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which at once convinced him of his error, and he retired without proceeding in the character. He spoke the line as follows: “ Thus f-f-far have w-w.we march'd int-t-to the b-bowels of the 1-l-land W-without impediment.”
FOR THE MIRROR OF TASTE.
EVENING IN THE CITY.
Now comes the cheerful lamp-lighter, anon
For there the pitiless storm drives ruthless
Thus let me pass the social winter's night,
Baltimore, November 8th, 1811.
We have had no plays here this season, in consequence, it is said, of some new arrangements concerning the erection of a new theatre, for which subscriptions have been raised to the amount of twelve or thirteen thousand dollars. “ The public stock of harmless pleasure" has suffered by this regretted desertion; and we never felt the value of the actors so much as we have done since we lost them. At the parties, we want something to talk about. The easy elegance of Wood, the chaste humour of Jefferson, and the irresistible drollery of Mrs. Francis, no longer supply the superficial gallant, and the gay belle with topics of conversation; and instead of a long dialogue brought on by the question“ How did you like the play last night?” our fashionable tête-à-têtes are begun and ended by a common-place remark, that “ the bride looks better than she did yesterday,” or that “ Mr. Manly is CERTAINLY engaged to Miss Kitty Prue."
By way of substitute for the regular performances, however, we have been gratified by READINGS AND RECITATIONS, at the theatre, from Mr. Fennell and Miss Brobsion, interspersed with songs by Mr. Webster. That this substitute was a complete one, it is impossible to allow. Readings and recitations, in their most attractive form, can only bring together that “ judicious few,” who are capable of relishing the sublime conceptions of Milton and Shakspeare; and who would sooner pay a dollar to hear their works delivered Vos. IV.
with gracefulness and propriety, than to see the most splendid pageant tnat ever disgraced the stage, and filled the benches of a theatre. The enterprise of Mr. Fennell, therefore, was but languidly encouraged, and the apathy of the public produced a correspondent apathy in the actor. At times, however, he unexpectedly burst forth with a strength and splendor of genius, which must have been the effect of desperation; for these magnificent displays were always made before thin houses, and audiences comparatively illiterate. I remember,-once in particular,—when, after stupifying his patrons, and perplexing himself, by dull didactic recitations, Mr. Fennell acted Collins's Ode on the Passions with a degree of enthusiastic feeling (still critically correct in the midst of its enthusiasm) of which I had ever before supposed him utterly incapable. I say he acted it, although I am conscious the phrase will be supposed by some to define a style of delivery in this case altogether puerile and improper. But I always have supposed (and cannot surrender the opinion), that when the poet kindles, the speaker should kindle with him;—and that the actor who coolly describes a passion, which is personified by his author, is guilty of a contradiction the most palpable and absurd.
Miss Brobston, the young female associated with Mr. Fennell, has beauty,-voice,—and (when she becomes sufficiently accustomed to the stage to move without fear) may have grace. Her instructer, Mr. Fennell, teaches her to inforce every idea of the poet with “good emphasis and good discretion;" but he has taught her also to use that monotonous sweeping gesture, which is a great blemish of his own; and which resembles nothing in nature but that exertion of the arms made in the act of swimming. She has, also, another fault, which she certainly never could have derived from Mr. Fennell:-she speaks with a rapidity which sometimes exhausts her breath, and renders what she utters completely unintelligible.
It is painful at all times to blame a man of genius, especially one who possesses so much genius as Mr. Fennell. But I have seen him, night after night
“ To dumb forgetfulness a prey;"
and I know that this often repeated negligence has lowered him in the estimation even of those who are conscious that a man's talents
have nothing to do with his memory. It is proper that he should hear of such things. Once, in particular, he blundered in every piece he attempted; and, just at the end of the evening's performances,-after labouring, and labouring, to get through the recitation of a poem composed by himself, he begged the audience to permit him to attempt something he knew better. This speech (as apologies generally are), was received with great applause, and then every body waited in anxious expectation of the substitute. Fennell was still silent. The applause was repeated;—he still stood silent, and in great perturbation. The audience applauded a third time; and after that he requested that some person present would select a piece, and name it, for him. One gentleman in the boxes called for “ Clarence's Dream," and Fennell instantly throwing himself into an attitude of despair, began it, exclaiming
“ Oh! I have pass'd a miserable night,” with such a reculiar force and emphasis, that a person sitting by my side ludicrously enough mistook the line for an ejaculation of the actor's, and observed, with great feeling, “ Yes, poor fellow! you must have had a miserable night of it indeed.”
The performances of which I have been speaking were closed by a benefit; and at this benefit Mr. Fennell employed Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot, Mr. Allen, Mrs. Bray, Mrs. Thornton, Mr. Jacobs, and some others, in addition to his former associates. The first part of the entertainment consisted of scenes from the Revenge, the second of songs by the “ Sons of Apollo” (Messrs. Webster, Wilmot, Allen, and Jacobs, besides three or four amateurs)—and the whole concluded with the opera of Rosina.
The Isabella* of the evening made herself extremely interesting. She displayed to great advantage a figure of the most uniform and prepossessing rotundity, which bears a very strong resemblance to a large, old fashioned churn! With her fine, fat, rosy arms, she struck out new beauties of gesture, altogether unique, and never before attempted on any stage. By saying this I have no intention (no, not the most remote) of any sarcastic reference to the story of that famous comedian who, a fellow-actor, speaking of himself, said that “ He had STRUCK OU't some new beauties in the character of
Zanga's mistress, in the Revenge.