BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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152
THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
and in other years, we believe, the cost has been considerably more ;—and yet this enormous expenditure left no impression on the popular memory,—mere stage-trick being far below the exhi­bition of a juggler. True it is, that clever artists have been, for many years, employed to design and paint the scenery of the pan­tomimes ; and, consequently, admirable pictures have been exhib­ited,—especially at the national theatres, where this feature, indeed, constitutes the main attraction of the evening's perform­ance. The stupid tragedy of " George Barnwell," produced for the sake of the city apprentices, was formerly the usual prelude to the Christmas pantomime, on the night of St. Stephen's day. Hone, in his Every Day Book, has chronicled that " the repre­sentation of this tragedy was omitted, in the Christmas holidays of 1819, at both theatres, for the first time." To be sure, this dull affair answered the purpose as well as any other,—it being an established rule with the tenants of the theatrical Olympus, that nothing shall be heard, save their own thunders, previously to the pantomime, on St. Stephen's night. The most famous pantomime which has been played in our time is, unquestionably, Mother Goose. When it was produced, or to whom the authorship is ascribed, we know not; but in 1808, it was revived, and played at the Haymarket, with an additional scene, representing the burning of Covent Garden Theatre. The pantomimes of the last thirty years have failed to effect a total eclipse of the brilliancy of " Harlequin and Mother Goose, or the Golden Egg;" which found its way into the list of provincial stock-pieces.
Connected with this golden age of English pantomime, the recollection of Grimaldi—Joey Grimaldi, as the gallery folk delighted to call him—is an obvious association. His acting, like that of Liston, must have been seen to be understood or appreci­ated ; for no description can convey an adequate idea of the power of expression and gesture. They who have not seen Joey, may never hope to look upon his like ; and they who have seen him, must never expect to see his like again. On the English stage, never was clown like Grimaldi!—He was far more than a clown —he was a great comic actor. But his constitution soon gave way under the trials to which it was exposed. In the depth of winter, after performing at Sadler's Wells, he was brought down,
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