Page images

Where equal wit and valour join ; Chronology fixes the time of this This, this is he, the fam'd Burgoyne: ludicrous tale in the year 1775, at Who pawn'd his honour and commis- the opening of the American war ; sion

and the poem was first published in To coax the patriots to submission,

Connecticut, in 1782, toward its By songs and balls secure obedience,

And dance the ladies to allegiance.
Oft his camp muses he'll parade,
At Boston in the grand blockade,
And well invok'd with punch of arrack,
Hold converse sweet in tent or barrack,

For the Literary Magazine.
Inspir'd in more heroic fashion,
Both by his theme and situation;

SWIFT'S TALE OF A TUB. While farce and proclamation grand Rise fait beneath his plastic hand.

To the Editor, &c. For genius swells more strong and clear When close confin'd, like bottled beer: SIR, So Prior's wit gain'd greater power I AM a new correspondent, and By inspiration of the Tow'r;

will open my intercourse with you And Raleigh, fast in prison hurld, in a modest way. It shall be by Wrote all the Hist'ry of the World;

asking a question, and that not a So Wilkes grew, while in jail he lay, More patriotic ev'ry day,

very important one. But if some of But found his zeal, when not confin'd,

your critical readers will condeSoon sink below the freezing point,

scend to answer it, they will oblige And public spirit, once so fair,

me very much, especially if they Evaporate in open air.

decide in my favour : for I assure But thou, great favourite of Venus,

you, sir, that however unimportant By no such luck shalt cramp thy genius ;

this question may appear, I have Thy friendly stars, till wars shall cease, had some disputes upon it; and, Shall ward th' ill fortune of release, what is worse, I never could conAnd hold thee fast in bonds not feeble, vince a single opponent, so as to In good condition still to scribble. bring him over to my opinion. Such merit Fate shall shield from firing, The question is about the title of Bomb, carcase, langridge, and cold iron, a book ; I mean that famous work Nor trust thy doubly laurell'd head of dean Swift, commonly called The To rude assaults of Aying lead.

Tale of a Tub. My opinion is, that Hence, in this Saratogue retreat, the author wrote tail instead of tale : For pure good fortune thou'lt be beat;

because the title, in this sense, would Not taken off, releas'd, or rescu'd, Pass for small change, like simple Pres- it has none.

have a signification ; in the other,

The tail, meaning the cott; But captur'd there, as fates befall,

outer end of a tub, is a shallow caShall stand thy hand for’t, once for all. vity, capable, when the tub is set Then raise thy daring thoughts sublime, that end upwards, of holding a little And dip thy conq'ring pen in rhyme,

water, and but a little, easily seen And changing war for puns and jokes, through or sounded. A century ago, Write new Blockades and Maids of it was a common saying, of a thing Oaks.

or a discourse which had but little

depth, that it was as shallow as the M'Fingal is now again interrupted tail of a tub. by the mob; who, getting intelli It is probable that the dean wrote gence of this nocturnal convocation, this incomparable satire before he thunder at the door. Before they thought of the title ; and then, findbreak in, M'Fingal effects his ing the work so easy to be underescape through a private window, stood, or seen through, as to the as well from the reader as from the substance it contained, he gave it this


poem closing on his fight sarcastic title, The Tail of a Tub, a to Bc stog.

thing that every one could see to


the bottom of, or plainly understand. andrews running about the country But, on the other hand, how can we and diverting the people by their suppose that he could entitle his witticisms and their the tale or story of a tub? These new rivals of Thespis every The work, in any other sense than where met with the most favourathe one I have mentioned, can have ble reception, and the joy manifestno resemblance to a tub, or the story ed by the people on their comof a tub. It is the story of Peter, mencement amounted to a species Martin, and John, and as easy to be of madness. The peasant abandonunderstood, or fathomed, as the tail ed every thing, that he might see of a tub.

these farces; sometimes absorbed If any of your curious readers in pleasure, all the faculties of his should be possessed of an original soul were scarcely sufficient to enaedition of that work, and should find, ble him to hear the sounds by which according to my conjecture, that the he was enchanted; sometimes, sense and spelling of the title have transported with joy, he expressed been mistaken in all modern edi- his rapture in the most boisterous tions, and will let us know it through manner. These representations your Magazine, that the error may were commonly exhibited from be corrected in future editions, he Christmas to the festival of Epiwill do a piece of literary justice to phany. A poetic ardour suddenly the author, by restoring to him the inspired those who thus employcredit of writing sense, in a case ed their talents to abridge the where he has long been supposed to long winter evenings. Great voluhave written nonsense; and (what bility, animated gesticulations, much I am afraid I have likewise a little extravagance in the plot of the tale, at heart) he will gratify me, by and great prolixity in the recitation, proving that I was in the right. were indispensible qualities for eve

QUERIST. ry one who attempted to amuse;

but if to these he added obscene gestures and expressions, his acting

was then perfect, and he was cerFor the Literary Magazine. tain of obtaining universal applause.

There was no fixed place for these HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN STAGE. representations; a paper lantern

suspended to the roof, and the har. OF all nations, the history fure mony of two hunting horns, annishes us with details of the same nounced to the passengers that for kind in the progress and expansion a few copecks they might procure of poetic faculties. The first fruits the pleasure of seeing a farce, which of poetry have universally been the was ready to begin whenever they praises of heroes, and the rhapso- pleased. This kind of parade is dists, or those who sung verses in not at this day entirely banished honour of heroes, were the first ac- from the Russian empire. tors. The Russians had poems and Theatrical representations were singers of this description even be- however almost as unknown in fore christianity was introduced Russia as in Germany prior to the among them, or they were ac- reign of Peter the great. Those quainted with the Greeks and Ro- which were then in vogue were conmans. The martial spirit and na fined to rhetorical exercises, in the tural gaiety of the Russians are form of dramas and comedies, which sufficient, amid the failure of histo- the masters of seminaries instructed ric evidence, to induce the belief, their pupils to act. The subjects of that, in very remote ages, they had these plays were usually taken from as many poems in honour of heroes, sacred history, like those of the traas many songs of victory, as they, in gedies which the jesuits, and oiher the sequel, had buffoons and merry- orders devoted to the education of

youth, were accustomed to teach The most celebrated of Rostowsky's their scholars to represent at the performances were, “ The Penitent end of a course, or at the conclusion Sinner," “ Esther and Ahasuerus,' of a year. They thought it perfectly “The Birth of Christ, his Resurrecjustiñable to take for models, as to tion, and the Assumption of the Virthe form, heathens such as Euri. gin Mary.” They were interlarded pides, Sophocles, Plautus, and Te- with allegorical episodes. Wolkow, rence; but far from thinking that the first performer the Russians had the proper object of theatrical ex to boast, acted in them with great hibitions was to form the minds of success. The bishop Rostowsky youth, and to make them acquaint. died in 1709. The dramatic art ed with their native land by the re was still in its infancy in Russia, presentation of the manners and when France had already the masachievements of its great men, the ter pieces of Corneille, of Racine, of purpose to which it was consecrated Moliere, and when Voltaire al. by the Greeks, superstition and ig- ready announced the dawn of his norance persuaded them that they future greatness. The compositions could not lawfully select any subjects of the first Russian dramatist were excepting from the Bible.

exhibited till the middle of the last With the manner of treating these century, not only in the seminaries, subjects they gave themselves very but Wolkow's company likewise little concern. The most absurd performed them with success at the and ridiculous scenes, and the most imperial theatre. disgusting vulgarity were introduced The French who repaired to into them. The most sacred mys Moscow, during the reign of the czar teries of religion were represented Alexis, diffused in Russia a partialin a manner highly profane ; and ity for the drama. The polished the ecclesiastics were so convinced of manners and more refined taste of the simplicity of their pupils and the these foreigners procured them a rest of the laity, as to imagine that favourable reception from the court. they would not thence receive any Most of Moliere's comedies were unfavourable impressions. The se translated into the Russian language, minaries and schools of the convents and played with the former religiof Moscow, Kiow, Novogorod, &c., ous pieces, not only by the scholars had they been better conducted, of the convent of Íconospaskoi, but might have become establishments likewise at court, in a theatre estaof the highest utility to the propaga. blished by youthful amateurs, at tion of knowledge in Russia ; but the whose head was the princess Sophia, monks of those times were contented sister of Peter the great.

The to proceed with their age, instead of troubles which preceded and followoutstripping it; either because they ed the accession of that monarch to were unable, from the wantof means, the throne, seemed to have extinor they imagined it was not fit that guished the love of theatrical exhi. the people should be too much en- bitions in Russia. There were no lightened. If the bishop Demetrius other actors at Moscow than some Rostowsky, instead of causing reli- young surgeons, who, by means of gious plays of his own invention to folding-skreens, converted the great be performed in his episcopal pa- hall of the hospital into a theatre, lace at Rostow, had composed some and took delight in acting the most work on a subject taken from pro ridiculous Russian plays, as well safane history, undoubtedly his nation, cred as profane. But scarcely had instructed by his example, would Peter the great created his new have soon developed the gerın of its capital on the banks of the Neva, talent for the dramatic art, and when it was visited by a company of would have distinguished itself in German comedians, who drew toge. that career without waiting to re- ther great crowds of spectators, ceive the impulsion from foreigners. though they represented only the

most wretched plays. Stahlin re cadets performed the parts of mute lates, that they one day announced, persons, the singers of the imperial by a bill, that they intended to exhi- chapel sung in the choruses, and the bit, at night, a piece truly admira- children of the domestics executed ble, and well worth seeing. Allured the ballets. by this promise, a great number of Sumarokow, who was already spectators assembled; but when the known for his lyric and didactic actors were just ready to begin, they poems, at length made his appearwere obliged, by an order from the ance as a dramatic writer. Some emperor, to leave the theatre with- of the cadets, with a view to exerout opening their mouths. The cur- cise themselves in declamation, had tain rose amid the harmonious sounds studied his first tragedy, entitled of the whole band of music, and the “ Chorew.” The empress being inspectators beheld a white wall, well formed of the circumstance, was lighted, on which these words were desirous of seeing these youths. inscribed, in large characters, “ To. They performed before her in a day is the first of April.This small theatre, and obtained univer. company was soon dispersed, and sal applause. Petersburg as well as Moscow was Notwithstanding the partiality of again without a theatre.

the court for these exhibitions, no Meanwhile the want of dramatic idea had yet been entertained of exhibitions had become so pressing, erecting a Russian theatre in the that some of the attendants, and the capital, when, in 1750, one was built people belonging to the stables of at Jaroslaw. To this the German the czar, formed among themselves company that went to Petersburg in a company of amateurs, and exer 1748 gave occasion. Fedor Wol. cised their theatrical talents in a chow, son of a merchant of Jaroslaw, kind of hay-loft, which they had had taken the greatest delight in embellished, and lined with straw these representations. He had mats. During the reign of the ein- strengthened this partiality by formpress Anne, some Italians arrived, ing a connection with the German and exhibited comedies and ballets; players; so that when he returned but the company was so weak, that home, he fitted up a large saloon in one day an actress being prevented his father's house for a theatre, and from appearing by her very ad- painted it himself; then mustering vanced state of pregnancy, her part a small company, consisting of his was filled by one of the male per- four brothers and some other young formers, an exchange which afford- persons, he represented sometimes the public no small amusement. At the sacred pieces of the bishop Dea length, in 1737, the first Italian metrius, sometimes the tragedies of opera was acted. Two years after. Sumarokow,and Lomonossow, which wards a company of German come. had just appeared; and at others, dians was invited; but on the death comedies and farces of his own comof the empress, the following year, position. The undertaking of Wolthey again quitted the country. chow met with the greatest encouSome French actors were then en- ragement. Not satisfied with lavishe gaged for Russia ; but the sudden ing applause upon him, the neighand numerous changes which took bouring nobility furnished him in 1750 place in the Russian government with the requisite funds for erecting prevented them from proceeding a public theatre, where money was thither till after the coronation of taken for admission. The report of Elizabeth. It was about this time this novelty reached Petersburg, and that the opera-house of Moscow was in 1752 the empress sent for Wol. built under the direction of Stahlin; chow's company. He was placed, but the want of actors was felt there with several of his young actors, in as well as at Petersburg. The the school of the cadets, to improve young gentlemen of the school of himself in the Russian language, and

in particular to practise declama- he was the real founder of the Rus. tion.

sian stage. At length, in 1756, the first Rus They will likewise remember the sian theatre was formally establish- services of Sumarokow as a tragic ed by the exertions of Sumarokow, poet. He first showed of what the and the actors were paid by the court. Russian language, before neglected, A German company appeared in was susceptible. Born at Moscow 1757, but it was broken up by the in 1727, of noble parents, he zealarrival of an Italian opera. The ously devoted himself to the study Opera Buffa, founded, in 1759, at of the ancient classic authors, and Moscow, had no better success : its of the French poets. This it was failure was favourable to that which that rouzed his poetic talents. His remained at Petersburg, and which early compositions were all on the received so much the more encou- subject of love. His countrymen adragement. The fire works display- mired his songs, and they were soon ed on the stage after the perfor- in the mouth of every one. Ani mance, afforded great amusement to mated by this success, Sumarokow the public, and drew together more published by degrees his other poecompany than the music. At the tical productions. Tragedies, cocoronation of the empress Catherine, medies, psalms, operas, epitaphs, the Russian court theatre acompania madrigals, odes, enigmas, elegies, ed her to Moscow, but soon return- satires, in a word, every species of ed to Petersburg, where it has been composition that poetry is capable fixed ever since. The taste for draof producing, flowed abundautly from matic exhibitions had at this period his pen, and filled not less than ten become so general, that not only the thick octavo volumes. His tragedy most distinguished persons of the of Chorew was the first gool play court of the two capitals performed in the Russian language. It is writ. Russian plays, but Italian, French, ten in alexandrine verses, in rhyme, German, and even English theatres like his other tragedies, as Hamlet, arose, and maintained their ground Sinaw and Truwor, Artistona, Sefor a longer or a shorter time. Ca. mira, Jaropolk and Dimisa, the therine the great, desirous that the False Demetrius, &c.; and this first people should likewise participate in performance showed, that in the this pleasure, ordered a stage to be plan, the plot, the character, and erected in the great place in the wood the style, he had taken Corneille, of Brumberg. There both the ac- Racine, and Voltaire for his models. tors and the plays were perfectly Though Sumarokcw possessed no adapted to the populace that heard very brilliant genius, he had, howthem. What will seem extraordi. ever, a very happy talent of giving nary is, that this performance some. to his tragedies a certain originality, times attracted more distinguished which distinguishes them from those amateurs; and it is perhaps the only of other nations. He acquired the theatre where spectators have been unqualified approbation of his counseen in carriages with four and six trymen by the selection of his subhorses. But what is still more sur- jects, almost all of which he took prising is, to see actors ennobled, as from the Russian history, and by the a reward for their talents, as was energy and boldness which he gave the case in 1762 with the two bro- to his characters. But his success thers Fedor and Gregory Wolchow. rendered hini so haughty and so The former died the following year, vain, that he could not endure the while still very young. His reputa- mildest criticism. Jealous of the tion as a great tragic and comic ac- fame acquired by Lomonossow, antor will perhaps one day be conside other Russian poet, he sought every rably abated; but the Russians will opportunity of discouraging him; ever' recollect with gratitude that and it was a great triumph to Su

« PreviousContinue »