The First Reviews of Presumption
London Morning Post: Tuesday, July 29 & Wednesday, July 30 1823
Tuesday, July 29, 1823
A new three act piece, described as "a romance of a peculiar interest," was last night produced at this theatre, entitled, Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein.
The fable represents Frankenstein, a man of great science, to have succeeded in uniting the remains of dead persons, so as to form one being, which he endows with life. He has, however, little reason to exult in the triumph of his art; for the creature thus formed, hideous in aspect, and possessed of prodigious strength, spreads terror, and carries ruin wherever he goes. Though wearing the human form, he is incapable of associating with mankind, to whom he eventually becomes hostile, and having killed the mistress and brother of Frankenstein, he finally vanquishes his mortal creator, and perishes himself beneath a falling avalanche.
Such is the outline of the business of a drama more extraordinary in its plan, than remarkable for strength in its execution. There is something in the piecemeal resurrection effected by Frankenstein, which, instead of creating that awful interest intended to arise from it, gives birth to a feeling of horror. We have not that taste for the monstrous which can enable us to enjoy it in the midst of the most startling absurdities. To Lord BYRON, the late Mr. SHELLEY, and philosophers of that stamp, it might appear a very fine thing to attack the Christian faith from a masked battery, and burlesque the resurrection of the dead, by representing the fragments of departed mortals as starting into existence at the command of a man; but we would prefer the comparatively noble assaults of VOLNEY, VOLTAIRE , and PAINE. In the first scene in which ------- (so the creature of Frankenstein is indicated in the bills) makes his appearance, the effect is terrific. There are other parts in which a very powerful impression is produced on the spectators, but to have made the most of the idea a greater interest ought early in the drama to have been excited for Frankenstein and the destined victims of the non-descript, and he himself would have been an object of greater attention if speech had been vouchsafed. The efforts to relieve the serious action of the Piece by mirth and music were generally successful, and the labours of Mr. WATSON the composer we often loudly applauded.
The acting was very grand. WALLACK as Frankenstein, displayed great feeling and animation; T.P. COOKE as ------ (or the made up man), was tremendously appalling. The other performers did as much as could be expected in the parts allotted to them, and the piece though it met with some opposition at the close had a large majority in its favour, and was announced for repetition.
The entertainment of the "Rival Soldiers" followed, in which Mr. W. CHAPMAN played Nipperkin with much genuine humour. He is an actor of sterling merit and will improve as he goes on.
Wednesday, July 30,1823
ENGLISH OPERA HOUSE.
At this Theatre last night, Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein, was again performed. Whatever may be thought of Frankenstein as a novel, or of the principles of those who could indite such a novel, there can be but one opinion of it as a drama. The representation of this piece upon the stage is of astonishing, of enchaining, interest. In the novel the rigid moralist may feel himself constantly offended, by the modes of reasoning, principles of action, &c.—But in the Drama this is all carefully kept in the back ground. Nothing but what can please, astonish, and delight, is there suffered to appear; Frankenstein despairingly bewails his attempt as impious, and suffers for it; partial justice is rendered; and many more incidents in the novel might have been pourtrayed, of harrowing interest! though without infringing good taste. As it stands, however, as a drama, it is most effective; and T.P. COOKE well pourtrays what indeed it is a proof of his extraordinary genius so well to pourtray—an unhappy being without the pale of nature—a monster—a nondescript—a horror to himself and others;--yet the leaning, the bias, the nature, if one may so say, of the creature is good; he is in the beginning of his creation gentle, and disposed to be affectionate and kind, but his appearance terrifies even those to whom he has rendered the most essential service; the alarm he excites creates hostility; his miserable being is assailed by man; and revenge and the malignity are thus excited in his breast. Instead of being [any] longer kind or gentle he becomes ferocious, sets fire to the cottage where his services had been so ungratefully requited (and this scene is admirably managed), and perceiving that Frankenstein, the author of his existence, shuns and abhors him as much as others, he becomes enraged against him, and seeks his destruction and that of all dear to him, in which he too fatally succeeds. Too much cannot be said in praise of T.P. COOKE, his development of first impressions, and naturally perceptions, is given with a fidelity to nature truly admirable. Take for instance the pourtraiture of his first sensations on hearing music, than which nothing can be finer. The acting of WALLACK, the unhappy Frankenstein, is painfully interesting; he looks, he seems to feel the very character he assumes, so abstracted, so wretched, so care-worn. Upon the whole, though from diversity of taste this Piece may meet with some opposition, it cannot fail to stand its ground in ultimate conjunction with other pieces. The applause predominated in a more marked degree last night. The pleasant Afterpiece of Where shall I Dine? followed, and kept the house in a continued laughter.