Vanity Fair HTML version

Before The Curtain
As the manager of the Performance sits before the curtain on the boards and looks into
the Fair, a feeling of profound melancholy comes over him in his survey of the bustling
place. There is a great quantity of eating and drinking, making love and jilting, laughing
and the contrary, smoking, cheating, fighting, dancing and fiddling; there are bullies
pushing about, bucks ogling the women, knaves picking pockets, policemen on the look-
out, quacks (OTHER quacks, plague take them!) bawling in front of their booths, and
yokels looking up at the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers, while the light-
fingered folk are operating upon their pockets behind. Yes, this is VANITY FAIR; not a
moral place certainly; nor a merry one, though very noisy. Look at the faces of the actors
and buffoons when they come off from their business; and Tom Fool washing the paint
off his cheeks before he sits down to dinner with his wife and the little Jack Puddings
behind the canvas. The curtain will be up presently, and he will be turning over head and
heels, and crying, "How are you?"
A man with a reflective turn of mind, walking through an exhibition of this sort, will not
be oppressed, I take it, by his own or other people's hilarity. An episode of humour or
kindness touches and amuses him here and there--a pretty child looking at a gingerbread
stall; a pretty girl blushing whilst her lover talks to her and chooses her fairing; poor Tom
Fool, yonder behind the waggon, mumbling his bone with the honest family which lives
by his tumbling; but the general impression is one more melancholy than mirthful. When
you come home you sit down in a sober, contemplative, not uncharitable frame of mind,
and apply yourself to your books or your business.
I have no other moral than this to tag to the present story of "Vanity Fair." Some people
consider Fairs immoral altogether, and eschew such, with their servants and families:
very likely they are right. But persons who think otherwise, and are of a lazy, or a
benevolent, or a sarcastic mood, may perhaps like to step in for half an hour, and look at
the performances. There are scenes of all sorts; some dreadful combats, some grand and
lofty horse-riding, some scenes of high life, and some of very middling indeed; some
love-making for the sentimental, and some light comic business; the whole accompanied
by appropriate scenery and brilliantly illuminated with the Author's own candles.
What more has the Manager of the Performance to say?--To acknowledge the kindness
with which it has been received in all the principal towns of England through which the
Show has passed, and where it has been most favourably noticed by the respected
conductors of the public Press, and by the Nobility and Gentry. He is proud to think that
his Puppets have given satisfaction to the very best company in this empire. The famous
little Becky Puppet has been pronounced to be uncommonly flexible in the joints, and
lively on the wire; the Amelia Doll, though it has had a smaller circle of admirers, has yet
been carved and dressed with the greatest care by the artist; the Dobbin Figure, though
apparently clumsy, yet dances in a very amusing and natural manner; the Little Boys'
Dance has been liked by some; and please to remark the richly dressed figure of the