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avalanche of trash has been cast upon the stage, and the people have accepted it and have, practically, approved it, -while scarcely a voice among public censors has been raised against that flagrant abuse of the theatre. On the contrary, the public has been told to accept it, has been praised for accepting it, and has been prompted to encourage the extension of it. “We are a hard-working, nervous, tired community”—SO runs the stream of mischievous counsel—"and we need recreation. When we go to the theatre we want to be amused. We do not want to think. Let us have something light!” Thus cajoled, and thus cajoling itself, the popular intelligence surrenders to folly, and the average theatrical manager brings forth Rag Babies and Parlor Matches, and complacently remarks, "I must give them what they want.'
The writers and the managers who reason in that way do not reason well. It is unfortunate that the custom of viewing the stage as an “amusement" ever prevailed; for the stage is an institution higher and finer than any amusement, and it possesses an influence upon society second only to that of the hearthstone. But, even viewing it as one of the amusements, no man has a right to degrade its character or impair its usefulness. If we overwork ourselves, as a community, let us quit that injurious and useless custom. Half of the activity that people commonly call “work" consists of parade and pother. The actual work of the world is done silently, by the minority, and usually it does not occupy all the time or exhaust all the strength. Let us economise our energies and stop the snorting and the waste. If we are “tired” and “nery. ous" we can, surely, rest and refresh the nerves without turning the stage into a playground for idiots and making the theatre a hospital for victims of dyspepsia. Sick persons are in no fit condition to comprehend the drama, and, even if they were, the actor is not an apothecary. The time for going to the play is when you are well and refreshed and can appreciate what you see and hear; when your mind and soul are receptive and you are not concerned with the state of your stomach and the ills of your system. There are influences in the dramatic art which can ennoble and help you, even though they do not foster the lower instincts or elicit vacant laughter. The men and women who devote their lives to the study and practice of acting are not frivolous mountebanks, emulous to make you laugh by cutting a caper; nor are you yourself such a poor creature as you appear to be when you prattle about your lassitude and allege your preference for theatrical rubbish.
It is not meant that the stage is in a decline. Ever since the theatre existed it has been subject to fluctuations, accordant with the moods and caprices of public taste. There never has been a time in its history when trash was not striving to submerge it, and when base and sordid views of its province did not find specious advocates and ignoble ministers. But it is meant that trash has been more than usually rampant in recent years, and that it is habitually viewed with a mischievous lenience and toleration. There is more than common need of wholesome censure, as well of the public taste as of the pernicious doctrine that it :
ovince and policy of thinkers, writers, and managers to follow the people instead of leading them.
“Pen Photographs of Dickens's Readings." By KATE
the audience that Dickens thoroughly appreciates "stage effect." A large screen of maroon cloth occupies the background; before it stands a light table of peculiar design, on the inner left-hand corner of which there peers forth a miniature desk, large enough to accommodate the reader's book. On the right hand of the table, and somewhat below its level, is a shelf, where repose a carafe of water and a tumbler. 'Tis "a combination and a form indeed,' covered with velvet somewhat lighter in color than the screen. No drapery conceals the table, whereby it is plain that Dickens believes in expression of figure as well as of face, and does not throw away everything but his head and arms, according to the ordinary habit of ordinary speakers. About twelve feet above the platform, and somewhat in advance of the table, is a horizontal row of gas-jets with a tin reflector; and midway in both perpendicular gas-pipes there is one powerful jet with glass chimney. By this admirable arrangement, Dickens stands against a dark background in a frame of gaslight, which throws out his face and figure to the best advantage. With the book “Dickens” stranded on the little desk, the comedian Dickens can transform a table into a stage; and had the great novelist concluded, at the last moment, not to appear before us, this ingenious apparatus would have taught us a lesson in the art of reading.
He comes ! A lithe, energetic man, of medium stature, crosses the platform at the brisk gait of five
miles an hour, and takes his position behind the table. This is Charles Dickens, whose name has been a household word in England and America for thirty years; whose books have been the joy and solace of many a weary heart and head. A first glance disappointed me. I thought I should prefer to have him entirely unlike himself; but when I began to speculate on how Charles Dickens ought to look, I gave the matter up, and wisely concluded that Nature knew her own intentions better than any one else.
Dickens has a broad, full brow, a fine head—which, for a man of such power and energy, is singularly small at the base of the brain-and a cleanly cut profile. There is a slight resemblance between him and Louis Napoleon in the latter respect, owing mainly to the nose; but it is unnecessary to add that the faces of the two men are totally different. Dickens's eyes are light-blue, and his mouth and jaw, without having any claim to beauty, possess a strength that is pot concealed by the veil of iron-gray mustache and generous imperial. His head is but slightly graced with iron-gray hair, and his complexion is florid.
If any one thinks to obtain an accurate idea of Dickens from the photographs that flood the country, he is mistaken. He will see Dickens's clothes, Dickens's features, as they appear when Nicholas Nickleby is in the act of knocking down Mr. Wackford Squeers; but he will not see what makes Dickens's face attractive, the geniality and expression that his heart and brain put into it. In his photographs Dickens looks as if, previous to posing, he had been put under an exhausted receiver and had had his soul pumped out of him. This process is no beautifier. Therefore, let
those who have not been able to judge for themselves believe that Dickens's face is capable of wonderfully varied expression. Hence it is the best sort of face. His eye is at times so keen as to cause whoever is within its range to feel morally certain that it has penetrated to his boots; at others it brims over with kindliness. “It is like looking forward to spring to think of seeing your beaming eye again," wrote Lord Jeffrey to Charles Dickens years ago, and truly, for there is a twinkle in it that, like a promissory note, pledges itself to any amount of fun within sixty minutes. After seeing this twinkle I was satisfied with Dickens's appearance, and became resigned to the fact of his not resembling Apollo Belvedere. One thing is certain,-if he did resemble this classical young gentleman, he never could have written his novels. Laying this flattering unction to my soul, I listen.