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Italian pieces, called comedies of the art; and of which the principal basis consists invariably of a pantaloon, a Venetian merchant; a doctor, a lawyer of Bologna; Brighella and Harlequin, valets of Bergamo; the first quick and active, the other heavy. Their antiquity and permanent existence prove their origin. With regard to their employment, the pantaloon and the doctor, whom the Italians call the two old men, represent the part of fathers and other venerable characters (les rôles à manteau.) The first is a merchant, because Venice was in those ancient times the richest and most extensive commercial country in Italy. He has ever preserved the ancient Venetian costume. The black robe and woollen bonnet are yet worn at Venice; while the red waistcoat, breeches cut like drawers, and red stockings and slippers, represent exactly the dress of the ancient inhabitants of the Adriatic lagoons; and the beard, which was a great ornament in those distant ages, has been carried to a grotesque extreme in these latter days.
• The second old man, called the doctor, has been selected from the legal profession for the purpose of contrasting the learned with the commercial man; and he is from Bologna, because an university existed in that city, which, with all the ignorance of the time, yet adhered to the charges and emoluments of professors. His dress preserves the ancient costume of the bar of Bologna, which is nearly the same to this hour; and the singular mask, which covers the forehead and nose, has been imitated from a wine-mark which deformed the face of a lawyer in those days. This tradition yet exists among the amateurs of the comedy of art.
• The Brighella and Harlequin, called in Italy the two Zanis, have been borrowed from Bergamo. The adroitness of the first, and the extreme heaviness of the second, are proofs of this assertion; because in no other country do we find these two extremes in the class of the people. Brighella represents an intriguing, roguish, dishonest valet. His dress is a kind of livery; and his tawny mask is a satire on the complexion of the inhabitants of those lofty mountains, scorched by the heat of the sun. Some actors of these parts have taken the name of fenocchio, fiqueto, and scapino: but, under every name, the character of the valet of Bergamo remains unchanged.
• The harlequins also have their different names: but they are always natives of Bergamo, heavy and clownish; and their dress represents a poor devil who picks up pieces of different stuffs and colours to mend his clothes. Their hat corresponds with their beggary; and their tail of a hare, with which it is decorated, is to this day the usual ornament of the peasants of Bergamo.
• I conceive that I have thus clearly demonstrated the origin of the four masks of Italian comedy.'
It would be impossible to conceive a state of things more unfavourable to the efforts of Goldoni, than the prejudice for VOL. VII.
the four masks. The mask for ever destroyed all expression. Whether the actor was impressed with joy, sorrow, love, or anger, the same dull leathern face presented itself to the spectators. In vain might he gesticulate, and change the tone of his voice; never could he succeed in discovering, by the features of his face, which are the interpreters of the heart, the different passions that assailed him. The masks of Greece and Rome were a sort of speaking trumpets, devised for raising the voice to an elevation suited to the vast extent of their amphitheatres: but the passions and sentiments were not carried to that degree of refined delicacy which is requisite 10 modern times, and more especially to the French style. . An actor of these days is expected to represent a variety of expression, and variety was precluded by the mask.
• I was assailed, (adds Goldoni,) by continued and increasing complaints: both parties equally annoyed me, and I endeavoured to satisfy them both. I condescended to produce some pièces à canevas, (pieces in which the plot is indicated by the author, and, the words are left to the impromtus of the performers,) without ceasing to represent others of character. I introduced masks inte the former, and employed the noble and interesting comedy in the latter. Each part had its share of satisfaction; and, with time and patience, I brought them all to one mind, and had the pleasure of seeing myself authorized to follow my own taste, which in a few years, became the prevailing taste in Italy.'
Next to the monstrous absurdity of the four Italian masks, nothing sets the Italian character in a more grotesque light than the sacred names given to the theatres of Venice, on which these buffooneries had been so much applauded:St. Samuel, St. John Chrysostom, St. Luke, and St. Angelo. In commencing his theatrical career, many were the artifices by which Goldoni attempted to build his new school on the ruin of the old. To instruct an audience not acquainted with the principles of criticism, he represented a critical dialogue in verse called I teatro comico, containing the best canons
for criticism; and particularly useful as a glossary to his own pieces. At one time, he had to encounter the religious vapours of a first actress; at another, the necessity of giving his amorous parts to a superannuated dame; and at another, he had to labour under the disadvantage of a theatre too large for the cadences of voice or the expression of countenance. Still, with ineffable good humour, he wrote the almost incredible number of sixteen pieces within the season; and, from the time of quitting the theatre of St. Angelo to his arrival at Paris, his hours were exclusively devoted to a labour which now began to degenerate into drudgery. In passing through Loretto, on journey to Rome, he treats us with an account of our Lady of Loretto, and her shrine, in the true style of the olden credulity. His interview with the pope is droll; and, as at Paris his performances failed of success from their buffoonery, so at Rome his first comedy was lost through the want of Punchinello.
At the age of fifty-two, he accepted an invitation from signor Zannuzzi to compose for the Italian comedy of Paris: but the characteristic gayety of the people, for whom he was to write, led him into an error common to all those who have never visited their capital. Imagining the comic genius to reign there uncontrolled, he gave wings to his imagination, and successively failed in almost every attempt to please. The rigid laws, to which the French comedy is subject, were to Goldoni so many fetters; and, instead of conducting the Italian comedy, he was glad to accept a pension from the court as instructor to the princesses. In this new employment, we find him happy in himself, attached to his wife, the guardian of his brother's children, performing all the proper duties of life, and conciliating all the friends within his reach.
A long residence in this capital gave him an insight into the fastidious taste of the Parisian world: incessant application to the language was rewarded by its attainment; and the author who had failed in his maternal tongue, was applauded, to the utmost of his hopes, for his Bourru Bienfaisant. It was his intention to have read this piece to Rousseau, and he had obtained the philosopher's permission to that effect: but he was restrained from availing himself of it, by reflecting that the character would infallibly be applied by his captious hearer to himself. A man of extreme benevolence and beneficence, dashed with a certain waspish fretfulness, was a personage new to the French stage, and its success was a sort of theatrical epoch.
The life of this easy, benevolent, and ingenious man now consists in little more than excursions of pleasure from Paris to Versailles, Marly, Compiegne, Fontainebleau, &c. whither he went yearly in the train of the court. He lives to relate to us the marriage of the Dauphin with the beautiful Marie Antoinette, and is a witness of the festivals which celebrated the births of two of their children. His old age is soothed by the urbanity of numerous and respected friends; and, however we may reprobate the style of these memoirs, we cannot but applaud the tone of benevolence and gratitude which pervades them.
Practical Hints to Young Females, on the Duties of a Wife,
a Mother, and a Mistress of a Family. By Mrs. Taylor, of Ongar. Author of “ Maternal Solicitude for a Daughter's best Interests.” Philadelphia, republished, 1815.
[From the Eclectic Review.] We did not intend that the public should have anticipated us, in our decision upon the merits of this excellent little work; but the appearance of a third edition in the short period that has elapsed since its publication, forms, when the nature of the subject is considered, no equivocal criterion of its value. Some degree of success may be attributable to the name of the author; but it is no small praise that is implied in having, by her former work, rendered that name so attractive, that another, of a didactic nature, professedly consisting of Practical Flints, chiefly addressed to a particular class of society, has thus readily obtained an extensive and unabated circulation.
The characteristic of Mrs. Taylor's writings, may perhaps be stated in a word, to be unaffected good sense; but to render even good sense, when offered in the shape of advice, interesting or palatable, something else is necessary. Either we must attach ideas of veneration to the speaker, which may invest even the common-place truisms dictated by affection with the attributes of eloquence, or there must be some charm in the manner in which advice is pressed upon us.
The lat. ter is principally the case with the author of “ Practical Hints." There is a simplicity of intention united to an appearance of kind-heartedness and cheerful good-humour; there is so much liveliness of manner, which gives to the most natural thoughts the freshness of conversation; there is such evidence, besides, of the author's having thought and felt for herself; of her have ing been at least in her experience, original; and the truths she advances, though sometimes relating to an humble description of duties, are of that undeniable and simple nature, that they are, on that very account, little thought of, and when suggested, strike us as almost possessing novelty: the charm of manner arising from these sources may sufficiently account for the reception which the volume has met with.
The contents' of the volume will give our readers a pretty good idea of its design. They are as follows:
“ Introduction-Conduct to the Husband-Domestic Economy -Servants-Education-Sickness Visiters--Keeping at Home --Recreation--The Step-Mother-Tothe Husband--Conclusion."
The work is professedly addressed to females in the middle ranks of society, who “yet occupy a station of sufficient eminence to render their conduct highly important to society." Its design is " to promote domestic virtue, and to preserve the happiness of the fireside." Upon the whole, we strongly recommend these “ Practical Hints” to the attention of young females, who are not the only description of persons, however, that may peruse them with advantage.
On the Influence of Religious K’nowledge, as tending to produce
a gradual Improvement in the social state; a sermón, preached by James Lindsay, D. D. for the benefit of the Royal Lancasterian Institution.
[From the Monthly Review.] With considerable eloquence and strength of argument, Dr. Lindsay descants on the powerful influence of knowledge, particularly of Christian knowledge, in disposing man to a performance of the duties, and in qualifying him for the virtuous enjoyment of the social state. All institutions, which enbrace the instruction and moral discipline of the multitude, must, by imbuing them early with good principles, and by training them to good habits, operate towards the amelioration of nations. Yet, since war between governments does not depend on the moral character of subjects, but is the result of the ambition or the mistaken views of rulers, the improvement of the vulgar in religious knowledge, can have only a slight effect in producing universal peace. Dr. L. seems to think that, in consequence of the universal diffusion of Christian knowledge, war will totally cease on the earth: but this event is no more likely to take place literally, while men are men, and while the interests of nations and the pride of potentates clash, than the figurative language of the prophet Isaiah, respecting the quiet association of the lion with the lamb, is likely to be literally realized. Christianity has certainly effected much, and will surely do more, for the improvement of the social state: but perhaps Dr. L. is too sanguine in his anticipations, when he regards the attainments already made as inconsiderable in comparison with those which will in future take place; and when he supposes that the space, through which we have now to travel to the land of promise, is short and easy compared with that which has been passed.