13. Bachelors (1884)
by Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin (adapted from a German play by Julius Roderich Benedix).
London: Haymarket Theatre. 1 September to 19 September, 1884.
London Revival: The Opera Comique. 9 August to 17 September, 1886. Transferred to Toole’s Theatre. 18 September to 27 November, 1886 (112th performance).
The Stage (29 August, 1884 - p.12)
Mr. Herbert Reeves being at Liverpool this week the part of Tom Tug, in The Waterman, at the Haymarket, is being played by Mr. Wilford Morgan. A new comedy, adapted from the German by Messrs. Hermann Vezin and Robert Buchanan, and entitled Bachelor’s Hall, will be produced by Mr. Brookfield on Monday night, and played in conjunction with Evergreen.
The Times (2 September, 1884 - p.9)
The temporary management of the Haymarket Theatre made a second bid for popular support last night by the production of a new three-act comedy entitled Bachelors, an adaptation from the German by Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin. The venture is likely to obtain as much success as can be hoped for in an off season. Bachelors is indeed a fairly entertaining piece. The one thing to regret in connexion with it is that the authors have not very frankly avowed the sources of their inspiration. They claim to have “altered and adapted” the story from the German, but how much or how little this somewhat elastic phrase may mean they leave the public to guess—perhaps unwisely, for the experience of the public unfortunately is that adapters apply their ingenuity rather to concealing the extent of their indebtedness than to improving the work in hand. Be that as it may, Bachelors, as here presented, may be pronounced an excellent piece of its kind. It is farcical in plot, but full of character, and smart, if not witty, in dialogue. The dramatis personæ consist of an equal number of both sexes who begin in a state of bachelor, spinster, or widowhood, and end in matrimony. The dramatic motive is trite in the extreme but so ingeniously worked out that although a general pairing off is foreseen from the first, the steps by which it is led up to interest as well as amuse. Mr. Brookfield gives an admirable study of a timid, elderly professor of music, who, aiming at “true happiness” in life, contrives to entangle himself in three simultaneous betrothals, and he is cleverly, though somewhat too noisily, seconded by Mr. Stewart Dawson as a retired “Q.C.,” whose hatred of womankind yields to the blandishments of a mature widow. Both impersonations are striking in “make up,” a branch of art to which some of our younger “character” actors appear to devote much attention. Mr. Conway, Mr. Maurice, and Mr. C. Coote are the remaining male characters; the last-named is an excellent man-servant. Among the ladies, Miss Julia Gwynne distinguishes herself by pourtraying and unconventional type of young ladyhood— an infantine miss whose heart struggles for mastery over her instinct of filial obedience. Miss Kate Munroe is piquant as a young widow, and Miss Victor, Miss Francis, and Miss Marden complete the cast respectively.
The Standard (2 September, 1884 - p.3)
The three-act farce, adapted and altered from the German by Messrs. Hermann Vezin and Robert Buchanan, which, under the title of Bachelors, was played for the first time last night, is hardly the kind of production to worthily uphold the prestige of the leading comedy theatre. Viewed simply as what it is—not what it professes to be—Bachelors is a fairly amusing trifle, with nothing particularly novel in the plot or the development of the imbroglio which forms the special feature of the action, and only a set of well-worn puppets to show for stage characters. The story discloses how a confirmed misogynist, one Rufus Marrable, a retired Q.C., tempts two other bachelors, a doctor of medicine, named West, and a professor of music, called Bromley, to form a solemn alliance to resist the fascinations of the other sex. Many years have passed in this complacent brotherhood when its two junior members prove false to their vows, both falling in love with Sophia, the landlady’s daughter. The meek musician, however, has another love—a pupil whom he had saved from drowning, or some other death—whom he deems too far above him to be approachable. In his state of nervous indecision, however, he contrives to propose, not only to Sophia and his real love, Emmeline, but also finds himself engaged to a fascinating young widow, Mrs. Lynn Loseby, who throws herself at him, as it were, out of pique. The gay widow, by the way, helps to support the subsidiary interest—a match designed by the father of the jeune premier, to keep certain property in the family, to which the two parties most interested equally object, until they fall in love not knowing each other’s identity. Of course in the end matrimony reigns supreme; the mild music master finds himself relieved of his superfluous sweethearts; recollections of the housekeeper’s excellent cookery reconcile the old woman-hater to thoughts of the married state, and the inevitable servants pair off as in duty bound. Whatever it is possible to do for so slight a sketch as this is done at the Haymarket—notably by Mr. Brookfield, whose pourtrayal of the dismal perplexities of the much-too-much-beloved swain Bromley is as quietly humorous as anything of the kind within recollection. Even Adolphus Moddle, the chosen one of the elder Miss Pecksniff, could not have been a more hopelessly meek or more ruefully disconsolate lover than Beethoven Bromley. In his lips the words “I’m very happy,” are veritable dead sea fruit; and joy, to his bewildered senses, becomes a hollow mockery. Clever throughout though this assumption is at present, its value will be doubly enhanced when the piece plays more briskly. Mr. Stewart Dawson gives a robust picture of Marrable; but, with the author’s permission, might drop a few of the expletives which disfigure his dialogue; Mr. H. B. Conway tries hard to make bricks without straw in the wholly conventional character of the hero, Charles Lovelace; Mr. E. Maurice is efficient as Dr. West; and Mr. Charles Coote good as a manservant. Miss Kate Munroe is the dashing young widow; and Miss Ruth Francis the musician’s pupil, Emmeline; while Miss M. A. Victor shows a capital bit of character-acting as the match-making landlady, and Misses Julia Gwynne and Mary Marden pleasantly fill the parts of Sophia and a waiting-maid. Bachelors was received with some applause, and Mr. Hermann Vezin responded to the call for the authors, announcing to the audience Mr. Buchanan’s absence from England. Evergreen still retains its place in the bills.
The Daily News (2 September, 1884 - p.3)
Mr. Brookfield’s autumn season, which opened under rather unfavourable conditions owing to the severe heat of the season, is nevertheless carried on with considerable vigour. A new farcical comedy called Bachelors, and adapted from the German by Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin, last evening took the place of the two short pieces which supplemented the performance of Mr. Walter Pollock’s in many ways interesting play of Evergreen. To this the new piece presents a strong contrast, abounding as it does in situations of a wildly farcical description. The bachelors referred to in the title are several worthy gentlemen who live together in single blessedness, having no female society but that of their housekeeper and her daughter, and expatiating with much unanimity upon the good fortune of their lot. With such a foundation for a broadly humourous plot, it needs no gift of divination to perceive beforehand that circumstances, as with out old friend Benedick and succeeding heroes down to Messrs. Erckmann Chatrian’s Ami Fritz, will lead to the unsettling of deeply-cherished convictions, and that there will in consequence be serious defections from the little coterie of celibates. Not only is this so as a matter of fact, but by a series of ludicrous and wildly improbable incidents the most staid and elderly-looking of the party, endowed though he is by nature with a head of glossy smoothness, positively so far distinguishes himself in the guise of a gay Lothario as to become engaged to three ladies at one and the same time. As these enormities and those of other delinquents become known serious dissensions arise until all is satisfactorily explained at a little party in a suburban pleasure resort, where all the characters meet in the end, and the bachelors forswear their evil ways. Here the crowning humiliation is reserved for the most determined misogynist of the lot, by making him fall a victim to the wiles of the elderly housekeeper, who, like another Beatrice, wins him over through his stomach. A subject such as this affords no opportunity for the higher qualities of comedy acting. Mr. Brookfield as the elderly beau who does so much execution, has a tendency to over refine his performance, which thus has hardly sufficient breadth under the circumstances to give full effect to the comic capabilities of the creation. Mr. H. B. Conway rattles agreeably through the part of the young gentleman, a certain Charles Lovelace, whose character is sufficiently indicated by his name. Mr. S. Dawson gives a vigorous rendering of the character of the determined woman hater, and Mr. C. Coote contributes another of those sketches from low life to which he contrives to impart such photographic exactitude. Among the ladies Miss Julia Gwynne was delightfully arch and demure as a young damsel the very counterpart of the ingénue of a French play, and Miss M. A. Victor displayed genuine comic power as the intriguing old housekeeper, a portrait which would serve very well for Thackeray’s Old Campaigner. The comedy, which precedes Evergreen in the programme, is of slight texture and is rather loosely constructed, but it afforded some hearty laughter, and was favourably received. Mr. Hermann Vezin bowed in response to the call for the author, and explained that Mr. Robert Buchanan is at present in New York.
Pall Mall Gazette (2 September, 1884 - p.3)
Mr. Brookfield made another bid for popular favour at the Haymarket by producing last night Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin’s “Bachelors,” a three-act farcical comedy “altered and adapted from the German.” The story deals with the adventures of Mr. Rufus Marrables, a retired Q.C., Mr. Beethoven Bromley, a professor of music, and Dr. West, a company of three who have sworn to live in single ease at Bachelors’ Hall. The misogynist Marrables finds to his horror that his two susceptible friends break the common bond of bachelorhood which has united them. Mr. Bromley, indeed, contrives to mix matters and to make up for lost time by engaging himself to three ladies at the same time. But he gets out of this difficulty at last by the friendly aid of the dashing Charles Lovelace, and after some mirth-provoking complications each marries the woman of his heart, and Marrables, appalled at the prospect of a life of single-blessedness, without any one to cook his dinners or to nurse him when he has the gout, is fain to throw his principles to the winds, to renounce bachelorhood, and to take to his bosom the middle-aged lady who has so well fulfilled the function of housekeeper at Bachelors’ Hall. It will be seen that there is abundant material here for some highly farcical situations, of which the very most is made. The comedy is fairly amusing, and much of the dialogue is brisk and lively. Mr. Brookfield gave an entertaining sketch of the middle-aged and simple professor of music. Mr. Stewart Dawson as Marrables is much too noisy; Mr. Conway of course makes a good Lovelace; while Mr. Coote was capital as the Cockney factotum at Bachelors’ Hall, who is also seized with the common infatuation of love-making. Miss Kate Munroe—who, by the way, has a pretty fancy in colours—made a dashing widow, conducting her love affairs with much aplomb, and ultimately marrying the charming Lovelace. Miss M. A. Victor was lively and brisk as the landlady of the bachelors, while Miss Julia Gwynne did what little she had to do very satisfactorily. The piece was favourably received by a friendly audience, and Mr. Hermann Vezin was called upon to receive their congratulations.
The Stage (5 September, 1884 - p.13)
On Monday, September 1, 1884, was produced here a new comedy, altered and adapted from the German by Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin, entitled:—
Rufus Marrable ..................... Mr. Stewart Dawson
Charles Lovelace ..................... Mr. H. B. Conway
Beethoven Bromley .................. Mr. C. Brookfield
Dr. West ..................... Mr. E. Maurice
Potts ..................... Mr. C. Coote
Mrs. Lynn Loseby .................... Miss Kate Munroe
Emmeline Loseby .................... Miss Ruth Francis
Mrs. Moody .................... Miss M. A. Victor
Sophia Moody .................... Miss Julia Gwynne
Susan Stubbs .................... Miss Mary Marden
There is very little to be said in favour of the new three-act comedy, Bachelors, produced at the Haymarket Theatre on Monday night. Mr. Charles Brookfield courageously started his brief season with a new adaptation of a play once successful in London, and he now bids for favour with a piece adapted from the German by two gentlemen, eminent in their respective vocations—the one as a poet and novelist, the other as an actor. But Mr. Robert Buchanan and Mr. Hermann Vezin, although successful enough in their respective callings, do not, it would seem, possess the qualifications which are indispensable fore the production of a successful play. In many cases, no doubt, two heads are better than one, but, in the present instance, it does not appear that anything of extraordinary value has been gained by collaboration. Both adaptors seem to have agreed that the dialogue of a farcical play cannot be unduly protracted, and they have been unanimous in eliminating from their piece all signs of wit or anything that passeth for such. Hence we find a story that would be well enough if told in two short and crisp acts dragged through a long and ponderous piece that is almost totally disabled from beginning to end by a superabundance of dialogue that should have been suppressed at the first rehearsal. There is, it must be confessed, some humour in the idea on which the piece is based, but, unfortunately, the humour is of a strangely evanescent kind. Three bachelors live together in perfect bliss, having promised each other never to marry. They abjure the society of women, give good dinners and pleasant whist parties, and generally enjoy life as much as it is possible to enjoy it without the assistance of the sunny smiles and joyous laughter of lovely woman. This short-sighted policy brings about the inevitable result—the happy trio are gradually separated, and the bachelors, recognising the folly of their ways, marry, settle down, and, it may be assumed, live happy in the future. The first bachelor who breaks the bonds of fidelity to his companions is Beethoven Bromley, a professor of music, who becomes engaged in one day to three girls. The second to fall out of the ranks is Dr. West, who espouses the landlady’s daughter, Sophia, and thus takes one of Beethoven’s intended ones off his hands; and lastly, the elderly Benedick, Rufus Marrable, espouses the landlady of Bachelors’ Hall. Mrs. Loseby, a young widow, secures the affections of Marrable’s nephew, Charles Lovelace, and Beethoven Bromley, being thus freed from two of his intended brides, is left at liberty to marry the real object of his affection, Mrs. Loseby’s poor cousin, Emmeline. This is very slight material for a three-act comedy, and, as our readers may have already gathered, the material has been dealt with none too dexterously. The play is, on the whole, well acted at the Haymarket, but there is a tendency amongst some of the players to act and to speak far too slowly. Consequently the life and action, the variety and vivacity, that are so essential to farcical comedy are entirely absent in some of the characters, which become needlessly depressing and irritatingly monotonous. On the first night a little of this hesitation and doubt was due to some of the actors not being sure of their words, for the prompter’s voice was not infrequently audible. Mr. Charles Brookfield again gives a capital character sketch as the perplexed professor of music, Beethoven Bromley, and he admirably depicted the amazement and bewilderment of the unfortunate gentleman who becomes engaged to marry three women. But Mr. Brookfield once more commits a fault, to which he is somewhat prone, in the matter of make-up. It is distinctly stated in the play that the professor is not forty years old, but Mr. Brookfield represents him as nearer fifty than forty, and a pale-faced, worn-out creature into the bargain. Mr. H. B. Conway gives an agreeable impersonation of young Lovelace, and his light comedy scene in the first act was played with admirable ease and spirit. Mr. Stewart Dawson plays the steadfast Marrable with requisite seriousness, and Mr. E. Maurice presents the character of the young doctor with earnestness and in a gentlemanly fashion. The dashing young widow, Mrs. Loseby, finds a spirited representative in Miss Kate Munroe, who would, we are sure, find still more favour with her audience if she would abandon that patchwork quilt dress which she wears in the first act, in place of something in not quite such extravagant taste. Miss Julia Gwynne cleverly depicts the mock seriousness of the landlady’s daughter who disposes of her heart at her mother’s bidding. Miss Ruth Francis would be more interesting if she would only throw a little more purpose, a little more earnestness and character into her acting. She does not actually offend by her acting, but it is a meaningless performance. There is, at the Haymarket, a tendency amongst most of the players to under-act, and Miss Ruth Francis has caught the prevailing tone, and caught it only too well. In contrast to all this solemnity of manner and slow delivery of words, two of the performers stand out boldly and demand more recognition than they are likely to receive. We allude to Miss M. A. Victor and Mr. Charles Coote. Miss Victor, as the inquisitive landlady of Bachelors’ Hall, gives a broad natural impersonation, quite refreshing in its freedom from exaggeration and the knowledge of character displayed by the actress. Mr. Charles Coote, as the man-servant at the Hall, is the character taken from life, and he, also, may be commended for presenting his part vividly but without obtruding it on the audience by illegitimate means. The only remaining character in the cast, that of a maid-servant, is well filled by Miss Mary Marden, who, however, would be all the better if she did not “paint her face an inch thick.” At the end of the play on Monday night, Mr. Hermann Vezin appeared to state that Mr. Robert Buchanan, who was away in New York, would be told on his return of the reception accorded to the piece. Evergreen is the concluding item on the bill here, and still shows Mr. Brookfield in his excellent impersonation of Stanislas de Fonblanche.
The Era (6 September, 1884)
On Monday, September 1st, a Comedy, Altered and Adapted from the
German by Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin, entitled
Rufus Marrable ..................... Mr STEWART DAWSON
Charles Lovelace ..................... Mr H. B. CONWAY
Beethoven Bromley .................. Mr C. BROOKFIELD
Dr. West ..................... Mr E. MAURICE
Potts ..................... Mr C. COOTE
Mrs. Lynn Loseby .................... Miss KATE MUNROE
Emmeline Loseby .................... Miss RUTH FRANCIS
Mrs Moody .................... Miss M. A. VICTOR
Sophia Moody .................... Miss JULIA GWYNNE
Susan Stubbs .................... Miss MARY MARDEN
It is creditable to Mr Brookfield’s spirit of enterprise that he has the courage to produce novelties at a period usually considered the least favourable of any for the introduction of new pieces. It is not unlikely that he will meet his reward, for the new comedy is distinctly amusing, and is well suited to the requirements of the theatre and the company. Bachelors, as it is now called, was originally announced as Bachelors’ Hall, a title which had been used so frequently that it was well to adopt the briefer designation. The comedy is an adaptation by Messrs Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin of a German piece by Rosen, and they have done their work with creditable skill, and have produced an effective and smartly-written comedy. The subject of Bachelors is to some extent explained by the title. It opens in the boarding- house of Mrs Moody, a lady whose chief lodgers are three gentlemen devoted to celibacy. These are Mr Rufus Marrable, a retired Q.C.; a medical man, Dr West; and Mr Beethoven Bromley, a popular professor of music. These gentlemen have agreed to forswear matrimony, and have lived for some years with Mrs Moody in the fond delusion that matters will always continue as they are at “Bachelors’ Hall.” But Nature herself is preparing an explosive material likely to blow their theories to atoms in the pretty person of Sophia Moody, daughter of the landlady, who is just eighteen, and who is beginning to reveal fascinations which, although as yet but faintly developed, are bound to exercise considerable influence ere long. We see already that the musical professor, who has been giving Sophia music lessons, is smitten; but nothing like so much as the young doctor, who makes excuses to prescribe for her, but varies his doses with musical duets, the melodious medicine combined with the doctor’s company appearing to please the young lady. But the sage mamma, knowing that the doctor has yet to make his way, and the professor of music is in good circumstances, determines to encourage the latter. Mr Beethoven Bromley is nearly forty, a simple, nervous, philosophical sort of person, who knows as much of young women as the man in the moon. His first great difficulty is how to break his intention to the stern lawyer, Mr Marrable, who fiercely resents the slightest departure from the bachelor league. When he learns Bromley’s intention there is no limit to his scorn, which increases when he hears that the smart young doctor is likely to prove a renegade. Before matters come to a climax new arrivals alter the aspect of affairs. Mrs Lynn Loseby and her cousin Emmeline call to inquire after the character of a servant, and they are followed by a lively young gentleman, Charles Lovelace, who has discovered Mrs Loseby’s bracelet. She is a dashing young widow, and Charles, who is the nephew of the crusty Marrable, falls in love with her at first sight, and determines to leave no stone unturned to win her. There is another complication in the fact that Mrs Loseby’s cousin Emmeline was saved from drowning by the musical professor, and has ever since regarded him with tender feelings. Here we have ample subject for an amusing imbroglio, which has additional drollery in the difficulties of Potts, the factotum of the establishment, who is also bent upon matrimony, although he dares not reveal it to the irritable Marrable, or he will be sent away. Returning to Mr Beethoven Bromley we find him attempting, in a most learned and philosophical manner, to propose to Sophia, who is only anxious to get away from him. But Mrs Moody, while the professor is hesitating, comes to the rescue, and unhesitatingly declares “take her, dear sir, she is yours,” and before the poor man has time to take a second thought of the matter poor Sophia is placed in his arms, and the astonishment and perplexity of the professor, the scorn of Marrable, the passionate jealousy of the young doctor, and the proud complacency of Mrs Moody, who believes her daughter to be “settled for life,” make up a lively finale to the first act. The second takes place at the house of Mrs Lynn Loseby. The smart young widow is not averse to the attentions of Lovelace, whose uncle, however, has determined to spoil this matrimonial adventure. In the course of his legal practice he has had occasion to deal with the lady in a series of actions brought by her late husband, and after much litigation between the departed Mr Loseby and the father of young Lovelace there had been a truce, and the elder Mr Lovelace had left in his will injunctions to Charles to marry the widow. Charles, ignorant that the widow and his charmer are one and the same person, goes to the house with his uncle with the intention of behaving so as to make the widow refuse. Anonymous letters describing him as a libertine had been first sent, and when Charles comes to the house he begins flirting with the maids, and acting so impudently, that by the time Mrs Loseby appears she is quite prepared to believe all that is said against him, and dismisses him with towering scorn, leaving poor Charles confounded. Meanwhile the musical professor has called, and, as he has frequently in his twaddling way professed devotion to the widow, she dexterously leads him on to a proposal, and throws herself into his arms to spite the other lover. But this is not the whole of the professor’s adventure, for he has discovered during his visit Emmeline’s album, in which there is a portrait of himself, and verses of a gentle and glowing description, and, referring to them, Mr Beethoven Bromley finds that the “girl of his heart” is really Emmeline, the young pupil he had saved from drowning. She is quite ready to accept him, and the curtain falls at the close of the second act on the musical professor’s dilemma, having engaged himself to three ladies at once. The third act cleverly clears up all the tangled threads, and makes them into a complete whole very neatly. It takes place in the pleasure gardens of a suburban hotel, where the bachelors are accustomed to “spend a happy day.” Mrs Moody and her daughter are there also, and the mamma is bewildered as to the conduct of her son-in-law. Mr Bromley, instead of escorting his future bride, has come down with the bachelors, and is in terrible perplexity owing to the appearance of Mrs Loseby and her niece, who have been taking a drive, and stop to take tea at the hotel. Now, what can a man do who is thus confronted with three ladies all engaged to him? Poor Bromley fixes upon Emmeline, to the astonishment of the others, and Charles Lovelace begins a brisk flirtation with the widow, who has not yet forgiven him, but is melting by degrees. In the meantime the young doctor, finding there is a hitch, takes advantage of it to renew his attentions to the blooming Sophia. The situation is amusing, and becomes more so when Mrs Moody informs the lawyer that she cannot, as she is a widow and he a bachelor, consent to his remaining in her house any longer. He has been fifteen years in the house, and the thought of giving up all his old habits is too much for him, and he sees no way out of his difficulty but to make Mrs Moody an offer of his hand. Having been accepted, he then endeavours to right matters for others, and eventually Emmeline is happy with he dear, old, simple- minded music-master, while the blushing Sophia is quite contented with the young doctor, and Charles finds little difficulty in persuading the dashing widow that the sham bad character given him by his uncle, who now confesses the trick, was all fudge. The applause was most cordial when the curtain fell, and after Mr Brookfield had been summoned Mr Hermann Vezin came forward and stated that Mr Buchanan was in New York, but he should be informed of the kind reception the audience had given to Bachelors. The representation was generally good, and in some respects excellent. Some would perhaps have preferred that the musical professor who gets into such a hobble by his engagement to three ladies at once should resemble one of those “gay dogs” Mr Charles Wyndham so brilliantly portrays, but it was evidently the intention of the adaptors to present a character of quite another type. The musical muddler is in fact one of those old young men somewhat resembling the Tom Pinch of Charles Dickens. He is kind, faithful, and talented, but not a man of the world. In knowledge of life and character he is an infant, and that is why he gets into such a mess. He knows little of the ways of men, and young girls bewilder him. He is absent, dreamy, uncertain, awkward, undecided. Mr Brookfield’s interpretation of the character must, therefore, be pronounced perfectly consistent and natural, and the confusion into which the professor gets through want of decision is constantly amusing and always natural. The utter consternation with which the simple-minded man receives the answers of the separate fair ones was very comic, and the absurdity of the character was well sustained throughout. It may be doubtful whether it was necessary to make Mr Bromley look quite so old. Mr Stewart Dawson as the bluff, blustering, pretended woman-hater Rufus Marrable entered with great spirit into his part, and was very amusing in the last act, where the lawyer yields to matrimony. The sprightly manner and dashing appearance of Mr H. B. Conway were employed to great advantage as Charles Lovelace. There was a gaiety in the love-making particularly attractive. It must have been a very hardened widow to resist such wooing. Mr Conway was as good-looking a lover and as Impetuous a one as any lady could have desired, and his little part was one of the most agreeable and amusing of any. Mr E. Maurice as Dr West played with spirit; and the quaint drollery of Mr C. Coote as Potts was fully recognised in the laughter and applause of the audience. Mr Coote made of this factotum a clever study of character. As the gay widow Miss Kate Munroe had a part eminently adapted to display her talents. She looked well in her elegant costumes, and in the scene where the scornful widow so indignantly rejects her lover and then throws herself into the arms of the musical professor Miss Kate Munroe displayed her liveliness of style to especial advantage. Miss Ruth Francis gave some tenderness to the character of Emmeline; and the geniality of Miss M. A. Victor found ample scope in rendering the landlady’s part. Miss Victor’s comedy talent was seen to the greatest advantage in the amusing scene where Mrs Moody hastens the conclusion of the professor’s offer by her sudden manœuvre. Like a skilful general, when Mrs Moody saw the parties were wavering she threw all her force on the weak point. The scene was droll and the acting very good indeed. The grace, ease, and refinement of Miss Julia Gwynne gave just the right effect to the character of the pretty Sophia, whose perplexity between following the dictates of her own heart and the fear of offending her mamma was prettily displayed. Miss Mary Marden played with considerable humour as Susan Stubbs. The two-act comedy Evergreen concluded the entertainment.
The Graphic (6 September, 1884)
At the HAYMARKET Mr. Brookfield has produced Bachelors, a three-act comedy, adapted from the German by Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin. It is farcical in plot, but full of character, and smart, if not witty, in dialogue. Mr. Brookfield gives an admirable study of a timid elderly professor of music, who has managed to get himself thrice engaged to be married; and he is cleverly seconded by Mr. Stewart Dawson as a retired Q.C. and professed woman-hater, who, however, is conquered by a fascinating widow, piquantly played by Miss Kate Munroe. Miss Julia Gwynne plays a young lady in whose heart love and filial obedience are perpetually at war, and Miss M. A. Victor scores a success as a match-making landlady.
Bell’s Life In London (6 September, 1884 - p.5)
THE TATLER AT THE THEATRES
A new comedy, altered and adapted from the German by Messrs Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin, entitled “Bachelors,” was produced at the Haymarket on Monday night. Three determined bachelors, namely, Rufus Marrable, a retired Q.C. (Mr Stewart Dawson), Beethoven Bromley, professor of music (Mr C. Brookfield), and Dr West (Mr E. Maurice), are abiding together at Bachelor’s Hall, sworn to a life of celibacy. The only women folk about the habitation are Mrs Moody (Miss M. A. Victor), the landlady, a widow, and her daughter Sophia (Miss Julia Gwynne). At the time of the opening of the play two of the bachelors are beginning to tire of their condition, Dr West because he has fallen in love with Sophia, who returns his affection, and Bromley because he has come to the conclusion that man was not intended to live alone. He, however, is heart-free. He has, it is true, tender thoughts of Emmeline Loseby (Miss Ruth Francis), cousin of Mrs Lynn Loseby (Miss Kate Munroe), a young widow, who are neighbours of the bachelors, but he holds aloof from Emmeline lest she should think herself bound to receive his attentions with favour. As we are repeatedly informed, without having the achievement described in detail, Bromley once saved Miss Loseby’s life. As regards the other young ladies, his intentions are decidedly matrimonial, if either of them has no objection. The part which Charles Lovelace (Mr H. B. Conway), Marrable’s nephew, fills in the imbroglio will presently appear. The dramatis personæ of such a piece as this would scarcely be complete without a couple of lovers in humble life. In Potts, factotum of Bachelor’s Hall (Mr C. Coote), and Susan Stubbs (Miss Mary Marden), Mrs Loseby’s maid, we are supplied with the necessary characters. Mrs Lynn Loseby and her cousin come to Bachelor’s Hall to inquire about the character of a maid-servant, and they are followed by Charles Lovelace, who has seen the widow and been smitten by her charms. Although she successfully repels his ingenious attempts to learn “her name and address,” she is not altogether offended with his impudent importunity. The leaning, indeed, is the other way. In an interview which takes place between the misogamist and his nephew, we learn that the latter has been doomed by his father to marry a widow whom he has never seen. This lady is no other than the one he has erewhile so eagerly pursued, Mrs Lynn Loseby. The uncle undertakes to free him from his thraldom. He will apprise her by letter—anonymous letter—of the disreputable character of his young kinsman, and then clinch the matter by means of a personal interview. The nephew readily consents. Anything to release him! Meantime Bromley has been interrupted in his elaborate attempts to propose to Sophia and the widow, but on the withdrawal of Lovelace, Mrs Moody, having prejudiced her daughter against Dr West, comes to his rescue, and, by answering for her daughter, that young lady and Bromley become affianced. Marrable calls on the widow and gives her a dreadful account of his nephew. During her temporary absence from the room the latter arrives, and, egged on by his uncle, proceeds to “carry on” with the maid-servant, describing to that young person the kind of devil-may-care life he means to lead when he is married to her mistress. The mistress hears all this, as it was intended she should, and it revolts her, as the conspirators hoped it would. When, however, Lovelace beholds in the widow the woman he has pursued with such unremitting but ineffectual ardour he is shocked and penitent, and enraged with his uncle for having betrayed him into such an act of folly. The widow, to revenge herself on Lovelace, questions Bromley concerning his intentions. Did he mean to propose to her? Bromley admits that such had been his intentions. On this she accepts him as her affianced, and rushes away. The professor of music is now engaged to two ladies. Unappalled by this, or forgetting it in his joy at discovering that Miss Loseby cares for him, which he does by means of an accidentally-disclosed album, he proposes to her and is accepted. Thenceforward the humour of the thing is exhibited in the gradual and not unaided escape of Bromley from his distasteful toils. In conclusion, he as well as the other characters are congenially mated, Marrable, chiefly because of her culinary skill, pairing off with Mrs Moody, the landlady of Bachelor’s Hall.
A good deal of the writing in “Bachelors” is trite and wooden. The authors do not overflow with wit and humour, probably because neither wit nor humour is their strong suit. There are good things in the piece, but they are rare. We are often tickled by such novel incentives to laughter as a play on the words flat and sharp. Some of the dialogue is needlessly coarse. and some of it again comes perilously near the line which divides good from bad taste, to say the least. At the risk of being considered invidious, I am bound to give it as my opinion that if the German original had fallen into the hands of Mr F. C. Burnand to adapt, the Englished result would in all probability have been more farcically satisfactory, for the motif is droll enough, and there is scope in the piece for clever characterisation and brilliant dialogue. There was nothing remarkable about the acting except the boisterousness of Mr Dawson, which might have been spared. Mr Brookfield was, of course, satisfactory in a quiet, quaint way, and so was Miss K. Munroe, Miss M. A. Victor, and Miss Gwynne in their several ways. Mr C. Coote’s sketch of the factotum was funny. In response to the call for the author, Mr Hermann Vezin appeared and stated that Mr Buchanan was in New York.
The Illustrated London News (6 September, 1884 - p.7)
Adaptations from the German are becoming not uncommon on the London stage. A fresh one was submitted for approval, and gained it, at the Haymarket on Monday. “Bachelors” is the inviting title of the comedy, the English version of which is by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Mr. Hermann Vezin. Divertingly is it shown in “Bachelors” how a group of Benedicks in a celibate home come in the end to surrender at discretion to the irresistible Beatrices with whom they are thrown into contact. That clever young comedian, Mr. C. Brookfield, who has taken upon his shoulders the management of the Haymarket during the autumn season, performs with great humour the droll part of Professor Bromley, who is driven to propose to more than one lady. “Bachelors” is otherwise well acted. Miss Kate Munroe and Miss M. A. Victor as the bewitching widows, Mr. H. B. Conway as Lovelace, Mr. Stewart Dawson as Marrable, Miss Julia Gwynne, Miss Ruth Francis, Mr. Charles Coote, Mr. E. Maurice, and Miss Mary Marden, all acquit themselves with the requisite spirit to make this peculiarly funny piece go off well. Mr. Brookfield does not spare himself, for he is for the remainder of the evening the life and soul of “Evergreen.”
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (6 September, 1884 - p.4-5)
UPON light, bright pieces, such as do not ask too much of the attention of their spectators, Mr. Brookfield is wisely concentrating his attention at the Haymarket. His latest production belongs in many of its characteristics to farce rather than to comedy, for its dramatis personæ are overdrawn and highly-coloured, whilst its plot makes no pretence of probability. For Bachelors, as the new piece is called, Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin have gone to the now fashionable source of inspiration, the farcical comedy of Germany, but their task of translation and alteration has been accomplished more deftly than usual. The piece is not a strong one, but its fun, albeit strained, is genuine, and as its chief characters are capitally acted it goes with not a little animation.
The fun is of a very unsophisticated and straightforward kind, being based upon the supposition that three bachelors, living together, almost simultaneously agree to break their unspoken vows of celibacy. The last to give way before the fascinations of the female foe is a certain Rufus Marrable, Q.C., who is very angry indeed at the defection of his trusted comrades, Beethoven Bromley, a professor of music, and Dr. West. The worthy doctor is in love with Sophia, the charming daughter of Mrs. Moody, housekeeper at Bachelors’ Hall. The musician, who is given to mild tentative flirtation with every woman he comes across, engages himself not only to Sophia, but to a neighbouring widow, Mrs. Lynn Loseby, and to Mrs. Loseby’s cousin Emmeline. As may be imagined, Mr. Bromley’s proceedings in these matters are not to be rationally accounted for; yet Mr. Brookfield suggests so accurately the nervous flutter of a coward about to make a vague plunge, that the triple engagement of the wretched musician seems to come about almost naturally. Of course Mr. Marrable, who has a sturdy representative in Mr. Stewart Dawson, is full of indignation, and his wrath is not diminished by the announcement on the part of his servant Potter, that he, too, is about to take himself a wife. Moreover, Marrable’s nephew, Charles Lovelace, who pays him a visit and is anxious to avoid marriage with the lady of his father’s choice, no sooner sees his fair fate than he falls head over ears in love with her, and ungratefully reproaches the ally who had tried by blackening his character to ensure the refusal of his hand. The part of Lovelace is a slight one, but it is so well played by Mr. Conway that the very most is made of its capabilities, especially in a scene which occurs when Lovelace, before his introduction to Mrs. Loseby, tries to ensure her rejection of his unwilling suit. Miss Kate Munroe, as the widow, acts with plenty of point. Her engagement does not a little to strengthen the company, for she is always bright and vivacious, and possesses the rare gift of spontaneous humour. Miss Julia Gwynne and Miss M. A. Victor respectively, as Sophia and her mother, play well, the latter especially. Their scene with Mr. Brookfield at the end of the first act arouses the heartiest possible merriment. Of course, a part like Beethoven Bromley does not afford Mr. Brookfield the same opportunity for comedy that he finds in the hero of Evergreen, and in his anxiety not to be farcical the young actor occasionally gets a little tame. If he can add some broader humour to his quietly artistic study, and can at the same time cause the comedy to play a little closer, he may well make of Bachelors a decided success. In the meantime, as Evergreen keeps its place in the programme, the evening’s entertainment provided is a full and merry one. On Mr. Brookfield’s admirable study of Fonblanche we have already commented.
Vanity Fair (6 September, 1884 - Vol. 32, p.168)
AT THE PLAY.
MR. IRVING has made his exit—Gothicism has departed. Mr. Wilson Barrett has re-opened in “Claudian,” and the classic spirit has returned. besides these two eras in dramatic art, there have been two new plays, “Written on the Sand,” at the Olympic, by Mr. Broughton, and “Bachelors,” a translation from the German, by Mr. Vezin and Mr. Buchanan, at the Haymarket.
. . .
The Haymarket play is extremely amusing, though now and then rather like a Criterion farce. Still, we should not quarrel with anything that makes us laugh in these days of Mid-Lothian speechifying, and at “Bachelors” the audience certainly laugh immoderately.
Mr. Brookfield is a mild professor of music, who finds himself simultaneously engaged to Miss Julia Gwynne, Miss Ruth Francis, and Miss Kate Munroe, a position which seems, curiously enough, to cause him great mental agony. He looks like Mr. Beerbohm Tree in private life, and plays with great cleverness and some brilliancy. Mr. H. B. Conway is always condemned to be fascinating, and is consequently cast for Captain Lovelace, a charming performance full of the grace, the lightness, and the scientific naïveté of which Mr. Conway is such a master. It is always delightful to see this actor in any play. Mr. Stewart Dawson, as the champion misogynist, is a little too loud, though always funny; and Mr. C. Coote, as a valet, is absolutely good. His is one of the cleverest bits of acting now in London.
As for the ladies who wreck the security of Bachelors’ Hall, Miss Victor is brilliant, and Miss Munroe fascinating. One feels keenly the terrible power of widows during their performance; but the dresses worn by the four sirens of this play are all rather ugly, with the exception of Miss Munroe’s in the last act. Even Miss Gwynne, who usually dresses with much taste and always looks exquisite—even she falls short of the perfection we expect.
A long German joke in the third act nearly ruined the success of “Bachelors” on the first night; but the curtain fell amid loud applause, and Mr. Brookfield, pale with the Napoleonic cares of management, was recalled twice. “Evergreen” is still on the bill, with its beautiful costumes of the First Empire. Mr. Edmund Maurice acts so charmingly and wears his dress with such grace in this comedy, that we forgive him a somewhat ordinary performance in “Bachelors.”
Reynolds’s Newspaper (7 September, 1884)
In place of “The Waterman” and Mr. Speight’s farce, Mr. Brookfield produced on Monday a new comedy, “altered and adapted from the German” by Messrs. Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin. “Bachelors,” as it is called, serves rather to lengthen than strengthen the Haymarket programme, each of the one-act pieces it replaces having as strong a plot as the authors have thought necessary for its three. It is strange that such an experienced actor as Mr. Vezin, and a playwright who has given the stage such good work as “Lady Clare,” should not by this time have realized the fact that these weak Teutonic comedies are not popular with playgoers, even when enriched by quaint American conceits, which have, at least, the charm of novelty. Could anything be more feeble in the way of plot than the following story of “Bachelors?” —Four celibates live together at Bachelors’ Hall, across whose threshold no feminine footstep is allowed to cross excepting those belonging to the landlady and her daughter. The actions of the heroes of the piece speedily belie their words, for they respectively marry a young widow, her cousin, the aforesaid landlady, and her daughter, whilst even the factotum of the “Hall” falls in love with and marries the widow’s maid. The comic situations of the piece are almost as poor as the plot. Some fun is got out of one of the quartet—ignoring the advice of the proverb about being off with the old love before being on with the new—becoming engaged to three ladies simultaneously; and some sympathetic interest is sought to be evolved in making the landlady’s daughter accept, at her mother’s insistance, one suitor whilst she loves another; but these do not compensate for other shortcomings, as the dialogue is forced, and what jokes there are appear to have been skimmed from Haymarket farces of the Buckstone régime. The acting is generally capital. Mr. Stewart Dawson’s boisterous rendering of the part of a retired Q.C. forming an admirable contrast to Mr. Brookfield’s refined acting as an elderly professor of music. Mr. H. B. Conway’s bright and lively Lovelace pairs off in merit with Mr. E. Maurice’s Dr. West; whilst Mr. C. Coote’s original humour manages to impart some interest to the stereotyped character of a manservant who makes love to the lady’s-maid. Miss Munroe is a young widow, Miss Ruth Francis and Miss Julia Gwynne a pleasant pair of ingénues, and Miss Mary Marden’s maid-servant was as fresh a performance as the part would admit of. The honours of the piece were taken by Miss M. A. Victor, who, as the designing landlady, acted with a comic humour that was amusing to a degree. Calls were made, deservedly, for the actors, and also for the authors. Mr. Hermann Vezin, in acknowledging the latter, stated that Mr. Buchanan was in New York. “Evergreen” promises to justify its title, for it plays better than ever; and the acting of Mr. C. Brookfield, as the highly-accomplished old French beau, M. Stanislas de Fonblanche, and of Miss M. A. Victor, as Charlotte de Villemer, the ex-opera dancer, are both conceived in the spirit of true comedy.
The Referee (7 September, 1884 - p.2)
DRAMATIC & MUSICAL GOSSIP.
THERE is little doubt, I should say, that when Mr. Brookfield’s season at the Haymarket comes to an end he will be sorry that ever it was begun—always supposing that it was his own money that started and carried on the venture. It is not everybody who is so lucky as the genial gentleman who with John S. Clarke in the bill made enough out of an autumn season at this theatre to take a large and flourishing public-house in the Strand, and to lend coin without hesitation to his impecunious friends and enemies. The aloe cannot produce a bloom in less than a hundred years, and only once in the same period would it be reasonable to expect the appearance of such a phenomenon as the individual referred to. Brookfield nevertheless deserves credit for the plucky way in which he has carried on business, and endeavoured to merit the patronage which he courts. On Monday last he introduced more novelty and gave to the stage an adaptation from the German, made by Messrs. Hermann Vezin and Robert Buchanan, and called “Bachelors.” This is of the farcical and satirical order, and I may say at once is well worth seeing by those in search of something conducive to mirth.
Vezin, finding himself so frequently shut out as an actor, seems to have resolved to secure a place as author. “Bachelors” is the second piece in which he has had a hand within a month, and both entitle him to no small praise. I don’t want to miss so good an actor and so able an elocutionist from the boards, but in his new vocation he will find a congenial way of Vezin his mind and of Vezin the load of those who seek relaxation at the theatre.
Vezin and Buchanan, in the case of “Bachelors,” have treated their subject with a commendable amount of freshness and humour, and regarding them both, as I do, as very serious personages, I am both surprised and pleased to discover that they have such a keen appreciation of fun. Rufus Marrable, Q.C. (retired), Beethoven Bromley, professor of music, and Dr. West are the bachelors of their story. They have sworn off matrimony, but not being able to do altogether without woman’s services, they have taken up their abode with a Mrs. Moody, who is the mother of a good-looking daughter named Sophia. The most confirmed bachelor of the company is Marrable, who is not a little shocked when he discovers that the comeliness of Miss Moody has set fluttering the heart of the doctor; that the man of music has fallen in love with his pupil; and that his nephew, Charles Lovelace, confesses himself also a victim to the tender passion, which, according to the poet, “rules the court, the camp, the grove.”
Matters are so managed—or rather miss-managed—that before long Bromley finds himself engaged to no fewer than three women; and the remainder of the business shows how he is enabled to make his escape from so awful an entanglement, which all bachelors of course will read of with a shudder.
The adaptors have been artful enough to make their last act the strongest, and they have been wise, too, for many are the writers for the stage who have come to grief through putting all their best work into their early scenes. Every young author should write up over his desk the warning that a weak beginning and a strong ending are better than a good start and a bad finish.
Mr. Brookfield was the representative of Bromley, and, clever actor as he undoubtedly is, I should say some were quite horrified with the view he took of the part. It would never do to talk about Bromley racing in this connection. There was nothing racy about it. It was all slow, nervous, hesitating, where, according to some of the critical, it should have been light, bright, merry, careless, dashing, and devil-may-care. I dare say, though, if you asked the adaptors they would tell you that Brookfield quite realised their intentions. H. B. Conway was satisfactory as the young lover Lovelace, but Mr. Maurice as Dr. West had no chance of making his mark. Mr. Stewart Dawson was out of his element as Marrable. He worked hard, but the character was too extravagant for him. Mr. Charles Coote was funny as a servant called Potts; Miss Kate Munroe made a pretty widow; Miss Julia Gwynne was a delightful Sophia; and Miss M. A. Victor was, as usual, very funny as Mrs. Moody.
The Referee (14 September, 1884 - p.3)
Here is something which may prove of interest to my readers generally, and to Robert Buchanan and Hermann Vezin particularly.
DEAR CARADOS,—There seems no reason why Messrs. Buchanan and Vezin should not have given the name of the German original of the play “Bachelors,” unless, indeed, they are not anxious that it should be known how literal their translation is. The German original is undoubtedly “Ein Lustspiel,” by R. Benedix.