Magazine article The Spectator

The Pantomime: Pleasure Secret, Sweet and Precious

Magazine article The Spectator

The Pantomime: Pleasure Secret, Sweet and Precious

Article excerpt


Pantomimes will always be popular so long as they are founded upon some fairytale or nursery legend. And we have observed that they have generally been successful in proportion to the skill with which the introductory story has been dramatised.

This is the 'Child's Own Play'. He sees realised, in a palpable form, the visions which the 'storybooks' conjured up, and that flitted before his fancy's sight till the play-ground has become an enchanted land, and the fairies have come and beckoned him at the school-room window; or the ogre, in the awful form of some fat farmer, has stalked up to him with a club-like cudgel as he lay half asleep in the midst of the tall wheat dreaming of Little Jack or Tom Thumb.

The mixture of real scenes with the 'gorgeous hydras and chimeras' of fairy land, is not incongruous in its effect. The impossibility is manifest; but the deception is an honest one, and the moral invariably wholesome. The fairies are just in their retributive dealings. The very excess and extravagance of the incidents and personages are recommendatory qualities. We like the Brobdingnagian size of the implements and animals introduced in the pantomime. Children should be cheated with their eyes open. If their senses are too cunningly imposed upon, they are too much perplexed between the seeming truth and improbability to enjoy themselves.

This part of the pantomime, however, is not only welcome to the urchin throng whose merry holyday faces are seen studding the boxes, and making happy mammas look like madonnas encircled by cherubim. Grave papas and uncles, and dignified elder brothers and sisters, find a pleasure 'secret, sweet, and precious', in abandoning the prudery of common sense and giving in to the glorious triumph of unreason over the dingy and dull realities of matter-of-fact existence.

Nothing can be better than the introductory part of the Covent Garden pantomime, which tells the story of Puss in Boots very faithfully in the main, with the needful addition only of a fairy agency to bring about the most marvellous incidents. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.