The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 567 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb Volume 2.
could meet on a conciliating level, and lay down their less important differences.  Once only I saw the old gentleman really ruffled, and I remembered with anguish the thought that came over me:  “Perhaps he will never come here again.”  He had been pressed to take another plate of the viand, which I have already mentioned as the indispensable concomitant of his visits.  He had refused, with a resistance amounting to rigour—­when my aunt, an old Lincolnian, but who had something of this, in common with my cousin Bridget, that she would sometimes press civility out of season—­uttered the following memorable application—­“Do take another slice, Mr. Billet, for you do not get pudding every day.”  The old gentleman said nothing at the time—­but he took occasion in the course of the evening, when some argument had intervened between them, to utter with an emphasis which chilled the company, and which chills me now as I write it—­“Woman, you are superannuated.”  John Billet did not survive long, after the digesting of this affront; but he survived long enough to assure me that peace was actually restored! and, if I remember aright, another pudding was discreetly substituted in the place of that which had occasioned the offence.  He died at the Mint (Anno 1781) where he had long held, what he accounted, a comfortable independence; and with five pounds, fourteen shillings, and a penny, which were found in his escrutoire after his decease, left the world, blessing God that he had enough to bury him, and that he had never been obliged to any man for a sixpence.  This was—­a Poor Relation.

STAGE ILLUSION

A play is said to be well or ill acted in proportion to the scenical illusion produced.  Whether such illusion can in any case be perfect, is not the question.  The nearest approach to it, we are told, is, when the actor appears wholly unconscious of the presence of spectators.  In tragedy—­in all which is to affect the feelings—­this undivided attention to his stage business, seems indispensable.  Yet it is, in fact, dispensed with every day by our cleverest tragedians; and while these references to an audience, in the shape of rant or sentiment, are not too frequent or palpable, a sufficient quantity of illusion for the purposes of dramatic interest may be said to be produced in spite of them.  But, tragedy apart, it may be inquired whether, in certain characters in comedy, especially those which are a little extravagant, or which involve some notion repugnant to the moral sense, it is not a proof of the highest skill in the comedian when, without absolutely appealing to an audience, he keeps up a tacit understanding with them; and makes them, unconsciously to themselves, a party in the scene.  The utmost nicety is required in the mode of doing this; but we speak only of the great artists in the profession.

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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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