Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

6" What do you think of our streets ?" said the old, yet still animated, Madame de Gʻg. You will not find them, I fear, so agreeable for walking, as the trottoirs in London."

«« Really," I answered, “I have only been once in your streets, at least à pied, since my arrival, and then I was nearly perishing for want of help." ““ What do you mean?" said Madame D'Anville.

Why, I fell into that intersecting stream which you call a kennel, and I a river. Pray, Mr. Aberton, what do you think I did in that dangerous dilemma ?"

Why, got out again as fast as you could,” said the literal attaché. “ No such thing, I was too frightened: I stood still and screamed for assistance."

• Madame D'Anville was delighted, and Miss Paulding astonished. Mr. Aberton muttered to a fat, foolish Lord Luscombe, “ what a damnation puppy,”—and every one, even to the old Madame de G-s, looked at me six times as attentively as they had done before.'--vol. i.,

pp. 62, 63.

This is very good, but it is almost excelled by the following description of Henry Pelham's visit to the rooms at Cheltenham. It would be difficult, we believe, for our readers any where to find a better picture of such a scene.

Upon entering, I saw several heads rising and sinking, to the tune of Cherry ripe.” A whole row of stiff necks, in cravats of the most unexceptionable length and breadth were just before me. A tall thin young man, with dark wiry hair brushed on one side, was drawing on a pair of white woodstock gloves, and affecting to look round the room with the supreme indifference of bon ton.

"" Ah, Ritson,” said another young Cheltenham main to him of the woodstock gauntlets, " haven't you been dancing yet?"

"“ No, Smith, ’pon honour !" answered Mr. Ritson, “ it is so overpoweringly hot; no fashionable man dances now ;-It is'n't the thing.

" " Why," replied Mr. Smith, who was a good natured looking person, with a blue coat and brass buttons, a gold pin in his neckloth, and knee breeches, “why, they dance at Almack's don't they." No, 'pon honour,” murmured Mr. Ritson,

no, they just walk a quadrille or spin a waltz, as my friend, Lord Bobadob calls it, nothing more-no, hang dancing, 'tis so vulgar."

• A stout, red-faced man, about thirty, with wet auburn hair, a marvellously fine waistcoat, and a badly-washed frill, now joined Messrs. Ritson and Smith.

•“ Ah, Sir Ralph," cried Smith, “ how do you do? been hunting all day I suppose ?',

“ Yes, old cock," replied Sir Ralph," been after the brush till I am quite done up: such a glorious run. By GM, you should have seen my grey mare, Smith. By G- she's a glorious fencer."

** You don't hunt, do you Ritson? interrogated Mr. Smith.

““ Yes, I do,” replied Mr. Rilson, affectedly playing with his woodstock glove; “ yes, but I only hunt in Leicestershire with my friend, Lord Bobadob; 'tis not the thing to hunt any where else, 'tis so vulgar."

• Sir Ralph stared at the speaker with mute contempt, while Mr. Smith, like the ass between the hay, stood balancing betwixt the opposite merits of the Baronet and the beau. Meanwhile a smiling, nodding, affected, female thing, in ringlets and flowers, flirted up to the trio.

““ Now, really Mr. Smith, you should dance, a fashionable young man like you. I don't know what the young ladies will say to you," and the fair seducer laughed bewitchingly.

You are very good, Mrs. Dollimore,” replied Mr. Smith, with a blash and a low bow, “ but Mr. Ritson tells me, it is not the thing to dance."

““ Oh, cried Mrs. Dollimore, “but then he's such a naughty, conceited creature--don't follow his example, Meester Smith," and again the good lady laughed immoderately.

• “Nay, Mrs. Dollimore," said Mr. Ritson, passing his hand through his abominable hair,“ you are too severe; but tell me, Mrs. Dollimore, is the Countess St. A

coming here?" • “Now, reely Mr. Ritson, you who are the pink of fashion, ought to know better than I can; but I hear so.”

• Do you know the Countess ?" said Mr. Smith, in respectful surprise, to Ritson.

"“Oh very well,” replied the coryphæus of Cheltenham, swinging his woodstock glove to and fro; “ I have often danced with her at Almack's."

"“ Is she a good deencer?" asked Mrs. Dollimore.

““ Oh, capital," responded Mr. Ritson; “ she's such a nice genteel little figure.” '-vol. ii. pp. 13-16.

This is excellent badinage, whatever the good folks of Cheltenham may say of it. There are, however, a few. sprinklings of serious passages in this novel, still better than its lighter portions, and we regret our limits will not permit us to quote some. On the whole, Pelham is the very best novel we have seen of the class to which it belongs.

Our readers will have been able to perceive from the observations which have fallen from us during our notice of these works, that we hardly regard them as in any way redeeming the class of publications to which they belong, from the general censure implied in our introductory remarks. Herbert Lacy is unexceptionable in its sentiments throughout, and is written in the true spirit of a gentleman. But there is in this novel a weakness of design, a want of propriety and connection in the several incidents, which considerably weakens its effect, and compels us to regard it as very strongly manifesting the marks of the period to which it belongsa period in which even authors of talent are as well contented with deceiving the public by a specious appearance, as commanding its respect by true brilliancy. The Roué is a bold attempt at making the public bear any thing that pretends to describe fashionable manners, or which has pinned to fifty pages of insupportably vicious description, ten lines of doggrel morality as a salvo. There

are many gleams of strong good sense in the Memoirs of a Gentle-man,' many shrewd observations on men and things dispersed through the work, and it has considerable spirit. But with all this, the adventures related are those of a libertine, the lesson most eloquently, inculcated by glowing example, is that of fashionable profigacy, and the reader is very likely to close the work with impressions, that confound the whole truth of actions and sentiment with the doubtful axioms of duchesses at home, and young men on their travels. The truth of it is, the subjects of this school of novels are in most instances badly chosen. The main circumstance of the plot is either outrageously improbable, or insipidly commonplace. If the former be the case, we are disgusted to find ourselves, in the nineteenth century, and among the men and women of our own day, dreaming of Mrs. Radcliffe's marvels; and if we be tormented with a plot that is itself destitute of invention, we are sure of being led through a series of incidents loosely strung together, and in very many instances, only to be imagined novel because they are found in a novel. Let any reader of good sense peruse with attention only the three works we have noticed above, and we are persuaded, that he will not only find our remarks to be true, but leave off reading novels of this kind, till both publishers and authors learn respect for the improved taste of their readers.

ART. V. Seven Years of the King's Theatre. By John Ebers, late

Manager of the King's Theatre of the Haymarket. 8vo. pp. 395.

London: Ainsworth. 1828. This book may be looked upon as the confession of a tradesman, who, having amassed a little fortune in the pleasant and respectable business of a bookseller, suffered his head to be turned by a taste for Italian music, and by an ambition to figure as the manager of the Opera. Mr. Ebers might have remained snug enough, all his life, in his shop at Bond Street, if he had been content with his original vocation ; but choosing to ascend from being the mere vender of box and pit tickets for the King's Theatre, to the superintendence of the whole concern, he has completely sacrificed to his folly, the acquisitions of a life of honest industry, and in consequence has been obliged to seek the usual and pitiable refuge of the Gazette. The imprudence with which a man of staid and thrifty habits, like our author, suffered himself, after his first year's woeful experience, to be tempted onward in a career of ruin from season to season, is one of the most remarkable features of his volume. It would seem, indeed, that he depended in some measure upon the promises of a few noblemen, to give him effectual assistance-promises which, we need hardly say, never went beyond vague general expressions, and were uttered only to be broken. Perhaps also he conceived, that personal access to a few peers, and a familiar acquaintance with the stars of the musical and dancing world, conferred upon him a degree of importance, which was equitably purchased by pecuniary losses, however serious and embarrassing they might be. To this unhappy vanity we must add the influence of a fatal feeling, similar to that which actuates the losing gambler, when he lays down stake after stake, under the feverish hope that some brilliant gleam of good fortune might at length compensate him for his reverses. It is however but justice to Mr. Ebers to add, that whatever may have been the motives of his connexion with the Opera, he has sustained his disappointments with a degree of manliness and good temper, we might add, with a philosophical dignity, which cannot fail to awaken the public sympathy in his favour. He endeavours to make out no case for compassion; he conceals nothing that can tend to throw light on the history of the theatre during hi s management; and he discloses every thing fairly, without measuring the extent to which it may tell for or against himself.

But although the manager has raised up the curtain, and freely admits his readers behind the scenes, and even into the green room, they will discover little that is calculated to repay their curiosity. We own that we expected more of anecdote, more of the personal history of the stage, if we may use the expression, and much more of musical chit-chat than we have found in this volume. We fear, after all, that if Mr. Ebers be an amateur of Italian music, and of the French ballet, his prosperity arises rather from the profit and loss which they bring to the Entrepreneur, to borrow an appropriate French expression, than from the delight which they afford to the taste or the imagination. Hence we have very detailed accounts of the pounds, shillings, and pence, which were expended on the singers, dancers, decorations, and scenery, and of the receipts of extraordinary nights ; but of the recent history of Italian music in this country, of its well known progress amongst us during the last ten or twelve years; of the composition of the favourite pieces, and the science and endowments of the best performers, we have no digested report, nor any thing in the shape of criticism, except what has been, or might have been, extracted from the newspapers. It is perhaps not difficult to discover the pen of Mr. Ainsworth in a few of the more elaborate pages, which are devoted to Pasta, Camporese, Signora de Begnis, and Caradori, but with the exception of these and a few other passages, we have met with but a very inconsiderable portion of that kind of amusing matter which one would wish to gather from a history of seven years of the King's Theatre.

In saying thus much, we are far from desiring to encourage that reckless disregard for private feelings, that insatiable curiosity for prying into the domestic history of individuals, whether they be on the stage or off it, which it is too much the vice of the day to solicit

on one side, and to gratify on the other. We entirely approve of the sentiments which Mr. Ebers has conveyed on this subject in his preface.

• It would not, certainly, have been difficult for me to render the work one of amusement, had 1, in pursuit of this object, thought proper to disregard the feelings of those to whom it would be unpleasant to have their names or the names of friends dragged into publicity. There are cases where individuals so place themselves in prominent and observable stations as to become public property; but a private individual has reason to complain of being, without his own concurrence, placed before the public, and his actions and motives made the subject of general comment. Upon this principle I have endeavoured to act, and am the less inclined to regret having done so, because I do not perceive that the omissions made in conformity with it at all diminish the information which it is my object to convey on the affairs of the King's Theatre.'-pp. xv. xvi. Preface.

It is not scandalous anecdotes that we wished to look forin such a work as this. But there must have been a thousand little incidents characteristic of the taste and talents of performers, and many matters connected with the patronage of the theatre, and the getting up of the operas, as well as the manner in which they were represented and received, which a manager who had a real love of music could hardly have failed to remark during an administration of seven years.” Gossip of this description would not only have been free from reproach, but might have assisted to the diffusion amongst us of some portion of that enthusiasm for beautiful sounds, which enters so largely into the every day enjoy. ments of our continental neighbours. There is hardly a line in the Musical Memoirs of Lord Mount Edgecumbe which the most scrupulous moralist would wish to erase ; and yet it is one of the most engaging little volumes in our language.

As far as the pecuniary history of the opera is concerned, it is but a painful speculation to inquire into the causes • of the uniform failure which has hitherto attended the endeavours of its managers.' We are told that the experience of Handel and Heidegger afforded results little different from that of Taylor and Waters, and we may add of Ebers. Why, when the price of admission to the opera is higher than to any of the theatres, and the gross receipts certainly of no mean amount, is it found that the expenditure almost always preponderates, and that ruin or immense loss is the fate of the enterprizer? It is certain that Handel and Heidegger failed, because in their time the taste for foreign music, or indeed for any music at all, save that of glees and ballads, was confined to a very limited circle in this country. The circle grew wider during the governinent of Taylor and Waters; but even to the latest period of the management of Waters, it must have been evident to any persou who frequented the King's Theatre, that it was not sufficiently supported by the public. The eternal chancery suits in which the property was involved by Taylor and his

6

« AnteriorContinuar »