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“ Well, sir, you seem to be very merry; but do you know what I am going to say now?" "No, sir," says Foote, “pray do you?” The ready and unembarrassed manner of this reply drew such a burst of laughter, as silenced the lecturer for some minutes; nor could he then get on till called upon by the general voice of the company.
Another time Macklin undertook to show the causes of duelling in Ireland, and why it was much more the practice of that nation than any other. In order to do this in his own way, he began with the earliest part of the Irish history, as it respected the customs, the education, and the animal spirits of the inhabitants; and, after getting as far as the reign of queen Elizabeth, he was again proceeding, when Foote spoke to order.-"Well, sir, what have you to say on this subject?"_" Only to crave a little attention, sir," says Foote, with much seeming modesty, “ when I think I can settle this point in a few words.”--- Well, sir, go on.” “Why then, sir,” says Foote, “to begin- What o'clock is it?"-"O'clock!"
says Macklin, " what has the clock to do with a dissertation on duelling?"_" Pray, sir,” says Foote, “be pleased to answer my question.” Macklin on this pulled out his watch, and reported the hour to be half past ten. “Very well,” says Foote, “ about this time of the night, every gentleman in Ireland who can possibly afford it, is in his third bottle of claret, consequently in a fair way of getting drunk; from drunkenness proceeds quarrelling, and from quarrelling duelling, and so there's an end of the chapter."--The company seemed fully satisfied with this abridgment, and Macklin shut up his lecture for that evening in great dudgeon.
Another night, being at supper with Foote and some others at the Bedford, one of the company was praising Macklin on the great regularity of his ordinary, and in particular his manner of directing his waiters by signals. “Ay, sir," says Macklin, “ I knew it would do. And where do you think I picked up this hint? Well, sir, I'll tell you: I picked it up from no less a man than James Duke, of York, who, you know, sir, first invented signals for the fleet.”—“Very apropos indeed,” says Foote, “and good poetical justice, as from the fleet they were taken, and so to the fleet both master and signals are likely to return."All this, though galling to Macklin, was fun for the public; and if it had ended here, would perhaps have served Macklin in a pecuniary way, as much as it hurt his feelings in another; but Foote did not
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know when he had enough of a good thing: he introduced him into his theatre at the Haymarket, where neither cut so good a figure as they did in the British Inquisition; and Macklin, in return, retorted in all kind of abuse and calumny. The public at last grew tired of the controversy, from being taken out of its proper place; and the British Inquisition soon after this began to feel a gradual decay in all its departments. Most people, except the projector, saw the seeds of a speedy dissolution in the first principles of this scheme. In the first place, it was upon a large and expensive scale, and quite novel in this country; it therefore not only required greater capital than Macklin was master of, but much greater talents, as he had neither learning, reading, figure, or elocution, for the oratorical part; nor assiduity, knowledge, or temper, for keeping a coffeehouse and tavern.
Whilst he amused himself with drilling his waiters, or fitting himself for the rostrum, by poring over the Athenian Oracle, or parliamentary debates, his waiters in return, were robbing him in all directions: his cook generally went to market for him, and his principal waiter was his principal butler; in short, Macklin had left himself little more to do in the essential parts of this business than paying the bills; and these soon poured in upon him so fast, that he could not even acquit himself of this employment. Accordingly, the next winter ultimately decided the question, as we find him a bankrupt on the 25th of January, 1755, under the title of vintner, coffeeman, and chapman. On his examination before the coinmissioners of bankruptcy, every thing turned out favourably, except as to what was no part of his character-prudence. It appeared he lost his money, partly by sums incurred in building and fitting up the rooms, and partly by the trade not being adequate to such a scale of expenditure. One circumstance, however, should not be omitted here, which redounded to his credit as a father, which was, that it appeared, by sufficient documents, he laid out no less than 12001. on the education of his daughter-an education not ill bestowed as it respected exterior accomplishments, &c.; but which made so little impression on her gratitude, that at her death (which happened when her father was above eighty years of age, and when it was well known he was far from being independent) she bequeathed the best part of her fortune to strangers; giving him, at the same time, such an eventual title to the other part, as was worse than absolute neglect:-it was a
legacy in mockery, as if she only thought of her faith to tantalize him with fruitless expectations.
Though miss Macklin was not so handsome, she was genteel in her person, and being highly accomplished, was fashionable in her manners and deportment. She was, beside, a very rising actress, and gave specimens of her singing and dancing in occasional entertainments, which made her a great favourite with the town. Some days previous to her benefit, whilst Macklin was sitting at breakfast, a loud knocking at his door announced the name of a Baronet, at that time as well known on the turf, as he has since been in the character of a noble lord and great legal practitioner. After the ceremonies of introduction were over, Macklin hoped “ he would do him the honour of breakfasting with him;" which the other very frankly accepted, and the conversation became general. The stage, of course, formed one of the topics; when the baronet took this opportunity to praise miss Macklin in the highest strain of panegyric. This Macklin thought a good omen for his daughter's benefit night, and bowed most graciously to all his encomiums. At first, after a short pause (arising, as Macklin thought, from his embarrassment about the manner of asking for tickets,) the baronet began the following curious conversation: « After what I have said of your daughter, Mr. Macklin, you may suppose I am not insensible of her merits. I mean to be her friend not in the article of taking tickets for her benefit, and such trifling acts of friendship, which mean nothing more than the vanity of patronage-I mean to be her friend for life.” What do
al. lude to, sir?” says Macklin, roused at this last expression.« Why,” said the other, “I mean as I say, to make her my friend for life; and as you are a man of the world, and it is fit you should be considered in this business, I now make you an offer of 4001. per year for your daughter, and 2001. per year for yourself, to be secured on any of my estates during both your natural lives."
“ I was at that time,” said Macklin, “ spreading some butter on my roll, and happened to have in my hand a large case-knife, which grasping, and looking steadily at the baronet, I desired him instantly to quit my apartment; telling him at the same time, that I was as much surprised at his folly as his profligacy, in thus at. tempting the honour of a child through the medium of her parent. He affected not to mind me, and was proceeding with some coarseness, when instantly I sprang from my seat, and holding the VOL. IV.
knife near his throat, in a menacing manner, bade him make the best of his way down stairs, or I would instantly drive that instrument into his heart, as the due reward of such base and infamous proposals. Sir (continued the veteran,) I had no occasion to repeat my menaces a second time: by G-d, the fellow made but one jump from his chair to the door, and scampered down stairs as if the devil was in him. He ran across the garden in the same manner, thinking I was still at his heels; and so, sir, I never spoke to the rascal afterwards."
He now joined Barry in founding a new theatre in Dublin; and in the spring of 1757, Macklin went to Ireland along with Barry and Woodward, who was admitted as a partner, and was present at laying the foundation-stone of Crow-street theatre. About September of the same year, Barry having obtained a sufficient num. ber of subscribers to his new theatre, and arranged every other matter relative to his great design, returned to London, leaving Macklin as his locum tenens, who, to do him justice, was so very vigilant and industrious in all the departments of his trust, that upon Barry's return to Dublin, towards the close of the summer 1758, the theatre was nearly ready for performance.
Mrs. Macklin died about this time, before her husband could receive
any benefit from her engagement; and he seemed much affected at the loss, as her judgment and good sense often kept him within the pale of propriety. This was his first wife: she was the widow of a respectable hosier in Dublin, of the name of Grace, where the marriage took place about 1731–2. She made her debut at Chester, in the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. She was esteemed an excellent actress in the walk of her profession, a very considerable reader, and possessed the accomplishments of singing and dancing to that degree as would have enabled her to have got her bread in those pursuits, had not her acting been considered as the most profitable employment. She had been some months be. fore her death in a declining state, but her dissolution is said to have been hastened by her husband's losses and bankruptcy.
Crow-street theatre opened on the 23d of October, 1758. Macklin joined this corps as soon as decency for the loss of his wife would admit; but such was the versatility of his temper, that he not only quitted his engagement with Barry and Woodward, and returned to London in the middle of December, 1759, but made an engagement to perform at Smock-alley (the opposite house)
towards the close of the season; which, however, he did not fulfil. Macklin now had greater projects than joining the Irish theatres: at this time he got an engagement at Drury-lane, at a very considerable salary; and besides, had it in meditation to bring out his farce of Love à la Mode, which, though it met with some opposition in the beginning, afterwards received such applause, both in London and Dublin, as made amends for all his former dramatic miscarriages, and crowned him with no inconsiderable share of reputation. This farce, first acted at Drury-lane, 1760, he afterwards brought out at Covent-garden. He also wrote The Married Libertine, comedy, 1761; The Irish Fine Lady, farce, 1767; and The Trueborn Scotchman, comedy, which was afterwards acted under the title of the Man of the World, 1781.
In 1774 he attempted the character of Macdonald, which met with a most violent opposition. The ground of complaint against this actor was changed after his second appearance in the character, and from a critique upon his acting, his antagonists attacked him with regard to his conduct: this arose from a speech which he then made, wherein he asserted, that Mr. Sparks and Mr. Reddish had hissed him in the gallery on the first night of his appearance. These gentlemen made affidavits to the contrary; and during the whole week, the papers were filled with squibs on both sides. On his third appearance in Macbeth, previous to the play, he came on in his own character, with a manuscript in his hand, and, after much contest, was allowed to read a part of it, which contained the proofs of his former assertion. He then went through the character with some applause. This second address to the public produced a letter from Mr. Reddish to Mr. Macklin, to which the latter published an answer. An account having appeared in one of the papers of a tumult that occurred upon his fourth appearance in the character, in which it was said, “ Mr. Smith's friends openly avowed the cause”-that gentleman applied to the printer, and finding Mr. Macklin to be the author of that declaration, addressed a letter to him the next day in the same paper, positively denying the charge.
These altercations created a very strong party against Mr. Macklin when he was to have played Shylock. They had stationed themselves in proper places of the pit and balcony boxes, for the better application to the managers. When the curtain drew up, the cry was general for Mr. Colman to make his appearance.