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EARLY FORMS OF SCENIC DECORATION. O little genuine interest is felt in early literature, that mistakes
the case with regard to the performances of mysteries or miracle. plays, and the origin generally of the drama--concerning which, until the latter half of the present century, complete ignorance prevailed. In a recently published article upon “Stage Decoration ” which appeared in an evening journal, I find this sentence jauntily introduced: "The miracle-plays which may, perhaps, be said to have been the germ of the modern drama, could for the most part have required but little scenery.” So far from accurate is this statementwhich none the less represents what might be called a current opinion, were any opinions held on the subject—that it is directly opposed to the truth. For months before the performance of a miracle-play the preparations for it commenced, and furnished matter of comment and discussion over a large area. Some of the solemnities were so costly that the municipality which charged itself with the chief burden of the representation found itself embarrassed for many subsequent years. The effects, meanwhile, were occasionally such as a modern scene-painter or machinist scarcely understands. In a representation of the "Mystery of the Acts of the Apostles," commencing at Bourges on the 30th April 1536, we find, in full daylight, the face of Saint Etienne “ burning for a moment like a sun.” A mechanical dromedary and camel are introduced. A lion, also mechanical, tears off the hand of a pagan. A vessel charged with all manner of animals descends from heaven to earth, and is drawn up again ; an owl lights on the head of Herod Agrippa, a serpent creeps along the ground, a devil issues from the body of a person possessed, two marvellous dragons cast fire from eyes, jaws, ears, and nostrils ; another, “the most horrible that can be conceived,” crouches at the feet of St. Michael. In place of Saint Barnabas there is put in the fire an imitation body full of bones and viscera. Scores of similar effects are presented in this one piece. Without enumerating these, I will supply the literal directions for one scene. For the representation there is required a high tower “on which Simon Magus shall mount in order to take flight. Then should come a movable cloud which should elevate him in the air. The cloud should then disappear and leave the body exposed. At the prayer of Saint Peter the body should fall to the ground, breaking its head and legs.” In the same scene, if such it may be called, St. Pol is decapitated. His head should then make three successive bounds, and from each spot at which it falls a fountain of blood, milk, or water should spring. To produce some of these effects would puzzle a modern management.
CURIOSITIES OF EARLY MISE-EN-SCÈNE.
in Heaven creates the sky. “ Then a sky, the colour of fire, must be drawn across the scene, and in this must be written, Cælum imperium." God then creates fire, and flashes of flame should illumine the stage. After the other elements are made and indicated to the public, nine choruses of angels are created, and in the midst of them is placed the angel Lucifer, with a large sun shining behind him. So soon as he is created, Lucifer, with a portion of the angels, revolts and endeavours to ascend to the seat of God. The means for this effect are indicated. They consist of a hidden wheel work. ing on a screw pivot. God bids Michael crush the rebel angels, who fall from Heaven into hell, and are at once transformed into devils. Devils are kept ready dressed to replace them, in order to quicken the action. This effect, which is much less elaborate than that previously described, appears in a miracle-play of the fifteenth century. It is curious as showing the scheme of the fallen angels, of which no mention is made in Genesis. Not easy is it to under. stand how such scenes as the Siege of Jerusalem, which occurs in a mystery, could be shown. Three large towers have to be exhibited at the same time, while the streets of the city are crowded with turbulent citizens and robbers, amidst whom a madman runs up and down, shouting out, “Woe unto Jerusalem !”
JOHN DAY ON THE TREATMENT OF SCHOLARS. N his defence of scholarship and scholars, Day, whose Works have
been recently collected by Mr. Bullen, warms to an amount of zeal which is not common in writers of his time. A student himself at Caius College, Cambridge, he acquired, like most of his fellowdramatists, a close acquaintance with poverty and misery. Nothing in Ben Jonson and in Spenser, who among English writers furnish the clearest insight into the sufferings of the scholar, gives such pictures of the times as Day supplies in his “Humour out of Breath.” Here is one of several instances : “Will not woman respect a man for his good parts?" asks Aspero, one of the characters. He receives the answer, "Yes, some few; but all for his good gifts. A gentleman with his good gifts (shall) sit at the upper end of the table on a chair and a cushion, when a scholar with his good parts will be glad of a joint stool in the lobby with the chambermaid.”
the afternoon was warm and still, and slight puffs of dust were beaten upward by each irnpact of his horse's hoofs upon the dry road. The foliage of the trees, now past its first fresh greenness, had darkened considerably in hue, and was moreover dulled by the fine dust that had settled upon it during the preceding week of rainless weather. Pedestrians sought the grassy sides of the road, and fancied that the milestones were farther apart from each other than they ought to be ; and, in the fields to the right and left, the few labourers who were still at work moved with a lazy slowness, and frequently paused to straighten their backs and pass their brown forearms across their brows. Toward the north and west the pale blue of the sky was obscured by a semi-transparent film of a brownish tint, which ascended to meet the declining sun, and bade fair to overpower it ere its time. It was a day of vague nervous discomfort, such as precedes a thunderstorm, though there were no indications that a storm was brewing. On such a day neither work nor indolence is altogether comfortable ; but the mind involuntarily loiters and turns this way and that, unready to apply itself to anything, yet restless usith a feeling that some undefined event is going to occur.
Mr. Bendibow's mind did not lack subjects with which it might have occupied itself ; nevertheless, no special mental activity was indicated by his features. He rode for the most part with his head bent down, and a general appearance of lassitude and dejection,
Once in a while he would cast his glance forward to take note of the way, or would speak a word to his horse ; but thought seemed to be at a standstill within him ; he was in the state of partial torpor which, in some natures, follows vivid and unusual emotion. He paid no heed to the meteorological phenomena, and, if he felt their effects at all, probably assigned them a purely subjective origin. The sunshine of his existence was obscured before its time, and the night was approaching. He looked forward to no storm, with its stress and peril and after-refreshment; but he was ill at ease and without hope ; his path was arid and dusty, and the little journey of his life would soon be without object or direction.
For the moment, however, he had his mission and his message, and he must derive what enjoyment he might therefrom. He passed listlessly through Kensington, taking small note of the familiar buildings and other objects which met his sight. Had he not beheld them a thousand times before, and would he not see them as often again? A little while more and he began to draw near Hammersmith town, and now. he sat more erect in his saddle and drew his hat down upon his brows, with the feeling that he would soon be at his destination. Passing the “Plough and Harrow,” the ostler, who was crossing the road with his clinking pail, touched his forelock and grinned deferentially.
“Good day, sir-yer servant, sir! Tiresome weather to-day ; a man can't 'ardly bear his flesh. Bound for Twick'nam, sir?"
Tom shook his head.
“Oh ! beg parding, sir. Seein' Sir Francis drive by with the pair just now, I says to myself"
" What's that?”
“The barnet, sir-well, 'twas mebbe an hour since; and another party along with him. So, I says to myself"
“Go to the dooce !” ejaculated Mr. Bendibow, putting his horse in motion.
“Thankee, sir; dry weather, this, sir ; 'ope yer honour 'll keep yer health . . . Thankee, sir !” he added, deftly catching the coin which Tom tossed to him, and spitting upon it before thrusting it in his pocket; "and if ever yer honour wants to be put in the way of as pretty a piece of 'orseflesh .." But by this time Tom was out of earshot; so the ostler winked at the chambermaid, who was looking out of the inn window, and resumed his way across the street, whistling. Tom, meanwhile, after riding a quarter of a mile farther, turned off to the left, and presently drew rein in front of Mrs. Lockhart's gate. Marion was fixing some ivy to the side of the door ; she turned round on hearing the horse's hoofs; and Mr. Bendibow, having lifted his hat, descended from the saddle and hitched his bridle to the gate-post. Marion remained standing where she was.
“Good evening, Miss Lockhart," said Tom, advancing up the path ; “don't know if you remember me--Mr. Bendibow. Hope I see you in good health.”
“Thank you, sir. Have you ridden from London? You choose dusty weather."
Tom was aware of a lack of cordiality in the young lady's manner, and, being in a somewhat reckless mood, he answered bluntly, “As for that, I'm not out for my own pleasure, nor on my own business neither; and I ain't going to keep you long waiting. I've a letter here for Mr. Grant—that's the name the gentleman goes by, I believe; is he at home?"
“ I think Mr. Grant is in the City ; at all events, he is not here."
" I've a letter for him from Perdita--the Marquise Desmoines, that's to say,” said Tom, producing the letter and twisting it about in his fingers, as if it were a talisman to cause the appearance of the person to whom it was addressed.
“ If you'll give it to me, Mr. Grant shall have it when he returns," said Marion.
“ That won't do-much obleeged to you all the same ; I'm to deliver it into his own hands. You don't know where I might find him, do you?” inquired Tom, feeling disconsolate at this miscarriage of his only remaining opportunity of usefulness in the world.
“ He'll be back some time to-night; won't you wait for him here?” said Marion, softening a little from her first frigidity ; "mother will be glad to see you, and ..."
“ Mr. Grant won't be back till toward midnight, but I can tell you where you'll find him," interposed a voice from the air above them—the voice of Mr. Philip Lancaster, who was leaning out of his window on the floor above. “How d'ye do, Mr. Bendibow? He's dining with your father at his place in Twickenham."
“Dining with my father! The dooce he is !” exclaimed Tom, now disguising the surprise which this information afforded him. "I take it you're quite sure of what you say, Mr.-er-Lancaster," he added, growing quite red as he stared up at that gentleman.
“Mr. Grant seemed quite sure of it when he left me to-day," Philip replied, smiling ; " but the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee, you know."
“What's that? Well, it's beyond me, the whole of it, that's all I know. Dining with Sir Francis, is he? Well, stifle me if I'm going