Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Cure for Romance?

Recent research maintaining that young women have unrealistic expectations of love and marriage as a result of watching romantic films demonstrates a prejudice that is not confined to the 21st century.

This theatre review was in “The New British Ladies Magazine” for October 1819.
The plates are from “The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to their Use and Amusement” for the same year and show that an interest in the Gothic was not confined to the play’s heroine. Top: “The Captive Nun”, Middle: “Mazeppa, Bottom: “The Bride of Lammermoor”.

The Cure for Romance

This successful operetta is founded (as we understand) on a novel of no great celebrity, and is very similar in its plot to Catherine and Petruchio, except that the object is to shew the means of curing a romantic, and not of taming a shrewish spirit.

Caroline, the daughter of Drake, a simple London poulterer, has had her mind filled so completely with the visions of the circulating library, that she disdains to think of any man for a husband, whose character does not correspond with her notions of a hero. Charles Clover is smitten with the fair enthusiast, but perceiving that he should have no chance if he wooed as a common lover, he assumes the fascinating name of Orlando, writes verses and billets-doux to his mistress, and having ultimately prevailed on her to elope with him, takes her to an old ruined castle, which he pretends is his residence, and appears to her in the garb and under the character of a captain of banditti, with the odious name of Humphrey Shufflebottom.

Although Caroline had of course read a great deal about gentlemen of this profession, she finds that, however delightful in imagination, they are in fact no very agreeable associates. This experience, the absence of all the attentions and accommodations to which she has been accustomed, and other considerations of an appalling and disgusting nature, make a powerful impression on her and the result is, that her delusion being removed, she is appraised of the stratagem which has been practised on her, and no longer hesitates to accept the proffered hand of her lover.
The idea is good; and as far as the author has gone, is tolerably well executed: but we think much more might have been made of it. The denouement is hurried on just as the interest becomes powerfully excited. All the performers exerted themselves, especially Mrs Chatterley, (who both looked and played delightfully,) Wrench, the hero, and Harley, the hero’s servant, who introduced a song in ridicule of those pests of society, as they are at present constituted - circulating libraries, in which there were several neat points. It was loudly encored; as was a very sweet and harmonious glee that was sung in the course of the performance.

The mind boggles as to what the “other considerations of an appalling and disgusting nature” might have been. An absence of indoor plumbing, perhaps? Authors should note - Humphrey Shufflebottom is not a good name for your hero.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Louise Allen


Anonymous said...

LOL! Nope, not a very romantic name for a hero. But now I want to see that play! *grin*

Jan Jones said...

Excellent post, Louise!

He just found this old, ruined castle lying around and appropriated it, did he? Very enterprising.

Not sure a banditti captain would be the first thing I'd think of confronted with a name like Humphrey Shufflebottom...

Anonymous said...

It is very reassuring to know that views have changed so little over the years!

PS - I have taken quite a fancy to Humphrey Shufflebottom!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laugh, Louise. Like others, I'm beginning to think about Humphrey Shufflebottom.

Now that would be a challenge, wouldn't it, to see whether any of us could write a tale in which the hero really was called Humphrey Shufflebottom? Not easy, I'd say.

Mind you, I've just read (Sir) Terry Pratchett's Going Postal in which the "hero" is called Moist von Lipwig. I did warm to him, in spite of his name and his background: he is hanged on page 1 which is a bit of an impediment to hero-dom...

Happy New Year to everyone.