Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE COMPANION.

No. 1.-WEDNESDAY, JAN. 9, 1828.

“Something alone yet not alone, to be wished, and only to be found, in a friend."-SiR W. TEMPLE.

PANTOMIME. [This article is not upon the Pantomimes now playing at the two houses, but upon

the general spirit of the entertainment so called, and its proper appreciation.)

He that says he does not like a Pantomime, either says what he does not think, or is not so wise as he fancies himself. He should grow young again, and get wiser. “The child," as the poet says, “is father to the man;" and in this instance, he has a very degenerate offspring. Yes : John Tomkins, aged 35, and not liking pantomimes, is a very unpromising little boy. Consider, Tomkins, you have still a serious regard for pudding, and are ambitious of being thought clever. Well, there is the Clown who will sympathize with you in dumplings; and not to see into the cleverness of Harlequin's quips and metamorphoses, is to want a perception which other little boys have by nature. Not to like pantomimes, is not to like animal spirits; it is not to like motion; not to like love; not to like a jest upon dulness and formality; not to smoke one's uncle; not to like, or see, a thump in the face; not to laugh; not to fancy; not to like a holiday; not to know the pleasure of sitting up at Christmas; not to sympathize with one's children; not to remember that we have been children ourselves; nor that we shall grow old, and be as gouty as Pantaloon, if we are not as wise and as active as they.

Not wishing to be dry on so pleasant a subject, we shall waive the learning that is in us on the origin of these popular entertainments. It will be sufficient to observe, that among the Italians, from whom we borrowed them, they consisted of a run of jokes

VOL. I.

upon the provincial peculiarities of their countrymen. Harlequin, with his giddy vivacity, was the representative of the inhabitant of one state. Pantaloon, of the imbecile carefulness of another. The Clown, of the sensual, macaroni-eating Neapolitan, with his instinct for eschewing danger; and Columbine, Harlequin's mistress, was the type, not indeed of the outward woman (for the young ladies were too restrained in that matter), but of the inner girl of all the lasses in Italy,—the tender, fluttering heart,—the little dove (colombina), ready to take flight with the first lover, and to pay off old scores with the gout and the jealousy, that had hitherto kept it in durance.

The reader has only to transfer the character to those of his own countrymen, to have a lively sense of the effect which these national pictures must have had in Italy. Imagine Harlequin a gallant adventurer, from some particular part of the empire, full of life and fancy, sticking at no obstacles, leaping gates and windows, hitting off a satire at every turn, and converting the very scrapes he gets in, to matters of jest and triumph. The old gentleman that pursues him is a miser from some manufacturing town, whose ward he has run away with. The Clown is a London cockney, with a prodigious eye for his own confort and muffins, -a Lord Mayor's Fool, who loved “everything that was good;" and Columbine is the boarding-school girl, ripe for running away with, and making a dance of it all the way from Chelsea to Gretna Green.

Pantomime is the only upholder of comedy, when there is nothing else to shew for it. It is the satirist, or caricaturist of the times, ridiculing the rise and fall of hats and funds, the growth of aldermen, or of top-knots, the pretences of quackery; and watching innovations of all sorts, lest change should be too hasty. But this view of it is only for the older boys. For us, who, upon the strength of our sympathy, boast of being among the young ones, its life, its motion, its animal spirits, are the thing. We sit among the shining faces on all sides of us, and fancy ourselves now enjoying it. What whim! what fancy! what eternal movement. The performers are like the blood in one's veins, never still; and the music runs with equal vivacity through the whole spectacle, like the pattern of a watered ribbon.

In comes Harlequin, demi-masked, party-coloured, nimble-toed, lithe, agile; bending himself now this way, now that; bridling up like a pigeon: tipping out his toe like a dancer: then taking a fantastic skip; then standing ready at all points, and at right angles with his omnipotent lath-sword, the emblem of the converting power of fancy and light-heartedness. Giddy as we think him, he is resolved to shew us that his head can bear more giddiness than we fancy, and lo! beginning with it by degress, he whirls it round into a very spin, with no more remorse than if it were a button. Then he draws his sword, slaps his enemy, who has just come upon him, into a settee; and springing upon him, dashes through the window like a swallow. Let us hope that Columbine and the high road are on the other side, and that he is already a mile on the road to Gretna: for

Here comes Pantaloon, with his stupid servant; not the Clown, but a proper grave blockhead, to keep him in heart with himself. What a hobbling old rascal it is! How void of any handsome infirmity! His very gout is owing to his having lived upon two-pence farthing. Not finding Harlequin and Columbine, he sends his servant to look on the further part of the house, while he hobbles back to see what has become of that lazy fellow the Clown.

He, the cunning rogue, who has been watching mid-way, and now sees the coast clear, enters in front,-round-faced, goggle-eyed, knock-kneed, but agile to a degree of the dislocated, with a great smear from his mouth, and a cap on his head, half fool's and half cook's. Commend him to the dinner that he sees on table, and that was laid for Harlequin and his mistress. Merry be their hearts: there is a time for all things; and while they dance through a dozen inns to their hearts' content, he will eat a Sussex dumpling or so. Down he sits, making himself a luxurious seat, and inviting himself with as many ceremonies as if he had the whole day before him: but when he once begins, he seems as if he had not a moment to lose. The dumpling vanishes at a cram:- the sausages are abolished: -down goa dozen yards of macaroni : and he is in the act of paying his duties to a gallon of rum, when in come Panta-. loon and his servant at opposite doors, both in search of the glutton, both furious, and both resolved to pounce on the rascal headlong. They rush forward accordingly; he slips from between with a “Hallo, I say;" and the two poor devils dash their heads against one another, like rams. They rebound fainting asunder to the stage-doors; while the Clown, laughing with all his shoulders, nods a health to each, and finishes his draught. He then holds a gallon cask or a snuff-box to each of their noses, to bring them to; and while they are sneezing and tearing their souls out, jogs off at his leisure. · Ah-here he is again on his road, Harlequin with his lass, fifty miles advanced in an hour, and caring nothing for his pursuers,

though they have taken the steam-coach. : Now the lovers dine indeed; and having had no motion to signify, join in a dance. Here Columbine shines as she ought to do. The little slender, but plump rogue! How she winds it hither and thither with her trim waist, and her waxen arms! now with hand against her side, tripping it with no immodest insolence in a hornpipe; now undulating it in a waltz; or “caracoling” it, as Sir Thomas Urquhart would say, in the saltatary style of the opera;—but always Columbine; always the little dove who is to be protected; something less than the opera-dancer, and greater; more unconscious, yet not so; and ready to stretch her gauze wings for a flight, the moment Riches would tear her from Love. · But these introductions of the characters by themselves do not give a sufficient idea of the great pervading spirit of the pantomime; which is motion; motion for ever, and motion all at once. Mr Jacob Bryant, who saw everything in anything, and needed nothing but the taking a word to pieces to prove that his boots and the constellation Boötes were the same thing, would have recognized in the word Pantomime the Anglo-antediluvian compound, a Panto'-inimes; that is to say, a set of Mimes or Mimics, all panting together. Or he would have detected the obvious Anglo-Greek meaning of a set of Mimes expressing Pan, or Every-thing, by means of the Toe-Pan-Toe-Mime. Be this as it may, Pantomime is certainly a lively representation of the vital principle of all things, from the dance of the planets down to that of Damon and Phillis. Everything in it keeps moving; there is no more cessation than there is in nature; and though we may endeavour to fix our attention upon one mover or set of movers at a time, we are conscious that all are going on. The Clown, though we do not see him, is jogging somewhere;-Pantaloon and his servant, like Saturn and his ring, are still careering it behind their Mercury and Venus; and when Harlequin and Columbine come in, do we fancy they have been resting behind the scenes? The notion! Look at them : they are evidently in full career; they have been, as well as are, dancing; and the music, which never ceases whether they are visible or not, tells us as much.

· Let readers, of a solemn turn of mistake, disagree with us if they please, provided they are ill humoured. The erroneous, of a better nature, we are interested in; having known what it is to err like them. These are apt to be mistaken out of modesty, (sometimes out of a pardonable vanity in wishing to be esteemed); and in the case before us, they will sin against the natural candour of their hearts by condemning an entertainment they enjoy, because they think it a mark of sense. Let those know themselves to be wiser than those who are really of that opinion. There is nothing wiser than a cheerful pulse, and all innocent things which tend to keep it so. The crabbedest philosopher that ever lived (if he was a philosopher, and crabbed against his will,) would have given thousands to feel as they do; and would have known that it redounded to his honour and not to his disgrace, to own it.

BOOKS, POLITICS, AND THEATRICALS.

Books being a main part of our existence (for when we are not writing or enjoying the company of our friends, the reader may pretty safely predicate that we are reading,-perhaps during a walk,-perhaps with the book by the side of our plate at dinner) we intend occasionally to review new publications. We shall do this, either at large, or only in brief notices, as it happens; and in nothing do we undertake to be regular. We shall obey, in all cases, the impulse of the moment, answering only for sincerity and good intention. The opinion that we give upon any book, will be, such as it is, our own. We stake upon it our character for veracity, whatever may be thought of it as criticism. To say that a book is good, knowing it to be bad, will not be in us; much less to say that a book is bad, knowing it to be good ; and as for our power to know a good book from a bad one (a qualification by no means · a matter of course now-a-days with the critics) we have at least

some portion of reputation to lose ; which is what cannot be said of us all. This portion, whatever the amount of it may be, we stake accordingly. What the COMPANION says of anything in public, will most assuredly be one and the same thing with what he thinks of it in private; and he is willing to be thought ill or well of, according as he is found capable or otherwise of departing from this principle. There will be no wish to disguise names, if any body chuse to know them. The mask of anonymousness, which has been turned to so ill a purpose at all times, and to such atrocious ones of late years, will be no more than the most innocent of pretensions, such as a friend wears at a masquerade, when he wishes, not to be hidden, but to be known: and if the wearer offend any one, he will with pleasure take it off; equally prepared to shew a serene countenance to threat, and a remorseful one to conviction,

« PreviousContinue »