Page images

to Mr. Cooper's reasoning upon the subject, any more than we can praise a long note annexed to the passage above quoted, the aim of which is to prove how wrong the senate were in passing their vote of censure on the president for removing the deposites from the United States Bank. He attempts this by a comparison between the intention and object of the “veto power” in the king of England and in our president. After carrying this out at some length, he bursts forth—“Surely we have not yet reached the pass, when, under the pretence of liberty (!), one portion of a branch of the government can step out of its sphere with impunity, and sit in judgment on the conduct of another branch of the government, by overt acts, as was the fact in the celebrated resolution of the senate during the session of 1833-34 !" “ If the senate be suffered openly to assume the power of censuring the president when he is wrong, the time is not far distant, when, to effect the ends of party, he will be censured when he is right,” &c. &c. Whether this be sound or not, we entirely deprecate its introduction into a book of travels through Switzerland. It is in bad taste to write out party doctrines to the utmost verge in this manner. We repeat that we are sorry to see it.

In the second volume are some strong hits at the propensity of the English newspapers to blacken those who stand in the way of their interests. An opportunity for this occurred (says our author) at the passage of the tariff bill. Accordingly, the whole English press opened their batteries on us. Our author thinks this a national trait—to wit—a love of “blackguarding” others, and ascribes it to the nature of English interests, which “get to be so high-wrought, if one may use the expression, that they are constantly liable to be injured by any justifiable measure to which others may resort for their own good." He finds Americans guilty of the same propensity, and we agree with him as to the fact, though we can hardly conceive that both being commercial nations is the cause of it; nor can we admit, what he so broadly asserts, that our journals are more abusive in the commercial than in the planting states. We are disposed to assert exactly the converse of his proposition as to the effects of commerce on a people. They are in a high degree beneficial and salutary. The mere possession of wealth, which commerce necessarily gives, is softening to its possessors; it affords them luxury and ease, and thence urbanity of manners and feeling. Certainly history teaches us this. Commercial nations have invariably been distinguished for high social excellence, for encouragement of arts, sciences, and literature, for freedom of opinion and of government. The germ of almost every

advance the world has made is to be found with them. Liberality, in every sense, is the honourable distinction

[ocr errors]

of commercial men. An argument in favour of the tariff is next introduced, as a corollary, we suppose, to his proposition as to the close feeling which commerce engenders. After admitting that the doctrine of free trade is abstractedly true, he thinks the admission “amounts to no more than if one were to say that a man will run easier and faster without shackles than with shackles. Nations, as respects all their interests, are shackled by circumstances.” He extends this idea to individuals. He would have each one to create a little tariff around himself. Let each man shake his own hand, and make his own hat and coat, and produce his own food. The position that one person, and one country, has abilities which another has not, and that, therefore, the production of such articles as these abilities lead them to produce will be greater, cheaper, and better, does not seem to have struck him.

But we are not about to argue the matter with him. His present work can, from its nature, add but little to his literary reputation. Though accurate in its details, and striking in many of its descriptions, it can hardly be said to be either novel or remarkable. It is lively, and well-written; but it is on a subject on which power cannot be shown to a very great degree. To one who has been in Switzerland, it of course affords interest to compare his feelings and impressions with those of the author of the Spy and the Red Rover. He has passed much more time there than most persons, and has traveled much more minutely; and as a correct description of the beauties and wonders of that remarkable country, his “Sketches" will command the attention of the reading world.

Art. XI.The Prophet of St. Paul's. A play, in five acts. By

David Paul Brown. Philadelphia : 1836.

Mr. Brown has all the boldness of conscious genius. So far as depends on himself he is determined to realize the non omnis moriar of a classic poet, to the study of whose critical precepts, if we may judge from the work before us, he has assiduously devoted himself. An ordinary aspirant would have hesitated a little at the cool reception of so brilliant a work of art as Sertorius;' but with the blindness or prejudices of the public, Mr. Brown, in common with all who work for immortality, has

* Sertorius: or the Roman Patriot. A tragedy. By David Paul Brown, Philadelphia : 1830.

their pages.

nothing to do. His works are made to keep,—embalmed for coming generations in the attic salt so profusely scattered over

We never could fully account for the fate of Sertorius. Its letterpress was of the best, and its binding, if we mistake not, Russian. It was distributed at the author's charge, and acted at a very respectable theatre under his supervision. Mr. Lucius Junius Brutus Booth (on that particular occasion neither mad nor maudlin) gave, in the principal character, full effect to all the clap-traps, to which a willing, though somewhat limited, audience cordially responded. There was much thumping of feet among the gods, (we counted four very energetic applauders, too, in the pit,) and some tears in the dress circle, particularly at the assassination scene. We have no doubt that the second representation equalled the first. Our enquiries in relation to it have been numerous, and we have never heard the fact questioned, though we have been unsuccessful in meeting with any one who was present at the performance. Like many excellent pieces, however, there were peculiarities in the style of the tragedy, and in the conduct of its plot, that prevented it from becoming a stock play. The author's ready classical allusions and learned historical illustrations appear in every page; but, not content with wealth, managers want tinsel. The learning of Lempriere, condensed and abbreviated, though fortified by a prodigious familiarity with Plutarch's Lives, is not enough to satisfy them. Mr. Brown could not descend to modern stage trickery, the monstrosities of melo-drama, or pantomime-consequently he could not please the managers. We

may thus account, perhaps, for the neglect of this deserving drama by those who control the stage, but why its merits never enabled the publisher to carry it to a second or third edition, we are still at a loss to comprehend. Surely there is no lack of cultivated readers in our country—of those who appreciate and love the elaborate efforts of the dramatic muse. When we see the eagerness and energy with which the British press welcomes and applauds every play-wright who contributes in the smallest degree to raise the sinking cause of tragedy-what praise it has recently bestowed on Miss Baillie, and more particularly on the author of Ion, we have cause to blush for our country. Ion is doubtless a highly-finished production; so is Sertorius. The scene of Ion is laid in ancient Argos—that of Sertorius in ancient Spain; but (and here lies the difference) the interest which can be attached to Ion, a foundling in a temple, is and necessarily must be vastly inferior to that which we feel in Sertorius, a man and a general, surrounded by trumpets and banners. Mr. Brown has felt his advantage here, and made the most of it. His play is alive with

the clamor virum clangorque tubarum. He has studied a noted scene at Tilbury Fort to much advantage. We have little hesitation in saying, that no dramatic writer of our day has shown more judgment in that difficult part of his duty, the choice of a subject, than Mr. Brown in Sertorius. He, himself

, we presume, was not aware what high sanction he had for that choice, for, “in the scanty intervals afforded by an arduous profession," he had other things to think of than the study of Corneille, a remote author who made Sertorius the subject of a tragedy in the French tongue, one hundred and sixty years ago. Some ridiculous notions of preference for this rugged, foreign production may have had their influence in depressing Mr. Brown's play in the estimation of those who affect taste at the expense


patriotism; but our readers may take it on our assurance, that however Corneille may have anticipated Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown owes nothing to Corneille.

Sertorius, however, (Mr. Brown's Sertorius,) is in a state of suspended animation, and whatever pleasure we might take in assisting to restore it, at least to a partial resurrection, our readers will pardon us the direct effort. We hope to accomplish that end indirectly by the consideration we are about to bestow upon its successor, “The Prophet of St. Paul's," second to it in nothing, save, perhaps, that the latter evinces a less daring genius, a greater reliance on the appliances of art, and a less sanguine trust in the candour and intelligence of the public. The enthusiasm of authorship has abated, but the intellectual vigour and cultivated fancy are undiminished.

From the title page of this new effort of our author, our readers have already learned that it is “a play, in five acts.” From the dedicatory inscription to the members of the Philadelphia bar, characterized by the author's wonted modesty, they inay learn that it is an “imperfect dramatic sketch ;” and from the prologue, that it is a "drama," with the additional and desirable information that it

treats of beauty and of love;
Scenes it exhibits for the brave and fair, —
Especial scenes to greet the indulgent sight
Of dazzling eyes that sparkle here to-night:”

Meaning, we suppose, 'scenes especially intended for bright eyes to look upon. The peculiar propriety of this hint will appear in the fourth act, in which a tournament is introduced. The reader may conceive, moreover, that those scenes cannot be other than especial (the word is too narrow for the associations by which we are haunted) in which the interlocutors are no less than two kings, one heir presumptive, one queen in esse, and another in futuro, one cardinal, three dukes,

one ambassador, one duchess, the Chevalier Bayard, one marquis by creation and one by courtesy, knights, heralds, and attendants (all noble, no doubt) without limit; the only plebeians being a jester, a tailor, and a waiting woman. If the propertyman could only do his part, the mere spectacle of so much pomp, so many crowns and coronets, and so much armour, mingled, as they would be, with the cardinal's red hat, the tabard of the heralds, and the fool's motley, would work an anti-republican revolution. We should fear as patriots, while we admired as men. We would make a sober appeal to Mr. Brown on this subject, and ask him if he is not playing with edged tools. We are afraid of kings even in mimicry.

The play opens with an interview between Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey. The scene is very properly laid in "a palace.” Had it been between two gipsies, we cannot doubt that Mr. Brown's accurate knowledge of scenic propriety would have placed it in a wood, or perhaps in a barn. There is nothing like a locus in quo, as Mr. Brown professionally knows. True, he does not name the particular palace, or designate a room in it.

It would narrow the importance of the persons too much to do so. We cannot but consider this a hold, as well as a happy scene. Bold, because it at once places Mr. Brown on the same ground with Shakspeare; as Captain Fluellen says, “there is salmons in both ;” and happy, because the author throws such new light on the character of the said salmons. The opening address of the bluff monarch is very accurately modelled after history.

“ Speak plainly, Wolsey, and forget the king;

It is the king commands."

No doubt Wolsey was duly impressed with his lesson, as nothing could have tended more happily to sink the individual addressing him into perfect oblivion than a reiteration of his regal title. The cardinal, accordingly, is soon reminded that he is not to forget altogether, either, but only sub modo, and with qualification. He might forget him until the story was told, but not at all in his moral reflections or cominentary upon it; for falling into a hypocritical strain about “penance” and

things above," the monarch who, even at this early day, suspected his true character, affectionately reproves him with,

“Curse on this cant! dost palter with a king ?Whereupon the priest whines a little more, and talks of his low beginnings and the royal bountý; the king, in turn, retorts with “kingly honour," and the like phrases, by way of remedying his past forgetfulness, and tells him, among other things, that

« PreviousContinue »