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life, I should have passed them over in silence; but Mr. Boaden has taken up the subject; and he treats it not only like a gentleman, but with an air of sincere belief, so that I can scarcely avoid it, although I feel it to be matter of delicate animadversion. That Mr. and Mrs. Siddons never had any petty disputes in the whole course of their conjugal union, is more than I would undertake to affirm of thein, or of ninetenths of all the wedded pairs that ever existed; but I speak my sincere belief, when I say that they never had any differences sufficient to intersere substantially with their firm and mutual regard. If it be asked why I express myself so confidently on this subject, I have to answer, that I derive my belief from the earnest assurance of one who lived under their roof for many years, and who was on the most amicable terms with both of them. When there is any real unhappiness between man and wife, and when the latter has any peculiarly confi. dential friend, I look on the probability of the husband disliking, if not cordially detesting, that confidential friend of his wise, as amounting to moral certainty. Now, Miss Wilkinson stood exactly in that relation to the great woman. to her as an adopted daughter. But what was the conduct of Mr. Siddons to this dearest favourite of his wife? He was invariably kind to her; and his letters bespeak a frank and almost paternal fondness. I knew Mr. Siddons only when he was old and a suffering invalid, but he was even then remarkably gentlemanlike and gracious; and I never recall those delightful evenings at Marlborough-street, which brought me some of the dearest friends and happiest hours of my whole existence, without remembering that the great woman's queenmother-like welcome was enhanced by her husband's urbanity. He was remarkably full of anecdote.
Among the letters of Mrs. Siddons I have found the following, which, though it alludes to a transient difference, shows that their conjugal disputes were of no exasperated nature.
“ December 16, 1804. “ MY DEAR SID.,* “I am really sorry that my little flash of merriment should have been taken so seriously, for I am sure, however we may differ in trifles, we can never cease to love each other. You wish me to say what I expect to have done I can expect
* This was her usual style of contracting his name, in speaking or writing to him.
nothing more than you yourself have designed me in your will. Be (as you ought to be) the master of all while God permits, but, in case of your death, only let me be put out of the power of any person living. This is all that I desire; and I think that you cannot but be convinced that it is reasonable and proper. 6. Your ever affectionate and faithful
66 S. S.”
During the summer of 1805 she professionally visited both the Scottish and Irish capitals, with her usual applause and success; and, returning to London, she acted thirty-nine'times* at Covent Garden, during the season 1803-6, but only in her accustomed characters.
In theatrical life, Mrs. Siddons had now ceased to assume any fresh part; but, in 1806, I find her fulfilling, in real life, the new character of a grandmother, with all the truth and benignity that belonged to her nature. From Broadstairs she writes to her son Henry, on the 6th of August of that year :
“ MY DEAR HARRY, “ I have very great pleasure in telling you that your dear little ones are quite well. The bathing agrees with them perfectly. They are exceedingly improved in looks and appetite, though their stomachs turn a little, poor dears, at the sight of the machines ; bu tindeed, upon the whole, the dipping is pretty well got over, and they look so beautiful after it, it would do your heart good to see them. I assure you they are the belles of Broadstairs. Their nurse is very good-humoured to them. She is certainly not a beauty, but they like her as well as if she were a Venus. Never were little souls so easily managed, or so little troublesome. They are very fond of Patty - I'm afraid they don't like me so well, for I am not half so good a playfellow as Patty or their grandfather. Accept, and present to dear Harriet our united loves, and believe me, my dear Harry, “ Your affectionate mother,
6 S. S."
In her season of 1806-7, at Covent Garden, she played
* Isabella, ten times ; Queen Katharine, eight ; Mrs. Beverley, four ; Jane Shore, twice ; Mrs. Haller, twice ; Calista, once; Euphrasia, once ; Lady Macbeth, eight; Belvidera, three; Elvira, six times,
Queen Katharine seven times; Lady Macbeth (to Cooke's Macbeth) five times ; Isabella (“Fatal Marriage”) twice; Elvira iwice ; Lady Randolph once; Mrs. Beverley once ; Euphrasia once ; and Volumnia fifteen times. It is pleasant to perceive in this list Shakspeare's dramatic popularity keeping ahead of Sheridan's. The part of Cordelia she now gave up to Miss Smith, since Mrs. Bartley. The young
Roscius was no longer the idol of London ; but it would seem that he was still much run after in the provincial theatres, from what she writes to her friend the following summer, dating
"Liverpool, July 15, 1807. “ The houses are tolerably good. I can't expect to be followed like the great genius, Master Betiy, you know; but I hope to put about 1000l. into my pocket this summer.
'Tis better to work hard for a short time, and have done with it. If I can but add three hundred a year to my present income, I shall be perfectly well provided for ; and I am resolved, when that is accomplished, to make no more positive engagements in summer, I trust that God, in his great mercy, will enable me to do it; and then, oh, how lazy, and saucy, and happy will I be. You will have something to do, I can tell you, my dear, to keep me in order.
« S. S.”
Her subsequent season at Covent Garden was uncommonly short, and extended only to the 11th of December, 1807, when the - Winter's Tale” was announced, for her last appearance before Easter. It proved, eventually, to be her last for the
Immediately after the performance, she set off for Bath, where she spent six weeks with Mr. Şiddons. The state of his health was so tolerable, that he promised to spend a part of the ensuing summer at Westbourne ; so that she left him without apprehensions, in February, 1808. But, within a month from the time of her departure, he was seized very suddenly with his last illness, and expired on the 11th of March. When the intelligence of his death came to her, in Edinburgh, it of course put a stop to her performances, and, as soon as she was able to travel, she returned to Westbourne. From thence she writes to Mrs. Piozzi.
“ Westbourne Farm, March 29, 1808. “ How unwearied is your goodness to me, my dear friend,
There is something so awful in this sudden dissolution
of so long a connexion, that I shall feel it longer than I shall speak of it. May I die the death of my honest, worthy husband, and may those to whom I am dear remember me when I am gone, as I remember him, forgetting and forgiving all my errors, and recollecting only my quietness of spirit and singleness of heart. Remember me to your dear Mr. Piozzi. My head is still so dull with this stunning surprise, that I cannot see what I write. Adieu, dear soul; do not cease to love your friend,
6. S. S."
[1808.] After her customary summer visit to her friends the Fitz Hughs, at Bannisters, she returned to her professional duties, in September ; but she had acted only a few nights, when that dreadful accident took place by which the theatre of Covent Garden was burnt to the ground. It was generally attributed to the wadding of a gun, that was discharged in the performance of “ Pizarro,” having lodged unperceived in some crevice of the scenery. Miss Wilkinson says, that before the audience left the house, she perceived a strong smell of fire while she was sitting in Mr. Kemble's box, and spoke of it to several of the servants as she was passing to Mrs. Siddons's dressing-room ; but they said that it was only the smell of the lamps in the front of the stage. About four o'clock on the morning of the 20th of September, this noble building, which was erected in the year 1733, and enlarged, with considerable alterations, in 1792, was seen suddenly to be on fire: the flames continued to rage so fiercely, that in three hours the whole interior of the theatre, with the scenery, wardrobe, musical and dramatic libraries, &c., became a heap of smoking ruins. The loss of property of all descriptions, including that of the organ bequeathed to the house by Handel, and of the unpublished MS. music of first-rate composers, was estimated at 150,0001.
But the damage done to property by that dreadful event was light in comparison with the horrors which it occasioned by human deaths and sufferings. A number of firemen were crushed under the falling-in of the burning roof, and several unfortunate individuals, having approached the conflagration too nearly, were scalded to death by the steam of the water that arose from it. I shudder in calculating the number of victims - they must have amounted to thirty! Many of them were dug out of the ruins in such a state that they could not be identified.
The performances of the Covent Garden company were transferred first to the Opera House, and afterward to the Haymarket Theatre. It was one of our aetress's busiest sea
Between September 12, 1808, and May 6, 1809, she performed forty times. Mr. Young made his first appearanee this season as Macbeth, and as Beverley. She acted with him on both occasions, and in more than one of her letters to her friends alludes to him as an actor of invaluable acquisition to the British stage.
In the summer I find her paying another visit to Scotland, and writing with more than usual vivacity about the agreeableness of her northern friends. She mentions particularly her happiness in frequently meeting with Henry Erskine, Walter Scott, James Ballantyne, and the amiable Stirlings of Drumpella, with whom she resided for some time, at their seat near Glasgow. Returning home by way of the Lakes, she stopped for several days at Lowwood, on the borders of Windermere, enchanted by the beautiful scenery. The learned Bishop of Llandaff, who was in the neighbourhood, failed not to pay his respects to her.
Covent Garden Theatre arose from its ashes a more splendid building than it had ever been, and it was reopened on the 18th of September, 1809, exactly two days less than a twelvemonth from the time of its destruction. The O. P:
* Lady Macbeth, fifteen times; Belvidera, once; Isabella, once; Elvira, once ; Lady Randolph, once ; Euphrasia, once; Mrs. Haller, three; Mrs. Beverley, nine ; Zara (“Mourning Bride”), three ; Queen Katha.. rine, seven.
+ I subjoin the following extract from an account of the 0. P. riots, published by Stockdale, and entitled the '“ Covent Garden Journal, September 18.”
“At four o'clock on that evening, every avenue to the house was besieged by numerous crowds, manifesting the most eager impatience for the opening of the doors. In front of the Bow-street arcade the blockading party determined on a coup de main, and actually stormed and carried by escalade the iron railing which separated them from the land of promise.
“ The interior of the house was brilliantly lighted up, and served most. impressively to display the beauteous order of the edifice, raised, by the creative power of the architect, from a late dismal chaos. The groups of admiring spectators, as they entered, burst into the warmest expressions of applause; and, for some time, no sentiment obtruded but that of selfcomplacency, and the satisfaction arising from novel enjoyment. Before six, the house was overflowingly full, and yet at least three times the number of those admitted remained in the entrances and lobbies, making vain endeavours to obtain farther entrance.
“Mr. Kemble made his appearance in the costume of Macbeth, and