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MY DEAR SIR,—I am sufficiently well-
educated, and sufficiently refined in my tastes
and habits, to be a member of the large class
of persons usually honoured by literary courtesy
with the title of the Intelligent Public.
In the interests of the order to which I
belong, I have a little complaint to make
against the managers of our theatres, and a
question to put afterwards, which you, as a
literary man, will, I have no doubt, be both
able and willing to answer.

For some months past, I have been
proposing to address you on the subject of these
lines. But, on reflection, I thought it best to
wait until the Festival Performances in
celebration of the marriage of the Princess Royal
had especially directed our attention to the
English Drama. It was not my good fortune to
be present at any of those performances; but
I read the criticisms on them in the newspapers
with great attention. I found in most
of the reviews a patriotic anxiety that our
illustrious foreign visitors should derive a
favourable impression of the English Drama,
followed by a patriotic disapproval of certain
imperfections in the representation of the
plays, which threatened injury, in a dramatic
point of view, to the honour of the nation.
I have nothing to say on this point, not
having been among the audience in the
theatre. But, I have to express some
surprise that the critics, while thinking of the
dramatic credit of the nation, should have
passed over the choice of the plays in silence,
and merely have alluded to the manner of
their representation.

Supposing any of our foreign visitors to
have taken an interest in the matter, I should
not be at all surprised to hear that one of
them had expressed himself to the other, on
the conclusion of the Festival Performances,
in the following manner:—

"Illustrious Friend, we have been treated
to the play (and our good suppers afterwards)
for four nights. Three of those nights have
been given to the English, to show us what
state their dramatic art is in. One of the
nights I understand. It showed us what
this nation can do in the musical department
of the drama. We had an opera written by
a living Briton, in the present time. Good,
so far. Another of those nights, I also
understand. We had Shakspere. It was
right to represent the greatest dramatic poet
of the world, in the country that gave him
birth. But the other night, also devoted to
the English Drama, what on earth does it
mean? We, as foreigners, having seen
Shakspere, next ask naturally what can
Shakspere's dramatic brethren of the present
day do for the theatre of their own time?
We have seen the English Drama of the
past, what is the English Drama of the
present? We ask that; and the answer is a
play written seventy or eighty years ago, by
a great wit whose jokes, speeches, and debts
have become a part of the history of England.
What! has there been no man, then, who has
written an original English play, since the
time of The Rivals ? If we ask what this
nation is doing now in the literature of fiction,
will they present to us Goldsmith, Sterne,
Smollett, Fielding ? If we ask for their
modern historians, will they raise the ghosts of
Hume and Gibbon ? What does it mean?
There is living literature of a genuine sort in
the English libraries of the present time,—is
there no living literature of a genuine sort
in the English theatre of the present time
also ? "

I can quite understand one of our foreign
visitors putting these questions; but I cannot
at all imagine how we could contrive to give
them a creditable and a satisfactory answer.
Speaking as one of the English public, I am
not only puzzled, as the foreigners might be,
but dissatisfied as well. I can get good
English poems, histories, biographies, novels,
essays, travels, criticisms, all of the present
time. Why can I not get good English
dramas of the present time as well?

Say, I am a Frenchman, fond of the
imaginative literature of my country, well-read
in all the best specimens of it,—I mean,
best in a literary point of view, for I am
not touching moral questions now. When I
shut up Balzac, Victor Hugo, Dumas, and
Soulié, and go to the theatre, what do I
find? Balzac, Victor Hugo, Dumas, and
Soulié again. The men who have been