Imágenes de páginas

who made pilgrimages in pursuit of notoriety in some more dangerous pursuit than dress.

O'Keefe (the best-humoured of dramatists) had admirably sketched the would-be beaux of the time in Jemmy Jump's first song (now omitted), beginning

“Look, dear Ma'am, I'm quite the thing;”. and Colman (I think), in a song called “The smart walking Jockey," ridiculed the buck-skin breeches and top-boot mania, in which, however, he himself indulged. In Trudge's last song, we have

" A clerk I was in London gay,

Jemmy, Jemmy, linkum feedle,

And went in boots to see the play ;' an allusion to an indecorum that cannot now be understood by one in ten thousand.

G. F. Cooke and his Keeper.-The style of conviviality that “obtained" when George Frederick Cooke first came upon town might be termed the reign of terror. When the tragedian was intoxicated, he was overbearing, noisy, and insufferably egotistical, asking questions and answering them himself, thus—“ Who am I, Sir ? George Frederick Cooke, Sir.”— What am I, Sir ? The tragedian; not Black Jack, Sir.” Mr. Beverley, of Covent-garden Theatre, was called Cooke's keeper, and the term was not inapplicable; the tragedian, like all bullies, was a cowardBeverley the reverse. Cooke once obtained leave to go to Brighton to play, Beverley pledging himself to bring him back immediately after the performance. All was smooth enough ; Cooke drank but little, for Btreated him like a child, and wouldn't suffer him to have anything but what he prescribed. The play was over, the chaise ready, and B

was arranging either the share of the receipts, or something of that nature, when Cooke escaped. Great was the dismay of Beverley when the tragedian was declared non est inventus; but the keeper was no common man-he was pledged to Harris to bring Cooke back, and dead or alive he would do so. The dens he dipped into, the taverns he ransacked, it were vain to attempt to describe ; as Tubal says, “ he often came where he did hear of him, but could not find him;" at length he pounced upon him, reeking in revelry—“Go back ? and with him? no! a legion should not stir him. Who am I, Sir? George Frederick, Sir; an army shouldn't move me." “Desperate measures call for desperate means.” Beverley rushed through the myrmidons that surrounded Cooke, who, grown valorous in his cups, resisted his keeper, but was at last captured, after having received a blow that had shadowed one of his orbs of vision. B- brought him back, “ Well,” said Harris, “ you have had a pleasant trip, I hope.” “Sir," said Cooke, “when I engaged with you, I didn't know that one of the clauses was that

your bullies should beat me when I didn't do as you ordered.” However, he soon recovered his good-humour, and H., after condoling with him on his black eye, said, “ It won't be noticeable on the stage, under your paint; and you play Iago to-night.” “ Hadn't I better do Othello, Sir,” said George, “ and let Beverley beat the rest of my head black for the occasion ?"

Cooke married a Miss Daniells. Influenced by jealousy, he locked her up in a garret, and in a drunken fit, forgetting everything, absented himself from home-his lady was in danger of starvation-no one was in the house but the prisoner-her cries at length were heard in the street, and by means of a ladder she was released. She was wise enough not to incur the danger a second time, obtained a divorce,' or an annulment of the marriage, and is still living (having wedded happily) at Bath.

At certain periods, Cooke was as mad as any inmate of Bedlam or St. Luke's. In one of his quarrels, a common soldier declined fighting with him because he (C.) was rich, and the persons present would, he affirmed, favour him. “Look ye here, Sir," said Cooke, “ all I possess in the world is here, 3501.;" and he thrust the bank notes into the fire, and held the poker upon them until they were consumed. “ Now I'm a beggar, Sir; will you fight me now?"

Fortune's Freaks.—Where marriages are made, or how lightly and unthinkingly they are made, is no subject for me to dilate on; but such a step taken, or such a step avoided, has changed the current of a life too often. About 1790, or from that period until about 1793, a singer of the appropriate name of Goldfinch (who is still living at an advanced age in Hull) was manager of a small company in Yorkshire. The principal comic actress was Miss Harriet Mellon, now the Duchess of St. Alban's. She was then ardently beloved by a comedian in the same company, and it was generally understood that poverty alone prevented their immediate union. The lady subsequently got a superior engagement, and in season 1794-5 came to London, appearing, I believe, in the January of the latter year, as Lydia Languish. The rest of her " travels' history,” the reader knows better than myself.

Reeve.-Our low comedians have generally been guilty of attempts to pass over the bounds that separate representation from social intercourse, Quick often did it; Edwin followed his example. Munden notoriously, and Liston and Reeve-the latter especially-frequently commit such acts of bad taste. When John Reeve was acting Bombastes, at Bristol, upon being stabbed by Artaxominous, he denied the fairness of the thrust, and appealing to the pit, said, " It is not fair, is it, Sir?” A bald-headed gentleman, who I believe took the whole representation to be serious, and to whom Reeve directed his glance, replied, “I really can't say, for I don't fence."

Signor Grimaldi.-Old Grimaldi (I mean the father of the Grimaldi who made“ Mother Goose” immortal), in common with most of those persons who exhilarate the spirits of others, was of a melancholy, nervous temperament, a ghost-hunter, and believer in all sorts of marvellous absurdities. He lived in Stangate-street, Lambeth (behind Astley's), and often wandered over the then dreary region of St. George's fields with an old bibliopolist, detailing and discussing all the superstitious legends of Germany and Great Britain. A very jolly party used then to assemble at a tavern in St. James's-market, and, to dispel Grimaldi's gloom, a friend took him thither; he soon left the room, saying, “They vas laughed so much, it made him more melancholy, as ever.' His bookselling friend lent him a work called “ The Uncertainty of the Signs of Death,” which so excited his mind with a fear of being buried alive, that in his will he directed that his daughter should, previous to his interment, sever his head from his body. The operation was actually performed in the presence of, though not by, the daughter. He died in 1788. His son, the inimitable clown, is still living (at Woolwich), very decrepit, though only fifty-five years old. As a proof of the morbidity of the Signor's mind upon the subject of interment, he was wont to wander to different churchyards, as Charles Bannister said, to pick out a dry spot to lie snug in. I first saw him meditating over Joe Miller's tombstone in Portugal-street churchyard; and yet, in his ballets and pantomimes, he frequently introduced subjects of this order in a ludicrous way. He orignally invented the celebrated skeleton scene,

now common in all our pantomimes, and first represented the “ Cave of Petrifaction," in which, when any one entered, he was supposed to be struck at once and for ever into the position in which he stood when his unhallowed foot first profaned its boundaries. So prone are many minds to jest in public with the terrors that render their lives bur. densome to them in private.


Consolation to Dramatists.-" The Rivals," “ Three Weeks after Marriage," (then called “ What we must all come to,") “ Fontainbleau," “ Castle of Andalusia," (first called “ Banditti of the Forest,") “ Blue Devils," and that subsequently successful extravaganza “Life in London," were all damned the first night!!!

Emery, Kemble, and others.—When Morton's “ School of Reform accepted, Emery expected, on what grounds I know not, that John Kemble would act Lord Avondale, (a heavy, ineffective part, which poor Cooke, to whom it was assigned, could do nothing with.) After the great hit the comedian made in Tyke, he was accustomed to say that Kemble knew what was in him, and would not trust himself beside him. Once or twice publicly some ill-feeling was displayed by Kemble, which Emery resented wrathfully, and joined George Frederick Cooke in anathematizing “ Black Jack.” A conversation between Incledon, Emery, and Cooke, at the King's Head Inn, Holborn, I once heard, when every ill “ the drama is heir to was attributed to the great Coriolanus, A few words from each may suffice:

Emery." He has no natur; not a bit : but, then, he never wur the feyther of a child, and that accounts for it."

Cooke." With the voice of an emasculated French horn, and the face of an itinerant Israelite, he would compete with me, Sir; me-George Frederick Cooke! Wanted me to play Horatio to his Hamlet, Sir. Let him play Sir Pertinax, Sir; that's all. I should like to hear him attempt the dialect."

Incledon.--" Attempt! The fact is, my dear boys, he'd attempt anything." Here Charles illustrated some of Kemble's attempts in a way the reader must imagine, and that it is impossible to repeat, and wound it up by saying, “ and lastly, he actually attempted to sing! d-n me, in the presence of the national singer of England, -Charles Incledon,-d-n me."

The Bannisters.-J. Bannister when he came out was but a boy. Full of his love for the drama, the pupil of the British Roscius, and son to the greatest extemporaneous humorist of the day, that he should, “ for his worthy old father's sake,” be sought in gay society was little to be wondered at. There were some roaring boys in those times; Suett, Edwin, Dodd, Lamash, and Henderson were all jolly dogs. Charles Bannister was himself a bon vivant, and John was on the high road to be a fast liver when he fell in love. Miss Harper came out the same season as Mr. Bannister, jun., who was then one of the handsomest youths in England, a pet with the public, and a favourite with every one in the theatre. The person who rented the Haymarket Saloon, or Fruit-room as it then was, chid the young actor for his love of company, and advised him to marry. “ Who the deuce would have me, I wonder ?" said he. “ Ask Miss Harper," replied the Mrs. Butler of that day. That John did not implicitly follow this direction there and then may be believed; yet the more he saw of the fair débutante, the more he saw reason to wish that he was worthy of her. She was a beautiful and unaffectedly modest girl; and long ere any declaration of love took place John had altered his course of life. Many were the merry-makings he declined attending: one night, in particular, when all else present were bent on seeing the moon put out of countenance by the morning, John rose to depart at twelve; entreaties were in vain ; go he must, and go he would; nor did he give any very satisfactory answers to the query, “ Your reason, Jack, your reason. Old Charles, however, explained the cause in a quotation from Macbeth, saying, with a significant glance

Harper cries 'tis time, 'tis time.” ... Miss Harper was related to Mr. Rundell, the great jeweller; and about the period of her débût, a Mr. Rundell (as it was said by some, the father, but certainly a near relation of the late jeweller) appeared as King Lear, but without any great success. Though Charles was a musician and á singer, his son John knew nothing of the science, and was dreadfully frightened at any vocal attempt. Suett said to Charles, when “ Inkle and Yarico was rehearsing (in which John, as Inkle, had to sing a duet), “ You should have made him a musician.” I made him a man," said Charles, “ and Heaven has made him a Harper."

Smith, better known as “Gentleman Smith,' married the sister of Lord Sandwich; for some time the union was concealed, but an apt quotation of Charles Bannister elicited the truth. Smith, who was very reserved, evaded the banter of Foote upon the subject, when Charles exclaimed,

“ Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague ?"' Smith was proof against curiosity, but not against wit, and acknowledged his marriage. “Well," said Bannister, “I rejoice that you've got a Sandwich from the family, but if you ever get a dinner from them, d-n me." Charles proved himself a prophet as well as a punster.

Stephen Kemble.—Stephen Kemble was born immediately after the conclusion of the performance of Shakspeare's “ Henry the Eighth,” in a small temporary theatre at Kingstown, Herefordshire, his mother having enacted Anna Bullen that night; and Stephen was ushered into existence at the very period when, according to the play, the Princess Elizabeth is supposed to be born. Stephen married Miss Satchell, and their son Harry followed the dramatic fortunes of his father, for Mrs. S. Kemble was a mother within two hours of her having performed Yarico at the Haymarket theatre. Mr. Stephen Kemble, whose obesity unfitted him for the stage, was an actor of great talent and an amiable man. On one occasion, he offended Incledon, who, having exhausted his memory for some tangible cause for reprehension, at last said, “ In fact, no good can be expected of a fat fellow who-never was shaved in his life." Stephen had no beard.

Astley and Ducrow.--Equestrians are of ancient date; classic lore gives many instances of these “ Centaurs." The performances of Ducrow, however, certainly outstrip competition and exceed all I remember. All these persons are exceedingly ignorant. Poor old Astley used to talk of a Krocker-dile wat stopp d Halexander's harmy, and, when cut hopen, had a man in harmer in its hintellects." He (Astley) had two or three hard words that he invariably misapplied: “pestiferous" he always substituted for “ pusillanimous ;” and he was wont to observe that he should be a ruined man, for his horses ate most vociferously. The present race of gymnastic professors have not cultivated an acquaintance with the schoolmaster. Monsieur Gouffée, the man-monkey, (who was born in the Borough,) received a letter from a poor Frenchman begging for relief. Whether in French or English Gouffée was equally incapable of perusing it; the stage-manager, however, explained to him the nature of its contents, on which he advanced to the Parisian and gave him half-a

Monsieur, vous avez bien de la bonté," exclaimed the receiver, Gouffée, thinking that his supposed countryman was asking for more, said,

It's no use, dang it, for I an't no more silver about me.' Of Ducrow it is told that, when teaching a lady of rank and title, and being intent on preserving or acquiring a character for gentility, he at last said, “ Why, Marm, if you want him (the horse) to jump, you must hold on behind and insinivate the persuaders into his sides.' Of this man's extraordinary courage take one example :—Herr Cline, at rehearsal, declined ascending on the tight rope from the stage to the gallery as a dangerous experiment. Ducrow said, What, Sir, afraid of hurting yourself, I suppose. I'm not pretty, and have nothing to hurt: give me the pole." And, in his duffel dressing-gown and slippers, he ascended and descended, -an attempt


amounting almost to madness, and at which even the practised performers of that theatre shuddered,

Elliston in a private Box.—Elliston, who certainly imitated John Palmer in his manner off the stage, had an affected morality of demeanour which ill accorded with his real life ; in his youth this was peculiarly the case. Charles Incledon said, “There was a capital parson spoiled the day Elliston turned player.” The style of hypocrisy in which the great comedian indulged resembled that of his stage manner, when A was to be deceived in the presence of B. Thus Elliston always appeared to be cajoling one set for the sake of amusing another, rather than for anything to be gained by the

process. When at school, the boys called him “ the young crocodile, for he had tears of contrition ready at the shortest notice. His love-adventures were numerous, and he was not very fortunate or tasteful in the selection of his dulcineas; among others (when he was scarcely eighteen) was a tavern-keeper's dame at Wapping. One day, whilst in earnest conversation with the lady, an alarm was given, and, as it was necessary to conceal Robert William, he was placed in a hasped chest. There was Elliston whilst the lady ran to the bar. Five minutes passed, still the noise continued, nay, increased; he tried to raise the lid, but she had prudently (?) fastened it. He listened, the confusion in the house became more evident: he could hear persons running to and fro; they sought some one;--no. Some calamity had occurred. What? He too soon guessed, for he heard the dripping of water and the cry of “ Fire !" All considerations but those of personal safety vanished; he sought with all his might to extricate himself; in vain: frightful recollections of beings buried alive flashed across his memory; but to be at once buried and burnt was too much, and his struggles were renewed till he sank back helpless and exhausted. " At last," I quote his own words, “ I had nothing for it but patience and prayer.' Prayer," I ejaculated, “ under the circumstances that brought you there, should have been preceded by repentance." “ Sir," he replied, “ I did not pray directly for myself, but that those who were endeavouring to subdue the fire might be induced to take care of the furniture." The fire, which was only trifling, was at length quenched, Elliston's flame underwent the same process, for on the lady releasing him he wended homewards, and never again incurred a similar danger in the same premises.

Munden.- A little while previous to Munden's retirement his health was precarious, and Elliston agreed in consequence to give Munden 10l. per night, instead of a settled weekly salary. The number of nights not being specified, the lessee only called upon the veteran's services when he imperatively required them. This, as Munden recovered, was wormwood to him: however, the time of retribution arrived. His Majesty bespoke a play and farce; Elliston omited Munden's name because the house would assuredly be full to the ceiling, and employing Munden would be throwing 101. away; but in the green-room a notice was affixed desiring “ all the com. pany to attend to sing the national anthem." This was enough; Munden joined the group, and, on the strength of the managerial notice, claimed and received his 107, that night.

Kean and the Kembles.-It has been generally thought that Kean avoided the Kembles, and that they kept aloof from Kean; it was not so. John's pithy remark on his rival's Richard, “ that he seemed terribly in earnest, was at once a criticism and an eulogy. Stephen Kemble and Kean were personal friends, independent of their dramatic intercourse; and in the year 1819, when Drury-lane Theatre was to let, Stephen Kemble came forward at the meeting, to state that “ he was authorized by Mr. Kean to offer 80001, a-year,” After stating that, from Kean's popu

[ocr errors]


« AnteriorContinuar »