Imágenes de páginas

I is scarcely necessary to say that such the stadium, yet enjoyed far greater genera. speeches could never have been delivered. vigour and health than either. It is the same They are perhaps among the most difficult pas- with the mind. The superiority in technical sages in the Greek language, and would pro- skill is often more than compensated by the bably have been scarcely more intelligible to inferiority in general intelligence. And this is an Athenian auditor than to a modern reader. peculiarly the case in politics. States have Their obscurity was acknowledged by Cicero, always been best governed by men who have who was as intimate with the literature and taken a wide view of public affairs, and who language of Greece as the most accomplished have rather a general acquaintance with many of its natives, and who seems to have held a sciences than a perfect mastery of one. The respectable rank among the Greek authors. union of the political and military departments The difficulty to a modern reader lies, not in in Greece contributed not a little to the splenthe words, but in the reasoning. A dictionary dour of its early history. After their separais of far less use in studying them, than a clear tion more skilful generals and greater speakers head and a close attention to the context. They appeared;-but the breed of statesmen dwindled are valuable to the scholar, as displaying, be- and became almost extinct. Themistocles or yond almost any other compositions, the powers Pericles would have been no match for Deof the finest languages:-they are valuable to mosthenes in the assembly, or Iphicrates in the the philosopher, as illustrating the morals and field. But surely they were incomparably manners of a most interesting age;-they better fitted than either for the supreme direcabound in just thought and energetic expres- tion of affairs. sion. But they do not enable us to form any accurate opinion on the merits of the early Greek orators.

Though it cannot be doubted, that, before the Persian wars, Athens had produced eminent speakers, yet the period during which eloquence most flourished among her citizens was by no means that of her greatest power and glory. It commenced at the close of the Peloponnesian war. In fact, the steps by which Athenian oratory approached to its finished excellence, seem to have been almost contemporaneous with those by which the Athenian character and the Athenian empire sunk to degradation. At the time when the little commonwealth achieved those victories which twenty-five eventual centuries have left unequalled, eloquence was in its infancy. The deliverers of Greece became its plunderers and oppressors. Unmeasured exaction, atrocious vengeance, the madness of the multitude, the tyranny of the great, filled the Cyclades with tears, and blood, and mourning. The sword unpeopled whole islands in a day. The plough passed over the ruins of famous cities. The imperial republic sent forth her children by thousands to pine in the quarries of Syracuse, or to feed the vultures of Egospotami. She was at length reduced by famine and slaughter to humble herself before her enemies, and to purchase existence by the sacrifice of her empire and her laws. During these disastrous and gloomy years, oratory was advancing towards its highest excellence. And it was when the moral, the political, the military character of the people was most utterly degraded; it was when the viceroy of a Macedonian sovereign gave law to Greece, that the courts of Athens witnessed the most splendid contest of eloquence that the world has ever known.

The causes of this phenomenon it is not, I think, difficult to assign. The division of labour operates on the productions of the orator as it does on those of the mechanic. It wa. remarked by the ancients, that the Pentathlete, who divided his attention between several exercises, though he could not vie with a boxer in the use of a cestus, or with one who had confined his attention to running in the contest of

There is indeed a remarkable coincidence between the progress of the art of war, and that of the art of oratory, among the Greeks. They both advanced to perfection by contemporaneous steps, and from similar causes. The early speakers, like the early warriors of Greece, were merely a militia. It was found, that in both employments, practice and discipline gave superiority. Each pursuit, therefore, became first an art, and then a trade. In proportion as the professors of each became more expert in their particular craft, they became less respectable in their general character. Their skill had been obtained at too great expense to be employed only from disinterested views. Thus the soldiers forgot that they were citizens, and the orators that they were statesmen. I know not to what Demosthenes and his famous conten.poraries can be so justly compared as to those mercenary troops, who, in their time, overran Greece; or those who, from similar causes, were some centuries ago the scourge of the Italian republics,-perfectly acquainted with every part of their profession, irresistible in the field, powerful to defend or to destroy, but defending without love, and destroying without hatred. We may despise he charac

It has often occurred to me, that to the circumstances mentioned in the text, is to be referred one of the most remarkable events in Grecian history, I mean the silent but rapid downfall of the Lacedæmonian power. Soon after the termination of the Peloponnesian war, the strength of Lacedæmon began to decline. Its military discipline, its social institutions were the same. Agesilaus, during whose reign the change took place. was the ablest of its kings. Yet the Spartan armies were frequently defeated in pitched battles, an occurrence considered impossible in the earher ages of Greece. They are allowed to have fought most bravely, yet they were no longer attended by the success to which they had formerly been accustomed. No solution of these circumstances is offered, as far as I know, by any ancient author. The real cause, I conceive, was this. The Lacedæmonians, alone among the Greeks, formed a permanent standing army. While the citizens of other commonwealths were engaged in agriculture and trade, they had no employment whatever but the study of oponnesian wars, they had that advantage over their military discipline Hence, during the Persian and Peneighbours which regular troops always possess over militia. This advantage they lost when other ptates began, at a later period, to employ mercenary forces, who were probably as superior to them in the art of was as they had hitherto been to their antagonists.

ters of these political Condottieri, but it is impossible to examine the system of their tactics without being amazed at its perfection.

He may ramble as far as he is inclined, and stop as soon as he is tired. No one takes the trouble to recollect his contradictory opinions or his unredeemed pledges. He may be as superficial, as inconsistent, and as careless as he chooses. Magazines resemble those little angels, who, according to the pretty Rabinical tradition, are generated every morning by the brook which rolls over the flowers of Paradise,

I had intended to proceed to this examination, and to consider separately the remains of Lysias, of Eschines, of Demosthenes, and of Isocrates, who though, strictly speaking, he was rather a pamphleteer than an orator, deserves, on many accounts, a place in such a disquisition. The length of my prolegomena and di-—whose life is a song,—who warbie till sunset, gressions compels me to postpone this part of the subject to another occasion. A magazine is certainly a delightful invention for a very idle or a very busy man. He is not compelled to complete his plan or to adhere to his subject.

and then sink back without regret into nothing. ness. Such spirits have nothing to do with the detecting spear of Ithuriel or the victorious sword of Michael. It is enough for them to please and be forgotten.

[EDINBURGH REVIEW, January, 1841.}

We have a kindness for Mr. Leigh Hunt. We form our judgment of him, indeed, only from events of universal notoriety-from his own works, and from the works of other writers, who have generally abused him in the most rancorous manner. But, unless we are greatly mistaken, he is a very clever, a very honest, and a very good-natured man. We can clearly discern, together with many merits, many serious faults, both in his writings and in his conduct. But we really think that there is hardly a man living whose merits have been so grudgingly allowed, and whose faults have been so cruelly expiated.

In some respects, Mr. Leigh Hunt is excelLently qualified for the task which he has now undertaken. His style, in spite of its mannerism-nay, partly by reason of its mannerism -is well suited for light, garrulous, desultory ana, half critical, half biographical. We do not always agree with his literary judgments; but we find in him what is very rare in our time-the power of justly appreciating and heartily enjoying good things of very different kinds. He can adore Shakspeare and Spenser without denying poetical genius to the author of "Alexander's Feast;" or fine observation, rich fancy, and exquisite humour to him who imagined "Will Honeycomb" and "Sir Roger de Coverley." He has paid particular attention to the history of the English drama, from the age of Elizabeth down to our own time, and has every right to be heard with respect on that subject.

and which illustrates the character of an important epoch in letters, politics, and morals, should disappear from the world. If we err in this matter, we err with the gravest men and bodies of men in the empire, and especially with the Church of England, and with the great schools of learning which are connected with her. The whole liberal education of our countrymen is conducted on the principle, that no book which is valuable, either by reason of the excellence of its style, or by reason of the light which it throws on the history, polity, and manners of nations, should be withheld from the student on account of its impurity. The Athenian Comedies, in which there are scarcely a hundred lines together without soine passage of which Rochester would have been ashamed, have been reprinted at the Pitt Press and the Clarendon Press, under the direction of syndics and delegates appointed by the Universities; and have been illustrated with notes by reverend, very reverend, and right reverend commentators.

Every year the most distinguished young men in the kingdom are examined by bishops and professors of divinity in the Lysistrata of Aristophanes and the Sixth Satire of Juvenal. There is certainly something a little ludicrous in the idea of a conclave of venerable fathers of the church rewarding a lad for his intimate acquaintance with writings, compared with which the loosest tale in Prior is modest. But for our own part we have no doubt that the great societies which direct the education The plays to which he now acts as intro- of the English gentry have herein judged ducer are, with few exceptions, such as, in the wisely. It is unquestionable that an extensive opinion of many very respectable people, acquaintance with ancient literature enlarges ought not to be reprinted. In this opinion we and enriches the mind. It is unquestionable can by no means concur. We cannot wish that a man whose mind has been thus enthat any work or class of works which has ex-larged and enriched, is ikely to be far more ercised a great influence on the human mind,

* The Dramatic_Works of WYCHERLEY, CONGREVE, VANBRUGH, and FARQUHAR. With Biographical and Critical Notices. BY LEIGH HUNT. 8vo. London. 1840.

useful to the state and to the church, than one who is unskilled, or little skilled in classical learning. On the other hand, we find it difficult to believe that, in a world so full of tempta tion as this, any gentleman, whose life would

have been virtuous if he had not read Aristophanes and Juvenal, will be made vicious by reading them. A man who, exposed to all the influences of such a state of society as that in which we live, is yet afraid of exposing himself to the influences of a few Greek or Latin verses, acts, we think, much like the felon who begged the sheriffs to let him have an umbrella held over his head from the door of Newgate to the gallows, because it was a drizzling morning, and he was apt to take cold.

We are

various periods been fashionable.
therefore by no means disposed to condemn
this publication, though we certainly cannot
recommend the handsome volume before us
as an appropriate Christmas present for young

We have said that we think the present publication perfectly justifiable. But we can by no means agree with Mr. Leigh Hunt, who seems to hold that there is little or no ground for the charge of immorality so often brought against the literature of the Restoration. We

ment-seat the merciless rigour of Lord Angelo; but we really think that such flagitious and impudent offenders as those who are now at the bar, deserved at least the gentle rebuke of Escalus. Mr. Leigh Hunt treats the whole matter a little too much in the easy style of Lucio, and perhaps his exceeding lenity dis poses us to be somewhat too severe.

The virtue which the world wants is a healthful virtue, not a valetudinarian virtue-do not blame him for not bringing to the judg a virtue which can expose itself to the risks inseparable from all spirited exertion-not a virtue which keeps out of the common air for fear of infection, and eschews the common food as too stimulating. It would be indeed absurd to attempt to keep men from acquiring those qualifications which fit them to play their part in life with honour to themselves and advantage to their country, for the sake of preserving a delicacy which cannot be preserved-a delicacy which a walk from Westminster to the Temple is sufficient to destroy.

And yet it is not easy to be too severe. For, in truth, this part of our literature is a disgrace to our language and our national character. It is clever, indeed, and very entertaining; but But we should be justly chargeable with it is, in the most emphatic sense of the words, gross inconsistency, if, while we defend the “earthly, sensual, devilish." Its indecency, policy which invites the youth of our country though perpetually such as is condemned, not to study such writers as Theocritus and Catul-less by the rules of good taste than by those of lus, we were to set up a cry against a new morality, is not, in our opinion, so disgraceful edition of the "Country Wife," or the "Way a fault as its singularly inhuman spirit. We of the World." The immoral English writers have here Belial, not as when he inspired Ovid of the seventeenth century are indeed much and Ariosto, "graceful and humane," but with less excusable than those of Greece and Rome. the iron eye and cruel sneer of Mephistopheles. But the worst English writings of the seven- We find ourselves in a world, in which the teenth century are decent, compared with much ladies are like very profligate, impudent and that has been bequeathed to us by Greece and unfeeling men, and in which the men are too Rome. Plato, we have little doubt, was a much bad for any place but Pandemonium or Norbetter man than Sir George Etherege. But Plato folk Island. We are surrounded by foreheads has written things at which Sir George Etherege of bronze, hearts like the nether millstone, and would have shuddered. Buckhurst and Sed- tongues set on fire of hell. ley, even in those wild orgies at the Cock in Dryden defended or excused his own ofBow Street, for which they were pelted by the fences, and those of his contemporaries, by rabble and fined by the Court of King's Bench, pleading the example of the earlier English would never have dared to hold such discourse dramatists: and Mr. Leigh Hunt seems to as passed between Socrates and Phædrus on think that there is force in the plea. We althat fine summer day, under the plane-tree, together differ from this opinion. The crime while the fountain warbled at their feet, and charged is not mere coarseness of expression. the cicadas chirped overhead. If it be, as we The terms which are delicate in one age be think it is, desirable that an English gentle- come gross in the next. The diction of the man should be well informed touching the English version of the Pentateuch, is somegovernment and the manners of little common- times such as Addison would not have venturwealths, which both in place and time are far ed to imitate; and Addison, the standard of removed from us-whose independence has purity in his own age, used many phrases been more than two thousand years extinguish-which are now proscribed. Whether a thing ed, whose language has not been spoken for ages, and whose ancient magnificence is attested only by a few broken columns and friezesmuch more must it be desirable that he should be intimately acquainted with the history of the public mind of his own country; and with the causes, the nature, and the extent of those revolutions of opinion and feeling, which, during the last two centuries, have alternately raised and depressed the standard of our national morality. And knowledge of this sort is Mr. Moxon, its publisher, is well entitled to com to be very sparingly gleaned from parliament-mendation and support for having, by a series of corresponding Reprints, (comprising the works of the elder ary debates, from state papers, and from the Dramatists,)-executed in a compendious but very comeworks of grave historians. It must either not ly form, and accompanied with useful prolegomena-put be acquired at all, or it must be acquired by tion to procure, at a comparatively small cost, the no. it in the power of any one desirous of such an acquisithe perusal of the light literature which has at blest Dramatic Library in the world

shall be designated by a plain noun-substantive, or by a circumlocution, is mere matter of fashion. Morality is not at all interested in the question. But morality is deeply interested in this-that what is immoral shall not be presented to the imagination of the young and susceptible in constant connection with what is attractive. For every person who nas ob served the operation of the law of association

Foresight. In all these cases, and in many more which might be named, the dramatist evidently does his best to make the person who commits the injury graceful, sensible and spirited; and the person who suffers it a fool or a tyrant, or both.

Mr. Charles Lamb, indeed, attempted to set up a defence for this way of writing. The dramatists of the latter part of the seventeenth century are not, according to him, to be tried by the standard of morality which exists, and ought to exist in real life. Their world is a conventional world. Their heroes and he roines belong, not to England, not to Christendom, but to an Utopia of gallantry, to a Fairyland, where the Bible and Burns's Justice are unknown-where a prank, which on this earth would be rewarded with the pillory, is merely matter for a peal of elfish laughter. A real Horner, a real Careless would, it is admitted, be exceedingly bad men. But to predicate morality or immorality of the Horner of Wy. cherly, and the Careless of Congreve, is as absurd as it would be to arraign a sleeper for his dreams. They belong "to the regions of pure comedy, where no cold moral reignswhen we are amongst them we are amongst a chaotic people. We are not to judge them by our usages. No reverend institutions are insulted by their proceedings, for they have none among them. No peace of families is violated, for no family ties exist among them. There is neither right or wrong-gratitude or its op posite-claim or duty-paternity or sonship."

an his own mind, and in the minds of others, Careless with Sir Paul Plyant, or Scandal with knows, that whatever is constantly presented to the imagination in connection with what is attractive, will commonly itself become attractive. There is undoubtedly a great deal of indelicate writing in Fletcher and Massinger; and more than might be wished even in Ben Jonson and Shakspeare, who are comparatively pure. But it is impossible to trace in their plays any systematic attempt to associate vie with those things which men value most and desire most, and virtue with every thing ridiculous and degrading. And such a systematic attempt we find in the whole dramatic literature of the generation which followed the return of Charles the Second. We will take, as an instance of what we mean, a single subject of the highest importance to the happiness of mankind-conjugal fidelity. We can at present hardly call to mind a single English play, written before the Civil War, in which the character of a seducer of married women is represented in a favourable light. We remember many plays in which such persons are baffled, exposed, covered with derision, and insulted by triumphant husbands. Such is the fate of Falstaff, with all his wit and knowledge of the world. Such is the fate of Brisac in Fletcher's "Elder Brother"-and of Ricardo and Ubaldo, in Massinger's "Picture." Sometimes, as in the "Fatal Dowry," and "Love's Cruelty," the outraged honour of families is repaired by a bloody revenge. If now and then the lover is represented as an accomplished man, and the husband as a person of weak or odious character, this only makes the triumph of female virtue the more signal; as in Jonson's Celia and Mrs. Fitzdottrel, and in Fletcher's Maria. In general we will ven-mire his genius; we love the kind nature ture to say, that the dramatists of the age of Elizabeth and James the First, either treat the breach of the marriage-vow as a serious crime -or, if they treat it as a matter for laughter, turn the laugh against the gallant.

This is, we believe, a fair summary of Mr.. Lamb's doctrine. We are sure that we do not wish to represent him unfairly. For we ad

which appears in all his writings: and we cherish his memory as much as if we had known him personally. But we must plainly say that his argument, though ingenious, is altogether sophistical.

Of course we perfectly understand that it is possible for a writer to create a conventional world in which things forbidden by the Decalogue and the Statute Book shall be lawful, and yet that the exhibition may be harmless, or even edifying. For example, we suppose that the most austere critics would not accuse Fenelon of impiety and immorality, on account of his Telemachus and his Dialogues of the Dead. In Telemachus and the Dialogues of the Dead, we have a false religion, and conse quently a morality which is in some points incorrect. We have a right and a wrong, differing from the right and the wrong of real life. It is represented as the first duty of men to pay honour to Jove and Minerva. Philocles, who employes his leisure in making graven images of these deities, is extolled for his piety in a way which contrasts singularly with the expressions of Isaiah on the same

On the contrary, during the forty years which followed the Restoration, the whole body of the dramatists invariably represent adultery -we do not say as a peccadillo-we do not say as an error which the violence of passion may excuse-but as the calling of a fine gentleman as a grace without which his character would be imperfect. It is as essential to his breeding and to his place in society that he should make love to the wives of his neighbours, as that he should know French, or that he should have a sword at his side. In all this there is no passion, and scarcely any thing that can be called preference. The hero in trigues, just as he wears a wig; because, if he did not, he would be a queer fellow, a city prig, perhaps a Puritan. All the agreeable qualities are always given to the gallant. All the contempt and aversion are the portion of the unfortunate husband. Take Dryden for example; and compare Woodall with Brain-subject. The dead are judged by Minos, and sick, or Lorenzo with Gomez. Take Wycherley, and compare Horner with Pinchwife. Take Vanbrugh, and compare Constant with Sir John Brute. Take Farquhar, and compare Archer with Squire Sullen. Take Congreve, and compare Belmour with Fondle wife,

rewarded with lasting happiness for actions which Fenelon would have been the first to pronounce splendid sins. The same may be said of Mr. Southey's Mohammedan and Hin doo heroes and heroines. In Thalaba, to speak in derogation of the Arabian Imposter is blas

phemy-to drink wine is a crime-to perform ablutions, and to pay honour to the holy cities, are works of merit. In the Curse of Kehama, Kailyal is commended for her devotion to the statue of Mariataly, the goddess of the poor. But certainly no person will accuse Mr. Southey | of having promoted or intended to promote either Islamism or Brahminism.

It is easy to see why the conventional worlds of Fenelon and Mr. Southey are unobjectionable. In the first place, they are utterly unlike the real world in which we live. The state of society, the laws even of the physical world, are so different from those with which we are familiar, that we cannot be shocked at finding the morality also very different. But in truth, the morality of these conventional worlds differs from the morality of the real world, only in points where there is no danger that the real worlds will ever go wrong. The generosity and docility of Telemachus, the fortitude, the modesty, the filial tenderness of Kailyal, are virtues of all ages and nations. And there was very little danger that the Dauphin would worship Minerva, or that an English damsel would dance with a bucket on her head before the statue of Mariataly.

The case is widely different with what Mr. Charles Lamb calls the conventional world of Wycherley and Congreve. Here the costume, and manners, the topics of conversation, are those of the real town, and of the passing day. The hero is in all superficial accomplishments exactly the fine gentleman, whom every youth in the pit would gladly resemble. The heroine is the fine lady, whom every youth in the pit would gladly marry. The scene is laid in some place which is as well known to the audience as their own houses, in St. James's Park, or Hyde Park, or Westminster Hall. The lawyer bustles about with his bag, between the Common Pleas and the Exchequer. The Peer calls for his carriage to go to the House of Lords on a private bill. A hundred little touches are employed to make the fictitious world appear like the actual world. And the immorality is of a sort which never can be out of date, and which all the force of religion, law, and public opinion united can but imperfectly restrain.

derided, associated with every thing mean and hateful; the unsound morality to be set off to every advantage, and inculcated by all me thods direct and indirect. It is not the fact, that none of the inhabitants of this conventional world feel reverence for sacred institu tions, and family ties. Fondle wife, Pinchwife, every person in short of narrow understanding and disgusting manners, expresses that reverence strongly. The heroes and heroines too, have a moral code of their own, an exceedingly bad one; but not, as Mr. Charles Lamb seems to think, a code existing only in the imagination of dramatists. It is, on the contrary, a code actually received, and obeyed by great numbers of people We need not go to Utopia or Fairiland to find them. They are near at hand. Every night some of them play at the "hells" in the Quadrant, and others pace the piazza in Covent-garden. Without flying to Nephelococcygia, or to the Court of Queen Mab, we can meet with sharpers, bullies, hardhearted impudent debauchees, and women worthy of such paramours. The morality of the "Country Wife" and the "Old Bachelor," is the morality, not, as Mr. Charles Lamb maintains, of an unreal world, but of a world which is a great deal too real. It is the morality, not of a chaotic people, but of low town-rakes, and of those ladies whom the newspapers call "dashing Cyprians." And the question is simply, whether a man of genius, who constantly and systematically endeavours to make this sort of character attrac tive, by uniting it with beauty, grace, dignity, spirit, a high social position, popularity, litera ture, wit, taste, knowledge of the world, brilliant success in every undertaking, does or does not make an ill use of his powers. We own that we are unable to understand how this question can be answered in any way but one.

It must, indeed, be acknowledged, in justice to the writers of whom we have spoken thus severely, that they were, to a great extent, the creatures of their age. And if it be asked why that age encouraged immorality which no other age would have tolerated, we have no hesitation in answering that this great depravation of the national taste was the effect of the prevalence of Puritanism under the Commonwealth.

In the name of art, as well as in the name of virtue, we protest against the principle that the world of pure comedy is one into which no To punish public outrages on morals and moral enters. If comedy be an imitation, un-religion is unquestionably within the compe der whatever conventions, of real life, how is it possible that it can have no reference to the great rule which directs life, and to feelings which are called forth by every incident of life! If what Mr. Charles Lamb says were correct, the inference would be, that these dramatists did not in the least understand the very first principles of their craft. Pure landscape painting into which no light or shade enters, pure portrait fainting into which no expression enters, are phrases less at variance with sound criticism than pure comedy into which no moral enters.

tence of rulers. But when a government, not content with requiring decency, requires sanctity, it oversteps the bounds which mark its functions. And it may be laid down as a universal rule, that a government which attempts more than it ought will perform less. A lawgiver who, in order to protect distressed borrowers, limits the rate of interest, either makes it impossible for the objects of his care to borrow at all, or places them at the mercy of the worst class of usurers. A lawgiver who, from tenderness for labouring men, fixes the hours of their work and the amount of their But it is not the fact, that the world of these wages, is certain to make them far more dramatists is a world into which no moral wretched than he found them. And so a go enters. Morality constantly enters into that vernment which, not content with repressing world, a sound morality, and an unsound scandalous excesses, demands from its sub morality; the sound inorality to be insulted,|jects fervent and austere piety, will soon dis VOL. IV.-50

« AnteriorContinuar »