Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day/J. R. Planché
A very interesting and amusing book, entitled 'The Recollections and Reflections of J. R. Planché (Somerset Herald),' has recently been given to the world.
Mr. Planche's grandfather was a French refugee, but his parents, both of French stock, were born in London. The author of the 'Recollections' made his first appearance on life's stage in Old Burlington-street, on the 27th of February 1796. He is therefore seventy-six years of age, and is as active in the prosecution of his literary pursuits as ever he was. Besides publishing this year the book above mentioned, he has furnished the stage with the lyrical parts of 'Babil and Bijou,' Mr. Boucicault's great show at Covent-garden. Mr. Planché's father was an eminent watchmaker, and attracted the notice of George III., who often chatted with him in the most familiar manner. He tells this characteristic anecdote of that monarch:
One day, going to St. James's with the king's watch, which had been mended, he told the page that the ribbon was rather dirty.
The king overheard this, and coming to the door, said:
'What is that, Planché? what is that?'
Mr. Planché repeated his remark about the state of the royal ribbon, and suggested a new one.
'New ribbon, Planché!' said the king. 'What for? Can't it be washed?'This excellent gentleman, having known what it was to be very poor, determined that his son should learn some useful profession or trade. At first, the subject of our notice tried artistic pursuits, but having a very strong development of the cacoëthes scribendi, he chose to be articled to a bookseller. Soon after, he turned his attention to play writing, and became distinguished as an amateur actor of his own characters. His early recollections date back to the destruction by fire of both the great national theatres; the Old-Prices row at new Covent-garden; the Young-Roscius mania; the
HERALD AND PLAYWRIGHT.
retirement of John Kemble and Mrs. Siddons; and the appearance of Edmund Kean and Miss O'Neil.
In 1818 'Amoroso,' a piece of his own, was produced at Drury-lane, and for fifty-four years Mr. Planché has been writing for the stage. In 1820 the 'Vampire' was brought out at the Lyceum.
It was three years after this that Mr. Planché began his reform of the costume of the stage: he designed the dresses for 'King John,' in accordance with the true dresses of the period, gratuitously for John Kemble. On the subject of costume, Mr. Planché is the greatest authority we have. It is a matter to which he has devoted many years of earnest study; and he may be regarded as the originator of correct dressing on the stage. This rehabilitation of the characters in 'King John' was thoroughly successful, and, he says, ' a complete reformation of dramatic costume became from that moment inevitable on the English stage.'
On the subject of old armour, too, Mr. Planché is a great authority; and he more than once arranged the splendid collection of the late Sir Samuel Meyrick for public exhibition.
While his own story of his life is by no means overburdened by reflections, it contains a fund of most interesting recollections. Without following the autobiographer year by year, we may say, in a few words, that it has been the fortune of the amiable and accomplished playwriter and antiquary to know intimately almost all the notabilities of the stage who have flourished from his youth to the present day; whilst in society he has been everywhere welcome, and has seen and known nearly everybody of social distinction; his office of Herald has brought him into immediate contact with kings and courts; and his descriptions of courtly scenes, at home and abroad, are not the least interesting portion of his memoirs.