Graphics, Image for Belphegor, the Mountebank; or, The Pride of Birth
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Graphics, Image for Belphegor, the Mountebank; or, The Pride of Birth
THE   ADELPHI   THEATRE   CALENDAR
A Record of Dramatic Performances at a Leading Victorian Theatre

Formerly the Sans Pareil (1806-1819), later the Adelphi (1819-1900)
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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
Theatre:Adelphi
Source:The Illustrated London News, Jan 18, 1851, p. 45
Review:The Illustrated London News, Jan 18, 1851, p. 45

ADELPHI.

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 with 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.

 

The Illustrated London News, Jan 18, 1851, p. 45

 

 

The Illustrated London News, Jan 18, 1851, p. 46

 



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Copyright © 1988, 1992, 2013 by Alfred L. Nelson, Gilbert B. Cross, Joseph Donohue.
Originally published by Greenwood Press as The Sans Pareil Theatre 1806-1819, Adelphi Theatre 1819-1850: An Index to Authors, Titles, Performers, 1988, and The Adelphi Theatre 1850-1900: An Index to Authors, Titles, Performers and Management, 1992.
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The Adelphi Theatre Calendar revised, reconstructed and amplified.  Copyright © 2013, by Alfred L. Nelson, Gilbert B. Cross, Joseph Donohue.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License, with the exception of graphics from The Clip Art Book, edited by Gerard Quinn and published by Crescent in 1990.  These images are reproduced in accord with the publisher’s note, which states "The Clip Art Book is a new compilation of illustrations that are in the public domain.  The individual illustrations are copyright free and may be reproduced without permission or payment.  However, the selection of illustrations and their layout is the copyright of the publisher, so that one page or more may not be photocopied or reproduced without first contacting the publishers."