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the popular plays as against all “ rules of honest civility and skilful poetry"
. The stormy and irregular genius of Christopher Marlowe produced some powerful plays, but it was not till Shakespeare himself came upon the scene that England had anything worthy to be called a national drama.
TOPICS OF THE MONTH.
THERE have been strange doings in England this month. The Grand Turk, monarch of the most ignorant people and worstgoverned kingdom in Europe, the Head of the Mahomedan religion, the Successor of the False Prophet, and High Priest of Islam, has been welcomed, fêted, and caressed as scarce any visitor to our shores ever was before. To pleasure him, the Court, the Parliament, the aristocracy, the India House, the populace, have vied; the navy and the volunteers have been passed in review before him ; our chief places of amusement have been decked with special brilliance for his delight; no adulation has been deemed too gross for him; and our Christianity has been carefully put out of sight, lest this Chief Mussulman should be offended. Our countrymen will perhaps be surprised to discover the impression which their behaviour has made upon bystanders. “The whole English public,” says the Journal des Débats, “rose to salute the Padishah. They saw him the day of his entry into London, to which he was introduced by the Prince of Wales, the Heir to the Throne of England, accompanied by the Duke of Cambridge and the highest of the nobility. Ever since his arrival there has been a continual succession of fêtes-gala at Covent Garden Theatre, banquet at the Mansion House, visits to the Arsenal of Woolwich--everywhere we see England and her representatives, everywhere a multitude of people. The Sultan goes in grand pomp to Windsor, where the Queen awaits him; and when his visit is paid, he again becomes the guest of the whole of Great Britain. In Buckingham Palace, which has been given to him for a residence, he finds the most splendid preparations, the same that were made for the Emperor of the French when he visited London. Finally, England, desirous of showing herself in all the éclat of her power, announces that, in honour of her Imperial guest, she will review her fleet at Spithead. Parliament suspends its sittings, and the House of Commons had three despatches announcing the state of the weather at Portsmouth, and reassuring those who feared lest it might interfere with this great national solemnity. The Emperor of the Ottomans must be deeply touched by such a reception. Who prepared it? His Ambassador, Musurus Bey, who is rewarded by being named Pasha. Here we have politics. Musurus Bey has drawn closer the already intimate alliance between England and Turkey." “An interested alliance,” concludes the article. “Certainly, an interested alliance—who can doubt it ?"
Loudly will any such conclusion be disclaimed here. But the Sultan will not believe that all this elaborate, costly, and popular reception is a sham. Yet it certainly is either a meaningless farce or an organized hypocrisy, and the mischief is that the Sultan will take it, as it must be presumed he was intended to take it, as a real expression of an interest in him and his kingdom. Nothing has so excited or delighted him since he left his capital as the eager welcome of the crowds that thronged round him wherever he appeared in public in England. It will not be easy to make him understand that the English mob will assemble in equal numbers, and shout with equal strength of lungs, whether the object which excites their curiosity be a Despot or a Liberator, a Czar or a Garibaldi, a Grand Lama or a Grand Turk. He will reject such a statement as a libel upon their sense and love of liberty. But what shall we say for our governors and legislators who are not mere flunkeys to be moved by the approach of Monarchy in any guise, and must be supposed to have been prompted to this great preparation for the Sultan by motives of profound policy? They say that he is the religious chief of several millions of Mahomedans under our rule in India, and that the attention paid to him in England will be more than repaid by their greater willingness to obey us. As we behave to their Sultan, so will they behave to us. Yet, at least, let it be a bargain. If a handful of English rule some millions of Mahomedans in India, so does the Sultan, with his four millions of Mahomedans, hold in subjection eleven millions of Christians. We protect Mahomedans in India, the Turk ill-treats his Christian subjects; and while the Crystal Palace poets were singing in his ears,
Christians own thy kindly sway," the telegram brought news of another slaughter of Christians in Crete, and more devastations by the Turks ; also that two more blockade runners, British built, had arrived at Crete with supplies for the Christians, whose villages the troops of our guest were engaged in burning. Our politicians know that the Sultan's power is waning, they know it would be most undesirable that England should ever again assume towards Turkey the position she so long occupied under the influence of Lord Palmerston; the greater number of Englishmen think it would be a good thing if the Turks were bowed out of Europe, and expect that they soon will be; and yet we have been doing all we can to raise in his mind the hope that we shall stand by him, and maintain his position if necessary, as we have already once done, by great fleets and armies. It were better to lack courtesy than candour, in this as in every case.
There are indeed some considerations to be urged in excuse of our overdone civility to the Turkish Magnate. If the Queen had received him as her guest, the formal courtesies of his reception would have had nothing but an official and ceremonial significance. But when the duty of entertainment is shifted on to the shoulders of the nation, our hospitalities inevitably wear an air which would certainly better have been avoided. Then we have always regarded ourselves as the patrons of Turkey, and the cheers to the Sultan in the streets may be interpreted as so many testimonials to our own valour and sacrifices in the Crimean war. Nor must we forget that Abdul Aziz is an improvement on his predecessors. He has shown himself desirous of being a Reformer; he has promulgated a Hatti-Humayoun if he has not been able to enforce obedience to it, and Englishmen may deem it right to give him an encouraging pat on the back. Because we are Christians, therefore we were obliged to receive him with all courtesy, but surely not to accommodate our Christianity to his supposed prejudices. It is to be hoped that his interpreter did not lay before him any version of the absurd - the indecently absurd-song chanted by the opera singers in the midst of the approving smiles and voices of thousands of English, so-called Christians. Did the Sultan complaisantly eat pork or remit any of his religious observances when he came to England ? Was it necessary to show him how accommodating Christianity could be, by assuring him that he already enjoyed the warmest favour of Heaven, and that the highest place in Heaven was reserved for him ? Was it necessary that the heir to the throne of England should neglect his own religious duties in order that he might devote himself to the Sultan's amusement throughout the day which, by the courtesy and permission of our aristocracy, is still called the Lord's Day? The whole business dishonours God and ourselves, and will bring its punishment. It is as true now as it was in Eli's time, that those that honour God He will honour, and those that despise Him shall be lightly esteemed. It will be well if the Sultan does not go back with the impression that our religion and our politics are alike hollow, and that we are a hypocritical nation whose faith and word are worth nothing.
The Viceroy of Egypt, whose good-will it is much more important for us to cultivate, has had a much quieter reception, and is likely in the end to esteem us all the more. He has been using his eyes like a sensible man, especially taking note of all that may help him to develop the peaceful prosperity of his country. Both he and the Sultan will probably return from their extraordinary visit to the West with new resolves to hasten improvements among their subjects, but the Sultan's attempts will soon wear themselves out against the passive opposition of his fatalist subjects. The Egyptian Governor has will and power enough to turn aside the prejudices of his people, and make them acknowledge the advantages of new customs.
The warmth of our welcome to the Belgian Volunteers is at least harmless. We do intend to stand by Belgium if she is attacked, and it is well that we should keep up a close intimacy with our neighbours, who, if they are but a small people, have the greater need of our countenance and support, while maintaining upon the Continent the closest pattern of our own free and liberal institutions. This interchange of visits between the Volunteers of the two countries may help to keep the heads of some adjoining kingdoms clear of bad thoughts, and prevent them giving way to temptations to absorption, incorporation, conquest, and other deadly sins.
In another week or two the wonderful Reform Bill, which we shall owe, as Mr. Bright says, to the ambition and art of Mr. Disraeli, will be the law of the land. In his closing speech upon the motion that the Bill be read a third time, Mr. Disraeli defended his conduct by affirming that some such measure as that which is now passing had always been desired by him, and that in 1859 he proposed in Lord Derby's cabinet the adoption of a rating household suffrage in boroughs. He may very readily be believed. Few persons have ever doubted that at heart Mr. Disraeli was a Radical. But in the meantime his mouth has spoken Toryism. In 1865 he declared himself in favour of an extension of the franchise, which should be lateral and not vertical; or, as Hansard has it, “Radical.” Last year, however, he and his Conservative friends declared that they would be satisfied with a vertical extension of the franchise, -if it did not go too far—they offered to support an £8 borough and a £20 county franchise. Mr. Disraeli then said that the Government of England is “an aristocratic Government, in the proper sense of the term-a Government of the best men of all classes,” the working classes of course included; but now he says that he has always thought that to enfranchise a select portion of the working classes would be far more dangerous than to admit them indiscriminately on the electoral register. If he has thus been really always of one mind in favour of household suffrage, what words shall express the flagitiousness of his behaviour? He has used his speech to conceal his thoughts; for fifteen years he has habitually stated, on the most solemn occasions, the very opposite of that which he really believed, and by concealing and denying his own opinions, he has at last inveigled the Conservative party into a shameful apostacy from theirs. Lord Cranborne and Lord Carnarvon have earned the thanks of good and honest men by their exposure and indignant denunciation of the dishonesty and treachery which have marked the progress of this Bill.
Lord Cranborne pointed out that every alteration demanded by Mr. Gladstone had been made, so that the Bill was rather his than Mr. Disraeli's, and that it was now the very measure of which the Conservative party have been for years declaring their apprehension, and to avoid which they have resisted the least approach to Reform. He designated the policy of the Government a "policy of legerdemain," and warned the Conservatives of what would happen if they borrowed their politics from “the ethics of an adventurer.” Mr. Disraeli, however, would not allow himself to be in the least discomposed by this terrible attack, which was not very effectively delivered, for Lord Cranborne speaks with hesitating words, and fumbles at the buttons of his waistcoat all the time he is addressing the House, recalling with evident effort the keen sentences which he has carefully polished and sharpened in private. Mr. Disraeli reserved all his invective for Mr. Lowe, and passed over Lord Cranborne with a single respectful sentence. Not so in the Lords. The Premier is cast in a different mould to his henchman in the Lower House. He chafed and writhed under the dignified and scathing rebukes of Lord Carnarvon, and answered him in his bitterest manner. But how pitiable is this chivalric leader's excuse for the abandonment of his convictions and the utterances of a lifetime. He had only to plead that he could not hold office without bringing in a Reform Bill, and could not pass a Reform Bill without underbidding his opponents. But why need he have taken office at all; or why did he retain it when he found that he could only do so by proposing measures which he had always denounced as injurious to the country? There was, indeed, no need for the purpose of keeping office, to have proposed Household Suffrage. The whole Legislature would have been better pleased if some low, but “hard and fast” figure had been proposed as the limit of the franchise. But Mr. Disraeli has taught the party to believe that they may deal better with the very ignorant and most dependent classes than with those above them, and the aristocracy now expect to preserve their privileges by an alliance with the