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raise his reader to that strange and mysterious delight, which, for instance, the widowed lover feels in indulging his imagination in all its wildness and extravagance, in weeping and beating his breast over the grave of his mistress, in conjuring up her form and addressing it in the piercing and passionate bursts of insane eloquence, in treasuring up a ringlet of her hair or any relic of her love, as all that the world contains of dear and valuable ;-if the poet would do this, he must first transform his reader into a widowed lover, must make him for a time feel his sad feelings, participate in bis bitter remembrances of the past, his utter hopelessness for the future. Hence, to get the true pleasure of tragedy, very considerable pains must be undergone; so great, perhaps, as sometimes to neutralize, or more than Deutralize the pleasure. Dr. Johnson, we think, says, that having once read King Lear, he never could bring himself to read it again; and few readers surely can put Clarissa Harlowe down without emotions of the most painful keenness.

What is the reason that such is not oftener the case ? What is the reason that, in fiction any more than in real life, we should be willing to undergo the pain for the sake of the pleasure? In the first place, the pain produced by the description, however excellent, can never, we think, equal what would be produced by the real fact. Secondly, there is always a lurking kind of consciousness that we are only playing with the mere imaginations of misery, and that we can get rid of them when we please, by laying down the book and turning our thoughts to something else. Lastly, the imagination is more excited, the poet having added all his powers to our own, in the excitation of it.

Real misery is, perhaps, never to be found unconnected with something disagreeable or disgusting. There is something of meanness, of selfishness, of vulgarity about it, which causes a mind not wholly absorbed in it, to revolt. All this is carefully lost sight of by the poet; it is necessary that his characters be such as we can sympathize with ; their distresses unmixed with any thing that should violate that sympathy. Every body must feel at once that how well soever the grief of a family round a sick bed should be expressed by the painter, yet, if he should open the bed to us, and expose the effects of the disease in some putrid and running sore, we should turn from his picture in disgust, and reprobate the bad taste displayed in it.

Herein, we think, consists the chief fault of the “ City of “ the Plague.” Mr. W. has accumulated upon his reader all shocking, all disgusting images ; images at which we sicken as much in description as in fact.

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The story is simply this : A young man, with his friend, arrives in London, from a distant voyage, at the time of the plague. Frankfort, which is the young man's name, finds his mother dead. In the course of the poem he also dies; and his mistress, a lovely young woman, whom he left among the lakes of Cumberland, and who is found, at the beginning of the drama, going about the city, to visit and comfort the infected, dies likewise of the plague. It is evident that the subject is in itself monotonous enough : but it is not this of which we are complaining; Mr. W. has managed to diversify it with every possible image of disgust.

An impostor pretends to astrology, and the multitudes gather round him to inquire the fates of themselves and their friends. Among the rest, a woman asks whether her child will recover from the plague.

Astrologer. Child ! foolish woman! now thou hast ng child.
Hast thou not been from home these two long hours,
Here listening unto that which touch'd thee not,
And left'st thou not thy little dying child,
Sitting by the fire, upon a madman's knee?
Go home! and ask thy husband for thy child !
The fire was burning fierce and wrathfully,
Its father knew not that the thing he held
Upon his knee had life-and when it shriek'd,
Amid the flames, he sat and look'd at it,

With fixed eyeballs, and a stony heart.'
Another wretch thus confesses himself to Magdalen.

• Mid all the ghastly shrieking,
Black sullen dumbness, and wild-staring frenzy,
Pain madly leaping out of life, or fetter'd
By burning irons to its house of clay,
Where think you Satan drove me? To the haunts
Of riot, lust, and reckless blasphemy.
In spite of that eternal passing-bell,

And all the ghosts that hourly flock’d in troops : Unto the satiated grave, insane

With drunken guilt, I mock'd my Saviour's name
With hideous mummery, and the holy book
In scornful fury trampled, rent, and burn'd.
Oh! ours were dreadful orgies At still midnight
We sallied out, in mimic grave-clothes clad,
Aping the dead, and in some church-yard danc'd
A dance that ofttimes had a mortal close.
Then would we lay a living body out,
As it had been a corpse, and bear it slowly,
With what at distance seem'd a holy dirge,
Through silent streets and squares unto its rest.
One quaintly apparell'd like a surplic'd priest
Led the procession, joining in the song ;-
A jestful song, most brutal and obscene,

p. 25.

Shameful to man, his Saviour, and his God.
Or in a hearse we sat, which one did drive
In masquerade-habiliments of death;
And in that ghastly chariot whirl'd along,
With oaths, and songs, and shouts, and peals of laughter,
Till sometimes that most devilish merriment
Chilld our own souls with horror, and we stared

Upon each other all at once struck dumb. pp. 41, 42,
In one street is introduced a party of young men and pros-
titutes carousing in the street among the dying and the dead.

One Walsingham, the master of the Revels, is represented as overcoming the memory of a beautiful and virtuous wife, the warnings of an aged priest; the reproaches of his own conscience, in the embraces of a harlot.

Shortly after, two women are introduced giving an account
of their labours in watching by the dying, and laying out the

1st Woman. I cannot say that I dislike the Plague,
Good faith! it yields rare harvest to the poor
Who are industrious, and will sit by night
Round beds where richer servants dare not come.
Yet after all 'tis not the Plague that kills,
But Fear. A shake of the head-a sapient look-
Two or three ugly words mutter'd through the teeth
Will go long way to send unto his grave
A soldier who has stood fire in his day.
And as for women, and the common run
Of men-for instance, mercers, lawyers' clerks,
And others not worth mentioning, they die,
If a sick-nurse only look upon

her watch
To know the hour o’ the night? What matters it?
In a hundred years--all will be well again.
2d Woman. You must have seen rare sights in your time, good

1st Woman. I have seen for two months past some score i' the

Give up the ghost. No easy business
To lay so many out. When they paid well,
I did my office neatly—but the poor
Or niggardly, I put them overhand
In a somewhat careless way–gave them a stretch
Or two,-down with their eye-lids--shut their mouths,

And so I left them. 'Twas but slovenly work.' p. 90.
The history she gives is still more shocking.

1st Woman. I was sent for to a house that was plague-struck,
To lay out two small children. Rivington!
Methought I knew that name.'

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• At once I knew the caitiff, as he lay
Dying alone 'mid his dead family,

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. We were three sisters once
Happy and young, and some thought beautiful,
And by our cheerful industry supported
Our palsied mother. But this demon came,
And by his wheedling arts and tempting gold,
Unknown to one another we all fell
Into sin, and shame, and sorrow. Our sick mother
Died of a broken heart-one sister died
In childbed—and consumption bred of grief
Soon took away another. I alone,
Reserv'd for farther woe and wickedness,
Liv'd on-but yet methinks this one small day,
Those two blest hours in which I saw him dying,
That minute when the rattle in his throat
Clos'd his vile tongue for ever, and the moment
When one convulsive gasp left him a corpse,
Gave me my share of earthly happiness,

And life feels life thus sweeten'd by revenge. pp. 91–9.
Again :

•[A wild cry is heard, and a half-naked man comes raving

furiousły along.]
Maniac. Another month, and I am left alone
In the vast city, shrieking like a demon!
Condemned to an eternal solitude
Peopled but by ghosts, that will not will not speak
All gliding past me, wan and silently,
With curses in their eyes, and death-like frost
Breathed from their bony hands, whose scornful fingers
Keep pointing at me rooted to the stones,

That yield no sound to comfort my stopp'd heart.? p. 96.
Again, the driver of the dead-cart.

(1st Man. The ghastly idiot-negro, charioteer !
See how he brandishes around his head
A whip that in the yellow lamp light burns
Like a fiery serpent. How the ideot laughs!
And brightens up his sable countenance,
With his white teeth that stretch from ear to ear.

Thank God he is no Christian-only a negro.', p. 156. Now all this, beyond all doubt, is most strongly painted: but what is the effect of it? Is it not altogether disagreeable? Are the subjects such as any man alive would choose to exercise his imagination upon-except Mr. Wilson? Besides, all the persons,--the astrologer, the maniac, the negro, the revellers, the prostitutes,-are all equally unknown, and unfamiliar to the reader, have no hold upon him, excite no interest

in him, are just introduced with their respective images of horror, and sent off again.

We turn however with pleasure to the beauties of the poem ; and it must be obvious to every one, that he who could produce even such passages as those above, could not write a poem, of any length without beauties.

The silence and desertion of the city are strongly painted in the following lines.

• unrejoicing Sabbath! not of yore
Did thy sweet evenings die along the Thames
Thus silently! Now every sail is furl d,
The oar hath dropt from out the rower's hand,
And on thou flow'st in lifeless majesty,
River of a desert lately filled with joy!
O'er all that mighty wilderness of stone
The air is clear and cloudless as at sea
Above the gliding ship. All fires are dead,
And not one single wreath of smoke ascends
Above the stillness of the towers and spires.
How idly hangs that arch magnificent
Across the idle river ! Not a speck
Is seen to move along it. There it hangs,
Still as a rainbow in the pathless sky.' p. 6.

The astrologer, to a young and beautiful lady' inquiring the fate of her husband.

• Where are the gold, the diamonds and the pearls,
That erewhile, in thy days of vanity,
Did sparkle, star-like, through the hanging clouds
That shaded thy bright neck, that raven hair?
Give them to me; for many are the poor,
Nor shalt thou, Lady! ever need again
This mortal being's frivolous ornaments.
Give me the gold you promis'd; holiest alms
Add not a moment to our number'd days,
But the death of open-handed charity
Is on a bed of down. Hast thou the gold ?"

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Lady, thou need'st this wedding-ring no more !
Death with his lean and bony hand hath loosen'd
The bauble from thy finger, and even now
Thy husband is a corpse. O! might I say
Thy beauty were iminortal ! But a ghost,
In all the loveliness on earth it wore,
Walks through the moonlight of the cemetery,
And I know the shadow of the mortal creature

Now weeping at my side.' p. 28.
Frankiort, by the death-bed of his mother.

« look upon her face! eternity
Is shadow'd there! a pure immortal calm
Vol. VI. N. S.


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