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upon them ; for as the English use very little gefture in ordinary conversation, our English-bred actors are obliged to supply stage gestures by their imagination alone. A French comedian finds proper models of action in every company and in every coffee-house he enters. An Englishınan is obliged to take his models from the stage itself; he is obliged to imitate Nature from an imitation of Nature. I know of no set of meri more likely to be improved by travelling than those of the theatrical profession. The inhabitants of the continent are less reserved than here; they may be seen through upon a first acquaintance; such are the proper models to draw from ; they are at once ftriking, and are found in great abundance.
Though it would be inexcufable in a comedian to add any thing of his own to the Poet's dialogue; yet as to action he is entirely at liberty. By this he may shew the fertility of his genius, the poignancy of his humour, and the exactness of his judgment; we scarcely see a coxcomb or a fool in common life, that has not some peculiar oddity in his action. These peculiarities it is not in the power of words to represent, and depend solely upon the actor. They give a relish to the humour of the poet, and make the appearance of Nature more illufive; the Italians, it is true, mask fome characters, and endeavour to preserve the peculiar humour by the make of the maik; but I have feen others still preserve a great fund of humour in the face without a mafk; one actor, particularly, by a squint which he threw into some characters of low life, assumed a look of infinite folidity. This, though upon reflection we might condemn, yet immediately upon representation we could not avoid being pleased with. To illustrate what I have been saying by the plays I have of late gone to see : in the Miser, which was played a few nights ago at Covent-Garden, Love
gold appears through the whole in circumstances of exaggerated avarice ; all the player's action, therefore, should conspire with the poet's design, and represent him as an epitome of penury.
The French comedian, in this character, in the midst of one of his most violent passions, while he appears in an ungovernable råge, feels the demon of avarice still upon him, and stoops down to pick up a pin, which he quilts into the flap of his coat-pocket with great assiduity. Two candles are lighted up for his wedding ; he flies, and turns one of them into the focket; it is, however, lighted up again ; he then steals to it, and privately crams it into his pocket. The MockDoctor was lately played at the other house. Here again the comedian had an opportunity of heightening the ridicule by action. The French player fits in a chair with an high back, and then begins to shew away by talking nonsense, which he would have thought Latin by those who he knows do not understand a syllable of the matter.
At last he grows enthusiastic, enjoys the admiration of the company, toffes his legs and arms about, and in the midst of his raptures and vociferation he and the chair fall back together. All this appears dull enough in the recital ; but the gravity of Cato could not stand it in the representation. In short, there is hardly a character in comedy, to which a player of any real humour might not add ftrokes of vivacity that could not fail of applause. But instead of this we too often fee our fine gentlemen do nothing through a whole part, but strut, and open their snuff-box; our pretty fellows sit indecently with their legs across, and our clowns pull up their breeches. These, if once, or even iwice repeated, might do well enough ; but to see them ferved up in every scene, argues the actor almost as barren as the character he would cxpuse.
The magnificence of our theatres is far superior to any others in Europe, where plays only are acted. The great care our performers take in pairiting for a part, their exactness in all the minutiæ of drels, and other little scenical proprieties, have been taken notice by Ricoboni, a gentleman of Italy, who travelled Europe with no other design but to remark upon the stage; but there are several improprieties still continued, or lately come into fashion. *As, for instance, spreading a carpet punctually at the beginning of the death scene, in order to prevent our actors from spoiling their cloaths ; this immediately apprizes us of the tragedy to follow ; for laying the cloth is not a more lure indication of dinner than laying the carpet of bloody work at Drury-lane, Our little pages also with unmeaning faces, that bear up the train of a weeping princess, and our aukward Jords in waiting, take off much from her distress, Mutes of every kind divide our attention, and lessen our sensibility; but here it is entirely ridiculous, as we see them seriously employed in doing nothing. If we must have dirty-thirted guards upon the theatres, they should be taught to keep their eyes fixed on the actors, and not roll them round upon the audience, as if they were ogling the boxes.
Beauty methinks seems a requisite qualification in an actress. This seems scrupulously observed elsewhere, and for my part I could wish to see it observed at home, I can never conceive an hero dying for love of a lady totally destitute of beauty. I must think the part unnatural, for I cannot bear to hear him call that face angelic, when even paint cannot hide its wrinkles. I must condemn him of stupidity, and the person whom I can accuse for want of taste will feldom become the object of my affections or adiniration. But if this be a defect, what must be the ențire perversion of scenical decorum, when for inL 3
stance we see an actress, that might act the Wapping Landlady without a bolster, pining in the character of Jane Shore, and while unwieldy with fat endeavouring to convince the audience that she is dying with hunger !
For the future then, I could wish that the parts of the young or beautiful were given to performers of suitable figures ; for I must own, I could rather see the stage filled with agreeable objects, though they might sometimes bungle a little, than see it crowded with withered or mis-thapen figures, be their emphasis, as I think it is called, ever só proper. The first may have the aukward appearance of newraised troops; but in viewing the last I cannot avoid the mortification of fancying myself placed in an hospital of invalids.
THE STORY OF ALCANDER AND SEPTIMIUS.
TRANSLATED FROM A BYZANTINE HISTORIAN.
ATHENS, even long after the decline of the Roman empire, still continued the seat of learning, politeness, and wisdom. The emperors and generals, who in these periods of approaching ignorance still felt a passion for science, from time to time added to its buildings, or encreased its professorships. Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, was of the number; he repaired those schools which barbarity was suffering to fall into decay, and continued those pensions to men of learning, which avaricious governors had monopolized to themselves.
In this city, and about this period, Alcander and Septimius were fellow students together. The one the most subtle reasoner of all the Lyceum ; the other the most eloquent speaker in the academic grove. Mutual admiration foon begot an acquaintance, and a similitude of difpofition made them perfect friends. Their fortunes were nearly equal, their studies the same, and they were natives of the two most celebrated cities in the world ; for Alcander was of Athens, Septimius came from Rome.
In this mutual harmony they lived for some time together, when Alcander, after passing the first part of his youth in the indolence of
philosophy, thought at length of entering into the busy world, and as a step previous to this, placed his affections on Hypatia, a lady of exquisite beauty. Hypatia shewed no diflike to his addresses. The day of their intended nuptials was fixed, the previous ceremonies were performed, and nothing now remained but, her being conducted in triumph to the apartment of the intended bridegroom.
An exultation in his own happiness, or his being unable to enjoy any satisfaction without making his friend Septimius a partner, prevailed upon him to introduce his mistress to his fellow student, which he did with all the gaiety of a man who found himself equally happy in friendship and love. But this was an interview fatal to the peace of both. Septimius no sooner saw her, but he was smit with an involuntary passion. He used every effort, but in vain, to press desires at once so imprudent and unjust. He retired to his apartment in inexpressible agony; and the emotions of his mind in a short time became so strong, that they brought on a fever, which the physicians judged incurable.
During this illness Alcander watched him with all the anxiety of fondness, and brought his mistress