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its taste formed by one of the popular selectims, in the performance of a play, is most attentive to what it best knows, thé fine things extracted. A slight whisper is heard in the house just before the admired passage is delivered, followed by immense applause when it is concluded. The actor, always disposed to refer this to himself, learns to humour this tendency in the audience by an awful preparation and more sonorous declamation. Let the reader remember the baseless bric of Prospero,---the seven ages of Jacques ---the quality of mercy of Portia ---the patience on a monument of Viola ; and consider how false a delivery of them on the stage has resulted from the particular expectation thus excited.
“ But Heraclitus himself would laugh at the instance I am going to commemorate in Othello. There is in this play a very civil, modest, silent gentlewoman, who is the wife of Othello's Ensign, and who has the honour to attend upon the great Captain's Captain, the virtuous Desdemona. The christian name of this lady, (for by the baptismal name only either she or her husband is known through the play,) is Emilia. Now, after this lady is once introduced to us in the acted play, she says nothing of the slightest moment, and does but one thing of any consequence, namely, to steal the handkerchief upon which her lady set so great a value. We look at the actress who personates this character, and soon find that she entertains a very different notion of its importance. Kept unwillingly in the back ground, longing to break forth, and shew the wonders of her voice and the energy of her action, she contrives by out-dressing her lady, and the aid of a rich plume of feathers, to do almost nothing through four tedious acts, but waves her promise to the spectators, that, at last, their patience shall be repaid. The happy moment arrives ; Othello throws off all reserve, abuses his wife in the grossest language, and leaves ber as much amazed as grieved.---lago enters to comfort her. Then comes Emilia's turn, and forth she rushes to pronounce the following favourite morceau. • Emil.--- I will be hang'd, if some eternal villain,
Some busy and insinuating rogue,
Have not devis'd this slander ; I'll be hang'd else.
Why should he call her whore ? who keeps her company?
Here taking her ground upon the virtuous indignation of the audience, the actress becomes a perfect fury: and as if she waved the brand of Tisiphone, or rather the whip of the beadle, parades herself to the lamps in a semi-circle, and speaks thunder to the Gods themselves. Those generous deities, scorning to be outdone in noise, send down a roar to · tear hell's concave.' The actress in consequence has to boast through life how she used to get sir rounds of applause in the part: and how she beat the gentle Desdemona (perhaps Mrs. Siddons) to a dead stand still, by this over-strained and vulgar violence*.
“Of late years it has been even worse ; for measuring, I suppose, the efficacy of the chastisement by the vigour of the arm, if they have fortunately, in the company of either theatre, a lady of the heroic frame, and more than common tall,' she is always the representative of Emilia : and should any timid daughter of Melpomeme make her debut in the part of Desdemona, the amazon, like another Glumdalclitch, immediately assumes the care of her, struts by her side, or overshadows her in the rear, until the proper moment arrives of stifling all ber puny exertions as above, and the Moor succeeds to smother her altogether."
That Shakspeare himself repressed, with all his might, the tendency to such display, is obvious, by the few words which close the speech--
" Even from the east to the west." But the corrective on the stage is judiciously omitted.
The description of Miss Satchell in the following extract is interesting :
“ Among the memorables of the season, were a performance of Lady Randolph, by Mrs. Crawford. A farce called Fire and Water, by Andrews, remembered only for the younger Colman's jest---' it made a hiss.' Mrs. Cargill's appearance there as Euphrosyne, in Comus, and Miss Satchell's first appearance in Polly. It was the apotheosis of Polly, but her own martyrdom. The stage never in my time exhibited so pure, so interesting a candidate as Miss Satchell---her modest timidity---her innocence---the tenderness of her tones, and the unaffected alarm that sat upon her countenance---altogether won for her at once a high place in the public regard, which she cultivated long and extended under the appellation---Mrs. Stephen Kemble. This young lady carried into a family abounding in talent, powers of so peculiar a kind, so perfect, so unapproachable, that, if they were inferior as to their class, they shared a kindred pre-eminence. No one ever like her presented the charm of unsuspecting fondness, or that rustic simplicity, which removed immeasurably from vulgarity, betrays nothing of the world's refinement, and is superior to its cunning. Double entendre in her presence had nothing beyond the single sense that might meet the ear of modesty. I have often listened to the miserable counterfeit of what she was, and would preserve, if language could but do it, her lovely impersonation of artless truth. But it may be gathered critically in its abstract, by the negative assistance of many of its modish imitations. The FANCY may restore her, or be contented at least with its own creation. That of Steele, in one of its softest inspirations, first saw her about the year 1674, on the continent of America, fondly bending over a young European, whom she had preserved from her barbarous countrymen; she was banquetting him with delicious fruits, and playing with his hair. He called the vision. Yarico Chateaubriand, a century after, beheld it with additional charms, and named it Atala.*
We should be glad to be able to give some readable extract relative to Mrs. Siddons herself, but the author's notices of her are so mixed up with digressive twaddle of his own upon the plays which she performed in, that a selection is difficult. The following is an account of her performance in 1782, when she had returned to London after her temporary failure, and with this we must close our extracts from the first volume :
“ Let us, however, avoid decision upon this question, and examine what she displayed in 1782, as the representative of Southern's enchanting Isabella. Time had bestowed the tender dignity of the mother upon her beauty. As she came upon the stage with her son followed by Villeroy, though desirous to avoid his suit, her step was considerate, and her head declined slightly, her eye resting upon her son. The first impression having been deeply made by her exterior, the audience was soon struck by the melancholy sweetness with which the following exquisite passage came upon the ear---referring to Biron--
““0, I have heard all this ;
Can'st thou forgive me, child ?" and her fair admirers were in tears as she questioned her son. No art ever surpassed the perfect cadence of the next allusion to him :
" " Sorrow will overtake thy steps too SOON ;
“ On remarquoit sur son visage je ne sais quoi de vertueux et de passionné, dont l'attrait etoit irresistible. Elle joignoit à cela des grâces plus tendres: une extrême sensibilité unie à une mélancolie profonde, respiroit dans ses regards : son sourire etoit celeste."
The passing bitterness of reflection upon her own state, produced, as it subsided, a moral sympathy with others. As she knocks at the door of her father-in-law, the following general remark reproves the degeneracy of the heart--
"Where is the charity that us’d to stand,
To feed and clothe, to comfort and relieve them? Southern had read Shakspeare, with a soul perhaps as tender as his own ;--- Lear in the same way, in his own miseries, remembers the sufferings of others--
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
· Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel.' The interview with Count Baldwin, that chalky sideling personage, old Packer, was a good deal hurt by his insipid manner; but when he consents to provide for the child, on the condition that his mother never visits him, Mrs. Siddons burst forth with the peculiar wildness of a mother's impatience, and the whole house told her that she was irresistible.
• WHAT! take him FROM me?
No, we must never part ; I live but in my child.' “ The second act of Isabella, is a masterpiece of growing interest. Isabella, hopeless as to relief, discovered ruminating upon her fate, and her child at play, unconscious of the pang which he excites. The two servauts who had given her access to Baldwin, sent to diminish her resources, or rather to starve with her---creditors pressing for payment---Villeroy generously engaging to satisfy their demands---the villain, Carlos, urging her obligations to Villeroy, and working her ruin through her gratitude---the melancholy consent to take a second husband---altogether compose an act so thoroughly in nature, and so powerfully written,' that if Dryden, in his old age, really felt that truth in the drama, which he had himself in vain attempted through life, he must have placed Southern as the poet of the heart, greatly before all his contemporaries.* The scenes of trifling comedy by which he had disgraced his play, were expunged by Mr. Garrick in the year 1758, and so easily were they removed from all the noble interest, that they resembled a series of miserable and ludicrous prints, placed by a child in some work of genius, and shaken out by the first reader who discovers the pollution. Southern, when he addressed his patron, Hammond, told him that the comedy in it was not essential ; that it was against his own opinion, and merely complied with the taste of the town ; for, said he, ' I think every reasonable man will, and ought to, govern in the pleasures he pays for.' The results of such a principle we are now enjoying to an extent that only accuses the reusonable quality of the public. At its first appearance, through three acts of the play, the gaiety of Mrs. Bracegirdle might divide the house with Mrs. Barry. Betterton was her Villeroy, not her Biron. To return, however, to' an Isabella greater than Mrs. Barry.
"* On the authority of Mr. Fox, I call this power the highest excellence. But if it be, as I think it is, a position extended truly to the epic poet ---as to the DRAMATIC, there can be no doubt whatever ; it is the heart of his mystery ; and even character is less essential than pathos in the composition of tragedy. Mr. Fox thus expresses himself in a letter to G. Wakefield, dated 13th of April, 1801 : “ The verses you refer to in the 5th Æneid, are indeed delightful ; indeed I think that sort of pathetic is Virgil's great excellence in the Æneid, and that in that way he surpasses all other poets of every age and nation, except, perhaps, (and only perhaps, Shakspeare. It is on that account that I rank him so very high ; for surely to excel in that style which speaks to the heart, is the GREATEST OF ALL EXCELLENCE.'
“ Mr. Fox's politics I must leave to his party. But his mind had a purity, a tender-, ness, a taste beyond all such feeling; they ennobled the species, and were loved whereever they were known. VOL. II.
“ When I said that the second act of this play was perfect, I apply the term beyond the composition to the actress ;---she threw infinite variety into its hurry of emotions. I remember the following passages with delight :--.
• To find out Hope, and only meet despair,
His little sports have taken up his thoughts.' Who besides her ever so spoke of play in the accents of wretchedness ?
• Thinking will make ine mad : why must I think,
When no thought brings me comfort ?' On the arrival of the creditors, the answer to the nurse's earnest inquiry--- What will you do, Madam ?
Do! Nothing :' And, on the noise encreasing--
• Hark, they are coming! Let the torrent koak;
It can but overwhelm me in its fall.' " He who remembers that word NOTHING, as Laertes has it, so much more than matter,' and recollects the position her eye-brows assumed, the action of her right arm, and the energy of her tone in the passage, 'Let the torrent roar,' may be assured that the greatest of tragedians then stood before him.
“ But less obtrusive, and yet of equal excellence, was the delicate alarm, lest her devoted attachment to Biron should be undermined by virtues so essential to ber safety ; and even in her consent to become the wife of Villeroy, entering a sort of protest against his best hopes ; all this was given in so soothing a strain ;---the glance at the child to determine the sacrifice, and the final ratification with its graceful compliment, demanded and received every human accomplishment, to do justice to the poet:
I give you ALL ---
'Tis WHOLLY YOURS.' The reader sees from the simplicity of the terms used, the cominon parlance of life, hot essential it was that they should be sustained by a measured dignity of utterance, and a languid sensibility in deportment and expression.
“ The third act is a weak one---for Isabella has nothing to do in it---but to sit and hear the epithalamium, at an entertainment given by her husband in the exultation of his heart. In the second act, Isabella had conditioned that she should not change the colour of her apparel. Villeroy gratefully perceives that she is in while when she enters the saloon--
• Isa.--- Black might be ominous ;
I would not bring ILL-LUCK along with me.' Mrs. Siddons spoke this so as to conceal the absolute vulgarity of the notion, and the expression of it. She affected this by calling upon that heaviness of the heart, which could not be dispelled by any external change. Unlike Iphigenia, she seemed a conscious sacrifice.
“ In this scene of mere dumb shew, her deportment was inimitable. She closed the act with a melancholy foreboding that hung like night about her. A melancholy which she calls sudden, . bakes her blood,'---and as Shakspeare continues, makes it heavy, thick,---her · mind, ber harass’d mind, is weary.'
“ Man is always striving to anticipate the future, and selects his indications some. times from external nature, sometimes from the peculiar sadness or hilarity of his present feeling. Shakspeare, the interpreter of his kind, has given us both. In Romeo, a deceiving spirit lifts him above the earth,' on the eve of his greatest disaster,---unwonted gloom precedes the anguish of Isabella.
“ With the fourth act of the play, Biron arrives from his captivity. There is a beautiful use made by Southern of the tokens interchanged by lovers. The importance of a ring is heightened with wonderful dexterity. In her greatest poverty, Isabella pulls from her finger one that Biron had given to her; it is all that remains of value in her
possession, and she parts with it to sustain life, which only can be dearer. Her husband
• Isa.---I've heard of witches,' &c.
Into such shapes --- they fright me from myself.'
• Biron died, ---
0, do I live to hope that he died there.'
“ I wish it were in the power of the painter to fix every change of that living picture upon the canvas !---the courtesy while she cautiously examined the supposed stranger---the joy to observe no trace of Biron---the recognition of him---the stupor that weighed upon her countenance, while she sobbed out the mysterious communications previous to his retiring. The manner in which she occupied the stage during that dreadful soliloquy---Biron's return---the still more alarming exclamations of his wife, till she leaves him in despair.
“ Every thing here had a truth of tone, and Inok, and gesture, to which all that I have ever seen in female art bore no comparison whatever. But until then, so noble a figure, and a countenance so expressive, never stood before me.
“ The last act has some admirable contrivances of the poet. Isabella's distraction--attempt upon the life of Biron---Villeroy's return---the death of Biron---the full detection of Carlos---the raving of Isabella and her death. But the LAUGH, when she plunges the dagger into her bosom, seemed to electrify the audience ; and literally the greater part of the spectators were too ill themselves to use their hands in her applause. It was perfectly clear to those who had seen this great woman at Bath, that she came to London, as Garrick's enemy, Quin, expressed himself, to found a new religion ; and she came with the full inspiration of the muse. She struck even prejudice with astonishment, from the number of her requisites. So full a measure had never yet fallen to the lot of any one daughter of the stage. Mrs. Yates was majestic, Mrs. Crawford pathetic, Miss Younge enthusiastic ; the voice of the firsî was melodious, that of the second harsh, that of the third tremulous. As to features, Mrs. Yates was after the antique, but she had little flexibility ; Mrs. Crawford was even handsome, but the expression of her countenance was rather satirical. Of Miss Younge, the features wanted prominence and relief, and the eye had little colour. Yet sensibility impressed her countenance, and lifted plainness into consequence and interest. In the style of action they differed considerably--- Mrs. Yates studied to be graceful---Mrs. Crawford was vehement, and threw her arms out from side to side---struck the bosom with violence in the bursts of passion, and took all fair advantages of her personal attractions. Miss Younge had acquired the temperance in action which Shakspeare recommends, and in every motion was correct and refined, delicate and persuasive. Their rival had all that was valuable in their respective requisites, and more than all; her mental power seemed to be of a firmer texture, her studies to have been deeper, and partaking less of what may be termed professional habits. The eye of Mrs. Siddons was an inestimable distinction, no rival could pretend to look like her.
“ It is much to possess such an artist in any department of art. The pablic at large is refined by it. In the present case, a fashion was excited that drew the attention of our higher orders particularly to the stage. As we are so constituted as to be purified by terror and by pity, a great moral object was gained by stealing through even their amusements, upon the hearts of the fairest portion of the species ; and there where affluence had rendered many of the cares of life no subject of either burden or thought, to