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time in his dark and mysterious life, and one of the strongest points of analogy between Mr. Wills's play and Bulwer's romance consists in the conviction entertained by Ruth Meadows that she is Eugene's first love, just as a similar conviction delights and satisfies the sentimental Madeleine Lester of the novel. But this theory, maintained to the end in the one instance, is abandoned in the other in a fashion which is destructive to the ideal of the murderer's character as it is put forth in the first scenes. It is difficult to believe that the play was written otherwise than piecemeal, that the story of the motive for the murder of Clarke—which is neither that imagined by Bulwer, nor that which really actuated Eugene Aram-was not concocted for the purposes of the concluding scene, so discordant is it with all that precedes it. The defect of the play as a composition is the absence of any indication of a previously or actually existing passion in the man to whose past so terrible a history attaches, which can explain or account for that history. Like Bulwer, Mr. Wills rejects the view of Eugene Aram as a common thief and assassin, but he displays nothing like equal skill in the substitution of a supposed motive for the real one. Bulwer went as near to the palliation of the murder committed by the schoolmaster as the ingenious representation of an idée fixe, a devouring passion for learning, and the revolt of a gloomy morbidly self-conscious mind against the poverty which fettered all its movements, could enable him to go, in the 'Fragment' as well as in the novel; but Mr. Wills, following neither, has failed to explain the Eugene Aram who comes upon the scene, “a melancholy man indeed, but whose melancholy, according to his own subsequent explanation of its cause, would have barred the approaches of the passion of love. That Bulwer's Eugene Aram should have possessed an emancipating angel in Madeleine Lester is intelligiblehis crime had nothing to do with a woman ; that Mr. Wills's Eugene Aram should have fallen in love with the parson's daughter is inconceivable; his crime having been inspired by the base deception of a woman, and his remorse kept alive. If he could have forgotten the woman and the crime, well and good ; but he never does forget, and the discord makes the whole thing unreal.
The want of dramatic proportion affects the other characters as well. They have no individuality apart from their relation to Eugene Aram. Parson Meadows is a singularly credulous, not to say silly old gentleman, with an accommodating indifference to social distinctions, which we are inclined to believe was less common in England in the last century than it is in this; and so deficient in perception that he could hardly claim with Hamlet to know a hawk from a handsaw, considering the facility with which he invites Houseman, one of the most ruffianly ruffians ever produced upon any stage, to join the family party on the day before the wedding of
his daughter. Dr. Primrose is a “smart man ” compared with Mr. Wills's parson, who has a number of pretty speeches to deliver about Aram's gentleness and tenderness, about his putting the worm in his path into a place of safety, releasing imprisoned birds, and winning bis pupils' hearts; they are very pretty speeches indeed there is a good deal of prettiness in the play, and a little real poetry ;but the gentleness and tenderness of Eugene Aram have to be taken for granted. He is from first to last under the absolute dominion of remorse ; his love is more full of self pity than of passion; his self absorption does not yield to the would-be joyous influence of the occasion, while yet there is nothing to excite the ever latent fear in his breast. It is difficult, by the way, to conceive a more inconvenient father-in-law elect than Mr. Meadows, for a man whose dread of the mere passing presence of a “stranger” is so great that the mention of the arrival of such a person suffices to distract his attention from the pretty protestations of his bride on the eve of their wedding. Here, again, Mr. Wills, while adhering to a portion of Bulwer's conception of the situation, neglects a material constituent in it. The murderer in the romance knows who it is who is lurking about, threatening to reveal his secret to Roland Lester; but the murderer in the play displays terror 'at the extremely natural occurrence that a stranger has introduced himself to the notice of the Vicar of Knaresborough; and yet he is wholly unprepared to find that the stranger is Houseman, his former accomplice. Again, in the story of the dreaded and threatened exposure, Mr. Wills is in accord, to a certain extent, with Bulwer, but not far enough. Bulwer's Aram is a comparatively rich man, at all events—he is in a position to make the coarser villain's scheme of chantage feasible ;-but the village schoolmaster, who is going to marry the pareon's daughter, has no money to be bullied out of, and is a likelier subject for the tactics of conciliation, which has an eye to the future.
The concluding scenes, which are unlike either the novel or the facts, are constructed entirely with regard to the characteristics of Mr. Irving's acting. They are made for him as exclusively as his costume is made for him, and they become him as well. This is, in this particular case, interesting, but it is not drama, and in the end we believe it is a system which will be found to be as injurious to the actor as it is unjust to the dramatist. It is the most infallible method of encouraging mannerism that could be pursued ; not mannerism in the higher sense of characteristic conception and rendering, but the mannerism which is as often as not mere affectation, and which lends itself readily to the purposes of burlesque. It dispenses the principal actor in a piece from the finer kind of observation; wbile it taxes his energies in one direction, it leaves a whole set of faculties without demand upon them in another; it tends to drive him into exaggeration on the one hand, and on the other into the carelessness, which comes from the absence of comparison, and by placing every one else at a disadvantage, it deprives him of legitimate assistance. Pieces made to order in this way are, to true dramatic writing, just what Zucchero's pictures were to really artistic portrait painting. In the present instance to only one person besides Eugene Aram is any interest even supposed to attach. It is to Ruth Meadows, his betrothed, a part by no means ill-played by Miss Isabel Bateman, but hopelessly ineffective, because endowed with no vitality except that of the circumstances, inconsistent and unnatural, because Ruth is merely a reflet of Eugene Aram's moods and characteristics. Bulwer took care to establish an interest in his reader's minds for Madeleine Lester, to depict her in strongly individual colours, and to sketch her life and associates, before he plunged her into the deadly peril of love for an undetected criminal; to tell all about her enthusiasm, her lofty visionary mind, and the studentfancies she holds as faith. But that a parson's daughter, whom we meet as an ingénue, presiding over a village choir, lauded by her gardener as the household angel, a being of white muslin, blue ribbons, poetry, and posies, should mingle the most innocent and orthodox piety with a declaration that if Eugene Aram's hand were even stained with crime she would still regard him with the passionate worship which he has inspired, is unnatural and unpleasant; not only, or chiefly, because the sentiment is at variance with every principle on which her life has been trained, with every other to which she gives expression, but because there is no reason for its suggestion, except the author's absorption in Eugene Aram's supposed state of mind, and his inability to shift himself to that of any other person, however comparatively important in the drama, so as to give consistency or vitality to the other characters. It is no wonder that Miss Isabel Bateman is artificial and constrained all through. She has a most unmanageable lover to deal with, one so totally self-engrossed that she is made to appear, as she must feel, an interruption whenever she is not merely a chorus; and the fact is that the only real chance she gets of producing any effect of significance is during the brief interval when Eugene Aram is off the stage. In his case also, by far the most effective scene is that in which he is quite alone. When, in the churchyard, the murderer, in his unbearable agony of remorse, makes abject confession to Heaven, the dramatist puts forth the best that is in him; the sense of interruption and incompleteness is lost. In that solemn scene, full of breathless interest, the solitude of the guilty soul, isolated by its incommunicable grief, is broken by the only commune which has no discord in it, and for the first time the legitimate condition for the employment of crime as a motive of dramatic action—"the inspiring of pity and of fear”- is fully attained.
Mr. Henry Irving's acting in the character of Eugene Aram is quite up to public expectation. He plays the part with wonderful minuteness, elaboration of detail, and variety of expression, considering the limited range of the emotion and its terrible profundity, the slight demand for subtlety in the earlier scenes, because every one is perfectly willing to be deceived, and the complete surrender of the later scenes, in which the presence of Houseman in one and that of Ruth Meadows in another is of no practical account. He is unreasonably suspicious and uneasy, and preoccupied all through the first scene with Ruth, but that is the fault of the text he has to interpret ; the fine touches in the interpretation, the despairing glance over the girl's head as it lies on his breast, the vague absent smile, and the lapse into thought far away from her, even while the love words are on his lips and the caressing hands are touching her; the writhing under the torture of praise and love in the address from his pupils as it is inflicted by the lips of his bride, the shrinking from the pretty details of the wedding-all these are his own. In the agony and terror of detection, in the morbid dread of the poor remains of the man he has slain, in his dreadful question to Houseman, “Did-it-stir?”—throughout the whole of the concluding scenes, Mr. Irving displays increasing power and intensity of expression ; but the situations are unduly prolonged, and in the concluding scene in the churchyard he has too much ground to cover. It is impossible to follow him through the contortions of that final agony without feeling that physical effort has too much place in it; that it is suffered to divide the attention of the audience with the terrible mental struggle destined to end in utter defeat and death, in a proportion which injures the effect of the whole.
In that one instance only the play is better than the interpretation; the words are faultless, the action is overdone.
Many other passages of considerable beauty adorn Mr. Wills's play, but they do not suffice to rescue it from the sentence of mediocrity as a dramatic composition. That it is very much better than many plays with which the public have been satisfied of late years is not weighty evidence in favour of either the play or the public, but we are far from accepting 'Eugene Aram'as the best that Mr. Wills can do. The author of Medea' and . The Man o' Airlie,' and even of · Charles the First,' with all its faults as a drama, ought to produce pieces which certain actors should aspire to perform, not only pieces which aspire to be performed by certain actors. In the inversion of the rôles of dramatist and actor there is the decadence of both arts.
Beef and Liberty.
one of his
It is a standing joke against the English that they cannot commence any important undertaking without first inaugurating it with a dinner; and, doubtless, eating and drinking have usually been very intimately connected in the mind of the average Englishman with his notions of freedom. The man who ate his beef and plum-pudding and drank his port wine thought he had made good thereby his claim to the title of a patriot, and the jovial poet Charles Morris expressed this sentiment in
* While thus we boast a general creed
In honour of our shrine, sir,
That Beef was food divine, sir.
This truth, where'er she wanders,
Beefsteaks make Alexanders.
For Freedom's preservation,
Who saved this freeborn nation.
Where no despotic ruffian
With men alive for stuffing." Beef has been a standing dish for many centuries, and still holds its own against a lighter diet; but times have much changed, and few men now would be able to show their patriotism in the manner of the notorious Duke of Norfolk when he ate some six pounds of beefsteaks at a sitting
Beefsteak clubs were formerly very popular; but none enjoyed the vitality of the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks, whose life and death has been written by one of the brothers of the order-Walter Arnold to wit. As our sublimity never soared so high as to dine with this august company, we shall in the following notice of the Society follow Mr. Arnold's lead.
John Rich, the celebrated harlequin and machinist of Covent Garden Theatre, was a man of wit and invention, and many of the eminent men of his day connected with literature, fashion, and the drama were pleased to assemble in his room to have a chat with him and his fellow