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MATHEWS AT HOME.
Mr. Mathews never before so decidedly proved himself a man of genius as he does three nights a week during the present season. We have repeatedly heard this actor's test things attributed to persons behind the scenes, who were said to be the real springs of the wit and fun which kept the theatre in a roar.
Mr. Mathews this year has apparently determined practically to refute such calumnies, for he has started a performance which cannot be attributed to any man of wit whatever. They cannot lay claim to his coat, bis pantaloons, his hat, his lisp, his queer looks, and his ever-changing form--and there is nothing else: on this stock alone, or with slight accidental additions, he has this year established himself At Home, at the receipt of custom and company. Let it not be supposed that this is a slender stock; for add a few dashes of character, a few common and reiterated phrases, a bustling gait, and a few imitations, and you have plentiful food for laughter for as many hours as you can keep from yawning. The representation for this year has less buoyancy and less originality, and though we are speaking of a laughing matter, we may say that there is more gravity in it than the former ones, to every one of which it is on the whole, and in every particular instance, decidedly inferior. However, it is amusing enough: good scenes perpetually succeed one another until you are tired to death, and the best thing in the world would feel as flat as a founder ;-but yet there is nothing to bring away; nothing to tell; nothing to dwell upon and chuckle over three months after, as we well remember to have been the case in all the previous productions of this admirable artist ;-no Tate Wilkinsons ; no Germanico-American judges; no Uncle Bens; no Jonathan Doubikins; no twenty other characters that almost take their place in the memory with the creations of Smollet or Walter Scott.
Some of the failure of the present “ At Home,” is doubtless to be attributed to the frame-work, which is decidedly undramatic. It is in fact a description of a series of visits, with a sketch of the characters Mr. Mathews meets with in the course of them. It is evident that the sketches of each, where there are so many, must be especially slight; and the actor or writer, in order to make up for his want of time and opportunity to develope them properly, is compelled to have recourse to great exaggeration-aggravation we should have said-of their peculiarities. Thus, in the personation of one Giblets, an ignorant and self-complacent cit, an electioneering speech is put into his moutli, which is nothing but a continued series of Mala propisms, to the outrage of all nature and probability. The best things in the piece are the nervous invalids at the commencement, the imitations of Opera singing, the personation and conversation of M‘Rhomboid, a Scotch professor, which is admirable ; but inferior to the jealous apothecary in the Monopolylogue, decidedly the most original and best acted part of the whole. The songs are execrably bad, as far as they are singing; the talk-part, or patter, as we have heard it called, is no part of the song, and ranks with the body of the entertainment. The blot
of the whole is the Yorkshire gamester, à part which we should guess is a great favourite with the actor. It is unnatural, unreal, and extravagant in the extreme; and in those points where it may be said to be true, speaking artistically, it is only painful. The madness at the termination of this odious parenthesis in a gay and exhilirating representation, would be a redeeming point, if such exhibitions were tolerable at all. It is well acted. Mr. Mathews has been deluded into this unfortunate part by the success of Mallet, in his Trip to America. If he will take the trouble to examine that very clever sketch at his leisure, he will perceive a dash of the ridiculous runs throughout that ircident, which saves the pathetic from taking too painful a hold upon the heart. You laugh while you cry. It is a secret worth knowing, that the pathetic should end when it produces unmixt pain ; and the ridiculous, when it becomes odious. The representation in either case may be true enough to life, and the actor may declare that he has seen it. We have no doubt that an able actor like Mr Mathews could give us a fit of paralysis to the life; but would he ?would he personate the misery of distress and starvation—the convulsions of death? or, on the other hand, represent the unredeemed bestiality of drunkenness, or any other kind of profligacy? He would doubtless turn with horror from the supposition ; nevertheless, the principle is the same. When odiousness comes, ridiculousness goes. An event may excite far too strong a sympathy for even tragedy—much more for this light kind of entertainment. During this part of the piece we held down our heads in shame. And to mend the matter, Mr. Mathews ended the mad scene .with some uncommon twaddle of his own ;—“ if he had deterred any youth from the vices of the gaming-table,” &c. &c. Why will not this excellent man be content to amuse? Why turn teacher and preacher ? If his entertainments have a moral, let his auditors draw it. This spirit of admonition and instruction made some portions of Mr. Mathews's Trip to America supremely ridiculous ; all the cant put into the mouth of Mr. Pennington, was not only in the worst style of the mawkish and sentimental, but excessively absurd from its pretension and unfitness. He makes his own Jonathan cry out when he is affronted, that he will complain to Congress—" There will be a war !" It was about as ridiculous in Mr. Mathews to proclaim peace between the two countries ; more especially as all the time he was holding one country up to the laughter of the other. In thus holding up foibles for fun, we see no harm; but when the act is mixed up with Mr. Pennington's speeches, there comes to pass a rare union of cant and twaddle.
Since we have spoken with perfect candour, Mr. Mathews will be of course out of humour with us, and therefore not disposed to listen to any hint of ours. We shall nevertheless give him one. The present At Home convinces us, and it is no wonder, that Mr. Mathews's original materials are pretty nearly exhausted. He must either find new fields for his extraordinary powers of observation, or he must repeat himself. In our opinion he was never better, and certainly never more entertainingly employed, than in his personations of American fun. Is he disposed for another six weeks' voyage?-if he is, let him cast his eye over two books which we have been lately reading-Coleridge's
Six Months in the West-Indies, and Williams's Tour in Jamaica; if it does not occur to him that there is in these beautiful islands a rich fund of character and observation, he has not the eye for national peculiarity we gave him credit for. And, moreover, as he is fond of teaching and of instructing ministers of state at dinner, (see his letter in the European Magazine,) the condition of the West-Indies is a subject as well worth a considerable alloy of twaddle, as the international feelings of Great Britain and the United States.
MONTHLY ADVICE TO PURCHASERS OF BOOKS.
[The only work we can notice is Cradock's Memoirs *. The pub
lishing world is at a stand.] MR. CRADOCK having published an historical Tragedy on the subject of the Czar, in his eighty-third year, which met with a most flattering reception, has been induced to publish these Memoirsman odd reason for a man's writing his life, Be the motive what it may, the reader has little concern in aught but the composition. Mr. Cradock starts with a memorandum of the date of his birth, his mother's maiden name, his father's second wife, her two brothers, &c.; and when it is added, that this is a compliment he pays to almost every person he mentions, adding generally a notice of each relative to the remotest degree of consanguinity, the reader will understand of what materials this volume is in a good measure concocted, and the sort of connexion existing between its several parts. Farmer, the black-letter man, was his school-fellow, and had already begun to evince his passion for collecting old books. The author's own passion was for the stage ; and at a very early period he expressed to his father his disapprobation of a certain proposed line of journey, because “ he heard of no theatres being open any where.” We read of nothing very remarkable in the history of his nonage, (except luis hiding himself in the garret, at Leicester, on an alarm that the unhappy Lord Ferrers was coming in one of his mad or drunken fits to his father's house,) till we get him to Cambridge, where the tutor takes him to task for having encroached upon the province of the University, by studying a part of Algebra and Euclid before he had put on the gown. He tells us also that at this moment he is engaged in a Chancery suit, which has lasted the greater part of his life, though that has lasted eighty-three years, and that notwithstanding an eminent king's counsel and three solicitors have been employed, there is yet“ no determination ;" however, the Chancellor has been pleased to express his fullest approbation of my conduct.” Then follows a history of the Cust family-Lady Cust, the Misses Cust, Dr. Cust, Sir John Cust, &c., and a complaint that Studley Park has stolen away all admiration from the humble beauties of Hackfall,
Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs, by J. Cradock, Esq. M.A., F.S.A. LORdon, printed for the Author, by J. Nichols and Son, 25, Parliament-street, 1826.
which latter place he therefore instantly indemnihes with a copy of verses of interminable length, in the usual style of that age:
To Hackfall's calm retreats, where Nature reigos
In rural pride, transported Fancy flies ;
The author next throws himself into a fever by travelling post at Midsummer to Derby races, and yet, to use his own elegant phrase," he was no racer.” Of course we are favoured with a full and particular account of his plıysician, Mr., afterwards Dr. Bates, who had “rather a singular history." He leaves Cambridge without taking a degree, because, being a classical scholar, he would not “submit to an examination chiefly mathematical.” He is consoled by being unexpectedly presented, by the Duke of Newcastle, (it ought to have been stated that Mr. Cradock was a man of some property and consequence in his native county,) with an honorary degree; and Emmanuel College, instead of resenting this piece of interference with its duties, pleased to give a handsome entertainment on the occasion," he being the first student of that house who had been thus exempted from the necessity of undergoing the ordinary examination. On the illumination for Wilkes's birth-night, his house in town suffered dreadfully. The street was then paving, and on his arrival the apparition of sundry large stones on the dining-room carpet greeted his eyes.
The author's classical attainments are vouched by sundry scraps of Latin, not very new, like totus in illis, haud passibus æquis, &c. &c.; but his mother tongue he does not write like one who had read under Hurd, and conversed with Johnson. The whole is loosely written, and would be much improved by the extermination of some hundreds of expletive adverbs and unmeaning terms of qualification. Ile talks, among other things, of having exemplified the elaborate work of somebody or other, when he means only that he adduced it as an example. To use a scrap of his own ex uno disce omnes. The author is profound in genealogy, and knows not only his own pedigree, but that of every body else. Whenever any hody appears to have been at a loss for their ancestors, or some one of the number, application was made to Mr. Cradock. His own descent he brings from Caractacus, in Welsh Caradoc, Cradoc, Cradock.
He served as high-sheriff; and “in consequence of his MA. degree, became subject to various applications for his vote at every contest for the University of Cambridge.” The importance he attaches to these common-place incidents, and the length at which he dwells upon them, show under what a poverty of matter and adventure he labours. “ My chief business was, (and here I can speak rather boastfully,) through some friends at Emmanuel College, to hire a large piece of ground, and to engage a number of persons to take charge of the freeholders' horses, that they might not be turned loose, as had formerly been complained of, (on the day of election,) and it was acknowledged that, &c. This important duty he discharged at the county election, in which, somewhat to his surprise, he found himself on the side opposite to the one he had taken in the University election. As a man of letters, manncrs, and family, he rose just high enough to come in sight of the office of sub-preceptor to the Prince of Wales, which he did not get. He visited Lord Sandwich, and throws a little new light upon the story of Miss Ray; but in general his intercourse with those to whom he has access, is productive of nothing, or, inore properly, in his hands is made to produce nothing beyond the ordivary gossip of the tea-table and drawing-room. Illustrious names frequently occur, and great men meet and converse in his pages, but it all ends in a few words of course, which men say to one another, and forget the moment they have uttered them. His reputation for literature, small as it was, and his family connexions, introduced him into the society of Johnson and others; but he seems rather to have gazed than conversed, and has not the art of reporting the good things he must have heard. In our Table-talk will be found nearly all that is worth extracting ;—the rest, comprising more than three-fourths of the volume, consists of such miscellaneous nothings as those we have slightly touched upon. There is a little amber among the straws and rubbish of the volume; but the author thinks it necessary to apologise for having preserved such trifles as the anecdotes of Foote, &c.; and intermitted for a moment the weightier duty of giving an account of somebody, whom nobody knows.
The anthor appears to have recommended himself to the world as a goodnatured, polite, modest, discreet, and perfectly harmless sort of person. Every body with him is either “justly respected," or “ highly estimated,” or something else as much to their credit. He is very loyal, dedicates his book to the King, and talks of the felicity that will be his, if it shall contribute to afford his Majesty “some relaxation amidst the weightier affairs of state.” His raptures about royal condescension and gracious notions, savour of an age more loyal than the evil present. Alas! that men should no longer be made oblivious to care, the spleen, the gout, and the rest, by a condescending message, or a gracious intimation. He seems to have been also timid and cautious ; a trait in his character that has bred a circumlocutory and qualifying mode of expression, not at all favourable to the style of his work ;-several well-known anecdotes, especially, are diluted, under his hands, to mere vapidity. Among these might be instanced Thurlow's strong and coarse reply to a body of Dissenters, who waited upon him to solicit his interest for the repeal of the Test Laws. To say anything strong, indeed, seems foreign to his nature : he seldom praises without a withdrawal of part in the next sentence, and never censures without a clause to qualify his severity :
Mr. Wyche was always considered as a man of excellent temper, and naturally well disposed ; but we are all, more or less, the creatures of time and circumstances; in one situation he might have been prudent, discreet, and have lived long to have enjoy. ed a very ample fortune ; but in another, in consequence of a high fever, he was prematurely taken off, although every possible assistance had been given him by Dr. Addington and Dr. Ileberden. He died unmarried, and was buried in the familyvault at Godeby, near Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire.
For every single stroke of character, or touch of interest, the reader has to expect a score pages of twaddle and senility.