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Art. 27. Letters to a Nobleman, proving a late Prime Minister to have been Junius; and developing the secret Motives which induced him to write under that and other Signatures. With an Appendix containing a celebrated Case, published by Almon in 1768. 8vo. pp. 268. Longman and Co. 1816.
Here is an additional attempt to discover the mysterious Junius; in which the writer expatiates, with an air of candour, on topics of general interest, and adds argument to argument to prove that the Late Duke of Portland, of good-natured memory, was the writer of the bitter sarcasms which were thus subscribed. We cannot help regarding the design as much on a par with the conduct of Mrs. Serres, who claims that honour for her uncle Dr. Wilmot ; or with the assurance of those who have imputed them to the sprightly and facetious Sir Philip Francis; or with the effort to prove that Leonidas Glover was the man, because he "wore his hair in a bag, and walked about in his latter years with a small cocked hat under his arm."
These letters, twenty-nine in number, are addressed by an anonymous writer to an anonymous nobleman, but are dated at different times as if written in close succession; recapitulating, with a great appearance of minuteness and accuracy, the leading circumstances in the public career of the late Duke of Portland. The main object is to establish a coincidence between the situation of his Grace and that of the political champion; while, by way of swelling the size of the volume, above fifty pages are occupied with a reprint of "the Case of the Duke of Portland respecting the disputed leases, granted for election purpose by Government to Sir James Lowther in 1767." It is needless to enlarge farther on the subject; and we shall merely add that the only useful part of the book is a tabular statement of the successive and too frequent changes of ministry in the first ten years of the present reign. Art. 28. A Guide to Burghley House, Northamptonshire, the
Seat of the Marquis of Exeter; containing a Catalogue of all the Paintings, Antiquities, &c. with Biographical Notices of the Artists. 8vo. pp. 300. With Plates. 12S. Boards.
Baldwin and Co.
Few travellers pass through Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire, without turning aside to view the Marquis of Exeter's palace near Stamford; a magnificent Gothic structure, not wholly of one date, but supposed principally to have been erected by Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burghley, who was High-Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth. The volume before us, which is divided into many chapters, treats successively of the origin and foundation of the house, of the pedigree of the family, of the park and its ornaments, and of the principal apartments, in their order. A critical catalogue is given of the pictures individually; and the work is ornamented with engravings of the prominent objects of notice. It will be found convenient to the traveller, and is adapted to awaken the curiosity of the absentee.
An Appendix, chiefly extracted from Walpole's Anecdotes of Painters, largely and needlessly augments the size of the book.
Art. 29. Narrative of the Imprisonment and Escape of Peter Gordon, Second Mate in the Barque Joseph, of Limerick, Captain Conolly. Comprising a Journal of the Author's Adventures in his Flight through the French Territory, from Cambrai to Rotterdam, and thence to the English Coast. 8vo. pp. 285. 78. Boards. Conder. 1816.
Several narratives of the escape of our soldiers and sailors from French" durance vile" have reached the public eye, and have displayed equally the severe treatment which the writers had experienced from their jailors, and the hardships encountered in their flight. In some instances, indeed, the latter have been truly surprising, and have been surmounted with an endurance, an ingenuity, and a perseverance, that have been most characteristically honourable to the individuals. Mr. Gordon had his share of all these grinning honours," if we may so call them; and his present narrative, though rather prolix, and not of high literary merit, will amuse as a series of adventures. It abounds, however, with deceptions and falsifications, which, though necessary to the accomplishment of the writer's object of escaping, might have been better kept within his own bosom, or less broadly detailed; and he is right in expressing unqualified regret (in his preliminary advertisement) for the innumerable lies told on his journey.' The profits of the publication, if any should be derived, are benevolently devoted by Mr. G. to the Patriotic Fund.
Mr. Greatheed's letter has reached us, but we are obliged to defer any farther notice of it to our next Number.
We are indebted to O. O., and will take care of the work in question, but perhaps shall not be able to attend to it immediately, on account of the absence of a coadjutor.
A packet for B. was left with our publisher, as desired.
The letter from a Constant Reader, dated Bridgewater, will receive all the respect and consideration to which it is eminently intitled by its subject and its manner.
The APPENDIX to Vol. LXXX. of the M. R. is published. with this Number, and contains (as usual) a variety of Articles in FOREIGN LITERATURE; with the General Title, Table of Con tents, and Index, for the Volume.
For OCTOBER, 1816.
ART. I. A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, by Augustus William Schlegel: translated from the original German by John Black. 8vo. 2 Vols. 11. 4s. Boards. Baldwin and Co. 1815.
A COURSE of Lectures on the Dramatic Art having been announced by M. Schlegel at Vienna, in the spring of 1808, the Emperor of Germany transmitted to him in his own hand-writing the permission which had been solicited for the delivery of them; and a brilliant audience of nearly three hundred persons, including courtiers, artists, ladies distinguished for accomplishment, men of letters, and celebrated actors, assembled with eager curiosity. Madame de Stael, who was one of the hearers, has recorded the strong impression which was made on all by the lecturer's judicious selection of instruction and the splendid interventions of his eloquence; and the public admiration excited by the delivery has not been in any degree disappointed, now that the discourses are collected and revised, and exposed by distant publication to the severer ordeal of literary examiners. Yet, in all lectures, something must be sacrificed to immediate and obvious effect; and, whatever be the topic, the public speaker must exaggerate in good or bad, in order that his audience may feel electrified. The oral critic, therefore, cannot afford a justice so impartial as the writer.
We shall run over the lectures, one by one: but, trusting to public perusal for a general dissemination of their contents, we shall not attempt a minute analysis, or a complete epitome; rather endeavouring to dwell on the questionable sentences of award, or portions of theory. Disposed to rationality more than to mysticism, we are apt to doubt when we do not understand; and some Platonic flights of style, or system, in M. Schlegel, not being easily reduced to perspicuous definition, these we mistrust. We are not fond, moreover, of à priori criticism, which makes the gauge first, and then tries the work by it. We think that it is possible to admire Shakspeare without deifying Calderon, although M. Schlegel's VOL. LXXXI.
plan of panegyric applies equally to both; and our feelings allot a higher value to Euripides, to Diderot, and to Kotzebue, than these writers can be permitted to claim under a scheme of appreciation, which assigns to domestic tragedy and sentimental drama the lowest rank in art. "Tous les genres sont bons, hors le genre ennuyeux," said Voltaire, liberally and justly; and, of course, we should praise or blame by the head, and not by the class. Greater power may be displayed by one artist in a secondary line of art, than by another in the
The introductory lecture treats of the spirit of true criticism, and here a good passage occurs:
Before I proceed farther, I wish to say a few words respecting the spirit of my criticism, a study to which I have devoted a great part of my life. We see numbers of men, and even whole nations, so much fettered by the habits of their education, and modes of living, that they cannot shake themselves free from them, even in the enjoyment of the fine arts. Nothing to them appears natural, proper, or beautiful, which is foreign to their language, their manners, or their social relations. In this exclusive mode of seeing and feeling, it is no doubt possible, by means of cultivation to attain a great nicety of discrimination in the narrow circle within which they are limited and circumscribed. But no man can be a true critic or connoisseur who does not possess an universality of mind, who does not possess the flexibility, which, throwing aside all personal predilections and blind habits, enables him to transport himself into the peculiarities of other ages and nations, to feel them as it were from their proper central point, and, what ennobles human nature, to recognize and respect whatever is beautiful and grand under those external modifications which are necessary to their existence, and which sometimes even seem to disguise them.'
M. Schlegel then proceeds to point out the characteristic difference of taste between the antients and the moderns; which is traced principally to the diversity of religious persuasion that prevailed in the old and in the new world. The same idea was maintained by us in M. Rev. Vol. xviii. N. S. p. 129. The lecturer would apply the epithet classical to those forms, or moulds, in which antient works of art are shaped; and the term romantic to those forms, or moulds, in which modern works of art are shaped. In reviewing the late Mr. Pye's Commentary on Aristotle's Poetics, we opposed the Gothic drama to the Greek drama in a similar spirit of classification. If M. Schlegel be correct in supposing that the Gothic nations borrowed from Spain those early specimens of dramatic art which became their favourite domestic models, the denomination romantic drama may be the more exact.
The antients, and their imitators the Italians and French, are described as constituting the classical school of art, while the Spaniards, the English, and the Germans, belong to the romantic. The latter school appears to be the more natural of the two, and to include less of the local and conventional in its manner: since the "Sakontala,” a Hindoo drama, composed in complete disconnection with either the antient or the modern literature of Europe, approaches much nearer in structure to a play of Shakspeare than to a play of Sophocles; and so does "The Orphan of China," in its native form. If we remember rightly, it was Herder who, by his rhapsody on Shakspeare, first gave to the German critics the luminous idea, that the Gothic or romantic drama should be considered as a peculiar form of art, having laws and conditions of its own; and that it is not less beautiful, and is far more convenient and comprehensive, than the Greek plan of drama, which could not have included in one whole the representation of any great event, such as the usurpation of Macbeth, the conspiracy of Venice, or the revolution of Swisserland under William Tell. With a chorus of furies, schylus could leap over the bounds of space and time in his Orestes, and yet observe sufficient probability: but, in general, the supposed presence of an unchanged chorus, during the entire action, confined nearly to one spot and to one day the incidents that were introduced into a Greek tragedy. Hence a scene of familydistress is commonly the utmost attainment of the classical poet; and a cluster of independent plays, a trilogy, was requisite to exhibit on the Athenian stage the events of a single Gothic drama.
The phænomena of nature,' says M. Schlegel in his second lecture, flow into one another, and do not possess an independent existence; a work of art, on the contrary, must be a connected whole, and complete within itself. Certainly, great skill is requisite, in the dramatic poet, neatly to detach an historic incident from its causes and effects, so as to give it a beginning, a middle, and an end; and to round it gracefully into a plot separate and entire, and progressively interesting. The historical plays of Shakspeare do not always attain this perfection: sometimes the action wants unity, as in Henry IV., from the admixture of extraneous characters and incidents; sometimes it wants wholeness, as in the second part of Henry IV., there being no proper catastrophe, or termination of the story; and sometimes it wants progressive interest, as in Henry VIII., and is prolonged beyond the period which decided the fate of the principal personages. Too close an