Imatges de pÓgina

fame character with fuccefs; no matter whether he were right or wrong, we judge that beft for ever after which is moft like what he did. The judicious player, who takes up a character of this kind, is therefore to make it his firft 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 neceffary, it must be in fome degree at leaft fubmitted to; fince, 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.


T will not avail that the action of a player is ever fo juft, so judicious and expreffive, 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 fame time please the ears and the understanding.

There are a multitude of paffages in the antient writers which prove, that the delivery of their dramatic writings was not left to the difcretion of the actors, but was determined by note and meafure. That this was the cafe is pretty certain; but perhaps it is yet to be determin'd, whether a theatrical reprefentation would be the better or the worfe for the addition of fo ftrict a regularity.

A very eminent writer, the Abbe Condillac, in his Effay on the Origin of Human Knowledge, is of I 6 opinion,

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 pleafing than they are at prefent; but it should seem that in this cafe, their recitation would be in a kind of fong, and we fhould at least be reduced to hear our fprightlieft fentiments deliver'd in fomething like the recitative of an opera; a fort of mufick which thofe 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 themfelves to, under the name either of fpeaking or finging. Surely we fhould not cafily bring ourselves to fuppofe, that a part was well play'd because it was well fung. It is to be allow'd indeed, that the notes of the mufick not leaving the finger at liberty to choose his own tones and cadences, he is not in the fame danger that the player is of choofing wrong ones: but all that playing could gain by mufick of the very best kind being adapted to it, would be, at the utmoft, no more than the additional power which mufick has in itself of expreffing the different paffions by its determinate founds; and this, tho' a vaft deal has been faid in favour of the antient mufick about it, dots not appear at prefent to be at all adequate to the force and expreffion that must be loft, by a good fpeaker's being deny'd to give the utmost force to the words of the author in his recitation.

The ableft judges feem to give it in favour of mere Speaking; and others, when they have faid all the fine things they can of recitative musick, are oblig'd to allow that it has declamatory fpeaking for itsfoundation;


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

It is to be added to all this, that let the mufick be ever fo well adapted to the paffions concern'd, let it be ever fo expreffive, and let it be ever fo perfectly perform'd by the finging actor, the world will never allow that a fcene thus fung to an audience, will keep up the appearance of a reality, and fuftain that illufion which is the life of all playing, nearly fo well as one in which the players fpeak in their natural voice and accent.

The Abbé du Bos, another Frenchman, who has written with great fuccefs 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 mufical notes, but were a kind of marks and fignatures intended to exprefs thofe elevations and depreffions, and the other changes of the voice which the paffions occafion, in fome degree, in common converfation. We know the refpect that is due to the character of this writer, but we can by no means fubfcribe to his opinion. He fupposes that it is poffible to afcertain the ftrength. and expreffion of the tones of the voice as agitated. by the paffions, and to proportion their degrees by rule, according to the degree of the emotion of the mind, which they are to be fuppos'd to arife from; but all this is fairly overthrown by the before-mention'd Condillac, who has demonftrated, beyond all contradition, they can never


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

There is not more falfity in this hypothefis of the learned author, than in his other great fuppofition, That nature has allotted only one true tone of voice for the expreffion 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 perfon be not feen; and in confequence of this, every one has his ówn peculiar inflexion of voice, by which he expreffes the impreffions 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 fpeaking.

There is no doubt, indeed, but the different inflexions which arife from the fame impreffion in the voices of different men, have fomething in common to them all; but it must be alfo allowed, that they neceffarily differ according to the different organs of the perfon who expreffes himself by them; in the fame manner as the accent and cadence of any particular nation, tho' it carry with it fomething that diftinguishes it in every fpeaker from the accent of all other nations in the world, yet varies almost infinitely in the different perfons who fpeak the dialects of the feveral provinces.

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

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liar characters of the perfons who express themfelves by them. The anger of fome men is a fort thunder, which makes ten thousand times more noife than is proportion'd to the mischief it does; while that of others is a fort of ftill fire fmother'd under the afhes, 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 feen from thefe obfervations, that the art of delivering a fentiment juftly, or, as we otherwife 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 neceflary to lay down as many fets of rules, as nature has given to mankind tones of voice, and different manners of expreffing the fame impreffion. All the leffons that the ableft inftructor would be able to give upon this art, would be of no more ufe to the performer, for whofe affiftance they were intended, than the defcription, if it were poffible to defcribe it, of the manner in which Mrs. Cibber engages our affection, our tears, in the character of Monimia, (in which the feems infpir'd with the very genius of the author who wrote the part, and with the very foul of the heroine whom the reprefents) would be to another actrefs, who would with to fucceed by imitation of that manner, tho' without the genius or the foul that gave exiflence 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 fentence, it ought to be by advising them


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