Imatges de pÓgina

to follow the example of that actress, and speak as nearly as may be in the manner she does, when the performs parts which have some resemblance to those which they are to represent. Nothing could be more desirable, in the generality of our actors, than attempts of this kind ; but nothing can be more difficult, not to say imporsible, than to succeed to any great degree in them. We can no more, in a continued discourse, appropriate to ourselves all the inflexions of voice that we have admired in another perfon, than we can invariably, for a long time together, speak in an accent that is not natural to us. All that can be pretended to in this way, with any degree of success, is to imitate, as nearly as that may be done, certain of the finer and more striking cadences of those performers, whose natural tone of voice is most like that of the person is to attempt the imitation : as to the rest, nature alone can dictate what will be most expressive ; and the fense of what is to be spoken is the only instructor which can disclose the secrets of that eloquent magick of sounds, by which the player is to excite in his audience all those emotions which it is his business to make them feel.

The principal of all these secrets is, not to employ indifferently those cadences, which tho' they are something alike in found, yet are different enough to be made, with proper management, the means of distinguishing very different paffions. The tones of the voice, under the command of the actor, may be rang'd under different genera, each of which is compos'd of a number of fpecies, in the same manner as every one of the pri


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mitive colours divides itself into a multitude of different shades.

We may regard, for example, that tone by which we express authority *, and that by which we express pride, as both belonging to the fame genus ; but yet it is evident that thele two have their differences one from the other. By the first, we very frequently express no more than the just sense which we have of our own dignity ; but by the other, we are always to be understood to carry the opinion we have of our greatness, much beyond the bounds of truth and reality.

The tone of voice, peculiar to the fimple creature who discloses all his heart to every body he meets, is very like that in which the prudent but ingenuous man declares the truth in any affair he is interrogated upon.

They are both evia dently of the fame genus ; but it would be an egregious blunder to use, or to understand, one of them for the other. The first is the tone of a weak person, who having neither understanding nor resolution enough to conceal his sentiments, reveals every thought of his heart, even in cases where it is his interest that they should be un.

* It may be imagined by fome, that we are here contradicting ourselves on this head ; and that after having ailerted that there may be several true and just tones used to express the same passion, we are here admitting only one to express the sense of greatness which a man in authority carries always about him. We muft observe, that we here use the term collectively ; and mean, tho' we fpeak in the fingular number, every tone that is proper to express the sentiment in question ; and the reader is desired to understand the same, in regard to all the other tones which we are about to mention,


known : the other is a sign of candour, not of weakness or folly; and is generally the attribute of those persons who are sufficiently masters of themselves to be able to disguise their manner of thinking, or even their sensibility of accidents adverse or fortunate, but whose innate honour and virtue will not suffer them to betray the truth.

There are some tones of the voice which are to be varied even under the fame genus.

The figure of speech, which we call irony, may be equally dictated to us by anger, by contempt, or by mere mirth and good humour ; but the ironical tone of voice, which is proper for the exprefing one of these kind of fentiments, is by nó means proper to explain ourselves by, when we mean either of the other two.

Love and friendship, in the same manner, frequently speak the same language ; but the tone of voice by which they are to be expressed, is by no means the same : even the tones in which the various kinds of friendship itfelf are to be deliver’d, differ extremely from one another. That by which a father expreffes his tenderness and care for his favourite fon, is very different from that by which the sentiments of one friend are expressed to another no way related to him.


What ought to be the Manner of Recitation in



XCEPTING only a very few instances,

in which it is the business of the player to entertain his audience with an affected and intentionally ridiculous, declamatory manner, nothing in comedy is to be deliver'd in the way of declamation. It is a general, and, allowing only for a very few exceptions, an indispensible rule, that the actor, in comedy, is to recite as naturally as poffible: he is to deliver what he has to say, in the very same manner that he would have spoken it off the stage, if he had been in the same circumstances in real life that the person he reprefents is plac'd in.

There is much less difficulty in conforming to this rule, in speaking the parts in those comedies which are written in what is now the usual and natural manner, that is, in profe, than there was in delivering the author's language in the same natural manner, when an absurd custom had, an age or two ago, made it necessary for the author to throw many at least, if not all his speeches, into verse. In France the same species of folly, in a great measure, ftill reigns; and tho' it is the interest of the actors there, if they know the value of their reputation, to speak, for this reason, nothing but prose, and notwithstanding that among whole companies of their comedians, it is no uncommon thing not to have so much as one person who can speak verse decently; yet the whole company generally prefer the plays writ


ten in verse ; and this for no better reason, than that their parts in them are more easily remembered.

The French audiences also greatly help forward this false taste, as the generality of them never fail to give the preference to a comedy written in verse, tho' the poet has evidently both cramp'd himself, and thrown a thousand difficulties in the way of the performer by writing it fo.

It is not the business of a treatise of this kind to determine, whether the laws of poetry, so far as they regard versification, belong to comedy, properly so call’d, or not; or whether there are some, and only some cases in which they may, or ought to be admitted. Perhaps the judicious reader of those comedies that have been written in it, will find, that one great reason for the author's adding this tinsel to his piece, has been his wanting Iterling merit to recommend it ; and that one great thing that discountenanc'd prose, among those writers who set it on foot, was, that as it had only the wit it contain’d to recommend it, there requir’d more of that valuable commodity in it, than where there was something that might amuse the ear without it.

Nothing can be more evident, than that rhyme and measure always tend to take off greatly from the air of truth, nature and reality, which the i i llogue would otherwise have. In consequence of this, the actor's principal care and study ought to be, wherever he is encumber'd with these fetters, to break the one, and, as much as posfible, sink and lose the other in the reciting. Several of our Shakespear's and Ben Johnson's plays have passages in rhyine and measure, in fome parts; and that excellent composition Co

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