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The faults we have to point out in this interesting play are so few that we might well omit them altogether. The prince of poets occasionally nods, and our author does no more. We night, perhaps, say of the persons of the drama, that at least half of them are superfluous; of its plot, that it is inartificial and uninteresting; of its conduct, that it is unskilful and perplexed; and that the concatenation of its parts is so slight, that one may, without difficulty, break off
Still this gives the reader the advantage of half a dozen perusals instead of one. If the unities were preserved, we might look upon it as an attempt to revive the Greek drama. After the enunciation of the oracle, the characters get into the hands of destiny, and really take very little pains to get out. Such exertions as they do use, of course, only help on the great designs of fate. It would not suit the modern stage to introduce the classical chorus, but Mr. Brown has managed the lyrical portions of his play still better by placing them in the mouths of the principal characters.
The scene between Francis and Dorset, at page 36, is a clever improvement on the models of the present and a former age. There the blank verse is varied by prose and several specimens of lyrical harmony.
If we may use a homely expression, we should say of Mr. Brown's dramatis persone that they do not know what to be at. Time hangs heavily on their hands. This, at first, seemed to be a fault, but it really is no such thing. Kings, queens, and nobles, have nothing to do but to kill time. This feature, therefore, shows strongly the author's study of his subject. We wish we could as readily excuse their habit of swearing. It is characteristic, but modern taste does not tolerate it even on the stage. King Henry swears four several oaths, besides an occasional curse or two, during a very short period. He gives us "God's death"_" by the Rood”—“ body o'me," and
by day and night.” Francis is more chivalrous in his vocabulary. He swears, “by the immortal Charlemagne”_" by my hopes of fame," and once, piously," by heaven." Suffolk being a sorrowful man, and Vendôme a silent one, they each content themselves with the ejaculation, “by my halidam," a sort of “sarcenet surety” to which we do not object. The jester does not commit himself. At page 42 he swears by St.
the patron of jesters not having been canonized. But he roundly adjures St. Snip, on behalf of the tailor. Dorset, however, overcomes them all in the number and variety of his oaths. He gives us three oaths theological, “by Thomas Aquinas”—“by St. Paul,” and “by the Rood;" one oath mythological, twice repeated, “ by Cupid;" and one “good mouthfilling oath” chivalric, “ by the dragon and St. George,” to
say nothing of a simple “ egad” or two, an expletive in the use of which he has to our astonishment, forestalled Etheridge and Lord Foppington. Sir Lucius, himself, might here amend his system of swearing. But aside from our objection to all this profanity, in a moral point of view, we fear that, like Nick Bottom's roaring, it might “ fright the duchess and the ladies that they would shriek,” which would certainly mar the performance. If Mr. Brown could omit it, or substitute some innocent exclamations, the company, into whose hands it falls, would be obliged to him.
On the whole, however, this play is sure to succeed. Its lofty sentiments commend it to the elevated and intellectual ; its tone of gallantry to the fair; its stirring and brilliant scenes to men of the world, and its comic dialogues to the people.
“Omnis in hoc uno variis discordia cessit,
Ordinibus. Lætatur Eques, plauditque Senator,
AMERICAN QUARTERLY REVIEW.
Art. I.-Literary Remains of the late William Hazlitt, with a
Notice of his Life by his Son, and Thoughts on his Genius and Writings, by E. L. Bulwer and Sergeant Talfourd. New York: 1836.
There is no class of men who personally exert less influence over society, and yet, by their profession, possess a more despotic sway, than critics. The details of their lives are generally quite barren of interest—a mere story of struggles with poverty; quarrels with booksellers and publishers; and often of individual insignificance and obscurity. Not unfrequently they are found to be the mean hirelings of literature, ready to barter the award of their censure or praise for the gold which is needed for their daily necessities. And yet the pen, whose holder would pass unknown through the crowd, his name even unfamiliar to the world, may be potent to establish or to damn a reputation for ever. Politics and literature are the wide fields where critics disport, and in which they hurl their darts, tinged, at times, with most deadly poison.
Periodical literature has for many years been gradually yet surely rising into importance, until it has now attained an influence of unspeakable value for either weal or wo. France, England, and the United States, are the three countries of which this may be most correctly predicated, and, at the present day, the strongest proofs may be seen of its truth. With the two former nations, we have just now little concern in this particular; but the condition and prospects of the press in our own must weigh upon the minds of the least thoughtful and patriotic among us.
The literature of America is not now, and cannot be for many years to come, of a solid or even distinct character. The reasons for this are so obvious as not to require VOL. XX.-N0. 40.
elucidation, even if we had space for it here; and the few brilliant exceptions to the remark, which may be pointed out, do not impugn its correctness. It is emphatically of ar ephemeral and floating character, and its lightness and mobility carry it throughout the land, and bring it to the doors and fíresides of even the humblest of those who possess them. Fortunately, the number of citizens who are without these comforts is very few; and to those whose individual means are too limited for their attainment, the doors of Apprentices' Libraries, Tradesmens' and Mechanics' Exchanges, and kindred institutions, are thrown open, where the current publications of the day are easily accessible. Every one, then, becomes more or less imbued with the principles and tastes which these publications embody. Literary opinions are formed more from such authorities, and by such standards, than by recourse to the great models in English literature; and sciolism, therefore, is in danger of becoming the prevailing fault of our people. It is, of course, but a natural result of this, that ancient learning should be discountenanced; recondite studies discouraged; what our fathers regarded as solid acquisitions, be lightly esteemed; and the cheapness of productions be their grand merit. No literary undertaking, requiring the expenditure of even a reasonable sum, receives adequate support; and the encouragement extended to such designs is in exact proportion to their more or less ephemeral character. As to politics, which constitute a chief employment of men's thoughts in the United States, and political essays and paragraphs, which form a large proportion of the publications, the spirit of the constitution and laws naturally engenders a rather superficial view of such matters. Our governments are eminently popular—they appeal at once to the people; they are founded upon a few principles received among us as axioms, which are captivating from their adaptation to the natural pride of the mass, and in the elucidation of which a little smattering goes a great way. Popularity is naturally affected by all aspirants for power—and who are not such ?appeals are directly made, founded upon the received political creed, to the feelings and passions of the people—the more ad captandum, the better for the end in view-and no little satisfaction and pride are experienced by the populace, in being led to suppose
that the true foundations and rules for government and society are as well understood by themselves as by the most educated man in the country. No refinement of distinctions, nor niceties of argument, are of course needed or desired ; and the country being free from hereditary rank, privileged orders, and great landed estates held by a permanent tenure, delicate and intricate questions are of comparatively rare occurrence; or if such should arise, the probability is in favour of their being