Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

a sigh have puffed him down; the weight of a frown had staggered him, a wrinkle made him lose his balance. But on he went, scrambling upon those airy stilts of his, with Robin Good. fellow, “through brake, through briar,” reckless of a scratched face or a torn doublet.

Shakespeare foresaw him, when he framed his tools and jesters. They have all the true Suett stamp, a loose and shambling gait, a slippery tongue, this last the ready midwife to a without-pain-delivered jest; in words, light as air, venting truths deep as the centre; with idlest rhymes tagging conceit when busiest, singing with Lear in the Tempest, or Sir Toby at the buttery-hatch.

Jack Bannister and he had the fortune to be more of personal favourites with the town than any actors before or after. The difference, I take it, was this:-Jack was more beloved for his sweet, good-natured, moral pretensions. Dicky was more liked for his sweet, good-natured, no pretensions at all. Your whole conscience stirred with Bannister's performance of Walter in the Children in the Wood; but Dicky seemed like a thing, as Shakspeare says of Love, too young to know what conscience is. He put us into Vesta's days. Evil fled before him-not as from jack, as from an antagonist,--but because it could not touch him, any more than a cannon ball a Ay. He was delivered from the burthen of that death; and, when Death came himself,

not in metaphor, to fetch Dicky, it is recorded of him by Robert Palmer, who kindly watched his exit, that he received the last stroke, neither varying his accustomed tranquillity, nor tune, with the simple exclamation, worthy to have been recorded in his epitaph-0 La! O Lal Bobby!

The elder Palmer (of stage-treading celebrity) commonly played Sir Toby in those days; but there is a solidity of wit in the jests of that half-Falstaff which he did not quite fill out. He was as much too showy as Moody (who sometimes took the part) was dry and sottish. In sock or buskin there was an air of swaggering gentility about Jack Palmer. He was a gentleman with a slight infusion of the footman. His brother Bob (of recenter memory,) who was his shadow in everything while he lived, and dwindled into less than a shadow afterwards, was a gentleman with a little stronger infusion of the latter ingredient; that was all. It is amazing how a little of the more or less makes a difference in these things. When you saw Bobby in the Duke's Servant,' you said “What a pity such a pretty fellow was only a servant !" When you saw Jack figuring in Captain Absolute, you thought you could trace his promotion to some lady of quality who fancied the handsome fellow in his topknot, and had bought him a commis*High Life Below Stairs.

Hon. Therefore Jack in Dick Amlet was in superable.

Jack had two voices, both plausible, hypocritical, and insinuating; but his secondary or supplemental voice still more decisively histrionic than his common one. It was reserved for the spectator; and the dramatis persona were supposed to know nothing at all about it. The lies of Young Wilding, and the sentiments in Joseph Surface, were thus marked out in a sort of italics to the audience. This secret correspondence with the company before the curtain (which is the bane and death of tragedy) has an extremely happy effect in some kinds of comedy, in the more highly artificial comedy of Congreve or of Sheridan especially, where the absolute sense of reality (so indispensable to scenes of interest) is not required, or would rather interfere to diminish your pleasure. The fact is, you do not believe in such characters as Surface—the villain of artificial comedy, even while you read or see them. If you did, they would shock and not divert you. When Ben, in Love for Love, returns from sea, the following exquisite dialogue occurs at his first meeting with his father :

Sir Sampson. Thou hast been many a weary league, Ben, since I saw thee.

Ben. Ey, ey, been? Been far enough, and that be all. Well, father, and how do all at home? How does brother Dick, and brother Val?

Sir Sampson. Dick! body o' me, Dick has leen dead these two years. I writ you word when you were at Leghorn.

Ben. Mess, that's true: marry, I had for. got. Dick is dead, as you say. Well, and how, I have a many questions to ask you. .

Here is an instance of insensibility which in real life would be revolting, or rather in real life could not have co-existed with the warmhearted temperament of the character. But when you read it in the spirit with which such playful selections and specious combinations rather than strict metaphrases of nature should be taken, or when you saw Bannister play it, it neither did, nor does, wound the moral sense at all. For what is Ben—the pleasant sailor which Bannister gives us but a piece of satire

a creation of Congreve's fancy-a dreamy combination of all the accidents of a sailor's character-his contempt of money-his credulity to women with that necessary estrangement from home which it is just within the verge of credibility to suppose might produce such an hallucination as is here described. We never think the worse of Ben for it, or feel it as a stain upon his character. But when an actor comes, and instead of the delightful phantom-the creature dear to half-belief, which Bannister exhibited-displays before our eyes a downright concretion of a Wapping sailor, a jolly warm-hearted Jack Tar, and nothing else; when instead of investing it with a delicious confusedness of the head, and a veering undi. rected goodness of purpose, he gives to it a downright daylight understanding, and a full consciousness of its actions; thrusting forward the sensibilities of the character with a pretence as if it stood upon nothing else, and was to be judged by them alone-we feel the discord of the thing; the scene is disturbed ; a real man has got in among the drainatis persona, and puts them out. We want the sailor turned out. We feel that his true place is not behind the curtain, but in the first or second gallery.

DETACHED THOUGHTS ON BOOKS

AND READING To mind the inside of a book is to entertain one's self with the forced product of another man's brain. Now I think a man of quality and breeding may be much amused with the natural sprouts of his own.--Lord Foppington, ir the Relapse.

An ingenious acquaintance of my own was so much struck with this bright sally of his Lord. ship, that he has left off reading altogether, to the great improvement of his originality. At the hazard of losing some credit on this head, I must confess that I dedicate no inconsiderable portion of my time to other people's thoughts. I dream away my life in others' speculations. I love to lose myself in other men's minds. When I am not walking I am reading ; I cannot sit and think. Books think

for me.

« AnteriorContinuar »