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ALL who are acquainted with the early history of the Italian stage, are aware that Arlechino is not, in his original conception, a mere worker of marvels with his wooden sword, a jumper into and out of windows, as upon our theatre, but, as his party.com loured jacket implies, a buffoon or clown, whose mouth, far from being eternally closed, as amongst us, is filled, like that of Touchstone, with quips, and cranks, and witty devices, very often delivered extempore. It is not easy to guess how he became possessed of his black vizard, which was anciently made in the resemblance of the face of a cat; but it seems that the mask was essential to the performance of the character, as will appear from the following theatrical anecdote:
An actor on the Italian stage permitted at the Foire du St. Germaine, in Paris, was renowned for the wild, venturous, and extravagant wit, the brilliant sallies and fortunate repartees, with which he prodigally seasoned the character of the party.com loured jester. Some critics, whose good will towards a favourite actor was stronger than their judgment, took occasion to remonstrate with the successful performer on the subject of the grotesque vizard. They went wilily to their purpose, observing that his classical and attic wit, his delicate vein of humour, his happy turn for dialogue, was rendered burlesque and ludicrous by this unmeaning and bizarre disguise, and that those attributes would beVOL. I.
come far more impressive, if aided by the spirit of his eye and the expression of his natural features. The actor's vanity was easily so far engaged as to induce him to make the experiment. He played Harlequin barcfaced, but was considered on all hands as having made a total failure. He had lost the audacity which a sense of incognito bestowed, and with it all the reckless play of raillery which gave vivacity to his original acting. He cursed his advisers, and resumed his grotesque vizard; but it is said, without ever being able to regain the careless and successful levity which the consciousness of the disguise had formerly bestowed.
Perhaps the Author of Waverley is now about to incur a risk of the same kind, and endanger his popularity by having laid aside his incognito. It is certainly not a voluntary experiment, like that of Harlequin; for it was my original intention never to have avowed these works during my lifetime, and the original manuscripts were carefully preserved, (though by the care of others rather than mine,) with the purpose of supplying the necessary evidence of the truth when the period of announcing it should arrive. But the affairs of my publishers having unfortunately passed into a management different from their own, I had no right any longer to rely upon secrecy in that quarter; and thus my mask, like my Aunt Dinah's in Tristram Shandy, having begun to wax a little threadbare about the chin, it became time to lay it aside with a good grace, unless I deşired it should fall in pieces from my face.
Yet I had not the slightest intention of choosing the time and place in which the disclosure was finally made; nor was there any concert betwixt
learned and respected friend Lord MEADOWBank and myself upon that occasion. It was, as the reader is probably aware, upon the 23d February last, at a public meeting, called for establishing a professional Theatrical Fund in Edinburgh, that the communication took place. Just before we sate down to table, Lord