Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of celebrity, or the preponderance of favouritism: but what was his mortification when, seated in his aerial car, amidst humanized sylphs and gnomesKotzebue suddenly alighted on the English stage, of which, almost without being naturalized, he took absolute possession. To nakon account for this phenomenon, it has been pretended that there existed a close affinity between the English and German schools, since they alike disclaimed the oppression of scholastic rules, and constantly asserted the rights of truth and nature. Unfortu. nately for this argument, the drama of Kotzebue bears more affinity to the drama of Diderot, than to the primitive stock of English poetry. His characters are always of the romantic cast — his language rather breathes the monotonous falsetto of sentimentality, than the genuine and ever-new and varied strain of passion and nature : yet it must be acknowledged Kotzebue is not destitute of pathos; his scenes are

often picturesque, and by the novelty derived from foreign manners, they afforded a seasonable relief to the mannerism and limitation which system had produced on the English stage. It certainly would have been easy to find many English dramatists to whom he was indisputably inferior in talents and moral feeling; but Fashion declared in his favour, and by a whimsical contradiction, the dramatist who was held in least reputę in the literary circles of Germany, became the idol of that country which could alone boast of Shakespeare.

“Some years ago, (observes Schlegel), several German plays found their way to the English stage.--Plays which, it is true, are with us the favourites of the multitude, but which are not considered by the intelligent as forming a part of our literature, and in which distinguished actors are almost ashamed of hearing applause.

“ These pieces have met with extraordinary favour in England; they have, properly speaking, as the Italians say, fatto furore; though the critics did not fail to declaim against their immorality, veiled over by sentimental hypocrisy. From the poverty of our dramatic literature, the admission of such abortions in Germany may be easily comprehended: but what can be alleged in favour of this depravity of taste in a nation like the English, which possesses such treasures, and which must therefore descend from such an elevation ?”

fucha

It is painful to reflect how much the unpatriotic predilection for Kotzebue must have depressed and discouraged national talents, when the author of Every One has his Fault, so' capable of enriching our national literature with original productions, was condemned to waste her fine powers in finishing his imperfect sketches, and attempting to transfuse into his fantastic groups distinctness and truth, life and harmony. Although Tobin had often submitted his better taste to theatrical authority, he was inflexible in his oppositions to the sentimental jargon of this new school, and never could prevail on himself to fraternize with its founder. The genius of Sheridan was less disdainful, and Pizarro remains to commemorate the moment of popular effervescence which once prevailed for romance and Kotzebue.

The success of this piece being generally attributed to its magnanimous sentiments, (to which political events had given interest and importance,) Tobin felt his emulation excited to produce an American play, and whilst he was eagerly seeking a subject, his attention was accidentally directed to the recent example of Gen. Bowles (the accredited ambassador from the Creeks and Cherokees to his Britannic Majesty), who had spent the winter of 1791 in London.

Since the days of Plutarch's heroes, there have existed few adventurers of spirit more intrepid, or more romantic fortunes, than this once celebrated American. Descended from British parents, but born in Maryland, some years previous to the American war, he imbibed in childhood the loyal sentiments of his fathers, and at the age of thirteen quitted his paternal home to join the British camp, where being admitted as a volunteer, he already gave indications of invincible courage, but being with his regiment at Pensacola, he was for some slight misdemeanorignominiously dismissed, and abandoned to his fate. In this desolate situation, without money or friends, he was protected by certain Creek Indians, who had come as trading agents to Pensacola, and who, compassionating his youth and destitute condition, conducted him to their native territory; but their customs not permitting an alien to reside among them, he was adopted by one of their

« AnteriorContinuar »