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ble fentiments thrown into that part where the author declares,
Virtue cou'd fee to do what Virtue ought
He that has light within his own clear breaft, May fit i'th' center and enjoy bright day; But he that hides a dark foul and foul thoughts Benighted walks under the mid-day fun, Himself is his own dungeon.
Not the violent emphafis this moft judicious fpeaker contriv'd to throw upon the word Flat in the third line, or on Under in the laft 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 thefe lines, than in half the tragedies that have been applauded within these feven years.
Nay we had occafion to obferve, that not only an elevated fentiment, but the mere fpirit of poetry, when rais'd to the pitch it stands at in this piece, cou'd fupport itself in the fame manner independantly of the machine it was utter'd from; when we heard from the fame unmeaning mouth, and almoft in the fame breath,
Oft feeks a sweet retired folitude,
She plumes her feathers and lets grow her wings,
Were all too ruffled and fometimes impair'd.
No evil thing that walks by night
It must be allow'd that a long familiarity with. the ftage will fometimes fupply the place of judgment and good fenfe in the performer: Sometimes alfo he may have been oblig❜d to nature for peculiar qualifications, and that in fo 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 fhall happen to fuit fo well with the circumftances of the character he reprefents, that we cannot deny him a high applaufe. This however is no more than the deception of a moment; an abfurdity that follows immediately after in the voice, the gefture, or the expreffion 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 applaufe.
How truly pityable is the condition of that author, who is under a neceffity of entrusting his fuccefs, his reputation, in a new piece, to these miferable automatons: And on the other fide, how happy is the fortune of that writer, who fees his play fall into fuch 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 preferving all the spi
rit of the most fhining parts of it to its utmost height, but of adding graces to thofe which are lefs eminent or striking.
The comic writers are above all others happy in falling into fuch hands, as their pieces are often in a great measure fupported by the delicate and judicious addrefs 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 niceft 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, furely can never be fufpected 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 fufpected in this particular. It is not the fame cafe among the performers in tragedy; every one will recollect that fome who have appeared at leaft decent in many not contemptible characters in that way, have been violently fufpected of a deficiency in this point.
If we would be at the trouble to establish a more just idea of Senfe or Understanding, than at préfent the world perhaps ufually does; and give ourfelves leave to judge of the feveral kinds of it, or the feveral forms at leaft under which it prefents itself to our view; we fhould be more accurate in the determining the characters of our theatrical performers in regard to it. Thofe among them whom we hear accused of wanting B 6
fenfe, perhaps ought rather to be said to have a different kind of it from that of their accufers, than abfolutely to be without it. Players who please in various characters, and yet are cenfured as having very bad understandings, have often indeed but little of that fort of fenfe, which tho' in certain companies it gives a man the greatest reputation, yet evidently deferves the leaft; of that fort of fense which is deftin'd for oftentation rather than for ufe, and which may be aptly enough compar'd to those kinds of trees, which yield a profufion of flowers, but bear no fruit: This is a kind of fenfe which furnishes us with a bare parade and fhew, but is of no use in any of the occafions of life. It makes us fhine in matters of no importance, but every profeffor of it has found, at one time or other, that it is not of the least affiftance to us in any thing in which it is worth our while to wifh we may fucceed.
Perhaps this kind of fenfe is wanting in those actors, who tho' they are applauded on the stage, are faid among the criticks to have bad understandings; but if it is fo, nature has given them in recompenfe another fpecies of it, which exerts itself indeed with iefs pomp and fhew, but which is infinitely more determinate and more useful. They have at least understandings good enough, to be able to enter into the nicest and most abftrufe points in their profeffion: And it is plain they have us'd this penetration to the beft advantage, as they have by means of it found the way to a lafting applaufe: and if we allow them this, as lefs cannot be allowed, we are no longer to cenfure them as being wanting in point of underftanding.
Tho' this be an inconteftible truth, experience fhews us that the tragick actors are continually exposed to this fort of cenfure; while scarce any man has ventur'd to caft the fame reproach at thofe players who excel in comedy. The reafon feems not founded on any thing in nature; but on what ought to fhame our criticks out of it, on a fault in their own apprehenfions. Is it not wholly owing to this, that the fineffe and delicacy of the comic actor is more open, more expofed 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 difclofe itfelf only in the dignity and juftness of the fentiment and expreffion; and they are not fo eafily diftinguished under this difguife, as where in comic scenes they fhew their naked face, without the flightest veil, on every occafion. Nay, in many cafes, the man who is very well able to diftinguish those graces, under the fhade that a decent propriety throws over them, does not think it effential to his entertainment to do fo. When we go to a tragedy, we expect the heart to be affected rather than the imagination, and the actor naturally lofes half the praife of that very merit by which we are affected. But 'tis not fo in a comedy; we go to that to laugh, we give ourfelves 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 lefs engaged than at a tragedy, and the audience is confequently more at lelure to diftinguish which are the effects produc'd by the art and management of the author,