Alleyn had long been regarded by all the great and good people of England, including the sovereign Elizabeth, with admiration and respect. This charitable endowment presented him to the world in a new and grander attitude. But still as he was a player, the vulgar and superstitious were unable to account for this act which would have done honour to a king or a saint, by any other than diabolical influence. It was therefore reported, and by the ignorant multitude was believed, that Mr. Alleyn, "playing a demon with six others in one of Shakspeare's plays, was in the midst of the play surprised by the apparition of the devil, which so worked on his fancy, that he made a vow, which he performed at this place." This most laughable story is handed down seriously in a book written by a person of the name of Aubrey. Tradition says that it was from Alleyn's acting and conversation Shakspeare wrote his admirable instructions to players which he has put into the mouth of Hamlet.
After the founder had built this college, he met with difficulties in obtaining a charter for settling his lands in mortmain, that he might endow it, as he proposed, with 800l. per annum, for the support and maintenance of one master, one warden, and four fellows, three of whom were to be ecclesiastics, and the other a skilful organist; also six poor children, as many women, and twelve poor boys, who were to be maintained and educated till the age of fourteen or sixteen years, and then put out to honest trades and callings. The master and warden were to be unmarried, and always to be of the name of Allen or Alleyn. At length the opposition of the lord chancellor Bacon was overcome, and Alleyn's benefaction obtained the royal license, and he had full power granted him to establish his foundation, by his majesty's letters patent under the great seal, bearing date June 21, 1619. When the college was finished, the founder and his wife resided in it and conformed in every respect to the regulations established for the government of his almoners. Having by his will liberally provided for his widow, and for founding twenty almshouses, ten in the parish of St. Botolp, without Bishopgate, in which he was born, and ten in St. Saviour's parish, Southwark, and bequeathed several small legacies to his relations and friends, he appropriated the residue of his property to the use of the college. He died in 1626, in the sixty-first year of his age, and was buried in the chapel of his own college. The chapel, master's apartments, &c. are in the front of this building, and the lodgings of the other inhabitants, &c. in the two wings, of which that on the east side was handsomely new built, in 1739, at the expense of the college. They have a small library of books and a gallery of pictures with that of the founder at full length. The inscription over the door concludes with these words: abi tu et fac similiter—go thou and do likewise.
THE DRAMATIC CENSOR.
I have always considered those combinations which are formed in the playhouse as acts of fraud or cruelty: He that applauds him who does not deserve praise, is endeavouring to deceive the public; He that hisses in malice or sport is an oppressor and a robber.
Dr. Johnson's Idler, No. 25.
The establishment of a regular and permanent work of dramatic criticism, and of censorship upon the public amusements of this city has often been attempted. The uniform failure of these efforts renders it natural to apprehend that the proposition now submitted to the public will incur the charge of presumption, and perhaps experience, for a time, the coldness and discouragement with which the majority of mankind are always inclined to treat even laudable exertions, if they in any degree militate against the dictates of common prudence, and are not recommended by a certainty of public approbation. Taking their auspices of the present undertaking from the fate of those hasty productions on the same subject, which have been brought forth and expired within the compass of their short season, there are too many, who, instead of applauding the hazardous boldness of the measure, and for the sake of its public utility standing forward in its encouragement and support, will endeavour to damp it by premature censure, ascribe the undertaking to vanity, or unworthiness, and if it should fail, be ready to aggravate the disappointment of the projectors with the galling imputation of temerity, impudence, or overweening self-conceit. The sympathy which mankind in general think it handsome to feel for unassuming merit, stumbling in its way through life by incautiously venturing upon ground untrodden before, will be gladly withheld from persons who are supposed wilfully to rush forward into error, with the warning monitions of example before their eyes—who obstinately persist in an unadvised and hopeless enterprise, in defiance of manifold and recent experience, and whom the imprudence and misfortunes of others have been incapable of rendering cautious or discreet.
With encountering these, and many other objections (the offspring of indistinct conception and cold hearts) the projectors of the present work lay their account; yet, since nothing honourable or arduous would ever be accomplished, if hope were to be extinguished by partial defeat, and a generous enterprise were to be abandoned, because it had before been tried without success, the work now proposed is undertaken, with the most firm conviction of its utility and the most unequivocal confidence of success. Let their difficulties be what they may, however, the editors are prepared to meet them, not only without fear, but with satisfaction; since they know that nothing but impossibility will be refused to undismayed perseverance and unremitting industry, and that in the work they are entering upon, they labour for the promotion of a purpose which, whatever the amount of their pecuniary advantage may be, will entitle them to public respect and to the gratitude of the rising generation. Before such proud hopes, all the little obstructions they anticipate—the cavils of the scrupulous, the doubts of the sceptical, the reluctance of the timid, the resistance of the refractory and incorrigible, and the sneers, the censures, and the sarcasms of the curious and the malignant vanish, as the gloomy chills and shades of the night recede before the glorious luminary of the morning.
That the drama is a most powerful moral agent in society has been admitted by men of learning and wisdom in all ages of its existence. Whether its effects be, on the whole, injurious or not, will long be a subject of contest; but be they what they may, it can have very little influence of any kind beyond that of harmless amusement, on the wise, the pious, the learned and the experienced. Were those alone to visit theatres and be exposed to its allurements, the task of the dramatic censor might without injury be dispensed with: but since it is the young, the idle, the thoughtless, and the ignorant, on whom the drama can be supposed to operate as a lesson for conduct, an aid to experience and a guide through life, and since such persons are generally unfurnished with ideas and undefended by principles, prompt to receive first impressions, and easily susceptible of false opinions and pernicious sentiments, it becomes a matter of great importance to the commonwealth that this very powerful engine, (acting as it does upon our youth through the delightful medium of amusement, and by the instrumentality of every circumstance that can lay hold of the fancy, and through the senses fascinate the heart) should be kept under the control of a systematic, a vigilant and a severe, but a just criticism.
To the formation of that rare compound "a finished man" there belong, besides the higher requisites of moral character, an infinite number of minor accomplishments, which are materially affected either for the better or the worse, by a frequent and studious attendance on dramatic representations. MANNERS, which constitute so important a part of the character of every people, are considerably fashioned by a constant observation of the pictures of human life exhibited in the theatre: on the action, the utterance and the general deportment, the effects of the stage have ever been materially felt and are unequivocally acknowledged. The most eloquent men of antiquity, and the most eloquent men in England, have owned themselves indebted to actors for perfecting them in oratory. Roscius, the actor of Rome, is immortalized by Cicero, and Garrick by lord Chatham and Edmund Burke. If then the stage has been felt to produce such weighty effects in the more arduous part of human improvement, how ponderous in its operation must it not of necessity be, on the other hand, in the promotion of evil, if it exhibit to the growing generation corrupt examples and defective models, not only unrestrained and uncensured, but sanctioned with the applause of an uninstructed and misjudging multitude. Every plaudit which a vitious play, or a bad actor receives is a blow to the public morals, and the public taste. Man is an imitative animal, and insensibly conforms to the models and examples before him. Young men who excessively admire a favourite actor, will insensibly imitate him, without scanning the man's merits or defects; and without ever reflecting upon the ultimate influence which their partiality, if it should be misplaced, may have upon their lives, fortunes and characters, will adopt his manner, his action, his enunciation, nay, his worst defects, and in short every thing that is imitable about him.
Those who dissent from us on other propositions, will agree with us at least in this, that the highest degree of attention ought to be paid to the morals, the manners, the address and the language of youth; and that nothing which has a tendency to mislead them, in any of those essentials, should be submitted to their eyes or ears; but that on the contrary, every thing should be done, as a great moral philosopher has instructed us, "to secure them from unjust prejudices, from perverse opinions, and from incongruous combinations of images." Let it be kept in mind that we are not now discussing the question whether the stage be beneficial to society or not. Though it be a fair subject of inquiry, and will hereafter engage a share of our attention, we have no use for it, at present; since be our opinions or those of our readers what they may, the stage exists, and will continue to exist and attract the regards of mankind. The true point of consideration, therefore, is, not how far it is beneficial or how far injurious; but in what way its benefits may be enhanced, and its mischiefs, if any, be abated. He who should demonstrate that it has a pernicious tendency, would but the more strongly enforce our propositions; since he would thereby show the expediency of diminishing that tendency and of mitigating that evil which the public will forbids to be entirely prevented.
It is not merely on account of its effects upon the audience, but on that of the actors themselves, that the theatre calls loudly for a strict critical regimen. An actor resigned to his own opinion, and committed to the unrestrained licentious exercise of his own judgment, if he be not one in a million, sinks into negligence, becomes wilful, and if, as is nine times in ten the case, he should obtain the casual applause of a few stupid and injudicious spectators, becomes headstrong, refractory, and incorrigibly hardened in error. If by means of the oversight of critical judges, or the false adjudication of applause, an actor insensibly slides into popularity, he is erected into a standard of taste, by those who have not seen better; instead of being himself tested by sound principles of criticism and estimated by comparison, with the best models, he becomes gradually absolved from submission to all authority, is held up as a criterion for determining the merit of other actors, and dubbed the Roscius of his little theatre by a number of confident pretenders who know just as much about dramatic character and acting, and on the very same grounds too, as the poor islander of St. Kilda did of architecture, when he sagaciously concluded that the great church of Glasgow was excavated out of a rock, because he had never before seen an edifice made of hewn stone and mortar. Thus not only a false taste is circulated among the youth at large, but the very fountain of taste is itself polluted. This is an evil which nothing but a well-regulated body of competent critical authority can prevent. In the prosecution of the intended work, an occasion will occur of pointing out eras during which, even in the great metropolitan seat of the English drama, the public taste suffered years of vitiation from defective models being at the head of the stage. Till Garrick, led on by Nature herself, introduced her school, the theatre presented a stage on which scarce a vestige of the human character as it really existed, was to be seen. But pompous monotony of speech held the highest praise, and "DECLAMATION ROARED WHILE PASSION SLEPT."
Hitherto the theatre of Philadelphia has been too much resigned to the licentiousness of bold, and blind opinion. Men of letters, with which the city abounds, and who in every society are the natural guardians of the public taste and morals, seem to have deserted this important trust. Applause which ought to be measured out with scrupulous justice, correctness and precision, has been by admiring ignorance, poured forth in a torrent roar of uncouth and obstreperous glee on the buffoon, "the clown that says more than is set down for him," and on "the robustious perriwig-pated fellow, who tears a passion all to rags," while chaste merit and propriety have often gone unrewarded by a smile.
If critical judgment were a matter of physical force or numerical calculation, then indeed the roar of the multitude would be as conclusive in reason, as it too often is in practical effect; but criticism is a matter of intellectual estimate; and many acquirements go to the composition of a well-qualified dramatic critic, to any one of which, but a small number of the auditors of a play can, in the nature of things, have the smallest pretensions. If indeed any man under the assumption of the critic's name should attempt dogmatically to impose his dictum as a law upon the public, he would deserve to be repelled with indignity and rebuke. All the genuine critic will attempt to do, is to hold out those lights, with which his own study, experience, and observation have supplied him, in order to enable the public to discern more clearly what in the play or the actor is worthy of censure or applause—of rejection or adoption. In the common operations of human life, every man is compelled by the necessity of his nature to take succedaneous aid from others. The mechanic in erecting the poorest building, or forming the most simple machine, is indebted for his means to the practical geometrician, and instrument maker, and the latter again, to the master of the science of mathematics. The practical surveyor or navigator finds it his interest to be governed by rules supplied by those whom study has furnished with the great elementary principles of science, and is contented to stand indebted to them for his means of determining, the area of his land, or the latitude and longitude at sea, without impugning the rights of those studious men who have given him the compendious rules and the tables by which he works. It is so with dramatic criticism. The legitimate source of judgment lies with those who have by deep study made themselves masters of the first principles of the science; and from them the people at large, who are too much otherwise and certainly better employed, to learn those principles, must be content to take the rules and laws by which they judge. The most infatuated self-devotee would be ashamed to contest this point, if he were at all apprised of the various acquirements requisite for forming an accurate judgment of the business of the theatre, interwoven, as the dramatic art is, with some of the highest departments of literature, and the multifarious operations of the human heart. The vainest being who cajoles himself into the notion that a man either unlettered or inexperienced can form a just judgment of a play and actors, must at once be convinced of his error by reflecting that "the drama is an exhibition of the real state of sublunary nature;" and that "to instruct life, and for that purpose to copy what passes in it, is the business of the stage." To understand this well, demands not only some book-learning, but that experience which, though books improve, they cannot impart, and which never can be attained by seclusion or solitary study, but must be derived from intercourse with men in all their forms of conduct, from converse with society, and from an attentive and accurate examination of that complex miscellany, the living world. To know the drama we must know men; and "if we would know men (says Rousseau) it is necessary that we should see them act." It is equally necessary too that we should lift the veil which time has thrown over the past, and see how men have thought and acted through the lapse of ages upon the uniform principles of human passion, which ever have been and ever will be the same, and by that means distinguish that which is natural, innate and permanent in man, from that which is adventitious and acquired. He whose knowledge of the world is circumscribed within the narrow limits of one generation or one society can know man only as he appears in the superficial colouring and peculiar modification of personal habit, derived from the fashions, the modes, and the capricious changes of that time, and that society, while the great body of human nature remains buried from his sight. "The accidental compositions of heterogeneous modes (says the gigantic critic Johnson) are dissolved by the chance which combined them, but the uniform simplicity of primitive qualities neither admits increase nor suffers decay." And assuredly there was never an age in which man so masked his nature under modish innovations as he does in the present.
[Footnote 6: Dr. Johnson.]
The works of the ancients, says a great writer, are the mines from which alone the treasures of true criticism are to be dug up—the pure sources of that penetration which enables us to distinguish legitimate excellence from spurious pretensions to it. He, therefore, who would get at the true principles of dramatic criticism ought to read the poetry and criticism of the two great ancient languages, and to have formed some acquaintance with those authors, whether ancient or modern, who have furnished the world with the great leading principles upon which dramatic poetry is constructed. Doctor Johnson has informed us that before the time of Dryden, the structure of dramatic poetry was not generally understood; and what was the consequence? "AUDIENCES," continues the doctor, "APPLAUDED BY INSTINCT, AND POETS OFTEN PLEASED BY CHANCE."
[Footnote 7: See Johnson's Life of Dryden.]
Without calling in the aid of such high authority, no risk of contradiction can be incurred by asserting that he must be radically deficient in the requisites of a dramatic critic, who is not sufficiently versed in philological literature to discriminate between the various qualities of diction—to distinguish the language of the schools from that of the multitude—the polished diction of refinement from the coarse style of household colloquy—the splendid, figurative, and impressive combination of terms adapted to poetry, from those plain and familiar expressions suited to the sobriety of prose; and finally, to form a just estimate of a poet's pretensions to that delicacy in the selection of words which constitutes what is called beauty in style. Nor is this all, he should be perfectly competent to form a judgment of the fable and its contrivance, to determine according to the canons of criticism laid down by the greatest professors of the art, whether the scheme of a piece be obscured by unnatural complexity or rendered jejune and uninteresting by extreme simplicity, and familiarity of design—whether description be bloated, or overcharged, or imagery misplaced or extravagant; and lastly, whether the performance be on the whole deficient in, or replete with moral institution.
The editors are free to confess that while they enumerate the requisites necessary to a critic, they tremble for their own incompetency. Labour however shall not be spared—-and they cherish the most sanguine hopes of supplying their general deficiency by candour and integrity; being determined while they endeavour with encouragement and applause to foster the rising genius and growing merit of the stage, to rescue it from the encroachment of sturdy incapacity, and while they sit in judgment for the security of the public taste, to be as far as the canons of dramatic criticism will allow, the strenuous advocates of the valuable man and unassuming actor—still keeping in sight that impressive truth contained in the motto: "HE THAT APPLAUDS HIM WHO DOES NOT DESERVE PRAISE, IS ENDEAVOURING TO DECEIVE THE PUBLIC; HE THAT HISSES IN MALICE OR IN SPORT IS AN OPPRESSOR AND A ROBBER."
The editors have said thus much merely to explain their motives, and to smooth their way to the discharge of a task, in the performance of which they will necessarily be exposed to many invidious remarks from the misconceptions of presumptuous ignorance. Having done so they fearlessly commit the subject to the public judgment, and proceed to the execution of their duty.
The Philadelphia Theatre opened on Monday the 20th of November, with
"A CURE FOR THE HEART-ACH."
It has been said by a great moral philosopher that fashion supplies the place of reason. On superficial consideration the assertion will appear paradoxical; but there is much truth in it, and much biting satire too, upon the absurdities of the world. Fashion could not supply the place of reason, if reason were not absent; and most irrational and unaccountable indeed are all her ladyship's ways. Her capriciousness is proverbial, and her agency is generally illustrated by comparison with the most unsteady elements of the physical world. We say "Fashion that fluctuating lady," alluding to the ebbing and flowing of the tide—and "Fashion that weathercock," implying that she veers about with every puff of wind. There are some few cases, however, on the other hand, in which she may be compared to a rock, because she stands immovably fixt to her seat; supplying, according to the idea of the philosopher abovementioned, the place of reason, who stands self-exiled forever. It would seem as if fashion never could take repose but in supreme irrationality. There and there alone she is firm. Whoever will take the trouble (or rather the pleasure) to read "Browne's Vulgar Errors," will see how much deeper root absurd notions strike in "the brain of this foolish compounded clay man," than those that belong to sound sense and reason. The insignia of fashion, therefore, may be considered in relation to the human head, as the notification on the door of an empty house, signifying that the family has removed to another tenement. Hence no one of common sense expects any caprice of that lady to be accounted for on rational grounds. There is one of her freaks, however, which we have endeavoured to trace to its source in the wilds of luxuriant absurdity, and have never been able to succeed. Nay, we venture to affirm that if the most sagacious man in America were asked, why it was considered a violation of the laws of fashion for a lady to attend the theatre on the opening night of a season, he would be puzzled for any other reply than that it was permanently fashionable, because it was prodigiously absurd. On the opening of our theatre this season the house was full of MEN. The audience presented one dark tissue of drab and brown, and black and blue woolen drapery, with here and there a solitary exception of cheering female attire. Had there been a heavy fall of snow, the ladies would have been sleighing—had there been a public ball the darkness of the streets would have been broken by multitudes of attractive meteors in muslin, either "hanging on the cheek of night," or hurried along like gossamer through the air. But fashion has so ordained it: and a good play and after-piece were well represented to a house which, from the little intermixture of the lovely sex, somewhat resembled the auditory of a surgeon's dissecting theatre.
Mr. Morton's comedy "A Cure for the Heart Ach," is by this time so well known that to relate the fable of it here, would be uselessly to encumber the work. Of the quality of this production it would be difficult for criticism to speak candidly, without adverting to the present miserable state of dramatic poetry in England, which from the days of Sam Foote has been gradually descending to its present deplorable condition. The body of dramatic writers of the last thirty years first corrupted the public taste, and now thrive by that corruption. By hasty sketches, not of Nature as she appears in all times and places, but of particular and eccentric manners and characters, the excressences of overloaded society, they have made a short cut to the favour of the public, and inundated the stage with a torrent of ephemeral productions, to the depravation of public taste, and in defiance of classical criticism: their highest praise that they do no moral mischief, and that if they possess not the bold outline and faithful colouring of nature which distinguished the productions of their mighty predecessors, they are no less exempt from the obscenity and immoral effects of those authors. As bad writing is infinitely easier than good, the pens of our living dramatic writers in general teem with an inconceivable fertility—and the purlieus of London are beat over in every direction to hunt up game suitable to the genius of their weak-winged muse; in short, to find out new modifications of character, attractive not by its consonance to man's general nature, but by its eccentricity and departure from the ordinary tracks of human conduct.
Having thus insulated this class of comedies, and put them apart from the old stock, to which, with the exception of the Honey Moon, there is no modern production comparable, criticism may weigh the merits of each piece as compared with its class, and perhaps find something to praise. We consider some of the comedies of Mr. Morton, however, as raised high above the throng. The Cure for the Heart Ach has much in it to commend. The moral tendency of many parts of it is good, while the incidents are exceedingly laughable. Old Rapid continually betraying his trade by stuffing his conversation with the technical terms of the taylor—his son's distress at it—the honest rusticity of Frank Oatland—the baseness, vanity and folly of Vortex the nabob—the insolence and amorousness of Miss Vortex his daughter, and the whimsical incidents arising from their various designs, mistakes, detections and disappointments, form altogether a melange of pleasantry highly provocative of laughter, yet by no means so low as to reduce the piece to the rank of farce, which some austere critics in London have assigned it.
Of the performance generally, we repeat that it was good. Young Rapid afforded criticism much satisfaction in the person of Mr. Wood, who in many parts persuaded us that he had seen Mr. Lewis in that character, and seen him with profit. Mr. Wood's walk is not unlike that of the great original in London—a nasal tone of voice too is common to both. These, if they did not create, certainly increased the resemblance between those two gentlemen, which, however remote, was yet discernible. In Sir Hubert Stanley, as in every other character in which we have seen him, Mr. M'Kenzie deserved warm applause—he was dignified, pathetic and interesting. Mr. Francis gave a strong colouring to Vortex; and to say that Frank Oatland was all that the author could wish, we need only to state that he fell to the share of Mr. Jefferson. After all, we are doubtful whether old Rapid was not as well off in the hands of Mr. Warren as any other character in the play.
We were greatly interested and indeed delighted by Mrs. Wood in Jesse Oatland. Mrs. Francis was abundantly droll in Mrs. Vortex; and Mrs. Seymour was entitled to the marks of approbation she received.
PIZARRO and the Review composed the bill of fare for this evening. Although in the attack and defence of Pizarro criticism has worn down the edges of its weapons to very dulness, we cannot forbear taking this opportunity of recording our opinions of that extraordinary production.
No play that has appeared during the last century, possesses the power of agitating the passions, and interesting the feelings in an equal degree to Pizarro. From a child of the brain of Kotzebue, trained and corrected by Sheridan, much might be expected. And the piece before us is worthy of the talents of such men.
In any contest between oppressed and oppressors the heart takes in an instant, a decided and a warm part. If the crime of oppression is aggravated by other guilt in the oppressor, and the object of it is rendered more lovely and respectable by the most exalted virtues, pity for the one rises to respect and affection—indignation against the other becomes exasperated to hatred, to abhorrence, and disgust; without the intervention of the will, but merely from the spontaneous movements of the heart, we sympathise, we silently pray for the one—we recoil from, we execrate the other. We are pressed by our very nature into the service of virtue; our souls are up in arms against vice and improbity, and thus we receive lasting impressions, which, when our hearts are not very corrupt, must forever after have a favourable influence on our moral conduct.
To elucidate and confirm our opinions on this subject, we beg leave to ask, what is that play in which there is such a mass of virtue and simplicity, and such a number of amiable personages, opposed to such a mass of villany, subtlety, fraudful avarice, and sensual vice, as in Pizarro? Not one. The lofty moral sentiments of Rolla, his exquisite feelings and exalted notions as the patriot, the friend, the lover, are unequalled. He exists out of himself, and lives but for others: for his country, his king, his friend, and the dearest object of his love, of whom being bereft by that very friend, he becomes their brother—their protector—devotes his life to death to save the man—escaping that, devotes it again to save their offspring. How much worse, if worse could be, than a satanic soul must that man have, who could be insensible to such a character! Who is there whose heart beats in harmony with heroic virtue and humanity, that would not accept such a death, to have lived such a life? Need we say more then of Pizarro than to contrast him with such a character. The only gleam of light that breaks in upon that black Erebus, his heart, is his conduct to Rolla when the latter throws aside his dagger; and this the poet (Sheridan) has artfully contrived for the purpose of heightening the lustre of such virtue, by showing that even that monster could not be insensible to it.
Let us add that in the true liberal spirit of Christian piety, tolerance and humanity displayed by Las Casas, a popish Spanish priest; in the noble indignation, the inflexible fortitude, and the intrepid patriotism and virtue of Orozimbo; in the valour, the beneficent wisdom, and the, ardent connubial fidelity and affection of the young Alonzo, in the tenderness, the simplicity, the conjugal and maternal virtues of Cora, and in the artless display of vivid patriotism in the old blind man and his boy—there is, exclusive of Rolla's glorious qualities, a mass of excellence sufficient to make the character of any two plays, and put each out of the reach of competition with any other that we can immediately think of.
Such as we have described are the emotions which are always produced by the play now under consideration, when it happens to be properly represented. Fortunately or unfortunately as it may happen, the play is so constructed that almost every part in it contributes largely, according to its kind, to the interest of the piece. Every person of the oppressed—the Peruvians, even down to the blind man and the little boy, are made by the poet to produce a large share of the general effect. For this reason it is a piece which taxes a manager highly, calling for a variety of excellent talents in the actors. It is not one of those plays which satisfy the mind and from which we come home contented, if two or three characters are well done. The play of Pizarro is a lifeless body when compared with what it ought to be, if all the high Peruvians at least, are not well performed. In the movement of a watch every small wheel and every little rivet is as necessary to the general effect as the mainspring. So Las Casas, Orozimbo, the blind man, and the blind man's boy, are as necessary not perhaps to the mean progress of the fable (but to that effect, that necromantic influence upon the feelings, that penetrating moral which alone can render a play useful as well as delightful) as is the character of Rolla.
It may appear a singular avowal, yet being truth we will not withhold it, that having witnessed the performance of this play many times in England and America, we have never yet seen it performed to our perfect satisfaction. Kemble was great in Rolla, but the feebleness of his voice was severely felt by the audience in the celebrated speech of the Peruvian to his soldiers. That speech has been the stumbling block of most actors we have seen. Hodgkinson, who in other respects was unexceptionable, rather failed in it. Throughout the whole character, Mr. Wood preserved a very equable tenor of acting. He had neither the rich beauties nor the striking defects of others. He evinced considerable judgment, but at times powers were evidently wanting.
Mr. M'Kenzie supported Pizarro well, and showed that he possesses abilities to support it better. It appears to us that this gentleman's physical powers are sometimes subdued by an over-scrupulous chasteness. In his answers to Elvira's solicitations on behalf of the unhappy Alonzo, he did not, we think, sufficiently mark all the feeling and emotions of the tyrant. Pizarro is stung with jealousy as well as rage; not so much the jealousy of love as of infernal pride; but both rage and jealousy are mastered by triumphant insolence and contempt. The utterance therefore of his laconic decisive sentence, "He dies," should be marked with a triumphant sneer as well as malice.
Mr. Warren did ample justice to the venerable Las Casas.
Mr. Cone who, though labouring under the disadvantages of a voice radically, and we fear, incurably monotonous, gives promise of being a useful actor, displayed considerable spirit in Alonzo. To the praise of diligence and attention to his business Mr. C. is entitled, and those rarely fail in any department to insure respectability and success. Mr. Cone's personal appearance is very much in his favour.
The only part in the play on which we can justly bestow unqualified applause was Mr. Jefferson's Orozimbo. It is seldom that criticism has such a repast, a repast in which there was no fault but that of the poet in making it too short.
Elvira is not one of the characters in which Mrs. Barret appears to advantage.
Had Mrs. Wood the requisite talent of singing, we should have been much pleased with her Cora. Certainly so far as that lady was able to go, we know no person on this stage who could be substituted in her place with advantage to the character. But the omission of Cora's exquisitely beautiful, wild, and pathetic song, was a great drawback from the effect of the part.
December 21.—TOWN AND COUNTRY, by Morton—Village Lawyer. Some of the British critics rank Mr. Morton with the farce-writers of the day, others again pronounce his comedies to be the best which the age has produced, and say that they will be selected by posterity from the perishable trash of the day. We agree with neither, thinking it likely they may remain for a few years among the stock of acting plays. To say that they will be admired by posterity is praise as hyperbolical and unjust, as ranking them in farce is calumnious and untrue.
The comedy before us is a very pleasing production. The plot is well imagined, and the author has contrived to condense into it more bustle and incident than can readily be found in a piece of the same length. Reuben Gleuroy, the hero, is a noble character, possessed of the most exalted virtues, which are continually brought into active exercise for the good of his fellow beings. He preaches little and does a great deal, and displays a generosity and greatness of mind touching, as the world now goes, upon the chivalrous. But that which makes him more conspicuously amiable and interesting is that while he takes the most ardent and active concern in the happiness of mankind, he is himself reduced by the wickedness of others to a state of misery almost of distraction, which awakens the most poignant sympathy for his situation. Deserted, as he imagines, by the object of his dearest affections, Rosalie Summers, who is supposed to have eloped with a villain of high rank of the name of Plastic, he goes to London and finds his brother in the last stage of ruin and despair by gambling, and stops his hand just at the moment he is attempting suicide. In the end he reforms the brother, discovers his Rosalie, and finds that she is innocent and faithful; and by a series of those events, which whether likely or not, modern dramatists without scruple press into their service, is made perfectly happy. The colouring of this admirable portrait is not a little heightened in its effect by a tinge of eccentricity caught from a life of rural retirement in the romantic mountainous country of Wales. On this character and that of old Mr. Cosey, a philanthropic, wealthy, and munificent stock-broker, whose cash, always at the disposal of his friends, enables Reuben to accomplish his purposes, the author seems to have dwelt con amore. The comic dialogue of the piece arises chiefly from the contrasted feelings of Mr. Cosey and Mr. Trot. Cosey admires the city, and is miserable in Wales, while Trot, a wealthy cotton-spinner, rejoices at the loss of a large share of his property because it furnishes him with a pretext for returning to the country and leaving the abominable city to which he was hurried away by the vanity of his wife.
Mr. Wood displayed in Reuben, much ability, sound sense, and fine feeling. No person that we know on the stage discloses in his performances so little of the mere actor. That indefinable something, which though obvious to perception cannot be described, but is understood by the term "plain gentleman," tinctures all he says and does upon the stage. Whether this be detrimental to him as a general actor, we have not yet seen this gentleman often enough to determine: but this we will say, that while it stands a perpetual security against his being positively disagreeable in any character he may be obliged to act, it throws a charm over all those for which he is best fitted by nature.
The amiable, the inimitable Cosey, never was, nor ever can be more perfectly at home than in the person of Mr. Jefferson. Were the author to see the performance and to observe the correspondence of the actor's physiognomy as well as action and utterance, with the sentiments of the character, he would from his heart exclaim in the words of Cosey himself, "NOW THIS IS WHAT I CALL COMFORTABLE."
It would be great injustice not to acknowledge the pleasure we received from Mr. Francis in the character of Trot, which he conceived and executed with great humour and spirit.
A Mr. West from the southward made his appearance in the Yorkshire rustic Hawbuck. His face and person are well adapted to a certain class of low comedy; his voice still more so. If he will but avoid that bane of comedians, the effort to raise laughter by spurious humour and low trick, he will thrive in his department.
In the drawing of the female parts there is nothing sufficiently striking to call forth the powers of an actress. What was to be done was sufficiently well done by Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Wilmot. But, were they well cast? or, should they not change sides?
FARCES FOR THE FIRST WEEK.
November 20. OF AGE TOMORROW.
Every character tolerably well played.
November 22. WAGS OF WINDSOR.
Hardinge, an old favourite of the town in Irish characters, appeared the first time for four years in Looney M'Twoulter. His return to this stage was hailed with thunders of applause; and all his songs were encored.—We have not seen Caleb Quotem better performed in England, nor so well by a great deal in America as this night by Jefferson.—Wilmot is a true child of nature and simplicity in all such characters as John Lump.
November 24. VILLAGE LAWYER.
We abhor this farce. Scout, from whom it takes its name, is too detestable a picture of human meanness and depravity to be fit for farce, the proper effects of which, however nonsensical it may be, ought to be to enliven and not create disgust. We cannot bear to see a respectable actor in it. Blisset, a favourite son of Momus, played the Sheepstealer. Mr. West, whom we have mentioned in Hawbuck, played Old Snarl with great humour, which his audience, and indeed himself, seemed heartily to enjoy. In characters of low humour, particularly crabbed old men, Mr. West would be very pleasing, if he would aim less at raising gallery laughter by spurious means. And all that could be done for Mrs. Scout was done by Mrs. Francis.
ELLA ROZENBERG.—WOOD DEMON.
Ella Rozenberg, a melo-drame, by Mr. Kenny, was brought out for the first time at Drury Lane in 1807, and has ever since maintained its ground in the public opinion. It is extremely interesting, and though there is nothing new or singular in the plot or incidents is calculated to lay fast hold on the imagination and feelings. At the opening of the piece, the scene of which is laid near a Prussian camp, the heroine Ella Rosenberg reduced by the disappearance of her husband to a state of poverty, is living under the protection of captain Storm, a crippled old officer of invalids, and the friend of her deceased father. Here she has concealed herself for two years, when she is discovered by colonel Mountfort, who having conceived a criminal passion for her, had in order to gratify that passion, purposely provoked her husband to draw his sword upon him, in consequence of which apprehending the severity of the military law, the latter had set off to the capital to appeal to the electoral prince, but was no more heard of. The colonel, who is a finished master of intrigue, enters Storm's house in disguise, and attempts with the help of a band of his soldiers to carry off Ella by force. In this he is opposed by the good and gallant old officer, who, sword in hand, beats off the soldiers, tears the colonel's sash from him, and in a rage tramples it under foot, in consequence of which Storm is made prisoner, and Ella left unprotected, is borne away by the soldiers. The elector, who has just returned victorious from the war, appears considering a petition from old Storm on behalf of Ella, which interests him so much, that he resolves to visit her incognito. Mountfort, who is a favourite of the elector's and has just arrived to congratulate him, is alarmed, endeavours to dissuade him from going to Ella, and in the meantime to secure himself from detection orders the immediate trial of Storm, who is found guilty and sentenced to die. Ella escapes and reaches Storm, her old protector, just as he is on his way to execution. He does all he can to keep his fate concealed from her; but it being betrayed, she is torn from him in a state of distraction and anguish, and being consigned by her generous protector to the care of a brother officer who commands the guard, is conducted to a solitary inn by a soldier. The elector appears at night passing in disguise to visit the cottage of Storm, and is encountered by Rosenberg, who appears in the most wretched state, flying from his pursuers, and supplicates him for the means to procure shelter. Without disclosing who he is, Rosenberg informs the elector that he (Rosenberg) has been secretly and violently imprisoned. The elector directs him to the house to which Ella is carried by the soldiers, and promises to meet him there in the morning and assist him. Rosenberg reaches the inn whither Ella too is brought in a state of insensibility, and placed in a separate apartment. Mountfort arrives alone, and not knowing Rosenberg engages him to guard Ella, while he goes to seek a conveyance for her. Rosenberg now finds the cause of his imprisonment—an interesting discovery takes place between him and Ella—but he is detected by one of his pursuers, and is again in the hands of his enemies, when the elector enters, and obtaining the most perfect conviction of the villany of Mountfort, disgraces him, restores the young couple to rank and happiness, and the brave and virtuous old Storm to life, liberty and joy.
The plot of this melo-drame is wrought up with uncommon skill: the interest rising by a progressive climax which keeps the heart in a warm glow of feeling from the first scene to the last. Old Storm is worth a whole army of what are called heroes, and the elector is a model of justice and humanity for princes to imitate.
According to the London casting Rosenberg would have fallen to the share of the first player in the house: but we had no reason to complain of Mr. Cone. Mr. Warren discharged the high office of elector with dignity; and Mr. M'Kenzie was an excellent representative of the old cut-and-thrust-colonel. Such characters as Ella are always interesting when played by Mrs. Wood.
The tasteful amateur must have been roused and delighted by the music, particularly the overture.
Ella Rosenberg was followed by one of the most monstrous productions, the mind of man ever groaned withal. Never did melancholy madman labouring under the horrors of an inflammation of the brain—never did a wretch fevered with gluttony and intemperance, and writhing under the pressure of the night-mare, dream of more horrible circumstances than those which Mr. Lewis has offered in this prodigious melo-drame, for the ENTERTAINMENT of the British nation. Where will the taste of England stop in its descent? Where will the impositions on it by bastard genius end? Yet since this monster has produced a powerful effect, and is managed with such perverted skill as to excite a strong interest, and since whole audiences condescend to club tastes with the scarecrow old women of the heath and the mountain, and to play "look at the bugabow," with the nurselings of the lap, we should be sorry to be deficient in curtesy, or when so many good and wise people drivel not to drivel a little too; we bend therefore with stiff and painful obedience to our duty, and offer our readers a short summary of the fable.
To clear the way then, be it in the first place known, that Mr. Matthew Lewis has found out a new kind of infernal agent—a demon who delights in human sacrifices, and lives in the woods. Perhaps it is because we are poorly versed in demonology that we do not recollect to have heard of this particular infernal before. Be that as it may, Count Hardyknute of Holstein, having been sent into the world deformed in person and poor in circumstances, and being resolved to sell his soul to damnation for the bettering of his body, makes a contract with the demon, in condition of his being made handsome and powerful, to sacrifice to him a human victim on a particular day in each year; in failure of which he is to become the prey of the demon, who is very handsomely named Sangrida. The count has sacrificed nine victims before the opening of the piece, and is meditating with himself with what fat offering he shall next glut the maw of Sangrida, in anniversary punctuality. Leolyn, a dumb boy, the rightful heir of the estate and title which Hardyknute had usurped, has been secretly bred up by Clotilda as her own, but Hardyknute discovers him by the mark of a bloody arrow on his wrist, and determines to help Sangrida to his little body. Una, a beautiful young lady, to whom the count pays his addresses, is selected by the guardian spirit of Holstein to be the preserver of the intended victim. The time approaches for the fulfilment of the agreement. By a process of the most horrible kind of enchantment Una is enabled to remove the boy so as to elude the count, and gets possession of the key of an enchanted place on which the boy is chained. She gets him down from it—the clock is seen just near the stroke of one—she resolves to push the hand forward—Hardyknute seizes and is about despatching her, when Leolyn with difficulty mounts to the clock, pushes forward the hand and it strikes one—the demon appears, seizes the count in his claws—the earth opens, and the demon carries him down, in the same manner that an alligator or shark carries down a puppy dog, to devour him in comfort.
Such is the piece, and such the depravity of a nation's taste. It is no wonder that the tasteful, the learned and the judicious, should wage an open war of wit and satire upon such things. On this subject we refer our readers to a piece signed THEOBALDUS SECUNDUS, which will appear in our next number.
November 29. RECONCILIATION, OR FRATERNAL DISCORD, with FALSE AND TRUE.
It would be superfluous to say any thing of a play so well known and so justly admired.
December 1. ABAELLINO, OR THE GREAT BANDIT, with the LADY OF THE ROCK.
The Great Bandit is one of those extraordinary productions which distinguish the present dramatic writers of Germany from those of all ages and all countries. There are but few topics connected with the stage which deserve more serious discussion than this of the German drama. A proper investigation of it would require more room than we can at present spare: but we shall not so far desert our duty as to decline it when we can devote to it the deliberation it deserves. A future, and not far distant number will contain such reflections as occur to us on the subject.
December 2. ROAD TO RUIN—DON JUAN.
Mr. Wood in Harry Dornton was very successful. It is a line of acting for which he is well calculated. The character of Goldfinch was better performed by Mr. Jefferson than it could be in any other person in this theatre. But we received less pleasure from it than from any other we have seen him play, Scout excepted.
FARCES FOR THIS WEEK.
The Wood Demon, though used as an after-piece, demanded observation of a more serious kind than is due to farce, and has therefore received it in pages 71 and 72.
The farce of "False and True" is a wretched thing. To speak Johnsonically it is a congeries of inexplicable nonsense. An Irishman, who, after having committed the very probable blunder of going to Naples instead of Dublin, mistakes Vesuvius for the hill of Hoath, is the most laughable character of the piece. What could be done for it Hardinge did. A song of his was spoiled by the neglect of the band, whose conduct deserved reprehension from the manager.
The Lady of the Rock is the production of Holcroft. Had he not himself given it to the world as his own, we should have thought it a libel upon his understanding to ascribe it to his pen.
No pantomime has ever made so deep and so universal an impression as Don Juan. The merit of the original belongs to the celebrated Moliere. Averse on principle to pantomime, we have often felt ourselves indebted to it for relief from the drowsiness induced by some modern plays; but that perhaps was more owing to the badness of the play than the value of the pantomime. Of all pantomimes Don Juan is the most blamable. It is good in its kind, but the kind is bad.
Monday, Dec. 4. SPEED THE PLOUGH—ELLA ROSENBERG.
The comedy of Speed the Plough is deservedly reckoned among the best of the modern stock, and considered as reflecting great credit upon the muse of Mr. Morton. The plot is very skilfully mixed up, notwithstanding the difficulty that always must attend carrying on, in connection with each other, two interests of a totally distinct and opposite nature, connecting two contradictory agencies without either encroaching on the other, and conducting an alternation of serious and comic scenes to one end, without making them clash. This Mr. Morton has, to a considerable degree, successfully accomplished; making that which occasions the difficulty subservient to one of the most desirable but arduous ends in dramatic writing, that of concealing the final unravelling or denouement, as it is called, of the plot.
A striking beauty in this play, and the more striking because seldom met with, is the fidelity with which some of the characters are drawn from life; not as it is found in a solitary individual, but as it appears in a whole numerous class. Such is farmer Ashfield—such is dame Ashfield. Yet the characters in general are not very impressive, and there are some inconsistencies in them as well as in the arrangement of the incidents. A young lady's suddenly, and at first sight, falling in love with a peasant boy, though it may have happened, is an occurrence too singular to be perfectly natural; and as a dramatic incident, it is a coarseness which cannot well be reconciled to the characteristic delicacy of such a young lady, even by the ex post facto discovery that the object of her love was in reality a person of condition. We do not think that love at first sight, which is in reality nothing more than Forwardness indulging itself in the airs of Romance, and Prurience calling in Fate to sanction its indelicacy, ought to be clothed in such a respectable and captivating dress as our author has bestowed upon it in this play.
Yet with these defects to counterbalance them, Speed the Plough is replete with beauties—the dialogue is neat, spirited, and forcible; and there are many delicate touches of the pathetic, and much excellent moral sentiment to recommend it.
The best character, beyond all comparison, is that of Farmer Ashfield. It is a picture of real life, originals of which are found in multitudes in England—plain, honest, benevolent, and under a rustic garb, possessing a heart alive to the noblest feelings. No man that we know in this country possesses such happy requisites for exhibiting the farmer in the true colours of nature as Mr. Jefferson. In the rustic deportment and dialect—in the artless effusions of benignity and undisguised truth—and in those masterly strokes of pathos and simplicity with which the author has finished this inimitable picture Mr. Jefferson showed uniform excellence: and as in the humorous parts his comic powers produced their customary effect on our risibility, so in the serious overflowings of the farmer's honest nature the mellow, deep, impressive tone of the actor's voice vibrated to the heart, and excited the most exquisite sensations.
Mr. Wood performed Bob Handy. He was given out in the bills for sir Philip Blandford; but was, by a casualty, obliged to take the part of Bob: a change which, on more accounts than one, the audience had no cause to regret. Nor in our opinion, had either Bob or sir Philip any cause to lament it. Mr. Wood is at home in light comedy, while Mr. M'Kenzie, whose merits seem not to be sufficiently appreciated, is well calculated for such characters as Philip Blandford.
The judgment of Mr. Warren enables him to perform any character he undertakes with propriety—but there are some parts in comedy for which he seems admirably qualified by nature and knowledge of stage business. We could enumerate several; but this is not the place for doing so—his representation of sir Abel Handy was uncommonly humorous and appropriate.
Mr. Cone's Henry was pleasing. This young actor promises well. Though, to adopt the cant of the turf, he will never be first, there is no fear of his being distanced, unless he carries too great weight.
Dame Ashfield in the performance of Mrs. Francis would be admired by Mrs. Grundy herself; and to express our opinion of Mrs. Wood's Susan would be only to repeat what we have already said of her on more occasions than one.
It gives us infinite regret to be compelled, just as we put our foot upon the threshold of the critic's office, to animadvert upon some errors and defects in pronunciation, of which we could not have imagined the persons concerned to be capable. Our purpose is to persuade the people to encourage the stage upon principles honourable to it; not as a place of mere barren pastime; but as a school of improvement. But how shall we be able to bring the public mind to that habitual respect for the stage without which it must lose all useful effect, if the actors show themselves unfit for conveying instruction. Were this to be the case, and were mere pastime the object of theatres, Astley's horse-riders, the tumblers and rope-dancers of Sadlers-Wells, nay, the PUNCH of a puppet-show, would be as useful and respectable as Garrick, Barry, Cooke, or Kemble, and the circus might successfully batter its head against the walls of that building in Chesnut-street which the sculptor has enriched with the wooden proxies of Melpomene and Thalia. But criticism will not allow this. For the sake of the stage it will exert all its might to support the actors—and for the sake of the stage it will hold them in admonition. If the established principles of literature be violated by the actors, the very ground upon which the critic would support them, is blown up by a mine of their own construction, and not only they must sink, but the critic must, for the maintenance of a just cause, put his hand to their heads and give them a lanch. The theatre is a school for elocution or it is nothing. In Great Britain it has time immemorial been attended to, not as authority for innovations, but as an organ of conveyance of the authorised pronunciation, to which the growing youth of the country were to look for accurate information of what was correct, as settled and considered by their superiors, that is, by high learned men and statesmen. If the actors, therefore, run counter to authority, and thereby endanger the cause which they are presumed to aid, the mischief is too general and extensive in its operation to be neglected or endured. There is nothing belonging to the stage which demands such strict discipline as its orthoepy, because there is none in which it can so immediately and powerfully affect the public. On this point therefore we are determined to sacrifice nothing to ceremony; being convinced that debasing the language is essentially as injurious, though legally not so punishable, as defacing the current coin of a country.
Without pointing to individuals by name, we request the ladies and gentlemen of the green-room to consult all the acknowledged authorities for the pronunciation of the words: true, rude, brute, shrewd, rule, in which the u is by some of them sounded very improperly; true so as to rhyme to few, new, &c. rule as if it were to rhyme to mule, and so on; whereas true ought to be pronounced as if it were spelled troo, and rhymed to do; rule as if spelled rool, and so on; and thus they will find them in the dictionaries of acknowledged authority.
Since we are on the subject we will now advert to some other words which are often most lamentably mispronounced, not only contrary to the pronunciation established by all learned men and orators in Great Britain, but exactly in that way in which skilful actors often pronounce them in Europe when they wish to mimic the most low and ignorant classes of society. Of this description is the pronunciation of the word "sacrifice." For these words we refer all whom it may concern to the dictionaries of the best orthoepists, by which they will be instructed that it is not pronounced say-crifice but sac-rifize. If the former be really the pronunciation, the old ladies who smoke short pipes in the chimney corners of English and Irish cottages, are right, and Burke, Fox, Pitt, Windham, Curran, Grattan, Sheridan, and in short every man who speaks in a public assembly in England or Ireland, are wrong. We are not sure whether Mr. Kemble, who, as an excellent critic has observed, is always seeking for novelty and always running into error, may not lately have added that patch to his motley garb of new readings; but his authority is disallowed. Even Garrick, whose claims were of a very superior kind, when he attempted to render the English language, already too unstable, more so, by his innovations, was repelled with helpless contempt.
This is a point to which it is the manager's duty to attend, because it is not a matter of doubt, nor subject to discretionary opinion. What must that part of our youth who attend to these things from a laudable desire for improvement, think, when they hear the same word differently pronounced in the same scene by different actors. Upon one night particularly, Mr. M'Kenzie several times returned the mispronounced word, pronounced as it should be, with an emphasis which could not be misunderstood: yet the mispronunciation was persisted in.
Before we drop this subject we must observe that the pronunciation of the last syllable of the word sacrifice is sometimes as erroneously pronounced as the first, indeed worse, as the sound given to it approximates to one which conveys an offensive idea. Properly pronounced it rhymes to the verbs advise, rise, and not to mice, spice, &c.
Having brought our critical journal up to the appearance of that phenomenon of the stage of this new world, Master Payne, we find ourselves constrained, by the limits of this number, to postpone our observations upon the plays in which that extraordinary boy, for so many nights, astonished and delighted crowded houses, and far beyond our expectations, made good his title to the partiality of every city in which he has performed.
THE FOUNDLING OF THE FOREST—A PLAY.
This production which we have annexed to our first number, not on account of its superior merit, but because it was the most recently published of any that has yet come to our hands, will, on the most superficial reading, be discerned to be of the true German cast. The old trick of grouping the characters at the end of a scene, and dropping the curtain upon them, by way of leaving it to the general conception of the audience to guess the rest, as is done in the Stranger, and all others of that breed, is here twice put in practice. Those who like such drugs mixed up with a quantum sufficit of horror, and all the tenterhook interest, hair-breadth escapes, and incident so forced as to stagger belief, which make up the hotchpotch romances whether narrative or dramatic of the present day, will like this. Mr. Dimond has in this piece certainly shown great skill in working up that kind of materials to the production of stage effect; since to those who can be interested or affected by the marvellous and mysterious, and who love to step for amusement out of the precincts of nature, and the conduct of "the folks of the world" the Foundling of the Forest will be interesting and affecting. Viewing it with a strict critical eye, not only the plot is faulty, but the composition is in many places extremely bad. If the production of original character was the author's design, he has succeeded to his heart's content in that of Florian, which we believe has never had a prototype in this world. In this hero who is sometimes as bombastical as ancient Pistol, and sometimes as ridiculous as a buffoon, the author attempts to be droll, and
Aims at wit—but levell'd in the dark, The random arrow never hits the mark.
A London critic remarking with just severity upon the strange way in which the divinity is addressed in this piece, says, "This blot defaces almost all the modern things called dramas or plays. In the farcical comedies we have low vulgar swearing unworthy even the refuse of society; while in the comedies larmoyantes (weeping comedies) and tragedies, we have eternal imprecations of the deity, indicative only of madness in literature." To this observation as well as that which follows from the same critic we heartily subscribe. "It is interspersed with songs, to one of which we direct the reader, to remind the author of what Pope says:
Want of decency shows want of sense.
[Footnote 8: See the Duett between Rosabelle and L'Eclair, Act. III, scene I, page 16.]
"Among soi-disant jolly fellows revelling in senseless ribaldry and inebriety (continues the reviewer) this song might be deemed very fine; but we shrewdly suspect that if the lines had been spoken at the theatre instead of being sung, the audience would have resented the insult."
It would be injustice not to add that the concluding speech of count Valmont, and many other parts scattered through the piece, must be admired as specimens of very fine composition.
The lovers of poetry and music have lately been highly gratified by the publication of "A Selection of Irish Melodies, with Symphonies and Accompaniments, by Sir JOHN STEVENSON, Doctor of Music, and Characteristic Words, by THOMAS MOORE, Esq. the first number of which was published in London and Dublin in the month of February of the last year, the reviewers spoke with decided approbation. To the second number, published in April, they are no less favourable. These melodies have been for some time anxiously expected—it being pretty generally understood that that fascinating poet, Moore, was employed in the pursuit of them. He had promised them for sometime. "It is intended, says the editor, to form a collection of the best Irish melodies, with characteristic symphonies and accompaniments, and with words containing as frequently as possible, allusions to the manners and history of the country;" and in a letter of Mr. Moore's which appears in the publication, he says, "I feel very anxious that a work of this kind should be undertaken. We have too long neglected the only talent for which our English neighbours ever deign to allow us any credit. While the composers of the continent have enriched their operas and sonatas with melodies borrowed from Ireland, very often without even the honesty of acknowledgment, we have left these treasures in a great degree unclaimed and fugitive. Thus our airs, like too many of our countrymen, for want of protection at home, have passed into the service of foreigners. But we are come I hope to a better period both of politics and music: and how much they are connected, in Ireland at least, appears too plainly in the tone of sorrow and depression which characterizes most of our early songs. The task which you propose to me of adapting words to these airs, is by no means easy. The poet who would follow the various sentiments which they express, must feel and understand that rapid fluctuation of spirits, that unaccountable mixture of gloom and levity which composes the character of my countrymen, and has deeply tinged their music. Even in their liveliest strains we find some melancholy note inhere, some minor third or flat seventh which throws its shade as it passes, and makes even mirth interesting. If BURNS had been an Irishman (and I would willingly give up all our claims upon Ossian for him) his heart would have been proud of such music, and his genius would have made it immortal."
A London reviewer speaking of the first number, says, "the idea is excellent, and the twelve vocal airs which this first number of the work contains, are tastefully arrayed by sir John Stevenson, and happily provided with language by Mr. Moore.
"We are happy (continues the reviewer) to find that even where Mr. Moore's subject is amatory, his poetry is very little in the style of those baneful effusions which are undergoing so rigorous an examination. His verse is here fanciful and gentlemanly, full of his subject, and, as far as our English souls can judge, faithfully expressing it. Nothing can be more pathetic than "Oh! breathe not his name;" nothing more brilliant than "Fly not yet, 'tis just the hour;" and nothing more poetical than "As a beam o'er the face of the waters may glow." We must be indulged in quoting one of those effusions of Mr. Moore's genius; and we can find none more elegant or natural than the following:
Oh! think not my spirits are always as light, And as free from a pang as they seem to you now, Nor expect that the heart-beaming smile of tonight, Will return with tomorrow to brighten my brow.
No, Life is a waste of wearisome flowers, Which seldom the rose of enjoyment adorns; And the heart that is soonest awake to the flowers, Is always the first to be touch'd by the thorns.
But send round the bowl, and be happy awhile; May we never meet worse in our pilgrimage here Than the tear that Enjoyment can gild with a smile, And the smile that Compassion can turn to a tear.
The thread of our life would be dark, heaven knows! If it were not with friendship and love intertwined; And I care not how soon I may sink to repose, When these blessings shall cease to be dear to my mind!
But they who have lov'd the fondest, the purest, Too often have wept o'er the dream they've believed; And the heart that has slumber'd in friendship securest, Is happy indeed if 'twas never deceiv'd.
But send round the bowl; while a relic of truth Is in man or in woman, this pray'r shall be mine, That the sunshine of love may illumine our youth, And the moonlight of friendship console our decline.
"The airs of the first number are excessively beautiful in themselves—particularly those of the well known "Gramachree," "Plausty Kelly," and the "Summer is Coming," and the duets of "The Maid of the Valley," and the "Brown Maid," are very delightful. "The latter (says the London reviewer) is a perfect specimen of the genius of duet, each part taking up the other alternately. The publication of these Irish airs fully discovers the source of Mr. Moore's musical compositions."
Speaking of the second number, the reviewer says it is by no means inferior to the first either in music or in poetry. The air "Oh! weep for the hour" ("The Pretty Girl of Derby O!") is harmonized in a style of great elegance; and that, and "The Red Fox," "The Black Joke," and "My Lodging is on the Cold Ground," have particularly pleased us in their arrangement. The song which Mr. Moore has written to "The Black Joke," is both poetical and political, and though the affairs of Spain have now rendered it, as to that country, an old newspaper, yet it is still good in the cause of Ireland."
The coterie of old ladies in the British parliament, the chairwoman of which was the late sir Richard Hill, have failed in all their attempts to tie up the hands of the people from their old sports. They have declaimed in parliament, and they have declaimed in print, against all the gymnastic exercises which time immemorial have been the pride and the pastime of the hardy natives of the British islands. Never did Robespierre weep such unfeigned tears over "sweet bleeding humanity," as those good souls have shed over the broken heads, and black eyes, and bloody noses of the Bull family, who, obstinate dogs, will still go on and laugh at their ladyships. Indeed Bonaparte himself, whose interest it really is, could not more anxiously desire the abolition of those gymnastic exercises.
The sports of England are horse-racing; fox, hare, and stag-hunting; coursing with greyhounds; shooting, fishing, bull-baiting, wrestling, single stick, pugilism, pedestrianism, cricket, &c. These are practised by all ranks and on national accounts, are encouraged by all the wise and patriotic men of the country; some few, and those mostly fanaticks, excepted. To those games they add, in Ireland, the noble sport of hurling, in which that vigorous race exhibit such prodigies of strength and activity as induced the celebrated Arthur Young to speak to this effect in his Tour through Ireland: "In their hurlings, which I would call the cricket of savages, they perform feats of agility that would not do discredit to Sadler's Wells."
The gymnastic games have been long carried on so systematically that they make as regular a part of the public intelligence as any that finds its way into the public papers, and have, like the theatre, their appropriated periodical publications. On this subject we would say much more, as we mean to present our readers with such things as appear curious or extraordinary in those publications; but by way of a beginning, and to pave the road for the reception of this part of our work by the public, we beg leave to offer, not to their hasty perusal, but their profound consideration, the following defence of pugilism, written, it is said, by that profound statesman, patriot, and scholar, William Windham, whose eloquence and wit caused sir R. Hill's bull-baiting bill to be laughed out of the House of Commons.
[Footnote 9: The Sporting Magazine for one.]
"I lay it down as a principle, that in every state of society, men, particularly those of the lower ranks, will ever require some means of venting their passions and redressing personal affronts, independently of those which the laws of their country might afford them; and that it is of more benefit to the community that these personal contests should be under such regulations as place bounds to resentment, than that they should be left to the unrestrained indulgence of revenge and ferocity. In most countries on the northern continent of Europe, bodily strength exclusively decides the contest; hands, feet, teeth, and nails are all employed, and the strongest gratifies his resentment by biting, kicking, and trampling upon his prostrate adversary. In the south the appeal is usually to the stiletto, and a colpo dicoltello is so common at Naples, that there is hardly a lazarone who has not the marks of it on some parts of his body; not a year passes in which there are not hundreds of assassinations in this city. Now, observe the different effects of a different principle: A sailor, some time since, at Nottingham, lent an aeronaut his assistance in preparing the ascent of his balloon; when receiving a blow from one of the by-standers while he held a knife in his hand—"You scoundrel," exclaims the tar, "you have taken the advantage by striking me because you knew that, as I held a knife I could not strike you again." Under similar circumstances, what would have been the conduct of a Genoese or a Neapolitan?
[Footnote 10: He might have added gouging, as practised in the southern States of this Union.]
Boxing, as it is conducted in this country, is a remnant of the ancient tilt and tournament, conducted on the principles of honour and equity; a contest of courage, strength, and dexterity, where every thing like an unfair and ungenerous advantage, is proscribed and abhorred. It is a custom peculiarly our own, and to which probably we are not only indebted for the infrequency of murder and assassination, but also for the victories of Maida, and Trafalgar.
Some persons are willing to allow these effects, provided the practice was confined to casual contests, and not extended to public combats and stage fights. These, they say, induce the laborious men to quit their occupations, and serve as a rendezvous for the disorderly and the profligate; but is not the same objection to be made to all amusements in which the lower orders are peculiarly interested, and where else would men of this description practically learn, that the gratification of their personal resentments must be limited by the laws of honour and forbearance? Had Crib struck Gregson after the decision of the contest in his favour, what would have been the indignant feelings of the surrounding multitude, and what would he not have experienced from their resentment? And are these feelings not worth inculcating? will they not characterise a nation, and are they not the genuine sources of generosity and honour? If it be admitted, which I think cannot be denied, that any advantage be derived to society from individuals in these combats being restrained from giving full scope to ferocity and revenge, these advantages must be exclusively ascribed to the custom of public exhibitions. It is from these that all regulations and restrictions originate—it is from these they are propagated, and with these they will be extinguished.
"I am not without apprehension, that from abhorrence of what some call brutal and vulgar pursuits, the noble science of attack and defence should be in future proscribed at the seminaries of Eton, Winchester, and Westminster, and that little master should be enjoined by his mama, in case of an affront, to resort to his master for redress and protection. To the custom, indeed, as it now prevails, the English youth are, in a great measure indebted for their nobleness and manliness of character. Two boys quarrel, they agree to box it out—they begin and they end by shaking hands; the enmity terminates with the contest—And what is this but a lesson of courage, magnanimity, and forgiveness? the principles of which are thus indelibly impressed on the mind of the boy, and must ever after influence the character of the man.
"Away then with this effeminate cant about maintaining order and decorum, by the suppression of the public exhibitions of manly exercises. To them the individual Englishman owes his superiority to the individual of every other country, in courage, strength, and agility: and as a country is composed of individuals, to what other causes can England more reasonably impute her proud preeminence among nations which she now enjoys, and which she will ever maintain till this spirit is tamed into servility, under the pretence of applying salutary restrictions to the licentiousness of the people."
After the foregoing essay, a parallel drawn between English men and English mastiffs by the celebrated cardinal Ximenes comes not unappropriately in this place.
The cardinal, who was minister to one of the French monarchs, observed that the English, like their native mastiffs, lived in a state of internal hostility. "The cause," said he, "which creates a canine uproar, every one knows, is a bone; whence among the English, every statistical elevation, as well as other causes of contest, is called A BONE OF CONTENTION. During the time of profound peace, these island dogs are always growling, snapping at, and tearing each other; but the moment the barking of foreign dogs is heard, the contention about bones ceases, the whole species become friends, and with one heart and mind they join their teeth to defend their kennels against foreign enemies."
The following extraordinary circumstances are selected from the British sporting intelligence of the last year.
"A herdsman lately met a fox in the morning, on a mountain in the neighbourhood of Ballycastle (Ireland). On his approach, the animal did not offer to avoid him, but allowed him to come close up, when he struck it with a stick and killed it. On examination the fox was found to be completely destitute of teeth, and is supposed to have been blind with age.
"A fox lately turned out at Fisherwick-park, the hunting seat of the marquis of Donnegal, being hard pressed, forced his way into the window of a farm house, and took shelter under the bed of the farmer's wife who had not an hour before lain in. The feelings of all parties may easier be imagined than described. The good woman, however, suffered no material injury by Reynard's unexpected visit, who was taken and reserved for the sport of another day.
"On Wednesday last, about six o'clock, a covey of partridges were seen to pitch in the middle of the CIRCUS, Bath, supposed to have taken refuge there, after having escaped from the aim of some distant gunner. Under the effects of fright and fatigue six were easily caught by three servants, and strange as it may appear the three servants of three eminent physicians who reside in that elegant pile. Doctor F.'s man secured three; doctor P.'s two, and doctor G.'s the other bird. A consultation afterwards took place respecting the fate of these poor tremblers, when it was humanely determined that they should be taken in a basket to some distance, and liberated, which was accordingly done. A keen sportsman would not approve of this forbearance; but perhaps none of the doctors had taken out a license to kill—GAME.
"A male and female hare were put together by lord Ribblesdale for one year, when the offspring amounted to sixty-eight. A pair of rabbits inclosed for the same time produced above three hundred. The value of rabbits' wool used annually in the manufacture of hats in England is two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
"A few days ago a hare was observed lying before a door in Manchester-street, London. The poor animal was immediately pursued, and in less than a minute the street was crowded: she succeeded in making her way down through Duke-street, followed by an immense mob. The novelty of a hunt in such a place caused every person in the surrounding streets to join in the chase. Notwithstanding her numerous pursuers she made her way down Oxford-street and into Stratford-place, where she got into the corner next to the duke of St. Alban's house, and remained quietly until she was taken alive by the duke's porter in the presence of an immense concourse of spectators.
"On the twenty-ninth of October last, in the afternoon, a fox was seen crossing the fields of Camptown in Bedfordshire, followed by a shepherd's dog. The fox first made his way into the grounds of the reverend Mr. Davies's boarding-school, at Campton, where the boys were at play. Reynard was no sooner in the midst of this juvenile assembly than a tumultuous uproar assailed him, from which he fled with all speed through a border plantation into the road, and crossing to the house of the reverend Mr. Williamson the minister of the parish, he bolted through the glass into the library. Here a female servant was cleaning the room, who by the sudden and unexpected appearance of this new visitor was thrown into fits. The family running into the apartment found the fox skulking in a corner, and the poor girl lying extended on the floor. With some difficulty she was recovered, and master Reynard was bagged for a future chase. Nobody can tell where the chase commenced, but the dog is known to belong to a shepherd at Meppershall, the adjoining parish to Campton.
"The Cranborne chase pack had one of the finest runs ever known in the western part of the kingdom. They unkennelled at Punpernwood, four miles east of Blandford. The fox went off immediately for "the chase," and having taken a round in the West-walk, broke off over Iwern hills, and entered the vale of Blackmore, leaving the parish of Shooten to the left, making his play towards Duncliffwood near Shaston; but having been headed, he bent his course to the river Stow, which he boldly crossed in defiance of the flood, and after running the vale many miles passed through Piddleswood towards Okeford, Fitzpaine, but the hounds pressing him hard he was obliged to return to the cover, where having taken a turn or two he broke on the opposite side near the town of Shirminster, and crossed the commons to Mr. Brunes's seat at Plumber, where he entered a summer-house, passed through the chimney flue, and entered a drain, whence being bolted, he was run into and killed at Fifehide Neville, fourteen miles straight from the place where he was found, after a chase of two hours and ten minutes.
"It appears from the glossary to the Welch Laws that the game of backgammon was invented in Wales, sometime before the reign of Canute the Great, and that it derived its name from Back, which in the welch language meant little, and Cammon, which in the same language signified Bottle.
"A blacksmith of Winchester in Hampshire, undertook, for a wager, to shoe six horses, and make the shoes and nails himself complete in seven hours. He accomplished it in twenty-five minutes less than the time.
"Mr. Brewer of the Crown inn, Nothingham, undertook for a wager of forty guineas to go with a mare belonging to him in a cart, to Newark and back again, being a distance of forty miles, in four hours. He performed it in twelve minutes less than the given time. Considerable bets were laid against the performance. The mare is under fourteen hands high.
DICK THE HUNTER.
"A poor fellow, half an ideot, has by his singularity got himself so noticed by the sporting gentlemen at Newmarket, that his picture has been painted by Mr. Chalon, and engravings from it have been published. He was intended for a blacksmith, but being untractable, was allowed to follow his own inclination. Being always fond of hunting he soon attracted the attention of the gentlemen of the chase, and never failed joining the hounds whenever they made their appearance. Dick is such an amazing swift runner that he keeps in with the hounds for many miles together, to the surprise of all the gentlemen, who confess him to be a very useful man among them, as he instantly discovers the track of a fox, and is very clever at finding a hare sitting, and who therefore support him. He never goes out without carrying a knife, a fork, a spoon and a spur, which are all of his own making, a performance that shows him not to be destitute of ingenuity, as they are not separately made, but contained in one, and with these he is at once equipped either for sporting or eating. The spur he uses for pricking himself, which he fancies enables him to keep up with the hounds. He frequently uses it to the no small amusement of the spectators. His dress is quite as singular as his mode of life, for he always wears a long surtout coat, a hunting-cap, a boot on one leg and a shoe on the foot of the other—and thus equipped he runs with the speed of a hunting-horse, clearing with ease all the ditches and fences the riders do.