Mr. Love, The Polyphonist (1843)

This gentleman has resumed at the Strand theatre those performances by which he has already made himself and his art so very popular in many other places, and by which his reputation has not been confined to this side of the Atlantic, but has extended from one end of the United States to the other, setting our American brethren upon the task "to guess and calculate" by what process of the physical organization of the performer, and by what rare management of the powers with which he is endowed by nature, he can give utterance to such rare sounds, and so modulate, direct, and manage the faculty of enunciation as to persuade an audience almost out of their senses and produce illusions almost as strong as realities. The artist, for he may with the greatest propriety of language be called an artist, has very properly called himself a "Polyphonist," which being interpreted or rather paraphrased means one who speaks with many voices. Mr. Love does speak with many voices, and those voices so well managed, made to represent so well the voices he means to imitate, that the auditor can scarcely believe that the variety of sounds he hears can proceed from one pair of human lungs or be the effort to articulate of one set of organs of human speech. But this is not all. Mr. Love possesses, besides the power of imitating the voices of persons of all ages, grades, and professions, the art of diversifying the voices of their respective genera into an endless variety of species. He can imitate an "infant puling in its mother's arms" and an infant laughing on its mother's knee. He can represent an old crone chuckling, or an old crone wheezing and uttering maledictions both loud and deep. He can depict a merry old man and a cross old man, a blustering boatswain and a solemn Quaker. The tones of a lover and his lass, when "whispering trees are telling tales of love" - that is, not of Mr. Love himself, but of his scarcely less universally potent namesake. In a word, he can, with the rapidity of thought, bring upon the stage such a numerous dramatic corps, so perfect in their respective parts, so diversified in character, and so humorous in their exhibition, that though they play not "those fantastic tricks" which are said to "make the angels weep," they do what is much better, they play those fantastic tricks which make ladies and gentlemen die with laughter, and go very near to increase the category of coroners' inquests, "came by their deaths by some means or other unknown." Mr. Love, however, is no murderer; he has rather, by his good-humour, his spirited imitations of men and manners, and illimitable versatility of talent, prolonged than shortened the existence of his fellow-creatures. His bill of fare at the Strand theatre is a rich one; there are solid dishes and piquant entremets. There is enough for all, and variety for every taste. Vivid and faithful in his colouring, correct in his outline, and forcible in his lights and shadows, if what he represents may be deemed a picture, he is a painter of first-rate genius, and with all that art can do to make him pre-eminent in his profession.
Oh, 'tis Love! 'tis Love! &c. &c.
Illustrated London News (March 25, 1843), pp. 214- 15.

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).