« PreviousContinue »
contrast In print with the Gentle playing to the eye instead of to the man whose brilliancy has heretofore mind. In the first place, writers illuminated the dramatic region of for the stage, depending on this phethis Miscellany. We have neither nomenon of a phyz, neglect all legihis keen wit, his playful humour, timate means of pleasing, all rules his tact, nor his discernment in these whatsoever by which comedy is dismatters. In short, as we said be- tinguished from the very lowest spefore, we are a very good kind of a cies of buffoonery,—that which degood-for-nothing sort of a person, pends on grimace. Not that we - a little « too wise to walk into a mean to say that Liston is a grimawell,” but if we did, cannot swear cier: Munden and Farren are much that we should be lucky enough to more celebrated for this species of find Truth, even there. However, mechanical humour. Indeed, any notwithstanding our manifold dis- grotesque contortion of muscle is qualifications for this task, and our perfectly superfluous with Liston ; insurmountable objection to be shone any variation in the natural position down (next month) by our brother or ceconomy of his features would luminary, in whose sphere we now make him uglier, perhaps, than he dare to twinkle, the wise Editors is, without making him a whit more of this Magazine selected us, in laugh-at-able. But the changes and spite of ourself, and as the poet different phases of his countenance says “recusantem catenas," to fill this have naturally the effect of grimace; department; sealing up our miserere and what Munden does laboriously, mei lips with an imperative-Fiat! this actor does involuntarily. Hence, « E'en Jove himself must yield to the whole endeavour of our playFate," said we, and accordingly (to wrights is directed to exhibit, not speak in the phrase of the profes- their own wit, if they happen to sion),
possess such a rare commodity, but
Liston's face under new and ludia Each corporal agent to this terrible feat
crous aspects; the sum of their growling all the time like Cerberus at energies is applied to present us a fresh batch of ghosts come to dis- with, not a fair exaggeration of human turb his infernal slumbers :-So the nature, as it is found displayed in the reader must not be surprised if we various follies and foibles of mankind, snarl a little.
but some fantastical mockery, some THE HAYMARKET THEATRE. grosso caricature of real existence; We look upon Liston's face in the or, rather some burlesque extravalight of a national misfortune. We ganza, which has no prototype in real consider, what we must own to be existence, where Liston, in a pair of his happy infelicity of feature, a se- unmentionables coming half-way down rious injury to the public stage. We his legs, a waistcoat of the pattern of are decidedly of opinion that by the my grandmother's chintz bedgown, admirable scenic effect of his physi- and a flaxen wig with the tail turn'd ognomy, he has inadvertently preci- up behind, shall set the audience in pitated the fall of drama amongst a roar without opening his lips. us, or rather, that the last blow has Pope (translating the complaint of been given to English comedy, by the Horace) complaiu'd a century ago in exquisite comicality of his visage. the same strain that we do, and perThese assertions appear at first sight haps as ineffectually: paradoxical : but we are not so am Booth enters—hark! the universal peal : bitious of dubious reputation, as to “ But has he spoken ? ” Not a syllable. maintain untruths merely for the sake " What shook the stage and made the peoof exhibiting our ingenuity or our ple stare ?” impudence. If our readers can so Cato's long wig, fower'd gown, and laccommand their muscles as to consi quer'd hair! der seriously and dispassionately the The sublimest dramatical exertion influence of Mr. Liston's cuntenance of the season is a piece designated upon authors, actors, himself, and Sweethearts and Wives, which has the community in general, they will kept almost uninterrupted possession find the real paradox to consist in of this theatre during the whole sumholding an opinion opposite to ours, mer; yet if we examine this producviz. that Comedy is not degraded by tion (certainly the least deficient in
intrinsic merit of those lately brought objectionable; he squinted, grinned, forward), even with the most indul- and disfigured his countenance in gent eye, we shall be obliged to numberless ways, all very well calplace it very low indeed on the scale culated for the medium of a fair and of mediocrity. Its chief and perhaps the aperture of a collar, but totally sole excellence consists in the dexte- unworthy of a loftier stage than the rity with which Liston is fitted with bottom of an inverted tub or a beera character, and the felicity with barrel. which various attitudes are contrived The influence of Liston's face upon to exhibit this “ figure of fun” to himself is obvious to the most superthe best advantage. There is little ficial eye; relying upon the witchery of nature and less of wit in the piece; of his looks, he neglects all the gea many of the actor's best jokes are in- nuine points of action which are not sipid on paper; and, in reading the specifically adapted for a display of book, it may be said of the most ef- those anomalous charms which em, fective hits' which the author has bellish his countenance, and brings given Liston an opportunity of make into play points which are altogether ing,
insignificant, only because they are The jest is lost unless he prints his face more favourable to his powers of or rather his whole person. If it looking his audience into laughter. were possible to print Liston's face in Witness, for instance, his Pigwiggin : a parenthesis after every joke, it cer- He drinks a glass of wine-water with tainly ought to be done by those who infinite humour ; but when he is poia are anxious that their piece should soned, exhibits no humour at all! In have any of that effect in the closet truth, so far from degrading his abiwhich it has on the stage. But this lities to the study of his part, be is not the only evil which the malig- makes a part for himself; and reprenant ascendancy of Mr. Liston's sents not the character as it is written good-humoured phyz produces a- for him, but his own version of it. mongst authors; not only do pro- Thus, to consider Liston as an actor fessed stage-writers neglect nature is to consider him as what he seldom and propriety to sail into the ports of gives himself the trouble of being; Gain by the light of his countenance, but to consider him as a very comical but others, who have a turn for the fellow is to consider him as what he drama not yet indulged, either follow cannot help being. these profitable but unworthy exam Finally; the public at large has ples, or, in despair of succeeding by contracted a lower and more farcical legitimate methods, give up the pur- taste, from having frequently witsuit altogether.
nessed Liston's performances, and Again, his brother actors, observing from the gratification it is impossible the miraculous effects produced by not to find in them, however deficient this unrivalled specimen of “ Na- in intellectual humour. For our own ture's handy work," and finding buf- part, we must confess, that though foonery a much easier science than we have many times gone to the chaste representation of character, Haymarket with a firm determination have in many instances degenerated to shame the audience out of their into mere face-makers; they either bad taste, by the gravity of our vie imitate Liston with much about the sage, we have exactly as many times same happiness that monkeys do men, broken through all our resolutions, or, at the least, endeavour to excite laughing abundantly and ten times the risibility of the audience by bure louder than any one in the theatre. It lesquing their parts in something of is for this very reason that we are inhis manner. Harley is rather a well- clined to regret Mr. Liston's appearlooking man, yet he is perpetually ance on the stage; he has spoiled the attempting to carry the theatre by a public taste for genuine comedy. We coup de visage ; and, instead of a very are, therefore, never so prone to break tolerable performer, converts himself out into lamentation as in the midst into a very indifferent grimacier. His of our laughter, or to fall into a mepersonation of Nehemiah Flam, a lancholy reflexion as in the height of knavish Quaker valet in Gay De our mirth. As if Thalia had not alceivers, a piece lately produced at this ready sufficient opposition to enhouse, appeared to de particularly counter, Mr. Liston must lend his
countenance to the general conspiracy the manner in which she kicks her against her.
heels as she leans on the back of the Fish out of Water, the only other Miller's Judgment-seat, were exquinew piece brought forward since our sitely natural. It is particularly in last number at this theatre, is an ad- these minor traits of character that mirable illustration of what can be this judicious actress excels. done without wit, character, plot, Mathews, as Dick Cypher, in Hit sentiment, or language, by the mere or Miss, gave infinite satisfaction to force of situation. The whole merit a full and glowing audience. Two of this piece consists in the choice of fancy songs, for the giving of which a very absurd but highly ludicrous this gentleman is celebrated as far as plot; a Cook and a Secretary are en- the Antipodes, we believe, elicited gaged at the same time in the same their usual tribute of approbation. family, and by a mechanism very Indeed, even in private company, forced and improbable, each gets the 'we, who are so old-fashioned as to other's place. The difficulties and dislike all these things, have been awkward dilemmas into which the pestered to no trifling degree by the Cook and the Secretary are thrown, changes continually rung in our ears by their different misemployments, on the merits of this performance. excited the loudest approbation, and Mr. Mathews's admirers seem inmaintained the piece in spite of some spired with a little of that enthusiasm out-of-door opposition.
which he so vividly represents as THE ENGLISH OPERA HOUSE.
prevailing at a horse-race ; they acWe were more gratified than we tually, appear jumping out of their have been for a very long time, by the skins in ecstasy and delight when his acting of a Mr. Rayner, at this little name is mentioned. theatre. His performance of Giles,
The Guardians Outwitted, à cutin the Miller's Maid, was certainly
down comedy, gave Mathews an opthe best thing we have witnessed portunity of exhibiting his inimitable (excepting Othello, last season) since versatility in the different characters poor Emery's death. In the last of a coxcomb peer, a Dutch merscene, where he utters an unwilling chant, an old steward, and a young 'benediction over Phebe and his suc Quaker; all assumed by the hero of cessful rival, his acting had that ef- the piece, Colonel Feignwell, for the fect upon us which we often and purpose of carrying off his mistress. in vain wished to experience from A Hypocrite, in Greek, means an acTragedy; it fairly, and to the dis- tor, or one who undertakes a chagrace of our vocation we confess it, racter different from his own; and
certainly, in this liberal sense of the Drew iron tears down critic's cheek.
word, Mathews is as omnipotent a The character was supported hypocrite as we have ever met with. throughout with a degree of nature, Too Curious by half introduced one judgment, and feeling, which we of our prime favourites, Wrench, as a have seldom seen attained on the Busy Body. Marplot was, however, stage. We know nothing whatever certainly not a chef-d'æuvre, either in who this Mr. Rayner is; but we point of delineation or representathink we know something of what tion: the author and actor were he will be. He has his enemies, it about on a par of mediocrity in seems; so much the better. They their several provinces. Indeed Mr. only blow his fame through a trum- Wrench did not do either the piece pet of their own; however discordant or himself justice, for he had not the clamour, the public will soon been at the trouble of getting his run to see the reason of the noise. part; and he had besides an invisiHis only competitor, at least on ble competitor, who, to use a vulgar these boards, is Miss Kelly, whose phrase, « took the words out of his Phebe, in the same piece, is, of course, mouth,” viz. the Prompter. Mr. familiar to most people as a speci- Wrench was little more than a loud men of excellent acting. Her awk- echo to the whispers emitted by his ward bashfulness, when required to duplicate behind the scenes. This decide between the rival clowns, and is not as it should be.
EARLY FRENCH POETS.
The praise bestowed by Boileau writers who excelled in what they on Villon, and still more the pains call Badinage, for which I do not taken by Clement Marot, at the in- know any adequate term in our lanstance of Francis the First, to edit guage. It is something between wit his poems, would lead us to expect and buffoonery. Less intellectual great things from them; but in this and refined than the one, and not so expectation most. English readers gross and personal as the other, in will probably be disappointed. For reconciling, it in some degree neutrawhile Alain Chartier is full as intel- lizes both. To an Englishman it is ligible as Chaucer, and Charles Duke apt to appear either ridiculous or of Orleans more so, Villon (who insipid ; to a Frenchman it is almost wrote after both) can scarcely be enough to make the charm of life. made out by the help of a glossary. One of the chief causes of Villon's Even his editor, Marot, who, as he popularity must however have arisen tells us in the preface, had corrected in the great number of French fami. a vast number of passages in his lies whom he has mentioned in his poems, partly from the old editions, two Wills, generally for the purpartly from the recital of old people pose of ridiculing certain individuals who had got them by heart, and who belonged to them. A list of partly from his own conjectures, was these, containing upwards of eighty forced to leave several others un- names, is prefixed to these two touched, which he could neither cor
poems. rect nor explain. One cause of the His “ Petit Testament," which difficulty, which we find in reading was written in 1456, he supposes to Villon, is assigned by Marot, in a have been made on the following ocsentence that shows his knowledge casion. Being heartily tired of love, of the true principles of criticism. and thinking there was no other cure “Quant à l'industrie des lays qu'il for it but death, he represents himself feit en ses testamens pour suffisam as determined on leaving this world, ment la congnoistre et entendre, il and accordingly draws up his will. faudroit avoir esté de son temps à
His « Grand Testament" was Paris, et avoir congneu les lieux, les framed in a more serious conjuncchoses et les hommes dont il parle; 'ture. In 1461 he was committed to la memoire desquelz tant plus sé "prison at Melun, together with five passera, tant moins se congnoistra accomplices, for a crime, the nature icelle industrie des ses lays dictz. of which is not known. But whatPour ceste cause qui voudra faire ever it were, he intimates that he
cuvre de longue durée, ne was tempted into it by his mistress, preigne son soubject, sur telles choses who afterwards deserted him. He basses et particulieres." Les Euvres remained in a dungeon and in chains, de François Villon, à Paris, 1723,
on an allowance of bread and water, small 8vo. “ As to the address with during a whole summer, and was which he has distributed his lega- condemned to be hung; but Louis cies, in the poems called his Wills, to XI. (who had then newly succeeded understand it sufficiently one should to the throne), in consideration, as have been at Paris in his time, and it is said, of his poetical abilities, have been acquainted with the places, mercifully commuted his punishment the things, and the persons of whom into exile. He is, perhaps, the only he speaks ; for by how much more man whom the muse has rescued the memory of these shall have been from the gallows. The hardships he lost, so much less shall we be able had suffered during his confinement to discover his dexterity in the dis- brought on a premature old age ; but tribution of these bequests. He who they taught him, he says, more wiswould compose a work that shall dom than he could have learned from last, ought not to choose his subject a com
mmentary on Aristotle's ethics. in circumstances thus mean and par Travail mes lubres sentimens ticular.” The truth is, that Villon appears
Aguisa (ronds comme pelote)
Me monstrant plus que les commens to have been one of the first French Sur le sens moral d'Aristote.--Ib. p. 14.
«Trouble bas sharpened my lubber- of fortune; for Rabelais mentions ly thoughts (before as round as a bule his having been in favour with Edlet); showing me more than the com- ward V. of England, and his dying ments on Aristotle's Ethics could have at an advanced age. done." The first place at which he From what has been said of the found a refuge was Saint Genou, peculiar vein of his genius, the reader near Saint Julien, on the road lead- will perceive, that it is scarcely caing from Poitou into Bretagne. Here pable of being fairly represented in he was reduced to such extremity, another language. His happy turns that he was forced to beg his bread; of expression, smart personalities, and if the fear of his Maker had not and witty inuendoes, would tell very restrained him, he declares he should indifferently at second hand. А have put an end to himself.
short ballad out of the Grand TestaThere is little known of what hap- ment, being more general, may be pened to him afterwards. He pro- attempted. bably met with some lucky turn
Ballade, des Dames du Temps Jadis. Dictes moy, ou, ne en quel pays
Fut jetté en ung sac en Seine ? Est Flora la belle Romaine,
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan ? Archipiada, ne Thais
La Royne blanche comme ung lys Qui fut sa cousine Germaine ?
Qui chantoit à voix de Sereine, Echo parlant quand bruyt on maine
Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Allys, Dessus riviere, ou sus estan
Harembouges qui tint le Mayne, Qui beaulté eut trop plus que humaine ?
Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan ?
Que Angloys bruslerent à Rouen. Ou est la tressage Helois ?
Ou sont ilz, vierge souveraine ? Pour qui fut chastré (et puy Moyne)
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan ? Pierre Esbaillart à Sainct Denys
Prince n'enquerez de sepmaine Pour son amour eut cest essoyne.
Ou elles sont, ne de cest an, Semblablement ou est la Royne,
Que ce refrain ne vous remaine
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan ?
Tell me where, or in what clime,
-Where are they?_Tell me, if ye know;
Where is Heloise the wise,
The Queen, that was as lily fair,
- Where are they?_Tell me, if ye know;
Prince, question by the month or year;
-Where are they?-Tell me, if ye know;