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where they run the risk of exposing themselves ; some gentlemen perhaps, who have been mutæ. personæ in the senate, may start at the first sound of their own voices in a theatre, but graceful action, just elocution, perfect knowledge of their author, elegant deportment, and every advantage that refined manners and courtly address can bestow, is exclusively their own. In all scenes of high life they are at home; noble sentiments are natural to them; love-parts they can play by instinct, and as for all the casts of rakes, gamesters, and fine-gentlemen, they can fill them to the life. Think only what a violence it must be to the nerves of an humble unpretending actor, to be obliged to play the gallant gay seducer, and be the cuckold-maker of the comedy, when he has no other object at heart but to go quietly home, when the play is over, to his wife and children, and participate with them in the honest earnings of his vocation; can such a man compete with the Lothario of high life?
And now I mention the cares of a family, I strike upon another disadvantage, which the public performer is subject to and the private exempt from: the Andromache of the stage may have an infant Hector at home, whom she more tenderly feels for than the Hector of the scene; he may be sick, he may be supperless : there
may be none to nurse him, when his mother is out of sight, and the maternal interest in the divided heart of the actress may preponderate over the heroine's: this is a case not within the chances to happen to any lady-actress, who of course consigns the task of education to other hands, and keeps her own at leisure for more pressing duties.
Public performers have their memories loaded and distracted with a variety of parts, and oftentimes are compelled to such a repetition of the same part, as
cannot fail to quench the spirit of the representation; they must obey the call of duty, be the cast of the character what it may
-Cum Thaida sustinet, aut cum
Subject to all the various casts of life,
But, what is worse than all, the veterans of the public stage will sometimes be appointed to play the old and ugly, as I can instance in the person of a most admirable actress, whom I have often seen, and never without the tribute of applause, in the casts of Juliet's Nurse, Aunt Deborah, and other venerable damsels in the vale of years, when I am confident there is not a lady of independent rank in England of Mrs. Pitt's age, who would not rather struggle for Miss Jenny or Miss Hoyden, than stoop to be the representative of such old hags.
These, and the subjection public performers are under to the caprice of the spectators, and to the attacks of conceited and misjudging critics, are amongst the many disagreeable circumstances which the most eminent must expect, and the most fortunate cannot escape.
It would be hard indeed if performers of distinction, who use the stage only as an elegant and moral resource, should be subject to any of these unpleasant conditions ; and yet as a friend to the rising fame of the domestic drama I must observe, that there are some precautions necessary, which its patrons have not yet attended to. There are so many consequences to be guarded against, as well as provisions to be made for an establishment of this sort, that it behoves its conductor to take their first ground with great judgment; and above all things
very careful that an exhibition so ennobled by
its actors, may be cast into such a style and character, as may keep it clear from any possible comparison with spectacles, which it should not condescend to imitate, and cannot hope to equal. This I believe has not been attempted, perhaps not even reflected upon, and yet, if I may speak from information of specimens which I have not been present at, there are many reforms needful both in its external as well as internal arrangement.
By external I mean spectacle, comprehending theatre, stage, scenery, orchestra, and all things else which fall within the province of the arbiter deliciarum: these should be planned upon a model new, original and peculiar to themselves ; so industriously distinguished from our public play-houses, that they should not strike the eye, as now they do, like a copy in miniature, but as the independent sketch of a master who disdains to copy. I can call to mind many noble halls and stately apartments in the great houses and castles of our nobility, which would give an artist ample field for fancy, and which with proper help would be disposed into new and striking shapes for such a scene of action, as should become the dignity of the performers. Halls and saloons, flanked with interior columns and surrounded by galleries, would, with the aid of proper draperies or scenery in the intercolumniation, make a rich and elegant appearance, and at the same time the music might be so disposed in the gallery, as to produce a most animating effect. A very small elevation of stage should be allowed of, and no contraction by side scenes to huddle the speakers together and embarrass their deportment: no shift of scene whatever, and no curtain to draw up and drop, as if puppets were to play behind it; the area, appropriated to the performers, should be so dressed and furnished with all suitable accommodations, as to afford every
possible opportunity to the performers of varying their actions and postures, whether of sitting, walking or standing, as their situations in the scene, or their interest in the dialogue may dictate ; so as to familiarize and assimilate their whole conduct and conversation through the progress of the drama, to the manners and habits of well-bred persons in real life.
Prologues and epilogues in the modern style of writing and speaking them I regard as very unbecoming, and I should blush to see any lady of fashion in that sily and unseemly situation : they are the last remaining corruptions of the ancient drama; reliques of servility, and only are retained in our London theatres as vehicles of humiliation at the introduction of a new play, and traps for false wit, extravagant conceits, and female fiippancy at the conclusion of it ; where authors are petitioners, and players servants to the public, these condescensions must be made, but where poets are not suitors, and performers are benefactors, why should the free Muse wear shackles ? for such they are, though the fingers of the brave are employed to put them on the limbs of the fair.
As I am satisfied nothing ought to be admitted from beginning to end, which can provoke comparisons, I revolt with indignation from the idea of a lady of fashion being trammelled in the trickery of the stage, and taught her airs and graces, till she is made the mere fac-simile of a mannerist, where the most she can aspire to is to be the copy of a copyist : let none such be consulted in dressing or drilling an honorary noviciate in the forms and fashions of the public stage; it is a course of discipline, which neither person will profit by ; a kind of barter, in which both parties will give and receive false airs and false conceits'; the fine lady will be disqualified by copy
ing the actress, and the actress will become ridiculous by aping the fine lady.
As for the choice of the drama, which is so nice and difficult a part of the business, I scarce believe there is one play upon the list, which in all its parts and passages is thoroughly adapted to such a cast as I am speaking of: where it has been in public use I am sure it is not, for there comparisons are unavoidable. Plays professedly wrote for the stage must deal in strong character, and striking contrast: how can a lady stand forward in a part, contrived to produce ridicule or disgust, or which is founded upon broad humour and vulgar buffoonery ?
Nempe ipsa videtur,
'Tis she herself, and not her mask which speaks. I doubt if it be altogether seemly for a gentleman to undertake, unless he can reconcile himself to cry out with Laberius
Eques Romanus cire egressus meo
Esquire I sign’d myself at noon,
At night I countersigu'd buffoon. The drama therefore must be purposely written for the occasion ; and the writer must not only have local knowledge of every arrangement preparatory for the exhibition, but personal knowledge also of the performers who are to exhibit it. The play itself, in my conception of it, should be part only of the projected entertainment, woven into the device of a grand and splendid fete, given in some noble country house or palace : neither should the spectators be totally excused from their subscription to the general gala, nor left to dose upon their benches through the progress of five tedious acts, but called