« НазадПродовжити »
placing it on the firm foundation of the soul, and blending it in one common feeling with the most refined courtesy. No other possesses in so high a degree the eloquence of the heart, nor better knows how to bring the feelings into play, to set different interests in opposition, and put one to the test against the other, to develop circumstances with clearness that lead to an action, to concentrate them all in a catastrophe, and to trace the most sudden, deep-set, and peculiar motives to their proper source in a character. His touches are always those of a great master-distinct, profound, pathetic, and sublime.”
The philosophic Spanish critic, whom we have here quoted, then enters into the parallel instituted by Sherlock between Ariosto and Metastasio, and he thus concludes :-“ If, after a long silence, I were compelled to decide, illustrious Metastasio! the boast of a nation which adored thee in thy age after having abandoned thee in thy youth, and who joyfully beheld those rare talents rewarded in another country which they ought to have preserved in their own : yes; thou wouldst be the Venus to whom I should adjudge the apple of beauty. To this decision I should come the more readily, because the influence of Metastasio on the taste of the Italians, and on that of other nations, has been greater than that of Ariosto, or of any other poet whatever. Italy ought not to consider him merely as a superior melodramatic author, in which style he has had as yet no equal; but she is also in a great measure indebted to him for that perfection to which the arts of singing and composition have attained during the last century. Our Pergolesis, our Vincis, Jomellis, Buranellis, Terradeglias, Perez, Durantes, and many others, together with our Farinellis, Caffarellis, Gizziellis, Guarduccis, Guadagnis, Pacchierottis, may, with some reason, be called the élères of Metastasio, for it is certain that they would never have reached such perfection had they not first been inspired by his genius, and improved their own talents by the study of his works. Poetry and music are like the opening and conclusion of an oration ;—the last is but an amplification, or development, of what the first sketches out: and since it is impossible, or at least difficult, to compose expressive music to insignificant words, thus the composer and the singer both find themselves spared an immense deal of trouble when the poet furnishes them with a variety and abundance of musical inflections. Thus, the philosopher of Geneva has expressed himself, with not less truth than eloquence, when addressing those youths who desire to know whether bounteous nature had transfused into their souls one spark of that celestial fire which is understood by the term Genius. If you would know,' he said,
go to Naples, hear the chefs-d'auvre of Leo, Jomelli, Durante, or Pergolesi; if your eyes are suffused with tears, if you feel your heart beat, and your breathing choked, take Metastasio, and set to work. His genius will inspire your own. You will create after his example, and the eyes of others will soon return to you those tears which he will have compelled you to shed.' "
Here, then, we find our first great requisite,-a poet equal to the task of giving interest to the legitimate musical drama, by plot and poetry, without deviating into the absurdities of our English construction. At this point we shall close the first portion of our essay. Our next number shall be devoted to the demonstration of the further advantages which the joint forces of poetry and music enjoy, and the means whạch the English possess of giving to both their utmost power and efficacy,
CHAPTERS FROM THE NOTE-BOOK OF A
It has frequently occurred to me that if any member of the Bar, who has been for a few years in practice in our criminal courts, possessing the not uncommon qualities of a moderate understanding, a mind open to conviction, and a tolerable share of attention to the cases which occur, would communicate to the world the result of his experience; he would do more to enlighten the public mind upon the nature and practical operation of that most valued of our institutions, the Trial by Jury, than could be effected in any other mode. No man can have attended, even for a single day, either as a juror or a witness, in any one of our courts, whether civil or criminal, without having been struck, if he be of an observant habit, by verdicts utterly at variance with the facts upon
which those verdicts have been founded. Every man must have seen, and must be able to bear testimony to, some case, in which the result has been unsatisfactory to his own mind; nor can there be many who have retired home to meditate on the scenes they have witnessed, who have not felt some emotion of regret at the success of guilt, or some pang of horror at the conviction of innocence: but few, very few, save only those who are most familiar with our courts of justice, can form any just idea how frequently both these cases really occur. It has been my lot to have attended, for many years of my life, no matter in what capacity, in most of the courts in this kingdom. I have witnessed, and been personally concerned in, cases so singular in their nature, so unexpected in their termination, so totally at variance with all that could have been predicted of them, that, though in the silent lapse of time they have passed by and are forgotten, I am persuaded that they can never be read without interest, or reflected upon without instruction. It may happen that some, at least, of the parties to the circumstances that I shall relate are living, -at all events, their friends or relations may be affected by the recollection of them,-I shall therefore make use of fictitious names, The facts have now become matter of history; but the revival of them may open wounds which the lenient hand of Time has long closed—that is unavoidable. Experience can only communicate her stores of knowledge, so as to make them useful, by the recital of facts that have really occurred. The sufferings and misfortunes of those who have gone before us are beacons to warn those who are navigating the same ocean of life : they therefore become public property for the benefit of all; but it is a needless violation of individual comfort and individual happiness, to point out the unfortunate and the sufferers.
One of the most extraordinary and most interesting trials of which I find any account in my note-book, took place on the Northern Circuit, very little less than fifty years ago. It is iristructive in many points of view. To those who believe that they see the finger of Providence
especially pointing out the murderer, and guiding, in a slow but unerring course, the footsteps of the avenger of blood, it will afford matter of
Feb. --VOL, XL, NO, CLVIII,
deep meditation and reflection. To those who think more lightly upon such subjects,-to those whom philosophy or indifference has taught to regard the passing current of events as gliding on in a smooth and unruffled channel, varied only by the leaves which the chance winds may blow into the stream,-it will offer food for grave contemplation. However they may smile at the thought of Divine interposition, they will recognize in this story another proof of the wisdom of the sage of old, who said, that when the Gods had determined to destroy à man, they began by depriving him of his senses;--that is, by making him act as if he had lost them. To the inexperienced in my own profession it will teach a lesson of prudence, more forcible than ten thousand arguments could make it: they will learn that of which they stand deeply in need, and which scarce anything but dear-bought experience can enforce-to rest satisfied with success, without examining too nicely how it has been obtained, and never to hazard a defeat by pushing a victory too far. “ Leave well alone" is a maxim which a wise man in every situation of life will do well to observe; but if a barrister hopes to rise to eminence and distinction, let him have it deeply engraven upon the tablet of his memory.
In the year 17—, John Smith was indicted for the wilful murder of Henry Thomson. The case was one of a most extraordinary nature, and the interest excited by it was almost unparalleled. The accused was a gentleman of considerable property, residing upon his own estate, in an unfrequented part of shire. A person, supposed to be an entire stranger to him, had, late in a summer's day, requested and obtained shelter and hospitality for the night. He had, it was supposed, after taking some slight refreshment, retired to bed in perfect health, requesting to be awakened at an early hour the following morning. When the servant appointed to call him entered his room for that purpose, he was found in his bed, perfectly dead; and, from the appearance of the body, it was obvious that he had been so for many hours. There was not the slightest mark of violence on his person, and the countenance retained the same expression which it had borne during life. Great consternation was, of course, excited by this discovery, and inquiries were immediately made,-first, as to who the stranger was--and, secondly, as to how he met with his death. Both were unsuccessful. As to the former, no information could be obtained-no clue discovered to lead to the knowledge either of his name, his person, or his occupation. He had arrived on horseback, and was seen passing through a neighbouring village about an hour before he reached the house where his existence was so mysteriously terminated, but could be traced no farther. Beyond this, all was conjecture.
To those whose memory carries them back no farther than the last few years, during which, by means of the public press, information is so surely and so speedily circulated through every part of the kingdom, this may seem incredible ; but to those who are old enough to remember the state of the country at the time of which I am writing, it will not afford matter even for surprise. The county newspaper, if, indeed, there were one, published once a week, found its way, if at all, at long and varying intervals, into the remote parts of the district. To show how uncertain even this means of information was, I
mention that, so late as the year 1790, an act of parliament was passed relating to works
?,111 11.55 of immense local, and I may almost say national, importance; the commissioners under wbich were directed from time to time to meet : in which there was a clause enacting that notice of such meetings should be inserted in the county newspaper, if there should happen to be one; and, if not, in the " London Gazette.” With
respect to the death, as little could be learned as of the dead man : it was, it is true, sudden-awfully sudden; but there was no reason, that alone excepted, to suppose that it was caused by the hand of man, rather than by the hand of God. A coroner's jury was, of course, summoned ; and after an investigation, in which little more could be proved than that which I have here stated, a verdict was returned to the effect that the deceased died by the visitation of God. Days and weeks passed on, and little further was known. In the mean time rumour had not been idle; suspicions, vague, indeed, and undefined, but of a dark and fearful character, were at first whispered, and afterwards boldly expressed. The precise object of these suspicions was not clearly indicated; some implicated one person, some another : but they all pointed to Smith, the master of the house, as concerned in the death of the stranger. As usual in such cases, circumstances totally unconnected with the transaction in question, matters many years antecedent, and relating to other persons, as well as other times, were used as auxiliary to the present charge. The character of Smith, in early life, had been exposed to much observation. While his father was yet alive, he had left his native country, involved in debt, known to have been guilty of great irregularities, and suspected of being not over-scrupulous as to the mode of obtaining those supplies of money of which he was continually in want, and which he seemed somewhat inexplicably to procure.
“ And he had left in youth his father-land;
Nor sent, nor came he, till conjecture grew
And whence they knew not, why they need not guess;
Though seard by toil, and something touched by time." Ten years and more had elapsed since his return; and the events of his youth had been forgotten by many, and to many were entirely unknown; but, on this occasion, they were revived, and, probably, with considerable additions.
Two months after the death of the stranger, a gentleman arrived at the place, impressed with a belief that he was his brother, and seeking for information either to confirm or refute his suspicions. The horse and the clothes of the unfortunate man still remained, and were instantly recognized : one other test there was, though it was uncertain whether that would lead to any positive conclusion ;-the exhumation of the
body. This test was tried: and although decomposition had gone on rapidly, yet enough remained to identify the body, which the brother did most satisfactorily. As soon as it was known that there was a person authorized by relationship to the deceased to inquire into the cause of his death, and, if it should appear to have been otherwise than natural, to take steps for bringing to justice those who had been concerned in it, the reports which had been previously floating idly about, and circulated without having any distinct object, were collected into one channel, and poured into his ear. What those reports were, and what they amounted to, it is not necessary here to mention: suffice it to say, that the brother laid before the magistrates of the district such evidence as induced them to commit Mr. Smith to gaol, to take his trial for the wilful murder of Henry Thomson. As it was deemed essential to the attainment of justice, to keep secret the examination of the witnesses who were produced before the magistrates, all the information of which the public were in possession before the trial took place, was that which I have here narrated.
Such was the state of things upon the morning of the trial. Seldom, perhaps, had speculation been so busy as it was upon this occasion. Wagers to a considerable amount were depending upon the event of the case : so lightly do men think and act with reference to matters in which they are not personally concerned, even though the life of a fellow-creature is involved in the issue. The personal character of the presiding judge was not without its weight, in influencing opinions as to the probability of conviction or acquittal. That judge was a man whom, living, I so sincerely loved, and whose memory I now so truly venerate, that I dare not, even at this distance of time, trust myself to speak of him as I feel, lest I should be suspected of partiality. He was the late Lord Mansfield;
:-a man who, in addition to the other eminent judicial qualities which belonged to him, possessed some which peculiarly fitted him for investigating such a case, as well as some which were thought to bear against his fitness. Before his elevation to the judicial bench, he had been for some years not only one of the most eloquent debatérs, but one of the most powerful reasoners, in the House of Commons; and had acquired the reputation, which he richly deserved, of possessing a power of discriminating between truth and falsehood rarely attained by any individual. But, at the same time, he was more than suspected of being deficient in that firmness of purpose, that moral courage, essential to the efficient discharge of his high functions in a case where doubtful and difficult questions were almost certain to arise, which a timid man, fearful of committing himself, would rather avoid than decide upon. The recollection of Lord George Gordon's riots, then fresh in the mind of every man,
much in the breast of the common people to strengthen this opinion. The belief was general, and I confess that even my affection cannot lead me to doubt its accuracy, that, in a great measure at least, the scenes of that fearful time were to be attributed to the timidity and indecision of this otherwise great man. The King had publicly declared that the magistrates had failed in their duty; and this reproach applied with peculiar force to the Lord Chief Justice of England. Had he but employed those powers with which the constitution had armed him, for the early suppression of the riots, the metropolis would not have been given up for a week to the uncontrolled dominion of a lawless mob,