James Boaden’s Assessment of Dorothy Jordan’s Performance as Nelly Primrose in Nobody (1831)


James Boaden’s Assessment of Dorothy Jordan’s Performance as Nelly Primrose in Nobody (1831)

Boaden, James. The Life of Mrs. Jordan. Vol. 1. London: E. Bull, 1831.

p. 271: Mrs. Robinson, this season, added to the failures of the commencement, a two-act comedy called Nobody. An actress formerly herself, she had influence enough to bring the following ladies together in so mere a trifle. I remember the delight she expressed at Mrs. Jordan’s heading the list, followed by Mrs. Goodall, Miss Pope, Miss Collins, Miss Heard, and Miss Decamp. I cannot detail the incidents, but I know well that to have great names for trivial business is certain death to any author. The spectators soon see that the performers are discontented in their situations, and if they condescend to them in mere kindness, it is the unkindest thing they can do. The audience soon avenge their complaisance upon the writer of the piece; what he courted for his support shrinks from the voluntary task, and he falls, good easy man, from his confidence in hollow professions.

Our dear Mrs. Jordan had powers of kindness equal to her other gifts; but she was not made for a storm; and grew pitiably nervous if the house shewed marks of displeasure and contest, which [to p. 272] they liberally or illiberally did in abundance on the present occasion. One might have supposed Mrs. Robinson prescient of her fate, by her epilogue—for Mrs. Jordan hurried on to address the audience in the words following, “half dead and scarce recovered from my fright.” Recovered! she was so far from being recovered, that she only repeated twenty lines out of the epilogue, that had no connexion with each other; and the authoress was indignant with manager, actress, proprietor, and even the public, for not embalming Nobody. It had a prologue as well as an epilogue, for mere verse cost her nothing. The piece was tried again, but “who can revive the dead?”

Mrs. Robinson was a good deal connected with newspapers; and as her lameness confined her to the chair when at home, she was constantly writing, and tolerably free in her remarks. This always operates mischievously upon the mind of an actor, who is quite sure that the writer turned dramatist will visit failure upon any thing rather than his piece—that in fact had passed his tribunal before.