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veries, and events, which perhaps the world has ever seen. How much of the true history of that period still lies unrevealed, but attainable, in original documents either in public or private hands? We will only add, that it is a pity the work has not been rendered more complete by a little more attention to small details, and to contemporary authorities, both on the part of the author and translator, but especially of the former. Accuracy in these slight matters, not unimportant in works of more pretension, is almost indispensable in compilations like the present, in which minute particulars are brought prominently into view. A cursory examination, for example, will detect numerous mistakes which a little care would have avoided, in the names of persons and places, in titles, dates, and, we suspect, occasionally in the niceties of translation from French and other languages into German. Thus we find Beauvoir la Nocle for Beauvais la Nocle-Villeanclerc for Villeauxclercs—&c. &c. &c. Why must the Italian names, Sfondrato and Badoero be disfigured into Sfondrate and Badoer? Surely this bad German fashion need not have been adhered to in an English version. We find also the Marquis d'O, a well known and not very respectable character under the Valois princes, written down thus, Monsieur d'O_, as if his uniliteral appellation were only the initial of a suppressed name. Who was * Ompson, English ambassador in Paris, May, 1588 ?' (vol. ii. p. 167.) We never heard of him before, and cannot conceive on what any man with a name like that could have founded his pretensions to fight the Duke of Guise in single combat, as being of an English race as great and noble as his own !' Again, the Lady Arabella Stuart is turned, by too direct a version of a French envoy's Mademoiselle, into · Miss Arabella.' English writers, in general, are so little learned in the titular distinctions existing in continental countries, that we have, perhaps, no great right to quarrel with Mr. von Raumer for mistakes of this sort:--but we certainly wonder that his noble translator should not have corrected such a solecism in date as well as in etiquette. Lastly, should Lord Francis Egerton's volumes come to a second edition, we must suggest the advantages which would result from marking distinctly, by variety of type, or some other device, every transition from Raumer's own language to that of his ancient ambassadors.
This distinguished German scholar is now busied in examining the collections of MSS, in the British Museum, with a view, we imagine, to the publication of another series of letters similar in their contents to the present; and notwithstanding the diligence with which British antiquaries have searched the same repository, we have little doubt that his industry and acuteness will turn its materials to good account.
ART. V.-The Life of Edmund Kean. In 2 vols, London,
1835. ‘KEAN,' says the author of this work, was by no means the
only great actor that the English stage has possessed. We even doubt whether he was the greatest. There were excellent tragedians before him
Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona--'-p. xviii. But, though by this quotation, Mr. Barry Cornwall signifies that he considers himself as the Homer of our stage-biographers, we cannot go farther than to express a doubt whether he is the very poorest of a poor class of writers.* It is really melancholy to think of the treatment which, to say nothing of inferior names, John Kemble and his sister have received; and if we admit Mr. Cornwall's book to be less unworthy of Kean than Boaden's and Campbell's were of those magnificent artists, our compliment to the historian must be qualified by our estimation of his subject. Kean was unquestionably a man of genius: neither his physical deficiencies, nor his utter want of general education, nor the vulgar tricks which he had brought from his original walk of harlequin and punchinello, prevented him from reaching a splendid excellence of passionate vigour in some four or five of the best parts in our tragic drama. Beyond this elevated but very narrow range he was at best a secondary player. In Shylock, Richard III., Othello—in Sir Giles Overreach, and in Zanga, he was great. In Macbeth, Hamlet, Wolsey, Lear, Brutus, Coriolanus, King John, &c. &c.,-he vever approached within any measurable distance of the learned, philosophical, and majestic Kemble; and where both rivals wanted the support of Shakspeare, the failure of the younger was still more conspicuous. In several characters, particularly lago, he always appeared to us decidedly inferior to Mr. Young; in many more, including Romeo and Hamlet, to Mr. Charles Kemble; and it seems to be a matter of admitted doubt whether in two even of his very best performances he was, on the whole, superior to Cooke. In comedy he was detestable.
The player having been thus limited in the sphere of his artand the period during which he exercised that art successfully having been a very brief one—what could have put it into any one's head that the biography of Kean ought to be a work of two volumes ? Mr. Procter-or as he chooses to be called, Mr. Cornwall—is known as the author of some little dramatic sketches of real elegance and pathos-and it is also known that he is not
The extant biographies of Garrick, Foote, Henderson, and Cooke, are all alike abominable—all superficial—and all dull. Indeed, we are not acquainted with one book of the class which any one does read twice-except Colley Cibber's Apologywhich the author of this Life of Kean talks of as little known!
an author by profession-certainly that he is far removed from the class of those unhappy adventurers who are obliged to execute as they can, perhaps on terms measured by the exigencies of their condition, whatever task the Mæcenases of the Row may think fit to assign them. We are, indeed, at a loss to understand why any person occupying a decent position in society, and still more a delicate minor poet, should have undertaken the Life of Kean at allbut how it should have occurred to him that such a theme could demand or justify two volumes—this does utterly baffle our comprehension. Even a short sketch of this actor's professional career would have been injudiciously entrusted to Mr. Cornwall --whose own cast of mind is such that he is peculiarly ill-qualified for describing, to say nothing of discussing, the peculiar excellencies of Kean's manner on the stage—the merits of the actor having lain in the most tempestuous regions of energy-those of the literator being confined to the small and placid province of prettiness : but what shall be said of a bulky book concerning the personal and private career, in other words the reckless and brutal profligacies of (his talents apart) perhaps the lowest blackguard that ever infested (we dare not say disgraced) the purlieus of Drury-lane-of two volumes on such a subject from the trim crowquill of Mr. Barry Cornwall-two volumes penned in a style of timid semipedantic slipslop, in which there is neither the gusto of sympathy to enliven the strain, nor the tenderness of compassion to grace it, nor the gravity of philosophy to lend it some appearance of dignity—but the writer is perpetually hesitating between airs of hilarity and hints of reprehension--and the reader would be set asleep three pages,
but that the fourth is sure to rouse him by some fresh image of disgust! A worse man might have made Kean's story entertaining—a wiser, if he had told it at all, would have at least tried to make it instructive.
We expected that Mr. Cornwall would at all events have thrown some new light on the birth and parentage of his hero—but we are disappointed. It seems Kean himself was not only loose but grossly inconsistent in his own accounts of these matters—and that, so far from knowing who was his father, though he ultimately adopted the name and surname of a journeyman plasterer employed about the minor theatre at which a Miss Carey had her engagement, he could not be at all sure whether this Miss Carey, or a common friend of hers and the plasterer's, one Miss Tidswell, was his mother. However, he may be said to have been born and suckled within the smell of the float ; '* he appeared himself on or above the boards as Cupid in an afterpiece before he was two years old, i. e. in 1789 ; and with the exception of a few months' * This it seems is the technical name for the foot-lights in front of the stage.
schooling somewhere near the Seven Dials, which, though he often played truant, gave him the elements of reading and writing, he was never, from his cradle to his coffin (both included), without some connexion, of one sort or another, with the profession of the stage.
When a ragged urchin of five or six, about the side-scenes, he seems to have attracted some notice by his imitations of the actors then flourishing : his mother, Miss Carey, who spent her mornings in trotting about the town with a basket of artificial fowers and perfumery, introduced him to her customers; and he used to spout in a cap and feathers at their tea-tables; his other mother, Miss Tidswell, (for he appears to have been constantly banded to and fro between these amiable rivals,) read playbooks with him, expounded the characters, and took pains to teach him how to start, fall, tumble, &c. &c.; and about eight years of age he was formally enrolled in the muster of a strolling company of the lowest class.
Mr. Cornwall introduces, among other authentic records of his hero's boyhood, the following admirable specimen of the Houyhnhnm dialect:
• “ We recollect,” the writer says, “once hearing Davies, the former manager of Astley's Amphitheatre, describe the occasion upon which he first saw Kean; and as the circumstances cannot be more impressively related than in his own graphic detail, we shall content ourselves with transcribing his words from our note-book :
•*• I was passing down Great Surrey-street one morning, when, just as I comed to the place where the Riding-house now stands, at the corner of the 'Syleum, or Mag-dallen, as they calls it, I seed Master Saunders a-packing up his traps. His booth, you see, had been there standing for some three or four days, or thereabouts; and on the boards in front of the painting—the prosseniom, as the painters says--I seed a slim young chap with marks of paint-and bad paint it was, for all the world like raddle on the jaw of a sheep-on his face, a-tying up some of the canvass wot the wonderfulls't carakters and curosties of that 'ere exhibition was painted upon. And so, when I had shook hands with Master Saunders, and all that 'ere, he turns him right round to the young chap wot had just throwed a summerset behind his back, and says, “I say, you bloody Mister King Dick, if you don't mind wot you’re arter, and pack up that 'ere wan pretty tight and nimble, we shan't be off afore to-morrow, so we shan't ; and, so you mind your eye, my lad.” That ere "bloody Mister King Dick,” as Master Saunders called him, was young Kean.'”-vol. i. pp. 212, 213.
At this early period, then, he had distinguished himself as a Richard III.! At seventeen years of age he was playing everything, from Cato to Sambo, and from time to time exhibiting flashes of ability which excited the momentary admiration of the barn or the booth. But he traversed England, Scotland, and Ireland over and over again : quarrelled with dozens of strolling managers-broke engagements by the score-and renewed them; drank, squabbled, rioted; woo'd, married, and had childrenstarved and fattened-dined with squirrels' (as he called it) and with aldermen—and so on through all the usual jollities and miseries of this most degraded of lives, until he had attained his twenty-sixth year—without ever having had the good fortune to fix the serious attention of any person at once able and willing to give him the chance of showing himself in London. Almost the only sentence worth dwelling on, which we can discover in the volume devoted by Mr. Cornwall to this wretched period, is the following, supplied by some person who acted along with Kean at Stroud, in 1807—who the person is Mr. C. does not tell us, but we rather suppose the evidence is that of the Miss Chambers who became Mrs. Kean in 1808 :
• He used to mope about for hours, walking miles and miles alone, with his hands in his pockets, thinking intensely on his characters. No one could get a word from him. He studied and slaved beyond any actor I ever knew.'- vol. i. p. 89.
As a specimen of the acute discrimination and sagacity of the present biographer we may subjoin his remark on the above statement:
• Is not this THE KEY to show how it was that he excelled, as he did, in the wonderful characters of SHAKSPEARE?'-Ibid. "Most forcible Feeble!'
No one will be surprised to hear that, long before the termination of his obscure provincial career, Kean had formed a very lofty opinion of his own professional ability; if it had been otherwise, how could he have persisted for so many years in clinging to a calling, than which to shoulder Brown Bess would have furnished a not less lucrative, and surely not a less respectable means of livelihood ? In fact, he had more than once lost a fair opportunity of bettering his fortune by obstinately refusing to take a subordinate part where a London star, that happened to be crossing his path, naturally desired to make prize of the first. • He would play second,' he said, “to no man in England but John Kemble, – and this when his utmost salary—often interrupted for weeks on end-might amount to fifteen shillings a week. Had he been less haughty, he might have gained his point sooner than he didbut he would have ceased to be Kean. Other opportunities were thrown away from a different but not less characteristic cause, for instance, he twice played in early life along with Mrs. Jordanbut it is undeniable,' says Mr. Cornwall, that he acquitted him