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our own part, the illusion that she was Shakspeare's own Juliet came so speedily upon us, as to suspend the power of specific criticism— so delicious was the fascination, that we disliked even the remarks of by-standers that disturbed that illusive spell; and though, half an hour before, we had blessed the applauding bursts of the audience, like omens of propitious thunder, we were now half-impatient of their frequency and duration, because they intruded on a still higher pleasure, and because we needed no assurance that Miss Kemble's success was sealed. Feeling that the occasion formed an era in our recollections of the theatre, we compared her, in our inagination, with all the great actresses we had; and it is singular, though we can allege nothing like personal likeness, that Mrs. Jordan was the one whom she brought back, in the first instance, to our memory. We might have set down this idea as purely fanciful, if we had not learned that it has crossed the minds of other observers. As form and features seem to have nothing to do with this reminiscence, we attribute it to the exquisite naturalness of Miss Kemble's manner, and we cannot help connecting it with an anticipation that she will one day be as pre-eminently the comic as the tragic muse of our stage. Her traits of family resemblance struck us most powerfully in the deeper and more earnest parts of her tragic performance. On one occasion, when her face only was revealed by her drapery, its intense expression brought Mrs. Siddons most vividly back to us. Miss Kemble's personal qualifications for her profession are, indeed, such as we might expect from one so parented and related. Her head is nobly formed and admirably placed on her shoulders—her brow is expansive and shaded by very dark hair—her eyes are full of a gisted soul, and her features are significant of intellect to a very extraordinary degree. Though scarcely reaching the middle height, she is finely proportioned, and she moves with such dignity and decision that it is only on recollection we discover she is not tall. In boldness and dignity of action she unquestionably approaches more nearly to Mrs. Siddons than any actress of our time excepting Pasta. Her voice, whilst it is perfectly seminine in its tones, is of great compass, and though, perhaps, not yet entirely within her command, gives proof of being able to express the sweetest emotions without monotony, and the sternest passions without harshness. She seems to know the stage by intuition, “as native there and to the manner born,” and she understands even now, by what magic we cannot divine, the precise effect she will produce on the most distant spectators. She treads the stage as if she had been matured by the study and practice of years. We dreamed for a while of being able to analyze her acting, and to fix in our memory the finest moments of its power and grace; but her attitudes glide into each other so harmoniously that we at last gave up enumerating how often she seemed a study to the painter's eye and a vision to the poet's heart. At the first sight, Miss Kemble's countenance conveys an impression of extraordinary
The Juliet of Shakspeare is young and beautiful; but no mistake can be greater than the idea that her character can be impersonated with probability by a merely beautiful young woman. Juliet is a being of rich imagination; her eloquence breathes an ethereal spirit; and her heroic devotedness is as different from common-place romance, as superficial gilding is unlike the solid ore. By many an observer, the beautiful surface of her character is alone appreciated, and not that force and grandeur in it which is capable of sustaining itself in harmony, not only with the luxuriant commencement of the piece, but with the funeral terrors of its tragic close. Hence the expectation has been so often excited, that a lovely girl, who can look the character very innocently, and speak the garden-scene very prettily, is quite sufficient to be a representative of the heroine throughout; and hence the same expectation has been so often disappointed. The debutante may be often carried, without apparent failure, through a scene or two, by her beauty and pretty manner of love-making; but when the tragedy commences in earnest, her intellectual expression sinks under its terrors, and she appears no more than a poor young lady, driven mad with the vexation of love.
Far remote from this description is the Juliet of Miss Kemble. It never was our for. tune to see Mrs. Siddons in the part, but Miss Kemble gives it a depth of tragic tone which none of her predecessors whom we have seen ever gave to it. Miss O'Neil, loth as we are to forget her fascinations, used to lighten the earlier scenes of the piece with some girlish graces that were accused of being infantine, Be that as it may, there were certainly a hundred little prettinesses enacted by hundreds of novices in the character, which attracted habitual applauses, but which Miss Kemble at once repudiated with the wise audacity of ge. nius; at the same time, though she blends not a particle of affected girlishness with the part of Juliet, her youth and her truth still leave in it a Shakspearian naiveté. As the tragedy deepens, her powers are developed in unison with the strengthened decision of purpose which the poet gives to the character. What a noble effect she produced in that scene where the Nurse, who had hitherto been the partner of all her counsels, recommends her to marry Paris, and to her astonished exclamation, “Speak'st thou from thy heart?” answers, “And from my soul too, or else beshrew them both.” At that momentous passage Miss Kemble erected her head, and extended her arm, with an expressive air which we never saw surpassed in acting, and with a power like magic pronounced “Amen!” In that Attitude, and look, and word, she made us feel that Juliet, so late a nurseling, was now left alone in the
world—that the child was gone, and that the heroic woman had begun her part. By her change of tone and manner she showed that her heart was wound up to fulfil its destiny, and she bids the Nurse “Go in,” in a tone of dignified command. That there was such a change in Juliet we have always felt, but to mark its precise moment was reserved for this accomplished actress in a single tone. It is hardly needless to say, that Mr. Kemble's Mercutio was delightful, independent even of the gallant spirit with which he carried off the weight of his anxieties on the first evening. It was charmingly looked, acted, and spoken—
with only one little touch of baser matter in the mimickry of the Nurse—and closed by a death true to nature, and exhibiting, in milder light, all the brilliant traits of the character. Warde showed his good feeling in accepting the part of Friar Laurence, and his good taste in speaking the poetry of which it is made up: Mrs. Davenport played the Nurse as excellent. ly as she has played it for the last twenty years, and not better than she will play it for twenty years to come; and Mrs. Kemble went through the little she had to do in Lady Capulet with true motherly grace.
[New Monthly MAGAZINE.]
Theme is at Paris, where all extremes meet, a kind of sub-theatrical public, which makes amends for the severity of the orthodox dramatic code, by running wild after the most extravagant violations of all rules, and the strangest outrages on feeling and taste. Thus the members of this living paradox keep the balance even, and avenge the beautiful and the romantic. If they turn away with disgust from the Weird Sisters, and defy the magic in the web of Othello's handkerchief, they dote on Mr. Cooke in the Monster, and consecrate ribands to his fame. If they refuse to pardon the grave-diggers in Hamlet, they seek for materials of absorbing interest in the charnalhouse which no divine philosophy illumines. If they refuse to tragedy any larger bounds of time than their own classical poets could occupy with frigid declamations, they will select three days from distant parts of a wretched and criminal life, in order to exhibit in full and odious perfection, the horrors which two fifteen years of atrocity can accumulate and mature. Of all the examples of the daring side of their eternal antithesis, the melo-drama against gambling, produced within the last few months, is the most extraordinary and the most successful. Each act is crowded with incidents, in which the only relief from the basest fraud and the most sickening selfishness is to be found in deeds which would chill the blood if it had leisure to freeze. We do not only “sup full of horrors,” but breakfast and dine on them also. A youth, who on the eve of his wedding-day sells the jewels of his bride to gamble with the price, and who deceives her by the most paltry equivocations; a friend, who supplies this youth with substituted diamonds which he has himself stolen; a broken-hearted father who dies cursing his son; and a seduction of the wife, filthily attempted while the husband is evading the officers of justice, are among the attractions which should enchain the attention, and gently arouse curiosity in the first act of this fascinating drama. The second act, exhibiting the same pair of fiends, after a lapse of fifteen years, is replete with
appropriate fraud, heartlessness, and misery. But the last act crowns all, and completes the “moral lesson.” Here, after another fifteen years passed in the preparatory school of guilt, the hero verging on old age is represented as in the most squalid penury—an outcast from society, starving with a wife bent down by suffering, and a family of most miserable children crying for bread. His first exploit is to plunder a traveller, murder him, and hide his body in the sand; but this is little; the horror is only beginning. While his last murder is literally “sticking on his hands,” his old tempter and companion, who had attempted to seduce his wife and had utterly blasted his fortunes, enters his hut, ragged and destitute, and by a few sentences rekindles the old love of play, and engages him in schemes of fraudulent gaming. After this little scene of more subdued interest, the party leave the hut to inter the corpse of the assassinated traveller, and give opportunity for the entrance of the eldest son of the hero, and his recognition by his mother. In her brief absence, contrived for this special occasion, the friends resolve on murdering the youth, of whose name they are ignorant; the father watches while his familiar stabs the stranger on his couch; and just as the full horror is discovered, a thunderbolt sets fire to the dwelling of iniquity, and the father hurls his tempter into the flames and follows him " Such is the piece which has delighted the dainty critics of Paris, who revolt from Julius Caesar as bloody, and characterize Hamlet as “the work of a drunken savage.” But the most offensive circumstance attendant on the production of this bloody trash is the pretence that it is calculated to advance the cause of morality by deterring from the passion of gambling. What a libel is this on poor human nature! Of what stuff must that nature be made, if it could receive benefit from such shocking pictures as representations af. fecting it nearly 1 No longer must we regard it as a thing of passion and weakness, erring, frail, and misguided, yet full of noble impulses and gentle compassions and traits, indicating a heavenly origin and an immortal home; but moulded of low selfishness, and animated by demoniac fury. If earth has ever produced such beings as are here exposed on the scene, they are not specimens of any class of humanity, but its monsters. And on what minds is the exhibition to operate 1 On such as contain within themselves a conscious disposition to its atrocities, if any such there be, or on the rest of mankind, who sicken at the sight? The first are far beyond the reach of the actor's preaching; the last feel the lesson is not for them—if they indulge in gambling, they have no fear of murdering their sons, and “their withers are unwrung.” In the mean time the “moral lesson,” impotent for good, has a mischievous power to wear out the sources of sympathy, and to produce a dangerous familiarity with the forms of guilt, which according to the solemn warnings of Sir Thomas Browne, “have oft-times a sin even in their histories.” “We desire,” continues this quaint but noble writer, “no records of such enormities; sins should be accounted new, that so they may be esteemed monstrous; they omit of monstrosity as they fall from their rarity; for men count it venial to err with their forefathers, and foolishly conceive they divide a sin in its society. The pens of men may sufficiently expatiate without these singularities of villany; for, as they increase the hatred of vice in some, so do they enlarge the theory of wickedness in all. And this is one thing that may make latter ages worse than the former, for the vicious example of ages past poisons the curiosity of these present, affording a hint of sin unto seduceable spirits, and soliciting those unto the imitation of them, whose heads were never so perversely principled as to invent them. In things of this nature, silence commendeth history; it is the veniable part of things lost; wherein there must never rise a Pancovillus, nor remain any register but that of Hell.” The murderous phantasm of Paris will never deter men from becoming gamblers, who have the fatal passion within them, but it may assist in making gamblers demons. In London this piece has, we are happy to find, succeeded only in the minor houses, where the audience are accustomed to look for coarse and violent stimulants. It was first produced at the Coburgh; and, assisted by splendid scenery and powerful melo-dramatic acting, was attractive for some time; but has
given way to real operas, got up with great liberality, and the graceful performances of a young gentleman named Smith, who acts with more taste and feeling than the clever aspirants of his age usually exhibit. It was afterwards announced at both the winter theatres; but, fortunately for Covent-Garden, Drury Lane obtained the precedence, and the good sense of Mr. Kemble profited by the example set before him. Here the enormities were somewhat foreshortened, being compressed into two acts, but unredeemed by a single trait of kind or noble emotion. Cooper, as the more potent devil, and Wallack, as his disgusting tool, played with considerable energy; but no talent could alleviate the mingled sense of sickness and suffocation with which their slimy infamies oppressed the spectators. Although much curiosity had been excited, the piece did not draw, and was speedily laid aside; while at Covent-Garden, where its announcement was dignified by the names of Kemble, Ward, and Miss Kelly, it was most wisely suppressed in the shell. At the Adelphi, we have been told that it was rendered somewhat less revolting; but we could not muster courage to face it here, or even to endure it in the improved version of the Surrey, where, according to the play-bills, the Manager has, “aster due correction, reformed his hero, and restored him to happiness and virtue.” What a fine touch of maudlin morality To hear Elliston deliver it from the stage with all the earnestness of his mock-heroic style, we would undergo the purgatory with which he threatens us. He is the reforming Quaker of dramatic legislation, and his stage, during the run of the piece, was a court of ease to Brixton, as Drury-Lane was to Newgate. Nothing can equal the benevolent discrimination of his theory, except that of a popular preacher whom we once heard deprecating the orthodox doctrine of the eternity of future punishment, and cheering his audience with the invigorating hope, that, after being tormented for three handred and sixty-five thousand years, the wicked would be made good and happy. We are thankful, nevertheless, that Mr. Elliston's tread-mill for gamblers has rested with the axes and ropes of his more sanguinary rivals; and that the young gentlemen addicted to play have finished their lesson. How it may operate in Paris and the neighbourhood of St. James's, will be ascertained in the ensuing winter.
ON THE INTELLECTUAL CHARACTER OF THE LATE
[FRoM “THE ExAMINER” AND “The Review of WILLIAM HAzlitt.”]
As an author, Mr. Hazlitt may be contemplated principally in three aspects, as a moral and political reasoner; as an observer of character and manners; and as a critic in literature and painting. It is in the first character only, that he should be followed with caution. His metaphysical and political essays contain rich treasures, sought with years of patient toil, and poured forth with careless prodigality, —materials for thinking, a small part of which wisely employed, will enrich him who makes them his own, but the choice is not wholly unattended with perplexity and danger. He had, indeed, as passionate a desire for truth as others have for wealth, or power, or fame. The purpose of his research was always steady and pure; and no temptation from without could induce him to pervert or to conceal the faith that was in him. But, besides that love of truth, that sincerity in pursuing it, and that boldness in telling it, he had earnest aspirations after the beautiful, a strong sense of pleasure, an intense consciousness of his own individual being, which broke the current of abstract speculation into dazzling eddies, and sometimes turned it astray. The vivid sense of beauty may, indeed, have fit home in the breast of the searcher after truth, but then he must also be endowed with the highest of all human faculties, the great mediatory and interfusing power of imagination, which presides supreme in the mind, brings all its powers and impulses into harmonious action, and becomes itself the single organ of all. At its touch, truth becomes visible in the shapes of beauty; the fairest of material things appear the living symbols of airy thought; and the mind apprehends the finest affinities of the worlds of sense and of spirit “in clear dream and solemn vision.” By its aid the faculties are not only balanced, but multiplied into each other; are pervaded by one feeling, and directed to one issue. But, without it, the inquirer after truth will sometimes be confounded by too intense a yearning after the grand and the lovely,–not, indeed, by an elegant taste, the indulgence of which is a graceful and harmless recreation amidst severer studies, but by that passionate regard which quickens the pulse, and tingles in the veins, and “hangs upon the beatings of the heart.” Such was the power of beauty in Hazlitt's mind; and the interfusing faculty was wanting. The spirit, indeed, was willing, but the flesh was strong; and when these contend, it is not difficult to foretell which will obtain the mastery; for “the power of beauty shall sooner transform honesty from what it is into a bawd, than the power of honesty shall transform beauty into its likeness.” How this some-time paradox became exemplified in the writings of one whose purpose was always
single, may be traced in the history of his mind, at which it may be well to glance before adverting to the examples. William Hazlitt was the son of a dissenting minister, who presided over a small Unitarian congregation at Wem, in Shropshire. His father was one of those blameless enthusiasts who, taking only one view of the question between right and power, embrace it with singleness of heart, and hold it fast with inflexible purpose. He cherished in his son that attachment to truth for its own sake, and those habits of fearless investigation which are the natural defences of a creed maintaining its ground against the indolent force of a wealthy establishment, and the fervid attacks of combining sectaries, without the fascinations of mystery or terror. In the solitude of the country, his pupil learned, at an early age, to think. But that solitude was something more to him than a noiseless study, in which he might fight over the battle between Filmer and Locke; or exult on the shattered dogmas of Calvin; or rivet the links of the immortal chain of necessity, and strike with the force of ponderous understanding, on all mental fetters. A temperament of unusual ardour glowed amidst those lonely fields, and imparted to the silent objects of nature a weight of interest akin to that with which Rousseau has oppressed the picture of his early years. He had not then, nor did he find till long afterwards, power to imbody his meditations and feelings in words; the consciousness of thoughts which he could not hope adequately to express, increased his natural reserve; and he turned for relief to the art of painting, in which he might silently realize his dreams of beauty, and repay the bounties of nature. A few old prints from the old masters awakened the spirit of emulation within him; the sense of beauty became identified in his mind with that of glory and duration; while the peaceful labour calmed the tumult in his veins, and gave steadiness to his pure and distant aim. He pursued the art with an earnestness and patience which he vividly describes in his essay “On the Pleasure of Painting;” and to which he frequently reverts in some of his most exquisite passages; and, although in this, his chosen pursuit, he failed, the passionate desire for success, and the long struggle to attain it, left deep traces in his mind, heightening his strong perception of external things, and mingling, with all the thoughts, shapes and hues which he had vainly striven to render immortal. A painter may acquire a fine insight into the nice distinctions of character, he may copy manners in words as he does in colours, but it may be apprehended that his course as a severe reasoner will be somewhat “troubled with thick coming fancies.” And if the successful pursuit of art may thus disturb the process of abstract contemplation, how much more may an unsatisfied passion ruffle it, bid the dark threads of thought glitter with radiant fancies unrealized, and clothe its diagrams with the fragments of icture which the hand refused to execute | hat wonder, if, in the mind of an ardent youth, thus struggling in vain to give palpable existence to the shapes of loveliness which haunted him, “the homely beauty of the good old cause” should assume the fascinations not properly its own At this time, also, while at once laborious and listless, he became the associate of a band of young poets of power and promise such as England had not produced for two centuries, whose genius had been awakened by the rising sun of liberty, and breathed forth most eloquent music. Their political creed resembled his own; yet, for the better and more influential part, they were poets, not metaphysicians; and his intercourse with them tended yet farther to spread the noble infection of beauty through all his thoughts. That they should have partially understood him at that time was much, both for them and for him; for the faculty of expression remained imperfect and doubtful until quickened at that chosen home of genius and kindness, the fire-side of the author of “John Woodvil.” There his bashful struggles to express the fine conceptions with which his bosom laboured were met by entire sympathy; there he began to stammer out his just and original notions of Chaucer and Spenser, and old English writers, less talked of, though not less known, by their countrymen; there he was understood and cheered by one who thought after their antique mode, and wrote in their spirit, and by a lady, “sister every way” to his friend, whose fine discernment of his first efforts in conversation, he dwelt upon with gratitude even when most out of humour with the world. He wrote then slowly, and with great difficulty, being, as he himself states in his “Letter to Gifford,” “eight years in writing as many pages;” in that austere labour the sense of the beautiful was rebuked, and his first work, the “Essay on the Principles of Human Action,” is composed in a style as dry and hard as a mathematical demonstration. But when his pen was loosed from its long bondage, the accumulated stores of thought and observation pressed upon him; images of beauty hovered round him; deep-rooted attachments to books and works of art, which had been friends to him through silent years, glowed for expression, and a long arrear of personal resentments struggled to share in the masterdom of conscious power. The room of Imagination, which would have enabled him to command all his resources, and place his rare experiences to their true account, was supplied by a will—sufficiently sturdy by nature, and made irritable and capricious by the most inexcusable misrepresentation and abuse with which the virulence of party-spirit ever disgraced literary criticism. His works were shamelessly garbled; his person and habits slandered; and volumes, any one page of which contained thought sufficient to supply a
whole “Quarterly Review,” were dismissed with affected contempt, as the drivelling of an impudent pretender, whose judgment was to be estimated by an enthusiastic expression torn from its context, and of whose English style a decisive specimen was found in an error of the press. Thus was a temperament, always fervid, stung into irregular action; the strong regard to things was matched by as vivid a dislike of persons; and the sense of injury joined with the sense of beauty to disturb the solemn musings of the philosopher and the great hatreds of the patriots. One of the most remarkable effects of the strong sense of the personal on Hazlitt's abstract speculations, is a habit of confounding his own feelings and experiences in relation to a subject with proofs of some theory which had grown out of them, or had become associated with them. Thus, in his “Essay on the Past and the Future,” he asserts the startling proposition, that the past is, at any given moment, of as much consequence to the individual as the future; that he has no more actual interest in what is to come than in what has gone by, except so far as he may think himself able to avert the future by action; that whether he was put to torture a year ago, or anticipates the rack a year hence, is of no importance, if his destiny is so fixed that no effort can alter it; and this paradox its author chiefly seeks to establish by beautiful instances of what the past, as matter of contemplation, is to thoughtful minds, and in fine glances at his individual history. The principal sophism consists in varying the aspect in which the past and future are viewed;—in one paragraph, regarding them as apart from personal identity and consciousness, as if a being, who was “not a child of time,” looked down upon them; and, in another, speaking in his own person as one who feels the past as well as future in the instant. When the quarrels with a supposed disputant who would rather not have been Claude, because then all would have been over with him, and asserts that it cannot signify when we live, because the value of existence is not altered in the course of centuries, he takes a stand apart from present consciousness and the immediate question—for the desire to have been Claude could only be gratified in the consciousness of having been Claude—which belongs to the present moment, and implies present existence in the party making the choice, though for such a moment he might be willing to die. He strays still wider from the subject when he observes a treatise on the Millennium is dull; but asks who was ever weary of reading the fables of the Golden Age 1 for both fables essentially belong, neither to past nor future, and depend for their interest, not on the time to which they are referred, but the vividness with which they are drawn. But supposing the Golden Age and the Millennium to be happy conditions of being—which to our poor, frail, shivering virtue they are not—and the proposal to be made, whether we would remember the first, or enter upon the last, surely we should “hail the coming on of time,” and prefer having our store of happiness yet to expend, to the know