Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF MADAME MARA.

While listening to the magic strains of the , would have been a fine study for a painter to Swedish nightingale, we could but reflect that watch the young musician, still almost an infant, she, and those dowered with the like gifts in the propped up on her high chair; her features—to same high degree, must frequently mourn over which even the common beauty of childhood had their evanescence. The warrior's laurel and the been denied-lighted up with the spirit of har. poet's bay are iminoital; while the wreaths which mony, as the violin obeyed the little trembling fall at the feet of a far-fained singer scarcely fingers, and sent forth its sweetest sounds

. perish sooner than her renown. The faded Close by, on the only other seat the room could beauty can point out to her friends, and bequeath boast, sat the now happy father, arging on and to her grandchildren, her fair fresh charms on encouraging the little one; and at a very difficult the " undying canvas;" but what echo remains passage, producing from his capacious pocket a of voices which have thrilled the hearts of half rosy-cheeked apple-a rare dainty for Elizabeth the world ? Surely it is a charity to consecrate —with which her exertions were to be rewarded. one poor half-hour to the memory of a German After a short time, under the high patronage singer, whose name, now utterly forgotten, was, of the child's godfather, a rich tailor, and the at the close of the last century, familiar as a sacristan, Schinühling and his daughter gave household word to the lips of all the beauty and little concerts at the houses of their neighbours fashion of Christendom; while, in private life, -an employment at once pleasant and profitable. her virtues, her unselfishness, and sweetness of They were enabled to make two additions to : disposition, bore a strong resemblance to our their household—a servant and a large dog; and favourite Jenny Lind; who was, however, born both accompanied them on their musical er, under a more fortunate star, and we rejoice to peditions. The little procession always delighted think that the gentle heart of Madame Gold- Elizabeth. As her weak linbs would not supschmidt will never be wrung as was that of the port her weight, she was carried by her father; 2 no less gifted, but less happy, Madame Mara. then came the maid-servant, carrying the violin;

In 1749—that year so signalized by the birth and lastly, the dog, who was intrusted with a of Goëthe-Elizabeth Schmähling, the wife of a little basket filled with violin-strings,&c. Somepoor music-teacher, in Cassel, died in childbirth, times their auditors required ballads, or country leaving her husband a sickly infant, the child of songs, and then the servant joined her rustic his old age. Contrary to all expectations, the voice; but this always displeased the old man, little creature struggled through its early infancy, who was nevertheless compelled to obey the almost to the disappointment of her remaining wishes of his audience. parent, whose paternal feelings were deadened Gradually, however, Elizabeth's fame spread by poverty and the reflection that this little among the richer citizens; the houses of the worthless life had been purchased by that of his wealthy tradesmen were opened to the childbeloved companion. As her father was too poor musician; and at length a rich merchant, who to command attendance of any kind, the neg- was going to the great fair at Frankíort, offered lected child passed the long hours of his absence to convey Schmühling and his daughter there. in perfect solitude, locked in an almost un- The poor child, then hardly eight years old, furnished apartment, and her poor little feet could scarcely bear the jolting of the carrier's fastened to a great chair. One evening, just after she bad completed her her aching head on her father's shoulder, and,

waggon in which she travelled; but she rested fourth year, as Schmähling was returning, weary although her limbs were nearly frozen with the and heavy of heart, to his humble abode, his cold, he kept her hands warm, by placing them step was arrested on the stairs by the sound of under his coat upon his heart. But her cold a scale in music distinctly and perfectly played, and weariness were forgotten completely when proceeding from the prison-room of his little her father, at length, showed Elizabeth the city ailing daughter !

of Frankfort-then full of the life and bustle of He listened again. Yes: he was not mistaken! the great fair-and told her that there she would He had the key of the door. No one could be play before the rich and great

, and earn not only there but the sickly child, whose existence he money, but fame. had felt to be so sore a burden. A new happiness-that of a father's pride and joy-visited years at Frankfort, succeeding so well as to be

Schmühling and his daughter lived for two the desolate heart of the poor old

man, and, in comfortable circumstances, while every day entering softly, he found that the little

Elizabeth seemed to develop

the wonderful powers of the had managed to reach an old violin, whence she child; her health, too, improved, and she could drew the sounds which had so unexpectedly walk, though with difficulty. greeted her father's ears. Now began a new life for these two human many years to Cassel, "loved a wandering life

The old man, whom poverty had bound for so beings—a life of happy companionship. It and went from Frankfort to Vienna, where his

[ocr errors]

buecess prompted him to take what was then an and behind her some young ladies, who looked arduous journey, and the little German child ap- anxiously at me, as I stood in my splendour, peared in London in 1760. But here she was like a doll under a Christmas tree. I held my not well received; her extreme plainness, the sceptre behind me, to hide my red coarse arms. awkwardness of her movements, and the fright- • What have you there at your back?' asked the ful grimaces she made while playing, gave a royal lady. At this question I produced my most unfavourable impression. The disappointed sceptre, and in doing so, unfostunately hit the father prepared to leave England as quickly as director a violent blow on the nose, which made possible; but one of the first singers of the day it bleed. You must not carry your sceptre so,' had made an important discovery-that nalure said her Serene Highness, with an involuntary had given Elizabeth a most magnificent voice. smile; 'it should always be held before youi. She urged Schmähling no longer to waste the But I would advise you to lay it down--a queen powers of the child on violin-playing, but to re- does not always carry her sceptre.” After this turn to Germany with all speed, and place her little lecture I had permission to leave; which, under the care of the best masters; and this you may be sure, I did very speedily. As soon counsel, backed as it was by funds for the pur- as I reached the stage the instruments struck pose, was followed.

up, and I had to commence my recitative imThe old Capellmeister at Leipsic, Father Hiller, mediately; so that, fortunately for me, I could as he was always called, heard Elizabeth Schmäh- think of nothing but the music. I forgot my ling sing, and struck with her wonderful but ille false hair, my crown, my purple mantle, and cultivated powers, adopted the young singer crimson-velvet train-that I was Queen Semirarather as his daughter ihan his pupil. * Hiller mis; and only remembered that I was a singer.” was one of the first musicians of his age, and

A few months after this adventure, Frederick eminently qualified to fulfil the charge he had the Great was told of the young German singer, undertaken. Elizabeth now entered with heart and commanded that she should be brought be. and soul upon her musical education, which pro- fore him. She was conducted into that famous ceeded as an education seldom does—the master little concert-room at Sans Souci, where Frederick unwearied in his teaching, the scholar never satis. was lying, in ill-health and out of humour, on a fied with learning.

sofa. He told her that she had not the beauty nor

“They tell me you can sing; is it true ?” he grace so necessary for the theatre, but that her asked her, roughly. education must prepare her for the envied post

“If it please your Majesty, I can try.” of private singer to the King.

“ Very well, then, sing." Hiller had the satisfaction of watching his

When Elizabeth had finished the piece assigned pupil's dawning fame. The first token of princely her, the King, without any token either of satisfavour she received was a summons from the faction or displeasure, took up a music-sheet director of the royal private theatre at Dresden; containing a very difficult bravura of Graun, for the Electress Dowager, Marie Antonie, bad which he knew she could never have seen. heard of the rising star, and wished to judge “Sing this, if you can,” again commanded of her merits herself. Hasse's fine opera of the imperious monarch. " Semiramis” was chosen, and the principal part

The young singer obeyed, and then withdrew, assigned to Elizabeth.

the King only remarking-Father Hiller was almost in an agony of fear.

“Yes, you can sing.' "My child," he exclaimed, “it will never do! But this interview decided Elizabeth's fate. You cannot—you must not be a queen; every: A proposal was made to her to become the one will laugh at us both."

King's private singer, with an annuity of three Elizabeth herself gives a full account of the thousand dollars secured to her for life. affair. She says—" I suffered patiently all that In 1772, Elizabeth's evił fate brought her they liked to do with me. They painted my into contact with one of the most fascinating face red and white, and put a great patch on my and most unprincipled men of his time-Mara, chin. As this operation was being performed, the violoncellist to Prince Henry of Prussia. in came the director, who, I saw, could hardly In vain did her friends warn her; in vain were help laughing at my appearance. He said he anonymous letters sent from every part to expose was commissioned to conduct me to her High- the true character of her pretended lover; she ness, who wished to see me before I went upon listened only to the protestations of her handthe stage. I hastily threw my purple mantle some fiancé

. On her twenty-fourth birthday, round me, and followed the director through Elizabeth laid a petition for the royal assent to some dark passages, to a little cabinet hung her marriage before Frederick. The answer, with crimson velvet.' Here stood the Electress, which she found written in pencil upon the

margin, was more characteristic than courteous;

it was* Tho portrait of Father Hiller is given at full length in his pupil's life, and

“ You are a fool, and must be more reasona

is a somewhat grotesque picture - a real' old German face, full of ble. You shall not make that fellow your huskindliness and wrinkies; a red cap drawn down over

band.” his ears, and a large pair of spectacles in pinchbeck

After repeated entreaties, and the delay of half frames, on which almost every student in Leipsic, | a year, Frederick was brought to give a most ineluding Goethe himself

, had written an epigram.' l unwilling permission. The marriage was so

!

lemnized; and now, in the midst of her success revenge filled my soul. As I placed the dagger and honour, began the secret sorrows and shame of Armida in my girdle, I wished with all my of the unhappy Elizabeth Mara.

heart that I could slay my pitiless tyrant with She soon discovered how fatal a step she had it. “Yes, I said to myself, as the heavy diadem taken; her husband lavished her earnings on was pressed on my poor aching head, 'yes, I the lowest, both of his sex and her own; he was will obey the tyrant! I will sing, but in such almost always in a disgraceful state of intoxica- accents as he has never heard before: he shall tion; and, not content with heaping every listen to the terrible reproaches I dare not utter neglect on his patient wife, he openly reproached in words.' In this mood I went to the opera; her with her want of beauty.

the common people showed their sympathy, Now, too, she began to experience that her when they saw my guard of dragoons, my face position at court was only a gilded slavery; for wet with tears, and wan with sickness. Some the king, who hated the worthless husband, even rushed forward to rescue me, but they were made the innocent wife feel his anger. A request driven back by the soldiers. The officers had she made to be allowed, on account of her orders to accompany me to the side-scene, and health, to visit the Bohemian baths, was refused; stand there until I was called upon the stage to and on the edge of a petition her husband com- sing my part. I felt sick unto death as I stood pelled her to present for leave to accompany him waiting, and my physician, who accompanied on a tour, she found written in pencil by the me, has since said that he feared the worst

. I ing, “Let him go, but you shall remain." looked on the stage once, as the ballet-dancers

Mara was furious against the King, and be swept past: it seemed to me as if they were haved most brutally to his wife, who pursuaded dancing on my grave. Now I had to appear; I him in vain to keep a prudent silence; he com- sang the bravura in a weak, trembling voice; plained loudly of Frederick’s tyranny, and even but I felt very much vexed that I could only wrote ridiculous pamphlets upon his wrongs. sing so feebly, for ambition awoke in me.

This was perhaps the most miserable period When, in the second act, I had to sing the of Madame Mara's unhappy married life. The “Mi serame,' I poured out the whole sorrow King showed his displeasure openly against her, and oppression of my heart. I glanced at the and she shared the odium with which her hus- King, and my looks and tones said, “Tyrant, I band was universally regarded ; anxiety, grief, am here to obey your will, but you shall listen and distress threw her into a dangerous fever. only to the voice of my agony. As the last Just at this juncture, the Grand Duke, Paul of piteous tones died on my lips, I looked round; Russia--a great admirer, almost a worshipper, all was still as death. Not a sound escaped the of the “Colossus of the century,” as he styled audience; they seemed as if they were witFrederick, arrived at Berlin. Among the fes-nessing some execution. I saw my power, even tivities arranged for the occasion was a great in my weakness; this gave me strength : I felt opera, by Tomelli

, in which Madame Mara was my illness yield for the time to the power of to sing the principal part. On the morning of melody within me. Vanity, too, came to my the day on which it was to be performed, it was assistance; she whispered that it would be an announced that Mara was very ill. The King eternal disgrace if I allowed the Grand Duke, sent her a message, to the effect that she could who had heard of my fame in a foreign land, be well if she pleased, and it was his pleasure to suppose that I was not equal to my renown, that she should be. She returned a respectful Then came that magnificent duet, in which I answer, saying that she was really very ill. All had to address Rinaldo, “Dove corri, 0 RiBerlin was in commotion, and eagerly watched naldo?' and then I raised my voice, but did not the result of a battle between Frederick the put forth all my power, until I had to sing those Great and his first singer. No other entertain- burning words, Vivi felice? Indegno, perfido, ment was arranged for the evening; the King traditore!' My audience seemed overpowered ; commanded the preparations to be completed. the Grand Duke leaned over his box, and testi

. Evening approached; the director, in despair, fied his delight in the most evident manner. For hastily donned his court-dress, and repaired to some moments after I had finished, there was a the King, to whom he represented that he had breathless silence, and then came the full thunseen Mara; that she was really ill, and could der of applause. "I was sent for to appear again, not be induced to leave her bed. Frederick, and receive the plaudits ; but no sooner had I who either really thought, or affected to believe, got behind the scenes than I fell into a fainting the indisposition feigned, merely said, “Do not fit. I was carried home, and for many days my disturb yourself; she will be present;” and half life was despaired of.” an hour afterwards, one of the royal carriages, Such was Madame Mara's account of this accompanied by eight dragoons, stopped before singular act of despotism, one worthy of Nero Madame Mara's door, and the officer announced himself. “The Colossus of the age's certainly to the terrified servants that he had orders to behaved like a petty tyrant to his principal bring their sick mistress by force to the theatre. singer. In vain she pleaded ill health, and We will detail the story in Madame Mara's own begged to be allowed to resign her honourable words to Goethe. She says

post; the answer was always the same-" You “I rose from my sick bed, and dressed, with are to remain here." At length, urged by her the soldiers standing at the door of my apart- husband, and heart-sick of her slavery, she ato ment, Ill as I was, only thoughts of the direst tempted to fly with him; but the fugitives were

discovered and brought back as state pri- example of the power of harmony, only equalled soners.

by the story in Holy Writ of that sweet singer of Frederick, who desired nothing more than Israel who charmed by his melody the gloomy praise from the French press, had been rather demon from his royal master. mortified at the view taken by the Parisian Count S -, a powerful Hungarian noble, journals of his barbarous violation of Mara's had lost, under the most distressing circumsick-room; they expressed, in the strongest stances, his only child, a beautiful girl, who was terms, the deepest indignation at his conduct, on the eve of marriage. Although two years had and the most heartfelt pity for the sufferer. The elapsed since this bereavement, the unhappy voice of public opinion, added to a secret con- father remained in the most melancholy consciousness that he had gone too far, determined dition. From the hour when he had looked his the King to inflict no punishment on Madame last on the dead body of his child, he had reMara herself; but he indemnified himself for mained in the same room, shedding no tears, and this forbearance by making her husband feel uttering no complaints, but in a speechless methe whole weight of his anger. The luxurious, lancholy and despair. The most celebrated phypampered, royal musician was forthwith ordered sicians had been consulted, and every means to repair to Kustrin, in the capacity of drummer which could be thought of used, to awaken wa fusileer regiment! Forgetful of her many Count S_ from his lethargy of grief; but all wrongs, the faithful wife wished to throw her- was in vain; and his medical attendants at saff at the King's feet, and beg that the sentence length despaired of his recovery. Most formight be revoked. He would not see her; and tunately, a member of the sufferer's family had sent her a large portfolio of music, with the fol- heard Mara sing, and entertained a firm belief lowing note : "Study these, and forget your that if any sound on earth could reach the heart good-for-nothing husband : that is the best which was already buried in his daughter's thing you can do.”

grave, that voice, which seerned more like that The unhappy drummer wrote the most piteous of an angel than a human being, would have letters to his wife; touching her heart by com- power. The other relatives, though hoping little plaints of absence from her, which he professed from the experiment, yielded to the solicitations to find unspeakably bitter; and vowing that he of this sanguine friend, and every arrangement had never felt his love for her till now, that ab- was made to give full effect to the singer. An sence taught him how dear she was. Poor Mara, ante-room, opening into that where the count sat, mtaccustomed to words of affection, and willing was prepared. The choir for an oratorio was to be deceived, made the most urgent efforts to placed in a concealed gallery; Mara alone stood obtain his recall, and succeeded at last, when all in the foreground, yet in such a position that she appeals to Frederick's generosity, honour, and could not be seen in the next room, which was clemency, had failed, by an appeal of a different hung with black, and a faint shadowy twilight nature, which was far more likely to weigh with only admitted, excepting a few golden rays from the parsimonious monarch. She offered to pur- a small lamp, which burned in a niche before chase her husband's freedom with the resigna- a beautiful Madonna. Suddenly, upon the tion of half her annual salary; and the great solitude and silence of that sick room, there bero of the eighteenth century was nothing loath broke a wonderful harmony. Elizabeth had to comply on these terms.

chosen Handel's Messiah,” and took her This sacrifice for so unworthy an object was place, deeply moved with the singular circumthe wonder and admiration of Berlin. "It hap- stances under which she was to exert her talents. pened that the first time Mara appeared after- At first, the music and that heavenly voice all wards was in a little opera called “The Galley seemed to be unheeded; but, by degrees, the Slave.” The audience applied a scene, in which desolate parent raised himself on his couch, and the singer, unbinding the chains of the galley glanced with earnest longing towards the spot slave

, was addressed by him in these words: whence those soul-moving sounds proceeded. "Ame tendre et géneréuse, tu brisas mes fers,” At length, when Mara sang those words, to their favourite herself. In spite of the royal “ Look and see if there be any sorrow like unto prohibition, garlands, bouquets, and even costly my sorrow," she appeared inspired by the symjewellery, fell at her feet, as these words were pathy she felt; and the relatives of the Count, pronounced. One of the fairest trophies of her who listened with beating hearts, could not republic life was a fine engraving of this scene, strain their tears. Nor did these alone bear from a sketch taken on the spot, by Chodowiecki. witness to the singer's power: heavy sighs esMadame Mara preserved it carefully, and loved caped the sufferer; large tears stood in those to contemplate the picture even to her dying day. eyes which the very extremity of grief itself had At length, in 1779, after having resided at the long forbidden to weep. Crossing the room Prussian court, as first singer, for nearly ten with feeble steps, he prostrated himself before years, Elizabeth Mara obtained her most wel- the image of that Heavenly One, who " bore all come dismissal. “Now,” she wrote to her our griefs ;” and when the full choir joined in friends," the imprisoned bird is let loose, and the hallelujah chorus, his voice of praise and can fly everywhere.” She went to Vienna, where thanksgiving mingled with those strains. The an incident occurred, of which she always spoke recovery was not only complete, but lasting, and as the most gratifying and exciting she had ever was, at the time, the marvel of Germany. known. We will give

the full particulars of an In 1784 she again visited England, where she had not been since, as an ugly, sickly child, she bauchée. After this separation, her days were calm, was despised for her excessive plainness. Now, if not happy. She retired early from public life, however, full justice was done her, and she was and settled at Reval, where, on her eighty-third welcomed as the queen of song. George III. birthday, she received a copy of verses from and his graceless son were at least agreed in Goëthe, who, on the same day sixty years betheir admiration of Mara's voice. During her fore, had, as a student at Leipsic, sung her stay in England, those bonds which she had praises as Mademoiselle Schwähling. twelve years before so eagerly embraced, and Madame Mara died at Reval, on the 20th of found such galling fetters, were broken, and she January, 1833, having nearly completed her separated from her worthless husband, pension- eighty-fifth year. - Godey's American Magaing him off so amply as to satisfy the selfish déa zine.

[blocks in formation]

No. I.-The DRAMA IN GREECE; IN ROME;/ dancing. The contents of these songs were IN THE MIDDLE Ages. mirthful, ludicrous, and too often indecorous

.

The term “Comedy" signifies village-song; but It has been justly said that the origin of the the original meaning has been much altered. drama must be sought for in that powerful agent To Lusarion, who flourished 580 years before in human nature, the love of imitation : hence, the Christian era, the Greeks were indebted for in our efforts to trace its rise, the mind must be the first regular comic-drama. directed to periods the most remote, when civiliza- Thespis-of whom we know little more than the tion had not visited the abodes of man. The name, retained by his descendants, the children rude war-dance, indicating a species of enter- of the “sock and buskin” of the present daytainment, when the performers formed an ex

was contemporary with Lusarion, and added to hibition for the amusement of the spectators, the interest created by the choral-songs in introhas always existed among savage tribes; form, ducing an actor whose office it was to recite, ing, with them, the rites of their religion, and during the pauses of the singing, verses in which is found to prevail in the early history of honour of Hercules, Theseus, or some other all nations.

hero of antiquity. The face of the actor was As representations of this rude nature in- daubed with wine-lees; and the simple paracreased in proportion as religious ceremonies phernalia necessary to the exhibition were advanced, imitative exhibitions became more ex- conveyed from place to place in a waggon tensive, and finally constituted that which in a somewhat after the fashion of our travelling. strict sense may be denominated dramatic per- showmen who frequent the public fairs. With formance.

this rude structure, on a moveable stage, LusaThese rites and ceremonies, originating when rion and Thespis held up to ridicule the vices man was in a rude and barbarous state, are still and follies of their age. At the end of the performed with many nations; for, even to this Peleponnesian war it was strictly prohibited to day, at the celebration of various festivals, ex. bring living persons by name on the stage, or to hibitions are brought forward of a religious kind, ridicule the government. And a proof of the which represent with more or less accuracy the power of the drama over the human mind at chief particulars of the event about to be com- that period may be deduced from the fact, that memorated : in short, the eleinents of the dra- the comedies of Aristophanes influenced the matic art have existed among all nations; and Greeks in their decree of death to the great every country which has made any progress in philosopher, Socrates. civilization has at the same time developed this Aristophanes, the most popular, and at the art.

same time the most severely satirical

, of the Greek As mankind progressed in knowledge, the dramatists, in his writings held Socrates, his drama assumed in its character a form differing doctrines and the philosophy of his school, up from mythological representation. Greece, dis- to the severest ridicule; which, it is said, tended tinguished beyond all other ancient states for the much to alienate the minds of the ever-changing advance of those arts which lead to the cultiva- multitude from their great sage. By degrees tion of science and philosophy, is the country tragedy became a distinct branch of the art, and to which we must look for the rise and progress its graver scenes served as an entertainment

for of the regular drama. But although Homer had the inhabitants of cities; whilst comedy retained sung with great beauty the conflict of the Trojan its gay character, and chiefly served to amuse the war, and Hesiod had breathed forth in immortal country-people of Greece. Regular companies song the enjoyments of rural life, yet centuries of comedians were at length established at Atelapsed before the people of ancient Greece had ticus, being tolerated by the government. established the old Greek comedy, and which The old comedy of the Greeks was thoroughly principally consisted of dramatic songs and national, with something of a political tendency.

« ПредишнаНапред »