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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:55:25
Typefacelarge in Small
The fact is, the cant words "physical" and "melodramatic," as demeaningly used in dramatic criticism, express a vulgar prejudice too prevalent among the educated and refined,—a prejudice infinitely more harmful than any related prejudice of the ignorant and coarse. They seem to fancy the body something vile, to be ashamed of, to receive as little attention and be kept as much out of sight as possible. But since God created the body as truly as he did the spirit, and decreed its uses as much as he did those of the spirit, the perfecting and glorifying of the former are just as legitimate as the perfecting and glorifying of the latter. The ecclesiastical interpretation of Christianity for these fifteen hundred years is responsible, in common with kindred ascetic superstitions of other and elder religions, for an incalculable amount of disease, deformity, vice, crime, and untimely death. The contempt for bodily power and its material conditions in a superbly-developed and trained physical organism, the foul and dishonoring notion of the superior sanctity of the celibate state, the teaching that chastity is the one thing that allies us to the angels, with which every other sin may be forgiven, without which no other virtue is to be recognized,—these and associated errors—discords, distortions, and inversions of nature—have been prolific sources of evil. They lie at the root of the so common prejudice against a magnificent and glowing condition of the physical organism, a prejudice which feeds the conceit of the votaries of the present mental forcing system, and causes so many dawdling idlers to neglect all use of those vigorous measures of gymnastic hygiene which would raise the power and splendor of body and soul together to their maximum.

Each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents. In every receding generation the number doubles, from thirty-two to sixty-four, then to one hundred and twenty-eight, and so on; so that at the twentieth remove, omitting the factor of intermarriages, one has over a million ancestors! So many threads of nerve thrilling into him out of the dark past! So many invisible rivulets of blood tributary to the ocean of his heart, the collective experiences of all of them latently reported in his structure! His physiological mould and type, his mental biases and passional drifts, his longevity, and other prospective experiences and fate, are the resultant of these combined contributions modified by his own choice and new circumstances. What can be conceived more solemnly impressive, or to us morally more sublime and momentous, than this picture of an immortal personality, isolated in his own responsible thought amidst the universe, but surrounded by the mys

[Pg 300]

Thou wouldst tear off this sycophantic robe,

tors down. The chosen literary tool of a great tragedian, the newspaper critic who arrogates to represent his interests, very often volunteers services with which his principal has nothing to do. It was so in London while Forrest played in Drury Lane. Macready, Vandenhoff, Charles Kemble, Charles Kean, and Booth all had rival engagements. Three different newspapers were the respective organs of three of these actors. All three agreed in depreciating and abusing the stranger, while each one at the same time spoke with detraction and sneers of the favorites of the other two. While the general press spoke fairly of each performer, and gave Forrest such notices as more than satisfied him and his friends, these special papers indulged in fulsome eulogy of their chosen idol and assailed the others with satire and insult. For example, one writer says of Kean, "He stars in country theatres, where his power of exaggerating the faults of his father's acting gives delight to the unwashed of the gallery, who like handsome dresses, noise, stamping, bustle, and splutter." A second says of Booth, "Bunn, in his drowning desperation, catches at straws. He has put forward Booth, the shadow and foil of Kean in bygone days. His Richard seems to have been a wretched failure." A third says of Macready in Othello, in the scene with Iago and Brabantio, "He comes on the stage with the air of a sentimental negro rehearsing the part of Hamlet." And a fourth characterizes the voice of Macready "as a combination of grunt, guttural, and spasm." After such specimens of "criticism" on their own countrymen, one need not feel surprised to read notices of a foreigner, inspired by the same spirit, like the following from the "Examiner": "Mr. Forrest has appeared in Mr. Howard Payne's foolish compilation called Brutus. This is an American tragedy, and not ill-suited, on the whole, to Mr. Forrest's style. The result was amazingly disagreeable." The animus of such writing is so obvious to every person of insight that it falls short of its mark, and does no injury to the artist ridiculed. The writer shows himself, as one of his contemporaries said, not a critic, but a caviller,—a gad-fly of the drama.

Jas. T. Brady,

[Pg 337]

Finally, they pass the fatal vote, and cry,—


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