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Full text of "Memoirs Of Joseph Grimaldi"

MEMOIBS OF JOSEPH GBIMALDI.                      Ill

of Mr. James Byrne, the ballet-master. It was highly successful,
running without intermission from the night of its production
until Easter, 1800. This harlequinade was distinguished hy
several unusual features besides its great success; foremost
among them was an entire change both in the conception of
the character of Harlequin and in the costume. Before that
time it had been customary to attire the Harlequin in a loose
jacket and trousers, and it had been considered indispensable
that he should be perpetually attitudinizing in five positions, and
doing nothing else but passing instantaneously from one to the
other, and never pausing without being in one of the five. All
these conventional notions were abolished by Byrne, who this
year made has first appearance as Harlequin, and made Har-
lequin a very original person to the play-going public. His
attitudes and jumps were all new, and his dress was infinitely
improved: the latter consisted of a white silk shape, fitting
without a wrinkle, and into which the variegated silk patches
were woven, the whole being profusely covered with spangles,
and presenting a very sparkling appearance. The innovation
was not resisted: the applause was enthusiastic; "nor," says
Grrimaldi, "was it undeserved; for, in my judgment, Mr. James
Byrne* was at that time the best Harlequin on the boards, and
never has been excelled, even if equalled, since that period."

The alteration soon became general, and has proved a lasting
one, Harlequin having been ever since attired as upon this
memorable occasion, in accordance with, the improved taste of
his then representative.

Grimaldi's part in this production was a singularly arduous
and wearying one: he had to perform Punch, and to change

* Mr. James Byrne, father of Mr. Oscar Byrne, was one of the ballet at Drury
Lane in Garriek's time; and was also employed at Sadler's Wells in the seasons
of 1775 and 1776. He died December 4, 1843, in the eighty-ninth year of his
age. Mrs. Byrne, whom many may yet remember at Covent Garden Theatre,
died a few months before her husband, on August 27, in her seventy-fourth
year. Miss Bruguier. The Pantomime was