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to the like ignominy. It is the characteristic of a child, to be perpetually anticipating victory; and it is the meanness of a coward, to suppose all our energies paralised by a defeat. Bravery is madness without discretion, and despair is the last feeling which can possess a bosom animated by a proper love of one's country,
My observations on the structure and decoration of our theatres having experienced some unavoidable interruption, I now beg to resume them.
The strictures in my first letter were confined to the shape of the house, or párt allotted to the spectators ; the remarks in my second epistle had for their object the disposition of the Proscenium, or intermediate space between
the house and the stage; the observations of this my third scrawl will entirely relate to the arrangement of the stage itself.
With regard to this latter part of our theatrical structures, allow me to begin by observing that our nation, which perhaps makes a more dexterous and more extensive use of machinery than any other, in the production and improvement of objects of direct utility and comfort, seems to avail itself less than any other, of the powers of mechanism, in the promotion and the perfecting of instruments and means of mere diversion and show:
In the great Italian and French theatres, every change of scenery, however extensive its whole, and however complicated its parts, is entirely accomplished by means of machinery. The turning of one single wheel effects at once, both the simultaneous retreat of the entire assemblage of wings: and
drops and flat, that are to disappear, and the simultaneous advancement of the entire set of lateral and top and back scenes, that are to come forward in their place: so that the deepest forest or garden scene is, as if by magic, in a twinkling, converted into a street or palace.
In the English playhouses, on the contrary, every change of scenery (if we except a few of those very confined and partial transfigurations of our Harlequinades, termed Pantomimes) is atchieved by dint of hands; and, whether the action lie in Peru or in China, in antient Greece or in modern London, whenever the scene is to be shifted, out pop a parcel of fellows in ragged laced liveries, to announce the event, and to bring it about by mere manual labour. They are not only distinctly heard, giving each other directions to that purpose, to the unspeakable annoyance of the actor, whom they perhaps outbellow in some of his finest passages --but they are even distinctly seen, tugging and pulling piecemeal
at each different piece of the scenery: of these various divisions some hitch, others tumble; here a wing comes rolling on the stage before its time, there another lags behind until perhaps the time for a new removal is arrived: and thus does every one of those changes of decoration, so frequent in English plays, only present a scene of confusion, most distressing
to the eye.
I shall not expatiate at length, on the constant violation of those laws of perspective, which ought to make the whole range of wings and drops and flat, one single cohering body; or on the equally constant disregard of those rules of congruity, which should render every one of these different component parts of the same whole, subservient to an uniform style of architecture and of decoration. Suffice it to say, that this violation and this disregard of the most essential conditions of theatrical illusion are carried in England to the highest pitch. Instead of fitting to each other's
extremities with nicety, the wings and drops often encroach upon each other's boundaries in such a way as to occasion, in the different objects which they represent, the most unsightly maimings and breaks: and not unfrequently is the roof of the humblest hovel lost in the tattered sky. For the most part, the wings, neither in the style, nor in the proportions, nor in the perspective of their architecture, correspond at all with the flat with which they are associated; and between the extreme shallowness of these wings, and the excessive width of the intervening spaces between them, half the audience is treated, in all our playhouses, with a full view, not only of the premeditated and full dress play, acted before the scenes, but of the extempore and undress play; going forward behind the stage, to the utter destruction of all illusion, decorum, and pleasure !
On the French istage, whenever the scene represents a room, particular attention is given to the making that room