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eluding, determined to mock the justice of his country, and composed a masque called ‘The Foresters,' containing a circumstantial account of some of the robberies he had committed, and a good deal of sarcasm on the pusillanimity of those whom he had robbed, and the inefficacy of the penal laws of the kingdom. This piece was acted at Drury-lane theatre with great applause, to the astonishment of all sober persons, and the scandal of the nation. His Majesty, who had long wished to curb the licentiousness of the press and the theatres, thought this a good opportunity. He ordered the performers to be enlisted into the army, the play-house to be shut up, and all theatrical exhibitions to be forbid on pain of death. Drury-lane play-house was soon after converted into a barrack for soldiers, which it has continued to be ever since. Sheridan was arrested, and, it was imagined, would have suffered the rack, if he had not escaped from his guard by a stratagem, and gone over to Ireland in a balloon with which his friend Fox had furnished him. Immediately on his arrival in Ireland, he put himself at the head of a party of the most violent reformers, commanded a regiment of volunteers at the siege of Dublin in 1791, and was supposed to be the person who planned the scheme for tarring and feathering Mr. Jenkinson, the lord-lieutenant, and forcing him in that condition to sign the capitulation of the castle. The persons who were to execute this strange enterprise had actually got into the lordlieutenant's apartment at midnight, and would probably have succeeded in their project, if She
ridan, who was intoxicated with whiskey, a strong liquor much in vogue with the volunteers, had not attempted to force open the door of Mrs. 's bedchamber, and so given the alarm to the garrison, who instantly flew to arms, seized Sheridan and every one of his party, and confined them in the castle dungeon. Sheridan was ordered for execution the next day, but had no sooner got his legs and arms at liberty, than he began capering, jumping, dancing, and making all sorts of antics, to the utter amazement of the spectators. When the chaplain endeavoured, by serious advice and admonition, to bring him to a proper sense of his dreadful situation, he grinned, made faces at him, tried to tickle him, and played a thousand other pranks with such astonishing drollery, that the gravest countenances became cheerful, and the saddest hearts glad. The soldiers who attended at the gallows were so delighted with his merriment, which they deemed magnanimity, that the sheriffs began to apprehend a rescue, and ordered the hangman instantly to do his duty. He went off in a loud horse-laugh, and cast a look towards the castle, accompanied with a gesture ex
pressive of no great respect. “‘Thus ended the life of this singular and unhappy man—a melancholy instance of the calamities that attend the misapplication of great and splendid ability. He was married to a very beautiful and amiable woman, for whom he is said to have entertained an unHe had one son, a boy of the most promising hopes, whom he would never suffer to be instructed in the first rudininents
ments of literature. He amused himself, however, with teaching the boy to draw portraits with his toes, in which he soon became so astonishing a proficient, that he seldom failed to take a most exact likeness of every person who sat to him. “‘There are a few more plays by the same author, all of them excellent. “‘For further information concerning this strange man, vide ‘..Macpherson's Moral History.’ Art. “Drunkenness.”
2. Memoirs of John Philip Kemble, Esq. including a History of the Stage, &c. &c. By J. Boaden, Esq. Mr. Boaden, the author of the volumes before us, was a personal friend of Mr. Kemble for more than thirty years; he has always been warmly attached to dramatic literature, and a constant attendant at the theatres. His book contains not only an ample biographical account of our great actor, but adds one more link to the chain of dramatic history; it completes what Cibber, in his “ Apology,” commenced, and Davies, in his “Life of Garrick,” continued; and therefore brings down the annals of the theatres almost to the present day. Passing over the account of the birth, the education, and the country engagements of our hero, we shall first of all introduce him as making his appearance in London. Before, however, we do this, we will give Mr. Boaden's sketch of two celebrated actors, who were then much admired by the town— Messrs. Dodd and Bensley. He has been speaking of Palmer, and he thus proceeds :
“ Dodd, with more confined powers, was one of the most perfect actors that I have ever seen. He was the fopling of the drama rather than the age. I mean by this, that his own times rarely shewed us any thing so highly charged with the vanity of personal exhibition. He was, to be sure, the prince of pink heels, and the soul of empty eminence. As he tottered rather than walked down the stage, in all the protuberance of endless muslin and lace in his cravats and frills, he reminded you of the jutting motion of the pigeon. His action was suited to his figure. He took his snuff, or his bergamot, with a delight so beyond all grosser enjoyments, that he left you no doubt whatever of the superior happiness of a coxcomb. “The modern fop is a creature of a different kind: he is pert and volatile, incessantly in action, and becoming risible by awkward gestures and mere grimace. He has no dignity to keep up; you may laugh not only at him but in his face. Besides, he is usually taken from low life, and is a caricature rather than a character. “But Dodd was not confined to the beau monde: he could enter into the humours of a distant age, and exhibit the fatuity of the GUL1, with a truth and richness, that left every rival at an immense distance. I need only to remind his spectators of his Sir Andrew Aguecheek, in the Twelfth Night, and relate a simple fact to which I was a witness. The late Mr. Edwin went into the pit of Drurylane expressly to see Dodd, before he himself appeared in Sir Andrew. On his coming out he exclaimedto a friend, “This is indeed persection
fection' I cannot touch him in his own way; but I hope, at all events, to do something.' I saw Mr. Edwin in the character. He was in that, as in every thing, quite irresistible; but the smoothness, the native imbecility, of Dodd's Sir Andrew, were transcendant. Edwin could not entirely reach that paragon of folly, to whom a common expression is a problem; who cannot conceive the meaning of accost; speaks four or five languages word for word without book, and demands what is pourquoi. Has the back trick simply as strong as any man in Illyria, plays on the viol de gambo, and goes to church in a corranto. No, Sir Toby, these things were not hidden; they were the only lights that shone through Dodd's Sir Andrew, and the most sportive malice could not render him more ridiculous, than he came forth from the forming hands of nature. “Mr. Bensley here offers himself to my recollection as the only perfect representative of another character in the same comedy; the smiling, yellow-stockinged, and cross-gartered Malvolio. All his peculiarities of deportment here aided his exhibition of the steward—the sliding zig-zag advance and retreat of his figure fixed the attention to his stockings and his garters. His constrained smile, his hollow laugh, his lordly assumption, and his ineffable contempt of all that opposed him in the way to greatness, were irresistibly diverting. “In that amazing production of dramatic science, the Fox, Mr. Bensley gave to the fine fly, the parasite Mosca, what no other actor in my tinie could pretend to
give, and seemed in truth, like the character, to come back to us from a former age. He spoke Ben Jonson's language, as if he had never been accustomed to a lighter and less energetic diction; and with the Volpone of Palmer and the Corbaccio of Parsons, presented a feast to the visitors of Colman's theatre, which has seldom been equalled, and will, I believe, never be surpassed. “In Pierre, Mr. Bensley distinguished himself greatly; and his Iago, if it yielded to any, yielded only to the profound skill of Henderson. His voice had something superhuman in its tone, and his cadence was lofty and imposing. If I had been suddenly asked what Bensley was most like, I should have said, a creature of our poet's fancy, Prospero. In that part he was in truth a mighty magician, and the awful accents
that he poured out seemed of
power to wake sleepers from their graves, and to control those who possessed an absolute mastery over the elements. There was a very delicate and nice discrimination in Bensley, when he addressed his daughter, and the spirit Ariel. They were not two young ladies of the theatre, to whom he announced his pleasure in one common tone of command. He lowered himself parentally to Miranda's innocence and inexperience: it was evidently by his art that he raised himself to the control of the spirit Ariel; with whom a kind of personal attachment seemed to mitigate the authority by which that gentlest of his kind was kept in a yet unwilling allegiance. Our own day has shown us an Ariel, who
“On Mr. Kemble's first appearance before the spectators, the general exclamation was, “How very like his sisters' And there was a very striking resemblance. His person seemed to be finely formed, and his manners princely; but on his brow hung the weight of some intolerable woe.' Apart from the expression called up by the situation of Hamlet, there struck me to be in him a peculiar and personal fitness for tragedy. What others assumed, seemed to be inherent in Kemble. “Native, and to the manner born,' he looked an abstraction, if I may so say, of the characteristics of tragedy.
“The first great point of remark was, that his Hamlet was decidedly original. He had seen no great actor whom he could have copied. His stile was formed by his own taste or judgment, or rather grew out of the peculiar properties of his person and his intellectual habits. He was of a solemn and deliberate temperament; his walk was always slow, and his expression of countenance contemplative. His utterance rather tardy for the most part, but always finely articulate, and in common parlance
* Miss Tree.
seemed to proceed rather from organization than voice. “It was soon found that the critic by profession had to examine the performance of a most acute critic. To the general conception of the character I remember but one objection; that the deportment was too scrupulously graceful; but, besides that, Hamlet is represented by the poet as “the glass of fashion and the mould of form.’ I incline to think the critic's standard was too low, rather than Kemble's too high ;— the manners were not too refined for such a person as Mr. Kemble's. “There were points in the dialogue, in almost every scene, which called upon the critic, where the young actor indulged his own sense of the meaning; and these were to be referred to the text or context, in Shakspeare, and also the previous manner of Garrick's delivery, or the existing one of Henderson's. The enemies of Kemble, that is, the injudicious friends of other actors, called these points NEw READINGs; which became accordingly a term of reproach among the unthinking. The really judicious, without positively deciding, admitted the ingenuity and praised the diligence of the young artist. They freely confessed, that there might be endless varieties in the representation of such a character; justifiable, too, by very plausible reasonings; and congratulated themselves and the public upon a new and original actor, whose performances, at all events, would never disgust them by common-place, but would at all times tend to make Shakspeare better known, by the necessity for his being more studied; that the reference must be perpetual from the actor to the works; and in thus thus contributing to the fame of the poet, the performer might eventually establish his own.” As attached to this part of the subject, we shall subjoin the description of his dress, and Mr. Boaden's original and ingenious observations upon the stage habiliments of the ghost. “We have for so many years been accustomed to see Hamlet dressed in the Vandyke costume, that it may be material to state, that Mr. Kemble played the part in a modern court dress of rich black velvet, with a star on the breast, the garter and pendant ribband of an order, mourning sword and buckles, with deep ruffles: the hair in powder; which, in the scenes of feigned distraction, flowed dishevelled in front and over the shoulders. “As to the expression of the face, perhaps the powdered hair, from contrast, had a superior effect to the short curled wig at present worn. The eyes seemed to possess more brilliancy. With regard to costume, correctness in either case is out of the question, only that the Vandyke habit is preferable, as it removes a positive anacronism and inconsistency. “The ghost of Hamlet's father appears in armour; a dress certainly suited to a warrior, but to one of other times. Now this was notatallincompatible with the dress after Vandyke, in whose time armour was undoubtedly worn, as he has shown in a great variety of portraits. But a completely modern suit upon young Hamlet, with his father in armour, throws the two characters into different and even remote periods, a confusion which it is absolutely necessary to avoid.
“The reason for Shakspeare's dressing the ghost in armour has never been assigned, or nothing beyond the picturesque effect derived from it.” Yet it has a very marked and striking propriety, when fully considered. The usual regal dress would have had nothing in it to alarm. The habit of interment would have been horrible, or loathsome, or ridiculous. Now his object seems to have been to excite "the strongest attention, and yet not betray the real and ultimate cause of his appearance.
“It will be remembered that Fortinbras of Norway had dared the late king to single combat; and that he had forfeited, along with life, all the “lands which he stood seiz'd of" to the conqueror. Young Fortinbras, at the opening of this play, had, it seems, levied soldiers to recover the territories so lost by his father. The news had occasioned in Denmark much toilsome watch to the subject, and great martial preparations; the casting of ordnance at home, and the making large purchases abroad of the implements of war. The people might entertain a reasonable fear, that what their late hero had acquired, would be lost by the less valiant spirit of his brother. The appearance of the late king is conceived, therefore, to relate entirely to the approaching war— for he is observed to wear even the very armour he had on, when he combated the ambitious Norway.
“‘Well may it sort, that this portentous figure
• Comes armed through our watch, so like the king,
“That was, and is, the question of these wars.'
* See Mr. Stevens's note on the words complete steel. “The