Page:Genius, and other essays.djvu/209

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


the high merit of faithfully setting forth humanity, though in certain whimsical or distorted phases; but we are more profoundly enriched by the portrayal of higher types. And thus, in making an actor's chosen and successful studies a means of measuring his genius, we find in the self-poise which wins without effort, and must throughout sustain the princely Hamlet, or Othello tender and strong, that grand manner which, in painting, places the art of Raphael and Angelo above that of Hogarth or Teniers. Each may be perfect in its kind, but one kind exceeds another in glory.

We have two pictures before us. One, on paper yellow with the moth of years, is the portrait of an actor in the costume of Richard III. What a classic face! English features are rarely cast in that antique mould. The head sits lightly on its columnar neck, and is topped with dark-brown curls, that cluster like the acanthus; the gray eyes are those which were justly described as being "at times full of fire, intelligence, and splendor, and again of most fascinating softness"; and the nose is of "that peculiar Oriental construction, which gives an air of so much distinction and command." Such was the countenance of Junius Brutus Booth,—that wonderful actor, who, to powers of scorn, fury, and pathos rivalling those which illumined the uneven performances of Edmund Kean, added scholastic attainments which should have equalized his efforts, and made every conception harmonious with the graces of a philosophical and cultured soul. In structure the genius of the elder Booth was indeed closely akin to that of Kean, if not the rarer of the