Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.
it, as something quite grandly pathetic; but finding the facts turn out meagre, and her audience cold, she broke off, saying, “It sounded so much finer in French—­j’ai vu le sang de mon pere, and so on—­I wish I could repeat it in French.”  This was a pardonable illusion in an old-fashioned lady who had not received the polyglot education of the present day; but I observe that even now much nonsense and bad taste win admiring acceptance solely by virtue of the French language, and one may fairly desire that what seems a just discrimination should profit by the fashionable prejudice in favour of La Bruyere’s idiom.  But I wish he had added that the habit of dragging the ludicrous into topics where the chief interest is of a different or even opposite kind is a sign not of endowment, but of deficiency.  The art of spoiling is within reach of the dullest faculty:  the coarsest clown with a hammer in his hand might chip the nose off every statue and bust in the Vatican, and stand grinning at the effect of his work.  Because wit is an exquisite product of high powers, we are not therefore forced to admit the sadly confused inference of the monotonous jester that he is establishing his superiority over every less facetious person, and over every topic on which he is ignorant or insensible, by being uneasy until he has distorted it in the small cracked mirror which he carries about with him as a joking apparatus.  Some high authority is needed to give many worthy and timid persons the freedom of muscular repose under the growing demand on them to laugh when they have no other reason than the peril of being taken for dullards; still more to inspire them with the courage to say that they object to the theatrical spoiling for themselves and their children of all affecting themes, all the grander deeds and aims of men, by burlesque associations adapted to the taste of rich fishmongers in the stalls and their assistants in the gallery.  The English people in the present generation are falsely reputed to know Shakspere (as, by some innocent persons, the Florentine mule-drivers are believed to have known the Divina Commedia, not, perhaps, excluding all the subtle discourses in the Purgatorio and Paradiso); but there seems a clear prospect that in the coming generation he will be known to them through burlesques, and that his plays will find a new life as pantomimes.  A bottle-nosed Lear will come on with a monstrous corpulence from which he will frantically dance himself free during the midnight storm; Rosalind and Celia will join in a grotesque ballet with shepherds and shepherdesses; Ophelia in fleshings and a voluminous brevity of grenadine will dance through the mad scene, finishing with the famous “attitude of the scissors” in the arms of Laertes; and all the speeches in “Hamlet” will be so ingeniously parodied that the originals will be reduced to a mere memoria technica of the improver’s puns—­premonitory signs of a hideous millennium, in which the lion will have to lie down with the lascivious monkeys whom (if we may trust Pliny) his soul naturally abhors.

Follow Us on Facebook