« PreviousContinue »
infection from the scenic representa, in their proper element. They break tion of disorder; and fear a painted through no laws, or conscientious repustule. In our anxiety that our straints. They know of none. They morality should not take cold, we have got out of Christendom into the wrap it up in a great blanket sur- land-what shall I call it?-of cucktout of precaution against the breeze ofdry—the Utopia of gallantry, where and sunshine.
pleasure is duty, and the manners I confess for myself that (with no perfect freedom.' It is altogether a great delinquencies to answer for) I speculative scene of things, which am glad for a season to take an airing has no reference whatever to the beyond the diocese of the strict con- world that is. No good person can science,-not to live always in the be justly offended as a spectator, precincts of the law courts, -but now because no good person suffers on the and then, for a dream-while or so, to stage. Judged morally, every chaimagine a world with no meddling racter in these plays—the few exceprestrictions—to get into recesses, tions only are mistakes—is alike eswhither the hunter cannot follow sentially vain and worthless. The
great art of Congreve is especially Secret shades
shown in this, that he has entirely Of woody Ida's inmost grove,
excluded from his scenes,-some little While yet there was no fear of Jove
generosities in the part of Angelica I come back to my cage and my perhaps excepted,- not only any thing restraint the fresher and more healthy like a faultless character, but any for it. I wear my shackles more con- pretensions to goodness or good feel. tentedly for having respired the breathings whatsoever. Whether he did of an imaginary freedom. I do not this designedly, or instinctively, the know how it is with others, but I effect is as happy, as the design (if feel the better always for the perusal design) was bold. I used to wonder of one of Congreve's—nay, why should at the strange power which his Way I not add even of Wycherley's--co- of the World in particular possesses medies. I am the gayer at least for of interesting you all along in the it; and I could never connect those pursuits of characters, for whom you sports of a witty fancy in any shape absolutely care nothing-for you nei. with any result to be drawn from ther hate nor love his personages--and them to imitation in real life. They I think it is owing to this very indifare a world of themselves almost as ference for any, that you endure the much as fairy-land. Take one of whole. He has spread a privation their characters, male or female of moral light, I will call it, rather (with few exceptions they are alike), than by the ugly name of palpable and place it in a modern play, and darkness, over his creations ; and his my virtuous indignation shall rise shadows flit before you without disagainst the profligate wretch tinction or preference. Had he introwarmly as the Catos of the pit could duced a good character, a single desire; because in a modern play I gush of moral feeling, a revulsion of am to judge of right and wrong, and the judgment to actual life and acthe standard of police is the measure tual duties, the impertinent Goshen of poetical justice. The atmosphere would have only lighted to the diswill blight it. It cannot thrive here. covery of deformities, which now are It is got into a moral world where it none, because we think them, none. has no business; from which it must Translated into real life, the cha.. needs fall head-long; as dizzy and in- racters of his, and his friend Wychercapable of keeping its stand, as a ley's dramas, are profligates and Swedenborgian bad spirit that has strumpets,--the business of their brief wandered unawares within the sphere existence, the undivided pursuit of of one of his good men or angels. lawless gallantry. No other spring But in its own world do we feel that of action, or possible motive of conthe creature is so very bad?
duct, is recognised; principles which The Fainalls and the Mirabels, universally acted upon must reduce the Dorimants, and Lady Touch- this frame of things to a chaos. But woods, in their own sphere do not we do them wrong in so translating offend my moral sense--or, in fact, them. No such effects are produced. appeal to it at all. They seem engaged in their world. When we are among
them, we are amongst a chaotic peo- neration of play-goers more virtuous ple. We are not to judge them by than myself, or more dense. I freely our usages. No reverend institutions confess that he divided the palm with are insulted by their proceedings,– me with his better brother; that, in for they have none among them. fact, I liked him quite as well. Not No peace
of families is violated,- for but there are passages,-like that, for no family ties exist among them. No instance, where Joseph is made to repurity of the marriage bed is stained, fuse a pittance to a poor relation,–
for none is supposed to have a being. incongruities whicho Sheridan was No deep affections are disquieted, forced upon by the attempt to join no holy wedlock bands are snapped the artificial with the sentimental asunder,-for affection's depth and comedy, either of which must destroy wedded faith are not of the growth of the other-but over these obstructhat soil. There is neither right nor tions Jack's manner floated him 80 wrong,-gratitude or its opposite,
- lightly, that a refusal from him no more claim
or duty,-paternity or sonship. shocked you, than the easy compliance Of what consequence is it to virtue, of Charles gave you in reality any or how is she at all concerned about pleasure; you got over the paltry it, whether Sir Simon, or Dapperwit, question as quickly as you could, to steal away Miss Martha; or who is get back into the regions of pure the father of Lord Froth's, or Sir comedy, where no cold moral reigns. Paul Pliant's children?
The highly artificial manner of Pal• The whole is a passing pageant, mer in this character counteracted where we should sit as uncon- every disagreeable impression which cerned at the issues, for life or death, you might have received from the as at a battle of the frogs and mice. contrast, supposing them real, beBut, like Don Quixote, we take part tween the two brothers. You did not against the puppets, and quite as believe in Joseph with the same faith impertinently. We dare not con with which you believed in Charles. template an Atlantis, a scheme, out The latter was a pleasant reality, the of which our coxcombical moral former a no less pleasant poetical foil sense is for a little transitory ease to it. The comedy, I have said, is excluded. We have not the courage incongruous; a mixture of Congreve to imagine a state of things for which with sentimental incompatibilities; there is neither reward nor punish- the gaiety upon the whole is buoyant; ment. We cling to the painful ne but it required the consummate art cessities of shame and blame. We of Palmer to reconcile the discordant would indict our very dreams. elements.
Amidst the mortifying circum A player with Jack's talents, if we stances attendant upon growing old, had one now, would not dare to do it is something to have seen the the part in the same manner. He School for Scandal in its glory. This would instinctively avoid every turn comedy grew out of Congreve and which might tend to unrealize, and so Wycherley, but gathered some allays to make the character fascinating. of 'the sentimental comedy which fol- He must take his cue from his speclowed theirs. It is impossible that tators, who would expect a bad man it should be now acted, though it con- and a good man as rigidly opposed to tinues, at long intervals, to be an- each other, as the death-beds of those nounced in the bills. Its hero, when geniuses are contrasted in the prints, Palmer played it at least, was Joseph which I am sorry to see have disapSurface. When I remember the gay peared from the windows of my old boldness, the graceful solemn plau- friend Carrington Bowles, of St. Paul's sibility, the measured step, the in- Church-yard memory-(an exhibisinuating voice-to express it in a tion as venerable as the adjacent word—the downright acted villany of cathedral, and almost coeval) of the the part, so different from the pres- bad and good man at the hour of sure of conscious actual wickedness,- death; where the ghastly apprehenthe hypocritical assumption of hypo- sions of the former,—and truly the crisy,--which made Jack so deserv- grim phantom with his reality of a edly a favourite in that character, I toasting fork is not to be despised, must needs conclude the present ge so finely contrast with the meek
complacent kissing of the rod,--tak- son, capable in law of sustaining an ing it in like honey and butter,-with injury-a person towards whom duwhich the latter submits to the scythe ties are to be acknowledged-the geof the gentle bleeder, Time, who nuine crim-con antagonist of the vilwields his lancet with the appre- lanous seducer, Joseph. To realize hensive finger of a popular young him more, his sufferings under his ladies' surgeon.
What flesh, like unfortunate match must have the loving grass, would not covet to downright pungency of life-must meet half-way the stroke of such (or should) make you not mirthful a delicate mower? - John Palmer but uncomfortable, just as the same was twice an actor in this exquisite predicament would move you in a part. He was playing to you all the neighbour or old friend. The deliwhile that he was playing upon Sir cious scenes which give the play its Peter and his lady. You had the name and zest, must affect you in first intiination of a sentiment before the same serious manner as if you it was on his lips. His altered voice heard the reputation of a dear female was meant to you, and you were to friend attacked in your real presence. suppose that his fictitious co-flutter- Crabtree, and Sir Benjamin-those ers on the stage perceived nothing at poor snakes that lived but in the all of it. What was it to you if that sunshine of your mirth-must be half-reality, the husband, was over- ripened by this hot-bed process of reached by the puppetry—or the thin realization into asps or amphisbæthing (Lady Teazle's reputation) was nas; and Mrs. Candour-O! frightpersuaded it was dying of a plethory? full become a hooded serpent. Oh The fortunes of Othello and Desde- who that remembers Parsons and mona were not concerned in it. Poor Dodd—the wasp and butterfly of the Jack has past from the stage—in School for Scandal-in those two chagood time, that he did not live to this racters; and charming natural Miss our age of seriousness. The fidgety Pope, the perfect gentlewoman as pleasant old Teazle King too is gone distinguished from the fine lady of in good time. His manner would comedy, in this latter part-would scarce have past current in our day. forego the true scenic delight—the We must love or hate-acquit or escape from life-the oblivion of concondemn-censure or pity-exert our sequences-the_holiday barring out detestable coxcombry of moral judg- of the pedant Reflection—those Sament upon every thing. Joseph Sur- turnalia of two or three brief hours, face, to go down now, must be a well won from the world to sit indownright revolting villain --no come stead at one of our modern plays-to promise--his first appearance must have his coward conscience (that shock and give horror-his specious forsooth must not be left for a moplausibilities, which the pleasurable ment) stimulated with perpetual apfaculties of our fathers welcomed peals—dulled rather, and blunted, as with such hearty greetings, knowing a faculty without repose must bethat no harm (dramatic harm even) and his moral vanity pampered with could come, or was meant to come images of notional justice, notional of them, must inspire a cold and beneficence, lives saved without the killing aversion. Charles (the real spectators' risk, and fortunes given canting person of the scene--for the away that cost the author nothing ? hypocrisy of Joseph has its ulterior No piece was, perhaps, ever so comlegitimate ends, but his brother's pletely cast in all its parts as this professions of a good heart centre in manager's comedy. Miss Farren had down-right self-satisfaction) must be succeeded to Mrs. Abingdon in Lady loved, and Joseph hated. To balance Teazle ; and Smith, the original one disagreeable reality with another, Charles, had retired, when I first saw Sir Peter Teazle must be no longer it. The rest of the characters, with the comic idea of a fretful old ba very slight exceptions, remained. I chelor bridegroom, whose teazings remember it was then the fashion to (while King acted it) were evidently cry down John Kemble, who took as much played off at you, as they the part of Charles after Smith ; but, were meant to concern any body on I thought, very unjustly. Smith, I the stage,-hę must be a real per- fancy, was more airy, and took the:
eye with a certain gaiety of person. dragon eyes," of present fashionable He brought with him no sombre re- tragedy. The story of his swallowcollections of tragedy. He had not ing opium pills to keep him lively to expiate the fault of having pleased upon the first night of a certain trabefore hand in lofty declamation. He gedy, we may presume to be a piece had no sins of Hamlet or of Richard of retaliatory pleasantry on the part to atone for. His failure in these of the suffering author. . But, inparts was a passport to success in deed, John had the art of diffusing a one of so opposite a tendency. But complacent equable dulness (which as far as I could judge, the weighty you knew not where to quarrel with) sense of Kemble made up for more over a piece which he did not like, personal incapacity than he had to beyond any of his contemporaries. answer for. His harshest tones in John Kemble had made up his mind this part came steeped and dulcified early, that all the good tragedies, in good humour. He made his de- which could be written, had been fects a grace. His exact declama. written ; and he resented any new tory manner, as he managed it, only attempt. His shelves were full. The served to convey the points of his old standards were scope enough.for dialogue with more precision. It his ambition. He ranged in them seemed to head the shafts to carry absolute--and “fair in Otway, full them deeper. Not one of his spark in Shakspeare shone.” He succeedling sentences was lost. I remember ed to the old lawful thrones, and did minutely how he delivered each in not care to adventure bottomry with succession, and cannot by any effort a Sir Edward Mortimer, or any caimagine how any of them could be sual speculator that offered. I realtered for the better. No man could member, too acutely for my peace, deliver brilliant dialogue--the dia- the deadly extinguisher which he put logue of Congreve or of Wycherley upon my friend G.'s “ Antonio." G., -because none understood 'it-half satiate with visions of political jus80 well as John Kemble. His Va- tice (possibly not to be realized in lentine, in Love for Love, was, to my our time), or willing to let the sceprecollection, faultless. He flagged tical worldlings see, that his antici. sometimes in the intervals of tragic pations of the future did not prepassion. He would slumber over clude a warm sympathy for men as the level parts of an heroic charac- they are and have been wrote a trater. His Macbeth has been known gedy. He chose a story, affecting, to nod. But he always seemed to romantic, Spanish--the plot simple, me to be particularly alive to point- without being naked-the incidents ed and witty dialogue. The relaxing uncommon, without being overstrainlevities of tragedy have not been ed. Antonio, who gives the name to touched by any since him—the play. the piece, is a sensitive young Castiful court-bred spirit in which he con- lian, who, in a fit of his country hodescended to the players in Hamlet nour, immolates his sisterthe sportive relief which he threw But I must not anticipate the cainto the darker shades of Richard- tastrophe--the play, reader, is exa disappeared with him. Tragedy is tant in choice English-and you will become a uniform dead weight. They employ a spare half crown not injuhave fastened lead to her buskins. diciously in the quest of it. She never pulls them off for the ease The conception was bold, and the of a moment. To invert a common- dénouement--the time and place in place from Niobe, she never forgets which the hero of it existed, consiherself to liquefaction. John had his dered—not much out of keeping; sluggish moods, his torpors—but yet it must be confessed, that it rethey were the halting stones and quired a delicacy of handling both resting places of his tragedy-politic from the author and the performer, savings, and fetches of the breath so as not much to shock the preju. husbandry of the lungs, where na- dices of a modern English audience. ture pointed him to be an economist G., in my opinion, had done his part. rather, I think, than errors of the John, who was in familiar habits judgment. They were, at worst, less with the philosopher, had undertaken painful than the eternal tormenting to play Antonio. Great expectations unappeasable vigilance, the “lidless were formed. A philosopher's first
play was a new ærà. The night ar- suddenly Antonio, who was the chalrived. I was favoured with a seat in lenged, turning the tables upon the an advantageous box, between the hot challenger Don Gusman (who by author and his friend M- G. sate the way should have had his sister) cheerful and confident. In his friend haulks his humour, and the pit's reaM.'s looks, who had perused the ina- sonable expectation at the same time, nuscript, I read some terror. Anto- with some speeches out of the new nio in the person of John Philip philosophy against duelling. The Kemble at length appeared, starch- audience were here fairly caughted out in a ruff which no one could their courage was up, and on the dispute, and in most irreproachable alert-a few blows, ding dong, as mustachios. John always dressed R-s the dramatist afterwards exmost provokingly correct on these pressed it to me, might have done occasions. The first act swept by, ihe business—when their most exsolemn and silent. It went off, as quisite moral sense was suddenly G. assured M., exactly as the opening called in to assist in the mortifying act of a piece--the protasis should negation of their own pleasure. They do. The cue of the spectators was could not applavd, for disappoint, to be mute. The characters were ment; they would not condemn, for but in their introduction. The pas- morality's sake. The interest stood sions and the incidents would be de- stone still; and John's manner was veloped hereafter. Applause hitherto not at all calculated to unpetrify it. would be impertinent. Silent atten- It was Christmas time, and the ato tion was the effect all-desirable. Poor mosphere furnished some pretext for M. acquiesced—but in his honest asthmatic affections. One began to friendly face I could discern a work- cough-his neighbour sympathised ing which told how much more ac with him-till a cough became epiceptable the plaudit of a single hand demical. But when, from being half(however misplaced) would have artificial in the pit, the cough got been than all this reasoning. The frightfully naturalised among the fico second act (as in duty bound) rose a titious persons of the drama; and little in interest ; but still John kept Antonio himself (albeit it was not set his forces under–in policy, as G. down in the stage directions) seemed would have it—and the audience more intent upon relieving his own were most complacently attentive. lungs than the distresses of the auThe protasis, in fact, was scarcely thor and his friends,--then G. “ first unfolded. The interest would warm knew fear ;” and mildly turning to in the next act, against which a spe- M., intimated that he had not been cial incident was provided. M. wiped aware that Mr. K. laboured under a his cheek, flushed with a friendly cold; and that the performance might perspiration—'tis M's way of show. possibly have been postponed with ing his zeal—" from every pore of advantage for some nights further him a perfume falls—" I honour it still keeping the same serene counteabove Alexander's. He had once or nance, while M. sweat like a bull. It twice during this act joined his palms would be invidious to pursue the fates in a feeble endeavour to elicit a sound of this ill-starred evening. In vain they emitted a solitary noise with did the plot thicken in the scenes that out an echo-there was no deep to followed, in vain the dialogue wax answer to his deep. G. repeatedly more passionate and stirring, and the begged him to be quiet. The third progress of the sentiment point more act at length brought on the scene and more clearly to the arduous dewhich was to warm the piece pro. velopement which impended. In vain gressively to the final flaming forth of the action was accelerated, while the the catastrophe. A philosophic calm acting stood still. From the beginsettled upon the clear brow of G. as ning, John had taken his stand; had it approached. The lips of M. qui- wound himself up to an even tenor of yered. A challenge was held forth stately declamation, from which no upon the stage, and there was pro exigence of dialogue or person could mise of a fight. The pit roused make him swerve for an instant. To themselves on this extraordinary oc- dream of his rising with the scene casion, and, as their manner is, seem- (the common trick of tragedians) ed disposed to make a ring,—when was preposterous'; for from the onset