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mother and her son, in the fifth act, a degree of tenderness and nature, that in an ordinary tragedy would have been considered excellent. The diction, as well as the delineation of feeling in Douglas, seems to me of a very superior kind—sufficiently beautiful, without losing the proper dramatic simplicity, and in a high degree poetical, without any of that obscurity which in many, especially of modern poems, has been mistaken for poetry. Mrs Siddons told me she never found any study (which, in the technical language of the stage, means the getting verses by heart) so easy as that of Douglas, which is one of the best criterions of excellence in dramatic style. The same great actress, however, complained, that in the opening scenes, even with the retrenchments which she was obliged to make, there was a monotony which she found it extremely difficult to support in the delivery. I apprehend that this remark, which I am persuaded was well founded, was rather a compliment than an objection to the style of the piece; because that sort of level tone which is so difficult to support in scenic representations, is the very voice of nature in those situations of long-nourished settled sorrow, which had been for so many years the constant and cherished companion of Lady Randolph.
With such excellence as is now universally allowed to the tragedy of Douglas, it was not to be wondered at that it should produce a strong sensation in Scotland; though I will allow, at the same time, that the public curiosity and expectation were considerably heightened by the peculiar situation of its author, the minister of a church, which, in those times particularly, held stage plays in reprobation. It created a sort of party, as a religious rather than a critical question, and the proceedings, as I have detailed in a former part of this paper, were carried on with a violence which perhaps may surprise us in these more moderate times. This party keenness, however, was favourable, as far as notice and interest are favourable, to the success of the play. But its success did not rest on this ground alone—its poetical merit captivated all who had the good fortune to hear any parts of it recited. I have already mentioned that some of the striking passages, among which I particularly recollect the opening soliloquy, had been got by heart, and were repeated by fair lips, for the admiration of their teatables. I may observe in passing, that few opening speeches are more beautiful in poetry, or more interesting in matter; though, perhaps, there is a mistake, not uncommon (observable indeed in other soliloquys of this very tragedy) in its dramatic character, that it tells a great part of Lady Randolph's story. Now, one never, I think, strictly speaking*^ tells a story to one's-self in soliloquy, though
may reflect on its past, and anticipate its future, consequences.
No part of dramatic composition, however, has been so little regulated either by nature or probability, as that of the Monologue. On the French stage, till the time of Voltaire, the soliloquys were not indeed narrative ; but they consisted of a string of high-flown sentiments, artificially expressed, equally unnatural and tiresome. I may be allowed to add, that no part of dramatic language is more difficult to the actor. Garrick appeared to me unrivalled in this department of acting. In speaking soliloquy, in holding those secret and searching dialogues with himself, he not only forgot the audience, but seemed to hold no communion with any thing external. He put off even the ordinary attributes of the character which he represented ; he wrapt in the dark recesses of his soul, the half-conceived thought, the stifled passion, the secret vengeance, the repressed consciousness of crime. In a low and broken tone, in a language almost independent of words, he expressed the abrupt and scarcely connected movements of his mind. In some of those "horrible imaginings," as Shakespeare calls them, which are first developed in soliloquy, from his fixed eye, his contracted and furrowed brow, the silent quivering of his lips, with the low stifled tones they breathed, which, by an art almost peculiar to
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self, he made audible to the ear, but still more audible to the mind, the impression was powerful beyond measure. 'Twas like the muttering of a volcano, before its fires are seen ; and the audience listened to it with the same deep and silent awe. The Society will scarcely make allowance for this enthusiastic eulogium ; but any of its members who have seen Garrick will understand it,
The episode of the Hermit, in the tragedy of Douglas, is extremely beautiful, and may be evert considered natural in the place where it is introduced. It was one which had probably risen to the poet's mind in his solitary walks on the shores of his parish; and of which he was so particularly fond, that he has introduced the idea in more than one of his subsequent productions, with the addition, in one of them, of a picturesque image, which would naturally occur to him amidst the scenes of those walks I have mentioned.
"Here I sit in sorrow,
I have been more full in my remarks on this tragedy, because it was that which gave his celebrity to the author, and continues to be distinguished as one of the most interesting and pathetic dramas of the modern stage. It is not easy to conceive what could have induced Garrick to reject it when offered to him for representation ; nor did his confidence in his own superior judgment yield even to the experience of its effect in representation at Edinburgh ; it was brought out at Covent-Garden only, the year after it had been acted in Scotland.
Mr David Hume's high opinion of this tragedy, he has told the world in the dedication of a volume of his Essays, published soon after the appearance of Douglas, to his friend the author. His remarks when it was first communicated to him in MS. are contained in a letter, part of which has been torn off, of which the residue is as follows :*
* In reading this letter, it is necessary to know, that, as the tragedy was first acted, the names of several of the principal characters were different from what they were made in the later representations. Lord Randolph was then Lord Barnet, Lady Randolph, of course, Lady Barnet, and Normal was Forman. The author's friends soon discovered the want of dignity in the name Barnet, from its being the name of the well-known village near London; and Forman was a common sirname of no high rank in Berwickshire.