Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ceedingly coarse and vulgar ; and certainly proved herself so in her language occasionally, when thrown off her guard by any vexatious surprise or sudden anger. As a proof of this, she was in the habit, when displeased or offended by any performer, of applying to the offender, the elegant and euphonious sobriquet of bugaboo ! (“You bugaboo !) a word not to be found in any polite vocabulary, but which -to be somewhat etymological—possibly took its rise from bug-bearn'importe. The lady, however, certainly could, when she wished to do so, assume an air and tone of good manners, and was moreover very hospitable to her “stars,” when they shone upon her,--the London luminaries, from whom her little hemisphere occasionally derived a borrowed light; and did the honours of her table with grace. But her sister, Miss “ Molly Wakelinas she was familiarly though not endearingly called—Oh! she was indeed an awful individual ! but mere coarseness and vulgarity, divested of humour, are unworthy of record.

It was in Mrs. Baker's troope, that Mr. Fawcett made an early dramatic entrée, and like “Irish” Johnstone, his first ambition was for vocal fame.*

• Mr. Johnstone first appeared in London as young Meadows, in “ Love in a village," and continued, successfully, the hero of opera for some time after-but it need not be added, that he made a more lasting impression by his fascinating representations of the humour, high and low, of his own country, to which he turned his after attention entirely.

In fact, young Fawcett in his earliest dramatic career, felt no desire to amuse others, but amused himself only, as a sentimental singer, though un-like Johnstone, he did not bring his operatic first-love with him to London, having, fortunately for the public, previously united himself, indissolubly as happily, to Comedy, and converted his vocal sentiment into the most perfect burletta whimsicality.

In accordance, however with his original and more serious views of his own powers, he made his appearance under Mrs. Baker's management, in the character of Captain Belville in “ Rosina.” The trial-part for which he had stipulated, on several counts.

In the first place, Mr. Fawcett was provided with a very buckish pair of leather tightsof the stringent make and fit of that day, and which, according to prescribed fashion, reached nearly to the calf of his then calf-less leg, as if with the courteous intention of joining issue with a pair of captivating top-boots—that also evidently, though unsuccessfully, yearned to meet the cordial advances of the kindred leathers, from which depended many supernumerary strings, in bootless redundancy, tickling at once the fancy and the ankles of the wearer. * Besides these valuable accessories, the

* This anecdote was communicated to me by Mr. Fawcett himself— who added that in the dress described he generally went to balls and parties, and always in a sedan chair' an evi

youthful Fawcett prided himself exceedingly upon his execution of a shooting-song, belonging to the character he had chosen ; for the perfecting of which, he had occupied the time of Mrs. Baker's whole band, (three) to repeat at rehearsal four or five times, so anxious was he to be correct and effective in it; directing pauses for cadences, and making due arrangements for the (certain) encore, for he was in reality too practised a sportsman to fear that he should not hit his mark in Belville, or fail to bring down, at his first shot at the Rochester audience, the applause at which he aimed.

Mrs. Baker had, during the morning, been too much occupied at her usual station, in letting boxes, and selling tickets, &c., to be present at the rehearsal of the noviciate, but anxious about the young vocalist's success, whom she had engaged in place of a departed favourite, whom the operasin those days the great feature (after “deep tragedy') in country towns severely missed and at the proper period, she placed herself at the gap of the pit entrance, where she could conveniently see and hear the new performer, and at the same time keep a careful eye upon her moneytaking post, in case late candidates for admission, or haply any of her juvenile customers, required attention.

dence of pure dandyism or buck-ishness, in that day, which may remind the reader of Mr. Colman's song in “Incle and Yarico” written about the same period :

“ A clerk I was in London gay,
And went in boots to see the play.”

At the appointed moment, behold the young soldier-sportsman booted and spurred, his hair lavishly pomatumed and powdered, hanging long at his ears (spaniel fashion), the hinder portion of it tied into a formidable “ club(large enough to knock any body down), and nourished by the usual thick layer of powder on the coat-back. He presented himself with a sufficiency of confidence, whip in hand, and being very good looking, was well received by the Rochester public. And when Captain Belville is supposed to see the gamekeeper leading the dogs round to the field, and professes himself “fired by the sight,” he gave the audience a taste of his vocal ability in the then celebrated song—"By dawn to the downs we repair,” which is descriptive of a day's shooting. Fawcett being himself in reality a keen lover of the sport, was so exhilarated by the theme, and so eager to make his audience (essentially nautical at that period, and little practised in firing any but great guns, and probably uninterested in rural pursuits, unless indeed ploughing the main might have given some of them a partial taste for field exercise) partakers of his ardour. His first start was startling enough, for though at score it was by no means in time; he was in fact so primed and loaded for conquest, and in such a hurry to go off, that he shot at his mark like an arrow, so that the bows in the orchestra had no chance of keeping up with him, and he was soon a head of the leader whom he completely distanced in a few minutes, leaping over the bars in a most surprising manner; but the sportsman-singer happily coming to a point at which he naturally paused, he was overtaken in the air by the trio whom he had so hurriedly left behind him, and they then all four jogged on together pretty well until the Captain came to the last portion of his song, when he gives instruction to his attendant gamekeeper, to “Fire away!at the game in view; at which crisis Fawcett now charged to the muzzle with enthusiasm, went off again like a shot, and was carried so far by the impetus of his feelings and natural love of the sport he described, together with his scenic zeal, that he lost all recollection of time and distance and long after the fiddlers had performed their prescribed task, and had reached the word finis in their books,

Captain Belvillecontinued the chase, unaccompanied by his three companions, and was heard reiterating ad libitum, the closing bars of his song, and vociferating his sportsman-like order beyond all license, until the actor at his side, joined the audience in a convulsion of laughter,—an effect not lessened when the well-known voice of Mrs. Baker, issuing from the gap of the pit entrance, in a transport of ungovernable anger and vexation, cried out loud enough for every body in the house to hear

“ Go off! go off you bugaboo ! go off I say ! do you mean to stand "firing awaythere all night !”

« AnteriorContinuar »