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Ji TORIAL INTRODUCTION John Howard PAYNE, the author of "Brutus,” is an American by birth. He was born in New York on the 9th June, 1794, At the early age of fifteen years, he was induced by circumstances to try his fortune on the stage, urged, doubtless, by the extraordinary success which had marked the career of the infant Roscius, Master William Henry West Betty. Young Payne made his first appearance at the Park theatre, in the character of Young Norval, and at once assumed a position in public estimation rarely achieved by actors who have spent years of toil in acquiring a knowledge of the histrionic art. The fame of the youthful debutant procured for him offers of engagements in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, and Boston, and during two or three subsequent years Mr. Payne travelled round the then usual circle of theatrical engagements, as a "star" of the first magnitude, as “the young American Roscius.” The critical writers of the day awarded to him merit very little inferior to that possessed by his English contemporary, Master Betty. Mr. Payne was at length induced to visit London, where he appeared with tolerable success. He subsequently visited the provinces, with equal approbation. But the novelty of the infant school of prodigies had departed, and Mr. Payne, like his predecessor, did not appear to mature in talent, as he advanced in age. His theatrical experience, however, was turned to account: Mr. Payne devoted himself to literary pursuits, and commenced dramatic author. The following list of his productions, attest the fertility of his genius.
-Oswali of Athens ; Richelieu, or a Broken Heart; Charles the Second ; FrocrastiBation; Married and Single ; Plots at Home; Woman's Revenge ; All for the Best ; Brutus, or, the Fall of Tarquin; Vin ginia, or Patrician Perfidy.-DRAMAS : Spanish Husband ; Therese, or the Orphan of Geneva ; Norah, the Girl of Erin; Adeline, or Seduction ; The Two Galley Slaves ; The Rival Monarchs; Paoli; Solitary of Mount Savage; Ali Pacha ; The Inseparables; The Guilty Mother ; Man of the Black Forest; Madame de Berri; The Festival of St. Mark's ; The Bridge of Kehl; the Judge and the Attorney ; The Mill of the Lake; Mazeppa ; Rovido, the Neapolitan ; The Italian Bride. -OPERAS: Clari, the Maid of Milan; The White Maid ; The Tyrolese Veasan ; Visilendenes ; England's Old Days.FARCES : Tricondeau ; The Post Chaise; 'Twas l; Mrs. Smith ; Love in Humble Life ; The Lancers; Grand Papa ; Peter Smirk; Not Invited ; Romulus, a tragedy. Many of these dramas retain permanent possession of the stage. They are all characterized by the admirable knowledge of dramatic effect, acquired by the author during his professional life. Such knowledge appears to be imperative to the dramatist, mechanical as it may seem to some. It is the setting of the jewel, without which the brightest gems of dramatic poetry are but dim and ineffective.
In the preface to this play, Mr. Payne remarks :
“Seven plays upon the subject of Brutus are before the public. Only two have been thought capable of representation, and those two did not long retain possession of the stage. In the present play I nave had no hesitation in adopting the conception and language of my predecessors, wherever they seemed likely to strengthen the plan which I had prescribed. This has been so done as to allow of no injury to personal feelings or private property. Such obligations, to be culpable, must be secret; but it may be observe that no assist. ance of other writers can be available without an effort almost, if not altogether, as, laborious as original composition."
That Mr. Payne has skilfully adapted the materials thus furnished him by the authors, to whom he acknowledges his indebtedness, will not be denied. He has constructed from these sources a tragedy, that, from its dramatic situations, interesting incidents, and striking scenic effects, promises to keep its place among the most popular stock pieces of the modern drama.
The main defect in this tragedy is, that the whole interest is concentrated in one character. Brutus is made to so completely absorb the attention, as to exclude any participation of the interest of the spectator in any of the subordinate characters. But this defect is not chargeable upon the author. The play was written for the elder Kean, when it was for the interest of the theatre that the great tragedian should be the cynosure of attraction in every new piece, in which his extraordinary talents were to be called into requisition. Indeed, Kean himself had established this rule of exclusive appropriation. To an author, this writing up to the peculiar talents and sole glorification of a particular actor, is a severe task.
Few dramatic writers have succeeded in producing a standard play, that has survived the theatrical lives of their representatives. Mr. Payne has been more fortunate than many
of his predecessors and contemporaries ; for Brutus is still a favourite performance, in the hands of an adequate personator.
The inimitable acting of Kean in this Tragedy, will not readily be forgotten by those who witnessed his performance, on its first production at Drury Lane. The great actor was then in the
very zenith of his fame. The part had been carefully fitted to his varied and peculiar powers, and he appeared to have thrown the whole force of his genius both into the conception and embodiment of the character; and his success in the delineational most surpassed any of his previous efforts, great as they
The delivery of the famous curse, in the third act, was one of those electric and brilliant specimens of his transcendant genius, which have never been surpassed by any of his contemporaries or successors. Nor was he less triumphant in the closing scene, where he condemns his son. It was another triumph of art, that was above criticism, and defied competition.
Brutus has found able representatives in this country, in the persons of Booth and Forrest, and is still cccasionally played by these great actors, to the satisfaction of admiring audiences.
We subjoin to our remarks the originalt uly classical prologue, written for this play by the Rev. Gecrge Croly.
Written by a FRIEND, Spoken by MR. H. KEMBLE.
Time rushes o'er us; thick as evening clouds,
Our pledge is kept. Here yet, no chargers wheel,
To-night we take our lesson from the tomb : 'Tis thy sad cenotaph, colossal Rome!
How is thy helmet cleft, thy banner low
The story is of Brutus, --in that name
Unrivalled England! to such memories thou, This hour dost owe the laurel on thy brow; Those fixed, when earth was like a grave, thy tread, Prophet and warrior! 'twixt the quick and deadThose bade the war for man—those won the namo That crowns thee-famed above all Roman fame.
Now, to our scene-we feel no idle fear, Sure of the hearts, the British justice here; If we deserve it, sure of your applause Then, hear for Rome, for England, for “our cause !"