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as his range of characters extended from Hamlet to Harlequin, he acquired provincial popularity as an actor. The people of Brecon even took an interest in his attachment to Miss Kemble. especially at one period, when he thought himself threatened with a disappointinent. At this crisis, Mr. Siddons made a public statement of his case, which, though it flowed in rhyme, might possibly contain more rhyme than reason. He alleged that, though he had been accepted by Miss Kemble with the approbation of her parents, they had suddenly forbidden his pretensions, on the prospect of a wealthy neighbouring squire being about to solicit her hand, and that the young lady herself had acquiesced in their decision. The object of Mr. Siddons's. tegrors and jealousy was a Mr. Evans, of Pennant, a gentleman who, at that time, had an estate near Brecon, though he lived to consume it, and died an insolvent bachelor. It is still remembered by some survivors at Brecon, that this Mr. Evans was rumoured to have fallen in love with Miss Kemble on hearing her sing an opera song, “Sweet Robin," with peculiarly fascinating effect; and people expected that he would ask her in marriage. Of the insiability of Miss Kemble's affection, however, there is not the slightest proof beyond the word of a jealous lover; and, though Mr. and Mrs. Kemble might well grudge their lovely daughter to a fellow-stroller, we are not
limping painfully along the high street of the town, when he was met by an acquaintance who had known him in all his fashionable glory. This individual had himself seen better days, having exchanged a sub-lieutenancy of marines for a strollership in Mr. Kemble's company.
* Heavens !” said the astonished histrion," is it possible, Combe, that you can bear this condition ?"_" Fiddlesticks!" answered the ex-duke, taking a pinch of snuff, " a philosopher can bear any thing.” The player cre long introduced him to Mr. Roger Kemble ; but, by this time, Mr. Combe had become known in the place through his conversational talents. A gentleman, passing through the public-house, had observed him reading, and, looking over his shouller, saw with surprise a copy of Horace.
What,” said he, “ my friend, can you read that book in the original !"“If I cannot,” replied Combe," a great deal of money has been thrown away on my education.” Ilis landlord soou found the literary red-coat an attractive ornament to his tap-room, which was filled every night with the wondering auditors of the learned soldier. They treated him to gratuitous potations, and clubbed their money to procure his discharge. Roger Kemble gave him a benefit night at the theatre, and Combe promised to speak an address on the occasion. In this address, he noticed the various conjectures that had been circulated respecting his real name and character; and, after concluding the enumeration, he said, “ Now, ladies and gentleinen, I shall tell you what I am.” While expectation was all agog, he added, " I am-ladies and gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant.” He then bowed, and left the stage.
to take Mr. Siddons's song as evidence of their culpability.* Mr. Siddons proposed to his beloved an immediate elopement,
* The following was the song sung by Mr. Siddons on this occasion, entitled “ The Discarded Lover.”
Reported of late that a wealthy young squire
Each part of the shepherd was instantly viewed ;
Could not help being moved at their talk'd-of alliance;
That her vows were so firm they could ne'er be effac'd;.
who, tempering amatory with filial duty, declined the proposal. The impatient lover then became so impetuous in his language to her parents, that he received his dismissal, for the time being, from Mr. Kemble's company as an actor. allowed, however, to have a benefit, and the people of Brecon gave him a bumper house. At the conclusion of the play, he sang the song of his own composition already mentioned, which does no remarkable credit either to his delicacy or poetical genius. But it described the pangs of his own attachment, the coldness of Miss Kemble, and the perfidy of her parents ; and, indifferent as the effusion was, it was greeted by the audience with all the Welsh warmth of their hearts. Their applauses were still resounding, after his last bow, when Colin, retiring into the green-room, was met by the stately mother of Miss Kemble, who was fully prepared to avenge the honour of the family, and crowned Mr. Siddons's benefit by boxing his ears very heartily.
How the feud was healed I know not; but the event proved that Mr. Siddons was cured of his jealousy. Miss Kemble promised to marry him as soon as her father and mother's objections could be overcome. Meanwhile, she agreed to go from home, and lived for some time under the protection of Mrs. Greatheed, of Guy's Cliff, in Warwickshire. From a surviving. member of that family I learn that she came into it in a dependent capacity; and, though she was much liked, that her great latent genius was not even suspected. It was observed, however, that she passionately admired Milton; and I have seen a copy of his works, which the Greatheeds presented to her at this period. This circumstance is at variance with a rumour often repeated, I have no doubt with a charitable wish to make her early days appear as vulgar as possible, namely, that she went as a nursery-maid into the house at Guy's Cliff. Families rarely present their nurse-maids with copies of Milton's poetry; and, besides, there were at that time no children
Excuse me, I beg, if my verse is too plain-;
But here 'tis confess'd you have shown it to-night ;
to be nursed in the Greatheed family. Her station with them was humble, but not servile, and her principal employment was to read to the elder Mr. Greatheed.
The younger Mr. Greatheed at that time was, I believe, about twelve years of age. His recollections of Mrs. Siddons, and her future history, gave him an interest in our great actress that lasted for life. George Greatheed, though unsuccessful as a poet, was a most honourable and estimable man. He wrote the "Regent," an indifferent tragedy, and having joined the Della Cruscans, came under the savage vituperation of Gifford. But his scathed laurels never lowered him in Mrs. Siddons's regard.
While she remained at Guy's Cliff she received several visits from Mr. Siddons; and her parents, seeing that the attachment was serious, ceased to oppose it. In her nineteenth year she was united to the object of her choice, her own father giving her away. They were married at Trinity Church, Coventry, November 26, 1773; and on the 4th of the October following, their eldest son, Henry, was born at Wolverhampton.
Mrs. Siddons acts at Cheltenham-Meets with the Hon. Miss Boyle,
afterward Lady O'Neil-Is invited by Garrick to Drury Lane-Appears as Portia-Has indifferent Success-13 dismissed from Drury Lane by a Letter from the Prompter-Retires to the Provincial Theatres, where she is popular-Her future Greatness predicted by Henderson-Is adınired at Bath, and from thence recalled to Drury Lane.
In the course of the year 1774, Mr. and Mrs. Siddons were both engaged to act at Cheltenhamn. That place, though now an opulent and considerable town, consisted in those days of only one tolerable street, through the middle of which ran a clear stream of water, with stepping-stones that served as a bridge. At that time, the Honourable Miss Boyle, the only daughter of Lord Dungarvon, a most accomplished woman, and authoress of several pleasing poems, one of which, “An Ode to tlie Poppy," was published by Charlotte Smith, happened to be at Cheltenham. She had come, accompanied by her mother and her mother's second husband, the Earl of Ayles
bury. One morning that she and some other fashionables went to the box-keeper's office, they were told that the tragedy to be performed that evening was
6 Venice Preserved." They all laughed heartily, and promised themselves a treat of the ludicrous, in the misrepresentation of the piece. Some one who overheard their mirth kindly reported it to Mrs. Siddons. She had the part of Belvidera allotted to her, and prepared for the performance of it with no very enviable feelings. It may be doubted, indeed, whether Otway had imagined in Belvidera a personage more to be pitied than her representative now thought herself. The rabble, in “ Venice Preserved,” showed compassion for the heroine, and, when they saw her feather-bed put up to auction, “ governed their roaring throats, and grumbled pity.” But our actress anticipated refined scorners, more pitiless than the rabble; and the prospect was certainly calculated to prepare her more for the madness than the dignity of her part. In spite of much agitation, however, she got through it. About the middle of the piece she heard some unusual and apparently suppressed noises, and therefore concluded that the fashionables were in the full enjoyment of their anticipated amusement, tittering and laughing, as she thought, with unmerciful derision. She went home after the play, grievously mortified. Next day, however, Mr. Siddons met in the street with Lord Aylesbury, who inquired after Mrs. Siddons's health, and expressed not only his own admiration of her last night's exquisite acting, but related its effects on the ladies of his party. They had wept, he said, so excessively, that they were unpresentable in the morning, and were confined to their rooms with headaches. Mr. Siddons hastened home to gladden his fair spouse with this intelligence. Miss Boyle soon afterward visited Mrs. Siddons at her lodgings, took the deepest interest in her fortunes, and continued her ardent friend till her death. She married Lord O'Neil, of Shane's Castle, in Ireland. It is no wonder that Mrs. Siddons dwells with tenderness in her Memoranda on the name of this earliest encourager of her genius. Miss Boyle was a beauty of the first order, and gifted with a similar mind, as her poetry and her patronage of the hitherto unnoticed actress evince ; though patronage is too cold a word for the friendship which she bestowed on so interesting an object. Though the powers of the latter were, by her own confession, still crude, yet her noble young friend consoled and cheered her; and with the prophetic eye of taste, foresaw her glory. Miss Boyle took