Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,359 pages of information about Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, Complete.

ON THE INTRODUCTION OF PANTOMIME INTO THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

[Illustration]

English—­it has been remarked a thousand and odd times—­is one of the few languages which is unaccompanied with gesticulation.  Your veritable Englishman, in his discourse, is as chary as your genuine Frenchman is prodigal, of action.  The one speaks like an oracle, the other like a telegraph.

Mr. Brown narrates the death of a poor widower from starvation, with his hands fast locked in his breeches’ pocket, and his features as calm as a horse-pond.  M. le Brun tells of the debut of the new danseuse, with several kisses on the tips of his fingers, a variety of taps on the left side of his satin waistcoat, and his head engulfed between his two shoulders, like a cock-boat in a trough of the sea.

The cause of this natural diversity is not very apparent.  The deficiency of gesture on our parts may be a necessary result of that prudence which is so marked a feature of the English character.  Mr. Brown, perhaps, objects to using two means to attain his end when one is sufficient, and consequently looks upon all gesticulation during conversation as a wicked waste of physical labour, which that most sublime and congenial science of Pol.  Econ. has shown him to be the source of all wealth.  To indulge in pantomime is, therefore, in his eyes, the same as throwing so much money in the dirt—­a crime which he regards as second in depravity only to that of having none to throw.  Napoleon said, many years back, we were a nation of shopkeepers; and time seems to have increased, rather than diminished, our devotion to the ledger.  Gold has become our sole standard of excellence.  We measure a man’s respectability by his banker’s account, and mete out to the pauper the same punishment as the felon.  Our very nobility is a nobility of the breeches’ pocket; and the highest personage in the realm—­her most gracious Majesty—­the most gracious Majesty of 500,000l. per annum!  Nor is this to be wondered at.  To a martial people like the Romans, it was perfectly natural that animal courage should be thought to constitute heroic virtue:  to a commercial people like ourselves, it is equally natural that a man’s worthiness should be computed by what he is worth.  We fear it is this commercial spirit, which, for the reason before assigned, is opposed to the introduction of pantomime among us; and it is therefore to this spirit that we would appeal, in our endeavours to supply a deficiency which we cannot but look upon as a national misfortune and disgrace.  It makes us appear as a cold-blooded race of people, which we assuredly are not; for, after all our wants are satisfied, what nation can make such heroic sacrifices for the benefit of their fellow creatures as our own?  A change, however, is coming over us:  a few pantomimic signs have already made their appearance amongst us.  It is true that they are at present chiefly confined

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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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