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"From this state of things necessarily arose a prodigious superiority on the part of the possessor of the fief, alike in his own eyes, and in the eyes of those who surrounded him. The feeling of individual importance, of personal freedom, was the ruling principle of savage life; but here a new feeling was introduced—the importance of a proprietor, of the chief of a family, of a master, predominated over that of an individual. From this situation arose an immense feeling of superiority—a superiority peculiar to the feudal ages, and entirely different from anything which had yet been experienced in the world. Like the feudal lord, the Roman patrician was the head of a family, a master, a landlord. He was, moreover, a religious magistrate, a pontiff in the interior of his family. He was, moreover, a member of the municipality in which his property was situated, and perhaps one of the august senate, which, in name at least, still ruled the empire. But all this importance and dignity was derived from without-the patrician shared it with the other members of his municipality-with the corporation of which be formed a part. The importance of the feudal lord, again, was purely individual-he owed nothing to another ; all the power he enjoyed emanated from bimself alone. What a feeling of individual consequence must such a situation have inspired—what pride, what insolence, must it have engendered in his mind! Above him was no superior of whose orders he was to be the mere interpreter or organ-around him were no equals. No all-powerful municipality made his wishes bend to its own-no superior authority exercised a control over his wishes; he knew no bridle on his inclinations, but the limits of his power, or the presence of danger.
“ Another consequence, hitherto not sufficiently attended to, but of vast importance, flowed from this society.
* The patriarchal society, of which the Bible and the Oriental monuments offer the model, was the first combination of men. The chief of a tribe lived with his children, his relations, the different generations who have assembled around him. This was the situation of Abraham-of the patriarchs : it is still that of the Arab tribes which perpetuate their manners. The clan, of which remains still exist in the mountains of Scotland, and the sept of Ireland, is a modification of the patriarchal society; it is the family of the chief, expanded during a succession of generations, and forming a little aggregation of dependents, still influenced by the same attachments, and subjected to the same authority. But the feudal community was very different. Allied at first to the clan, it was yet, in many essential particulars, dissimilar. There did not exist between its members the bond of relationship; they were not of the same blood; they often did not speak the same language. The feudal lord belonged to a foreign and conquering, his serfs to a domestic and vanquished race. Their employments were as various as their feelings and their traditions. The lord lived in his castle, with his wife, his children, and relations; the serfs on the estate, of a different race, of different names, toiled in the cottages around. This difference was prodigious—it exercised a most powerful effect on the domestic habits of modern Europe. It engendered the attachments of home: it bronght women into their proper sphere in domestic life. The little society of freemen, who lived in the midst of an alien race in the castle, were all in all to each other. No forum or theatres were at hand, with their cares or their pleasures; no city enjoyments were a counterpoise to the pleasures of country life. War and the chase broke in, it is true, grievously at times, upon this scene of domestic peace. But war and the chase could not last for ever; and, in the long intervals of undisturbed repose, family attachments formed the chief solace of life. Thus it was that women acquired their paramount influence-thence the manners of chivalry, and the gallantry of modern times; they were but an extension of the courtesy and babits of the castle. The word courtesy shows it, it was in the court of the castle that the habits it denotes were learned.”—Lecture iv. 13, 17; Civilisation Européenne.
We have exhausted, perhaps exceeded, our limits; and we have only extracted a few of the most striking ideas from the first hundred pages of one of Guizot's works : ex uno disce omnes. The translation of them has been an agreeable occupation for a few evenings; but they awake one mournful impression—the voice which uttered so many noble and enlightened sentiments is now silent ; the genius which once cast abroad light on the history of man, is lost in the vortex of present politics. The philosopher, the historian, are merged in the statesman—the instructor of all in the governor of one generation. Great as have been his services, brilliant his course in the new career into which he has been launched, it is as nothing compared to that which he has left; for the one confers present distinction, the other immortal fame.
THE ROMANTIC DRAMA
[BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, Aug. 1846 ]
MACAULAY says that the object of the drama is the painting of the human heart ; and, as that is portrayed by the erents of a whole life, he concludes that it is by poets representing in a short space a long series of actions, that the end of dramatic composition is most likely to be attained. “The mixture," says he,“ of tragedy and comedy, and the length and extent of the action, which the French consider as defects, is the chief cause of the excellence of our older dramatists. The former is necessary to render the drama a just representation of the world, in which the laughers and the
weepers are perpetually jostling each other, in which every event has its serious and ludicrous side. The latter enables us to form an intimate acquaintance with characters with which we could not possibly become familiar during the few hours to which the unities restrict the poet. In this respect, the works of Shakspeare in particular are miracles of art. In a piece which may be read aloud in three hours, we see a character gradually unfold all its recesses to us. We see it change with the change of circumstances. lant youth rises into the politic and warlike sovereign. The profuse and courteous philanthropist sours at length into a hater and scorner of his kind. The tyrant is altered, by the chastening of affliction, into a pensive moralist. The veteran general, distinguished by coolness, sagacity, and self-command, sinks under a conflict between love strong as death, and jealousy cruel as the grave.
The brave and loyal subject passes step by step to the excesses of human depravity. We trace his progress step by step, from the first dawnings of unlawful ambition, to the cynical melan
choly of his impenitent remorse. Yet in these pieces there are no unnatural transitions. Nothing is omitted; nothing is crowded. Great as are the changes, narrow as is the compass within which they are exhibited, they shock us as little as the gradual alterations of those familiar faces which we see every evening and morning. The magical skill of the poet resembles that of the dervise in the Spectator, who condensed all the events of seven years into the single moment during which the king held his head under
In this admirable passage, the principle on which the romantic drama rests is clearly and manfully stated; and it is on the possibility of effecting the object which is here so well described, that the whole question between it and the Greek unities depends. As we have decidedly embraced the opposite opinion, and regard, after much consideration, the adherence to the variety and license of the romantic drama as the main cause of the present degraded condition of our national theatre, we have prefaced our observations with a defence of the romantic drama by its ablest advocate, and shall now state the reasons which appear to us to be conclusive in favour of a different opinion.
The drama is part, and but a part, of the great effort of mankind for the representation of human character, passion, and event. Other sister arts—history, the historical romance, the epic poem — also aim in some degree, by different methods, at the same object; and it is by considering their different principles and necessary limitations, that the real rules of the drama will best be understood.
HISTORY, as all the world knows, embraces the widest range of human events. Confined to no time, restricted to no locality, it professes, in a comparatively short space, to portray the most extensive and important of human transactions. Centuries, even thousands of years, are sometimes, by its greatest masters, embraced within its mighty arms. The majestic series of Roman victories may occupy the genius of one writer: the fifteen centuries of its decline and fall be spanned by the powers of another. The vast annals of Mahommedan conquest, the long sway of the Papal dominion, present yet untrodden fields to future historical
* MACAULA Y's Miscellaneous Essays. Article Dryden.
effort.* But it is this very greatness and magnitude of his subject which presents the chief difficulty with which the historian has to contend. With the exception of a very few instances, such lengthened annals are necessarily occupied by a vast variety of characters, actions, states, and events, having little or no connexion with each other, scarcely any common object of union, and no thread by which the interest of the reader is to be kept up throughout. Thence it is that works of history are so generally complained of as dull; that, though they are more numerous than any other class of literary compositions, the numbers of them which are generally read is so extremely small. Enter any public library, you will see tens of thousands of historical works reposing in respectable dignity on the shelves. How many of them are generally studied, or have taken root by common consent in the minds of men ? Not ten. Romance numbers its readers by hundreds, poetry by fifties, where history can with difficulty master one. This amazing difference is not owing to any deficiency of ability turned to the subject, or interest in the materials of which it is formed. It can never be supposed that men will be indifferent to the annals of their own fame, or that the groundwork of all human invention—real event can be wanting in the means of moving the heart. It is the extraordinary difficulty of this branch of composition, owing to its magnitude and complication, which is the sole cause of the difference. The world will, perhaps, see another Homer before another Tacitus; a second Dante before a second Gibbon.
The HISTORICAL ROMANCE is founded on history, but it differs from it in the most essential particulars, and is relieved from the principal difficulties with which the annalist of actual occurrences has to contend. It selects a particular period out of past time, and introduces the characters and events most remarkable for their interest, or the deep impress they have left on the minds of men. This is an immense advantage ; for it relieves the writer from the great difficulty with which the general historian has to contend, and which, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred,
* Ranke's History of the Popes is a most valuable addition to historical knowledge; but no one will assign it a place beside Livy or Gibbon. The difference between the work itself, and Macaulay's essay upon it, sufficiently proves what a vast addition genius may yet make to the labours of the German annalist.