« ПретходнаНастави »
were we not afraid to offer as a final decision, the whole amount of our thoughts as they now stand, we would say that he bids fair to be an ornament to the stage. Exclusive of our repugnance to pledge ourselves too promptly, we are aware that in summing up the account of any actor's merits and defects at the end of a large number of trials, a good natured critic has too often occasion to regret that he has in his hurry, his admiration, or his enthusiasm, overlooked the debtor side while he cast up the items on the credit; as on the other hand a malignant censor overlooks the credit side while he fills up or inflames the debit. Besides, he who can view a novice without a disposition rather to discover merit than to detect faults, and even where there is a casual imperfection to glance at rather than explore it further, and silently to find an extenuation for, rather than expose it, has, whatever superficial persons may think, very
little of the stuff for a genuine relic in his heart or head. For ourselves, we own that the first appearance of an actor, is one of the cases in which we should most distrust our opinions, because we know that on such occasions, feeling is generally excited to an excess which disables the judgment.
As yet therefore we are not prepared to dip so deep as we think the subject will hereafter demand, into the qualifications of Mr. Cleary. Generally speaking, his voice and his person are very much in his favour; sufficiently powerful for stage purposes. The former possesses much of what is commonly called the silver tone, and in every part of its compass is pleasing, harmonious, and free from harshness even when raised. He seems too, to understand his author remarkably well, particularly for so young a man, and from these result a smoothness of utterance and an easy fluency of enunciation not often met with, even in actors of great merit and experience. His person is not only well formed and vigorous, without clumsiness, but of a stature admirably suited to the stage; neither too low nor too tall. His face too is manly, and rather handsome; but his eyes, otherwise well fitted for expression, are injured by being rather overbrowed. As a novice, the most striking, we might say surprising, thing about him, is the ease of his deportment and the steadiness of his stage business. Thus, in the very trying scene with the conspirators, in that before the senate and so on, to the end of Pierre; and in that scene of Glenalvon in which he taunts and derides young Norval, he was as much master of himself as any old practised performer-much more so indeed than some actors we have seen, of
many years standing.
It appears to us that while in these natural qnalifications he stands so remarkably well, his defects are all acquired. The opinions and habits formed upon first impressions are not easily got rid of. It is a serious evil to Mr. Cleary that he should have laid up so much of his stock of histrionic science from very, very bad models. From these he has acquired not a little of the sing-song monotony, the slow measured utterance, and formality of speech, against which we have always waged war. If he means to follow the profession he will find it his interest to combat with this till he overcomes it.
This mistaken habit, which, besides its being a dereliction of nature, extinguishes the actor's fire, is the only obstruction in Mr. Cleary's road to theatric fame; and of this we are convinced by a comparison of him with himself, in different parts of his performance. For no sooner had he occasion to emerge from sober, unanimated, cool dialogue to impassioned expression, than he appeared a different person. In the one, no partiality or prejudice could make us very much approve- In the other, no enmity could warrant any man in withholding varm applause. This we think was particularly obvious in his performance of De Val. mont. Let Mr. Cleary clear away this, and we pledge ourselves for his success. It may be done but to do it promptly and effectually the ax must be put to the root. He must first of all come to the determination that the thing is bad and the rest will follow with little trouble; but so long as he fluctuates in doubt, or thinks it enough to meet the matter half way, and endeavours to compound between the error and its corrective, all efforts will be but so much labour lost. Accomplishing this, he accomplishes every thing—but to accomplish it-Hic labor-hoc opus est.
With the exception we have just made, the performances of this young gentleman were highly meritorious, and, for so unpractised a novice, truly astonishing. Had there been more of the frankness and unpremeditated familiarity of real life in his first addressing and subsequent dialogue with Jaffier, his Pierre might be set down as a very fine performance, and what we think most extraordinary is, that he played and spoke the most difficult parts of the character better than any others. Pierre's bold defiance of the conspirators when they talk of killing Jaffier, and his bitter rebuke of old Renault, were managed with the address of a veteran actor his conduct before the senate, and the whole of the subsequent scene with Jaffier, also deserve the warmest praise, and left very little doubt in our mind that he may, if he pleases, rank with the most considerable of our actors.
In his Glenalvon too he gave some extraordinary proofs of his complete mastery over his action, and in one instance (where he forgot his part) of a presence of mind, unexampled in so young a performer. The whole of the character was respectably performed, but as we have already said, his manner of taunting Douglass was excellent:- The performance of Glenalvon, however, suffered considerably from the badness of his dress.
His De Valmont was inferior to either of the others. But the scene in which he becomes deranged from discovering the villany of Lonqueville had great merit.
On the whole we are persuaded, that Mr. Cleary will be, if he remains on it, a valuable acquisition to the stage.
of Mrs. Wheatley we are compelled to say, that we did not at all admire her in Belvidera. A handsome face and person go a great way in disarming a critical examiner of a lady's acting. We cannot, therefore, minutely investigate Mrs. Wheatley's performance of Belvidera-and shall only say, generally, that it did not inspire us with any desire to see it repeated.-In Fatima she appeared to great advantage. Her singing was universally approved, and excited an anxious desire to hear her afterwards, when she obligingly sung “ The Soldier Tired," for Mr. Payne's benefit. Her execution of that arduous song, however, was injured by the trepidation into which she was thrown by the novelty of ber situation, and which was so apparent that it was impossible not to feel a painful sympathy with her. She, nevertheless, evinced sufficient powers to sing the song very well, difficult as it is, if she had no embarrassment to contend with.
Mr. PAYNE.-Preliminary to entering upon the consideration of this gentleman's performance on this his last visit to Philadel. phia, we intreat our readers to turn to the criticism we delivered on his performances in the year eighteen hundred and ten,* in which our opinion of him is given so full as to supersede the necessity of entering largely into the subject here. The only question to be discussed at this time is, whether he is so far improved as to justify the expectations we at that time avowed, or whether
See vol. 1. pp. 141. 220. 241.
he has availed himself of the hints we then threw out-whether his voice is strengthened his person grown more manly, and on the whole whether as Mr. Payne he is more intitled to public approbation, or more capable of affording pleasure to a rational audience now than he was as Master Payne, at that time of public en. thusiasm and admiration of his talents. To these questions we peremptorily answer in the affirmative.—His person, though still short of the hero's mould or dimensions, is considerably bettered, and his walk and deportment are greatly improved:-he has got rid of his Cooperisms, or insensible imitations of Mr. Cooperthe redundance of attitude and action, of which we once took occasion to complain are entirely laid aside and the defective pushing-forward step we adverted to in that Critique, no longer injures his motions. Of certain provincialisms in his pronunciation, however, we still have reason to complain, though by no means in so great a degree as before-he still says raound for round, daown for down, &c. &c. but in a mitigated degree of broadness.
But it is in his conception of character, and his reading of particular passages, that time seems to have ripened him most into excellence.-That genius, which he unquestionably possesses in a degree superior to any tragic actor on the American stage but Cooke, is now more controlled by judgment and at the same time rendered more active and efficient by study. This we discovered in the striking originality, and peculiar felicity of manner he occasionally disclosed in each of the characters he performed. In his Octavian there were some touches which to us appeared new; too delicate perhaps to be recognised by the many, but not the less demonstrative of a genius shrewdly discriminating, and self-dependent. In Octavian he differs from some that we “have seen play and heard others praise too,” and in our opinion, for the better.
Let us be understood: We enter upon this subject fully aware of the deduction which may still be made, on account of his youthful appearance and inferiority to full grown actors in size. But these very deficiencies exhibit the superiority of his genius. The superior corporeal execution of Mr. Cooper gives to his performance a higher interest of a certain kind, while his conception is seldom comparable to Payne's, and his character is never so per. fectly studied. Though Octavian was, for reasons we shall state hereafter, a very unfavourable character for him, above all to make
his debut in, yet even from his performance of it, we can cull a number of passages to exemplify the opinion we have advanced.
We will begin with his introductory soliloquy-Payne's Octavian is a man labouring under the derangement of a mind prostrated by melancholy, sometimes relieved by lucid intervals, and sometimes, though very seldom, starting into impassioned frenzy. On his first appearance he enters with a disconsolate and wearied air: he does not at once, as some do, exhibit marks of frenzy, but in a tone of languor and disconsolation, expresses his misery at not be: ing able to procure sleep,
"I can not sleep;” laying the emphasis on the word “not,” which more forcibly marks a foregone, vain effort to procure rest than the common reading, “I cannot SLEEP,” with the emphasis on the last word. While in this state of lucid disconsolation, his brain seems gradually to take fire from the intensity of his feelings; his eye becomes wild,--and his derangement is perceived to increase till he comes to the apostrophe to the
“hot and rising sun." This climax, which was enforced with great effect by an hysterical laugh, and the triumphant comparison of himself with the sun, as a new reading was more ingenious than correct, and had a striking effect, though we think at the expense of propriety, and to the loss of the author's meaning.
We soon perceived that Mr. Payne had profited by his observations on Mr. Cooke; not in servile imitation of his speech and action in particular passages, but by adopting his general philosophy; connecting the parts of the dialogue by the comment of the eyes and deportment, which is the excellence that distinguishes Cooke from all other actors. The convulsive agitation of Payne's frame during the pause after the words
“ And that were pity" was well contrived as a precursor to the burst of pathos with which he uttered
Gaily bedeck'd with Fancy's imagery,