This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.
Samuel extends his range of punning to include the captions to his illustrations and to involve Latin tags. In the Victorian period, the excruciating pun on 'acting' and ‘acti' in the Horatian tag 'laudator temporis acti' in the caption to the illustrated capital could not have been accidental. Laudater temporis acti: correctly “laudator temporis acti”: “a praiser of time past [when he himself was a boy]” (Horace, “Ars Poetica” 173), used of one who looks back to the past as a better time. Samuel uses the same Horatian quotation in no. 134 'Samuel on Boots and Their Wearers' (10th May 1890). There is a second Horatian reference in ‘admire-nothing manner’, which derives from 'nil admirari', Epistles 1. 6. 1 ('be surprised at nothing').
The zeugma 'several pounds and a beating' is in the language of pugilism. He can fight and win over a heavier opponent. 'Dead-head' was slang for a person who travelled by train or watched a performance without buying a ticket. A card was 'an odd or eccentric character'.
Burlesque was a theatrical genre which was popular with all classes in the mid to late Victorian period. It travestied or exaggerated theatrical norms, and was usually a parody of a well-known play or opera. It was also an excuse for sexual innuendo and scant clothing.
Ananias was a name frequently applied to a liar. Acts of the Apostles 5:1-10 relates that Ananias died suddenly after lying to the Holy Spirit about a sum of money. —— David Skilton
EAUTIFULLY expressed from a satirical point of view was Charles Dickens's opinion that the most consuming desire of human nature was to get admission to theatres for nothing, and, i' faith, it is wondrous what infinite pains some people will take in trying to get 'orders.' The 'orders' they frequently get, by the way, are to get out. They will pursue relentlessly any man connected with a theatre or with the press, and will spend more money in the pursuit than would pay for the admission which they crave. It is an amiable weakness in many cases, inasmuch [as] it is more the vain craving for what they regard in the light of an honour than any indication of greed; all these, these 'dead-heads' are generally more critical about what they see and hear than are those playgoers who have paid at the door, and they have even been known, on occasions when a performance has broken down, to demand back at the doors the money they never paid! It is a singular circumstance, in fact, that when a manager agrees to return the audience's money, he has to disburse a good deal more than he took on that particular evening.
Regarding the undoubtedly authorised "dead-head," he is, to do him justice, not usually a man who gives the management much trouble; he seems to get blasé in the matter of plays, and as a consequence does not for long in an evening occupy much sitting room. The refreshment bar is more his form, and this he makes into a meeting-place for himself and those of the same kidney, just as though he were attending an ordinary hostelry. I know a good many men, sir, whose knowledge of the British drama has been almost wholly derived in large draughts at a time — in the refreshment bar — or from a more or less intimate acquaintance with the minor ladies engaged in burlesque and whose arduous duties mainly consist of standing about staring at the stalls, and occasionally making some such important and relevant observation as 'Here comes the King,' 'So we do,' or 'Hurrah for the Prince.' There are playgoers, ranging in age from the ancient bald-head stage down to the self-sufficient young man who has 'seen everything, doncherknaw' and who doesn't like it. There are playgoers like these, who find it greatly to their mental, if not to [to] their pecuniary profit, to cultivate the acquaintance of the clowns; but I may, after an acquaintance of matters dramatic extending over many years, assure all those stern moralists who lately set up a wail in re [about] the 'temptations of the chorus lady,' that the latter is quite capable by experience, knowledge, and training (acquired very likely before she ever trod the boards at all), of taking care of herself and befooling the most artful ('fly,' is, I believe, the correct expression) of her male admirers. I will only again advert to this 'mashing' class of male playgoers by saying that they are for the most part egregious fools, with only the most transparent veneer of man-about-town, gay-dogism about them.
The playgoers I like best (that is, outside the theatre) are the enthusiasts who, on occasions when a crush is expected, plant themselves at the doors of the theatre hours and hours before the performance commences armed with huge hunches of sandwiches and bottles that do not always contain cold tea. What patient beings they are for the most part. Despite cold, hail, snow, or heat they will all cluster together and listen, mayhap with quite an undue amount of appreciation, to the small witticisms of the facetious member who is to be found as one of the components of every crowd. My admiration of this class of play- goers does not extend to the inside of the house, so far as the provender they bring with them goes. The man who sits next to me champing, clamping, and chewing away is not always a very desirable neighbour, especially when he struggles with a big mouthful of tough sandwich and tries to laugh at the same time, and an emotional scene, wherein the heroine is just about to fall a victim to the wiles of the villain, is by no means improved when the man next to you in the audience gets a piece of gristle in his throat and nearly asphyxiates himself. Then again, the stout lady who very considerately asks one to drink out of a crumby-mouth bottle containing rum, may be kind and considerate enough, but she rather places one in an awkward position.
Above all, perhaps, do I abominate, good sir, that supposedly knowing card[i] (he generally sits in the stalls), who affects to know all that is to be known about matters theatrical (and especially about the personal histories, habits, and domestic affairs of the corps dramatique), and who very considerately retails such supposed knowledge to a friend sitting near him, and this, too, in a too audible manner, and during the progress of the piece, as well as between the acts. I have been this man's victim many a time. I have heard him talk with charming familiarity of his friends 'Harry' Irving, 'Lal' Brough, and 'Gus Harris,' and I have heard him retail scandals connected with the ladies of the stage in a manner which has caused an ardent desire to kick him. This man can give Ananias several pounds and a beating in the way of straight-forward lying.
I could scarcely ever quarrel with another species of playgoers of the open-mouthed school, nuisance though he may be. I refer to the jovial gentleman who is so delighted with the quips of the comedians, that each time he hears one, he gives a great guffaw, slaps his fat thigh with his beefy right hand, and then repeats to another person who, may be near, the comedian's wheeze. His enthusiasm is at least an improvement upon the apathy and admire-nothing manner[ii] of the so-called fashionable playgoer of to-day. What delightful playgoers to co[nte]mplate juvenile ones are, especially when a man has learnt so much of things dramatic as to know how hollow and make-believe everything connected with it is. The pictures of a stage seem to transfer a child by one fairy transportation to a species of dreamland. Few are the men of the world, I should think, who could contemplate a child at a pantomime without philos[o]phising and indulging in reflections as to the vanished illusions of youth; albeit the modern juvenile is not quite so enthusiastic, and he is a good deal more knowing than were children of a decade or two back.
The playgoer who refuses to remove his hat till the operation is performed for him by a burly and ir[r]ate man behind him is a similar type, as are also the young woman who sucks -- or rather crunches -- peppermint-drops throughout the whole performance; the young man and woman who appear to have come to the play to cluster very near together and to talk in whispers; the men who applaud or hiss political bits according to the degree in which the sentiment expressed chimes in with their own views, and there is the gloomy man who stolidly sits the thing through without smiling or approving in any way whatever. Of course, I could not think of passing over (he has often passed over my corns) the man who, however many people he may disturb in the process, goes out about every half-hour or so to see a friend, who usually seems to be planted in the bar. That gentleman is too time-honoured a theatrical institution to be set aside, as is also the individual in the gallery with a playful sense of humour who derives his chief means of enjoyment between the acts in pelting (in a sly and covert way) the people in the pit, and any bald-beaded man who may chance to be in the orchestra, with orange peel or any other missile that may be handy. But there; I think I'll emulate the man who goes out there to see a friend, so au revoir.
Links to other articles mentioning the theatre
- Samuel attends a Pantomime Rehearsal
- Samuel on some Pantomime Characters
- Some People Who Ought to be Sat on
- Samuel on the Drama of Legs
- Samuel on Playgoers
- Samuel on Amateur Thespians
- Samuel on Pantomimes
- Samuel on the Modern Actor
Last modified 25 March 2022