The Spirit of the Times
"Cool Scoot"
New York: 15 April 1854


TOLEDO, O., March 21, 1854.

  My dear "Spirit"— . . .

  Amusements are scarce articles here. Once in a great while a strolling band of Ethiopian minstrels favor our citizens with a "chaste and unique entertainment," the performers doing nothing—like Little Swills, at the "Sol's Arms,"—"to offend the most fastidious taste;" always ending by going down to that (to us) apocriphal locality "—— old Tar Riber, o-o-o ah!" But, thank fortune! we've recently had a god-send in the dramatic line, viz: "Shires' National Dramatic Troupe." Some six months ago, Wm. Shires, Esq., an enterprising gentleman of Cincinnati, slightly in the theatrical line, took it into his head to organize a travelling dramatic company, to be composed of good performers—regular-built sons and daughters of Melpomene and Thalia. People scouted the idea. Old stagers took Shires out on one side, and said, "Shires, old boy, you're a lunatic!" Mr. Shires, however, thought differently, and went to work getting up his company, which embraces, besides any quantity of "utility," these eminent performers: Mrs. Coleman Pope, Mrs. Shires, Miss Sallie Grierson, Mrs. Campbell, little Miss Grattan, &c., etc,; Messrs. T. M. Vance, R. C. Grierson, S. B. Leman, Johnny Campbell, Jimmy Lytton, Dan Nourse, Tannyhill, Hagars, &c., &c.

  If any body says this company would not do honor as the stock of any theatre, then we will take eleven carrots! Well, Mr. Shires set out; put up "Uncle Tom's Cabin"—has taken down the public—crowded houses—immense success!—making money!—while his croaking friends stand aghast! Well may they!

  Last Saturday evening, he opened "Morris Hall," in this city. Bill-"Uncle Tom's Cabin." The play is no favorite of ours', but then it "draws"—the masses like it, and it is much better patronized than would be any production of the "immortal Williams," as the enthusiastic little Frenchman called the deceased Shakespeare. The play is well gotten up by Mr. Shires; scenery, costumes, &c., &c., all of the first order. Mr. Grierson—a most excellent "old man"—plays Uncle Thomas most beautifully. Mr. S. B. Leman—one of the finest light comedians on the stage—plays St. Clair, as he does everything in his line, admirably. The character of Legree, by Mr. Vance, is rendered frightfully natural—and, of this actor, we beg to say a word: It were doing him great injustice, to judge of his ability as an actor by his impersonation of this character. Legree is a "low villain" according to Mrs. Stowe's and the dramatist's idea; Mr. Vance makes him such. This is right. But Mr. Vance will excuse us, if we advise him to refuse such "characters" hereafter, as we know he is capable of playing better business. Possessing a fine figure, elegant head, a finely tutored voice, and a good degree of ambition, he can, if he will, become one of the American stage's brightest ornaments. Deacon Pettytone, by that walking combination of all that's odd and funny, Johnny Campbell—sweet Johnny—was done in the most jolly manner, as also was Marks, by Jimmy Lytton; George Harris, by Mr. Hagars—a very promising young actor—was most cleverly played. Mrs. Pope made quite a part of Cassy. Mrs. Shires, as Topsy, is very fair. Miss Grierson, as Aunt Ophelia, was most excellent. Mrs. Campbell's Marie was a neat and lady-like performance. Little Miss Grattan—a precocious and beautiful little girl, of five summers, with a laughing eye and sunny curl—rendered the character of Eva in the most beautiful manner. The music, under the leadership of Deacon Bennett, (the deacon's a "hoss!") is of the most ravishing character, and the gallant William Warner, whose name is several names more familiar in the mouths of all play-goers and players, from New Orleans to Cincinnati, conducts the financial department of the establishment in his own good and inimitable style. Hurrah for Warner, the players, and Shires!

  Lest we may be charged with blowing a small trumpet for the especial benefit of Mr. Shires, we will say, that we don't know the man personally. Travelling theatrical companies are poor things generally, and, when we see a company like this, we feel like making a "few remarks"—hence this wee bit of a "notice." . . .