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En Five Acts,
BY JOHN HOWARD PAYNE, ESQ.
PRINTED FROM THE ACTING COPY, WITH REMARKS,
To which are added,
A DESCRIPTION OF THE COSTUME,-CAST OF THE CHARACTERS, ENTRANCES AND EXITS,-RELATIVE POSITIONS OF THE PERFORMERS ON THE STAGE, AND THE WHOLE OF THE STAGE BUSINESS.
As now performed at the
THEATRES ROYAL, LONDON:
EMBELLISHED WITH A PORTRAIT OF MR. KEAN,
Engraved on Steel by MR. WOOLNOTH, from an original Drawing by MR. WAGEMAN.
JOHN CUMBERLAND, 19, LUDGATE HILL.
VARIOUS have been the opinions regarding the stoics. Some have exclaimed
"And we shall find, trace passions to their root,
Small difference 'twixt the stoic and the brute;"
While others have pursued the opposite extreme, and elevated them amongst the gods. The course of the stoic, like the eagle's flight, is solitary and sublime. He has that painful pre-eminence—
"Himself to view,
Above life's troubles, and its comforts too."
For, as pleasure and pain exist only in the contrast they present to each other, the stoic, by becoming insensible to both, may be equable, but never can be happy. Whether this be an enviable state of existence-whether it be nobler to look down upon the good and evil of life with equal indifference-to regard mankind with dignified apathy-to sacrifice every tie of nature, friendship, and feeling, to one arbitrary and undeviating rule of right-we leave to the decision of less sanguine temperaments than our own. We have not yet so much the Roman in us! But, if we were to venture an opinion, we should say
""Tis pride, rank pride, and haughtiness of soul:
Under such withering influence, every generous sentiment of the soul would be annihilated:
"The tear which pity taught to flow,
The heart that melts for others' woe,
But, exclaims a poet who had imbibed an ardent love for the virtues of Greece and Rome
"What think you 'twas set up
The Greek and Roman name in such a lustre,
This, however, must be considered as a favourable picture of stoicisin; and foremost among the illustrious characters of antiquity that have achieved this hard triumph, stands Brutus, who
"The theme of all succeeding times, Gave to the cruel axe a darling son !"
Such an example, however it may raise our veneration, must not be fixed as the standard of human excellence: it must be regarded as a prodigy, a moral wonder of the world, towering above the frailties and affections that are the mixed lot of humanity.
"Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead,”—
and no fewer than seven plays contend for the honour of having introduced this interesting subject to the stage. They are of various
merit; but none possess sufficient action for dramatic representation. Mr. Howard Payne has made very judicious use of the ample materials that were placed before him: he has strung the pearls, and successfully fashioned them to the public taste. He has followed history when she was likely to prove interesting; and varied her, without destroying her integrity or beauty. He has shortened long prolix dialogues-compressed and connected incidents-and availed himself of every legitimate opportunity of producing effect. No wonder, then, that the public approbation hailed a drama in which one of the brightest ornaments of Imperial Rome stood revealed in all his grandeur of soul. If the highest merit belong to original genius, there is one of another degree that must be assigned to correct judg ment, before whose tribunal even genius must appear,-that prunes its exuberances, and concentrates its beauties. Lustre and fragrance are the acknowledged properties of the flower; but the hand that tastefully plants the parterre, well deserves the praise of judicious selection and elegant arrangement.
Brutus, in this tragedy, is drawn with great power. His assumed idiotcy, in the early scenes, is an admirable cloak to his future designs, and contrasts well with the energy and pathos that burst forth as his character is further developed. Every other personage is tame and ineffectual, compared with this. Lucretia, who fills so glorious a space in history, has little to do or to say. The scene where she stabs herself, in the presence of Collatinus and Lucretius, is wisely omitted: it is weakly written, and altogether in bad taste. To expose Lucretia in her agony to the vulgar gaze, is indecorous; it is sufficient that we hear she died in a manner worthy of a Roman matron, with all her virtue, and with all her glory. We ask no profane hand to lift the veil from misery so sacred as hers. There is an affecting picture, "The dead Soldier," in which the painter, in despair of giving a true expression of unutterable grief to the countenance of the widow, has shrouded it in her mantle.
If the character of Brutus was written for the purpose of displaying Mr. Kean to the best advantage, the actor well repaid the author's confidence in his abilities. There were no inequalities to counterbalance the excellence of particular passages: the whole performance was marked by original genius. When he terribly denounced the house of Tarquin, and cried revenge for the death of Lucretia, every heart was with him: and when his unhappy son was called to receive death at his mandate, the audience could only answer him with their tears.
MEMOIR OF MR. KEAN.
THIS eminent actor was born in Castle Street, Leicester Square, November 4, 1787. His father, Aaron Kean, was a man in humble circumstances; his mother was a daughter of the celebrated George Saville Carey: and his uncle, Moses Kean, was the well-known mimic and ventriloquist. From his infancy he was made familiar with the stage, being placed at Drury Lane Theatre to enact in the lower department of pantomime: his first steps in life were, therefore, succeeded by the most surprising contortions of the body, for which the natural flexibility of his limbs, and the art of the posture. master, may claim an equal share of merit. To repeat the adventures and vicissitudes that have been mingled with his biography, would be like writing a continuation of the life of Bamfylde Moore Carew. For many years he was an itinerant player, and as such endured all the hardships attendant on that precarious profession. Tragedy, comedy, opera, pantomime, were alike to him. A Dr. Drury, who saw him play at Exèter in 1813, was so much pleased with his extraordinary genius, the progress of which he had long marked, that he wrote to Mr. Pascoe Grenfell, one of the managing committee of Drury Lane, recommending the young actor to his notice: the result of this communication was, the sending down of Mr. Arnold, the stage-manager, to Dorchester, to judge of the merits of this embryo genius: Mr. Arnold, on seeing him play Octavian, in The Mountaineers, and Kanko, in The Savages-a piece founded on the story of La Perouse, immediately engaged him for three years, at a salary of eight guineas per week, for the first year, ten for the second, and twelve for the third. How the talents of Mr. Kean, when emerged from poverty and obscurity, confirmed Mr. Arnold's judgment, and delighted the public, needs no repetition here: his instantaneous and brilliant success, (without entering into any comparison between the two actors, which would be absurd,) is only to be paralleled by that of Garrick. He replenished the almost bankrupt treasury of Drury Lane, brought an entirely new and original style of acting into high vogue, and maintained his ground in the days even of Kemble and Siddons. His first genuine appearance before a London audience was on January 26, 1814, in Shylock: his fame increased with each successive repetition of the character, and fairly reached its summit when, on the 12th of February following, he acted, for the first time Richard the Third.