英日対訳:トーマス・ビーチャム自叙伝「A Mingled Chime」第3章・「おませさん」だった頃 ( 1/2 )









It was not until a year or two later that the event occurred which threw all the previous excitements of my life well into the shade. This was the arrival in my home of a gigantic object, as big as the side of a cottage, which reproduced not too inaccurately the sound and effect of an orchestra of forty or forty-five players. This super-musical box performed symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven, preludes and selections from the operas of Verdi, Rossini, and Wagner, and miscellaneous pieces of a dozen other composers great and small. As the young Walt Wliitman learned the meaning of song from the birds of the South that sang to him, a child on that lonely beach of Long Island, their carols of joy and despair; so I, listening every day to the magical sounds that rolled about my ears, began to comprehend something of the grandeur and pathos, of the fire and tenderness that dwelt in the souls of those masters dead and gone. I had each piece played again and again until I would strum or whistle it by heart, and consumed with the desire to hear these glorious outpourings in their integrity, I importuned my parents with tenacity until I had gained my point. To my going to concerts there was no really serious opposition although, as they were nearly all given at night, it meant late hours and a carriage drive of seven miles each way between our home and Liverpool. But the opera house was a very different matter, and many were the family consultations before it was conceded that I was old enough for such a high adventure. For in those days there were sharply divided opinions about the stage in our part of the kingdom, and if anyone had then prophesied that within half a lifetime it would come to be regarded as the most moral and respectable of British institutions, he would certainly have run the risk of being locked up as an outrageous lunatic. 




When I pay my visits, all too rare, to the blameless entertainment provided by our lyric and comedy theaters, when I hear that ultra-refinement of speech, and view that decorous restraint of action, both of which have become models for the young people of our best families, I find it hard to believe that all this was once an offense and stumbling-block to millions of my countrymen. In a play I saw some years back the heroine puzzled me by her cautious interpretation of a part which was crying out for a strong infusion of what our American cousins elegantly call “pep”; and as I knew she was not without talent I expressed a little surprise to the lady sitting next to me. She agreed, but considered  

that there was good and sufficient reason for it, as the subject of my criticism was shortly to be joined in matrimony with the scion of a noble family owning decided views about the demeanor in public of its female members. As this thrilling piece of information was imparted to me with an obvious touch of compassion for my ignorance of such important matters, I did my best to be suitably impressed, although I could not help adding that the intimate link connecting the two hitherto independent (but not mutually excluding) entities, propriety and the peerage, was something wholly new to me. But what was obscure in my case seemed clear enough to everyone else. For on the evening following the publication of the happy news, the dear chocolate-munching, paper-bag-rustling, and teaspoon-dropping creatures of the pit greeted the fortunate young lady on her entrance with a thundering ovation. The enthusiasm spread to the stalls and boxes, old gentlemen entirely unacquainted with one another arose solemnly and shook hands, and even the orchestra betrayed an emotion which had been conspicuously wanting in their rendering of the incidental music. It was one of those occasions that reflect credit on us as a people of sentiment and character, and several minutes elapsed before the piece could resume its ordinary course. Some of us, dating from a rougher and ruder generation, may have a nervous feeling that this continued process of keying down is being carried a fraction too far, and that there appears to be looming in the near distance the pale specter of a universal anaemic gentility. But we are probably wrong, and anyway what are such trumpery losses when set off against the immense gain in purification and uplift! It is pretty certain that we English are the only nation which is one hundred per cent sound about this sort of thing, and it must be a comfort to many that, although in the years preceding 1939 we seemed to have lost the desire to impose the way of peace upon a distracted world, we were resolute that the pretensions of Art must yield place to those of Society. 




But in those earlier days of which I am writing, I knew dozens of nice sensible persons who had never been inside a theater, and whom no material inducement could ever have enticed there. Concerts possibly, especially if an oratorio was in the program, but the play never. Some ancient prejudices expire as slowly and painfully as the Pickwickian frog, as I discovered a generation later when conducting the Choral Society of a large town in the neighborhood of Manchester. At the close of the concert I received a deputation from the ladies of the choir who wished to ask a favor of me. Would I write to the secretary of the Society that in my opinion a number of attendances at my annual opera season, which was then running in Manchester, was indispensable to the completion of their musical education? Inquiring the object of all this, I was told that none of them had yet been allowed to see a performance, as the right sort among their people never went to the theater. But there was the birth of an idea that opera might be less baneful in its influence than other forms of entertainment, and this promising revolution in public opinion could be expedited by a word or two from me. I have a very particular esteem for this enterprising town and its amiable chapel-going citizens, for out of the hundreds, it may be thousands, of letters I have written publicly and privately in support of some musical cause or other, this is one of the few which ever obtained a tangible result. Shortly afterwards a great battle was fought and won, and the fruits of victory included a special train, provided by the railway company to transport a numerous band of operatic pilgrims to the shrine of their devotions and the innocent enjoyment of that chaste master piece, La Traviata. 




As nearly all those who fall heavily in love profess to find their faculties stimulated in every direction, and to discover a fresh color and meaning in all they see or hear, even so had the revelation of the beauty and eloquence of great music a like effect on me. I became attentive to my lessons in school, worked a bit on my own at home, developed sensibilities and sensitivenesses which troubled a little my elders, and ceased to find enjoyment in the books which most boys of my age would be found reading at that time. An uncle, my father’s younger brother, was living in our village, and it was his custom every Sunday afternoon to retire to his library, where he remained absorbed in some book or other until dinner time. He frequently visited our house to play billiards and, discovering there a kindred spirit, took to inviting me to lunch and a reading seance with him afterwards. These occasions became an institution with me, continuing over several years until he left to settle in London, and the number of books I got through must have been prodigious. There was hardly a novelist big or small of the nineteenth century that I did not dive into and digest, both those of English and of foreign celebrity, although my choice of the latter was determined by their fitness to be placed in my hands. My decided preference was for the more vivid and picturesque style of the French masters like Victor Hugo, and it was over his Quafre-Vingt-Treize, my especial favorite, that I fell into temporary disgrace with my sympathetic relative. In spite of a gentleman’s agreement between us, I surreptitiously abstracted the work from its shelf, intending to return it before he should discover its disappearance. But alas, I left it in our garden where I had been re-reading it for the fifth or sixth time; that day it rained hard, the unfortunate volume, which was elegantly bound and one of a set, was completely ruined, and several weeks passed before I was restored to favor.