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War; yet, I confess, I am afraid, that too much is deriv'd from the Defects of the Stage it self. When I was a young Player under Sir William Davenant, we were under a much better Discipline, we were obliged to make our Study our Business, which our young Men do not think it
. their duty now to do; for they now scarce ever mind a Word of their Parts but only at Rebearsals, and come thither too often scarce recovered from their last Night's Debauch when the Mind is not very capable of considering so calmly and judiciously on what they have to study, as to enter throughly into the Nature of the Part, or to consider the Variation of the Voice, Looks, and Gestures, which should give them their true Beauty, many of them thinking the making a Noise renders them agreeable to the Audience, because a few of the Upper-Gallery clap the loud Efforts of their Lungs, in which their Understanding has no share. They think it a superfluous Trouble to study real Excellence, which might rob them of what they fancy more, Midnight, or indeed whole Nights Debauches, and a lazy Remisness in their Business.
Another Obstacle to the Improvement of our young Players, is, that when they have not been admitted above a Month or two into the Company, tho their Education and former Business were never so foreign to Ačting, they vainly imagine themselves Masters of that Art, which perfectly to attain, requires a studious Application of a Man's whole Life. They take it there
fore amiss to have the Author give them any Instruction
j and tho they know nothing of the Art of Poetry, will give their Censure, and neglect or mind a Part as they think the Author and his Part deserves. Tho in this they are led by Fancy as blind as Ignorance can make it; and so wandring without any certain Rule of Judgment, generally favour the bad, and light the good. Whereas it has always been mine and Mrs. Barry's Practice to consult e’en the most indifferent Poet in any Part we have thought fit to accept of; and I may say it of her, she has often fo exerted her self in an indifferent Part, that her Acting hias given Success to such Plays, as to read would turn a Man's Stomach
and tho I could never pretend to do so much Service that way as she has done, yet I have never been wanting in my Endeavours. But while the young Gentlemen will think themselves Masters before they understand any one Point of their Art, and not give themselves Leisure and Time to study the Graces of ACTION and UTTERANCE, it is impossible that the Stage should flourish, and advance in Perfection.
I am very sensible (faid I, finding that he had done) of the Justness of what you have said, Sir, but am apt to believe niuch of those Errors, which you remark proceed from want of Judgment in the Managers, in admitting People unqualified by Nature, and not providing such Men to direct them, who understand the Art they should be improv'd in. All other Arts People
are taught by Masters skilful in them, but here Ignorance teaches it self, or rather confirms it self into the Confidence of Knowledge, by going on without any Rebuke. I have often with’d, therefore, that some Men of good Sense, and acquainted with the Graces of Aētion and Speaking, would lay down some Rules, by which the young Beginners might direct themselves to that Perfe&ion, which every body is sensible is extremely (and perhaps always has been) wanted on our Stage. And tho you have not had the Benefit of such an Education in the learned Languages, as foine Men inay have had, yet since you have read much in French, and your own Mother Tongue, by the Assistance of which Languages all Knowledge may now be obtain'd, and have besides a confess’d Genius, and a long practice in the Art, I wish I could prevail with you to deliver your Sentiments on this Head, so that from them we might form a System of Ačting, which might be a Rule to future Players, and teach them to excel not only themselves, but those who have gone before them.
Were I, Sir, (reply'd he with a graceful Modesty) as capable as you would persuade me that you think me, I should easily be prevaild with to communicate my Notions on this Head; but being sensible of my Incapacity, for the very Reasons you have mention'd, of my Ignorance of the learned Tongues, I must be excus’d; yet not to disappoint you entirely, I shall fetch you a Manuscript on this Head, written by a Friend
of mine, to which I confefs I contributed all, that I was able; which if well perus’d, and throughly weighid, I persuade my self our Stage would rife and not fall in Reputation.
On this he went into his House, and after a little Stay return'd to us with some loose Papers, which I knew to be his own Hand ; and being feated, after a Glass of Wine about, he thus began.
Being to treat of the Art of Playing, and the Duty and Qualifications of Actors, I think it will be no iniproper Method first to consider, What Regard an A&or ought to have to his Conduct off the Stage, before we treat of what he is to do upon it.
I have not found in all the Clamours against the Stage, any one that denies the Usefulness of the Drama, if justly manag'd; nay, Mr.Collier the most formidable Enemy of this Diversion, (tho his Proto-Martyr, Archbishop Laud, contended so violently for the Book of Sports, and Plays were acted at Court, in the Time of the Royal Martyr, even on Sundays) does allow, that the Wit of Man cannot invent any more efficacious means of encouraging Virtue, and depressing of Vice.
Hence I believe it is evident, that they suppose the Moral Lessons, which the Stage prefents, may make the greatest Impressions on the Minds of the Audience; because the Instruction is convey'd with Pleasure, and by the Miniftration of the Passions, which always have a
stronger Remembrance, than the calmer Precepts of Reason.
But then I think there is no manner of doubt but that the Lives and Characters of those Per-, fons, who are the Vehicles, as I may call them, of these Instructions, must contribute very much to the Impression the Fable and Moral will make. For to hear Virtue, Religion, Honour recommended by a Prostitute, an Atheist, or a Rake, makes them a Jest to many People, who would hear the same done with Awe by Persons of known Reputation in those Particulars. Look but into Religion it felf, and see how little the Words and Sermons of a known Drunkard, or Debauchee affect his Parishioners; and what an Influence a Divine of a pious and regular Life has on his Congregation, his Virtues preparing thein to hear him with Respect, and to believe hiin as a Man whofe Actions call not his Faith into doubt. Tho' the Pulpit must be allow'd to be the more facred Place, as dispensing the most holy Mysteries of the Christian Religion ; yet since the Gospel consists of the Agenda as well as Credenda, of Practice as well as Belief, and since the Practice is so forcibly recommend’ed from the Stage by a purifying our Passions, and the Conveyance of Delight, the Stage may properly be esteem'd the Handmaid of the Pulpit.
For this Reafon, I first recommend to our Players, both Male and Female, the greatest and most nice Care of their Reputation imaginable ;