Ireland As It Is

Ireland As It Is - J.H. Amherst [These notes were made in 1989:]. Into 14 pages of cramped, double-columned type is, in fact, crammed an entire three-act play on the subject of the Irish peasantry, absentee landlords, and the middle-man. The peasantry are the protagonists, of course, and the English landlord (Lord Squander) is not as much of a villain as his name would suggest; he is, in fact, something of a deus ex machina who delivers his tenants at the end from the horrors inflicted by the real villain, the middleman Stone - and you may be sure the significance of that name is dwelt upon. This is melodrama, and Stone does not confine his iniquities to the over-harsh exaction of rents. He burns down a property, and seduces (or tries to) the juvenile female; finally he frames the patriarch for a robbery and has him brought up in court. The author offers only the romance-pattern solution to the real problems he depicts: i.e., the plot is resolved & good triumphs only because Lord Squander has been wandering around in a false beard masquerading as a Frenchman. There are some comic "bits" that I think probably worked quite well on stage (this play was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Adelphi, in 1857) -notably the scene where the talkative woman, Judy, is enjoined to keep silence, and still manages to communicate all manner of things. The style is inconsistent, to say the least. The characters shift back and forth from brogue to high rhetorical bombast on the slightest provocation. Still, given the dreary physical appearance (these things cost a penny each, and came out weekly!), the play itself wasn't nearly as dreary as it could have been.