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Their Majesties' Servants (Volume 3 of 3) By John Doran Characters: 36149

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In the journals of 1723 I find various complaints of the deficiencies in the theatrical wardrobe. The shabbiness of the regal robes is especially dwelt upon, though those were splendid enough which were worn by a leading actor. Duncan and Julius C?sar, at the above date, had worn the same robes for a century; and it was suggested that monarchy was brought into contempt by poorly-clad representatives.

It is said of Betterton, in Hamlet, that when he first beheld his father's spirit, he turned as white as his own neckcloth. Betterton wore the laced kerchief then in fashion. There was a worse fashion in part of Garrick's time. That actor dressed the young Dane in a court suit of black,-coat, waistcoat, and kneebreeches, short wig with queue and bag, buckles in the shoes, ruffles at the wrists, and flowing ends of an ample cravat hanging over his chest. Then, Woodward as Mercutio! This young nobleman of Verona, kinsman to a prince, and friend to the love-sick Montagu, did not walk his native city capped, plumed, and bemantled, according to the period, but in the dress of a rakish squire of Woodward's own days. On the top of a jaunty peruke was cocked one of those three-cornered hats, popularly known as an "Egham, Staines, and Windsor," from the figure of the finger-post on Hounslow Heath pointing to those three towns. The hat was profusely gold-laced at the borders. Round the neck of the Veronese gentleman was negligently wound a Steinkirk cravat of muslin with point of Flanders ends. The rest of the attire was that of a modern state coachman on a drawing-room day, save that the material was chiefly of velvet, and that Woodward wore high heels to his gold-buckled shoes. The waistcoat descended over the thighs, and into its pocket Woodward thrust one hand, as, with a finger of the other knowingly laid to his nose, he began the famous lines, "Oh! then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you!"

Booth's dress for Cato was not more or less absurd than Betterton's in "Hamlet." The Cato of Queen Anne's days wore a flowered gown and an ample wig!

Garrick's Macbeth was a modern Scottish serjeant-major,[84] his Romeo "a beau in a new birthday embroidery." His Richard, fancifully but more correctly decked, is preserved to us in Hogarth's picture; but when the King was thus attired, all the other persons of the drama wore court suits, powdered wigs, bags, cocked hats, and drawing-room swords! And yet the grandeur of the performance seems to have been in no way marred. When we smile at these things, we should remember that all managers who allow our old comedies to be played in modern costume, offend equally against good sense. I would have Ranger acted in a wig, as Garrick, and not in the dress of the actor's time, as Elliston played it. The chronology of costume is worthy of every manager's notice, however accustomed the eye may become to anachronisms,-as with the dress worn in 1806, by Matthews, as Old Foresight, in "Love for Love," which was the very famous and fashionable suit, worn for many a season by the graceful Wilks in that most airy of his parts, the youthful rake and gentleman, Sir Harry Wildair.

In Macklin's Macbeth, there was nothing of antiquity about the costume, which was a semi-military uniform of no, or of several periods, with a masquerade look about a good portion of it. His Hamlet was a modern gentleman in a black suit, such as might have been seen any day in the Mall. John Kemble dressed the sad young Dane, whose father had just been murdered by Hamlet's worst enemy, one who stood between him and his inheritance, in a fancy suit defying chronology, a carefully curled and powdered wig, such as never sat on Scandinavian head, and a blaze of jewelled orders-on the breast of him who courted seclusion! Altogether, there were strange things done on the stage in those days, not the least, perhaps, were comic solo dances, or compound hornpipes of a score of "merry sailors," with Highland reels, danced between the acts of the most solemn of Shakspeare's tragedies!

Reddish played Hamlet in a bag-wig, which Whitfield, as Laertes, once carried off on the point of his sword! Henderson, who acted the Dane so well, dressed him ill,-in a three-cornered cock and flap hat, like my uncle Toby! Why not? since Lewis as Hippolitus, attired that hapless young man, of the era of Neptune and sea-calves, in knee breeches, a jaunty silk jacket, tight-fitting boots, and a little court bodkin on his thigh-the thigh of the son of Theseus!

As for the ladies, they were as careless on the subject as the men, whether it was Mrs. Pritchard in Lady Macbeth, or Miss Younge as Zara, or Mrs. Yates as Cleopatra, they were all decked alike, court skirts over huge hoops, and trains tucked up to the waist, with powdered hair surmounted by a forest of feathers. Mrs. Siddons, when she made her first appearance in 1775, in Portia, played the part in a salmon-coloured sack and coat; and her Euphrasia, to judge from her portrait, more nearly resembled an English than a Grecian matron, in the costume. But she soon improved in taste, or was able to exercise her own without interference; and Sir Joshua approved of her innovation of appearing in her natural hair, without marischal powder-of a reddish brown tint, then in fashion, and worn with abundance of pomatum in the tubular curls of the ladies' head-dresses. She braided her locks into a small compass, in accordance with the size and shape of the head; and when long stiff stays and hoop petticoats were universally worn by stage heroines, as well as ladies in general, Mrs. Siddons had the courage to appear in a dress far from ample, with a waist of the very shortest; and King George III. himself warned Mrs. Siddons against using white paint (blanc d'Espagne, I suppose) on her neck, as dangerous to health.

Mrs. Esten depended for effect almost entirely on her dresses, and a languishing manner. Her success, when she first appeared in Belvidera, was attributed to "the picturesque and elegant manner" in which she dressed the character. This lady was the daughter of Mrs. Bennett, the author of Juvenile Indiscretions, and could have afforded her mother with matter for a dozen more volumes, had not the older lady been indiscreet enough to possess abundant material in her own experiences.

I think that the custom of noblemen presenting their cast-off court-suits to great players (Betterton played Alexander the Great in one), went out before the middle of the last century. A better custom prevailed in France. Not only princes of the house of Bourbon, but noblemen at court, sent theatrical costumes to Lekain-according to the stage fashion of the period-but the actor never wore any other. There was as little variety in this actor's wardrobe as in the style of his acting, which was very circumscribed. With two or three tunics and a turban, one expression and a single attitude, he carried about with him "French tragedy."

In France, not only Hamlet, as once with us, but Orestes, wore powder! But in this there was nothing more absurd than was to be found in Quin's Chamont, a young Bohemian nobleman of a remote romantic era. At the age of sixty, Quin played this youthful lover "in a long, grisly, half-powdered wig, hanging low down on each side the breast, and down the back; a heavy scarlet coat and waistcoat, trimmed with broad gold lace, black velvet breeches, a black silk neckcloth, black stockings, a pair of square-toed shoes, with an old-fashioned pair of stone buckles, and a pair of stiff, high-topped white gloves, with a broad, old scolloped hat. Were the youthful, fiery Chamont," adds the anonymous biographer, "to appear on the stage in such a dress now, the tragedy would cause more laughter than tears." Absurd as this may seem in Quin, it was not more absurd than the dress worn by Hale, an actor of Garrick's time, who, playing Charles I. in Havard's tragedy, wore a full-bottomed wig of the reign of Queen Anne-of the lightest colour, and flowing over back and shoulders; in short, a perfect "cataract peruke!" Hale always fancied himself fascinating in this head-piece, as Mrs. Hamilton thought herself irresistible in jewels, with which she used so to load her dark hair, that they were compared to glow-worms in a furze-bush.

That there is much in a wig beyond the head it covers is, however, certain. No actor ever had such a wonderful collection of them as Suett, or looked so comic in them; though his horrible depression, and his terrific and painful dreams, nearly drove him mad. Such importance was attached to these wigs, that when the entire collection was burnt in the fire that destroyed the Birmingham Theatre, a friendly writer expressed a hope, that "until Mr. Suett can replace them,-the public will make an allowance for the great drawback their loss must be upon his comic abilities."

In some theatres, one coat has served successive generations of actors. It was not so with the dress which Garrick wore when he first appeared at Goodman's Fields, as Richard. This fell into the keeping of a man named Carr, who, when a strolling manager, used to act in it-let the character he had to represent be what it might! Greater actors than Carr were as negligent with respect to costume. Gentleman Smith, for instance, I meet with, complaining of the shabbiness of his Richard III.'s hat, and asking if he cannot have that which Powell wore as King John!

The Morning Chronicle for November 14, 1783, after extolling Mrs. Crawford's Lady Randolph as a triumph of acting which no competitor could reach, assails the costumes. "Lord Randolph and Glenalvon were as fine as if they were designed for the soft service of Venus, and meant to be present in an Eastern ballroom; and yet the whole scene of the play lies in the hardy region of the North, &c., &c. Old Norval's dress," it is added, "had not the most distant semblance of the ordinary habit of a Scotch shepherd."

Of John Kemble's anachronisms in Hamlet, I may add to the record, that in that play, the period of which is before the Norman conquest, he wore the order of the Elephant, which was not instituted till the middle of the fifteenth century! In Hotspur, too, he always wore the order of the Garter, even after proof was laid before him that young Harry Percy had never been a member of the order. Elliston imitated Kemble; but when he heard that Hotspur did not belong to that chivalrous fraternity, he took the garter from his knee, as he was one night at the wing, ready to go on.

Originally, Kemble even acted Hamlet with the order of the Garter beneath his knee! He also wore the riband and star, with a black velvet court-dress, diamond buckles; and his powdered hair dishevelled, in the mad scene. The Vandyke dress, with black bugles, and dark, curled wig,-a dress which knew but little change till Mr. Fechter introduced a portrait-costume more appropriate from Albert Durer,-was first worn by John Kemble during his own management of Drury Lane. In one respect, the latter actor was the exact reverse of Henderson, who was so careless in the matter of costume, that he once boasted of having played ten different characters, in one season, in the same dress! Lewis was nearly as negligent as Henderson. His Earl Percy, for instance, was a marvel of anachronism and indifference. The noble Northumbrian was attired in a light summer attire of no possible age, and suited to no possible people. His hair was flowing, but profusely powdered; and these pendant locks were prettily tied up in a cluster of light blue streamers, which his airiness made flutter in the breeze. But those were days in which everything was borne with and nothing questioned. The beautiful Mrs. Crouch, for example, acted one of the Witches in "Macbeth," in a killing, fancy hat, her hair superbly powdered, rouge laid on with delicate effect, and her whole exquisite person enveloped in a cloud of point lace and fine linen.

In 1791 Bensley acted Mortimer in the Hon. Frank North's jumble of tragedy, comedy, and opera, at the Haymarket,-the "Kentish Barons." The date of the piece was of the period of Richard II., but the costume was of an earlier time; and the figure which solemn Bensley cut, when skating through a scene in shoes with the peaks so long that they were turned up and fastened to his girdle, must have been one provocative of fun. Other players have been as incorrect, and infinitely more absurd. Take, for example, Edmund Kean himself in Orestes. He had seen Talma in that part, in Paris, and the excellence of the French actor fired Kean to attempt the same character. But Edmund imitated him neither in correctness of costume, nor in having the part correct, by heart. Kean played Orestes only in Bath and Edinburgh. His dress, and that of his faithful Pylades (Ward) at the first place, were covered with ribbons. Neither of the ancient heroes had seen such silken manufacture in his life; but both of the actors had frequently seen ribbons, and that was enough. Defective in costume, Kean was also deficient in memory. At Bath he stumbled through the character; at Edinburgh he improvised a good deal of it; and in the mad scene substituted fragments from any other mad character he had in his mind for the moment, particularly Sir Giles Overreach! All this flustered the Pyrrhus especially, and his embarrassment was so marked that the Edinburgh critics took care to tell him that he ought to have exercised more industry in mastering the words of his part, when he had to play with so great a master as Mr. Kean!

A taste for mere finery in costume was long prevalent; and I have seen Young's dress for Macbeth, and that for Hamlet, censured as "too finical." In the latter part, not contented with the order of the Elephant, he sometimes wore a thick golden cord round his waist, with heavy bullion tassels. In Coriolanus and Brutus, Young introduced the toga, for the first time, in a perfect form on the English stage. But it was found that a perfect toga was not always the most proper dress, and Talma's senatorial robes were adopted by Charles Young, who, taught to wear them by the great French player, instructed in his turn, the ever-willing-to-learn Charles Kemble. The latter dressed Charles Surface in the costume of his own day. It looked well enough, no doubt, but now, in Deighton's portrait, its absurdity is striking.

In my younger days of playgoing there was a certain action of the hand and wrist on the part, especially, of actresses playing chambermaids, and rather lively young ladies, which was a trick of Mrs. Abington's, and had become, perhaps still is, a tradition. O'Keeffe says: "Mrs. Abington's manner was charmingly fascinating, and her speaking voice melodious. She had peculiar tricks in acting, one was turning her wrist, and seeming to stick a pin in the side of her waist. She was also very adroit in the exercise of her fan; and though equally capital in fine ladies and hoydens, was never seen in low or vulgar characters! On her benefit night the pit was always railed into the boxes; her acting shone brightest when doing Estifania to Brown's Copper Captain." This refers to the season 1759-60, when she was in Dublin, and before she had received "the stamp of a London audience." Her Kitty in "High Life Below Stairs" created a sort of infatuation for her at the Smock Alley Theatre. Her name was, so to speak, on the public lip, "and in ten days her cap was so much the fashion that there was not a milliner's shop but what was adorned with it, and 'Abington' appeared in large letters to attract the passers-by." The men "toasted" and adored her, the women paid her the highest homage by imitating her style in dress and carriage.

With old costumes, the actors of bygone days had quaint tricks and ideas,-as strange to us now as their dresses. I may class with the former one circumstance of Quin's Falstaff in his later days. After the fight, when Falstaff, somewhat wearied and disposed to moralise, used to seat himself on the stump of a tree and give way to philosophising, Quin calmly sank down into a crimson velvet chair with gold claws and blue fringe, conveniently pitched on the field of battle!

There used to be an old stage-trick for effect, employed in "Venice Preserved." Pierre, railing at the conspirators in defence of Jaffier, addresses himself, among the rest, to a pale, lean, haggard fellow, who, in such a picture, should be kept in the shade. But in the old days this fellow,-all exaggerated ghastliness and horror, used to stand forth and exhibit his caricature of fright and famine, by sundry actions, the applause for which was even less reasonably given than that to the Gravedigger in "Hamlet," when he deliberately doffed some score of waistcoats before he took to digging.

Mossop, too, had his trick in tragedy, which was sometimes akin to pantomime. In Macbeth, when with his truncheon he smote that white-livered loon of a messenger, he invariably broke in two the symbol of authority over the unlucky envoy's skull. People applauded the earnestness of the tragedian as thus displayed; but the fact was, that Mossop always carried a truncheon made to fly in two when dealt on a victim's head. The absurdity of the act never struck himself.

More unmeaning, but much more costly; more pantomimic, and much more improbable, was Barry's great trick in Alexander. He never, indeed, tried it in London; and I cannot account for its toleration by so refined and critical an audience as that of Dublin a century ago. In the triumphal entry into Babylon he was drawn down the stage in his car by unarmed soldiers. When he alighted to address them, each man placed his hand on some portion of the chariot, the machinery of which broke up into war accoutrements; the wheels into bucklers, the axles into sheaves of spears, the body of the vehicle into swords, javelins, lances, standards, and so forth. All which likely work having been accomplished, and the soldiers having arranged themselves in battle array, Alex

ander addressed his easily provided army amid a hurricane of applause; and O'Keeffe protests that it was not only beautiful, but that he "never saw anything to equal it, for simplicity!" Oh, sancta Simplicitas!

And this "simplicity" reminds me of the three separate ways in which Cibber, John Kemble, and Young, used to suit, or not suit, the action to the word in a passage of Wolsey:-

"This candle burns not clear. 'Tis I must snuff it;

Then, out it goes."

Cibber's trick, to gain applause, was to fairly snuff the candle out. John Kemble, taking this in the light of an accomplished fact, was wont to look as one offended by the stink. Young, finding nothing more to do, always crossed his arms at this passage, smiled, and did nothing.

O'Keeffe remarks, that it is a method with an old stager, who knows the advantageous points of his art, "to stand back out of the level with the actor who is on with him, and thus he displays his own full figure and face to the audience; but when two knowing ones are on together, each plays the trick upon the other. I was much diverted," he adds, "with seeing Macklin and Sheridan, in Othello and Iago, at this work; both endeavouring to keep back; they at last got together, up against the back scene. Barry was too much impassioned to attend to such devices." Edmund Kean is said to have practised this trick when playing with actors or actresses taller than himself; but in so doing he was only putting himself on an equality with his taller colleague. I remember when, in my boyish days, the actors of the Théatre Fran?ais used to take me behind the scenes, observing that when Talma was seated on the stage by the side of Mademoiselle Duchesnois, the seat of his chair was gradually raised towards the back, like a driving-box, and thus enabled him to appear as tall as that ugly and able lady.

Garrick, too, had his chair-trick in "Hamlet." When the Ghost appeared between the young Dane and his mother, Garrick, starting from his chair, used always to overturn the latter,-which was differently constructed from that used by the Queen. The legs of the actor's chair were, in fact, tapered to a point, and placed so far under the seat, that it fell with a touch.

Dr. Burney seems to think that "the elocution of Garrick and Mrs. Cibber was but exquisite trickery, and that a notation of their tones for a sort of musical declamation would be a good practical lesson for inferior actors, and would be the means of conveying it" (the notation) "to posterity, who will so frequently meet with their names and eulogiums in the history of the stage, and be curious to know in what manner they acquired such universal admiration."

Very young children on the stage are sometimes as difficult to manage as "sagacious dogs," and other animals. The tricks resorted to, in order to preserve propriety, are amusing. When Mrs. Siddons was selected to play Venus, in Garrick's revived "Jubilee" (for which she was sneeringly called "Garrick's Venus"), she had little Tom Dibdin for Cupid. They were seated in the front of the stage; and it was necessary that the son of the goddess should smile in his mother's face,-but Tom was too much cowed to take any liberty of that sort. Whereupon Venus looked fondly on him and asked, in a stage whisper, if he loved sugar-plumbs?-and what sort? and wouldn't he like some of the best quality when the piece was over? At all which, Cupid's face expanded into wreathed smiles, and he gazed on Venus with a laughing admiration,-in mental anticipation of the sweets in the hereafter. In 1785, Mrs. Siddons was the Tragic Muse in the "Jubilee," in which the Venus was represented by Mrs. Crouch, who might have smitten with jealousy Anadyomene herself.

Some actors have made audiences merry by a mistake; others, by spontaneous wit. When Quin, in Coriolanus, bade his soldiers lower their fasces (in which he pronounced the a long), down went their faces in the lowest of bows,-and up went the laughing shout of the audience. A similar effect was once produced by Charles Kemble, by transposing, unconsciously, two letters in the phrase, "Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?" and making of it, "Shall I lay surgery upon my poll? No, not for all Venice!" More intentionally did Lewis once raise a foolish laugh, when playing with little Cherry, who, as Drugget, exclaimed, "He looks as if he were going to eat me!" "Eat you!" exclaimed Sir Charles Racket (Lewis), and out of his character, "I could swallow you; I needn't make two bites of a cherry!" On the other hand, one individual, at least, raised fun, and made money out of his own deformity; namely, Coffey, who was monstrously hunchbacked, and who, for his own benefit, acted ?sop. There was more method in a whim like this than in the madness of Cassans, a promising actor of the last century, who lost his chance on the stage by preferring to sing ballads in the streets, or acting as waiter at a tavern, both of which offices he undertook seriously, and acted to perfection.

Off the stage, there were performers whose fame was extended, by the second skill of a brother player, as was the case with Deighton, of Drury Lane, who (like Emery) was a clever painter, and was the first who exhibited slightly-caricatured likenesses of his colleagues,-enough to indicate some queer peculiarity, but not enough to give offence. These used to attract the public round his shop-window, in Charing Cross, till Deighton (or Dighton, as the Sadler's Wells bills used to record) had to make his exit. The "Hundred Guilder Print," by Rembrandt, was missing from the British Museum; and to that print access had been given by Beloe, the keeper of the prints, to Deighton. There was a scandal which sent the actor into exile, and cost the translator of Herodotus his place.

From an incident between actor and audience, the more gorgeously dressed than elegantly spoken Mrs. Hamilton acquired the name of Tripe Hamilton. She had been hissed by the pit, for refusing to play for Mrs. Bellamy's benefit; and she explained wherefore. The language of the poets she could learn quickly, and deliver with dignity; but her own was of that sort which sponsors are supposed to be bound to teach. Mrs. Hamilton said: "Gentlemen and ladies,-I suppose as how you hiss 'cause I didn't play for Mrs. Bellamy. Well, I wouldn't, 'cause she said as how my audience, on my benefit night, were nothing but tripe people, and made the house smell!" Yet this woman could play Lady Graveairs admirably.

There was another actress of the last century who had great power and much grace in addressing an audience, namely, Mrs. Fitzhenry. She is better remembered in Dublin than here; but I notice her on account of a curious circumstance, when she finally left the stage, there. On that occasion, she not only thanked the audience for past indulgence, but asked for future favour,-not for herself,-but for Mr. John Kemble, who had played several characters with her, but without being appreciated! Mrs. Fitzhenry gave assurance that there was sterling stuff in that young man, and hoped he would be encouraged!

This reminds me of another benefit night in Dublin, that of Mrs. Melmoth, wife of Courtenay Melmoth, whose real name was Pratt. To fill the house, the actress gave out that she was about being converted to the Roman Catholic religion, and she went daily and ostentatiously to mass. The house, however, was but a poor one, and Mrs. Melmoth became thereby convinced that the Romish Church had not that efficacy she had hoped to find in it; and she remained in her original belief,-the chief point of which was, that Courtenay was by no means so wise as he looked, nor so great as he thought himself. I know of no other case of conversion on the part of an actress, except that of Mrs. Wells, who, being confined in the Fleet, met there with Mr. Sumbell, of the Hebrew faith, and, on her enlargement, which she physically did not need, declared that she had married him, and had turned Jewess. This she had, indeed, done, at a splendid barbarico-comic marriage ceremony; but the ancient people doubted its validity, and so did Mr. Sumbell.

There was an actor of the last century, named Wignell, who was so doubly-refined that he could not deliver an ordinary message without trying to make blank verse of it. "Wignell," said Garrick, "why can't you say, 'Mr. Strickland, your coach is ready,' as an ordinary man would say it, and not with the declamatory pomp of Mr. Quin, or Mr. Booth, when playing tyrants!" "Sir," said poor Wignell, "I thought in that passage I had kept down the sentiment!" That, he never could do; his Doctor, in "Macbeth," was so wonderfully solemn, that his audience was always in fits of laughter at it.

If this was rather taking a liberty with an actor, the actors often took liberties with the audience. Just after Mrs. Bland was confined for the first time, her husband, in Arionelli ("Son-in-law"), had to say, "Marriage! oh, that is quite out of my way." The actor of Cranky immediately responded with a speech, for which he ought to have been fined,-to the effect,-if that were the case, what about the little incident at home. But Emery once went further than this and, when acting the Sentinel, in "Pizarro," contrived to let Rolla and the whole house know that Mrs. Emery had increased the number of his family circle. This freedom would be found to have no "fun" in it now.

No one better supported the dignity of the profession than Charles Murray, a son of Sir John Murray, of Broughton, and originally intended for the medical profession. In his younger days, before he fell into the line of old men, at Covent Garden, he was playing at Wakefield, where he so spiritedly resented an insult flung at him as an actor, that the party he thereby offended made a public quarrel of it, and the town was divided into two factions. Murray refused to ask pardon on the stage, and on a night he was to play in the "Beaux' Stratagem," knowing the intentions of his enemy in front, he entered booted and spurred, and announced that, aware of the opposition, he was about to set out for Doncaster. Whereupon, his friends leaped from the boxes to the stage, declared he should not be driven from the theatre, and guarding the wings, they compelled Murray, dressed or undressed, as he was, to go through his part, and to remain on the stage throughout the piece, lest he should profit by an exit, to make his escape.

On the other hand, poor Jack Owen, the "successor" of Henry Mossop, and the "real Zanga," as he used to call himself, was always able to defend his own cause. He was one night hissed while playing Polydore, in the "Orphan," when under the influence of the grape. He had just dismissed the Page, with "Run quickly, then, and prosperous be thy wishes," when his imperfect utterance raised a storm of hisses. But he turned the first words of the succeeding soliloquy to good account,-and advancing to the footlights, growled to the house, "Here I am alone and fit for mischief,"-putting himself in a fighting attitude, and moving the house to laughter by his new reading.

The discipline of preparation for the stage in the older days was greater than it is now. It included strolling, slaving at country theatres, a course of probation at Norwich, Bath, York, and such towns,-after which there was an assured trial for an ambitious player, at every fresh season in London. But ere this point was reached, there was much to be endured.

Blisset and Dimond, for instance, walked from London to Bath, with half-a-crown between them, and the former ever after kept the shoes in which he had done it, as a memento of his hard days. Some strolling managers have flourished much better than their actors. Smith, proprietor of the Margate Theatre, had been a hostler; Copeland, of the Dover Theatre, a groom. At the former house, it was customary for the company to parade in front in full dress, on a balcony, while the house was filling, or was not filling. The Birmingham company used to send round a bellman or a drummer to announce and praise the coming performances, and Dick Yates is said to have filled one or other office more than once. To these managers, candidates came with an ignorance that was only to be exceeded by that of their employers. "How ought I to look when I see the Ghost?" said a sucking Hamlet to the Margate manager. "Look!" said the latter; "well; oh!-look? why as much as to say, 'Confound it, here's a rig!'"

Humble enough were some of these houses. The old Margate was over a stable, whence came all sorts of unpleasant reminiscences. The Tunbridge Wells house was of such dimensions that the audience part was in Kent, the stage in Sussex, and between the two ran a ditch, which players in debt found convenient, when bailiffs were after them, as they speedily evaded jurisdiction by escaping into another county. It was here that the ubiquitous, yet stationary, Mrs. Baker, the proprietress, stood at three pay places and took money at all!

In matters of costume, affairs were in a primitive condition. In a garrison town, Cato and the senators were generally decked out in old regimentals, lent by the Fort-Major; and there and in ordinary towns ladies who commanded plays provided the wardrobe for the actresses. Benefits, however, were seldom so to those for whom they were technically "given." Tate Wilkinson himself once, at Maidstone, netted only two pieces of candle and eighteenpence. This theatre was so near the river that the tide overflowed the pit, and threatened to float away the house. I do not know that "Hamlet" was really ever played without the principal character, but it is recorded of Waldron, at Windsor, that his company acted the "Suspicious Husband," without a Mr. Strickland, and "She Stoops to Conquer," without a Miss Hardcastle. Windsor, nevertheless, was patronised by the old King, who went thither in much less state than the Margravine of Anspach to the little theatre at Newbury.

In the hurry, anxiety, and disappointments in which the old strollers lived, study was imperfect, and I have heard of a play acted almost entirely from the prompting supplied from a book borrowed from one of the audience, the actors neither knowing the piece nor having a copy to learn it from! That such a life should have any attraction may seem surprising, but Incledon left the musical band of a man-of-war to sing ballads, on country stages, and to get little more than bread to keep him in voice. Occasionally, the strollers played in very good company,-as at Plymouth, where Sir Charles Bampfylde would play Captain Brazen, or any other part, "by particular desire of Sir Charles," as the bills had it! The Plymouth house is the only house, except the old Dublin, in which performances took place before the roof was on! On one night of Shuter's benefit, the gallery was so crowded that the beam visibly bent, and two uprights were placed under it, to prevent the people, who came to be amused, from being killed. It must have been a cheerful night, free from anxiety!

Between country actors and audiences, there was an easy freedom. Miller, of Birmingham, played Frenchmen well and Hamlet abominably, for which last he was hissed, and thereupon he told the audience that since they wouldn't have his Hamlet, they shouldn't have his Frenchman! Mrs. Charke records that one night, as she was playing Pyrrhus, she was called upon to deliver some speeches of Scrub, in which she had distinguished herself the night before. In like manner, when Incledon was singing the most pathetic ballad, his rude hearers would demand some coarse popular song, nor let him off till he had sung it!

"Oh! take more pity in thine eyes!" said a Portsmouth Richard to Lady Anne. "Would they were battle-axe," said Miss White (instead of "basilisks") "to strike thee dead!" This, however, was probably only a slip.[85] At all events, it was not so shocking as Brereton's first indications of his insanity when, at a country theatre, and playing with his wife (afterwards Mrs. Kemble), he made her dance a minuet with him, when she ought to have been weeping; and when she died in character, the poor fellow (a star in the country) would, if not watched, walk up to her and seriously bewail the sad condition of his darling wife.

Brereton, in his day, had seen as much misery while strolling as Bensley,-a gentleman as well-born as himself. The latter once tramping it with Robinson, they found that they had but a penny between them. They tossed as to who should have the mutton pie which it could purchase, and Bensley burst into tears while the winner devoured the prize. Their next dinner was purchased by their cutting off their hair, then worn long, and selling it. And this incident of the hair reminds me of Fox, the manager's son at Brighton, who, when hair-powder was worn by some and denounced by others, because of the tax upon it, appeared, in some fine gentleman's part, with his head half in powder and half without. To allay the uproar that ensued, he explained that he did it to please both parties, and of course gratified neither. Some old strolling companies, on the tramp, walked very many hundreds of miles during the year. Even the richer brethren of the craft sometimes suffered tribulation. As once happened with the Bath Company, when their scenery, machinery, dresses, and "property" of every theatrical sort, were burnt in their caravans, as they were crossing Salisbury Plain.

I return again to the old houses, for a moment, to consider three subjects not yet touched upon,-the old rage for prologues and epilogues,-the "dedications" of plays, and the "benefits" of the actors.

Mr. Dibdin as Mungo.


[84] Garrick dressed Macbeth in a suit of scarlet and gold. Macklin, in 1774, was the first to introduce any Scottish character into the costume.

[85] Judging from Tate Wilkinson's account of this lady and her mother, this was not a slip.

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