Title: Cody and the Coliseum

Periodical: Omaha Daily Bee

Date: February 16, 1890

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A London Contemporary on Buffalo Bill's Latest Project.


This Editor is Thoroughly Aroused by the Audacious Irreverence of Americans and the Wild West Show.

Thinks Americans Irreverent.

THE BEE is in receipt of a copy of the Rome Herald containing the following item:

"The engineers A. Marchesi and Carlo Stacchini have imagined of organizing some great festivals in the Coliseum next May. Their idea is to construct in the Coliseum a number of seats for every class of spectators and to board over the center to its proper level. Then to arrange horse races, Roman representations, and performances with Buffalo Bill's company, which is to be in Rome by that time."

As will be seen the style of English employed on that journal of the City of the Cæsars is somewhat unique.

Commenting on the proposed exhibition in the Coliseum the London Telegraph says:

"It is, we are told, the 'cherished wish' of Buffalo Bill to appear with his troupe in the Coliseum. As far as can be gathered, this cherished wish remains still in the stage of pious aspiration which has as yet received no promise of fulfillment; but the London correspondent of a provincial contemporary who gives currency to the report is unable to say anything more definite to the contrary than that 'he trusts it will not be realized.' So guarded a statement of the case would almost suggest the belief that Colonel Cody is actually in treaty for the hire of the Flaviam amphitheater, and that the Roman municipality is wavering between acceptance and refusal of some glittering offer on the part of their tempter.

"Our age is perhaps not specially remarkable for reverence, any more than the great American people are conspicuous for that quality among all the nations of the earth. There have before this, moreover, been ominous broachings from time to time of the disastrous project of holding theatrical representations of the Roman games on the sacred spot in question. Nevertheless, we can hardly imagine that the correspondents' anticipatory protest against the indecent proposals of which he has notified us will go unechoed. A pretty general response ought to be given to the declaration that an arena 'saturated with the blood of Christian martyrs is too august for an exhibition of this class,' and that 'the bare idea of the Old Kentucky coach careering round the grand ruin is enough to fill one with horror.' The only cause of anxiety we can perceive is to be found in the possibility that the municipal authorities may have already become so demoralized by their own past dealings with the sacred spot in question as to be indifferent to the slender remains of sanctity which they have left to it. "Antiquarian investigation,' so called, has already done so much to desecrate it that it may perhaps be regarded as a not unfitting field by this time for the evolutions of the colonel's troupe. The cowboy,after all,might not be much worse than the archæological 'sapper' who has been allowed to work his will for years past upon this seed plot of Christianity watered with the blood of the faithful. Excavations, by which antiquarian science has added little if anything of novelty to its already accumulated stores of knowledge, have effected changes in the external aspect of the venerable arena which those familiar with the appearance that it presented for centuries to the pious pilgrim from every quarter of Christendom can never cease to regret. The motive, however, with which these changes have been made was, if a mistake, a respectable one, and the descent from it to the instinct to which Buffalo Bill is appealing, apparently in expectation of success, would be deplorable indeed. No doubt the municipality of Rome might make a 'good thing' of it if they were to accept the showman's proposal. The 'Wild West at the Coliseum' would form a most attractive announcement on a 'poster,' and the entertainment could hardly fail to 'draw.' To a certain order of mind, indeed, the notion of the 'Old Kentucky' coach careering around the grand old ruin; would have a piquancy all its own. The admirers of a recent effort of Transatlantic 'humor' who have been tickled by the adventures of the 'Yankee at the court of King Arthur' would doubtless enjoy the association of the cowboy and the Christian martyr; and the services of Mark Twain, who has lately handled with such exqusite facetiousness the noblest legend of chivalry in all literature, might very appropriately be engaged in the capacity of clown. After all, however, we may hope that the vulger imaginations and childish understandings which can be amused by such brutal high-jinks are even in this era limited in number, and beyond that comparatively restricted circle they could provoke nothing but disgust.

"The new experiment in sensationalism which the ingenious Colonel Cody is said to be attempting is capable, it will be at once perceived, of extended application. He had aimed high at the outset, it is true; and, if he had his way in this instance, he could perhaps score no subsequent success which would not savor somewhat of an anti-climax. The place which he covets for his new 'pitch' is no doubt unique of its kind. We might look in vain, out of the Holy Land—which, moreover, has been appropriated as a 'pitch' by Dr. Talmage—for any spot so signally hallowed at once by secular and by religious associations as the Coliseum. Still there are many other places in the world which are held sacred in their several degrees by the reverence of humanity; and the showman with an eye to business will soon have that eye upon them all. In Greece and Egypt, in many of the seats of ancient Rome power, in our own country, and scattered here and there over the continent of Europe an abundance of such spots are to be found. Temples of an extinct worship, cathedrals of a living faith, timeworn palaces and fortresses of vanished or of still enduring empires exist in goodly number throughout the civilized world, and might with great advantage to the 'bosses' of various shows be hired for the class of entertainments to which they are best suited—here for the performance of a popular pulpit orator, there for the display of 'daring equestrian acts,' and there again for the exhibition of the wonders of the 'traveling museum.' The takings in the way of gate-money would in each case be inevitably large, and the satisfaction afforded to the modern love of profane incongruity would be extreme. If Buffalo Bill succeeds in hiring the Coliseum, what a vista of possibilities will open before the emulous gaze of Mr. Barnum. The competition for our own eligible outdoor sites, or commodious historic edifices, from Stonehenge to Westminster Abbey,should become keen indeed. It is, however, to be hoped that the master of the Wild West show will not be allowed thus to get the start of his rivals, and to inspire them with the ambition, to use a phrase with which his countrymen have generously enriched our language, of 'going one better.' The author of the report from which we have just quoted concludes with the remark that 'for her own sake Rome must prevent this sacrilege,' and the statement that 'Buffalo Bill and his troupe will probably appear in London this season once more.' We gladly accept the omen of the former anticipation, and receive the latter with equanimity. Buffalo Bill may return, if he likes, and can secure it, to his old 'pitch' at Earl's court; but we sincerely trust that he will fail to obtain the one that he is trying for in Rome. The western cowboy is an interesting public performer, and may be in many cases a worthy man in private life; but the Coliseum is not exactly the place for him, as we hope he will be promptly and very decidedly told."