9, 1663, of a noble family, in Macerata : he was christened Gio. Maria: hut, being in aft. er years displeased with so ungrammatic a termination in his name, he changed it to Gio. Mario. He received his education in a school of the Jesuits, in his own country; and, having afterwards resided with an uncle at Rome, who had acquired much reputation as a barrister, he initiated himself into the profession of the law: but his attachment to more pleasant studies prevented him from paying a requisite attention to this abstruser science ; and, in spite of the admonitions of his uncle, and the prospect of success which was fairly presented to him, he soon withdrew from the bar altogether, and totally devoted hinaself to polite literature. He now became acquainted with a variety of men of letters, both of his own age and more advanced in . life, and especially with Vincenzo Leonio, a man deeply versed in the sciences, and whose philological labours are well known and admired, even in the present day. It was a custom with Crescembini, and many of his literary friends, to retire in the summer evenings from the city, into some sequestered spot in its vicinity, and there amuse themselves with an alternate recitation of some favourite pieces of Italian poetry. It happened that, during one of their meetings, a companion, whose name is not recorded, was so transported with the beauty of a light pastoral effusion, which was, on this occasion, rehearsed, that he suddenly exclaimed, Methinks we have this day recalled Arcadia into existence.' The exclamation was heard with rapture by every one; and Crescembini was so struck with it, that he immediately began to consider of planning, in conjunction with his friend Leonio, an academy which should bear the name of Arcadia, and the members of which should call themselves. Arcadian shepherds, and should each assume a name descriptive of some place in this region of ancient poetry. The institution was soon completed ; and was opened October 5, 1690, by a convention of fourteen of the most renowned scholars of the city of Rome, of whom the greater part have obtained immortal fame by their writings. Their first academical meetings were held, either in the forest of the Padri Minori, on Mount Gianicolo, or in that of St. Peter, in Montorio; and so universal was the applause with which these first attempts were received, that many of the chief ranks in literature and nobility contended for the honour of being admitted members of the insoitution. All Italy was pleased with the idea : Crescembini, who was universally regarded as its founder, was elected keeper (custode) of this new establishment. A purer taste, derived

« PreviousContinue »