ePub 版
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

must have a certain number of toler “ No-but unless you wish to shut
able players to fill up his most ordinary up your theatre, I must have my de-
performances; and he must pay them mand."
all, and keep them all, or else shut up “ But the theatre cannot afford to
his theatre. A formidable affair to pay it. It is extravagant, senseless,
one, who thus not merely forfeits the and insolent. If we go on at that
chances of the season, but leaves him. rate we must be ruined,” says the ma-
self liable to an enormous rent without nager.
a shilling of return. In the old con. Do as you like. I must have my
dition of things, the mediocre actor, L.50, my L.60, my L.120 a-week, or
though he had his choice of two thea. I go to the minor theatres, and leave
tres, (and certainly no complaint could you to make the best of your condi-
be made of salaries amounting, for tion. Good morning to you.
such men, to fourteen and twenty We might disregard absurdities of
pounds a-week,) he had but two, and this order, if they terminated only in
this brought him to reason. But he the squabbles of managers and actors ;
now marches off to the minor theatre, but they are fatal to the much higherin-
which, having but one actor of any terest of the drama. The exorbitant sa-
name, can pay him a large salary laries of the actors, thus sanctioned by
for a week or month; and in the the silly system of the day, turn the
mean time the manager of Covent managers into beggars, and effectually
Garden or Drury Lane must find a and totally deprive them of all pas.
substitute, which may not be easy in sion of encouraging true theatrical
the emergency, or must stop the per literature. The manager, stripped of
formance, often at a ruinous waste, every shilling by the demands of his
or must pay the demand, exorbitant company, must, of course, carry on his
and ridiculous as it is. We should stage with the least literary expendi-
not so much ohject even to this, if it ture that he can. He thus is driven to
were in the course of fair dealing; the trash of translations-pitiful bor.
if some new style of attracting the rowings from the German-or the still
public had been suddenly discovered, worse expedients of those deplorable
and managers and theatres wereamass. and disgusting lives of thieves and
ing unexpected fortunes ; even if the 'harlots, which the growing vulgarity
talents of the individual actors had ex and vice of the abused press vomits
hibited some singular development, out, as "reading for the people."
and men of mediocrity had started Sheridan Knowles, and one or two
into men of genius. But we all know others, have made some efforts ; but
that managers are now only a remove what are one or two dramatists to
from madmen in being managers at all sustain a national stage? When old
that theatrical property is scarcely Harris was manager of Covent Gare
worth the parchments that transfer it den, he made it a rule to have at least
--that the public income of theatres is four new comedies every year. Select-
a cipher, and that even the public taste ing his writers among men well known
for the theatres has been alienated and to be capable of seizing on the public
repelled by successive disgusts, until taste, he made arrangements with
men of taste never think of it, and the them adequate to their labour, and
higher ranks never reckon it among even to the common risk of things so
their customary amusements. Yet dependent on popular caprice. The
there comes an actor who, in the best actors then had salaries suited to their
days of his figure and faculties, played, merits ; and the manager was thus
and was rejoiced to play, for L.14 enabled to appropriate sums to author-
a-week, and says" Unless you give ship, which none of his successors
me L.20 a-night I shall leave your could offer, or ever hope to pay.

George Colman received for his coAre you a better actor now than medy of John Bull, L.1000. Moryou were ten years ago ?” says the ton received for his comedy of “ Town manager.

and Country," L.1000. Mrs Inch“ No-but unless you give me L.20 bald received 1.800 for “ Wives as a-night I shall leave your theatre." They Were." Reynolds received

Are you even a more popular ac. for two works, “ The Blind Bargain," tor than you were ten years ago?" says and “ Out of Place,” in the same the manager."

season, L.1000.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

All this is at an end, and must be, a new proof of the progress of the when an actor or actress who merely age; a system which, whether on the fills a character which must be filled great scale or the little whether by somebody, and who does not bring dabbling in politics or plays-whether a shilling to the house by bis personal exerting its craft in perplexing the presence, insists on fifteen or twenty concerns of nations or the treasury pounds a-night, and must be paid it too, of theatres-in bringing empires to from the dearth of performers fitted decay or managers to the Queen's for the great theatres--a dearth arising Bench, --- is, in all, equally wrong. from their being scattered among the beaded and unprincipled, clamorous petty ones; yet every one knows and shallow, ridiculous and ruinous, that it is the drama which makes the Mr Bunn's experience of the life of stage-that one clever comedy would a manager lets us into some aspects bring more popularity to the house of human nature, which are as new as than all the attractions of any one, or they are amusing. The world knows of all the actors now on the boards. but little of actors, except as Richards A new " School for Scandal" would and Charles Surfaces. Perhaps the be worth, in mere pecuniary returns, more comic view would often be the all the talents of those £120 a-week actor behind the curtain. people. Or, if such a work is not to “ What is the conceit of an actor to be expected again, one of half its the conceit of an author ?” says he. merits would be a phenomenon well “A wart to Ossa." An author is vain worth all the zeal of managers to dis- but upon one point; an actor is vain cover, and all the means of theatres to upon all. You can scarcely persuade pay. A great tragedy would be in the most crooked varlet that ever prevaluable-it might turn the whole sented himself at the stage door for theatrical tide, at once renew the pub- examination, that he is not the glass lic taste for the drama, kindle again of fashion and the mould of form ; or the national pride in this most power. many a hound, who literally yelps out ful and fertile province of literature; his notes, that he is not a second Ruand, while it filled the sinking treasury bini. You can impress on the minds of the house, change the broken cha. of very few who have once crossed racter with the failing fortunes of the the stage, that the British nation, to a stage. But how is this to be done, man, is not thinking of them morning, when the manager is only the first noon, and night. If any one mana. pauper of his list, and the receipts of ger had the intellect of all his col. his performances are carried off in the leagues together, there would be no pockets of the performers? We must competing with such people as these. acknowledge that, until we saw Mr The manager's dilemmas, in point of Bunn's book, we had no idea of the authorship, are at once trying and tri. enormity of those salaries. There are vial. There is a vast quantity of other evils, too, less to be named, but dramatic scribbling going on among not less prominent, arising from the classes of mankind, whose habits managerial difficulty of mecting those would seem totally at variance with demands. The population of the the pursuit, and whose faculties are lobbies and upper boxes, not merely quite as much at variance. Dramas humiliates the character of the house, flow in upon the unlucky Aristarchus but repels a large portion of the pub. as thick as motes in sunshine, and as lic from all approach to the theatre. useless. “ Of some hundreds of pieces Yet this deplorable source of income sent in," says Mr Buon, “ sent in an. is suffered to exist, from the mere onymously, while I was manager, but pressure of difficulties which crush the one was deemed fit for representation; manager to the dust, and which he and among those may be mentioned thinks (however unfitly) a justifica. another, as an example, a tragedy of tion for his meeting the emergency in nearly six hundred pages, written by any way that he can. Of sources like an author totally unknown. It was these we cannot approve under any sent to me by one particular friend of circumstances, and we even see in them mine, and strongly recommended by an additional cause of the misfortunes three others. The first was a moon. which are now breaking down the light scene, and in the opening soli.

theatres ; but they are the evident loquy thereof, the hero, gazing on the - result of a system which was vaunted as unclouded glory of Diana, accused

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

her, despite her beauty and character, couraged such a proceeding ; but, as
of intriguing (with whom, can the the character of Solomon Gundy was
reader imagine ?) with the man in the originally a part of my own writing,
moon! I mention this little circum- I shall request his Grace to license
stance, merely to designate the difficult the rubbish' as you call it, which you
position of a manager in only one have sent to me. -Your obedient ser-
department of his vocation; forowing vant, G. COLMAN."
to my rejection of this pyramid, one In 1833 the theatrical world sus-
of the friends in question has never tained a loss which nothing within its
spoken to me since."

round, then or since, could repair. Theatres must be anxious things. Kean, exhausted by a long course of The season of 1832, at Drury Lane, intemperance, and probably not much saw Kean and Macready engaged to less wasted by remorse for his own inplay together ; Mademoiselle Duver. corrigible imprudence, died, almost on nay, a charming dancer and handsome the stage. His last proceedings were girl, at the head of a complete corps characteristic of his weak and wayward de ballet, imported from France; and career. He was under an engagement Malibran, (unquestionably a theatrical to play at Drury Lane, when, in the genius,) appearing in her favourite midst of it, he sent to ask the lessee, character of La Somnambula. Ame- Captain Polhill, for a loan of L.500, rica, too, furnished all that she could which was to be worked out by subsein a comedian, Mr Hackett, Yet this quent performances. But his health season, noutè as the theatre


closed was so broken, and his habits were with a loss. What then could bring so singular, that the captain did not a gain?

altogether approve of this kind of secu. But of Hackett's engagement one or rity. Within two days after, Kean's two anecdotes. Hackett, with no very name was announced“ to appear at evident display of judgment, intending Covent Garden !" while a note was to play in Colman's comedy of who actually in the manager's hands, from wants a Guinea, substituted a charac- his physician, stating the utter imter which he called Solomon Swap, possibility of his appearing at all, from for the original Solomon Gundy—a a violent attack of gout. The opinion change which gave general dissatis- of counsel was taken by the aggrieved faction. Among other malecontents, manager, as to obtaining an injunction Dowton sent the following opinion :- to prohibit this breach of engagement,

“My dear Bunn,-D-- all Yan- but legal proceedings were finally dekee editions of Who wants a Guinea. clined; and, in the mean time, unfor. Mr Hackett seems a civil man to me, tunate Kean, making an effort to come and I wish to oblige him, if I can. So forward in Othello, dropped down in I am studying three lengths of his the second act, and was conveyed to alterations. He is the only actor, by the bed from which, we believe, he the-by, that designedly cuts out all never rose. his jokes-perhaps it is the American Kean was an extraordinary actor, fashion. Now, after this nonsense, and an extraordinary man.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Without give me an order for to-night.--Yours, any advantages of education, and, per. W. D.”

haps, with all the disadvantages that But this weighty affair, laughably could beset a birth and youth of poenough, came under another, and a verty and desertion - for he seems more indignant eye-Colman's, the never to have known who his father author himself, their examiner of was, and even his mother's identity was plays.

Bunn enclosed Hackett's in« doubtful_he yet struggled through terpolations to him for his license. difficulties that might have destroyThe angry wit and author in one, ed a mind of less energy, until he answered him with official and lofty struggled into triumphant success. scorn: "Şir,- In respect to the Embarked in the most desperate of all alterations made by Mr Hackett --a professions for the unknown, and toilmost appropriate name on the present ing for years in the lowest and most 0.'casion-were the established play unknown grade of that profession, he of any living dramatist, except myself, yet evidently felt something of that so mutilated, I should express to the consciousness, from the beginning, Lord Chamberlain the grossness and which has been so often discoverable in unfairness of the manager who en« the lives of men destined to be remem



bered. With no recommendation of the formidable hands of the examiner person-a low and meagre figure, a unscathed; but, it having been at Jewish physiognomy, and a stifled and length slowly discovered by the vicehusky voice-he seemed to be excluded chamberlain (Paris being then some by Nature from all chance of person. thousands of miles off) that the prin. ating tragedy ; the grim expression of cipal character, “ Bertrand," was writhis countenance, and the sullen sound ten at Talleyrand, and Talleyrand of his voice, prohibited comedy; yet, being at that moment ambassador in at his first step on the London stage, London, the license was refused; we he was acknowleged to be the founder presume, through fear of a French of a new school-to give new meaning invasion. It might have been deemed to some of the highest characters of rather strange, that the play which Shakspeare: to refresh the feelings, and could not affect Talleyrand in Paris, change the worship of those who had should sting him to mortal rage in for a quarter of a century bowed down London; or that, while the original to the supremacy of the Kembles; and, was harmless, the translation should finally, to poura

new and most welcome be enough to inflame two nations into flood of wealth into the long-exhausted war. But so it was : the feelings of treasury of the theatre. This wonder the ambassador were to be guarded was worked by the true operator of all against the wit of his countryman for earthly wonders--energy. The Kem- the safety of the British empire, and ble school was majestic and magnifi- the play was forbidden. The manager, cent. Kean was his school alone, for however, having the double interest it had neither founder nor follower but of translator and manager, fought out himself; and its spirit was vividness, the affair; and after an exchange of poignancy, and intensity. If Kemble bullets, in which, happily, no injury could have added ardour to his majesty, was done on either side, the seconds he would have been perfect. If Kean having declared the honour of both could have added dignity to his deci- parties to be perfectly unstained, the sion, he, too, would have been perfect. principals made their bow to each other, But the style of Kemble was fitter for and the matter was amicably arranged. the triumphs of the Greek theatre-the It was finally agreed that the dress of style of Kean was formed to carry all Farren, in Count Bertrand, was to be before it on the English stage. Inten. submitted to the Vice-Chamberlain; sity is every thing with the English who, on conferring with the Foreign mind. Its simple habits love reality; Office, and ascertaining that there the strength of its feelings makes it was nothing directly hostile, in the turn away from splendid artifice ; the cut of the coat and breeches, and that clearness of its understanding marks the wig was not shaped like a maniwhere the motive is, and the conduct festo, and dressed with gunpowder, that ought to follow it, and gives its was to issue his license accordingly. heart cordially to nothing but the A drawing of the coat and breeches, truth. But we now speak rather of or the vestures themselves, in due Kean's style, than of Kean. He was season appeared before the proper often a most imperfect representative authorities, and the permission was of that style. Feeble health, vulgar given. But Lord Chamberlainscaprice, or determined indolence, often clever fellows as they always are-are impaired his conception. He was not always a match for actors. On even a singularly unequal actor. the night of the play, Lords Grey Powerful in one scene, worthless in and Palmerston, the heads of the the next; but suddenly starting into Ministry and the Foreign Office, with the full development of his genius, probably all the tails that could and with eyes of fire, and tones of squeeze themselves into the boxes, passion, exercising full mastery over came from Downing Street, expressly the soul.

to be present at the affair. It was Even diplomacy has its share in quite a ministerial crisis. The horror perplexing theatres. The manager of the noble lords, and the tenfold had translated M. Scribe's Bertrand horror of all their subalterns, may be and Raton, which he calls an admira- conceived, when Farren came forward ble play--an opinion in which we by – Talleyrand to the life. The fact no means coincide, so far as M. Scribe was, that the subtilty of the actor had is concerned. The play passed through outwitted the simplicity of the Cabinet.

He had distanced the whole diplo. ed the character before. A journal of the matic field by a wig. His wig had following morning thus touched on the subcome from Paris ; the fac-simile of ject :-'We cannot avoid mentioning a the favourite peruke of the Ambas. point which was the general subject of sador. It was the famous wig in

conversation yesterday eveningthat Brawhich Talleyrand had sworn thirteen

ham had volunteered his gratuitous ser

vices, and Macreadly declined to play 'Jo. successive oaths of allegiance to as many successive shapes of French seph Surface' before his sovereign. This

is what we call ‘sovereign contempt. But government. What might have hap

the onus falls on the mimic, and not on pened to the daring comedian, the

the monarch. What sad nonsense this is ! protesting manager, the alarmed cabi.

With all the respect that we can possibly net, nay, to the trembling empire it

have for the art and artist, it is a fact self, if Talleyrand had frowned, is

requiring no comment, that as they both now beyond calculation ; but, to the

depend on the breath of the King, his astonishment of ministers, the first very breath should summon them into acman whom they saw in the opposite tion.' box was the old diplomate himself, « The arrangements of the plays being laughing heartily at the entrće of made by the vice-chamberlain, the manaFarren. The costume, the wig, the ger had no power to alter them; and this man, were there perfect-all but the was the letter which he received from the wisdom and the wit. Lords Grey comedian. and Palmerston felt their alarms sub " "Dear Sir-I perceive by the adverside as the performance went on; and tisements that “ Turning the Tables” is to before the fall of the curtain, the re- be performed as the last piece on Tuesday pose of Europe was secured-at least next. This, I trust, will not be persisted till the arrival of a new ambassador. in, otherwise I must decline the honour of

Managers hear odd things of mo appearing before his Majesty so lale in the narchs as well as of ministers. One evening. ---Yours,

J. Liston."" evening of the King's (William the Fourth) coming to the theatre, as All this is certainly ultra-comic. Liston and the manager were con- « Now, pray," says Mr Bunn,“ who versing in the ante-room of the royal is the king in all this business? Mr box with a nobleman of the household, Liston had L.20 for playing in “Turnone of the pages passing by, and not ing the Tables," commanded by his observing his Lordship, slapped the Majesty to be the last entertainment comedian on the back, ejaculating of the evening. It is not too late in “ D'ye think you'll make him laugh the evening for the King of England to-night? He was devilish stupid at to sit in the theatre, but it is too late dinner!" I cannot now determine for one of his Majesty's servants to which created the greater roar, the appear on the stage ! Surely this is face of the lackey on perceiving the carrying out the Wolseyan doctrine of noble lord before whom he had so "Ego et rex meus' a little too far. committed himself, or the face of The actual meaning of it is--don't Liston. “If the reader,” Mr Bunn you think that, on coming on the stage slyly remarks, “never saw the face of at half past eleven at night, his Ma. a dignified performer, when reminded jesty, who has been so heartily laughthat he was nothing more than a per. ing at the other pieces, will not have former, he has a treat to come." a titter left for me? Talk for a thou

He gives another little example, in- sand years, and the latent meaning finitely expressive of what he calls a will be found to be this, and nothing dignified performer. " The King had else." ordered the play of · The School for Whatever was the meaning, his Ma. Scandal' at our house, and some other jesty would have lost some honest performances, of which the farce of laughing by Liston's non-appearance. i Turning the Tables' was the last, He is the best quiet comedian that we at Drury Lane. Of course all the remember. This style, we admit, is leading performers were called on. not regarded as his forte by the world,

" At Covent Garden all complied, with nor perhaps altogether by himself : one exception ; this exception was Mr for nothing moves the populace but Macready, whom no argument or request buffooneries, and the actor must have could prevail upon to appear in 'Joseph peculiar strength of mind who does Surface,' though he had so often perform. not barter his judgment for huzzas.

« 上一頁繼續 »