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nexion with this ridiculous business seemed destined to come to shame: Malone himself, though he penned a detection of the imposture, was, in the midst of his triumph, exposed, in his turn, by George Chalmers, who, even after Ireland confessed his fraud, wrote an Apology for the believers in the manuscript, showing to demonstration, that the reasoning of Malone was false in itself, though brought to establish what was now become undeniable truth. Even John Kemble, passive as he was in the affair, continued long to suffer from that ill-will which ascribed to him the ridicule by which the believers in those forgeries had been overwhelmed. Nor must we forget the numerous class of projectors, who had schemed to connect their own private emolument with the furtherance of the deception. These were, years afterwards, to be found among the personal enemies of Kemble.
Another notable instance of popular humour was evinced soon after, viz. the violent fever-fit of admiration which the public exhibited for the young Roscius, Master Betty, a child certainly of precocious parts, remarkable for his speech and action, together with his happy mimicry, for it could at his age be nothing else, of the language of passions which he had never felt. It was certainly very fair playing, and in the circumstances, wonderful; the graceful demeanour and non-chalance of the almost infantine performer were particularly so. But it was a deception; and Siddons and Kemble were neglected, whilst the youthful prodigy trod the stage in triumph, and afforded the most rapturous gratification to such audiences as had it in their power to enjoy the united efforts of the finest actor and actress in the world. Some ill humour was manifested, if we rightly recollect, by a part of the public, because Mrs. Siddons felt her own dignity, and did not choose to act with this tender juvenile for her lover or husband. This temporary fit of dotage of John Bull was attended with feelings of dislike as well as neglect to his ancient servant, Kemble: for, when under the influence of an absurd planet, John is too apt to look with an evil eye upon all who do not bow down to worship the God of his immediate idolatry.
This determined dream of folly included a sort of prospective hope on the part of the admiring audience, that their treasure would increase in value as his powers, already so astonishing in boyhood, should ripen to maturity. But early blossoms seldom do so; and it was seen in the second season, that, as the wonderful circumstance of his youth diminished, Master Betty's. attractions became less. He was prudent, or rather his friends were; and as he had amassed, in an incredibly short space, a handsome fortune, they withdrew him from the scene. He appeared again many
years afterwards, and showed respectable, but far from striking powers.
The next great incident in Kemble's history was occasioned by a deplorable event, or rather one out of a course of events of the same nature which succeeded each other rapidly, we mean the sequence of fires, by which the Pantheon, Opera House, Covent Garden, and Drury Lane theatres were burnt down. The wonderful coincidence of time and circumstance in these fatal accidents made
persons imagine that some incendiary had, in a fit of zeal of a truly flaming character, undertaken the destruction of what he might consider as the resorts of profanity. But any one who has been behind the scenes of a theatre, and has seen how many lights are burning in the neighbourhood of scenery, and other articles of a character peculiarly combustible ; has been witness, at the same time, to the explosion of guns and fire-works, scattering risk in every direction; and has observed how the shifting of scenes and alteration of lights are perpetually threatening to bring them into contact, will wonder that so few rather than that so many accidents of the kind in reality take place. There is, also, to be considered, the total want of party walls, and that ample room and scope afforded to the action of the flames renders fire a more dangerous, as well as a more probable, event in a theatre than
where else-unless it be aboard ship. The same resource against this imminent peril exists in both cases :-namely, the great number of men who are perpetually moving about, both behind the scenes and in a vessel. Numerous accidents occur weekly, nay daily, in both, which, where there were fewer eyes to observe, and fewer ready hands to assist, would produce the most fatal accidents. It is, we think, Captain Brazen, in the Recruiting Officer, who hesitates whether he shall lay out the fortune of his wife in the speculation of a theatre or a privateer. In some respects there is the same disadvantage attending either plan--at an insurance office they must both be ranked double dangerous.
But the destruction of Covent Garden theatre was attended with one consequence which we must always regard as detrimental, in the highest degree, to the theatrical art. The house was rebuilt on a plan too ample for its legitimate purpose, and far too magnificent for the profits which might naturally be expected from it.
The proprietors of Drury had led the way in this great and leading error when they reconstructed that theatre and stage on which Garrick and his contemporaries had exhibited their astonishing talents. We remember the old playhouse, and cannot but regret that the plan had not been, in point of extent at least, exactly followed. All the nicer touches of fine acting—the smile, however
suppressed—the glance of passion which escaped from the actor's eye and indicated the internal emotion which he appeared desirous to suppress—the whisper which was heard distinctly through the whole circle of the attentive audience—are all lost or wasted in the huge halls which have since arisen. The finest art of the performer-that of modulating features, tones, and action to the natural expression of human passion, is now lost. Extravagant gesture must be used; excess of rant must be committed by the best actors in their finest parts; and even their violence of voice and gesticulation can hardly make them intelligible to the immense circle in front.
Nor do we conceive this enlargement of the theatres to be more favourable to the interest of the proprietors than to the advantage of the art. A crowded house ought to be a frequent occurrence for the purpose of keeping up the appetite of the public, who are stimulated on such occasions by the desire of sharing a delight not to be purchased without some difficulty. But in these immense Dom-daniels difficulty of access can but rarely exist:-cold and cheerless vacuity is much more frequently the effect, even when the number which can be calculated upon as regular play-going people are dispersed through their immense spaces. Men are never stimulated to go thither from the feai that a neglected opportunity may not return. What can be done at any time is seldom or never done, and the appearance of huge half-empty amphitheatres must suggest to every one who visits them the chilling idea of an amusement which has little attraction. Besides, the dead and unproductive expense laid out upon ornamental architecture and accommodation which is seldom wanted, loads the property and diminishes the productive capital which ought to be employed in the salaries of the actors and other legitimate expenses of the house. -. It is also too true that the size of the theatres has greatly tended to increase the charge justly brought against them in some respects as injurious to public morals. Upon the stage the entertainment presented to the public is of a character far more pure
and correct in point of morality than was formerly the case. Those by whom it is represented are generally decorous and often exemplary in their private conduct; many mingle with and are well received in the best society; and the personal characters of respectable performers of this day may be most advantageously opposed to those of the Cibbers and Oldfields of former times, who only made their way into that species of company where profligacy is welcome, when accompanied by wit and the power of giving entertainment. But what has been gained in point of decoruni ou the stage
has, we grieve to say, been lost among the audience. In an immense house where the business of the play can only occupy that part of the company who are near the stage, its proprietors are tempted to admit, nay encourage, the attendance of those who come thither for amusement of a less harmless nature.. Saloons have been introduced, which are used for little other. purpose
than that of assignation; and the most abandoned class of females are so dispersed throughout the theatre, and practise their profession with so little appearance of controul, that much arrangement is necessary on the part of those who wish to make the female part of their family partakers of a rational and moral amusement, to place them out of the reach of hearing and seeing what must be: unfit for their eyes and ears. It may be answered, and with some truth, that in a corrupted metropolis the presence of such company as we allude to is in some degree unavoidable. But, în small theatres, the decent and well mannered bear a much larger proportion to the less accurate part of the audience, and the delinquents, out-numbered and abashed, are compelled to behave at least with decency, and assume an appearance of the virtue which they have not. By limiting the profuse expense in useless. external magnificence, the proprietors would also lose the temptation to encourage this part of their audience, and would not need to plead the pitiable excuse,
• Our poverty and not our will consents.' Whoever has seen the interior of a : Parisian theatre will, and must admit, that they manage these things better in France.
But the Drury Lane proprietors having set the example of increasing the extent of their theatre; those of Covent Garden would not be left behind, and theirs also rose in a still more expanded and expensive scale. They were stimulated by emulation, and like two rival country squires who stand against each other for an election went on without regard to their own interest, straining every nerve to out-show each other: in prodigality of space and magnificence of architecture. Mr. Boaden has some sensible remarks on this subject, and compares them, in the extent of their preparations, to' fishermen, who thought they could not fail to ensure the miraculous draught of fishes, if they made but their net large enough to hold them.
It is not impossible that Mr. Kemble’s classical taste, and the high sense which he entertained of the dignity of his art, induced him to give his assent too readily to those schemes of magnificence, which were favoured by his colleagues as, the surest road to profit. The former was soon convinced of hus mistake, beholding that he had only afforded an opportunity for the further predominance of sound and show over the real drama. . But the
others, who supposed that, in consideration of the additional expenditure, the public would submit to a small increase of entrancemoney, were doomed to experience more direct disappointment and mortification. Of these, however, the chief burden fell in the first instance upon Kemble himself, though not more accessary than the other proprietors to the original proposal, and not at all guilty of some imprudent steps that had been taken in its support. 1. A blackguard transaction ought to have its name from the dictionary of the vulgar tongue, and the continued riot raised about the increase of entrance-money, which had remained the same for one hundred
while all the expenses attending a theatre were increased in a ten-fold proportion, became the ground of the 0. P. row, as was called a continued riot which lasted sixty-six nights. A large proportion of the most idle and unthinking of the audience, lads who escaped from their counters and desks at the hour of half-price, were joined with and instigated by others whose purposes were deliberately hostile to the theatre, and personally malignant to poor Kemble--for so we may term him, when his professional duty called him day after day and night after night, to expose himself to the determined brutality of a set of rioters, equally illiberal and implacable, who made him the object of their marked abuse and violence. This disorderly crew had for their nominal leader a gentleman rich in pedigree, but poor enough in understanding to suffer himself to be made the tool of such a mob.
At the same time, it must be admitted, the measures used to quell the rioters in the beginning were of a most improper complexion. Water-engines were brought on the stage as if in readiness to play on the audience, and the highly improper measure of introducing common bruisers and prize-fighters into the pit, as another mode of bullying the company, gave just offence, and drew many well meaning auxiliaries to the worser side. Neither of these injudicious devices had Mr. Kemble’s sanction: he had too much sense and too much taste. But he reaped almost exclusively the harvest of odium which they excited. Not contented with the most violent expressions of hatred and contempt poured on him from the front of the house, and displayed on placards, lest their import should be lost in a din which overpowered the sound of a full band of musicians, (whis could only be known to play by the motion of their arms and fingers,) another vent for this low-bred malignity was. found in a subscription list for defending the rioters who might be apprehended and prosecuted. Here every blackguard might, for subscribing sixpence or a shilling, indulge himself by announcing it to be a contribution from an enemy of Black Jack or King