James Fitzjames Stephen.

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relished them all. This full, rough, yet fraity
wine, brings back that first season of Londoa
life, when topics seemed exhaustless as words
and coloured with rainbow hues ; when Irish
students, fresh from Trinity College, Dablia,
were not too loud or familiar to be bone;
when the florid fluency of others was only tir^
some as it interrupted one's owa ; when the
vast Temple Hall was not too large or too cold
for sociality; and ambition, dilating in the
venerable space, shaped dreams of enterprise,
labour, and glory, till it required more wine to
assuage its fervours. This taste of a liqaor,
firm yet in body, though tawny with yean,
bears with it to the heart that hour when, hav-
ing returned to my birth-place, after a long and
eventful absence, and having been cordially
welcomed by my hearty friends, I slipped
away from the table, and hurried, in the light
of a brilliant sunset, to the gently decHning
fields and richly wooded hedgerows which were
the favourite haunt of my serious boyhood.
The swelling hills seemed touched with ethe-
real softness; the level plain was invested
" with purpureal gleams ;" every wild rose and
stirring branch was eloquent with vivid recol-
lections : a thousand hours of happy thoogfal*



*OId Port wine is more ancient to the iroaginatios
than any other, though in ihct it may have beenknowa
fewer years; as a broken Uothic arch has moie of ths
spirit of antiquity about it than a Grecian temple. Port
reminds us of the obscure middle ages; but Hock, Ukf
the classical mythology, is always youiiff.



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THE WINE CELLAR.



lis



IUmss came bick upon the heart; and the
glorioas elouds which fringed the western ho-
rizon looked prophetic of golden years ''pre-
destined to descend and bless mankind." This
soft, highljT-flaTonred Port, in every drop of
which yon seem to taste an aromatic flower,
rerives that delicions evening, when, aAer
dajTS of search for the tale of Rosamond Grey,
of which I had indistinctly heard, I returned
firom an obscure circulating library with my
prize, and brought opt a long-cherished bottle,
firen me two years before as a cariosity, by
way of accompaniment to that quintessence of
imaginative romance. How did I enjoy, with
a strange delight, its scriptural pathos, like a
newly discovered chapter of the Book of Ruth ;
hang enamoured over its young beauty, love-
her for the antique frame of language in which
it was set ; and long to be acquainted with the
aotbor, thoug:h I scarcely dared aspire so high,
and little anticipated those hundreds of happy
evenings since passed in his society, which
BOW crowd oa me in rich confusion !— Thus
is it that these subtlest of remembrancers not
only revive some joyfbl season, but this also
'contains a glass which shows us many
■ore," unlocking the choicest stores of memo-
ry, that cellar of the brain, in which lie the
treasures which make life precious.
^ But see ! our party have seated themselves
beneath that central arch to enjoy a calmer
pleasure aAer the fatigues of their travel. They
look romantic as banditti in a cave, and good-
humoured as a committee of aldermen. A
cask which has done good service in its day-»
the shell of the evaporated spirit — serves for a
table, round which they sit on rude but ample
beoehes. The torches planted in the ground
east a broad light over the scene, making the
niddy wine glisten, and seeming, by their irre-
gular flickering, as if they too felt the influence
of the spot My friend, usually so gentle in
his convivialities, has actually broken forth
into a song, such as these vaults never heard ;
our respected senior sits tr]ring to preserve
his solemn look, but unconsciously smiling ;

and Mr. B- ^1, the founder of the banquet, is

sedulously doing the honours with only in-
tenser civility, and calling out for fresh store



of ham, sandwiches, and broiled mushroomsi
to enable us to do justice to the liquid delica*
cies before us. The usual order of wines is
disregarded; no aflected climax, no squeamish
assortments of tastes for us here ; we despise
all rules, and yield a sentimental indulgence to
the aberrations of the botUe. ** Riches fine-
less" are piled around us ; we are below the
laws and their ministers; and just, lo! in the
farthestglimmerof the torches lies outstretched
our black Mercury, made happy by our leav-
ings, and seeming to rejoice that in the cellar,
as in the grave, all men are equal.

How the soul expands from this narrow ceL
and bids defiance to the massive walls ! What
Elysian scenes begin to dawn amidst the dark-
ness ! Now do I understand Che glorious tale
of Aladdin and the subterranean gardens. It
is plain that the visionary boy had discovered
just such a cellar as this, and there eagerly
learned to gather amaranthine fruits, and
range in celestial groves till the Genius of the
Ring, who has sobered many a youth, took
him in charge, and restored him to common
air. Here is the true temple, the inner shrine
of Bacchus. Feebly have they understood the
attributes of the benignant god, who have re-
presented him as delighting in a garish bower
with clustering grapes ; here he rejoices to sit,
in his true citadel, amidst his mightier trear
sures. Methinks we could now, in prophetic
mood, trace the gay histories of these imbodied
inspirations among those who shall feel them
hereaAer ; live at once along a thousand lines
of sympathy and thought which they shall
kindle; reverse the melancholy musing of
Hamlet, and trace that which the bunghole*
stopper confines to ** the noble dust of an Alex-
ander," which it shall quicken ; and peeping
into the studies of our brother contributors,
see how that vintage which flushed the hills
of France with purple, shall mantle afresh in
the choice articles of this Magazine.

But it is time to stop, or my readers will
suspect me of a more recent visit to the cellar.
They will be mistaken. One such descent is
enough for a life ; and I stand too much it,
awe of the Powers of the Grave to ventnra
again so near to their precincts.



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"1



116



TALFOURD^ lUBCELLAlfEOUB WRTTINGa



ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE BRUNSWICK
THEATRE BY FHtE.



[New Mortblt Maoasihe.]



Ws notice this lamentable accident in our
dramatic record, not for the sake of inquiry
into its causes, or of multiplying the dismal
associations which it awakens, but for the
striking manner in which it has brought out
the proper virtues of players. Actors of all
ranks; managers of all interests; the retired
and the active ; the successful and the obscure ;
the refined and the vulgar; from Mrs. Siddons
down to the scene-shifters of Sadler's Wells,
have pressed forward to afibrd their sympathy
and relief to the living sufferers. The pro-
prietors of the patent theatres, who were just
complaining of the infringements on their pur-
chased rights, which have rendered them
almost valueless, at once forgot the meditated
injury to themselves, and saw nothing but the
misery of their comrades. It is only on occa-
sions such as these that the charities which
are nurtured amidst the excitements and vi-
cissitudes of a theatrical life are exhibited, so
as to put the indiscriminate condemnations of
the crabbed moralist and the fanatic to shame.
There is more equality in the distribution of
goodness and evil than either of these classes
imagine; for the '* respectable" part of the
community are powerful and permanent ; and
obtain, perhaps, something more than justice
for the negative virtues. Tar be it from us to
undervalue these, or to sympathize with any
who would represent the ordinary guards and
fences of morality as things of little value;
but justice is due to all ; and justice, we cannot
help thinking, is scarcely done to those whose
irregulanties and whose virtues grow together
on that verge of ruin and despair on which
they stand in the times of their giddiest eleva-
tion. A cold observance of the decencies of
life excites no man's envy and wounds no
man's self-love; and, therefore, it is allowed
without grudging; while the dazzling errors
and redeeming nobleness of the light-hearted
and the generous are more easily abused than
copied. To detect " the soul of goodness in
things evil," is not to confound evil with good,
or to weaken the laws of honour and con-
science, but to give to them a finer precision
and a more penetrating vigour. It is not by
distinguishing, but by confounding, that perni-
eious sentimentalists pervert the understanding
and corrupt the aflections. They lend to vice
the names and attributes of virtue ; tack toge-
ther qualities which could never be united in
nature ; and thus, in order to produce a new
and startling effect, deprave the moral sensibi-
lity, and relax the tone of manly feeling. But
it is another thing to hold the balance fairly
between the excellencies and the frailties of
imperfect men ; to trace the hints and indica*
tions of high emotion amidst the weaknesses
of our nature; to consider temptations as well



as transgressions, and to estimate not only
what is done but what is resisted. We cai,
indeed, do this but partially, yet we should, u
far as possible, dispose ourselves to be jost ia
our moral censures ; and we shall find in those
whom we call ** good for nothing people," more
good than we think for. Actors are, no doubt,
more liable to deviate from the ordinary pro-
prieties of conduct, than merchants oragrieol-
turists ; it is their business to give pleasure to
others, and, therefore, they most incline to the
pleasurable ; they live in the present, and it is
no wonder that, as their tenure is more preca-
rious than that of others, they take less thought
for the future. But if they have less of
the virtue of discretion, they have also less of
that alloy of gross selfishness to which it is
allied; they have much of the compassion
which they help to diffuse ; and ludicroas u
their vanities sometimes are, they give way at
once on the touch of sympathy for unmerited*
or merited sorrow. Mr. Kean is an extreme
instance, perhaps, both oflmprudence and ge- '
nerosity ; and accordingly no man living has
been treated with greater injustice by a mora!
and discerning public Raised in a moment
from obscurity and want to be the idol of the
town ; courted, caressed, and applauded by the
multitude, praised by men of genius, with rank,
beauty, and wit, proud to be enlisted in his
train, he grew giddy and fell, and was booted
from the stage with brutal indignities. All
knew his faults ; but how few were capable of
understanding his virtues — his princely spirit,
his warm and cordial friendship, his pronenesi
to forget his own interests in those of others,
his magnanimity and his kindness! The
** respectable" part of the community do not
engross all its goodness, although they turn it
to the best account for their own benefit Un-
der the shield of this character, they sometimes
do things which the vagabonds they sneer at
would not, and could not achieve ; and such is
the submission of mankind to custom, that they
retain their name even when they are detected.
An attorney, in large practice, convicted of a
fraud, retains the addition " respectable" till he
receives judgment ; the announcement of the
failure of a country bank, by which hundreds
are ruined, styles the swindlers ** the respecta-
ble firm ;" and a most respectable member of
the religious world speculates in hops, or in
stock, without reproach, and, when he has failed
for thousands, fraudulently gambled away,
continues to hold shilling whist in pious abo-
mination. We have been led to this train of
reflection by seeing in a newspaper the speech
of a most respectable Home Missionary, named
Smith, at the Mansion-house, in which he
exults in the horrible catastrophe as **thf
triumph of piety in London !" and this persoiw



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FIRST APPEARANCE OP MI88 FANNY KEMBLE.



117



BO doubt, regards the accidental mentioik of the
Bame of the Supreme Being on the stage as
blasphemy. It is difficult to express one's in*
dignation at ^ch a spirit and sach language
without wounding the feelings of those whose
opinions of the guilt of theatrical enjoyments
have not rendered them insensible to the feelings
of others.

It must be admitted that there is something
in the sudden death of actors which shocks us
peculiarly at the moment, because the contrast
between life and death seems more violent in
their case than in that of others. We connect
them, by the law of association, with our own
gayest moments, and fancy that they who live
to please must lead a life of pleasure. Alas !
the truth is of^en far otherwise. T*he comedian
droops behind the scenes, quite chapfallen ;
the tragic hero retires from his stately griefs to
brood over homely and familiar sorrows,
which no poetry soAens ; the triumphant ac-
tress, arrayed in purple and in pall, may know
the pangs of despised love, or anticipate the
commg on of the time when she shall be pre-
maturely old, and as certainly neglected. The
stage is a grave business to those who study it
even successfully, though its rewards are in-
toxicating enough to turn the most sober brain.
The professors in misfortune— especially such
a misfortune as this — ^have the most urgent
claims on our sjrmpathy. Should wd allow
those to be miserable who have so often made
«8 and thousands happy 1 Should we shut our



hearts against those who have touched them so
truly; who have helped to lighten the weight
of existence ; and have made us feel our kin*
dred with a world of sorrow and of tears 1 Their
art has the most sacred right to the protection
of humanity, for it touches it most nearly. It
makes no appeal to posterity ; it does not aim
at the immortal, in contempt of our perishable
aims and regards ; but it is contented to live in
our enjoyments, and to die with them. Its
triumphs are not diffused by the press, nor re-
corded in marble, but registered on the red-
leaved tablets of the heart, satisfied to date its
fame with the personal existence of its wit-
nesses. It forms a part of ourselves ; beats in
the quickest pulses of our youth, and supplies
the choicest topics of our garrulous age. It
partakes of our fragility, nay even dies before
us, and leaves its monument in our memories.
Surely, then, it becomes us " to see the players
well bestowed," when their gayeties are sud-
denly and prematurely eclipsed, and their short
flutterings of vanity stayed before their time ;
or to provide for those who depended on their
exertions. Of all people, they do most for re-
lations ; they hence most depend on them ;
and, therefore, their case both deserves and
requires our most active sympathy. The call
has been, in this instance, powerfully made,
and will, we hope, be answered practically
by all who revere the genius, and love the pro-
fession, and partake the humanity of Shak*
speare.



FIBST APPEARANCE OF MISS FANNY KEMBLE.

[New Morthlt Maoazhis.]



Whxk we predicted, last month, that if Co-
rent Garden theatre should be opened at all, it
would derive attraction even from the extreme
depression into which it had sunk, we had no
idea of the manner in which this hope would
be realized. We little dreamed that the cir-
cumstances which had threatened to render
this house desolate, would inspire female
genius to spring from the family whose ho-
nours were interwoven with its destiny, like
an infiint Minerva, almost perfect at birth, to
revive its fortunes and renew its glories. In
the announcement that, on the opening night,
Miss Fanny Kemble, known to be a young lady
of high literary endowments, though educated
without the slightest view to the stage as a
profession, would present herself as Juliet —
that her mother, who, in her retirement, had
been followed by the grateful recollections of
all lorers of the drama, would reappear, in the
part of Lady Capulet, to introduce and support
her; and that her father would imbody, for
the first time, that delightful creation of Shak-
apeare's happiest mood, Mercntio^there was
abundant interest to ensure a full, respectable,
and excited audience ; but no general expecta-



tion had gone forth of the splendid event which
was to follow. Even in our youngest days,
we never shared in so anxious a throb of ex-
pectation as that which awaited the several
appearances of these personages on the stage.
The interest was almost too complicated and
intense to be borne with pleasure ; and when
Kemble bounded on the scene, gayly pointed at
Romeo, as if he had cast all his cares and
twenty of his years behind him, there waa
a grateful relief from the first suspense, that
expressed itself in the heartiest enthusiasm we
ever witnessed. Similar testimonies of feel-
ing greeted the entrance of Mrs. Kemble ; but
our hearts did not breathe freely till the fair
debutant herself had entered, pale, trembling
but resolved, and had found encouragement
and shelter in her mother's arms. But another
and a happier source of interest was soon
opened ; for the first act did not close till all
fears for Miss Kemble's success bad been dis-
pelled ; the looks of every spectator conveyed
that he was electrified by the influence of new-
tried genius, and was collecting emotions, in
silence, as he watched its development, to
swell its triumph with fresh acclamations. Fo»



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118



TALFOURD'S BOSCELLANEOUS WRITINGS



•ar own part, the illusion tliat she was Shak-
apeare's own Juliet came so speedily upon us,
as to suspend the power of specific cnticism —
8o delicious was the fascination, that we dis-
liked even the remarks of by-standers that dis-
turbed that illusive spell ; and though, half an
hour before; we had blessed the applauding
bursts of. the audience, like omens of propi-
tious thunder, we were now half-impatient of
their frequency and duration, because they in-
truded on a still higher pleasure, and because
we needed no assurance that Miss Kemble*s
success was sealed.

Feeling that the occasion formed an era in
our recollections of the theatre, we compared
her, in our imagination, with all the great ac-
tresses we had ; and it is singular, though we
can allege nothing like personal likeness, that
Mrs. Joi^an was the one whom she brought
back, in the first instance, to our memory. We
might have set down this idea as purely fanci-
ful, if we had not learned that it has crossed
the minds of other observers. As form and
features seem to have nothing to do with this
reminiscence, we attribute it to the exquisite
naturalness of Miss Kemble's manner, and we
cannot help connecting it with an anticipation
that she will one day be as pre-eminently
the comic as the tragic muse of our stage.

Her traits of family resemblance struck us
most powerfully in the deeper and more earn-
est parts of her tragic performance. On one
occasion, when her face only was revealed by
her draper}', its intense expression brought
Mrs. Siddons most vividly back to us. Miss
Kemble's personal qualifications for her pro-
fession are, indeed, such as we might expect
from one so parented and related. Her head
is nobly formed and admirably placed on her
shoulders — her brow is expansive and shaded
by very dark hair— her eyes are full of a gifted
soul, and her features are significant of intel-
lect to a very extraordinary degree. Though
scarcely reaching the middle height, she is
finely proportioned, and she moves with such
dignity and decision that it is only on recollec-
tion we discover she is not tall. In boldness
and dignity of action she unquestionably ap-
proaches more nearly to Mrs. Siddons than any
actress of our time excepting Pasta. Her voice,
whilst it is perfectly feminine in its tones, is
of great compass, and though, perhaps, not yet
entirely within her command, gives proof of
being able to express the sweetest emotions
without monotony, and the sternest passions
without harshness. She seems to know the
stage by intuition, " as native there and to the
manner bom," and she understands even now,
by what magic we cannot divine, the precise
effect she will produce on the most distant spec-
tators. She treads the stage as if she had been
matured by the study and practice of years.
We dreamed for a while of being able to ana-
lyze her acting, and to fix in our memory the
finest moments of its power and grace ; but her
attitudes glide into each other so harmoniously
that we at last gave up enumerating how often
she seemed a study to the painter's eye and a
Tision to the poet's heart.

At the first sight. Miss Kemble's counte-
Mmce conveys an impression of extraordinary



intellect, and the manifestation of that fteil^
is a pervading charm of her acting. It gives
her courage, it gives her promptitude - -th0
power of seeing what is to be done, and ol
doing it without faltering or hesitation. 8hi
always aims at the highest efiect, and almos*
always succeeds in realizing her finest concep
tions.

The Juliet of Shakspeare is young and bean- '
tiful ; but no mistake can be greater tbaa the
idea that her character can be impersonated
with probability by a merely beautiful young
woman. Juliet is a being of rich imagination;
her eloquence breathes an ethereal spirit; and
her heroic devotedness is as different from
common-place romance, as superficial gilding
is unlike the solid ore. By many an observer,
the beautiful surface of her character is alone
appreciated, and not that force and grandeor
in it which is capable of sustaining itself in
harmony, not only with the luxuriant com-
mencement of the piece, but with the funeral
terrors of its tragic close. Hence the expec-
tation has been so often excited, that a lovely
girl, who can look the character very inno-
cently, and speak the garden-scene very pret*
tily, is quite sufficient to be a representative
of the heroine throughout ; and hence the same
expectation has been so often disappointei
The debutante may be often carried, witboot
apparent failure, through a scene or two, by
her beauty and pretty manner of love-makingi
but when the tragedy commences in earnest,
her intellectual expression sinks under it»
terrors, and she appears no more than a poof
young lady, driven mad with the vexation ol
love.

Far remote from this description is tht
Juliet of Miss Kemble. It never was our fo^
tune to see Mrs. Siddons in the part, but Miss
Kemble gives it a depth of tragic tone which
none of her predecessors whom we have seen
ever gave to iL Miss O'Neil, loth as we are
to forget her fascinations, used to lighten the
earlier scenes of the piece with some girlish
graces that were accused of being infantine*
Be that as it may, there were certainly a hno*
dred little prettinesses enacted by hundreds of
novices in the character, which attracted
habitual applauses, but which Miss Kemble at
once repudiated with the wise audacity of ge-
nius ; at the same time, though she blends not
a particle of affected girlishness with the part
of Juliet, her youth and her truth still leave in
it a Shakspearian naivety As the tragedy deep-
ens, her powers are developed in unison with
the strengthened decision of purpose which
the poet gives to the character. What a noble
effect she produced in that scene where the
Nurse, who had hitherto been the partner of
all her counsels, recommends her to marry
Paris, and to her astonished exclamation,
"Speak'st thou from thy heart 1" answers,
" And from my soul too, or else beshrew them
both." At that momentous passage Miss Kem^
ble erected her head, and extended her arm,
with an expressive air wthich we never saw
surpassed in acting, and with a power liln
magic pronounced •* Amen I" In that attitude
and look, and word, she made us feel that Jolietf
so late a nurseling, was now left alone in the



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THE MSLO-BRAMAS AGAINST GAMBUNG.



119



world— that iStkt child wms gone, and that the
heroic woman had begun her part. By her
change of tone and manner she showed that
her ^Birt was wonnd up to fnlfil its destiny,
and she bids the Nurse ** Go in," in a tone of
dignified command. That there was such a
elMLBge in Juliet we hare always felt, but to
Bark its precise moment was reserved for this
accomplished actress in a single tone.

It is hardly needless to say, that Mr. Kemble's
Merctttio was delightful, independent even of
the gallant spirit with which he carried off the
weight of his anxieties on the first evening. It
waa charmingly looked, acted, and spoken —



with only one little touch of baser matter ia



Online LibraryJames Fitzjames StephenCritical and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 29 of 83)