Imágenes de páginas

His tragedies are not poetry, are not passion, are not imagination they are a parcel of set speeches, of epigrammatic conceits, of declamatory phrases, without any of the glow, and glancing rapidity, and principle of fusion in the mind of the poet, to agglomerate them into grandeur, or blend them into harmony. The principle of the imagination resembles the emblem of the serpent, by which the ancients typified wisdom and the universe, with undulating folds, for ever varying and for ever flowing into itself,-circular, and without beginning or end. The definite, the fixed, is death: the principle of life is the indefinite, the growing, the moving, the continuous. But everything in French poetry is cut up into shreds and patches, little flowers of poetry, with tickets and labels to them, as when the daughters of Jason minced and hacked their old father into collops-we have the disjecta membra poeta-not the entire and living man. The spirit of genuine poetry should inform the whole. work, should breathe through, and move, and agitate the complete mass, as the soul informs and moves the limbs of a man, or as the vital principle (whatever it be) permeates the veins of the loftiest trees, building up the trunk, and extending the branches to the sun and winds. of heaven, and shooting out into fruit and flowers. This is the progress of nature and of genius. This is the true poetic faculty, or that which the Greeks literally call ποίησις. But a French play (I think it is Schlegel who somewhere makes the comparison, though I had myself, before I ever read Schlegel, made the same remark) is like a child's garden set with slips of branches and flowers, stuck in the ground, not growing in it. We may weave a gaudy garland in this manner, but it withers in an hour while the products of genius and nature give

out their odours to the gale, and spread their tints in the sun's eye, age after age—

Outlast a thousand storms, a thousand winters,
Free from the Sirian star and thunder stroke,

and flourish in immortal youth and beauty. Everything French is frittered into parts: everything is therefore dead and ineffective. French poetry is just like chopped logic: nothing comes of it. There is no life of mind: neither the birth nor generation of knowledge. It is all patch-work, all sharp points and angles, all superficial. They receive, and give out sensation, too readily for it ever to amount to a sentiment. They cannot even dance, as you may see. There is, I am sure you will agree, no expression, no grace in their dancing. Littleness, point, is what damns them in all they do. With all their vivacity and animal spirits, they dance not like men and women under the impression of certain emotions, but like puppets; they twirl round like tourniquets. Not to feel, and not to think, is all they know of this art or of any other. You might swear that a nation that danced in that manner would never produce a true poet or philosopher. They have it not in them. There is not the principle of cause and effect. They make a sudden turn because, there is no reason for it: they stop short, or move fast, only because you expect something else. Their style of dancing is difficult: would it were impossible." (By this time several persons in the pit had turned round to listen to this uninterrupted discourse,


1 This expression is borrowed from Dr. Johnson. However, as Dr. Johnson is not a German critic, Mr. C. need not be supposed to acknowledge it.—W. H.

and our eloquent friend went on, rather raising his voice with a Paulo majora canamus.) "Look at that Mademoiselle Milanie with 'the foot of fire,' as she is called. You might contrive a paste-board figure, with the help of strings or wires, to do all, and more, than she does—to point the toe, to raise the leg, to jerk the body, to run like wild-fire. Antics are not grace: to dance is not to move against time. My dear Hazlitt, if you could have. seen a dance by some Italian peasant-girls in the Campagna of Rome, as I have, I am sure your good taste and good sense would have approved it. They came forward slow and smiling, but as if their limbs were steeped in luxury, and every motion seemed an echo of the music, and the heavens looked on serener as they trod. You are right about the Miss Dennetts, though you have all the cant-phrases against you. It is true, they break down in some of their steps, but it is like 'the lily drooping on its stalk green,' or like 'the flowers Proserpina let fall from Dis's waggon.' Those who cannot see grace in the youth and inexperience of these charming girls, would see no beauty in a cluster of hyacinths, bent with the morning dew. To show at once what is, and is not French, there is Mademoiselle Hullin, she is Dutch. Nay, she is just like a Dutch doll, as round-faced, as rosy, and looks for all the world as if her limbs were made of wax-work, and would take in pieces, but not as if she could move them of her own accord. Alas, poor tender thing! As to the men, I confess " (this was said to me in an audible whisper, lest it might be construed into a breach of confidence), "I should like, as Southey says, to have them hamstrung!"—(At this moment Monsieur Hullin père looked as if this charitable operation was 1 See ante p. 178.


about to be performed on him by an extra-official warrant from the poet-laureate.)

"Pray, Hazlitt, have you seen Macready's Zanga?" "Yes."

"And what do you think of it?"

"I did not like it much."

"Nor I. Macready has talents and a magnificent voice, but he is, I fear, too improving an actor to be a man of genius. That little ill-looking vagabond Kean never improved in anything. In some things he could not, and in others he would not. The only parts of Macready's Zanga that I liked (which of course I only half-liked) were some things in imitation of the extremely natural manner of Kean, and his address to Alonzo, urging him, as the greatest triumph of his self-denial, to sacrifice

A wife, a bride, a mistress unenjoyed

where his voice rose exulting on the sentiment, like the thunder that clothes the neck of the war-horse. The person that pleased me most in this play was Mrs. Sterling: she did justice to her part-a thing not easy to do. I like Macready's Wallace better than his Zanga, though the play is not a good one, and it is difficult for the actor to find out the author's meaning. I would not judge harshly of a first attempt, but the faults of youthful genius are exuberance, and a continual desire of novelty; now the faults of this play are tameness, commonplace, and claptraps. It is said to be written by young Walker, the son of the Westminster orator. If so, his friend, Mr. Cobbett,

An actress of no great importance, who played "Old Women principally.

will probably write a Theatrical Examiner of it in his next week's Political Register. What, I would ask, can be worse, more out of character and costume, than to make Wallace drop his sword to have his throat cut by Menteith, merely because the latter has proved himself (what he suspected) a traitor and a villain, and then console himself for this voluntary martyrdom by a sentimental farewell to the rocks and mountains of his native country! This effeminate softness and wretched cant did not belong to the age, the country, or the hero. In this scene, however, Mr. Macready shone much and in the attitude in which he stood after letting his sword fall, he displayed extreme grace and feeling. It was as if he had let his best friend, his trusty sword, drop like a serpent from his hand. Macready's figure is awkward, but his attitudes are graceful and well composed.-Don't you think so? "—


I answered, yes; and he then ran on in his usual manner, by inquiring into the metaphysical distinction between the grace of form and the grace that arises from motion (as, for instance, you may move a square form in a circular or waving line), and illustrated this subtle observation at great length and with much happiness. He asked me how it was that Mr. Farren, in the farce of The Deaf Lover, played the old gentleman so well, and failed so entirely in the young gallant? I said I could not tell. He then tried at a solution himself, in which I could not follow him so as to give the precise point of his argument. He afterwards defined to me, and those about us, the merits of Mr. Cooper and Mr. Wallack, classing the first as a respectable, and the last as a secondrate actor, with large grounds and learned definitions of his meaning on both points; and, as the lights were by

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