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MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS.
MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS, author of The Monk, was born in London in the year 1773. His father was deputy secretary in the war-office-a lucrative situation-and was owner also of extensive West Indian possessions. Matthew was educated at Westminster school, where he was more remarkable for his love of theatrical exhibitions than for his love of learning. On leaving Westminster, he was entered of Christ Church college, Oxford, but remained only a short period, being sent to Germany with the view of acquiring a knowledge of the language of that country. When a child, Lewis had
Matthew Gregory Lewis.
pored over Glanville on Witches, and other books of diablerie; and in Germany he found abundant food of the same description. Romance and the drama were his favourite studies; and whilst resident abroad, he composed his story of The Monk,' a work more extravagant in its use of supernatural machinery than any previous English tale of modern times, and disfigured with passages of great licentiousness. The novel was published in 1795, and attracted much attention. A prosecution, it is said, was threatened on account of the peccant scenes and descriptions; to avert which, Lewis pledged himself to recall the printed copies, and to recast the work in another edition. The author continued through life the same strain of marvellous and terrific composition-now clothing it in verse, now infusing it into the scenes of a drama, and at other times expanding it into regular tales. His Feudal Tyrants, Romantic Tales, his Tales of Terror, and Tales of Wonder, and his numerous plays, all bespeak the same parentage as The Monk,' and none of them excel it. His best poetry, as well as prose, is to be found in this novel; for, like Mrs Radcliffe, Lewis introduced poetical compositions into his tales; and his ballads of Alonzo the Brave and Durandarte were as attractive as any of the adventures of Ambrosio the monk. Flushed with the brilliant success of his romance, and fond of distinction and high society, Lewis procured a seat in parliament, and was returned for the borough of Hindon. He found himself disqualified by nature for playing the part of an orator or politician; and though he retained
his seat till the dissolution of parliament, he never attempted to address the house. The theatres offered a more attractive field for his genius; and his play of The Castle Spectre, produced in 1797, was applauded as enthusiastically and more universally than his romance. Connected with his dramatic fame a very interesting anecdote is related in the Memoirs and Correspondence of Lewis, published in 1839. It illustrates his native benevolence, which, amidst all the frivolities of fashionable life, and the excitement of misapplied talents, was a conspicuous feature in his character :
her non-appearance; having had an opportunity of witnessing your very admirable performance of a far superior character, in a style true to nature, and which reflects upon you the highest credit. I allude to a most interesting scene, in which you lately sustained the character of "The Daughter!" Brides of all denominations but too often prove their empire delusive; but the character you have chosen will improve upon every representation, both in the estimation of the public and the satisfaction of your own excellent heart. For the infinite gratification I have received, I must long consider myself in your 'Being one autumn on his way to participate in debt. Trusting you will permit the enclosed (fifty the enjoyments of the season with the rest of the pounds) in some measure to discharge the same, I fashionable world at a celebrated watering-place, he remain, madam, (with sentiments of respect and adpassed through a small country town, in which chance miration), your sincere well-wisher-M. G. LEWIS." occasioned his temporary sojourn: here also were In 1801 appeared Lewis's Tales of Wonder.' A located a company of strolling players, whose per- ghost or a witch was, he said, a sine qua non ingreformance he one evening witnessed. Among them dient in all the dishes of which he meant to compose was a young actress, whose benefit was on the tapis, his hobgoblin repast, and Sir Walter Scott contributed and who, on hearing of the arrival of a person so to it some of his noble ballads. Scott met Lewis in talked of as Monk Lewis, waited upon him at the Edinburgh in 1798, and so humble were then his inn, to request the very trifling favour of an original own aspirations, and so brilliant the reputation of piece from his pen. The lady pleaded in terms that the Monk,' that he declared, thirty years afterurged the spirit of benevolence to advocate her cause wards, he never felt such elation as when Lewis in a heart never closed to such appeal. Lewis had asked him to dine with him at his hotel! Lewis by him at that time an unpublished trifle, called schooled the great poet on his incorrect rhyme, and "The Hindoo Bride," in which a widow was immo- proved himself, as Scott says, 'a martinet in the lated on the funeral pile of her husband. The sub- accuracy of rhymes and numbers.' Sir Walter has ject was one well suited to attract a country audience, recorded that Lewis was fonder of great people than and he determined thus to appropriate the drama. he ought to have been, either as a man of talent or The delighted suppliant departed all joy and grati- as a man of fashion. He had always,' he says, tude at being requested to call for the manuscript the dukes and duchesses in his mouth, and was pathenext day. Lewis, however, soon discovered that he tically fond of any one that had a title: you would had been reckoning without his host, for, on searching have sworn he had been a parvenu of yesterday; yet the travelling-desk which contained many of his pa- he had lived all his life in good society."* Yet Scott pers, "The Bride" was nowhere to be found, having, regarded Lewis with no small affection. 'He was,' in fact, been left behind in town. Exceedingly an- added he, 'one of the kindest and best creatures noyed by this circumstance, which there was no time that ever lived. His father and mother lived sepato remedy, the dramatist took a pondering stroll rately. Mr Lewis allowed his son a handsome inthrough the rural environs of BA sudden come, but reduced it by more than one-half when shower obliged him to take refuge within a huckster's he found that he paid his mother a moiety of it. shop, where the usual curtained half-glass door in Mat. restricted himself in all his expenses, and the rear opened to an adjoining apartment: from shared the diminished income with her as before. this room he heard two voices in earnest conversa- He did much good by stealth, and was a most genetion, and in one of them recognised that of his thea-rous creature.' The sterling worth of his character trical petitioner of the morning, apparently replying has been illustrated by the publication of his corto the feebler tones of age and infirmity. "There respondence, which, slumbering twenty years after now, mother, always that old story-when I've just his death, first disclosed to the public the calm good brought such good news too-after I've had the sense, discretion, and right feeling which were conface to call on Mr Monk Lewis, and found him so cealed by the exaggerated romance of his writings, different to what I expected; so good-humoured, so and his gay and frivolous appearance and manners. affable, and willing to assist me. I did not say a The death of Lewis's father made the poet a man of word about you, mother; for though in some respects it might have done good, I thought it would seem so like a begging affair; so I merely represented my late ill-success, and he promised to give me an original drama, which he had with him, for my benefit. I hope he did not think me too bold!" "I hope not, Jane," replied the feeble voice; "only don't do these things again without consulting me; for you don't know the world, and it may be thought- The sun just then gave a broad hint that the shower had ceased, and the sympathising author returned to his inn, and having penned the following letter, ordered post-horses, and despatched a porter to the young actress with the epistle.
*Of this weakness Byron records an amusing instance :
that when people said anything kind to him it affected him
Lewis, at Oatlands, was observed one morning to have his eyes red and his air sentimental: being asked why? he replied, deeply," and just now the Duchess (of York) has said something so kind to me, that-" here tears began to flow. "Never mind, Lewis," said Colonel Armstrong to him, "never mind don't cry-she could not mean it." Lewis was of extremely diminutive stature. I remember a picture of him,' says Scott, by Saunders, being handed round at Dalkeith house. The artist had ingeniously flung a dark folding mantle around the form, under which was half hid a dagger, a dark lantern, or some such cut-throat appurtenance. With all this, the features were preserved and ennobled. It passed from hand to
hand into that of Henry Duke of Buccleuch, who, hearing the general voice affirm that it was very like said aloud, "Like Mat. Lewis! Why, that picture's like a MAN!" He looked,
went through life with him. He was a child, and a spoiled
and lo! Mat. Lewis's head was at his elbow. This boyishness Ichild--but a child of high imagination, and so he wasted himself on ghost stories and German romances. He had the finest ear for the rhythm of verse I ever met with-finer than Byron's.'
"Madam-I am truly sorry to acquaint you that my Hindoo Bride has behaved most improperly in fact, whether the lady has eloped or not, it seems she does not choose to make her appearance, either for your benefit or mine: and to say the truth, don't at this moment know where to find her. I take the liberty to jest upon the subject, because I really do not think you will have any cause to regret
independent fortune. He succeeded to considerable plantations in the West Indies, besides a large sum of money; and in order to ascertain personally the condition of the slaves on his estate, he sailed for the West Indies in 1815. Of this voyage he wrote a narrative, and kept journals, forming the most interesting and valuable production of his pen. The manner in which the negroes received him on his arrival amongst them he thus describes:
'As soon as the carriage entered my gates, the uproar and confusion which ensued sets all description at defiance. The works were instantly all abandoned; everything that had life came flocking to the house from all quarters; and not only the men, and the women, and the children, but, "by a bland assimilation," the hogs, and the dogs, and the geese, and the fowls, and the turkeys, all came hurrying along by instinct, to see what could possibly be the matter, and seemed to be afraid of arriving too late. Whether the pleasure of the negroes was sincere, may be doubted; but, certainly, it was the loudest that I ever witnessed: they all talked together, sang, danced, shouted, and, in the violence of their gesticulations, tumbled over each other, and rolled about upon the ground. Twenty voices at once inquired after uncles, and aunts, and grandfathers, and great-grandmothers of mine, who had been buried long before I was in existence, and whom, I verily believe, most of them only knew by tradition. One woman held up her little naked black child to me, grinning from ear to ear-" Look, massa, look here! him nice lilly neger for massa!" Another complained-“So long since none come see we, massa; good massa come at last." As for the old people, they were all in one and the same story: now they had lived once to see massa, they were ready for dying to-morrow" them no care."
The shouts, the gaiety, the wild laughter, their strange and sudden bursts of singing and dancing, and several old women, wrapped up in large cloaks, their heads bound round with different-coloured handkerchiefs, leaning on a staff, and standing motionless in the middle of the hubbub, with their eyes fixed upon the portico which I occupied, formed an exact counterpart of the festivity of the witches in Macbeth. Nothing could be more odd or more novel than the whole scene; and yet there was something in it by which I could not help being affected. Perhaps it was the consciousness that all these human beings were my slaves. To be sure, I never saw people look more happy in my life, and I believe their condition to be much more comfortable than that of the labourers of Great Britain; and, after all, slavery in their case is but another name for servitude, now that no more negroes can be forcibly carried away from Africa, and subjected to the horrors of the voyage, and of the seasoning after their arrival. But still I had already experienced, in the morning, that Juliet was wrong in saying "What's in a name?" for, soon after my reaching the lodging-house at Savannah la Mar, a remarkably clean-looking negro lad presented himself with some water and a towel. I concluded him to belong to the inn; and on my returning the towel, as he found that I took no notice of him, he at length ventured to introduce himself, by saying, "Massa not know me-me your slave!" and really the sound made me feel a pang at the heart. The lad appeared all gaiety and good humour, and his whole countenance expressed anxiety to recommend himself to my notice; but the word "slave" seemed to imply that. although he did feel pleasure then in serving me, if he had detested me he must have served me still. I really felt quite humiliated at the moment, and was tempted to tell him-" Do not say that again;
say that you are my negro, but do not call yourself my slave."'
Lewis returned to England in 1816, but went back to Jamaica the following year. He found that his attorney had grossly mismanaged his property, being generally absent on business of his own, and intrusting the whole to an overseer, who was of a tyrannical disposition. Having adjusted his affairs, the Monk' embarked on his return home. The climate, however, had impaired his health, and he died of fever while the ship was passing through the Gulf of Florida, in July 1818. Lewis may thus be said to have fallen a martyr to his love of justice and humanity, and the circumstance sheds a lustre on his memory far surpassing mere literary fame. His poetical merits are thus fairly summed up: Pretty conceits airily tricked out in what are called songs; in his more elaborate efforts melodious, skilfullyvaried versification, and here and there a line of such happy ease in construction, that it is sure to linger on the ear; but a slender command either of imagery or of passion. As a poet, Lewis is to a Byron what a scene-painter is to a Hobbima. He produces a startling grotesque of outline, and some grand massy contrasts of light and shade; but he has no notion of working in detail-no atmosphere, no middle tints to satisfy a daylight spectator. The subject of the Isle of Devils (a poem of more than a thousand lines, which Lewis wrote in the course of his homeward voyage in 1816) would, in Lord Byron's hands, have at least rivalled the effect of Manfred; from Lewis it comes only in the shape of a sketchy extravaganza, in which no feeling is seriously grappled with, and a score of magnificent situations are, to all intents and purposes, except that of filling the ear with a succession of delicious sounds, thrown away. The truth is, that though Sir Walter Scott talks of the "high imagination" of Lewis, it was only in his very first flights that he ever was able to maintain a really enthusiastic elevation; and he did so more successfully in the prose of the Monk' than in the best of his early verses. Had he lived, in all likelihood he would have turned in earnest to prose composition; and we think no reader of his West India Journals can doubt that, if he had undertaken a novel of manners in mature age, he would have cast immeasurably into the shade even the happiest efforts of his boyish romance.' *
Durandarte and Belerma.
Sad and fearful is the story
There fell Durandarte; never
Ah! though young I fall, believe me,
*Quarterly Review for 1834.
Oh! my cousin, Montesinos,
When my soul, these limbs forsaking, Eager seeks a purer air,
From my breast the cold heart taking, Give it to Belerma's care.
Say, I of my lands possessor Named her with my dying breath; Say, my lips I oped to bless her, Ere they closed for aye in death:
Twice a-week, too, how sincerely
Eyes, which forth beheld me going, Homewards ne'er shall see me hie; Cousin, stop those tears o'erflowing, Let me on thy bosom die.
Thy kind hand my eyelids closing,
Thus spoke gallant Durandarte; Soon his brave heart broke in twain. Greatly joyed the Moorish party That the gallant knight was slain.
Bitter weeping, Montesinos
To perform his promise made, he
Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogine. A warrior so bold, and a virgin so bright, Conversed as they sat on the green; They gazed on each other with tender delight: Alonzo the Brave was the name of the knightThe maiden's, the Fair Imogine.
'And, oh!' said the youth, since to-morrow I go
On a wealthier suitor your hand!'
At midnight, four times in each year, does her sprite, chiefly from lameness, led to his being placed under
the charge of some relations in the country; and
While they drink out of skulls newly torn from the romantic situation a few miles from Kelso. The ruined tower of Smailholm (the scene of Scott's ballad, the Eve of St John) was close to the farm, and beside it were the Eildon Hills, the river Tweed, Dryburgh Abbey, and other poetical and historical objects, all enshrined in the lonely contemplative boy's fancy and recollection. He afterwards resided with another relation at Kelso, and here, at the age of thirteen, he first read Percy's Reliques, in an antique garden, under the shade of a huge platanus, or oriental plane-tree. This work had as great an effect in making him a poet as Spenser had on Cowley, but with Scott the seeds were long in germinating. Previous to this he had indeed tried his hand at verse. The following, among other lines, were discovered wrapped up in a cover inscribed by Dr Adam of the High School, Walter Scott, July 1783.'
Dancing round them the spectres are seen; Their liquor is blood, and this horrible stave They howl: To the health of Alonzo the Brave, And his consort, the Fair Imogine!'
Hark, the bell! it sounds midnight! all hail, thou new heaven!
How soft sleep the stars on their bosom of night; While o'er the full moon, as they gently are driven, Slowly floating, the clouds bathe their fleeces in light. The warm feeble breeze scarcely ripples the ocean,
And all seem so hushed, all so happy to feel;
So right from the heart, and so pure to the ear,
Ne'er were the zephyrs known disclosing
More sweets, than when in Tempe's shades They waved the lilies, where reposing,
Sat four-and-twenty lovely maids.
Those lovely maids were called 'the Hours,'
To guard it while her sisters slept.
False Love, how simple souls thou cheatest!
In tones so bland he praised her beauty;
And fled in Love's embrace away.
The wolf broke in, the lambs were slain; And now from Virtue's train discarded,
With tears her sisters speak their pain.
An Hour once fled, has fled for ever,
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
WALTER SCOTT was born in the city of Edinburgh (mine own romantic town') on the 15th of August 1771. His father was a respectable writer to the signet his mother, Anne Rutherford, was daughter of a physician in extensive practice, and professor of medicine in the university of Edinburgh. By both parents the poet was remotely connected with some respectable ancient Scottish families-a circumstance gratifying to his feelings of nationality, and to his imagination. Delicate health, arising
On the Setting Sun.
Those evening clouds, that setting ray,
Then let the short-lived thing called man,
To him his homage raise.
We often praise the evening clouds,
But seldom think upon our God,
Who tinged these clouds with gold.
The religious education of Scott may be seen in this effusion: his father was a rigid Presbyterian. The youthful poet passed through the High School and university of Edinburgh, and made some proficiency in Latin, and in the classes of ethics, moral philosophy, and history. He had an aversion to Greek, and we may perhaps regret, with Bulwer, that he refused to enter into that chamber in the magic palace of literature in which the sublimest relics of antiquity are stored.' He knew generally, but not critically, the German, French, Italian, and Spanish languages. He was an insatiable reader, and during a long illness in his youth, stored his mind with a vast variety of miscellaneous knowledge. Romances were among his chief favourites, and he had great facility in inventing and telling stories. He also collected ballads from his earliest years. Scott was apprenticed to his father as a writer, after which he studied for the bar, and put on his gown in his twenty-first year. His health was now vigorous and robust, and he made frequent excursions into the country, which he pleasantly denominated raids. The knowledge of rural life, character, traditions, and anecdotes, which he picked up in these rambles, formed afterwards a valuable mine to him, both as a poet and novelist. His manners were easy and agreeable, and he was always a welcome guest. Scott joined the Tory party; and when the dread of an invasion agitated the country, he became one of a band of volunteers, brothers true,' in which he held the rank of quarter-master. His exercises as a cavalry officer, and the jovialties of the messroom, occupied much of his time; but he still pursued, though irregularly, his literary studies, and an attachment to a Perthshire lady (though ultimately unfortunate) tended still more strongly to prevent his sinking into idle frivolity or dissipation. Henry Mackenzie, the Man of Feeling,' had introduced a taste for German literature into the intellec