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sides, with which he shifts from journal to narrative, and from narrative to journal (such is the miscellaneous form of his book), seems to indicate the same anxiety, the same indecent haste, to get to the end of his work, and the bottom of our purses, without much troubling himself about the means he takes to come there.
From the incalculable superiority of genius which the dialogue of these Novels exhibits above the dialogue of Halidon Hill, we have sometimes been perplexed in the extreme how to identify, with complete satisfaction, Sir Walter Scott and the Author of Waverley; the vigour of the one seems wholly uncongenial with the tameness of the other. Different minds seem to have generated the prose and the poetic dialogue. Redgauntlet does not enable us to solve the riddle; its dialogue, though frequently, as we have shown, un-characteristic, is always spirited and forceful. Preserving however the same distance from the dialogue of Halidon Hill as its predecessors did, it has likewise de
generated in a great measure from the model of Waverley. A wit of Charles the Second's age would call the greater part of the dialogue in these present volumes-low; and to a less foppish critic of George the Fourth's reign, its vigour might certainly appear of a description somewhat too little refined to un-deserve that expressive character. The Great Unknown seems indeed to write this rakehelly kind of dialogue con amore, and with superior facility; the necessity therefore under which he labours, of writing more novels in the year than he ought, may be some excuse for his indulging in this species of composition, which to all appearance flows as readily from his pen as the ink will allow of. That same unavoidable necessity will we have no doubt palliate the other numberless imperfections of Redgauntlet (solely, let it be remembered, arising from haste and confusion),— with those at least of his readers who are less bountifully supplied with good sense than good nature.
Which their spirits have cast on Time's dark stream.
ON THE MADNESS OF LEAR.
THE story of this tragedy is said to have been taken from "The true Chronicle History of King Leir and his three daughters, Gonorell, Ragan, and Cordella." Some play on the same subject was entered at Stationers' Hall, by Edward White, May 14, 1594. The present is supposed to have been written by Shakspeare, in
"There is, perhaps, no play," says Dr. Johnson," which keeps the attention so strongly fixed-which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests, the striking oppositions of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a continual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress, or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene." Such was the opinion of the great critic, yet in the same paper he speaks as it were in censure of the Spectator, for declaring that Tate had deprived the tragedy of half its beauty, by his alteration in giving Cordelia success and happiness. The literary leviathan then observes: "In the present case the public has decided. Cordelia from the time of Tate has always retired with victory and felicity; and if my sensations could add any thing to the general suffrage, I might relate I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia's death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an Editor." Mr. Stevens has observed with every appearance of truth, that "Dr. Johnson should rather have said that the managers of the theatres-royal have decided, and the public has been obliged to acquiesce in their decision. The altered play has the upper gallery on its side: the original drama was patronized by Addison:
Victrix causa Diis placuit, sed victa Catoni.”
What higher testimony can be adduced of the exalted genius of Shakspeare, than the fact of his having
produced a catastrophe so exquisitely touching and natural, as to make an audience shrink with sensitive horror from a contemplation of it? A catastrophe of one of the most beautiful tragedies our language boasts, brought about by a train of probable events, affecting persons whose sorrows have made them dear to us! There can be little doubt that Shakspeare intended to make the afflictions and death of Cordelia the strong links by which to bind our sympathies to the fate of Lear. Without her the impetuous monarch would excite but little compassion-he had not "borne his faculties so meek," nor been "so clear in his great office," as to generate the popular affection, and make his subjects feel the king's calamity as their own misfortune; indeed," the best and soundest of his time had been but rash."
A temper naturally irritable and impatient of contradiction, the habit of giving unrestrained indulgence to its caprices, and the fractiousness and imbecility of age, sufficiently prepared Lear on the advent of disaster for a paroxysm of insanity.
The first and second scenes exhibit him greedily swallowing the mawkish beverage of strained adulation, and turning in wrath and disgust from the pure element of truth, affection, and discriminate duty: they record the abrupt and causeless disinheritance of his favourite child; and the banishment of Kent, for interposing the voice of reason and reconciliation "between the sentence and the power" of majesty.
Lear. Now our joy, Although the last not least: Speak. Cordelia. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth; I love your Majesty
According to my bond; nor more, nor less. You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I Return those duties back as are right fit; Obey you, love you, and most honour you. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say They love you all? Haply when I shall wed, That Lord whose hand must take my plight,
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure I shall never marry, like my sisters; To love my father, all.
O vassal miscreant !
(Laying his hand on his sword.)
Lear. (to Kent.) Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow, To come between our sentence and our power
(Which nor our nature nor our place can bear),
Our potency make good-take thy reward,
Thy banish'd trunk be found in our domi.
This is not Lear.
Does Lear talk thus ? Speak thus? Where are his eyes?
The succeeding speech of Goneril calls forth the intemperance of his
Darkness and devils.
Detested kite, thou liest.
At length comes his horrible denunciation, which is conceived in the sublimity of terrific grandeur, and conveyed in language admirably descriptive of the array of thought. Hear, nature! hear, dear Goddess, hear! Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend To make this creature fruitful! Into her womb convey sterility! Dry up in her the organs of increase, A babe to honour her. If she must teem, That from her derogate body never spring Create her child of spleen, that it may live, And be a thwart disnatured torment to her: Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth, With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
When he calmly considers the indignities that have been heaped upon him, and reverts to the ingratitude of his two daughters, reflection serves only to increase his tortures, and he feels an apprehension of supervening insanity:
Oh! let me not be mad-not mad, sweet Heaven!
Keep me in temper-I would not be mad.
this presentiment is not uncommon. In many states of mental affliction, The conflict of passions produces palpitations and anxieties about the region of the heart; the blood ascends in flushes, and appears to scald ed and increased assemblage of ideas the brain in its passage, and a crowdproduce confusion in the mind. Of these precursors, Lear experienced many intimations, and he exerts himself to suppress the kindling of his rage:
Oh! how this mother swells up tow'rds my heart, Hysterica passio! Down, thou climbing
a kind of instinctive horror, a soreness that penetrates to the quick, and at which he writhes when he adverts to his daughters:
O Regan! Goneril! Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all;
Oh! that way madness lies: let me shun
No more of that.
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these: Oh! I have ta'en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp, Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou may'st shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
Although Lear's mind had been strained by the torture it had underthe confines of madness; he has pergone, he has only hitherto approached ceived the dangerous brink on which he stands, and caught in momentary glimpses the distractions that hover round him. It is not till he comes in contact with the counterfeit lunatic that the fabric of his intellect loosens ; and he presumes that no misfortune could have reduced another so low in the scale of humanity, but the sources of his own affliction. At sight of Edgar, who feigns madness to answer purpose, he asks
More sinn'd against than sinning. The actual perversion of his mind is now fast approaching; the alarm for the continuance of reason ina creases; his restraints are less effectually imposed. Some internal sensations whisper that the mental eclipse is commencing:
What! have his daughters brought him to this pass;
Could'st thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?
How admirable is the contrivance, and how natural the result of this interview between Lear and Edgar. The king, with his mind oppressed and weakened by the ingratitude of his children, meets the pretended maniac, and concludes that
Nothing could have subdued
To such a lowness but his unkind daugh
Judicious punishment! 'twas this flesh be
got Those Pelican daughters.
When contemplating the wretched appearance of Edgar, he says,
Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to
With thy uncover'd body this extremity of the skies.
Is man no more than this? Consider him well;
Thou ow'st the worm no silk, the beast no
The sheep no wool, the cat no perfume:
Animal as thou art.-Off! off! you lend-
And immediately begins to tear off his own clothes. The declension of Lear's mind into raving madness by force of sympathy, created by the frantic appearance and manner of Edgar, is exquisitely simple and natural. In stripping off his garments copy the nakedness of Edgar, Lear manifests the first overt act of insanity.
Off, off, you lendings:-Come, unbutton here.
Delighted with the maniac, the pitiless pelting of the storm is disregarded, and he leaves his friends unheeded to form a nearer intimacy with his new acquaintance: his derangement magnifies the wretched and brainless wanderer into an oracle of wisdom, and a sage preceptor; the remonstrance of his attendants is disregarded, he lingers "to talk with this philosopher," "this learned Theban," "this good Athenian." He adheres to him with an affection and confidence that banish all fears for his own safety; he seems inspired by his associate, and his madness blazes with a rival flame :
Even in our ashes live our wonted fires. The dutiful and affectionate Cordelia, hearing that her father wanders about "mad as the vext sea, singing loud," is solicitous for his restoration by medical sagacity and experience. She is informed that he lacks repose; that there
Are many simples operative whose powers Will close the eye of anguish.
These medical agents are employed with so much effect, that in the heaviness of his sleep his attendants put fresh garments on him. In this scene, Shakspeare displays not only a perfect knowledge of the disease under which Lear labours, but an intimate acquaintance with the course, of medical treatment which in those days, and, indeed, until very recently, was pursued with a view to its cure. It may fairly be presumed that some narcotic drug, some oblivious antidote, had been administered in order to procure the desired repose, as the king's first impressions, when he is awakened by Cordelia, are obviously the broken continuation of a distressing dream, as if he had been roused
To have a thousand with red burning spits before the operation of the opiate had Come hissing in upon them.
The little dogs and all,
Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they
bark at me.
The poet felt that the mere impertinency of madness could not be long sustained; it would fail to excite the attention, and would lower the dignity of the scene: the deprivation of reason is therefore supplied by acuteness of feeling, and an impassioned
You do me wrong to take me out o' the grave.
Thou art a soul in bliss: but I am bound Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears Do scald like molten lead.
Cordelia inquires, "Sir, do you know me?"
Lear replies, "You are a spirit, I know. When did you die?"
The gradual and imperfect return of perception, the glance at his suf
Meaning the fool, Kent, and himself. The fool is omitted in the representation, and only Lear, Kent, and Edgar, appear on the stage.