Apres





I'm fond of fire and crickets, and all that,

A lobster salad, and champagne, and chat.



BYRON.



From this genteel place the reader must not be surprised, if I should

convey him to a cellar, or a common porter-house.



CONNOISSEUR. No. 1.



Sweet is old wine in bottles, ale in barrels.



BYRON.





The curtain falls, much to the delight of those gentlemen whose sole

motive for frequenting the opera, is to have an opportunity of what they

term "chaffing" with some fair lady friend, whilst repairing thither,

and returning from thence, as well as during the enchanting moments

when the "drop" displays one of those accommodating landscapes, which

the audience, at their option, may convert either into the lake of Como,

or the ruins of Palmyra. If we may trust the assertion of many fair

mouths, we must infer that the curtain has fallen, much to the regret of

certain young ladies who declare that they could sit and hear Bosio

forever--a period of time which we have always been taught to regard as

very long indeed.



But the curtain has fallen, and the gentlemen who have been foolish

enough to send bouquets to the prima donna in the morning, all seem

suddenly to be struck with the bright idea, that by giving a few knocks

of a cane, or a few taps of a gloved hand, they can "call out" that

divine woman, and by some adroit manoeuvre render themselves

distinguishable, and obvious to her from out that mass of heads and

black coats. The persons who occupy the elevated portions of the house,

who have paid a small price for their admittance, like all other persons

who pay small prices, make large demands for their money, and

consequently unite with the prima donna's admirers in an attempt to get

a last, long, lingering look at the lady. They really "do" all the

applause, thundering with their heavy canes and beating their hands

together until they resemble small lumps of crude beef steaks. After the

requisite amount of delay which is imposed upon the audience to give

them an adequate idea of the obligation the prima donna will confer,

should she see fit to exhibit herself, a human head is seen to project

from behind the curtain, but is drawn back with that kind of jerk which

is said to be peculiar to a turtle establishing his right to the

homestead exemption. This little aiguillon of the prompter has the

desired effect, for the gentlemen in the parquette, who expect the prima

donna to observe them to the entire exclusion of the other five

hundred men in white cravats and black coats, become perfectly frantic,

and the sojourners in "paradise" threaten to take advantage of their

position and empty themselves on the heads of the higher orders of

society, who happen for the present to be below them. The excitement now

begins to infuse itself into all present; the most apathetic old

habitues commence to stretch forth their necks, to wriggle on their

seats, and manifest other signs of sympathy, with the more inflammable

portion of the audience. At length the tenor comes forward from the

side of the curtain, with a sickly smile of inexpressible pleasure on

his countenance. He leads by the hand the prima donna, whose downcast

eyes, and modest demeanor, entirely mislead the audience, giving them

the fullest assurance of her "beautiful disposition," and wholly

contradicting the assertion that she ever stamps her foot at the leader,

or tears the hair of her maid. The brace of singers make one

acknowledgment of gratitude immediately after issuing from behind the

ruins of Palmyra, thence proceeding in front of said ruins, make

another, and the moment before their disappearance perpetrate a third.

This is not sufficient for those enamoured ones who think that by some

evident mistake the prima donna has not recognised them, so the

patting of gloves and the tapping of canes is again resorted to, which,

together with the efforts of the "upper circles," again extracts the

tenor and his "inamorata" together, with the drowsy basso. The

last-named person wears an air of great reluctance at thus being

detained on the stage, instead of being permitted to go home to his

pates and fricasees. The three go through the reverential with due

regard to time and position, and then withdraw, leaving the house to

contemplate the gas light, and reflect upon the briefness of all human

pleasures.



During all this time the ladies have been standing in an apparently half

decided state, as to what was ultimately to become of them, alternately

looking on the stage and picking up hoods and shawls which they

immediately let fall again. Now that their suspense is ended, they

commence to hood and shawl; and many is the gentleman who announces in

whispers that he is unspeakably happy in being permitted to place a

cloak upon shoulders that rival alabaster.



Harry Brown is unfortunate, for Miss Smith's cousin George has

anticipated him, having already astutely seized upon a shawl, during the

"calling out" which he carefully keeps until the blissful moment arrives

for enveloping that lady. Miss Smith thanks cousin George, as she always

calls him, with such a sweet smile that Harry Brown immediately becomes

occupied in a protracted search after his hat, muttering to himself

"hang these cousins."



The audience go out of the boxes together with the going out of the

gas, and masses of people stand crowded together in the lobbies, while

the house is slowly emptying itself.



The fast-men have collected about in front of the different box doors

from which the ladies are issuing, and are examining the relative claims

to beauty, which the fair observed ones merit, or as they term it, "are

getting their points." They are heard to make their comparisons upon the

singers too, with all the assurance of the old habitues, telling about

Salvi's falsetto, and Bettini's chest-voice, with a wondrous deal of

volubility. Where the crowds from the upper tiers unite with those of

the lower, one loud-voiced critic, who has just made his descent, is

heard to observe to a friend that "though Salvi is an old cock, he is

nevertheless a remarkably sound egg;" but why such a peculiarly

gallinaceous reference is made to that distinguished tenor, we must

unhesitatingly confess ignorance.



After the confusion attendant on the coming and going of carriages, cabs

and divers other vehicles, the fatigued audience are at length set in

motion towards their respective dwellings.



Again poor Harry Brown is a fit subject for our commiseration. The

ill-fated young man is placed by the side of Miss Smith's mother, a

rather antique lady; Cousin George somehow or other, has managed to

place himself beside Miss Smith. The carriage passes a lamp-post, and

though Harry Brown does observe Cousin George's left hand, the

disappearance of the right is something for which he cannot at all

account, except upon the laws of proximity which pertain to cousinship.

While the carriage proceeds homewards the party does not converse as

freely as they did a short time before, under the exhilaration arising

from gas-light and gossip. Harry Brown finds the ride a bore, Mrs. Smith

is so deaf, and still has her ideas of public amusement, confined to the

times when Mr. Kemble, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Cooke, performed in the

legitimate drama to crowded houses. Cousin George's position is such a

happy one, that conversation is to him a thing superfluous.



Those whose means authorise them, and very often those whose means do

not authorise them, go home to a nice supper, some delicate partridges,

cold capon, or deviled turkey, and a bottle or two of champagne. Under

the influences of the warm room and the viands, not to mention that

"warm champagny, old particular brandy-punchy feeling" induced by the

popping cork, the events of the whole evening are reviewed in a quite

thorough manner, though without much attention to a "lucidus ordo."



Let us follow the Smiths home, and see what is their mode of terminating

the evening. Scarcely have they settled themselves at table before a

glass of champagne is administered all round, and a very severe

criticism of Bosio is commenced by Cousin George, who says in a very

opinionated way, that he likes her pretty well, but prefers either

Truffi or Stefanoni. Miss Smith immediately espouses the cause of the

injured Bosio, whom she has often declared she could listen to

"forever," and calls on Harry Brown to come to the rescue of the

cantatrice's reputation. Harry, who has been sadly silent ever since the

miraculous disappearance of Cousin George's right hand in the carriage,

at once becomes a violent Bosioite, and maintains the vocal abilities of

that prima donna against the whole world; whereupon Miss Smith with one

of the most approving of smiles, exclaims, "Thank you, Mr. Brown; I

always knew you were a gentleman of taste. There, there, let me shake

hands with you." And as Miss Smith utters the last words, she extends

such a ridiculously little hand across the table, that it seems almost a

misnomer to apply that appellation to it. Mr. Brown seizes the proffered

member, and gives it as hearty a pressure as the publicity of the

occasion will permit. From the moment that he touches the magical little

hand, cousin George is eclipsed. Harry's knowledge of operas, music and

singers, becomes at once astonishingly enlarged, and he speaks on

operatic subjects like one having authority to do so. Fortunately for

cousin George, Miss Smith's brother Charles enters, his clothes strongly

redolent of Havannahs, he having just returned from his club. His sister

forbids him to come so near her, alleging as a ground for such a

prohibition, that those "horrid" cigars are so offensive to her. Her

brother moves good naturedly to the other side of the table, having

first applied his finger to his sister's cheek in a playful way, which

has a powerful effect upon poor Harry, causing him to feel exceedingly

as if he should like to do the same thing himself. The sister begins to

assure her brother of the inestimable amount of pleasure he has lost by

loitering at the "horrid" club, instead of accompanying her to the

delicious opera. The reply is that "the club" has voted Bosio a bore,

and that consequently he cannot think of wasting his valuable time by

going to hear her. The sister then makes some very severe remarks upon

clubs in the abstract, but is interrupted by her brother's inquiring if

she does not want to take a share in the great stakes which the club is

endeavouring to raise, in order to pit Tom Hyer against Harry Broome

the English champion. The sister pretends to be so provoked at the

raillerie of her brother, that she smiles in a way that makes her look

doubly pretty, calls him a "horrid creature," then turns to Harry Brown

and indulges in some rather pointed observations, relative to divers of

the good people who were among the audience at the opera.



Mrs. Smith, who has up to this moment been very laudably occupied in

seeing that the young people get a due proportion of the well selected

viands, now comes in for a part of the conversation. She, good lady,

knows the fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers, of the

present generation, and can tell just what amount of homage each of the

dashing families of the city have a right to lay claim to. She declares

that Mrs. Simms has no right to assume the importance that she

does--that though her father was a very respectable man, still, when she

was a girl, the family lived in a very obscure part of the town, and

were wholly unknown among our first people. Miss Smith, however, who is

very much afraid that her mother is going to indulge in too minute and

wearisome an investigation of genealogies, conducts the conversation to

subjects which she supposes to be more interesting to the rest of the

party. She objects to the want of taste displayed by those awful looking

Misses Rogers, who deck themselves out like young girls, when every body

knows they have been in society for the last fifteen years--that their

mother has made herself notorious, as well as ridiculous, by angling for

every young man of desirable means in the city. Miss Smith likewise

expresses her wonder when that stupid Lieutenant Jones will marry Miss

Simms. She declares that "she is tired of seeing the two together; that

one cannot go to any public place, but the first persons who meet the

eye are Jones and Miss Simms; that if the weather is fair, and you walk

out, there are the loving couple in the street. Go to Newport, there

they are--go to the opera, there they are. If they can find means to run

incessantly to parties and balls, watering places and operas, why cannot

they get married?" Miss Smith concludes her observations on the

over-fond lovers, by emphasising the words "so stupid, is it not?" at

the same time giving them both an affirmative and interrogative

character. Harry Brown responds that it might be excessively

uninteresting to be always thus placed in proximity to Miss Simms, but

that there are other young ladies of his acquaintance, with whom such

extreme intimacy would be any thing but stupid. To this ambiguous use of

the word "stupid," Miss Smith makes no reply, but merely looks at Mr.

Brown as if she had not the slightest idea whatever that a very personal

allusion to herself had been made by that gentleman. Miss Smith again

indulges in reflections on society with a great deal of freedom and

pointedness of expression, which much amuses cousin George, who laughs

approvingly at what he terms the "sharpness" of his relative. Brother

Charles remains wholly unattentive to a kind of conversation which his

fair sister so often takes part in, and is absorbed in estimating, on

the back of a visiting card, the probability of his winning his bet on

the late election. Harry Brown, after his complimentary effort, sinks

into a state of silence, induced by the loquacity of Miss Smith, the

hilarity of cousin George, and the negligence of brother Charles. Alas

for Harry! he is considering the likelihood that such a censorious young

lady can have a kind heart--or would make a good wife. At this moment,

Mr. Smith, Senior, walks into the dining-room. A worthy, respectable,

and well-to-do man is Mr. Smith, the elder; he pays his taxes and he

loves his children, and who can do more? Miss Smith immediately rises

from the table, puts up her dear little mouth to her papa to be kissed.

The tender parent goes through the osculatory process in such an

affectionate manner, that Harry Brown is strongly impressed with the

idea that the old gentleman would make a trump of a father-in-law, and

he begins to suspect that Miss Smith's heart is not so bad after all.

The elderly Smith takes his seat, having first shaken Harry by the hand

in a friendly, familiar way, that indicates a very good opinion of that

worthy young person. The conversation again reverts to operatics, but

Harry seems to have forgotten all his late familiarity with such

subjects, and becomes suddenly very conversant with rail-roads, canals

and stocks, and launches out into an earnest conversation with Mr. Smith

on those interesting topics.



But everything must have an end, and so about midnight Mr. Brown walks

home through a foot of snow, because his mind is too much occupied with

thoughts of Miss Smith and her cousin George, to allow him to think of

calling a cab.



Let us now see what becomes of those gentlemen who have been sitting in

the parquette, giving the opera their most anxious attention at all such

times as either the prima donna is on the stage, or any aria is sung,

but who have been giving quite unmistakeable signs of ennui and

weariness during the recitatives and choruses. If we have narrowly

observed the movements of this portion of the audience, we will have

remarked, that during the performance of the last act they have, from

time to time, cast hurried glances towards the avenues of egress, and

contorted their countenances in a way which would indicate that their

olfactories were greeted by certain savory odours, imperceptible to

every body but the possessors of the said olfactories. These gentlemen,

immediately after leaving the opera, may be seen to walk along the

street in companies of three or four, with a hurried step, until their

progress is arrested by the view of divers green, blue, pink, or crimson

coloured lamps, holding a very conspicuous position over the doors of

some houses of very suggestive exterior, or before some suspicious

hiatuses in the pavement, where those horrid monsters, who figure in

Christmas pantomimes, might easily be imagined to dwell. These lamps

seem to be possessed of a most incredible power of human attraction, for

no sooner does their light fall upon the vision of the nocturnal

wayfarer, than he is drawn within the portals over which they are

established. Upon mounting the steps into these houses, or descending

into these subterranean regions, the inquirer will discover a long,

brilliantly illuminated, gaudily papered chamber, whose walls are

ornamented with numerous over-grown mirrors, and French coloured

prints, representing young ladies in short dresses, standing in every

possible posture except that usually assumed by ladies of our

acquaintance. Along one side of this apartment, at the distance of about

three and a half feet from the wall, extends a marble slab, placed in a

horizontal position, and elevated three feet from the floor, forming a

species of enclosure. Within this enclosure, a number of men, habited to

the waist in white garments,--apparently a nameless order of

priesthood--are going through some inexplicable mystic rites, repeatedly

seizing up various large glass bottles containing transparent or opaque

liquids, and carrying them to different parts of this marble slab at the

request of various persons, who seem to be the worshippers in this

temple. At one end of the enclosure, a solitary man of a dark and sombre

hue, evidently a person held more sacred than the other priests, is seen

alternately to hammer portions of some hard matter, resembling stone in

appearance, and then split them by the magical application of a small

piece of blunt iron. He conducts this ceremony with the greatest

solemnity, occasionally pronouncing these incantatory words, "Plate or

shell, sah?" in a seemingly interrogative manner. The worshippers at

these shrines are some of the same young gentlemen whom we have seen

standing back in the opera boxes by the doors, making fast remarks on

all that was passing around them, or sitting in the parquette

endeavouring to annihilate the prima donna by the attractiveness of

their appearance. Others, of this same class of persons, merely pass

through this chamber, having first said in a low tone to the most

potential of the priests, "Four dozen broiled; ale for one, and brandy

and water for three." The priest immediately repeats these words so

fraught with significance, in a loud voice, which resounds through the

whole chamber. An invisible priest, at some distance from the first,

again repeats them, and thus the mysterious sound is passed from one

unseen priest to another, until it ceases to be heard in the distance.



Nothing more is seen of the last described devotees, for some time after

their leaving the mysterious apartment; but about midnight a confused

sound of human voices is heard to issue from another mysterious chamber.

Some of those voices express a dogged determination on the part of

their proprietors, to remain shut up within the present confines until

the matutinal hours; other voices assure a universal confidence in the

powers of a certain bob-tail mare, while one teaches in the Italian

language the secret of ever living happily.[b] At between two and three

o'clock in the morning, several of our operators are seen to emerge

from the aforesaid houses and subterranean abodes, in a very musical, as

well as affectionate frame of mind. One gentleman, totally regardless of

the lateness of the hour, after manifesting a strong desire to embrace a

large party of his friends, kindly invites them home to take tea with

him. Another walks homeward, expressing his notions on the secret of

living happily in a cantatory way. A third is assisted into a cab by his

associates, with directions to the driver to set him down at his

lodgings. Arrived there, he is put to bed, when he dreams that he is

falling down five hundred precipices; that afterwards a huge man is on

the point of cutting off his head, but a very prima donna like looking

lady comes in and intercedes for him, and she thus saves his life; that

he is just going to be married to the prima donna like looking lady,

when his pleasure is interrupted by the sound of ten thousand horns,

each one four times as large as that he saw the tyrant have in the

opera; whereupon he awakes, and discovers that there is a cry of fire,

and the firemen are making almost as much noise as the orchestra did,

when it was doing the crashing passages.



[b] Il segreto per esser felici.



* * * * *



In the morning, the chambermaid wonders why Mr. Higgins rings for water,

when she recollects filling the ewer full the night previous. Next day

Mr. Higgins examines his operatic accounts, and finds them to stand

thus:



To one pair kid gloves, $1.00

" opera ticket, (secured seat,) 1.50

" supper, 3.00

" cab-hire, 1.00

-----

Total, 6.50



At that moment his land-lady sends in the bill for lodging, which,

by-the-by, she always seems to do when he is in one of his repentant

moods, and Mr. Higgins expresses a kind wish that all Italians were in a

climate somewhat warmer than that of the south of Europe.



The Smiths do not feel any inconvenience, physical or pecuniary, from

their visit to the opera, and petit souper afterwards. "When one has

money," says Mrs. Smith, in a very oracular tone, "what is the use of

it, except to let people know that one has got it!" Immediately after

this expression of her sentiments in regard to filthy lucre, Mrs. Smith

tells the servant not to give a shilling to the whimpering little boy

who has been sweeping the snow off the pavement; that a sixpence is

enough, and more than enough, for him, and that it is wrong to encourage

such exorbitance.



* * * * *



Now, that Mr. Higgins should feel thirsty in the morning, or that Mrs.

Smith should regret to part with a sixpence, concerns not us; we have

not been writing to correct public morals, but only to amuse the

readers of THE PHYSIOLOGY OF THE OPERA.





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