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with life anew. It is to be regretted that Dr. Parsons has not used his gift more freely. He has been a poet for poets, rather than for the people; but many types are required to fill out the hemicycle of a nation's literature. Story's various talents and acquirements as a scholar, painter, sculptor, author, and what not, and his prolonged residence and studies abroad, are mirrored in his verse. This, indeed, is so un-American that I was held to blame by a prominent London journal for not reviewing him as a British-born and Victorian poet. has extreme refinement, but is a close follower of Browning's lyrico-dramatic method, and more novel in his choice of themes than in their treatment. "Cleopatra" and "Praxiteles and Phryne" are striking pieces, and show him at his best. Among the group under notice was the ardent and generous Taylor, whose seniority in death caused my selection of him as one of those who illustrate the rise of the American school, and upon whom alone I venture any extended criticism. Poe, the eldest of the art-group, and the subject of a recent essay, is related to the others as a toiling professional writer, whose ideality maintains itself apart from the atmosphere about him. In many respects he is an exception to the rest, but, on the whole, may be counted the first to revolt against didacticism, from the artist's point of view,-while Whitman, on the other hand, is hostile to art-tradition and conventionalism, as an apostle of the" democracy of the future." Another artist-poet was Buchanan Read, whose song was of a more genuine quality than the painting which he made his vocation. His idyllic verse fairly portrayed the rural life of his own State, but his successes were a few rhymed lyrics and idyls that will be preserved. "The Closing Scene" gained a reputation through its descriptive beauty and clever treatment of a standard form of verse. His townsman, Boker, is the eldest of a little group described in my article on Bayard Taylor. A close study of the English poets, especially of the Elizabethan brotherhood, led him to dramatic composition. Although his plays follow old models, and are founded upon the historic themes of foreign lands, they have excellent dramatic and poetic qualities. Thirty-five years ago, in an essay upon the condition and prospect of our literature, Dr. Griswold said that "the success of the plays of Bird and Conrad, and the failure of those of Longfellow and Willis," showed that there
was still "patriotism enough among us to prefer works with the American inspiration to those of any degree of artistic merit without it." But it is recorded to the credit of some of Boker's plays, which are of a poetic and literary mold, and bear the test of reading, that, like their humbler prototypes,—the acting plays of Bird, Conrad, Sargent, Matthews, and others,-they were found to have the life and substance that could gain them favor, not only in the closet but on the stage. They are quite antecedent to the realistic manner of our own time; and nothing of their sort would be acceptable at the present day. In their place we have signs of the appearance of a native dramatic school. But they show, none the less, a manly hand, and the healthy imagination of the poet, their author. His minor pieces are of uneven quality, some of them thoroughly national and spirited. Such lyrics as "On Board the Cumberland," "A Ballad of Sir John Franklin," and the "Dirge for a Soldier," often continue a poet's name more surely than the efforts which he considers his masterpieces.
Stoddard, the life-long friend and brother in song of Taylor and Boker, is still in full voice, and Mr. Macdonough recently has given us a careful, sympathetic analysis of his genius and career. A New-Englander born, the honors of his life and service belong to New York. The whole range of his poetry has the unrestricted or cosmopolitan tendency of which I speak. He had poor advantages in youth, but an absolute bent for letters, and a passion for the beautiful resembling that of Poe. His knowledge of English literature, old and new, early became so valuable that his younger associates, drawn to him by admiration of his poetry, never failed to profit by his learning and suggestions. His life has been peculiarly that of a writer, with its changes and pleasurable pains, and is marked by independence, sensitiveness, devotion to his calling, and pride in the city with whose literary growth and labor he is identified. The characteristics of Stoddard's verse are affluence, sincere feeling, strength, a manner unmistakably his own, very delicate fancy, and, above all, an imagination at times exceeded by that of no other American poet. This last quality pervades his ambitious pieces, and at times breaks out suddenly in the minor verse through which he is best known. The exigencies of his profession have too constantly drawn upon his resources; the bulk of his miscellaneous
verse is large, and to this is somewhat due its unevenness. No poet is more unequal; few have more plainly failed now and then. On the other hand, few have reached a higher tone, and a selection could be made from his poems upon which to base a lasting reputation. "The Fisher and Charon," "The Dead Master," and the "Hymn to the Sea," are noble pieces of English blank verse, the secret of whose measure is given only to the elect; one is impressed by the art, the thought, the imagination, which sustain these poems, and the Shakspere and Lincoln odes. Stoddard's abundant songs and lyrics are always on the wing and known at first sight-a sky-lark brood whose notes are rich with feeling. The sweet and direct method of "The King's Bell" placed him high in the ranks of writers of narrative verse. Among poets equal to him in years, he is, perhaps, the foremost of the artistic or cosmopolitan group.
If I cared to give, in detail, various byroad illustrations of the American spirit, I could cite many instances where the brooding humor, the quaintness and frankness, the pluck and fun and carelessness of our new people long since cropped out in rhyme. These characteristics give life to the wise and witty purpose of Holmes's and Lowell's satires, and to the verses of Saxe, Leland, Fields, and Butler. We have their continuance and diversity in the clever, off-hand fantasies of younger men. There is no lack of dialect, bric-a-brac, and society verse. Some of our young Bohemians all at play, twenty years ago,-of whom George Arnold was American by birth, and Halpine and O'Brien by adoption,-while not without their earnest moods, did rollicking work of this kind, and in Arnold's case it seemed to his friends but an offshoot of the better work he had it in him to do. The Dean among our writers of poems for occasions is unquestionably Dr. Holmes, by virtue of his apt response to the instant call, and of the wit, wisdom, convictions, and the scholarly polish that relegate his lightest productions to the select domain of art.
To Whitman a special review already has been given, and was needed for the fair consideration of his traits and attitude. While differing with some of his theories, I paid him as liberal and impartial a tribute -and one as churlishly received-as any that ever was awarded to the genius of a poet. He represents, first of all, his own personality; secondly, the conflict with aristocracy and formalism. Against the
latter he early took the position of an iconoclast, avowing that the time had come in which to create an American art by rejection of all forms, irrespective of their natural basis, which had come to us from the past. In their stead he proffered a form of his own. If I rightly understand the meaning of one or two recent papers by Mr. Whitman, his extreme views, in deprecation of what is and anticipation of what is to be, are now somewhat tempered by years and experience. It was suggested in this magazine that a new edition of his poems-so modified as not to lessen their freshness, their imaginative grasp and freedom, nor to affect the dignity of his position, but to seem less objectionable to ordinary readers-would secure him a more general audience. His admirers, of whom I am one, have been glad to hear a rumor that such an edition may appear. Whitman is a man of genius, of striking physical and mental qualities, and excels most writers in personal magnetism, tact, and adroitness as a man of the world. He is the avowed champion of democracy, and accepted as such by the refined classes at home and abroad. I have referred to his minute knowledge and healthy treatment of the American landscape, of the phases and products of outdoor Nature, and in this respect his most fragmentary pieces show the handicraft of an artist and poet.
We need not continue farther the analysis proposed in a former article. I have not tried to make a rigid classification of all who have borne a part in the rise of a home-school, but to observe the general groups of which some of our elder poets may be called the leaders, and the condition and sentiment by which their work has been affected. Enough has been said, I think, to justify the assertion that such a school already has had a career which Americans should be swift to recognize and slow to undervalue. One "of your own poets" has taken a different view, declaring that a barren void exists-that our poetry has been marked by an absence of patriotism, and that it has shown brain and no soul. A more incorrect or willfully pessimistic statement never was made. In every department of art, times of energy are divided by times of calm. The first course is run, and there is a temporary halt, so far as poetry is concerned. The imaginative
element in our literature is active as ever, but in other directions. Meantime, we have singers in their prime, resting their
voices for the moment, and others whose fresh notes will soon be more definitely heard. Both these classes will come within our review. The younger poets, upon whom the future depends, must prove themselves well endowed, if they are to succeed to the laurels of those who now, blessed with years, hold the affection of life-long readers scattered far and wide. But it is of the elders only, the representative founders of our school, that I have undertaken to write
Ir may seem somewhat singular that Ernesto Rossi, who will begin an engagement in New York in November, should be so little known in this country, when he has had a wide reputation in Europe for more than twenty-five years. But the same thing has happened repeatedly. Even the name of Salvini, when he was announced to make a professional tour of the United States in 1874, was familiar to very few Americans -mainly to those who had seen him abroad; and yet he was considered by many in the Old World then, as he is considered by many in the New World now, the first of living actors.
at any length. To pass critical judgments upon those of my own, or a younger, generation is beyond my province. The time will come when some of them will in turn occupy the high places, and furnish typical illustrations of poetry and the poetic life. In that near future there will not be wanting critics to measure their works, nor hands to award the recompense that is due to those who add to the sum of human pleasure by their ministry of song.
Rossi, now fifty-two, is a native of Leghorn, son of an intelligent, well-to-do merchant, and has not, so far as known, inherited a drop of histrionic blood. He very early displayed intellectual tastes, if not positive talents; and his parents, who were too ambitious for his behoof to attempt to hamper him with any sort of commercial pursuit, decided to qualify him for the law. After receiving a tolerable, though rudimentary, education at the place of his birth, he was sent to the University of Pisa, ancient in renown, to master legal lore. Before going thither, he had disclosed a fondness for the stage, and at the University his fondness quickened into a passion. He might, with perseverance, have gained a respectable position in the law, for he had abundant application and energy; but his youthful soul was so set upon the theater that his father was wise, after duly combating the boy's natural bent, to allow him to follow it unchecked. He had made a mistake about Ernesto from the first. He had imagined that he would be a good advocate, from his declaiming capacity; but this was evidence
of histrionic, not legal, prepossession. If ever a lad was incurably stage-struck, it was he he consumed plays and recited them with considerable effect at nine years of age, and was never so happy as when in a theater. This was all the more remarkable, because Leghorn is one of the last towns of any size in all Italy to inspire or foster dramatic inclinations. Comparatively modern, devoid of monuments of history or art, it is purely mercantile in aims and antecedents. While a student at Pisa, he frequently took part in amateur performances and in those of a regular company, under the direction of Signore Marchi, of no small local repute. He was not sixteen when he forswore law, and surrendered himself, body and mind, to the players. He is reported to have said, at that time, that he would rather act minor parts at a small provincial theater than be the leading barrister of the capital.
He was barely eighteen when he was portraying lovers in Marchi's troupe, and was warmly applauded by many of the members of the Scientific Congress, then assembled at Genoa. He was a particular favorite with women, young and old, and they flocked to the theater to see and encourage him. His youth, his personal comeliness, his slight, graceful figure, his romantic bearing, his erotic intensity, and his melodious voice signally fitted him for amorous rôles. The modern drama of Italy brims with sentiment, verging upon sentimentalism, and its sighing, pensive, rhapsodizing swains found ample and sympathetic expression in the handsome, impassioned youth burning for histrionic distinction. The feminine traditions of Pisa, Verona, Mantua, Genoa, still assert that there is not, and never has been, such a
stage lover as Ernesto Rossi was, thirty or thirty-five years ago.
After playing under Marchi, he entered the dramatic school that had recently been founded by Gustavo Modena, an excellent master, and improved vastly under his instruction. He then appeared at the Carcano Theater, Milan, also at the Carignano in Turin, and was cordially received. At twenty-six, after performing most creditably in different Italian cities, he went to Paris with Ristori, and contributed not a little to the success of her engagement by his valuable support. He subsequently introduced to that capital the works of divers Italian dramatists-Alfieri, Pellico, Niccolini, and Goldoni among them. In the comedies of the last he excelled, delighting the French with the portrayals of the author who had lived among them, and been attached to their court as instructor in his native language to the daughters of the king. He seems specially adapted to Goldoni's characters, which have a wide range and are marked by freshness and subtilty. During his engagement in Vienna, to which he went from Paris, his presentations of Goldoni won high encomiums, and he there increased his rapidly growing reputation. Returning to his own country, he formed a company, and undertook its financial as well as dramatic direction; but, after one or two seasons, he discovered what so many of his profession have discovered before and since his attempt, that an excellent actor may be a very poor manager. On a second visit to Paris, made eleven years after his first, he was warmly welcomed. While representing his regular parts at the Italian Theatre, he was persuaded to essay the Cid, in a translation of that celebrated tragedy, at the Français, on the occasion of the anniversary of Corneille. The essay was so felicitous that the Parisians, with characteristic chauvinism, pronounced him the Italian Talma-a very questionable compliment in itself, though a most lofty one, from their over-patriotic point of view.
and diversity are alien to them; they see his power, they are impressed by his massiveness; but in general they lack the capacity to interpret either. Their scholars, even the French, admire him; but they do not wholly approve him, and they are unable to feel him in his depth and scope. Talma enacted Hamlet and Othello in Ducis's diluted, glossy version; but he produced no such effect as in Jouy's "Sulla" or Delavigne's "Charles VI." Lekain shone resplendent in Voltaire's heroes, though he neglected Shakspere. Rachel, despite her wondrous gifts, could never be brought to endure the master mind of all the ages.
The Italians affect Shakspere, notably "Hamlet" and "Othello," as adapted and purified in their mellifluous tongue. Their four most eminent players, Salvini, Rossi, Ristori, and Majeroni (Rossi is the last of them to visit these shores), have been happy to present him, and he is exhibited, even in their open-air theaters, all the way from Como to Sorrento, from Lucca to Udine.
For many years, Rossi has personated some of the leading characters of Shakspere, to whom he had previously given, in translation, long and earnest study. These have been seen in Madrid, Lisbon, Paris, London, and other European capitals, and have elicited very favorable criticism. It is questionable if any of the Latin races can fully comprehend or sympathize with the Gothic genius of Shakspere. His richness, majesty,
Hamlet is Rossi's favorite part, and he will probably play it at his début in this city and country. He first acted it abroad, I believe, in Lisbon, some thirteen years ago, and has since repeated it many times in Spain, France, Germany, and Britain. Previous to that time he had represented it, as well as other Shaksperean characters,Lear, Romeo, Coriolanus, Macbeth, and Othello,-in the principal cities of Italy, where, indeed, he is credited with popularizing the poet by putting his productions regularly, and in the best translations obtainable, on the national stage. Any judgment, favorable or unfavorable, that might be passed in Italy, Spain, or Portugal on interpretations of Shakspere might not bear much weight with the Teutonic races. But the fact that Rossi's interpretations have been lavishly lauded in England as well as in Germany, where the great master has been more thoroughly studied than even in the country of his birth, is one of the strongest arguments in behalf of the artist's penetration and performance. In none of his Shaksperean delineations has Rossi won such celebrity and such praise as in Hamlet, and to none of them, in truth, has he devoted the same degree of thought and research. To him, Hamlet is almost constant source of meditation and employment; hardly a week passes, it is said, that he does not read over the text, and he is continually reaching new disclosures of its subtilty.
When he first played Hamlet, he had never, I am told, seen the part personated, though he had been familiar with it in translation from boyhood. He had steadily delved at its inconsistencies and riddles; contrasted its lights and shades; analyzed its motives, and sounded its depths, until he had extracted therefrom a consonant and harmonious whole. Years ago he wrote a careful, scholarly paper on the tragedy, bearing mainly on its leading personage, detailing his conception of the character, the influences exercised upon the Prince by his surroundings, and the conclusions at which, as student and actor, he had arrived. This paper, which should be very interesting to our play-goers, has been published in a volume along with other of his contributions to dramatic art. For Rossi is a literary man as well as an actor. He is the author of a number of plays, the best known being " Adela," done for Ristori; the "Hyenas," a social comedy; the "Prayer of a Soldier," and the "Paternal Consort." He has personated the principal masculine parts in most of these, and has been very successful therein.
Rossi's Hamlet can scarcely fail to be attractive, even to those who may disagree with his understanding and rendering of it. It is indubitably original, at least in the sense that it is not consciously borrowed from any source; it is intellectual throughout; it is highly finished and altogether symmetrical. It is also saliently romantic, intense, pictorial, passionate, — far than Englishmen or Americans are wont to portray it. Absolutely free from stage traditions-Rossi belongs to the natural school —and individualized by his mental processes, certain portions are apt to strike those familiar with the piece, who see him in it for the first time, as strained, perhaps artificial. Most of us are inclined to think that whatever we are unaccustomed to is incorrect or wrong, although we may soon accept and warmly commend the innovation. Thus Rossi's novelties, which may startle in the beginning, are likely to be welcome at last, and to rest in the mind with fertilizing effect. His Hamlet, like most of the characters he has retained in his repertory, will bear a deal of study, as they surely ought to, since he has brought so much study to them, and study will reconcile what may have appeared to be incongruities. He often changes his readings, his gestures, his business,—his idea of art is endless striving for perfection, but only after mature reflection
and untiring comparison of the new with the old method. He yields to impulses, likewise, having full faith in intuitions born of exalted, impassioned moods, on or off the stage, and such yielding has served him well. Flexibility of presentment is one of his cardinal features; he is all alive, body and mind, every moment he is upon the scene; he acts as much when he has ceased to speak as while he is speaking. The comedy or tragedy in which he is engaged appears to emanate from and stream through him, as though he were, as indeed he is, its head and source. He is in the completest sense an actor; his whole personality, his very atmosphere, is action.
Hamlet he regards, very justly, as a creature of moods,-and of moods that control him. Consequently, the Dane is not in his hands, as he is so generally shown to be, supremely and everlastingly dejected. At times he exhibits elasticity, mercurialness, gayety; but the shadow of his life is ever swooping upon him; he cannot escape the consciousness of his doom. His is a nature always struggling with destiny, but struggling hopelessly, from an inherent weakness of character and a foreboding of inevitable fate. He wants and he tries to withdraw himself from the gloom of his situation, but he cannot; and as he regularly falls back into himself, one can almost hear the fresh cracking of his heart, and can perceive the black, trailing cloud of despair. In the scenes with the courtiers, with Polonius, with Laertes, preparatory to the fencing bout, the Prince is well-nigh merry, denoting his anxiety to forget, for the nonce, the dreaded, dreadful task his father's spirit has imposed upon him. In his interview with Ophelia, when he bids her get to a nunnery, one sees enkindled in his person the conflict between his cruel words and his tender feelings, and the agony they cause in his own breast. And in the church-yard his jocosity and lofty speculation descend, like a bird wounded in airy flight, to mere human grief, wild in its intensity under the crushing news of Ophelia's death. No room is left for doubt of his exceeding love. He so unfolds it, it so quivers through his being, so swells in his soul, that his tumid, extravagant speeches hardly sound like the rant of ordinary players.
The working of Hamlet's peculiar mind and his shifting purpose are visible through every act in Rossi's lucid, plastic delineation. One who had never read the tragedy might understand its teaching and its mystery by