Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

must, according to the present order of things, have Belcour, and Lewson, in the garb of the fashionable young man of the day; i. e. with round hats and trowsers, and with small swords by their sides : a sight to which the gazers' eyes are wholly unaccustomed. But-without their weapons, some indispensable scenes would be lost!

Might it not, at once, be better, or, indeed, highly advantageous, to preserve the exact habits of the times wherein the scenes are laid-by which the objections just surmised, would be removed ; and the spectator would enjoy the additional gratification of seeing how their forefathers and great grandmothers “looked, and moved, and had their being ?” This would also disencumber us of another absurdity which attends the mismanaged business of stage dressing. Every one has seen Bickerstaff's opera of “Love in a Village;" and must have observed the vast inconsistency which prevails in the dresses worn in the representation.

Rosetta and Lucinda appear as two modern, muslin-clad misses ; Hawthorn, an old-world sportsman, with the drab-coloured shooting-jacket, leathern leggings, &c. of a Shropshire squire of yesterday, yet admitting himself, boastfully, to be coeval with Justice Woodcock, who is habited like nothing that any one has ever seen in real life, and seldom even in pictures; his wig and coat belonging partly to the days of Queen Anne, and partly to those of George II. Sir William Meadows is not nearly so much out of fashion as the Justice, though ridiculously remote from modernism. And as for young Meadows, he is enforced to flash upon Rosetta, and the house, at the conclusion of the opera, the facsimile of one of the specimen dandies to be seen in the tailors' and clothiers' windows of 1841.

This will never answer; and, as I have already said, objectionable as in many respects it may be, it would, on the whole, prove more instructive, more exciting, and less ridiculous, that the stage dresses should illustrate the manners, thoughts, and language of the times belonging to the story of the drama, let that relate to what period it may.

EXTREMES IN HUMAN STATURE.

I have, in the course of my life, by accident, seen what may be denominated the two extremes of human formation : Simon Paap, and Monsieur Behin. The first named was two feet four inches; the latter, very nearly eight feet high.

A question might arise as to which of the two suffered most inconvenience, from the peculiarity which distinguished each of them from the ordinary race of men.

The dwarf was a Dutchman; well made, and active; and just twenty-seven years old. He was politely educated; had the manners of a gentleman ; and spoke both French and English. He gave me a very rational account of himself; and said that he

was born of the usual size of infants, but was told that his growth stopped just as he attained his third year: his nose appeared to have ceased growing soon after his birth; it was like that feature in a child of a week old. His shape, in other respects, was good : the head remarkably round, and not much too large for complete proportion.

At the time of his being exhibited in public, I had a conversation with him, which led to his making an observation indicative of good sense. He said that, of course, he regretted not being of the usual dimensions of his species, but had no hesitation in declaring that he thought himself infinitely more fortunate in being of the size to which nature had condemned him, than if he had been of a gigantic height; and in this he certainly was reasonable. Less of everything, it was obvious, sufficed for his accommodation: he could be easily disguised ; and as easily transported from place to place. And it was reported that he enjoyed both air and exercise, unobserved by passengers, being frequently dressed as a little child, and so led by the hand; or even carried about, as a baby in arms. Paap wrote for me, with pen and ink, a sentence in English on a slip of paper, signed with his name, and stating that he was born near Haarlem, was in his twenty-eighth year, was twenty-eight inches high, and weighed twenty-seven pounds. He tendered me one of his top-boots to be measured: it was seven inches in length; the foot, four inches and a quarter.

Monsieur Behin, a Belgian, and Simon Paap's mighty contrast, was exhibited on the stage of more than one Theatre Royal: he appeared to be about thirty years of age, had a handsome oval face, and was well and proportionably shaped; indeed, better made than most tall men are. He was bulky, as may be concluded, but not fat; his shoulders were broad, but graceful, and he had nothing ungainly in his air or movement. He rushed, like something unearthly, on the stage, and fronting the audience, wearing a white hat and plumes; but immediately after stood bare-headed, and in low-heeled boots; but so standing, caused the performers who surrounded him, to seem like boys and girls. His muscular strength was said to be suited to his amazing height and largeness of bone. Any clumsiness perceptible in his outline, was in the articulation below his knees : his height was exactly seven feet ten inches of our measure. But his appearance suggested the reflection that the preference which the dwarf gave to his own dimensions, in comparison with those of so enormous a person as Behin, was judicious.

The giant had no benefit whatsoever from his magnitude, except the income he could raise by showing himself for money; and this he must sacrifice, were he to walk abroad in search of exercise and fresh air. No artifice could disguise him ; if he travelled, it must be on the outside of a stage-coach, or extended in a waggon; for no horse could carry him. He could rest on no bed except one made and furnished expressly for his use. His clothing and meals would probably cost twice as much as those of an ordinary man, and ten times as much as would be required by Simon Paap. And as to his bodily strength, in this our day of laws, and civilization, it was so much power thrown away, and of no use at all.

He has, besides, to apprehend an early dissolution : no human structure anything like so large as Behin's, was ever known to last to old age. A dwarf may live as long as others : Jeffery Hudson, a pigmy famous at the period of the Parliament wars, lived to see his sixtieth year; and the Polish Count, scarcely three feet high, died not long since in Yorkshire, and was at least ninety.

John Taylor, the water-poet, in his life of old Parr, does not allude to his being above the common size. But in fact the tall hardly ever live our appointed threescore years and ten. One exception, however, I may mention before concluding this article, in the person of Colonel Thomas Winsloe; of whom a gentleman who saw the Colonel about the year 1764, I think, used to say that he was a tall man, and must have shrunk considerably from his original length. The Colonel's story, as he often related it to his visiters early in the reign of George III., in the part of Ireland where he lived and died, was most astonishing. He said he had arrived in Ireland as

« ForrigeFortsæt »