Monsieur Alexandre: Reviews, Notices, Poems, 1821-1826

Compiled by Steven Connor as part of The Dumbstruck Archive, a continuing, online supplement to Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).


M. ALEXANDRE, THE CELEBRATED VENTRILOQUIST.- We find that this Professor of Ventriloquism, or, more properly speaking, of vocal illusion, has astonished and amused several distinguished societies, at the west-end of the town, by his extraordinary powers. On Friday evening he performed several scenes at the Marquess CHOLMONDELEY's, which produced the utmost surprise and pleasure; and, it is said, he will be honoured with his MAJESTY's commands to perform before him. 

Morning Chronicle, 16,174 (Tuesday Feb 20, 1821), p. 1

THE ADELPHI. - Mr. ALEXANDRE, the celebrated Ventriloquist, commenced his entertainment last night, also with great success. His transformations of person and changes of voice were various and rapid, and the applause he received was commensurate with his high merits.

Morning Post (London), 15,933 (Tuesday April 9, 1822), p. 3

Monsieur Alexandre THE ADELPHI. - Mr. ALEXANDRE, the celebrated Ventriloquist, commenced his entertainment last night, also with great success. His transformations of person and changes of voice were various and rapid, and the applause he received was commensurate with his high merits.

Morning Post (London), 15,933 (Tuesday April 9, 1822), p. 3


We feel much pleasure in recording the philanthropic "act" of this celebrated Ventriloquist, who appropriated the money taken at the Adelphi theatre, on Wednesday evening, to the relief of our distressed brethren in Ireland - he certainly proved himself "no actor here," since, much to the credit of his feelings as a MAN, to "make the little more," he defrayed the expences [sic] of the theatre for the evening our of his own purse. 

Bell's Life in London, no 12 (19 May, 1822), p. 93. 

OLYMPIC THEATRE. - At this Theatre last night, M. ALEXANDRE commenced his exhibition of Ventriloquism for the present season. It is unfair to M. ALEXANDRE, however, to describe his exhibition as mere Ventriloquism, for his merit is certainly not less in the transformation of his countenance than in the remarkable modulation. M. ALEXANDRE's performances are too well-known to the public to need any detailed notice; but we should recommend to him an attention to the variety and dramatic effect of his exhibitions. It is in this alone that MATHEWS is superior to him, for in mere mimetic faculty, in the accurate imitation of all sounds, and in rapid transitions into all characters, M. ALEXANDRE is superior to his competitors. M. ALEXANDRE however improves, and will continue improve the effect of his exhibitions as he grows more familiar with the English language, as his hesitation and imperfection of enunciation, formed at the outset of his career a serious difficulty, and in part destroyed the illusion of his performances, by betraying the identity of the actor in spite of the utmost efforts of his art. We are happy to hear that he has been very successful in his provincial progress since he last appeared in London. 

Morning Chronicle, 16,832 (Tuesday 1 April 1823), p. 3

M. ALEXANDRE exhibited his wonderful powers in our Theatre on Friday last, and again on Monday evening. The audience on both occasions was most numerous and fashionable; and the unceasing plaudits with which they received his very singular exhibition of the illusions of Ventriloquism afforded the most striking evidence of the excellence of his performance. He gives a third exhibition on Friday evening; and we are glad to learn that our friends in the North are to have an opportunity of witnessing his extraordinary talents. He means to visit Banff, Elgin, and Inverness, after which he returns Southward by the Caledonian Canal.

Aberdeen Journal, 3999 (1 September, 1824), p. 3


Monsieur Alexandre, the celebrated Ventriloquist, made his first appearance in Edinburgh on Monday at the Caledonian Theatre. This gentleman's fame had long ago reached us through the London, and Foreign Journals; and, independently of all that the bill of fare promised, we had, what for some time past has been indeed a great rarity in the Caledonian, a full house, and a fashionable audience. Like Mr. Matthews [sic], Mons. Alexandre is himself the whole dramatis personæ, and like that gentleman also is eminently successful in keeping up with spirit and effect the interest of the audience. His changes of voice, and his power of face, are very wonderful, while his imitations of dogs, cats, crying children, &c. are quite faultless. The imitation of the child, was interrupted with the loudest applause; and we could fancy that we saw in matron faces, a momentary expression of that sympathy, which reality always produces, while delighted misses turned to their companions with wonder-stricken looks, as if they said, "Oh, dear! how like little sister, when she's naughty." Mons. A. sustains a variety of characters, and keeps up a sort of plot throughout. His changes of dress are not the least remarkable of his performances. He appears now with the wig and the paunch of an alderman, and in a few seconds he skips forward in the scare-crow semblance of his starved servant Nicolas [sic]. From this, ere you count twenty, he hobbles in with the staff, spectacles, lunardi, and long train of the alderman's too-affectionate spouse. He disappears at the upper end of the stage, as Miss Flirtilla, rouged, curled, corsetted, and dressed cap-a-pee, for the conquest of the whiskered captain, and springs with magical celerity, in less than half a minute, from under a dressing-table at the front corner of the stage as the slender Nicolas. In one of the most peculiar features of ventriloquism, his efforts drew down merited applause. He held dialogues between himself on the stage, and a captain, alias himself, up the chimney - a porter, alias himself, in a cellar - and his master, alias himself, shut up in the trunk. In no respect were his powers more evident than in these cases. He opened and shut the box with rapidity, and imitated the changes of tone proceeding from the prisoner in the chest with admirable precision and facility, even to the division of single words begun in an audible voice when the lid was up, and concluded in a low smothered tone when it was closed; and he winds up the whole very ingeniously by bringing all the different characters from their hiding places into the chest, making them speak from that forum, and then tumbling it up, shews an empty chest, and Mons. Alexandre as the inside and outside interlocutors. In short, though we thought we had too much of the alderman and his wife, and that he was too tedious in the frying process, which, by the way, was not his best imitation; and though we might sometimes feel a little of that weariness, which is almost unavoidable in witnessing for three hours the exertions of any unaided individual, however gifted, we look upon Mr Alexandre as a person of the very first order of talent in his line, and his performances as quite marvellous. 

Edinburgh Weekly Journal, Vol XXVII, no. 1375 (April 21, 1824), p. 126. 


It is common-place to say that fashion is capricious, but it is not common for this place - the Caledonian Theatre - to be filled with fashionable company. On Monday evening, however, the boxes, to our surprise, were all taken, and the house was, altogether, what may be termed a bumper. The talents of Mons. Alexandre are, in his line, of the highest order. His ventriloquial powers were astonishing; his mimetic powers - even to those who have seen Mathews - not less so; and his general dexterity did much to keep up a feeling of pleasurable surprise - heightened, for the most part, in getting over those difficulties which, as a foreigner, accustomed to other manners, and another language, lay constantly in his way. He was clever - exceedingly clever - throughout; but, from the novelty, perhaps, his ventriloquism pleased most at the outset; while his mimetic talents, from being more brought out, pleased most towards the close. His representation of the novice Celestine, and the Sisters Mumble, Doleful, Jolly &c. was, in force and range of talent, superior to any thing we have seen; with the exception, perhaps, of his own Miss Flirtilla Pillbury, which, for a continental flirt, of a certain age, was exquisite. It puzzles us to say whether all the ladies were more piqued or gratified at this portion of the exhibition. The young, at any rate, were both amused and flattered. The most powerful rival to Miss Flirtilla was Growler, the alderman's dog. Some of the scenes might have been omitted, and all the lengthened ventriloquist scenes - such as those of the cellar, the box, &c. might have been advantageously abridged. The sin of lengthiness besets all these monological dialecticians. - Mathews is so lengthy as to become a bore; and even Mons. Alexandre was not infrequently tedious. Two hours of such an entertainment is enough at a time; and if the hits were retained - the flatness rejected - and all protractings of the same sort of scene avoided - the exhibition would tell infinitely better. But whether, for reformatory purposes, he do or do not admit the taste or fastidiousness of Edinburgh to his rehearsals, the idle and the curious - and not a few of the busy - will find it necessary to see Mons. Alexandre. 

The Scotsman, Vol VIII, no 447 (Wednesday April 21st, 1824), p. 255

CALEDONIAN THEATRE - Monsieur ALEXANDRE who has attained so great celebrity, on the Continent and in London, for his ventriloquial powers, appeared for the first time before an Edinburgh audience, at this theatre, on Monday evening. His exhibition gave ample proof that he is deserving of the fame he has acquired, and was altogether a most astonishing performance. His rapid change of dress and character from the plethoric Alderman to the starved servant, Nicolas, and from Miss Flirtilla in her walking dress, rouged and curled, again to that of Nicolas, was truly wonderful; but his powers of voice exceed everything we have heard; he conveys the sound, either near or at a distance, at his pleasure, speaking frequently one half of a word in a smothered tone and the other half in a loud note. What is equally surprising is the manner in which he sustains every character that he represents, for he is himself the whole dramatis personae, each speaks in a different key, so that in a conversation they are made to hold at the conclusion of the entertainment, you can distinguish every one of the characters by the voice. His powers of imitation and mimicry are also very great. The imitation of the child was admirable, and the representation of the Sisters was exquisite; indeed, M. ALEXANDRE possesses talents of a high order, and it was with pleasure we saw them rewarded by a crowded and fashionable audience. 

Edinburgh Courant, no, 17,569 (April 22, 1824), p. 3

MONSIEUR ALEXANDRE. - The illusions of this celebrated individual are, indeed, surpassing, we had almost said, exceeding belief. We understand it is Mr. Alexandre's intention to gratify the holiday folk on Christmas eve, under the patronage of Lord COMBEMERE. We need not anticipate a very full house. The juvenile portion of the public should not let the opportunity slip.

Dublin Evening Post, 9288 (Tuesday, December 14th, 1824), p.3

Monsieur Alexandre

By ancient heathen bards we're told
How Proteus changed his form of old -
Blazed up like flame, and roared like thunder, 
Till folks were filled with fear and wonder; 
Then, like an adder, or an ape, 
Would from the frightened fools escape. 

'Tis thus the mighty Alexandre, 
Of wondrous magic powers commander, 
Our senses variously beguiling, 
Seems first a youthful beauty, smiling, 
And charming every eye; but soon
"A lean and slippered pantaloon," 
Devoid of every charm and grace, 
Usurps the youthful beauty's face; 

And when that short delusion's o'er, 
In comes deformed, diseased, three score; 
A wretched, shambling, ill made creature, 
Odious alike in form and feature: 
Ah! why the human face divine, 
[And form, that nature made so fine,] 
In such uncouth contortions twine! 

The mocking-bird, whose pliant voice
With music makes the woods rejoice, 
Can imitate a croaking frog, 
A mewing cat, or barking dog; 
But if the potent Alexandre
Through some Virginian grove should wander, 
The mocking birds, alarmed and shocked, 
Would grieve to find themselves outmocked; 
For his is every varied sound, 
On earth, in air, or underground. 


Sheffield Mercury, Vol XX, no. 987 (Feb 18, 1826), p. 56

The performances of Monsieur Alexandre, in this town, during the present week, have given the greatest satisfaction, and excited wonder. His personation of character is admirable, his illusions unparalleled, and his performance in general unequalled. We know not how nature can support the great exertion which it undergoes in his performance; the mind and body seem to be at the utmost stretch of power every instant. We would advise our readers to pay Monsieur a visit during the ensuing week, as we perceive by an advertisement, that he has promised a new performance. If our townsmen wish to encourage talent; if they wish to see to what perfection man can attain in imitating the sounds made by various living animals; if they would see different characters imitated and assumed almost to the life; if they wish to spend an agreeable hour, to give their eyes and ears a treat, let them repair to the place of performance, and there will be satisfaction rendered. We recollect a piece of poetry was inserted in the Belfast newspaper, and we shall present it to our readers, as being an epitome of what Monsieur Alexandre performs in such an inimitable manner: -

Thou Proteus of France, thou miraculous man, 
Prithee say who thou art - and develop the plan
By which thou transformest the great Alexander
To a plane and a saw and a pig and a gander, 
A drake and a turkey, a cat and a dog, 
A flirt at her toilet, for marriage agog, 
An alderman gouty, a vexed baby crying, 
A garrulous wife, and an omelet frying. 

Where keep'st thou thy secret? step forth and unlock it. 
Dost thou carry the echoes about in thy pocket? 
Is your body composed of mere sounds, my good friend, 
Which come, when you call them, and go where you send? 

Such a squalling of cats - such a growling of dogs, 
Such a wailing of infants and grunting of hogs, 
Such conjugal lectures and lessons of love, 
Such voices below, and such voices above, 
Are enough, in good sooth, to make simple folks stare, 
And mistake you for Lucifer, prince of the air. 

Some demon musician, hid snug in a nook, 
Of your clown's trembling viscera, singing Malbrook, 
Must surely have taught you so aptly to tune, 
Your nose, a guitar - your chin, a bassoon. 
You lengthen your face, and elongate your skull; 
Then make them as round as the moon at the full; 
Next spare as a bill hook, and keen as a razor; 
Then broad as the visage of Maximin Caesar. 

When you stretched up your neck with the [grace of] a Swan, 
We stared in amazement - Ho! Presto! was gone! 
And your head to your chest got a marvellous fall, 
Where it stuck, like a bust in the niche of the wall. 

What invisible genius, or sylphoid, or gnome, 
Still follows your footsteps wherever you roam, 
And changes your costume as quick as you please, 
And graces your form with such spirit and ease, 
And fills you with voices that thunder around
From your vocal interior, that store-house of sound! 

Perhaps thou'rt fiend Legion of tongues the Grand Master, 
With the builders of babel shut up in his gaster! 
No! No! for thy heart is so gentle and kind, 
So vivid thy fancy, so feeling thy mind, 
Thy smile is so playful, thine eye is so bright
If a spirit thou art - 'tis a spirit of light. 


Sheffield Mercury, Vol XX, no. 988 (Feb 25, 1826), p. 62

We thought it right in our last to offer our meed of praise to the talents and capabilities of Monsieur Alexandre, because we thought him justly entitled to them. This week he has astonished us still more, as we conceive the performance he has introduced demands even more powers than we thought him possessed of, or capable of ever acquiring. To those, however, who have seen him we need say nothing, as they must have been highly gratified; and to those who neglected the opportunity, our observations will only excite regret at thus missing a treat of the highest order. We have one thing, however, which we would notice, and we hope the alteration will be submitted to as being just - the objectionable title of the piece, and the introduction of a certain character in the scenes, who shall be here nameless. We do not wish to be fastidious, but we feel confident the interest of the piece would be kept up without injuring the feelings and disturbing the pleasures which the performance was otherwise calculated to excite, if the alteration suggested was to be made. 

Sheffield Mercury, Vol XX no 989 (March 4, 1826), p. 70