Imatges de pàgina

hands of numerous epic or merely mythical poets, was prepared for the wants of art, or of higher poetry. “The tragedians had only to engraft poetry on poetry ; certain preliminary suppositions of invaluable inportance for dignity, grandeur, and independence of all petty accessories, were granted them at the very outset. The sanctity of legend had ennobled every thingeven errors and frailties in that god-born, and long-departed race of heroes. They possessed great power, acted with superhuman force; they flourished before order or law. There was a selection among the mythological families, of some whose actions and sufferings were deemed peculiarly adapted for scenic representation. As, too, there were many different versions of them, great latitude of choice was permitted as to the point of view from which the outlines were sketched. The same materials which had flowed on easily and uninterruptedly in narrative poetry, suffered themselves to be moulded into the condensed and statuesque form of tragedy."

With the Romans the case was different. They had to deal with a foreign mythology, the influence of which on their hearts and imaginations must have been feeble. The representations made were cold and lifeless, without force and expression. The whole wore the flatness of a bald translation. The feelings described were not those which caught the sympathy of a Roman mind. The manners depicted were foreign. No one of commanding intellect arose, who, by his magic genius, could enchain an audience, and invest these borrowed personages with charms true to nature, overcoming all difficulties, and forcing an entrance into the heart. The Roman dramatist moved in a circumscribed and comparatively uninteresting track; he fell in the struggle with unfavourable circumstances.

Why did the Roman dramatists not try their strength on subjects taken from their own traditions ? The ruins of the early Roman antiquity had not time to be turned about by the luxuriant ivy which hallows and beautifies decay. Time had not smoothed away the more common aspect of such incidents, and added to them adventitious graces. They wanted the venerable air and imposing pomp which the ancient tragedy required, -without which the influence of fate and mystery was not sufficiently apparent. The great Greek tragedians preferred to exhibit shadows dimly moving through the mists of antiquity--the dark records of unearthly suffering and woe-rather than the living blaze of glory that rested upon Thermopylæ and Marathon. The personages had been already rendered familiar by the heroic epos. The time was, when men had been magnified into demigods. They conceived themselves sprung from the gods; but between the gods and the frail and feeble creatures of earth, another race was supposed to have intervened, to break the suddenness of the transition from the bright inhabitants of heaven to common men of ordinary thoughts. The space between had been filled up by a race of godlike men, authors of heroic deeds. On the clouds of antiquity, in the twilight of past time, the Greeks saw faintly traced figures of noble proportion,

the forms of those who had figured in colossal achievements, beneath the walls of Thebes and Troy. But the Romans had no families corresponding with those of Atreus or Edipus; no such princess as Helen, no such dignified monarch as Agamemnon; no epic cycle on

which to form tragedies like the Greeks, whose minds Homer had conciliated in favour of Ajax and Ulysses. No harp of surpassing power and sweetness had immortalized their early annals. The state of parties, too, at Rome, was such as rendered it impossible to take subjects from their early historic annals.

Other causes for the failure of Roman tragedy obviously appear in their want of deep feeling and tender emotion in the unrivalled training process of cruelty and callousness to which they were subjected-in their propensity for barbarous luxury-in their vitiated taste for spectacle and display, so forcibly described by Horace :

“ Quatuor aut plures aulæa premuntur in horas

Dum fugiunt equitum turmæ, peditumque catervæ :
Mox trahitur manibus regum fortuna retortis;
Esseda festinant, pilenta, peterrita, naves;

Captivum portatur ebur, captiva Corinthus." The tendency of the Augustan age was manifestly not to tragedy. Before that time, according to Quinctilian, the Roman attempts at tragedy were characterized by “gravitas sententiarum, verborum pondus, auctoritas personarum;" then, by “nitor, eruditio summa in exedendis operibus manus :" he particularizes Ovid's Medea as one of the most prominent and meritorious works of the latter school, After the Augustan period, the seeds of decay rapidly sprung up in every department of literature. The tragedies which go by the name of Seneca have scarcely any claim upon attention.

A. R. B.


"All human things are subject to decay,

And when fate summons, monarchs must obey."--DRYDEN. Poor Jacob Nettle !-he is no more-he is gone the way of all fesh, and I trust his soul has taken flight in the direction of all good souls, for he was a jolly good soul, particularly over a bottle of claret or a tumbler of the native, to use his own term for Irish whisky; but he is gone-we shall no longer have “his flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table in a roar.”

I should like, if possible, to commence the sketch with some account of his birth, but I could never hear a word about it from himself or any one else. He appeared to me as if he had dropped from the clouds, or had grown out of a cauliflower, as my old nurse used to say; he told me he believed he had not a relative upon earth, or any other place, at least that he knew anything about. I have often thought he must bave come into the world, not only like King Richard, “ born with teeth,” but ready rigged out in a lawyer's wig, gown, and brief bag. As well as I can learn, the first place his squat figure was seen or heard of was in the hall of the Dublin Four Courts; and ashis was a figure not easily to be passed over unnoticed, it was not long ere he

attracted a good deal of observation; and by degrees, his forwardness of manner and eccentricity of habit introduced him more fully to the notice of his brother barristers, until at last he was possessed of a numerous circle of acquaintances, and the name of Jacob Nettle was as well known at the Irish Bar as that of the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench. Poor Jacob was any thing but well off in the world; he had seldom a guinea to spare; indeed, whenever he had one at all, he would spend it in a turn-out of a leg of mutton and the jolly bottle (to use his own term) to a select few of his friends. He was the contemporary of some great men; his career was in the time of Curran, O'G— y, B- e, and others of the same kidney; his intimacy with the first named was his great boast, and truly he had reason to be proud of it-for John Philpot Curran was more than an Irish star, he was a comet, and not even one of the common order, but one that is to be seen only once in a hundred years.

Jacob Nettle's great failing, if failing it can be called, was an over fondness for the society of the dinner table; I say the society, for to do the poor fellow justice, he had but a small appetite, and did not seem to care a pin's fee about the dinner itself, but he lost no opportunity of giving hints to his friends for an invite: he at last became proverbial for his dinner or society hunting propensities, so that, amusing as he was, people were obliged to keep out of his way on some occasions. I may give the following as a specimen of his usual intimations for an invite to dinner, and they generally ended with similar success. Meeting with Curran (the then Master of the Rolls) late in the afternoon, they accosted each other, when Curran observed that he was taking a walk to endeavour to get an appetite for his dinner.-"Well,” said Jacob, I wish you success; but we are on different tacks-for I am taking a walk to endeavour to get a dinner for my appetite;” this would do, and away they would walk together, both finding what they had been in search of. I have taken some pains to inquire, and never could hear of Jacob having declined an invitation to dinner ; but, indeed, he would make a boast of this, and many a good joke would he tell of his hints to various parties for the provoke to place his legs under their mahogany.

Jacob was about five feet seven in height; a ruddy, jolly looking face: small, but very sharp looking, greyish eyes, surmounted by bushy dark eyebrows, which gave a remarkable and somewhat cunning expression to his face; the top of his head was bald, the rest covered with hair perfectly white with age, for at the time I knew him he was about sixty-eight years of age. No one could pass Jacob in the street without looking after him and saying, “There goes a queer fellow !” for his dress stamped him at once as deserving the appellation; it indicated a most extraordinary attempt at the costume of an old dandy: but he appeared not to have the least idea how to put on his clothes ; every thing on him, not even excepting his shirt, had the appearance of being on him the wrong way-inside out-or upside down. He usually wore an old brown coat with the lower part buttoned on a wrong button; at the breast appeared, in negligence certainly, but anything but graceful negligence, a light yellow looking waistcoat, rather soiled, and much the worse for wear, over which hung a watch-guard (not gold) and black ribbon for spy glass. Sunday papers, like briefs, newspapers, &c., which he used to thrust indiscriminately into the breast of his coat, made up the breastplate of his costume; his cravat was twisted round his neck in a large loose fold, over which a prodigious quantity of linen made a most unsuccessful attempt to stand up and look like a shirt collar; he was not a little proud of his legs, even in the evening of his life, and wore drab inexpressibles, with leggings, in order to show them off to the best advantage.

Jacob Nettle had struggled a long time in his profession, but he never could make much of it; he was clever, but idle, and too fond of jovial society; and, what was worse than all, he was growing very deaf, and had nothing laid by in the way of a provision for retirement;

-the malady at last increased upon him to such a degree that he was no longer fit for the business of the courts. I recollect hearing him examining a witness before a jury and the facetious Lord N- y: Jacob was very deaf at the time ; his lordship a little so. “Speak up, sir !" roared Jacob to the witness :-"Speak up, sir, that his lordship and the gentlemen of the jury may hear you !” Now it happened at the time that the witness had been speaking loud enough for any one to hear him; so the old judge remarked, upon hearing Jacob's command, “ Mr. Nettle, that's one word for me, and half a dozen for yourself." But at last, as I have said, he became quite unfit for business, and his brother barristers kindly determined on entering into a subscription to purchase a life annuity for him, in order that he might end his days in peace and retirement. The thing was done ; but after all but very poorly, for Jacob's pension only amounted to about eighty pounds a year; he, however, was honest and honourable, and made the pittance suffice for his wants.

“Quæ virtus et quanta, boni sit vivere parvo.” A sad mistake had very nearly caused a breach for ever between Jacob and myself; the Irish bar, for some reason or other best known to itself, made the pension of Jacob Nettle payable in London. He called one day at my chambers in the Temple when I happened not to be there, and after waiting some time, he left word with my clerk that, as he could not see me, he would call at my dwelling-house in Tavistock Square, and pay a visit to Mrs. Minimus; he knew he would be sure of an invitation to dinner in that quarter. Now it happened, on this very day, that I had a party of gentlemen to dine with me for the purpose of discussing very important business, and I would not for the world have had any interruption. No sooner had he been gone, than I arrived, and having learned his intention, I sat down and wrote in great haste to my wife; my note ran as follows :“ My dear Julia,

" That Jacob Nettle has just gone from this to pay a visit at the house ; for God's sake do not see him; or if you do, manage to get rid of him in the best manner you can; for I would not have him lo dinner to-day for any consideration.

“ Yours, &c. &c.” Most haste, worse speed.--I addressed the note, in my hurry, to Jacob Nettle, Esq., at my own house, in the Square ;"-sent it off immediately by my clerk, telling him to run all the way, in order to get there before Jacob. I had an Irish servant who was very well acquainted with Jacob; and in a short time after the note had been left at the house, the rat-tat-tat-tat of the visiter came to the door, which was opened by Mr. Pat. “Is your mistress at home?” inquired Jacob. “No, sir," says Pat, “ but my master has just sent up a note for you, here it is, sir.”—“Oh, all right!-an invitation," thought Jacob to himself. We can easily imagine the figure he cut on opening the note intended for my wife. As the servant informed me afterwards, “ He read it in the hall, for a long time, and walked away without saying a word.” I felt in a pleasant predicament, on going home to dinner, and inquiring of my wife if she had seen Jacob, and had acted according to my note. Of course she denied having received any note from me. Pat was called up; and the fellow, with a provoking grin, said he had never received a note, “at all at all,for the mistress, but that the one I had sent for Mr. Nettle he had delivered to him the moment he rapped at the door. By degrees the mystery unfolded itself, and the horrid truth flashed across my mind : I really did not know whether I stood upon my head or my heels; yet I could not refrain from laughing (and, indeed, I was joined heartily by all around) at so comical a disaster. However, I took the earliest opportunity of throwing myself in Jacob's way, and explaining the matter; I invited him to dinner, which was the true healing plaster, and the mishap was turned into a good joke, which Jacob himself was always the first to introduce.

I have no doubt but that Jacob Nettle's character was a source of great amusement to Curran; every joke between them was sure to be followed by an invitation for dinner on one side or the other ; but, of course, Jacob's jokes would tell better in that way, for he generally threw the onus upon Curran. “What are you thinking of ?" said Curran to him in court, on seeing Nettle buried in a brown study. “I'm thinking," answered Jacob, starting up, “that you dined with me last." This would produce a laugh, and the desired effect. Jacob and Curran were riding together to dine at some house near Dublin, for Jacob managed to keep a pony, which he call Bucephalus, and which was as well known as the master, and just as much addicted to dining out. Well, the dinner hour, five o'clock, was near at hand, and Jacob expressed some fears as to being in time. “Curran," said he, “ I do not know the roads here very well, I am afraid we shall be late."-" I tell you what, Jacob,” said Curran, “ if you had to dine at Grand Cairo, you would be sure to find your way there at five o'clock." Those little incidents will help to give some idea of the character of Jacob Nettle. Talking of the pony reminds me of an anecdote concerning Baron O’G_ y and Jacob.

Jacob was counsel for a fellow who had been tried for horsestealing before O'Guy: he rode away the horse with his own saddle: there was no doubt as to the fellow's guilt, but owing to some Alaw in the indictment he was acquitted, whereupon Jacob applied to his lordship for the saddle; he begged his lordship would be kind enough to let his client have the saddle, as he had been acquitted on the charge against him. “ Indeed, I will not, Mr. Nettle," answered the chief, in his peculiar dry manner. “Dear me, my lord," said Jacob, “that is very odd. Would your lordship be kind enough to

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