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ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE BRUNSWICK
[NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
We notice this lamentable accident in our dramatic record, not for the sake of inquiry into its causes, or of multiplying the dismal associations which it awakens, but for the striking manner in which it has brought out the proper virtues of players. Actors of all ranks; managers of all interests; the retired and the active; the successful and the obscure; the refined and the vulgar; from Mrs. Siddons down to the scene-shifters of Sadler's Wells, have pressed forward to afford their sympathy and relief to the living sufferers. The proprietors of the patent theatres, who were just complaining of the infringements on their purchased rights, which have rendered them almost valueless, at once forgot the meditated injury to themselves, and saw nothing but the misery of their comrades. It is only on occasions such as these that the charities which are nurtured amidst the excitements and vicissitudes of a theatrical life are exhibited, so as to put the indiscriminate condemnations of the crabbed moralist and the fanatic to shame. There is more equality in the distribution of goodness and evil than either of these classes imagine; for the "respectable" part of the community are powerful and permanent; and obtain, perhaps, something more than justice for the negative virtues. Far be it from us to undervalue these, or to sympathize with any who would represent the ordinary guards and fences of morality as things of little value; but justice is due to all; and justice, we cannot help thinking, is scarcely done to those whose irregularities and whose virtues grow together on that verge of ruin and despair on which they stand in the times of their giddiest elevation. A cold observance of the decencies of life excites no man's envy and wounds no man's self-love; and, therefore, it is allowed without grudging; while the dazzling errors and redeeming nobleness of the light-hearted and the generous are more easily abused than copied. To detect" the soul of goodness in things evil," is not to confound evil with good, or to weaken the laws of honour and conscience, but to give to them a finer precision and a more penetrating vigour. It is not by distinguishing, but by confounding, that pernicious sentimentalists pervert the understanding and corrupt the affections. They lend to vice the names and attributes of virtue; tack together qualities which could never be united in nature; and thus, in order to produce a new and startling effect, deprave the moral sensibility, and relax the tone of manly feeling. But it is another thing to hold the balance fairly between the excellencies and the frailties of imperfect men; to trace the hints and indications of high emotion amidst the weaknesses of our nature; to consider temptations as well
as transgressions, and to estimate not only
no doubt, regards the accidental mention of the name of the Supreme Being on the stage as blasphemy. It is difficult to express one's indignation at such a spirit and such language without wounding the feelings of those whose opinions of the guilt of theatrical enjoyments have not rendered them insensible to the feelings of others.
It must be admitted that there is something in the sudden death of actors which shocks us peculiarly at the moment, because the contrast between life and death seems more violent in their case than in that of others. We connect them, by the law of association, with our own gayest moments, and fancy that they who live to please must lead a life of pleasure. Alas! the truth is often far otherwise. The comedian droops behind the scenes, quite chapfallen; the tragic hero retires from his stately griefs to brood over homely and familiar sorrows, which no poetry softens; the triumphant actress, arrayed in purple and in pall, may know the pangs of despised love, or anticipate the coming on of the time when she shall be prematurely old, and as certainly neglected. The stage is a grave business to those who study it even successfully, though its rewards are intoxicating enough to turn the most sober brain. The professors in misfortune-especially such a misfortune as this-have the most urgent claims on our sympathy. Should we allow those to be miserable who have so often made us and thousands happy? Should we shut our
hearts against those who have touched them so truly; who have helped to lighten the weight of existence; and have made us feel our kin dred with a world of sorrow and of tears? Their art has the most sacred right to the protection of humanity, for it touches it most nearly. It makes no appeal to posterity; it does not aim at the immortal, in contempt of our perishable aims and regards; but it is contented to live in our enjoyments, and to die with them. Its triumphs are not diffused by the press, nor re corded in marble, but registered on the redleaved tablets of the heart, satisfied to date its fame with the personal existence of its wit nesses. It forms a part of ourselves; beats in the quickest pulses of our youth, and supplies the choicest topics of our garrulous age. It partakes of our fragility, nay even dies before us, and leaves its monument in our memories. Surely, then, it becomes us "to see the players well bestowed," when their gayeties are suddenly and prematurely eclipsed, and their short flutterings of vanity stayed before their time; or to provide for those who depended on their exertions. Of all people, they do most for relations; they hence most depend on them; and, therefore, their case both deserves and requires our most active sympathy. The call has been, in this instance, powerfully made, and will, we hope, be answered practically by all who revere the genius, and love the pro fession, and partake the humanity of Shak speare.
FIRST APPEARANCE OF MISS FANNY KEMBLE.
[NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
WHEN We predicted, last month, that if Covent Garden theatre should be opened at all, it would derive attraction even from the extreme depression into which it had sunk, we had no idea of the manner in which this hope would be realized. We little dreamed that the circumstances which had threatened to render this house desolate, would inspire female genius to spring from the family whose honours were interwoven with its destiny, like an infant Minerva, almost perfect at birth, to revive its fortunes and renew its glories. In the announcement that, on the opening night, Miss Fanny Kemble, known to be a young lady of high literary endowments, though educated without the slightest view to the stage as a profession, would present herself as Julietthat her mother, who, in her retirement, had been followed by the grateful recollections of all lovers of the drama, would reappear, in the part of Lady Capulet, to introduce and support her; and that her father would imbody, for the first time, that delightful creation of Shakspeare's happiest mood, Mercutio-there was abundant interest to ensure a full, respectable, and excited audience; but no general expecta
tion had gone forth of the splendid event which was to follow. Even in our youngest days, we never shared in so anxious a throb of ex pectation as that which awaited the several appearances of these personages on the stage. The interest was almost too complicated and intense to be borne with pleasure; and when Kemble bounded on the scene, gayly pointed at Romeo, as if he had cast all his cares and twenty of his years behind him, there was a grateful relief from the first suspense, that expressed itself in the heartiest enthusiasm we ever witnessed. Similar testimonies of feeling greeted the entrance of Mrs. Kemble; but our hearts did not breathe freely till the fair debutant herself had entered, pale, trembling but resolved, and had found encouragement and shelter in her mother's arms. But another and a happier source of interest was soon opened; for the first act did not close till all fears for Miss Kemble's success had been dis pelled; the looks of every spectator conveyed that he was electrified by the influence of new tried genius, and was collecting emotions, in silence, as he watched its development, to swell its triumph with fresh acclamations. For
her courage, it gives her promptitude-the power of seeing what is to be done, and of doing it without faltering or hesitation. She always aims at the highest effect, and almost always succeeds in realizing her finest conceptions.
our own part, the illusion that she was Shak- | intellect, and the manifestation of that faculty speare's own Juliet came so speedily upon us, is a pervading charm of her acting. It gives as to suspend the power of specific criticismso delicious was the fascination, that we disliked even the remarks of by-standers that disturbed that illusive spell; and though, half an hour before, we had blessed the applauding bursts of the audience, like omens of propitious thunder, we were now half-impatient of their frequency and duration, because they intruded on a still higher pleasure, and because we needed no assurance that Miss Kemble's success was sealed.
Feeling that the occasion formed an era in our recollections of the theatre, we compared her, in our imagination, with all the great actresses we had; and it is singular, though we can allege nothing like personal likeness, that Mrs. Jordan was the one whom she brought back, in the first instance, to our memory. We might have set down this idea as purely fanciful, if we had not learned that it has crossed the minds of other observers. As form and features seem to have nothing to do with this reminiscence, we attribute it to the exquisite naturalness of Miss Kemble's manner, and we cannot help connecting it with an anticipation that she will one day be as pre-eminently the comic as the tragic muse of our stage.
The Juliet of Shakspeare is young and beautiful; but no mistake can be greater than the idea that her character can be impersonated with probability by a merely beautiful young woman. Juliet is a being of rich imagination; her eloquence breathes an ethereal spirit; and her heroic devotedness is as different from common-place romance, as superficial gilding is unlike the solid ore. By many an observer, the beautiful surface of her character is alone appreciated, and not that force and grandeur in it which is capable of sustaining itself in harmony, not only with the luxuriant commencement of the piece, but with the funeral terrors of its tragic close. Hence the expectation has been so often excited, that a lovely girl, who can look the character very innocently, and speak the garden-scene very prettily, is quite sufficient to be a representative of the heroine throughout; and hence the same expectation has been so often disappointed. The debutante may be often carried, without apparent failure, through a scene or two, by her beauty and pretty manner of love-making; but when the tragedy commences in earnest, her intellectual expression sinks under its terrors, and she appears no more than a poor young lady, driven mad with the vexation of love.
Her traits of family resemblance struck us most powerfully in the deeper and more earnest parts of her tragic performance. On one occasion, when her face only was revealed by her drapery, its intense expression brought Mrs. Siddons most vividly back to us. Miss Kemble's personal qualifications for her profession are, indeed, such as we might expect from one so parented and related. Her head Far remote from this description is the is nobly formed and admirably placed on her | Juliet of Miss Kemble. It never was our forshoulders-her brow is expansive and shaded tune to see Mrs. Siddons in the part, but Miss by very dark hair-her eyes are full of a gifted Kemble gives it a depth of tragic tone which soul, and her features are significant of intel- none of her predecessors whom we have seen lect to a very extraordinary degree. Though ever gave to it. Miss O'Neil, loth as we are scarcely reaching the middle height, she is to forget her fascinations, used to lighten the finely proportioned, and she moves with such earlier scenes of the piece with some girlish dignity and decision that it is only on recollec- graces that were accused of being infantine. tion we discover she is not tall. In boldness Be that as it may, there were certainly a hunand dignity of action she unquestionably ap- dred little prettinesses enacted by hundreds of proaches more nearly to Mrs. Siddons than any novices in the character, which attracted actress of our time excepting Pasta. Her voice, habitual applauses, but which Miss Kemble at whilst it is perfectly feminine in its tones, is once repudiated with the wise audacity of geof great compass, and though, perhaps, not yet nius; at the same time, though she blends not entirely within her command, gives proof of a particle of affected girlishness with the part being able to express the sweetest emotions of Juliet, her youth and her truth still leave in without monotony, and the sternest passions it a Shakspearian naiveté. As the tragedy deepwithout harshness. She seems to know the ens, her powers are developed in unison with stage by intuition, "as native there and to the the strengthened decision of purpose which manner born," and she understands even now, the poet gives to the character. What a noble by what magic we cannot divine, the precise effect she produced in that scene where the effect she will produce on the most distant spec- Nurse, who had hitherto been the partner of tators. She treads the stage as if she had been all her counsels, recommends her to marry matured by the study and practice of years. Paris, and to her astonished exclamation, We dreamed for a while of being able to ana- "Speak'st thou from thy heart?" answers, lyze her acting, and to fix in our memory the" And from my soul too, or else beshrew them finest moments of its power and grace; but her attitudes glide into each other so harmoniously that we at last gave up enumerating how often she seemed a study to the painter's eye and a vision to the poet's heart.
At the first sight, Miss Kemble's countenance conveys an impression of extraordinary
both." At that momentous passage Miss Kemble erected her head, and extended her arm, with an expressive air which we never saw surpassed in acting, and with a power like magic pronounced "Amen!" In that attitude, and look, and word, she made us feel that Juliet, so late a nurseling, was now left alone in the
world that the child was gone, and that the | with only one little touch of baser matter in heroic woman had begun her part. By her the mimickry of the Nurse-and closed by a change of tone and manner she showed that her heart was wound up to fulfil its destiny, and she bids the Nurse "Go in," in a tone of dignified command. That there was such a change in Juliet we have always felt, but to mark its precise moment was reserved for this accomplished actress in a single tone.
It is hardly needless to say, that Mr. Kemble's Mercutio was delightful, independent even of the gallant spirit with which he carried off the weight of his anxieties on the first evening. It was charmingly looked, acted, and spoken
death true to nature, and exhibiting, in milder light, all the brilliant traits of the character. Warde showed his good feeling in accepting the part of Friar Laurence, and his good taste in speaking the poetry of which it is made up: Mrs. Davenport played the Nurse as excellently as she has played it for the last twenty years, and not better than she will play it for twenty years to come; and Mrs. Kemble went through the little she had to do in Lady Capulet with true motherly grace.
THE MELO-DRAMAS AGAINST GAMBLING.
[NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
years passed in the preparatory school of guilt, the hero verging on old age is represented as in the most squalid penury-an outcast from society, starving with a wife bent down by suffering, and a family of most miserable children crying for bread. His first exploit is to plunder a traveller, murder him, and hide his body in the sand; but this is little; the horror is only beginning. While his last murder is literally "sticking on his hands," his old tempter and companion, who had attempted to seduce his wife and had utterly blasted his fortunes, enters his hut, ragged and destitute, and by a few sentences rekindles the old love of play, and engages him in schemes of fraudulent gaming. After this little scene of more subdued interest, the party leave the hut to inter the corpse of the assassinated traveller, and give opportunity for the entrance of the eldest son of the hero, and his recognition by his mother. In her brief absence, contrived for this special occasion, the friends resolve on murdering the youth, of whose name they are ignorant; the father watches while his familiar stabs the stranger on his couch; and just as the full horror is discovered, a thunderbolt sets fire to the dwelling of iniquity, and the father hurls his tempter into the flames and follows him! Such is the piece which has delighted the dainty critics of Paris, who revolt from Julius Cæsar as bloody, and characterize Hamlet as "the work of a drunken savage."
THERE is at Paris, where all extremes meet, | appropriate fraud, heartlessness, and misery. a kind of sub-theatrical public, which makes But the last act crowns all, and completes the amends for the severity of the orthodox dra-"moral lesson." Here, after another fifteen matic code, by running wild after the most extravagant violations of all rules, and the strangest outrages on feeling and taste. Thus the members of this living paradox keep the balance even, and avenge the beautiful and the romantic. If they turn away with disgust from the Weird Sisters, and defy the magic in the web of Othello's handkerchief, they dote on Mr. Cooke in the Monster, and consecrate ribands to his fame. If they refuse to pardon the grave-diggers in Hamlet, they seek for materials of absorbing interest in the charnalhouse which no divine philosophy illumines. If they refuse to tragedy any larger bounds of time than their own classical poets could occupy with frigid declamations, they will select three days from distant parts of a wretched and criminal life, in order to exhibit in full and odious perfection, the horrors which two fifteen years of atrocity can accumulate and mature. Of all the examples of the daring side of their eternal antithesis, the melo-drama against gambling, produced within the last few months, is the most extraordinary and the most successful. Each act is crowded with incidents, in which the only relief from the basest fraud and the most sickening selfishness is to be found in deeds which would chill the blood if it had leisure to freeze. We do not only "sup full of horrors," but breakfast and dine on them also. A youth, who on the eve of his wedding-day sells the jewels of his bride to gamble with the price, and who deceives her by the most paltry equivocations; a friend, who supplies this youth with substituted diamonds which he has himself stolen; a broken-hearted father who dies cursing his son; and a seduction of the wife, filthily attempted while the husband is evading the officers of justice, are among the attractions which should enchain the attention, and gently arouse curiosity in the first act of this fascinating drama. The second act, exhibiting the same pair of fiends, after a lapse of fifteen years, is replete with
But the most offensive circumstance attendant on the production of this bloody trash is the pretence that it is calculated to advance the cause of morality by deterring from the passion of gambling. What a libel is this on poor human nature! Of what stuff must that nature be made, if it could receive benefit from such shocking pictures as representations af fecting it nearly! No longer must we regard it as a thing of passion and weakness,-erring, frail, and misguided, yet full of noble impulses and gentle compassions and traits, indicating
a heavenly origin and an immortal home; but moulded of low selfishness, and animated by demoniac fury. If earth has ever produced such beings as are here exposed on the scene, they are not specimens of any class of humanity, but its monsters. And on what minds is the exhibition to operate? On such as contain within themselves a conscious disposition to its atrocities, if any such there be, or on the rest of mankind, who sicken at the sight? The first are far beyond the reach of the actor's preaching; the last feel the lesson is not for them-if they indulge in gambling, they have no fear of murdering their sons, and "their withers are unwrung." In the mean time the "moral lesson," impotent for good, has a mischievous power to wear out the sources of sympathy, and to produce a dangerous familiarity with the forms of guilt, which according to the solemn warnings of Sir Thomas Browne, "have oft-times a sin even in their histories." "We desire," continues this quaint but noble writer, "no records of such enormities; sins should be accounted new, that so they may be esteemed monstrous; they omit of monstrosity as they fall from their rarity; for men count it venial to err with their forefathers, and foolishly conceive they divide a sin in its society. The pens of men may sufficiently expatiate without these singularities of villany; for, as they increase the hatred of vice in some, so do they enlarge the theory of wickedness in all. And this is one thing that may make latter ages worse than the former, for the vicious example of ages past poisons the curiosity of these present, affording a hint of sin unto seduceable spirits, and soliciting those unto the imitation of them, whose heads were never so perversely principled as to invent them. In things of this nature, silence commendeth history; it is the veniable part of things lost; wherein there must never rise a Pancovillus, nor remain any register but that of Hell." The murderous phantasm of Paris will never deter men from becoming gamblers, who have the fatal passion within them, but it may assist in making gamblers demons.
In London this piece has, we are happy to find, succeeded only in the minor houses, where the audience are accustomed to look for coarse and violent stimulants. It was first produced at the Coburgh; and, assisted by splendid scenery and powerful melo-dramatic acting, was attractive for some time; but has
given way to real operas, got up with great liberality, and the graceful performances of a young gentleman named Smith, who acts with more taste and feeling than the clever aspirants of his age usually exhibit. It was afterwards announced at both the winter theatres; but, fortunately for Covent-Garden, Drury Lane obtained the precedence, and the good sense of Mr. Kemble profited by the example set before him. Here the enormities were somewhat foreshortened, being compressed into two acts, but unredeemed by a single trait of kind or noble emotion. Cooper, as the more potent devil, and Wallack, as his disgusting tool, played with considerable energy; but no talent could alleviate the mingled sense of sickness and suffocation with which their slimy infamies oppressed the spectators. Although much curiosity had been excited, the piece did not draw, and was speedily laid aside; while at Covent-Garden, where its announcement was dignified by the names of Kemble, Ward, and Miss Kelly, it was most wisely suppressed in the shell. At the Adelphi, we have been told that it was rendered somewhat less revolting; but we could not muster courage to face it here, or even to endure it in the improved version of the Surrey, where, according to the play-bills, the Manager has, "after due correction, reformed his hero, and restored him to happiness and virtue." What a fine touch of maudlin morality! To hear Elliston deliver it from the stage with all the earnestness of his mock-heroic style, we would undergo the purgatory with which he threatens us. He is the reforming Quaker of dramatic legislation, and his stage, during the run of the piece, was a court of ease to Brixton, as Drury-Lane was to Newgate. Nothing can equal the benevolent discrimination of his theory, except that of a popular preacher whom we once heard deprecating the orthodox doctrine of the eternity of future punishment, and cheering his audience with the invigorating hope, that, after being tormented for three hundred and sixty-five thousand years, the wicked would be made good and happy. We are thankful, nevertheless, that Mr. Elliston's tread-mill for gamblers has rested with the axes and ropes of his more sanguinary rivals; and that the young gentlemen addicted to play have finished their lesson. How it may operate in Paris and the neighbourhood of St. James's, will be ascertained in the ensuing winter.