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Pride shall have a Fall. A Comedy in Five Aets, with Songs.
pp. 115. Hurst & Robinson. London. 1824.
After an interval of almost a quarter of a century of melodramas, pantomimes, and burlesques, of Hottentotism and horse-exercise upon the stage, a COMEDY has appeared. The town has crowded to it; the theatrical treasury has been filled ; the newspapers have put their muse in requisition, and reechoed the " plausus theatri;" and its success as a stage performance has been eminently decided and complete. We are now to examine it as a literary work; and, as its examiners, we will premise that we are pre-determined not to give it a single syllable of panegyric! That this pre-determination should be formed by a reviewer, is a fact so frequent in the practice, North and South, as to require no apology; but that it should be revealed, is an instance of that candour in which we are resolute to outshine all our contemporaries. To those who may further require our reasons, we answer, that we will give no “ reasons upon compulsion.”. We shall therefore simply give quotations sufficient to elucidate the story and the style, and leave the imprimatur to the taste of our readers.
The plot of the comedy is, like its language and sentiments, entirely unborrowed. We know of no similar story on the stage, English or continental. Its outline may be thus sketched :
The Count Ventoso, a Sicilian, had betrothed his daughter Victoria to Lorenzo, a captain of the Royal Sicilian Hussars. This betrothing had occurred while the Count was but a merchant in Palermo. Lorenzo had subsequently embarked with his regiment on an expedition to Morocco; and, in the interval of his absence, the family had succeeded to the title and estate of the former Count Ventoso. This accession of dignity had its usual action on the feelings of the ennobled; and it was resolved to reject Lorenzo's alliance as of inferior rank. At this point the business of the play begins; and we shall hencefortl, give simply the succession of passages in which the story is most directly carried on.
Lorenzo suddenly returns: the intelligence of his arrival is communicated to the old Count, by his lady, who is, according to nature, much the more violent stickler of the two for the value of her new honours. The scene commences with the old
Count's irritation at having lost his sleep by a serenade under his windows the night before.
“ Ven. Countess, I'll not be made a common prey
" Coun. Here is rebellion. ( A side.)—Signior, spare your speech; I'm mistress here, and have been • Ven. (Forty years!)
[Aside. “ Coun. If girls are handsome, noble, young and rich
“ Ven. Satan's about the house! You're all the same. I'll sell my house and lands."
The old man's spirit rises, and he plunges into this remorseless description of the “pursuits of women.”
“ Ven. What's woman's wit, Gentle and simple, toiling for thro' life, From fourteen to fourscore and upwards ? Man! What are your sleepless midnights for, your routs, That turn your skins to parchment ? Why, for Man! What are your cobweb robes, that, spite of frost, Show neck and knee to Winter? Why, for Man! What are your harps, pianos, simpering songs Languish'd to lutes ? All for the monster, Man! What are your rouge, your jewels, waltzes, wigs, Your scoldings, scribblings, eatings, drinkings, for? Your morn, noon, night? For man! Aye, Man, man, man!
[He sits at his desk. “ Coun. (A side.) Here are bold words !--his ancient spirit's
roused; Here's his o'erflowing torrent of fierce speech, That I had thought dried up this many a day; (I'll have that ledger burned.)-( Aside.) There's news arrived. “ Ven. News-aye-I should have letters. How's the wind ?
-Due south, (Gladly )—From Lisbon and the Straits ! “ Coun.
The Captain's come! “ Ven. Bravo! old Bartolo. I'll lay this chest Of choice Noyeau, the last of all my stock, My relic,—to your Ladyship's turquoise, He brings a glorious cargo! " Coun.
Have you ears? I say Lorenzo's come.
“ Ven. That's better still. Long live the “ Golden Dragon"- that's the ship ! · She'd beat a dolphin !
“ Coun. Will you let me speak?
“ Ven. I charter'd her myself, to take in furs
“ Coun. I tell you, that Lorenzo is come back
“ Ven. (Agitated.) The Hussar!!
“ Coun. That was in other times. We're noble now; I'll teach him how to deal with Countesses."
Lorenzo the hussar arrives in the fulness of military spirits and romantic passion; inquires for his betrothed; is met by sudden rejection, and a declaration on the part of the Countess that the rejection has arisen from his want of birth. The lover is at first stricken down; but he at length recovers, and talks out on this often debated topic.
" Lor. (In sudden dejection.) Is it come to this?
“ Coun. 'Twere best stop there. You knew the fisherman. By the Palazza!
" Ven. (To the Countess.)— Will you have swords out? ( Aside.)
i “ Lor. (With dignity.)—The man who gave me being, tho'
His vehemence at last compels the appearance of Victoria, his lady-love. She confirms, with whatever struggle of fondness and family pride, the decision of the Countess; and is about to retire when Lorenzo makes a last effort, and appeals to his own persevering fidelity.
“ Victoria, look upon me!
See the face Of one to whom you were heart, wealth, and world! When the sun scorch'd us, when the forest-shade, Worse than the lances of the fiery Moor, Steep'd us in poisonous dews, I thought of you, I kiss'd this picture ( Taking out her miniature) and was well again. When others slept, I follow'd every star, That stoop'd upon Palermo, with my prayers ! In battle with the Moor, I thought of you, Worshipp'd your image with a thousand vows, And would have fac'd ten thousand of their spears To bring back honours, which before your feet, Where lay my heart already, should be laid. In health and sickness, peril, victory, I had no thought untwind with your true love."
The Second Act opens with a billiard-room. Three officers of Lorenzo's regiment are at play; and with these three a large portion of the mirth is deposited. The characters are perfectly distinct. Pistrucci, the colonel, is a manly fellow, with something of the gravity of command mixed with at once the pride and the frolic of the hussar. Major O’Shannon, an Irishman, and Cornet Count Carmine, an exquisite of the first dandyism, make up the group; and the skirmish of retorts between the delicate Cornet and the dashing Major, continues from the commencement to the close of the play. After a quarrel and a reconciliation between these heroes of the hussars, Lorenzo comes in, flings himself into a chair, refuses to play, and exhibits what the Cornet calls “the sublime dejection of a disastrous love." Lorenzo is voted “ dull as a select party of the first distinction." Stimulated at length into complaint, he
makes a full disclosure of his injuries, which is received with appropriate sympathy,
“ Cor. Oh, jilted! nothing more. Ha! ha! It might have happened to the handsomest man in the service-for example,-but on what grounds were you turned out?
" Lor. Turned out! Sir! “ Cor. Mille pardons. I mean, exiled, expatriated, made hor, rible!
" Col. Eh! The infidelity all on one side, I suppose; or
“ Maj. Were you in doubt whether you were most in love with the daughter, the mother, or the grandmother?
“ Cor. Were you miscellaneous in the house? Pray, who is the fair deceiver after all?
" Lor. Old Ventoso's daughter!-Now let me alone. " Col. He by the public gardens ? The late merchant !--indeed ! “ Maj. Old Figs and Raisins! Ha! ha! ha!
“ Cor. Absolutely? Old Allspice and Sugar-canes. Muffs and meerschayms !
“ Col. So, Captain, the old trafficker refused to take you into the firm.
“ Maj. The veteran grocer did not like the green recruit. Ha! ha!
“ Cor. The green !-superb! How picturesque !-The Major's from the Emerald Isle,
[They laugh. " Maj. By the glory of the Twentieth! you might have turned to trade in your full uniform, my boy.
[To Lorenzo “ Cor. Hung out your shabrac for an apron. " Maj. Cut soap with your sabre. " Col. And made a scale of your sabretache. “ Maj. For the regular sale and delivery of salt, pepper, “ Col. And Indigo. " Cor. No; that's for the Blues."
The Captain grows discontented, and will stand this ridicule no longer. However, he is still destined to hear a lecture on the hussar's catechism.
" Col. Poh, Lorenzo !-- no parting in ill-humour. We all know you to be a capital high-flavoured fellow; but, as one of us, you might have consulted your rank, the honour of the regiment, in this city connexion.
" Cor. By all that's dignified, one of the Royal Siçilian, the TWENTIETH !-should not be conscious of the existence of any thing under a Duke.
“ Maj. He may nod to a General. Eh! now and then, Cornet!
“ Cor. When the streets are empty. But he should be familiar with no man