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My First Play.
603 slay not, but glide in among them urged onward by a strong wind, like a spirit ; thrust your blade, for scudded with supernatural swiftness anger strikes, but revenge stabs, through the midnight waters. We and I will secure the gangway and had entered the Solway sea, when fight along with you." I heard and the storm, augmenting every moment, obeyed, and gliding among them, carried us rapidly along, and when thrust one of them through and opposite Allanbay, a whirlwind seizthrough; a second, and a third ing our ship by the rigging whirled dropped, ere they saw who was her fairly round, and down she went
The captain at- head foremost. Even in this moment tempted to draw a pistol, but my of extreme peril, I shall never forget sword, and my friend's, entered at the figure that, couched among the hack and bosom ; and though two slain, started to its feet before me, yet remained unhurt, I struck my in health and unhurt. There is a sword a second time through the fate in all things: it was that fiend in bosom of my mortal enemy, as he human form whom I slew to-night. lay beneath me; and the last expir- Revenge is sweetest when it comes ing glance of his eye was a look unhoped for. As we sank, a passing worth remembering.
Ere this was vessel saved my pretty May Colvine, accomplished, the other two were her murdered mother's image, and both lying with their companions. her wretched father's love, and saved I have frequently imagined that a too the heroic sailor; while the firmness and strength, more than my drunken wretches went to the botown, were given me during this tom, without the chance of swimning desperate encounter. Meanwhile the for an existence they deserved not to remainder of the crew below set no prolong." bounds to their merriment and shout- Such was the narrative of Miles ing, and seemed, as my Scottish friend Colvine. He has been dead for severemarked, ordained to die by my hand, ral years, and though his daughter since their clamour, by drowning the wedded the man who saved her fagroans of their comrades, prevented ther and her, he refused to forsake them from providing for their safety. the sight of the Solway and the We fastened the cabin door, and bar- sound of its waters, and was found ricaded the gangway, keeping watch at his cottage door cold and stiff, with pistol and sword, with the hope with his eyes open and looking sean of seeing some friendly shore, or a ward. compassionate sail, while the vessel, Lammerlea, Cumberland.
MY FIRST PLAY. At the north end of Russell-court from the stillness of which I was there yet stands a portal, of some taught to prognosticate the desired architectural pretensions, though cessation! "I seem to remember the reduced to humble use, serving last spurt, and the glee with which I at present for an entrance to a wine ran to announce it. vault. This old door-way, if you We went with orders, which my are young, reader, you may not godfather F. had sent us. know was the identical pit entrance the oil shop (now Davies's) at the to Old Drury--Garrick's Drury-all corner of Featherstone-buildings, in of it that is left. I never pass it Holborn. F. was a tall grave pera without shaking some forty years son, lofty in speech, and had pretenfrom off my shoulders, recurring to sions above his rank. He associated the evening when I passed through in those days with John Palmer, the it to see my first play. The after- comedian, whose gait and bearing noon had been wet, and the condition he seemed to copy ; if John (which of our going (the elder folks and my- is quite as likely) did not rather borself) was, that the rain should cease. row somewhat of his manner from With what a beating heart did I my godfather. He was also known watch from the window the puddles, to, and visited by, Sheridan. It was Vol. IV.
to his house in Holborn that young and I strode (shall I confess the vaBrinsley brought his first wife on nity?) with larger paces over my her elopement with him from a allotment of three quarters of an acre, boarding-school at Bath—the beau- with its commodious mansion in the tiful Maria Linley. My parents were midst, with the feeling of an English present (over a quadrille table) when freeholder that all betwixt sky and he arrived in the evening with his centre was my own. The estate harmonious charge.-From either of has passed into more prudent hands, these connexions it may be inferred and nothing but an Agrarian can rethat my godfather could command store it. an order for the then Drury-lane In those days were pit orders. Betheatre at pleasure—and, indeed, a shrew the uncomfortable manager pretty liberal issue of those cheap who abolished them !-with one of billets, in Brinsley's easy autograph, these we went. I remember the I have heard him say was the sole waiting at the door, not that which remuneration which he had received is left—but between that and an infor many years' nightly illumination ner door in shelter-0 when shall I of the orchestra and various avenues be such an expectant again !-with of that theatre—and he was content the cry of nonpareils, an indispenit should be so. The honour of She- sible play-house accompaniment in ridan's familiarity—or supposed fa- those days. As near as I can recolmiliarity-was better to my god- lect, the fashionable pronunciation father than money.
of the theatrical fruiteresses then F. was the most gentlemanly of was, “ Chase some oranges, chase oilmen; grandiloquent, yet courte- some numparels, chase a bill of the ous. His delivery of the commonest play;"-chase pro chuse. But when matters of fact was Ciceronian. He we got in, and I beheld the green had two Latin words almost con- curtain that veiled a heaven to my stantly in his mouth (how odd sounds imagination, which was soon to be Latin from an oilman's lips !), which disclosed the breathless anticipamy better knowledge since has en- tions I endured! I had seen someabled me to correct. In strict pro- thing like it in the plate prefixed nunciation they should have been to Troilus and Cressida, in Rowe's sounded vice versa—but in those Shakspeare-the tent scene with Di'young years they impressed me with omede--and a sight of that plate can more awe than they would now do always bring back in a measure the read aright from Seneca or Varro- feeling of that evening. The boxes in his own peculiar pronunciation, at that time, full of well-dressed monosyllabically elaborated, or An- women of quality, projected over the glicized, into something like verse pit; and the pilasters reaching down verse. By an imposing manner, and were adorned with a glistering subthe help of these distorted syllables, stance (I know not what) under glass he climbed (but that was little) to (as it seemed), resembling--a homethe highest parochial honours which ly fancy—but I judged it to be sugarSt. Andrew's has to bestow.
candy-yet, to my raised imaginaHe is dead-and thus much I tion, divested of its homelier qualities, thought due to his memory, both it appeared a glorified candy!- The for my first orders (little wondrous orchestra lights at length arose, talismans!-slight keys, and insignifi- those“ fair Auroras!" Once the cant to outward sight, but opening to bell sounded. It was to ring out me more than Arabian paradises !) yet once again-and, incapable of and moreover, that by his testamen- the anticipation, I reposed my shut 'tary beneficence I came into posses- eyes in a sort of resignation upon the sion of the only landed property maternal lap. It rang the second which I could ever call my own time. The curtain drew up-I was situate near the road-way village of not past six years old—and the play pleasant Puckeridge, in Hertford- was Artaxerxes ! shire. When I journeyed down to I had dabbled a little in the Unitake possession, and planted foot on versal History, the ancient part of my own ground, the stately habits it-and here was the court of Persia. of the donor descended upon me, It was being admitted to a sight of the past. I took no proper interest I saw these plays in the season in the action going on, for I under- 1781-2, when I was from six to stood not its import—but I heard the seven years old. After the intervenword Darius, and I was in the midst tion of six or seven other years (for of Daniel. All feeling was absorbed at school all play-going was inhiin vision. Gorgeous vests, gardens, bited) I again entered the doors of a palaces, princesses, passed before me. theatre. That old Artaxerxes evenI knew not players. I was in Persepo- ing had never done ringing in my lis for the time; and the burning idol fancy. I expected the same feelings of their devotions was as if the sun it- to come again with the same occaself should have been brought down sion. But we differ from ourselves to minister at the sacrificial altar. less at sixty and sixteen, than the I took those significations to be latter does from six. In that intersomething more than elemental fires. val what had I not lost! At the Harlequin's Invasion followed; where, first period I knew nothing, underI remember, the transformation of stood nothing, discriminated nothing. the magistrates into reverend bel- I felt all, loved all, wondered alldams seemed to me a piece of grave
Was nourished, I could not tell how historic justice, and the taylor carrying his own head, to be as sober a I had left the temple a devotee, and verity as the legend of St. Denys. was returned a rationalist. The
The next play to which I was taken same things were there materially ; was the Lady of the Manor, of which, but the emblem, the reference, was with the exception of some scenery, gone!—The green curtain was no very faint traces are left in my me- longer a veil, drawn between two mory. It was followed by a panto- worlds, the unfolding of which was mime, called Lun's Ghost—a satiric to bring back past ages, to present touch, I apprehend, upon Rich, not “ a royal ghost,”—but a certain long since dead—but to my appre- quantity of green baize, which was hension (too sincere for satire), Lun to separate the audience for a given was as remote a piece of antiquity as time from certain of their fellow-men Lud- the father of a line of Harle- who were to come forward and prequins-transmitting his dagger of tend those parts. The lights—the lath (the wooden sceptre) through orchestra lights-came up a clumsy countless ages. I saw the primeval machinery. The first ring, and the Motley come from his silent tomb in second ring, was now but a trick of a ghastly vest of white patch-work, the prompter's bell—which had been, like the apparition of a dead rainbow. like the note of the cuckoo, a phantom So Harlequins (thought I) look when of a voice, no hand seen or guessed they are dead.
at which ministered to its warning. My third play followed in quick suc- The actors were men and women cession. It was the Way of the World. painted. I thought the fault was in I think I must have sat at it as grave them; but it was in myself, and the as a judge ; for, I remember, the hys- alteration which those many centuteric affectations of good Lady Wish- ries-of six short twelvemonthsfort affected me like some solemn tra- had wrought in me.- Perhaps it was gic passion. Robinson Crusoe fol- fortunate for me that the play of the lowed; in which Crusoe, man Friday, evening was but an indifferent coand the parrot, were as good and au- medy, as it gave me time to crop thentic as in the story. The clown
unreasonable expectations, ery and pantaloonery of these panto- which might have interfered with mimes have clean passed out of my the genuine emotions with which head. I believe, I no more laughed (with unmixed perception) I was at them, than at the same age I
soon after enabled to enter upon the should have been disposed to laugh first appearance to me of Mrs. Sidat the grotesque Gothic heads (seem- dons in Isabella. Comparison and ing to me then replete with devout retrospection soon yielded to the premeaning) that gape, and grin, in sent attraction of the scene; and the stone around the inside of the old theatre became to me, upon a new Round Church (my church) of the stock, the most delightful of recreaTemplars.
JOHN PAUL FREDERICK RICHTER.
Virum, ex hodiernis Transrhenanis, quem ego præ cæteris stupeo, et qui locum principis in litteris Germanicis mereatur jure: de quo spero quod mihi gratias agetis, utpote nomen ejus, hactenus inauditum per nostras Athenas, nunc palam apud vos proferenti-libros vero speciosissimi argumenti in usum vernaculi lectoris civitate posthac donaturo. Quod si me fefellerit opinio quam de illo habeo, sciatis nusquam gentium reperiri inter Teutonicos scriptores qui possit penitus approbari. Trebell. Pollio (inter Historia Augustæ Scriptores : Is. Casauboni, Par. 1603, 4to. p. 274) ex editione Grasmeriensi.
Grasmere, Oct. 18, 1821. MY DEAR F.—You ask me to adequately representative of the indirect you generally in your choice tellectual power of a whole nation ; of German authors ; secondly, and none which has attested its own especially, among those authors to power by influencing the modes of name my favourite. In such an thinking, acting, educating, through
as German literature, your a long tract of centuries. They first request is of too wide a compass have no book on which the nafor a letter; and I am not sorry that, tional mind has adequately acted; by leaving it untouched, and reserv- none, which has re-acted, for any ing it for some future conversation, great end, upon the national mind. I shall add one moment (in the lan- We English have mighty authors, guage of dynamics) to the attrac- almost, I might say, almighty autions of friendship, and the local thors, in whom (to speak by a attractions of my residence ;-insuf- scholastic term) the national mind is ficient, as it seems, of themselves, to contained eminenter; that is, virdraw you so far northwards from tually contained in its principles : London. Come, therefore, dear F., and reciprocally these abstracts of the bring thy ugly countenance to the English mind continue, in spite of lakes; and I will engraft such Ger- many counteracting forces, to mould man youth and vigour on thy Eng- and modulate the national tone of lish trunk, that henceforwards thou thought; I do not say directly, for shalt bear excellent fruit. I suppose, you will object, that they are not F., you know that the Golden Pip- sufficiently studied; but indirectly, pin is now almost, if not quite, es- inasmuch as the hundreds in every tinct in England : and why? Clearly generation, who influence their confrom want of some exotic, but con- temporary millions, have themselves genial, inoculation. So it is with derived an original influence from literatures of whatsoever land ; un- these books. The planet Jupiter, less crossed by some other of differ- according to the speculations of a ent breed, they all ten to super- great German philosopher, is just annuation. Thence comes it that now coming into a habitable condithe French literature is now in the tion: its primeval man is, perhaps, last stage of phthisis — dotage- now in his Paradise; the history, palsy, or whatever image will best ex- the poetry, the woes of Jupiter, are press the most abject state of senile now in their cradle. Suppose then, -(senile? no! of anile)-imbecility. that this Jovian man were allowed Its constitution, as you well know, to come down upon our earth, to was, in its best days, marrowless take an inquest among us, and to call and without nerve ; its youth with us - nation by nation—to a solemn out hope, and its manhood without audit on the question of our intellecdignity. For it is remarkable, that tual efforts and triumphs. What to the French people only, of all could the earth say for herself? For nations that have any literature at our parts, we should take him into all, has it been, or can it be, justly Westminster Abbey: and, standing objected - that they have " no pa- upon the ancestral dust of England, ramount book ;” none, that is to say, we should present him with two which stands out as a monument volumes--one containing Hamlet,
607 Lear, and Othello; the other con- influence of Kant's great work.taining Paradise Lost. This, we Change of any kind was good for should say, this is what we have Germany. One truth was clearachieved: these are our Pyramids. Whatever was, was bad. And the * But what could France present him? evidence of this appears on the face and where? Why, her best offering of the literature. Before 1789 good must be presented in a Boudoir: authors were rare in Germany: since the impudence even of a Frenchman then they are so numerous, that in would not dare to connect the sanc- any sketch of their literature all intities of religious feeling with any dividual notice becomes impossible : book in his language: the wildest you must confine yourself to favourvanity could not pretend to show ite authors, or notice them by classes. the correlate of Paradise Lost. To And this leads me to your question speak in a language suitable to a -Who is my favourite author ? My Jovian visitor, that is, in the lan- answer is, that I have three favourguage of astronomy, our books would ites : and those are Kant, Schiller, appear to him as two heavenly bodies and John Paul Richter. But setting of the first magnitude, whose period, Kant aside, as hardly belonging to the cycle and the revolution of whose the literature, in the true meaning orbit, were too vast to be calculated: of that word,—I have, you see, two. whilst the very best of France could In what respect there is any affinity be regarded as no more than satel- between them, I will notice before lites fitted to move about some cen- I conclude. For the present, I shall tral body of insignificant size. Now observe only, that in the case of whence comes this poverty of the Schiller, I love his works chiefly beFrench literature? Manifestly hence, cause I venerate the memory of the that it is too intensely steeped in man: whereas, in the case of RichFrench manners to admit of any influ- ter, my veneration and affection for ences from without: it has rejected all the man is founded wholly on my alliance with exotic literature; and knowledge of his works. This dislike some royal families, or like a tinction will point out Richter as the particular valley in this county, most eligible author for your present from intermarrying too exclusively purpose. In point of originality, inin their own narrow circle, it is now deed, there cannot arise a question on its last legs; and will soon go out between the pretensions of Richter like a farthing rushlight.
and those of any other German auHaving this horrid example before thor whatsoever. He is no man's our eyes, what should we English representative but his own: nor do I do? Why, evidently we should think that he will ever have a succultivate an intercourse with that
Of his style of writing, it literature of Europe which has most may be said, with an emphatic and of a juvenile constitution. Now that almost exclusive propriety, that exis beyond all doubt the German. I cept it proceeds in a spirit of perfect do not so much insist on the present freedom it cannot exist; unless movexcellence of the German literature; ing from an impulse self-derived it (though, poetry apart, the current cannot move at all. What then is literature of Germany appears to me his style of writing? What are its by much the best in Europe:) what general characteristics ?—These I weighs most with me is the promise will endeavour to describe with sufand assurance of future excellence ficient cireumstantiality to meet your held out by the originality and present wants : premising only that masculine strength of thought which I call him frequently John Paul, has moulded the German mind since without adding his surname, both the time of Kant. Whatever be because all Germany gives him that thought of the existing authors, it is appellation, as an expression of afclear that a mighty power has been at fection for his person, and because work in the German mind since the he has himself sometimes assumed it French revolution, which happily co- in the title-pages of his works. incided in point of time * with the First, the characteristic distinc
* The Critik der Reinen Vernunft was published about five years before the French Reyolution, but lay unnoticed in the publisher's warehouse for four or five years.