The Rival Ventriloquists!
(From a Dublin paper)

Those who have witnessed Mr. Alexandre's unrivalled performances at the little theatre in Fishamble-street unite in representing them to exceed anything of the kind attempted before, by the exertions of a single actor. His powers of ventriloquism are not only surprising, (keeping up a dialogue between three or four persons at one time,) but his personation of the different characters, male and female, is highly effective, and the rapidity of his transformations can scarcely be credited even by the testimony of the senses. On Saturday night last, during the performance, Mr. Charles, a rival ventriloquist, who occasionally exhibits in this city, interrupted the representation, by hissing and whistling, which induced Mr. Alexandre to appeal to the audience. The interrupter was immediately put down, by the house expressing its reprobation of such conduct. He has since appealed to the public in the annexed letter, in which he endeavours to vindicate the proceeding he adopted on Saturday night, and to expose the deception which he alleges Mr. Alexandre practises, by having two other assistants. Both gentlemen are now fairly pitted against each other: and if Mr. Alexandre shall establish his identity in the different characters, it will go a great way to evince the envious and pitiable spirit that could thus detract from superior ability, and will establish beyond a doubt the fame and extraordinary powers of Mr. Alexandre, whose performances cannot be believed, even by a rival candidate, to proceed from the same person.

We here subjoin the letter of Mr. Charles: -

La prestige est fui!

"Sir, - In a morning paper of this day I read with astonishment and surprise, a call on me to account for my conduct in hissing, and showing my disapprobation, on Saturday evening, at the exhibition (properly called) - `The Rogueries of Nicholas,' at the Fishamble-street Theatre, announced to be performed by `Mr. Alexandre alone.'

"Since I am thus publicly called upon, it is my duty to answer that I did hiss Mr. Alexandre for attempting to impose upon a liberal Dublin audience (from whom I have received for many years repeated proofs of kindness) by pretending to powers he never possessed! I told him it was an imposition, publicly, on Saturday. Why did he not contradict me at the moment? He knows best. Where lies the merit of metamorphosing quickly in dress, from Captain Furlough to Alderman Phillbury, from Mr. Phillbury to Mrs. Phillbury, and from Mrs. Phillbury to Flirtilla, when there were three actors? Ay, three actors, I repeat it! - and yet the generous Dublin audience cry `Bravo, bravo!' This is most wonderful! It is truly astonishing to me, that during the many nights of his performance in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and lately in Belfast, that no one has noticed another person's voice in the commencement of the first act, where Nicholas is called upon by Phillbury. Let any one who is conversant with the continental language or dialects, calmly, and without prejudice, observe, and he will perceive at once the deception - Alexandre's questions in his French accent, while Phillbury, behind the door, answers in a German-Hanoverian one! The fact is, Phillbury, the Captain, and the Alderman, are acted by a German, and Mrs. Phillbury and Flirtilla by an Englishwoman; and the whole of the change in dress and costume, for which Alexandre receives so much applause during the whole evening, is, when he changes his black suit for Nicholas's leather breeches.

"Let any one call on Mr. Alexandre (and see if he will comply) to imitate the voice of Phillbury or Flirtilla, at the front of the stage, or in the middle of the pit, and the result will be quite conclusive. I now must go further, since I am called upon, and say that the illusions, in what he calls ventriloquism, are bad; his voice is always the same, and in the same key, whether he intends to be from above or below. This is the effect of a bad ear. His face is always turned to the part where he wishes his audience to believe the voice proceeds from; he never fairly gives us his whole front; the face reddens, and the fingers tremble - a certain sign of weak lungs, and want of power to produce manly and articulate sounds. There is at present a first-rate actor attached to the Theatre Royal, to whom, six years ago, I gave but two lessons, and I will match that gentleman with Mr. Alexandre, whenever he pleases.

                                                                                                                 "I am, Sir, your very obedient servant,
                                                                                                                                     L. CHARLES."
"Bopeep-cottage, Dec. 6.

"N.B. This little statement, I am sure, will not be very palatable to Mr. A. I have no improper feeling towards that gentleman; but let him convince me of my error, and I will publicly apologize to him, and call him the greatest and most clever actor and mimic I have ever met."

M. Alexandre's celebrity, and the expectation that his abilities would be put to the text, caused a most crowded and distinguished assemblage of rank and fashion last Wednesday. Previous to the performance, M. Alexandre came forward, and read an address nearly in the following words: -

"Ladies and Gentlemen, - I am most reluctantly obliged to trespass for a moment upon your attention, and to claim your protection upon the only condition on which, in my opinion, I can feel justified - namely, that the charge contained in a morning paper that I have practiced an imposition on the public by professing to entertain you by my exclusive and individual exertions, is groundless. I will not impute an unworthy motive to the individual whose name is attached to the article, and who has assailed me obviously with the intention to injure me; but I am perfectly satisfied to submit to any proof required at any period or scene of my performance, that may satisfy my auditors of my identity - that proof I shall always be ready to afford in obedience to the wish of the audience; and I request the gentlemen of the public press to come behind the stage for that purpose - they are honourable men, and will not lend themselves to an imposition on the public."

Accordingly, several gentlemen of the press went round to the stage, and witnessed M. Alexandre's whole performance, and the process of preparing for the several disguises. Shortly after Mr. Phillbury's appearance, M. Alexandre came forward and addressed the audience, stating, that notwithstanding the respectable gentlemen who were behind the scenes, Mr. Charles was not satisfied, and had requested permission to be present himself; but this M. Alexandre declared he could not think of permitting, though he would not only remove Mr. Charles's doubts, but some of the audience [sic], as to his identity. M. Alexandre accordingly divested himself of his disguise, and appeared as Nicholas. This confirmation of his excellence was received with loud and long-continued cheers, waving of hats, clapping hands, &c., and hisses for Charles; whilst others called for Charles to come forward, which, after some minutes, he did, and was received with mingled hisses and applause. After some time had elapsed in procuring silence, Mr. Charles then addressed the house, and stated that the doubts he had publicly expressed of M. Alexandre's identity, were occasioned by a conviction, that M. Alexandre was imposing on the public. He assured them, on his honour, that his disapprobation on a former night had not proceeded from any sinister or envious motive; but he thought M. Alexandre, or any man, deserved to be exposed, who would adopt such unfair means of acquiring reputation. He was now convinced of M. Alexandre's identity, and readily confessed that he was the most surprising and superior performer he had ever seen. Mr. Charles then offered his hand to M. Alexandre, and hoped that that public apology would satisfy his feelings, and those of the public. M. Alexandre readily accepted the hand of Mr. Charles, and the audience expressed their satisfaction by repeated plaudits.

Mr. Charles, previous to M. Alexandre's divesting himself of his disguise, betted a sum of 20l. that the person personating Mr. Phillbury was not M. Alexandre. - Dublin Freeman's Journal.

The Times (14 December 1824), p. 2

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).