« PreviousContinue »
“ Think ere we part."
Moneses. “Of what ?"
“Of something soft, Tender, and kind of something wondrous sad. Oh! my full soul !”
“My tongue is at a loss. Thoughts crowd so fast,- thy name is all I've left. My kindest, truest, dearest, best Arpasia.”
[The Mutes struggle with him.
And rid me of my pain.".
[The Mules strangle MONESES.
Ye talkers ! what are all your precepts now?
After these words, it was Mrs. Siddons's part to feign a swoon, but she swooned in earnest. Clutching her drapery with convulsive fingers, she fell back so that her head was heard striking the stage, and her limbs were exposed, which at once made it palpable to the spectator that her fall was neither studied nor voluntary. In a moment there was a rush from the pit and boxes to inquire for her on the stage. It was long before she recovered from the fainting fit.
Palmer, for his benefit this season, got up a tragedy called “ The Queen of Carthage,” in which Mrs. Siddons performed the part of Dido. I have never been able to get a sight of this piece. It was printed, but the publication of it, according to the Biographia Dramatica, was stopped by the friends of its deceased author, Joseph Reed.* The son of the author, nevertheless, gave Palmer 100l. for reviving it, and Mrs. Siddons 501. to buy a new dress.
When she acted Millwood, in " George Barnwell,” Mrs. Siddons was generally alleged to have condescended to a part beneath her dignity. But, on the 2d of May, her performance of Agnes, in Lillo's "Fatal Curiosity,” was reckoned among her most wonderful exhibitions. An instance of her effect in that character was related to me by Mr. Young the actor, who had it from a spectator of her performance on that very night. The individual to whom I allude is Mr. Crabbe Robinson, a gentleman of the bar, and a scholar well known in the world of literature. He was a young man at the time, but he since states that in the course of a long life, he never felt such an impression from acting. When Mrs. Siddons, as Agnes, was asked by Old Wilmot how they should support themselves, and when she produced the jewels of their unknown son, giving a remote hint at the idea of murdering him, she crouched and slid up to Wilmot with an expression in her face that made the flesh of the spectator creep. Mr. Robinson said that from that inoment his respiration grew difficult, and in a few minutes he lost all command of himself. When the murder-scene approached, he laughed aloud, and there was a general cry in the pit to turn him out. The process of his ejectment was even begun, and he had received some harsh treatment, when a humane woman interposed, who saw and explained his real condition. He was in strong hysterics.
At the close of that same evening, Mrs. Siddons took a formal farewell for the season 1796-7, during which she acted Jane Shore twice.
* It was first acted at Drury Lane in 1767, with a Prologue by Garrick.
Mrs. Siddons performs Mrs. Haller, in “ The Stranger"-Loses ber
Daughter Maria-Plays Miranda, in a piece by Mr. Boaden ; and the i Countess, in Dr. Whalley's “ Castle of Montval”—Two Letters of Miss
Drury LANE Theatre opened again, as usual, in September; and, during the season 1797-8, Mrs. Siddons performed more than forty times. She appeared, however, only in two new parts. One of these was the grave and gentle Julia, in Sheridan's “Rivals,” which, though a character in comedy, is not a comic one. The other was Mrs. Haller, in “ The Stranger,” which she performed, at intervals, six-and-twenty times in the course of four months.
This play, which, as every one knows, is of German origin, has strong characteristics of its native country; the feelings and taste of which Kotzebue, as a writer, represents perhaps more faithfully than a certain portion of his own countrymen are disposed to allow. The refined Germans affect to deny that Kotzebue is an esteemed writer in their own language. A classic writer he may not be, but he is nevertheless a popular author; and his works have contributed to the popularity of German literature. I grant that he is coarse and crude, and that the sublime and the ridiculous, in his fancy, have a great tendency, like the serpent's head and tail, to coil together; but it seems to me that he has more genius and less immorality than his hypercritics on either side of the Baltic have been disposed to allow him.
The celebrated A. W. Schlegel has been very severe upon Kotzebue. In his Dramatic Lectures he denounces - 'I'he Stranger” as an absolutely immoral drama; and he has promulgated this humane law in stage ethics, that when a poor woman has once tarnished her character, she has nothing left for it but to die. She may be as penitent as she pleases-the more so the better. If her husband forgives her, she may be - a woman killed with kindness”—but die she must ; and, if the author and his audience, according to Schlegel, allow her to live out the fifth act, they are accessaries after the fact to her criminality. If I were not treating this matter lightly, I
could prove, I think, from the Bible itself, that this doctrine is not scriptural, and that it would be more Christian-like to bid the penitent “ go and sin no more.” But I am afraid that the stagyrite, Augustus Wilhelm Schlegel, wrote this diatribe on Kotzebue when he was under the influence of no very charitable feelings ; for the dramatist hated the critic, and there was no love lost between them.
Our English moralists in general took up the subject, with a sweeping condemnation of the character and literature of the nation from which the play of “ The Stranger” had come, and those were the loudest in the outery who were least acquainted with the honest Germans—a people who, in kindness of heart and domestic morality, yield to none on the face of the earth • always, of course, excepting ourselves. The true Englishman of that day, insulated by war, and inflamed by prejudices, thought it a part of his patriotism to hate and despise other countries; and he grew as fierce as an old bull at the apprehension of the Germans corrupting the purity of his taste and the innocence of his morals. Vehement was the outcry against Schiller for investing Charles de Moore with tragic honours; and care was taken to prevent the tragedy of “ The Robbers” from being acted, in the very theatres that had echoed applauses to Macheath. This prohibition, co-operating, it may be supposed, with the enclosure of commons, and our improvements in police, happily prevented Schiller's Muse from aug. menting our highway robberies.
Above all, the immaculate Londoners were bitter in their complaints against the seductive influence of this sentimental drama, “ The Stranger.”
• What are double entendres," says Mr. Boaden, * “ to that immorality which shocks us by no external signs, but insinuates itself into the bosom entirely, without defence, and in the disguise of sensibility.” In short, all true choleric English patriots denounced translations from the German as so many seeds of our own demoralization. “The characters of Charlotte and Werter," they used to say,
66 what are they but printed apologies for extra-connubial attachment ? Then we got from Germany Charles de Moore, glorifying robbery, and tempting our sons from the counting-house to Bagshot-heath. But what is even that to · The Stranger' inculcating the possibility that a married woman's elopement may be forgiven, and that she may make it up, after all, with her husband, with no more ado than if she had given him a
* Life of Mrs. Siddons, Vol. II.
M. S.3!zas performs z. HL, in "The Stranger -Loses ber
Daszkies Mana–Pass Vines, is a piece by W:. Boeden; and the
Datrs LASE Theatre opered again, as usual, in September; and, dining the season 1797-5, Mrs. Siddoas performed more than forty lines. Sie appeared, however, only in two new parts. One of these was the grave and gen:ie Julia, in Sheridan's - Risals," which, though a character in comedy, i3 not a comie cae. The o:ber was Mrs. Haller, in - The Stran. She ger," which she performed, at intervals, six-and-twenty times in the course of four months.
This play, which, as every one knows, is of German origin, has strong characteristics of its native country; the feelings and 4 Satin taste of which Kotzebue, as a writer, represents perhaps more". faithfully than a certain portion of his own countrymen are dis-arque in posed to allow. The refined Germans affect to deny that isag to Kotzebue is an esteemed writer in their own language. classic writer he may not be, but he is nevertheless a popular author; and his works have contributed to the popularity or that the sublime and the ridiculous, in his fancy, have a gredints aga German literature. I grant that he is coarse and crude, anche all. tendency, like the serpent's head and tail, to coil together; but the seems to me that he has more genius and less immorality thanden his hypercritics on either side of the Baltic have been dispos biens, bus to allow him. Kotzebue. In his Dramatic Lectures he denounces “las-som
The celebrated A. W. Schlegel has been very severe upolerie En Stranger” as an absolutely immoral drama; and he has Paper mulgated this humane law in stage eths, that when woman has once tarnished her chara he has not for it but to die. She may be as
is she more so the better. If her husb
hor " a woman killed with kindnes the author and his audience, to live out the fifth act, they her criminality. If I were