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deep distress or violent emotion, the manners are lost in the passions ; but if we examine his lovers, in the lighter scenes of ordinary life, we shall generally find them trespassing against the rules of decorum, and the feelings of delicacy.
That gaiety and playfulness of deportment and of conversation, which Hamlet sometimes not only assumes, but seems actually disposed to, is, I apprehend, no contradiction to the general tone of melancholy in his character. That sort of melancholy which is the most genuine, as well as the most amiable of any, neither arising from natural sourness of temper, nor prompted by accidental chagrin, but the effect of delicate sensibility, impressed with a sense of sorrow or a feeling of its own weakness, will, I believe, often be found indulging itself in a sportfulness of external behaviour, amidst the pressure of a sad, or even the anguish of a broken, heart. Slighter emotions affect our ordinary discourse; but deep distress, sitting in the secret gloom of the soul, casts not its regard on the common occurrences of life, but suffers them to trick themselves out in the usual garb of indifference or of gaiety, according to the fashion of the society around it, or the situation in which they chance to arise. The melancholy man feels in himself, if I may be allowed the expression, a sort of double person; one which, covered with the 'darkness of its imagination, looks not forth into the world, nor takes any concern in vulgar objects or frivolous pursuits; another, which he lends, as it were, to ordinary men, which can accommodate itself to their tempers and manners, and indulge, without feeling any degradation from the indulgence, a smile with the cheerful, and a laugh with the giddy.
The conversation of Hamlet with the Gravedigger seems to me to be perfectly accounted for
under this supposition; and, instead of feeling it counteract the tragic effect of the story, I never see him in that scene, without receiving, from his transient jests with the clown before him, an idea of the deepest melancholy being rooted at his heart. The light point of view in which he places serious and important things, marks the power of that great impression, which swallows up every thing else in his mind, which makes Cæsar and Alexander so indifferent to him, that he can trace their remains in the plaster of a cottage, or the stopper of a beerbarrel. It is from the same turn of mind, which, from the elevation of its sorrow, looks down on the bustle of ambition and the pride of fame, that he breaks forth into the reflection, in the fourth act, on the expedition of Fortinbras.
It is with regret, as well as deference, that I accuse the judgement of Mr. Garrick, or the taste of his audience; but I cannot help thinking, that the exclusion of the scene of the Grave-digger, in his alteration of the tragedy of Hamlet, was not only a needless, but an unnatural violence done to the work of his favourite poet.
Shakspeare's genius attended him in all his extravagances. In the license he took of departing from the regularity of the drama, or in his ignorance of those critical rules which might have restrained him within it, there is this advantage,that it gives him an opportunity of delineating the passions and affections of the human mind, as they exist in reality, with all the various colourings which they receive in the mixed scenes of life; not as they are accommodated by the hands of more artificial poets, to one great undivided impression, or an uninterrupted chain of congenial events. It seems therefore preposterous, to endeavour to regularisc his plays, at the expense of depriving them of this peculiar excellence, especially as the alteration can only produce a very partial and limited improvement, and can never bring his pieces to the standard of criticism, or the form of the Aristotelian drama. Within the bounds of a pleasuregarden, we may be allowed to smooth our terraces and trim our hedge-rows; but it were equally absurd as impracticable, to apply the minute labours of the roller and the pruning-knife, to the nobler irregularity of trackless mountains and impenetrable forests.
No. 101. TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 1780.
" TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
SIR, « In books, whether moral or amusing, there are no passages more captivating, both to the writer and the reader, than those delicate strokes of sentimental morality, which refer our actions to the determination of feeling. In these the poet, the novel-writer, and the essayist, have always delighted; you are not, therefore, singular, for baving dedicated so much of the Mirror to sentiment and sensibility. I imagine, however, Sir, there is much danger in pushing these qualities too far: the rules of our conduct should be founded on a basis more solid, if they are to guide us
through the various situations of life ; but the young enthusiast of sentiment and feeling is apt to despise those lessons of vulgar virtue and prudence, which would confine the movements of a soul formed to regulate itself by finer impulses. I speak from experience, Mr. MIRROR; with what justice you shall judge, when you have heard the little familyhistory I am going to relate.
“ My niece, Emilia was left to my care by a brother whum I dearly loved, when she was a girl of about ten years old. The beauty of her countenance, and the elegance of her figure, had already attracted universal notice; as her mind opened, it was found not less worthy of admiration. To the sweetest natural disposition, she united uncommon powers both of genius and of understanding: these I spared no pains to cultivate and improve; and I think I so far succeeded, that, in her eighteenth year, Emilia was inferior to few women of her age, either in personal attractions or in ac. complishments of the mind. My fond hopes, for she was no daughter to me, Mr. Mirror, looked now for the reward of my labour, and I pictured her future life as full of happiness as of virtue.
“ One feature of her mind was strongly predominant; a certain delicacy and fineness of feeling, which she had inherited from nature, and which her earliest reading had tended to encourage and increase. To this standard she was apt to bring both her own actions and the actions of others : and allowed more to its effects, both in praise and blame, than was consistent with either justice or expediency. I sometimes endeavoured gently to combat these notions. She was not always logical, but she was always eloquent in their defence; and I found her more confirmed on their side, the more I obliged her to be their advocate. I preferred, therefore, being silent on the subject, trusting that a little more experience and knowledge of the world would necessarily weaken their influence.
“ At her age, and with her feelings, it is neces. sary to have a friend: Emilia had found one at a very early period. Harriet S—was the daughter of a neighbour of my brother's, a few years older than my niece. Several branches of their education the two young ladies had received together ; in these, the superiority lay much on the side of Emilia. Harriet was nowise remarkable for fineness of genius or quickness of parts ; but though her acquirements were moderate, she knew how to manage them to advantage; and there was often a certain avowal of her inferiority, which conciliated affection the more, as it did not claim admiration. Her manners were soft and winning like those of Emilia, her sentiments as delicate and exalted; there seemed, however, less of nature in both.
“ Emilia’s attachment to this young lady I found every day increase, till, at last, it so totally engrossed her as rather to displease me. When together, their attention was confined almost entirely to each other; or what politeness forced them to bestow upon others, they considered as a tax, which it was fair to elude as much as possible. The world, a term which they applied indiscriminately to almost every one but themselves, they seemed to feel as much pride as happiness in being secluded from: and its laws of prudence and propriety, they held the invention of cold and selfish minds, insensible of the delights of feeling, of sentiment, and of friendship. These ideas were, I believe, much strengthened by a correspondence that occupied most of the hours, not many indeed, in which they were separated. Against this I ventured to remonstrate