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spider's web, makes a desperate at- a knowing smirk and wink of an eye, tempt to flounder out of it. He who because he thinks he has caught one is, as he thinks, most firmly seated on -remark, “if inconsistency be what a virtue is, generally, when he least you want, it is easier to draw an inthinks of it, cheated in his most praise consistent than a consistent character: worthy attempts, (holding by mane and it is only to jumble up all sorts of heç crupper,) not to be kicked off upon terogeneous passions and actionsoccasion. Well for him if he has pa. Gently, gently, good friend. We were tent stirrups. Thus, do we not, every just going to observe that this docday, see shabby fellows of all descrip- trine of inconsistency is the dramatic tions, attempting, by some convulsive pons asinorum," over which, as you effort of ostentatious expense, to re- are sure to plump, you had better stay deem themselves from the conscious where you are for a little,—we were stigma ? Devoted lovers, every warm upon the point of saying, that inconJuly, going near to turn out per- sistency merely, good critic, in the jured men” and “ treacherous wretch- naked sense of the word, will not do. es ?” Duellists, getting nervous, after It must be a natural and consistent supping upon lobsters, and coming inconsistency; that is to say—(Now, off“ second best,” with an “explana- mark, long ears)-the actions incona tion," on a frosty morning? Respecta- sistent with each other, must be such as
:: ble matrons of forty-three, who have we have seen to occur in nature in the had four children, running away with order in which they stand ; and which whey-faced ensigns of nineteen, turn- may be accounted for by reference to ed up with green? Old bachelors of some known and customary temperaseventy-eight marrying girls in their ment. And this is the case with Hamteens; and, equipped in Wellington let. His aberrations are precisely those pantaloons and stays, giving their con- which we are accustomed to observe gratulators wine at two in the morn- in nervous, morbidly sensitive, and
“ Saints” getting into trouble melancholy characters. His hatred of with their housekeepers, or indecorhis uncle and disgust for his mother ; ously tipsy at vestry meetings; and his extreme curiosity respecting the high-bred young ladies, who play supernatural appearance of his father; upon the harp and talk Italian, sneake his determined purposes of revenge ; ing off to country churches with small his speedy falterings and doubts; his tradesmen, who cannot talk at all ex- loathing of the world and distrust of cept behind the counter, or play upon all around him; his love for Ophelia ; anything but their customers ? Now his suspicions and consequent harsh these, God wot, are all inconsistencies, treatment; his easy assumption of inbut all strictly natural; inasmuch as sanity, as being constitutionally inthey chance, upon an average, to hap- clined to that disease ; his moody tripen, about every other day through flings with Polonius, the Players, Osa the week.
rick, and the Grave-diggers ; his wildIt is this opposite play of the pas- ness at Ophelia's funeral ; and, lastly, sions—this crossing of the currents of his resolute and cool activity when mind-which constitutes the charm mortally wounded, make up a come of Shakspeare's characters, and of the pound of character, natural in the successful characters of other drama- highest degree, but depending upon, tists. Hamlet is, probably, the finest intricacies of temperament, passion, dramatic character that ever and situation, such as Shakspeare drawn. But he is so, not because he only could have conceived, and ot is highly consistent, but because he is which the world will probably never amazingly inconsistent. We dispute see the equal in ideal representation. and argue, pro and con, about him, as Other plays may be more poetical ; we do about living friends, whose ac- others more terrible; others more pations do not happen exactly to accord thetic; but, for the exhibition of huwith our notions of the fitness of things. man nature, this unrivalled effort must Now, if he was one of the French“con- continue to be the admiration of learned sistencies”-if he was set in motion, leg and unlearned as long as the English and arm, like a child's Jack-o'-long- language shall exist. The play is al-, legs, by pulling a string, there would most a monologue. The other characbe no occasion for this. Some large-ear- ters are barely foils to Hamlet. He ed critic will interpose here, and, with appears in nearly every scene, and yet
at every appearance it is under some to bring the desired effect about seems new phase, some change, some turn equally plain. If a thing is to be at of the varying currents which ruffle once poetical and familiar, there is the surface of his mind, some mo- only one way for it, and that is to mix mentary shadowing of feeling or cir- poetry and familiarity together in some cumstance which we have not seen proportion or other. There is no other before. Upon the same principle is to conceivable way. This was the mode be calculated the value of the charace of the old English Dramatists one and ters of Lear, Falstaff, Richard the Se all-the very heart of their myscond, Macbeth, Rosalind, Beatrice, tery,” too sound a one to be “plucked Jacques, and (to leave our great dra- out” by a gabbling “ Mounseer" of a matist) of Leon, Caratach, Friscobal- French critic. In Shakspeare and his do, Lady Brute, Lord Ogleby, Mrs fellows we find the most glorious and Cole, Sir Luke Limp, Sir Peter Tea- exalted poetry brought down to the zle, Charles Surface, Tyke, and a host familiar level and semblance of comof others, which to mention were end- mon life and nature, by a judicious less. All these are “ inconsistent,” and artful intermixture of the strongsome of them enough to puzzle a col- est, boldest, plainest, most straight-forlege. But then they are naturally so; ward expressions and allusions. But and that is the key of the matter. So this was not refined enough, forsooth, much for character.
for the “polite nation !" not it! To Ever since about the year seventeen put water in his brandy, until it was hundred and eighty-nine, there has reduced to proof, was too homely an exbeen a dreadful outcry against “French pedient for a triple-japanned Frenchprinciples, and perhaps they may be inan, who“could not say apple dumpbad enough ; but “ French criticism" ling” if you would hang him. The has done us ten times the harm. To allusions were too coarse, too low; and be sure, it has had more time, having the expressions too rude. Your French infested us for these hundred and six- critic, like the owner of the dancing ty years—and in that hundred and bear in Goldsmith's play,“ hates anysixty it has played the mischief with thing low.” “ Meal and bran togethe play-houses. It has gone near to
ther" is not for them. So we are to be transform our tragedies into pompous crammed with indigestible superfine dull poems, and our comedies into French-Roll, as insipid as chalk, and acted charades, or witty essays, in twice as noxious, in lieu of our wholequestion and answer. In these doings, some old English Messeline." iOh! it has proceeded upon the wise or ra- their bons ! their bons !" ther sage principle, vulgarly called Somebody, the other day (was it "buttering a goose;" prosifying where the Opium-eater?) told a story of his there was prose enough before, and reading the play of Macbeth (he should poetising what was poetical enough have read him first his own admirable already. In tragedy, the mischief was critique on “ the knocking at the wrapped up in a single word,“ dig- Door”) to an intelligent Frenchman. nity;" in comedy, by another, “wit;" When they came to the line, small pills, considering of what a strong “I heard the owl scream and the cricket dose of nonsense they were the vehi.
If we define the Drama, it must be up starts monsieur, with a loud“ bah!' a sort of poetry, which represents the declaring that no audience in France serious or the lighter passages of hu- could be brought to endure an allusion man life, by exhibiting the conversa
so mean and ridiculous. He would tions and actions of supposed agents.
have said the same thing a scene or To be Poetry, it must of course be
two afterwards,poetical, more or less; and to be Dra- « The night hath been unruly. Where we matic, that is to say, like life, it must,
lay equally, of course, be familiar more or Our chimneys were blown down-" less; for human actions and sayings A French tragedy hero does not conare, more or less, familiar things. This descend to know anything of chimseems so palpable and self-evident, neys. This is just of a piece with all that one wonders how it could ever their criticism; and what havoc would be missed, and what is still more ex- it not make with the most effective traordinary, the practical part or way passages of our best tragedies ? Look
Let's see ;
at the most inward and searching ed, pedantic sophisms, too silly for passages of the old English Drama, sensible men, and too hollow for men and it will be found that their effects of feeling. result from this happy mixture of the All this is bad enough, but it would familiar with the poetical. Hear Des- have provoked one less had these highdemona :
flown idolaters of poetical dignity and “ My mother had a maid, call’a Barbara ; poetical omnipotence been consistent She was in love, and he she loved proved with themselves. If men will be tranmad,
scendently poetical, so let them be. And did forsake her. She had a song of But for Heaven's sake, if we are to willow,'
have nothing but creams and whipta An old thing 'twas, but it express'd her syllabubs, don't send them up to us fortune,
upon a wooden platter. It is odd that And she died singing it. That song, to
at this time of day any set of people night,
should be found foolish enough to stick Will not go from my mind.
to the narrow doctrine of the “ Uni.
ties ;" but thrice marvellous is it that Again Lear:
such a doctrine should be held by the “ Fair daylight? poetical par excellence, the haters of I am mightily abused. I should e'en die everything prosaic. This is almost with pity
beyond a joke. We are to swallow To see another thus. I know not what without a strain tomes of stately high
flown blank verse, from the mouths of Twill not swear these are my hands. persons who, judging by appearance,
could never be suspected of speaking I feel this pin prick.
anything above decentish “ linseyAnd again,
woolsey." Not a prosaical word or
syllable are we to hear, so tenacious " Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have
are we of the elevated. But let us once life,
be requested to let the pit of Drury And thou no breath at all? O! thou wilt
Lane be supposed to be removed from come no more,
Rome to Brundusium; or let us be Never, never, never, never, never ! Pray you undo this button--thank you,
asked, as a particular favour, to let sir.
four hours stand for four days; and Do you see this ?-Look at her-lookher lips —
Plump down we drop, Look there-look there
Ten thousand fathom deep,”. Or look again at that scene in Webster's “ Duchess of Malfy," when the reality. Oh? no.
to the flat region of matter of fact and
It is easy enough Brother and Bosola contemplate the to take a parcel of fellows, every one dead body of the Duchess ; and read of whom we know as well as our the convulsed ejaculation of the form grandfathers, to be Greeks and Romer, when choked with a sudden rising
mans talking ten syllable blank verse; of remorse, he gasps out,
but to imagine a change of place or " Cover her face-mine eyes dazzle- time to hurry the mail-coach, or set She bath died young."
the clock forward- monstrous ! Or again, her simple words to her at
To proceed, however. tendant, when, scarcely daring to be
Many people, especially those of a affectionate to her children, she deli
romantic and metaphysical turn, disvers herself over to the executioners.
like plain, straight-forward, homely
reasons for things. They affect the “ Bid the girl
recondite and mysterious, and do not Say her prayers ere she sleep; and get love to have the "ghost” turn out to the boy
be only a turnip-lantern. But now Some syrup for his cold.
and then there is no alternative; and Let any one read these scenes, and if the explanation of the causes of the he be not stabbed, struck to the heart, decline of the English drama must, it as with a dagger, why, then, let us is to be feared, partake a little of the consent to be swindled out of our na- spirit of Burns's solution of the origin tures by a set of shallow, cold-blooda of Scotch courage:
“ Sages their solemn een may steek, laugh at a good comedy;" and there, And raise a philosophic reek,
a well-fed-looking merry little grig And physically causes seek
has a strong propensity to shed HoIn clime and season;
garthian tears over a tradesman's But tell me whisky's name in Greek
tragedy." This bushy-eyed blackI'll tell the reason !"
letter can away with nothing but old Monopoly” happens to be Greek plays; that dirty-cravatted little cock ready-made, and that is all the differ- ney can relish nothing but new ones.
It is an amusing thing to read Old Rosy-gills “ likes nothing (puffthe heavy dolours and laments that ing and blowing) equal to a good are every day poured forth over the farce.” Miss Melesindar, his daughdecay of British dramatic taste, espe- ter, (“Fie! pa’! what a taste !") doats cially as contrasted with its flourish. upon the Stranger and Lovers' 'Vows. ing state amongst our refined neigh- Master Caleb insists upon Perouse, or bours in France. “ Go and see (sob Mother Goose ; whilst their uncle by they) Talma play in a tragedy of the mother's side, Peter Squeak, ata Corneille or Voltaire, and you shall fects a musical entertainment, the hear a pin drop, so hushed is the au- Haunted Tower, or the Cabinet. Tim dience. Nay, so saturated is the pit Stay-tape goes every other night to with the dramatic spirit, that the see“ the 'orses ;" whilst John Lump smallest deviation from the true text divides his affections between “ the of the author is sure to draw down quadrupeds" and “ Grimaldi.” Old a correcting hiss of disapprobation. Lady this
is rapturous upon young Whilst in Drury Lane or Covent Gar- Roscii," and patronizes * Miss Muden But we can no more.
die.” Lady the other betrays a preLackadaisy ! now let us pick up our
ference for Signor Richer, the tighte senses a little, and try to look this as- rope dancer. The “ dandies" d-n tounding difference plainly in the face. the play altogether, and go to look at Don't let us be spouted, and mouthed, the girls: the girls go to be looked at and whimpered out of our understand by the dandies. The “ light-finger'd ings. Let us inquire into the facts; for gentry” go to look after other people's upon an appeal to sheer common mat- pockets; the sellers of ices, jellies, liter-of-fact must the decision of this queurs, and play-bills, to look after apparent paradox hinge at last. Let their own. The loungers look at the us request this Jeremiah of a Cockney ices and jellies, or at nothing at all. to drop his lamentations for a little, Now, without taking the trouble to and condescend to answer a couple of count fingers, here are enumerated, brief and simple questions. Pray, perhaps, some dozen and a half of difnow, tell us how many theatres for ferent motives for going into a playthe enactment of regular tragedy, co- house. Suppose then, at any theamedy, and farce, haveyou' in Lunnun,' tre, on any given night or nights, as you call it?” “Two.”.
_" How (as Mr Coleridge would say) the permany are there in Paris, do you recke formance be predicated to be of any on?” “ Can't say precisely, 'pon ho- given species, say a tragedy or a conour; may be two-and-thirty.” Very medy, it follows, there being only well, good gentleman of the press : two theatres, that, upon a calculanow, in the difference between two tion of chances, only one-ninth of the and two-and-thirty lies this mystery; audience will be interested by the and, in the difference between thirty- performance per se, besides the collatwo and two, its developement. ieral consideration that, of that ninth
If we make a sort of rough calcula- perhaps a third are, from the size of tion of the different grades of a popu- the house, too far off to hear what is lation, enlightened, half enlightened, going forward. “They manage (cerand unenlightened, we shall, of course, tain it is) these matters better in find the whole to comprehend a huge France." Contrast this hotch-potch diversity of folks, of different hues with the state of matters at Paris. and shades of intellect; and amongst Likely enough there may be at the these must be, of course, as many va- “ Théâtre Français,” a genteel aurious and opposite reasons for going dience, the parterre a hotbed of crie to a playhouse, as for going to a church tics, with cambric-handkerchiefs, apor conventicle. Here, a grave-look- plauding Talma and Voltaire in the ing man goes, because he likes “ same breath, with all the energy of
Puff himself. But be it recollected, a conclusion to draw from such pre. that at one and the same moment of mises ! Good God! The French more time, there is a second set of merry regardful than the English of their grigs enjoying the broad-farce and bure dramatic authors !—when the editions lesque of the “ Port St Martin;" a of Shakspeare alone, taking number, third pastoralising over the little mu« costliness, and elaboration into the aca sical pieces of the “ Vaudeville;" a count, would perhaps equal, if not fourth, amusing themselves at the exceed, all the editions of all their
Varietés;" a fifth, listening to plea- dramatic poets that the French ever sant airs at the “ Opera Comique;" produced. Do we not see edition after and a sixth, weeping over pathetic
edition of our older dramatic poets ones at the “Academie Royale de Mu. undertaken, published, and sold? Do sique,” or the “ Théâtre Italien;" be- we not see their lines quoted, their sides hundreds more gabbling and style imitated, and their example folgrimacing at the “ Salle Favart,” the lowed, by the best writers of the age ? “ Odeon," or some place or other of And, after all this, we are to be told dramatic or semi-dramatic entertain- that dramatic taste is extinct in Engment, in every street and Fauxbourg land ? No, no. Dramatic taste is upon of Paris, as each shall happen to be the revival in England. There is honoured, on each night, with the more and better Dramatic taste now patronage of Madame and Monsieur. in England than there was a century Now here is a very different state of ago. Let our monopoly-hating, miaffairs. Every one has a theatre ac- nisters only break up the most barecording to his taste, and thither ac- faced and wanton of all monopolies. cordingly he hies, and is tolerably Let them pack off the pickpockets and quiet and rational when he gets there. prostitutes to the Opera-house, the But cram these heterogeneous mate Argyle-rooms, or the Pavé. The danrials, per force, into a great overgrown dies to Bond-Street or Tattersal's, and “ patent" playhouse, where. nine- the cockneys to Vauxhall: The jockeys tenths of them either do not hear, or to Astley's; and the painters to the do not care about the matter in hand, Diorama. Let the lovers of noise and and what wonder that the whole nonsense go to the Concert of Ancient should become a rank and seething Music; and the lovers of nonsense mass of noise, heat, and dissipation, without noise, to the Fantoccini exhivice, and folly; and that those for bition, or the next Quakers' meetingwhose especial benefit the place was but let the lovers of the genuine Engintended, should especially-keep lish Drama have a theatre of their own.
Let it be moderately sized, moderThat any one should suppose the ately lighted, with moderate hours, English nation indifferent to its bete fair scenery, good actors, and excelter dramas, seems very ridiculous. lent management, and it shall be seen Yet such things have been asserted, whether Shakspeare cannot draw as and the most precious proof was to be attentive an audience as Punch, the - the practice of those bloated hotbeds Oratorios, or the Rev. Mr Irving. of all that is weak, worthless, and
T. D. exotic-the London Theatres! What
ie. Thus. Doublediy