Page images

over, he proposed the subject, Il Servitore one of his cleverest compositions. Médi Due Padroni,but Goldoni should treat débac used every effort to retain Goldoni it exactly as he pleased, even to the in the service of his theatre, but the writing of the whole play, so as to leave author of La Locandiera was already nothing to be marred by the comedians. employed by a Venetian nobleman to The temptation was not to be resisted write for the theatre of San' Lucca, at For a little while Goldoni still clung to that time in private hands. This was the law, pleading by day and writing by the period of Goldoni's greatest fame. night; but the arrival of a fresh troop Among many excellent comedies, we of comedians at Leghorn settled the select as the best the inimitable Smanie question for ever in favour of comedy. della Villegiatura, well known to all. If Goldoni would only write for them. It was invaluable at the time in exMédébac, their director, would engage posing the extravagances of these villethe theatre of San' Angelo at Venice giatura, which seem to have been carried purely for the representation of his to a height of folly scarcely credible. plays. Thus the moment had at last But with his increasing fame his enemies arrived for the reform which Goldoni increased also. There were many who had long desired to effect. The theatre still upheld the old masks, and said that was opened in 1747, with three com- Goldoni had done his best to extinguish medie di carattereTonin della Grazia, an entertainment which had been the

L'Uomo Prudente, I Due Gemelli Vene- boast of Italy from time immemorial. ziani. The brilliant success of these At Rome, where he was summoned to three comedies aroused the jealousy of write for another private theatre, the the other comedians in Venice, which masks still reigned supreme. Goldoni vented itself in spiteful criticisms and saw them in their glory during Carnival, parodies. Goldoni was equal to the and then had the mortification to witoccasion, and wrote a parody of their ness the ruin of one of his best comedies, parody of La Vedova Scaltra, and thus La Vedova Scaltra, in their unpractised effectually silenced his enemies. But hands. His enemies attacked him also for a time their ill-natured criticisms for his Venetian dialect. This he enhad emptied the theatre of San' Angelo. deavoured to correct by a four years' Goldoni, to restore its popularity, bound residence in Florence, submitting the himself by a promise to write sixteen new edition of his works to the correcnew comedies for the year 1750, which tions of those most learned in the pure promise he fulfilled. The first of these, Tuscan dialect. He tried to console Il Teatro Comico, successfully exposed himself by comparing his fate with that the defects of the commedie dell'arte, of Tasso, whose works were so merciand the only one out of all this number · lessly analysed by the Cruscan Acadewhich met with a bad reception was Il micians; but we can hardly forgive him Giuocatore, because it reproved the for making the misfortunes of that gambling at that time common in unhappy poet the subject of a comedy. Venice. Space will not admit of a The fame of his plays having reached review of each separately, so we will Paris, he received an offer (1761) from .content ourselves with saying that it the superintendent of the Royal Theatre Vero Amico was esteemed by Goldoni of a two years' engagement, remunerated as the best of the number. His un- with a much larger salary than any which ceasing labours brought on a severe he had yet received in his own country. illness, aggravated by the ingratitude of He could not afford to throw away so Médébac, who refused to allow him the good a prospect, and in a short time his copyright of his works. This piece of preparations were made for leaving tyranny decided Goldoni upon breaking Venice. The comedy which was acted with the manager as soon as his engage- the night before his departure was called ment expired. Among the last plays Una delle ultime sere d'Carnevale, and that he wrote for the Teatro San' had reference to the author's farewell Angelo we must notice La Locandiera, to his country. Goldoni was moved to tears when the theatre rang with ap- imitate their method of representing plause, mingled with shouts of “ Buon comedy, or I will write plays in French viaggio: ricordatevi di ritornare, non for the French comedians to act." The mancate !" But he never did return. continued obstinacy of the Italian At the close of his first engagement he comedians drove him to the latter received a royal pension, and for the course, and, in spite of his foreign remainder of his life-thirty years—he origin, his recently acquired French, resided at Paris.

the sharp contrast with Molière, in He saw the last days of the ancien whose theatre his plays came to be régime in all its splendour under Louis represented, his Bourru bienfaisant won XV., following the Court from palace to for him a shower of applause and the palace. Versailles, Fontainebleau, Com- high commendation of Jean-Jacques piègne, Marly, he visited in turn; the Rousseau and Voltaire. Goldoni calls favourite for whom the rigid rules of it the lucky comedy which sealed etiquette were always relaxed, taking his reputation. It was his tribute to affectionate interest in the failing health the wedding festivities already alluded of the Dauphin, father of Louis XVI.; to, and was represented in Paris, Nov. deeply attached to Madame la Dauphine, 4, 1771, and the following day at who treated him with never-failing Fontainebleau, where the royal approbakindness ; teaching Italian to the king's tion made itself manifest in a present daughters, Madame Adelaide and of one hundred and fifty louis-d'or. Madame Sophia, who in return obtained for the first time Goldoni had the for him from the Government an annual satisfaction of seeing full justice done salary of four thousand francs. He by the actors to his talents. He was refused the invitation of a London called before the curtain, and, in spite manager that he might not miss the of the compliment, he found it a painful marriage festivities of the Dauphin and and novel situation, for the custom was Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of not known in Italy. It was difficult to Austria. Like Burke, Goldoni saw the make the Parisian world believe that Dauphiness “just above the horizon," the Bourru bienfaisant was not transand unconsciously he employs nearly lated from the Italian, but written; the same language to describe her indeed, as the author expresses it, “decorating and cheering the elevated thought out” in French. Thus ensphere she just began to move in, couraged, he wrote another French glittering like the morning star, full of drama, L'Avare fastueux, which, although life and splendour and joy." But we well received, had not the same brilliant must refrain from dwelling on his narra success as the Bourru bienfaisant. He tive of that interesting time, described also despatched from time to time with all the truth and liveliness of an comedies and operettas to Italy. His eye-witness of the events he recounts. dramatic labours were varied by his Goldoni continued to write comedies duties at Court; for the instructions in for the Italian theatre at Paris ; but Italian which had once been given to there, as in Italy, the comedians in the king's aunts, were now renewed to sisted upon commedie a soggetto, and his sisters, Madame Clothilde, before Goldoni's old difficulties were renewed. she became Princess of Piedmont, and He allowed them their way, but sadly Madame Elisabeth, whose docility seems avows that he never went to see their to have won Goldoni's heart. On his maimed representations of his comedies. retiring from Court in 1787 he received He frequented instead the French a renewal of the pension granted to him theatre, where he beheld with a sigh by Louis XV., and with this year his the carefully-learnt parts and finished Memoirs close. It would seem as if his acting which did full justice to Mo- life of ceaseless activity had well earned lière's admirable plays. “One of two the peace and comparative affluence things," he exclaimed on leaving the secured by the royal bounty to his old theatre; “ either my countrymen must age. But he had scarcely begun to

enjoy it when the Revolution broke out. It is needless to say that his pension was rudely withdrawn from Goldoni by the party which came into power, and in his extreme old age he suffered severe privations. He died in his eighty-third year, January 8, 1793, a fortnight previous to the murder of his sovereign and benefactor. Too late the day of his death—the Convention Nationale restored the pension which they had wrested from him ; but they settled on his widow an annual stipend of 1,200 francs. Goldoni has enriched the dramatic literature of his country with one hundred and fifty comedies in prose and verse, all eminently true pictures of domestic life. Like the good old fashioned novel, he is careful to make unhappiness the inseparable companion of vice, and to crown virtue, after the proper amount of vicissitude, with its due reward. The rigid critics of his country pronounce that, had Goldoni had knowledge equal to his great natural gifts, had he written with more care, had his satire been finer and more delicate, he might very well have stood a comparison with Molière. As it is, only five or six of his comedies, I Vero Amico, Il Padre di Famiglia, Pamela Maritata, La Famiglia dell'Antiquario, Le Smanie della Villegiatura, La Locandiera, Il Bugiardo, are calculated to amuse a cultivated audience; the others are farces, more adapted for the entertainment of the people. If, on the one hand, this want of knowledge mars the effect of Goldoni's work, it proves, on the other hand, how great must have been his natural gifts to accomplish what he did in the reform of the drama ! These gifts are indisputable, and were never at fault. He possessed the keen eye of a critic in discerning the social defects which demanded reform, an inexhaustible genius in finding varieties of character, a lively imagination to paint them in the brightest colours, consummate ingenuity in disentangling

1 Maffei, Storia della Lett. Ital., pp. 649, 650.

difficult situations, and, in addition to all these, a keen sense of humour, manifesting itself in a lively wit, which provokes the merriment of educated and uneducated alike. A born comedian, his life was full of comical adventures, or he made them appear so by his whimsical manner of relating them. If any extraordinary piece of good fortune fell to his lot, it was immediately succeeded by some half ludicrous, half serious calamity. He is made Consul of Genoa, to his immense satisfaction, with all the emoluments of the office; he sets off to take possession of his consulship, and on reaching it after many perils and disasters, discovers that these emoluments are purely nominal. This he relates as an excellent jest. He is cheated out of a large sum of money, and he writes a play called LImpostore, which brings him in twice as much as he had lost. One of his comedies is rudely criticised; in fourteen days he writes another, which turns these criticisms into a subject for a comedy. And so on through his life ; only his end, over which we would wish to draw a veil, was tragical, in keeping with the fearful times in which he died, but not in keeping with the forgiving spirit which never recorded an injury, or the gentle kindliness of disposition which in any other circumstances, at any other time, must have been a sure passport to a corresponding benevolence. As far as his own country is concerned, he filled up the one thing that was lacking to her dramatic literature. Metastasio had shown the grace and delicacy of the Italian language in melodrama. Alfieri and Monti had proved that the same language was capable of all the eloquence and power which are the elements of tragedy, and Goldoni has endowed it with some unrivalled specimens of the true wit and masterly delineations of character which are the life and soul of good comedy.


[ocr errors][merged small]

I.-THE COLOURS OF ANIMALS. THERE is probably no one quality of natural objects, from which wederive so much pure and intellectual enjoyment as from their colours. The “ heavenly" blue of the firmament, the glowing tints of sunset, the exquisite purity of the snowy mountains, and the endless shades of green presented by the verdure-clad surface of the earth, are a never-failing source of pleasure to all who enjoy the inestimable gift of sight. Yet these constitute, as it were, but the frame and background of a marvellous and everchanging picture. In contrast with these broad and soothing tints, we have presented to us in the vegetable and animal worlds, an infinite variety of objects adorned with the most beautiful and most varied hues. Flowers, insects, and birds, are the organisms most generally ornamented in this way; and their symmetry of form, their variety of structure, and the lavish abundance with which they clothe and enliven the earth, cause them to be objects of universal admiration. The relation of this wealth of colour to our mental and moral nature is indisputable. The child and the savage alike admire the gay tints of flower, bird, and insect; while to many of us their contemplation brings a solace and enjoyment which is both intellectually and morally beneficial. It can then hardly excite surprise that this relation was long thought to afford a sufficient explanation of the phenomena of colour in nature ; and although the fact that“ Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air--" might seem to throw some doubt on the sufficiency of the explanation, the answer was easy,—thatin the progress of discovery, man would, sooner or later, find out and enjoy every beauty that

the hidden recesses of the earth have in store for him. This theory received great support, from the difficulty of conceiving any other use or meaning in the colours with which so many natural objects are adorned. Why should the homely gorse be clothed in golden raiment, and the prickly cactus be adorned with crimson bells? Why should our fields be gay with buttercups, and the heather-clad mountains be clad in purple robes ? Why should every land produce its own peculiar floral gems, and the alpine rocks glow with beauty, if not for the contemplation and enjoyment of man? What could be the use to the butterfly of its gaily-painted wings, or to the humming bird of its jewelled breast, except to add the final touches to & world-picture, calculated at once to please and to refine mankind ? And even now, with all our recently acquired knowledge of this subject, who shall say that these old-world views were not intrinsically and fundamentally sound; and that, although we now know that colour has “uses” in nature that we little dreamt of, yet the relation of those colours to our senses and emotions may be another, and perhaps more important use which they subserve in the great system of the universe ?

We now propose to lay before our readers a general account of the more recent discoveries on this interesting subject; and in doing so, it will be necessary first to give an outline of the more important facts as to the colours of organised beings; then to point out the cases in which it has been shown that colour is of use; and lastly, to endeavour to throw some light on its nature, and the general laws of its development.

Among naturalists, colour was long thought to be of little import, and to

be quite untrustworthy as a specific account for them. One of the most character. The numerous cases of obvious and most popular of these variability of colour led to this view. theories, and one which is still held, in The occurrence of white blackbirds, part at least, by many eminent naturalwhite peacocks, and black leopards; ists, is, that colour is due to some direct of white blue-bells, and of white, blue, action of the heat and light of the or pink milkworts, led to the belief sun, thus at once accounting for the that colour was essentially unstable, great number of brilliant birds, inthat it could therefore be of little or sects, and flowers, which are found no importance, and belonged to quite between the tropics. But here we a different class of characters from must ask whether it is really the fact form or structure. But it now begins that colour is more developed in tropito be perceived that these cases, though cal than in temperate climates, in protolerably numerous, are, after all, ex- portion to the whole number of species; ceptional; and that colour, as a rule, and even if we find this to be so, we is a constant character. The great have to inquire whether there are not majority of species, both of animals so many and such striking exceptions and plants, are each distinguished to the rule, as to indicate some other by peculiar tints which vary very causes at work than the direct inlittle, while the minutest markings are fluence of solar light and heat. As often constant in thousands or millions this is a most important question, we of individuals. All our field butter- must go into it somewhat fully. cups are invariably yellow, and our It is undoubtedly the case that there poppies red, while many of our butter- are an immensely greater number of fies and birds resemble each other in richly-coloured birds and insects in every spot and streak of colour through tropical than in temperate and cold thousands of individuals. We also countries ; but it is by no means so find that colour is constant in whole certain that the proportion of coloured genera and other groups of species. to obscure species is much or any The Genistas are all yellow, the Eryth greater. Naturalists and collectors rinas all red, many genera of Carabida well know that the majority of tropiare entirely black, whole families of cal birds are dull-coloured ; and there birds-as the Dendrocolaptidæ--are are whole families, comprising hunbrown, while among butterflies the dreds of species, not one of which numerous species of Lycaena are all exhibits a particle of bright colour. more or less blue, those of Pontia Such are the Timaliidæ of the Eastern white, and those of Callidryas yellow. and the Dendrocolaptidæ of the WestAn extensive survey of the organic ern hemispheres. Again, many groups world thus leads us to the conclusion of birds, which are universally distrithat colour is by no means so unim- buted, are no more adorned with colour portant or inconstant a character as at in the tropical than in the temperate first sight it appears to be; and the zone; such are Thrushes, Wrens, Goatmore we examine it the more con- suckers, Hawks, Grouse, Plovers, and vinced we shall become that it must Snipe; and if tropical light and heat serve some purpose in nature, and have any direct colouring effect, it is that besides charming us by its di- certainly most extraordinary that in versity and beauty it must be well groups so varied in form, structure, worthy of our attentive study, and and habits as those just mentioned, have many secrets to unfold to us. the tropical should be in no wise dis

In order to group the great variety tinguished in this respect from the of facts relating to the colours of the temperate species. The brilliant troorganic world in some intelligible way, pical birds mostly belong to groups it will be best to consider how far the which are wholly or almost wholly chief theories already proposed will tropical--as the chatterers, toucans, No. 215.--VOL. XXXVI.


« EelmineJätka »