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equal master to himself.
From these various excellencies, he had so full a possession of the esteem and regard of his auditors, that upon his entrance into every scence, he seemed to seize upon the eyes and ears of the giddy and inadvertent. To have talked or looked another way, would then have been thought insensibility or ignorance. In all his soliloquies of moment, the strong intelligence of his attitude and aspect drew you into such an impatient gaze, and eager expectation, that you almost imbibed the sentiment with your eyes, before the ear could reach it. I never heard a line in tragedy come from Betterton, wherein my judgment, my ear, and my imagination were not fully satisfied; which, since his time I cannot equally say of any one actor whatsoever. That genius, which nature only gives, only can complete an actor; this genius, then, was so strong in Betterton, that it shone out in every speech and motion of him. (Yet voice and person are such necessary supports to it, that, by the multitude, they have been preferred to genius itself; or, at least, often mistaken for it.) Betterton had a voice of that kind, which gave more spirit to terror,
five feet eight; his form rather inclining to the athletic, though nothing clumsy or heavy; his air and department naturally graceful, with a marking eye, and a manly sweetness in his countenance. His voice was completely harmonious, from the softness of the flute, to the extent of the trumpet: his attitudes were all picturesque; he was noble in his designs, and happy in his execution." His principal parts in Shakspeare's plays were, Othello, Lear, Brutus, and the Ghost in Hamlet. Cibber, though sparing in his praise of Booth, highly commends his Othello:- The master-piece of Booth (says he) was his Othello; there he was most in character, and seemed not more to animate himself in it than his spectators."
Other contemporaries are more lavish in their praises of him in this part, and particularly in the following passage:
This fellow's of exceeding honesty,
And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit,
This he spoke with his eye fixed upon lago's
than to the softer passions; of more strength
general character of the man in his own mind,
"........ If I do find her haggard,
"The person of this excellent actor was suitable to his voice, more manly than sweet, not exceeding the middle stature, inclining to the corpulent; of a serious and penetrating aspect; his limbs nearer the athletic than the delicate proportion; yet, however formed, there arose, from the harmony of the whole, a commanding view of majesty, which the fairer faced, or (as Shakspeare calls them) the curled darlings of his time, ever wanted something to be equal masters of."
Betterton died in April, 1710.
Booth, with a very classical and highly improved judgment, possessed all the natural powers of an actor in a very eminent degree. "He was (says Victor) of a middle stature,
"........Haply, for I am black.
And have not those soft parts of conversation
Then a look of amazement at seeing Desde-
"If she be false, O, then heav'n mocks itself!
"In this, and all the distressful passages of heart-breaking anguish and jealousy (says Victor), I have frequently seen all the men, susceptible of the tender passions, in tears.”
Booth's excellence in Brutus was the effect of a fine study of the part, which he acquired by his taste and intimate knowledge of the classics. In the tent scene, when Cassius reiterates,
"What, durst not tempt him ?" and Brutus in reply says,
For your life, you durst not;"
an actor; but they wrote to those who had seen his performances, and are, for the most part, content with general encomiums, from which little or nothing can be gleaned, as to his dis
Quin spoke the last line with a look of anger and a tone of voice approaching to rage; but Booth, on the contrary, looking stedfastly at Cassius, pronounced these words not much raised above a whisper, yet with such a firm-tinctive excellencies. We shall proceed to ness of tone, as always produced the most powerful effect. Again, when Brutus says,
"When I spoke this, I was ill-temper'd too,"
he prepared the audience so for the cause of his still temper, by shewing that he had some private griefs at heart, as to call up the utmost attention; but when he afterwards acquaints them with the cause,
make such selections from contemporary writers as will best serve to illustrate his felicitous conception, and wonderful performance of Shakspeare's characters. Richard III. was his first triumph. "The moment he appeared (says Murphy), the character he assumed was visible in his countenance; the power of his imagination was such, that he transformed himself into the very man; the passions rose in rapid succession, and, before he uttered a word, were legible in every feature of that expressive face. His look, his voice, his attitude, changed with the expressive pause before he spoke the last every sentiment. The rage and rapidity with words, and his heart-piercing manner in speak-which he enunciated ing them, forced every auditor to be a participator of his sorrows.
"No man bears sorrow better-Portia's dead,"
Booth, as King Lear, made a very powerful impression. In the scene where the old monarch is discovered asleep in Cordelia's lap, and where he breaks out,
"Old Lear shall be a king again,
he was inimitably expressive, from the full tones of his voice, and the admirable manner of harmonizing his words.
"The north-what do they in the north,
When they should serve their sovereign in the west?"
made a most astonishing impression. His soliloquy in the tent scene seemed to discover his very soul. Every thing he described was almost reality; the spectator thought he heard the hum of either army from camp to camp, and steed threatening steed. When he started from his dream, he was a spectacle of horror. He called out in a manly tone, 'Give me another horse.' He paused, and, with a countenance of distress, advanced, exclaming in a tone of distress. 'Bind up my wounds;' and then falling on his knees, said, in the most piteous accent, Have mercy, heaven!' In all this, and indeed through the whole representation, we saw an exact imitation of nature.
The Ghost in Hamlet was Booth's favourite part. He acted it with the perfect approbation of Betterton, who was his Hamlet for many years; and this performance was highly praised by Macklin, who said he was never imitated with success. His tones and manner, throughout his conference with Hamlet, were grave and pathetic; his tread solemn and awful; and, in the recital of his murder by a brother's hand, and the conduct of his most seeming virtuous queen, the audience appeared to be under the impression of seeing and hearing a real ghost. He was, besides, always particularly well dress-violent ed for the character, even to the soles of his shoes, which, from being covered with felt, made no noise in walking on the stage, which he crossed as if he slid over it, and which strongly corresponded with the ideas we have of an incorporeal being.-Both died in May, 1733.
All the authors of Garrick's day agree in praising his various and astonishing powers as
"King Lear was Garrick's most perfect effort; in this part he has confessedly remained without equal or rival. He was transformed into a feeble old man, still, however, retaining an air of royalty. He had no sudden starts, no gesticulations; his movements were slow and languid; misery was depicted in every feature of his face; he moved his head in the most deliberate manner; his eyes were fixed, of if they turned to any one near him, he made a pause, and fixed his look on the person after much delay; his features at the same time expressing what he was going to say before he uttered a word. During the whole perfor mance, he presented an aspect of extreme grief, and a total alienation of mind from every idea, but that of his unkind daughters. How awful was his preparation for the imprecation on
On the appearance of the Ghost, such a figure of consternation was never seen. He stood fixed in mute astonishment, and the audience saw him growing paler and paler. After an interval of suspense, he spoke in a low and trembling accent, and uttered his questions with the greatest difficulty." The rest of Murphy's account of Garrick in this part, is uninteresting, because totally deficient in that particularity which only can convey information. Davies is equally mystic; and unfortunately we have n better authorities.
Macbeth afforded another opportunity for the display of Garrick's talents. He seems to have acted it very finely; but nothing is preserved relative to his mode of representing the guilty Thane, more descriptive than what follows:
Conscious of his full design, Macbeth, with terror and dismay, says, 'Is this a dagger that I see before me?' Garrick's attitude, his consternation, and his pause, while his soul appeared in his countenance, and the accents that followed, astonished the spectators. The sequel was a climax of terror, till at last he finds it to be the effect of a disordered imagination, and exclaims :
Goneril! be stood for a moment like one struck | mind. dumb, at the sudden and unexpected feel of his child's ingratitude; then throwing away Eis crutch, kneeling on one knee, clasping his hands together, and lifting up his eyes towards heaven, rendered the whole of the curse so terribly affecting to the audience, that during the utterance of it, they seemed to shrink as from a blast of lightning. Indeed, the picture he presented, independent of the language, was worthy the pencil of Raphael in the divinest moments of his imagination." He used to tell how he gained a just conception of this difficult part. He had an acquaintance in Leman-street, Goodman's fields, who had an only daughter about two years old; as he stood at his dining-room window, fondling the child, he dropped the infant into a paved area, and it was killed on the spot. He remained at the window, screaming in agonies of grief; the neighbours took up the child, and delivered it dead to the unhappy father, who wept bitterly. From that moment he lost his reason, which he never recovered. Being rich, he continued in his house under the care of keepers, appointed by Dr. Monro. Garrick often visited his distracted friend, who passed the whole of his time in going to the window, and there playing in fancy with his child. After some dalliance he dropt it, and burst into a terrible agony of grief. He would then sit down in a pensive mood, his eyes fixed on one object, at times looking slowly round him, as if to implore compassion. Garrick was often present at these scenes of misery, and used.to say that it gave bim the first idea of Lear's madness. He sometimes gave a representation of this unhappy father. He leaned on the back of a chair, seeming, with parental fondness, to play with a child; and, after expressing the most heart felt delight, he suddenly seemed to drop the infant, and instantly broke into a most violent agony of grief, so tender, so affecting, that every eye in the company was moistened with a gush of tears."
Hamlet was undoubtedly a favourite chatacter with Garrick; yet judging from his unpardonable alteration of that fine play, we might suppose he had no true relish of the character. Murphy, however, and all his biographers are warm in praising his alienation of the Prince of Denmark. "In all the shiftings of the passions, in which the tragedy abounds, his voice and attitude changed with wonderful celerity; and, at every pause, his face was an index to his
"It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes."
When Garrick re-entered the scene, with the bloody dagger in his hand, he was absolutely scared out of his senses, he looked like a ghastly spectacle, and his complexion grew whiter every pierced to the quick, he said, in a tone of wild moment, till at length, his conscience stung and despair:
"Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand.
Garrick performed Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing, with great success; his Othello was a decided failure; and his claim to praise for a happy illustration of Shakspeare's plays, must ultimately depend on his representation of the characters already mentioned."
Barry was, in person, about five feet eleven inches high, finely formed, and possessing a countenance, in which manliness and sweetness were so happily blended, as formed one of the best imitations of the Apollo Belvidere. With this fine commanding figure, he was so much in the free and easy management of his limbs, as never to look encumbered, or present an un
But there, where I had garner'd up my heart,
the extremes of love and grief were so power-
graceful attitude, in all his various movements on the stage. Even his exits and entrances had peculiar grace, from their characteristic ease and simplicity. In short, when he appeared in the scene, grouped with other actors of ordinary size, he appeared as much above them in his various qualifications, as in the proud superiority of his figure. To this figure he added a voice so peculiarly musical, as, very early in life, obtained him the appellation of "The silver-language; and Barry was an actor that kept toned Barry," which, in all his love scenes (lighted up by the smiles of such a countenance) was persuasion itself. Indeed, so strongly did he communicate his feelings on these occasions, that, whoever observed the expressive countenances of most of the female parts of his audience, would fancy that each seemed to say, in the language of Desdemona, "Would that heaven had made me such a man!"
His greatest triumph was Othello. This was the first character he ever appeared in, the first his inclinations prompted him to attempt, and the first, without question, that exhibited his genius in the full force and variety of its powers. In the outset of Othello, when he speaks but a few short sentences, there appears a dignified calmness in his nature. These passages are often passed over as if the actor reserved himself for something more striking; but Barry knew the value of these introductory traits of character; and in his very first speech, "It's better as it is," bespoke such a preeminence of judgment, such a noble forbearance of temper, as roused the attention of his audience, and led them to anticipate the highest gratification. His address to the senate was a glorious piece of oratory. In the recital of his "feats of broils and battles," the courage of the soldier was fully seen; but when he came to the tender ejaculations of Desdemona, his voice was so harmonised to the expression, that the sigh of pity comunicated itself to the whole house. In the second act, when he meets Desdemona at Cyprus, after the storm, his rushing into her arms, and repeating that fine speech-"O! my soul's joy!" was the action and voice of love itself; describing that passion in so ecstatic a manner, as seemingly justified his fears, that such transports could never recur. Through the whole of the third act, where lago is working him up to jealousy, his breaks of love and rage were masterpieces of nature; but in his conference with Desdemona in the fifth act, where he describes the agony of his mind, and then looking tenderly on her, exclaims,
pace with the mighty poet whose conceptions be embodied; his ravings over the dead body of his innocent wife, his reconciliation with Cassio, and his dying soliloquy, were all in the full play of varied excellence, and forced from the severest critic the most unqualified applause. Coller Cibber, with all his partialities for Betterton, gave Barry the palm in Othello.
Notwithstanding the great popularity of this actor, it is a singular fact that not any good portrait of him exists, or we should have certainly added him to our group. Barry died in January, 1777.
We have no very perfect account of this great actor, who, it appears, was rejected by Garrick, as altogether unfit for the stage; a striking instance of that wonderful artist's jealousy or want of judgment. The following extracts from Boaden's Life of Kemble, convey a tolerably good idea of Henderson's peculiar style of acting, and are abundantly sufficient to etablish his claim to the very highest rank in his art:
"Mr. Henderson was, as this time (just before the appearance of John Kemble) perhaps the greatest master of his art; he resembled his illustrious predecessor (Garrick) in his versatility.
His tragedy, however, was certainly inferior to his comedy. In the former, he had comparatively fewer requisites. His understanding was of the highest order, and his feelings could be instantaneously excited; but his person was without either dignity or grace; and his eye, though well placed for expression, wanted colour, as his face, though rather handsome, was too fleshy to shew all the muscular action, in which expression resides. He was neglectful, too, of such aids as might have been had to this figure. He paid not the slightest attention to costume, and was indifferent even as to the neatness of his dress. He affected to care nothing about it. He pleased himself that he could at length make you forget the want
which need not to have existed. All his excellencies were perfectly concomitant with propriety in dress. Had he studied appearance, his Lear might have been venerable; although his Hamlet could not be the mould of form,' it might easily have been the gloss of fashion;' but he never looked even to the linings of the suit he wore, and once boasted that he had played, 1 think, ten characters consecutively in the same coat. His conceptions were grand, and beautiful, and just; but they were often baffled by his execution of them. When Henderson's Lear was first discovered, he looked like Falstaff sitting as Henry the Fourth; and when Lear speaks in his sleep, and fancying himself on the point of gaining the battle, exclaims, Charge, charge upon the flank,' the tones were exactly those with which Falstaff encourages Hal in the combat with Percy, and excited a titter from so unsuitable a recollection. He had, indeed, made Falstaff his own, and the jolly knight seemed rather too kindly to have returned the compliment; for that vast soul of humour more or less informed all his other characters. He would sometimes delight to shew, without language, the rapid and opposite emotions, as they rise and chase each other in the mind. masterly effort of this kind was Falstaff's reading the letter from Mrs. Ford in the presence of the 'foolish carrion,' Mrs. Quickly. First you saw that he had his bellyful of Ford,' her messenger even was an object of detestation. He glanced over the beginning of the letter, and pished at its apologies. He turned again to the messenger to see how her air was in unison with the language of her mistress. The cudgel of Ford then seemed to fall on his shoulders, and he shrunk from the enterprise. He read a sentence or two of the letter, a spark of lechery twinkled in his eye, which turned for confirmation of his hopes upon love's ambassadress; and thus the images of suffering and desire, of alarm and enjoyment, succeeded one another, until at last the oil of incontinency in him settled above the waters of the Thames, and the 'divinity of odd Dumbers determined him to risk the third adventure.'
trial scene was superior to him and all men. Yet it may be proper here to say, that in many of his characters Henderson's superiority may be disputed; but that his performance of Falstaff is as much above all competition, as the character itself transcends all that was ever thought comic in man. The cause of this preeminence was purely mental; he understood it better in its diversity of powers; his imagination was congenial; the images seemed coined in the brain of the actor; they sparkled in his eye, before the tongue supplied them with language. I saw him act the character in the Second Part of Henry IV. where it is more metaphysical, and consequently less powerful. He could not supply the want of active dilemmas, such as exhilirate the Falstaff of the First Part, but it was equally perfect in conception and execution. I have borne with many invasions on this peculiar domain of Henderson. It has in truth been an ungracious task to most of his successors; they seem all to have doubted their right of possession; to have considered themselves tenants only upon sufferance; and thus it was with King, and Palmer, and Stephen Kemble, and Ryder, and a whole chapter of fat knights, who have roared and chuckled at the slightest possible expense of thought; and, laughing much themselves in their turns, perhaps, set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too.'Peace to all such!"
Henderson died 25th November, 1785, when he had not completed his thirty-ninth year.
Macklin made the part of Shylock peculiarly his own, as he was the first actor who ever represented that inimitably fine character in a serious and effective manner; previous to his assumption of it, it was usual to degrade the Jew of Venice into a mere buffoon. Macklin performed a variety of characters with infinite success, but his Shylock alone connects him with Shakspeare. The following extract from Kirkman's Life of Macklin, will illustrate the merit of that performance more forcibly than anything of our own.
"In the year 1741, Macklin resolved to revive The Merchant of Venice, by Shakspeare, in opposition to the Jew of Venice, altered from the same author by lord Lansdowne.
"I will not (said Mr. Kemble once to me) speak of Henderson's Falstaff: every person can say how rich and voluptuous it was; but I will say, that his Shylock was the greatest effort ever witnessed on the stage.' I remember it in its principal scenes, and I have no doubt what-play was put in rehearsal, and Macklin stuck ever that it fully merited so high a praise; but close to Shakspeare's text, and studied the part I respectfully insinuate, that Macklin in the of Shylock with great diligence. He saw from