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lights to exhibit her, and of which alone I now speak, has and desires to have no existence but in the mind of him she loves--no possessions but his and her own affections-no happiness but in the creation and the contemplation of his ; who knows no law (I had almost said no religion) but her love, no pride but her obedience, no glory but her selfdevotion; whose thoughts are the images of her lord's--her fears the reflection of his-her wishes the offspring of his; who has no country but in his mind---no home but in his presence--no heaven but in his heart; for she feels no life, fears no death, and hopes for no futurity but in and with him! By all this I mean that in the characters which suit Miss O'Neil best, she gives one the idea of precisely such a being as this.
Some of the critics here do not very well know what to make of this lady. The public found out her merits before they did, which has á good deal detracted from those merits. She has not the force of one dead actress, they say—nor the dignity of another—nor the grace of a third-nor several other incompatible qualities of several others : and accordingly they are not at all sure that she ought to delight the audience so much as she does. But they go to see her, (at least their readers do,) and the light of one of her smiles, or the breath of one sigh, disperses all their theory in a moment, and they have no more to say about her. This is just as it should be. That which is perfect in itself is not a fit subject for critics to meddle with. We know all about it without their help. We feel that it is so, and there is an end of the matter : for what more can they tell us ? Undoubtedly, we have nothing like this lady in tragedy; but if the talents of Mademoiselle Mars had been turned in that direction, it is probable there would have been a great similarity between them; at least, if the purely artificial character of Freneh tragedy had permitted any thing of the kind;- but it would not.
I have found so much to say of England's greatest tragic actors, that I must press my notice of those which remain into a smaller compass than I intended, or than their distinguished merits deserve.
If Kean himself is alone a fit support and ornament to the majestic fabric of Shakspeare's genius ; or, at least, if he is the most fit to support that department of it which has been raised by the intervention of Nature herself, and bears her true and unmixed Doric form and impress ;- there are other portions of it which are well and aptly upborne by the Ionic grace and elegance of Charles Kemble—the florid Corinthiun of Young-and the Composite of Macready.
To quit metaphor, (which, I warn you, is not good for much as an illustration,-though it is not worth while to erase it): in the person and acting of Charles Kemble are united those attributes and characteristics which may be said to form the distinguishing differences between the best of ancient and of modern times,—the presence of which characteristics it is the fashion to indicate by the epithets CLASSICAL and ROMANTIC. He is equally fitted to impersonate the hero of an ancient epic, or of a modern romance:-Diomed, shouting to his blood-bepainted followers at the siege of Troy-or Romeo, sighing forth his soul among moon-lit flowers beneath the window of Juliet. His air, his gestures, his face, his form, his voice, and the colour and complexion of his rich and enthusiastic mind, which shines out through all these,—mark him as an especial favourite of Nature as one chosen and privileged to do her best and loftiest biddings. He treads the stage as if he felt himself to be a denizen of some other sphere, or some by-gone age—as if he were on the earth, but not of it. I can even fancy that he must have adopted the stage as a profession, merely because it afforded him occasions of cultivating and pampering those high imaginations in which his spirit seems to float as in a dream—because it enabled him actually to a live and move and have bis being in an ideal world of impossible grandeur and beauty ;-impossible, because past : for that which has been can never be again, because it has been. It is done, and over. Even a new deluge could not restore the days of Priam and Achilles, or Plato and Pericles, or Cæsar and Brutus; or even those of Amadis, Palmerin, and Orlando. Nothing can do it but “ strong imagination.” The imagination of Charles Kemble, I have no doubt, does this for himself, whenever he is performing a character belonging to either of those ages; and its outward and visible results, aided by the omnipotent one of Shakspeare, do it in a degree, even for the spectator, who is at all qualified to appreciate the personations of this elegant actor.
Young is an actor of quite a different class from any other on the English stage. His style is neither finely natural, like that of Kean; nor a blending of the classical and romantic, like Charles Kemble's ; nor a mixture of all these three, like Macready's. It is not formed on any other model, and has at present no imitators; which I wonder at, because it is at the same time easy to imitate, and well adapted to catch popular applause. There is a proud, sweeping, oriental air about the acting of Young which is very effective in the particular line of characters which it suits ; but which line is very limited indeed. It is true that Young can act almost any thing well ; but there are only a few characters which no one else can act so well. The gorgeous flow of his action, and the regal richness of his voice, are admirably suited to illustrate the mere external attributes of the kingly or princely estate ; the merely self-willed and selfish, the purely external passions of pride, anger, disdain, and the like—the most prominent of those passions, or rather those impulses, which usually appertain to the character and habits of Indian Caliphs and Persian Satraps, are exemplified to the very life by the peculiar qualities of mind and attributes of person which belong to this most eloquent of declaimers. But the delicate and subtil workings which take place only in the inward recesses of the heart, require other powers to develope them, and, indeed, other means of detecting them, than Young seems to me to possess. I do not mean to state this as a fault in the style of this actor ; for I do not regard it as such. he had possessed those qualities which he wants, he would inevitably have wanted those which he possesses ; and in that case the English stage would have wanted, at least, one of its richest ornaments ; for his style is ornamental, and is not the worse on that account.
Among all the canting fooleries of modern criticism, I do think there is none so ridiculous as that of finding fault with this or that subject of remark, whatever it may be, on the ground of its not possessing qualities which are, according to all human experience, absolutely incompatible with those which it does possess. Thus, English critics are perpetually lamenting over Shakspeare's want of a learned education;
as if, supposing him to have had one, he would have been Shakspeare ! If it were worth while to speculate about a subject on which no conclusion can be arrived at, I think this would furnish an admirable occasion. Certainly a very interesting if not a very instructive treatise might be written, to shew what all our men of genius might have been, if they had not been what they were! But would it not have required the genius of them all united, to have written such a treatise ?
I cannot help thinking what a sensation Young would have created had he belonged to the French instead of the English stage. With a voice as rich, powerful, and sonorous as that of Talma-action, more free, flowing, graceful, and various; a more expressive face, and a better person,-he would have been hardly second in favour and attraction to that grandest of our actors.
D. S. F.
THE WISDOM OF LAUGHTER.
And those who always laugh'd now laugh the more," They have really brought puppet-shows to an incredible perfection. I have just been gazing upon one which infinitely transcends all the fantoccini,. pantomimes, or dramas I ever bebeld; the figures appearing to be actuated by human passions, and exhibiting in their looks," gestures, activity, and earnestness, such manifold. tokens of mutual comprehension and intelligence, that were it not for the ridiculous actions they are made to perform, one might almost swear they were rational beings. Panch and Judy, even with the assistance of the Devil and the Monk, must be totally superseded by this more numerous and complete exhibition; and yet the puppets of which I am speaking are nothing more than a little modified earth, of so brittle and fragile a nature, that they were constantly frittering away into dust in the very midst of their dancing and struggling, when others instantly started up into their places, capering or fighting with as much eagerness as their predecessors,—so that the whole pageant was constantly renewing its actors without the smallest change or intermission in the incessant bustle of the performance. Here and there upon elevated stools I saw a few figures with glittering baubles upon their heads, who seemed not only miserable but giddy and intoxicated by the height from which they looked, and took their revenge by instigating the whole rabble beneath them to worry and beat one another to pieces, which the senseless figures seemed to enact with a most preposterous alacrity. On the lower benches I beheld grave and reverend-looking seigniors in robes, whose heads were enveloped in the hair of some animal, most ludicrously curled and greased, and who were solemnly pronouncing sentence of destruction upon others, while they themselves were perpetually exploding into similar nothingness. Here strutted a gay figure in scarlet, who had not only sold himself as a slave for the honour of wearing a little gold ornament upon his shoulder, but suffered his head to be shot at as a target, and his body to be used as a sheath for bayonets, for the amiable privilege of inflicting the same treatment upon others. There I beheld a portly personage in sable robes, who took money from his companions for pointing out to them the way to the skies, while he himself kept constantly walking in a contrary direction:-and in various quarters, I contemplated certain old puppets, whom I took to be miners, as they
laboured so hard at piling up heaps of shining ore that it seemed to shorten their existence; when younger ones ran joyfully up, and began kicking about the masses which had been so painfully accumulated. I cannot attempt a description of all the fantastical freaks which were exhibited; but I repeat that, with the exception of their actions, these ingenious puppets conducted themselves so exactly like rational creatures, that the absurdity of the whole scene, together with the contrast of their stupendous efforts and bubble-like existence, occasioned me to burst into an immoderate fit of laughter.
It was probably some such meditation upon the weakness, vanity, and inconsistency, the gigantic projects and pigmy powers of man, that kept Democritus in continual laughter, and enabled him to convert both kings and peasants into materials of risibility. Being once at the court of Darius, when that monarch lost his favourite wife, he promised to restore her to life, provided they would give him the names of three men who had never known adversity, that he might inscribe them upon her tomb-stone; and upon the prince acknowledging the impossibility of complying with his request, he asked him, with his usual laugh, why he should expect to escape affliction, when not one, among so many millions, was exempt from calamity? Here was philosophy as well as laughter; and indeed I doubt whether there be any wisdom more profound than that which developes itself by our risible faculties. This convulsion, as well as reason, is peculiar to man, and one may, therefore, fairly assume that they illustrate and sympathize with one another. Animals were meant to cry, for they have no other mode of expression ; and infants, who are in the same predicament, are provided with a similar resource; but when we arrive at man's estate, (the only one to which I ever succeeded,) both the sound and physiognomy of weeping must be admitted to be altogether brutal and irrational. 'The former is positively unscriptible, and we should never utter any thing that cannot be committed to writing; and as to a lachrymose visage, I appeal to the reader whether it be not contemptible and fish-like, beyond all the fascinations of Niobe herself to redeem. All associations connected with this degrading process are hateful. Perhaps I may be deemed fastidiously sensitive upon this point, but I confess that I feel an antipathy towards a whale, because it has a tendency to blubber; I abominate the common crier, simply on account of his name; I would rather get wet through than seek shelter under a weeping willow, and I instinctively avoid a birch on account of certain juvenile recollections.
“ But hail, thou goddess fair and free
In Heaven yclept Euphrosyne,” and before I go any farther, let me observe how abundantly the Pagan heaven was provided with heart-easing mirth ; for, besides the damsel we have mentioned, Venus is expressly termed by Homer the laughterloving queen; the whole court of the immortals was often thrown into fits by the awkwardness of Vulcan; Jove himself was so fond of the recreation that he even laughed at lovers' perjuries; and Momus the jester, whose province it was to excite their risible faculties, was instructively represented as the son of sleep and night, whereby we are taught to go to bed betimes if we wish to have cheerful and hilarious days. But in this our sombre and anti-risible age, it has rather become the fashion to attack laughter, notwithstanding the cowardice of assaulting a personage who is obliged to be constantly holding both his sides, and is therefore incapable of other self-defence than that of sniggering at his assailants. I am too old for laughing, they tell me ; but it is by laughing that I have lived to grow old, and they may as well take my life itself as that whereby I live. “Laugh and grow fat" may be a questionable maxim, but " laugh and grow old” is an indisputable one ; for so long as we can laugh at all, we shall never die unless it be of laughing. As to performing this operation in one's sleeve, it is a base compromise; no more comparable to the original than is a teeth-clisplaying simper to that hilarious roar which shakes the wrinkles out of the heart, and frightens old Time from advancing towards us. Fortune, love, and justice, are all painted blind : they can neither see our smiles nor frowns. Fate is deaf to the most pathetic sorrows: we cannot mend our destined road of life with a paviour's sigh, nor drown care in tears. Let us then leave growling to wild beasts, and croaking to the ravens, indulging freely in the rationality of laughter: which, in the first place, is reducible to writing-Ha! Ha! Ha! and should always be printed with three capital letters, and a prop of admiration between each to prevent its bursting its sides. (The very hieroglyphic makes one snigger, so festive, social, and joyous is its character.) And secondly, its delicious alchymy not only converts a tear into the quintessence of merriment, and makes wrinkles themselves expressive of youth and frolic, but lights up the dullest eye with a twinkle, and throws a flash of sunshine over the cloudiest visage, while it irradiates and embellishes the most beautiful. Including thine, reader, in the latter class, I counsel thee to give the experiment a frequent trial.
It just occurs to me, that I ought to have begun my essay with a definition of laughter and an argute inquiry into its causes; but it will come in as well at the end, and perhaps a hysteronproteron, in its self a common provocative to risibility, is more appropriate than any methodical arrangement. Lastly and imprimis, then, it is a great mistake to suppose that wit, which has been termed the unexpected discovery of resemblance between ideas supposed dissimilar, has any tendency to excite the giggling faculties. Quite the contrary : it elieits only the silent smile of the intellect; on which account (whatever my writings may testify to the contrary) I have no great regard for wit, for I love to laugh with all my heart and none of my head. Humour, therefore, I deem preferable to but I am not proceeding systematically. Well, then, this convulsion is of three different kinds. Animal laughter, which may be produced by tickling, or by that happy and healthy organization which occasions a constant flow of the animal spirits. Unnatural laughter, which sometimes accompanies the triumph of the most malignant passions, or bursts out upon any unexpected change of fortune, or assumes that ghastly smile or “ jealous leer malign," designated the Sardonic grin, not, as a young lady of my acquaintance supposed, from the Sardones or people of Roussillon, but from the involuntary hysterical affection produced by eating that species of ranunculus called the Herba Sardonia. And lastly, (for the second time,) Sentimental laughter,-a compound operation, emanating jointly or separately from the head or the heart, and whose basis seems to be a union or rather opposition of suitableness and unsuitableness in the same object, or any unexpected ludicrous