Imatges de pÓgina

ble sentiments thrown into that part where the author declares,

Virtue cou'd fee to do what Virtue ought
By her own radiant light: Tho' sun and moon
Were in the Aat seas funk.-

He that has light within his own clear breast,
May fit i'th' center and enjoy bright day;
But he that hides a dark soul and toul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day fun,
Himself is his own dungeon.


Not the violent emphasis this most judicious speaker contriv'd to throw upon the word Flat in the third line, or on Under in the last but one ; not even his finking the word Virtue in both places where it occurs, cou'd prevent the audience from perceiving that there was merit in these lines, than in half the tragedies that have been applauded within these seven years.

Nay we had occafion to observe, that not only an elevated sentiment, but the mere spirit of poetry, when rais'd to the pitch it stands at in this piece, cou'd support itself in the same manner independantly of the machine it was utter'd from; when we heard from the same unmeaning mouth, and almost in the fame breath,

Wisdom's self Oft seeks a sweet retired folitude, Where with her best nurse contemplation, She plumes her seathers and lets grow her wings, That in the various bustle of resort Were all too ruffled and sometimes impair'd.

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And afterwards,

No evil thing that walks by night
In fog, or fire; by lake or moorish fen;
Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost;
That breaks his magick chains at Curfew time,
Hath hurtful power o'er true virginity.

It must be allow'd that a long familiarity with the stage will sometimes fupply the place of judgment and good fenfe in the performer: Sometimes also he may have been oblig'd to nature for peculiar qualifications, and that in so eminent a degree, that often when they are brought into use, tho' it be merely done by a kind of instinct, not by a judicious adapting of them to the scenes, they shall happen to suit

so well with the circumstances of the character he represents, that we cannot deny him a high applause. This however is no more than the deception of a moment; an absurdity that follows immediately after in the voice, the gesture, or the expression of the countenance of this lucky player, lets us into his true character; and we find that it was not the man, but merely his organisation that before merited our applause.

How truly pityable is the condition of that author, who is under a necessity of entrusting his fuccess, his reputation, in a new piece, to these miserable automatons : And on the other side, how happy is the fortune of that writer, who sees his play fall into such hands, that every character of it, not only among the capital but the inferior ones too, is given to a performer who will not only be capable of preserving all the spirit of the most thining parts of it to its utmost height, but of adding graces to thofe which are less eminent or striking.

The comic writers are above all others happy in falling into such hands, as their pieces are often in a great measure fupported by the delicate and judicious address of the performer : How ought the poet in this way to congratulate himself when he finds his principal character in the hands of a player, who knows the nicest rules of joining the delicate to the natural; who knows how to add a graceful and decent dignity to the comic scene; and has even raised more than once the laugh of the pretty gentlemen of the age at their own follies !

The actor who is capable of executing this, surely can never be suspected of wanting understanding: 'Tis evident that this is beyond the reach of all the qualifications in the world without that director ; indeed few of the comic actors, who have made any figure, have been suspected in this particular. It is not the same cafe among the performers in tragedy ; every one will recollect that some who have appeared at least decent in many not contempti le characters in that way, have been violently suspected of a deficiency in this point.

If we would be at the trouble to establish a more just idea of Sense or Understanding, than at present the world perhaps usually does; and give ourselves leave to judge of the several kinds of it, or the several forms at least under which it presents itself to our view ; we should be more accurate in the determining the characters of our theatrical performers in regard to it. Those among them whom we hear accused of wanting B 6


fense, perhaps ought rather to be said to have a different kind of it from that of their accuseis, than absolutely to be without it. Players who please in various characters, and yet are censured as having very bad understandings, have often indeed but little of that sort of sense, which tho' in certain companies it gives a man the greatest reputation, yet evidently deserves the least; of that sort of sense which is deftin'd for oftentation rather than for use, and which may be aptly enough compar'd to those kinds of trees, which yield a profusion of flowers, but bear no fruit : This is a kind of sense which furnishes us with a bare parade and shew, but is of no use in any of the occasions of life. It makes us shine in matters of no importance, but every professor of it has found, at one time or other, that it is not of the least assistance to us in any thing in which it is worth our while to wish we may succeed.

Perhaps this kind of sense is wanting in those actors, who tho' they are applauded on the stage, are said among the criticks to have bad understandings; but if it is so, nature has given them in recompense another species of it, which exerts itself indeed with less pomp and shew, but which is infinitely more determinate and more useful. They have at least understandings good enough, to be able to enter into the niceit and most abItruse points in their profession: And it is plain they have us'd this penetration to the best advantage, as they have by means of it found the way to a lifting applause: and if we allow them this, as less cannot be allowed, we are no longer to cenfure them as being wanting in point of understanding


Tho' this be an inconteftible truth, experience shews us that the tragick actors are continually exposed to this sort of censure; while scarce any man has ventur'd to cast the same reproach at those players who excel in comedy. The reafon feems not founded on any thing in nature ; but on what ought to fhamie our criticks out of it, on a fault in their own apprehensions. Is it not wholly owing to this, that the finesle and delicacy of the comic actor is more open, more exposed to the audience, than that of the performer in tragedy either is, or indeed ought to be? The sense and spirit of the actor, as well as of the author, in tragedy, is ordinarily to disclofe itself only in the dignity and justness of the sentiment and expreffion; and they are not so easily distinguished under this disguise, as where in comic scenes they shew their naked face, without the slightest veil, on every occasion. Nay, in many cases, the man who is very well able to diftinguith those graces, under the shade that a decent propriety throws over them, does not think it essential to his entertainment to do so. When we go to a tragedy, we expect the heart to be affected rather than the imagination, and the acior naturally loses half the praise of that very merit by which we are affected. But 'tis not so in a comedy; we go to that to laugh, we give ourselves up to every emotion the comedian excites in us, and never concern ourselves about the means by which he produces them. The great difference, in fine, turns upon this; at a comedy the heart is less engaged than at a tragedy, and the audience is consequently more at Jer ure to distinguish which are the effects produc'd by the art and management of the author,

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