« AnteriorContinuar »
the other. As to workhouses, they were once play, houses, but of late, alterations have been made, and it is hoped for the better. The sick and infirm ought always to be exempted from labour; but the strong and healthy, (in order to keep them so) should have some useful employment. But it does not follow that we should go to extremes, and substitute slavery-houses for work-houses !-But to return once again to the play-house : I'think the name is productive of more evil than may at first be supposed. A child who is fond of playing, may have a room set apart for the purpose, and very properly termed his play-house, but, amongst grown-up, rational men, the
word THEATRE ought to carry with it the same degree of respect as the theatre at Oxford, where nothing but what is rational and useful can ever be heard, or exhibited. I will endeavour to show what mischief even the mere name of a place may produce in the opinions of the gay and unthinking.
Many a young man, during his education, or his confinement at a desk, or in a counting-house, or during the still longer period required for the necessary study and practice of any one of the liberal professions : I say, any youth, feeling the irksomeness, the absolute labour, attendant on any one of these employments, might hear the word play-house pronounced, and be inclined to believe that no labour,no work was there ever wanted; that there, play, mirth, music, dance, song, laugh, joy, folly and good humour, were all to be found in abundance; and that nothing of a contrary aspect was ever known within the precinets of so delightful a place. Alas! - the truth lies on the very contrary side of the question, and constant attention and hard labour are the sure and real concomitants of a play-house. If this truth,--this manifest and certain fact, --were more generally impressed on the minds of all young people, it would prevent much waste of time and numberless disappointments. simple youth was once asked if he could play on the violin ? his reply was “ I don't know,- I never tried." Now however we may smile at the simplicity of this reply, yet it was perfectly natural, and a great deal nearer the truth, than it would have been, had the youth said _“I never tried, but I think I can.” Unfortunately, too many young men would feel' bold enough to have given the latter answer, instead of the first. A few trials would soon convince any impartial man that it is as improbable that he should act a part without previous trial, as it would be that he should take up a fiddle for the first time and play a tune upon it. It is true, any man accustomed while a boy to repeat his stated task at school, might learn by rote any given number of lines, in a stiff sing-song “ My name is Norval,” fashion. So might a child draw the bow athwart the fiddle strings and waken a few notes from them - but, far as the latter is from being a musician, the former is from being an actor in the true sense of the word. The most perfect acting is that wherein the art of the actor is so concealed that the beholder is unaware that art is employed, Every look --every word-every motion should appear anstudied--the spontaneous effort of the moment. As in a good picture we should be insensible that it is but a picture, forgetting the labors of the pencil in the truth of the representation. I might adduce many splendid instances of good acting, but little known to the world, and which circumstances have deprived of the notoriety they deserve, but it is invidious to single out names where so many are deserving.
Old men, as myself, have their partialities,-call them prejudices if you will we need not be ashamed of prejudices in favour of old friends. Phrenologists, whether their doctrine be right or wrong, it matters pot, tell us that to an Actor two organs are essentially necessary-first the organ of “ Secretiveness,” to enable him to conceal his own character, and secondly the organ of “ Imitation,” to enable him to assume that of others. Now, whether the mind may bo perused by ascertaining the shape and size of the skull, I neither know nor care ; but of this I am certain, that these two faculties are indispensible to an actor and let me advise those who make the stage their profession studiously to keep this in view, and, by patient attention to this ingenious analysis of the grand requisities, ondeavour to acquire that command over themselves which is thus shown to be so absolutely necessary. This was the great secret which enabled the master spirits of bye-gone days to enjoy the admiration of the world and which gave to the Drama the first place among the polite arts. Probably these departed worthies have left their mantles behind them, but I own I am partial to those friends and wonders of my youth. Now, alas ! many old favorities of the dra
matic muse have paid the debt of nature : others are yet living, but have retired from public notice ; yet, I am free to confess, (though not partial to sentimental slipslop or the furious fighting, slap dashing, melodramatic stuff, that is so prevalent at the present time; yet I am free to confess that there are many good actors
in London, and in the country there is no comparison between those who were once patiently endured in provincial theatres and the high degree of estimation to which most of them have now risen. And it must be admitted that there are many actors and actresses at present on the provincial boards who would grace the best of the metropolitan theatres. I have lived, thank God, to see the profession rise in general estimation; and it is only in the most ignorant of places and amongst the least informed of the people that strong prejudices exist.
To return to the almanacks : Mr. Pearson, already alluded to, was intimately acquainted with the Rev. C. Wildbore. I was told by a friend at the time I knew them, that they had both spoken of me in complimentary terms, touching the little poetical articles that I had ventured to send them; and their approbation was the highest-the only encouragement I hoped for.
Mr. Pearson's style of writing was truly pleasant and original. At this time he managed (I believe that was the word) both Moore's and Poor Robin's Almanacks, and it is said without offence to any gentlemen now living, who may have been engaged in the business --it is generally admitted that the genuine spirit of Poor
Robin either sunk with him, or did not long survive him. I mean not to infer that he was the first person who wrote under that title, but that he was the most successful. Even that genuine son of whim and frolic - that eccentric genius, O'Keefe, could not, in this species of writing, equal Mr. Pearson. A friend of mine (I think Mr. John Stafford) told me that, on the death of Mr. Pearson, application was made to Mr. O'Keefe to take his situation ; but that, for some reason or other, he declined the editorship of Poor Robin. Mr. John Stafford, being an admirer, (like myself) of the great merit displayed by Mr. Pearson, took the praiseworthy care of printing and publishing, on his' own account, a collection of poems written by this our mutual friend, under the title of “ Poor Robin's Poems." I do not know whether the book be yet out of print : It was certainly but a small volume, but it contained matter that was worthy of the same shelf with the works of Peter Pindar.
One word more concerning Mr. Pearson and his customary employ. Like many eccentric men of talent, he was very apt to postpone every thing that appeared like labor to the latest moment, especially his annual task of composing the articles for the almanacks; and when at length he was compelled to proceed to work, he would say to his grand-daughter whose acquaintance I have since enjoyed, “ Come, child, give me my pens, ink and paper. I must go to work or the Printers in London will scold me for delaying." Then he would fairly begin and accomplish it with incredible dispatch, for he always composed with great fluency.