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The “ Spoiled Child” is a piece, the effect of which chietly depends upon the acting. It consists of a series of practical jokes, bordering on pantonime, which, when hit off with tolerable dexterity, are amusing enough. It was the charming performance of the late Mrs. Jordan, that rendered this farce such a favourite with the public : indeed, a more lively representation of juvenile mischief was never exhibited on the stage.
Little Pickle, the hero, is one of those anointed young urchins, denominated Spoiled Children, whose pranks are chargeable to that unlimited indulgence which certain tender, or, more properly speaking, cruel parents allow their offspring, from their earliest infancy: parents, who, when the error of their training discovers itself in a thousand irregularities, when the lively spirit and diverting sallies of my young master begin to defy controul, and render him anuoying to themselves, and insufferable to every one else, think themselves hardly treated by Providence, in sending them such a wayward and untractable disposition. It was a saying of the wisest among men, “Spare the rod and spoil the child," from an impression, no doubt, of what esseutial benefit a little wholesome flagellation might have proved, in his own case, but which (being the son of a king) his preceptor had not ventured to apply, “ Was it for me to whip the heir apparent ? Should I turn upon the true prince ? Bewure instinct, the lion will not touch the true prince." But with all due deference to so high an authority, we are no advocates for downright coercion-There is a power entrusted to parents, in the shape of restraint and admonition ; which, added to a proper example, on their part, is sufficient to euforce parental authority, without lessening filial regard. Our old friend Caleb Quotem seems, however, to have adopted, to the fullest extent, the advice of Solomon ; for he enumerates " whipping boys' bottoms,” among the various employments of his summer's day. Had a birch or a cane formed no part of scholastic education, where would have been the immortality of the renowned Busby? and probably an Usher of the Black Rod, to an unruly compions, is not a more formidable authority, than one of the Birch Rod, to a refractory school! Where learning only is concerned, a due portion of it's discipline may quicken the dull, and rouse the indolent; and there is no denying, that if to this be added a wig of true orthodox dimensions, “ Meo Magister" becomes invested with his own proper dignity, and is fully entitled to flog his unlucky u rchins in seculu seculorum."
Had a little salutary restraint been imposed upon young * Pickle, the Town, in all probability, had never beheld a parrot served up for a pheasant a chair divertingly withdrawn, from an old gentleman, as he is about to sit down upon it-an enamoured maiden of fifty, whom the Gods have made poetical, and a ragged ubiquitarian, joined together, not in holy matrimony, but by the dexterous application of a needle and thread--a young urchin not yet in his teens, making love to his own sister', barely in her's ; and numerous other eccentricities equally delightful and edifying. Master Pickle, being endued with an extraordinary flow of animal spirits, combined with a singular talent for mischief, amuses himself and the audience,) during the holidays, with a variety of practical jokes on his father-the servaðts—but more particularly on an an: tiquated maiden aunt, concerning whom, it may be interesting to learn, that she was brought up in the middle of the Minories ; that her name stands registered in Cupid's Calendar, and in the 3 per cent. consols; and that she has two stars at the India House, and one (of the first magnitude) in the person of Mr. Tagg, an itinerant actor, and author, between whom, and herself, a platonic affection is known to subsist, that causes no small apprehension to Mr. Pickle, Senr., lest the venerable maiden, in transferring her charms to Mr. Tagg, should, at the same time, cause her Consols and India stock to undergo a similar transfer. The scene opens with Miss Pickle remonstrating with her brother, for his unlimited indulgence of his mischievous brat, whose part the old gentleman very naturally takes : attributing his harmless pranks, such as placing a stumbling block in the way, for the purpose of breaking people's shins, and arming every door in the house with a bason of water on the top, and then leaving it a-jar, (a novel method of producing domestic irrigation,) to a certain ex· uberance of spirit, perfectly distinct from vicious habits. At the very moment he is offering this apology, he suddenly coines to the ground; his chair, having been slyly withdrawn hy means of a string—This is really too bad; his choler rises with himself-and, after the display of various other tricks, such as the roasting of a dead parrot, horsewhipping a groom, breaking the shins of a favourite mare, he resolves to adopt a plan, suggested by his sister, for the purpose of taming her incorrigible nephew, that of disowning his son, for a time, and driving him from his house. A plot is laid, in concert with Margery, his old nurse, and a story trumped up, that youug Pickle is not, in reality, the son of Old Pickle, but of the aforesaid Margery, she having, when an infant, exchanged him for the true Pickle ; hoping, by this jugenious device, to make the fortune of her son, at the expense of the legitimate heir : but that her conscience ('tis not as wide as a church door, nor as deep as a well, but 'tis enough !) relenting, prompts her to make this confession; an easy mode of atonement, by the hye, when people grow old, and past sinning. The young rogue receives this unwelcome news very doubtfully; he fancies they, in turn, are playing a trick upon him : the fact is, however, reiterated with so much gravity, by both Mr. and Miss Pickle, that he doubts no more, but breaks out in a strain of deep pathos aud beauty, sufficient to redeem his childish pranks, were they a hundred times more wanton and extravagant.
But Old Margery, conscience-stricken, in the real sense of the word, at the distress of the unhappy young urchin, may have probably dropped certain hints, calculated to awaken his suspicions: at all events, she is tempted to disclose the plot to him, and he instantly determines to give them a
Rowland for an Oliver." Margery's Tommy is to be Little Pickle's substitute in the old gentleman's affections. Tommy is therefore introduced, an impudent carrotty-pated young sailor; and his first exploit, (which is easily accounted for, the said Tommy being, in fact, Little Pickle in disguise,) is to run his poll full against the physiognomy of Old Mr. Pickle, one half of whose teeth are loosened by this extraordinary and unwelcome coucussion.—He now contrives to offend Miss Pickle, by certain hints regarding her age, and then seriously deliberates with himself, whether his next trick shall not be to set the house on fire: he resolves, however, to keep this in reserve for the present, and, in the mean time, plots with his sister, who, in point of invention, is only second to himself, to fall in love with each other, and run away. 'This scheme is successfully played off ; Old Pickle is alarmed that his daughter should fall in love with a rascal not worth sixpence, commands his servants to turn him out of doors ; they refuse to obey, and, to complete his perplexity, he receives, at that very moment, a letter from his discarded, and seemingly penitent son, expressing his determination of going to sea, aud of expatriating himself for ever. Little Pickle (as Tummy) enjoys this whimsical scene of parental distress : he tells him, that he, and his son, had changed births, and that, by this time, the latter is some leagues off, on a pleasant voyage to Botany Bay. This is the climax of the old gentleman's misfortunes, and he runs out threatening, if the story should prove true, to return with all speed, and blow out the brains of Master Tommy, and either be hanged himself, or sent to Botany Bay after his unfortunate son.
We have now a scene of great drollery. Unprotected Innocence," or, inore properly speaking, Miss Pickle, anx. ious for the consumniation (devoutly to be wished) of Mr. Tagg's happiness, and her own, has consented to meet him in the garden, by moonlight. True to his appointment, the Play-man appears ; addresses the lady in the style of a finished enamorato ; prostrates himself at the shrine of her beauty ; raises her spirits, and charms her ears with a comical gallimawfry of tragedy, opera, farce, and pantomime, and finally leads her, nothing loth, not exactly to the nuptial bower, but to one close at hand, to tune their distresses, and to accord their woes-
“ There is a tide in the affairs of men,
“ Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,"— and Mr. Tagg is too ardent an admirer of our divine bard, uot to profit by such a seasonable hint. He redoubles his energies, mental and bodily; till Miss Pickle, no longer able to withstand the combined powers of prose and rhyme, agrees to elope, and he has his tender bit of lumb (to use his own emphatic expression) “as dead as mutton."'-At this interesting moment, Little Pickle, who, from behind, has been a laughing witness of their mutual transports, most mal-à-propos runs in, and informs them, that his father is coming. “What a catastrophe !” exclaims the astonished Mr. Tagg ; the fond couple embrace"parting is so sweet a sorrow !" and are about to be severed when they find themselves, unexpectedly, united, by a needle and thread, which Little Pickle had ingeniously applied
to their respective garınents.-A'momentary struggle takes place, and Mr. Tagg, in the heat of impatience, makes a hole in his manners, by a certain ungallant ejaculation. By a violent effort on both sides, they become disengaged, but not without depriving Mr. Tagg of his piece (not of mind, but) of coat, which he could but ill spare-haviug of linen barely sufficient to furnish a tinder-box-He departs for a disguise to equip his lovemand Miss Pickle for her casket of jewels. Old Pickle enters, but perceiving“ fifty” returning with the casket, he retires a few paces back—the Lady proceeds to the bower to meet Mr. Tagg, and catches hold of Little Pickle, who comes from behind, disguised as that illustrious chief: they are trotting off, but are stopped by Old Pickle, who calls vociferously for his servants, resolving that so mighty a prince should not want attendants to conduct him to a convenient goal close by. The denouement immediately follows---Little Pickle throws off his disguise, is forgiven by his father, for the sake of the joke, hut more for the joy of seeing him at home safe and sound. Miss Pickle retires in high dudgeon. What becomes of Mr. Tagg, does not transpire; and The Spoiled Child, having conciliated his father, begs the audience to laugh at and forgive his childish pranks, since their object was to amuse them.
Little Pickle has been fortunate in many skilful representatives, but none ever approached Mrs. Jordan-the admirable original. Indeed, the farce has been attributed to that matchless actress ; at all events, the principal character appears expressly designed for her peculiar powers“ Master Pickle and Miss Peggy being, in every sense of the word, brother and sister. Mrs. Charles Kenible (when Miss De Camp) approached nearest (though still keeping a most respectful distance) to Mrs. Jordan. Miss S. Booth went through the pantomime of the part cleverly; but her acting was too palpable : her mischief wanted impulse :-indeed, so completely did Thalia enter con amore into the spirit of Little Pickle, that when she withdrew the chair, we instinctively looked round to see who next was coming to the ground. Yet, admirable as these lighter parts were, her pathetic manner of singing “ Since then I'm doomed,' drew tears from every eye. Madam Vestris played the character in a very arch and lively manner : ver appearance, with the kite behind her back, was truly picturesque ; she was pert and piquont, and sang her song with great taste and feeling. Miss Clara Fisher has gained considerable