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York, and which' has met with considerable praise from the peri. odical press-have all appeared within the last six months. Neither of these dramas have extraordinary merit; that by Mr. Sargent is by far the best as a whole, although those of Mr. Dawes and Mr. Willis contain finer passages of a fanciful description. We shall now speak of these dramas, though not with the particularity to which their defects as well as merits entitle them. That of Mr. Dawes has appeared in a separate form as well as in his volume. It legitimately claims our attention among his other poetical works which will be last treated in this paper, since they are the most important under notice. We would premise our remarks on the other two dramas, with the mention of the fact that they are the only native productions of merit, which have been given to the public in readable form, after their representation at the theatre. Dr. Robert M. Bird, of Philadelphia, author of Calavar, the Infidel, &c., was the first of any eminence who came forward as a dramatist. His “Gladiator,” and “Broker of Bogota,” never found their way to the publishers, less, as we imagine, through fear of their being submitted to the test of literary criticism, than from apprehension of diminishing their attractiveness on the stage.
Mr. Willis has published three dramatic works. The first was the tragedy which lies in a very neat garb before us, and is called “ Bianca Visconti, or the Heart overtasked.” It was written two years since, with a view to the acting by Miss Clifton of the principal female character. This is the way in which all American writing for the stage has been elicited. Mr. Dawes' “ Athenia " was written for a Mrs. George Jones, (a woman, like Miss Clifton, of fine appearance, and it has been stated of superior histrionic power,) and Mr. Sargent's “Izadore," the heroine in “Velasco," for Miss Tree. The effect of this must be to direct the author's attention to one bright point, from which he trusts to diffuse a radiance over the whole piece. Other matters are simply auxiliary-and the consequence is an inferior development of character, and no very skilful management of plot. This criticism applies to Mr. Willis's performances rather than to those of the other two writers.
After the somewhat equivocal success of “ Bianca Visconti," Mr. Willis was betrayed into the perpetration of a comedy, which was (to use the common phraze) “ damned" silently on the second night of representation. It is said to have been so broadly farcical, and so outrageously absurd, that it proved impossible, even for an audience fully determined on being delighted, to endure it. Nothing daunted by this rebuff, Mr. Willis steps like a stalwart knight again into the lists. If we were to credit the daily journals, we should believe that he had rent the laurel from Shakspeare's bust to adore his living temples, and that in “Tortesa, or the Usurer," the world beheld a comedy, such as no age since that of good Queen Bess can boast. The truth is, that there is little or no dramatic power displayed in the piece. It is like Bianca Visconti, to which it is decidedly inferior in stage effect-a graceful poem running over with sparkling conceits and glittering fancies, which bubble up and burst on the surface like the air-jewels in a beaker of rosy champaigne.
It has been remarked of the plays of Sheridan Knowles, that in no one of them is there an allusion which would call a blush to the cheek of purity. This is a high degree of praise which cannot be awarded to the dramas of Mr. Willis. There is an indelicacy on the second page of " Bianca Visconti,” and there are several in the comedy of “ Tortesa.” When will authors learn that filth is filth, though it be wrapped in a web woven from the costliest looms of Cashmere. We will not detain the reader with an analysis of the tragedy before us. The plot is poor in incident, but managed so as to stimulate, and increase the interest of the reader the more as he approaches toward the catastrophe. It is tragic enough to suit the taste of one who would “sup full with horrors." It hinges upon the high dramatic circumstance of a sister being accessory to the murder of a young and innocent brother, who stands in the path of her lover's ambition. But we leave the plot which we do not like for the poetry, which we do like, and with which it is our duty to deal in this paper. Here is a beautiful passage, expressive of Bianca's joy at the fruition of her long cherished hopes of happiness with her bridegroom, Sforza-beautiful, though it trenches on the “isle" in Moore's “ Blue summer ocean far off and alone."
Oh, I'll build
And jealous but of sleep !" Here are glowing lines of descriptive verse, though signally exemplifying that vicious exaggeration which results from the impotence of the true poetic imagination, and which his fine taste and the rare, natural strength of Mr. Willis's faculty render unpardonable in him.
“ I remember
And as the sea-bird seems to rule the wave,
Seem'd glorious by her leave." Here is something musical that will be deemed exquisite, till one endeavours to get at the meaning, and perceives that it begins with an hypothesis, very like a bull.
" If the rose
But for the bright originals in Heaven !" The finest scene in the piece—and it is, poetically, very beauti. ful-is that in the fifth act, of an interview between Sforza, the hero, Bianca, and her young brother Giulio. We should like to give it as the fairest specimen of Mr. Willis's dramatic as well as poetic powers; but the limits, to which the number of matters treated in this article restrains us, forbid. The final melancholy madness of Bianca is so like Ophelia's, that we are ready to award it the praise of successful imitation.
Mr. Willis's dramas will hardly keep even short-lived possession of the stage, but they will maintain a more respectable rank in imaginative literature than his formerly published poems. They are less disfigured by affectations, and are pervaded by a more masculine tone of sentiment. They show that the author has of late conceived a nobler ambition, than to be the Waller of modern court cir
chevalier, a sort of Sir Piercie Shafton, enrapturing the intellects of boarding school misses with metrical euphuisms and elaborate fooleries. He seems to have learned to reflect mo upon his art, and less upon himself. Such reflection may not be so agreeable, but he will find it far more beneficial; the famous Greek precept, and Pope's scarcely less famous line, to the contrary notwithstanding.
Mr. Sargent is the author of several fugitive poems of considerable merit. He writes with scrupulous correctness, rather than remarkable power. He is guided rather by nice taste than bold am. bition. He never startles his reader, and never shocks him ; he is never venturesome, never “in wandering mazes lost;" the path he treads lies smooth, and plain, and verdant before him, and he is sure that he has answerable skill to pick his steps. He never walks blindfold, or with his eyes behind him. Had he been Icarus, he would never have attempted to fly, even had his wings been made of
cles- a preuz
feathers instead of wax. He is not wanting, however, in self-confidence, for he is sure of success by never over-estimating his own powers. He will take a permanent though not very brilliant position among our writers. Were he more daring, he might reach a higher point; but as there is no danger of his aiming beyond his reach, so there is none of his not reaching his aim. Of this we are certain ;in his future course he will culminate, and not decline. His modesty, no less than his abilities, entitles him to our most favorable consideration. His play "Velasco," was quietly issued from the prolific press of the Harpers with little or no flourish of trumpets. It was read and liked. It was acted, and succeeded. The newspapers puffed it as they do every thing else, ad nauseam. This set the author's fame afloat, and a strong voice of judicious approval has kept it sailing on bravely ever since. We shall not swell the gale, but keep it blowing.
Since to Mr. Sargent has been accorded the praise of being the best dramatist in the country—a praise it would be difficult to gainsay-we should be glad to exhibit his pretensions by liberal quotations. This would also prove the justice of our other remarks ; but we must rest content with simply showing, from this play, that he is a poet of no inferior merit. We could do this, more efficiently, from his first dramatic attempt, called “ The Genoese." It has not been published; but should be, were it unredeemed, except by certain beautiful passages. Though it was horribly mangled at the Park theatre, we saw and heard enough to make us prefer its story, plot, and incidents, to those of “ Velasco.” In the play before us we regard the choice of all these as unfortunate ; the melo-dramatic termination of the third act is decidedly bad. But to the poetry. Here is a subject for the pencil of Weir
“Our routed troops were flying in dismay
The Christian ensign blazoning the cross !" Here is an exquisite figure-the last line is eminently good, and brings to mind that incomparable line of Campbell's:
"And in her eye, the tenth blue summer smiled.”
Turn to the blue eyes of maternal peace!" These words of parting between a brother and sister, when the latter is about to be wedded, remind us, by their pathos, of certain touches in “Ion :"
" Alas! I never yet have parted from thee
“Why should I be less happy or less fond ?
"Oh! let not that assure thee. Time, my sister,
His deepening furrows reach the spirit's core." The following, exhibiting the rage that pervades the breast of an old Castilian, who has been insulted by a blow, and is impotent to avenge the injury, is full of force and spirit:
DE LERMA. (taking up his sword.)
[Throws down his sword.
Sink fathoms deep beneath its peaceful breast !"
and lightning. (Enter Velasco from the rocks in the back ground.)
“I lay my brow against the marble rock,