Oct. 5, 1895. Our “Crusaders.”
The poor little Penny Dreadful has been catching it once more. Once more the British Press has stripped to its massive waist and solemnly squared up to this hardened young offender. It calls this remarkable performance a “Crusade.”
I like these Crusades. They remind one of that merry passage in Pickwick (p. 254 in the first edition):—
“Whether Mr. Winkle was seized with a temporary attack of that species of insanity which originates in a sense of injury, or animated by this display of Mr. Weller’s valour, is uncertain; but certain it is, that he no sooner saw Mr. Grummer fall, than he made a terrific onslaught on a small boy who stood next to him; whereupon Mr. Snodgrass—”
[Pay attention to Mr. Snodgrass, if you please, and cast your memories back a year or two, to the utterances of a famous Church Congress on the National Vice of Gambling.]
“—whereupon Mr. Snodgrass, in a truly Christian spirit, and in order that he might take no one unawares, announced in a very loud tone that he was going to begin, and proceeded to take off his coat with the utmost deliberation. He was immediately surrounded and secured; and it is but common justice both to him and to Mr. Winkle to say that they did not make the slightest attempt to rescue either themselves or Mr. Weller, who, after a most vigorous resistance, was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner. The procession then reformed, the chairmen resumed their stations, and the march was re-commenced.”
“The chairmen resumed their stations, and the march was re-commenced.” Is it any wonder that Dickens and Labiche have found no fit successors? One can imagine the latter laying down his pen and confessing himself beaten at his own game; for really this periodical “crusade” upon the Penny Dreadful has all the qualities of the very best vaudeville—the same bland exhibition of bourgeois logic, the same wanton appreciation of evidence, the same sententious alacrity in seizing the immediate explanation—the more trivial the better—the same inability to reach the remote cause, the same profound unconsciousness of absurdity.
You remember La Grammaire? Caboussat’s cow has eaten a piece of broken glass, with fatal results. Machut, the veterinary, comes:—