Snippets 123. One of the earliest references to the concept of being “fashionably late” can be found in an 1843 edition of an Ohio newspaper, which could tend to suggest that the trend originated in America. In Jonathan and his Continent (1889), French travel writer Max O’Rell certainly seemed to be of the opinion that this was an American phenomenon.
The Americans have an unbearable trick of arriving late at the theatre. For twenty minutes after the curtain rises there is a constant bustling and rustling of new comers, which debars you from the pleasure of following the actors’ speeches. If the play begins at eight, they come at a quarter-past; if it begins at a quarter-past, they come at half-past, and so on. At the time appointed for the curtain to rise the stalls are empty. This bad habit annoys the actors and disturbs the spccteitors ; but the evil is incurable, and managers try vainly to stop it. I know one who followed the advertisements of his play by this paragraph :
“The public arc solemnly warned that, unless the whole of the first scene be witnessed, the subsequent action of the play cannot be understood,”
His efforts were crowned with failure. Not to understand the play is a pity; but not to create a sensation when one comes in, dressed in one’s most killing attire, is out of the question.
It is the same at concerts and lectures. Those who have engaged their seats in advance, come in a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes after the time fixed for commencing. When every one is placed, the concert or lecture begins. The early comers, who have to wait until the late ones have arrived, utter not a murmur. The patience of the American public is angelic.
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