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vived, after having been subjected to a consi- traction of the modern theatre. What hope derable amount of Bowdlerization-if I may for the drama, it is asked in despair, when use such a word-only to show that, in rare a West-end theatre, that started with fair instances, they can hope to attain any lasting promises of good comedy, and pieces favour on the English stage. And many written with considerable literary ability, blasé playgoers denounce the slightest ap- finds that its well-meant attempt does not proach to the dramatic exhibition of human pay, and falls back upon an absurd travestie passion as “rubbish” on the part of the of one of the Waverley Novels, illustrated author, and “rant" upon the part of the with what are called "topical” songs? ”.
" actor. Then, too, we have the fact that What hope indeed! The question is hard many of the popular authors of the day do to answer, no doubt; for it seems at times not even pretend to any great degree of as if the public deliberately set its face literary excellence; and their plays, which against everything but the ephemeral proare successful enough when produced upon ductions of the burlesque writers, and resothe stage with all the accessories of stage lutely determined not to encourage those effect, and the advantages of excellent act authors who had hoped for better things, ing, are found to be commonplace and de- and who had conscientiously and energetivoid of literary merit when read at home.cally set themselves to the task of writing We are also bound to admit that too large plays of a more ambitious kind than is a proportion of our actors and actresses are achieved by the translation of a French persons of only a moderate degree of educa- melodrama, or the dramatic adaptation of tion, and their otherwise able performances a childish fairy tale. Perhaps, however, our are too often rendered ludicrous by a total surprise will cease when we have regarded ignorance of the manners and customs of the actual position of the drama at the prethe ladies and gentlemen whom it is their sent day in connection with the existing duty to represent upon the stage. The same managerial systems, and when we read such fault is to be found with some of our modern advertisements as these: dramatists. In the late Mr. Robertson's
MANAGERS.-New and Original DRAMA, play, “Society," we are positively expected to believe that it is the habit of the aristo-ing, but no nonsense, &c. cracy, after a late dinner, to stroll about the D
RAMAS, COMEDIES, BURLESQUES,
Entertainments, Farces, and Songs written to order garden of a London square, some persons by a Dramatic Author of recognised tålent. For terins, being in evening costume, and others not.
Press Opinions, &c. I could multiply instances of such incon- Why is it that so few dramas are produced gruities and mistakes; and such faults ought which are likely to make any mark among not to occur when the drama is presented to the literary successes of the present age; us as an illustration of the times in which and why is it that those dramatists are very
few, and very far between, who can hope that Then, too, a further proof of the deca- their writings will outlive the generation? dence of the drama is adduced by the pre- I believe the reason to be that those who vailing demand and supply of burlesques, ought to be foremost in the dramatic fieldin which pretty faces, shapely limbs, arch those whose genius and culture mark them manners, and a tolerable voice are the re- out for standard authors—will not devote commendations of the female performers; their energies to writing for the stage, beand a talent for nigger dancing and panto- cause they will not be trammelled by existing mimic comic business is the great quality to systems, and they decline to write dou'n to be sought for in the male. Permit the au- the present level of the stage. thor or perhaps I should say the com- It is not from such a writer that the mapiler-to run wild among nursery tales and nager expects the article which is to satisfy rhymes, or standard novels, wherever his the public, and replenish the treasury. He imagination-or want of imagination-may avoids experiments, and gives his order to lead him, torturing the English language, as an experienced manufacturer. The profeshe goes, for the purpose of making word-sional dramatic author has to write with a jingles that pass for puns; fit the whole in- view to a particular theatre, and for certain describable construction into a pretty frame- actors. There was a time when the actor work provided by the scene - painter and was fitted to the part, but now the part must carpenter, and you have the principal at- | be fitted to the actor-and not for one, but
for all the principal members of a com- indifference to them how the author's intenpany. At once the author's imagination is tions are carried out, or how the other chafettered, and his pen arrested. Instead of racters are cast. Who is there that has not his ideal characters before his eyes, he has felt ready at times to weep at the spectacle perpetual visions of Miss Petowker, Miss of some star playing Hamlet or Macbeth, Snevellicci, Mr. Folair, and the other mem- supported by a crowd of incompetent actors bers of Mr. Crummles's company; and by and actresses who do not understand a their powers, and the peculiar line of each, word of what they are saying, and who are he must measure the creatures of his brain. totally incapable of appreciating the genius Besides which, an author nowadays must they are so offensively familiar with? be an actor too that is, it is not by any When will they learn that, whatever Hammeans sufficient that he should aim at produc- let may be to the student in the closet, he is ing a play in which the finest subtleties of next to nothing on the stage if the qualificahuman character and passion are developed, tions of the actor are limited to a well-toned or in which psychological phenomena are voice, a careful study of traditional represencleverly portrayed. All this, indispensable to tation, and a pointed elocution? Hamlet is a certain extent as it may be, is not enough. a thinking soul, not a gentleman who gives For it is imperatively necessary for the suc- readings;
and when he is represented on the cess of a modern drama that the author stage we cannot forget that he is in company should have practical acquaintance with the with his father, Ophelia, Horatio, his mother, stage; should thoroughly understand the his uncle; and if these characters are to be meaning of the word “situation;" and, at played anyhow, so long as the star can exthe cost of no matter how great the literary hibit his notion of what Hamlet ought to be, sacrifice, he must bring down his curtain it would be better if Hamlet were omitted well. Moreover, he must know what to altogether. It is, however, a welcome fact avoid. He must subdue his minor characters, that comedy companies appear to be eclipshowever necessary they may be to the plot; | ing the stars; and if such errant troops are keep them as much as possible in the shade, well managed, and will only consent to work and be very careful as to the work he gives heartily together, I think there is every reathem to do, as he knows that, in all proba- son to believe that they will prove of the bility, they will be played by minor actors greatest benefit to the drama-loving public. whose prominence would be simply fatal to For it is undoubtedly of the greatest imthe piece, and whose ignorance and incompe- portance that actors should be accustomed tence might reflect upon the author more, to each other; and I cannot help stating perhaps, than on themselves. The author, my opinion that one of the worst features of in short, has to bear in mind that he must modern stage management is the perpetually carefully write up two of the characters, or shifting nature of the company at any given three at the most, and leave all the rest to theatre—with one or two notable exceptions. take care of themselves.
It is the custom now, on the production of And this point brings me at once to what a new play, to inform the public that for the I have no doubt is in your minds, and has two leading parts Mr. Blank and Miss Dash long been one of the worst diseases with have been specially engaged. The piece is which the stage is infected-I mean the brought out, runs its destined course, and a Star system. What author does not shudder new play is advertised as being in rehearsal, at the anticipation of his best pieces being but Mr. Blank and Miss Dash are conspiplayed at a theatre where there are to be cuous by their absence from the cast. We found, perhaps, two persons who, by means search the columns of the theatrical journals, of a reputation awarded to them by a certain and discover that that particular lady and class of critics, and who have been success- gentleman, having been engaged for the run ful in gaining some sort of position in public of that particular piece, will be at liberty as estimation, have received tolerably lucrative soon as it is withdrawn from the bills. One engagements in the provinces to perform does not require a very intimate acquaintcertain parts which they have played at first- ance with the theatre to feel convinced that class London theatres? So long as they such a system must be thoroughly bad. It draw a full house, and get their meed of ap- is urged, I am aware, that a particular enplause and complimentary notices in the gagement is insisted on by the author. No local journals, it appears to be a matter of doubt this is so; but whatever the author
may gain by the arrangement in one case, I intellect-if it is to retain its originality, its cannot help suspecting that he will lose by critical qualities, its powers of reproduction it in another. Nothing is pleasanter to wit—must have proper nourishment, just as his ness than a performance by a company well body requires food. A constant interchange used to support each other; and few things of thought is necessary in carrying out the detract more from the enjoyment of a good great schemes of life; and as the business of play than seeing that the actors evidently do à dramatic author is to survey society, to not understand each other.
exhibit its ever-varying scenes in the mimic But, besides all such difficulties as these, life of the stage, it is unquestionably of the the dramatic author meets with a very great first importance that he should have time for obstacle at starting. How is he to get a study, reflection, and composition. How is manager to read his play? The ordinary it possible for a writer to have this if he has British
manager has a wholesome horror of two or three engagements which must be fulthe untried author. It is not his business to filled within a limited period? Is it likely wade through MSS., nor is criticism always that such productions can hope to do more his strong point. Time is precious to him, than give a passing satisfaction, or achieve and his object is to make his theatre pay; more than a temporary success? Is there and he shrinks from even thinking of going no danger of even the cleverest writer among to the expense of preparing for stage repreus writing himself altogether out? One is sentation and offering to the public the tempted to ask sometimes whether our auefforts of an inexperienced genius, and risk- thors have any real regard for their own reing his own and his theatre's reputation. putations, and whether they are indeed willBesides, he does not consider himself the ing to run the risk of finding themselves guardian angel of English dramatic litera- eventually neglected and forgotten, when ture: he cares little what becomes of that, they ought to be resting upon laurels to so long as there are plenty of assets in the which they might in their age be adding, treasury on a Saturday night. Art is nothing now and again, an evergreen leaf. to him unless it appears in the material shape of large receipts and a hundred nights' THE RIGHT HON. BENJAMIN run. What he looks for is not so much real
DISRAELI. dramatic excellence, but something that will draw. So, unless a new play is introduced
IT T is not our intention in this article to to his notice by some theatrical veteran on attempt any review of Mr. Disraeli's whose judgment he may rely with tolerable political career. As our cartoons are chiefly confidence, or by the leading actor of his portraitures of men of letters, it is of the company whom he is anxious to retain, the literary achievements of the leader of the manager thrusts the MS. into a drawer, and Conservative party that we propose to speak. thinks no more of it. Why should he? If The ex-Premier is the author of a number of he wants a novelty, he goes to some hack clever novels, with which our readers doubtwriter, and says-"Write me a piece. You less are perfectly familiar. The first of this know the sort of thing that suits my theatre. series of works of fiction was “Vivian Grey," You know my company. Let me have some- published when the author was quite a boy. thing that will do, as soon as you can.” The It has been followed by “The Young Duke," order for manufacture is given, accepted, “Contarini Fleming," "Henrietta Temple,” and in due course the article is sent in. Nó “Venetia," "Tancred," “Alroy,” “Ixion,"
"” one can complain of such proceedings as far “Sybil," "Coningsby," and “Lothair."
“ as manager and author are concerned. We “Vivian Grey” at once seized the attenlive in essentially commercial times, and the tion of the town, and its successors mainrelations between supply and demand must tained, if they did not increase, the reputabe maintained.
tion of the author. They have all been very The chief sufferers from this state of things popular, have been many times reprinted, are the habitual and critical playgoers. They and sold at all prices, from the conventional know perfectly well that there is of neces- guinea and a half form down to the popular sity a limit to the invention and fertility of Companion Library" edition, at a shilling the most prolific of playwrights. They know a novel. that if a man is perpetually writing he can Mr. Disraeli comes of an old Jewish fahave very little time for reading; and man's mily; and the pedigrees of such families are