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BY W. T. MONCRIEFF, ESQ.
Author of The Spectre Bridegroom, Giovanni in London, &c.
PRINTED FROM THE ACTING COPY, WITH REMARKS,
To which are added,
A DESCRIPTION OF THE COSTUME,-CAST OF THE CHARACTERS,
As now performed at the
THEATRES ROYAL, LONDON.
EMBELLISHED WITH A PORTRAIT OF MR. MATHEWS,
Engraved on Steel by MR. WOOLNOTH, from an original Drawing
JOHN CUMBERLAND, 6, BRECKNOCK PLACE,
CAMDEN NEW TOWN.
SOME of our earliest and indeed most pleasing recollections are associated with French society. We mean that society which consisted of men of genius and literature, who, hunted from their native country by traitors and murderers, sought and found refuge on the generous shores of Britain. With the emigrants we passed much of our early life, and had therefore an opportunity of marking their many peculiarities. Their irritability, their patience--their vivacity, their sadness-their pride, their poverty. them, the elements were strangely mingled. Their transitions from grave to gay were as volatile as their motions and if an involuntary sigh escaped them at the thought of what they once had been, it was succeeded by a tear of gratitude, and a smile of content. We have beheld them insulted by full-blown pride and brutal ignorance, but their dependance has forbade reply; and though a transient flush might overspread their cheek, it was more in sorrow than in anger; more allied to anguish than to resentment.
"Of all the griefs that harass the distress'd,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest ;
Fate never wounds more deep the generous heart,
Separated from the friends of his youth-his family slaughtered, or, at best, driven into exile-himself a wanderer in a foreign land, with all the evils attendant on poverty-lived there a being that had stronger claims on our humanity than the French emigrant? Home, a name so dear to every Englishman, must have had some charms for him-and if he found among strangers anything that even approximated to the word, the utmost it could do, would be to sooth the sorrows it never could heal.
But however misfortune and English fogs might have damped the spirit of the emigrant, his constitutional gaiety must still break out, come what will, what may. "Voilà la soleil; je suis heureux!" is no uncommon exclanation from the lips of a Frenchman, who, of all other men, is
the most apt to be elated by the presence of that glorious luminary. Angry, or pleased, Monsieur is equally comical! His ejaculations, his shrugs, his nods, and winks, are a never-failing source of merriment. We have no objections to a few practical jokes, provided they offer no insult to his misfortunes. When schoolboys, we have ourselves taken no small liberties with "Meo Magister." If we have not, like Cowslip, "pulled," we have absolutely singed his wig. We have moreover mingled pepper with his suaffand upon one occasion, we so far proceeded to extremities, as to drive pins, not the heads of them, through the bottom of his easy chair.
"O shame! where is thy blush?"
The French character has been variously drawn, according to the caprice and prejudice of individuals. Johnson, who had neither legs for dancing, nor ears for music, dismisses it most contemptuously—
"All sciences a fasting Monsieur knows,
And bid him go to hell-to hell he goes."
If the Doctor intended fasting as a term of reproach, he must surely have forgotten that he himself ever signed Impransus."
Cowper's picture is more agreeable, and comes nearest the truth.
"The Frenchman, easy, debonair, and brisk,
Give him his lass, his fiddle, and his frisk,
Is always happy, reign whoever may,
And laughs the sense of mis'ry far away.
He drinks his simple bev'rage with a gust;
We never feel the alacrity and joy,
With which he shouts and carols, Vive le Roi !'"
In this picture, happiness is neither of difficult nor expensive attainment. We could wish, that in our own country it were pursued with no greater violation of decency and propriety.
This Farce is founded on the well-known poetical tale of "Monsieur Tonson," which is said to be a true story. But whether true or false, it is insufferably entertaining, aud mischievously comical. The author has shewn considerable tact in dramatizing the original,-he has grafted on it a very interesting tale, and from a mere outline, he has drawn the most finished portrait of a kind-hearted and eccentric Frenchman that the stage can produce.