On Actors and the Art of Acting
by George Henry Lewes
This historic book may have numerous typos, missing text, images, or index. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. 1880. Not illustrated. Excerpt: ... CHAPTER XI. FOREIGN ACTORS ON OUR STAGE. THAT our drama is extinct as literature, and our stage is in a deplorable condition of decline, no one ventures to dispute; but there are two opinions as to whether a revival is possible, or even probable; and various opinions as to the avenues through which such a revival may be approached. There are three obvious facts which may be urged against the suggestions of hope: these are, the gradual cessation of all attempts at serious dramatic literature, and their replacement by translations from the French, or adaptations from novels; the slow extinction of provincial theatres, which formed a school for the rearing of actors; and, finally, the accident of genius on our stage being unhappily rarer than ever. In the face of these undeniable facts, the hopeful are entitled to advance facts of equal importance on their side. Never in the history of our stage were such magnificent rewards within the easy grasp of talent; never were there such multitudes to welcome good acting. Only let the dramatist, or the actor, appear, and not London alone but all England, not England alone but all Europe, will soon resound with his name. Dramatic literature may be extinct, but the dramatic instinct is ineradicable. The stage may be in a deplorable condition at present, but the delight in mimic representation is primal and indestructible. Thus it is that, in spite of people on all sides declaring that "they have ceased to go to the theatre," no sooner does an actor arise who is at all above the line, no sooner does a piece appear that has any special source of attraction, than the public flock to the theatre as it never flocked in what are called "the palmy days" of the drama. Fechter could play Hamlet for seventy consecutive nights:...
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