Page images
PDF
EPUB

London is certainly a pleasant place in many respects--you can have the very best of every thing if you desire it, and merely for paying extravagantly for it. As soon as the first singer in the world, in her line, had withdrawn her claims to public attention for the evening, the first dancer in the world, to wit, Taglioni, put in hers. Do not be afraid ! My enthusiasm about her was only transitory, and I am not going to be eloquent or tedious (as the discriminating or foolish reader may think me) in her praise to any alarming extent. Besides, there is nothing astonishing about Taglioni-at least according to the common acceptation of the word—nothing to gape and wonder at; and in any of the minor theatres in London, or elsewhere, I have no doubt she would be accounted immensely inferior to Mademoiselles Celeste, Constance, Heloise, and other spinners around on one leg, who unblushingly call themselves dancers.

Her style is rather distinguished by ease, grace, and elegance, than energy and spirit. She has not the fire or nimbleness of Ronzi Vestris, but her manner is more refined; and she has less of the trickery of the art than even that polished danseuse. Perhaps there are as many points of resemblance between Taglioni and Mrs. Austin as can possibly exist between two accomplished mistresses of such widely different arts. (Every thing now-a-days, dancing, tailoring, and cookery comes under the comprehensive head of " arts and sciences.”) Both exhibit the same heedlessness of mere effect, and appear to have about an equal contempt for what the French term a tour de force. A degree of languor, almost amounting to indifference, seems to pervade both, and both achieve the most difficult triumphs in their art with so little effort that the uninitiated spectator remains almost unconscious that any thing uncommon has been accomplished. Both, in short, belong to that scarce and valuable class of public characters who seek rather to delight than astonish—who appeal rather to the good sense and good taste of the few than the “ignorant wonder” of the many.

[graphic]
[graphic]

PLACIDE.

DOUBTLESS three as good actors as Hilson, Barnes, and Placide, are to be found; but it would be extremely difficult to get three together with qualities so finely balanced so excellent, yet so dissimilar, that in whatever requisites one is comparatively poor, another is proportionably rich--three who will play with equal spirit and effect in the same piece, and appear as frequently together without jostling each other. There is something pleasing, and to those who know any thing of the everlasting feuds and jealousies of a green-room, something astonishing in the uninterrupted harmony with which, season after season, these gentlemen, "labor in their vocation." They are a worthy triumvirate-three public benefactors, to whom the citizens ought to be grateful; for their talents have often given them pleasure in exchange for care ;

and many a merry hour and joyous laugh has been the result of their exertions.

Four or five years ago, Placide's abilities were but little known. He had risen from the lowest walks of the drama, and, as is common in such cases, the admiration of the audience did not keep pace with his increasing merit. They were slow to believe that one whom they had long been in the habit of regarding as not above mediocrity, could ever attain excellence, and strangers were often astonished at the slight estimation in which he was held. This is human nature: we are unwilling to give up early impressions, or retract expressed opinions. Had a strange actor of equal merits and some reputation, appeared before the same audience, he would instantly have become an object of unmingled admiration. This, however, could not last, and the unequivocal ability displayed by Placide in some parts commanded praisepraise attracted attention, and that was all that was wanted. Since that time he has steadily and rapidly advanced in public estimation-he has never once receded, and his course is still onward.

To speak of Placide apart from the character he represents, is difficult. We know that there are a string of set phrases going the rounds of the press, concerning actors “identifying themselves with the

[ocr errors]

part they play,” and “ losing themselves in the character they represent," &c. and, in some sense, this is true, seeing that they frequently lose themselves, the character, the author, and the audience; but in reality, there is not one man in a thousand who possesses the gift of making the audience forget the actor in the part. Even in Kean it was sometimes wanting. It is the highest kind of praise; and as it appears to be fast becoming a settled rule, that all praise, to be worth the having, must be in the superlative, a quality that is peculiar to the few, has been awarded without scruple to the million. Indeed, so very loosely and indiscriminately are these phrases applied, that we should not be surprised to see one of them tacked to a commendation of Barnes, who seldom or never “identifies"? himself with any thing, but simply plays Barnes, let him appear in what he will; and so amusing and successful is he in that character, that he cannot do better than stick to it. But Placide has in truth the faculty of appearing to be the character he assumes; and we would instance as a strong proof of the soundness of this assertion, that of all the imitations of celebrated actors that have been given in this city, not one has been attempted of Placide. And why is this? For the simple reason that he has no peculiarities common to all his

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »