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had afforded them pleasure. He considered, however, that encoring had done service upon the whole, by exciting emulation, and stimulating singers to extracrdinary exertion; and that though, in many instances, it destroyed the illusion of the scene, it had become so fixed that, in spite even of the burlesque of encoring Lord Grizzle's dying song in Fielding's “ Tom Thumb,” it continued to prevail as much as ever. He notes it as curious that, "in calling for a repetition, the audiences of the French and English theatres should each have selected a word forming no part of their respective languagesthe former making use of the Latin word, bis ; and the latter the French word, encore." Double encores, we gather from the same authority, first occurred in England, at the Opera House, during the season of 1808, when Madame Catalani was compelled to sing three times one of her songs in the comic opera, “La Freschetana.” As none of the great singers, her predecessors—Mara, Banti, Grassini, and Billington-had ever received a similar compliment, this appeared extraordinary, until the fact oozed out that Catalani, as part of her engagement, had stipulated for the privilege of sending into the house fifty orders on each night of her performance. After this discovery double encores ceased for a time at the King's Theatre; but the system re-appeared at Covent Garden, by way of compliment to Braham, each time the great tenor sang the favourite pollaca in the opera of "The Cabinet;" and subsequently like honours were paid to Sinclair
upon his return from Italy. Until then, it would seem, Mr. Sinclair had been well satisfied with one encore, and exceedingly anxious that smaller favour should, on no account, be withheld from him. When he played the part of Don Carlos, in the opera of “The Duenna," he was disappointed with the measure of applause bestowed upon his efforts, and complained that the obbligato cadenza, —which Mr. Parke had time out of mind played on the oboe, in the symphony of the song, "Had I a heart for falsehood framed," interfered with the effect of his singing, and that the applause which was obtained by the cadenza deprived him of his encore. Accordingly he requested that the cadenza might be suppressed. “Though I thought this a mean and silly application,” says Mr. Parke, “I complied with it, and never interfered with his encores afterwards.” It must be said for Sinclair, however, that encores had come to be regarded as tests of a singer's merits, and that a re-engagement at the theatre sometimes depended upon this demonstration of public approval. At Vauxhall Gardens, indeed, the manager—"who was not,” says Mr. Parke, “a musical luminary"-formed his opinion of the capacities of his singers from the report of a person appointed to
register the number of encores obtained by each during the season. The singers who had received the most encores were forthwith reengaged for the next year. Upon the whole, however, the system was not found to be completely satisfactory. The inferior vocalists, stimulated by the fear of losing their engagements, took care to circulate orders judiciously among their friends, with instructions as to the songs that were to be particularly applauded ; and it frequently resulted that the worst performers, if the most artful maneuvrers, were at the head of the poll at the end of the season, and re-engaged over the heads of superior artists, and greatly to the ultimate detriment of the concern. In reference to this system of obtaining encores, Mr. Parke cautiously observes: “Without presuming to insinuate that it was surreptitiously introduced into our English theatres, I may be permitted to observe, after forty years' experience in theatrical tactics, that it would not be difficult, through a judicious distribution of determined forcers in various parts of a theatre, with Herculean hands and stentorian voices, to achieve that enviable distinction." Possibly the reader, bearing in mind certain great successes and double and treble encores of our own time, may confirm, from his own experience, Mr. Parke's opinions and suggestions in this respect.
It was a rule of the theatre of the last century that although the audience were at liberty to demand the presence of an actor upon the stage, particularly with a view of his giving an explanation of any matter in which he had offended them, this privilege did not extend to the case of any one connected with the theatre other than in a histrionic capacity. Thus, when in the year 1744 a serious riot occurred in Drury Lane Theatre, relative to the excessive charges made for admission to an old entertainment—it being understood that for new entertainments it was permissible to raise the prices, “the manager [Mr. Fleetwood) was called for by the audience in full cry; but, not being an actor, he pleaded his privilege of being exempted from appearing on the stage before them, and sent them word by one of the performers that he was ready to confer with any persons they should depute to meet him in his own room. A depu. tation, accordingly, went from the pit, and the house patiently waited their return."
At this time, no doubt, the actor laboured under certain social disadvantages; and the manager who did not act, however insignificant a person otherwise, was generally regarded as enjoying a more dignified position than that occupied by the most eminent of performers. In time, of course, the status of the actor improved, and he outgrew the supposititious degradation attaching to his exercise of
his profession. We have lived to see composers, authors, and even scene-painters summoned before the footlights, nothing loth, apparently, to accept this public recognition of their merits. But these are innovations of quite recent date. In a reputable literary and critical journal,a of thirty-five years back, appears an account of the production at the English Opera House (now the Lyceum Theatre) of the opera of “ Nourjahad," the work of the late Mr. E. J. Loder, of Bath, then described as the leader of the theatrical orchestra there, and the son and successor of Mr. Loder, whose talents as a musician had been long known in that city, and at the Philharmonic and other concerts. Much praise is awarded to the work, and then we find the following paragraph
“ The silly' practice of calling for a favourite actor at the end of a play was upon this occasion, for the first time, extended to a composer ; and Mr. E. J. Loder was produced upon the stage to make his bow. As the chance portion of the audience could not possibly be aware that a gentleman so little known in London was present, it would have betrayed less of the secrets of the prison house, if this bit of nonsense had not been preconcerted by injudicious and over zealous friends. The turn of successful authors will, we suppose, come next; and, therefore, such of them as are not actors had better take a few lessons in bowing over the lamps and be ready. We know some half dozen whom this process would cause to shake in their shoes more vehemently than even the already accumulated anxieties of a first night.”
The critic was, in some sort, a seer. The turn of the authors arrived in due course, some years since, although history has not been careful to record the name of the first English dramatist who appeared before the curtain and bowed “over the lamps.” How far the accomplishment of this proceeding is attended by shaking in the shoes, is preluded by lessons in the art of deportment, or adds to the anxieties of a first representation, must be left for some successful playwright to reveal.
It may be noted that this calling for the author is also of foreign origin. The first dramatist called before the curtain in France was Voltaire, after the production of "Merope;" the second was Marmontel, after the representation of his tragedy of “ Dionysius." More than a century ago the author of a “ Letter to Mr. Garrick” observed that it was then usual in France for the audience of a new and well-approved tragedy to summon the author before them that he might personally receive the tribute of public appro
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bation due to his talents. “Nothing like this,” he writes, “ever happened in England.” “And, I may say, never will,” commented the author of a reply to the letter, with more confidence than correctness of prophecy. Further, he writes, “I know not how far a French audience may carry their complaisance, but, were I in the author's case, I should be unwilling to trust to the civility of an English pit or gallery .... Suppose that every play that is offered should be received, and suppose that some one of them should happen to be damned, might not an English audience on this occasion call for the author, not to partake of their applause, indeed, but to receive the tokens of their displeasure?" Fears in this respect have been proved groundless, however. When a play is condemned, the actors and the manager may suffer, and be subjected sometimes to very considerable affront; but the public wrath is not visibly inflicted upon the author. He is left to the punishment of his reflections and his disappointed hopes. Certainly he incurs no bodily risk from the incivility of the pit or gallery. But the old violent method of condemning a play is nearly out of vogue. The offending work is now left to expire of inanition, as it were. Empty benches and a void treasury are found to be efficacious means of convincing a manager that he has failed in his endeavour to entertain the public.
For some time the successful author, yielding to the demand that he should appear personally before the audience, was content to “bow his acknowledgments ”—for so the proceeding is generally described—from a private box. It was felt, however, that this was but a half measure. He could be seen by a portion of the audience only. From the private box to the stage was but a step, and the opinion prevailed that if he was to appear at all, he must manifest himself thoroughly, and allow the whole house a fair opportunity of viewing him. Still it should be understood that it is at the option of the dramatist to present himself publicly or to remain in private, and leave the audience to form such conjectures as may occur to them concerning the nature of his physical aspect. The public have no more real right to insist on the dramatic author's crossing the stage than to require that a successful poet, or novelist, or historian, shall remain on view at his publisher's for a specified time after the production of his latest work. It is necessary to insist on this, because a little scene that occurred a short time since in a London theatre shows some misapprehension on the subject in the minds of certain of the public. A successful play had been produced by a well-known writer, who was called for in the usual manner at the conclusion of the performance. The stage-manager explained the
non-appearance of the author,—he was not in the house. Thereupon an angry gentleman stood up in the pit, and demanded “Why isn't he here? He was here during the performance, because I saw him.” The stage-manager could only repeat that the dramatist was not then in the theatre. “But he never appears when he's called for," cried the complainant; and he proceeded to mention instances in support of his statement, the stage-manager being detained upon the stage some time during the progress of his argument. pathies of the house appeared to be altogether with the expostulant, and the notion that the author had any right to please himself in the matter failed to obtain countenance. Upon a subsequent occasion, indeed, the author in question--another of his works having been given to the stage--thought it prudent to comply with the public demand, and, though with evident reluctance, presented himself before the footlights, to be inspected by his admirers and to receive their congratulations. He yielded to a tyranny he was quite justified in resisting. Other authors, though whether or not from unwillingness to appear can hardly be affirmed, have foreborne to attend the first representation of their plays, and the audience have been compelled to be content with the announcement,—“Mr. is absent from London.” Sometimes particulars are supplied, and happy Mr. -is stated to be a probably, at that precise moment, enjoying his cigar upon the esplanade at Brighton,” it being added, that “intelligence of the triumphant reception of his new play shall be forthwith despatched to him by means of the electric telegraph."
After the calling on of authors came the calling on of scenepainters. (Are we, with due regard for the existing state of the drama, to say, with Mr. Fechter in “ The Duke's Motto,” “after the lacqueys, the masters ” ?) But of late, with the help of much salutary criticism on the subject, a disposition has arisen to check this very preposterous method of acknowledging the merits of a worthy class, who should be satisfied with learning from the wings or the back of the stage the admiration excited by their achievements, and to consider themselves in such wise as sufficiently rewarded. If they are to appear between their scenes and the public, why not also the costumiers and the gas-fitters, and the numberless other contributors to theatrical success and glory? Indeed, as a rule, the applause, calls, and encores of the theatre are honours to be conferred on singers and actors only, are their rightful and peculiar property, and should hardly be diverted from them or shared with others, upon any pretence whatever.