characters, and the imitation would not be recognized unless the audience had seen him in the part imitated. Not so with many-Barnes, for instance. Let a good imitation of him be given in any character, and though nine-tenths of the audience have never seen him in that peculiar character, the general resemblance will be instantly appreciated.

In articles like the present, which must of necessity be brief, it would be impossible to enter into a minute examination of the various excellencies of Mr. Placide, in the wide range of parts in which he appears. There are three distinct classes in which he is without an equal, namely, old men, or rather middle-aged gentlemen, drunken servants, and kindhearted, simple country lads. As a sample of the three we would instance the Marquis in the Cabinet, Antonio in the Marriage of Figaro, and Zekiel Homespun in the Heir at Law. In the last he would probably be successful either at Drury Lane or Covent Garden. Upon the whole, he is a fine -almost a faultless actor, with a rich natural vein of humor, free from the alloy of buffoonery.


Ir will not be easy for us to forget the first time we saw this actor. Going into the Park theatre one evening after the performance had commenced, we perceived a person on the boards conducting himself in what appeared to us a very extraordinary manner; though it is not easy to find words clearly to explain what that manner was. He was moving his body across the boards in a most eccentric fashion, throwing his limbs into all sorts of unimaginable positions, ogling, squinting, puffing out his cheeks, and alternately elongating and contracting the muscles of the thin and narrow face of wbich he was the owner, with the most ridiculous and ludicrous rapidity. The business of the stage was at a stand, and the other actors appeared to wait with exemplary patience for the termination of those curious proceedings; and then they, and this person in particular, played out the rest of the scene in a




discreet and proper manner. The people around seemed to take all in good part; while we were lost in astonishment, and knew not which to wonder at most, the impudence of the actor, or the passiveness of the audience. Hinting as much to a gentleman in the vicinity, he smilingly replied that "it was Barnes ;" the announcement of which piece of information he seemed to consider as a perfectly satisfactory explanation of what had taken place or of whatever might take place.

Verily, there is much truth in the saying, that custom is second nature.” When Clara Fisher first appeared in this country, every one noticed and talked about the slight lisp which it was then averred she had, though now, nine-tenths of her admirers will deny that any such peculiarity does, or ever did exist. So, though in a greater degree, with Barnes. Custom has so reconciled us to his ways, that we can at present sit and see the manæuvres with which he intersperses his part, played off, scarcely conscious that they are the same which formerly excited our unmingled astonishment; and if asked to speak of him as we now see him, we should say, that he is one of the most amusing, extravagant, and extraordinary actors we have ever beheld. In the main, he is undoubtedly a man possessed of real sterling comic talent, though not of the most polished kind. He has all the spirit, drollery, and coarseness of one of Cruickshank's caricatures. His buffooneries (if for the lack of another term, so harsh a word may be applied,) are the best species of that bad genus, inimitable of their kind, and less offensive than those of any other actor ; and he has so intermixed them with every thing he does, that there is no separating the good from the bad, the wheat from the tares, so that his best efforts are sprinkled with defects, and his worst marked with many redeeming qualities. No man takes a liberty with his audience so frequently as Barnes, and no man does it so well. Others stop half way, as if conscious that they were doing wrong, and fail; Barnes, on the contrary, treats the audience like an old friend-places unlimited confidence in their good nature, and succeeds ; for they seem to feel that it would be unkind to repay this confidence with any thing else than a laugh at his good, bad, or indifferent jokes.

It would be folly to say that Mr. Barnes was any thing like a faultless performer, but he is a great deal better than many who approach nearer that character. He is an original, and one whom you like sometimes, even in spite of your judgment:

and, let him play what he will, his appearance is always welcome.

There are two classes of persons who form an undue estimate of Barnes. First, the vulgar, who admire prodigiously and applaud vociferously, the contortions and distortions of his visage, and are, for the most part, incapable of admiring any thing else; and, secondly, the over fastidious, who, pretending to an extraordinary purity of taste, judge him by his defects rather than by his merits, and, for a few unseemly excrescences, condemn a man of first-rate talents as merely a low actor. This is injustice in the highest degree. In nearly the whole of the extensive range of characters he sustains, the sterling ore is in the proportion of ten to one to the alloy ; and in all the shades of old men, he may be pronounced uniformly good. There is a truth in his conception, and even a minute delicacy of finish in his representation of the lowest and most degraded stages of humanity—of extreme dotage and drivelling imbecility, that are superlatively fine. In old misers too,-rascals clinging with desperate inveteracy to this world and its concerns, yet fearful and anxious about the future trembling at eternity and grasping at a guineasuch as Nicholas, in Secrets Worth Knowing, or

« ElőzőTovább »