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been forced to a condescension which too often enervates and eHemi* nates his masculine and terrible beauties.'
We discover something very ingenious, or rather Jesuitical, Jn this apology, which purposely mistakes the ground of accusation. Corneille is not condemnedfor the introduction of love, but for the violation of nature. Nothing, we think, can be more absurd and groundless than his own doctrine, which, in the preceding passage, we have marked with Italics. Love is not only a natural passion, but is one of the most violent in the human frame. It has nothing in its nature that should render it unfit to be the principal ground-work of a tragedy. On the contrary, tragedy, which is designed to address itself to the feelings and hearts of the spectators, cannot be applied to a better purpose than in setting forth the baneful effects of indulgence in a passion that is so general, so universal, as love. It is the affection of the mind on which the noblest tragedies in our own language have been built. Jealousy is but an effect of love: —what then is Othello itself but a tragedy founded on the terrible consequences of that passion?
The diversity of characters is the next topic of admiration; and the author seems to have taken for his model Pope's celebrated panegyric on the characters of Homer, whers he distinguishes the single quality of courage into as many degrees and species as the Iliad contains individual heroes. Yet,, after all his encomiums, we think that he has been able to say but little on this head of eulogy; and we continue to find ourselves of the same opinion tl at we before entertained, that, among the many sacrifices which Corneille has made to the spirit of declamation, none is more sensibly felt than that of variety and discrimination of character.
With regard to his plots, Corneille is justly censured for his violations of the unity of action; which the present critic calls with great propriety, (and this we must confess although. Shakspeare himself is the most notorious of its violators,) 'the elementary and fundamental principle of dramatic organization; a principle founded on the law of nature, which extends to all the actipnsof man, physical or intellectual; to the works of philosophy, politics, and history, as much as to poetry; and in the dramas of Corneille,' (so also, we must acknowlcge, in those of Shakspeare,) 1 where this rule is infringed, it is necessary, in order to preserve the admiration which is their due, to see in e.ich of them so many different poems, and to consider the beauties of each as independent.' The unities of time and place,—so strongly advocated by many French critics that, as in religion the Roman Catholics and Methodists 4£t a few unimportant mysteries above the most essential piin
Ape. Rev. Vol. vn. Mm ciplts ciples of faith and practice, so in poetry the adherence to these secondary rules has been enforced *ith a zeal so blind as to overlook its most indispensible qualifications,—are treated by this author with no higher consideration than to a sober judgment they seem to deserve; always remembering that to the regular structure' of the French drama the observance of them is much more important than it can be to the perfection of our own.
The next consideration is that of style; and here the writer appears to us to have made so many just and ingenious observations, that we shall not apologize for^ long and unbroken extract:
* When Corneille delivers himself up to his poetic rapture, like the Sybil, he speaks by inspiration; full of the great sentiment which agitates him, he breathes it forth as from necessity ; the most beautiful thoughts emanate from his genius, without trouble, without effort ; the sublime, identified with his Imagination and become even his natural language, manifests itself in all its forms; sublime in his ideas, sublime in his sentiments, sublime in his imagery, he presents nothing which he dots not fathom, characterize, and impress with an indelible mark; he carries the exaltation of style to the highest degree of which it is capable; he gains possession of the mind of his hearer, and precipitates him into his own thoughts; he commands sentiment, creates it, electrifies it, and is never more eloquent than when he does not think of being so. Are we to determine what form of government is most suitable to Rome? Lycurgus and Solon appear to speak by the mouths of Cinna and Maximus.— Are we to deliberate on a perfidious action from which the safety of Egypt is expected to ensue? Never did the logic of vice discover more of sagacity than in the council of Ptolemy. Do Pompey and bertorius discuss the art of war i Condi and Turennt inquire whence Corneille has learned the principles of that art.
'Who can express like Corneille the love of glory, the sensibility of honour, devotion to our country, intrepidity in danger, dignity in misfortune, the convulsions of ambition, hatred, and revenge? It is not Cornclllt whom I hear; it is the Cid; it is Cinna, the Horatii, Csesar, Augustus, Sertorius, Pompey: all these great personages inculcate their own sentiments on me; with them I despise, respect, covet, cherish, and abhor.
* What truth, what force of painting in words! In the exposition of the horrors of a proscription, 1 see poignard3, rivers of blood, and corses: I see the husband 6tabbed in bed by his wife, the son dripping with the blood of his father,
"F.t, sa iht a la main, demandant ion talaire."
* By an effect of theatrical deception, iu soliloquies the personages are made to think aloud; opinions and sentiments arc set in evidence, and the human heart is sounded in all its depths; this is a part of the drama which Corneille has turned to more account than any other poet, and these are the theft d'auvre of his art. There are shewn, in all their energy, Medea contriving atrocious revenge, the Father of the Cid indignant at an affront of which he is unable to punish the author; Camilla furious at the death of her lover; Emilia projecting a conspiracy; Paulina shuddering at the fate of her husband; Cornelia, at the sight of Pompey's urn, breathing forth her sorrow ■ in threats; and Cleopatra (qu. Medea?) plotting the assassination and poisoning of her children.
'Dialogues offer another description of beauties 5—a contrast of interests and sentiments ingeniously conceived and directed;—a contradiction so rapid, so just, so well combined, that if after the delivery of an opinion the representation were suspended, and it were asked of each of the spectators how that opinion is to be refuted, we might be certain that none of them could imagine any that possessed the force and propriety of the reply in the drama. In the noble dialogue between Pompey and Sertorius, in which each of them endeavours with all his powers to draw hi'3 rival over to his side, it is impossible to employ with more address and eloquence, patriotism, honour, every species of interest, and etery mode of conviction and seduction : after one of those heroes has spoken, it appears impossible to answer him. and yet his rival refutes him with success, and is refuted in his turn.
* The colloquy between Pauline and Polyeucte is a most beautiful picture of soft and virtuous sensibility : the dialogue between Pauline and Seven is a model of the confidence which one groat soul can repose in another ; and in the scene between Felix, Poiycucte, and Pauline, thr contest between the power of the magistrate, the enthusiasm of the martyr, and the grief of a wife, has a vehemence and a rapidity which have never been equalled.
* These sublime and pathetic sentiments give birth to a number of verses worthy to be the expressions of them. Sertorius says,
*• Rome n'eit plus dans Rome, elle est toute ou je suis." Emilia, frightened by the determination of her lover, who wishes to assassinate Augustus and then kill himself, exclaims,
"Qu'il dtgage sa foi, El qu'ilcho'uiue aprcs, dt la mart ou de moi."
What words can be more affecting, and more proper to inspire repentance, than those of Augustus to a conspirator overwhelmed with his benefits;
"Cinna, tu t'en souviens, el veux m'assassiner!"
Never did sovereign clemency speak with a simplicity more noble and tender than in this line,
*' Soyons amis, Cinna, e'est moi qui i'en convie." What a combination of admiration and hatred does Corneille exhibit,
"0 del! que de vert us vous me failes- hair!" Horati says to Curiace, the defender of Alba,
"Albe vous a choisi,jc ne vous connate plus," to which Curiace answers,
"Je vous connais encore, et c'tsl ce qui mt tut."
Mm 2 AH All the dramas of Corne'tllt, all the acts, and nearly all the scene*, are full of these sublime traits. He who would collect them would form a book well adapted to the encouragement of great and noble sentiments.
* Often, in his diction, the compression of thought and sentiment gives to the expression prodigious force and elasticity; and a single verse, or a single word, is more energetic, more pathetic, than a whole discourse. Who is so much a stranger to letter), and to the monuments <>f genius, as not to know the sublime Mat of Medic, and the heroic answer of the old Horaces "§>u'il mourut!"
« By what fatality are these admirable flashes of genius often enfeebled by just but cold reflections ?• If Cornciile, either in his diction or in the other qualities of his dramas, is subject to such inequalities, we must acknowlege that he has submitted to the law of genius which, in its rapid and daring flight, raising itself to an elevation which, it is difficult or even impossible to sustain, is subject to more frequent and more sensible falls. This, above all, ought to be the lot of Cornciile, who so identifies himself with his subject and his characters, that he is that which they call on him to be; great, when he exemplifies noble scn.imcnts,—weak, when he expresses only such as arc pusillanimous.'
This eulogist then proceeds to point out, in a cursory way, some of the advantages which the French language owes to the writings of Cornell!e; and afterward to cast a coup d'ceil, which we wish had been a little more deliberate, on the chefs «f etuvre of the poel. Thence he proceeds to contend that the dramas of Cortuillc ought not to be judged by their defects, but by their beauties.—The conclusion of this argument is very sensible:
« Curse on the cold heart, on the methodical censor, on the inspid slave to rule, who would be tempted to sacrifice a pathetic situation, a fine emotion, to the purity of dramatic order! Such a spirit has no right to judge Cornciile; he is not even qualified to hear him. He who would weigh his dramas in their proper balance ought to adopt the method which he himself has followed.—The preference which ha gives to Roi/ogune, one of the most defective of his pieces, over Polycucie, the most regular of them, teaches us that the works of poetry ought to be appreciated by their beauties, not by their defects. Is there a more admired poem than the Iliad; and. nevertheless, is
4 * Duclos, instead of attempting, like the extravagant admirer*
of Cornciile, to justify the addition to qu'il mourut,
"On qu'un Itau desctpoir enfin U tccourut,"
fell proposed to substitute an answer of the interlocutor to the latter *erse;
j§;i'/7 mourut ? voire Jilt?
then a reply of the Father,
—— hi men Jilt f il le Jut*'
any any one more open to censure? To defend on this point the cause of Corneille is to defend that of Homer himself.'
A parallel is next attempted between the genius of Corneille and the genius of some other writers. The comparisons with Sophocles, (as the representative of the Grecian Stage,) and with Racine and Voltaire, offr nothing very new or very striking: but we shall extract that whi h the author has drawn between his hero and Shakspeare, as being more interesting to us; and that of Corneille with Bos suet and Montesquieu, on account of its originality.
'Two countries, placed at the head of the nations of Europe and which have long run together the race of politic*, of war, of commerce, of sciences, and of literature, glory in having produced the two gTeat founders of the modern theatre. Shakspeare and Corneille have made known real tragedy in England and France, and their talents seem to move in the same sphere. If the subject which they treat is similar, the conformity of ideas which it inspires in them is remarkable; if it is contemplated under different points of view, an analogy still exists between the two poets by the strength with which they penetrate their subject, and the depth of their thoughts'. Cinna about to assassinate Augustus, and Brutus about to assassinate Csesar, are equally affected by the terrible impression which is made on the bravest souls, by the- interval which separates the determination of a great exploit and its execution. Brutus, in his discourse to the conspirators, raises himself above the vulgar forms of securing fidelity by oath ; he desires that vinne should confide in virtue. Cinna, in retracing the horror of the prescript ions, excite* the conspirators to vengeance, and resolves that, he who has violated all the rights of humanity shall not be permitted to claim them. Never, perhaps, has the spirit of party manifested itself with more vehemence; never has eloquence displayed such noble emotions. If in this race of sublimity some difference may he perceived, it appears that in Shakspeare we have more depth of views, in Corntille more action and motion ; a distinction which cannot be foreign to the two natioos to whom these two poets belong. Both have great inequalities, but the faults of Shakspeaie are much ihe most revolting. Corneille is sometimes common, but never low; never do his heroes enter into conference with vile and brutal men; never are profound reflections mingled with flat or obscene pleasantries: bur this mixture of the sublime and of the burlesque, of laughter and tears and affright, is frequent in Shakspeare, and weakens or even destroys the impression which he has produced.'
It may, perhaps, be difficult to justify our great poet from the censure to which he stands so eminently exposed in this respect; yet, if we find the Great mingling with the vulgar in the every day occurrences of real life ; (and God forbid that they should ever be kept more asunder than they are at present!) if we commonly see weeping and laughter, terror and
Mm 3 mirth,