Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

description of the company seen during a drive in the Bois-de-Boulogne-here we find her bargaining for antique bijouterie-there trying on a new bonpet: in one place introducing her readers to the royal family and the most distinguished personages at the court of France, and in another, paying scarcely less attention to Mademoiselle Taglioni, Mademoiselle Mars, Potier, and the other celebrities of the French stage. I As Lady Blessington was at Paris when it was crowded with fashionables, among whom were many of her compatriots, to whose names much public interest is attached, as might have been expected, her volumes abound with lively anecdote. All persons of any note, fashionable, literary, or political, are passed in review before the reader, and he cannot but be highly gratified with the manner in which he is made to form an acquaintance with many of the most celebrated characters in Europe. Such excellent use has Lady Blessington made of ber materials, and so charming a picture has she drawn of the French metropolis, that we do not know any gratification within the reach of that particular class who go by the name of the reading community, more desirable than an uninterrupted perusal of her amusing pages.

[ocr errors]

THE MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.*

[ocr errors]

2. MR. HALLIWELL's speculations regarding Shakspeare's " Midsummer Night's Dream,” must be classed with those of the Rev. Mr. Hunter illustrative of the “ Tempest.” The latter was handled very roughly by the Quarterly Review a short time since, nor do we imagine, judged by the same rules, its successor would fare any better. But we think such labours should be regarded with more consideration. It is true that they prove nothing so clearly as that the writers have more scholarship in them than poetry, and that their minds are capable of appreciating the commonest matters of fact, when they evidently have not the slightest sympathy for the pure ideal; but although their arguments may not be valuable, the facts by which they are supported are rarely without some importance. The authors are better labourers than architects; and to those who come after them with higher pretensions for the task they had set themselves, they furnish useful assistance by showing where admirable materials for raising a proper structure may be found. Therefore, although we may not be disposed to think very highly of Mr. Halliwell's endeavours to show when the “Midsummer Night's Dream" was written, and why it had its name, we can appreciate to the fullest extent the great research, and the many curious illustrations he brings forward in the progress of his essay. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe--the subject of fairies in general, and Robin Goodfellow in particular, and the History of the Man in the Moon, he has treated very ably, with the introduction of a rich fund of antiquarian learning; and these qualifications alone, we have no doubt, will, with Shakspearian scholars, be sufficient to entitle this introduction to a place in their libraries,

[ocr errors]

?!. An Introduction to Sbakspeare's Midsummer Nigbl's Dream.

Orcbard Haliwell, Esq., F.R.S., Hon, M.R.L.A., F.S.A., F.R.A.S., &c.

By James

THE TRUSTEE.

!

There can be no question that the most delightful kind of reading is the best description of prose fiction-works in which the impress of genius is so strong that the interest of the story has an enthralling power over the sympathies of the reader. Although English literature is infinitely richer in this department of what used to be styled the belles lettres, than that of any other nation, a superiority it owes to the extraordinary advances made by modern novelists in their captivating art, it is not to be expected that the same startling effects which were produced in this species of composition should be so easily attainable. Not only does every great effort of the imagination make rivalry more difficult, but the familiarity with the intellectual excitement they create which follows repetition, renders the mind incapable of receiving impressions from similar sources with the same results. It follows, then, that whatever may be the degree of merit existing in prose fiction at any particular point of excellence in its composition, it requires in a new author an imagination capable of rising superior to it in the fulfilment of one or other of the numerous demands of his art to obtain for his productions a satisfactory share of public estimation. A most convincing proof of this is afforded in the very clever novel before us. We cannot but be satisfied that, notwithstanding the high state of con. temporary talent in prose fiction, the author of “ The Trustee" will speedily create for himself a splendid reputation. He has the most important of all requisites in a novelist-power, by means of which he triumphs over all difficulties, and conceals every defect. The mere de. velopment of such a character as Richard Waring makes him worthy of taking the highest rank in his department of literature. As a creation it may be compared, without any disadvantage, to Sir Giles Overreach and Richard the Third. His man Ferret is another originality, entitled, though the lesser villain, to equal attention. Scampering Jack, however, cannot but be the favourite; he being the most amusing, good-natured vagabond we have ever been intrcduced to; but many as may be the good points in this strange creature, the author has brought before the reader more than one personage having far higher claims upon his admiration. The affectionate old priest, Father Lawrence, creates almost an equally firm hold upon the feelings of the reader, as the two noble daughters of Sir Edward Waring, Katherine and Rose, and the chivalrous and highspirited youths, Charles Waring and Walter Armistead, their lovers. It is their adventures and sufferings which form the chief source of interest in a most effective story, and although the attention may be occasionally taken off to regard the unprincipled diplomacy of the wily ti ustee—the heartless spirit of religious persecution in the friar Francis -the brutal selfishness of the gouty farmer Hogwell, or the steadfast piety of the widow Armistead and her daughter, the mind will return to trace their fortunes at the first opportunity, with a total indifference to all other matters. The story of “ The Trustee" is of such a nature, that we should only spoil the pleasure a perusal must afford by giving

• The Trustee. By the author of the “Provost of Bruges." 3 vols.

its details. Suffice it to say, that the time it illustrates commences with the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII., and concludes at the accession of Queen Elizabeth, affording materials of the greatest historical interest in the revolution in religious opinion, which, with so many sanguinary characters, marked that eventful period; and that the author has availed himself of the resources here presented him, with a skill which will make the delighted reader look forward to a second work from his pen with a prospect of no ordinary gratification.

DIBDIN'S SEA SONGS.*

We have always regarded what may be called the ultra-sentimental sea-song with considerable suspicion. We remember having heard one of these salt-water ballads, in which the enamoured Tom Tackle of the poet is represented making superhuman exertions to tear himself from the embraces of his devoted and heart-broken “ Poll” or “ Sall," as the case may be, he being about to join his ship, and that inconsolable young lady, directly he is out of hearing, bursts forth—with an energy doubtless known only to such minds under similar circumstances,

“ There he goes! what a jolly good job!

He's been going these three quarters of an hour,
I hope a bullet will scuttle his nob-

'Cause I've got his Will and his Power !" Perhaps it is from the impression this has given us of the devotion of such examples of the sex as our sailors are likely to become acquainted with at Portsmouth and Wapping, that has rendered us insensible to the pathos of Dibdin's most tender strains; and we have reason for believing, however different it may have been in the last war, the public place no more confidence in his delightful pictures of female constancy than ourselves. If we may be allowed to judge from the immense preponderance of songs written by him where this feeling is treated with very little respect, we should also come to the opinion that a very respectable majority of the restless blue-jackets considered the faithful of either sex to be nearly as rare among things that “ suffer a sea change" as that exceedingly strange creature, a horse-marine. We pass over the suspicious plural in " Grog, and Girls,” to come to the unquestionable inconstancy of " My Poll and my Partner Joe.” As for Jack, he does not mince the matter, but appears satisfied he is only showing his taste, when he states

" I've a spanking wife at Portsmouth gates,

A pigmy at Goree,
An orange-tawny up the Straits,

A black at St. Lucie.” This may be compared with the following lines--which contain equally undoubted evidence on the female side :

Songs Naval and National of the late Charles Dibdin, with a Memoir and Ad. denda. Corrected and arranged by Thomas Dibuin, author of the “ English Fleet," “ Cabinet,” &c., with Characteristic Sketches by George Cruickshank.

[ocr errors]

3

“ By will and

power, when cast asltore,
His rhino Tom to Poll made o'er ;
Poll touched the prize-money and pay,
And with the agent ran away
And Jenny just as 'eute a trick,
His back once turned, played whistling Dick;
Dick left her clothes to cut a flash,

She sold them all and spent the casli." That sailors could be constant, however, Dibdin bas furnished us with ample proof; but their attachment was seldom a sentimental one. The most popular of his songs, " A Drop of the Creature," "The Flowing Can," " The Sailor's Sheet-Anchor is Grog," “ Sounding the Bowl,” “Swizzy,” “ Nothing like Grog,” and various others of the same character sufficiently point out the object of his regard. Even this affection has undergone great modifications of late years, and consequently “ the liquid sweetness" of these songs has lost much of its popularity in the forecastle. Nevertheless, there are a great number of Dibdin's ballads still regarded as public favourites, and are likely so to continue, till good sense and good feeling go out of fashion. We hail therefore the publication of the present collection with peculiar gratification, and the manner in which it is patronized by the Lords of the Admiralty, and the other subscribers, prove the estimation in which those prolific song and play writers, Charles Dibdin, and his sons Charles and Thomas, both of whom contribute largely to the volume, are held. We think highest of the songs that smack least of the sea, as for instance, “ The Anchorsmiths," • Father and I," "The High-mettled Racer," " The Last Shilling," " Captain Wattle and Miss Roe," ** Nongtongpaw," and a score or two more equally good; but the col"Iection is so extensive that any one may be sure of fading' plenty to his taste. "'The volume is liberally embellished with sonie excellent designs by George Cruickshank, among which, “The Saturday Night at Sea," " Jack come Home," " Társ Carousing," “ Tom Tackle," and "The Veterans," are particularly worthy of commendation.''

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

THE HUNGARIAN DAUGHTER.* TWhilst perusing this production, we have been strongly reminded of

the dramas of Robert Greene, who was one of Shakspeare's dramatic contemporaries, and had possession of the stage immediately preceeding the representation of his great rival's first successful works. There is sin "The Hungarian Daughter” the same continual straining of the imagination---the same extravagant conceit, bordering closely on the absurd, and the same departure from the modeșt characteristics of nature, 1 which Shakspeare points out as belonging to “the Ereles vein," so Jargely abounding in Greene's bombastic plays, and occasionally there is to be met with similar glimpses of the true and beautiful, which the artificial and exaggerated phraseology of either play-wright cannot entirely eclipse. Mr. Stephens appears as if he employed a steam-engine of some immense horse-power, to force out his ideas, so very laboured are they; and after all this trouble, the majority of them are so obscure,

The Hungarian Daughter. A Dramatic Poem in five Acts. By George Stepheos Esq., author of " The Queen of Hungary."

as to be scarcely intelligible, and when understood, possess no peculiar excellence that would recommend them to the attention of the reader. The characters are of the same stamp as the sentiments—that is to say, they have scarcely a vestiye of life, truth, or any other attribute of humanity about them—but are little better than a set of puppets with historical names, that conduct themselves after a fashion known only to the creations of the artificial romance of the last century. That no manager could be got to present such a performance to the public, we are not at all surprised ; and though the author seems by his preface to be exceedingly indignant at the neglect he has hitherto received from the theatrical authorities, we have no hesitation in assuring him, that unless he writes very differently, he cannot reasonably expect different treatment.

[merged small][ocr errors]

LIFE OF THE RT. HION. HENRY GRATTAN.,

Tue third volume of this important work is still more full both of political (and of personal interest than the two which made their appearance a short time ago, and which brought up the career of this most distinguished of Irish statesmen to the period of 1782, just after the Act of Renunciation. The present volume, therefore, may be regarded as opening a new era in Mr. Grattan's eventful life; for such undoubtedly was the result of his rupture with and disconnexion from the Volunteers. Up to the period we speak of, Henry Grattan had been emphatically " the man of the people;" whereas afterwards, though he never to the end of his life, ceased to be looked upon with reverence and respect by all classes, he was less a popular leader than a preventive check on popular feeling on the one hand, and an anchor of safety to the constitution on the other,..

The opening of this volume also constitutes an era in the personal career of Mr. Grattan--namely, his marriage and settlement at Tinnehinch; and henceforth the stream of his life assumes that calm, equable, and dignitied tenour which was clearly inconsistent with the necessarily turbulent nature of its early course. Having proved that he had the boldness to act the part of a Destructive when he deemed that the circumstances of the time required it, he had the still greater and nobler

courage to become a Conservative the moment that the demands of justice were satisfied, and the passions of his countrymen were impelling them to press their claims beyond the limits of right and reason. The great political events and questions which chiefly occupy the present volume are, the National Convention for Reform, the final arrangements respecting Irish trade, the Tithe question, and the formation of the Irish Whig Club. This includes the period between the latter end of 1782 and the middle of 1790, aad gives rise to some of the very highest of Mr. Grattan's oratorical displays - many extracts from which, 'not before published except in the newspapers of the day, give a striking impression of the speaker's extraordinary powers. We have also many excellent and interesting, and some highly-important letters, from several of the most distinguished men of that day-among others, Charles Fox, Edmund Burke, Lord Mornington, General Burgoyne, Lord Charlemont, the Duke of Portland, Mr. Perz (the Speaker), Mr,

« AnteriorContinuar »