Imatges de pÓgina
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terrors, but also his inflated and affected strain of poetry. His mind gradually becomes alienated from the frank, sensible, and affectionate companion of his childhood, and he grows in the same proportion attached to the daughter of a professor called Spalanzani, whose house is opposite to the windows of his lodging. He has thus an opportunity of frequently remarking Olympia as she sits in her apartment; and although she remains there for hours without reading, working, or even stirring, he yet becomes enamoured of her extreme beauty in despite of the insipidity of so inactive a person. But much more rapidly does this fatal passion proceed when he is induced to purchase a perspective glass from the pedlar, whose resemblance was so perfect to his old object of detestation. Deceived by the secret influence of the medium of vision, he becomes indifferent to what was visible to all others who approach Olympia-to a certain stiffness of manner which made her walk as if by the impulse of machinery,—to a paucity of ideas which induced her to express herself only in a few short but reiterated phrases,-in short, to all that indicated Olympia to be what she ultimately proved, a mere literal puppet, or automaton, created by the mechanical skill of Spalanzani, and inspired with an appearance of life by the devilish arts we may suppose of the alchymist, advocate, and weatherglass seller Copelius, alias Coppola. At this extraordinary and melancholy truth the enamoured Nathaniel arrives by witnessing a dreadful quarrel between the two imitators of Prometheus, while

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disputing their respective interests in the subject of their creative power. They uttered the wildest imprecations, and tearing the beautiful automaton limb from limb, belaboured each other with the fragments of their clockwork figure. Nathaniel, not much distant from lunacy before, became frantic on witnessing this horrible spectacle.

But we should be mad ourselves were we to trace these ravings any further. The tale concludes with the moon-struck scholar attempting to murder Clara by precipitating her from a tower. The

poor girl being rescued by her brother, the lunatic remains alone on the battlements, gesticulating violently and reciting the gibberish which he had acquired from Copelius and Spalanzani. At this moment, and while the crowd below are devising means to secure the maniac, Copelius suddenly appears among them, assures them that Nathaniel will presently come down of his own accord, and realizes his prophecy by fixing on the latter a look of fascination, the effect of which is instantly to compel the unfortunate young man to cast himself headlong from the battlements.

This wild and absurd story is in some measure redeemed by some traits in the character of Clara, whose firmness, plain good sense and frank affection are placed in agreeable contrast with the wild imagination, fanciful apprehensions, and extravagant affection of her crazy-pated admirer.

It is impossible to subject tales of this nature to criticism. They are not the visions of a poetical mind, they have scarcely even the seeming authen

ticity which the hallucinations of lunacy convey to the patient; they are the feverish dreams of a lightheaded patient, to which, though they may sometimes excite by their peculiarity, or surprise by their oddity, we never feel disposed to yield more than momentary attention. In fact, the inspirations of Hoffmann so often resemble the ideas produced by the immoderate use of opium, that we cannot help considering his case as one requiring the assistance of medicine rather than of criticism ; and while we acknowledge that with a steadier command of his imagination he might have been an author of the first distinction, yet situated as he was, and indulging the diseased state of his own system,

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appears to have been subject to that undue vividness of thought and perception of which the celebrated Ni. colai became at once the victim and the conqueror. Phlebotomy and cathartics, joined to sound philosophy and deliberate observation, might, as in the case of that celebrated philosopher, have brought to a healthy state a mind which we cannot help regarding as diseased, and his imagination soaring with an equal and steady flight might have reached the highest pitch of the poetical profession.

The death of this extraordinary person took place in 1822. He became affected with the disabling complaint called tabes dorsalis, which gradually deprived him of the power of his limbs. Even in this melancholy condition he dictated several compositions, which indicate the force of his fancy, particularly one fragment entitled The Recovery, in which are many affecting allusions to the state of his own mental feelings at this period ; and a novel called The Adversary, on which he had employed himself even shortly before his last moments. Neither was the strength of his courage in any respect abated; he could endure bodily agony with firmness, though he could not bear the visionary terrors of his own mind. The medical persons made the severe experiment whether by applying the actual cautery to his back by means of glowing iron, the activity of the nervous system might not be restored. He was so far from being cast down by the torture of this medical martyrdom, that he asked a friend who entered the apartment after he had undergone it, whether he did not smell the roasted meat. The same heroic spirit marked his expressions, that “ he would be perfectly con tented to lose the use of his limbs, if he could but retain the power of working constantly by the help of an amanuensis.” Hoffmann died at Berlin, upon the 25th June, 1822, leaving the reputation of a remarkable man, whose temperament and health alone prevented his arriving at a great height of reputation, and whose works as they now exist ought to be considered less as models for imitation than as affording a warning how the most fertile fancy may be exhausted by the lavish prodigality of its possessor.

ARTICLE XI.

THE OMEN.

[ T'he Omen. By John Galt, Esq. Blackwood's

Magasine, July, 1824.)

The Muse of Fiction has of late considerably extended her walk ; and it will probably be admitted, that she has lent her counsel to authors of greater powers, and more extended information, than those who detailed the uninteresting Memoirs of Jenny and Jemmy Jessamy, and the like tiresome persons. The grave humour of Fielding—the broad comedy of Smollett—the laboured pathos of Richardson—the sentiment of Mackenzie and Sterneare of course excluded from this comparison. But even these distinguished authors seem to have limited the subjects of fictitious composition to imaginary incidents in private life, and to displaying the influence of the ordinary passions of mankind—the world in which they and their readers lived, could show parallel instances of the adventures narrated, and characters to match in some degree with the personages introduced. But the modern novelists,

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