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with truth, in his preface, that he had written this tragedy before he had read “The Robbers” of Schiller ; and in the power of telling a dreadful story, he has certainly no resemblance to the German poet. The plot of “ The Castle of Montval” is founded on a horrible fact, which was discovered in the south of France, in 1783, namely the confinement of an unfortunate man in a domestic dungeon by his own family. In Dr. Whalley's play we find the young Count de Montval in his hereditary castle, married only a few days before to a young wife, whose character is meant to be the model of human perfection. She is tender, intrepid, gentle, submissive, and yet romantic and resolute. But, with all this compound of virtues in his spouse, the young Count is ill at ease in his stately mansion, from the circumstance of his having some time previously locked up his own father in a subterraneous apartment, pretending that he was dead, while in reality he had buried him alive. He resolves, on pretence of business, to repair to Paris, and to confide the keys of a whole wing of the castle, as well as of the dungeon in which his sire is confined, to one Lapont, a villain, who is a sharer in his crime. His lady, when he takes leave of her, expresses a desire to have a sight of all the apartments in their habitation ; but he conjures her to defer her visit to the shut-up wing till he should return. Notwithstanding this warning from his wife's curiosity, instead of putting the keys into Lapont's hand, he carelessly leaves them, with most marvellous neglect, upon a table, at his departure. They are snatched up by his countess's waiting-maid; and she brings them to her mistress, together with terrific stories about the part of the house to which those keys gave access being haunted by a ghost, who groaned and spat fire at all who came in his way. This tempting circumstance determines the lady to console her chagrin for her lord's departure, by sleeping in one of the haunted chambers. She takes with her the old steward of the house, who is frightened out of his wits, and places him as a sentinel at the outside of her chamber. Here, though no comic effect is intended, a good deal is produced, at least to my imagination, by the scene that follows ; for the steward is so fearful in his watch that he takes a bottle of cordial liquor from his pocket, and, having swallowed it, falls fast asleep. Meanwhile his mistress, without the aid of such Marquis of Vaublanc (in love with Matilda), C. Kemble; Count of Colmar (friend to the Old Count), Aickin; Blaise (an old steward), Packer ; Matilda (in love with the Marquis), Mrs. Powell; Teresa (woman to the Countess), Miss Heard.
a sedative, falls asleep also, but is awakened by repeated groans. She starts up, looks round her chamber, and, tearing up the tapestry, discovers a hidden door. There she spies at a distance an aged figure advancing towards the light, and she calls out to him, “ Are you the ghost ?” Old Montval tells her his story ; but, with a delicacy as preternatural as if he had been a spirit, insists on going back till morning to his dungeon, where the damps of the earth had bedewed his head. Lapont then enters, and attempts to stab the Countess, who drops a dagger
that she had brought with her. Old Montval picks up the weapon, and kills the villain. Young Montval enters, and starts back with horror at the sight of his father ; but the old man, though he had been strong enough to despatch Lapont, feels death approaching, and forgives his unnatural son. The Countess upbraids her husband, who falls at her feet imploring pardon. She tells him to go and “herd with cannibals that eat men's flesh.” He takes out a dagger, and stabs himself. She pities him when it is too late, and exclaims, “ I have murdered my husband !”
To give popularity to such a piece was out of the question. It is surprising enough that Mrs. Siddons, by her powerful acting, could save it from ridicule. Sagacious as she generally was in dramatic poetry, I must suppose her patronage of this tragedy a casual illusion of her taste, for, if she had seen it in its true light, she was too sincerely its author's friend not to advise him to write for the pulpit instead of the stage.
When the piece was got up at Bath, in 1812, the playbills modestly announced that it had been performed thirty times at Drury Lane, although it had had a run there of only eight nights.
Dr. Whalley, it seems, wrote this drama with the express view to Mrs. Siddons's appearance in it. This news the reverend poet communicated by post to Anna Seward, who sent him the following sensible answer:
“ You say I must read Mrs. Siddons's part in your tragedy, as written for her manner of speaking, and for her alone. I have always thought it her highest praise that she is no mannerist, but the warm, glowing, graceful creature who speaks, and looks, and moves by no other impulses but those of nature and passion, consequently with beauty, elegance, and majesty. If she had no other singularity except that of being the most perfect speaker that can be heard, she would not be the transcendent actress which she is invariably found in tragedy. I can associate her face and form with any given part I am read
ing; but can no otherwise conceive her expression of countenance, intonation, and emphasis, than by imagining, to the best of my power, how a woman of fine understanding and feeling heart would look and speak, in the circumstances in which you have placed her. If more than that could be done, Mrs. Siddons would not be, as she is, guiltless of ever overstepping the modesty of nature to produce stage-effect. Mrs. Yates continually did that; and the pathetic Mrs. Cibber had a plaintive monotony which she could not vary. But Mrs. Pritchard and Garrick were, and Mrs. Siddons is, too great and just to be peculiar."
I know not whether the following poetical compliment to Mrs. Siddons is contained in Miss Seward's published poems, but the following note accompanied her sonnet; and I think it a curiosity of its kind, being a letter written by that lady, but never sent by her to the press.
LETTER FROM MISS SEWARD TO MRS. SIDDONS.
" Lichfield, Monday Night :
“ Aug. 11. " I think myself unfortunate that impaired health generally obliges me to seek the coast at this season, when granted to the country, and sometimes to this neighbourhood. I have now to lament that a severe cough and inflammation on my lungs, which a fortnight ago prevented my leaving Staf. fordshire, form, in their yet lurking remains, a barrier to the highest gratification my heart and imagination can know. To encounter a crowded theatre during the present extreme sultriness would, disordered as I am, put my life to the hazard. Anxiously do I hope it may not prove injurious to your health amid exertions so trying. This night you represent Calistatwice, in former years, I have witnessed how exquisitely.
Ruminating this morning, in sweet and bitter thought, your matchless talents, and my seldom power of enjoying their affluence, your virtues, and my distance from their sphere of action, the lines which you will find on this paper
descended from my pen. I wish they were more worthy of you; yet venture to present them to your acceptance.
“ If you pass through Lichfield on your return from Birmingham, I wish I might promise myself the honour of the Siddons sleeping beneath my roof. May I entreat of
in the event of your return that way, to stop with me as many days as may be spared from the important demands upon your
time. It is an honour and happiness of which I have been long desirous. Should it be possible for me to obtain it now, favour me with a line, to say when I may expect you.
“With compliments to Mr. Siddons, and with every kind, good wish, I remain,
“ My dear madam,
“ ANNA SEWARD."
The Powers, that guard the Drama's awful shrine-
Silence that speaks, and eloquence divine-
None may or hope to conquer or to share;
Each various sense subdued and captive there.
A claim that rises in unvanquish'd strife :
Her radiant science, and her spotless life.”
She performs in Sheridan's “Pizarro”-in “ Adelaide,” a Tragedy by
Pye-Lady Jane, in Joanna Baillie's “ De Montfort”—in Godwin's “ Antonio"-in Sotheby's “ Julian and Agnes”—in “The Winter's Tale”—Her danger from Fire in the Statue-scene— Visits Wales, on her way to Ireland.
DURING the rest of her professional life, Mrs. Siddons appeared in no new drama that attracted crowded houses, excepting “ Pizarro.” The season of 1799 was an uncommonly protracted one at Drury Lane ; it was not concluded till the 4th of July, and the last thirty-five nights of it were almost consecutively employed in the representation of this piece, which was adapted to the stage entirely by Sheridan, from an English translation of Kotzebue's German play. Sheridan certainly put no new laurels on his head by this adaptation, and he got no solid credit for it, except at his banker's; but he made money, for which, at that time, he was perhaps more
immediately anxious than for fame. In some particulars, it must be confessed that he has rather amended the original. He judiciously omitted the comic scene of Diego, as well as Elvira's confession of her love for Alonzo, and her reappearance in the character of a nun. His introduction of Rolla's passage across the bridge was also a strikingly improving touch. In that scene, the pencil of Lawrence has done noble justice to the form of Kemble.
In adapting “ Pizarro" for the stage, Sheridan, unacquainted with the original language, worked from an English paraphrase. With regard to style and imagery, he may have sometimes relieved the over-flat familiarity of the German play, but, where he found the opposite fault of turgidity, he has adhered with tolerable fidelity to the British translator. In one speech, a warrior predicts that his bones will rattle in his tomb with joy at his posthumous fame ; and in the first scene of the second act, Cora talks as follows about her child acquiring the organs of mastication. 6 When first the white blossoms of his teeth appear, breaking the crimson buds that did enclose them.” Elvira says to Pizarro, at the end of the third act, “ Thou on Panama's brow didst make alliance with the raving elements, that tore the silence of that horrid night ;-—when thou didst follow, as thy pioneer, the crashing thunder's drift, and, stalking o'er the trembling earth, didst plant thy banner by the red volcano's mouth. Thou who, when battling on the sea, and thy brave ship was blown to splinters, wast seen, as thou didst bestride a fragment of the smoking wreck, to wave thy glittering sword above thy head, as thou wouldet defy the world in that extremity. Come, fearless man, meet and survive an injured woman's fury if thou canst.”
If this be not bombast, what does the word mean?
Sheridan was fond of borrowing, but he was a fairer dealer in metaphors than in money, and generally took the loan of the former from himself. To adorn 66 Pizarro,” he drew largely from his own orations at Westminster Hall; and particularly from his speech on Hastings' trial. He had a personal right, no doubt, to these flowers of speech, and some of them, in their proper place, were very beautiful ; but still they were flowers that scarcely bore to be transplanted, and they assorted indifferently with the German bouquet of dramatic eloquence. So that, upon the whole perhaps, Sheridan's mutation of the piece amounted to the Irish improvement,-of turning bad into worse.
Nevertheless, I cannot censure Kotzebue's “ Pizarro” without qualification. It is bad, in as far as there is some fustian