Page images
PDF
EPUB

tum of Mr. Douce, the illustrator of Shakspeare, who quoted St. Didier's " Histoire de Venise" as his authority. Othello's dress was wholly changed ; but the correct costume was sacrificed to what the actor considered effect. The habits of King Lear and Richard the Second were certainly improved; and in a new but unsuccessful play, called " Ina," the Anglo-Saxon costume was fairly enough represented.

In 1823, Mr. Charles Kemble set about the reformation of the costume of Shakspeare's plays in good earnest. King John, the First Part of Henry the Fourth, As You Like It, Othello, Cymbeline, and Julius Caesar, were successively, and, as the public generally acknowledged, successfully revived. The actors, dreadfully alarmed in the outset lest they should be made to look ridiculous, were agreeably surprised by the impression produced upon the audience, and have now become as anxious to procure authorities to dress from, as they were previously annoyed at the idea of the innovation, and distrustful of the effect. The spirit of critical inquiry into these matters has been fairly aroused. The French stage is still, in some points, in advance of our own; but a few more years will, we hope, produce an entire and complete reformation of our theatrical wardrobes. The persons intrusted with their formation and management will find it is necessary to be something more than mere tailors; articles of dress will be called by their right names instead of technicals, which convey no meaning beyond the walls of a theatre. Shapes and romaldis* will be forgotten with the melodramas which gave birth to them: and though it is too much to expect that every actor will become a thorough-going antiquary, it is not too much to presume that, before they wear a decoration, they will take the trouble to inquire when the order was first established; and that the labours of Meyrick, Stothard, and others, having afforded them light enough to dress by, they will not huddle on their clothes in the

* The latter, a tunic, so called from its being worn by Rcmaldi in the "Tale of Mystery."

dark, to be laughed at by a school-boy, who has clandestinely visited at half-price the one-shilling gallery.

XXI. THE BENEVOLENCE OF A MISER.

Early in life, Mr. Robert Gordon, a gentleman of good birth and family, determined to relieve the indigence of decayed merchants, a class whose poverty is embittered by the recollection of better days, by endowing an institution for the education and maintenance of their sons. To do this, he adopted a life of self-denial and privation ; scorned delights, and lived penurious and laborious days. He resided in a miserable garret without attendance; he used to pick up every trifle on the streets that would turn to account, and so warm himself and save fire. The cold winter nights he would walk through his room with a bag full of stones on his back. After his death the little bits of' twine he had collected oft' the streets sold for several pounds. He left an endowment of ten thousand pounds to the institution in Aberdeen known by the name of Robert Gordon's Hospital. Is not this heroism?

XXII. PUNNING UPON NAMES,

OR SPECIMENS OF MONKISH WIT.

Alexander Nequam, called " the learnedest Englishman of his age," was born at St. Albans. He entered a monastery, and became an abbot of Gloucester in the reign of John or Richard the First. Innumerable jokes were made on his unlucky name, which induced him to change it to Neckam. The following are preserved in Winstanley:

At one time of his life he wished to become a monk a( St. Albans, and wrote thus laconically to the abbot,

Si vis, veniam; sin autem, tu autem.

To which the abbot replied,

Si bonus sis, venias ; si nequam, nequaquam.

"Bishop Godwin, in his Catalogue of the Bishops of Lincoln/' says Winstanley, " makes mention of a passage of wit between him and Philip Repington, bishop of Lincoln, the latter sending the challenge:

Et niger, et Nequam, cum sis cognomine Nequam,
Nigrior esse potes, Nequior esse nequis.

Which Winstanley renders,

Both black and bad, whilst Bad the name to thee,
Blacker thou mayst, but worse thou canst not be.

To which Nequam, punning on the bishop's Christian name, replied:

Phi nota fcetoris, Lippus malus omnibus horis;
Phi malus, et Lippus; totus malus ergo Philippus.

Or,

Stinks are branded with a Phi, Lippus, Latin for Blear-eye; Phi and Lippus bad as either; then Philippus worse together.

Neekam died in 1217; but even death could not save his name from monkish wit.

According to some accounts, he was buried at Worcester with this monkish inscription, which, though meant to be serious, (as Heaven knows, it is complimentary enough,) still plays with his name.

Eclipsim patitur Sapientia, Sol sepelitur;
Cui si par unus, minus esset flebile fun us:
Vir bene discretus, et in omni more facetus,
Dictus erat Nequam, vitam duxit tamen eequam.

Wisdom's eclips'd. sky of the Sun bereft;
Yet less the loss if like alive were left;
A man discreet, in matters debonnair,
Bad name, black face, but carriage good and fair.
According to other accounts, he was buried at Saint

Albans; "where," says Winstanley, who was infected by antithesis and alliteration, "he found Repulse when living, but Repose when dead."

An impertinent Frenchman of the last century seriously put this question; "Est ce gu'un Allemand pent avoir de Tesprit t"

With better reason, some people may ask, was there

the affirmative : there once was one.

Ferdinando Galiani was not more distinguished in his day by his many excellent writings, chiefly on subjects connected with what we now call political economy, than he was by the readiness and playfulness of his wit and his exquisite humour. Unfortunately, the best of his sayings perished with him, or with his contemporaries and associates.

He was born at Chieti, the capital of the province of Abruzzo, in the kingdom of Naples, at the end of the year 1728, and came into the world sadly deformed. He went through his studies in the city of Naples, where, from his early youth, his gay and facetious spirit made his society to be much courted. At that time the Neapolitans had a number of poetic academies and hackneyed literary societies, which did a great deal of harm to poetry and literature, and finished like the Arcadia of Rome, by becoming thoroughly ridiculous. The abbe's brother, the Marquis Galiani, who had distinguished himself by a translation of Vitruvius, had to deliver in one of these academies an oration on the Miraculous Conception of the Virgin Mary; but, being unexpectedly obliged to set off on a journey, he begged the abbe to supply his place. The abbd accordingly composed a panegyric on the Virgin in the usual forms; but,

XXIII. THE ABBE GALIANI;

A WITTY POLITICAL ECONOMIST!

ever a witty political economist?"

[graphic]

when he presented himself among the academicians, the president, a certain Neapolitan advocate, called John-Anthony Sergio, (whose name has been preserved from oblivion solely by Galiani's witty revenge,) sternly forbade him to recite it. All those pedantic and puerile conclaves were open to ridicule on a hundred sides; but a lucky coincidence afforded Galiani a most stinging point.

It was the tiresome custom of the academies to publish cumbrous collections of prose and verse, at the death of every grand or titled personage. A simple cavalier might get off with a duodecimo, a baron with an octavo, but when you came to marquises, dukes, and princes, (particularly if they died rich,) nothing less than a quarto would suffice: and as for princes and princesses of the blood royal, kings, queens, emperors and empresses, a folio full of sighs and tears, eulogiums and comparisons, was considered a light weight to lay upon their tombs. There was no possibility for a person of any fortune, or name, or fame of any kind, to escape, and go quietly and modestly to the grave, without their shades being made to blush at the hyperboles and extravagant eulogiums of these shameless incorporated poetasters. A hundred sonnets, to say nothing of elegies and eclogues, often arose out of the demise of an antiquated maid-ofhonour; and we have seen an equal number devoted to the immortal memory of the King's first fiddler. In order not to be taken unawares, or to be pressed for time, these academicians were accustomed to prepare beforehand, and there was scarcely one among them but (like the Persian poet in Anastasius) could at any moment have said to his friends or patrons, '' Gentlemen! you may all die perfectly easy; 1 have an epitaph for every one of you ready in my pocket."

A few days after Galiani's quarrel with the president John-Anthony, who was one of the most prolific of these panegyrists of little great people, the Jack-Ketch of Naples chanced to die; and this event furnished the abbe with the opportunity of revenging himself, and exposing an absurd custom at the same time.

« PreviousContinue »