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of Gothic manners is well imagined, and finely contrasted by 529 an example of female virtue.
VOL. III. Octavia, Merope, Timoleon, and Mary Stuart. The atrocities of Nero, who was beloved by the rivals Octavia and Poppa, the philosophic virtues of Seneca, and the courtly meanness of Tigellinus, the only personages of the drama, are all brought into critical action, and form the basis of the first mentioned tragedy. The argument is supplied by Tacitus, and the sentiment is rather translated or paraphrased from him, than an original composition.
One of the best of Voltaire's tragedies is founded on the story of Merope, from which Aaron Hill has borrowed very freely. Count ALFIERI excels principally in the animated display of maternal affection. The elaborate criticism contained in
Lessing's Dramaturgy on the Merope of Maffei, and of Voltaire, might have suggested some higher dexterities of execution.-Timoleon is another tragedy without love, excepting that of liberty. MARY STUART, the ill-fated queen of Scotland, a subject more immediately our own, in course attracted a greater of our notice; and we were desirous of learning in what manner share the author had treated any circumstance of her eventful life, exciting at once our pity and our censure. chosen by the poet is soon after the assassination of David RizThe point of time zio, when Darnley (Arrigo, as he is here called) became odious to the queen, and she plots with Bothwell for his destruction. Ormondo, ambassador from Q. Elizabeth, persuades Darnley to give his consent that the young prince (afterward James the first) should be taken to England for education, which he soon retracts. Lamorre, the queen's confessor, speaks with becoming freedom, and prophecies her sufferings and violent death, as an expiation of her crimes. This scene has considerable merit. The account of Darnley's death, by the explosion of a mine, concludes the piece; which is, in many respects, inferior to the others.
VOL. IV. The Conspiracy of the Pazzi,-Don Garzia,Saul,-Agis,-and Sophonisba.
That era of the Florentine republic in which the house of Medici had gained the ascendancy, and were opposed by the. lovers of freedom, is here selected. A conspiracy is one of the most difficult of tragic subjects, for it not unfrequently abounds in domestic incidents, which have little dignity. Lo renzo de' Medici, the hero of his celebrated family, supports, through the whole play, a character worthy of himself.
Don Garzia, the son of Cosmo, gives name to a tragedy in continuation, and of equal merit. The scene is laid at the Palace of Pisa.
APP. REY. VOL, XXIV.
The only sacred drama is that of Saul, in which David, as a poet and musician, recites some elegant lines. His heroism, the conjugal affection of Michal, the friendship of Jonathan, and the melancholy of the gloomy and envious monarch, are well delineated.
: Agis king of Sparta does not, in point of composition, rise above mediocrity; we mean, comparatively with the rest. A lover forced to administer poison to his mistress, to preserve her from an ignominious death-the contrast and developement of some of the most exalted spirits of Carthage and of Rome,-in short, such names as Sophonisba, Massinissa, and Scipio,must necessarily administer materials for a tragedy of the first order. In the fifth act, the means employed to induce Massinissa to destroy Sophonisba are inadequate, and the whole scene is feeble.
VOL. V. Brutus the first. Myrrha. Brutus the second. Ardent in the cause of liberty, our author has fixed on a very interesting passage in the Roman history; the inexorable justice of the elder Brutus. His portrait is indeed a very highly finished piece and the various conflicts between paternal affection and the love of his country are admirably discriminated.
The tragedy of Myrrha and Cinyras is little more than Ovid's fable, adapted to the stage.
On the second Brutus, Count A. seems to have exerted the concentrated force of his genius. Marcus Brutus is represented as having discovered himself to be the son of Julius Cæsar; and this discovery happens on that day, in which he had resolved to sacrifice Cæsar to the cause of injured liberty. The scene in which Brutus declares himself, and is acknowleged by Cæsar as his son, although the dialogue be too much protracted, is a masterly effort of the tragic muse; and his subsequent address to the Roman people breathes the unconquerable spirit by which he professed to be actuated.
To several of these plays are prefixed epistles dedicatory, sometimes addressed to the author's friends, or to eminent persons living and dead. Junius Brutus is inscribed, in the following terms, to General Washington:
The name of him alone who gave liberty to America_can_sanction the tragedy of the deliverer of Rome. To you, therefore, a citizen of singular fortune and desert, I dedicate Junius Brutus, without reciting the praises due to you, for they are all included in So brief a mention of you ought not to be deemed indirect adulation. I am personally unacquainted with you; and divided, as we are, by the immense ocean, we have but one motive immediately in common-the love of our country. Truly happy are you who
have established a fame such as yours on a basis firm and eternal the love of your country proved by your actions!-For myself, I have abandoned my native soil, purely for the sake of writing with ardour on the subject of liberty. By such a sacrifice, I flatter myself I have demonstrated what my patriotism would have proved, had I been des tined to a country worthy of my sentiments. On this consideration alone I aspire to the honour of uniting to the name of WASHINGTON that of VITTORIO ALFIERI. Paris, 31 Dec. 1788.'
The tragedy of Agis is preceded by the following address to Charles the first, king of England: it is dated May 9, 1736.
I think that, without meanness or arrogance, I may dedicate my tragedy of Agis to an unfortunate and a deceased king.
This king of Sparta was, like yourself, condemned to die by iniquitous judges and an unjust parliament: but however similar the effect, the cause was widely different. Agis, in the establishment of equality and liberty, wished to restore to Sparta her own virtues and her antient splendour; his death was therefore glorious, and his fame is eternal. To you, by endeavouring to break all bounds of your authority and to advance your private emolument, nothing remaine but the useless pity which accompanied you to the grave.
Both Agis and yourself have offered, and will continue to offer, a memorable example, and a terrible one, to posterity; with this grand difference, that many kings like CHARLES there have been, and will be, but such as AGIS-not one.'
The dates of these singular dedications ascertain the temper of the times when they were written; such sentiments were then not only tolerated but universal, however obnoxious subsequent events may have rendered them.
With respect to general criticism on these tragedies, we must allow that the unities are strictly observed: but the dialogues are sometimes unseasonably long, or abruptly broken by monosyllables and starts, which are more consonant to the genius of the Italian than of the English stage. The characters employed in each drama are in general few, and those, almost without exception, developed in the first scene, which supersedes the necessity of an argument ;-and perhaps the Count is uniformly more successful in opening than in closing his dramas.
This publication does credit to the press at Lausanne by its neatness and accuracy; and the head of the author is executed by the spirited Raphael Morghen, a Neapolitan, who is now resident at Rome; one of the best modern artists, of any country.
ART. XV. De la Pensée du Gouvernement, &c. i. e. On our Scheme of Government. By BERTRAND BARÈRE. 8vo. pp. 220. Printed at Geneva, reprinted in France, and sold in London by De Boffe, &c. 1797. Price 4s.
THIS work, both in dexterity of execution and in quality of matter, resembles De Lolme's Panegyric on the Conftitution of Great Britain. It is a very artful eulogy of the new republican scheme of government in France: the merits of which are officiously brought into the foreground, and ascribed to ap-. propriate theoretical principles, not to the shock of parties or the pressure of circumstances; while its demerits, practical or speculative, are veiled in adulatory obscurity. Of the five sorts of government, which within these ten years have been officially recommended to the French, the middle form has at length obtained the preference; and the pendulum of Parisian opinion, after having vibrated between opposite extremes, has finally assumed a central position. The people of France, after having rejected the mere monarchy of their ancestors, and the heroic monarchy of the Constituting Assembly, bestowed a transient applause on the pure republic intended by the Girondists, and on the complete democracy promised by the sy cophants of Robespierre: but they have ultimately carried into execution an elective aristocracy, which excludes almost all the vulgar, but none of the soldiery, from suffrage. This organization may be expected to produce a mischievous ascendancy of the military, neither favourable to the liberty of the interior, nor to the repose of the exterior; and it may restore an influence to the higher orders, big with alarming though merited retributions. Such is the constitution (see Rev. vol. xxi. N. S. p. 540) which the obsequious ingenuity of the eloquent BARERE has here undertaken to illustrate and to praise.
The first chapter treats of the executive power: which (he says, p. 11) will become more mild in proportion as it becomes more strong, and will meddle less with governing in proportion to the stability of its authority. Hyperarchy, or excessive government, has ruined more empires than anarchy, or deficient government.
The 2d, 3d, and 4th chapters treat of the subdivisions of executive power, of the directory, of the ministers, and of the police-officers. BARÈRE has not remarked that the periodical changes in the Directory ought to have been made cotemporary with those in the councils; otherwise the independent will of the two powers will often be found in collision.
The fifth chapter treats of the constitution, the sixth of the laws, the seventh of the police, and the eighth of the armies.
This last is a spirited and well-written chapter; it recommends that attention to the reputation of the soldier, which inspired the laurelled armies of the republic with so much zeal in its behalf.
The ninth chapter treats of the marine. At p. 57, the following anecdote occurs:
The ship-building of citizen Sané, at Brest, is so perfect, that the British government was ambitious of possessing the frigate La Virginie as a model for their ship-carpenters. This frigate was commanded by Captain Bergeret of Bayonne, aged 25; who displayed great skill and courage when attacked by the division of Commodore Sir Ed. Pellew. Our frigate was taken, because the English government wanted this specimen of construction; and Pellew received for it the promised sum of forty thousand pounds*: he has done justice to the courageous resistance of Bergeret.'
In the tenth chapter, which treats of the colonies, the author advises the French government to persevere in their system of negroe-emancipation, decreed on the 16th Pluviose of the 2d year:
Not only the gratitude of human kind (says the author) will attend this abolition of the American feudal system, but a great increase of West India produce must result from free cultivation, and a consequent increase of commerce: to say nothing of the insecurity and depretiation which a liberal system extended to the French islands will inflict on those of other powers.'
The eleventh chapter treats on public credit; the twelfth, on the interior; the thirteenth, on the tribunals; the fourteenth, on the administration; and the fifteenth, on public spirit; which is now become wholly the creature of literature, and will therefore be in future the exclusive privilege of those nations, the governments of which facilitate the elevation of men of letters.'
Chap. 17. relates to civil liberty. We have heard much (says the author, p. 109) of the three branches which meet at Westminster: it would have been better to talk to us of the trial by jury, of the habeas corpus act, and of the liberty of the press. These are the three pillars of civil liberty.'
Chap. 18. expatiates on the habits of a revolutionary period, and opens thus:
I was a revolutionist; I am a constitutionist. These two conditions, far from being inconsistent, are naturally concatenated. By force, liberty is to be acquired; by wisdom, it is to be defended. Energy founded the republic; the laws are to support it. The Convention was revolutionary in order to become constitutional; and the men who have co-operated in the measures of the revolution are mem
Our readers will smile at this assertion, as much as they have formerly done at the reports of Barère to the Convention.