« PreviousContinue »
of any kind of labour or fatigue that enabled him to nurse his little pittance. Thus the whole time that he was playing at Colliton, he returned every night, after the play and farce were over, back to his bed at Lyme (eight miles] in order to save himself the expense of a second lodging.
For a short time things went on comfortably enough at Colliton. The receipts of the company were tolerably good and their expenditures very small: but unfortunately the liberal and worthy patron, to whose efforts, influence and generosity, they owed more of their success than they were before aware of, was called away from Colliton by some business of high importance, and all their comforts disappeared along with him; for the theatre was little attended in his absence, and they no longer got a sufficiency for support. In the mean time their performances at Lyme were neglected by the people; the theatre there was almost wholly deserted; and, to finish the climax of their distresses and difficulties, the hardhearted owner of the malt house, in which they performed, seized the property for his rent.
It happened that Biggs was at this time with a small company performing at Bedminster, eighteen miles from Lyme. Hearing of Warren's being in Davis's company, he paid him a visit, and solicited him to return. As the benefits were yet to come on, and not only poor manager Davis, but every actor and actress in the company would materially suffer by the slightest diminution of their number, which was already too small, Warren would not leave them entirely, but arranged matters so as to play three times a week in each place. His fatigue now became extremely great; for as he walked to Bedminster and back again every time he played there, he had, besides acting in play and farce, and studying the parts assigned him, one hundred and eight miles to walk each week,
(To be continued.)
For the Mirror of Taste.
Mr. Editor, You must know that your present correspondent was, before old age had silvered his head, one of those nothing-to-do sort of gentlemen that swarm in every metropolis. Nature did her part towards making me a perfect non chalant; but my happy genius was not left to uncertain Nature to be guided; Art improved on the negative bounties of her predecessor. Before I arrived at the age of manhood I was as exquisite a specimen of genuine apathy as ever was seen in the streets of this crowded metropolis. I seem to have been stoicism imbodied, and had it not been for a casual contusion or some sad mishap, by which my corporeal system sustained an injury, I should have really doubted whether I possessed any sensibility whatever. Frequenting places of public amusement was eminently serviceable for the exercise of my toothpick, or the display of a snuff box abounding in curious devices, the legacy of my grandfather. The fashion of the day was favourable to my apathy: such nonchalance as I inherited from nature was thought to be evidence of a mind above the ordinary concerns of existence, While this caprice of fashion maintained its ground, I was regarded as the standard of fashionable parties. Unfortunately, the counter caprice of fashion was now the rage of the day, and all her votaries seemed to have been inoculated for sympathy at once. The theatre then regained its ascendency in the empire of amusements, and many sick ladies of my acquaintance were moved to smiles or tears by passages that but a fortnight before they heard with art indifference equal to mine. This new arrangement it was necessary for me to observe, or to undergo the penalty of exclusion from all our fashionable circles. Resolving not to trust my own judgment in so delicate an affair, I was compelled to follow the most approved standards of sympathy now extant, the eyes of female beauty. As soon as these admonitory symbols appeared, my white handkerchief was compelled to do duty. I then reclined my head upon my hand, and waited with much patience and resignation for the hour of sympathy to expire. Often have I removed my benevolent veil and squinted obliquely to see if the shower was
over, until the falling drops reminded me of my duty. Obedient to the summons, I complied with the strictest fidelity, until the ascension of ruddy cheeks and sparkling eyes restored my handkerchief to my pocket. This expedient answered my most sanguine expectations, until an unfortunate circumstance detected and exposed the imposture. A lady, who sat beside me in the box, had some occasion for her handkerchief other than that of sympathy. I was so unfortunate as to misunderstand the nature of the signal. Conjecturing that the hour of sympathy had now arrived, I followed her example; and, not satisfied with silent grief, I began to sigh and to sob so loud as to attract the notice of the company. They anxiously inquired into the cause of my affliction, and I was compelled to leave the box by affecting a sudden indisposition. At another time I had entirely forgot the place I was in, and the part it became me to act. A lady, for whom I felt all that penchant that a man of my habits is capable of feeling, was deeply affected with the sufferings of Desdemona. She raised her fine dripping orbs from her handkerchief, and discovered me, O shame to gallantry! quietly employed in eating her nuts. Never did Othello himself have more serious cause of complaint against the handkerchief than I had. There was but one way to remedy this evil, to pretend that tragedy was no favourite amusement of mine.
My next résort was to comedy, a species of entertainment that rendered the presence of the fatal handkerchief no longer necessary. Accordingly I purchased a stout hickory cane for the purpose of belabouring applause upon the benches. Here I thought it morally impossible that any untoward accident could happen, and solaced myself with the hope of redeeming the character I had lost. I accordingly waited for signals not so equivocal as handkerchiefs, and gained very considerable credit among my associates for dramatic taste and judgment, for which I was altogether indebted to the muscular vigor of my arm. Here again that partial deity Fortune abandoned me; for, in a luckless moment, my eyes were directed one way and my blows another, when my stout sapling fell, with uncommon energy, full upon the head of a gentleman sitting underneath. The consequence was that an action for assault and battery was brought, and for which I was made responsible in damages.
It may be well conceived, sir, that after this discomfiture I abandoned the exercise of the hickory: One more expedient VOL. III.
remained, and it was my forlorn hope; and that was to give pedestrian evidence of my dramatic taste and judgment. As my head and hands had hitherto failed me, I was resolved to try what virtue there was in my heels. While I was thus employed in beating time with my feet to the smiles of the fair, my foot alighted full upon an angry corn on the toe of a gentleman who sat be. side me in the box. He suddenly bounced up in a violent passion, displayed a formidable sledge in the shape of a fist, and warned me *** to have a reverend care of my health,” by a speedy and expeditious retreat. On measuring the dimensions of my opponent with my eye, and comparing his anatomy with my own, I was instinctively reminded of the words of Sir John Falstaff, “ that the better. part of valor was discretion.” There seemed to be a wonderful propriety in my opponent's words, and I could not but heartily concur in his opinion, that a retreat was by far the most coramendable and safe. Deeming it a mark of ingratitude to neglect such wholesome advice, I found no difficulty in a speedy and punctual compliance. This terminated all my dramatic adventures.
INFLUENCE OF THE DRAMA ON THE MIND.
Rigid moralists have alarmed susceptible consciences by deprecating the amusements of the theatre as destructive of religion and derogatory to virtue. They draw no line between a chaste exhibition and a licentious one; but every deviation from precise rectitude is traced to the source of an imagination heated by scenic representations. Quick feelings and lively dispositions are the most open to the evil insinuations of any wrong bias from the stage; but a girl (for I particularly think of that sex on whom an intemperate fancy commits most ravages), whose passions are not curbed and strengthened by reason, will most probably err from misguided sentiment, even though she never witnessed a comedy which derides virtue, or a tragedy which softens vice. Right principles will always yield to wrong impulses in a character whose foundation has never been built upon consistent morality. The danger does not lie in the contagion of a theatre, but in the mind which has been previously prepared to imbibe it; we are infected only with that disease which is congenial to our constitution; if love is to be caught from seeing it represented, or felt because a woman has
listened to its description, the fire of imagination must have quenched her delicacy. An admiration of the drama is scarcely ever derived from an enjoyment of its literary beauties; young women dwell with pleasure, not upon the performance, but upon the performers; how such a fine passage was repeated, is not remembered as elucidating the author's intention, but with a reference to the favourite actor's or actress's pronunciation of it. When this is the case, I clearly agree with the abridgers of gaiety, that the impression is dangerous; but the effect of pleasure is here only shown to be the consequence of a flimsy education; if women are ruined, it is not owing to the stimulus of an exceptionable dramatic composition, or to their having been the auditor of a fine one. I do not mean to deny, that a judicious author has the master key to human nature; and that, he touches it, each complicated ward will unfold itself to his power: but if his key does not fit the lock, it can open no hidden shame; if the feeling does not exist, his art cannot call it forth. It is not necessary that a double entendre should be misunderstood; but its depravity should render it despicable: to avoid being guilty, it is not necessary to shun the knowledge of crime; an enemy discovered, is guarded against; once seize the passes which vice may occupy, and his forces can be constantly repulsed. Mirabel, in Farquhar's comedy of “ The Inconstant,” concentrates in one speech the whole possible danger of the stage. “ The play-house,” says he, “ is the ele. ment of poetry, because the region of beauty; the ladies, methinks, have a more triumphant air in the boxes than any where else; they sit commanding on their thrones, with all their subject slaves about them; their best looks, best clothes, shining jewels, sparkling eyes, the treasures of the whole world in a ring—then there is such a hurry of pleasure to transport us; the bustle, noise, gallantry, smiles, love, music and applause; I could wish my whole life were the first night of a new play.”
The fair enthusiast responds to this hilarity of expression; and, unless she has been taught to discriminate, forgets that this description comes from a profligate, and (though in unison with his actions) would never be uttered by a sober character. I allow that theatrical amusements have the power of clinging round the taste and fancy, beyond any other species of dissipation; but, under certain restrictions, and steadiness of judgment, I think their influence can never augment the resources of vice. We are not bound to admire a