« PreviousContinue »
The same distinction applies to the mimicry, if it may be go called, of an author's style and manner of writing. To copy his peculiar phrases or turns of expression—to borrow the grammatical structure of his sentences, or the metrical balance of his lines—or to crowd and string together all the pedantic or affected words which he has become remarkable for using—applying, or misapplying all these without the least regard to the character of his genius, or the spirit of his compositions, is to imitate an author only as a monkey might imitate a man—or, at best, to support a masquerade character on the strength of the Dress only ; and at all events, requires as little talent, and deserves as little praise, as the mimetic exhibitions in the neighbourhood of Port-Sydney. It is another matter, however, to be able to borrow the diction and manner of a celebrated writer to express sentiments like his own—to write as he would have written on the subject proposed to his imitator—to think his thoughts, in short, as well as to use his words—arid to make the revival of his style appear but a consequence of the strong conception of his peculiar ideas. To do this in all the perfection of which it is capable, requires talents, perhaps, not inferior to those of the original on whom they are employed—together with a faculty of observation, and a dexterity of application, which that original nii;rht not always possess; and should not only afford nearly as great pleasure to the reader. as a piece of composition,—but may teach him some lessons, or open up to him some views, which could not have been otherwise disclosed. The exact imitation of a good thing, it must be admitted, promises fair to be a pretty good thins in itself; but if the resemblance be very striking, it commonly has the additional advantage of letting us more completely into the secret of the original author, and enabling us to understand far more clearly in what the peculiarity of his manner consists, than most of us should ever have done without this assistance. The resemblance, it is obvious, can only be rendered striking by exaggerating a little, and bringing more conspicuously forward, all that is peculiar and characteristic in the model: And the marking features, which were somewhat shaded and confused in their natural presentment, being thus magnified and disengaged in the copy, are more easily observed and comprehended, and their effect traced with infinitely more ease and assurance ;—just as the course of a river, or a range of mountains, is more distinctly understood when laid down on a map or plan, than when studied in their natural proportions. Thus, in Burke's imitation of Bolingbroke (the most perfect specimen, perhaps, which ever will exist of the art of which we are speaking), we have all the qualities which distinguish the style, or we may indeed say the genius, of tliat noble writer, as it were, concentrated and brought at once before us; so that an ordinary reader, who. in perusing his genuine works, merely felt himself dazzled and disappointed —delighted and wearied he could not tell v. hv. is now enabled to firm a definite and
precise conception of the causes of those opposite sensations.—and to trace to the nobleness of the diction and the inaccuracy of the reasoning—the boldness of the propositions and the rashness of the inductions—the magnificence of the pretensions and the feebleness of.the performance, those contradictory judgments, with the confused result of which he had been perplexed in the study of the original. The same thing may be said of the imitation of Darwin, contained in the Loves of the Triangles, though confessedly of a satirical or ludicrous character. All me peculiarities of the original poet are there brought together, and crowded into a little space; where they can be compared and estimated with ease. His essence in short, is extracted, and separ rated in a good degree from what is common to him with the rest of his species;—and while he is recognised at once as the original from whom all these characteristic trails have been borrowed, that original itself is far better understood—because the copy presents no traits but such as are characteristic.
This highest species of imitation, therefore, we conceive to be of no slight value in fixing the taste and judgment of the public, even with regard to the great standard and original authors who naturally become ils subjects. The pieces before us, indeed, do not fall correctly under this denomination :—the subject to which they are confined, and the occasion on which they are supposed to have been produced, having necessarily given them a certain ludicrous and light air, not quite suitable to the gravity of some of the originals, and imparted to some of them a sort of mongrel character in which we may discern ihe features both of burlesque and of imitation. There is enough, however, of the latter to answer the purposes we have indicated above; while the tone of levity and ridicule may answer the farther purpose of admonishing the authors who are personated in this exhibition, in what directions they trespass on the border» of absurdity, and from what peculiarities they are in danger of becoming ridiculous. A mere parody or travestie, indeed, is commonly made, with the greatest success, upon the tenderest and most sublime passages in poetry—the whole secret of such performances consisting in the substitution of a mean, ludicrous, or disgusting subject, for a touching or noble one. But where this is not the case, and where the passages imitated are conversant with objects nearly as familiar, and names and actions almost as undignified, as those in the imitation, the author may be assured, that what я. moderate degree of exaggeration has thus made eminently laughable, could never have been worthy of a place in serious and lofty poetry.—But we are falling, we perceive, into our old trick of dissertation, and forgetting our benevolent intention to dedicate this article to the amusement of our readers.—We break off therefore, abruptly, and turn without fa'ther preamble to the book.
The first piece, under the name of the loyal Mr. Fitzgerald^ though as good, we suppose, as the original, is not тегу interesting. Whether it be very like Mr. Fitzgerald or not, however, it must be allowed that the vulgarity, servility, and gross absurdity of the newspaper o is well rendered in the following lines :
“Gallia's sterm despot shall in vain advance
The next, in the name of Mr. W. Wordsworth, is entitled “The Baby’s Début;" and is characteristically announced as intended to have been “spoken in the character of Nancy Lake, a girl eight years of age, who is drawn upon the stage in a child’s chaise, by Samuel Hughes, her uncle's porter.” The author does not, in this instance, attempt to copy any of the higher attributes of Mr. Wordsworth's poetry: But has succeeded perfectly in the imitation of his mawkish affectations of childish simplicity and nursery stammering. We hope it will make him ashamed of his Alice #. and the greater part of his last volumes —of which it is by no means a parody, but a very fair, and indeed we think a flattering imitation. We give a stanza or two as a specimen:— “My brother Jack was nine in May, And I was eight on New Year's Day; So in Kate Wilson's shop Papa (he's my papa and Jack's) Bought me last week a doll of wax, And brother Jack a top.
“Jack's in the pouts—and this it is,
Mr. Moore’s Address is entitled “The Living Lustres,” and appears to us a very fair imitation of the fantastic verses which that ingenious person indites when he is merely gallant; and, resisting the lures of voluptuousness, is not enough in earnest to be tender. It begins:—
“O why should our dull retrospective addresses
are very emojth, and very nonsensical—as was in tended: But they are not so good as Swift's celebrated Song by a Person of Quality; ai.d are so exactly in the same measure, and on the same plan, that it is impossible to avoid making the comparison. The reader may take these three stanzas as a sample :—
"Lurid smoke and frank suspicion,
"Hark! the engines blandly thunder,
Fleecy clouds dishevell'd lie;
"See the bird of Ammon sailing,
Perches on the engine's peak,
And (he Eagle fireman hailing,
Soothes them with its bickering beak."
"A Tale of Drury,» by Walter Scott, is, upon the whole, admirably executed ; though the introduction is rather tame. The burning is described with the mighty Minstrel's characteristic love of localities :—
"Then London's sons in nightcap woke!
In bedgown woke her dames;
'The Phyhouse is in flames!'
To every window pane:
A bright ensanguin'd drain;
Where patent shot they sell:
And Richardson's Hotel."—pp. 46, 47.
The mustering of the firemen is not lese meritorious :—
"The snmmon'd firemen woke at call
His nether bulk embrac'd;
In tin or copper traced.
Along the pavement pared."—p. 48.
The procession of the engines, with the badges of their different companies, and the horrible names of their leaders, is also admirable—but we cannot make room for it. The account of the death of Muggins and Hiiginbottom, however, must find a place. These are the two principal firemen who suffered on this occasion: and the catastrophe is described with a spirit, not unworthy of the name so
venturously assumed by the desc-riber. After the roof fails in, there is silence and great con steruation :—
"When lo! amid the wreck uprrar'd
And Eagle firemen knew
The foreman of their crew. Loud shouted all in sign of woe, * A Mviggins to the rescue, ho!'
And pour'd the hissing tide:
He tottor'd. sunk, and died!
His brolhcr chief to save;
Serv'd but to share his grave.!
Where Mugeius broke before.
He sunk to rise no more! •Still o'er his head, while Fate ho brav'd, His whizzing water-pipe he wav'd; 'Whitford and Mitiord, ply your pumps! 'You, Clutterbuck, come etir your stumps, 'Why are yon in such doleful dumps Î 'A fireman, and afraid of bumps! 'What are ilu-y fenr'd on. fools ? 'od rot 'em!' Were the. last words of Higginbottom."
The rebuilding is recorded in strains as characteristic, and as aptly applied :—
Didst mark, bow toil'd the busy train
And nimble workmen trod.
With trowel and with hod."—pp. 52. 53.
"The Beautiful Incendiary," by the Honourable W. Spencer, is also an imitation of great merit. The flashy, fashionable, artificial style of this writer, with his confident and extravagant compliments, can scarcely be said to be parodied in such lines as the following :—
"Sobriety ceaee to be sober,
Couse labour to dig and to delve!
One thousand eight hundred and twelve!
'Tis Hohe with Jnpitpr's jug!
Fair Lady Elizabeth Mueg!
Those bright burning-glasses contain.
Proved fatal to old Drnry Lane!
Away with the flimsy humbug!
Of Lady Elizabeth Mugg!
"Fire and Ale/' by M. G. Lewi?, is not less fortunate; and exhibits not only a faithful copy of the spirited, loose, amf flowing versification of that singular author, but a very just representation of that mixture of extravagance ami jocularity which has impressed most of his writings with the character of a sort of farcical horror. For example :—
"The fire king one day raihcr amorous felt;
He mounted his hoi copper filly; His breeches and boots were of tin ; and the belt Was made of cast iron, for fear it should melt
With the heat of the copper colt's belly. Sure never was skin half so scalding as his!
When an infant, 'twas equally horrid,
As soon as it sprinkl'd his forehead.
For two livinir coals were the symbols;
To play the piano in thimbles."—pp. 68, 69.
The drift of the story is, that this formidable personage falls in love with Miss Drury the elder, who is consumed in his ardent embrace ! when Mr. Whitbread, in the character of the Ale King, fairly bullies him from a similar attempt on her younger sister, who has just come out under his protection.
We have next "Playhouse Musings,"' by Mr. Coleridge—a piece which is unquestionably Lakish—though we cannot say that we recognise in it any of the peculiar traits of that powerful and misdirected genius whose name it has borrowed. We rather think, however, that the tuneful Brotherhood will consider it as a respectable eclogue. This is the introduction :—
"My pensive Public! wherefore look you sad?
Joy should be yours: this tenth day of October
pp. 73, 74.
Of "Architectural Atoms." translated by Dr. Busby, we can say very little more than that they appear to us to be far more capable of combining into jood poetry than the few lines we were able to read of ihe learned r>oc!or's ¡renuine address in the newspapers. They miiiht pass, indeed, for a very tolerable imitation of Darwin :—as for instance :—
"I sing how casual bricks, in airy climb Encounter'd casual horse hair, casual lime; How rafters borne through wond'ring clouds elate, Kiss'd in their slope blue elemental slate! Clasp'd solid beams, in chance-directed fury, \nd gave to birth our renovated Drury."
pp. 82, 83.
And again :—
"Thus with the flames that from old Drury пи
"The Theatre," by the Rev. G. Crabb?. we rather think is the best piece in the collection. It is an exquisite and most masterly imitation, not only of the peculiar style, bot of the taste, temper, and manner of description of that most original author; and car. hardly be said to be in any respect a caricature of that style or manner—except in the excessive profusion of puns and verbal jingles —which, though undoubtedly to be ranked among his characteristics, are never so thicksown in his original works as in this admirable imitation. It does not aim, of course, at any shadow of his pathos or moral sublimity; but seems to us to be a singularly faithful copy of his passages of mere description. It begins as follows :—
"'Tie sweet to view from half-past five >o six,
"At first, while vacant seats gire choice and ease,
"Now the full benches, to lale corners, doom No room for standing, mijcall'd tlanding ream.
"Hark! the check-taker moody silence break«. And bawling ' Pit full,' gives the check he takes."
pp. 116, 117.
The tuning of the orchestra is giren with the same spirit and fidelity; bat we rather choose to insert the following descent of a playbill from the upper boxes:—
"Perchance, while pit and gallery cry. 'hauoff,'
; It settles, curling, on a fiddler's curl;
j And, for mere malice, sticks it on the spike»."
The quaintness and minuteness of the following catalogue, are also in the very spirit of the original author—bating always the члdue allowance of puns and conultl to which we have already alluded :—
11 What various swains our motley wslfs contain' Fashion from Moorfields. honour from Chick Lane: Bankers from Paper Buildings here resort. Bankrupts from Golden Square and Riches Cour:;
The lottery cormorant, the auction shark,
pp. 118, 119.
We shall conclude with Ihe episode on the loss and recovery of Pat Jennings' hat—which, if Mr. Crabbe liad thought at all of describing, we are persuaded he would have described precisely as follows :—
'• Pat Jennings in the upper gallery sat, But. leaning forward, Jennings lost his hat; Down from the gallery the beaver flew, And spurn'd the one to si-tile in the two. How shall he net ( Pny at the gallery door Two shillings tor what cost when new but fourf Now, while his fears anticipate a thief, John Mullins whispers, take my handkerchief. Thank you, cries rat, but one won't make a line; Take mine, cried Wilson, and cried Stokes take A motley cable soon Pat Jennings tics, [mine. Where ^^pitaЩelds with real India vies; Like Iris' bow, down darts the painted hue Siarr'd, strip'd, and spotted, yellow, red, and blue. Old cahco, lorn silk, and muslin new. George Greene below, with palpitating hand. Loops the last kerchief to ihe beaver's band: I'psoars the prize; the youth with joy unfcign'd, Ki'Saiti'd the tell, and lelt what he regnin'd; \Vhile to ihe applauding galleries grateful Pat Made a low bow, and touch'd the ransom'd hat."
The Ghost of Samuel Johnson is not very ¡rood as a whole: though some passages are singularly happy. The measure and solemnity of nie sentences, in all the limited variety of their structure, ia imitated with skill ;—but the diction is caricatured in a vulgar and tinpleasing degree. To make Johnson call a door "a ligneous barricatlo," and its knocker and bell ils "frappant and tintinabulant ap- I peiulages," is neither just nor humorous ;j and we are surprised that a writer who has given such extraordinary proofs of his talent for finer ridicule and fairer imitation, should have stooped to a vein of pleasantry so low, and so long ago exhausted; especially as, in other passages of the same piece, he has shown how well qualified he was both to catch and to render the true characteristics of his original. The beginning, for example, we think excellent :—
"That which was organised by the moral ability of one, has heen executed by the physical effort of many; and Druky Lane Theatre is now complete. Of that part behind the curtain, which has not yet been destined to glow beneath the brush of the varnisher, or vibrale to the hammer of the carpenter, little is thought by the public, and little need be said by the committee. Truth, however, is not to be sacrificed lor the accommodation of either; and he who should pronounce that our edifice has received its final embellishment, would be disseminating falsehood without incurring favour, and risking the disgrace of detection without participating ihe advantage of success.
"Let it not, however, be conjectured, that because we are unassuming, we are imbecile; that forbearance is any indication of despondency, or humility of demerit. He that is the most assured of success will make the fewest appeals tu favour; and where nothing is claimed that is undue, nothing that is due will be withheld. A swelling opening is too often succeeded by an insignificant conclusion. Parturient mountains have ere now produced muscipular abortions; and the auditor n ho compares incipient grandeur with final vulgarity, is reminded of the pious hawkers of Constantinople, who solemnly perambulate her streets, exclaiming, 'In the name of the prophet—figs !' "—pp. 54, 55.
It ends with a solemn eulogium on Mr. Whitbread, which is thus wound up :—
"To his never-slumbering talents you are indebted for whatever pleasure this haunt of the Muses is calculated to afford. If, in defiance of chaotic malevolence, the destroyer of Ihr temple ot Diana yet survives in the name of Herostratus, surely we may confidently predict, that the rebuilder of the temple of Apollo will stand recorded to distant posterity, in that of—Samuel Whitbread."
pp. 59, 60.
Our readers will now have a pretty good idea of the contents of this amusing little volume. We have no conjectures to offer as to its anonymous author. He who is such a master of disguises, may easily be supposed to have been successful in concealing himself;—and with the power of assuming so many styles, is not likely to be detected by his own. We should guess, however, that he had not written a great deal in his own character—that his natural style was neither very lofty nor very grave—and that he rather indulges a partiality for puns and verbal pleasantries. We marvel why he has shut out Campbell and Rogers from his theatre of living poets;—and confidently expect to have our curiosity in this and in all other particulars very speedily gratified, when the applause of the country shall induce him to take off his mask.
Œuvres Inédites de Madame la Baronne de Staël, publiées par son Fils; pi ¡cédées d'une Notie« sur le Caractère et les Ecrits de M. de Staël. Par Madame Necker Saussure. Trois tomes. 8TO. London, Treuttel and Wurtz: 1820.
We are very much indebted to Madame It is, to be sure, rather in the natnre of a Pane
Necker Saussure for this copious, elegant, and gyrie than of an impartial biography—and,
affectionate account of her friend and cousin, with the sagacity, morality, and skill in com 93 Зм2