Article on the influence of Black Crook on literature

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Niblo's Garden

Event Type:
Play With Music

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Last Updated:
27 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

26 Jan 1868


Article: New York Herald, 26 January 1868.

“Truly we are a great people. Till we sprang into existence the world knew not what it was, far less what it was capable of becoming. Our territory, our moutains, our rivers, our social life, our enterprise, our daring, our inventive genius are all on a scale of magnificence which is entirely without parallel in the past history of the world and which forbids comparison with anything in existing nations. The nations hitherto have been governed too much by precedent. It is our mission to teach the nations the absurdity of following precedent. What is precedent, what is example, to us? Why should a great and ingenious people be tied down to the examples of a timid and fearful past? If there be any value in example it consists in the influence which we are to exert on the generations to come, not in the influences which are brought to bear upon us by the generations of the past.

In nothing is the peculiarity of our national genius so manifest as in the spectacular dramas which now hold possession of the stage and the peculiar illustrated literature which is springing up, mushroom-like, all around us. The ‘Black Crook’ marks a new era in the history of the stage. The managers of Niblos’ have carred us back to primitive models. We know now what is meant by the simplicity of nature. To the theatre-going public of New York the phrase ‘a feast for the gods’ has now a well defined and intelligible meaning. Olympian Jove himself never feasted his eyes on more attractive specimens of female beauty than has been the privilege of every citizen of New York for the last sixteen months. Never, even in Greece, did the female figure assume such lovely proportions, and never was the form of woman so skillfully exhibited. The wisdom of the management and the taste of New York city [sic] have been proved by a pecuniary success which is without parallel in theatrical enterprise. The ‘Black Crook’ has yielded up its place to the ‘White Fawn,’ and what the ‘Black Crook’ was to all previous spectacular dramas, that the ‘White Fawn’ is to the ‘Black Crook.’ In magnificence of artificial scenery, in the gorgeousness and multiplicity of its living tableaux, in the artful revelation of forms of beauty which rarely meet the vulgar eye, the ‘White Fawn’ stands alone. In other words, a more gaudy, more attractive more insinuating, more questionable exhibition was never witness. It is no figure to say that on the barods at Niblo’s vice has been made lovely—at least as lovey as vice can be. The success of the ‘White Fawn’ will be certain to beget countless and extravagant imitations and to drive everywhere the legitimate drama from the stage. The stage, as we have said before, enters henceforth upon a new era, and the United States, New York city in particular, must be credited with the innovation.

It would certainly have been strange if the proved success of the ‘Black Crook’ and the promising success of the ‘White Fawn’ had not in some sense told our current periodical literature. That it would so tell it was natural to expect. That it has so told is a fact which ought not to excited surprise. Of our ‘Black Crook’ literature, however, it is impossible to speak in the same soft and delicate terms.” Goes on to discuss the impropriety of literature based on Black Crook.