Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

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THEATRE REVIEWS

51. The Mariners of England (1897)

 

The Mariners of England
by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe (Harriett Jay).
Nottingham: Grand Theatre. 1 March, 1897.
London: Olympic Theatre. 9 March to 2 April, 1897.
Other performances:
London: Britannia Theatre, Hoxton. 21 July, 1902.

’Twas In Trafalgar’s Bay or Trafalgar
Scenes from The Mariners of England concerning the death of Nelson and the battle of Trafalgar.
Glasgow: Coliseum. 29 May, 1911.
London: South London Palace. 4 March, 1912.
Various other venues including the London Palladium, and Leeds Hippodrome (30 November, 1914).

A letter from Harriett Jay to The Era (30 April, 1898) announced that she and Buchanan were disassociating themselves from all future productions of the play on the grounds that “the attempt to celebrate the achievement of a real national Hero has been construed, in some quarters, into sympathy with more ignoble manifestations of the national (or Jingo) spirit”.

 

The Era (14 November, 1896)

     “THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND,” the new nautical drama by the authors of Alone in London, is in active preparation for early production in London and the provinces. It is founded on new and as yet unpublished facts connected with Lord Nelson, whose full and definitive biography is announced for publication in March next; and the same materials have been used by Mr Robert Buchanan for a new story, which is now in the press. Nelson is a leading character in the play, the scene of which is laid at the beginning of the present century. The scenery is already in hand, and a copyright performance will take place in a few days.

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The Pall Mall Gazette (18 November, 1896)

     As usual, there are few interesting announcements to make this week. We read that Mr. Buchanan has collaborated with Miss Harriett Jay in a nautical “drama,” and we hope it will be rollicking. Also that Mr. Buchanan’s “Sweet Nancy” will be revived in the afternoon at the Criterion by Miss Annie Hughes.

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The Yorkshire Evening Post (19 December, 1896 - p.3)

     Messrs. Robert Buchanan’s and Charles Marlowe’s new piece, Ye Mariners of England, is to be tried on the provincial dog by Mr. Herbert Heath, preparatory to a “London production.” The great scene is the death of Nelson on board of the Victory. Lady Hamilton will not be introduced.

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The Daily News (17 February, 1897 - p.7)

     We have already noted that the Avenue Theatre is not to have any monopoly either of Nelson or the naval drama. It is now definitively announced that Mr. Herbert Sleath, late a member of one of Mr. Weedon Grossmith’s touring companies, will produce “The Mariners of England,” by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, at the New Olympic Theatre on the 9th of next month, with Mr. W. L. Abingdon and Mr. Charles Glenney in leading parts. We are particularly requested to observe that, although Nelson will be a conspicuous figure in the play, he will be represented “simply as the great naval hero,” and there will be “no Lady Hamilton.” The following list of the scenes painted by Mr. Bruce Smith and Mr. Walter Drury will give some hint of the character of the drama: “Act 1, The old Town of Deal and view of the Downs—‘The Anniversary.’ Act 2, scene 1; The Cliffs between Deal and Dover; scene 2, Fairlight Cove, Moonlight—‘The Escape.’ Act 3, Deck of H.M.S. Victory, Portsmouth Harbour; scene 2, State Cabin of the Victory; scene 3, Deck of the Victory, Trafalgar; scene 4, The Cockpit of the Victory—‘The Death of Nelson.’ Act 4, Interior of Admiral Talbot’s House—‘Father and Son.’”

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Daily Mail (17 February, 1897 - p.3)

     The company engaged by Mr. Herbert Sleath for his season at the Olympic with Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe’s” new nautical drama, “The Mariners of England,” includes Mr. W. L. Abingdon and Mr. Charles Glenney. The synopsis of scenery is as follows:—Act I.—The Old Town of Deal and view of the Downs (Mr. Bruce Smith), “The Anniversary.” Act II.—Scene 1: The Cliffs between Deal and Dover; scene 2: Fairlight Cove, moonlight (Mr. Walter Drury), “The Escape.” Act III.—Scene 1: Deck of H.M.S. Victory, Portsmouth Harbour; scene 2: State cabin of the Victory; scene 3: Deck of the Victory, Trafalgar; scene 4: The cockpit of the Victory (Mr. Bruce Smith), “The Death of Nelson.” Act IV.— Interior of Admiral Talbot’s house (Mr. Bruce Smith), “Father and Son.” The play will be produced on March 9.

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The Era (20 February, 1897 - p.14)

     WE are requested by Mr Robert Buchanan to contradict the statement which has been made that he has become the manager of the Olympic Theatre. Although a drama of which he is part author is about to be produced at that establishment he has no connection with the production except an artistic one. The responsible manager of the theatre is Mr Herbert Sleath, who has secured the acting rights of The Mariners of England for both London and the provinces.

     “THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND,” by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, is a romantic costume play, in four acts, to be produced at the Olympic Theatre on or about March 8th. Among the company engaged to appear in it are Mr Charles Glenney, Mr Abingdon; Miss Edith Bruce, Miss Florence Tanner, and Miss Keith Wakeman. The new scenery is being painted by Mr Bruce Smith and assistants and the Messrs Drury; and the costumes are being specially made by Messrs Morris Angel and Co. The time is 1805, the year of Trafalgar, and one of the great effects of the play is a scenic reproduction of the great battle and the death of Nelson.

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The Morning Post (22 February, 1897 - p.6)

     At the Grand Theatre, Nottingham, on Monday next, Mr. Mulholland has arranged for the first production of Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe’s new play, “The Mariners of England.” Mr. W. L. Abingdon has been specially engaged to play the part of Nelson, and the company will include Mr. Charles Glenney and Miss Edith Bruce. The scenery will be elaborate, and the climax of the play will be the Battle of Trafalgar as viewed from the Victory. As at present arranged the piece will be brought to the Olympic Theatre the following week, opening Tuesday, March 9.

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Pall Mall Gazette (24 February, 1897 - p.1)

     So there is to be another Nelson play. “The Mariners of England,” by Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe,” is to be produced at the Olympic (where “The Free Pardon” stopped on Saturday) on the 9th of next month. We suppose it will be patriotism undiluted; in fact, we read that Nelson’s unfortunate domestic arrangements will not be alluded to. The whole of the last act will take place on the Victory and end with the death of Nelson. We look forward to the play. Mr. Abingdon seems to be tired of villainy; at least we presume that Nelson, whom he will play, will not be the villain of the piece. Cromwell was made the villain of a play, but his services to England were a little more dubious than Nelson’s. We should rather like to see a set of historical plays with the traditions of character reversed—Richard III. as a good hero, and Bishop Wilberforce, or somebody of that type, as a villain.

     The woman’s hat question has been somewhat drastically dealt with by the Brussels police, who have published a prohibition against the wearing of such headgear in the stalls and dress circle of any theatre in that capital. The effect of this ukase has, however, not been wholly satisfactory, for the fair sex, taking exception to it, decline to patronize theatrical entertainments, with the not unnatural consequence that the attendance of the sterner sex has also fallen off to a very considerable extent. It is difficult to see how the Brussels managers will be able to grapple with the difficulties of a position that threatens to play havoc with their treasuries. Surely, in these days of arbitration some equitable adjustment of this highly important matter might be arrived at.

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The Era (6 March, 1897)

“THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND.”
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A New and Original Nautical Drama,
in Four Acts and Ten Tableaux,
by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe,
Produced, for the First Time, at the Grand Theatre,
Nottingham, on Monday, March 1st.

Lord Nelson and Bronte ...     Mr W. L. ABINGDON
Admiral Talbot           ... ...    Mr FREDERICK STANLEY
Admiral Collingwood      ...   Mr W. H. BROUGHAM
Admiral White            ... ...   Mr GEOFFREY WEEDALL
Captain Hardy            ... ...   Mr ADAM ALEXANDER
Captain Lebaudy        ... ...   Mr HERBERT SLEATH
Lieutenant Portland        ...    Mr ERNEST MAINWARING
Mr Lestrange             ... ...    Mr GILBERT WEMYS
Mr Beaumont            ... ...    Mr C. K. CATLEY
Harry Dell                 ... ...    Mr CHARLES GLENNEY
Tom Trip                   ... ...    Mr E. M. ROBSON
Old Trip                     ... ...   Mr JULIUS ROYSTON
John Marston             ... ...   Mr TOM TAYLOR
Bill Buckett               ... ...    Mr CHARLES H. FENTON
Joe Appleyard            ... ...   Mr GEO. HARETON
Officer of Coastguard    ...    Mr FRANK STRIBBLY
Master of Marines          ...   Mr GODFREY KNOWLES
Mabel Talbot             ... ...    Miss KEITH WAKEMAN
Nelly Dell                   ... ...   Miss FLORENCE TANNER
Polly Appleyard        ... ...    Miss EDITH BRUCE

(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)

     Admiral Field’s conclusion that Lord Nelson’s memory had been treated with but scant respect in a recently- produced drama and the same gallant officer’s subsequent fiery question in the House of Commons as to what the Government were going to do about it, followed up by his forcible remark at the North London Rifle Club that “he would before long have the Lord Chamberlain’s department on toast,” will, no doubt, be a splendid advertisement to any play having among its dramatis personć the hero of Trafalgar, and people will flock to the theatre if only to witness the treatment accorded in the new piece and apart from its merits as a work of dramatic art. The Mariners of England, in the words of one of the authors, “does not touch in any way on the Lady Hamilton intrigue, and, indeed, the great naval commander is rather the deus ex machinâ than the hero of the drama, which may be described as a simple story of original invention with an historical background.” No ideals are shattered by the authors of this piece, Messrs Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe; in fact, Nelson is just pictured as most of his admirers have from boyhood upwards fondly regarded him—a brave sailor, a beloved captain, and a man who made it possible for Englishmen to sing “Britannia Rules the Waves,” and who, in the end, gave his life for his country. All that is best worth remembering in the admiral’s life has been focussed into The Mariners of England, and the only regret is that the picture thrown upon the stage is not a larger one. With the exception of the one great incident, “The Death of Nelson,” the authors make no pretence to actual fact, and, truth to tell, the story might just as well have been written round any other naval character. For the greater part of the play Nelson is outside it altogether.
     In the first act, for instance, he merely makes his appearance in the midst of the rejoicings in celebration of the battle of the Nile. He is the guest of his old friend Admiral Talbot, and during his evening stroll on the lonely cliffs above Deal he is the victim of a desperate plot hatched by his host’s nephew, who, for some unexplained reason, is in league with John Marston, a renegade English sailor. Nelson is actually struck down, and his assailants are about to cast him over the cliffs when Harry Dell, a typical Jack Tar, with a romantic history, comes to the rescue. Nelson had wounded one of the would-be murderers, and Harry, who had also received a cut in the fray, is promptly accused of being one of the perpetrators of the outrage by Captain Lebaudy, the villainous nephew, who, although the betrayer of Harry’s foster- sister, bitterly opposed the love which Harry had for Admiral Talbot’s niece. Unfortunately for the young sailor’s avowals, and for Mabel Talbot’s protestations, Nelson had seen Harry in the company of Marston, the French spy, and this so heightens the suspicions against Harry that he makes a bold dash and flees the country. But as the Victory lies in Portsmouth harbour ready to sail, Harry suddenly appears on board and delivers himself up to justice. Nelson takes over the command of the ship, and at the court-martial which quickly follows he states the facts which make the accused man’s fate almost a foregone conclusion. Captain Lebaudy gives his lying testimony, and then Mabel appeals with passionate earnestness to Nelson for mercy for her betrothed. The Admiral expresses his belief that Harry was a rescuer and not a would-be destroyer, but this is taken for magnanimity by his brother officers, who declare that justice must be done. Justice is done, but in a totally different direction, for the traitor Marston has been captured, and is produced by Nelson. Harry is at once exonerated and acquitted; whilst Captain Lebaudy is in turn accused by his commander, and summarily dismissed the service. The next scene is a beautiful and impressive tableau of the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson having that moment been struck down by the fatal bullet. Amid the rush of battle the dying Admiral lies on the deck surrounded by his officers. The next tableau, in which Nelson hears the glad news of victory and dies his gallant death, is intensely impressive, and one which will make a strong appeal to the emotions of all who witness it. After this the story draws rapidly to an end, and the threads are skilfully gathered up. The play takes a firm grip of the audience, and has the advantage of being unfolded in graphic dialogue, the incidents arising naturally and following each other in well-connected sequence. The close of the third act in particular produced a marked influence on the spectators. The death scene, most touchingly portrayed by Mr Abingdon, held the house in deepest silence, followed a moment later by thunderous cheering, which was not stilled until the curtain had been raised again and again. The interpretation all round was admirable. Mr W. L. Abingdon looked and acted the character of Nelson wonderfully well. It was a careful, measured performance. His appearance was noble, and he played the part with due dignity and emphasis. Mr C. Glenny as Harry Dell made a fine, breezy sailor, and with quiet power and skilful precision embodied the personage from first to last. Mr Herbert Sleath as Capt. Lebaudy made an excellent villain, never over colouring the picture, and keeping well within the frame. Mr Frederick Stanley did well as the blind Admiral Talbot. Mr E. M. Robson as Tom Trip contributed a very comical sketch, and was materially aided by Miss Edith Bruce as Polly Appleyard. She was delightful in the mingled archness, sweetness, petulance, grace, and sauciness which she threw into her performance. Mr Tom Taylor acted with discretion in the thankless character of the Spy. Miss Keith Wakeman played magnificently as Mabel, rising to the level of the force and pathos demanded by the most passionate and tender of the scenes, and Miss Florence Tanner distinguished herself greatly by her sweet impersonation of Nelly Dell. The scenery by Messrs Bruce Smith and Walter Drury was wonderfully picturesque, and Mr W. Carlile Vernon’s music was aptly illustrative.

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The Morning Post (10 March, 1897 - p.3)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.
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     “The Mariners of England,” a new and original romantic drama, written by Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, was presented for the first time last night at the Olympic Theatre. It received a favourable reception, which is largely to be accounted for by the subject of the play, in which Nelson figures conspicuously, although he is not the hero of the action, by the excellent stage mounting and brightness and variety of the scenes, and by the plentiful distribution of such sentiments as “Nelson’s left arm is the right arm of England” and “The man who fights for his country in any capacity is a gentleman.” The four acts into which the piece is divided are of very unequal merit. The first, though purely introductory, is bright, well written, and interesting, promising a story above the level of average melodrama. We are made acquainted with the love of Mabel Talbot, Admiral Talbot’s niece, for a typical bluejacket named Harry Dell. He has been picked up from a wreck, and his parentage is unknown, which naturally fills every spectator with a conviction amounting to certainty that he will ultimately be shown to be of birth equal to that of his sweetheart. And this proves to be the fact; in the last scene he is declared to be the Admiral’s son, and, of course, he marries Mabel. This, though not a very original, is no doubt a wise dispensation of the authors, for there unquestionably exists a prejudice against the affection of a lady of gentle birth for a lover of low degree; though, singularly enough, there is no such feeling regarding the love of the nobleman for the peasant maid. The second act, laid on a cliff near Dover, not far from the Admiral’s house, falls into one of the gravest errors of melodrama—the want of probability. There is a diabolical plot, hatched by Captain Lebaudy, the Admiral’s relative, who loves Mabel and has seduced Harry Dell’s sister, to take Nelson’s life. For this there is, we believe, no historical warrant whatever; the authors, however, are perfectly justified in introducing such an event if it suits their purpose. But they should so have arranged the attack on Nelson as to make the scene appear likely. Nothing could be more improbable than that the hero of the Nile should be set upon by a couple of ruffians on a bright moonlight night within a stone’s throw of the house where he was staying, and almost within call of the Coastguard, who a minute before have been parading the stage. Nelson is stunned, but Harry Dell is opportunely close at hand; he rushes in to the rescue, puts “Black Jack,” the villain in Lebaudy’s pay, to flight, and being wounded, is in true melodramatic fashion accused of having done the deed himself. The patrol surrounds him, but he knocks three of them down, and makes his escape, jumps into the sea, and presumably swims over to France. The third act is on board the Victory in Portsmouth Harbour. She is making ready to sail, and Nelson takes command. Before she weighs anchor Harry Dell appears; finding life unendurable in foreign parts, he gives himself up, protesting, however, that he is innocent. He is at once tried by court-martial and found guilty. Nelson, to whom “Black Jack” has meanwhile revealed the entire truth, intervenes, forces Lebaudy to confess his guilt and resign his commission, and then gives fresh evidence to the Naval Court, which enables them to reverse their judgment. Dell is acquitted. Here the play ends, but there are two tableaux vivants and a fourth act before the curtain finally descends. The first tableau represents the deck of the Victory at Trafalgar. It is a triumph of stage scenery. Nelson is struck down, and then we are taken to the cockpit, where he dies. This scene suffers from comparison with the similar infinitely more pathetic spectacle at the Avenue Theatre. The subject is a well-worn one, and there is nothing in its treatment by the authors of “The Mariners of England” or by the actors to lift it out of the region of commonplace. For all that the representation of the national hero’s death will in all circumstances command the applause of Englishmen; and it did not fail to do so on this occasion. The last act, every incident in which had been discounted by the audience, was unnecessary and tedious. Nelson was personated with dignity and some feeling by Mr. Abingdon, Harry Dell by Mr. Charles Glenney, an excellent representative of the traditional nautical hero of melodrama. The acting of the other characters calls for no particular comment. The authors were called for at the end, and bowed their acknowledgments. On the whole “The Mariners of England” is in tone considerably above the average melodrama, and this taken in conjunction with the success of “The Two Little Vagabonds” at the Princess’s, would seem to indicate that the public, at the West-end theatres at all events, is beginning to take pleasure in plays in which the colour is laid on with a more delicate hand than in the days of our fathers.

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The Standard (10 March, 1897 - p.5)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.
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     It is quite impossible to treat seriously the melodrama by Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe produced at the Olympic Theatre last night under the title of The Mariners of England. Historical names figure in the list of characters; Lord Nelson, Admiral Collingwood, and Captain Hardy are here; but they are preposterously employed, and it is an entire mistake to imagine that a very poor play is improved by introducing perversions of history and caricatures of great men. The authors found their plot on the set basis of commonplace melodrama. The hero is accused of a crime that is in truth instigated, if not actually carried out, by the villain, and, as usual, the representatives of virtue and vice are both in love with the heroine. In Mr. Gilbert’s Pinafore the common sailor loved the captain’s daughter; in The Mariners of England he loves the Admiral’s niece, who throws herself at his head in a manner which is only paralleled by the behaviour of the low comedian’s sweetheart, when in scarcely franker terms she asks him to marry her. The crime of which the sailor is accused is an attempt to murder no less a personage than Lord Nelson himself. While taking a solitary stroll on the cliffs near Dover, he is assailed by a French spy, egged on by an English naval captain; Dell, as the sailor is called, arrives at the critical moment, and the routine of melodrama is scrupulously followed. As is customary in such cases, his position is misunderstood, and he is assumed to be guilty of the crime he has prevented. This leads to a reproduction of the familiar court-martial scene in Black Eyed Susan, except that Dell is allowed more scope in the way of speeches—previously the whole routine of duty on board her Majesty’s ship Victory had been suspended while the sailor addressed his captain and the ship’s company at great length. The Admiral’s daughter continually hangs round his neck during the proceedings. As a matter of fact, Nelson knows the truth about the assault on him, and is perfectly aware of Dell’s innocence; why he allows the court-martial to waste so much time, during which he practically acts as counsel for the prisoner, is incomprehensible. Dell is not only acquitted, but made a Lieutenant on the spot, and in that capacity is found occupying a prominent place in two tableaux, which show Nelson being wounded and his death in the cockpit of the Victory.
     There can be very little scope for interpretation of character in a play of this class. Mr. Abingdon cannot, of course, suggest the idea of Nelson when engaged upon the tasks here devised for him. It was impossible to identify Collingwood, and there is really nothing to be said about Hardy. Mr. Charles Glenney played Dell in his usual style of ultra-robustness. The patient eye of a spectator who was not wearied by the melodrama might possibly have detected promise in the sketch of the villain, Captain Lebaudy, by Mr. Herbert Sleath. Miss Keith Wakeman should not be judged by her attempt to represent a heroine so deficient in reticence and refinement as Miss Mabel Talbot. Mr. E. M. Robson and Miss Edith Bruce essayed the comic characters.

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Pall Mall Gazette (10 March, 1897 - p.3)

“THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND,” AT THE OLYMPIC.

     We have no particular congratulations to offer to the authors of “The Mariners of England,” who are Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe.” There are (more or less) interpolated into their play two very good tableaux—they are a little more than tableaux, since there is a little action and dialogue before the curtain falls, but the programme’s description is near enough—and these we presumably owe to somebody else, to say nothing of the original painters from whose pictures they are taken. There is an excellent piece of acting on the part of Mr. Abingdon, and in one or two other cases commendable acting. But the play itself is a poor thing. The plot is thin and foolish even for melodrama, and there is a prevailing air of “Black-Ey’d Susan” about it; an honest tar for hero, a captain for villain, and a pathetic court-martial. There is a grave fault of sentiment in the first act. The villain has (1) kept back the true secret of the hero’s birth, and (2) accused him of murder, knowing him to be innocent. These are possibly venial errors; but (3) being an officer in the King’s service he has been in the pay of the French, and (4) in their interest plotted the assassination of Nelson. Now these last two are not venial errors, either from the melodramatic or sociological point of view. Yet, if you please, this (so far) excellent villain is made to repent in Act IV., is allowed to marry the second heroine, and is positively hand-shaken by the hero. We are sincerely sorry that we stayed for that last act, in spite of its containing the hero’s discovery of his long-lost father, who (by the way, and so far as we could gather) had started life as a common sailor, worked his way up to admiral, and been blind all the time. No, the plot was not much, and the comic relief was the poorest we have seen for a long time.
     But the two tableaux were excellent, and so was Mr. Abingdon’s acting. In the first part he was rather too harsh and unsympathetic a Nelson; but the scene in which he dismissed the villain captain the service (a very irregular proceeding, but that was not his fault) was most effectively done, and his cockpit death scene was really impressive—better, we thought, than Mr. Forbes Robertson’s in “Nelson’s Enchantress.” Mr. Charles Glenney was better as the innocently-accused than as the happy and rollicking tar or the sententious captain (he was very rapidly promoted), but he had the right melodramatic touch throughout. Mr. Herbert Sleath was rather too subdued for melodrama as the chief villain, but he acted, and we look to see him in a more subtle part. There is nothing to be said of the rest, except that Miss Edith Bruce was at home in her part of Polly Appleyard, and that Mr. Robson was not so good as Little Tich, though much on his lines, in a comic lover.

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The Guardian (10 March, 1897 - p.7)

     A personage bearing the name of “Lord Nelson and Bronte” is the central figure of an exceedingly feeble melodrama by Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe,” produced this evening at the Olympic Theatre, under the title of “The Mariners of England.” The villain, one regrets to observe, is a captain in the Royal Navy, who, being in the pay of  France, makes a plot to murder Nelson. The hero, the long-lost son of an admiral, who is in the meantime serving as a foremast hand, rescues Nelson, but is accused of having been his chief assailant. He is court-martialled on board the Victory, and acquitted, of course, through the intervention of Nelson himself. Then we have the obligatory tableaux of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson, which Mr. Abingdon and the limelight man succeeded in rendering melodramatic and ridiculous. As a drama the play is devoid of merit, and the figure of Nelson is introduced without either taste or skill. Mr. Charles Glenny played the hero, and Miss Wakeman the heroine, while Mr. E. M. Robson provided the comic relief. The production was favourably received.

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The Scotsman (10 March, 1897 - p.9)

     The fashion for nautical plays continues, and after a short trial in the country a new piece by Mr Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe,” called “The Mariners of England,” was given this evening at the Olympic Theatre. What may be deemed the chief feature of the work is the introduction of the character of Lord Nelson. The play in style is melodrama of the simplest and most ordinary character, in which there is little pretence of novelty. Nelson is not really the principal person, for the hero is a sailor named Harry Dell, who rescues Nelson from some scoundrels who, acting in the pay of the French, attack the great Admiral when on shore in England. However, the villain of the play, in customary fashion, accuses the hero of the crime, and his guilt is immediately assumed by most of the characters, and he is forced to hide; but he surrenders himself for trial, and, after an absurd burlesque of a court-martial, is acquitted. Two effective tableaux are given in the piece; one represents the moment when Nelson was shot at Trafalgar, and the other his death in the cockpit. The piece has been very well mounted, and a good company has been engaged. Graceful work is done by Miss Edith Wakeman, and Miss Edith Bruce acts cleverly in a soubrette part. As chief villain Mr Herbert Sleath played with considerable force, and in good if somewhat rough style the parts of Nelson and the hero were represented by Mr. Abington and Mr Glenny in a fashion that seemed to please the house.

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The Globe (10 March, 1897 - p.6)

“THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND.”

     Should the feelings of any enthusiastic admirer of Nelson be hurt by the new drama of Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe” produced yesterday at the Olympic Theatre, “’twere pity of one’s life.” Wholly gratuitous and unbidden is the presence of the great naval hero, and though tableaux of Nelson’s death and the Battle of Trafalgar were introduced into the play, they have only the slightest connection with the story. Two traitorous Englishmen, one of them a captain in the Navy, have a plan, in the interest apparently—though this is not quite plain—of the projected invasion of England by Bonaparte, of kidnapping or murdering the admiral of the fleet, and so perplexing the councils of Government. Their plans are well formed, and go near success. Nelson, since it has to be he, is waylaid during a solitary prowl on the cliffs near Deal, and would have been hurled over the heights but for the opportune arrival of the hero, one Harry Dell, A.B., by whom the rascals are put to rout. Through the treachery of Captain Lebaudy, R.N., Dell is arrested as the assailant of Nelson and not his defender. As the admiral was unconscious at the time, his declaration of his belief in the sailor’s innocence prevails no more with the court-martial than do the supplications of Mabel Talbot, the daughter of an admiral who has stooped to love a man before the mast. Things are going badly with the hero, when the real criminal is brought in to “own up.” Captain Lebaudy, through the intercession of Nelson, is simply dismissed the service, while Black Jack, as the other criminal is generally know, is hanged, like the Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy of Thackeray’s famous ballad. Harry Dell is not quite made, like Little Billee, the captain of a seventy-three, but is appointed at one step a full lieutenant, and put in the way of further promotion.
     Very primitive and commonplace is all this, and even when lighted up with views of naval combats and heart-breaking adieux of naval heroes, it remains more than a little simple. At the Olympic, however, simplicity is a recommendation. The view of lovely maidens, the daughters of admirals and the like, wandering about in costly and scanty attire like maidens of romance, and looking with a strange ubiquity after the lives of their lovers whenever and wherever those lives are beset, begat no hesitation; the free and easy advances of bucolic maidens to reluctant and tongue-tied yokels are accepted with conviction and delight. A commonplace and fairly written and constructed melodrama won accordingly a reception which the best of modern dramas fails frequently to command, and all is well. The new play is provided with patriotic sentiment which for once it is pleasing to find is received with enthusiasm; the pictures of naval scenes prove genuinely effective, a good interpretation is afforded, and the result is all that could have been hoped. “The Mariners of England” will probably enjoy much good fortune at the Olympic, and obtain an enduring run in the country. Forsaking once more his customary rôle of villain, which came into the hands of Mr. Herbert Sleath, a young actor of promise, Mr. W. L. Abingdon played Nelson, giving a lifelike delineation of the character, and acting with commendable earnestness and effect. As Harry Dell, Mr. Glenney was the prince of nautical heroes, displaying all possible gallantry and heroism. Mr. E. M. Robson and Miss Edith Bruce took charge of some comic scenes of no great originality. Miss Keith Wakeman presented in melodramatic style the loving Mabel Talbot, and Mr. Stanley personated well a blind admiral. The general cast was effective, the mounting was good, and the whole was received with applause.

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The Times (11 March, 1897 - p.14)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.

     As the hero of Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe’s” new play, The Mariners of England, it cannot be said that Nelson stands at present in any want of recognition on the stage; for this is his second reincarnation, so to  speak, within the few months that have elapsed since the celebration of the Trafalgar anniversary. Nelson No. 2, it may be well to say at once, is as unlike No. 1 as both are probably unlike the original. But as embodied by Mr. Abingdon, No. 2 has this in his favour—that he displays some degree of personal dignity and authority if only in dismissing from the service an unworthy officer who has been conspiring against his admiral’s life. Of the notorious Lady Hamilton who is so much in evidence at the Avenue Theatre there is not a word, save in the historical dying speech which is delivered in the cockpit of the Victory. In fact the new Nelson is rather chary of speech at the best. More than once his entrance upon the scene is the signal for the curtain to come down, and in this respect the authors have done wisely, inasmuch as they leave one’s sense of the hero’s greatness comparatively undisturbed. Perhaps a still better effect would have been produced had the part been designed exclusively as what Mr. Puff would call a “thinking” one, though this would have been hard upon Mr. Abingdon, who really enacts the hero, empty sleeve and all, remarkably well.
     The story of the play is rather meagre in point of literary substance, but is furnished forth with naval dances and revellings, scenes on board a man-of-war, a Court-martial, and not only last but least—for the consumption of gunpowder is on a limited scale—the engagement with the French in which Nelson receives his death wound. In the old town of Dover a dastardly attack is made upon Nelson by a gang of hired ruffians at the instance of a traitor to his country, one Captain Lebaudy. A dashing sailor, Harry Dell, who is played with rugged pathos by Mr. Charles Gleaney, comes up at the critical moment and sends the conspirators flying. Upon him the tables are now turned by the double- dyed villain with the French name; for he is accused of being the author of the attack upon Nelson, and it is upon this case that the cock-hatted Court-martial of the third act solemnly sits. Needless to say honest Harry Dell has a sweetheart in Miss Keith Wakeman, who pleads for him with the Court, but in the end it is through the instrumentality of Nelson, who throughout has taken a paternal interest in the love affairs of his crew, that justice is done to brave men and cowards alike. At the first performance, the action of the play was too slow and straggling to be effective. But as a rough and honest melodrama with its heart in the right place The Mariners of England ought to stir the sympathies of the pit and gallery public.

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The Stage (11 March, 1897 - p.12)

THE OLYMPIC.

     On Tuesday evening, March 9, 1897, was produced at this theatre a new and original romantic drama, in four acts and two tableaux, by Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe,” entitled:—

The Mariners of England.

Lord Nelson and Bronte   ...   Mr. W. L. Abingdon
Admiral Talbot             ... ...   Mr. Frederick Stanley
Admiral Collingwood        ...   Mr. W. H. Brougham
Admiral White              ... ...   Mr. Geoffrey Weedall
Captain Hardy              ... ...   Mr. Adam Alexander
Captain Lebaudy          ... ...   Mr. Herbert Sleath
Lieutenant Portland          ...    Mr. Ernest Mainwaring
Mr. Lestrange              ... ...   Mr. Gilbert Wemys
Mr. Beaumont             ... ...   Mr. Cyril Catley
Tom Trip                     ... ...   Mr. E. M. Robson
Old Trip                     ... ...    Mr. Julius Royston
John Marston             ... ...    Mr. Tom Taylor
Bill Buckett                 ... ...   Mr. Charles H. Fenton
Joe Appleyard            ... ...   Mr. Geo. Hareton
Officer of Coastguard    ...    Mr. Frank Stribly
Harry Dell                 ... ...    Mr. Charles Glenney
Mabel Talbot             ... ...   Miss Keith Wakeman
Nelly Dell                   ... ...   Miss Florence Tanner
Polly Appleyard        ... ...    Miss Edith Bruce

     After a trial trip at Nottingham last week, particulars of which were duly recorded in the last number of THE STAGE by our local correspondent, The Mariners of England, with Horatio, Lord Nelson, as the central figure in the story, has been submitted to a London audience, and successfully so submitted, we make haste to say. No purpose would be served by drawing any comparison between this second of the Nelson plays and that produced a few weeks ago at the Avenue. It will suffice to tell such playgoers as having seen Nelson’s Enchantress, may think that they do not need to see another production on the same theme, that there is no similarity whatever between the two pieces. Even Nelson’s death in the cockpit of the “Victory,” which is the only scene represented in both plays, is differently presented, the death taking place at the Olympic towards the footlights, in full view of the house, whereas, in the Avenue play, it will be remembered, it was represented behind a gauze as in a dream (Lady Hamilton’s). There is a distinct and very welcome salt flavour about The Mariners of England, which will no doubt go far to ensure its success with popular playgoers who enjoy the salt of the sea just as they do the scent of the new-mown hay when it is wafted across the footlights to them. Nor can anybody’s susceptibilities be hurt in this production by the picture drawn by the authors of the greatest of England’s admirals. The good name of Nelson is upheld throughout, for he is presented to us as a man imbued with the idea of his country’s greatness, and, as a consequence, beloved and honoured by his men. Of Lady Hamilton we see nothing; nor, indeed, is any mention made in the course of the drama of the fascination this beautiful woman exercised over England’s naval hero. We hear the name only on the lips of the dying admiral when he says, “Take care of Lady Hamilton.” But, if we have no skeletons unearthed, the play contains, nevertheless, sufficient love interest to satisfy the average playgoer, whose taste, let the advanced psychologists say what they will, still lies in the direction of honest love rather than lawless passion. And the love interest in The Mariners of England is of the kind beloved by the patrons of melodrama, its course temporarily ruffled by the machinations of the villain, who seeks to fasten upon an innocent man a crime of which he knows him to be innocent. There is, perhaps, a little too much of the comic love scenes between Polly Appleyard and Tom Trip, and too little of Lord Nelson himself in Mr. Buchanan’s play. And this will be the more felt by the serious-minded portion of the audience, because the interpretation given of Nelson by Mr. W. L. Abingdon is in every way one of the best conceptions this actor has presented to the stage. Generally associated with villainy, it comes as a relief to see so clever an actor playing in a different vein in the masterly manner he does. The Olympic Nelson is a completely sympathetic character. There is, in turn, gentleness, as well as the tone of command in his voice, besides a happy blend of kindness and dignity, in his manner, according to whether Nelson is engaged in talking to pretty women or merely issuing orders to his men. And this being so, the spectator could well have seen more of Nelson. Mr. Abingdon’s make-up, too, no less than his acting, deserves a word of praise. He has managed to copy the portraits of the great Admiral, the matter even of his armless coat-sleeve being most perfectly arranged. Mr. Charles Glenney is the most manly and loyal of “salts,” besides being a true-hearted lover and staunch supporter of the wronged woman. As the sailor wrongly accused of attempting the life of Lord Nelson—which, as a matter of fact, he is instrumental in saving—Mr. Glenney obtains the full sympathy of the house, and deserves it; whilst execration is as legitimately bestowed upon, and merited by, Mr. Herbert Sleath for his impersonation of the gentlemanly villain, Captain Lebaudy. A villain of a totally different character falls to Mr. Tom Taylor, whose John Marston is an extremely well-thought-out performance. Another cleverly-portrayed character is that of the blind Admiral Talbot, furnished by Mr. Frederick Stanley. Not a very prominent part, perhaps, as the authors wrote it, but it becomes so in the actor’s hands. The Admiral Collingwood of Mr. W. H. Brougham forms also an agreeable adjunct to the picture, the chief characteristic of the impersonation being—and rightly so—dignity; this same quality being likewise contributed by Mr. Geoffrey Weedall and Mr. Adam Alexander, who appear respectively as Admiral White and Captain Hardy. Comic relief is afforded by Mr. E. M. Robson, whose Tom Trip, whether by the seashore, when he talks about Harry Dell, the waif, as his “son,” or in full regimentals on board H.M.S. “Victory,” is a very amusing performance. The smaller parts of Lieutenant Portland, two midshipmen, and others played by Messrs. Ernest Mainwaring, Gilbert Wemys, Cyril Catley, Julius Royston, Charles H. Fenton, George Hareton, and Frank Stribly are all in good hands, the cast generally having been well selected. Despite the number of names on the programme, only three are those of women. But there is none the less a deal of feminine interest in The Mariners of England. Admiral Talbot’s niece, Mabel, and the good-hearted Polly Appleyard furnishing the happy love scenes of the story; whilst disappointment and despair are very befittingly portrayed by Miss Florence Turner, who, as Harry’s foster-sister, Nelly, appeals in turn pleadingly and reproachfully to the villainous Captain Lebaudy to acknowledge her as his wife. The Mabel Talbot of Miss Keith Wakeman is a very pretty picture to gaze upon, for the actress looks quite charming in her high-waisted, clinging dresses. She plays, too, with the requisite grace and abandon, and gives and receives kisses in turn from Lord Nelson and her sweetheart, Harry Dell, in truly delightful fashion. What, however, would make Miss Keith Wakeman’s impersonation more agreeable would be a better control over her voice, the deeper tones of which sometimes prove a little trying to the audience. This slight drawback is partly natural, no doubt, but as we think with care it can be modified, we venture to draw the young actress’s attention to it. The mounting of the play has been very well carried out indeed, the coast scene of the old town of Dover of the first act, no less than the cliffs of the same town in the next act being such as to show the work of the scenic artist at his best. Whilst the exact reproduction of the deck of H.M.S. “Victory” and the place where Nelson fell, will afford huge delight to all who have gone over his historic vessel in Portsmouth Harbour.

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The Graphic (13 March, 1897)

The Theatres

BY W. MOY THOMAS

     IF Nelson’s Enchantress was but a succession of episodes in the private and public life of Nelson, the new Nelson drama with which Mr. Robert Buchanan and his collaborator, “Charles Marlowe,” have furnished the management of the OLYMPIC belongs emphatically to the old school of melodrama which regards a “plot,” as it used to be called, as an indispensable condition. Clearly the authors of The Mariners of England have no faith in the formless play, and look with distrust upon the impressionist method. So, after the good old fashion of Douglas Jerrold, Thomas Dibdin and the late Mr. Pettitt, they have constructed a piece in which virtue and romantic ardour once more contend for four long acts with villainy, subtle daring, and unscrupulous, till in the dramatists’ own good time the wrongdoer is confounded and the hero triumphantly vindicated. They set but little store upon absolute freshness in their materials, as is evident from the fact that their hero, rushing forward to prevent murder, is, through an unhappy combination of circumstances, mistaken for the assassin; for this, it will be remembered, was the cardinal situation in the play called One of the Best, brought out at the ADELPHI a year or two ago; but originality is not looked for in plays of this class. That the authors have set forth a plausible story will hardly be said. It is not easy to conceive a young officer of Nelson’s own ship, and a nephew of a venerable English admiral to boot, conspiring with a scoundrel and spy in the employment of Bonaparte’s Government to stab the hero of the Nile as he is taking a walk by moonlight on the cliffs at Deal, and then cast his body into the sea. Still more difficult to imagine is the notion of making Nelson condone this murderous attack upon himself lest the news of his young officer’s terrible depravity should distress the feelings of the latter’s venerable uncle. Anomalies, however, abound in the OLYMPIC piece, not the least being the free and easy fashion in which the old Admiral’s beautiful niece, Mabel Talbot, gives her heart to Harry Dell, an honest, able-bodied seaman, of the Victory, and spends her time in promenading with him upon the cliffs by moonlight, not to speak of the rustic dances in which the great folk of the neighbourhood and the honest peasantry mingle with a disregard of social distinctions that recalls Mr. Gilbert’s Bab Ballads. Nelson, it will have been perceived, has little to do with all this beyond the fact that he is supposed to be the object of the wicked plot and the murderous attack; but all this furnishes the excuse for an exciting court-martial scene, which has some affinity with the famous episode in Black Ey’d Susan, and prepares the way for the two tableaux of the third act, in one of which Nelson is beheld shot down on the deck of his ship in the moment of his triumph, and in the other is seen dying in the cockpit of the Victory. With all its large admixture of make-believe, however, the new drama appeared to greatly excite and please the first night audience. It is, on the whole, well acted; though Mr. Charles Glenney is hardly sufficiently romantic of aspect for the part of the young man-o’-war’s man, whose high-sounding speeches cast such a spell upon the Admiral’s niece in the comely person of Miss Keith Wakeman. Mr. Abingdon’s Nelson, though hardly so convincing as Mr. Forbes Robertson’s, is a well-studied and highly finished portrait, and other parts are cleverly played by Mr. Herbert Sleath, Mr. E. M. Robson, Miss Florence Tanner, and Miss Edith Bruce.

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The Athenćum (13 March, 1897 - No. 3620, p.356)

DRAMA
_____

THE WEEK.

     COMEDY.—‘The Saucy Sally,’ a Farce in Three Acts.
From the French by F. C. Burnand.
     OLYMPIC.—‘The Mariners of England,’ a Drama in Four Acts and
Two Tableaux. By Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe.

. . .

     Primitive almost beyond precedent is the melodrama in which Mr. Buchanan and his associate have chosen to enshrine some events, real or fictitious, of the career of Nelson. Every character in the play has been seen before in ‘Black-Eyed Susan’ or other nautical dramas. The piece is intended, however, for a primitive public, and is exactly suited to that at the Olympic. That it would make a strong impression upon a more sophisticated audience is improbable. It is well placed, however, and is in a sense well shaped and well written, and will probably have an enduring success in the country towns for which presumably it is intended. To see Nelson kidnapped or murdered by spies—one of them a naval captain—in the interest of Napoleon, and a plotted invasion, is a bold idea, not, however, very cleverly worked  out. The introduction of a mimic battle of Trafalgar, in which Nelson is wounded, and the presentation of the death scene in the cabin of the Victory are concessions to modern taste, and may well help the fortunes of the piece. Abundant absurdities might be pointed out, and the loudly avowed affection of the daughter of an admiral for a common sailor has a distinctly Gilbertian ring. Mr. W. L. Abingdon was well made up as Nelson, and in the less emotional scenes looked the character to the life. In the death scene, where strong facial play was used, the resemblance was lost. Mr. Charles Glenney gave a conventionally powerful rendering of a sailor hero, and Mr. Sleath showed decided talent as the villain.

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The Era (13 March, 1897)

THE OLYMPIC.
_____

On Tuesday, March 9th, the Romantic Drama,
in Four Acts and Two Tableaux,
by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, entitled
“THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND.”

Lord Nelson and Bronte ...    Mr W. L. ABINGDON
Admiral Talbot           ... ...    Mr FREDERICK STANLEY
Admiral Collingwood      ...   Mr W. H. BROUGHAM
Admiral White            ... ...   Mr GEOFFREY WEEDALL
Captain Hardy            ... ...   Mr ADAM ALEXANDER
Captain Lebaudy        ... ...   Mr HERBERT SLEATH
Lieutenant Portland        ...    Mr ERNEST MAINWARING
Mr Lestrange             ... ...    Mr GILBERT WEMYS
Mr Beaumont            ... ...    Mr CYRIL CATLEY
Tom Trip                   ... ...    Mr E. M. ROBSON
Old Trip                     ... ...   Mr JULIUS ROYSTON
John Marston             ... ...   Mr TOM TAYLOR
Bill Buckett               ... ...    Mr CHARLES H. FENTON
Joe Appleyard          ... ...    Mr GEO. HARETON
Officer of Coastguard    ...   Mr FRANK STRIBLY
Harry Dell                 ... ...   Mr CHARLES GLENNEY
Mabel Talbot           ... ...    Miss KEITH WAKEMAN
Nelly Dell                 ... ...    Miss FLORENCE TANNER
Polly Appleyard        ... ...  Miss EDITH BRUCE

     Mr Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay in concocting The Mariners of England have done a bold, clever, and ingenious thing. They have simply turned H.M.S. Pinafore back from roguish travestie to sober earnest. In the Olympic piece there is a “common” sailor—“Oh, the irony of the word!”—who loves his admiral’s niece; there is a Dick Deadeye of the most repulsive type; and there is a dénouement similar to that in which the bumboat woman with gipsy blood in her veins confesses that she “mixed the children up, and not a creature knew it.” The expedient adopted by the authors was completely successful, and The Mariners of England was received on Tuesday evening with every symptom of enthusiastic satisfaction.
     The action opens at Dover, and, after some preliminary discussion, we are introduced to Harry Dell, a sailor in the Navy; to his foster-sister, Nelly; to Miss Mabel Talbot, niece of Admiral Talbot, a blind old sea-dog; to Captain Lebaudy, the aristocratic villain of the play, and to John Marston, a plebeian spy in the pay of France. Harry is beloved by Mabel, and Lebaudy has seduced Nelly. In this act Nelson appears, and displays his historic gentleness and humanity. The first scene of the second act is on the Cliffs at Dover, near Admiral Talbot’s house. Lebaudy plans with Marston the assassination of Lord Nelson, who is to be disabled by Marston and his gang, and thrown over the cliff. Nelly meets Lebaudy, and implores him to marry her, threatening and beseeching by turns; but he is case-hardened against both influences. Polly Appleyard, a barmaid, warns Harry that there is something between his foster-sister and the Captain; and Harry’s hatred for Lebaudy is increased by his suspicions. Marston and his men attack nelson, and knock him down; Harry comes to the rescue, and, while Nelson is insensible, is wounded by Marston, who then makes his escape. Harry is accused by Lebaudy of the crime, strikes the villain to the earth, and is pursued by a party of coastguardsmen to Fairlight Cove, where he leaps into the sea, a coastguard who had grappled with him being shot, in error, by the detachment. Harry, though he gets away to France, cannot endure his reflections; and returns in the third act to give himself up for a trial, which takes place in the state cabin of H.M.S. Victory. Here a court-martial pronounces Harry Guilty; but Nelson, who has been interesting himself in the case, orders Marston to be brought in, and the latter completely exonerates Harry, without, however, “peaching” on Lebaudy. The villain, therefore, is able to bring forward the charge against Harry of having struck his superior officer. Nelson again interferes in favour of the honest sailor. In an interview with Lebaudy in the presence of Captain Hardy, Nelson tells the former that he—Nelson—has learned from Marston of Lebaudy’s share in the assassination scheme. nelson then dismisses Lebaudy from the service, afterwards making Harry a lieutenant. The hero is thus able to take part in the battle of Trafalgar, which is depicted in powerfully picturesque fashion in the first tableau of this act, Nelson’s death in the cockpit of the Victory being shown in the second tableau. In the last act, Lebaudy, at the point of death from remorse, confesses that Harry, now a captain, is Admiral Talbot’s own son, thus completing the satisfaction of the lovers and the audience.
     Nelson, it will be observed, plays an important part in the plot of The Mariners of England; and an able representative of our great naval hero was found in Mr W. L. Abingdon, whose dignity and expressive ease were admirable in the character. Those who have only seen Mr Abingdon as a villain of the deepest dye can have no idea of how he can combine stately courtesy with humane sentiment, unless they have also seen him as Nelson. In the trial scene, especially, he showed us the great sea captain self-controlled, sedate, but full of feeling and tenderness. In the death scene, so simply pathetic that it almost “acts itself,” Mr Abingdon was, of course, highly effective. Mr Frederick Stanley gave a well-marked and sharply finished portraiture of Admiral Talbot; and Mr Adam Alexander lent mellow colouring to the character of Captain Hardy. Mr Herbert Sleath’s performance as Captain Lebaudy was genuinely artistic, his performance from first to last being clever, consistent, and carefully worked out. It made an excellent impression; and was extremely creditable to the able and conscientious actor. Mr Tom Taylor made John Marston just the grim, surly ruffian that was required, suggesting with skill the dash of mitigating manliness in the ruffian’s nature. Mr E. M. Robson as a smuggler who is afterwards pressed into the marines created considerable amusement by his quaint drollery, and was smartly assisted in his efforts by Miss Edith Bruce in the soubrette part of Polly Appleyard. Miss Florence Tanner put much passionate feeling into Nelly’s scene with Lebaudy in the second act, and was generally sweet and sympathetic. Miss Keith Wakeman employed the well-modulated notes of her fine voice expressively in her agreeable impersonation of Mabel Talbot, and was duly dramatic in the more serious scenes in which she had to take part. Mr Charles H. Fenton suggested with skill the senility of Bill Bucket. Mr Charles Glenney’s bold, manly, and energetic impersonation of Harry Dell won the hearts of the audience from start to finish. In every sense of the phrase he filled the part, and the strength and solidity of his embodiment were as keenly appreciated as its earnestness. The minor parts were all creditably sustained.
     Separate notice is due to the mounting, which was complicated, elaborate, and artistic. We were shown most graphically the heat and hurry of the naval engagement in the scene on the deck of the Victory. Decided credit is due to Mr William Holmes, the producer of the piece, for the excellent way in which the grouping of the sailors, marines, and officers have been arranged and for the complete manner in which they have been trained in their business. Seldom has an engagement at sea been so realistically represented on the English stage. The tableaux carry us away into the thick of the combat, and rouse the audience to a high pitch of patriotic and pugnacious excitement. Mr Robert Buchanan and Miss Jay are to be thanked for having given form and shape on the boards to one of the most memorable incidents of England’s history. But the whole of the scenery by Messrs Bruce Smith and Walter Drury is excellent, and will appear to still greater advantage when certain trifling defects of setting, quite excusable in such a difficult production, have been removed. Mr A. G. Bagot merits warm praise for the accuracy of the naval details, all of which he superintended. They added very valuably to the success of the piece. The Mariners of England is vividly interesting, thrillingly patriotic, and illusively effective. If patriotism and hero-worship are not dead within the breasts of the population, the Buchanan- Marlowe play ought to fill the Olympic Theatre to the doors for many months to come.

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The Illustrated London News (13 March, 1897 - p.4)

THE PLAYHOUSES.

“THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND,” AT THE OLYMPIC.

Admiral Field will be less happy than ever, for while he objected to “Nelson’s Enchantress” as transferring to the stage that emotional background of the great Admiral which is quite historical, “The Mariners of England,” produced at the Olympic on March 9, makes Nelson the victim of a would-be assassin, the patron of a romantic love affair, and the sidelight on a long-lost-heir story, which owe their existence solely to the vivid melodramatic imagination of Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe” (Miss Harriet Jay). In the town of Dover blind old Admiral Talbot consoled himself for the loss of his son by keeping his niece Mabel (Miss Keith Wakeman) and his nephew Captain Lebaudy (Mr. Herbert Sleath) in his house. He wanted Mabel to marry the Captain, but she preferred a village lad, Harry Dell (Mr. Charles Glenney), who had been rescued from a wreck, and went into the Navy under Nelson. Need it be said that he was Talbot’s son, the fact being suppressed by Lebaudy, who, not content with robbing him of his birthright and his sister—whom he secretly married—wished to destroy his chances of marrying Mabel? Lebaudy, who was in league with France, planned an assassination of Nelson (Mr. W. L. Abingdon), who was staying with old Talbot, on the cliffs at Dover. The Admiral’s life was saved in the nick of time by the appearance of Dell. That hero was arrested as the assassin, and was court-martialled on board the Victory. But the real perpetrator, a man Marston, who had been dismissed from the Navy for espionage, was captured, and Nelson got the whole story out of him, with its crowning implication of Lebaudy, who was cashiered from the service quietly by nelson, eager not to break Talbot’s heart. Here the story proper ends, but no drama about Nelson would be complete without a tableau of his death in the cockpit of the Victory; while no melodrama would go forth without the inevitable act in which the curtain is rung down on explanations, on forgiveness, on vice punished and virtue made happy. So in the fourth act we find Lebaudy dying and confessing, Dell—now raised to the rank of Captain—returning in a white wig and glory, and finding a resting-place in his father’s arms. The play is very workmanlike at many points, even although it is unmistakably a modern melodrama put back into the glorious days of Trafalgar; but it is not dull, and, on the whole, it is very vividly acted.

marinerspicthmb

The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (13 March, 1897 - p.24)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.

     THE second of the Nelson plays of which we hare heard so much of late, has now been produced in The Mariners of England from the pens of Mr. Robert Buchanan and his pseudonymous collaborator Charles Marlowe; and it turns out to he hardly a Nelson play at all. There is, it is true, one big scene made out of the famous incidents of the death of the brave victor of Trafalgar, and this episode is perhaps the most impressive in the drama. But so far as its main plot is concerned the piece has very little more to do with Admiral Nelson than with any other typical naval commander; and, as one of the authors has himself explained, Lord Nelson is practically only the deus e machina of a simple story with a historical background. But this story is by no means a bad one of its kind, though it is perhaps a trifle jerky in some of its action; and its dialogue certainly has a literary character superior to that of the average nautical melodrama.
     The hero of The Mariners of England is a gallant young sailor named Harry Dell, upon whose head a series of misfortunes are brought through the enmity of a certain Captain Lebaudy, who resents bitterly the mutual love between him and Mabel, the daughter of Admiral Talbot. When the play opens, Nelson—without Lady Hamilton, who, in fact, is not introduced to us at all—is staying at the house of Admiral Talbot after the battle of the Nile. While there, he is set upon and almost murdered through a rather inexplicable conspiracy between Lebaudy and a subordinate ruffian named Marston. Through the opportune assistance of Harry Dell, Nelson beats off his assailants; but poor Harry, having been wounded in the scuffle, is suspected and roundly accused of having been one of the attacking party. Then follows one of those ding-dong struggles between persecuting villainy and injured innocence, which are always watched by popular audiences with so much sympathetic interest. At first the prayers of Mabel on behalf of her lover have as little effect as his own protestations. He is tried by court-martial on board the Victory, where, after having bravely abandoned the notion of making his escape, he has determined to clear his character or suffer the punishment for a crime which he has not committed. Through the perjured evidence of Captain Lebaudy he is almost convicted, even though Nelson’s belief in his guilt has been shaken; but at the critical moment the real criminal is, of course, discovered, and thus the condemnation of Marston implies Harry’s acquittal. This is the main thread of a romance which is sufficiently stirring in its simple way, and is certainly dignified by such passages of fact as are interwoven with its fiction. The play is arranged in four acts and many tableaux, several of which are very effective indeed, thanks to the scenery provided for the production under the management of Mr. Herbert Sleath. The interpretation, moreover, is a capable one all round, while it has several features of special merit. Mr. Sleath himself makes a decidedly favourable impression by his unstagey rendering of the unredeemed rascality of Captain Lebaudy, and Mr. Charles Glenney is, of course, well up to the requirements of the hero’s much-enduring bravery. Miss Keith Wakeman looks well and speaks well as Mabel, while that diminutive comedian, Mr. E. M Robson, with the sprightly Miss Edith Bruce, looks after the comic relief in a thoroughly efficient manner. Finally,  Mr. Abingdon is to he praised for his really pleasing and even touching embodiment of Lord Nelson, whose death-scene could hardly be handled with more picturesque pathos upon the stage. The Mariners of England was received at the Olympic with the heartiest possible welcome.

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Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (14 March, 1897 - p.6)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.

     In The Mariners of England Messrs. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe” have provided a stirring and healthful drama of Nelson’s days without attaching scandal to the greatest of British naval heroes. It is a nautical piece of the style for which audiences have ever shown a decided preference. The brave and honest tar is presented in the most favourable light, and the crafty villain deserves even more contempt than he receives when his plots to wreck the good name and happiness of cheery Harry Dell are exposed. Nelson is the cause of the young sailor’s disgrace as well as his restoration to honour. The Admiral is attacked while walking at night by the seashore, and Dell comes to his rescue, but it is made to appear that he was among the assailants. Dell surrenders himself on board the Victory, and is tried. The evidence is altogether against the prisoner, when suddenly Nelson produces a witness who puts an entirely new complexion upon affairs. Less surprising to the habitual play-goer is the discovery that Dell si the long-lost son of Admiral Talbot; and that, on the ground of social position no less than of gallant conduct and general rectitude, he can claim the hand of the devoted Mabel, hitherto his superior from the worldly point of view. This is the story, told with directness, simplicity, and perfect command of dramatic effect. After Dell’s innocence is proved comes the battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson in the cockpit of the Victory. Both from the pictorial and histrionic aspects this portion of the drama is exceedingly well done, the tableaux being striking in their realism, whilst Mr. W. L. Abingdon pathetically illustrates the final moments of the beloved commander. Harry Dell has an energetic representative in Mr. Charles Glenney; the subtlety of the chief scoundrel is unobtrusively yet clearly defined by Mr. Herbert Sleath; and Miss Keith Wakeman makes a sympathetic heroine. The incidental comic passages devolve upon Miss Edith Bruce and Mr. E. M. Robson. There are the elements of popularity in The Mariners of England.

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The Sketch (17 March, 1897 - p.2-3)

YET ANOTHER NELSON.

Nelson aut nihil may yet have to find a place at the end of every dictionary that explains mottoes in Latin. Never has the great Admiral had such a year. To begin with, there were two reprints of Southey’s fine biography. Then came Professor Laughton’s handsome picture-book on Nelson, with its fine array of portraits, including the one which Sir William Beechey (1753-1839) painted. Meanwhile Mr. Clark Russell has been running our only hero in the pages of the English Illustrated Magazine, while Captain Mahan’s great work on Nelson is being eagerly awaited on both sides of the Atlantic. Then the theatre stepped in, much to the dismay of Admiral Field. On Feb. 11 Mr. Forbes-Robertson produced Risden Home’s play at the Avenue, “Nelson’s Enchantress,” and on March 9 the unhappy Olympic opened, under the auspices of Mr. Herbert Sleath, with “The Mariners of England,” a melodrama worked round Nelson by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, who is, of course, Miss Harriet Jay. Thus, at the present moment, we have two Nelsons in the flesh, to say nothing of the effigy in Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s—Mr. Forbes-Robertson at the Avenue, and Mr. W. L. Abingdon at the Olympic. All we want to complete the picture is Mr. Charles Godfrey, who should once more mount the column at the Oxford, and give us the patched eye which both Mr. Forbes-Robertson and Mr. Abingdon shirk.

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     The name of Nelson gives an air of romance to the simple sea-story of Harry Dell, who in the play at the Olympic actually wins the battle of Trafalgar by the indirect process of saving the life of the great Admiral when on shore. Harry, who for many years believed himself to be of humble origin, but was really of good family, had the courage to raise his eyes to the beautiful niece of Admiral Talbot, and the fortune to induce her to lower hers to him favourably. Now, Captain Lebaudy, her cousin, who was anxious to marry her, not only disliked rivalry, but keenly hated the idea of having a common sailor as his rival. Moreover, he was deeply entangled, since, during Harry’s absence at sea, he had wronged Harry’s step-sister under a promise of marriage.
     The French, it is needless to say, in those days had their spies in England—nor were we unserved in France—and Captain Lebaudy, of the Royal Navy, was in their secret service, and served them with such intensity of disloyal loyalty as to conceive the infamous idea of murdering the great Admiral who stood between France and her dearest designs. It was not very difficult to contrive a comparatively safe plan of murder, though it was not easy to find men base enough to carry it out. However, alas! there never was foul plot unperformed for want of villains, and Lebaudy found his men—among them Jack Marston, alias Black Jack. Nelson was staying down at Dover, and, it might be assumed, would walk on a summer’s evening along the famous white cliffs, and for half-a-dozen men to stun the one-armed hero and hurl him to the distant beach seemed easy. But Captain Lebaudy reckoned without Harry, who, arriving in the point of time, saved Nelson when he had been struck down, and put the rogues to flight, receiving himself from Black Jack a sword-slash on the wrist. Harry’s calls for help were answered by Miss Talbot and Captain Lebaudy. The Captain, furious at the failure of his plot, saw his way to revenge and also to put away his rival; so he denounced Harry as one of Nelson’s assailants.
     Harry’s sweetheart advised him to fly. Fighting his way with his wounded  hand, Harry got free and reached France, but  found life unendurable with such a stain on his name as came from the charge and his flight; so he made his way back to England, and got on to Nelson’s flagship, the Victory, just as she was about to start on her glorious fatal enterprise. His request for a court-martial was granted instantly, and he may have regretted that he did not postpone it till the officers had a little more time to devote to the task of trying a human being; for after the barest formalities, and on evidence insufficient to warrant the death of a duck, the Court was about to sentence him to death, when nelson stepped forward and introduced a witness in the person of Black Jack, who promptly asserted that Harry was the rescuer and not the assailant of Nelson, so, instead of being hanged, he was raised to the rank of Lieutenant.
     The rest is history, and I need not speak of the battle of Trafalgar, at which Harry acted heroically, or the death of Nelson at the supreme moment. That Harry came home, married his sweetheart, and lived happily ever after, can easily be guessed.
     The melodrama has been very handsomely mounted, and the tableaux of the deck of the Victory when Nelson was struck, and the dying scene in the cockpit, are presented admirably. Miss Keith Wakeman played charmingly as the heroine, Miss Florence Tanner acted well as Harry’s sister, and Miss Edith Bruce was energetic and amusing in a soubrette part. Mr. Sleath gave an able, if somewhat crude, performance as Captain Lebaudy, and Messrs. Abingdon and Glenney played the parts of Nelson and Dell in a fashion that seemed to please the house.

nelsonsmall03

From The Theatrical ‘World’ of 1897 by William Archer (London: Walter Scott, Ltd., 1898 - p.81)

“THE MARINERS OF ENGLAND.”

                                                                                                                                                   17th March.

     As I can find nothing praiseworthy in the conception, construction, or writing, and nothing noteworthy in the acting, of The Mariners of England, by Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe,” and as, on the other hand, it is too puerile to call for serious condemnation, I prefer to pass it over in silence. It was cerainly rather painful to see the death of Nelson treated as a limelit scene of vulgar melodrama; but fortunately one had long ago ceased to associate, even in make-believe, the figure on the stage with the name in the playbill.

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The Mariners of England - continued

 

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