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FOR MAY, 1818.
M. T A L M A.
WITA A PORTRAIT, ENGRAVED BY HENRY MEYER, FROM AN ORIGINAL PAINTIN
BY J. P. DAVIS, ESQ.] PR RE-EMINENCE of talent, the same turned to France in 1786, and began
ju all ages, in all countries, and in to apply himself to surgery as his future all persons, must command that meed profession; but his predominant passion of applause to which it is so justly enti- still carrying him to the stage, M. Molé, tled ; and we feel scarcely less pleasure a celebrated comic actor with whom he jo holding up to admiration the gifted got acquainted, took him under his care, jodividuals of another country, than in and from the high opinion wbieh be enJauding the distinguished genius of our tertained of his talents, introduced him
to the Committee of the Theatre Fran
çais, by whom he was engaged; in 1787, M. TALMA, the subject of this brief he made his first appearance in the chasketch, wbo is now in bis 5 1st year, was racter of Scide in Voltaire's “ Maboborn in Paris, and remained in bis na met.” He was then about twenty ; his tive country until he attained the age of success was immediate, rapid, and astoeigbt, when he was sent to receive a nishing : and the soon became the first part of his education in England. It is a tragedian in France. remarkable circumstance in this early The original debut of Talma excited part of his life, that he was selected no enthusiasm. The part of Charles to act the principal character in a IX. in the tragedy of that name by play that was performed before their Chenier, was the one which afforded Royal Highnesses the Prince Regent him an opportunity of commencing and and Duke of York, at the Hanover- establishing his reputation ; as, amongst square Rooms, then belonging to Sir other things, it was observed, that he John Gallini, by the proprietors of the devoted such minute attention to bis academy where he was placed, and that costume and head-dress, and gave so though he acquitted himself well, he peculiar an expression to his features, was so much agitated by his emotions that he presented a striking, resemin this first essay, as not to recover blance to the best portraits which are from its effects for some time after preserved of that monarch. the performances were over. He re French critics have been divided in turned to France in his fifteenth year opinion concerning the merits of Talma, to finish bis education, remained at who is the creator of a new style of college a few months, and revisited declamation on the French stage. Some England in 1783. It was at this pe- have accused him of heaviness in deliriod that he first felt an inclination very, a hollowness of tone, and a voice, for that profession, of which he was which is always confined, and which destined to become so distinguished an never developes itself except by sudornament, After seeing Mr. Kemble den bursts. Others declare him to be and Mre. Sous in tragedy, he re- a model of the beasiideal, and an artist
who has arrived at a degree of perfection was an overflow at an early hour; the which none ever before attained, and orchestra, cleared of all its instruments, which none cau in future hope to exceed. was filled to suffocation ; and the par.
The more impartial seem to agree, terre, as usual, crowded with men that no one equals Talma io the cha- (cbielly from the public schools and racter of a tyrant or a conspirator, lycées, whose criticisms not' unfresuch as Nero and Mankius ; but in quently decide the fate of new pieces, tbose which require spirit, nobleness, and give weight to the reputation of aod dignity, like Tancred, Orosmanes, old ones), exhibited hundreds of anxious and Achilies, they prefer la Fond, who faces, marked countenances, and figures at this moment shares with him the tra. and costumes which might answer alike gic sceptre of the Theatre français. for the bands of brigandage, or the
Duriog the revolution, which had classes of philosophy. Some were readalready commenced wben Talma made ing over the tragedy; others were com. the great impression in “ Charles IX.” menting particular passages : - a los all plays which favoured power were murmur of agitation crept through the interdicted, and, of course, circum- house, like the rustling of leaves to stances demanded a new set of dramas. a gentle wind, until the rising of the All the productious of Voltaire suited curtain stilled every voice, composed the times, and Ducis, the successor of every muscle, and riveted the very Voltaire, produced several vew plays. existence of the audience (if I may use founded upon the Shakspeariau drama. the expression) upon the scene., In these, Talma exhibited still higher The theatres of other countries talents. Every new step confirmed the asseinble spectators, but an audience promise of his carlier essays, and be be is only to be found in a French theatre. came the glory of his nation and his Through the whole five acts attention art. His enemies could only say, “Let never flagged for a moment; not an him not quit the degenerate school of eye was averted—not an ear unattendinodern writers ; Corneille and Ra. ing; every one seemed to have the cine will be loo much for him.” When play by heart, and every one attended, Buonaparte restored the throne to as if they had never seen it before. France, Talma was permitted to re “ To the famous scene of Britannicus, store it to the stage. He answered the where Agrippina is left tête-à-tête with critics by acting Neron, Oreste, Eghisle, her son, to enter on her defence, MadeNicamede, Cinna, Manlius, and so great moiselle Georges, as the Roman emwas his triumph, that he has since relio press, wrot through a long speech of a quished most of the characters upon hundred and len lines with great clearwhich he first soared to eminence, and less, elegance of enunciation, and gracenow confiues himself to those for which ful caliuness of action. his powers were then pronounced in. During the first seventy lines of adequate.
this speech, 'Talma, as Vero, sat a paFrom various causes, this brief Me. lient and tranquil auditor. No abmoir is necessarily defective, and with rupt interruption of haughiy impaan extract from Lady Morgan's •France,' tience, disdaining the curb of a lungo we take leave in some measure to sup- neglected authority, was furoished by ply the deficiency.
the genius of the author, or gaye play " Brilannicus," says Lady Morgan, to the talents of the admirable acior;
so long the fashion, from the inimi- and the little by-play allowed him, or table performance of Talma in Nero, rather that be allowed himself, was not awakened my most auxious expecta- risked, until towards the close of the tions; and it was not without emo speech: it was then, however, exquition, that I saw myself, for the first site: it was Nature, The constraint time, in the great national theatre of of forced and half.given allention, the l'rance, and in a box chosen and pro- languor of exbaustion, the restlessness cured for me by M. Talma bimself. of tediuin, and the struggle between Still, however great my expectation, some little remains of filial deference however lively my iinpatience for the and habitual respect, blended with the rising of the curtain, which recalled the baughty impatience of all dictation, long blurted vivacity of feelings of were depicted, not in strong symptoms childish solicitude and curiosity, 1 soon and broad touches of grimace and acperceived I was cold, languid, and in- . tion, but with a keeping, a tact, a fideanimate to the genuine French audi- lity to Nature, indescribably fine. His cnce that surrounded me. The house transition of attitude ; his playing with
the embroidered scarf, round his neck, the simple, unaffected manners of this which made a part of his most classical celebrated person, I found only the costume, his almost appearing to count well-bred and accomplished gentleman. its threads, in the inanity of his pro- Talma had, in his early life, been intifound ennui, were all traits of the high- mate with Buonaparte; and the exest order of acting. In London, ibis Einperor (who never forgot the friends acting would have produced a thunder of the young engincer officer) accorded of applause; in Paris, it was coldly re the peliles entrées of the palace to the .ceived, because it was iopovation; and sovereign of the Théatre Français. many a black head in the parterre was Talma saw him constantly; not, howsearching its classical recesses, for some ever, to give him lessons (an invention example from some traditional autho. at wbich Buonaparte and Talma both rity, from Baron, or Le Kain, of an laughed), but to discuss his favourite emperor being restless on his chair, or
topic, tragedy, of which he was pasof the incident of playing with the sionately fond. On this subject, bowhandkerchief being at all conformable ever, the actor frequently differed with to the necessity • de représenter noble the Emperor; while the Emperor as ment,' in all kiogs, since the time of frequently dictated to the actor, greetLouis le Grand.
ing bim witb, “Eh bien ! Tolma, vous " Whether on the stage, at the Théa. n'avez pas usé de vos moyens hier au Ire Françuis, or in the Thuilleries, Tal. soir.' Napoleon always disputed the ina is eminently superior to the school, merits of comedy, and observed lo a whose rules he is obliged to obey. His gentleman, from whom I had the anecgreat genius always appeared to me to dote, • Si vous préferez la comédie, be struggling against the methodical
c'est parceque vous viellisez.' -• EL obstacles presented to its exertions. He vous, Sire,' replied Monsieur is the Gulliver of the French stage tied vous aimez la tragédie, parceque vous down by Lillipulian threads. Before éles trop jeune.'”
C. talents like his can exert their full force, and take their uttermost scope, To the Editor of the European Magazine. a new order of drama must succeed
Long's, 181 May, 1818. to the declamatory and rhyming school,
YHOCOLATE, fellow, I told which now occupies the French stage.
you ; not coffee : Talma is a passionate admirer of ihe I wonder who would be cursed with such English drama, and of Shakspeare. He a dolt to wait on hiin but myself!--I'll speaks English fuently, and told me by my troth, this is a very pretty comthat he had a great desire to play in mencement you have made me write, one of Shakspeare's tragedies. Be did for a Letler io the Editor of the Europot complain, but be hinted at the re pean Magazine :--but time is precious straipt under which bis talents laboured, -Lady Flirt!—Chrisley's !-at four ! from that esprit de système, which the - well! - bring me fresh ink and pens, French have banished from every other I'll proceed now: Really, Mr. art: and which keeps its last hold on Editor, I must beg your pardon, and their stage. But he said, “If I attempt intreat your indulgence, for this abthe least innovation ; if I frown a shade rupt introduction ; but I have but just deeper to-night than I frowned last arisen from my bed, after devoting a night, in the same character, the par. few hours to the necessary evil of sleep: terre are sure to call me to order." -I call it an evil, because, with philo
sophers and divines, I regard it as a “ The dignity and tragic powers of complele loss of time: and when it is Talma, on the stage, are curiously but considered, what a variety of duties de charmingly contrasted wiih the simpli- volve on a young man in fashionable city, playfuluess, and gaiety of bis most life, and how numerous and important - unassuming, unpretending manners off are his avocations, I know you will the stage. I (who had pever seen ackuowledge he has no time to spare. Coriolanus in the drawing-room, but It was just two o'clock, when my as I had seen Coriolanus in the Forum) French valet announced that le dejeune expected to meet this great tragedian was ready, and wailed my commands: in private life, in all the pomp and I immediately arose; and on entering solcmoity of his profession; the cold my breakfast parlour, was gralitied by address, the measured phrase: in a word, the sight of your Miscellany, which it is I expected to meet the uctor ; but in my practice always to read, as affording