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A HYBRID ENTERTAINMENT.

333

CHAPTER XXVI.

About Jugglers and Gymnasts - Hazlitt and the Italian Juggler. The

Mountebanks of Paris. — Lively Scenes on the Champs Elysees. Queer Juggling Tricks. - Pompous Street Spouters. The Seven Indian Brothers.-Chinese Street Jugglers.---Arab Miracles.-Conjurors' Perils.-Japanese Jugglers and Acrobats.—A Western Acrobat's Feat.-A Gymnast's Account of his Sensations in Falling from the Trapeze.

Hazlitt relates that when he was a boy he went once to a theatre. The tragedy of Hamlet was performed—a play full of the noblest thoughts, the subtlest morality that exists upon the stage. The audience listened with attention, with admiration, with applause. But now an Indian juggler appeared upon the stage—a man of extraordinary personal strength and sleight of hand. He performed a variety of juggling tricks, and distorted his body into a thousand surprising and unnatural postures. The audience were transported beyond themselves; if they had felt delight in Hamlet, they glowed with rapture at the juggler. They had listened with attention to the lofty thought, but they were snatched from themselves by the marvel of the strange posture. “Enough,” said Hazlitt; “where is the glory of ruling men's mind and commanding their admiration, when a greater enthusiasm is excited by mere bodily display than was kindled by the wonderful emanations of a genius a little less than divine ?”

This incident is curious as illustrating a sort of thing which no longer degrades the stage, to wit, the supplementing of a classic play with the tricks of a juggler. In former days it was quite common for theatres to present these hybrid entertainments, but the fashion, I am glad to say, has now gone out.

334

AN OUT-DOOR SHOW.

Nowadays, our confessed mountebanks confine their trickery to their proper sphere, and when mountebanks are seen in theatres, they are not theatres where legitimate plays are enacted.

I have never seen anything in this country to compare with the street mountebank exhibitions of foreign countries. Particularly in Paris is the scene they sometimes present a most picturesque and exciting one. A writer says: “Le Grand Carré des Fêtes, an open space in the Champs Elysées, is, three times a year, the resort of all the mountebanks in France. The enumeration of these nomadic shows is, I take it, unnecessary; every one knows it by heart. Their modus operandi, however, is unique, and deserves more than a passing word. They invariably commence by attracting a crowd before their tents or stalls. This is done in a great many ways, and very often the performance outside is much more amusing than that which is enacted inside. In front of each tent or wagon is erected a sort of piazza or scaffolding. Upon this the whole company-father, mother, and all the children-get together, and lay themselves out to rivet the attention of the passers-by. They are all dressed in gay colors and gaudy ribbons. They execute a polka, perhaps to the music of a keyless bugle, or some one of the troupe dresses up as a very little man with an enormously large head, and dances till he becomes red in the face, only this the spectators cannot see; or else a fellow on stilts pretends to be drunk, and tumbles about as if he were going to fall from his dizzy eminence into the midst of the crowd below. Or perhaps a juggler, robed in a long black gown covered with hieroglyphics, like an eastern magus, plays off a trick or two upon some one dressed as a clown, who pretends to be very silly and to believe that the juggler really pulled a potato from his nose. These means generally succeed in getting a pretty good concourse of people

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together. The manager then comes forward, and announces, at considerable length, the programme of entertainment which will be spread before the delighted audi

He goes through with it two or three times, and assures you that the exhibition has been patronized by the first society in all the cities he has visited. He generally uses very stately language, and you are sometimes lost in doubt as to whether it is possible that this flowery speech really can refer to a two-penny show. The conclusion of his address sets you right in a moment. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, let me endeavor to induce you, in the interest of the Fine Arts, to lend your countenance to this entertaining and refining exhibition. Walk in and sit down, while our performers go through with their exercises before you, and if you are not satisfied, your money shall be refunded. The price of admission has been diminished, for this occasion only; it has usually been six sous, and everybody has been astonished that so varied an entertainment could be afforded at so moderate a sum. To-day, however, being a day intimately connected with the glory of our beloved country, and it having been suggested by several influential persons that a reduction of price would be attended with beneficial results, the slight compensation of two sous only will be asked from those who favor us with a call. Two sous! Two sous, only! So that every one may be able to amuse and instruct himself almost for nothing. Two sous! Who hasn't got two sous ! Now follows a scene impossible to describe, The manager seizes a trumpet and shouts, "Two sous ! two sous !' till he ought to be hoarse. Then the children and the clown cry, Two sous ! only two sous !' till they are ready to faint from fatigue. Then the manager holds up two fingers in the air, keeping down the others with his thumb. The children and clown do the same, Two sous! two sous!' Then they begin to dance again, the stilt man re

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