Many instances would be tedious; these may suffice to show that comic acting at least does not always demand from the performer that strict abstraction from all reference to an audience, which is exacted of it; but that in some cases a sort of compromise may take place, and all the purposes of dramatic delight be attained by a judicious understanding, not too openly announced, between the ladies and gentlemen—on both sides of the curtain.
TO THE SHADE OF ELLISTON
Joyousest of once embodied spirits, whither at length hast thou flown? to what genial region are we permitted to conjecture that thou has flitted.
Art thou sowing thy WILD OATS yet (the harvest time was still to come with thee) upon casual sands of Avernus? or art thou enacting ROVER (as we would gladlier think) by wandering Elysian streams?
This mortal frame, while thou didst play thy brief antics amongst us, was in truth any thing but a prison to thee, as the vain Platonist dreams of this body to be no better than a county gaol, forsooth, or some house of durance vile, whereof the five senses are the fetters. Thou knewest better than to be in a hurry to cast off those gyves; and had notice to quit, I fear, before thou wert quite ready to abandon this fleshly tenement. It was thy Pleasure House, thy Palace of Dainty Devices; thy Louvre, or thy White Hall.
What new mysterious lodgings dost thou tenant now? or when may we expect thy aerial house-warming?
Tartarus we know, and we have read of the Blessed Shades; now cannot I intelligibly fancy thee in either.
Is it too much to hazard a conjecture, that (as the school-men admitted a receptacle apart for Patriarchs and un-chrisom Babes) there may exist—not far perchance from that storehouse of all vanities, which Milton saw in visions—a LIMBO somewhere for PLAYERS? and that
Up thither like aerial vapours fly
Both all Stage things, and all that in Stage things
Built their fond hopes of glory, or lasting fame?
All the unaccomplish’d works of Authors’ hands,
Abortive, monstrous, or unkindly mix’d,
Damn’d upon earth, fleet thither—
Play, Opera, Farce, with all their trumpery—
There, by the neighbouring moon (by some not improperly supposed thy Regent Planet upon earth) mayst thou not still be acting thy managerial pranks, great disembodied Lessee? but Lessee still, and still a Manager.
In Green Rooms, impervious to mortal eye, the muse beholds thee wielding posthumous empire.
Thin ghosts of Figurantes (never plump on earth) circle thee in endlessly, and still their song is Fye on sinful Phantasy.
Magnificent were thy capriccios on this globe of earth, ROBERT WILLIAM ELLISTON! for as yet we know not thy new name in heaven.
It irks me to think, that, stript of thy regalities, thou shouldst ferry over, a poor forked shade, in crazy Stygian wherry. Methinks I hear the old boatman, paddling by the weedy wharf, with raucid voice, bawling “SCULLS, SCULLS:” to which, with waving hand, and majestic action, thou deignest no reply, other than in two curt monosyllables, “No: OARS.”