Obrázky na stránke
[ocr errors]

was given, when, with the patent in his pocket, he applied to King George the Third for a twenty-one years' licence, to effect which, a friend, knowing his habits, took him to Windsor over night, to make sure of his being in time to make a personal application to his Majesty, as he rode out in the morning, at his usual time, eleven o'clock : he was called at nine, and reached the castle-gate five minutes too late ; he, however, was there at his Majesty's return, and obtained his suit—the licence upon which Drury Lane now acts.

Booth's popularity daily increasing, he judged it the proper time to shake off the irksome trammels which had so long hung heavily upon him; he therefore wrote the following letter, which Wilks and his partners getting intimation of, contrived that he should act every night, and thereby prevent his presence at the Court, which was then at Windsor. Nevertheless, with the assistance of his friends, who assisted him with their carriages and relays of horses at Hounslow, he went every night to Windsor, with four horses, as soon as the play was over.

“ Tuesday, Dec. 16, 1712. · My Lord, I cannot forbear returning you my most humble thanks for your kind promise of assisting me, tho' at the same time I cannot but be concern'd at the trouble I give you.

“Let me humbly beg leave to give your Lordship some further light into this affair. A short history of my misfortunes, since I first undertook this unhappy business I am now engaged in, may prevail on your Lordship's good nature and generosity to redress the oppression I now labour under with more despatch than perhaps might seem necessary to you, if you were unacquainted with my present condition.

After having been six years at Westminster School, instead of going to either university to pursue my studies, my folly led me to the profession I now must stick to while I live. As the world goes, actors are very rarely preferred to any other employment. I blush to own my indiscretion ; I was very young ; but since I have brought myself to a bad market I must make the best of it.

“I have been thirteen years an actor : five years in Lincoln's Inn Fields, under Mr. Betterton; and during that time I did not receive comunibus annis thirty pounds by my salary; from thence I remov'd under Mr. Vanburgh and Mr. Congrere, to the playhouse in the Haymarket, for four years. I fared not much better than before ; these misfortunes threw me materially behind hand in the world, and, had I not married a gentlewoman of some fortune, I must have perish’d; for the four remaining years I received my full pay, which amounted to one hundred and ten pounds per ann, or thereabout. I have had success in my benefit plays for the four years past, but never yet was able to retrieve the losses I sustained before. I was always cheerful in my misfortunes, and endeavoured, by much industry and application in my business, to render myself acceptable to the town, still flattering myself with hopes, that, one time or other, actors would be encourag'd as they were at the restoration, and many years afterwardsvolvenda dies en attulit! But Mr. Wilks, Mr. Doggett, and Mr. Cibber only enjoy the benefit of this alteration in our theatrical government; those gentlemen have been and are in possession of what has already made 'em happy in their circumstances, while I must act and labour to divert the town for a bare subsistence only. This, my Lord, is hard upon me: yet I have something to urge farther, to satisfy your Lordship that my case is still worse--my present livelyhood depends upon my health; and even at this time I lye too much at the mercy of my creditors.

Thus, my Lord, if I am not redress’d, I must be a sacrifice to my equals ; Mr. Wilks, Mr. Cibber, and Mr. Doggett must raise fortunes to themselves and families, while I starre,

[ocr errors]

“I know the worth and honour of the Vice Chamberlain, but not being so well known to him as to your Lordship I have humbly begg'd of you to be my patron and advocate to him, and I am well assured he has ever had a just and true regard for your Lordship.

“I must beg leave to tell your Lordship that you are an honour and an ornament to dramatic poetry in particular; the knowledge of that naturally inclined me to believe your Lordship would readily endeavour to help an oppressed actor, who has had the good fortune to please the town, and sometimes your Lordship, whose judgment I would willingly stand or fall by. I never could hope to be forgiven the freedom I have taken, were not your Lordship one of the best temper'd noblemen living.

" I humbly beg that my necessity, and the justice of my cause, may prevail upon your Lordship to pardon my presumption of writing to you.

“I am, my Lord,
" Your Lordship's most obedient and most humble servant,

“ B. Booth. “ To the Right Honourable the Lord Lansdowne.”

Booth wrote twice again before he obtained his wish. The Queen added his name to the licence, which Doggett opposed in every way he possibly could, by menaces, threats, protest upon protest, &c. &c. He never would appear upon the stage after. Amongst other curious documents relative to Doggett's opposition to Booth's participation in the proprietorship are the following letters addressed to the Vice Chamberlain Coke :

Sir,- It is now seven or eight weeks since I deliverd to you, in wrighting, as you commanded me, such proposals as I did hope you would think so reasonable, that I should have had your immediate order for my share, which I have been kept out of ever since the new license; the managers say by your direction, and Mr. Cibber has told me I must sue for it if I will have it.

“ Sir, my Lord Chamberlain did tell me my property would not be toucli’d, and I had your own word for it too; and, if after that I am forcd into Westminster Hall to try whether it is or not, and shall be obligd to engage such persons in the dispute, and to provide such papers as I am very well assured are not proper to be brought there from the office, I hope it will not be imputed my fault, if I can cum at my right no other way, though I had much rather, Sir, receive it from your justice instead, that I might have greater obligations to subscribe,

Your most obedient humble servant, London, Jan. 6th, 1714."

“ Tho. DOGGETT. “Sir, I am sorre that I am forcet upon giving you this trouble so soon as you are come to toune; while I had the power of a manager I always tooke what care I could to prevent your receiving any from the play-house, but I have been excluded from having any vote there above this twelvemonth past; and, in Nov. last, the cash that was always loged in my hands till the end of the year, to defray such debts as should be forgott and left unpaid, was taken from me, and part of my share in the cloathes and scenes, &c., sold to Mr. Booth by the direction of Mr. Vice Chamberlain, and the rest, as I am informd, is divided between Mr. Wilks and Mr. Cibber. Upon my complaining of these injuries, Mr. Vice Chamberlain was pleased to send for me, and to promise me, if I would give an account what money I had then in my hands, and perform such other conditions as he then proposd to me, the other managers should do the like, and I should have my share. I did as he requird of me, and have since obeyd all his commands, but have not been able to obtain any manor of redress.

“ Sir, I would petition his Grace the Duke of Shrewsbury, but, when I had the honour to wait upon him last, I found I had the misfortune to have fallen under his displeasure, I cannot tell for what, but could not have be

lieved I should have found such effects of it. If it is his Grace's pleasure that I should quit my business, I hope he will be pleased that I should receive a reasonable satisfaction for it without a pealeing from his Grace. Sir, I hope before Fryday you will please to lett me know what I am to expect, for that I understand is the last day of acting this season, and the managers will be goe out of town to the end that they may give as much trouble and delay as they can to, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

“ Thos. DOGGETT. “Jan. ye 14th, 1714.”

Subsequent to this Doggett, whose literary attainments appear to have been by no means extensive, filed a bill in Chancery. After two years' litigation, he was given fourteen days for deciding whether he would return to the stage to act as before, which he declined. It was then decreed that he should receive 6001. for his share of the property (Booth had previously offered him 10001.). He took the money, and absented himself entirely from the stage.

Booth was born in Lancashire, 1681. At nine years old he went to Westminster School, where he displayed talents for Latin poetry. Was intended for the church; but, at seventeen, when about to be sent to the university, as he states in his letter to the Marquis of Lansdowne, he went to Ireland, and commenced actor. He appeared in London in 1701, and died May the 10th, 1733, of a complication of disorders, which had prevented him performing for some years.

He married a second wife, Miss Santlowe, in 1719, a pleasing actress and excellent dancer, who quitted the stage at his death. She lived till the year 1773.


“ O gioventù primavera della vita !"

Thou art a glorious, yet a fearful thing !
Thy worth unknown till thou art vanishing !
For when we once begin to count the store
Of days still left, thy first fresh bloom is o’er,
Whilst every hour the shrinking heart then leel
The leaden hand of time that o'er it steals,
And seeks with eagerness the faintest ray
That marks we yet pursue thy radiant way.
The earth is still the same- the sky, the sea;
But, oh! they are not as they used to be!
It was thine incense breath that made all bright,
And shed around a dew of glittering light!
E’en, like the enamell’d insect of the skies,
Whate'er approach'd thee, bore off thy rich dyes
Until of all the glittering down bereft,
Nought of thy colouring, O Youth, is left!
Too late we feel on shadows we have thrown
Freshness and truth, till quench'd is all our own
Too late we find like spendthrifts we have given,
To idle air, this precious boon of Hearen!



Chap. III. On the afternoon of the second day after my arrival in Paris, I sauntered towards the Tuilerie Gardens. As I passed through the streets teeming with bustle and animation, the Boulevards, the Rue de la Paix, the Place Vendôme, I felt the full force of the poet's dictum cælum non animum, &c. I was come for diversion, but what was all this giddy crowd to me? Not one of them even cast a look upon the plain, ordinary, middle-aged gentleman before them; with not one of them had he any single object of common interest. The isolated situation in which Í stand at home-if my poor sister Kitty had been more discreet and lived, how different would have been my fate!—the isolated situation in which I stand—without even a dog or cat about which I care muchthe little interest I take in the affairs of the world in general--all this often presses upon me as I perambulate the busy throng of Piccadilly or the Strand; but what is my sense of isolation, my unit feel of oneness there, compared with what assails me now, where the trackless ocean of foreign features seems widening around me on every side ? At home, even the common routine of physical life-the mere mechanism of existence-creates some approximation of cases or feelings between natives of the same clime and country—but here, I am cut off from sympathy in the very necessaries of life. I hate their little bits of “rosbif de mouton," and have no other title to give their wine than that which was bestowed upon it by an oriental patriarch in the phraseology of his country and the bitterness of his heart : he called it “the brother of vinegar.'

Is it better in the affairs of public than of domestic life ? No. I loath the flash and dash of the national spirit in politics, their fanfaronnade in the useful arts, their frippery in the ornamental — but, above all, that eternal craving for agitation and change which has produced so many political commotions—that, when I mention revolution-and I detest even the word—the volatile wretches gaily ask, “ laquelle ?"

Even their most serious moods have no attractions for me—the solid gloom of a coal-heaver's face, when porter rises a penny a-pot, is more congenial with my feelings than the mixture of grief and grimace which the unhappy here assume, and the desperate resource of a secret plunge over Westminster Bridge in a November fog seems less abhorrent from right and reason than an ostentatious display of " dissolving into space," as they here call suicide-or writing rhapsodies and rhodomontade over pans of charcoal.

I reached the Gardens in this frame of mind. How different are all places of public morning resort at the close of the day! The busy throng is succeeded by a few forlorn and listless loiterers——the light and tripping foot of those who resort there for pleasure has retired to the haven of a happy home, or to some other cheerful scene; there remains the languid tread of those who wander about they scarce know why—the empty chairs-the lonely length of the unoccupied benches-even the remnants of the crowd, the very orange-peel and scraps of winter nosegays which lie scattered about, give an air of melancholy to the place so lately fervent with the crowd of those who are gone. Gone! What is there in

* Continued from No. ccxiv. p. 207.

that word, whose saddening import can extend itself to persons indifferent to us, if not unknown?

After wandering about for some time by myself, I perceived in a retired nlley some one whose figure seemed familiar to me; he was pacing to and fro with his hat drawn partly over his eyes, and his whole air moody and forlorn. A minute or two after I first saw him he chose that unusual place and time to change his shoes for a pair he had in his pocket, carefully wrapping those he had taken off in an old newspaper, and returning them into the place of the others. It was poor DownSolomon Upsyde Down, my late companion in the malle de poste. After a mutual recognition, and some serious conversation which natuTally fell upon the insipidity of life of all life--but more especially of our own-he made a dead stop before the Palace, as we were strolling backwards and forwards, and exclaimed—“What a pile of building for one man and his family!”

I must here observe that, our conversation having been hitherto entirely personal, I had never considered what his ideas about “things in general” might be; nor am I usually either curious to know, or at all particular respecting the opinions of those with whom I associate, having lived too long not to be aware that every subject is enveloped in so much obscurity, either as regards its own nature, or its subsequent combinations, that we may well make every allowance for the mistakes or doubts of each other.

“What a pile of building for one man and his family!” said he; standing with his face a little inclined upwards to survey the whole mass, and his hands folded behivd him—“Thus are the kings of the earth lodged! What an immense outlay of the public money!”

I began to think that he was a Rad. Well, Sir,” said I, willing to humour his fancy_"let us consider what might be made of it; if you and I were to accomplish a revolution, to what purpose of public utility should we put it? What a famous 'local' it would afford for some of the new schemes of education !" He here began to twitch his left elbow, and to be otherwise agitated.

“What a grand Polygnostomousathlesitechnic* University it would make! there would be room not only for all the sciences, arts, trades, &c. &c., but for professors of all the languages of the known world, from the little nucleus of fourteen 'tongues' between Vienna and Constantinople, to those which lie scattered nearest the rth and South Poles. The students might enjoy a few minutes of each amongst these various advantages in one day, and have time besides to see a short chemical experiment, take a glance of the anatomy of a human great toe, another with the geologist of the vertebræ of a megalo, plesio, or ichthiosaurus--enjoy a mental dive with the mineralogist into the crater of a volcano-a peep at the stars from yonder cupola--and walk through the arts in the gallery of the Louvre, which, I presume we should not destroy."

“I perceive, Sir," said he," that you are inclined to be merry." “ You are the first person who ever told me so," I replied.

“ But," continued he," I loath the modern quackery about education, and your. Penny Magazines' with their elephants and Laocoons,

* Note by the friend of Mr. Dumps.—This name is compounded of five Greek words, signifying-Everything.

« PredošláPokračovať »