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the plan of showing off by firing cannonshot when everybody else is contented with musketry, then undoubtedly he produces an impression, but at the expense of insulating himself from the sympathies of the company, and standing aloof as a sort of monster hired to play tricks of funambulism for the night. Yet again, if he contents himself with a musket like other people, then for us, from whom he modestly hides his talent under a bushel, in what respect is he different from the man who has no such talent?
"If she be not fair to me,
What care I how fair she be ?"
The reader, therefore, may take it upon the à priori logic of this dilemma, or upon the evidence of our own experience, that all reputation for brilliant talking is a visionary thing, and rests upon a sheer impossibility, viz., upon such a histrionic performance in a state of insulation from the rest of the company as could not be effected, even for a single time, without a rare and difficult collusion, and could not, even for that single time, be endurable to a man of delicate and honorable sensibilities.
against social rights, but a blind selfishness, yielding passively to its own instincts, without being distinctly aware of the degree in which this self-indulgence trespasses on the rights of others. We see the same temper illustrated at times in traveling; a brutal person, as we are disposed at first to pronounce him, but more frequently one who yields unconsciously to a lethargy of selfishness, plants himself at the public fireplace, so as to exclude his fellow-travelers from all but a fraction of the warmth. Yet he does not do this in a spirit of willful aggression upon others; he has but a glimmering suspicion of the odious shape which his own act assumes to others, for the luxurious torpor of self-indulgence has extended its mists to the energy and clearness of his perceptions. Meantime, Coleridge's habit of soliloquizing through a whole evening of four or five hours, had its origin neither in arrogance nor in absolute selfishness. The fact was, that he could not talk unless he were uninterrupted, and unless he were able to count upon this concession from the company. It was a silent contract between him and his hearers, that nobody should speak but himself. If any man objected to this arrangement, why did he come? For the custom of the place, the lex loci, being notorious, by coming at all he was understood to profess his allegiance to the autocrat who presided. It was not, therefore, by an insolent usurpation that Coleridge persisted in monology through his whole life, but in virtue of a concession from the kindness and respect of his friends. You could not be angry with him for using his privilege, for it was a privilege conferred by others, and a privilege which he was ready to resign as soon as any man demurred to it. But though reconciled to it by these considerations, and by the ability with which he used it, you could not but feel that it worked ill for all parties. Himself it tempted oftentimes into pure garrulity of egotism, and the listeners it reduced to a state of debilitated sympathy or of absolute torpor. Prevented by the custom from putting questions, from proposing doubts, from asking for explanations, react
Yet surely Coleridge had such a reputation, and without needing any collusion at all; for Coleridge, unless he could have all the talk, would have none. But then this was not conversation. It was not colloquium, or talking with the company, but alloquium, or talking to the company. As Madame de Stael observed, Coleridge talked, and could talk, only by monologue. Such a mode of systematic trespass upon the conversational rights of a whole party, gathered together under pretence of amusement, is fatal to every purpose of social intercourse, whether that purpose be connected with direct use and the service of the intellect, or with the general graces and amenities of life. The result is the same, under whatever impulse such an outrage is practiced; but the impulse is not always the same: it varies; and so far the criminal intention varies. In some people this gross excess takes its rise in pure arrogance. They are fully aware of their own intrusion upon the general privileges of the company; they are aware of the tempering in which it is likely to be received; but they persist willfully in the wrong, as a sort of homage levied compulsorily upon those who may wish to resist it, but hardly can do so without a violent interruption, wearing the same shape of indecorum as that which they resent. In most people, however, it is not arrogance which prompts this capital offence
by no mode of mental activity, and condemned also to the mental distress of hearing opinions or doctrines stream past them by flights which they must not arrest for a moment, so as even to take a note of them, and which yet they could not often understand, or, seeming to understand, could not always approve, the audience sank at times into a listless condition of inanimate vacuity. To
be acted upon for ever, but never to react, is | fatal to the very powers by which sympathy must grow, or by which intelligent admiration can be evoked. For his own sake, it was Coleridge's interest to have forced his hearers into the active commerce of question and answer, of objection and demur. Not otherwise was it possible that even the attention could be kept from drooping, or the coherency and dependency of the arguments be forced into light.
The French rarely make a mistake of this nature. The graceful levity of the nation could not easily err in this direction, nor tolerate such deliration in the greatest of men. Not the gay temperament only of the French people, but the particular qualities of the French language, which (however poor for the higher purposes of passion) is rich beyond all others for purposes of social intercourse, prompt them to rapid and vivacious exchange of thought. Tediousness, therefore, above all other vices, finds no countenance or indulgence amongst the French, excepting always in two memorable cases, viz., first, he case of tragic dialogue on the stage, which is privileged to be tedious by usage and tradition; and, secondly, the case (authorized by the best usages in living society) of narrators or raconteurs. This is a shocking anomaly in the code of French good taste as applied to conversation. Of all the bores whom man in his folly hesitates to hang, and heaven in its mysterious wisdom suffers to propagate their species, the most insufferable is the teller of "good stories"-a nuisance that should be put down by cudgeling, by submersion in horse-ponds, or any mode of abatement, as summarily as men would combine to suffocate a vampire or a mad dog. This case excepted, however, the French have the keenest possible sense of all that is odious and all that is ludicrous in prosing, and universally have a horror of des longueurs. It is not strange, therefore, that Madame de Stael noticed little as extraordinary in Coleridge beyond this one capital monstrosity of unlimited soliloquy, that being a peculiarity which she never could have witnessed in France; and, considering the burnish of her French tastes in all that concerned colloquial characteristics, it is creditable to her forbearance that she noticed even this rather as a memorable fact than as the inhuman fault which it was. On the other hand, Coleridge was not so forbearing as regarded the brilliant French lady. He spoke of her to ourselves as a very frivolous person, and in short summary terms that
disdained to linger upon a subject so inconsiderable. It is remarkable that Goethe and Schiller both conversed with Madame de Stael, like Coleridge, and both spoke of her afterward in the same disparaging terms as Coleridge. But it is equally remarkable that Baron William Humboldt, who was personally acquainted with all the four partiesMadame de Stael, Goethe, Schiller, and Coleridge-gave it as his opinion (in letters subsequently published) that the lady had been calumniated through a very ignoble cause, viz., mere ignorance of the French language, or, at least, non-familiarity with the fluencies of orul French. Neither Goethe nor Schiller, though well acquainted with written French, had any command of it for purposes of rapid conversation; and Humboldt supposes that mere spite at the trouble which they found in limping after the lady so as to catch one thought that she uttered, had been the true cause of their unfavorable sentence upon her. Not malice aforethought, so much as vindictive fury for the sufferings they had endured, accounted for their severity in the opinion of the diplomatic baron. He did not extend the same explanation to Coleridge's case, because, though even then in habits of intercourse with Coleridge, he had not heard of his interview with the lady, nor of the results from that interview; else what was true of the two German wits was true à fortiori of Coleridge: the Germans at least read French and talked it slowly, and occasionally understood it when talked by others. But Coleridge did none of these things. We are all of us well aware that Madame de Stael was not a trifler; nay, that she gave utterance at times to truths as worthy to be held oracular as any that were uttered by the three inspired wits, all philosophers, and bound to truth; but all poets, and privileged to be wayward. This we may collect from these anecdotes, that people accustomed to colloquial despotism, and who wield a sceptre within a circle of their own, are no longer capable of impartial judgments, and do not accommodate themselves with patience, or even with justice, to the pretensions of rivals; and were it only for this result of conversational tyranny, it calls clamorously for extinction by some combined action upon the part of society.
Is such a combination on the part of society possible as a sustained effort? We imagine that it is in these times, and will be more so in the times which are coming. Formerly the social meetings of men and women, except only in capital cities, were few; and even in such
cities the infusion of female influence was not broad and powerful enough for the correction of those great aberrations from just ideals which disfigured social intercourse. But great changes are proceeding: were it only by the vast revolution in our means of intercourse, laying open every village to the contagion of social temptations, the world of Western Europe is tending more and more to a mode of living in public. Under such a Under such a law of life, conversation becomes a vital interest of every hour, that can no more suffer interruption from individual caprice or arrogance than the animal process of respiration from transient disturbances of health. Once, when traveling was rare, there was no fixed law for the usages of public rooms in inns or coffee-houses; the courtesy of individuals was the tenure by which men held their rights. If a morose person detained the newspaper for hours, there was no remedy. At present, according to the circumstances of the case, there are strict regulations, which secure to each individual his own share of the common rights.
A corresponding change will gradually take place in the usages which regulate conversation. It will come to be considered an infringement of the general rights for any man to detain the conversation, or arrest its movement, for more than a short space of time, which gradually will be more and more defined. This one curtailment of arrogant pretensions will lead to others. Egotism will no longer freeze the openings to intellectual discussions; and conversation will then become, what it never has been before, a powerful ally of education, and generally of selfculture. The main diseases that besiege conversation at present are-1st, The want of timing. Those who are not recalled, by a sense of courtesy and equity, to the continual remembrance that, in appropriating too large a share of the conversation, they are committing a fraud upon their companions, are beyond all control of monitory hints or of reproof, which does not take a direct and open shape of personal remonstrance; but this, where the purpose of the assembly is festive and convivial, bears too harsh an expression for most people's feelings. That objection, however, would not apply to any mode of admonition that was universally established. A public memento carries with it no personality. For instance, in the Roman law-courts, no advocate complained of the clepsydra, or water time-piece, which regulated the duration of his pleadings. Now such a contrivance would not be impracticable
at an after-dinner talk. To invert the clepsydra, when all the water had run out, would be an act open to any one of the guests, and liable to no misconstruction, when this check was generally applied, and understood to be a simple expression of public defence, not of private rudeness or personality. The clepsydra ought to be filled with some brilliantly colored fluid, to be placed in the centre of the table, and with the capacity, at the very most, of the little minute-glasses used for regulating the boiling of eggs. It would obviously be insupportably tedious to turn the glass every two or three minutes; but to do so occasionally would avail as a sufficient memento to the company. 2dly, Conversation suffers from the want of some discretional power, lodged in an individual for controlling its movements. Very often it sinks into flats of insipidity through mere accident. Some trifle has turned its current upon ground, where few of the company have anything to say-the commerce of thought languishes; and the consciousness that it is languishing about a narrow circle, "unde pedem proferre pudor vetat," operates for the general refrigeration of the company. Now the ancient Greeks had an officer appointed over every convivial meeting, whose functions applied to all cases of doubt or interruption that could threaten the genial harmony of the company. We also have such officers, presidents, vice-presidents, &c.; and we need only to extend their powers, so that they may exercise over the movement of the conversation the beneficial influence of the Athenian symposiarch. At present the evil is, that conversation has no authorized originator; it is servile to the accidents of the moment; and generally these accidents are merely verbal. Some word or some name is dropped casually in the course of an illustration; and that is allowed to suggest a topic, though neither interesting to the majority of the persons present, nor leading naturally into other collateral topics that are more so. Now in such cases it will be the business of the symposiarch to restore the interest of the conversation, and to rekindle its animation, by recalling it from any tracks of dullness or sterility into which it may have rambled. The natural excursiveness of colloquial intercourse, its tendency to advance by subtle links of association, is one of its advantages; but mere vagrancy from passive acquiescence in the direction given to it by chance, or by any verbal accident, is amongst its worst diseases. The business of the symposiarch will be, to watch these morbid ten
dencies, which are not the deviations of graceful freedom, but the distortions of imbecility and collapse. His business it will also be, to derive occasions of discussion bearing a general and permanent interest from the fleeting events or the casual disputes of the day. His business again it will be to bring back a subject that has been imperfectly discussed, and has yielded but half of the interest which it premises, under the interruption of any accident which may have carried the thoughts of the party into less attractive channels. Lastly, it should be an express office of education to form a particular style, cleansed from verbiage, from elaborate parenthesis, and from circumlocution, as the only style fitted for a purpose which is one of pure enjoyment, and where every moment used by the speaker is deducted from a public stock.
Many other suggestions for the improvement of conversation might be brought forward within ampler limits; and especially for that class of conversation which moves by discussion, a whole code of regulations might be proposed, that would equally promote the interests of the individual speakers and the public interests of the truth involved in the question discussed. Meantime
nobody is more aware than we are that no style of conversation is more essentially vulgar than that which moves by disputation. This is the vice of the young and the inexperienced, but especially of those amongst them who are fresh from academic life. But discussion is not necessarily disputation; and the two orders of conversation-that, on the one hand, which contemplates an interest of knowledge, and of the self-developing intellect; that, on the other hand, which forms one and the widest amongst the gay embellishments of life-will always advance together. Whatever there may remain of illiberal in the first (for, according to the remark of Burke, there is always something illiberal in the severer aspects of study until balanced by the influence of social amenities), will correct itself, or will tend to correct itself, by the model held up in the second; and thus, the great organ of social intercourse, by means of speech, which hitherto has done little for man, except through the channel of its ministrations to the direct business of daily necessities, will at length rise into a rivalship with books, and become fixed amongst the alliances of intellectual progress, not less than amongst the ornamental accomplishments of convivial life.
SECRETS OF OPERA MANAGEMENT. THE following is a list of salaries paid, in the seasons of 1848 and 1849, to the principal performers at the Covent Garden Theatre, under the management of Mr. Delafield, now a bankrupt:-Mdlle. Alboni, 1848, 4,000l.; Mdlle. Angri, 1849, 2,500l.; Madame Castellan, 1848, 1,7281.; Mdlle. Corbari, 1848, 432; 1849, 4801.; Dorus Gras, 1849, 1,500l.; Catherine Hayes, 1849, 1,300l.; De Meric, 1849, 5007.; Grisi, in 1848, 3,1067.; in 1849, 2,800/.; Persiani, in 1848, 6401.; in 1849, 5007.; Ronconi, in 1848, 4801.; in 1849, 480l.; Steffanoni, in 1848, 600l.; Viardot, in 1848, 4,000l.; in 1849, for two months, 1,213/. Sig. Corradi had, in 1848, 8801. Morio, in the same year, 2,235l.; and in 1849, 2,7201.; Roger, in 1848, 2,1107.; Ronconi, in 1848, 1,1207.; in 1849, 1,1207.; Salvi, in 1848, 1,520.; in 1849, 1,040l.; Tamburini, in 1848, 1,7007.; in 1849, the same sum. The whole amount expended in the vocal department was, in 1848, 33,3497.; 1849, 25,6441. In the ballet accounts the two Bretin received, in 1848, 9671. Lucille Grahn, in 1848, 1,120.; 1849, 1,000. The two Casati, in 1848 and 1849, more than 1,000l. Marmet,
| in 1848, 6507.; Silvani, in 1848, 4501. The whole expenditure in the ballet department amounted, in 1848, to 8,105l.; in 1849, to 2,5261. The orchestra department shows an expenditure of 10,0187. in 1848, and of 7,3981. in 1849. Now, it should be remembered, that the above sums merely represent the gains of these singing and dancing gentry for a portion of the year. There is, at least, there was, the Parisian as well as the London season. Then, as far as the singers are concerned, there is the harvest in the provinces, as well as the sums they receive for attendance at private parties in the metropolis. Taking all these items into account, there is not much rashness in supposing that a successful opera singer or ballet dancer is far better off than a Secretary of State or a Puisne Judge. The Chancellor, the Archbishops, and some few of the Right Reverend Bench, and the Chiefs of the Three Courts, are, probably, nearly as well paid as a prima donna, or a firstrate tenor. As for the army and navy, these professions are, by comparison with an opera career, mere beggary and starvation.
From the English Review.
ROBERT BROWNING'S POEMS.
Poems. By ROBERT BROWNING. In two Volumes. A new Edition. London: Chapman and Hall. 1848.
Ir it be important, be indispensable, that | organs of the Church and State, the representatives of the great principles of order and religion, should never be wanting in the hour of trial to their country and their God, should always be ready to devote their main attention to the graver questions of the age, -it remains, nevertheless, scarcely less expedient, that less serious subjects should also be discussed by them from a Christian point of view; that the world should be shown, Christianity is not a thing apart, but a living principle, capable of permeating all things, and of glorifying the very use of that world, and of 66 the flesh." Thus, on a recent occasion, we shrank not from examining and praising the great "Humorists" of the day, lovingly recognizing those elements of Christian truth apparent in many of their creations thus we now purpose, not to introduce to our readers' notice (for praised he already has been in this Review), but to give them some sufficient notion of, the Poet and Dramatist, Robert Browning. Such minds as his should be dealt with fairly and honorably: we have no right to reject or pass them by, because they do not treat religious themes directly, or use our own exact phraseology: in so doing, we should adopt a suicidal course, implying that our Christian philosophy was not sufficiently comprehensive to include any general truth which should not at first sight appear a part of our dogmatic system.
Having said so much by way of preamble, we must proceed to assert, lest we should appear to do Mr. Browning injustice, that he is always reverential, and sometimes directly Christian. His main error, indeed, is one of a serious nature; but some of our readers may perhaps esteem it a virtue. We know that there are enthusiastic Churchmen and earnest Christians, who applaud the murderous deed of Tell, and warmly sympathize with, if they do not sanctify the memory of,
Charlotte Corday. We do not belong to this class of thinkers in our eyes, murder is always murder; and political murder is perhaps the most odious of slaughters. Once admit the possible right, in such a case as Tell's, for instance, and the meanest scoundrel has but to allege conscience, and he is justified in assassinating the best of kings, or the first of heroes, because, forsooth, he regards their existence as fatal to the rights of man. Now, we do not assert that Mr. Browning would seriously advocate political murder; but he certainly alludes to it, and even treats of it, in a most lenient tone. To mention one single instance, in his dramatic poem of Paracelsus," a certain poet called Aprile, expressing his desire to be at once sculptor, painter, poet, and musician, and giving a list of those objects he should especially wish to embody, declares he would omit
"no youth who stands, Silent and very calm amid the throng; His right hand ever hid beneath his robe, Until the tyrant pass."
In the poem of "Pippa Passes," we have another offensive instance of the same apparent predilection, against which we must beg to enter our most energetic protest. Another mischievous tendency of this poet's, in our opinion, is toward the exaltation of suicide, as a high and noble act. From time immemorial, poets have availed themselves of this method of disposing of troublesome characters, but we have not the less objection to it on this account. It has indeed been made a question, even among Christian casuists, whether in some instances death might not be preferable to shame. We are of opinion, however, that the Christian's paramount duty must be endurance, even in the most extreme cases. But Mr. Browning's suicides are not suicides of this character: that in "Luria," as well as that in "The