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fcient for them, if there be character and action enough to prevent the composition from languishing, and to give spirit and propriety to the polished dialogue of which it consists : we are satisfied, if there be management enough in the story not to shock credibility entirely, and beauty and polish enough in the diction to exclude disgust or derision. In his own way, Alfieri, we think, is excellent. His fables are all admirably contrived and completely developed ; his dialogue is copious and progressive; and his characters all deliver natural sentiments with great beauty, and often with great force of expression. In our eyes, however, it is a fault that the fable is too simple, and the incidents too scanty; and that all the characters express themselves with equal felicity, and urge their opposite views and pretensions with equal skill and plausibility. We see at once that an ingenious author has versified the sum of a dialogue ; and never for a moment imagine that we hear the real persons contending. There may be more eloquence and dignity in this style of dramatising ;—there is infinitely more deception in

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With regard to the diction of these pieces, it is not for tramontane critics to presume to offer any opinion. They are considered in Italy, we believe, as the purest specimens of the favella Toscana that late ages have produced. To us they certainly seem to want something of that flow and sweetness to which we have been accustomed in Italian poetry, and to be formed rather upon the model of Dante than of Petrarca. At all events, it is obvious that the style is highly elaborate and artificial ; and that the author is constantly striving to give it a sort of factitious force and energy, by the use of condensed and emphatic expressions, interrogatories, antitheses, and short and inverted sentences. In all these respects, as well as in the chaslised gravity of the sentiments, and the temperance and propriety of all the delineations of passion, these pieces are exactly the reverse of what we should have expected from the fiery, fickle, and impatient character of the author. From all that Alfieri has told us of himself, we should have expected to find in his plays great vehemence and irregular eloquence--sublime and extravagant sentiments—passions rising to frenzy—and poetry swelling into hombast. Instead of this, we have a subdued and concise representation of energetic discourses-passions, not loud but deep-and a style so severely correct and scrupulously pure, as to indicate, even to unskilful eyes, the great labour which must have been bestowed on its purification. No characters can be more different than that which we should inser from reading the tragedies of Alfieri, and that which he has assigned to himsel! in these authentic memoirs.

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MISS BAILLIE.*

It is now, we think, something more than nine years f since we first ventured to express our opinion of Miss Baillie's earlier productions; and to raise our warning voice against those narrow and peculiar views of dra

" A Series of Plays: in which it is attempted to delineate the stronger Passions of the Mind. By Joanna Baillie, -Vol. xix. p. 216. February, 1812.

7 The article i which reference is here made, will be found in this work, amongst the Miscellaneous Essays on Poetry and ele Drama, Vol. i. p. 264.

malic excellence, by which it appeared to us that she had imprudently increased the difficulties of a very difficult undertaking. Notwithstanding this admonition, Miss Baillie has gone on (as we expected) in her own way; and has become (as we expected) both less popular and less deserving of popularity in every successive publication. The volume before us, we are afraid, is decidedly inferior to any of her former volumes; (for we have too much forbearance, or nationality, to say any thing of her single play;) at the same time that it contains indications of talent that ought not to be overlooked, and specimens of excellence which make it a duty to examine · into the causes of its general failure.

We have formerly said almost enough, we believe, of her extraordinary determination to write a tragedy and a comedy upon each of the stronger passions of the mind;-a scheme so singularly perverse and fantastic, that we rather wonder at its having escaped the patronage of the learned professors in the academy of Lagoda ; and in favour of which it would not be easy to say any thing—but that, by good luck, it is utterly impracticable. For, even {passing over the captivating originality of comedies on Hatred and Revenge, and tragedies on Hope and Joy, it seems plain enough, that the interest of a play can no more be maintained by the delineation of one passion, than its dialogue and action can be supported by the exertions of one character. It is of the very essence of dramatic composition, to exhibit the play and contention of many and of opposite affections, not only in the different persons it represents, but in the single bosom of its hero ; and its chief beauty and excellence consist in the variety of the forms and colours that thus move over its living scenes in the harmonies and contrasts of the emotions which it successively displays-and in the very multitude and diversity of the impressions to which it gives birth. To substitute, for this, even the most careful and masterly delineation of any one emotion, would not only be to substitute something that was not dramatic for that which is the essence and the excellence of the drama, but to replace this excellence by something most conspicuously inferior—to set before us the studied postures and ostentatious anatomy of one unchanging academy figure, instead of the free action and complicated exertions of groups engaged in athletic contention, or rather, to turn our eyes from the innumerable shades of expression that animate the greater compositions of Raphael or the Caracci, to rivet them on the fantastic and exaggerated features of one of the Passions of Le Brun.

If it be not this, however, that Miss Baillie aims at, then we must say that we cannot discover that there is any thing in the least degree peculiar or original in her system. The chief persons in every play must be actuated by certain passions; and by their influence the catastrophe must necessarily be brought about. In this sense, therefore, every play is a play on the passions, as much as any of those in the series before us; and all dramatic writers have proceeded upon the very system for which Miss Baillie here claims the honours of a discovery. It depends, indeed, entirely on the degree of simplicity in the plot, and of unity in the action, as well as on the number of the persons represented, whether the ruling passion of the principal characters shall be brought very conspicuously forward or not. Shakspeare, we believe, will be readily acquitted of the pelty larceny of stealing Miss Baillie's system of dramatising the passions : and yet the Ambition of Macbeth, the Jealousy of Othello, and the

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Melancholy of Hamlet, contribute much more exclusively to the interest of those plays, than any of the passions represented by the writer before us can be said to do to the interest of the pieces she has produced as the first-fruits of that system. It may not be so easy, indeed, to specify the affections that are exhibited in many of the other plays of our great dramatist—in the Tempest, for example--in King Lear—in Julius Cæsar—in Cymbeline, or in Henry IV.; because the plot in all these pieces is more complicated, and the interest more divided. But there seems to be no reasonable ground for doubting that they were composed upon the very same system with the others; and that the interest which they excite depends upon the same general principles. The truth is, however, that common sense and vulgar possibility always appear tame and inglorious when compared with the splendid pretensions of theorists ; and is Miss Baillie meant merely to announce, that she proposed to write plays that should be more like Macbeth and Othello than Cymbeline or the Tempest, the project must be allowed to be both innocent and laudable ; and no blame can attach to her, except for the faults of the execution. In considering what are the chief of those faults, we are afraid, however, that it will be found that her system has had a worse effect than that of merely narrowing the field of her exertions.

There are two sorts of dramatic composition, or at least of tragedy, known in this country:-one, the old classical tragedy of the Grecian stage, modernised according to the French or Continental model : the other, the bold, free, irregular and miscellaneous drama of our own older writers,- or, to speak it more shortly and intelligibly, of Shakspeare. Miss Baillie, it appears to us, has attempted to unite the excellencies of both of these styles ;- and has produced a combination of their defects.

The old Greek tragedy consisted of the representation of some one great, simple, and touching event, brought about by the agency of a very few persons, and detailed in grave, stately, and measured language, interspersed with choral songs and movements to music. In this primitive form of the drama, the story was commonly unfolded by means of a good deal of plain statement, direct enquiry, and detailed narration ; —while the business was helped forward by means of short and pointed, though frequently very simple and obvious, argumentation,--and the interest maintained by pathetic exclamations, and reflections apparently artless and unostentatious. Such, we conceive, was the character of the ancient drama; upon the foundation of which, the French or Continental school appears obviously to have been built. The chief variations (besides the extinction of the Chorus) seem to be, first, that love has been made to supplant almost all the other passions,-and the tone, accordingly, has become less solemn and severe; secondly, that there is less simple narrative and enquiry, a great deal more argument or debate—every considerable scene, in fact, being now required to contain a complete and elaborate discussion, to which all the parties must come fully prepared to maintain their respective theses; and, thirdly, that the topics are drawn, in general, from more extended and philosophical views of human nature; and the state of the feelings set forth with more rhetorical amplification, and with a more anxious and copious minuteness. Notwithstanding those very important distinctions, however, we think ourselves justified in arranging the tragic drama of ancient Greece, and that of the continent of modern

Europe, as productions of the same school ; because they will be found to agree in their main and characteristic attributes ; because they both require the style and tone to be uniformly grave, lofty, and elaborate-the fable to be simple and direct--and the subject represented, to be weighty and important. Neither of them, consequently, admits of those mioute touches of character, which give life and individuality to such delineations ; and the interest, in both, rests either on the greatness of the action, and the general propriety and congruity of the sentiments by which it is accompanied-or on the beauty and completeness of the discussion, the poetical graces, the purity and elevation, of the language--and the accumulation of bright thoughts and happy expressions which are brought to bear upon the same subject.

Such, we believe, is the idea of dramatic excellence that prevails over the continent of Europe, and such the chief elements which are there admitted to compose it. In this country, however, we are fortunate enough to have a drama of a different description—a drama which aims at a far more exact imitation of nature, and admils of an appeal to a far greater variety of emotions—which requires less dignity or grandeur in its incidents, but deals them out with infinitely greater complication and profusion—which peoples its busy scenes with innumerable characters, and varies its style as freely as it multiplies its persons—which frequently remits the main action, and never exhausts any matter of controversy or discussion-indulges in flights of poetry too lofty for sober interlocutors, and sinks into occasional familiarities too homely for lofty representation—but, still pursuing nature and truth of character and of passion, is perpetually setting before us the express image of individuals whose reality it seems impossible to question, and the thrilling echo of emotions in which we are compelled to sympathise. In illustration of this style, it would be mere pedantry to refer to any other pame than that of Shakspeare; who has undoubtedly furnished the most perfect as well as the most popular examples of its excellence; and who will be found to owe much of his unrivalled power over the altention, the imagination, and feelings of his readers, to the rich variety of his incidents and images, and to the inimitable truth and minuteness of his crowded characters.

Nothing, then, it appears, can be more radically different than the modern French and the old English tragedy. The one is the offspring of genius and original observation--the other of judgment and skill. The one aims at pleasing, chiefly by a faithful representation of nature, and characler, and passion--the other by a display of poetical and elaborate beauties. The style of the latter, therefore, requires a continual elevation, and its characters a certain dignified uniformity, which are necessarily rejected by the former ;-while our old English drama derives no small share of its interest from the rapidity and profusion of the incidents, and the multitude of the persons and images, which it brings before the fancy ;-all which are excluded from the more solemn and artificial stage of our Continental neighbours.

To endeavour to effect a combination of two styles so radically different, must be allowed to have been rather a bold undertaking; but it appears to us to be no less certain that Miss Baillie has made the attempt, than that she has failed in it. What her object or intention was, indeed, we do not presume to conjecture: but the fact, we think, is undeniable, that she has uniled the familiar and irregular tone of our old drama, with the simple

plot, and the scanty allowance of incident, that are characteristic of the Continental stage ; and has given us the homely style and trifling adventures of the one school, without its copiousness and variety-and the languor and uniformity of the other, without its elevation, dignity or polish. The events with which she is occupied, in short, are neither great nor many; and the style in which they are represented neither natural nor majestic. We do not think it uncharitable to say that this is a combination of defects only. The simple plot, the barrenness of incident, and the slowness of developement, which characterise the French drama, would evidently be insufferably heavy, if it were not redeemed by the greatness of the few events which it embraces, and by the uniform nobleness of the style, the weight and condensation of the sentiments, and the grace and elegance of the versification; while, on the other hand, the trifling incidents, the slovenly language, the vulgar characters, and the violent and incongruous images, which abound in our best home-made tragedies, would be still more intolerable, perhaps, to a correct taste, if ample compensation were not made by the richness and variety produced by this very abundance -by the lively and rapid succession of incidents—by the exquisite truth of the touches of character and passion, and the inimitable beauty of the occasional flights of poetry, that are so capriciously and often so unseasonably introduced. It was reserved for a writer of no ordinary talents to give us what was objectionable in each of these styles, without the compensations which naturally belonged to either:-and Miss Baillie, we think, has set the example of plays' as poor in incident and character, and as sluggish in their pace, as any that languish on the Continental stage, without their grandeur, their elegance, or their interest; and at the same time as low and as irregular in their diction as our own early tragedies,--and certainly without their spirit, grace, or animation.

This, then, we think, is the chief defect in the plays of Miss Baillie ;and there are none of her readers, we believe, who have not been struck with the want of business in her scenes, and the extreme tlatness and heavidess of all the subordinate parts of her performances. The events by which her story is developed are usually of a low and ordinary sort, and follow each other in a tame, slow, and awkward succession ; while there is nothing either of richness, lightness, or vivacity in the general style, to conceal this penury in the more substantial elements of the composition. We travel through most of her performances, in short, with the same sort of feeling with which we travel through the dull stages of our own central highlands, --the feeling of gelting on very slowly through scenes of uniform sterility -an impression which cannot be effaced by peeps of occasional sublimity, or reflections on the virtues of those who are said to delight in them.

This leading fault, we suppose, will be admitted by most even of Miss Baillie's admirers ; but we do not reckon so securely on their acquiescence, when we add, that it appears to us that she has failed almost as signally in her delineation of character, as in the conception and conduct of her fable. The truth is, however, that she seems to us to want almost entirely the power of investing her characters with that air of individual reality, without which no very lively sympathy can ever be excited in the fortunes of the persons of the drama. She attempts to copy Shakspeare, indeed, in making her characters disclose themselves by slight incidental occurrences, and casual bursts of temper, in malters unconnected with the main story; but there is no spirit of originality either in the out

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