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discovery. What a tissue of improbabilities! These are, indeed, his dotages: "Quarum, velut ægri somnia, vanæ finguntur species.'
Of Jonson's tragedies, "Sejanus" and "Cataline," we shall merely remark that he has admirably preserved in them the "costume" of Rome. Schlegel shall say for us, all that we deem it necessary to add: "In Jonson's hands, the subject continues history, without becoming poetry. The political events which he describes, have more the appearance of a business than an action. "Cataline" and "Sejanus" are solid dramatic studies, after Sallust and Cicero, after Tacitus, Suetonius, Juvenal and others, and that is the best that can be said of them."
It is with no affected humility, that we proceed to speak of Jonson's intellectual character. He has so long stood as a great landmark in our literature, his merits have been so thoroughly canvassed, and that by men of the first abilities-by Dryden, Pope, Johnson, Schlegel, Gifford, and in our own country, by Sanford, that the field is completely pre-occupied, and we are oppressed by the conviction, that we can offer nothing worthy of the reader's attention, which has not been anticipated. Setting out of view, however, as far as it is possible, every thing that we have taken on the authority of others, we shall endeavour, briefly, to convey to the reader, the impression of him, which the study of his works has left upon our own mind. The first thing that strikes us, is the wonderful learning of the man; a knowledge of the Greek and Roman classics, perfectly unmatched even in his own age; a knowledge, at once various, minute, profound, comprehensive and philosophical. This peculiarity, too, he possessed in an eminent degree, that he could not only translate, with a power never exceeded, these masterpieces of antiquity, but transfuse them, as it were, into his works, where they mingled so harmoniously that, to one ignorant of the originals, they would appear the most natural and unborrowed beauties they contained. Nor was he less skilled in what constituted the literature of the day; in theology, in metaphysics, and in alchemy, which, though openly contemned, received in that credulous age a secret reverence from the many. With all this wealth of ancient and modern learning, he seems to have possessed a memory, at once tenacious and prompt, a caustic wit, an industry that did not easily tire, and a constitution capable of intense application. He likewise possessed, in an eminent degree, the talent for observation; and his works are a living proof how readily he could seize, and how graphically expose the crowd of ridiculous and con
VOL. VI. NO. 11.
temptible characters that infested the age, thronging, as we are told, "the middle aisle of St. Paul's," and swarming in every street and tavern of the metropolis. This mass of learning, this insight into the secret springs of action, this caustic wit, and power of vivid characterization, were directed, under the guidance of a sound judgment and masculine morality, to dramatic composition.
Why then, it may be asked, have these plays ceased to keep possession of the stage?* Why have they fallen into neglect? There are several causes which have conspired to produce this result. The first is, that Jonson belonged to a school of poetry, distinguished as the "metaphysical," the school of Donne, and afterwards of Cowley-a school which delighted in all manner of far-fetched and learned conceits, which sought perpetually after novelties, which rendered to wit the homage which was due to nature, and which, by necessary consequence, paid forfeit to posterity, in winning the approbation of its own age. Judging of his works by the standard of that more natural taste which now prevails, we find much in them to condemn. After the expression of some judicious sentiment, we are annoyed by the intrusion of some other idea, which, though not nonsense, has yet no needful connexion with what had gone before. We wonder why it stands there, and that it does excite this wonder, is, perhaps, the true reason of its insertion. In composing "Volpone," our author seems to have listened to the suggestions of his better genius. It seems to us that he has stricken out these ambitious passages, and retained little but what is pertinent to the matter. We are conscious of a brisker movement in the action, and our attention is less solicited by thoughts that are collateral merely, or extrinsic. Another cause of the unpopularity of these plays, is the extreme ruggedness and harshness of the versification. We speak not, of course, in reference to the versification of our own day; to institute such a comparison, were to do Jonson gross injustice, for we must remember that when he wrote, it was still rude and imperfect; that neither Denham nor Waller, Milton, Dryden, nor Pope, had lent his contribution, and brought it to that point of touching melody or varied harmony, which it is now, perhaps, impossible to exceed. But we would measure Jonson's verses by the standard of his own times, and if we compare his best lines with those of Marlowe, who was his predecessor, or Shakspeare, his contemporary, we shall perceive his decided inferiority in his susceptibility of rhythmical modulation. Can he furnish any such glowing verses as these of Marlowe ?
But three are retained on the English stage.
"Stand still, you ever moving spheres of heav'n,
[Faustus-Act 5, Scene last.
Or those exquisite lines of Shakspeare, in his address to Sleep.
"Oh Sleep-oh gentle Sleep-
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs
And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber, &c."
But for some redeeming passages in Jonson's masques, and occasionally in his plays, we should say that his lines, though they measure to the finger, are, at the same time, so impracticable, from their defective accentuation, that they can scarcely be esteemed as any thing better than an abrupt and stilted prose.
Another reason may be found in the selection of his subjects. He was fond of painting humourous affectations, not so much man, as his fantastic external form; when this form had changed, the merit of the delineation was lost; when he had swept away, by the mere force of his satire, the swarms of ephemeral insects, his fame as a delineator, expired in the moment of his triumph! It were almost as idle to attempt to interest posterity by the description of these exploded affectations, as by sketching the ever varying forms and fantastic outlines of a summer cloud. Had Jonson laboured in another mine, he never had experienced the neglect of mankind. Had he developed the passions instead of the humours, he had touched a chord which would have found a response in every human bosom, and spoken a language that would have been understood throughout all time; but he seemed to disdain all other appeal than to the understanding: and love and pity, the fruitful sources of dramatic interest, have scarce a resting-place in his scenes.
His forte was comedy: yet his comic muse was but little akin to gaiety. He had nothing of that light and easy raillery
which we admire in Molière; nor did he possess the art of that master spirit, to develope, by a few slight and occasional strokes, while the action rolled along, the characters of his dramatic persons. Jonson, on the contrary, was too apt to suffer the action to languish, while be laboriously and tediously indulged his favourite talent for characterization. His comedy is stained with seriousness; it has a secret affinity to tragedy: his brow seldom relaxes, even when he smiles; and we are constantly expecting to see him fling aside the visor of the comedian, and brandish the scourge of the satirist.
ART. V.-Physiologie des Passions, ou nouvelle doctrine des Sentimens Moraux. Par J. L. ALIBERT, Chevalier de Plusieurs ordres, Premier Medecin Ordinaire du Roi, &c. &c. A Paris. Seconde edition. 2 vols. 8vo. 1827.
MAN should be considered as a reasonable being, placed upon the earth in subjection to the inexorable law of time, and continually at the mercy of the prejudices and illusions of life. It is only by long and painful meditation upon the great enigma of existence, that we can be able to assign to the body and to the spirit the various functions that belong to each, only after long and habitual observation that we can fathom the laws of conscience, which are yet as natural, as inherent in the "sensible system" (systeme sensible) as the impressions of sight, hearing, taste, or smell.
"When we write the history of the eagle," says a philosophical author, "we dwell upon the height to which he soars-the wonderful compass of his sight- his extraordinary celerity of motion in pursuit of those desires which God has given him. When we speak of man, we should dwell most upon the powers of his understanding-his means of self-preservation and happiness-his natural inclination to love his kind, to extend the circle of his relations-his power of expressing his inclinations and his will." But above all, it is in the midst of civilized communities, where these various influences chiefly prevail, that the philosopher should study the laws of moral physiology. In physical researches what could we derive from the investigation of organs which have never been exercised? The
eye, that no ray of light has ever reached-the ear which has never thrilled to the vibrations of sound, could they reveal facts satisfactory to the observer?
Properly to estimate the flux and reflux of the passions, we must consider man in all states and conditions, in all ranks, in the midst of all the interests which agitate him, surrounded by all the conflicting influences of which he is unceasingly the subject. We should observe him in all his struggles with his equals or with himself. We should mark when he is, by turns, the conqueror and the slave of his sensualities; at one time drawn by sympathy, at another repelled by hatred, at one time purified by his virtues, at another brutalized by his enjoyments. In a state of war, in a state of peace, we should analyse with circumspection all that troubles, all that cheers, all that afflicts, all that consoles him.
M. Alibert has no faith in the perfectibility of our nature. Throughout all countries and ages, man will be seen to incline alternately towards civilization and barbarism; human nature has its periods of splendour and eclipse; what is said of the primitive condition of man, he thinks, savours of reverie and hypothesis--" could we examine human nature up to the very sources of its existence, we should find that if it had not always the same acquirements, it has nevertheless had the same inclinations and capabilities."
"La méthode est le rameau d'or qui nous conduit dans les profondeurs incommensurables de la pensée; on peut la comparer à ces talismans que les poètes donnent aux héros pour les retirer des embarras les plus périlleux. La vie d'ailleurs est si courte pour l'étude de la philosophie, qu'il faut mettre un grand prix à tout ce qui nous abrége les procédés de notre raison.-Prel. Con. p. 10.
It is not the study of his material organs which will lead us to the knowledge of man. In the deep recesses of the soul alone must we seek for the sublime principles of the philosophy of human nature. There rest the elements of his moral being, the immutable principles of his duties. Man is the only creature who is capable of self-examination, who assists and improves by reflection and self-discipline the operations of his understanding, who can contemplate the current of his own thoughts, present and past, as they flow over the tablet of his memory (to use an image of our author) like the waves of the He is the only living creature capable of self-approbation or blame, who profits by the accumulated wisdom of his kind in ages past, and who looks forward to the consequences of his actions in ages to come, who sees in the system of nature the hand of an all-wonderful but mysterious designer, who be