30. Miss Tomboy (1890)
by Robert Buchanan (adapted from the play, The Relapse by Sir John Vanbrugh).
London: Vaudeville Theatre. 20 March, 1890. (First in a series of matinée performances).
London: Vaudeville Theatre. 6 May to 26 July, 1890. (101st performance).
London: Vaudeville Theatre. 26 May, 1891 (matinée).
London: Vaudeville Theatre. 15 to 19 June, 1891.
The Derby Daily Telegraph (3 March, 1890 - p.2)
Surely Mr. Robert Buchanan imagines he has some right divine to resuscitate the literature of past centuries. His adaptations from Richardson and Fielding have been pronounced successes, interesting not as dramatic curios, but as stage plays, witty and vigorous; he has been quick to see, able to grasp, the strong humanistic elements in the old novels he has tackled; and he has vivified the life of a past generation only brought home to latterday playgoers with Goldsmith revivals. He is now doing a bold thing in paring and trimming Vanbrugh’s somewhat immoral “Relapse” for production at a series of Vaudeville matinées. Considering Sheridan tried his hand unsuccessfully at the same comedy, and that yet another version failed at the Gaiety 20 years back, I think Mr. Buchanan might have ventured his luck elsewhere.
Pall Mall Gazette (4 March, 1890 - p.1)
AFTER “CLARISSA,” “THE RELAPSE.”
The version of Sir John Vanbrugh’s comedy “The Relapse,” which is being prepared by Robert Buchanan for the Vaudeville, will see the light—at a matinée of course—as soon as it is ready. If successful, you may expect to see it oust “Clarissa” from her place in the evening bills, as this drama has not done all that the management anticipated. I should have liked to see so sound and artistic a play—for with all its faults it never lacks true art—become a really popular “triumph.” But the average theatre-goer is a strange creature. You may make him laugh in almost any way you please; but he is very particular as to the precise method in which you extract tears from his critical eyes. Presumably, he does not find sufficient enjoyment in weeping over the woes of the unfortunate Miss Harlowe.
The Stage (7 March, 1890 - p.11)
The Relapse, revised by Robert Buchanan, is promised at a series of morning performances to be given at the Vaudeville, where, I am told, Clarissa is attracting good business every evening.
Should The Relapse prove successful you may expect to see it go into the night bill, for it is Mr. Thomas Thorne’s plan to produce new plays at matinées before risking them in the evening.
The Athenæum (8 March, 1890 - No. 3254, p.318)
AN adaptation by Mr. Robert Buchanan of ‘The Relapse’ of Sir John Vanbrugh is promised by Mr. Thorne at afternoon representations at the Vaudeville. A play more strongly imbued with the spirit of Restoration comedy, and more difficult to fit to modern requirements, cannot easily be found, and success in this experiment will open a new mine to managers and a new vista to lovers of the stage.
The Bristol Mercury (18 March, 1890 - p.3)
“The Tomboy” is the title selected for what Mr Robert Buchanan is pleased to call his “new comedy adapted from” Vanbrugh’s “Relapse.” It is to be produced at the Vaudeville on Thursday afternoon.
The Times (21 March, 1890 - p.11)
To furbish up old comedy and present it in a fresh form to a later generation of playgoers than that for which it was written is not so much a new as a revived branch of theatrical enterprise. It was a common enough industry in the last century, when Shakespeare himself was thought to require adaptation. Now that classics are viewed with the same veneration as old monuments, it requires, perhaps, as much courage to renovate an old dramatist as it would do to whitewash Stonehenge; but where courage is needed Mr. Robert Buchanan is never found wanting, and it is he, accordingly, who is responsible for the modernized version of Vanbrugh’s famous comedy The Relapse, which was played yesterday afternoon at the Vaudeville, under the title of Miss Tomboy. Adapters are much given to the use of the phrase “founded upon,” which no doubt expresses as little obligation to the work in question, whatever it may be, as is compatible with the mention of the original author’s name. In the present instance the words, for once, are appropriately employed in the playbill, since they convey a tolerably exact impression of the relation of the new to the old piece. Mr. Robert Buchanan has not adapted Vanbrugh; he is hardly indebted to him, indeed, for a line of dialogue. What he has done has been to borrow the underplot of The Relapse, with its characters, sacrificing all the incidents in which Loveless, Amanda, and Berinthia, are concerned, and to present in a quick and well-ordered succession of scenes the device by which Tom Fashion cuts out Lord Foppington in the scheme for winning the hand of Miss Hoyden, the rustic heiress. A considerable group of Vanbrugh’s dramatis personæ are thus retained, though why Coupler should now be disguised as Sir George Matcham, while Sir Tunbelly Clumsey is not ashamed of his patronymic, it is hard to understand. As Tom Fashion’s adventure in personating his elder brother is of an entirely proper character from the modern point of view, Mr. Robert Buchanan’s task, within the limits he has assigned himself, has been one of suppression chiefly; and, all things considered, this is no doubt the least objectionable form in which a revival of Vanbrugh’s comedy could be attempted. The action becomes somewhat attenuated, it is true; but, on the other hand, it is commendably free from the vices of its period, resolving itself mainly into an illustration of the character of the scented dandy of the 17th century, Lord Foppington. This personage is now amusingly portrayed by Mr. Thomas Thorne even to the lisping affectation of speech conveyed by the substitution of “a” for “o” in such words as “apalagize” and “Tam;” and his follies and fatuities may, perhaps, be found to compensate for what must be described as a lack of plot, seeing that the wooing and winning of Miss Hoyden remains what it originally was—a rather meagre dramatic incident. Miss Hoyden herself, who naturally gives the piece its title, now that Loveless and his “relapse” from conjugal fidelity are suppressed, has been modernized into a frolicsome boarding-school miss, and is winsomely played on such lines by Miss Winifred Emery, Mr. Frank Gillmore appears as the dashing young Tom Fashion, Mr. Fred Thorne as Sir Tunbelly, Mr. Cyril Maude as a foppish man-servant, and Mr. J. S. Blythe as the matchmaker. The curiously hybrid work to which Mr. Robert Buchanan has put his name in conjunction with that of Sir John Vanburgh was yesterday well received, and it may, perhaps, obtain something more than a succès de curiosité.
The Echo (21 March, 1890 - p.1)
The industrious Mr. Robert Buchanan is very greatly beholden to Miss Winifred Emery. She it is who nightly takes his gloomy play, Clarissa, in hand, and by the radiancy of her sensitive genius so ennobles its central character that she brings it back to the high ideal of a woman’s spirit—pure, proud, chaste, and sinless, fettered in a dishonoured body—which makes the original Clarissa Harlowe of Richardson one of the most beautiful conceptions in our national literature. Yesterday afternoon we were called to see how Mr. Buchanan had fared in his effort to stitch together a three- act-up-to-date farcical comedy, or farce, called Miss Tomboy, out of Vanbrugh’s Relapse and Sheridan’s Trip to Scarborough, a feat, by-the-bye, of playwrighting sartorialism last successfully performed by Mr. John Hollingshead, who called his production The Man of Quality. We found Mr. Buchanan in the sermonising vein, reproving in a note in the programme the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for the “heartlessness” of their “artificial period,” and explaining how, having banished their “tawdry mock-heroic blank verse,” he hoped he had “humanised” the play into “essentially a new comedy.” We discovered that the “heart” of Buchanan beating in the bodies of his illustrious predecessors gave us something of the rattling farce order, rapid and laughable, but utterly devoid of the artificiality, wit, and glitter of the older works. But what was infinitely more delightful was the revelation that Miss Emery, in a totally different character—that of a trick-playing, rough-and-tumble, reckless, unsophisticated tomboy, full of animal spirits and noisy, riotous roguery—was once more willing and able to take the burden of the performance on her shoulders, and bring it to a merry and successful issue. It came as a surprise. There is very little in Miss Emery personally to suggest the hoyden; her delicate face and features, rather tearful voice, and soft, entwining manners, are all against her. But all these she overcame; she burst upon us as the rollicking, restless torment, the ever-in-hot-water enfant terrible, naive beyond belief, capable of much duplicity in the scene in which she acts imbecility, but beautiful and graceful despite it all. The story, as it stands, is simple. Tom Fashion, Lord Foppington’s younger brother, appeals to his Lordship for funds. His Lordship angrily refuses. But Tom, learning that the Peer is about to proceed into the country to win an heiress, forestalls him, and has himself announced to the girl and her rustic father as “My Lord,” and carries the maiden’s heart by storm. My Lord himself, coming later, is treated as an impostor, placed in durance vile, baited by the household, and fooled by the hoyden, who affects to be of “weak intellect.” Tom then seals the bond by a hasty secret marriage. After that disclosure and forgiveness. Mr. Frank Gilmore as Tom Fashion was a gay young spark, but lacked “devil.” Mr. T. Thorne, of the monotonous voice, wanted distinction in the great part of Lord Foppington, a man whose affectations make the “live air sick.” Miss Mary Collette made a merry little servant; Mr. Fred. Thorne was much at home as a bucolic squire; Mr. Cyril Maude was clever as the valet; Miss Sylvia Hodson, Mr. Blythe, Mr. Grove, and Mr. York successfully filled minor parts.
The Morning Post (21 March, 1890 - p.3)
Mr. Robert Buchanan has, under the title of “Miss Tomboy,” founded a pleasant comedy upon “The Relapse,” by Sir John Vanbrugh, one of the celebrated trio of dramatists who flourished two centuries ago. Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar produced excellent comedies, those of Vanbrugh having, perhaps, the most backbone and reality, although not so witty as those of the other two dramatists. Vanbrugh depends upon humour and situation to a greater extent than they do. He wrote a dozen comedies. “The Relapse” produced in 1697, was one of the most successful but “The Provoked Wife,” “The Confederacy,” and “The Journey to London” (left unfinished, and completed by Colley Cibber), were also very popular. Mr. Buchanan’s “Miss Tomboy” owes little to Vanbrugh in respect of dialogue, for the adapter has entirely rewritten it, and has somewhat modernised the comedy by dating it 1750. The story is that of a peer who has just come into his title, and who is inclined to hold aloof from his younger brother, a much more manly fellow, but a bit of a scapegrace. Lord Foppington is advised by his friend Sir George Matcham to marry a bright young country girl, only seventeen, resident near St. Albans with her stepfather, Sir Tunbelly Clumsy. The younger brother, seeing that Lord Foppington intends to cast him off, and being informed by his valet that his lordship intends to go down to St. Albans to propose to the lady, starts off with the intention of personating his brother. He does so with such success that the maiden is enchanted with him, and consents to a secret marriage. Meanwhile the real Lord Foppington arrives, and meets with an astounding reception. He is treated as an impostor, his servants are sent away, and when he becomes indignant his lordship is locked up. The younger brother makes the best of his time and induces a country clergyman to perform the marriage ceremony, but he first confesses to the girl the trick he has played. She has a little fortune of her own and is quite willing to share it with the handsome young fellow whose brother good-naturedly forgives him, as also does the stepfather of the heroine. The comedy, which is in three acts, went extremely well, and requires but little alteration to make it acceptable in the evening programme. The only changes that appear necessary are in the first act, which is somewhat thin, and the want of feminine interest is also a drawback. From the moment Miss Tomboy appears there is nothing but hilarity, for the character has been admirably conceived and well written, and it was played by Miss Winifred Emery with such grace, humour, and buoyancy as to completely captivate the audience. In look, manner, and tone Miss Emery perfectly realised the idea of the author. Nothing could be prettier or more engaging than the young girl’s notions on the subject of matrimony. She simply regards the ceremony as good fun, and when she discovers that the union is with a young, lively, and good-humoured partner, all idea of wealth and position vanishes, and she is quite content to take her lover penniless as he is. One of the most charming scenes is that in which Miss Tomboy, understanding that Lord Foppington imagines he has got into a lunatic asylum, pretends herself to be a little mad. Miss Emery does this in such an attractive and amusing way that Lord Foppington can hardly resist her. Several other characters are well played, and Mr. Thomas Thorne makes a very amusing personage of Lord Foppington, the town dandy. His scene with the heroine in the second act was capitally played, and throughout his rendering was consistent and clever. Mr. Fred. Thorne as the old county baronet, Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, was droll and eccentric in his comedy, without exaggeration, and Mr. Gillmore was an animated representative of the penniless brother. His love-making was carried on in a spirit unknown to more modern days, and it caused infinite amusement. Mr. Blythe as the old match-maker was amusing, and a very clever performance of an artful valet did Mr. Cyril Maude great credit. This young actor has the faculty of imparting interest to the slightest sketch of character. The subordinate parts were well filled, and excellent aid was given by Miss Sylvia Hodson, and Miss Mary Collette as a lively waiting maid. “Miss Tomboy” was greeted with hearty laughter throughout. The delightful comedy acting of Miss Winifred Emery would have made a far inferior piece successful, and together with other good qualities in the play will help to bring it more prominently before the public. Mr. Buchanan was warmly complimented at the fall of the curtain.
The Standard (21 March, 1890 - p.3)
If peals of laughter, almost continuous, during three acts may be regarded as evidence of success, then Mr. Robert Buchanan’s farcical comedy Miss Tomboy, performed at the first of a series of special matinées yesterday, justifies its author’s labour. At the same time, it is permissible to doubt whether another adaptation of Sir John Vanbrugh’s Relapse; or, Virtue in Danger was needed at the present moment. Few examples of the witty, but cynical, and wholly licentious drama of the Restoration have undergone a larger number of modifications at the hands of later playwrights. Sheridan’s version, A Trip to Scarborough, produced in 1777, just eighty years after the original at Drury-Lane, kept the stage for a long period, and even as late as 1850 The Relapse, in a condensed and purified form, was presented at the Olympic. The farcical element in the comedy was discovered by Voltaire, who utilised some of the principal scenes in a piece produced at Sceaux. But the utter heartlessness and artificiality of the main plot in which Loveless and Berinthia figure are repugnant to Nineteenth Century ideas, and in Mr. Hollingshead’s version, called The Man of Quality, performed at the Gaiety in 1870, the ruse played upon Lord Foppington forms the central feature of the action. The late Alfred Wigan was the ridiculous Peer, and Miss Nelly Farren displayed her customary vivacity as Miss Hoyden. Mr. Buchanan claims for his adaptation that, “beyond portions of Lord Foppington’s admirable scenes in Act 1, and a stray line here and there, throughout the dialogue is original; while the characters, especially that of Miss Hoyden, have been greatly altered, and in some respects, it is hoped, humanised.” This implies that, in Mr. Buchanan’s opinion, the characters and the language of the old play were artificial, and, if we compare Vanbrugh’s comedy with the work of present-day dramatists, there is nothing to be said on the other side. But surely this is unfair. It is impossible to speak positively on matters of this nature, but to the careful reader of the comedies of the period the dialogue of Vanbrugh must appear more natural and genial than that of Wycherley or Congreve. This question, however, is not of vast importance: the main point at present is a record of the fact that Mr. Buchanan has put together some scenes suggested by, rather than adapted from, The Relapse, and has shown that it is possible to place a farcical comedy in the era of powder, periwig, and patches.
The plot of his piece may be given in very few words. In the first act, Lord Foppington, newly succeeded to his title, is recommended by Sir George Matcham to seek in marriage the country-bred daughter of Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, and his younger brother, Tom Fashion, resolves to be first in the field for so excellent a catch. In the second act, Tom impersonates the Peer, is well received, and when the real Simon Pure arrives he is subjected to all kinds of indignities. Explanations are made in the third act, and Lord Foppington is bidden to console himself with Fanny Hoyden’s bosom friend Nancy, who is also an heiress. Extravagance reigns supreme throughout the piece; but in the second and third acts the overflowing animal spirits of Miss Winifred Emery in the titular part proved of inestimable service in every dangerous situation. Whether indulging in unlimited osculation with her masquerading lover, or poking the real Lord in the eye with her feather, this charming and versatile actress was equal to all emergencies, and few would have recognised in her the tearful and unfortunate Clarissa Harlowe. There was little of a distinctive nature in the other impersonations. Mr. T. Thorne was ill-placed as Lord Foppington, a part he ought to have assigned to Mr. Cyril Maude, who had little opportunity as Lory, Tom Fashion’s servant. Mr. Fred. Thorne as Sir Tunbelly, and Mr. J. S. Blythe, Mr. T. Grove, Miss Hanbury, and Miss Collette, in other parts, rendered efficient assistance. Miss Tomboy was very cordially received, and the “author” bowed his thanks at the close of the performance.
The Yorkshire Post (21 March, 1890 - p.4)
Mr. Robert Buchanan has shown on several occasions recently—notably in his Joseph’s Sweetheart and Clarissa—that there is an abundance of useful material in the literature of the last century for the construction of a modern drama. His Miss Tomboy, which was produced at a special matinée at the Vaudeville Theatre yesterday, goes a step further, and proves that with a little modernisation the drama of the same period will afford at least as much amusement as most of the adaptations that come to us of pieces across the Channel. Miss Tomboy, as Mr. Buchanan is careful to state in a note on the programme, is based on Sir John Vanbrugh’s comedy The Relapse and Sheridan’s Trip to Scarborough, but beyond portions of the scenes in the first of the three acts and a stray line here and there, the dialogue is original, while the characters, especially that of Miss Hoyden, have been greatly altered, and, the author hopes, humanised. It is certainly a most admirable play that Mr. Buchanan has produced from these sources. The main idea of a younger brother, who personates the head of his house, Lord Foppington, and palms himself off upon an unsuspecting country squire as the suitor in a marriage of convenience that has been arranged with his daughter, is excellently worked out, and the audience is kept in a roar of laughter by the ridiculous situations which are produced. Perhaps the only fault that is to be found with the piece is that Mr. Buchanan, in trying to preserve the spirit of the original productions, has allowed here and there a little coarseness to peep out; but, after all, this is not very glaring, and it is readily condoned by an audience whose sense of humour is so continuously appealed to by Mr. Buchanan’s racy dialogue. With Mr. Thomas Thorne in the character of Lord Foppington, Miss Winifred Emery as Miss Hoyden, and the other parts in competent hands, the piece played with remarkable smoothness, and the hearty demonstrations of approval at the end showed that the performance had been an unequivocal success.
The Nottingham Evening Post (21 March, 1890 - p.2)
Mr. Robert Buchanan, having apparently exhausted the adaptable novels of last century, has turned his attention to 17th century comedy, and produced at the Vaudeville this afternoon an adaptation of Sir John Vanbrugh’s “Relapse,” under the title of “Miss Tomboy.” He has entirely suppressed the main plot of Vanbrugh’s play—the Loveless and Amanda intrigue—and has rewritten the underplot, which deals with the adventures of Lord Foppington and his brother Tom Fashion at the house of Sir Tunbelly Clumsy.
The Dundee Advertiser (21 March, 1890 - p.5)
Mr Robert Buchanan’s three act comedy “Miss Tomboy,” founded on Sir John Vanbrugh’s “The Relapse” and on Sheridan’s “Trip to Scarborough,” was brought out at the Vaudeville Theatre this afternoon. As most people are aware, the chief incident in these plays is the impersonation of a nobleman by a younger brother, who manages to marry his Lordship’s bride by a clever ruse, while the real bridegroom, who has never seen the lady, is treated by her and her father as an impostor. Many farcical scenes arise out of this, but they are very much of one sort, and considerable padding is necessary to stretch the play into three acts. There is no originality whatever in the plot, which has been “conveyed” en bloc, and the dialogue, though smartly written, is a long way behind Sheridan’s. Miss Emery played the hoydenish part of the Tomboy, and played it with much spirit. The other leading characters were taken by the Messrs Thorne, Mr. F. Gillmore, and Mr J. S. Blythe. The play wants breadth and strength, and in its present form is not likely to obtain permanent popularity.
The Birmingham Daily Post (21 March, 1890 - p.5)
A large and extremely friendly audience assembled at the Vaudeville Theatre this afternoon to witness the production of a comedy founded on Sir John Vanbrugh’s “The Release,” by Robert Buchanan, and entitled “Miss Tomboy.” The adaptor also acknowledges his indebtedness to Sheridan’s “Trip to Scarborough.” The piece was announced as the first of a series of special matinées, and as far as I know there is no idea of putting it in the evening bill. Its main object was presumably to show the wonderful versatility of Miss Winifred Emery, who appears as the Tomboy. It is a performance in every way admirable, and in most striking contrast to her Clarissa Harlowe. She entered thoroughly into the spirit of the part, and it was chiefly due to her efforts that the play had such a favourable reception—indeed, the first act when she was not on the stage seemed to drag a good deal. Certainly the interest of the audience increased as the piece wore on, but there are hardly materials enough out of which to form a three-act comedy. Mr. Thomas Thorne appears as Lord Foppington, but though he has some clever moments, the part is not in his line, for he lacks the refined airs and graces of the eighteenth-century fop. The character of Tom Fashion is creditably filled by Mr. Frank Gilmore, who, however, wants more repose; and, as in “Clarissa,” the talents of that excellent actor, Mr. Cyril Maude, are thrown away. Mr. Blythe and Mr. Frederick Thorne were seen to advantage in small parts. Mr. Buchanan was called at the finish, and there were all the outward signs of success.
The Illustrated London News (22 March, 1890 - p.3)
. . .
Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new version of Sir John Vanbrugh’s “Relapse,” called “The Tomboy,” at the Vaudeville, will be presented at a Thursday matinée, too late for review this week. But, of course, he has been anticipated by others, even in our lifetime. The elder Farren produced a version of this naughty old play when he was manager of the Strand in the year 1850; but the very last version was that of Mr. John Hollingshead at the Gaiety, in May 1870—twenty years ago, and it only seems yesterday!—called “The Man of Quality,” in which Alfred Wigan appeared as Lord Foppington, Nellie Farren as Miss Hoyden, and poor John Maclean—just dead—as Sir Tunbelly Clumsy. Mr. Lin Rayne and Mrs. Henry Leigh were also in the cast of this last abridged version. Vanbrugh’s “Relapse” was written as a sequel to Cibber’s “Fool in Fashion.” It was first performed at Drury-Lane in 1697. Sheridan made an adaptation of it in 1877, and called it “The Trip to Scarborough.” In Mr. Hollingshead’s Gaiety version he only availed himself of one of the two distinct plots used by Vanbrugh, but preserved faithfully everything that belonged to the character of Lord Foppington. Nellie Farren’s Miss Hoyden was an admirable performance, but I own I thought very little at the time of Alfred Wigan’s Lord Foppington.
The Daily Telegraph (22 March, 1890 - p.3)
The complete success which fell to Mr. Robert Buchanan’s bright and enjoyable version of Sir John Vanbrugh’s naughty old comedy, “The Relapse,” on Thursday afternoon, opens up to the playgoer a delightful prospect. If a clever dramatist—following in the footsteps of Sheridan, who gave us the famous “Trip to Scarborough”—can so preserve the buoyant spirit of comedy and discard the boisterous freedom and coarse plain-speaking of a licentious age, and make the result so exhilarating, then there is at his service a vast library of enchanting and witty plays. Mr. Buchanan has picked the plums out of “The Relapse”; he has discarded the secondary plot that deals with Amanda and that wicked widow Berinthia and Loveless; he has treated Sir John and his adapter Sheridan with the freest hand; he has borrowed from Mr. Ashby Sterry—the poet of the school-room—an excellent title in “Miss Tomboy”; and he has very sensibly retained all that he could of Lord Foppington and gay Tom Fashion, and, best of all, that delightful creature, Miss Fanny Hoyden, who was played with surprising gaiety and infinite cleverness by Miss Winifred Emery. In Mr. Buchanan’s desire to keep all that was funny and to reject all that was objectionable in this old play he was anticipated by Mr. John Hollingshead just twenty years ago. Many present yesterday afternoon could easily recall “The Man of Quality,” produced at the Gaiety in May, 1870, with Alfred Wigan as Lord Foppington, Miss Nellie Farren as Miss Hoyden, Lin Rayne as Young Fashion, and Mr. J. Maclean—whose recent death we have to deplore—as Sir Tunbelly Clumsy. Older playgoers still can remember old Farren as Lord Foppington at the Strand, and may, perchance, have seen Sheridan’s “Trip to Scarborough,” which, strange to say, has long since vanished from the acting stage.
Mr. Buchanan’s play is thoroughly workmanlike, spirited, and amusing. He tells his story in three bright acts, and, like a skilful dramatist, he never diverges, but always sticks to the point. He gives us the scene between Lord Foppington and his tradesmen, and the subsequent insolent rejection of the claims against him by his scapegrace brother, Tom Fashion. We are then taken down to Brambletree House, St. Albans, and are introduced to Miss Hoyden, who is awaiting with amorous eagerness her aristocratic lover; we are admitted to the heart of the plot, in which Tom Fashion takes his brother’s place and wins Miss Tomboy’s affection; we witness the complete discomfiture of the powdered, perfumed, and periwigged peer; and are eye-witnesses to the all-round forgiveness of brothers, maiden, and irritable father, and applaud with both hands as Miss Tomboy pulls poor old Lord Foppington over in the wild mazes of a good old-fashioned Sir Roger de Coverley dance.
The agreeable surprise of the afternoon was the acting of Miss Winifred Emery as the delightful Hoyden—a character dear to some of the best comedy actresses that have ever graced the English stage. Who could have believed that the tearful, the imaginative, the pure and saintly Clarissa could in an instant have turned herself into this enchanting romp? There was not a trace of anything forced, loud-voiced, or vulgar in this new and most natural Hoyden. It was not a modern but a classical country madcap. There was nothing of the nineteenth century in this rollicking girl, who, with all her freedom, effusiveness, pouting lips, clinging embraces, and loose language, was essentially and before all things modest. She was no Drury-lane gutter-girl; there was no cockneyism in her demeanour. The great value of Miss Emery’s performance was its buoyancy, its freshness, and its naturalness. If this clever young actress had not been allowed to try her paces in the fresh fields of comedy, she might have been doomed to lachrymose heroines for the rest of her natural life. No one enjoyed Miss Hoyden more than Miss Emery, and it is a performance that all who enjoy bright and clever acting are bound to see. We cannot help thinking that there was one important mistake in the cast, although it did not materially affect the fortunes of the play. Mr. Thorne had at his side a young actor whose manner and style would have suited Lord Foppington in a very marked degree. Surely Mr. Cyril Maude should have represented the “late Sir Frederick Fashion,” and in this case Mr. Thorne would have found a capital character, to which he would have done justice, as Lory, the “gentleman’s gentleman.” Lord Foppington was carefully and humorously played by Mr. Thorne. He entered thoroughly into the spirit of the part, but characters of this pronounced type do not wholly suit his style or manner. Mr. Frank Gillmore was full of life and boyish spirit as Tom Fashion, the most ambitious thing this young actor has attempted, and he may be congratulated on the result; whilst no modern actor so well understands the fox-hunting, port-wine-drinking, lusty-voiced, bullying squire of a past age as Mr. Fred Thorne. Mr. O. Yorke as the French valet, Mr. J. B. Blythe as Sir George Matcham, Miss Silvia Hodson as Mrs. Sentry, the nurse, and Miss Collette as Dolly Primrose, the coquettish waiting-maid, all contributed to the success of a play which had, for a wonder, been well rehearsed and went briskly and without a suggestion of a hitch. The curtain fell on unanimous applause, Mr. Buchanan was warmly summoned, and there is little doubt that the promised series of “special matinées” will be well attended in order to see the charming Miss Tomboy.
The Era (22 March, 1890)
A Comedy, in Three Acts, by Robert Buchanan,
Played for the First Time at the Vaudeville Theatre,
on Thursday Afternoon, March 20th, 1890.
Lord Foppington ... Mr THOMAS THORNE
Tom Fashion ... Mr FRANK GILLMORE
Sir George Matcham ... Mr J. S. BLYTHE
Sir Tunbelly Clumsy ... Mr FRED. THORNE
Squire Ditch ... Mr AUSTIN
Lavarole ... Mr O. YORKE
Lory ... Mr CYRIL MAUDE
Jabez ... Mr WHEATMAN
Jacob ... Mr RAMSEY
Rev. Mr Quiverwit ... Mr T. GROVE
Mendlegs ... Mr J. CRICHTON
Glitter ... Mr S. FREEMAN
Hyde ... Mr HARBURY
Coates ... Mr S. LAWRENCE
Tierce ... Mr T. WALTERS
Miss Fanny Hoyden ... Miss WINIFRED EMERY
Mrs Sentry ... Miss SYLVIA HODSON
Nancy Ditch ... Miss HANBURY
Dolly Primrose ... Miss COLLETTE
Those present at the Vaudeville Theatre on Thursday afternoon who remembered Macaulay’s strictures on The Relapse, and who were aware that, in its original form, Sir John Vanbrugh’s play was very naughty indeed, must have wondered, after seeing Mr Buchanan’s adaptation thereof, entitled Miss Tomboy, how the indecency of the original was introduced. The explanation, of course, is that in The Relapse there are two plots—a principal and an under-plot, the former of which is immoral, whilst the latter is innocent. Mr Buchanan has rewritten the decent and funny part of the play and eliminated the improper portion. He claims, indeed, to have written what is essentially a new comedy. “Beyond portions of Lord Foppington’s admirable scenes in act one, and a stray line here and there throughout, the dialogue,” he says, “is original, while the characters, especially that of Miss Hoyden, have been greatly altered, and in some respects, it is hoped, humanised. The main plot of The Relapse, with its style of tawdry, mock-heroic blank verse, and its vein of heartlessness so characteristic of an artificial period, has been abandoned altogether; while the excellent under-plot, full of those germs of broad humanity which afterwards reached perfection in the robust and sunny genius of Farquhar, becomes the mainspring and motif of the present play.” Mr Buchanan has, in fact, done very much the same as did Mr John Hollingshead when he adapted Vanbrugh’s comedy in 1870. The recollection of this version has a melancholy interest at the present date, the late Mr John Maclean having sustained the part of Sir Tunbelly Clumsy in the production of The Man of Quality at the Gaiety Theatre in the May of that year, Mr Alfred Wigan playing Lord Foppington, Miss Nellie Farren, Miss Hoyden, and Mr Lin Rayne, Tom Fashion. The result of the process of deodorisation has been in both cases somewhat the same. The principal motive of the piece being removed, and what was originally intended to be a secondary and subordinate portion called upon to take its place, weakness of interest and inadequacy of intrigue make themselves uncomfortably felt. The amount of story in Miss Tomboy would be sufficient to furnish out an excellent one- act farce, but it is not enough to serve as foundation for a three-act comedy. We are first introduced, in Mr Buchanan’s version, to Lord Foppington at his house in London. He has recently come into a fortune, purchased a peerage, and launched out into all the follies and fopperies of the day. His younger brother, Tom Fashion, comes and endeavours to borrow £500 in order to redeem his annuity, which he has mortgaged. Lord Foppington refuses to grant the loan; indeed, he himself is somewhat impoverished by the purchase of his title, and an elderly go-between, Sir George Matcham, has found out for him a young, unsophisticated country beauty, with a considerable fortune in her own right. Enraged at his brother’s unkindness, Tom determines to go down to the young lady’s residence, Brambletree House, St. Albans, and, presenting himself as Lord Foppington, woo and win Miss Hoyden, the heiress. Carrying out his intention, he finds her to be a rustic romp, and soon succeeds in securing her favour. In order to prepare himself against interference on the part of his brother, Tom warns Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, Miss Hoyden’s step-father, that a younger brother of his lordship’s may be expected to arrive and make an attempt to impersonate him. Sir Tunbelly determines to give the impostor a warm welcome; and when the real Lord Foppington comes he is treated with various indignities and made fun of by Sir Tunbelly and his guests. Miss Hoyden joins gaily in the plot to persuade the new arrival that he is in a house full of lunatics, and he is tied hand and foot with ropes, and for a time kept close prisoner. Tom, seeing that there is no time to be lost, persuades a mercenary parson to wed him to Fanny; and when at last Lord Foppington’s identity is proved by the arrival of Sir George Matcham, his lordship is so disgusted with his treatment at Brambletree House that he refuses to marry Fanny, although the ceremony just performed is declared invalid, and Sir Tunbelly accepts Tom Fashion as the husband of his step-daughter. This is all that Mr Buchanan has taken from his original, and what there is in Miss Tomboy is extremely funny, though not, perhaps, quite in the comedy key. Lord Foppington, with his wig on fire and threatened with extinction by menials with wooden buckets; stabbed in the thigh with Miss Hoyden’s bodkin, and tied up with ropes like a “Davenport brother,” seems rather to be taking part in old-fashioned farce than old-fashioned comedy.
If Miss Tomboy should secure success at the Vaudeville it will probably be on account of the excellent acting of the principals in the cast. Mr Thomas Thorne was as dryly humorous as usual in the part of Lord Foppington. His Lordship’s supercilious airs in the first act were as expressive and characteristic as were his exasperated utterances and irritated manner in the two latter sections of the play. Mr Frank Gillmore was a manly, eager, and earnest Tom Fashion, free without “swagger” and virile without coarseness, and he played with well-sustained vigour and vivacity throughout. Miss Winifred Emery’s success as Miss Hoyden was all the more commendable as her physique is the antipodes of that of the typical country romp, but her performance was so full of artless animation, so exhilarating in its high spirit and spontaneous gaiety, and so full of charm in its many touches of girlish grace and naïf expression that she triumphed over all difficulties, and achieved a striking success in an apparently unsuitable character. Miss Sylvia Hodson was efficient as the nurse, Mrs Sentry; and Mr T. Grove handled the rather “dangerous” part of the hypocritical and intemperate parson with commendable tact and discretion. Mr Cyril Maude threw a vast amount of crisp vivacity into his performance of the part of Tom Fashion’s servant, Lory, and made the most of his not too numerous opportunities. Mr O. Yorke was careful and painstaking as Lord Foppington’s valet, Lavarole. Miss Collette again essayed a servant’s part with success, and the minor rôles were all creditably sustained. Each of the two scenes of the play was admirably done, the tasteful luxury of Lord Foppington’s room in the first act making an admirable contrast to the oak-panelled “interior” at Brambletree House, with its ancient furniture and faded armorial bearings; and the costumes were as becoming, correct, and elaborate as could be desired. We shall be pleased if the others of the “series of special matinées,” of which Miss Tomboy is announced as being the first, equal their predecessor in agreeable and amusing qualities.
Reynolds’s Newspaper (23 March, 1890)
Once more, from Mr. Robert Buchanan’s prolific pen, a new adaptation of an old play has been presented at this theatre. “Miss Tomboy” is the somewhat fanciful title of the latest version of Sir John Vanbrugh’s once famous comedy, “The Relapse; or, Virtue in Danger.” Two out of the three acts, to which the play extends, the author claims as practically original. No useful purpose, therefore, would be served by drawing a comparison between the old and the new productions. The plot, in Mr. Buchanan’s hands, is made exceedingly simple. Sir George Matcham, whose name indicates his character, induces Miss Fanny Hoyden, a young country damsel, step-daughter to Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, a country squire, to consent to marry an aged beau, Lord Foppington. Enraged at his refusal to lend him money, Tom Fashion, the peer’s brother, proceeds to the squire’s house, pretends to be Lord Foppington, and marries the girl. When the real lord arrives, he is treated as an impostor, bound, imprisoned, and subjected to various comical indignities. In the end, all goes well, and the curtain falls on the company dancing “Sir Roger De Coverley.” Out of these materials a play is constructed in which there is plenty of fun and bustle, romping and ridicule. But the wit is Vanbrugh’s; Mr. Buchanan’s share is his effective arrangement of the two concluding acts of broad farce. The acting was a highly creditable performance, in the old comedy style. Mr. T. Thorne’s Lord Foppington was a finished representation of the vain, selfish, heartless, rickety man of the world of his period, who spends his mornings in interviewing his costume makers and his evenings with his boon companions. The mincing mode of speaking, the affected gestures and gait, the ridiculous assumption of superiority, were all given with great point by this versatile actor. Miss Winifred Emery, who took the part of Miss Fanny Hoyden, has been showing herself an actress of the very first rank. No two characters could be more unlike than Clarissa and Fanny Hoyden—the one grave and pathetic, the other boisterously exploding with animal spirits—yet in both Miss Emery excels. Fanny is a mischievous imp of seventeen, with a sound heart, and she at once falls in love with the younger brother, the assumed Lord Foppington. Her love stands the test of his declaration that he has deceived her as to his position, and they are secretly married by a drunken domestic chaplain. In her interview with the real lord, she leaves him with the impression of her and the household’s somewhat dangerous lunacy by a series of amusing Puck-like tricks. Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, the boorish squire, rude but hospitable, coarse but fond of his joke, fell to Mr. Fred Thorne, who gave a very effective picture of bucolic manners of the period of Squire Western and Parson Adams. Sir George Matcham is not a very conspicuous figure, but his rough vigour was well rendered by Mr. J. S. Blythe. In the minor parts, Mr. O. Yorke as Lavarole, Mr. Cyril Maude as Lory (two gentlemen’s servants), and Miss Collette as Dolly Primrose, a waiting-maid, were able studies of parts too frequently entrusted to inferior actors. The scene takes place first in London, and afterwards at Brambletree House, St. Albans. There was plenty of laughter in the course of the play; and, at the end, in response to repeated calls, the players and the playwright bowed their acknowledgments from the stage. A little compression here and there ought to make “Miss Tomboy” one of the most popular romps in London. The modernizing of ancient plays may not be a particularly high kind of art, but it requires at least as much ability as adapting from the French. It is a useful work, too, that someone should explore the mines of dramatic wealth, unacted and unread, in the works of our old playwrights, and present such portions as are presentable to modern audiences.
The Referee (23 March, 1890 - p.2)
DRAMATIC & MUSICAL GOSSIP.
IN 1696 Colley Cibber, theatrical manager, gamester, pimp, player, playwright, poet laureate, and subsequent Apologist, nailed up for himself a play entitled “Love’s Last Shift; or, the Fool in Fashion,” in which he appeared with tremendous success as Sir Novelty Fashion. In this play was shown, primarily, the reform of young Mr. Loveless (erst debauchee) on his marriage with the virtuous Amanda; and, secondly, the humours and vapours of a brainless beau of the period—a line of business in which the ingenious Colley excelled. All this being thus, Colley’s friend and collaborator, Sir John Vanbrugh, about a year afterwards devised a sort of sequel to “Love’s Last Shift,” and called it “The Relapse; or, Virtue in Danger.” This set forth somewhat clumsily, according to Van’s wont, Loveless’s backsliding into vicious courses—his intrigue with his wife’s friend Berinthia, harlot of his own friend Worthy, who (with Berinthia’s connivance) would seduce Mrs. L., who is meanwhile sought to the same end by Lord Foppington, &c., &c. Truly a nice little family party. This Lord Foppington is Cibber’s Sir Novelty—now become a peer by purchase, and with all his former affectations accentuated tenfold. The underplot, I may remind you, showed how Foppington’s younger brother, Tom Fashion, secured for himself his brother’s fiancée, Miss Hoyden (described as a “great fortune”) by disguising himself as his lordship. “The Relapse” was a deucedly dirty play, so much so that, even in its own day its extreme licence excited sharp censure—much to the chagrin of its “heavy” architect-author, who declared that his detractors had too much zeal to have any charity, and that they were as quarrelsome in their religion as other people in their drink. All the same, “The Relapse” has always been deemed so darned unpleasant that it has generally been presented in all sorts of guises except its original one. Among those who “altered” it from time to time were John Lee (an inferior actor, who also “altered” the plays entitled “Macbeth,” “The Country Wife,” and “Romeo and Juliet”), Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and, about a hundred years later, Confident John, otherwise Hollingshead. The best known version is, of course, Sheridan’s, which is called “A Trip to Scarborough.” As was usually the case with Sheridan when he stole anything (which he often did), he attributed the authorship of his conveyance to himself.
The latest deodoriser of “The Relapse” is Mr. Robert Buchanan, whose version of what, with naïf North Britishness, he calls Vanbrugh’s “famous” comedy has been named “Miss Tomboy.” This was tried at the Vaudeville on Thursday afternoon, and I may at once say that Buchanan came through his difficult task with considerable success. Like Deodoriser Hollingshead, Buchanan shunts Loveless, his wife, his woman, and his friend en bloc, and elaborates the so-called underplot, which, after all, was the original play’s only claim to recognition. The result of Buchanan’s labours is that Vanbrugh’s sequel to Cibber now appears in a cleaner and more amusing form than any of the previous versions with which I am acquainted. Buchanan’s second act is especially clever, and it is wonderful how much of the real little Miss Hoyden and her lively surroundings he has managed to retain with the slightest possible amount of offensiveness. He has also written in a rollicking scene, wherein Hoyden simulates madness, and well-nigh frightens the foolish Foppington out of what he deems to be his wits. After all this practice, and his more than partial success as an adapter and reconstructor, we may find Buchanan presently coming out, after all, as a great and original dramatic author. The business of the new scene is well contrived. Other alterations for the better are that Sir Tunbelly Clumsy has been made Hoyden’s stepfather; and Fashion’s confession to Hoyden (before marriage) of the deception he has practised. By this device the mercenary scoundrel Tom is transmogrified into a mere high-spirited practical joker, who is at heart the soul of honour. To sum up “Miss Tomboy,” it may be said that though the first act is weak and sketchy, and the second and third trench narrowly upon the domain of pantomime, the whole is both interesting and amusing, and would be more so if an adequate Foppington were forthcoming.
The finest feature of the Vaudeville cast is the Miss Hoyden of Winifred Emery, a performance that can hardly be praised too highly. Few would have expected that the same actress who is so solemn and tearful in “Clarissa” could have jumped so successfully to the opposite extreme, and so revel in Hoyden’s never-ending frolics and gamesomeness. The least satisfactory of the principal impersonations is the Lord Foppington of Thomas Thorne. This character is right out of Thorne’s range. I should like to see Cyril Maude (who is droll and artistic as the impudent Valet Lory) attempt it. The two most likely Foppingtons, as I have said before, are Irving and Tree—but this by the way. One of the best things in the piece is Fred Thorne’s Sir Tunbelly Clumsy. For the rest, Frank Gillmore is a handsome and right merry, if not altogether finished, Fashion, and little Miss Mary Collette is bright as a serving wench. There will be another matinée of “Miss Tomboy” next Friday.
The Daily News (24 March, 1890 - p.3)
How completely Sir John Vanbrugh’s once famous comedies have faded from the stage could not be more strikingly shown than by the treatment which “The Relapse” has received at the hands of Mr. Robert Buchanan. In the piece in which Mr. Thorne and company appeared at the Vaudeville matinée last week everything that the author deemed essential has absolutely vanished. This is proved by a passage in Vanbrugh’s “Short Vindication,” a pamphlet—a now extremely rare pamphlet—which was published in 1698 in reply to Jeremy Collier’s severe attack upon that piece. “In short,” says the dramatist, “my Lord Foppington and the Bridegroom and the Bride, and the Justice and the Matchmaker, and the Nurse and the Parson at the rear of ’em, are the inferior persons of the play—I mean as to their business. What they do is more to divert the audience by something particular and whimsical in their humours. This is as distinct from the main intention of the play as the business of Gomez in ‘The Spanish Friar.’” Nevertheless, it is these inferior characters who practically exhaust the list of Mr. Buchanan’s personages; and it is simply on the basis of the underplot in which they are concerned that Mr. Buchanan has constructed the three-act farce in which Miss Winifred Emery as the “Tomboy” bride so greatly amused the audience.
The Stage (28 March, 1890 - p.14)
On Thursday afternoon, March 20, 1890, was produced here a comedy in three acts, by Robert Buchanan, founded on Sir John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse, entitled:—
Lord Foppington ... Mr. Thomas Thorne
Tom Fashion ... Mr. Frank Gillmore
Sir George Matcham ... Mr. J. S. Blythe
Sir Tunbelly Clumsy ... Mr. Fred Thorne
Squire Ditch ... Mr. Austin
Lavarole ... Mr. O. Yorke
Lory ... Mr. Cyril Maude
Jabez ... Mr. Wheatman
Jacob ... Mr. Ramsey
Rev. Mr. Quiverwit ... Mr. T. Grove
Mendlegs ... Mr. J. Crichton
Glitter ... Mr. S. Freeman
Hyde ... Mr. Harbury
Coates ... Mr. S. Lawrence
Tierce ... Mr. T. Walters
Miss Fanny Hoyden ... Miss Winifred Emery
Mrs. Sentry ... Miss Silvia Hodson
Nancy Ditch ... Miss Hanbury
Dolly Primrose ... Miss Collette
It is not a matter for comment here as to what Mr. Buchanan has done or not done with the original version of Miss Tomboy; the value of the present play concerns our readers first. It may, however, be interesting to some to learn what the dramatist himself says on the subject. At the foot of the Vaudeville programmes is the following author’s note:—
Those who are familiar alike with Sir John Vanbrugh’s famous play, The Relapse; or, Virtue in Danger, as well as Sheridan’s Trip to Scarborough (in all important features the same play) will understand the present dramatist’s motive in attempting to construct out of such materials what is essentially a new comedy. Beyond portions of Lord Foppington’s admirable scenes in Act I. and a stray line here and there throughout, the dialogue is original, while the characters, especially that of Miss Hoyden, have been greatly altered, and in some respects, it is hoped, humanized. The main plot of The Relapse, with its style of tawdry, mock-heroic blank verse, and its vein of heartlessness so characteristic of an artificial period, has been abandoned altogether; while the excellent under-plot, full of those germs of broad humanity which afterwards reached perfection in the robust and sunny genius of Farquhar, becomes the mainspring and motif of the present play.
Miss Tomboy is a broad and breezy comedy, slender in plot, farcical to a degree in one stage of its career, and written in a fairly good but not brilliant manner. Its principal characters are well defined, its minor ones but sketches; its incidents fairly interesting. Here and there a line might with advantage to the play be cut out. The first act might be considerably improved, and the final act should have a better conclusion, for, in its present state, it approaches dangerously near to an anti-climax. Sir George Matcham has arranged two matrimonial matches. For Lord Foppington he has secured a pretty young girl with money, Miss Fanny Hoyden, The Tomboy. For Foppington’s penniless brother, Tom Fashion, an elderly, wealthy widow. Tom Fashion’s servant, Lory, persuades his master to impersonate Lord Foppington, to reach Fanny Hoyden’s abode first, and secure the young, pretty, and well-to-do maiden. This is done, and when the real Lord Foppington arrives to woo his promised bride, he is treated as an impostor, and insulted in every possible manner. In the meantime, Tom Fashion, with the aid of a drunken parson, the Rev. Quiverwit, is married to Fanny, to whom he confesses the imposition he has practised upon her and her stepfather, Sir Tunbelly Clumsy. Fanny, having fallen desperately in love with Tom, readily forgives, and when at last, through the arrival of Sir George Matcham on the scene, the real Lord Foppington is discovered, matters are soon brought to a happy ending. The elder brother forgives the young couple more on account of his fear of Fanny, who has simulated madness before him, than for any love of Tom Fashion. Sir Tunbelly Clumsy also forgives, and all ends in a satisfactory manner. From this brief description it will be seen that there is hardly sufficient plot to carry the piece through three acts, hence the weakness of the whole. Generally speaking, the comedy was well played by those concerned, but it was soon discovered that a mistake had been made in casting Mr. Thomas Thorne for the part of Lord Foppington. He was totally unsuited to the character, and failed in every way to realize the author’s work. Mr. Thorne’s method is that of the ponderous order; it is jerky, also, and certainly wanting in polish and elegance. Foppington should be the very acme of dandyism, polished and elegant to a degree; selfish in his pleasures, wrapped up in the contemplation of his own glorious person. There was no indication of this; Mr. Thorne was monotonous, slow, and laboured in speech and action. Mr. Fred Thorne as Clumsy had a part similar to many he has played, and his performance of it was quite satisfactory. Mr. F. Gillmore is a young actor of much promise, and were he able to go through a course of training such as that gained in the old stock-business days he would prove invaluable on the London stage. His chief faults are restlessness of manner and unnatural gaiety. However, Mr. Gillmore played the part of Tom Fashion with much spirit and go, and certainly earned the goodwill of his audience. Mr. J. S. Blythe was acceptable as Sir George, and Mr. O. Yorke gave a satisfactory impersonation of a French valet. Mr. Cyril Maude made much out of poor material as Lory. Mr. T. Grove was commendably careful as the drunken parson, and stood out well in the little he had to do. Mr. Harbury was capital as a shoemaker, and the remaining small male characters were adequately filled by those whose names appear in the cast. The surprise and triumph of the afternoon was Miss Winifred Emery’s Fanny Hoyden. Miss Emery’s style has never suggested capabilities required by such a part as this. Her appearance and voice have both assisted her in quite another line of business, and therefore her success is the more praiseworthy. She was thoroughly in keeping with the character, and played with such spirit and animation, introduced such well thought-out and effective business so naturally, that she contrived to carry the play head and shoulders out of danger’s way, and brought it to a brilliant conclusion. Her mad scene was most artistically worked out, and resulted in a storm of well-earned applause. Miss Hodson did good service as the nurse. Miss Hanbury, looking as pretty and attractive as could well be imagined, was a quiet and modest Nancy, and Miss Collette in a part twin of that she is playing in Clarissa was bright and fresh. At the conclusion Mr. Buchanan bowed his thanks in response to cried of “Author.”
The Athenæum (29 March, 1890 - No. 3257, p.414)
VAUDEVILLE.—Afternoon Representation: ‘Miss Tomboy,’ a Comedy in Three Acts,
founded on ‘The Relapse’ of Sir John Vanbrugh. By Robert Buchanan.
SHOULD success attend the experiment of Mr. Buchanan in his ‘Miss Tomboy’ of converting into farcical comedies the pieces of the Restoration dramatists, a new and rich mine will be opened to the adapter. Of seventeenth century plays none is fouler than ‘The Relapse.’ In Amanda Vanbrugh shows us a moderately virtuous woman sadly out of place in the company she frequents. The proceedings of Loveless and Berinthia, however, are scandalous enough for Mrs. Behn, the very name of one of the characters is an outrage, and the conception of Coupler would shame the worst annals of the French Regency. So much cleverness is there, nevertheless, in the characters and so much art in the dialogue that the play has offered a constant attraction to succeeding dramatists. Sheridan in ‘The Trip to Scarborough’ achieved an excellent adaptation, retaining all that was brilliant in the dialogue, and confining within the limits of suggestion the rampant obscenity of the original. The production of this piece had been anticipated by that of ‘The Man of Quality,’ a poor farce by John Lee, the actor, extracted from the comic scenes of ‘The Relapse,’ and was followed after a long period by an adaptation by Mr. John Hollingshead, also called ‘The Man of Quality,’ produced at the Gaiety. In this version Mr. Alfred Wigan was Lord Foppington and Miss Ellen Farren was Miss Hoyden. None of these adaptations has failed. In the first prologue to ‘The Relapse,’ spoken only on the first two days of its production in 1697, it is stated of the play that
’Twas got, conceiv’d, and born in six weeks’ space.
This seems probable enough. The more serious scenes, if such a phrase may in this case be pardoned, are written in irregular and mongrel verse, and the character of Lord Foppington, the conception of which is Colley Cibber’s, is the only brilliant thing in the play. How brilliant, however, this character is! It is scarcely going too far to say he is the best comic creation in the English drama since Shakspeare. His affectations are enchanting, his “strange oaths” have inspired Sheridan, and his wit in the midst of its impertinence is so genuine that we are almost sorry for his defeat. His penultimate speech, which should mark his exit, addressed in congratulation to his brother and successful rival, contains the quintessence of Restoration comedy. To appreciate it one must know the character of Miss Hoyden. “Dear Tam,” says the defeated and hoodwinked peer, “since things are thus fallen out, prithee give me leave to wish the(e) jay. I do it de bon cœur, strike me dumb. You have married a woman beautiful in her person, charming in her airs, prudent in her conduct, constant in her inclinations, and of a nice morality, split my windpipe.”
This work Mr. Buchanan has taken, and, with some aid from Sheridan, has rendered conformable to the most Philistine notions of the day. In his omissions, the most important of which were imperative, he has been generally, but not uniformly, discreet. It is the underplot of ‘The Relapse’ with which alone he deals. With his additions we are not content. The effect of these is to take away the seventeenth century tone of the play, and to deprive some of the characters of their truth. The fit of penitence on the part of Tom Fashion, which makes him before marrying his mistress own to the trick he has played, however it may suit a public of to-day, is irreconcilable with the period in which the action is laid, a period in which no device that could bring a man the possession of a woman was other than justifiable. ‘Miss Tomboy,’ though far too much of Vanbrugh’s wit is left out, is an amusing play. It is, however, as farcical comedy that it attracts. What sentiment it possesses is of the eighteenth century, moreover, not the seventeenth. Tom Fashion is influenced by Tom Jones, and Miss Hoyden has a slight infusion of Sophia Western, or of some woman of more refinement than the original character. For this perhaps the acting is responsible. Miss Hoyden in Vanbrugh is a vulgar country wench, who only needs a veneer of civilization and the privileges of matrimony to join the sisterhood of Mrs. Foresight and Mrs. Frail. These attributes are suggested by Sheridan, and, indeed, by Mr. Buchanan. Miss Winifred Emery shows us a sweet, gracious, and delightful romp, whose movements mingle with their bucolic freedom a Miranda- like freshness. It is a charming creature that is shown us, but it is not the Miss Hoyden of the past. Mr. F. Thorne gave a conventional Sir Tunbelly Clumsy; Mr. T. Thorne has too serious a style for Lord Foppington. As Tom Fashion Mr. Gilmore was fairly good, and Mr. Cyril Maude acted Doggett’s part of Lory in a fashion that suggested he might some day with advantage be tried as Lord Foppington.
The Academy (29 March, 1890 - No. 934, p.228-229)
VANBRUGH AT THE VAUDEVILLE.
WHEN the successful practitioner of one art engages in the performance of another, he is apt to think very seriously of his newer love—to hold that it was in the first instance only that he mistook his vocation. Ingres, after excelling in design and draughtsmanship, fancied himself very much as a performer on the fiddle; and many another instance might be given of the artist’s determination to accept himself in the art in which the public has omitted to applaud him. Perhaps it was just because the public did not omit to applaud as a dramatist the great architect who built Blenheim and Castle Howard, that Vanbrugh himself spoke but slightingly of his literature. Of one among his plays he protested that it lacked everything except length. Yet for “The Relapse” he was particular to claim at least one quality. He was hurt or surprised if it was suggested that impropriety had any place in it. Only the unduly demure could object to that which he therein set forth. We are to-day, however, too squeamish to receive the food he proffered to the robust. But it is a mistake when, in addition to this infirmity, we add—as Mr. Buchanan seems to add—the implication that Vanbrugh was heartless. Vanbrugh was not heartless at all; nor are the offices of Mr. Buchanan needed to give him what he is supposed to have lacked in this respect. His heart was in the right place; but his method in literature was essentially virile. The young lady in the dress circle was not known in his day. In our day, however, she, or the maturer relative who watches over her interests, is alarmingly influential; and such a piece as “The Relapse” has unquestionably to be treated by the adapter with no tender hand if her admirers are to be conciliated.
The long and short of it is that Mr. Buchanan is quite right in saying that his present piece is “founded on,” rather than an adaptation of, Vanbrugh. He has suppressed the main plot of “The Relapse” altogether. We have no Loveless, no Amanda, no Berinthia The transactions of the first and the last of these are not for our day. It is the underplot that Mr. Buchanan has used; and he has made into a heroine that Miss Hoyden who, in the original piece, does not so much as appear until well on into the third act. Lord Foppington is preserved; but it is upon Miss Hoyden alone that this affected and self-satisfied peer must concentrate his attentions. Tom Fashion, his younger brother, is preserved also; and the tricks by which he manages to win Miss Hoyden form almost the main business of the play. Sir Tunbelly Clumsy remains upon the scene, and one or two other minor people; and Coupler indeed is but thinly disguised as “Sir George Matcham.” But, as I have implied, a great deal has of necessity gone; and with the characters there has gone too, of course, the larger part of the dialogue. Yet, if Mr. Buchanan has removed much, he has had to supply the vacancy by inventions of his own. The notion that the real Lord Foppington shall be persuaded he has come into a lunatic asylum, when in reality he has but arrived at the dwelling of Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, is Mr. Buchanan’s alone. And that—together with the fact that it has naturally seemed good to him to make Miss Hoyden his heroine—implies or explains how the element of pure high comedy has yielded, on the Vaudeville stage, to the element of farce. It is very good farce— sympathetic farce, if you will—excellently acted farce beyond a doubt. Farce, however, or farcical comedy, it is, just as plainly as the triumphs of Mr. Pinero in this kind—“The Magistrate,” “The Schoolmistress,” and “Dandy Dick.” Only there is not here quite the affluence of invention which distinguishes our greatest living master of the comedy that is farcical.
The success of the performance—which on the afternoon of Thursday in last week was conspicuous—is due chiefly to the brothers Thorne, to Mr. Gillmore, to Mr. Cyril Maude, and, above all, to Miss Winifred Emery. This lady, whose intelligence nobody ever questioned, finds herself in reality more perfectly placed as the hoyden heroine of this version of “The Relapse” than as Clarissa Harlowe. She does much with Clarissa Harlowe—is often delicately true, and always at least realises one’s ideal as to the innate refinement and sweetness of Richardson’s heroine; but, as I had occasion to say a few weeks ago, she is not exactly great in the scene in which greatness might have won a triumph. Now, as Miss Hoyden, she is more than interesting—she is varied and faultless. Miss Emery’s part is the big part in the piece, and she has proved her right to be entrusted with it. Mr. Thomas Thorne plays Lord Foppington with great neatness of touch, and with effective affectations. He is most entertaining in the first act, where the busy emptiness of the wealthy fop is displayed amusingly. The scene here, with the servants and the waiting tradesmen grouped around the infirm beau, goes far to recall the engaging design of “La Petite Toilette,” by the younger Moreau. Mr. Fred Thorne gives much and appropriate colour to the part of a rough but tender-hearted squire, Sir Tunbelly. Mr. Gillmore, as Tom Fashion, acts with great spirit, and looks—as he always looks in those eighteenth-century clothes which he wears so well—for the life of him like a drawing of Gravelot’s. The marked personality of Mr. Cyril Maude and his careful art combine to give importance to the part of Lord Foppington’s valet. But Mr. Maude is worthy, I am inclined to imagine, of a part more onerous and intrinsically bigger.
The Graphic (29 March, 1890)
IN dealing with Sir John Vanbrugh’s comedy of The Relapse, Mr. Buchanan has gone even farther than his predecessor Sheridan in supplementing the main element of the story of the original piece. The Tomboy, produced at a matinée at the VAUDEVILLE last week, is, as its name indicates, confined to the story of Miss Hoyden’s lovers, Lord Foppington and his brother Tom Fashion, and ends with the triumph of the latter in securing the hand of Sir Tunbelly Clumsy’s wild colt of a daughter, whom he has wooed in his brother’s name. Out of these materials a piece almost purely farcical has been constructed, and a great deal of rough sort of entertainment provided for the audience. Mr. Buchanan has not treated Vanbrugh with any particular reverence; nor is that a thing to be deprecated as it might be if the author of The Relapse had been as great a master of dialogue as the author of The Way of the World. It is not a very extravagant compliment to say that Mr. Buchanan’s dialogue which, save some of the best passages of the original, has been substituted, entails no loss, while it suits better the purposes of the adaptor. Mr. Buchanan is further to be credited with one or two ingenious new incidents—that for example of making Tom Fashion assume the foppish aspect of his brother in support of his counter charge that it is his brother who is the imitator and impostor. The idea of treating his lordship as a lunatic, and feigning that he has found himself in a madhouse, serves still more the farcical objects of the piece, and gives to Miss Winifred Emery further opportunities for the development of Miss Hoyden’s ceaseless tricks and wayward humours. If to make audiences laugh is the chief end of farce, then never was greater success achieved than by the scenes in which this clever young lady appears. Mr. Thomas Thorne, on the other hand, is ill-suited to sustain the gay and superfine traditions of Cibber’s Lord Foppington. The rest of the piece was fairly well played; Mr. Gillmore making a lively and gallant Tom Fashion, Mr. F. Thorne a sturdy Sir Tunbelly, and Mr. Cyril Maude a sprightly Lorry. The Tomboy is repeated this week at a matinée; but there are as yet no indications of its being promoted to the evening bill.
The Illustrated London News (29 March, 1890 - p.15)
How often it has been said to me, and no doubt to many others interested in the theatre, “My dear friend, there is a mine of wealth under your very feet, if you only take the trouble to dig in it. Read the old dramatists, pick out the plums from their plays, utilise their plots, edit their often ‘curious’ dialogue, and success is assured!” Yes, it is all very well, and easy talking, but it requires a very peculiar gift to borrow advantageously—to discard the bad and impossible without injuring the good and profitable. There is nothing that succeeds like success. Scores of dramatists have tried their hands on Sir John Vanbrugh’s “relapse.” There have been plenty of adaptations and corrections of the famous work between the days of Sheridan and John Hollingshead, Drury-Lane and the Gaiety. Why, the original Vanbrugh comedy was only a continuation or sequel of Cibber’s “Love’s Last Shift.” Cibber in his play had laudably endeavoured to fashion the stage into something like decency by bringing back a rakish husband to reason, to happiness, and to his family. Vanbrugh, seeming to think it a scandal to polite manners to leave him there, makes him relapse, as if it were disgraceful to a man of the world to be honourable. “The taste, however, of the age Sir John Vanbrugh lived in,” observes the writer of “Biographia Dramatica,” “alone could justify his committing such violence on the chastity of the Comic Muse; and whoever will peruse Cibber’s prologue to the “Provoked Husband” will be satisfied, from the testimony of one who certainly was well acquainted with this gentleman’s sentiments, that he was, before his death, not only convinced of, but determined to reform, this error of taste.”
But it is a gift granted to a very few to be able to make a good modern play out of an old-world comedy. John Oxenford, student, critic, and dramatist, certainly had the knack, the observation, and the taste required for the task. And Mr. Robert Buchanan, scholar as well as dramatist, brings to bear on his task observation, culture, and ,what is so essential—though Mr. Buchanan would not own it for years—a knowledge of the technical detail of the stage. Quite apart from Colley Cibber or Sheridan or Vanbrugh, “Miss Tomboy,” recently produced at a Vaudeville matinée, is a very creditable piece of stage work. What on earth does it matter where plots or suggestions come from, so long as a clever man can turn out an interesting and an amusing play? Now, “The Relapse” as it stands in print is impossible. It is not only filthy and licentious, but, according to our modern ideas, it is a bad piece of dramatic workmanship. It contains two plots which do not harmonise with one another. The story of Lord Foppington and his brother Tom Fashion, which is thoroughly amusing and in the best spirit of English comedy, can be divorced altogether from the license and depravity of the relapse from virtue of Loveless and the spicy comments on matrimony of Amanda and the gay widow Berenthia. All that Mr. Buchanan has sought in the old play is the suggestion of amusement, so he retains Foppington, Fashion, and Hoyden, and wipes out the companions of Loveless and that irredeemable scoundrel Coupler. The main idea, probably, was to give Miss Winifred Emery a chance as a comédienne. It was a daring thing to suggest her for Miss Hoyden. We think of Mrs. Bancroft—how well she would have played it some years ago!—of Nellie Farren—how well she did play it twenty years ago!—of Ellen Terry—what a Hoyden she would have made! But a few weeks back, if anyone had suggested Winifred Emery as Hoyden, the answer would have been a decided “No.” And what a mistake would have been made! For Miss Emery’s Miss Hoyden is an enchanting performance, as opposite to her Clarissa as it is possible for a character to be, and yet in its way equally excellent. Who could picture the saintly Clarissa, with her saintlike air and heaven-directed eyes, bounding about on the same stage, playing monkey tricks, nursing her knees, and sucking her pinafore? The new Hoyden is the embodiment of fun without vulgarity. She is a “knowing” girl, but she is never a nasty one. She startles, but she never shocks her audience. With all Miss Hoyden’s abandonment and freedom, there is never at any time a suggestion of impropriety. nature is telling the girl something that she does not understand. She is vivacious, but never vicious. And, indeed, it is a treat to find an actress who has sense to understand all this. Nine out of ten would have made Miss Hoyden the vulgar romp of the modern music-hall. Miss Emery takes her back a couple of centuries, and shows us a girl of wit, observation, and high spirits, brought up by a port-wine-drinking father, attended by an amorous spinster, taught by a profligate clergyman, and making “calf love” to John Ostler or the loutish farm-servants for want of better amusement! It was no doubt for the sake of the Hoyden that the play was suggested. So far, then, the author of “Miss Tomboy” is safe. It is a surprise to the audience and a gain to Miss Emery. In her we have now a comedy as well as a sentimental actress. But the others do remarkably well. We who are somewhat dilettante in our tastes might have preferred to see the young and clever Cyril Maude as Lord Foppington, but these things can never be until one at least of our many theatres is managed by someone outside the inevitable interests of actors. It was not likely that Mr. Thomas Thorne would give up Foppington to one of his company. These things can only occur when we get a literary manager and not an actor manager. Be that as it may, and quite apart from dilettanteism, Mr. Thorne acquits himself remarkably well as the promoted Peer, and plays the part with a true sense of humour. Nor is Mr. Cyril Maude insensible to the fun contained in his Lordship’s valet. It is not, perhaps, for critics to say what might have been, but rather to judge what is. Mr. Fred Thorne, an excellent comedian, who revels in old comedy, and Mr. Gillmore, another clever member of the vast Thorne family, all do well. This much may at least be said, that “Miss Tomboy” is a capital and amusing play, and it will not be wise to miss it if anyone has an idle afternoon to spare.
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (29 March, 1890 - p.13)
MR. BUCHANAN’S new version of The Relapse, successfully played at a Vaudeville matinée last week, and not unlikely to go before long into the regular bill, is one of those dramatic efforts concerning which there is sure to be a difference of opinion. Those who hope to see in it an ingenious purification of an original very hard to cleanse must inevitably be disappointed, since very little of the original in question is handled at all. So, too, will Miss Tomboy fail to meet the expectations of those who seek in it an eighteenth century comedy, for its treatment is farcical and its subject barely sufficient to fill out the three acts to which it is reduced. On the other hand the farce is decidedly funny, and the part of its heroine affords a clever actress a capital chance of making her mark in a new line of business. Mr. Buchanan himself is evidently one of those who are very pleased with his work, for this is how he ingenuously described his dealings with Sir John Vanbrugh’s creation: “The main plot,” he says, “with its style of tawdry, mock-heroic blank verse, and its vein of heartlessness so characteristic of an artificial period, has been abandoned altogether; while the excellent under-plot, full of those germs of broad humanity which afterwards reached perfection in the robust and sunny genius of Farquhar, becomes the mainspring and motif of the present play.” Mr. Buchanan also modestly expresses the hope that he has “humanised” the characters borrowed for Sheridan’s Trip to Scarborough from The Relapse; and he flatters himself that in these ways Miss Tomboy becomes “what is essentially a new comedy.” Up to a certain point all this is satisfactory enough, and we certainly have no mind to complain of the disappearance of the coarsely treated double intrigue, wherein the virtuous Amanda’s debauched husband and her friend Berinthia figure with such painful prominence. But the place of this motive is surely filled somewhat inadequately by elaborating the rude humours of Lord Foppington’s reception as an impostor by Sir Tunbelly and his guests at Brambletree House. The pretence that Sir Tunbelly’s house is a lunatic asylum, and the consequent bewilderment of the ill-used beau during his visit, really afford the be-all and end-all of the comic interest in the new piece. The first act, which promises better things, is devoted to a sketch of the selfish dandy, and an explanation of the strained relationship between him and his bankrupt brother, Tom Fashion. If Mr. Thomas Thorne could play the part of Lord Foppington—which, as a matter of fact, is quite beyond his reach—these scenes would possess the interest of a comedy of manners, whereas at the best the scenes which follow could claim attention only in right of their boisterous incident and almost pantomimic fun. Egged on by her lover and her stepfather, Miss Fanny Hoyden simulates lunacy when Foppington pays his languid court to her and her money bags. After winning his admiration by her natural charms, the lively damsel rebuffs his lordship with the screams and grimaces of a mad woman. She sticks her bodkin in his leg, and she winds up by setting his wig on fire. The episode is entertaining in its way, but its way is at the best somewhat incongruous and unworthy. It is needless to describe in detail how these high-spirited proceedings end with Tom’s triumph in securing the hoyden bride destined for the elder brother whom he has so impudently personated. A word of praise must, however, be given en passant to the playwright’s sound tact in making Tom Fashion confess his deception before his hurried marriage. The maxim “All’s fair in love and war” is accepted nowadays only with reservations unknown in the days of Vanbrugh; and Tom could not remain a sympathetic hero if he tricked the heiress into actually becoming his wife under a misapprehension as to his identity.
The performance is for the most part bright and vigorous, though the cast might be better arranged. To Mr. Thomas Thorne’s mistake reference has already been made. His Lord Foppington looks and seems far too old to be the brother of Mr. Gillmore’s Tom Fashion, and the actor cannot catch the airs of the empty-headed buck originally created by Colley Cibber. Voice, manner, and presence are all against him, and the tour de force is simply a blunder. On the other hand, Mr. Fred Thorne’s bluff, red-faced, violent Sir Tunbelly Clumsy is exactly true to the life of its period; whilst the pleasant boyish impulse of Mr. Gillmore’s Tom Fashion fairly makes up for his lack of tone and finish. Mr. Cyril Maude, who always puts brains into his work, gives a clear-cut sketch of Tom’s faithful but unscrupulous servant Lory. Mr. Blythe is a fairly good Matcham, and Miss Sylvia Hodson and Miss Collette do well in small parts. The redeeming feature, however, of the interpretation is Miss Winifred Emery’s Fanny Hoyden, especially in the scene of sham madness. It may be frankly admitted that Miss Emery’s high spirits are not in the least like those of Vanbrugh’s original rustic bride. Her physique is not that of the stable-yard coquette, and her humour is spirituelle rather than broad. But her sense of fun is so delightfully girlish, her poutings, her unconventional frankness, and her childish simplicity are all so perfectly natural, that her Hoyden is a thoroughly enjoyable creation.
The departure is a new and not, one would have said, a very promising one for the young actress, but its result is to indicate a much wider scope for her future triumphs than would have been assigned to them by the most sanguine of critics.
The Penny Illustrated Paper (29 March, 1890)