8 OCTOBER 1831, Page 18


"WHO'D have thought it? Six months ago I could not have believed it—and yet HERE I AM." These are LISTON'S first words, as he opens the part of Dominique the Resolute, in the piece en titled Talk of the Devil—at Madame VESTRIS'S Olympic Theatre. And certainly we were as much surprised as himself, to find our first and choicest laugh-begetter drawn from the wide stage he has been accustomed so long to fill, and cooped up in the narrow limits of Vssrais's boudoir. What powerful charm has the enchantress employed to secure so brilliant a conquest? of what Circaean cup did he drink, that he has not only yielded, but seems to be delighted with his lot? What philtre has been employed ? Surely it was not of that potent kind that has robbed us of our Polonius, the venerable BLANCHARD, who has been seduced across the Atlantic by his daughter. He, it appears, withstood every thing, till, in the agonies of parting, his beloved child threw herself on his bosom, and sobbed out the "affectionate offer" of thirty pounds a week. What would we not have given to see the resigned air of the subdued father at that moment! How he would double up his red cotton pocket-handkerchief! how carefully he would tie his hat on, and, taking his fair seducer under his arm, march off, as if he could walk across the Atlantic in the windy day. True and trusty BLANCH ARD, adieu! The Yankees will scarcely know how to appreciate thee: thy services are not of the night, but of the year,—like an old clerk, whom nobody thinks of, but who is as necessary to the house as the ledger, thy virtue is only discovered after a life of servitude. When thy daughter's affection wanes, and the thirty pounds a week miss stays, think of thy old masters Bull and Co. at home : pack up thy snuff-coloured coat, thy breeches of the same, the buckles and the grey stockings, and the brown scratch, and let us once more behold thy most deplorable mahogany phiz, thy simplicity and perplexity, thy regularity and wonderment combined. Let us once more behold thee scrutinizing Mrs. Darlington's bill, and puzzling thyself with that most mysterious and oft-recurring entry of Pap, a shilling! and then thou mayst depart in peace, "still harping on thy daughter." But our business is not with the departed, but the possessed— possessed of the Devil. LISTON'S part of Dominique is a French idea of Peter Schlemild. The Germans take every thing in its gravest point of view : the trench, with as much wisdom of another kind, extract amusement oeven from the Devil and all his subtleties. A poor fellow, a deserter from his regiment, a refugee in a garret, starving in company with his old mother, is induced, by observing the injudicious distribution of wealth, to conclude that the world is ruled by the Spirit of Evil ; and works himself up to the pitch of calling upon the Devil for aid,—having in mind the old stories of Dr. Faustus and others who have made merchandize of their precious souls. At the instant of this invocation, which luckily takes place in a storm of thunder and lightning, the window of the garret bursts .open, and a smart fellow, in a flaming red 91041i and feather, bounces into the middle of the room. Dominique naturally imagines that this is the gentleman he was politely calling upon under the name of Beelzebub ; and, forgetting his extremity, gives himself up for lost, body and soul. The intruder is the lover of a. neighbouring young lady, escaping from the pursuit of her guardian ; and in order to get clearly off, and seeing Dominique in the apartment in a state of excessive alarm, he proposes a change of garments, and throws him his purse to repay him for his fright: Dommtque is attired in the gentleman's garb ; and the lover, who has humoured the fancy which has seized the unhappy garretteer, " vanishes " below—that is down stairs. The supposed Devil having disappeared, Dominique comes about : he begins to find the cloak " infernally hot," and the " gold shining as if just out of the furnace ;" but gradually taking courage, he indulges in a fit of triumph at having at length got some money,—only twitched back now and then by the recollection of how much he had paid for it ; and at length sets out in his new dress with his long purse; when he is arrested for robbing the gentleman who had given then" to him, and who has been all night missing. This Dominique takes for one of the Devil's tricks, and bitterly complains of breach of compact ; reasoning, fairly enough, that he could have no other object in selling his soul, than procuring comfort for his body. He is taken before a judge, who turns out to be his identical Devil. Dominique, whose blood is up, is determined to have it out with him ; and as the judge takes care he shall not suffer for his indiscretion, he naturally imagines he has got the Evil Spirit under his command—changes his tone, and insists upon all sorts of unreasonable things, with a mock solemnity extremely ridiculous ; but which the chevalier judge, giving in to the humour of the scene, happens to have the power of indulging him in. Then comes the tug of fun. Dominique is alternately intoxicated with his power, and horrified at it : he would give the world he had it not, scarcely believes he has, and is perpetually trying the experiment : he at last hits upon a very serious test, which brings about the denouement of the piece. Being a deserter, he reasons, that if he gives himself up and is shot, then it will be a proof of. his non-possession: he does so—and instead of death, gets honour and reward ; and is thus thrown into despair, till disenchanted by his little mistress,—who undertakes to explain all his supernatural adventures in the simplest way in the world. The part of Dominique is an epoch in the acting of LISTON. Up to this moment his power over his audience has been that of sym pathy: there was no resisting his radiant good humour, his heart felt chuckling laugh, his natural little exclamations, his leer, so blue and So broad, and his face and form, so round and jolly and well-conditioned : he had but to appear, to wonder, to ejaculate, and to wheel round ; and there was something so exquisitely droll and ridiculous about him, that laughing and side-shaking came as it were by magic. He was then one with his auditors, played and laughed at and with them, and always, seemed as much amused at himself as they were with him. We do not recollect an exception to this character of his parts, which may be described as the conscious or half-conscious absurd : it was this partial sympathy with the house that gave his face the expression which was as sure to set it in a roar as that light accompanies the sunrise. In Dominique there is none of this : he plays• a part to be laughed at, and which he cannot laugh with ; so that all he does must be done as an actor. His success is a further proof of his power. Some of his points are de lightful: more especially were we pleased with the scene with his mistress Louise,—acted well enough by that party-co loured impudent little chatterbox, Miss SYDNEY. She has been summoned by what Dominique considers his supernatural power; and though excessively delighted to behold her, he is placed in the miserable dilemma of being pleased with her affectionate manner, and at the same time doubting the reality of the vision. As she approaches, he retreats in dismay ; and when at length he prevails upon himself to be touched, and finds the hand real, he seizes it with ecstasy, and, with a violent revulsion of joy, determines to enjoy the pleasure, come what may, and exclaims, that after all, the little hand he is devouring is the pleasantest thing the Devil has sent him yet. At length, somewhat sobered, lie recollects the awfulness of his situation ; and, like Manfred, resolves upon braving his destiny and snatching a pleasure out of the very pit of damnation : so he stands up, throws wide his arms, and with all the vehemence of despair, and much to the astonishment of the poor girl, he cries " LOUISE, EMBRACE ME!" The effect is the very sublime of farce: it is impossible for a poor devil to be acting more ridiculously, or to think that he can act more heroically. The source of laughter is apparent,—LisToN in a state of heroic excitement. The girl, naturally enough, will not approach a gentleman so overearnest in his commands : and then follows a chef d'ccuvre of good acting. He reverts to his natural manner, and begs, almost in tears, that she will come—willingly and quietly, lest he should be obliged to use his supernatural power, of which he is himself as much afraid as a lady is of letting oft a gun. But in vain—she won't approach. He then condescends to explain the nature of his gift : he tells her of the ruling Evil One, who commands all things on earth—" EXCEPT ME ;" and then rising with an awfulness that almost kills one with its absurdity, he adds, "AND I colamarro HIM." Louise is not, however, to be.:. prevailed upon ; and Domz.. nique reasons with himself as to wiaether he should invoke her in the name of —. Horror at that instant she relents, comes behind him, and touches his shrJulder. He has done it ! he has called and been obeyed !, He is lost—fun of terror and dismay, he flies her approaeh as a creature of darkness, and acts the madman so preposterously, that she bursts into ecstasies of laughter, and is joined by the whole house. This is admirable acting, and very amusing : but it is not LISTON; or as in the picture of GARRICK between Tragedy and Comedy, it is LISTON between the serious and the farcical—between this world and the next—between Dominique the Deserter and Dominique the Possessed. As a proof that it is not peculiarly the part Of LISTON, we may say that HARLEY could do it, and well—that is to say, to the amusement of the house, were he to attempt it : REEVE could and probably will do it, and with success : but which of them can supply the place of Liseoer in a part really his own ?—look at HARLEY in the Illustrious Stranger I