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they excel in the representation of mental debility, and of mental derangement, not in a ranting explosion of scenical violence, but in its deep, definite, and settled complexion, not as the passing cloud of the soul, but as its darkened and condensed atmosphere,

where the light is as darkness. They turn not aside for danger or delight ;—if their drama requires change of place, they waft the spectator without hesitation from Athens to Thebes--if it demands a lapse of years, their first act shews their hero in the weakness of infancy, and their last in the dotage of decrepitude.

The talents of these great writers favoured them much, but the state of the age favoured them also. The moral sensibility of the times, though sufficiently acute to sympathize in natural feelings, was by no means refined: provided moral justice was generally preserved, they little regarded poetical consistency, or even decorous representation: they could endure the sight of every crime provided it was finally punished; and sustain the view of every passion provided it was checked by conscience amid its triumph, and punished by remorse in its defeat. The writers knew what the audience could bear, and all they could bear was certainly laid on them—the last struggles of human feeling in its most direful extremities, the ravings of blasphemy, the impieties of atheism, the presence and actual agency of benevolent or malignant spirits, the whole energies of mortality, and the powers of the world to come' were brought in aid of the effect of their drama, and the effect certainly did not disappoint them.

The return of Charles produced a revival of the theatre, which had been suppressed by the rigour of the Puritans, and the

age

became fertile in dramatic poets. But they had lost the independence of character, the liberty of thought, the poetic nagonoice that distinguished their predecessors. The writer was no longer a man who enjoyed the unforced and gratuitous effusions of his genius, and committed his cause with fearless confidence to posterity ; he was become a venal scribbler, grasping at ephemeral notoriety, flattering wickedness in high place, and bartering his birthright of fame for a paltry pittance often withheld by caprice, or embittered by insult.

In the writings of these men, there is a strange mixture of licentiousness and poetry, of genius and depravity. The French court had taught them gallantry, but not refinement; they eagerly imbibed all of evil which their teachers could communicate, without the palliatives which those teachers are so dexterous in administering, their gay, easy wit, their apparent heedlessness of the mischief they do, their art in withdrawing our attention from their object, and fixing it on their manner, and their power of giving to the result of deep and painful reflexion, the air of a superficial re

mark,

mark, or an extemporaneous sally. By these writers love is painted only in its physical raptures, beauty its sole incitement, and fruition its only reward; virtue (or, as they write it, vertue) is employed to signify neither moral excellence in the abstract, vor one of its modes separately exercised, but merely the assemblage of qualities good and bad that exist in the character to which the term is applied, and honour is represented in a whimsical suit of ill-assorted and incongruous appointments, like a preux chevalier of the feudal age, accoutred in the flowing wig, the lace cravat, and the shoeroses of a gallant in the court of Louis Quatorze, turbulent, warlike and ferocious like the one, full of quaint terms, florid courtesy, and amatory compliment like the other.

The loose opinions of the age with regard to religion are easily discoverable; the usual topics employed even by dramatic writers, of a dependence on the wisdom of the Deity for the ultimate solution of the difficulties of life, of support under its inflictions here, and a confidence of remuneration for its sufferings hereafter, those general palliatives of human wretchedness which the good are anxious to minister, and the miserable are willing to receive, are utterly banished from their pages. In lieu of these we find perpetually occurring the names of fate, destiny, and chance-mysterious words—by whose assistance men under every dispensation have helped themselves to believe that their crimes and sufferings might be ascribed to any agency but their own—with these is mingled • a frequent reference to the influence of the stars, the belief of which was strongly operative even in that age of irreligion, so closely united are the extremes of superstition and infidelity.

Dryden was one of the first to pay his homage to the new taste by writing his plays in rhyme, a task easy to him from his affluence of language, and his power of confining reasoning within the bounds of verse, butevidently imposed from the practice of the Freuch, whose poverty of imagination or of language allows no difference between poetry and prose but that which is made by rhyme. His example was attempted to be followed by Lee, Otway, and Sir Robert Howard; nor did these writers confine their imitations solely to rhythmical modulation; they began to borrow the topics, though not the conduct; the manners, though not the passions, of their plays, from the French. Heroes declaim in elaborate antitheses on the respective claims of passion and duty, and heroines reply in speeches where the pour et contre is stated with technical precision in a nearly equal number of verses, with precedents and cases in point from reports of adjudged causes in the court of Cupid. Those who have curiosity or patience to consult the Indian Emperor, the Conquest of Grenada, and Aurengzebe, will find ample proof of the pertinacity of these amorous disputants; the Amazonian

heroines

heroines will never be won by those who cannot conquer them in argument, and the heroes return bit for hit with all the expertness of Prince Prettyman and his tailor:

The usurpations of French authority were, however, still confined to the externals of the English drama; its peculiar tone of passion and its poetry had escaped: the powerful imagination of the English writers burst through the restraints imposed on the language and manners of the stage; they still thought and taught others to reason, they still felt and compelled their audiences to feel the argumentative and often sublime poetry of Dryden, the wild, but sometimes thrilling pathos of Lee, the Julling tenderness, and the simple nature of Southerne, prove that all was not lost. In the next age, however, the oppression became complete; Rowe acknowledged it by relinquishing the freedom of style that had distinguished his first and most animated production, The Ambitious Stepmother:' and Addison confirmed it by his Cato, a performance which may be allowed to make ample amends for all the irregularities of the English tragedies that had dared to touch our hearts; a tragedy reformed according to the strictest canon of classical orthodoxy, and in which the critic (unless he be as merciless as Dennis) can complain of nothing but the omission of a chorus. During this period of coffee-house critics (viz. from the reign of Anne to that of George II.) we find but one tragedy that has become a permanent addition to the stage, Young's Revenge—and that play (a lesson to the unsuccessful pupils of the French school) founded not on the fate of kings, or the vicissitudes of empire, but on the powerful operation of individual passion in domestic life; while the other plays of the author, (Busiris and the Brothers,) though written (like all he wrote) with high poetical talent, and embellished with all the splendour of sententious morality, have been consigned to oblivion. During this period there was no deficiency of dramatic writers, and of writers whose names still survive with all the lustre of poetical reputation: there was only a total deficiency of those powers which have learned the secret of pleasing not from art but from nature, which aim to delight or to terrify not by the observation of rules, but of passions and of life.

We had a Thomson, whose exquisite pencil, while it could paint all the forms of inanimate existence, and give to nature almost the same beauty in the closet that she possesses in the fields, lost all its magic colouring and picturesque fidelity when it attempted to sketch the forms of life-his landscapes live, his groups are corses. There is much mention of liberty in his plays and some talk of love; but who was ever kindled by his patriotism, or inelted by his passion?

We had a Johnson, whose mighty mind, while it derided the VOL. XVII. NO. XXXIII.

restraint

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without common sense or natural feeling, their priests always superstitious, their tyrants like Bajazets and Herods, and their heroines always beautiful, agonized, much afflicted with fainting fits, and sorely inclined to hereditary niadness :-there is no shadowing, no keeping, no perspective in their paintings,—their representations of character and passion are purely generic, there is no discrimination of kindred qualities; no dissection of complicated feelings, no operation of mingled motives, all objects appear in the same plane, without prominence and without relief. Poverty of imagination is always leading such writers to grasp at any subject of local interest for support, and therefore generally leads them into improprieties. Thus a ranting declamation against the Inquisition is put into the mouth of a Moslem, one of that religion which teaches its professors to propagate their faith with the koran in one hand and the sword in the other. St. Dominic himself, with Torquemada to help him, would have met with his match for persecution in Mahomet—bis disciples might well spare us their lectures on religious liberty. There is something too like the cowardice of conscious weakness in delighting to attack what none attempt to defend.

Upon the whole, this play with the powerful assistance of eminent actors and scenical illusion, and burning palaces, and processions with towers of the Inquisition in perspective, and Moors who preach the Gospel to Christians just as they are going to be burnt for not believing it, and half-mad, half-poisoned, heroines who visit their lovers in dungeons with wreaths of Howers on their heads, may produce an effect on the stage,--but what effect will it produce in the closet ?

We had purposed to extend our criticisnis to the tragedies of Bertram, Manuel, and others of recent date; but circumstances, with which we will not trouble the reader, have (for the present, at least) compelled us to forego our design.

Art. XI.-France. By Lady Morgan. 4to. pp. 575. Lon

don. 1817. FRANCE! Lady Morgan appears to have gone to Paris by

the high road of Calais and returned by that of Dieppe. Lu that capital she seems to have resided about four months, and thence to, have made one or two short excursions; and with this extent of ocular inspection of that immense country, she returns and boldly affixes to her travelling niemoranda diluted into a quarto volume, the title of FRANCE! One merit, however, the title has—it is

appropriate to the voluine which it introduces, for to falsehood it adds the other qualities of the work,-vagueness, bombast, and affectation. This does not surprize us, and will not surprize our readers when

they

they are told that Lady Morgan is no other than the ci-devant Miss Owenson, the author of those tomes of absurdity--those puzzles in three volumes, called Ida of Athens, the Missionary, the Wild Irish Girl, and that still wilder rbapsody of nonsense, O'Donnell-which served. Miss Plunoptre, kindred soul! in her famous tour through Ireland,* as an introduction to society, a history of the country, and a book of the post-roads.

Lady Morgan remembers—with more anger than profit-the advice which we gave her in our first Number on the occasion of Ida of Athens; and, in the Preface to her present publication, treats us with the most lofty indignation--she informs us, that we made

one of the most hastily composed and insignificant of her early works, a vehicle for accusing her of licentiousness, profligacy, irreverence, blasphemy, libertinism, disloyalty, and atheism. To cure her (she adds) of these vices, we presented a nostrum of universal efficacy; and prescribed (by the way Lady Morgan's language smells vilely of the shop since her marriage) a simple remedy, a spelling-book and a pocket-dictionary, wbich, superadded to a little common sense, was to render her that epitome of female excellence, whose price Solomon has declared above riches.'-p. viji.

There is an inveterate obliquity in Lady Morgan's mind, which prevents her from perceiving, or stating a fact as it really exists. In copying our recipe (to accommodate our language to her ear) she has omitted the principal ingredient. We were not so lightly impressed with the danger of her case, as to suppose that it might be alleviated by a spelling-book and a vocabulary only: there was, as she well knows, another Book, which we recommended her to add to the list; and it was on the humble and serious study of this, (need we add that we spoke of the BIBLE?) that we mainly relied for that amendment in her head and heart, which her deplorable state seemed to render so desirable.

In the wantonness of folly she tells us, that, in pursyance of our advice, she set forth“ like Coelebs in search of a wife,” '-not. quite, as we shall prove to Lady Morgan before we have done with her--and, with her EnTick in one hand, and her Mavor in the other, obtained the reward of her improvements, in the person of a Doctor Morgan; and, in spite of “ the seven deadly sins," which the Quarterly Review laid to her charge, is become, she trusts, a respectable, and, she is sure, a happy mistress of a family.' Lady Morgan does well to speak thus modestly of the former part of her position :-of the latter, she may be as positive as she pleases: Happiness is a relative term, or, as it is more correctly explained by Slender to his cousin Shallow, thereafter as it may be. We

Quarterly Review, No. XXXII. Art. III.

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