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describing the lady who rides round the ring in Hyde Park, nor of chucking Sir Peter under the chin, which was a great deal too coarse and familiar. There was throughout an equal want of delicacy and spirit, of ease and effect, of nature and art. It was in general flat and insipid, and where anything more was attempted, it was overcharged and unpleasant.
Fawcett's Sir Peter Teazle was better than when we last saw it. He is an actor of much merit, but he has of late got into a strange way of slurring over his parts. Liston's Sir Benjamin Backbite was not very successful. Charles Kemble played Charles Surface very delightfully.
MR. KEMBLE'S SIR GILES OVERREACH.
Examiner, May 5, 1816. Why they put Mr. Kemble into the part of Sir Giles Overreach, at Covent Garden Theatre, we cannot conceive : we should suppose he would not put himself there. Malvolio, though cross-gartered, did not set himself in the stocks. No doubt, it is the managers' doing, who by rope-dancing, fire-works, play-bill puffs, and by every kind of quackery, seem determined to fill their pockets for the present, and disgust the public in the end, if the public were an animal capable of being disgusted by quackery. But
Doubtless the pleasure is as great
We do not know why we promised last week to give some account of Mr. Kemble's Sir Giles, except that we dreaded the task then ; and certainly our reluctance to speak on this subject has not decreased, the more we have thought upon it since. We have hardly ever experienced a more painful feeling than when, after the close of the play, the sanguine plaudits of Mr. Kemble's friends, and the circular discharge of hisses from the back of the pit, that came “full volly home,"—the music struck
ropes were fixed, and Madame Sachi ran up from the stage to the two-shilling gallery, and then ran down again, as fast as her legs could carry her, amidst the shouts of pit, boxes, and gallery !
So fails, so languishes, and dies away
We have here marred some fine lines of Mr. Wordsworth on the instability of human greatness, but it is no matter : for he does not seem to understand the sentiment himself. Mr. Kemble, then, having been thrust into the part, as we suppose, against his will, ran the gauntlet of public opinion in it with a firmness and resignation worthy of a Confessor. He did not once shrink from his duty, nor make one effort to redeem his reputation, by "affecting a virtue when he knew he had it not." He seemed throughout to say to his instigators, You have thrust me into this part, help me out of it, if you can; for you see I cannot help myself.
We never saw signs of greater poverty, greater imbecility and decrepitude in Mr. Kemble, or in any other actor : it was Sir Giles in his dotage. It was all "Well, well," and "If you like it, have it so,” an indifference and disdain of what was to happen, a nicety about his means, a coldness as to his ends, much gentility and little nature.
Was this Sir Giles Overreach ? Nothing could be more quaint and out-of-the-way. Mr. Kemble wanted the part to come to him, for he would not go out of his way to the part. He is, in fact, as shy of committing himself with nature, as a maid is of committing herself with a lover. All the proper forms and ceremonies must be complied with, before “they two can be made one flesh.” Mr. Kemble sacrifices too much to decorum. He is chiefly afraid of being contaminated by too close an identity with the characters he represents. This is the greatest vice in an actor, who ought never to bilk his part. He endeavours to raise Nature to the dignity of his own person and demeanour, and declines with a graceful smile and a wave of the hand, the ordinary services she might do him. We would advise him by all means to shake hands, to hug her close, and be friends, if we did not suspect it was too late-that the lady, owing to this coyness, has eloped, and is now in the situation of Dame Hellenore among the Satyrs."
The outrageousness of the conduct of Sir Giles is only to be excused by the violence of his passions, and the turbulence of his character. Mr. Kemble inverted this conception, and attempted to reconcile the character, by softening down the action. He “aggravated the part so, that he would seem like any sucking dove." For example, nothing could exceed the coolness and sang froid with which he raps Marall on the head with his cane, or spits at Lord Lovell : Lord Foppington himself never did any commonplace indecency more insipidly. The only passage that pleased us, or that really called forth the powers of the actor, was his reproach to Mr. Justice Greedy : “There is some fury in that Gut." The indignity of the
Spenser, Fceri. Queene, bk. iii. canto 10.
word called up all the dignity of the actor to meet it, and he guaranteed the word, though "a word of naught," according to the letter and spirit of the convention between them, with a good grace, in the true old English way. Either we mistake all Mr. Kemble's excellencies, or they all disqualify him for this part. Sir Giles hath a devil ; Mr. Kemble has none. Sir Giles is in a passion ; Mr. Kemble is not. Sir Giles has no regard to appearances ; Mr. Kemble has. It has been said of the Venus de Medicis, So stands the statue that enchants the world";' the same might have been said of Mr. Kemble. He is the very still-life and statuary of the stage ; a perfect figure of a man; a petrifaction of sentiment, that heaves no sigh, and sheds no tear ; an icicle upon the bust of Tragedy. With all his faults, he has powers and faculties which no one else on the stage has ; why then does he not avail himself of them, instead of throwing himself upon the charity of criticism ? Mr. Kemble has given the public great, incalculable pleasure ; and does he know so little of the gratitude of the world as to trust to their generosity ?
“EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR."
Examiner, June 9, 1816. MR. KEAN had for his benefit at Drury Lane Theatre, on Wednesday, the comedy of Every Man in His Humour. This play acts much better than it reads. It has been observed of Ben Jonson, that he painted not so much human nature as temporary manners, not the characters of men, but their humours, that is to say, peculiarities of N phrase, modes of dress, gesture, &c., which becoming
1 Thomson's Seasons --Summer.
obsolete, and being in themselves altogether arbitrary and fantastical, have become unintelligible and uninteresting. Brainworm is a particularly dry and abstruse character. We neither know his business nor his motives ; his plots are as intricate as they are useless, and as the ignorance of those he imposes upon is wonderful. This is the impression in reading it. Yet from the bustle and activity of this character on the stage, the changes of dress, the variety of affected tones and gipsy jargon, and the limping, distorted gestures, it is a very amusing exhibition, as Mr. Munden plays it. Bobadil is the only actually striking character in the play, or which tells equally in the closet and the theatre. The rest, Master Matthew, Master Stephen, Cob and Cob's Wife, were living in the sixteenth century. But from the
very oddity of their appearance and behaviour, they have a very droll and even picturesque effect when acted. It seems a revival of the dead. We believe in their existence when we see them. As an example of the power of the stage in giving reality and interest to what otherwise would be without it, we might mention the scene in which Brainworm praises Master Stephen's leg. The folly here is insipid, from its seeming carried to an excess, -till we see it ; and then we laugh the more at it, the more incredible we thought it before.
The pathos in the principal character, Kitely, is " dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage." There is, however, a certain good sense, discrimination, or logic of passion in the part, which Mr. Kean pointed in such a way as to give considerable force to it. In the scene where he is about to confide the secret of his jealousy to his servant Thomas, he was exceedingly happy in the working himself up to the execution of his design, and in