Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

essence.

are

almost any period, are meant to amuse that are worn out. It must learn to people who have been working hard treat the primary instincts in the all day and have had either too much spirit of truth and not in the spirit of or too little dinner. Their object is melodrama. We do not want explopermissible, but it has nothing to do sions of crude emotion, or character with the dramatic art.

expressed by catch words, and we do Bicycling, golf, and the music-ball want more simple and flexible have affected the business side of the framework. The rigid mechanical theatre, and on the other side the plot is worn out.

Plot is a necessity impetus derived from Dumas fils, of drama, but not its material or its Augier, and Ibsen has spent itself.

There cannot be plays withThe theatre is losing its audience and out plots ? Certainly, and there cannot its inspiration. That is why the ques- be houses without foundations, but tion of an endowed theatre has come that is no reason for living in the up again. The intelligent minority cellars. Action there must be, but will not go to the theatre, an assertion not merely physical action. Motion which is not disproved by giving lists is not of itself dramatic. Before of successful men and women who movement can be dramatic it must go to the first nights that be intelligible, and have behind it fashionable among a certain class of an intellectual or emotional state people who believe themselves to be which it expresses or interprets. A fashionable. People are getting tired play which shows a man rushing of the theatre, of its cheap effects, its about the stage assaulting people, coarse methods, its vain repetitions, getting under tables, or hiding in its stock personages, its unreality, cupboards, has action; but unless and its ignorance of life. Already we know why he does these things, they say that the dramatic form is and unless he does them with reasonexhausted, that its capacities have able and sufficient motive the action been over-estimated, that its vividness is not dramatic; it is only absurd. and directness are attained at the cost And violent action is often less of truth and delicacy, that its neces- dramatic than suspended action. sary conditions gravely limit its range Two men slashing each other with and reduce it to a relative inferiority. bowie-knives are less impressive than There is ground for these complaints, two men at issue under intense and and evident danger that the methods controlled emotion. These are elemenof the stage are crystallising into tary matters, but since the University rigid patterns. It has ceased to Extension lecturers revived Aristotle, progress, a fatal sign of deterioration, you may always have him thrown at as in the Italian painting, but that you by people who have not grasped occurred after getting very near to

the difference between the Greek and perfection.

English drama. The deterioration of the stage is a We want, then, emotion that is serious matter. The loss of any form sincere, plot that is simple and flexof art is the loss of a high pleasure, ible, action that is necessary and interand the stage can get certain æsthetic pretative. The drama should be able results better than any other form. to state character; after that it should And if we are not to lose the results, be able to give an exposition of the drama must find a means of re- character, and perhaps it might in time nowing itself. It must develope some learn to exhibit the growth, developneglected methods and discard those ment, and culmination of character,

no

and how it reacts under the pressure of reform or improve the drama. The event and circumstance. It could go minority must do that. further, and combine emotion, tem- The playgoer who has made the perament, and intellect. Some day exodus from the theatrical nursery is it might characterise emotion. For in the reverse situation to the lover instance, why should all queens ex- of music. There is music for the press emotion in exactly the same populace and music for the connoisway, which happens to be the way seur. If you like Raff and Gade and of the actress who plays them? Tschaihowsky, you can hear them ; if Queens, like their subjects, have their you prefer symphonies to the marches individual styles of expressing feeling of De Sousa, they are to be had. It Berengaria of Cyprus and Anne of is not the same with the lover of Austria probably did not feel in pre- drama and acting.

There are cisely the same fashion ; they experi- symphonies and Raffs and Gades for enced the same emotions no doubt him; he must put up with the lower but not in the same degree, and they forms of the art he loves. He has should be made to show them in their realised his position, and the demand own way.

That is to characterise for the endowed theatre is a demand emotion, and it can be done with for a higher form of art. It will be kings as well as queens, and with the met in the theatre, as it was met commonalty also.

Dramatists, pre- in the concert-room, by the associated occupied with movement and action, effort of private people. When musibave neglected speech as a means of cal people could not get what they revealing character, and they do not wanted, they joined together and seem to know that the sound and founded societies for oratorio, for incadence of language can express strumental music, for symphony, and varieties of mood. In plays loaded for anything else they desired, with with plot and incident dialogue must the result that the taste of the musical be explanatory. A natural and deli- public is immeasurably higher, more cate method of expression, such as informed, and more exacting than the speech and language of this kind, has taste of the theatrical public. Music to be sacrificed ; it demands more has a standard, the theatre has not. attention than the average playgoer Is there as much interest in the theatre will ever give, and more intelligence as in music? If there be, those who and cultivation than we have any care for it can do what the musical right to expect of him. But no one people have done. expects that the average playgoer will

C. G. COMPTON.

CATHARINE THE SECOND AND HER COURT.

The regular march of Russian that tumultuous period are, in spite aggression, or, let us say, expansion of a great racial difference, singularly during the last two centuries has akin. It is not impossible that the been a striking and, to those people Russian type has subsequently underwho do not happen to be Russians, gode much the same modifications as an alarming phenomenon.

But a

our own, has experienced a certain closer scrutiny of contemporary facts cooling of the blood, a change from in the light of the history that has the recklessness of youth to that led up to them tends on the whole modern prudential temper which prek to show that the alarm which the vails, on the whole, among us lattergreat Empire of the North inspires day English. What is clear, at least, in her neighbours (and to-day the is that the study of Russian history, phrase covers nearly all nations of and notably that of the reign of the globe) is, if not indeed unreal, Catharine, is to be recommended to at least greatly exaggerated. For all who desire an intellectual grasp instance, one of the most prominent of one great group of international features of the situation to-day is problems. Apart from any such that Russia, by the very fact of her result it is a study of the keenest expansion in the Far East, has cur- human interest and one, it must be tailed her own possibilities of expan- added, that to the English mind sion to the South. The secret of the presents a great but stimulating long tragedies of Armenia and Mace- difficulty. donia lies largely in her incapacity A passage in Alphonse Daudet's of acting under modern conditions reminiscences describes a conversation in two directions at once. And this with Tourguenieff, in which the incapacity, or at least its recognition Russian novelist discusses, in confiby Russian statesmen, is a fact of dence between men of letters, what comparatively recent origin.

it is precisely that constitutes the In the eighteenth century indeed Slavonic temperament. CharacterisRussia struggled with a reckless and tically enough of the race, if not of feverish energy for territorial expan- the man, his description consists sion in all directions, displaying in mainly in a pure negative, in rethe process a relentless purpose and nouncing the attempt to describe. a lavishness of blood and treasure, We do not think, we do not feel as and achieving a success only equalled you do, he says; our morality is not by our own. The truth is that the

yours; your hard and fast disgreat empire - building period of tinctions vanish in our atmosphere ; Russia coincides almost with that the element our inner life moves in of England. Roughly speaking, is, in short, the Slavonic mist (le Catharine the Second was the con- brouillard Slave). Certain extracts temporary of the two Pitts, and in from the book of his own youth made many ways the types of character Tourguenieff's meaning clear to his developed in the two countries during hearer ; the Slavonic mist it appears,

[ocr errors]

would be a medium highly anti- himself during the years when he pathetic to the Shorter Catechism almost reigned as Emperor by one and one in which many of the solitary achievement, the pacification properties, or even the decencies, of of Moscow. What was precisely the life, as we view it, tend to disappear. matter at Moscow is indicated in But it is nevertheless a profoundly M. Waliszewski's pages by a single interesting phenomenon, and, when Russian word of unfamiliar aspect to we penetrate it a little, not without most, samovaniets. It was in fact a bizarre and, perhaps, a redeeming the great outbreak of plague in 1771, charm of its own.

when panic-stricken crowds flocked Russian history, when not of the round the holy image of the Mother merely official and academic kind, of God and many persons were at once fascinates and perplexes, buth suffocated in the throng, till at length because of the colossal types of

colossal types of the Archbishop, an enlightened hurnanity it displays and of a per- man,” caused the image to be revading sense that the world they moved. “He is in conspiracy with move in is morally and spiritually the doctors to make us die, he forbids & whole hemisphere away from the us to pray to the Mother of God,” civilisation and the platitudes of the the populace cried ; and in the enWest. Nowhere, perhaps, have the suing riot the Archbishop fell, and characteristics been more incisively anarchy was let loose on the city till displayed than in M. Waliszewski's Gregor Orlof arrived to govern it. work AUTOUR D'UN TRÔNE, that ex- The incident is typical of much of tremely erudite study of the person.

Catharine's reign, the half-barbaric alities surrounding Catharine the passion, the wholly barbarous ignorSecond and of the great and enigmatic ance, the veneer of enlightenment, figure of the Northern Semiramis are all highly characteristic of the herself. Of the learned author's Russia that she found and that she accuracy it would be impertinent to left. And, strangely enough, it is speak, except only to note that his still more typical that an apparent work is chiefly based

trifler, a debauchee, as Orlof was in spondence, diaries, conversations taken ordinary life, should suddenly have down from the lips of Catharine, shown himself master of so portentous documents, in fact, as authentic as a situation. history can ever obtain, collated and What strikes one most in the great weighted with the exhaustive patience figures of Catharine's reign is their of a highly critical mind. And in singular alternation between the vividness and realistic effect, M. wildest orgies and the most splendid Waliszewski's pages leave nothing achievements, between childish irrefor modern curiosity to desire. sponsibility and successful statecraft.

It is perhaps unnecessary to caution The contrast between the official histhe reader that a work like AUTOUR tory and the genuine biographies of D'UN TRÔNE is not fully intelligible the men who made it is at times 80 unless supplemented to some extent startling that one is tempted to befrom other sources. For an obvious lieve them swayed in their public instance, Prince Gregor Orlof, the actions by some instinctive natural first of the great Imperial favourites force "not themselves," which made, in order of time, the man who if not directly for righteousness, at more than any other set Catharine least for the greatness of the Russian on her husband's throne, distinguished Empire.

Under Catharine Russia

on

corre

[ocr errors]

acquired & vast sweep of territory on not unsuccessfully, in a manner from the Baltic to the Euxine, includ- mysterious to the Western mind. An ing of course the majority of Poland inconceivable mass of vices and inand the Crimea ; she for the first eptitudes seemed to leave the latent time set her grasp on the Black Sea, genius of these men unsubdued, to her arms were everywhere victorious, flash fitfully indeed, but at the right great internal reforms were given the

moment.

When Saltikof, one of the force of law, and even to some extent greatest leaders in the Seven Years' carried out. And yet, but for a per- War, died in disgrace and was buried ception of great spontaneous forces at with maimed rites, Count Panine was work in the obscuring medium of the found standing sentinel at his tomb. Slavonic mist, we might imagine that He would stand there, he declared, the more personal and intimate history till relieved by a guard of honour, of the time resembled rather that of which was duly sent. And when the an empire rotting to its fall.

question of the marriage of the Em. “I have made war without generals press to Alexis Orlof was touched on and governed without ministers," in the Imperial Council, it was Catharine declared, and though the Panine, awake for once, who made a remark must be taken as an epigram, solitary and effectual protest : “The it has its truth. To the Western Empress will do as she pleases, but mind the following highly authen- Madam Orlof will never be sovereign ticated description of Panine, who of Russia." was virtually prime-minister during The greatest figure of the reign the earlier years of her reign, might was certainly Potemkin ; yet even well seem incredible. “He rises at here it is hard to penetrate the two o'clock (p.m.) to commence a toilet Slavonic mist. M. Waliszewski still which his infirmities render lengthy. finds it difficult to be certain whether At four he is ready to receive the the most imposing of Catharine's persons who habitually wait on him, ministers or favourites was in truth a but dinner is immediately served, and genius or a madman. The element of followed by a drive or a siesta lasting insanity, that a phlegmatic commonan hour. At half-past seven

the sense may be excused for seeing in minister receives his company of boon Potemkin, was at least fortunate in companions and the day is finished. its methods of expression. Owing The interval from half-past six to his advance to the Orlofs, whom he half-past seven is the only time in was shortly to supplant, Potemkin which one can address him on business was first introduced into the palace to of State.” Another witness informs amuse the Empress with his talent us, a few years later, that Panine for imitating voices, and the masterslept from half-past six to eight, after stroke of the entertainment proved to which the strenuous efforts of two be an imitation of Catharine's own valets were necessary to arouse him. voice, so successful that the amiable

When Potemkin was at the height Sovereign cried with laughter. The of his greatness his chariot, with six Orlofs certainly owed their protégé horses ready harnessed, was often to something, for in a fracas resulting be seen at his door day after day for from a quarrel with the gigantic and months together“ before he could brutal Alexis Orlof, the hero of decide to leave the palace where he Tchesme and hitherto the most nothappened to find himself.”

able favourite of Catharine, PotemYet the work of government went kin had lost an eye, and unhappily

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »