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written, with so much wit and humour, that an actor must be the grossest dunce, that does not appear with an unusual life in it: but it will still shew as great a proportion of skill, to come near Underhil in the acting it, which (not to undervalue those who soon came after him) I have not yet seen. He was particularly admir'd too, for the Gravedigger in Hamlet. The author of the Tatler recommends him to the favour of the town, upon that play's being acted for his benefit, wherein, after his age had some years oblig'd him to leave the stage, he came on again, for that day, to perform his old part; but, alas ! so worn and disabled, as if himself was to have lain in the grave he was digging : when he could no more excite laughter, his infirmities were dismiss'd with pity: he dy'd soon after, a superannuated pensioner, in the list of those, who were supported by the joint sharers, under the first patent granted to Sir Richard Steele."
We-pass reluctantly over the account of Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Betterton, and others of less note, to insert the following exquisite picture, of one who seems to have been the most exquisite of actresses :
“Mrs. Monfort, whose second marriage gave her the name of Verbruggen, was mistress of more variety of humour, than I ever knew in any one actress. This variety, too, was attended with an equal vivacity, which made her excellent in characters extremely different. As she was naturally a pleasant mimick, she had the skill to make that talent useful on the stage, a talent which may be surprising in a conversation, and yet be lost when brought to the theatre, which was the case of Estcourt already mention'd: but where the elocution is round, distinct, voluble, and various, as Mrs. Monfort's was, the mimick, there, is a great assistant to the actor. Nothing, tho' ever so barren, if within the bounds of nature, could be flat in her hands. She gave many heightening touches to characters but coldly written, and often made an author vain of his work, that in itself had but little merit. She was so fond of humour, in what low part soever to be found, that she would make no scruple of defacing her fair form, to come heartily into it; for when she was eminent in several desirable characters of wit and humour, in higher life, she would be in as much fancy, when descending into the antiquated Abigail of Fletcher, as when triumphing in all the airs, and vain graces of a fine lady; a merit, that few actresses care for. In a play of D’Urfey's, now forgotten, calld The Western Lass, which part she acted, she transform'd her whole being, body, shape, voice, language, look, and features, into almost another animal; with a strong Devonshire dialect, a broad laughing voice, a poking head, round shoulders, an unconceiving eye, and the most bediz’ning, dowdy dress, that ever cover'd the untrain'd limbs of a Joan Trot. To have seen her here, you would have thought it impossible the same creature could ever have been recover'd, to what was as easy to her, the gay, the lively, and the desirable. Nor was her humour limited to her sex; for, while her shape permitted, she was a more adroit pretty fellow, than is usually seen upon the stage : her easy air, action, mien, and gesture, quite chang’d from the quoif, to the cock'd hat, and cavalier in fashion. People were so fond of seeing her a man, that when the part of Bays in the Rehearsal, had, for some time, lain dormant, she was desired to take it up, which I have seen her act with all the true, coxcombly spirit and humour that the sufficiency of the character required.
“But what found most employment for her whole various excellence at once, was the part of Melantha, in Marriage-Alamode. Melantha is as finish'd an impertinent, as ever flutter'd in a drawing-room, and seems to contain the most compleat system of female foppery, that could possibly be crowded into the tortured form of a fine lady. Her language, dress, motion, manners, soul, and body, are in a continual hurry to be something more than is necessary or commendable. And though I doubt it will be a vain labour, to offer you a just likeness of Mrs. Monfort's action, yet the fantastick impression is still so strong in my memory, that I cannot help saying something, tho' fantastically, about it. The first ridiculous airs that break from her, are, upon a gallant, never seen before, who delivers her a letter from her father, recommending him to her good graces, as an honourable lover. Here now, one would think she might naturally shew a little of the sexe's decent reserve, tho' never so slightly cover'd! No, sir; not a tittle of it; modesty is the virtue of a poor-soul'd country gentlewoman; she is too much a court lady, to be under so yulgar a confusion! she reads the letter, therefore, with a careless, dropping lip, and an erected brow, humming it hastily over, as if she were impatient to outgo her father's commands, by making a compleat conquest of him at once; and that the letter might not embarrass her attack, crack! she crumbles it at once, into her palm, and pours upon him her whole artillery of airs, eyes, and motion; down goes her dainty, diving body, to the ground, as if she were sinking under the conscious load of her own attractions ; then launches into a flood of fine language, and compliment, still playing her chest forward in fifty falls and risings, like a swan upon waving water; and, to complete her impertinence, she is so rapidly fond of her own wit, that she will not give her lover leave to praise it: silent assenting bows, and vain endeavours to speak, are asl the share of the conversation he is admitted to, which, at last, he is relieved from, by her engagement to half a score visits, which she swims from him to make, with a promise to return in a twinkling."
In this work, also, the reader may become acquainted, on familiar terms, with Wilkes and Dogget, and Booth-fall in love with Mrs. Bracegirdle, as half the town did in days of yore and sit amidst applauding whigs and tories on the first representation of Cato. He may follow the actors from the gorgeous scene of their exploits to their private enjoyments, share in their jealousies, laugh with them at their own ludicrous distresses, and join in their happy social hours. Yet with all our admiration for the theatrical artists, who yet live in Cibber's Apology, we rejoice to believe that their high and joyous art is not declining. Kemble, indeed, and Mrs. Siddons, have forsaken
that stateliest region of tragedy which they first opened to our gaze. But the latter could not be regarded as belonging to any age; her path was lone as it was exalted, and she appeared, not as highest of a class which existed before her, but as a being of another order, destined “to leave the world no copy,” but to enrich its imaginations for ever. Yet have we, in the youngest of the Kemble line, at once an artist of antique grace in comedy, and a tragedian of look the most chivalrous and heroic-of “form and moving most express and admirable”-of enthusiasm to give vivid expression to the highest and the most honorable of human emotions.- Still can we boast of one, whose rich and noble voice is adapted to all the most exquisite varieties of tenderness and passion-one, whose genius leads him to embody characters the most imaginative and romantic—and who throws over his grandest pictures tints so mellow and so nicely blended that, with all their inimitable variety, they sink in perfect harmony into the soul. Still have we a performer of intensity never equalled-of pathos the sweetest and the most profound -whose bursts of passion almost transport us into another order of being, and whose flashes of genius cast a new light on the darkest caverns of the soul. If we have few names to boast in elegant comedy, we enjoy a crowd of the richest and most original humourists, with Munden—that actor of a myriad unforgotten faces at their head. But our theme has enticed us beyond our proper domain of the past; and we must retire. Let us hope for some Cibber, to catch the graces of our living actors before they perish, that our successors may fix on them their retrospective eyes unblamed, and enrich with a review of their merits some number of our work, which will appear, in due course, in the twenty second century.
Art. II. The Works of Ben Jonson, folio, 1616.
The reader, who may compare the length of this article with the dignity and importance of its title, may justly consider us no unworthy disciples of Procrustes. To remove his scruples, and to explain our plans, we shall state, that in the subsequent article two only of his plays are minutely considered, which we have selected for their similarity of construction, and as forming a class of themselves among the dramas of Jonson. They are the most careful and high-wrought of his works. Trusting that the elucidation of so great a master may prove a subject well worthy the attention of our readers, we shall not confine ourselves to the present attempt, but probably, in future numbers
of our work, pursue the course of his genius through all its varieties, and endeavour to accompany him in his loftier and
vavour to accompany him in his tam
. The object, at least, of our aim we feel to be just. To restore the taste for antient simplicity of style-for wit, whose zest is moral, and for humour, whose foundation is truth, can be no unbecoming trial. To shew, that the noblest exertions of imagination, and the most interesting pictures of passion, may be found amid the severest morals and the chastest methods of writing, will, at least, be an effort towards reclaiming the luxuriant romance of the age, and engaging the judgment in the assistance of the fancy. We cannot, perhaps, expect that the novel-reading lady should prefer Ben Jonson to her piquante food, but we will, at least, do her and her sentimental male gossips the service to shew them, that the solid fare which honest Ben has prepared for their palates is of a description which will not disgust by its homeliness, nor pall by its false relish, Mr. Gifford's admirable edition, at all events, is within their reach, and may, by its more modern type, if not by its excellent explanations, afford some excuse to a fashionable friend for its lying on a reading desk. We shall prefix to our present offering at the altar of immortal greatness, the names of two of its noblest supports, “ Every Man in his Humour," — “ Every Man out of his
Next Jonson came, instructed from the school,
So says Samuel Johnson of his more illustrious namesake, in a prologue, which has been celebrated beyond any attempt of its kind for the mathematical justice of its criticism : so says the oracle of his day, of one of our greatest dramatists. These six lines are a curious specimen of how far a position, delivered with an air of certainty under the sanction of an authoritative name, will pass for years as a current truth, and become a test for the examination of the very powers which it misconstrues and belies. In a sense, however, evidently unmeant by the author, the last line, to which we in particular allude, is probably a historical fact. It has been the misfortune of Jonson's fame, that in order to be praised he must be understood; and that to be understood he must be studied. The “ coldness of men's approbation” arose from their incapacity of understanding the justice of cause and effect, the nice link of character and action which Jonson, above any other even of his age of intellectual giants, comprehended and depicted. Jonson was no meretricious dramatist; with him, the pedigree of a jest is carefully inspected before it is installed in his house of fame; and his adoption of the ideas of others, or the use he makes of his own, is the badge and coat armour of their merit. His endeavour, from the beginning, was not so much to gain applause, as to shew that, if he failed, he deserved it. His plays possess not only their own intrinsic interest, but he has endeavoured to throw around them a new one--the justice of his own plea of encouragement from his auditors. In Every Man out of his Humour, in particular, our constant feeling is of a trial and proof of dramatic skill; and we feel no less pleasure in the author's success in his undertaking, than in the perfect and artful catastrophe of his subject. It is from this cause that, though much talked of, he is little read. He speaks to us with the gravity and command of an instructor, and the age is too weak and petulant to bear with his severities. He is of all authors the most perfect writer, because he is an exemplification throughout of his own precepts. His works are a grammar of classical sentiment and dramatic propriety. But let it not be supposed, that we mean to degrade him to the mere rank of a critic: to shew that he is fit to become the instructor of others, we shall prove not only that his rules are true, and his precepts golden, but that he affords proofs of a mighty poetical genius, which his art frequently rather prevented from making use of unworthy means, than fettered from the attempt and attainment of its legitimate objects. There is another cause for his present neglected state ;-his characters, although far from being in his best comedies individual satires, are the representatives of the embodied follies of his times; not mere abstract passions with voices, but individual enough in their respective humours, though in their excellencies, vices, or absurdities, they include the major part of mankind. With Jonson, the improvement of the times was the first object; the reprehension of their follies was the proper end of his comedies; while with Beaumont and Fletcher, and Shakspeare, they are only introduced occasionally; and these last rather attack the constant source of frivolity, and engage the passion of vanity in itself, than occupy themselves, like Jonson, with turning its outward form into ridicule. With Master Stephen, we debate the merits of a silk or a woollen stocking ; in Master Slender, we behold the vanity of a man endeavouring to recommend himself to his mistress, by his valour in a bear-fight : in the former we see the bare instance, in the latter the humour is incidental, and heightened by the