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in the style, and outrageous sentimentality in the portraiture of character.
The resolution of Rolla to stop among his enenries, though he knows that they will burn him alive, rather than kill a snoring sentinel, is extravagantly unnatural; and so are fifty other circumstances that could be pointed out. I am even free to own, that the piece, to a great extent, owed its fortune to scenery, music, and processions.* But, the more I look at Kotzebue's faults, the more I am inclined to give him credit for a certain liveliness in dealing with the fancy, that pleases us in spite of them. We all remember that “ Pizarro” had an imposing effect upon every spectator, from the king to the com
Its attractiveness was felt universally. Nor do I believe that all the pageantry in the world could have wrought so powerfully on the senses, if the piece had not possessed something intrinsically animating. Its subject was new and peculiarly fortunate. It brought the adventures of the most romantic kingdom of Christendom into picturesque combination with the simplicity and superstitions of the transatlantic world; and gave the imagination a new and fresh empire of Paganism, with its temples, and rites, and altars, without the stale associations of pedantry. I think, if Homer had lived in our own days, he would have laid his scenes in South America.
At first, I believe, Mrs. Siddons by no means liked the character of the camp-follower, Elvira, but she certainly raised it into respectability; and it is remarkable that, with the exception of Mrs. Haller, she never performed any character originally that she rendered half so popular. · Very different was the impression produced by the next new piece that greeted the winter of 1800, and in which our great actress bore a part; namely, the tragedy of “ Adelaide,” by Mr. Pye. The poet laureate's drama had not the hundredth part of the positive faults of that of Kotzebue ; but it had the irredeemable negative fault of lacking interest.
On the 29th of April, Mrs. Siddons performed a new part,
* Cast of parts: Elvira, Mrs. Siddons ; Rolla, Kemble ; Alonzo, C. Kemble ; Pizarro, Barrymore; Ataliba, Powell; Las Casas, J. Aickin ; Orozembo, Dowton; Valverde, R. Palmer; Old Blind Man, Cory ; Boy, Master Chatterley ; Sentinel, Holland; Cora, Mrs. Jordan.
Boaden says, in his Life of Kemble, that Sheridan was miserably anxious about the success of “Pizarro," on the night of its representation. He was sufficiently miserable about Mrs. Jordan's inability to speak a line of the part of Cora;. but he also dreaded that Mrs. Siddons would not fall in with his notion of Elvira. The actress agreeably surprised him.
with truth, in his preface, that he had written th fore he had read “The Robbers” of Schiller ; an of telling a dreadful story, he has certainly no r the German poet. The plot of “ The Castle founded on a horrible fact, which was discovered France, in 1783, namely the confinement of man in a domestic dungeon by his own family. ley's play we find the young Count de Montva itary castle, married only a few days before to whose character is meant to be the model of hu She is tender, intrepid, gentle, submissive, and y resolute. But, with all this compound of virtue the young Count is ill at ease in his stately m circumstance of his having some time previous own father in a subterraneous apartment, pre was dead, while in reality he had buried hin solves, on pretence of business, to repair to F fide the keys of a whole wing of the castle, a dungeon in which his sire is confined, to one who is a sharer in his crime. His lady, wh of her, expresses a desire to have a sight of in their habitation ; but he conjures her to d shut-up wing till he should return. No warning from his wife's curiosity, instead into Lapont's hand, he carelessly leaves th vellous neglect, upon a table, at his de snatched up by his countess's waiting-m them to her mistress, together with terri part of the house to which those key haunted by a ghost, who groaned and spa in his way. This tempting circumstance to console her chagrin for her lord's der one of the haunted chambers. She ta steward of the house, who is frightene places him as a sentinel at the outside though no comic effect is in least to my imagination, steward is so fearful i cordial liquor from his fast asleep. Meanw! Marquis of Vaublanc: (friend to the Matilda (in the Cour
to seek do the cost
fo form, in the nation my
a crowded woull disordere
owell ; Las Casas, J. A lways the Drury Lane
er; Old Blind Man, Cory
Cora, Mrs. Jordan.
on the night of its reagrees99196
as the Lady Jane, in Joanna Baillie's tragedy of “ De Montfort.” I have already adverted to the surprising fact, that dramas, which we peruse in our libraries with little interest, have sometimes been made, by fine acting, most attractive on the stage. The works of Joanna Baillie afford at least one instance of a perfectly converse nature. They will be read with pleasure as long as our language lasts, and yet they have never acquired popularity in the theatre.
To account for this fact, an indiscreet admirer of this poetess would probably resort to the plausible topics of a degenerate public taste, as well as of the enormous size of our theatres, and the pageantry required for filling the stage, which, undoubtedly, diverts the mind from attention to more spiritual charms ; but I have too much respect for Joanna Baillie's genius to form any estimate of it on questionable grounds. She brought to the drama a wonderful union of many precious requisites for a perfect tragic writer ;-deep feeling, a picturesque imagination, and, except where theory and system misled her, a correct taste, that made her diction equally remote from the stiffness of the French, and the flaccid flatness. of the German school: a better stage style than any that we have heard since the time of Shakspeare, or, at least, since that of his immediate disciples.
But, to compose a tragedy that shall at once delight the lovers of poetry and the populace, is a prize in the lottery of Fame which has literally been only once drawn during the whole of the last century, and that was by the author of * Douglas,” He, too, wrote several tragedies that were sheer blanks. Scott and Byron themselves both failed in dramatic composition. It is evident, therefore, that Melpomene demands on the stage something, and a good deal more than even poetical talent, rare as that is. She requires a potent and peculiar faculty for the invention of incident adapted to theatric effect;a faculty which may often exist in those who have not been bred to the stage, but which, generally speaking, has seldom been shown by any poets who were not professional players. There are exceptions to the remark, I know, but there are not many. If Shakspeare had not been a player, he would not have been the dramatist that he is.
If Joanna Baillie had known the stage practically, she would never have attached the importance which she does to the development of single passions in single tragedies; and she would have invented more stirring incidents to justify the passion of her characters, and to give them that air of fatality
which, though peculiarly predominant in the Greek drama, will also be found, to a certain extent, in all successful tragedies. Instead of this, she contrives to make all the passions of her main characters proceed from the wilful natures of the beings themselves. Their feelings are not precipitated by circumstances, like a stream down a declivity, that leaps from rock to rock; but, for want of incident, they seem often like water on a level, without a propelling impulse.
If, in speaking thus freely of a much regarded contemporary, I should seem indelicate, let it be remembered that Mrs. Siddons's performance of Jane de Montfort is no uninteresting part of the great actress's history; and that, having to deal with the subject, I could not but speak candidly : for, if I took sincerity out of these pages, what value would be left in them?
Joanna Baillie's first two tragedies were regarded by the reading world as the sweetest strains that hailed the close of the eighteenth century. John Kemble thought that “De Montfort” would suit the stage ; and his acting in the piece, as well as Mrs. Siddons's, was amazingly powerful. Every care was taken that it should receive scenic decoration. Capon painted a very unusual pile of scenery, representing a church of the fourteenth century, with its nave, choir, and side aisles, magnificently decorated, and consisting of seven planes in succession. In width this extraordinary elevation was about 56 feet, 52 in depth, and 37 in height. It was positively a building.
“De Montfort” had a run of eleven nights. The accounts of its reception are discrepant; but its representation has been, at all events, infrequent. It was brought out again in 1821, when Kean played the part of De Montfort very ably. I shall never forget that performance. There was a vast audience ; among whom, I dare say, not threescore persons were personally acquainted with the author of the play. But the poetical character of her who had painted the loves of Count Basil and Victoria was not forgotten; and there was a deep and placid attention paid to “ De Montfort” that might have led you to imagine every one present was the poetess's friend. There was so much silence and so much applause, that, though I had had misgivings to the contrary, I was impressed at the end with a belief that the play had now acquired, and would henceforth for ever retain, stage popularity. But when I congratulated Kean on having rescued “De Montfort,” he told me that, though a fine poem, it would never be an acting play. If I were asked how I can call poetry beautiful which adapts