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abilities of Mr. Willis.

We proceed now to Mr. Longfellow's


The reputation of its author as a poet, and as a
graceful writer of prose, is, of course, long and de
servedly established, but as a dramatist he was un
known before the publication of this play. Upon its
original appearance, in Graham's Magazine/ the gen
eral opinion was greatly in favor, if not exactly of
The Spanish Student/ at all events of the writer of
Outre'Mer, But this general opinion is the most
equivocal thing in the world. It is never self-formed.
It has very seldom indeed an original development.
In regard to the work of an already famous or in
famous author it decides, to be sure, with a laudable


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

promptitude, making up all the mind that it has,
by reference to the reception of the author's im
mediately previous publication; making up thus the
ghost of a mind pro tem, f a species of critical shadow,
that fully answers, nevertheless, all the purposes of
a substance itself, until the substance itself shall be
forthcoming. But, beyond this point, the general
opinion can only be considered that of the public,
as a man may call a book his, having bought it.
When a new writer arises, the shop of the true,
thoughtful, or critical opinion is not simultaneously
thrown away, is not immediately set up. Some weeks
elapse; and, during this interval, the public, at a
loss where to procure an opinion of the debutante,
have necessarily no opinion of him at all, for the

The popular voice, then, which ran so much in
favor of The Spanish Student, upon its original issue,
should be looked upon as merely the ghost pro tem, t
as based upon critical decisions respecting the pre
vious works of the author, as having reference in no
manner to The Spanish Student itself, and thus as
utterly meaningless and valueless per se.

The few, by which we mean those who think, in
contradistinction from the many who think they think,
the few who think at first hand, and thus twice be
fore speaking at all, these received the play with a
commendation somewhat less prononcee t somewhat

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

more guardedly qualified, than Professor Longfellow
might have desired, or may have been taught to ex
pect. Still the composition was approved upon the
whole. The few words of censure were very far, in
deed, from amounting to condemnation. The chief
defect insisted upon was the feebleness of the denoues
ment, and, generally, of the concluding scenes, as
compared with the opening passages. We are not
sure, however, that anything like detailed criticism
has been attempted in the case, nor do we propose
now to attempt it. Nevertheless, the work has in
terest, not only within itself, but as the first dramatic
effort of an author who has remarkably succeeded in
almost every other department of light literature than
that of the drama. It may be as well, therefore, to
speak of it, if not analytically, at least somewhat in
detail; and we cannot, perhaps, more suitably com
mence than by a quotation, without comment, of
some of the finer passages :

And, though she is a virgin outwardly,
Within she is a sinner; like those panels
Of doors and altar-pieces the old monks
Painted in convents, with the Virgin Mary
On the outside, and on the inside Venus!

I believe

That woman, in her deepest degradation,
Holds something sacred, something undefiled,
Some pledge and keepsake of her higher nature,"

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

And, like the diamond in the dark, retains
Some quenchless gleam of the celestial light !

And we shall sit together unmolested,

And words of true love pass from tongue to tongue,

As singing birds from one bough to another.

Our feelings and our thoughts
Tend ever on and rest not in the Present.
As drops of rain fall into some dark well,
And from below comes a scarce audible sound,
So fall our thoughts into the dark Hereafter,
And their mysterious echo reaches us.

Her tender limbs are still, and on her breast
The cross she prayed to, ere she fell asleep,
Rises or falls with the soft tide of dreams,
Like a light barge safe-moored.

Hark ! how the large and ponderous mace of Time
Knocks at the golden portals of the day!

The lady Violante, bathed in tears
Of love and anger, like the maid of Colchis,
Whom thou, another faithless Argonaut,
Having won that golden fleece, a woman's love,
Desertest for this Glauce*.

I read, or sit in revery and watch

The changing color of the waves that break

Upon the idle sea-shore of the mind.

I will forget her. All dear recollections
Pressed in my heart, like flowers within a book,
Shall be torn out and scattered to the winds.


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

O yes ! I see it now,

Yet rather with my heart than with mine eyes,
So faint it is. And all my thoughts sail thither,
Freighted with prayers and hopes, and forward urged
Against all stress of accident, as, in
The Eastern Tale, against the wind and tide
Great ships were drawn to the Magnetic Mountains.

But there are brighter dreams than those of Fame,

Which are the dreams of Love ! Out of the heart

Rises the bright ideal of these dreams,

As from some woodland fount a spirit rises

And sinks again into its silent deeps,

Ere the enamored knight can touch her robe !

'T is this ideal that the soul of Man,

Like the enamored knight beside the fountain,

Waits for upon the margin of Life's stream ;

Waits to behold her rise from the dark waters,

Clad in a mortal shape ! Alas, how many

Must wait in vain ! The stream flows evermore,

But from its silent deeps no spirit rises !

Yet I, born under a propitious star,

Have found the bright ideal of my dreams.

Yes ; by the Darro's side
My childhood passed. I can remember still
The river, and the mountains capped with snow;
The villages where, yet a little child,
I told the traveller's fortune in the street ;
The smuggler's horse, the brigand and the shepherd;
The march across the moor; the halt at noon;
The red fire of the evening camp, that lighted
The forest where we slept ; and, further back,

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

As in a dream, or in some former life,
Gardens and palace walls.

This path will lead us to it,
Over the wheat-fields, where the shadows sail
Across the running sea, now green, now blue,
And, like an idle mariner on the ocean,
Whistles the quail.

These extracts will be universally admired. They
are graceful, well expressed, imaginative, and alto
gether replete with the true poetic feeling. We quote
them now, at the beginning of our review, by way of
justice to the poet, and because, in what follows, we
are not sure that we have more than a very few words
of what may be termed commendation to bestow.

The Spanish Student has an unfortunate beginning,
in a most unpardonable, and yet, to render the matter
worse, in a most indispensable, " Preface " :

" The subject of the following play [says Mr. L.] is
taken in part from the beautiful play of Cervantes, La
Gitanilla. To this source, however, I am indebted for
the main incident only, the love of a Spanish student
for a gypsy girl, and the name of the heroine, Preciosa.
I have not followed the story in any of its details. In
Spain this subject has been twice handled dramatically :
first by Juan Perez de Montalvan, in La Gitanilla, and
afterward by Antonio de Solis y Rivadeneira in La
Gitanilla de Madrid. The same subject has also been


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

made use of by Thomas Middleton, an English drama
tist of the seventeenth century. His play is called The
Spanish Gypsy, The main plot is the same as in the
Spanish pieces; but there runs through it a tragic
underplot of the loves of Rodrigo and Dona Clara,
which is taken from another tale of Cervantes, La
Fuerza de la Sangre, The reader who is acquainted
with La Gitanilla of Cervantes, and the plays of
Montalvan, Solis, and Middleton, will perceive that
my treatment of the subject differs entirely from

Now the authorial originality, properly considered,
is threefold. There is, first, the originality of the
general thesis; secondly, that of the several incidents,
or thoughts, by which the thesis is developed; and,
thirdly, that of manner, or tone, by which means alone
an old subject, even when developed through hack
neyed incidents, or thoughts, may be made to produce
a fully original effect, which, after all, is the end truly
in view.

But originality, as it is one of the highest, is also
one of the rarest, of merits. In America it is espec
ially, and very remarkably, rare ; this through causes
sufficiently well understood. We are content per
force, therefore, as a general thing, with either of
the lower branches of originality mentioned above,
and would regard with high favor, indeed, any author

25 l

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

who should supply the great desideratum in combin
ing the three. Still the three should be combined;
and from whom, if not from such men as Professor
Longfellow, if not from those who occupy the chief
niches in our Literary Temple, shall we expect the
combination ? But in the present instance, what has
Professor Longfellow accomplished ? Is he original
at any one point ? Is he original in respect to the
first and most important of our three divisions ?
" The subject of the following play," he says him
self, " is taken in part from the beautiful play of
Cervantes, La Gitanilla. To this source, however,
I am indebted for the main incident only, the love of
a Spanish student for a gypsy girl, and the name of
the heroine, Preciosa."

The italics are our own, and the words italicized
involve an obvious contradiction. We cannot under
stand how " the love of the Spanish student for the
gypsy girl " can be called an " incident," or even a
" main incident," at all. In fact, this love, this dis
cordant and therefore eventful or incidental love,
is the true thesis of the drama of Cervantes. It
is this anomalous " love " which originates the inci
dents by means of which, itself, this " love," the thesis,
is developed. Having based his play, then, upon this
" love," we cannot admit his claim to originality upon
our first count; nor has he any right to say that he
has adopted his " subject " " in part." It is clear


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

that he has adopted it altogether. Nor would he have
been entitled to claim originality of subject, even had
he based his story upon any variety of love arising
between parties naturally separated by prejudices of
caste, such, for example, as those which divide the
Brahmin from the Pariah, the Ammonite from the
African, or even the Christian from the Jew. For
here, in its ultimate analysis, is the real thesis of the
Spaniard. But when the drama is founded, not
merely upon this general thesis, but upon this general
thesis in the identical application given it by Cer
vantes, that is to say, upon the prejudice of caste ex
emplified in the case of a Catholic, and this Catholic
a Spaniard, and this Spaniard a student, and this
student loving a gypsy, and this gypsy a dancing-
girl, and this dancing-girl bearing the name Preciosa,
we are not altogether prepared to be informed by
Professor Longfellow that he is indebted for an
" incident only " to the " beautiful Gitanilla of

Whether our author is original upon our second
and third points, in the true incidents of his story,
or in the manner and tone of their handling, will be
more distinctly seen as we proceed.

It is to be regretted that The Spanish Student was
not sub-entitled " A Dramatic Poem," rather than " A
Play." The former title would have more fully con
veyed the intention of the poet; for, of course, we


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

shall not do Mr. Longfellow the injustice to suppose
that his design has been, in any respect, a play, in
the ordinary acceptation of the term. Whatever
may be its merits in a merely poetical view, The
Spanish Student could not be endured upon the stage.
Its plot runs thus: Preciosa, the daughter of a
Spanish gentleman, is stolen, while an infant, by
gypsies; brought up as his own daughter, and as a
dancing-girl, by a gypsy leader, Cruzado ; and by him
betrothed to a young gypsy, Bartolome*. At Madrid
Preciosa loves and is beloved by Victorian, a student
of Alcala, who resolves to marry her, notwithstand
ing her caste, rumors involving her purity, the dissua
sions of his friends, and his betrothal to an heiress
of Madrid. Preciosa is also sought by the Count of
Lara, a toui. She rejects him. He forces his way
into her chamber, and is there seen by Victorian, who,
misinterpreting some words overheard, doubts the
fidelity of his mistress, and leaves her in anger, after
challenging the Count of Lara. In the duel, the
Count receives his life at the hands of Victorian;
declares his ignorance of the understanding between
Victorian and Preciosa; boasts of favors received
from the latter; and, to make good his words, pro
duces a ring which she gave him, he asserts, as a
pledge of her love. This ring is a duplicate of one
previously given the girl by Victorian, and known to
have been so given by the Count. Victorian mistakes


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

it for his own, believes all that has been said, and
abandons the field to his rival, who, immediately after
ward, while attempting to procure access to the gypsy,
is assassinated by Bartolome". Meanwhile, Victorian,
wandering through the country, reaches Guadarrama.
Here he receives a letter from Madrid, disclosing the
treachery practised by Lara, and telling that Preciosa,
rejecting his addresses, had been, through his instru
mentality, hissed from the stage, and now again
roamed with the gypsies. He goes in search of her;
finds her in a wood near Guadarrama; approaches
her, disguising his voice; she recognizes him, pre
tending she does not, and unaware that he knows her
innocence; a conversation of equivoque ensues; he
sees his ring upon her finger; offers to purchase it;
she refuses to part with it; a full eclaircissement
takes place ; at this juncture, a servant of Victorian's
arrives with " news from Court," giving the first in
timation of the true parentage of Preciosa. The lovers
set out, forthwith, for Madrid to see the newly discov
ered father. On the route Bartolome* dogs their steps ;
fires at Preciosa ; misses her ; the shot is returned ; he
falls ; and The Spanish Student is concluded.

This plot, however, like that of Tortesa looks better
in our naked digest than amidst the details which
develop only to disfigure it. The reader of the play
itself will be astonished, when he remembers the
name of the author, at the inconsequence of the


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

incidents, at the utter want of skill, of art, manifested
in their conception and introduction. In dramatic
writing, no principle is more clear than that nothing
should be said or done which has not a tendency to
develop the catastrophe, or the characters. But Mr.
Longfellow's play abounds in events and conversa
tions that have no ostensible purpose, and certainly
answer no end. In what light, for example, since
we cannot suppose this drama intended for the stage,
are we to regard the second scene of the second act,
where a long dialogue between an archbishop and
a cardinal is wound up by a dance from Preciosa ?
The Pope thinks of abolishing public dances in Spain,
and the priests in question have been delegated to
examine, personally, the proprieties or improprieties
of such exhibitions. With this view, Preciosa is sum
moned and required to give a specimen of her skill.
Now this, in a mere spectacle, would do very well;
for here all that is demanded is an occasion or an
excuse for a dance; but what business has it in a
pure drama ? or in what regard does it further the end
of a dramatic poem intended only to be read ? In
the same manner, the whole of scene the eighth, in
the same act, is occupied with six lines of stage
directions as follows:

" The Theatre. The orchestra plays the cachuca.
Sound of castanets behind the scenes. The curtain

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

rises, and discovers Preciosa in the attitude of
commencing the dance. The cachuca. Tumult;
hisses ; cries of * Brava ! ' and * Afuera ! ' She fal
ters and pauses. The music stops. General con
fusion. Preciosa faints."

But the inconsequence of which we complain will
be best exemplified by an entire scene. We take scene
the fourth, act the first:

" An inn on the road to Alcala, Baltasar asleep on a

bench. Enter Chispa,

Chispa. And here we are, half-way to Alcala, be
tween cocks and midnight. Body o* me! what an
inn is this! The light out and the landlord asleep!
Hold! ancient Baltasar!

Baltasar (waking). Here I am.

Chispa, Yes, there you are, like a one-eyed Alcalde
in a town without inhabitants. Bring a light, and
let me have supper.

Baltasar, Where is your master ?

Chispa, Do not trouble yourself about him. We
have stopped a moment to breathe our horses ; and if
he chooses to walk up and down in the open air, look
ing into the sky as one who hears it rain, that does not
satisfy my hunger, you know. But be quick, for I am
in a hurry, and every man stretches his legs according
to the length of his coverlet. What have we here ?

VOL. VIII. 17. 2 C7

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

Baltasar (setting a light on the table), Stewed rab

Chispa (eating). Conscience of Portalegre! stewed
kitten, you mean !

Baltasar, And a pitcher of Pedro Ximenes, with
a roasted pear in it.

Chispa (drinking) Ancient Baltasar, amigo I You
know how to cry wine and sell vinegar. I tell you
this is nothing but Vino Tinto of La Mancha, with a
tang of the swine-skin.

Baltasar, I swear to you by Saint Simon and Judas,
it is all as I say.

Chispa, And I swear to you by Saint Peter and
Saint Paul, that it is no such thing. Moreover, your
supper is like the hidalgo's dinner, very little meat,
and a great deal of table-cloth.

Baltasar, Ha! ha! ha!

Chispa, And more noise than nuts.

Baltasar, Ha! ha! ha! You must make your joke,
Master Chispa. But shall I not ask Don Victorian in
to take a draught of the Pedro Ximenes ?

Chispa, No ; you might as well say, * Don't you
want some ? ' to a dead man.

Baltasar, Why does he go so often to Madrid ?

Chispa, For the same reason that he eats no supper.
He is in love. Were you ever in love, Baltasar ?

Baltasar, I was never out of it, good Chispa. It
has been the torment of my life.


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

Chispa. What! are you on fire, too, old haystack ?
Why, we shall never be able to put you out.

Victorian (without), Chispa!

Chispa, Go to bed, Pero Grullo, for the cocks are

Victorian. Ea! Chispa! Chispa!

Chispa, Ea! Senor. Come with me, ancient Bal-
tasar, and bring water for the horses. I will pay for
the supper to-morrow. [Exeunt,]"

Now here the question occurs, What is accomplished?
How has the subject been forwarded ? We did not
need to learn that Victorian was in love, that was
known before; and all that we glean is that a stupid
imitation of Sancho Panza drinks, in the course of
two minutes (the time occupied in the perusal of the
scene), a bottle of Vino Tinto f by way of Pedro
Ximenes, and devours a stewed kitten in place of a

In the beginning of the play this Chispa is the valet
of Victorian ; subsequently we find him the servant of
another; and near the denouement he returns to his
original master. No cause is assigned, and not even
the shadow of an object is attained; the whole ter
giversation being but another instance of the gross
inconsequence which abounds in the play.

The author's deficiency of skill is especially evinced
in the scene of the eclaircissement between Victorian


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

and Preciosa. The former having been enlightened
respecting the true character of the latter, by means
of a letter received at Guadarrama, from a friend at
Madrid (how wofully inartistical is this!), resolves to
go in search of her forthwith, and forthwith, also,
discovers her in a wood close at hand. Whereupon
he approaches, disguising his voice; yes, we are re
quired to believe that a lover may so disguise his
voice from his mistress as even to render his person
in full view irrecognizable ! He approaches, and, each
knowing the other, a conversation ensues under the
hypothesis that each to the other is unknown a very
unoriginal and, of course, a very silly source of
equivoque, fit only for the gum-elastic imagination of
an infant. But what we especially complain of here,
is that our poet should have taken so many and so
obvious pains to bring about this position of equi'
voque, when it was impossible that it could have served
any other purpose than that of injuring his intended
effect! Read, for example, this passage:

" Victorian, I never loved a maid ;
For she I loved was then a maid no more.

Preciosa, How know you that ?

Victorian, A little bird in the air
Whispered the secret.

Preciosa, There, take back your gold!
Your hand is cold like a deceiver's hand!


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

There is no blessing in its charity!
Make her your wife, for you have been abused ;
And you shall mend your fortunes mending hers.
Victorian, How like an angel's speaks the tongue

of woman,
When pleading in another's cause her own ! "

Now, here it is clear that if we understood Preciosa
to be really ignorant of Victorian's identity, the
" pleading in another's cause her own " would create
a favorable impression upon the reader, or spectator.
But the advice, " Make her your wife," etc., takes an
interested and selfish turn when we remember that
she knows to whom she speaks.

Again, when Victorian says :

" That is a pretty ring upon your finger,
Pray give it me ! "

And when she replies,

" No, never from my hand
Shall that be taken,"

we are inclined to think her only an artful coquette,
knowing, as we do, the extent of her knowledge; on
the other hand, we should have applauded her con
stancy (as the author intended) had she been repre
sented ignorant of Victorian's presence. The effect
upon the audience, in a word, would be pleasant in


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

place of disagreeable were the case altered as we sug
gest, while the effect upon Victorian would remain
altogether untouched.

A still more remarkable instance of deficiency in
the dramatic tact is to be found in the mode of bring
ing about the discovery of Preciosa's parentage. In
the very moment of the eclaircissement between the
lovers, Chispa arrives almost as a matter of course,
and settles the point in a sentence :

"Good news from Court! Good news! Beltran Cruzado,
The Count of the Gale's is not your father,
But your true father has returned to Spain
Laden with wealth. You are no more a gypsy."

Now here are three points : first, the extreme baldness,
platitude, and independence of the incident narrated
by Chispa. The opportune return of the father (we
are tempted to say the excessively opportune) stands
by itself, has no relation to any other event in the
play, does not appear to arise, in the way of result,
from any incident or incidents that have arisen before.
It has the air of a happy chance, of a Godsend, of an
ultra-accident, invented by the playwright by way of
compromise for his lack of invention. Nee Deus in*
ters/f, etc., but here the god has interposed, and the
knot is laughably unworthy of the god.

The second point concerns the return of the father

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

" laden with wealth." The lover has abandoned his
mistress in her poverty, and, while yet the words of
his proffered reconciliation hang upon his lips, comes
his own servant with the news that the mistress's
father has returned " laden with wealth." Now, so
far as regards the audience, who are behind the
scenes and know the fidelity of the lover so far as
regards the audience, all is right; but the poet had
no business to place his heroine in the sad predica
ment of being forced, provided she is not a fool, to
suspect both the ignorance and the disinterestedness
of the hero.

The third point has reference to the words, " You
are now no more a gypsy." The thesis of this drama,
as we have already said, is love disregarding the pre
judices of caste, and in the development of this thesis,
the powers of the dramatist have been engaged, or
should have been engaged, during the whole of the

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