صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

that I made little progress in obtaining any share of her confidence. Always polite and well-bred, it is true, but with a coldness that chilled every approach to openness, and every attempt to that freedom which is the truest mark of genuine friendship. For a while I thought that this might proceed from a reserved temper, sometimes to be found united with the best dispositions. But when I came to be more thoroughly acquainted with her character, I found that her mind was equally incapable of friendship as of love. Alive only to emotions of vanity, and the pleasure of admiration, she was dead to every other sensation. How often have I seen her prefer the applause of the meanest and most contemptible of mankind, whom she herself despised, to the happiness of a man who doted on her to distraction, and to whom she was bound by every tie of gratitude and duty !

“I was at the utmost pains to conceal, both from her and my brother, the alteration in my sentiments which this discovery had produced; and I was not without hopes, that her natural good sense, for of sense she was by no means destitute, would, in time, prevail over this childish vanity, which made her appear in so ridiculous a light.

It is, however, perhaps impossible to live long with a person of whom we have conceived a mean or unfavourable opinion, without betraying it; or, what in effect is much the same, supposing that we have betrayed it. Whether she really perceived any alteration in my opinion of her, I cannot positively say; but I thought her behaviour looked as if she had, and that she considered my presence as a restraint upon her. This idea, once awakened, the most trivial incidents served to confirm. I found my situation become daily more and more disagreeable, and I had already begun to VOL. XXIX.


[ocr errors]

think of quitting my brother's house, when my sisterin-law brought things to a crisis, by informing me, that she and Mr. M naming my brother, intended to pass the ensuing winter at London; adding, with an air of the most finished politeness, that as she wished to keep up a constant correspondence with me during her absence, she would be glad to know how to address her letters.' It is not easy to describe what passed in my mind on this occasion. I took, however, my resolution at once, and determined to quit, forever, the family of a brother, whom, from my earliest infancy, I had been accustomed to love and to esteem.

“When I communicated my intentions to him, he seemed embarrassed, and, with a faltering voice, muttered something of his regret — of his wishes that I should remain in his family; but it was in a manner too irresolute to have shaken a purpose much less decided than mine.

“ It is now ten years since I quitted my brother's house, and took up my abode in a paltry lodging in this city, where the interest of the small provision left me by my father, is just sufficient to furnish the necessaries of life to myself and a female domestic, who had lived long in my father's family, and insisted on attending me. As to money-matters, my brother, I am persuaded, would have been very desirous to make me more comfortable; but I had too high a spirit to communicate my wants to him.. Besides, I found that the expensive line of life he bad got into, did not leave it much in his power to indulge his feelings of generosity.

“ For some years I found my situation extremely unpleasant. Accustomed as I had been to a state of ease and affluence, and to all the pleasures of an elegant society, it was not easy for me to submit at

once, to poverty, neglect, and solitude. The power of babit has, however, at length, in some measure, reconciled me to my fate. I can now look with indifference on the pleasures and pursuits of the world ; and, notwithstanding the chagrin that is commonly supposed to attend persons in my condition, I have still so much philanthropy as to wish that you would employ a paper in representing the cruelty and injustice of educating a girl in luxury and elegance, and then leaving her exposed to all the hardships of poverty and neglect.

“I am, &c., R

“ S. M.”

No. 66. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25, 1779.

AMIDST all my veneration for Shakspeare, I have been often obliged to confess, that there were passages in his works, the meaning of which I could not understand; and of others I have sometimes ventured to doubt if they were strictly in nature. Of this last sort is the celebrated scene in Richard the Third, where that artful usurper first mollifies the resentment, and then gains upon the affections of the unfortunate Lady Anne. The following piece of criticism on that scene has been sent me by a correspondent, from whom, if I mistake not, I have formerly received several ingenious communications.


16 SIR,

"Few of Shakspeare's tragedies have obtained higher reputation than the Life and Death of Richard the Third. Yet, like every other performance of this wonderful poet, it contains several passages that can hardly admit of apology. Of this kind are the instances it affords us of vulgarity, and even indecency, of expression.

“ At the same time, in censuring Shakspeare, we ought to proceed with peculiar caution ; for, on many occasions, those passages which, on a cursory view, may be reckoned blemishes, on a closer examination, will appear very different, and even lay claim to considerable excellence. In his imitations of nature he is so very bold, and so different from other poets, that what is daring is often, in a moment of slight attention, deemed improbable, and what is extraordinary, is too rashly pronounced absurd. Of this, in the work above mentioned, the strange love scene between Richard and Lady Anne, the widow of Prince Edward Plantagenet, affords a striking example. It seems, indeed, altogether unnatural, that Richard, deformed and hideous as the poet represents him, should offer himself a suitor to the widow of an excellent young prince whom he had murdered, at the very time she is attending the funeral of her father-in-law, whom he had also slain, and while she is expressing the most bitter hatred against the author of her misfortune. But, in attending closely to the progress of the dialogue, the seeming extravagance of the picture will be softened or removed; we shall find ourselves more interested in the event, and more astonished at the bold ability of Richard, than moved with abhorrence of his shameless effrontery, or offended with the improba

bility of the situation. When a poet, like Shakspeare, can carry us along by the power of amazement, by daring displays of nature, and by the influence of feelings altogether unusual, but full of resistless energy, his seeming departure from probability only contributes to our admiration; and the emotions, excited by his extravagance, losing the effect which, from an inferior poet, they would have caused, add to the general feelings of pleasure which the scene produces.

“ In considering the scene before us, it is necessary that we keep in view the character of Lady Anne. The outlines are given us in her own conversation ; but we see it more completely finished and filled up, indirectly indeed, but not less distinctly, in the conduct of Richard. She is represented of a mind altogether frivolous, the prey of vanity, her prevailing, overruling passion; susceptible, however, of every feeling and emotion, and, while they last, sincere in their expression, but hardly capable of distinguishing the propriety of one more than another; or, if able to employ such discernment, totally unaccustomed and unable to obey her moral faculty as a principle of action; and thus exposed alike to the authority of good or bad impressions. There are such characters; persons of great sensibility, of great sincerity, but of no rational or steady virtue, produced or strengthened by reflection, and consequently of no consistency of conduct.

“Richard, in his management of Lady Anne, having in view the accomplishment of his own ambitious designs, addresses her with the most perfect knowledge of her disposition. He knows that her feelings are violent; that they have no foundation in steady determined principles of conduct; that violent feelings are soon exhausted ; and that the

« السابقةمتابعة »