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wit, which adorn the pages of legitimate comedy, will delight almost as much in the closet, as on the stage. But Farce, which is in itself a species of broad grimace, requires all the mimickry of an actor, to set it off to just advantage. Tragedy may be considered as a pathetic invocation to our passions; Comedy as an easy and sportive appeal to our reason; but Farce addresses itself to the risible faculties only, and stands in need of all the tricks and gestures of an actor, to enliven the character represented, and exhibit those peculiarities of humour, which no language can describe, and which none but the most vivid imagination is capable of conceiving.
It is an obvious deduction from these observations, that, if Farce existed at all in elder times, it could not have been accompanied with those charms and attributes, that make it so universal a favourite at present; for the ancients were lamentably deficient in the histrionic art : and the mask, which was universally worn by performers in those times, is alone sufficient to evince, that the science of just representation was then but little understood. A comic piece, in a Greek or a Roman theatre, must have resembled the exhibition of Punch at Bartholomew-fair more than the exquisite performance of “ Nature's
laughing children” on the boards of Drury-Lane or Covent-Garden. For, although the mask might give a just representation of features for a single moment, it could not mark those successive changes of expression, which constitute the charm of just acting. It robs us of the eloquent eye and the genuine melody of voice. The stare of surprise, the sudden flashes of anger, the pallid hue and tremulous acrent of fear, are ad löst under the monotonous uniformity of a mask. The actor, üho comes. on the stage laughing, must continue to laugh, when he has no longer any share in the joke. Though cudgeiled by his master, and scolded.by. bis wife; he must grin on to the end of the scene.
The multitude and excellence of our farces, then, may perhaps be in a great measure attributed to the better construction of modern theatres, and to the judicious rejection of the mask: Nor will it be venturing too bold an assertion to affirm, that Garrick would never have acted, nor Foote have written, had they lived under the old theatrical regime. The discipline of the stage has a decided influence upon the productions of the closet : and mimic excellence has often excited into a flame the dormant spark of dramatic genius. It is related, that Moliere, when young, accompanied by his father, went to the theatre at Paris, while he was yet undecided in the choice of a profession, and that
the performance of the evening made such a sensible impression on his mind, as to determine his inclination in favour of the Drama. And perhaps our own darling Shakespeare would have been known to us only as a sonnetteer, if the genius of Britain had not placed him within the sphere of a theatre, and exposed the unfolded germ of his mighty mind to the vivifying influence of scenic splendour. It is to be presumed, that the same cause, which animated these great masters, imparted a ray of inspiration to the humble professors of the sock. Opportunity may be called the stepmother of genius; and the theatre, by afförding a ready and advantageous display to the productions of dramatic talent, has encouraged the race of dramatic authors; as the royal academical exhibition has certainly multiplied the number, and probably increased the energies, of British artists. With regard to farces in particular, as it is their object to exhibit the drollery of character and laughable scenes of common life, they may be compared to the humorous pictures of a Teniers, or a Smirke: and it must be confessed, that the British theatre is the first school in the world for this species of painting. It is to the excellence of modern performers, to the lavish decorations of the theatre, and to the improved art of stage effect, that Farce acknowledges the highest obligations. Tragedy and Comedy may find in the theatric band a powerful auxiliary; but Farce must be allowed to owe almost its existence to it.
It remains only for the Editor to repeat what he has said in the former volumes, as to the plan of this work. The collections of this kind have hitherto been without any arrangenient; but as Tragedy, Comedy, and Farce, possess
each a distinction of character,'he Hastered himself, that a separate and systematic arrangement would be aeceptable to the lovers of the Drama. Such a plan exhibits, at oäe view, the full force of a nation's genius in each respective line; and, while each of these volumes may be had separately, according to the taste of the individual, the whole work may be considered as the full and undivided essence of the BRITISH DRAMA.
High Life Below Stairs......
Peep behind the Curtain - Devil upon two Sticks
Padlock Dr Last in his Chariot Lame Lover Maid of Bath Irish Widow Sultan Bon Ton . Three Weeks after Marriage ....
1761 • Ditto
1763 • Foote
1764 .... ANONYMOUS
1764 BICKERSTAFF ........ 1765 • Foote
1765 – ..GARRICK
1767 • Foote
1768 BICKERSTAFF ........ 1768 • BICKERSTAFF & FOOTE 1769 .FOOTE
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