Carols of Cockayne (published by John Camden Hotten, London) 1872
Once upon an evening weary, shortly after Lord Dundreary
With his quaint and curious humour set the town in such a roar,
With my shilling I stood rapping — only very gently tapping—
For the man in charge was napping — at the money-taker’s door.
It was Mr Buckstone’s playhouse, where I linger’d at the door;
Paid half-price and nothing more.
Most distinctly I remember, it was just about September—
Though it might have been in August, or it might have been before—
Dreadfully I fear’d the morrow. Vainly had I sought to borrow;
For (I own it to my sorrow) I was miserably poor,
And the heart is heavy laden when one’s miserably poor;
(I have been so once before. )
I was doubtful and uncertain, at the rising of the curtain,
If the piece would prove a novelty, or one I’d seen before;
For a band of robbers drinking in a gloomy cave, and clinking
With their glasses on the table, I had witness’d o’er and o’er;
Since the half-forgotten period of my innocence was o’er;
Twenty years ago or more.
Presently my doubt grew stronger. I could stand the thing no longer,
“Miss,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore.
Pardon my apparent rudeness. Would you kindly have the goodness
To inform me if this drama is from Gaul’s enlighten’d shore?”
For I know that plays are often brought us from the Gallic shore:
Adaptations — nothing more!
So I put the question lowly: and my neighbour answer’d slowly,
“It’s a British drama, wholly, written quite in days of yore.
’Tis an Andalusian story of a castle old and hoary,
And the music is delicious, though the dialogue be poor!”
(And I could not help agreeing that the dialogue was poor;
Very flat, and nothing more.)
But at last a lady entered, and my interest grew center’d
In her figure, and her features, and the costume that she wore.
And the slightest sound she utter’d was like music; so I mutter’d
To my neighbour, “Glance a minute at your play-bill, I implore.
Who’s that rare and radiant maiden? Tell, oh, tell me! I implore.”
Quoth my neighbour, “Nelly Moore!”
Then I ask’d in quite a tremble — it was useless to dissemble—
“Miss, or Madam, do not trifle with my feelings any more;
Tell me who, then, was the maiden, that appear’d so sorrow laden
In the room of David Garrick, with a bust above the door?”
(With a bust of Julius Caesar up above the study door.)
Quoth my neighbour, “Nelly Moore.”
I’ve her photograph from Lacy’s; that delicious little face is
Smiling on me as I’m sitting (in a draught from yonder door),
And often in the nightfalls, when a precious little light falls
From the wretched tallow candles on my gloomy second-floor,
(For I have not got the gaslight on my gloomy second floor,)
Comes an echo, “Nelly Moore!”
- “David Garrick” — David Garrick (1717–1779) was one of the most famous and successful stage actors and producers of his day, but this refers to the comic stage play about him, by Thomas William Robertson (1829–1871), in which Nelly Moore (see note 5, below) starred, on its initial run in 1864.
- “The Castle of Andalusia” — A comic opera, written in 1782 by Samuel Arnold (1740–1802) and John O’Keefe (1747–1833).
- Lord Dundreary — Lord Dundreary was a comic character in Tom Taylor’s 1858 play “Our American Cousin”.
- Mr Buckstone’s playhouse — Actor, comedian and playwright John Baldwin Buckstone (1802–1879) was manager of the Haymarket Theatre from 1853 to 1877.
- Nelly Moore — Nelly Moore (1844/5–1869) was a British stage actress who died of typhoid fever at the age of only 24. “The last-named fascinating actress,” wrote T Edgar Pemberton in 1904, “was at that time one of the greatest favourites on the London stage.”
- Lacy’s — Thomas Hailes Lacy was an actor, playwright, theatrical manager, bookseller and publisher, operating from The Strand in London. Presumably you could go to his bookshop to buy an image of your favourite actor.
Return to the Quaint and Curious index for more pastiches and parodies of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.