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Their Majesties' Servants (Volume 3 of 3) By John Doran Characters: 41747

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

The players of the Garrick period and the years immediately succeeding it, followed in due time their great master. Of these, Samuel Reddish was a player of that great epoch, who, for some especial parts, stood in the foremost rank. We first hear of him in the season of 1761-62, strengthening Mossop's company in Smock Alley, Dublin, by his performance of Etan, in the "Orphan of China." Of his origin, no one knows more than what he published of himself in the Irish papers,-that he was "a gentleman of easy fortune." This description was turned against him by his old enemy, Macklin, on one occasion, when Reddish in a part he was acting, threw away an elegantly-bound book, which he was supposed to have been reading. Macklin's comment was that, however unnatural in the character he was representing, it was quite consistent in Mr. Reddish himself, who, "you know, has advertised himself as a gentleman of easy fortune."

In September 1767, Reddish first appeared in London, at Drury Lane, as Lord Townly, to Mrs. Abington's "My Lady." A few nights after, he played Posthumus to the Imogen of Mrs. Baddeley. It was in this last character that he took his melancholy leave of the stage at Covent Garden, shaken in mind and memory, on the 3d of May[30] 1779; Mrs. Bulkley was then the Imogen. His career in London was but of twelve years, and it might have been longer and more brilliant but for that fast life which consumed him,-and for one illustration of which, when he was rendered incapable of acting, he made humble apology on the succeeding evening.

Within those dozen years, Sam Reddish played an infinite variety of characters, from tragedy to farce. Among those he originated were Darnley ("Hypocrite,") Young Fashion ("Trip to Scarborough"), and Philotas ("Grecian Daughter"). As an actor, his voice and figure were highly esteemed in Dublin, but the latter was not considered so striking in London. I gather from his critics, that Reddish was easy and spirited; that he spoke well in mere declamatory parts, but, for want of feeling and variety in the play of his features, failed in parts of passion. His most attractive character was Edgar, in "King Lear;" Posthumus stood next; he thought Romeo was one of his happiest impersonations, but the public preferred his Macduff and Shylock. As Alonzo ("Revenge") he made a favourable impression; his Castalio, Lothario, and Orlando were indifferent, and his Alexander bad. Reddish was, however, an impulsive actor, often feeling more than the immobility of his features would permit him to show; and he endeavoured to make up for it by violence and impetuosity of action. He was once acting Castalio, when the part of his brother Polydore was played by Smith. In the last act of the "Orphan," Polydore gives his brother the lie, calls him "coward!" adds "villain!" and at length so exasperates Castalio that the latter, drawing his sword, exclaims, "This to thy heart, then, though my mother bore thee!" and before Smith was well ready for the fight, Reddish thrust his sword into him and stretched him bleeding on the stage. The next words Castalio should have uttered were, "What have I done? My sword is in thy breast!" but the poor fellow could only exclaim, "My sword was in thy breast!" and the play came to an end. Smith, however, did not die (as in the play) with a "How my head swims! 'tis very dark! good night!" He recovered of his wounds, and lived to die again.

When Churchill said, "With transient gleam of grace Hart sweeps along," he was praising the lady whom Reddish married soon after he came to London, and who lost the "transient gleam" in ungracefully growing fat. His second wife was a woman of very different quality,-a respectable, but impoverished, widow in Mary-le-bone, named Canning, whose first husband had, in 1767, published a translation of the first book of Cardinal Polignac's Anti-Lucretius. The widow Canning's son, George, subsequently became Prime Minister of England, "for giving birth to whom," says Genest, "she was in due time rewarded with a handsome pension," which she enjoyed as Mrs. Hunn, down to 1827. Reddish, I suppose, met with her on the stage of Drury Lane, where the lady made her first public appearance (6th of November 1773) in "Jane Shore," Reddish playing her husband; while Garrick acted Hastings, at the request of several ladies of rank who patronised Mrs. Canning. She repeated Jane Shore, and subsequently played Perdita to the Florizel of "gentle" Cautherley,-who was said to be a natural son, certainly a well-trained pupil of Garrick. Her next part was Mrs. Beverley to Garrick's Beverley; her fourth, Octavia (in "All for Love") to the Antony of Reddish, whose wife she became, or at least is said to have become, at an unlucky season. As early as the year 1773, Reddish exhibited one symptom of the malady which compelled him ultimately to retire, namely the want of memory, which indicates weakness of the brain. In March of that year, he played Alonzo, in Home's tragedy so called; he was the original representative of the part. Although Alonzo is the hero, he does not appear till the play is half over, and when the piece came to nearly that point on the particular night, Reddish was missing; a riot ensued, and his part was read by one of the Aikins. Just before the curtain fell, the truant appeared, declaring that he had only just remembered that it was not an oratorio night. His comrades believed him, and for fear the public should be less credulous he ran from the theatre to Bow Street Office, and there, in presence of Sir Sampson Wright, made oath to that effect. The affidavit was published the next day, and he thereto adds, "that this unhappy mistake may not be misconstrued into a wilful neglect of his duty, he most humbly begs pardon of the public for the disappointment." The public forgave him, and received him kindly on his next appearance. His wife, who was a favourite in the provinces, was ultimately hissed from the stage of Old Drury.

Gradually, his memory grew more disturbed, till it could no longer be at all relied on. During the season 1777-78, he was incapable of acting, and was supported by the fund. In the following season, he essayed Hamlet, but it was almost as painful as the Ophelia of poor, mad Susan Mountfort. Later in the season, in May 1779, the managers gave him a benefit, when "Cymbeline" was acted, and Reddish was announced for Posthumus. An hour or two before the play began, he called at a friend's house, vacant, restless, and wandering. Some one congratulated him on being well enough to play. "Aye, sir! and I shall astonish you in the garden scene!" He thought he was to act Romeo. He could neither be persuaded nor convinced to the contrary, for a long time, and then only to fall into the old delusion. "Am I to play Posthumus? I'm sorry for it, but what must be, must be!" and then he walked to the theatre, his friend accompanying him, and pitying the poor fellow, who went on rehearsing Romeo, by the way. He was so impressed by his false idea, that his colleagues of the green-room, who had vainly striven to keep him to Posthumus, saw him go to the wing, with the expectation on their part that he would look for Benvolio's cue, "Good morrow, cousin!" and would be prepared to answer, "Is the day so young?" With that expectation, they pushed him on the stage,-where the old situation wrought a temporary cure in him. To the welcoming applause he returned a bow of modest respect, and by the time the Queen had uttered the words-

"'twere good

You leaned unto his sentence with what patience

Your wisdom may inform you,-"

his eye had lighted up, and he answered with calm dignity-

"Please your highness,

I will from hence to-day,"

and went through the scene with more than his usual ability. But he had no sooner passed the wing than the old delusion returned; he was all Romeo, waiting for and longing to begin the garden scene with-

"Soft! what light from yonder window breaks?

It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!"

And many were the fears that at his second going on, he would be disturbed. He stood dreamingly waiting at the side, but when Philotas had exclaimed, "Here comes the Briton! Let him be so entertained amongst you as suits with gentlemen of your knowing, to strangers of his quality,"-Reddish was Posthumus again, and to the remark of the Frenchman,-"Sir, we have known together in Orleans," he replied in the clear, level tone which distinguished him,-"Since when I have been debtor to you for courtesies, which I will be ever to pay and yet pay still." Thenceforward, his mind became healthy, and he played to the close with a burst of inspiration and talent, such as he had not shown, even in his best days.

His mind, however, was healthy only for the night; fitful seasons there were in which he tried to act in the country; but he soon became diseased again, and, shut up in a madhouse, poor Reddish might be seen on visitors' days at St. Luke's, a sad and humiliating spectacle, herding among the lunatics in that once popular place of cruel exhibition. Two old feelings survived the otherwise complete wreck-his love of good living, and his dislike of inferior company. He drank greedily his draught of milk, out of a wooden bowl, but the "gentleman of easy fortune" complained bitterly of his forced association with the low people who thronged the gallery. Poor Reddish! he was moved to better air, improved diet, and less plebeian society,-in the Asylum at York. The outside world had been by him long forgotten, and he forgotten by the world, when he happily died there, not one hour too soon, in the last month of the year 1785. Little more than eight years later his stepson, George Canning, made his maiden-speech in the Commons, as Tory member for Newport, and failed; but like noble actors in another house, he gained ultimate success, by turning his experience to advantage.

About the same time disappeared from the London stage, Ross, who, like Barton Booth, was a Westminister boy, and the son of a gentleman. Less fortunate than Booth, his father discarded him, for going on the stage. Ross, the actor, had for school-fellow Churchill, the poet-John Nicoll then being master; and Booth had for condiscipulus the poet Rowe, under the famous mastership of Busby. Like Booth, Ross first tried his fortune on the Dublin stage in 1749, when he came to London to be of the school of Garrick, as Booth came to be a follower of Betterton. Both men had pleasing and powerful voices and fine figures, but Ross's countenance lacked expression. Ross, like Booth, played Young Bevil with great ability, and, as the Ghost of Banquo, produced almost as much effect as Booth in the Ghost of Hamlet's father. Here, however, all parallel ends. Wanting Booth's industry, Ross never raised himself to Booth's level; he originated very few characters, wasted his powers, grew fat and indolent, and lost what Barry kept to the last,-

"A voice as musically clear

As ever pour'd, perhaps, upon the ear."

With a passion for the stage, and every qualification but industry, he marred his prospects by letting "mere chance conduct him every night," till the town wearied of him. He had been at Drury Lane, from 1751, when he first appeared as Young Bevil, to 1757; and at Covent Garden, where he commenced with Hamlet,[31] from that year to 1768, when he became manager of the new theatre in the Canongate, Edinburgh.[32]

In Edinburgh, Ross is remembered, however, as the founder of the legal stage. That is, he was the patentee of the first theatre that had the sanction of the law. When the new town of Edinburgh was projected, in 1767, care was taken for the lawful establishment of the Scottish stage, and Ross built that pleasant house which, till 1859, occupied the site where now stands the New Post Office. It says something for Ross's prudence, despite his defects, that he had saved £7000, which he expended on the construction and completion of this house.[33] It was opened in December 1769. "Strange," says Mr. Robert Chambers, "to recall the circumstances of its opening. No Princes Street then, for the belles and beaux-no new town whatever, only one or two houses building at wide intervals. The North Bridge unfinished and broken down; ladies and gentlemen obliged to come to these mimic scenes through Leith Wynd, and other and still narrower alleys." Thence came failure; and Ross let the house to Foote, and subsequently to Digges, "a spendthrift gentleman of good connexions," for £500 a year.

At the end of four years, Ross was back at Covent Garden; but he had ceased to attract, and he ultimately fell into distress (the Edinburgh Theatre failing to be profitable to him), from which he was relieved by receiving annually from an anonymous donor the sum of £60. It was by mere accident that Ross discovered the gallant seaman, Barrington, to be his munificent friend; but what connection existed between the two men, I am not aware.

Such is the record of a player who entirely threw his chance away by his neglect. Possessing power, he wanted will, and was always looking to others for help; and, indeed, he often got it. He played George Barnwell with such effect that dissipated and felonious apprentices were turned from their evil ways; and young men given to philandering with Milwoods and to thoughts of killing their uncles, were frightened into a better state of things. One who was thus rescued used to send, anonymously, ten guineas yearly to Ross, with a suitable acknowledgment on his benefit night. "You have done more good by your acting," said Dr. Barrowby to him, "than many a parson by his preaching." The fact is, that Ross's Barnwell was a sermon which went home to the bosoms of the Athenians.[34]

The next to disappear from our group is Yates (1736-1782),[35] the only actor of his day who had a just notion how to play Shakspeare's fools; he was ever natural, but frequently imperfect; in low comedy, not to be surpassed; but in fine gentlemen, he "looked like Tom Errand in Beau Clincher's clothes." Philip in "High Life Below Stairs," Sir Bashful Constant, Major Oakley, and Sir Oliver Surface, were among his original characters. His forte was old men; but in stolid clowns, he was inimitable. Yates did not act so well off the stage as on, for he declined to subscribe to the theatrical fund, on the ground that he was not likely ever to need its assistance!

Next passes from the stage to private life, Gentleman Smith, son of a city grocer, and one of the few players who have been pupils at Eton. Cambridge he left in some disgrace, to avoid being compelled to leave. In 1753, as the pupil of Barry he first appeared as Theodosius. In 1786[36] he retired, after playing his original character, Charles Surface. Meanwhile, he had earned the honourable addition to his name. If the stage had no greater clown and old man than Yates, it had no more perfect gentleman than Smith; who, besides Charles Surface, originally represented (in London) Glenalvon, Mason's Athelwold, and Edwin. In gay comedy lay his strength, but he was the most refined of light tragedians, and played Richard with effect even in Garrick's days. His qualifications for both comedy and tragedy were without a single drawback, save a monotony of voice, the enunciation of which, in other respects, was perfect. His Faulconbridge was not surpassed till Charles Kemble made the part his own.

Smith made two remarkable marriages. His first was with a daughter of that Viscount Hinchinbroke, who did not live to succeed his father, the third Earl of Sandwich. This lady was the young widow of a Courtenay of Devon, and her union with an actor was described as a disgrace to her family. Smith offered to withdraw from the stage, if the family would secure to him an annuity equal to his salary; but this was refused, and the player continued his vocation, in order that he might make suitable provision for his wife. The union was dissolved by her death in 1762.

Smith was indefatigable in his profession, and proud of his own position in it, congratulating himself on never having had to act in a farce, or sink through a trap. On his retirement, he married a widow with a fortune ample enough, when added to his own, to enable him to live like a country gentleman at Bury St. Edmunds, whence he came, in 1798, to play Charles Surface, at sixty-six, with some fat, and legs a little shaky, but with youthful spirit, for the farewell benefit of King.[37]

Then there is Tate Wilkinson, whose reverend father of the Savoy Chapel, Garrick had contributed to transport, by informing against him for illegally performing the ceremony of marriage. Garrick, in return, helped forward the son-an exotic, as he said, rather than an actor; but as an imitator never equalled, for he represented not only the voice and manner of other persons, but could put on their features, even those of beautiful women! He played in tragedy and comedy well; but only when he mimicked some other actor throughout the piece. He used also to reproduce Foote's imitations of the older actors, and I remember Mathews's imitations of the imitations of Wilkinson. He had been long connected with York, and very little with London, if at all, at the period of Smith's retirement. Wilkinson, who has added to the literature of the drama, is further to be remembered for having prohibited his York actors from soliciting, bill in hand-the latter ready to grasp the usual fee of half a crown-patronage for their benefits; a custom which, I think, did not survive 1784, though Wilkinson lived till 1805.

From 1765 to 1790-beginning at Dublin, and ending at Covent Garden[38]-indicates the career of poor Edwin. He was execrable when he began, in Sir Philip Modelove; but two years of practice in Dublin, and nine in Bath, fashioned him into a perfect actor for the metropolis. When a stage-struck youth there, and vexing his friends, and about to lose his clerkship in the Pension Office, Ned Shuter used to say to him, "You'll be a great actor when I am laid low." The town, at first, did not relish his humour; but, at last, relished it so much, that they allowed him any liberty. He might go out of his part, and make appeals to them, or forget his words through "the drink, dear Hamlet"-his pardon was sure to follow. When young, he played old men; when old, young; and to his humour and ability O'Keeffe owed such obligation, that it was said whenever Edwin died, O'Keeffe would be d--d!

His fault was his remembrance of the audience. He was always playing to them, not with his fellows; but it was so exquisitely done, that the audience least of all objected. "He was sure of applause, whether he had to utter the humour of Shakspeare, the wit of Congreve or Sheridan, or merely to sing 'Tag-rag-merry-derry;'" says Adolphus. Henderson pronounced his bye-play as unequalled. In Sir Hugh Evans, when preparing for the duel, Henderson had seen him, we are told, for many minutes together, keep the house in an ecstasy of merriment, without uttering a single word. Edwin was the original Lingo, Darby, Peeping Tom, Sheepface, Ennui ("Dramatist"), and a hundred other light parts, in which he wore that peculiar smile which had not passed away when his comrades, in October 1790, looked on his shrouded face before they escorted him to the grave.

The two Aikins, belonging to the last century, demand no further notice than that one brother was distinguished as "Tyrant Aikin;" the other for having fought a bloodless duel with John Kemble, on some stage-management dispute, in which Bannister acted as second to both parties.

West Digges, proud of the blood of the Sackvilles, not less than of being Home's original Norval, and of being called the "Gentleman Actor," was a player, who, like Brereton, was always struggling to reach the highest eminence, only to fall short of it. Digges died of paralysis, and Garrick's pupil, Brereton, of madness.

Lee Lewes, a sort of counterfeit Woodward, also struggled and failed, though not without merits, either in Harlequin or Flutter, of which latter he was the original representative. His self-estimation could not maintain him before a London audience, and he travelled to India, in search of others which cared even less for him; and, after all, came back to read, lecture, live straitly, and die.

In contrast with this erst deputy-postman, passes grave and dignified Bensley, whom not even the idea that he was poisoned, could induce to forget his identity with this part. Sensitive in other respects, this scholarly actor, with a glare in his eye, a prominence in his gait, and a peculiar tone in his voice, earnestly implored Bannister to omit him from his imitations in Dick ("Apprentice").

Bensley's great part was Eustace de

St. Pierre, in Colman's "Surrender of Calais," in which he was remarkable for his mingling of churlish humour with the most tender sympathy. His career extended from 1765 to 1795; and there was no actor with so many natural defects who so ably surmounted them. His Pierre, his Ghost (in "Hamlet"), his Iago, Clytus, and Malvolio were excellent.

The ex-lieutenant Bensley may be said to have made his first appearance in the drama, in Richmond Park, where he unconsciously had the park-keeper for his admiring audience. The part was Pierre, for some instructions in which he was indebted to Colman, and which he used to rehearse in the park at early morn, with the "six tubs," or trees, planted on Queen Caroline's Mount, for scene and senate. The park-keeper, who had often seen him wending that way, full of thought, once lay hidden near, and watched his proceedings. Bensley was rehearsing the scene before his judges, and the listener must have been sorely puzzled, as he heard allusions made to chains and conquests, and the centre tub addressed as a "great duke," who "shrunk, trembling, in his palace;" and references to the Duchess Adriatic, in terms that must have perplexed his judgment. He simply set the poor gentleman down as mad, and left him to teach the loose Venetians "the task of honour, and the way to greatness," without farther molestation.

About the same time that Bensley left the stage to become barrack-master at Knightsbridge, Moody retired from the public scene. Lady Morgan, when contrasting her father with Moody, does great injustice to the latter. She cites Cumberland as saying to Mr. Owenson, after seeing the latter play Cumberland's Major O'Flaherty:-"Mr. Owenson, I am the first author who has brought an Irish gentleman on the stage, and you are the first who ever played it like a gentleman." Moody was the original Major; and Lady Morgan remarks, that he "knew as much of Ireland as he did of New Zealand. English audiences, however," she adds, "were satisfied, for they had not yet got beyond the conventional delineation of Teague and Father Foigard, types of Irish savagery and Catholic Jesuitism. Cumberland and Sheridan both thanked my father for redeeming their creations from caricature." Hereby does Moody suffer retribution. The best actor of Irishmen of his time, he was ashamed of being taken for one. His name was Cochrane; he was a native of Cork, where he had been apprenticed to his father, a hairdresser; but he chose to call himself Moody, and to declare that he was not born in Cork, but somewhere near Clare Market. Foolish ambition! Taking him at his word, Sydney Owenson rejoins that he knew as much of Ireland as he did of New Zealand! Nevertheless, Moody knew a good deal of Ireland, and something at least of Jamaica, to which island he ran away from his own, and played the leading tragic characters there for several years. He made no effect at Covent Garden, till he was cast for Captain O'Cutter, in Colman's "Jealous Wife"-an Irish gentleman before Cumberland's Major O'Flaherty. His fine humour and correct judgment gained for him the universal applause. Hitherto all stage Irishmen had been funny ruffians. Churchill has recorded the merit of Moody:-

"Long, from a nation ever hardly used,

At random censured, wantonly abused,

Have Britons drawn their sport, with partial view

Form'd general notions from the rascal few;

Condemn'd a people as for vices known,

Which from their country banish'd, seek our own.

At length, howe'er, the slavish chain is broke,

And sense, awaken'd, scorns her ancient yoke;

Taught by thee, Moody, we now learn to raise

Mirth from their foibles, from their virtue, praise."

The Dramatic Censor speaks of Moody as the best Teague the stage ever knew, but the crown of his reputation was set by his representation of Major O'Flaherty, for which he reaped as golden a harvest of fame as the author did by his piece. Indeed, he was the first who brought the stage Irishman into repute, and rendered the character one of a distinct line whereby a performer might acquire reputation. The Thespian Dictionary says of Owenson, for whose sake Lady Morgan disparaged Moody, "he chiefly supported Irish character, in which he was a favourite, particularly with the galleries; but his representation of them (as it was in the country itself) was high coloured, and would therefore have been too coarse for an English audience. He has now (1802) quitted the stage for business, which is still in the public line."

More careful Moody combined stage and business. Like many of his profession, he had his suburban villa; and in his garden by the side of Barnes Common, he not only raised vegetables, but carted them, and carried them thence to market. The original Lord Burleigh selling cabbages!

Moody, however, could very well support the dignity of his character as man and actor. In the Half-Price Riots of 1763, he supported Garrick. Moody stood between him and the angry audience with a good humour which so exasperated the latter, that they insisted on his begging pardon on his knees, a humiliation to which he refused to submit, though the refusal might drive him from his profession. Honest John Moody, however, kept his own, and had no rival till Johnstone appeared in 1784,[39] without any idea of rivalry, for the latter began his career as an operatic singer. Moody created Sir Callaghan O'Brallaghan, in "Love à la Mode;" Captain O'Cutter, in the "Jealous Wife;" the Irishman, in the "Register Office;" Major O'Flaherty, in the "West Indian;" Sir Patrick O'Neale, in the "Irish Widow," and other Irish characters of less note. His range of character beyond this was indefinite, for he played Iago and Sir Tunbelly Clumsey; Henry VIII. and Dogberry; Shylock, Peachum, and a hundred other opposites, between the years 1759 and 1796. Towards the end of that period, he grew torpid with good luck. His Sir Lucius was without humour and his Major lacked spirit, but Johnstone was at hand to supply a place from which Moody retired a few years too late.

In 1796, another of the players, who dated from the Garrick days, passed away from the stage,-and from life;-I mean little Dodd. Like Moody and the Kembles, he had a sire who was connected with hair-dressing, but who gave his boy a very excellent education. At a London school, he played Davus, in the "Andria," to such purpose, that at sixteen, he was off to Sheffield, where he commenced his histrionic course as Roderigo, in "Othello." He served the hard apprenticeship of itinerancy, and then so distinguished himself on the Bath stage, by his comic acting, although he had been engaged for general business, that Garrick beckoned him up to London, and by consigning to him the part of Faddle, in the "Foundling," showed that he took perfect measure of his ability. From that year 1765 to 1796, Dodd was the darling of the public in his peculiar line. For fops of the old school, or old men who would pass for young fops, for simpletons and cunning knaves, for wearing a now obsolete modish costume, for "the nice conduct of a clouded cane," for carrying a china snuff-box, and, above all, for his unsurpassable style of taking a pinch, Dodd was really a wonderful actor. He wore his sword, cocked or carried his hat, displayed his ruffle, and moved about in a poising, tottering sort of way which was all his own, and always perfect. His Abel Drugger stood next to Weston's, if not to Garrick's,-but Garrick said Weston's was the finest the stage had ever seen; and his Sir Andrew Aguecheek was as truly Shakspearian as the author could have desired. Master Slender, Master Stephen, Watty Cockney, were among the parts which were said to die with him; and in his original characters of Lord Foppington ("Trip to Scarborough"), Sir Benjamin Backbite, Dangle, Le Nippe, and Adam Winterton[40] ("Iron Chest"), he has never been "touched," probably by the most able of his successors. Of Dodd dying no one dreamt till it was done. I can only think of him as going forward on the tips of his toes, mincingly, hat in one hand, cane in the other, a smile on his face, and with a bow to the Summoner, sinking contentedly back on a convenient sofa,-one little sigh perhaps of weariness, and little, fresh, cheery, gentleman-like Dodd is gone, sir!

That he once loved Mrs. Bulkley, the Miss Wilford of earlier days, does not surprise me; for had the fiercest of the stage-hating Presbyterians in Edinburgh, where her Lady Racket was talked of by old men, at the beginning of this century, with their hand on their heart and over their waistcoat-pocket,-had one of the severer stock only seen her, he would have loved her too. Dodd and Mrs. Bulkley went into house-keeping together, like Booth and Susan Mountfort, but the nymph was faithless, and there was a scandal, and a separation. The public condemned the lady, as she one night learnt by their hissing, but the saucy beauty stepped unabashed to the front, and told her censurers that if she failed in her duty or powers as an actress, they were right in their reproof; "but," she added with an air of Woffington about her, "as for my private affairs, I beg to be excused!" The audience condoned the erring beauty; they could not be angry with a Lady Grace of peculiar elegance; and the original Miss Hardcastle, and Julia in the "Rivals," was allowed to have her pretty way unreproved. She was on the London stage from 1764[41] to 1789, and at the time of her death had been known for two years as Mrs. Barresford.

About the same time as Bensley, Moody, and Dodd, the stage of the last century lost Baddeley. He is said to have been a confectioner, to have even acted as cook to Foote, and to have travelled in some humble capacity abroad, where he learnt French, and the way to play French valets and similar characters. Baddeley was the original Canton ("Clandestine Marriage"), and Moses ("School for Scandal"), and he was dressed for this part when, in 1794, he was taken ill and shortly after expired.

Baddeley, before dying, thought of his old comrades, and of his successors, in his own good-natured way. He bequeathed his cottage at Moulsey to the Drury Lane Fund, desiring that four poor comedians, not disinclined to live sociably together, might therein have a joint home. There was ample accommodation for such a company, in four bed-chambers and two sitting-rooms. He assigned to them a little bit of acting also;-that they might not appear dependents, he bequeathed a trifle to each, which each was to give away in charity, with an air of its being his own! Mindful, too, of their ease, habits, and sentiment, he left funds for the building of a "smoking summer-house," out of wood from Old Drury, and in sight of the temple to Shakspeare in Garrick's garden at Hampton. In remembrance of his own old vocation as a pastry-cook, and in token of love for brothers and sisters of his later calling, he left £100 Three per Cents. for the purchase of a Twelfth Cake and Wine, to be partaken of annually, "for ever," by the company of Drury Lane, in green-room assembled.

Kelly says, the trustees of the Theatrical Fund sold Baddeley's house at Moulsey. Adolphus thinks that the deviser infringed the statute of mortmain, and that the property, for want of heir, escheated to the crown. Strange, that of property left by players for the use of players, the poor actors should be cheated, at Moulsey as elsewhere.

Baddeley is said to have challenged Foote to a duel with swords, as he did George Garrick to one with pistols:-"Here's a pretty fellow!" cried Foote; "I allowed him to take my spit from the rack and stick it by his side, and now he wants to stick me with it!" Baddeley is reported to have been cook, not only to Foote, but to Lord North.

A greater artist than Baddeley left the stage soon after him, in 1795, after three and thirty years of service; namely, Parsons, the original Crabtree, and Sir Fretful Plagiary, Sir Christopher Curry, Snarl to Edwin's Sheepface; and Lope Tocho, in the "Mountaineers."

Parsons was a Kentish man,[42] who might have been an apothecary, or an excellent artist, but that he preferred the stage. He was a merry, honest fellow, who kept the house in a roar by his looks as well as words, and loved to make the actors laugh, who were on the stage with him, by some droll remark, uttered in an undertone.

His forte lay in old men, his picture of whom, in all their characteristics, passions, infirmities, cunning, or imbecility, was perfect. When Sir Sampson Legend says to Foresight, "Look up, old star-gazer! Now is he poring on the ground for a crooked pin, or an old horse-nail, with the head towards him!" we are told "there could not be a finer illustration of the character which Congreve meant to represent, than Parsons showed at that time in his face and attitude." He was finely discriminating, too. His Skirmish in the "Deserter" presented, says Adolphus, "a shrewd, quick-witted fellow, whose original powers were merged, but not absolutely drowned, in drink." In his own estimation, Corbaccio was his best played character; but, said he, generously, "All the merit I have in it I owe to Shuter."

The last character he acted was Elbow, on the 30th of December 1794,[43] when Kemble revived "Measure for Measure;" but asthma had then reduced him to a shadow, and he had to yield the part to Waldron. He died soon after, and then ensued a singular domestic incident. His second wife was Dorothy Stewart, niece to the Earl of Galloway, whom he had married after the lively young lady had run away from a convent at Lille. Of this marriage there was a little son, who had for tutor a reverend young clergyman; and this tutor Dorothy Parsons married, four days after her husband's decease. So that she had two husbands in the house; one dead and the other living![44] The first had left her a fortune. The second spent it, and left herself and son destitute.

The town had not an old comic actor it esteemed more highly, except, perhaps, Palmer. The early life of John Palmer was full of disappointment; the latter end of trials; the middle, of some follies; but nothing more. When he was in hopes of employment in the theatre, he had been told to go for a soldier. Garrick would not have him; Foote pronounced his tragedy bad; but thought his comedy would do. He "strolled," struggled, starved; and then was engaged first by Garrick, then by Foote, to do anything he was told to do, at a salary which barely found him in bread. Again he went to the country; married, or was married by a lady of expectations, which came to nothing, as she had mated with an actor.

When again in London, Palmer was too frightened at Barry, to play Iago to his Othello; Garrick eventually engaged him, but ridiculed his alleged powers of study, on which point, however, Davy soon changed his mind. Palmer slowly made his way, but it was very nearly stopped for ever, by Mrs. Barry, in the "Grecian Daughter," stabbing him (Dionysius) with a real dagger. He subsequently built and opened the Royalty Theatre, in Wellclose Square, but was compelled to close it, by the patentees. From the difficulties in which this involved him he never relieved himself, and his life became a struggle between bailiffs eager to catch him, and Palmer eager to escape from bailiffs. Sometimes he passed a week together in the theatre; at others, he was carried out of it in some mysterious bit of theatrical property. From 1761[45] to 1798 he was on the London stage, one of the best general actors it ever had, except in singing parts and old men, and some tragic characters. His fine figure, nevertheless, was always a help to him. His Young Wilding was pronounced "perfect;" and among the best of his characters were Face, Captain Flash, Dick, Stukely, Sir Toby Belch, Captain Absolute, Young Fashion, Joseph Surface, Prince of Wales, Sneer, Don John, Volpone, Sir Frederick Fashion, Henry VIII., Father Philip, Villeroy, Brush, &c. Among those he originated were Joseph Surface, Count Almaviva, Sneer, Lord Gayville, Cohenberg, Sydenham, and Dick Dowlas.

He was often careless, and would go on the stage very imperfect, trusting to his wits, his impudence, and the "usual indulgence" of the audience. On one occasion he delivered a prologue without knowing a line of it. The prompter was beneath a toilet table, and to Palmer standing near, he gave line for line, which Palmer repeated, with abounding smile and action to make up for dropped words. On another occasion, this actor took advantage of an uproar in front, to seem to deliver a prologue of which he knew nothing. He moved his lips, extended his arms, touched his heart, and said nothing. Suddenly came a lull, and then Palmer looked reproachfully as if the noise had embarrassed him; whereupon one half of the house stormed at the other, for not keeping silence, and, under cover of the storm, Palmer seemed to conclude the prologue, and made a grateful bow, as if pleased with the fact of having been enabled to perform a pleasant task.

After playing Father Philip and Comus at Drury Lane, on the 19th of June 1798, Palmer proceeded to Liverpool. He had finished at Drury as radiant with gaiety, on the stage, as if his heart were not breaking. Death had taken from his family circle his wife and the most dearly loved of his sons. Sorrow for those who had departed, and anxiety for the remaining children who depended on him, affected him deeply, and, despite all effort, even when acting, he could not keep the dead or the living for a moment out of his memory. At length the night came when he was to repeat the character of the "Stranger," and then there was no simulation in his mournful aspect. He had got through his part to the middle of the opening scene of the fourth act. He had answered "I love her still," to the query of Baron Steinfort (Whitfield) respecting his wife; and then to the question as to his children, he gave the reply, "I left them at a small town hard by;" but the words, falteringly uttered, had scarcely passed his lips, when he fell, dead, at Whitfield's feet!

The sensation which this caused was most painful; and it was not allayed by those pious persons who saw in this sudden death an especial judgment launched by Heaven on the head of a man who exercised an unrighteous calling. To support their theory, they invented the story that Palmer was stricken after uttering the quotation, in the first scene of the third act, "there is another and a better world!" These words suited the inferences they wished to draw. They did not agree with the facts: but it was the old story, "so much the worse for the facts!" The lie yet lives.

Poor Palmer! One cannot help having a kindly feeling for "Plausible Jack." Can you not see him coming up to Sheridan, when reconciliation had followed quarrel, with his head bent blandly forward, his eyes turned up, his hand on his heart, and a phrase after the manner, if not of the very matter, of Joseph Surface, of which he was the original representative? "If you could but see my heart, Mr. Sheridan!" and Sheridan's pleasantly remonstrating remark, "Why, Jack, you forget I wrote it!"

And then he was so modest. "Plausible, am I?" he once asked; "you really rate me too highly. The utmost I ever did in that way was, on once being arrested by a bailiff; when I persuaded the fellow to bail me!"

After many of these actors had commenced their career, and long before some of them concluded it, a great player came, charmed, and departed, leaving a name and a reputation which render him worthy of a chapter to himself. I allude to Henderson.

Mr. Dunstall as Hodge.


[30] Should be 5th of May.

[31] He commenced with Essex-"Earl of Essex"-3d October 1757. He played Hamlet on the 8th.

[32] Ross left Covent Garden at the end of 1766-67. He appeared at the Edinburgh Theatre, in the Canongate, on 9th December 1767.

[33] The money was partly subscribed by shareholders, and Ross seems to have owed most of the balance.

[34] Ross died suddenly in 1790 (2d edition).

[35] 1783.

[36] 1788 (2d edition).

[37] Not King's farewell benefit.

[38] Should be Haymarket.

[39] Johnstone's first appearance in England took place on 2d October 1783.

[40] This is more than doubtful. The immoderate length of this part contributed largely to the condemnation of the play.

[41] Her first appearance as an actress was made 23d April 1765.

[42] According to Thomas Bellamy's Life of Parsons, he was a Londoner.

[43] Bellamy gives Sir Fretful Plagiary as his last part-19th January 1795.

[44] Bellamy mentions that there was such a story as this current, but characterises it as false.

[45] First appearance on any stage, 20th May 1762.

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