Slike stranica

deceptive medium of sisterly partiality, believed that she saw in me merits far beyond any title I could make to them, and would have thought a Sophia Western, or indeed a paragon, "formed of one entire and perfect chrysolite," not above my pretensions. To some such affectionate extravagance of judgment I must refer, to account for the distressing issue of this fondly expected meeting. Unmistakable disappointment, indeed repulsion, was expressed in my sister's look and manner as she took Catherine's hand. No word in consequence was interchanged between them. Disconcerted and distressed

as I was, my endeavours to reason with one or console the other were alike unavailing. The day was one of the most wretched in my whole life. It was not possible to alter the plan determined on. We were obliged to go forward to Brighton, and my place in the carriage was between the two dearest beings in existence, alienated from each other, as I feared, by a demonstration of aversion, uncontrollable, and too probably mutual. Arrived at the Clarence Hotel, Brighton, my sister retired to her room and lay till late in the afternoon on her bed, drowned in tears. My poor Catherine was in little better plight, whilst I, half-distracted and bewildered in my endeavours at reconciliation, could be but a sorry comforter. Towards evening in an interview with my sister she avowed the utter disappointment of the expectations my description of Catherine had led her to expect, but was strenuous in agreeing to the necessity of keeping my plighted word. She, however, strongly urged the postponement of our marriage, which would afford opportunity to Catherine to continue the studies in which she had been lately engaged; Catherine herself, she was confident, with the improvement she would make in the interim, would be happier in becoming my wife at a period a little more distant. To this proposal, humbling to her pride and trying as it was, the gentle girl assented without murmur or reserve.

It may be thought I might have taken a more authoritative tone, and in justice to the future partner of my life might have resisted a suggestion that tended, as a hope deferred, to make the heart sick; but my sister was no common friend to me, bound to me in indissoluble bonds, to whom I had always looked to partake my fortunes, and on whose opinion and advice I had the firmest reliance.




I had to hurry to the theatre, where I repeated by rote the speeches of Virginius, my harassed feelings not allowing me to give a thought to the words I was uttering, or even to have an ear for the applauses that followed them. Never on any occasion of my life was my mind so absent from the character I had to portray, for among those days marked in my life's vicissitudes by most agitating anxieties I can reckon few, if any, more melancholy, more miserable than this. But night, with rest, brought composure to our ruffled spirits, and next morning, pacified, if not quite conciliated, we returned to Conduit Street, each fortified with the resolution to make the best of the time before us. My sister lent her best assistance in aiding me in my duties of tutorage to my lovely and docile Griselda, and certainly rendered essential service by her cooperation; for not only in acquirement from study but even in outward appearance did my dear pupil confirm by most delightful evidence the opinion I had always maintained of her wonderful aptness for improvement.




1823-1824.-Knowles's Caius Gracchus '-Ugo Foscolo-Kean declines to act with Macready-Theodore Hook-Hostility of part of the London pressPurchase of the Granby Hotel at Harrogate-Letter from sister to future wife. ON the 18th of November, 1823, Knowles's tragedy of 'Caius Gracchus,' which had been some time in rehearsal, was produced. This play, although not one of the best from the gifted author's pen, abounds in passages of lofty thought, and is marked by the impress of his genius with that truth of character so constantly observable in his writings. But among scenes of striking power, pathetic situations, and bursts of heroic passion, there is great inequality. Whole pages are given to the cavillings of the plebeians, who in their contentions neither sustain the dignity of tragedy nor recall the idea of the Roman people. Indeed the mob, though advancing the action but little, is too prominent an agent, whilst the familiar language of their altercations often descends to vulgarity. But in the poet's conception and draught of Cornelia we see before us the mother of the Gracchi, the ideal of the Roman matron. She gazes on her offspring with all a mother's fondness, but with an unflinching eye looks through the transitory brightness of the present to the darker destiny that awaits the future, and steels her soul to the inevitable sacrifice of her beloved son upon the altar of his country. "I did rear my boys

Companions for the Gods! Why wonder I

If they will go to them ere other men?
Many a time when they have stood before me—
Such things as mothers seldom look upon-

And I have seemed to feed on them with mine eyes,

My thoughts have pondered o'er their bier, where they



Lay stiff and cold! I would not see them so

If I could help it, but I would not help it
To see them otherwise and other men."


When, elevated to the tribuneship, Caius meets and kneels before her, the prayer she offers up is worthy of the daughter of Scipio:

"May the great Gods, who crown'd thee with this triumph,
Instruct thee so to use it as to bless

Thy country! With a firm and mighty hand

May'st thou uphold the laws, and keep them ever
Above the proud man's violence, and within

The poor man's reach. So shall thy mother-Rome-
Acknowledge thee her son, and teach thy name
To the applauding tongues of after ages!"

How entirely the motive power of the hero's acts was derived from the superior mind of the mother is beautifully instanced in the remonstrance he makes to her when her fortitude is on the point of giving way to her affection:

"Remember you Misenum, mother?
Once from its promontory we beheld

A galley in a storm; and as the bark
Approached the fatal shore, could well discern
The features of the crew, with horror all
Aghast, save one. Alone he strove to guide
The prow, erect amidst the horrid war
Of winds and waters raging. With one hand
He ruled the hopeless helm-the other strain'd
The fragment of a shiver'd sail; his brow
The while bent proudly on the scowling surge,
At which he scowl'd again. The vessel struck!
One man alone bestrode the wave, and rode
The foaming courser safe! "Twas he, the same!
You clasped your Caius in your arms and cried,

'Look, look, my son! The brave man ne'er despairs,
'And lives where cowards die !' I would but make
Due profit of your lesson."

But though instances of power and pathos may be multiplied. from the poet's page, yet it must be admitted there is a want of sustained progressive interest in the plot, the fluctuation of party triumph not very actively agitating the hopes and fears of the auditors. The death of Gracchus, stabbing himself with the dagger concealed under the folds of his toga, is nobly conceived, and was startling in its effect. In Caius the passion

of the more energetic parts and the tenderness of the domestic interviews laid strong hold on my sympathies, and I gave myself to the study of the part with no ordinary alacrity and ardour. In few original dramas had my individual success been more decisive; and even with the inefficient support it received for Terry was the only artist that really rendered aid to it-the play would have enjoyed a much longer run but for the discreditable interposition of the stage-manager, who, from the inability of his wife, an actress of but moderate power, to grasp a character that required the commanding genius of a Siddons, insisted on its withdrawal.*

From the theatre, with the cheers of the audience and the congratulations of friends still ringing in my ears, I adjourned with Talfourd, Wallace, Procter, and other friends to Joy's coffee-house, our usual retreat after such excitement, and there prolonged our festivity to a very late, or rather early, hour in libations of champagne-punch to the continued prosperous career of Caius Gracchus.' The morning hours were hastening on when I reached Conduit Street, and a severe head-ache, the consequence of my imprudence, kept me in bed until late in the day. It was about ten o'clock that my servant awoke me, presenting me, to my great surprise and discomfort, with

* From the Morning Herald.-November 19th, 1823, Drury Lane, 'Caius Gracchus." The main support of the play, as might be expected, was Macready's Caius Gracchus; and when we say that it was a piece of acting not at all inferior to his Virginius, and that the passages of conjugal tenderness and emotion were as true to nature in the present character as those of paternal feeling in the former, we shall have said enough perhaps to satisfy even his most ardent admirers. But if we proceed to more particular discrimination, we must point to the scene with his mother, in which he extorts her reluctant approbation to his going forth to the assembly of the people to vindicate his Tribunitian laws, and the final scene, in which he quietly buries the poniard in his heart under the concealment of his robe. In both of these he exhibited all the effect of genuine acting without any of the trick or ostentation of the art. In the former in particular the contrasted quietness and mortified submission with which he pronounced, 'I would have shown I was your son if you would have let me,' and the dignified firmness with which, in reply to his mother's inquiry, If I lose you what will remain to me?' he exclaims, My monument! were very finely, the latter even thrillingly, expressive; and the manner in which he first bows down his head in pensive determination, and afterwards lifts it up in farewell resignation to the Gods, preparatory to the fatal act, was not less powerfully excitive of the noblest sympathies."

« PrethodnaNastavi »