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He is silent with emotion when he hears this, and turns off from the subject in self-relief. He thought then, we warrant, of what the poor Fool had said to him before
“That, Sir, which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
And leave thee in the storm !" Ah, there was no gain in the Fool's seeking—but he had it nevertheless. “How dost, my boy-art cold ?. I am cold myself.” “Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart that's sorry yet for thee." We remember on first reading this scene-where the suffering of Lear had seemed to us too dreadful, too rigid, too potent in its intellectual sublimity, too nearly allied with the thunders and the lightnings of the old heavens above him, to inspire any feeling but that of intense awe-that the relief of tears came as we fancied the struggling and soothing pathos of the Fool's voice reminding his master that he must
Make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day and could almost hear the answer of Lear, subdued to a more gentle sense of suffering, “True, my good boy!” This is indeed to soothe and serve. Fancy him again when the fit more violently returns, and Lear throws off “his lendings,” bidding them come unbutton there-fancy him, as we have had it described by one of the best of living writers, throwing himself into his master's arms to stay their fury, looking up in his countenance with eyes that would fain appear as if they wept not,” uttering that pathetic entreaty “Prithee, nuncle, be contented.” But he will not be contented-so the Fool's office draws to a close. We see him for the last time in the hovel. His efforts to soothe Lear's injuries into quiet have failed—he is striving again to “outjest ” them. He humours his madness that he may divert and dazzle it. He assists him in the arraignment of Goneril, that he may distract him by saying to the fancied she-wolf “ Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool.” These are the last words he utters—we are to fancy his task utterly done, and himself pining away with sorrow. We hear of him no more till we hear that sublime touch of pathos over the dead body of the hanged Cordelia.
Such is the Fool, banished from the tragedy of Lear. We must again ask you, Mr. Macready, why did you
banish him? We can admit of no excuses. You will urge, perhaps, the difficulty of finding an actor fit for it-one that should speak no more than is set down for him ? Mr. Blanchard might have been schooled to attempt it, and the attempt was at all events worth making. You will say, perhaps, that his introduction must necessarily have kept Lear's madness longer before the audience, that it is dwelt upon too long as it is, and that the scene in the hovel must be dispensed with? We deny this—we say that the transpositions you are obliged to make from that scene are badly made, and would occupy little more time if they fell in their proper place—we say that that change of scene is even necessary for the obvious change that has occurred in the character of Lear's suffering—we say that, though you have a right to abridge, you have no right to omit or transpose--and finally we say that, with your well-known love for Shakspeare, your fitness to appreciate his genius in its subtlest as well as its grandest shapes, and your absolute power of ordering what restorations you pleased on the late occasion, it was unworthy of you to stop where you did, when, to realize Shakspeare's divine purpose, you should at all risks have dared to advance farther. Betterton did not cut out the Fool-he acted it “as Mr. Shakspeare wrote it,” says the prompter Downes.
This was in 1663, when yet a young man. His more mature experience confirmed the propriety of this, for we find him again acting it “as Mr. Shakspeare wrote it” in 1671-and we know that Lear was considered one of his great characters. Ten years after the last date Tate published his disgusting version, and this was adopted successively by Boheme, by Quin, by Booth, by Barry, by Garrick, by Henderson, by Kemble, by Kean.
This brings us to the most grateful part of our task--the consideration of what Mr. Macready has done. By suffering nothing but Shakspeare to be spoken, he has conferred a real service on literature and on the stage; and by his performance, unquestionably, he has added a great lustre to his professional reputation. We wish he would complete it by restoring the Fool! Meanwhile, let us endeavour to give to him the thanks he has already deserved. What a profession is that of a player ! A man of intellect, imagination, and passion shall devote himself for years to the study of such a character as Lear-shall refuse to act it till his powers seem sufficiently matured for the execution of his own conception—shall approach it even then with nervous diffidence, with the modesty, though with the consciousness, of genius, -and shall be told, the following morning, in the space of a dozen lines, by one of the public instructors, on whose poor lines thousands are content to wait, that really they could not extend applause to the performance, though it was very creditable, and was, “however,” for the actor's “ benefit.” So helpless and exposed is even such a man to the little curs, “ Tray, Blanch, or Sweetheart”.
-so may they all bark at him—so, from the security of anonymous writing and large circulation, “dunces may be critica, cowards valiant, and apprentices gentlemen!” Now we take leave to say that, considered all in all, Mr. Macready's was a very great and remarkable performance, a performance that in the" getting and giving" days and they are not long past), in the days of beRosciusing and bepraising, might have made ten reputations and even then have left a little instruction to spare for the enlightenment of “ critics.” It was evident in the very first scene with what care it had been studied. There was something beyond the turbulent greatness, the royal impatience, of Lear—there was something to redeem him from his treatment of Cordelia. That bewildered pause after giving his “ father's
heart away—the hurry yet hesitation of his manner as he told them to “ Call France. Who stirs ? Call Burgundy"-were masterly strokes, heightening touches of light from a master's pencil. We saw at once how much consideration he needed—how much pity-of how little of himself he was indeed the master-how crushing and irrepressible was the strength of his sharp impatience. In the various passion of the great scene that follows, he filled the stage around him with true and appalling touches of nature. The uncertainty of “Are you our daughter ?”' was hideous and dreamlike-yet surpassed by the sublime familiarity of the “Does any one here know me?" where the questions that followed in wondering succession were not swayed between the effect of sarcasm and bitterness, but seemed hovering over the very brink of an opening gulph of madness! If Mr. Macready's performance had
closed with those questions, we should have been left with sufficient assurance of his power to climb with the sublime heights of Lear's passion. But it did not close here. Throughout the scene he did gradually ascend through all its changes of agony, of anger, of impatience, of turbulent assertion, of despair, and mighty grief-till on his knees, with arms upraised and head thrown back, the tremendous agonies of the Curse burst from him amid heaving and reluctant throes of suffering and anguish. It was sublimely given :-it was no explosion of rage-no impetuous anathema of hate-no rapid or convulsive pouring out of passion: every word seemed to have wrought its passage from a heart that was breaking in the effort, while the images of love by which the horrors of the curse are invoked seemed to come from his choking utterance as if laden with fond associations unextinguishable even then. That this was in the true spirit of Shakspeare is evident from the construction of the original play, where he returns immediately after the curse with his manhood shaken, shedding “hot tears.” It may be necessary for the relief of the actor and the effect of the scene to transpose this--but we think it a pity nevertheless. At all events, we should say Mr. Macready was wrong in shedding those tears on the arm of Albany—though his breaking from him to order his horses, to tell Goneril that she lied, and to recur to the “ most small fault” of Cordelia, was all in the highest style of the art, in its extremes of grandeur and pathos.
The terrific scene of the second act, though full of masterly touches, was not sustained with such equal power: he staggered occasionally
uneasy steps" under the vast weight of its suppressed emotion. Desolation did not seem to have closed him completely round, his agony was not full, there seemed room for yet greater afflictions, before the concluding speech burst forth in its dim grandeur of threatened vengeance.
Yet we must mention one or two of its redeeming passages. These were of the highest kind : among them were his self-persuading utterance of the words “Hysterica passio”—his anxious and fearful tenderness to Regan--and the elevated grandeur of his appeal to the heavens. But, surpassing these, were his terribly-suppressed efforts, his pauses, his reluctant pangs of passion, in the speech, “I will not trouble thee, my child !”---and exceeding the whole, as we thought, in deep simplicity, as well as agony of pathos, was that noble conception of shame, as he hid his face on the arm of Go eril, and said,
“ I'll go with thee,
And thou art twice her love." The storm scenes disappointed us; we suppose they must always do so. The poverty of the scene itself must harass the efforts of the actor; he
may feel as though he wanted a part of his “great argument”-as though he could himself out-talk the thunder. We know not whether it was out of some such feeling, but Mr. Macready's entrance in the scene where he bids the wind to crack its cheeks, the thunder to rumble its bellyfull, and the lightning to singe his white head, was well nigh as tame as the mimic machinery of these elements. It wanted tumultuous extravagance-a preternatural cast of wildness. Physical distress was altogether, throughout these scenes, as evident as intellectual grandeur. We cannot think that this should be so. If the distress of Lear in the storm were given adequately on the stage, even in one passage, as mere distress alone, we do not think the audience could bear it. We are sure
Shakspeare did not intend that. Our sense of Lear's physical sufferings merges into the sense of his passion and his sublime imagination. Of the condition of his outward man we think not-we reject it, even as himself rejects it. We wish, as Mr. Lamb has so finely said, in a paper of unparalleled beauty, to see the mind of Lear laid bare—to feel ourselves within it, sustained there by the grandeur that enables him to baffle the malice of daughters and of storms. We would have had Mr. Macready go through these scenes with a more rigid and intellectual grandeur, and with less of emotion. The senses of Lear could never have kept together up to his meeting with Edgar, had they been shaken by such throes of sensibility and suffering. “I am a man more sinn'd against than sinning” was over-weak in pathos ;—“Hast thou given all to thy two daughters ?” wanted force, rapidity, and eager excited fancy. While we make these objections, however, we should add, that in these scenes some passages were given with an expression and action almost perfect, as the fine remembrance of the “poor naked wretches” —and that in the last and grandest scene of his intellectual madness, Mr. Macready touched some of the noble strings with a master's hand. His action with the flowers as he entered, plucking them from his bosom and distributing them around, as if in the very act of coining and of pressing his soldiers, was exquisitely conceived and done. We have some doubt in our minds as to the propriety of his “every inch a king," and the subsequent assertions of his rank. Had Lear not discovered, in the midst of the upturned riches of his mind, a consciousness of grandeur before which all kingly conditions were as nothing? Would not all recurrences to his old state after that be humbling, not exalting? “When I do stare, see how the subject quakes !” Is not this terrible derision ? When he recovers his senses, he never once adverts to his rank or kingdom. Cordelia is all his care. The fires of suffering have purged and cleansed his soul. When Cordelia and the physician tell him of his“
own kingdom," and, unaware of the change, are careful to address him as “your highness,” he turns aside and prays them not to abuse him.
The two last great scenes—the recognition of Cordelia, and the death-were inexpressibly affecting, and were received with the truest and most touching of all tributes—tears. We have left ourselves little space to advert to them; but we must mention the extreme beauty of his "Pray, do not mock me!”-the eager agony of pleasure and pain in “ Be your tears wet?”--the heart-touching tenderness and balm of the
Forget and forgive.” That single line to the Physician, “I fear I am not in my perfect mind," was a world of foregone misery and future hopelessness ;- nothing could go beyond it. Its speaker had, indeed, nothing left but to die. We wondered not that he then asked for poison. All the sorrow that ensues is well, and as it should be-even to the hanging of Cordelia. Mr. Macready's representation of the father in the last scene, broken down to his last despairing struggle, his heart swelling gradually upwards till it bursts in that last sigh, completed the most perfect picture that the actors of our present time have dared to render us of the tragedy of “King Lear.” We beg to thank Mr. Macready for it most cordially—to admire, most sincerely, the modesty of the few words he addressed to the audience at the close-and to exhort him, should he act this great character next season, as we trust he will, under more favouring auspices, to restore the Fool.
Diversions Diverse-Rail-Road Prospects-Heroes at Lishon-The two London
Colleges—The Case of Mr. Gee—The New Sabbath Bill--Alterative Arrangements—An Equivocal Martyr-Oxford Installation, &c.
Diversions DIVERSE.—The past month has been full of gaieties; yet, we should say rather courtly gaieties than general gaiety. Their Majesties have been much in town; and levees, drawing-rooms, dinners, and balls have made the walls of St. James's ring with glee and festivity, while the mornings have been devoted to reviews and inspections. The playhouses have been honoured by the presence of their Majesties; and the Queen has honoured the Opera, the Ancient Music, and the Anniversary Concert of the “ Sons of the Clergy," with her presence.
Of private parties few yet have made any great sensation. Beauties have been presented at Court, who are destined to run their bright career at Almack’s, before some of the beauties who have been on hand for two or three seasons—at least-have got off. The return of Lord Hertford and the Duke of Devonshire to England will give an impetus to the gay world, and we presume the next month, notwithstanding the dingy supply of pre-arrangements in the “Morning Post,” will come out brilliantly.
The Dowager Lady Salisbury has begun her course of assemblies; and Lady Mansfield, taking other nights, has made a similar beginning. There are all sorts of foreign plays and operas, to which all the world go, who, keeping pace with the march of intellect, pretend to despise the English drama and native talent, because they choose to pretend to understand German, Italian, and French. The Opera overflows all Cheapside and the Poultry are cooped up in the pit, and even the wives of the canaille have boxes in order to show their breeding.
Of all things in the world keep us from affectation, but of all things in the world just now nothing is so difficult to be kept from; the boobies and asses whom one sees perched about the Opera House, affecting taste, and even a knowledge of what they hear, are only equalled, as an exhibition, by the more rational monkeys of the Zoological Gardens; which little nasty animals, if it were not for the filth and indelicacy of the exhibition, would afford nearly as much amusement on the Sundays as the affected apes of gentility do on the Saturdays.
We must say that the promenade of naturalists in the Regent's Park on Sunday strikes us to be as great a violation of decorum as we are quite sure it is of decency. The people who crowd these Gardens on a Sunday have six other days in the week to go there—nobody less than ourselves would countenance any legislative measure which should puritanically curtail or hinder the enjoyments of the working classes, who are doomed to labour six days in the week and have only the seventh for relaxation; but as all those exclusives who go to see the elephant wash, and the monkeys play with one another on the Sabbath, have no occupation to hinder them from visiting those scenes of enlightenment on Monday as well as Tuesday, or Thursday as well as Saturday, we think the mere gratification of keeping out that class of persons who could