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the whole of these letters to Mrs. King, are a most valuable addition to Cowper's general correspondence ld of this new portion of which we now take leave, by sincerely thanking,' on more accounts than one, the relative through whose intervention we owe the public appearance of it.
“ Memini, nec unquam obliviscar, illius noctiş."-CICERO.
I slept one night (how could I sleep?)
Within a chamber lone and drear,
Three carved oak-chairs, of ponderous weight, un to End 11
Shone sickly o'er their limbs of strength.
1,116,2V 01 The mantiepiece, antique and broken,
In stain's and chilling marble stood;
1. And, as I look'd, methought she smiled." Dising cuinte e 13'Her dark and lightning eyes confess'd
.*.* Viter; 1119 The fulness of maternal joy,
1 While pillowing on her snow-white breast
Re: 395 296
By half a century's dusty veil-
) How fine the expression ! all the fire
por tio tilust That ever lit. the Italian eye Burns in those orbs distinct from ire
t . un Just like the lightnings of the sky. Vits
were plants His cheeks are colourless--yet warm
As linged in Oriental climé :
Perhaps, thought I, in days of old, SWE Skadin
*112 947 IOC 2600 1,1b,?!.0 In this dim chamber loved to hold
e ghow ad rod 1.) Sweet converse-tested here at night. 1630 ???
Ti !! , !!
أزء و کار به د
Perchance those lips, whereon. I gaze,
Full oft were to each other prest,While that dear babe's angelic face
Lay, like a rose, on the white breast !
Does no romantic legend tell?
Where did that child of beauty dwell?
Riveted there,-until a blast, Which shook the window-frames, subdued
The spells that o'er my soul were cast ! I started back-'twas still as death.
I eyed the tapestry o'er and o’er;
But all was silent as before.
Enchantment o'er that haunted room,
Like sheeted spectres from the tomb. I raised the expiring lamp on high,
And dizzily scann'd the portrait old. Out went the light and inwardly
Sank my crush'd heart! 'Twas bitter cold. I heard the wainscot near me creak
I saw the elm's huge branches wave Black through the casement-and a shriek
Rang in my ears as from the grave !
What could it be?-I knew no more
Than you who are my story reading ! Perhaps it was some grating door
Perhaps some peacock--serenading.
I stripp'd i’ the dark, and went to bed,
And my o'erwearied eyelids closed, And, though I'd goblins in my head,
Soon in the arms of sleep reposed. Whether, while Somnus held me bound,
The ghosts and goblins frisk'd in play About the apartment, round and round
My bed, is—what I cannot say. Spectres inight join their pale hands o'er
My slumbering head, for what I know, And with their ghostly optics pore
Upon my face :-(I hope not, though.) The lovely lady might step out
From her rich frame, and kiss my faceTaking me for her spouse, po doubt,
As I lay sleeping in his place. "Tis all surmise. But on that head
I'll own, if any ghost, for fun, Presumed to glide about my bed,
I hope 'twas she-that rose-lipp d one.
LIVING FRENCH POETS.--NO. i}}.
This author, at the moment in which I write, (for the dignity of the personal plural must on this occasion be discarded,) has reached the summit of popularity; and while I take up the pen to trace a notice of him as man and poet, the enthusiastic plaudits of hundreds, shouting his name as with a single voice, are still ringing in my ears. I have, in fact, just returned from the first representation of his comedy “L'Ecole des Vieillards ;” and, before the freshness of the animating display fades from my mind, I am willing to commence an article upon the general character of the author and his works, which has been hitherto delayed to allow some mention of this touchstone of his fame.
Nothing for a considerable time past has excited so much movement in the literary circles of Paris as the expectation of this play. Dela, vigne is certainly, De Bérenger excepted, the most popular writer of the day with the public from his patriotism and the versatility of his talents, with men of letters from his genius and modesty, with his friends from the almost unrivalled amiability of his disposition, and with his party from the firmness of his principles. So many elements of popularity have been seldom combined ; and the only cement required to form them into a solid construction was furnished lately in the destitution of this distinguished individual from a trifling situation, by which he became marked as an object of government persecution, and therefore of public sympathy. I shall have occasion to revert to this point hereafter, and only mention it now as one of those causes which, independent of the author's celebrity, tended to excite so strong an interest for the representation of his last work. In the present state of the English stage, little notion can be formed with us of the anxiety with which a genuine comedy is watched for in Paris. The lighter inspirations of Thalia seem to have quite abandoned our original authors ; for while those among them who attempt dramatic writing give their real devotion to the sombre influence of her sister muse, Comedy, if it can be so called, has fallen into the hands of a few writers, who appear quite content to exercise their ingenuity in adaptations from the French, or the arrangements of some popular romance. The irresistible talent for caricature possessed by two or three of our actors exercises also a most unfortunate influence upon true comedy, which seems gradually losing all its pretension to what was distinguished by the now rather unfashionable word “genteel," and sinking deeper and deeper into the amusing but extravagant buffooneries of broad farce, forming with us a parallel, but not precisely a similar, degradation to that of Italian comedy so bitterly complained of by Addison in his time. In reference to this subject I may be allowed a passing remark upon the complaints made indiscriminatingly against authors who write for particular performers. I think it extremely unjust to make this matter of blame on all occasions. Nothing seems more natural than that a poet, composing his tragedy, should find in the warmth of his conceptions an association with the particular powers of the actor who is to give them utterance. Who could avoid indulging the anticipation of the palpable touch of Fame, conducted, as it were, through
VOL. X. NO. XXXVIU.
the medium of the performer ; or hesitate in giving scope for the respective merits of Siddons or Kean, or Duchesnois or Talma? pears to me, that such a feeling must at all times have influenced, and happily influenced, those authors, from Æschylus to Delavigne, who wrote with the inspiring hope of seeing their pieces performed; and that very much of the merit of plays has arisen from this influence, involuntarily exercised by the player. The danger or the degradation does not consist in writing up to genius, but in writing down to grimace.
But, returning from this point to the one from which it branches, we must allow that, as regards pure comedy, “they manage these matters better in France;" and however justly we may despise the vapid recitations which they call tragedy, we must allow that, in the other department of theatrical art, they offer us a good example, by which we do not benefit. The nice shades of classification into which they divide their dramatic productions is certainly advantageous to particular branches, however it may deteriorate from the effect of the whole. The divisions of Italian poetry into epic, narrative, and romantic, are not more accurately defined or more scrupulously observed than the tragic, tragi-comic, (melo-dramatic, comic, and farcical compartments of the French stage,
This affords, of course, a very limited field for those strong contrasts which we consider the essence of dramatic merit; and it would appear an additional proof of the inconsistency which seems the very vis anima of this people, that while those nicely-marked distinctions are preserved to the letter in their plays, it is the great boast of their society (of which those representations are presumed reflections) to merge all diatinctions, and bring manners to one level. But the fact is, that the French do not look for general pictures of life upon the stage. They do not seek a display of what might be called the historic pictures of dramatic art. They require individual figures, from the observation of which they are not likely to be attracted by broad and general delineations ; and if their scenic portraiture be suffered to extend itself into a group, the group must be a family one, where nothing out of keeping is allowed. Destructive as this taste is to the bolder efforts of dramatic talent, and hopeless as it renders any effort to shew the striking features of every-day life, it is by no means prohibitory, as is commonly supposed, of representations of nature. On the contrary, it seems to allow of a minuteness of detail as to particular traits of character, of a drawing out and developement, that a more crowded and involuted display would in a great measure preclude. It is this, more than any peculiar tact attributed to French writers, which enables them to shew such minuteness and finesse in the scanty characters of their pieces, and in their narrowness of incident and plot ; and in proof of this I can have no more appropriate illustration than “ L'Ecole des Vieillards."
The characters of this piece are M. Danville, his wife, her grandmother, a Duc D'Elmar his patron, M. Bonnard his friend, and an old male servant. The representation passes in a salon in Paris; the time occupied is about twenty-four hours ; and the plot is simply as follows. Danville, a man of sixty years of age, arrives from the country after two months' absence; he finds his young wife and her grandmother indulging the utmost extravagance of a Parisian life, the former being closely besieged by the tender assiduities of the Duke, who is nephew to a minister of state. Danville, dissatisfied at this career, jealous of the Duke, yet tenderly attached to his wife, opposes her pursuits ; and, after a vain effort to dissuade her, at last consents to her going that evening to a ball given by the minister. She, in her turn, becomes generous, and voluntarily abandons her resolution to go. Danville, quite happy, goes out to transact a necessary formality for his appointment to a lucrative place, and soon returns to sup with his wife and his expected friend Bonnard; but she in the mean while, yielding to the persuasion of her grandmother and the Duke, has set off to the ball, and left a note for her husband, announcing this change of resolution. Distracted at the confirmation of his jealous fears, he dresses hastily, and follows to the minister's, where he was also invited: but while he vainly searches for his truant spouse, she returns dissatisfied with herself and all she had seen; and as she sits in expectation of her husband's appearance, she hears a carriage approach, fies to the door, and is surprised and shocked by the presence of the Duke, who, taking this favourable opportunity, first presents her with her husband's commission, signed that evening by the minister, and follows this up by a declaration of love. The indignant wife repels him with disdain ; but, terrified by the noise of Danville's approach, she puts him into a closet, assumes tranquillity, and Danville enters. He, having ascertained that the Duke was with his wife, questions her with severity, and is convinced by her confusion that the object of his jealousy is hidden in the closet. He retires to his cabinet; she flies to her own chamber, leaving the doors open for the Duke's escape; but Danville instantly returns, opens the closet, and peremptorily orders the Duke to come out. The Duke does so; and, after an animated scene, a meeting is fixed for daybreak, and the fourth act ends. The fifth opens with Danville's return from the field, where he has been disarmed by his adversary. Worried by the congratulations of his friend and his wife's grandmother, he is almost driven to frenzy when the wife herself comes in. He is all at once tranquillized by her regret and her innocent explanations; and the play ends by her reading a letter which she had written to the Duke, repelling his daring offers; and by her making a request, to which the husband gladly consents, that he would remove her from Paris instanter.
Such is the construction of this piece: and such, without underplot, incident, invention, or involution beyond what I have related, or change of scené or decoration, has been received by one of the most
crowded and select Parisian audiences with bursts of rapturous applause. * Much of this was no doubt owing to the inimitable acting of Talma and Mademoiselle Mars, in the husband and wife; but much more to the gracefulness of style, the piquancy of some passages, the smooth flow of the verse ; and, above all, to the keeping and natural tone of the characters; or to that prompt sentiment de convenance, which is Voltaire's definition of esprit. How such a play would have been received in England is a question, perhaps, not very difficult to decide; but it is a fact, that it is pronounced by many competent judges to be a chef. d'euvre of an author otherwise highly distinguished. It has had the
additional merit of fixing an epoch in the annals of the French stage, for
Since this article has been written, the play continues to run a course of contiqued prosperity.