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her face too is fine, and well calculated, as we think, for the stage. Her education has been excellent, and her voice is, as we have been assured, sufficiently powerful to insure her success, if she can but summon up courage enough to give it fair play. We wait--with impatience, we own—for another attempt in which we not only sincerely, hope, but do believe, she will be successful.When excessive modesty is the only impediment to success, beshrew the hearts of those, we say, who will not do all that can with truth and reason be done to sustain her in the trial.-Dreadful trial.-what agony can surpass it? To our imagination it appears more formidable than any other to which sensibility and delicacy can be exposed—Who, that has a manly heart beating in his body, but must feel deeply interested?-What female, worthy of the name of woman, but must painfully sympathize on such an occasion?—When the time comes, we hope it will be found so.—Hope! nay, we are sure it will-God forbid we should so far libel our city even in thought, as to doubt it.
What we have said of Mr. Dwyer in Charles, applies equally to his Sir Robert Ramble.
Mrs. Mason was in Lady Teazle fully equal to our expectations of her, though they were great. The character of Miss Wooburn does not afford an equal scope for the exercise of her powers. She did, however, all that was requisite for it.
Of Mr. Cooke's performances this season we have only to speak with reference to our observations on him, in the same characters, in the last season.
Richard he performed pretty much as usual:-the second night only excepted, on which he surpassed himself almost as much as in general he surpasses others.
His Lear, too, was better than ever, and his Falstaff much superior to that of last season. Nor have we seen him but in London play Shylock so well. On the whole, the public admiration of this actor seems rather to be increased than diminished; and, notwithstanding the hardness of the times, the general desire to see him appears to have been little, if at all abated. His Shylock and Sir Archy, on the two nights they were performed, netted twenty-four hundred dollars.-His benefit (Richard) was a bumper. The reception of this great actor here does honour to the taste of the city.
07 We have received the animadversions of " Hint” on the Band interrupting the performance by coming preinaturely, at the end of each act, into the orchestra. It shall be attended to.
THE FRENCH STAGE.
[Continued from page 318.] We now come to him, who of all the French dramatic poets, is most excellent in moving the passions, and in purity of language, Racine, who, though by some thought equal in all things to Corneille, was inferior to him in heroic sentiment, and in the grandeur of his personages. As he ran the principal part of his glorious career during the lifetime of CORNEILLE and Moliere, it would be totally out of regularity to omit an account of him and his works in this place, especially as the new turn he gave to dramatic productions, inclined, in some measure, his fluctuating countrymen to neglect his great competitor, whose superior abilities had created what remained for Racine to perfect. JEAN RACINE was born at Ferte-Milon, December, 1639. At what age he went to school historians are not agreed upon; but one should suppose he was not very young, for it is said that he made a progress in Greek and Latin too rapid, one would think, for any but an adult, since in less than a year he read Sophocles, and Euripides, in their own language. It is also said, that at a very early age he manifested an extraordinary genius for poetry, and that his memory surpassed any thing that ever was heard of. VOL. IV.
Having met with the romance of Theagenes and Clariclea, written by Heliodorus, his instructor CLAUDE LAUNCELOT threw it into the fire. Racine found means to get a second copy, which shared the same fate. He then bought a third, and having taken a short time to examine it, took it to his master, and told him he might also burn that, for he had got it by heart.
The poetic merit of Racine appeared evidently in a variety of minor productions, though his Latin poetry injured his reputation, thanks, probably, to those pedants who are the only judges of the beauty of a language no longer spoken. At length, in 1660, the king's marriage set all the poets at work, and upon this occasion Racine repaired to Paris, where he celebrated that event in fine verses, and produced a poem called La Nymphe de la Seine, which bore away the palm from all its competitors. From this time he devoted himself entirely to poetry, except when, out of complaisance to his uncle, with whom he lived, he dipped into theology. Neither that study, however, nor logic, to which he had deeply attended, could prevent him from giving way to his poetic propensity; and becoming acquainted with Moliere, and afterwards with BOILEAU, he determined to make an attempt at the drama. Having with this view made choice of a subject, he applied himself diligently to the working of it up, and in 1664 produced Thebaide, his first piece, for which Moliere was said to have furnished him with the ma. terials. This, however, cannot be true, for when it appeared it was little more than a revision of L'Antigone of ROTROU, which Racine had adjusted to the theatre, thinking he could not do better than rescue a good performance from obscurity. Afterwards, however, he altered it considerably, and with the assistance of his verse, which was at all times correct and harmonious, it became celebrated.
His Alexandre appeared in 1666. Racine read this tragedy to CORNEILLE, who told him very honestly, (for Corneille was incapable of jealousy) that he saw in it wonderful talents for poetry, but not for tragedy, Racine brought out this at MOLIERE's theatre. It was damned. He was afterwards prevailed on to offer it to the Hotel de Bourgogne; where, with the assistance of Mademoiselle Pare, one of MOLIERE's best actresses, who was inticed away from him upon this occasion, it had good success. This treachery begat a coldness between MOLIERE and RACINE, which lasted as long as they lived, though it has always been allowed that upon all occasions they did each other justice as authors.
Andromache came out in 1667. This tragedy is remarkable for having occasioned two extraordinary circumstances: Mademoiselle CHAMPÈMELE, of whom RACINE had a very indifferent opinion, so won him that he fell violently in love with her; and MONTFLEURY, in endeavouring to personate ORESTES in his madness, which required the most strenuous exertions, was taken so ill that he soon after died.
Les Plaideurs, a comedy in three acts, and in verse, made its appearance in 1668. This is Racine's only attempt at comedy. A domestic circumstance is said to have given rise to the story; and the characters, as we are told, are all from real life. This comedy had little success at first. MOLIERE, however, did it justice, and said, that those who railed at that comedy ought to be railed at themselves. At length the king saw it, and spoke favourably of it, after which it did tolerably well.
Racine may be called the Otway of France, not only from the greater similarity that appears between their genius and writing, than between any other French and English dramatic poets, but from the singular circumstance of each having produced one comedy only, and that a very inferior production.
Britanicus was performed in 1669. This piece in spite of its merit failed on its eighth representation. RACINE ushered it into the world with a preface, in which he very imprudently as well as ungratefully treated CORNEILLE with severity; he, however, became sensible of his error, and afterwards suppressed it.
Bérénice came out in 1671. The sister-in-law of LEWIS the fourteenth prevailed on Racine to write a piece on the parting of Titus and BERENICE; that circumstance having a resemblance to the separation of her and her brother. RACINE engaged too hastily to comply with this request, and BOILEAU told him, that if he had been on the spot he should not have passed his word to do it. The subject certainly was not a favourable one; and though perhaps out of deference to those whom it was intended to compliment, it was pretty well followed, yet it was parodied and quoted so ludicrously that RACINE, who was always very irritable, became truly sorry he had written it.
Bajazet was brought forward in 1672. This tragedy had good success; but there is scarcely an instance in all Racine where
character is not sacrificed to the beauty of versification; and Bajazet is a glaring proof of it.
Mithridate made its appearance in 1763. The Pulcheric of CORNEILLE, performed the year before, which fell in spite of its author's great name, lifted RACINE into considerable fame; he brought out Mithridate when this great man, who had perfected every species of dramatic entertainment in FRANCE, was ungratefully shunned and neglected. He might have said with POMPEY, “ Dost thou not see that all eyes are turned towards the rising sun!”
Iphigene was performed in 1764. Racine, and the new taste he had introduced here, gained ground, and so completely conquered CORNEILLE and nature, that on the following year that great writer retired from the theatre.
In 1667 he brought out his Phadra, which was also well received: but a cabal was raised against the poet, and Pradou, a writer of little capacity, produced a Phædra in opposition to the noble composition of Racine: This hurt the feelings of the latter so much that he formed a design of becoming a Carthusian friar. He had formerly worn the ecclesiastical habit at the Port Royal; but his confessor expostulated with him, and prevailed upon him to marry; and thus instead of bidding adieu to the world, to become one of its useful members. By this marriage he became the father of seven children; but superstitiously credulous, he determined never to write for the theatre, and he was reconciled to the Port Royal, and all those whom satire or jocularity had made his enemies. In spite, however, of his resolutions, he was prevailed upon by madame Maintenon to write a sacred tragedy for her young ladies at Cyr, and this produced Esther, and afterwards Albalic. He was in 1673 admitted a member of the French academy, and in 1677 he was employed with Boileau to write the history of Lewis the XIV; but the work was never completed. Racine afterwards drew up the history of the Port Royal, in two volumes duodecimo.
The excessive sensibility of this charming poet at last proved the cause of his death. He wrote a memorial on the miseries of the poor, which he sent to madame Maintenon, but it fell accidentally into the hands of the king, who expressed his dissatisfaction at it; and Racine hearing of the royal displeasure, was so terrified that he fell into a fever, which carried him off in 1699. The king settled a pension on his family.