Зображення сторінки

the fame of the prowess of the school far and near; and no apprentices in the vicinage, and sometimes the butchers' boys in the neighbouring market, had sad occasion to attest their valour.

The time would fail me if I were to attempt to enumerate all those circumstances, some pleasant, some attended with some pain, which, seen through the mist of distance, come sweetly softened to the memory. But I must crave leave to remember our transcending superiority in those invigorating sports, leap-frog and basting the bear; our delightful excur sions in the summer holydays to the New River, near Newing ton, where, like otters, we would live the long day in the water, never caring for dressing ourselves when we had once stripped ; our savoury meals afterward, when we came home almost famished, with staying out all day without our dinners ; our visits, at other times, to the Tower, where, by ancient privilege, we had free access to all the curiosities; our solemn processions through the city at Easter, with the lord mayor's largess of buns, wine, and a shilling, with the festive questions and civic pleasantries of the dispensing aldermen, which were more to us than all the rest of the banquet ; our stately suppings in public, where the well-lighted hall, and the confluence of well-dressed company who came to see us, made the whole look more like a concert or assembly, than a scene of a plain bread and cheese collation ; the annual orations upon St. Matthew's day, in which the senior scholar, before he had done, seldom failed to reckon up, among those who had done honour to our school by being educated in it, the names of those accomplished critics and Greek scholars, Joshua Barnes and Jeremiah Markland (I marvel they left out Camden while they were about it.) Let me have leave to remember our hymns and anthems, and well-toned organ ; the doleful tune of the burial anthem chanted in the solemn cloisters, upon the seldomoccurring funeral of some schoolfellow, the festivities at Christmas, when the richest of us would club our stock to have a gaudy day, sitting round the fire, replenished to the height with logs, and the penniless, and he that could contribute nothing, partook in all the mirth, and in some of the substantialities of the feasting; the carol sung by night at that time of the year, which, when a young boy, I have so often lain awake to hear from seven (the hour of going to bed) till ten, when it was sung by the older boys and monitors, and have listened to it in their rude chanting, till I have been transported in fancy to the fields of Bethlehem, and the song which was sung at that season by angels' voices to the shepherds.

Nor would I willingly forget any of those things which administered to our vanity. The hem-stitched bands and town: made shirts, which some of the most fashionable amuig 's wore; the town-girdles, with buckles of silver, or shining stone; the badges of the sea-boys; the cots, or superior shoestrings of the monitors; the medals of the markers, (those who were appointed to hear the Bible read in the wards on Sunday morning and evening,) which bore on their obverse in silver, as certain parts of our garments carried in meaner metal, the countenance of our founder, that godly and royal child, King Edward the Sixth, the flower of the Tudor name—the young flower that was untimely cropped as it began to fill our land with its early odours—the boy-patron of boys—the serious and holy child who walked with Cranmer and Ridley-fit associate, in those tender years, for the bishops and future martyrs of our church, to receive or (as occasion som times proved) to give instruction.

“ But, ah! what means the silent tear?

Why, e'en mid joy, my bosom heave?
Ye long-lost scenes, enchantments dear!

Lo! now I linger o'er your grave.

• Fly, then, ye hours of rosy hue,

And bear away the bloom of years !
And quick succeed, ye sickly crew,

Of doubts and sorrows, pains and fears !

“ Still will I ponder Fate's unalter'd plan,
Nor, tracing back the child, forget that I am man."*

+ Lines meditated in the cloisters of Christ's Hospital, in the Poetics, al Nr. George Dyer.





TAKING a turn the other day in the abbey, I was struck with the affected attitude of a figure, which I do not remember to have seen before, and which, upon examination, proved to be a whole length of the celebrated Mr. Garrick. Though I would not go so far with some good catholics abroad as to shut players altogether out of consecrated ground, yet I own I was not a little scandalized at the introduction of theatrical airs and gestures into a place set apart to remind us of the saddest realities. Going nearer, I found inscribed under this harlequin figure the following lines :

“To paint fair Nature, by divine command,
Her magic pencil in his glowing hand,
A Shakspeare rose; then, to expand his fame
Wide o'er this breathing world, a Garrick came.
Though sunk in death the forms the poet drew,
The actor's genius bade them breathe anew;
Though, like the bard himself, in night they lay,
Iminortal Garrick call'd them back to day:
And till eternity with power sublime
Shall mark the mortal hour of hoary Time,
Shakspeare and Garrick like twin-stars shall shine,
And earth irradiate with a beam divine.”

It would be an insult to my readers' understandings to attempt anything like a criticism on this farrago of false thoughts and nonsense. But the reflection it led me into was a kind of wonder, how, from the days of the actor here celebrated to our own, it should have been the fashion to compliment every performer in his turn, that has had the luck to please the town in any of the great characters of Shakspeare, with the notion of possessing a mind congenial with the poet's : how people should come thus unaccountably to confound the power of originating poetical images and conceptions with the faculty of being able to read or recite the same when put


into words ;* or what connexion that absolute mastery over the heart and soul of man which a great dramatic poet possesses, has with those low tricks upon the eye and ear, which a player, by observing a few general effects which some common passion, as grief, anger, &c., usually has upon the gestures and exterior, can so easily compass. To know the internal workings and movements of a great mind, of an Othello or a Hamlet, for instance, and the when, and the why, and the how far they should be moved; to what pitch a passion is becoming; to give the reins, and to pull in the curb exactly at the moment when the drawing in or the slackening is most graceful, seems to demand a reach of intellect of a vastly different extent from that which is employed upon the bare imitation of the signs of these passions in the counte

or gesture, which signs are usually observed to be most lively and emphatic in the weaker sort of minds, and which signs can, after all, but indicate some passion, as I said before, anger, or grief, generally; but of the motives and grounds of the passion, wherein it differs from the same passion in low and vulgar natures, of these the actor can give no more idea by his face or gesture than the eye (without a metaphor) can speak or the muscles utter intelligible sounds But such is the instantaneous nature of the impressions which we take in at the eye and ear at a play-house, compared with the slow apprehension oftentimes of the understanding in reading, that we are apt not only to sink the play-writer in the consideration which we pay to the actor, but even to identify in our minds, in a perverse manner,

the actor with the character which he represents.

It is difficult for a frequent play-goer to disembarrass the idea of Hamlet from the person and voice of Mr. K. We speak of Lady Macbeth, while we are in reality thinking of Mrs. S. Nor is this confusion incidental alone to unlettered persons, who, not possessing the advantage of reading, are necessarily dependant upon the stage-player for all the pleasure which they can receive from the drama, and to whom the very idea of what an author is cannot be made comprehensible without some pain and perplexity of mind: the error is one froin which persons, otherwise not meanly lettered, find it almost impossible to extricate themselves.

* It is observable that we fall into this confusion only in dramatic recita. tions. We never dream that the gentleman who reads Lucretius in public with great applause is therefore a great poet and philosopher; nor do we find that Tom Davis, the bookseller, who is recorded to have recited the Paradise Lost better than any man in England in his day, (though I cannot help thinking there must be some mistake in this tradition,) was therefore, by his intimate friends, set upon a level with Milton.

« НазадПродовжити »