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as it is here more accurately expressed, the homogeneity of genius is strongly asserted, and maintained in a pleasing and forcible train of argument:
'It ii not only now that we have discovered the relatTon« between the great operations of the human mind in the most dissimilar spheres. Nearly two thousand years ago. Horace said that poetry is a speaking piciure, and that both arts are subject to the same rules: a maxim which may be extended to all the tine arts, since none is without its . own peculiar poetry.
'Eloquence, in all her vehemence, is identified with poetry; she has its enthusiasm, its emotion, its figures, its txpressions. The greatest oiator of Rome, Cicero himself, bears witness to this fact.
'In the exposition of the most abstract truths, we observe an eloquence of ideas correspondent to the eloquence of style; a great geometrician has said, " Newton is eloquent, when he speaks of God and space."—Ask the greatest mathematicians what is the kind of spirit proper for geometrical excellence; they will answer unanimously that, for the solution of problem', an imagination is necessary not less active nor less fertile than for the operations of poetry. )
* Perhaps a relation may even be recognized not only among all great thoughts, whatever may be the objects of them, but also betweeen grtat thoughts and great sentiments, between heroism and genius. A generous action is at once the translation of a great idea and its realization ; a noble expression is the emanation of a noble sen. timent and the natural language of noble souls; it is the same character of sublimity differently manifested.
'This analogy of great men is so true, that sometimes, in tracing the portrait of one, we draw without intending it those of others in the most dissimilar professions. Eossuel, when he celebrates tlx Hidden illuminations ot the great Condi,—who, by a kind of inspiration in the midst of the fire of battles, discovered at one moment his dan. . gers and his resources, by a single order led fortune into his designs, and seemed to force the destinies,— Botsuel at the same time paints himself, when he astonishes and strikes his audience by great and rapid ideas, and by a single word blasts the triumphs of success! ul crime; and by the very same touch we recognize Corneille. That elevated style, those sublime flashes, those thundering words, those sudden illuminations, those inspiration? of genius, belong equally to the General, the orator, and the poet.'
Concerning the character and office of tragedy, it does not seem very easy to say any thing that has not been s*id before: but the peculiar characteristic of Corntil/e is not ill expressed, nor perhaps improperly estimated, in the subsequent passages:
'As Locke discovered the origin of idea9, and Newton brought to light the principle of motion in the universe, so has Corneille invented a mode of exciting the fetlings, more useful, more honourable, metre salutary, than those which were established by the'antient It..
g'slitor of the drams. .According to Aristotle, the great principles of emotion in tragedy should he those of pity and terror, and the chief personages ought to offer a mixture of strength and weakness; to be placed in a situation of misfortune and darger; to have deserved it by tome faults, or even crimes, provided that those crimes are excused by the impetuosity .-f passion, or expiated by remorse; and in truth, this is the situation which commands the greatest degree of interest on the stage. But what good effect can result from these moral convulsions, if they do not inspire laudable fentiments? Let these characters pa»s into the crucible of reason, let these great personages appe ir before the tribunal of history.and what do we behold in them? Men, delivered up to the flux and rcfl ix of the passions, —princes wavering between their personal affections and the interest of their people :—brilliant incongruities and regal crimes, which with culpable art the poets cover wich a seducing varnish! How much more laudable is it to set on the stage that which is really estimable; a strongly determined character, a profound wisdom, an immoveable virtue ;—and this it is whxh Comeille has undertaken and executed. To pity, to terror, the supposed indispea-.ible bases of tragedy, he has associated, or rather for them he has substituted, admiration; which produces a more certain purification of the morals, and a more noble elevation of character. It is not my own opinion which 1 here express, but that of this great man himself. Nevertheless, he knew his own art too well, not to feel all that he lost in abandoning the regular road; and he declares himself, that the firmness of great minds, which excites only admiration in the spectator, gives birth to a compassion which does not gv so far as to excite tears: but he prefers vigorous and exalted to tender and mournful emotions; he prefers the enthusiasm excited by sublimity, a sentiment superior to every other feeling.
'If the chuich, and the legislature, and philosophy, have disapproved of theatrical exhibitions, certainly this disapprobation cannot extend to the dramas of CorneiHe. Can the minister of the altars complain, if the doctrine which he professes in the chair of truth be translated into sublime ven.e, which seems to engrave it on the memory? Ought not the philosopher to applaud the pott who inspires just and noble sentiments > Or how shall the legislator refuse his approbation to an institution which, in a state where the powers of the government have no fixed limits, possesses the great prerogative of being their censor? In tragedy, general maxims establish the rights of those who obey, and the duties of those who commanj. Under borrowed names, the monarch who abuses his power is branded; he himself assists at his own condemnation; he is compelled to blush and sometimes to reform; and no tragic poet ever excicised this theatrical jurisdiction with more courage and dignity than CorneiHe *. '.
* * Comeille, in the midst of Louis the fourteenth's victories, said to France, *
"A vaincre tant de fois mes forces s'qfljbrusent."
* We may be allowed to believe that Corneille was able to contribute to the noble pride which distinguished the manners of Frenchmen under the reign of Louis XIV.; and how could this influence fail to have existed, when all that the nation possessed as most brilliant and most respectable, her Camlet, her Turcnnci, and so many other illustrious persons, were at the head of Corneil/e's admirers; when the enthusiasm which he inspired was national, and the contradiction of that general sentiment would have been regarded as a crime against the state; when an unanimous vote conferred on him the title of Great, a pompous title hardly suitable to man, and which till then had never been granted to any but Kings or victorious Generals; when the Cid was quoted as the essential type of every kind of beauty; when the whole nation resounded with this celebrated-proverb, tela ett beau comme le Cid: a proverb, the use of which Corneille himtelf terminated by the production of other poems which have made the Cid be no longer considered as the noblest monument of the theatre^ When all France repeated the finest passages of his tragedies, how could that which was graven in the memory, that which captivated the imagination, fail of making an impression on the rr.orals i*
This is surely the highest praise, or the best defence (call Jt which we will,) of the declamatory style so peculiar to the French tragedies, but which has never been carried so high by any of their dramatic writers as by Corneille; and it must be acknowleged by the greatest adversaries of the French stage, that the emotions raised by the recital of some of his most splendid passages are of the proudest and most honourable kind. Still it must be the opinion of many, even among his own countrymen, that the pleasure derived from this Source, great as it is, makes a poor compensation for the sacrifice of more natural and common feelings. We may look up to a giant with admiration, but we wish to converse among creatures of our own form and size. However the imagination may be struck by Corneille, the heart, we conceive, must yive a decided preference to Racine; and we do not consider it as possible for an Englishman who has long been familiar with unsophisticated nature, as represented by the pen of our own great master, to dwell with tolerable satisfaction for any length of time 0:1 the-cold and uneasy grandeur of Corneille. Perhaps, however, we shall be regarded as having deviated from our own principles, in saying thus much.
The nex,t section, intitled 'Character of the works of Corneille* contains some observations on the state of the drama throughout Europe, and on the revolution produced by the appearance of that writer, which are not uninteresting, though not entirely such as we should subscribe.
• Tragedy, which was brilliant and fertile in Greece, like almost eveiy other art and science, but indigent and feeble at Rome, evea vhile the Idles lettres flourished there, and which was debased or extinguished during all the middle ages, was still, when the genius of Cornci/le appeared, unknown to a .large portion of Europe, and misshapen and gross in the rest of it. In the north and east, no art was known but that of war, and thought was a degradation; in other countries, men began to reliih the pleasures of the understanding, but had hitherto a very imperfict idea of them.
'In Italy, this department of the drama had made less progress than the fine arts, and was almost always inlisted in the service of music; yet they had sometimes imitated the Greek models of antiquity.
'Spain, polished by the Moors, and marie illustrious by ChiHei the Fifth, had assumed an ascendancy over ihe continent of Europe which extended to literature itself; and the Spanish dramas, analogous to their national manners, were gallant, chivalrous, emphatical, and gigantic.
'England was then the land of renascent thought, and her tragedies partook of that restoration: bur, destitute of every principle of taste, they presented a whimsical mixture of the sublime and the burlesque.'
'Thus, on the theatre of these three nations, disfigured tragedypartook in Italy of the nature of pastoral, in Spain of fable, and ia England it was a chaos,—the representation of nature debased, exaggerated, or monstrous, and had no pretensions to a character of truth. Yet in all these theatres some gnat beauties flashed forth; a3, in the midst of the darkest night, lightning will sometimes cast a momentary splendour.
* France was even below Italy, Spain, and England. A senseless and scandalous devotion first brought forwards on the stage the' acts and even the mysteries of religion; and afterward they gave dramatic form to huge romances. Great slayers of men (des Potirfestm deurs), followed by a squire, engaged with armies, conquered kingdoms, and laid their crowns at the feet of their mistresses; and this insipid aud ridiculous love mingled itself with the most frightful catastrophes, the most horrible atrocities. A plot, complicated and overcharged with events and incidents, was capable of interesting curiosity, by offering in anticipation of the denouement an enigma to be unravelled: but the g'eater part of these dramas offered nothing to ex» cite sentiment, nothing which tended to the improvement of the heart, the understanding, or the taste.
'In the midst of this chaos, the CiH arose, and then commenced anew dramatic era for France. Tragedy acquired strength, beauty, and utility. The first quality which strikes us in the productions of Cornellle is a creative enthusiasm, the essential symbol of genius. Cori.e'dle himself has discovered to us the high-spirit and buiduess of his conceptions, and the independence of his imagination. *< J, dej not submit mysell," says he, " to things, but I make things submit to me *."
• Nevertheless, prudent in his inventions, he gives himself op to them only by degrees. At first, he supports himself on antiquity, and follows Seneca in the tragedy of Medea, the first poem in which he began to shew what he would one day become. Afterward he borrows the Cid from Spain, but he gives himself great latitude in deviating from his original, and surpasses it infinitely in all which he has adopted from it. Having acquired the knowlege of hit strength, he trusts to it, he takes from history only names and elemental facts, and owes all the rest to his own imagination,'
The author next comes to the design or object of Corneille't dramas, in which he ducusses one cf the most disgusting of all that writer's defects; and though he admits its impropriety, he does not give to his censures all the force which the fault deserves. The excuse which he offers is the old one, "the character of the age;" a plea certainiy of wright when offered for the individual, but which ought not to be admitted in a criticism on his -works. This same excuse, as applied to Corneille, stands on a very different footing from that which we make for the errors of Shakspeare. . The glaring faults of Corneille are abandonments or violations of every principle of human nature, and of all individuality of character. A man of true genius, therefore, one would imagine, must have burst such ignoble bonds, whatever was his situation or the spirit of the age. The errors of Shakspeare are also faults of the age in which he wrote: but they are never inconsistent with nature, however unfit for scenical exhibition. They betray only an error of judgment, into which the wisest of men will sometimes fall: but the faults of Corneille go farther j they betray a want of it.
Let us hear the accusation and the defence:
* Unhappily, these grand and magnificent pictures are sometimes enfeebled and degraded by amours, which have more the tincture of gallantry than of passion ; proud and gloomy republicans, conquerors of the world, are painted sighing at the knees of beauty: but this incongruity was the fault of the age ; at which time men imagined that a love-intrigue was the essence of the soul. Far from partaking in this error, Corneille has declared that love, however violent, cannot he the principal ground-work of tragedy, the digmty of ivhicb demands- spme great interest of state, or some passion more tiol/le and more masculine th»n love; such as ambition, vengeance, &c." Nevertheless, the time at which men made war for the sake of the ladies, and consecrated to thtm the fruits of their victories, was not an epoch at which love could be banished from the stage. We must presume that Corneille, though indignant at this degradation of tragedy, knew that his contemporaries were not ripe for such a reform, and felt himself obliged to compromise with the ruling taste by admitting the sentiment of love into his dramas, but at the same time giving it only a secondary place in them; let us pity him for having