Зображення сторінки

8 Child. O lord, sir! will you betray' your ignorance so much? Why, throne yourself in state on the stage, as other gentlemen use, sir !

Seated then at their ease, they laughed, talked, and cracked jokes with each other during the performance, and had, as Decker says, “a signed patent, to engross the whole commodity of censure; may lawfully presume to be a guider, and stand at the helm, to steer the passage of the scenes.

The style and manner of the criticisms which they vented between the whiff of their pipes, are admirably ridiculed by Jonson, in the induction quoted above.

Now, sir, suppose I am one of your genteel auditors that am come in, having paid my money at the door, with much ado ; and here I take my place, and sit down. I have my three sorts of tobacco in my pocket, my light by me, and thus I begin : [at the breaks, he takes his tobacco.] By this light! I wonder that any man is so mad to come to see these rascally tits play, here-they do act like so many wrens, or pismires ; --not the fifth part of a good face amongst them all.–And then, their music is abominable ;-able to stretch a man's ears worse than ten--pillories; and then, their ditties-most lamentable things, like the pitiful fellows that make them.-Poets! By this vapour, an 'twere not for tobacco, I think—the very stench of 'em would poison me. I should not dare to come in at their gates. A man were better visit fifteen jails or a dozen or two of hospitals-than once adventure to come near them.”

The disgust which so ridiculous and absurd a custom could not fail to excite in the audience, at length, however, banished it from the Theatres ; although an attempt was made, in comparatively modern times, to revive it, in favour of the Duchess of Queensberry, at the performance of the “ Village Opera," at Drury Lane, in 1729. The ill success of this experiment was very elegantly alluded to by a wit of the day, in the following lines.

Bent on dire work, and kindly rude, the Town,
Impatient, hissed thy seat, dear Duchess, down;
Conscious, that there had thy soft form appear'd,
Lost all in gaze, no vacant ear had heard.
Thy lambent eyes had look'd their rage away,
And the relenting hiss, and sav'd the play.
Thus, not in clouds (as Father Homer sung),
Such as fair Venus round Æneas flung,
Had our dull bard escap'd the dreadful fright,
But sunk, conceald, in an excess of light!!


The late John Palmer, whose father was a billsticker, and whose son occasionally practised in the same humble though hereditary occupation, strutting about, one evening, in the Green Room, in a pair of glittering buckles, a gentleman pre

sent remarked, that they really resembled diamonds. “Sir," said the actor, with much warmth, I would have you to know, I never wore any thing but diamonds." "I ask your pardon," replied the gentleman; “I remember the time when you wore nothing but paste.This produced a loud laugh, which was heightened by Parsons jogging the ci-devant bill-sticker on the elbow, and dryly saying, “ Jack, why don't you stick him against the wall?"

GRIMALDI'S GRANDFATHER. The grandfather of Grimaldi was a dancer of great celebrity on the French and Italian stages, and was generally called, for distinction, Iron legs, being considered the best jumper in the world. He once jumped so high, that he broke a chandelier; a piece of which hitting the Turkish Ambassador, who was in the stage-box, he considered it was a premeditated affront, and complained to the French Court of the outrage. But the most extraordinary circumstance concerning him, was his being put in prison for indecency on the stage, which is a circumstance (when we consider the license at that time used there) most extraordinary. The French were, for a time, infatuated with Gri

maldi, but, after this unlucky business, he began to lose ground; and, at length, was obliged to stroll into Flanders, where, however, he proved a source of riches to his companions; for the Flemings, as he added legerdemain and other tricks to his jumping, thought him a supernatural being.

A laughable accident is related to have befallen him on his journey into Flanders. He and his troop were attacked, near Brussels, by a banditti; the baggage waggon was ransacked, their pockets turned inside out; and, according to their usual custom, the thieves were about to despatch their prey. It should be known, that Grimaldi, wanting money for his expedition, enticed one Flahaut, a bookseller, to follow his fortunes. Flahaut, having learnt Latin, took it into

*" I copy the following circumstance (says Mr. Dibdin, in his History of the Stage,) from a French author. Iron legs had, for a partner, either his wife, bis sister, or his daughter; for so equivocal was the lady's character, that no one has been able to ascertain the precise degree of relationship. This nymph was thought to be bis sister, or his daughter, for she was remarkably like him, being a squat, thick, strong figure and endowed with so much agility and strength, that she could break chandeliers almost as well as himself. She cohabited with him as his wife.”

his head, that it would be a good thing to introduce the ancient choru's on the stage, by way of explaining Grimaldi's dances. Grimaldi appeared to approve of the scheme ; but told him, as it was a kind of improvement that could only be brought about by degrees, he had better learn to dance first, which would make him immediately useful. Flahaut set to work, and Grimaldi promised to make him a capital dancer. In the end, he got as much money together as he could ; left his family; and, as before said, followed Grimaldi. Wheti the sabres of the banditti were drawn to despatch the troop of dancers, Grimaldi, who, at the danger of his life, would have his joke, whispered Flahaut to talk Latin to them. The enthusiast, Flabaut, began; and, for a few seconds, the sabres were suspended. Presently loudly vociferating dixi, one of them, aiming a blow at his head, cried feci; which blow, had it struck him, must have silenced the orator for ever.

But the most extraordinary part of the adventure remains to be told. Grimaldi's partner, the lady before mentioned, in all the furor of romantic heroism, just as the word despatch had been uttered, stepped forward, and, in a scream of des

[merged small][ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »