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eagerly courted by the needy heirs of a coronet, and became the mothers of many noble families; while a portion of the riches thus gained, being transferred to patrician hands, was devoted to the erection of most of the splendid mansions which afterwards adorned the western side of the metropolis. Of the great commercial profits of our modern merchants, much doubtless will also be laid out in giving increased splendour to our city.
We see with pleasure the increasing interest with which all ranks, who even pretend to taste, are discussing and projecting improvements. The formation of the great square at Charing Cross—the buildings to be erected on the site of Carlton House,and perhaps at no distant time along the whole line of St. James's—the laying open the areas of our two cathedrals—the tasteful disposition of the Royal Parks—the erection of a Triumphal Monument— a Royal Academy—National Galleries—and a hundred other interesting projects, are debated in every company. It is unreasonable, however, to look to the legislature to supply the funds necessary for all the improvements of the capital. Their attention must be limited to certain specific objects more or less connected with the State: but the combination of great public bodies, and associations of individuals, may accomplish every thing which the most sanguine would require. So large a portion of the districts in which improved accesses are wanting is the property of the Church, the Corporation, the City companies, the Hospitals, and other public foundations, that if their trustees and managers would call for the advice of judicious surveyors, we have no doubt they would find their interest in undertaking these great works, as a source of profit to themselves. Large plots of ground now given up to wretched lanes and alleys, tenanted by a squalid and licentious population, might be covered with handsome streets; the property of which would contribute a much larger rental, while the dissolution of so many wretched communities of filth and ignorance, and vice, would greatly tend to promote what after all is the truly patriot object—the moral improvement of London,
opulent, enlarged, and still
Increasing London—Babylon of old Not more the glory of the earth, than she, A more accomplished world's chief glory now.
Art. X. 1.—Memoirs of the Life of John Philip Kemble, Esquire, including a History of the Stage from the time of Garrick to the present period. By James Boaden, Lsquire. <2 vols. London. 1825. • . .
Ji. Reminiscences-of Michael Kelly, of the King's Theatre, and
'J 'heatre Royal Drury Lam, including a Period of nearly half a Century; with Original Anecdotes of many distinguished Personages, Political, Literary, and Musical. 2d Edition. London. 1826. 2 vols. .'
'T^HERE are severe moralists who have judged the amusements
■*• of the stage inimical to virtue—there are many who conceive its exhibitions to be inconsistent with religious principle: to those this article can give no interest unless perhaps a painful one, and we must even say with old Dan Chaucer,
Turn o'er the leaf and cliuse another tale;For you shall find euough both great and small, Of storial thing that toucheth gentillesse, • And eke morality and holiness. Where the scruples of such dissidents from public opinion are real, we owe them all possible respect; when they are assumed for a disguise in the sight of man, they will not deceive the eye which judgeth both Publican and Pharisee.
For ourselves we will readily allow, that the theatre may be too much frequented, and attention to more serious concerns drowned amidst its fascinations. We also frankly confess that we may be better employed than in witnessing the best and most moral play that ever was acted; but the same may be justly said of every action in our lives, except those of devotion towards God and benevolence towards man. And yet, as six days have been permitted us to think our own thoughts and work our own works, much that is strictly and exclusively secular is rendered indispensable by our wants, and much made venial and sometimes praiseworthy by our tastes and the conformation of our intellect.
If there be one pleasure, exclusive of the objects of actual sensual indulgence, which is more general than another among the human race, it is the relish for personification, which at last is methodized into the dramatic art. The love of the chase may perhaps be as natural to the masculine sex, but when the taste of the females is taken into consideration, the weight of numbers leans to the love of mimic representation in an overwhelming ratio. The very first amusement of children is to get up a scene, to represent to the best of their skill papa and mamma, the coachman and his horses; and even He, formidable with the birchen sceptre, is mimicked in the exercise-ground by the urchins of whom he is the terror in the school-room. We do not know if the witty gentleman, to whom we are indebted for a history of monkeys, ever thought of tracing the connection betwixt us and our cousin the ouran-outan in our mutual love of imitation. At a more advanced period of life we' have' mimicry of tone
N 3 and and dialect, and masques, and disguises: then little scenes are
t>reconcerted, which at first prescribe only the business of a plot, leaving the actors to fill up the language extempore from their mother wit: then some one of more fancy is employed to write the dialogue—a stage with scenery is added, and the drama has reached its complete form. *
The same taste, which induced us when children to become kings and heroes ourselves on an infantine scale, renders us, when somewhat matured in intellect, passionate admirers of the art in its more refined state. There are few things which those gifted with any degree of imagination recollect with a sense of more anxious and mysterious delight than the first dramatic representation which they have witnessed. Iffland has somewhere described it, and it is painted in stronger colours by the immortal Goethe in Wilhelm Meister—yet we cannot refrain from touching on the subject. The unusual form of the house, filled with such groups of crowded spectators, themselves forming an extraordinary spectacle to the eye which has never witnessed it before, yet all intent upon that wide and mystic curtain whose dusky undulations permit us now and then to discern the momentary glitter of some' gavjdy form or the spangles of some sandaled foot which trips lightly within; then the light, brilliant as that of day !^r-then the inugjc, which, in itself a treat sufficient in every other situation, our inexperience mistakes for the very play we came to witness— then the slow rise of the shadowy curtain, disclosing, as if by actual magic, a new land, with woods and mountains and lakes, lighted, it seems to us, by another sun, and inhabited by a race of beings different from ourselves, whose language is poetry, whose dress, demeanour and sentiments seem something supernatural, and whose whole actions and discourse are calculated not for the ordinary tone of every-day life, but to excite the stronger and more powerful faculties—to melt with sorrow—overpower with terror—astonish with the marvellous—or convulse with irresistible laughter—all these wonders stamp indelible impressions on the memory. Those mixed feelings, also, which perplex us between a sense that the scene is but a plaything, and an interest which ever and anon surprizes us into a transient belief that that which so strongly affects us cannot be fictitious—those mixed and puzzling feelings, also, are exciting in the highest degree. Then there are the-bursts of applause, like distant thunder, and the permission afforded to clap our little hands and add our own scream of delight to a sound so commanding. All this—and much—much more is fresh in our memory, although when we felt these sensations we looked on the stage which Garrick had not yet left. It is now a long while since—yet we have not passed panv hours of such unmixed delight) arid we still remember the
inking lights, the dispersing crowd, with the vain longings, which we felt, that the music would again sound, the magic curtain once more arise, and the enchanting dream recommence; and the astonishment with which we looked upon the apathy of the elder part of our company, who, having the means, did not spend every evening in the tfieatre. ;i
When habit has blunted these earliest sensations of pleasure, the theatre continues to be the favourite resort of the youth, and though he recognizes no longer the enchanted palace of his childhood, he enjoys the more sober pleasure of becoming acquainted with the higher energies of human passion, the recondite intir- cacies and complications of human temper and disposition, by seeing them illustrated in the most vivid manner by those whose profession it is to give.actual life, form, and substance to the creations of genius. Much may be learned in a well conducted theatre essential to the profession of the bur, and,, with reverence be it spoken, even of the pulpit; and it is well known that Napoleon himself did not disdain to study at that school the external gesture and manner becoming the height to which he had ascended. Yet such partial advantages are mere trifles considered.in comparison with the general effect produced by the stage on national literature and national character. Had there been no drama, Shakspeare would in all likelihood have been but the author of Venus and Adonis and of a few sonnets forgotten among the numerous works of the Elizabethan age, and Otway had been only the compiler of fantastic Pindaric odes. ,:
Stepping beyond her own department, the dramatic muse has lent her aid to her sister of history. What points of our national annals are ever most fresh and glowing in our recollection?—those which unite history with the stage. The story of Macbeth, an ancient king, whose annals of half a dozen lines must otherwise have lurked in the seldom opened black letter of Wintoun or Boece, is as much fixed upon our memory, as if it detailed events which we had ourselves witnessed. Who crosses the blighted heath of Forres without beholding in imagination the stately step of Kemble as he descended on the stage at the head of his victorious army? On Bosworth field the dramatist had engrossed the recollections due to the historian, even so early as Bishop Corbet's time; for when his host, 'full of ale and history,' pointed out the local position of the two armies, Shakspeare was more in the village chronicler's thoughts than Stowe or Hollingshed, 'Besides what of his knowledge he could say, He had authentic notice from the play, Shown chiefly by that one perspicuous thing, ,, That he mistook a player for a king;
N 4 For ■ For when he should have said, here Richard died •*
And called " a horse, a horse"—he Burbadge cried.' A greater man acknowledged his debt to the dramatist on- a similar'Occasion: * In what history did your Grace find that incident?' said Burnet to the Duke of Marlborough, on hearing him quote some anecdote concerning the wars of York and Lancaster which was new to the Bishop. 'In Shakspeare's plays,' answered the Victor of Blenheim,—' the only history of those times I ever read.'
It may be said by the rigid worshipper of unadorned truth, that history is rather defaced than embellished by becoming the subject of fictitious composition. These scruples are founded on prejudice—that mischievous prejudice which will not admit that knowledge can be valuably transmitted unless through the dullest and most disagreeable medium. Many are led to study history from having first read it as mingled with poetic fiction; and the indolent or those much occupied, who have not patience or leisure for studying the chronicle itself, gather from the play a general idea of historical incidents which, but through some such amusing vehicle, they would never have taken the trouble to become acquainted with. And it will scarcely be denied, that a man had better know generally the points of history as told him by Shakspeare, than be ignorant of history entirely. The honey which is put on the edge of the cup induces many to drink up the whole medicinal potion; while those who take only a sip of it have, at least, a better chance of benefit than if they had taken none at •all.
In another point of view the theatre is calculated to influence, and, well conducted, to influence favourably, the general state of morals and manners in this country. A full audience, attending a first-rate piece, may be compared to a national convention, to which every order of the community, from the peers to the porters, send their representatives. The entertainment, which is the subject of general enjoyment, is of a nature which tends to soften, if not to level, the distinction of ranks; it unites men of all conditions in those feelings of mirth or melancholy which belong to.their common humanity, and are enhanced most by being shared by a multitude. The honest, hearty laugh, which circulates from box-to gallery; the lofty sentiment, which is felt alike by the lord and the labourer; the sympathetic sorrow, which affects at once the marchioness and the milliner's apprentice;—all these have a conciliating and harmonizing effect, tending to make the various ranks pleased with themselves and with each other. The good-natured gaiety with which the higher orders see the fashionable follies which they practise treated with light satire for the-amusement ; ' of