Imatges de pÓgina
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sented. Still, means of amusement like these, accessible, pliant, various, will never be dispensed with in a city where natural causes must create the class who wish such entertainments for their leisure hours. Till men shall carry Shakspeare and Moliere within their own minds, they will wish to see their works represented. To those in whom life is still faint, and who yet have leisure to feel their need of being enlivened, the stimulus of genius is necessary, and, if they do not find this, they will take refuge in mere variety, such as the buffoon and juggler can offer, and thus their tastes be corrupted each day by the means that ought to exalt and refine them. The Shakspearean drama cannot now be sustained in Boston; but amusements of a lower order can, to which the youth who were to be protected by frowning down the theatre go and find entertainment which produces none of the good effects that would be received from a noble performance, with all the injury that has been so much deprecated.

The genius of the time might not favor the enterprise, for in other countries, where the stage is maintained at that point from which it can bestow a genial and elevating benefit, this is done by the private patronage of the most cultivated classes, and oftentimes by the favor of a single person, who has the advantage of being at once a man of taste and a prince, yet we cannot but feel that an enlarged view of human nature would rather have dictated to men of wisdom and philanthropy, to form themselves into committees of direction for the theatre, than to use their influence to put it down without providing something to take its place more fully than the lecture room. There is, however, not so much reason to regret this, as the drama seems dead, and the histrionic art is dying with it. The last centuries carried this to a glorious height, but Garrick, Kemble, Talma, Kean are gone.

"The great depart; And none rise up to take their vacant seats."

At least none who are the peers of the departed. Now, an inclination for the art seems to be the impression left by a great past, and even Miss Kemble, Miss Tree, and Macready are too ill-seconded, and address audiences too unprepared, fully to possess or enjoy the exercise of their

great powers. Now and then appears a wonder, as Mademoiselle Rachel in France lately, worthy to deck again the ancient drama with its diadem and train, but it is said by those who have seen her, that the scene sinks the moment she leaves the stage, and the fustian and farce are seen of an entertainment no longer congenial with the character of those who witness it.

The drama blossomed out in Germany, like other productions of the last century there, a genuine growth. The need of lofty sentiment and a free, widely ranging existence spoke there unreproved. On the stage was seen faithfully represented the attainment, still more, the longing of the popular mind. Upon the stage a Carlos could meet a Posa, and the iron hand of Goetz receive the clasp of the modern Arminius. But the black eagles have shrieked into silence these great voices, for the drama cannot live where man cannot walk in the freedom of a hero. That sense of individual greatness which, in Greece, poured its wine through the life blood of whole races, which consecrated the involuntary crimes of Edipus, and made possible the simple grandeur of Antigone, filling the stage with God-like forms which no spectator felt to be necessarily mere ideals, which made the shadow of Shakspeare's Talbot more commanding than the substance of the hero of one of Knowles's dramas, and gave the buskins of Corneille a legalized dignity, where is it now? Man believes in the race, but not in his fellow, and religious thinkers separate thought from action. No man is important enough to fill the scene and sustain the feeling; let us read novels in our sleepy hours, but never hope, in the society of our contemporaries, to see before us a Prometheus, or a Cid realizing the hope, nay, the belief of all present.

No; the drama is not for us, and vainly do young geniuses pilfer and filter all history and romance for heroes; vainly break up their soliloquies into speeches to be recited by various persons, or cramp into a five act lameness, the random expressions of modern life. It cannot be. Let them ask themselves, Do the men walk and talk before them so in their solitary hours? Did these forms advance from the green solitudes of the wood, or the dark corners of the chamber, and give themselves to the bard as delegates from the Muse of the age? Did you, as you walked the

streets meet the demand for these beings from every restless, eager eye? Not so. Then let be the dead form of a traditional drama. Life is living, though this be dead. Wait the form that grows from the spirit of the time.

Life is living, and art, European art, lives in the opera and ballet. For us we have nothing of our own, for the same reason that in literature, a few pale buds is all that we yet can boast of native growth, because we have no national character of sufficient fulness and simplicity to demand it. There is nothing particular to be said, as yet, but everything to be done and observed. Why should we be babbling? let us see, let us help the plant to grow; when it is once grown, then paint it, then describe it. We earn our brown bread, but we beg our cake; yet we want some, for we are children still.

If New England thinks, it is about money, social reform, and theology. If she has a way of speaking peculiarly her own, it is the lecture. But the lecture, though of such banyan growth among us, seems not to bespeak any deep or permanent tendency. Intellectual curiosity and sharpness are the natural traits of a colony overrun with things to be done, to be seen, to be known from a parent country possessing a rich and accumulating treasure from centuries of civilized life. Lectures upon every possible topic are the short business way taken by a business people to find out what there is to be known, but to know in such ways cannot be hoped, unless the suggestions thus received are followed up by private study, thought, conversation. This, no doubt, is done in some degree, but chiefly by the young, not yet immersed in the stream of things. Let any one listen in an omnibus, or at a boarding house, to the conversation suggested by last night's lecture, see the composure with which the greatest blunders and most unfounded assertions are heard and assented to, and he will be well convinced how little the subject has occupied the minds of the smart and curious audience, and feel less admiration at the air of devout attention which pervades an Odeon assembly. Not that it is unmeaning, something they learn; but it is to be feared just enough to satisfy, not stimulate the mind. It is an entertainment which leaves the hearer too passive. One that appealed to the emotions would enter far more deeply and pervasively into the life, than these

VOL. III.

NO. I.

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addressed to the understanding, a faculty already developed out of all proportion among this people.

There is always a great pleasure in any entertainment truly national. In Catlin's book on the Indians, in Borrow's book on the Gipsies, we read with this pleasure of the various dances and amusements, because, barbarous though they be, they grow out of, correspond with the character of the people, as much as the gladiatorial games, and shows of wild beasts, the tournament of the middle ages, the Spanish bull-fights, the boxing and racing matches of England express peculiar traits in the character and habits of the nations who enjoy or have enjoyed them. We must not then quarrel with the lecture, the only entertainment we have truly expressive of New England as it is in its transition state, cavilling, questioning, beginning to seek, all-knowing, if with little heart-knowledge, meaning to be just, and turning at last, though often with a sour face, to see all sides, for men of sense will see at last it is not of any use to nail the weathercock the pleasantest way; better leave it free, and see the way the wind does blow, if it will be so foolish as to blow in an injudicious direction. The lectures answer well to what we see in the streets. Yet it would be scarce worth while to begin to speak of them, as the Dial affords no room for the encyclopedia of Entertaining Knowledge. Only a few words of two foreign lecturers, who, in very different ways, have been objects of much interest here.

Mr. Giles has been everywhere a truly popular lecturer. His dramatic feeling of his subjects, comic power in narration, great fluency and bright genial talent have endeared him to all classes of hearers. Indeed his narrative passages, such as the story of the fight on Vinegar Hill, and the peasant's recollections of Cromwell, are nearest dramatic representation, in the kind and degree of pleasure communicated, of anything we have had. He is no orator; his style of speaking wants repose, wants light and shade. His voice, a little strained from the very beginning, gets into a broken, hysterical tone in the more animated parts, that jars the nerves. He hurries his declamations far too much. But in these very faults his excitable temperament and youthful heart display themselves and conciliate the affections where they dissatisfy the taste of the hearer.

Mr. Lyell. A very large audience waited on the teachings of this celebrated geologist, and their uniform attention and warm interest in his lectures were scarcely less honorable to them than to him. We understand he had been very little in the habit of lecturing, and never to mixed audiences like this, but only to classes of students, or persons prepared, in some measure, for what he had to say, and able to follow him, gleaning his facts as they could, without expecting or demanding the neat and popular arrangement to which our lecturers are trained, and which often inclines to praise on leaving the lecture-room, in the technics of the shop. "A neat article, sir, a good article." His gesticulation and manner were unprepossessing, for though his whole air was that of the gentleman and intellectual man, yet he had not that full-eyed, unembarrassed air in addressing an audience, which draws it at once to the speaker, and prepares to listen without ennui or reserve. Neither had he the power of arrangement, gradually to wind a stronger thread, to elucidate, to round out, to perfect the design. But for a time the hearer strained after his purpose, then he had forgotten something, flew back to get it, put it out of place, then in again, and it was only at the end of the lecture that one could be sure of having ascertained its scope, thus robbing us of that pleasurable mixture of animation and repose, as in a chariot driven by a skilful Jehu through a beautiful country, which attend on the following a mind which combines with richness in fact and illustration a self-possessed grace and the power of design. Yet it was well observed, by a discriminating hearer, that the presence of great facts amply made up for these deficiencies, the sense of Mr. Lyell's extensive knowledge, patience, and philosophical habits of investigation, with his simple and earnest manner of approaching his subject made his lectures not only interesting but charming to his audience, and it is to be questioned if the difficulty which they sometimes felt in following him did not even make his lectures of more value, the mind being stimulated to an effort which gave it a glow of real interest, and induced it to follow out the path thus entered. Wherever we went, there was Lyell's Geology on the table, and many of the suggestions made by these lectures lingered in conversation through the winter. Goethe's con

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