Зображення сторінки

Socratic school, and that he conceived and endeavoured to inculcate from the stage a much more spiritual and elevated idea of the divinity. He then speaks of the style of Euripides, of his journey into Macedonia and his death. Proceeding then to the tragedies which he wrote, he states them to bave been originally 75 in number ; other authors reckon 94 ; those wbich have reached us are 18 only, and amongst these the Cyclops, a satirical drama, and the only one of its kind wbich is extant. This engages Signor Volpicella in a treatise upon the satirical drama which was usually added to the Triology, as if to relieve the minds of the audience strongly and painfully excited by the horrors of the tragedy; it was a species of pastoral fable. Such was the Cyclops of Euripides, which represents the adventures of Ulysses in the cave of Polypheme. The tragedies which the author examines are the Rhaesus, the Electra, the Jove, the Medea, the Phænissæ, the Hippolitus coronatus, the Andromache, the Supplices, the Heraclides, the Orestes, the Bacchanti, the Iphigenia in Aulis, and the Iphigenia in Tuuris. The analysis of each of these is distinguished by great accuracy and love for the art; the Greek tragedy of Medea is judiciously compared with the Latin Medea by Seneca, accompanied by a learned commentary on Horace's precept,

Nec pueros corum populo Medea trucidet." In speaking of the Phænissæ, the Italian critic praises the great art shown by Alfieri in his Polinice, avoiding as he has done every defect in the Greek model, the plan of which he appears to have improved and ennobled by the vastness of his invention ; thus restoring, as it were, the ancient tragedies without any diminution of their grandeur and dignity. The analysis of the two Iphigenias is very accurate and replete with interest. The third book is closed by a chapter in which are narrated the changes wbicb the Greek tragedy bas undergone, from the time of Thespis till the period when it was perfected by the sovereign genius of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

The object of the fourth book is the very useful one of examining the modern tragedies, and showing practically of what advantage the study of the ancient poets may be, and how far they ought to be imitated. Passing over preceding epochas, the author commences by the Sophonisba of Trissino, the first which truly deserved the name of tragedy. He then enumerates and examines the following; the Rosmunda of Rucellai; tbe Tullia of Martelli ; the Orestes of the same Rucellai ; the Edipus of Auguillara ; the Orbecche of Giraldi ; the Canace of Speroni ; and the Torrismondo of Tasso. After this he proceeds to treat of tragic verse, pastoral eclogues, and musical dramas, and examines two other Italian tragedies, the Aristodemus of Doltori, (it is unaccountable why the author should have passed over the Aristodemus of the celebrated Vicenzio Monti,) and the Solemane of Bonarelli. In the fifteenth chapter he gratifies the reader with some learned observations upon the chorus employed by the ancients, and which was in fact the beginning of the Greek tragedy, showing how it was introduced into the Italian tragedy, and how a new species of it has recently been adopted by Manzoni. After having examined the principal French tragedies, he returns to the Italian, and commences by eulogizing Gian-Vincenzio Gravina, who first endeavoured to apply a remedy to the great corruption into which Italiau eloquence and poetry had at that time fallen, and who used every effort to restore tragedy to its ancient simplicity and dignity, not so much by example, as by the excellent precepts which he provided for this purpose in his Ragione poetica, and Tragedia. Amongst the tragedies then written in Italy, may be mentioned with the bigbest commendation the Merope of Raffei, which may be said to have founded the Italian tragedy, the Ulysses of Lazzarini, and others of Conti and Varano, until we arrive at Alfieri, wbo, banishing from the theatre all foreign imitation, and being deeply learned in the study of the ancients, and above all stimulated by his wonderful genius, has firmly established the Italian tragedy upon a sure and solid foundation. The whole of the twenty-fourth chapter, in wbich the autbor opsiders the tragedies of Alfieri, is extremely interesting and instructive. The entire work terminates with a Conclusion, in which the ground-works or plots both of the ancients and moderns are examined, and many judicious observations upon the taste for tragedy, and upon the utility of studying the ancient poets, are introduced.

We are fully aware that the account we have given above of the difficult and laborious production of Signor Volpicella is but a very crude and imperfect sketch of a work, which possesses all the internal evidence of being written with much learning, perspicuity, and elegance of style, and which consequently eminently deserves to be well and extensively known. We would wish these our commendations to be accompanied by our congratulations also; exhorting, at the same time, the young and worthy author to cultivate with increasing ardour talents that have already produced such admirable fruit, and wbich hold forth to the Italian youth an example, stimulating them to that love of wisdom and of ennobling studies which so well becomes the lofty name of Italy.

Art. XII.-Meine Verurtheilung zum Tode rom Kreigsgericht zu Lillee

oder die Sieben Merkwürdigsten Jahre meines Lebens zu Land und zur See, in französischen und englischen Kriegsdiensten. Wahre Geschichte eines gebornen Sachsen. (My Condemnation to Death by a CourtMartial at Lille; or the Seven most Remarkable Years of my Life, by Land and by Sea, in the French and English Military and Naval Service. The True History of a Native of Saxony.) Foolscap 8vo.

1836. In these piping times of peace we have had in England various narratives, by persons of the humblest rank in the military service, which have furnished a tolerable picture of the great events in which they bore a part, as well as details of the personal adventures of the writers. From the volume before us it would be difficult to glean any thing relative to the former. Written apparently from memory, after the lapse of so many years since the occurrences of which it treats, it betrays throughout a vagueness that is greatly increased by a singular want of dates and names. To this cause must, we presume, be also attributed some egregious blunders, such as that of making the 38-gun frigate Apollo a 74-gun ship, and representing the Milford, a 74, as a brig of 18 guns.

Without following the author through all the scenes that he has described, it may be sufficient to mention briefly, that, being left completely destitute by the failure of his father in business, the author at the age of sixteen enlisted into a Prussian regiment in the French service, shortly after the battle of Jena. This regiment was ordered to the north of France. Whilst at Valenciennes he became involved in an altercation with his captain, and was collared by him, on which he involuntarily half drew his sword, but recollecting himself returned it to its place. For this offence he was brought before a court-martial at Lille and received sentence of death, which was commuted first to five years' confinement in the galleys, and afterwards to six months' imprisonment on bread and water.

After undergoing this punishment he was removed with his regiment to Walcheren, shortly before the arrival of the English expedition against that island. Being taken, with a large portion of the enemy's troops, he was conveyed to Portsmouth, where the privates were sent on board the bulks appropriated to prisoners of war. To escape the hardships of this confinement, the author, with many of his comrades, accepted the offers of service that were made to them in the British navy; and the intermediate years, till the conclusion of peace, were passed by him on board different ships in the Mediterranean. He gives his countrymen a tolerably correct picture of the arrangements and economy of an English man-of-war, but we doubt whether be is equally, accurate in his narrative of events. His particulars of a mutiny wbich, according to his account, took place on board the Bombay, in the Mediterranean, whilst he belonged to that ship, are, we suspect, either altogether apocryphal, as we have no recollection of such a circumstance, which must have been matter of public notoriety, or excessively overcharged.

Some inaccuracies may be ascribed to the autbor's credulity. He is one of the old school, who honestly believed in omens, tokens, and other marvels. Thus he tells us that, whilst at school, after spending the evening in the celebration of the birth-day of one of his young friends, he returned home and repaired to his chamber, where just as the clock struck the last stroke of twelve, his candle threw out a number of sparks which bounced and cracked, and threatened to go out, but immediately blazed up brighter than ever. At the same moment he heard a shrill noise, and behold !--the portrait of his mother, which had been banging by a nail in the wall, fell upon the corner of the desk, and thence to the floor, and the glass was smashed in pieces. Three days afterwards a letter arrived to inform him that his mother, who had long been ill, had expired at the very moment when this catastrophe bappened.

This fondness for the marvellous, imbibed no doubt in early childhood, is apparent at a later period of life. Thus the author tells us that, during VOL. XIX. NO, XXXVIII.


his service in the French army in the island of Walcheren, a hearty, hale young man belonging to bis company was taken ill.

“ Our captain, with whom he was a great favourite, begged the physician of the battalion to exert all his skill to save the young man. The doctor did all that lay in his power, and the patient punctually followed all his directions to abstain from spirituous liquors, and especially from butter-milk, which the peasant-girls brought in great quantities to the camp for sale. In spite of all the efforts of the doctor, the patient, though his appetite was very good, still complained of violent internal pains, and was at length sent to the hospital at Middelburg. But there, instead of getting any better, he continued to waste away by degrees. He was anxious to go back to his company, and as the medical attendants could not relieve him, he obtained permission to return.

“ This young man had been some weeks with our company again, when one afternoon he felt an extraordinary longing for butter-milk: accordingly he bought some, and drank it up eagerly, though the serjeant-major warned him against so doing. An hour afterwards he began to cry out terribly for help, sprang up, and ran about the camp like a maniac. At length, his strength being exhausted, he sat down and began to vomit. The cause of his illness soon appeared, for, from among the matter thrown up from his stomach, out hopped a little frog, which lived but a few hours!"

The same young soldier, whose name was Sternfeld, is the bero of another adventure. We shall give it in the author's own words.

* It was a fine serene morning, when General Monnet [the commander of the French troops in the island of Walcheren) determined to take a trip out to sea, before the harbour of Flushing. Several of the superior officers were invited to be of the party, and many of the boats were in readiness to receive the guests. Our young Sternfeld had offered himself as steersman, and was placed at the helm of our captain's boat. The bands of both battalions heightened the pleasures of the day. They had enjoyed themselves for some hours, when the sky suddenly became overcast, thunder rolled at a distance, lightning darted through the atmosphere, and the little flotilla hastened back towards the harbour. General Monnet's and Captain Arno's boats were sailing briskly past one another, and they were now not far from the port when the general took a pinch of snuff from his gold box, and then held it out to the lieutenant-colonel. The latter was going to help himself, when a wave broke over the boat; the general, somewhat alarmed, lost his balance, and held fast by the gunwale of the boat, but dropped the gold box into the sea. This excursion,' said he,

costs me very dear; not for the value of the gold, but the box was a present from my emperor, and that vexes me exceedingly. At this moment young Sternfeld leaped out of our captain's boat, dived, and was instantly out of sight.

I am right sorry for the poor fellow,' said the captain ; ' he was a brave and excellent soldier, but the butter-milk girl has turned his brain, and as he could not obtain a furlough to go and see the damsel, he throws himself overboard before our eyes.'

It should be remarked that the captain and the officers in bis boat bad seen and beard nothing of the affair with the snuff-box, and of course did not know the motive of this dangerous leap.

“ Indeed,' continued the captain," it grieves me exceedingly; had I known that his attachment to the girl was so vehement, I would have spoken a good word for him to the general, and obtained him a furlough.'

"• Many thanks, captain ; I shall keep you to your word,' suddenly cried a voice, and young Sternfeld was seen buffeting the waves with vigorous arms.

“God be thanked !- but come a little nearer, and let us lift you into the boat.'

6. Not yet, captain, I have something to do yet; I shall not be long before I am back, and then I shall beg you to have the goodness to take me on board again.'

« He dived once more, and again disappeared from sight. Before the captain and the officers could recover from their surprise at this conduct, the sturdy swimmer had overtaken the boat, leaped into it, and resumed his place at the helm, which a strange fisherman had taken during his absence.

6.I beg pardon, captain,' he immediately began, for having quitted my post for a short time, but I could not do otherwise, for, you see, the general dropped his snuff-box into the sea, and was lamenting the loss of it, because it was a present from the emperor; so I jumped overboard and recovered it for him. When I carried it to him, the general would have taken me into his boat, but I know my duty, thanked him very politely, and said : Your excellency, I belong to the third company; yonder is my captain's boat; I must swim after it; there is my post. Look you, Monsieur le Capitaine, that is the whole affair in a few words; but I shall now keep you to your word of honour, respecting your kind intercession to M. le General, to get me a furlough for a fortnight only. The captain promised he would, and the little flotilla reached the harbour before the heaviest part of the storm came on. Next morning the bold diver was sent for by the general, promoted to corporal, and received a furlough for four weeks, besides a considerable present.”

On the conclusion of the peace, the author, who was then in the Mediterranean, returned with his ship to England, where she was paid off, and with his wages and his prize-money be again repaired to his native country and town, where he has lately employed himself, as we have seen, in giving to the world this narrative of his adventures.

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »