Imatges de pÓgina


fame character with success; no matter whether he were right or wrong, we judge that best for ever after which is most like what he did. The judicious player, who takes up a character of this kind, is therefore to make it his first care not to differ too much from the last person who excelled in it. Perhaps the only way to please the greater part of an audience as well as he did, is to copy his faults : if even this is necefiary, it must be in fome degree at least submitted to ; since, in general, the more like the new actor's play is to what the people have been used to, the better they will be pleas'd with it.


On the Truth of Recitation.

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T will not avail that the action of a player is

ever fo just, so judicious and expresive, if his delivery, or, as it may be more properly call’d, his recitation be faulty. When the performer has a judicious audience to act before, it is in vain for him to expect applause for pleasing the eyes, if he does not at the same time please the ears and the understanding

There are a multitude of passages in the antient writers which prove, that the delivery of their dramatic writings was not left to the discretion of the actors, but was determined by note and meafure. That this was the case is pretty certain ; but perhaps it is yet to be determin'd, whcther a theatrical representation would be the better or the worse for the addition of fo strict a regularity.

A very eminent writer, the Abbe Condillac, in his Esay on the Origin of Human Knowledge, is of



opinion, that if the tones and cadences of the voice of our comic actors were to be regulated by the laws of mufick, the performances would be infinitely more pleasing than they are at prefent; but it should seem that in this case, their recitation would be in a kind of song, and we fhould at least be reduced to hear our sprightlieft sentiments deliver’d in something like the recitative of an opera ;

sort of musick which those who go to an entertainment in which they expect their ears only to be charm’d, and that even at the expence of their understanding, have enough to do to reconcile themselves to, under the name either of speaking or singing. Surely we should not casily bring ourselves to suppose, that a part was well play'd because it was well fung. It is to be allow'd indeed, that the notes of the musick not leaving the singer at liberty to choose bis own tones and cadences, he is not in the same danger that the player is of choosing wrong ones: but all that playing could gain by musick of the very best kind being adapted to ity would be, at the utmost, no more than the additional power which mufick has in itself of expressing the different passions by its determinate founds; and this, tho'a vast deal has been said in favour of the antient mufick about it, does not appear at present to be at all adequate to the force and expression that must be lost, by a good speaker's being deny'd to give the utmoft force to the words of the author in his recitation.

Theableft judges seem to give it in favour of mere speaking; and others, when they have said all the fine things they can of recitative musick, are oblig'd to allow that it has declarnatory speaking for its

foundation ;

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foundation ; nay, they even own, that it has no real expression but what it borrows from the voice which delivers the words that its musick is adapted to: and it is another unlucky observation, that the same notes may serve very well for different words, and those of very different sense and meaning.

It is to be added to all this, that let the musick be ever so well adapted to the passions concern'd, let it be ever fo expressive, and let it be ever fo perfectly perform’d by the singing actor, the world will never allow that a scene thus sung to an audience, will keep up the appearance of a reality, and sustain that illufion which is the life of all playing, nearly so well as one in which the players speak in their natural voice and accent.

The Abbé du Bos, another Frenchinan, who has written with great success on poetry and painting, has deliver'd it as his opinion, that the figures taught to the ancient Greek and Roman players, as their guides and directors in the delivery of the words of the poet, were not properly musical notes, but were a kind of marks and signatures intended to express those elevations and depreffions, and the other changes of the voice which the passions occasion, in some degree, in common conversation. We know the respect that is due to the character of this writer, but we can by no means subscribe to his opinion.

He supposes that it is possible to ascertain the strength, and expreffion of the tones of the voice as agitated. by the passions, and to proportion their degrees by rule, according to the degree of the emotion of the mind, which they are to be suppos’d to arise from ; but all this is fairly overthrown by the before-mention’d Condillac, who has demonstrated, beyond all contradition, they can never.


be thus determin’d, as to their strength ; nor ever regulated by the proportion they bear to other given tones, which was the grand rule the Abbé du Bos had establish'd for the ascertaining their value.

There is not more falfity in this hypothefis of the learned author, than in his other great supposition, That nature has allotted only one true tone of voice for the expression of every fingle paffion.

This is an error that requires very little trouble in the refuting: Every man has a peculiar voice by which he may be known from every other man in the world, tho' his person be not seen ; and in consequence of this, every one has his own peculiar inflexion of voice, by which he expresses the impressions which he feels, and which conveys the idea he intends by it to others, only as it differs from the general tenor of his voice in plain speaking

There is no doubt, indeed, but the different inflexions which arise from the fame impression in the voices of different men, have something in common to them all; but it must be allo allowed, that they necessarily differ according to the different organs of the person who expresses himself by them ; in the same manner as the accent and cadence of any particular nation, tho' it carry with it something that distinguishes it in every speaker from the accent of all other nations in the world, yet varics almost infinitely in the different persons who speak the dialects of the several provinces.

The tones of voice which fall under the confideration of the actor have, besides all these varieties, many others, which arise from the pecu



liar characters of the persons who express themfelves by them. The anger of some men is a fort thunder, which makes ten thousand times more noise than is proportion’d to the mischiet it does ; while that of others is a sort of ftill fire smother'd under the ashes, which throws out no flames, but which is the more to be dreaded, as it gives no notice of the effects it is ready to produce.

It will be eafily seen from these observations, that the art of delivering a sentiment juftly, or, as we otherwise call it, the truth of recitation, can never be treated methodically, or deliver'd in the form of a science. In order to this, it would be necessary to lay down as many sets of rules, as nature has given to mankind tones of voice, and different manners of expressing the fame impression. All the lessons that the ableft instructor would be able to give upon this art, would be of no more use to the performer, for whose affistance they were intended, than the defcription, if it were poffible to describe it, of the manner in which Mrs. Cilber engages our affection, our tears, in the character of Monimia, (in which the seems inspir'd with the very genius of the author who wrote the part, and with the very soul of the heroine whom she reprefents) would be to another actress, who would wish to succeed by imitation of that manner, tho’without the genius or the soul that gave existence to it in the original.

If we would attempt to give the most infallible of all rules to the other performers, for the avoiding all falfe cadences, all improper tones in their delivery, and for giving us truth of recitation in every sentence, it ought to be by advising them


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