23 AUGUST 1890, Page 17


SIR,—In your issue of August 16th, on the Passion-Play at Ober-Ammergau, it is stated that "Dean Lake and Professor Henry Smith in 1850 seem to have been almost the first Englishmen who were present at it." In 1841, the Christian Teacher, a theological and literary journal which I was then editing, contained an article by Mr. Joseph Brooks Yates, of Liverpool, entitled "On the Holy Plays or Mysteries of the Middle Ages, with an Account of a Sacred Drama which was performed in the Year 1840 at Ober- Ammergau, in Upper Bavaria." Mr. Yates does not give the names of "some friends of the writer who, the decennial period of its representation having again come round, proceeded on Sunday, July 26th last, from Partenkirk to Ober-Ammergau for the purpose of witnessing it," and who furnished him with a detailed account of the Passion- Play, with its effect upon themselves and the spectators. The closing words are these :—" During the entire performance the immense audience remained rivetted in mute attention, saving that in the more touching passages stifled sighs were at intervals heard, while tears were observed to steal down the cheeks of many a hardy mountaineer. Thus, without the incongruities of the old moralities, or the formal precision of the Greek drama, the sympathies of the human heart were touched in a degree never surpassed by the Athenian tragedians, or by any who have followed them. At the conclusion, before which no one had offered to depart, excepting such as were overcome with grief, interesting groups of peasants were seen taking leave of one another, and engaging themselves, by the blessing of God, to meet once more at the next decennial representation. Each set out for his distant home, full of pious gratitude to a suffering Redeemer, and humbly trusting that he had that day advanced, in his own imperfect measure, in learning how to live and how to die." (Vol. III.; p. 160, 1841.)

I witnessed the Passion-Play of 1870, meeting on the occasion several English clergymen, one of them Archbishop Trench. Whilst confirming all that has been said, or can be said, of the reverent manner of the actors in the drama, and of the subdued religious feeling of the whole assemblage, manifesting, so far as could be judged, to use a Quaker ex- pression, that "the Spirit was on the meeting," I yet did not feel, and do not now feel, that the Crucifixion is a proper subject for, or that a full realisation of what is involved in it, of spiritual greatness and awful suffering, of human love and filial submission, can be promoted by, an imitative representa- tion. This may be only an individual impression ; others may have received inwardly and outwardly their deepest appre- hension of the real nature and significance of the central fact in the religious history of man. The words I have quoted will so far be supplement or correction of my own impression ; and thereto I further add, that an American gentleman, a stranger to me, who happened to sit next to me, after a few scenes, whispered in tones of emotion : "I came here out of mere curiosity ; but this is a most serious matter."—I am, Sir, &c.,