« PreviousContinue »
cerity, which is almost all in all with us, provided there is good intention; and we were inclined to like him for it, and to hope that the grandeur of his position, as a man who had had the good fortune of settling the late wars, might supply him with a sort of moral superiority to his deficiencies, and enable him, in'conformance with the spirit of the age, to discover the still higher glory of doing what Bonaparte himself had not done, and had repented for it. But from the way in which he has proceeded to fill up Mr Huskisson's place, joined with other evidences which now take a new and unfavourable aspect, we fear that he is what his enemies have represented him, a mere soldier, fond of mere power, unable to learn better, and thinking to rule us like a barrack-master. If so, we suspect that a greater “moral lesson" is preparing for him than he can imagine, and that he and his " Drawcansirs” will be rendered supremely ridiculous, both in and out of Parliament. Out of Parliament we are sure they will; and in Parliament we fancy certain civilians musteriug up all the spirit of the toga against the sword, speeches and absurdities pulled to bits, and the debates next day powdered with parentheses of “ Hear; hear!” and “A laugh,” and “Loud laughter," and " Great indignation on the military benches.” · If however we are mistaken, and the “ great moral lesson" which he talked of in Bonaparte's case was not a mere phrase caught from the Emperor Alexander, or some other person at council, none will be more glad of it than ourselves, or louder in hailing the phenomenon, We confess we are great hopers; and do think, that extraordinary' circumstances may bring about others more extraordinary. The world are not to suppose that the speck of time, which they call the experience of ages, contains all that ever has been done, or ever will be: and if public opinion was ever a thing powerful (which it has never been denied), we have good reason to know, that never had it so many means of being powerful, and lifting up a multitude of voices, as at present. Thousands of presses are at work over the enlightened part of the globe, pouring forth knowledge, as from so many iron fountains ; and whatever attempt may be made to the contrary, we no more believe that. Wellington's soldiers, any more than Nápoleon's, could be able to keep their feet
against the stream, than so many little boys against “ the schoolmaster.” We thought to have made a grander simile; but this will do for the occasion. A prosing Archbishop, who talks of Moses where Christian charity is concerned, is now laughed at, even in the House of Lords; and state militant will be treated no better than church militant, if it comes to be absurd.* *
PASTA IN DESDEMONA. A CRITIC in a Sunday paper has found fault with our opinion of Pasta's behaviour under the dagger in this character. His argument is as follows.
“Wilkes's admirer protested that he did not squint “more than a gentleman ought to squint." The Companion, in the same mood of amiable enthusiasm, writes thus of Pasta. We have been told, that when Pasta (in Otello) sees the dagger upheld to kill her, she fairly seizes her petticouts, and shrieks, and runs for it. This is one of those great strokes of nature, by which she drives at once into the heart of the multitude; and nothing, as a thing tragic, can surpass it.' We too are vehement admirers of Pasta, but we must honestly confess that this action has not pleased us. Pasta's figure is not exactly the build for running; and when we have seen her scuttling over the stage, our minds have we know not from what associationranged to the bustle between the phoca or seal and Hector in Scott's Antiquary, and an unlucky sense of the comic has mixed with the horrible. Other people, it is true, may not think of that same phoca or seal who performs in the Antiquary, but they must surely see a particular awkwardness in Pasta's quick movements. The Companion tells us however that it is a great stroke of nature thus fairly to seize the petticoats and run for it “to gird up the loins," as Dominie Sampson expresses it, and “fly incoll, tinently." This nature is a word of immense convenience in criticism, because it is of such vague import. But as we are not savages nature varies considerably with persons and circumstances. It is natural to fly from death, but we know that persons who are conscious that death is inevitable do not attempt to fly from it; witness the conduct of individuals on the scaffold, who bend their heads to the block, or offer their necks to
* The Archbishop of Tuam brings up “ the law and the prophets" to shew that the Catholics ought not to be emancipated, and says also that he has a few words to add “upon purgatory—(a laugh"_“I could go on," said his Grace, " for hours, on the doctrine of purgatory (a laugh).” The best proof of purgatory is, that the Catholies are in it at present. As to the law and the prophets, does his Grace remember what was said about them by the benevolent author of Christianity ? " Love thy neighbours as thyself; in this are fulfilled the law and the prophets." This is the spirit of Christianity; and we are told in the same book, that ós the letter killeth, and the spirit giveth life." But we are loth to quote texts, considering how many can be quoted on all sides, and all to undo one another. We all feel what true Christianity means, and that its essence consists in the very reverse of intolerance and want of progression.
the rope. Johnson, who was murdered by Lord Ferrers, did not endeavour to run away—not because he was unaware of his danger, or indifferent to escape, but because he perceived that the attempt would be useless, and in this case a feeling of dignity, which cleaves to us to the last, forbids a useless act of fear. We are sure that our memories would supply us with instances of many who have suffered death by assassination without flying from the stroke ; and we are confident that, escape being hopeless, pride suggests such conduct. What is the case of Pasta's Desdemona? She is shut up in the same room with a man who has the habit of command over her, who is armed with a dagger, and resolved to take her life. She runs about wildly to escape the danger; many women, most women perhaps would do so, and it would therefore be said to be natural to them, and some of the best, of the highest natures, would not do so, and the patient surrender would also be natural to them. The only question then is, which of the two descriptions is the more proper subject for tragedy. * ** * * Shakspeare certainly did not intend Desdemona fairly to seize her petticoats and run for it; for he has, as if to preclude such pranks, taken her petticoats off, and put her to bed. In this predicament, Desdemona feels that she must not run about before a gentleman (not to mention the audience), let her be as much disposed to be fugacious as she inay. It would be a great stroke of nature, if she were to kick the bed-elothes off when suffocating, but she does not even do that. Decorum prevails, and she dies with punctilious decency. Nevertheless, had Miss O'Neil knocked the counterpane and sheets about, and broken some articles of crockery, it might have been applauded by her admirers, and we could not have denied her right to struggle. Isu vib* It is not every horror that is dramatic—there are vulgar horrors as well as poetic horrors, and that in question is, we think, of the former class. In the stage directions of an old play, we remember to have seen it ordered, after an explosion, that heads, legs, and arms, should be scattered about the stage “ as bloodie as may be this might have been horrible, but it was not tragic. It was a vulgar machinery. Pasta's flight in Otello is, to our minds, of the same "as-bloodie-as-may-be” order.”
“We express this difference of opinion with every respect for a remarkably exact taste. No judgment is however so straight and strong as to defy the warp of partiality-except, of course, our own.”
No 10, eqod at We thank our brother-critic for the courtesy of this conclusion, especially after the “ austere regard” of his commencement. But we are compelled to say, that we still think him wrong, and that his argument is wrong throughout. First, as to the ocular demons: stration of his exordium :—there would have been something in it, had we said that Pasta was no fatter than a heroine ought to be. On the contrary, we think she is, and have often said so; though we differ with the writer, as to the mode in which such things ought to be said of women, especially of those who delight us and deserve our respect. We are more than usually called on to be considerate with regard to a woman like Pasta, because an actress of her sort must go through a great deal of emotion, and thus render herself
peculiarly liable to the temptation of counter-excitement, and of a little excess in the mode of renewing her strength; and when we reflect how the time of such persons is taken up, and in how many ways of late 'hours, and studies, and flatteries, they are diverted from 'recruiting their health in a better manner, we must not be too hard upon them if the nature of their temperament is such as to make them a little too fat and festive in appearance, where others, who indulge more, may be liable to no such betrayals. For this reason we have omitted as much of our critic's ungraciousness on that head as possible. We have also left out an allusion to a per son said to be now living, who is charged with having hidden himself in an hour of peril, and to have been at the same time one of the last persons who ought to have set so unmanly an example, The humiliation which this unhappy individual must undergo, is surely enough for him; and need not be brought in to shew that the exhibition of fear is unbecoming on the part of a woman. It is justly expected of a man that he should be brave, even should his individual nature be timid ; but the question of fear and courage has, in truth, nothing to do with the subject. Inevitable death has nothing to do with it. Dignity has nothing to do withi it. Desdemona is a young, fond, and innocent woman, suddenly threatened with death by the man she loves. Her natural impulse is to try and avoid the death, both in the horror that must be common to all such women, especially on such an occasion, and. in the hope of avoiding it for the sake of both parties. We supposed, in our article on the subject, that Pasta, in her general performance of Desdemona, as well as in the particular passage here caricatured, adopted that mode of evincing her feelings, which is natural to womankind; but we drew at the same time a disa tinction, which the critic has overlooked, between her performance of the character as a mere, impassioned, unsophisticate woman, and what might be looked upon as a good, or perhaps still better personation of it by Mademoiselle Sontag as the lady. This disar tinction, if we mistake not (for we have not the 'article by us tot refer to followed upon the passage which our critic has quoted; and an attention to it, we conceive, would have overturned at once all necessity for his argument :--but unfortunately he is wrong also
respecting the Desdemona of Shakspeare. · He appears to have had án inkling of this, when he says that Shakspeare seems to have put her to bed, purely to hinder her from attempting to run away. “Decorum,” he says, “prevails; and she dies with punctilious decency.” But what says Shakspeare ?-
Des. Oh, banish me, my lord, but kill me not.
Des. But while I say one prayer. is. Oth. It is too late. (He smothers her). . . . .' And see the whole scene. What a writer is Shakspeare! Reading onward, we came upon the following, and our eyes gushed with tears.
Emelia.' 'Oh, who has done this deed? d Des. Nobody; I myself; farewell: Commend me to my kind lord : oh! farewell. (Dies).... This is delicacy, if you please; this is “ dignity." Desdemona dreaded death, as a young and a tender woman; and she felt the greater horror of it, because it was to be inflicted by the man she loved; but having received it, she is still the tender woman; and dignity, which is the sense of worth, then speaks in its most generous language, and attempts to screen and to console the hand that harmed it. .. is - 1 i .. pus ing is 4, We are not fond of giving ourselves airs of patronage, and indeed
have no right to do so. We have also, in the days of our criticism, - that is to say, of our youth and our wapt of thought, been great sinners in the article of severity. But assuming that our critic is young also in proportion as he is severe, and conceding that he may know a great many things better than we do, we would fain give him the benefit of our experience on what we do know; and accordingly we hope he will make haste to discover how much greater the
delight is, as well as more honourable the difficulty, in finding out i beauties than faults, and helping to create what he desires, as the
sun does the flowers that it looks upon. In addition to evidences of talent, which we suppose have been long recognized, he gave one the other day (if we mistake not) of a capability of generous