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Actors have been accused, as a profession, of being extravagant and dissipated. While they are said to be so, i as a piece of common cant, they are likely to continue so. But there is a sentence in Shakespeare which should be stuck as a label in the mouths of our beadles and whippers-in of morality: "The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together : our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not: and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues.” With respect to the extravagance of actors, as a traditional character, it is not to be wondered at. They live from hand to mouth : they plunge from want into luxury ; they have no means of making money breed, and all professions that do not live by turning money into money, or have not a certainty of accumulating it in the end by parsimony, spend it. Uncertain of the future, they make sure of the present moment. This is not unwise. Chilled with poverty, steeped in contempt, they sometimes pass into the sunshine of fortunė, and are lifted to the very pinnacle of public favour ; yet even there they cannot calculate on the continuance of success, but are, like the giddy sailor on the mast, ready with every blast to topple down into the fatal bowels of the deep ! Besides, if the young enthusiast, who is smitten with the stage, and with the public as a mistress, were naturally a close hunks, he would become or remain a city clerk, instead of turning player. Again, with respect to the habit of convivial indulgence, an actor, to be a good one, must have a great spirit of enjoyment in himselfstrong impulses, strong passions, and a strong sense of pleasure : for it is his business to imitate the passions, being taken by an extract from Cibber's Apology (his account of Mrs. Montfort).



and to cominunicate pleasure to others. A man of genius is not a machine. The neglected actor may be excused if he drinks oblivion of his disappointments; the successful one if he quaffs the applause of the world, and enjoys the friendship of those who are the friends of the favourites of fortune, in draughts of nectar. There is no path so steep as that of fame : no labour so hard as the pursuit of excellence. The intellectual excitement, inseparable from those professions which call forth all our sensibility to pleasure and pain, requires some corresponding physical excitement to support our failure, and not a little to allay the ferment of the spirits attendant

If there is any tendency to dissipation beyond this in the profession of a player, it is owing to the prejudices entertained against them—to that spirit of bigotry which in a neighbouring country would deny actors Christian burial after their death, and to that cant of criticism which, in our own, slurs over their characters, while living, with a half-witted jest. Players are only not so respectable as a profession as they might be, because their profession is not respected as it ought to be.

A London engagement is generally considered by actors as the ne plus ultra of their ambition, as “a consummation devoutly to be wished," as the great prize in the lottery of their professional life. But this appears to us, who are not in the secret, to be rather the prose termination of their adventurous career ; it is the provincial commencement that is the poetical and truly enviable part of it. After that, they have comparatively little to hope or fear. “The wine of life is drunk, and but the lees remain." In London, they become gentlemen, and the King's servants ; but it is the romantic mixture of the hero and the vagabond that constitutes the essence of the player's life. It is the transition from their real to their assumed characters, from the contempt of the world to the applause of the multitude, that gives its zest to the latter, and raises them as much above common humanity at night as in the daytime they are depressed below it. "Hurried from fierce extremes, by contrast made more fierce,"—it is rags and a flock bed which give their splendour to a plume of feathers and a throne. We should suppose that if the most admired actor on the London stage were brought to confession on this point, he would acknowledge that all the applause he had received from “ brilliant and overflowing audiences" was nothing to the light-headed intoxication of unlookedfor success in a barn. In town, actors are criticised : in country places, they are wondered at, or hooted at : it is of little consequence which, so that the interval is not too long between. For ourselves, we own that the description of the strolling player in Gil Blas, soaking his dry crusts in the well by the roadside, presents to us a perfect picture of human felicity.


OLD ACTORS. London Magazine (No. I.), January, 1820. THERE is less pedantry and affectation (though not less party feeling and personal prejudice) in judging of the stage than of most other subjects; and we feel a sort of theoretical as well as instinctive predilection for the faces of play-going people, as among the most sociable, gossiping, good-natured, and humane members of society. In this point of view, as well as in others, the stage is a test and school of humanity. We do not much like any persons who do not like plays; and for this reason, that we imagine they cannot much like themselves or any one else. The really humane man (except in cases of unaccountable prejudices, which we do not think the most likely means to increase or preserve the natural amiableness of his disposition) is prone to the study of humanity. Omnes boni et liberales HUMANITATI semper favenius. He likes to see it brought home from the universality of precepts and general terms to the reality of persons, of tones, and actions ; and to have it raised from the grossness and familiarity of sense, to the lofty but striking platform of the imagination. He likes to see the face of man with the veil of time torn from it, and to feel the pulse of nature beating in all times and places alike. The smile of good-humoured surprise at folly, the tear of pity at misfortune, do not misbecome the face of man or woman. It is something delightful and instructive to have seen Coriolanus or King John in the habiliments of Mr. Kemble, to have shaken hands almost with Othello in the person of Mr. Kean, to have cowered before the spirit of Lady Macbeth in the glance of Mrs. Siddons. The stage at once gives a body to our thoughts, and refinement and expansion to our sensible impressions. It has not the pride and remoteness of abstract science ; it has not the petty egotism of vulgar life. It is particularly wanted in great cities (where it of course flourishes most) to take off from the dissatisfaction and ennui that creep over our own pursuits from the indifference or contempt thrown upon them by others; and at the same time to reconcile our numberless discordant, incommensurable feelings and interests together, by giving us an immediate and common topic to engage our attention, and to rally us round the standard of our common humanity. We never hate a face that we have seen in the pit ; and Liston's laugh would be a cordial to wash down the oldest animosity of the most inveterate pitcritics.

The only drawback on the felicity and triumphant self-complacency of a play-goer's life, arises from the shortness of life itself. We miss the favourites, not of another age, but of our own—the idols of our youthful enthusiasm ; and we cannot replace them by others. It does not show that these are worse, because they are different from those ; though they had been better, they would not have been so good to us. It is the penalty of our nature, from Adam downwards ; so Milton makes our first ancestor exclaim

Should God create another Eve, and I
Another rib afford, yet loss of thee
Would never from my heart.

We offer our best affections, our highest aspirations after the good and beautiful, on the altar of youth ; it is well if, in our after-age, we can sometimes rekindle the almost extinguished flame, and inhale its dying fragrance like the breath of incense, of sweet-smelling flowers and gums, to detain the spirit of life, the ethereal guest, a little longer in its frail abode—to cheer and soothe it with the pleasures of memory, not with those of hope. While we can do this, life is worth living for : when we can do it no longer, its spring will soon go down, and we had better not be! Who shall give us Mrs. Siddons again, but in a waking dream, a beatific vision of past years, crowned with other hopes and other feelings, whose pomp is also faded, and their glory and their power gone ! Who shall in our time (or can ever to the eye of fancy)

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