Page images
PDF
EPUB

like the French, we could do away with all these fencing matches upon the stage, where the skill is so little likely to be equal, and awkwardness may be fatal. Not very long since, I asked my old acquaintance Angelo who was his best theatrical pupil ? He did not hesitate a moment, but said Charles Kemble. We had also an opportunity of welcoming Mrs. Glover to Drury Lane, as Mrs. Oakley, among the new stars this season.

On the 29th of January, 1803, Mrs. Jordan acted a new part of the most incongruous description, in a comedy, by Holcroft, called “Hear Both Sides." The author thought himself ill treated; I thought him fairly heard at least, and if he could have been saved Mrs. Jordan would have brought him through. He wrote a preface, I remember, but it never sold for a guinea, like Colman's. We were soon to have the first fruits of the latter gentleman's promise to write for his own theatre, in the appearance of his most attractive comedy, “John Bull," on the 5th of March, at Covent Garden. It would have run through his whole season, but then he must have got people to act it. Munden made Blanchard's fortune by refusing Sir Simon Rochdale, which he thought inferior to Job Thornberry (Fawcett's part).

Drury could not enter the lists by a comedy of equal force, for it may now be doubted whether Sheridan had left himself sufficient comic force to meet the author of “ John Bull.” Indeed, Colman seemed to think so, by once challenging the author of the “School for Scandal” to be locked up with him, as the cardinals are, till they agree upon a Pope, and write a comedy for the championship. I incline to think he would have beat him, because I remember to have been shown some scenes written latterly by Mr. Sheridan, for a dramatist whom he respected, and they were by no means the best in the piece, and certainly the least successful. The instances were very well known in the theatre, and the author has been my acquaintance for more than thirty years. What could be got was produced on the 16th of April ; it was a five-act comedy, called the “Marriage Promise," written by Mr. Allingham, a friend of Mrs. Powell's. He had previously succeeded in some very clever afterpieces, and was a man of talent. Tandem and Consols, which the reader would himself cast to Bannister and Dowton, were the only novelties in point of character. It was an interesting, attractive, and probable piece, and the Emma Harvey of Mrs. Jordan delighted the house with the brilliant hues of youthful imagination. Hear the sort of comfort it administers to her:

“ Old age views only the dull and gloomy side of the landscape, where nodding rocks and dreadful precipices threaten the timid traveller with destruction, but my youthful fancy sees a delightful path, bedecked with fragrant shrubs and beauteous flowers, through which the cherub Hope leads the pleased wanderer to happiness and joy."

It brought, I remember, many excellent houses, and cost nothing to produce it, but the mere clothing of the day. Mr. Adviser did not in the least demur to Mrs. Jordan's accepting her character in the present comedy.

Bob Palmer was smitten with the mania of acting Falstaff, and begged that I would cut down Kenrick's capital imitation, “Falstaff's Wedding,” for him to act at his benefit. I did it with considerable care, and some pleasure. Much as I knew of Kenrick's character, I could not be unjust to his talent. He has succeeded better than any man who ever attempted to walk over the same ground occupied by our inimitable bard, of whom I delight to speak in the language he has himself applied to his Cleopatra :

“ Age cannot wither him, nor custom stale

His infinite variety. Other poets cloy
The appetites they feed, but he makes hungry
Where most he satisfies."

[ocr errors]

Hamlet the Dane, our friend George Cooke, was now disturbing all the arrangements of the theatre. He disappointed Munden — he disappointed Harry Johnston. He accepted a character in Lewis's “Minister,” now called the “Harper's Daughter," was advertised in it for a fortnight together, and on the very night of performance sent word that he could not act that evening. Mr. Henry Sid. dons studied it so completely between the acts of the play that he was hardly seen to use the book at all, though he brought it on the stage with him. This was a talent which his father had to an equal extent, and is invaluable in a country theatre. Our intemperate Dane had trified too often with the public, and they, in consequence, neglected his benefit. He had been much unsettled by the news which was now current, that everything was adjusted between Mr. Harris and Mr. Kemble, and that the latter gentleman had bought the sixth share of Covent Garden Theatre, which Mr. Lewis had recently relinquished, and consequently that he must either mend his manners, or take his

1

departure for that happier spot, which is the refuge of the ungovernable spirits of our theatres.

On the 17th of April we had the misfortune to lose Mr. James Aickin, an actor whose voice was music, and whose expression was benevolence. He has never been replaced as a sensible, unpresuming second-rate. His temper was not the most happy, and he had the Irish trick of calling for pistols, upon any real or imaginary grievance. He took Kemble into the field, and fired a shot at him ; old Bannister arranged the distance for them, but Kemble would not return his fire, as he found himself safe. I was myself once in danger of a cartel from him, as Bobadil calls a challenge, for simply remarking that it was not at all baronial to walk about in Lord Randolph with a white handkerchief in his hand; it was much too finical, I thought, for the hardy manners of that age. Somebody, I believe, told him, very truly, that he had not a warmer admirer than myself, or, perhaps, I might have been shivered for so unwelcome a piece of criticism.

Mr. Colman kept his promise of opening his theatre the middle of May, and with a prelude which occupied Elliston and Waldron very pleasantly with candidate actors of whimsical preten.

« PreviousContinue »