15 AUGUST 1846, Page 12


Mademoiselle Rachel was honoured with a little ovation last night, at the end of her engagement. After the conclusion of Les Horaces, in which she took leave of the English public, she reappeared in front of the singers, who were assembled for a God save the Queen "; when one of the actors placed a wreath upon her head. The fair tragedian gracefully re- sisted—of course she had been totally unaware of the honour in store for her.

Camille is perhaps, after all, the character in which Rachel makes the

greatest impression, although it is less imposing than Phedre. In point of time she has comparatively little to do, but all that she does gains force by concentration. The exhaustion with which she sinks tottering into her chair after bearing the death of her lover, and the deep soul-felt distress with which she ejaculates" 0, man cher Curiaee! " are, we suspect, fresher in the minds of her audience than any of her efforts in other characters. Camille was, moreover, the first part in which she appeared during her present engagement; and that is an important circumstance, producing in the memory of the public something like an identity between the artist and the person represented. Hence, in our opinion, Rachel was judicious in selecting Camille for her farewell. At all events, she was perfectly right in not choosing Jeanne d'Arc, in which she appeared last week.

We never saw a duller play. That the dramatists of England can occa- sionally send forth bad plays, is a fact amply proved by the melancholy ex- perience of playgoers. But we do not believe that a drama of the peculiar sort of badness which distinguishes M. Sonmees Jeanne d' Arc could have been produced at an English theatre. Our bad plays may be ill-constructed, ill-written, commonplace, destitute of character, full of fustian, with a legion of other vices; but an English audience would be utterly confounded to witness a drama with such a total absence of incident as this insipid production.

It opens with Jeanne in prison, and it ends with Jeanne burned. Under

these circumstances dramatic interest is of conrae impossible. The fate of the heroine is sealed at starting; there are no contrasts of situation or of feeling. The enthusiastic girl with victory in her grasp, changed to the prisoner consoled alone with the thought of her own virtue, and deprived of all earthly hope, would represent a remarkable transition; but here we have nothing of the kind. Jeanne can only assert her innocence to unwilling judges, utter invectives against perfidious Albion, and regret her native village—in fact, recite a long dismal ode on her unfortunate situation. The artifices which the author has employed to make dramatic a subject which his regard to " unity " had rendered totally undramatic, are ludi- crously palpable. The trial alone is dragged through three acts, and is in one case broken off because additional evidence is wanting! No prisoner in the condemned cell ever more anxiously desired "one hour more" when the fatal time approached, than the author of Jeanne d'Arc dreaded that his heroine should perish too soon. Her fate being irrevocably sealed, there is always the risk that his invention of reprieves will fall short, and that she will rush to the stake in spite of him before she has gone through her complement of acts. When she is at last condemned, the desperate expe- dient is adopted of making Burgundy engage in single combat in her favour; in which, of course, he is beaten, but which answers the purpose it was de- signed for, namely, that of gaining time. With this total absence of all interest depending on a progress of events, the play might yet have the merit of exhibiting some striking platenomeria in an individual mind, and that a remarkable one. A particular view taken of the character of Jeanne, and elaborately represented, with passages of tender or vigorous poetry, would perhaps be more suited for the closet than the stage generally speaking, but would be well adapted for the latter if intrusted to so Zubtile and refined an artist as Mademoiselle RacheL But the play in question is as completely devoid of all psychological interest as it is of action. Jeanne's reminiscences of her native hamlet are of the most commonplace kind; and her patriotic invectives could only have been ad- mired on the same principle as those effusions which used to embellish our old nautical dramas.

With all the genius with which Mademoiselle Rachel represents the de- votion and enthusiasm of the heroine of Domremy,—and perhaps never was there a more perfect picture than her appearance,—one would be as-. tonished at her having placed so weak a production in her repertoire did not one recollect the great charm of a " showy " part. The piece itself is feeble, but there are opportunities for a display of strength" on the part of an actress. The patriotism is showy—the indignation is showy—the armour is showy—the elevation on the stake is showy; and this is always tempting.

Mademoiselle Rachel is worthy of better things. The varied and nicely- shaded emotions of which the chefs d'couvre of Racine and Corneille are susceptible are fit for her interpretation, and the auditor is invariably struck to find how subtilely she has detected a meaning that may have escaped the mere reader. We differ entirely from those ultra-English critics who believe that the French classical dramas are worthless, and that all that is good in the performance is put into them by Mademoiselle Rachel, as into an empty box. Our opinion is, that what we see and hear at the St. James's Theatre is really contained in the works, although it escapes the inter- preting power of inferior artists; and that if.ademoiselle Rachel has the skill and genius to elicit it.

The French season, during which we have been presented with the pathetic Albert, the easy and gentlemanlike Lafont, the interesting Lafer- rier, the beautiful Doche, the fascinating Rose Cheri, and the lively D6jitzet, concludes with Rachel's engagement. It has been the longest season yet known; and a subscription has been set on foot to present a memorial to Mr. Mitchell for his zeal and ability in conducting it.