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hitching his way along sideways, and leading a lady up the alley behind the orchestra; another follows, and another, equally polite and preparatory; it is Madame So-and-so, in a hat and feathers; it is Miss W. or Mrs. Z., all dressed like other gentlewomen, which is odd; and like other gentlewomen they take their seats, and look as if they ought to drink tea. Music-books make their appearance, as in the concert-room; and up rises the lady or gentleman to sing in the same formal manner, and be discreet in their flats. The sacred music drags; the profane music hops; and the audience wish themselves in their beds.
Madame Pasta may probably not excel at such exhibitions as these. We do not desire that she should. It would not be easy to persuade us that, sing where she may, her singing would not be better than the most formal perfection; but the worst thing we can say of an oratorio is, that not even she can take us there. Put her on the stage, or in a company among friends; let loose her feelings; and then we have the soul of music; and this is the only real music in the world.
That we make what we find on such occasions, and listen with our imaginations upon us, is only saying in other words that the occasion is fit to excite the enthusiasm; otherwise how does it happen that it is not equally excited on others? Doubtless there. must be enthusiasm and imagination to do fit justice to the same qualities in the performer. Loveliness must have love. But how is it that love is excited by some things and not by others? How is it that multitudes are wound up to enthusiasm by one orator and not by another, and that Madame Pasta produces the same sensation from Naples to Berlin? She is not an unknown singer, trumped up by a solitary enthusiast. Cities are her admirers; and she would take hearts by storm everywhere, whether critics explained or not by what magic she did it.
It is nevertheless very pleasant to us to know what the magic is. We never feel the value of criticism, except when it enables us to double our delight in this manner; for none can hold in greater contempt than we do the common cant of criticism, or less pride themselves in finding out those common defects to which critics in general have a natural attraction. It is truth that gives Madame
Pasta her advantage; the same truth, yes, the very same spirit of sincerity and strait-forwardness, which is charming in conversation, and in matters of confidence; which enables one face to look at another, unalloyed with a contradiction, and makes the heart sometimes gush inwardly with tenderness at the countenance that little suspects it. The reason is, that some of the most painful infirmities with which the state of society besets us, are then taken away, and we not only think we have reason to be delighted, but are sure of it. For this we know no bounds to our gratitude; and it is just; for you could not more transport a man shaken all over with palsy by suddenly gifting him with firmness, than you do any human being, in the present state of things, by making him secure upon any one point which he ardently desires to believe in. There is therefore a moral charm, of the most liberal kind, in Madame Pasta's performances, which argues well for her personal character; and personal character, wish as we may, always mingles more or less with the impression created by others upon us. It is indeed a part of them, which helps to make them what they are, off a stage or on it, pretending or not pretending. It is true there is a difference between moral truth and imaginative; and it does not follow that, because Madame Pasta tells the truth in everything she does on the stage, she should be an example of the virtue elsewhere. It is an argument, however, that she would be so; just as the taste for an accomplishment implies that a person is more likely to excel in it, than if there were no such taste. Madame Pasta has to look sorrowful, and no sorrow can be completer :-she has to look joyful, and her face is all joy,-as true and total a beaming, as that of a girl without a spectator, who sees her lover hailing her from a distance. We have seen such looks; and they have stood us in stead of any other certainty. Madame Pasta knows the truth well, and knows how to honour it; and this is an evidence that the inclination of her nature is true, whatever the world may have done to spoil it. We are aware, mind, of no such spoliation. Our impulse, if we knew this charming performer (which is a pleasure incompatible with the confounded critical office we have taken upon us) would be to give as implicit belief to everything she said off the stage, as on it. But we wish to guard against
a wrong argument; and to show the triumph and the beautiful tendencies of truth, whether borne out in all their quarters
We will conclude with the extract we alluded to last week, and which our new dimensions allow us to indulge in. It is from a book written by one of the deepest thinkers of the time; so that the reader will see we are not the only critics, nor the best, whom Madame Pasta has rendered enthusiastic. Now if she can do this with critics as well as communities, what greater proof of her merits can any party desire?
"I liked Mademoiselle Mars exceedingly well, till I saw Madame Pasta whom I liked so much better. The reason is, the one is the perfection of French, the other of natural acting. Madame Pasta is Italian, and she might be English-Mademoiselle Mars belongs emphatically to her country; the scene of her triumphs is Paris. She plays naturally too, but it is French nature. Let me explain. She has, it is true, none of the vices of the French theatre, its extravagance, its flutter, its grimace, and affectation, but her merit in these respects is as it were negative, and she seems to put an artificial restraint upon herself. There is still a pettiness, an attention to minutiæ, an etiquette, a mannerism about her acting she does not give an entire loose to her feelings, or trust to the unpremeditated and habitual impulse of her situation. She has greater elegance, perhaps, and precision of style, than Madame Pasta, but not half her boldness or grace. In short, everything she does is voluntary, instead of being spontaneous. It seems as if she might be acting from marginal directions to her part. When not speaking, she stands in general quite still. When she speaks, she extends first one hand and then the other, in a way that you can foresee every time she does so, or in which a machine might be elaborately constructed to develope different successive movements. When she enters, she advances in a straight line from the other end to the middle of the stage with the slight unvarying trip of her countrywomen, and then stops short, as if under the drill of a fugal-man. When she speaks, she articulates with perfect clearness and propriety, but it is the facility of a singer executing a difficult passage. The case is that of habit, not of nature. Whatever she does, is right in the intention, and she takes care not to carry it too far; but she appears to say beforehand, "This I will do, I must not do that." Her acting is an inimitable study or consummate rehearsal of the part as a preparatory performance: she hardly yet appears to have assumed the character; something more is wanting, and that something you find in Madame Pasta. If Mademoiselle Mars has to smile, a slight and evanescent expression of pleasure passes across the surface of her face; twinkles in her eyelids, dimples her chin, compresses her lips, and plays on each feature: when Madame Pasta smiles, a beam of joy seems to have struck upon her heart, and to irradiate her countenance. Her whole face is bathed and melte in expression, instead of its glancing from particular points. When she speaks, it is in music. When she moves, it is without thinking whether she is graceful or not. When she weeps, it is a fountain of tears, not a few trickling drops, that glitter and vanish the instant after. The French themselves admire Madame Pasta's acting, (who
indeed can help it?) but they go away thinking how much one of her simple movements would be improved by their extravagant gesticulations, and that her noble, natural expression would be the better for having twenty airs of mincing affectation added to it. In her Nina there is a listless vacancy, an awkward grace, a want of bienseance, that is like a child or a changeling, and that no French actress would venture upon for a moment, lest she should be suspected of a want of esprit or of bon mien. A French actress always plays before the court; she is always in the presence of an audience, with whom she first settles her personal pretensions by a significant hint or side-glance, and then as much nature and simplicity as you please. Poor Madame Pasta thinks no more of the audience than Nina herself would, if she could be observed by stealth, or than the fawn that wounded comes to drink, or the flower that droops in the sun or wags its sweet head in the gale. She gives herself entirely up to the impression of the part, loses her power over herself, is led away by her feelings either to an expression of stupor or of artless joy, borrows beauty from deformity, charms unconsciously, and is transformed into the very being she represents. She does not act the character -she is it, looks it, breathes it. She does not study for an effect, but strives to possess herself of the feeling which should dictate what she is to do, and which gives birth to the proper degree of grace, dignity, ease, or force. She makes no point all the way through, but her whole style and manner is in perfect keeping, as if she were really a love-sick, carecrazed maiden, occupied with one deep sorrow, and who had no other idea or interest in the world. This alone is true nature and true art. The rest is sophistical; and French art is not free from the imputation; it never places an implicit faith in nature, but always mixes up a certain portion of art, that is, of consciousness and affectation with it."Hazlitt's Plain Speaker.
WALKS HOME BY NIGHT IN BAD WEATHER.
THE readers of these our fourpenny lucubrations need not be informed that we keep no carriage. The consequence is, that being visitors of the theatre, and having some inconsiderate friends who grow pleasanter and pleasanter till one in the morning, we are great walkers home by night; and this has made us great acquaintances of watchmen, moonlight, mud-light, and other accompaniments of that interesting hour. Luckily we are fond of a walk by night. It does not always do us good; but that is not the fault of the hour, but our own, who ought to be stouter; and therefore we extract what good we can out of our necessity, with becoming temper. It is a remarkable thing in nature, and one of the good-naturedest things we know of her, that the mere fact of looking about us, and being conscious of what is going on, is its own reward, if we do but notice it in good-humour. Nature is a
great painter (and art and society are among her works), to whose minutest touches the mere fact of becoming alive is to enrich the stock of our enjoyment.
We confess there are points liable to cavil in a walk home by night in February. Old umbrellas have their weak sides; and the quantity of mud and rain may surmount the picturesque. Mistaking a soft piece of mud for hard, and so filling your shoe with it, especially at setting out, must be acknowledged to be “aggravating." But then you ought to have boots. There are sights, indeed, in the streets of London, which can be rendered pleasant by no philosophy; things too grave to be talked about in our present paper; but we must premise, that our walk leads us out of town, and through streets and suburbs of by no means the worst description. Even there we may be grieved if we will. The farther the walk into the country, the more tiresome we may choose to find it; and when we take it purely to oblige others, we must allow, as in the case of a friend of ours, that generosity itself on two sick legs may find limits to the notion of virtue being its own reward, and reasonably "curse those comfortable people" who, by the lights in their windows, are getting into their warm beds, and saying to one another" Bad thing to be out of doors to night."
Supposing then that we are in a reasonable state of health and comfort in other respects, we say that a walk home at night has its merits, if you choose to meet with them. The worst part of it is the setting out,-the closing of the door upon the kind faces part with you. But their words and looks on the other hand may set you well off. We have known a word last us all the way home, and a look make a dream of it. To a lover, for instance, no walk can be bad. He sees but one face in the rain and darkness; the same that he saw by the light in the warm room. This ever accompanies him, looking in his eyes; and if the most pitiable and spoilt face in the world should come between them, startling him with the saddest mockery of love, he would treat it kindly for her sake. But this is a begging of the question. A lover does not walk. He is sensible neither to the pleasures nor pains of walking. He treads on air; and in the thick of all that seems inclement, has an avenue of light and velvet spread for him, like a sovereign prince.