Hottentot Venus

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CHARACTERS

SARTJE………Hottentot

KEMBLE…….Tragedian

MATHEWS…Comedian

MRS MATHEWS…Writer/Wife of Mathews

MRS KEMBLE…Wife of Kemble

DUNLOP…….Ex-Army Surgeon

BULLOCK…..Exhibitioner

BARKER…….Fairground Showman

CUVIER…….Scientist

ARTIST, KEEPER, LADY, GENT, EMISSARY, ASSISTANT.

(With appropriate doubling all parts can be played by 2 women and 5 men.)

The speeches by Sartje have been written in an open, generic style. They are intended to be the basis on which the actress playing Sartje can with the musicians, improvise her role.

Titles to be displayed before each scene

1. Sideshows

2. Dunlop’s singular offer

3. Sartje goes by water

4. The Mathews’ at home

5. Hissed off the stage

6. An other side shoe

7. Sartje exhibits herself

8. Thou shalt have the body

9. Cuvier compares anatomies

10. Kemble dreams of women

11. Cuvier talks of private matters

12. Painted in Paris

13. Cuvier on circumcision

14. What strange parts survive

15. Sartje’s last show

Scene 1: Sideshows

(There is a curtained booth in front of which stands a BARKER on the look-out for business. There is fairground music. Several PERSONS enter, BARKER immediately hangs up a sign which reads
Corksican Midgit and Dwarf to be Seen with your own Eyes.
BARKER has a strong Irish accent but is trying to appear Italian.
MATHEW enters.)

BARKER
Ah a gentleman sir. Would you care to see a fine Italian midget and dwarfo. (Taps sign with cudgel.) All the way from Corksica.

MATHEW
Corksica eh. (Italian are we?)

BARKER
That I am sir. And I have here inside a true native Corksican dwarfo.

MATHEW
Mmmm……(Points to sign) And where does the midget come from?

BARKER
She’s the midget – doesn’t it say so. A dwarf of a midget is what I’m telling you. A tiny midget dwarf.

MATHEW
Impossible. Either she’s a midget or she’s a dwarf. Now which is she?

BARKER
Oh she’s possible make no mistake. Twenty-six inches high. That’s two feet two inches tall. And fully grown……for an extra shilling I’ll allow her to be handled.

MATHEWS
Twenty-six inches? Then she’s a midget – too small for a ……
BARKER
Isn’t that what I’m telling you. She’s the smallest dwarfo……

MATHEWS
And you are a native – if my ear doesn’t deceive me – of County Cork in Ireland (dismisses BARKER).

(BARKER takes down sign and replaces it with one that reads Nine GENUINE Ojibbeway Indians from North America. BARKER becomes an American.)

MATHEWS
(Caught by the sign) Genuine eh?

BARKER
Every one – you’re free to examine them. Oh I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking of those bogus Cherokees exhibited here not long since. White men with their faces painted and their…

MATHEWS
Indeed, I saw them. Three drunken actors. Recruited from the London pavements as I recall.

BARKER
You know your facts, sir. These Indians are authentic members of the Ojibbeway tribe. What are their peculiarities you ask.

MATHEWS
I do ask that.

BARKER
Well sir: twenty thousand people have paid to see them. I have been asked thousands of questions…….

MATHEWS
Which you no doubt have skillfully answered…..

BARKER
No, there are no Indian tribes that go naked – they’re all very decent/Americans are white – the same colour as the English – and speak the same language – only a good deal better/The Indians don’t raise tea/Reason? To be sure they reason – as well as we do/Horns on a chief’s head have no bad meaning/Yes I was among them eight years and was never scalped during that time/They do not eat the scalps/They do not scalp the living – it is not a scalp to count if the man is alive/Yes the Indians do lend their wives sometimes to white men but these are their….

MATHEWS
Yes yes most interesting. A quick look perhaps. But no, I am already late. Another occasion. (MATHEWS exits)

(BARKER removes sign and replaces it with one that reads Mr. Mathews at Home.

BARKER
The newspapers call him refined witty uproariously funny. And so he is. So he is. The brilliance of his mimicry is without parallel. (To PERSON) You have not met the famous Mr. Coleridge? Never mind, now’s your chance to see the illustrious poet portrayed to the life. Or an idiot – lost – amusing himself with a fly (mimes this). A drunkard at the races one minute, blink your eye, he’s an old Scottish lady, blink it again, and he’s the ridiculous Monseiur Jaw-singe with his performing dogs. (Sells ticket to PERSON who enters booth). But, ladies and gentlemen, not only is he an incomparable not to say inimitable mimic, but he is also a story teller of genius. He will act for you performing all the parts himself one of his famous monopolylogues, in such a vivid and gripping manner that you will not move in your seats….until he makes you fall off them with laughter. (Sells another ticket, checks to see if there is anybody else, then enters booth himself to become STAGEMANAGER.)

STAGEMANAGER
You can do it from up there. That’s the one. UP.

(Booth flies up to reveal STAGEMANAGER tying a rope, STAGEHAND on a ladder with the upper part of his body hidden, and MATHEWS seated facing backstage where there is the sound of an audience. STAGEMANAGER goes back to stand beside MATHEWS and addresses the backstage audience.)

STAGEMANAGER
My lords, ladies, and gentlemen: once again we have the pleasure of being in the company of the extraordinary Mr. Charles Mathews in the theatrical entertainment he has made especially his own. (Declaims) I give you Mr. Charles Mathews AT HOME.
(Loud cheering from backstage audience).

(STAGEMANAGER moves downstage and has some business during the following. He and the STAGEHAND mime during MATHEWS’ interruptions as he does during their interchanges.)

STAGEMANAGER
Have you untangled that mess up there yet?

MATHEWS
Allow me to read you the letter which was the beginning of it all. (Reads) ‘I labour under a species of distress and anxiety that I fear will drive me utterly from the society of my fellow men. First I must give you a sketch of my origins so that you might be able to judge some thing of my present condition.’ What follows, friends, is so outrageous that had I a year in which to….(Fades, but keeps gesticulating to his audience, putting on hats, ducking under the table, and disappearing off throughout the following.)

STAGEMANAGER
How much longer up there?

STAGEHAND
This ladder’s dangerous – do you know that? I’d like to find the one who put this lot together…..I’d tell him…..

STAGEMANAGER
You can’t – he’s dead. (Pause) Fell off the ladder. Broke his head.
(Shouts of ‘Bravo’ and cheering from backstage audience.)

MATHEWS
Ah – but our young man had not reckoned with the sly twisty rhetoric of the phase-mongering French. (Boos and hisses from backstage audience which fade.)

STAGEHAND
Gets them going doesn’t he. Knows how to make’em listen. All those stories.

STAGEMANAGER
That’s his skill – interrupt before they do. He gets his stories around the town. Always inviting himself somewhere, making people tell him things, especially…..

STAGEHAND
Did he tell you about that midget he visited….

STAGEMANAGER
Midgets, fat men, living skeletons,…..

STAGEHAND
The one in Liverpool. He said that of all the midgets he’d ever…..

MATHEWS
…..none other than General Napolio Blownapart sitting very painfully on account of his affliction on a very hard small French stool. (Groans and hoots from backstage audience.)

STAGEMANAGER
Nearly there. He doesn’t change it after the bit about the stool.

STAGEHAND
Heard it all before have you? (Gestures to MATHEWS finishing his performance) The storylogue he’s been acting.

STAGEMANAGER
Eighteen times. And I still can’t make any sense of it.

STAGEHAND
He’s a born mimic – all the animal noises he does. He goes to the zoo a lot I hear to study them. Watches the parrots.

STAGEMANAGER
He goes to the bird-house for studies of character not noises. And he does too many characters in my opinion. Makes it impossible to follow the story.

STAGEHAND
(Gestures to backstage audience who are shouting and clapping) They seem to follow it alright.

STAGEMANAGER
Them? They only see it once. He changes it every time. General Blownapart, Moanacart, Legsapart, Groanapart….But always on that hard French stool though. He jumps about, puts in new bits, interrupts himself, changes the order…..one time he missed out two whole characters. They didn’t know that…..better not to have put them in in the first place.

STAGEHAND
Well, that’s a monypolything for you. He’s got to do all the parts himself – otherwise he’d be up before the Lord Chamberlain. You should work where I was at the Drury Lane – you’d know where you were. The legitimate stage – proper plays, actresses, tragedies, that sort of thing.
(KEMBLE has entered during this last speech)
I prefer the illegitimate (gestures to backstage) you get more laughs that Shakespeare (Sees KEMBLE) Talk of the devil (Busies himself).

STAGEMANAGER
(Does not see KEMBLE) I’m not paid to laugh. My job’d be a lot easier if he kept it the same. Eighteen different monypolythings is what I’ve had to listen to.

KEMBLE
Then you should consider yourself eighteen times fortunate – Mr. Mathews has great comic talents. Generous too – I’m sure he pays you more than I would at Drury Lane.

STAGEMANAGER
(Goes to clear backstage area) Yes sir.

(MRS. MATHEWS enters)

MRS. MATHEWS
My dear Mr. Kemble what a pleasant surprise (Sends STAGEHAND out for extra wine)….Charles will be out in a moment….

(MATHEWS enters dressed in a shawl and bonnet)

MATHEWS
Ah good, Kemble, you made it. (To MRS. MATHEWS) I’d forgotten to tell you he is to come with us. (Takes off shawl) Where’s that boy?

(STAGEHAND enters with wine and glasses. MATHEWS gives him his shawl, takes wine and pours for everybody.)
Well, where’s it to be? What do you fancy Kemble? We could go see the Ojibbeway Indians. War dances, scalps, squaws,….

KEMBLE
No. No Indians. I have enough whooping and disorder of my own to deal with. I’d thought perhaps we could go see Napoleon’s carriage in Piccadilly…..

MATHEWS
We were there this morning. What a to do. I’d arrange a private view if I were you.

KEMBLE
But what was it like?

MRS. MATHEWS
It was an enormous imposing great thing. They say my Lord Byron, if you please, is already having a copy made so he can journey across….

MATHEWS
Sees himself as the great conquerer entering Italy on show in that glass box.

MRS. MATHEWS
I don’t imagine he spent much time in it. One always imagines him sitting on a horse giving orders.

MATHEWS
(Laughs to himself) Or sitting on a hard French stool.

KEMBLE
Did you sit in it then?

MATHEWS
Couldn’t get near it. Place was packed. Pickpockets, all the usual ‘Ladies’ (mimes this) looking for ‘friends’. One huckster selling Napoleon’s silk shirts…..

MRS. MATHEWS
He said he had them in all different sizes……

MATHEWS
….. another auctioning off the emperor’s favourite chamber pot. Some fellow got up as the imperial coachman whipping the crowd in front…..

MRS. MATHEWS
There were two Frenchmen huddled in a corner crying to a bust of the great man.

MATHEWS
The carriage had a dozen hearties in it with a gigantic woman stuck in one of the doors…..
MRS. MATHEWS
And three very vulgar people quarelling on top…..

MATHEWS
Two underneath engaged in something intimate, and a very drunk sailor shouting ‘Victory’ and relieving himself over the rear wheels…..

KEMBLE
(Shaking his head) The man who changed the face of Europe and there they are – the rabble – (to himself) pissing on his wheels. Well, I’ll not go there.

MATHEWS
Then it’s the Ojibbeways. Scalps and all. Let’s go.

Scene 2: Dunlop’s singular offer

(Small, overcrowded with glass cases, stuffed birds, posters, various kinds of headgear, etc., and dominated by a large stuffed Orang Outang on a platform facing the audience.)

ASSISTANT
(Sorting objects into piles. Addresses all his remarks to the Outang) I’m ready to go now Mr. Bullock. Everything is sorted into two piles.

BULLOCK
(Not visible throughout the first part of scene) Now you do know where to put them?

ASSISTANT
Well the first pile goes where the ……

BULLOCK
(Interupts) which contains?

ASSISTANT
The horns, the thing like a swan with a short neck, and everything to do with the white termites, all goes where the palm tree is near the rhinoceros. The second pile’s got all the stuffed things in glass cases and the fossils. All that goes on the walls.

(Dunlop enters)

BULLOCK
No. The fossils are to be put on the ground close by the sloth. You know which that is?

ASSISTANT
The upside-down one. There’s a gentleman here to see you Sir. (Exits).

BULLOCK
What can I do for you?

DUNLOP
(Looks round puzzled) Mr. Bullock?

BULLOCK

Yes, Mr. William Bullock at your services. Who are you sir?

DUNLOP
(Looks behind him, then at Outang) My name is Dunlop. Alexander Dunlop. I’ve lately returned from Southern Africa (Looks about him again)……from the Cape.

BULLOCK
(Promptingly impatient) Yes?

DUNLOP
In S. Africa I was with the army (Still expecting Bullock to appear from somewhere)in the capacity of arm surgeon.

BULLOCK
And your business with me Mr. Dunlop?

DUNLOP
(Gives up expecting Bullock to appear and addresses Outang) I have brought back with me from those parts several objects – curiosities and trophies – which, from what I have heard, might be of interest to you. And which I am willing to sell. The first is the skin of a lioness…..

BULLOCK
No I can’t help you there. I’ve got apair of them already.

DUNLOP
This one was a truly ferocious beast who terrified a whole region and ate five missionaries.

BULLOCK
That’s as maybe, but stuffed it’d look like any other lioness. What else have you?

DUNLOP
The skin of a fully grown Camelopard who was some twenty feet tall.

BULLOCK
(Interested) Yes I might be interested in that. Anything else?

DUNLOP
A blowpipe used by the pigmies – of the same kind as used by certain cannibal tribes – for shooting poison darts at their enemies.

BULLOCK
Hmmm. Unwise of cannibals to use poison darts I would have thought.

DUNLOP
A pigmy skeleton and a Kaffir war drum.

BULLOCK
What do you want for them?

DUNLOP
Two hundred pounds.

BULLOCK
Impossible. No, two hundred is not possible. I’ll give you one hundred for the drum and the Camelopard – the rest is no use to me.

DUNLOP
One hundred? No, I’m very sorry but I do not think so. One hundred and fifty would be…..

BULLOCK
I can go no more than a hundred.

DUNLOP
That is not enough, sir (Aside) Ridiculous.

BULLOCK
Yes things are, things are.

DUNLOP
No, absolutely not. Ridiculous. One hundred pounds. Leaving me with the damned lioness. Those missionaries – curse them – they were eaten for nothing.
(To himself, pacing agitatedly) No, I’ll not sell him anything. Not at that price. He wanted the camelopard alright. Well, let him bargain for it.
(Resigns himself to addressing the orang outang again.) I have another proposition which I’m certain will be of great interest to you.

BULLOCK
Proceed sir, proceed.

DUNLOP
(Stands up and addresses Outang agitatedly) I would consider it a kindness, sir, if I could address you directly. In person.

BULLOCK
(Enters from side) By all means (Nods to Dunlop and gestures to him to be seated again and continue)

DUNLOP
You have, without doubt, heard and read of the primitive Hottentots that inhabit Southern Africa. But I would wager that you have never seen one of these savages.

BULLOCK
You would win the bet, sir. What are you proposing (Starts fiddling with a note-book)?

DUNLOP
To exhibit the Hottentot here in London. In your exhibition hall. You would receive a share of the proceeds, and you would also agree to re-consider your offer for my Camalopard and so on.

BULLOCK
A somewhat bold proposition sir. Space in my hall is much sought after. You must be very confident of your ability to cajole the public into parting with their money. What is the great interest in your Savages?

DUNLOP
The Hottentots are a very primitive and brutal race that inhabit S. Africa. They live in the bush. There are many strange stories and theories about them. The Dutch say they are descended from the savages who lived in caves on the beaches. Some scholars say they are the missing link between animals and man since they are more advanced than the Ourang Outangs. I myself have heard that…….

BULLOCK
But these are speculations – neither certain nor indeed very penetrating (Starts to scan his walls checking objects off against entries in his note-book).

DUNLOP
What is certain is that no Hottentot one of (xxxxxxxxxxx) has been seen anywhere in Europe. That is, exhibited for people to see. I am confident the public will pay good money to look at the Hottentot and satisfy their curiosity.

BULLOCK
You might well be correct, but I am still……

DUNLOP
In addition (pauses) the female anatomy of the Hottentot is a most extraordinary and affecting sight.

BULLOCK
How so?

DUNLOP
Their thighs – particularly in the upper parts – are enormous. This gives their behinds the appearance of two shiny black hemi-spheres – which the Hottentot males, who are highly concupiscent creatures, find very desirable…

BULLOCK
…..yes quite, quite. Though I take it they can restrain themselves for the space of an evening – otherwise…….But no matter. Your Hottentots might – just might arouse enough curiosity to make a profitable exhibition. Do they have any sort of language that they speak?

DUNLOP
They converse with each other in a high pitched abrupt chatter – mostly by sounds made in their throats.

BULLOCK
Hmmmm. How many of these savages do you have?

DUNLOP
How many?

BULLOCK
Yes. How many of these Hottentots have you brought here? You wish me to enter into a joint business with you – to exhibit them. One much know how large – how many creatures there are – in the exhibition.

DUNLOP
There is only one.

BULLOCK

One. One? One cannot exhibit a single savage. Unless…..Is this female extraordinary and remarkable in some way? Unique perhaps. Is she the last of her race?

DUNLOP
She is indeed remarkable – as I have explained. But no, there are many thousands of Hottentots. I do not understand you. Would you have me export them all from Africa for you to exhibit?

BULLOCK
Come come sir. There is something between ‘one’ and ‘all’. With savages the matter is plural: one must have a troupe, a band or group of them to show their customs. The public require a show. T(xxxxxxxxxxxx) They will not pay unless there are ceremonies of some kind, tableau vivants or dancing, ritual practices…… Why, at the moment I am exhibiting seven Laplanders and two live reindeers. I cannot believe that one would make any worthwhile impression upon the public…..

DUNLOP
I have seen your Laplanders, and compared to the Hottentot they are undistinguished…….fat and small and very white…..
BULLOCK
They are distinguished sir by being inhabitants of the North Pole. Their bodies are formed by Nature’s requirements which makes them eat large quantities of blubber from their reindeers. They also carve likenesses of these beasts in stone which enter into their stories. Xxxxxxxx I could not exhibit just one of them.

DUNLOP
But the town is full of shows of single creatures……

BULLOCK
Indeed.

BULLOCK
There is a giant exhibited by himself, a living skeleton, innumerable midgets, a fifty-stone man…… They are all shown singly.

BULLOCK
They are not natural. They are freaks, xxxxx

DUNLOP
You are not interested, then, in exhibiting the Hottentot?

BULLOCK
No sir, I cannot say I am. But look: I’ll raise my previous offer to you. I’ll give you one hundred and fifty pounds for the Camelopard, the drum, and the pipe. Is that acceptable?

DUNLOP
But the Hottentot…..can you not help in any way? Surely there is someone who…..

BULLOCK
Perhaps I can. It’s possible, just possible (Starts to write). I shall give you a letter of introduction to someone who might. He knows everybody, attends every play and whatnot in town, and has intelligence about virtually every show and exhibition and booth that can be found. He owes me a favour of two. Give him this – he’ll find something for you. The Camelopard and so on – a hundred and fifty then? (Dunlop nods resignedly) Good. Well, good day to you, and good luck with your show.

Scene 3: Sartje goes by water
(If possible, she should sing to music played by drums, sticks and woodwind. It should be rhythmic and syncopated, and should not drown the words. SARTJE is at first in a hammock. She leaves this in order to dance, and then returns to it at the end of the scene.)

SARTJE
Salt water go salt water go
suck the finger on a hand,
drown the dust of animal land,
drown the dust of animal land.
Swallow the river breathe the mist
eat the sand inside the fish,
through the rain through the mist
suck the bone inside the fish.

Bird of fire bird of the sun
flap your wings of smoke and flame
leave the air from where you came
fly away.

Burn the mud in the river bed,
eat the sky make my head
burn the mud in the river bed.

Only the air is moving me
only the air is everywhere,
coming through my bones and skin
changing the face of everything.
Swinging in the wind beating the drum
vibrating the blood before it comes.

Smell the river with my feet,
taste the stones inside my legs,
feel the cattle through my belly,
see a world through my finger ends.
And all the time I hear the rhythm
making music in my hair.

My sails are filling up with sky,
I’m making a shape of water,
I’m moving underneath a star
that wasn’t there before me.

A bird that flies on fingers
has gone behind the sun.
A wind has stopped repeating
the message on the drum
swing on the drum
of every living thing.
Burn the mud make my head,
burn the mud in the river bed.

Scene 4: The Mathews’ at home
(Enters carrying 2 letters)…..yes thank you, I have found the other one. Show the gentleman in will you. (Sits at writing desk, makes a hurried entry in a journal, opens one of the letters which she rapidly reads as Dunlop enters.) Mr. Alexander Dunlop? Good afternoon, I am Mrs. Mathews. Please be seated. I must confess that I do not understand this note from Mr. Bullock. What does it mean?

DUNLOP
It is a matter of business, madam. I had hoped to…..

MRS. MATHEWS
Yes…..?

DUNLOP
Forgive me madam, but I had expected to see Mr. Mathews……the letter was addressed to him. I am somewhat confused as to who……

MRS. MATHEWS
Do not be offended. Mr. Mathews makes it a rule never to open letters addressed to him. It is his whim – you understand. But tell me, sir what does Mr. Bullock mean. You apparently wish Mr. Mathews to help you show your Hottentot….?

DUNLOP
That is perfectly correct, madam.

MRS. MATHEWS
Well……should one know what a Hottentot is supposed to be?

DUNLOP
Hottentots are creatures from Africa, madam. They…….

MRS. MATHEWS
And you are in possession of one?

DUNLOP
I shall be very shortly, and I had hoped that Mr. Mathews would…….

MRS. MATHEWS
(Suspiciously) Mr. Mathews is not about to take charge of this creature in some way, is he?

DUNLOP
Why no, madam. Though, if he wishes to become a partner…….

MRS. MATHEWS
The last creature he brought home was a goat. He said it looked at him in an appealing manner. It hadn’t been with us a week before he gave it away. Its large horns frightened the ladies of the house, he said. In fact, they did nothing of the kind. But the beast’s appetite for paper and wigs interfered with Mr. Mathews’ habit of leaving notes and various signals to himself. We had all got very fond of it.

DUNLOP
You need have no fear, madam. The creature in question is a savage, a female of the Hottentots who are a black race inhabiting the Southern part of Africa. I need Mr. Mathews’ assistance in order to exhibit her to the public. I understood from Mr. Bullock that Mr. Mathews is familiar with the various places where exhibitions take place…..

MRS. MATHEWS
Very familiar. Did you say that this savage was a woman?

DUNLOP
I did.

MRS. MATHEWS
Describe her to me. Is she very noble?

DUNLOP
(Slightly uncomfortable) I would not say…..noble.

MRS. MATHEWS
Well…..is she very striking in her appearance?

DUNLOP
(More uncomfortable) She is very extraordinary to look at, madam.

MRS. MATHEWS
In what way?

DUNLOP
Because of her development in a certain way, she is considered – by the males of her race you understand – to be the essence of ….beauty.

MRS. MATHEWS
Hmmm…..She is not by any stroke of fortune a dwarf is she? Count Boruwlaski – a close acquaintance of Mr. Mathews and myself – gets much pleasure and satisfaction from conversing with dwarfs. One from Africa would afford him a particular pleasure.

DUNLOP
No madam she is not……

MRS. MATHEWS
What a pity.

DUNLOP
A pity….?

MRS. MATHEWS
Well yes. He is a dwarf himself, and what is more, something of an admirer of the ladies.

DUNLOP
(Irritated) Madam, the Hottentot I intend to exhibit is far from a dwarf. Indeed, certain of her…..attributes are so ample that…..Will perhaps Mr. Mathews be arriving soon?

MRS. MATHEWS
I cannot tell until he arrives – his movements are not easily predicted.

DUNLOP
Perhaps I should return later, during the evening, if that is convenient.

MRS. MATHEWS
If you wish. He has no performance tonight. But if you would tell me what he (Loud crash off)….Ah, you can explain it to him yourself. (Opens and starts to read second letter).

DUNLOP
Mr. Mathews is an actor?
MRS. MATHEWS
Why yes of course. Did you not know?

MATHEWS
(Doesn’t see Dunlop) Who in the name of all that’s dangerous foolish and inconsiderate placed a wigbox exactly in the path I habitually use to enter my own drawing-room? Who I ask?

MRS. MATHEWS
We have a visitor, Charles. And the answer to your question is not doubt yourself – to remind yourself of something perhaps.

MATHEWS
(To Dunlop) And who are you pray?

DUNLOP
My name is Dunlop, sir. But perhaps this was not a convenient time to have called upon you. If this evening would be better……?

MATHEWS
Yes, perhaps so. I am free……

MRS. MATHEWS
You might be engaged this evening, Charles. There is another letter – from Mrs. Siddons. She is concerned about her brother’s safety (Hands him second letter).

MATHEWS
Mmmmm. The great Siddons herself. (Scans letter) Insufferable – hounding the man like this. (To Dunlop) Theatre audience, sir, are a natural rabble. (To Mrs. Mathews) They are angry and want his blood. I shall visit him this evening. (To Dunlop) Well sir, perhaps you should explain your business with me.

DUNLOP
I have a letter from Mr. William Bullock. He did not mention to me that you were a person of the theatre, however.

MATHEWS
No reason why he should. (To Mrs. Mathews) When did that note from Siddons arrive? (Prevents Mrs. Mathews from answering) No matter, I can’t go before this evening. Poor old Kemble.

DUNLOP
Would that be the Mrs. Siddons, the actress?

MATHEWS
None other.

DUNLOP
The theatre. But I had imagined you were in the business of exhibitions and the like.

MATHEWS
The business of exhibitions? Yes, I suppose you could say that (Busies himself).

DUNLOP
(To Mrs. Mathews) Does Mr. Mathews act upon the stage with Mrs. Siddons?

MRS. MATHEWS
No, they are different stages…..

DUNLOP
(Disappointed) Oh…..

MRS. MATHEWS
….one is legitimate the other (Pause) isn’t. (To Mathews) But Charles, Mr. Dunlop wishes to help him exhibit his Hottentot…..

MATHEWS
(To Dunlop) Gave you the large no did he. Too busy with this band of Laplanders and reindeers running all over the place to bother with another show. On the other hand I – who am not without obligation to him – and who can be relied upon to be familiar with all the shows etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, might be able to assist etcetera. Is that the gist of it?
MRS. MATHEWS
(Returns to writing at her desk) I leave you to your business, gentlemen.

DUNLOP
Yes, that is more or less it, sir. I have an excellent and novel show which I am certain will be very profitable…..

MATHEWS
…..but you lack a hall in which to mount it. Perhaps I can help you. What exactly are you showing?

Scene 5: Hissed off the stage
(KEMBLE is drinking heavily. Occasionally he takes a pinch of snuff in a very precise way.)

MRS. KEMBLE
But why brood so now? That was all last season. And did not the Times think your dagger scene was magnificent…..

KEMBLE
(Pacing with newspaper in hand from which he reads)……’and the murder of Duncan most affecting. But all the rest was unworthy of Mr. Kemble’s undoubted talents, either as an actor or as the nation’s foremost producer of Shakespeare’s plays.’ Unworthy. Ha. Mealy-mouthed praise or non-sensical abuse. (Reads again) ‘How extraordinary not to have Banquo’s ghost appear before us. Does Mr. Kemble not approve of phantoms? Will he now produce for us a Hamlet without the ghost? Perhaps the management of Drury Lane does not wish to pay actors for playing phantoms and would rather……’ (Throws paper down).

MRS. KEMBLE
(Interested in the quotation) And would rather what?

KEMBLE
(Annoyed at her) That is not the point.

MRS. KEMBLE
What point?

KEMBLE
(Gestures to newspaper) The point at issue. In Macbeth Banquo is a ghost. He is pictured in words – as an idea. He is conjured, his presence is signified by the agitation and horror of the other actors. (Prevents Mrs. Kemble trying to tell him she knows all this) Whereas, Hamlet’s father is an apparition – not a ghost. He has a part to play, he must perform.

MRS. KEMBLE
You mean ghosts don’t speak.

KEMBLE
(Glares at MRS. KEMBLE) Oh what is the use.
(MATHEWS enters)
Mathews? Welcome. You find me in the middle of ghosts and apparitians.

MATHEWS
(Looks about him) Mrs. Kemble seems solid and corporeal enough to me. Are you by any chance a ghost madam?

MRS. KEMBLE
No sir. I have a part to play. So – it appears – I am an apparition. And I am about to disappear (Exits).

MATHEWS
(Mock flourish) And I to appear. By command of the great and powerful Siddons. She fears for your safety, and would take comfort from the notion that I can protect you.

KEMBLE
My safety?

MATHEWS
She’s heard the rumor – it’s all over the town – that the O.P. mob plans to march on your house tonight.
KEMBLE
O.P. How I’ve come to detest those abominable letters. They paint them on their hats, write them on placards, print them, scrawl them on posters, and hiss them in the theatre O.P.O.P.O.P OLD PRICE O.P.O.P. until the stage is deafened with them. But I perform. Yes, every night I play to that rabble giving them the greatest performance of Coriolanus they’ll ever witness. And what’s their response? O.P.O.P.O.P. The illustrious Siddons should be thinking of my sanity – not my safety.

MATHEWS
Perhaps so. At any event, she fears the mob will march here…..

KEMBLE
A common rabble roused to riot by that insufferable lawyer who would be their tribune and bring down privilege. Ha. And how will he accomplish his great and noble task? By forcing the management of the Drury Lane to restore the old price for admission and remove all the boxes they’ve just so expensively built? What nonsense.

MATHEWS
But Kemble, the persecute you because they feel aggrieved. Deprived.

KEMBLE
God in heaven, deprived of what pray? What have I deprived them of? O.P.O.P.O.P. until I’m deaf. Deprived? It is I who as deprived. No, not deprived. Worse. Humiliated, degraded by appearing before that hissing rabble. Who do they think they are?

MATHEWS
They think they are the public. And they know that the boxes you’ve built are private. Look everybody know that those boxes are rented by the ladies of the town to (pause) service the theatre. Your assorted onion eaters in the pit don’t like it. They don’t like the private staircases you’ve built. And they resent paying higher prices for fewer seats.

KEMBLE
The public? Hissing and yapping in my ears. Is this the public the theatres were licensed for? I tell you friend I do not care for its breath. Is this the public I’ve served for twenty years? Have I not given them all the diversions masques occasional pieces and monstrous extravaganzas they asked for? And have I not read studied prepared shaped edited and cut every single play of Shakespeare until it shines before this…. this….. this public?

MATHEWS
Yes yes dear friend you’ve done this and more. But they forget. They look up at these boxes and all they see is privilege enjoying itself with the fancy ladies.

KEMBLE
Oh, they look up do they? They raise their heads these belly creatures. (Prevents MATHEWS from calming him) Is it not enough that I spend my time arguing and pleading with shiftless fraudulent actresses who are forever ‘indisposed to appear’ unless I pay them immediately, give them grand entrances, butter their pride and kiss their feet with flattery? Is that not enough? Would you have me deal with their sisters in the boxes? Flaunting one minute, blushing the next, charging exorbitant prices…. inflated reputations…never delivering what they promise….

(MRS. KEMBLE enters in a business-like way.)
MRS. KEMBLE
There’s a drunken mob outside armed with sticks. (Calms MATHEWS’ alarm I’m sent for the militia. They’ll disperse quickly enough.

KEMBLE
A mob. Oh do show them in. Give them seats in the best boxes. I’ll play them some scenes from Shakespeare….

MRS. KEMBLE
Enough. This is foolish drunken talk….

KEMBLE
Shakespeare did I say? You are right, that is foolish. Let them gawp at some monster in a side show. Ghosts, apparitions, and swordfights are all they’re fit for. Crows. They peck me off the stage. Ohhhh what am I to do. Tomorrow I’ll play and they’ll hiss. The tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow until….

MATHEWS
(Embraces KEMBLE) Cease now, it is late. You’ll not play tomorrow. (To MRS. KEMBLE) He must cancel the show until further notice.

KEMBLE
(Exhausted) You’re right. I’ll stay away from them. I’ll spend time with my friends. Perhaps we could see the Indians again? But Mathews, dear friend, why do we exhibit ourselves to these people? Why? Why?

Scene 6: An other side show
(Booth as in Scene 1. There is a sign which reads The Hottentot Venus.)

BARKER
Yes, sir, a ‘woman’. That is what I said. But this is no ordinary woman. This savage black Venus is a woman among women (mimes) – but she defies description. And this is no common roll-up roll-up sideshow. Of course, I could tell you she’s been brought here from Africa, I could tell you she’s unique, I could tell you she’s never been exhibited anywhere before, I could tell you lots of things – all true – but I couldn’t do justice to this show, friends, because it is a show of genius. And why? Because in there is a man of genius – Baron Georg Friedrich Cuvier, doctor, scientist, statesman – who will lead you into the heart of this extraordinary Venus. What is her secret? Why are the Hottentot savages an enigma? What purpose had providence in constructing a tribe of females of such….outrageous proportions? Are they freaks and sports of nature or are they related to other black savages? What can the bones and skulls of Egyptian mummies tell us? She is in there. Enter, see her, find out for yourself.
(BARKER enters booth to become KEEPER. Booth flies up to reveal a screen with viewing seats in front of it on which sit MATHEWS and MRS. MATHEWS. On the screen slides are projected by CUVIER who is not at this stage visible. SARTJE is in a cage from which she is brought out in a ceremonious way by KEEPER. He attempts to make her play a crude pipe, but she throws this down.)

CUVIER’S VOICE
Observe how her movements are quick and capricious resembling those of a monkey. And how her manner of protruding her lips is analogous to that which one can note in the orang outang. Her character is lively, her memory good, and she is able to recognise a person that she has only seen once several weeks before. (During this slides of monkey’s lips are projected.)
(GENT enters and makes straight for SARTJE.)

GENT
My god what a spanker – it’s better than I thought. That’s ripe savage flesh if ever I saw it. (Crosses to cage and KEEPER) Wild black mare eh – tame her yourself did you? (KEEPER passes him to DUNLOP) What a creature (confidentially) do they all have haunches as …as…big as that?

DUNLOP
Well, sir, her’s are particularly … evident.

GENT
(Aroused) MMMmmmm.

DUNLOP
You might be interested, sir, in the fact that the male Hottentots – who are extremely potent savages – like to……(DUNLOP takes GENT’S arm and ushers him over to KEEPER. GENT makes a deal with KEEPER, then crosses to SARTJE, mutters gibberish to her in a questioning tone and slowly strokes her buttocks with his cane. GENT exits.)

CUVIER’S VOICE
(Slide changes to a different shots of necks, limbs, toes, etc.)
…..the rest of her body shows no abnormality in its proportions: her shoulders, back, height of her chest show, indeed, a certain grace. Her stomach does not protrude greatly, her arms though thin are well-formed, and her hand is charming. Her foot is also very pretty but her knees are thick and somewhat….

(LADY enters. She is the actor who plays GENT but in drag.)

LADY
(Scrutinises SARTJE) Ridiculous. Like an enormous…. parson’s nose. Full of stuffing. Can’t be nattral. A contrivance is what it is. Artificial, artificial. (Goes and sniffs cage, looks at SARTJE again, then confronts DUNLOP.) Brutal sort of critter is she. What does she do? (DUNLOP is non-plussed). Savages always do something. Scalp people or eat each other. What does this one do? Bound to be connected to that contrivance strapped to her. Is she a cannibal? (Walks off and starts poking everything she sees with her parasol.)

(DUNLOP approaches MRS. MATHEWS.)

MRS. MATHEWS
So, this is your Hottentot Mr. Dunlop. Well, I’m glad to have seen her. I’ll not forget the sight – like some great mother of the earth. A most affecting and extraordinary spectacle. She does not look too happy though.

DUNLOP
Oh no – she take great delight in so many people of quality coming to admire her…physique.

MRS. DUNLOP
She is indeed magnificent. Her keeper, however, I find less magnificent. I do believe she’d frightened of him.

DUNLOP
He is merely firm with her. They can be childlike and sullen on occasion. He is familiar with her moods, understands her nature. (DUNLOP takes his leave of MRS. MATHEWS and approaches MATHEWS.) What do you think of the show Mr. Mathews – it is up to your expectation? (MATHEWS makes no reply) Without your help I doubt that….

MATHEWS
You seem to know your job (gestures to cage). Your gentle savage is to be thought dangerous, a wild beast eh? It’s a good touch. You should have added whips and…

DUNLOP
(Uncomfortable) You misunderstand. The cage is more for her sake. It keeps the crowds away from her – protects her privacy when she is not on show.

MATHEWS
Oh really? A novel idea. I shall have a portable one made for myself – jump into it whenever I want to be alone. What do you pay the keeper?

DUNLOP
(Proudly) He pays me. Half of the gratuities he receives.

MATHEWS
Oh excellent – the wonders of trade and the wealth of nations. A keeper keeping himself busy keeping himself. At two shillings entrance I think your Hottentot will be a rich woman before long.

DUNLOP
(Shifty) Why yes, yes, that’s right.

LADY
(Culminates her poking about by pinching SARTJE in the leg and poking her buttocks with parasol. She screeches.) Is it nattral? Is it nattral? Nattral. You can’t tell. (Pokes again) No, of course its not nattral. (DUNLOP motions KEEPER to intervene and prevent further poking. LADY exits.)

CUVIER’S VOICE
(Slide shows different shots of buttocks)
…….able to verify that the protruberance of her buttocks is not due to muscle: the whole mass has an elastic and jelly-like consistency which can be felt immediately under the skin. It vibrates whenever she moves and one can see numerous marks and scars that such movements have presumably caused.

(BULLOCK enters, looks around through opera glasses, spots MRS. MATHEWS and slowly makes his way to her.)

MRS. MATHEWS
That keeper – does he understand what the poor woman says?
MATHEWS
No, of course not. It’s all make-believe. The villain hardly knows his own tongue. Something unsavoury about him.

MRS. MATHEWS
She is a most affecting sight – though I cannot persuade myself that she likes to be exhibited in this…..

BULLOCK
I fear, madam, that you do not care for the show here.

MRS. MATHEWS
I certainly do not care for your Mr. Dunlop there.

BULLOCK
My Mr. Dunlop. He’s no friend of mine – I can assure you.

MRS. MATHEWS
Come, Mr. Bullock, you know perfectly well what I mean. Did you not wish the man upon Mr. Mathews?

BULLOCK
Well, yes… in a business sense, I did. And I must own now that I am not at all enthusiastic about his exhibition. Missing link indeed.

MATHEWS
…not enthusiastic about whose exhibition, Bullock?

BULLOCK
I’m no convert to Mr. Alexander Dunlop’s Hottentot, nor do I like the man. Though it’s true I did feel sorry for him.

MATHEWS
You managed to secure your prize camelopard skin from him. I took him off your hands – you’ve no complaint.

BULLOCK
Your services have a way of rebounding Mathews. Paid two hundred for Cromwell’s head on your advice – and now I can’t get permission to exhibit it. Oh. (Gets up and wanders off peering at everything through his opera glasses.)

CUVIER’S VOICE
(Slide changes to side view of female breast.)
….in a small barely visible nipple. The hair on her body which consists of short tufts is similar in texture to that on her head and is noticeably sparse on her organs of generation. In view of this last observation it is necessary to repeat that….

(KEMBLE enters, pauses at the door, slowly advances towards SARTJE, and gazes at her with a look of growing compassion.)

KEMBLE
Poor, poor creature.
(Shakes hands absently with MATHEWS not taking his eyes off SARTJE.) How very extraordinary.
(To KEEPER) She is so….so exposed. Does she not feel vulnerable like that?

KEEPER
Oh no sir. She’s used to the open air. She’s not cold in here. Would the gentleman like to feel… (Offers SARTJE’S leg to KEMBLE which is refused.)

KEMBLE
Does she always stand thus
(Moves to SARTJE and views audience as if he were on stage)
Isolated in the centre of the stage?

KEEPER
(Prods SARTJE who ignores him as she fixes her eyes on KEMBLE.) She likes people to be able to see her.

KEMBLE
What is she called?

KEEPER
Her name is Sartje, sir.

KEMBLE
(Makes to enter SARTJE’S cage, but instead turns and surveys the scene.)
And she is contented to…perform like this?

DUNLOP
(Intervenes) She has a very contented disposition, sir. She finds….

KEMBLE
(Shakes his head) Poor creature.

(At KEMBLE) Omababa, Omababa.

KEMBLE
What does she say?

SARTJE
Omababa! Omababa! Omababa!

KEMBLE
Does she call me her papa?

DUNLOP
(Intervening again) No, sir. She says you are a very fine man.

KEMBLE
Upon my word (Looks down) Upon my word, the lady does me infinite honour.

KEEPER
(Again prods SARTJE forward to be touched.) Ther would be no extra payment sir.

KEMBLE
(Declines) No, no, poor creature, no. (Goes to MATHEWS who takes his arm) Now Mathews, my good fellow, do you know she is a sight that makes me melancholy.

MATHEWS
Come, you are out of sorts and not yourself lately.

KEMBLE
Melancholy. I dare say they ill-use that poor creature. Good God, how very shocking…….shocking…..

SARTJE
Omababa……..omababa……..

Scene 7: Sartje exhibits herself

In this scene Sartje mimics and parodies the actions/gestures of the actors in Scene 6.
She enters cage and emerges with a broom and a large Hottentot DOLL. Places broom upsidedown near cage in position occupied by KEEPER previously, and DOLL centre stage. Stanks back and surveys scene.

Starts conversation with broom, bangs it 2 times on floor and enters as LADY using broom as parasol. She pokes this into the walls, cage, etc., then approaches DOLL which she pokes screeching ‘natnatnatnatnat’. This causes SARTJE to break out of impersonation into hysterics of laughter.

In quick succession she now mimics MATHEWS (agile, screwing up his face in different ways), BULLOCK (peering at everything dubiously through opera glasses), MRS. MATHEWS (quizzical, slightly concerned).

Returns to broom and converses with it in the manner of GENT which she maintains using broom as cane. She circles DOLL then puts broom between her legs and rides it witch-like; with broom in this position she stand over DOLL and questions it in gibberish then strokes DOLL’S rump with broom. SARTJE enjoys this and is amused. She holds broom in the air, laughs deeply, and then throws it back to its position.

Takes swig from bottle, gestures derisively to broom, dances round DOLL then embraces it crooning softly. She stops suddenly, turns to the entrance door and freezes. The she slowly turns her head from broom to door and back as if following an exchange. She moves so that DOLL is between her and door, then smiles, points excitedly at DOLL then at door, then mouths ‘omababa omababa’.

She finally crosses to broom, bangs it 3 times on floor in a formal way then exits.

Scene 8: Thou shalt have the body
(A court scene with JUDGE played by Mathews, ATTORNEY GENERAL played by KEMBLE, and DEFENDING LAWYER by Cuvier. The DOLL sits as if on trial. MRS. MATHEWS and SARTJE stand behind a barrier watching the proceedings. The men in court are dressed in grey, SARTJE is in white, MRS. MATHEWS in black.)

CLERK
(Intoning) Application for a writ of Habeas Corpus requiring the body of a person restrained of liberty to be brought before the court that the lawfulness of the restraint may be investigated and determined.

JUDGE
(Peers at DOLL) The law in question is not applicable in the case of slaves. Is there any here who claims that the person in question is, has been, or might have been a slave?

CLERK
Your honour, the person is a member of the Hottentot tribe; a people recently placed under the full protection of English law….

JUDGE
Thank you. Court will listen to an application for a writ of Habeas Corpus for one Sartje, known as the Hottentot Venus, from the Cape Province of South Africa, on behalf of the Society of benevolent and highly respectable gentlemen of the African Association. The Attorney General?

ATTORNEY GENERAL
I make application in relation to this unfortunate female who has been exhibited to the public under circumstances of peculiar disgrace to a civilize country. The gentlemen of the Association have reason to believe that this female was brought here from her own land without her consent and is being kept here without her consent. As the centerpiece of an exhibition she is daily exposed to many members of the public who pay a great deal of money to see her, touch her, abuse her, gawp at her, poke her, make mock…..

JUDGE
The court understands the conditions of her exhibition. Please confine yourself to…

ATTORNEY GENERAL
…I merely allude to its peculiar significance. She is neither deformed, nor crippled, nor a monster, nor a freak of nature as she is made out to be. She is natural – indeed she is part of nature itself, and should be respected. She represents a race….

JUDGE
Yes yes. Will the Attorney General be reminded that we are aware of her situation, and that the point of this hearing is to decide whether she is being exhibited against her will. That is all.

ATTORNEY GENERAL
(Subdued) Very well. As the court knows, she has been questioned by the secretary of the Association in English and in Dutch. She made not the slightest reply nor gave any indication of understanding the purpose or content of what was said to her. She seemed to be in a state of distress……

JUDGE
Of what nature was this ‘distress’?

ATTORNEY GENERAL
(Taken aback) We cannot speak this (gestures to DOLL) this woman’s language, your honour. (Continuing line of thought) When exhibited her attire consisted of a thin black belt whose purpose was to display her body to the full. I am confident that the sworn affadavits that I present to the court will indicate the indecorous and offensive nature of her exhibition. The object of the humane gentlemen of the Association is to release her from her present confinement, put her under proper protection, and return her to her own country by the first conveyance that is offered. (Hands the affadavits to JUDGE.)

JUDGE
The Defending Lawyer, please

DEFENDING LAWYER
My clients have naturally been distressed by the aspersions cast upon their integrity. They wish to impress upon the court their readiness to enter into any arrangements which would rebut the charges that have been brought. On the question of honourable payment, my clients are willing for any monies earned by the Hottentot. On the question of restraint, my clients submit that the answers elicited from the Hottentot by the representative of the court speak for themselves. Namely: she is very happy in England – a country she much admires; she has great pleasure from going out in a carriage for several hours each Sunday to see the countryside; she has two black servants to attend her whenever she wishes; and that her keeper never comes to show her before she is properly dressed.

ATTORNEY GENERAL
Your honour, her exhibition to the public is demeaning and degrading. The fact that she is reportedly ‘very happy here in England’ indicates no more than that she herself does not perceive the manner of her degradation. I ask the court to put a stop to any continuation of this ill-treatment and to impose a ban on all public exhibition of her.

DEFENDING LAWYER
If – as the Attorney General claims – it is degrading for a person to exhibit themselves willingly in public, then there is ‘degradation’ in every fairfround – booth, side-show, and theatre in the land. Is the court to ban them all? Abolish all performances? Dismiss the whole profession of actors?

ATTORNEY GENERAL
I object. It is clearly not the intention of my clients to make vague imputations concerning the acting profession. The degradation here is specific and concerns the unwholesome monetary transactions conducted by the Hottentot’s keeper which…..
CLERK
Your honour, in view of the fact that there are female members of the public present (points to MRS. MATHEWS), I suggest that the details in question be confined to the written affadavits in your possession and which have been seen by all the parties.

JUDGE
(Reads) Quite quite. Let us proceed.

DEFENDING LAWYER
In fact, (gestures to DOLL) this creature is not in the least degraded. On the contrary, her exhibition is an edifying and instructive spectacle. Is it not natural for the public to interest themselves in exotic members of the human race. Is the wealth of medical knowledge gathered by men of science not proper and valuable? Are we to suppose such knowledge to be unnatural? Knowledge which, I should point out, is eagerly sought after by gentlemen of science throughout Europe: she has already received requests from eminent doctors in Paris to appear before them. Clearly, the Hottentot is in no need of protection – of any kind – from this court.

JUDGE
The Hottentot is, from this evidence, plainly not under restraint, and the only effect of removing her from her keepers would be to allow her to return to them. Application for a writ of Habeas Corpus is, therefore, dismissed: the gentlemen of the African Association have no case. However, any offence to propriety or decency occasioned by the exhibition of this female in public will be grounds for a prosecution.

Scene 9: Cuvier compares anatomies

(BULLOCK and MATHEWS sit on seats facing screen as in Scene 6. The screen shows SARTJE’S face.)

CUVIER
….no, that is not correct. On the contrary, sir, neither these people (gestures to screen) nor the ferocious Gallas (screen changes to show a different negro face) who invaded Abyssinia, nor the native Shangallas (screen shows another negro face) nor the Bushmen nor the Kaffirs (screen shows rapid succession of negro faces) nor any other race of negroes has given birth to the people who established civilization in Ancient Egypt (screen shows a pyramid) and from whom the whole world has inherited the principles of law, of science, and (screen shows full-length swathed figure) perhaps even religion.
(Hectors BULLOCK and MATHEWS)
How can we be sure of these things? Because, without doubt, the head is the surest method of distinguishing between the races. (Screen shows a swathed mummy-head, then a succession of skulls during the following). From the many Egyptian skulls at our disposal it is easy to be satisfied that the ancient Egyptians belonged to the same race to which we ourselves belong; a fact witnessed by their voluminous skulls.
(Both MATHEWS and BULLOCK are feeling their own skulls.)
In a word, there are no exceptions to the cruel law which condemns those races with low foreheads and small skulls (screen shows a rapid alternation of monkey and negro heads) to a permanent and irrevocable inferiority.

Scene 10: Kemble dreams of women

(SARTJE in the distance is crooning softly and has a bunch of grass and flowers in her arms. She eats a flower, then gives one to KEMBLE gesturing for him to eat.)

KEMBLE
(Eats) Ugh bitter herbs (spits flower out. SARTJE retrieves it)
Is that what I am to eat now? (Turns from SARTJE)
The fair maid gone mad. They made Orphelia mad.
There is no one here to follow you to the water’s edge. What happened there happened. The dig your grave on the stage.
(Moves closer to SARTJE)
But you are not….fair. You are dark. Young. Swarthy. Daughter of the proud spat upon Shylock?
(Peers at SARTJE)
Black? Blackest black. Then you are no Jew’s daughter. A common creature of the sun – no more. Some captured slave in one of Rome’s wars. One of many, chained to a ship he brought you here. The great general leads his triumph, he holds his scars up to the mob, praises the fallen, boasts his spoils. The procession stops. The crowd’s one enormous eye is upon you…..you move on. Gone.
(SARTJE dances – she is haughty and sensual.)
And yet you dance – like that? (Shock of recognition) But you are Cleopatra. Cleopatra…she who…
(SARTJE touches KEMBLE and he trembles)
The queen of Egypt in wintery Rome. You must not be here. The people – cold cruel. The rabble ignorant and ungrateful. Dogs. They have banished me. They will not use you well. Here in Rome where the empire starts in the stench of the Tiber you are no queen. Without your armies of the desert, without the perfume of your women, you will be spurned. Your gold ship will not burn on the water. It will sink in the mud unseen. They will mock you in a cage of northern rain, and sneer your greatness into the posture of a whore.

SARTJE
oh ma baba.

KEMBLE
Do not show yourself. Do not appear. Do not address them. Serpents – they’ll deafen you with hissing, drown your words, drive you from the stage. They will ill-use you.

Scene 11: Cuvier talks of private matters

BARKER (Voice only)
….the privilege of welcoming a distinguished speaker who needs no introduction to any of you here in Paris.

CUVIER
Gentlemen, in the field of Natural History there is nothing more celebrated and more the subject of dispute and controversy than the genital apron of the Hottentots. For a long time many have denied its existence, others have urged that it is a product of art and caprice, whilst others who regard it as a natural structure are unable to agree about its relation to the rest of the female anatomy.
Behind the many contradictory reports and unsubstantiated claims is the issue of whether the females in question (screen show full-length picture of SARTJE) have it from infancy and whether its elongation occurs more or less with age. In particular, we must decide whether its close association to the extremely prominent buttocks possessed by these females can be taken to indicate that the apron is not a development of other parts of the body but a special organ added by nature.
(Screen shows a sequence of female monkeys.)
However (as if anticipating audience response), however….one cannot say from this that the labia of the Hottentot are the link between these females and monkeys. In fact, unlike the enormous mass of fat carried on the rump – where there is indeed a striking resemblance to the females of certain baboons – the labia of monkeys far from exhibiting any noticeable prolongation are in general scarcely to be seen.

Scene 12: Painted in Paris

(SARTJE is on the floor with her back to audience)

SARTJE
Did they come for you at night? Was it useless to fight? With grinning teeth and tongues that bite? Did they give you a name to hide your shame? Did they put iron in the fire and touch it to your flesh? Did they chain your legs to the wood of the ship? Did they strike you with a whip? No?

(SARTJE turns to face audience. She is holding a small headless doll. At same time ARTIST enters and sets up his easel, canvas, etc. during rest of SARTJE’S speech.)
No, ma baba they did not. You know baba they did not. And still you make me tell it.

(SARTJE squats and puts bit of paper and rag into the doll.)
Nobody will chain your legs. There’s no iron in the fire. No one here will use the whip. Look, we’re no longer in a ship. You dream there things baba. All night long I feed you. You dream of things you have seen over the night-time wall.

ARTIST
(Painting) What a subject….great creature of the night. Not my normal run of work. (Mimics) ‘M. le Baron and the gentlemen of the academy wish to have an accurate representation of the Hottentot for the purposes of scientific study and reference.’….They pay well for their representation those old farts, I’ll say that.
There she is, stark naked like some giant baby. I’ve seen you before. Not here in this mausoleum, God help us. Look at her, poor thing, she’s so listless. No, it was a different sort of place – the Grand Animal Showrooms. In the spring it was. She was lively then. Full of fire, swinging that great bum around, cursing her keeper, and generally banging it about. Not now. Just sitting there – dreaming by the look of her. Fancy coming here to be painted. You’re quite famous – do you know that? I’m sure you do. A lot more famous than I am….. On show in London, all Paris has seen you, some vaudeville show about you, now you’re being painted by me in the Jardin du Roi. Awful place this. The light’s bad – makes it gloomy.

EMISSARY
(Enters in self-important rush) Is it completed yet?

ARTIST
Completed? I’ve just started. First things first. I’ve done the background. Now I paint the foreground. It’s a good system – usually works. Here look, she’s very listless, not animated at all. Have you noticed that?

EMISSARY
(Looks at SARTJE) She looks unwell. Very well, I shall return shortly. Meanwhile, I’d be obliged if you advanced beyond the background during my absence. (Exits)

ARTIST
Who does he think he is? Glorified messenger boy for a lot of wizened old twerps. What does he know – couldn’t paint his own easel.

EMISSARY
(Goes straight to Artist’s canvas) This is not what I asked you to do.

ARTIST
What are you talking about – something wrong with your eyesight?

EMISSARY
Far from it. What are those?

ARTIST
Trees.

EMISSARY
Quite. I’m able to recognize representations of trees. What I cannot comprend is why?

ARTIST
Why? They’re the jungles in Africa – that’s the background.

EMISSARY
(Gestures) The background’s blank, an empty wall. I see no trees.

ARTIST
Of course you don’t. But I can. I imagine them, then I paint them. You don’t even have to imagine them. There they are in front of you. That’s the nature of the art.

EMISSARY
I don’t wish to see what you’ve imagined. There are no trees here. Neither are there any monkeys gibbering about the place, nor any other products of your imagination littering the canvas. You’ll oblige me to paint only what you see.

ARTIST
(Painting over the background) There. No trees. No monkeys. Blank. Uniformly grey. Looks like fog.
(EMISSARY dismisses this and exits).

ARTIST
(Mimics) ‘You’ll oblige me…’ Him and his orders. ‘M. le Baron this, the gentlemen of the academy that…’ The great M. le Baron has already examined her hasn’t he? Prodded her all over with his scientific fingers, measured her head with calipers and all that lark. It’s her bum they’re interested in. Why don’t they take a plaster cast of it. No – they must have a picture to squint at. All those old buggers looking at my painting cross-eyed through their monocles shrieking how amazing it all is. She does look miserable there – half dead. (Takes a swig from a flask and hands it to SARTJE) That’s it, warm your bones. That’s better – more like your old self. Almost done now. Then you can get dressed and go back to your daydreaming, and I can get out of here.

SARTJE
(Fetches a fragment of mirror from cage and looks into it.)
You’ve come to see me once again,
once again she can be seen.
(Enters cage holding mirror so it stays outside.)
Now I’m black and it’s dark
where the baba has her dream.
I can’t be seen behind my screen
I’m invisible inside the dream.
(Comes out of cage and scatters powder in a line round her playing space and on herself. She holds up doll.)
On ma baba can be seen,
but she can’t remember where she’s been
unless I tell it to her.
(Uses mirror as if it were the doll’s eyes.)
I show her all the places
all the long white faces
that gaze and look and stare at her.
(Looks into mirror)
She smiles at the people clapping,
she’s angry at their smell,
she sighs when the people cry,
she laughs when they ask her why
she’s so proud and sullen.
She laughs and laughs she laughs
at the faces she can see
at the people there on show
at their hats in a row.
But what she laughs and laughs at only the baba will know.

(EMISSARY returns accompanied by CUVIER who goes and examines SARTJE.)

EMISSARY
(Looking at canvas) I asked you for an accurate record. And what have you painted? Some nonsense to be admired on salon walls – a drunken creature waving her arms about like a character in a vaudeville play.

ARTIST
Exactly. Very good indeed. That was the image in my mind’s eye. Well, it’s gratifying to know I don’t paint in an obscure fashion.

EMISSARY
I don’t care for your fashion, or your art, or your mind’s eye. I’m paying you for your craft – nothing more.

ARTIST
Craft eh. Very well, how big do you want it? (EMISSARY is non-plussed) You don’t want a miniature do you. Life size would be very accurate. Or larger than life if that’ll amuse your scientific gentlemen.

EMISSARY
You are not required to amuse them. Merely provide them with a public representation, and not some composition inside your head. What they want to see (stares at SARTJE) is WHAT IS IN FRONT OF ME NOW. You paint what you see. (Gestures) she is standing. Very well, you paint her standing. The shape of her thigh is so – you paint it so. She is naked. You do not paint her wearing ridiculous clothes and covered in trinkets, and so on and so on. THE PRINCIPLE IS VERY SIMPLE. What is there (gestures to SARTJE) is reproduced here (gestures to canvas).

(CUVIER finishes his examination of SARTJE.)

EMISSARY
(To CUVIER) Insufferable wretch. You commission him to carry out a simple task and he inflates it into some nonsense about art. There is something wrong with her, I take it?

CUVIER
It is difficult to be certain in one’s diagnosis with such…..creatures. But she appears to have the symptoms of pleurisy and perhaps dropsy of the breast. I shall have her bled, and then we shall know more. Meanwhile keep her warm, and get this business (gestures to ARTIST) finished before it becomes too late.

(During the interchange between EMISSARY and CUVIER above, SARTJE finger-paints the doll and croons)

SARTJE
Animals in my belly stones in my legs
here in the dirt here in the mud
go from here and make my head
burn the mud in the river bed….

Scene 13: Cuvier on Circumcision

(Screen shows map of Europe and North Africa)

In fact, one knows that the development of the labia varies greatly within Europe. Thus, they are considerably larger in the warm countries (gestures to southern Europe on screen).
Further south, the negresses of Abyssinia for example
(Screen shows a pubescent girl)
are incommoded to the point of being obliged to destroy them together with the female prepuce with iron and fire. An operation carried out upon them at the same age as that of young boys when they are circumcised.
In this connection, it is interesting to remark that the Portugese Jesuits – who in the sixteenth century converted the king of Abyssinia and his subjects to Catholicism – felt obliged to prohibit this custom. A custom they believed to be a survival of the ancient Judaism of that nation.
But it turned out that the young Catholic girls were unable to secure husbands, because the men refused to accept a liason in the presence of such a disgusting deformity. And it was necessary for the papal college to send a surgeon to the place to verify these facts. This he did, and on his return the pope authorized the re-establishment of this ancient practice.

Scene 14: What strange parts survive

(KEMBLE is in Coriolanus costume. He and MRS MATHEWS are laughing.)

MATHEWS
(Stoking them further) No no no, I knew him well. The man was a genius. You couldn’t imitate him. Jumping in and out of characters like a giant cricket (jumps): first a well known sot and wastrel (performs this), then an ingénue fresh from the country and unplucked (performs), who meets the sot and some young fop going to the races (starts to perform but breaks off and falls puffing into chair). Well, Kemble, it’ll be your turn shortly – your last great performance……

KEMBLE
My last performance. (Draws sword and shouts ‘Curs” in a desultory way.) Oh, it’s unreal – as if I’ve already disappeared from the scene. (Stares at sword) What will happen to us all?

MATHEWS
We’ll die exhausted from overwork. At least, some of us will Kemble. You won’t – you’ve made it through. Here you are, rich and famous, the greatest Shakespearean actor since Garrick, feted by everybody, about to retire and live a life of ease in the sun somewhere……

KEMBLE
And be forgotten. Actors write on the wind – Garrick knew that…..

MRS. MATHEWS
Come now, people still talk of your Hamlet as if…….

KEMBLE
My ‘famous’ Hamlet. That was a time ago…….a time ago. I remember I had Hamlet’s father enter on stilts through a great mist. It was most effective (muses) yes most. And Grimaldi played the second gravedigger. What an extraordinary fellow he was – you couldn’t but love him. Broke nearly every bone in his body with his tricks and antics. Born behind the stage – knew every cobweb in Saddlers Wells before he was five……

MRS MATHEWS
(Prompting) …. the second gravedigger…..

KEMBLE
His wife had died not two days before. He was crushed. But there he was clowning in that stage grave….. We passed each other as I entered, and he gave me a melancholy smile. I’ve forgotten the whole performance except for that look of his. What strange parts survive – bits and pieces everywhere…..
(A bell is rung very loudly)

MATHEWS
Shakespeare calls. We should leave you to Coriolanus……

KEMBLE
No, don’t go. There’s no need. There’s another call. Oh Coriolanus! Do you know it’s ten years almost since I last did it. And now it’s as if….

MRS MATHEWS
You were very unwell after it – do you remember? (KEMBLE shakes his head). Surely you do. I recall Charles having to look after you for a time. Charles? (MATHEWS looks blank).

KEMBLE
All I remember are those awful riots. Black Jack Kemble they called me. How they hissed me off the stage.

MRS MATHEWS
Charles, you must remember. That horrible man Dunlop coming to see you. About his Hottentot. And then the exhibition when….

MATHEWS
(Remembering) The Hottentot – of course. At the exhibition, Kemble. You were very shocked about something or other. The Hottentot lady spoke to you….kept repeating some word to you. What was it?

KEMBLE
That was a strange time. I remember I used to keep dreaming I was in Rome. The whole city was a gigantic stage. Deserted – except that the rabble was always shouting nearby. And in the middle of it was Cleopatra. Completely alone. I think she touched me….that’s all I remember. (Draws his stage sword) They’ll remember me as Coriolanus.

MATHEWS
And they’ll remember me as (stops dead). How will they remember me?

MRS MATHEWS
They’ll say ‘Mr. Charles Mathews performed his At Home on several thousand occasions’…..or however many are recorded in my journal along with the handbills, catalogues, and assorted memorabilia you have to compete with.

MATHEWS
That’s it Kemble. At home for years and years and years. Oh dear.

KEMBLE
What would you have them say?

MATHEWS
How so?

KEMBLE
If you could choose. What would you leave behind? What piece of yourself?

MATHEWS
I’ll leave my head behind. Do you know Cooke sold his head to a theatre in America – a year before he died.

KEMBLE
How like the man. Probably got a good price for it too.

MRS MATHEWS
Did they guillotine him?

MATHEWS
No, they chopped it off after he died. Now it’s playing Yarick all over the place.

MRS MATHEWS
Be sure to return with your head unsold, Charles. In any event, your skull will be too thin by then. Fragile as bone china. No good at all for a prop.

MATHEWS
Quite right. It would be safer in one of Bullock’s glass cases. That’s settled. I won’t leave my head. In fact I won’t leave anything. There won’t be a scrap of anything left to leave. All used up inventing myself inside an endless line of monopolylogues.

KEMBLE
Well, there it is.

MRS MATHEWS
They’re cheering for their Coriolanus.

KEMBLE
Oh………cheering – hissing – it’s all the same now.

MATHEWS
(Embracing KEMBLE) Can I have a souvenir of your benefit?

KEMBLE
Why, of course. What?

MATHEWS
The sandals you wear when you are banished from Rome.

KEMBLE
They shall be yours.
(More cheering)
I come, you common cry of curs, I come. (Exits).

Scene 15: Sartje’s last show

(Screen shows a bright white disc. In front of it is the Hottentot DOLL).

SARTJE
(To DOLL) I cannot show where you have been
unfelt unseen unheard untouched
let it seem to be a dream.

CUVIER
(Voice only) As for the idea that the apron of the Hottentot is the product of art, this idea is now thoroughly refuted. For not only do the female Hottentots possess this excrescence from birth, but there could hardly be pleasure in an artifice associated with such shame and so carefully hidden. Thus, the apron is neither an ornament nor – as many have urged – a special organ. It is, in fact, purely and simply a development of the labia.
I have therefore the honour of presenting to the academy the genital organs of this female, prepared in a manner which leaves no doubt as to the true nature of the Hottentot apron.

SARTJE
I go before you wake.
Twist the water into a shape,
watch yourself being torn
from the sky where I was born,
feel the music in your blood,
eat my shadow in the mud.
Icey water fills my mouth.
Icey water in my mouth.

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