March 23 1816: Miss O’Neill’s Lady Teazle

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On March 23 1816, William Hazlitt publishes a review of The School for Scandal and is highly critical of  Elizabeth O’Neill’s  Lady Teasel.

 

Miss O’Neill’s Lady Teazle at Covent-Garden Theater appears to us to be a complete failure. It was not comic; it was not elegant; it was not easy; it was not dignified; it was not playful; it was not any thing that it ought to be. All that can be said of it is, that it was not tragedy. It seemed as if all the force and pathos which she displays in interesting situations had left her, but that not one spark of gaiety, one genuine expression of delight, had come in their stead. It was a piece of laboured heavy still-life. The only thing that had an air of fashion about her was the feather in her hat. It was not merely that she did not succeed as Miss O’Neill; it would have been a falling off in the most common-place actress who had ever done any thing tolerably. She gave to the character neither the complete finished air of fashionable indifference, which was the way in which Miss Farren played it, if we remember right, nor that mixture of artificial refinement and natural vivacity, which appears to be the true idea of the character (which however is not very well made out), but she seemed to have been thrust by some in judicious caprice of fortune, into a situation for which she was fitted neither by nature nor education. There was a perpetual affectation of the wit and the fine lady, with an evident consciousness of effort, a desire to please without any sense of pleasure. It was no better than awkward mimicry of the part, and more like a drawling imitation of Mrs. C. Kemble’s genteel comedy than any thing else we have seen. The concluding penitential speech was an absolute sermon. We neither liked her manner of repeating ” Mirnminee pimminee,” nor of describing the lady who rides round the ring in Hyde-park, nor of chucking Sir Peter under the chin, which was a great deal too coarse and familiar. There was throughout an equal want of delicacy and spirit, of ease and effect, of nature and art. It was in general flat and insipid, and where anything more was attempted, it was overcharged and unpleasant.

Fawcett’s Sir Peter Teazle was better than when we last saw it. He is an actor of much merit, but he has of late got into astrange way of slurring over his parts. Liston’s Sir Benjamin Backbite was not ver successful. Charles Kemble played Charles Surface very delightfully.”

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