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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 10 - Volume 12.djvu/35

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10 s. xii. JULY io, 1909.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


grandfather that while he was on board the Venerable in 1808 plays were acted for which he wrote prologues. We know further that he wrote a prologue and epilogue for Tobin's comedy of ' The Guardians,' which was performed eight years later. These were both included in Cole's 1875 edition. In later years, moreover, he wrote the critiques of the opera for The Globe, an.d subsequently for The Examiner during the time that Fonblanque a former friend of both Shelley and himself was editor and proprietor. Mrs. Clarke states, too, that he seldom failed to take his seat at the opera, and gives a list of the singers, actors, and dancers in whom he took the greatest delight. Finally, he shows a liking for the stage in his novels, and has given an able and clear description of Greek drama and comedy in the ' Horse Dramaticse ' which he con- tributed to Fraser^s Magazine in 1852 and 1857.

The first play a prose farce consisting of two acts and ten scenes is named 'The Dilettanti.' It occupies folios 46-101, these being written on one side only. The paper was made in 1803, but the play was probably put together considerably later. The style points to this conclusion, while certain refer- ences to contemporary events and personages support such a conjecture. Angelica Cata- laiii, for instance, is mentioned in the same breath with Raphael, Michael Angelo, &c., and it was not until 1806 that she came to London, to make a great reputation in this country, where she remained until 1814. The play has many points of similarity to the first tale by its author, ' Headlong Hall,' which was originally published in 1816. An example may be given. Both the play and the novel have a violinist and a painter, who in each case quarrel as to the relative merits and demerits of their accomplish- ments. In particular, Chromatic with his Cremona in ' The Dilettanti ' continually recalls the character with the same name in the novel, whose one delight is also his fiddle. Indeed, the characteristics not only of the first, but of all the Peacockian novels are present in this farce. The dramatis personse all have suggestive names Tactic, Metaphor, Shadow, and the like in the same manner as the sporting parsons in the tales are designated Drs. Gaster and Port- pipe, a shaky stockjobbing firm Messrs. Catchflat & Co., or a churchwarden and parish clerk Messrs. Bluenose and Apple- twig respectively. Further, the scene is laid at a country house, which suggested itself so often to^'Peacock's mind as the best


place to bring together his motley group of individuals bent on ventilating their weird opinions on nearly every conceivable subject, and gratifying their whims, crotchets, and fads in nearly every possible direction. The same shafts of ridicule, too, as in the tales, aimed at anything and everything, are to be found here, pointed with the same dry humour and caustic wit. In one particular there is a distinct improve- ment. The personages are sketched with skill, and are not portrayed merely for the object of giving utterance to certain views. We have more action and far less criticism. The incidents in this play, as in the others unlike those in the novels, where, they are- few and simple are many and complicated, so that no attempt will be made here to narrate them in full. Mention can only be made of the love episode running through it,, including the elopement of the hero with the wrong girl at the end of the first act, and his marriage to the right one at the conclusion of the secondĀ ; and of the wild Irishman O'Prompt, who contributes so much to the merriment by locking up some of the guests in a closet, breaking the fiddler's instrument to pieces, demolishing the painter's canvas, and bothering the Dilettante re- hearsing ' Hamlet ' till he is completely out of his senses.

The second play a poetical drama in blank verse, of two acts and nine scenes is called ' The Circle of Loda.' It covers folios 102-27, these being written on both sides. The paper used was made in 1801, but, although an examination of the play has produced little evidence to show when* it was written, the composition can be safely ascribed to any period from five to twenty years later. In 1801 Peacock was only sixteen years of age, and the maturity of the style precludes the possibility of the drama dating from that early period. The subject- matter is either derived from some tradi- tional source, which the writer has been unable to trace, or owes its inception to the imagination of the author. It recalls to some extent Peacock's legendary romances, ' Maid Marian ' and ' The Misfortunes of Elphin,' and, on the whole, has little in common with hi other work. Absence of plot and deficiency in character-sketching are not noticeable. Throughout Peacock has infused interest into the development of events. Of these the principal around which everything revolves is the struggle of Hidalvar between two women Mengala and RindaneĀ : he leaves the former, his wedded wife, and seeks with the latter other