The second act introduces a new class of incidents. A great revolution has taken place in the private concerns of the family Blount. Thomas, the younger, has become a colonel in the army; John, having got possession of the shop, has sold the stock-in-trade, fixtures, good-will, &c.; doubtless, to the late Mr. Rundell’s great-grandfather; and has set up for a private gentleman. For his introduction into genteel society he is indebted to Robert, whom he has mistaken for a Baronet, and who presents him to several of his fellow-knights of the shoulder-knot, all dubbed, for the occasion, lords and ladies, exactly as it happens in the farce of “High Life Below Stairs.”
But where are the “Old Maids” all this time? Where, indeed! Lady Blanche and Lady Anne are young and beautiful—exquisitely lovely; for they are played by Madame Vestris and Mrs. Nisbett. It is clear, then, that directly they appear, the spectator assures himself that they are not the “Old Maids.” To be sure they seem to have taken a sort of vow of celibacy; but their fascinating looks—their beauty—their enchanting manners, offer a challenge to the whole bachelor world, that would make the keeping of such a vow a crime next to sacrilege. One does not tremble long on that account. Lady Blanche, has, we are informed, taken to disguising herself; and some time since, while rambling about in the character of a yeoman’s daughter, she entered Blount’s shop, and fell in love with Thomas: at this exact part of the narrative Colonel Blount is announced, attended by his sworn friend, Sir Philip Brilliant. A sort of partial recognition takes place; which leaves the audience in a dreadful state of suspense till the commencement of another act.
Sir Philip, who has formerly loved Lady Blanche without success, now tries his fortune with Lady Anne; and at this point, dramatic invention ends; for, excepting the mock-marriage of John Blount with a lady’s-maid, the rest of the play is occupied by the vicissitudes the two pair of lovers go through—all of their own contrivance, on purpose to make themselves as wretched as possible—till the grand clearing up, which always takes place in every last scene, from the “Adelphi” of Terence (or Yates), down to the “Old Maids” of Mr. Sheridan Knowles.
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COCORICO, OR MY AUNT’S BANTAM.
Since playwrights have left off plotting and under-plotting on their own account, and depend almost entirely upon the “French,” managers have added a new member to their establishments, and, like the morning papers, employ a Paris correspondent, that French plays, as well as French eggs, may be brought over quite fresh; though from the slovenly manner in which they (the pieces, not the eggs) are too often prepared for the English market, they are seldom neat as imported.