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L! has long been the charm of our periodical literature, and we wish not to have the illusion destroyed.
But were it practicable to abolish the anonymous in this department of letters, what, benefit would it confer upon the public? and what would be its effect upon the literary profession?
We should no longer have articles, but treatises. This is an abuse to which the present system has lent considerable aid. Our best writers, aware that their connexion with any given review is no secret, have been ambitious of establishing their own fame, and often at the expense of the works which have furnished them with their materials, and which they have scarcely deigned to notice. Thus, the true end of criticism is defeated, and great injustice is done to authors and to the public. If this has been the result of partially withdrawing the veil between the critic and his readers, would not its entire removal increase the evil a thousand fold ? But the worst consequence to be apprehended from such a change would be the establishment of a critical oligarchy. Publishers must then purchase names as well as articles; names would be the strongest reasons noue but authors of a commanding reputation would be privileged to exercise the functions of a reviewer, and a few therefore would soon usurp the entire censorship of the press. On the literary profession the change contemplated would produce the most injurious effects; we have already hinted at a few, Authors reviewing authors (as such) must place themselves in no very enviable relative position. Where their literary importauce is nearly equal, they will fear and flatter each other; and where there is in this respect any very marked disparity, there will be creeping obsequiousness on the one hand, and an ill-suppressed insolence, or a condescending air of patronage on the other. The anonymous system, as far as the public and the profession are concerned, is certainly not liable to abuses of this kind. The tone of criticism, which is that of a judge, and not of an advocate, is likewise ill suited to the courtesy and modesty with which que individual writer ought to treat the works of a contemporary. The anonymous, and the mysteriousness attached to the plural unit We, seem best adapted to the chair of criticism. The individual is merged in the court which he represents, and he speaks not in his own name, but ex cathedra. Who does not feel conscious of this when he takes up the judgments wbich are pronounced in our monthly and quarterly periodicals? the decisions are oracular. What a totally different air would they assume, and how soon would they dwindle into the insignificance of mere individual opinion, if the name of the writer of each article were appended at the end!
1. The worst abuses of the anonymous may, according to Mr. Bulwer's own showing, be corrected without resorting to the very questionable expedient which he recommends. The authors of these abuses are as well known to those who have the power of exposing and punishing them, as they would be if their names and offences were published in the “ Hue and Cry, or the Rogues' Gazette.” The anonymous does not screen a libeller from detection and chastisement. A name with all the responsibility attached to it is no security against the coarsest violations of the decencies of society.
We shall treat very briefly the delicate point of anonymous editorship; we are convinced that this, too, has advantages, which its opposite cannot counterbalance. If a name is to give importance to editorial dignity, it must, of course, be one of considerable note. The individual so ostensibly sustaining an office that, if well discharged, must employ the greatest portion of his time, must nevertheless feel that he has to take care of his reputation as an author, advance his fortunes, and attend to the public and private avocations which his celebrity has opened to him. These exhaust his energies. He thinks occasionally of his duties as an editor-procrastinates--to-morrow will give more leisure-an unexpected and indispensable engagement consumes the morrow—the month advances the day of publication presses upon him with alarming celerity-he iş totally unprepared-he sits down to write; but he must produce something worthy of his fame-something that will justify the high expectations of the public. In this he either fails or succeeds according as he is in or out of the vein. In fact, a great name does little in advancing the real and substantial interests of a periodical. The anonymous might, in this view, therefore, be preferred.
We have devoted so much space to the consideration of a point on which Mr. Bulwer lays considerable stress, and which forms an appro: priate introduction to the first Number of a work which is no longer under his auspices, and which will now be conducted in opposition to one of his favourite principles, that we must defer till our next Number a separate examination of the entire performance which illustrates his genius, develops his resources, and exhibits him as one of the first writers of the age-in the meantime, heartily wishing him success in the high career of social improvement which he has marked out for himself and his illustrious compatriots.
MY ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE LATE EDMUND KEAN.
BY T. C, GRATTAN, ESQ.
It is full twenty years since I first met with Kean, and just six since I last saw him. During the interval between the two periods I had some opportunities of knowing this highly-gifted individual, with respect to whom the laws which regulate mortality seemed in some measure reversed-Nature having made bim a great actor, and art having transformed him into a remarkable man. In Kean's professional displays there was no evidence of study; in his personal conduct all appeared to result from it alone. The laborious efforts which usually form the artist were unknown and unnecessary to him; or rather he resorted to them only in order to warp his character from its original bent. Impulse was the spring of his greatness on the stage-straining for effect the cause of the littleness and lowness of his social career.
In tracing ever so brief and faint a record of such a being as Kean, it is impossible to be entirely insensible to some dramatic and moral “ visitings. But I shall let them pass. I am neither the critic nor the biographer of Kean. I presume to claim no competence for either office: and I can only hope at a moment when his memory shines full on the public mind—to give a few sketches which this strong light may bring out into relief. Anecdotes of distinguished authors are interesting, as illustrations of works which never die. But reminiscences of great actors are due to the public, from whom their perishable talents are withdrawn for ever; and doubly due to the individual, who leaves behind but doubtful records of his fame. I shall depict Kean in the various aspect of merit and fault which I observed during our snatches of acquaintanceship. If I did not think that the former predominated, my pen should leave both untouched.
I cannot recall exactly the year in which I happened to be stationed in the barracks of Waterford, in the south of Ireland, at that time the head-quarters of the regiment in which I was a subaltern. The dates and data of those days have almost all slipped, sand-like, from one end of Time's glass; and it is hard to separate and arrange them as they lię confounded in the other. How difficult is it even to remember distinctly what were the pains and what the pleasures of youth! The very misture of both, and the confusion in which they blended together, were perhaps the causes of their acuteness at the time, as it is of their vagueness now. But there is a certain pursuit-one of the minor enjoyments of life—which has, for me, always preserved its attraction intact; I mean the exercise of fencing. It was my attachment to it that led to my personal knowledge of Kean.
In the days I speak of, and long after, I never lost an opportunity of. encountering amateurs and professors of “ the noble science of defence." I frequently took up the foils with a little lieutenant of a troop of artillery which formed part of the Waterford garrison; and few days passed without our measuring blades together.
I was one evening walking with this brother idler on the public promenade called “ the Mall ;” and, passing bythe theatre, which had
been within a day or two occupied by a strolling company, we looked at
? In due time, the door-keeper, to whom we expressed our intention,
young man who played Laertes was extremely handsome and very tall; and a pair of high-heeled boots added so much to his natural stature, that the little, pale, thin man who represented Hamlet appeared a mere pigmy beside him. Laertes commenced, after slurring " for better for worse” through the usual salute, to push carie and tierce, which might, as far as the scientific use of the small sword was concerned, have been as correctly termed cart and horse.
My companion, who had by no means a poor opinion of his own skill, and who was rather unmerciful towards the awkwardness of others, laughed outright, and in a manner sufficient to disconcert even an adroit performer. He proposed to me to leave the place, calling out theatrically, "Hold! enough! " -- and I might have agreed, had I not thought I perceived in the Hamlet a quiet gracefulness of manner, while he par. ried the cut-and-thrust attacks of his adversary, as well as a quick glance of håughty resentment at the uncivil laugh by which they were noticed, When he began to return the lounges, secundum artem, we were quite taken by surprise, to see the carriage and action of a practised swordsman; and as he went through the whole performance, we were satisfied that we had, in the phrase of Osrick aforesaid, made
"A hit--a very palpable hit.! We immediately inquired of the woman who filled the nearly sinecure place of money-taker, as to the gentleman whose "excellence for his Weapon " had so pleasantly surpriscd us. She told us that his name was Kean, that he was an actor of first-raté tálent, chief tragic hero (for they were all honourable men) of the company, and also the principal singer, stage-manager, and getter-up of pantomimes, and one of the best Harlequins in Wales or the west of England. Coming closer to the point of our anxiety, she let us know that Mr. Kean gave lessons in feneing, and also in boxing-that he was married to a Waterford lady, supporting himself, his wife, and child, and carefully filling all the parts herein detailed, for a salary of a guinea and a half a week.
Such, at the period I mention, was the situation of the great tragedian
who was soon to produce a sensation in London, unparalleled since Garrick electrified the town on the boards of Goodman's Fields. Kean was at this time attached to the Swansea Company, which regularly crossed the Channel to perform in Waterford for two or three months each year, It was under the management of old Cherry, author of The Soldier's Daughter," who, on the night I first saw Kean, played Polonius to his Hamlet; while one of the minor parts (Rosencrantz or Guildenstern) was filled by James Sheridan Knowles, the now celebrated dramatist. I remember Mr. Knowles at that time publishing a little volume of poems by subscription, and my adding my name to the list of five-shilling patrons to this attempt, which contained some very pretty things, and one rather long piece called " The Smuggler,” which was extremely spirited. But had Shakspeare himself published in our days, in the character of a poor player, and by subscription, I doubt if his best play would have produced him salt to his porridge.
My companion and myself sought out Kean without loss of time; and we soon arranged with him hours for fencing-matches at our respective barrack-rooms. But though we managed that he should not quite lose his labour, his visits were not made in the capacity of master, for we were either of us quite a match for him.
Nothing could exceed Kean's good conduct and unpresuming manners during some weeks that I knew him in this way. Several of the officers of the garrison met him with us on these occasions, and a strong interest was excited for him. He owed to this cause, I believe, rather than to'any just appreciation of his professional merit, a good benefit, and some private kindnesses. But when I look back to that period, in which his talent was certainly as matured as in two or three years later, I cannot bring myself to believe that he played so well then as when he filled me with such delight on the boards of old Drury. A man of his vigorous genius required excitement to bring it into full play. His hold conceptions and original style must have wanted, even to bimself, some stronger test than his own judgment, displayed as they were in the confiped sphere of little country theatres. And all that has since been received with such enthusiasm must then have been considered at the best as doubtful and obscure. Kean was decidedly considered far superior to his immediate associates, or to strolling players generally, in the common acceptation of the term. But he might have gone on, perhaps, to the present time, as the hero of such companies as old Cherry's, had not one chance critic, Dr. Drury, of Harrow, possessed discrimination enough to feel bis merit, and influence sufficient to bring it into notice:
The last thing I recollect of Kean in Waterford was the performance for his benefit. The play was Hannah More's tragedy of " Percy,' in which he, of course, played the hero. Elwina was played by Mrs. Kean, " her first fand I am pretty sure her last) appearance on any stage.” Nothing could be more médiocre than her performance; yet she was applauded to her heart's conteņt. Kean was so popular, both as an actor and from the excellent character he bore, that the audience thought legs of the actress's demerits than of the husband's feelings. And besides this, the débutante had many personal friends in her native city, and among the gentry of the neighbourhood, for she had been governess to the children of a lady of large fortune, who used all her influence at this benefit." After the tragedy, Kean gave a specimen of tight-rope danc