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and obtain a glimpse of futurity. Innumerable proofs of the utter impossibility of success, regularly reiterated in every succeeding age, have given a new direction to its developement, without eradicating a delusion that seems to be inherent in the constitution of our minds. Prophecies and predictions are so interwoven with our religion, that we easily fall into the mistake of supposing that they may be made influential upon the ordinary occurrences of life, not perceiving that we are arguing from the exception, instead of the rule which has been laid down for the moral government of the universe. Many of those who lend themselves to this superstition would revolt from the idea of being deemed Fatalists and Necessitarians; yet to this result, or to its own refutation, a belief in any sort of fortune-telling must inevitably tend ; for if we cannot, with all our efforts, avoid that future doom of which we have a foreknowledge, we admit the doctrine of Fatalism ; and if we can, we prove the fallacy of the prediction. To establish the futility of divination is, however, so much more easy than to abolish its influence, that it may be questioned whether the sturdiest disbeliever in profession be not sometimes a convert in his practice. An event foretold by our own minds when in the irrational state of sleep, or, in other words, a dream, is certainly much less likely to be confirmed than an oracle regularly delivered by the established seers or necromancers ; yet which of us ever dreamt that a certain number in the lottery was drawn a capital prize without buying it, or wishing to buy it, or at least noting it down in our pocket-book, that we might compare the result with the mysterious revelation? Hundreds of tickets are purchased every year upon the faith of this somnolent inspiration : if one at last succeeds, it is trumpeted through the town with all the goggleeyed credulity of gossips and gudgeons; nothing is said of the innumerable failures ; and men of otherwise good sense fall into the most fantastical fooleries and chimæras in the hope of discovering the lucky number by which they may enrich themselves in the next rotation of the wheel. By a singular perversion of reason, we use the most preposterous diligence to reduce to a certainty that which is essentially and in its very nature a matter of hazard, as if a game of chance could be otherwise than what it is. Dice, cards, and numbers, being infinitely precarious in their combinations, are precisely the elements from which they would construct a system of regular succession. Montaigne exclaims—“Oh! que celui qui fagoterait habilement un amas de toutes les âneries de l'humaine sapience dirait merveilles !"Such would be the wonders recorded by him who should collect and publish all the puerile and frivolous superstitions of gamesters.
In the earlier stages of the world it would seem as if nations could not be governed and kept in awe without some quackery of this sort. The Roman commonwealth, founded on a pretended miracle, and regulated by fabricated revelations in the Egerian Cave, was subsequently administered by Sibylline forgeries, and that systematic code of augury which became interwoven with every Pagan establishment.
That our fates should be made dependent upon the stars, planets, and constellations, however preposterous a conceit
, at least imparts a dignity to our 'nature by conjoining earth with Heaven ; but that the doom of kings, empires, and individuals, should be regulated by the flight of uncon
scious, birds, as expounded by sky-gazing augurs; or by the entrails of victims, as analysed by the butchers of Haruspicy; or by the four elements, as elucidated by holy impostors of various nations, is an evidence of stupid credulity that levels civilised man to the savage, and leaves him very little elevated above the beasts of the field. The practice of Paganism long survived its belief, so has that of Divination, unless we are to suppose that the young persons of the fair sex, and the old women of both, are serious proselytes to its efficacy when they submit the lines of their hand to Gipsy judgment, interpret the cabalistic writing of coffee or tea grounds in a cup, or determine their destiny by the casual upturnings of the cards. O the profound conception, that we should carry about with us in our palm a manual of futurity, have the whole book of fate engraved upon the narrow space between our four fingers and our thumb, and thus literally and truly make our life and destiny the work of our own hands! What is it to cram the Lord's Prayer and Belief into the narrow limits of a sixpence, when we may have the fortunes and adventures of three-score years and ten contracted into the compass of a single palm? He who said that man was an abridgment of the universe, uttered a fine idea, but how much finer to imagine this epitome of the world reduced to a handful, and thrust carelessly into one's breeches-pocket. O the bright conceit, that our horoscope should be revealed to us in a cup, and our fate be prefigured in the hieroglyphical writing of coffee-grounds and tea-leaves, or shuffled out to us in the oracular demonstrations of the four suits ! If it has been maintained that speech was given us to conceal our thoughts, it may be predicated, with equal assurance, that man was endowed with a reasoning mind to atone for the irrationality of his actions.
A faith in divination and fatalism can never want converts so long as it affords us a convenient scape-goat for our crimes and follies ; and who is there among us that does not lay this flattering unction to his soul whenever his pride or self-conceit are wounded. If we succeed in our undertakings, we very demurely assign the merit to our own talent, prudence, and forethought; if we fail, our bad luck bears all the blame of our bad conduct; we impute our own blindness to Fortune, and even make the heavens responsible if we happen to miss our way upon earth. “This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity, liars by a divine thrusting on, adulterers and drunkards by an enforced obedience of planetary influence." To this extent we are all superstitious alike; we admit the influence of the blind goddess upon one half of human destiny; we believe in her after an event has occurred, while we deride those who imagine that the same event could have been previously subject to her direction. We cheerfully stand sponsors to our virtues and successes, while we affiliate our vices and disasters upon any one that will father them.
There is one sense in which, without the inspiration of prophecy or the charge of imposture, we may reasonably and beneficially venture to indulge in the mystery of Fortune-telling. Knowing that, in the
established succession of human affairs, certain causes will produce correspondent effects, we may read the future in the past, and boldly predict that the spendthrift will come to want, the debauchee to premature decay, the idler to contempt, the gamester to bitterness of soul, if not to suicide, the profligate to remorse, and the violator of the laws to punishment; while we may as safely augur that the practice of the opposite virtues will be productive of results diametrically contrary. Human passions, the great elements of change, being the same in all ages, and nations being but an aggregate of individuals, we may in like manner ascend from particular cases to mighty empires, and deduce the revolutions that are to be from those that have been. All states have their birth, manhood, and death; their increase, renown, and decay; their morning, noon, and night. Nature ever works in a circle, more or less large according to circumstances and the materials it has to embrace; but she invariably fills up the round of destiny, and then begins afresh, recommencing but to end, and ending but to recommence. Here we may prophesy upon a large scale, though we cannot live to see the fulfilment of our prognostications. He, however, may be confirmed at no very distant day, who predicts that Rome, the immortal city, the mistress of the world, will lay its proud head in the dust with Tyre and Sidon, and Palmyra and Jerusalem, and Nineveh and Babylon. The depopulation of another century will reduce her inhabitants to a handful of men, whom the increasing mal-aria will presently sacrifice or disperse ; wolves will, finally, range over the silent waste of the Seven Hills as freely as before the time of Romulus and Remus ; the marble temples will sink into the infectious marshes that surround them; and if there be one stone left upon another, it should be that which covers the tomb of the Cardinal de St. Onuphrio, and bears the following inscription, as applicable to the City as the Saint :-" Hic jacet umbra-cinis—nihil !"
SONNET.-THE SUNLESS SUMMER,
AH! sunless Summer! thou indeed dost seem
Like my sad youth, o'ercast with clouds and gloom;
There is no brightness in thee, and my bloom
Of hope shines forth, the prospect to illume
'Tis a deceitful promise, for my doom
Yes, joyless season! thou like me art cold,
My days, like thine, in dreary course have rolld,
FRENCH COMIC ACTORS.
The two most entertaining actors in the world, and in their way the most perfect, are scarcely known at all in England, even by those of our countrymen who pretend to be acquainted with Paris and its theatres, and who talk of Talma as familiarly as if they were in the habit of taking tickets at his benefit. But the theatre these actors perform at is one which is not the fashion for the English to attend; for no other reason, that I could ever discover, but that it is incomparably the most amusing theatre in Paris. Though another reason, why these admirable actors are not so much sought after by foreigners, may be, that they generally perform in pieces the comic effect of which chiefly depends on those local circumstances, or passing events of the day, about which foreigners can be expected to feel but little interest, and the drift of which is also conveyed in dialogue consisting of language almost entirely idiomatical, and filled with allusions and turns of expression that can be known to, and therefore thoroughly relished by, natives alone.
But even this reason is a very indifferent one ; for (to say nothing of the witnessing of any one of these pieces being invaluable as a lesson in the language, and worth a score of the best that can be got
in other way for love or money) the actors I speak of are- -the one so miraculously true to nature, and the other so irresistibly comic in every tone, look, and motion, that it is scarcely necessary to understand what they say, to be infinitely amused and delighted with them. But our countrymen, being all“ sage, grave men," choose to pay their eight or ten francs to be permitted to sleep away their evening over a solemn farce, yclept a tragedy, in a première loge of the Théatre Français, or in hearing, without listening to, that still less amusing enormity, a grand opera at the Académie de Musique,-when they might, for thirty sous, be laughing away three or four hours (for Í defy them to help laughing, whether they understood or not) in the pit of the prettiest little theatre in Paris, witnessing as many different pieces, each unlike all the rest in character, and yet each as light as a feather, as lively as a jig, and as gay as a May.day garland ; and each performed by actors most of whom are admirable in their respective lines, and two of them, in particular, absolutely unique. It is of these two that I am about to speak; and I must mention their names before the reader will know who I mean—which should not be: the names and qualities of Brunet and Potier ought to be known every where, if it were only to place as a set-off against those of another set of French actors, not a tenth part so clever or respectable, with whose performances the stage of Europe is at present ringing from side to side. And to shew the just manner in wbich each set is appreciated in France, I may add, that the Parisians would scarcely consent to part with the former, even if, by so doing, they could get rid of the latter. Indeed, the farce of Potier and Brunet is almost capable of making them forget, if not forgive, that of Chateaubriand and Louis XVIII. : if it had
not, I don't know what would have become of the Bourbons by this time!-Or rather, I do know.
Brunet and Potier are as unlike each other as they are unlike all other aetors. Each is " himself alone,” and dependent on nothing but
himself for support-not even on his character. · And yet neither can be seen to the best advantage except when he is performing with the other ;--which is singular, because there is evidently a spirit of rivalry between them, and each would, and in fact does, carry away the whole of the applause and attention at the moment he is speaking, and no part of the audience seem to feel that there is any other claimant before them, till he has done. But the moment he has done, and it comes to the other's turn to be heard, he (whichever it may be) is all in all, and his rival nothing. The way in which the ball of fun is thus kept up between them, for a whole scene, or even a whole piece, is as remarkable as it is amusing. I have gone to the Théâtre des Variétés night after night, for weeks together-solely to see these two actors perform; and without pretending to be familiar with half the turns of expression, or to understand half the allusions, on which the joke of the moment has depended, I have never been so much entertained by the performances of any other comic actors whatever-not even the best of our own: which proves to me that it must depend almost entirely on the actors themselves, and not on any thing that they may have to deliver. If they happen to be performing a witty or a humorous part, you laugh at the wit and humour of the part, as well as at their performance of it. But if they have nothing to do, they make as much out of that as if it were ready made to their hands-provided the character they perform be not directly opposed to their different styles ; -which, indeed, they take care shall never be the case; for they have the power, in this respect, all in their own hands. As a proof of their complete self-dependence, one of the pieces in which, when it was in vogue, they were the most irresistibly amusing, (Je fais mes Farces,) is the most absolute and unmixed nonsense, from beginning to end, that ever was penned ;--if indeed it ever was penned ; but to see these two actors perform in it, one would be tempted to suppose that their parts, at least, were left blank, and that they filled them up with any thing that came into their heads at the moment.
On the other hand, (and this, more than any thing else, proves the rich and sterling talent they possess,) when by accident they have any thing to perform that really deserves the name of a character, they do it in the most rich, and yet the most chaste and unexaggerated manner.
Though Potier must, I believe, be considered as the greater favourite of the two,—if a distinction of this kind must be made,—yet Brunet deserves the first particular mention, on account of his long standing, as well as the class of his performances—inasmuch as the ability to give a pure and simple imitation of nature, is a more rare and valuable talent, than that of originating the most ludicrously extravagant exaggerations—whether of nature
or of manners. Brunet's person, though perfectly well-formed, is diminutive to a remarkable degree; and though he is at present advanced considerably beyond middle
age, there is a youthful and even child-like simplicity in his expression and voice, that is admirably adapted to the rather limited range of characters he adopts. These are, generally speaking, the Jocrisses of the French comedy and farce-the simple, truth-telling, untaught, unteachable valets and serving-men--the antitheses of the Fruntins of the same race—the cunning, lying, clever, intriguing ones ; or the gentle, bashful, backward, betrayed village lovers--the pró