Books: England's Darlings

ENGLISH ECCENTRICS (376 pp.)—Dome Edith Sitwell—Vanguard ($5).

Robert Coates, self-styled "Gifted Amateur," was not just a bad actor—he was so execrable that Londoners of the early 19th century fought at the box office to see his performances. Groundlings came to the theater carrying almost every conceivable throwable object,* causing such terror among Mr. Coates's fellow actors that they invariably skewed and pied all the best-known lines of the great tragedies, transforming them into matchless comedies. Coates himself cared little for the lines but much for his costumes: playing Romeo on one occasion, he cried, "Oh, let me hence, I stand on sudden...

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