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distinguished by the most amazing retentiveness of memory, and vividness of conception of what would happen, be seen, and felt by every body in given circumstances; as Shakespear is by inventiveness of genius, by a faculty of tracing and unfolding the most hidden yet powerful springs of action, scarce recognised by ourselves, and by an endless and felicitous range of poetical illustration, added to a wide scope of reading and of knowledge. One proof of the justice of these remarks is, that whenever Sir Walter comes to a truly dramatic situation, he declines it or fails. Thus in the Black Dwarf, all that relates to the traditions respecting this mysterious personage, to the superstitious stories founded on it, is admirably done and to the life, with all the spirit and freedom of originality : but when he comes to the last scene for which all the rest is a preparation, and which is full of the highest interest and passion, nothing is done ; instead of an address from Sir Edward Mauley, recounting the miseries of his whole life, and withering up his guilty rival with the recital, the Dwarf enters with a strange rustling noise, the opposite doors fly open, and the affrighted spectators rush out like the figures in a pantomime. This is not dramatic, but melo-dramatic. There is a palpable disappointment and falling-off
, where the interest had been worked up to the highest pitch of expectation. The gratifying of this appalling curiosity and interest was all that was not done to Sir Walter's hand; and this he has failed to do. All that was known about the Black Dwarf, his figure, his desolate habitation, his unaccountable way of life, his wrongs, his bitter execrations against intruders on his privacy, the floating and exaggerated accounts of him, all these are given with a masterly and faithful hand, this is matter of description and narrative : but when the true imaginative and dramatic part comes, when the subject of this disastrous tale is to pour out the accumulated and agonising effects of all this series of wretchedness and torture upon his own mind, that is, when the person is to speak from himself and to stun us with the recoil of passion upon external agents or circumstances that have caused it, we find that it is Sir Walter Scott and not Shakespear that is his counsel-keeper, that the "author is a novelist and not a poet. All that is gossipped in the neighbourhood, all that is handed down in print, all of which a drawing or an etching might be procured, is gathered together and communicated to the public : what the heart whispers to itself in secret, what the imagination tells in thunder, this alone is wanting, and this is the great thing required to make good the comparison in question. Sir Walter has not then imitated Shakespear, but he has given us nature, such as he found and could best describe it; and he resembles him only in this, that he thinks of his characters and never of himself, and pours out his works with such unconscious ease and prodigality of resources that he thinks nothing of them, and is even greater than his own fame.
The genius of Shakespear is dramatic, that of Scott narrative or descriptive, that of Racine is didactic. He gives, as I conceive, the commonplaces of the human heart better than any one, but nothing or very little more. He enlarges on a set of obvious sentiments and well-known topics with considerable elegance of language and copiousness of declamation, but there is scarcely one stroke of original genius, nor any thing like imagination in his writings. He strings together a number of moral reflections, and instead of reciting them himself, puts them into the mouths of his dramatis persone, who talk well about their own situations and the general relations of human life. Instead of laying bare the heart of the sufferer with all its bleeding wounds and palpitating fibres, he puts into his hand a common-place book, and he reads us a lecture from this. This is not the essence of the drama, whose object and privilege it is to give us the extreme and subtle workings of the human mind in individual circumstances, to make us sympathise with the sufferer, or feel as we should feel in his circumstances, not to tell the indifferent spectator what the indifferent spectator could just as well tell him. Tragedy is human nature tried in the crucible of affliction, not exhibited in the vague theorems of speculation. The poet's pen that paints all this in words of fire and images of gold is totally wanting in Racine. He gives neither external images nor the internal and secret workings of the human breast. Sir Walter Scott gives the external imagery or machinery of passion; Shakespear the soul ; and Racine the moral or argument of it. The French object to Shakespear for his breach of the Unities, and hold up Racine as a model of classical propriety, who makes a Greek hero address a Grecian heroine as Madame. Yet this is not barbarous—Why? Because it is French, and because nothing that is French can be barbarous in the eyes of this frivolous and pedantic nation, who would prefer a peruke of the age of Louis XIV. to a simple Greek head-dress!