« ZurückWeiter »
but I am constrained to use the American vernacular. The recipe is simple. Take your sledge up to the top of a hill well covered with snow. When you reach the top lie down on your abdomen on the sledge, commence propulsion with one mighty shove, and leave the rest to fortune and to fate. If you be skilful you may slide down to the bottom of the hill amidst the plauditory "Bully for yous" of your juvenile companions; if luck be against you it is not improbable that you may go down sideways and tumble over and over. Then in the words of "Orator Pop," "the crisis which were to have arriven will have arrove," and you may incur the usual mishap poetically said to be the lot of those who in quarrels interpose.
Our illustrations of sleighing terminate with a view of a grand "break-down" in Broadway, by which I do not in any way mean an Ethiopian minstrels' dance. The "breakdown" of a sleigh is of the subjoined kind. There are " omnibus sleighs" in Broadway just as
there are "omnibus gondolas" in Venice; with this difference, however, that the number of passengers which the latter may carry is restricted by law, and that no limit, save that fixed by the sweet will of the conductor, regulates the amount of humanity that may be crammed into the former. When there has been a heavy fall of snow, with a "cold snap" or frost afterwards, the omnibus sleighs skim along bravely. People travel in them quite as much for pleasure as
for business, shouting, singing, and blowing tin horns meanwhile. But the surface of the road becomes, in a few hours, a perilous track full of hills and holes. Moreover, by some means or another the contents of several demijohns of Bourbon whiskey contrive to get aboard the sleigh as well as the passengers. The pace grows loose, and the driver" tight." Then there is a Smash. After the smash there frequently occurs what poor Artemus Ward calls "a Fite;" the spectators on the side walk being merrily addicted to pelting the sleighriders who have been overturned in the black mud with snowballs. Now, few people like to be pelted as well as upset.
Sleigh-riding by moonlight-an amusement indulged in round about every trans-Atlantic town on bright wintry nights-is very "jolly," and also very romantic. The romance, however, is most telling when a good supper of turkey, stewed oysters, chicken salad, and "hot whiskey skins" has been scientifically prepared at a convenient half-way house. In conclusion, I may remark that I am prepared to take an affidavit before any court or commissioners appointed for such a purpose to this effect :-That I never passed a sleigh on any American road in which a lady and gentleman were seated, without Somebody having his or her arm round Somebody else's waist. Sleighing is dreadfully dangerous they say, unless such precautions be adopted. I never rode out in a sleigh with a lady myself. How many things there are which we might all be sorry for!
BY JOHN HOLLINGSHEAD.
No occupation appears to be so fascinating as theatrical management, or to require so little preparation, intelligence, or capital. A certain apprenticeship, and the command of money, are considered necessary when a man starts any of the large businesses which crowd together in London, but nothing of the kind is wanted to open a theatre. Eighteenpence and plenty of impudence have sufficed before now to open the great National Theatre, I presume with the knowledge and sanction of the acting committee, and may possibly suffice to open it again. Managers of the amateur class who enter upon theatrical property with property that is not theatrical but substantial, generally lose the substance in running after the shadow. They are no match for the real rogues and vagabonds." The theatrical world is not like any other world. In it nothing comes from something, and something comes from nothing. The tinsel capitalist not only looks but acts the best by gas-light. Other capitalists, however, with real solid gold on their wings, have been attracted, like moths, to the theatrical candle, with the usual result, and always will be so attracted, in spite of many warnings. If a man is not of an irritable temper, he may lose a large or small fortune very agreeably in a theatre. Brewers, bankers, and gentlemen have tried it, and will doubtless try it again.
There are not many ways of managing a theatre, and these are easily classified. There is what we may call the nice way-the average practical business way, the tradesman-like way. In this way the theatre must be worthy of the manager, and the manager of the theatre. A nice manager of the kind we are alluding to must have a very nice theatre, and a very nice theatre is a theatrical trap, built, baited, and set more for the purpose of catching victims than tenants.
The nice theatre is in the hands of a landlord and proprietor who knows its value in the market-who knows how scarce are buildings of the kind duly licensed by My Lord Chamberlain, and how plentiful are the growling tragedians, weak-headed authors, and fools who are anxious to try their hands at theatrical management. The nice theatre opens its doors wide for the entry of all kinds of property, but never opens them for the exit of such property. Everything that goes
into that Theatre-Royal Cave of Despair, becomes the goods and chattels of the nice proprietor. The nice theatre exists that timbermerchants, printers, scene-painters, costume-makers, foil-manufacturers, canvas-merchants, paint-sellers, actors, etc., may suffer for the benefit of its all-devouring ogre-the nice proprietor. It is let to one victim after another at a good round fancy rent-about three times the amount that would yield a fair profit upon its bricks, mortar, and position.
This rent is "secured" in various ways, sometimes by collateral guarantees, sometimes by heavy deposits, sometimes by an assignment of the nightly receipts. The working-plant of the theatre-the property left by former victims-is lent or sold on the same easy terms, the nice proprietor reserving the best box in the house, and the right of appointing watch-dog servants. When the victims become bankrupts, one after the other, as they inevitably do, the nice proprietor is in the snug position of a fully-secured creditor.
Theatres held and let on a system like this, of course obtain tenants that are worthy of their habitation. Sometimes a gentleman and an artist (to use a slang theatrical term) is caught in the trap, but only very rarely, the majority of victims being actor-managers, who ought to have been third-class prize-fighters, or business-managers who ought to have been publicans. The nice manager, who feels most at home at the nice theatre, is merely a representative of a grasping tribe of Jew money-lenders, who are fascinated by the tinsel-glitter of theatrical enterprise. They cling to the skirts of every "speculative management," and pick up any little crumbs of usury that may be lying about the green-room; they swarm before and behind the curtain; they hang about the box-office by day, they loiter in the lobbies by night; they recommend actors and actresses, particularly the latter; they introduce young and old idiots behind the scenes, and sometimes they are weak enough to take the fag-end of a lease, and appear as full-blown lessees and "responsible " managers. Their influence in sustaining the dignity of the drama-an object which all lessees profess to have in view, though they differ most materially as to what the dignity of the drama really is-is not very apparent as moneylenders, and as managers it is even less apparent. They are fond of slop-work dramas and slop-work acting. They provide paper collars instead of lace for Cardinal Wolsey, and drive dignified tragedians mad. They slobber newspaper writers, and put fearful bottles of beetlepoison, which they call "port-wine," in dark corners of private boxes
as bribes for thirsty critics. They give the best theatre, for the time being, the air of a sponging-house. Their knowledge of dramatic literature and art is not so perfect as their knowledge of the law of bills of exchange, and their interference in matters of stage management has sometimes been rather unfortunate. It is rumoured that a young actor who was playing Hamlet in a theatre that had fallen into the hands of these licensed elevators of the public taste, was suddenly pulled up for adhering to the legitimate stage directions. When he appeared with his hose ungartered and disarranged before Ophelia, the refined proprietor was shocked and alarmed.
"Whatsh he mean by that-whatsh he mean ?" asked the refined proprietor, addressing the stage-manager, in a very excited manner. "Here I'm doin' all I can to raise the character of the 'ouse-to
improve the property-to bring respectable people 'ere. There's Mr. and Mrs. Abrams in front-an' he goes an' does all he can to spoil me."
"He's acting according to the author's directions," interposed the stage-manager.
"The author-what author ?" asked the refined proprietor. wrote the piece ?"
"Shakespeare," was the reply.
"Very well," responded the refined proprietor; "he don't write any more pieces for my theayter."
The nice manager and his backers, however, are not always so ignorant of Shakespeare as this anecdote would seem to imply. They cultivate a knowledge of the "bard" for two and more reasons. His plays are the cheapest things in the theatrical market, and there is something intensely respectable in being a "legitimate" manager.
There is no more easy, agreeable, and inexpensive way of earning a reputation as a manager of taste and discernment than by patronising the so-called "legitimate" drama. Very few people who profess to be dramatic critics uphold the idea that the drama of the day should reflect the manners of the day, and that the legitimate—or, more properly speaking, the antiquarian drama-should be admired in the library, but rarely performed. Like old china, it is generally rude in design and coarse in execution compared with the best modern art manufactures, and should be kept to be stared at as a venerable curiosity in oak cabinets, rather than used at every-day banquets. The inducement for a theatrical manager to hunt up old comedies and older tragedies is very evident. Their authors are dead, and their