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the most pathetic and most interesting, and, by consequence, the most agreeable.
An action, represented in tragedy, may be too bloody and atrocious. It may excite such movements of horror as will not soften into pleasure ; and the greatest energy ef expression, bestowed on descriptions of that nature, serves only to augment our uneasiness. Such is that action represented in the Ambitious StepMother, where a venerable old man, raised to the height of fury and despair, rushes against a pillar, and striking his head upon it, besmears it all over with mingled brains and gore. The English theatre abounds too much with such images.
Even the common sentiments of compassion require to be softened by some agreeable affection, in order to give a thorough satisfaction to the audience. The mere suffering of plaintive virtue, under the triumphant tyranny and oppression of vice, forms a disagreeable spectacle, and is carefully avoided by all masters of thedrama. In order to dismiss the audience with entire satisfaction and contentment, the virtue must either convert itself into a noble courageous despair, or the vice receive its proper punishment.
Most painters appear in this light to have been very unhappy in their subjects. As they wrought much for churches and convents, they have chiefly represented such horrible subjects as crucifixion* and martyrdoms, where nothing appears but tortures, wounds, executions, and passive suffering, without any action or affection. When they turned their pencil from this ghastly mythology, they had recourse commonly to Ovid, whose fictions, though passionate and agreeable, are scarce natural or probable enough for painting.
The same inversion of that principle, which is here insisted on, displays itself in common life, as in the effects of oratory and poetry. Raise so the subordinate passion that it becomes the predominant, it swallows up that affection which it before nourished and increased. Too much jealousy extinguishes love: too much difficulty renders us indifferent: too much sickness and infirmity disgusts a selfish and unkind parent.
What so disagreeable as the dismal, gloomy, disastrous stories, with which melancholy people entertain their companions? The uneasy passion, being there raised alone, unaccompanied with any spirit, genius, or eloquence, conveys a pure uneasiness, and is attended with nothing that can soften it into pleasure or satisfaction.
Account of the Rise and Progress of the Fund established at the Theatre-Royal Covent-Garden, for the relief and support of suchPerformers as, through age or infirmity, may he compelled to retire from the exercise of their profession.
["INSTITUTED BY MR. HULL.l
In the year 1765, during the joint-management of the late John Beard, Esq. and Mrs. Rich, a very singular example occurred, of the necessity for the establishment of such an institution as this which we are about to describe, being speedily projected. A female performer, of the first rank in Covent-Garden theatre,* was, in the course of one day, (through various events not necessary to be particularized here) reduced, from a capital annual income, and the possession of some hundreds in Bank-Stock, to the total deprivation of means of subsistence. So alarming an instance gave birth to the following "Address to the performers of the Theatre Royal Covent-Garden."
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
"The various contributions, so frequently solicited among you, are so many proofs of the disasters to which the professors of the theatre are liable; reliefs thus obtained are extremely humiliating and only temporary. The unhappy person who is at present the object of compassion is an alarming instance, that penury may take place of affluent circumstances, even before age or sickness bring it on. The members of every theatre have long been of opinion that some method of provision more eligible and lasting should be established.
"Many proposals have been offered, many plans laid down; abjections, and perhaps just ones, have been made to each; wherefore the writer hereof humbly presumes to say, that if so necessary, so indispensable a duty be deferred till a perfect plan is produced, and till all the individuals of two large communities are of one mind, the longest liver of the present companies may never see so desirable a scheme effected.
"Hence it is requested that every reader of this hasty sketch will stifle all superficial objections which may occur, lest the intention should be again crushed in its shell, deferring their necessary hints and advices, till a sum of money, however small, be raised, whereon to build their future regulations.
"For this purpose, it is proposed,
"That a subscription be immediately begun, at the free will of each approver of this method, and that the monies arising from it be forthwith lodged in some one of the public funds.
* Mrs. Hamilton.
"That, for the improvement of the scheme, an allowance of sixpence in the pound be granted from the weekly income of all such who chuse to be contributors to so humane and prudent an institution;—the said contribution to commence on the first Saturday of the new year.
"That every person who contributes a guinea, or upwards, be desired to meet his brethren at the theatre, after rehearsal, on the earliest day that can be made convenient, to appoint a select committee of three, five, seven, or more members, as shall seem fittest, who shall occasionally meet for the farther advancement of the scheme.
"That the said select committee shall take the office of secretary and receiver in rotation, without fee or reward; the charge alone of pens, ink, paper, and books being defrayed out of the general stock.
"That all persons, willing to be concerned herein, do signify such their intention to the secretary, as soon as chosen.
"That the weekly contributions be left with the treasurer to the said theatre, who shall be desired to deliver them to the secretary, in order to be conveyed to the funds, as fast as they amount to any sum capable of bearing interest; and further, that such interest be, from time to time, withdrawn and replaced, in order to its accumulation.
"That, for five years to come, no levies be made upon this fund, and none but the contributors and their families shall ever have claims upon it. Foreign objects still to be left to their judgment and humanity, which last they will then be better able to indulge, from the certainty of a resource, should their own circumstances ever require it.
"Further regulations and improvements on this imperfect sketch to be referred to the committees hereafter to be appointed.
"Should this scheme unhappily fail of being generally encouraged, the proposer humbly presumes that is no reason it should be entirely laid aside . to obviate which, he is ready to unite with any two, three, or more persons of the company, in making the best reciprocal provision a confined scheme will admit of, for themselves and families, against age, misfortune, and all their melancholy consequences.
"December 17, 1765."
The foregoing address, which was drawn up by the veteran, Mr. Hull, was immediately committed to the press, and printed copies distributed among the performers.
The worthy Mr. George Mattocks, then a member of CoventGarden theatre, whose liberal spirit was always ready, when either a general or individual service was proposed, most warmly united in collecting the contributions, and in every effort to promote the scheme.
The address fully answered its proposed intention. The two managers were the first to contribute, and other subscriptions flowed in so speedily, that, in the course of three days, upwards of one hundred pounds were collected.
On this moderate foundation the present fund was raised. Some generous assistances from private hands have, it is true, been received; but the bulk of the stock may justly be said to have been derived from the annual subscriptions of the performers. Few, very few, have been the applications to the public, in the mode of a benefit play, and of those few, only two have been profitable; yet has the institution been able to support many claimants, chiefly widows, besides giving occasional reliefs in sickness, and, at present, is in a situation which promises to be equal to any calls that may probably be made upon it for years to come.
f+f Some account of the regulations, as at present established, shall be given in a future number.
SEYMOUR'S NOTES UPON SIIAKSPEARE.
KING LEAR. ——" done upon the gad." Dr. Johnson's explanation of this phrase, is, I believe, right: in King Henry the Fourth, we find Hotspur "nettled and stung with pismires." Mr. Ilitson tells us, it means, done suddenly, or while the iron is hot, because (says he) a gad is an iron bar; but, unless it were a red hot iron bar, it might, for the present purpose, as well be any thing else.
"Old fools are babes again, and must be us'd With checks as flatteries, when they are seen abus'd." I believe the meaning is this:—old men must be treated like children, and should be rebuked or caressed according to their wayward tempers; to be abused here, is to be deceived or mistaken.
"What means that frontlet on?"
Frontlet, I believe, means neither a part of a woman's dress, as Mr. Steevens supposes, nor of her undress, as Mr. Malone explains it, but merely refers to the countenance or aspect. Why put you on that imperious look? The wrinkles on the lady's forehead would seem ill expressed by the name of the bandage which was used to prevent, or smooth those wrinkles.
"With cadent tears fret channeb in her cheeks."
"Cedent T^ars" has certainly a very clear and obvious meaning; and the thought has been adopted by Mr. Mason, in Verses to a Young Gentleman, &c.
"Whose cheeks bestrewM with roses, knew "No channel for the tide ot" tears—* but this is a sense that appears too mild for the present occasion, and ill suited to the vehemence and acrimony of Lear's passion. I therefore think that candent, as suggested by Dr. Warburton, is the right word: the quarto has "accent tears."
"The untented woundings" is, I am afraid, an incurable sore, which the critical chirurgeon will probe and torture in vain; for wounds are then most severely painful, when they are exposed to the tent. "Untender," as one of the quartos has it, may, perhaps, be the true word, implying pitiless.
—" A base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred pound, filthv, worsted stocking knave," &c. i. e. a fellow made up of inconsistencies, as well in his exterior habiliments, asin the composition of his mind. He is at once proud and beggarly, "and even the cloath-i he wears are not adapted to each other, but are rather a suit made out of three suits; he is insolent and mean, and while his vanity displays a silken doublet, his avarice betrays itself in ho;e of worsted.
"Ajax is their fool."
Mr. Steevens's former explanation appears to be much nearer the truth, than that which he has adopted from Mr. M. Mason. If Kent's meaning had been according to the notion of the latter gentleman, he would have said at once, " Ajax is a fool to them," the sense of which could never be mistaken; but there is a material difference between being their fool, and a fool to them, i. e. in comparison with them; and we cannot admit the latter interpretation, cither with a view to the character of Ajax, or the drift of the sentence. What Mr. Malone has adduced, on the same side, is not, I think, directly in point; the meaning seems to be only this: any rogue or coward, like this fellow, can, by falsehood and cunning, overreach plain honesty, and outwit Ajax; or, as Kent expresses it, make Ajax appear a fool.
"Nothing almost sees miracles,"—
The quarto, perhaps more intelligibly, "sees my wreck," which, by dismissing a word that means nothing, (almost) will afford both
sense and metre. "I may
"Peruse this letter—nothing sees my wreck