Imatges de pÓgina
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the result of his judgment, still Mr. Charles Kemble was a party to the leasing of Covent Garden Theatre expressly to be opened at these reduced prices, thereby entirely converting it to a minor theatre! It is not to be supposed that his object was a selfish one. Yet it is somewhat singular, that in a preceding part of his evidence before this "select committee," (question 611,) when asked, "Is a minor theatre able to give a larger salary to an eminent performer than a larger theatre?" his response was, "It may for a moment, for the sake of opposition. A man "having no capital embarked in a theatre of this

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sort may say, 'My aim must be to weaken my "adversary, therefore I will offer an eminent actor "double the money he gets at the other theatre :' and "I am sorry there are TOO MANY OF US incapable of "resisting applications of that description." It can scarcely be imagined that a gentleman, maintaining such an opinion, consented to the conversion of his own major into a minor house, merely to have an opportunity of carrying that opinion out: but it is extraordinary that his own subsequent actions bore testimony to his antecedent judgment; for he became

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one of those incapable of resisting" the offer of a tempting payment, having, immediately after the humiliation of Covent Garden Theatre, engaged himself to his tenant on a high nightly salary.

MR. KEMBLE'S THEORY

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This inconsistency between conduct and opinion in a person of Mr. Charles Kemble's talents and station in his profession, was calculated to effect a con

AND PRACTICE AT VARIANCE.

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siderable alteration in the aspect of theatrical affairs, and no doubt would have done so, had not his own share in the matter completely verified his own assertions. Mr. Kemble's observation that those reduced prices would not bring one person more into the theatre was fully borne out in the longrun, and consequently the establishment had all the disgrace, without any of the advantages, of the speculation. It was an undertaking based in error, and not altogether clothed with integrity. Very large sums of money had years back been paid by the present occupiers of private boxes, in the full expectation that the tenants of them would be provided with the same class of entertainment, and the same degree of talent, as far as possible, that had hitherto sustained the reputation of that theatre; and that, before the curtain, the same class of society and the same order of decorum would be received and preserved as heretofore. They made the large investments in those boxes upon the faith of the proprietors of the theatre, and were as fully justified in appealing to them to keep that faith inviolate, as the proprietors were in appealing to parliament, and stating that they had invested large sums of money upon the patent theatre, on the faith of the crown. They were equally amenable to the shareholders, who had made such heavy advances, under the impression that the faith of the crown and that of the proprietors was coeval. It was, therefore, a very questionable measure in point of probity, and in every other respect it was a disgraceful and a ruinous one. The result of it at

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the time was a failure, and it has since had the effect of lessening the character of both the patent theatres in public estimation, while it has left an unnecessary slur upon the profession, the reputation of which is not sufficiently fortified to bear any additional indignity. Beside Mr. Charles Kemble's own able testimony, submitted to the committee of the House of Commons, he had the warnings of many writers and friends, capable of giving sound advice, decrying the commission of a step, the consequences of which it was impossible to foresee ;* but "Obadiah per

* The alienation of feeling produced by this degradation of Covent Garden Theatre cannot be better conveyed than in the following few lines from a gentleman whose industry and great abilities so many years contributed to its fortunes and reputation. They are in reply to a letter I thought it due to myself to write to Mr. Farley, expressive of the regret I felt then, and have since, at being unable to offer an engagement to one of the most gentlemanly and willing officers that ever were attached to the staff of a commander:

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MR. FARLEY.

My dear Sir, and late Commander,

"Permit me to offer you my best thanks for the kind note you "favoured me with last evening, and believe me it is with equal regret that you are prevented enlisting me under your banner in the ensuing campaign, in which I wish you a most decided victory; and "believe me to be,

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"3, Hart Street, Bloomsbury,
"Oct. 1, 1835.

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"I have for several years had the entrée of Drury Lane, and the

privilege of bringing a friend: am I asking too much in request"ing a continuance of that favour?”

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sisted, and the mule threw him." Covent Garden was opened upon the worst principle of a minor establishment, that of having a miserable company to support one or two exotics, who had adopted the poet's exquisite line, where, in apostrophising the heavenly bodies, he exclaims,

Fortune, fame, POWER, life, have named themselves A STAR ! !"

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The prices were the same as those of the Olympic; but the performances to be supported by Miss Wrighten, Mrs. West, Mr. Vale, and Mr. Morley, were not as likely to be patronised as those entrusted to the talent of Madame Vestris, Mrs. Orger, Mr. Liston, and Mr. Keeley. As there was no attraction in the entertainment, people were not disposed to pay even four shillings to sit in a large building, where they were sure to be disgusted. Had the company and their representations been on a par with those the people had hitherto been accustomed to in this theatre, it would have been altogether another affair: but as it must have been well known that the average houses to be expected from such prices could not cover the expenses attendant upon such arrangements, and as it had been asserted—too truly that the reduction of prices would not bring a greater number of people into the building, the result might have been anticipated.

Is there any man, in his senses, believes that the contemplated reduction of postage will turn out otherwise than a fearful loss to the income of the

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country, and such a loss, that the substitution of some other and much more offensive tax will have to be provided to make up the deficiency? It may answer the purpose of those who are deriving the profit of some newly-established situation in connexion with the alteration, to argue to the contrary; but, as the Welsh say, "wait you" until the year of probation be passed, until the novelty has died away, and the deficiency in the revenue return made manifest, and then you'll hear the truth. The labouring man's necessaries of life will have to pay for the abolition of a charge onerous to very few classes of society, a matter of indifference to a great portion of it, and of no relief whatever to the poor. This is not a country for cheap commodities; and, above all, in matters of taste or amusement. If it had not been for the fortunate result of The Jewess, so unconcerned is the public generally about either theatre, and was especially so at this juncture, that with the disgrace of one, the downfall of both might have been accomplished.

Amongst other disadvantages arising out of the manner in which the patent theatres have so long been conducted, may be classed that rivalry in the production of novelties which is generally ruinous to all parties, and that nothing but the classification of performance, I yet hope to see established in them, can possibly prevent. As I have observed already, one example is better than fifty arguments. With the view of following up the success of The Jewess, I had

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