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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 DeameWheat- 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 Farnot 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
call 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 morala 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 Lanc 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 magnificent gilt and brass work,” to those who were informed of the important fact, that among the artists, 07, 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 play 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 Shake 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 processioni's sake. Of the lat. heads 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 Vio I 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 vul. garise 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 una bert's crown and robes. After a few der a canopy of cloth of gold,”—nate 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
a 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 ominous 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 cffect on the feclings 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."
ports, and supported by two bishops,” the Procession continued its “ --notwithstanding his Majesty's train cessful and unprecedented career.". was supported by the eldest sons About the same time, a Procession of peers, assisted by the master of appeared at the Show-box Royal, Cothe robes," --notwithstanding the vent Garden, the plot of which was “ lords of the king's bed chamber, also a Coronation. The only reand the keeper of his majesty's markable difference between this privy purse,”-notwithstanding even show and the other was, that while the physician and apothecary,' the Procession at legitimate Old placed there perhaps (somewhat like Drury stood forward as a mere show, surgeons at a military flogging) to at Covent Garden poor Shakspeare calculate how much dignity might be was mangled and dragged at the tail inflicted on the king of Drury with- of this triumphal car of the modern out danger of unsettling his mental drama.t faculties---notwithstanding all this Next in order followed the Cororegal pomp, this enviable elevation nation of the Empress Elizabeth ; nightly above " upwards of four and, for this purpose, the public was hundred persons,” king Robert was treated with the revival of The compelled to abdicate. But legiti- Exile, an admirable medium for a macy is the order of the day : the show. But the admiring public had manager of Drury is the natural king already admired two Coronations ; of Drury; so preferring the public and though great reliance is placed weal to private ease, Robert deter- on its capacities for admiration, it mined to re-assume his reign, and could not reasonably be expected that soon the bills announced the joyful the public would go on admiring Cotidings in letters of a magnitude be- ronations for ever; so, to coax it fitting the importance of the event) into admiration of a third, a sort of that « Mr. Elliston has resumed his bonus was offered in the form of the character in the Coronation.”. Grund public entry of the Empress Thereupon audiences again became Elizabeth, through a triumphal urch !! “ crowded and overflowing ;” once An Empress going through an arch more the public “ recognized and was irresistible: the Coronation was acknowledged the correctness and swallowed, the very Exile itself was splendour of the exhibition;" again digested, and audiences “overflowwere audiences “ delighted;" foring the theatre in every part,” testhe hundredth time they * admired;" tified their admiration of this “grand then those “ acknowledging and pageant, by the loudest applause and “ recognizing,” and “ delighted,” acclamations throughout.” and “ admiring" audiences really Procession the fourth was entitled, grew “ enthusiastic in their ap- the Grand emblematical Procession of plause;" and, maintaining them in the Seasons, and the Elements, and this pleasurable state of excitation, was marched, at the same show
* Mr. Elliston's announcing that he had “ resumed his character” in the Coronation, was inflicting a bitter satire on himself. Is that his character, or his place ? to fill up a dumb pageant, to march in a Procession ! Where is Aranza? Where Felir, Archer, the Singles, Ranger, Rover ? These were the parts, anong others, that gave him the character of being the pleasantest, and, in many respects, the best comedian of the time; and he would do better for himself, and for the art, were he to endeavour to RETRIEVE that character by acting those parts more frequently, than by “ resuming the character” of a lay-figure, to expose a velvet robe and ostrich feathers upon.
+ Shakspeare's Henry IV. Part II. was tacked on to this Coronation. # Who would ever suspect the Exile to be the production of the lively author of the Dramatist, and of a score other pleasant pieces that kept the town in a broad laugh for twenty years together ? But I suppose we must have vehicles for shows, as we sometimes have vchicles for music. Here lies the difference between the present show-system, and that of Mr. KEMBLE, “ the original corruptor of the public taste.” The made use of pageant and spectacle, chiefly for the purpose of illustration ; now, a piece is got up as a mere medium for show and glitter. Let me ask two questions : Who would go to lock at the ovation now that Coriolanus is no more? Who would go to listen to the Ezile were the pageant withdrawn?
box,* in a scene (classical, according expected night at length arrived, and to the play-bills) representing the (to use the play-bill style) the public Carnival in the great square of Milan. rushed, in overwhelming and resistWith Cleopatra's galley, the palace less torrents, to the doors ; in an inof pleasure, an artificial mountain, credibly short time after their openApollo's temple, and other such ing, the house was crowded almost
appliances and means to boot," it to suffocation; and every place from is not surprising that this fourth pro- which a sight of the stage could be cession was
“ enthusiastically re- obtained was occupied in anxious ceived,” or that overflowing audiences and breathless impatience for the testified their delight and admiration, commencement of the march. But and extasy and enthusiasm, in all spite of all this, spite of the promise possible ways, not inconsistent with of an “ Irish jig," in large black the rules of decency in a public thea- letters; spite of the “grand installatre.
tion,” in large red ones; spite of much I had nearly forgot to mention, paint, and varnish, and show, and that in the course of this pageant was glitter, this procession was stopt in introduced the play of the Two Gen- mid career. The failure of this work tlemen of Verona.
(for notwithstanding the play-bill's The fifth and latest procession assurance of the contrary, it did fail) which has appeared, was produced is easily to be accounted for, and on at the show-box on the opposite side two grounds: first, as compared of the way. The Coronation, with with a coronation, an installation is all its glories, could not be expected an anti-climax, a fault always to be to march on for ever; and opposed as avoided, and more cautiously avoided it was by three processions, given in where the eye alone sits in judgrapid succession at the rival legiti- ment; and how could it have been mate-national-patent-Show-box expected that the same admiring Royal, it began to limp and hobble, audiences who had so long revelled and show signs of fatigue. In con- in the contemplation of Mr. Elliston's sequence, another procession was majesty, surrounded by princes and planned, which was intended to outdo dukes, the sons of peers for trainall that had ever been done before. bearers, his physician and apothecary Painters, decorators, plumassiers, close at hand, his champion on real braziers, silkmen, gold-lacemen, sil- horse-back, his knights in real armour, ver-lacemen, and all sorts of con- &c. how could it have been expecttrivers of show and glitter were set ed that these same persons should to work. Public expectation was ex- look with complacency on drum-macited in a very high degree; and as jors, a noble lord or two, prories for soon as the Grand Procession of the dukes, a few bishops, masters in installed and uninstalled Knights of chancery, battle-axe guards, and St. Patrick, with the sovereign of such inferior officers? Secondly : the order was announced for ex- habit has rendered modern play-goers hibition, the “applications for places critical about Processions; they were innumerable.” The anxiously begin to form opinions and to pro
* Three Processions to poor Drury's one ! Emulation and well-directed industry must prosper.
+ That the play of the Treo Gentlemen of Verona was revived for the express purpose of producing a pageant, a carnival, or any other sort of show, there can be no doubt. As an acting play, it is notoriously one of the weakest of Shakspeare's ; the simple an. nouncement of the revival of the Two Gentlemen of Verona, “ unmixed with baser matter," would have been but little attractive ; and, judging from the present state of theatrical policy, there is no reason to believe that the pure love of Shakspeare, or of his memory, or of the dramatic art, would have induced the revival of an unprofitable play. But the great proof lies in the arrangement of the play-bills (and the “admiring pub. lic" has seen enough of this kind of auto-criticism to understand its mysteries) ; for while “Shakspeare" and his “ sonnets," and the “ play of our immortal bard,” appear in modest and ordinary type, the “ Carnival” stands forth in characters of superimportant dimensions,
# To this was appended something, entitled, Giovanni in Ireland.