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the bridegroom, a bishop pronounced
and thousands have been refusedpictures, that have raised the envy of half the connoisseurs in Europe--but there is not one which the master so dearly prizes as that which made its debut at Somerset House in the humble character of the "Portrait of a young lady."
HALF-A-DOZEN VOLUMES OF VERSE.
2. THE CATHEDRAL BELL.
5. THE REIGN OF LOCKRIN.
WOULD that the public was more alive to the obligations conferred on it by critics, and duly appreciated their labours and their trials! for then, in place of being so often reviled as a virulent and graceless race, constitutionally captious, would they be designated by the meeter language of gratitude and admiration, dearly earned, as in very deed it is, by their signal probations of patience, their keen encounters with secret yearnings, and their arduous o'ermastering of rebellious faculties to some repulsive end.
Something to this effect have we just now reproachfully muttered to ourselves, as turning, something wearily, from the conscientious perusal of a submitted volume, to trim our nightly lamp, our eye has fallen upon a little pyramid of publications, silently, yet solicitously awaiting that adjudication on which their lease of life is so mainly to depend. But yet, we confess, our occasional feelings of distaste are strongly moderated by the whisperings of self-approval, when we reflect on the wide utility, and consequent dignity, of our vocation, and contemplate, for a moment, the disasters that would ensue were a simultaneous suspension of our labours to take place—the restrictive sluices of letters to be raised, and free admission given to the muddy tides that roll, ceaseless and sluggish, from a thousand unnoted quarters, and between which and the submersion of the lovely fields of literature, it is our boast to stand an incorruptible and saving barrier. Criticism, then, however it may stir the spleen of the small among the "irritable race," will ever appropriate the suffrages of the large-minded and judicious, who feel that, were its surveillance to cease, national taste, as such, would decline into meanness and perversity; and general literature, with occasional exceptions, take that character of shallowness and compliance, poverty and carelessness, slightness and showiness, which, in this altered condition of things, would suit public requirements as well, and private indolence much better, than a more thoughtful and laborious impress. Periodical criticism, to which we more especially allude, with the necessity which is its parent, is altogether of a modern date, and, in its rise and progress, has strikingly exemplified one of the cardinal maxims of economics, which, indeed, as the supply is measuredly augmenting with the demand, still continues in process of illustration. Formerly, authors were neither so prolific nor so numerous as at present, for they wrote from the inward impulse of genius, and not from the artificial stimulants of worldly gain or vanity. Studying
"The lofty means to be for ever known;
And make the ages yet to come their own,"
they were content to lavish the energies of a lifetime upon the elaboration of some great work which, proposed to themselves in the sunshine of youth, was hardly finished amid the shadows of old age. They wrote not for contemporary applause, for, in the existing state of things, that was not to be contemplated; not for gilded tokens of the world's approval, for they saw their predecessors and their compeers "languishing for lack of carnal sustenance;" but they meditated on the great exemplars of ancient times-a fire within was kindled they looked beyond the cloudy envelopment of the present-they burned to win that award from distant posterity which their darkened coevals denied; and, with the faith and the encouragement of something like prophetic instinct, they con
secrated their energies to the completion of some great memorial which might carry their name into far futurity, and, in the contemplated acquisition of this undying inheritance, they spent their lives in unmurmuring patience, and met their deaths in unfaltering hope. Multa dies, et multa litura, prolonged attention and minute revision were practised and avowed: nor do we find any making boastful mention of their fruitfulness, or their facility; but rather adducing the length of time and amount of labour expended on a work, in presumptive proof of its merit, and deprecation of severity. But, as Moliere's physician says, nous avons change tout cela, in these days of quick production, and (let's be thankful for it) as speedy evanescence, The modern author has caught the fickle and restless spirit of his age, detests the toil whose retribution is remote, and, for his feverish and fitful span, reads, (quere ?) and writes, and publishes-scintillates, and frets, and flutters, and then disappears-for aye: he has had his opportunity -he has scattered his seed-it has sprung up, fructified, and perished, and he and it alike are soon lost to sight and memory.
In former times, moreover, men of talent were generally content to excel in a few, and those kindred, pursuits, and rarely aimed at the combination of acquirements which, if not in themselves incongruous, were yet so in relation to man's limited comprehension and fugitive existence; and the palpable result is, that in the pursuits of literature, in all intellectual avocations, indeed-save physical science, a vast exception, we allow-in poetry, oratory, and the fine arts, they are easily our masters; and this attributable, not to higher native talent or peculiar extrinsic advantages, but solely to their steady and unswerving dedica tion to such objects as, united in their tendencies, neither distracted by their number nor jarred by their diversity. But, now-a-days, a man of parts, to win and enjoy the name and privileges from his contemporaries-a lure which, placed, as it is, within their reach, few have firmness to withstand, and from the disastrous influence of which their predecessors were comparatively exempt-must be showily furnished at every point, and possess as many aspects as a Hindoo deity to suit the various phases of life. To be " wit, statesman, poet, orator combined," will not half suffice. He must be a "fine gentleman"-of modish and unreproachable presence-fit to discourse, now, on the quadrature of the circle-and, now, on the almost equally mysterious combination of cuts which goes to a coat comme il faut, (vide Bulwer's " Pelham" for a disquisition on the subject)-profound and frivolous-light and reflective-erudite and superficial; fit to figure with distinction as an elégant in some eclectic circle, or exhibit, with credit, as a philosopher in some grave convention, or conjoin both characters with, haply, half-a-dozen others, in some of those modern medleys 'ycleped "reunions," which the hybrid taste of the current era has called for and accomplished. But this is not all the number of his pursuits and graces must yet be multiplied fully to see how the dissipation of power accounts for the paucity of the elements of permanence in his productions; for, if he would achieve and maintain a high repute, he must have advanced some way in every walk of knowledge, be familiar with its chief features, and qualified to sketch them from memory at will-not selecting his materials as subordinate to some great and paramount end, but merely accumulating, for their own sakes, a multifarious assortment of facts which stick barren and mutually unaccommodating in his mind as they were stowed in, administering, 'tis true, to temporary convenience, character, and vanity, but not to composite and enduring beauty, vigour, and vitality.
It is in this wide distribution of finite faculties and consequent absence of attention to specific courses, we are to find the main cause of our declension, although co-operative reasons may be readily assigned, such as the exhaustion of many subjects, which deadens the sinews of authorship, freshness, and invention, and to name another less noticed, but, in our mind, more influential-the prodigiously augmented, and still augmenting, number of publications, which, while it whets the appetite for mere abstract novelty irrespective of its nature, causes every new work to be hailed with the indifference of satiety, or with such poor and passing applause as is impotent to spur the indolent, the vain, the indigent, the spurious among writers, to efforts more difficult and tedious, while they are less specious and remunerative. It is not the most meritorious work which wins the largest share of present patronage, and the mass of literary men, viewing the embarkation of their intellectual wealth much as a greedy broker an investment in the stocks, prefer a speculation which, easily perfected, will
also pay well and speedily, to one which, with a larger and more laborious outlay,
"Some sparkling, showy thing, got up in haste,
The imperishable wreath, his best, his sole reward !"
Impartial criticism may largely alleviate, but, under the circumstances, we are free to admit, cannot altogether countervail the evil influences which are thus at work upon the author's vanity, his necessities, or his worldliness, to reduce him, despite his own impulses, into slavish compliance with the low-pitched tastes of the living generation-tastes which, be it remembered, his own concessions only tend to degrade-thus, with a just retribution, augmenting the meanness and severity of his self-selected thraldom. We have justly spoken in the mass, for there are still, 'faithful among the faithless," a few nobler and more self-denying spirits who rise superior to temptations which, in their existing degree, are peculiar to the age, and, relying on the encouragements and yielding to the impulses of their own genius, ever direct it to those " lative heights" whence it can look "far adown the stream of time,” and, in the foresight of future homage, find a generous quickener for its inspirationa more than sufficient solace for its wrongs.
But we must not pursue these reflections too far, however incidental they may be even to a cursory note of literature, much more to the minuter survey of a reviewer, on whose attention the condition of letters and its causes press themselves with peculiar frequency and force. We shall, therefore, pass from the general topic to our present narrower and more specific task, premising-what is not always borne in mind-that a reviewer's verdict is, perhaps unavoidably, the result of two references, stronger or weaker according to circumstances; the one to the standard of abstract excellence; the other to the state of contemporary literature; which elements of opinion, whether expressed or latent, must be kept in view by those who would rightly appreciate the sentence of censure or commendation which may be passed. Thus, the measure of praise, due and given to many a work, is often consequent on a comparative estimate with the common-place character of its contemporaries, and not on its relation to the immutable criterion of merit-as we popularly calculate the elevation of a hill from its superiority to neighbouring objects, rather than from its position in regard to a universally true and unchanging level. The superabundant and ceaseless issues from the press rendering special notices of all impracticable; feigning, for the moment, such to be desirable, we would essay to cull from the current stock, in some particular line, such samples, and confer on each such comment as may serve, pro tanto, to place our readers in a position for adjudicating on the state of letters in the selected department. On the present
occasion we have been obliged to combine in one fasciculus, works which, perhaps, a stringent regard to relative fitness would have kept asunder; but the untowardness of collocation, if any, and the brevity of the several notices, find their defence in the narrowness of our space as compared with the number of our claimants. Their distinctive characters are such as to defy any thing like a decent amalgamation, and we, therefore, present them seriatim as chance decides.
SPARTACUS.*—THE It will not be denied that, while the writer who looks to win a wreath in this essentially noble, but most difficult, species of composition, proposes to himself an object worthy of the very highest
*Spartacus a Tragedy in Five Acts. London: Ridgway & Sons, Piccadilly.
powers, he, at the same time, incurs chances of failure more formidable and imminent than-with a very few exceptions-are to be dealt with in any other walk of literature. Witness the boot
By Jacob Jones, Esq., Barrister-at-Law.
The Cathedral Bell-a Tragedy. By the same Author, London: John Miller, Henrietta-street, Covent-garden.
less efforts of many of our proudest names the many beautiful creations which, despite the attractive freshness and colouring of genius, are yet dramatic but in style and structuretheoretic, if we may use the word, in essence and effect; to say nothing of the numberless and fast-fading productions of minor, but respectable, minds, whose vaulting ambition has spurred them to attempt the feat but only to fail therein. This consideration, while it multiplies the attractions of a triumph, should likewise mitigate the mortification of a defeat, as it shows that a man may be talented, erudite, tasteful, and accomplished-a competent candidate for many a species of intellectual fame, and yet lack that peculiar turn of mind and temperament which, superadded to a profound knowledge of the human heart, is necessary to achieve dramatic distinction. It is one, moreover, which, in charity of spirit, we would strenuously commend to the adoption of every luckless aspirant in this, and, indeed, in all other lines; as it will conduct to the consolatory conclusion that he, in common with many great men, has merely mistaken his line, and that, had he taken a different course, he might have accomplished notable things as well as they. And, to prolong the complacency consequent on this reflection, we would, still further, advise them, in nine cases out of ten, to acquiesce in this easy and grateful generality, and abstinently forbear to contract its limits, or dissipate its indistinctness, by resumed attempts to discover the niche in letters which nature has fitted them to fill.
As the result of one of the "fortuitous mistakes" thus innocently perpetrated, we must unhesitatingly rank the production now before us: and, judging from its deserts, would, we confess, albeit in depreciation of our critical sagacity, have probably informed the author that he had wandered into-to him-an altogether hopeless track, did not a subsequent composition of his-which weshall presently notice-supply strong hope that he was, in truth, the unit which we have providently excepted from every decade of unfortunate essayists.
As to the subject of the play before us, considered absolutely, none impugn its fitness for the tragic writer, however strongly they may condemn the judgment which has adopted it in the present instance. It unquestionably possesses capabilities which, developed by one equal to the task, and gifted
"to build the lofty rhyme," might furnish a tragedy fit to class with the noblest our country has produced. A Thracian shepherd, a captive in a strange land, stung with the injustice and oppression of his masters, and pining after his native freedom, rouses his energy to the great resolution of attempting his disenthralment, and rolling back their tyranny on his conquerors. In consequence, he consorts with a few other resolute spirits-decides for action-constructs his plansstrikes a successful blow for freedom in the arena-follows it up with splendid achievements in the field-burls from its " pride of place" the eagle of imperial Rome, and humbles it beneath a shepherd's crook-menaces her cities
routs her armies-shames her generals-treads upon her consuls; and then, just as he has enlarged and methodised his views, as became a towering spirit and a consummate leader, he is suddenly arrested in his high careerweakened by a concourse of mishapsencountered by an overwhelming force, and, when he finds the tide of fortune has irrevocably ebbed, looks for and meets upon the field that death which fitly crowns a hero's life. Does not such a man supply a theme, and such a fate, embracing almost the widest extremes of mortal condition and exhibiting its fearful instability, afford materials for a drama which might challenge any as to capacity for generous sentiment, just adornment, stirring action, commanding interest, subduing pathos? and yet no where does our author's impartation of these qualities approach the degree which his subject not only admits, but invites, and, so to speak, in a manner constrains. He never displays that deep and ardent sensibility essential to pourtraying the passions with life-like power. He never seems to become, for the time, the character he describes, and animate his scenes with the strong and natural emotions of reality. The coldness and deadness of mere art, as distinguished from nature, is apparent throughout: the mere writer, and not the actor, is every where predominant: the glowing and spoutaneous language of feeling finds, with him, but a sorry substitute in a frigid and foreign phraseology, which seems to owe its birth, not to the hasty spur of sentiment, nor yet to the correcter dictate of reflection, but rather to the casual instigations of what a modern metaphysician has styled the principle of simple suggestion, as con
sidered apart from some reigning influence. If, amidst complex and pervading faults, it were desirable to distinguish what, in comparison, are but blemishes, it were easy to instance numerous violations of what are termed the_unities-not merely those of time and place, the preservation of which, at the expense of objects inherently more important, is, in our mind, but a piece of pragmatic pedantry, bát of that which is of real moment, the unity of action-abounding, as the drama does, in sentiments, by-scenes, supernumerary means, and digressive starts, which bear little relation to the catastrophe save that of priority. Nor do we relish his ill-managed recurrence to clumsy and antiquated machinery in the introduction of the Cumaan sybil in propria persona, whenever it suits his will or fancied need; giving, moreover, a most unclassical, albeit comical, portrait of the ancient beldam, who, in his hands, totally eschews the folly of oracular mysticism-horrendas ambages-and prates away with anile ease and garrulity; takes the air, too, in frequent excursions from her cavevacates her adytum to be usurped by tricksters, and then flippantly excuses herself to her votaries for the consequent mishaps, by informing them, forsooth, with most conversational facility, that, on these occasions, "she was not at home."
But with "Spartacus" we must have done. The author may complain, as we perceive he has already done in other cases, of the absence of excerpts in proof of our opinions; but in selfdefence we would remind him of what Dr. Johnson said on a similar occasion "To expunge faults where there are no excellencies is a task equally useless with that of the chemist, who employs the arts of separation and refinement upon ore in which no precious metal is contained to reward his operations." Having disposed of this unpleasant portion of our duty, we pass to another, and, we are happy to perceive, subsequent production of Mr. Jones,
THE CATHEDRAL BELL,
which, in truth, were we to judge from internal evidence alone, we should be slow to ascribe to the same source with its predecessor, so advantageously does it contrast with it in every point of moment. But the same fountain is known to send forth waters hot and
sound and tainted spring from the same stock; children deformed and shapely acknowledge the same parent; and, in agreement with the analogy, more antitheses in authorship than we care to enumerate, are found to claim a common fatherhood. Conformably with this, we grant unity of parentage in the present cases, though while in disposition, conduct, vigour, and veresimilitude, the one is deplorably devoid of merit, the other, in all these points, possesses claims on our approval to which we readily accede. It enjoys throughout considerable power of attraction, judiciously disposed, and, in consequence, securing and augmenting our interest as the plot thickens to its consummation; while a solid substratum, if we except a few flaws, underlies, sustains, and combines the whole. In the interval of composition, which a prefatory notice would lead us to think considerable, the author's powers have evidently made a great stretch, and his taste and judgment become disciplined and confirmed-so much more do true conception and apt development-so much more do closeness, equality, and energy of thought and diction distinguish his present performance. The prevalent sentiment is strong and spirited-the style nervous and suitable -the entire composition of a warm and generous complexion; and, in few instances does he exhibit, as formerly, an ineffective straining after a tone of elevation to which he is unequal, but generally copes with his subject as fully adequate to it, and moves with ease and safety in that "middle range," from which, we doubt not, he may, in time, successfully "imp his wing" for a loftier flight.
The time of the play is during the wars between the Spaniards and the Saracens. Its scene is Saragossa, which is closely beleagued by Francesco, a renegade and leader of the Moorish forces; but which, under the skilful and uncompromising governorship of Sebastian, still maintains a stubborn though difficult defence. In this condition of things Claudio, Sebastian's son, with more impetuosity than prudence
"Gets secretly to horse at dead of night, And with a chosen few, his firmest friends, Tries a most desperate onset to break through The point deem'd weakest of th' encircling lines :"
cold at different periods; branches but, failing in his spirited enterprise, is