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lected by the people, awakened those gentle pulses of deep joy which had long forgotten to beat. Here first, after a long interval, instead of the pompous swelling of inane declamation, the music of humanity was heard in its sweetest tones. The air of freshness breathed over its forest scenes, the delicate grace of its images, its nice disclosure of consolations and venerablenesses in the nature of man, and the exquisite beauty of its catastrophe, where the stony remorse of the hero is melted into child-like tears, as he kneels on the little hassock where he had often kneeled in infancy, are truly Shakspearean. delicacies in the reading, wants that striking scenic effect without which a tragedy cannot succeed on the stage. The Remorse of Coleridge is a noble poem; but its metaphysical clouds, though fringed with golden imaginations, brood too heavily over it. In the detached
Yet this piece, with all its
scenes of Barry Cornwall, passages of the daintiest beauty abound—the passion is every where breathed tenderly forth, in strains which are “silver sweet"—and the sorrow is relieved by tenderness the most endearing. Here may be enjoyed “a perpetual feast of nectared sweets, where no crude surfeit reigns.”—In these—and in the works of Shiel, and even of Maturin—are the elements whence a tragedy more noble and complete might be moulded, than any which has astonished the world since Macbeth and Lear. We long to see a stately subject for tragedy chosen by some living aspirant— the sublime struggle of high passionsfor the mastery displayed—the sufferings relieved by glorious imaginations, yet brought home to our souls, and the whole conveying one grand and harmonious impression to the general heart. Let us hope that this triumph will not long be wanting, to complete the intellectual glories of our age.
REVIEW OF CIBBER'S APOLOGY FOR HIS LIFE.
[RETRosPECTIVE Review, No. 2.]
There are, perhaps, few individuals, of intense personal conciseness, whose lives, written by themselves, would be destitute of interest or of value. Works of this description enlarge the number of our intimacies without inconvenience; awaken, with a peculiar vividness, ..pleasant recollections of our own past career; and excite that sympathy with the little sorrows, cares, hopes, and enjoyments of others, which infuses new tenderness into all the pulses of individual joy. The qualification which is most indispensable to the writer of such auto-biographies, is vanity. If he does not dwell with gusto on his own theme, he will communicate no gratification to his reader. He must not, indeed, fancy himself too outrageously what he is not, but should have the highest sense of what he is, the happiest relish for his own peculiarities, and the most confident assurance that they are matters of great interest to the world. He who feels thus, will not chill us by cold generalities, but trace with an exquisite minuteness all the felicities of his life, all the well remembered moments of gratified vanity, from the first beatings of hope and first taste of delight, to the time when age is gladdened by the reflected tints of young enterprise and victory. Thus it was with Colley Cibber; and, therefore, his Apology for his own life is one of the most amusing books that have ever been written. He was not, indeed, a very wise or lofty character—nor did he affect great virtue or wisdom—but openly derided gravity, bade defiance to the serious pursuits of life, and honestly preferred his own lightness
determination not to repress it, because it is part of himself, and therefore will only increase the resemblance of the picture. Rousseau did not more clearly lay open to the world the depths and in most recesses of his soul, than Cibber his little foibles and minikin weaknesses. The philosopher dwelt not more intensely on the lone enthusiasm of his spirit, on the alleviations of his throbbing soul, on the long draughts of rapture which he eagerly drank in from the loveliness of the universe, than the player on his early aspirings for scenic applause, and all the petty triumphs and mortifications of his passion for the favour of the town. How real and speaking is the description which he gives of his fond desires for the bright course of an actor—of his light-hearted pleasure, when, in the little part of the Chaplain, in The Orphan, he received his first applause—and of his highest transport, when, the next day, Goodman, a retired actor of note, clapping him on the shoulder at a rehearsal, exclaimed, with an oath, that he must make a good actor, which almost took away his breath, and fairly drew tears into his eyes! The spirit of gladness, which gave such exquisite keenness to his youthful appetite for praise, sustained him through all the changes of his fortune, enabling him to make a jest of penury, assisting him to gather fresh courage from every slight, adding zest to every success, until he arrived at the high dignity of “Patentee of the Theatre Royal.” When “he no revenue had but his good spirits to feed and clothe him,” these were ample. His vanity was to
of heart and of head, to knowledge the most him a kingdom. The airiest of town butter
extensive or thought the most profound. He was vain even of his vanity. At the very
flies, he sipped of the sweets of pleasure wherever its stray gifts were found; sometimes in golden sphere of the theatre--that magic circle whose majesties do not perish with the chances of the world. In reading his life, we become possessed of his own feathery lightness, and seem to follow the course of the gayest and the emptiest of all the bubbles, that, in his age of happy trifling, floated along the shallow but glittering stream of existence. The Life of Cibber is peculiarly a favourite with us, not only by reason of the superlative coxcombry which it exhibits, but of the due veneration which it yields to an art too frequently under-rated, even among those to whose gratification it ministers. If the degree of enjoyment and of benefit produced by an art be any test of its excellence, there are few, indeed, which will yield to that of the actor. His exertions do not, indeed, often excite emotions so deep or so pure as those which the noblest poetry inspires, but their genial influences are far more widely extended. The beauties of the most gifted of bards, find in the bosoms of a very small number an answering sympathy. Even of those who talk familiarly of Spenser and Milton, there are few who have fairly read, and still fewer who truly feel, their divinest effusions. It is only in the theatre, that any image of the real grandeur of humanity—any picture of generous heroism and noble selfsacrifice—is poured on the imaginations, and sent warm to the hearts of the vast body of the people. There, are eyes, familiar through months and years only with mechanic toil, suffused with natural tears. There, are the deep fountains of hearts, long encrusted by narrow cares, burst open, and a holy light is sent in on the long sunken forms of the imagination, which shone fair and goodly in boyhood by their own light, but have since been sealed and forgotten in their “sunless treasuries.” There, do the lowest and most ignorant catch their only glimpse of that poetic radiance which sheds its glory around our being. While they gaze, they forget the petty concerns of their own individual lot, and recognise and rejoice in their kindred with a nature capable of high emprise, of meek suffering, and of defiance to the powers of agony and the grave. They are elevated and softened into men. They are carried beyond the ignorant present time; feel the past and the future on the instant, and kindle as they gaze on the massive realities of human virtue, or on those fairy visions which are the gleaming foreshadows of golden ears, which hereafter shall bless the world. heir horizon is suddenly extended from the narrow circle of low anxieties and selfish joys, to the farthest boundaries of our moral horizon; and they perceive, in clear vision, the rocks of defence for their nature, which their fellow men have been privileged to raise. While they feel that “which gives an awe of things above them,” their souls are expanded in the heartiest sympathy with the vast body of their fellows. A thousand hearts are swayed at once by the same emotion, as the high grass of the meadow yields, as a single blade, to the breeze which sweeps over it. Distinctions of fortune, rank, talent, age, all give way to the warm, tide of emotion, and every class feel only as partakers in one primal sympathy,
commencement of his work, he avows his the tavern among the wits, but chiefly in the
“made of one blood,” and equal in the sancti" ties of their being. Surely the art that produces an effect like this—which separates, as by a divine alchemy, the artificial from the real in humanity—which supplies to the artisan in the capital, the place of those woods and free airs, and mountain streams, which insensibly harmonize the peasant's character—which gives the poorest to feel the old grandeur of tragedy, sweeping by with sceptred pall—which makes the heart of the child leap with strange joy, and enables the old man to fancy himself again a child—is worthy of no mean place among the arts which refine our manners, by exalting our conceptions! It has sometimes been objected to the theatrical artist, that he merely repeats the language and imbodies the conceptions of the poet. But the allegation, though specious, is unfounded. It has been completely established, by a great, and genial critic of our own time, that the deeper beauties of poetry cannot be shaped forth by the actor,” and it is equally. true, that the poet has little share in the highest triumphs of the performer. It may, at first, appear a paradox, but is, nevertheless, proved by experience, that the fanciful cast of the language has very little to do with the effect of an acted tragedy. Mrs. Siddons would not have been less than she is, though Shakspeare had never written. She displayed genius as exalted in the characters drawn by Moore, Southern, Otway, and Rowe, as in those of the first of human bards. Certain great situations are all the performer needs, and the grandest emotions of the soul all that he can imbody. He can derive little aid from the noblest imaginations or the richest fantasies of the author. He may, indeed, by his own genius, like the matchless artist to whom we have just alluded, consecrate sorrow, dignify emotion, and kindle the imagination as well as awaken the sympathies. But this will be accomplished, not by the texture of the words spoken, but by the living magic of the eye, of the tone, of the action; by all those means which belong exclusively to the actor. When Mrs. Siddons cast that unforgotten gaze of blank horror on the corpse of Beverley, was she indebted to the playwright for the conception ? When, as Arpasia, in Tamerlane, she gave that look of inexpressible anguish, in which the breaking of the heart might be seen, and the cold and rapid advances of death traced—and fell without a word, as if struck by the sudden blow of destiny—in that moment of unearthly power, when she astonished and terrified even her oldest admirers, and after which, she lay herself really senseless from the intensity of her own emotion—where was the marvellous stage direction, the pregnant hint in the frigid declamatory text, from which she wrought this amazing picture, too perilous to be often repeated? Do the words “I’m satisfied,” in Cato, convey the slightest image of that high struggle—that contest between nature long re
* See Mr. Lamb's Essay on the Tragedies of Shakspeare, as adapted to representation on the stage-a piece which combines more of profound thought, with more o deep feeling and exquisite beauty, than any criticism with which we are acquainted.
pressed and stoic pride—which Mr. Kemble in an instantimbodied to the senses, and impressed on the soul for ever? Or, to descend into the present time and the lowlier drama, does the perusal of The School of Reform convey any vestige of that rough sublimity which breathes in the Tyke of Emery 4 Are Mr. Liston's looks out of book, gotten by heart, invented for him by writers of farces? Is there any fancy of invention in its happiest mood—any tracings of mortal hand in books—like to the marvellous creations which Munden multiplies at will 1 These are not to be “constrained by mastery” of the pen, and defy not only the power of an author to conceive, but to describe them. The best actors, indeed, in their happiest efforts, are little more indebted to the poet, than he is to the graces of nature which he seizes, than the sculptor to living forms, or the grandest painters to history. Still less weight is there in the objection, that part of the qualities of an actor, as his form and voice, are the gifts of nature, which imply no merit in their possessor. They are no more independent of will, than the sensibility and imagination of the bard. Our admiration is not determined by merit, but by beauty; we contemplate angelic purity of soul with as tender a love as virtue, which has been reared with intense labour among clouds and storms, and follow with as delighted a wonder the quick glances of intuition as the longest and most difficult researches. The actor exhibits as high a perception of natural grace, as fine an acquaintance with the picturesque in attitude, as the sculptor. If the forms of his imagination do not stand for ages in marble, they live and breathe before us while they last— change, with all the variations of passion—and “discourse most eloquent music.” They sometimes, as in the case of Mr. Kemble's Roman characters, supply the noblest illustrations of history. The story of Coriolanus is to us no dead letter; the nobleness of Cato is an abstract idea no longer. We seem to behold even now the calm approaches of the mighty stoic to his end—to look on him, maintaining the forms of Roman liberty to the last, as though he would grasp its trembling relics in his dying hands—and to listen to those solemn tones, now the expiring accents of liberty passing away, and anon the tremulous breathings of uncertain hope for the future. The reality with which these things have been presented to our youthful eyes is a possession for ever— quickening our sympathy with the most august instances of human virtue, and enriching our souls with palpable images of the majesty of old. It may be said, that if a great actor carries us into times that are past, he rears up no monument which will last in those which are to come. But there are many circumstances to counterbalance and alleviate the shortness of his fame. The anxiety for posthumous renown, though there is something noble in it as abstracted from mere personal desires, is scarcely the loftiest of human emotions. The Homeric poets, who breathed forth their strains to untutored ears, and left no visible traces of Jheir genius, could scarcely anticipate the du
ration of their works. Shakspeare seems to have thought little in his lifetime of those honours which through all ages will accumulate on his memory. The best benefactors of their race have left the world nothing but their names, and their remembrances in grateful souls. The true poet, perhaps, feels most holily when he thinks only of sharing in the immortality of nature, and “owes no allegiance but the elements.” Some feeling not unallied to this, may solace the actor for the short-lived remembrance of his exertions. The images which he vivifies are not traced in paper, nor diffused through the press, nor extant in marble; but are engraven on the fleshly tables of the heart, and last till “life's idle business” ceases. To thousands of the young has he given their “first mild touch of sympathy and thought,” their first sense of communion with their kind. As time advances, and the ranks of his living admirers grow thin, the old tell of his feats with a tenderer rapture, and give such vivid hints of his excellence as enable their hearers richly to fancy forth some image of grandeur or delight, which, in their minds at least, is like him. The sweet lustre of his memory thus grows more sacred as it approaches its close, and tenderly vanishes. His name lives still—ever pronounced with happiest feelings and in the happiest hours—and excites us to stretch our thoughts backward into the gladnesses of another age. The gravemaker's work, according to the clown, in Hamlet, outlasts all others, even “till doomsday,” and the actor's fades away before most others, because it is the very reverse of his gloomy and durable creations. The theatrical picture does not endure because it is the warmest, the most living of the works of art; it is short as human life, because it is as genial. Those are the intensest enjoyments which soonest wither. The fairest graces of nature—those touches of the ethereal scattered over the universe— pass away while they ravish us. Could we succeed in giving permanence to the rainbow, to the delicate shadow, or to the moonbeam on the waters, their light and unearthly charm would be lost for ever. The tender hues of youth would ill exchange their evanescent bloom for an enamel which ages would not destroy. And if “these our actors” must “melt into air, thin air,” leaving but soft tracings in the hearts of living admirers—if their images of beauty must fade into the atmosphere of town gayety, until they only lend some delicate graces to those airy clouds which gleam in its distance, and which are not recognised as theirs, they can scarcely complain of the transitoriness which is necessarily connected with the living grace which belongs to no other order of artists. The work before us, however, may afford better consolation than we can render to actors; for it redeems not the names, but the vivid images of some of the greatest artists of a century ago, from oblivion. Here they are not embalmed, but kept alive—and breathe, in all the glory of their meridian powers, before us. Here Betterton's tones seem yet to melt on the entranced hearer—Nokes yet convulses the full house with laughter on his first appear
ance—and Mrs. Monfort sinks with her dainty, diving body to the ground, beneath the conscious load of her own attractions. The theatrical portraits in this work are drawn with the highest gusto, and set forth with the richest colouring. The author has not sought, like some admirable critics of this age of criticism, to say as many witty or eloquent things on each artist as possible, but simply to form the most exact likeness, and to give to the drapery the most vivid and appropriate hues. We seem to listen to the prompter's bell—to see the curtain rise—and behold on the scene the goodly shapes of the actors and actresses of another age, in their antique costume, and with all the stately airs and high graces which the town knows no longer. Betterton is the chief object of our author's admiration; but the account of his various excellencies is too long to extract entire, and perhaps, on account of the spirit of boundless eulogy in which it is written, has less of that nicety of touch which gives so complete an individuality to his pictures of other performers. The following are perhaps the most interesting parts of the description: “You have seen a Hamlet perhaps, who, on the first appearance of his father's spirit, has thrown himself into all the straining vociferation requisite to express rage and fury, and the house has thundered with applause ; though the misguided actor was all the while (as Shakspeare terms it) tearing a passion into rags.-I am the more bold to offer you this particular instance, because the late Mr. Addison, while I sat by him, to see this scene acted, made the same observation, asking me with some surprise, if I thought Hamlet should be in so violent a passion with the Ghost, which though it might have astonished, it had not provoked him? for you may observe that in this beautiful speech, the passion never rises beyond an almost breathless astonishment, or an impatience, limited by filial reverence, to inquire into the suspected wrongs that may have raised him from his peaceful tomb! and a desire to know what a spirit, so seemingly distressed, might wish or enjoin a sorrowful son to execute towards his future quiet in the grave? This was the light into which Betterton threw this scene; which he opened with a pause of mute amazement! then rising slowly, to solemn, trembling voice, he made the Ghost equally terrible to the spectator as to himself! and in the descriptive part of the natural emotions which the ghastly vision gave him, the boldness of his expostulation was still governed by decency, manly, but not braving; his voice never rising into that seeming outrage, or wild defiance of what he naturally revered. But alas! to preserve this medium, between mouthing, and meaning too little, to keep the attention more pleasingly awake, by a tempered spirit, than by mere vehemence of voice, is, of all the master-strokes of an actor, the most difficult to reach. In this none yet have equalled Betterton. “A farther excellence in Betterton, was, that he could vary his spirit to the different characters he acted. Those wild impatient starts,
that fierce and flashing fire, which he threw into Hotspur, never came from the unruffled temper of his Brutus; (for I have, more than once, seen a Brutus as warm as Hotspur;) when the Betterton Brutus was provoked, in his dispute with Cassius, his spirit flew only to his eye; his steady look alone supplied that terror, which he disdained an intemperance in his voice should rise to. Thus, with a settled dignity of contempt, like an unheeding rock, he repelled upon himself the foam of Cassius. Perhaps the very words of Shakspeare will better let you into my meaning:
Not but in some parts of this scene, where he reproaches Cassius, his temper is not under his suppression, but opens into that warmth which becomes a man of virtue; yet this is that hasty spark of anger, which Brutus himself endeavours to excuse.” The account of Kynaston, who, in his youth, before the performance of women on the stage, used to appear in female characters, is very amusing. He was particularly successful in Evadne, in The Maid's Tragedy, and always retained “something of a formal gravity in his mien, which was attributed to the stately step he had been so early confined to” in his female attire; the ladies of quality, we are told, used to pride themselves in taking him with them in their coaches to Hyde Park, in his theatrical habit, after the play, which then used to begin at the early hour of four. There was nothing, however, effeminate in his usual style of acting. We are told, that “He had a piercing eye, and in characters of heroic life, a quick imperious vivacity in his tone of voice, that painted the tyrant truly terrible. There were two plays of Dryden in which he shone, with uncommon lustre; in Aurenge-Zebe, he played Morat, and in Don Sebastian, Muley Moloch; in both these parts, he had a fierce lion-like majesty in his port and utterance, that gave the spectator a kind of trembling admiration.” The following account of this actor's performance in the now neglected character of Henry the Fourth, gives us the most vivid idea of the grave yet gentle majesty, and kingly pathos, which the part requires: “But above this tyrannical, tumid superiority of character, there is a grave and rational majesty in Shakspeare's Harry the Fourth, which though not so glaring to the vulgar eye, requires thrice the skill and grace to become and support. Of this real majesty, Kynaston was entirely master; here every sentiment came from him, as if it had been his own, as if he had himself, that instant, conceived it, as if he had lost the player, and were the real king he personated a perfection so rarely found, that very often, in actors of good repute, a certain vacancy of look, inanity of voice, or superfluous gesture, shall unmask the man to the judicious spectator; who from the least of those errors plainly sees the whole but a lesson, given him, to be got by heart, from som" great author, whose sense is deeper than the repeater's understanding. This true majesty Kynaston had so entire a command of, that when he whispered the following plain line to Hotspur,
Send us your prisoners, or you'll hear of it!
he conveyed a more terrible menace in it, than the loudest intemperance of voice could swell to. But let the bold imitator beware, for without the look, and just elocution that waited on it, an attempt of the same nature may fall to nothing. “But the dignity of this character appeared in Kynaston still more shining, in the private scene between the King, and Prince his son: there you saw majesty, in that sort of grief, which only majesty could feel ! there the paternal concern, for the errors of the son, made the monarch more revered and dreaded: his reproaches, so just, yet so unmixed with anger, (and therefore the more piercing,) opening as it were the arms of nature, with a secret wish, that filial duty, and penitence awaked, might fall into them with grace and honour. In this affecting scene, I thought Kynaston showed his most masterly strokes of nature; expressing all the various motions of the heart, with the same force, dignity, and feeling, they are written; adding to the whole, that peculiar and becoming grace, which the best writer cannot inspire into any actor that is not born with it.” How inimitably is the varied excellence of Monfort depicted in the following speaking picture: “Monfort, a younger man by twenty years, and at this time in his highest reputation, was an actor of a very different style: of person he was tall, well made, fair, and of an agreeable aspect: his voice clear, full, and melodious : in tragedy he was the most affecting lover within my memory. His addresses had a resistless recommendation from the very tone of his voice, which gave his words such a softness, that, as Dryden says,
Like flakes of feather'd snow, They melted as they fell!
All tilis he particularly verified in that scene of Alexander, where the hero throws himself at the feet of Statira for pardon of his past infidelities. There we saw the great, the tender, the penitent, the despairing, the transported, and the amiable, in the highest perfection. In comedy, he gave the truest life to what we call the Fine Gentleman; his spirit shone the brighter for being polished with decency: in scenes of gayety, he never broke into the regard, that was due to the presence of equal or superior characters, though inferior actors played them; he filled the stage, not by elbowing, and crossing it before others, or disconcerting their action, but by surpassing them, in true and masterly touches of nature. He never laughed at his own jest, unless the point of his raillery upon another required it. He had a particular talent, in giving life to bons mots and repartees: the wit of the poet seemed always to come from him extempore, and sharpened into more wit from his brilliant manner of delivering it; he had himself a good
share of it, or what is equal to it, so lively a pleasantness of humour, that when either of these fell into his hands upon the stage, he wantoned with them, to the highest delight of his auditors. The agreeable was so natural to him, that even in that dissolute character of the Rover he seemed to wash off the guilt from vice, and gave it charms and merit. For though it may be a reproach to the poet, to draw such characters, not only unpunished, but rewarded, the actor may still be allowed his due praise in his excellent performance. And this is a distinction which, when this comedy was acted at Whitehall, King William's Queen Mary was pleased to make in favour of Monfort, notwithstanding her disapprobation of the play. “He had, besides all this, a variety in his genius which few capital actors have shown, or perhaps have thought it any addition to their merit to arrive at; he could entirely change himself; could at once throw off the man of sense, for the brisk, vain, rude, and lively coxcomb, the false, flashy pretender to wit, and the dupe of his own sufficiency: of this he gave a delightful instance in the character of Sparkish in Wycherly's Country Wife. In that of Sir Courtly Nice his excellence was still greater; there, his whole man, voice, mien, and gesture, was no longer Monfort, but another person. There, the insipid, soft civility, the elegant and formal mien, the drawling delicacy of voice, the stately flatness of his address, and the empty eminence of his attitudes, were so nicely observed and guarded by him, that had he not been an entire master of nature, had he not kept his judgment, as it were, a sentinel upon himself, not to admit the least likeness of what he used to be, to enter into any part of his performance, he could not possibly have so completely finished it.” Our author is even more felicitous in his description of the performers in low comedy and high farce. The following critic brings Nokes—the Liston of his age—so vividly before us, that we seem almost as well acquainted with him, as with his delicious successor. “Nokes was an actor of quite a different genius from any I have ever read, heard of, or seen, since or before his time; and yet his general excellence may be comprehended in one article, viz., a plain and palpable simplicity of nature, which was so utterly his own, that he was often as unaccountably diverting in his common speech as on the stage. I saw him once, giving an account of some table-talk, to another actor behind the scenes, which a man of quality accidentally listening to, was so deceived by his manner, that he asked him, if that was a new play he was rehearsing? It seems almost amazing, that this simplicity, so easy to Nokes, should never be caught, by any one of his successors. Leigh and Underhil have been well copied, though not equalled by others. But not all the mimical skill of Estcourt (famed as he was for it) although he had often seen Nokes, could scarce give us an idea of him. After this, perhaps, it will be saying less of him, when I own, that though I have still the sound of every line he spoke, in my ear, (which used not to be thought a bad