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ly termed the merits of the play. Here was friendship! Here was adroitness! While the public were testifying their disgust at the piece through the medium of poor Dodd, Mr. Kemble, with unexampled generosity, took the whole blame upon his own shoulders, and heroically saved the author by so timely an interposition. I was charmed with this master stroke, and, at the impulse of the moment, I thanked him. But, alas! how narrow is the soul of man! how distrustful in its movements, how scanty in its acknowledgements, how perplexing to itself in its combinations! Had I afterwards looked on the thing simply and nakedly by itself, why the thing is a good-natured thing: but I must be putting other circumstances by the side of it, with a plague to me! I must be puzzling myself to see if it all fits; if all is of a piece. And what is the result?-Miserable that I am! I have lost the pleasure of evincing a gratitude which I thought I owed, because I no longer feel myself a debtor. Had I abandoned my mind to that placid negligence, that luxurious confidence, which the inconsiderate enjoy, it had never occurred to me, that Mr. Kemble, foreseeing perhaps that an aggrieved author might not be totally silent, stepped forward with this speech to the public, as a kind of salvo (should a statement be made) for his rigidity in the first instance. It had never occurred to me that Mr. Kemble was sufficiently hissed, yawned at, laughed at, and coughed down, to have made his apology before Mr. Dodd
appeared! It had never occurred to me that his making his apology at a previous moment would have answered the same purpose to me, and not to him: It had never occurred, in short, that there is such a thing as ostentatious humility, and a politic act of kindness; and that I should have waited the sequel of a man's conduct, before I thanked him for one instance of seeming good will, close upon the heels of stubborn ill nature, and in the midst of existing and palpable injury. The sequel will shew that I was premature in my acknowledgement; but before I come to the sequel, a word or two (I will be brief) to close my account of this, the first night's eventful history. The piece was concluded, and given out for a second performance with much opposition.
Friends, who never heard the play read, shook their heads; friends, who had heard it read, scarcely knew it again: Several, I doubt not, of the impartial, who chose to be active, actively condemned; and enemies, of course, rejoiced in an opportunity of joining them,
No opportunity could be fairer. The play was at least a full hour too long; and had Job himself sat to hear it, he must have lost his patience. But if, gentle reader, thou possessest Job's quality, and hast followed me thus far in my narrative, it will appear to thee (for I doubt not thy retention and combination) that I was unable to curtail it effectually at the proper time-the last rehearsals. I was
then laid flat, my dear friend, as you remember I have told you, by a fever. The acting manager did attend the last rehearsals, and suffered the piece to be produced, uncut, to "drag its slow length along," surcharged with all his own incapacity, and all his opium.
How then do I stand indebted, according to the articles of this night's statement? I owe to Mr. Kemble,
For his illness,
For his conduct under it,
For his refusing to make an apology,
For his making an apology,
For his mismanagement,
For his acting,
This account is somewhat like the tavern bill picked from Falstaff's pocket, when he is snorting behind the arras. There is but one halfpennyworth of compassion to this miserable deal of blame.
Now for the sequel.—I have shewn, I think, that Mr. Kemble, in the first instance, undertook a duty which he could not perform: I have now to affirm, with all the difficulty of proving a negative full in my face, that he afterwards made a mockery of discharging a duty which he would not perform.
After a week's interval, to give him time to recruit his strength, and the author time to curtail and alter the play (for the impression which the mis-manager and actor had contrived to stamp rendered alteration necessary), it was a second time represented.
I must here let the uninformed reader into a secret; but I must go to Newmarket to make him understand me.-No, Epsom will do as well; and that is nearer home. It often happens at a race, that a known horse, from whom good sport is expected, disappoints the crowd by walking over the course. He does not miss an inch of the ground; but affords not one jot of diversion, unless some pleasure is received in contemplating his figure. Now, an actor can do the very same thing. He can walk over his part: he can miss no more of his words than the horse does of his way: : he can be as dull, and as tedious, and as good-looking, as the horse in his progress. The only difference between the two animals is, that the horse brings in him who bets upon him a gainer; but the luckless wight, who has a large stake depending upon the actor, is decidedly certain to lose. There is a trick, too, that the Jockies practise, which is called, I think, playing booty. This consists in appearing to use their utmost endeavour to reach the winning-post first, when they are already determined to come in the last. The consequence is, that all except the knowing ones attribute no fault to the Jockey, but damn the horse for a sluggard. An actor can play booty if he chuses he can pretend to whip and spur, and do his best, when the connoisseur knows all the while he is shirking; but sluggard is the unmerited appellation given by the majority to the innocent author.
Mr. Kemble chiefly chose to be Horse, and walked
over the ground. Every now and then (but scarcely enough to save appearances) he gave a slight touch of the Jockey, and played booty.
Whether the language which is put into the mouth of Sir Edward Mortimer be above mediocrity, or below contempt, is not to the present purpose: but the words he is made to utter certainly convey a meaning; and the circumstances of the scenes afford an opportunity to the performer of playing off his mimic emotions, his transitions of passion, his starts, and all the trickeries of his trade. The devil a trick did Mr. Kemble play but a very scurvy one! His emotions and passions were so rare and so feeble, that they seasoned his general insipidity, like a single grain of wretched pepper thrown into the largest dose of water-gruel that ever was administered to an invalid. For the most part, he toiled on, line after line, in a dull current of undiversified sound, which stole upon the ear far more drowsily than the distant murmurings of Lethe; with no attempt to break the lulling stream, or check its sleep-inviting course.
Frogs in a marsh, flies in a bottle, wind in a crevice, a preacher in a field, the drone of a bagpipe, all, all yielded to the inimitable and soporific monotony of Mr. Kemble!
The very best dramatic writing, where passion is expressed, if delivered languidly by the actor, will fail in its intended effect; and I will be bold enough to say, that were the curse in King Lear new to an