Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

London; but the spell was broken. Worth once more became an element in shaping public opinion; and it was needed. A picture of that period represents Kemble and Betty riding on the same horse; the latter, of course, is first, and the following words are put into his mouth; “I don't mean to affront you; but when two persons ride on a horse, one must ride behind." When the craze passed away, Kemble resumed his rightful place in the public mind. The provinces clung to Betty for a time; but they, too, tired of novelty. He was soon neglected; and in consequence he quitted the stage, and at the age of fifteen enrolled himself as a student at Cambridge with a view to the Church. But his first love was too strong, and he returned to the stage, continuing to act with indifferent success until his death at Southport in the year 1824.

The last of the quartette is Edmund Kean. The miseries he endured in the early part of his professional career seem almost too great for any man to have weathered. He married rashly, and the step did not lighten his sorrows. In the midst of such adverse circumstances, Kean always believed he was a born genius, and destined to receive the adulation of his fellows. His first engagement was at a theatre in Teignmouth, but the pittance he received was barely sufficient to procure for himself, wife and child the necessaries of life. But while fulfilling this engagement, he attracted the attention of Dr. Drury, who strongly recommended Kean to the proprietors of Drury Lane. One of their number was despatched to Teignmouth to witness Kean's acting and report upon the result. In consequence of this visit the ambitious actor engaged for three years at nine pounds per week -a large sum for one who before could hardly keep starvation from his door. Kean repaired to London; but three months had to elapse before he could get into harness; during this time he had only eight pounds to keep himself and family. The privations they endured must have been terrible. For one hundred and thirty nights Drury Lane had been far below its average drawings, and the directors resolved to infuse new spirit into their company. They turned to Kean, and proposed that he should play the part of Richard III.; this Kean refused to do, saying. Shylock or nothing.” Expostulation

was useless, and the directors submitted ; success, they thought, was now hopeless.

On the 26th of January, 1814, Kean made his first appearance at Drury Lane; for him it was an anxious time, for he was as yet an unknown man.

His fellow actors treated him with studied coolness, and until the morning of that eventful night no rehearsal was given him. When the rehearsal was finished, the general talk was regarding the certainty of Kean's failure, and even the manager, in petulant disgust, said it would never do. That day he resolved to dine! By some means his wife obtained for him steak and a pint of porter. To him this was indeed a feast. He felt conscious of his near triumph; and when he left home with a wig and a pair of black silk stockings in his hand, he said to his wife : “My God, I shall go mad!” The night was unfavorable, for the London streets were covered with two feet of snow. The play went on, and Kean displayed his great abilities. “ Hath not a Jew eyes ?" was received with rounds of applause; and “My principal !" was well rendered. But it was in the withering look of scorn with which he received the taunts of Gratiano that the audience saw the might of a genius. The motion of eye, lip and muscle which Kean displayed had never been seen since the days of Garrick. And Fanny Kemble wrote that she would never forget his dying eyes in Richard III.

From that night Kean’s triumph was complete. But his nature was very passionate ; he could dine with Byron and the best of London society and thereafter be the chairman at a pugilistic supper. Excess told upon his frame; and when the time for bidding farewell to the stage came, he was unequal to it. He last acted as Othello to the Iago of his son Charles; and when he came to the words, “Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone !” he sank back into his son's arms, saying, “I am dying ; speak to the audience for me.” So ended this brilliant career. Its noonday was very bright and fair; but the clouds of sunset hid the beauty we would have desired to see.

was

The next number of The THEATRE will contain a criticism by Edgar S. Kelley on the new American opera “ Said Pasha."

nounced because of alleged tendencies, whereas the duty of religion is to overrule all such tendencies and not to destroy the enjoyment. The tendency of one man may be to overeating; of another with a fast horse towards jockeydom ; of a third with much learning toward arrogance. The remedy in such cases is not to deprive the one of his dinner, but to teach him how to control his appetite ; not to take away his horse. but to overcome his racyness ; not to reduce to ignorance, but to master his temper. Religion controls but does not kill whatever minis. ters to the enjoyment of man.

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

CHURCH OR THEATRE. IN THE THEATRE of January 26th, I am

taken to task by“ Critic" for my“ startling" statements in favor of a purer stage as against the pulpit. In almost everything “ Critic” says on the subject of “purification of the theatre from within" it is certainly not necessary for me to say to the readers of this magazine that I am en rapport with him, in fact, if he had been a constant reader of THE THEATRE, he would not now need to be told that I have said a great deal in the same strain of castigation on this same subject myself, which I do not care to ask permission to repeat here.

So when “ Critic" says that " it will take better reasons than those given by Mr. Peltzer to convince thinking men and women that the church is declining and the stage advancing," and further that “ the church and the theatre can never go hand in hand,” I think I can do no better than give “ Critic" and your many readers the benefit of what a minister of the gospel in this city (Chicago) said on this subject last Sunday. I clip the following lines from the published sermon.

“ Be not righteous overmuch ; neither make thyself overwise ; why shouldst thou destroy thyself ? — Eccl., vii., 16."

Dear Brethren : There is a righteousness that overreaches itself and a wisdom which, when overwrought, leads to weakness. To this overwrought righteousness and this overwrought wisdom must be attributed much of the weakness which the churches show in their conflict with prevailing wickedness. For all practical purposes righteousness and wisdom are convertible terms. The man who is wise will be righteous, and the righteous man is wise.

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

If a

The drama may have degenerated in our day, but That is no reason for denouncing every theatrical amusement. The stage has ever held a place in human history and played no unimportant part in the uplifting of humanity. Its natural province is to afford a pleasure peculiar to itself and to minister to a class of natural needs which no other source can suitably supply. Even ministers are sensible of these cravings. But they have curbed or killed them so that they are easily controlled. Our church members, however, recognize these cravings for a little stage show now and then. They indulge them 'and I think they are wise in doing so. minister ever wants to see Joe Jefferson he must wait until he and “ Rip Van Winkle” are some hundreds of miles from his pulpit. Then he may go on the sly. He must not be seen in a first-class show at his peril. But his church officers and their wives may enjoy the sport. Is it any wonder that very often he cries out against the stage? Men seldom have sweet words for sour grapes. He is shut out from theatrical amusements however innocent. He has to take all his knowledge of Mary Anderson at second hand. The deacon's daughter tells him all he knows about the Lily. His histrionic enjoy. ment is limited to the horrid punishment of amateur plays in the lecture room of his church and these only confirm him in the dogma that the drama is from the devil. Now, he has himself much te

*

True wisdom tries to draw the distinction between the use and the abuse of things in themselves indif. ferent in their moral character. Righteousness has respect to the line of demarcation dividing innocent games from gambling, dancing from indelicacy, and the moral drama or opera from the debasing of either. Upon the danger line it lifts its solemn signal: "Thus far but no farther.” Now, to lump all such in the category of moral crime is to forfeit the respect of fair-minded men and to loosen the hold which religion should have upon young and old alike. Yet this is precisely what the overwise in the ministry are doing. Harmless enjoyments are de.

blame for his enforced ignorance of what the mo- the pulpit I urge the use of the popularity of dern stage is in reality and how a judicious use the theatre and the Sunday newspaper toʻ“ lead thereof may be made a means of pleasure and refine

mankind to purer and nobler lives,” and for this ment. He has cried “ Woll! Wolf!" so long that

purpose I appeal to the managers of both of the public take him at his word and insist that he at

these powerful institutions for purer and nobler least shall not go near the naughty thing. The

efforts. sheep go and the shepherd stays at home. Take

“Critic" says finally that the presentation of the church members and moral adherents of church

biblical and devotional dramas would turn the es out of our theatre patrons and the actors would

teachings of the Bible into burlesque and ridistarve. What does this prove? Simply this, that

cule. overrighteousness overreaches its end and destroys itself.

THE THEATRE and its readers will pardon

me if in reply to this I briefly quote the following I hope these words from the lips of a man in few lines from an article of mine in its number the pulpit who has the greatest sympathy with of February 15th, 1888. here said : church work may be accepted by “ Critic” as bet- “ To witness degradation passively without ter authority than my startling” statements. testing new methods when old ones fail, is to “Critic" is certainly right when he says

that

approve degradation. Try whether the perfecmost men will take what the daily press says on tion of the people can be wrought out through a the subject" (the non-attendance at church of closer application of Christian doctrines and the great majority of the male population) with teachings by all the institutions which are, as it “a grain of salt” if it were the mere expression of were, to the manner born, namely: the home, an opinion of the press. But as the lack of atten- the school, the church, the press, and lastly, dance at church by the male population is a though by no means least, the theatre. matter of fact easily corroborated, the “ grain of Let the story of Moses, of Jacob, of Daniel, salt" is not needed.

of David, of Saul, of St. Paul, of St. John, be The fact is the majority of the American peo- dressed in fitting form and in the attractive and ple are great readers and they are too well “post picturesque surroundings of the dramatic stage. ed” by their daily press, including the Sunday Let their careers and teachings, their heroic newspaper and the magazines, to take any inter

deeds and sufferings, be made interesting to the est in the dry theological fustian and bombast of

eye as well as to the ear of the less thoughful, the majority of the pulpit orators(?) of the day. and the popularity of the Bible would re-estabThere are abler men and women and vastly more

lish itself quickly. No book in existence is so of them engaged in writing for the multitude intensely dramatic. There is no reason in the than there are engaged in the pulpit.

world why the characters mentioned--they are The sermon of Munkacsy upon his canvas en- all human, and their lives are full of the most titled “Christ Before Pilate” is vastly more pow- stirring events-should not be treated dramatierful in its effect upon the beholder and its ser- cally with a view of awakening a new religious ious impressions are more lasting than all the

growth, which as yet has never been touched." sermons in the land unless the best of these ser

But I am only afraid " Critic” is one of those mons appeared in the daily newspapers the next zealots of the church and enemies of the theatre day, where they would be read by larger num- who would rather give the world over to the flesh bers of the male population, a thousand times and the devil than to see the theatre aid in the over, than those in attendance as listeners the

noble work of reformation, a work which the day before. I have no hesitancy in making the

pulpit shows itself incapable of carrying out. further “ startling" assertion that one night's per

Otto Peltzer. formance of the recent New York Booth and

The next number of THE THEATRE will contain full Barrett engagement was attended by more males

criticisms on " Said Pasha," “ The Country Fair," than attended during that time the entire church

“The Cavalier," “Drifting Apart” and “ Midnight es of New York city upon a given Sunday.

Bell," by Edgar S. Kelley, “Fileur,” Alfred Grimm, Because of the undeniably waning influence of I Wayne Ellis and W. F. Sage.

[merged small][ocr errors]

certain of the mission of the piece when the curtain falls ? Perhaps the truth of the matter is that a good play should not be strained to teach a moral ? If it is to be a mirror only of contemporaneous life-or any other life, for that matter -it has but to be true to its model, that is all.

“Quicquid agunt homines.” Juvenal. " Whate'er men do, or say, or think, or dream." Pope. may, after all, be always the theme for the playwright. Interest us, artist,” some would say, should be the only favor we should ask.

“ Then artist, who does nature's face express
In silk and gold, and scenes of actions dress;
Dost figur'd arras animated leave,
Spin a bright story, or a passion weave;

a By mingling threads, canst mingle shade and light, Delineate triumphs, or describe a fight?"

There is, however, a recognized law that beyond this there must be some goodness set forth, some virtue expressed, a humble tribute at least to the truth that " virtue alone ennobles human kind."

The playwright's Paradise should be a second forest of Arden, where he " Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

[graphic]

TWO PLAYS. “SWEET LAVENDER” and “ Little Lord

Fauntleroy" have both passed their 1ooth performances. Both, it may safely be said, are for the present, at least, successful plays. Let us analyze them.

The story of Little Lord Fauntleroy” is direct and simple. There is no diversion.

The moral is as clear as crystal; a deaf, dumb and blind child could comprehend that it is the good heartedness of the little boy, bubbling over and running over all about him in big organic molecules like quicksilver bulbs, which drew out from the cold, stony nature of the crusty old Duke all the golden human love that was hidden away in the crevices of his organism.

Perhaps what makes the story most real, is to see with what little effort the child accomplishes his Promethean task !

MR. |R. PINERO strives, we opine, to do little

more than First. Put together an actable play. Second. Contrast his characters strongly, and Third. Tune his lyre to the ballad,

“ A man's a man for a' that." The good that is in the drunkard Dick Phenyl is the virtue which we are to be satisfied with when the drama is over. Dick is good despite his faults.

“ Your hero," says Hale, after Dick has tried to moralize with him, “is a cad."

· Heroes generally are," returns Dick. Mr. Pinero was bound his hero should not be

a cad.

Pinero has made his cake with a spoonful of the yeast of virtue. Mrs. Burnett has used a quart.

Cedric has been permitted by his mother to associate with Mr. Hobbs, Dick and other gamins of the street, but his innate gentlemanly nature is a perfect duck's back to the gutter water he comes in contact with.

[merged small][ocr errors]

*

*

Dick Phenyl is a weak character, a drunkard perhaps, for

perhaps, for a quotation, but then not mal who cannot reform, we see him before our very apropos, and from such a source :eyes give way to the passion, although he has

“Going the other evening to see ‘Rip Van Winkle,' the previously promised Hale in our hearing, “ upon old question of its moral naturally came up, and Portia his honor," not to touch another drop.

warmly asserted that it was shameful to bring young children to see a play in which the exquisite skill of Jeff

erson threw a glamour upon the sorriest vice. “See,' MARK you now, the two characters are alike,

she said, “the earnest, tearful interest with which these inasmuch as they both do good sponta

boys and girls near us hang upon the story. The charm neously, Cedric impulsively, Dick voluntarily. to them of the scene and of the acting is indescribable. There is total absence of motive, of premedita- Do you suppose they can escape the effect ? All their tion, in their acts which bring happiness on

sympathy is kindled for the good-natured and good-forall.

nothing reprobate, and when Gretchen turns him out " The pink rose does not think its bloom

into the night and storm, they cannot help feeling that it A gift to me, it asks for guerdon none ;

is she, not he, who has ruined the home, and that the The violet gives its sweet perfume

drunken vagabond, who has just made his endearments As freely as shines the sun.

the cover of deception, is really the victim of a virago.' Shall man then count the good he does As justly deserving meed ?"

But, the Easy Chair says, “"Rip Van Winkle," as Mr. Jefferson plays it, is far from an immoral play. The pic

ture as he paints it is moral in the same sense that na“HEROISM feels and never reasons, and is

ture is moral. No one, shiftless, idle and drunken, afraid therefore always right,” says Emerson in

to go home, ashamed before his children, without selfhis “Essay on Heroism,” which begins in this respect or the regard of others, however gentle and way:

sweet, and however much a favorite with the boys and “ In the elder English dramatists, and mainly in the

girls and animals he may be, is a man whose courses plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, there is a constant re

those boys will wish to imitate or who will make vice cognition of gentility, as if a noble behavior were easily

more tasteful to them. The pathos of the second part marked in the society of their age, as color is in our Am

of the play, in which the change of age mingled with erican population. When any Rodrigo, Pedro or Val

mystery is marvellously portrayed, is largely due to the crio enters, though he be a stranger, the duke or gover

consciousness that this melancholy end is all due to that nor exclaims, ' This is a gentleman,' and proffers civili

woful beginning. The expulsion of Derrick and his ties without end; but all the rest are slag and refuse. In

nephew is nothing, the happiness of Meenie and her harmony with this delight in personal advantages there

lover is nothing, the release of Gretchen is nothing; is in their plays a certain heroic cast of character and

there is only a wasted old man, without companions, the dialogue," etc., etc.

long prime of whose life has been lost in unconscious

ness, and who, suddenly awaking, looks at us pitifully There is an air of gentility about Little Loud from the edge of the grave. Fauntleroy which makes his homely, sweet By the most prosaic standards this should not seem little remarks of kindness and gentleness become,

to adorn vice with attraction. It is true that the spectabecause of that environment, heroic. Cedric then

tor is more interested in Rip than in his wife, and that

she is made a virago. But it is not his drunkenness is a hero.

that charms, and her virtue is at least severe. Indeed,

if this performance is to be tried by this standard, the WHEN Dick Phenyl is in imbibing his toddy play must be regarded as a temperance mission. For

and making the people laugh by saying, temperance is to be inculculated upon the youthful spec“Thsch the lascht time, only thsch ownch,”.

lators who sit near us, not so much by stories and pic

tures of the furious brute who drives wife and children (strange how many of the ladies seemed to recog

from a home made desolate by him, and who fly nize the naturalness of this; their laughter was

from him as from a demon, as by this simple, faithful rather hard, it seemed to me, on the absent bro- showing of the work of a jolly dog' who makes thers and husbands; I went to a matinee.) I irre- wretched a wife who yet loves him, and who denounces sistibly recalled Jefferson's Rip Van Winkle

himself to the child that he loves. This is the fair view and his, “ Only one more glass, gentlemen."

of it as a picture of ordinary human life. But as we look

the low wail of the sad music is in our ears, the scene And I recalled something George William Curtis

changes to a weird world of faery, the story merges in a had written in the “ Easy Chair” some years ago. dream, and Rip l'an Winkle smiles at us from a realm I found it in my library. Here it is, a trifle long beyond the diocese of conscience. If conscience,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »