Chapter 9. The Theatrical Young Gentleman

by Charles Dickens

All gentlemen who love the drama—and there are few gentlemen who are not attached to the most intellectual and rational of all our amusements—do not come within this definition.  As we have no mean relish for theatrical entertainments ourself, we are disinterestedly anxious that this should be perfectly understood.

The theatrical young gentleman has early and important information on all theatrical topics.  ‘Well,’ says he, abruptly, when you meet him in the street, ‘here’s a pretty to-do.  Flimkins has thrown up his part in the melodrama at the Surrey.’—‘And what’s to be done?’ you inquire with as much gravity as you can counterfeit.  ‘Ah, that’s the point,’ replies the theatrical young gentleman, looking very serious; ‘Boozle declines it; positively declines it.  From all I am told, I should say it was decidedly in Boozle’s line, and that he would be very likely to make a great hit in it; but he objects on the ground of Flimkins having been put up in the part first, and says no earthly power shall induce him to take the character.  It’s a fine part, too—excellent business, I’m told.  He has to kill six people in the course of the piece, and to fight over a bridge in red fire, which is as safe a card, you know, as can be.  Don’t mention it; but I hear that the last scene, when he is first poisoned, and then stabbed, by Mrs. Flimkins as Vengedora, will be the greatest thing that has been done these many years.’  With this piece of news, and laying his finger on his lips as a caution for you not to excite the town with it, the theatrical young gentleman hurries away.

The theatrical young gentleman, from often frequenting the different theatrical establishments, has pet and familiar names for them all.  Thus Covent-Garden is the garden, Drury-Lane the lane, the Victoria the vic, and the Olympic the pic.  Actresses, too, are always designated by their surnames only, as Taylor, Nisbett, Faucit, Honey; that talented and lady-like girl Sheriff, that clever little creature Horton, and so on.  In the same manner he prefixes Christian names when he mentions actors, as Charley Young, Jemmy Buckstone, Fred. Yates, Paul Bedford.  When he is at a loss for a Christian name, the word ‘old’ applied indiscriminately answers quite as well: as old Charley Matthews at Vestris’s, old Harley, and old Braham.  He has a great knowledge of the private proceedings of actresses, especially of their getting married, and can tell you in a breath half-a-dozen who have changed their names without avowing it.  Whenever an alteration of this kind is made in the playbills, he will remind you that he let you into the secret six months ago.

The theatrical young gentleman has a great reverence for all that is connected with the stage department of the different theatres.  He would, at any time, prefer going a street or two out of his way, to omitting to pass a stage-entrance, into which he always looks with a curious and searching eye.  If he can only identify a popular actor in the street, he is in a perfect transport of delight; and no sooner meets him, than he hurries back, and walks a few paces in front of him, so that he can turn round from time to time, and have a good stare at his features.  He looks upon a theatrical-fund dinner as one of the most enchanting festivities ever known; and thinks that to be a member of the Garrick Club, and see so many actors in their plain clothes, must be one of the highest gratifications the world can bestow.

The theatrical young gentleman is a constant half-price visitor at one or other of the theatres, and has an infinite relish for all pieces which display the fullest resources of the establishment.  He likes to place implicit reliance upon the play-bills when he goes to see a show-piece, and works himself up to such a pitch of enthusiasm, as not only to believe (if the bills say so) that there are three hundred and seventy-five people on the stage at one time in the last scene, but is highly indignant with you, unless you believe it also.  He considers that if the stage be opened from the foot-lights to the back wall, in any new play, the piece is a triumph of dramatic writing, and applauds accordingly.  He has a great notion of trap-doors too; and thinks any character going down or coming up a trap (no matter whether he be an angel or a demon—they both do it occasionally) one of the most interesting feats in the whole range of scenic illusion.

error: Content is protected !!