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having made us perceive, what we had not felt before, that there is a considerable degree of manner and monotony in Miss O'Neill's acting. The peculiar excellence which has been ascribed to Miss O'Neill (indeed over every other actress) is that of faultless nature. Mrs. Siddons' acting is said to have greater grandeur, to have possessed loftier flights of passion and imagination; but then it is objected that it was not a pure imitation of nature. Miss O'Neill's recitation is indeed nearer the common standard of level speaking, as her person is nearer the common size, but we will venture to say that there is as much a tone, a certain stage sing-song, in her delivery, as in Mrs. Siddons's. Through all the tedious speeches of this play, she preserved the same balanced artificial cadence, the same melancholy tone, as if her words were the continued echo of a long-drawn sigh. There is the same pitch-key, the same alternation of sad sounds, in almost every line. We do not insist upon perfection in any one, nor do we mean to decide how far this intonation may be proper in tragedy; but we contend that Miss O'Neill does not in general speak in a natural tone of voice, nor as people speak in conversation. Her great excellence is extreme natural sensibility; that is, she perfectly conceives and expresses what would be generally felt by the female mind in the extraordinary and overpowering situations in which she is placed. In truth, in beauty, and in that irresistible pathos which goes directly to the heart, she has at present no equal, and can have no superior. There were only one or two opportunities for the display of her delightful powers in the character of Elwina, but of these she made the fullest use. The expression of mute grief, when she hears of the death of Percy, in the last
act, was as fine as possible: nor could anything be more natural, more beautiful or affecting, than the manner in which she receives his scarf, and hurries out with it, tremulously clasping it to her bosom. It was one of those moments of still and breathless passion, in which the tongue is silent, while the heart breaks. We did not approve of her dying scene at all. It was a mere convulsive struggle for breath, the representation of a person in the act of suffocation-one of those agonies of human nature, which, as they do not appeal to the imagination, should not certainly be obtruded on the senses. Once or twice Miss O'Neill dropped her voice so low, and articulated so internally, that we gathered what she said rather from the motion of her lips, than from distinguishing the sound. This in Mr. Kean would be called extravagance. We were heartily glad when the play was over. From the very construction of the plot, it is impossible that any good can come of it till all the parties are dead; and when this catastrophe took place, the audience seemed perfectly satisfied.
MISS O'NEILL'S BELVIDERA AND MONIMIA. Examiner, December 10, 1815. MISS O'NEILL repeated her usual characters last week. We saw her in Belvidera, and were disappointed. We do not think she plays it so well as she did last year. We thought her representation of it then as near perfection as possible; and her present acting we think chargeable, in many instances, with affectation and extravagance. She goes into the two extremes of speaking so loud as to "split the ears of the groundlings," and so low as not to be heard. She has (or we mistake) been taking a bad
lesson of Mr. Kean in our opinion, the excellences of genius are not communicable. A second-rate actor may learn of a first; but all imitation in the latter must prove a source of error: for the power with which great talent works can only be regulated by its own suggestions and the force of nature. The bodily energy which Mr. Kean exhibits cannot be transferred to female characters, without making them disgusting instead of impressive. Miss O'Neill, during the two last acts of Belvidera, is in a continual convulsion. But the intention of tragedy is to exhibit mental passion and not bodily agony, or the last only as a necessary concomitant of the former. Miss O'Neill clings so long about Jaffier, and with such hysterical violence, before she leaps upon his neck and calls for the fatal blow, that the connection of the action with the sentiment is lost in the pantomime exhibition before us. We are not fastidious; nor do we object to having the painful worked up with the catastrophe to the utmost pitch of human suffering; but we must object to a constant recurrence of such extreme agony, as a convenient commonplace or trick to bring down thunders of applause. Miss O'Neill twice, if we remember, seizes her forehead with her clenched fists, making a hissing noise through her teeth, and twice is thrown into a fit of agonised choking. Neither is her face fine enough in itself not to become unpleasant by such extreme and repeated distortion. Miss O'Neill's freedom from mannerism was her great charm, and we should be sorry to see her fall into it. Mr. C. Kemble's Jaffier had very considerable effect. Mr. Young's Pierre is his best character.
We have seen Miss O'Neill in the Orphan, and almost
repent of what we have said above. Her Monimia is a piece of acting as beautiful as it is affecting. We never wish to see it acted otherwise or better. She is the Orphan that Otway drew.
"With pleas'd attention 'midst his scenes we find
The lover's wishes, and the virgin's fear,
This idea of the character, which never leaves the mind in reading the play, was delightfully represented on the stage. Miss O'Neill did not once overstep the limits of propriety, and was interesting in every part. Her conversation with the page was delicately familiar and playful. Her death was judiciously varied, and did not affect the imagination less, because it gave no shock to the senses. Her greatest effort, however, was in the scene with Polydore, where she asks him, "Where did you rest last night?" and where she falls senseless on the floor at his answer. The breathless expectation, the solemn injunction, the terror which the discovery strikes to her heart, as if she had been struck with lightning, had an irresistible effect. Nothing could be pourtrayed with greater truth and feeling. We liked Charles Kemble's Castalio not much, and Mr. Conway's Polydore not at all. It is impossible that this gentleman should become an actor, unless he could take " a cubit from his stature." Mr. Young's Chamont was quite as good as the character deserves.
MR. KEAN'S DUKE ARANZA.
Examiner, December 10, 1815. MR. KEAN'S appearance at Drury Lane on Tuesday, in the Duke Aranza, in the Honey Moon, excited considerable expectations in the public. Our own were not fulfilled. We think this the least brilliant of all his characters. It was Duke and no Duke. It had severity without dignity; and was deficient in ease, grace, and gaiety. He played the feigned character as if it were a reality. Now we believe that a spirit of raillery should be thrown over the part, so as to carry off the gravity of the imposture. There is in Mr. Kean an infinite variety of talent, with a certain monotony of genius. He has not the same ease in doing common things that he has energy on great occasions. We seldom lose sight of his Richard, and to a certain degree, in all his acting, "he still plays the dog." His dancing was encored. George II. encored Garrick in the Minuet de la Cour: Mr. Kean's was not like court dancing. It had more alacrity than ease.
MR. KEAN'S OTHELLO.
Examiner, January 7, 1816. MR. KEAN'S Othello is his best character, and the highest effort of genius on the stage. We say this without any exception or reserve. Yet we wish it was better than it is. In parts, we think he rises as high as human genius can go at other times, though powerful, the
"That I should snarl and bite, and play the dog "
a line from King Henry VI. which Cibber transferred to his Richard III.