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When a performer, after due time for preparation, makes his appearance on the stage, depending almost wholly on the prompter's assistance, he deserves no mercy: and were Roscius or Garrick themselves restored to life, and guilty of such insolent conduct, they ought to be hissed. This displays so total an indifference for the audience, and such a dereliction of duty, as admits of no apology, and unquestionably deserves the most caustic criticism.
Those who attend dramatic representations, ought to cherish a sincere disposition to be gratified. This is the dictate of sound policy, as it respects themselves, wholly independent of all regard for the performers. They thus multiply their enjoyments. Duly considering their own imperfection, and the difficulty of attaining complete excellence in the theatrical line, they ought invariably to lean to the side of lenity and indulgence, unless to repress and mortify overweening arrogance, or to punish and confound insolent neglect. These are not entitled to mercy. They should receive none. To bestow applause, when truly earned, they ought to regard not merely as an act of generosity, but a real incumbent duty. Every grade of performers, from the highest to the lowest, will invariably act better and with more spirit, under the cheering and joy-inspiring effects of bursts of applause, than when the audience regard them as frigidly and unfeelingly as if they were delivering lectures on Euclid's Elements, or on the ethics of the Stoic philosophers. The tameness and sang froid of an audience communicates itself by sympathy to the performers.
By pursuing the plan here recommended, the audience will inspire the players with confidence, give respectability to the theatre, and more completely attain the end they propose by visiting it, than by the present wretched system of paralyzing indifference, or revolting insult.
Will the formidable host of newspaper critics allow me to address a few words to them on this subject, with all due deference? The object of theatrical criticism is not, as some seem to believe, merely to expose faults,, and deal forth censure. This is a most egregious error, and, to say no worse of it, implies great defect of judgment at least. There is more true taste and infinitely more goodness evinced, by an ingenious and accurate discovery of excellence, and by appropriate and just encomium, than by the detection and display of imperfection and deformity. Even when censure is really necessary, it ought to be delivered with delicacy. The critic ought to consider what would be his own sensations, were he dragged forward and abused without the power of defence. All the purposes of criticism may be effectually answered without wounding the feelings of performers, even of mediocre talents. On such, praise may be very frequently bestowed without violating truth ; and opportunities of doing this, ought to be seized, when they occur. Over occasional errors, arising from the imperfection inherent in human nature, a veil may be sometimes drawn without impropriety. Let the critic bear in eternal remembrance, that he wages a very unequal war with the performer, who, however his superior in other points, may be totally unaccustomed to write, or, even if he be not, is debarred of the advantage of newspapers to make his defence, or to retort the attack-and is even totally ignorant of his persecutors. This consideration would disarm a truly generous assailant. Such a man would scorn to attack an enemy on unfair terms. Let the critic, too, reflect, that however elegantly he rounds off his periods, and however sportively he may write, his labours tend to dry up the source which supplies sustenance to a considerable number of people. While he is thinning
the seats of the playhouse, he is depriving many of bread. This, I need not say, is a truly serious consideration. The character of an assassin who stabs in the dark, cannot be a very desirable one. Yet in the awful name of the Maker of heaven and earth and of all things therein, what other term can be applied to the anonymous writer, who, goaded on by the blackest malignity, remorselessly pursues his unoffending, his defenceless, his prostrate victim, till he renders life an insupportable burden, and hurries him on to the awful precipice of selfmurder !
BY RICHARD RUSH.
A COUNTRY is not to be understood by a few months' residence in it. So many component parts go to make up the grand total, where civilisation, and freedom, and power, are on a large scale, that the judgment gets perplexed. It pauses for re-examination. It must be slow in coming to conclusions, if it would be right. Often it must change them. A member of the diplomatic corps, an enlightened and shrewd observer, said to me a few days ago, that, at the end of his first year, he thought he knew England very well ; when the third year had gone by, he began to have doubts ; and that now, after a still longer time, his opinions were more unsettled than ever. Some he had changed entirely ; others had undergone modification, and he knew not what fate was before the rest.
There was reason in his remark. If it be not contradictory, I would say, that he showed his good judgment in appearing to have at present no judgment at all. The stranger sees in England, prosperity the most amazing, with what seems to strike at the root of all prosperity. He sees the most profuse expenditure, not by the nobles alone, but large classes besides ; and throughout classes far larger, the most resolute industry supplying its demands and repairing its waste; taxation strained to the utmost, with an ability unparalleled to meet it ; pauperism that is
startling, with public and private charity munificent and unfailing, to feed, clothe, and house it; the boldest freedom, with submission to law; ignorance and crime so widely diffused as to appal, with genius, and learning, and virtue to reassure ; intestine commotions perpetually predicted, and never happening; constant complaints of poverty and suffering, with constant increase in aggregate wealth and power. These are some of the anomalies which he sees. How is he then at once to pass upon them all ? he, a stranger, when the foremost of the natives in knowledge and intelligence, do nothing but differ after studying them a life-time ; when in every journal, every book, every pamphlet that comes out about England politically, he reads scarcely any thing but conflicting assertions, conflicting opinions, conflicting conclusions; when this is'alike the case in their parliamentary speeches even in the very statements and evidence contained in the elaborate reports emanating from the same body.,
One of the things that strike me most, is their daily press. By nine in the morning, the newspapers are on my breakfast table, containing the debate of the preceding night. This is the case, though it may have lasted until one, two, or three in the morning. There is no disappointment ; hardly a typographical error. The speeches on both sides are given with like care and fulness ; a mere rule of justice to be sure, without which the paper would have no credit; but fit to be mentioned where party feeling always runs as high as in England.
This promptitude is the result of what alone could produce it; an unlimited command of subdivided labour of the hand and mind. The proprietors of the great newspapers, employ as many stenographers as they want.