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The title of this play gives a sensation of both pain and pleasure.—Fontainbleau was a favourite residence of a number of the French kings, and the spot where the princes of the blood resorted, with all the nobility of the land, when the sports of the field, or the course, were the particular objects of their pastime. Pastime is a word no longer used in the vocabulary of the court of France—Every moment has now its impending cares, and teems with the fate of empires!
At the time this operawas written,(in 1784) the late Duke of Orleans frequently visited England, and was remarkable for his passionate attachment to British modes and manners. The character of Colonel Epaulette, in this drama, was supposed to be founded on this, his highness's extravagant partiality. There is that trait, indeed, of the duke's propensity, in Epaulette; but in all other respects, the colonel neither soars, nor grovels, with his royal archetype, in ‘any one action of notoriety.
The author would not take the liberty to characterise a foreigner, without dealing, at the same time, equally free with one of his own countrymen. The part of Lackland was taken more exactly from life, than that of Epaulette, from a gentleman well known abroad by every English traveller; and whose real name is so very like the fictitious one here adopted, that a single letter removed, would make the spelling just the same.
The reader will observe in this Lackland, so much of debased nature, and of whimsical art; so mucli of what he has probably met with upon journeys, or amongst common intruders at home, that he will regret, that the author, in his delineation, swerves now and then from that standard‘of truth, to which he, possibly, at first meant to adhere; and for the sake of dramatic effect, has made this hero, in effrontery, proceed somewhat too far beyond its usual limits.
The family of the Bulls, especially Miss Bull and her father, are likewise portraits rather too bold; but they are humorous pictures, and, no doubt, perfect copies of such citizens, as inhabited London afew centuries past.
Squire Tallyho gives, like them, some idea of former times; for his manners do not exactly correspond with those of the modern gentlemen of the turf.
Lapoche is, perhaps, an exact Frenchman of the time in which he was drawn; and, as such, the most agreeable object for an Englishman's ridicule. The mistakes which occur, to both Mr. and Mrs. Bull, in respect to this insignificant, and that pompous man, Epaulette, are incidents of very rich humour, though
they place the opera more in that class of the drama,
which is called farce, than in that of comedy. Such is the incident, but more excellent in its kind, of Lackland's courtship of Miss Dolly, and ller equal affection for her three suitors.
The real lovers, in this piece, would all be extremely insipid, but that they all sing; and music is called, “ the voice of love." '
' When music had fewer charms for the British nation, operas were required to possess more of interest
_ing fable than at present is necessary—for now, so rap
turous is the enjnyment derived from this enchanting art, even by the vulgar, that plot, events, and characters of genuine worth, would be cast away in a production, where music had a share in bestowing delight.