Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Business of Pleasure, by Edmund Yates, 1879 - Chapter 8 - Holding up the Mirror

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[-73-]

CHAPTER VIII.

HOLDING UP THE MIRROR.

IF the writer of these presents prides himself upon one point - and he is afraid he prides himself upon a good many - it is on his possessing an extraordinary stock of theatrical information. This stock is derived entirely from a weekly paper which is dropped down his area every Sunday morning, and the perusal of which is one of his greatest enjoyments. This journal,* (*The Era) well connected and highly respectable, is the chronicle of the theatrical, musical, and "entertaining" world ; its columns teem with advertisements from professionals of every description; from it the manager learns what talent is disengaged, the actor what situations are vacant, the author where his pieces are being played, and to whom he is to look for remuneration it contains a synopsis of all the theatrical performances in this country, and American hints as to new pieces which are coming out across the Atlantic ; it gives profuse and erudite criticisms on those which have been recently played; it supports in vigorous language all dramatic charities and institutions ; it attacks in fiery terms any short-seeing stiff-necked bigotry - in a word, it is the actor's hebdomadal monitor and friend.
    But woe be to you, oh general public, if (not being [-74-] theatrical) you take refuge in the excellent newspaper that has enlightened the writer, and purpose therewith solacing the tedium of your journey, to Bolton-le-Moors or Stow-on-the-Wold. How can you grasp the fact that there are at present wanted at the Belvidere Rooms, Seagate, "Heavy Leading Gentleman, Juvenile Leading ditto, Second Low Comedy to combine Singing, Heavy Leading Lady to combine First Old Woman; also few good Ability Ladies and Gentlemen?" What do you make of the announcement that "a couple of first-rate funny niggers may write?" What is your notion of a "window-distributor who can insure a large display?" Would anything puzzle you more than to find "tenants for the Rifle Gallery, Hermit's Cave, Fancy Bazaar, Tea and Coffee Stands, and Confectionary Bar at the Peckham Paradise;" unless it were to discover that you had suddenly obtained the appointment of " stunning, first-rate, go-ahead agent in advance" to the "Lancashire clog-dancer and dulcimer-player, and the comic gentleman (Irish)?" You have to dispose of no paintings on glass of the best description, suitable for a pair of lanterns with three-and-a-half-inch condensers, to use with oxy-calamic and oil lights ; you could make but little use of the fighting- tiger, the property of the late King of Oude, and Champion of the Arena ; you would stand no higher in the estimation of your serious aunt at Clapham, from whom you have expectations, even though you were to appear at Ebenezer Villa in company with Mr. and Mrs. Jacopo Bligh, the celebrated duologue duettists neither would your Angelina love you more dearly were you to have "pegtop whiskers" or even the "real imperceptible shape," which is not to be equalled at the price. Worse than Greek, Hebrew, Double-Dutch, or that mysterious language passing under the title of Abracadabra, would be these advertisements to you. But the writer was cradled in a property washing basket, was nursed by a clown, was schooled at Dr. Birchem's establish-[-75-]ment for young gentlemen (Scene 3d: Usher, Mr. Whackemhard ; scholars, Masters Sleepy, Dozy, Yawn, Sluggard, and Snore ; Dunce, Master Foolscap), and has since graduated in the university of the great theatrical newspaper.
    An advertisement in bold type, at the top of the second column of the paper, runs thus "DACRE P0NTIFEX.-This popular tragedian appears at Frome, Glastonbury, Yeovil, Lynme Regis, and at Bridport, on the 25th of April. Managers wishing to secure the services of this celebrated artiste are requested to apply to the theatrical agent, Mr. Trapman, Rouge Street, Blanco Square." Ah! a very few years ago and the inhabitants of Frome and Glastoiibury might as well have wished for a sight of the extinct dodo as of Dacre Pontifex Managers of the first London theatres fought for him; it was whispered that marchionesses were dying in love for him; to be seen in his company was an honour even for the most radiant gentleman in the crackest of the crack regiments. Dacre Pontifex had been but a short time in London when he attracted the notice of Mr. Bellows, the great tragedian, then about to start on his American tour. Mr. Bellows took Pontifex with him, taught him, polished him, and turned him into a master of his art. When he returned to England, one of those fits of Shakespearian enthusiasm which periodically seize upon the town had just begun to terminate; newspapers were referring to the Bard and the Swan, and several gentlemen were lashing themselves into a state of fury touching the immoralities of the French stage, and the triumphs of vice. Wuff was the manager of the T. R. Hatton Garden at that time, and Wuff was a man of the age. He knew when Pontifex was to return, and no sooner had the fast-sailing Cunard packet Basin been descried off Liverpool, than Wuff and the pilot were on board together; and in the course of half-an-hour a document duly signed by Pontifex was in Wuff's pocket. "I'll bill you in letters three feet long, my boy, on every [-76-] dead wall in town; and please the pigs, we'll resuscitate the British drayma, and put Billy on his legs again!"
    Shakespeare, thus familiarly spoken of by Mr. Wuff as Billy, proved once more the powers of his attraction, and the success of the new actor was beyond all question. Whether he raved in Hamlet, languished in Romeo, stormed in Othello, or joked in Benedick, he invariably drew tremendous houses, and received overwhelming applause. His portrait was in the illustrated journals, and in chromo lithographic colours on the title-page of the Pontifex Waltz (dedicated to him by his humble admirer Sebastian Bach Faggles, chef d'orchestre, T. R. Hatton Garden). Old Silas Bulgrubber, the stage-doorkeeper, grumbled furiously at the number of applications for Mr. Pontifex, and at the shower of delicately-tinted notes for that gentleman which were perpetually pouring into Silas's dingy box. The odour of the patchouli and sandal-wood essences from these notes actually prevailed over the steam of the preparation of onions and mutton which was always brought in a yellow basin to Silas at twelve o'clock, and which made the porter's habitation smell like a curious combination of a hairdresser's and a cook-shop. Wuff, the impresario, as in those days the favourite journal not unfrequently designated him, was in ecstasies; his celebrated red-velvet waistcoat was creased with constant bowings to the aristocracy of the land. He gave a magnificent dinner to Pontifex at Greenwich, at which was present a large and miscellaneous company, including the Marquis of Groovington, who had married Miss Cholmeleigh, late of the T. R. H. G. ; Sir Charles Fakeaway; Four-in-hand Farquhar, of the Royal Rhinoceros Guards, Mauve; Captain Kooleese, Tommy Tosh, well known at the clubs; Mr. Tapgrove, the dramatic author; Mr. Replevin, Q.C., the Star of the Old Bailey, and Honorary Counsel to the Society of Distressed Scene-shifters; Mr. Flote, the stage-manager Slogger, Champion of the [-77-] Middle Weights; Signor Drumsi Polstoodoff, the Egyptian Fire-annihilator; and many others. The banquet cost Wuff a hundred pounds, caused the consumption of an immense quantity of wine, and ended in the Fire-annihilator's springing into the middle of the table, kicking the decanters on to the floor, and in a strong Irish accent requesting any gentleman present to tread on the tail of his coat.
    From this Greenwich dinner may be dated the beginning of Pontifex's extremely bad end. That little dare-devil, Tommy Tosh, and that fastest of fast men, Four-in-hand Farquhar, who were first introduced to Pontifex at the Wuffian banquet, no sooner made his acquaintance, than they showed themselves perfectly enraptured with his company. They pervaded the dressing-room which he shared with Mr. Deadwate, the low comedian, and "stood" brandy-and-water to that eminent buffo; they waited for Pontifex at the close of the performance, and took him away to Haymarket orgies, to private suppers, to where the frequenters of the Little Nick worshipped their divinity with closed doors and on a green-baize-covered altar, and to every scene of dissipation which the town could boast - or not boast - of. One sultry day in July, when Wuff was thinking of speedily closing the T. R. H. G., and transporting all his company to some seaside watering-place for the combined benefit of their health and his pocket, Mr. Flote tapped at the door of the managerial sanctum, and entering, informed his chief, that though the orchestra was already "rung in," Mr. Pontifex, who was to appear in the first scene, had not arrived at the theatre. The overture was played and twice repeated, and during the third time of its repetition Pontifex arrived. Mr. Flote, who had been watching for him at the stage-door, turned ghastly pale when he saw him, and followed him anxiously to his dressing-room, then descended to the wing and waited until he should appear. The British public, which had grown irate at being kept waiting, and [-78-] which had treated with the utmost scorn the explanation which Mr. Slyme, the "apologist" of the theatre, had offered for the delay, was now softened and soothed by the expectation of their favourite's appearance; and when the cue which immediately preceded his entrance was given, those acquainted with the play commenced an applause which swelled into a tumultuous roar of delight. The effect of this ovation upon its recipient was very singular ; he started back, covered his head with his hand, and staggered to a chair, into which he fell. The applause ceased on the instant, and in the sudden lull Mr. Flote's voice was heard urging somebody "for Heaven's sake to rouse himself." Mr. Pontifex then rose from the chair, balanced himself for a few seconds on his heels, looked gravely at the audience, informed them in a high-pitched key that he was "all right," and fell flat on his back. In vain did Mr. Slyme, Mr. Flote, and ,even the great Wuff himself - that theatrical Mokanna who was never unveiled to the public save to receive their compliments upon his transformation-scene on Boxing-nights - appear before the baize and appeal to the audience. It would not brook Mr. Dacre Pontifex any longer; and hence we find his advertisement in the favourite journal, amid his, intention to visit the lively localities already set forth.
    What next, among the advertisements in the favourite journal? "TO BE LET, with extensive cellarage attached, suitable for a wine-merchant, the CRACKSIDEUM THEATRE ROYAL. Apply at the stage-door." The Cracksideum to let again! That old theatre has seen some strange vicissitudes. Once, it was taken by Mr. Stolberg Stentor, a country tragedian of enormous powers of lung, who had roared his way to the highest point of theatrical felicity in the Bradford and Sheffield regions, and who only wanted an opening in London to be acknowledged as the head of the theatrical profession. A good round sum of money, [-79-] honestly earned by hard work in the provinces, did Mr. Stentor bring with him to London, and the old Cracksideum looked bravely in the new paint and gilding which he bestowed upon it. A good man, Mr. Stentor, an energetic, bustling, never-tiring actor, a little too self-reliant perhaps, playing all the principal characters himself, and supporting himself by an indifferent company, but still a man who meant to do something, and who did it. What he did was to get through his two thousand pounds in an inconceivably short space of time. The public rather liked him at first, then bore him patiently, then tolerated him impatiently, then forsook him altogether. Stentor as Hamlet in the inky cloak, Stentor as Richard in the velvet ermine, Stentor as the Stranger in the Hessian boots, Stentor as Claude Melnotte, Stentor as the Lonely Lion of the Ocean, Stentor as Everybody in Everything, grew to be a bore, and was left alone in his glory. Still he never gave in ; he received visitors sitting in his chair of state ; after the first word he never glanced at a visitor, but continued practising the celebrated Stentor scowl and Stentor eye business in the mirror ; he kept the carpenters at a respectful tragic distance; he awed the little ballet-girls with the great Stentor stride amid he remained monarch of all hue surveyed, until he played his last great part of Stentor in the Insolvent Court, the minor characters being sustained by one Mr. Commissioner, and some "supers" named Sargood and Linklater. His appearance here was so great a success that his audience requested to see him again in six months' time.
    An Italian, the Favourite Prestidigitateur of his Majesty the King of the Leeboo Islands; Mr. Lens's Starry Carpet, or the Heavens at a Glance ; the Female Wilberforcists, or Emancipated Darky Serenaders; and Mr. Michael O'Hone, the celebrated Hibernian orator - succeeded each other rapidly at the Cracksideum, and, after a few nights' performance, vanished, leaving no trace behind, save in their [-80-] unpaid gas-bills. One morning, mankind read in the favourite journal that the house had been taken, and would shortly be opened by Mr. Frank Likely, with the assistance of a talented company. I walked down to the theatre to satisfy myself, and saw in a minute that the announcement was true. A chaos reigned in the interior of the old theatre; all the worm-eaten pit-benches, under which the rats had so often enjoyed a healthy supper of sandwich-fragments and orange-peel, were piled up in a heap in a corner of the outside yard ; stalls covered with Utrecht red velvet were being screwed down in their place; Leather Lane had emptied itself of mirrors, which paper-capped men were fixing all along the passages; one set of bricklayers were tearing to pieces the old dwelling-house, another was building the portico; pendent from the roof, and straddling across planks supported by flimsy ropes, sat deep-voiced Germans, decorating the ceiling in alternate layers of blue and gold, and issuing guttural mandates to assistants hidden in the dome; carpenters were enlarging the private boxes; scene-painters were looking over the old scenes; and, in the midst of all the confusion, stood Mr. Frank Likely himself, dressed in a dark-blue frock-coat, with a camellia of price in the button-hole, lavender trousers, amber-coloured gloves, and smoking a choice cigar as he superintended the preparations. Under the Likely management, the Cracksideum was something like a theatre; none of your how melodramas or funny farces, but choice little vaudevilles, torn up like drakes with shrieking roots from the Boulevards, and transplanted all a-blowing to the Strand ; comediettas of the utmost gentility, and burlesques teeming with wit and fancy, and giving opportunities for the display of the series of magnificent legs belonging to a picked corps de ballet, and to such brilliancy of scenery as only the great genius of the accomplished Scumble could invent and execute. Filling the house were the great names in which the fashionable world rejoices - [-81-] princes of the blood, blue ribbons, and gold cordons, heavies of the household troops, wicked wits, old gentlemen living with and on young gentlemen, a few lovely ladies with very brilliant eyes and pearly complexions - but the audience principally of the male sex, and generally to be described as loose. Behind the curtain, and filling the elegantly-appointed greenroom, the literary staff of the theatre; Horsely Collaridge, the young burlesque writer, ragged, hoarse, dirty, and defiant; Smirke, the veteran dramatist, serene, calm, and polished from the top of his bald head to the sole of his evening boots; Lovibond and Spatter, critics who dined on an average three times a week with Likely, and spent the remainder of the evening receiving theatrical homage; little Dr. Larynx, medico in ordinary to the profession, and a sprinkling of the aristocracy, who had panted for his distinction ever since they left Eton, but who, having achieved it, found themselves not quite so happy as they had anticipated. Grand days, glorious days, but not calculated to last; the entertainment was soon found to be of too light and airy a description for the old audiences of the Cracksideum, and the new audiences ran into debt at the librarian's for their stalls and boxes, and very little ready money found its way into the pockets of the management. Nevertheless, Mrs. Frank Likely still kept up her gorgeous bouquets, still put on two new pairs of lavender gloves per diem, and still kept up her Sunday-evening parties at that cottage on Wimbledon Common, which was the envy of the civilised world; likewise, Mr. Frank Likely still betted highly, smoked the best Havannahs, dressed in the best taste, and drove in his curricle the highest-stepping pair of grays in London. But Black Care soon took up her position in the back seat of the curricle behind the high-stepping grays; gentlemen of Hebraic countenance were frequent in their inquiries for Mr. Likely; little Mr. Leopop, of Thavies Inn, had a perpetual retainer for the defence; the manager darted from [-82-] his brougham to the stage-door through a double line of stalwart carpenters, who sedulously elbowed and kept back any evil-looking personages; and finally Mr. Likely, after playing a highly-eccentric comic character, with a bailiff waiting at each wing, and one posted underneath the stage to guard against any escape by means of trap-door, was carried from his dressing-room to a cart in the hollow of the big drum and the advertisement just quoted appeared in the favourite journal, announcing the Cracksideum as again To Let.
    "Wanted, for an entertainment, a professional gentleman, of versatile powers, age not over thirty. Characters to be sustained : a Young and an Elderly Gentleman, a Modern Fop, a Frenchman, and a Drunken Character in Low Life." Can I not check-off on my fingers twenty gentlemen who could undertake this responsibility ? Young Gentleman: blue coat, wrinkled white trousers, stuffed amid grimy at the knees, Gibus hat, and brown Berlin gloves; carries an ebony cane with a silver top, and smacks therewith his leg approvingly; talks of his club and his tiger; of Julia and his adoration for her, sings a ballad to her beauty, and regards her father as an "Old Hunks." Elderly Gentleman - "Old Hunks," aforesaid : hat with a curled brim, iron-gray wig, with the line where it joins the forehead painfully apparent, large shirt-frill, Marsala waistcoat, blue coat with brass buttons, nankeen pantaloons fitting tight to the ankle, ribbed stockings with buckle, thick stick with crutch-handle; very rich, very gouty, loves his stomach, hates young gentlemen, speaks of everybody as a "jackanapes," is unpleasantly amorous towards lady's-maid, whom he pokes in ribs with stick, and carries all his wealth (which is invariably in notes, to "double the amount" of any named sum) in a fat pocket-book, which he bestows as a reward to virtue at the finale. Modern Fop : brown coat with basket buttons, enormous peg-top trousers, whiskers [-83-] and moustache, eyeglass - which is his stronghold in life - says nothing but "ah!' and "paw-sitive-ly damme!", except words abounding in the letter "r," which he pronounces as "w." Of the Drunken Character in Low Life it is unnecessary to speak: a depressed eyelid, a hiccuping voice, and staggering legs, and there is the "drunken character" complete. The professional gentleman of versatile powers, who places himself in communication with the proprietor of the entertainment, will probably find himself expected to purchase the manuscript, dresses, and properties appertaining thereto, and to start entirely on his own account. He is not unlikely to agree to this. He has been for some time out of employment, and when last engaged at Stow-in-the-Wold he had to play Horatio, when everyone knows that Laertes is his right line of business. He thinks it a good opportunity, too, to let the managers see what stuff he has got in him. And then he has a wife, a pale-faced consumptive woman who can play the piano and accompany his songs; and so, finally, he invests the remnant of his savings, or borrows money from his wife's family, who are in the serious bookbinding interest, and who look upon him with horror, not unmixed with fear, and commences his tour. Oh on what dreary journeys does the " Portfolio," or the " Odds and Ends," or whatever the poor little show is called, then go! To what museums and literary institutes, where the green damp is pealing off the stucco, where the green baize-covering is fraying off the seats in the "lecture-hall," where there are traces of the chemical professor who held forth on Acids and Alkalis last week, in pungent-smelling phials and the top of a spirit-lamp; and where the pencil memorandum on the whitewashed wall of the ante-chamber, "coffee, baby, spurs, watch, umbrella, rabbits," with a mark against each item, is evidently attributable to the conjurer who gave such satisfaction the week before last, and was so particular as to [-84-] his properties! In dull gaunt "assembly-rooms" of country old-fashioned inns, where the unaccustomed gas winks and whistles in the heavy chandelier, and where the proscenium is formed by an antiquated heather screen, which has been dragged from the coffee-room, where for countless years it has veiled the cruet-mixings of the waiter from vulgar eyes; where the clergyman who sits in the front row feels uncomfortable about the "modern fop," as tacitly reflecting upon the eldest son of the lord of the manor; and where the landlord and the tapster, who keep the door a few inches ajar, and are perpetually running to hook, when there is no one in the bar, declare the "drunken character in low life" to be out-and-out, and no mistake. Poor little show, whose yellow announce-bills are handed-in with such cringing courtesy at the shops of the principal tradesmen, and are seen fluttering in damp strips, weeks afterwards, on all posts and available palings. Poor little show!
    The Music-Halls are only of recent introduction among the amusements of London, but their advertisements occupy at least one-half of the front page of the journal. Here they are: the Belshazzar Saloon and Music-Hall, Hollin's Magnificent New Music-Hall, the Lord Somerset Music-Hall, and half a score of others; to say nothing of the old-established house, Llewellyn's, where there are suppers for gentlemen after the theatres. Magnificent places are these halls, radiant and gay as those in which the lady dreamt she dwelt, miracles of gilding and plate-glass and fresco-painting, doing a roaring trade - which they deserve, for the entertainment given in them is generally good, and always free from offence. These are the homes of the renowned tenors, the funny Irishmen, the real Irish boys, the Tipperary lads (genuine), the delineators of Scotch character, the illustrators of Robert Burns, the Sisters Johnson the world-celebrated duologue duettists, the sentimental vocalists, the talented soprani, the triumphant Bodger family (three in [-85-] number), and the serio-comic wonder, "who is at liberty to engage for one turn." It is curious to observe how completely monopoly has been overset at these places ; no sooner does a gentleman achieve success at one place than he is instantly engaged at all the others, rushing from one to the other as fast as his brougham can take him, singing the same song in different parts of the metropolis seven or eight times during the evening, and making a flourishing income.
    Change of manners has done away with the theatrical tavern which flourished twenty years ago, with its portraits of theatrical notabilities round its walls, and its theatrical notabilities themselves sitting in its boxes ; where leading tragedians and comedians of intense comic power would sit together discussing past and present theatrical times, while theatrical patrons of the humbler order looked on in silent delight, and theatrical critics were penning their lucubrations in neighbouring boxes. Famous wits and men of learning clustered round the dark-stained tables of the Rougepot in Playhouse Court, and half the anecdotes and good sayings which have saved an otherwise dull book, and made many a dull man's reputation, first saw gaslight beneath its winking cressets. But we have changed all that. The famous wits are dead, and the men of the new generation know not the Rougepot; the theatrical critics go away to their newspaper-office to write, the actors' broughams are in waiting after the performance to bear away their owners to suburban villas, and the old tavern is shut up. Still, however, exists the theatrical coffee-house, with its fly-blown play-bills hanging over the wire blind; its greasy coffee-stained lithograph of Signor Polasco, the celebrated clown, with his performing dogs; and its blue-stencilled announcement of Mr. Trapman's Dramatic Agency Office upstairs. Still do Mr. Trapman's clients hang about his doors; old men in seedy camlet cloaks, with red noses and bleared eyes; [-86-] dark sunken-eyed young men, with cheeks so blue from constant close-shaving, that they look as though they were stained with woad; down Mr. Trapman's stairs, on autumn evenings, troop portly matrons who have passed almost their entire life upon the stage, and who, at five years of age made their first appearance as flying fairies; sharp, wizen-faced little old ladies, who can still "make-up young," and are on the look-out for singing-chambermaids' situations; heavy tragedians with books full of testimonials extracted from the pungent criticism of provincial journals; low-comedy men, whose own laughter, to judge from their appearance, must, for some period, have been of that description known as "on the wrong side of the mouth." There you may see them all day long, lounging in Rouge Street, leaning against posts, amicably fencing with their ashen-sticks, gazing at the play-bills of the metropolitan theatres, and wondering when their names will appear there.
    One more advertisement, and I have finished. "To Barristers, Clergymen, and Public Speakers.-Mr. Cicero Lumph, Professor of Elocution, Principal Orator at the various universities, and for upwards of thirty years connected with the principal London theatres, begs to represent that he is prepared to give instruction in public speaking by a method at once easy and efficacious, and that he can point with pride to some of the first orators of the day as his pupils. N. B.-Stammering effectually cured." Many years ago, Cicero Lumph was a dashing captain of dragoons, with a handsome face, a fine figure, and splendid expectations from an old aunt who adored him. His craze was theatrical society, and he was at home in every greenroom, called all actors and actresses by their Christian names, and spent his money liberally upon them. The old aunt did not object to this; she rather liked it, and used to revel in her nephew's stories of those " humorous people, the performers." But when the captain so far forgot what was due [-87-] to himself and his station as to enter into an alliance with one of these humorists (he married Bessie Fowke, a meek little coryph?e of the Hatton Garden ballet), the old lady's rage was terrific; and she only had time to alter her will and to leave all her property to a Charitable Society, before her rage brought on a fit of apoplexy and she expired. Poor Lumph, finding all supplies thus summarily cut off, was compelled to resign his commission, and of course took to the stage; but the stage did not take to him, and he failed; then he became secretary to Mr. Tatterer, the great tragedian, wrote all his letters, made all his engagements, and (some said) prepared all the newspaper criticisms which appeared on that eminent man. When Tatterer came up to London and took the Pantechnicon Theatre - where the early Athenian drama was revived at such an enormous expense, and with so much success - Lumph became his treasurer and continued his toady; and when Tatterer died in the heyday of his triumph, Lumph found that he had netted a considerable sum of money, and that he could pass the remainder of his life without any very hard exertion; so he became an instructor in elocution. He is an old man now, with a small wig perched on the top of his bead, bushy eyebrows overhanging little gray eyes, and a large cavernous mouth, with three or four teeth sticking upright and apart in the gums, like rocks. His body is bloated and his legs are shrivelled; but he has still the grand old Tatterer stride, the Tatterer intonation of the voice, the Tatterer elevation of the brow, the Tatterer swing of the arm - all imitated from his great master. He lives in a handsome old-fashioned house in Hotspur Street, Douglas Square, and his knocker all day long is besieged with candidates for instruction. Thither come blushing young curates, who have stammered along well enough in the country parishes to which they were originally licensed, but who, having obtained preferment, think they must be polished up for the London or watering-[-88-]place congregation which they are to have in care; thither come stout members of Parliament, big with intentions of catching the speaker's eye, but doubtful of their powers of elocution when they have ensnared that visual organ; thither come amateur Othellos, Falstaffs, and Sir Peter Teazles, who are about to delight their friends with private theatricals; and the door is often blockaded by stout vestrymen or obnoxious churchwardens, anxious to show bravely in a forthcoming tournay in some parochial parliament. There, in a large drawing-room do they mount an oaken rostrum, and thunder forth the orations of Sheridan and Burke and Curran; there does the sofa-bolster become the dead body of Caesar, and over it do they inform Lumph, who is sitting by and critically listening, that they are no orator as Brutus is.
    I could go on for pages upon pages about my favourite journal and those whose interests it supports; but no more shall be said than this Deal gently with these poor players. That they are the "chronicles and abstract of the time" now, whatever they were in Shakespeare's day, I cannot pretend; for perhaps among no other set of human creatures will so pure and thorough a system of conventionality, handed down from generation to generation, be found to exist; but they are almost universally honest, kindly, hard-working, self-supporting, and uncomplaining. And in no other class will you find more zeal, gentle-heartedness, and genuine philanthropy than among those whose life is passed in Holding up the Mirror.