Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold


Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings





The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

Site Diary
Site Search


3. A Madcap Prince (1874)


A Madcap Prince
by Robert Buchanan
London: Haymarket Theatre. 3 August, 1874. (Single performance then taken on a provincial tour including Liverpool and Glasgow.)
Other London Performances:
Olympic Theatre, 3 June, 1881 (Harriett Jay benefit.)
Gaiety Theatre, 22 November, 1882 (Harriett Jay matinée.)

(Harriett Jay played the role of Elinor Vane.)


[Advert from The Morning Post (10 June, 1874 - p.4).]


The Graphic (13 June, 1874 - p.7)

     The theatrical season may now be said to have reached its flattest period, but most of the theatres are open, and some novelties are in preparation, among others a new poetical drama by Mr. Robert Buchanan, on the subject of King Charles the Second’s escape.



The Bradford Observer (15 June, 1874 - p.3)

     Nothing is heard of Mr. Tennyson’s Boadicea, which was to be adapted by Mr. Tom Taylor; but a comedy by another of our poets, Mr. Robert Buchanan, will be produced immediately at the Haymarket Theatre. It is entitled A Madcap Prince, and is said to contain a peculiarly attractive part for Miss Madge Robertson. The comedy, which is in blank verse, is understood to be altogether an ambitious effort at high comedy.



The Era (28 June, 1874 - p.11)


     Few changes have been made in the theatrical arrangements of the past week. At the HAYMARKET The Overland Route has remained in the playbill, and it is now announced that, in consequence of its continued attraction, the comedy will be represented for some evenings longer, Mr Robert Buchanan’s new piece, entitled A Madcap Prince, being indefinitely postponed. The last night of the season, identified, as usual, with the benefit of Mr Buckstone, is fixed for Monday, the 3d of August.


[From The Edinburgh Evening News (22 July, 1874 - p.4).]


The Penny Illustrated Paper (8 August, 1874 - p.7)

Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new comedy, “A Madcap Prince,” produced at the Haymarket on the last night of Mr. Buckstone’s season, treats of an episode in the life of Charles II, in his youthful days. In fleeing from the Puritans he is harboured by Elinor Vane, who enables him to escape by disguising herself as the King. As Elinor Vane, Mrs. Kendal was particularly winning and charming; whilst Mr. Buckstone was unctuous as ever in the part of a Puritan soldier.



The Graphic (8 August, 1874)


     A NEW play from the pen of Mr. Robert Buchanan, produced at the HAYMARKET Theatre on the occasion of Mr. Buckstone’s benefit on Monday last, is likely to disappoint the admirers of a writer who, in his published poems, at least, has shown himself to be possessed of considerable dramatic power. The title of the play is A Madcap Prince, the hero being King Charles the Second, of whose character, as may be inferred from that title, Mr. Buchanan takes the common- place view of most writers who have turned his majesty to account as a dramatic hero.His Prince Charles is in brief the “merry” young monarch with whom novelists and playwrights have made us familiar. It is true we see but little of him, but his frolicsome propensities, his wicked waggishness, and reckless gallantry may be said to be largely insisted upon throughout the three acts. History has no doubt established the fact that all these were prominent traits in the character of the king, but Charles had, after all, some more solid qualities, and if there was a time when he gave proof of this it was immediately after the disastrous end of “Worcester’s fight,” the very period which Mr. Buchanan has selected for his play, though, curiously enough, the playbill gives the date of this event as 1652 instead of 1651. To any one who has the least acquaintance with the history of those times it is provoking to see the young Prince represented in those hours of danger and distress as loitering about an old mansion, and stealing from behind secret panels to talk amorous nonsense to the young mistress or the maid.The sound judgment, the prudence, and good sense with which he contrived to evade his pursuers in a country swarming with enemies, and finally to get away safely to France, are well known.While his friend Lord Wilmot (whom Mr. Buchanan, by the way, calls “Rochester” long before he had that title) neglected to disguise himself, Mr. Buchanan’s “madcap” hero was so careful in this respect that even those who knew his person well failed to detect him, and nothing is more certain than that the question of his own personal safety occupied the mind of the young prince at that time to the exclusion of all less pressing matters. So much for the author’s historical portraiture; but it is a still more serious objection that his plot is feeble and his incidents destitute of originality.His chief object seems to have been to afford Mrs. Kendal (Miss Robertson) an opportunity of exchanging her own clothes for the gay attire which Mr. Buchanan—in further defiance of history—represents the Prince as habitually wearing at that time. The purpose of this familiar expedient is to facilitate the prince’s escape by getting the young lady arrested in his stead.The simplicity with which Cromwell’s officers fall into this snare, however, is not the least of the puerilities of the situation. From first to last Miss Robertson “dissembles” simply in the fashion in which Mr. Toole in the burlesque was wont to dissemble—that is by a change which can only by a violent stretch of imagination be supposed to deceive any one. In short, a purple velvet doublet and breeches, and high boots are imagined to work so miraculous a change that, though the face and the voice of the young lady remain unaltered not only the Puritan soldiers who know her very well, but her own lover, is imposed upon. There are, it is true, many mere conventionalisms on the stage which are not only permissible, but little felt, by audiences. Lovers, however, have keen eyes and ears for the detection of a mistress’s features and voice. Mr. Buchanan’s notion reaches a point little short of absurdity when his simple-minded lover is not only persuaded, by the doublet and breeches before referred to, that the young lady of his affections is his Majesty King Charles, and then that she is “Rochester,” but addresses her again and again as “sire” and “my lord,” and even denounces her to her face in long tirades upon the wicked assurance of princes and the profligacy of courtiers. Nor is the absurdity lessened when Miss Robertson, by merely retiring a moment, doffing the breeches and doublet, and returning in her own attire to repeat a few of her previous gallant utterances, at once convinces the Puritan officers that they have been tricked, and satisfies her lover of the groundlessness of his jealous suspicions. Benefit night audiences are good-natured, or loud laughter would assuredly have followed the final line in reference to this lover spoken by Mr. Howe as the Cromwellian officer, “Never, I own it, was mortal so prodigiously befooled.” According to custom, Mr. Buckstone’s benefit night was also the last night of the season, and henceforth for some months the Haymarket company will only be seen in provincial theatres. In a few farewell words the popular manager took a survey of the past season, confessing with melancholy frankness his failures and errors and disclosing his plans for the future. From these it appears that when the theatre reopens for the winter season Mr. Sothern, who has long been in the United States, is to reappear at the Haymarket, where first my Lord Dundreary made the acquaintance of the English public.New plays are also spoken of. Though their titles are not given, it is believed that a version of Leon Laya’s Le Duc Job, under the title of Lord Churchmouse, is in contemplation. The gentleman who has undertaken to convert this rather wordy comedy into an English play is understood to be Mr. James Mortimer. Duke Job, a famous character of M. Got, seems likely in his English guise to suit Mr. Sothern; but comedies of that kind require for success a general excellence of acting which is not often found on our stage.



The Examiner (8 August, 1874)



     In his admirable life of David Gray, Mr. Buchanan relates that when he and his friend first came to London they had serious thoughts of going on the stage, beginning like Shakespeare in a humble capacity; that they actually applied for such employment; that in the case of one of them the application was successful; and that that one was not David Gray. From this we may infer that Mr. Buchanan has not attempted the difficult task of writing a comedy without having some practical knowledge of the stage. And we should have drawn the same inference from “A Madcap Prince” itself, which was produced at the Haymarket on Monday. This comedy shows a remarkable acquaintance with stock stage-types and incidents. One of our contemporaries confesses that it seems all through as if one had seen it before. And so doubtless it does, at least in the two first scenes. The Prince is Charles II., and the time is 1652, immediately after the battle of Worcester, when he is a fugitive, and the country is being watched and scoured in search of him. He takes refuge in the mansion of Mrs Vane, and her daughter cleverly hides him and assists him in effecting his escape. The characters and the incidents are the commonplaces of romantic drama—rough, ill-favoured Puritan Colonel, handsome cavalier, light- hearted prince, ridiculous private, concealed door, mystification, misunderstanding, jealousy, suspicion, all of the most usual type. It is such a thing as might have been knocked up by the heavy villain and the low comique of a country theatre if they had laid their heads together for a couple of Sunday afternoons. We really expected better things of the author of “St Abe and His Seven Wives.” We do not know whether Mr Buchanan makes any pretensions to special knowledge of the period of which he treats, and we do not consider it of much importance that the dialogue in such a play should be carried on in the language of the period. But one certainly does expect that if the language of the period is affected at all, it should be kept up consistently, and not obliged to rub shoulders with modern slang. Mr. Buchanan should not have attempted to give an archaic tinge to his diction unless he felt sure that he could avoid glaring anachronisms. True, some of those that were to be heard on Monday may have been due to short memories and the natural imperfections of a first night. It may have been Cicely Clover’s own fault, and not Mr Buchanan’s, that she swore “by George” in the year of grace 1652. It may have been by a slip of the tongue that we were informed that the castle where the scene is laid was built by Henry IV, for fair Rosamond. It may have been by momentary and excusable inadvertence that the young cavalier said to his high-born mistress, and sweet cousin—“Thou’rt a good lass, Nell,” in the tone of a Lancashire collier, as befitted the words. But there were many other little incongruities, for which, we fear, the author must be held responsible. It would, perhaps, be hypercritical to object to the saying that the Puritan colonel had a face that would have looked well on the box of a hearse, on the ground that hearse, as Mr Buchanan might have remembered from Ben Jonson’s “Underneath this sable herse,” had a different meaning then from what it has now. But one expression by the young cavalier is too bad to be passed over, because it reveals an amazing forgetfulness of the ideas of the time. Mr Buchanan makes him say on one occasion that he “lies like a Trojan.” The use of this vulgarism is so atrociously contrary to the respect in which the Trojans were held in the Middle Ages and by the Elizabethans, that it should not have come from the pen of any writer moderately acquainted with the literature of this country.
     We have dwelt on these little points of diction because, when a man of Mr Buchanan’s literary reputation takes to writing for the stage, he may reasonably be expected to show that he has made himself sufficiently familiar with the Elizabethan dramatists to be able to avoid vulgar anachronisms. We do not expect him to dress up hack elements in a hack way, or to raise a laugh by making serious personages talk modern slang like the gods and goddesses of Mr Burnand’s Olympus. There is, indeed, one respect in which Mr Buchanan has endeavoured to keep up the Elizabethan traditions. This is all the more noble in Mr Buchanan because, in order to do it, he has sacrificed his consistency as the castigator of the “fleshly school,” and has imperilled his chances of wearing “the laurel greener from the brows of him who uttered nothing base.” There are some passages in “The Madcap Prince” which for gross and vulgar indecency are unsurpassed on the modern stage. Mistress Vane’s fear that the young prince will come her way, the proposed search for the concealed fugitive in the beds of the ladies, and the sham Prince’s preference for ripe and mellow widows, would have seemed to be in excellent taste to the audiences that applauded the obscenities of Fletcher and Shirley. Mr Buchanan may be congratulated on approaching the Elizabethans in any particular.
     But while we take strong exception to Mr Buchanan’s share in the “Madcap Prince,” we do not quarrel with the verdict of the audience on Monday. The play was a success, and deserved to be so. Only the author has not much credit by it, beyond what may be due to indifferent journeyman-work. The play was saved in spite of all its faults by the admirable acting of Miss Robertson; and it is not the least of this lady’s triumphs that she was able to excite an enthusiasm of applause under conditions so very unfavourable to success. To be sure Mr Buckstone was very funny as “Light o’ the Land Sawdon.” The mere idea of dressing up Mr Buckstone as a Puritan soldier and making him say “Yea” and “Verily” is a comedy in itself. Who would not laugh when a vulgar caricature of a Puritan Colonel addresses Mr Buckstone in these words—“Private Sawdon, you are a pious person. Trust may be placed in you. Keep your eye on this man.” And Mr Buckstone replies—“Verily, I will keep both my eyes upon him.” But Mr Buckstone’s part in the play is slight. It is not too much to say that if the part of Elinor Vane had been entrusted to any other actress than Miss Robertson, the “Madcap Prince” might have been tolerated on the first night, but it would have been dangerous to attempt a repetition of the performance. We are sorry we cannot speak more favourably of Mr Buchanan’s first attempt at dramatic writing, because he has shown himself wonderfully accommodating in his desire to achieve success. Not only has he relinquished all possibility of his again appearing in the lofty character of a censor morum, and guardian of public decency; but in showing himself willing to gratify theatrical taste by repeating vulgar ridicule of the Puritans and vulgar glorification of the cavaliers, he has thrown suspicion upon the honesty of his somewhat blatant professions of advanced political views. In his eagerness to succeed as a playwright, he has sacrificed literary and political consistency, and he has not succeeded. He has signified his willingness to prostitute his talents, and has revealed the humiliating fact that in this particular line he has no talents to prostitute.



The Era (8 August, 1874)



     Years may come and years may go, but the annual benefits of the veteran favourite of the Haymarket go on for ever. At least, we may say that the playgoer who remembers the first has some claim to be numbered among that oft-quoted race the “oldest inhabitants;” while thousands will join us in the expression of the hope that far distant may be the day when concerning them shall have to be written Fuerunt! In spite of the fact that “all London” is out of town, Mr Buckstone’s appeal on Monday to “his friends and the public”—the terms, by the way, are synonymous—met with a ready response, the house being crowded to excess by an audience anxious in the first place to do him honour, and in the second to participate in the enjoyment provided, and particularly to satisfy the curiosity awakened by the announcement of a new comedy from the pen of a ready writer, whose fame was long since established, and whose capability for powerful and original work has been universally admitted. The author to whom we now allude is Mr Robert Buchanan, who, among a host of other contributions to literature, has given us “St. Abe and His Seven Wives,” White Rose and Red, and, but a short time ago, a remarkable production in dramatic form, but hardly intended to see the footlights, entitled Napoleon Fallen, a work which claimed high admiration by the fire and poetic fervour which characterised almost every line of its dialogue. Mr Buchanan’s latest effort bears the happily chosen title of A Madcap Prince. It was announced for representation some weeks back, but, owing to causes best known to the management, its production was deferred until the very last night of the season; wisely or unwisely, we shall presently see. The novelty is in three acts, and the time of the action is 1652, immediately after that battle of Worcester which put the Madcap Prince so literally “up a tree.” In our own day Charles the Second’s character has been terribly pulled to pieces; and, if some writers are to be credited, it may be said of him as has been said of a certain nation—“Manners he had none, and his customs were beastly.” But we remember that Mr Buchanan, in speaking of “the Man of Sedan,” has said, “Truth is one thing, and dramatic truth is another. If my play possess verisimilitude, no critic has a right to object to it because he himself would have conceived the chief character differently.” And so we proceed to show how our author has depicted the “Madcap” as he was before a nation, weary of war and tired of Puritanical restraints, invited him with open arms to lead the way as their King in the paths of profligacy; but we must premise that the portrait he has drawn is to a great extent second-hand, by which we mean that Charles himself cuts but a poor figure in the play, but has his rakish characteristics set forth in the person of another, and that other a lady, who, to secure his escape, throws aside her female garb and the modesty of her sex, and by personating him baffles his pursuers. The piece opens in the Panel Chamber of Elmtree House, where we discover Major Sterne (Mr Howe) in cosy converse with Mistress Vane (Mrs Chippendale), the head of the establishment. The lady is a partisan of the Royalist cause; the Major an officer of the Parliamentary army, placed in possession, with his troops, because the house or the district is suspected to harbour the fugitive Prince. But he has fallen a victim to the charms of the lady, and not only are his duties sadly neglected, but he has actually pretended to take into his service as Secretary her cavalier nephew, Harry Lisle (Mr Kendal), on condition that he will hold his tongue and repress his tendency to break forth into loyal song—a tendency, by the way, which he shares with his fair cousin, Elinor Vane (Miss Madge Robertson), with whom he is desperately in love. The lax discipline of the Major having been heard of, his superior officer, Colonel Bruton (Mr Rogers), with an increased force, arrives, and, after Harry Lisle has had a narrow escape, the Prince (Mr Weathersby) himself comes seeking shelter, and disguised as a peasant. To Elinor alone does he reveal himself, she with devoted loyalty hiding him, after his disguise has been cast aside, behind the secret panel which gives the chamber its name. Mistress Vane and Cicely Clover (Mrs Fitzwilliam) are necessarily admitted into the confidence, and the principal danger appears to arise from the prying curiosity of a smooth-faced, sanctimonious private soldier, called Light-o’-the-Land Sawdon (Mr Buckstone), who, in love with Cicely, has had his wrath aroused by seeing the disguised stranger “salute” the object of his own choice. The “scent” in pursuit now becomes very strong, the thrown-aside disguise of the fugitive providing what appears to be “confirmation strong as Holy Writ;” but by the persuasion of Elinor the costly glove is claimed by Harry Lisle; the bumpkin’s wig the ready-witted Elinor claims as part of her private theatrical wardrobe; while Sawdon, under some pressure from Cicely, consents to acknowledge himself the owner of the hat. The act ends as Colonel Bruton, resolved on a thorough search of the house, is artfully decoyed in the wrong direction by Elinor Vane. In the second act the scene is the same, and matters appear to be almost in statu quo. But Harry Lisle is asking himself why he was persuaded to own the glove. He imagines he “smells a rat,” and is, in fact, becoming terribly jealous. The “green-eyed monster” is also at work in the bosom of Light-o’-the-Land Sawdon, for he very much doubts whether the stranger whom he saw enter the house was what Cicely described him—viz., as her brother. Colonel Bruton, determined on another search, closely questions poor Elinor respecting secret panels, and she, losing control of herself as she hears the inflexible soldier pronounce his resolve to deliver up the Prince to justice, turns upon him with a flood of reproach which forms the very finest feature in the play, and which fairly aroused the audience to enthusiasm. Of course the eyes of the Colonel are opened, and his belief in the close whereabouts of the fugitive the more firmly fixed. Thus the Prince has dangers momentarily thickening about him, not the least being in the jealousy of Lisle and Sawdon. An interview between Charles and Elinor, which follows, is witnessed by Sawdon, who speaks of it to Lisle; arouses him to further wrath, and causes him to resolve to watch; Sawdon himself going to give the alarm. The Prince, who has forgotten Elinor’s instructions, returns, and, encountered by Lisle, flies again to his hiding place. The enraged lover would follow, when his path is barred by the lady, who has to avow the secret, leaving her lover, who will dare anything in her cause, and whose loyalty is sound, to guard the entrance to the secret passage. The troops enter; he draws his sword to prevent their approach to the panel; he is disarmed; the order is given to the troops to blow down the wall; when a voice cries “Hold!” the panel opens, and, mirabile dictu, forth steps Elinor Vane disguised as the Prince, and tendering his sword to his captors. This striking situation closes the second act. The third introduces us to the lawn before Elmtree House. Elinor is still masquerading, and in the character of Prince Charles is closely watched, while the real Simon Pure is making good his escape to France. And in very rollicking and rakish fashion does she sustain the reputation which the Prince has secured. She makes love to old and young alike, and expresses a decided partiality for widows, her attentions to the mistress of the house—who, of course, is in the secret—arousing the jealous fury of Major Sterne. Elinor, it is reported, is confined to her chamber by sickness, and so the “Prince” indites a gushing love-letter to herself, making her lover her amanuensis, and thereby setting jealousy still harder at work at his heart. Presently she concocts an answer, and, as this time it is in her own handwriting, the proof of her falsity, at least in the eyes of Harry Lisle, is complete, and only the idea that it is his Prince and future King who is before him restrains him from drawing his sword upon the pretty lady who is making such a fool of him. But presently news arrives that the Prince is safe on shipboard, and our fair masquerader is then supposed to be Rochester. There are now no loyal considerations to restrain vengeance. Major Sterne would chastise the “popinjay” who has been “making up to” his widow, but by that widow his hand is stayed. Harry Lisle returns full of ire, and poor Elinor has to seek safety in flight to her chamber; that very flight, of course, only tending to make matters worse. We need hardly add that in the end the fair lady comes forth to clear up mysteries, to laugh at those she has so cleverly tricked, and to make her lover, whom she has so sorely tested, happy with her hand and heart. From the above it may be gathered that A Madcap Prince is not strikingly original. In more than one instance we come upon a scene which forcibly reminds us of something we have witnessed before. The dialogue, regarded as a whole, is hardly worthy of the author’s reputation, although here and there, notably in that declamatory speech of Elinor’s alluded to above, there was the true ring of genius. That the piece achieved a brilliant success none will deny; while of the acting we are able to speak in the very highest commendatory terms. Miss Madge Robertson’s Elinor was a wonderful impersonation, and especially when disguised as the Madcap prince she fairly rattled through the part, carrying her audience with her; giving the fullest force and meaning to the somewhat suggestive lines; and now by the archness of her speech, now by the eloquent wink of her eye, eliciting merriment which may be properly called uproarious. We wish we could depict upon paper the wonderfully bewitching fashion in which, recalling the outbreak of fury her lover has indulged in, she exclaimed “How he thundered at poor little me.” In the earlier scenes, recalling the joys now “banished with the King;” joining her lover in loyal song and dance; mimicking the Puritans with their thees and thous, and cajoling the fierce Colonel Bruton, her acting was simply delicious; while a finer specimen of declamatory power than that exhibited in her denunciation of the “butcher” who seeks the death of his lawful Prince we do not wish for. Mr Buchanan has indeed been fortunate in securing Miss Madge Robertson for his most important role. Her triumph was complete. Mrs Chippendale, as Mistress Vane, was appropriately stately and dignified; and Mrs Fitzwilliam’s humorous ability was shown to advantage in the character of Cicely. Mr Kendal’s part as Harry was second only to that of his wife, and remarkably well did he interpret it. The jealousy of the lover was most forcibly expressed; his bearing throughout was manly and appropriate; his speech in fierce reproach of the supposed Prince was full of fire; and, indeed, from first to last, this admirable actor left nothing to be desired. We may, however, remark here that we are somewhat puzzled by the fact that Harry Lisle, after having defied the Puritan troops in defence of the Prince, is not in the third act, with that Prince—or supposed Prince—a prisoner. Mr Howe gave a really excellent impersonation of Major Sterne, half Puritan, half Royalist, and altogether intolerant of the smug-faced fanatics in whose ranks he holds office. Mr Rogers gave due prominence to the role of the stern and unrelenting Colonel Bruton; and Mr Weathersby well fulfilled the requirements of the small part of Charles Stuart. And then Mr Buckstone! On making his appearance as Light-o’-the- Land Sawdon—the sentinel on duty—he was hailed with cheers enthusiastic and hilarity overwhelming. But Light-o’-the- Land in this instance was unbendable. He knew what was due to discipline. He gave a military salute only, and the consequence was that the merriment grew in intensity. Light-o’-the-Land, however, is of an amatory and somewhat jealous temperament, and he was sorely nettled by the freedom of the Madcap Prince towards his beloved Cicely. But presently as that prince’s attention is turned towards the Widow we hear issuing from Light-o’-the-Land’s lips the words “Why, now he’s embracing the old woman!” Need we add that these words uttered in Mr Buckstone’s drollest manner convulsed the house? Indeed, whenever the benefiçiaire appeared upon the stage a roar went up, and Light-o’- the-Land Sawdon, insignificant in himself, became in Mr Buckstone’s hands a very important personage indeed. On the fall of the curtain the author was led across the stage by Miss Robertson, who, we ought to say, looked in the third act of the comedy the very beau ideal of a Prince.



The Academy (8 August, 1874 - p.166)

     THERE was a brilliant house at the Haymarket on Monday night, when Mr. Buckstone took his annual Benefit and bade farewell to his patrons and friends until his return in October. The Duke of Connaught occupied the royal box, and the theatre was densely crowded. What is chiefly looked forward to on these occasions, which are among the great events of the theatrical year, is the speech of Mr. Buckstone, which is always more funny to hear than to read, as indeed a comedian’s speech ought to be. Mr. Buckstone was very jovial over the unsuccessful pieces of the season, and he gave his audience a little information about his plans for the autumn. These include the return of Mr. Sothern, and the repetition of the comedy, A Madcap Prince, which was produced on the night of the Benefit. Monday evening was made additionally agreeable through the extreme good nature of Mr. Sims Reeves, who as his tribute to the manager of the Haymarket, sang first Blumenthal’s pathetic song, The Requital; next, a new sailor-song by Molloy, and lastly, in response to a loud call for it, the ever-green Tom Bowling. Mr. Reeves was in excellent voice, and sang with great feeling and dramatic expression. Between his first two songs, which were the only songs he was announced in the programme to sing, there was acted a comedietta, or little one act comedy or proverbe, by Mr. Theire Smith, which had previously been played, but not at the Haymarket. It is called A Happy Pair, and it is exceedingly French, not in subject, but in treatment. It is witty, and if its wit claims to be original, then it is undoubtedly a piece of writing which we have cause to be thankful for; for it sparkles very much, and is fruitful in opportunities for the exercise of Mr. and Mrs. Kendal’s best art. For private theatricals, played by intelligent people, it would be invaluable. Mr. and Mrs. Kendal do the fullest justice to its good points, and make many excellent points to boot, for which the piece gives scope, but which are not precisely on the surface of the dialogue. Mr. and Mrs. Kendal have never been seen to greater advantage than in A Happy Pair.
     A Madcap Prince, by Mr. Robert Buchanan, is a comedy of some pretentions. The scene is laid in a large house in the country, in 1652, immediately after the Battle of Worcester. The nominal hero is the Prince, who was afterwards Charles the Second, but the actual “Madcap Prince” is not so much Charles the Second himself as the heroine of the play who assumes his disguise, who is kept under surveillance as the Prince while the real Prince is taking ship, and who, both to keep up the delusion and to make her own lover jealous, adopts along with his disguise, the manners of the prince when in the company of women. The intrigue, though a slight one, is ingeniously worked, and the audience on Monday night relished it very much, when it had the advantage of Mrs. Kendal’s most spirited acting; but much of the amusement is caused by the behaviour of the supposed boy prince in making love to the various women with whom he or she comes into contact, and though these happen to be the kinswomen and friends of Mistress Elinor Vane, the heroine, it may be questioned whether the idea is altogether a pleasant one. Apart from pleasantness, it is possible that it may not be of sufficient strength and importance to build a three-act comedy upon. There is nothing very brilliant in the dialogue, and the characters are not particularly distinct, though Elinor Vane herself is highly coloured. This part affords opportunities for the display of several phases of an actress’s talent. It is best in the earlier scenes, before the disguise is assumed, and when the heroine is endeavouring to dissuade the Puritans from the search for the Prince, and when she is assuming their own tone and twang and when she suddenly breaks from this—carried away by strong feeling and decided opinions. These are opportunities of which Mrs. Kendal makes the most. She does more—she improves upon them. Still the author himself, in these early scenes, has evinced considerable perception of the possibilities of dramatic effect. The piece of acting which goes down the most with an audience on a Benefit night, inclined to be hilarious, is the scene of flirtation and cajolery with more women than one, which occupies much of the third act; but the best piece of acting is in the second act, where, as Elinor Vane, Mrs. Kendal quiets the suspicions of one who would search behind the wainscotes, and where, in a moment of dismay, she would gladly recall the dangerous opinions she has been surprised into expressing. Mr. Kendal’s part, of a not unnaturally jealous lover, is not a fine or varied one, but it is excellently played. The best thing about Mr. Buckstone’s part is probably its name, “Light o’ the Land Sawdon”—he is a private soldier whose ambition it has been to keep a modest tavern where only the pious may drink. His share in conversation appears to be nearly confined to the utterance of “yea, verily”—an observation the humour of which is not at first apparent. The comedy will be again represented in October next, when the Haymarket reopens, and at that time it may possibly be desirable to treat it at greater length in the ACADEMY.



The Athenæum (8 August, 1874)



     HAYMARKET.—‘A Madcap prince.’ a Comedy, in Three Acts. By Robert Buchanan.
     A CUSTOM established by Mr. Buckstone, of producing a new play for his benefit, on the last night of the season, has once more been followed at the Haymarket. There seems every probability, judging from the acclamations of the audience, that the play with which one season closes will, as heretofore, serve for the reopening of another. In spite, however, of the cheers which attended ‘A Madcap Prince,’ the work has no dramatic fibre, and little literary merit. It will prove, it is to be feared, but an insecure prop for a house against which the tide of ill fortune has of late been beating. ‘A Madcap Prince’ resembles, indeed, less a comedy than a drawing-room charade. Two acts, thoroughly conventional in idea and treatment, lead up to a third, in which there is some freshness and interest. The admirable acting this crowning act receives gives the whole a hold upon the public stronger than its intrinsic merits seem to warrant.
     The machinery of disguises, secret panels, and the like, once so useful to the dramatist, died with the comedy of Scribe. All the genius of Dumas could not bring back the belief of the public in these old-fangled inventions. ‘Angelo’ even, the work of a man of genius still more dramatic, failed chiefly to interest the public so much as ‘Hernani’ or ‘Marion Delorme’ on account of the employment of such devices. In the case of Charles the Second this machinery has, at least, the recommendation of probability. After the defeat at Worcester, Charles knew, most probably, the inside of more than one of those secret chambers which old families established to shelter the priest or the Jesuit. Scott’s treatment of this subject in ‘Woodstock’ seems, however, exhaustive, since no subsequent writer, Mr. Buchanan included, has done more than follow in his footsteps. So strong is the resemblance, indeed, between ‘Woodstock’ and the early acts of ‘A Madcap Prince,’ that one might almost suppose a dramatization of the novel to have suggested itself to the writer, and to have been abandoned as the work advanced.
     The novelist, more dramatic than the dramatist, has escaped one error into which his successor has fallen. He has rendered his monarch interesting. Few, comparatively, as are the occasions in which Charles appears in ‘Woodstock,’ they are always effective. Every word spoken by the king is characteristic, and his banter of the young Puritan is delightful
comedy. Mr. Buchanan’s Charles has nothing about him either regal or characteristic, except an alacrity in kissing every woman with whom he comes into contact. When he throws off the dress of royalty and another dons it, the case is different; Charles himself, however, is a mere nonentity, in whom it is difficult to feel the slightest interest.
     No attempt has been made to use any of the historical information imparted in Blount’s ‘Boscobel’ as to “his sacred Majesties most miraculous preservation after the battle of Worcester”; and no mention is made of the Royal Oak, in which, safely ensconced, the king listened to the comments of his pursuers. The action, though probable enough, is imaginary. Hard pressed in his flight, Charles takes refuge with some ladies of the name of Lee, and throws himself upon their mercy, forbidding them to declare his presence in the house to any one of the sterner sex. As every lady in the house has a lover, much consternation is caused by whispers of stray meetings, stolen kisses, and other like matters. In the end jealousy becomes the means of detecting the hiding-place of the king, in a chamber to which a secret-door opens behind some arras. When the fugitive is bidden to surrender, there appears not the king, but Elinor Vane, the younger and fairer of His Majesty‘s protectors. So complete is the disguise she wears, none in the house recognizes the saucy minx who personates royalty. In order to afford Charles time to escape, she continues to support her royal rôle until all the male folk in the house are beside themselves with jealousy and indignation. When everybody has been sufficiently plagued and puzzled, and when news has been received that the fugitive monarch has escaped over sea, the young lady doffs her disguise, and the piece ends. She succeeds moreover, somewhat fortunately for herself, in persuading her Republican associates that the whole matter is a stage-play—a notion not in itself likely to be too acceptable in their eyes.
     The third act, though prolonged and clumsy, has, in the end, abundance of “go.” A better effect would be produced if the heroine, instead of retiring to change her dress, would doff a portion of her disguise and make her revelation upon the stage. Miss Robertson’s acting of this part was an admirable piece of comedy. There are few living actresses who could give so clever a mixture of sauciness and espièglerie, and could blend with it so much that was genuine and womanly. Her manner of wearing her disguise was excellent, and her identity was scarcely recognizable behind it. A slight tendency to ultra-vivacity is the only conceivable drawback from a performance that is thoroughly artistic. Mr. Kendal played with care the part of the poor lover who is the victim of her caprices and experiments. Mr. Rogers and Mr. Horne gave capably two Commonwealth officers, and Mr. Buckstone imparted sufficient unction to the regard for worldly interests of a Puritan soldier, one Light-o’-the-Land Sawdon. Mr. Weathersby played Charles. The scenery and dresses were good, and the reception of the piece, as has been said, was favourable. A small portion of the play seemed intended for blank verse; its literary merits were, however, wholly insignificant.
     Two farces by Mr. Buckstone, some singing by Mr. Sims Reeves, and Mr. Theyre Smith’s comedietta of ‘The Happy Pair,’ were included in the programme. Mr. Buckstone also delivered his customary address, the chief feature in which was the generosity of his mention of the dramatists who had supplied him with pieces that had proved unfortunate.



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (8 August, 1874 - p.6)



     THE season at the Haymarket terminated on Monday night, which was as usual devoted to the annual benefit of Mr. Buckstone; and the brilliant and numerous audience that filled every available space in the theatre testified to the universal esteem and popularity enjoyed by the veteran actor and manager. The programme was unusually varied and attractive, comprising Mr. Buckstone’s own farces of John Jones and Popping the Question. Mr. Theyre Smith’s Comedietta of The Happy Pair, with Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, as the mistaken and obstinate lovers, needlessly irritating each other; and the long promised but frequently postponed new comedy, The Mad-Cap Prince, by Mr. Robert Buchanan. Mr. Sims Reeves, for the fourth time, on the recurrence of these annual benefits, lent his friendly aid, and sang Blumenthal’s “Requital,” and a new song, “Jack’s farewell,” composed and written expressly for him by Mr. Molloy and Mr. F. Burnand. The latter being encored with acclamation, Mr. Reeves promptly reappeared and substituted his favourite Dibden ballad “Tom Bowling,” which the great tenor rendered with unrivalled pathos and expression. The new comedy, The Mad-cap Prince, produced for the first time, on the last night of the season, was received with every symptom of a decided success, due in a great measure to the arch and spirited acting of Mrs. Kendal, in the principal character, ‘Elinor Vane,’ a young lady of a Puritan family, but a Royalist at heart; who, giving shelter to Charles Stuart on his flight after the battle of Worcester, conceals him behind a secret panel, and, disguising herself in his attire, gives herself up prisoner, to the Roundheads, as the king; while the royal fugitive escapes to the seaboard. This is the main feature of the simple plot, which is interwoven with minor most amusing complications, arising from the various devices resorted to by Miss Vane, to sustain her assumed character of the royal prisoner, so as to give the real prince ample time to escape, before the deceit is inevitably discovered. She has completely hoodwinked everybody; her aunt, Mistress Vane, her cousin and lover, Sir Harry Lisle, a Royalist, and the Roundhead officers; and then, to properly sustain the gallantry of the character she has assumed, she makes love to her aunt, to excite the jealousy of the Roundhead officer, who aspires to the hand of Mistress Vane;—she also works upon the feelings of her maid’s lover, a puritan soldier; a very small part, into which Mr. Buckstone manages to infuse some unctuous humour; and she drives her own lover, Sir Harry Lisle almost made, compelling him in his new capacity as secretary to his supposed Royal Master, to write at her dictation, a love-letter, as from the Royal prisoner, to Elinor Vane—and subsequently, to read that lady’s equally warm response. Eventually, intelligence having reached Elinor, that Charles has escaped to France—all further need to continue the masquerading is at an end, and she appears before her astonished victims in her own habiliments, and all differences are adjusted. The whole weight and interest of the piece rests on Mrs. Kendal, who acts with charming vivacity and grace, as ‘Elinor,’ both as the young puritan lady, and as ‘Prince Charles Stuart,’ and received frequent and well-deserved applause. The comedy will be eagerly looked for on the return of the Haymarket company from the provinces, especially for the sake of seeing this charming impersonation of the heroine by Mrs. Kendal.
. . .



The Week’s News (8 August, 1874)

     The Haymarket season terminated on Monday evening last with Mr. Buckstone’s benefit, on which occasion a new comedy, by Mr. Robert Buchanan, entitled “The Madcap Prince,” was played for the first time. It was very cordially received, but the applause of a benefit night is remarkably deceptive, and we have grave doubts as to the ultimate success of the piece, which is very defective in construction. In the course of the evening Mr. Buckstone made his usual speech. He said that it had been his custom for some years past to say a few words at the close of a season, and he should repeat his custom that evening. He confessed that he could not boast of any great successes during the season just ending, still he did not despair, but looked forward with confidence to better fortune next year. With regard to the failure of some plays he had produced, it might  naturally be asked why he had accepted them, and where was his judgment in so doing. In reply to these questions he would say that it is impossible to decide whether a piece may be successful until it has been placed before the public. Very recently a new comedy was read by his company—the laughter was loud and continuous, indeed at times the hilarity was absolutely hysterical. He was promised that the piece would run for two or three years, that a fortune was before him, and all sorts of congratulations poured in upon him and the authors. The play was placed upon the stage with every regard to correct and expensive scenery and what are termed properties. He was as realistic as possible. There was a real pump with real water, real hens in a market-place, where, during the scene, one of the hens was so realistic as to lay a real egg. But the piece was a failure, the dialogue, that in the green-room caused roars of laughter, fell flat when delivered on the stage, and after a few nights the play was withdrawn. The authors, who were as much led astray as himself, bore their disappointment with great good nature, and he sincerely hoped that when they produced another work it might be as successful as their last was unfortunate. After announcing his proposed programme for next season, Mr. Buckstone bade his friends and supporters farewell until October.



The Era (23 August, 1874 - p.5)


     THEATRE ROYAL.—(Lessee, R. H. Wyndham.)—The annual engagement of Mr Buckstone and the celebrated Haymarket company at this Theatre commenced on Monday under the most brilliant auspices, his Majesty the King of Denmark and her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales having intimated to the Management their intention to be  present. ... On Tuesday Mr Buchanan’s new comedy A Madcap Prince was presented before a capital audience, and was eminently successful. Messrs Buckstone, Kendal, Rogers, and Howe, and Misses Robertson, Fitzwilliam, and Mrs Chippendale repeating their London successes in the chief characters.



The New York Clipper (29 August, 1874)


     A NEW PLAY AT THE HAYMARKET THEATRE.—Our London correspondent Mr. Howard Paul, under date of Aug. 6 sends us the following:
     “The Haymarket season closed last night with Mr. Buckstone’s benefit. A crowded house testified to the popularity of the actor and manager, and Mr. Buchanan’s new comedy, “A Madcap Prince,” was received with all the usual demonstrations of approval. Mr. Robert Buchanan the poet is the author of the new comedy, which is not one of modern life, but is simply another version of a theme that has been treated dramatically times out of number. The Cavalier and Puritan business has been literally done to death, and Charles Stuart’s escape after the battle of Worcester is a subject worn absolutely threadbare. Playgoers of the sanguine order might have concluded they had seen the last of that unfortunate Prince; but “here we are again” is the cry of that budding libertine, and for the thousandth time he is enveloped in a smock frock, disguised in a carroty wig, and concealed behind the convenient panel. We are bound to accept Mr. Buchanan’s declaration that his comedy is “new and original.” It may be an original treatment of a worn-out theme, but the impression of novelty is by no means powerfully conveyed in this piece. Mr. Buchanan is a poet, and on that account we are warranted in looking for high-class writing. It does not, however, appear, the dialogue in no case being much above the average. The success of the piece with the public could hardly have been more decided and pronounced than it was; but in the literary sense a just balance in the different characters is desirable. A one-part piece is bad, and a two-part piece is very little better. Two fairly-developed characters and half a dozen shadows may satisfy an audience, but do not constitute a perfect play, and this truth is exemplified in “A Madcap Prince.” The plot of the comedy is extremely slight, and the period in which the action is supposed to take place is “immediately after the battle of Worcester,” in the year 1652. The scene is laid at Elm-tree House, the domicile of Mistress Vane (Mrs. Chippendale), and Elinor Vane (Miss Robertson), both supposed to be Puritans, but Royalists in reality. Charles Stuart (Mr. Weathersby) enters, disguised as a plough-boy, craves shelter of Elinor, and obtains it. He proclaims himself “the King,” and is stowed away behind a sliding panel and the wainscot. Mistress Vane is in the secret. Elinor’s lover is her cousin, Sir Harry Lisle (Mr. Kendal), a cavalier, who is, to say the least, very tenderly treated by Colonel Bruton (Mr. Rogers) and Major Stern (Mr. Howe), both officers of the Parliamentary Army. The latter has a penchant for the buxom Mistress Vane, and is uncommonly like a Royalist in disguise. Having concealed Charles Stuart, Elinor schemes how she may throw the Puritan hounds off the scent. She suddenly remembers having made some success as an actress in charades! Mr. Buchanan has, we suppose, his authority for hinting that the acting of charades was a recognized amusement prior to 1652. Elinor dresses herself as the young Charles Stuart, and takes his place in the recess behind the wainscot. Colonel Bruton proceeds to break open the panel. Elinor walks out, and gives herself up as Charles Stuart. This situation is well brought about, and ends the second act. In the third, she makes love to Mistress Vane, hoodwinks everybody, and manages to get Sir Harry Lisle, her own lover, as private secretary. She makes him write a love-letter as from the Royal fugitive to Elinor. Sir Harry Lisle is furious, but is compelled to obey. She then makes him read an amorous answer as from Lady Elinor. This straw breaks the camel’s back. Sir Harry bitterly congratulates his King, as he thinks, upon a new conquest, and forswears his allegiance. Eventually it is discovered that Charles Stuart has escaped, and Elinor is then taken for the Earl of Rochester. She is challenged by the wrathful Lisle, and more complications ensue. At last she is obliged to explain the trick, and is, of course, pardoned by her lover. An underplot, as slight as anything can well be, is carried on by Light-o’-the-land Sawdon (Mr. Buckstone), a Puritan soldier, and Cicely Clover (Mrs. E. Fitzwilliam), a waiting maid. Mr. and Mrs. Kendal have the chief responsibility to bear as concerns the acting. The lady played with immense spirit, and in the last act particularly showed an intelligence and a sense of humor quite refreshing. She was adequately seconded by Mr. Kendal as the irascible lover compelled to be the medium of communication between his betrothed and, as he imagines, a royal libertine. Light-o’-the-land Sawdon is a part utterly unworthy of such an actor as Mr. Buckstone; but he managed to throw into the character a great deal of dry, quaint humor, as much by facial expression as by what he had to say. After this it cannot surely be asserted that an actor-manager invariably stipulates for a great part.”



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (29 August, 1874 - p.6)

     EDINBURGH.—THEATRE ROYAL (lessee, Mr. R. H. Wyndham).—Few, if any, companies can equal, none surpass, in finished acting the clever band of artists that Mr. Buckstone has gathered around him. How well they act up to each other is admirably seen in She Stoops to Conquer, and Sheridan’s School for Scandal, and The Rivals, all of which, with The Overland Route and A Madcap Prince, have been produced here during the week. On Monday night, Mr. Buckstone’s engagement commenced under unusually auspicious circumstances, as he was able to number amongst his audience the Princess of Wales, the King of Denmark, and :Prince Waldemar, who honoured the theatre with their presence. She Stoops to Conquer was the pièce de resistance; and it is scarcely necessary to say that all the company fulfilled their parts to perfection. Miss Madge Robertson of course assumed the part of ‘Miss Hardcastle,’ a part which she has almost made her own. As ‘Young Marlowe,’ Mr. Kendal was quiet, gentlemanly, and effective; while Mr. Buckstone’s ‘Tony Lumpkin’ was inimitably droll. The new comedy by Robert Buchanan, entitled A Madcap Prince, was presented on Tuesday night to a large audience, who were not slow in expressing their gratification at the excellence of the piece. Miss Robertson’s portrayal of ‘Elinor Vane’ gave the greatest satisfaction—its finish, power, and pathos winning a way to all hearts. Mr. Kendal was, as usual, successful in giving a consistent and truthful exposition of a character which eminently suits him—that of ‘Sir Harry Lisle.’ We have nothing but the warmest praise to bestow upon the representations of School for Scandal and The Rivals, with which pieces the Haymarket company are peculiarly identified in the provinces. Miss Robertson’s ‘Lady Teazle’ shows marked improvement on her reading of the character two years ago. Nothing in its way is finer than the climax in the “screen scene.” For the autumn and winter seasons, Mr. Wyndham has effected engagements with Mr. Sothern, Miss Kate Bateman, Mrs. Scott Siddons, Miss Ada Cavendish, Mrs. John Wood, Mr. Charles Mathews, and Mr. Talbot, to be followed by the pantomime of Jack and the Beanstalk, which will be produced at Christmas with the usual spectacular splendour. In view of the expiry of his lease, we believe that Mr. Wyndham is about to acquire a prominent site for the erection of a larger theatre, which is sadly needed in Edinburgh, seeing that the Haymarket company could fill the present playhouse twice over with any one of their performances.



The Era (30 August, 1874 - p.5)


     THEATRE ROYAL.—(Lessee, R. H. Wyndham.)—Since our last the company of the Haymarket Theatre has continued to appear at this establishment with unabated success, the audiences of the week having been most encouraging and satisfactory. On Friday (the 21st inst,) that pleasant comedy The Overland Route was presented, and received with marked favour; and on Saturday Mr Buchanan’s drama A Madcap Prince was repeated with every possible evidence of success, Miss Robertson’s clever representation of the principal character gaining fresh laurels.



The Glasgow Herald (4 September, 1874 - p.4)

     THEATRE ROYAL.—“A MADCAP PRINCE.”—Mr Buchanan’s comedy, “A Madcap Prince,” will be produced to- night, when Mr and Mrs Kendal will take their benefit. Very diverse opinions have been expressed by the London papers as to the merits of Mr Buchanan’s comedy; and Glasgow playgoers, among whom the author’s name and personality are not wholly unknown, will no doubt turn out largely to judge for themselves, as well as to do honour to Mr and Mrs Kendal.



The Stage (3 June, 1881 - p.8)

     Tonight Miss Harriet Jay has her benefit at the Olympic. A Madcap Prince by Robert Buchanan will be played.



The Academy (11 November, 1882)

     MISS HARRIETT JAY (author of The Queen of Connaught) will appear on Wednesday next, at a society matinée, in Mr. Buchanan’s “Madcap Prince,” to be followed by the last act of the “Nine Day’s Queen,” in which play Miss Jay had so great a success eighteen months ago. It will, we believe, be the lady’s first appearance in pure comedy, though, if we may trust provincial reports, her comedy scenes in “Lady Clancarty,” in which she starred in company with Mr. George Rignold, were admirable. It is possible that she may appear on a subsequent occasion as Rosalind in “As You Like It.”



The Times (23 November, 1882 - p.8)


     At a special matinée yesterday Miss Harriett Jay, who has appeared at intervals on the London stage, essayed the character of Elinor Vane in Mr. Robert Buchanan’s Haymarket comedy A Madcap Prince. The part demands a certain amount of versatility in an actress, inasmuch as Elinor Vane has to impersonate Charles Stuart (afterwards Charles II.) while that rash young Prince escapes to the Continent. It cannot be said that Miss Jay’s acting exhibits any extraordinary qualities. She has tolerably well mastered the technical requirements of the stage, but her comedy is too artificial and forced to impress an audience deeply.



The Echo (23 November, 1882)


     Miss Harriet Jay made her first appearance at this house yesterday in the parts of Elinor Vane, the heroine of Mr. Buchanan’s comedy of A Madcap Prince, and afterwards as Lady Jane Gray in The Nine Days’ Queen. The former piece merits a better production than it meets with in a morning performance, where it frequently hangs fire from the want of familiarity with their parts exhibited by the various actors. This was principally noticeable in the two first acts, the third going far more briskly. Miss Jay played with spirit, and was supported by Mr. Philip Beck, Mr. David Fisher, Mr. Beerbohm-Tree, Mrs. Chippendale, and Miss Erskine. The Nine Days’ Queen will be repeated at next Wednesday’s matinée.



The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (23 November, 1882 - p.5)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan has made several attempts to win public favour as a dramatist, but he has met with but indifferent success. An afternoon performance at the Gaiety Theatre to-day was devoted to the revival of Mr. Buchanan’s three-act comedy, The Madcap Prince. Miss Harriet Jay, the authoress of that clever novel “The Queen of Connaught,” played the heroine, but exhibited no special power, her acting being altogether too artificial, a fault which also characterises Mr. Buchanan’s play.



The Era (25 November, 1882)


On this occasion only, the successful Haymarket comedy, written by
Robert Buchanan, and entitled

Charles Stuart   . . . . . . . . . .    Mr COURTENEY THORPE
Sir Harry Lisle    . . . . . . . . . .   Mr PHILIP BECK
Colonel Bruton   . . . . . . . . . .   Mr T. E. NYE
Major Sterne     . . . . . . . . . .    Mr DAVID FISHER
Light-o’-the-Land Sawdon . .   Mr PERCY BELL
Mistress Vane    . . . . . . . . . .  Mrs CHIPPENDALE
Cicely Clover      . . . . . . . . . .   Miss LETTY LIND
Elinor Vane        . . . . . . . . . .  Miss HARRIET JAY

     The afternoon performance at the Gaiety Theatre on Wednesday introduced Miss Harriet Jay in two characters, and enabled her to display her talent as a comic and tragic actress. Mr. Robert Buchanan’s comedy The Madcap Prince, originally produced at the Haymarket Theatre, is a work in three acts, possessing not a little of the spirit of the old comedies; and it has the advantage also of an intelligible and fairly interesting plot. The period is immediately after the battle of Worcester, and the Madcap Prince is Charles Stuart, afterwards Charles the Second, who at the opening of the comedy is flying from his Puritan foes, who are in hot pursuit and who have tracked him, as they believe, to the vicinity of Elmtree House, a mansion belonging to Mistress Vane, whose niece Elinor Vane no sooner learns that the fugitive who has sought shelter in the house under the disguise of a rustic clown is the King, than she at once determines to save him. The mansion is closely watched by the Puritans, so closely indeed, that when Elinor Vane and her sweetheart, Sir Harry Lisle, a Cavalier, are strolling in the park, they are challenged, and Sir Harry in a reckless mood failing to give the password because he is amusing himself with a ballad in praise of the Cavaliers is at once fired at. Soon after Colonel Bruton, an officer in the Parliamentary army, comes with orders to keep stricter watch than ever about the house, and to search every room within. Meanwhile, the fugitive King has found a true friend in Elinor Vane, who first conceals him in a secret passage of the house; but, in his haste to get clear of his enemies, a glove, a hat, and the wig used as disguises are left, and the Puritan officer becomes suspicious. In another way Sir Harry has his doubts also, but his sole idea is that the man concealed upon the premises is a lover, and, inflamed with jealousy, he at once gives the signal to the sentinel, and it becomes evident that, if the King is indeed to escape his clutches, he will have to lose no time. At the close of the first act we see the Puritans eagerly following up the search, but without result. In the second they are so nearly successful that Elinor Vane feels that the life of the fugitive hangs upon a thread, and she hits upon a bold device. It appears that she had recently performed in a drawing-room comedy, and had dressed in a Cavalier costume. Taking her maid and her aunt into the secret, she vanishes, and when there seems to be no chance that the king’s hiding place can be longer concealed, and the soldiers are delighted to think that at last they have got their prey, forth comes the maiden in her Court costume, and boldly proclaims herself to be the King. But Elinor has a little experiment of her own on hand. She wishes to prove the devotion of her swain Sir Harry Lisle, and, having deceived all her friends save those she has taken into her secret, the wilful maiden almost maddens her lover by a pretence that the young king is smitten with his sweetheart, and that she responds to his passion. This incident leads to one of the most effective scenes in the comedy, for the lover, furious at the supposed faithlessness of Elinor, threatens the pretended monarch in fine style, while Elinor herself is delighted to find that her gay cavalier has so much spirit, manliness, and affection. While these pranks are being played to give time for the fugitive to get away, the Parliamentary officer presently comes in a towering passion with the news that Charles is on shipboard, and is being borne to France. Who, then, is the prisoner who has impersonated Royalty? It must be Rochester; and forthwith the disguised girl is accused of being that reckless libertine, and Sir Harry Lisle is more irate than ever. But the game is up. Charles has escaped to become the Second Charles of England; and the only thing for Elinor to do is to pretend that she has played the trick to tease her lover and to win a merry wager. This serves to bring the curtain down pleasantly upon a comedy by no means deficient in merit, situation, or effective dialogue. The youthful King was played by Mr Courteney Thorpe, who, with good looks to recommend him, was somewhat deficient in regal dignity. But as Charles is seen only as a fugitive, and disappears early in the comedy, no very serious demands were made upon the talents of the performer. Mr Philip Beck, who has played Lautier so effectively in Drink, represented the lively Cavalier with much spirit and gaiety, and in the scene where Sir Harry boldly defies the pretended King, Mr Beck was rewarded with hearty applause, which was quite justified by the energy and earnestness infused into the scene, which, as we have already said, was the best in the comedy. There was the ring of natural feeling in Mr Beck’s acting of this scene. Mr T. E. Nye, as the parliamentary officer, was as bluff and decided as we should expect such a personage to be; and Mr David Fisher, as Major Sterne, gave sufficient aid in the cast. The quaint Puritan sentinel, Light o’ the Land Sawdon, was sustained with genuine humour by Mr Percy Bell, who caused many a hearty laugh by his grim, but not very sincere, Puritanism; for friend Sawdon is only a Puritan externally, like a great many more of his class even at the present day, who readily sacrifice their creed or their party when self-interest can be advanced by doing so. This little character has as much individuality as anything in the comedy; and Mr Bell deserved great praise for the pains he took to make it effective and amusing. As Mistress Vane, Mrs Chippendale’s acting was as enjoyable as ever. The Widow Vane was said to be “mellow,” and mellow and genial in the extreme was Mrs Chippendale’s acting. Miss Letty Lind was bright and pleasant as could be desired as the confidential maid who wins over the grim Puritan Sawdon to the side of the King by a promise to marry him. As Elinor Vane, Miss Harriet Jay acted with considerable spirit and with good intentions, spite of something artificial in style, which occasionally destroyed the reality of the scenes. Miss Jay has yet to acquire a good stage walk; and her attitudes, when dressed in the Cavalier costume in the third act, were frequently stiff and ungraceful. The attempt at disguise was also imperfectly accomplished. The earlier love-making scenes with Sir Harry Lisle were agreeably acted, as Miss Jay was seen to much greater advantage in the ordinary feminine costume, although the want of greater freedom and grace was evident even then. Praise was due for the decision and clearness of her delivery of the text, and there was at times a certain sprightliness in keeping with the character which made it fairly amusing and effective. Finally, when the curtain fell upon The Madcap Prince, the satisfaction of the audience was expressed with some cordiality. She was put to a somewhat severer trial in two scenes from the romantic drama


Lady Jane Grey   . . . . . . . . . .   Miss HARRIET JAY
Queen Mary Tudor . . . . . . . .  Miss ROBERTHA ERSKINE
Lord Guildford Dudley  . . . . .  Mr COURTENEY THORPE
The Earl of Hertford     . . . . . .   Mr BEERBOHM TREE
Sir John Bridges   . . . . . . . . . .   Mr T. F. NYE
Gardiner     . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Mr A. C. HATTON

The two scenes were the pathetic farewell between Lady Jane Grey and Lord Dudley and the scene upon the scaffold. What we mean by a severer trial is this: when separate scenes from a sombre tragedy are given upon the stage, they must necessarily lose much of their interest for the audience. If the entire play or tragedy is given, the emotions of the spectators are gradually prepared for the crisis which, under such circumstances, comes with greater force, and finds the audience in a better mood to sympathise with the sorrows of a much-enduring heroine. But when we are suddenly plunged into the midst of an atmosphere of tragic gloom and dungeons, and last farewells and visions of the headsman loom before us, it is something like playing a sequence of Wagner’s most terrific discords, when we are anticipating one of Mendelssohn’s sweetest “Songs without Words.” That there was something a little jarring to the nerves in the subject itself could not be denied, but Miss Harriet Jay succeeded by her earnestness and pathos in impressing the audience; and at the fall of the curtain upon the ghastly scaffold scene, with the headsman about to strike the fatal blow, and the heroine’s long, fair hair brushed back for the sacrifice, there was considerable applause. Miss Robertha Erskine gave due importance to the simple speech of Queen Mary, and her talent was fully recognised by the audience. Mr Courteney Thorpe, as Lord Dudley, spoke his few lines with considerable feeling. Mr Beerbohm Tree as the Earl of Hertford, Mr Nye as the Keeper of the Tower, and Mr A. C. Hatton as Bishop Gardiner, were all efficient, although, owing to the reasons we have stated, their characters were reduced to shadowy outlines. We may add that Miss Jay was more than once called to the front during the performance.



The Stage (1 December, 1882 - p.9)


     On Wednesday week, November 22nd, Miss Harriet Jay appeared here as Mistress Elinor Vane, the heroine of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s comedy, A Madcap Prince. The heroine of the play is a Royalist lady who saves Charles Stuart by the risky device of disguising herself as the fugitive King. Miss Jay played the part with much intelligence, and afterwards appeared in her original character of Lady Jane Grey in the last act of Mr. Buchanan’s romantic four-act drama, entitled The Nine Days’ Queen. The play was first performed at the Gaiety Theatre, on the afternoon of December 22nd, 1880. It was repeated in its entirety on Wednesday afternoon last, November 29th, with Miss Harriet Jay once more as the heroine. Miss Jay displayed much artistic feeling in the part, and acted with considerable success. Her elocution is a little hard and stagey, and her performance would be improved were it infused with more life and vigour. Mr. Courtenay Thorpe as Lord Guildford Dudley played well, but marred his impersonation by an unfortunate habit of prolonging words of one syllable, as thus—“qu-a-a-en” for queen. Mr. A. Beaumont was capital as the Duke of Northumberland. It was a treat to hear his admirable delivery of his lines. Mr. H. Beerbohm- Tree’s rendering of the Earl of Hertford, though not lacking in force and passion, wanted repose. The other characters were efficiently represented, and Mr. Buchanan’s doleful play was mounted well—that is, for the Gaiety. Miss Jay was the recipient of several bouquets on the occasion of each performance.



From Chapter XXIV of Robert Buchanan by Harriett Jay:

     The first play which he produced after the “Witchfinder” was a little costume comedy in three acts entitled “A Madcap Prince.” This piece was staged in 1875 at the Haymarket Theatre, then under the management of the late J. B. Buckstone. Though it had the advantage of an exceptionally fine cast, which included such names as Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, the late Mr. Buckstone, Mrs. Chippendale, Mr. Howe, and Mrs. Fitzwilliam, and on its initial production scored a distinct success, it never had the slightest chance of a prosperous London run. It was produced at the close of the London season, and was put up as a bonne bouche, for the benefit of the manager of the theatre, and though it was announced that the piece would be played by “the Haymarket company during their tour, and would reopen the Haymarket in October,” it was never afterwards performed in London. This fact, however, could not be attributed to the non-success of the play, the reception of which was enthusiastic. “Prince Arthur was present, and at the end called Mr. Kendal to his box and congratulated him on the play, which he declared to be one of the best he had ever witnessed.” It was, however, taken on tour, and although Mr. Buchanan had some difficulty in obtaining his fees (“I have to issue a writ against Buckstone for what he owes me, confound him!”) the piece was phenomenally successful. In Liverpool they “refused money in all the more expensive parts of the House.” In Edinburgh it was presented with every possible success, while in Glasgow it attracted “the largest audience seen in the Theatre Royal for a long time. The house was crammed to the door with a fashionable audience, and one important source of the eagerness of the great assembly was the fact that a new comedy was to be produced from the pen of one whose youth was spent in Glasgow, and whose name is now well known all over the world.” The comedy met with a “decidedly brilliant reception from the whole audience, who were hearty and unstinted in their demonstrations of satisfaction. Greatly charmed, they cheered again and again.” Yet, as I have said, “A Madcap Prince” did not form the opening attraction at the Haymarket Theatre on the return of the company to London, the principal reason for this, I fancy, being the fact that its author was driven to the necessity of “issuing a writ against Buckstone for the fees.”



Next: Corinne (1876)

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