« PreviousContinue »
cheffras, by fingers the most compalling and smooth toned, have concurred in winging the shafrs of his song to our inmost sensibility. The paintet's magnificent perspectives, the dazzling pageants of the decorator, the easy floating motions of groupes of graceful dancers, and all the magic glories of realized mythology, have mingled at the theatre their influence with that of the poet, and have a lulled in liiiring up within us that luxurious irritation and tumult of feeling, which form the highest scope of the artist and the purest enjoyment of the connoisseur. Strips, however, of all these circumstances of effect, Metastalio has acquired a reputation for genius and abilities, which the philosopher who peruses his writings in the closet will not, probably, hesitate to ratify. Yet how often does it happen that, removed from within the glare of theatric illumination, the. god of the operahouse has withered into an ordinary man; and that the liquid language of the skies had lent an oracular solemnity to simple thoughts, or a bewitching harmony to in'gnificant insipidities? Be this, however, as it may, and even supposing that the literary character of Metastasio himself lhould be fated to suffer depreciation by time and revolutions in taste; -should his dramatic writings even become a mere school-book for the learner of Italian ;—yet he has resided so much at courts, and has been the darling of Ib many artists, that his life can never be an object of indifference to thole whose gentle eye preferably fixes on those places and periods, in which the pleasures of prim have been the chief occupation of his rulers; and in which
factions have confined their blood* less struggles to the establishment of a theory of music, and have never extended their proscriptions beyond the condemnation of a tragedy.
To the inherent fashion of the subject of these volumes, is superadded the stronger recommendation which they derive from the celebrity of the author. The historian of music is accustomed to convene and to satisfy an elegant audience; and, whether he touches the harp or the monochord, he displays a masterly hand, His materials have been industriously collected at Vienna and in Italy, and comprehend, besides the wellknown biographies of Retzer and ofChristini, many works of inferior note, as well as the posthumous edition of the poet's letters The bulk of (his publication consists indeed ofa translation of those letters, connected by the requisite interstices of narrative; all which form a very nmusirgwWf.
Metastalio was born at Rome in 1698, where his father had settled as a confectioner. At school he displayed early talents as an impriyviia'.ore, and before eleven years of age could sing extemporaneous verses. Gravina, the civilian, known by having written tragedies on the Greek model, heard, admired, and adopted the youug bard; to whom he gavea literary education, getting him admitted to the bar, and to deacon's orders, that civil and ecclesiastical preferment might be alike open to him. When 22 years of age, Metaftasio visited Naples, having inherited the property of Gravina, and attached himself as cicifbeo to the female singer Roraauina. He there wrote an opera, which succeeded,
and and from this time he applied wholly to theatric poetry. In 1729 lie was invited to Vienna as the Imperial Laureate, and continued to furnish such dramas as his patron bespoke, until his death in 1782.
Dr. Burney well observes that it is possible for a man of learning, study, and natural acumen, to be a good critic on the works of others without genius for producing original works himself, similar to those which he is able to censure. The opinion of Metastalio, therefore, may have its weight even when he criticises the great operawriters of antiquity: for the modern opera is the only faithful imitation of the antient tragedy. From his practice it appears, however, that he entertained one fundamental error in theory, and had not discovered that, in the opera, the means or imitation being peculiarly apparent, the distress thould be more harrafling and the crimes more atrocious, in order to exci;e an equal degree of tragic emotion with these representations which approach more nearly to real and common life. We had selected
some passages in order to give, an idea of the spirit of his criticism: but, finding them too long for our insertion, we must refer our readers to the 3d vol. in which they occur, p. 356—379.
Let it not be a reproach to our estimable biographer, (hat he has described, with the voluminous gravity of history, a groupe of poets, singers, actors, and musicians. It is well that a work of this kind should make its appearance. We are scarcely accustomed as yet to allign, in human story, a place to each proportioned to the extent of his intluence on human happiness. The crowned and the titled have their peculiarities immortalized, although they may have never added to the enjoyments of a nation ten evenings of glowing delight. The amusers of our leisure, the artists of our pleasures, may justly be ranked among the benefactors of society. Let ic belong, then, to the museoffatre to elevate monuments (v.-r their remains, and to strew flowers oil their grave, in token of our grateful remembrance!
Printed by J. Crowder, Warwick-Stuart.
fn the House of Commons, Regulations respecting the Sale of Flour, and the
you xxxvin. ?" /«# -
twenty-eight Millions sterling.—Debates concerning the Terms of the Lorn,
Free Negroes in the Island of Jamaica.—Hunted by Blood-Hounds.*—Motim,
„ certain Day.—Negatived.'—7'/ie Session of Parliament closed by a Speech
First Cares and Employment of the French Directory.—Determination to
Address of the DireSory to the French Armies.—Determination to carry the