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NOTICES OF THE ACTED DRAMA IN
were then trifling away their time a- ago! I wish to goodness I had kept bout the more general, though less in them ; but I had no idea when I, then teresting affairs of Europe, and could an old stager, first heard you clipping not guess what was the meaning of all the King's English in the Outer House, this talk of coffee, and all the dark that you were to become so great a and mysterious charges of wickedness man, and I to remain only your affecand crime connected with the drink, tionate friend, ing of it.
TIMOTHY TICKLER. “ Such little things are great to little men.'
But I will not press this matter any farther. Before concluding, however, I beg leave to say, that your behavi
No IV. our towards Mr Coleridge has been
MR KEAN. very far from being either candid or manly. Undoubtedly you were not un
Concluded from our last Number. der the necessity of praising his poetry It is a great and a very general misa unless you admired it; but after the take to suppose that Mr Kean's acting free and friendly intercourse you had is deficient in dignity. So far from with him; and after the many flattering, this being the case, dignity is perhaps and probably sincere encomiums you the one quality it exhibits, and is dispaid his genius to his face, you were, tinguished by, oftener and more sucI think, bound in honour, either to let cessfully than by any other. Not the his poetical productions pass unnoticed, dignity resulting from a certai.1 given or to review them yourself
. It is a arrangement of the arms and legs on a poor and unworthy get off, to say that certain given occasion, according to a CHRISTABEL was reviewed by another set of theatrical bye laws " in that case person. You should have boldly ad- made and provided ;" but that real and vanced your own opinions for you sustained mental dignity which springs are, with all your prejudices, an ex- from lofty and intense feeling, and is cellent judge of poetry, and could not allied to, and expressed by, spontanebut have seen beauty of some kind or
ous and highly picturesque, yet perother in a poem enthusiastically ad- fectly temperate, graceful, and appromired by Scott and Byron. Instead priate bodily action. They must have of this, you committed the task to a strange notions of dignity, even in the savage and truculent jacobin, the very most common-place sense of the term, twitching of whose countenance is who do not find it in Mr Kean's manenough to frighten the boldest muse ner in dismissing Cassio from his cominto hysterics. That person was not mand : " I love thee Cassio,—but neashamed to confess in his critique that ver more be officer of mine;" or in his he despised Mr Coleridge's poetry, be- apostrophy to his name, in Richard II. cause he hated his politics; as if no “ Arm, arm, my name ! A puny subject man could be admitted into the court
strikes of Apollo who did not vilify his Majes. At thy great glory, &c.ty's government. And this restless or in his rebuke to Northumberland demagogue you let loose upon the friend in the same play: with whom “ you walked in the fields “ No lord of thine, thou haught, insulting about Keswick," " whose whole con
man,” &c. versation was poetry," who stood smil- or throughout the whole performance ingly by, while “ coffee was handed to of Richard III. you,” and whom,
as he liked to re- It is a vulgar error to call Mr Kean's ceive compliments,” “ you were led to acting undignified. It is exactly like gratify with that kind of fare." There calling the Beggar's Opera vulgar. seems some little inconsistency of be. The persons who do this are those haviour in first buttering a man all who quarrel with the ankles of the over with flattery, and then getting a Apollo Belvidere, because, forsooth, raw-boned prize-fighter to belabour the turn of them does not conform to him with a hedge stake.
what they have chosen to consider as My dear fellow-God bless you the standard of gentility. With them good bye-Pray do let me hear from Dr Johnson is a more dignified proseyou. You seem to have given up leta writer than Milton, because the latter ter-writing entirely. What immense could say “ How d'ye do,” in three sheets I used to have from you long words, while the former put a maske
goes to bed :
upon nothing, and induced us to mis- the floor of his tent, in Richard III. ;
Kean is “a very clever young man," “ A clout upon that head but who are loath to admit that any Where late a diadem stood !"
one can be possessed of genius who has Mr Kean must be content to do with- not been dead a century or two. But out the patronage of these kind of peo- they should recollect that actors, unple, till he grows as tall as Mr Cone like other votaries of the fine arts, canway. In the mean time he is quite not reckon upon immortality, even if dignified enough for nature and Shak- they deserve it. It is but common speare, which is all that can be reason- justice, therefore, to place the laurel ably demanded of him.
upon their living brows. It slips off It is another remarkable feature of the moment they die, and will not be Mr Kean's acting, that, even when he persuaded to flourish upon their graves is performing Shakspeare, he affects We shall mention some of Mr Kean's you not so much by what he says, and faults and deficiencies, and conclude by his manner of saying it, as by the with some general observations on a effect which you see that what he says few of his principal characters. produces upon himself. From this it A critic in an Edinburgh paper has, results, that the attention is exclusively as far as we know, been the only one fixed on what he is employed in at the to remark, that Mr Kean's voice is moment you are looking at him. Or merely defective not bad. We think if it ever wanders from what he is do- this is true. His voice is greatly deing, it is always to what he has done ficient in power and compass, and is in the last scene or act-never to what therefore totally unfit for lofty dehe will do in the next. He never ex- clamation ; but it has a pathos that cites that idlest of all our mental pro- makes up for every thing. Though pensities, mere curiosity, because he its tones do not strike upon the ear always fills and satisfies the mind, and like the tinkling of a rill passing over leaves it no time or inclination to gaze a bed of pebbles*, they sink into the about it. We never wish to see him heart like the sighing of the breeze in a new character; on the contrary, he among the strings of an Æolian harp. always delights us most in those plays And its occasional harshness is adwe are best acquainted with. For mirably adapted to express the brothough he never plays a character ex- ken and tempestuous sounds that burst actly as any one predicts before hand from a soul torn asunder by conflictthat he will play it, yet he always best ing passions. With all its defects, satisfies those who are best entitled to it would be difficult to exchange Mr anticipate how it should be played. In Kean's voice for one better fitted for fact he recreates all his characters, and its uses. It might be improved by adds to them all—but never in a wrong additions—from that of Nacready's spirit. We say this without any cau- for instance—but we would not part tious qualification whatever. And it with one of its own notes. is even more true of Shakspeare's char- It is singular that Mr Kean, who acters than of any others. Mr Kean has nearly banished the mock-heroic “ gilds refined gold;" he“ paints the from our stage, should be the very lily;" he “ throws a perfume on the person who at times exhibits the most violet ;' and yet one is never disposed of it. In fact, this is his grand fault. to exclaim against his additions as He frequently gives what is called the “wastefull and ridiculous excess.” We level-speaking of a part, in a style that might name a hundred examples of would not disgrace an amateur theatre this. Take among others his returning to kiss the hand of Ophelia, after Whose voice is like a rill that slips his apparently harsh treatment of her; Over the sunny pecbles breathingly. his drawing figures with his sword on
or school-room. It is difficult to ac- reckless avarice ; which, at the period count for this. The practice itself is, of the play, is become merged and lost no doubt, to be attributed to early in intense personal vanity. He has habits; but how it happens that he glutted himself with wealth till his has not yet reformed it, we are at a very wishes can compass no more ; loss to guess. Give him something to and then, by dint of gazing at himself do, and he does it better than any one
as the creator of his boundless stores, else could ; but give him nothing, and avarice changes into self-admiration; he makes worse than nothing of it. and he thenceforth lavishes as eagerly There are parts of almost every one of to feed the new, passion, as he had his characters that he mouths even amassed to gratify the old one. In worse than 6
many of our players delineating this latter part of the chardo.”
acter, the author has, by an admirable Another of Mr Kean's faults (if it subtlety of invention, and a deep knowcan be called such) is, that there is ledge of human nature, made Sir great variation in his style of acting Giles build up an idol in the person at different times. He makes his of his child, in which, by a self-degreatest efforts, and reserves his finest ceit common to vulgar minds (for his powers, for the first few nights of per- mind is a vulgar one notwithstandforming a character. Afterwards he ing its strength), he worships his onis apt to grow careless, and sink into ly god-himself.
He is pleased to an apparent listlessness, that gives a see her shining in gold and jewels, drawling 'monotony to his perform- because she is his child ;-he hires ance; so that persons who go to see decayed gentry to do the menial ofhim, for the first time, in a character fices of her house, because she is his that he has played frequently, are sure child ;-nay, he even anticipates with to come away totally disappointed and delight the moment when he shall dissatisfied. But this is perhaps a
have raised her to such a rank, that defect inherent in the art itself: it is even he will be compelled to bow down not in human nature to keep up to before her; for, by an inconsistency the height that he sometimes attains. which is not uncommon in real life,
When we have noticed that Mr while he regards titles in others as Kean has an occasional fondness for empty names, in her they will appear mere stage-effect, which never ap- to be substantial realities, because she pears, however, except in the second- is his child. ary parts of his performances, we have Mr Kean plays the first part of this mentioned all the faults that occur to character with a mixture of gloom and
For any thing we know, he may vulgarity that is admirably original have a great many more; but the and characteristic. And though we truth is, that seeking for the defects did not intend to have mentioned any of genius is a task to us; we do not sit particular parts of the performance, down to it con amore, and therefore we cannot help noticing the manner in there is no chance of our doing it well. which he pronounces the titles of the And it is but a sorry distinction, after person whom he wishes his daughter all, to excel in finding fault; we are to marry. It is always in a tone of not ambitious of it. If we can dis- derision and contempt, which is but cover and help to make known the half-concealed even when he speaks to good and the beautiful in what is “ the lord.” At first sight it might around us, let who will search for the appear inconsistent that Sir Giles bad; and much good may it do them should feel contempt for rank and when they have found it!
titles, and yet make them confessedly We shall say a few words on the the end and object of all his toils. general character of four of Mr Kean's My ends--my ends are compassed ! principal parts—Sir Giles Overreach, I am all over joy !” he exclaims, when Richard II., Richard III., and Othello. he thinks he has finally arranged his
Sir GILES OVERREACH, if not the daughter's marriage with “ the lord.” greatest, is certainly the most perfect But, on reflection, it will be found to of all Mr Kean's performances. It is be one of the most refined parts of the quite faultless. The character of Sir performance. We have before said, Giles Overreach is drawn with great that part of Sir Giles's character is a force and originality., It seems to propensity to worship that in himself have begun in avarice-blind and which in others he cannot help des
pising; and this half-contemptuous ed to Stanley, “ What do they in the tone, when speaking of that which is north?” than was ever brought tothe object of all his wishes, springs gether in the same space ;--rage, hafrom the natural part of his character tred, sarcasm, suspicion, and contempt, predominating over the artificial. are all audibly and intelligibly ex
The last act of Mr Kean's perform- pressed in the single word north; and ance of Sir Giles Overreach is, without the battle and death are worthy to doubt, the most terrific exhibition of conclude the whole; they form a human passion that has been witnessed piece of poetry nobly conceived, and on the modern stage. When his plans magnificently executed. are frustrated and his plots laid open, The last of Mr Kean's performances all the restraints of society are thrown on which we shall offer any remark is aside at once, and a torrent of hatred that of Othello. We happened to be and revenge bursts from his breaking present when he played that character, heart, like water from a cleft rock, or on the night Mr Booth came out in like a raging and devouring fire that, Iago ; and it is of his performance on while it consumes the body and soul this particular night that we shall on which it feeds, darts forth its speak'; for it discovered the remarktongues of flame in all directions, able secret, that he could play better threatening destruction to every thing than he had ever done before. In within its reach. The whole of the fact, this performance was almost as last act exhibits a vehemence and ra- superior to all his others, as those had pidity, both of conception and exe- been to the performances of all other cution, that perhaps cannot be sur- actors in the same parts. This singupassed.
lar circumstance should be borne in Richard II. is a performance of a mind, for it may be worth remarking very different kind. It has always on at some future time. appeared to us to be a splendid mis- If we were solicitous to pass, among representation, both of Shakspeare and wise and lukewarm people, for staid of history; a misrepresentation which and sober critics, we should perhaps nothing but the transcendant talent suppress or disguise something of our with which it is executed could ex- opinions respecting Mr Kean's percuse, and fortunately one which no- formance of Othello on that night. thing else could commit. It is full of But we disdain that creeping hesitathe most varied and brilliant declama- tion—that cold and calculating delition,-the most pure and simple pa- beration, which dares not express all thos,—the most lofty and temperate it feels, lest its impressions should not dignity. Whatever Shakspeare and be kept in countenance by those of nature intended Richard II. to be, other people. We shall therefore say Mr Kean makes him (
every inch a
at once, that we think that performance king.” It is a very noble perform- (and we speak chiefly of the third act ance, and second only to one.
-though the rest was all in keeping Mr Kean's Richard III., though with it) was, without comparison, the apparently the most familiar and in- noblest exhibition of human genius we telligible of all his performances, is yet ever witnessed. It evinced a kind and the most intellectual and abstracted. degree of talent more rare and more The one which exhibits the loftiest valuable than any, or than all that is and most poetical thoughts,--the to be found in his other performances, grandest and most original concep- -a talent only, and not much inferior tions,-and the most admirable and to that which was required to write curiously felicitous embodying of those the character.* Never did we witness thoughts and conceptions. There is such vehement and sustained passion, more intellectual power required for such pure and touching beauty, such the production of it, and it calls deep, and quiet, and simple pathos. forth more in the witnessing of it. The performance was worthy to have When Richard III. exclaims, “ A taken place in Shakspeare's own age, thousand hearts are swelling in my —with he himself-he and Fletcher, bosom!” he appears to be endowed with the soul and the strength of a • Note.-The reader will, of course, not thousand men ;-there is more variety, suspect us of meaning to compare his genius and depth, and intensity of expres- with that of Shakspeare generally, but only sion thrown into the words address with reference to this particular play,
Ford, and Spencer, and Sydney, for Quarterly), that the one is about as far an audience. We cannot help fancy- off as the other. But still, even if our ing how they would have acted at the fears should prove well-grounded, we close of it. They would have gone must needs confess that a false propheinto the green-room perhaps,-Shak- cy of good is better than a true one of speare we are sure would,-and with a evil. smiling, yet serious and earnest delight This opera is founded on the novel upon their faces, have held out their of Rob Roy; and we are indebted to hands and thanked him. Think of a the great UNKNOWN for having effectshake of the hand from Shakspeare ed what we should have thought even and of deserving it too!
his genius inadequate to. He has We now conclude our imperfect no- « created a soul under the ribs of tice of this great actor by observing, death.". He has infused something of that if Shakspeare owes something to his spirit into a professor of the art of Kean, Kean owes almost every thing making melo-dramas; and has actualto Shakspeare. He is a gallant vessel ly impelled him to produce an opera sailing on the ocean of Shakspeare's that is highly interesting. The story genius. Its proud waves bear him of the novel is, in fact, dramatised with along in triumph to the sound of their considerable taste and judgment;-a own music. He is seen, now floating kind of judgment, too, that is not very silently in the moon-light that sleeps common among our modern dramaalong its waves-now scudding before tists. The author-(so, no doubt, he the breeze in all the glory of sunshine chooses to be called--and as he has -and now tost hither and thither a- put us in good-humour he shall have mid storms and darkness: but he still his way)—The author has had the keeps safe above the waters--not pre- sense to discover that, whenever he sumptuously scorning the danger, but wished the language to be impressive boldly and magnanimously subduing or humorous, he could not possibly
voyage be prosperous and improve upon that of the novel; and happy! is the wish of one, who, though accordingly, he has adopted it all a stranger to him, offers the foregoing through. In the songs, too, he has sincere but feeble tribute, less with been modest enough tacitly to confess hope of pleasing and informing others, that Burns and Wordsworth have than with the desire of making some written better than he could. It is slight return for hours of mingled de- singular, that this wise and approprilight and instruction.
ate diffidence seems to have prevailed
throughout the whole getting up of Covent-Garden Theatre.
the piece--for the music is selected
from old Scottish melodies, instead of Rob Roy. At length we have found being composed for the occasion by a new piece, of which we can speak Mr Bishop. well with a good conscience.
But are not the happy few, who are On the 12th of March, an opera was
in the secret, smiling at our simplicity produced, called Rob Roy MACGRE- all this while, in attributing that to GOR, or AULD LANGSYNE.
It was want of confidence, which, in reality, completely successful.
proceeded merely from want of time? Though we have hitherto had little We should not at all wonder. But to do but find fault, we hope our read- however this may be, we are too much ers have not yet set us down as ill-na- gainers by the act, to be very fastiditured people. If they have, they have ous about the motive. . been very unjust to us.
We are as
The opera is full of interest and delighted when we can find something interest of the right kind. Not proto praise, as when an unexpected gleam ceeding from melo-dramatic horrors, of sunshine comes out upon us this but from truth and nature. The gloomy weather. And if the time scenes in the prison and the inn at shou ever arrive, when our office will Aberfoil are extremely well managed ; be to give nothing but praise, we shall and that in the Highlands, when Rob hail it with as sincere pleasure as we Roy appears just after the lament for shall the promised period in which we his capture, is admirable. There was are to have nothing but sunshine. We something very impressive in the dumb are sadly afraid, however (notwith- despair of his people for his loss, and standing the prognostications of the their noisy and enthusiastic delight at VOL. III.