« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Edzard Lord Herbert, Baron of Cherbury and Castle Island, cho deceased in 1648, Lond. 1665, 8vo. a volume published by his younger son, Henry Herbert. Like his brother, George Herbert, whose poems we noticed in a former volume, Lord Herbert is often both rugged and obscure in his verses. The sword was much better suited to his hand than the lyre, and we shall not therefore, at present, favour the reader with any specimens of his verses.
The character of Lord Herbert has been ably drawn by Horace Walpole, in the advertisement prefixed to this volume.
“The noble family which gives these sheets to the world, is above the little prejudices which make many a race defraud the public of what was designed for it by those, who alone had a right to give or withhold. It is above suppressing what Lord Herbert dared to tell. Foibles, passions, perhaps some vanity, surely some wrong-headedness, these he scorned to conceal, for he sought truth, wrote on truth, was truth. He honestly told when he had missed or mistaken it. His descendants, not blind to his faults, but through them conducting the reader to his virtues, desire the world to make this candid observation with them : • that there must have been a wonderful fund of internal virtue, of strong resolution, and manly philosophy, which, in an age of such mistaken and barbarous gallantry, of such absurd usages and false glory, could enable Lord Herbert to seek fame better founded, and could make him reflect, that there might be a more desirable kind of glory than that of a romantic duellist.' None shut their eyes so obstinately against seeking what is ridiculous, as they who have attained a mastery in it: but that was not the case with Lord Herbert. His valour made him a hero, be the heroism in vogue what it would; his sound parts made him a philosopher. Few men, in truth, have figured so conspicuously in lights so various; and his descendants, though they cannot approve him in every walk of glory, would perhaps injure his memory, if they suffered the world to be ignorant, that he was formed to shine in every sphere, into which his impetuous temperament, or predominant reason, conducted him.
“ As a soldier, he won the esteem of those great captains, the Prince of Orange, and the Constable de Montmorency. As a knight, his chivalry was drawn from the purest founts of the Fairy Queen. Had he been ambitious, the beauty of his person would have carried him as far as any gentle knight can aspire to go. As a public minister, he supported the dignity of his country, even when his prince disgraced it; and that he was qualified to write its annals, as well as to ennoble them, the history I have mentioned proves, and must make us lament, that he did not complete, or that we have lost, the account he purposed to give of his embassy. These busy scenes were blended with, and terminated by meditation and philosophic inquiries. Strip each period of its excesses and errors, and it will not be easy to trace out, or dispose the life of a man of quality into a succession of employments which would better become him. Valour and military activity in youth, business of state in the middle age, contemplation and labour for the
information of posterity in the calmer scenes of closing life. Lord Herbert. The deduction he will give himself.”
Before we conclude, we must say a few words respecting the different editions of The Life.-The MS. itself was supposed, for many years, to have been lost, but was discovered, about the year 1737, in a mansion which had belonged to the Herbert family. It was not, however, printed until 1764, when Horace Walpole struck off some copies at the private press of Strawberry Hill. In 1770, Dodsley published a second edition, in 4to., to which Horace Walpole added a dedication and advertisement. In 1809, a third edition in 8vo., “ with a Prefatory Memoir," was given to the public by Messrs. John Ballantyne & Co., of Edinburgh. In the Prefatory Memoir, all the scattered information respecting Lord Herbert is industriously collected and judiciously put together. Unless
Unless we are much deceived, we recognize, in this edition, the hand which has illustrated, in various ways, the age of England's Solomon.
Art. VIII.-The Revenger's Tragedy. By Cyril Tourneur.
4tv. Lond. 1607. The Atheist's Tragedy; or, The Honest Man's Revenge. By
Cyril Tourneur. 4to. Lond. 1612.
These two plays are the only fruit now remaining of Cyril Tourneur's dramatic labours, and although they are not sufficient to shew any great versatility of genius, they afford materials enough to judge of his capacity for the business of tragedy. He lived in the reign of James the First, but who or what he was is not known; but, from an allusion which occurs in one of his plays to the eight returns of Michaelmas term, we conjecture hím to have had some connection with the profession of the law, that being a piece of knowledge which he would hardly have otherwise possessed. He was the author of another play, called The Nobleman, which was one of the victims of the anti-dramatic taste of Warburton's servant. A dramatist of those days did not content himself with writing three plays, if he had any tolerable success on the stage; and we accordingly find, from a couplet quoted by Winstanley, what opinion his contemporaries had of him :
“ His fame unto that pitch was only rais’d,
The two dramas of Tourneur, which are now extant, are of the same species, but of very different degrees of merit. Our first impression on reading them was, that The Atheist's Tragedy was a very bad, and The Revenger's Tragedy a very excellent one. On recurring to them, however, we were disposed to think we had formed too hard a judgement of the first, and too high a one of the second, and we conceive that we are now in a fitter temper to form a calm and impartial estimate of their respective merits. We will previously, however, offer the few remarks we have to make on the general character of our author's mind; which, as collected from the two productions we have before us, appears to have been of a bold and vigorous cast, but he looked rather upon than through the deeds of men-he observed actions but did not penetrate motives. Those actions too which attracted him most, were of a gross and revolting kind. There is nothing in him but what is real, palpable, and obvious-he possessed no inclination for the chivalric in action or in character—no love for the marvellous in imagination. He displays, however, a manifest preference for fearful, forbidden things-an itching to touch that, of which the bare thought would make others shudder with horror-to form monstrous conjunctions and perform prodigious feats-to play with atheism and dally with incest. Although woman and woman's love, or that which usurps its name, form considerable features of his plays, he delineates the terrible and appalling rather than the amiable and tender in passion-he seems to dwell with delight on the grossest and coarsest sensualities, the feverish, burning indulgence of sense, without the purifying influence of sentiment—without any relief from imagination-without even the voluptuousness and rapture of enjoyment. Indeed we find in these plays, scenes and dialogues of the most open licentiousness—the most disgusting details, from the exposure of which, nature herself teaches us to shrink with shame. They are in parts, sepulchres full of dead men's bones within—but not white without-it is plain unvarnished sensuality, without gloss or embellishment. Of the highest quality of the dramatist he has only a small allotment—there is but one scene which possesses any considerable degree of pathos, and that is in the Revenger's Tragedy-between the two brothers, and the mother of Castiza, on her temporary estrangement from, and her return to, honorable and virtuous feeling. There are other places, chiefly in the Atheist's Tragedy, in which it peeps out like a flower in winter, just enough to convince us, that it inhales an ungenial air. He felt a difficulty, or want of power, of exciting emotions of a deeply pathetic kind, and thence a disinclination to exercise what he had, to the greatest degree of which it was capable.
quæ Desperat tractata nitescere posse, relinquit."
He possessed a vein of poetry rather exuberant, and somewhat metaphysical, and, to our minds, his dramas would have been more attractive, if they had been a little more garnished with its ornaments. He sometimes steps out of the circle of truth and nature-as for instance, when he makes Castiza's mother, who has just before expressed all the alarm of insulted virtue, yield her consent to her daughter's dishonour in these words :
“ Men know, that know us,
He may be right in point of fact, as a philosophic observer, but is he not wrong as a dramatist, who ought not merely to observe but to be the person he represents ? for although an observer might see the sophistry and folly of such arguments and persuasions as are urged to the mother, yet the person who yields to temptation would have no distinct perception of their weak ness and fallacy ; but on the contrary, the lines which separate right and wrong would have become for the moment, in her mind, uncertain and confused, and she would, in the temporary intoxication, have lost sight of the depravity, in the seductiveness of the vice. In the character of Vindici also, in the same play, there appears to be a want of consistency. In the early part of the drama he is represented as an honorable gentleman, who, froin disappointment in his darling passion, is urged on to revenge the murder of his betrothed lady-and, in the closing scene, he attempts to fasten suspicion on another, for a murder committed by himself, and he does so without any apparent inducement for so dishonourable an act, for there is not the slightest suspicion of his being the perpetrator of the deed. When Antonio too, the new elected duke, is expressing his wonder how the strange murder of the old duke was effected, Vindici explains the mysterious circumstance, adding, that it was all done for his (Antonio's) good. The duke orders him to immediate execution, and still he remonstrates “it was for his grace's good.” Now this is not at all consistent with the nice, honorable feelings which characterise Vindici in the early part of the play. It may be supposed, in explanation of this objection, that his feelings might, by the continual wear and tear of them, have driven him mad. But though he breaks out into jests and merry taunts, that have no mirth in them, it is obvious they emanate from the bitterness of his feelings, and not from the wandering of his mind-they are, in truth, like the forked lightning, at once playful and awful.
The plot of the Revenger's Tragedy consists of the contrivances of Vindici to revenge the death of Gloriana, his affianced bride, poisoned by the Duke of ---, some place in the heaven of invention, for the author has not thought it necessary to inform us of its name, because she would not consent to a dishonorable passion. Another cause of vengeance arises, in the course of the play, from the attempt of Lussurioso to dishonour Castiza, the sister of Vindici, who, disguised and unknown, is employed by Lussurioso to effect his purpose. This he undertakes before he knows the nature of his employment, and having undertaken on oath, he determines to make trial of the virtue of his sister and mother. These last mentioned scenes are the only ones in the play worth notice. Of that between the mother and her two sons, in which they upbraid her for, and she repents of her conduct, an eminent contemporary critic has spoken in a strain of high eulogium, much higher, indeed, than we should be inclined to bestow, although it is a really good scene, and the very best which Tourneur has written. Some of the language, however, addressed by Vindici to Castiza must have been quite unintelligible to her. The scenes alluded to are as follow. “ Enter to Castiza, Vindici, her brother, disguised.
Vin. Lady, the best of wishes to your sex.
Cast. Oh they shall thank you, sir.
Vin. Oh, from a dear and worthy friend.
Cast. Receive that. [gives a box o'the ear to her brother.