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A History of Pantomime by R. J. Broadbent

Produced at Covent Garden Grimaldi


"Ladies

and Gentlemen:--In putting off the Clown's garment, allow me to drop also the Clown's taciturnity, and address you in a few parting sentences. I entered early on this course of life, and leave it prematurely. Eight-and-forty years only have passed over my head--but I am going as fast down the hill of life as that older Joe--John Anderson. Like vaulting ambition, I have overleaped myself, and pay the penalty in an advanced old age. If I have now any aptitude for tumbling it is through bodily infirmity, for I am worse on my feet than I used to be on my head. It is four years since I jumped my last jump--filched my last oyster--boiled my last sausage--and set in for retirement. Not quite so well provided for, I must acknowledge, as in the days of my Clownship, for then, I dare say, some of you remember, I used to have a fowl in one pocket and sauce for it in the other.

"To-night has seen me assume the motley for a short time--it clung to my skin as I took it off, and the old cap and bells rang mournfully as I quitted them for ever.

"With the same respectful feelings as ever do I find myself in your presence--in the presence of my last audience--this kindly assemblage so happily contradicting the adage that a favourite has no friends. For the benvolence that brought you hither--accept, ladies and gentlemen, my warmest and most grateful thanks, and believe, that of one and all, Joseph Grimaldi takes a double leave,

with a farewell on his lips, and a tear in his eyes.

"Farewell! That you and yours may ever enjoy that greatest earthly good--health, is the sincere wish of your faithful and obliged servant. God bless you all!"

Poor Joe was buried in the burying-ground of St. James' Chapel, on Pentonville Hill, and in a grave next to his friend, Charles Dibdin. May the earth lie lightly over him!

CHAPTER XVII.

Plots of the old form of Pantomimes--A description of "Harlequin and the Ogress; or the Sleeping Beauty of the Wood," produced at Covent Garden--Grimaldi, _Pere et Fils_--Tom Ellar, the Harlequin, and Barnes, the Pantaloon--An account of the first production of the "House that Jack built," at Covent Garden--Spectacular display--Antiquity and Origin of some Pantomimic devices--Devoto, Angelo, and French, the Scenic Artists--Transparencies--Beverley--Transformation Scenes.

Of the plots of the old form of Pantomime and what these entertainments were generally like, graphically, does Planche describe them.

How different (he says) were the Christmas Pantomimes of my younger days. A pretty story--a nursery tale--dramatically told, in which "the course of true love never did run smooth," formed the opening; the characters being a cross-grained old father, with a pretty daughter, who had two suitors--one a poor young fellow, whom she preferred, the other a wealthy fop, whose pretensions were, of course, favoured by the father. There was also a body servant of some sort in the old man's establishment. At the moment when the young lady was about to be forcibly married to the fop she despised, or, on the point of eloping with the youth of her choice, the good fairy made her appearance, and, changing the refractory pair into Harlequin and Columbine, the old curmudgeon into Pantaloon, and the body servant into Clown: the two latter in company with the rejected "lover," as he was called, commenced the pursuit of the happy pair, and the "comic business" consisted of a dozen or more cleverly constructed scenes, in which all the tricks and changes had a meaning, and were introduced as contrivances to favour the escape of Harlequin and Columbine, when too closely followed by their enemies. There was as regular a plot as might be found in a melodrama. An interest in the chase which increased the admiration of the ingenuity and the enjoyment of the fun of the tricks, by which the runaways escaped capture, till the inevitable "dark scene" came, a cavern or a forest, in which they were overtaken, seized, and the magic wand, which had so uniformly aided them, snatched from the grasp of the despairing Harlequin, and flourished in triumph by the Clown. Again at the critical moment the protecting fairy appeared, and, exacting the consent of the father to the marriage of the devoted couple, transported the whole party to what was really a grand last scene, which everybody did wait for. There was some congruity, some dramatic construction, in such Pantomimes; and then the acting. For it was acting, and first-rate acting.


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