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THE GREEN ROOM.
ENGLISH OPERA HOUSE. The brief season for which it was possible to engage this Theatre in order to try whether the British public would accept a Drama of the purest kind, performed without the meretricious aid of spectacle, or the broad stage effects of the mere playwright's craft, expired on Saturday evening, 25th of September. The success of the experiment, which has been stamped for several weeks with distinguished approbation, has, we are happy to say, answered the question in the affirmative. It was common with managers, when applied to on behalf of plays which showed some touch of noble daring, to object that "they were too good for the present state of popular taste.” The Council of the Dramatic Authors' Theatre dared to disbelieve this libel on the public mind; and appreciating better the understanding of a British audience, ventured, according to the principles of a nobler creed, and in despite of all the disadvantages attached to an untried position, to produce the Tragedy of Martinuzzi. As soon as arrangements can be made for engaging a theatre regularly, the plan of management, of which the crude first-fruits only have been now shown, will, it is trusted, be carried out to those mature results, which will at once prove that dramatic genius and taste for its appreciation abundantly exist among the people of England. · Mr. Stephens issued the following as his “ Closing Address to the Public," on Saturday, the 25th of September, 1841.
“The English Opera House, unfortunately for the interests of the legitimate Drama, having been only to be obtained from the 26th of August to the 25th of September, the season of the present management closes with the performances of this evening.
“ It is believed that this season, however unavoidably brief, will be memorable as the advent of a new era in Dramatic history—as the precursor of the repeal of that absurd specimen of legislation, which compelled the Licenser at the Lord Chamberlain's Office to refuse permission lo act Martinuzzi, at the English Opera House, as a Tragedy, in Five Acts; but granted it when divided into three and graced by songs, which burdened the subject, and whereby the Dranatist is precluded from bringing out a high tragic or comic production at any but those three or two favoured establishments, which can rarely afford to an unfriended author an opening: there being no correlative law to check the penchant of those establishments for gorgeous revivals, five-act farces, and meretricious spectacles.
“The Tragedy of Martinuzzi having proved completely successful, in the teeth (as it has been discovered) of an interested and organized opposition, despite of certain untoward circumstances, perhaps inseparable from the commencement of a new undertaking, which needed more time for preparation than was possible to obtain for it, and the piece having been since played for seven and twenty consecutive nights, to crowded, intellectual, and applauding audiences, the monopoly of the higher class of Drama by three privileged theatres should now be regarded as virtually destroyed. Indeed, the satisfaction
of the author of Martinuzzi would be materially impaired, could he possibly suppose that the vantage ground which he has achieved at no small personal hazard for his brother Dramatists and the theatrical profession, would be left by them unrecognized and unimproved.
* It was not from any overweening estimate of his own production it was no personal point of vanity-still less was it any pecuniary consideration that made him cast his humble reputation on the present die. He judged that at this juncture, the necessity, the interest of the Dramatic Poet and the English Stage required the unacted Dramatists to take up some such independent position as that which (finding no other party prepared to enter the breach,) he has assumed, with the sole aim of enlarging the arena. It is hoped that the case sought to be established on the 26th of August, has been determined affirmatively by the impartial verdict of twenty-seven successive audiences.
“Since no manager, of whatever length of experience, has ever yet shown that he could certainly predict the effect of a new performance before it was tested on the stage, but has continually proved the contrary by repeated failures, it is respectfully submitted that there is no means of obtaining even-handed justice but by a public trial.
"Convinced of this fact, cheered by the cordial and ample support so generously afforded, and profiting by the practical experience he has acquired in the present successful venture, the author of Martinuzzi is fully determined to follow up his own example-to resort henceforward, whenever compelled by circumstances, not, as heretofore, to the printing his poem or play, not to publication, but to a direct appeal, as in this his first experiment, to the stage itself.
“For the noble encouragement he has received from various quarters, which has decided him, if he shall find it necessary, to carry out his reform on some future occasion, he begs to express his grateful acknowledgments. Under any circumstances, the handsome reception given by the public to each representation of his Tragedy, will ever remain his pride and consolation."
COVENT GARDEN THEATRE. On that same important evening, a Comedy by Mark LEMON, entitled, “ What will the World Say?" was produced at Covent Garden Theatre, and was not unsuccessful. We have been always inclined to think and speak well of the present management, from its unostentatious sincerity. Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, whatever may have been their short comings, have never pretended to more than they have performed; we may, indeed, safely say, that they have not yet received all the credit to which they are entitled. It was to Madame Vestris, when swaying the sceptre of the Olympic, that the spectacleloving public are originally indebted for that superior mode of getting up theatrical pieces, which Mr. Macready adopted during his management at Covent Garden Theatre. In this, the succeeding management have far surpassed him. The Midsummer Night's Dream, in the elegance and appropriateness of its decorations, exceeds The Tempest. Besides, Mr. and Mrs. Matthews diffuse their care impartially over all the business of the theatre. Their attention is directed to the farces and after-pieces as well as to the chief drama of the evening; and the result has been, we are told, that not only have their first receipts always far exceeded Mr. Macready's, but their second price has distanced his beyond comparison. This is a merit, and not a slight one-one for which they deserve all the more credit, as they have never pretended to conduct the theatre on other principles than those of a commercial speculation, in which they have completely succeeded. Mr. Macready, on the other hand, has always ostensibly claimed applause for heroic sacrifices, which he never attempted to make; having proceeded all along on the merest trading calculations, Has he not now taken Drury Lane upon the easiest possible terms, and upon an understanding that he may give up the theatre at any time it may begin to assume the appearance of a losing concern? And if he has not done this, what then? The responsibility implied, is do more than every speculator willingly incurs for the sake of a possible profit. Let things be put upon their proper footing-and the exertions of the respective managements rated at their just value. Precisely in proportion as both parties advance the cause of living dramatic literature and the improvement of the stage, shall they have our approbation. But we will not permit mere selfish interests to be pursued under false colours.
To return to Mr. Mark Lemon's play, and the very excellent comic company by which it was supported. Although not one of the highest efforts of the Comic Muse, it is very neatly composed, and in some of its scenes greatly amusing. There is likewise an attempt at story in it, and the wit is beside of a somewhat elaborate texture. In a word, there is sufficient evidence of pains-taking. One, however, desires more of dramatic genius, and less of the playwright's craft. The former is essential to a five-act comedy-where it is deficient, the latter leaves too much of it no better than a five-act farce. We recommend Mr. and Mrs. Matthews to see to this, and not appreciate the public taste by too mean a standard. It will bear, we can assure them, much more solid food than has yet been ventured.
The tale may be briefly dispatched : Marian Mayley, the heiress of a ship-chandler, wishes for aristocratic distinction by a noble marriage, but is pursued by Mr. Pye Hilary, a young barrister, who, having ogled her at the opera, procures, by the assistance of a Captain Scrope Tarradiddle, an interview with her, under an assumed title, and, after many incidents which serve to suspend the dénouement, succeeds in obtaining her for his wife in his proper name and character.
The incidents alluded to constitute the under-plot or plots. The heiress's guardian, who passes under the name of Warner, is troubled with a daughter, Lucy, who having, while in the situation of governess (as Miss De Vere,) to the family, clandestinely married the son of Lord Norwold, is expelled with her husband, on the secret being discovered. They take refuge at the suburban dwelling of Tarradiddle, who is the mysterious busybody of the drama -a poor monomaniac, subsisting on ninety pounds a-year, who does all the good he can to all the world, from the benevolence of his nature, and quarrels with
his wife about fetching in potatoes for dinner, from the eccentricity of his disposition. Now it happens, that the dissipated Lady Norwold had deposited her diamonds with Warner for £5000 : among them is a bracelet, which he eagerly secures ; and then summoning Lord Norwold to his house, discloses to his humiliated lordship, that he is his lordship's brother—the same who had been banished home on his lordship’s false charge of having stolen that very bracelet. It is not worth while to go into the explanations that ensue. We are afraid that these materials are obviously deficient in interest, and that the play will prove no “commercial speculation.” Mr. Farren and Mrs. Humby, however, as the demirep philanthropist and his irritated wife, were exceedingly effective. The other characters were supported by Mrs. Glover, Mr. c. Matthews, Miss Cooper, Mr. Diddear, Mr. Bartley, and Mrs. W. Lacy, with their usual ability. Colley Cibber's comedy of She Would and She Would Not has been revived at this theatre with considerable success.
POLITICAL SUGGESTIONS. Sir ROBERT PEEL, as a minister of reconciliation, has commenced his mission with an endeavour to restoré a friendly feeling between France and England, and to maintain an especial sympathy between himself and M. Guizot. In this there is much of promise-a proper alliance of nations will render war unnecessary. The idea has already dawned on mankind that an international congress is no impossible thing ; and Sir Robert Peel is acting in accordance with the wiser spirit of the age in conciliating French vanity on the one hand, and identifying himself with French genius on the other.
"Beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who bringeth good tidings of peace." All the tribes of men are related-all are referable to one and the same philosophic unity as their origin. It is true, that science can never discover this--but science presumes it. Philosophy acknowledges it as a law, and Revelation teaches it as a truth. The sciolist may fail in ascending to Adam—but the mind at a leap masters the proposition, “ God is our Father," and its corollary, “All men are brethren!"
There are hopes that our differences with Ireland will cease. A moral revolution in that country has prepared the way for political amelioration. The apostle of temperance has renovated the people.
“A new Ireland,” remarks Dr. Channing, “ has started into life. Three millions of her population have taken the pledge of total abstinence, and instances of violating the pledge are very, very rare. The great national anniversaries, on which the whole labouring population used to be dissolved in excess, are now given to innocent pleasures. The excise on ardent spirits has now been diminished nearly half a million sterling. History records no revolution like this. It is the grand event of the present day. Father Mathew, the leader in this moral revolution, ranks far above the heroes and statesmen of the times. As Protestants, we smile at the old legends of the Catholic Church; but here is something greater, and it is true. However per
may question the claims of her departed saints, she has a living minister, if he may be judged from one work, who deserves to be canonized, and whose name should be placed in the calendar not far below Apostles.”
Other changes of a lower order have likewise taken place. A quarter of a century has made strange alterations. Time has cooled resentments, and memory broods not so intensely on the rebellion of 1798, and the insurrection of 1803. Sir Robert Peel has promised the extension of equal justice to all, and the steam-boat facilitates commercial and social intercourse between the sister countries. The peasantry of the country have yet to be conciliated- have yet, in fact, to be won to a sense of the goods of civilization. Much, however, will follow on the newly generated habits of temperance and the moderation of the present Conservative (as distinguished from Tory) party in Ireland will do the rest.
The most difficult task of Government yet remains the reduction of the business of distribution to a science. The middle class of society needs reform individually and collectively—the transactions of the market must be brought under the dominion of charity. With the introduction of machinery, the principle of competition is altogether inconsistent. It is a demon that must be exorcised from the new state of things. It must yield and give place to the Principle of Association—an Association edified by Conservative energies on the basis of Religious Charity.
On this point, however, there are several errors to be avoided. We have heard that our commercial distresses are due to over-production ; this is erroneous: they arise evidently from under-consumption. Ever since the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Bill, there has been under-consumption. The Aristocracy contracted from that moment their expenses, and the income of the middle classes has become less and less. They have made up from year to year the deficiency from their moderate capitals, until they have arrived at the brink of bankruptcy, or rather (to call it by its proper name) insolvency. This is the case with the most honest and the niost prudent; others have toppled down headlong, without notice or a moment's reprieve.
All this is the result of the competitive system, and may manifestly be remedied by the associative.
“We,” says Dr. Channing, in a recent pamphlet,* “ have powers enough here for a mighty change, were they faithfully used. I would add, that God permits evils for this very end, that they should be resisted and subdued. He intends that this world shall grow better and happier, not through his own immediate agency, but through the labours and sufferings of benevolence. This world is left, in a measure, to the power of evil, that it should become a monument, a trophy to
* The Obligation of a City to Care for and Watch over the Moral Health of its Members; with Remarks on the Life and Character of the Rev. Dr. Tuckerman, Founder of the Ministry at large. A Discourse, Delivered at the Warren Street Chapel, Boston, Jan. 31, 1841, by William E. Channing, D.D. London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.