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author of the new piece—I walked upon air. But as the evening drew nigh, I felt that aching pain of anxiety, which, in other days, such interests could excite; and when it was time to go to the theatre, I scarcely knew whether I should be able to endure the trial.
After the opera of “ Inkle and Yarico” came my drama. I was placed in the manager's box, allotted the seat of honour behind the treillage, favoured by the presence of two of the handsomest and most agreeable ladies in London, and treated in the kindest possible manner. Overture over-curtain up— I listened to my own words fearfully and tremblingly; not that I heard quite so many of them as I had confidently expected, seeing that most of the low comedians substituted, for what they had not learned, speeches and dialogues, not one word of which I had written; indeed, during the greater part of the first act, the voice of the prompter was more generally audible than those of the actors. Still, however, we went on smoothly, but not with that spirit which I had anticipated ; and when the curtain fell, at the close of the first act, the audience gave no signs of either approbation or sent, and the only sound which I heard in any degree indicative of popular opinion, was the loud twanging of an elderly gentleman's nose, who was fast asleep, with his head reclined against the partition of the box in which we sat.
The second act began, and in the middle of the second scene of it, several parties removed themselves from the lower boxes, evidently tired with what was going on. Would that the gods in the galleries had been equally well bred! their patience, however, was not proof against my drollery-one point of which, a cant phrase by my hero, Sir Jeremy Boot-top, of “How d'ye knowdon't you think so ?” appeared, after innumerable repetitions, to make the first seat in the pit angry--they began to groan, and then to answer Sir Jeremy's questions, with shouts of No, no, n10!”—these, by a natural transition, were converted into cries of “ Off, off, off!” and at a quarter after eleven o'clock, the green curtain of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, descended upon my condemned farce, and concluded my career as a dramatic author.
I had anticipated a triumph-I had encountered a defeat. It was in vain I cracked the joke of “ laudatur ab hiss,"—in vain affected to laugh at my own disaster. I rejected the gay supper which had been prepared to await the successful young author, and rečurned to my lodgings ashamed to look even the servants in the face; I hurried to bed, in the full consciousness of my failure, and the certain malevolence of the accounts of that failure, as they would appear the next day in the criticisms of the newspapers. I slept little—I made a hundred different resolves—I hoped at least my name would be kept secret-I anticipated the misery of my poor mother at the publicity of my overthrow, in which she, of course, would find ample ground for congratulating herself upon her unheeded efforts to save me from such an exposure. I at length determined to fly the scene of my mortification as soon as possible, and by nine o'clock I had quitted my lodgings, and was on my road to the maternal roof at Teddington.
RECORDS OF A STAGE VETERAN.
What a volume is lost to the world when any man who has mingled with his fellow-men dies and makes no sign ! He who has known and passed half a century with such persons as Palmer, Suett, Quick, Henderson, Macklin, Kemble, Edwin, Parsons, Munden, Bannister, Dibdin, Holcroft, Andrews, Merry, and Topham, must have been dull indeed, if his memory be not peopled with things impressed on it by their quips and cranks. If he has registered the stories of many-coloured life which these histrionics have given in all their vitality, when many a long day since they or their successors have wandered tome in hand by the hedgerow side studying the pages they were afterwards to render doubly beautiful by their magic art ; if, I say, he then quoted down the oft-told tale, he can console himself, even though his name be now unnoted, that he did not live idly, or fail to do something towards the great book of human feelings of which experience furnishes the incidents. Actors are illustrated anecdotes ; their lives are but a series of little incidents that mock the form of regular biography. Mathews learnt his art by his fondness for retailing anecdotes, which, at an early age, forced upon him the practice of imitation; and of Mathews it may be truly said that he has forgotten more than most others ever knew. Many years ago, the writer of these pages formed the resolution of noting in a diary all he heard (no matter from whom) that was worthy of record; on the following day he has often blotted out the idle detail, wondering that he could have perpetuated such follies; and, now, after forty years' reflection, his great regret (a regret in which some celebrated persons have cordially acquiesced) is that he neglected to note much more, or, having done so, wa ever tempted to destroy it. To a superior mind, to a more gifted pen, should have been given the task of selecting from the mass of matter, and, having selected, the duty of clothing the incidents in language adapted to the nature of the various characters and subjects; but the diary that contained the stories told by all the most celebrated children of the drama-(including authors and dramatic critics)— which would have extended over a long London and provincial life, and included the very words uttered by them in various places and at divers times, from the year 1778 to 1827, must have been at once voluminous and valuable. Alas! our resolutions are easily made if words were indeed things; but for the fulfilment of these good resolves, the writer may now say
'Tis number'd with the things o'er past
Would, would it were to come ! He has heard Henderson complain of the tyranny and exclusiveness of Garrick ; Cooke attribute his non-success in life to his spirit having been broken by the lack of friends, when he applied to Colman for an appearance, and was told that his attempt to rival Henderson would be ridiculous ; has listened to the great George Frederick when he was self-debating whether he should give up the stage and enlist as a common soldier-nay, heard the answer given that, all things considered, it was the best thing he (Cooke) could do. The writer witnessed the early efforts of Kemble, and (he says it not boastfully) relieved the early distresses of Kean. It is not yet too late to snatch from the wreck of his recollection much that is amusing; and though the cherished purpose of his boyhood, the diary that would, if duly kept, have rivalled the “Encyclopædia Britannica” in quantity, be shrunken down to two or three scrap-books, and, perhaps, as many hundred scattered memoranda, he is philosopher enough to feel that consciousness of being unable to accomplish all we hoped is a powerful reason for attempting all we can. Ere “ memory, the warder of the brain," grows
weak, let me conclude this long exordium, and to my scraps. Thus then at random for a taste of the quality of the diary.
Henderson said all the stage-business of the old plays was traditional ; that if I looked at the old paintings, I should find that when “Hamlet saw the ghost, he, Horatio, Marcellus, Bernardo and the spirit, were all in the same relative situations now, that they were represented to be in, in sketches made in Booth or Betterton's time.
[This was true then (1781), and is true even to the present day.]
The same thing has been since said of acting; and I remember G. F. Cooke striking Phillimore for saying that he (Cooke) had founded his Falstaff on Henderson's. I well remember that Henderson was said to imitate Love (the original proprietor of the Richmond Theatre); and whilst preparing these few pages for publication, I have referred to a biography of Mr. Love, dated 1772 *, which contains this passage :
“He is extremely useful in many parts of comedy, and seems to be the only imitator of Quin's manner now existing his chief excellence lies in Falstaff.”
Thus, then, assuming that Henderson did form his Falstaff from the model he beheld in Love-that Love copied Quin-Quin was seventeen when Betterton died, and was contemporaneous with Barton Booth for some years—Betterton was fellow apprentice with Kynaston, to Rhodes, the original patentee of the Cockpit Theatre in Drury-lane; and in 1662, Betterton was an actor under the management of Sir W. Davenant, (whose connexion, whatever may be thought of the relationship, with Shakspeare, and those who originally acted in his plays, is well known,)-we may trace a traditionality, perhaps, in the style of representing Falstaff; for in 1815, the inimitable Mathews once or twice represented Falstaff in professed and acknowledged imitation of Cooke.
I have chosen to give the above extract from the diary in support of my assertion, that such a book would now have been most valuable; but at present shall deal in a few lighter extracts from the memoranda of youthful days. My own history I shall not intrude upon the reader, farther than to say that, in manifold capacities as amateur, as actor, and manager, I have had great opportunities of collecting traits of characters and anecdotes of celebrated persons,—whether I have or have not availed myself of it the public will determine.
Suett.—The actors of a bygone day had a characteristic humour; the public then thought more of their sayings, cared less for their doings ; men would rather record in my time the bright things or the merry stories that Suett uttered, than delight in expatiating on his love of the lasses or the bottle. It was impossible to remain for any length of time angry with him; he had about him an "unconsciousness of offending" that disarmed you; it is not generally known that Dickey, in a comic part, nearly damned “ Pizarro" the first night-but so it was; the part was ill-written, and its introduction ill-timed; and most furiously did the public hiss it. Sheridan was distracted, and Dicky, with the utmost gravity, said, “This comes of putting me into a German drama. You know, Sir, I know nothing of German."
Tate Wilkinson, when York was the nursery where genius learned to soar, was always most anxious to secure a comedian who could give a faithful picture of rustic manners. Suett, Fawcett, Emery, Mathews, and Knight, were successively the low comedians of the York circuit; and, different as their styles were, all justly esteemed as admirable in the personations of
* "Theatrical Biography," 2 vols. 12mo. S. Bladon, Paternoster-row, 1772. Mr. Love (whose real name was Dance) built the theatre of which poor Kean died lessee. Love was patronized by Sir Robert Walpole, and mingled poetry, politics, and performing, profitably enough. He died (1774) in the same chamber where the great tragedian breathed his last, nearly sixty years afterwards.
Clowns *. When Emery first came to London, his extreme simplicity and frankness of manner and his fine full dialect were glorious weapons in Suett's hands, who hoaxed the York laddie to the great delight of his brethren and “several persons of distinction.' Unfortunately, many of Suett's stories are unprintable, and much that he told was a vast invention hung upon a slender thread of fact. One instance, however, I remember from the pure simplicity of Emery's reply: some one had interested Emery very much respecting the dissipations of a gentleman, well known to each, whose father, a Yorkshire landholder, was averse to his son's dramatic notions ; Emery followed the thread of the narrative, entering into the grief of the mother and the sister, till the narrator came to—“At last, Sir, the father said, • Robert, your conduct will bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.'" “ That wean't do, Mr. said John, “dean't I know that tould chap's been bald these ten years ?”
Forty years since, “ere the schoolmaster was abroad," some of the Bonifaces had strange notions of grammatical accuracy-this was glorious work for Dicky—who had (not unjustly) the reputation of being a learned clerk; he wrote an affiche for an innkeeper at Folkstone in these words ;
“ To Travellers.-Return chaises stop here going and coming. The humorists of whom Suett was a scion have disappeared from the busy haunts of pleasure; the few of that school who remain on earth are fallen into the sere and yellow leaf; the boon punch-bowl companions ; the practical jesters (using that word in its extended sense, and not as merely applied to personal aggression), the “quoters ” and the “nick-namers, are no longer of this world, or the few lingerers are preparing for a world to
Do you remember, reader, when the portal of a tavern in Russellstreet bore this invitatory inscription :
“ Will you walk out of the air ?"- Hamlet. Have
noted-if you have even a twenty years old memory you may have done so-a dial against Temple-hall, Paper-buildings, with this laconic injunction ?
“Begone about your business." Such a thing would be unheeded now and deemed unworthy of an Utilitarian age-may be so; I can but say with Adam Winterton
“It was exceeding pleasant, hy St. Thomas.” Poor Suett had no wit, but an infinitude of humour. Davis's strange simile on Dr. Johnson's laughter has been often recorded ; but I am not aware that a phrase containing almost as odd a metaphor has ever been printed--poor Parsons said that Suett walked like a camel-leopard.
Kemble and a Dramatic Aspirant.- Mr. Wilson, better known as Mr. Manley, who has for many years been the lessee of several theatres in the provinces, was in his youth a sturdily-framed Hibernian blood,-a roaring blade,—with a thick brogue, shoulders of extreme amplitude, and limbs to match. In the very early part of John Philip Kemble's management, Mr. Manley was anxious to make his débūt. Kemble, after some delay, agreed to hear him if he would call at the theatre (Drury-lane) on a certain morning. True as the clock, Manley went. Unfortunately, a Nobleman devoted to theatricals (Earl P-) was then with the tragedian; however, Manley had come there to give a taste of his quality, and, plase the pigs, he would.” After a delay, that had not sweetened the temper of the novice,
* In 1780, Suett appeared as Ralph, (“Maid of the Mill;"') Fawcett was the original Robin Roughhead; Emery appeared as Frank Oatlands, (“Cure for the Heart-Ache;") Mathews and Liston played rustics in their metropolitan career ; Knight appeared as Robin Roughhead; and Munden was the original Zekiel Homespun. Until within the last twenty years, a low comedian, who could not successfully assume the rustic, was a thing unbeard of.
Kemble crossed through the ante-room (where M. was) to show the Earl out. Mr. Cambell! Mr. Cambell!" said the impatient débutant; and, with a rapidity that defied interruption, unfolded the purpose of his visit, the length of time he had been detained, &c. His manner was such, that had there not dwelt a danger in his mien, his hearers must have roared outright; but Kemble, in heart and soul, as well as the mere manner, was a.gentleman; he begged the Earl to excuse him whilst he heard Mr..M.
Pray allow me also to have that pleasure," said his Lordship; denial was impossible. They proceeded to the stage; the tenacity of the gentleman from the Emerald Isle observed, or imagined, the winks, blinks, and nudges of the Peer and the manager; and wrought up to wrath ere the trial commenced, he began to exhibit his notion of “ Hamlet":
“ Och ! that this too, too solid flesh would melt.” Before the soliloquy was concluded, the Earl had nearly swallowed his pocket-handkerchief, and poor Kemble bit his lips till they bled, to prevent à burst of laughter that would have compromised their dignity and wounded the amateur's feelings. To give the Earl time to recover, Kemble asked for another specimen; with an eye kindling like a coal, M.complied :
Spake the spache I pray ye as I pronounced it to you" to the conclusion of the direction to the players. So far the story tells better for the forbearance of Kemble and the Earl than for the powers of Mr. Manley; but he was not the man to quit the scene without letting his auditors know that he saw he was the subject of ridicule. In reply to Mr. Kemble's “ You shall hear from me, Sir, if any vacancy in your line should occur," M. said, “ I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Cambell and my Lord, you've been amusing yourselves at my expense some time--and now will aither of ye fight ?"
[Mr. M. tells this story with admirable humour; but to hear John Kemble detail it, in his quiet asthmatic manner, must have been delicious.]
The Licenser's youthful days. It is fifty years exactly, this spring(1834), since I first saw George Colman “ the younger," on the first night of the representation of his first dramatic attempt ; he was then a slim lad (I suppose about eighteen or nineteen), fidgeting and fuming about the house ; though, he being the manager's son, everything had been done to ensure success. It was an operatic farcical drama, called “Twoto One," the music being old airs (amongst them “ Yankee Doodle," Maggie Lauder, Ha, ha, the wooing o't,” and “ Hey, let us a' to the Bridal ")-Charles Bannister, the great humorist and bass singer, Edwin, and Miss George, who afterwards became Lady Oldmixon, had parts. The songs given to the lady were so full of ribaldry as to be untransferable to print now. This was followed by a less successful dramatic effort, and two or three years after, “ Inkle and Yarico" came out. The author was then a boon companion of the macaronies of the day, and in garb and manner by no means the “ dapper temple student” he somewhere describes himself. When “Ways and Means" came out, it grew the fashion to rail at young Colman as a mere punster; and afterwards, when he produced the Battle of Hexham" (1789), the tide turned again, and he was actually called “ The modern Shakspeare.” The next year Edwin died, and with him perished many parts (Lingo and Gregory Gubbins amongst others). Munden, who succeeded him, and who had the character of a miser in his later days, was, in imitation of his predecessor, one of the most elaborate dressers of the day, and was for many years known by the title of “ Beau Munden,” Almost every public man, or indeed any one whose person was well-known in the Park, had a nick-name; one was termed“ Tom Taste,” another “ Dick Dashall,” whilst the more sulphureous appellations of “Hell-fire Harry," &c. &c., were bestowed on persons Aug. --VOL. XLI. NO. CLXIV.