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pounds of stupidity, cowardice and malice; half snake, half gander, the HISSERS, exposed their forked tongues and brainless heads (a miserable discontented minority such as frequently disturb our theatre) but were soon put down, as indeed the same class of troublesome nonentities ought to be put down among us. The comedy passed through its ordeal with thunders of applause, and continued to be acted as long as Macklin was able to perform sir Pertinax. Of his property in this play and in his “ Love à la Mode" the old gentleman was exceedingly jealous and strict; never failing to resort to a court of law for a prohibition, whenever either of them was attempted to be acted. Şince his death, the property having become public, Cooke has assumed the two parts with such success that his performance was at once considered as equal to that of the author; and for a long time past he has been allowed, even by the most partial admirers of the deceased veteran, to be much superior to Macklin in the personification of both. Of the powers of Cooke a stronger proof cannot be adduced than this singular fact. It was universally believed that sir Pertinax and sir Archy would die along with Macklin; and indeed it was natural enough to think so; for his excellence in both characters was so great that the imagination could scarcely figure to itself any thing more perfect, till Cooke appeared, who, by the superiority of his performance has afforded us a salutary lesson against overweening confidence in our opinions, and taught us how vain and presumptuous it is for any man dog- matically to lay it down that a thing is impossible, only because he himself cannot form a conception of its existence.
The original name of this comedy, and under which it had, for many years before its appearance on the stage of the metropolis of England, been performed in Dublin with untounded applause, was, 6 The true born. Scotchman." There we first saw it; and certainly had we not since seen Cooke, we should have thought any man's attempting it an act of rashness, if not presumption. Cooke's delineation of it, however, convinced us that we were a great way out in our calculation.
Of a performance, no one part of which falls short of positive excellence, to particularize any passage as most deserving of praise may seem nugatory; yet we find ourselves irresistibly tempted to avow our opinion that Cooke's manner of relating the process of industrious sycophancy by which he rose from his “ beggarly clerka ship in Sawney Gordon's counting house" to his present rank, opu
lence and importance, is the very finest specimen of natural, yet bold and vigorous comic acting and speaking, that was ever presented on any stage. His description of that shrivelled, cadaverous neglected piece of deformity, in the shape of an eеzard, or an epperciand, whom he married for her wealth, together with his account of her death, were prominently beautiful. The manner in which he said, " Ass soon as: I found she had the siller, aha! gude truith I plump'd mee doon upo' doun close by her, cheek by jole, and I sung, and I sighed, and I groaned as vehemently ass she could do for the life of her; ay, and I turned up the whites of my een, till the strings awmost crack'd again; I watch'd her attentively, handed her till her chair; waited on her hame, and got most releegiously intimate wi' her,” was in the richest vein of genuine, chaste, comic humour; but when, his face glowing with exultation, with drolling self-applause and at the same time with earnest importance, he drew up his chair close to Egerton, by way of inforcing his description, and continued, “ I married her in a week; I buried her in a fortnight; in a month I touched her siller; and wi' a deep suit of mourning, a sorrowful veesage, and a joyful heart, I began the world again," there was a full luxuria. ce of expression, without the slightest trespass upon nature, which we think may fairly be set down as the acme of perfection in the personification of character, and leaves all competitors, dead or living, as far below, as the eagle in his highest flight leaves the crows and choughs that wing the midway air.”
Without having ever seen Mr. Garrick, we cannot help infer. ring from the excellencies which Cooke possesses, in common with that great man (according to general report of him) that the natural genius of the latter is nearly akin to that of the former, abstracted from any imitation. The comedy of Cooke is as completely distinct from his tragedy, as if they were the workings of two separate men: And this was certainly one of Mr. Garrick's excellencies. We have heretofore made the same remark upon Hodgkinson, who, inferior though he was to either of those great men in tragic exhibition, had not only more generality and diversity than any other person, but marked his comedy and tragedy with expressions so very distinct that no one could have imagined them to be the offspring of the same parent.
It would be injustice to Mr. Cooke, and to ourselves, to let our rapturous enjoyment of the passages above quoted render us forgetful of the innumerable beauties he disclosed in the other
scenes. In his tyrannical, dictatorial conduct to his son Egerton in his treacherous professions, his fawning servility, his abject adulation, and at the same time in his inflexible, tenacious self-interested dealing with lord Lumbercourt, (the suaviter in' modo & fortiter in re, so much recommended by lord Chesterfield)-in his malignant joy upon discovering the supposed intrigue of Constantia, and in his mortification when she is proved to be innocent, he was uniformly perfect in conception, and forcible in execution. His manner of uttering “ the clearing up of this wench's virtue is dom'd unlucky! I'm afraid it will ruin all our affairs,” will not be forgotten in Philadelphia while any of those live who witnessed it. Macklin's inferiority to Cooke consisted in this, that he was less plausible in his flattery of the peer, less versatile, and infinitely less insinuating. The inflexible hardness of his features, the loud sepulchral hollowness of his voice, rendered lord Chesterfield's suaviter in modo difficult to him. He must be a foolish lord Lumbercourt indeed who could swallow flattery from the stubborn, unbending, iron face and deportment of old Macklin; but in Cooke's aspect there was nothing to impair probability, while every turn of sir Pertinax, met ample correspondence from the admirable versatility of his features, utterance and action. In a word, as we never have seen, so we think it very unlikely that we ever shall again see a piece of comic acting so free from faults and so replete with excellencies as Mr. Cooke's sir Pertinax Macsycophant.
Having given our sentiments upon this great actor in sir Pertinax, we should close the article, if we had not accidentally met with a passage in a respectable critical publication printed at London, which speaks so correctly as well as pleasantly of both the play and the actor, and proves so indisputably the high professional estimation in which Cooke is held in London, that we think it well worth subjoining, as a part and indeed a very interesting part of the same subject.
« Mr. Cooke, returned from his travels, made his first appearance this season in Macklin's Sir Pertinax Macsycophant. The many rumours of his sufferance by spirits and bailiffs, “ his disastrous chances of moving accidents by flood of hairbreadth 'scapes of being taken by the insolent foe, and redemption thence," seemed to have such an effect on the audience that they really appeared the more to love him for the dangers he had pass’d, and with, not
three, but six rounds of applause, greeted his return. Such a house has not been seen, since the little hour of little Betty. Towards the end of the second act, he showed symptoms of a cold, but he recovered himself, and on the whole drew a masterly picture of the Scottish Sycophant, all pride and meanness-impudence and servility.- And when he is himself, no stage exhibition can hope for more perfection from the deliberative and executive powers of man. We fear indeed, that this likeness is seen (according to the motto) veluti in speculum, and we are surprised that while it is such a national reflection on those who number so strong in the management of state affairs, the manæuvres and machinations of which are also so grossly exposed, we are surprised, we say, that the license is still extended to its representation. John Bull's perpetual roar of enjoyment on the occasion is not much unlike the delight which a maniac takes in the rattling of his chains. Of Mr. Cooke's imprudence, until we again suffer by it, we shall say no more. As it respects himself it carries its own punishment along with it. Viewing him on all sides, his failings and his vast merits, we are tempted to exclaim with Chesterfield of lord Bolingo broke, “What can we say but-Alas, poor Human Nature!"
We venture to predict that Mr. Cooke's first return to the London audience will be greeted with such welcomes as no actor ever before received, and perhaps with more overflowing houses. Yet it is here we wish him to be; and we much doubt whether here he ought not to be, and will not yet wish himself. Did not connecting circumstances supersede private inclination, it is likely enough that he is, even now, of our opinion. He may in England have greater numbers because larger theatres to applaud him, as an actor; (we defy them to applaud him more,) but as a man, he cannot in the nature of things have so many elegant, steady, and cordial friends, of high character, quality, connexions, and opulence, to make his life at once pleasant and respectable, as he leaves behind him in Philadelphia
MR. COOKE IN SHYLOCK. We scarcely know a drama which affords a greater scope for disquisition, critical as well as historical, than this of The MERCHANT OF VENICE. To neglect the qualities of the play while we investigate the merits of the actor would be but half doing our daty. When a person reads a play of Shakspeare's, he should look
upon himself as a commentator bound in respect to himself to investigate the faults and beauties of the work, to make a fair estimate of the author's merits, to discover as far as possible his excellencies, and at the same time to guard himself against being blinded by extravagant admiration. When a person sees a play of Shakspeare acted by a great and truly philosophic actor like Cooke, he may consider himself as listening to a production of the greatest genius that ever existed, elucidated by the practical and intellectual observations of one of the ablest commentators that lives. The object of the dramatic critic should be to unite both, and not only to join his commentaries with those of the actor in illustration of the poet's design; but to point out to his reader how far the author is indebted to the actor for the elicitation of beauties which before lay concealed, and how much of the merit of the performance of the latter may reasonably be ascribed to the genius and composition of the former.
It derogates nothing from the merit of Shakspeare that he has borrowed many of the fables and incidents of his plays from old ballads and traditionary stories; while on the other hand his adherence to them niay be considered as an apology for many of the anomalies, the useless outrages on the unities, and the improbabili. ties which deface his plots. From the Gesta Romanorum from Hollingshed's chronicles, and from the works of the Italian novelists, most of those plots are taken either immediately, or else circuitously through other writers. That the story of the Merchant of Venice is founded in fact there is every reason to believe. Doctor Johnson observes, it had been discovered that the fable is taken from a story in the Pecorone of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, a novelist who wrote in 1378, translated into English, and that the translator of it was of opinion that the story of the caskets was taken from Boccaoe, both of which the doctor abridged: nevertheless the Doctor says, he believes that Shakspeare had some other novel in view. Steevens says that it appears from a passage in Gosson's School of Abuse (1579) that a play, comprehending the distinct plots of Shakspeare's Merchant of Venice, had been exhibited long before our great bard commenced a writer, the name of which was “ The Jew shown at the Bull, representing the greediness of worldly choosers, and the bloody minds of usurers."
It is astonishing to think how universally this extraordinary story has been known for many ages, and in how many countries