« السابقةمتابعة »
adopted in the neighbouring countries of France and Italy, prevailed in England froin the infancy of the stage. The prejudice against women appearing on the scene continued so strong, that, until near the time of the Restoration, boys constantly performed female characters: and, strange as it may now appear, the old practice was not deserted without many apologies for the indecorum of the novel usage. In 1659 or 1660, in imitation of the foreign theatres, women were first introduced on the scene. In 1656, indeed, Mrs. Cole, man, the wife of Mr. Edward Coleman, represented Ianthe in the first part of D'Avenant's Siege of Rhodes; but the little she had to say was spoken in recitative. The first woman that appeared in any regular drama on a public stage, performed the part of Desdemona; but who the lady was I am unable to ascertain. The play of Othello is enumerated by Downes as one of the stock plays of the king's company, on their opening their theatre in Drury Lane in April, 1663 ; and it appears, from a paper found with Sir Henry Herbert's officebook, and indorsed by him, that it was one of the stockplays of the same company from the time they began to play without a patent at the Red Bull in St. John street, Mrs. Hughs performed the part of Desdemoną in 1663, when the company removed to Drury Lane, and obtained the title of the king's servants; but whether she performed with them while they played at the Red Bull, or in Vere street, near Clare-market, has not been ascertained. Perhaps Mrs. Saunderson made her first essay there, though she afterwards was enlisted in D'Avenant's company. The received tradition is, that she was the first English actress.
It is certain, however, that for some time after the Resto. ration, men also acted female parts; and Mr. Kynaston, even after wonen had assumed their
rank on the stage, was not only endured but admired, if we may believe a contemporary writer, who assures us, being then very young, he made a complete stagebeauty, performing his parts so well, (particularly Arthiope and Aglaura,) that it has since been disputable among the judicious, whether any woman that succeeded him, touched the audience so sensibly as he.
In D'Avenant's company, the first actress that appeared, was probably Mrs. Saunderson, who performed lanthe in the Siege of Rhodes, on the opening of his
new theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in April, 1762. It does not appear, from Downes's :!ccount, that while D'Avenant's company performed at the Cock-pit in Drury Lane, during the years 165,!, 1600, ana 1601, they had any female performer among them, or that Othello was acted by thein at that period.
PORTRAIT OF A PLAYER.
Drarun in the Year 1630.
He knowes the right yse of the world, wherein hee comes to play a part, and so away. His life is not idle, for it is all action, and no man need be more wary in his doings, for the eyes of all men are vpon him. His profession has in it a kind of contradiction, for none is more dislik'd, and yet none more applauded; and hee has this inisfortune of some scholler, too much witte inakes him a fool. He is like our painting gentlewomen, seldome in his owne face, seldomer in his cloathes, and hee pleases the better hee counterfeits, except onely when hee is disguised with straw for gold lace. Hee does not onely personate on the stage, but sometime in the street; for he is mask'd still in the habite of a gentleman. His parts find him oathes and good words, which he keeps for his vse and discourse, and makes shew with them of a fashionable companion. Hee is tragicall on the stage, but rampant in the tyring-house, and sweares oathes there which he never cond. The waiting women spectators are ouer ears in love with him, and ladies send for him to act in thier chambers. Your innes of court men were vndone but for him ; hee is thier chiefe guest and imployment, and the sole businesse that makes them afternoones men. The poet only is his tyrant, and hee is bound to make his friends friend drunk at his charges.
Shroue Tuesday hee fears as much as the bawds, and Lent is more damage to him then the Butcher. Hee was neuer so much discredited as in one act, and that was of Parliment, which giues Hostlers priviledge before him, for which hee abhors it more then a corrupt judge. But to give him his due, one wel-furnish't actor has enough in him for fiue common gentlemen, and if hee haue a good body for sixe, and for resolution hee shall challenge any Cato, for it has been his practice to die brauely.
GARRICK AND FOOTE. Garrick and Foote were the two theatrical meteors of their day : both men of wit and education ; both authors, managers, and actors ; both objects that attracted the admiration of the public ; and by this collision of cha, racters they may perhaps better elucidate each other, than by an individual description.
Foote was by far the better scholar of the two : and to this superiority he added also a good taste, a warm imagination, a strong turn for mimicry, and a constant fresh supply of occasional reading from the best authors of all descriptions. He could likewise apply all these advantages with great readiness ; so that either with his pen, or in conversation, he was never at a loss,
Garrick was no Grecian. Davies says of him, in his Memoirs, that “ he had once made hirnself master of all the Greek words ;" but admitting that he had retained then, what sort of a Greek scholar would this knowledge have made him ? In respect to the Latin, he might, perhaps, have acquired some proficiency when he was under the care of Dr. Johnson at Lichfield ; but Johnson afterwards said of him, “David has not latin enough; he finds out the latin by the meaning, rather than the meaniny by the latin." He was, however, tolerably conversant in the classics; a good Frenchman; and read and conversed occasionally in the Italian. He also possessed a good taste, with a pleasing lively manner of delivery. The fact was, that Garrick's literary pursuits were in a great degree checked by the sudden influx of his fame and fortune; for when he became a manager, it happened of course, that from the care of a great theatre, from his own performances, and the attention which he paid to pecuniary concerns, he had no tinne for the high and regular improvement of the mind : he saw a mass of wealth presenting itself before him, and he “ clutched it with a much more certain grasp than the air-drawn dagger of Macbeth ; leaving at his death more than one hundred thousand pounds, with this most affectionate compliment to his relations, “ that he knew of no friends out of their circle.”
Though Foote was not deficient in paying his respects to men of rank and fashion, he never sought them with any kind of unbecoming eagerness, or made the least · distinction at his table between them and the obscureşt quest. When that table too was all in a roar, as it
usually was, he never stopped the career of his bon-mot out of respect to persons ; it as readily struck a noble duke as a poor player. His visitors knew the terms on which they met : soine approved of them from the general love of wit and good humour, while others endured them in order the better to keep within his favour and friendship.
Garrick, on the contrary, was all submission in the presence of either a peer or a poet; equally loth to offend the dignity of the one, or provoke the irritability of the other : hence he was, at times, too methodical in his conversation to admit of his mixing in “ the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” To his dependents and inferior players, however, he was indeed king David, except when he had a mind to mortify them by means of one another. On such occasions he generally took up some of the lowest among them; whoin he not only cast in the same scenes with himself, but frequently walked arm in arm with in the Green-roorn, and sometimes in his morning rambles about the streets.
In his domestic arrangements Garrick was uniform and respectable: a handsome house in town and country, carriages, servants, &c. and when he gave grand entertainments, he saw some of the first company, for rank and abilities, in the kingdom. But in such ineetings conversation generally partook more of a high-bred style, than the easy familiarity of a social party; except when Foote, Chase Price, "Rigby, Fitzherbert, and others of this class were present. Then indeed the pale of high breeding was instantly broken down; and wit, fun, and good humour, became the order of the day.
But fairly to taste the respective powers of these two distinguished characters, was to see them pitted together at the table of a third person, in the range of general and free conversation : a scene in which they often appeared, and where they both displayed powers which placed them so deservedly high on the scale of public importance.
The mind of Garrick,—strong innatural force, which was further aided by great professional knowledge, talents for mimicry, a wide range of good company, and much acuteness of observation, afforded him innumerable topics of conversation, which he dilated upon in a very pleasing and agreeable manner: but this was in all cases tegulated by, and made subordinate to, his deference for superiors in rank or station, and his great respect for the decorums of life. He dared not let his shaft Hy with the freedom of Foote's, for fear of giving offence; and from this cause has probably often repressed those coruscations of fancy, which would otherwise have shone with great lustre. In fact Garrick's chief excellence did not lie in the reciprocity of conversation ; but in the narration of lively and agreeable anecdotes, humorous stories, &c. drawing his knowledge, as it were, rather froin an intela lectural reservoir than a spring. Yet in these respects he was often so pleasing, so fanciful, and so characteristic, that it would be difficult to find a man who could make and leave a more favourable impression on his company.
Foote's conversation was of such a description, that
nought but itself could be its parallel.”. Teeming with fancy and various knowledge, fearless of consequences, and privileged in the character of a wit, he took his stand with contidence, and threw his shafts around him with the dexterity of a master, the first and the last of his own school. He was rapid, lucid, and exuberant ; and his image of ridicule, and portraits of characters, were so strong, novel, and whimsical, that he carried the imagination of his hearers insensibly along with him. In short, Garrick's conversation was like a gentle heat, that cheered and warmed; Foote's, a meteor that delighted by the splendour of its blaze.
Being (as is above remarked) a better scholar too than Garrick, he had a greater command of topics. He could turn “ from gay to grave, from lively to severe,” with facility, and discuss whatever subject occurred with much precision and classical authority, while upon all such matters Garrick seemed to argue rather cautiously, and took care never to go beyond his depth; sometimes cona tenting himself with the character of an humble listener, and at other times playing an under-part to Foote. But these condescensions did not always conciliate the esteem of our hero ; who, perhaps, envying the great fortune, and still greater professional abilities of his rival, availed hinself of the only superiority which he retained, and seldoin failed to exercise this with an uusparing keenness, whenever an opportunity offered.
Upon the whole, it would be difficult to pair two such masters of conversation; and they were always considered in the circles of those who ennobled rank and adorned literature. For though Foote had evidently the advantage in the bright and luminous parts, and raised the admiration of a louder laugh ; Garriek gained a steadier approbation, and always excited a pleasing degree of mirth and inoffensive cheerfulness.