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Eminent women, no doubt, there have been; but when we examine their productions, we seldom, I think, fail to discover traces to which sex they belong: the peculiarities of their nature usually reminding us of the fable of Æsop, quoted by Bacon; when puss sat demurely at table, in man's attire, till a mouse crossed the room. The late Madame de Stael was a striking instance of this sort. No female displayed greater and more varied powers of intellect; yet in her occasional vanity and egotism, and especially in her personal antipathies, she evinced all the weaknesses (shall I say ?) of her sex. Queen Elizabeth is another instance of a masculine mind conjoined with womanly infirmities. She was never weary of listening to discourses on her “excellent beauties,” and her most grave ministers found no way so effectual to her favour as by telling her, that “the lustre of her beauty dazzled them like the sun, and they could not behold it with fixed eyes.” But perhaps the rarest example of intellectual manhood is Catherine the Second, Empress of Russia: she indeed seems to have had very little of woman in her nature; even her vices were of a manly order—ambitious, cruel, and imperious; and in her amours she appears, in some respects, to have usurped the place of the opposite sex, and treated her numerous lovers more like her mistresses than admirers.
I have chosen these three examples as being the best known, and exhibiting the strongest claims to an equality with man. I perhaps might have found living instances of great merit, but I prefer confining my observations to those that are dead. The examples, however, that I have quoted, by no means decide the question; it is not by particular instances, but by comparing the most eminent of both sexes, that a fair inference can be drawn.
But perhaps, after all, it is only a dispute about words, arising from the standard to which we refer. Man's superiority is not universal. If he possess the comprehension of an angel, he has neither the eye of an eagle, nor the fleetness of a greyhound. If he excel woman (“ lovely woman,” as the poets say) in arts and arms, and science and philosophy, in foresight and grandeur of soul, how vastly inferior is he in all the softer graces, in tenderness, delicacy, and sentiment! What, indeed, would man have been without woman, or where would he have been:
“Oh woman ! lovely woman! Nature made you
Eternal joy and everlasting love." But there is no end to such a theme. For my part, I think Nature in this matter has shown her accustomed wisdom. “As she made man with a right and a left hand, so it seems meet that there should be some inequality between the sexes; for, as monogamy (Mr. Malthus notwithstanding) is clearly a state designed for man, it would obviously have been a source of endless embarrassment, contention and difficulty, had the parties in all respects been exactly equal and homologous.
I shall conclude these observations, by remarking three paradoxes concerning females, the first showing how much more individual security depends on public opinion than positive institutions. Although females are excluded from power, and apparently without protection, yet no class is more secure in the enjoyment of its rights. Without representative in parliament, they are least of all obnoxious to oppressive laws; excluded from juries, the bar, and the bench, their offences are always viewed with indulgence. They have no minister in the church, yet no class is prayed for more fervently; nor have they any part in the army or navy, yet both are enthusiastic in their service; nor in the magistracy, yet aldermen and justices of peace are almost proverbially devoted to their interests. In short, every where, and on every occasion, they are treated as privileged beings, entitled to precedency; and thus do they enjoy the honours and immunities through courtesy, which the most unquestioned right and superiority would scarcely procure them. It is certainly a most refined and noble principle, which grants from generosity that respect, reverence, and devotion which the most unbounded power could scarcely command. If that chivalrous feeling which protects the interests of the fair from violation from a sense of their weakness, were to be extended to the poorer classes from a sense of their destitute condition, there cannot be a doubt that their rights would be far more effectually guarded than by universal suffrage and annual parliaments. So much more omnipotent is opinion than law, ON THE GERMAN DRAMA.
The second paradox is somewhat connected with the first. Though females are considered unqualified for superior stations in society, yet they sometimes exercise sovereign authority; though they are considered unfit to discharge the functions of an admiral, a judge, a commander-inchief, or even a parish beadle, yet they are sometimes placed, by the principle of hereditary succession, at the head of the army, the navy, and the administration of justice.
The last paradox is this: one would imagine in the warm regions of the south, where men's passions are the most violent, females would have attained the highest rank; instead of which, it is in the cold countries of the north that modern gallantry had its origin. Tacitus gives an interesting account of the distinguished manner in which our German ancestors treated their women in their almost impenetrable forests. They worshipped them as a sort of supernatural beings; their household gods in peace, their most valued treasure in war, and their counsellors and companions at all times. This high homage no doubt, arose from the extreme delicacy which prevailed respecting the sexual intercourse. It was esteemed dishonourable to be intimate with a woman till the twentieth year; a custom which, Sir Walter Scott observes, was not only favourable to health and morals, but contributed to place females in that dignified rank which they held in society. “Nothing," continues the same writer, " tends so much to blunt the feelings, to harden the heart, and to destroy the imagination, as the worship of the Vaga Venus in early youth.”* The German wife, once married, seldom endeavoured to forin a second union. Polygamy was unknown; and adultery, which rarely occurred, was punished with great severity ; while the unfortunate offender had no chance to obtain a second husband, however distinguished by beauty, birth, or wealth.
These customs sufficiently account for the high estimation of women
Art. Chivalry, Supp. to Encyc. Brit.
among the Gothic tribes. The divinity of females is in their chastity: when that is violated, the veil of the temple is rent, and they cease almost to be objects of devotion. They are then reduced to that state of humiliation in which we find them in the seraglios of the East. Is it surprising, then, that they guard with such watchfulness this secret of their power? To them it is the wand of harlequin; and such as betray it to the enemy are very naturally shunned as traitresses to the interests of their order. Indeed it is a double treachery, equally injurious to both sides : by it the women lose their dominion, and the men, who had probably fed on heavenly visions, awake, in the fruition of their hopes, with the sad conviction of Philip of their own mortality,
There is another consideration arising out of this subject, which may, perhaps, be worth noticing. We learn from it, that European gallantry is not formed on the models of ancient chivalry, but that it is derived from a much higher source—from that source from which we derive our most valued municipal institutions. Indeed chivalry (whatever may be said to the contrary, and as has been elsewhere observed) was but a gloomy, ascetic, and absurd superstition, which very soon after its institution degenerated into the coarsest brutality and licentiousness. Mr. Dymuke, at the Coronation, I have often thought, was but a poor representation of the stern, subacid knights of yore; his gaudy plumes and tinsel trappings had as much relation to the Godfreys, Orlandos, and Bertrands of the old time, as a modern drawingroom has to the hall of William Rufus.-But I have now done, Mr. Editor. In looking over the beginning of this epistle, I find that there are some matters at which your fair readers may probably cavil: you know, Sir, my object is merely truth and fair play; should I therefore have inadvertently fallen into any considerable errors, I shall most willingly submit to correction. They are, however, points I should by no means wish to discuss viva voce; therefore, with your permission, would prefer receiving a trifling list of errata through the medium of a future Number.
P.S. I intend, on a future occasion, to send you my thoughts on Love: this will probably be about Christmas, or perhaps not till the vernal equinox.
Montaigne THE YOUNGER.
O SLEEP! where hast thou been the live-long nights
That thus at early morn thou visit'st me
With late and languid step ?-Unkind, to flee
On lids that veil the glance of gaiety,
And lips that breathe but mirth and melody,
Alone my heart feels freshness-with the sup,
Its springiness and youth, but thou forbid'st,
When the German Drama is mentioned, the mind is immediately filled with images of vehement passion, touching sensibility, elevated and tender sentiments, strikingly diversified character, agonizing distress, electrifying coups de théatre, and interesting incidents wrought into complicated and mysterious fable; all carried to just that pitch of extravagance, which, even whilst it offends the critical taste, irresistibly fascinates the imagination. Such was the German drama when it first became known in this country, but such it is no longer. Of late years either the above enumerated constituents of tragedy have been systematically rejected, or if they have been admitted, they have been so skilfully compounded as to produce a result very different from what might have been anticipated. A change so extraordinary and sudden may render it well worth our while to bestow some pages upon the Teutonic Melpomene.
Of the style of tragedy usually meant to be designated by the name German Drama, the finest specimen is, we believe, the celebrated “ Robbers” of Schiller. This piece is so generally known that it is unnecessary for us to enter into any details respecting it; and it is perhaps equally a work of supererogation to mention the impression it made upon the apparently very susceptible youth of Germany, which was such, that the active interference of government became requisite to prevent a whole university's being organized into troops of banditti. The singular susceptibility displayed upon this occasion might possibly depend upon some peculiarities of disposition, not to be understood without such an investigation of the whole constitution of German society, as might, we suspect, prove a task of some difficulty, besides that it would lead us too far from the purpose of this paper. sibly we may be indebted for our exemption from such fearfully felonious influences solely and simply to the circumstance of our being acquainted with “ Die Räuber” only in the retirement of our closets, and never having had our imaginations stimulated by the intoxicating effect of theatrical representation, by the exertion of every effort of histrionic skill to heighten the splendour of Carl Meor, a hero who appears to be driven into crime by the very excess of his virtues, combined with his deficiency in the single, and to youth uninteresting, quality of common sense; a splendour that derives increased brilliancy from its contrast to the cold, sophistically calculating vice of Franz Moor, and the weakness of the old father, as well as from the devoted affection with which, even in the depth of his guilt and infamy, he still inspires the tenderly impassioned Amalie. Leaving this question undecided, we will merely observe, that although for some unexplained reason Schiller chose to write this play in prose, probably from a wish of deepening its pathos by adhering more closely to nature, it bears throughout, in story, situation, character, and sentiment, as well as in language, indubitable proofs of its being the production of a poet, and of a poet endowed with no ordinary powers.
The “ Kabale und Liebe" of the same author is equally familiar to the English reader, who has been presented with two versions of it under the different titles of “Cabal and Love,” and “ The Minister.” This is a piece of humbler pretensions, though it holds a high, if not VOL. II, No. 14.-1822.
Or pos. the highest rank amongst Domestic Tragedies. Its colouring is of a lower tone. That part of the poetry of the drama which springs from the external circumstances and manner of life of its personages, is here wholly, wanting; instead of baronial castles, ruined towers, and the caverns of banditti, we are introduced into the cabinets of prime ministers, the boudoirs of royal mistresses, and the parlours of music-masters. Still, notwithstanding this very prosaic locality, the high, chivalrous character of Ferdinand, who has preserved himself untainted amidst the atmosphere of court intrigue that surrounds him, the purity and simplicity of Louisa, and the wild loftiness of feeling that almost redeems the shame of the guilty Lady Milford, breathe a strain of poetry over the whole, amply atoning for all other deficiencies.
But the business of writing for the stage fell into inferior hands; and if we trace the progress, or rather the decline of the German drama in the works of Kotzebue and Iffland, without extending our researches over a wider field, we shall probably discover the cause of the violent reaction that has occurred.
Kotzebue wrote a few regular tragedies and comedies, but by far the larger part of his innumerable volumes consists of domestic tragedies and romantic plays, if we may be allowed to adopt this German term of art for pieces of the nature of “ The Robbers.” Under these two last heads we include, indiscriminately, dramas in which there are, or are not, any deaths; inasmuch as that single circumstance can hardly be thought sufficient to make any essential difference in the character of plays otherwise essentially similar, though in point of fact it does form the sole distinction between the French drame and the domestic tragedy. Neither our author's regular tragedies in blank verse, with an occasional intermixture of dactyls and spondees, nor his comedies, would have gained him much celebrity in his own country, certainly none out of it: it was as a writer of romantic plays and domestic tragedies that he acquired his reputation, and it is as such only that we have to consider him. If upon this ground we proceed to compare him with Schiller, we shall find that by him every point enumerated in our first sentence as constituents of what is commonly meant by the German Drama, is more strongly and more coarsely marked, more glaringly coloured; so that, although the intensity of his distresses, his dangers, and his passions, seizes for the moment powerfully upon the affections, the agitation of interest no sooner subsides, than the mind, unless very juvenile indeed, is revolted by the extravagance and incongruity of what the instant before commanded tears. To
this charge it would only be needful to analyze some of this author's pieces; but so many of them are intimately known as well to every visiter of the theatre, as to every lover of works of fiction, that we hold it sufficient, instead of thus swelling our pages and our labours, to refer our readers to « Pizarro," "The Stranger," « The Virgin of the Sun," “ Count Benyowsky,” “Lovers' Vows,” &c. &c.
Shall we seek the cause of this exaggeration in the necessity under which the authors of plays of this kind lie, to encherir upon each other, in order to excite afresh an appetite partially blunted as well as cloyed ? Or shall we give its explanation in a word, by boldly asserting that Kotzebue, despite his blank verse and his hexameters, was no poet, while to these two species of dramatic composition poetry is indispen