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there was one between us) was the as if he were sole tenant of the deproperty of the nymph, or the swain, sart.— The individual rabble (I rein this dilemma. From me you shall cognized more than one of their ugly never get the secret.
faces) had damned a slight piece of I am not much a friend to out-of- mine but a few nights before, and I doors reading. I cannot settle my was determined the culprits should spirits to it. I knew a Unitarian not a second time put me out of minister, who was generally to be countenance. seen upon Snow-hill (as yet Skin- There is a class of street-readers, ner's-street was not), between the whom I can never contemplate withhours of ten and eleven in the morn- out affection—the poor gentry, who, ing, studying a volume of Lardner. not having wherewithal to buy, or I own this to have been a strain of hire, a book, filch a little learning at abstraction beyond my reach. I used the open stalls—the owner, with his to admire how he sidled along, keep- hard eye, casting envious looks at ing clear of secular contacts. An il- them all the while, and thinking when literate encounter with a porter's they will have done. Venturing tenknot, or a bread-basket, would have derly, page after page, expecting every quickly put to flight all the theology moment when he shall interpose his I am master of, and have left me interdict, and yet unable to deny worse than indifferent to the five themselves the gratification, they points.
“ snatch a fearful joy.” Martin B-, I was once amused—there is a in this way, by daily fragments, got pleasure in affecting affectation-at through two volumes of Clarissa, the indignation of a crowd that was when the stall-keeper damped his justling in with me at the pit door laudable ambition, by asking him (it of Covent Garden theatre, to have a was in his younger days) whether he sight of Master Betty--then at once meant to purchase the work. M. in his dawn and his meridian-in declares, that under no circumstances Hamlet. I had been invited quite of his life did he ever peruse a book unexpectedly to join a party, whom with half the satisfaction which he I met near the door of the play- took in those uneasy snatches. A house, and I happened to have in quaint poetess of our day has moramy hand a large octavo of Johnson lized upon this subject in two very and Steevens's Shakspeare, which, the touching but homely stanzas. time not admitting of my carrying it home, of course went with me to the theatre. Just in the very heat and I saw a boy with eager eye pressure of the doors opening—the Open a book upon a stali, rush, as they term it-1 deliberately Which when the stall-man did espy,
And read, as he'd devour it all; held the volume over my head, open Soon to the boy I heard him call, at the scene in which the young Ro- “ You, Sir, you never buy a book, scious had been most cried up, and Therefore in one you shall not look." quietly read by the lamp-light. The The boy pass'd slowly on, and with a sigh clamour became universal. « The He wish'd he never had been taught to read, affectation of the fellow,” cried one. Then of the old churl's books he should “ Look at that gentleman reading,
have had no need. papa,” squeaked a young lady, who Of sufferings the poor have many, in her admiration of the novelty al. Which never can the rich annoy : most forgot her fears. I read on. I soon perceiv'd another boy, “ He ought to have his book knocked Who look'd as if he'd not had any out of his hand,” exclaimed a pursy Food, for that day at least_enjoy cit, whose arms were too fast pi- The sight of cold meat in a tavern larder. nioned to his side to suffer him to This boy's case, then thought I, is surely execute his kind intention. Still I
harder, read on—and, till the time came to
Thus hungry, longing, thus without a
penny, pay my money, kept as unmoved, as Saint Antony at his Holy Offices, No wonder if he wish he ne'er had learn'd
Beholding choice of dainty-dressed meat: with the satyrs, apes, and hobgob
to eat. lins, mopping, and making mouths at him, in the picture, while the good
(To be continued.) man sits as undisturbed at the sight,
THE TWO BOYS.
BEAUTIES OF THE LIVING DRAMATISTS.
Walk in, ladies and gentlemen ; the show is just going to begin!
Cibber, Life, chap. iv.
Ibid. chap. xvi. I lately found myself in a society offence against taste and common composed chiefly of old play-goers, sense. In my own mind, I set down most of whom had been contemporary their remarks as the result of that fault with, and many of them the com- so common to age,-a blind partiality panions of the Burkes, the Johnsons, to past times at the expense of the the Garricks, the Reynoldses, and present; and in other words I told the other eminent men who contri- them so. “ So, gentlemen,” said 1, buted to render the period at which you make no allowance for the they lived so remarkable in the an- progress of taste? We are an ennals of British literature, taste, and lightened people; the age we live in wit. The conversation was entirely is enlightened ; every day brings us theatrical, and consisted, on their a step nearer towards perfection; the parts, of bitter contrasts between last thirty years have worked great the drama as it existed in their time, changes, produced great inventions, and, what they chose to term, its wonderful improvements, astonishing present degraded state.
discoveries. Burke," I continued, time,” said one, “ a sensible man “never crossed the channel in a steama' might go to a theatre and be sure of boat; the homeward path of Johnan evening's rational entertainment." son from his favourite club, never " Aye, Sir,” said another, “ you and was illumined by gas; and-and--" I have found ourselves in the pit of Churrying to my conclusion,-consiold Drury, on the same bench with dering it waste of time to argue with Burke, and Charles Fox, and John- persons so senseless and so prejuson, and Dunning, listening to Shak- diced withal)— the drama too has speare, or Farquhar, or poor Brins- undergone its improvements.” “ The ley. We have seen there, assembled drama!” they all ejaculated at once, around us, a cluster of eminent show, sniveling sentiment, balderstatesmen, profound lawyers, ele- dash, and mummery-the drama !” gant poets, brilliant wits, aye, and Finding the modern drama so congrave divines too, who considered an temptuously treated by these chamevening spent at the theatre an even- pions of the old school, 1 brought ing well spent, not one of whom but the main supporters of the new would now blush at being caught school successively in review before there." All this was very painful to them. “Farquhar, and Vanbrugh, me-Me, the collector and illustrator and Sheridan, - were pretty fellows in of the Beauties of the Living Dra- their day,' but has either of them left matists! Blush at being caught there! us such a comedy as Virtue's Harvest as if being caught at a royal, patent, Home, or as La Belle Assemblée?" legitimate theatre, were like being “ No," was the reply, but delivered, discovered at a booth in Smithfield, or as I fancied, in a tone of irony which detected in aiding and abetting some considerably displeased me. Can VOL. VI.
« In our
you, from your whole store of ster- “ the drama had its fashions like all ling comedy, as you fantastically other human inventions; that faterm it, produce such characters as shions were liable to change; that Farmer Wheatsheaf, or Deame Wheat- natural character and easy wit were sheaf, or Lord Bluedevil ?” I was out: and, for that reason, were no answered by a second No, more cut- more to be called for in the modern ting and cruel than the first. The comedy than embroidered coats, fullonly person who seemed inclined to bottomed wigs, stiff stomachers, and take part with me, was an old gen- festooned hoops for the actors and tleman, a very active member of the actresses. Because it required half Agricultural Society, who, after some a hundred weight of horse-hair to hesitation, said, that "For his part— make a wig for Congreve or for Fara not pretending to much understanding quhar, would you quarrel with the of the matter-he did not see why authors of Virtue's Harvest Home plough-tails, and turnip-tops, and and La Belle Assemblée for wearing farm-yard occupations, were not as a half-ounce brutus, or for wearing proper subjects to talk about on the no wig at all? Surely you would stage as any others;” (I cast a look of not. Why then are you less indultriumph at our opponents;) “that as gent towards the differences between we already possessed the serious come- the insides of men's heads than the dy, the sentimental comedy, the gen- outs. You cling to what
you teel comedy, and so forth, it seemed, your old school of comedy
(I was to his humble way of thinking, rather growing angry, as I always do, when fastidious to object to the moral- I hear the modern drama ridiculed or agricultural comedy." (In the fulness contemned) “as ivy clings to an old of gratitude for his support I shook brick wall,' merely because it is old, his hand.) “ But-again disclaiming and affect to despise the new for no all pretensions to a proper under- better reason. You move not forstanding of the matter-he, admirer ward with the improvements of the as he was of that class, even he must age; you have allowed the world to admit, that bloody towels and rusty outrun you by half a century; you daggers were rather out of their do not keep pace with the march of inplace in comedy of any class.”—“Call tellect."- Intellect, forsooth!' from you this backing o' your friends ?” the opposite benches. I called to or—This blow, and a ponderous blow der.)—“ Had we lingered on, writing it was, dealt from the hand of my and admiring such pieces as delightonly ally, surprised and staggered me; ed our grandfathers, never should we which my opponents perceiving, they have wept over the serious-agriculall fell upon me one after another. tural comedy; never should we have « Your modern comedy gives us sat motionless and mute, or gasping trades,” said one; “ And occupa- in suspense and horror at the all-astions,” said another; “ And pun and tounding and all-confounding melocounty dialects," said a third ; “But drama; never should we have gazed, affords neither character, nor wit, enraptured and delighted, at the nor wholesome satire, nor common glare and glitter, the taffeta and the sense,” said a fourth. I found that tinsel, the waving plumes and all unless I made a desperate rally all the magnificent gilt and brass-work'* would be lost. I contended that of that climax of perfection in the
* “ The magnificent gilt and brass-work" exhibited in the Drury Lane Coronation was one of its great attractions, and due honour was conferred on it in the play-bills. Addison says, that we always feel more interested in the perusal of a book when we know something about its author. How much more gracefully then must have waved the plumes, with what excess of brightness must have shone “ All the magniticent gilt and brass work,” to those who were informed of the important fact, that among the artists, or, properly speaking, the authors of the Coronation, were “ Messrs. CARBERRY and Co. for the feathers, and Messrs. Johnson and Brookes, New-street-square, for all the magnificent gilt and brass work.” (See the Drury Lane pluy bills.) If any fault may be found with this elegant advertisement (in all other respects quite worthy of Old Drury's play bills) it is that the mention of the address gives it somewhat the air of a shop-card. How formal and technical would it be to announce " Mr. William Shak, speare, late of Stratford-upon-Avon, for all the magnificent poetry of the Tempest."
modern drama-a Procession!!”. Like Brutus—“I paused for a reply." Is the latest and most successful My adversaries were dumbfounded. improvement in the modern drama. After staring at each other for some I do not speak of processions incitime in silence and astonishment, dental to certain plays, as, for exthey liberally confessed that they did ample, the Ovation in Coriolanus, not imagine such an idea as a Pro- but of processions got up for the cession would ever have entered the mere procession's sake. Of the latheads of any of their worthies; and ter, we have seen no fewer than five adding, that having entirely given within about as many months.up attendance at the theatres, and Where?-At Astley's ?-No. At the being desirous of knowing in what Olympic? No. At the Spring-Garthe merit of such an exhibition con- den Rooms, or Bartholomew Fair? sisted, they requested I would, in an No:--two at the Show-box Royal, early number of The Beauties, give Drury Lane,-Old Drury,–Garrick's a specimen of this latest improve- Drury,-Sheridan's Drury-(" Any ment in the legitimate drama. This body's Violante, every body's VioI consented to do; and, so far as the lante”);-and three at the Shownature of the subject will allow of it, box Royal, Covent Garden! + I now proceed to fulfil my promise. Now as the introduction of Pro
* I have heard it unthinkingly asserted that Mr. Kemble, as the introducer of processions and spectacles into some of Shakspeare's plays, ought to be considered as the original corruptor of the public taste. Kemble the corruptor of the public taste ! Kemble the elegant scholar and accomplished gentleman ! the man of exalted genius and refined taste! He the corruptor of the taste of the public! Why, his very presence on the stage was in itself sufficient to purify the atmosphere of the theatre, rendered un. wholesome by the introduction of horses, dogs, monkeys, and rope-dancers. His Cato, his Brutus, his Coriolanus, his Wolscy, his Zanga, his Hotspur,-aye, or his KINGLY Richard—did these corrupt the public taste, or debase it, or help in any way to vulgarise it? The taste of nine-tenths of your “ admiring public,” could never attain the level to which he would have exalted it. When he introduced procession and spectacle, it was with a view to embellish and illustrate his “ beloved Shakspeare," and complete the illusion of the scene; he introduced it, not for the pitiful purpose of dazzling the eye, but to exalt the imagination, and fill the mind with the semblance of truth and reality. Witness the Tempest. Witness Coriolanus.
In the latter, the procession, splendid as it was, was merely incidental: of itself it attracted nothing. Kemble, with laurelled front and outspread arms, and altogether that poetical dignity and grandeur of attitude peculiar to himself, pausing for a while beneath the arch of triumph, his eye, his brow, his lip, his entire figure bespeaking the magnificent pride of the antique conqueror, carried the mind back to the “ high and palmy state of Rome;" there we were, where Shakspeare intended we should be while his play was going on before us, in the seven-hilled city, with Coriolanus, and Volumnia, and all the great ones of that capital of the world. Here was a field for the imagination to revel in ; but Kemble was the magician who spread it for us. The Ovation has been exhibited since his retirement from the stage, but so poor a procession-maker was he, that it has never succeeded without him. * The magnificent gilt and brass-work” is still fresh and glittering, but Coriolanus is gone for ever. Your pure procession-makers understand their work better. The Coronation, or the Public Entry of the Empress Elizabeth, will always draw the “ admiring public," spite of the absence, or even the presence, of any particular actor.
Kemble is gone! but fortunately he has left a brother possessing many of his rare qualities. Like him he is a gentleman and a scholar. He is now in the direction of a national theatre ; and surely, a fitter person for the post could not easily be found. His very name is a guarantee that he will maintain the honour of at least one of our national stages. He will never turn traitor to the glory of his brother, or his sister, or to his own, by an unworthy use of his power. He also is a Kemble! and there is something in that very sound denoting enmity to trash, and trumpery, and mummery of all kinds.
+ What else but show-boxes are they? What proportion do the regular tragedies, comedies, and farces, acted at both of them during the last and the present seasons, bear to the number of shows and melo-dramas exhibited ? This is a calculation which might be made with some effect by the Lord Chamberlain.
cessions, as a great and important di- like a lottery-puff: "overflowing and vision of our national drama,* forms delighted audiences nightly recogan epoch in theatrical history, a short nize and acknowledge The Coronanotice of the sensation excited by tion as the most correct and splendid those already produced, cannot fail exhibition ever produced on the Brito be instructive. To this end, how- tish stage.” The British stage !! ever, the most authentic, and least Thirty, fifty, eighty representations interested information that can be are insufficient to satisfy the admiobtained on the subject is indis- ration of this most admiring public, pensable, and I shall offer no apology and then we have in letters larger for occasionally quoting those bulle- and redder than before : “ In contins, so remarkable for the purity and sequence of the unprecedented poimpartiality of their auto-criticisms, pularity, and unceasing attraction of and the valuable specimens of rhe- the Coronation, (which is acknowtoric they frequently contain--the ledged to be the most correct and play-bills.
splendid, &c. &c.) the theatre overThe first of the Processions, The flows nightly. It will be repeated on Coronation, at the Show-box Royal, every night of acting." But royalty, Drury Lane, was produced imme- whatever advantages it may confer diately after the Coronation at West- on its possessor, is, in many respects, minster Abbey. The King at the a burthen. Perhaps no man would Abbey was his most gracious Ma- accept it with the condition of being jesty George the Fourth ; and, at the obliged all his life to go about with a Show-box, Robert the first (of the heavy crown upon his head. In the Elliston dynasty). The success of history of the 19th of July, we find this fac-simile exceeded even the certain allusions to the “ fatigues of most enthusiastic expectations of its the day,” yet this was but one day of most enthusiastic planner. The pub- crowning; what mortal could endure lic has admired and delighted in crowning a hundred times succesKemble's Coriolanus, and Mrs. Sid- sively? And so it happened with the dons's Lady Macbeth, and Miss king of Drury, that after submitting O'Neill's Juliet, and the former Ellis- to the infliction of the ceremony with ton's Aranza; but its admiration of ineffable patience sundry scores of all this was tame, its delight was times—it happened, notwithstanding cold, compared with its extasies of “The King" paraded “ in his royal delight and admiration at king Ro- robes, wearing his cap of estate unbert's crown and robes. After a few der a canopy of cloth of gold,”-nat. nights' exhibition, thus saith the withstanding this cloth of gold was play-bill, and in large red letters, “ borne by the barons of the cinque
The rapidity with which the Processions have succeeded each other, and the place of their appearance, warrant the belief that they are now received as a standing portion of the national drama. What does Thalia in a niche outside of Covent Garden, having nothing to do within ? There she stands, poor melancholy wench ! looking complaints to each passer-by, of the hard usage she has received from her unnatural guardians. Why not remove her, and supply her place by a centaur or a punchinello ? Either would hold out a fair promise of the sights to be seen within doors. As to poor Drury, that proinises nothing-it is truly an unpromising concern. Apollo, who presided over the late theatre, and experienced an omincus fall at its conflagration, has cut the concern altogether.
+ Here is a specimen which has no connexion with the present subject, but I give it as being an admirable one in its way.
“ Brutus having now attained the utmost height of popularity, and universal approbation, producing on every evening of performance a vast overflow from all parts of the theatre very shortly after the doors are opened ; its representation being nightly accompanied by torrents of the most loud and rapturous applause, and its announcement for repetition constantly hailed by the unanimous cheers and acclamations of the whole house, will be acted every evening till further notice.” Where is the police while all this uproar and rioting is going on in a theatre of good fame? It then continues : “Mr. KEAN whose representation of Lucius Junius, in the new tragedy, has been productive of the most powerful effect on the feelings of delighted and admiring audiences, will repea &c.” (Drury Lane play-bill, December 9, 1818.)
All here is super-superlative. “ Exhausted language can no further go."