Billeder på siden

and the poet, everyone, however might here remark how our education slightly he may have applied his mind embraces an acquaintance with the into the study of useful knowledge, must teresting topic, from our earliest years. be aware. From the mighty Homer, Is not the gate of knowledge opened whose enduring strains have influe with the delightful description conenced the literature of ages, to the tained in what our friend Mr Hogg nameless bard, whose graphic de- would call that string of charming scription of Jack Horner, (the ances- apothegms, beginning with, A, Apple tor of that unassuming citizen, who pye, B bit it C, cut it, &c. ? And lately got into the scrape of being are we not more willingly led on to chairman to Mr Hume,) who sat in learning by the stomach, than driven a corner eating his Christmas pye, to it a posteriori ? But let every man (would I had one to exemplify to you put the question honestly to his own by experiment how he popped in conscience, and he will freely confess his thumb, and pulled out a plum; with me, that in very truth, the asser.. and conscious of his own merit, far tion with which I opened my mouth, from calling himself a humble indivi- and this course of lectures, is founded dual, unworthy of the honours done on the basis of eternal truth, and that him, &c. &c., like some of his de- there really is no one subject of such scendants, honestly and boldly pro- vital interest, nothing so exciting in claimed his worth to all whom it might expectation, so grateful in fruition, so concern, exclaiming, with a stomach pleasing in reflection, as a good and and a conscience simultaneously grati- substantial, or elegant and tasteful, or fied,-“ What a good boy am I?” I splendid and gastronomical Dinner.



I wish some one would write a nity, or Criticism, employ dialects, Dictionary of Cant. It would be a which, though read very easily, and useful present, even to the existing spoken very glibly by us, will be wholgeneration, but far more valuable to ly lost to succeeding ages. those tsat are to follow. Nothing can Take the following as a sample ; it be more certain than that without is from the cant of dramatic criticism ; some such expositor, half the writings one of the most prevailing, and cerof the present day will be absolutely tainly not the least plaguing of those unintelligible to posterity. Every one dialects. who has at all looked into the litera- “ Miss Kelly played Lady Teazle ture of the times, " when Hambden last night. The part is wholly out of bled in the field," must have lamented her line. Lady Teazle has always the utter impossibility, for the most been represented as a woman of fapart, of catching even glimpses of shion ; but Miss Kelly gives an air of meaning. Men who, upon some sub- rusticity to the character which the jects, displayed a force both of thought author never designed. They who can and of language, seldom reached by remember, or have learnt from detheir descendants, seem to us, when scription, or tradition, the style of Miss they write on topics connected with the Farren's exquisite performance of this prevailing Cant of their day, to deal out part, will never reconcile their tastes stark nonsense. Whether this was oc- to the innovations of Miss Kelly." casioned most by the obscurity of the Unluckily those ready-written dogtheme, or by the circumstance that mas do their work among the public. they composed in a tongue (I mean The drama is a subject on which althat of the Cant Puritanical,) which most every one thinks himself qualified is, to many intents and purposes, a to be a critic; and yet the number of dead language, I shall not now (so those who do not commit to others the don't be alarmed, reader) waste one charge of thinking for them, is perword in discussing; but I think the haps greater in this department than Canters of the present day, whether in any other within the whole range in Ethics, or Chræstomathics, or Poli- of literature. The reason is obvious. tios, or Political Economy, or Huma- Each frequenter of a theatre feels that he is no unimportant unit in a very been long familiar. Thus, if a pera formidable number of people who have former appears for the first time, and the privilege of passing, on whatever displays considerable talent, in a de is presented for their amusement, an partment in which some old favourite instant, summary, and final sentence. is greatly distinguished, the debutant Audiences at playhouses are not the is instantly set down as an impudent only congregations of capriciousjudges, imitator of Mr Kean, or Mr Young, who have confounded, in their esti- or Mr Macready, or Mr Kemble. mate of themselves, the power to de- Again, if an actress of acknowledged cide with the capacity to deliberate; taste, great abilities, and a highly culand we cannot be surprised, if, on a tivated judgment, presume to give a subject which surely requires some new reading of a very doubtful part, reflection, and no inconsiderable ac- the attempt is at once denounced as quaintance with a very large section an innovation, to which a gracious of British literature, they take their pardon is indeed extended for the sake notions, as did the Athenians on of the popular and favourite performweightier matters, and certain crowd- er,--accompanied, however, by a gened modern assemblies on matters tle admonition, that she ought not to weightier still, from a few flippant tempt the fates by a repetition of the critics, whom they follow without experiment. knowing that they are led.

Miss Kelly's attempt to introduce It must be owned, that this will of novelty in the personation of Lady necessity be always, to some extent, Teazle, is an opportunity not to be the lot of the far greatest number of lost, of combating this besetting cant the patrons of the drama. The mi. of the drama. It is in itself, when nority is small indeed, who form their opposed in any particular instance, by opinions of its literature or its repre- a little argument, or a slight analysis, sentation from their own study of its as fragile and contemptible, as any of productions, rather than from the those eastern insects which individucommentaries of the critics. It is ally may be crushed between the fine right, therefore, that these latter gen- gers, but which in the gross will lay try should be from time to time re- waste a whole country. Insignificant minded, that their duty is something as bad criticism always is, when commore than merely to praise or to con- bated in detail, its visitation is often demn; and that common justice and a deadening blight to genius; and I honesty require, that the bread of a cannot help thinking, that it is doing performer, or the character of an au- some good service for the drama, to thor, shall not be sacrificed to the bring to the question those objections dull sport or the heedless haste of


which have been made to Miss Kelly's ragraphs in the newspapers.

readling of the “ School for Scandal.” These are now almost the sole vehi. I must be allowed here to observe, cles of dramatic criticism. With very that Miss Kelly has herself (evidentfew exceptions, they talk a language ly against her better judgment) given strangely compounded of terms of art, some colour to the


of the CANTconfidently dealt out without measure ERS, by the extreme timidity which or mercy, -bold appeals to general she has expressed upon the subject. rules as established, concerning the A day or two after her appearance in composition or performance of the the part of Lady Teazle at Drury-Lane drama, which were never heard of, theatre, the following paragraph apor probably thought of, before ; and peared in the London newspapers :short, terse, little sayings, disposing, in a line, of a whole act of a play, or of

MISS KELLY'S LADY TEAZLE. the voice-or mayhap a limb, of some unhappy actor. But there is one stri

“ Some of the papers having censured king feature which is common to them

Miss Kelly for undertaking the part of all. They have a horror of anything Lady Teazle, it has been deemed an act new; and they usually decry it for of justice to communicate to us the folone or other of two of the most oppo- lowing letters; the first addressed by that site reasons in the world; either be- Lady to the Stage Manager previously to cause it was never ventured before, or her consenting to undertake the characbecause it is like something, (though ter, and the second, subsequently to her not the same,) with which they have performing it :


ing Lady Teazle, I have ventured to look “ Nov. 27, 1825.

at all the papers this morning, and though “ DEAR SIR—I read 'Lady Teazle'

the generality of them are highly flatterlast night, and again this morning, with ing and indulgent, yet there are two great attention ; 'I do not see the slight- been the case with all) accuse ine of folly

which (as, indeed, I expected would have est difficulty to myself in performing the part. My view of her character is still and presumption in undertaking the the same. She appears to me anything character ; there appears also to have

been a feeling (which is extremely painbut a fine lady ; indeed, there is not a

ful to me) that Mrs Davison has been single line in the whole play which describes her either as a beautiful or an ele- displaced for my advancement to one of

her characters. Now, as I cannot tell gant woman ; but, on the contrary, as having been, six months before, a girl of

them (what you told me) that Mrs Dalimited education, and of the most home

vison has given up the part, and that ly habits.

you have pressed me against my own “ Now, if I could reconcile it to my judgment into the performance of it, I do common sense, that such a person could hope and request that you will take the

trouble to write a line to the Editor of acquire the fashionable elegance of high life in so short a period, I hope it is no

The Morning Herald and The New Times vain boast to say, that having had the

to exonerate me from the charge of hagood fortune to be received for many

ving sought to obtrude myself on the pub

lic in a character which is entirely out of years past into sociéty far above my rank in life ; and having, therefore, had the

my line, and which I was never ambi

tious to fill. I am, dear sir, your obedient best opportunity of observing the man

faithful servant, ners of the best orders, I must be a sad

« F. M. KELLY." bungler in my art if I could not, at least, convey some notion of those manners in the personation of · Lady Teazle ;' but

The modesty of these letters disarms this, I repeat, is contrary to my common

ill-nature, but it strengthens opposisense view of her character. Still, the

tion. It is to be regretted, that read. town has been so long accustomed to

ing the character as she did, and knowconsider her, through the representa- ing as she inust, that in such a chation of Miss Farren, and all her succes- racter as Lady Teazle, so read, she is sors in the part, in this, and in no other absolutely without a rival, Miss Kelly light, that I should really tremble to at- should have insinuated a doubt, that tempt my simple reading of her charac- in the performance of a part, which ter, from the dread of drawing on myself in making it in some sort a new one, 2 severity of criticism which I have ever she would make in some sort her own, had the good fortune to escape ; and per- she could fail to be ultimately and haps a censure from the public, who have triumphantly successful. hitherto received me with so much kind

To perform a part in a favourite ness, as considering I have never ventu: play, with a new reading, is always a red beyond the limits of my humble abi. perilous enterprize. There is preju. lities. After saying so much, I must dice in favour of old associations. It leave it to the wise heads, who have sug- is like presenting to us the person of gested this hazard to me, to determine

an old friend, with his face in a mask. whether the business of the Theatre is in such a position as to make the effort the visage it conceals, but we do not

The mask may be far handsomer than essential to its interests, in which case,

look upon it with equal pleasure. It and in which case alone, I could be induced, though with fear and trembling,

is therefore, necessary, not only that

the delineation of the character by the but ' by particular desire,' to put on feathers and white satin, and make a fool · poet shall be of a doubtful kind, leaof myself. I am, dear sir, your obedient ving room for various readings, and faithful servant,

that the new conception shall be in " F. M. KELLY.”

itself natural and just,-but there is To the Stage-Manager, Theatre Royal, also needed talent of a very high order, Drury Lane.

or great popularity in the performer.

It is fortunate for those who think LETTER-No. II.

that varieties of this sort constitute “ Henrietta Street, Dec. 2. one of the chief charms of dramatic “ DEAR SIR-In my great anxiety to literature, and one of the qualities too ascertain how far I was right in my anti- which give it a pre-eminence among cipation of the consequence of my play- the imitative arts, that all these circumstances combine in the attempt nary natural talents, she had for years made by Miss Kelly, to give a new mixed as an intimate associate with personation of Lady Teazle.

the finest wits of the most polished It is one of the peculiarities (as some society, will have it one of the faults) of the If the whole conduct, and all the School for Scandal, that its Dramatis expressions of Lady Teazle throughPersonæ present a constellation of ta- out the play were in accordance with lent not to be expected in real life the style of her conversation in the among a company, could such be found, far greater part of what she says, the which in all other respects might be actress who would personate her could precisely similar. Trip shares the wit have no option. She must be repreas well as the extravagance of his mas- sented as a woman of fashion. The ter. Moses possesses, in no mean de transformation supposed in such a gree, the dry sententious humour of character might be little short of a * Mr Premium.” Sir Benjamin Back- prodigy; yet it would be a prodigy bite, whose manners and conduct are admitted upon the stage in deference those of a silly and malicious block- to the genius which produced it, and head, has at times the conversation of for the sake of those delightful attraca polished wit. Even Maria, who is tions encompassing it, that would oversupposed to be little better than a balance the defect arising from its gross child, is a serious and pithy moralist. improbability. But we find scattered In short, Sheridan chose to infuse (or up and down in the part of Lady what is more probable, unconsciously Teazle many striking traits, which infused) into all his characters, even make her character as doubtful a ridthe lowest, a portion of his own fire; dle, and as fair a subject for various so that the whole resembles a set of readings, as any within the whole brilliants, some false and some genu- range of the drama. In the third or ine, in which those of the least value fourth speech she makes on her first are such good counterfeits that they appearance upon the stage, the pouts sparkle as brightly as the purest. ing simplicity of the country-girl seems

Of all the characters, however, that to break out through all the levity of of Lady Teazle is the most remark- her newly-assumed manners. I quese able for the inconsistency between her tion if there be a married lady in powers of dialogue and her education. ' May fair who would be guilty of the She was

“ bred wholly in the coun- following sentiment :-" Lord, Sir try,” and “ had never known luxury Peter, am I to blame that flowers beyond one silk gown, or dissipation don't blow in cold weather? you must beyond the annual gala of a race-ball. blame the climate, and not me. Six or seven months only have elapsed sure, for my part, I wish it was spring since Sir Peter found her “ the daugh- all the year

round, and that roses grew ter of a poor country squire,"_" sit- under our feet !—The whole scene in ting at her tambour, in a linen gown, the third act, in which she wheedles a bunch of keys at her side, and her the old gentleman out of two hundred hair combed smoothly over a roll.”- pounds, and joins in a resolution neBy her own confession, “ her evening ver more to quarrel, and then so warmemployments were to draw patterns ly sustains her share in a vehement for ruffles, which she had not mate- dispute, and at last leaves her husrials to make up,-play at Pope Joan

band half in badinage, half in anger, with the curate, -read a sermon to is, in almost every line, quite as well her aunt Deborah,-or, perhaps, be suited to display the character of a stuck up at an old spinnet, and thrum rural beauty made a coquet by marher father to sleep after a fox-chase.” riage, as that of a pettish fine lady. Nay, although she stoutly denies it. But the admirable scene in the lithere is much reason to believe, that brary,—that part of it I mean in which she was sometimes “ glad to take a she lends an ear, apparently not an ride out behind the butler upon the unwilling one, to the oily, but most old docked coach-horse." Yet, after glaringly-palpable sophistry of Joseph the short interval of half-a-year, this Surface, and even once or twice ansimple, rustic girl is represented as pos- swers it in a manner equally silly and sessing powers of conversation which serious,-shows, even in this violation would lead one to suppose, that, be- of strict probability, that the author sides being endowed with extraordi- never contemplated the total destruc



tion, in so short a time, of the simpli- sider this precious circle of associates city of character impressed by her as composed of persons not wholly country education. No one who had excluded from good society, but ad

«' known life,” or had put on, mitted there by sufferance only, and wholly, the manners and habits of rather from a fear of active malice the town, would have listened for one than upon a footing of equality. Such moment to the speeches of Joseph as knots of people exist at all times. arguments, unless indeed with a pre- They are felt, and they feel themdisposition to comply, which would selves, as intruders in the company of require no argument at all. The mere their superiors, whom they envy for fact, indeed, of her having consented their riches or rank, or hate for their to visit a man who professed himself virtues. With just enough of underher admirer, in his own house, in the standing to work mischief, sufficient middle of the day, and under circum- education to talk with flippancy, and stances of so little concealment, that, sufficient activity of temper to need in addition to the prying scrutiny of some employment, they mix in the servants, all their motions were liable society which tolerates them, though to be watched by the “ maiden lady they know they are the objects of disof curious temper” from the opposite gust and scorn, and then seek to inwindows,--shows, that she had not demnify themselves for their own yet learned that art of mixing caution conscious debasement, by ruining the with boldness of conduct, which is the fair fame which they can never hope first lesson taught by the world to a to share. gay woman, on her entrance into life, This is the true spirit of scandal, and which is much more easily and and such are ever its habitual votaries. speedily acquired than the graces of And, for my part, I am inclined to place fashionable manners.

amidst Sheridan's highest achieveBut there is another consideration ments in this unrivalled drama, the cilat must not be overlooked in esti- close intimacy which he has representmating the characters of this play. ed as subsisting among the members of There is nothing in the whole piece thisgang of detractors, and the apparent from wat we are obliged to con- distance at which they are held by the clude, that the society in which Lady rest of their acquaintance. Even JoTeazle is supposed to move, is by any seph Surface, though for his own purmeans a circle of high fashion. Lady poses he employs the aid of one of Sneerwell is “ the widow of a city them, keeps a good deal aloof from knight,

," "wounded in the early part their society. It is remarkable that, of her life by the envenomed tongue- (except in the instance of Lady Teaof slander," as she herself terms it; zle, who ridicules her own relations but yet bearing, according to her own most unmercifully while she is under frank avowal, a “ruined reputation.” the influence of the bite of the tribe,) Crabtree, with all his pleasantry, is though they all mention the names of at times coarse and vulgar; and Sir several acquaintances, none of them Benjamin, who is evidently meant to ever alludes to any intimacy enjoyed be the man of fashion of the set, in out of their own set: And they are the scene of the first act, in which he spoken of in various parts of the play banters Joseph on the misfortunes of by Sir Peter, by Rowley, and by Sir his brother, and in that scene of the Oliver, in the light not only of malilast, in which he worries Sir Peter on cious, but of disreputable characters. the subject of his domestic troubles, But perhaps the most decisive eviis guilty, not so much of fashionable dence, that the original conception of impudence, as of downright rudeness the author corresponded with the and ill-breeding. The truth is, that reading now given by Miss Kelly to we are apt to form a very exaggerated his play, is to be found in that curious estimate of the rank in which the piece of literary history furnished us menibers of the scandalous college are by Mr Moore in his Life of Sheridan, to be supposed to move, from the bril- in which the whole progress of inculiancy and point of their dialogue, and bation is developed, from the first the elegant turn of its periods. A germ of the School for Scandal to its close examination of the play must, bursting from the shell, full-fledged, I think, convince any one, tha's it is in all its present gaudy, but nicely adquite consistent with the plot to con-' justed plumage. I am far from con i VOL. XIX,


« ForrigeFortsæt »