Oliver Bell Bunce.

Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911: Love in '76 An Incident of the Revolution online

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[Illustration: OLIVER BELL BUNCE]



The name of Oliver Bell Bunce is not prominently connected with the
American Theatre. Authorities have taken little or no trouble to
unearth his association with the plays and players of his time - the
mid-period of the nineteenth century. Yet they all agree that, as
illustration of "parlour comedy," his "Love in '76" is a satisfactory
example of sprightliness and fresh inventiveness. For this reason, the
small comedietta is included in the present collection. It challenges
comparison with Royall Tyler's "The Contrast" for manner, and its
volatile spirit involved in the acting the good services of such
estimable players as Laura Keene, Stoddart, and Ringgold. In the
cast also was J.G. Burnett, author of "Blanche of Brandywine," a
dramatization of a novel by George Lippard, also produced by Laura

"Love in '76" was given its première at Laura Keene's Theatre, New
York, on February 28, 1857, for the benefit of the Shirt Sewers'
Union; and was the second offering of a double bill beginning with
"Faust and Marguerite." Though the critiques of the time recognized
in it a "nice little play," they balked at what was considered to be
a foolish nomenclature, "Comedietta." What was liked about it,
particularly, was the absence of patriotic fustian, for the national
drama of the time seems to have been loaded down with long flights
of fancy on the subject of liberty. Others hailed it as smart in the
social sense. As late as March 31, 1892, the little play was revived
by amateurs for the benefit of a monument to be erected over the
neglected grave of Washington's mother.

This was not the first time Bunce had appeared as a playwright. There
had been seen, on June 10, 1850, at the New York Bowery Theatre, a
tragedy entitled "Marco Bozzaris; or, The Grecian Hero," and in the
cast were J. Wallack, Jr., and his wife, together with John Gilbert.
It was not based on the poem by Fitz-Greene Halleck, but, for its
colour and plot, Bunce went direct to history. For Wallack he also
wrote a tragedy, entitled "Fate; or, The Prophecy," and, according
to Hutton, during the summer of 1848, the Denin Sisters produced his
"Morning of Life," at the New York Chatham Theatre.

Such was the extent of Bunce's drama writing. His life was not cast in
the dramatic field, but rather in the publishing world. The plays
were done in his early manhood. But he was pledged in interest to the
theatre, and there are many significant criticisms and descriptions
in print which convey an excellent impression of his attitude toward
plays, players, and acting.

Bunce was a self-made man, with an excellent grasp of literature,
which served him well in his various literary ventures. His mind was
cast in channels of originality, and the history of book publishing
in New York must needs consider the numerous suggestions, which,
as literary adviser at different times for the houses of Harper and
Appleton, he saw to successful fruition. In 1872, he became Editor of
_Appleton's Journal_, and it is to the files of this magazine we must
turn to extract his frank reaction to the theatre of his day. He wrote
novels, stories, essays, editorials, everything to win him the name of
journalist; once he had a publishing house of his own, doing business
under the firm name of Bunce & Co. He was always cordial toward every
move to further the literary interest of the country, and was among
the first to welcome the founding of the Authors Club. It may be that
his "Love in '76" was a by-product of a book written by him, in 1852,
and called "Romance of the Revolution."

Bunce wrote well on theatrical matters; he is much more vivid and
human than many a better-known critic. Here, for instance, is an
impression of the old Park Theatre, New York, in 1846.

"That was the time," he writes in "The Editor's Table" of _Appleton's
Journal_ for October, 1880, "when the theatre had a pit, where critics
and wiseacres were wont to assemble and utter oracular things about
the plays and the performers. The actors were in those days afraid
of the Pit, especially at the Park, of the fourth bench from the
orchestra, where the magnates of the pen sat watchful, and where old
Nestors of the drama delivered their verdicts in terms that no one
dared to gainsay. The Pit was entered by cellar steps, and through a
half-lighted, subterranean passage. Decorative art, as we see it now
in the full bloom of the Madison Square auditorium and Mr. Daly's
lobby, had not even given a hint of its coming."

In _The Galaxy_ for February, 1868, Bunce ventures to survey "Some
of Our Actors" from the standpoint of deploring the pre-Raphaelite
realism of the modern school. He scored the attempted "truth" and
"fidelity" of Matilda Heron, and, in considering Maggie Mitchell's
_Fanchon,_ he bespoke the cause of ideality, as necessary in _Fanchon_
as in _Juliet._ "Modern comedy acting," he declares, "is usually a
bright, brisk touch-and-go affair, suited to modern plays; but to the
mellow and artistic style of a former generation, it is as the light
claret wines, now so much in use, to crusty old port."

Except in the instances of our comedians, like Murdoch, with his
"lightness of manner, that grace, which I have described elsewhere as
snuffing a candle in a way to make you feel that snuffing candles is
the poetry of life;" Harry Placide, with whose retirement went the
retirement of _Sir Peter Teazle_ and _Sir Harcourt Courtley_, ("When
Placide and Gilbert are gone," he writes, "Sheridan will have to be
shelved"); Holland, with his intense fun in eccentric bits; Brougham,
without whom "The Rivals" is difficult to endure - apart from these the
stage of the time, to Bunce, was not all it should be. He valued
at their worth the romantic extravagances of the Wallack family;
he applauded the sound judgment, and deplored the hard manner of
Davenport; he viewed calmly what he regarded to be an overestimation
of Edwin Booth - one of the first criticisms of an avowedly negative
character I have seen aimed directly at this actor. In other words,
Bunce fought hard against the encroachment of the new times upon the
acting of his early theatre days. The epitome of his old-time attitude
is to be found in _Appleton's Journal_ for April 3, 1869. His better
mood was to be met with in his discussion of the players of Ellen
Tree's type. Here are his words of censure against the new order:

"If we old files are to be believed, the art of acting is dying out,
and the very tradition of the stage disappearing.... Very likely the
spirit, which in painting we call pre-Raphaelism, is obtaining its
influence on the stage, and that some of the actors are turning out of
doors the traditions and formal mannerisms of the schools, and going
back to nature and truth for their inspiration.... There were very
artificial methods, no doubt, among the old actors, but there was also
a very consummate knowledge of the art, a great deal of breadth,
force and skill, and a finished training, which the new schools do
not exhibit. In aiming to be natural, some of our actors seem to have
concluded that their profession is not an art. They grow heedless
in the delivery of language, weakening or obscuring its meaning, and
missing its significance; and in some way lose that rich and mellow
colouring that characterized the bygone performers. So marked is this,
that some of the old dramatic characters are abandoned altogether,
because in the hands of the Realists they fade away into ineffective
and colourless forms. The _Sir Peter Teazles_ and _Sir Anthony
Absolutes_ of the old comedy require indispensably the resources
of the old art, and no thin, water-gruel realism, so-called, can
personate them. In avoiding the declamatory Kembletonianism of the old
school, our actors are right enough; but they cannot safely disregard
the skill which sharpens and chisels, as it were, the sentences; nor
forego the care, study, precision and stern adherence to rules of art,
that marked the old stage."

Steeped in such belief, it is small wonder that two of Bunce's plays
had characteristics in them to suit a member of the Wallack family.
And being such a lover of old English Comedy accounts for some of the
spirit of "Love in '76."

His plea, sound in its fundamental championing of the best that has
been on our stage, might well be heeded at this time (1920). It is a
strong valuation of tradition - the jade who is looked at askance by
the amateur players of the "little theatres," and too exacting for the
average player on the professional stage.

Bunce was a New Yorker, born in that city, February 8, 1828, and dying
there on May 15, 1890.




Change of Time. Doors open at half past Six. The performance will
commence with the Overture at a quarter past Seven.

* * * * *


Sixth time of the Dramatic Poem, in three acts, entitled


The Drama having been misapprehended by one or two critics, it is
respectfully stated that the translation has not been made by a
resident dramatist, as inferred, but by the celebrated European
scholar and linguist, Jonathan Birch, whose translation has been
recognized by Frederick William, of Prussia, as the best rendition of
the original of Goethe's Faust ever given in English to the public.

The play has been taken bodily from this translation, published by
Black & Armstrong, London, and F.A. Brockhaus, Leipsig, without any
alteration other than is necessary to bring it within the bounds of an
evening's performance. To produce the poem as written by Goethe, would
require at least three nights in performance. By reference to the
edition mentioned, it will be seen that there has been no deviation
from the original, except as above specified.

The fall of Marguerite, in the poem, is much more sudden than in the
play, and, indeed, the exceptions taken generally to the drama concern
the original author, Goethe, rather than the translation. Great care
has been taken to produce the play with strict fidelity to the author,
following in the architecture, costumes and groupings the celebrated
_chefs d' oeuvres_ of REIZSCH, who devoted the best years of his life
to illustrate this great work; and it should be added, also, that
every note of the music in this piece is from SPOHR.

Music by Spohr, arranged by Mr. Thomas Baker
New Scenery by Messrs. Hawthorne and Almay
New Wardrobe by Mr. Bullock and Assistants
Machinery by Mr. Smart and Assistants
Properties and Appointments by Mr. W. Duverna

Under the personal supervision of


* * * * *

First time of a New American Comedietta, In two acts, by a Citizen of
New York, entitled


* * * * *


Will be presented the great Dramatic Poem by Goethe, translated by
Jonathan Birch, Esq., and produced for the SIXTH TIME, as now adapted
and arranged for this artistic work under the title of



Faust, an aged scholar Mr. C. Wheatleigh
Mephistophilies Mr. George Jordan
Wagner, a student, friend to Faust Mr. Stoddart
Valentine, a soldier, brother to Marguerite Mr. Lingham
Brandor, a soldier, friend to Valentine Mr. Alleyne
Frosh Mr. Hayes
Siebel Mr. Reeve
Fritz Mr. Harcourt
Students Messers. Carpenter, Jackson, Carter, Kellogg
Altmayer Mr. McDonall
Beggar Mr. Beneon
Marguerite, a young peasant girl Miss Laura Keene
Martha, her confidante Mrs. H.P. Grattan
Lizzie { Companions } Miss Alleyne
Barbara { of Marguerite } Miss Howell
Witch, creature of Mephistophiles Mrs. Attwood
Spirits of Good Miss Howell, Miss Wall, Miss Berkowitz,
and Miss Rosa Berkowitz
Peasantry, Chorus of Demons, etc., etc.,


Scene 1st - Faust's Laboratory By Almy
Scene 2nd - Street in Wittenburg By Hawthorne

Scene 1st - Pavillion and Garden of Marguerite By Hawthorne

Scene 1st - Street and Cathedral in Wittenburg By Howthorne
Scene 2nd - Rocky Glen By Hawthorne
Scene 3rd - Prison By Almy
Scene 4th - Street and Cathedral - Apotheosis of Marguerite By Hawthorne

To conclude for the FIRST TIME with a New American Comedietta, in TWO
ACTS, by a Gentleman of this city, called


Mr. Elsworth Mr. Stoddart
Lieutenant Harry Elsworth Mr. Ringgold
Captain Walter Armstrong Mr. Lingham
Major Cleveland Mr. Burnett
Captain Arbald Mr. Benson
Lieutenant Marvin Mr. Hayes
Apollo Metcalf Mr. Johnston
John Mr. Harcourt
Corporal Mr. Leslie
Soldiers Messers Jackson and Kellog
Rose Ellsworth Miss Laura Keene
Kate Ellsworth Miss Alleyne
Bridget Miss Howell

A Grand Scenic Drama, called THE SONS OF NIGHT, has been in rehersal
and will be produced immediately.

Drama Circle and Parquette 50 Cents
Balcony Seats 75 Cents
Family Circle 25 Cents
Orchestra Stalls One Dollar
Private Boxes Six and Eight Dollars

Box Office open from 8 in the morning throughout the day.

Children in Arms not admitted. This regulation will be rigidly enforced.

Treasurer Mr. W.W. Gray
Box Bookkeeper Mr. F.N.Cartland





NEW YORK, FEB. 28, 1857

[The acting edition of this play, with the
relative positions of the performers on the
stage, is published by Samuel French.]


MR. ELSWORTH. - _Shad-cut brown coat, brown or black breeches,

LIEUTENANT HARRY ELSWORTH. - _Red, turned up with blue, buff breeches,
high boots._

CAPTAIN ARMSTRONG. - _Blue, turned up with buff, white top boots._

MAJOR CLEVELAND. - _Red, turned up with white, breeches, high boots._



APOLLO METCALF. - _Gray shad, square-cut suit._

THE LADIES. - _The costumes of the period of '76._

LOVE IN '76.


SCENE. _The drawing-room in the residence of_ MR. EDWARD ELSWORTH.
_Garden seen through doors._ ROSE ELSWORTH _occupied at a small table,
stitching._ KATE ELSWORTH _stretched languidly upon a sofa, with a
book in hand._ MR. EDWARD ELSWORTH _in an easy chair, with newspaper
in his lap. Writing materials on table._

KATE. Oh, dullness! dullness! I do wish Harry was at home, or Sir
William would march some of his troops this way! What's the use of an
army in the country, if one can't have a dance once in a while?

ROSE. What, indeed! All I desire is, sister, that they should be
[_Enter_ SERVANT _with letters for_ MR. ELSWORTH.] left to the dance!
That much they do very well.

KATE. I'm sure, Rose, I can't see what you find in these rebels to
admire. As far as my observation has gone, they are only so many
boors. There was Captain Arthur. Was there ever such a dunce? He had
no manner whatever. He attempted once to walk a minuet with me, and
I really thought he was a bear accidentally stumbled into coat and

ROSE. You're quite right! he never should have got his appointment
until he had served a campaign in the drawing-room. If I were the
Congress, I'd appoint none who could not bring diplomas from their

ELSWORTH. Ha? 'pon my word! Very extraordinary news.

[_All coming forward._

ROSE. What is it, papa?

ELSWORTH. There has been a battle.

ROSE. Is it possible? Oh, where, sir?

ELSWORTH. On Long Island. [_Reading._] Washington has been
defeated - has evacuated the city - is retiring northward. [_Speaking_.]
I feel, my daughters, that our situation is becoming here unsafe. We
shall be continually exposed to the assaults of marauders. It would
be wiser, in the present aspect of affairs, for us to seek a securer
residence in New York, now so fortunately in possession of Sir William

ROSE. I should prefer remaining here.

ELSWORTH. Would it be safe, Rose?

ROSE. Yes, for we neutralize each other. Your loyalty will secure
you with the Tories, and my Whiggism will protect us with the other

ELSWORTH. Your Whiggism, Rose? You shock me by such an avowal; and
your brother, too, an officer of the King.

KATE. I don't think there is much danger, if Mr. Armstrong is near to
protect us.

ELSWORTH. Mr. Armstrong?

KATE. Oh, yes, papa! He's got to be a captain.

ELSWORTH. Not a rebel, I trust.

ROSE. Not a traitor, I thank heaven.

ELSWORTH. You confound terms strangely. A traitor is one false to his

ROSE. False to his country, sir. A king is a creature of to-day - your
country a thing of immortality.

ELSWORTH. Your King is your sovereign, by divine right and true

ROSE. Then, sir, serve the Stuarts. How came the house of Hanover upon
the throne? You see, sir, that if you zealous loyalists could shift
off James, we, with less belief in the divine right of kings, can
shift off George.


METCALF. Good day, Mr. Elsworth. Good day, young ladies. "Good day"
all, I may say.

ELSWORTH. Have you any news of the war, Mr. Metcalf?

METCALF. News - plenty of it, and mad. The country is depopulated.
There isn't a youth with the first hope of a beard upon his chin, who
hasn't gone with young Armstrong, to join the army.

ELSWORTH. Young Armstrong?

METCALF. To be sure, sir. He's turned out a fiery rebel, after
all - and a captain, to boot.

ELSWORTH. Heaven bless me, but this is very sad. A promising youth
to be led astray! Dear me, dear me! Rose, I am very sorry to say that
this is certainly your fault. You have filled him with your wild,
radical, and absurd heroic rhapsodies. You have made him disloyal to
his King. You have put a dagger in his hand, to stab at the heart of
his country. Alas! I see what the end will be - disgrace and death,
ignominy and the gallows.

[ROSE _walks back to the window_.

KATE. Mr. Metcalf, how are your little charges? How flourishes the

METCALF. They've all caught the spirit of the rebellion, marm, and are
as untractable as bulls. Bless you, there isn't a lad over fourteen
who hasn't abandoned his horn-book and gone off with Armstrong. And
as for the girls, they're greater rebels than the boys. What do you
think, marm? The other day they came marching in procession, and
demanded to know on which side I was. I said "God save the King;"
whereupon they fell upon me like a swarm of bees, armed with a
thousand pins, and so pinched, and pricked, and pulled me, that there
wasn't a square inch of my skin that wasn't as full of holes as a
ten-year old pin-cushion. And I do believe they never would have
stopped if I hadn't cried, "Huzza for Washington!"

ELSWORTH. I hope, sir, that you will not be compelled to follow the
example of your scholars, and turn soldier.

METCALF. Never, sir. I content myself with teaching the young idea how
to shoot, without indulging in such dangerous practices myself.

ROSE. [_From the window_.] Why, there's Harry - father, Kate - Harry is
dismounting at the door.

ELSWORTH. Bless me! Is it possible?

[_All gather around the window_.

KATE. It is, I declare - and how splendid he looks. Harry! Harry!

[_All salute him, and shake their handkerchiefs._

METCALF. [_Aside to_ ROSE.] Hist! Miss Elsworth!


METCALF. Walter is near - a note -

ROSE. [_Seizing it, and reading hurriedly._] Will be with you to-day -

KATE. [_Looking towards right, at the window_.] Doesn't he look fine?
There's his step in the hall.

[_They all go towards door_. ROSE _conceals_ WALTER'S _note_.

HARRY. [_Within_.] Rose, Kate, father!

_Enter_ LIEUTENANT HARRY ELSWORTH. _All gather around him with
exclamations of welcome._

METCALF. [_Aside_.] I'll take occasion to steal down-stairs, and
plague Bridget into a kiss or two. Delicious Bridget!

[_Exit_ METCALF.

ELSWORTH. Harry! My brave lad!

ROSE. Dear brother!

HARRY. Dear sister! Father!

ELSWORTH. Stand aside, girls. Let me have a look at him. Harry! Harry!
You are a splendid-looking fellow, you are. Ha, ha, ha! Your hand, my
boy. You look like a soldier, sir.

HARRY. I have good news for you. I have just rode on before to
acquaint you that Major Cleveland will honour your roof to-day.

ELSWORTH. He shall be welcome - open doors and open hands.

HARRY. He will remain until to-morrow. Now, girls, some of us young
fellows are dying for a dance - can't we extemporize a ball?

ROSE. Good gracious, Harry! You will have to pit coat against
coat - where are your ladies?

HARRY. Oh, we'd drum them up. There are a dozen families within as
many miles.

ROSE. A mad idea.

HARRY. A wild one, I confess.

ELSWORTH. It would be a suitable festivity in honour of our Long
Island victory. Come girls, you have my consent.

_Enter_ SERVANT, _announcing_ CAPTAIN ARMSTRONG.


ALL [_but_ ROSE]. Captain Armstrong!

ARMSTRONG. Captain Armstrong!

ALL [_but_ ROSE]. In the Continental service?

ARMSTRONG. In the Continental service!

ELSWORTH. I am somewhat surprised, sir, at this visit. When you were a
loyal gentleman my doors were always open to you - now, in that dress,
I cannot consent to receive your visits. In happier moments you were
a companion of my daughters - a friend of my son - you have selected a
course which must terminate that connection with my family.

ARMSTRONG. You will pardon me, sir, I trust, for this intrusion. I
have reached this place with some danger, for these parts abound with
a set of fellows who have a fancy for wishing everybody else's skin
the colour of their own coats. Mr. Elsworth, my sense of duty has
compelled me to pursue a path which has estranged me from your
friendship. Let me ask frankly, sir, if it must separate me from one
who has honoured me with her consideration and affection?

ELSWORTH. You allude to my daughter - to Rose -

ARMSTRONG. I do, sir.

ELSWORTH. _Mister_ Armstrong - for I acknowledge no title bestowed by
an unlawful authority - I would rather wed my daughter to a Turk than
to one who had so forgotten his duty to his country.

[_Goes up_. - ARMSTRONG _bows_.

HARRY. Walter, we were friends once, but, as His Majesty's servant,
I can offer no compromise to a rebel. _Now_ you must not think of a
union with our family. [_Goes up_.

ROSE. This is nothing but blind prejudice. It has neither sense nor
justice. Hear me. That for which you discard him places him higher
in my esteem - shows me how worthy he is of the respect and honour of
every true woman. My greatest pride is that he to whom I have pledged
my hand wears those colours.

ARMSTRONG. Generous girl!

ELSWORTH. Rose, you pain me inexpressibly!

ROSE. I am not a giddy girl, sir. I'm a woman - old enough to know
my own heart, and to decide between right and wrong. Walter, go, and
carry with you assurances of my unwavering fidelity.

_Enter_ BRIDGET, _hurriedly_.

BRIDGET. Oh, my good gracious! dear me, good gracious! gracious,
goodness, me! Such a lot of soldiers - all coming down the road.

ARMSTRONG. Eh? Red or blue?

BRIDGET. Bless me, goodness gracious, you here, Mr. Armstrong? You'd
better look out, sir, for they are red coats, and there's a big number
of them, too.

ARMSTRONG. I must vanish. [_Running to the window_.] Why, we're
surrounded on every side. By Jove, I'm in a trap!

ROSE. What will you do?

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Online LibraryOliver Bell BunceRepresentative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911: Love in '76 An Incident of the Revolution → online text (page 1 of 3)