صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


The Comedies of Aristophanes; translated the passions of the multitude, the stage was tole

into corresponding English metres. By rated as an escape for the spirit of popular disconBenjamin Dann Walsh, M.A. Fellow of tent, which, were it denied such a vent, would Trinity College, Cambridge. 3 vols.

soon have taken a shape dangerous to the public Vol. I. London, 1837.

safety, and fátal to established authority. But in

Athens, the stage possessed even a more enlarged It would seem to be too late to find any thing utility : it was an essential part of the commonnew to say about the Comedies of Aristophanes. wealth : it afforded a means of conveying the sentiBy this time a writer, who stood alone in his age, ments of the community, which, in some form or who represented, in excess undoubtedly, the pre- another, was indispensable to a people who entervailing characters of the polished society in which tained so vigilant a regard for their liberties : it he lived, and who is more valuable to us as a gratified the gorgeous vanity of the crowd : it painter of remote manners, and a recorder of Athe- yielded a ready channel for that species of satire, nian life, than all other writers that his own or any which in a republic so open, and necessarily so unother times have produced, should be thoroughly restrained, indulges in personal as well as political understood. Criticism might fairly be expected to severities : it was an instrument of revenge and have exhausted itself upon his relics, and to have ridicule as well as justice, and fulfilled alike the left nothing more for mankind to do than to ponder ends of individual animosity and contempt, and in admiration over his amply-illustrated pages.

the heavier retributions of offended freedom; and Yet, it is no less true than surprising, that the it was consequently resorted to by the populace comedies of Aristophanes, the character of his with an enthusiasm, which could hardly fail to engenius, and the objects of his satire, have not yet courage the excesses of that genius, which achieved been thoroughly sifted, and present many problems its mightiest triumphs. And this view of Attic to the scholar, upon which speculation has taken society, develops in a great measure the secret, not an extraordinary variety of shapes. The deficiencies only of the success of Aristophanes, but of his and contradictions of critical annotators on sub- ' levity, which is frequently so prurient as to outrage jects of this kind, may be accounted for by the

the chastised taste of this more subdued and more dearth of authorities : we have not sufficient means scrupulous age. It is held by some writers, that of penetrating the domestic life of the ancients, to Aristophanes formed the character of his times,– enable us to judge closely or fully of the truth but this is palpably a false estimate, both of the and vraisemblance of these remarkable plays :

dramatist and his audiences : bis comedies are, in and, indeed, we are in some sort compelled to make truth, a reflection of their charaeter, exhibiting Aristophanes himself the standard, by which Aris. its powers, it follies, its vices, and its extravagance tophanes must be tried. Internal evidences are with fidelity, but heightened of course, to suit the abundant throughout his pieces of traits and cus- atmosphere of excitement. We find in them an toms which are not chronicled any where else, and accurate representation of the scenes by which he these, taken in connection with what we do know was surrounded, darkened, no doubt, by a mask of from authentic sources of the public acts of the allegory, which his contemporaries could easily Athenians, of their institutions, forms, and usages, detect, but which at this distance it is difficult to assist us to a clearer view, not merely of the come- penetrate. But enough of the allusive, however, dies themselves, but of the state of society to which is intelligible to enable us to speculate with tolerthey were addressed.

able certainty upon the rest : and taking these The imagination can hardly conceive a more lights to guide us, we discover in his pieces a magnificent and luxurious people.

vivid commentary, not only upon the most disdemocracy under which the Athenians lived, their tinguished men of civilised and polished Athens, but jealousy of the power of their rulers, their inordi- upon the habits and manners of the whole people. nate love of costly display, their pride, indepen- Had we space to extend our remarks upon the dence, and licentiousness, were qualities which subjects into which these plays would lead us, we naturally produced that free expression of public might show the obvious effect which the absence opinion, which is always calculated to give a wider of a recognised aristocracy inevitably produces upon range, and a higher importance to the exhibitions of

national character : but within our limited confines the theatre. In more modern times, when the it will be enough to observe that the republican science of government came to be better under- institutions of Athens gave a tone at once coarse stood, and the experience of extinct thrones had and immoral to the Athenians; which these cometaught the monarchs of Europe the wisdom of en- dies exhibit somewhat in caricature. That they couraging public amusements, as a safety valve for were a highly cultivated people is unquestionable :

The pure

Ex. gr.

[ocr errors]

but that, in the very exercise of their personal a notion of the provincial dialect of the “ Achar. rights, they carried the assertion of liberty to such nians.' wild extremities, as to degenerate into grossness,

l'se dress ye up as pigs, and say 'tis pigs is also undeniable. There was no superior class

I bring to sell. Pit on your nieves thae cloots, to check their exuberant indiscretions: no titled An' seem the bairntime o' a buirdly sow! and honorable body, invested with weight in the For by the meikle deil, an' ye gang hame, public councils, inheriting a responsible position in Fient haet a bit o' bread ye'se hae to eat. the state, and calming by its dignity the turbulent

An' pit upon your gruntles too the snouts; criminalities of the canaille.

Syne gang into the sack, like cannie weans.

The grace of the refined presence—the restraining majesty of here

Who could guess that this was Aristophanes ? ditary and traditional glories, were wanting to curb

Yet the effect is by no means so absurd as may be the lawlessness of the mob. Hence their more

supposed, and there is some excuse, as well as popular entertainments were remarkable for scourg- precedent, for such travesties ! ing sarcasm, for bald indecencies, and unsparing Games and Sports ; being an Appendix to ridicule. They reserved all their epic grandeur, their fine feeling of the beautiful and the great, Manly Exercises,” and “ Exercises for for tragedy; which swept the boards with a lofty Ladies,” &c. By Donald Walker. Lonand sublime mien, that affords a strange contrast don, 1837. to these mocking plays of Aristophanes.

In the good old times old people used to play If we were to describe in a few words the most

cards, and the younger branches had a thousand striking points in a dramatist, who more than any outlets for their natural hilarity, being left to the other expressed the tone of his period, we should

selection of their own means of pleasure and ensay that Aristophanes was distinguished less by joyment. By degrees, however, cards fell into subtle wit than by broad and relentless humor; desuetude, and declined into the last resource of that he was untouched by delicate sympathies, that passive senility; and so the young were prematurely he was an inveterate hater, and made his plays the drawn into the whirl of intercourse above their medium of his uncompromising personal dislikes : age, and their innocent amusements gave way to that he loved to assail even virtue and genius for entertainments which were not well calculated to the sake of the ridiculous: that he was indifferent improve their hearts. An attempt to restore those to truih, so long as he could produce brilliant harmless games which were once universal, but effects by its sacrifice : and that he possessed a which are now almost exclusively confined to the skill that has never been surpassed in the distribu- rural districts, is entitled to approbation : and Mr. tion and management of his materials. Wherever Walker's attractive volume is likely to fulfil that the plot was deficient in intrinsic interest, he end as well as any other similar compilation with atoned for it by the rapidity and fascination of his which we are acquainted. In France, where society dialogue, which is usually so piquant that we is of a more lively and brilliant character, games cease to wonder at the delight with which it filled of this description are in common request, and frehis audiences, frequently numbering no less than quently take a turn of the most sparkling wit, to 18,000 spectators. The point of the pungent which the language of the people is as favourable satire was always visible to them, so they lacked as their genius. The acted charades of the French nothing of mere dramatic fable to render their - little impromptu dramas-exercise the mind, amusement complete.

while they captivate the imagination of the young ; But we have been speaking all this time of and, although neither our tone of thinking nor our Aristophanes, when we were called upon to pro- modes of expression are congenial to such invennounce an opinion only on the merits of his trans- tions, we might derive a sufficient harvest of agreclator. Mr. Walsh has executed his undertaking able pastime from them, if those who regulate such very successfully. But the attempt to render matters would unbend to encourage them. WherAristophanes into corresponding metres often re- ever there is a little coterie of ardent spirits to be duces him to the necessity of imitating rather than found, these springs of mirth are freely loosened ; translating his author, so that the version must not but, unfortunately, there is too much fog in our be considered as affording a literal view of the atmosphere to permit a hope to be entertained that original. It is a transfusion of Aristophanes into we shall ever make any considerable advances in English; a labour much more difficult than that of that direction. Enough of our own old spirits, a close translation, requiring much higher powers, however, remain behind, and if it were only for and producing results much more felicitous. Per- the sake of associations with the past, and the culJaps Mr. Walsh in some places carries the imita- tivation of genuine English feelings, we venture to tion a little too far; for in his attempt to make commend this repertory of juvenile games to the Aristophanes thoroughly intelligible to the mere public. Here we have for the winter's evenings, English reader, he modernises him after a fashion Blind Man's Buff, (think, good reader, of the Vicar so grotesque, that it becomes almost impossible to of Wakefield and Tom Jones), Shadow Buff, (this recognise the venerable classic in his new and hunting of shadows, by the way, is not confined fantastic dress. Thus, he makes the Megarian pig- to children), Questions and Answers, Proverbs, driver speak in broad Scotch, by way of affording and other beguiling in-door jousts :— and for the summer, Groups, Archery, Barley Brinks, May- sanction, however, was obtained, and Alcuin, reDay and Harvest Sports ; and many more equally luctantly enough, took up his residence at the joyous diversions. Mr. Walker pretends to no court of Charlemagne, becoming tutor to that emhigher merit than that of a compiler: and, as far peror and his children, as well as to the sons of as we can judge, his compilation is very

excellent the principal nobility. His labours during this of its kind.

period exhibit almost unequalled activity, and de

velope an extent of erudition which, in these The Life of Alcuin. By Dr. Frederic' degenerate days, would shame the best of our

Lorenz, Professor of History at the scholars. His time was devoted principally to the University of Halle. Translated from


restoration of old MSS.; and their dissemination

by means of multiplied copies. He founded, the German, by Jane Mary Slee. Lon

also, a great number of schools, gave a new imdon, 1837.

pulse to education, and justly acquired admiration It is to be regretted that the lives of English throughout Europe, as the chief reviver of letters in men who were distinguished for their erudition or France, the character which he received at the hands their virtues during the Anglo-Saxon period, are

of the monks of St. Maur, who possessed the best opnot more generally known to the public at large : portunities of appreciating his claims to it, and whose or that there does not exist a sufficiently active stupendous labours in recondite literature entispirit of research in proper quarters, to draw out

tled them to be admitted as judges beyond appeal. into popular forms those stores of learning and of These constant employments, however, at last piety, which are to be found in an age which is shattered the health of Alcuin, and after repeated flippantly held to be barbarous, simply because the applications to Charlemagne, : he obtained permismultitude is utterly ignorant of its treasures. The sion, at the age of sixty, to retire to the abbey of venerable Bede is a man unknown to the great St. Martin, at Tours. In this sequestered retreat, bulk of the so-called reading world : and who, of he might have honourably reposed for the rest of the multitude of book-buyers and explorers, knows his days, having already done enough to surround any thing of Alcuin, the “intellectual premier' his name with imperishable lustre, but the spirit of Charlemagne ? Yet, the history of this country of good was too strong within him to suffer him does not contain two names more worthy of reve- to indulge in the luxury of rest, when the diffusion rence. Of Bede, it would be superfluous to speak : of truth yet required such aid as he alone could and Alcuin requires a larger share of conside, give it; and he continued to labour at his former ration than in our limited compass we can afford tasks, until his physical strength gradually sunk to bestow upon him, with any advantage to a sub

under the weight of his self-imposed responsibiliject of such deep and extensive interest. He was In vain, Charlemagne, who had no sooner born in Northumbria, in 735, the year when granted leave to Alcuin to go into retirement Bede died. Educated at York, which was then

than he desired to recall it, entreated the venerone of the most distinguished seminaries in the

able scholar to return; in vain he wrote to him to world, he early displayed the extraordinary request that he would accompany him to Rome, powers, which afterwards raised him to so great a

on the memorable occasion when he was to receive height in the esteem of the foremost man of his the imperial crown ; Alcuin's infirmities compelled time. Before he was twenty years

of age, he was him to relinquish the gratification of seeing the elevated to the station of tutor, and he subse

monarch who had so early recognised his merits, quently became the head of the school. His and who placed him, throughout, in a position fame was rapidly spread over Europe, and York which was so favourable to their developement : was soon celebrated for its superiority in theology but Charlemagne continued to press his invitation over all other institutions. Foreigners from the so frequently upon him, that, in order to relieve remotest places hastened to complete their studies

himself from the pain of refusing any farther, be under the guidance of Alcuin, whose simple and resigned his abbey, and dedicated the remnant of laborious life was one unbroken scene of devotion his life to prayer. He died in 804. and learned acquisition. Such was the greatness of We are disappointed in Dr. Lorenz's life of this his name, that when he was sent to Rome upon celebrated man. It is very German in conception an ecclesiastical mission, Charlemagne solicited and execution : it magnifies needlessly, and extols

a favor to repair to France, flattering him extravagantly, and too often decides darkly. It with the offer of a post of considerable importance,

does not enter with critical acumen into the details in the formation and superintendence of the educa- which the career of Alcuin presents : it does not tional institutes of the kingdom. But Alcuin was tell us enough about his original compositions, and not to be easily tempted from his useful avocations appears, indeed, to underrate the whole literature at home; and he was so fond and so proud of his of the period. Yet, these are defects that will be country, that unless he had obtained the consent felt only by the few : to the many, this will be a of his own abbot, his archbishop and his king, to most acceptable book. Its summary of the characremove to France-a sanction for which he stipu. ter of Alcuin is excellent: its general view of lated before he would entertain Charlemagne's the age is good as far as it goes : and the spirit in proposal-he would have rejected at once and for which it is written is undoubtedly a spirit of ever the invitation of the French monarch. That knowledge, however we may be disappointed in


him as

those parts, where we had a right to expect, from fashion, and cold ceremonials? Plenty, and the the nature of the subject, a more elaborate expo- prospect of superabundance, stand them in the stead sition of the peculiar studies to which it refers. of style ; and they are enabled, by the rich fruits of As a work likely to be popular, and certain to their spirit of enterprise, to look with contempt extend the acquaintance of the public generally upon the shallow luxuries of Europe, where the with the ecclesiastical productions of the middle gilded shell is too often naked within. If you ages, it deserves unqualified approbation ; and the reproach them with their sordid views, their vultranslator has done full justice to a task of no garities, and their mean attempts to attain that slight difficulty.

elegance which they profess to despise, they refer

you to what America will be a thousand years Recollections of Europe. By J. Fenimore

hence; they tell you that they live for the future Cooper, Esq. author of “ The Pilot,” &c. and not for the present, that the arts of effeminate 2 vols. London, 1837.

repose are unworthy of a power that aspires to the MR. COOPER's former volumes on France and highest place in the scale of independent and selfSwitzerland are, we presume, familiar to our readers. subsisting governments, and that practical sense is This work traverses a part of the same ground, but more enduring and respectable than the most reconsists not of a regular account of his experiences fined externals. Such was the school in which in England and Europe, but of the “ gleanings of a Mr. Cooper's views of society were formed; and barvest already gathered.” It consists of a series his first literary essays in Europe abundantly proved, of letters, into which broken form all his surplus that the spell of his early love maintained its influnotes are thrown, enriched with the advantages of ence over him for a long time, even after the more mature reflection than the voyageur who writes novelty of the new scenes in which he mixed had out of the fullness of first impressions can find time passed away. In the beginning, no doubt, Mr. to make. In this respect these “ Recollections” Cooper's feelings were, in great part, political : he are totally different from Mr. Cooper's previous had been accustomed to democracy on a large scale, works of travels, and indeed from any other works and the civil checks of a different form of governthat profess to describe journeys of pleasure and ment, as well as the restraints of more cultivated inobservation. They are decidedly individual, and tercourse, instead of shaking his faith in American are marked by decided characteristics of the writer's habitudes, seemed to have had the effect of confirming mind and feelings ; they trace the gradual progress him in all his predilections. Whenever an opporof his opinions on the institutions and habits of tunity occurred in his novels for the expression of European Society, and present continuous such sentiments, Mr. Cooper's opinions could not contrast, which does not always take a palpa- be mistaken : he regarded monarchies with distrust, ble shape, but which is perceptible in the tone considered aristocracy a great evil, and betrayed an throughout, between the New World and the Old. anxious tenderness for what are called, in their On this account the publication is curious, and, to most vague acceptation, popular rights. But as a certain extent, valuable; although it must be Mr. Cooper's experience enlarged, he appears graconfessed that there is a great deal of space la- dually to have undergone a very remarkable tranvished in its pages upon very unimportant topics. sition. We could detect certain misgivings in his

When Mr. Cooper left New York in 1826 to latter works, as if he were growing doubtful of long visit Europe for the first time, he was biassed by cherished theories, and had not yet quite made up strong American partialities-perhaps we ought to his mind to abandon them. In his books on say prejudices. National pride, which is always France, and Switzerland, these doubts become the most invincible in a people who have been the almost resolved into a renunciation of the theories architects of their own greatness, ynassisted by altogether; and the volumes before us must be alliances, and owing nothing to diplomatic leagues received as a clear recantation of the whole and commercial treaties, is carried to an excess in American heresy, and in some sort as a profession America that is unknown, and almost incompre- of the old established faith of the rest of all the civihensible, in the old states who repose quietly upon lised world. The reader may not discover this their historical fame, and who maintain their fact in a cursory perusal, nor is it disclosed in any prosperity under settled and long established insti

direct avowal on the part of the author. But it is, tutions. The American is proud of his own land, nevertheless, the spirit of the production; which is and vain of his pride—if that sort of accumulation a sort of reluctant, or perhaps unconscious, conof the sentiment can be understood. There are no

fession of that which nobody but an American rivers, or lakes, or forests, in the New World, such would ever think of contesting—the superiority, as are to be found in the States : the industry of intellectual, social, and political, of England and America covers a larger space, and exhibits a more France over the United States.

That other envital principle of activity, than that of any other lightened Americans will rapidly arrive at the same country. Then the Americans are a money-getting conclusion_that a few years will develope an and money-loving race, and money is the main-spring energetic action in the people, either for the disof the power of nations as well as of individuals, memberment of the republic into separate states, and their resources in the way of profitable labour or in ambitious rulers for the union of the whole are almost inexhaustible. What care they for idle under one arbitrary hcad (which is much more


likely to be realised), and that these acknowledg- mere form and courtesy which are almost instincments of the stability of mixed governments, and tive with Europeans, such as dinner table habits, the advantages of hereditary rank, are but the pre- the etiquette of visiting, the orders of precedence, cursors of important changes, which the present costume, &c., will hardly surprise any one who has generation, perhaps, may not live to witness ; no penetrated the impressions under which the work man who has watched the progress of society, or was written : and if the truth must be told, a very traced the course of empires, can hesitate to admit. great portion of the difference between the two Mr. Cooper's opinions, therefore, are worthy of stages of society represented in the two worlds, will attention, as being in anticipation of his age, and be found to consist in these apparently trifling prophetic of a destiny to which even he would be traits, which, with us, are lost in the insignificance unwilling to contribute.

that attaches to commonplace and every-day usages, It must not be supposed, however, that these but which are intricate, perplexing, and wearisome “Recollections” are essentially political ; on the

to less cultivated nations, As Mr. Cooper became contrary, the greater part of the two volumes is familiar with the toil of formal society, he began filled with the lightest matter, sketches of society, to discover, not merely its elevating character, but chiefly in London and Paris, portraits of such dis. its intrinsic utility; and having once fallen into it tinguished individuals as accident happened to throw habitually, the roughness, and brusque mannerism in the way of the author; long and minute descrip- of his own countrymen could no longer be tole. tions of the modes of European life ; and a collection rated by the accomplished traveller.

In fact, of literary and fashionable gossip so pleasantly without intending it to be so, this work is a severer related, that the majority of Mr. Cooper's readers satire upon America than the caricatures of Mrs. will derive more entertainment from this publi- Trollope : it is more in earnest, contains more cation than from any of the very clever fictions positive truth, and is much more likely than any upon which his reputation is based. That Mr. work we bave ever read to satisfy all sceptics that Cooper should think it necessary or judicious to America is a century behind us in taste and gededicate so much consideration to these affairs of neral civilisation.


Burford's Panorama of Mont Blanc, they who have not travelled, are flocking in crowds Leicester-Square.

to pay their respects to this last lion, while here Mr. Burford's Panoramas have long been and there may be seen a learned tourist comparing great favourites with the public; and no wonder, notes with his recollections, and testing the painter's when by a change as rapid as any in Shakspeare's truth by that which he has himself observed. And Plays, a cockney traveller steps at once out of is this, indeed, the monarch of mountains which Leicester Fields into Constantinople, or, as in the Byron has crowned with a diadem of snow, and present instance, finds himself amongst the glaciers braced about with mighty avalanches;> are these of Switzerland. Steam-carriages and balloons, in truth the glaciers, so graphically described by though pretty miracles in their way, are nothing to the intrepid Clissold ? is this the valley of Chathe magic of this transition ; besides that Mr. Bur- mounix, associated with a thousand recollections, ford's travellers have the singular advantage of per- all grand, and all beautiful ? We hardly know what forming their journey without fatigue to their to say to it; the picture is far from fulfilling our limbs, or hazard to their necks—“ suave mare in expectations; but, then, in common fairness, comes magno est aliena periêla videre,” which may the question, is such a realisation of the fancy be freely rendered for the present purpose, “it is possible? To us, the painting is deficient in vivida very pleasant thing to sit snugly by the fire of an ness and grandeur; there is a want of magnitude Exhibition room,

and imagine the painted figures about it ; though, perhaps, all these defects may on the canvass toiling amongst the glaciers of rather be attributed to the nature of the exhibition, Mont Blanc." For ourselves we must honestly than to any deficiency of power in the artist. As confess that, like Falstaff, we greatly admire taking compared to the magic Diorama in the Regent's our ease in our own inn, and though much amused Park, and the moving pictures exhibited on the by the accounts of Saussure, Clissold, and other stage by Stanfield, it is certainly ineffective; but daring adventurers, we have no mind to emulate then, it must be candidly allowed, that the first of their example.

these dioramas owes no small portion of its effect Mont Blanc is a lion well worth seeing, and, as to the peculiarity of its mechanical construction, if that were not enough, poets, painters, and tra- while the second borrows half its brilliance from vellers, have all combined to make him a subjoct the circumstance of its being seen by gas-light. of wonder and curiosity; they have painted, talked, Still, though the present panorama wants these and written him up, as if they had been specially adventitious aids, we may safely recommend it as retained in his behalf. The consequence is, that a highly interesting exhibition.

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »