20 JANUARY 1855, Page 8

Or Quirt%

The performance of Louis XI by Mr. Charles Kean, in a new ver- sion of M. Casimir Delavigne's tragedy, produced at the Princess's Theatre, is likely to form an epoch in the career of that gentleman, con- sidered in the two capacities of actor and manager. It is likely to form an epoch in the actor's career, because it comes as. an unquestionable piece of first-class acting, where, in spite of a great popularity, an undisputed eminence had not been attained. Constantly patronized by the Court and the higher classes, and constantly satirized by the wits, no man could have had a greater difficulty in eliciting a proper degree of self-estimation from the opinions around him than Mr. Kean. Several of his recent performances have indeed been more un- exceptionably admired than most of his earlier representations ; but there was this drawback in the commendations awarded him, that the parts in which he has shone of late have been mostly of a melodramatic kind. The same persons who applauded him in Pauline, The Corsican Brothers, and The Courier of Lyons, would sometimes add to their plaudits the explana- tory remark, that melodrama, not drama of the higher class, was Mr. Kean's proper sphere. This sort of praise, however ardent, could scarcely be gratifying to an artist impressed with a belief that both by name and position he ought to be on the top of the tree, and that tree the tallest in the wood.

Now, Louis XI is just one of those unequivocal successes from which the artist may date a new lease of fame. He has as completely identified himself with the character represented as in his best melodramatic parts; and what is most important, the part is not melodramatic. The politic French King, whom M. Delavigne selected from the history of his coun- try for the express purpose of making Monarchy disreputable, requires acting of the most refined order to be even tolerable company. Mr. Kean not only makes him tolerable but delightful ; triumphantly refuting the distich which tells us that the mien of vice is so hideous that if seen it is certain to be hated. Louis XI, as drawn by M. Casimir Delavigne, is a perfect monster of undisguised wickedness, without a single redeem- ing quality,—the no plus ultra of tyranny, cruelty, and cowardice. But within this apparently small sphere of badness, all sorts of phases take place ; and there is no end to the actor's opportunity of producing shades of the nicest difference, and of making the part he acts a grand study of mental anatomy. This opportunity has been seized by Mr. Charles Kean; and it is hard to say which is most to be admired, the ac- curacy of his conception or the force of his execution. Louis XI is likely to form an epoch in the manager's career, because it depends for attraction on the acting alone, not on scenic accessories ; and therefore may lead to a change of the principle that has hitherto pre- vailed in Oxford Street.