« PreviousContinue »
closed our hero's adventures in that part of the kingdom for ever: For in 1788 he went to the North of England, and engaged with the celebrated Tate Wilkinson, at York. Here too, he found his situation as pleasant as he could reasonably expect. Wilkinson, though he had some foibles, was a very good manager, and to his meritorious performers a kind friend; and never did a very harsh thing to any one. For much interesting matter respecting Warren during his engagement with him, which was the last he had in Eng. land, we refer our readers to a very entertaining book, intitled, “ Wilkinson's Wandering Patentee,” where they will find our hero honourably and advantageously mentioned.
While he was with Wilkinson, it happened fortunately for him, that Mrs. Siddons was engaged to perform at York. To her Jane Shore, he played Gloster-to her Isabella, Count Baldwin-to her Belvidera, Priuli, and to her Lady Randolph, Old Norval. She expressed more than ordinary approbation of his conduct, applauded his talents, and particularly bestowed upon him the praise of never having in a single instance injured her performance, or disconcerted her by any kind of incorrectness: He was always perfect, not only in words, but the stage business of his part, and always so exactly in his place, that nothing went wrong, a satisfaction which she rarely experienced in her provincial migrations. In a word, she made him a tender of her good offices, and assured him that whenever an occasion should offer, she would recommend him to particular notice.
In 1796, the arrival of Mr. Wignell in England, to raise levies for the Philadelphia new theatre, furnished the exalted lady just mentioned with an opportunity of performing her generous promise. Through the medium of a Mr. Grainger, Warren offered himself to Wignell, and referred to Mrs. Siddons for a character, which she gave in such strong terms of recommendation, that the American manager made our hero an offer such as he felt his interest to accept without a moment's consideration. For, respectable though our hero's situation was in England, it was by no means so profitable as he had reason to wish. The highest salary in the company was a guinea and a half a week, and some stood as low as fifteen shillings, in that circuit, though it was one of the first out of London; and as he was then married, something more was desirable to provide for the comfort and repose of old age. Accordingly, he repaired to London, where he settled all matters with Mr. Wignell, and on the Vol. IV.
10th of September, 1796, embarked at Gravesend, from whence the vessel dropping on to the Downes took in Mr. and Mrs. Merry and Mr. Cooper; and proceeding down the Channel reached New York in twenty-one days, from land to land; or in twenty-eight from the time Warren embarked.
Mr. Warren's first appearance in Philadelphia was in the character of Friar Lawrence;-Romeo by Mr. Moreton, and Juliet, by Mrs. Merry--After which he performed Bundle in the Waterman.
In fifteen years' constant observation on the acting of Mr. Warren, the public must certainly have made up their minds upon his professional merit. No one on the stage has a more clear and indisputable title to the character of a useful actor than he has: since performing continually in tragedy and comedy, play and farce, and taking, as the occasional exigencies of the theatre demand, any and every character of consequence, he is never less than respectable in any of them. Equally ready for Old Norval, or Lord Randolph, Falstaff or King Henry, and so forth, he is always sure to be perfect in each. But he is intitled to praise of a much higher, kind than that of being merely respectable; in his performance of old men in tragedy, and in sentimental comedy he is judicious, nervous, chaste and pathetic.--His King Henry in Richard the Third-his Old Norval, Brabantio, Priuli and Stockwell, with many we cannot now name are instances of his excellence in this department. In broad comedy-for instance, in Falstaff and Cacafogo, Sir Peter Teazle, Hardcastle, Governour Tempest, Sir Anthony Absolute, Old Philpot, Old Rapid, Caustic, Old Dowdal and an infinite number of other characters, we should, among the players of this country look in vain for his equal—and in some of them scarcely find his superior in Europe: Of him indeed, may be said what of no other in this country but Cooke, can be said, that as an actor he would be able to maintain in any theatre in Britain or Ireland the same rank that he holds here.
As a private individual in the various relations of life, whether as son, father, brother, husband, or friend, Mr. Warren need not fear to have his character put in competition with the best of his fellow citizens. This is a topic, however, on which we forbear to dilate. The people of this country are neither ignorant of Mr. Warren's character, nor, to do them justice, are they niggardly in acknowledging his virtues:—to dwell upon the subject, therefore, would only hurt his feelings, without conveying to any reader an idea that is not already familiar to him.
COMMUNICATION DESCRIBING THE FIRE AT
The late destruction of the Richmond theatre by fire, has been attended by a calamity of the most afflicting nature. A city, but a few days since, enlivened by a circle made up of the gayest, noblest, and warmest hearts in the world, is, in a single hour deprived of numbers whose society rendered it inexpressibly dear to the resident, and delightful to the stranger. A city celebrated, beyond all others in the union, for its cheerfulness and refinement, is, without warning, and in the midst of its festivity, suddenly shrouded in mourning and convulsed with wo. Every circumstance of this event, tends to aggravate its horror. A gay, animated, and fearless assembly are in a moment thrown into confusion, frenzied with terror, and many of them doomed to perish in the most agonizing torture. Such a scene, the destruction of such victims:—to happen any where, would be almost insupportable;—but that it should happen in a theatre,-a place of amusement,-consummates the affliction, and renders it, beyond precedent, tremendous and overwhelming --Let the unhappy survivors fly for comfort to the Word of that Deity, who is merciful in his most terrific mandates. There are few more convincing proofs of the divine origin of the Bible, than the power which it gives us of enduring affliction with fortitude, and of converting it to the most salutary and important
So deep has been the agitation of the Richmond people that no regular and connected account of this event has yet transpired. All the printed or written narratives are constantly interrupted by exclamations of wo, and they all promise a more definite description when the frenzy of the present moment shall subside. From the palpitating and broken relations which have reached us, it appears that on the 26th of December, a new play and pantomime was advertised for the benefit of Mr. Placide, and that these entertainments attracted an audience of seven hundred- the fullest and most fashionable house this season. The play and the first act of the pantomime went off. The second act began, Mr. West was on the stage, and the orchestra were in full chorus. At this moment, from some mismanagement of the lights behind, part of the
scenery took fire. The sparks falling from above, upon Mr. West, gave the first alarm. The performers and their attendants in the mean time endeavoured to tear down the scenery and extinguish the flames, without disturbing the spectators. To suppress the alarm which the falling sparks excited, they cried out from the stage that there was no danger. From this the audience inferred that the shower of the fire was a part of the play, and were for a little time restrained from fight. But the flames flew with unexampled rapidity, and Mr. Robertson came out in unutterable distress, pointed to the ceiling, and uttered these appaling words, “ THE HOUSE IS ON Fire!” His hand was immediately stretched forth to the persons in the stage box, to help them on the stage, and aid their retreat in that direction. The cry of “ Fire! Fire!" passed with electric velocity through the house;-every one flew from their seats to gain the lobbies and stairs.
It happened most unfortunately, that the general entrance to the pit and boxes was through a door net more than large enough to admit two or three persons abreast. This entrance was within a trifling distance of the pit door; but to reach the boxes, it was necessary to descend into a long, and, if we rightly recollect, a winding passage, which terminated at a little angular staircase, that rose into the lobby of the lower boxes. The entrance to the gallery was distinct. This peculiar and wretched formation will explain the reason why those who were in the pit and gallery escaped, while such terrible destruction overwhelmed those who filled the boxes. The pit door was so near the general entrance that the occupants of the pit sprang forward, gained it, and cleared themselves from the house, almost before the crowd that was in the boxes caught the alarm. The editor of the American Standard had left the pit; he turned and discovered the whole building to be in flames;—the pit was completely deserted; and yet for some time the grand avenue was empty, and not an individual got thither from the boxes. It was at this moment that the horrors of the scene commenced. Those who were in the boxes became panic struck. All or nearly all might have been preserved, had they but jumped into the pit, and gained the outlet in that direction. A gentleman and lady who otherwise would have perished had their lives saved by being providentially thrown thither from the second boxes. But all darted toward the lobbies. The stairways were instantly blocked up. In two minutes the whole audience were com
pletely enveloped in hot scorching smoke and flame. The lights were extinguished by the black and smothering vapor; cries, shrieks, confusion, and despair succeeded. Those who had gained the outside implored the sufferers to leap from the windows. Several were thrown back while struggling in the attempt. Many children, females, and men precipitated themselves from the first and second story-one broke his neck-others escaped, though several with broken legs and thighs and hideous contusions; while a child, of twelve years old, darted from the window, and came off unhurt. The gentlemen from without caught many as they leaped. Among these, Miss Harvey, whose clothes were on fire, sprang into the arms of the editor of the Standard. He tore away her burning dress, wrapped her in his coat, and bore her to a neighbouring house. She died, in consequence of her wounds, on the following day.
But who can picture the distress of those, who unable to gain the windows or afraid to leap from them, were pent up in the long narrow passages, almost suffocated by the smoke, or writhing with agony in the flames, which, within ten minutes after it caught, enveloped the whole house. The scene baffles all description. The most heart-piercing cries echoed from every side.--Amiable, helpless females, stretched forth their imploring hands, crying, “ Save me, sir: oh, sir, save me, save me!"_Wives and children shrieked for their husbands and fathers, while the gathering element came rolling on its curling flames, and columns of smoke, threatening to devour every human being in the building. Many were trodden under foot-numbers were raised several feet over the heads of the rest and so great was the pressure that they retarded each other, until the devouring element overwhelmed and swept them into eternity. Several who even emerged from the building were so much scorched that they have since perished, and many others were crushed under foot after getting outside of the door!
To paint the scene which ensued is impossible. Women with dishevelled hair; fathers and mothers shrieking out for their children, husbands for their wives, brothers for their sisters, filled the whole area on the outside of the building. A few, who had escaped, plunged again into the flames to save some dear object of their regard, and they perished. Others were frantic, and would have rushed to destruction, but for the hand of a friend. The people