페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

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 Randolphs story. Now, one never, I think, strictly speaking, tells a story to one's-self in soliloquy, though one 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 him

Vol. i. G

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 even 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.
Silent and motionless, from morn to eve,
Till the sea-fowls that skim along the shore,
Fearless alight, and settling at my feet,
Scream their wild notes, as if I were a stone,
A senseless trunk, that could not do them harm."

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 ISIS. 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 Barnct, and Norval was Forman. The author's friends soon discovered the want of dignity in the name Barnct, from its being the name of the well-known village near London; and Forman was a common sirname of no high rank in Berwickshire.

Mr David Hume's Remarks on Douglas.

"1755, a 1756. "Dear Sir,

"With great pleasure I have more than once perused your tragedy. It is interesting, affecting, pathetic. The story is simple and natural; but what chiefly delights me, is to find the language so pure, correct, and moderate. For God's sake, read Shakespeare, but get Racine and Sophocles by heart. It is reserved to you, and you alone, to redeem our stage from the reproach of barbarism.

"I have not forgot your request to find fault, but as you had neither numbered the pages nor the lines in your copy, I cannot point out particular expressions. I have marked the margin, and shall tell you my opinion when I shall have the pleasure of seeing you. The more considerable objections seem to be these; Glenqlvon's character is too abandoned. Such a man is scarce in nature; at least, it is inartificial in a poet to suppose such a one, as if he could not conduct his fable by the ordinary passions, infirmities, and vices of human nature. Lord Barnefs* character is not enough decided; he hovers betwixt vice and virtue, which.

* This name changed to Randolph, after the first representation.

« 이전계속 »