페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

cinctly. But the poet's most artful touch is the causing her at this juncture to be summoned down to her mother, which must be supposed to be for the purpose of saying something to her respecting her intended marriage; and this introduces the decisive step-as the only means of preventing her fateof stealing back, and thus addressing her lover :

If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,
By one I will procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite,
And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay,
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.

This passage was exquisitely delivered by Miss O'Neill, as well as the pathetic appeal, which follows amidst the interruption of another summons

But if thou mean’st not well, I do beseech
Thee, cease thy suit, and leave me to my grief.

Her second return, and lingering artless fondness close the scene with the same truth and beauty which pervade the whole, and stand unrivalled.

I have entered into this detailed criticism principally with a view to endeavour to rescue the lovely Juliet from the disfavour with which she is looked upon by ladies. They seem to consider her as a traitress to the dignity and delicacy of their sex, and speak of her almost as they would of a girl who should ask a gentleman at Almack's or a race-ball, whom she had never seen or heard of before, to marry her the next morning. But Shakspeare was no such bungler, either in choosing his groundwork, or in filling it up. He took an extreme case, and he has treated it with that extreme art, which requires study of the author himself, instead of a garbled representation, to comprehend and appreciate. Juliet, with a mind prepared, was addressed by Romeo with the energy of a ripened passion. When she discovered who he was, his reputation was already known to her, and she found in a fancied object of hatred one worthy of all her devotion. Chance discovered her secret, which she was not overstepping the bounds of delicacy in uttering to herself in darkness and imagined solitude, and it was not till Romeo had responded to her passion, that she made a full confession. Necessity urged her at a critical moment to take that decisive step, which, under any other circumstances, would have been revolting, and “ the mask of night,” and the security of her situation, gave a tone of delicacy to her interview with Romeo, which would have been wanting in any other combination of time and place. It is singular that among the many representations on canvass of Juliet in the balcony, there is not one that is successful. The late Mr. Dawe, the royal academician, painted Miss O'Neill in this scene, but with no adequate expression, and with so little understanding of his subject, as to introduce a lamp suspended over her head. In my thirteenth number it is mentioned, in the letters from the continent, that I prolonged my stay at Florence to attend a ball at an Italian villa, for the purpose of better understanding Romeo and Juliet, by which the reader will perceive that I have omitted no means of enabling myself to speak from knowledge of my subject.

Since writing the above I am more convinced than before that Juliet is to be supposed to be summoned by the nurse to her mother respecting her proposed marriage with Paris, who had been a guest at the ball, and that she is also to be supposed to have contrived an excuse to return for a moment, her previous joyousness changed into haste and trepidation, for the purpose of communicating her sudden resolve, as her only resource in her extremity. Her second return seems to be in consequence of her having unexpectedly got rid of further interruption; and her mind being restored to ease, her playfulness is beautifully contrasted with her preceding agitation. I apprehend the whole scene admits. of much more scope for acting than has ever been supposed, and I am not aware of any other instance of such a variety of feeling being displayed in the same space.

EQUALITY OF STYLE.

I was once passing some time alone with a bachelor friend of mine at his country house. After dinner he always drank claret, being the wine he preferred. On one occasion he had a large party of the neighbouring gentry to dine with him, and the following day, when claret was produced as usual, he asked me if I had not thought it strange that he had not set any before his guests. On my answering that I had certainly observed the fact, he informed me it would have been his wish to have done so, and that formerly it had been his practice on such occasions, but that he had thought right to discontinue it, because among the party there were some who had families to provide for from means inferior to his own, but who, he had learned from observation, scrupulously made a point of entertaining him as he had entertained them, though he knew it was neither convenient to them, nor in accordance with their usual style. Of course I approved of his consideration. Here was a case of a gentleman being restrained in his hospitality, and himself and his friends curtailed in their enjoyment, from a most absurd, though very common, species of pride. In bringing my experience to bear upon this subject, it seems to me that pride of this kind is altogether confined to those who have lived in a contracted circle, whether as to space, or as to the different classes of society. I cannot call to mind any instances of those who have mixed much with the world being at all infected with it, whereas the high-minded and the liberal on other points are often weak on this, unless they have had their ideas enlarged by varied social intercourse, which teaches men more than any thing else the true value of things, and leads them not to attach importance to matters of no importance. The fundamental cause of this foolish pride I take to be a jealousy of superiority in wealth, from an over estimate of its value as compared with other things, though the feeling is attempted to be disguised with the greatest possible care ; as a man of slender means, who piques himself upon his birth, has the greatest horror of being entertained by a wealthy upstart better than he can make a return, at the same time professing to hold wealth in the utmost contempt. This is a manifest contradiction ; but even in this inveterate case, a want of knowledge of the world is a necessary ingredient. Poor men of good birth are often excluded from mixed society by their own folly, and by other causes; but where they are men of the world, they are generally among the most ready to partake of its good things without troubling themselves overmuch about the return; and I never knew one of such who was foolish enough to be restrained in his intercourse by notions of strict reciprocity. People who are confined to a small neighbourhood, or who never mix but with one class, are almost always strongly infected with this pride. It does not prevail much amongst persons of very different stations, but chiefly among those who are nearly on an equality, and who are most subject to jealousy of one another. To those who are above it, it appears truly ridiculous. It has this inconvenience, that it prevents free intercourse between neighbours who have a different command of pecuniary means, upon those terms which would be most advantageous to them both; for not only does it require that the style of entertainments should be the same on both sides, but that the number should be balanced. No one thinks of requiring an equality of sense, or wit, or learning, and why should the rule be different with respect to dishes or wines, except from a vulgar-minded feeling that money is more estimable than those qualities? The observance of equality of style is not always the result of pride, but often of an idea that it will be expected, or that without it there will be some dissatisfaction ; but the sensible mode of proceeding is, for all to keep regularly to that style which best suits their means, and then intercourse will find its true level. If the man of luxurious style seeks the society of his neighbour of simple style, it is because he finds some equivalent, and it is a loss to both that pride should bar their intercourse. The truth is, that the party who has the most limited means, often stands on the highest grounds, because the difference is made up by something superior to wealth. So far as equality of style prevails in London society, it may be said, in general, to be the result rather of slavery to fashion than of pride, and often of fear of causing disappointinent. I have heretofore touched upon what I conceive to be its disadvantages. It is pity that with the enjoyment of more political liberty than any other nation, we should make ourselves the slaves of so many absurd customs and fashions, and that, with courage enough against a foreign enemy, we should display such cowardice at home. It is to be hoped that in time we shall be able to do as we please, domestically as well as politically, provided we cause no inconvenience to others. At present, with a great deal that is reasonable, we live under a combination of restraints.

SAYINGS.

In order to enjoy the present, it is necessary to be intent on the present. To be doing one thing, and thinking of another, is a very unsatisfactory mode of spending life. Some people are always wishing themselves somewhere but where they are, or thinking of something else than what they are doing, or of

« 이전계속 »