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TRAGEDY OF BRAGANZA.

Act 3, Scene 1.

The Apartments of VELASQUEZ.

Velasquez. • Attends the monk Ramirez ?

Enter Ramirez.

You are welcome, Most welcome, reverend father. Pray draw near. We have a business for your privacy Of an especial kind; the circling air Should not partake it, nor the babbling winds, Lest their invisible wings disperse the breath Of that main secret which thy faithful bosom Is only fit to treasure.'

Ramirez.

Good, my lord : I am no common talker.'

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Velasquez.

Well I know it ; And therefore choose thee from the brotherhood; Not one of whom but would lay by all thoughts Of earth and heaven, and fly to execute What I, the voice of Spain, commissioned him.

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Observe me well.
Think not I mean to snatch a thankless office,
Who serves the state while I direct her helm.
Say, can you be content in these poor weeds,-

To know no earthly hopes beyond a cloister;
But, stretch'd on musty mats in noisome caves,
To rouse at midnight bells, and mutter prayers,
For souls beyond their reach, to senseless saints :
To wage perpetual war with nature's bounty :
To blacken sick men's chambers, and be number:d
With the loath'd leavings of mortality-
The watch-light, hour-glass, and the nauseous phial ?
Are these the ends of life? Was this fine frame-
Nerves exquisitely textur'd-soft desires-
Aspiring thoughts—this comprehensive soul,
With all her train of godlike faculties-
Given to be sunk in this vile drudgery?'

Ramirez.
These are the hard conditions of our state.
We sow our humble seeds, with toil on death,
To reap the harvest of our hopes in heaven.'

Velasquez.
Yet wiser they who trust no future chance,

But make this earth a heaven. Raise thy eyes
Up to the temporal splendours of our church;
Behold our priors, prelates, cardinals ;
Survey their large revenues, princely state,
Their palaces of marble, beds of down;
Their statues, pictures, baths, luxurious tables,
That shame the fabled banquets of the gods !
See how they weary art, and ransack nature,
To leave no taste, no wish ungratified !
Now-if thy spirit shrink not— I can raise thee
To all this pomp and greatness. Pledge thy faith ;
Swear thou wilt do this thing—whate'er I urge ;

And Lisbon's envied crosier shall be thine.' The next novelty of the season was the celebration of a pageant called “ The Jubilee.” This entertainment, according to the contemporary newspapers, had been written, prepared, and produced by Garrick, as a laughable representation of his own “ Jubilee,” held at Stratford-upon-Avon, in honour of Shakspeare, in 1769. At its first appearance it had a run of seventy nights ; and was deservedly a popular pageant, if we may trust the same newsmen, from its containing so much whimsical stage bustle, pleasant nonsense, charming music, and splendid representation. But, though it was now got up with great care and expense, I believe, its pleasant nonsense seldom occasioned a renewed exhibition. It contained a procession of emblematic theatrical characters, in which Mrs. Siddons appeared in a triumphal car as the Tragic Muse.

On the 26th of November, Mrs. Siddons played the part of Mrs. Lovemore, in Murphy's comedy of “The Way to keep Him;" a piece that is tolerably humorous, but very absurd, in its pretensions to moral meaning respecting the secret of preserving connubial happiness. Mrs. Lovemore, young, beautiful, and amiable, but of a serious temper, somewhat inclined to be sombrous, has to lament the estrangement of a husband, who seldom either dines or sleeps at home. The news that he spent his evenings at the house of a handsome widow, Mrs. Belmour, is first babbled by a footman to a waiting-maid, and by her duly whispered to Mrs. Lovemore. To the suspected syren widow the forlorn wife repairs, introduces herself, though a stranger, and implores her not to rob her of her husband's society. The widow Belmour swears, as she can conscientiously, that she knows no such person as Mr. Lovemore, but she is receiving, as she conceives, the honourable addresses of an unmarried gentleman, Lord Etheridge, though, in due time, it turns out that her wooer has been wearing a false title, and that my

lord and Mr. Lovemore are one and the same worthy person.

On this discovery, she of course discards Lord Etheridge, but

even

contracts a friendship for the injured wife, and puts her upon a plan for recovering her partner's “lost affections." It may puzzle the moralist to anticipate what human means are to se. cure the affections of such a vagrant as Lovemore; who, in the course of the play, utters not one word of truth, except when he tells Sir Brilliant Fashion “ we are both rascals !” The widow Belmour advises his wise to rally her husband,to pique his jealousy a little ; but at all events to be sprightly and joyous. In the sad reality of life, such a receipt for recovering stolen or strayed affections would, in all probability, be about as effective as advertising a reward for them by the town-crier. But they manage things better on the stage. The widow's counsel effects its end; and the piece ends happily.

The character of Mrs. Lovemore, though she is ultimately called on to assume hilarity, is thus, in the main, serious and pathetic; and in so far it was appropriate to Mrs. Siddons : but it was complained of, and I fear with justice, that she made the injured wife too tragic for comedy. The contemporary diurnals, indeed, almost unanimously pronounced her Mrs. Lovemore to be a total failure. In so far they contradicted them. selves that they allowed she got some applause ; but they dressed their friendly regrets in the deepest mourning of language, and talked with solemn imagery of Mrs. Siddons's descent from the tragic throne, and of her appearing as the discrowned Queen of Tragedy by the side of Mrs. Farren, who was courtesying to far louder applauses than any that greeted the Siddons. It should have occurred to them, that if she did quit the tragic throne for a night, there was nobody to step up to it in her place. At the same time, it must be owned, that in the field of Comedy she gathered no laurels.

On the 27th of December, 1785, she gave birth to her second son, George. How fleeting is human life! I remember this son of Mrs. Siddons as freshly as if we had met but yesterday. He was then a youth about fourteen, and I recollect, when we sat together in the theatre, being struck by his sensibility at the sight of his mother's acting. About the third part of a century has since elapsed. George Siddons is now a grandfather, and has been thirty years in India, where he has made his fortune. His eldest daughter is married to the celebrated oriental scholar, Mr. Wilson, of Oxford.

The very day after her appearance as Mrs. Lovemore, Covent Garden lost its best actor, and the British stage one of its brightest ornaments, by the death of Henderson. He was la. mented by all who knew him, and by none more than by Mrs.

Siddons, who was bound to him by gratitude for his prediction of her greatness. She volunteered her services to his family ; and on the 26th of February, 1786, she played Belvidera for their benefit, at Covent Garden, which was then the more splendid of the two houses, and capable of greater receipts. Mr. Pope was her Jaffer, and Aickin played Pierre.

[1786.) During this season she appeared in March, as the heroine, in Delap's “ Captives,"* and Mrs. Hannah More's “ Percy.”+ If I were asked why she condescended to act in two such miserable tragedies, I should answer, that she had no power of rejecting any part in a play that was accepted by the managers ; and that if she had even possessed such a royal veto, its exercise might have been unsafe and invidious.

For her first benefit, this season, she played Hermione, in the “ Distressed Mother;" preferring, in this instance, the part of the violent heroine to that of the amiable Andromache, which was performed by her sister, Miss Kemble. I

I am not surprised at her preference of the more vehement character; for the conscientious Distressed Mother is rather an insipid personage. She is the only character in the tragedy that is not in love, and yet the only one that escapes with good fortune. Hermione, on the contrary, engrosses all the little interest of the play, at least in its English shape. In the French original, the sparkling graces of Racine's language partially atone to us for the thinness of his incidents, and the want of strength in his story. But the spirit of his style evaporates in the Englishman's transfusion of it into blank verse. Nevertheless, in the translation itself, though Orestes and the Widow of Hector are but dull worthies, some interest is left in Hermione. In the agony of her struggle to overcome her fondness for Pyrrhus, and to bestow it on Orestes, there is a strongly condensed utterance of passion in her words,

“ And, if I've power o'er my own heart, 'tis his ;" and her turning round upon Orestes, with indignation and ab

* The tragedy of “ The Captives" was acted March 9, 1786. Erragon, Prince of Sora, Smith; Connal, King of Morven, Barrymore; Hidallan, Bensley; Malvina (the wife of Erragon), Mrs. Siddons ; Minla (her Friend), Miss Keinble.

+ “ Percy was acted March 25. Percy, Palmer; Douglas, Kemble ; Raby, J. Aickin; Hubert, Packer; Elwina, Mrs. Siddons ; Bertha, Mrs. Ward.

Cast of parts in “ The Distressed Mother," as it was acted at Drury Lane, March 4, 1786. Orestes, Smith; Pyrrhus, Palmer; Hermione, Mrs. Siddons; Andromache, Miss Kemble.

horrence at the murder which he has committed at her bidding, is at once poetically just and dramatically striking.

In the scene where Hermione commands Orestes to commit the murder, Mrs. Siddons was memorably impressive. The heroine says to her suitor,

*Haste to the temple ; Haste, prince, and sacrifice him.

Orestes,

" Whom?'

Hermione.

Why, Pyrrhus !

Mrs. Siddonis, at that word, disengaged her train from the upholding attendant, and pronounced the name of Pyrrhus with an emphasis that thrilled the remotest auditor.

I am surprised at Mr. Boaden's affirming that, when this tragedy first came out, the writer of the Spectator used the little disingenuous art of totally concealing its French origin. That writer speaks of having seen “ The Distressed Mother" performed; and, at the first performance, it was ushered in by a prologue from the pen of Steele, in which direct notice is taken of its being a translation :

“ This piece, presented in a foreign tongue,

When France was glorious and her monarch young.”. After Steele’s prologue had thus publicly advertised the fact, the Spectator would have been out of his wits if he had thought of concealing it; and, indeed, he says nothing inconsistent with the supposition that it was commonly known. Phillips avowed himself Racine's translator in the first copy of the play that he published.

For her second benefit, this season, Mrs. Siddons played Ophelia.* Having never seen her in the character, I must own that I cannot speak of her performance of it without some doubt. On the one hand, Mr. Boaden says that she made it deeply affecting ; and the criticism of the press generally concurs in extolling her performance of it, which makes it likely that there was a corresponding feeling in the public mind. It is also a striking circumstance, that her fellow-actress, who played the Queen, in “ Hamlet,” was so electrified by the Siddons's looks, when she seized her arm, that she hesitated, and

* May 15, 1786. Hamlet, Kemble ; the Ghost, Bensley.

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