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prisoned him under the pretence, and perhaps, under the belief, that he must necessarily be a bold and dangerous heretic. Wilson held some of the first offices in the kingdom during the reign of Elizabeth, having been frequently employed as an ambassador from the English queen to Mary Queen of Scots, and finally appointed dean of Durham. He died in 1581.
We have thus given an imperfect and hurried sketch of the principal English prose writers from the earliest times to the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth. In our next, we shall endeavour to give some account of the poets who flourished in the time alluded to in the preceding article, together with a brief glance at the authors who rose in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, from whom,' in the powerful language of Dr. Johnson, "a speech might be formed, adequate to all the purposes of use and elegance. If the language of theology were extracted from Hooker, and the translation of the bible; the terms of natural knowledge from Bacon; the phrases of policy, war and navigation, from Raleigh; the dialect of poetry and fiction from Spenser and Sidney; and the diction of common life from Shakspeare; few ideas would be lost to mankind, for want of English words in which they might be expressed.'
Biographia Dramatica, containing Historical and Critical Me
moirs, and original anecdotes of Dramatic Writers. In our last, we inserted a notice of the above work, which, from want of room, we were compelled to curtail to a very narrow compass. We have, since then, been enabled, through the politeness of the gentleman now editing and enlarging the work, to give some idea of its merits.
The original Biographia Dramatica is, we are persuaded, but little known in this country, and we think we hazard little in saying that it only requires to be known to be generally read and admired.
Dramatic composition, from the earliest ages to the present day, has been more interesting to the community at large, and has contributed more to general improvement, than perhaps any other species of literature. It surely then cannot be doubted that the work, now under consideration, is worthy of the patronage of all who wish to be possessed of a general key to dramatic literature, together with spirited biographical sketches of all dramatic authors and celebrated actors.
The work now before us was originally commenced by David Erskine Baker, and was, by him, carried down to the
It was continued thence by Isaac Reed, to 1782, and brought down to the close of 1811, with considerable additions and improvements, by Stephen Jones. Mr. Foote, of the New York Theatre, has continued it to the present time. It commences with a very complete and interesting introductory view of the rise and progress of the British stage. It includes biographical memoirs and anecdotes not only of the British dramatic writers, but of nearly all the distinguished actors and actresses. It contains also an alphabetical account and chronological list of all the dramatic writings of those persons, accompanied with valuable and learned notes and observations on their respective merits.
The number of plays enumerated in the last edition of this work is five thousand six hundred and eighty-three, a number much greater probably than would be supposed, without actually examining the Biographia Dramatica itself. But any wonder at this fact will speedily give place to greater astonishment on knowing that the perseverance and industry of the gentle. man preparing the new edition of this work, has enabled him to add about two thousand more to the list.
In the American edition, the reader will be presented with an historical and critical introduction to the American drama. This will, of course, be peculiarly interesting and gratifying to our countrymen generally. The progress of a nation in civilization and literary refinement may very safely be estimated from the history of the stage, which is the open volume that displays to every traveller the literary standard of the grand mass of the people. Although it cannot be presumed that our advancement in dramatic literature can be extensive, yet, unless we are much deceived, those who shall peruse the American edition of the Biographia Dramatica' will be disappointed, in no unpleasant manner, by finding that the general estimate of our dramatic literature falls infinitely below its real value. As we are not at liberty to convey to our readers any other than such information as bas been acquired in the general course of reading and conversation, we are not, therefore, at liberty to encroach upon the materials prepared, with vast labour and pains, for the new edition of this work. We may, however, merely, by way of a single example, advert to the many theatrical productions of our highly respectable fellow citizen, Danlap. If every city in the United States can exhibit a collection of dramatic writing in proportion to that which NewYork has produced, it will form altogether no uninteresting feature in our literary history. For, however trivial it may be copsis dered in the present day, it will at least serve to show that, in the infancy of our national existence, we had a literature by no means unworthy of being classed with that of any other nation of the same age. Besides, the preservation of those dramatic annals will, at some future day, be valuable, not merely to the antiquary, but to all who desire to obtain a correct knowledge of the literature of the country from its earliest commencement. What a treasure to the learned world would not such a history of the British stage be; and how many useless, yet painfully collated, speculations of antiquarian writers might have been spared by the possession of an unbroken history of the English drama! In this consideration alone, we conceive, the literati of our country will find abundant reason to encourage this early history of our dramatic literature.
We cannot conclude, without expressing our sincere hope that the worthy and accomplished gentleman, who is engaged in the completion of this interesting work, may meet with that encouragement which his undoubted talents and classical acquirements, assuredly merit.
From a Correspondent in Virginia.
PETRONIUI ARBITER. On board of one of the ships sent out by Walter Raleigh un. der the patronage of Queen Elizabeth, to make discoveries along the North American coast, was a passenger, of a singular and melancholy aspect, who, from the first moment of depar ture, was regarded by all the company with eyes of doubt and suspicion. There was a settled gloom upon his countenance mingled with an expression that seemed sinister and malign, at the same time that it was timorous; and there was a restlessness and uneasiness in his deportment and gait which it was disagreeable for one who noted him to observe. He would sometimes start, when there was neither sound nor sight por other cause of agitation. Sometimes he was seen, as darkness was descending over the waters, to conceal himself near the ship’s stern, or among ropes and coile of cable; on which occasions he would start and turn pale, as if detected in guilty musings, or would assume a savage aspect, as if he wished to destroy the intruder on his stolen privacy. The horrors of a guilty conscience seemed evidently to possess him. It seemed as if its workings had given him an unnatural appearance of premature age. The lines of his face and the furrows of his brow were deeply impressed ; and a morbid imagination might almost trace, in the dusky red characters of the latter, the thunder-scars of the fallen angels. His bair, in some places, had turned completely gray. And yet, on the whole, he seemed not to have numbered more than forty years.
He entered the vessel, under the general invitation, unknown to
any of the ship's company. A rumour was soon current, that his assumed name was fictitious, and that he had done some deed which rendered him odious among mankind. His crime was variously surmised, and, among other things, it was whispered that he had been an executioner. There were in that ship many desperadoes, and many who were flying from justice at home for crimes which in any country would have made them infamous. But no man inquired into or cared for his neighbour's character, though notoriously bad. This man alone, convicted by his peculiar and disagreeable physiognomy and manner, was the mark of aversion to all his fellow voyagers. The awkward attempts which he made, during the first few days of their voyage, to form acquaintances, met with such unpromising reception, that he desisted, and became uniformly silent. The women passengers avoided his glance, or looked at him askance, with a mingled expression of curiosity and horror; and at night they stifled the cries of their children, by telling them that the Strange Man was coming. At mealtimes, a solitary corner became his own by prescription, where his food was given and received in silence: and at night, he retired to a couch, from the vicinity of which the occupants of the adjacent dormitories had removed; as they said his motions, groans and cries prevented them from sleeping. The sailors regarded him with a superstitious dislike, as the Jonas of their vessel, and avoided, or coarsely repulsed him, when he drew near them at their work. He frequently overheard their comments on his situation, and their surmises as to the cause of his revolting appearance, and the disgust it excited, which were all, however various, alike disgraceful to him.
Thus, on the bosom of the ocean, and within the narrow prison of a ship, without friend or counsellor, or the power of Findicating himself, (for who can fight single-handed, with pre
judice ?) among hundreds of his fellow beings, men of like passions with himself, this wretched exile found himself the focal object of aversion, hatred and disgust. He seemed to be in the situation of a guilty ghost; more tormented in its unnatural exposure to the living world, than in its congenial hell; or like some of the prodigies with which the superstitions of different ages have teemed ; like one who had been bitten by
l a rabid wolf, or who, having had his own veins sucked by a visitant from the charnel house, had become himself possessed by the horrible appetite for blood. He was like the first born Cain, bearing an obvious but inexplicable mark, which was at once the stamp of his guilt and his protection from the death which he coveted; or like the Jew who insulted our divine Redeemer, as he passed on to his closing passion, branded with the indelible stigma, which men trembled at and fled from. But the first murderer, and the wandering Israelite had the world before them, with its solitudes and lurking places, where no human countenance could obtrude, with its expression of scorn or fear or detestation. This man was tied to his stake, with a tether whose shortness only allowed him to make idle and maddening efforts to hide himself from the many hundred eyes, that glanced distrustfully and with loathing upon him. The Hindoo who has lost his caste, can mingle with others, who, however despised by millions around them, at least form a community and fellowship of misery. But this man was alone; and the hatred for all his persecutors, which he gave them back in return for their aversion, was silently consuming his heart.
There was, however, a young man, named Rogers, among the company, whose sympathy for the desolate state of this individual overcame the repugnance, which, in common with the others, he could not help feeling. He had, once or twice, made an effort, when none observed him, to break through the sphere of repulsion with which the lonely man had become invested. But the latter, supposing bis object was derision or insult, avoided his looks and retreated from his advance. Rogers, however, had marked him, when he apparently thought himself secure from notice. He had observed that he wore a shirt of coarse hair, under his upper garments, and had seen him in the attitude of prayer, telling his beads. He naturally concluded, that the source of so much anguish was some dreadful and unforgiven crime, for which he was undergoing penance.
The weather, which had long been threatening in appearance, now indicated an approaching storm; and the symptoms