Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]

former who could enter into the spirit of a character proceeding upon romantic half-witted principles, abstracted in his opinions, sophisticated in his reasonings, and who is thrown into situations where his mind and conduct stand tiptoe on the extremest verge of probability. Here, surely, I have not mistaken my man; for if I am able to form any opinion of him as an actor-and my opinion, I know, is far from singular-his chief excellence almost approaches that style which the learned denominate caricature. Possibility on the stretch, passion overleaping its customary bound, movements of the soul, sullen, or violent, very rarely seen in the common course of things, yet still may be seen in these is his element. As our language is said to have sunk under the vast conception of Milton, so does the modesty of nature suffer a depression beneath the unwieldy imaginings of Mr. Kemble. He seldom deigns to accompany the goddess in her ordinary walks when she decently paces the regular path, with a sober step, and a straight person; but he kindly assists her when she is, doubtless, in need of assistance when she appears out of her way, crazy and crooked.

The arrogant fault of being more refined than refinement, more proper than propriety, more sensible than sense, which, nine times in ten, will disgust the spectator, becomes frequently an advantage to him in characters of the above description.

In short, Mr. Kemble is a paragon-representative

of the Lusus Nature; and were Mr. Kemble sewed up in a skin to act a hog in a pantomime, he would act a hóg with six legs better than a hog with four.:

If any one ask why I chose to sketch a Lusus Naturæ, when it might better become an author to be chaste in his delineation, I can only reply, that I did so to obtain the assistance of Mr. Kemble in his best manner; and that now I do most heartily repent me: for never, sure, did man place the main strength of his building upon so rotten a prop !

Well, the great actor was discovered as Sir Edward Mortimer in his library. Gloom and desola tion sat upon his brow; and he was habited, from the wig to the shoe-string, with the most studied exactness. Had one of King Charles the First's portraits walked from its frame upon the boards of the theatre, it could not have afforded a truer representation of ancient and melancholy dignity.

The picture could not have looked better; but, in justice to the picture, it must also be added, that the picture could scarcely have acted worse.

The spectators, who gaped with expectation at his first appearance, yawned with lassitude before his first exit. It seemed, however, that illness had totally incapacitated him from performing the business he had undertaken. For his mere illness, he was entitled to pity; for his conduct under it, he undoubtedly deserved censure.

[ocr errors]

How can Mr. Kemble, as a manager and an actor, justify his thrusting himself forward in a new

play, the material interest of which rested upon his own powers, at a moment when he must be conscious that he had no powers at all? Mr. Kemble owes a duty to the public, to his employer, and to an author writing for his employer's house. How does he treat the claimants upon his service in this instance? Exactly thus he insults the understanding of the first, and injures the interests of the two last, by calling in a crowd to an entertainment which he knows he must mar.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I requested him at the end of the first act to order an apology to be made for his indisposition, lest the uninformed or malicious might attribute the ponderosity of the performer to the heaviness of the author. I was anxious to disavow all right and title to those pigs of lead which did not belong to me, and of which Mr. Kemble 'was the just proprietor. But, no-he peremptorily declared he would not suffer an apology to be made! It should have been made (if at all) before the play began, Then why was it not made? He did not then imagine that illness would have disabled him. So, then, a man quits his chamber, after an attack which has evidently weakened him extremely, and he has no bodily feel, no internal monitor, to whisper to him that he is feeble, and that he has not recovered sufficient strength to make a violent exertion! This mode of reasoning, adopted by Mr. Kemble, is much in the spirit of that clown's, who did not know whether he could play on a fiddle till he tried. Be it noted

also, that Mr. Kemble was swallowing his opium pills before the play began, because he was ill: but opium causes strange oblivious effects; and these pills must have occasioned so sudden a lapse in Mr. Kemble's memory, that he forgot when he took them, why he took them, or that he had taken them at all. The dose must have been very powerful. Still, for the reasons already stated, I pressed for an apology; still Mr. Kemble continued obstinate in opposing it. His indisposition, he' said, was evi dent; he had coughed very much upon the stage, and an apology would make him "look like a fool."

Good-nature in excess becomes weakness; but I never yet found, in the confined course of. my. reading, that good-nature and folly would bear the same definition: Mr. Kemble, it should seem (and he produced at least managerical authority for it), considered the terms to be synonymous. Freely, however, forgiving him for his unkindness, in refusing to gratify a poor devil of an author-who, very anxious for his reputation, was very moderate, in his request I do, in all christian charity, most sincerely wish that Mr. Kemble may never find greater cause to look like a fool, than an apology for his indisposition.

At length, by dint of perseverance, I gained my point. A proprietor of the theatre was called in upon the occasion, whose mediation in my favour carried more weight with the acting manager than a

hapless dramatist's entreaty; and the apology was, in due form, delivered to the audience.

One third of the play only was yet performed; and I was now to make up my mind, like an un fortunate traveller, to pursue my painful journey through two stages more upon a broken down poster, on whose back lay all the baggage for my expédition. Miserably and most heavily in hand did the poster proceed!→He groaned, he lagged, he coughed, he winced, he wheezed !-Never was seen so sorry a jade! The audience grew completely soured; and once completely soured, every thing naturally went wrong. They recurred to their disapprobation of poor Dodd-and observe what this produced. I must relate it.

Mr. Kemble had just plodded through a scene, regardless of those loud and manifest tokens that the critics delighted not in the "drowsy hums" with which he "rang night's yawning peal," when Dodd appeared to him on the stage; at whose entrance the clamour was renewed. Then, and not till then, did the acting manager, who had been deaf as any post to the supplications of the author for an apolo gy-then did he appear suddenly seized with a fit of good-nature. He voluntarily came forward. " to look like a fool," and beg the indulgence of the town. He feared he was the unhappy cause of their disapprobation; he entreated their patience; and hoped he should shortly gain strength to enable them to judge, on a future night, what he handsome.

« PředchozíPokračovat »