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the giving us what makes us so, that is not porsess'd of all the fire and genius that characterises the man whom nature has cut out for this fort of life.
Let us not however forget to guard against fome faults into which a too free use of this doctrine may lead some of the modern players in this stile, by telling them that it is in general, in their deportment only, not in their smiling faces, that we expect to discover that gaiety and joyous disposition, we wou'd have their parts inspire them with.
The French stage affords many instances of people becoming liable to this censure; but the natural gravity of our nation renders it somewhat more rare among us : We are not, indeed, without instances of people who express rather too much of the merriment they intend us in their own faces, particularly at the new theatre: And we would advise these actors, by way of remedy, to attend the places we have in the former part of this work celebrated for the renown'd exploits perform'd in them by Mr. Machen. Every holliday furnishes the occasion of a play at one or other of these, and every play almost affords an instance of this precious folly, that ought to put it out of countenance with any body else, in the person of a beroe, who makes a figure there under the name of Bostock. This gentleman is humble enough in his private vocation to walk before the chair of a lady at that end of the town, but when he assumes the bulkin he grows unmeasurably great, swells to twice his ordinary fize, and like the priestess of the Delphic God, becomes another creature : But such is the joy of this fudden change of fortune, such
his fatisfaction in his own performance, that we have seen a settled smile upon his face thro' the whole part of Bajazet.
People of naturally grave countenances, whatever merit they may be possess’d of, are but very badly cut out for comedy ; and on the contrary the player who has it in his intention to make us merry, has often the advantage of appearing the more and more coinic, as he affects to be more and more serious : It is not more rational to say to the tragic actor, Shed tears your self if you wou'd draw any from me, than it is to admonish those in the comic style, by telling them, if you wou'd have me laugh often, you must very feldom laugh your self.
The player is never to lose sight of this great point, that his private sentiments and character are to be hid behind those of the character he plays; he must remember that the person he represents, often diverts us with the things that he does or says premeditately and of design; and often also by those which drop from him accidentally and without attention: There are frequently the most affecting instances of the whole character, and in these the actor would take off all the effect, if he express’d in his countenance a cunningness and joy at the consequence, which he knew wou'd attend them: The air of inattention with which these fort of pleasantries are conducted, is what gives them all their force ; for a laugh upon the face of the actor is fufficient at any time to rob us of the whole beauty of them; and in the other case nothing is more certain than that a thousand pleasantries wholly lofe their effect, as well on the stage, as in private conversation, if the person from whom they come does not dissemble his intent to raise a laugh, and his hopes to succeed in it.
CH A P. II.
Soul, will ever perforin well the Part of a
E shall not, we hope, be accused of giv
ing the pompous name of Elevation of Soul in the title of this chapter, to that ridiculous and idle imagination that is found in certain modern tragedy players, who shall be, nameless, who are so infected with the enthusiasm of their profession, that they become princes and heroes for life, by personating such characters on the page; who can by no means condescend to throw off their grandeur with their buskins, but will carry
it in full force to make them the ridicule of the next company they fall into.
These people never receive a visit from a familiar friend, but they perswade themselves they are giving audience ; nor mix among the deliberating parties of their company, but they fancy themselves aslifting at a council of state. They speak to their domesticks, or if they have none, to the porter or coffee-boy, with all the folemnity of voice with which a Roman general delivers his orders; and if they pay a compliment to an author, who has cast them an advantageous part in his play, they do it with an air that tells him they imagine they are conferring a favour on bimby accepting it, or giving him a reward for his merit.
We flatter ourselves also that no body will misunderstand us so far as to suppose we mean to give this lofty name to the arrogant opinion fome other gentlemen of the same rank have conceived of their own consequence in the world : or to suppose an actor has an elevated foul, because he is mad enough to imagine, that great players are at least as eminent in the eye of reason as great men; and would tell the world, if he dar'd, that it is almoft easier to be a heroe, than to represent one well upon the stage.
The vanity and pride of the former set, tho abundantly ridiculous, may be useful to them ; and while it renders them contemptible among their familiars, may serve to make them excellent in the eye of the public; as it will always keep up in them a suitable turn of mind for the executing their parts to advantage. It will doubtless lead them into many disagreeable scrapes among their friends ; but it will in return give them the means of claiming an uncommon share of applause upon the stage; and by accustoming themselves to play the kings and generals in their family, they will acquire a habit of doing it more naturally in their profession, than any man can, who only takes up his royalty or heroism for the use of the present moment, or while it is requir’d of him in his part. Yet this habitude, however inforc'd, will at the utmost be only sufficient to influence their exterior figure and deportment ; it will indeed throw an air of dignity and greatness into their mien and gestures, but it will never be able to give that noble pride, that elevaced grandeur to their expression, which is necessary to the inspiring us with that generous transport with which we love to hear the sentiments of the
tragic tragic poct. It is poffible indeed that this settled habit may give a man, who has a good figure and an easy carriage from nature, all that dignity which we find ascribed by a very great writer, with an uncommon warmth, to the late Mr. Booth in his ascending his throne in the character of Pyrrhus; but it will never give to any inan the innate greatness, with which Mr. Quin pronounces the sentiments of Cato.
The high opinion also which many of our players have of their profession, may not be without its uses to them. This imaginary excellence in it may naturally be the occasion of their loving it more than they otherwise wou'd have done : the player of this turn perhaps may owe the greatest part of his excellence on the stage to this very opinion; and wou'd never have taken half the pains he has done to excell in his profession, if he had thought less nobly of it.
The mind necessarily takes an elevated turn from the exalted idea it forms of the objects it is conversant about; but there is besides this, another far nobler elevation of soul, which the actor in tragedy mult shew us he is possess'd of before he can rise to that applause, which fome of our present theatrical performers have found the way to deserve.
This consists in a noble enthusiasm, produc'd from a pasion for every thing that bears the character of true greatness: This must be native and inherent in the man; and this is what we understand by the term elevation of soul. 'Tis this enthusiasm which distinguishes the capital performers in tragedy, from those of a moderate Ihare of merit ; and 'tis peculiarly by means of this valuable and rare qualification that such a