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sisted by one or two of his friends; and at four years old I thought that the amusement was most delicious.'
Such is the coxcomb-style which pervades the early part of these memoirs. The death of the writer's grandfather, as we might naturally expect, unhinged a family subsisting on the riot of his house. Profusion was followed by penury; his father, although not deficient in wit,' had neglected his son's education, and a second child increased the embarrassment: but, as he was by no means fond of dwelling too long on sad reflections, he left madame with a small part of the wreck of their finances, and took a journey to Rome for a little diver, sion. At four years of age, Goldoni says, he read and wrote, knew his catechism by heart, was placed under a preceptor, and was fond of books;' and, although the sentences follow with an epigrammatic rapidity which confounds time and circumstance, at an age scarcely more advanced, we suppose,
he was learning his grammar with facility, and the principles of geography and arithmetic: but his favourite reading was comedy. His first author was Ciccoguini; and, as “ the sports of children satisfy the child,” he found great delight in the trivial scenes of the Florentine author. At eight years of age, he had frequently perused and began to imitate his model by a comedy of his own growth; and a copy of this infantine production was forwarded to his father, who, it appears,
had been metamorphosed into a physician. “If,” said Dr. Goldoni, charmed by this premature proof of genius, and calcu. lating on the principles of arithmetic,-“ if nine years yield four carats of wit, eighteen years should yield a dozen carats; and, by successive progression, he may arrive at perfection."
The author takes advantage of a visit to his father to describe his agitation on first mounting a horse. This is done in the style of farce, and is as unfortunate as, we think, most of his attempts at wit have proved through these volumes. The meeting took place at Perugia:
My father made me remark the citadel built by Paul the Third, at a time when Perugia enjoyed republican liberty, under the pretence of benefitting the Perugians with a hospital for their sick, and for pilgrims. This pious successor to the chair of St. Peter, on finishing the work, introduced cannons into the place in carts covered with straw; and, when the Chi viva was uttered from the battlements, the citizens found it necessary to make answer, “Long live Paul III.”,
It would be an idle attempt to follow Goldoni through his examination at the Jesuits' college of this city; and yet more idle to discover the reason of that sudden illumination, which, though he was the dullest in the school, on one nappy day gave him the prize over all his competitors:—but so we suppose it was.
A play and a play-house were his rage. His father, to gratify this darling desire, fitted up a theatre in a hall of the Hotel of Antinori; and, as females are not allowed to act in the states of the pope, the part of a lady and the prologue were conferred on our hero. The style of this prologue was the style of the Italian drama of that day; metaphor, hyperbole, antithesis, inflation, and bombast, had usurped the place of common sense on every stage in Italy: but his father was accustomed to it. The commencement is a fine relic of the art:
Most benign heaven (this was the name given to the auditory,) to the rays of your most refulgent sun, behold us, like butterflies, expanding the tender wings of our conceits, and raising our flight to your meridian radiance. This charming prologue brought me a bushel of sugar-plums, with which the theatre was filled, and I was almost blinded. This is the usual applause in the papal territories. The piece in which I played was La Sorellina di Don Pilone; and I was much commended: for in a country in which such spectacles are uncommon, the spectators are not nice.'
On his way from Perugia to Venice, the author embarked in an expedition with a company of comedians at Rimini, in whose society he performed the journey thence to Chiozza. Their assemblage is thus described:- Twelve persons, actors and actresses, a prompter, a machinist, a keeper of the wardrobe, eight servants, four chambermaids, two nurses, children of all ages, dogs, cats, monkeys, birds, pigeons, and a lamb: it was the ark of Noah. Our readers will perceive in this description nothing beyond the ordinary oddity of a Margate hoy, yet it must be converted into an effort to raise a laugh; and then a poor attempt at continuing the laugh is made by the description of a quarrel between the conductor of the boat and the premiere amoureuse, for not having prepared a bouillon, without which the lady could not dine. This sally is succeeded by another, about a cat belonging to the same interesting lady, which was pursued by a sailor. We notice these follies as characteristic of the Memoirs, and without any intention of doing violence to the dramas of Goldoni. Indeed, the same pen is to be discovered, and nearly the same manner, in all his works: but that which, when“ submitted to the eye,” is more pleasant, is frequently known to fail in description; more particularly when description professes truth for its canvass. We approve the rule of transferring scenes in real life to the theatre, which should be its shadow: but to reverse the rule would be to offend grossly against all the decencies and probabilities. The ground-work of these memoirs may be true: but the language of the first volume, at least, has always a dash of the theatre, a certain air of insincerity, which proves to us that every scene is not represented exactly as it passed. Thus, when his father returns unexpectedly, and rushes into the apartment of Mad. Goldoni, complaining of his son, the latter is during the whole time a listener in an adjoining closet; and the stale theatrical practice of dragging the young culprit from his hiding-place is repeated in the history of real life.
At Venice, Goldoni was articled to an attorney; and it will excite no small degree of surprise to hear that the first dramatist who introduced the better school to the notice of his countrymen, began his literary career in the fortieth year of his age. It cannot be expected that persons at our advanced time of life are possessed of sufficient agility to accompany this versatile author from Venice to Rome, and thence to Venice again, to Pavia, to Milan, and through all his mazy pilgrimages; neither do the events that occur on the several roads appear worthy of much remark. As he grew older, he became more and more sensible that his country had lost the true comic spirit. During his residence at Pavia, where he received the tonsure, he applied himself with attention to the Greek and Roman drama, and to the modern comedies of France, England, and Spain. To the method, style, and precision of the ancient, he wished to add the interest and character which are to be found in many of the modern pieces. In the course of his vacations, some new light was thrown on his darling subject by the Mandragore of Machiavelli: which profligate but humorous piece was inadvertently lent to him by a monk, who was unacquainted with the wit and danger of the pages with which he furnished his young friend. Ten perusals of it left impressed on Goldoni's mind the resolution to imitate its beauties and avoid its abominations: but these divitiæ miseræ are not gained without producing some evil effect on their possessor. On returning to Pavia, he was engaged in a dispute, common to collegians, with the townsmen of the place; and, while his young friends repelled force by force, Goldoni, armed with a licentious pen, was convicted of having written a satire on the young ladies of Pavia, which caused his expulsion from college, and exposed him to the revenge of brothers and husbands who had been insulted in the persons of their female relatives.
At Udina, the author applied himself once more to the study of the law. He also frequented the church; and, as a specimen of his edification, his memory having carried off the divisions and substance of six and thirty sermons, he reduced them into the contracted and grotesque form of as many sonnets, of which the publication procured him the thanks of the orator, and the admiration of all the good people of Udina. His residence at this city, however, was (as usual) interrupted by some idle intrigues, unworthy of us to mention, and of his more serious years to have remembered. To our complaint at these levities, we cannot but add another against the shame which he evinces at yielding for a time to a more honourable passion. At Chiozza, he was enamoured of a young and beautiful girl, at a convent-school, who was otherwise engaged; and his regret at parting is thus feelingly described:
I no longer saw the directress, nor her pupil; and, God be thanked, in a very short time I forgot the one and the other!' Another tender and virtuous attachment is laughed out of countenance in the same manner. The death of his father in some degree puts a stop to this biographical harlequinade, and brings back the author to rather better feelings and far better taste. This event fixed him in the profession of an advocate at Venice, whence he was obliged to remove in order to avoid the performance of an inconsiderate promise of marriage. In a short time afterward, we find him secretary to a governor of - Milan: but he soon demands his discharge, becomes a wanderer as before, always happy, generally poor, the associate of strollers, of abbes, and of peasants, until he found it safe to return to Venice. To this place he is peculiarly attached: • They sing,' says he, in the squares, in the streets, and on the canals. The shop-keepers sing until they sell their merchandise; workmen sing on leaving their labour; and the gondoliers sing while they wait on their masters. The basis of the Venetian character is gayety, and the basis of the Venetian language is pleasantry. In this lively city, where even the saints are made to lend their names to the theatres, he represented, with universal applause, his Belisario, which was followed by several other pieces, of unequal merit, but of general success. “My language,' he says, “was not elegant, and my versification never verged towards the sublime: but it was the better adapted to bring back to reason a public which had been accustomed to hyperboles, antitheses, and the absurdities of the gigantic and romantic style. Having experienced infidelity in the principal actress of the theatre, Goldoni avenged himself by representing the affair in his Don Juan,
and complimented the lady and her paramour by assigning to them, in the piece, the exact characters which they had played in actual life.
At Genoa, the author gained a prize in the lottery, and another in a wife, who forined the happiness of his existence; and from this time we cannot refuse him the merit of a complete reform in style and character. His first endeavour was io banish from his stage those whimsical personages, who are commonly known in the South by the appellation of the four Italian masks. The history of their families is curious; and from their antiquity they had so completely subjected Italian taste to their empire, that the whole peninsula at different times revolted against the innovator who wished to expel them from the comic scene. Let us hear M. Goldoni:
• Before I explain my ideas on this subject, I conceive that my reader will thank me for a short digression on the origin and employment of these four masks.
Comedy, which has at all times been the favourite spectacle of civilized nations, had shared the fate of the arts and sciences, and been swallowed up in the ruin of empires and the decline of let· ters: but the germ of comedy was never quite extinct in the fertile
imagination of the Italians. The first who laboured to revive it, being disappointed, during a dark age, in skilful writers, had the boldness to compose plans, to divide them into acts and scenes, and to utter as impromptus, conversations, thoughts, and pleasantries which were previously concerted.
• Those who could read (and the rich were not of the number) observed that the comedies of Plautus and Terence always contained fathers who were dupes, debauched sons, amorous girls, lying valets, and corrupt maid-servants; and, traversing the different cantons of Italy, they took their fathers at Venice and at Bologna, their valets at Bergamo, their enamoured youths and maids, and their soubrettes, in the states of Rome and Tuscany.
“We must not wait for written proofs of this reasoning, because we are speaking of an age in which writing was nearly unknown, but I prove my assertion in this manner: The pantaloon has always been Venetian, the doctor a Bolognese, and the harlequin and clown have* ever been from Bergamo; from these places, the aca tors took those comic characters which are known to us by the name of the four Italian masks. I advance these remarks not entirely from my own conception: I am in possession of a manuscript of the fifteenth century, in good preservation, bound in parchment, which contains a hundred and twenty subjects or canvasses of
These two personages are exactly reversed in this country. The real and original Italian harlequin is the heavy, and the Brighella the light and active zani. The former is attired in a dress of various colours, to show his poverty and propensity to stealing.- Rev.