THE LAST FURORE.
MR. JOHN HOLLINGSHEAD, lessee of the Gaiety, is exult- ant over his profits, and lest anybody should over-rate them, he takes the whole world into his confidence. London paid him 219,805 to see the Comedie Francaise, and as he only paid, if we remember aright the stories repeated at the time, some t1.2,000 for the trQupe, he is naturally effusive in his happiness. He is quite within his right. It takes a clever man to guess what will and will not be the rage in London, the most uncertain capital in the world, if not the most capricious, and Mr. Hollingshead made an accurate and profitable guess. The importation of the Comedie Francaise was cleverer than the importation of the Zulus, who so dreadfully trouble Mr. Cross, Mr. Hollingshead had the wit to see that if he brought over a company which, in tradition, if not in reality, is the greatest of French com- panies, aud puffed it enough, and, charged enormous prices, and secured great patronage, London Society, which this year is even more bored than usual, and has had no- thing to talk about except Lord Beaconsfield's gout and humiliations in South Africa, would rush to see them, at any cost and in any weather. So it did. The French actors never saw the sun while they were here, and, as a rule, when it was not raining, it was drizzling ; but Society, except when Tarktfe was played, went to the Gaiety all the same, in heaps. A few were attracted by acting which, although, in the judgment of the best critics, not up to the level of the old days of the Comedic, was very good; a few more, to see an actress who was said to be original, and was certainly eccentric ; and an end- less crowd, to say that they had been where it was the fashion to go, and delightfully expensive besides. Waste is always attractive, even where, as in London, it does not secure exclusiveness. A large proportion of the visitors did not know French, and would have been bored to suffocation, but that there were fashionable people to stare at; another large proportion only understood by dint of studying their books with an assiduity which compelled them to miss all by- play and pantomime, and a third set just knew enough to lose the most characteristic points, and ask, sometimes audibly, what the people were laughing at. When informed, we admit they laughed too, and so were only a little late. All, however, pro- fessed themselves charmed ; men raved about Madlle. Sara Bernhardt, an actress who would have been great, if she had not been popular, and her labour had equalled her power of expression ; and the furore culminated in a grand fancy fair, at which Princes attended, officers wore bibs, and actresses, "professional beauties," and leaders of society were all mingled
pell-mell, and were all, we may add, very nearly trodden down in the rushes of the huge crowd, which in the highest, as in the lowest, quarters now spoils and vulgarises all London efforts at entertainment. So many people go to everything, that the charm of anything is lost in the discomfort, confusion, and vulgarity that attend every mob, be it of roughs or Peeresses. The fête was an immense success, all the more so, because no- body took the trouble to pretend to care about its ostensible object. What with Mr. Hollingshead`s receipts, and the re- ceipts taken at the fete, and the receipts of the actors in private houses, London must have paid, at least, 230,000 for the enjoyment of seeing the actors and actresses of the Comedie Francaise on and off the stage,—or rather, of say- ing at dinner-tables that it had seen them, and had admired what for the moment it was the thing to admire, ravingly.
There is no particular harm in it all. Great capitals, socially governed by Princes who are hungry for excitement, and full of people with too much money and time, will occasionally have these rushes, and Loudon is only remarkable, because just at this moment the journals, being without news, and overwhelmed by a wave of puerility—unaccountable, except on the theory that "
soft" weather makes soft heads—pay as much attention to any furore of the kind as they would in ordinary times to a great political drama. We only deprecate the abuse constantly showered on American and. Russian cities for doing the same thing. London is just as vulgar as New York and just as frivolous as St. Petersburg, and should in honesty acknowledge those facts, instead of enjoying, as it did recently, columns of sneers at Russian officers for borrowing money to buy bouquets for favourite singers, and at Americans for buying French actresses, when "nobody in America understands French." About a million in America think in French, but is society to be bored with philological grittiness of that kind P A vulgar " rush " is not the less vulgar because Princes take the lead in it, nor is the applause of a mob less contemptible be- cause the mob is English and Leicester-Squarish, instead of American, with a sprinkling of French Canadians and Louisianians. The English waste their money on any fashion- able object just as recklessly as the Russians, and are much more vulgarly proud of it. Moscow might have recorded the Czarevitch's purchase of kittens at a bazaar, but Moscow would not have blazoned their price in every paper. We do not blame the rush except as an absurdity, and are not disposed to moralise over a waste which, at all events, benefited a useful hospital and a great French institution ; but we object to the vapouring of a society which, doing these things, says of itself that it is not frivolous and not vulgar, and not abjectly ready to follow the fashion, but is, as compared with the rest of the world, self-restrained, and dignified, and independent. The English praise of their society for solid qualities is just now as tiresome as the French praise of theirs for hospitality, the hymns of Germans over their national Gemirthlielkeit, or American exaltations over the absence of caste distinctions on their side of the water, Frenchmen excited can be as inhos- pitable as cuckoos ; Germans displeased are as hard as granite ; Americans, with "standing," mai be as exclusive as Spanish nobles ; and Englishmen, with the " fit " on them and in for a gregarious excitement, can be as frivolous and as vulgar as a, barmaid show. That potentiality is a misfortune, not a vice ; but lying is the latter, and there is on this matter a great deal of lying. It is time that the English should acknowledge that they are just as silly as their neighbours, and see that during the past month London has presented a spectacle which any keen French or American satirist would have been justified in describing as an exhibition of the frivolous vulgarity and sheepishness, inherent in a people which is afraid to admire Art till a Prince admires, and then will admire anything that costs enough.
It is all the result of the craving for amusement ? We doubt it. Do the people get their amusement ? Is there anybody who, having joined in the rush, does not acknowledge that, for him- self or herself, the principal result was excessive fatigue, mental and corporeal P People sincerely desirous of amusement would not wait for a signal in that way, or seek it in such huge crowds, or shout their applause with such monotony of noisy expression. The overmastering impulse is very much more like one of those extraordinary furores of admiration and excitement which sometimes possess an English mob about an athlete or an acrobat, and which seem to be born partly of admiration, partly of excitement, but chiefly of that electric influence which a huge mob, intent upon any one idea, can always diffuse. Wilkie Collins has described such a scene admirably, though with an exaggeration necessary to secure a momentary purpose :— "A hatless shouting man tore down through the people congregated on the stairs. Hooray ! Hooray ! Ho' s promised to dolt! He's entered himself for the race!' Hundreds on hundreds of voices took up the cry. A roar of cheering burst from the people outside. Reporters for the newspapers raced, in frantic procession, out of the inn, and rushed into cabs to put the news in print. The hand of the landlord, leading Julius carefully upstairs by the arm, trembled with excite- ment. 'His brother, gentlemen ! his brother!' At those magic words, a lane was made through the throng. At those magic words, the closed door of the council-chamber flew open ; and Julius found himself among the Athletes of his native country, in full parliament assembled. Is any description of them needed P The description of Geoffrey applies to them all. The manhood and muscle of England resemble the wool and mutton of England, in this respect, that there is about as much variety in a flock of Athletes as in a flock of sheep. Julius looked about him, and saw the same man, in the same dress, with the same health, strength, tone, tastes, habits, conversation, and pursuits, repeated infinitely in every part of the room. The din was deafening ; the enthusiasm (to an uninitiated stranger) something at once hideous and terrifying to behold. Geoffrey had been lifted bodily on to the table, in his chair, so as to be visible to the whole room. They sang round him, they danced round him, they cheered round him, they swore round him. He was hailed, in maudlin tent's of en- dearment, by grateful giants with tears in their eyes. Dear old man I' 'Glorious, noble, splendid, beautiful fellow!' They hugged him. They patted him on the back. They wrung his hands. They prodded and punched his muscles. They embraced the noble legs that wore going to run the glorious race. At the opposite end of the room, where it was physically impossible to get near the hero, the enthusiasm vented itself in feats of strength and acts of destruction. Hercules I. cleared a space with his elbows, and lay down, and Hercules II. took him up in his teeth. Heroules III. seized the poker from the fire-place, and broke it on his arm. Hercules IV. followed with the tongs, and shattered them on his neck. The smashing of the furniture, and the pulling down of the house, seemed likely to succeed—when Geoffrey's eye lighted by accident on Julius, and Geoffrey's voice calling fiercely for his brother, hushed the wild assembly into sudden attention, and turned the fiery enthusiasm into a new course. Hooray for his brother! One, two, three—and up with Ids brother on our shoulders! Four, five, six—and on with his brother, over our heads, to the other end of the room I See, boys—see ! the hero has got him by the collar the hero has lifted him on the table P " That is very contemptible, but it is scarcely more contemptible than the behaviour of the wealthy crowd which, for the past month, has been shouting the praises of an actress as if every pose benefited the human race, and, announcing itself wild with enjoyment of a performance of which it only half understood the meaning, and almost entirely missed the instruction. Three-fourths of all who were enrap- tured at the Gaiety would be just as enraptured, and probably far more amused, with a break-down burlesque of the whole concern—which, unless the burlesque-makers are unusually blind to their own interest—is already in preparation. Only, Mr. Burna,nd will have to contend with a serious disadvantage. He will not be able to compel " society " to attend lest it should be suspected of not knowing French, of wishing to economise, or of being influenced by prudish scruples.