Зображення сторінки


The stranger of culture noticing seats, called upon the programme the combination of the word Music fauteuils; the remainder of the hall with the word Hall


the being crowded with small marblepublic advertisements of an accu- topped tables, surrounded by cane rate-minded race would naturally chairs, and provided with sugarform the æsthetic conception of a bowls and match boxes. Down the noble building devoted to the most whole length of the room great tender of the arts. And an unso- gaudy mirrors reflect the diverse phisticated mind might find some physiognomies of a curiously misdifficulty in realising the facts of cellaneous audience. The brightly the grandest civilisation in the

the polished "bar" glitters with manyworld as they are.

coloured bottles, cut-glass decanA dazzling blaze of gas; the ters, pewters, mugs, and flagons, sharp clink of pewter pots and from the tiny liqueur glass to the glasses ; an incessant babel of substantial quart pot. Behind the voices, male and female, talking, bar showy-looking damsels, whose shouting, and laughing, blended natural charms the constant appliwith the loud din of a stringed and cation of pearl powders, rouge, and brazen band ; an army of hot, per- blue pencil has pretty effectually spiring waiters, napkin on arm, and destroyed, are busily engaged in laden with bottles and glasses, ministering to the thirst of the perpetually running to and fro be- audience. In the place usually tween a liquor bar and an audience appropriated to them, just below of impatient tipplers; an insignifi- the stage, sit the members of the cant-looking creature standing in orchestra, and behind them, genethe centre of a large stage and rally on a revolving seat, and with lustily stretching his lungs in the a tube of communication between somewhat vain endeavour to make himself and the prompter, sits the himself audible above the general president or chairman. His busiclamour ;—such is the appearance ness is to announce the performers presented by the interior of a by name in their order of appearMusic hall at the moment of ance. entering

Meanwhile, the hall is filling On looking round after the first rapidly. Let us take a hurried general impression we see that the survey of those already present, hall is long, wide, and lofty. who are enjoying their ease, pipe Running round the greater part of or cigar in mouth, liquor glass before it is a spacious gallery, on a level them, and we shall see who are the with which, and immediately over- main supporters of this establishlooking the stage, are several ment. private boxes. The upper portion The earliest arrivals are chiefly of the auditorium is occupied by of a humble order-small tradeslong, velvet-covered, high-backed men and shopkeepers, who come


here, perhaps two or three times a something. It is impossible to week, often bringing their wives walk for half an hour through a and daughters with them, and who crowded thoroughfare of London spend the evening chatting politics and fail to be struck, possibly halfwith their friends, and reading the a-dozen times, with this popular newspaper ; country folk, up to propensity. Anything resembling town for a holiday, who take the a show collects a crowd in music hall in their allotted round moment. A man in a fit or a fallen of sights, and seem to enjoy them- cab-horse is sufficient excuse for selves considerably in a dazed, the immediate assembling of a bewildered sort of


These little mob, which congregates with latter hold the waiter in great awe, no other purpose than to get a addressing him as “Sir,” and taking front place and gaze open-mouthed. any casual information he may No one is in any hurry to assist choose to offer on the names and the policeman ; but there is consimerits of the performers, with re- derable excitement in standing spectful gratitude. Linen drapers' around with your hands in your assistants of the order meek and pockets, and treading on your quiet, who, with their sweethearts, neighbour's toes. The same crowd come very early-before the doors which follows, in a spirit of morbid are opened—so as to enjoy as much speculation, the hearse in a funeral as possible of each other's society, procession, pursues with equal for they must be home and in their excitement a wedding coach and a respective beds before the perform- prison van. ance is over. They take one glass A street artist, kneeling on a of small beer between them, which scrap of matting, with his little lasts, in little alternate sips, bag of coloured chalks, tracing throughout the evening. There figures of birds and fishes on the is a goodly sprinkling of mechanics; pavement; a juggler balancing of skilled and unskilled labourers; knives and balls; a mountebank a miscellaneous lot of soldiers, wriggling himself out of a knotted sailors, grooms, jockeys, theatrical

rope ; a party of negro minstrels, “supers” out of work, and the odd- or a Savoyard with a dancing bear; looking rakings of the streets and a German band, or the soloist on a public-houses who crowd the back coffee-pot-for each and all some

of the gallery for the sake of a few one has invariably a spare moment. hours' warmth and light.

There is nothing in the shape of a Now let us take this humbler spectacle, from a procession of portion of the audience en masse, royalty to an organ-man with a and ask, in a general way, what monkey, which does not successthey are doing here? Wherein fully appeal to the gaping element lies the attraction of the music hall in the British constitution. for the great body of our lower We need probe the physiology of classes ?

lower humanity no deeper than The reason seems to consist this to appreciate the popularity of mainly in that love of partaking in the music hall with the masses. A any showy or exciting spectacle, large proportion of the audience simply as a spectacle, which is so are attracted here solely by love of distinctive a characteristic of the lazily contemplating the performlower British orders. The people ance, whilst drinking and smoking,

, are blest with a remarkable faculty and gossiping with their friends. for gaping; they like to get to- The music hall is nothing if not a gether in a crowd, and stare at show; the people are nothing if


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

not show-loving. The difference cheap manners, have contributed to
between the music-hall show and produce this feeble copy of the
the street sight is that for the Swell," who is otherwise familiar
former a trifle is paid for the pri- to Londoners as the “ irrepressible
vilege of sitting down and being 'Arry."
free of the move on" of the Standing here at the top of the

hall, and looking round, we may Lolling in the fauteuils are perceive that he greatly outnumerous representatives of the numbers the two other classes we order “ swell.” One is struck, in- have noticed put together. By the deed, by the number of pseudo- easy familiarity of his bearing it is fashionable young men who appear

manifest that he is no stranger. to be regular habitués of the music Take the specimen close beside us. hall. There is significance in the His hat is very much on one side, fact; and were anyone to ask why, and his hair is tightly plastered seeing there are good theatres, down underneath it. Wrapped good operas, good concerts, good about him from head to foot is an lectures, in London, do these youths Ulster overcoat, at least one size seek their pleasure here, one would too large about the chest. He has be compelled to answer that they just smoked a large cigar which either do not care for the “ good must have cost him at least twoof amusement, or, being sated with pence, and he is at this moment brighter pleasures, take the music serenely sucking the knob of his hall as a sort of makeshift, a con

This gentleman and his venient lounge where one may sip brethren represent and uphold the brandy and smoke cigars for an music hall. Its gilded panels, its hour or two before seeking those painted pillars, its illuminated more exciting haunts known only ceiling appeal to his innermost love to the votaries of midnight plea- of all that glitters and glares. The sure. Without the

of full-length mirrors reflect to amusement in themselves, and nicety every turn of his back. The having exhausted all legitimate sparkling gas shows to advantage sources, they find a certain sympa- the large check pattern of his coat. thetic pleasure in contemplating He calls for another glass of what the antics of the Lion Comique. he genially terms“ the old thing,"

But neither the middle and lower he beams upon the barmaid who classes, nor the swells, are the real draws it, and, lighting another supporters of the music hall. The cigar he nudges a friend with the true backbone of the establishment remark that he “just about means is that peculiar specimen of London to go it to-night, old pal.” He is the society who, in manners, habits, despair of civilisation, and offers no and dress, may honestly boast, with loophole even to the parson. Richard the Third, that he is “him- So much for the audience ; let us self alone.” The intelligent readers turn to the stage. will perceive that the London snob In criticising a dramatic peris referred to. The snob, or the formance, we have to consider the cad, is in a great degree the out- positions in regard to it occupied come of cheapness. Cheap ready- relatively by author, actors, and made clothes, cheap hats, cheap audience. But in the miscellaneous neckties of a very bright colour, items which form the entertaincheap patent boots, cheapcanes ment of a music hall, the literary with blue silk tassels, and an un- composition is so entirely a seconlimited quantity of remarkably dary matter that, excepting in one



Another verse,

or two instances, reserved for future his gloves. He comes out in a notice, we are justified in leaving dress coat, which does not fit him it altogether out of the question. very well, and begins to put a

For the rest, we have a company glove on his left hand. After of performers with but little real drawing it on with a tender care, talent, and an audience who are which experience has taught him here as much for purposes of is necessary, he keeps it well in smoking and drinking as of taking view of the audience, holding the any serious part in an entertain- other tightly clasped in his hand. ment. When people are united in On retiring at the conclusion of the common desire for something his song, there is loud applause. bright and clever, they generally Coming on again to repeat the succeed in obtaining it; and when verses, we observe that he has put people don't care a grain of mustard both gloves on in recognition of seed whether their entertainment the honour. But to

wear two is good or bad, they usually arrive gloves at once is extravagance ; at something which is neither one and before the first verse is over thing nor the other, but for the one is removed, the same reverenmost part a hotch-potch of stupidity tial process being gone through as and vulgarity.

in the putting on. The first part of the programme

and the unused glove is getting is devoted to the lesser stars. limp and uncomfortable. One There is a nigger interlude, con- more, and the second glove is sisting of some rather coarse dia- removed ; and now, both being logue, songs, and dances. One neatly smoothed out are carefully little fat man, with a very ragged returned to the tail coat pocket of coat, and a dilapidated carpet-bag, the owner,

who pats them bangs upon a table with a bulgy occasionally to be sure that they umbrella, and says, “By golly. are quite safe. A plump lady and This is the London edition of a her slim daughter are the next negro. After him comes some one performers. They treat us to a in a hat without a rim, swallow- pretty little love song, in which tail coat, and knee breeches. He the daughter, with much sly sings a song in which shillelaghs, ogling of the audience, and many shamrocks, and "praties" little giggles and rouged-capped confusedly mixed, says Arrah blushes, relates to her mother, bedad,” calls the audience collec- the capture of her (the slim tively "mee buoy,” and assures us daughter's) heart by à certain that “ divil take hi, but he is tall young gentleman, with fair a raal tight gossoon.'

This is an hair and a beautiful moustache. ideal Irishman. Then there is a To her the mother, in maternal gentleman who sings patriotic reproof, replies that it is all very songs, and who alternates between wrong, and that she (the slim a lugubrious fear that “the glory daughter) is a very naughty girl, of England has departed,” and a she is. But in another stanza the manly assurance that the roar of naughty girl discloses how that, the British Lion shall soon be though love alone incited her to heard

pledge her plighted troth, the tall

young man has whole drawers full From Greenland's icy mountains

of bank notes, and a house in To India's coral strand.

Eaton-square, of which the mother This performer is chiefly remark- shall have the second floor all able for the care he bestows upon to herself. On this, mamma not




only relents, but proceeds also, the music hall manager recruits his with some matronly ogling of the fair supporters I do not know ; audience, to school her artless but, if one might venture a conjecoffspring in the wiles of love, ture, the general run of barmaids, enforcing her precepts by apt milliners' assistants,

and the illustrations of the admirable "young ladies” of large wholesale manner in which she enticed and

establishments, would seem to offer trapped her (the slim daughter's) a wide field for his choice. A girl dear departed father. Then they has a pretty or a saucy face, a trim sing a final verse together, in or a plump figure, an easy unconwhich the slim daughter urges all ventionality of manner with the other slim daughters present to other sex, and, preferring the col. follow her example, and

lective admiration of an entire without delay tall young men with audience to the homage of half-abeautiful moustaches and rolls of dozen danglers, calls

upon bank notes ; and the plump manager.

The manager asks her mother expatiates on the delights if she can sing, and being, of course, of second floors in Eaton-square. answered in the affirmative, sends After this there are a few steps her to the leader of the orchestra of a dance, in which the matron for trial. This would seem to be joins, with an elasticity surprising by no means a difficult ordeal, for her (apparent) years, and judging, at least, from the number finally the two sidle off together, of voiceless ladies who grace the highly contented with themselves music-hall stage. and their performance. What is Once through her examination, technically known as the female however, the aspirant, if she be interest is remarkably strong at ordinarily “smart,” makes rapid the music hall. There are young progress in the good favour of her girls and elderly mothers, like the audience. She quickly learns their above, who, in low dresses, singly requirements, and the experience of and in couples, sing so-called a few weeks is sufficient to perfect « society songs,

serio - comic her in the rather pronounced little songs, sentimental songs, and love winks, nods, and eyebrow gestures songs.

which give emphasis to the words There are others, again, who take

The female singers, male parts; so that, when a young indeed, quickly fall into the manner girl appears in ordinary burlesque of their male brethren, and acquire costume of short silk jacket, satin that unpleasant slangy drawl and tights, and pink or mauve boots, general looseness of attitude which you know that she is a village prevail so largely just now on the swain, roaming (in satin tights) burlesque stage of the theatre. through the meadows at even to Now they are slinging across the meet his loved one under a haw- stage a slack rope, upon which, thorn hedge. And when another when fastened, there mounts a very damsel, with a profusion of yellow corpulent man in the dress of a ringlets, trips on to the stage, in French soldier. Standing on one scarlet cloak, short petticoats, and leg upon the cord, he goes through grey stockings, you may lay odds a pantomime engagement with an with yourself, even before her song invisible German ; presents arms, commences, that this is an Irish lowers to the charge, fires, receives Maiden. Many of these girls are an invisible wound, falls, springs really pretty, but very few of them up again suddenly, flings off his can sing. From what vast source coat, waistcoat, and trousers, reveal

of her song:

« НазадПродовжити »