صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Reynolds; they did indeed tolerate this instance, by way of illustration, the wild blessed triad, but like ancient Pistol, though dance of maniacs in “ The Duchess of compelled to eat their leek, they grumbled Malfy;" the object is to drive the Duchess over it most prodigiously. Thus then it mad, and Webster has exhausted all the should seem the drama is, and always has powers of his genius in giving effect to this been, in a dying state, and the only wonder terrible conception. With the reader he is that by this time it is not extinct alto- has fully succeeded, but how is such a scene gether.

to be realised ?-the thing is utterly imLeaving the worshippers of past times to possible. Now all this was of no conseget out of this dilemma as best they may, quence in the olden time, when, as we we shall endeavour to render the subject as have a thousand proofs, it was never atplain to our readers as we fancy, --God tempted to act plays in the modern sense of bless the mark !-it has long been to our the word acting ; in those days there was selves. To do this effectually, we must no scenery, no correctness of costume, no imitate the example of my Uncle Toby, attempts whatever at realization, as a carewho could only discover the right course of ful reader must be convinced from every a cannon ball by first demonstrating the page of our ancient dramatists. Their actthousand and one ways which it did not ing was nothing more than recitation, in take.

which the person speaking made no effort As regards the elder dramatists, it is not to identify himself with the character a little curious that, while we profess so which he was supposed to represent. Hence much admiration for them, so few of their arose the total abandonment, at pleasure, of numerous works are able to keep their all the unities; for to what end was the place upon the modern stage. We have observance of them, more than in any novel? twelve volumes of Beaumont and Fletcher where a lapse of twenty years may be sup-nine of Ben Jonson-as many of Shirley posed, without at all affecting probability --four of Massinger--two of Ford, of Mar- to the reader. The same cause opened to low, and of Websterand of Decker, Peel, them a wide field of subjects, and indeed it and others, in about the same proportion; might be said to exclude nothing ; not atyet, of all these plays, not more than five tempting any illusion, they could venture at the most are found acceptable to a mo upon scenes and situations which the writer dern audience. Every attempt to revive of the present day does not dare to touch any of the others has either failed alto- upon, simply because he must bring forgether, or been so coldly received by the ward no more than can be realised to the public, as to be equivalent to a failure. Is eyes and understandings of the audience. this the fault of large theatres ? Not so; This argument is in no case so intelligible for at all events the Haymarket is small as by referring to the whole machinery of enough for any useful purpose. Is it the ghosts and witches. What can be more fault of the actors ? Why we have men beautiful (we had almost said, divine) than and women upon the stage by scores, who Hamlet's ghost in the perusal ?-yet, to are blazoned by the critics, and idolized by speak of it in the mildest terms, nothing the public. Is it the fault of that same can be more dull and ineffective than this public? The laudatores temporis acti same ghost upon the modern stage, where the praisers of the past, will no doubt be the appeal is made to the eyes, and not to ready enough to adopt this solution of the the imagination. The witches again, in doubt, but it is not the less a most egregious Macbeth : we read them with unmingled fallacy. The truth is, that those who admiration, but will any man of common make this outcry for the ancient drama, understanding say that he sees them in reknow nothing at all about the matter, or presentation with a similar feeling? Are else, with the usual jealousy of little minds, they not rendered tolerable us by the they reserve all their praises for the dead, exquisite music of Locke, that formed no lesť living talent should throw a shadow part of the author's original design, but over their own dwarfishness. As to the was added long after his death by another works in question, though they abound in hand, and at a time when the introduction humour, pathos, and vigour, they are yet of scenery had made illusion requisite ? exceedingly imperfect as works of art; not We have dwelt upon this point, to put only are their plots improbable and defec an end, if possible, to that eternal croaking tive, but most of the scenes are such as it about the past which damps everything is utterly impossible to realise. Take, for like enthusiasm in modern authors, and

[ocr errors]

CC

lators;

which, by setting up one fixed, immutable to see under his management at the Surrey
model, tends to put down all originality and the Coburg.
In every other branch of literature, the

age It is incredible, but not the less true, has been allowed to give its own form and that with these facts staring him in the pressure to its productions. The poetry of face, Bunn remained as blind to the truth Scott and Byron, the splendid Waverley as ever. Did he seek for better actors, or romances, the novels of Hook, the periodi- for better writers ? No; on the contrary cal writings of Wilson and Maginn—all are he made haste to get rid of Farren and direct emanations of the age in which the Macready, and became more than ever writers live; but the drama, when it has wedded to the vapid translations of Planchè, fallen into better hands, has only been an who was taken into pay as the regular imitation of the past, for to that model it author of this establishment, while the was as strictly limited and confined as ever office of reader was bestowed upon ReyFrench tragedy was by the example of their nolds, for no other earthly reason that any miscalled classic poets. And what was the one could divine, than because he was the consequence ?—though the critics praised, very last person to whom such an office and the public re-echoed their praises, yet should have been trusted. The first object the theatrical treasuries remained empty : of such a man was, naturally enough, to all admired, and justly admired such pro- exclude all talent above his own; and ductions, for they were the work of talent; standing so low in the scale as he did, the but the result was not in harmony with the result was precisely what might have been feelings of the age, and, naturally enough, expected. Maturin had left behind him few went to see them. Thus foiled and several MSS., but of course these did not defeated, the mob-eyed managers fell back suit the taste of the author of some hundred upon a set of wretched translators from the forgotten five-act farces ; the neat and eleFrench, and scribes yet worse than trans- gant Kenney (author of

Raising the but still, to their great surprise, Vind," one of the very best of English their houses remained empty, while the farces) found no favour in his sight; Jerminor theatres, with the same class of pro- rold (see the “ Doves in a Cage,” and that ductions, were crammed to overflowing. charming composition, the “Painter of Even this failed to open their eyes, though Ghent "), the only rival of Sheridan, in to a fact so plain that nothing short of vain flashed the beams of his wit in the mental blindness could have overlooked it. face of the purblind janitor; Poole and Bunn went blundering on in the same Peake, unequalled in broad humour and in course, and even Charles Kemble did little knowledge of the stage, were banished better. Now could anything be plainer from the legitimate boundaries; while than that the pieces they played, and the Soane, with all his powers of language and manner in which they played them, had invention, his pathos, and his rich yet delidriven away the more educated part of the cate humour*, was driven to the Adelphi public, while their high prices were equally and the Surrey. effective in closing their doors against the multitude? We are far from supposing * Witness the “Frolics of Puck,” a work that

should be in every library. that Mr. Osbaldiston saw a jot further than

overrate this author, who is far from being so wellhis rival or his predecessors; but he had known as he ought to be, we quote a song from a

little piece acted a few weeks since at the Surrey : been the manager of minor theatres, he knew by experience that low prices drew

Where should the fairies' dwelling be, full houses, and, acting upon this principle

Or in the air, or in the sea ? when he got into Covent Garden Theatre, Oh, not in air! Oh, not in air !

Too bleak the winds are blowing there. where he ought never to have been, he at

Oh, not beneath the ocean's flow! once reduced the price of admission; the

Too sad the mermaid sings below;

The joyous elves would pine away consequence of this was, not that he brought

Secluded from their moonlight play. back the better class of audiences, but that he drew to himself all the visitors of the If not in air, or 'neath the sea,

Where should the fairies' dwelling be? minor establishments. It is true that his

'Tis in the rose, 'tis in the rose, company and his dramas of all kinds were

When summer's night in brilliance glows;

'Tis in the cowslip's golden bell a disgrace to a national establishment; but

The tiny spirit makes his cell; what did that signify ? they were quite as

Or, when the wintry winds are cold, good as his audiences had been accustomed

To show that we do not

SONG OF THE FAIRIES.

Lies cradled in the beech-tree old.

ence.

In the cant of the day, the theatres had this rope, and now at the other, without become an unfashionable amusement; but, the slightest idea of what he is doing, but as we have already seen, the fact was, that hoping that by some lucky chance he may Covent Garden had been converted into a put his hand to the right, and bring his minor theatre, while the Drury Lane ma- ship again before the wind. nager contented himself with second-rate It is clear, we think, that there now no actors, and authors of a yet inferior stand- longer exist a national theatre in the meing, his only pretensions to respectability tropolis * ; and thus ceases the only plea being his high prices. Persuaded, however, which could ever be brought forward in that the legitimate drama was unfashion- defence of the two monstrous monopolies. able, and seeing that the Italian Opera had We ask, therefore, with what shadow of still charms for the higher classes, Bunn justice does the Government refuse licences forthwith changed the national theatre to those who would open theatres upon into an Opera House, but one which, like other and better principles? We shall be Dame Quickly, was neither flesh, fish, nor told perhaps of vested rights—a word, an fowl, neither English, French, nor Italian, empty unmeaning word, which has been but a heterogenous compound of all three. used to sanction all sorts of abuses, and The Operas themselves were bungling which, at last, is almost worn out, even translations from the French; the music with the gullible British public. The was French, German, or Italian, as it monopolist will reply, that the theatres might be, but always with mutilations and were raised upon the faith of an exclusive transpositions to suit the singer's and the privilege. True : but was this exclusive manager's notions of the taste of his audi- privilege to last for ever? they have had

The dancers were, in one or two in- ample time to remunerate themselves for stances, French, but in many they were their original outlay, and if they have English with Frenchified names ; all things failed to do so, the fault is with themselves. being fair, we suppose, in theatricals as in It is neither just nor desirable that the love. To every one except himself it was public should be made to pay for the folobvious he had neither singers nor dancers lies of individuals. A free trade in this, as to compete with the Italian and French in everything else, subject only to certain schools; but as this mis-directed effort was reasonable restraints, must lead to the pubseconded by an immense outlay on scenery, lic benefit; and, as a secondary measure, dresses, and decorations, it was for a time we strongly advocate the abolition of that successful. Gustavus, as a huge wood-cut useless office, the reader of plays; it is informed the public, was a brilliant affair, just as gross an invasion of the liberties of and forthwith all the world went to see it, the people as an imprimatur on the press slept comfortably through two acts, and would be. Why should not a man act, as came away delighted with—what they had well as print, upon his own responsibility ? not seen. Even that monstrous abortion, The newspapers are a much more powerful the “ Jewess," without plot, character, or a organ than any stage, and more liable to glimpse of poetry, was fairly dragged along abuse because less subject to the immediate by Ducrow's horses; and manager and controul of censure; yet the Attorneytranslator sat down at a public supper in General is found to be a sufficient check high admiration of each other's talents—we upon the press, and why not upon the cry our reader's mercy—it was the success drama? Are the people who visit theatres of Gustavus that was the cause of the grand such mere children, so little able to distinjubilee.

guish between right and wrong,

that

every Here then we have brought down affairs piece must be pruned, morally, politically, to the present season. What will Bunn and religiously, before it can be submitted do next? He has lowered his prices, be- to them on the stage? Is the licenser of cause the system of empty show has ceased plays the only grown-up man in the comto attract ; but it is done with a vinegar aspect, as appears from his own begging

* We are perfectly aware that Osbaldiston has appeal to the public, and with sundry mis

somewhat mended matters this season, by engaging

such actors as Macready, Farren, and Webster : but givings in regard to the result. The fact

well says the old proverb, “two or three swallows is, he does not know what to be about, and

make not a summer ;” and, besides, how has he em

ployed them? Farren is brought on the stage at 11 there he stands at the theatrical helm, like o'clock at night, when the audience have been bored the bear in the boat, now hauling at

to death by the screaming of Miss Vincent in “ Aladpoor

din," and Webster is made to ride upon a camel.

munity, while the public at large is a sim- truth, the licenser never has been of the ple baby? And again-what is the use of slightest service to any one except himself. the licenser's snipping off the indecencies Look, for instance, at the minor theatres, of authors, while there are many other that have not been subjected to any such points yet more objectionable ? truly this surveillance; it has not yet been found that is straining at a gnat and swallowing a the plays brought out on those stages have camel. If we are to submit to this meddling occasioned either a second gunpowder plot, with our amusements, let the licenser not or made our morality much worse than do the thing by halves, but interfere with they found it. Away then with this odious certain arrangements that we do not think office, which is only another instance of fit to particularise, but about which his that spirit of taxation which follows the deputy ought to be able to give him some Englishıman even to his fire-side, curtails valuable information; it is enough for us his food, grudges him the light of day, to hint, that he may be much more use haunts him in sickness, and, vampire-like, fully employed before the curtain than he feeds upon him when dead. can be upon the stage, where, to speak the

WHO'D HAVE THOUGHT IT

CHAPTER I. MR. EDWARD WILLOUGHBY, and his you,” interrupted the other ; "a patent friend and somewhile tutor, Mr. Olinthus prating-machinea perpetual motion of Humdrum, were, at the moment of which tongue chatter, chatter, chatter still,' as we now treat, seated in the chambers Wordsworth says I won't have her.” of the former, situate in the Temple. I Fie, fie, Mr. Edward Willoughbythink I may as well mention, to prevent speak not so decisively-believe me, it is mistake, and to guard against future impor- not—" but here Humdrum’s correct view of tunate solicitation upon the point, that the matter was abruptly closed, by a loud King's Bench Walk may be relied upon as and peremptory knock at the door. the precise locality of these offices.

66 Come in.” “ And so you think, Humdrum," said the “Ha! Ned, still in the flesh-how are young gentleman, “ that I have no right to you?” cried a young gentleman of fashiona voice in a matter so nearly concerning my able exterior, as he shook his friend persefuture happiness? Why, man, my father

veringly by the hand. “ What, Humdrum, can make out no better claim to select the you there? with that post-mortem phiz of companion of my fire-side, than to impose thine : well, I'll be hangʻd, if you're not one upon me chimney-ornaments of his own of the most posthumous-looking persons I choice. The latter, indeed, may be removed have seen for a long time past!" and as he at pleasure, but the former is a permanence directed his fore-finger into the fifth rib of -a fixture; and I mean to take my own the tutor, a frigid bow of recognition on the fixtures at my own valuation.”

part of the latter communicated a glow to “ Mr. Edward,” cried Humdrum, with the mischief-loving soul of the other. due solemnity, for the old gentleman was “ Well, but," resumed the visiter, turnone of those“ slow and sure” persons, who ing to his friend, “ you look melancholydeem slowness of speech to be the best how is this ? creditors no longer complying ? surety of good sense—“I am astonished at highways and byeways no longer practithe tone you adopt on this occasion. Might cable-duns in the ascendant, eh?” I presume to advise

you,

I would counsel an “ These afflictions have not yet overtaken entire submission on your part to the will me, Heyday," returned Willoughby~" roof your father. Indeed, I am given to un- thing of the nature you appear to contemderstand by Sir Haughty Willoughby, that plate, I assure you, Jack ; but sit down, and the young lady, Miss Talkington, is a per- incline your ear to a recital of my present son of the most unexceptionable description perplexity. My father insists upon my ac--a nuost agreeable—"

companying him into the country on a visit Quite a mistake, Humdrum, I assure to Sir Jabber Talkington, whose daughter I

[ocr errors]

66

am without delay to woo, and, without any as pretty a plan as ever issued from Machiunnecessary formalities, to proceed to wed.” avelian brain. You remember, when we

“ I know the family well,” said Heyday, were at Trinity, my passion for the histri6 and think your father has made an ex- onic art?—you recollect, I dare say, that in rellent choice for you, my good fellow.” the venerable department, I was altogether

“ Did I not say—” interposed the tutor. unequalled.”

“ Peace, Humdrum, peace !” continued “ I do; what then?” cried Willoughby, Heyday; "and so you can't bring your impatiently. neck to the noose yet—don't wish to inclose “ Yes, in the sexagenarian business, I was your happiness in a ring fence, eh?" certainly without a rival. How I touched

“ You know, Jack,” replied the other off the aged ones! They were, indeed, the peevishly—“ you know the engagement only ancients to whom I paid much attensubsisting between your cousin Emily and tion." myself; and yet there's that obstinate old They were so—but, my good fellow ?" brute of an uncle of yours will never con “ This is my design,” resumed Heyday. sent to our union.”

“Your father, Sir Haughty Willoughby, And there's that proud old prig of a has never seen my uncle Alderman Walfather of yours, equally opposed to your brook. An opportunity will present itself marriage.”

to me, this very day, of waiting on the latter “ True: what then is to be done ? as Sir Haughty Willoughby ; should I make

Aye, that's the question,” said Heyday, a successful progress, I shall find occasion, solemnly. “I am sometimes tempted to to-morrow, to present myself to Sir Haughty exclaim in almost the words of the poet as Alderman Walbrook.” Ye gods, annihilate both brute and prig,

Here Mr. Humdrum took occasion to And make two lovers happy!

raise his hands into the air, and so arranged Don't you join me in that fervent prayer, his visual organs that the whites were alone man of much learning ?” and he turned discernible, the tutor.

Humdrum, you see, already admires “ Indeed, I do not, Mr. John Heyday," the ingenuity of the plan,” said Heyday, exclaimed Humdrum, with a shudder; approaching to his friend. “ annihilation is, I may say~"

“ But, my dear Jack " Determined as I am,” interrupted Wil “ No buts, my dear Ned; the thing is loughby, never to consent to the marriage practicable. I shall humour the weakness my father designs me to solemnize, I must of each : to my uncle, as your father, I shall yet so far obey him as to accompany him on dwell on the claims of wealth and mercanthis hateful visit. And yet I cannot bear tile respectability—to your father, as my the idea of a separation from my Emily for uncle, I shall expatiate on the dignities of so long a period : a month will be an age high birth and elevated rank. What, if I ere I again behold—”

fail? The girl's of age-marry her out of “No sentiment !” said Heyday, “I have hand. Grandfathers are seldom inflexible, read the last new novel. Shall I tell you, and the old fellows, in due time, will come Ned, how to make the time pass quickly round, depend on't. Shall I make the enough ?”

attempt?" 56 What do you mean? How may I ac “ I think you may,” said Willoughby, complish so desirable an end ?"

musing : “ and yet, but there can be no “ Put your name to a bill," said Heyday, harm done, after all.” gravely; “I'll warrant you'll find that Time “ True, true," said Heyday; and behas a good pair of wings, especially the last sides, you must not marry Miss Talkington, few days."

that's out of the question. Did you ever “ Pshaw! this is trifling,” cried Wil see her, Humdrum ? No, Willoughby, loughby, making his easy chair a misnomer, you must not take to wife a human parrot,

“ Well, I'll tell you,” said Heyday, By the bye, talking of parrots, what's “ I have concocted a plan. You must no

o'clock? Two ? So late? I'm off. Not longer be trifled with. May I speak out another word. Good bye. It's all here.”. before death's-head and cross-bones yonder?” And tapping his forehead with his fore

“ You may; he is an old and a valued finger, the eccentric Jack went on his way, friend."

to commence his short career of duplicity. Then, here goes; or rather, here comes Well, Humdrum, and what do you, VOL. X.-NO. 11.-FEBRUARY 1837.

66

L

« السابقةمتابعة »