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inferior, and, in truth, often insupportably dull. His dialogue is a jargon mixed up of scraps and expressions from old plays or quaint tracts, such as no man on earth ever did speak, and which it is only surprising a man of his sagacity should have supposed they ever could. The same defect is more signally conspicuous in the dialogue of several of the historical romances of James.
It is the accurate and faithful picture of national character from real life, joined to the poetical interest of his Indian warriors, and his incomparable powers of natural description, which has given Cooper his great and well-deserved reputation. In many of the essential qualities of a novelist, he is singularly defective. His story is often confused, and awkwardly put together. Unity of interest is seldom thought of. He has no conception of the refined manners and chivalrous feelings of European society : though he has of late years seen much of it in many countries, he has never been able to become familiar with its ideas, or imbibe its spirit. His heroes, among the white men at least, are never anything above American skippers, or English subalterns or post-captains : his heroines have in general the insipidity which is, we hope unjustly, ascribed, with great personal charms, to the fair sex on the other side of the Atlantic. But in the forest, or on the wave, he is superb. His Last of the Mohicans and The Prairie are noble productions, to be matched with any in the world for the delineation of lofty and elevated character—the more interesting that they belong to a race, like the heroic age, now wellnigh extinct. He paints the adventures, the life, the ideas, the passions, the combined pride and indolence, valour and craft, heroism and meanness of the Red men, with the hand of a master. Equally admirable is his delineation of the white man on the frontier of civilisation-Hawkeye or Leather-stocking, with his various other denominations—who is the precursor, as it were, of European invasion, who plunges into the forest far ahead of his more tardy followers, and leads the roaming life of the Indian, but with the advantage of the arms, the
rts, and the perseverance of the Anglo-Saxon. But he is strictly a national writer. It is in the delineation of Transatlantic character, scenes of the forest, or naval adventures, that his great powers are shown ; when he comes to paint
the manners, or lay the seat of his conceptions in Europe,
Manzoni is an author of the highest excellence, whose
The lustful passions, savage
ages of general rapine and unsettled govern
ment, from the sway, the disinterestedness, and even the superstitions of religion.
But the greatest merit of the work is to be found in the admirable delineation of the manners, ideas, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, of humble life with which it abounds. The hero of the piece is a silk-weaver named Renzo, near Lecco, on the lake of Como; the heroine Lucia, his betrothed, the daughter of a poor widow in the same village ; and the story is founded on the stratagems and wiles of an unbridled baron in the vicinity, whose passions had been excited by Lucia's beauty, first to prevent her marriage,
then to obtain possession of her person. In the conception of such a piece is to be seen decisive evidence of the vast change in human affairs, since the days when Tasso and Ariosto poured forth to an admiring age, in the same country, the loves of high-born damsels, the combats of knights, the manners, the pride, and the exclusiveness of chivalry. In its execution, Manzoni is singularly felicitous. He is minute without being tedious, graphic but not vulgar, characteristic and yet never offensive. His pictures of human life, though placed two centuries back, are evidently drawn from nature in these times : the peasants whom he introduces are those of the plains of Lombardy at this time ;
but though he paints them with the fidelity of an artist, it is - yet with the feelings of a gentleman. His details are innumerable—his finishing is minute ; but it is the minute finishing of Albert Durer or Leonardo da Vinci, not of Teniers or Ostade. In this respect he offers a striking contrast to the modern romance writers of France, Victor Hugo, Janin, Madame Dudevant, and Sue, by whom vice and licentiousness are exbibited with vast power, but in more than their native undisguised colours.
THE BRITISH THEATRE
[DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE, Nov. and Dec. 1846)
If the drama is the branch of composition which, by the common consent of man, requires the greatest effort of genius and intellectual power, scarcely less wonderful is the blending of the mental and physical qualities which the part of the performer requires. Acting, in its highest branches, is not merely a fine art—it is the combination of them all. The soul of poetry is its very essence; it is a thorough perception not merely of the obvious meaning, but of the secret spirit of the divine inspiration, which is its foundation. The mind of the actor must be sympathetic with that of the authorit must be cast in the same mould, and developed in some degree in the same proportions. Hence the remarkable force and beauty with which nearly all distinguished actors read poetry, and the extraordinary addition which their accent and intonation make to the effect of the most beautiful and best-known
When we hear the most familiar poetry read by a great performer, we feel as if we never understood it before, so vast is the impulse given, by the modulation of his voice, to its pathos and expression. A thorough acquaintance with the human heart, alike in its outward expression and inmost recesses, is not less indispensable: it is the knowledge of that which constitutes his chief power; it is its exhibition which gives rise to his greatest triumphs. The eye of a painter, the conceptions of a sculptor, are the basis of all that highly important part of the art which depends on the exhibition of external beauty, the arrangement of drapery, the exhibition of grace, the display of the witchery of expression and gesture. But vain is every such attempt,
if nature has not given to the performer the physical
grace is the very soul of beauty on the stage, and it is
, requires the union of both for its greatest triumphs, and in its most perfect masters exhibits that rare combination of mental and bodily perfection which has ever formed the dream of ideal imagination, but is so rarely to be met with in actual life
It is the extreme rarity of such a combination, either in man or woman, which is the cause of so few really great performers ever appearing on the stage of any country. England, in her long period of intellectual activity and success, can boast only three or four; France or Italy can hardly point to a greater number. Like the other fine arts, greatness on the stage generally appears in more than one individual at the same time, or nearly so; and the lustre of this constellation is succeeded by a long night of mediocrity or decline. It would appear to be a law of nature, to which there is no exception in the mysterious regulation of the life of nations, that the highest productions of genius can only be created by them once; that the