Imagens da página

that these supposed builocks never got to a size, so as to render them worthy of bearing the name, and that making allowance for the difference of soil and climate, it was discovered that Beunos Ayres bullocks, and European snails, are the same thing, and that instead of feeding snails with beef, it is much better for Britons to broil their beef-steaks, and eat them in the old fashioned way." On this candid explanation taking place, the whole company joined in a hearty laugh, and departed.

Having thus rambled about after the breed and feed of horned cattle, Beunos Ayres bullocks, and British beefsteaks, it may be proper to return once again to my own history.

In the year of 1793, Mr. Shatford and myself had two companies. He was chiefly stationed at Lymington in Hampshire, and I at Devizes, Frome, and Wells; I had with me a lady-a Miss Thornhill; slic was a very genteel, well-bred person of lady-like habits, but very inexperienced as an actress ; and like many others, though perfect at rehearsal, not to be depended on at night. She was, on one particular evening, playing Portia in the Merchant of Venice : all passed on pretty well till the trial scene, when she came on as the “ Learned Doctor:” she looked well in the characteristic costume ;-the black gown and legal band became her; she was altogether as beautiful as any barrister in Westminster Hall, and perhaps as sound a lawyer, if not so profound a judge. On her entering the court she was much applauded : this burst of approbation seemed to disorganize all her forensic faculties. As soon as the presiding duke had taken her by the hand, and placed her by his side on the bench of justice, she faintly asked “ Which is the Merchant here, and which the Jew?" On stepping forward to address them, she came to me, (for I played Basanio) and she whispered “ For heaven's sake do speak something for me ; I cannot remember one word more !” This alarmed me of course, but I immediately turned towards the Duke and spoke to the following effect “May it please your grace, the learned doctor wishes me to inform the court that he paid the utmost attention to the evidence that has been laid before him, touching the point in question ; that he gave the case his most nature consideration; and indeed he suffered it to occupy the whole time during his journey from Padua to this place. This and the fatigue of traveling have so exhausted his spirits, that he fears it would waste the time of the court to trust alone to his endea

He has however ordered his clerk to draw up a proper statement of the whole affair and the precise form of examining the necessary witnesses. Here is the statement, and other documents properly attested. I hope your grace will take up the case yourself, and proceed in due form so as to save the learned ductor the trouble of wasting his admirable powers at the present moment.” In saying this I snatched a piece of parchment which Nerrissa (the clerk) held in her hand, I gave it to the Duke (Mr. Hatton) who placed the book of the play upon it, and read every one of the speeches meant for Portia. Let me be permitted hero to remark that by doing this I added something to the scene by making it perhaps more natural than as written by the author. How? (many may exclaim) what? improve Shakspeare? Yes, I reply, but in such a way that had I Shakspeare's abilities, and Shakspeare's judgment I should be ready to transgress as he did, and happy to have it in my power to commit similar errors; for it is not very natural, or even probable, that two pretty young women should be able to disguise themselves so as to deceive tho Venetian Senate, the wisest court then existing; and it is still less probable that this wise court should put all their power into a stranger's hands, on their first seeing him. However learned the worthy doctor may be it will not do to talk about the nature of such things, and nature only! The wholo audience themselves may be questioned, whether they consult nature when they visit close and crowded London Theatres, and neglect the open squares and free air of parks and pleasure grounds, and, still worse, seek not the varied prospects, delightful walks, and the health-breathing zephyrs of the country.


As to the argument about what is natural, in plays the whole may be summed up in few words, happily expressed by Mr. Puff“ Plague on't, plays are not meant to be so natural as to represent things that happen every day; only so far natural as to show that though they never did, they might, happen. This I think is a sufficient excuse, not only for Shakspeare, but for all who have erred in the same line. Bosidos -Shakspeare well knew (even in his day) that two vol. ii.

pretty looking females dressed as counsellors, would please his audience better than two men, however learned they might be in law affairs, and therefore in order to make sure of pleasing, he dressed up two females special pleaders! with looks effective as their words !






" The man who keeps bis accounts regular and accorately will never be ruined.”

This text or remark was first impressed on my mind by my departed friend, Mr. J. Shatford, a man of great talent; and of such ready wit, that he could, whenever he pleased, absolutely " set the table in a roar”-His knowledge of mankind, in common life, and under every-day circumstances, was superior to any other man I ever met with : He could catch in a moment, the prevailing humour of the company he was in, and in such an easy, natural manner, that a stranger would suppose that it was the very subject that had occupied his thoughts before he came into the room ! I have known him argue on both sides of a question in the same company, and on the same evening: nay, more, the company should never perceive that he had changed at all! He would make such admissions as were necessary to keep one party in good humour with themselves and their own opinions, and then, from the same premises, he would draw such widely different deductions, as to bring over all parties to the same way of thinking.

Yet he never did this for any base views, or selfish purposes, or ungracious, illiberal motives ! No-his principal motives were to reconcile the differences of opinion, smooth the asperities of temper, and in short to make all parties pleased with themselves. He did all this so naturally too, there was nothing of the partizan about him! Nothing of the apparently interested advocate in his manner. If he occasionally leaned to one side more than to the other, he would immediately do away the effect of that impression, by throwing the whole weight of his advocacy into the opposite scale. Then he was always interesting, because always so apparently in earnest! For in one sense, he was always in earnest! Earnest to gain the attention of his hearers, earnest to display the powers of oratory, and doubly earnest to carry his point, on all occasions.

It did not matter what the subject of conversation might happen to be, he was always prepared for it ! Dean Swift is said to have written wittily upon a broomstick ! so with Shatford, he could speak long and very eloquently on a broom, a brush, a brickbat, or even on a bag of nails !! (some points here at all events)

« AnteriorContinuar »