Imatges de pÓgina
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mine which of all those that offer themselves to our thoughts is the most general.

When we observ'd that the misfortunes of others, are a sort of mirrors, in which we meditate upon

the fate ourselves are destin'd to, we might have establish'd a distinction, which however may be more advantageously plac'd here, and which will serve to discover the source of at least one of those pleasures, the origin of which we are to enquire into, on this occafion.

The view of the miseries of others always is painful to us, when those miseries are such as ourselves are equally expos'd to with those whom we see suffering them; but, on the contrary, we find a sort of confolation in looking upon tho!e misfortunes which we fee others labouring under, and which we are convinc'd, by reason and the nature of things, can never fall to our own share. The representation in this case gives us pride instead of humility, and a peculiar kind of pleasure instead of the common uneasiness. The source of all our affections on these occasions, is the bringing home to ourselves, what we see represented as the fate of others; and we often receive from this, a fort of comfort in observing, that people in those states of life, which are apt to attract our envy, are at times fubject to misfortunes, which our own more humble situation perfectly and securely preserves us from.

We not only are taught by this lesson to bear our private misfortunes with more patience, but we congratulate ourselves on finding that we are, comparatively to the rest of the world, less unhappy than we imagin'd we were.

While the misfortunes of others, however, fo long as they are greater thart our own, comført

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us with the reflexion that if we are not more happy than we find ourselves, we might have ealily been less so; it does not follow that we must necessarily taste the beauties of the piece, in order to our afflicting ourselves upon the occasion of the misfortunes of the principal person ages of it, when self-love does not find its account in paying them this tribute.

The heroes whom we fee represented as famous for their misfortunes, have been also famous for their uncommon virtues ; else they had not been heroes. The more we are affected by their fortune, the more we shew that we understand the rank and value of their virtues; and we flatter our own pride in being adequate judges of such exalted greatness. In other cases, a fensibility and feeling for the distresses of our fellow creatures, when it is conducted by the rules of discretion, is itself a viriue ; and we place ouro selves in the class of generous and noble souls by bestowing on the illustrious unfortunate, that compaffion which is their due.

It is peculiar to the forrow which we express on occasion of theatrical representations, that we grieve and afflict ourselves the more willingly in favour of those great and virtuous persons, who we know beforehand will not long be the objects of this compassion; when we know that the melancholy we are indulging, will not be of so long a duration as to become troublesome, but that a happy change in their affairs will soon wipe away their mifery, and all the tears that flow for it.

Are we at a new play in some degree deceived in this imagination? Does the heroe whose fortune we have been compassionating thro' the

piece at length falla sacrifice to injustice or barbarity? we set up our selves as judges between him and his enemies. It immediately appears to us, that if our selves had the choice offer'd us, whether we wou'd perish like the heroe, or triumph like the murderers, we shou'd not hesitate a moment to take the suffering part, and we appear great in our own eyes for it.

Perhaps it wou'd be a vain attempt to think of diftinguishing which of these several causes most powerfully influence us in the pleasure we evident'y take in being melancholy, and in feding real tears at a tragedy. It is not improbable that they have their several predominancies in different people, and that any one of them becomes the most or the least powerful in its effect, according to the natural turn of mind of the

person it has to act upon. But we shall entertain the reader no longer on a disquisition, which is at best rather curious than important; but pass to fome other considerations more immediately relative to our subject.

What can be the reason why some players, as is very often found to be the case, are strongly affected, when they hear the author read their parts to them, and yet are very cold and lifeless when they come to speak them themselves ? And what can be the reason of another thing that appears yet more strange, that the very fame scene which wou'd draw tears from them if perform’d by any body else, shall scarce make any impreffion on them while they play it themselves?

It should appear that this fingularity is to be attributed in general to the inactivity and fluggifhness of these players fouls, which are in themIelves insensible to the finer touches of an affecting sentiment, and can only be mov'd by what pleads to the external senses.

These people are infinitely more struck by the tone of voice, than by the sense that is express'd by it; and are scarce at all affected by the situation of the person who speaks what so strongly affects them. They are not to be roured, in Thort, into sensibility, except a striking manner of delivery tells them that they ought to be fo

.. There are other persons in this way of life with whom the odd contrariety we have been Speaking of, is to be attributed to quite another origin: Namely, to the natural inclination of their hearts, to a state of freedom and independance ; from which principle they are always influenced to perform that much better which is wholly voluntary, than that which they are enjoin'd to do.

Others shew all the coldness and infensibility we are complaining of in their playing, from a much worse reason than either of the former, from their being but very badly acquainted with the sense and meaning of their parts : These have their minds kept in a continual attention to the remembring what they are to say next; and as they are wholly taken up with the remembrance of the words, they can never give themselves up to those emotions, which the part of the character they are representing requires, and by means of which alone, they can please any body that is worth pleasing.

Finally, there is yet another cause for this worst of all faults in playing: we mean the terrors of an audience. This principally affects thofe of the performers, who have not arrived at the happiness of a general applause. With thefe the fear of displeasing that formidable circle the pit, confounds and renders them unable to express even what they feel very justly, and have talents to convince us that they do, if they were not thus prevented from exerting them. These players are much in the condition of those boys in a school, who with much merit, as is often the cafe, have much diffidence ; and whole timid dispofitions will not permit them to fhew their good qualities before a fevere master.

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The actresses ha::e in general been found to suffer more from this sort of fa'se modesty ihan the actors. We do not at all undersiand this foible, if we confound it with want of spirit; for it often has been the ruin of those who lrave not been deficient in that great article, but have thro' this mischievous backwardness and timidity, been wholly incapable of exerting it.

The world will allow, that excellent actrels Mrs. Pritchard, is as far as any body from wanting spirit; yet how many years did this bashful folly confine her to the parts of chambermaids and the heroines of farces, with all the merit that now makes such a figure about her'; and how were we surpriz'd, when by some good chance the had got the part of Rosalind affign’d her in the reviv'd play of As you like it, to hear her speak with a spirit and justice, that none of the then favourites of the stage cou'd conie up to,

Good my complexion, doft thou think that " because I am caparison'd like a man, I have a

doublet and hole in my difpofition-One inch of " delay more is a South Sea discovery-I prithee " tell me who it is quickly, and speak apace

I wou'd

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