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The Harlequinade An Excursion   By: (1877-1946)

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[Illustration: "And what should Columbine be like? Well, she is just like what you'd most like her to be. She has a rose in her hand."]

The Harlequinade

An Excursion by

Dion Clayton Calthrop and Granville Barker

Published, March, 1918

Just a Word in Your Ear

Not to put too fine a point to it, this isn't a play at all and it isn't a novel, or a treatise, or an essay, or anything like that; it is an excursion, and you who trouble to read it are the trippers.

Now in any excursion you get into all sorts of odd company, and fall into talk with persons out of your ordinary rule, and you borrow a match and get lent a magazine, and, as likely as not, you may hear the whole tragedy and comedy of a ham and beef carver's life. So you will get a view of the world as oddly coloured as Harlequin's clothes, with puffs of sentiment dear to the soul of Columbine, and Clownish fun with Pantaloonish wisdom and chuckles. When you were young, you used, I think, to enjoy a butterfly's kiss; and that, you remember, was when your mother brushed your cheek with her eye lashes. And also when you were young you held a buttercup under other children's chins to see if they liked butter, and they always did, and the golden glow showed and the world was glad. And you held a shell to your ear to hear the sound of the sea, and when it rained, you pressed your nose against the window pane until it looked flat and white to passers by. It is rather in that spirit that Alice and her Uncle present this excursion to you.

I suppose it has taken over a thousand people to write this excursion, and we are, so far, the last. And not by any means do we pretend because of that to be the best of them; rather, because of that, perhaps, we cannot be the best. We should have done much better if we could. Oh, this has been written by Greeks and Romans and Mediaeval Italians and Frenchmen and Englishmen, and it has been played thousands and thousands of times under every sort of weather and conditions. Think of it: when the gardeners of Egypt sent their boxes of roses to Italy to make chaplets for the Romans to wear at feasts this play was being performed; when the solemn Doges (which Alice once would call "Dogs") of Venice held festa days, this play was shown to the people.

And here Alice interrupts and says: "Do you think people really like to read all that sort of thing? Why don't you let me tell the story, please? I'm sitting here waiting to." Well, so she shall.

The Harlequinade

For some time now she has been sitting there. Miss Alice Whistler is an attractive young person of about fifteen (very readily still she tells her age), dressed in a silver grey frock which she wishes were longer. The frock has a white collar; she wears grey silk stockings and black shoes; and, finally, a little black silk apron, one of those French aprons. If you must know still more exactly how she is dressed, look at Whistler's portrait of Miss Alexander.

What happened was this. A pleasant old Victorian art fancier ( of) saw the child one day, and noted that her name was Whistler ("No relation," said her Uncle Edward, "so far as we know"), and "That's how to dress her," said he. And thereupon he forked out what he delicately called "The Wherewithal" ("Which sounded like a sort of mackintosh," said Alice afterwards), for they couldn't have afforded it themselves. "You're still young enough to take presents," said Uncle Edward. And indeed Alice was very pleased, and saw that the hem was left wide enough to let down several times. And here she is; the dress is kept for these occasions.

Here she is in a low little chair, sitting with her basket of knitting beside her on one side of a simply painted grey and black proscenium, across which, masking the little stage, blue curtains hang in folds. "The blue," said Miss Alice when she ordered them, "must be the colour of Blue eyed Mary." The silly shopman did not know the flower... Continue reading book >>




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