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Monsieur Morbleu is one of the old school. He is gallant-witness his attentions to Madame Bellegarde, ci-devant Dame d'Honneur, and grande Beauté! He is cheerful, for he can dance and sing, while contrasting his former occupation of Général de Division with his present, Perruquier en général. He is generous, for he protects the orphan in the midst of his poverty-his littel protegée, de petite Mademoiselle Adolphine. He is irascible,-and who shall wonder at it, when his patience has to undergo so severe a trial for the amusement of his persecutors ?
The peculiar phraseology of Monsieur Morbleu,-the singular construction of his sentences,-his heterogeneous mixture of broken English and French, independent of the grotesque situations in which he is placed, give considerable effect to his character. Tom King, who, according to tradition, was one of the choice spirits of his day, is preserved with great glee. According to his own account, he is invested with as many titles and orders as the most magnificent potentate on the face of the earth-not excepting the Brother of the Sun, and Cousin of the Moon! The remaining characters are pleasantly drawn, and the story, in its progress and development, has the genuine drollery of Farce, with something to interest and engage our best feelings.
The hits in the character of Morbleu are exceedingly good. His chevaux-de-frize, and his friz de cheveux,-his apprehensions that one pail of water will not be half enough for the family of the Tonsons, but that he must get "de New River cock turn on,"-his inquiry about the "souper," his "von vet,"-his duck and pea,-together with his incessant applications to "Monsieur Vash," -are in the highest degree characteristic and droll. We never beheld an audience merrier than at the incident of "Thomson's Seasons," when Morbleu starts from the table with the steak at the end of his fork,-or when he sings "Monsieur Tonson is dead! he is very dead indeed!" contrasted with his agony and surprise, when "Four Tonsons" appear before him, like the spectral forms in "Macbeth."
"A third is like the former :
A fourth? Start, eyes !"
In these scenes, Mathews rose above all praise—
"Not more applause when puppets dance on wire,
Not more applause when Kemble, full of death,
Gattie was the original Monsieur Morbleu; and it is but justice to add, that his talents first established the credit of the piece. But, "the greatest is behind." Mathews fortu nately adopted the character, and gave the town his version of it. There may be four Tonsons, but there is only one Monsieur Morbleu.
And the difference is this-Gattie hits off the pauvre barbière to a nicety; but he looks as if he had never been any thing else but "un pauvre barbière." Mathews has the air, the bienséance, of the Chevalier, who had danced a minuet in "de Cour de Versailles." He is a finished courtier of the ancien régime-he merely puts on the “barbière,” as the garb of necessity. Gattie cannot be pathetic-Mathews has smiles and tears equally at his command; and unless both are excited in Morbleu, the character is imperfectly represented. Nothing can be more delightful than the gaiety of Mathews-His petit chanson, "C'est l'Amour!" and his accompanying capers, are exquisitely French. His transitions from gaiety to sadness from restlessness to civility-his patient and impatient shrugs, were admirably given. The recital of his story to Adolphine de Courcy, and his affectionate assurances of protection, reached the heart. The infinite variety of Mathews's countenance was true to every emotion. As a performance, it is, in every sense, unique of its kind.
The author of "Monsieur Tonson," Mr. Moncrieff, is well known as one of the most prolific dramatists of the present day. He can write a Farce while others are thinking about it. He has as many relations (dramatic ones) as King Priam. If some of his very numerous offspring chance to be weak and ricketty, others are in a healthy and thriving condition, and among the latter we may instance "Monsieur Tonson," and "The Spectre Bridegroom."
* Virgil in London.
MEMOIR OF MR. MATHEWS.
"Poeta nascitur, non fit." The sentiment applies equally to the actor, as to the poet. There is but one school-the school of Nature: but as poetry is subject to rules of art, nature requires to be dramatized, to give her full effect on the stage. The diamond is no less a diamond because it is polished. Acting may be comprised in two words -Abstraction and Intonation. The actor must forget himself and the audience, and be alone the character he represents. Natural talent, refined and improved by art, is true excellence; but art without nature, is an automaton --a wax-work figure; the semblance of life, not the reality. It is recorded that Garrick
"But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
We have witnessed the same effect in Kemble and in Siddons and a man might take credit for more wit than his neighbours, could he discover in Mr. Mathews's innumerable impersonations, such an individual as Mr. Mathews.
This great ornament of the English stage is the son of the late Mr. James Mathews, who was for many years an eminent bookseller in the Strand, where our Comedian was born, on the 28th of June, 1776. The father's principles would have directed the son to any other pursuit than that of the stage had young Mathews followed parental advice, he might peradventure have been standing
contagious to his Majesty's subjects, and charging them on their apparel to touch a hair of his wig. But Momus stept in and claimed him for his own; and who shall say, that the laughing god ever made choice of a droller disciple? ;
"A merrier man,
Within the limit of becoming mirth,
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest."
On the 9th of September, 1793, Mr. Mathews made his first appearance on any stage, at Richmond, in Surrey, in the characters of Richmond, in "Richard the Third," and Bowkitt, in the "Son-in-Law." This was as an amateur. His first professional appearance was on the 19th of June, 1794, on the Dublin stage, in Jacob Gawky and Lingo. His success was complete; but the manager, Mr. Daly, so far from appreciating the talents of his young recruit, placed him in a variety of subordinate characters-that Mathews, whose leading characteristic through life has been a spirit of independence-quitted a situation so humiliating, and after making a tour through Wales, enlisted under Tate Wilkinson, the eccentric and well-known manager of the York Theatre, where he made his first appearance, in the year 1798, in Silky and Lingo.
For five years the risible faculties of the York audiences were kept in perpetual motion, under the influence of Mr. Mathews. But this monopoly of fun was not to last till doomsday. Mr. Colman, seeing no just cause or impediment why the good folks in London should not be merry too, deputed Mr. Mathews to relax their muscles, which he did very effectually, on the 16th of May, 1803, as Jabal, in "The Jew;" and in his old favourite character of Lingo"the master of scholars !"
On the 18th of September, 1804, Mr. Mathews made his entrée on the boards of Old Drury, in the character of Don Manuel, in Cibber's comedy of "She would and she would not," and for eight years he continued a leading member of that company. His first appearance at Covent Garden was on the 12th of October, 1812, as Buskin, in the Farce of "Killing no Murder."
No actor had assumed a wider range of characters, or supported them with greater ability, than Mr. Mathews.
Flats, Sharps, Tall-boys, Dotards, Countrymen, Cocknies, Eccentrics of all ages, and nations, were represented by him with true comic fidelity. His imitative talent occasionally indulged in the pleasant mischief of taking off his brother actors. He might sit for Incledon's portrait, and the artist himself be deceived. If he be not the identical Dicky Suett, there's no purchase in money. Considering, however, that his talents were not sufficiently called into action, for, like Richard, "his soul was in arms, and eager for the fray," he took himself off, and in March, 1818, he appeared "At Home," at the English Opera House, where, up to the present moment, he has continued to realise all that has been said of Proteus; and to exhibit more faces than Argus had eyes.
Some have attempted to prove that Mathews, though a consummate mimic, is no actor: and Pope, by the same rule, has been pronounced a good versifier, but no poet! To adopt the sentiment of Dr. Johnson, we may ask, If Mathews is no actor, where is acting to be found? Is Lingo nothing? Is Sir Fretful Plagiary nothing? Is Morbleu nothing? Is the Old Scotchwoman nothing?
"If these are nothing;
Why, then the world, and all that's in 't, is nothing.”
"What money have you in your pocket, master Mathew?"-The reward of Mr. Mathews's professional labours is a handsome independence, which he dispenses with the taste and liberality of a gentleman. He is an enthusiast in his art, which may well account for his singular excellence. A more interesting collection of dramatic curiosities was never brought together by the industry of one man. It is one thing to possess wealth, and another to employ it. The Otium cum dignitate was never more happily exemplified than in Mr. Mathews. Surrounded by his books, his pictures, and a few select friends, he may turn aside from mere ostentatious luxury, and exclaim, with the Spectator, "These are my companions !" His theatrical career commenced during the meridian of the stage. He beheld it in its glory, and he has witnessed its decline. For ourselves, we delight to have contemplated so splendid an era.-Let younger and livelier spirits look forward to embryo genius-Seeing what we have seen, our view is retrospectwe.—