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the arm, and any passion or person that can be brought forward on the stage? It is not that we can be said to acquire a prejudice against so harmless an actor as Mr. C
; we are born with a prejudice against a speaker of prologues. It is an innate idea: a natural instinct: there is a particular organ in the brain provided for it. Do we not all hate a manager? It is not because he is insolent or impertinent, or fond of making ridiculous speeches, or a notorious puffer, or ignorant, or mean, or vain, but it is because we see him in a coat, waistcoat, and breeches. The stage is the world of fantasy: it is Queen Mab that has invited us to her revels there, and all that have to do with it should wear motley!
Lastly, there are some actors by profession, whose faces we like to see in the boxes or any where else; but it is because they are no actors, but rather gentlemen and scholars, and in their proper places in the boxes, or wherever they
Does not an actor himself, I would ask, feel conscious and awkward in the boxes, if he thinks that he is known? And does he not sit there in spite of this uneasy feeling, and run the gauntlets of impertinent looks and whispers, only to get a little by-admiration, as he thinks? It is hardly to be supposed that he comes to see
the play, the show. He must have enough of plays and finery. But he wants to see a favourite (perhaps a rival) actor in a striking part. Then the place for him to do this is the pit. Painters, I know, always get as close up to a picture they want to copy as they can; and I should imagine actors would want to do the same, in order to look into the texture and me. chanism of their art. Even theatrical critics can make nothing of a part that they see from the boxes. If you sit in the stage-box, your attention is drawn off by the company and other circumstances. If you get to a distance (so as to be out of the reach of notice) you can neither hear nor see well. For myself, I would as soon take a seat on the top of the Monument to give an account of a first appearance, as go into the second or third tier of boxes to do it. I went, but the other day, with a box-ticket, to see Miss Fanny Brunton come out in Juliet, and Mr. Macready make a first appearance in Romeo; and though I was told (by a tolerable judge) that the new Juliet was the most elegant figure on the stage, and that Mr. Macready's Romeo was quite beautiful, I vow to God I knew nothing of it. So little could I tell of the matter, that at one time I mistook Mr. Horrebow for Mr. Abbott. I have seen Mr. Kean play Sir
Giles Overreach one night from the front of the pit, and a few nights after from the front boxes, facing the stage. It was another thing altogether. That which had been so lately nothing but flesh and blood, a living fibre, “ instinct with fire” and spirit, was no better than a little fantoccini figure, darting backwards and forwards on the stage, starting, screaming, and playing a number of fantastic tricks before the audience. I could account, in the latter instance, for the little approbation of the performance manifested around me, and also for the general scepticism with respect to Mr. Kean's acting, which has been said to prevail among those who cannot condescend to go into the pit, and have not interest in the orchestra—to see him act. They may then stay away altogether. His face is the running comment on his acting, which reconciles the audience to it. Without that index to his mind, you are not prepared for the vehemence and suddenness of his gestures ; his pauses are long, abrupt, and unaccountable, if not filled up by the expression; it is in the working of his face that you see the writhing and coiling up of the passions before they make their serpent-spring; the lightning of his eye precedes the hoarse burst of thunder from his voice.
One may go into the boxes, indeed, and cri. ticise acting and actors with Sterne's stop-watch, but no otherwise-". And between the nominative case and the verb (which, as your lordship knows, should agree together in number, person, &c.) there was a full pause of a second and two thirds.' • But was the
silent-did the look say nothing ?' — I looked only at the stop-watch, my lord.'-'Excellent critic!"" - If any other actor, indeed, goes to see Mr. Kean act, with a view to avoid imitation, this
be the place, or rather it is the way to run into it, for you see only his extravagances and defects, which are the most easily carried away. Mr. Matthews may translate him into an At Home even from the slips !— Distinguished actors then ought, I conceive, to set the example of going into the pit, were it only for their own sakes. I remember a trifling circumstance, which I worked up at the time into a confirmation of this theory of mine, engrafted on old prejudice and tradition* I had got into the middle of the pit, at considerable risk of broken bones, to see Mr. Kean in one of his early parts, when I perceived two young men seated a little be
* The trunk-maker, I grant, in the Spectator's time, sat in the two-shilling gallery. But that was in the Spectator's time, and not in the days of Mr. Smirke and Mr. Wyatt.
hind me, with a certain space left round them. They were dressed in the height of the fashion, in light drab-coloured great coats, and with their shirt-sleeves drawn down over their hands, at a time when this was not so common as it has since become. I took them for
younger sons of some old family at least. One of them, that was very good-looking, I thought might be Lord Byron, and his companion might be Mr. Hobhouse. They seemed to have wandered from another sphere to this our planet to witness a masterly performance to the utmost advantage. This stamped the thing. They were, undoubtedly, young men of rank and fashion; but their taste was greater than their regard for appearances. The pit was, after all, the true resort of thorough-bred critics and amateurs. When there was any thing worth seeing, this was the place; and I began to feel a sort of reflected importance in the consciousness that I also was a critic. Nobody sat near them—it would have seemed like an intrusion. Not a syllable was uttered.—They were two clerks in the Victualling Office!
What I would insist on, then, is this—that for Mr. Kean, or Mr. Young, or Mr. Macready, or any of those that are “ cried out upon in the top of the compass” to obtrude themselves