Baron, Michael

, an eminent French player, who appears to have had his full share in the annals of biography, was the son of a merchant of Issondun, and was born at Paris in 1652. He entered first into the company of la Raisin, and some time afterwards in that of Moliere, and quitted the stage in 1696, either from dislike or from some religious scruples, with a pension of a thousand crowns granted him by the king. He took up the profession again, however, in 1720, at the age of 68; and was as much applauded, notwithstanding his advanced age, as in the early period of his life. At those lines of Cinna,

Soudain vous eussiez vu, par un effet contraire,

Leurs fronts pâlir d’horreur, et rougir de colére;

he was seen within a minute to turn pale and red, in conformity to the verse. He was styled with one consent, the Roseius of his times. He said himself, in one of his enthusiastical fits of vanity, that once in a century we might see a Cæsar, but that two thousand years were requisite to produce a Baron. One day his coachman and his lacquey were soundly chastised by those of the marquis de Biran, with whom Baron lived on those familiar terms which young noblemen frequently allow to players. “Monsieur le marquis,” said he to him, “your people have ill treated mine; I must have satisfaction of you.” This he repeated several times, using always the same expressions, your people and mine. M. de Biran, affronted at the parallel, replied: “My poor Baron, what wouldst thou have me say to thee? why dost thou keep any people?” He was on the point of refusing the pension bestowed on him by Louis XIV. because the order for it ran: “Pay to the within-named Michael Boyrun, called Baron, &c.” This actor, born with the choicest gifts of nature, had perfected them by thq utmost exertions of art: a noble figure, a sonorous voice, a natural gesticulation, a sound and exquisite taste. Racine, versed as he was in the art of declamation, wanting to | represent his Andromache to the actors, in the distribution of the parts, had reserved that of Pyrrhus for Baron. After having shewn the characters of several of the personages to the actors who were to represent it, he turned towards Baron:“As to you, sir, I have no-instruction to give you; your heart will tell you more of it than any lessons of mine could explain.” Baron would affirm that the force and play of declamation were such, that tender and plaintive sounds transferred on gay and even comic words, would no less produce tears. He has been seen repeatedly to make the trial of this surprising effect on the well-known sonnet,

Si le roi m’avoit donné

Paris sa grand’ ville, &c.

Baron, in common with all great painters and great poets, was fully sensible that the rules of art were not invented for enslaving genius. “We are forbid by the rules,” said this sublime actor, “to raise the arms above the head; but if they are lifted there by the passion, it is right: passion is a better judge of this matter than the rules.” He died at Paris, Dec. 22, 1729, aged 77, Three volumes in 12mo of theatrical pieces were printed in 1760, under the name of this comedian; but it is doubted whether they are all his. “L’Andrienne” was attributed to pere de la Rue, at the very time when it was in full representation. It was to this that Baron alluded in the advertisement he prefixed to that piece. “I have here a fair field,” said he, “for complaining of the injustice that has been intended me. It has been said that I lent my name to the Andrienne. I will again attempt to imitate Terence; and I will answer as he did to those who accused him of only lending his name to the works of others (Scipio and Lselius). He said, that they did him great honour to put him in familiarity with persons who attracted the esteem and the respect of all mankind.” The other pieces that merit notice are, “L’homme à bonne fortune,” “La Coquette,” “L’Ecole des Peres,” &c. The dramatical judgment that reigns in these pieces, may perhaps be admitted as a proof that they are by Baron. The dialogue of them is lively, and the scenes diversified, although they rarely present us with grand pictures: but the author has the talent of copying from nature certain originals, not less important in society than amusing on the stage. It is evident that he had studied the world as well as the drama. As to the versification, | if Baron was an excellent actor, he was but an indifferent poet. The abbé d’Alainval published the “Lettres sur Baron et la le Couvreur.” The father of this famous actor possessed also in a superior degree the talent of declamation. The manner of his death is remarkable. Playing the part of Don Diego in the Cid, his sword fell from his hand, as the piece requires; and kicking it from him with indignation, he unfortunately struck against the point of it, by which his little toe was pierced. This wound was at first treated as a trifle; but the gangrene that afterwards appeared requiring the amputation of his leg, he would not consent to the operation. “No, no,” said he; “a theatrical monarch would be hooted if he should appear with a wooden leg” and he preferred the gentle expectation of death, which happened in 1655. 1