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Greek drama, has nothing sententious or nor experience has qualified them, they declamatory. Ajax, in a fit of insanity, has look on failure as a personal insult; and slain the flock of sheep, believing them to the greater the neglect of the world, the be his enemies. He soon discovers his bitterer their sarcasms on its malevolent error, and is overwhelmed with shame. He envy and bad taste, and the greater the cannot reappear before the Greeks, and so conviction of their own genius. The less resolves on death. His resolution is calm, praise the world bestows, the more they but sad. He regrets life, though determin- give themselves; and thus make up for ined on quitting it.
gratitude by a liberality which begins where In the modern drama, suicide is also phi- it ends—at home : losophical and passionate ; but the philosophy differs from stoicism. It is directed
Et de ses tristes vers, admirateur unique,
Plaindre, en les relisant, l'ignorance publique. against society; it is dreamy and melan
Boileuu. choly, skeptical and revolutionary. In the monologues of Hamlet, Manfred, and Karl When, however, a génie incompris, exasvon Moor, we may see the northern tenden- perated by failure or desperate from povercy of probing the mysteries of existence, ty, sees that his calling in this world is not and the vague terrors of infinity. In Wer-) acknowledged, he commits suicide, as Chatther and Chatterton, passion predominates terton did. Stobæus relates that a young over reflection; but in both suicide is a man, forced to attend to agricultural emmiserable weakness. Chatterton, in the ployments, hanged himself, leaving a letter play of M. Alfred de Vigny, kills himself behind him, in which he said that agriculbecause a journalist pretends that he is not ture was too monotonous; that it was nethe author of his own poems, and because cessary incessantly to sow and reap, and reap the lord mayor humiliates him by the offer and sow, in one eternal circle, which made of a menial situation. Remark, also, that life insupportable. This idleness, affecting this trivial motive in this contemptible char- a disgust for labor, is a type of the suicides of acter appears so important to M. de Vigny, the present day. Instead of there being any that he has not only made a play of it, but thing fine in this recklessness of life, it is a novel also.
to us unspeakably contemptible. Instead of As the love of life is a healthy feeling, so its being made the subject of dramas and is suicide a symptom of disease. If there tragic tales, it should be held up to pitiless are frequent examples of suicide daily re- ridicule or stern contempt. It enervates by curring, it is because our age is full of an-flattering the worst portions of our feeble archy and disease. It resembles Rome nature. It dignifies weakness with the under the emperors. It has the same wide- purple and fine linen of sentiment. “For,' ly-spread skepticism, the same egotism, the as M. Girardin well says, ' what is both cusame ennui, the same social anarchy. In rious and sad to notice is, that in proporsuch times quacks flourish, and 'neglected tion as suicides become more numerous, geniuses' complain. Reverie has usurped the causes become less serious. People do the place of action. Pretension supplants not kill themselves now for the sake of honthe fixed and resolute ambition of great men. or, as Pamela wished to do, nor for love, as The age of great deeds gives place to the Werther did; but from vanity, caprice, age of great pretensions: Ote-toi que je ennui, imitation. By dint of tending and m'y pose,' is the general cry. The curse cultivating the sensibility of our hearts, we of the young men of the day is uI vilice (Un- have contracted a temperament like that of muth, as the Germans say), the want of vital the sensitive plant: we shudder at the least energy, the want of faith in energy. They touch, every movement is a shock, every have talents enough, but their progress is scratch is a wound, every contradiction is rendered impossible by the vastness of their a despair. The soul has become a Sybarpretensions. This renders them uneasy and ite: it can no longer support the wrinkle of fretful : they fancy they belong to the great, a rose-leaf.' because they have not the force of the vul Connected with this subject is the regar. They have so profound a contempt mark of M. Girardin respecting the goût for any thing mechanical,' for any thing de la mort, which he finds characteristic of like ‘drudgery,' that they easily persuade English literature. All that is profound themselves into regarding their idleness and and indefinite in the idea of death, all that weakness as signs of superiority. Under- it has of vague terrors, all the horribletaking subjects for which neither education nay, disgusting associations which it ex
(Sept. cites, seem to have a peculiar fascination ( obvious, from the fact that Italy and Spain for our poets. Shakspeare forms an inter- | are equally Christian countries, and they esting study in this respect. Not only the manifest no love of images of death and melancholy Hainlet, but the young and horror. He himself has said that in the south, passionate Julia, love to dwell on the idea life and beauty are sacred things, from of death. Juliet, about to drink the potion, which men carefully shield the idea of does not dwell upon her love, upon her bus- death as a sort of profanation; in the north band, or on the delight of once more being men willingly call up this idea, as if by in his arms; she thinks only of the horri- force of contrast, to better enjoy the charm ble tomb:
of life and beauty. Most true; but why A vault, an ancient receptacle
did this truth not lead him further ? why Where for these many hundred years the bones
did he not see that this influence of climate Of all my buried ancestors are packed ;
and of race affected the whole constitution Where bloody Tybalt yet but green in earth of the mind, making the one nation objectLies festering in his shroud; where as they say ive and the other subjective? For a refuAt some hours in the night spirits resort. Alack' alack' is it not like that I
tation of this notion of the influence of So early waking-what with loathsome smells, Christianity, and a statement of the mode And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth. in which climate and race affect the nation0! if I wake, shall I not be distraught al spirit, we beg to refer to our article on And madly play with my forefather's joints ? And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud ?
A. W. Schlegel.* Had M. Girardin seen And in this rage, with some great kinsman's bone, the extent of his own admission respecting As with a club, dash out my desperate brains ? climate, he would hardly have attributed to
Shakspeare that dégout de la vie, which In the novel by Luigi da Porta, when he says makes suicide more frequent in Friar Lawrence proposes the drug to Joli- England than elsewhere. It is not Shaket, he asks her if she will not be afraid of speare who has • altered and perverted being placed in the same tomb with her Christianity' in this respect; not Shakcousin Tybalt ; . Oh, if it were necessary speare, but Shakspeare's nation : had he to pass through hell to recover my Romeo, not uttered the voice of his nation, he I would not hesitate,' she replies. Here is would not have filled the world with the true Italian lover. This difference M. echoes of his name; but he was intensely Girardin has stated with much ingenuity; national because supremely great; he was but he has not understood the cause. He the greatest of Englishmen, and embalmed justly says that 'un fils du génie d'Homère in iinmortal verse the spirit of his nation. ou de Sophocle, un amant Grec ou même Let us not forget this. There is a tenItalien,' would never think Juliet more dency, in these days, not only to the idolalovely in death, as Romeo does. Sopho- try of Shakspeare, but to the refining away cles makes Hæmon kill himself by the of all his characteristics. The cant of crittomb of Antigone, as Romeo kills himself icism, not satisfied with proclaiming him by the tomb of Juliet; but Sophocles does the greatest of men, endeavors, by pompnot exhibit to the eyes of the audience this ous formulas and abstractions, to make scene of love and death; the Jugubrious bim more than man ; unsusceptible of huvaults are antagonistic to the Greek ideas man imperfections, not influenced, as other of love; while, on the contrary, their very men were, by the accidents of his time. A horror seems to redouble the ardor of Ro- stupid attempt.
It is because Shakspeare meo, who passionately talks of taking up was a man that we admire him; had he his abode with Juliet and the worms. The been exempt from human imperfections, English Romeo delights in contemplating from human influences, where would be Juliet in her tomb, beautiful though lifeless. the miracle of his all-surpassing power ? The Italian Romeo thinks only of Juliet as The Germans have absurdly wanted to she was, thinks of her beautiful and living. prove that Shakspeare was a cosmopolitan,
This difference is both curious and im- not a national poet; that he belonged to portant, and M. Girardin deserves our the whole world, and not alone to England. thanks for having stated it; but, as we said, They fancy that by doing away with his nahe does not appear to us to have quite tionality, they make him greater. It is comprehended the cause. He attributes it from no ridiculous nationality that we deny partly to Christianity, and partly to the in- this, and claim Shakspeare as an EnglishAuences of climate. That Christianity, in itself, has nothing to do with this matter, is
No. LXIII. pp. 165-8.
man, it is because criticism suffers from represented men they had the same care of errors like the one we combat. Shak-beauty: their painters and sculptors only repspeare pleases in Germany; he is regarded thee, says an ancient epigram, işince no one
resenied handsome men. Who would paint there almost in the light of a national poet; would look at thee ?» The Greeks abhorred but this is because the general character
portraits, i. e. the resemblance of ordinary of the English and German spirit is the same. The victors at the Olympic games had Shakspeare is admired in France and Ita- each a right to a statue; but only he who had ly; admired for his unmistakable power, thrice been victorious obtained the honor of a not because he expresses their national portrait ; so much did the Greeks dread uglispirit. He is not a household god, but a
ness in the fine arts. With this horror of ugliforeign divinity whom they admit into their pess, the painters and sculptors were careful Pantheon; for Shakspeare is not Italian in
represent the excess of passion; the
extremes of grief and rage border on contor. spirit, nor French; but eminently English; tion, and contortion is ugly. Timanthes, in in his greatness, English ; in his weakness, his picture of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, veilEnglish; in his very buffooneries and trivi- ed the head of Agamemnon; not that he dealities, his recklessness and want of polish; spaired of rendering such grief, but because in his careless prodigality and occasional he could not express it without disfigurement. perversity of dulness, he is English. Ho- Sculpture has represented the children of mer is not more intensely Greek; Racine ther the dying nor the supplicants are repre
Niobe, some dead, the others dying. But neinot more characteristically French : Goethe sented in disordered attitudes, or violent gesnot more German. If he is for all times tures; their countenances and their persons and for all men, it is because intensely hu- express supplication, suffering, terror, and man, true, national ; it is because his great- even death, with striking fidelity, but at the ness is unparalleled; it is because his same time with dignity and beauty. Niobe works contain food for all minds and for all herself, the mother, seeing her children perages ; delight for the young and trivial, de- seized on the moment, when having still one
ish, is lovely and majestic; the sculp or has light for the old and contemplative, bound-daughter whom she entreats the gods to spare, less amusement and endless thought: but she has not yet arrived at the excess of grief. with all this, English in every fibre; and In truth, as long as grief has a glimmering of the English character in its purest form; hope, the soul, and conseqnently the human before sour puritanism had banished mu
face, preserves a sort of calmness and dignity, sic and painting, and lusty revelry and which is the moral and physical beauty that
Greek art endeavored to express." boisterous mirth; before the brand of sin had been stamped on the innocent joys of life. Whoever reads Shakspeare, and con- din has here done little more than adapt
So far so good. M. Saint Marc Girarfounds his spirit with that of any foreign some striking pages from Lessing's · Laopoet, has bui dim perceptions of the great koon;" and as long as he continued in the boundaries of character. To return from this digression. Shak-company of so safe a guide, he was safe
But at this point he separated speare did not alter Christianity; he ac- from Lessing, and maintains an opinion cepted it as his nation had accepted it; if there is alteration, the causes must be the whole scope of Lessing's work was to
common enough in Germany, but which sought in the national spirit. M. Girardin refute ; the limits of poetry and painting, has coinmitted the error of attributing to the subjects which they could each treat, one man the formation of a national spirit, and the manner of their different treatment, when it is obvious that man must himself this was the object of the 'Laokoon,' and have partaken of the spirit, or the nation it was executed in such a style that we may would not have listened. The error is not uncommon, but it bears no examination.
express surprise at any one's ever blunder
M. Girardin however says: There is another error, repeated from wri- ing after it. ter to writer, and accepted by M. Girardin, “Do not fancy that the antique poetry was respecting the love of beauty, and its influ- bolder than painting or sculpture, in representence on Greek art, which we may here ing the passions in excess. Thus when Niobe combat. He thus states it :
has arrived at the last degree of grief, poetry,
instead of doing violence to art to represent the “ We admire beauty, but we do not adore distraction of this desperate mother, changes it. The Greeks both admired and adored it. her into a rock: it prefers the metamorphosis They had no gods but those that were beauti: to the disfigurement of man. The ancient sul; Pluto himself was beautiful, alıhough the imagination believed that when the passion is god of the infernal regions. When the Greeks excessive, the man disappears; a profound
idea, which lies at the bottom of the meta- | Misled by this dogma of the adoration felt
the notion of universal beauty? Thus:
deavors to analyze the impression made by There is much ingenuity and some truth Philoctetes: 'the pity which his sufferings in this, but it rests, we believe, on a con- inspire is never pushed too far, because it fusion of ideas. In the first place it is not is elevated and replaced in time by another true that the Greek poets refrained from pity, more gentle and more noble, the pity expressing passions in their excess; it is of the soul, inspired by his emotions of joy not true that they avoided the introduction and gratitude, and even by his anger and of moral and physical ugliness. Thersites, hatred. With this art of tempering the on the one hand, and Philoctetes or (Edi- passions one by the other, excess, and conpus on the other, may be instanced to the sequently the moral or physical contortion, contrary. As to the expression of passion, we become impossible. This is weak and will set the dramatists aside, and only refer sophistical ; and it applies to the grief and to Homer, and Homer's greatest character, phrensy of Gudule in the passage quoted Achilles, contenting ourselves with one from `Nôtre Dame de Paris') quite as example. When (Il. xviii. v. 22–35) the well as to Philoctetes, and not at all to news arrived of the death of Patroclus, the agony of Laokoon, when the serpents Achilles threw himself on the ground, enfold him: heaped dust and ashes on his head, tore Perfusus sanie vittas atroque veneno; out his hair by handsful, howled horribly Clamores simul horendos ad sidera tollit: (que dahɛov 8 Quosev), and was so frantic, Quales mugitus, fugit cum saucius aram that Antilochus feared much lest he should
Taurus.* commit suicide. If this is not passion in There is no glimpse here either of 'les
we know not where to find it. lois du beau,' nor of emotions which temFacts, therefore, are against M. Girardin. per each other and prevent contortion: on But, as we said, his opinion rests on a con- the contrary, the pain is physical and the fusion of ideas : unable to deny the phy- contortion violent. If the reader wishes to sical ugliness of the disease of Philoctetes, learn the reason why the ancients admitted he says, “it would, however, be wrong, to deformity, contortions, and excess, in poetry fancy that he chose the subject from that and not in sculpture, let him consult the love of the deformed which has for some · Laokoon' of Lessing : it is impossible to time been one of the manias of modern lit- refuse assent to his reasoning. erature.' Granted: does it follow, how The above errors are the only two of any ever, that because Sophocles had not the
consequence, which struck us in the whole modern ‘goût du laid,' therefore the Greeks of M. Girardin's work; the books are rare refused to represent the deformed ? Clear- indeed of which we could say as much. ly not. The Greeks were too poetical to Willingly would we accompany him in all prefer the deformed; too great artists not to see its occasional value as a contrast. * *' Æneid,' ii. 221. Let us also remember the
story current respecting the Furies of Æschylus The fact alone that both Æschylus and Eu- having terrified women to death. The story is ripides had treated the subject of Philoctetes be- apochryphal; but that it was ever circulated is fore Sophocles, is sufficient proof of what is ad- a proof that the Furies were terrible to look vanced in the text. See Dio. Chrys. 52.
his well-selected illustrations of the pas-, how to produce an effect is no longer scarcely sions as treated by ancient and modern guilty ; his crime disappears in the curiosity dramatists, but we have no space to do so. inspired by the man; and if we condemn him On the appearance of his second volume, drawing-rooms, that his celebrity almost sup
at the assizes, we talk of him so much in our we may perhaps find opportunity for resum-plies the place of innocence. ing the subject. Meanwhile we cannot do “ Thus, so far from modern literature being better than close this notice with his re- an image of society, one would believe it flections on literature as the expression of wished to present the reverse, so much does society.
society belie, by its manners and deeds, the
morality of its literature. Shall we, therefore, “Is the alteration in the expression, a sign say that literature borrows nothing from soof the alteration in the generous sentiments of ciety? No; these unchecked passions, these the heart? Do the men of our day love life hideous characters, these insolent crimes, with a more cowardly and effeminate love which compose the staple of modern literathan their ancestors did, because Catarina is ture, have been taken from the thoughts, if not less resigned to death than Iphigenia ? Are from the actions of our age; from our imaginpaternal and maternal love less ardent and ations, if not from our characters. less noble, because Goriot and Lucrèce Bor “I thus arrive at the second point of view. gia love their children differently from Don There are two sort of sentimenis in literature, Diègue and Mérope ? Are there no simple and these correspond with two different and truthful sorrows in the world, because phases of the literary history of nations. There novels are full of false despairs? In a word, are the sentiments which man finds in his is literature now the expression of society? heart, and which compose the staple of every
"Our age is certainly not the age of violent society; there are also the sentiments which and disordered passions. Yet, to take our lit- he finds only in his iinagination, and which erature as a sign, never were great passions are but the altered reflection of the former. in such honor: our heroes all aim at wonder. Literature begins with one and ends with the ful energy; it is on that account they please other. us, for we adore ardent and passionate char “When literature arrives at this second acters, we even deisy vice if it has but a bold stage, when imagination, which formerly conappearance. In our novels the lovers are en- tented itself with painting natural affections, thusiastic and exallés: the girls are dreamy endeavors to replace them by others, then and melancholy. Nevertheless, in the world, books no longer represent society : they only marriages are made more and more according represent the state of imagination. Imaginto convenance ; interest usurps the place of ation loves and seeks above all things that passion. Society indeed writes and talks in which does not exist. When civil war agione manner and acts in another. The most tates society, the imagination willingly paints certain
way of misunderstandiny it is to take idyls and preaches peace and virtue. When, it at its word.
on the contrary, society is in repose, the "Shall we then say that society is a hypo- imagination delights in crimes. Like the crite? No: hypocrisy mimics virtue. Here, merchant in Horace, celebrating the security on the contrary, society seems to affect the of the shore when the tempest lowers; but vices which it has not. Its grimaces slander when in the harbor delighting in storms it; but it is absolved by its actions: for it acts and roaring seas.
Add to this the remembetter than it writes, better even than it brances still so vivid amongst us of the revo. thinks.
lution and its wars, the taste for adventures, " This discrepancy between society in its the hope of renown and fortune, the contempt writings and in its acts is a fruitful source of or living insignificanıly, a contempt more biterror: for society laughs at the dupes, who, in ter in the hearts of the children of those who ordinary life, aitempt to put in action that have done great things. It is these restless ardent and passionate morality which is good desires and confused emotions which imagin. only for circulating libraries. It treats moral-ation collects and places in literature. Hence ity as the abbés of the eighteenth century the energy of novels, and the terror of the treated religion, lived by it and laughed at it: drames; hence that literature which pleases as the audience at the theatre laughs at mar- society more, the less it resembles it. riage, and marries. If, indeed, any one com “Another cause aids this separation of somits any breach of morality, society has no ciety and literature, and that is, the imitation hesitation in submitting him to the penal code: of foreign literatures. When a literature has it punishes him for having believed in the become decrepit, it begins to imitate, hoping paradoxes which it encouraged; and what is thereby to be re-invigorated. But there are remarkable, it often punishes more than it times when this imitation only serves to augdisapproves, especially if the culprit has suffi- ment the separation between art and society. cient impudence. Effrontery, in our eyes, What, indeed, can become of the French borders upon greatness; so completely do we, mind, 'accustomed, ever since the sixteenth in losing the taste for truth, lose also the senti- century, to a distinctness of ideas and expresment of greatness! A criminal who knows sions, which has made the national character,