|Title:||Belphegor, the Mountebank; or, The Pride of Birth
|Description:||Belphegor, the Mountebank; or, The Pride of Birth by Ben Webster. Ben Webster played Belphegor.
|1st Performance:||Jan 13, 1851
|Source:||The Illustrated London News, Jan 18, 1851, p. 45
|See Source:||Go to Source Images (9.3 MB)
|Review:||The Illustrated London News, Jan 18, 1851, p. 45
The Parisian drama of "Paillasse," by MM. Dennery and Marc Fournier,
was produced on Monday, under the title of "Belphegor the Mountebank; or, the Pride
of Birth." It has, of course, been much altered; and is, as announced, "of peculiar
construction, full of powerful Adelphi effects." Replete with business and excitement,
the drama of "Belphegor" promises to be one of the most successful of the season.
The story is exceedingly complicated,
and the persons are remarkably eccentric--such, indeed, as the Adelphi performer delights in.
Mdme. Celeste, Miss Woolgar, Mr. Webster, Mr. Bedford, and Mr. Wright were admirably fitted.
Mr. Webster himself was never seen to more advantage than in Belphegor, a wandering mountebank,
who, beneath his absurd exterior and bombastic manners, assumed professionally as the means of living,
has a good heart and a clear head, and cherishes,
in particular, the domestic feelings. His wife, Madeleine (Mdme. Celeste), appreciates
his many excellent qualities, and his children love him with devoted affection.
The scene opens with a fair in the village of Montroulade, in honour of the restoration of the
Bourbons in 1814; and here the mountebank arrives with his car, his Merryman and his family.
The sports of the fair being over, Belphegor and his wife are addressed by the Chevalier
de Rolac (Mr. O. Smith), who informs them that Madeleine is the lost daughter of the Duke de
Montbazon (Mr. H. Hughes), and coolly proposes that she and her children should forsake her
husband, have her marriage
dissolved and so become qualified for admission into her noble family. The proposition is
rejected with scorn and indignation. But the Chevalier lays plans by which he ultimately
prevails. The faithful pair fly to their private lodgings at Angoulême; but here the family
emissary penetrates, and, coming at a time when the life of the daughter is despaired of by the mother,
he induces Madeleine to accept the offer of the Duke, for the sake of the child. Great
is the despair
of Belphegor. His son remains faithful to him; but both are in danger of starvation; for the
Duke sends agents, by whom they are dogged from place to place, and by various persecutions
deprived of the means of gaining their livelihood. In the course of his wanderings, however,
Belphegor arrives at the Duke's château, near Bordeaux, just at the moment that
his Grace's guests are enjoying a Florentine fête, and, being supposed to be one of the masqueraders,
addresses them in character, and also performs some of his professional tricks, and finally receives
money from the company, in order to carry out the supposed assumption to its natural conclusion.
In all this, he is prompted and assisted by one Nina Flora Aphrodite Stiltz (Miss Woolgar),
who, like him, has a chance introduction into high life as the wife of Ajax, the "Merryman"
(Mr. Wright), supposed to be the son of the Baron de Montroulade (Mr. Paul Bedford). Thus supplied
means, and meeting with the Chevalier, from whom he wrings a confession, and some papers,
Belphegor proceeds to the Duke's palace, in search of his wife, disguised as De Rolac.
He obtains the desired interview; but, it turning out that the Chevalier himself is a returned
convict, of whom the officers are that instant in pursuit, and the delinquent's papers being found upon
Belphegor, he (Belphegor) is arrested, and tried for a murder committed fifteen years ago.
The Duke, though sure of his innocence and want of identity, encourages the prosecution, and
all would go against him, but that the villain, De Rolac, finding a pardon has been
obtained from the King (the object being, not to execute Belphegor, but to get him out of the
way), comes forward to avow his personality. It is then also discovered that Madeleine
is not the Duke's daughter, but that Belphegor is really his son, brought up under
similar circumstances. The curtain accordingly falls on the happiness of all parties.
The performance is in every respect excellent, and the mise en scène perfect. Mr.
Webster performed with a force, feeling, and finish, which entitle him to the rank of an artist of
extraordinary power and skill. We were also greatly delighted with Miss Woolgar. The
house was crowded; and the piece must prove immensely attractive.
The illustration shows the opening scene of the drama.