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of a mirthful tale has latitude allowed him. We are content with less than absolute truth. 'Tis the same with dramatic illusion. We confess we love in comedy to see an audience naturalised behind the scenes, taken into the interest of the drama, welcomed as by-standers however. There is something ungracious in a comic actor holding himself aloof from all participation or concern with those who are come to be diverted by him. Macbeth must see the dagger, and no ear but his own be told of it; but an old fool in farce may think he sees something, and by conscious words and looks express it, as plainly as he can speak, to pit, box, and gallery. When an impertinent in tragedy, an Osric, for instance, breaks in upon the serious passions of the scene, we approve of the contempt with which he is treated. But when the pleasant impertinent of comedy, in a piece purely meant to give delight, and raise mirth out of whimsical perplexities worries the studious man with taking up his leisure, or making his house his home, the same sort of contempt expressed (however natural) would destroy the balance of delight in the spectators. To make the intrusion comic, the actor who plays the annoyed man must a little desert nature; he must, in short, be thinking of the audience, and express only so much dissatisfaction and peevishness as is consistent with the pleasure of comedy. In other words, his perplexity must seem half put on. If he repel the intruder with the sober set face of a man in earnest, and more especially if he deliver his expostulations in a tone which in the world must necessarily provoke a duel ; his real-life manner will destroy the whimsical and purely dramatic existence of the other character (which to render it comic demands an antagonist comicality on the part of the character opposed to it), and convert what was meant for mirth, rather than belief, into a downright piece of impertinence indeed, which would raise no diversion in us, but rather stir pain, to see inflicted in earnest upon any unworthy person. A very judicious actor (in most of his parts) seems to have fallen into an error of this sort in his playing with Mr Wrench in the farce of Free and Easy.
Many instances would be tedious ; these may suffice to show that comic acting at least does not always demand from the performer that strict abstraction from all reference to an audience which is exacted of it; but that in some cases a sort of compromise may take place, and all the purposes of dramatic delight be attained by a judicious understanding, not too openly announced, between the ladies and gentlemen-on both sides of the curtain.
OYOUSEST of once embodied spirits, whither at
length hast thou flown ? To what genial region are
we permitted to conjecture that thou hast flitted ? Art thou sowing thy WILD OATS yet (the harvest time was still to come with thee) upon casual sands of Avernus? or art thou enacting Rover (as we would gladlier think) by wandering Elysian streams?
This mortal frame, while thou didst play thy brief antics amongst us, was in truth any thing but a prison to thee, as the vain Platonist dreams of this body to be no better than a county goal, forsooth, or some house of durance vile, whereof the five senses are the fetters. Thou knewest better than to be in a hurry to cast off those gyves ; and had notice to quit, I fear, before thou wert quite ready to abandon this fleshy tenement. It
was thy Pleasure-House, thy Palace of Dainty Devices : thy Louvre, or thy White-Hall.
What new mysterious lodgings dost thou tenant now? or when may we expect thy aërial house-warming?
Tartarus we know, and we have read of the Blessed Shades ; now cannot I intelligibly fancy thee in either?
Is it too much to hazard a conjecture, that (as the schoolmen admitted a receptacle apart for Patriarchs and un-chrisom Babes) there may exist—not far perchance from that storehouse of all vanities, which Milton saw in visions—a LIMBO somewhere for Players ? and that
Up thither like aërial vapours fly
Play, Opera, Farce, with all their trumpery. — There, by the neighbouring moon (by some not improperly supposed thy Regent Planet upon earth) mayst thou not still be acting thy managerial pranks, great disembodied Lessee? but Lessee still, and still a Manager.
In Green Rooms, impervious to mortal eye, the muse beholds thee wielding posthumous empire. .
Thin ghosts of Figurantes (never plump on earth) circle thee in endlessly, and still their song is Fie on sinful Phantasy.
Magnificent were thy cappriccios on this globe of earth, Robert William Elliston ! for as yet we know not thy new name in heaven.
It irks me to think, that, stript of thy regalities, thou shouldst ferry over, a poor forked shade, in crazy Stygian wherry. Methinks I hear the old boatman, paddling by the weedy wharf, with raucid voice, bawling “Sculls, Sculls :” to which, with waving hand, and majestic action, thou deignest no reply, other than in two curt monosyllables, “ No: Oars.”
But the laws of Pluto's kingdom know small difference between king, and cobbler ; manager, and call-boy; and, if haply your dates of life were conterminant, you are quietly taking your passage, cheek by cheek (O ignoble levelling of Death), with the shade of some recently departed candle-snuffer.
But mercy! what strippings, what tearing off of histrionic robes, and private vanities ! what denudations to the bone, before the surly Ferryman will admit you to set a foot within his battered lighter.
Crowns, sceptres ; shield, sword, and truncheon; thy own coronation robes (for thou hast brought the whole property man's wardrobe with thee, enough to sink a navy); the judge's ermine; the coxcomb’s wig; the snuff-box à la Foppington—all must overboard, he positively swears—and that ancient mariner brooks no denial ; for, since the tiresome monodrame of the old Thracian Harper, Charon, it is to be believed, hath shown small taste for theatricals.
Aye, now ’tis done. You are just boat weight; pura et puta anima.
But bless me, how little you look!
So shall we all look—kings and keysars—stript for the last voyage.
But the murky rogue pushes off. Adieu, pleasant, and thrice pleasant shade! with my parting thanks for many a heavy hour of life lightened by thy harmless extravaganzas, public or domestic.
Rhadamanthus, who tries the lighter causes below, leaving to his two brethren the heavy calendars—honest Rhadamanth, always partial to players, weighing their