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read. As the rude and untaught multitude are no way wrought upon more effectually than by seeing public punishments and executions; so men of letters and education feel their humanity most forcibly exercised, when they attend the obsequies of men who had arrived at any perfection in liberal accomplishments. Theatrical action is to be esteemed as such, except it be objected, that we cannot call that an art which cannot be attained by art. Voice, stature, motion, and other gifts, must be very bountifully bestowed by nature, or labour and industry will but push the unhappy endeavour in that way, the farther off his wishes. Such an actor as Mr. Betterton ought to be recorded with the same respect as Roscius among the Romans. The greatest orator has thought fit to quote his judgment, and celebrate his life. Roscius was the example to all that would form themselves into proper and winning behaviour. His action was so well adapted to the sentiments he expressed, that the youth of Rome thought they only wantcd to be virtuous to be as graceful in their appearance as Roscius. The imagination took a lovely impression of what was great and good; and they who never thought of setting up for the art of imitation, became themselves inimitable characters. There is no human invention so aptly calculated for the forming a free-born people as that of a theatre. Tully reports, that the celebrated player of whom I am speaking, used frequently to say, “The perfection of “an actor is only to become what he is doing.” Young men, who are too inattentive, to receive lectures, are irresistibly taken with performances. Hence it is, that I extremely lament the little relish the gentry of this nation have at present for the just and noble representations in some of our tragedies. The operas, which are of late introduced, can leave no trace behind them that can be of service beyond the present moment. To sing and to dance, are accomplishments very few have any thoughts of practising; but to speak justiy, and move gracefully, is what every man thinks he does perform, or wishes he did. I have hardly a notion, that any performer of antiquity could surpass the action of Mr. Betterton in any of the occasions in which he has appeared on ourstage. The wonderful agony which he appeared in, when he examined the circumstance of the handkerchief in Othello; the mixture of love that intruded upon his mind, upon the innocent answers Desdemona makes, betrayed in his gesture such a variety and vicissitude of passions, as would admonish a man to be afraid of his own heart, and perfectly convince him, that it is to stab it, to admit that worst of daggers, jealousy. Whoever reads in his closet this admirable scene, will find that he cannot, except he has as warm an imagination as Shakspeare himself, find any but dry, incoherent, and broken sentences: but a reader that has seen Betterton act it, observes there could not be a word added; that longer speeches had been unnatural, nay, impossible, in Othello's circumstances. The charming passage in the same tragedy, where he tells the manner of winning the affection of his mistress, was urged with so moving and graceful an energy, that while I walked in the Cloisters, I thought of him with the same concern as if I waited for the remains of a person who had in real life done all that I had seen him represent. The gloom of the place, and faint lights before the ceremony appeared, contributed to the melancholy disposition I was in; and I began to be extremely afflicted, that Brutus and Cassius had any difference; that Hotspur's gallantry was so unfortunate; and that the mirth and good humour of Falstaff could not exempt him from the grave. Nay, this occasion in me, who look upon the distinctions amongst men to be merely scenical, raised reflections upon the emptiness of all human perfection and greatness in general; and I could not but regret, that the sacred heads which lie
buried in the neighbourhood of this little portion of earth in which my poor old friend is deposited, are returned to dust as well as he, and that there is no difference in the grave between the imaginary and the real monarch. This made me say of human life itself with Macbeth :
To-morrow, to-morrow, and to-morrow,
The mention I have here made of Mr. Betterton, for whom I had, as long as I have known any thing, a very great esteem and gratitude for the pleasure he gave me, can do him no good; but it may possibly be of service to the unhappy woman he has left behind him, to have it known, that this great tragedian was never in a scene half so moving, as the circumstances of his affairs created at his departure. His wife after the cohabitation of forty years in the strictest amity, has long pined away with a sense of his decay, as well in his person as his little fortune; and, in proportion to that, she has herself decayed both in her health and reason. Her husband's death, added to her age and infirmities, would certainly have determined her life, but that the greatness of her distress has been her relief, by a present deprivation of her senses. This absence of reason is her best defence against age, sorrow, poverty, and sickness. I dwell upon this account so distinctly, in obedience to a certain great spirit, who hides her name, and has by letter applied to me to recommend to her some object of compassion, from whom she may be concealed.
This, I think, is a proper occasion for exerting such heroic generosity; and as there is an ingenuous shame in those who have known better fortune to be reduced to receive obligations, as well as a becoming pain in the truly generous to receive thanks; in this case both these delicacies are preserved; for the person obliged is as incapable of knowing her benefactress, as her benefactress is unwilling to be known by her.
“WHEREAS it hath been signified to the Censor, that under the pretence that he has encouraged the moving ficture, and particularly admired the walking statue, some persons within the liberties of Westminster have vended walking pictures, insomuch that the said pictures have, within a few days, after sales by auction returned to the habitations of their first proprietors; that matter has been narrowly looked into, and orders are given to Pacolet “ to take notice of all who are concerned in such frauds, “with directions to draw their pictures, that they may “be hanged in effigy, in terrorum to all auctions for “ the olture. ”
No. CLXVIII. SATURDAY, MAY 6.
From my own Afiartment, May 5.
NEVER was man so much teazed, or suffered half so much uneasiness as I have done this evening, between a couple of fellows, with whom I was unfortunately engaged to sup, where there were also several others in company. One of them is the most invincibly impudent, and the other as incorrigibly absurd. Upon hearing my name, the man of audacity, as he calls himself, began to assume an awkward way of reserve by way of ridicule upon me as a Censor, and said, he must have a care of his behaviour, for there would be notes written upon all that should pass........ The man of freedom and ease, for such the other thinks himself, asked me, whether my sister Jenny was a breeding or rot? After they had done with me they were impertinent to a very smart, but well-bred man, who stood his ground very well, and let the company see they ought, but could not be out of countenance. I look upon such a defence as a real good action; for while he received their fire, there was a modest and worthy young gentleman sat secure by him, and a lady of the family at the same time, guarded against the nauseous familiarity of the one, and the more painful mirth of the other. This conversatien, where there were a thousand things said not worth repeating, made me consider with myself, how it is that men of these disagreeable characters often go great lengths in the world, and seldom fail of out-stripping men of merit; nay, succeed so well, that with a load of imperfections on their heads, they go on in opposition to general disesteem, while they, who are every way their superiors, languish away their days, though possessed of the approbation and goodwill of all who know them.