|1. The Touchstone, or Harlequin Traveller (1779)|
Music and text by Charles Dibdin.
Charles Dibdin, The Overture, Songs, Duettos, Chorusses, Dances, Comic-tunes, &c. in the New Speaking Pantomime called The Touchstone (London: printed for S. and A. Thompson, ). RCM Library, H50/3.
A hybrid of dance, song and spectacle, entitled a ‘speaking pantomime’. A synopsis of the plot is given in The Public Advertiser of 5 January 1779. Having escaped a shipwreck, Harlequin is given a magic sword to transport himself away from the dangerous wild beasts who confront him, and a touchstone to make anyone with whom he talks reveal their inmost thoughts. In Italy he finds a friend and a prospective lover to be false, but Colombine to be constant and sincere. His travels with his friend Scaramouche and with Colombine, pursued by his false friends, take him to the customs house at the gates of Paris, and to Pont–Neuf on a ‘rejoicing night’, to Dover, Vauxhall and a gaming–house, which he converts into the Temple of Fortune. An additional scene which satirises London bon ton society, Lady Fashion’s Rout, was added by Hannah Cowley, much to Dibdin’s disgust (see his Professional Life) The pantomime was important in the history of the genre for using spoken dialogue, and because Dibdin mixed the serious and comic elements rather than alternating them, and also because the commedia dell’arte characters interacted with his newly created characters. It was a very popular afterpiece, being performed forty–two times in the first season, then sixteen in the next, and revived at least twice in 1789.