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Cal. Do not doubt me.
Long have I lived without it, else for certain
Mine only brother, Ithocles. Cal. What saidst thou ? &c. “ The Lover's Melancholy,” though beautiful in parts, will stand no comparison as a whole, with the two splendid dramas which have hitherto engaged our attention. The comic parts are deplorable, and generally disgusting. The character of Eroclea, however, is cast in the same mould of feminine delicacy and purity, which Nature seems to have broken in despair when it passed into the hands of those who, under the enervating influence of a vicious Court,
“ Profan'd the God-given strength, and marr'd the lofty line." Strada's charming apologue of the Nightingale, though frequently attempted, has never been rendered with so much grace and harmony into English, as in the open. ing scene of this play. To appreciate its merit rightly, we should remember that the original tale is not only cast in a narrative form, but designed as an imitation of a poet, whose great error was diffuseness : to preserve, therefore, the raciness of dramatic composition, without swerving from the easy elegance which characterizes Strada, was a task of no ordinary difficulty.
“ Perkin Warbeck” is endowed with a very different, though far more pleasing, interest. It is, perhaps, the only instance on record, in which an historical drama, since Shakspeare, has not proved an entire and hopeless failure. So completely has our immortal bard mono
polized that province of his art, that the very name of an historical play has become inseparably connected in our minds with the rich humour of Falstaff, the morbid ambition of Richard, and the chivalrous gallantry of Hotspur. We insensibly confound the powerful colouring of the poet with the less brilliant, but more sober, tints thrown off from the pencil of the historian. The period of time which these plays embrace, is to us consecrated ground: the darts of criticism recoil from its portal ; it stands alone, unhurt, undefiled, either by the sneer of the sceptic, or the plodding dulness of the biographer. Those times were the times of discord, of civil convulsion, of feudal tyranny, and unhallowed ambition : yet, where the scene was darkened by the sullen gloom of the tempest, even there the spirit of Shakspeare sits “from verge to verge,” like the Iris of the cataract, and sheds the full effulgence of poetical genius over the dim chaos of historical confusion. But, as with Shakspeare that pleasing illusion appeared, so with Shakspeare it must vanish. It is the bow of Ulysses, which none but Ulysses could bend. Nothing accordingly can exceed the wretchedness of those abortions which the vanity of new-fledged authors, or the pride of older ones, has occasionally palmed on the expectation of the public. And it is equally gratifying and unexpected, to find, as in the instance before us, a play, which even by the veriest bigots of the Shakspearian school must be perused with pleasure ; a play which, if it no where presents to our view a masterly delineation of character, or a highly-wrought development of plot, yet contains nothing which can fairly be blamed, and much which must in justice be commended. What young
generous mind will forget the devoted Dalyell ? Where the fastidious beauty that would refuse her pity to the sorrows of Catherine? What critic will not admire the skill by which the dignity of Warbeck, from first to last, is preserved ; never allowing him to drop a syllable in mistrust of his own cause, and thus completely identifying him with the prince whom he strove to counterfeit? The speech of Warbeck before his execution has great merit, and reminds one of Shakspeare's best historical manner : Oxford. Look ye, behold your followers appointed
To wait on you in death !
Why, peers of England,
Shall blaze our names, and style us kings o'er death.
congressus Achilli :" the second, though with more beauties to redeem it, singularly clumsy in its plot. “ The Lady's Trial” is liable to the same objection : but the characters of Adurni and Malfato are powerfully drawn; and the purity of language, which Ford has put into the mouth of Castanna, bears the peculiar impress of his manner. “ The Witch of Edmonton” is calculated to excite in the present generation, feelings of a very different nature from those which it called forth in the days of king James. Then, it was hailed as a drama containing some scenes that might move the hearts, but many more that would excite the mirth, of an English audience. Now, it is looked upon with feelings of disgust, arising, not from any inferiority in the composition, for it has many scenes of power and effect; not from any introduction of supernatural machinery, for the contemporaries of “ Der Freischütz” need not gibe at that; but solely from the unconquerable horror which we feel in 1827 for the system of espionage, cruelty, and blood-shedding, which, under the name of “Laws against Witchcraft,” darkened with an inexpiable stain the statutebook of England. That the death of a poor woman, probably innocent of every real offence, and whose life must have been embittered by the superstition and rancour of all around her, should be the object of unfeeling laughter, strikes us as totally alien from the English character. Yet, that such frequently was the fact, we need not the testimony of this play to convince
But it would be injustice not only to Ford, but to Decker, who assisted him in this play, not to give them the praise which is their due, for the more serious parts. The character of Susan, a faithful, affectionate, confiding wife, is one of Ford's happiest efforts, and would have done honour to a better subject. Nor, considering the audience with whom he had to deal, is the comic part such as was unlikely to secure that immediate popularity which must always be the first aim of the dramatic writer.
We have now discharged the task which our zeal, perhaps our vanity, has imposed upon us : how deficient our labours have been in point of ability, we are most ready to confess; but they have been undertaken in the sincerity of admiration for those creative spirits who, in a literary view, have made England what she is. The Elizabethan poetry bears the same resemblance to that of the succeeding age, as the free and mountain torrent, exulting in the grandeur of its liberty, bears to the inclosed waters of the fountain, leaping but to a certain height, and recurring with an eternal monotony of sound to the marble basin which imprisons it. All the vivid energy, all the wild freshness of intellect, by which the real poet is stamped from his birth, as with Nature's seal, belong to the master-spirits of that day. They
They are the originals of that glorious order of poetry which dares to throw off the shackles of imitation, and gaze on the universe with the frenzied eye of inspiration : the order which Wordsworth and his fanatics have had sense enough to perceive, and blindness enough to pervert, but into which perhaps Byron alone has, of all modern writers, fully entered. He has taught us, in his own beautiful language, that
“ The beings of the mind are not of clay :