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the entrance of the conspirators who murdered James the First. But these plays are comparatively unknown; and probably very many readers who have been delighted by that graceful, unaffected prose, were quite unaware that its writer was endowed with the faculty of verse. We could not fail, indeed, to discern in his prose works the wide, genial sympathy, the deep thoughtfulness, the delicate sensitiveness, of the true poet. And his talent, we could also discover from these, is essentially dramatic. The characters in Friends in Council have each their marked individuality; while yet that individuality is maintained and brought out, not by coarse caricature, but by those delicate and natural touches which make us feel that we are conversing with real human beings, and not with mere names in a book. It is an extremely easy thing to make us recognise a character when he reappears upon the stage, by making him perpetually repeat some silly and vulgar phrase. Smith is the man who never enters without roaring ‘It’s all serene : " Jones is the individual who always says “Not to put too fine a point upon it.” Nor is it difficult for an author to tell us that his hero is a great man, a philanthropist, a thinker, an actor: it is quite another matter to make him speak and act so that we shall find that out for ourselves. Many characters in modern works need to be labelled;—like the sign-painter's lion, which no one would have guessed was a lion but for the words This is a lion written beneath it. Let us say at once that this tragedy has surpassed our expectation. It is a noble and beautiful work.
It is strongly marked with the same characteristics which distinguish its author's former writings. Its power and excellence are mainly in thoughtfulness, pathos, humour. There is a certain subtlety of thought, —a capacity gradually to surround the reader with an entire world and a complete life: we feel how heartily the writer has thrown himself into the state of things he describes, half believing the tale he tells, and using gently and tenderly the characters he draws. We have a most interesting story: we see before us beings of actual flesh and blood. We do not know whether the gentle, yet resolute Oulita, the Princess Marie, that spoiled child of fortune, now all wild ferocity, and now all soft relenting, the Count von Straubenheim, that creature of passion so deep, yet so slow, so calm upon the surface, yet so impetuous in its under-currents, —ever lived save in the fancy of the poet: but to us they are a reality, far more a reality than half the men who have lived and died in fact, but who live on the page of history the mere bloodless life of a word and an abstraction. We find in this tragedy the sharp
knowledge of life and human nature for which we were
prepared : a certain tinge of sadness and resignation which did not surprise us : a kindly yet sorrowful feeling towards the very worst, which we are persuaded comes with the longer and fuller experience of the strange mixture of the loveable and the hateful which is woven into the constitution of the race. Here and there we find the calm, self-possessed order of thought
with which we have elsewhere grown familiar gradually
rise into eloquent energy and vigour of expression which startles. But the hero is not one who raves and stamps. And indeed the fastidious taste of the writer, shrinking instinctively from the least trace of coarseness or extravagance, has perhaps resulted in a little want of the terrible passion of tragedy: for we can well believe that many an expression, and many a sentiment, which, heard just for once from eloquent lips, would thrill even the most refined, would be struck out by the remorseless pen, or at least toned down, when calmly, critically, and repeatedly read over by such an author as ours, when the fever of creative inspiration was past. We remark, as a characteristic of the plot, and a circumstance vitally affecting the order of its interest, that the catastrophe is involved in the characters of the actors. It is not by the arbitrary appointment of the author that things run in the course they do. There is something of the old Greek sense of the inevitable. We feel from the beginning that the end is fixed as fate. Like Frankenstein, the poet has bodied out beings whom he has not at his command: and not without essentially changing their natures could he materially modify what they say 2nd do, or materially alter the path along which they advance to the precipice in the distance. Given such beings, placed in Russian life and under Russian government: and not without a jarring sacrifice of truthfulness could the story advance or end otherwise than as it does. The language of the tragedy is such as might have been expected from its author. There is not a phrase, not a word from first to last, to which the most fasti
dious taste could take exception. So much might be anticipated by readers familiar with the author’s prose style: but we felt something of curiosity as to how it might adapt itself to the altered conditions of verse. Even those readers who were not aware that the author of Friends in Council had ever before published poetry might well judge that surely these lines, so easy, so flowing, so little laboured, so varied in their rhythm, so uncramped by metrical requirements, are not the production of an unpractised hand. Parts of the dialogue are in prose; the larger portion is in blank verse; and some graceful lyrics occur here and there. A peculiarity of the author’s blank verse is that the lines frequently end in three short syllables. Our readers are of course aware that both in rhymed and blank verse double endings of lines are very common: in dramatic blank verse, indeed, we find line after line exhibiting this formation : * but we are not aware that any author has employed the triple ending to the same degree, or indeed has employed it at all except on very rare occasions. In the first page we find it said that the end of government should be, not to govern overmuch, but To make men do with the least show of governing.
Other examples are, - a
In foreign Courts 'tis everything, this precedence.
* To be, or not to be, that is the question :
E’en to yourself must be unknown your benefits.
And there is one instance of an ending in four short syllables:—
In evidence against us, marking preparation.
We have been interested by finding here and there throughout the tragedy several thoughts upon matters more or less important, with which we had become acquainted in the writer's former works. It is plain that the writer thinks the discomfort arising from fashions of dress a not insignificant item in the tale of human suffering : he would agree with Teufelsdröckh himself as to the undeserved neglect in which men have held the ‘philosophy of clothes.” We find the men servants at a Boyard Prince's chateau busily engaged in trying on their new liveries, which have been prepared for a grand occasion. The Prince enters, and finds but little progress made. He rates his domestics for their slowness; whereupon the “Small Wise Man,” a dwarf attached to his establishment, thus excuses his fellows:—
Oh! the happy peasants are so uncomfortable, my little father, in their happy new clothes, that they put off the squeezing themselves into them to the last moment. It's a nice thing
a new shoe, now ; and not so very unlike a marriage, my little mother.
The author had thought upon this subject before :
My own private opinion is, that the discomfort caused by injudicious dress, worn entirely in deference to the most foolish of mankind, would outweigh many an evil that sounds very big.