« AnteriorContinuar »
TO the PATRONS of the LEGITIMATE DRAMA and to the PLAY-GOING PUBLIC in GENERAL. Ladies and Gentlemen,—As a general outcry arose some considerable time ago that there was a great dearth of good, original English dramas, and as the recent so-called original productions of English dramatists have failed to stifle it—because they have either traduced English society or have been simply adaptations from the French respecting a state of society which cannot exist here, and in both cases have proved unpalatable to the English, and, therefore, unsuccessful— I, who am a writer in more than one language, resolved to produce a drama on purely English topics, and I was guided by the dictum of your immortal poet, Byron, that "Truth is stranger than fiction," because all fictitious situations prove less "sensational" (pardon me the vernacular), as produced by those dramatists, with all the powerful accessories and machinery of the stage, than the simplest police report from the daily papers. It took me more than a year of my halfholidays to write the drama "Stern Realities," and in about five months I wrote the play "Trust." Now, I have been trying for the last eighteen months to have one of these pieces accepted, but all my endeavours have been in vain. The excuse was, that I am not known (a circumstance which, by-the-by, happened once to Shakespeare also), and that it is far preferable to produce the works of authors already known to the public, even if their more recent efforts have proved a failure in more than one respect. 'It is now for the public of thi* great country to decide whether this arrangement between Managers of Theatres and a certain small clique of authors is a monopoly that is to go on for ever; or whether it is only a false and preconceived notion on the part of the former regarding the want of good taste for superior productions on the part of the public. Though I am a foreigner I consider myself as one of the public who has endeavoured to amuse his fellow-citizens, but to whom no opportunity has hitherto been afforded. However, as the author of a collection of songs, of which some are written in English, French, and German, or English and German, or simply in English poetry, and which volume is entitled " Honi soit qui mal y pense," and was collectively dedicated to the Queen, and accepted by her Majesty, containing dedications also, by special commission, to ladies of the highest titles, and to others equally exalted in attainments, I beg you to believe me, when I assure you, on the word of a gentleman, author, and schoolmaster, that the two pieces I have written will meet with your approbation. I appeal now to you, ladies and gentlemen, to assist me in bringing out one of the two pieces; and, in my humble opinion, the most effectual way, perhaps, in which this could be done, would be in addressing me a note, kindly informing me which of the two pieces, "Stern Realities" »r "Trust," should in your opinion be performed first, and that you promise you will come to see cither or both. Receiving thus from you a great quantity of letters, I shall, armed with such a phalanx of patronage, present myself as the bearer of the popular will to the Manager of one of the London Theatres, and—we shall see! A letter simply addressed thus, "Dr. Vellere, Harrow," will safely reach me. Trusting to hear from you at' your earliest convenience, I remain, ladies and gentlemen, very faithfully yours,
E. R. W. VELLERE. The English and Continental College, Harrow, October 1st, 1869.
Before the attention directed to this novelty in literature had died away, another similar effusion appeared, and for about a twelvemonth the Times contained every three or four weeks a message of direful import from Dr Vellere on dramatic monopoly and its probable ultimate effect on dramatic literature and the stage generally, varied by requests similar to those given here. Iniquity was still triumphant, however, and the patrons of the legitimate must have been unwilling to interfere, for at the end of the year Dr Vellere was yet unacted. He is still busy writing plays, for he believes that success must come in the end; and if his literary ability be in any way proportioned to his pertinacity, the chief of the Elizabethan roll of dramatists has at last met a worthy rival. Happily there is a way out of the difficulty with which Dr Vellere and his friends are encompassed. Let them take a theatre, engage actors, and play each other's dramas in turn. If they can only agree as to the order of production, and the relative merits of the pieces, they are sure to succeed; for if our experience goes for anything, the unacted and unread are sufficiently numerous to support any house of moderate pretensions. But they mustn't all want to be put on the free list. That great distinction must be left for Dr Vellere and a chosen few—composed, say, of friendly critics, and managers distraught with the knowledge that priceless gems have been discarded, and that the new era has at last arrived.
SWINDLES AND HOAXES.
IT is of course only natural that as soon as advertising became general, that portion of the community which regards the other portion as its oyster, was not slow to discover the advantages which were soon to accrue in the way of increased facilities for publishing new dodges, or of giving extended scope to those which were old, but had so far attained only limited circulation. This has been so conclusively shown by specimens already given, and references made, that there is no necessity to discuss the question anew, and therefore we will at once plunge into the thick of those advertisements which have special qualifications for treatment different from that given to the milder classes of rogues and scoundrels. The first transaction which calls for attention is in connection with Queen Anne's farthings. No popular delusion has perhaps made more dupes than that relating to these coins. Innumerable people believe that there never were but three farthings of this description, two of which have found their way in due course to the British Museum, the third only being still abroad; and it is also believed that the Museum authorities would give a very large sum for the possession of the missing token. Now there are no less than six distinct varieties of Anne's farthings known to exist, and specimens of them are not at all riire. Some of them may be procured at the coin-dealers, for ten or twelve shillings; but there is one variety, struck in 1713, which is extremely rare, and would bring from £5 to ^10. There is also a small brass medal or counter of Queen Anne, about the size of a farthing, of which there are hundreds. A publican once procured one of these, and placed it in his window, ticketed as " the real farthing of Queen Anne." Credulous persons came from far and near to view this wonderful curiosity, and the owner turned his deception to good account.
Sometime about the first quarter of this century, a man in Ireland received twelve months' imprisonment for secreting a Queen Anne's farthing. He was shopman to a confectioner in Dublin, and having taken the farthing over the counter, he substituted a common one for it. Unfortunately for him, he told his master how he had obtained it, and offered it to him for sale.' The master demanded the treasure as his property, the shopman refused to give it up, was brought into the Recorder's Court, and there received the above sentence. When rogues fall out, honest men know what they have lost. It is wrong to assume that because thieves quarrel, their natural enemies "get their own." At all events, experience has never taught us so, and the proverb, ^ generally read, is wrong.
Numerous are the instances of people having travelled from distant counties to London, in order to dispose in the best market of the supposed valuable farthing. The custodian of the medals in the British Museum used to be besieged by applicants from all parts of the country, offering Queen Anne's farthings and imitations of them for sale, and of course the dealers in coin even now receive a liberal share of the same annoyance. Whence the treacherous fable originally sprung has never been satisfactorily explained. It is certain that Anne's farthings never were very common, though of one variety, coined in 1714, not less than from 3°o to 500 must have been put in circulation. But the others were mere patterns, and were never struck for currency: all of them were coins of great beauty, and for this reason, as well as on account of their beiug the only copper
coins struck in the reign of Queen Anne, it is probable that they were soon hoarded and preserved as curiosities, thereby acquiring an imaginary value, which grew rapidly as soon as some sharp fellow saw how useful the figment might be made. But the immediate cause of the popular fallacy concerning the scarcity and great value may be found in the fact, that at the end of the last century a lady of Yorkshire having lost one of these coins, offered a large reward for it. Probably it was valuable to her as a souvenir of some departed friend ; but the advertisement, and the comparative scarcity of these farthings, gradually led to the report that there was only one such token in circulation, and that the unique coin was of course of almost priceless value. Long before this, however, advertisements in reference to Anne's farthings had found their way into the papers. So far as we can discover, the first of these appeared in the General Advertiser of April 19, 1745, and ran as follows :—
"\ \ WHEREAS about seven years ago an Advertisement was published » » in some of the Daily Papers offering a Reward for a Queen Anne's Farthing struct in the year 1714.
This is to inform the Curious That a Farthing of Queen Anne of that year of a very beautiful dye may be seen at the Bar of the Pensylvania Coffeehouse in Birchin Lane. The impression is no ways defaced but as entire as from the Mint.
This, probably, just at the time when a furor was in existence with regard to the farthings, must have given a fillip to the business at the Pennsylvania Coffee-house; and must have done a great deal to spread the belief that a Queen Anne's coin was much more desirable than the wonderful lamp of Eastern story, or the more modern but quite as powerful four-leaved shamrock. That in 1802 the fiction was still lively is shown by an advertisement which appeared in the February of that year. This was disguised so as to appear like an ordinary paragraph :—
The Queen Anne's farthing, advertised to be disposed of in Pall