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vice may lose half its malignity by losing all its grossness; but how the elegance with which the vices of Leo have been recorded, should have contributed to render them less hideous, remains for the author to explain. They have indeed been treated by Guicciardini with a freedom which astonishes, and with an elegance which exposes, but with so much greater effect, the deformities which it undertakes to delineate. Happy would it have been for Leo, had his memory been consigned to writers like the chroniclers of the former age, or spared by the genuine historian of his own.
But we proceed—
'His reign' (that of the Pontiff, whose enormities lost one half of Europe to his church) was glorious to Italy and memorable to the world; but the halo of immortality that surrounds his name was formed by the genius of others, and the obligations of posterity are owing to the errors of his government. It was his destiny, however, to appear at an important epoch, and he will always be regarded as the auspicious harbinger of the great intellectual day.'
To this crude, inconsistent, unfeatured daubing, we are compelled to subjoin a few of those distinct and masterly strokes, the elegance of which, we are assured, has contributed to render the vices of Leo less hideous. Per natura dedito all' otio & á piaceri & ora per la troppa licentia e grandezza, alieno sopra modo dalle facende, immerso ad udire musiche, facetie, e buffoui, inclinato, ancora troppo più che l' onesto, a piaceri.'*
The style laboriously and perversely aimed at by this writer, is that inflated and abominable jargon, which, if not checked in time, will leave us no right to complain of the barbarisms of America. The character of his hero may be supposed to have received the last touches of his skill. Of this the following is a specimen.
He was undoubtedly a character of the most splendid class. Haughty, ambitious, masterly,' (meaning, as appears, domineering,) and magnificent, he felt himself formed for superiority. All his undertakings shewed the combining and foreseeing faculties of his genius. The Cardinal's system for the reformation of the clergy, though defective in philosophy, was singularly liberal in policy. It is true, that he did not calculate on that flood of consequences (a portion of Mr. Galt's astrology being wanting to complete his character), but it could not have arisen from undertakings more partial. Wolsey must be considered as one of those great occasional men, who at distant intervals suddenly appear, and who having agitated and altered the regular frame of socie ty, by their influence are commemorated as the epochal characters of history.'
To this bouquet we will only add a few single blossoms. This
* Istor. d'Italia. Libre xiv. Ed. 1738. P. 943.
class had not assumed any recognizable form, but the principles, which by subsequent developement induced all its importance,' &c. p. 11. But numbers and bravery and skill weighed light in the balance against the fixed and heavy destiny of the Stuarts.' A curious instance of what may be called a suicide metaphor. Contempt for trifles is very different from the anxious particularity of avarice and the negligence that entails privations'-p. 55. No discussion of influential consequence took place.'-p. 60. From these towering heights of phraseology, Mr. Galt sometimes descends a little too low, as wee Scottish lairds;' p. 95. this diplomatic rascal,'-p. 123. the Duke of Suffolk, her sweetheart." &c.
The master of a style so truly classical is equally conspicuous for the taste and discrimination which he displays in estimating the merits of other writers. There is,' saith he, a very pretty moukish morality in the British Museum,' of which the first stanza, in the same strain with all that follows, is this:
Brother Eneas, I you pray,
Pleasing to you, if that it be,
That you vouchsafe to go with me.'-p. 69.
And now our historian, so graciously disposed to be delighted with this very pretty morality, from some change of the wind, or some inauspicious aspect of the heavens, suddenly becomes extremely morose and fastidious. 'I have never been able (he says) to bring myself to entertain any feeling approximating to respect for the works of Chaucer, Gower, or Lydgate, and the other tribe of rhymers that preceded the reign of Henry VIII.' If Mr. Galt came into the world without faculties to understand or an heart to feel the sublimity and pathos, or even the wit and humour, of Chaucer, or to distinguish those qualities from the tame mediocrity of Gower, and the tedious insipidity of Lydgate, who can help it? In the same taste and spirit, we are assured that he never could read the Utopia. We suppose that he had the misfortune of meeting with it in the original.
With all the solemn parade of political wisdom, the author is so entirely destitute of political morality as to avow sentiments more profligate perhaps than any which the world has heard since the days of Machiavel. The ministers of Henry VIII. (we are told) wanted that prophetic anticipation of the effects of existing circumstances, which alone enables statesmen to dignify, and even to hallow, those acts of temporary injustice, which seem so often mysteriously imposed upon their transactions.'-p. 248. Yet this audacious advocate for the pernicious doctrine that ends sanctify
means, can, in the same page, talk of examples of public dereliction, that sicken to disgust, and sour into misanthropy, the feelings of historians.' Pity that feeling so nice should be so quickly succeeded by hardened insensibility to the plainest distinctions between right and wrong! Again. Wolsey's avidity to amass wealth was contrasted with an expenditure so generous, that it lost the name of avarice and deserved to be dignified with that of ambition. His ostentation was so richly blended with munificence and hospitality, that it ought rather to be ascribed to the love of distinction than to vanity, and his pride was so nearly allied to honour and justice that it seemed to be essential to his accomplishments as a statesman.' By what moral alchemy, we would ask, (as our author is a professor of that occult science,) can one vice be transmuted into another; or avidity to amass wealth cease to be avarice, and assume the nature of ambition? Had we been dealing with a Christian moralist, we should also inquire how pride can be essential to the accomplishment of any character under any circumstances-the individual vice of the human heart which, though often united to great qualities, poisons and destroys them all?
It is evident, from the whole tenor of his discourse, that Mr. Galt belongs to a certain class of benevolent and industrious persons who, by whatever style and title they may dignify themselves, whether political philosophers, original thinkers, unprejudiced and independent men, &c. &c. having discovered that in the present state of human society' whatever is is wrong,' have most graciously undertaken to enlighten mankind, some by works of direct and solemu institution, others, as the author before us, under the more agreeable veil of real history, and a third sort, in the still more seductive form of invented narration. Nevertheless, at such an immense distance is the world, at present, from the point of intellectual perfectibility, that there are many natures so stubborn, and many understandings so incorrigible, as to maintain, that the old school of politics, morality, and religion, is, according to their poor conceptions, neither quite so antiquated, nor so worthless, as to be abandoned for any of those theories which have been offered in their place. Nay, so illiberal are those men as to affirm, concerning the professors of the new academy, that they are shallow, petulant, dogmatical, and half-informed; that their hearts are as bad as their heads are dull; railing at the established seminaries of education, which would have taught them both to reason and to feel; envious of the honours paid to departed genius, to no participation in which they are ever to attain, and detesting all the existing distinctions of society, to which notwithstanding, they would gladly win their way through ruin and bloodshed.
This is an hideous portrait; but so distinctly has the original
(with the exception only of the last feature) been placed before our eyes during the perusal of the present work, that, in justice to our readers, we could not forbear to paint it.
ART. XI. The GENUINE Rejected Addresses presented to the Committee of Management for Drury-Lane Theatre; preceded by that written by Lord Byron, and adopted by the Committee. M'Millan. 1812.
Rejected Addresses; or, the New Theatrum Poetarum. London Miller. 1812.
THERE is scarcely any species of poetical composition which is so peculiarly our own as prologues, epilogues, and other theatrical addresses.
The prologues of the Greeks have nothing in common with ours but the name. The prologue,' according to *Aristotle, is that part of a tragedy which precedes the parode,' (or first song of the chorus,) and it may therefore,' says +Corneille, be likened to our first act.' Tragedia neque argumentum habet nec prologum separatum, sed in persona aliqua ad fabulam pertinentem.' Euripides, not very ingeniously, employed a person of the drama, or a god or goddess ex machinâ, as prologue, to explain either what had already passed, or (lest the audience should be impatient) what was about to happen; and this practice, though Corneille very justly calls it 'grossière,' has obtained in some degree on the modern stage; nor are the French tragedians (especially Corneille himself) exempt from the absurdity of opening the drama by a long explanatory monologue.
The Romans (notwithstanding Scaliger's etymological doubt§) seem to have been the first to disconnect the prologue from the piece itself. In Plautus it is a speech spoken by a person not belonging to the play, and generally intended to give the audience certain necessary information as to preceding events. The magnificent chorusses prefixed to every act of Shakespeare's Henry V. are indeed less chorusses than prologues of this kind.
Terence improved still farther on the improvements of Plautus. His prologue satisfies pretty accurately our English sense of the
↑ Disc. du Poëme dram. p. 39. Ed. 1701.
Scal. Poet. 1. i. c. 9.
Mirum vero si prologus tota res latina est, quomodo invenit nomen græcum.Poet. I. i. c. 9.
word; it acknowledged the sources from which he borrowed his plot; it offered opinions on questions of dramatic taste; it repelled attacks of envious rivals, and it endeavoured to conciliate the good will of his audience. The information which used to be so awkwardly conveyed in a formal introductory soliloquy, Terence embodies in the piece itself, and contrives (though not always very gracefully) to introduce into his dialogue.
The use of prologues in the way that they were employed by Terence, and are still employed by us, the continental stage seems wholly to have abandoned. Occasionally an address under that name has been prefixed to a French play, in which some heathen divinity (as in the prologue to Andromede') or some allegorical personage (as in that to Esther') is introduced to offer une louange adroite du prince devant qui ces poëmes doivent être representés;' but, adds Corneille,* je ne pense pas qu'on y puisse raisonnablement introduire que des dieux imaginaires de l'antiquité; qui ne laissent pas toutefois de parler des choses de notre tems, par une fiction poëtique, qui fait un grand accomodement du théâtre. This practice, however, always infrequent, has been in the modern times of the French stage wholly disused; though we believe that operas and farces have still occasional poetical introductions.
The earliest of our English dramatical attempts, the Mysteries, have a kind of prologue. To the tragedy or interlude "of God's Promises to Men,' 1538, in which Pater Cælestis, Justus Noah, Moses Sanctus, Adam primus homo, &c. are interlocutors; the author, Johan Bale, is prolocutor, who delivers a very pious prologue, in which he seems to defend the doctrine of High Grace' against that of free-will and the merit of works. Our plays, however, and with them our prologues, rapidly improved, and in 1582, we have a prologue to Edwards's Damon and Pythias in regular rhyme, discussing questions of dramatic propriety, and quoting Horace in defence of his opinions: our readers will not be displeased to see so early a specimen of a critical prologue. The greatest skill in comedy is, says our author, to paint to the life;
to frame each person so
That by his common talke, you may his nature know.
A Royster ought not preach; that were too strange to hear;
Są correspondent to their kind, their speeches ought to be.
* Dise. du Poëme Dram. 45.