by William Makepeace Thackeray
BEFORE THE CURTAIN
As the manager of the Performance sits before the curtain
on the boards and looks into the Fair, a feeling of profound
melancholy comes over him in his survey of the bustling place.
There is a great quantity of eating and drinking, making love
and jilting, laughing and the contrary, smoking, cheating,
fighting, dancing and fiddling; there are bullies pushing about,
bucks ogling the women, knaves picking pockets, policemen
on the look-out, quacks (OTHER quacks, plague take them!)
bawling in front of their booths, and yokels looking up at
the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers, while the
light-fingered folk are operating upon their pockets behind.
Yes, this is VANITY FAIR; not a moral place certainly; nor a
merry one, though very noisy. Look at the faces of the actors
and buffoons when they come off from their business; and
Tom Fool washing the paint off his cheeks before he sits down
to dinner with his wife and the little Jack Puddings behind
the canvas. The curtain will be up presently, and he will be
turning over head and heels, and crying, "How are you?"
A man with a reflective turn of mind, walking through an