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Their Majesties' Servants (Volume 3 of 3) By John Doran Characters: 47350

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Of the old actors who entered on the nineteenth century, King was the first to depart. He is remembered now, chiefly, as the original representative of Sir Peter Teazle, Lord Ogleby, Puff, and Dr. Cantwell. He began his London career at the age of eighteen, in 1748, on Drury Lane stage, as the Herald in "King Lear," and made such progress, that in the next year[88] Whitehead selected him to play Valerius in his "Roman Father." By 1756 he was an established favourite, and he remained on the London stage, with hard summer work during the holidays, till the 24th of May 1802, when he took his leave in Sir Peter, to the Lady Teazle of Mrs. Jordan. At the end of upwards of half a century he withdrew, to linger four years more, a man of straitened means-one whom fondness for "play" would not at first allow to grow rich; nor, after that was accomplished, to remain so. I have noticed a few of his principal original characters; of others, his Touchstone has not been equalled, nor his Ranger, save by Garrick and Elliston. He was a conscientious actor, and a prime favourite during the greater part of his career-but the once rapid, clear, arch, easy, versatile Tom King, remained on the stage somewhat too long.

Suett was to "low," what King was to "genteel," comedy; and the stage lost Dicky in 1805, in which year he died. Dicky Suett was the successor, but not the equal of Parsons. For a comic actor he had a very tragical method of life-indicated by a bottle of rum and another of brandy being among the furniture of his breakfast table. From 1780 to 1805 he was a favourite low comedian; he killed his audiences with laughter, and then went home (the tavern intervening) to bed, where his sleep was merely a night of horror caused by hideous dreams, and mental and bodily agony. John Kemble appreciated him, in Weazle particularly, which he played to the tragedian's Penruddock, and by his impertinent and persevering inquiries, peering into Penruddock's face, used to work him up into a condition of irritability required by the part. He was tall, thin, and ungainly; addicted to grimace and interpolations; given to practical jokes on his brother actors on the stage; and original in everything, even to encountering death with a pun excited by a sign of its dread approach. Suett was one of those perversely conscientious actors, that when he had to represent a drunkard, he took care, as Tony Lumpkin says, to be in "a concatenation accordingly."

In 1809 Lewis withdrew, in his sixty-third year. He was a Lancashire man, well descended, though a draper's son, and was educated at Armagh. He left linen-drapery for the stage,[89] played with success in Dublin and Edinburgh, and came to Covent Garden in 1773, where, however, he did not displace Barry, as in Dublin he had vanquished Mossop.[90] He remained at Covent Garden from 1773, when he appeared in Belcour (a compliment to Cumberland, who had helped to bring him thither), till the 29th of May 1809, when he took his farewell in the Copper Captain, the best of all his parts. He died in 1813, and out of part of his fortune bequeathed to his sister, the beautiful new church at Ealing was chiefly erected. His various styles are indicated by some of the parts he created. Pharnaces and Sir Charles Racket; Arviragus (Caractacus) and Millamour; Percy and Doricourt; Sir Thomas Overbury and Count Almaviva; Herodian and Lackland; Aurungzebe ("Prince of Agra") and Young Rapid; Faulkland and Jeremy Diddler: he played Carlos in the "Revenge," and created the Hon. Tom Shuffleton in "John Bull;" acted Posthumus, and originated Vapid; began his course of original parts with Witmore, in Dr. Kenrick's "Duellist;" and ended them with Modern, in Reynolds's "Begone Dull Care"-both of which plays were failures.

In Morton and Reynolds's comedies, his breathless and restless style told well; but Lewis's reputation is connected with the authors of an older period. His Copper Captain was a masterpiece; and Cooke recorded of him, that during the last thirty years of his life, he was "the unrivalled favourite of the comic muse, in all that was frolic, gay, humorous, whimsical, eccentric, and at the same time elegant." During twenty-one years he was manager of Covent Garden; and the same writer testifies that Lewis was "a model for making every one do his duty, by kindness and good treatment." As early as 1802 he had been warned by an epileptic fit, while rehearsing Sapling, in Reynolds's "Delays and Blunders;" but he recovered, played two years longer, and in less than two years more died, leaving a handsome fortune to his wife, children, and other members of his family.

The greatest loss to the stage, in the early years of the present century, was in the person of Miss Pope, the only real successor of Kitty Clive. She withdrew on the 26th of May 1808, after playing Deborah Dowlas in the "Heir-at-Law," for the first and last time. She had played as a child when Garrick was in the fullest of his powers; won his regard, and the friendly counsel of Mrs. Clive; played hoydens, chambermaids, and half-bred ladies, with a life, dash, and manner, free from all vulgarity; laughed with free hilarity that begot hilarious laughing; and the only question about her was not if she were an excellent actress or not, but as an actress, in what she most excelled. She gave up young parts for old as age came on, and would have done it sooner, but that managers found her still attractive in the younger characters. In them she had been without a rival; and when she took to the Duennas and Mrs. Heidelbergs, she became equally without a rival. She was the original Polly Honeycombe, Miss Stirling, Mrs. Candour, Tilburina, and of two or threescore other parts less known.

Miss Pope was as good a woman, and as well bred a lady, as she was a finished actress, and was none the less a friend of Garrick for having little theatrical controversies with him touching costume, salary, or other stage matters. In the year she played Cherry, Polly Honeycombe, Jacinta, Ph?dra, Beatrice, Miss Prue, Miss Biddy, and other buoyant ladies and lasses, a poet said of her:-

"With all the native vigour of sixteen,

Among the merry groups conspicuous seen,

See lively Pope advance to jig and trip,

Corinna, Cherry, Honeycombe, and Snip!

Not without art, but yet to nature true,

She charms the town with humour, just, yet new,

Cheered by her promise, we the less deplore,

The fatal time when Clive shall be no more."

Such was she in Churchill's eyes, in 1761. The fairy of that day; but, in 1807, the fairy had expanded into "a bulky person, with a duplicity of chin." Such was she in the eyes of James Smith, to whom she told her love for handsome but fickle Holland, losing-or casting off whom-she never after heeded suit of mortal man.

In the drawing-room of her and her brother's house in Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, two doors east of the Freemasons' Tavern, in that richly-furnished apartment, where, for forty years, Miss Pope lived-among choice portraits of Mrs. Oldfield and her little son, afterwards General Churchill; of Lord Nuneham, who, as Earl of Harcourt, visited Miss Pope with as much ceremonious courtesy as if she had been a princess; of Garrick and of Holland-the old lady told the tale of her young love, her hopes and her disappointment, to James Smith. Garrick, or "Mr. Garrick," as Miss Pope, with the old habit of reverence, used to call him, had observed the intimacy and growing attachment between the young actor and actress, and, guardian of the happiness of those whom he regarded, he warned the lady of the waywardness, instability, and recklessness of the swain. But Holland could persuade in his own cause more successfully than Garrick could urge against him; and Miss Pope, trusting the man she loved, looked confidently forward to the day when she would become his wife. Ere that day arrived, she went in the old Richmond coach, on her way to pay a visit to Mrs. Clive at Twickenham; and on the road she passed a postchaise, in which were Holland and a lady. The perplexed Miss Pope rode thoughtfully on, and, alighting at Richmond Bridge, walked meditatively along the meadows to Strawberry Hill. Her jealous attention was attracted by a boat on the river, opposite Eel Pie Island, the rower of which could not so hurriedly but confusedly pull through the weeds to the Richmond side, before she saw that he was her faithless swain, Holland, making a day of it with that seductive piece of mischief, Mrs. Baddeley. Poor Miss Pope might fairly confess to the "pang of jealousy," which she then endured.

Shortly after they met at rehearsal. He, being conscious of wrong and incapable of confessing it, assumed a haughty bearing, but the injured woman was as proud as he; and from that time they never exchanged a word, except in acting. The foolish, weak, and ungrateful fellow went philandering on; "but I have reason to know," said Miss Pope, "that he never was really happy." And forty years after this rude waking from a happy illusion, and in presence of the counterfeit presentment of her faithless lover, the lady, whose heart at least never grew old, shed tears as she told the one love passage of her life, and thought of the dream of the bygone time.

Out of life she faded gradually away; and one of the merriest and most vivacious actresses of her day lost, mutely, sense after sense ere she expired. Previous to this, she had left her old familiar house in Queen Street; much as she was attached to it, she found the Freemasons too lively neighbours. "From the Tavern, on a summer's evening, when windows are perforce kept open, the sounds of 'Prosperity to the Deaf and Dumb Charity!' sent forth a corresponding clatter of glasses, which made everybody in Miss Pope's back drawing-room, for the moment, fit objects of that benevolent institution." Mr. James Smith alludes to the pleasant parties she gave at the house in Newman Street, in which she died. She was attacked by "stupor of the brain;" and gradually passed away. "She sat quietly and calmly in an arm-chair by the fireside, patting the head of her poodle dog, and smiling at what passed in conversation, without being at all conscious of the meaning of what was uttered."

Miss Pope had a sort of doublure in Mrs. Mattocks, granddaughter of the Hallam unhappily killed by Macklin. Her father was the founder of the English drama in America. Under his management, the first play ever regularly performed beyond the Atlantic, was at Williamsburg, in Virginia, on the 5th of September 1752, namely, the "Merchant of Venice," in which Malone acted Shylock; Hallam, Launcelot Gobbo; and Mrs. Hallam, Portia.[91] During Mrs. Mattocks's long career, from 1752, when a child, to 1808, she played a variety of characters, commencing with tragedy; but, as she used to say, in her old age, "so long ago, I have almost forgotten it." She thence passed through light, young, comic characters, to old women; and played the latter very happily. In her widowhood, she bestowed a rich marriage dowry on her daughter, reserving for herself the interest of £6000 in the five per cents., on which to live, at Kensington. Her son-in-law held her general power of attorney, and received her dividends; but he one day made away with both interest and principal, and the old actress was left penniless. A free benefit, however, produced upwards of £1000, with which a life annuity was purchased, on which the aged player lived till 1826. If human art could have prolonged her life, it would have been done by her friend and medical adviser, the late Mr. Merriman, to whom, in testimony of her respect, Mrs. Mattocks bequeathed her portrait.

I add a passing word to record the passing away of Mrs. Litchfield, in 1806, after a brief career in London of nine years. She came at a time when competition with Mrs. Siddons was impossible; but Mrs. Litchfield was pre-eminent in having the finest voice that was ever heard on the stage,-from an actress.

Bannister, Charles or John, father or son,-the name had a pleasant sound in our fathers' ears. The elder was a bass singer, with a voice that would crack a window-pane. "A pewtiful foice! your father had," said a German Jew to the son; "so deep, so deep! He could go so low as a bull!" Handsome Jack played, in his salad days, with Garrick; in his glowing maturity, with Edmund Kean,-in whose brilliancy, as he said, he almost forgot his old master, David. John Bannister might have been a painter, but he chose to be a player; and, in his line, he was one of the best. He felt, and made feel; could exact tears as easily as laughter; and was never out of temper but once, when a critic denounced him for acting ill, on a night when he was too ill to act. For this malicious deed, the player recovered damages from his assailant.

There was nothing he could not do well. There were many things he did inimitably. His Hamlet belonged to the first-a host of comic parts to the second category. His author was never dissatisfied with him, however exigent; and he engaged the immediate attention of the audience, by seeming to care nothing about it. Applause interrupted his speech-never his action. In depicting heartiness, ludicrous distress, grave or affected indifference, honest bravery, insurmountable cowardice, a spirited, young, or an enfeebled old fellow, yet impatient; mischievous boyishness, good-humoured vulgarity,-there was no one of his time who could equal him. In everything he acted he was natural, except in Mercutio, which, strangely enough, did not suit him;-he made of that elegant and vivacious gentleman, simply an honest, jolly fellow. In parts, combining tragedy and comedy, he was supreme. Such was his Walter; such, too, his Sheva,-though in some parts of the latter he was, perhaps, surpassed by Dowton. His features were highly expressive and flexible, and he had them in supreme command. In 1772, he played Calippus, in the "Grecian Daughter," and then had a time of probation; but, from 1778, when he played Zaphna, in "Mahomet," to 1815, when the curtain finally descended on him, as Walter,-a part which he created in 1793,-there was no more pleasant actor before an audience. Walpole thus speaks of the last-named part in the year just named:-

"I went on Monday evening, with Mrs. Damer, to the Little Haymarket, to see the 'Children in the Wood,' having heard so much of my favourite, young Bannister, in that new piece, which, by the way, is well arranged and near being fine. He more than answered my expectation, and all I had heard of him. It was one of the most admirable performances I ever saw. His transports of despair and joy are incomparable; and his various countenances would be adapted to the pencil of Salvator Rosa. He made me shed as many tears as I suppose the old original ballad did, when I was six years old. Bannister's merit was the more striking, as, before the 'Children in the Wood,' he had been playing the sailor, in 'No Song, No Supper,' with equal nature. I wish I could hope to be as much pleased to-morrow night, when I am to go to Jerningham's play, the 'Siege of Berwick;' but there is no Bannister at Covent Garden."

He left the stage with a handsome fortune, the fruits of his labour; and younger actors visited him and called him "father!" Among the very long list of characters he created at Drury Lane or the Haymarket, were Don Ferolo Whiskerandos, Inkle, Sir David Dunder, Robin ("No Song, No Supper"), Leopold ("Siege of Belgrade,"), Lenitive ("Prize"), Walter ("Children in the Wood"), Will Steady, Sheva, Michael ("Adopted Child"), Sylvester Daggerwood, Three Singles, Wilford ("Iron Chest"), Sponge, Frank Heartall, Rolando ("Honey Moon"), Ali Baba, Storm, and Sam Squib, in "Past Ten o'Clock." A print, from a miniature, by Edridge, shows how goodly was his presence in young manhood off the stage; his well-known portrait, as Colonel Feignwell, reveals a handsome presence on the stage; and in his features, which Leslie borrowed for his "Uncle Toby," we may see (in the picture at Kensington) a presence fine, frank, and simple, which was that of his older age.

Mrs. Jordan was another of the players whose youth belonged to the last century, but who did not retire till after Edmund Kean had given new life to the stage. She came of a lively mother, who was one of the many olive branches of a poor Welsh clergyman, from whose humble home she more undutifully than unnaturally eloped with, and married, a gallant Captain, named Bland. The new home was set up in Waterford, where Dorothy Bland was born in 1762; and nine children were there living when the Captain's friends procured the annulling of the marriage, and caused the hearth to become desolate.

Dorothy was the most self-reliant of the family, for at an early age she made her way to Dublin, and under the name of Miss Francis, played everything, from sprightly girls to tragedy queens. As she produced little or no effect, she crossed the Channel to Tate Wilkinson, who inquired what she played,-tragedy, comedy, high or low, opera or farce? "I play them all," said the young lady,-and accordingly she came out as Calista, in the "Fair Penitent;" and Lucy, in the "Virgin Unmasked."[92] Previously to this, Wilkinson, addressing her as Miss Francis, was interrupted by her,-"My name," she said, "is Mrs. Jordan,"-her Irish manager had called her flight over the Channel "crossing Jordan," and she took the name with the matronly prefix. Wilkinson looked at her, and saw no reason why she should not.[93]

Three years after, she was acting some solemn part, at York, when Gentleman Smith saw her, and forthwith recommended her to the managers of Drury, as a good second to Mrs. Siddons; and in that character she was engaged. But Dorothy Jordan was not going to play second to anybody; she resolved to be first in comedy, and came out in 1785, as the heroine of the "Country Girl." Her success raised her from four to eight, and then twelve pounds a week. Her next character was among her best; namely, Viola; in which the buoyant spirit oppressed by love and grief was finally rendered. Equal to it was her Hypolita. Rosalind, also one of her great achievements, she did not play till the next season; and Lady Contest ("Wedding Day"), which was born with, and which died with her, she did not create till the season of 1795-96.[94]

When she first appeared in London, she was in her twenty-fourth year. Just previous to the commencement of the Drury Lane season of 1789-90, the season in which she added Polly Honeycombe, Laetitia Hardy, and Lydia Languish, to her parts; and created Little Pickle, in the "Spoiled Child," I find indications of another condition which she had reached. On the 4th of September 1789, Walpole writes from Strawberry Hill to the Miss Berrys:-"The Duke of Clarence has taken Mr. Henry Hobart's house (Richmond), point blank over against Mr. Cambridge's, which will make the good woman of that mansion cross herself piteously, and stretch the throat of the blatant beast at Sudbrook (Lady Greenwich) and of all the other pious matrons à la ronde; for his royal highness, to divert lonesomeness, has brought with him --, who being still more averse to solitude, declares that any tempter would make even Paradise more agreeable than a constant tête à tête." The Duke's companion is not named; but Mrs. Jordan is supposed to be alluded to. But in September 1791 Walpole writes to the same ladies: "Do you know that Mrs. Jordan is acknowledged to be Mrs. Ford?" They could not know it, for Ford (the magistrate) never married her, though he kept household with her, where all the signs of matrimony at least were abundant.

In the previous March of that year Mrs. Jordan played C?lia, in an adaptation of the "Humourous Lieutenant," called the "Greek Slave," for her benefit. C?lia is the mistress to a king's son; and this, coupled with a prophetic allusion in the modern epilogue, to a future condition in her life, which was not then, in the remotest degree, contemplated, is noted in Mr. Boaden's life of the actress, as a coincidence. At whatever period she first became the intimate friend of the Duke, she certainly was never married to Ford. "Her husband," the wits used to say, "was killed in the battle of Nubibus."

When she said that "laughing agreed with her better than crying," and gave up tragedy, she both said and did well. John Bannister declared that "no woman ever uttered comedy like her;" and added, that "she was perfectly good-tempered, and possessed the best of hearts." She partook of the fascination of Mrs. Woffington, having a better voice, with less beauty. She surpassed Mrs. Clive and Miss Farren in some parts, but fell short of the former in termagants, and of the latter in fine, well-bred ladies. Her voice was sweet and distinct, and she played rakes with the airiest grace and the handsomest leg that had been seen on the stage for a long time. Simple, arch, buoyant girls,-with sensibility in them; or spirited, buxom, lovable women,-in these she excelled. She liked to act handsome hoydens, but not vulgar hussies. In later days she grew fat, but still dressed as when she was young. The hints of critics were unheeded by her, as were those of her friends, that "she should assume an older line." Mr. Charlton, the Bath manager, once proposed to her to play the "Old Maid." "No," she answered: "I played it in a frolic, for my benefit, but do not mean to play such parts in a common way."

After a London career of little less than thirty years,-long after her home with the Duke had been broken up, she suddenly left London, without any leave-taking. Her finances, once so flourishing, had become embarrassed,-and the old actress with whom "laughing used to agree," withdrew without friend or child or ample means, to St. Cloud, in France, where she assumed her third pseudonym, Mrs. James. She was neglected, but she was not destitute; for, at the time of her death, in 1815, she had a balance of £100 at her bankers. She was buried without a familiar friend to follow her, and the police seized and sold her effects,-"even her body-linen," says Genest, who wrote her epitaph, "was sold amidst the coarse remarks of low Frenchwomen." Her wealth had been largely lavished on the Duke of Clarence and their family; and she had calls upon it from other children. In the days when she was mistress of the house at Bushey she was often, with more or less ill humour, saluted as "Duchess." When the Duke became King, he ennobled all their children, raising the eldest of Mrs. Jordan's sons to the rank of Earl of Munster, and giving precedence to the remaining sons and daughters. Thus the blood of this actress, too, runs in the English peerage,-in the line of the Earls of Munster, and by her daughter Sophia, whom the King raised to the rank of a Marquis's daughter, in that of the Lords De L'Isle and Dudley. If the portrait of the Monarch hangs from the walls of their mansions, that of Dora or Dorothea Bland should not be absent; for, despite appearances, the worth, the virtue, and the endowments of the mother were, in many respects, greater than those of the sire.

Robert William Elliston, like Mrs. Jordan and some others, belongs to two centuries. Born in Bloomsbury, in 1744, he had, in due time, the choice of two callings,-that of his father, a watchmaker; or of his uncle, the Rev. Dr. Elliston, master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge,-"the Church." He declined both; and having been applauded in his delivery of a thesis, at St. Paul's School, on the subject: "Nem

o confidat nimium secundis," he threw up his own happy prospects, and ran away to Bath, at sixteen, to seek an engagement on the stage. While waiting for it, he engaged himself as clerk in a lottery-office; but he eagerly changed his character, when opportunity was afforded him to act Tressel, in "Richard III." Between that and the Duke Aranza, the greatest of his parts, he had far to go; but his energies were equal to the task.

The first success was small, and Elliston resorted to Tate Wilkinson, at York; where he had few opportunities of playing leading characters; and in disgust and want he came up to London.[95] Kemble advised him to study Romeo, and in that character he charmed a Bath audience, and laid the foundations of a future prosperity. Subsequently, after playing a few nights at Covent Garden, he appeared at the Haymarket, in 1797,[96] as Octavian and Vapour. In the first part, a rival to the throne of Kemble was recognised; in the latter, one who had gifts which were wanting even in Bannister. A few nights later, he played Sir Edward Mortimer, and obtained a triumph in the character in which Kemble had signally failed. From that time, the "greatness" of Elliston was an accepted matter in his lofty mind. But it suffered much mutation between that time and 1826, when, at the end of nearly thirty years, after being proprietor of the Olympic, the Surrey, and Drury Lane, disregarding the prudence of Kemble in refraining from such an attempt, he tried Falstaff, failed thereby to recover his ruined fortunes, and sank again to the Surrey. Famous for putting the best face on everything, he comforted himself, by observing, that he had "quite an opera pit!"

For a brief period after his first appearance, Elliston was held to have excelled Kemble in truth and inspiration. Elliston's Hamlet was accounted superior in two points, the humour of the Dane, and his princely youth;-but in the deep philosophy of the character Robert William was not above respectability. And yet, by his universality of imitation, he was pronounced to be the only genius that had appeared since the days of Garrick. Perhaps he never manifested this more clearly than when, on the same night, he played Macbeth and Macheath!

His soliloquies were too declamatory! he forgot that a soliloquy is not an address to the audience, but simply a vehicle to enable them to be familiar with the speaker's thoughts. His voice was here too pompously deep, and a certain catching of his breath, at the end of energetic words, sounded like sobbing. Nevertheless, it was said that Elliston was not less than Kemble in genius;-but only in manner. With study and a more heroic countenance he would have been on the same level. As it was, in general excellence, he may be said, when in his prime, to have been one of the greatest actors of the day.

A more complete stage "gentleman," our fathers and some of ourselves never knew. He was well made; had a smile more winning and natural than any other actor; and perhaps a lover so impassioned never made suit to a lady; one so tender never watched over her; one so courteous never did her offices of courtesy; the gentleman was never forgotten. He was never a restless gentleman, like Lewis, nor a reserved or languid one, like Charles Kemble. All the qualities that go to the making of one were conspicuous in his Duke Aranza,-self-command, kindness, dignity, good humour, a dash of satire, and true amatory fire. The only fault of Elliston's low comedy was that he could not get rid of his gentility. The only fault of his real gentlemen was that he dressed them uniformly. Summer or winter, day or night, they were always in blue coats, white waistcoats, and white knee-breeches.

Leigh Hunt loved the actor; Charles Lamb reverenced the man,-that is the actor also: for Robert William, wherever he might be, was in presence of an audience; it was his nature to be artificial; or he was so great an artist that all things in his bearing seemed natural; that is natural to him, Robert William Elliston. When he seemed to be enacting the "humbug," he was perfectly consistent, without being the thing at all. Young Douglas Jerrold saved the Surrey with his "Black-eyed Susan," and Elliston thought such service worthy of being acknowledged by the presentation of a piece of plate. The anxious author wondered in what form Mr. Elliston would make the gift; but Mr. Elliston only asked him, if he, the author, could not get his friends to do him this service? He was not joking. He thought the young fellow's friends ought to be proud of him, and ought to manifest their pride by endowing him with testimonial plate,-towards which he, Robert William, had largely contributed by starting the idea.

Of his lofty remonstrances with audiences, his magnificence of matter and of manner, the awe with which he inspired the humbler actors of his company by believing in his own lofty manner,-there are samples enough to fill a volume. The "bless you, my people!" which he uttered as George IV., in the coronation procession, sprung, it was said, from a vinous excitement; but it was thoroughly in his manner. He would have believed in the efficacy of a sober benediction of the pit! He outlived his fame, as he did his fortune; his powers to act well failed, but not his acting. He was imposing to the last; and, perhaps beyond that limit, if we might accept that gracefully fantastic sketch which Charles Lamb has addressed to his shade,-the "joyousest of once embodied spirits!"

There were few actors on the stage for whom Elliston had more regard than he had for the veteran, Hull. In 1807, worn out with a career which dated from 1759, heavy, useful, and intelligent Hull played his last character, the Uncle, in "George Barnwell," and he died soon after. Mason had a good opinion of him, for in consigning the Chief Bard, in "Caractacus," to be played by him, the poet remarked:-"Any instruction from me will be unnecessary; your own taste and judgment will direct you." To Hull is owing the establishment of the Covent Garden fund for the benefit of decayed actors. He proposed that sixpence in the pound should be contributed weekly from each actor's salary, and that such contributors only should have claim upon the fund. From this proposal issued the two "funds,"-once so useful, and now so rich. Hull never acted so well as during the Lord George Gordon riots, when a mob assembled in front of his house, roared for beer, and threatened dire results, if the roar was unheeded. Hull appeared on the balcony, bowed thrice, assured the "ladies and gentlemen" that the beverage should be immediately forthcoming, and in the meantime asked them for "their usual indulgence."

To the last century, too, and to this, belong Holman, Munden, and Dowton. All began their careers as tragedians. Holman was graceful, but in striving to be original fell into exaggeration, and excited laughter. His London course only lasted from 1784 to 1800, when he wandered abroad with his daughter, whose mother was a grand-daughter of the famous Lady Archibald Hamilton, the daughter of the sixth Earl of Abercorn. Thus a family, into which had married the daughter of Miss Santlow, "famed for dance," gave to the stage the Miss Holman, who soon ceased to figure there.

Munden was the most wonderful of grimaciers. He created laughter on the London stage, from 1790, when he appeared at Covent Garden, as Sir Francis Gripe, to 1823,[97] when he quitted it, in good condition, financially, as Sir Robert Bramble and Dozey. It was said of him that he lost half his proper effect, by the very strength of his powers. The breadth of his acting is now hardly conceivable, so farcical was its character. Of another trait of his disposition, an incident, on his farewell night, affords an illustration. As he was bowing, and retiring backwards, from the audience, and wishing to avoid coming into collision with the wings, he once or twice asked in a whisper, of those standing there:-"Am I near?" "Very!" answered Liston, "nobody more so!"

Dowton, who came to us in 1796, as Sheva, backed by a recommendation from Cumberland, retired less richly endowed than Munden. He was most felicitous in representing testy old age, but especially where extreme rage was combined with extreme kindness of heart; and he acted the opposite of this just as felicitously-as they will acknowledge who can remember both his Sir Anthony Absolute and his Dr. Cantwell, the composure and rascality of which last are exasperating in the very memory of them.

Willy Blanchard, who opens the period commencing with the year 1800, was as natural as Dowton; but he was a mannerist, always walking the stage with his right arm bent, as if he held it in a sling. I find him often preferred to Fawcett, whom I remember as a superior actor, to whom some stern critics denied all feeling-but they had not seen his Job Thornberry; and of whose famous Caleb Quotem they could say no more than that the actor of it was a speaking harlequin.

Mathews, who first appeared in London, at the Haymarket, in 1803, as Jabal to Elliston's Sheva, was as superior to Dowton in many parts as he was to Bannister in a few. As a mimic he has never been excelled in my remembrance. Through the whole range of lower comedy he was supreme; and his M. Malet showed what power this great artist could exercise over the most tender feelings. No comedian ever compelled more hearty laughter, or, when opportunity offered, as in M. Malet, more abundant tears.

Liston, who followed him at the Haymarket, in 1805, making his début as Sheepface, belonged rather to farce than comedy. Like Suett he excited more laughter than he ever enjoyed himself. He suffered from attacks of the nerves, and, in his most humorous representations, was the more humorous from his humour always partaking of a melancholy tone. He seemed to be comic under some great calamity, and was only upheld by the hilarity of those who witnessed his sufferings, and enjoyed his comedy under difficulties. Perhaps he had a settled disappointment in not having succeeded in tragedy; or some remorse, as though he had killed a boy when, under the name of Williams, he was usher at the Rev. Dr. Burney's, at Gosport; as he subsequently was at the old school in St. Martin's. However this may be, he ever and anon wooed the tragic muse, with a comically serious air, and on three several occasions I trace him playing, for his benefit, Romeo, Octavian, and Baron Wildenheim! It was more absurd than Mrs. Powell's mania for acting Hamlet.

Two years later, in 1807, appeared Young, as Hamlet, at the Haymarket, and Jones, as Goldfinch, at Covent Garden. If the word "respectable" might be used in a not disparaging sense, I would apply it to Young, who was always worthy of respect-whether he played Hamlet, Rienzi, which he originated, Falstaff, or Captain Macheath. He belonged to the Kemble school, but he never delivered soliloquies in that ludicrous, self-approving style which I find laughingly noticed by the critics, as a great blot in John Kemble's acting. Young had more natural feeling, and he liked to play with those who could feel in like manner-whereas I have read of John Kemble that, in a love scene, he was not only coldly proper himself, but insisted on the same coldness of propriety in the lady who played his mistress. As for airy Jones, I have only space to remark, that he acted rakes, at night, and taught clergymen to read their prayers decently, by day! Jones was a naturally serious man; but his combination of callings was something incongruous.

Of other actors, mention will be made incidentally in other places. There are some ladies of the time before Edmund Kean who will receive, or have received, like notice-my eye falls but upon three others, of whom I need make record here. One is that beautiful Louisa Brunton-member of a gifted family, who, in the bud of her brilliant promise, was "erept the stage" by honourable love, and died but the other day-Countess of Craven. The other lady is Miss Duncan, subsequently Mrs. Davison, the original Juliana to Elliston's Duke Aranza; and who, when she came upon the town as Lady Teazle, satisfied her audiences that Miss Farren had a worthy successor, and that Mrs. Jordan's possession of certain characters must thenceforth be surrendered. The dramatic life of this admirable actress commenced as soon as she could walk, and lasted almost with her natural life. I have a Margate bill before me, of the year 1804, where the bright and gifted young actress, the "Little Wonder," as Miss Farren called her, was playing high comedy. The music there was led by Frederic Venua, who, at the distance of threescore years, still delights his friends with the memories of that period, and with its music, in the rendering of which, Time has strengthened and improved the hand of the artist.

With a passing notice of a survivor of all these-coming on the stage near fourscore years ago, with the honoured name of Betterton, and leaving it, or dying on it, but the other day, as Mrs. Glover, I close this section of my labour. From youth to old age she acted appropriate parts, and acted all in a way that would require Cibber, Hazlitt, and Leigh Hunt to describe, analyse, and grow pleasantly fanciful upon. Her life was one of self-denial, unmerited suffering, and of continual gratification to others. She was the support of three generations, the evidences of which she bore in her face,-in its beautiful expression of a felicity it knew not wherefore.

With a pleasanter name, a more finished actress, or a truer woman, I could not bring this chapter to a close. The list which follows by way of supplement, will enable the reader to trace what the poets were doing for the drama, and who the actors were that carried out their intentions,-between the commencement of the century and the night when Edmund Kean flashed upon the town.

LIST of the Principal New Pieces produced by their Majesties' Servants, from the beginning of the century till the appearance of Edmund Kean.

1801.-Drury Lane.

"Deaf and Dumb" (Holcroft; from the French). De l'Epée, Kemble; Theodore, Miss De Camp; St. Alme, C. Kemble; Mdme. Franval, Miss Pope.

"Julian and Agnes" (Sotheby). Julian, Kemble; Agnes, Mrs. Siddons.

"Adelmorn" (Monk Lewis). Adelmorn, C. Kemble; Innogen, Mrs. Jordan.

1801.-Covent Garden.

"Poor Gentleman" (Colman, Jun.). Sir Robert Bramble, Munden; Ollapod, Fawcett; Emily, Mrs. Gibbs.

"Pérouse" (Fawcett). Kanko, Farley; Umba, Mrs. Mills.

"Blind Girl" (Morton). Sligo, Johnstone; Clara, Mrs. H. Johnstone.

1801-2.-Drury Lane.

"Lovers' Resolutions" (Cumberland). Worthiman, J. Bannister; Mapletoft, Suett; Mrs. Mapletoft, Miss Tidswell.

1801-2.-Covent Garden.

"Integrity" (Anonymous). Herman, H. Siddons his first appearance; Albert Voss, Brunton; Julia, Miss Murray.

"Folly as it Flies" (Reynolds). Peter Post Obit, Munden; Georgiana, Mrs. Gibbs.

"Alfonzo" (Monk Lewis). Orsino, Cooke; Ottilia, Mrs. Litchfield.

"Cabinet" (T. Dibdin). Prince Orlando, Braham; Lorenzo, Incledon; Curvoso, Emery; Floretta, Signora Storace.

1802-3.-Drury Lane.

"Hear Both Sides" (Holcroft). Fairfax, Dowton; Eliza, Mrs. Jordan.

"Hero of the North" (Dimond). Gustavus, Pope; Frederica, Mrs. Mountain.

"Marriage Promise" (Allingham). Merton, C. Kemble; Emma, Mrs. Jordan.

1802-3.-Covent Garden.

"Delays and Blunders" (Reynolds). Henry Sapling, Lewis; Lauretta, Mrs. H. Siddons.

"Tale of Mystery" (Holcroft). Romaldi, H. Johnston; Francisco, Farley; Fiametta, Mrs. Mattocks.

"Family Quarrels" (T. Dibdin). Charles, Braham; Foxglove, Incledon; Mrs. Supplejack, Mrs. Davenport.

"John Bull" (Colman, Jun.). Job Thornberry, Fawcett; Peregrine, Cooke; Hon. Tom Shuffleton, Lewis; Mary, Mrs. Gibbs.

1803-4.-Drury Lane.

"Wife of Two Husbands" (Cobb). Carronade, Bannister, Jun.; Montenero, Kelly; Eugenia, Mrs. Mountain.

"Hearts of Oak" (Allingham). Ardent, Dowton; Fanny, Mrs. Harlowe.

"Caravan" (Reynolds). Arabbo, Dignum; Rosa, Miss De Camp.

"Soldier's Daughter" (Cherry). Governor Heartall, Dowton; Widow Cheerly, Mrs. Jordan.

"Sailor's Daughter" (Cumberland). Varnish, Russell; Julia, Mrs. H. Johnston.

1803-4.-Covent Garden.

"Raising the Wind" (Kenney). Diddler, Lewis; Sam, Emery.

"English Fleet in 1342" (Dibdin). Valentine, Braham; Fitzwalter, Incledon; Katherine, Signora Storace.

"Valentine and Orson" (T. Dibdin). Valentine, Farley; Orson, Dubois; Eglantine, Mrs. St. Leger.

1804-5.-Drury Lane.

"Matrimony" (Kenney, from the French). Delaval, Elliston; Clara, Mrs. Jordan; Lisetta, Mrs. Bland.

"Land We Live In" (Holt). Melville, Elliston; Robert, Mathews; Lady Lovelace, Mrs. Jordan.

"Honeymoon " (Tobin). Duke Aranza, Elliston; Juliana, Miss Duncan; Volante, Miss Mellon.

1804-5.-Covent Garden.

"Blind Bargain" (Reynolds). Giles, Emery; Mrs. Villars, Mrs. Gibbs.

"School of Reform" (Morton). Tyke, Emery; General Tarragon, Munden; Ferment, Lewis; Julia, Miss Brunton.

"To Marry or Not to Marry" (Mrs. Inchbald). Sir Oswin, Kemble; Lord Danberry, Munden; Lady Susan, Mrs. Glover.

"Who Wants a Guinea" (Colman, Jun.). Solomon Gundy, Fawcett; Oldskirt, Simmons; Mrs. Glastonbury, Mrs. Mattocks.

1805-6.-Drury Lane.

"Weathercock" (Allingham). Tristram Fickle, Bannister.

"School for Friends" (Miss Chambers). Matthew Daw, Mathews; Lady Courtland, Miss Pope.

"Travellers" (Cherry). Koyan, Braham; Celinda, Mrs. Mountain.

"Forty Thieves" (Colman, Jun.). Ali Baba, Bannister; Morgiana, Miss De Camp; Cogia, Mrs. Bland.

1805-6.-Covent Garden.

"Rugantino" (Monk Lewis). Rugantino, H. Johnston.

"Delinquent" (Reynolds). Delinquent, Kemble; Nicholas, Liston.

"We Fly by Night" (Colman, Jun.). Bastion, Munden.

"Hints to Husbands" (Cumberland). Lord Transit, C. Kemble.

"Edgar" (Manners). Edgar, Miss Smith; Emma, Miss Brunton.

1806-7.-Drury Lane.

"Vindictive Man" (Holcroft). Goldfinch (from the "Road to Ruin"), De Camp; Charles, Bartley.

"Tekeli" (Theodore Hook). Tekeli, Elliston; Christine, Mrs. Bland.

"Mr. H--" (Charles Lamb). Mr. H--, Elliston.

"False Alarms" (Kenney). Sir Damon, Wroughton.

"Curfew" (Tobin). Fitzharding, Elliston; Florence, Miss Duncan.

"Adelgitha" (Monk Lewis). Lothair, Elliston; Adelgitha, Mrs. Powell.

1806-7.-Covent Garden.

"Town and Country" (Morton). Reuben Glenroy, Kemble; Rosalie Somers, Miss Brunton.

1807-8.-Drury Lane.

"Faulkener" (Goodwin). Faulkener, Elliston; Countess Orsini, Mrs. Powell.

"World" (Kenney). Index, Mathews; Lady Bloomfield, Mrs. Jordan.

"Jew of Mogadore" (Cumberland). Nadab, Dowton; Zelma, Mrs. Mountain.

1807-8.-Covent Garden.

"Blind Boy" (Hewetson). Edmund, Mrs. C. Kemble; Kalig, Farley.

"Wanderer" (C. Kemble, from Kotzebue). Sigismond, C. Kemble.

"Begone Dull Care" (Reynolds). Modern, Lewis.

1808-9.-Drury Lane.

"Venoni" (Monk Lewis, from Monvel). Venoni, Elliston.

"Man and Wife" (Arnold). Sir Willoughby and Lady Worrett, Dowton and Mrs. Harlowe.

Theatre burnt down 24th February 1809. The Company played at the Opera House and the Lyceum during the remainder of the season.

1808-9.-Covent Garden.

Theatre burnt down 19th September 1808, after the play of "Pizarro." The Company acted at the Opera House, where the only new piece of any merit that was produced was the "Exile" (Reynolds). Daran, by Young, from the Haymarket.


The Drury Lane Company continued at the Lyceum without producing any novelty of mark.


Covent Garden opened at increased prices for admission on the 18th of September. No new piece deserving of record was produced throughout the season.


The Drury Lane Company played at the Lyceum, but without bringing forward any piece of particular merit. The same may be said of Covent Garden, where, however, the season was rendered memorable and profitable by the run of "Blue Beard" and "Timour the Tartar," with horses. Before these Shakspeare, and all other of the tuneful brethren, gave way.


The Drury Lane Company were still at the Lyceum, where they produced Moore's "M.P.," the more successful "Devil's Bridge," by Arnold, with Braham as Count Belino, and Mrs. Dickens as the Countess Rosalvina.[98] The greatest success was with a piece called "Quadrupeds," altered from the "Tailors, or a Tragedy for Warm Weather," and intended to ridicule the equestrian performances at Covent Garden. The corresponding season at Covent Garden saw no new piece which is now remembered; but it is remarkable as the one in which an elephant made its first appearance as an actor-after which Mrs. Siddons withdrew, but not on that account, from the stage.

1812-13.-Drury Lane.

The season opened on the 10th of October 1812, in the present house, built by Wyatt. Mr. Whitbread and a committee erected the house, and purchased the old patent rights, by means of a subscription of £400,000. Of this, £20,000 was paid to Sheridan, and a like sum to the other holders of the patent. The creditors of the old house took a quarter of what they claimed, in full payment; and the Duke of Bedford abandoned a claim of £12,000. With the remainder of the sum subscribed, the house was established-Elliston, Dowton, Bannister, Rae, Wallack, Wewitzer, Miss Smith, Mrs. Davison, Mrs. Glover, Miss Kelly, and Miss Mellon, leading. Except Coleridge's "Remorse," which was acted about a score of times, they brought out no new piece.[99] Covent Garden was equally unproductive, its most profitable drama being "Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp" (Aladdin, Mrs. C. Kemble; Kazrac, Grimaldi). In the next season, as in this, Covent Garden had a stronger company, with John and Charles Kemble, Conway, Terry, Mathews,[100] and a troop of vocalists, than Drury Lane possessed. At the latter house, neither new pieces nor new players succeeded, till, on the 20th of January 1814, the playbills announced the first appearance of an actor from Exeter-whose coming changed the evil fortunes of the house, scared the old, correct, dignified, and classical school of actors, and brought back to the memories of those who could look back as far as Garrick the fire, nature, impulse, and terrible earnestness-all, in short, but the versatility of that great master in his art.

While Kean is dressing for Shylock, I will briefly notice a few incidents connected with both sides of the curtain, and which chiefly belong to that part of the century when he was not yet known in London.


[88] That is, the next season; the "Roman Father" was produced 24th February 1750.

[89] It was Lewis's father who quited business for the stage.

[90] His success over Mossop was only in one part, a comedy character utterly unfitted for the latter.

[91] Some valuable remarks on this subject will be found in the article "Lewis Hallam, the Second," by Edward Eggleston in Brander Matthews' and Laurence Hutton's "Actors and Actresses of Great Britain and the United States": New York, 1886.

[92] Tate Wilkinson says she played Calista, and sang a song after the tragedy.

[93] It is generally held that Wilkinson himself gave her the name of Jordan.

[94] Should be 1794-95.

[95] I do not know any reason for saying that he was in want.

[96] Should be 1796. The date was 25th June.

[97] 1824, 31st May.

[98] Mrs. Lefanu's "Prejudice" may be added.

[99] That is, no new piece of any importance.

[100] There were at Covent Garden also Young, and Mrs. Jordan.

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