TRAGIC AND COMIC IMPRESSIONS COMPARED.
WE remember to have controverted, in the Atlas, Sir WALTER SCOTT'S position, that the world is more susceptible of comic than of tragic impressions. Two singularly striking instances, which have lately come before the public, have served in some degree as a test of the relative sensativeness in question ; and we think the result, so far as our observation extends, strongly supports our argument. A few days ago, the Greenwich hoax became the subject of legal investigation. A more complete farce could not be imagined. Malvolio himself had not .a tithe of the absurdity of the dupe, nor Scapin more than the wicked dexterity and artfully-addressed imposture of the rogue, angler-like coveting not only the .prey, but also making a plea- sure of the sport of entrapping him. Rich in comic matter, however, as the cheat was, the moral sentiment prevailed over the ludicrous ; the proceedings of the court were not interrupted by the farcical evi- dence, and there was at least as much reprobacy of the knavery as mirth at the form and manner of it.
Far different in strength was the effect produced by the trial of BUCKLE, for murder, on the Norfolk Circuit. We have seen how far • the best farcical matter could move the court and public—we remark in this example how incomparably more powerful was the impression of tragedy. Either case is a drama of real life - and we are confident that for one person who comprehends the full absurdity of the first, there will be a hundred whose sympathies will be moved to their utmost capacity by the last example. In this instance, unlike that of the farce too, our minds cannot dwell on the moral considerations— the mirth in the one case did not exclude the offence of the knavery, but the pity and sympathy with generosity in the other, forbid even a -glance at the crime. When the tear dims the eye, it has seldom a perception of faults.
A youth pays his addresses to a; her family disapprove of the match ; she is compelled -to defer to their will ; he becomes jealous, and in a moment of phrensy attempts her life. She is made the prin- cipal witness against him, and gives her evidence on the trial with a truth so touched with tenderness that the very matter of crimination turns to pity and compassion. We extract a part of the statement, in which there is nothing meant to be theatrical—no labour or intention of effect, but simply the words of truth, just honeyed as they pass by the lips of affection, and touched with sweetness for all humanity. " I had previously asked him to meet me. He accompanied me home; and I was with him all the Monday morning. This was not with the knowledge of my friends ; we were walking about all the morning, and his conversation was chiefly about his hopes that we should become man and wife. I wished to be with him, and to be his wife, if my friends were agreeable; and I told bum so. I was much attached to him, and I told him that I loved him ; and if the marriage could not be brought about with our friends' consent, I would have him some time or other at all hazards. I know he very much loves me, and he always did." [Here the witness was so affected that she could not stand, and a chair was given to her, and the prisoner was also in tears.]
Mr. Baron Garrow—" What do you say, young woman ?"
Witness (weeping)—" I said that I am sure he loves me." [This avowal pro- duced an extraordinary expression in the Court in favour of the prisoner, in which the Jury actually joined.]
Where is the heart that can fail to comprehend all the pathos of this scene. The words are plain and familiar, but to every creature they will convey the one and the true understanding of the story. Thus we see how universally understood is the language of genuine pathos.
' The proceedings were dropped at so touching a scene ; and an idea of the effect may be collected from the Judge's speech ; in which, by the closing words of sternness, he obviously endeavours to divert at- tention from the depth of his emotions. " Mr. Baron Garrow said that the proceeding which had taken place was not quite regular ; but he was not at all disposed to criticise the proceedings. He did not feel it his duty to insist on the public prosecutor proceeding with the trial after what had taken, place. When he first cast his eyes upon the prisoner, he observed that there was less of the character of ferocity about him than of any man he had ever seen placed at the bar of justice; and the Judge was not the last person to feel, on witnessing one of the most distress- ing scenes imaginable; he joined in the involuntary expression of the Jury in favour of the accused, though he dared not let private feelings take place of public duty. It appeared that through the intervention of friends, the young woman having avowed her unalterable affection for the prisoner, and her wish to be united to him, all parties were of opinion the feeling of the young woman should be consulted, and she would be bound to him in the closest ties for life. The friends had arranged that they should he united in wedlock;, and as there was no evidence to prove he had committed the crime imputed. to him, the Jury would say he was not guilty. But if any individual in court dared to express either approbation or disapprobation of the verdict, he would: send them to prison."
This is perfect as a drama, and an excellent illustration of the argu- ment to which we have referred, of the more general sensibility to tragic: impressions.