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Silky, in the Road to Ruin, he is altogether unequalled :—the tottering step—the greedy, ghastly, and suspicious look--and the sharp, broken, and querulous voice, form an impressive and pitiable picture of human nature; and yet Mr. Barnes's reputation is founded less on these than on far inferior efforts, such as Mawworm, &c. There is another class of old men, of a vigorous, passionate, and self-willed temperament, such as Restive in Turn Out, and Col. Hardy, in Paul Pry, in which he is nearly if not equally happy.
Upon the whole there is a very great deal to admire in Barnes, with scarcely any thing, when once familiar with him, that is really offensive. And his faults too are not altogether his own, but are in some measure continued, if not created, by the public. For instance, when, as Sir Peter Teazle, in the screen scene, he relates the unkindness of his wife, and is moved to tears, the audience invariably catch at the application of the handkerchief to his eyes as an infallible one for them to laugh, thinking that the griefs of Barnes must of necessity be ludicrous; and, do all he can, he cannot make them comprehend that it is possible for him to enact a part where it is necessary to go through a little decorous sorrow, and affect to
shed tears in earnest. As it is very hard for a man to have his griefs laughed at, Barnes in turn laughs at grief; and a dose of him in the evening, taken the last thing before going to bed, is as good an antidote for the spleen as Colman's “Broad Grins.”
We now come to the last, though assuredly not the least, of the comic trio, whose efforts, as much as any thing else, have gained for the Park that high character which it at present enjoys; for it is not the half-dozen appearances of an eminent performer that give an enduring reputation to a theatre, but the combined and well-directed efforts of a fixed .. company. There is a strange way of acquiring histrionic fame in this land, by a curious process denominated "starring," which is carried into effect somewhat in this manner : a man, after cogitating upon the subject, becomes impregnated with a high opinion of his own very moderate abilities, and determines forthwith to enlarge his sphere of action ; he packs up his baggage and goes forth, scouring over the country in all directions, and becoming at intervals visible, for a few nights, first at one city and then at another; this continues for some time, when the gentleman returns, invested with all the
" flashes and outbreakings of genius.” To me, gross and habitual exaggeration seems to pervade nearly all the tragic exhibitions on the stage; and if this be so, it is sufficient evidence of the absence of feeling Genuine feeling never exaggerates. Those who are really touched by the parts they assume, may, from that very cause, be little master of themselves as to fail in giving a finished portrait of the character they have undertaken to represent; but they never, by any chance, fall into the opposite fault of “o'erstepping the modesty of nature," and becoming more violent than the hero or heroine of the scene would have been in reality. There is generally, however, an instinctive propriety about true passion, which leads those under its influence to do neither more nor less than they ought to do; whilst the less easily excited feelings of others wait upon the judgment, and it becomes a matter of calculation how much grief or energy must be used on certain occasions. But it is invariably your hacknied, cold blooded actors, without either passion or judgment, and who off the stage laugh at any thing like enthusiasm in their art as ridiculous, that “out-berod Herod," and affect a superabundance of feeling to conceal their utter want of it; just as ladies of questionable character make an over parade of delicacy; or, indeed, as preten
dred parts that might be mentioned in which he is unrivalled !-Hilson's humor is not of the sly, quiet, and unconscious kind, like Placide's-nor of the broad and familiar, like Barnes'it is of a more bustling and vivacious quality, and in parts full of gaiety and motion, shifts and stratagems--such as intriguing footmen or lying valets he is in his element. No man has a finer or quicker eye for the ridiculous: there are a number of things which take place in the business of the scene that do not admit of previous study, and Hilson sees in a moment where a look or motion will add effect to an accident, or heighten the absurdity of a situation. This is of great advantage to him at all times, but more particularly in characters of a burlesque description, such as Bombastes Furioso and Abrahamides, which he performs to admiration.
But there is another ground on which Mr. Hilson may be taken, and on which he possesses an immense advantage over his two comic brethren, Barnes and Placide, namely, in the exhibition of strong deep feeling, and rough violent passions; and this is, perhaps, his most perfect line, being altogether free from the follies before noticed. What effect he gives to the dead-weight character of Rolamo in Clari! and in stern, blunt and unfortunate veterans, of every description, he has the field all to himself