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a degree of over-precision into the part, and in the effort to analyse the sentiment, by giving a peculiar emphasis to every word of the sentence, the actor lost the effect which to be vehement should be instant and undivided. Sometimes also it happened that, in order to complete the details upon which he had determined, Kemble permitted the action to hang too long suspended, so that one well accustomed to his manner anticipated the effort which he was about to make, by observing something of preparation, which was like the warning, as it is called, given by some timepieces that they are about to strike the hour. There was also visible in Kemble's manner at times a sacrifice of energy of action to grace. We remember this observation being made by Mrs. Siddons herself, who admired her brother in general as much as she loved him. Nor shall we easily forget the mode in which she illustrated her meaning. She arose and placed herself in the attitude of one of the old Egyptian statues; the knees joined together, and the feet turned a little inwards. She placed her elbows close to her sides, folded her hands and held them upright with the palms pressed to each other. Having made us observe that she had assumed one of the most constrained and therefore most ungraceful positions possible, she proceeded to recite the curse of King Lear on his undutiful offspring in a manner which made hair rise and flesh creep, and then called on us to remark the addịtional effect which was gained by the concentrated energy which the unusual and ungraceful posture in itself implied.
Such imperfections as arise from over-study--and these showed themselves but occasionally, and never offensively--were the only faults we could discern in this great actor, and they were amply compensated by the justịce of his conception, the precision of his taste, the patience of his investigation, which left no point unconsidered, the firmness of his disposition, wbich would never be drawn from any point in which he considered himself as perfectly right.
Garrick, never timid but on the stage, would readily concede any point of taste to the audience, and illustrated in its fullest extent the maxim of the poet.
• The drama's laws, the drama's patrons give,
For those who live to please, must please to live.' Kemble, on the contrary, felt much more for the honour of his profession and the truth of the dramatic art, than for his own profit or quiet, and would have died on the breach rather than yield to the authority of the public in a point where he justly conceived himself a much better judge than they. Perhaps he carried this to extremity, when he insisted on pronouncing aches as a two-syllable word in the speech of Prospero.
"For this be sure to night thou shalt have achés.' Unquestionably the word was so pronounced in Queen Elizabeth's time. But then it was scarce worth quarrelling about 'so small a matter with the audience, and it would have been more prudent, perhaps, to have suffered the aitches to have quietly undergone the same transmutation into modern sound, as has befallen doubtless a hundred words in the language. We cannot, if we would, bring back the pronunciation of the Elizabethan age, and why should not this modern abridgment of a single syllable pass current with other alterations? But Kemble was too proud of his art to sacrifice even a grain of incense to unjust criticism. He was ready to hazard every thing in defence of the right reading of a word in Shakspeare. Night after night he menaced Caliban with uitches, and night after night was for so doing assailed by a party in the pit with a ferocity worthy of Caliban himself. One evening he felt himself, from indispoşition, unwilling to sustain the usual conflict, and on that occasion evaded a drawn battle by omitting the line entirely. It was curious enough to see how the critics, as he approached the place where they expected to hear the obnoxious line, resembled
greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start;'the puzzled countenances which they displayed as speech after speech was made without the expected game being roused;—and the blank look of disappointment when the close of the scene announced to them how Kemble had, for the evening, eluded their resentment without bending to their authority. This perseverance gained the day, but it was resented as obstinacy by not a few, and served to increase the discontent of the low-minded part of the audience against an actor who presumed to follow his own judgment rather than theirs.
We remember observing a similar instance of Kemble's attention to restore true readings astonishing a provincial audience. It occurred in the lines in Macbeth
Augurs, and understood relations, have,
The secret'st man of blood.' Performers had been in the habit of pronouncing the word magpies, though the blank verse halted for it. But Kemble resumed the proper pronunciation of magot-pies, with an emphasis which made the audience of a look around them in astonishment, scarcely trusting their ears, and marvelling how any species of augury could be derived from what they apprehended to be a stale pasty. Luckily they were diffident of their own judgment, and
only afforded the new reading their amazement, without presuming to dissent from it.
To return to the dramatic career of Mr. Kemble, we can only briefly say, that he speedily attained acknowledged pre-eminence in the tragic scene. There was none, indeed, worthy of being named as a competitor excepting Henderson, and the excellence of bis Falstaff, which we remember as a most wonderful exhibition, made all his other parts relish of sack and sugar. In many parts of which Kemble obtained possession, and which he played admirably, he has, nevertheless, been equalled or excelled. The ancients preferred the Richard of Garrick to that of the new actor, and many of the moderns give a like preference to Kean, particularly in the last two acts. Some obstacles, however, occurred from his own personal qualifications. We have said he could not appear ludicrous, and we must add that, from the noble effect of his countenance and figure, neither could he seem constitutionally villainous: he could never look the part of Richard, and it seemed a jest to hear him, whose countenance and person were so eminently fine, descant on his own deformity. He was, perhaps, sensible of this, for he used to argue that Richard III. being of high descent and breeding, ought not to be vulgar in his appearance or coarse in his cruelty. There certainly should prevail a tinge of aristocracy about the dramatic Richard, but it ought not to be of a generous or chivalrous character, or, whatever the figure of the historical Richard may have been, that of a handsome prince.
For the same reason Kemble was inferior both to Cooke and to Kean in Massinger's Sir Giles Overreach. That singular character is Richard in ordinary life, an extortioner and oppressor, confident in his art and in his audacity; but Kemble, when dressed for this part, reminded us of a dignified country gentleman of the ancient school an old courtier of the Queen's,' rather than a low-born, upstart, purse-proud tyrant, with impudence enough to glory in his base arts of extortion. He might say what ill he would of himself, the audience could not believe
In Lear, Kemble must, we think, have been decidedly inferior to Garrick. In Hamlet he was not more than the equal of Garrick, and a most formidable rival arose in his own time in Charles Young. But in Macbeth, Kemble has been as yet unapproachable; nor can we conceive that the bold and effective manner of Garrick, touching on the broad points of the character with a hand however vigorous, could at all compare with Kemble's exquisitely and minutely elaborate delineation of guilty ambition, drawn on from crime to crime, while the avenging furies
at once seoiurge him for former guilt, and urge him to further enormities. We can never forget the rueful horror of his look, which by strong exertion he endeavours to conceal, when on the morning succeeding the murder he receives Lennox and Macduff in the ante-chamber of Duncan. His efforts to appear composed, his endeavours to assume the attitude and appearance of one listening to Lennox's account of the external terrors of the night, while in fact he is expecting the alarm to arise within the royal apartment, formed a most astonishing piece of playing: Kemble's. countenance seemed altered by the sense of internal horror, and had a cast of that of Count Ugolino in the dungeon, as painted by Reynolds. When Macbeth felt himself obliged to turn towards Lennox and reply to what he had been saying, you saw him, like a man awaking from a fit of absence, endeavour to recollect at least the general tenor of what had been said, and it was some time ere he could bring out the general reply, • 'Twas a rough night.' Those who have
Those who have had the good fortune to see Kemble and Mrs. Siddons in Macbeth and his lady, may be satisfied they have witnessed the highest perfection of the dramatic art. There cannot have been, and we fear never will be, any. thing to compare to it. Their King John and Lady Constance are equally beyond imitation, and must be forgotten ere others can obtain an high degree of applause in these characters.
But it was not only in such parts as fell precisely within his line, and which he seemed to hold by birthright, that Kemble delighted the public. There were others, appearing to be beyond his proper territory, which he invaded, nevertheless, and conquered; amongst which was the character of the headlong and hasty Percy,
A bare-brained Hotspur, guided by a spleen.' One would have thought, a priori, that the grave, studious, contemplative actor, who personated Hamlet to the life, could scarcely have assumed the rapidity and energy, and hurry, and reckless indulgence of his humour, which are among the chief ingredients of Henry Percy's character. But Kemble's profound study of the author enabled him to seize on the distinguishing features of that great historical portrait. It cannot now be known whether Shakspeare gathered from tradition, or himself conferred on Hotspur the quality of
Speaking thick which'nature made his blemish.' But Kemble contrived to show how well that hurried and impeded articulation suited the irritability of the character. It was in the speech in which Hotspur loses the key-note of what he desires to say, by forgetting the name of a place
• In Richard's time—what do you call the place?
A plague upon it—'tis in Gloucestershire --
His uncle York.' Through all this confusion of mangled recollections Kemble chafed and tumbled about his words with the furious impatience of an angry man who has to seek for a pen at the very moment he is about to write a challenge, and is angry at himself and every one else because so petty a want impedes for a moment his thirst of vengeance. Then the delight with which he grasped at the word when suggested
*NORTHUMBERLAND. At Berkely Castle.—HOTSPUR. You say true.' The manner in which Kemble spoke these three words, and rushed forward into his abuse of Bolingbroke, like a hunter surmounting the obstacle which had stopped his career, was electrical. It was like a greyhound slipped-like a rocket lighted-like a bolt
from a cross-bow. The effect on the audience was singular. There was a general disposition to encore so fine a piece of art, as if such an effort could have been repeated like a song. The cause of this extraordinary mode of applause seems to have been, that there being no feelings excited by the speech, save admiration of the actor's exquisite skill, it seemed as if that had approached to an exhibition of ventriloquism, or some similar turn of address, which could be repeated on demand: whatever might be the cause, the impulse was general. : Henry V. was a favourite character of Kemble: Mr. Boaden says,
As a coup de théâtre, his starting up from prayer at the sound of the trumpet, in the passage where he states bis attempted atonement to Richard the Second, formed one of tbe most spirited excitements that the stage has ever displayed. His occasional reversions to the “ mad wag,". the “sweet young prince," had a singular charm, as the condescension of one who could be so terrible.'— Boaden, vol. ii. p. 8.
We agree entirely with what Mr. Boaden has here stated. It always struck us that the expression of self-satisfied humour which Kemble threw into his countenance, in anticipation of the expected scuffle which was to take place between Fluellen and Williams, came as far within the confines of a comic part, as nature had designed John Kemble to advance.
On the whole, however, tragedy, and that of the most stately and majestic character, was the line in which our departed friend was formed to excel, He himself entertained a less limited idea of his powers, and conceived that great study and knowledge of dramatic writing and of the human character could qualify a man as well for the sock as for the buskin. Towards a late period of