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would deserve the rebuke, had he addressed himself only to the "gay;" but then his gay are also " licentious," and not only licentious, but "proud." Now we confess we would not be too squeamish even about the thoughtlessness of these gentry; for is not their very thoughtlessness their excuse? And are they not brought up in it, just as a boy in St Giles's is brought up in thievery, or a girl to callousness and prostitution? It is not the thoughtless in high life from whom we are to expect any good, lecture them as we may: and observe-Thomson himself does not say how cruel they are; or what a set of rascals to dance and be merry in spite of their better knowledge. He says,
“Ah little think the gay, licentious proud :"
and so they do. And so they will, till the diffusion of thought, among all classes, flows, of necessity, into their gay rooms and startled elevations; and forces them to look out upon the world, that they may not be lost by being under the level.
We had intended a very merry paper this week, to bespeak the favour of our new readers :
"A very merry, dancing, drinking,
as Dryden has it. But the Christmas holidays are past; and it is their termination, we suppose, that has made us serious. Sitting up at night also is a great inducer of your moral remark; and if we are not so pleasant as we intended to be, it is because some friends of ours, the other night, were the pleasantest people in the world till five in the morning.
GOING ΤΟ THE PLAY AGAIN-" NATIVE LAND." CHARACTER OF ROSSINI. A HINT IN BEHALF OF LOVE AND THE SEX.
WITH the exception of Oberon, we have not witnessed a theatrical performance till the other night for these six or seven years. Fortune took us another way; and when we had the opportunity, we did not dare to begin again, lest our old friends should beguile We mention the circumstance, partly to account for the noice we shall take of many things which appear to have gone by;
and partly out of a communicativeness of temper, suitable to a Companion. For the reader must never lose sight of our claims to that title. On ordinary occasions, he must remember that we are discussing morals or mince-pie with him; on political ones, reading the newspaper with him; and in the present instance, we are sitting together in the pit, (the ancient seat of criticism,) seeing who is who in the play-bill, and hearing the delicious discord of the tuning of instruments, the precursor of harmony. If our companion is an old gentleman, we take a pinch of his snuff, and lament the loss of Bannister and Mrs Jordan. Tooth-ache and his nephew occupy also a portion of our remark; and we cough with an air of authority. If he is a young gentleman, we speak of Vestris and Miss Foote; wonder whether little Goward will shew herself improving to night; denounce the absurdity of somebody's boots, or his bad taste in beauty; and are loud in deprecating the fellows who talk loudly behind us. Finally, if a lady, we bend with delight, to hear the remarks she is making, "far above" criticism; and to see the finer ones in her eyes. We criticise the ladies in the boxes; and the more she admires them, the more we find herself the lovelier. May we add, that ladies in the pit, this cold weather, have still more attractions than usual; and that it is cruel to find ourselves sitting, as we did the other night, behind two of them; when we ought to have been in the middle, partaking of the genial influence of their cloaks, their comfortable sides, and their conversation? We were going to say, that we hope this is not too daring a remark for a Companion:but far be it from us to apologize for anything so proper. Don't we all go to the theatre to keep up our love of nature and sociality?
It was delightful to see "the house" again, and to feel ourselves recommencing our old task. How pleasant looked the ceiling, the boxes, the pit, everything! Our friends in the gallery were hardly noisy enough for a beginning; nor on the other hand could we find it in our hearts to be angry with two companions behind us, who were a little noisier than they ought to have been, and who entertained one another with alternate observations on the beauty of the songs, and the loss of a pair of gloves. All is pleasant in these recommencements of a former part of one's life; this new morning, as it were, re-begun with the lustre of chandeliers and a thousand youthful remembrances. Anon, the curtain rises, and we are presented with a view of the lighthouse of Genoa, equally delicious and unlike;-some gun-boats, returning from slavery,
salute us with meek puffs of gunpowder, about as audible as pats on the cheek, the most considerate cannon we ever met with:then follow a crowd and a chorus, with embraces of redeemed captives, meeting their wives and children, at which we are new and uncritical enough to feel the tears come into our eyes; and finally, in comes Mr "Atkins," with a thousand memories on his head,husband that was of a pretty little singer some twenty years back, now gone, heaven knows where, like a blackbird. It seemed wrong in Atkins to be there, and his wife not with him. Yet we were glad to see him notwithstanding. We knew him the instant we heard him speak.
"Native Land" (a title, by the bye, which looks like one of the captives, with an arm off,) is worth going to see, for those who care little about plot or dialogue, provided there be good music. Part of the music is by Mr Bishop; the rest from Rossini. It is seldom that any of Mr Bishop's music is not worth hearing, and one or two of the airs are among Rossini's finest. There is Di piacer for instance; and we believe another, which we did not stay to hear. We fear it is a little out of the scientific pale to think Rossini a man of genius; but we confess, with all our preference for such writers as Mozart, with whom indeed he is not to be compared, we do hold that opinion of the lively Italian. There is genius of many kinds; and of kinds very remote from one another, even in rank. The greatest genius is so great a thing, that another may be infinitely less, and yet of the stock. Now Rossini, in music, is the genius of sheer animal spirits. It is a species as inferior to that of Mozart, as the cleverness of a smart boy is to that of a man of sentiment; but it is genius nevertheless. It is rare, effective, and a part of the possessor's character:-we mean, that like all persons who really effect anything beyond the common, it belongs and is peculiar to him, like the invisible genius that was supposed of old to wait upon individuals. This is what genius means: and Rossini undoubtedly has one. "He hath a devil," as Cowley's friend used to cry out when he read Virgil; and a merry devil it is, and graceful withal. It is a pity he has written so many common-places; so many bars full of mere chatter; and overtures so full of cant and puffing. But this exuberance appears to be a constituent part of him. It is the hey-day in his blood; and perhaps we could no more have the good things without it, than some men of wit can talk well without a bottle of wine and in the midst of a great deal of nonsense. Now and then he gives us something worthy
of the most popular names of his country, as in the instance abovementioned. Di piacer is full of smiling delight and anticipation, as the words imply. Sometimes he is not deficient even in tenderness, as in one or two airs in his Othello; but it is his liveli est operas, such as the Barbiere di Siviglia and the Italiana in Algieri that he shines. His mobs make some of the pleasantest riots conceivable; his more gentlemanly proceedings, his bows and compliments, are full of address and even elegance; and he is a prodigious hand at a piece of pretension or foppery. Not to see into his merit in these cases, surely implies only, that there is a want of animal spirits on the part of the observer.
As we are not so fond of sharp criticism, as when we were young and knew not what it was to feel it, we shall say nothing of one or two of the fair singers on this occasion, except that they did not appear to have a sufficient stock of the spirits we have been speaking of. To animal spirits, animal spirits alone can do justice. A burst of joy will be ill-represented by the sweetest singing in the world that is not joyous, and that does not burst forth like a shower of blossoms. Of Miss Goward's singing we can yet form no judgment, as she had a very bad cold; but she did her best with it, and did not apologise; which gave us a favourable opinion of her; and her acting increased it. If she does not turn out to be a very judicious person, with a good deal of humour, she will disappoint us. Madame Vestris, though she does not insinuate a sufficient stock of sentiment through her gaieties to complete the proper idea of a charmer to our taste, is always charming after her fashion; but from what we recollect of her, we doubt whether her performance in this piece is one of her favourite ones. The song of "Is't art, I pray, or nature?" she gave with too little vivacity; and her part in the bolero she seemed to go through more as a duty than a pleasure-which is anything but boleresque. Mr Wood has great sweetness of voice, with taste and sensibility; and the sweetness is manly. He was encored in the "romance”—Deep in a dungeon: but we preferred him in his first pleasing air, Farewell, thou coast of glory. We shall be glad to see him again, and to say more of him. We suspect he has more power than he yet puts forth.
There is no necessity to criticise the dialogue. The author himself probably regards it as being nothing more than one of our old unpretending acquaintances, yclept "vehicles for music;"—carriers of song, as Messrs. Clementi's are of piano-fortes. There is one scene however upon which we shall say a word. It is that in which a maimed husband comes back from the wars, and is re
ceived by his wife with aversion and ridicule. It is true, the caricature is evident; it is the only way in which such feelings can be made ludicrous; but there is something in it from which the heart revolts. It is a dangerous point to divert ridicule from its proper objects, and give degrading representations of humanity. There is something too on these especial occasions, when the joke is carried far, (as is the case in violent double-meanings in company,) by which privacy itself is turned into publicity, and we become painfully conscious of the presence of those, with whom we could best interchange the most pleasurable ideas. We profess to be anything but prudes; we have no objection for instance to Zanina's being reconciled to "little fellows," whose ways are delightful;but because we are not prudish, we become the more jealous in behalf of what may be called the humanities of licence.
We must own we could not help laughing at some passages of Miss Goward's acting in this scene; and perhaps we scan the matter somewhat too nicely. Those who laughed most would probably have been among the first to hug the remnant of their maimed friends to their heart. But the experiment is dangerous. There is not too much sentiment in society after all; and it is better not to risque what there is. With what relief did we not call to mind, in our graver moments, the sight we had once, in those boxes on the left hand, of a charming woman sitting next her gallant husband, Colonel C., who had returned from the wars with the frightful loss of his lower jaw. His wife married him after his return; and this we were told was she. He had his mouth and chin muffled up, But how did he not seem more than repaid in her sweet and loving presence, which we fancied that she pressed still closer to him than was visible in that of any other woman seated by her husband's side. When she looked in his face, we felt as if we could almost have been content to have lost the power of kissing with lips, that we might have received in all its beauty that kiss of the soul.
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