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with the most ardent patriotism. His enthusiasm for his country may to American readers appear even excessive, accustomed as we are to regard displays of patriotism as mere rhetorical effusions. But those expressions of zeal and devotion, which seem but empty bombast when addressed to a country that knows no other evils than those which spring from an excess of prosperity, are dignified and made earnest by the presence of misfortune and danger. It is to be remembered that the frequent allusions which Kisfaludy makes to the former glory of his country, to Magyar magnanimity and love of freedom, appealed not to the vanity but to the hearts of his audience. The bursts of enthusiasm with which they were received were not the self-felicitations of an oversatisfied people, but the expression of the deep feeling of a nation whose history has for centuries been that of one struggle for existence, and who, by calling up the traditions of an heroic past, keep alive their patriotism and their courage for future struggles.
Before passing to the consideration of the works of the Magyar dramatist, we will give a slight sketch of his early life, and of the circumstances under which his genius was developed.
Charles Kisfaludy was born of an ancient family in the county of Györ, on the sixth of February, 1788. Adversity encountered the future poet on the very
threshold of existThe day of his birth was that of the death of his mother; and his surviving parent, instead of regarding the new claimant on his affection as the solace of his grief, saw in him only the cause and the memorial of his misfortune. early age, Kisfaludy was sent from home, and placed at a school in Györ. He was here submitted to the charge of a severe and pedantic tutor, who paid little regard to the diversities of character and intellect among the boys placed under his care, but urged them all alike through the same spiritless routine. This discipline was peculiarly unsuited to a boy of keen sensibility, and impetuous, independent spirit. Kisfaludy reaped but little benefit from his scholastic course; and, evincing at this period but small vocation for letters, he the more easily prevailed on his father to allow him to follow his own bent, and enter the military profession, to which he was directed by his own ardent and adventurous spirit, and by the
example of three of his elder brothers. At the age of sixteen, accordingly, he exchanged the academy for the camp. He served against the French in Italy, (1805,) and afterwards in Germany, (1809.) From the period of his entrance into the army, the choice of his studies was necessarily left to his own discretion; and now his powers, no longer trammelled by unnecessary restraints, or turned by force to uncongenial objects, began rapidly to develop, and his natural tastes to assert themselves. During his residence in Italy, he acquired a knowledge of the language and made himself familiar with the literature of that country. He had carried with him as his companion to the camp, the “Himfy” of his brother Alexander. The reading of this poem first awoke in him the poetic faculty, which was now educated and refined by the study of the Italian poets. While in Italy, he composed many fugitive pieces; a few of these were afterwards introduced with some amendments into his dramas. He attached, however, in his more mature years, but little value to the greater part of these early productions, and ever refused, though repeatedly requested, to show them to his friends.
Kisfaludy passed from the study of the Italian to that of the German literature. The works of the German dramatists inspired his earliest attempts at dramatic composition. The pieces which he wrote at this time were apparently composed for his own pleasure only, and with no view to the theatre. His first essay in this department, was “A'Gyilkos,” (the murderer,) in which, as he himself says, he sought the elements of the tragic in the horrible. This play, as it stands in the collection of his works, is incomplete. It bears the date 1808, and must therefore have been written when Kisfaludy was in his twentieth year. It has the stamp of youth upon it; full of energy and freshness, but lawless and unformed. It is deeply colored with the youthful passion for the mysterious and terrible. The characters are forcibly drawn, but with somewhat exaggerated features. These first efforts of Kisfaludy in the drama bear to his after, more artistic productions, the same relation that the early landscapes of Allston, with their wild grandeur, hold to the calm and tender beauty of his later works.
After the peace of 1809, Kisfaludy left the army, and, passing through southern Germany and Switzerland, found
himself once more, after an absence of six years, in his native country. Shortly after his return, he formed an attachment which did not receive the approbation of his father. He endeavored by arguments and persuasions to overcome his father's opposition to his choice; but without effect. The elder Kisfaludy offered his son the alternative of marriage with a lady whom he had himself selected for him, or perpetual banishment from his home and the loss of his inherit
His high sense of honor, which forbade him, as he says, “ to offer this pledged hand to another," and his natural impatience of control, which had been confirmed by his early emancipation from the paternal authority, united to induce him to resist this encroachment on his independence. He announced his intention of abiding by his own choice, and received in return the sentence of disinheritance, and the command to absent himself forever from his father's presence. The object of his affection proved unworthy the sacrifice he had made to her. She had not courage to encounter the life of privation and obscurity to which an union with her disinherited lover would consign her. “It was then," wrote Kisfaludy, some years after, to a friend, “ that the sacrifice I had made to love first appeared to me in all its terrible magnitude, when I found that she, the boundlessly beloved, had deserted me.
I felt myself annihilated by the thought that I was henceforth alone in the world. Believing myself deceived and abandoned by all, I shrank from the world in which I could never more hope to find either faith or affection. Black hatred against every thing that surrounded me sprang up in
His disposition was too good and noble to allow him to remain long a prey to gloomy and resentful feelings. His nature was not soured or perverted by his disappointment; but this bitter experience of his youth, and his subsequent trials and hardships, left an ineffaceable trace on his character. His early light-heartedness and confiding temper were never fully regained. His manners were shy and reserved, and to strangers had a tincture of distance and distrust. This, however, was only superficial. It is a result often to be observed in persons of highly sensitive nature, who having once sustained a cruel wound, stand ever after, as it were, on the defensive, and shield themselves against new aggressions by an exterior of coldness and reserve.
When he had somewhat recovered from the first stunning effects of his calamity, he recalled to mind that he could still rely on the friendship of his elder brother. From him he now solicited counsel. His brother's kindness and sympathy in some degree dissipated his gloom. The necessity of turning his thoughts to some means of procuring subsistence aided in his restoration. He had resolved never to ask pecuniary assistance of his family, but to rely henceforth wholly on his own exertions. Painting seemed, at this time, to offer him the readiest resource. He had evinced a capacity for this art in his early boyhood, and this talent had been cherished by his residence in Italy ; for the painters, as well as the poets, of that country had inspired him with emulation. The thought of entering upon this new career no sooner engaged his mind, than his courage and energy returned. He looked forward to the future with confidence, and, with the enthusiasm of youth and genius, promised himself, from the practice of his favorite art, not only present independence, but future eminence. The idea of adopting literature as a profession does not appear at this period to have presented itself to him; and his name adds another to the list of those who have found fame upon a different path from that by which they have sought it.
In order to procure the means of immediate support, Kisfaludy pledged his maternal inheritance, and from this source well provided with money, he took his way to Vienna, which place he had selected as the theatre for the exercise of his talents. His inexperience, however, and easy temper soon exposed him to new embarrassments. In Vienna, he met with many old acquaintances from the army. “These," he afterwards writes, “ assisted me faithfully in the spending of my money; and at the end of four weeks, six gold pieces constituting my whole possessions, I began once more to look anxiously about me. I could not go back without rendering myself contemptible. I now pondered, therefore, how I might make my way to Russia, where I night find a better field for my small talents than in Vienna." This project was, however, soon abandoned; he remained in Vienna. Here he passed seven laborious and anxious years, with fluctuating fortunes; now living in temporary comfort, now reduced to the extreme of indigence. Painting did not yield him the
delight he had promised himself from it. The artist who, instead of finding in his art the object of his devotions, is forced to make it the servant of his needs, soon finds his enthusiasm cool, and both hand and fancy fail
. The necessity for rapid execution, too, and the temptation which portrait painting, from its quick and sure returns, offers to the needy painter, too often lead him to sacrifice his ideal, and to lose the artist in the mechanic. The genius of Kisfaludy demanded, above all, freedom. It was not of that sturdy but inert sort, which calls for some outward pressure; it rather shrank and withered from the harsh grasp of necessity. In his after years of happier fortune, painting became once more his delight. On a beautiful May afternoon, in this more prosperous period of his life, one of his friends having called upon him to urge him to enjoy the fine weather in the open air, found him engaged in painting a shipwreck. " What is fine weather to me?" said Kisfaludy. “There was a time, indeed, when a single ray of sunshine awoke in me a desire to live among the pleasures of inviting nature. But, no; I must finish some ordered ugly face, because — money was wanting. Now I love this half-finished picture better than any other landscape, because I am working at it of my own free will.”.
As painting made the recreation of his after days of successful authorship, so the chief pleasures of the straitened years of the poor painter were found in literature. All his leisure hours were given to reading and study. His favorite authors were Schiller, Lessing, and, above all, Shakspeare. He was accustomed to say, that all which had been most valuable to him he had learned from Lessing and from Shakspeare. During these years, he also wrote several plays. Brutus, after Voltaire, was the first drama which he composed. in verse. He was, however, but imperfectly acquainted with the Magyar prosody at the time of the composition of this play, and was afterwards dissatisfied with the execution. " A' Tatárok Magyarországban,” (The Tatars in Magyarland,) one of the most successful of his plays, and “ Zach Clara,” were also composed during this period. This last is in his earlier style, and the catastrophe is too horrible to be tragical.
A’ Tatárok was the first of the dramas of Kisfaludy which was represented on the stage. It was first given at Székesfe