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for money, must have taken to write for the stage. The number of those who live by dramatic authorship is small. The plays of the Dramatic Authors' Society, in the list before us, are divided among some sixty writers; but with a large proportion of the sixty dramatic authorship is either an occasional resource, or an amusement of leisure hours. There are probably not more than twenty persons in England at this time permanently supporting themselves by dramatic authorship. The general practice of translation has lowered the standard of such authorship. A little stage-tact, a little readiness of words, a French dictionary, and a credit at Jeff's foreign_book-shop, make many a dramatic author. If access to the theatre were easier and pleasanter, there would be more than there are of such authors: but there are enough, in all conscience. Such dramatic authors work mischief in many ways. They lower the standard of the craft, and deprive the few producers of original pieces of credit with the public and of influence in the theatre; they cut down the market-price of pieces; they supply an unwholesome and unnatural diet to audiences. The International Copyright Act with France has done nothing effectual to check the practice of stealing from the French. That act excepts adaptations from the conditions under which it lays translations. Now, all pieces transferred to our stage from the French may be called "adaptations." We are not aware of a single instance in which a French author has derived any profit under this act, nor do we believe it has hindered the translation of a single French piece. As dramatic authors are, it is little wonder they should command small consideration from managers, small respect from actors, small admiration from the public. The theatre in their hands is becoming more and more the resort of those only who seek to laugh, and are not very fastidious about the source of their laughter; nor will the evil be diminished till some theatre has established itself with a manager who shows a marked preference for original pieces. No manager can do this till original pieces are written calculated to attract audiences. To write such pieces, authors must study the life about them, and present the public with pictures of which they can recognise the truth and read the lessons. Authors must shake themselves out of two centuries of convention, and go back to reality in dramatic story and in stage representation, as the pre-Raphaelites have gone back to nature in painting. When dramatic authors do this, there will be hope for the theatre; but not till then. The task of those who attempt such a work will not be easy. Our life has parted with its most salient dramatic features. We have grown undemonstrative in manner, uniform in dress, decorous, and studiously commonplace of speech. But the great essential elements of dramatic
effect are still working under the surface of our society. The exhibition of them would be all the more piquant for the contrast between their great forces and the thin veneer of decorum with which we have overlaid them. We cannot believe that such an impregnation of our theatre with reality is impossible; and feeling the earnestness which marks our time, amidst all the shows, shams, and snobisms which run rampant about us, we will not look upon it as improbable.
We can afford no more space to stage-authors; the actors and the public remain to be considered. What actors are depends mainly upon managers and authors. Were the theatre worthier, it would no longer remain the profession of those who have no other. At present the feeding springs of the actors' calling are vanity and necessity. There may be something inherent in the employment which determines this; no profession, perhaps, which aims at amusing only can ever be conventionally respectable. The popular association of theatrical life with laxity and indecorum, no doubt militates strongly against the prospect of ever recruiting the stage from the same classes and styles of men as those found among the more honoured professions and the less discredited arts. The large number of our theatres, at all of which all kinds of plays are represented from time to time, has lowered the standard of excellence among our actors. We have nothing like a school now in the country theatres. The stages of the capital are no longer places for the display of excellence slowly matured at Bath or Norwich, Edinburgh or Dublin. England, thanks to railways, has become an extended London.
The poetic drama for the time being is extinct upon our stage. Macready was its last support. It is true that by aid of elaborate antiquarianism and material splendour those plays of Shakespeare that furnish a peg on which to hang fine clothes and magnificent pageantry still find overflowing audiences at the Princess's; and in remote Islington the unwearied manager of Sadler's Wells can still draw together to the Elizabethan plays unsophisticated crowds, who represent probably a state of cultivation and a power of appreciative enjoyment more resembling those of the population which filled the Blackfriars or the Globe when Shakespeare first gave his plays to the world than any other part of the London public. But apart from these exceptions, we are forced to the conclusion that our stage is becoming essentially a comic and domestic one. The good actors we have-and their names happily are not few-excel in these walks of the drama. But they barely leaven the lump of conceit, bad-breeding, imperfect utterance, and ungainly action that make up our body of average actors. Here again our hope of improvement must be in the combined influence
of managers, authors, and the public,-above all, of that portion of it which speaks with "voice potential" in newspaper criticism.
We are no praisers of past times-no thick-and-thin believers in the plays or the players of our fathers' and grandfathers' days. Excepting from our censure great actors and actresses in comedy and tragedy,-of whose genius it would be affectation to express a doubt,-study of the plays, the contemporary criticisms, the theatrical biographies, and the theatrical portraits of the last generation inclines us to the opinion that the style of serious acting, between the days of Colley Cibber and those of Edmund Kean, was stiff in action and over-emphatic in elocution; at once monotonous and stilted, devoid of truth to nature, yet not attaining to ideal grace; and that the comic acting had corresponding faults of exaggeration and over-colouring. But, at any rate, the old school had their art, such as it was; and their elaboration, however overdone. With Edmund Kean came in the natural school of tragic acting. The change which he inaugurated was inevitable. It did not reach our stage till it had transformed our manners of everyday life. But such an actor as Kean could leave to his brother-actors no legacy except a direction to the school in which he had studied-that of nature. To actors who would not resort to that school he could bequeath nothing but his tricks and peculiarities. The common herd of players, to whom the school of nature is for ever barred, in the absence of a formal art of the stage can but stumble on blindly, with no reliable guidance whatever. All that can be done for them by managers or authors is, to warn them against glaring violations of truth and propriety by every means in their power. As for bad manners, faults of delivery, pronunciation, and grammar, arising from want of access to cultivated society and from defects of education, the manager should make it his business to correct these in his performers far more rigidly than most managers do at present. The more intelligent actors will strive to remedy such blemishes by observation and self-culture.
We have no great tragic actor at present. Macready was the last. Mrs. Charles Kean and Miss Faucit sustain the reputation of our tragic actresses. In comic actors we are still rich. Though we have lately lost Farren, Mrs. Orger, and Mrs. Glover, the names of Harley, Buckstone, the Keeleys-man and wife,— Wright, and Compton, in broad comedy and farce; of Charles Mathews and Leigh Murray in light and genteel comedy; of the Wigans, Webster, Emery, Miss Woolgar, and Mrs. Stirling in a wider range, from the natural humour to the unheroic pathos of domestic life, still uphold the credit of our stage in its lighter and lower forms of personation. Mr. Robson deserves a place by himself. He is sui generis, and as yet cannot be classified,
No actor has appeared in our time with such a power of selfexcitement; and if he can rein-in this invaluable but yet dangerous faculty, and subdue it to his will-presuming his will to be directed by more than common intelligence-it will carry him much farther than it has yet done, and towards loftier efforts in his art than mere burlesque and farce can find place for. His performance of Desmarets, in Plot and Passion, had passages which electrified the audience.
We have left ourselves little space to speak of the publicthat important agent in dramatic presentation, in the double capacity of audience and critic. Audiences come to the theatre to be amused. In old times there was little choice of amusement. Shakespeare had to contend only with rival companies and the bear-garden. Ben Jonson found the puppets formidable competitors of actors of flesh and blood. In later times the opera divided with the theatre the fashionable world of pleasure-seekers. But now amusements for mind and senses woo the world of Lon
don at every turn. Lecture-rooms, dioramas, panoramas, cheap concerts, oratorios, public gardens, and innumerable other diversions, suited to every scale of purse and every variety of taste and cultivation, prefer their rival claims with all the arts of puff and poster, advertisement and woodcut. Tired with work of hand or brain, wearied out with the prosecution of our special branch of that one business of all of us-money-making, we are growing every day less and less disposed to all employments of our leisure which take us from our chimney-corners to tax the brain or excite any nerves but the risible ones. The world and the world's work is most easily forgotten in laughter, or in pleasure of the senses. We can read and think at home. We come to the theatre to laugh, or to see a show, or to have our ears tickled. Still, shows may be tasteful and informing, music ennobling as well as sweet, and sound lessons may be insinuated in laughter. And, as things are nowadays, for a manager who does not aspire to grand and elaborate pageantry, and who has not the aid of opera, "ridendo dicere verum" would seem about the highest aim open to the artists of the theatre, until some daring genius ventures to lift the veil which hides the dark undercurrents and deep abysses of modern society. Of the public in its capacity of critic we cannot speak with any satisfaction. Stagecriticism has fallen into bad hands, and is executed under conditions which go far to make it utterly worthless. Most of the dramatic critics for the newspapers are themselves dramatic authors, and self-interest and private intimacies check their pens and sway their judgments. Theatrical criticism is reduced to a mere compterendu of plots, wound up by a jingle of cut-and-dry phrases in praise or blame of the actors. It may be that the majority of our
pieces and our actors deserve nothing better. If so, the critics should at least avow this in excuse for the slightness of their work, and should support their avowal by greater care whenever the merits or demerits of play or performer justify it. The elevation of the standard of theatrical criticism is one of the indispensable conditions, and most powerful means, towards the improvement of our stage.
The preceding remarks may appear harsh: at all events they are honestly meant. It seems to us inevitable, that any writer on the present aspect of theatrical matters who entertains respect for the dramatic art should dwell more on the blemishes than on the beauties, on the failings than on the felicities, of our contemporary theatre. That any isolated piece of criticism, such as this, will have much effect, is not to be hoped. We must be satisfied with having pointed out some of the chief reasons why the stage has so far ceased to be an art, while it continues to be so favourite an amusement; and we will conclude with an expression of our hope that we may live to see it more of the one, without being less of the other.
ART. VII. THE POLITICAL TENDENCIES OF AMERICA.
Things as they are in America. By William Chambers. Edinburgh and London, 1854.
Life of Horace Greeley, Editor of the New-York Tribune. By J. Parton. New York, 1855.
Notes on Public Subjects, made during a Tour in the United States and in Canada. By H. Seymour Tremenheere. London, 1852. The Constitution of the United States compared with our own. By H. Seymour Tremenheere. London, 1855.
Private Correspondence of Henry Clay. By C. Cotton, LL.D. New York, 1856.
IN the whole range of political and social questions there are none surpassing in speculative interest or urgent practical importance those involved in the relations between Great Britain and the United States; and these have rarely been more critical or more interesting than at the present moment. The actual excitement may, and we doubt not will, pass away; the menacing danger of a quarrel, artificial in its origin and almost ludicrously insignificant in its ostensible pretext, may be averted by tranquil patience on the one side, and the subsidence of effervescing feeling on the other: but the real and fundamental causes which have led to both are deep-seated and abiding, and as long