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THE SPANISH THEATRE.
IT has not always been the most truly worthy portance, and some of very little importance, has 1 of the “ things of Spain " which have received its theatre or theatres. The numerous provinthe most attention. The world has given more cial divisions of the country, which have been thought to the pronunciamientos than to the politically so fatal to it, have been on the whole progress made in the Peninsula, and has written favorable to the stage. The actors and playand talked ten times as much about its bull-fight wrights of the capital have never dominated their as about its theatre. The bull-fight is no doubt provincial rivals in Spain as they have done in a splendid spectacle; but it is by no means the France and England. The continued existence most creditable to the country which affords it, of dialects independent of the Castilian renders and, from an historical point of view, scarcely de- it almost as impossible that a successful Catalan serves its reputation. This show, which is one actor, for example, should seek his fortune in of the worst, is also one of the newest things in Madrid as that an Englishman should betake the country, and in its present shape is not a hun- himself to Paris. Then the natural capabilities dred years old. When a bull-fight-or, as it of the people supply a vast number of actors who should be, "run"—is mentioned in an old com- can always perform a part with spirit if not with edy or tale, it is as a sport in which the gentle- very good taste. Many performers of great local men of the day and their servants took an active reputation have a double profession--following a part. When Aarsens de Sommelsdyck saw it in trade by day and treading the boards by night. 1655 it had become vulgarized, but the ring was Nor is the acting of plays confined by any means still open to all comers provided with the neces- to the regular theatres. Societies of amateurs sary arms and courage. The sober Hollander are to be found even among the work-people ; even thought it a "pretty sport enough," though and, though their attempts at acting tragedy or not one good to take part in. Twenty years high comedy are often absurd enough, they conlater the Countess d'Aulnoy could, without being trive to look at home on the stage, and are born ridiculous, select the ring as the scene of one of actors of farce. There is, indeed, nothing in Spain those romantic love-stories which the reader of like the Français. The Government has never her book of travels is constantly surprised to find patronized the stage, and if it had it is very doubtcropping up amid shrewd observations on the ful whether any three Spanish actors of note world of sober reality and lively pictures of the could be got to work together. But the national discomforts of Spanish travel. It was not till stage is not probably inferior to that of any other comparatively modern times, after generations of European country. Their weak point is unnational decay and of ignorance, that the bulle doubtedly tragedy. The same weakness which ring passed entirely into the hands of professional makes the Spaniard overact dignity in private life fighters. The end of the eighteenth century, the drives him into fustian on the stage. In comedy lowest point of Spain's degradation, saw the com- they are infinitely better, and in the lower kinds plete organization of the bull-fight, and its final of it are second to no people in the world. They victory over the older and nobler amusement of play with an abandon and relish which seem to the theatre, which it has degraded though it could make their work a pleasure to them. The thenot destroy. Old aficionados can still remem- atres are general meeting-places for the whole ber, if not Pepe Illo, the creator of the whole population. Numbers come apparently as much science, at least the men whom Pepe Illo trained to meet their friends as to witness the performThe theatre is many centuries older, and is by ance. As the right of entering the house is sefar the best of the still surviving historical insti- cured by a payment distinct from that required tutions of Spain. It has naturally been modified for the seat, the theatre lends itself easily to the in the course of time, and during the last century purposes of a club or assembly-i'oom between the in particular was powerfully influenced by the acts. Men smoke in the passages or saloon, and French stage ; but it still retains a marked char- even transact not a little business there. In the acter of its own. The dramatic is still perhaps warm weather they use the gardens attached to the most vigorous branch of Spanish literature. the regular summer theatres. The ladies mean
Playhouses were probably established earlier while carry on animated conversations with one in Spain than in any European country, and, in another, or with the help of their fans with those spite of the strenuous efforts of the Church to of the other sex. This is one of the most cherclose them, have continued to be numerous and ished customs of a people very conservative of flourishing down to the present day. Every city old customs. A young lady and gentleman will has not a bull-ring, but every town of any im- make signals to one another across a theatre with
an absence of gêne which is pleasant to see, and quainted with their works. In point of fact, the an almost touchingly good-natured make-believe Spanish comedy is now scarcely seen except by that they are doing something very secret and the light thrown on it by that of France. Guillen romantic.
de Castro is remembered because his “ MoceThe general popularity of the play has made dades del Cid " inspired the masterpiece of Corit the most productive of praise and profit of all neille. Every reader of the “ Médecin malgré forms of literary activity in Spain. The poet or lui ” has heard of the “ Acero de Madrid ” of novelist, though sure of a better public now than Lope de Vega ; but how many have read it even at any former period, is not nearly so well paid, in a translation ? The French theatre even at. either in money or reputation, as the successful tacked and for a time subdued the Spanish in its playright. Hence, to succeed as a writer for the own land. The French dynasty which ascended stage has been and is the ambition of most Span- the Spanish throne in the first years of the ish men of letters. Some of the most successful eighteenth century brought with it French cusplays of modern times were written by Martinez toms and literature. The old national stage had de la Rosa, the Liberal statesman and novelist. expired, as far as that was possible among a What little literature of any value Spain pro- people essentially mimetic, during the evil times duced in the last century was destined for the of Charles II., who figures among Spanish monstage. The comedies of the younger Moratin, a archs as “the bewitched." When a revival came writer who lived into this century, are still played in happier days it did so under the influence occasionally; and one of his successors, Breton de of the classic school. The highest ambition of los Herreros, is probably the best writer Spain Moratin and his followers was to write with a due has to show for herself since the partial revival regard to the unities and the customs of good of her literature. Nor are plays written only in society. To them the rules of the classic school Castilian. The Catalan stage can show some were the holy of holies, their native dramatists dramatists who rival the great men of old-even of the seventeenth century barbarians, or at best that wonder of ready-writing, Lope de Vega-at beginners, to be patted on the back and condeleast in the quality of fecundity. The popular scended to. Bohl von Faber, a disciple of the Barcelonese Serafi Pitarra is probably the most Schlegels, known as an editor of the Spanish balproductive playright in Europe. With the ex- lads, had to fight Calderon's battles against the ception of Lope de Vega, none of the writers we poet's countrymen. But delivery came from the have mentioned are associated in the minds of country which imposed the yoke. Spain, followforeigners, or indeed of Spaniards, with that ing the lead o her neighbor in literature as in Spanish drama which has taken its place among politics, returned to the study of her own theatre the great literatures of the world. Beginning under the leadership of Victor Hugo, then fresh with Moratin, who was almost a copyist of Mo- from his victory over the classic party. Her nulière, they have been powerfully influenced by merous playwrights now swore by Lope, as they France, which has thus paid back the debt which had lately done by Molière. Gorostiza, Breton it owed to the earlier Spanish stage. During the de los Herreros, Martinez de la Rosa, and many last century that influence was so strong that others, have kept their country supplied with Lope de Vega and Calderon were looked upon plays which rival those of their great days in at by many of their countrymen as little better than least two particulars—their numbet and their barbarians. These writers have, however, had defiance of all rules. They are almost nervously their revenge, and are now as frequently played eager to disclaim any imitation of the French, as the great masters of French or English dra- but we find some difficulty in accepting their promatic literature are in their native countries. testations. They do, indeed, protest too much.
Their works are read, and a large party is striving The best proof they give of their nationality is an to bring back the stage to the peculiarly Spanish unconscious one. Their indifference to character models which they created.
and their love of incident and plot make them We are accustomed to hear the Spanish stage give a coloring of their own to the matter they spoken of as a storehouse of plot, intrigue, and in- take from France. The men we have mentioned cident. The reader of Molière is aware that many are undoubtedly clever playwrights, but it is not of the stock incidents, and some of the characters of them we think when we speak of the Spanish of his comedies, were taken from the Spaniards; comedy. that he even directly imitated them in a few of If the Spanish dramatists are more talked the least successful of his works, and that from about than known, it is certainly not due to any him and before his time these intriguing plots neglect on our part of Spanish literature. Don found their way on to our own stage. But this Quixote is probably more read in England than
justice is rendered to the Spaniards by tradition, in his native La Mancha. The sins of native edinot because the foreign reader is directly ac- tors have perhaps something to do with it. The early editions were shockingly mishandled by reader who is content to look only for amusement pirates, and very little has been done to remove may open their works with full confidence that the traces of their handiwork. Even where zeal- he will be amused. But he must be prepared to ous efforts have been made to restore the purity look for his satisfaction entirely to the plot and of the text, the plays have been left unnoted, the variety of incidents. As a work of which though bristling with references to bygone cus- the interest consists in development of charactoms, persons, and places, which require expla- ter, “Don Quixote" stands alone in Spanish nation to the Spaniard of to-day as much as to literature. In every other work the interest is the foreigner. But bad printing and bad editing centered in the plot. The characters are fixed would not prevent the Spanish dramatists being by custom, and serve all writers alike. The popular. However badly Calderon was edited, Spaniard of the middle ages and of the sixteenth he would be widely read if he possessed one half and seventeenth centuries was essentially a man the great qualities which A. W. Schlegel pro- of action. War and pillage were his favorite fessed to have found in him. Nor is it necessary means of gaining wealth. When the people to be a Spanish scholar in order to gain at least wished for the type of a prosperous man they an approximate idea of his genius. Many of his found him in the soldiers of Cortes or Pizarro. works have been translated ; and part at least of A grant of land in the New World, or a comthe “ Mágico Prodigioso " is to be found consum- mandery of a military order, was the aim of a mately rendered in all the more complete editions gentleman's ambition, and his way of gaining it of Shelley. It is probably less read than any was to serve for it in Flanders. As for thought, other part of the poet's work.
meditation, or the careful weighing of motives The fact would seem to be that injudicious and characters, there was no room for them in friends have done the object of their praise their his life. The Church defined for him with hard usual ill office. Schlegel persuaded a great many and fast rules what was right and what wrong. people that Calderon was another and perhaps It classified his sins and his virtues, assigning to greater Shakespeare. But a little acquaintance each its exact equivalent reward or punishment. with the writers for the Spanish stage will dispel The Inquisition undertook to argue with all who any idea that they belong to the class “ that sees demurred to the Church's teaching. At the play, quite through the deeds of men." Mr. G. H. therefore, or in his novel, the Spaniard wanted to Lewes, a very competent judge, was at first per- see something going on; he was indifferent to the suaded into believing that they did, and ended by characters of the actors. No books in the world deciding that they were only playwrights, and present less variety of type than the novelas that Calderon in particular was a very overrated picarescas. From the “Lazarillo" down to the playwright. This writer's indignation against “Gran Tacaño ” we find the same hero at work. Schlegel, who had for a time imposed on him, Low-born or base-born, impudent, thievish, and made him a little unjust to the German critic's cowardly, but good-natured and sincerely Cathfavorite, whom he handles in a somewhat disre- olic, he goes through endless exciting and imspectful manner; but in the main he was right. probable adventures, to end his life reflecting And this habit of judging them by the standard on the vanities of the world in the galleys, or of Shakespeare has lowered the Spaniards in the perhaps settling down with the proceeds of his estimation of their most favorable critics. Ford, rogueries as a church-going citizen. The Spanwho knew his “Don Quixote” by heart, wrote iard read these books with never-failing delight, in the most superficial manner possible about as he had done the monotonous tales of chivalry, the stage. His article on the subject is full of and asked for no greater variety than an occamisplaced pedantry, and enthusiasm about the sional change of sex in the principal character. dances. Even Lord Holland, who had gone the The fact that the female rogue had nothing dislength of reading more than fifty of Lope's plays, tinctively feminine about her, but was only the and who wrote a work on him and on Guillen de male rogue in petticoats, troubled him little. Castro, introduces them to his reader almost as The rogue himself is no doubt a type of a whole if he felt ashamed of them. He stops to tell us class, and is pictured with no small vigor; but that we must not expect from Lope “ deep re- that was by the man who wrote the first picaflections on morals and government," or "a phil- resque novel ; his successors copied him exactly, osophical view of the nature of man and of the and the type having been once created became as construction of society."
conventional as the figure of a saint. But Lope had no intention of being philo- As it was with the novel so it was with the sophical. He wrote his plays to please the vul- stage. There must be an intricate plot and an gar who paid, he tells us in as many words; and abundance of incident; the dramatis persona he fully gained his object. His example was in are merely quantities forces like the figures on the main followed by other dramatists; and the a chessboard, crossing one another and clashing in the endless complications of the intrigue. ventures transacted there are the adventures of Rest is given from this confusing movement by fairy-land. The player was not asked “to hold the tirades, hundreds of lines long, which some the mirror up to nature" or the playwright to be of the dramatists put into the mouths of their true to life. What the spectator expected from characters. These harangues are full of con- them was a representation of that ideal life of ceits and hyperbole. The sun, moon, and other movement, love-making, fighting, and moneyheavenly bodies, flowers, jewels, seas, sky, and getting which he would like to lead himself. earth are laid under contribution for metaphors Just as much probability must be given to the to be poured out with the profusion of treasures events of the play as will prevent too great a in a beggar's dream. And the Spaniard seems gulf existing between them and the dull world of to feel the same pleasure in seeing all this mag- reality. They must take place in the world the nificence rolled out before him as the miser in Spaniard saw before his eyes, and the actors are Horace did to see his heaps of gold. At times to be himself and his fellow men, not represented these tirades are not merely ornamental, but con- with any precision of detail or fineness of shadtain a rapid summary of the plot-an occasion- ing of individual character, but by a certain numally indispensable aid for the due understanding ber of well-defined types, which appear in the of the more intricate plays—and were printed sep- earliest dawn of Spanish dramatic literature, and arately in broadsides for the convenience of the remain almost unmodified to the end. The compublic. As in the picaresque novels again, the edy of cloak and sword continued to give to the world of the plays is a half-fantastic one. The last the adventures of the very set of characters players are dressed like Spaniards, the scene is which first appears in the “Celestina ” of Rodrilaid in Spanish streets and houses, but the ad- go Cota and Fernando de Rojas.
Pall Mall Gazette.
is interesting enough to quote nearly in
'THE DILEMMA OF A CONNOISSEUR.
A FEW weeks ago the daily papers, in announc “Mr. Dürr's will," he observed, “directs that the r ing the death of Mr. Louis Dürr, a merchant most meritorious' two hundred and fifty of his pictures of New York, informed their readers that Mr. Dürr
shall be selected from his collection and presented to had bequeathed his collection of paintings “to any
some public institution But who is going to make the
selection ? " public art-gallery in the city of New York” that
“The will says the executors.” would consent to keep the pictures together, and
“Yes, but a matter of this kind requires the services designate them as the Dürr collection. His execu- of experts, and there are no experts in this country." tors were instructed to select two hundred and fifty “You mean to say that there is no person in America of the most meritorious of his paintings; to sell the who is competent to decide whether or not the Dürr colremainder, and employ the funds arising therefrom lection contains valuable old masters ?!" in the purchase of other paintings, to be added to
of other paintings, to be added to “I don't know of any one. Certainly there is no the collection. No one seemed to know much about such person in this city." the character of Mr. Dürr's pictures, excepting that
“ It is possible, then, that, when the executors have
performed the task assigned them, the pictures which they were mostly by earlier masters; but people gen
they have chosen may not be worthy of a home in a puberally ventured to assume that the collection was
lic gallery of art.” a good one, and congratulated each other upon this «Certainly. A long course of special training is reaccession to the art-treasures of the city. For our quisite for the successful performance of such a duty. selves, we were taking this hopeful view of the mat. Who has had this training in this country? I don't ter, when we were rather discomfited by the report know of anybody who has. I don't know of any person in the “ Evening Post " of an interview with a well- who could go into Mr. Dürr's gallery and say, “That picknown art-connoisseur, who thought that “any pub. ture is a Rembrandt,' or 'That is a Titian,' or 'That is lic gallery of art in the city of New York that should a Veronese. Consequently, when the selection has been
made, and the pictures have been labeled, how is one to accept Mr. Dürr's gift would be liable to become
know that the latter really are what they profess to be ?" the repository of what would be an injury rather than
" You believe, then, that there is danger that the proa glory." This gentleman disclaimed any intention posed gift, if accepted, may become a trial and a burden of giving a judgment upon the worth of Mr. Dürr's to the gallery that houses it ?" pictures, because he had never seen them, but he "Precisely. The will provides that the accepted picnevertheless felt there was danger in the air. The tures shall be kept in a room to be called the Dürr Gal
lery of Paintings; but if the paintings are not what they That is to say, no one here can discern between claim to be, if, in a word, they are unworthy of the honor a genuine old master and a copy, and yet no one demanded for them, why, no institution would care to can tell whether a painting by an old master, genuown them. But, whether they are worthy or unworthy,
ine or not, has any artistic merit-which means that is a question that no person in this country is able to answer."
old art has such occult qualities that no one can
detect them, and yet anybody can imitate them! “They might be by other than the old masters, and
Old art, as thus presented by one of its best friends, yet be desirable old pictures ?".
would seem to a wholly ignorant person about the "Undoubtedly. The true principle of selection would sorriest humbug and emptiest piece of pretension be that of artistic merit, rather than of mere names. Are on the surface of the globe. they useful for purposes of study ?-that is the important But, of course, this presentation is not true. It point. But, again, who is capable of deciding whether is simply impossible for a copyist to reproduce any they are or not?
picture so successfully that it can not be distin. The most skeptical questioner of the pretensions guished from the original-impossible even to do of old art could not for the life of him have more this with any picture of to-day, let alone one of the effectually demolished those pretensions than this past. A master himself even can not make copies “ well-known art-connoisseur" has done. If we of his own pictures that will be of equal quality. It grant what he says to be even no more than approxi- is mentally and physically impossible for an imitamately true, then the claim put forth for old art is tion ever to express every quality of an original ; the veriest piece of charlatanry in the world. Let and hence a very little knowledge of a master ought us follow a few of this gentleman's assertions to their to enable one to detect counterfeits, however well logical consequence. We are assured that, amid all executed. If counterfeits can not be easily detected, the artists and art-students in this country, amid all it is simply because the originals possess no individthe connoisseurs and amateurs, all those who have ual quality, no method of expression peculiar to repeatedly studied the works of the old masters in the painter. As to the charge that no one in Amerthe galleries of Europe, there is not one person ica can detect the artistic merit of the paintings « competent to decide whether or not the Dürr col- under consideration, this is as wild as all the rest. lection contains valuable old masters." There is no The old masters do not exhibit anything more than person who “could go into the Dürr gallery and say, art itself exhibits, and art is universal in its princi• That picture is a Rembrandt, that a Titian, that a ples. Principles do not change with place or period; Veronese.'” Now, if among all the instructed art. a colorist must know color wherever he sees it ; and classes in America there is no one who can do this the laws of drawing and composition are the same thing, what in the name of wonder does it matter to-day as they were in the past. It is thus wholly whether the pictures are genuine or not? If every
certain that, if one can detect artistic merit in one characteristic, every quality, every element of worth set of pictures, old or new, he can detect it in any in a Rembrandt, a Titian, or a Veronese, can be so other set of pictures, old or new-a principle which successfully copied that no one can tell the differ- effectually vacates the final allegation of our “ wellence, then, for every practical reason and every art
known art-connoisseur." reason, copies are exactly as good as originals. “But we want to know that a painting is an original," says some one. Why? If a painting is to go into
MENTAL APTITUDES. a museum as a relic, as a memorial, distinctly as something rescued from the past, then we want to In a recent article bearing the title of “Health know that the relic is genuine. But in an art-gallery in Education,” Dr. B. W. Richardson, who has rethe case is very different. Here pictures are col- cently made himself an acknowledged leader in lected for the pleasure they give, the sentiments they hygiene and kindred things, deplores the plan which awaken, and as a means of instruction in the prin. now prevails of treating every boy and girl as if ciples of art; and each of these results all copies that every boy and girl had the same nervous construccan not be distinguished from originals must inevi- tion and mental aptitude. He says: tably produce as effectually as originals. There is
As it seems to me, there are as distinctly two grand no disputing this conclusion. If the “well-known
Ow divisions of mental aptitudes as there are two grand diviart-connoisseur" is right, everything that is really sions of sex, and any attempt to convert one into the valuable in old art may be transferred to new can- other is a certain failure. The two divisions I refer to vases with entire success, and the great works of the are the analytical and the synthetical, or, in other words, past be repeated in every gallery in the world. the examining and the constructive types of mind.
But this is not all. The art-connoisseur goes on in our common conversation on living men with to say that the principle of selection with the Dürr whom we are conversant in life we are constantly obpictures should be that of artistic merit, rather than
serving upon them in respect to these two qualities of by names. “Are they useful for purposes of study?
mind. We say of one man that he has no idea or plan
of looking into details; he can not calculate accurately ; -that is the important point.” Having asked this
he can not be intrusted with any minute labor of details; question, he declares that even here there are no but he can construct anything. Give him the tools and competent judges — no one capable of deciding materials for work, and he will build a house ; but, if he whether these paintings have artistic merit or not. had to collect and assort the tools and materials, he would