[Illustration: MIND HER DATES.]
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COURT AND CITY.
The other evening, the public were put in possession, at Covent Garden Theatre, of a new branch of art in play concoction, which may be called “dramatic distillation.” By this process the essence of two or more old comedies is extracted; their characters and plots amalgamated; and the whole “rectified” by the careful expunction of equivocal passages. Finally, the drame is offered to the public in active potions; five of which are a dose.
The forgotten plays put into the still on this occasion were “The Discovery,” by Mrs. Frances Sheridan, and “The Tender Husband,” by Sir Richard Steele. From one, that portion which relates to the “City,” is taken; the “Court” end of the piece belonging to the other. In fact, even in their modern dress, they are two distinct dramas, only both are played at once—a wholesome economy being thus exercised over time, actors, scenery, and decorations: the only profusion required is in the article of patience, of which the audience must be very liberal.
The courtiers consist of Lord Dangerfield, who although, or—to speak in a sense more strictly domestic—because, he has got a wife of his own, falls in love with the young spouse of young Lord Whiffle; then there is Sir Paladin Scruple, who, having owned to eighteen separate tender declarations during fourteen years, dangles after Mrs. Charmington, an enchanting widow, and Louisa Dangerfield, an insipid spinster, the latter being in love with his son.
The citizens consist of the famille Bearbinder, parents and daughter, together with Sir Hector Rumbush and a clownish son, who the former insists shall marry the sentimental Barbara Bearbinder, but who, accordingly, does no such thing.
The dialogues of these two “sets” go on quite independent of each other, action there is none, nor plot, nor, indeed, any progression of incident whatever. Lord Dangerfield tells you, in the first scene, he is trying to seduce Lady Whiffle, and you know he won’t get her. Directly you hear that Sir Paladin Scruple has declared in favour of Miss Dangerfield, you are quite sure she will marry the son; in short, there is not the glimmer of an incident throughout either department of the play which you are not scrupulously prepared for—so that the least approach to expectation is nipped in the bud. The whole fable is carefully developed after all the characters have once made their introduction; hence, at least three of the acts consist entirely of events you have been told are going to happen, and of the fulfilment of intentions already expressed.