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John, or whatever impertinent nickname he chose to bestow on an accomplished, simple-hearted, and most honourable man, eminent for his own acquirements as well as for the delight which he had afforded the public. At length the rioters carried their animosity so far as to visit King John's house every evening after the close of the play, and alarm the female part of his family with their warwhoop. Kemble, hearing himself vociferously called for, resolved, with the mixture of intrepidity and simplicity which distinguished his character, ' to go out,' as he said, and speak to them. The prudence and affection of his brother Charles prevented his doing 80, or it is likely that the tempting opportunity afforded by darkness and confusion, with the exasperated feelings of the assailants, might have brought about some desperate catastrophe.
The termination of this extraordinary riot is well known. The real right of their case, the laws by which they were protected, the nightly exertions of the police, though strengthened in an unusual manner,--all could not protect the proprietors of the theatre against a mob disciplined with the most extraordinary pains, taking wonderful precaution to stop within certain limits, and so well organized, as to exhibit during the space of almost three months no appearance of diminishing in their numbers, or relaxing in their determination. They had leaders of their own, were managed by a secret committee, had their regular O. P. dinners, and O. P. music, which was actually published, their placards, their rattles, their whistles, their bells, their cat-calls, and, above all, their bludgeons. The proprie tors were at length compelled to submit to foes so inveterate;—to modify the proposed advance to that of a shilling in the boxes, and sixpence in the pit ticket; - and to renounce, in a great measure, that plan of private boxes which gave some chance of making the theatre once again the resort of the world of fashion. To com. plete the picture, and show the malignant and revengeful temper in which these wild proceedings were conducted, the rioters insisted that the proprietors of Covent Garden should dismiss Mr. Brandon, an old and faithful servant of the house, because, in his capacity of box-keeper, he had made strenuous exertions to protect the property and assist the rights of his employers. Such a conclusion was worthy of the spirit in which the whole row was conducted.
We are of opinion that, though Kemble stood this storm like a man, he also felt it very deeply, and that his favourite art lost some of its attractions when he experienced to what unjust humiliation it subjected him, and that without the possibility of defence or retaliation. He remained, indeed, for two years, making every effort to assist the theatre in its state of depression :-and mighty were those efforts, for it was during that space, that he brought
back Julius Cæsar to tlie stage, and raised from his ashes the living Brutus. . But in 1812, deeming he had done his part, desirous of some repose--and not unwilling, perhaps, to make the public sensible what the theatre might suffer by his absence-he withdrew himself from London for nearly two years. In the same year, and just before his departure, the stage lost its brightest ornament by the retirement of Mrs. Siddons.
Mr. Kemble's return to the British capital and stage was triumphant. The pit rose to receive him, and the boxes poured laurels upon the stage. He ascended to the very height of popu- . larity, and was acknowledged as, without dispute, the first actor in Britain, probably in the world, until Kean arose to dispute the
The youth, activity and energy of this new performer; the originality of his manner, which was in reality a revival of the school of Garrick, above all, the effects of novelty, had a great influence on the public mind, although the opinion of the more sound critics' remained decidedly partial to that performer who relied for his success on deep and accurate study of the dramatic art, of the poet's words, and of the human mind, rather than vehe ment and forcible action; which, though it surprizes the first or second time it is witnessed, is apt, when repeated, to have the resemblance of stage-trick. Perhaps Mr. Kemble's resolution to retire,.. even while his powers seemed to others in their full vigour, was hastened by the toil which he foresaw it must cost him to maintain at his age—and with health that was fast breaking--a contest with a rival in all the vigour of youth. However this was,
Mr. Kemble took leave of the audience, 23d Juve, 1817, after acting, with unabated powers, the character of Coriolanus, which he probably chose, because in that he could neither have rival nor successor.
We add, with regret, that neither his health, nor perhaps his finances, although easy, permitted him with convenience to close bis days in his native country. Lainonted by numerous friends of the first distinction for character, literature, and rank, John Kemble retreated to Lausanne, and there finally fixed his residence. - He made over his share in the theatre to his brother Charles, and disposed of his dramatic collection (which some public library should have purchased) for £2000 to the Duke of Devonshire. He died, 26th February, 1823, in the arms of the excellent person to whom he had been united for many years spent in domestic happiness. Few men of milder, calmer, gentler disposition, steeled at the same time with a high sense of honour, and the nice-timed feelings of a gentleman, are probably left behind bim. Two instances may be selected from the works before usi
A wrong-headed actor, having challenged him on account of some supposed injustice, Kemble walked to the field as if to rehearsal, took his post, and received the fire as unmoved as if he had been acting the same on the stage; but refused to return the shot, saying, the gentleman who wished satisfaction had, he supposed, got it he himself desired none. On another occasion, when defending Miss Phillips against a body of military gentlemen, whose drunkenness rendered their gallant attentions doubly disagreeable, one of them struck at him with his drawn sabre; a maid-servant parried the błow, and Kemble only saying,' well done, Euphrasia,' drew his sword, and taking the young lady under his arm, conducted her home in safety.* As a moral character, bis integrity was unsullied; and the whole tenor of his life was equally honourable to himself and useful to his art. At proper times and in gentlemen's society, he could show himself one of the old social school, who loved a cup of wine without a drop of allaying Tiber; but this was only, as Ben Jonson says, to give spirit to literary conversation : and, indeed, when we have heard Kemble pour forth the treasures of his critical knowledge over a bottle, we were irresistibly reminded of the author of Epicene giving law at the Mermaid or the Apollo.
We have already given our general opinion of Mr. Boaden's performance, but have not perhaps done sufficient justice to the accuracy of his narrative, and the liberality and truth of his critical remarks. The style is a little too ambitious,—and some times so Gibbonian as rather to indicate, than distinctly to relate what happened. But with these imperfections it is a valuable present to the public, and deserves a place in every dramatie library; not only as a respectable and liberal history of the eminent actor whose name the book bears, but as containing much curious information, a little too miscellaneously heaped together, concerning the drama in general,
On one of his incidental topics we must pause for a moment with delighted recollection. We mean the readings of the celebrated Le Texier, who, seated at a desk, and dressed in plain clothes, read French plays with such modulation of voice, and such exquisite point of dialogue, as to form a pleasure different
from that of the theatre, but almost as great as we experience in listening to a first rate actor. We have only to add to a very good account given by Mr. Boaden of this. extraordinary entertainment, that when it commenced: M. Le Texier read over the dramatis personæ, with the little analysis of character usually attached to each 'name, using the voice and manner with which he afterwards
Kelly's Reminiscences, vol. ii. p. 148. VOL. XXXIV. NO, LXVII.
read the part. And so accurately was the key note given, that he had no need to name afterwards the person who spoke; the stupidest of the audience could not miss to recognize bim.
We now approach Michael Kelly, but the play has taken up so much time that we must curtail the afterpiece, and we are sorry for it, because it would be sure to send our readers home in good humour. All the world knows that Michael Kelly, eminently gifted as a musician, who long, with the assistance of the Storaces and Mrs. Crouch, maintained the Italian Opera in London, and contributed his powers to many other musical departments in the drama, had been educated for five years in Italy, and had appeared as a singer at most of the courts on the Continent with good approbation. So that he can tell the reader many a tale of foreign parts, of princes, and archdukes, and emperors, which are well worth listening to. He has his hair-breadth escapes to tell you, and his perils by flood and tield.' Being born an Irishman, he has some of the reckless humour of his country, with a large share of its good-nature; gets into scrapes, scrambles out of them again, and laughs heartily both at the danger and the escape. The Memoirs, written undoubtedly by a man of far in: ferior talent, recalled to us nevertheless those of Goldoni; nay, often put us in mind of Gil Blas--not that Mr. Kelly has the least of the picaro, which in some degree attached to him of Santillane, but that hanging, as it were, between the higher and sometimes highest orders, in whose behalf he exercised his talents, and a class eminently exposed to variations of society and alternations of fortune, he has seen the world on both sides, and has told the result of his observation with a good deal of light humour. An adventurous little schooner of this kind skirring the coast in search of its own peculiar objects cannot be expected to bring back a ponderous or bulky cargo of wares; consisting of solid efficient value in the mart of literature. No matter the smart little cruiser is the more likely to collect these light notices of persons and manners in society, which, if they are not grave in themselves, are eminently well calculated to relieve works of a graver description. Not but that Mr. Kelly has added things worthy the notice of the historian. There are, in particular, some curious facts concerning the manners of that well-intentioned but misguided speculator in politics, Joseph II. wbich, had we time, we would willingly pause to introduce.
There is besides much conceruing music, the science in which Mr. Kelly has distinguished himself, which we conceive must be highly interesting to connoisseurs, and which has afforded ourselves entertainment-for which we give the author our hearty thanks--although, like young Pottinger, we can only wave our
“I compare a
hals and join our applause to that of others, obviously without compreliending much of what has been going on.' One thing we do comprehend, which is the advice of the distinguished Mozart to our hero hinself. It seems that Mr. Kelly, whose natural talents and taste had been greatly improved by five years residence in Italy, having originally determined on the stage as a profession, became ambitious in his prosecution of musical distinc, tion, and thought of devoting himself to the mysteries of counterpoint. Mozart pointed out to him the disadvantage of engaging in a dry and abstract study, instead of cultivating the powers of melody with which nature had endowed him.
•“Melody is the essence of music,” continued he ; good melodist to a fine racer, and counterpointists to haek post-horses : therefore be advised, let well alone, and remember the old Italian proverb -Chi sa più, meno sa-- --Who knows most, knows least." The opinion of this great man made on me a lasting impression.'--Kelly, vol. i. p. 225.
Now we, being no musicians, have always been of the same opinion.
Mallem convivis quàm placuisse coquis.' It is the proper business of the fine arts to delight the world at large by their popular effect, rather than to puzzle and confound them by depth of learning. For our own part, when we are, in spite of our snuff-box, detected with closed eyes during some piece of erudite and complicated harmony, we are determined not to answer, as heretofore, that we shut our eyes to open our ears with less interruption, but boldly to avow with Jeremy in Love for Love, that though we have a reasonable ear for a jig, your solos and sonatas give us the spleen.' We will quote Mozart's authority to silence all reprehension, and,
'We thank thee, Mike, for teaching us that word.' When Michael Kelly came to England, his musical talent speedily gained him distinction and employment; Mr. Boaden gives the following account of his proficiency:
• It often happens in music, that the sweetest organ leads to nothing brilliant, and that truth of tone, and flexibility, and compass, achieve perfection ju the art. Something like this was true of Kelly. His voice had amazing power and steadiness; his compass was extraordinary. In vigorous passages he never cheated the ear with the feeble wailings of falsetto, but sprung upon the ascending fifth with a sustaining energy, that often electrified an audience. Some of my readers will remember an instance of this in the air, sung only by himself, “ Spirit of my sainted Sire," where the fifth was upon the syllable saint. T'he Conservatore at Naples, in which he passed five years of his youth, gave him all that science could add to an original love for the art; and Apprili, the best' master of any age, completed the studies of the young musician.