Rule, great Fashion, where'er thy scepter waves,
Both young and old shall be ever, ever, Fashion's slaves.
Rule, great Fashion, where'er thy scepter waves,
Both young and old shall be ever, ever, Fashion's slaves. (Extravaganzas 1, 17)
Future revues waited almost fourteen years, but eventually Planché wrote The Drama's Levee; or, a Peep at the Past (Olympic, 1838), on the eve of a tour Vestris and Mathews made to the United States. It opened upon Drama, who laments that Vestris would be leaving Britain in another parody of "Yankee Doodle":
Packs him off to Liverpool
By the railroad handy,
Leaving me to play the fool
With any Jack-a-dandy.
Off from me each hope to cut,
With rage it makes me tremble;
He killed my Cooke and to a Butler
Changed my Fanny Kemble.
He took my Power o'er the sea,
Of both my Woods bereft me,
And robbed me of the single Tree
Which cruel fate had left me. (Extravaganzas 2, 26)
More revues followed this one. The next was The Drama at Home; or, an Evening with Puff (Haymarket, 1844), which featured C.J. Mathews as Puff from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Critic. In this play, a child dressed to resemble Tom Thumb (C.P. Stratton) was led out by Priscilla Horton, singing yet one more spoof of "Yankee Doodle" (a song featured at Thumb's performances). The chorus ran "Every wonder here to send,/ Jonathan's a mania," at which James Bland interrupted her in his basso profundo, with "I wish he'd send the dividend/ due from Pennsylvan-i-a!" (Extravaganzas 2, 293). ("Jonathan" was a common slang for "American.") The reference was not only to Barnum and his endeavors, but to the activities of two Pennsylvanian businessmen, Jacob Perkins and Nathan Dunn, who had displayed collections of Chinese artifacts, scientific curiosities, and other "wonders" in London (see Altick 377, 292). Barnum feared the child impersonating Thumb would cause Londoners to lose interest in his protégé, but turned the situation to his advantage through clever advertising (see Raymund Fitzsimmons, Barnum in London). Beside astute advertising, Barnum wrote parodic lyrics for Thumb to sing in praise of himself as an incarnation of the "Yankee doodle dandy."
Afterward came The New Planet; or, Harlequin Out of Place (Haymarket, 1847), which spoofed both popular culture and scientific advances, including the recent discovery of Neptune, as the gods and goddesses for whom the planets are named come to London to see the sights. Among other scientific and technological advances it treated was the invention of gun cotton by Christian-Friedrich Schönbein, which became a source of humor in a parody of "The Girl I Left Behind Me":
house, nor land, the shock can stand,
The longest range you’ll find it,
Of all the cash you had in hand,
No trace it leaves behind it. (169)
The next, the Seven Champions of Christendom (Lyceum, 1849), was the only revue for which Planché did not invent his story. It used the nursery tale to examine the tense political situations of 1848-49 in Europe, and was intriguing for its compassion toward the poor of Ireland, Italy, and other lands who were being abused by the moneyed classes. It continued the vilification of Turkey, although the venom was now aimed at the government and its policies (rather than the common Turks) in the tensions between that country and Britain over the rule of Egypt.
Planché reveled in his transplanted genre toward the end of his career. Four of the nine revues were written from 1853-56. Two, Mr. Buckstone's Ascent of Mount Parnassus (1853) and Mr. Buckstone's Voyage 'Round the Globe (in Leicester Square) (1854) were written for his old friend, J. B. Buckstone, and featured the latter as a character confiding his difficulties as the manager of the Haymarket (which he had leased in early 1853) to the audience. The second Buckstone piece is notable in part for a scathing criticism of U.S. treatment of African and Native Americans, and for its recognition of the talent of Ira Aldridge, the "African Roscius," a powerful tragedian from the United States who had just died from illness on a tour of Eastern Europe (2, 29). The same work featured a very optimistic patriotism at the outbreak of the Crimean War. It ended, for instance, showing women allegorically dressed as "Britain" and "France" seated atop the globe (2, 33-34).
Another revue, The Camp at the Olympic (1853) was written for Alfred Wigan, who had just assumed the management of the Olympic that autumn. Wigan had seen the first Buckstone piece earlier that year and requested a similar work from Planché. The revue opened with a then-daring scene; Wigan and his wife (Leonora Pincott) strolling about the empty stage as themselves, wondering what to put on for their first night. Scenery was introduced eventually by the character of "Fancy" (Priscilla Horton Reed), making it one more source of self-reflexive humor. She sang a parody of Giuseppe Verdi's "La Donna e mobile" (from Rigoletto, only introduced to England that year--Sands 56) in which Planché made an appeal for the engagement of the imagination, often overlooked in the days of pictorial (highly detailed) stage design:
Fancy, her magicalShe then calls forth various forms of theater and they state their strengths and weaknesses. It is Planché's effort to remind audiences of how pleasing theater could be if it were freed from mandatory formulae of slapstick comedy or melodrama. The piece was well received, but its plea for theatrical reform made no appreciable impact.
As much as befooling--
Aping each antic,
Every sense fooling. (302)
The final revue, The New Haymarket Spring Meeting (Haymarket, 1855), again written for Buckstone, was probably the weakest. In its second act, it pictured the competition for theatrical audiences as a horse race, itself less able to evoke comic situations than the improbable courtships and other absurdities of the other eight, although it still featured the sort of word play Victorians loved. One of the best such exchanges also contrasts with The Seven Champions of Christendom, Ali Pacha, and The Mason of Buda for mentioning the Turkish government (now allied with Britain and France against Russia) in a favorable light:
WEST[MINSTER]. All England
backs the Sultan ; he must win
The Crescent Stakes.
FOOL. The Czar will drop his tin.
TIME. France has got on him, too, a lot of money.
LON[DON]. Who rides him ?
TIME. A good fellow—Bono Johnny ;
Both at Silistria and Eupatoria
He beat Cossack and Muscovite.
LON. Victoria !
FOOL. You’ve heard the last joke running the turf ?
Britannia rules the waves—Russia the serf. (2, 96)
“Bono Johnny” was an affectionate nickname given the common British soldier, based upon the way Turkish villagers in the Crimea who knew a little Italian attempted to greet the foreigners, also knowing Johnny as a typically English name: “buono Johnny” (Selby 225). “Victoria” is both a shout of victory and of enthusiasm for the Queen. While in the previous Buckstone piece, the patriotism had been exuberant, here, it only occupied a small portion of the dialogue. Most of the revue concerned entertainment. Most acclaimed, however, was the conception of its first act, which pictured the growing London metropolis as a family which squabbles and attempts, somewhat unsuccessfully, to make up, was praised by critics and popular with audiences.
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