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The forest fiend hath snatched him
woods." Now these two lines consist in a senseless plagiarism from the counterfeited madness of Edgar in Lear, who, in imitation of the gipsy incantations, puns on the old word mair, a hag; and the no less senseless adoption of Dryden's forest fiend,* and the wizard stream by which Milton, in his Lycidas, so finely characterizes the spreading Deva, fabulosus amnis.t Observe too these images stand unique in the speeches of Imogine, without the slightest resemblance to any thing she says before or after. But we are weary. The characters in this act frisk about, here, there, and everywhere, as teasingly as the Jack o’Lantern-lights which mischievous boys, from across a narrow street, throw with a looking. glass on the faces of their opposite neighbors. Bertram disarmed, out-heroding Charles de Moor in the Robbers, befaces the collected knights of St. Anselm (all in complete armor), and so, by pure dint of black looks, he outdares them into passive poltroons. The sudden revolution in the Prior's manners we have before noticed, and it is indeed so outrć, that a number of the audience imagined a great secret was to come out, viz. : that the Prior was one of the many instances of a youthful sinner metamorphosed into an old scold, and that this Bertram would appear at last to be his son. Imogine re-appears at the convent, and dies of her own accord. Bertram stabs himself, and dies by her side, and that the play may conclude as it began, to wit, in a superfetation of blasphemy upon nonsense, because he had snatched a sword from a despicable coward, who retreats in terror when it is pointed towards him in sport; this felo de se, and thief-captain—this loathsome and leprous confluence of robbery, adultery, murder, and cowardly assassination,—this monster, whose best deed is, the having saved his betters from the degradation of hanging him, by turning Jack Ketch to himself; first recommends the charitable Monks and holy Prior to pray for his soul, and then has the folly and impudence to exclaim
“I die no felon's death,
[Great displeasure was excited among the patrons of Mr. Maturin by this review of his tragedy, and to those who deemed such a production worthy of patronage it must naturally have appeared an unwarrantable piece of violence. I have even heard a friend of Mr. Coleridge object to it, not as unjust, but as having been called forth by an occasion unworthy to occupy his thoughts. For my own part, I feel some dislike to the literary censures which accompany the moral exposure, because I think they tend to weaken its effect :-though a corrupt taste is often so intricated with a corrupt morality that it is difficult to exhibit either separately;—the moral exposure itself I do not consider unworthy of one, who never wanted generosity to point out what was noble and admirable, at the risk of throwing his own performances into shade, and who never lacked courage openly to denounce what he knew to be wrong and injurious,-especially in his own province of literature,—by which the public might be affected.
It appears in the Life of Sir Walter Scott, that a fierce attack upon Mr. Coleridge, in consequence of these strictures, had been prepared by the author of Bertram, and that this was suppressed by the advice of the author of Waverley, who admonished his correspondent, that the world might not sympathize with his indignation to the extent in which he had poured it forth; and also that it might injure the effect of his forthcoming romance, into some part of which the tirade had been introduced—that such an outburst of rage in such a place would be like a stream of lava rushing from the side of a peaceful green hill. Some of the hills which were raised in those days by writers of the Satanic school would have been little the worse for a volcanic eruption,-so flamy and sulphureous were they in their own nature. This, from Sir Walter's description, must have been of a milder sort. As far as Mr. Coleridge was concerned, he could not have been materially the worse had one more fiery libel, designed for the blasting of his credit, been sent off to whiz and blaze and burn blue for a moment. Could Mr. Maturin have justified his play? Could be have washed it white in its moral complexion! Any thing to that effect ought not to have been suppressed. Whether the Public would have sympathized with his natural anger I know not, but of this I am sure, that he could not have blackened my father's reputation as a writer with the upprejudiced part of it, or on any point in which the Public had any concern.
But in default of other weapons of adequate force Mr. Maturin may have spatched up in his baste the dagger of personality; indeed it may be conjectured that he did so, because, Sir Walter Scott, in a spirit of conciliation, alludes to Mr. Coleridge's bad habits. At that very time my father was taking measures and making efforts to break the chain of those habits; he had never abandoned himself wholly to their effects, but had still striven, in one way or other, to labor usefully to the public and profitubly for his family, to whose use he had devoted the annuity spoken of in these pages. Could the noble-hearted man, who thus aided him, have looked into the future and there beheld all that his friend was to do in his vocation, and all that his doing would be really worth, he would, I am confident, have been well satisfied with this disposal of a part of his worldly wealth, though
the performance might not have been exactly in the form that he anticipated. Did any private fault disqualify my father for pronouncing censures on what he considered to be public wrongs committed, whether blindly or no, yet deliberately? Thoughtful persons will rather say that his strong sense of evil and fearless denunciation of it, from whatever quarter it came, whether from Statesman or Judge or Reviewer, Imperial Despot or popular Dramatist, together with his free confession of what he called his “sin," and earnest endeavor to save others from falling into the same snare by the darkest representation of its nature and consequences, go a great way toward expiating that error of his course, so far as aught of expiation can be imputed to the human will itself, apart from the Redemptive power by which it is filled and actuated, in all that it does and is, in conformity to the Divine Will and Reason. The unworthy thoughts which Lord Byron entertained on this subject, unworthy of his own better mind, found no entrance, I trust, into that of Sir Walter Scott, whether he was or was not aware of the warm admiration which my father felt and expressed for his genius, attended as the fruits of it had been, by a popularity and a success unspeakably more enviable than any that was enjoyed by the author of Bertram.
The critique lays to the charge of the play a spirit of immorality, not in the way of direct inculcation, but in the only way in which a modern British audience would have endured it, the only way in which it could have been insidiously pernicious. Now this is a charge that could have no effect except just so far as it was substantiated by the play itself and the moral sense of its auditors. When a man is accused publicly of private faults he may find it painful and difficult to clear away the cloud from his character; he must unveil his private life in order to justify it, and such a necessity is in itself a grievance. If his poetry is ridiculed it may be made the laughingstock of the public for a season, though destined to be held in esteem ever after; if his religious writings are accused of false doctrine on subtle points, —and all theology is subtle-he may have to bear the stigma of heresy during his whole life-time: Pantheism, Pelagianism, Socinianism, denial of Objective Religion or of the Inspiration of Scripture-all these fundamental errors may be plausibly though falsely imputed, and the accusations will, in certain cases, be more readily and generally admitted than the defence, because grounded on ordinary and popular modes of thought and expression, while the accused views presuppose a corrected and re-adjusted philosophy. But the charge against Bertram had nothing subtle in the nature of it, and the sentiments which it involves have since been adopted and brought to bear on the French stage in the Quarterly Review.* Englishmen have denounced the French dramatists for polluting the public mind by a stimulant display of atrocities and vilenesses “ in all their odious details,” though they admit such things to be abominable, and show that the end of them is destruction; shall they shelter and encourage any approach to such Jacobinism in literature at home? “ We do not forget,” says the article on the French Drama to which I refer, “that crime and the
* [Quarterly Review of March, 1884, p. 211.)
worst cause (sort ?) of crime, has been in all ages the domain of tragedy. We do not forget the families of Atreus and Laius, and the whole tribe of mythological and historical tragedies, in all languages—but most of these inculcate moral lessons-none of them offend decency-none of them inflame criminal passions." The distinction between the ancient dramas and the vicious modern class, which my father stigmatized, is clear and broad. In the former guilty passion is not the immediate subject of the piece, or that in which the auditors are to be interested, but the consequences and punishment of criminal acts. They do not deal with low emotions at all, much less present them to advantage. They represent sin, not as it appears to the sinner in its rise and progress, its true lineaments and colors lost amid the glow of excited feeling; but as it appears after its consummation, livid, ghastly, and appalling. Sin seemed beautiful to Lucifer, when she was bringing about his fall; hideous and detestable after his fall, when he finds her at Hellgate and fails to recognize her features. The ancient drama presents her in the latter aspect,—not as she showed herself in the courts above. In the Orestean trilogy we are led to regard with awful interest the workings of Divine retribution; we sympathize with Clytemnestra not as the paramour of Ægisthus, who seems only the tool of her stern designs, but as the avenger of the bloody sacrifice of a child; we sympathize with Orestes as the avenger of a father's murder. Edipus and Jocasta are the victims of fate; to the latter not one light feeling or evil passion is imputed; and it is impossible to conceive a more dignified demeanor under humiliating circumstances than is assigned her in the play of Sophocles. Weare interested for the former because his misfortunes exceed the measure of his crimes, so far as they were voluntary. In the Medea of Euripides it is the just punishment of Jason to which attention is directed; the Sorceress appears an avenging Fury in hunian form. These ancient dramas are staid and solemn in their procedure; they present to the mind awfully significant events, stern thoughts, and elevating reflections; they have no tendency to enervate and lower the tone of feeling. The corrupt drama, on the other hand, exhibits what is essentially base in a form as interesting as it can be made to assume; things in themselves "rank and gross," mean and contemptible, it arrays in a glittering veil of sentiment; its power consists in the force with which it appeals to the lowest and most easily excitable parts of man's nature.
How far this injurious character is fairly imputable to the play of Bertram readers will judge for themselves. That the author erred, if it be admitted that he did err, unconsciously, and considered bis choice of subject to be quite within the legitimate range of tragedy, and justified by precedent, may be easily conceived; that he had talents, both as a writer and a man, is not impugned either by the critique itself or these remarks upon it.-S. O.)
It sometimes happens that we are punished for our faults by incidents, in the causation of which these faults had no share : and this I have always felt the severest punishment. The wound indeed is of the same dimensions ; but the edges are jagged, and there is a dull underpain that survives the smart which it had aggravated. For there is always a consolatory feeling that accompanies the sense of a proportion between antecedents and consequents. The sense of Before and After becomes both intelligible and intellectual when, and only when, we contemplate the succession in the relations of Cause and Effect, which, like tho two poles of the magnet, manifest the being and unity of the one power by relative opposites, and give, as it were, a substratur of permanence, of identity, and therefore of reality, to the shadowy flux of Time. It is Eternity revealing itself in the phænomena of Time : and the perception and acknowledgment of the proportionality and appropriateness of the Present to the Past, prove to the afflicted Soul, that it has not yet been deprived of the sight of God, that it can still recognize the effective presence of a Father, though through a darkened glass and a turbid atmosphere, though of a Father that is chastising it. And for this cause, doubtless, are we so framed in mind, and even so organized in brain and nerve, that all confusion is painful. It is within the experience of many medical practitioners, that a patient, wita strange and unusual symptoms of disease, has been more distressed in mind, more wretched, from the fact of being unintelligible to himself and others, than from the pain or danger of the disease : nay, that the patient has received the most solid comfort, and resumed a genial and enduring cheerfulness, from some new symptom or product, that had at once determined the name and nature of his complaint, and rendered it an intelligible effect of an in