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steam-engine. The days of Steele and Addison stirred the waters with the magician's wand ; but though it thus spread, circle after circle, it was far from reaching those classes which are now daily giving evidence of high intellect, notwithstanding all that weary toil and various injuries from ill-divided wealth inflicts upon them. By 1724, London had three daily papers, besides several that were published weekly. Gradually the power of the press advanced, and 1731 brought in the “Gentleman's Magazine," that parent of an endless progeny of periodicals, which have since found consumers and contributors from classes which at the time in question must have been the very pariahs of knowledge ; for Johnson says, speaking of that period, “ that men not professing learning were not ashamed of ignorance, and in the female world, any acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be censured.”
The mass of the people were not only ignorant, but they had not the least idea that they might be, that they ought to be, otherwise-the divine light lay unkindled in unconscious breasts ; and “if the light within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." At that time, too, and long after, the privileged elasses were full of alarms at the mere idea of educating the poor. Plato's repub, lie and More's Utopia were not held to be half so fallacious. Books, pictures, statues, which a fostering patronage might have called from national genius, like coins from the mint, were prohibited, as calculated to mislead the multitude, withdraw them from their prescribed province, and was, in effect, deemed to be “casting pearls before the swine."
Shall we not rejoice that these days are past? Shall we not look back more in pity than in resentment on that shortsighted selfishness, that could thus attempt to say to the tide of human progression, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther?"-which could attempt to set up barriers against that approaching, tide which have proved as feeble as the premises on which they were built were false? It is now fairly a race between the classes ; and I fancy that the energetic sons of the people, such as can write “ The Suicide's Purgatory,” and “ The Baron's Yule,” with the few hours that they wring from toil, or snatch from rest, will outrun the college-taught and castle-sheltered sons of fortune. When we talk of the friends of the people, let us remember Joseph Lancaster, the Pestalozzi of England, the much-tried and untiring friend of the education of the people. I shall perhaps revert to him some future time; I will now only pause to recall a circumstance equally honourable to him and the class to whose service he devoted himself. Like all who engage in great schemes of improvement, he became embarrassed ; but on examination into the circumstances, it was found that his embarrassment had arisen from no selfish or improper expenditure of funds; that, in fact, himself and family very rarely tasted animal food, but subsisted principally upon bread and milk. Among the debts there was a very considerable one to a baker. (Honour to his name! I would I were able to proclaim it.) When some one expressed surprise that he should have given such large credit, he answered, “The good Mr. Lancaster had done to the poor of his neighbourhood is such, that, as long as I have a loaf, he shall have half of it.” I will not add another word. I have presented a point of view which calls for silent contemplation.
MRS. LEMAN GILLIES.
A FEW GOOD ACTORS WANTED.
WHERE was it that I saw the play of Hamlet so finely acted ?
The theatre was not a large one, and as far from being small, You could hear every word that was spoken in it easily, but a terrible exclamation, or a clear, bold, well-rounded climax of voice did not appear noisy or exaggerated.
There must have been judgment in building that theatre.
Yes. As it is a building in which the finest poetry is spoken, the architect had felt it advisable to make himself master of the science of acoustics. Moreover, he had not thought so entirely of packing a certain number of paying bodies in a given space, but that he had determined that every living creature in the house should see, hear, and be at ease, three matters mainly conducive to silence. Wherever this could not be done, the space was fairly blocked out, so that no restless adventurer, clinging round a column,
could be tempted to disturb the ten others within the reach of his own discomfort.
Ay, they manage that in France.
Pretty well where you pay well, but most insolently amiss where you do not. For a nation that talks of equality, its places of public amusement are most aristocratically disposed. The two upper circles of many of their theatres have the principal chandelier in a direct line between them and the stage.
Well.—But to this particular theatre.
The proscenium appeared to be unusually narrow, the opening of the stage itself much smaller than ordinary, and rather low. But the whole theatre was low in its proportions, which prevented any of the spectators from obtaining a foreshortened view of the actor, such as you may have seen when the object presented to you is the crown of his hat with the floor of the stage for a background. The architect had recollected that he was building a theatre, not a tower, or a Nelson's pillar.
Why to be sure, we have curious points of sight in most of the theatres.
And every part of this opening was visible from every part of the house. The fundamental principle appeared to be to take the human figure as the standard for the picture presented, and the natural human voice as the measure for the space to be filled by it. So the canvas, as I may call the opening of the stage, was somewhat above the proportion of a large historical picture, the figures painted in it. I do not mean the historical landscape ; that bears a somewhat similar proportion to the usual stages, but the larger works of Michael Angelo, Raffaëlle, Paul Veronese, and Correggio. I imagine that something beyond this proportion was adopted for the sake of motion and change of disposition ; but as a play is, or should be, the representation of human actions, and the capacity of the human face, figure, or lungs cannot be enlarged, unless to be made ludicrous, it is clear that all dimensions ought to be calculated upon them.
But the scenery
That is to anticipate, perhaps; but no matter. The object of the painters was evidently not to realise, but to suggest.", I never in my life saw a stage into which you could cram a cathedral or a fortress; there the human figure again interposes a measure fatal to the attempt, and the spectator is only amused by the ingenuity or the clumsiness of contrivances. But by giving a part in its true
proportions, you help the imagination to the whole. Perspective and arrangement will always accomplish this, provided you can only dispense with those unsightly rags which dangle from the top of the stage, and those clumsy machines which border the sides. Placing all the audience well in front of the picture, by means of the comparative smallness of the opening, a scene apparently illimitable is obtained, simply because no one sees the end of it; which is surely a quality for sufficient space, inasmuch as it represents infinity if you choose. Thus by attempting less, more is done. The eye takes in as much as it would of any subject, however gigantic, through such an aperture, as you might see Westminster Abbey from one of the chapels, where the arch of the chapel itself would be all the disc presented to the eye ; but the whole idea of the building would be conveyed as perfectly as if you stood at the end of the nave. The stage is never so absurd as when it attempts to realise all. It is subject in that to the universal rule of art. I loiter on the threshold, and yet I must say a few words more before I come to the actors.' The curtain drew up, and, as the very sentiment of the first scene in Hamlet is the feeling of dead midnight, the stage was much darkened, and the audience part more.
Would the audience bear ?
Oh! the audience was come to the play, not for the playhouse ; that was elegant but simple in its decorations, even to severity ; marble and brasswork were used for the fittings, so that it looked even grand in the gloom. Spectators bear the darkness at the Diorama, why not in the theatre ? Indeed the object should be to spare the audience nausea and headache, by keeping any overportion of light from oppressing the eyes, and making the objects presented, easily and clearly visible. Therefore, as I said, the stage was much darkened, and the audience part more ; so that the eye, surrounded by the greater darkness, could discern very well the features of the actors, and the work of the scene, yet with a full notion of the midnight gloom in which it should be acted. I must pause yet to tell you how the theatre was lit. The smallness still of the picture, as I shall call the stage part of the house, permitted even the low roof to bend considerably downwards towards forming a false ceiling ; above this, and open to the stage, the principal lights were placed, so as to throw by much the greater part of the illumination from above. No doubt you have often seen the candlelight paintings of Schalken. ' If you look carefully
No. XV.-VOL. III.
at them you will wonder to see what very pretty faces he has oftenpainted. At first sight they do not appear so, for the light being generally thrown upon the features from a candle below them, all the nobleness and much of the beauty of the lines disappear. You have not a Schalken or a print from him at hand, perhaps ; then stand before the glass and look at yourself with a candle held below your face, or, what is much better, get some very pretty woman to do as much, then place the candle at a moderate angle above, and see whether Nature, that gave us light from the sky instead of the earth, did not throw below what is becoming to the features ; she formed, then, the usual stage lamplighters. The fact once ascertained in this way, would be enough to drive all the handsome actresses of our usual theatres into open rebellion. Alas for them! kind doubly, trebly alas ! for the defrauded public !! how many delightfully-expressive, though delicatefeatured faces are made utterly blank by the want of natural shadow, or are scandalously distorted by false ones. How often, when one meets with a beautiful actress in society, one is amazed that she appears so much more beautiful, beautiful in feature and outline, off the stage than upon it. Yet so it is, and thus is the public robbed of its legitimate delight, and the actresses are robbed of the delight of being delightful; so that architect, proprietors, lessee, and lamplighters, ought to be found guilty by a coroner's jury of beauty-cide, and the theatre should be sold as a deodand. I tell the public that Miss — well, never mind the name, and Mrs. --but no matter who, would drive them mad if they could only see their faces as they ought to be seen.
And even the men, for the purposes of their art, have, or ought to have, faces worth looking at. Edmund Kean and John Kemble, at all events, to say nothing of less favoured actors, made something of theirs ; and the very draperies, the stage dresses, often specimens of very picturesque costume, lose half their richness and their effect from the want of shadow. If you doubt this, get permission to visit the green-room of a principal theatre, where the light, though sufficient, is differently dispersed, and convince yourself.
I take all for granted-go on.
The soldier pacing impatiently on his guard, and stirring to keep himself warm in the bitter night, glancing from time to time for his relief, opens the play. This was done as it should be, that is, with sense and care ; and then came the other soldiers with