« AnteriorContinuar »
THE GREAT TRAGEDIAN.
AMIDST a storm of applause the more than ever-now more than at any curtain fell. The applause continued, period of his long career, during which and the curtain rose once more; and his heart had always throbbed at every the favourite actor, worn out with sound of applause, did he crave more emotion and fatigue, reappeared to and more applause. That man, seemreceive the homage which an enthu- ingly so indifferent, was sick at heart, siastic multitude paid to his genius, and applause alone could cure him !
I saw a proud flush of triumph steal Had he not applause enough ? Did not over his wan face, which lighted it for all Germany acknowledge his greata moment with almost supernaturalness? Did not, Berlin worship him? expression. As he passed behind the True ; but that was not enough: he scenes, amidst the rustling dresses of hungered for more. the rouged and spangled crowd, I I was taken ap to him by Madame observed his face contracted by a pang, Röckel, and introduced as an "Engwhich struck me the more forcibly lish admirer.” Now, for the first time, from its so quickly succeeding the he manifested some pleasure. It was look of triumph. He passed on to his not assuredly what I said—(for alroom without uttering a word—there though, of course, I am always" misto disrobe himself of the kingly gar- taken for a German," so pure is my ments in which he had “ strutted his accent, so correct my diction !)-it brief hour on the stage;" and in a was the fact of my being a foreigner little while again passed me (as I -an Englishman—which made my was hammering out compliments, in praise so acceptable. I was a counyoluble but questionable German, to tryman of Shakspeare's, and, of the pretty little * * *) in his sober- course, a discerning critic of Shaksuited black, and, stepping into his spearian acting. We rapidly passed carriage, drove to the Behren Strasse. over the commonplace bridges of
I knew he was going there, as I conversation, and were soon engaged had been earnestly pressed to meet in a discussion respecting the stage. him that very evening ; so, collecting With nervous energy, and a sort of all my forces, I uttered the happiest feverish irritability, he questioned me thing my German would permit me, about our great actors-our Young, and accompanying it with my most Kean, Kemble, and Macready killing glance, raised the tiny hand of which gave me an opportunity for * * * to my lips and withdrew, per- displaying that nice critical discrimi, fectly charmed with her, and perfectly nation which my friends are kind satisfied with myself.
enough to believe I possess—with There was a brilliant circle that what reason it is not for me to say. night at Madame Röckel's. To use When I told him that, on the whole, the received phrase, “ all Berlin was I was more gratified with the perthere." I found Herr Schoenlein, formances of Shakspeare in Germany, the great actor, surrounded by ad- he turned upon me with sudden quickmirers, more profuse than delicate in ness and askedtheir adulation. He was pale ; looked 6 In what towns ?" wearied. He seemed to heed that " At Berlin and Dresden," I anadmiration so little--and yet, in truth, swered. he needed it so much! Not a muscle “ You have seen Franz, then?” moved-not a smile answered their “ I have." compliments; he received them as if His lip quivered. I saw that I had he had been a statue which a senseless made a mistake. I am not generally crowd adored. Yet, fulsome as the an ass—nay, I am believed to possess compliments were, they were never some little tact; but what demon too fulsome for his greed. He had the could have possessed me to talk of an fever-thirst of praise upon him now actor to an actor?
" Do you think Franz greater than fancy they had not dined, and to see any of your English actors?” he asked them dine next day, you would fancy fretfully.
they had not supped, and breakfasted " Why, I cannot say that exactly. twice. But I was amazingly struck with his Eating is an art. It is also—and performance. My observation, how. this fact we are prone to overlook-a ever, principally applied to the general habit. As a habit it may be enlarged * getting-up.'"
to an indefinite extent; and lisping * But Franz-Franz. I wish to fraüleins have demonstrated the capahear your opinion of him."
city of the human stomach to be such " He is young," I replied ; " has as would make our beauties stare. a fine figure, a noble voice, a grand It must not be supposed that I am carriage, and, although new to the a coxcomb, since nothing can be farstage, and consequently deficient in ther from the truth ; nor must I be some technical matters, yet he has held to share with Lord Byron his that undefinable something which men horror at seeing women eat. In fact call genius."
I like to see the darlings enjoy “Hm!” was the significant an- themselves : but-and I care not who swer.
knows it--to see German women eat, I then saw whither my stupidity is more than I can patiently endure. had led me. This, however, I will Let me cease this digression to resay for myself, if ever I do get into mark that, except myself, the great a dilemma, I have generally readiness tragedian was the only person at of mind enough to extricate myself. I table who was not voracious—and that do not say this out of conceit, for I am because he was unhappy. While not at all conceited—I merely men- knives and forks were playing with tion it as a fact. This is how I turn- reckless energy he talked to me, but ed my blunder to account.
there was a coldness and constraint in 6 Although," said I, “ he has not his manner which plainly told me that your mastery, yet he reminded me a my praises of Franz had deeply morgreat deal of you. I cannot pay him tified him. a higher compliment."
Poor Schoenlein! Unhappy he came To my surprise he did not see the to Madame Röckel's; for, amidst the flattery of this, but moved to another storm of applause which saluted him part of the room; and I did not speak at the theatre, he heard the applause with him again till supper.
which was saluting his rival at DresThis little incident excited my den; and he had left the theatre for a attention. I puzzled my brain for an friendly circle of admirers only to hear explanation of the riddle which his his rival praised by an Englishman. conduct presented, and spoke to seve. All the applause of all Berlin weighed ral of my friends about it, who could as nothing against one compliment only tell me that Schoenlein was jea- paid to Franz! lous of this new actor Franz
It was nearly twelve, and the comDid you ever sup in Berlin, reader? pany had gradually departed. I was If not, let me inform you that supper left alone with Madame Röckel; and, there is a most substantial affair. I as usual, I stayed half-an-hour later had not read Miss Bremer's novels than the others, to have a quiet chat when first I went there; so, not being with her. I wanted to ask her for prepared for the infinite amount of an explanation of Schoenlein's coneating and drinking which is trans- duct. Much as I had seen of the acted in the north, I confess my asto- vanity of actors—well as I knew their nishment was a little mingled with petty jealousy of each other I was disgust to find a supper begin with not prepared for what I had seen that white-beer sonp, (capital soup, by the night. way,) followed by various kinds of Madame Röckel had resumed her fish, amongst them, of course, that knitting-the never-failing accompaneternal hideous carp-roast veal, iment of a German lady-and I drew poultry, pastry, and dessert. To see a chair close to the sofa, and told her the worthy Berliners sup, you would what had passed.
- "His story is a strange one,” she the truth is, he acts because he has said; " and to understand him you an irresistible impulse to act. It is must know it."
a sort of intellectual dram-drinking “ Can you not tell it me?”
which he cannot forego." * Willingly. Schoenlein is a man "To be sure, men are strange bunwell born and well bred, who feels his dles of contradictions; and I suppose profession is a disgrace."
one must give Schoenlein credit for “ A disgrace!"
being sincere." " Very absurd, is it not ? but that “He is his own dupe, for to no is his feeling. At the same time, just one but very intimate friends has he as the opium-eater, knowing the de- ever disclosed his real opinions." gradation of his vice, cannot resist its " Then his life must be a constant fascination-So this actor, with an struggle ?" intense feeling of what he regards as " It is. This it is which has made the sinfulness of the stage, cannot him prematurely old : the struggle of resist its fascination."
his conscience with his passions. But " You astonish me!"
this it is also which gives such touch“He is an austere man-what you ing pathos to his acting-—which makes English would call a puritan-who his voice so mournful that it vibrates looks upon the stage as the theatre through your whole being. As the of vice, and yet cannot quit it because poet's sufferings are sublimed into it is the theatre of his triumphs !" song, and become the delight of man
"But how came he to be an actor!” kind, so from the ground of this
“Why, thrown upon the stage tragedian's despair springs the well when the stage seemed the only of his inspiration, which makes him means of livelihood open to him truly great." forced on it by necessity, success has We were both silent for a few mochained him there. I have heard ments. him say that every time he performs " I have said enough," added Mait is with the conviction that he is dame Rockel, “ to explain how such performing for the last time. But the a man must necessarily be, above all fascination still continues—his heart others, envious-how the success of is still greedy of applause-his mind another must be torture to him. Nostill eager for its accustomed emo- thing but intense vanity could keep tions. He goes on the stage sad, him on the stage. Hitherto he has struggling, and repentant; to leave really had no rival- he has stood alone; it with throbbing pulses and a wild- other tragedians have not been named beating heart. He accepts no en beside him. But now, within the last gagement, he only plays by the night. few weeks, there has arisen this young He has from time to time made Franz, who has only played at Leipsic vigorous efforts to quit the stage, and Dresden, yet whose fame has but at the end of a fortnight he inva- spread all over Germany." riably returns. He once set out for « But I have seen Franz, and I Italy, thinking that if away from assure you he is not so great an actor Germany he should be able to wean as Schoenlein. To be sure, he has himself from the theatre ; but he got youth on his side." no farther than Vienna, and there " It is not his success alone which played for twenty nights."
is so exasperating ; it is because the "But don't you think there must critics, as usual, will do nothing but be a great deal of humbug in all this?" compare the young Franz with the old “Not a bit.”
Schoenlein ; while the public, with its “Do you really believe in his natural inconstancy, begins to discover scruples ?"
that Schoenlein is no longer young. "I know him too well to doubt It is a sad thing,” she pursued, with them. There are many men quite as a faint smile, “ for those who have inconsistent. He deludes himself reigned supreme over audiences to feel with all sorts of sophistry. He per their dynasty is drawing to a close suades himself that he acts only to sad for those who have swayed all realise an independence for his son, hearts, to feel that another is now to and to secure his own old age. But usurp their place. We women know what it is, in a slight degree, when “ Yet, when Franz comes to Berwe grow old. Do we ever grow old, lin, which will be next month, there and know it? When our glass still will then be no possible doubt as to tells us we are young, that the bloom which is the finer actor." is still upon our cheeks, the lustre in "Perhaps not. But the public will our eyes, the witchery in our smiles, nevertheless applaud Franz; and hownow as of yore-and yet what the ever slightly they do so, to the envious glass tells us, what our feelings con- ears of Schoenlein it will sound like firm, we do not see mirrored in the thunder." admiration of those around us! We The clock striking twelve warned also know what it is when we see our me to depart, for in Berlin they keep former adorers pass to newer beauties, early hours; and I went away thinkand we perhaps overhear such a phrase ing of what I had just heard, and spoken of us as, · Yes, she has been feeling no small contempt for Schoenhandsome!' But even we cannot lein's preposterous jealousy: “ What know the actor's triumph or the actor's a contemptible feeling is envy!-as if humiliation. To feel that our presence only one person in the world had a is the signal for applause, that every right to admiration!" word we utter is listened to with At that moment I stepped into a eager interest, that every part we droschke, and was driving to my play is an image which we engrave rooms, when I passed that miserable upon the minds of thousands, there puppy Fürstenberg, whom, I am sorry to abide as a thing of beauty and of to say, little * * * admires so much; wonder--this is beyond us."
though, for the life of me, I never “ But, my dear Madame Röckel, I could see wherefore. Yet this unsee no diminution of admiration for couth German, aping the dandy, Schoenlein in Berlin. Surely no au- usurps all her conversation, even dience can be more enthusiastic. Why when I am by! should he fear a rival?"
It is not that I am jealous, for that " You might as well ask a beauty," is not my character; but I cannot she replied, “why she is jealous of a bear to see so charming a girl so woman less pretty than herself. The miserably deceived in any one as she why is not to be explained by logic, is in Fürstenberg ! for envy does not calculate—it feels."
Schoenlein did not play for a fort- was said, "had all the energy of night, and, as the time of Franz's Schoenlein, with youth, and grace, engagement was drawing near, I and beauty in his favour. The same imagined he was sulking. I commu- power of distinct conception and nicated my suspicions to Madame unexaggerated execution, without Röckel.
Schoenlein's tendency to conventional “I would wager fifty thalers," she points.'” Strangers asked him if replied, "that he has gone to Dresden he had seen Franz. The very waitto see his dreaded rival, and judge for ers at the hotel recommended him to himself."
go and see Franz! It was as Madame Röckel said: Schoenlein never hated his profesgoaded by irresistible jealousy, Schoen- sion so much as at that moment. lein had set off for Dresden to see his Yet, such was his exasperation, that rival play.
he was constantly tempted to appear Arrived there, he was three days on the stage at Dresden, and crush before he could summon resolution to his rival by acting in the same theatre enter the theatre. Franz's name met with him— constantly tempted to him every where. At the table-d'hôte show the fickle public the genius of he heard nothing but praises of Franz: the actor they were fast forgetting. in the newspapers he read nothing but It was the fourth day of his preinvidious comparisons between Franz sence at Dresden. Hamlet was to be and himself, in which the palm was performed that evening, and Schoenawarded to his rival, “ Franz," it lein had resolved to be there. As
the hour drew near, he was seated at as the finest part he had yet a table on that beautiful terrace, which played. no one who has visited Dresden can T hree men seated themselves at ever forget, and which the Hahn Schoenlein's table. In the midst of Hahn has so graphically set before us their enthusiastic criticism one of in her Faustine. He was smoking a them remarkedmeditative cigar, gazing abstractedly “ Well, Franz is certainly very at the promenaders, who, in their gay fine; but it is absurd to compare him dresses, passed to and fro in light happy with Schoenlein." talk, while the sounds of a good orches- "I think him better," said another. tra in the Café came mellowed by the “Nonsense !-you would not say distance, and lent another charm to so if you could see them together. the exhilarating scene. His thoughts You will find that in a little while the were not at all in harmony with that public will come round to my opinion. happy scene-they were fixed mourn. Let them once get over the novelty, fully on his own condition. He felt and they will judge correctly." the sadness of a fallen favourite.
A thrill ran through the actor's There he sat, and saw the sun go frame as he heard this. He called down over the antique bridge-saw the waiter ; paid ; rose; departed. its last rays shimmering on the placid In another instant he was in the bosom of the Elbe, which winds its parterre of the theatre, feverishly undulating course beneath the terrace impatient for the curtain to rise. -saw the groups of promenaders gra- The brief scene between the King dually disappear, and the tables all and Queen, which opens the fourth deserted. The calls for ices, for act, seemed to that impatient man as cigars, for “ light," were becoming if it never would end ; and when rarer and rarer. The music had Rosenkranz was heard within calling, ceased-night had shut in. Still he “Hamlet, Lord Hamlet!" the persat there in the same mournful mood, spiration burst from every pore, and tempted to go to the theatre, so close he trembled like a leaf as Hamlet at hand, but repelled by the idea of appeared, uttering the “Soft--what hearing Franz applauded.
news? Who calls on Hamlet ?" At the conclusion of the third act, Schoenlein heard no more. The several playgoers reappeared upon tones of that voice raised a mist bethe terrace, to cool themselves in the fore his brain--stung and perplexed evening air, and to take an ice. Their him with rage and astonishment. He conversation, of course, turned but heard nothing, saw nothing - his upon one man, and that man was brain was in a whirl. Franz. They spoke of his Hamlet The Hamlet before him-Franz,
the dreaded rival-was his son!
It is necessary here to take a retro- talked about by him were those of spective glance into Schoenlein's his. Shakspeare, Molière, Göthe, and tory, that we may understand the Schiller. These were his household horror wbich possessed him at the gods. Young Franz was early inidiscovery of his son upon the stage. tiated into their beauties, and would
We may readily conceive how his declaim, (in private,) with great gusto, dislike to his profession made him all the long speeches. very sedulous of keeping his child Franz was sent to the university of from all contact with it, lest its fasci. Leipsic, where it was his father's nation should mislead him also. He fond hope he would distinguish himhad never permitted him to see a play self as a student of theology. For the He brought him up strictly, religious. first year he was assiduous enough ; ly, austerely. He had no friends but theology grew inexpressibly weaamong actors : acting was never spo- risome, while poetry became irresisken of in his presence. Yet, by an tibly alluring to him. Göthe's Wilinconsistency easily enough explained, helm Meister fell into his hands, and the works most constantly read and was read with rapture. He fell in