« AnteriorContinua »
Of itself it is evil; in its operation it has been good. It is the storm which has cleared the atmosphere. Its enormities have repelled the mind towards the better end; and the way made clear, and the presence desired, let us now see what hope there is the guest will arrive.
It was owing to the inconveniences which the Melodramatic Theatres had made to be felt among the numerous interests they had created, that the first movement against the Patents originated. The result of that attempt was a disappointment to many; indeed, so deeply was it felt, that they who conducted it have since declined to head any similar object, and seem to have given up hope, as further effort were hopeless : nevertheless, we see only a good in the event, The Parliament was then petitioned to give the Dramatist a property in the copyright of his writings, and to grant freedom of performance to all Theatres. The first request, Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer has earned himself a proud distinction, which, with time, will increase, by obtaining for the Dramatist. The last was rejected by the Lords, and fortunately, we think ; for there was at that time little perception of the true purpose of the Drama among the authors. The Unacted Drama published before the passing of the Dramatic Copyright Bill was chiefly the rejected of the theatres, the works of old writers of established name, and composed in accordance with the classic prescription. Had a Drama on this condition been united to a theatre still possessed of all its unjust strength and unfounded prejudices, it had probably been forced to comply with'theatrical dictation, or years, perhaps, had been needed to emancipate it. There was a danger of such result; and if a little further endurance has removed the peril, there is good reason we should rejoice in having suffered.
During the interval, the entire system of the theatres has changed its character. The managers who had rooted prejudices, and some talent to render their misconceptions popular with the general public, have passed away, and the actors who exist have little power or opinion to make them worthy consideration as opponents. Every year has been fruitful of good in this respect, and also as regards the Drama which in the short space has grown into life. Plays are now published which are the first productions of their authors. The youth of these writers appears to us one of the most cheerful aspects of the subject, because we feel the Drama can never be taken up as an accomplishment to gracefully occupy a leisure time, or display to an admiring audience a literary vanity. No other form of composition has been so much inquired into, yet so slowly comprehended, and the difficulties of the study may be hence in a great measure inferred. It demands devotion in that degree which almost unfits for any other kind of excellence; and those authors who had in youth embraced, and through life pursued, alone have verified its uses. The youthful Dramatists of the present time, whose untired energies, unprepossessed minds, and earliest hopes are given to the art, will probably outstrip their older competitors, and by the fervour of their temperament restore the English Drama to its Shaksperian height. The discussions which, in the spirit of their years, they have loved to provoke, and pleasured to maintain, has made the ideal purpose of the Drama to be generally understood, and the elements through which it should be evolved, to be clearly comprehended. In the higher department the unacted have little to learn. The player only complains that the stage is not sufficiently consulted; and if the complaint be true it is of little consequence, as the minds equal to the subtlest excellence may readily learn those tricks and customs which an ordinary actor completely masters during a few months of casual observation. When the spur of necessity is felt, the low ground will be soon galloped over ; and so far are we from lamenting the deficiency, we hail it as the proof that the Unacted Drama is free from the taint of the theatre. If it has grown up unaided by theatrical instruction, it has also escaped the dangers of false teaching. Pondering over the works of the elder writers, the laws of composition have been deduced, and a moral strength thereby generated, which there is little cause to fear will submit to dictation whenever the law shall permit the rightful heir to take possession of the heritage. The opinions the Dramatists have disseminated will admit no prevarication. They have spoken plainly, and by their own speaking will be justly judged. They have fired the country at their backs, and the flames they have kindled will force them to move onward.
Everything needed to consummate a moral reform has, in the fortunate interval, been acquired ;-knowledge of what is desired, agreement as to the manner of accomplishment, and strength to walk over opposition whenever opportunity shall arrive. Next Session, perhaps, may see the Patents annulled. The movement which was this year made in Parliament can be regarded as no more than a preliminary step. It was no more than an open and manly declaration of intent.
Throughout the present paper, and also that which appeared in the Magazine of last month, purity of motive has been asserted to be the characteristic of the Unacted or revived legitimate English Drama. To prove this assertion it would be probably more satisfactory to the reader were the published works reviewed. These, however, are before the public, and the respect they have gained may be referred to as evidence of their truth. To carefully state our opinion of each here at length, would occupy too large a space; therefore the consequence to which these plays have led shall be here appealed to, as from the motives such display may be fairly deduced the object the authors in common seek. This object is entirely separated from any rewards, titles, or distinctions, which the Legislature has the power to confer. Perhaps this statement may seem somewhat gratuitous; but let it be remembered that Painting, Music, Sculpture, Architecture and Poetry, have each in England public institutions which bestow honorary degrees and pecuniary encouragements on their professors; yet iu none of these arts does the nation hold a recognized rank in Europe, while in the Drama she maintains the foremost station, and few Englishmen can have travelled on the Continent without the honour which Shakspere's genius had won for their country being reflected on themselves. In point of actual service rendered, good grounds could have been taken for making such a demand, more especially when it is considered that the Drama is the most elevated, most influential, most bazardous, and worst remunerated of all artistic pursuits. Nevertheless the Dramatist envies not other professions the advantages they enjoy, nor makes a precedent of their gains a plea of his own merits, to solicit expensive rewards or nominal distinctions at the hands of the state. He is content to make his art his recompense, and to regard its honours as his highest title. He simply asks permission to exercise his genius, unpatronized and unobstructed by the law. He humbly begs for leave to do the good he feels he has ability given him to accomplish, and looks for support only as he can prove his power to fulfil. He expects his prayer to be granted only as its entreaty can be justified, and solicits advocacy only by explaining the holiness of his cause and the purity of his motives. There is no wish to enlist the zeal of party, no desire to provoke prejudice in favour of his views. He declares no political influence to induce, and has no funds to purchase, support. Powerless and poor, save in truth, he stands before the assembled legislature of his country, showing he has been injured, but claiming no revenge, willing to forget the past, and zealous only to benefit mankind for the future. Who shall say a cause thus maintained originated in impurity? Is it not a proof of the humanizing power of the art, when its professors, still suffering from injustice, on moral premises alone ground their actions ?
Let us also be permitted to point attention to another circumstance, which is, perhaps, as conclusive with regard to the recognized and understood purity of the anti-theatrical Drama which has so widely spread over the present age, that poetry, which before seemed scarce to have a sphere in England, appears in it to have taken refuge. The names of all the modern poets are among its contributors; and more than these, as in the first age, ladies of title and nobles of eminence, statesmen, members of the Universities, the learned professions and the arts, representatives of every grade from the highest, show society again regards the Drama ;-and most of all, because denoting a reunion of that point where the separation was of vital importance as prefiguring the revival of the spirit in which our national Drama received its impulse, and as testifying the restored purity of the art-the Unacted numbers among its supports, ministers of religion- whose works the Church has seen no room to censure. This is the proof in which we feel the greatest confidence-this the evidence which makes our hope a certainty ; for throughout the history we find the Drama so intimately connected with Religion, that only in their reunion could the art be perfectly restored. The English Drama is more intimately, though less obviously-more in spirit, less in form-associated with Religion than ever was the Greek.
Every legitimate English play is a confession of man to man-an assertion of positive inward experiences-a declaration of sensible truth. “ I know this of myself," exclaims the Dramatist; and the searching question is then implied, “Is it not so too with you also *** By sympathy, by self comparison, we judge, and what we applaud we admit. Those fearful secrets of our natures, which to the Dramatist are acknowledged, to no other's questioning could by the sioner be openly confessed. Most powerful is such an instrument, when rightly exercised. It can be properly used only when guided by the highest truth. To show man to man is the purpose of playing. The object to make mankind, by looking on his nature, know himself; and the knowledge of self is the worship of God.
In the improved, extended, improving and extending, religious feeling which happily characterizes the present day, we see an additional reason for expecting the restoration of the Drama. The Theatre may feel Religion to be opposed to its habits. The Dramatist knows it to be the source of his inspiration—the encourager of his art.
CHAPTERS ON WINE.*
BY CYRUS REDDING. Professor. We will not trouble ourselves any more about what the ancients thought of the flavour of their wines until we are cooler. Adam did not trouble himself with studying Virgil, I believe.
Dean. And Hazlitt says, Shakespeare did not make himself uncomfortable about Voltaire's criticisms upon him.-Go back to our Epitaphs.
Professor. There are not many good ones in our language appertaining to the present subject. I scarcely know one that is not mixed up with the most vulgar potables. Mead and ale had the mythology of Scandinavia to recommend them; but what have gin, and filth, and rags, by which to attract the well regulated fancy? The vine, vintage, sunny skies, ancient associations, the dance, beauty, grace, the Greek mythology, every thing tasteful in nature and refined in poetry, comes into our thoughts with wine. What can drunkards upon gin, wrecks of vitality from St. Giles's, claim from us but pity and revulsion? Even the May-day of the chimney-sweepers, the best satire we have upon the games of Flora,—very unworthy our climate's rich productions in the gay product of spring,-even that is better to the imagination. Loathsome subjects are your coal fires, black stills, begrimed stokers, sulphureous smoke the product of a mineral torn from the earth's reeking entrails, allied to darkness and desolation, haggard and ghastly workmen, greedy excisemen, and last of all, and not least abominable, the exchequer process and ruin. No, there is nothing poetical about gin or whisky, their partakers, or any concerned with them, from the ghastly devotee to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore we have no good Epitaphs alluding to them.
Dean. You forget the Juniper berry.
Professor. The forlorn product of nature—the degenerate last and meanest of berries the Ultima Thule of desert productions in a land where gardens bloom with riches. Look at the wine-press and garlands of the South, the cheerful sun-browned complexions, mirth and moderation. Here we have broils, disgusting inebriation, base society, theft, murder, and the gibbet, reflected in the gin measure. John Barleycorn is a poor substitute for the clusters of the vine, even in the glorious poetry of Burns. Crabbe is the poet of gin; and
even he, who describes the degradation of nature so accurately, could not have made any thing of a dance of maltsters, garlanded with heads of barley and headed by Mr. Deady as proxy for Bacchus. Truly the deity of such a crew must be a
“Gorbellied Bacchus, giant like,
Bestriding a strong-beer barrel.” Now, there is one of the best of the maltster Epitaphs in that so well known upon the soldier :
“ Here rests at peace a Hampshire Grenadier,
Who caught his death by drinking cold small beer;
And when you're hot drink strong, or none at all." This first-rate production of the kind, even epigrammatical as it is, yet how poor! What a contrast to the Epitaph by Antipater !
“ This tomb be thine, Anacreon: all around
Let ivy wreathe, let flowrets deck the ground:
If any pleasure reach the realms below." Or that beginning “ Dum vixi sine fine bibe, sic imbrifer arcus," &c., from Capilupus, which Moore renders thus :
“ While life was mine, the little hour
In drinking still unvaried flew :
Or as the rainbow drinks the dew.
Or flushing sun imbibes the sea;
And Bacchus was out-done by me." Dean. I remember one by Charpentier, not bad; I will give you my translation of it :
“ Stranger, here lies a red-nosed wench,
From morn till night she filled her throttle;
She only grieved to leave her bottle."
“ “There, too, Lysander doth the grave compel!
Which of thy various wines has vanquished thee?
To spare good wine so foul a calumny!'"
* Passanti Cg gist une vieille macarade,
Et qui buvait du soir jusqu'au matin.
Son seul regret fut de quitter son vin.