I have heard nothing more of or from John, but the newspaper reports of the proceedings are rather more favorable than they have been, though I fear one cannot place much reliance on them. I do not know how the papers you see speak of the aspect of affairs in England at this moment; the general feeling seems to be one of relief, and that, whatever apprehensions may have been entertained for the tranquillity of the country, the storm has blown over for the present. Everything is quiet again in London and promises to remain so, and there seems to be a sort of “drawing of a long breath” sensation in the state of the public mind, though I cannot myself help thinking not only that we have been, but that we still are, on the eve of some great crisis.
Mrs. Haller is going on very well; it is well spoken of, I am told, and upon the whole it seems to have done me credit, though I am surprised it has, for there is nothing in the part that gives me the least satisfaction. My next character, I hear, is to be of a very different order of frailty—Calista, in “The Fair Penitent.” However odious both play and part are, there are powerful situations in it, and many opportunities for fine acting, but I am afraid I am quite unequal to such a turpissime termagant, with whom my aunt did such tremendous things.
My performance of “The Fair Penitent” was entirely ineffective, and did neither me nor the theater any service; the play itself is a feeble adaptation of Massinger’s powerful drama of “The Fatal Dowry,” and, as generally happens with such attempts to fit our old plays to our modern stage, the fundamentally objectionable nature of the story could not be reformed without much of the vigorous and terrible effect of the original treatment evaporating in the refining process. Mr. Macready revived Massinger’s fine play with considerable success, but both the matter and the manner of our dramatic ancestors is too robust for the audiences of our day, who nevertheless will go and see “Diane de Lys,” by a French company of actors, without wincing. Of Mrs. Siddons’s Mrs. Haller, one of her admirers once told me that her majestic and imposing person, and the commanding character of her beauty, militated against her effect in the part. “No man, alive or dead,” said he, “would have dared to take a liberty with her; wicked she might be, but weak she could not be, and when she told the story of her ill-conduct in the play, nobody believed her.” While another of her devotees, speaking of “The Fair Penitent,” said that it was worth sitting out the piece for her scene with Romont alone, and to see “such a splendid animal in such a magnificent rage.”
My friend left us after a visit of a few weeks, taking my sister to Ireland with her on a visit to Ardgillan.