Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/372

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
328
THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

contained this stroke of ingenuity: between the fore and hind wheels, the central panel of the left side turned on hinges by the aid of chains and pulleys, and could be let down at will like a drawbridge. As it dropped, it set at liberty three legs also on hinges, which supported the panel and converted it into a sort of platform. The opening thus made disclosed the stage, which was enlarged by the platform in front. This opening looked for all the world like a "mouth of hell," in the words of the itinerant Puritan preachers, who turned away from it with horror. It was, perhaps, for some such impious invention that Solon kicked out Thespis.

For all that, Thespis has lasted much longer than is generally supposed. The travelling theatre is still in existence. It was on these stages on wheels that the ballets and dances of Amner and Pilkington were performed in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the pastorals of Gilbert Colin in France; and in Flanders, at the annual fairs, the double choruses of Clement, called Non Papa; in Germany, the "Adam and Eve" of Theiles; and, in Italy, the Venetian exhibitions of Animuccia and of Ca-Fossis, the "Silvæ" of Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, the "Satyr," of Laura Guidiccioni, the "Despair of Philene," and the "Death of Ugolino," by Vincent Galileo, father of the astronomer, in which Vincent Galileo sang his own music, and accompanied himself on his viol de gamba; as well as all the first attempts of the Italian opera, which, from 1580, substituted free inspiration for the madrigal style.

The chariot, which carried Ursus, Gwynplaine, and their fortunes, and in front of which Fibi and Vinos trumpeted like figures of Fame, played its part in this great Bohemian and literary brotherhood. Thespis would no more have disowned Ursus, than Congrio would have disowned Gwynplaine.