« НазадПродовжити »
paltry excuses, as I do. But I am determined to persist in my demand, half a year's annuity being really due, which is two hundred and fifty pounds, and I am in custody for sixty-three pounds only! So circumstanced I will neither borrow, beg, nor steal. I owe very little in the world, and still less to the world, and it is unimportant to me where I pass my days, if I possess the esteem and friendship of its best ornaments, among which I consider you,-Most sincerely, I am, dear sir, your obliged and humble servant,
M. ROBINSON.” Mrs Robinson died on Dec. 26th, at her residence at Englefield Green, and on the last day of the year 1800. Godwin attended her funeral at Old Windsor.
TRAGEDY OF ANTONIO. 1800.
The letters from Charles Lamb which belong to this year are, as well as the criticism which follows the earliest which are found among the Godwin papers. The acquaintance between them had been one of some standing, which had now_ripened into great intimacy. "Cooper," named in this and some other letters, is not our friend "Tom," who was still in America, but Godwin's maid-servant.
The object of the meeting on the Sunday evening of which the letter speaks was to re-read the play of "Antonio” before its representation, and may therefore fitly introduce the whole subject of that drama.
C. Lamb to William Godwin.
“ DEAR SIR, I send this speedily after the heels of Cooper (O! the dainty expression) to say that Mary is obliged to stay at home on Sunday to receive a female friend, from whom I am equally glad to escape. So that we shall be by ourselves. I write, because it may make some difference in your marketting, &c.
Thursday morning. "I am sorry to put you to the expense of twopence postage. But I calculate thus : if Mary comes she will eat Beef 2 plates,
2d. Wine, 3 glasses,
ud. I drink no wine ! Chesnuts, after dinner,
2d. Tea and supper at moderate calculation, 9d.
25. 4d. You are a clear gainer by her not coming.
The chief literary work of the year 1800 was the “Tragedy of Antonio,” and so little do authors know * their own powers, that to the latest day of his life Godwin considered it his best work. To us, looking at it with calmer minds, it seems an extremely poor production.
The plot is of the simplest. Helena was betrothed, with her father's consent, to her brother Antonio's friend, Roderigo. While Antonio and Roderigo were at the wars, Helena fell in love with, and married, Don Gusman. She was the king's ward, who set aside the pre-contract. Antonio, returning, leaves his friend behind; he has had great sorrows, but all will be well when he comes to claim his bride. When Antonio finds his sister is married, the rage he exhibits is ferocious. He carries his sister off from her husband's house, and demands that the king shall annul the marriage with Gusman. There is then talk of Helena's entrance into a convent. At last the king, losing patience, gives judgment, as he had done before,
that the pre-contract with Roderigo was invalid, and the marriage to Gusman valid. Whereupon Antonio bursts through the guards, and kills his sister.
It will be seen that here is no human interest. We cannot at all sympathize with Antonio, or with the neglected lover, for whom we have only Antonio's word that he was an excellent man; and since there is no poetry whatever in the blank verse, the effect of the whole is dull beyond measure or belief.
Yet Godwin had taken more pains with this drama than with perhaps any other work which had ever proceeded from his pen. The diary records constant and laborious work on it, continual revisions and polishings. Poetry, it will be remembered, had been the delight of his early years, and with that blindness to the true nature of his powers, which is the characteristic of many another writer, he considered poetry the pursuit in which his maturer manhood was destined to excel. Such was not altogether the opinion of his friends. Lamb sent him an elaborate criticism, which should have made him suspect that all was not as it should be in his great work, and Colman's rejection of it should have satisfied him that it was not a play which would be acceptable to the public. But Lamb was so genuinely kind, and even affectionate in his criticism, so anxious to see all the beauty that he could, that Godwin did not perceive the real disapproval of which Lamb himself was scarce aware.
So much of this critique as is not simply verbal may here be given
Minute sent by C. Lamb to William Godwin. Queries. Whether the best conclusion would not be a solemn judicial pleading, appointed by the king, before himself in person
SUGGESTIONS FOR ANTONIO. of Antonio as proxy for Roderigo, and Guzman for himself-the forms and ordering of it to be highly solemn and grand. For this purpose, (allowing it,) the king must be reserved, and not have committed his royal dignity by descending to previous conference with Antonio, but must refer from the beginning to this settlement. He must sit in dignity as a high royal arbiter. Whether this would admit of spiritual interpositions, cardinals, &c.—appeals to the Pope, and haughty rejection of his interposition by Antonio(this merely by the way).
“The pleadings must be conducted by short speeches_replies, taunts, and bitter recriminations by Antonio, in his rough style. In the midst of the undecided cause, may not a messenger break up the proceedings by an account of Roderigo's death (no improbable or far-fetch'd event), and the whole conclude with an affecting and awful invocation of Antonio upon Roderigo's spirit, now no longer dependent upon earthly tribunals or a froward woman's will, &c., &c.
“Almanza's daughter is now free,' &c.
“This might be made very affecting. Better nothing follow after; if anything, she must step forward and resolve to take the veil. In this case, the whole story of the former nunnery must be omitted. But, I think, better leave the final conclusion to theimagination of the spectator. Probably the violence of confining her in a convent is not necessary ; Antonio's own castle would be sufficient.
“To relieve the former part of the Play, could not some sensible images, some work for the Eye, be introduced ? A gallery of Pictures, Almanza's ancestors, to which Antonio might affectingly point his sister, one by one, with anecdote, &c.
“At all events, with the present want of action, the Play must not extend above four Acts, unless it is quite new modell’d. The proposed alterations might all be effected in a few weeks.
“Solemn judicial pleadings always go off well, as in Henry the 8th, Merchant of Venice, and perhaps Othello."
Of other friends Holcroft was, as has been seen, in Germany.