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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 actress's busiest seasons. Between September 12, 1808, and May 6, 1809, she performed forty times.* Mr. Young made his first appearance 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 Katharine, seven.
+ I subjoin the following extract from an account of the O. 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
riots, which lasted for weeks after the first occupation of the house, must be remembered by all the adults of the present generation. There can be little doubt that these disturbances were but an indirect reaction on that injustice which invests our great theatres with their monopolies; but still the outrages, considered in themselves, were lawless and disgusting. If the claimants of old prices thought themselves aggrieved, their only equitable recourse was to have kept away from the theatre; for they had no more right to extort terms from the proprietors by personal threats, by injuring the furniture of the house, and by howlings, savage dances, and dust-bells, than they had to terrify the bakers by similar means into the sale of cheaper bread. These riots excluded our great actress from the stage for the greater part of the season. During this forced vacation, she writes to her friend Mrs. Fitz Hugh:
"I am quite vexed, my dear, with Miss L. for giving you such an account of me. My appearance of illness was occasioned entirely by an agitating visit that morning from poor Mr. John Kemble, on account of the giving up of the private boxes, which, I fear, must be at last complied with. Surely nothing ever equalled the domineering of the mob in these days. It is to me inconceivable how the public at large submits to be thus dictated to, against their better judgment, by a handful of imperious and intoxicated men. In the mean time, what can the poor proprietors do but yield to overwhelming necessity?
"Could I once feel that my poor brother's anxiety about the theatre was at an end, I should be, marvellous to say, as well as I ever was in my life. But only conceive what a state he must have been in, however good a face he might put upon the business, for upwards of three months; and think what his poor wife and I must have suffered, when, for weeks together, such were the outrages committed on his house and otherwise, that I trembled for even his personal safety: she, poor soul,
amid vollies of hissing, hooting, groans, and catcalls. He made an address, but it was impossible to hear it. His attitudes were imploring, but in vain. * * The play proceeded in pantomime; not a word was heard, save now and then the deeply modulated tones of the bewitching Siddons. On her entrance she seemed disturbed by the clamour, but in the progressive stages of her action she went through her part with wonderful composure. Kemble appeared greatly agitated, yet in no instance did his trouble interrupt him in carrying on the cunning of the scene Perhaps a finer dumb show was never witnessed."
living with ladders at her windows, in order to make her escape through the garden in case of an attack. Mrs. Kemble tells me his nerves are much shaken. What a time it has been with us all, beginning with fire, and continued with fury! Yet sweet sometimes are the uses of adversity. They not only strengthen family affection, but teach us all to walk humbly with our God.
The season 1810-11 might well be remembered in the life of John Kemble, for the new popularity which he gained in acting Cato, but in this penultimate year of Mrs. Siddons's professional history, she supported her reputation without any particularly memorable occurrence.
In the course of the year I find she received two letters, which, though they contain no matter of importance, I insert merely because they show the variety of character in the persons who prided themselves in her good opinion. Few portfolios, perhaps, ever contained the letters of two individuals more unlike than Mr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hannah More.
"Spring Gardens, Nov. 13, 1811.
"DEAR MRS. SIDDONS,
"If I had been bred on the Rialto, and your precious note were negotiable, in spite of Lord Stanhope's bill, I would engage to get it discounted for three thousand ducats by any Christian man of taste and talent. Why have you not patriotism enough to teach the Bank Directors how to issue paper which may defy depreciation? But, on Thursday next, I must be fortunate.
"You are my neighbour too.
Better and better. I need not
• Build me
We will have talk and good talk, and as much nonsense too as we had at the Countess-dowager's of Cork and Orrery. And you shall not talk in your sleep, as you used to do at Dunsinane. And I won't talk as if to put people to sleep, which I do in Westminster Hall; but we will both talk broad awake, and rail at cardinals, and at Lord Angelo, and at Lord Ellenborough; for, thanks to some one or other of them, I suppose we shall hardly ever meet, either night or morning.
"Believe me, dear Mrs. Siddons, with a thousand thanks for your continual remembrance of me,
"Most truly and gratefully yours,
The other epistle was occasioned by its writer having sent Mrs. Siddons à copy of one of her works, most probably her "Sacred Dramas."
Barley Wood, Dec. 14, 1811.
"MY DEAR MADAM,
"I cannot refuse myself the gratification of returning you my sincere thanks for your very interesting and obliging letter the piety of which delighted me still more than the kindness Though the current of life has carried us different ways, and I have had the happiness of so little personal intercourse with you, yet I have been long assured that 'your ear was patient of a serious song.' The serious spirit which pervades your letter is a strong confirmation of the opinion I have been long led to entertain of your devout disposition. Oh! my dear madam, there is no other lasting good,-no other solid peace, no other final consolation. This has doubtless been your refuge and your preservation from the perils of the deserved praise and admiration which your extraordinary talents have so eminently obtained. I have heard that you consider the Bible as your treasure. May it continue to be your guide through life, and your support in that inevitable hour which awaits us all.
"It has pleased God to bless my little book with a degree of success which I had no reason to expect; but I can truly say, that among the favourable testimonies which kindness and partiality have bestowed on it, there is not one that has so highly gratified me as that of Mrs. Siddons. Believe me, my dear madam, with real regard,
"Your affectionate friend,
Mrs. Siddons, in several of her letters, speaks with some impatience of her fatiguing theatrical duties, and of the gladness which it would give her to find repose from them. I fully believe in the sincerity of her declarations to this effect, though they are strongly contrasted with other feelings, which obviously arose in her mind, at the nearest prospect of bidding a last farewell to her profession. It is a part of our nature to
cherish successive wishes, which, though natural in their time and turn, seem contradictory on revised comparison. In our longings for ease, we forget the ennui that attends inaction; but the mind takes a different view of the matter, at the real arrival of the moment when "Othello's occupation" must be gone. This was strongly the case with Mrs. Siddons, and I find her alluding, in her letters, to the prospect of quitting the stage more gravely than she had ever descanted upon its fatigues.
To Mrs. Piozzi she writes: "In this last season of my acting I feel as if I were mounting the first step of a ladder conducting me to the other world." It is natural for great players, whose posthumous and present fame are so sadly unequal, to part from their profession with more regret than other inspired artists, whose compositions may bespeak a place for them in human memories when they shall be no more.
Mrs. Siddons, however, was sensible that a great theatrical career ought to terminate while the actor's powers are undiminished, like the sun setting in the tropical sky, without a twilight. She obviously made a mighty effort to render the season of her departure splendidly memorable. She performed fifty-seven times,* and in fourteen different characters, among which, independently of those which suited her years, she blended many parts of younger heroines, and gave them a charm that was absolutely marvellous in the person of an actress of fifty-six.
She took her professional farewell of the stage on the 29th of June, 1812.† The play was " Macbeth." At an early hour a vast crowd assembled around the theatre of Covent Garden, and, when the doors were opened, the struggle for places be
*She performed in 1811-12, Lady Macbeth ten times; Mrs. Beverley, four; Lady Constance, four; Elvira, five; Euphrasia, twice; Queen Katharine, six; Isabella, ("Fatal Marriage"), twice; Isabella (" Measure for Measure"), seven; Belvidera, six; Hermione, four; Volumnia, four ; Mrs. Haller, twice.
+ Mrs. Siddons was solicited in the strongest manner to return to the stage professionally, but she had the sense to refuse. Return she did for a few nights, but it could not be called professionally. May 25, 1813, she acted gratis for the Theatrical Fund. Drury Lune, June 22, she acted for the same charity. June 11, 1813, at Covent Garden, for Charles Kemble's benefit. At Edinburgh, Nov. 1815, ten times, for the family of her deceased son. May 31, 1816, at Covent Garden for the benefit of Mr. and Mrs. C. Kemble. June 8, and 22, 1816, by the express desire of the Princess Charlotte. June 29, for the Theatrical Fund. June 5, 1817, for Charles Kemble's benefit. June 9, 1819, for the benefit of Mr. and Mrs. C. Kemble,