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From the Easy Chair — Volume 01   By: (1824-1892)

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[Illustration: Portrait of the author]

FROM THE EASY CHAIR

BY

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS

"I shall from Time to Time Report and Consider all Matters of what Kind Soever that shall occur to Me." THE TATLER.

CONTENTS.

EDWARD EVERETT IN 1862 AT THE OPERA IN 1864 EMERSON LECTURING SHOPS AND SHOPPING MRS. GRUNDY AND THE COSMOPOLITAN DICKENS READING [1867] PHILLIS THOREAU AND MY LADY CAVALIERE HONESTUS AT THE CAUCUS THALBERG AND OTHER PIANISTS [1871] URBS AND RUS RIP VAN WINKLE A CHINESE CRITIC HOLIDAY SAUNTERING WENDELL PHILLIPS AT HARVARD [1881] EASTER BONNETS JENNY LIND THE TOWN SARAH SHAW RUSSELL STREET MUSIC A LITTLE DINNER WITH THACKERAY CECILIA PLAYING THE MANNERLESS SEX ROBERT BROWNING IN FLORENCE PLAYERS UNMUSICAL BOXES THE ACADEMY DINNER IN ARCADIA

EDWARD EVERETT IN 1862.

The house was full, and murmurous with the pleasant chat and rustling movement of well dressed persons of both sexes who waited patiently the coming of the orator, looking at the expanse of stage, which was carpeted, and covered with rows of settees that went backward from the footlights to a landscape of charming freshness of color, that might have been set for the "Maid of Milan" or the pastoral opera. Between the seats and the foot lights was a broad space, upon which stood a small table and two or three chairs; and if the orator of the evening, like a primo tenore , had been surveying the house through the friendly chinks of the pastoral landscape, he would have felt a warm suffusion of pleasure that his name should be the magic spell to summon an audience so fair, so numerous, and so intelligent.

There were ushers who showed ladies to seats, and with their dress coats and bright badges looked like a milder Metropolitan police. But no greater force was presumed to be required of them than pressing aside a too discursive crinoline. In the soft, ample light, as the audience sat with fluttering ribbons and bright gems and splendid silks and shawls, so tranquilly expectant, so calmly smiling, so shyly blushing (if, haply, in all that crowd there were a pair of lovers!), it was hard to believe that civil war was wasting the land, and that at the very moment some of those glad hearts were broken but would not know it until the sad news came. Yet it was easy, in the same glance, to feel that even the terrible shape that we thought we had eluded forever did not seem, after all, so terrible; that even civil war might be shaking the gates and the guests still smile in the chambers.

But while leaning against the wall, under the balcony, the Easy Chair looks around upon the humming throng and thinks of camps far away, and beating drums and wild alarms and sweeping squadrons of battle, there is a sudden hush and a simultaneous glance towards one side of the house, and there, behind the seats at the side, and making for the stage door, marches a procession, two and two, very solemn, very bald, very gray, and in evening dress. They are the invited guests, the honored citizens of Brooklyn, the reverend clergy, and others; a body of substantial, intelligent, decorous persons. They disappear for a moment within the door, and immediately emerge upon the stage with a composed bustle, moving the seats, taking off their coats, sedately interchanging little jests, and finally seating themselves, and gazing at the audience evidently with a feeling of doubt whether the honor of the position compensates for its great disadvantage; for to sit behind an orator is to hear, without seeing, an actor.

The audience is now waiting, both upon the stage and in the boxes, with patient expectation. There is little talking, but a tension of heads towards the stage. The last word is spoken there, the last joke expires; all attention is concentrated upon an expected object. The edge of eagerness is not suffered to turn, but precisely at the right moment a figure with a dark head and another with a gray head are seen at the depth of the stage, advancing through the aisle towards the foot lights and the audience... Continue reading book >>




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