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"London, April, 1802. Except for a day or two, the weather has been very favourable to me hitherto. I trust it may continue so, for the 'Winter's Tale' promises to be very attractive; and, while it continues so, I am bound in honour and conscience to put my shoulder to the wheel, for it has been attended with great expense to the managers, and, if I can keep warm, I trust, I shall continue tolerably well. As to my plans, they are, as usual, all uncertain; and I am precisely in the situation of poor Lady Percy, to whom Hotspur comically says, 'I trust thou wilt not utter what thou dost not know.'
"This must continue to be the case, in a great measure, while I continue to be the servant of the public, for whom (and let it not be thought vain) I can never sufficiently exert myself. I really think they receive me every night with greater and greater testimonies of approbation. I know it will give you pleasure to hear this, my dear friend, and you will not suspect me of deceiving myself in this particular.
"The other night had very nearly terminated all my exertions; for, while I was standing for the statue in the Winter's Tale,' my drapery flew over the lamps that were placed behind the pedestal; it caught fire, and, had it not been for one of the scene men, who most humanely crept on his knees and extinguished it, without my knowing any thing of the matter, I might have been burnt to death, or, at all events, I should have been frightened out of my senses. Surrounded as I was with muslin, the flame would have run like wildfire. The bottom of the train was entirely burned. But for the man's promptitude, it would seem as if my fate would have been inevitable. I have well rewarded the good man, and I regard my deliverance as a most gracious interposition of Providence. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. Here I am, safe and well. God be praised! and may his goodness make me profit, as I ought, by the time that is vouchsafed me.
"My son Harry's success has been a very great comfort to I do think, if I can divest myself of partiality, that it is a very respectable first attempt.*
"Yours ever truly,
In another letter to the same friend, Mrs. Fitz Hugh, she
* Henry Siddons made his first appearance this season at Covent Garden.
+ Mrs. Fitz Hugh is the lady of W. Fitz Hugh, Esq., of Bannisters,
alludes to a friendly effort which she made in behalf of the scene man, and in which, I believe, she was successful, namely, in getting a pardon for his son, who was a soldier, and had deserted.
66 * * I have written myself almost blind for the last three days, worrying everybody to get a poor young man, who otherwise bears a most excellent character, saved from the disgrace and hideous torture of the lash, to which he has exposed himself. I hope to God I shall succeed. He is the son of the man, by me ever to be blest, who preserved me from being burnt to death in the Winter's Tale.' The business has cost me a great deal of time; but, if I attain my purpose, shall be richly paid. It is twelve o'clock at night; I am tired very much. To-morrow is my last appearance. In a few days I shall go to see my dear girl Cecilia. How I long to see the darling!
"Oh, how you would have enjoyed my entrée, in Constance, last night. I was received really as if it had been my first appearance in the season. I have gone about to breakfasts and dinners, for this unfortunate young man, till I am quite worn out with them. You know how pleasure, as it is called, fatigues.
near Southampton, late Member of Parliament for Tiverton. She is a branch of the ducal family of Hamilton, and the sister of Mr. Hamilton, the accomplished author of "Egyptiaca." Mrs. Siddons was for half her life-time the attached friend and incessant correspondent of Mrs. F., and seldom spent a year without visiting her, at Bannisters.
Mrs. Siddons goes to Ireland with melancholy Presentiments-She visits Conway Castle, in Wales—Fulfils her Engagement at Dublin, and accepts one at Cork-Becomes alarmed by the News of her Daughter Sally's Illness-Quits her Engagement at Cork-Returns to England, and finds her Daughter dead-Acts in the Winter at Covent Garden again-Is severely affected in her Health-The popularity of the Boy Betty.
THE heavy defalcations of payment which Mrs. Siddons and John Kemble had often suffered at Drury Lane, induced them both to retire from that theatre at the close of the season of 1802. Mrs. Siddons's professional industry being still indispensable for the comforts of her family, and Ireland appearing, for the present, to be its most promising field, she repaired thither with the view of wintering in Dublin. She was accompanied by her friend Miss Wilkinson; and, though she had to count upon this absence from home being longer than usual, it is difficult to see why the prospect of it should have filled her with dark forebodings. Yet I know that she left London, on this occasion, with an unaccountable melancholy upon her mind, and an undefined anticipation that some great misfortune was awaiting her. She honoured me with a short note before her departure, from the tenor of which I imagined that the calamity she anticipated was her own death; for she expressed her fears that she should never see her friends in England again. When she took leave of the elder Mr. Greatheed, she gave way to grief in a manner quite unusual to her, and told him she augured that they were never to meet more, till after some great affliction had befallen her. By one of those accidents that almost palliate superstition, they never did meet till after Mr. Greatheed had lost his only son, and she her beloved daughter Sarah Maria. In a letter to Mrs. Piozzi, she anticipates a different event, that might have been more naturally expected.
"May, 1802. "Farewell, my beloved friend! a long, long farewell! Oh,
such a day as this has been! to leave all that is dear to me. I have been surrounded by my family, and my eyes have dwelt with a foreboding tenderness too painful, on the venerable face of my dear father, that tells me I shall look on it no more. I commit my children to your friendly protection, with a full and perfect reliance on the goodness you have always manifested towards
"Your ever faithful and affectionate
At the moment of her parting from Mr. Greatheed, his son Bertie was in robust health. The daughter whom she was destined to see no more had been an invalid during the winter, but I remember, for I was at that time very intimate in the family, that, when Mrs. Siddons set out on the journey, Sally was so well as to enjoy parties very cheerfully, both at home and abroad; and that there was nothing to justify apprehensions respecting her in the breast of the fondest parent. Mrs. Siddons left Marlborough-street late in May,and, within a few weeks afterward, Sally was in such health and spirits that she wrote the following letter to Miss Wilkinson, dated
"MY DEAR PATTY,
"We had several very pleasant parties before I left London. Charles Moore's pic-nic was quite delightful, it was such fine weather, the Temple Gardens so gay, and the whole scene so beautiful. Bertie Greatheed dined with us, and we walked with him to the Temple, where we arrived at half-past seven : Mrs. Kemble was there. We had tea and coffee; Dorothy Place and I presided. The rest of my father's party were Mr. Lysons, &c. After tea we walked in the garden till nine, at which time a bell rings, after which no promenading in the garden is permitted. We were all very agreeable, only Dorothy was a little disconcerted because Bertie found fault with her new hat she looked, however, very beautiful in it. We had a pretty cold supper, and did not part till past twelve o'clock. On Wednesday we went to a party at Sadler's Wells, where we were very pleasant; and on Saturday Charles Moore sent us orders to see the 'Surrender of Calais,' and Fortune's Frolic.' How delightedly I laughed at Fortune's Frolic.'"
"Queen's Parade, Bath,
'July 2, 1802.
She afterward alludes to her brother's marriage with Miss Murray.
"Miss Murray looked very beautiful, in a white chip hat, with a lace cap under it, her long dark pelisse tied together with purple bows, ready for travelling. Harry was so nervous that Miss Payne was nursing him up with good things. At nine, my father, Mr. Murray, &c. &c., and I, went to church. The ceremony had hardly begun before poor Henry turned as pale as death, and shook from head to foot so that he was obliged to hold by the rails near him to support himself. Miss Murray trembled, and, before she could finish what she had to say after the clergyman, her tears prevented her speaking out she replied the rest in a whisper. I was extremely affected, and turning to look at the rest, I found that my moist handkerchief was not without companions. Harry was very ready to reply, and cried out, I will,' before it was necessary. He wanted to put on the ring, too, before the proper time. After they were married, we signed our names, as witnesses, under them. Then we all saluted Mrs. Henry Siddons, and as soon as we returned to their lodgings, they set off for Birmingham. My father made the bride a present of a handsome coral necklace, bracelet, and earrings. I meant to have given her a ring, but that provoking Hamlet did not send it home in time.
"To Miss Wilkinson, with Mrs. Siddons, "Theatre Royal, Dublin."
Mrs. Siddons and her friend proceeded to Ireland by the way of Holyhead. At first her spirits were extremely depressed, but they recovered at last by the change of air and scenery. She very naturally stopped at Stratford, to visit the house of Shakspeare. Here, in spite of her melancholy, she was forced to smile at the cool impudence of a woman who showed them the mansion of the mighty poet, and endeavoured to palm on their credulity a little monster of a boy, with a double tongue, by the name of William Shakspeare, as a great grandson's grandson of his immortal namesake. The showwoman was marvellously loquacious, and Mrs. Siddons remarked that nature had endowed her also with a double allowance of tongue.