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What mist was on my eyes?-He bleeds to death!-
Tell it at once; if we had hearts to break
You are undone !
I know it, banish'd,-robb'd
A price set on me,-hunted to the grave,—
Your friends in Rome-
Have they been brought to trial? One day more,
My lord, your friends, last night, were-sacrificed!
What,-dead?—all dead? (he covers his head with his robe.)
This hour they lie, each in his cell, a corpse!
Sound all to arms! (A flourish of trumpets.)
I would speak with them!—
(The officer goes.)
They fight, and Catiline falls in the arms of victory !—a
splendid catastrophe, and far superior to that of Ben Jonson's tragedy.
Much fault may be found with the fourth act, and with the religious mysteries of the Allobroges, as in no way essential to the development of the plot. But the lyrical beauties of the latter episode reconcile us to it in the closet, however it might weary us on the stage. The piece moves throughout with the elasticity and freedom of the old English school, and glows with the fervent coloring of a fancy touched with tender sentiment and natural imagery. The character of Catiline, especially,
'Armed with a glory high as his despair,'
rises into the sublimity of moral grandeur; and in the extract we have given our readers, he moralizes on his gloomy situation, and welcomes coming death in a rich tone of pensive melancholy, that brings to mind the dying glories of Macbeth.
It is somewhat singular that Jouy should also have founded his tragedy of Sylla on the character of him not vulgarly received. In his preface he has drawn an ingenious parallel between him and Napoleon, implying that both were influenced more or less in their political conduct by patriotic motives. The part of Sylla is moreover played by Talma, who has some personal resemblance to the late emperor, and the portrait of the tragedian in the frontispiece is cut exactly into the physiognomy of Bonaparte, all which, connected with the sentiments put into the mouth of Sylla throughout the piece, is, without doubt, the most impudent thing we have known in France since the return of the Bourbons. But this is not our affair. The French dramatists, from the very principles on which their theatre is constructed, are, necessarily, all of them critics, and Mons. Jouy, in his preface, after premising, (as usual,) the immense interval between the French drama, and that of every other people in Europe, and that his own nation are the only pupils of the Greeks, proceeds to point out one or two slight deficiencies in the dramatic productions of his countrymen,-among others a total inattention to nice delineation of character. In opposition to this, our author has been very intent upon the development and full exposition of the character of Sylla, which he has done in a masterly manner, according to the interpretation of it, which he has assumed. Inflexible in his severities, yet chiefly out of a regard for the public weal,-with a profound
contempt for man, as an individual, yet with a sincere attachment to his country,-he exclaims in his hesitation at adding another name to the list of his proscriptions.
'Que m'importe après tout l'existence d'un homme?
Je n'ai vu, je ne vois que le salut de Rome;
C'est pour venger les lois, que je suis dictateur.'
The plot is feeble and uninteresting. It turns chiefly on the proscription of a noble Roman, and an abortive conspiracy of the proscribed party against the person of Sylla, which at last is determined by his voluntary abdication of the sovereign power; a catastrophe not very tragical, certainly, but as much so as that of Corneille's Cinna, to the mechanism of which play this bears considerable resemblance; indeed quite as much so as many of the best French tragedies, which in more than one instance have tapered off into a swoon, or a separation of lovers.
The regard paid in the general construction of this play, to the inviolable laws and constitution of the French theatre (notwithstanding a deviation in a few unessential particulars, which, however, has drawn forth not a little vituperation from the Parisian critics,) is another evidence, that, from the causes before enumerated, there can be no reasonable expectation, that the French drama will assume any other shape, or adopt a more liberal system, than it derived originally from the national char
The Catiline of Croly, on the other hand, is an evidence of a return to the free and natural vein of the elder English theatre; and both of them, derived as they are from subjects in ancient history, exhibit in a strong but fair light, the peculiar genius of the two national dramas. In Sylla, where every thing proceeds with measured propriety, the Unities, at least those of time and place, are observed with a severity that produces an improbability in the identity of the latter; in Catiline they are outraged to a degree, that two or three episodes are admitted into the body of the piece. The language in Sylla, brilliant and rhetorical, flows in an even tide of lofty eloquence; the sentiments, of a cold, general nature, suggested rather by the understanding than the heart, exciting rather surprise or admiration, than deep interest or sympathy. In the English play, the language is broken into variety, but on the whole uncommonly melodious, and filled with sweet rural imagery; the sentiments
tender or violent, but always of a passionate character, gushing warm and unsolicited from the heart. Sylla, so much superior to French characterization in general, presides over the whole scene with a stern, imperturable serenity, that seems to control every thing by the terror of his frown. Catiline, on the other hand, tossed by conflicting passion, sets the elements in motion, and moves triumphant in the storm.
The events in the French play are feebly developed; the intrigue shuffles on in an indistinct, unexciting manner, and terminates in a bloodless denouement of a calm and imposing majesty the abdication of Sylla. The conspiracy in Catiline is matured before the eyes of the spectator, (although its development is not equal to that of most good English tragedies,) and, in the last act, expanding into a vein of sublimity and pathos, it hurries on to a bold and sanguinary catastrophe-the victory and death of Catiline.—The Genius of French tragedy should be personified by a marble statue, in the cold severity of sculpture ;—the Genius of English tragedy, in the warm and varied coloring of the canvass; the former with a composed and elevated aspect, in the well defined and delicate proportions of art; the latter in the shifting hues of passion, and the flexible graces of nature.
ART. VIII.—A complete history of the United States of America, embracing the whole period from the discovery of North America down to the year 1820. By Frederick Butler, A. M. Three vols. 8vo.
SEVERAL of our readers may recollect, like ourselves, that two or three years since a subscription paper for this work was offered them. Wisely to prevent all cavil, a specimen of the work was exhibited with the subscription paper. This specimen was a bound octavo volume of the common size, consisting, if we remember, of about forty printed pages, and the rest of the volume fair blank paper. The strongest assurances were given, that the work should not be inferior to this specimen ; and we must say we think that these assurances have not been verified. Three decently bound blank books would have been by no means without value. The printing in these volumes, while it has ruined the paper for any other use, is itself nearly
worthless. We are not sure, however, that any one can complain; for, after all, the Introduction, which was bound up with the blank leaves, is a fair sample of the work. Those subscribers only, who took the blank leaves for the sample, have a right to murmur. We will satisfy our readers, that we do not commit an injustice in this account.
In a historical work, the materials made use of by a writer are of course of greater importance, than in almost any other species of composition. At the end of our author's preface we have this N. B. 'I shall insert at the end of the third volume a list of the numerous authorities I have consulted, in compiling this work.' This was no more than Dr Robertson had done, our author's great predecessor in American history, who makes a modest apology for subjoining to his work a large list of Spanish writers, in print and in manuscript. We confess we were pleased to see Mr Butler following the example. As Dr Robertson had pleaded the authority of Gibbon, Mr Butler could well plead that of Dr Robertson, and we supposed that in drawing up the list of his numerous authorities on American history, our author intended to steal a march on Mr Southey, who has promised a catalogue and account of his authorities, in another volume of the history of Brazil. It being well known that Dr Robertson was not acquainted with all the materials in existence when he wrote, and that various new sources of information have been opened since his time, we had anticipated no slight gratification of national feeling at the sight of Mr Butler's list. On turning to the close of the third volume, we find his numerous authorities' given, to the following amount: