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THE DRAMATIC WRITERS OF IRELAND. -80. IX.
RICHARD LALOR SPRIL-JOHN BANIM-GERALD GRIFFIN.
"If anything be overlooked, or not accurately inserted, let no one find fault, but take into consideration that this history is compiled from all quarters."-TRANSLATION FROM EVAGRIUS.
Much has been lately written about purposed to pass over what has been Sheil-two volumes of “Memoirs," and already so amply discussed, and to contwo more containing a republication fine our remarks more immediately to of his “Legal and Political Sketches," the leading object of the series to with notes by the editor. * Both are which they belong. In some of the able and authentic works, containing statements that have appeared from much information, indited in a friend time to time, respecting Sheil's draly spirit. They have been generally matic productions, there have been read, and elaborately reviewed. We omissions and inaccuracies - not very cannot add anything that is new on the important perhaps, but even in trifles it leading events of a life so completely is better to be correct than erroneous. familiar to the public; while it is ex- RICHARD LALOR SHEIL was born at tremely difficult to collect or express the country-residence of his father, impartial opinions on the political cha- near Waterford, on the 17th of Auracter of an individual whose feelings gust, 1791. He received his principal and views, as reflected in his speeches, education at the Jesuit Seminary of were so frequently in the extreme. On Stonyhurst, in Lancashire, and at Trisuch points, posterity is a more cqual nity College, Dublin. He cared little judge than the living generation. Tal- for mathematics, but distinguished leyrand did wisely when he directed himself in classical learning. His pothat his memoirs should not be given etical, imaginative temperament, deto the world until a certain number of cided the preference. In his twentyyears had elapsed. He thought he third year, he produced his first trashould be better understood, and more gedy, Adelaide, or the Emigrants, fairly estimated, when what he said or which he was inspired to write by addid was no longer the topic of yester- miration of Miss O'Neill, then the day, but had passed into an historical leading goddess of the Dublin Thcarecord. Sheil plunged deep into the tre. The talents of this great actress, stormy sea of politics, during a period more than the intrinsic merit of the when the waves ran high, and the cur- play-which was first acted at Crowrent was overwhelmingly impetuous. street, on the 19th February, 1814For a long time, it was much more carried through this early attempt of likely that he would be hunted down the young author with flattering sucas the mark for a criminal prosecution,
In 1816, Miss O'Neill, rememthan that his name would figure in bering her Dublin laurels, anxious to the Red Book as a Privy Councillor, serve Sheil, and above all, desirous of a Commissioner of Greenwich Hos- an original character in London, obpital, a Vice-President of the Board tained from the management of Coof Trade, a Judge-Advocate-General, vent Garden the production of Adeor her Majesty's Ambassador at a fo- laide. The two leading parts, next in reign court. Yet he successively filled importance to her own, were sustained all those offices, although always an by Young and Charles Kemble; and enthusiastic emancipator, and an ad- great efforts were made to ensure a vocate for Repeal, until he saw that favourable verdict. On the 23rd of the word was a mockery, and the real- May the trial came off; but the senisation of the chimera impossible. In tence was one of condemnation, not the present notice, as in the case of loudly expressed, but conveyed by inMoore, and for similar reasons, it is ference. The play was announced for
“ Memoirs." By Torrens B'Cullagh, Esq. with Notes, by M. W. Savage, Esq.
Legal and Political Sketches." Edited,
repetition on three evenings, but was tirade, which he uttered with such never acted a second time. The ex- energy and feeling, that the blasphemy traordinary exertion attending Miss passed over unobserved. O'Neill's performance of the heroine, Hazlitt -- at that time the critic of was alleged in the play-bills as the rea- the day, par excellence - wrote with son for indefinite postponement; but characteristic bitterness of Sheil's first the absence of names in the box-plan dramatic attempt, without knowing afforded å moro feasible solution. In the author. He says * :this case the decision of the public can scarcely be objected to. There were
“A tragedy, to succeed, should be either some passages of true poetic beauty, uniformly excellent, or uniformly dull. particularly that which describes the Either will do almost equally well. We personal charms of Adelaide (drawn are convinced that it would be possible to from her fair representative), but they write a tragedy which should be a tissue of were overloaded by others of unnatu- unintelligible commonplaces from beginral exaggeration. The entire drama was ning to end, in which not one word that is rather an effort of promise than an
said shall be understood by the audience; instance of realised talent. The plot
and yet, provided appearances are saved, and incidents are too meagre for a
and nothing is done to trip up the heels of
the imposture, it would go down. Adelaide, five-act play. The action is supposed
or the Emigrants, is an instance in point. to take place at the time of the first If there had been one good passage in this French Revolution. St. Evermont, a play, it would infallibly have been damned. noble Royalist, has escaped into Ger- But it was all of a piece; one absurdity jus. many with his wife, 'Adelaide his tified another. The first scene was like the daughter, and Julia, his niece. Count second ; the second act no worse than the Lunenburg has given them a cottage first; the third like the second, and so on to reside in, on his domains. He and to the end. The mind accommodates itself Adelaide fall mutually in love, and
to circumstances. The author never once are privately married, as she supposes ;
roused the indignation of his hearers by the but, in the third act, Lunenburg ac
disappointment of their expectations. He knowledges that he has imposed on
startled the slumbering furies of the pit by
no dangerous inequalities. We were quite her by a false ceremony, and offers to resigned by the middle of the third simile, repair all by a public union. Adelaide, and equally thankful when the whole was instead of acceding to his proposal, over. The language of this tragedy is made says she will wed despair, and stigma- up of nonsense and indecency; mixed metises herself as the vilest of women ; taphors abound in it. The torrent of paswhereas in fact she has been guilty of sion rolls along precipices.' Pleasure is said no crime, except that of contracting a
to gleam upon despair, 'like moss upon the clandestine marriage. Adelaide poi. desolate rock. The death of a hero is comsons herself. Albert, her brother, chal
pared to the peak of a mountain setting in lenges Lunenburg, who flings away his
seas of glory, or some such dreadful simile,
built up with ladders and scaffolding. Then own sword, and rushes on the weapon
the thunder and lightning are mingled with of his opponent. The tragedy con
bursts of fury and revenge in inextricable cludes with this double suicide, which confusion. There are such unmeaning a little temper and explanation might phrases as contagious gentleness; and the have rendered unnecessary. St. Ever- heroes and the heroine, in their transports, mont, père, has a very questionable as a common practice, set both worlds at speech, which must have escaped the defiance." vigilant eyes of the licenser, or assuredly he would have expunged it. All this comes rather under the head The venerable exile says he saw “his of smart, pungent writing, than sound lawful monarch’s bleeding head, and criticism, or clear reasoning; but it yet he prayed ;" he saw his castle- was very discouraging to a young drawalls crumbled into ashes by the matic aspirant when he found it on his devouring fames, and yet he prayed ;" breakfast-table, the following morning, but when he finds his daughter be- in the columns of an influential jourtrayed by one of his most trusted nal. It would scarcely whet his appefriends, « he can pray no more !" tite more than the parting consolation Young was greatly applauded in this suggested to Wolsey by his angry
* “View of the English Stage," p. 295.
master. Sheil felt his disappointment, ton; Florinda (daughter to Alvarez), but he exhibited no outward tokens of Miss O'Neill. chagrin. Being behind the scenes The writer of this article was preduring the performance, he saw that sent on the first representation, and his play produced silence rather than well remembers the enthusiasm of the applause, and anticipating the result, audience. Miss O'Neill played with asked, abruptly, "When do they an intensity of feeling and power, of usually begin to damn a new piece which those who never saw that fasci. here ?is*
A London success would nating actress can form but a very have been very gratifying to him. He faint conception. Macready, at that had lately married, or was on the point time working his way, found a good of marrying, his first wife, Miss O'Hal- stepping-stone in a very repulsive chaloran, å niece of Sir Wm. M‘Mahon, racter, which no other actor could baye Master of the Rolls, and might antici
invested with the same consequence. pate a young family. His father had Charles Kemble presented a perfect fost much of his property in unlucky beau ideal of the heroic apostate ; and speculations, and his own means were Young, as the old Moor, topped them restricted. He disliked the dull drudg- all. He had a fulminating speech ery of the law, to which he was profes-against the Inquisition, then recently sionally condemned, and courted Apol- restored by the amiable Ferdinand the lo, equally from inclination and the Seventh, which he delivered con amore, hope of more agreeable profit. He and with an effect that produced peals knew that many living dramatists had upon peals of applause, such as coldreceived large sums for popular plays. blooded or more fastidious moderns At that very moment his country- never indulge in now, within the walls man, Maturin, was energing from of any theatre. The passage is admitoilsome obscurity, and the town rang rable in itself, and may be selected as with the praises of Bertram, while a good characteristic specimen of the Adelaide was consigned to oblivion. author's style, which a very qualified In spite of the condemnation of Haz. notice in the Quarterly Review admitlitt, he tried his luck again, and within ted to be original, and not borrowed twelve months after his first failure. from any popular school. Hemeya On the 3rd of May, 1817, his tragedy has warned his friend to be cautious
in of The Apostate appeared at Covent speech, and pointing to the terrible Garden, and was received with most prison-house, before which they are decided approbation. It was repeated conversing, saystwelve times during that season ; and
“Look at yon gloomy towers ; e'en now we stand between the sum paid from the trea
Within the shadows of the Inquisition." sury of the theatre, and the profits of the copyright, placed seven hundred
Malec replies, indignantlypounds in the hands of the author.
" Art thou afraid ? Look at yon gloomy towers! It is unquestionably a better play than Has thy fair minion told thee to beware Adelaide, constructed with more at- Of damps and rheums caught in the dungeon's tention to dramatic rules, and far su
Or has she said those dainty limbs of thine perior in interest and incident. The Were only made for love? Look at yon towers ! occasional inflation of the poetry is less
Ay! I will look upon them, not to fear,
But deeply curse them. There ye stand aloft, apparent, as the action passes during the Frowning in all your black and dreary pride, romantic period, in Spain, the peculiar
Monastic monuments of humun misery
Houses of torment-palaces of horror! land of romance, and about the time
Oft have you echoed to the lengthened shriek of the revolt of the Moors from Philip Of midnight murder; often have you heard the Second. The acting was superb.
The deep choked groan of stifled agony
Burst in its dying whisper. Curses on ye! No tragedy of common pretensions Curse on the tyrant that sustains you, too! could fail with such a cast as the fol.
Oh I may ye one day from your tow'ring height
Fall on the wretches that uphold your domes, lowing :-Hemeya (the descendant of
And crush them in your ruins -" the Moorish kings), C. Kemble ; Malec (an old Moor), Mr. Young; Pes- The Apostate continued an attraccara (Governor of Grenada), Ma. tive play at Covent Garden as long as cready; Alvarez (a Spanish nobleman), Miss O'Neill remained a member of Murray; Comez (an inquisitor), Eger- the company; but it has never been
* We are not sure that this did not occur at the later representation of The Apostate.
revived at any London theatre since catastrophe, which winds up happily, her secession in 1819.
while just retribution overtakes the On the 22nd of April, 1818, Sheil's villain Ludovico (the Lorenzo of The third tragedy, entitled Bellamira, or Traytor). In Shirley's play, the inthe Fall of Tunis, was produced at nocent and guilty fall together, and the Covent Garden, with the same power- concluding scene exhibits a perfect ful cast which had supported The Apos- shambles. We are dull enough not tate, but with very inferior success. to feel keenly the intense beauty It was said that Miss O'Neill disliked and strength of the elder dramatists, her part, and this was the reason as- always excepting Shakspeare, and a signed for the speedy withdrawal of very few selections from his contemthe play from the bills. She acted the poraries and immediate successors. character once afterwards in Bath, and Their plots turn on the most revolting to a very bad house. Nevertheless, crimes, incidents, and situations, and the author again received four hundred are for the most part compounded pounds, while the treasury of the thea- of disgusting variations of murder, tre must have sustained a loss. Sheil's butchery, incest, violation, and adulfourth and best tragedy, Evadne, or tery, carried out with broad brutality, the Statue, came out on the 10th of Fe- and scantily redeemed by an occasional bruary, 1819, only five months before passage of harmonious or pathetic Miss O'Neill retired from the London versification, which cannot be uttered boards.* Again he had the advantage to refined ears, from the objectionable of her brilliant talents, supported as be- nature of the inference or context. fore by Young, Macready, and Charles The general impression with which we Kemble. Evadne ran for thirty nights rise from the perusal of these highly to crowded houses. The author dedi- vaunted masters of the olden times, is cated it to Thomas Moore, and his pro. one of surprise and regret that so much fits amounted to five hundred pounds. power should be combined with so litThe tragedy is founded on Shirley's tle taste, and such executive talent Traytor (written in 1635), t but modi. thrown away on impracticable subfied to suit the more refined notions of jects. The morbid eccentricities of the nineteenth century. Sheil, in his genius are very unaccountable. Withpreface, almost claims the merit of in the last ninety years, Horace Waloriginal conception for a skilful adap- pole, a wit, a courtier, and a coxcomb, tation. He says, “ No one contests wrote and printed a revolting tragedy, the originality of Douglas, because called The Mysterious Mother, wbich Home took his plot from an old ballad, Lord Byron praises to the echo, while and even profited by the Merope of he eulogises the author as the Ultimus Voltaire. 'Rowe's Fair Penitent is a Romanorum. The play is undoubtedly still stronger case; that fine tragedy clever, and contains some fine didactic is modelled on Massinger's Fatal and descriptive poetry; but the sub. Dowry. Otway and Southern rarely ject shuts it out from the stage, alinvented their plots." Many more though Walpole evidently wished to parallel instances were ready, had he try the experiment, and coquetted for cared to cite them. He might have that purpose, while he affected to disascended to Shakspeare, who usually claim it. He even wrote an epilogue built on history, old legends, or popu- in character, to be spoken by his neighlar novels of his day.
bour and close ally, Mrs. Clive, who Evadne is a well-constructed drama, in all probability would have rebelled less nervous in diction than The Traj- in that instance, bad the ungracious tor, but freed as much as possible from task been pressed upon her. During the indelicacy inherent to the subject, the summer which has just concluded, and infinitely more agreeable in the Madame Ristori has been attracting
She acted subsequently, in the same year, in Dublin and Edinburgh, and finally with the amateur company at Kilkenny.
† Shirley's T'raytor is not original, but taken, with very considerable alterations and improvements, from a still earlier play, bearing the same name, written (but apparently never acted) by a Jesuit named Rivers, who lived in the reign of James the First. Rivers composed' his piece while he was in confinement in Newgate, on account of some religious and political meddlings, and in that prison he died.
all Paris to the Mirra of Alfieri, which heroine, disclaims reason, and rhapsoan English audience would not tole- dises into nonsense :rate for half an act that is, if they bappened to understand it. But with "Sure some dark spell, some fearful witchery
Some dæmon paints it on the coloured airthem, omne ignotum pro magnifico is a "Tis not reality that stares upon me!" maxim wbich has not yet entirely lost its influence.
Miss O'Neill performed Evadne twice Sheil delighted in describing the in Dublin, in July, 1819, after the beauty of his
heroines. He had done close of the Covent Garden season, so in Adelaide, and again in Evadne but the play was not then attractive. he paints from the sanie representa- It has more recently been revived by tive, in the following fine passage, in Miss Helen Faucit, who added much which Vicentio contemplates the lady to her fame by her admirable imperof his choice, believing that her affec. sonation of the heroine. tion is changed, while her personal On the 3rd of May, 1820, a drama attractions retain all their unequalled in three acts, entitled Montoni, or the brilliancy:
Phantom, appeared at Covent Garden. * But you do not look altered—would you did !
It was only acted twice, and never Let me peruse the face where loveliness
printed. On the second night it was Stayr, like the light after the sun is set.
performed as an afterpiece-a certain Sphered in the stillness of those heaven-blue eyes, The soul sits beautiful; the high white front,
indication of failure. The characters Smooth as the brow of Pallas, seems a temple and actors were as follows :_Baron Sacred to holy thinking; and those lips Wear the small smile of sleeping infancy,
Montoni, Macready ; Sebastian, Ab. They are so innocent. Ah, thou art still
bott; Calatro, Yates; Gregorio, an The same soft creature, in whose lovely form
abbot, Egerton; Rosaline, Miss Foote. Virtue and beauty seemed as if they tried Which should exceed the other. Thou hast got
Sheil was known to be the author, but That brightness all around thee, that appeared he had no desire to be much identified An emanation of the soul, that loved To adorn its habitation with itself;
with a piece which diminished rather And in thy body was like light, that looks than increased his reputation. As in More beautiful in the reflecting cloud
the earlier case of Bertram and AdeIt lives in, in the evening. Oh, Evadne, Thou art not altered-would thou wert !"
laide, he was again overshadowed by
the superior eclât of Knowles's Vir. If we judge Evadne with critical seve- ginius, which was produced at the rity, the exchange of pictures in the same theatre within a fortnight after. second act must be pronounced a In the following year, Sheil materially clumsy incident.
The trick is too assisted Banim in Damon and Pythias, common-place and transparent. Evadne first acted at Covent Garden on the lends Olivia Vicentio's miniature to 28th of May, 1821. This play has look at for a moment. On Vicentio's been sometimes printed with the names almost immediate approach, she de- of both, but the exact share to which mands it back, and does not perceive, the two authors could lay claim has in her hurry, that Olivia has treache- never been distinctly ascertained. rously substituted the king's, with which Sheil, more than once, in conversation she has been provided by Ludovico on the subject with the writer of this for that express purpose. Vicentio, notice, told him that he had contributed after some altercation with Evadne, several speeches, and much general calls on her to produce his picture. supervision and advice as to the conShe takes that of the king from her struction of the drama. bosom, supposing it to be Vicentio's, On the 11th December, 1822, Sheil's and this drives the quarrel between last tragedy, The Huguenot, appeared in the two lovers to the point of frenzy. the same theatre which had witnessed If Evadne bad acted on the principles his earlier efforts, but without the sucof common sense or reflection, she cess which maturer experience might must at once have perceived that the have looked for. It was written three false Olivia had played her a trick. years before, in 1819, and the heroine The short space of time which inter. intended for Miss O'Neill, whose abvenes between the change of the pic- sence was severely felt, and her place tures and the discovery of that change, inadequately supplied. Macready alone precludes the possibility of any other remained of the leading performers supposition on rational principles. But who had so distinguished themselves in Evadne, unlike a woman, and very The Apostate, Bellamira, and Evadne. much in the strain of a true tragedy Three nights terminated the short