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discontented and dangerous chieftain, who had more than once risen in rebellion against his sovereign, and whom Westmoreland had helped to crush. It is true that the Earl loses
nothing by this circumstance, and is even made a gainer by being raised, in consequence of it, to higher rank-but this is merely the bounty of his sovereign, and was no part, for aught that appears, of Percy's plan.
There is no powerful development of character, but the characters are consistent and well sustained. The conflict between love and pride in the breast of Eleanor, and the artifices she employs to conceal her passion from herself and others, are described with considerable success. There are many things striking, but little that is affecting-no displays of strong passion or intense feeling. The dialogue is spirited, and generally elegant; it has many beautiful and vigo rous passages-passages which, if they are, as is said, the first fruits of the author's genius, give fair promise of the mature harvest. The soliloquy of Percy, at the opening of the fourth act, as he stands in the twilight, at the cavern's mouth, and gazes on the dying glories of the west, is full of nature and poetry. There is occasionally a stiffness in the language, and too great a license of inversion to suit well with the flow of dialogue. Indeed, if we might be permitted to interpose our humble judgment in this matter, we should say, that most of the tragedians in our language, for the last hundred years, have adopted a diction much too florid and stately, and too far removed from the common idiom of our tongue. The pompous and declamatory manner of Rowe, and his unvaried pauses, have been held up as the model of tragic style; but for ourselves, with all the negligence of which Otway is accused, we prefer a single page from one of his tragedies, without even considering any other quality but the style proper for such compositions, to all that Rowe ever wrote. The tragedians of the early English stage were above this puerility; or, if they fell into it occasionally, it was by no means their usual manner, and those passages which are infected with it are allowed to be their worst. The truth is, that this is not the dialect of feeling-dress it in that borrowed garb and you change its nature. Our conversation is not crammed with gaudy and swelling epithets, and when we read or hear what is supposed to be a representation of conversations passing amid scenes of great interest or impor
tance, the free use of ornaments like these shocks us as unnatural, and vexes us as tedious; the illusion of reality is so far broken, and we are diverted from the subject to think of the author. We cannot speak much more favourably of those poetical inversions, as they are called, which are so liberally employed by some writers in dramatic poetry. Where they are not of the easiest and most familiar kind, they strike us as something harsh and unexpected. We have always doubted whether those bold inversions, which, if they were not first introduced into our verse by Milton, are certainly more frequent in his poetry than in that of any one who wrote before him, are any more to be imitated than the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Italian idioms, and others, of which he made such free use; indeed they are themselves a foreign idiom-the idiom of the learned languages. It is difficult to see any apology for admitting them into a kind of writing, the mechanism of which presents so little difficulty as blank verse, and in which they are so easily avoided ;—although something perhaps may be occasionally allowed for the exigencies of rhyme. It is gratifying, however, to know that these licentious distortions of our language are dropping out of use; but in a species of composition, professing, like the drama, to be a copy of the language in which the ordinary communications of life are held, and where they are inexpressibly awkward and unnatural, it is astonishing to think that they should ever have prevailed.
We think that the author of Percy's Masque is to be congratulated on having escaped so well the florid and declamatory manner, with so many celebrated and seducing examples before him. We hope, however, that should he continue to cultivate this department of the drama, he will be led to study a style still more idiomatic and easy, and, particularly, (for here he has sinned most) with fewer capricious depar tures from the natural construction.
We can assure the writer that his work is favourably received among his countrymen. There is in our country a numerous class, not only of readers, but of men qualified to judge of the merit of such works, and who have both the power and the will to create a solid and extensive reputation for such as are worthy of encouragement.
New Series, No. 4.
ART. XIX.-Life and Letters, together with poetical and miscellaneous pieces of the late William Person, a student of Harvard University. Cambridge: Hilliard & Metcalf. 1820. pp. 252, 12mo.
We took up this volume without much expectation of pleas ure or instruction. The life of a young man, cut off in the midst of his pupillage, seemed to promise little else than tales of the school and play-ground. Indications of early genius there might be, and examples of docility and diligence fit for other youth to imitate. But that there should be any thing in which the generality of adult readers would take much interest, or any thing of consequence enought to justify the publication, we could hardly suppose. The lives of merely literary men have sometimes been thought to be too barren and monotonous. What then should be said of the
life of one, who had not finished his preparatory course, nor even advanced far enough to make choice of a profession? Nor did we build much greater hopes upon the poetical and miscellaneous pieces, said to be contained in the volume. Considered as the compositions of a learner, they might be entitled to great praise; they might be such as would be read with surprize and delight at a school examination; they might even be much more than this, and discover a mind always far in advance of the stage which it had reached in education. But, after all, was it to be expected that they could be any thing more than exercises, designed to strengthen and prepare the faculties for future and more serious exertions?
These were our thoughts, and, as we were not promised a story of a prodigy, of an admirable Crichton, or a Barretier, it may well be supposed that we did not begin to read with any great hope that our time was to be well employed. It has proved otherwise, however; and if it be useful and profitable, as it certainly is, to old as well as young, to contemplate virtuous resolution struggling with difficulties, pursuing the noblest objects with a courage which an unshaken trust in Providence only could sustain, and at last arriving at the end which at first seemed unattainable; if manly strength of character, united with the finest sensibility, may deserve and reward attention, we may safely recommend this book to all who take delight in seeing the affections and the moral
qualities called into action, and can love and admire excellence under whatever circumstances, and at whatever age it may appear.
There is something of a romantic and mysterious interest blended with the history of this extraordinary youth; in consequence of his having been one of those who, by the fault of their parents, come lawlessly into life. It too often happens that the innocent offspring, in such a case, is made to bear the evil and disgrace, while the guilty parties remain concealed, and as the writer of this memoir well remarks, ❝to avoid disgrace and degradation, do what renders them worthy of a punishment still more severe.' Person, it seems, was deserted by both his parents, and never acknowledged by either. He was born in December, 1793-and in the October following was placed in a respectable family in Andover. Four or five years afterwards he was put to school under a private teacher in that place, with whom he made rapid progress in the studies proper to that age. anxious, as it was natural he should be, to know the names and abode of his parents; but his inquiries were evaded, and he was left in that state of suspense, the painfulness of which, to a susceptible mind, may well be imagined. To be an orphan is misery enough. But to be ignorant of the authors of our being, to be uncertain whether they are among the dead or the living, near us and often seen and conversed with, or far off and studiously shunning our sight, to feel alive and unconnected amidst the mighty throng of men ; and to have no object whereon filial tenderness may expend itself; this must indeed bring keen anguish to the soul of him, who is thus painfully distinguished. Person, while yet a pupil at Phillips Academy, in one of those melancholy hours, of which we may well suppose there were many in a life like his, thus describes his grief, in reply to the supposed inquiry of a compassionate stranger :
Stranger, why that face of grief?
Thou hast told it in thy query.
Cau aught of deeper woe betide me ?—'
p. 12. In the following anecdote we have another proof that the want of the parental relation was ever painfully present to his mind, or that at least the slightest circumstance could bring it to his recollection.
Soon after his removal to Providence, at which time it will be recollected he was about eight years old, he walked by the side of a gentleman into a neighbouring church-yard. While they were looking at the grave-stones and epitaphs, he said to his compan. ion, "If I were to die, who would there be to erect a monument to my memory-and if they did, what would they put upon it?" He paused for a moment, and added, " William Person, the son of nobody." p. 44.
But let it not be supposed that he was so ungrateful as to cherish these dark and gloomy feelings. His prevailing disposition was cheerfulness. His virtues gained him many friends, whose kindness seems to have touched his very soul. On every occasion, when his path was thus brightened by a gleam of sunshine, his heart burst forth in thankfulness, first to that God, of whose constant providence he had a strong and animating conviction, and then to the friends whose beneyolence made them the instruments of God's mercy. We cannot forbear here, though somewhat in anticipation of the narrative, to introduce an affecting incident in his college life, alike honourable to his class-mates and to himself. He had returned to Cambridge, after being employed during the winter vacation as a schoolmaster, in a state of such embarrassment as to make it necessary that he should leave college, and abandon the pursuits and hopes, which he had followed thus far with the most flattering success.' His feelings at this trying moment, and the unexpected relief afforded by the generosity of his fellow-students, may best be described in his own words. We quote from a letter to a friend in Providence.