dowments of nature rather than results of study, we desire to draw and to impress this distinction: (1) That such intellectual and physical qualities as Kean possessed belong to the emotional rather than to the poetical phase of the drama; that the opportunities for their employment are of rare occurrence, and are seldom offered except by Shakspeare himself; and that they do not and should not be supposed to supersede the earnest study of human nature, or that mental and bodily discipline which the vocation of the actor demands. (2) That whereas an actor like Kean is extremely limited in his range of parts-the number of his great characters was six or seven at most actor like Charles Kemble, in virtue of his catholic study of art as a whole, of his high general cultivation, of his patient elaboration of details, is enabled to fill with success various and even dissimilar departments of the drama, and to combine in one and the same person the endowments of a great tragic and a great comic actor. The example of Kean would be of little service to any performer not similarly gifted with himself; the example of the Kembles is available even to the humblest members of their profession, and so long as it was followed and held in honor, so long did the stage retain performers capable of doing justice to the classical drama of England.

His performance of Hamlet was, perhaps, Charles Kemble's highest achievement as an actor. Of the relations which it may have borne to his brother's impersonation of the princely philosopher we cannot speak, but of its superiority to all contemporary or later Hamlets we entertain no doubt. His form, his voice, his demeanor, his power of expressing sentiment, his profound melancholy, his meditative repose, were all strictly within the range of his physical and intellectual endowments, and had all been anxiously trained up to the highest point of precision and harmony. His performance of this arduous character, indeed, left nothing to desire except that occasionally the harmony of the execution had been broken by the disturbing forces of passion. Nothing could exceed his pic ture of loneliness of soul as he stood encircled by the court of Denmark; what a gleam of joy beamed forth in his welcome of Horatio; now at least he has one faithful counsellor and friend; he is no longer all alone. Nothing was ever more exquisite or touching than his "Go on, I follow thee," to the ghost. Perfect love had cast out fear; faith prevailed over doubt; he will go, if need be,

to the bourne of death and the grave: he will dive into the heart of this great mystery, but not in the spirit of despair, or at the summons of revenge, or in bravery, or in stoical defiance, but in the strength, and in the whole armor of filial love. We have seen actors who fairly scolded their father's spirit, and others who quailed before it; but except in Charles Kemble, we have never seen one whose looks and tones accorded with the spirit of that awful revelation of the prison-house, and the concealed crime, and its required purgation, and expressed at once the sense of woe endured, anticipated, and stretching onward through a whole life. In this scene, so acted, the classic and romantic drama melt into one; it is Orestes hearing the hest of Apollo, and it is the Christian hero, scholar, and soldier standing on the isthmus of time and eternity. Again, in the beautiful scene with Ophelia, in which the great depths of Hamlet's soul are broken up, and madness and love gush forth together like a torrent swollen by storms, with what exquisite tenderness of voice did Charles Kemble deliver even the harsh and bitter words of reproach and self-scorning. His forlorn and piteous look seemed laboring to impart the comfort which he could not minister to himself. Every mode or change of expression and intonation came with its own burden of anguish and despair. Filial love at one entrance was quite shut out; his mother was for him no longer a mother; albeit not a Clytemnestra, yet, like her (unrηP dunrnp), the wife of an Ægisthus-no more shelter for the weary on that maternal bosom: childhood snapt rudely from manhood; the earliest and holiest fountain of love dried up for ever; and as yet the dregs of the cup have not been drained. The love stronger than the love of "forty thousand brothers" must also be cast off, at least as to all outward seeming; and the arrow which has pierced his own heart be planted in Ophelia's also. Seeing Charles Kemble enact this scene, we have often marvelled how the Ophelias who played with him resisted the infection of his grief. But we must not forget, in thus reviving our recollections of a great artist, that descriptions of acting are, for the most part, like pictures to the blind, or music to the deaf, or as when a man beholds his face in a glass, and straightway the image of it passeth away. To those who remember Charles Kemble's impersonations, and who studied them with a diligent and reflecting spirit, we shall appear probably to have traced with feeble lines and dim colors

a portrait whose form and tints are yet living had indeed survived the days of poetic and and fresh in remembrance, and will revive as chivalrous delineation; and himself, the limioften as Shakspeare's pages are laid open. tary column of a past age, had come down To those, on the other hand, who have never to the days when the theatres rested their witnessed his acting, we must seem even less popularity upon plays and plots which comexpressive, seeking to embody that which by bined extravagance of incident with questionits proper nature has long ago dislimned and able ethics, and the manager relied more left not a trace behind. Yet it is much to upon his scene-painter and his upholsterer have seen even what we cannot delineate to than upon his actors. In his younger days others; and to convey at least the impression Charles Kemble had been approved by authat it was good, harmonious, and beautiful diences composed of the refined, the accomexceedingly. Nor are we unaware that in plished and the judicious; in his latter years the foregoing attempts to record our own the theatre had ceased to attract these classes impressions we have passed over many ex- generally, because it no longer afforded the amples of his skill or genius, not less worthy means of intellectual entertainment. We of mention than those which we have re- are inclined to think, at least we would fain counted. He restored Mercutio to his proper hope, that a portion of this night has passed position as a humorous, bigh-minded, and away. We possess, indeed, no longer either chivalrous gentleman, such as, in its most well-appointed companies or actors capable palmy days, maintained the honor of Verona, of answering to the demands of the higher and figured in Titian's pictures, or in Villani's tragedy or comedy. But we have among us, pages, ages before the Spaniard, the Gaul or though still dispersed, and thereby deprived the Austrian pressed down with armed heel of the advantages of coöperation, no inconthe beauty of "fair Italy.” To Petruchio siderable number of accomplished actors, he gave back his self-possession and good who would, in their degrees, have earned humor ; in Mr. Kemble's hands he was no themselves a name in any period of the stage“ ancient swaggerer," liable to six weeks' history. We have play-writers, too, though imprisonment for his bullyings and horse their number be few, who, inspired with an whippings. And neither last nor least in the honest purpose, may yet do much at once to catalogue of his impersonations—although it improve the actor in his art, and elevate the is the last we can afford space to enumerate audience in their taste and perceptions.

- Orlando in Ardennes, the very top and We should not be rendering full justice quintessence of woodland chivalry. Four- to the memory of Charles Kemble, were we teen years have passed away since Charles to omit mentioning his exertions in the cause Kemble's final retirement from the stage. of the historical drama by restoring to it, or Virtually, he had withdrawn from his pro- affording it for the first time, its proper scenefession in the winter of 1837, but in the ry and costume. His brother had expunged spring of 1840 he consented at the command much of the neglect and barbarism in these of Her Majesty to retread for a while the matters which had disgraced the stage of scenes of his former triumphs. Among other Betterton, Quin, and Garrick. He had characters, he performed at Covent-garden rescued Othello from his footman's garb, and Theatre Don Felix, Mercutio, Benedick, and Macbeth from his brigadier's uniform, and Hamlet. He remained on the boards long Brutus and Coriolanus from their surplices enough to witness important changes, if not and slippers. But the younger Kemble went an absolute decline, in the art to which his many steps further; and in his representalife had been devoted. He saw its professors, tions of the Moor of Venice, King John, and instead of being collected in strong compa. Henry IV., put upon the stage the senators nies, and disciplined and matured by judicious and captains of the Signory, and the barons training and collective practice, dispersed of England, even in the very garb worn by over a wide area of theatres, where talents of them when their dukes wedded the Adriatic, the first order found no congenial employ- or Hotspur and Worcester fought at Shrewsment, and second-rate actors were able to bury. The pomp and circumstance and achieve easily ill-merited applause. He beauty of Macready's representations of witnessed the almost entire relegation of the Shakspeare's Historical Plays reflected inficlassical drama to theatres which had hitherto nite honor upon his enterprise and taste; been the haunts of melodrama and buffoonery; and Mr. Phelps, annually at Sadler's Wells and the staple productions of these houses, approves himself, so far as the mise en scène by an inverse process of migration, transferred is concerned, one of the most active and to the politer regions of the metropolis. He l skilful of Shakspearian illustrators. To these


gentlemen belongs the full credit of having followed a good example; but to Charles Kemble appertains the honor of having led the way, and of having, as it were, couched the public eye, and made it capable of appreciating the power of scenic illustration when employed in the rightful and bounden service of the monarch of dramatic poets.

Hitherto we have considered Charles Kemble in his public capacity alone; but he was too remarkable as a man and as a member of refined and intellectual society, to be regarded merely under his aspects as an actor. In our account of him in his professional relations we have indeed anticipated many of his individual qualities. His intellectual powers are presumed in his ability to conceive and impersonate the highest order of dramatic character; he who is competent to embody poetic creations must necessarily possess no ordinary share of the imaginative faculty itself. He who is able to analyze, combine, and reproduce the fine and subtle elements of Shakspearian life, cannot have studied either universal or specific human nature with an unlearned eye, without exerting, and that in no common degree, the perceptive and logical powers of the understanding. His fine and cultivated taste was displayed in the grace of his manners, in his noble demeanor, and in the skill with which he enlisted the arts in the service of the drama. But apart from his profession, Charles Kemble's acquirements in literature were considerable. He spoke fluently and with elegance several modern languages; he was well versed in the masterpieces of their literature. Although not, perhaps, a deep classical scholar, he was familiar with the best writers of ancient Rome; and as the amusement of his declining years and comparative seclusion, he renewed his early knowledge of Greek, and prosecuted its difficult study with the zeal and energy of an aspirant for university honors. Like his brother, and indeed like his family generally, he derived from nature linguistic faculties of the first quality. Had John Kemble not been the greatest actor of his day, he would most probably have been among its very foremost philologists, as the notes he has left upon the subjects of his various reading abundantly evince. And these philological powers were shared by his brother. The labor he bestowed upon the technicalities of the Greek grammar was to him a labor of love. With half the amount of toil he expended upon the dry, and to most people intolerably minute, details of its accidence, he might have


attained facility in reading Homer, Xenophon, or Euripides. But he would dive to the very roots before he indulged in the luxury of the fruit or flowers; and a certain air of abstraction observable in his looks, was often owing to the circumstance that, in his walks, or while seemingly unoccupied, he was carefully going through, in his memory, some knotty paradigma, or defining, for the twentieth time, the precise import of the Greek particles. Art, and the department of sculpture especially, he had made the subject of earnest study-in some measure, perhaps, as auxiliary to his own profession--but also from more catholic and higher notions. Winckelman himself might have been proud of a pupil who appreciated the beauty of ancient sculpture with a zest and discernment scarcely inferior to his own. In both his literary and artistic acquirements, Charles Kemble's sphere of observation had been greatly enlarged by extensive travels--at a time when travelling was neither so usual nor so easy as it has since become-and by constant communication with intelligent and accomplished artists, British and foreign. His house, indeed, was at all times the resort of persons distinguished in art and literature; and rarely did they encounter a host more capable of estimating their common or particular excellences, or who entered with a more cordial interest into their respective pursuits.

Distinguished by a courtesy of demeanor, even in days more courteous than our own, Charles Kemble transmitted to the present age the express image of the English gentleman of the past generation-of the gentleman whom Reynolds painted, and of whom Beauclerc was the sample and representative. He was, indeed, not less formed to delight and instruct private society than to be the mould of high breeding, and the glass of refined manners on the stage. In his later years his own social enjoyments were much impeded by deafness, and by the recurrence of a painful disorder. But neither privation nor pain diminished the urbanity of his address, or the general sweetness and serenity of his temper. With a shrewd perception of character, he was lenient in his judgment of men and their opinions. He was slow to censure, and swift to forgive; and more inclined to make allowance for error than prone to detect imperfections.

In the long period of days allotted to him, Charles Kemble had both mingled much in society, and marked its features with a learned eye. His fund of anecdotes was

of his fame, and is at once the inheritor and witness of his own triumphs. To no one but the actor is it given to speak at once to so many feelings, to move and permeate so vast a mass of human passions; to impart pleasure, enlightenment, and instruction to so many delighted auditors. He is the interpreter of the arts to the many: he holds the keys of sorrow and mirth. It is his voice, or gesture, or look, which has filled the eyes of crowded spectators with gentle tears, or Charles Kemble has departed from us in has elicited from them bursts of genial laughthe fulness of days, and attended by the ter. But for him, poetry might have been respectful affection of a numerous circle of dumb, and painting meaningless to many friends. His name will endure as long as the men and many minds. He is the merchant records of the stage retain their interest, and who brings the gold of Ophir and eastern wherever the genius of the actor is held in balsams within reach of those whose abode honor. But it is the condition, twin-born is far removed from the regions where Nawith the nature of his powers and the de-ture has exerted her most subtile and strange mands of his art, that he who in his day reaps the first harvest of popularity, is, after that day has passed, the soonest forgotten in all but-Name. Yet he is not without compensation for the ephemeral nature of his efforts and triumphs; if neither the pencil nor the chisel have power to perpetuate the effects which once electrified multitudes-if the flashes of his genius be

inexhaustible, and his stories derived as much grace and point from his mode of relating as from their intrinsic pith and moment. He might have written and it is much to be regretted that he did not write--a volume of reminiscences. The arc of his experience stretched from the days of Burke and Sheridan to the present moment; for at every period of his life he had sought the society of his elders, and courted the intimacy of men younger than himself.

All perishable! like the electric fire,
They strike the frame, and as they strike, expire:
Incense too pure a bodied flame to bear,
Its perfume charms the sense, then blends with air.

Yet, on the other hand, while the painter, the sculptor, and the poet are generally compelled to expect from the future their full meed of honor, the recompense of the actor is awarded to himself: he enjoys the fulness



The place of Charles Kemble in his profession, though long vacant, has never been supplied; nor is it probable that it ever will, for he combined, in an unusual proportion, intellectual powers with natural gifts; the void which his decease has made in the circle of his friends is as little likely to be filled up, for he united all that is pleasant in man with principles and virtues of "sterner stuff." In contributing our mite to the final Plaudite of Charles Kemble we will repeat the challenge of the greatest orator of Rome, uttered upon the decease of Rome's greatest actorQuis nostrum tam animo agresti ac duro fuit ut Roscii morte nuper non commoveretur? qui cum esset senex mortuus, tamen propter ac venustatem videbatur excellentem artem omnino mori non debuisse.

A LITERARY CURIOSITY.-In the beautiful edition of Goldsmith's Complete Works, just published in London by Murray, we find a poem of several hundred lines by Dr. Goldsmith, now for the first time printed. It is a translation from the Latin of the celebrated Italian poet Vida, and is entitled The Game of Chess. It is difficult to imagine where this MS. has lain perdu for three-quarters of

a century; but it is all in the poet's own hand-writing, and is not only vouched for by Mr. Peter Cunningham, the editor of Murray's new edition of Goldsmith, but by Mr. Foster the poet's biographer. It will be republished here in the course of a few days, in a volume now in press, by Phillips, Sampson & Co., of Boston.

From Hogg's Instructor.



In the interest which attaches to every | draw so much notice will be evident, if it is thing connected with his name, Mr. Disraeli considered that, of all the vituperative epiis not unlike Lord Byron, one of the gods of thets which are flung at him so lavishly, none his early idolatry. Since Byron, indeed, no are more frequent than those which describe one in this country has piqued the public him as a juggler, a conjuror, a mystery. He curiosity so much, and for so long a time. is not understood; he is pure Hebrew, and From the day on which he succeeded, by without points, to by far the greater number those memorable philippics, in banishing Peel of those who attempt to read his character from office and from the favor of the Tories, and career. The sharpest missiles which he has been the most marked man in Britain; are hurled at his head thus miss their mark, and at the present hour he attracts more at- and, like the Australian boomerang, return tention than ever. The newspapers chronicle again bloodless to his assailants. They demost minutely all his movements, all his ma- clare that he has no principles, that he has noeuvres-how he talked with this member no settled convictions on any one subject; behind the Speaker's chair; how he turned, and Lord John Russell even says, that he is to whisper that member on the bench beside infinitely above having any opinion whatsohim; how he slept while Mr. Windy droned; ever. But what does all this prove? It is how he smiled as Captain Hornet buzzed; simply a confession of ignorance on the part how calmly he listened to the roaring of Sir of these individuals; it simply proves that Lionel; and then, when he rose to reply, the they, at least, have failed to discover that cut of his trousers, the color of his vest, the central solar point from which all his opinlappets of his coat, the tie of his neckcloth, ions emanate, and around which all his acthe arrangement of his hair. And as buds tions cluster, as planets in their orbits. Now, of genius in days of yore practised the Byron we are not defending Mr. Disraeli; we pass scowl, and the Byron necktie, and the Byron no judgment on the game which he has limp; so all the very clever youths in this played for the last half-dozen years; his docyear of grace shuffle along the streets in Ori- trines may have been worthy only of a visionental style, bury their hands in their pockets ary Laputan or a horrid Giaour, and his conwith all the Disraelitic rites, have a passion duct may have been worthy only of a wily for mouse-colored wristcoats, nourish a tuft Jesuit or a dancing Dervish; but, whether of moss on the point of the chin, and study good, bad, or indifferent, we must, in the vacancy of expression in their countenance- name of all sound criticism, protest against in this last succeeding to perfection. thus cutting the mysterious knot by a too easy assertion, that he is alike without principle and without a policy.

It is not our intention, however, in these pages, to dwell at any length on Mr. Disraeli's political career. And it is the less necessary thus to rehearse the various passages of that party warfare in which he has of late been engaged, as within the last few months he has gradually, almost imperceptibly, changed his ground, and now fills a position more intelligible, and less open to criticism, than that which for so long a time he was content to occupy as the mouthpiece and headpiece of a party with which he has but little sympathy.

He is himself a Tory, and his party calls

On the whole, however, it is not a vulgar curiosity that is thus directed towards Mr. Disraeli, nor is a vulgar gossiping the result. The truth is, that to most persons he is quite an enigma, a hieroglyphic, at once inviting and perplexing inquiry; and not knowing what to think of him, they set themselves to speak about him. It is ever so. If the fruit of faith be works, it is not less true that words are the fruits of doubt. Silence is divine, because it implies faith, knowledge, perfect satisfaction; we break silence, we begin to talk, because our vision is not clear, and to assure ourselves, as much as to convince others. And that, in fact, this is the reason why all the sayings and doings of Mr. Disraeli

« VorigeDoorgaan »