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[The Californian Papers]

The Illustrated London News, vol. 45, no. 1289, p. 534.

November 26, 1864

The Californian papers give an excellent report of Mr. and Mrs. C. Kean's reception in San Francisco, to which place they went direct from Melbourne. They made their d├ębut at Maguire's Opera House, on Oct. 8, in "Henry VIII." and "The Jealous Wife." On the 10th they appeared in "Louis XI." Their appearance has been accepted by the critics as the revival of taste in relation to the drama. We quote from one of the papers some remarks, the moral of which, at this time, we regret to add, is only too applicable to ourselves. The writer complains that the taste of the theatre-goers of San Francisco was becoming vitiated and corrupted, although they had among them excellent dramatic talent, but no artiste with sufficient national reputation to ensure full houses or to arrest the downward tendency of stage morals. "The boards," he continues, "had become debauched by adventurers in the profession, who, lacking the talents to secure pre-eminence, inaugurated a vulgar style of pieces, termed 'spectacular,' in which exposed limbs and indecent rant usurped the creations of mind; and illustrious authors were thrust aside for the accommodation of literary empirics." Theatrical managers gratified a "depraved public taste by ministering to its desires; and, withdrawing those who were really ornaments of the profession, substituted pretenders who had no scruples on the score of propriety, but adapted their feeble powers to the personation of such characters as Mazeppa and Jack Sheppard with a brazen-faced assurance that caused the 'judicious to grieve.' " We repeat, that this moral is capable of application nearer home; and we shall be glad if these remarks of our colonial critic should lead theatrical conductors and their supporters to reflect on the mischief they are perpetrating by such improper exhibitions.

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