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jokes; some play at chess, drafts, &c.; some of the gentler sex pup certain questions to the gentle by means of moveable letters; one or two read; and, of course, Julia presides at the piano, after being duly conducted thither by the young man with the black hair. Several of the patients were good players, so we had a good variety. Amidst it all, I spent a very agreeable evening. Most of the company joined in singing the evening hymn about ten o'clock, after which I took my chamber candlestick, and so ended my day with the Water Doctor.
“Great Malvern on a rock,
Thou standest surely:
To praise the Lord.”
A plea for the Players.
Among fashions reprehensible and fashions simply ridiculous, there is one very unjust to the class whom it affects : I mean the fashion prevailing amongst purists, of denouncing everything pertaining to the Drama. Unless we could bring ourselves to believe that finding fault with others indicates immunity from fault in ourselves (which it doesn't), this fashion is not likely to obtain favour among really sensible and charitable folk; and without setting up the theatre as a modern Arcadia, it may, with all honesty of purpose, be defended from many of the wholesale charges of its traducers. Actors, as a class, are denounced as idle, dissipated, and unprincipled. Yet, to be successful in their vocation, they must work and study harder, and be more regular in their habits, than the majority of those who compose their audiences. There is nothing
There is nothing inherently vicious in the theory or practice of the actor's calling. On the contrary, the playwright, however fantastically he performs his task, expounds admitted laws of right, and inculcates, with a uniformity not borne out by experience, the triumph of right over wrong. Humanly speaking, it does occasionally happen in real life that the villain pur
sues a successful course to the end, and that many of Calcraft's legitimate "subjects" escape the rope to die in quiet beds, who should terminate their mundane career by performing that unpleasant Terpsichorean feat, a "dance upon nothing," for the gratification of an excitement-loving crowd. But on the stage no such violations of the laws of moral rectitude are allowed. There the proprieties are more scrupulously observed; and even the Devil gets his due. For instance, whoever saw a melo-drama, in which the evil-doer, however triumphant for a while, did not come to ultimate grief; or in which afflicted virtue, though of the most insipid description, did not eventually reap its reward ? Mrs. Stickleback, (whose husband is Member for Rottenborough, and a Director in the Instantaneous Propogation of Mushrooins Company, as well as Vice-President of the Society for Providing Shipwrecked Mariners with Pocket Handkerchiefs,) turns up her chaste nose with disgust at the “creature” who flutters in fleshings and gauze before the footlights for her amusement. But she does not see that, while she is at home doing the honours of the champagne supper that will never be paid for, her darling son, Charles Adolphus, follows the poor dancing girl when she leaves the theatre-does not see the virtuous girl repel with scorn the advances of the fast youth-does not hear the beating of her fluttered heart, nor see the tear glistening in her eye, as she hastens to her squalid home, where a sick mother and hungry sisters are waiting for the supper her wages are to buy.
Good and bad there are of every class, and so it always will be. No flock is without its black sheep; and the stage profession in particular, like life in general, is
“A mingled yarn, Of good and ill together." The gold-seeker, groping in the river's bed, while treasuring the minute specks of wealth, does not spurn the many grains of sand through which they are distributed. So in life, let us cherish that which is good, and simply avoid what is evil, or (which is not always the same thing) what is not to our liking. Let the butterflies of the stage live out their harmless day. Do not blame them because they are not working bees, for if they gather no honey, they bear no sting. They please our eyes, fluttering so gracefully in their tinsel, and tripping it as lightly as though care and short-commons were unknown; and if their beauty is so ephemeral, it is their misfortune, and not their fault.
“Life's a bumper;" and if Fate the butler hands you the brimming cup, quaff the nectar thankfully, and be not hard upon those less fortunate traders of the great wine-press, who are fain to drain the lees and dregs. Let us be charitable, O my friend, let us believe in each other as long as we can.
Better to be damped for once by a shower of mis-placed confidence, than always to keep off the sunshine by holding up the green umbrella of distrust. “This is a wicked world,” says the misanthrope. “It is not the world that is wicked," answers the philosopher, “but the people who live in it.” So, it is not the stage that is bad, but the naughty people who sometimes go upon it. Had there been no serpent in Eden, Eve had never eaten the apple. Remember this, my good friend, who would declaim against theatrical immorality, and look at home before casting the first stone, remembering, likewise, a musty but somewhat pungent proverb, which gives salutary advice to those who dwell in houses of glass. If Diabolus were fishing for prey in a theatre, it is not always behind the footlights that he would cast his net. Many a man of unblemished honour, many a woman of spotless purity, has graced the dramatic profession; and against every piece of scandal about actresses who are tempted to sin, might be told as true a tale of honest love and domestic virtue. When there is a bright side to a picture, in the name of all that is comfortable, let us be content therewith. And apropos of this gossip about the stage, I have a little story to tell.
A good many years ago, I joined some other lads of my age in an elocution class. It seems to be becoming fashionable to believe in spiritual manifestations, and I leave the matter to William Howitt and his assailants; but, at all events, the ghost of Shakspeare never appeared to scare us for the evil things we did in his name: and, at last, we became so confident of our proficiency, that we longed for an opportunity to display our histrionic acquirements. We made acquaintance with a theatrical manager, whose finances were low, and who was known by the name of “Gentleman John,”-“because,” as one of his company confidently, but illogically, explained to me, “he never pays his debts." This august personage, and his amicable spouse, "did the lead” in their company; and their pretty daughter, about eighteen years of age, was being initiated into the mysteries of stage life, when we made their acquaintance. Charley Fletcher, the light comedian of our elocution class, was struck with Miss Rose's charms, and was in a desponding state of spooneyism
before he had had the entrée of the green-room for a week. One night he heard the damsel sing "I'll be no submissive wife.” That finished the business. Charley didn't think she ought to be anybody's submissive wife; on the contrary, would she only consent to become his, he would relinquish the reins of government to her gentle hands, content to be her adoring slave for life. Don't sneer, Mr. Cynic, perhaps there was a time when you were only nineteen.
Acting on the old maxim, that "he who would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin,” Charley soon managed to ingratiate himself in the maternal quarter; and through the “spiritual medium” of brandy and water, found a way to the good graces of “Gentleman John." Out came an announcement that a number of “gentlemen amateurs” were to play for Miss Rose's benefit. Charley, happy rascal, was set down to do sundry comic scenes as an amorous butcher-boy, with that fascinating young lady, who was to drive him into a state of low-comedy distraction, by flirting with a market-gardener, and afterwards set the seal of happiness upon his existence, by falling into his arms and confessing her love, just as he, under the influence of beer and blighted hopes, was about to enlist for a soldier, and go off to get killed in the wars.
But Charley had a maiden aunt, blessed with the strictest notions of propriety. She had an affection for old china, cats, young ministers, and her nephew; and a decided repugnance to railways, whiskers, public amusements, and comic songs. With this amiable but self-willed old lady, Charley lived, and from her he had considerable expectations, whenever it should please Providence in the plenitude of its mercy to remove her to that higher region, for which she was so much better fitted than for this wicked, wicked world.
I never exactly knew how the dreadful discovery was made. Authorities are at variance, as to whether Charley Fletcher was detected in his aunt's garden, going through an imaginary broomstick combat with the market gardener; or whether his correspondence with the siren Rose was intercepted by Mary the housekeeper; or whether Charley gave vent to fragmentary ebulitions of attachment in his sleep, and was overheard by his watchful relative. But by some means the ancient dame got wind of what was going on (or rather, what was coming off), and taxed Charley with his intended delinquency at the tea-table, before the Rev. Jonas Ezekiel Sproggins, and a select few of his flock, in solemn conclave assembled. He endeavoured to laugh away the accusation, but ignominiously failed in the attempt: he tried the injured innocence line of business, but the severe eye of Mr. Sproggins was upon him, and he quailed before its glance. The assembled elect fell foul of Charley after their gentle manner; they kept up sympathetic but unmusical chorus of groans, accompanied
by a profuse display of pocket-handkerchiefs, and a fearful exhibition of the whites of their eyes. There was no withstanding this combined attack, and the truth came out in all its horrid deformity. Poor Charley sincerely wished them all atmsay Herculaneum; but he was obliged to yield. The benefit of Miss Rose duly came off; the butcher boy was personated (and I flatter myself remarkably well personated) by your humble servant; while the serious coterie in the old maid's parlour rejoiced over a brand plucked from the burning, the said brand pacing the garden meanwhile in anything but a devout frame of mind.
Little Miss Rose was naturally enraged at the perfidious conduct of her quondam admirer. She would accept no explanation, but turned the cold shoulder to his further advances, and had the relentless cruelty to exhibit to the whole theatrical company some maniacal verses he had indited to her about cruel beauty, blighted hopes, and suicide.
It may be a relief to the minds of my sensitive readers, to be assured that no evil resulted from this first act of love's labour lost.” One Sunday morning, about three years after this happenned, I saw my friend Charley on his way to the Ebenezer Chapel, and carrying the devotional books of as neat a little wife as ever craved missionary donations, or made flannel jackets to comfort the dusky denizens of Ojibway.