[Kate Rorke as Fanny Goodwill.]
The Daily Telegraph (9 March, 1888 - p.3)
A very few words must suffice on the present occasion to record the complete and deserved success yesterday afternoon of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s five-act play, “Joseph’s Sweetheart.” Following the principle he adopted in the case of “Tom Jones,” and with even greater success, the thoughtful dramatist has discarded everything from Fielding’s “Joseph Andrews” that belonged to a more outspoken and coarser age than our own, but has preserved all that is generous and human which illumine the pages of this work of genius. Once more Mr. Buchanan has made Fielding live, and presented his hearty English nature, the scenes amongst which he moved, the beaux, the blades, the homely country folk, in a manner that will be appreciated by students of the stage, as well as by those who desire to gaze upon the manners and customs of their ancestors. The genial, loveable Parson Adams; the manly, chivalrous Joseph, ever a man and never a virtuous prig; the charming Fanny Goodwill, as fresh and sweet as the violets in the English lanes she roams in; the passionate, vindictive, and unscrupulous Lady Booby; the burly Sir George Wilson, living in solitude with his silent grief; the scented, exquisite Lord Fellamar, the chatterbox Slipslop forerunner of Sheridan’s Mrs. Malaprop, and all the sparks and frail beauties of Ranelagh, pass in review before us, and as they change and counterchange we experience three distinct pleasures—the warm glow of humanity, a picture of old times, and, last but not least, a thoroughly good play. We have to congratulate Mr. Thorne not only on the good taste he has bestowed on this memorable ;production, but on his personation of dear old Parson Adams, which will considerably exalt him as an actor of tenderness and humour in the eyes of the public he has served so well, and we shall return with sincere pleasure to the greater detail and analysis of a work which may claim a place in stage literature as one of the best plays of the kind produced since “Olivia” and “Sophia.” Mr. Robert Buchanan was, of course, called when the curtain fell, and bowed his thanks in the centre of the company that one and all had done him such excellent service. Mr. H. B. Conway, Miss Vane, Miss Kate Rorke, Miss Eliza Johnstone, Mr. Frederick Thorne, Mr. Cyril Maude, Mr. William Rignold, and a new and clever actor, Mr. J. S. Blythe, all shared in the general congratulations. The playgoer of to-day, satiated with so much that is foolish in taste and false in art, is under a debt of gratitude to Robert Buchanan for bringing honest hearty Henry Fielding on to the scene.
The Globe (9 March, 1888 - p.2)
MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN and a few writers for the Press appear to have jumped a little too readily to the conclusion that Sheridan adapted his Mrs. Malaprop from Fielding’s Mrs. Slipslop. He may have done so, but it is impossible to be sure that he did. There was one Dogberry, the invention of one Shakespeare, whose “nice derangement of epitaphs” may well have suggested a female Dogberry both to Fielding and to Sheridan, whose Mrs. Malaprop, by the way, is an infinitely more humorous creature than the rather thin creation of Fielding.
A CORRESPONDENT writes:—“Unless mine ears deceived me, Parson Adams, at the Vaudeville yesterday, was guilty of a couple of anachronisms in his speech. He spoke of Barabbas as having been a publisher—which joke was made originally by Lord Byron; and he also had a reference to the fact that the pen is mightier than the sword—which remark is made by Richelieu in Lord Lytton’s play. And yet Parson Adams lived before either Lord Byron or Lord Lytton.”
The Era (10 March, 1888)
A New Comedy-Drama, in Five Acts, by Robert Buchanan,
Founded on Fielding’s Novel “Joseph Andrews,”
Played for the First Time at the Vaudeville Theatre,
on Thursday Afternoon, March 8th, 1888.
Joseph Andrews ... ... ... Mr H. B. CONWAY
Sir George Wilson ... ... ... Mr WILLIAM RIGNOLD
Llewellyn ap Griffith ... ... Mr FREDERICK THORNE
Gipsy Jim ... ... ... Mr J. S. BLYTHE
Squire Booby ... ... ... Mr SCOTT BUIST
Lord Fellamar ... ... ... Mr CYRIL MAUDE
Sir Harry Dapper ... ... ... Mr FRANK GILMORE
Parson Adams ... ... ... Mr THOMAS THORNE
Fanny Goodwill ... ... ... Miss KATE RORKE
Mrs Slipslop ... ... ... Miss ELIZA JOHNSTONE
Mrs Adams ... ... ... Miss GLADYS HOMFREY
Abe ... ... ... Miss BOWMAN
Mrs Green ... ... ... Miss BESSIE HARRISON
Lady Spangle ... ... ... Miss GRACE ARNOLD
Lady Flutter ... ... ... Miss BANNISTER
Lady Booby ... ... ... Miss VANE
Lord Supple ... ... ... Mr SILVESTRE
Gamekeeper ... ... ... Mr AUSTIN
Constable ... ... ... Mr WHEATMAN
Lord Fellamar’s Servant ... ... Mr WILSON
In attempting to find materials for a play in “Joseph Andrews,” in the same way as he successfully dealt with Sophia, Mr Buchanan set himself a second task much harder than his first. Having said so much with reference to the foundation of Joseph’s Sweetheart, we need not enter into any elaborate essays upon the origin of Mr Buchanan’s play. The question is, after all, not how much or how little the dramatist is indebted to Fielding, but at how much advantage he has invested his borrowings, and how he has arranged his own narrative. There is no suspicion of caricature about Mr Buchanan’s Joseph. He is a first-rate hero, muscular and admirable entirely, and his livery suits him excessively well. We find him in the first act in Lady Booby’s boudoir, and here he is wooed by that amorous dame, and his sweetheart Fanny is favourably “remarked” by that very fine gentleman Lord Fellamar. Lady Booby’s declaration is followed by Joseph’s rejection of her proposal of marriage, and an accusation by her against Joseph of his having grossly insulted her leads to his dismissal from her service. We find him, however, hale and hearty, in the second act, at Parson Adams’s cottage. Here Lord Fellamar’s Welsh chaplain and “creature,” Llewellyn ap Griffith, comes and, pretending to be a publisher anxious to buy Adams’s sermons, gets him out of the way, and assists Lord Fellamar to carry off Fanny. Joseph enters, and with the Parson’s assistance is beating down the ravishers when Griffith, to save his patron, stabs Andrews, who falls wounded, whilst Fanny is borne away. In the next act we find the wealthy Sir George Wilson in his lonely manor-house lamenting the loss of his only son, who was stolen away by gipsies when a mere child. A certain Gipsy Jim is brought up by the constables, and makes the restoration of Sir George’s lost offspring the price of his (Jim’s) release. Parson Adams arrives to seek shelter at the manor house, having been turned out of his living by its patron the revengeful Lady Booby; and after Joseph has been introduced and has vowed vengeance on Lord Fellamar, the gipsy returns and discloses the fact that Andrews is Sir George’s son. We are next taken to Lord Fellamar’s house, where Fanny is a prisoner. Fellamar, in a fit of irritation, chastises Griffith, who, in retaliation, goes over to the enemy, and advises Fanny to ask Fellamar to take her to see Ranelagh, where he (Griffith) will arrange for her rescue. Thinking that she is yielding to his proposals, the peer consents; and in the last scene of the act we get to Ranelagh Gardens, where most of the principal characters arrive. Fellamar pursues Fanny into a kiosk, and locks the door. Joseph in the full pride of his gentlemanhood, enters, bursts down the door, and releases her. Fellamar’s friends gather round him with drawn swords; but they are confronted by Adams and Griffiths with his friends. Andrews strikes Fellamar, and dares him to a deadly combat, which takes place in the last act, but not coram populo, and Fellamar is wounded, Joseph being saved by the MSS. of Adams’s sermons being used to serve as a shield for his vitals. Fellamar acknowledges Fanny’s innocence, Lady Booby departs chagrined and defeated, the lovers are united, and Adams is presented by Sir George Wilson with a living of a hundred a year.
The mounting of the piece was learned, lavish, and elaborate. Lady Booby’s boudoir in the first act was a literal reproduction of a well-known cartoon from the series of “Marriage à la Mode.” The exterior of Adams’s cottage, with its real thatch and glass, was a striking instance of the combination of actual construction with clever cloth and profile painting. Lord Fellamar’s room in the fourth act was carefully finished, though the insertion of a modern French picture on the chimney piece was a strange archæological error. Ranelagh Gardens was a bright and pretty set, and the tavern in which the last act was played, with its spits and dish-covers, was a model scene of its kind. The costumes, too, were picturesque, accurate, and appropriate. The only defect of the play is its lack of continuous and centralised interest. We are occasionally “switched” off the main line of the story into a siding, and there is also a good deal of dialogue which is redundant. Nor is it only words that might be dispensed with. The last act is unnecessary, and Joseph might just as well punish Lord Fellamar at the end of the fourth, so far as dramatic interest is concerned. Nevertheless, marvels have been worked ere now by judicious curtailment and revision; and the fresh purity of its tone, the dramatic nature of its stronger scenes, and the healthy humour and honest pathos which pervade the piece, make Joseph’s Sweetheart a charming and agreeable play.
A better Joseph Andrews than Mr H. B. Conway it would be hard to find. With the sturdy frame and personal comeliness which account for the praises lavished upon Joseph by Lady Booby and Mrs Slipslop, he combined the dramatic experience and ability necessary for the depiction of the not very exacting character. Joseph has, in truth, little to do save to make love enthusiastically, and to be made love to with as good a grace as may be; and both of these functions Mr Conway performed admirably. Mr William Rignold’s solid and dignified style was well suited to the part of Sir George Wilson; and Mr Frederick Thorne looked the dissipated and subservient little Chaplain to the life, and reminded us strongly of the sketch of a similar personage in Thackeray’s own illustrations to “The Virginians.” Mr J. S. Blythe electrified the house by a sudden powerful burst of dramatic energy as Gipsy Jim, and his performance throughout was strikingly graphic and picturesque, both in make-up, attire, and general treatment. Mr Scott Buist, a meritorious actor, who has won his present position by indefatigable perseverance against somewhat discouraging beginnings, played Squire Booby cleverly and firmly throughout; and Mr Cyril Maude made an excellent Lord Fellamar, the mingling of the dandy and the libertine in the character being marked with commendable discretion and judgment. Mr Thomas Thorne had in Parson Adams one of those parts of which he possesses a kind of monopoly. The quaint absurdities and inconsistencies of the good pastor were so pleasantly commingled with the virtues of the man that the audience at once took Parson Adams into their personal friendship, and respected his goodness while they laughed at his oddity. To achieve such a result demands excellent art on the part of the actor, and Mr Thorne added another leaf to the laurels he has won in comedy by this excellent impersonation. There was no attempt to shirk the comic side of the character, but the serious passages were delivered with so much sincerity that flippancy was silenced and a reverence begotten which forbade ridicule; and event he spectacle of the Parson with a lobster-claw nose beset by a bevy of light ladies in Ranelagh failed to destroy the respect which Mr Thorne’s Adams had won. Miss Kate Rorke as Fanny Goodwill had only one strong scene, that in which Fanny is kept prisoner by Fellamar, and assisted by the Chaplain; but of this she made the very most, and was throughout a charming sample of a fresh, honest, affectionate country maiden. Miss Eliza Johnstone as Mrs Slipslop had a part which was replete with “fat,” and did not fail to take advantage of her many opportunities, making her Malapropisms with perfect naturalness; and Miss Gladys Homfrey was just the kind of woman one imagines the real Mrs Adams to have been. Last, but perhaps most important of all, we come to Miss Vane, who played Lady Booby. We have seldom seen a piece of acting so thoroughly satisfactory. From the earlier and lighter scenes, where the veneer of fashion yet covers Lady Booby’s real character, to the concluding exit, in which her nature is disclosed in all its moral ugliness, Miss Vane depicted through all its shades of feeling the infatuation of the fine lady as it gradually worked havoc in her disposition, and led her on from mere brazen audacity to jealousy, conspiracy, and heartless bitterness. A truer picture of a strongly marked type has not been seen on our stage for some time. That Miss Vane was no less of an adept at the delivery of rhymed verse than at that of prose was shown by her admirable recitation, before the curtains separated at the commencement, of the following prologue:—
Ladies and Gentlemen,—Behold in me
A wicked dame of the last century,—
Just brought to life again before your gaze,
To hint the fashion of forgotten days,
When Garrick, bent to woo the comic Muse,
Changed the high buskin for soft satin shoes,
And frolicking behind the footlights, showed
Love à bon ton and marriage à la mode!
La, times are changed indeed since wits and lords
Swagger’d in square-cut powder’d wigs, and swords!
Picture the age!—A lord was then, I vow,
A lord indeed (how different from now!)
And trembling Virtue hid herself in fear
Before the naughty ogling of a peer.
Abductions, scandals, brawls, and dissipation,
Were rich men’s pleasure, poor men’s consternation,
While Fashion, painted, trick’d in fine brocade,
Turn’d Love to jest, and Life to masquerade!
Well, ’mid the masquerade, the pinchbeck show,
When Folly smiled on courtesan and beau,
Some noble human Spirits still drew breath,
And proved this world no hideous Dance of Death!
Sad Hogarth’s pencil limn’d the souls of men,
And Fielding wielded his magician’s pen!
Off fell the mask that darken’d and concealed
Life’s face, and Human Nature stood revealed!
Then rose Sophia, at Fielding’s conjuration,
Like Venus from the sea—of affectation;
Then madcap Tom showed in his sport and passion
A man’s a man for a’ that, spite the fashion;
Then Parson Adams, type of honest worth,
Born of the pure embrace of Love and Mirth,
Smiled in the English sunshine, proving clear
That one true heart is worth a world’s veneer!
And now our task is, in a merry play,
To summon up that time long past away;
To bring to life the manners long outworn,
The lords, the dames, the maidens all forlorn—
A tableau vivant of the tinsel age
Immortalised on the great Master’s page!
Hey, presto! See, I wave my conjurer’s cane!
The Present fades—the dead Past lives again—
The clouds of modern care dissolve—to show
Life à la mode a hundred years ago!
The Referee (11 March, 1888 - p.3)
Robert Buchanan's second adaptation from Fielding—“Joseph’s Sweetheart” (based upon “Joseph Andrews”)—was tried at the Vaudeville on Thursday afternoon, and met with deserved success. I say deserved advisedly, for all readers of “Joseph Andrews” will admit that it is difficult to adapt that story for the stage—more difficult even than “Tom Jones.” “Joseph Andrews” was intended as a travestie of Richardson’s goody-goody nauseous novel, “Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded,” and also as a means to the end of girding at Actor-manager Colley Cibber, whom Fielding regarded as “pison.” Buchanan, pointing out in a singularly modest preface that all that is bad in “Joseph’s Sweetheart” is his own, has attacked his subject boldly. Some may say too boldly, and may give off remarks about mutilating the works of great men, and so forth. No one reverences great men more than yours truly, but I hold that in adapting a story for the stage your first aim should be to make an actable and interesting play, and to that end you should only take from your novelist as much material as will serve your purpose. This is what Buchanan has done, and the result is a play which, up to the end of the third act, is as strong as need be. The fourth will be all the bettor for considerable cutting; while the fifth might with advantage be omitted altogether. In the other parts of the piece Buchanan’s alterations are mostly sage and discreet. In this they are the reverse. Nevertheless, with judicious revision, “Joseph’s Sweetheart” (which was put into the evening bill on Friday) should attract for some to come.
After Lady Booby has stepped forward and delivered an appropriate prologue, in which Buchanan’s bardic skill is manifest, you discover Lady B.’s boudoir, and after some topical tittle-tattle, chiefly led by a wild Welsh chaplain (introduced), the virtues of Lady B.’s footman, J. Andrews—a fine, manly young fellow—are sung by all and sundry. Ere long the well-known scene in which Joseph’s virtue is attempted by Lady Booby is realistically re-enacted, minus a few of Fielding’s details, which could hardly be expected to pass the eagle eye of Play Licenser Pigott. Joseph, as of yore, remains firm in spite of all temptations, for his heart is true to Fanny—née Goodwill, who presently calls in to see him, accompanied by the Rev. Abraham Adams—one of the finest characters the great novel-writing Bow-street magistrate ever drew. The parson proceeds to give off considerable amusing dialogue on divinity, the classics, and domestic matters, and Fanny chronicles small beer. Anon Lady B. returns, and, making a general clearance, again lays violent siege to Joseph in a very pronounced manner. On J. repulsing her in righteous horror, she borrows still more from the Potiphar cause célèbre than even Fielding did, and, in a strong scene, charges Joseph with indecent assault. Then is Joseph chucked, while Lady B., consumed by rage, plots aside with a wicked peer, Lord Fellamar (introduced), who has been ogling Fanny, to get the girl into his power. All this, and the Rev. Adams’s fiery denunciation of the aristocrats, form a powerful curtain to Act. I. Anon Adams, Joseph, and Fanny (who is Adams’s foster-daughter) return chez Adams, and all seems at peace. But, after some capital comedy business, and a strong melodramatic scene, in which the Parson protects a picturesque gipsy named Jim (introduced) from an infuriated mob, and gets in return promises of reformation, we find that the licentious Lady B., Lord Fellamar, and his creature, the Wild Welsh Chaplain, are lurking around. Watching his opportunity, the wicked Welshman, look you, sends Adams on a wild-goose chase about getting his sermons published, and attempts to carry off Fanny to Fellamar. A fearful struggle ensues, Gipsy Jim returning to give the parson the tip and to assist at rescue. Adams and Andrews also return and assail the abductor, when Fellamar and his creatures overpower them, and, stabbing Joseph in the back, carry off the shrieking Fanny, to appropriate music and London.
In the third act you find Sir George Wilson (altered from Fielding’s Merchant Wilson, and made stronger and more pathetic) lamenting the stealing of his son three-and-twenty years ago. Anon, Adams and Andrews, in full pursuit of the abductors, but travel-worn and hunger-stricken, call in for succour, and after a good deal of anguish, well worked up, Gipsy Jim, who has just been brought before Wilson for poaching, points out that the wounded and starving Joseph is the boy he (Jim) stole from Wilson three-and-twenty years ago, and again the act-drop falls amid much excitement. The next act is taken up with showing Fanny in the lordly libertine’s toils, her struggles to preserve her honour, and her being set in a way to escape by the Wild Welshman, who now seeks revenge for a beating Fellamar has given him. Next, after a tedious front-scene, you see Ranelagh, whither Fanny is brought by Fellamar. Here she makes a heartrending but ineffectual appeal to the harlots and libertines standing around, and finally, after Fellamar has caged her in a kiosk O. P., she is rescued by the now lordly Joseph and Adams &c., &c., Joseph bashing Fellamar, and denouncing him as a coward. Act V. is merely taken up by the inevitable duel, by sundry explanations, and a clever rhymed tag.
There is some fine acting in “Joseph’s Sweetheart.” First, I must place Kate Rorke, whose Fanny is sweet and pathetic throughout. I warrant me Fanny will draw tears from your eyes, when she is surrounded by satyrs, panders, and what not, and you will not wonder at J. Andrews’s constancy. Miss Vane, a fine figure of a woman, plays splendidly as Lady Booby, but the character is far too long. A good deal of her gloating over her pure little rival might easily be left out. She isn’t wanted at all either in the front scene in the fourth act, or in any part of the fifth. Miss Eliza Johnstone is a right merry Mrs. Slipslop (retaining all Fielding’s wheezes, barring the coarseness). Miss Gladys Homfreys is a statuesque and genial Mrs. Adams. Thomas Thorne’s Parson Adams is at once humorous and powerful, stronger and more finished than his Partridge. But this part also sadly needs cutting down by at least a third. As the Wild Welshman, Fred Thorne did not score so much as is his wont, but it is a stupid part and hardly wanted at all, even in his one big scene, where he represents a sort of eighteenth-century Hawkshaw pretending to be asleep on a table. H. B. Conway is seen to great advantage as Joseph, acting in a fine, manly fashion throughout, and William Rignold is highly impressive as Joseph’s long-sorrowing father. Sound successes were made by Mr. Cyril Maude as the licentious Lord Fellamar, Mr. Scott-Buist as Squire Booby, and by Mr. J. S. Blythe (whom some seem to regard as a new actor) as the intense Gipsy Jim. The play is splendidly mounted.
The Stage (16 March, 1888 - p.14)
On Thursday afternoon, March 8, 1888, was produced a new five-act comedy drama founded by Robert Buchanan upon Fielding’s novel “Joseph Andrews,” and entitled:—
Joseph Andrews ... ... ... Mr. H. B. Conway
Sir George Wilson ... ... ... Mr. William Rignold
Llewellyn ap Griffith ... ... Mr. Frederick Thorne
Gipsy Jim ... ... ... Mr. J. S. Blythe
Squire Booby ... ... ... Mr. Scott Buist
Lord Fellamar ... ... ... Mr. Cyril Maude
Sir Harry Dapper ... ... ... Mr. Frank Gilmore
Parson Adams ... ... ... Mr. Thomas Thorne
Fanny Goodwill ... ... ... Miss Kate Rorke
Mrs. Slipslop ... ... ... Miss Eliza Johnston
Mrs. Adams ... ... ... Miss Gladys Homfrey
Abe ... ... ... Miss Bowman
Mrs. Green ... ... ... Miss Bessie Harrison
Lady Spangle ... ... ... Miss Grace Arnold
Lady Flutter ... ... ... Miss Bannister
Lady Booby ... ... ... Miss Vane
Lord Supple ... ... ... Mr. Silvestre
Gamekeeper ... ... ... Mr. Austin
Constable ... ... ... Mr. Wheatman
Servant ... ... ... Mr. Wilson
In Joseph’s Sweetheart Mr. Buchanan has boldly and successfully dramatised a very ticklish story. Fielding’s novel is perhaps well known to our readers, and so we will merely skim over the incidents Mr. Buchanan has brought together for his play. Joseph Andrews is in the service of Lady Booby, who is so enamoured of her servant as to openly declare to him her unconquerable passion. On the other hand Joseph’s sweetheart, Fanny, has aroused the unlawful desires of Lord Fellamar, whose attentions to the poor girl are encouraged by Lady Booby for her own vile ends. Joseph spurns his mistress’s advances and so inflames her anger that she accuses him of making overtures to her. So poor Joseph is dismissed from her house. In Act 2 Joseph and his beloved Fanny are found in company with Parson Adams, to them enters Llewellyn ap Griffiths, Lord Fellamar’s chaplain. The latter, pretending that he is a publisher, offers the parson a large sum of money for his unpublished sermons, contrives to get him out of the way, and then, with the assistance of Lord Fellamar and his servants, carries off Fanny, but not before Joseph and the parson—who has re-entered—have given the scoundrels a sound thrashing. In the affray Joseph is wounded by Griffiths, and sinks to the ground as his beloved is borne off by her captors. In Act 3 we find Sir George Wilson in his manor house brooding over the past, and recalling sad memories of his dead wife and his lost son, who when a child has been stolen by gipsies. Gipsy Jim—who had formerly promised to stick to Joseph through thick and thin in return for some kindness shown him—now enters, brought in by constables. On condition that he is permitted to escape free he promises Sir George that his lost son shall be found. Act 4 shows us a room in the house of Lord Fellamar in which the Welsh chaplain Griffiths is recovered from a drunken stupor. Griffiths is assaulted by Fellamar, and in revenge swears to protect Fanny, who is a prisoner in Fellamar’s house. True to his word Griffiths manages Fanny’s escape by planning a ruse. Fanny is to accede to Fellamar’s desire to accompany him to Ranelagh Gardens without demur. Griffiths is to be on the spot, and with a few faithful followers is to secure her freedom from her would-be ravisher. This plan succeeds. Fellamar and Fanny visit Ranelagh Gardens. Here nearly all the characters are cleverly brought together by the dramatist. Fanny, heartbroken and despairing of relief, rushes madly from a gay throng of painted and shameless women into a wooden house, pursued by Fellamar. Griffiths calls together his band and is about to commence a rescue when Joseph appears. A scene between Fellamar and Joseph ends in the latter striking Fanny’s abductor and challenging him to a duel. In Act 5, a tavern near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Fellamar’s second appears and questions the right of Joseph to fight with a gentleman. Sir George enters and declares Joseph to be a man of birth—his own son. Joseph goes off to fight Fellamar. The latter shortly after returns badly wounded, and asks forgiveness for the pain he has caused all. Joseph forgives him, and at the same time gives some well-timed advice to Lady Booby, who has come to gloat over what she thinks the ruin of Fanny and the defeat of the man she has so passionately admired. Thus Fanny and Joseph are once more united, and Parson Adams finds in Sir George a firm friend and patron. Despite a want of cohesiveness, Joseph’s Sweetheart is a cleverly contrived play—one that should bring in a rich harvest to the Vaudeville management, who on Friday placed it in their night bill. The piece is prettily staged, perhaps the most natural set ever seen upon the boards is the thatched cottage of Parson Adams—a delightfully rural looking structure, without the slightest sign of the stage carpenters’ or painters’ hands. The interiors, too, are all well designed and painted sets, reflecting the greatest credit on all concerned. Mr. Conway is to be congratulated upon his success as Joseph. He not only looks the part perfectly, but also plays it with much freshness and vigour, giving a picture that is almost inseparable from the play. Mr. Rignold is well suited as Sir George, of which part he gives a dignified and characteristic portrayal. Mr. Fred Thorne as the little backcrawler, the Welsh parson, looks and acts admirably, his fire-eating speeches being received with great laughter. A hit is made by Mr. Blythe as the outcast, Gipsy Jim. His make-up and performance are equally good. Mr. Maude shows much skill and refinement as Lord Fellamar, and Mr. Buist as Squire Booby gives a most acceptable impersonation. Parson Adams, a dear old fellow, after the style of the Vicar of Wakefield, full of contentment and thankfulness for his present welfare, yet having enough of the old Adam in him to resent a blow with a blow, is capitally played by Mr. Thos. Thorne, who gives equal attention both to the serious and the comic side of the character. The most difficult character of Lady Booby is admirably enacted by clever Miss Vane. How many actresses could successfully portray this part without giving offence, we wonder. Miss Vane, like a true artiste, sinks all personal feeling, and depicts to the life the lustful and revengeful woman, who, unable to carry out her designs upon Joseph, seeks to destroy his happiness by blasting the fair fame of his loved one. A hateful character grandly played. Miss Johnstone as Mrs. Slipslop—another Mrs. Malaprop—appears to revel in the part. She gives her lines with a seeming unconsciousness that is most enjoyable. Another clever performance comes from Miss Homfrey as Mrs. Adams. A perfect picture of the old parson’s loving spouse is given by this actress, whose appearance is well suited to the character. Pretty Miss Rorke as Fanny looks charmingly and acts with much modesty and freshness of style, contributing a sketch of a dear little country maiden, such as we should imagine Fanny to be—gentle and affectionate.
Before the play on its first production Miss Vane stepped in front of the curtain and admirably delivered the following prologue:—
The Athenæum (17 March, 1888)
VAUDEVILLE.—‘Joseph’s Sweetheart,’ a Drama in Five
Acts, founded on Fielding’s ‘Joseph Andrews.’ By Robert
OLYMPIC.—Revival of ‘Christina,’ a Drama in Four Acts.
By Percy Lynwood and Mark Ambient.
ROYALTY.—‘Le mariage de Figaro.’
IF the ghost of the author of ‘The Temple Beau,’ ‘The Tragedy of Tragedies,’ and ‘The Intriguing Chambermaid’ is permitted to revisit “the glimpses of the moon,” and take an interest in mundane affairs, it must be a little disconcerted to see what a mine of wealth lay unexplored in the novels which it has been reserved for the present day to dramatize. With his power of characterization and his many other eminent gifts, Fielding might easily have given us the best dramas of his epoch. His plays were, however, as a rule, written in haste to serve a temporary purpose, and though they swell Fielding’s literary baggage do not rank beside his novels. The idea, meanwhile, that the ramblings of Partridge or the advances of Lady Booby could be fitted to the stage does not seem to have struck Fielding or any of his contemporaries or successors. To Mr. Buchanan belongs the credit of first seeing how much that is dramatic was buried in Fielding’s two masterpieces, and of turning it to profitable account. ‘Joseph’s Sweetheart,’ as Mr. Buchanan calls his adaptation of ‘Joseph Andrews,’ is a brisker and more stimulating drama than ‘Sophia.’ It is a strong, rather roughly constructed work, which appeals directly and forcibly to the sympathies. That it is representative of the great work out of which it is dug Mr. Buchanan will not claim. The judgment of the adapter is, indeed, best seen in the manner in which he has selected from the huge amount of matter at his disposal. Presenting us with a fresh and tender interest in the shape of the loves of Joseph Andrews and Fanny Goodwill, he has in the approved fashion placed it in the midst of a world of cynicism which serves it as an effective background. Lady Booby, to whom the troubles of the lovers are mainly due, is rather too fiendish to win acceptance. The other characters are, however, fresh and natural. Mr. Thorne’s company has had meanwhile a training in Fielding, and its success in dealing with the creations of the great novelist is creditable and even surprising. The pleasing qualities and eccentricities of Parson Adams are presented by Mr. Thomas Thorne with a moderation that is thoroughly artistic, and that never subsides into tameness. Mr. H. B. Conway is an admirable exponent of Joseph Andrews. Miss Kate Rorke is a winsome Fanny, and Mr. F. Thorne is a singularly fiery and entertaining Llewellyn ap Griffith. Exercising a conscientiousness eminently artistic and creditable, Miss Vane exhibits all the worst features of Lady Booby, one of the most thankless parts a woman has often been called upon to play. Not less well represented are the remaining characters, and the Lord Fellamar of Mr. Cyril Maude, the Squire Booby of Mr. Scott Buist, Mr. William Rignold’s Sir George Wilson, and Miss Eliza Johnstone’s Mrs. Slipslop prove satisfactory. Much care had been taken with the rehearsals, and the whole went with much spirit. Out of a microcosm such as is Parson Adams to extract a work so shapely and so effective as ‘Joseph’s Sweetheart’ is creditable to Mr. Buchanan, and to assign Fielding’s characters so much recognizable individuality is honourable to the manager. The piece will probably run for hundreds of nights. It is only to be hoped that familiarity with the parts will not lead the actors to degenerate into the farcical extravagance from which their present performance is free.
The Illustrated London News (17 March, 1888 - p.7)
A few months ago there was a discussion about the condition of Henry Fielding’s grave in the Protestant cemetery at Lisbon. Some officious person wrote to the papers that it was shamefully neglected; but it all turned out to be ridiculously untrue, for the grave is of solid stone—ære perennius—and it is surrounded by flowering shrubs and mournful cypresses, and the English ladies who visit Lisbon never fail to scatter roses on the solid sarcophagus containing all that is left of the author of “Tom Jones” and “Joseph Andrews.” Mr. Robert Buchanan has just added one more flower of graceful literature to the author’s memory, for he has given us even a better play than “Sophia.” The Vaudeville ought to be crowded every night until the end of the season with audiences anxious to see and enjoy “Joseph’s Sweetheart.” Little did Fielding dream what a good play would be made out of his first story. As everyone knows, Fielding was a dramatist of considerable renown long before he dreamed of writing a novel, and his first venture was launched in order to vex Richardson and cast ridicule on his “Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded.’ Richardson was in the odour of sanctity, Fielding was a Bohemian; Richardson was among the elect of society, Fielding was out in the cold. But the righteous soul of Henry Fielding rebelled against all this sugary sentimentality and fatuous Phariseeism, so he resolved to imitate Cervantes, to give us a new Don Quixote, to immortalise his old friend and scholar the Rev. William Young, and to sketch a lusty handsome footman who should resist temptation, whether it came from mistress or maid, and who should have as much real virtue as a dozen Pamelas. The bare idea of dramatising “Joseph Andrews” seemed to the uninitiated even more daring that that of giving us a stage version of “Tom Jones.” But there is nothing succeeds like success, and encouragement has given heart to Mr. Buchanan’s work. We get the outlines of the story very fairly presented, and the chief characters very adequately sketched. It is distinctly unfair to say that Fielding has suffered at the hands of the dramatist. We cannot get his incomparable language, or the whole fruit of his satire; but we certainly do get his humanity, his fresh breezy nature, his virility, and his English spirit, which, after all these years, puts to shame the mawkish stuff of the female satirists of to-day—women who occupy the stage with so-called society dramas, and who, when they do not poison, add to the discontent and indifferentism that check the healthier aspirations of the young. If we do not get Fielding pure and simple, we get a breath of him. We are no longer taken to stuffy divorce courts, or to unwholesome boudoirs, or to the orgies of the drunken and the dissolute; but away we go to the sunny cottage of Parson Adams, that affords so pleasant a contrast to the Hogarthian home of Lady Booby. The temptation of the immaculate Joseph by his indolent, scheming mistress; the proud boy’s banishment to his country home; the scheme of the defeated woman to ruin Fanny Goodwill in order to revenge herself on her honourable lover; the abduction of Fanny; the discovery of the wealthy father of Joseph, now no longer a servant; the rescue of Joseph’s sweetheart from the snares of a libertine; the duel between Andrews and Lord Fellamar, and the subsequent reconciliation—all these incidents are dovetailed into the scheme of the drama with remarkable skill, and make up a play of singular interest. And who shall say that we do not get a speaking likeness of our old friends in the Parson Adams of Mr. Thorne, the Lady Booby of Miss Vane, the Joseph of Mr. H. B. Conway, the Fanny of Miss Kate Rorke—all of them performances of conspicuous merit. There is no better comedy-acting to be found than in this cast. Parson Adams, with his gentle heart and veiled pugnacity, his keen sense of honour and love of Æschylus, his beneficent charity and comical absence of mind, is made a lifelike creation by Mr. Thomas Thorne, whose recent advance as an actor is very remarkable. In the long gallery of his successful personations—Caleb Deecie, Tom Pinch, old Partridge, and the rest—the new Parson Adams will take a very prominent position, for it is firmly drawn and painted in brilliant and lasting colours. Miss Vane is also to be congratulated on her nice artistic sense and bold handling of Lady Booby—a most difficult character to play, and one that requires immense tact to steer to success. Mr. Conway and Miss Rorke make a delightful pair of lovers, free wholly from mawkish sentimentality and both as bright and breezy as the downs from which they come, in the characters of Joseph and his sweetheart. A strong bit of sound dramatic character-acting comes from Mr. J. S. Blythe, who plays Gipsy Jim, a scamp who eventually proves the correct birth and parentage of Joseph. Mr. Blythe has the voice and manner of Mr. Fernandez, and some of his electric force as well. Other excellent assistance comes from Mr. F. Thorne, Mr. Scott Buist, and Mr. Cyril Maude, who gives a very clever sketch of a man of fashion under the Georges. How Thackeray would have liked to see this wholesome play, which is enjoyable in itself, and a wholesome antidote to much that is false and foolish elsewhere!
The Academy (24 March, 1888 - p.212)
THE COMEDY AT THE VAUDEVILLE AND
“THE BLOT ON THE ’SCUTCHEON.”
IN presenting an adaptation of Joseph Andrews at the Vaudeville, Mr. Buchanan takes occasion to refer to the success of his version of Tom Jones, and to say that that proved how unnecessary it is, in dramatising the great masters, “to preserve the coarseness of their period as well as the humanity of their genius.” The sentence is neatly turned, and it expresses one side of the truth. Mr. Buchanan, when he deals with Fielding, does preserve, I think, “the humanity of his genius.” That inspires Mr. Buchanan to write acceptable and genial, if sometimes ill-constructed, plays; but Mr. Buchanan does not in the strict sense “dramatise” Fielding at all. Nor could Fielding, in the strict sense, be dramatised without the retention of a great deal of what Mr. Buchanan condemns as coarseness. The fact is, Fielding was a very penetrating student of human nature. Fielding actually wrote what Thackeray declared no modern novelist would dare to write—the history of the average young man. Hence a certain element of coarseness, a certain plainness of speech, which, in the treatment of the novelist by Mr. Buchanan, must be at once got rid of. If Mr. Buchanan’s pieces pose as substantially accurate stage versions of rollicking and powerful eighteenth-century fiction, I hold them to pose unwarrantably. But if they assert themselves only as engaging “variations” on a theme which a great master has supplied—and especially as variations suitable to the day, and suitable to the requirements of Mr. Thorne and an always competent company—I accept them cheerfully, as such. Nay, notwithstanding here and there a common repartee and inappropriate retort, I think them, on the whole, very dexterous and agreeable playwright’s work, inasmuch as they do bring upon the stage effectively nearly all of Fielding’s characters that can properly be brought there. The last of them affords opportunity for a thorough stage realisation, not of the book indeed, but of Parson Adams, of his wife, and of the young woman in whom he shows so legitimate an interest. Joseph Andrews himself is not quite so adequately presented by the dramatist, because he is deprived of at least one important motive for action. He is not tempted as his sister Pamela was. And Lady Booby, as Mr. Buchanan conceives her, is unnatural and inconsequent. Had it occurred to her to propose marriage to Joseph, it would not have occurred to her, on his refusal, to charge him with violence. That could only have been the act of the Lady Booby whom Fielding, and not Mr. Buchanan, imagined—a Lady Booby gross and ungoverned: a Potiphar’s wife.
One makes these qualifications—these reservations—in one’s approval; but, that being done, it is easy to express, likewise, the pleasure and interest which the piece affords. I do not inquire further, too closely, into the ingredients of the dish. The dish is palatable, and looks well at table, or, to put it in other words, the play sustains its interest; the evening is occupied pleasantly; scenery and stage arrangement of these old-world characters are alike excellent; and the acting, which is never seriously amiss, is, as regards certain players, quite without fault. Every kind of physical advantage has been bestowed on Mr. Conway. He can be hearty with grace; he is sympathetic and chivalrous. Yet he is not a perfect, though he is, no doubt, a fascinating Joseph Andrews. He wants naïveté. He is honest and brave; but he is not absolutely simple. Now, the Lady Booby who, in Mr. Buchanan’s rendering of the story, “importunes” Joseph “with love in honourable fashion,” and makes many tenders of her affection towards him—and afterwards gives proof of her innate vulgarity and inconceivable spite—is represented skilfully, and with discretion, by Miss Vane, who is seen far better in the part of one who deems herself fascinating than she was some weeks ago in the part of one who is really found to be so. The method of Miss Eliza Johnstone—who comes for the nonce from Toole’s Theatre—is wont to be pungent. She plays well as that maid of Lady Booby who was the true ancestress of Mrs. Malaprop. Miss Homfreys—large and matronly, domestic and smiling, dressed neat and clean in quiet browns and sober tea-greens—realises, in appearance at least, Mrs. Adams to the life. Miss Kate Rorke is Fanny. This young artist was so successful as Sophia, and so admirable in “Heart of Hearts,” that much has come to be expected of her. She is deservedly a playgoer’s favourite. Fanny, however, does not give her quite such opportunities as were found in the other two plays. As it is, Miss Rorke makes Fanny impulsive and ingenuous, natural and charming, though she cannot make her very varied. The cleverest thing in her performance is the inexplicable flavour of rusticity with which, from beginning to end, she contrives to endow it. Hers is undoubtedly a dramatic temperament. Mr. William Rignold is almost needlessly sententious as Sir George Wilson—of whom Joseph Andrews is the long-lost son; but Mr. Rignold, whatever his mannerisms, must, at all events, have the credit of suggesting a man with a sorrow. Mr. Royce Carleton would have played Gipsy Jim more powerfully than the present performer of the part; but the part, after all, is a small one. Mr. Scott Buist does well as Squire Booby; and Mr. Cyril Maude most excellently well as the graceless Lord Fellamer, who, at the instigation of Lady Booby, carries off the screaming fair. Mr. Frederick Thorne gives us a good bit of character-acting as Llewellyn-ap-Griffith. His make-up is excellent; his face very curiously Welsh. I have kept Mr. Thomas Thorne’s Parson Adams to the last, because it is distinctly the most finished performance in the play. Few of the parts played by a manager who has never been unduly ambitious have allowed him to be so very varied; few have been filled by him with such significant and telling, yet always delicate, details. And, unlike more than one actor of acquired position, Mr. Thorne scarcely ever introduces a detail that may not belong to the picture. Thus, in his performances, the effect remains broad and true, though the touches by which it is obtained are many and intricate. Throughout the play we have the sense of the very presence of Fielding’s good parson; a picture of Adams, placid of countenance, benign of gesture, with his long white bands and his rusty cassock—a man so human that he was wont indeed to be “filled with ale,” and was now and then ecstatic in condition at the sight of a game pie—but so domestic that he preferred his ale at home, “however sour,” “to any vintage of Falerno.”
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (31 March, 1888 - p.19)
OUR CAPTIOUS CRITIC.