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high-minded associates. His conduct of the impeachment against Strafford might be a great stroke of policy in the conception; but it was purely malignant and atrocious in the manner. It was a great point for the immediate interests of the Puritan party at that period, that a man could be found at once competent to the task from his ability, and not likely to shrink from its execution through any compunctious visitings.
Better men would have made worse advocates on such an occasion. Yet this is the man whom Mr Browning has thought fit to invest with all the attributes of the hero of a political romance,—the most devoted friendship to an unworthy object, yielding at last to a stern conviction of the duty of a patriot. We do not, as we have said, wish to enforce very strict accuracy in adherence to historical character, on writers who are bold enough to adventure on dramatizing the stirring parts of our annals; the want of it is no doubt disappointing to the well-read spectator, but the greater part of a stage audience are not so learned; and Pym is not, like Strafford, a popularly known and familiar personage who will not endure to be travestied. Therefore we would allow Mr Browning, since the need of his tragedy requires it, full license to convert “King Pym' into a kind of combination of Brutus and Pierre; but when he is pleased gratuitously to inform the public that he has kept close to history in his portraits, we are really tempted to compare more closely their affected and distorted likenesses with their originals.
The remaining characters require little notice. Lady Carlisle, the famous court intrigante of the day, figures as a sort of political Viola-nourishing a concealed passion for Strafford, and whimpering about the stage after that hero, as he whimpers after the King. There is little of Queen Henrietta, and that little is a compound of meanness and vulgarity.
As for King Charles, he is merely introduced as a foil to the principal · characters; and for that purpose he is rendered as utterly contemptible as the poet can make him. Treacherous and cowardly-bullied by his wife-crouching to his courtierssoundly rated by Strafford—taunted to his face by Denzil Hollis -going on his knees to Pym—if the public taste does not execute justice on Mr Browning for this atrocious caricature, Mr Charles Kemble, as a good and loyal censor, is really bound to interfere, and rescue royalty from such misrepresentation.
The worst peculiarity of Mr Browning's dramatic diction is one which he has in common with many popular writers of the day; and it may be easily discovered how much it is owing to the circumstance of writing for actors, and in that manner which they conceive best calculated to exhibit their powers. It is a
- fashion of breaking up his language into fragments; conveying
a meaning, as it were, by starts and jerks; rarely finishing a sen
tence at all; and, when he does, cutting it short with disagreeable • abruptness. Tragic actors, among whom a power of harmonious
declamation is very rare, and whose chief talent lies in giving an effect to isolated points, and passages in which half the meaning is suppressed, are naturally fond of this mode of writing par saccades, as the French call it; so much so, that when the poet does not indulge them in this propensity, they are very apt to grind down his verses for themselves by process of oral macadamization. We are the morejustified in mentioning this defect, as it appears to us in the style of our author-who, we have little doubt, considers it a beauty-because he does, in fact, show abundant power of doing better, if a deference to false taste permitted. He is able to succeed admirably in the structure of a sustained dialogue; and what is more difficult still, of sustained declamation. This being the case, we can the less tolerate from him such ragged and prosaic patchwork as the following soliloquy of Strafford—to take one example out of an hundred
· Heartless, . . but all are heartless here. . . Go now,
But he'll see me now:
The step I know so well!
The author of the Pickwick Papers,' with his usual acuteness, has made this fragmentary mode of speech the attribule of a strolling actor; and we really do not know where we could find a parallel to the language of Strafford so easily as in that of his inimitable Mr Alfred Jingle. Conquests! thousands, Don Bo·laro--grandee-only daughter--Donna Christina - splendid · creature-loved me to distraction-iealous father handsome
daughter-high-souled Englishman-Donna Christina in despair-prussic acid-stomach-pump in my portmanteau-operation performed-old Bolaro in ecstasies—consents to our union -join hands, and floods of tears--romantic story-very.'
We cannot accuse Mr Browning of having run into the youthsul extreme of high-wrought extravagance in his diction. On the contrary, he seems to have laboured very hard to render it as low and unornamented as possible. This affected poverty of language in also a fault of theatrical origin. Nature, on the stage, is too often thought to be best imitated by the use of phraseology which is only natural from its familiar and even vulgar effect. Actors are fond of such passages; they afford an opportunity for the deep impressive whisper, which is always regarded as one of their most taking clap-traps. Nor can it be denied that the occasional and abrupt recall from the majestic tone of the drama to the brief homeliness of common language, on some suitable emergency, is a very allowable artifice. But it requires to be sparingly employed. Mr Browning, on the contrary, seems to make it the rule rather than the exception. The best passages in his play are constantly disfigured either by some creeping vulgarity, or some startling piece of affectation.
Pym, on the first solemn meeting with Strafford after his apostasy, addresses him in the following exquisite vein of sarcasm ;
Ah! Wentworth, one thing for acquaintance' sake,
Rrally felt well since you forsook us ?'
Wentworth. That you should trust me, now,
And show it, how sincere a thing it is!' In ihe course of this conversation, Charles very reluctantly yields his assent to Strafford's request of a Parliament-and the Jatter thus apostrophizes his Sovereign, like a good boy who has just resigned himself to a dose of physic :
My King !
Charles. You said just now this was the only way.
Strafford, spare yourself,
To which considerate observation the Earl makes this elegant reply:
'Tis my soul That's well and happy now!'
We never thought very amiably of Queen llenrietta; but certainly, if we had been asked to guess her first remark on seeing Strafford again after a long absence, we should hardly have hit upon the following:
(As Strafford goes out, the Queen enters).
Is it over,
We are bound, however, to say, that our author has some jnstification, in a passage of Madame de Motteville's Memoirs. According to that lively Frenchwoman, the Queen was continually interrupting her and the other ladies in the royal box in the House of Lords during Strafford's defence, by calling on them to remark what white hands he had.'
Charles being obliged to explain to the Queen his concession of a Parliament, thus delivers himself of the awkward announcement:
· We've hit on an expedient-he-that is-
These beauties are all culled from the first Act. But similar gems abound. Lord Holland, having been hooted away from the gallery of the Commons during a speech of Pym, thus describes the event :
So in the lwinkling of an eye, before
The Queen, afraid lest Strafford on his trial should let out some awkward secrets, thus expresses her feelings to Lady Carlisle:
• One may well suppose He'll say some overwhelming fact, Carlisle !' Rudyard, one of the popular party, interceding with Pym for Strafford's life, beseeches him in this insinuating manner
Pym, you would look so great!' The King, congratulating himself on Strafford's dexterous defence and expected acquittal, thus nobly soliloquizes
• Strafford, you are a prince! Not w reward you
- Nothing does that--but only for a whim!'' Hollis, being affected with poor King Lear's hysterica passio, describes it somewhat literally :
Tell him all I know my throat would thicken thus.' Strafford, in the very last scene, breaks through all the interest which he has excited in a really touching speech about his affairs and his children, by these two unlucky lines
“These tedious cares! Your Majesty could spare them;
In the general phraseology of the play,—even in the manner in which the rough old Puritans address each other,—there is a sort of affected, fondling tone, which perfectly disconcerts us. As for poor Lady Carlisle, seeing that she is desperately in love with Strafford from the beginning of the play, we can perhaps excuse his calling her 'girl,' and 'Lucy, in every line; but really we do not think there was any thing in the character of the lady to justify him in supposing that Denzil Hollis would have taken the liberty of addressing her as . girl' too.
All these, we must once more repeat it, are, chiefly, defects of taste. They are peculiarities belonging to that which (by the leave of Mr Landor) we must still take the liberty of calling, for want of a better name, the 'Cockney school of dramatic authorship. And we have not been thus severe in our observåtions on the bad taste and affectation with which this play abounds, from any malice of criticism. But the author is a young man, and this essay exhibits powers which we can ill afford to see thrown away in the pursuit of false reputation. Had it been otherwise, we should not have taken the trouble to examine his claims to the distinction which he has earned. His defects are