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what I felt I felt that I had never before fully understood or sufficiently admired Shakspeare, or known the full powers of the human voice and the English language. Queen Katharine was a character peculiarly suited to her time of life and to reading. There was nothing that required gesture or vehemence incompatible with the sitting attitude. The composure and dignity, and the sort of suppressed feeling, and touches, not bursts of tenderness, of matronly, not youthful tenderness, were all favourable to the general effect. I quite forgot to applaud-I thought she was what she appeared. The illusion was perfect till it was interrupted by a hint from her daughter or niece, I forget which, that Mrs. Siddons would be encouraged by having some demonstration given of our feelings. I then expressed my admiration; but the charm was broken,
'To Barry we gave loud applause,
Soon after these readings, she received an intimation from the most eminent characters of Oxford and Cambridge, that their respective Universities would feel themselves honoured by her visiting them. This invitation, like that from royalty, necessarily involved the understanding that its honour was to be its own reward. She nevertheless accepted it, and went to both places, where she was received with enthusiastic hospitality. Her readings were given at what were called private parties; but which included very numerous audiences, and all the distinguished individuals of the colleges. She might be said to have received the highest honours at both Universities. Miss Siddons thus writes to Miss Wilkinson, respecting her mother's reception at Cambridge.
"Melton Mowbray, July 22, 1814.
"MY DEAR PATTY,
"On the delightful days which we have spent at Cambridge I shall always look back with pride and pleasure. I over and over wished for you, who would have enjoyed as much as I did the attention and admiration shown to our Darling. Oxford in term-time did not equal Cambridge in vacation, and was almost empty. Mr. and Mrs. Frere were most hospitable,
and his kindness and her singing would have alone made the place agreeable to us. But then we had sights to see-colleges and libraries to examine, and at every one of them there was a principal inhabitant eager to show, and proud to entertain Mrs. Siddons. In the public library, my mother received the honour of an address from Professor Clarke, who presented her with a handsome Bible from the Stereotype Press. After which she read, to almost all the members of the University at present there, the trial-scene in the Merchant of Venice, and more finely she never did it in her life. Every one was, or seemed to be, enchanted and enthusiastic. “Yours truly,
Early in the autumn of the same year she made an excursion to Paris, in company with her daughter and Miss Wilkinson. I was also one of the many English who availed themselves of the first short peace to get a sight of the continent. The Louvre was at that time in possession of its fullest wealth. In the statuary hall of that place I had the honour of giving Mrs. Siddons my arm the first time she walked through it, and the first time in both our lives that we saw the Apollo of Belvidere. From the farthest end of that spacious room, the god seemed to look down like a president on the chosen assembly of sculptured forms, and his glowing marble, unstained by time, appeared to my imagination as if he had stepped freshly from the sun. I had seen casts of the glorious statue with scarcely any admiration; and I must undoubtedly impute that circumstance in part to my inexperience in art, and to my taste having till then lain torpid. But still I prize the recollected impressions of that day too dearly to call them fanciful. They seemed to give my mind a new sense of the harmony of art—a new visual power of enjoying beauty. Nor is it mere fancy that makes the difference between the Apollo himself and his plaster casts. The dead whiteness of the stucco copies is glaringly monotonous, while the diaphanous surface of the original seems to soften the light which it reflects. Every particular feeling of that hour is written indelibly on my memory. I remember entering the Louvre with a latent suspicion on my mind that a good deal of the rapture expressed at the sight of superlative sculptures was exaggerated or affected; but, as we passed through the passage of the hall, there was a Greek figure, I think that of Pericles, with a clamys and helmet, which John Kemble desired me to notice;
and it instantly struck me with wonder at the gentlemanlike grace which art could give to a human form with so simple a vesture. It was not, however, until we reached the grand saloon, that the first sight of the god overawed my incredulity. Every step of approach to his presence added to my sensations, and all recollections of his name in classic poetry swarmed on my mind as spontaneously as the associations that are conjured up by the sweetest music.
The reader, by this time, will probably ask a truce to the account of my own impressions, and require to have those of Mrs. Siddons. Engrossed as I was with the Apollo, I could not forget the honour of being before him in the company of so august a worshipper; and it certainly increased my enjoyment to see the first interview between the paragon of Art and that of Nature. She was evidently much struck, and remained a long time before the statue; but, like a true admirer, was not loquacious. I remember, however, that she said, "What a great idea it gives us of God, to think that he has made a human being capable of fashioning so divine a form !" When we walked round to other sculptures, I observed that almost every eye in the hall was fixed upon her, and followed her; yet I could perceive that she was not known, as I overheard the spectators say, "Who is she?-Is she not an English woman!" At this time she was in her fifty-ninth year, and yet her looks were so noble, that she made you proud of English beauty, even in the presence of Grecian sculpture.
The following year gave her a severe shock in the death of her son Henry. He expired of a consumptive complaint, at the age of forty, while manager of the Edinburgh theatre. Henry Siddons was a sensible judge of dramatic poetry, and, as a player, he had merit in certain parts, as well as universal industry and application. But he was not a great actor. He was by far too sensitive for the vocation, and felt all its rubs and criticisms with too morbid acuteness. His very resemblance to his mother was a misfortune to him, by always challenging invidious comparison.* Mrs. Siddons told me that he was the most unfortunate man in his choice of a profession, but the most judicious and happy in the choice of a wife. He married Miss Murray, the daughter of the actor. His mother's grief for him is strongly expressed in the following notes to Mrs. Fitz Hugh:
* An account of his dramatic and literary works is given in the Biographia Dramatica.
"This third shock has indeed sadly shaken me, and although in the very depths of affliction, I agree with you that consolation may be found, yet the voice of nature will for a time overpower that of reason; and I cannot but remember 'that such things were, and were most dear to me.'
"I am tolerably well, but have no voice. This is entirely nervousness, and fine weather will bring it back to me. Write to me, and let me receive consolation in a better account of your precious health. My brother and Mrs. Kemble have been very kind and attentive, as indeed they always were in all events of sickness or of sorrow. The little that was left of my poor sight is almost washed away by tears, so that I fear I write scarce legibly. God's will be done!
"Tuesday, April 7, 1815.
"I don't know why, unless that I am older and feebler, or that I am now without a profession, which forced me out of myself in my former afflictions, but the loss of my poor dear Harry seems to have laid a heavier hand upon my mind than any I have sustained. I drive out to recover my voice and my spirits, and am better while abroad; but I come home and lose them both in an hour. I cannot read or do any thing else but puddle with my clay. I have begun a full-length figure of Cecilia; and this is a resource which fortunately never fails me. Fitz Hugh approves of it, and that is good encouragement. have little to complain of, except a low voice and lower spirits. "Yours, "S. S."
Before the year 1815 expired, Mrs. Siddons consented to give the family of her deceased son Henry the benefit of her acting for ten nights, in Edinburgh; and she repaired thither, but by slow stages, paying many visits to her friends during the journey. At Kirby Moorside she stopped for several days with Sir Ralph and Lady Noel, and Lady Byron. The effort of acting at Edinburgh, on the stage which brought to her mind so many recollections of her son, was peculiarly painful. A nervous agitation perceptibly affected her on the first night of her appearance, and now and then interrupted her voice; but, after the first scene, she subdued this sensation, and her faculties were displayed in their full power. The ablest theatrical criticism that appeared in Edinburgh respecting her said as
follows: "Mrs. Siddons not only is, but looks older than when she was last before us. But in this single observation every thing inauspicious to her efforts is included and exhausted."
The same compliment was paid to her acting in London in 1816, when, at the command of the Princess Charlotte, she reappeared on the stage for a few nights. Her royal highness was unfortunately prevented by illness from enjoying the gratification which she had bespoken; but the general report of public opinion was, that Mrs. Siddons showed neither abatement of skill nor relaxation of spirit in her acting.*
As Miss Siddons grew up, and required to mix in the world, Mrs. Siddons found her abode at Westbourne rather too retired. She therefore gave it up; and in 1817 took the lease of a house, pleasantly situated, with an adjoining garden and small green, at the top of Upper Baker-street, on the right side
During the same year she did me the honour of dining with me, at my house, in Sydenham, and it was to me a memorable day, from the ludicrous, though happily temporary distress that attended it. Mrs. Siddons, much as she loved fame, detested being made a show of when she paid visits of mere personal friendship; and, when she promised to dine with Mrs. Campbell and myself, it was on a distinct understanding that she was to meet only our own family. I was particularly anxious to keep my word on this point, and forbore to invite any of my friends, much as many of them would have been gratified by seeing her. About noon there arrived two strangers, American gentlemen. One of them was the brother of Washington Irving, and they both brought me letters of introduction from Sir Walter Scott. I was very happy to see them, but felt no small alarm, when, from a servant having come into the room and babbled something about Mrs. Siddons and dinner, my American guests discovered what I wished them not to know. "Ha! Mrs. Siddons," they exclaimed; "then we will stop and dine with you also."
Well, gentlemen," I said, "to-morrow or next day, or any other day in the year, I shall be delighted to receive you hospitably; but really Mrs. Siddons laid her commands upon me that she should meet no strangers, and I cannot invite you to stop."—“Oh, but we can stop," said they, "without invitation. You can get us out, to be sure, by calling in the constable, but, unless you force us away, we will have a sight of the Siddons." And they kept their word. When her carriage approached the house, I went out to conduct her over a short pathway on the common, as well as to prepare her for a sight of the strangers. It was the only time, during a friendly acquaintance of so many years, that I ever saw a cloud upon her brow. She received my apology very coldly, and walked into my house with tragic dignity. At first she kept the gentlemen of the New World at a transatlantic distance; and they made the matter worse, as I thought, for a time, by the most extravagant flattery. But my Columbian friends had more address than I supposed, and they told her so many interesting anecdotes about their native stage, and the enthusiasm of their countrymen respecting herself, that she grew frank and agreeable, and shook hands with both of them at parting.