Imatges de pÓgina

have this advantage ; and among the women 'tis indeed the peculiar happiness of a few only, whom nature has been more than ordinarily kind to.

It is allow'd that there are some women who have this peculiar advantage; but to make the accident useful to us, we must enquire how an actress who is approaching toward the time of life when she will want it, is to know whether she is possess’d of it or not; she is not to trust to her own eyes about it, they will be partial to her : every actress, if this were allow'd to be the test, would claim the privilege ; 'tis the eyes of the audience that she is to resolve this question by. This is a glass that will never deceive her; upon a fair and impartial examination in this, Ine will timely see that the flower of her youth is faded, and that those charms which us’d to make every thing. she faid or did please, are gone : this is a melancholy truth, but 'tis a useful one; and if she has the mortification from hence to find that she is no more young, ih u will be taught by it, however, to escape the making herself ridicul us, by attempting to appear so when it is no longer possible The Thould succeed.


Of the Characters of Fcormen and Chambermaids

on the Siage.

N order to succeed in some of the subordinate

parts in comedy, it is not necessary that the actress be in the prime of life, or bloom of youth and beauty ; in many it is even essential that she

be past her prime, while in others it is indeed equally necessary either that she be very young, or that the appear to be fo: the last of these is the more proper, where the author has thrown into the mouths of these characters conversations too bold and familiar, or carrying too little respect to the persons in whose service they are, or where the imprudent advice they give to the yourg ladies they attend can have no excuse, but that it comes from a rafh, unthinking, and giddy creature.

A real girlishness in the adviser, in this case, is a neceffary qualification for the rendering the scene natural : on the other hand, where the waiting gentlewoman, in order to favour the lovers, takes certain steps herself which are not quite reconcileable to the strict rules of modesty, a pretended youth will be more proper for her purpose than a real one; the less the actress has of the real girl in her countenance, the more theindecent liberties she suffers will entertain the audience.

It is allow'd then that a chambermaid is not al. ways expected to have an air of youth and bloom ; but there is another indispenible quality which she must never be without, that is, an extreme volubility of tongue ; if any actress attempts these characters without this advantage, she will lose herself with every judicious person of the audience, and will never be able to give the true grace and spirit to her part.

There is another requisite as necessary to the chambermaid as this volubility of tongue; this is an arch and cunning look, with a world of discernment, and occasional secrecy in it; when an audience observes in a waiting gentlewoman a simple and unmeaning face, or an openness


and ingenuous serenity in her countenance, they expect to find in her character the fimplicity of a Foible, not the address and cunning of a Kitty Pry, or an intriguing chambermaid.

As necessary as a cunning look and a ready volubility of tongue are to the chambermaid, fo efsential are a cringing humility, an attentive observance, and an agility of body, to the footman. The best judges of comedy tell us, that in every scene of it every person should be in motion; they speak this only figuratively of the genteeler characters, but it is literally true of footmen; when they have a part in the scenes, it is essential to their characters that they find means to employ our eyes as well as our understandings continually about them. It will naturally follow from this principle, that the persons who períorm these characters ought to be of such a figure as is fitted for running and skipping about ; and a clumsy figure in the character of a footman, must be as absurd as a stuttering voice in a chattering chambermaid.

The English stage is perhaps at this time as happy in characters of this kind as any theatre ever was; there is not a requisite on the female part that is not found in its utmost perfection in Mrs. Green ; nor in the other, but is as eminent in Mr. Woodward.

We do not forget that Mrs. Clive has succeeded to admiration in a great number of parts of this kind, and that even Mrs. Woffington has made a very pretty Phillis ; but the nicer observers will find too much felf-sufficiency and an unnatural freedom with her betters, in the former of these ladies in such characters ; and an easy indolence and polite deportment in the latter, which, as



neither of them will ever be able to shake off, will always be great obstacles to their merit in these parts, and the want of which will always

fet Mrs. Green above them both, tho' her real excellence in them were much less than that of either.

We are to allow no little merit in the footmens characters to Mr. Yates; he has long pleas'd us in them, and long may do so; a requisite assurance is not wanting in either this player nor his rival in these characters ; perhaps it would be a point not easly determined which of them has the most of it ; but the greater sund of understanding that seems to be in Mr. Woodward, and his figure, so much better proportioned to that necessary agility we have mentioned, will always, we imagine, give him a superiority.

The End of the First Part.





[ocr errors]

Of those Alistances which Players ought to

receive from Ari. T will evidently appear from the observations deliver'd in the first part of this treatise,

that there are but few persons who are proper to appear on the stage ; and that even out of these, it is a yet much smaller number who are calculated for performing the principal characters. This is a truth which the greater part of those persons who determine to make the stage their profession scarce ever trouble themselves with reflecting on. Many of those who determine on this way of life, ought no more to conceive it possible that they can entertain us in it, than a fat fellow wheezing at every step with an asthma, that he could win the prize in a foot-race; yet they offer themselves blindly and boldly to the managers, and they find managers who as blindly and as boldly receive them.


H 5

« AnteriorContinua »