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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 59, No. 367, May 1846
Author: Various
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What I stated was, as a general proposition, that Shakspeare has done more harm than good to the English stage.

It has always struck me that the phrase, "There is a time for all things," had a wider meaning than we usually attach to it. I think that the seed of all discoveries, past and present, was scattered ages ago—perhaps at the very creation of the world—in the mind of man; that when it had rested there long enough, and the season of its ripening came, up grew the stalk and the ear, and the harvest was gathered, and mankind garnered it up as a provision for them and their heirs for ever. The sense of beauty lay for generation and generation, germinating in the intellects and hearts of men; and, when the time came, a whole harvest of it was gathered at one time in the statues and pictures and temples of ancient Greece. But it was only the greater and more flourishing portion of the increase that grew in that birth-place of gods and heroes. The seed was scattered over a wider surface; and, if we could recover proofs of it, I should not at all fear to bet you two half-pints to one, that there were sculptors and painters in Asia and in Egypt, equal, in their several manners, to Phidias and Apelles. When printing, in the same way, had lain in furrow the proper time, the first blades of it began to appear in many regions at the same period. With steam it is the same; and, when the next invention is brought into practical use, it will be found that the thought of it had agitated hundreds of minds by the Rhine, by the Thames, by the Hudson, and perhaps by the sacred Ganges, or the still more sacred Nile.

I think I hear your deep sepulchral tones in the exclamation of, "All that 'ere is rubbage—cut it short!" and it is my intention, my dear Smith, to cut it short at once. When the drama's time was come, the whole of civilized Europe saw the glorious birth. In Spain and in England the soil was found most congenial; and the theatre in those countries took at once its place as the best possible instructor—next, of course, to the church—and its lessons were inculcated by the inspired possessors of the art, Lope de Vega and Shakspeare. The Spaniard was born in 1566—the Englishman two years earlier; so that, allowing both to have reached the maturity of their powers at thirty years of age, and to have retained them twenty years, the appointed hour for the perfection of the drama was the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the next. Now, my dear Smith, cast your luminous eye over the state of society at that period. Lope was a volunteer on board of the Spanish Armada. Shakspeare, perhaps, saw Elizabeth ride forth to review the troops at Tilbury. Middle-aged men, with whom Shakspeare conversed in his youth, had seen the execution of Anne Boleyn. Old fellows, with whom both of them associated, had been present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. And, above all, they had both of them watched, but with very different hopes, the ferocious progress of the Duke of Alva, and heard the echoes of the battle-cry of liberty and Protestantism beside the ditches and mounds of Holland; and the genius of these two men bears impress of the awful period in the world's history which had been reserved for their birth. They were both animated by the struggle in which the whole earth was engaged. Lope did battle for the church—the Pope—and, if need be, would have done so—for the devil, if he had worn a mitre; he wrote plays where the heretics required an immense quantity of rosin and blue lights to do justice to their appalling situation. He preached, and prayed, and excommunicated, and stirred up men's minds to enjoy the splendours of an auto-da-fe; and, for all these, he was honoured by Pope and Caesar; was created a knight of Alcantara; and, as the acme to his glory, was made a familiar of the Holy Inquisition. Shakspeare no less felt the influence of the time. The old oppressive bonds under which bone and sinew were compressed in order to make jolly old England a footstool for the gouty toes of a wicked old man at Rome, (unless you choose rather to consider him an unfortunate female, clothed in scarlet, and sitting on seven hills,) had been snapt asunder. Henry VIII. (to borrow your own classical expression, my dear Smith, as applied to your stage manager, "the regularest beast as ever was," but the most useful beast mentioned in any natural history I have ever met with) had determined to sit on the seven hills himself; and little Edward had built a nice villa on the sunny slope of one of them; and Mary had tried to tumble it down again; and Elizabeth had planted round it, and laid out the grounds for national recreation and use—like the park at Battersea, whenever that scheme is carried into effect; and all men's minds were in a flurry. Some drank themselves to death; some took to privateering; and many took to having visions and dreaming dreams; and, in the midst of it, Shakspeare rushed in a fury to his pen, and wrote play after play—very noble, very bright, very wonderful—but mad—decidedly mad—the whole time. Every body was mad; Essex galloped through London streets, thinking, by mere dint of hard riding, to rouse the peaceful citizens to take up arms in his behalf, as if the very stones would rise and mutiny—a very mad idea, you will grant; Raleigh set off to seize as much wealth as would have bought the fee-simple of a moderate kingdom, with scarcely a sufficient force to follow the heroic Widdicombe at the battle of Waterloo—not a very wise proceeding, you will allow; and the greatest proof of the universal insanity is, that nobody thought Essex or Raleigh mad for doing as they did. Nor did the calmest observers—if there were any "calm observers" in those days—perceive that Shakspeare was labouring under an access of the most confirmed delirium. They listened to Hamlet, and Lear, and Othello, and did not discover that his inspiration was the effect of over-excitement; that his energy was the preternatural strength bestowed on him by convulsion; and that, in fact, instead of being a swan of Avon, he was neither more nor less than a March hare.

Pardon me, my dear Smith, in the escapade in the last page or two—it is a figurative mode of speech, and you will at once dissect the alligator through all its scales, and see every thing it is intended to convey. It was a mad world, my masters; and, as you generally find an inferior dauber magnify the peculiarities of a great man's style, so as to give a better idea of his manner than you gather from his own performances, let us see the prodigious insanity developed in the imitators of Shakspeare. Never, till I saw the brass knocker on the door of the Vizier's palace in Timor the Tartar, painted, you told me, by Wilkins of the Yorkshire Stingo, did I know how you produced your marvellous effects on the door of Billy Button, the tailor of Brentford. The Vizier's knocker was a caricature; but it showed your style. So, read the love-scenes of any dramatist during Shakspeare's period—or the heroic passages of any poetaster copying his manner;—isn't that Bedlam, my dear Smith? isn't that Hanwell? Read the rhapsodies of Nat Lee—(by a stretch of truth-speaking which it would be wise to make more common)—called mad Nat Lee. What do you see in him more indicative of insanity than in any play of Shakspeare you like to name? Not, understand me, that Shakspeare was mad according to the standard of sanity in his own day. Far from it; he was infinitely wise compared to any man in his century, except, perhaps, Bacon and Burleigh, and retired to Stratford-on-Avon with a realized fortune equal to twelve or fifteen hundred a-year. But all mankind run the risk of having a different standard applied to them from that according to which they were measured during life. Diocletian was thought an excellent emperor for persecuting the Christians—we think him a considerable beast for doing so, now. Cortez was thought the perfect image of a hero for slaughtering the Mexicans, and the noblest of Christian missionaries for putting the heretical Montezuma to death—we think Cortez not quite so respectable a character as Greenacre or Burke. And it is most just that each century should pass its predecessors in review, and apply its own lights to bring every feature forward. What progress would there be open to the human mind if we were for ever to go on viewing incidents exactly as they were viewed when they occurred? Are we to go on believing Galileo an infidel, because his discoveries were condemned by his contemporaries? Are we to think all the butchers, conquerors, and destroyers of mankind, great men, because their own age was terrified at their power, and proclaimed them heroes? The time may come when the great Bunn's efforts to make Drury-Lane into a squeaking, dancing, and dirty imitation of the Italian Opera, will not be considered conducive to the triumph of the legitimate English drama. Many things of this sort, my dear friend, may take place, and most justly; for each present generation is as the highest court of legislation—it can repeal all old acts, but it cannot bind its successors. Now, do me the favour to finish the pot of porter which, in my mind's eye, I see you dandling on your crossed knee, while your left hand, with easy elegance, is supporting the bowl of your pipe—and see how these observations apply to Shakspeare. He has ruined the stage; he has fixed its taste for ever, by establishing one unvarying standard for plot, language, and character—and that is his own. There can be no progress—not merely meaning, by progress, improvement, but, positively, no change. He blocks up every access to the dramatic Parnassus—he has acquired an entire monopoly of the heroines in Collins' Ode—and woe to the intruder into the sacred precincts of his zenana. Well, he was a tremendous Turk, that old swan of Avon—there is no denying the fact; but what I complain of is, that no other Leda should be looked at for a moment but only his. No man can look at the Swan for an instant, and doubt that the king of gods and men has disguised himself in that avatar of web-feet and feathers. Jupiter is only enveloped, not concealed; but, at the same time, is it possible to be blind to the fact, that he has degraded himself to the habits of the flat-billed bird—that he waddles most unmercifully when by chance he leaves the lake?—that he hisses and croaks most unmusical, most melancholy?—and that he gathers all unclean garbage for his food—newts, and frogs, and crawling worms? In short, that though, in his pride, and grandeur, and passionate energy, he is the Tyrant of Olympus, he is, in many other respects, an animal not greatly to be admired—by no means comparable as a dish at Christmas to a well-fed goose, or even a couple of ducks. For reading aloud to ladies after tea, I prefer Ion to Othello. And now, my excellent friend, I will tell you the reason—not why I prefer Ion, which, though I have introduced it in this flippant manner, I consider a very beautiful and poetical drama—but why no play of Shakspeare is fit to be read to a party of ladies after tea. It is this—that ladies, in one sense of the word, were as unknown in Shakspeare's days as tea. There were certain human beings that wore petticoats, and, in due course of time, fulfilled the original command, and died; but, shades of Hannah More and Anne Seward! to call them ladies would be as absurd as to call Dulcinea del Tobosa a princess of the blood. A friend of mine—a well-known non-commissioned officer in the Devil's Own—told me this story, which I mention to you, my dear Smith, in strict confidence, in case the heroine of the anecdote should find that her confession is made known. An old lady—properly so called, both as respects the adjective and the noun, for she was past eighty, and was refined and pure—astonished my friend, by asking him one day to try and get a volume or two for her of the works of Assa Behn. He did so—no little wondering at such a choice of books—and in a day the novel was returned, "I send you back these volumes," she said, "as I am unable to get through the first. Is it not strange that I, an old woman, sitting in my own room, am positively ashamed and disgusted at the scenes and conversations which were read aloud to me in mixed companies, without a blush or shudder, when I was eighteen?"

Now, in Shakspeare's time, there was no female in the land that would have stumbled at the grossest passages in Assa Behn. The tenderness, delicacy, and beauty of the feminine character were still in the future tense; and, therefore, it is not a matter of surprise that the female characters in Shakspeare were original creations, and not transcripts from human life. For the time and the state of society when the plays were written, they are instances of the most marvellous imagination. But they were as purely fictitious as Caliban or Ariel. They borrowed from the infinite riches of the poet their noble or tender thoughts; but whenever he tried to make them more than abstractions—to unite them to the sympathies of his audience—or to clothe them in real flesh and blood—look at the means he takes—listen to the conversations of Miss Juliet and the songs of Ophelia—and you will perceive what were the lessons his experience in actual men and women had taught him.

It is impossible, my dear Smith, for a Frenchman to write an English comedy—and why? Because the turn of his mind, and unacquaintance with the peculiarities of our dispositions, unfit him for it. But not more separated from us is the Parisian Feuilletonist by his language and manners, not to mention the Channel, than the author of Elizabeth's and James's days by the lapse of two hundred years, and the total alteration of our modes of thought; and yet how frightfully you would be laughed at for applying the remark to Shakspeare, though, between ourselves, my dear fellow, he is the very man to call it forth! Oh, how vividly I can fancy the exclamations of Jiggles of the Victoria, or Pumpkins of the Stepney Temple of Thespis! "He is the poet of all time!" says Jiggles, with a thump on the table that sets all the pewter pots dancing. "Do you mean, Mr Bobson," cries Pumpkins, with a triumphant curl of his lip, "to say, that the laws of nature are transitory as the fashion of a coat, and that what was nature at one period will not be nature at another?" If he should ask you this question, my dear sir, tell him at once that that is decidedly your opinion, or, if it is not, tell him that it is most unquestionably mine; for most assuredly the same train of thought that would be natural among the chiefs of the Druids, would be most absurdly out of character if attributed to the bench of Bishops. "Oho!" exclaims Pumpkins, "what has the bench of Bishops to do with it? We maintain that Shakspeare, or any one else, having written a play wherein the sentiments of the Druids were once true to nature, those sentiments will continue true to nature to the end of time."

By no means, Mr Pumpkins. Certain sentiments were thought true to nature by the critics and audience at the beginning of the seventeenth century; but nature, like every thing else, assumes a different appearance according to the point it is viewed from. At a time when human life was not very highly valued, and woman's feelings were held in no reverence or respect, it was, perhaps, thought "natural" that the Prince of Denmark should stab old Polonius and bully his daughter to death; but in this nineteenth century of time, no amount of insanity, real or assumed, will make us think it in accordance with the high and noble nature of the philosophic prince, either to sneer at the poor old whiteheaded courtier he has murdered, or taunt the little trusting girl he has taught to love him. If it were not for the name of Shakspeare, Hamlet would be set down as nearly the beau-ideal of a snob—a combination of the pedantry of James and the unmanliness of Buckingham. Read the play, with this key to the character, and you will find it quite as true to nature as in the laborious glosses of Schlegel and Goeethe.

If I ever have the honour to meet you again at the Ducrow Arms, I will enter more fully into this part of my view of the injuries inflicted on the stage by Shakspeare. It will be sufficient, at the present time, to condense my meaning into this one remark, that the nature of 1600 is not necessarily the nature of 1846, and probably is as different as the statesmanship of Sir Robert Cecil from that of Sir Robert Peel. If there had been a controller of politicians as powerful as the controller of the stage, we should have had the right honourable baronet making Popery punishable with death, dressed in trunk breeches and silver shoe-buckles—or taking measures to lessen the alarming power of Spain.

You think, perhaps, that I have let you off altogether, because I have declined enlarging on this particular point; but no, my dear Smith, I have not had half my say out yet. It is not only that things are presented to us in Shakspeare's plays in a way that was admirable, because adapted to the feelings and fancies of the time, when they first enriched the Globe, but not so admirable now: I have also to find fault with the manner in which the characters—granting that they are true to nature—are developed and made palpable to vulgar eyes. The fact is, my benevolent friend, that every thing is gigantic in his conceptions. He is like a sculptor who despises the easy flow of the resting figure, and fills his studio with agonizing athletes—every muscle on the stretch—the eyeballs projecting, and the hair on end. Even when he carves a slumbering nymph, her proportions are tremendous—she is like a sleeping tigress, calm and hushed, but giving evidence of preternatural strength; her very softness is the softness of melted gold—when it hardens it will kill like lead; or, if that is a bad image, her very quiet is the quiet of the sea—let the wind blow, and then——! Don't you see that Ophelia—Juliet—Imogen—all of them, are endowed with tremendous power, as well as other qualities? And that, as to the heroes, they are regular volcanoes every one of them? Is not this proved by the fact, that there is no hero in Shakspeare who does not demand as much bodily labour from his representative as would tire out a coal-whipper on the Thames? Is there one leading part in any of his plays that does not require an enormous outlay of voice? Now, can it be possible that no deep passion can coexist with a weak thorax? Run over the principal plays—Macbeth, Richard, Romeo, Hamlet again, Lear—and depend on it, that this loudness of exclamation is not stage trick; it is part of the development of the character; and therefore I shall always blame that infernal asthmatical tendency of mine for having induced Mr Whibbler, of the Whitechapel Imperial, to decline my services when I offered to act Coriolanus for my own benefit, gratis. The consequence, however, of this Shakspearian fancy, of placing characters of passion in positions where they must split the ears of the groundlings, is, that it has become an English article of faith, that without some prodigious explosions, calling out the whole strength of the actor's lungs, the character falls dead. The Indian could not believe the air-gun had killed the bird, because he did not hear the report. We have reversed the Indian mode of reasoning, and always believe it is the noise that kills the bird. Oh, Smith! think of the bellowings of Sir Giles Overreach—and Barbarossa—and Zanga—and the diabolical howlings of Belvidera, and Isabella, and the Mourning Bride. Can people have no passion that don't disturb the whole neighbourhood with their noise? Can a woman not find out she has been jilted without risking a bloodvessel? Is this the way they do in common life? I remember when that girl at Bermondsey hauled me up before David Jardine, and produced all my letters, and the ring I had given her * * * * she never spoke above her breath. And I was very glad to hush it up with four-and-sixpence a-week.

Now the fault of Shakspeare is this, not that he puts tearing, ramping language in the mouths of his heroes—for in their positions it is the only language fit to use—but that, in accordance with the bullying, blustering habits of his day, he has placed every one of his heroes in such a situation, that blustering and bullying is the only thing he can do. And therefore every man who writes plays at the present, and at any future time, must have a hero first-cousin at least to Stentor. Who would venture to place Louis the Eleventh on the boards? He probably never spoke louder than a physician at a consultation—no, not when he confronted the Duke of Burgundy. He would have to glide noiselessly from scene to scene, a whisper here, a look there, and perhaps a shrug of the shoulder or scarcely perceptible motion of the hand; yet, all through, it would be evident that he was the snake on two legs, the anointed Mephistopheles, the intellect without the feeling—and, with all that, he could not be the hero of a play. Or, if he was made the hero, he would be changed from the quiet self-contained character I have supposed him, to a more effective one. He would have sudden starts of anger which would not be in keeping; outbursts of fiery imprecation which would not be in keeping; or, if the poet was much put to it, he might be shown, answering taunt for taunt, and threat for threat, with the ferocious Charles, which would certainly not be in such keeping as he himself was at the fortress of Peronne. So you see the fact of Shakspeare covering the stage with Titans, and forming them with Titanic thoughts, and endowing them with Titanic voices, has rendered it indispensable for all the little fellows of the present time to be prodigiously Titanic too. Did you ever hear the skipper of a steamer bellowing and roaring through a speaking-trumpet, when his ordinary voice could have had no effect amidst the awful noises of a hurricane, and the sea and the breakers under his lee? Nothing could be fitter than his attitude on the creaking paddle-box, and the thunderous sound that issued from the tube. But wouldn't it be absurd for the commander of the Hugh Frazer, amid the quiet waters of Loch-Lomond, to give orders to the little boy that holds the helm, or point out the beauties of Inversnaid, through an instrument that would startle all the cattle on the surrounding hills? Just so with Shakspeare's kings and lovers. They have "prave 'ords enough, look you," to fill the biggest speaking-trumpet that ever was cast; but miserable is it for men who have not such "prave 'ords," to be forced to bellow their little ones through the portentous instrument which they have not breath enough to fill.

Let me point out, my dear Smith, to your particular notice, a play which I think you will agree with me illustrates all that I have said. In Othello you will find the nature of the seventeenth century still forced upon us in this prodigious power—with which, unless by the magic of the author's name, we should have no sympathy; and a decided proof of how nearly allied his genius, like that of every body else worth mentioning of his day, was to madness.

First, No man of the nineteenth century who knew the noble position in which civilization and religion have placed woman, would have fixed on such a subject. In the closet, when you only see the courage, fame, and dignity of the hero, you can find some excuses for the girl who is won by these attributes, and bestows her love on the possessor of them, albeit he is fallen into the sere and yellow leaf. But look at him on the stage—though the best and most intellectual of our actors represent him, and this I can answer for, as the last I saw in the character was Macready—your sympathy with Desdemona is at once at an end. The woolly hair spoils all—the black face separates him as much from the pure and trusting love of a girl of eighteen, as if he were an ourangoutang. We agree at once with the sensible old gentleman her father, that no maid

"So tender, fair, and happy, Would ever have to incur a general mock, Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom Of such a thing as he."

The sight of her endearments is nearly as horrid as those of Titania to Bottom are absurd. They are not paired, and all through the play you never can get quit of the disagreeable idea of the blubber lips. If he could be made into a noble statue in mahogany, (not ebony,) a Christianized Abdel Kader—a real Moor and not a blackamoor—the matter would be infinitely better; but no—Shakspeare meant him for a true specimen of the nigger, or why all the taunts about his colour, and the surprise that was evidently excited among the gossips of Venice by the match? The very refinement bestowed on Desdemona makes us have greater horror at her fault, and less sorrow at her griefs. If she had been a mere domestic piece of furniture, without any delicacy or sentiment, we should not have been more revolted at her wedding than at the nuptials of Dyce Sombre. But Desdemona, a gentle lady, married to a Sambo!—impossible! She was either not the fair and simple creature she is painted to us, or she did not outrage humanity so abominably as to follow the example of the brewer's maid in the charming song you favoured us with in the skittle-ground, of which the burden is—

"She ran away with a black man."

If she did, choking with a pillow is too good for her; she ought rather to have been done to death in a bag of soot.

But passing over the incongruity of the lovers, is not the whole play filled with convulsive energies and unhealthy bursts of passion? For my part—but in this, my dear Smith, I will willingly yield to your better judgment—I think Iago was intended for the hero of the play. He is the mainspring of the whole plot; he pulls all the wires; and, to use an elegant expression of your own, he twists them all round his thumb. Critically, if superiority in mere intellect and strong self-will, or even success in the object he designs, constitute a hero, the clear-witted, audacious, subtle Ancient has entirely the upper hand of the trusting, hood-winked pigeon, Othello—

"That thinks men honest that but seem to be so, And will as tenderly be led by the nose As asses are."

The only fault is, that, for a clever fellow, Iago takes too much pains to show his cleverness. If he does not wear his heart upon his sleeve for daws to peck at, it must be for two reasons; first, that no gentleman wears his heart any where but inside of his chest; and secondly, that hearts are not the favourite food of the bird mentioned; but he lets slip no opportunity of displaying his wit, ingenuity, and powers of acting—for Iago is a part in which the actor acts an actor—and precisely in proportion as he shows he is acting, is he successful in the character. The usual error is in showing too little of the actor in his interviews with Cassio and Othello; his friendliness, sycophancy, and good humour become too real, as if it were the performer's cue to enact those qualities, whereas he is only to assume them for the nonce—the real presentment of the man being a malicious, revengeful, and astute villain. I think, also, my dear fellow, that our friend Iago is too communicative, not only to such a noodle-pate as Roderigo, but to the many-headed monster the Pit. He comes forward, and exactly in the same way as M. Philippe informs his audience—"Now I vill show you a ver' vonderful trick. I vill put de tea into dis canister—I vill put de sugar into dat; and I vill put de cream into dis leetle jug, and den you shall see dat you shall have de excellent cup of tea vidout any vater." And, by shaking first one canister and then another, out comes some capital tea, as hot as if you had seen the kettle boiling. So does the insinuating Iago, and says—"You shall see what you shall see. I will make Othello jealous of Cassio—I will make Cassio drunk, and get him into a quarrel on guard—and I will make him apply to Desdemona for her interest with her husband on his behalf;" and, presto! first one scene, and then another—Othello gets jealous—Cassio gets drunk—and Desdemona pleads most innocently for his forgiveness. It strikes me to be letting an audience too much into the secret. I prefer such a scene as that in which the Demon of the Blood-red Glen creates an effect by springing over the foot-lights, and landing (quite unexpected by boxes, pit, or gallery) on the back of the flying Arabian, completely apparelled as the American Apollo. I have seen the Kentucky voltigeur introduce a fancy-dance on two wild steeds, and jump through a fiery hoop in the character of Shylock; and I confess I liked him better in those happy days at New York, than since he has proclaimed himself as the great transatlantic tragedian, and has set up as an infallible critic because he has proved himself a fallible actor.

And then the death of Desdemona! My dear Smith—I appeal to your own noble feelings, as a husband and a Christian,—if you thought Mrs Smith a little too fond of Cassio—or any other lieutenant,—if you even found she had given him one of your best handkerchiefs to make him a nightcap—nay, if you had determined even to achieve widowerhood with your own hands, would you take the instrument Othello uses for the purpose? I ask you as a man and a gentleman. You would borrow a pistol—you would take up a knife—you would purchase arsenic—but you would not undergo the personal fatigue of Burking her in her bed! But it is not with you I have to do just now. I go back to Shakspeare and his times—and I maintain that the manner of Desdemona's murder could only be tolerable in the state of society at the time it was presented. I suspect the very appliances of the modern stage bring the repulsiveness of the incident more prominently forward. There is a beautifully furnished room—a dressing-table beside the bed—nice curtains drawn all round it—snow-white sheets, and a pair of very handsome bed-room candles. The bed-room is brought too prominently forward; and when Desdemona is discovered asleep, it needs all the magic of Shakspeare's name, and the reverence that his genius has created and maintains, even upon the shilling gallery, to prevent the tragic interest from turning into another channel. The contrast is too great between the truthfulness of the bed-curtains and easy-chair, and the horrid purpose—which ought to be idealized, and not realized—for which the Moor enters the room. It is a frightful, blackfaced murderer—designed in the seventeenth century, and considered true to nature then, coming into the open daylight of the nineteenth, casting his Elizabethan energies into forms repulsive to the sentiments of our VICTORIAN time; and we should also feel, if the play were presented to us for the first time, that an Othello created by Shakspeare—if he had been left for these latter times—would not have murdered his wife with a pillow—if he had murdered her at all—and would not have brought forward on the stage the bed-room of a jealous husband, with his wife expecting his approach. The barrenness of the stage in Shakspeare's time was an advantage in a scene like this;—when people were told to fancy that old bench was a bed, and that the close-shaved stripling reclining on it was a woman—the imagination was set down to a feast of its own: the scanty scenery became an accessory—not a realization—all that was palpable was the innocence and sacrifice of the heroine—and the awful and inexpressible struggles of the man.

Do you see what I mean? Do you agree with me that it was a misfortune to the British drama that the summit of its glory was reached by Shakspeare so long ago;—a Shakspeare that knew the whole secrets of the human heart, as the human heart existed before his time—or at least as it was supposed in his time to exist;—a Shakspeare who was ignorant of the Great Rebellion—of the Restoration—of the Revolution—of the glorious First of June—of the Guillotine—of Napoleon—of Trafalgar—of Waterloo;—a Shakspeare who had never seen a telegraph—a mail-coach—a steam-boat—a railway. What sort of a man must this have been, that still maintains possession of the stage—that keeps (as I maintain) the British taste in a state of almost mediaeval roughness, and chains the dramatic art itself to the slab over his grave? Perhaps, my dear Smith, the immortal Bunn is right after all. Perhaps, if all managers were to follow his example for forty years—if for forty years mankind were condemned to the wilderness of operas, and divertisements, and farces—we should forget the flavour of the flesh-pots (furnished by Shakspeare) which has so completely mastered our taste;—some Joshua would lead us into a chosen land, and feed us with all manner of delights;—the stage, I mean, would come, like the aloe, to a second flower, only resembling its ancient crown in its life and beauty, but smelling of the present time.

For no beer, you will grant, is so pleasant as that which has the froth on. Its freshness even compensates for its want of strength. But if, in addition to being fresher by two hundred years than the tap of William Shakspeare of Stratford, it were as strong—as cunningly mixed of malt and hops—and had as beautiful a flavour as his had when it was first brewed—eh! Smith? What do you think, then? Isn't it worth while to live forty years on the chance? isn't it worth while to be teetotallers in the meantime? to live upon slops and gruel? Gentlemen, I propose the health of Mr Lumley and Mr Bunn.

I remain, my dear Smith, Your admirer and friend, G. BOBSON.



BIRBONIANA; OR, ITALIAN ANTIQUARIES AND ANTICHITA.

"Birbone—a Jew, a cheat, a rogue, a vagabond, a liar, a coiner, an utterer of all things base and false—an Antiquary!"—BARETTI'S Italian Dict.

"Ah me! it is a dangerous freak, When men will dabble with Antique."—Hudibras(?)

SCENE I.—THE INTRODUCTION.

We will now introduce the reader to an antiquarian scene or two chez nous, transcribed from our journal as we entered them therein at the time. When it was currently understood throughout Naples—it did not take long for the report to spread—that we were a professed purchaser of antiquities, and "at home" to antiquaries, we were besieged all day and every day by a host of dealers, jewellers and Jews, whom the waiters were weary of announcing, and were still obliged to announce, who came with bundles under their arms, filled with things "ugly and old exceedingly," which they wished to dispose of as bargains, and hoped we would purchase. They came early in the morning; they braved the fiery heat of noon; they bided their time whilst we sat at dinner; and, on returning from our moonlit drive, we are prepared for the announcement that somebody still waits with something still unshown for us to see. Sometimes one man will come alone, and if he finds us unassailable or indifferent, he will take care to return next time in company with an accomplice,—an honest, plain fellow in his dealings, who, actuated by feelings of pure humanity, and in pursuance of his sturdy motto of "fiat justitia ruat coelum," will, at the risk of offending his friend, alter his prices, and propose others vastly more equitable and advantageous for us. Enters one day a brace of these rogues at breakfast—two such palpable rogues in face that you needed no proficiency in Lavater to know at once with whom you had to deal. One of the pair, par nobile fratrum, gives a very respectful, the other, what is meant for a very courtly, bow. "This gentleman," says one unknown individual introducing the other—"This gentleman has just landed from Sicily, bringing with him a small collection of coins—vergini tutti—all virgins, and on which no amateur's eye has yet rested even for a moment." "Non e vero, Cavaliere?" "Altro che vero!" responds the cavalier. "I, sir," resumes the other, "am, as you have doubtless perceived, the poor mezzano, the mere umpire in this business; I have no interest in the sale of any articles in that gentleman's pockets; it was by the merest accident that I heard of his arrival an hour ago; and, as I know he must have something good, I pounced upon him at once—would not give him time even to shave, (voyez un peu cette barbe farouche—it was so), but brought him hither in great haste, lest others—vous concevez qu'a Naples." "To be sure we did; but did not the Cavaliere understand French?" "Not a word." "What says the Signore?" interrogates the unshaved Sicilian noble; "Domanda se lei capisce il Francese?" "Niente," not a bit of it, returns he, shaking his head guilelessly. "Non importa,—it's of no importance. You, Cavaliere, will mention your prices to me, I will propose them to this gentleman—he his; I will then give my opinion as to what is fair between you, and thus we shall, I trust, do a little business to the satisfaction of both. Signor Cavaliere s'accommodi." Thus admonished of our breach of manners in having kept the Cavaliere standing, we would fain atone for it on the spot, by begging the "mezzano" also to take a chair; but he declines it with modest confusion of face. "Come? ma che?" he has no pretension or business to place himself between "due illustrissimi signori," whose poor interpreter he is. We overcome his scruples, and all sit down, closely packed round a small table; while the noble dealer was unshrouding what seemed, from the length of time and material employed upon it, to be a mummy, and, from its size, perhaps a rat. We were all eagerness and expectancy, forming, as we sat, a capo d'opera for Valentine or Caravaggio, well grouped, and ripe and ready for the canvass. At length the "unwinding bout" draws to its close; the last wrapping is unwrapped; and a small bronze Venus, without a shift, falls on her haunches on the table. "What a beautiful pezzo have we here!" says the umpire, assuming the air of a man well versed in such matters, and turning her round to admire her proportions; "and where," asks he, in a manner that showed he had guessed the answer before receiving it; "where might this have been dug up?" "Nei contorni di Lentine," was the ready answer, and so he "had expected to hear it was; all the best opere Greche now come from that neighbourhood." We made no remark; there was a pause; we watched the countenance of the mezzano; he seemed to be getting more and more absorbed in the contemplation of the little Venus, till, after taking his time, while he appeared oblivious of time, his pent-up enthusiasm at the sight of charms which rivet his attention, but are beyond his powers of expression, finds vent in the very convenient formula of "Pare impossibile!" which, in the language of English dilletanteism has no equivalent; then suddenly recollecting himself, and fearing lest, if he kept her too long, we might be jealous, he confided her gently to our hands, and having done so, said a second time, "Pare impossibile!" We, too, turned her round, and (one good turn tending to another) in the absence of any better occupation at the moment, we turned her round a second time; and having done so, put her down upon the table, without a word of comment. It was a tolerably well-shaped little figure, in a very green modern gown, and when we were very green, three years ago, we had purchased a twin-born sister of hers at Capua, which we now rose to produce, and placed her side by side the other. Our visitors exchanged glances; the Cavaliere would have said that ours is a copy—his the original; but we remind him that a week ago his model did not exist, from which to have made such a copy; and the mezzano, seeing that the game is up, says his friend must have been imposed upon! that there is not a more honest man breathing than the Cavaliere! that, in fact, it has been an awkward affair for him! "Pare impossibile," thought we, that rogues should be so bold! "Had he, the Cavaliere, any thing more to show?" ask we of the mezzano in French. "To what purpose," answers the Cavaliere, suddenly understanding French; "to what purpose should I waste that gentleman's time, and my own, in the long process of unwrapping things, which, when unwrapped, he is sure to pronounce modern?" and the Cavaliere went away in dudgeon, and quite "cavalierly."

It being generally understood that yesterday was to be our last day in Naples, our friends the antiquari flocked in from all quarters of the town to pay valedictory visits, and to hope, each man for himself, that he at least had always given satisfaction in any little business we might have occasionally transacted together. The visits of that day began early, and ended—no, they never ended—till next morning after passing the barriere. Coco's black beard, standing at the bedside with a false "Augustus," was the first object that presented itself on waking, and the last pull of the bell at night was followed by the apparition of a mysterious figure in a cloak, with a small sack, full, not of truffles, but of "Lucernae," just exhumed, and still smelling damp, from the lamp-teeming earth of Pozzuoli. All through that day the dealers seemed to have no other employment upon earth than to wait upon us, and accordingly backwards and forwards, and up and down stairs they came and they went, till by mid-day they had permanently established, as ants do when they forage, two counter-lines of communication between us and the street, each dealer further imitating the ant community, in stopping for a moment en passant, to touch antennae, and to exchange intelligences with his neighbour as he came up. All would kiss our hand and "augur" us a prosperous journey, and each had some little confidential revelation to make touching the Don Beppo, the Don Alessandro, or the Don Carlo whom he had met at the doorway. Grateful acknowledgments are due, of course, for so many proofs of their esteem; though their caveats come all too late for us to profit by; and once or twice, in the dearth of words to tell our feelings, we adopt that Italian formula for modesty at a pinch, and beseech then, per carita! not to speak so flatteringly of our attainments. At dinner, (an Italian friend being at table with us,) Don Gaetano Sbano, whom we have not seen for a twelvemonth, and who has been liberated purposely, as it should seem, from St Angelo, only just in time to pay his respects before we leave, stands smilingly behind our chair, talking over imaginary drafts which he has received upon Roman bankers, in return for a very beautiful set of objects of virtu with which he has been lately, it seems, enriching the Roman market!! After discanting on the moonlight beauties of the Coliseum, and other moonshine subjects which had kept him, he averred, in Rome a week longer than he intended, he abruptly accosts our Italian friend, assuring him that we have now become such a knowing proficient in all the tricks imposed upon travellers, and in all the various guiles of antiquaries as practised at Naples, that it would be difficult to impose upon us; and that, in fact, he would back us now against being cheated by the best of them—modest man! he might have said of us, in place of presenting a false lamp of dirty device, which threw the altering of this pronoun, and the substitution of the right one, upon the party whom he had been so politely praising. Purposing to start early next morning, most of our effects, both old and new, were packed up already; a few of the former, however, still remained out, and stood on a neighbouring side table. "What a beautiful Ryton!" said Don G. Sbano sauntering across the room, and taking up a finely executed stag's head in terra cotta, that had originally served for a drinking-cup—a purchase we had that morning made at old Rossi's curiosity shop. "Beautiful, indeed," replied we carelessly, and then sotto voce to our friend—"poor Rossi, pleased at our sincere sympathy at his late sad bereavements—he has lost two charming daughters within a month—insisted upon transferring it to us quite as a regallo at twenty piastres,"—these words were spoken in a low tone of voice, but Don Gaetano made it a point to hear every thing. "Of course we knew," enquired he maliciously, "that it was a forgery in all but the lips?" "And if the lips be true, it by no means follows, Signor, that because the lips are true, the vessel appended to them must be so." If any man ought to know about lying lips, it was Sbano; so at once admitting the truth of what indeed there was no gainsaying, we contended that the indestructibility of the glaze, tested as it had been with aquafortis by Rossi himself, proved the genuineness of its antiquity—it proved nothing but that we had something still to learn! The nola varnish was light as a soap-bubble, but this on the Ryton was thick and substantial. How he wished we had been to stay another week to have taught us the difference! and how we wished him gone, lest he should make some new revelations of a kindred character to the last, and betray our ignorance in sundry other matters connected with other recent purchases. The door has scarcely closed upon his coat-tails when in comes a tall strapping fellow out of breath, who begs to take a chair, and declares forthwith that he is "tutto bagnato di sudore,"—in our service, and he hopes it may not be in vain! After administering to him proper restoratives, (the remains of an agro-dolce, and half a bottle of lachryma,) four battered pieces of lead are presented by him for inspection, looking very much as if they had just been scraped from the house-top, but which, when duly put together by our ingenuity, make up the highly interesting inscription,—"Imp: Caes: Vespas: Aug: Pont: Max: Opt; Princip: P. P.," and are no sooner so collocated than our new-comer seems enchanted at a discovery which he would have us think as important as any thing lately done in that way. After the making of which, he expects that we are to carry over this leaden trophy to England, and is much mortified accordingly at our disheartening remark, that "it was so easy to write upon lead!" Upon seeing that we are indisposed to be cheated, he resolved to humiliate us in the eyes of our friend, which he does effectually by merely glancing at a small urceolus with a painting on it, and then proclaiming it to be "ristaurata;" a most ungrateful return, as we think, for our "restoration" of him. He has scarcely vanished when a third party, "happy to catch us just at dinner-time," is announced; he comes with a mouthful of lies, and a pocketful of trash, and seeing that we are beginning to wince, is retiring, but suddenly recollecting himself, pulls up at the door to ask whether it be true that we have not bought Coco's Augustus, since, if we have been so lucky as to purchase it, Coco has in that case cheated him by pretending to have received nothing for it. "Go to ——!" exclaimed we, losing all patience at the ignorance thus plainly imputed to us, "do you think we were such a fool as to buy such a forgery?" Then comes a very douce, quiet-mannered dealer, wishing, if our friend will excuse him, to have a private interview with us just for a moment, as he has something confidential to communicate. "Signor mio," says he, "when we are in privacy," folding his hands over his breast and looking very contrite, "I am bound to confess to you that the man whom I have hitherto called 'cousin,' is not such, nor indeed any relation or connexion of mine! I know you have been cheated often, sadly, and by him; and, much as it has gone against my heart whenever I have heard him and his crew plot against your ingenuousness, I have long intended to be frank with you, as you have always treated me with frankness. Believe me I have ever opposed your 'ingannazione,' though without success; and, as I have no other shop in which to put my real antiques excepting this man's, I am glad to pay ten per cent to interest him in their sale; but that terra cotta cow that he sold you, 'twas a sad piece of business," and he looked at us as a Mackenzie might have looked upon some artless victim to man's depravity! Whereupon a new light seemed all at once to break in upon us, and we resolved to get at the truth, if we could, by a ruse which should throw him off his guard; so, in place of appearing put out by the discovery, we merely said—"Well, if all forgeries were but nearly as well executed as that, who would care to buy antiques at all; and besides, as it is a forgery, we may have a good chance of getting some more of the casts to take home with us, which we could not have done had the cow been ancient. How beautifully she stood in her horns and hoofs! and how well must he have studied the antique, who could have conceived and executed such a cow!" As we had imagined, there was no resisting such an appeal, and Roderick Dhu stood confessed! He now owns himself an extensive proprietor in these cows, and says they are by no means his best productions—offering us the whole dairy at a very moderate price!

Comes Coco, a little later, with a lad who is to be forthwith forwarded to buy an engraved stone at Tiano, where he is to sleep, in order to meet our carriage to-morrow morning at Calvi, with the jacinth on his finger! Lastly comes old Bonelli to kiss both cheeks, and to declare that our loss will be felt by all the honest men in Naples; and that, as for himself, he does not know what he shall do, he had always such a pleasure in coming to show us any thing. "It is not interest," says he, putting his hand to his side-pocket, "but affection," placing it over his heart, "that makes me so loth to lose you—ah! caro lei!" and he kissed us again and withdrew. In the darkness of earliest morning, while the stars are all glowing, and Aurora is still asleep, we discern figures in cloaks, sitting over the rippling sea, on the wall of Santa Lucia, and waiting to show us antiques by moonlight!—and then comes the barriere. And now, gentlemen, we wash our hands of you—and may you soon be consoled for the loss of us in the acquisition of some noble lord, with more money to spend amongst you than we ever had, and more time to devote to your winning manners and versatile accomplishments. We hope you will speak of us kindly and considerately; and, whilst you are busy in circulating our memoirs in the Strada Santa Caterina, the Toledo, and the piazza of the silversmiths, we are preparing yours, gentlemen, in a work which shall leave those of Benvenuto Cellini far—very far behind!

We have now given the reader a very brief notice of a scantling of our antiquarian acquaintance abroad, taking them nearly at random from the pages of a common-place book, which abounds, we observe, in such entries. Should he desire to know something more of the craft, we keep a second batch of introductions by us, which are at his service; but to give him even the shortest notice, nay, merely to attempt the nomenclature, and furnish a "catalogue raisonne" of all that immense body, would be as wide of our purpose as it would wholly transcend our powers. Such a task would be as vain as—(but here, after the example of Boileau, Corneille, and Pope, let us give our paraphrase of the well-known passage of the bard of Aquinum:—)

"Vain as th' attempt on summer eve to count What dogs and beggars haunt the Pincian Mount. All Tuzzi's frauds, all Coco's falsehoods tell, And all the Beckers[1] all the rogues shall sell; How many sick some sapient quack at Rome Helps—not to England, but their longer home;[2] How many Couriers forge the scoundrel tale; How many Maids their mistress' fame assail; How many English girls, by foreign arts Seduced, have smiled on needy 'Knaves of Hearts!' Or left our church, in spite of solemn 'caves,' To score off sins by rosaries and aves! Number the gnats that cloud the dewy lawn, Or flitting flies that light the sparkling corn; Or pirate hawks that haunt Rome's lawless sky, Or the fell fevers Pontine plains supply; The locust legions count; or say as soon What hoarse Cicadae stun the sultry noon With ringing dissonance; what flow'rets fair In early spring inebriate the air: Or count the gems in every dazzling shower That Roman rockets detonating pour, Dropping their liquid light o'er Hadrian's glowing tower: Or tell what crowds on Easter-day repair To see their Pontiff-bird, in high-swung chair Upborne magnificent; when, rising slow, Th' emerging figure stands, all white as snow, Like some large albatross his arms outspreads, O'er all that mighty, silent, sea of heads! Thrice waves his wings, the voiceless blessing sends Far, far away to earth's remotest ends! The joyous news th' impatient cannon tells, Louder and louder, as the discord swells, Of clashing bands, and shouts, and drums, and loud-tongued bells!"

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Becker, a celebrated coiner from the antique, recently deceased in Prussia,—N.B.—His widow carries on the business.

[2] Quot Themison oegros autumno occiderit uno. Alas! and there are many Themisons still in Rome; for whose address vide the Guide-Books.



BIRBONIANA.

In England, we have our trades and our professions;—abroad, all callings are trades; medicine is a trade; theology a trade; law no better. With us, the title of professor carries with it something of rank, being always conferred by authority, and not, as in Italy, a dignity at once self-imposed and assumed by any party who chooses to adopt it. Furthermore, at home it must be a grave subject indeed that is entitled to the honour of being represented by a professor; whilst abroad, the commonest accomplishments are raised to the dignity which we restrict to science; and every private teacher of fencing, fiddling, juggling, and dancing, affixes professor to his card. The art of cheating, ingannazione, seems to be at present the only one in Italy irrepresented, eo nomine, by a teacher. Whether it be that there is properly no such art, but, as was formerly alleged of rhetoric, that every man persuades best in the subject of his own craft, the principles of cheating in like manner vary with the occupation of the cheater; or because, where all men are more or less proficients, the instructions of a professor may be dispensed with. Nevertheless, if mere pre-eminence in the dark dexterity of imposing on one's neighbour deserved this coronal, whose brows were fitter to wear it than yours, ye professors of natural history and of virtu, with whom ingannation is but a collateral branch of these your severer studies? The very name of naturalist, which in England falls so refreshingly on our ears, accustomed as we are to link with it the memory of such men as White, Ray, Derham, Darwin, Paley, and a host of others, there, is but too frequently bestowed on a class of dishonest collectors, who fill their rooms (which they dub their museum) with a collection of modern mummies, and study nature but to jocky amateurs in the sale of her specimens! Nor is the man called antiquaro in Italy, a whit a better representative of him whom we so designate, than is the soi-disant professor of taxidermy and seller of embalmed pole-cats of our own naturalist. Not that our thoroughbred antiquary at home stands high in our classification of English citizens. It was not as a reward for tracing sites, by following the vestiges of dry rubbish near a place ending in chester, that the mural crown (probably a chaplet of wallflowers) was devised by the Romans; and we, too, have a weakness for ranging the precedents of our fellow-citizens according to their usefulness. We have no sympathy with soulless bodies; with miserly old men of starved affections, who are too parsimonious even for the gout; who prefer bronze puttini to babies in flesh, and marble mistresses to a fond and pleasing wife! But this is their affair, not ours; if they choose thus to sacrifice to the cold manes of antiquity the sweetest and most endearing sympathies of life, the sacrifice and the loss is their own; whilst Englishmen must admit, that in England at least they form a very learned body, much given up to the prosecution of curious and prying researches. But in Italy, where all the world pretend to be antiquaries, the ignorance and incapacity of by far the larger portion of these pretenders is marvellous. No sooner has the adventurer who prints himself antiquary, begun to cheat his way on a little, then he addresses himself boldly to some venal professor of archaeology too poor to refuse the bribe; who for a small consideration undertakes to decipher his inscriptions for him, to teach him his history, to furnish him with learned conjectures, and to praise his goods, which last is generally the only part of these educational acquirements which he retains, and recollects to profit by afterwards; his ignorance, in all other matters appertaining to his craft, is frequently absolute. Yet many of these men live to buy villas, to plant vineyards, and to show how much more flourishing a thing in Italy virtu is than virtue. In character, or shall we not rather say in want of character, they are all alike; and if any act of any of them bears the external semblance of honesty about it, this is predetermined by their fear of the penal "code Napoleon" and its consequences, and not by the code of moral necessity. Let your antiquarian acquaintance be ever so extensive; be you in habits of pigeon-and-hawk-like intimacy with scores of them, for years, you shall never meet one—from the noble, well-lampooned prince of St Georgio, and the courtly Count of Milan, to the poor starveling old man whose cotton pocket-handkerchief contains all his stores, with no patent of nobility to stand him in stead should he be detected in a fraud—one who will not cheat as much as, and whenever he can. As the King of Naples said of his ministers, in objecting to change them, sono ladri tutti. Woe, then, betide the simple Englishman to whom some demon has whispered to have a taste, and who thinks that he cannot better employ the time of his being abroad, than in making purchases to satisfy it. Much will he have to pay for each new apprenticeship in each new city where he sojourns for a season, while he will learn by degrees to distrust the teaching of his volunteer friends, as to what he may safely purchase, when every new acquisition is a mistake, and proves the exception to some general rule formerly taught him. It is only when they turn king's evidence and peach, that they can be safely trusted; and on these occasions he really may pick up some important hints for his future guidance; the most important of which is principiis obstare, not to begin to buy, or, if he have bought, to give over buying. How little is it generally known, by those who don't purchase, what large sums are squandered in Italy upon heaps of rubbish, palmed off and sold under the imposing names, roba antica, roba dei scavi, and the like; and how little seems it known by those who do, that of all markets for such acquisitions, the worst that an uninitiated dilettante can have to do with is the Italian! First, because it abounds more than any other in trash; and secondly, because when any thing really good comes into it, the dealers take care to put their price upon it. The much prized and paraded object has in all probability already been in England, (whence, on the death of its connoisseur possessor, and the dispersion of his effects, it has again returned to its natal soil,) and is now, it may be, to be had for twice or three times as much, as you yourself might have procured it for in Christie's auction-rooms a few months before, unless you possess an accurate taste, and an intimate knowledge of what you buy. (Not, depend upon it, to be acquired, as almost all other knowledge may now be, in six lessons.) You must know that it is quite easy to spend indefinitely large sums in the accumulation of coarse crockery, broken glass, bits of mouldings, scratched cornelians, and coins as smooth as buttons, without being able to pick one pearl from out this ancient dunghill. The peasant's ignorance, if you are also ignorant, can by no possibility be turned to your account, and, in fact, turns very much against it; for there is a prevailing tradition amongst them, that things very rare and costly, now extant in kings' palaces and great museums, have been grubbed up by the husbandman's hands; and as he cannot possibly decide what, in the amateur's mind, constitutes a prize, every fresh finding that may possibly be such, is put up and priced accordingly. Now it is a safe rule here never to buy a may be, especially when you have to pay for it as though it were a must be; and if you followed the contadino to the dealer, (who, after you, becomes his next resource,) you would find that, though the former now asks pauls for piastres, and is content to substitute baiocchi for pauls, the dealer is obdurate, and leaves his wares still upon his hands.

Some, ignorant of the ways of dealers, persuade themselves that if they go to a well-recommended shop, they may, by paying somewhat higher than they would elsewhere have done, secure themselves from all risk of imposition; and this brings us to notice that, in accordance with this well-known delusion of our countrymen, (for such we believe it to be,) the "Antiquari" are fond of dividing themselves into three classes, whereof the first is supposed to consist entirely of Galant' uomini, in which confessedly small class every one would place himself: the second of mezzo Galant' uomini, or half honest men, of whom the first division reports, that it is a well-dressed, well-spoken, and well-instituted order, ma astuto assai: and a third, which even they will tell you is their larger body, constituted of a set of ill-dressed, uneducated, ill-looking, unmannerly fellows, whom it would be unsafe to meet with an antique ring on your finger after dark, and without the city walls. Of this last class, number three, class number one is particularly desirous to impress you with a salutary awe, lest you should unfortunately become its victim. Its members, so they will tell you, have occasionally something pretty for sale; but then who, save themselves and their ally the devil, knows out of what tomb it has been plucked by night, or what conditions are annexed to its possession; and whether, after it has been purchased, the police shall not come and seize both it and its possessor? Thus one class of reputable shopkeeping rogues speaks of its peripatetic rivals, who, as they do not purchase, can afford to dispose of their things cheaper than those who have to pay both purchase and warehouse dues, making them very wrathful in consequence. The number of antiquaries, as compared with the whole population, would make a far greater statistical return than most persons are aware of, who believe the race to be confined to that half-dozen of shopkeepers who write their title over the door; these being, in fact, but a small fraction of that large community which, like the beetle called necrobios, preys both upon the living and the dead. Beside the regular shopkeeper, who sells the whole statue, and undertakes excavations on his own account, there is, in the next place, the stall-keeper, whose commerce is in fragments, and who makes his small profits upon toes and fingers, (he having received certain of the unsaleable refuse from some richer antiquary, committed to his charge on certain conditions, as the oranges that are offered in London in the streets are consigned by the wealthier to the poorer Jews to traffic in,) squats himself down in the neighbourhood of some piazza, church, or other place of public resort, where, under favour of a shower, he is enabled to dispose of his bits of rosso antico, and pavonazzo, which then exhibit all their hues, polished and shining in the rain. There is a third class who have two callings; a principal one—some petty trade, a tobacconist, a printseller, or a chemist—to which they add that of odds and ends. These they buy from the peasants on market-days; and some there are, more active than their neighbours, who make a very early start to anticipate their arrival; and many a long and weary mile will they trudge, far, far beyond the tomb of Cecilia Metella, or the Ponte Molle, before it is day, each striving to outstrip the other, and to be first to greet the simple contadini on their road Romewards from Tivoli, Frescati, Valmontone, or Veii. Alas! and notwithstanding all the pains they take, they frequently make bad purchases, and are duped by the superior cunning of other antiquaries at a distance, who have been tampering with the peasants, and have given them counterfeits to sell. Thus do antiquaries, like whitings, prey upon each other, illustrating their own proverb, Mercantia non vuol ni amici ni parenti. You become also, after a time, acquainted with a particular set of dealers, not from themselves, for they have no direct communication with the part of the town you inhabit, nor yet from the shop antiquaro, who would gladly ignore the existence of such people, but from certain fellows called mezzani or go-betweens, whose office it is to prowl about in quest of those who frequent old curiosity shops; whom they will track to their hotels, and fish out presently from couriers, or waiters, what class of things his Excellency buys. These men are perhaps the greatest rogues in Christendom; sometimes they take your side; sometimes gently hint that your most esteemed person is somewhat hard upon their friend; they wink knowingly when you say something meant to be smart, and they will expostulate earnestly, and make it quite a personal affair if their friend protests and refuses to listen to their instances in your favour. Lastly, when the purchase has been effected, they will stay to congratulate you on the bargain you are sure to have made under their auspices; and to announce to you that they have still some other ignoramuses in petto for your excellency to pigeon! Even when you don't buy, they suppress their disappointment; or, showing it, try to convince you it is on your account solely that they feel it. "You bargained," they tell you, "in style, showing at once your perfect connoisseurship and tact; and though you were aware yourself that your offers could not be entertained without a serious loss to the proprietor, (who had not such articles every day to dispose of,) and would soon find means of disposing of them, still, as the donne say, though they cannot always accept, they consider every offer a compliment." These mezzani get a per centage of eighteen per cent upon every purchase from the seller; and, if you are not aware of this, they will make a pretty per centage upon you besides. It is amusing to get access through them into many interiors that you would not else have heard of, and to have presented to you a new variety of wares, requiring new vigilance on your part every day. Thus, one man's room (he has been a soldier under Napoleon, hence his particular line of dealing) might well be styled a hero's slop-shop, out of whose stores Sir Walter Scott might have found fitting armour for every one of his heroes, from Waverley to Quentin Durward. The owner visits Thrasymene every summer, and pretends that these iron harvests of the field, which he gleans each year from near the banks of the "Stream of Blood," were sown there in the time of Hannibal, with whose name he is perfectly familiar; and should you, on questioning him, make out that he was not quite au courant as to dates, and not quite certain that every spear-head was as old as the Punic war; his rule for sale is simple, (viz.) whenever there appears to be a doubt, to give it not in your favour, but in favour of his armour. Another man, who only deals in pictures, tries your skill and knowledge in the Madonna and Saint line. This man is a collector of coins; and woe betide you if you purchase there, and can't make out the difference between a real Emperor S. C. and a pretender to the laurel! Do you know any thing of "storied urns and animated busts?" Then, and not till then, when you are sure you do, visit A——'s interior, where

—"Curias jam dimidias, humeroque minorem Corvinum, et Galbam auriculis naroque carentem,"

you may easily find! Lastly, let no cinque-cento object of virtu tempt you to show your purse till you have taken advice from a learned friend, to whom such exhibitions are familiar. Considering the vast preliminary knowledge, both of men and things, necessary to the judicious completion of each particular purchase, you will, unless you opine, with Hudibras, that

"The pleasure is as great, Of being cheated, as to cheat,"

be very slow in making any acquisition of price, from such a suspected source as the cabinet of the antiquary. But if you have unfortunately been made a dupe of—what remedy? That depends, if you have been led to purchase any thing under a false impression of its antiquity; and can prove this. The law itself would step in, in such a case, to repossess you of your purchase-money. If, indeed, the strong and pervading feeling amongst the other antiquari, as in an assize of crows, were not of itself sufficient to secure the condign punishment of the culprit, which consists in compelling him to refund. But this redress only extends to one particular kind of fraud, that, namely, included under the rhetorical figure called metonymy, (i.e. the substitution of one thing for another,) and does not extend beyond this; so that, though a dealer were to sell an old hatchet for one hundred pounds, provided it had the necessary patina upon it to establish its antiquity—this not constituting a case of cheating, (at least, in the antiquarian sense of the term,) but merely one of superior tact—brother-dealers might indeed condole with you in your mistake; but nobody has any right to interfere!

When you do buy, you must take nothing for granted but that you will be cheated; and get a written declaration from the dealer, that what he sells you has been paid for, as genuine, on the score of antiquity. There are, too easy purchasers, who rest satisfied with the man's word, (as if a dealer's words were aught but wind, or wind but air,) who always professes to believe that the object he has for sale is of sacrosanct antiquity, and the best of its kind, (if an onyx, for instance, not Oriental only, but Orientalissimo,) though he observes, in a sort of moralizing parenthesis, that he will not vouch for what the ignorant or the malicious may say. Here you must, we fear, range yourself on the side of malice and ignorance; non vale niente, the object is good for nothing; and if you swallow such a bait, you are a bete for your pains. Amici miei of Oxford and Cambridge, excuse the informality of self-introduction; and pray keep your caution-money till you have taken your Master-in-Arts degree abroad. If you pay it on the initiatory matriculation of a first journey, you may depend upon never getting any of it back; when on having studied anew the "art of self-defence," to protect you against another art, which you must also study, in close connexion with the "belle arti," you are become really an adept, and duly qualified for that diploma. Study antiquities in public museums; so shall you learn to appraise at their true value the gauds of dealers, which, if you have not educated your taste into a wholesome fastidiousness, by a diligent study of the real treasures of antiquity, you may chance to find most dangerously attractive—[Greek: meden enarghes en te psnche echontes paradeigma, mede dunamenoi osper grapheis eis to alethestaton apoblepontes chacheise aei anapherontes te chai theomenoi hos oion te, achribestata, onto de chai ta upo ton chapelon hechastote proseiomena orthos diachrinein aph on de chathaper oi thallo tini ta probata epagomenoi tous amuetous periagousin].

Then you will hardly be induced to pay much for what you do not set much store by, merely for the sake of calling it your own. Add to this the further consideration, that in towns the Antiquari keep their best things for the resident collectors, so that you never see them; whilst all hopes of finding sound windfalls on the road you are journeying, are rendered futile, since Italy is now infested by lines of antiquarian footpads, who tramp as regularly as a well-organized police, right across its instep from sea to sea, and measure it lengthways from Milan to Otranto, sweeping up and carrying away every thing that is worth the transport. After this, you need hardly feel nervous (as some we have known were) lest, in the event of falling in with something exquisitely beautiful, the government should interfere to prevent its leaving Italy. Such an event not being in question, you need make no provision to meet it. Of the brigands and brigandage of Italy, the public has had enough; of her cheats and cheating—her virtuosi and their virtu—nobody has enlightened us. Nor, to say the truth, does the subject, at first sight, appear to admit of more than a few not very promising details of a not very pleasing picture of the Dutch school—the romance of the waylaid carriage in the mountain defile; the sudden report of fire-arms; the troop of gay-sashed cut-throats in sugar-loaf hats; the "faccia a terra!" the escort to the robber's cave; the life amongst the mountains; the ransom and the discharge—lend themselves much more readily to the author's pen, and present themselves much more forcibly to the reader's fancy, than the details into which we are about to enter. Still our subject has its interest, both in having a practical bearing, and in being new; and, as we have adopted it, we must make the best of it. Therefore, we propose to give a series of ana, rambling like our last, (as all "ana" claim a right to be,) but purporting to make some remarks, didactic and miscellaneous, on coins, gems, marbles, bronzes, terra cotta, and glass, each in due order of succession, our present lucubration confining itself to the mere introduction of our reader to the Antiquari themselves. Allusion has already been made to the very large sums wasted every year on the Continent by our countrymen in pursuit of the "antique," though it might be difficult to determine to what extent pubic credulity is thus annually imposed upon; difficult, because self-love is here at variance with self-interest, (silencing many a victim, who fears, lest if his mistakes were blabbed abroad, the world might append some more unflattering name to his own than that of dupe;) and difficult again, because there are gulls that will not be so called; and gudgeons who won't believe in a pike till he swallows them up alive! Thus, while the fraud practised is great, the stir it makes, in consequence of these things, is small; and it becomes, therefore, the more necessary to apprise amateurs, that the money laid out to learn experience may come to more than would purchase them a commission in the Guards!

"Not to admire's the simplest art we know, To keep your fortune in its statu quo; Who holds loose cash, nor cheques his changeling gold, Buy what he will, is certain to be sold."

Much more had we to say in the way of advice to the untutored, but we refrain, for nobody has given us "salary, or chair;" and who, then, has given us the right to lecture "ex cathedra?" We throw out, therefore, no further "hints to freshmen," but proceed forthwith to describe a few of the more noted and sly of our antiquarian acquaintances in Italy. Some years back, we remember, all the English in Rome used to turn out a fox-hunting; it was considered an exploit, and so perhaps it was, to kill under the Arc of Veii, amidst the moist meadows of the Crembra; and to teach the Sabine Echo to respond from her hills to the sound of the British Tally-ho! Now, whilst the followers of the Chesterfield kennel sought their foxes without the walls, we always knew where to look for ours within; and, whatever their success, we always found; nay, what may sound somewhat paradoxical, but is true nevertheless, the more we hunted, the more we found. Like their brothers of the "brush," our Reynards were sly fellows too, and would double and dodge, and get away sometimes, just when we thought ourselves most sure of coming up with them—a few only we were fortunate enough to bag, and bring over in our sack (de nuit) to England. We purpose now to turn a few loose for the reader's diversion, apprising him, however, that they are mostly very old foxes; and so cannot run as far or as fast, or yield the same sport, that might have been expected had they been younger. The greatest age demands respect and precedency; and, as Venovali is the oldest, we will dispatch him first. So ho! Venovali!



THE AMERICANS AND THE ABORIGINES.

A TALE OF THE SHORT WAR. PART I.

I tremble for my people, when I think of the unjust acts of which they have been guilty towards the aborigines.—JEFFERSON.

The numerous romances of Indian life and manners to which, during the last twenty years, the busy pens of Cooper and of his disciples on both sides of the Atlantic have given birth, would perhaps make us hesitate to notice a work of a somewhat similar class, had it not, as we believe, merits and interest peculiar to itself. The readers of Blackwood who have followed us through the varied and lively scenes so graphically depicted by the author of "The Viceroy and the Aristocracy," will, we are inclined to think, turn with pleasure to a notice of another book by the same clever writer, one published previously to most of those from which we have already made extracts, and of which the time, the characters, and, partially, the scene, are different from those of any of his other works. In the "Viceroy" are found an exposition of the sufferings of the Mexican aborigines, and their half-blood descendants, under the inhuman yoke of their Spanish oppressors. Of the book now before us, one of the objects seems to be to illustrate the less sanguinary, but still, in many respects, unjust and cruel treatment received by the more northerly races of Indians at the hands of the Americans. Barbarous tribes must recede and disappear before the advance of civilisation;—doubtless it was not the intention of Providence that a few scanty hordes of savages should occupy as their hunting grounds vast tracts of land, which, by the application of industry and art, would yield sustenance to millions of men. But whether, on the other hand, the encroaching spirit of the inhabitants of the United States, that restless, rambling propensity which has driven their settlers southwards into Mexico, and westward to the Pacific, should be indulged to the extent of exterminating and dispossessing the original owners of the territory before the new occupants have real need of it, is a question admitting of more discussion than we shall here enter upon.

We have already said so much about the author now referred to, concerning the general scope of his talent, the many beauties and occasional defects of his writings, that any further preamble would be superfluous, and we will at once proceed to give specimens of his book.

Upon the road connecting the town of Coosa with Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia, and near to the spot where, at the present day, a convenient hotel invites the traveller to repose and refreshment, there stood, towards the close of the last century, beneath a projecting rock, crowned with a few red cedars and pine-trees, a rudely constructed, but roomy block-house. In front of the building, and between two massive perpendicular beams, connected by cross-bars, swung a large board, upon which was to be distinguished a grotesque figure, painted in gaudy colours, and whose diadem of feathers, tomahawk, scalping-knife, and wampum, denoted the Indian chief. Beneath this sign a row of hieroglyphical-looking characters informed the passer-by that he could here find "Entertainment for man and beast." On that side of the house, or rather hut, next to the road, was a row of wooden sheds, separated from the path by a muddy ditch, and partly filled with hay and straw. These cribs might have been supposed the habitations of the cows, had not some dirty bedding, that protruded from them, denoted them to be the sleeping apartments of those travellers whose evil star compelled them to pass the night at the sign of the Indian King. A stable and pig-sty completed the appurtenances of this backwood dwelling.

It as a stormy December night; the wind howled fiercely through the gloomy pine-forest, on the skirt of which the block-house stood, and the rapidly-succeeding crashes of the huge trees, as, with a report like thunder, the storm bore them to the ground, proclaimed the violence of one of those tornados that so frequently rage between the Blue Mountains of Tennessee and the flats of the Mississippi, sweeping with them, in their passage, trees, houses, and villages. Suddenly, in the midst of the storm, a gentle tapping was heard at the window-shutter of the block-house, to which succeeded, after a short interval, a series of heavy blows, causing the timbers of the dwelling to quiver to their foundations. Presently the door of the house was partially opened, and a man's head protruded through the aperture, as if to reconnoitre the cause of the uproar. At the same moment that this occurred, a tall, dark figure stepped quickly forward, pushed the door wide open, and, stalking into the dwelling, took his seat opposite the fireplace, followed, in deep silence and with noiseless stride, by a line of similar apparitions. When all had entered, the door was again closed, and a man of almost colossal frame approached the hearth, where some embers were still smouldering. Throwing on a supply of wood, he lit one of a heap of pine splinters that lay in the chimney corner, and then producing a tallow candle, lighted it, and placed it upon the table. By its glimmering flame, and that of the reviving fire, the interior of the hut, fully corresponding with the rough and inartificial exterior, became visible. In the corner opposite the fireplace was the bar or counter, behind whose wooden lattice stood a dozen dirty bottles, and still dirtier jugs and glasses. Below these were three kegs daubed with blue paint, and marked with the words, French Brandy, Gin, Monongahela. On one side of the room a pile of deer hides, of beaver, bear, and fox skins, denoted a frequent intercourse and active trade between the inmates of the tavern and the red men. Near the skins stood a huge tester-bed, surrounded by three small bedsteads, and a cradle, or rather trough, made out of a fragment of a hollow tree, with boards nailed across the ends. In these receptacles, to judge by the loud snoring that proceeded from them, the family of the tavern-keeper were enjoying a deep and uninterrupted repose. The walls of the apartment were of unhewn tree-trunks, varied only by broad stripes of clay filling the interstices.

On a stool in front of the fire sat the man who had first entered, a bloodstained blanket thrown over his whole person, concealing both figure and face. Behind him about twenty Indians squatted upon the clay floor, their legs crossed, their faces shrouded in their blankets, the crimson spots upon which seemed to indicate that the expedition whence they returned had been other than a peaceful one. Notwithstanding the presence of these strange guests, the master of the block-house now busied himself with putting in order the stools and benches which the intruders, upon their entrance, had unceremoniously knocked over, and this he did with as cool and sturdy an air as if his nocturnal visitors had been friends and neighbours, instead of a troop of savages on their return from some bloody foray, and who might, as likely as not, add his scalp and those of his family to the other trophies of their expedition. When he had put the last stool in its place, he sat himself down next to the Indian who appeared the chief of the band.

After the lapse of about a minute, the latter raised himself up, and allowed the blanket to slip from over his head, which now appeared bound round with a piece of calico, fringed with gouts of congealed blood. The backwoodsman cast a side glance at the Indian, but it was only a momentary one, and he allowed his gaze to revert to the fire.

"Has my white brother no tongue?" said the Indian at last, in a deep guttural tone; "or does he wait in order the better to crook it?"

"He waits for the words of the chief," replied the American drily.

"Go, call thy wife," said the Indian, in the same bass voice as before.

The tavern-keeper got up, approached the bed, and opening the curtains, spoke to his wife, who had listened, with curiosity rather than anxiety, to what passed. A few sentences were exchanged between them, and the lady made her appearance, a burly, broad-shouldered dame, with an expression upon her somewhat coarse features, indicative of her not being very easily disconcerted or alarmed. An upper petticoat of linsey-woolsey, adapted both to daily and nightly wear, made her voluminous figure look even larger and more imposing than it really was, as with a firm step and almost angry mien she stepped forward by her husband's side. But the menacing stillness of her visitors, and their bloody heads and blankets, now fully revealed by the blaze of the fire, seemed of such evil omen, that the good woman was evidently startled. Her step, at first quick and confident, began to falter, and with an involuntary shudder she approached her husband, who had resumed his seat. A minute passed in gloomy silence. Then the Indian again raised his head, but without looking up, and spoke in a harsh, severe tone.

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