« PoprzedniaDalej »
be ever secure of success; that is, in our theatrical way of expressing it, to make a great deal of the character. To speak and act as in common life, is not playing, nor is it what people come to see: na. tural speakivg, like sweet wine, runs glibly over the palate, and scarce leaves any taste behind it; but being high in a part resembles vinegar, which grates upon the taste, and one feels it while he is drinking. To please in town or country, the way is, to cry, wring, cringe into attitudes, mark the emphasis, slap the pockets, and labour like one in the falling. sickness: that is the way to work for applause; that is the way to gain it.
• As we received much reputation for our skill on this first exhibition, it was but natural for me to ascribe part of the success to myself; I snuffed the candles, and, let me tell you, that, without a candlesnuffer, the piece would lose half its embellish. ments. In this manner we continued a fortnight, and drew tolcrable good houses; but the evening before our intended departure, we gave out our very best piece, in which all our strength was to be exerted. We had great expectations from this, and even doubled our prices, when, behold! one of the principal actors fell ill of a violent fever. This was a stroke like thunder to our little company: they were resolved to go, in a body, to scold the man for falling sick at so inconvenient a time, and that too of a disorder that threatened to be expensive. I seized the moment, and offered to act the part myself in his stead. The case was desperate; they ac. cepted my offer; and I accordingly sat down, with the part in my hand and a tankard before me (sir, your health), and studied the character, which was to be rehearsed the next day, and played soon after.
'I found my memory excessively helped by drinking: I learued my part with astonishing rapid. ity, and bid adieu to snuffing candles ever after. I found that Nature had designed me for more noble employments, and I was resolved to take her when in the humour. We got together in order to rehearse, and I informed my companions, masters now no longer, of the surprising change I felt within me. Let the sick man, said I, be under no uneasiness to get well again; I'll fill his place to universal satisfaction; he may even die, if he thinks proper; I'll engage that he shall never be missed. I rehearsed before them, strutted, ranted, and received ap. plause. They soon gave out that a vew actor of eminence was to appear, and immediately all the genteel places were bespoke. Before I ascended the stage, however, I concluded within myself, that, as I brought money to the house, I ought to have my share in the profits. Gentlemen (said I, ad. dressing our company), I don't pretend to direct you; far be it from me to treat you with so much ingratitude: you have published my name in the bills with the utmost good-nalure; and, as affairs stand, cannot act without me; so, gentlemen, to show you my gratitude, I expect to be paid for my acting as much as any of you, otherwise I declare off: I'll brandish my snuffers and clip candles as usual. This was a very disagreeable proposal, but they found that it was impossible to refuse it; it was irresistible, it was adamant: they consented, and I went on iu King Bajazet: my frowning brows hound with a stocking stuffed into a turban, while on my captived arms I brandished a jack-chain. Natu. "e seemed to have titted me for the part; I was tali, and had a loud voice: my very entrance excited universal applause; I looked round on the audience witi. a snuile, and made a most low and graceful bow, for that is the rule among us. As it was a very passionate part, I invigorated my spirits with three full glasses (the tankard is almost out) of brandy. By Alla! it is almost inconceivable how I went through it; Tamerlan'e was but a fool to me; though he was loud enough too, yet I was still louder than he: but then, beside., I had attitudes in
abundance: in general, I kept my arms folded up thus upon the pit of my stomach ; it is the way at Drury-lane, and has always a fine effect. The tankard would sink to the bottom before I could get through the whole of my merits : in short, I came off like a prodigy; and, such was my success, that I could ravish the laurels even from a sirloin of beef. The principal gentlemen and ladies of the town came to me, after the play was over, to com. pliment me upon my success ; one praised my voice, another my person : Upon my word, says the squire's lady, he will make one of the finest actors in Europe; I say it, and I think I am something of a judge.-Praise in the beginning is agreeable enough, and we receive it as a favour; but when it comes in great quantities we regard it only as a debt, which nothing but our merit could extort : instead of thanking them, I internally applauded myself. We were desired to give our piece a second time; we obeyed, and I was applauded even more than before.
• At last we left the town, in order to be at a horse-race at some distance from thence. I shall never think of Tenterden without tears of gratitude and respect. The ladies and gentlemen there, take my word for it, are very good judges of plays and actors. Come, let us drink their healths, if you please, sir. We quitted the town, I say: and there was a wide difference between my coming in and going out: I entered the town a candle-suuffer, and I quitted it a hero !-Such is the world—little to. day, and great to-morrow. I cokld say a great deal more upon that subject, something truly sublime, upon the ups and downs of fortune; but it would give us both the spleen, and so I shall pass it over.
« The races were ended before we arrived at the next town, which was no small disappointment to our company; however, we were resolved to take all we could get. I played capital characters there too, and came off with my usual brill ncy. I
sincerely believe I should have been the first actor of Europe, had my growing, merit been properly cultivated; but there came an unkindly frost which nipped me in the bud, aud levelled me once more down to the common standard of humanity. I played Sir Harry Wildair; all the country ladies were charmed: if I but drew out my snuff-box, the whole house was in a roar of rapture; when I exercised my cudgel, I thought they would have fallen into convulsions.
• There was here a lady who had received an education of nine months in Loudon, and this gave her pretensions to taste, which rendered lier the indisputable mistress of the ceremonies wherever she came.
She was informed of my merits; every body praised me; yet she refused at first going to see me perform: she could not conceive, she said, any thing but stuff from a stroller; talked something in praise of Garrick, and amazed the ladies with her skill in enunciaticas, tones, and cadences. She was at last, however, prevailed upon to go; and it was privately intimated to me what a judge was to be present at my next exhibition : however, no way intimidated, I came on in Sir Harry, one hand stuck in my breeches, and the other in my bosom, az usual at Drury.laue; but, instead of looking at me, I per. ceived the whole audience had their eyes turned upon the lady who had been nine months in Lon. dou; from her they expected the decision which was to secure the general's truncheon iu my hands, or sink me down into a theatrical letter-carrier. I opened my suuff box, took snuff; the lady was solemu, and so were the rest. I broke my cudgel on Alderman Smuggler's back; still gloomy, melao. choly all; the lady groaned and shrugged her shoulders. I attempted, by laughing myself, to excite at least a smile; but the devil a cheek could I perceive wrinkled into sympathy. I found it would not do; all my good-humour now became forced; my laughter was converted into hysteric grinning; and, while I pretended spirits, my eyes showed the agony of my heart! In short, the lady came with an iutention to be displeased, and displeased she was; my fame expired :-I am here, and
-the tankard is no more!'
RULES ENJOINED TO BE OBSERVED AT A
HEN Catharina Alexowna was made empress
of Russia, the women were in an actual state of bondage; but she undertook to introduce mixed assemblies, as in other parts of Europe; she altered the womeu's dress by substituting the fashions of England; instead of furš, she brought in the use of taffeta and damask; and cornets and commodes in. stead of caps of sable. The women now found themselves no longer shut up in separate apart. ments, but saw company, visited each other, and were present at every entertainment.
But as the laws to this effect were directed to a savage people, it is amusing enough to see the manner in which the ordinances ran. Assemblies were quite unknown among them: the czarina was satisfied with introducing them, for she found it impossible to render them polite. An ordinance was therefore published according to their notions of breeding, which, as it is a curiosity, and has never before been printed that we know of, we shall give our readers :
I. The person at whose house the assembly is to be kept, shall signify the same by hanging out a bill, or by giving some other public notice, by way of advertisement, to persons of both sexes.
II. The assembly shall not be open sooner than four or five o'clock in the afternoon, nor continu longer than ten at night.