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and walked home by the light of Bardolph's nose. We have had our fortunes told by Meg Merrilies, and have given alms to Edie Ochiltrie. These wondrous creatures are become independant of their creators: they were formed, but cannot be annihilated. We know them as well as he that made them: seldom a day passes without our having intercourse with some of them. A certificate of their existence is as wanton a waste of words to us as would be a proof of that of our brothers and sisters, of our debtors and creditors, of radicals and tax-gatherers. Had Sethos been of their kindred, the French translator need not have referred to his Greek author, nor the Greek author to his Egyptian Anecdotes : one touch of nature would have done the business more effectually. But, while our author was well qualified to imitate and rival Fenelon in whatever depended on learning and ingenuity, and is not behind his master in a pure and elevated tone of morals, there are two charms in Telemachus, of which he knew nothing-feeling and imagination.
A specimen is afforded by our extracts of the manner in which the author expounds the mythology and mysteries of antiquity. He pursues a similar course through a very extensive range of poetic fable. All, according to him, originated in facts, and those frequently not of the most heroic or imposing description. The Hesperian dragon was a winding river; the mother earth of Antæus, whose touch gave him strength, was his own dominions, in which his army was easily recruited after a defeat; the suffering giant Tityus, was the nine-acre “field of tears,” which served as a sacerdotal penitentiary at Memphis; initiatory trials and funeral ceremonies were the tangible reality of all the fearful and glorious visions of poesy; the crowned shades, that held their high conclave on Olympus, become as fleshly as the ghosts of the theatre; and we are prepared to admit that Pluto was only a clever undertaker ; Mercury, perhaps, a king's messenger; and Iris a pretty milliner. This is turning the wrong end of the telescope to the eye. His theory is the reverse of the philosopher's stone: it transmutes all the gold of antique song into lead. We must correct the Iliad by a gazette account of the Siege of Troy, with authentic returns of the killed and wounded; and read the descent of Æneas into hell, with a plan of the cellars of the temple in which it was performed, accompanied by a scale of feet and inches, and certified by the surveyor's report or builder's receipt. Of all theories, this, surely, is the worst; the most fatal to our enjoyment of the sweet sounds which float to us down the stream of ages. Much rather would we, with Bacon, trace in them hidden truths of sublime philosophy or inspired doctrine; with Bryant, deem them memorials of that dread catastrophe which made shipwreck of the world; with Warburton, assign them to legislative invention consecrating the designs of patriotism to religious reverence; or with Gibbon, make speculation only the handmaid of taste, care little about the distant and undiscoverable source of the waters which refresh us, and say that “far better 'tis to bless the sun, than reason why he shines.” Nor has this theory more pretension to truth than to beauty. If the Greeks themselves were not indigenous, much of their mythology and poetry was. The faculty of invention never rusted in their hands for lack of use. Their home manufactory was far too good for them to depend upon importation. And meanly should we think of Egyptian wisdom not to assign some higher origin to the legends, which that mother of nations taught her rising children, than is here indicated. Historical fact was doubtless often sublimated into heroic fable; but the philosophy of the heavens, of nature, of man, contributed, also, to the mythological treasure; and imagination stamped its own glorious form upon the whole, and bade it pass current through the world.
Yet is Sethos, with all its defects, a monument of learning, industry, and ingenuity, which cannot be contemplated without gratification. It was published before the Divine Legation of Moses, and disproves the vaunted originality of the mighty theologian, in his dissertation on the mysteries and interpretation of the sixth book of the Æneid. His ardent love and liberal use of the historians, poets, orators, and philosophers of Greece and Rome, cannot but recommend him. We may dissent from the arrangement, but the materials look well any way, and he has employed them unsparingly. “Whatever may be the fortune of the chace, we are sure it leads us through pleasant prospects and a fine country.” He has formed them into fantastic constellations, but still there are the stars, whose light always gladdens us. We may wish he had not. broken it to pieces, in order to re-arrange its colours, but yet we can walk pleasantly amid “atoms of the rainbow fluttering round.” A curious theory, acutely and learnedly supported, repays the trouble of wiping the dust off his three little volumes; besides that they contain very much less questionable and highly interesting matter, illustrative of Egyptian and Phænician manners, government, and religion.
Who thinks not with interest and with reverence of Egypt, that theatre of strange vicissitude, whose very name suggests the discordant recollection of all that most elevates and most degrades our nature; that nation of sages, and of savages; the source of philosophic illumination, and the sink of barbarous ignorance; the mistress of the mightiest and the tributary of the meanest; earth’s palace of splendour, and her hospital of wretchedness ;-who would not delight in a well-told tale, which might
combine whatever can be gleaned of the mysterious science of her priests, the gorgeous pomp of her monarchs, the customs and superstitions of her inhabitants, and all that constituted her primeval greatness, with what belongs to man in all times and countries, and must be found in any work that can permanently command his attention ?-Such a tale Sethos certainly is not; but it contains materials “rich and rare," and of boundless variety, from which such a tale might be framed. It is the discovery and description of a noble country; but nothing more. Would that some bold adventurer would steer for this “unploughed, untrodden shore,” and subject it to the despotism of genius. We suggest the enterprize, although, should it be ever so successful, we may neither reward nor partake the triumph, for our habitation is among the tombs : but the retrospectives of a future generation should adorn his bust with their brightest laurels.
Art. VII. The Araynment of Paris, a Pastorall. Presented be
fore the Queene's Majestie, by the Children of her Chappell.
Imprinted at London, by Henrie Marsh, 1584, 4to. The famous Chronicle of King Edward the First, sirnamed
Edward Longshankes, with his Returne from the Holy Land. Also the Life of Lluellen, Rebell in Wales. Lastly, the Sinking of Queene Elinor, who sunck at Charing Cross and rose again
at Pottershith, now named Queenhith. London, 1593. 4to. The Historie of Orlando Furioso, one of the twelve Peeres of
France. As it was plaid before the Queene's Majestie. 4to.
London, 1594. Sire Court Comedies. Often presented and acted before Queene
Elizabeth, by the Children of her Majestie's Chappel and the Children of Paule's. Written by the only rare poet of that time, the wittie, comical, facetiously-quick, and unparalleled John Lilly, Master of Arts.
Decies repetita placebunt. London, printed by William Stansby, for Edward Blunt, 1632, 12mo.
by the ChilWritten by
We are glad to meet our readers once more on dramatic ground. It will be recollected that we have, in our preceding numbers, given a hasty sketch of the rise and progress of the English drama, from those very curious old compositions The
VOL. 111. PART I.
Chester Mysteries, to the time of George Peele and Robert Greene, illustrated with such quotations as were characteristic of the writers or of the times, or distinguished for their poetical excellence. We propose, in the present article, to continue the inquiry, taking for our subject the age of the last-named authors—an age as remarkable for the peculiarities of its dramatic productions, as for the manners and habits of the writers of them. Greene, Peele, Nash, and Marlowe, formed a choice band of scholars and poets; and if some of the stories told of Greene, or the small pamphlet entitled The merrie, cons ceited jests of George Peele, may be relied on, the two former, at least, were as nimble-witted in bilking mine host and shirking a tavern bill, as they were quick in their compositions and joyous in their lives. They were careless of every thing, but “to have a spell in their purses to conjure up a good cup of wine with, at all times.” Their money, however, was of the true quicksilver kind, sliding through their fingers almost at the very instant it blessed their palms. Many a tavern in London and its neighbourhood could testify its fugitive qualities and their jovial meetings—their merry jests and mad pranks. They made wine the whetstone of their minds, and as it went round wit flashed out in sparkling corruscations, as if
“All their lives should gilded be
With mirth, and wit, and gaiety.” Higu fellows were they, and as poor as they were proud, bold, pleasant, and resolute. Poverty, indeed, griped them sometimes with a wintry shake of the hand, although it could not paralyse their minds. Nash, in his Pierce Penilesse, his supplication to the Divell, gives a very feeling account of his own struggles with this rugged acquaintance.
“ Having," he says, “spent many years in studying how to live and liv’de a long time without money; having tired my youth with follie, and surfetted my mind with vanitie, I began, at length, to looke backe to repentance, and addreste my endeavors to prosperitie: but all in vaine, I sate up late and rose early, contended with colde and conversed with scarcitie: for all my labours turned to losse, my vulgar muse was despised and neglected, my paines not regarded or slightly rewarded, and I myselfe in prime of my best wit) laid open to povertie.”
The generic character of the dramatic poetry of Greene, Peele, and Marlowe is the same, and is referable to the same causes. What these causes were, is a matter of nice and curious speculation. The proprieties and beauties of the drama were unknown to their predecessors, who were content to narrate dry facts without embellishment and without feeling. With the ex
ception of Gorboduc, which was not likely to excite to imitation men who considered poetry“ the honey of all flowers, the quintessence of all sciences, the marrowe of all wittes, and the very phrase of angels,” there was nothing in the English language like à regular tragedy. Having no models, therefore, before them, except the compositions of classical antiquity, which were not applicable to the species of writing most interesting to the general taste of the age, they were restrained by no apprehension of offending the feelings of their auditors-on the contrary, it was necessary that the dramatist “should compose his parts after the vulgar form-be new with men's new affections : he must not counter-course out from the scent of those humours the times approved.” . . . . .
Disgusted with the feeble and imperfect attempts of the tragic muse, they thought they could not make a flight too far beyond them. The imagination had been locked up, until, by a lucky experiment, the secret spring was discovered, and, at the very first touch, it burst out of its prison and became intoxicated with its new acquired liberty. The irradiation which streamed forth, like the flash of the lightning, converted the brain from sober reality to high-toned insanity. As the Indian mistook a watch for a god, did they mistake madness for inspiration, and the precincts of Bedlam* for the court of Apollo and the muses. They seized the lyre of Melpomene, and, being ravished with the delightful tone which emanated from it, they swept the strings with wild extatic haste, and produced a strange, original, and unnatural air. Intimately connected with the stage, and some of them actors, they were very likely to be infected with the turgid demeanour and mock dignity of Blackfriars or the Globe; and although, in a more advanced state of the dramatic art, the affections and sufferings of natural humanity, instead of the fantastic tricks of stilted braggadocios, would be necessary to excite any deep sympathy, yet the very ricketyness and rampant gestures of infant tragedy were calculated to rouse the astonishment and admiration of unripe judgments. The natural course of the authors was to cross over rather than fall short of the boundaries of propriety and truth.
Their individual characters, too, had no small influence on their writings. Sack and claret were the inspirers of their imaginations, and the tavern the hot bed of their poetry—and, in such a state of excitement, they sat down for the purpose of supplying the next night's revel. It is said of Greene, by one of his confraternity,“ in a night and a day would he have yarkt up a pamphlet as well as in seven years, and glad was the printer
* Greene was buried in the church-yard near this place.