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A History of page of this History of Marlborough College is to find that that "seminary Marlborough College. By of sound learning” is only now celebrating its jubilee. This record has A.C. Bradley, been compiled for the joyous occasion, and if in its minuteness of neys, and J. historical detail it is apt to weary the general reader, it seems to contain (John Murray.) everything that a devoted Marlburian could desire.
Our poets no longer lament the impossibility of calling up" him who (concluded). By I lenry C.
left half told the story of Cambuscan bold,” or, for that matter, any other I loward. (Kegan Paul.) story. They “just turn to” and finish the half-told story for themselves.
So Mr. Howard, one must suppose, is not at all conscious that the death of him who did not completely tell the tale of Lady Christabel, has left behind it an unreplenishable void, nor is he prevented by any foolish diffidence from volunteering to fill Coleridge's place. He knocks off a “conclusion to Christabel in some five hundred lines or so, dedicates it (strange to say, with “kind permission ") to the Lord Chief Justice, and the thing is done. And yet they tell you that reverence is the first of poetic gifts! Christabel (concluded) deserves not criticism as poetry, but rebuke as impiety. It adds to the offence that the “continuator" of such a master of rhythm and so almost impeccable a rhymer as Coleridge, should be a singer who jingles“ him ” with “sin” and “clefts" with
depths," and seems seriously to believe that “And the shadows flee
away. Nor let me ” is legal tender for a line of English blank verse. Musa Consola- Mr. Charles Sayle's little volume, on the other hand, puts forward a trix. (Nutt.)
valid claim to criticism, and, what is more, to criticism of a not wholly
H. D. TRAILL.
T the risk of shocking Mr. Podsnap and M. Prud'homme, and
other incarnations of the burgess mind, one is tempted to hazard the paradox that the playhouse would get on very well if it were not for the players. It is not that they oppose the current of dramatic progress ; they simply ignore it. It flows on, of course, but without their sympathy or even their comprehension. I suppose they are vaguely aware that new dramatic ideas and tendencies are in the air ; but these fearsome novelties are left to find expression without their assistance. It is to the half-amateurs of the Théâtre Libre and the Independent Theatre, or to a few unattached ladies and gentlemen for whom there is no room in established companies, that the New Drama is indebted for "getting a show" on the stage; the official place-holders of the histrionic hierarchy give it a cold shoulder. The pertinence of this reflection lies in the fact that the three chief histrionic features of the past month have been absolutely independent of the growth of the modern drama, have had no influence upon it whatever, and have apparently been in noway influenced by it.
These three are exotic features. I refer,of course, to the performances of the Comédie Française at Drury Lane;' of Signora Eleanora Duse at the Lyric; and of Mr. Daly's "Company of Comedians” (to quote the proud language of the playbill), at his new theatre in Leicester Square. Here we have had the best acting talent of France, Italy, and America, at one and the same time, upon the London boards; and in no single case has that talent lent itself to the interpretation of any of the typical dramatic ideas of the day. This is a fact which has to be reckoned with. The New Drama will have to beget and educate its own players. Meanwhile, from the players of credit and renown we have had to put up with the frankly Old Drama, or with the drama which, despite wigs, dyes, and pearl-powder, is manifestly no longer in its first youth.
One must give place, honoris causa, to the French players. Too much international sentiment, I submit, was wasted upon the visit of the Comédie Française to Drury-lane. It was all very well for M. Jules Claretie to write a Salut à Londres, with flowery greetings from Molière to Shakespeare, far-fetched comparisons of Rosette (or was it Agnès?) to Ophelia, and declarations that Londres n'est pas un exil; but the prosaic fact is that the house in the Rue Richelieu wanted cleaning, and that the astute administrator of the Comédie thought that what Sarah Bernhardt and Coquelin Aîné had done, surely his company might very well do in the lump-make a trip across the Channel pay its expenses, with something over. He bargained, wise man, for so much a night, .and he got it; and if the result of the deal is, as credibly reported, that the three other managers of the enterprise are each about five hundred pounds out of pocket, that is no affair of ours, is it? Sir Augustus Harris and Messrs, Abbey and Grau may console themselves—as I have no doubt they cheerfully will—with the gratitude of all students of comparative histrionics. For they have afforded us an opportunity of contrasting the Comédie Française of 1893 not only with the Comédie of 1879, the year of their previous English visit, but with our own English players of to-day. With the first comparison I need not concern myself, as it was very fully worked out by Mr. William Archer in the last number of this Review. As to the second point, I will only say that we islanders have every reason to be on excellent terms with ourselves. To name only two houses, the Garrick and the Haymarket can now show allround companies which in their own line need not fear competition with the children of Molière.
And that time-honoured expression brings me to the point. The children of Molière have forgotten the Fifth Commandment, and apparently it was omitted from Napoleon's famous Decree of Moscow. Molière has become almost their Père Goriot. With a bill changing nearly every night for nearly five weeks, they have condescended to select only three pieces from the paternal repertory—Les Précieuses Ridicules, Les Femmes Savantes, and Le Malade Imaginaire. As the gentleman says in a French play, not by Molière, “C'est mince !” Doubtless the departure of Coquelin Aîné has had something to do with it. Cadet is all very well—indeed, personally I go into raptures over his enormous fantasy, his grand grotesque of farce, and by no means agree with a certain school of English critics who can see in him nothing but a Jack-Pudding grinning through a horse-collar-but Cadet is no substitute for his brother in Molière, and he is most at home in Regnard and Marivaux, neither of whom, by the way, has been represented this
In Molière he is apt to take liberties, to fantasticate what ought to be plain, honest, straightforward comedy. There is something inhuman and impish about Cadet, whereas Molière is always stolidly, philistinely human. Thus in Les Précieuses Cadet's Mascarille lacks "body," it is only a copy of Aîné's with a vital omission, the omission of the vitalising, informing spirit. So with his Trissotin and his Argan-one had the grimaces, the verbiage of the part, not (to use Mr. Archer's favourite Matthew-Arnoldism) its true inward
In the Molière performances the best things, far and away, have been the Purgon of Leloir (an admirable actor, playing honestly everything he undertakes, and undertaking nearly everything); the Thomas Diafoirus of Truffier (to my mind the best eccentric comedian of the whole company), the Toinette of Mlle. Kalb, an incomparable soubrette, and the Philaminte of Mme. (her matronly contour absolutely forbids the prefix Mademoiselle) Blanche Pierson. But where was Le Misanthrope, and where L'Avare ? And why, with Febvre still at hand to play the eponymous hero, why not Tartuffe ? Over the house of Molière they ought to inscribe henceforward a line from Le Grand Will : “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child !” If Molière fared badly, Racine and Corneille fared worse. Of Racine we had one play, his very worst, and not in the least characteristic of his genius—the wooden, tiresome Plaideurs; of Corneille we had nothing at all—and this with an Adeline Dudlay available for Athalie and a Mounet-Sully for Le Cid !
Hors de Corneille point de salut for M. Mounet-Sully. Within the limits of the sixteenth-century alexandrine and the classical tradition he is all right; without them he is apt to "go Fanti." The fact is M. Mounet-Sully is an actor with ideas and a system ; like Popkins, he has a plan—and such things for your actor have the proverbial danger of edged tools. Thus he has his own conception of Hamlet. He has put away from him, he tells us, all the comments of all the commentators, and has come to Shakespeare with a fresh mind. The result is certainly fresh enough. His Hamlet is as mad as a March hare. The melancholy Dane becomes Tartarin de Tarascon, playing at being a mediæval troubadour. Other ethnological comparisons suggest themselves.
Each final syllable of the alexandrines of MM. Dumas and Meurice is lengthened out into the whoop of a Red Indian. Inarticulate shrieks and rapid, incoherent chattering suggest that monkey-language which some gentleman has recently gone out to Africa to learn. In his interview with the ghost the actor quite drowns the voice of the early village cock. His costumeblack silk tights, a doublet as short as an Oxford commoner's gown, and a hat which seems to have been borrowed from one of Mr. Albert Chevalier's “donas,” is a marvel of eccentricity. Altogether, it struck me as a hystero-epileptic Hamlet, a Hamlet not from Wittenberg but from the Ecole de Médecine and the Bal Bullier, just the sort of Hamlet to go down with MM. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (of the Ecole de Droit) into the Boul Mich' and shout A bas Losé ! Very appropriately, one of his lines was C'est de l'absinthe. So it seemed.
M. Mounet-Sully is the creature of his nerves and his larynx. Both were distressingly out of order on the night of Ruy Blas, which showed the actor at his worst, looking like Guy Fawkes and fizzling out in every scene like the damp squibs dedicated to that hero in wet November. In Hernani he was sufficiently sombre, mysterious and “fatal,” and his performance in Edipe Roi made amends for everything. It had an absolutely terrifying effect, and, after seeing it, I can understand Sophocles (even through the Gallic medium of M. Jules Lacroix's translation) as no Jebb or Donaldson could make me understand him. As M. MounetŞully's head happens to resemble that traditionally ascribed to the Founder of the Christian religion, one was not surprised to find him playing the part of a mediæval Christ (with a difference, a Christ accommodé à la Baudelaire, and son of the Vierge du Mal) in M. Jean Richepin's drama Par le Glaive. This proved to be a ponderous “machine" rather than a playa confused picture of Ravenna in the fourteenth century, with conspiracies, drunken soldiery, ravished maidens, and bloodthirsty tyrants galore Another quasi-historical play in five acts and verse, La Reine Juana, by M. Alexandre Parodi, had literary as well as dramatic merit. In this, as the unhappy mother of Charles Quint, tortured into madness and kept a life-long prisoner, by father and son in turn, to gratify their political ambition, Mlle. Adeline Dudlay secured her one chance of the season, and turned it to fine account. She is now the only real tragedy queen on the French stage, and she happens to be not a Frenchwoman but a Belgian.
On the whole, the Comédie was seen to most advantage in the repertory of (comparatively) modern comedy, in plays like Les Effrontós and Le Gendre de M. Poirier, of Augier; Francillon and Le Père Prodigue, of Dumas fils (Dumas père was represented by one specimen, Henri III. et sa Cæur, a queer production of only antiquarian