Suppose one or two of them, as the handsomest people sometimes will, should go to sleep! In short, the singers there take away all our attention from the minister, and would do so if they were the homeliest people in the world. We must try something else.
It is needless to explain that a Gothic religious life is not an idle one.
Perhaps the clothes question is exhausted, philosophically. I cannot but regret that the Poet of the Breakfast-Table, who appears to have an uncontrollable penchant for saying the things you would like to say yourself, has alluded to the anachronism of “Sir Coeur de Lion Plantagenet in the mutton-chop whiskers and the plain gray suit.”
A great many scribblers have felt the disadvantage of writing after Montaigne; and it is impossible to tell how much originality in others Dr. Holmes has destroyed in this country. In whist there are some men you always prefer to have on your left hand, and I take it that this intuitive essayist, who is so alert to seize the few remaining unappropriated ideas and analogies in the world, is one of them.
No doubt if the Plantagenets of this day were required to dress in a suit of chain-armor and wear iron pots on their heads, they would be as ridiculous as most tragedy actors on the stage. The pit which recognizes Snooks in his tin breastplate and helmet laughs at him, and Snooks himself feels like a sheep; and when the great tragedian comes on, shining in mail, dragging a two-handed sword, and mouths the grandiloquence which poets have put into the speech of heroes, the dress-circle requires all its good-breeding and its feigned love of the traditionary drama not to titter.
If this sort of acting, which is supposed to have come down to us from the Elizabethan age, and which culminated in the school of the Keans, Kembles, and Siddonses, ever had any fidelity to life, it must have been in a society as artificial as the prose of Sir Philip Sidney. That anybody ever believed in it is difficult to think, especially when we read what privileges the fine beaux and gallants of the town took behind the scenes and on the stage in the golden days of the drama. When a part of the audience sat on the stage, and gentlemen lounged or reeled across it in the midst of a play, to speak to acquaintances in the audience, the illusion could not have been very strong.