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SHAKSPEARE AND NEWGATE.

THERE are not many things of which the
English as a people stand in greater need than
sound rational amusement. As a necessary
element in any popular education worthy of
the name; as a wholesome incentive to the
fancy, depressed by the business of life; as a
rest and relief from realities that are not and
never can be all-sufficient for the mind,—sound
rational public amusement is very much
indeed to be desired.

Such of our readers as have accompanied
Mr. Whelks to the Theatre through the
medium of these pages, know what the
Drama, with its noble lessons of tenderness
and virtue, usually does for him. Such of
them as live in the Metropolis, and care to
cross Waterloo Bridge, will find the walls
and shop-windows eloquent upon the
subject, and may judge for themselves. It
is not our present purpose to pursue that
aspect of the question, which, in the
monotony of its vicious stupidity, is soon
exhausted.

Neither do we purpose to investigate the
causes of the decline of the Drama. It may
have had its share of misgovernment, in being
absurdly confided to Heaven-born Lord
Chamberlains, possessing not the slightest
sympathy with it, and caring (if possible) less
about it than they have known. It may have
suffered greatly, from the inferiority of many
actors and actresses to the art they have
professed, and from their exactions and caprices
having expanded as their merits contracted.
It may have been, in its manner of rendering
the least effect and the greatest, a notable
example of persistence in conventionality
when all was change around it; and of a dull
grinding of its chariot wheels in the ruts of
precedent, scarcely to be surpassed by the
Court of Chancery. Fashion and frivolity
may have had their part in its downfall. It
may even owe something of its decay to that
fine spirit of humour which, in the high Tory
days of the present century, jeered at every
simple recreation within the reach of the
common people, systematically tried to blight
with its disparagement and ridicule even
Nature herself as she could alone reveal
herself to the dwellers in great cities in their few
and short escapes, and swelled into astonished
indignation when the people were miraculously
discontented.

Among other good places of sound rational
amusement, we hold that a well-conducted
Theatre is a good place in which to learn
good things. And we wish to show what an
intelligent and resolute man may do, to
establish a good Theatre in a most
unpromising soil, and to reclaim one of the lowest
of all possible audiences.

Seven or eight years ago, Sadler's Wells
Theatre, in London, was in the condition of
being entirely delivered over to as ruffianly
an audience as London could shake together.
Without, the Theatre, by night, was like the
worst part of the worst kind of Fair in the
worst kind of town. Within, it was a bear-
garden, resounding with foul language, oaths,
catcalls, shrieks, yells, blasphemy, obscenity
a truly diabolical clamour. Fights took place
anywhere, at any period of the performance.
The audience were of course directly
addressed in the entertainments. An
improving melo-drama, called BARRINGTON THE
PICKPOCKET, being then extremely popular at
another similar Theatre, a powerful counter-
attraction, happily entitled JACK KETCH, was
produced here, and received with great
approbation. It was in the contemplation of
the Management to add the physical stimulus
of a pint of porter to the moral refreshments
offered to every purchaser of a pit ticket,
when the Management collapsed and the
Theatre shut up.

At this crisis of the career of Mr. Ketch
and his pupils, MR. PHELPS, a gentleman then
favourably known to the London public as a
tragic actor, first at the Haymarket Theatre
under the management of MR, WEBSTER, and
afterwards at the two great theatres of Covent
Garden and Drury Lane, when MR. MACREADY
made them a source of intellectual delight to
the whole town (persons of fashion excepted),
conceived the desperate idea of changing the
character of the dramatic entertainments
presented at this den, from the lowest to
the highest, and of utterly changing with
it the character of the audience. Associating
with himself, in this perilous enterprise,
two partners: of whom one (for a time) was
MRS. WARNER, a lady of considerable
reputation on the stage: the other, MR. GREENWOOD,
a " gentleman of business knowledge

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