« AnteriorContinuar »
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE OF ISAAC SMITH, ESQ. The gentleman, who is the subject of the ensuing very brief, imperfect, and slight sketch, was liberally educated at the seminary of Princeton, in the State of New-Jersey. He graduated in the year 1755. In the interval which elapsed between the taking of his Bachelor's and his Master's degree, he exercised the honourable office of Tutor in that celebrated College. Emancipated, at length, from the shackles of Academical Discipline, he commenced the practice of Physic; and many a grateful patient still remembers the tenderness, the attention, the assiduity, and all the lenient arts of the benevolent Smith. The fair character of this gentleman merits the particular notice of the American Biographer. From the commencement of our troubles with Great Britain, he was eminently distinguished for his patriotic services in the cause of his country. In an arduous, and ever memorable struggle, like another Lucullus, associating valour with discretion, he displayed the spirit of a Soldier, and the sagacity of a Statesman. In the year 1776, he commanded a regiment; and, during that dark period of danger and dismay, his conduct was distinguished by fortitude, and perseverance. Soon after this eventful epoch, he was appointed one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey ; and, for the space of eighteen years, discharged, with the greatest dignity and fidelity, the important duties of that arduous and responsible office. About this time, he was elected by the suffrages of the State, to the honourable station of a Member in the Lower House of Congress, where his high character for political wisdom, and decided integrity, were accurately known and justly valued by all his political friends; and in particular, by that illustrious pair of Patriots, WASHINGTON and Adams, with whom he was in habits of the closest intimacy. Endowed with fine talents, blessed with bright and just perceptions, and enjoying the glorious privileges of Classical Education, he united in delightful and honourable assemblage, the characters of a Christian, a Scholar, a Soldier, and a Gentleman.
We are indebter to the courtesy of a liberal friend for the ensuing inscription upon the tomb of Judge Smith. Of '.s tribute to departed
worth we are ignorant of the author; but we should be cold to another, and unjust to ourselves, if we did not describe this Epitaph as a successful specimen of the Lapidary style.
In the 68th year of his age.
As a Physician and Judge,
To the best of his Ability,
To bis Fellow Men,
THE DRAMA-FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
Dread o'er the scene, the ghost of Hamlet stalks;
UNDER this title we shall not at present examine the merits or demerits of ancient tragedy or comedy. To many of the readers of a miscellany like this, it is of little consequence whether Euripides wrote more sweetly than Æschylus; or whether the wit of Plautus or the merriment of Terence more highly gratify the laughter-loving disciple of the classic school. We shall according to the rule of rhetoric place an interesting subject, as a strong argument, in the beginning, to invite favourable attention to future lucubrations; and chivalric in our writings as our temper we shall not deviate from the practice of knight-errantry, but send forth a favourite champion to conciliate the affections and win the smiles of the crowded theatre. With a lance then of unbend. ing strength, a shield, dazzling, yet full of beauties, emblazoned with every variety of colours, yet all glowing and inimitable, and a countenance beaming with courteous smiles, Shakspeare com mences the tournament. And as a single view can embrace but a small portion of his varying merits we now present him only in the garb of the Thane of Cawdor.
Macbeth, if not the best of Shakspeare's plays, is excelled by few of the productions of him who is justly described as the “truest painter that ever dipped his pencil in the cup of human life.” The strength, the richness, the harmony and the splendor of its language, the finely depicted passions in its different scenes, the exhibition of a new world on the stage, which no mortal had presumed to touch upon before, are all acknowledged proofs of the hand of a master. But while all agree in admiring these features of the tragedy, sentiment is by no means united with regard to the hero of the piece. In pursuance of the brille of some critic Pope the favourite opinion seems to be, that Macbeth when first introduced is a virtuous character; brave, manly and honourable ; but that seduced by the prophetic greetings of the weird sisters which open to his contemplation, imaginings before unknown, and afterwards led on by the instigations of his wicked wife, he becomes the bloody tyrant which the latter acts exhibit him. With deference and respect for the father commentator, we shall undertake to show that the Thane of Glamis, as well as King and Cawdor is deficient at the period when our acquaintance with him commences both in the principles of virtue and of true heroism: that uninvited by temptation he had passed the former part of his life, free from any atrocious crime, but that he had only wanted opportunity and inducement to commit any villainy: and that, although able at times to exhibit a show of courage, it was but the faint shadow of real heroism, and that he was by constitution and character, little short of a coward.
At the commencement of the play two characters are presented to our view formed in different moulds. One of them is evidently pure and virtuous, without fear and without reproach, By a comparison with him then, we may be enabled to form an estimate of the merits of the other. Banquo is a gallant soldier and a virtuous man; his conduct is that of purity itself; in proportion then as the demeanor of his “noble partner” differs from his own, it varies from the line of virtue. The different effects produced on their minds by the prophecies cannot be mistaken. Macbeth at once “ starts and looks pale.” Banquo neither begs nor fears their favours nor their hate.” In the former the workings of a vicious mind display
themselves at oncein his agitated manner. When the witches va. nish he dwells with heavy thought upon their great predictions, and utters a fervent wish that they had staid. Banquo though promised honours not much less than his, considers them as bubbles of the earth and thinks no more of them.
On the arrival of the royal messengers the two characters are perhaps fully displayed. Banquo, ever on his guard against the seductions of vice, cautions his partner against their influence, who yields entirely to all his supernatural solicitings, which he knows cannot be good. He acknowledges a suggestion of horrid image, a thought of murder; and then conceals his feelings and hypocri. tically dissembles the load that presses on his heart. Afterwards at the palace his guilt shows itself in the following lines:
-Stars, hide your fires.
Thus far, it must be remembered, he proceeds without having seen his wife; the thought, the suggestion, and the horrible imaginings are all exclusively his own. His mind does not exhibit merely a spark of guilt, latent, and feeble, which may be excited by instigation or ambition, by the wily arts of wicked woman, or the tempting seductions of envy or avarice: it is already a flame enkindled and nourished by the violence of his own passions, and threatening to consume him. I should blush for human nature if I could suppose that even the majority of men were base enough to feel as he felt, and to be led away by so precarious and uncertain a hope as could be excited by the promise of earthly bubbles, or at best of airy phantasies, whatever might be his confidence in their power or efficiency. If it be said his expressions were but the momentary effusions of a harassed mind, and that they would have led to no wicked deed, I answer “ the golden mind stoops not to shows of dross.”
The character given of her Thane by Lady Macbeth, has been considered a true description of his merits and disposition. If a comparison with her be the just criterion of his purity, he was pure indeed ; for a demon is an angel of light compared with such a woman. To her he seemed virtuous because she had gone far beyond him in guilt; she was therefore in capable of judging of vir