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the shaking-fit, that he was not half such a coward as we took him for? We saw all the common symptoms of the malady upon him; the quivering lip, the cowering knees, the teeth chattering; and could have sworn "that man was frightened." But we forgot all the while-or kept it almost a secret to ourselves that he never once lost his self-possession; that he let out by a thousand droll looks and gestures-meant at us, and not at all supposed to be visible to his fellows in the scene, that his confidence in his own resources had never once deserted him. Was this a genuine picture of a coward? or not rather a likeness, which the clever artist contrived to palm upon us instead of an original; while we secretly connived at the delusion for the purpose of greater pleasure, than a more genuine counterfeiting of the imbecility, helplessness, and utter self-desertion, which we know to be concomitants of cowardice in real life, could have given us?
Why are misers so hateful in the world, and so endurable on the stage, but because the skilful actor, by a sort of subreference, rather than direct appeal to us, disarms the character of a great deal of its odiousness, by seeming to engage our compassion for the insecure tenure by which he holds his money-bags and parchments? By this subtle vent half of the hatefulness of the character-the self-closeness with which in real life it coils itself up from the sympathies of menevaporates. The miser becomes sympathetic; i. c., is no genuine miser. Here again a diverting likeness is substituted for a very disagreeable reality.
Spleen, irritability-the pitiable infirmities of old men, which produce only pain to behold in the realities, counterfeited upon a stage, divert not altogether for the comic appendages to them, but in part from an inner conviction that they are being acted before us; that a likeness only is going on, and not the thing itself. They please by being done under the life, or beside it; not to the life. When Gatty acts an old man, is he angry indeed? or only a pleasant counterfeit, just enough of a likeness to recognise, without pressing upon us the uneasy sense of reality?
Comedians, paradoxical as it may seem, may be too natural. It was the case with a late actor. Nothing could be more earnest or true than the manner of Mr. Emery; this told excellently in his Tyke, and characters of a tragic cast. But when he carried the same rigid exclusiveness of attention to the stage business, and wilful blindness and oblivion of everything before the curtain into his comedy, it produced a harsh and dissonant effect. He was out of keeping with the rest of the persona dramatis. There was as little link be
tween him and them as between himself and the audience He was a third estate, dry, repulsive, and unsocial to all. Individually considered, his execution was masterly. But comedy is not this unbending thing; for this reason, that the same degree of credibility is not required of it as to serious scenes. The degrees of credibility demanded to the two things may be illustrated by the different sort of truth which we expect when a man tells us a mournful or a merry story. If we suspect the former of falsehood in any one tittle, we reject it altogether. Our tears refuse to flow at a suspected imposition. But the teller of a mirthful tale has latitude allowed him. We are content with less than absolute truth. "Tis the same with dramatic illusion. We confess we love in comedy to see an audience naturalized behind the scenes, taken in into the interest of the drama, welcomed as bystanders, however. There is something ungracious in a comic actor holding himself aloof from all participation or concern with those who are come to be diverted by him. Macbeth must see the dagger, and no ear but his own be told of it; but an old fool in farce may think he sees something, and by conscious words and looks express it, as plainly as he can speak, to pit, box, and gallery. When an impertinent in tragedy, an Osric, for instance, breaks in upon the serious passions of the scene, we approve of the contempt with which he is treated. But when the pleasant impertinent of comedy, in a piece purely meant to give delight, and raise mirth out of whimsical perplexities, worries the studious man with taking up his leisure, or making his house his home, the same sort of contempt expressed (however natural) would destroy the balance of delight in the spectators. To make the intrusion comic, the actor who plays the annoyed man must a little desert nature; he must, in short, be thinking of the audience, and express only so much dissatisfaction and peevishness as is consistent with the pleasure of comedy. În other words, his perplexity must seem half put on. If he repel the intruder with the sober set face of a man in earnest, and more especially if he deliver his expostulations in a tone which in the world must necessarily provoke a duel, his reallife manner will destroy the whimsical and purely dramatic 'existence of the other character, (which, to render it comic, demands an antagonist comicality on the part of the character opposed to it,) and convert what was meant for mirth, rather than belief, into a downright piece of impertinence indeed, which would raise no diversion in us, but rather stir pain, to see inflicted in earnest upon any unworthy person. A very judicious actor (in most of his parts) seems to have fallen
into an error of this sort in his playing with Mr. Wrench in the farce of Free and Easy.
Many instances would be tedious; these may suffice to show that comic acting at least does not always demand from the performer that strict abstraction from all reference to an audience which is exacted of it; but that in some cases a sort of compromise may take place, and all the purposes of dramatic delight be attained by a judicious understanding, not too openly announced, between the ladies and gentlemen-or both sides of the curtain.
TO THE SHADE OF ELLISTON.
JOYOUSEST of once imbodied spirits, whither at length hast thou flown? to what genial region are we permitted to conjecture that thou hast flitted?
Art thou sowing thy WILD OATS yet (the harvest-time was still to come with thee) upon casual sands of Avernus? or art thou enacting ROVER (as we would gladlier think) by wandering Elysian streams?
This mortal frame, while thou didst play thy brief antics among us, was in truth anything but a prison to thee, as the vain Platonist dreams of this body to be no better than a county jail, forsooth, or some house of durance vile, whereof the five senses are the fetters. Thou knewest better than to be in a hurry to cast off those gyves; and had notice to quit, I fear, before thou wert quite ready to abandon this fleshy tenement. It was thy Pleasure-house, thy Palace of Dainty Devices; thy Louvre, or thy Whitehall.
What new mysterious lodgings dost thou tenant now? or when may we expect thy aerial house-warming.
Tartarus we know, and we have read of the blessed shades; now cannot I intelligibly fancy thee in either.
Is it too much to hazard a conjecture, that (as the schoolmen admitted a receptacle apart for patriarchs and un-chrisom babes) there may exist-not far, perchance, from that storehouse of all vanities, which Milton saw in visions-a LIMBO somewhere for PLAYERS? and that
"Up thither like aerial vapours fly
Both all stage things, and all that in stage things
Abortive, monstrous, or unkindly mix'd,
Play, opera, farce, with all their trumpery."
There, by the neighbouring moon, (by some not improperly supposed thy regent planet upon earth,) mayst thou not still be acting thy managerial pranks, great disimbodied lessee? out lessee still, and still a manager.
In green-rooms, impervious to mortal eye, the muse beholds thee wielding posthumous empire.
Thin ghosts of Figurantes (never plump on earth) circle thee in endlessly, and still their song is, Fy on sinful fantasy.
Magnificent were thy capriccios on this globe of earth, ROBERT WILLIAM ELLISTON! for as yet we know not thy new name in heaven.
It irks me to think, that, stripped of thy regalities, thou shouldst ferry over, a poor forked shape, in crazy Stygian wherry. Methinks I hear the old boatman, paddling by the weedy wharf, with raucid voice, bawling "SCULLS, SCULLS :" to which, with waving hand and majestic action, thou deignest no reply, other than in two curt monosyllables, “No OARS."
But the laws of Pluto's kingdom know small difference between king and cobbler; manager and call-boy; and, if haply your dates of life were conterminant, you are quietly taking your passage, cheek by cheek, (oh ignoble levelling of death,) with the shade of some recently-departed candle-snuffer.
But mercy! what strippings, what tearing off of histrionic robes and private vanities! what denudations to the bone, before the surly ferryman will admit you to set a foot within his battered lighter.
Crowns, sceptres; shield, sword, and truncheon; thy own coronation robes; (for thou hast brought the whole propertyman's wardrobe with thee, enough to sink a navy ;) the judge's ermine; the coxcomb's wig; the snuff-box à la Foppingtonall must overboard, he positively swears-and that ancient mariner brooks no denial; for, since the tiresome monodrame of the old Thracian harper, Charon, it is to be believed, hath shown small taste for theatricals.
Ay, now 'tis done.
You are just boat weight; pura et
But, bless me, how little you look!
So shall we all look-kings and keysars-stripped for the
But the murky rogue pushes off.
Adieu, pleasant, and thrice pleasant shade! with my parting thanks for many a
heavy hour of life lightened by thy harmless extravaganzas public or domestic.
Rhadamanthus, who tries the lighter causes below, leaving to his two brethren the heavy calendars-honest Rhadamanth, always partial to players, weighing their party-coloured existence here upon earth-making account of the few foibles that may have shaded thy real life, as we call it, (though, substantially, scarcely less a vapour than thy idlest vagaries upon the boards of Drury,) as but of so many echoes, natural repercussions, and results to be expected from the assumed extravagances of thy secondary or mock life, nightly upon a stage-after a lenient castigation, with rods lighter than of those Medusean ringlets, but just enough to "whip the offending Adam out of thee," shall courteously dismiss thee at the right-hand gate-the o. P. side of Hades-that conducts to masks and merry-makings in the Theatre Royal of Proser pine.
PLAUDITO, ET VALETO.
My acquaintance with the pleasant creature, whose loss we all deplore, was but slight.
My first introduction to E., which afterward ripened into an acquaintance a little on this side of intimacy, was over a counter of the Leamington Spa Library, then newly entered upon by a branch of his family. E., whom nothing misbecame to auspicate, I suppose, the filial concern, and set it a-going with a lustre was serving in person two damsels fair, who had come into the shop ostensibly to inquire for some new publication, but in reality to have a sight of the illustrious shopman, hoping some conference. With what an air die he reach down the volume, dispassionately giving his opinion upon the worth of the work in question, and launching out into a dissertation on its comparative merits with those of certain publications of a similar stamp, its rivals! his enchanted customers fairly hanging on his lips, subdued to their authoritative sentence. So have I seen a gentleman in comedy acting the shopman. So Lovelace sold his gloves in Kingstreet. I admired the histrionic art, by which he contrived to carry clean away every notion of disgrace from the occupation he had so generously submitted to; and from that hour