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actress, arrayed in purple and in pall, may know the pangs of despised love, or anticipate the coming on of the time when she shall be prematurely old, and as certainly neglected. The stage is a grave business to those who study it even successfully, though its rewards are intoxicating enough to turn the most sober brain. The professors in misfortune—especially such a misfortune as this—have the most urgent claims on our sympathy. Should we allow those to be miserable who have so often made us and thousands happy 1 Should we shut our hearts against those who have touched them so truly; who have helped to lighten the weight of existence; and have made us feel our kindred with a world of sorrow and of tears J Their art has the most sacred right to the protection of humanity, for it touches it most nearly. It makes no appeal to posterity; it does not aim at the immortal, in contempt of our perishable aims and regards; but it is contented to live in our enjoyments, and to die with them. Its triumphs are not diffused by the press, nor recorded in marble, but registered on the red-leaved tablets of the heart, satisfied to date its fame with the personal existence of its witnesses. It forms a part of ourselves; beats in the quickest pulses of our youth, and supplies the choicest topics of our garrulous age. It partakes of our fragility, nay even dies before us, and leaves its monument in our memories. Surely, then, it becomes us "to see the players well bestowed," when their gaieties are suddenly and prematurely eclipsed, and their short flutterings of vanity stayed before their time; or to provide for those who depended on their exertions. Of all people, they do most for relations; they hence most depend on them; and, therefore, their case both deserves and requires our most active sympathy. The call has been, in this instance, powerfully made, and will, we hope, be answered practically by all who revere the genius, and love the profession, and partake the humanity of Shakspeare.
FIRST APPEARANCE OF MISS FANNY
[New Monthly Magazine.]
When we predicted, last month, that if Covent Garden theatre should be opened at all, it would derive attraction even from the extreme depression into which it had sunk, we had no idea of the manner in which this hope would be realized. We little dreamed that the circumstances which had threatened to render this house desolate, would inspire female genius to spring from the family whose honours were interwoven with its destiny, like an infant Minerva, almost perfect at birth, to revive its fortunes and renew its glories. In the announcement that, on the opening night, Miss Fanny Kemble, known to be a young lady of high literary endowments, though educated without the slightest view to the stage as a profession, would present herself as Juliet—that her mother, who, in her retirement, had been followed by the grateful recollections of all lovers of the drama, would reappear, in the part of Lady Capulet, to introduce and support her; and that her father would embody, for the first time, that delightful creation of Shakspeare's happiest mood, Mercutio—there was abundant interest to ensure a full, respectable, and excited audience; but no general expectation had gone forth of the splendid event which was to follow. Even in our youngest days, we never shared in so anxious a throb of expectation as-that which awaited the several appearances of these personages on the stage. The interest was almost too complicated and intense to be borne with pleasure; and when Kemble bounded on the scene, gaily pointed at Romeo, as if he had cast all his cares and twenty of his years behind him, there was a grateful relief from the first suspense, that expressed itself in the heartiest enthusiasm we ever witnessed. Similar testimonies of feeling greeted the entrance of Mrs. Kemble; but our hearts did not breathe freely till the fair debutant herself had entered, pale, trembling, but resolved, and had found encouragement and shelter in her mother's arms. But another and a happier source of interest was soon opened; for the first act did not close till all fears for Miss Kemble's success had been dispelled; the looks of every spectator conveyed that he was electrified by the influence of new-tried genius, and was collecting emotions, in silence, as he watched its development, to swell its triumph with fresh acclamations. For our own part, the illusion that she was Shakspeare's own Juliet, came so speedily upon us as to suspend the power of specific criticism—so delicious was the fascination, that we disliked even the remarks of bystanders that disturbed that illusive spell; and though, half an hour before, we had blessed the applauding bursts of the audience, like omens of propitious thunder, we were now half impatient of their frequency and duration, because they intruded on a still higher pleasure, and because we needed no assurance that of Miss Kemble's success was sealed.
Feeling that the occasion formed an era in our recollections of the theatre, we compared her, in our imagination, with all the great actresses we had; and it is singular, though we can allege nothing like personal likeness, that Mrs. Jordan was the one whom she brought back, in the first instance, to our memory. We might have set down this idea as purely fanciful, if we had not learned that it has crossed the minds of other observers. As form and features seem to have nothing to do with this reminiscence, we attribute it to the exquisite naturalness of Miss Kemble's manner, and we cannot help connecting it with an anticipation that she will one day be as pre-eminently the comic as the tragic muse of our stage.
Her traits of family resemblance struck us most powerfully in the deeper and more earnest parts of her tragic performance. On one occasion, when her face only was revealed by her drapery, its intense expression brought Mrs. Siddons most vividly back to us. Miss Kemble's personal qualifications for her profession are indeed, such as we might expect from one so parented and related. Her head is nobly formed and admirably placed on her shoulders—her brow is expansive and shaded by very dark hair—her eyes are full of a gifted soul, and her features are significant of intellect to a very extraordinary degree. Though scarcely reaching the middle height, she is finely proportioned, and she moves with such dignity and decision that it is only on recollection we discover she is not tall. In boldness and dignity of action she unquestionably approaches more nearly to Mrs. Siddons than any actress of our time excepting Pasta. Her voice, whilst it is perfectly feminine in its tones, is of great compass, and though, perhaps, not yet entirely within her command, gives proof of being able to express the sweetest emotions without monotony, and the sternest passions without harshness. She seems to know the stage by intuition, " as native there and to the manner born," and she understands even now, by what magic we cannot divine, the precise effect she will produce on the most distant spectators. She treads the stage as if she had been matured by the study and practice of years. We dreamed for a while of being able to analyze her acting, and to fix in our memory the finest moments of its power and grace; but her attitudes glide into each other so harmoniously that we at last gave up enumerating how often she seemed a study to the painter's eye and a vision to the poet's heart.
At the first sight, Miss Kemble's countenance conveys an impression of extraordinary intellect, and the manifestation of that faculty is a pervading charm of her acting. It gives her courage, it gives her promptitude—the power of seeing what is to be done, and of doing it without faltering or hesitation. She always aims at the highest effect, and almost always succeeds in realizing her finest conceptions.
The Juliet of Shakspeare is young and beautiful; but no mistake can be greater than the idea that her character can be impersonated with probability by a merely beautiful young woman. Juliet is a being of rich imagination; her eloquence breathes an etherial spirit; and her heroic devotedness is as different from common-place romance, as superficial gilding is unlike the solid ore. By many an observer, the beautiful surface of her character is alone ap
predated, and not that force and grandeur in it which is capable of sustaining itself in harmony, not only with the luxuriant commencement'of the piece, but with the funereal terrors of its tragic close. Hence the expectation has been so often excited, that a lovely girl, who can look the character very innocently, and speak the garden-scene very prettily, is quite sufficient to be a representative of the heroine throughout; and hence the same expectation has been so often disappointed. The debutante may be often carried, without apparent failure, through a scene or two, by her beauty and pretty manner of love-making; but when the tragedy commences in earnest, her intellectual expression sinks under its terrors, and she appears no more than a poor young lady, driven mad with the vexation of love.
Far remote from this description is the Juliet of Miss Kemble. It never was our fortune to see Mrs. Siddons in the part, but Miss Kemble gives it a depth of tragic tone which none of her predecessors whom we have seen ever gave to it. Miss O'Neil, loth as we are to forget her fascinations, used to lighten the earlier scenes of the piece with some girlish graces that were accused of being infantine. Be that as it may, there were certainly a hundred little prettinesses enacted by hundreds of novices in the character, which attracted habitual applauses, but which Miss Kemble at once repudiated with the wise audacity of genius; at the same time, though she blends not a particle of affected girlishness with the part of Juliet, her youth and her truth still leave in it a Shakspearian naivete. As the tragedy deepens, her powers are developed in unison with the strengthened decision of purpose which the poet gives to the character. What a noble effect she produced in that scene where the Nurse, who had hitherto been the partner of all her counsels, recommends her to marry Paris, and to her astonished exclamation, "Speak'st thou from thy heart V answers, "And from my soul, too, or else beshrew them both." At that momentous passage Miss Kemble erected her head, and extended her arm, with an expressive air which we never saw surpassed in acting, and with a power like magic, pronounced "Amen!" In that attitude, and look, and word, she made us feel that Juhet, so late a nurseling, was now left alone in the world—that the child was gone, and that the heroic wo