Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

it may have been produced by Sheri- everything, it may seem curious that dan, is now beyond inquiry ; but if we Sheridan's plays were, we believe, in are to judge of its difficulty by its rare- every instance kept back from the ness, it is the most difficult of all pro- press. This might have been in some ducts. Easy writing is, according to measure the result of the partial and the proverb, not always easy reading; ridiculous law, which refuses dramaand the conceptions that cost us the tic authorship the common privilege least trouble, are generally least worth of all other, down to an almanack or the trouble. The power of turning a spelling-book, that of belonging to common things into uncommon-uni- those who produce or pay for it first. ting simplicity with point–is perhaps As the law stands, the moment a play the most dexterous operation of the is published, every Theatre in the fancy. The difficulty is in direct pro- empire may seize it in defiance of the portion to the apparent ease. Nothing author, whether he choose that it should is more facile than to be recherché. not be played at all, or not played for This Mr Moore, with all his brilliancy, nothing. If it have been played, and frequently shows by his merciless il- of course paid for by a manager, anlustrations from everything strange other party is added to the wronged. in heaven and earth, and the waters This should be amended without deunder the earth.

lay, as it is at once an offensive anoThe poetry of the Duenna has maly in our law books, and a most much of the epigrammatic neatness of extensive and fatal impediment the Sheridan's prose, and sometimes has cultivation of the most brilliant, and its tenderness and power. The fol- perhaps by no means the least nationlowing song deserves considerable al, honourable, and useful, of all au. praise.

thorship, that of the Drama. With

a Monarch the most accomplished of 'Ah, cruel maid, how hast thou changed his race, and with a Ministry obviousThe temper of my mind !

ly anxious to turn the public mind to My heart, like thee, from love estranged, the fame of Literature and the Fine Becomes, like thee, unkind.

Arts, no time could be more favour

able for relieving Dramatic authorship By fortune favour'd, clear in

from a burden which absolutely weighs I once ambitious was;

it down, and must extinguish it in And friends I had who fann'd the flame, this country. Let the proposition be And gave my youth applause.

made in the House of Commons, and

its reasonableness and importance must But now my weakness all accuse;

carry it through. Yet vain their taunts on me;

In 1775, Sheridan negotiated with Friends, fortune, fame itself I'd lose,

Garrick for the Drury Lane Theatre, To gain one smile from thee.

which appears to have been sold in And only thou should'st not despise

June following, for £70,000. SheriMy weakness or my woe;

dan had two fourteenths at £10,000. If I am mad in other's eyes,

Linley the same for £10,000, and a 'Tis thou hast made me so.

Dr Ford three fourteenths for £15,000.

The remainder of the property was, But days like this, with doubting curst, we believe, in a Mr Lacy. The inI will not long endure :

terest of this money was £3500 ; and Am I disdained, I know the worst, Sheridan adds, "that it must be inAnd likewise know my cure.

fernal management that would not

double the sum !” Sheridan was now If false, her vows she dare renounce, to become one of the thousand and That instant ends my pain,

tens of thousand exemplifications of For ah, the heart must break at once " the tide in the affairs of men.” It That cannot hate again !

was now at its flood, and Fortune lay

before him. A successful 'theatre is, Mr Moore looks upon this song as perhaps, the most money-making mahaving been written in some of the chine ever invented by man, with all moods of its author's love-makinghis faculties on the stretch for money, and the conjecture is not improbable. making in all its ways. It failures,

In our present age of publishing however, are tremendous ; and when once they fairly commence, are preci- and yet feeble performance in its oripitous and rapid beyond all other forms ginal state, which Sheridan, if he left of ruin. But Sheridan's powers were it less profligate, left still more feeble. eminently dramatic, and it is beyond This revival was under the title of question, that a regular exertion of “A Trip to Scarborough," and was them, fearless of all results but that played February 24, 1777. of leaving the theatre without new • The School for Scandal,” was first performances, be they of what rank performed May 8, 1777. they might, must have placed his es- Mr Moore's details of the composition tablishment at the head of the Eng- of “ The School for Scandal" are perlish stage. But he was habitually in- haps among the most amusing in the dolent, as all the world knows; and, volume. They are collected from the besides, he seems to have had the com- most authentic sources, and when they mon vice of early triumph, and to have may not strike by their importance, been childishly nervous about his fame. they will interest by their novelty.

“ The School for Scandal,” it is He gives a note of Garrick, written true, appeared subsequently to this four days after the first performance. period, but the greater part of it had “Mr Garrick's best wishes and combeen written long before : it would pliments to Mr Sheridan. probably never have been attempted “How is the Saint to-day? A gentleafter "The Duenna.” It is remarkable, man who is as mad as myself about that the most distinguished drama- the School remarked, that the charactists, when from their celebrity they ters upon the stage at the falling of have been taken into dramatic firms, the screen, stand too long before they have seldom been of any use to their speak.- I thought so too the first partnerships.

night.-He said it was the same on the When Betterton, in 1695, opened second, and was remarked by others; his theatre in Lincoln's-Ion-Fields, though they should be astonished and Congreve was the first Dramatist of a little petrified, yet it may be carried

The Comedy of “Love for to too great a length ;-all praise is Love," was brought out at the New

Lord Lucan's last night.”. Theatre, and all the “ Town” crowd- Mr Moore in giving the “rise and ed to it for the season. On the progress" of this fine drama, justly restrength of this, the patentees gave marks, that nothing could be less like Congreve a share in the house, on the the perfection of this finished work single condition of his supplying them than its rudiments; that no man took with a play every year. But his fame more anxious and persevering care in stood in his way. He obviously dread. correction than its author. ed to risk his laurels, and it was not The Sketch,” which was aftertill two years after that he ventured wards enlarged into “The School for to produce the “Mourning Bride.” Scandal,” was written probably before The exigencies of the house called on Sheridan had tried the stage. It was him again. He wrote, we may suppose, one of those peur d'esprit, the natural reluctantly, for his next work, “ The progeny of Bath, and of which a parWay of the World," played in 1699, entage and succession have been nurwas his worst. The casual diminu- tured by that acrid and grotesque tion of his usual applause repelled population from the days of its first the sensitive author from the course pump to the last printing season. Reto which his genius, and in some de tired and dissatisfied public men; idle gree his duty, urged him. He left the members of the universities ; opulent theatre to struggle and to perish, and barristers, bitter and bedridden with from that time gave up his pen to gout; poets, too rich or too old or too madrigals and sonnets, to Lord Hali- keenly criticised, to make anything fax and my Lady's eye-brow. His longer than a copy of “ verses to the places under Government allowed of master of the ceremonies,” or the Sahis doing this with impunity, and for brina of the pump-room-all those the sa! of his fame, he abandoned harpies and vultures of Spleen let his reputation.

loose upon a perpetual feast of bilious Sheridan's first effort as manager, East Indians, bloated men of Manwas an alteration of Vanburgh's Co. chester and Liverpool, Irish advenmedy, “The Relapse ;"—a profligate turers, struggling physicians, loung

his age.

ing parsons, and ladies of rank, chiefly exhibits a M‘Sycophant, generous and remarkable for the delicacy of their unworldly. His son, described as a reputations, amply account for the re- model of manliness, feeling, and indedundant sourness of the “ City of In- pendence, escapes from this badge dolence,” for the “ Bath Sketches,” only by the awkward contrivance of a the “Intercepted Epistles,” the “Dr name taken from a relative. Of this Warner's Ghost detected Waltzing,” difficulty, our Comedies, old and new, the "Conversations of a Woman of give numberless examples. Quality with her Monkey,” the “ Po- The “ School for Scandal" exhibits pillons," the “Wroughtoniad,” the striking instances of success in this · Sorrows of Dr Vegetable," the thou- point. It has, in the two brothers and sand and one Burlesques on King, Uncle Oliver, three personages distinct the late Master of the Ceremonies ;" in all points but one-their all disguiand in the “Bath Characters,” the sing their true characters. It gives “ Bath Guide” is but the loudest and the three the name of “Surface ;tallest of an immense family, and An- name not too remote from common stey, but the crowned bard of a host, use, and yet expressive of the three. each decorated with its appropriate The merit lies in discovering perhaps tea leaf.

the only name that could have answerSheridan's Sketch bears the family ed the object. Sir Peter and Lady on the frontal.

Teazle are as opposite as youth and It is among the many distinctions age, love of scandal and fear of it, inof the Novel and the Drama, that in trigue and jealousy, contempt and the former the names of persons are fondness. But their names must be of not required to bear any similitude to course the same; and Teazle, a name their qualities ; and that in the Come. not remote from common life, happily dy they are. The palpable reason is, expresses the characters of both. that the Novel is a picture of general In “The Rivals," Sheridan had not life ; the Comedy of particular cha- reached this tact; yet “ Absolutewas racter. The dexterity of the author is perhaps as good a name as could be tried in discovering a name sufficient- suggested for a father and son equally ly expressive, yet not bearing the self-willed. Acres is natural and suitmarks of being manufactured for the able ; Sir Lucius O'Trigger is, howpurpose. Thus the "Lackwits,” “Mo- ever, a nominal caricature. ney-traps, “ Plausibles,” of the an- The merits of the play are now becient stage, are too palpably forced in- yond criticism. It stands at the head to the service; and the object is never of all our “Comedies of Manners." Its completely obtained, but when a name wit, the more admirable, not from its in common use can be adopted into remoteness, but from its obviousness, the dramatis personæ. “Lockit" and its strong distinctness of character, and “Peachem” are fortunate seizures from its plain progress of story, leave it withcommon life. The “ Penruddocks,”

out a rival. “ Beverleys,” “Bellamonts,” &c. the Mr Moore thinks that Wycherley whole stock of romantic nomenclature, was the model of the dialogue ; and are totally useless to dramatic effect. considers Sheridan's displeasure at any They express nothing but the inopia allusion of the kind a proof. Yet å verborum of their author,

man of Sheridan's elegance of dialect But another difficulty occurs, pecu- might have been, not unnaturally, ofliar to the Drama. The qualities offended at the imputation of having members of the same family are, for drunk from that stream of grossness the sake of dramatic contrast, made to and vulgarity, the Fleet-ditch of Wyconsist of totally distinct elements. cherley. If he had any other model than Yet they must in general bear the the tone of that high life into which same name, and the artifice of the au

he was so early introduced, or his thor is tasked to find a name compre- own instinctive tact, he probably found hensive enough for all their varieties. it in Congreve ; undoubtedly the most Macklin, in the “ Man of the World,” elegant conversational dramatist beafter inventing the crude appellative of fore Sheridan, and requiring only to “Sir Pertinax M-Sycophant" for his be cleared from the customary indebitter, louring, and worldly hero, is cencies of his age to be his closest forced to apply the title to his wife, and competitor.

[ocr errors]

nance.

The proverbial faults of the “School tion of his modes of life, his elucidafor Scandal,” are its presumed encou- tion of the popular art of puffing, and ragement to seduction, as in the in- the excoriation of Sir Fretful, are all stance of Lady Teazle's arguments masterly. The second part is not against old husbands, and to prodiga merely inferior, but unequivocally tirelity, in the triumph of Charles's wit some. Sheridan was a remarkably and character. Yet, till we have a good-natured man, and there are few proof that either man or woman has wits on record who bore their faculever been led by those poetic paths ties more meekly. Cumberland, too, into ruin, we may fairly question was a man of gentle manners, a gracethe culpability of the drama. In fact, ful and accomplished person, and plays mislead no one. They may though a popular dramatist, totally sometimes stimulate latent generosity out of the line of rivalry. Yet every or manliness, by a noble sentiment or man has his point of susceptibility. an impressive character, and the ap- Sheridan's was his drama, and some of plause which regularly follows both those "good-natured friends” that are (and loudest and most unfailing from never wanting to public character, had the very humblest class of the audi- conveyed stories of Cumberland's ence), shows that the stage may be sneering at “ The School for Scandal.” made a teacher to those who will reluc- One of the old theatrical recollectantly learn of more formal discipline. tions is, that Sheridan, in his anxiety

The satire on hypocrisy, the meanest to collect opinions on the first night, of all the vices, and, in general society, asked what Mr Cumberland had said perhaps the most dangerous, much of the play. more than turns the beam.

“Not a syllable," was the answer. The faults of the plot are, its tardi- “ But did he seem amused ?" ness in the first two acts; the super- Why, faith, he might have been fluity of the two scenes of the scan- hung up beside Uncle Oliver's picture. dalous coterie," a splendid superfluity, He had the d-d disinheriting counteand the fifth act. The interest is

Like the ladies and gentlemen wrought up to its point by the disco- on the walls, he never moved a very of Lady Teazle behind the screen, muscle." and all that follows is mere explana- “ Devilish ungrateful that,” said tion, not worth the developement, or Sheridan, " for I sat out his tragedy incident of no importance to the play. last week, and laughed from beginning The curtain should fall on the dis- to end of it.” covery.

From this feeling something might Charles's love for Maria, a love be expected to come, and the expectawhich never gives rise to a meeting tion was prodigally fulfilled in Sir nor a word, is one of the blots of the Fretful. Cumberland complained bitplay, and it becomes still more ridi- terly of the attack, and declared, that culous from the present custom of giv- on the first night of the School for ing the lady's part to a mere girl, who Scandal he was not in Drury-Lane, talks of men and matrimony in a bib but in Bath. But the shaft was aland tucker.

ready flown; and Cumberland's noSheridan's last " legitimate work,” torious admiration of his own labours * The Critic," was brought out in 1779, and equally notorious sneer at every evidently formed on the plan of " The one else's, ranged the laughers against Rehearsal,” and even with some pla- him for life. giarisms from the dialogue of that Fragments of other projected plays clever and obsolete performance. are given by Mr Moore. What they Fielding's “ Pasquin," too, was a con- might have been rendered by Sheritributor ; and “ The Critic” is to be dan's extraordinary talent for turuing looked on chiefly as the most ingeni- his rudest material into value, must ous of pasticcios. sketch of this now be mere matter of conjecture. farce seems to have been the earliest “ The Foresters" seems too extravaof all his dramatic efforts, as its com- gant for anything but melo-drame. pletion was his last. The first half of His sketch of "Affectation" shows the this celebrated farce yields to nothing keenness with which he collected his of its author, if it does not exceed all hints from every rauk of society; yet his works in strength of language and the subject seems too feeble for the dexterity of sarcasm. Puff's descrip- stern requisition of the struge. AffecVol. XIX

R

tation is a common quality, but it is a positions which are called for by the sickly one ; it produces but little effect chances of the Theatre. “ A Monody in actual life, and that effect is scarce- on Garrick's Death,” in 1779, a feeble ly, capable of transfer to the drama, and tedious production, prologues, where character is almost incident. epilogues, &c.

From the specimens The subject of “ The School for Scan- given by Mr Moore, he would have dal” was, on the contrary, palpably been popular in the latter style, if his pregnant with dramatic power ; scan- general dislike for exertion had not dal, the most pertinacious, cutting, so soon led him to abandon everything universal, and characteristic of all the that belonged to a career for which he evils of civilized society.

was more eminently marked out by Sheridan wrote some of those com- nature than any man of his century.

THE QUARTERLY REVIEW OF DR MACMICHAEL ON CONTAGION AND THE

PLAGUE.

The number of the Quarterly Re- allow a draught of air from the town. view which is just published, contains On this Dr Macmichael's remark is an article on the contagiousness of the very striking plague, which professes to be a review “Now it may be worth while to inof Dr Macmichael's “ Brief Sketch of quire, what is the exact situation of the Progress of Opinion upon the Sub- those Frank inhabitants of Constanject of Contagion,” but which says tinople, who, during the height of the nothing about him or his book. This plague in that city, shut themselves is not fair, particularly as the review- up and adopt the precautions of a er, in that part of his article in which voluntary quarantine; and I will select he destroys the authority of the anti- the residence of the British embassy, contagionists, by showing their igno- which is usually called the English rance of facts, derives his most power. palace, as an example. It is situated ful argument from Dr Macmichael. in Pera, and stands in the centre of a The Westminster Peview had said, if large garden, which is surrounded by the plague had been contagious, it high walls. It immediately adjoins a would have been so manifest that it Turkish cemetery, where multitudes never could have been doubted, for no are buried daily during the season of one ever doubted that the small-pox pestilence. All the windows of the was contagious. To this assertion Dr apartments usually inhabited look to Macmichael's pamphlet is an unan- the south and south-west ; they are swerable refutation. He shows, that almost always kept open, and the as late as the great English Hippo- freest ventilation constantly maintaincrates, Sydenham, physicians were not ed. The inmates of the palace take aware that the small-pox was conta- exercise in the garden, which is of segious, but attributed it to other causes, veral acres extent, at all hours, and particularly unhealthy states of the air, expose themselves without the slightand that the notion of contagion, so est reserve, to every change of temfar from being obvious and manifest perature ; in short, the only precaueven in those diseases in which it is tion they adopt is to remain within now the most certain, as small-p

-pox,

their walls, and avoid the possibility measles, and scarlet fever, was arrived of touching any one infected with the at very slowly and gradually. When plague. If it were possible that the Dr M Lean was examined on the sub- disease should be excited by the air, ject of contagion by a committee of what could save the English residents the Ilouse of Commons, he was asked from its attacks? They are as much how he explained the fact, that people exposed to the influence of the atmoswho shut themselves up in a housė, phere, particularly to the pestilential while the plague was raging about, blasts from the south, as if they were escaped the disease? His answer was, walking the streets of Constantinople, that their safety depended on the air and yet they uniformly escape. But in which the house is situated, on its it may be observed, that the wind here elevation from the ground—on shut- blows generally from the east or west, ting the windows at the most danger- that is up or down the channel of the ous periods of the day, so as not to Bosphorus, and when it sets in from

« AnteriorContinuar »