Last evening Mr. Copeland lectured before an appreciative audience on "Contemporary Books and Plays."
Mr. Copeland began his varied list of subjects last evening with a brief critical sketch of Mr. Daly's revival of "Two Gentlemen of Verona." This play is one of the earliest, and not one of the best, of Shakespeare's works. The plot is so unreasonable, and one of the characters (Proteus by name) so preposterous, that it is easy to understand the infrequent representations of the piece. The reason for its being seldom given, however, lies more perhaps in the fact that, with the partial exception of Launce, who belongs of course to the low comedian, there is no first-rate character for any one player. Whatever the reason, it is certain that the first valid record of any performance of "The Two Gentlemen" comes so late as the year 1762. The first American rendering was given in New York by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kean in the year 1846. Forty years later in March, 1886, Madame Modjeska and a competent company gave the play in Boston, and that was the first and only Boston performance until Mr. Daly's revival. With the clear exceptions of Miss Mary Shaw's Sylvia and Mr. Vanderfelt's Protets, Mr. Daly's production is in every respect better than that offered by Madame Modjeska - notably and brilliantly better in respect of the light, life, color, and sweet music with which the whole play moves along. Yet in spite of these qualities, of Miss Rehan's beauty and great talent and of her noble speaking of the verse, the present rendering of the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" is only tasteful and meritorious, not a memorable or inspired attempt.
The lecturer next spoke of Dr. Birkbeck Hill's "Harvard College by an Oxonion." This book, said he, is an admirable account of the college from its earliest days to the present time. The writer has a pleasant, rather old-fashioned, literary quality, which lends itself better to narration and comment than to the making of any lively or complete impressions of our complex academic life at the passing moment. Dr. Birkbeck Hill was evidently deceived in one or two minor traits of college civilization by undergraduates with a taste for the American joke. In the main, this English writer's statements are correct, his few strictures richly deserved, his generous praise well bestowed.
The lecture, which is the last for the season, concluded with some discursive comments upon Mrs. Ritchie's "Unpublished Memoirs," an anecdote or two of Thackeray, which she has not set down, and a reading of "The Ballad of Bouillabaise."