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at the book as he passes out. dramatists. Every considerable Meanwhile absence from the town had its playwright. alluring object cools desire; he Dozens of plays were written reflects on the unlikelihood of and printed every year,
and the price being what he can better ones than the theatreafford; and so he never learns managers in some other counthat he might have had his tries seemed to be aware of. picture upon terms to jump at. “The Spaniard was partial,
“Now what a pity is this ! perhaps, and I would rather A wrong is done to both pro- have him so. But partial canducer and consumer -immor- not be the word if Spain in its ality upon immorality. A decay do not retain far more of refining influence is withheld a splendid gift than England in from one home at the cost of full vitality. According to my disappointment and mortifica- reckoning, the revival of playtion in another. Here, Art is going began about forty years discouraged and the artist
ago; and from that time to this soured; there, the expansion of managers have never ceased to mind is checked and ascending lament the difficulty of getting spirit brought to earth again. good English plays. By no Shall a point of etiquette, the means has the supply answered punctilio of seemliness, stand to the demand. The taste for in the way of amending such the theatre has almost become consequences as these ? I put a rage again. Survey the them high because I wish to ask British Isles throughout, and if it would be too much to place there must be a thousand playin each room the price-book ap- goers to-day where in 1860 there propriate to it. Would that were not twice ten. Count the really be too tradesmanlike ? number of theatres open then Could a little table with a book and now, forget not to compare on it in a corner of each room their capacity, and say whether be very
obstructive or otherwise that appears a much exaggeroffend? Then place it in the ated guess. To any one who middle of the room, and be sure foresaw so eager a revival, and of resort to it five times a-day was at the same time prescient for once to the books in the of the great revenues à taking vestibule.
piece would bring, the rise of a
strong array of play-writers “ 'Twas the voice of a Spanish would have seemed a certain ambassador: and in the pleas- thing. In truth, and after ant interval between the cheese many years, it is a consequence and the coffee I heard him com- yet to come. Two or three plain; and his complaint was of dramatists there are who from the continuous if slow decline of time to time write good and the arts and crafts in his native very successful plays. But two land. Little endeavour any- or three are few at this hour of where and spontaneous the day, and as yet not one of fecundity, with one remarkable them is able to go to work exception. The country of Lope with confidence against failure. de Vega was still prolific of good Absolute confidence, of course,
I do not mean, but only as “It is a little comfort, permuch as the greater novelists haps, that even there he is not of the century soon acquired very safe. M. Sardou's Robesand could rest upon ever after. pierre ' is so far from being a No doubt the dramatist's art is great play, that it is not even more difficult than the novel- a good one in any high sense. writer's, or so we find it in the Moreover, it is in treatment and England of these generations. character just what a hardBut there is such a thing as working, stage-knowing, clever dramatic mastery, and it is British copyist and adaptor evidently unattained by an age would have made of the subwhose playwrights, working ject. M. Sardou is the supethough they do amidst every rior workman of the two, but known incitement to dramatic the work is of the same playgenius, consciously and always building kind. There is but make uncertain shots at suc- one illustration of character in
One or two of them the piece, by which I mean succeed more often than the only one intentional and studied rest, and do write delightful illustration of character. Lookplays if quite without pre- ing from Robespierre to the tension to greatness; but that personages surrounding him, does not alter the case, though we see that all of them, male there is promise in it of better and female, are of conventional things in time to come.
types, or, at best, roughly yet “If a Frenchman was asked lightly stamped with the comto give the Lyceum Theatre a mon impression drawn from new play, and fit Sir Henry history-books. Even the part Irving with a new part, this that Miss Terry has to play reason for the choice must con- (and this was in M. Sardou's tent
something in the hands to shape as he would, greater style was wanted, and being his own
own invention) is M. Sardou was less likely than void of individuality; though any Englishman to fail in the no doubt so clever an actress attempt. With me it is but will contrive to put into it the resurgence of an old regret something of the sort as the that anything in the grand style play runs The one seriwas wanted by or for Sir Henry ously attempted piece of porIrving ; but he seems
traiture is Robespierre himself; quite content with anything and for many people the inelse, and as there is a great ad- terest of the play, as a literary miring public for him in such and dramatic effort, sprang parts, he may indulge the pre- from the question, What will ference sans peur et sans
Sardou make of it? For he proche. But should he or any is known to be a careful and other English actor wish for a competent inquirer along the new part in that style, he must lines of his craft; and it hapeither recur to our old drama- pens that opinion as to the tists or make himself as safe as real Robespierre has become may be by seeking abroad for more unsettled and curious of his commodity.
late. M. Sardou's presentation
of him is small help. That everybody who has viewed them there is nothing new in it is thinks, or rather that half of of course no reproach; but its the multitude which
homlack of force, of precision, of age to the truth and power of particularity, is disappointing. the prison - scene in excess of The Robespierre of the play pain. Impossible to wish it less is well clothed in the known effective, and yet it is wellnigh characteristics of his original, unendurable. Nicolai's hallubut the inventive touch that cination, as described by himmight have enforced or illu- self, is reproduced to the utmost mined them is almost entirely nicety in the ghost tableau, withheld.
wherein M. Sardou and the “In the carefully written Lyceum stage-masters are justifirst scene, Robespierre describes fied against the critics. And the himself by word and deed, but ghosts seemed to me very good mostly by oral explanation, very ghosts; but Sir Henry Irving's thoroughly. It is evident that fright at them - no. Unless M. Sardou spent great pains moderated since the first night's upon these passages, and very performance, it is not good. It skilful they are ; but having is disagreeable. By its excess got through with them he seems of hysteria—for which Robescareless of heightening-almost, pierre's ‘peculiar nervous temI might say, of sustaining- perament' makes no imperative what no doubt is a most diffi- demand-it imparts a certain cult piece of characterisation. feeling of humiliation to those And as with the author, so who witness it. I make bold to with the actor. Carefully as say that if after the apparition the one writes, as carefully the of the fourth or fifth ghost the other plays. All through this actor uttered not another sound, scene he is Robespierre as closely but looked, and puzzled, and as he can put on so evasive a trembled, and as the spectral character; but less Robespierre, company converged upon him and more Sir Henry Irving, fainted, he would be more like thenceforward to the end of the Robespierre and ensure a finer play. Spectacle takes up the effect. Another advantage it story. Scene and episode from would have, but it is one that that tremendous drama, the cannot be mentioned kindly. French Revolution, are brought "All this, however, is but in to fill the stage and tell a preliminary to what
I am tale to which Robespierre is dying to say, which now you appertinent but which is not shall hear. his history. These scenes
6. Set in the roar and tumult the making of the play,—these that follows after the first scene scenes contributed by record, of "Robespierre' is a truly and one fine dramatic passage beautiful piece of acting. It which becomes what it is through occurs where the Incorruptible, Irving's genius. I need not tell being then at home in Duplay's you what I think of the prison house, where he is the peacescene, the ghost scene, the scene loving, unostentatious citizen, in the Convention. It is what fond of music and the quiet
recreations of the domestic or less glorified; while as to hearth,' sends for the young these two passages, they are man who has publicly denounced as nearly perfect as they can him that day before the altar be. There we see what Irving of the Supreme Being. He can do when to himself he does will himself examine this young justice. And there, again, we man, whom he does not know see how much the stage has to be his son. The boy (too lost by a most natural but too mulishly represented by Mr constant preference for great Bellew in this scene) will Shakespearian parts and the
questions. But like of them for toploftiness. Robespierre soon finds his way That Irving plays most of them to the truth, and to the further in a striking way, that in some discovery that Olivier's mother he is admirable, that in none is herself in danger of con- can curiosity be withdrawn demnation under a name from him even when admiraknown to him. Robespierre tion will not stir-so much is cannot acknowledge these dis- unquestionable. But the greatcoveries, but, deeply moved, ness he achieves in this way he does all that anxiety can do falls far short of what he could to win the young man's con- have attained to in what by fidence, as a means of saving wretched error is considered a both mother and from lower line of business. Garrick death. I describe the situa- was more judicious, seeking and tion baldly, but it is known finding greatness in comedy as by this time to thousands of well as in tragic-grandeur parts; play-goers and tens of thou- and it may be supposed without sands of newspaper readers. offence that Garrick had
“Well, of this quiet but deeply stronger call to the heights of emotional scene it is to be said his profession than Irving. that ten minutes of it is worth ‘Garrick between Comedy and hours and nights of Henry Tragedy' is a picture we are Irving in magnificent drama. all familiar with on canvas or But even so is another quiet in print. Had Irving allowed passage with the least in it of a similar spectacle on the the emotional : that where stage, keeping it up to this day, Robespierre, tranquilly seated how much richer we should be ! in the Duplay domestic circle, I wonder whether he would listens so complacently, joins have cared to win the praise of in' with such reverent and Charles Lamb! Sure am I, the sweet respect, while his own while I wonder, that he could little madrigal of Ophelia is sung if he would have earned such at the spinet. Mounted as it praise had Lamb been still on is, there is a deal of delight in earth to bestow it. And yet the play, and a deal of the pain he might have risen to Macbeth, that pleases us when it is neither and Becket, and the rest, all too poignant nor too rude. But the same, though not all the the only genuine bits of acting time. are these. All the rest is mere “ And now the question which conventional histrionics, more I most humbly put is this :
What can be done now? Tak- his gifts upon; and we thought ing a great liberty, perhaps, I he had given it up when, to our shall answer by expressing a discomfiture (is it wrong to wish deeply felt opinion that the stage that it might be a little to his cannot afford the strain which own ?), he runs back to it and such plays as “Robespierre' does his worst in it. put upon the chief actor in “That such plays were ever that splendid melodrama. It in vogue is no credit to the decannot be afforded night after clining years of the nineteenth night, season after season. It century; but that they are in is an immense strain, and the vogue is possibly some excuse frequent use of it nowadays (though I do not think it is) should be considered profligate when a dramatist like Mr Pinero expenditure. Why not, then, steps up to show that he is good have recourse to lighter labours, in that genre as in others. But in which the true genius of the the vogue passes; the taste for actor would shine forth as it them is satiated ; in comes Mr never yet has shone to the full ? Barrie with his innocent, de
lightful, and (mark you !) most “Had I Mr Pinero's gifts, I successful · Little Minister,' and should take that consideration we gratefully say, "That clears to heart, hie where it the air altogether.' But no. is possible to breathe a better Mr Pinero, grown some years than the bedroom air in which older meanwhile, brings back his Duchesses of Strood and his the distemper with his 'Gay gay Lord Quexes live, and bend Lord Quex.' It is ill done of all my mind to the writing of him. In his later mood he is a play that should be for Sir for ever reflecting upon the sad Henry Irving what ‘Rip Van and sober change that befalls a Winkle' was for Mr Jefferson. man when he is well past forty This the erring father of Mrs year. He should further those Tanqueray could do if he gave reflections, and consider that a his mind to it, so clever is he, certain sobriety in certain ways so perceptive, so painstaking, is becoming at that time of life so much of the true dramatist. and after; that insobriety is And would he do so, how much unbecoming; and that the probetter it would be for all con- duction of dramatic works like cerned for the public good, for "The Gay Lord Quex' is better the theatre as an institution, left to young bloods who may for the profession' it employs, be supposed capable of being and for himself in everything ashamed of them when they, and all ways.
It is a poor too, come to forty year. mean world, this of the Tan- “In saying which I feel that querays and Quexes, for a man I am his as well as yours faithof Mr Pinero's mark to wastefully,
“ CHAS. WINTERLEY."