Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION.

BORCICault may be considered to be the originator of what has been very aptly designated as the “ Upholstery School of COMEDY," in which the decorations and novel effects derivable from the appointments and accessories, which modern improvement has introduced on the stage, form the prominent features of the piece. That the comedies of this author owe much of their success to these novel introductions, cannot be denied, but Borcicault also possesses the talent of infusing into his coinpositions a sparkling vivacity of dialogue, neatness in the construction of his plot, a knowledge of cha racter, drawn from a close observance of the follies and vices of our period, and a happy skill in the management of his incidents and situations; and by these united qualifications, he has succeeded in producing two or three comedies, that never fail to amuse and attrac audiences, aided as they are by the adornments of costly stage appoint

ments.

His

The chief defect, we consider, in all Borçicault's productions, is the utter heartlessness that pervade his pictures of modern manners. epigrammatic wit, and his polished keenness of satire, seem to revel in representing the most selfish characteristics of modern fashionable society. The exclusiveness of this society, perhaps, exposes it to the censure of the satirist; and the Dramatic writer, whose province it is to " shoot folly as it flies," may be pardoned if he faithfully represents the classes, from which he draws the originals of his fictitious creations. He may draw from these equivocal fountains large draughts of wit and humour, and he may excite the risibilities of his audiences, with displays of his peculiar genius: but we humbly conceive that the brightest flashos of his wit, will be wanting in that other essential element of true Dramatic wit-Pretry, while the moral influence of such exhibitions of real life, in a Dramatic form, is deleterious in its effects on an audience. We are not so visionary in our theories as to look to the stage for any high code of morals, although we believe such might be its legitimate province; yet we contend that the stage is a school where a pure and correct taste may be oultivated; and we hold it to be a perversion of good taste, to present life as being one unbroken link of heartless frivolity and polished insincerity, as Borçicault delights in picturing it. Nor can we admit ihe fidelity of his portraits of character, amusing as we confess they are in the representation. They seem rather to owe their existence to the ex aggerated delineations with which modern fiction abounds; the characters are, in fact, copies from fashionable novels, and not transcripts from nature. The stage has lost its original influevce over the intel. lectual and the fashionable classes, so that its power for good or evil has become nearly extinct. The mass of play-goers view the entertaiument derivable from the theatre as a mere amusement, a relaxation from daily toil, and prescribed duty; and the author that can most effectually interest, amuse, or excite an audience for the passing hour, becomes the popular idol of the day. We have no desire to impeach the taste of the public, but we do object to men of genius fostering the frivolous spirit of the age, and, what is more reprehen. sible, disseminating through the powerful instrumentality of the Drama, a false code of morals, calculated to undermine all the social virtues of life. We look

upon

“Old Heads and Young Hearts” to be the most open 10 censure, of any of Borçicault's productions. The leading characters are nearly all of them high drawn satires on humanity. Littleton Coke is a mere blasé man of fashion, a spendthrift, a sneerer, and a scoffer; even his love for Lady Alice Hawthorne is but a com. pound of selfishness and cupidity; and her witty ladyship is but a slight remove from a heartless and frivolous coquette.

The British Peerage, we trust, could never have furnished the prototypes of Lord and Lady Pompion; and Col. Rocket is too ignorant and too coarse to be considered as even slightly to resemble any officer of rank, that was ever gazetted in the army list. Lord Roebuck is an inanity, save in his disregard of filial duty; on this point he bears the infallible brand of the author. Miss Rocket is a fitting counterpart of her lover, and Bob is the stereotyped lying, impudent valet of the stage, with all the heartlessness and selfishness of his master, which he wears as he does the second-hand clothes that become his perquisites. Apart from this group stand out Tom Coke and Jesse Rural ; they are intrusted with the sentiment of the comedy, or, rather, they are the author's exponents of the morality of the piece. Tom is made a sort of untutored country boor, is crossed in his affections, and jeered at by his fashionable spendthrift of a brother; and Rural is a simple-hearted aged clergyman, on whom all the plots and counterplots of the comedy is made to revolve; he is buited and ridiculed through five acts for the amusement of the audience, and is at last driven almost to madness, to heightea the effect of the final climax.

Such a clergyman as Jesse Rural is depicted, should never have been selected for exhibition on the stage, under the degrading cir cumstances Borçicault has thought fit to introduce him.

But with all these exceptionable points in this comedy, it is popular as an acting play. The language is sprightly, witty, and pointed, the inci dents are highly dramatic, and the constant succession of equivoquie, keep interest alive from the rising to the falling of the curtain.

“ Old Heads and Young Hearts" has been peculiarly successful in this country, chiefly from the admirable personation of Jesse Rural by Mr. W. R. BLAKE, the present manager of the Broadway Theatre. This gentleman had acquired a wide-spread celebrity in Philadelphia and Baltimore, for his inimitable performance of the part; and on his assuming the stage management of the Broadway, the comedy was revived with every attention to its details, and had a continuous run of sixteen nights, to crowded and delighted audiences.

Mr. Blake's embodiment of Jesse Rural, may be classed among tho finest histrionic efforts now extant upon the stage. It is, indeed, one of those truthful pieces of acting, in which the artist is almost identified with the character he represents. We cannot cor ceive anything more true to nature, both in appearance and acting, than is the per donation of this character in the hands of Mr. Blake.

H

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 Spear

CAST OF CHARACTERS.

Haymarket, 1844. Walnut st., Phil., 1847. Broadway, 1848. Earl of Pompion ... Mr. Tilbury Mr. A'Becket Mr. D. C. Andersos Lord koebuck

H. Holl

Smith

4 Dawson Colonel Rocket Strickland

44 Vaché Litlleton Coke

C. Mathews
" Wheatly

" Lester Tom Coke..

** Webster
“ Richings

“ Fleming Jesse Rural...

W. Farren

R. Blake

4 R. Blake Bob

4 Buckstone
“ Chopman

u Hadaway
Stripe.
4 T. F. Mathews Eberle

G. Chapman Russell.

Carle

Huckurt

16 Gallot Countess of Pompion Mrs. W. Clifford Mrs. Blake Mrs. Winstanley Lady Alice........ Madame Vestris Miss S. Cushman Miss Wallack Miss Rocket ........ Miss Julia Bennett Mrs. Rogers Mrs. Sergeant

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

COSTUMES.
The Costumes are those of the present day.

EXITS AND ENTRANCES. R. means Right; L. Left; R. D. Right Door; L. D. Left Door; 8. E. Second Entrance; U. E. Urper Entrance; M. D. Middle Door.

RELATIVE POSITIONS.
R., means Right; L., Left; C., Centre ; R. C., Right of Centre;
L. C., Left of Centre.

Passages marked with Inverted Commas are usually omitted in the

Representation.

« PreviousContinue »