New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741

Amusements and Sports,
page 5 of 12

Perfect and hope to Perform to Satisfaction.” Perhaps the expression “the Part of Lavinia will be Attempted by Mrs. Tremain” was a wise one. All this was at a time when a good theatrical company could easily have been obtained in England, where the art of the actor was at a high standard.

We gain a notion of some rather trying manners at these theatres. The English custom of gentlemen’s crowding on the stage increased to such an extent, and proved so deleterious to any good representation of the play, that the manager advertised in “Gaines’ Mercury,” in 1762, that no spectators would be permitted to stand or sit on the stage during the performance. And also a reproof was printed to “the person so very rude as to throw Eggs from the Gallery upon the stage, to the injury of Cloaths.”

For some years a Mr. Bonnin, a New York fishmonger, entertained his fellow-citizens and those of neighboring towns with various scientific exhibits, lectures, camera obscuras, “prospects” and “perspectives,” curious animals,” Philosophical-Optical machines “and wax-works, and manifold other performances, which he ingeniously altered and renamed. He was a splendid advertiser. The newspapers of the times contain many of his attempts to catch the public attention. I give two as an example:—

“We hear that Mr. Bonnin is so crouded with company to view his Perspectives, that he can scarce get even so much time as to eat, drink or say his Prayers, from the time he gets out of bed till He repairs to it again: and it is the Opinion of some able Physicians that if he makes rich, it must be at the Expense of the Health of his Body, and of some Learned Divines it must be at the Expense of the Welfare of His Soul.”
‘The common topics of discourse here since the coming of Mr. Bonnin are entirely changed. Instead of the common chat nothing is scarce mentioned now but the most entertaining parts of Europe which are represented so lively in Mr. Bonnin’s curious Prospects.”

Mr. Bonnin is now but a shadow of the past, vanished like his puppets into nowhere; in his own far “perspective” of a century and a half, he seems to me amusing; at any rate, he was all that New Yorkers had many times to amuse them; and I think he must have been a jolly lecturer, when he was such a jolly advertiser.


:: Previous Page :: Next Page ::

Books & articles appearing here are modified adaptations
from a private collection of vintage books & magazines.
Reproduction of these pages is prohibited without written permission. © Laurel O'Donnell, 1996-2006.