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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Handel and Music             131

of making a whole scene, act or even drama into a single,
unbroken movement without subdivision is like making a
book without chapters, or a picture, like Bernardino Luini's
great Lugano fresco in which a long subject is treated within
the compass of a single piece. Better advised, as it seems to
me, Gaudenzio Ferrari broke up a space of the same shape
and size at Varallo into many compartments, each more or
less complete in itself, grouped round a central scene. The
subdivision of books into chapters, each with a more or less
emphatic full close in its own key, is found to be a help as
giving the attention halting places by the way. Everything
that is worth attending to fatigues as well as delights, much
as the climbing of a mountain does so. Chapters and short
pieces give rests during which the attention gathers renewed
strength and attacks with fresh ardour a new stretch of the
ascent. Each bar is, as it were, a step cut in ice and one does
not see, if set pieces are objected to, why phrases and bars
should not be attacked next.

At the Opera

Jones and I went last Friday to Don Giovanni, Mr. Kemp *
putting us in free. It bored us both, and we like Narciss^ls
better. We admit the beauty of many of the beginnings of
the airs, but this beauty is not maintained, in every case the
air tails off into something that is much too near being tire-
some. The plot, of course, is stupid to a degree, but plot has
very little to do with it; what can be more uninteresting
than the plot of many of Handel's oratorios ? We both
believe the scheme of Italian opera to be a bad one; we
think that music should never be combined with acting to a
greater extent than Is done, we will say, in the Mikado;
that the oratorio form is far more satisfactory than opera ;
and we agreed that we had neither of us ever yet been to an
opera (I mean a Grand Opera) without being bored by it.
I am not sorry to remember that Handel never abandoned
oratorio after he had once fairly taken to it.

* Mr. Kemp lived in Barnard's Inn on my staircase. He was in
the box-office at Drury Lane Theatre. See a further note about him
on p. 153 post.