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ent forlorn state from the happiness I enjoyed prompted him to compose several odes on the during my late residence in Rome:-there the Villa subject of American independence, and seveStrozzi near to the warm baths of Dioclesian, af- ral miscellaneous productions of a similar forded me a delightful retreat, where I passed my character:-at last, in 1786, he is permitted mornings in study, only riding for an hour or two through the vast solitudes which, in the neighbour- to take up his permanent abode with his mishood of Rome, invite to melancholy, meditation, tress, whom he rejoins at Alsace, and never and poetry. In the evening, I proceeded to the afterwards abandons. In the course of the city, and found a relaxation from study in the so- following year, they make a journey to Paris, ciety of her who constituted the charm of my ex-with which he is nearly as much dissatisfied istence; and, contented and happy, I returned to my solitude, never at a later hour than eleven o'clock. It was impossible to find, in the circuit of great city, an abode more cheerful, more retired, or better suited to my taste, my character, and my pursuits. Delightful spot!-the remem brance of which I shall ever cherish, and which through life I shall long to revisit."-Vol. ii. pp.
as on his former visit, and makes arrangements with Didot for printing his tragedies in a superb form. In 1788, however, he resolves upon making a complete edition of his whole works at Kehl; and submits, for the accommodation of his fair friend, to take up his residence at Paris. There they receive intelligence of the death of her husband, which seems, however, to make no change in their way of life;-and there he continues busily employed in correcting his various works for publication, till the year 1790, when the first part of these memoirs closes with anticipations of misery from the progress of the revolution, and professions of devoted attachment to the companion whom time had only rendered more dear and respected.
Previously to this time, his extreme love of independence, and his desire to be constantly with the mistress of his affections, had induced him to take the very romantic step of resigning his whole property to his sister; reserving to himself merely an annuity of 14,000 livres, or little more than 500l. As this transference was made with the sanction of the King, who was very well pleased, on the whole, to get rid of so republican a sub- The supplementary part bears date in May ject, it was understood, upon both sides, as a 1803-but a few months prior to the death of tacit compact of expatriation; so that, upon the author, and brings down his history, his removal from Rome, he had no house or though in a more summary manner, to that fixed residence to repair to. In this desolate period. He seems to have lived in much unand unsettled state, his passion for horses re- easiness and fear in Paris, after the comvived with additional fury; and he undertook mencement of the revolution; from all approa voyage to England, for the sole purpose of bation, or even toleration of which tragic purchasing a number of those noble animals; farce, as he terms it, he exculpates himself and devoted eight months "to the study of with much earnestness and solemnity; but, noble heads, fine necks, and well-turned but having vested the greater part of his fortune tocks, without once opening a book or pursuing in that country, he could not conveniently any literary avocation." In London, he pur- abandon it. In 1791, he and his companion chased fourteen horses,-in relation to the made a short visit to England, with which he number of his tragedies!--and this whimsical was less pleased than on any former occasion, relation frequently presenting itself to his-the damp giving him a disposition to gout, imagination, he would say to himself with a and the late hours interfering with his habits smile-"Thou hast gained a horse by each of study. The most remarkable incident in tragedy!"-Truly the noble author must have this journey, occurred at its termination. As been far gone in love, when he gave way to he was passing along the quay at Dover, on such innocent deliration.-He conducted his his way to the packet-boat, he caught a fourteen friends, however, with much judg- glimpse of the bewitching woman on whose ment across the Alps; and gained great glory account he had suffered so much, in his forand notoriety at Sienna, from their daily pro-mer visit to this country nearly twenty years cession through the streets, and the feats of before! She still looked beautiful, he says, dexterity he exhibited in riding and driving and bestowed on him one of those enchanting I smiles which convinced him that he was recognised. Unable to control his emotion, he
them. In the mean time, he had printed twelve of his tragedies; and imbibed a sovereign rushed instantly aboard-hid himself below contempt for such of his countrymen as pre--and did not venture to look up till he was tended to find them harsh, obscure, or affect- landed on the opposite shore. From Calais edly sententious. In 1784, after an absence he addressed a letter to her of kind inquiry, of more than two years, he rejoined his mis- and offers of service; and received an answer, tress at Baden in Alsace; and, during a stay which, on account of the singular tone of canof two months with her, sketched out three dour and magnanimity which it exhibits, he new tragedies. On his return to Italy, he has subjoined in the appendix. It is untook up his abode for a short time at Pisa,-doubtedly a very remarkable production, and where, in a fit of indignation at the faults of shows both a strength of mind and a kindness Pliny's Panegyric on Trajan, he composed in of disposition which seem worthy of a happier five days that animated and eloquent piece fortune. of the same name, which alone, of all his works have fallen into our hands, has left on our minds the impression of ardent and flowing eloquence. His rage for liberty likewise
In the end of 1792, the increasing fury of the revolution rendered Paris no longer a place of safety for foreigners of high birth; and Alfieri and his countess with some difficulty
effected their escape from it, and established themselves, with a diminished income, at his beloved Florence. Here, with his usual impetuosity, he gave vent to his anti-revolutionary feelings, by composing an apology for Louis XVI., and a short satirical view of the French excesses, which he entitled "The Antigallican." He then took to acting his own plays; and, for two or three years, this new passion seduced him in a good degree from literature. In 1795, however, he tried his hand in some satirical productions; and began, with much zeal, to reperuse and translate various passages from the Latin classics. Latin naturally led to Greek; and, in the forty-ninth year of his age, he set seriously to the study of this language. Two whole years did this ardent genius dedicate to solitary drudgery, without being able to master the subject he had undertaken. At last, by dint of perseverance and incredible labour, he began to understand a little of the easier authors; and, by the time he had completed his fiftieth year, succeeded in interpreting a considerable part of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Homer. In reflecting on the peculiar misery which The perusal of Sophocles, in the following Alfieri and some other eminent persons are year, impelled him to compose his last trage-recorded to have endured, while their minds dy of Alceste in 1798. In the end of this were withheld from any worthy occupation, year, the progress of the French armies threat- we have sometimes been tempted to conened to violate the tranquillity of his Tuscan clude, that to suffer deeply from ennui is an retreat! and, in the spring following, upon indication of superior intellect; and that it is the occupation of Florence, he and his friend only to minds destined for higher attainments retired to a small habitation in the country. that the want of an object is a source of real From this asylum, however, they returned so affliction. Upon a little reflection, however, precipitately on the retreat of the enemy, we are disposed to doubt of the soundness of that they were surprised by them on their this opinion; and really cannot permit all the second invasion of Tuscany in 1800; but had shallow coxcombs who languish under the more to suffer, it appears, from the importu- burden of existence, to take themselves, on nate civility, than from the outrages of the our authority, for spell-bound geniuses. The conquerors. The French general, it seems, most powerful stream, indeed, will stagnate was a man of letters, and made several at- the most deeply, and will burst out to more tempts to be introduced to Alfieri. When wild devastation when obstructed in its peaceevasion became impossible, the latter made ful course; but the weakly current is, upon the following haughty but guarded reply to the whole, most liable to obstruction; and will his warlike admirer:mantle and rot at least as dismally as its betters. The innumerable block heads, in short, who betake themselves to suicide, dramdrinking, or dozing in dirty nightcaps, will not allow us to suppose that there is any real connection between ennui and talent; or that fellows who are fit for nothing but mending shoes, may not be very miserable if they are unfortunately raised above their proper occupation.
"If the general, in his official capacity, commands his presence, Victor Alfieri, who never resists constituted authority of any kind, will immediately hasten to obey the order; but if, on the contrary, he requests an interview only as a private individual, Alfieri begs leave to observe, that being of a very retired turn of mind, he wishes not to form any new acquaintance; and therefore entreats the French general to hold him excused."-Vol. ii. pp. 286, 287.
it appears, that he was carried off by an inflammatory or gouty attack in his bowels, which put a period to his existence after a few days' illness, in the month of October 1803. We have since learned, that the publication of his posthumous works, which had been begun by the Countess of Albany at Milan, has been stopped by the French government; and that several of the manuscripts have, by the same authority, been committed to the flames.
We have not a great deal to add to this copious and extraordinary narrative. Many of the peculiarities of Alfieri may be safely referred to the accident of his birth, and the errors of his education. His ennui, arrogance, and dissipation, are not very unlike those of many spoiled youths of condition; nor is there any thing very extraordinary in his subsequent application to study, or the turn of his first political opinions. The peculiar nature of his pursuits, and the character of his literary productions, afford more curious matter for speculation.
Under these disastrous circumstances, he If it does frequently happen that extraor was suddenly seized with the desire of sig-dinary and vigorous exertions are found to nalizing himself in a new field of exertion; follow this heavy slumber of the faculties, and sketched out no fewer than six comedies the phenomenon, we think, may be explained at once, which were nearly finished before without giving any countenance to the supthe end of 1802. His health, during this year, position, that vigorous faculties are most liable was considerably weakened by repeated at- to such an obscuration. In the first place, the tacks of irregular gout and inflammatory af- relief and delight of exertion must act with fections; and the memoir concludes with the more than usual force upon a mind which has description of a collar and medal which he suffered from the want of it; and will be apt had invented, as the badge of "the order of to be pushed further than in cases where the Homer," which, in his late sprung ardour for exertion has been more regular. The chief Greek literature, he had founded and en- cause, however, of the signal success which dowed. Annexed to this record is a sort of has sometimes attended those who have been postscript, addressed, by his friend the Abbé rescued from ennui, we really believe to be Caluso, to the Countess of Albany; from which their ignorance of the difficulties they have
to encounter, and that inexperience which impression of his general character; nor have makes them venture on undertakings which we been able to find, in the whole of these more prudent calculators would decline. We confessions, a single trait of kindness of heart, have already noticed, more than once, the or generous philanthropy, to place in the baleffect of early study and familiarity with the ance against so many indications of selfishbest models in repressing emulation by de-ness and violence. There are proofs enough, indeed, of a firm, elevated, and manly spirit; but small appearance of any thing gentle, or even, in a moral sense, of any thing very respectable. In his admiration, in short, of the worthies of antiquity, he appears to have copied their harshness and indelicacy at least as faithfully as their loftiness of character; and, at the same time, to have combined with it all the licentiousness and presumption of a modern Italian noble.
We have been somewhat perplexed with his politics. After speaking as we have seen, of the mild government of the kings of Sardinia,-after adding that, "when he had read Plutarch and visited England, he felt the most unsurmountable repugnance at marrying, or having his children born at Turin,”—after recording that a monarch is a master, and a subject a slave,-and "that he shed tears of mingled grief and rage at having been born in such a state as Piedmont;"-after all this
spair; and have endeavoured, upon this principle, to explain why so many original authors have been in a great degree without education. Now, a youth spent in lassitude and dissipation leads necessarily to a manhood of ignorance and inexperience; and has all the advantages, as well as the inconveniences, of such a situation. If any inward feeling of strength, ambition, or other extraordinary impulse, therefore, prompt such a person to attempt any thing arduous, it is likely that he will go about it with all that rash and vehement courage which results from unconsciousness of the obstacles that are to be overcome; and it is needless to say how often success is ensured by this confident and fortunate audacity. Thus Alfieri, in the outset of his literary career, ran his head against dramatic poetry, almost before he knew what was meant either by poetry or the drama; and dashed out a tragedy while but imperfectly acquainted with the language in which he was writing, and utterly ignorant either of the rules that had been delivered, or the models which had been created by the genius of his great predecessors. Had he been trained up from his early youth in fearful veneration for these rules and these models, it is certain that he would have resisted the impulse which led him to place himself, with so little preparation, within their danger; and most probable that he would never have thought himself qualified to answer the test they required of him. In giving way, however, to this propensity, with all the thoughtless freedom and vehemence which had characterised his other indulgences, he found himself suddenly embarked in an unexpected undertaking, and in sight of unexpected distinction. The success he had obtained with so little knowledge of the subject, tempted him to acquire what was wanting to deserve it; and justified hopes and stimulated exertions which earlier reflection would, in all probability, have for ever pre-writings and his conduct, might well have vented. been carried away by that promise of emancipation to France, which deluded sounder heads than his in all the countries of Europe. There are two keys, we think, in the work before us, to this apparent inconsistency. Alfieri, with all his abhorrence of tyrants, was, in his heart, a great lover of aristocracy; and, he had a great spite and antipathy at the French nation, collectively and individually.
after giving up his estates to escape from this bondage, and after writing his books on the Tiranide, and his odes on American liberty, we really were prepared to find him taking the popular side, at the outset at least of the French Revolution, and exulting in the downfal of one of those hateful despotisms, against the whole system of which he had previously inveighed with no extraordinary moderation. Instead of this, however, we find him abusing the revolutionists, and extolling their opponents with all the zeal of a professed antijacobin,-writing an eulogium on the dethroned monarch like Mr. Pybus, and an Antigallican like Peter Porcupine. Now, we are certainly very far from saying, that a true friend of liberty might not execrate the proceedings of the French revolutionists; but a professed hater of royalty might have felt more indulgence for the new republic; such a crazy zealot for liberty, as Alfieri showed himself in Italy, both by his
The morality of Alfieri seems to have been at least as relaxed as that of the degenerate nobles, whom in all other things he professed to reprobate and despise. He confesses, without the slightest appearance of contrition, that his general intercourse with women was profligate in the extreme; and has detailed the particulars of three several intrigues with married women, without once appearing to imagine that they could require any apology or expiation. On the contrary, while recording the deplorable consequences of one of them, he observes, with great composure, that it was distressing to him to contemplate a degradation, of which he had, "though innocently," been the occasion. The general arrogance of his manners, too, and the occasional brutality of his conduct towards his inferiors, are far from giving us an amiable
Though professedly a republican, it is easy to see, that the republic he wanted was one on the Roman model,-where there were Patricians as well as Plebeians, and where a man of great talents had even a good chance of being one day appointed Dictator. He did not admire kings indeed,-because he did not happen to be born one, and because they were the only beings to whom he was born inferior: but he had the utmost veneration
for nobles, because fortune had placed him in that order, and because the power and distinction which belonged to it were agreeable to him, and, he thought, would be exercised for the good of his inferiors. When he heard that Voltaire had written a tragedy on the story of Brutus, he fell into a great passion, and exclaimed, that the subject was too lofty for "a French plebeian, who, during twenty years, had subscribed himself gentleman in ordinary to the King!"
This love of aristocracy, however, will not explain the defence of monarchy and the abuse of republics, which formed the substance of his Antigallican. But the truth is, that he was antigallican from his youth up; and would never have forgiven that nation, if they had succeeded in establishing a free government, -especially while Italy was in bondage. The contempt which Voltaire had expressed for Italian literature, and the general degradation into which the national character had fallen, had sunk deep into his fierce and haughty spirit, and inspired him with an antipathy towards that people by whom his own countrymen had been subdued, ridiculed, and outshone. This paltry and vindictive feeling leads him, throughout this whole work, to speak of them in the most unjust and uncandid terms. There may be some truth in his remarks on the mean and meagre articulation of their language, and on their "horrible u, with their thin lips drawn in to pronounce it, as if they were blowing hot soup." Nay, we could even excuse the nationality which leads him to declare, that "he would rather be the author of ten good Italian verses, than of volumes written in English or French, or any such harsh and unharmonious jargon, though their cannon and their armies should continue to render these languages fashionable." But we cannot believe in the sincerity of an amorous Italian, who declares, that he never could get through the first volume of Rousseau's Heloise; or of a modern author of regular dramas, who professes to see nothing at all admirable in the tragedies of Racine or Voltaire. It is evident to us, that he grudged those great writers the glory that was due to them, out of a vindictive feeling of national resentment; and that, for the same reason, he grudged the French nation the freedom, in which he would otherwise have been among the first to believe and to exult.
shall, in the mean time, confine ourselves to a very few observations suggested by the style and character of the tragedies with which we have been for some time acquainted.
These pieces approach much nearer to the ancient Grecian model, than any other modern production with which we are acquainted; in the simplicity of the plot, the fewness of the persons, the directness of the action, and the uniformity and elaborate gravity of the composition. Infinitely less declamatory than the French tragedies, they have less brilliancy and variety, and a deeper tone of dignity and nature. As they have not adopted the choral songs of the Greek stage, however, they are, on the whole, less poetical than those ancient compositions; although they are worked throughout with a fine and careful hand, and diligently purified from every thing ignoble or feeble in the expression. The author's anxiety to keep clear of figures of mere ostentation, and to exclude all showpieces of fine writing in a dialogue of deep interest or impetuous passion, has betrayed him, on some occasions, into too sententious and strained a diction, and given an air of labour and heaviness to many parts of his composition. He has felt, perhaps a little too constantly, that the cardinal virtue of a dramatic writer is to keep his personages to the business and the concerns that lie before them; and by no means to let them turn to moral philosophers, or rhetorical describers of their own emotions. But, in his zealous adherence to this good maxim, he seems sometimes to have forgotten, that certain passions are declamatory in nature as well as on the stage; and that, at any rate, they do not all vent themselves in concise and pithy sayings, but run occasionally into hyperbole and amplification. As it is the great excellence, so it is occasionally the chief fault of Alfieri's dialogue, that every word is honestly employed to help forward the action of the play, by serious argument, necessary narrative, or the direct expression of natural emotion. There are no excursions or digressions,-no episodical conversations, and none but the most brief moralizings. This gives a certain air of solidity to the whole structure of the piece, that is apt to prove oppressive to an ordinary reader, and reduces the entire drama to too great uniformity.
We make these remarks chiefly with a ref
It only remains to say a word or two of the literary productions of this extraordinary per-erence to French tragedy. For our son;-a theme, however interesting and at- part, we believe that those who are duly sentractive, upon which we can scarcely pretend sible of the merits of Shakespeare, will never to enter on the present occasion. We have be much struck with any other dramatical not yet been able to procure a complete copy compositions. There are no other plays, inof the works of Alfieri; and, even of those deed, that paint human nature,-that strike which have been lately transmitted to us, we off the characters of men with all the freshwill confess that a considerable portion re- ness and sharpness of the original,—and mains to be perused. We have seen enough, speak the language of all the passions, not however, to satisfy us that they are deserving like a mimic, but an echo-neither softer nor of a careful analysis, and that a free and en- louder, nor differently modulated from the lightened estimate of their merit may be ren- spontaneous utterance of the heart. In these dered both interesting and instructive to the respects he disdains all comparison with Algreater part of our readers. We hope soon to fieri, or with any other mortal: nor is it fair, be in a condition to attempt this task; and perhaps, to suggest a comparison, where no
rivalry can be imagined. Alfieri, like all the offer any opinion. They are considered, in continental dramatists, considers a tragedy as Italy, we believe, as the purest specimens of a poem. In England, we look upon it rather the favella Toscana that late ages have proas a representation of character and passion. duced. To us they certainly seem to want With them, of course, the style and diction, something of that flow and sweetness to which and the congruity and proportions of the we have been accustomed in Italian poetry, piece, are the main objects;-with us, the and to be formed rather upon the model of truth and the force of the imitation. It is suf- Dante than of Petrarca. At all events, it is ficient for them, if there be character and obvious that the style is highly elaborate and action enough to prevent the composition from artificial; and that the author is constantly languishing, and to give spirit and propriety striving to give it a sort of factitious force and to the polished dialogue of which it consists; energy, by the use of condensed and em. -we are satisfied, if there be management phatic expressions, interrogatories, antitheses, enough in the story not to shock credibility and short and inverted sentences. In all entirely, and beauty and polish enough in the these respects, as well as in the chastised diction to exclude disgust or derision. In his gravity of the sentiments, and the temperance own way, Alfieri, we think, is excellent. His and propriety of all the delineations of pasfables are all admirably contrived and com- sion, these pieces are exactly the reverse of pletely developed; his dialogue is copious and what we should have expected from the fiery, progressive; and his characters all deliver fickle, and impatient character of the author. natural sentiments with great beauty, and From all that Alfieri has told us of himself, often with great force of expression. In our we should have expected to find in his plays eyes, however, it is a fault that the fable is too great vehemence and irregular eloquencesimple, and the incidents too scanty; and that sublime and extravagant sentiments-pasall the characters express themselves with sions rising to frenzy and poetry swelling equal felicity, and urge their opposite views into bombast. Instead of this, we have a suband pretensions with equal skill and plausi- dued and concise representation of energetic bility. We see at once, that an ingenious discourses-passions, not loud but deep-and author has versified the sum of a dialogue; a style so severely correct and scrupulously and never, for a moment, imagine that we pure, as to indicate, even to unskilful eyes, hear the real persons contending. There may the great labour which must have been be be more eloquence and dignity in this style stowed on its purification. No characters can of dramatising;—there is infinitely more de- be more different than that which we should ception in ours. infer from reading the tragedies of Alfieri, and that which he has assigned to himself in these authentic memoirs.
With regard to the diction of these pieces, it is not for tramontane critics to presume to
The Life and Posthumous Writings of WILLIAM COWPER, Esq. With an Introductory Letter to the Right Honourable Earl Cowper. By William Hayley, Esq. 2 vols. 4to. Chichester: 1803.
THIS book is too long; but it is composed on a plan that makes prolixity unavoidable. Instead of an account of the poet's life, and a view of his character and performances, the biographer has laid before the public a large selection from his private correspondence, and merely inserted as much narrative between each series of letters, as was necessary to preserve their connection, and make the subject of them intelligible.
This scheme of biography, which was first introduced, we believe, by Mason, in his life of Gray, has many evident advantages in point of liveliness of colouring, and fidelity of representation. It is something intermediate between the egotism of confessions, and the questionable narrative of a surviving friend, who must be partial, and may be mistaken: It enables the reader to judge for himself, from materials that were not provided for the purpose of determining his judgment; and holds up to him, instead of a flattering or unfaithful portrait, the living lineaments and
features of the person it intends to commemorate. It is a plan, however, that requires so much room for its execution, and consequently so much money and so much leisure in those who wish to be masters of it, that it ought to be reserved, we conceive, for those great and eminent characters that are likely to excite an interest among all orders and generations of mankind. While the biography of Shakespeare and Bacon shrinks into the corner of an octavo, we can scarcely help wondering that the history of the sequestered life and solitary studies of Cowper should have extended into two quarto volumes.
The little Mr. Hayley writes in these volumes is by no means well written; though certainly distinguished by a very amiable gentleness of temper, and the strongest appearance of sincere veneration and affection for the departed friend to whose memory it is consecrated. It will be very hard, too, if they do not become popular; as Mr. Hayley seems to have exerted himself to conciliate readers