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degenerates into caricature. This was the effect uniformly produced on those about us, who kept exclaiming, “How extravagant, how odd," till the last scene, where the extreme and admirable contrasts both of voice and gesture in which Mr. Kean's genius shows itself, and which are in their nature more obviously intelligible, produced a change of opinion in his favour.
As a proof of what we have above advanced, it was not possible to discover in the last scene, where he is lifted from the ground by the attendants, and he rivets his eyes in dreadful despair upon his daughter, whether they were open or closed. The action of advancing to the middle of the stage, and his faltering accent in saying, “ Marall, come hither, Marall," could not be mistaken. The applause, however, came almost constantly from those who were near the orchestra, and circulated in eddies round the house. It is unpleasant to see a play from the boxes. There is no part of the house which is so thoroughly wrapped up in itself, and fortified against any impression from what is passing on the stage ; which seems so completely weaned from all superstitious belief in dramatic illusion ; which takes so little interest in all that is interesting. Not a cravat nor a muscle was discomposed, except now and then by some gesticulation of Mr. Kean, which violated the decorum of fashionable indifference, or by some expression of the author, two hundred years old. Mr. Kean's acting is not, we understand, much relished in the upper circles. It is thought too obtrusive and undisguised a display of nature. Neither was Garrick's at all relished at first, by the old Nobility, till it became the fashion to admire him. The court-dresses, the drawing-room strut, and the sing-song declamation, which he banished from the stage, were thought much more dignified and imposing.
" THE FAIR PENITENT.”
Examiner, March 10, 1816. The Fair Penitent is a tragedy which has been found fault with both on account of its poetry and its morality. Notwithstanding these objections, it still holds possession of the stage, where morality is not very eagerly sought after, and poetry but imperfectly understood. We conceive that, for every purpose of practical criticism, that is a good tragedy which draws tears without moving laughter. Rowe's play is founded on one of Massinger's, The Fatal Dowry, in which the characters are a good deal changed, and the interest not increased. The genius of Rowe was slow and timid, and loved the ground: he had not “a Muse of fire to ascend The brightest heaven of invention;" but he had art and judgment enough to accommodate the more daring flights of a ruder age to the polished, well-bred mediocrity of the age he lived in. We may say of Rowe as Voltaire said of Racine : “ All his lines are equally good.” The compliment is, after all, equivocal; but it is one which may be applied generally to all poets, who in their productions are always thinking of what they shall say, and of what others have said, and who are never hurried into excesses of any kind, good or bad, by trusting implicitly to the impulse of their own genius or of the subject. The excellent author of “ Tom Jones," in one of his introductory chapters, represents Rowe as an awkward imitator of Shakespeare. He was rather an imitator of the style and tone of sentiment of that age,-a sort of moderniser of antiquity. The character of Calista is quite in the bravura style of Massinger. She is a heroine, a virago, fair, a woman of high spirit and violent resolutions, anything but a penitent. She dies indeed at last, not from remorse for her vices, but because she can no longer gratify them. She has not he slightest regard for her virtue, and not much for her reputation ; but she would brand with scorn, and blast with the lightning of her indignation, the friend who wishes to stop her in the career of her passions in order to save her from destruction and infamy. She has a strong sentiment of respect and attachment to her father, but she will sooner consign his grey hairs to shame and death than give up the least of her inclinations, or sacrifice her sullen gloom to the common decencies of behaviour. She at last pretends conversion from her errors, in a soft, whining address to her husband, and after having deliberately and wantonly done all the mischief in her power, with her eyes open, wishes that she had sooner known better, that she might have acted differently! We do not however for ourselves object to the morality of all this : for we apprehend that morality is little more than truth ; and we think that Rowe has given a very true and striking picture of the nature and consequences of that wilful selfishness of disposition, " which to be hated needs but to be seen." We do not think it necessary that the spectator should wait for the reluctant conversion of the character itself, to be convinced of its odiousness or folly, or that the only instruction to be derived from the drama is, not from the insight it gives us into the nature of human character and passion, but from some artificial piece of patchwork morality tacked to the end. However, Rowe has so far complied with the rules.
After what we have said of the character of Calista, Miss O'Neill will perhaps excuse us if we do not think that she was a very perfect representative of it. The character, as she gave it, was a very fine and impressive piece of acting, but it was not quite Calista. She gave the pathos, but not the spirit of the character. Her grief was sullen and sad, not impatient and ungovernable. Calista's melancholy is not a settled dejection, but a feverish state of agitation between conflicting feelings. Her eyes should look bright and sparkling through her tears. Her action should be animated and aspiring. Her present woes should not efface the traces of past raptures. There should be something in her appearance of the intoxication of pleasure, mixed with the madness of despair. The scene in which Miss O'Neill displayed most power, was that in which she is shown her letter to Lothario by Horatio, her husband's friend. The rage and shame with which her bosom seemed labouring were truly dreadful. This is the scene in which the poet has done most for the imagination, and it is the characteristic excellence of Miss O'Neill's acting, that it always rises with the expectations of the audience. She also repeated the evasive answer, “It was the day in which my father gave my hand to Altamont—as such I shall remember it for ever," in a tone of deep and suppressed emotion. It is needless to add, that she played the part with a degree of excellence which no other actress could approach, and that she was only inferior to herself in it, because there is not the same opportunity for the display of her inimitable powers, as in some of her other characters.
MISS O'NEILL'S LADY TEAZLE.
Examiner, March 24, 1816. Miss O'NEILL’s Lady Teazle at Covent Garden Theatre appears to us to be a complete failure. It was not comic ; it was not elegant; it was not easy ; it was not dignified ; it was not playful ; it was not anything that it ought to be. All that can be said of it is, that it was not tragedy. It seemed as if all the force and pathos which she displays in interesting situations had left her, but that not one spark of gaiety, one genuine expression of delight, had come in their stead. It was a piece of laboured heavy still-life. The only thing that had an air of fashion about her was the feather in her hat. It was not merely that she did not succeed as Miss O'Neill ; it would have been a falling off in the most commonplace actress who had ever done anything tolerably. She gave to the character neither the complete finished air of fashionable indifference, which was the
in which Miss Farren played it, if we remember right, nor that mixture of artificial refinement and natural vivacity, which appears to be the true idea of the character (which however is not very well made out), but she seemed to have been thrust by some injudicious caprice of fortune, into a situation for which she was fitted neither by nature nor education. There was a perpetual affectation of the wit and the fine lady, with an evident consciousness of effort, a desire to please without any sense of pleasure. It was no better than awkward mimicry of the part, and more like a drawling imitation of Mrs. C. Kemble's genteel comedy than anything else we have seen. The concluding penitential speech was an absolute sermon. We neither liked her manner of repeating “Mimminee pimminee," nor of