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no doubt give rise to great inequalities in the productions of an author so careless of his reputation ; but will scarcely account for an attribute something like dullness, which pervades Fielding's plays, and which is rarely to be found in those works which a man of genius throws off“ at a heat,” to use Dryden's expression, in prodigal self-reliance on his internal resources. Neither are we at all disposed to believe, that an author, so careless as Fielding, took much more pains to labour his novels, than in composing his plays ; and we are, therefore, compelled to seek some other and more general reason for the inferiority of the latter. This may perhaps be found in the nature of these two studies, which, intimately connected as they seem to be, are yet naturally distinct in some very essential particulars ; so much so as to vindicate the general opinion, that he who applies himself with eminent success to the one, becomes in some degree unqualified for the other, like the artisan, who, by a particular turn for excellence in one mechanical department, loses the habit of dexterity necessary for acquitting himself with equal reputation in another; or as the artist who has dedicated himself io the use of watercolours, is usually less distinguished by his skill in oil-painting.
' It is the object of the novel-writer to place before the reader as full and accurate a representation of the events which he relates, as can be done by the mere force of an excited imagination, without the assistance of material objects. His sole appeal is made to the world of fancy and of ideas, and in this consists his strength and his weakness, his poverty and his wealth. He cannot, like the painter, present a visible and tangible representation of his towns and his woods, his palaces and his castles; but, by awakening the imagination of a congenial reader, he places before his mind's eye, landscapes fairer than those of Claude, and wilder than those of Salvator. He cannot, like the dramatist, present before our living eyes the heroes of former days, or the beautiful creations of bis own fancy, embodied in the grace and majesty of Kemble or of Sid
but he can teach his readers to conjure up forms even more dignified and beautiful than theirs. The same difference follows him through every branch of his art. The author of a novel, in short, has neither stage nor scene-painter, nor company of comedians, nor dresses, nor wardrobe-words, applied with the best of his skill, must supply all that these bring to the assistance of the dramatist. Action, and tone, and gesture, the smile of the lover, the frown of the tyrant, the grimace of the buffoon-all must be told, for nothing can be shown. Thus, the very dialogue becomes mixed with the narration; for he must not only tell what the characters actually said, in which his task is the same as that of the dramatic author, but must also describe the tone, the look, the gesture, with which their speech was accompanied ; telling, in short, all which, in the drama, it becomes the province of the actor to express. It must, therefore, frequently happen, that the author best qualified for a province, in which all depends on the communication of his own ideas and feelings to the reader, without any intervening medium, may fall short of the skill necessary to adapt bis compositions to the medium of the stage, where the very qualities most excellent in a novelist are out of place, and an impediment to success. Description and narration, which z 4
form the very essence of the novel, must be very sparingly introduced into dramatic composition, and scarce ever bave a good effect upon the stage. Mr. Puff, in The Critic, has the good sense to leave out “ all about gilding the eastern hemisphere ;" and the very first thing which the players struck out of his memorable tragedy, was the description of queen Elizabeth, ber palfrey, and her side saddle. The drama speaks to the eye
and ear; and, when it ceases to address these bodily organs, and would exact from a theatrical audience that exercise of the imagination which is necessary to follow forth and embody circumstances neither spoken nor exbibited, there is an immediate failure, though it may be the failure of a man of genius. Hence, it follows, that though a good acting play may be made by selecting a plot and characters from a povel, yet scarce any effort of genius could render a play into a narrative romance. In the former case, the author has only to contract the events within the space necessary for representation, to chuse the most striking characters, and exbibit them in the most forcible contrast, discard from the dialogue whatever is redundant or tedious, and so dramatize the whole. But we know not any effort of genius which could successfully insert into a good play, those accessaries of description and delineation which are necessary to dilate it into a readable novel. It may thus easily be conceived that he, whose chief talent lies in addressing the imagination only, and whose style, therefore, must be expanded and circumstantial, may fail in a kind of composition where so much must be left to the efforts of the actor, with his allies and assistants, the scene-painter and property-man, and where every attempt to interfere with their province is an error unfavourable to the success of the piece. Besides, it must be farther remembered that in fictitious narrative an author carries on bis manufacture alone and upon his own account; whereas, in dramatic writing, he enters into partnership with the performers, and it is by their joint efforts that the piece is to succeed. Co-partnery is called, by Civilians, the mother of discord; and how likely it is to prove so in the present instance, may be illustrated by reference to the admirable dialogue between the player and poet in Joseph Andrews, book iii. chap. 10. The poet must either be contented to fail, or to make great condescensions to the experience, and pay much attention to the peculiar qualifications, of those by whom his piece is to be represented. “And he, who in a novel had only to fit sentiments, action, and character, to ideal beings, is now compelled to assume the much more difficult task of adapting all these to real existing persons, who, unless their parts are exactly suited to their own taste, and their peculiar capacities, have, each in his line, the means, and not unfrequently the inclination, to ruin the success of the play. Such are, amongst many others, the peculiar difficulties of the dramatic art, and they seem impediments which lie peculiarly in the way of the novelist who aspires to extend bis șway over the stage.'
This account of the matter, interesting and in many parts ingenious as it is, appears to us to be upon the whole rather unsatisfactory. In the first place Sir Walter accounts for the dramatic failures of his novelists by suggesting that they had lost
in the habitual exercise of their talents for narrative, the particular turn' requisite for the attainment of excellence in the drama. But unfortunately for this theory, the fact is that Cervantes, Le Sage, Fielding, Smollett, began, one and all of them, with the drama, and after failing in that, betook themselves to the efforts by which they have earned their immortality. . No one instance is presented to us of a practised and successful dramatist trying his hand unsuccessfully at the novel: and yet it seems to be throughout assumed that the frequent occurrence of such examples constitutes the principal difficulty to be solved. Another assumption, equally bold and, as it seems to us, equally unfounded, is that, though a good acting play may be made by selecting a plot and characters from a novel, yet scarcely any effort of genius could render a play into a narrative romance. Now in the first place the former attempt (in the sense in which Sir Walter speaks of the matter) never has been made—but onceby an author from whose talents any high degree of success might have been a priori expected. Werner is in every point of view an anomaly, and we cannot consent to draw from it any general conclusion whatever. Such borrowing both of plot and character as we can trace in regard to almost every one of Shakpeare's plays is nothing to the present purpose: for there infinitely more both of quantity and of quality was added than taken. But who can suppose that a man of genius in his senses ever will condescend to busy himself with transferring another man's complete extended plot and all its full length characters from one form of composition to another, either from drama to romance, or from romance to drama? Secondly, in point of fact, no good acting play has ever been produced in the way Sir Walter describes. We have no good acting play from Don Quixote, or Gil Blas, or Tom Jones, or Roderick Random-or Waverley. The popular novels of the day are often, indeed, dramatised, in a certain sense of the word, and the people flock to see them.
But are any such performances entitled to be talked of as 'good acting plays”? On the contrary, the best of them that we have seen (for example Rob Roy) must be admitted to amount to an arbitrary sequence of individual scenes, which would be unintelligible to any audience that wanted the means of filling up every here and there the most. lamentable and hopeless hiatus from previous and perfect knowledge of the not merely plundered, but maimed, mutilated, mangled romance; and accordingly, whenever the romance passes from its first stage of extreme popular favour the 'good acting play' is sure to follow it. Fielding and Smollett had their day of being, as the author of Waverley somewhere styles the process, Terryfied. Miss Burney shared for her hour the same distinc
tion; and so but yesterday, as it seems to us, did a greater than she--already almost equally forgotten by the mob of galleryreaders— Miss Edgeworth. Before Sir Walter is entitled to argue as he has done, he must—at the least--show us, on the one hand, an author of Macbeth trying in vain to write an historical romance, or a fullgrown Molière failing in a novel; and on the other, an author of Waverley making a deliberate but fruitless inroad on the province of the drama. Had Don Quixote been an early production of Cervantes; had Le Sage written the Point d'Honneur, or even Turcaret after his Diable Boiteux: had Fielding written weak plays after Tom Jones; or Smollett dull ones after Humphry Clinker-the best perhaps, in every respect, of his works, at all events by much the most dramatic—there might have been something in such cases : but even they would, for reasons too obvious to need stating, have been insufficient.
Upon the whole, Sir W. Scott seems to be of opinion that it is a more difficult matter to produce a good play, than a good novel (for we must dismiss the distinction between novel and romance as a generic one). •The author,' he says, 'best qualified for a province in which all depends on the communication of his own ideas and feelings to the reader without any intervening medium, may fall short of the skill necessary to adapt his compositions to the medium of the stage.' This, we think, is the truth of the matter: the same creative powers, the same story, the same characters, that appear in a masterpiece of the one form of composition would, in every case, we have no doubt, be sufficient for a masterpiece in the other: but the dramatic form demands a prodigious degree of skill, of art, beyond the romantic. But though this view tends strongly to confirm the likelihood that he who writes a good novel may prove incapable of writing a good play, we confess that it appears to us to lend no assistance to the theory which Sir Walter maintains, to wit, that it must be a matter of even greater difficulty for the author of a good play to produce a good novel.
There can be no question that a man may produce a good novel without ever thinking, or having any business to think, of the stage: but we have no light suspicion that he who produces a good play furnishes, by the very act of doing so, proof abundant that he could write a good novel if he pleased. A romance may be a very good one, although it has far less cohesion of plot than is requisite for a good play, but, to say the least of the matter, it can never be the worse for having a perfect dramatic plot. Now he who frames a good tragedy begins, we cannot but think, with neither more nor less than conceiving in his own mind a good ro
mance. The play is a far more artificial representation of a given section of human life and conduct than the romance. It is the result of exquisite skill to be able to give anything like a true picture of a continued series of thoughts and deeds without departing from the form of dialogue. We all know that in every real love story, for example, much of the most interesting part, if we could come at it, remains entirely within solitary bosomsand it is the same in every story where sentiment and passion are at work. The romancer can describe all this hidden part as he pleases: the dramatist must contrive to hint it-he must have the art to make us guess from what the persons speak when they are together, what they have been thinking when alone; and how difficult this is, we may gather from the use of the prologue and of the chorus in the ancient theatre, and still more strongly from the use which all dramatists have made of the soliloquyếa method the employment of which nothing but absolute necessity could ever have reconciled us to - and which, in plain words, the dramatist never (or almost never) has recourse to, without leaving his own department and trespassing on that of the romancer. But how many soliloquies must there have been in the first conception of a Macbeth, a Hamlet, a Timon, a Lear! And shall we believe that these soliloquies were the only invasions ? Shall we believe that Shakspeare did not conceive in his own mind both the external nature which was to be represented as it might by scenery, and every action, gesture, look, pause, start, which were afterwards to be supplied or denied by the Quality'? And if he had all this in his head, where should have been the mighty difficulty of writing it down? Suppose some months ere Macbeth was to be produced he had been to tell some friend at the Mermaid what he was doing at home-suppose he had been to give Burbadge a notion of the embryo tragedy, what could he have done but speak a narrative abounding, as all interesting narratives do, in description, and broken here and there into patches of dialogue, the shadows more or less condensed of that which was to come ;- and suppose there had been a Gurney in the antechamber, what could the result have been but : Macbeth, an Historical Romance by the Author of Hamlet'?
Goethe, in his Wilhelm Meister, has attempted to draw a line of absolute distinction between the materials of the romance and those of the drama; and, if he had succeeded in this, he must of course have solved at once the difficulties with which Sir Walter Scott has been embarrassed. • The drama,' says he, · has characters and deeds; the field of romance is incident, feelings, and manners.'
But this, we fear, is a mere ideal line,' and, to say the least of it, if no more substantial division can be established