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on that occasion! What an opposition is seen in him of aversion and tenderness ; of rage and softness; of tyrannic fierceness, and of flavish humility ; what terrible projects of revenge, and what gallant resolutions of forgetting every thing.
Whoever has seen the performer who now plays Arnolphe at Paris will not blame us for going so far for an instance of a perfection in this article, which we cannot fatter ourselves (notwithstanding all the merit we have been fo just to in Mr. Garrick) so far as to pretend is found at home.
If in playing comedy it is necessary that the player be able to make the most different impreffions succeed one another readily and easily in his heart, it is not less essential to the performer in tragedy that he feel, much more strongly than the other needs to do, every one of those which he is to express to the audience. Sensibility in the comic actor, therefore, must be a more universal agent, and in the tragedian it must be a more powerful one : it must be capable of exerting itself in a stronger manner within its due bounds, and of producing greater effects. The comedian needs only to have a soul equal to that of the generality of men; but the player, who thinks to excel in tragedy, must have one above the common rank.
'Tis from our being in some degree sensible of this, that we are less ready to pardon the comedian, if he does not express, under every circumstance, the just and requisite degree, as well as the just species of passion that he is to describe to
We are not in a condition to judge, with exactness, of the performance of the tragedian ; we want the necessary realities to make the comparison, by which we should be able to determine
whether he comes up to his duty in the part ; but we are never under this uncertainty in judging of the comedians; we never want the objects of comparison for them ; but at any time, if we will only examine what would pass within our own hearts, fuppofing we were in the same situation in which the author has placed the character they are representing, we shall be able to decide whether they are accurate and faithful copies.
It will perhaps be reply'd to us, “This last pro« pofition cannot indeed be disputed; but is " that which establishes a necessity of this sensibi
lity to all the performers on the stage, equally ci incontestable? You have established it as a “ first principle, that no player can exprefs a “ pafsion perfectly on the stage, if he do not feel " it deeply himself
. But how will you be able « to persuade the world that some of our actresles, « who shall be nameless, who are so perfect “ in the art of feigning in private passions, which " they in reality feel nothing of, may not carry " the same artifice to the stage, and dislemble
as well with us there? Or how shall we be " convinc'd, that women who are so able to “ feign things to their lovers, are incapable of “ counterfeiting with the spectators, or of describ“ ing, expresfively enough to them, passions 66 which themselves have never felt ?”
The objection is plausible; but it is easily answer’d. We are not to be surpris’d if women succeed better in deceiving eyes predetermin’d to be favourable to them, than they can in difguising their hearts to persons who are free from this prejudice, and whose whole attention, in regard to them, is employ'd in examining their actions in a critical and unbiass’d manner, and
that with a considerable share of curiosity and inspection. The self-love of the gallant is always a very faithful friend to the mistress; but that of the spectator has no such influence in regard to the actress : the vanity of the first leads him to imagine, that he sees the lady what she is not ; and the discernment of the other teaches him to suspect that he does not see her what she ought to be : the one finds a pleasure in suffering himself to be cheated, the other tastes a greater, in shewing that he is not a dupe to the representation, when the artifice is too gross to deceive : he is very willing, in cases of this kind, to be impos’d on ; but he would have his error carry with ii, at least, a face of probability.
The mistress and the actress have only this in common, that it is the more easy to them to affest a paffion, as they are less under the influence of its opposite one. From this principle it fol. lows, that the actress cannot be too careful to prevent the common accidents of life, whether good or bad ones, from making any great imprellions on her heart. If the suffers herself to be affected too violently with pleasure or concern, on acco int of h:r more trivial, domestick affairs, she will scarce ever be in a condition to let the paflions of the character she is to represent take place sufficiently in her heart, or affect her deeply enough to make it poffible for her to affect the audience. She will find it a difficulty too great to struggle against, to displace, just at her pleafure, the paflions that have personally affected her, to appropriate, with any degree of success, thole peculiar to the character she is to affume.
The last season gave us a very strong instance of this truth in a new actress, Miss B-y.
The first night this actress appear'd, we saw in her a good figure, a deportment that promis’d, after some time and practice, to be not despicable, and a perfect attention to every incident of her part. It was with considerable pleasure that we expected to see her improve upon us the next night; but we were disappointed: every look was wild and staring ; and, excepting the awkward stiffness that had been the principal blemish which disgusted us the night before, nothing remain'd the fame about her. She seem'd to forget every particular the ought to have remember'd, except the words s and those she repeated, in many places, in so heedless a manner, that it was evident she was thinking of something else all the while. In short, her success had, in one sense, been much greater the first night than she had expected. If she had, as an actress, found fewer admirers than her vanity had flatter'd her into a belief the should, she had made more lovers than the well knew what to do with; and, from that time, the hurry of her paffions, independent of the theatre, render'd it impossible for her to attend to those which belonged to it; and fhe, confequently, hecame the most flat, infipid, stalking, staring thing that ever appeared there ; 'till to our great good fortune, as well as bers, we lost her.
People of a discerning judgment have found it. easy to discover the same occasional interruptions in Mrs. Woffington's playing; and when her mind has been unsettled, have very evidently difcern’d a want of attention to the business of the scene : perhaps it is more owing than we imagine to an uncommonly settled and tranquil ftate at home, that this lady has for the last year or two fucceeded so well in every thing. It is notorious C -2
of the late Mrs. Oldfield, that nothing ruffled her temper ; it was for this reason that it was always ready to throw itself into every passion the author pleas'd ; and it is not less certain, that the greatest actress of the present age owes, no Imall share of her success to a natural philosophic turn of mind, which nothing is able to discompose.
CHA P. III.
Whether an Actor can have too much Fire ?
HERE are some modern performers,
who, in scenes where it is required they should be violently affected, are under a necessity of putting off an artificial warmth upon us, in the place of that native fire and spirit, that Promethean heat which they find nature has left them deficient in; and we are unhappy enough to have another set of them, the weakness of whose constitutions, the natural imbecility of whose organs will not permit them even to use this resource. We have had
many modern instances among these last fort of people, who finding they were not able to cheat our senses, have modestly attempted to impose upon our understandings : they very seriously, and, as they would have it be thought, very wisely tell us, that the fire which the mob is so charm’d with, in some of their cotemporaries, is much more frequently a fault in players than a perfection.
The first set are a sort of coiners of false money, who would pafs copper upon us for gold ; the others a set of fools, who attempt to persuade us, that the spangles of hoar-froits co