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Knowles's Dramatic Works, vol. 3. Edward Moxon, Dover Street. We are very glad of the appearance of this work, for it gives us the opportunity of saying a few long meditated words upon the Drama of the daya subject which we deem to be of much importance and interest."
The Drama of the present day appears to us to exhibit three striking tendencies; the first towards the Real, the second towards the Poetical, and the third towards the Ideal.
The features of the Real are these ;-It paints the world and man as they are; neither magnifies on the one hand, nor diminishes on the other. It describes things as it finds them; without entering into their philosophy, or staying to point out their excellencies or defects. The object of the Real is to place Fact, Truth, and Nature before us, and to leave us to judge for ourselves; to exhibit to us the morals and discoveries with which Fact and Truth furnish us, and leave us to apply them. The Real is the result of observation rather than of reflection, and belongs—to speak phrenologically-to that class of faculties called the perceptive. The present age has a very remarkable tendency towards this realizing principle. We see this in its inventions, which are mechanical and palpable, rather than philosophical; they are inventions of fact not of theory. It may be seen, too, in the writers of the time. Amongst the Poets, Crabbe, Ebenezer Elliott, Wordsworth, and Campbell stand prominently forward as depictors of what is real rather than of what is imaginative. Amongst our novelists, Cooper, Sir Walter Scott, Horace Smith, and, greatest among the great, Charles Dickens, are to be noted for describing Fact, not Fiction. The operation of the principle is observable, also, in the great demand there is for books of travels and records of discovery and improvement; and it is to be seen, likewise, in the increasing desire for practical knowledge. There is no thirst for Theory now: men seek not Logical Truth, but Mathematical. Only that which can be proved is sought for; in a word the Practical is the present universal favorite.
Amongst our dramatists Sheridan Knowles is the most thorough representative of the Real. Fact, Knowledge, proved Truth; these are the staple commodities of his writings. He says what he knows, not what he thinks; what he has proved, what he has felt, what he has seen. It would be difficult to find a writer who so uniformly shews us that experience is the basis on which he builds. And the result of this is, that there is no one on whom we can so implicitly depend. He is always honest, always sincere, always simple, manly, and intelligible. We never meet with sickly sentiment, unsound morality, or false philosophy; all is cheerful, open and ingenuous. There is never a double meaning or a dangerous moral; you feel that you can rely upon him unreservedly. You cannot read the works of some writers without fancying that you are in danger of being captivated into false feeling by their seductive sentiments, or lured into scepticism by their attractive sophistry: you never dread this with Knowles. There is nothing like disguise about him. You see at once what he is; and he not only shews you plainly the truths for which he contends, but exhibits without reserve, all his strength and all his weapons at once. We look upon Sheridan Knowles as amongst the most honest and fearless of our writers. He never shrinks from attacking vice, nor from defending virtue. He bends to no prejudices, defends no immoralities, stoops to no meannesses nor tricks. You never fear to find him contradicting himself, nor abandoning a principle; he is too sincere for that; you always feel that he thinks all he says, and says all he thinks. Now we cannot but believe that the works of such a writer must have a great and beneficial influence upon our national literature. They reproduce themselves in others; they elevate the tone and enlarge the honesty of the readers and writers of the time. They beget independence of thought, discourage literary venality, and set
up standards by which world should go. Such a writer cannot be too highly esteemed, nor too plentifully rewarded. All honour and praise then to James SHERIDAN KNOWLES!
Perhaps there never existed a more complete contrast between two writers of the same age, than between Sheridan Knowles and Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer. Of all our dramatic writers, Bulwer is unquestionably the most philosophical, and at the same time the most poetical: but the union, or rather the co-existence, of the poetical and the philosophical principles in his mind, makes Bulwer a writer of less note and value than Knowles. But let us clearly understand what we mean by the terms we have employed. Philosophy is that which from effects traces causes, and from causes speculates upon effects. Poetry is that which perceives what is striking, sublime, and beautiful in the world and in the mind. The office of Philosophy is to enquire, ts consider, to compare and to determine; and it depends upon the reflective faculties of the mind. The office of Poetry is to perceive, point out, and employ what is beautiful and remarkable in the physical, mental, and moral worlds; and it depends upon the higher class of the perceptive faculties. Poetry and Philosophy never co-exist harmoniously in the same mind. They seem to be opposing principles. Philosophy discovers beauty, fitness, and harmony by long and careful reflection: Poetry perceives them at a glance. Philosophy can give you the reason which causes it to determine what is beautiful and striking : Poetry knows and feels the influence, but cannot tell you why, or how, it acts upon the mind. Philosophy is discovery, Poetry, intuition. Philosophy is judgment, Poetry, feeling. When these two principles exist together, therefore, there are jarring elements in the mind they inhabit. The poetical principle causes that mind to see and feel the Beautiful and the True, but the philosophical disposes it not to acknowledge them till they are proved and analyzed. Such a mind is for ever inspired, and yet for ever doubtful of the truth of its inspiration, and the tendency of a mental composition like this, is towards scepticism, error and false philosophy. This may be easily accounted for. The philosophical principle urges the mind to inquire into the truth and reason of the perceptions of the poetical, and acting upon the poetical in its endeavour to prove the truth and discover the sources of its sublime sensations, theorizes, speculates and too often becomes in the course of its inquiry,
“ In wandering mazes lost." It seems to us that Bulwer is just this. He is a true Poet—that cannot be questioned: a Poet of a high order, too; not of the highest, because he his rather the Poet of Farcy than of Imagination. He is also a philosopher; not a very deep one, perhaps, but yet a very sensible one. But he pushes both Poetry and Philosophy too far, and the consequences are frequent conceit in the one, and frequent mysticism in the other.
We were right, therefore, when we called Bulwer a complete contrast to Knowles. We find that where Knowles depicts, Bulwer speculates. Where Knowles states, Bulwer philosophizes. Knowles writes nothing but what he knows-Bulwer seems not to have made up his mind on what he writes. Bulwer's great advantage over Knowles is in his poetical quality. Where Knowles is homely, Bulwer becomes eloquent; where Knowles is eloquent, Bulwer grows sublime. Knowles sketches better than Bulwer, Bulwer paints better than Knowles. Knowles is rugged, Bulwer harmonious; Knowles never more than natural, Bulwer never less than poetical. In plot and in character, Bulwer is decidedly inferior to Knowles. Knowles's are real people, Bulwer's beautiful shadows. In Knowles we are interested in the story because of the characters; in Bulwer we are interested in the characters because of the story.
We said that the Drama of the day has a tendency towards the Ideal. The Ideal is that which sets up a statue of perfection in the hope that men will make it their model, and though they cannot reach, will endeavour to approach its faultless beauty. It is the extreme of poetry, the point where the poetical verges upon the visionary, and the sublime runs into the mystical. Now though the Ideal can never meet with universal favour-because it is beyond the pale of human sympathy-it has done and must ever do, much good. It developes the pure, the perfect, and the beautiful in the world and in the mind; and by endeavouring to make man a little less than angel, certainly causes him to be a little more than mortal.
Of our dramatists, Talfourd is certainly the most closely identified with this principle. In “Ion," his leaning towards the Ideal is very clearly shown. How far above human nature is the hero :
“ His nature such ethereal aspect wears,
Love, the germ
- So his life hath flow'd
And takes no shadow from them." The same exaggeration is observable in all his productions. He always either sublimates humanity, or degrades it; and the result is that his characters fail to interest us because they are either above or below our sympathies. Talfourd's plays are too classical, too, to be generally approved. We would not undervalue the classics for a moment--we readily admit their high value aad importance, but we think it is wrong to seek to clothe the stirring and romantic passion of the Present in the cold and chilling Idealism of the Past. To instance the play of "Ion,”-the passion of the drama is natural to us, but the medium is not so. We cannot sympathize with oracles and sages and self-immolation. We have grown into another state, and these things do not come home to our hearts, however elegant and classical the spirit and however poetical the words in which they are introduced to us. Mr. Westland Marston, whose name it is impossible to mention with too much honour, has opposed more successfully perhaps than other writer, the notion that poetry belongs to the Past alone. In his tragedy “The Patrician's Daughter" he has shown us that the Present is rich in passion and power, and that to the Present no voice speaks so thrillingly as its own.
When we commenced this article, it was our intention to criticise at some length the production last referred to, and to have paid a large and willing tribute to Mr. Marston's genius; but space—that great enemy of editors--forbids us, and we must reserve our words, till our tyrant gives us leave to speak again.
Music Classes and Concerts.--A knowledge of the art of Music has long been recognized as eminently useful in refining and elevating the character. Of late years the number of musical students has sensibly increased, and a more extended study has been attended with a correcter appreciation of the lofty and noble in the art. The establishment of Music Classes in our various Metropolitan Institutions, has done much to nourish the tendency to the pursuit of this delightful study. Societies, too, have since been founded exclusively for the practice of Music, where the highest models in the art have been produced in the most complete and splendid style ;-indeed the Sacred Harmonic Society, for the grandeur of its orchestra, including its powerful chorus, rivals, if not surpasses, the great Choral Institutions of Germany. This article is devoted to the notice of a few Concerts, which of late have come under our observation, and we shall conclude with a few remarks on their general tendencies.
The Concert of the Music Class at the City of London Institution, on the 3d February, was under the direction of Mr. Hillier. The very efficient band, under the leadership of Mr. Patey, performed in very creditable style the ninth symphony of Haydn, and some popular overtures. Master W. Streather, a pupil of J. B. Chatterton, displayed considerable power in the performance of a Fantasia on the Harp, composed by Parish Alvars. The vocalists were the Misses Williams, Miss Messent, Miss Hincks, and Messrs. Ransford, Collet and Williams, who executed several songs, duetts, &c., with suitable excellence. The Misses Williams sang a duett, by Gabussi, with their accustomed purity, and met with an unanimous encore. The same fate attended Balfe's duett, “ Well, if I must speak my mind," very well sung by Miss Hincks and Mr. Collet, as well as “ The Gypsy's Tent," by Glover, and a Bacchanalian song by J. L. Hopkins, sung by Mr. Ransford, with his usual power. Miss Messent has a very sweet mezzo soprano voice, faultless in tone, and only deficient in those qualities which more frequent practice will speedily produce.
The Music Class Concert of the Islington Institution, on the 6th February, was under the direction of Mr. Nicholson. It is sufficient merely to give the names of those engaged in the performances to suggest an idea of the excellence of this Concert. Miss Bassano and Miss Sabilla Novello, Messrs. Hobbs and A. Novello, ably filled the vocal department, and sung several very beautiful compositions, the most prominent being Mosart's “ Non pizu di fiori," by Miss Bassano, with the fine clarionet accompaniment of Mr. Lazarus, and Purcell's “Let the dreadful engines," from Don Quixote, by Mr. Novello. The instrumentalists, with Mr. Willy at their head, and including many eminent professors, executed a symphony by Beethoven, with great precision, and Mozart's noble overture to “ Zauberflote,” concluded a very delightful Concert.
Good service is rendered to the lovers of music by the Concerts of the Choral Harmonists, one of which we had the pleasure of attending on the 30th of January, at the London Tavern. The programme consisted of the First Mass of Mozart, a selection from Handel's “ Acis and Galatea," a “ Gaudiamus,” by Carissimi, Morley's beautiful madrigal, “ Now is the month of maying," and several other classical compositions ; concluding with Handel's “Haste, thee, Nymph," the solo rather lugubriously sung by Mr. A. Novello, and only redeemed by the following chorus. Besides this gentleman, the vocalists were Miss Bassano, Miss Dolby, and Mr. Bennett, and a very numerous and efficient chorus--the orchestra being complete in the instrumental department, with Mr. Dando as leader, and Mr. Lucas wielding the conductor's baton. The only other exception to the general correctness of the performances was Miss Bassano's solo
“0, the pleasure of the plains," a part which she appeared never to have studied, or even to have seen before.
Haydn's oratorio of the Creation” was performed by the Sacred Harmonic Society on the 10th February. This glorious composition, which must be reckoned as the greatest work of the kind produced since Handel, is so well known, and its various movements must be so familiar to all, that an analytical review is not needed; besides, the task has been so well done by abler hands. Be it enough to say that the rich flow of melody pervading the whole appeared to us as fresh and undying, as when its simple beauty first won our admiration. The great feature, however, of these concerts is the delivery of the choruses, which are given with all the precision and power that can be expected from so magnificent an orchestra. How splendid was the burst of instruments and voices on the word "light," and what could equal that wonderful display of power in the gorgeous chorus concluding the first part, the justly celebrated “The Heavens are telling !” A microscopic review of such a concert as this would be ridiculous. We can only say that the general completeness of the whole performance filled us with delight and satisfaction.
From the above slight notices we may be allowed to draw one or two inferences which force themselves on our attention. It has long been a matter of regret that the Institutional Music Classes have not done more than they have to create and cherish a love for the pure and classical in the art they pretend to teach. The absence of great classical compositions from their programmes, especially vocal ones, is a circumstance to be deplored. We do not mean to insinuate that they should endeavour to crowd into their little rooms the multitudinous chorus of Exeter Hall, or that they should attempt to rival the Philharmonic Orchestra, by the style of their performances, for these things are impossibilities. But we would suggest to the Directors of such entertainments the propriety of their endeavouring to bring as many classical compositions as possible before the notice of their fellow members. As a model for a really useful concert, we would refer to that of the Choral Harmonists noticed above. It may be said that a society like this latter has more funds at its disposal than is generally the lot of Institution Music Classes. True, but we hope to see the time when the orchestras of these classes shall be filled with those whose services would not entail much expense-We hope to see a chorus of good voices side by side with an instrumental band, supplied from the body of the members generally, ready and able to execute the noblest compositions. We think, and we do not speak without some knowledge of what we are talking about, that the materials for this purpose are in existence at present, and require only a skilful hand to mould them to utility.
At present the object seems to be merely to kill time, the cultivation of a pure and correct taste being a minor consideration. The great symphonies of Haydn and Beethoven are performed to be sure, but it is very plain that the succeeding selection of pretty things is the grand attraction for the audience, for these mighty creations of the great masters are listened to with perfect apathy, the world of poetry which they call up passing unnoticed along. This should not be, and we conclude by the expression of a hope that endeavours will be made to make the Music Class Concerts, of the different Literary and Scientific Institutions, serve a higher and a nobler purpose than apparently they do at present.
GREENWICH SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE-Opening of the New Lecture Hall.-On Wednesday evening, February 15th, the New Lecture Hall of this flourishing Society was opened to the members. The building is extremely chaste and harmonious in its appearance, and is capable of accommodating, comfortably, 1,000 persons. On this occasion, however, so great was the interest excited by the event that at least 1,200