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I do not mean, but only as "It is a little comfort, permuch as the greater novelists haps, that even there he is not of the century soon acquired very safe. M. Sardou's Robesand could rest upon ever after. pierre' is so far from being a No doubt the dramatist’s art is great play, that it is not even more difficult than the novel
a good one in any high sense. writer's, or so we find it in the Moreover, it is in treatment and England of these generations. character just what a hardBut there is such a thing as working, stage-knowing, clever dramatic mastery, and it is British copyist and adaptor evidently unattained by an age would have made of the subwhose playwrights, working ject. M. Sardou is the supethough they do amidst every rior workman of the two, but known incitement to dramatic the work is of the same playgenius, consciously and always building kind. There is but make uncertain shots at suc- one illustration of character in cess. One or two of them the piece, by which I mean succeed more often than the only one intentional and studied rest, and do write delightful illustration of character. Lookplays if quite without pre- ing from Robespierre to the tension to greatness; but that personages surrounding him, does not alter the case, though we see that all of them, male there is promise in it of better and female, are of conventional things in time to come.
types, or, at best, roughly yet “If a Frenchman was asked lightly stamped with the comto give the Lyceum Theatre a mon impression drawn from new play, and fit Sir Henry history-books. Even the part Irving with a new part, this that Miss Terry has to play reason for the choice must con- (and this was in M. Sardou's tent
something in the hands to shape as he would, greater style was wanted, and being his own invention) is M. Sardou was less likely than void of individuality ; though any Englishman to fail in the no doubt so clever an actress attempt. With me it is but will contrive to put into it the resurgence of an old regret something of the sort as the that anything in the grand style play runs on. The one seriwas wanted by or for Sir Henry ously attempted piece of porIrving ; but he seems never traiture is Robespierre himself; quite content with anything and for many people the inelse, and as there is a great ad- terest of the play, as a literary miring public for him in such and dramatic effort, sprang parts, he may indulge the pre- from the question, What will ference sans peur et sans
Sardou make of it? For he proche. But should he or any is known to be a careful and other English actor wish for a competent inquirer along the new part in that style, he must lines of his craft; and it hapeither recur to our old drama- pens that opinion as to the tists or make himself as safe as real Robespierre has become may be by seeking abroad for more unsettled and curious of his commodity.
late. M. Sardou's presentation
of him is small help. That everybody who has viewed them there is nothing new in it is thinks, or rather that half of of course no reproach; but its the multitude which
homlack of force, of precision, of age to the truth and power of particularity, is disappointing. the prison - scene in excess of The Robespierre of the play pain. Impossible to wish it less is well clothed in the known effective, and yet it is wellnigh characteristics of his original, unendurable. Nicolai's hallubut the inventive touch that cination, as described by himmight have enforced or illu- self, is reproduced to the utmost mined them is almost entirely nicety in the ghost tableau, withheld.
wherein M. Sardou and the “In the carefully written Lyceum stage-masters are justifirst scene, Robespierre describes fied against the critics. And the himself by word and deed, but ghosts seemed to me very good mostly by oral explanation, very ghosts; but Sir Henry Irving's thoroughly. It is evident that fright at them - no. Unless M. Sardou spent great pains moderated since the first night's upon these passages, and very performance, it is not good. It skilful they are ; but having is disagreeable. By its excess got through with them he seems of hysteria—for which Robescareless of heightening-almost, pierre's ‘peculiar nervous temI might say, of sustaining- perament' makes no imperative what no doubt is a most diffi- demand-it imparts a certain cult piece of characterisation. feeling of humiliation to those And as with the author, so who witness it. I make bold to with the actor. Carefully as say that if after the apparition the one writes, as carefully the of the fourth or fifth ghost the other plays. All through this actor uttered not another sound, scene he is Robespierre as closely but looked, and puzzled, and as he can put on so evasive a trembled, and as the spectral character; but less Robespierre, company converged upon him and more Sir Henry Irving, fainted, he would be more like thenceforward to the end of the Robespierre and ensure a finer play. Spectacle takes up the effect. Another advantage it story. Scene and episode from would have, but it is one that that tremendous drama, the cannot be mentioned kindly. French Revolution, are brought "All this, however, is but in to fill the stage and tell a preliminary to what
I am tale to which Robespierre is dying to say, which now you appertinent but which is not shall hear. his history. These scenes
6. Set in the roar and tumult the making of the play,—these that follows after the first scene scenes contributed by record, of "Robespierre' is a truly and one fine dramatic passage beautiful piece of acting. It which becomes what it is through occurs where the Incorruptible, Irving's genius. I need not tell being then at home in Duplay's you what I think of the prison house, where he is the peacescene, the ghost scene, the scene loving, unostentatious citizen, in the Convention. It is what fond of music and the quiet
recreations of the domestic or less glorified; while as to hearth,' sends for the young these two passages, they are man who has publicly denounced as nearly perfect as they can him that day before the altar be. There we see what Irving of the Supreme Being. He can do when to himself he does will himself examine this young justice. And there, again, we man, whom he does not know see how much the stage has to be his son. The boy (too lost by a most natural but too mulishly represented by Mr constant preference for great Bellew in this scene) will Shakespearian parts and the
questions. But like of them for toploftiness. Robespierre soon finds his way That Irving plays most of them to the truth, and to the further in a striking way, that in some discovery that Olivier's mother he is admirable, that in none is herself in danger of con- can curiosity be withdrawn demnation under a name from him even when admiraknown to him. Robespierre tion will not stir-so much is cannot acknowledge these dis- unquestionable. But the greatcoveries, but, deeply moved, ness he achieves in this way he does all that anxiety can do falls far short of what he could to win the young man's con- have attained to in what by fidence, as a means of saving wretched error is considered a both mother and from lower line of business. Garrick death. I describe the situa- was more judicious, seeking and tion baldly, but it is known finding greatness in comedy as by this time to thousands of well as in tragic-grandeur parts; play-goers and tens of thou- and it may be supposed without sands of newspaper readers. offence that Garrick had
“Well, of this quiet but deeply stronger call to the heights of emotional scene it is to be said his profession than Irving. that ten minutes of it is worth ‘Garrick between Comedy and hours and nights of Henry Tragedy' is a picture we are Irving in magnificent drama. all familiar with on canvas or But even so is another quiet in print. Had Irving allowed passage with the least in it of a similar spectacle on the the emotional : that where stage, keeping it up to this day, Robespierre, tranquilly seated how much richer we should be ! in the Duplay domestic circle, I wonder whether he would listens so complacently, joins have cared to win the praise of in' with such reverent and Charles Lamb! Sure am I, the sweet respect, while his own while I wonder, that he could little madrigal of Ophelia is sung if he would have earned such at the spinet. Mounted as it praise had Lamb been still on is, there is a deal of delight in earth to bestow it. And yet the play, and a deal of the pain he might have risen to Macbeth, that pleases us when it is neither and Becket, and the rest, all too poignant nor too rude. But the same, though not all the the only genuine bits of acting time. are these. All the rest is mere “ And now the question which conventional histrionics, more I most humbly put is this :
What can be done now? Taking a great liberty, perhaps, I shall answer by expressing a deeply felt opinion that the stage cannot afford the strain which such plays as 'Robespierre' put upon the chief actor in that splendid melodrama. It cannot be afforded night after night, season after season. It is an immense strain, and the frequent use of it nowadays should be considered profligate expenditure. Why not, then, have recourse to lighter labours, in which the true genius of the actor would shine forth as it never yet has shone to the full?
"Had I Mr Pinero's gifts, I should take that consideration to heart, hie me where it is possible to breathe a better than the bedroom air in which his Duchesses of Strood and his gay Lord Quexes live, and bend all my mind to the writing of a play that should be for Sir Henry Irving what 'Rip Van Winkle' was for Mr Jefferson. This the erring father of Mrs Tanqueray could do if he gave his mind to it, so clever is he, so perceptive, so painstaking, so much of the true dramatist. And would he do so, how much better it would be for all concerned-for the public good, for the theatre as an institution, for the profession' it employs, and for himself in everything and all ways. It is a poor mean world, this of the Tanquerays and Quexes, for a man of Mr Pinero's mark to waste
his gifts upon; and we thought he had given it up when, to our discomfiture (is it wrong to wish that it might be a little to his own?), he runs back to it and does his worst in it.
"That such plays were ever in vogue is no credit to the declining years of the nineteenth century; but that they are in vogue is possibly some excuse (though I do not think it is) when a dramatist like Mr Pinero steps up to show that he is good in that genre as in others. But the vogue passes; the taste for them is satiated; in comes Mr Barrie with his innocent, delightful, and (mark you!) most successful 'Little Minister,' and we gratefully say, 'That clears the air altogether.' But no. Mr Pinero, grown some years older meanwhile, brings back the distemper with his 'Gay Lord Quex.' It is ill done of him. In his later mood he is for ever reflecting upon the sad and sober change that befalls a man when he is well past forty year. He should further those reflections, and consider that a certain sobriety in certain ways is becoming at that time of life and after; that insobriety is unbecoming; and that the production of dramatic works like 'The Gay Lord Quex' is better left to young bloods who may be supposed capable of being ashamed of them when they, too, come to forty year.
"In saying which I feel that I am his as well as yours faithfully,
GERMANY'S INFLUENCE AT CONSTANTINOPLE.
At present there are two the blows of Russia, but she can Powers which possess a prepon- do so no longer. She has had derant influence at Constanti- warnings in many ways and on nople — Germany and Russia. frequent occasions that EngThe former the Sultan regards land cannot be relied upon to as his most reliable friend take her part against Russiaamongst the Great Powers of in fact, that the British Lion Europe, the only one which has would be a passive spectator in no interest in appropriating her future conflicts with the any part of his dominions. Russian Bear. From France, The recent visit of the Em- now the enthusiastic ally of peror William II. to Sultan Russia, Turkey can expect Abdul - Hamid emphatically nothing. Austria is appreciastrengthened
the bonds of ted as a well-disposed Powerfriendship between the two sov- inclined to be friendly in its ereigns. It is a personal sym- policy, but unable to back up pathy on the part of the Sultan that policy by force. which does not extend to the she be looked upon as a disinGerman nation; and what his terested friend. She already Majesty does for the interests of occupies the two former Turkthe latter is done solely to please ish provinces of Bosnia and the German Emperor and to Herzegovina, and her longing secure his political support. eyes are known to be turned
Very different is the nature towards Salonica, resolved that of the influence of Russia at should that important seaport Constantinople. It is based ever change masters, it shall upon fear, not love. It is the become hers. consciousness that she possesses Such being the situation, we the means, when she wills it, to cannot but admire the wisdom hit hard—nay, even to destroy of Abdul Hamid in bidding for, utterly-which is the secret of and his ability in securing, the Russian influence at Yildis. In firm friendship of the German this respect, it may at any time Emperor. He is quite astute prove itself to be the most enough to realise that Germany potent, but at present, when would not save him from Russia the policy of Russia is not ag- if he were engaged in a life-orgressive towards Turkey, it is death struggle with that Power; not so. The Far East, with its but, for the moment, and as political complications and its long as the contest is only diplofinancial requirements, is matic, Germany is all he needs. sufficient preoccupation for the In the German Emperor the Government of the Tzar, and it Sultan (who is really his own is likely to remain so for some Minister of Foreign Affairs) has years.
an enlightened and well-inThere was a time when Tur- formed counsellor and an effeckey could and did look to Eng- tive advocate to plead his cause. land and France to ward off German officers discipline the