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she took to the stage, and was lured away from him by a titled hanger-on of the theatre. Montalvan, with his usual air of mystery when he approaches Lope's inner life, speaks of two sorrows a year or two before his death that intensified the hypochondria under which he laboured and drove him into practices of asceticism that cannot but have shortened his days, —an allusion of exactly the sort that might have been expected in a case like this. The other sorrow Barrera suspects to have been the sudden death of his son Lope. These letters, extracts from which make up more than twothirds of Barrera's work, are not without touches of a more agreeable kind, and interesting references to men of the time. Those who know the Velazquez portrait in the Museo at Madrid or the engraved one in Churton’s ‘Gongora ' will best take in Lope's meaning when he says, d-propos of a visit from the poet, “Gongora fué mas humano conmigo.” Lope himself, too, shows here and there in a pleasanter light than usual. Jealousy of all rivals in literature or in the good graces of a patron is commonly said to have been a prominent ingredient in his character, but in more than one letter he is found warmly and generously pleading the cause of Espinel, then on his way to Madrid—probably, from the date, to try his luck with ‘Marcos de Obregon,'—and urging his own special patron, the Duke, to befriend a man whose genius made him worthy of any favour that might be extended to him. Lope's inveterate jealousy has been often put forward as the cause of his quarrel, if it may be so called, with Cervantes, though a Lopeist might very well retort upon a Cervantist that jealousy was not a judicious word to import into a case where the parties were a dramatist who had conspicuously failed and a dramatist who had brilliantly succeeded. Rather too much has been made of Lope's words about Cervantes and ‘Don Quixote’ in a letter to the old Duke of Sessa. If all obiter dicta on new books in the confidential letters of authors to their intimate friends were to be made public, we suspect there would be a good deal of high-toned moralizing in the land of the Philistines on the chemical action of culture and literature on the milk of human kindness. Looking at the matter fairly without taking either side, Cervantist or Lopeist, we must allow that Lope had cause enough for irritation, even if he was unaware of the gibes in the preface and preliminary verses. He had given no provocation, and Cervantes had gone out of his way to make an attack upon him, for chap. xlviii, is dragged in by the head and shoulders. The language was in admirable taste, courteous, and even complimentary, but for all that that he found himself pilloried in company with the purveyors of nonsense and pelted with accusations of absurdity, silliness, and lewdness, and indeed pointed at as the chief of sinners, inasmuch as he sinned against light. It is no great wonder if bitter words escaped him in private about the man and the book that showed him up in this way, and these are the only ones that can be brought up against him. The only other charge is that he never praised ‘Don Quixote’ in print. Why should he? Even if he had no personal ground for dislike, the whole aim of the book was to ridicule things he loved and believed in. It may be conceded that a magnanimous insincerity would have been better than silence. But this will not satisfy the Cervantists, who, with the want of logic that seems to be inseparable from partisanship, insist upon it that the absence of magnanimity is the same thing as the presence of malignity. This is the only foundation that Don Ramon Leon Mainez has for his wild theory that Lope wrote the continuation to ‘Don Quixote, printed under the name of Avellaneda, a theory without a shred of evidence to support it, as he himself shows, and inconsistent with the character of the book, to say nothing of the fact that it involves the impossibility of a brave soldier, which Lope was, whatever else he may have been, taunting another with having lost his hand at the battle of Lepanto.
If the Cervantists wanted a charge against Lope, they might have taxed him with ingratitude, for in truth no man owed so much to ‘Don Quixote’ as he did. It came just in the nick of time to clear the stage for him. Chivalric romance was long past its prime, but it had years enough of life in it to be a formidable competitor to a young drama, which, however brilliant and successful its début had been, had still to win its way to complete popularity. So long as there were Moors and a Moorish frontier in the land, there was no lack of excitement for the Spanish people; but after that supply had been cut off by the capture of Granada, the want began to be felt, and a substitute was sought in the romances of chivalry, which consequently increased and multiplied prodigiously, and, as Cervantes shows, extended their influence to all classes. When he swept them away, the readers whom he had deprived of their accustomed stimulant had no choice but to turn to Lope and the new drama, which they found in time to be no bad substitute. Lope's drama was in fact the successor of chivalric romance; it met the same want in the same way, appealed to the same tastes and instincts, and relied for success upon the same means.
The only man, perhaps, who can be fairly said to resemble Lope de Vega is Feliciano de Silva, the most typical, the most prolific, and certainly the most popular of all the Spanish chivalric romance writers. His invention rose to any demand upon it, whether it was to extricate his hero from a hope. less adventure or plunge him into a fresh one; his facility of production was extraordinary; he faced improbabilities, absurdities and extravagances, unrestrained by any half-hearted timidity; he knew the public he wrote for, and how to adapt himself to its leanings and likings; and beyond a doubt, had he been called upon to declare his creed as a craftsman, a “New Art of Chivalry Romance’ under his hand would have agreed in all its principles and precepts with Lope's “New Art of Comedy.” Lope brought to his task as founder of a national popular drama the same gifts, that is, in kind, for never probably, since the world began, has there been a man gifted in the same degree as Lope de Vega. His marvellous powers of production are no doubt the endowment that appeals most strongly to the imagination. It has been often compared to the faculty of improvisation, but the comparison does scant justice to its range. The improvisator's faculty is far more a matter of language and practice than an individual gift; Lope's is more akin to the class of exceptional, abnormal gifts, like that of Mezzofanti, for example. But it is only one among others, and not the most important among them. A three-act play written in a shorter time than it afterwards took a transcriber to copy it is sufficiently wonderful; but the wonder of it is beyond measure increased when it is found to be written throughout in easy, flowing, graceful, musical verse which, if it never rises into poetry, never by any chance descends into dog. gerel, and written, moreover, with a fertility of invention that never fails, and with a consummate neatness of workmanship and an ingenuity of construction that would be admirable in a composition that was the result of long labour and careful study. It was this union of abnormal gifts in Lope that led Cervantes to call him el monstruo de naturaleza—an epithet which aptly expresses the wonder with which he evidently filled the minds of his contemporaries, and the feeling of something like awe with which they regarded the possession of powers so nearly
approaching the preternatural. To us, perhaps, Lope remains as great a wonder as he was to his contemporaries and fellow-countrymen; but we can hardly be expected to share in their profound veneration for gifts that in our eyes belong more properly to the mechanic than to the artist. To them Lope was the greatest of all poets; ts) to us it is a question whether he was a poet at all. He wrote a prodigious quantity of unexceptionable verse; but if we look for something that is more than excellent verse we find nothing, unless it be perhaps two or three little lyrics in the “Shepherds of Bethlehem,' and one or two short pieces like the ballad on his wife's grave, and most certainly nothing but accurate verse in those longer and more ambitious works that he and his school regarded as poetry of the highest order. It is the same if we look for evidence of imagination. A boundless, masterful invention makes itself manifest almost everywhere in his dramatic works, and sometimes an invention that seems to hold out a promise of imagination; but it is a promise that is never kept.
It almost savours of profanity to question Lope's claim to the supreme gift of all, or of paradox to suggest that achievements like his could have been possible without the aid of genius. And yet the only test that we can safely trust fails to detect it. In Lope's writings we never find ourselves face to face with that indefinable thing which, wherever we meet it, in whatever shape or personality it may present itself, always forces us to do reverence to it. Often as we stop to admire his brilliancy and wonder at the fertility of his invention, we never feel moved to uncover to Lope de Vega. But the Spanish playgoing public did not want genius. The vulgo that hissed Alarcon would have served Shakespeare or Molière the same way. It knew perfectly well what it wanted, and would take nothing else, whatever the advocates of art and propriety might say. In its pursuit of amusement or excitement the Spanish public has never yet allowed itself to be browbeaten by taunts of barbarism from critics, native or foreign. How to satisfy a public of this temper was the problem that Lope had to face, and in his solution of it is to be found the best measure of his gifts and powers. His genius declared itself not in his works but in his work. He put no creations on the stage, but he created a drama, national, popular, unique, representative of its own land and unindebted to any other. This is what justifies—if any justification be required—the spirited and patriotic undertaking of the Spanish Royal Academy, and entitles it to the gratitude of the students of dramatic art and literature of all nationalities.
ART. X-1. The Tragedy of the Caesars. A Study of the
2. Tacite et son Siècle : ou la Société Romaine Impériale d’Auguste
3. The Annals of Tacitus. Edited by Henry Furneaux. 2 vols. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1884 and 1891. .
4. Catiline, Clodius, and Tiberius. By E. S. Beesly. London, 1878.
‘YTVHE Tragedy of the Caesars’ is the taking title which
was ever conceived by the brain of a dramatist.