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kings, and men in high power!—The courtiers, hearing this unequivocal decision of the king, surrounded Moliere in crowds; and for every injurious invective they levelled at him before, now loaded him with a hundred compliments!
(To be continued.)
SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF Mrs. SIDDONS.
[Continued from page 173.]
NATURE has exhausted her perfections in the formation of Mrs. Siddons' sublime countenance, and has united in it all the lineaments of an exalted mind. In the arts, ancient or modern, neither the chisel nor the pencil have produced a face that contains half that portion of expression and grandeur, which sits on the majestic brow of this admirable woman. Her eyes are large and dark, and have correspondent consequence with the other parts of her features, and which give all the emotions of the heart with astonishing intelligence. Her voice is physically rich, powerful, and melodious: it is also under the direction of a fine ear, and a cultivated judgment, and when employed in the high walks of Melpomene, it reaches the heart with the most powerful effect.
She possesses the whole art of speaking; and it is said, unites all the great qualities of Mrs. Yates and Mrs. Barry; but we know she has personal and mental advantages which must always shade their memory, on comparing the living with the dead.
It would be an act of injustice to the talents of Mrs. Siddons, to close this article without taking a view of some of those many beauties which accompany her descriptive powers in a few of her principal characters.
The different plays in which this lady shines in all the radiance of theatrical lustre, are too well known to need any comment on either their construction or diction: we shall therefore confine our remarks wholly to her performance in them.-As the representative of the injured Isabella, Mrs. Siddons claims our unqualified
eulogium, for her natural, delicate, and finished illustration of the
My little angel! no, you must not cry;
strongly evinced that even misery, with that pledge of her Biron's love, was dearer to her than afflụence with Villeroy.
In her piteous appeal to the feelings of her cruel father, her tones are the most soft and affecting that can possibly reach the heart; but when the unfeeling count, resisting her pathetic entreaty for her child, “ to save him from the wrongs that fall upon the poor," and would force the boy from her, she bursts forth with all that sublime pathos which characterizes her talents
No, we must never part!-'tis the last hold
I live but in my child!
Then Heaven have mercy on me!
Do I deserve to be this outcast wretch,
The will of Heaven, and I must not complain.
She is particularly great also where she meets her creditors; the conflicting passions which appear to agitate her mind in this scene, constitute acting that we despair of ever seeing adorn the British stage, when Mrs. Siddons shall be no more.
This beauty is followed by a thousand others, that we feel at a loss to describe with accuracy. But when she is interrupted in her contemplation by the advice of Carlos, to give him, by accepting Villeroy's hand, “ a friend and father," the violence and surprise with which she exclaims, “a husband!” are so expressive of her horror at the idea, that every auditor instantly becomes pervaded with a correspondent sympathy.
The unwillingness with which she consents to become the wife of Villeroy, while fondly kissing her darling child, as if to conceal her want of affection for him, and to avoid giving pain to his generous and friendly nature, is esquisitely delineated.
At the nuptial feast she displays infinite judgment in her deportment, and forces a smile on the cheek that is pallid with grief.
In the fourth act, when she embraces Biron's ring with agitating fears, is as interesting a piece of acting as ever adorned the stage; and her dread to behold him, and the fearful scrutiny with which she examines the features of the disguised Biron, together with the horrid satisfaction visible in her countenance for his supposed death, are, in point of excellence, beyond any thing we can justly describe. When he throws off his disguise, and she discovers that he is the long-lost partner of her heart, there is also a sublimity of scenic exertion which has a most powerful hold of the feelings. Through the whole of this interesting scene, she is astonishingly great: IIcr forgetfulness of her own situation in the pleasure of seeing her husband once more, and the manner in which she busies herself in all the little offices about him, is so natural and affecting, that it draws forth the most unqualified applause.
Her endearing voice and look in giving these words, “I'll but say my prayers and follow you,” which is followed by a distraction which that idea inspires
My prayers! no, I must never pray again!
and the desperate means she fixes on to rid herself of
All the reproaches, infamies, and scorn,
are painfully affecting. Again, her reluctance to disclose her misery, yet the dark hints she gives of it, constitutes a most sublime picture of love. Her start, on approaching to stab Bironher shock when going to take a last farewel of him, and the insanity which immediately follows, affect the spectator's mind with the most sympathetic horror. A thousand beauties are imparted to the eye and ear of her audience, which work upon the feelings with all their due effect. We cannot leave unnoticed the sublime and distracting solemnity in her voice, when the wounded Biron is led in; her dying laugh, and her maternal embraces of her child. When Mrs. Siddons dies, Isabella will, perhaps, be lost for ever to the
In that wide range of tragic characters, which for years have been supported by this lady, there appears the same excellence in the representation of all of them.
Her personification of Lady Macbeth is pregnant with beauties: the eye and ear are continually delighted with the elegance of her attitudes, the expression of her features, and her rich and all powerful voice.
In Zara, Belvidera, Margaret of Anjou, Jane Shore, and Lady Randolph, she cannot be seen but with the most exalted delight.There are also a variety of other characters which have been rendered conspicuous by her support of them, and on which she has shed an effulgence that will diminish in lustre when her professional powers shall be withdrawn from the mimic world. Her act. ing is not made up of noise and rant, with a wild and injudicious display of action. It is not the common thing of the day. She knew that nature, left to itself, would do but little; that deep affliction, and a variety of accomplishments, were necessary steps to the temple of Fame; and with these philosophic impressions, Mrs. Sid. dons has become mistress of every art that is at all related to the draina, or that can adorn the gentlewoman: these must be nume. rous, as an actress has to assume all the habits and passions attached to the human character. Among the most useful accomplish. ments of a player, a knowledge of the antique figure and painting are absolutely necessary, as they furnish'a performer with a classi
cal and perfect possession of the most beautiful attitudes; and Mrs. Siddons has not been insensible to the value of these acquirements, and has united with a theoretical knowledge of the arts, the practical art of sculpture, in which she has, on several occasions, greatly distinguished herself. This accounts for her action 'being so chaste, expressive, and captivating. The most critical eye might look in vain for an inelegant attitude, or a sudden break in her action, or the figure thrown out of its proper position by too great an extension of the arms in either direction.
Her attitudes, features, and sentiments, so accurately unite in their respective application, that the most trifling word goes to the audience with more effect than what the generality of players will produce by a month's ranting-On her features we cannot refrain making a few more remarks. The consummate skill with which she employs the muscles of her face in the just illustration of every passion, is great beyond example. Though nature has been bountiful in giving her an expressive face, yet such a gift in the possession of a careless and uneducated actress, would not do much. She is such a perfect mistress of her countenance, that she can impart the progressive rays of a passion to the very acme of excellence. Her brow emits all the various tints of the passion which characterize the portrait she assumes. Her eyes have such a playful sublimity about them, that, with a glance, a spectator may possess her thoughts before she has opened her lips.
In her private deportment, Mrs. Siddons is said to possess all the qualities which constitute the accomplished gentlewoman, and the amiable and intelligent companion.
LIFE OF JOIN PHILIP KEMBLE.
This respectable gentleman, and fine actor, is the eldest brother of Mrs. Siddons, and was born at Prescot, in Lancashire, in the year 1757. He was placed at a school in Staffordshire, called Sedgeley Park, and was sent about the year 1770 to the university of Douay, where he became master of the Greek, Latin and French languages. His attention to his studies procured him several premiums.-On his return to England, he discovered an inclination for the stage, notwithstanding it was his father's intention that he should have devoted his life to religious study. He made his first