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eighteenth century, representing the play-house as the actual temple of the Devil, where he frequently appeared, clothed in a corporeal substance, and possessing the spectators, whom he held as his worshippers.* The spirit of this Odium Theatricum seems scarcely to have abated when the above admonition was penned; and it was followed by the punishment of John Home, for writing the only good tragedy ever written by a Scotsman. Assuredly, Edinburgh at that period had a right to the name of the Modern Athens, from one point of resemblance to the ans cient city of Minerva. In Athens the priests persecuted Æschylus, and in Edinburgh the clergy prosecuted the author of "Douglas."
The people of Glasgow were but a year later than those of Edinburgh in welcoming our great actress to their city, but they were so far from being behind them in enthusiasm, that they presented her with a massive piece of plate, with an inscription, purporting that they sent it as a proof of their being able to appreciate theatrical genius as well as the
people of Edinburgh. They also came in great numbers to Edinburgh during this first year of Mrs. Siddons's appearance in Scotland, and augmented the pressure of those crowded audiences which made it a service of danger to attend her performances. 'The over-heated houses which she drew occasioned illness to many individuals, and the medical faculty of Edinburgh owed her a token of their regard more immediately than the lawyers, for their practice was increased by a prevalent indisposition, which got the name of the Siddons fever.
In the progress of Scottish liberality, however, I cannot compliment my fellow-citizens of Glasgow on having at all had the start of their eastern neighbours. On the contrary, my worthy townsmen, in the days of their imagined godliness, showed more practically than the people of Edinburgh how well they could appreciate theatrical genius, by badgering and burning out the unfortunate histrions. The cause of the destruction of the first play-house that was ever erected in Glasgow was a voice from the pulpit. The ground of that edifice was purchased by the proprietors from a malt-merchant of the city. In bargaining for the sale of it, the man of malt expressed to the purchasers his horror at the idea of disposing of his land
1 * Little more than a hundred years ago, my Scottish countrymen had such an abhorrence of all carnal recreations, that they denounced dancing itself as the sin of " louping against the Lord !" and when a public ball. room was instituted at Edinburgh, the godly rabble came and perforated the doors with red-hot spits.
to be occupied by a temple of Belial ; and, for this devout consideration, he could not in conscience part with it for a smaller price than five shillings the square yard. His demand, though enormous for those days, was complied with, and the temple of Belial forthwith uprose. But before it could be acted in, a fanatical preacher, who was popular in Glasgow, told his auditors that he dreamed, the preceding night, he was in the infernal regions, at a grand entertainment, where all the devils were present, when Lucifer, their chief, gave for a toast, the health of Maister John Miller, maltster, in Glasgow, who had sold them his ground to build a house upon, which was to be opened the next day, and wherein they were all to reign. The preacher's hearers hastened away in a body to the new theatre, and consumed it with fire.* Some years later, in 1757, the Presbytery of Glasgow responded with due solemnity to the admonition of their Edinburgh brethren, which I have quoted above. They echoed its owlish hootings at the innocent amusements of the stage. They blasphemously condemned, as ministers of God, what the gospel has nowhere reprehended. They attributed the then existing war to our manifold sins, one of which was permitting theatres ; and, with a true feeling of Scotch economy, they described the dearth of provisions as one of the surest tokens of Divine displeasure against a play-going generation.
Trifling circumstances, like straws showing the direction of the wind, are often sure tests of popular opinion. Among the veriest vulgar of Scotland Mrs. Siddons had now her devoted worshippers. A poor serving-girl, with a basket of greens on her arm, one day stopped near her, in the High-street of Edinburgh, and, hearing her speak, said, “Ah! weel do I ken that sweet voice, that made me greet sae sair the streen.” The poet Gray, on seeing a copy of Thomson's Seasons in a blacksmith's shop, exclaimed, “This is true popularity !” And the remark might have been equally applied to Mrs. Siddons's humble admirer.
In recording this visit to Edinburgh, Mrs. Siddons says, “ How shall I express my gratitude for the honours and kindness of my northern friends ?-for, should I attempt it, I should be thought the very queen of egotists. But never can I forget the private no less than public marks of their gratifying suffrages. There I became acquainted with the venerable author of Douglas,' with Dr. Blair, David Hume, Dr. Beattie, Mr. Mackenzie, &c., and passed with them a succession of fleeting days, which never failed to instruct and delight me.
* This was in 1746.
« On the first night of my appearance, I must own, I was surprised, and not a little mortified, at that profound silence which was a contrast to the bursts of applause I had been accustomed to hear in London. No; not a hand moved till the end of the scene : but then, indeed, I was most amply remunerated. Yet, while I admire the fine taste and judgment of this conduct on the part of an audience, I am free to confess that it renders the task of an actor almost too laborious ; because, customary interruptions are not only gratifying and cheering, but they are really necessary, in order to give one breath and voice to carry one on througłı some violent exertious; though, after all, it must be owned that silence is the most flattering applause an actor can receive.”
How much more pleasantly people tell their history in social converse than in formal writing. I remember Mrs. Siddons describing to me the same scene of her probation on the Edinburgh boards with no small humour. The grave attention of my Scottish countrymen, and their canny reservation of praise till they were sure she deserved it, she said, had well-nigh worn out her patience. She had been used to speak to animated clay; but she now felt as if she had been speaking to stones. Successive flashes of her elocution, that had always been sure to electrify the south, fell in vain on those northern flints. At last, as I well remember, she told me she coiled up her powers to the most emphatic possible utterance of one passage, having previously vowed her heart, that if this could not touch the Scotch, she would never again cross the Tweed. When it was finished, she paused, and looked to the audience. The deep silence was broken only by a single voice exclaiming, “ That's no bad !” This ludicrous parsimony of praise convulsed the Edinburgh audience with laughter. But the laugh was followed by such thunders of applause, that amid her stunned and nervous agitation she was not without fears of the galleries coming down.
“ I took my leave,” she continues, " of dear Edinburgh, and proceeded to fulfil an engagement at Dublin. After a rough voyage, we were put on shore in the middle of the night, and were obliged, sick and weary as we were, to wander about the streets for about two hours before we could find a resting. place; for, strange to tell, they would not at that period receive B woman at any hotel. Of this, of course, we had been quite ignorant. We found our way, however, to my brother John's lodgings, who took compassion on the helpless wanderers, and sheltered us till we were accommodated, which was very soon effected by my charming friend Mrs. O'Neil, the late Miss Boyle.
6. This visit to Ireland answered all my expectations both of profit and pleasure. I was received by all the first families there with the most flattering hospitality; and the days I passed with them will be ever remembered as among the most pleasurable of my life. The Duke of Rutland, however, the then lord-lieutenant, was very unpopular ; and upon one occasion, when I acted Lady Randolph at his command, the public displeasure against him was so excessively clamorous that not one word of the play was heard from beginning to end : and I had the honour of participating in the abuse with the representative of majesty.
“ The manager of the theatre also very soon began to adopt every means of vexation for me that he could possibly devise, merely because I chose to suggest, at rehearsal, that his proper situation, as Falconbridge, in • King John,' was at the right hand of the king. During the scene between Constance and Austria, he thought it necessary that he should, though he did it most ungraciously, adopt this arrangement; but his malevolence pursued me unremittingly from that moment. He absurdly fancied that he was of less consequence when placed at so great a distance from the front of the stage, at the ends of which the kings were seated; but he had little or nothing to say, and his being in the front would have greatly interrupted and diminished the effect of Constance's best scene. a very handsome man, and, I believe, was mortified that his personal attractions had failed to pervert my judgment in the grouping of this scene. He made me suffer, however, sufficiently for my personality, by employing all the newspapers to abuse and annoy me the whole time I remained in Dublin, and to pursue me to England with malignant scandal : but of that
The theatre, meantime, was attended to his heart's content; indeed, the whole of this engagement was as profitable as my most sanguine hopes could have anticipated.
“ When it was ended I made a visit to Shane's Castle, the magnificent residence of Mr. and Mrs. O'Neil. I have not words to describe the beauty and splendour of this enchanting place; which, I am sorry to say, has been since levelled to the earth by a tremendous fire. Here were often assembled all the talent, and rank, and beauty of Ireland. Among the persons of the Leinster family whom I met here was poor
Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the most amiable, honourable, though misguided, youth 1 ever knew. The luxury of this establishment almost inspired the recollections of an Arabian Night's entertainment. Six or eight carriages, with a numerous throng of lords and ladies on horseback, began the day, by making excursions around this terrestrial paradise, returning home just in time to dress for dinner. The table was served with a profusion and elegance to which I have never seen any thing comparable. The sideboards were decorated with adequate magnificence, on which appeared several immense silver flagons, containing claret. A fine band of musicians played during the whole of the repast. They were stationed in the corridors, which led into a fine conservatory, where we plucked our dessert from numerous trees of the most exquisite fruits. The foot of the conservatory was washed by the waves of a superb lake, from which the cool and pleasant wind came, to murmur in concert with the harmony from the corridor. The graces of the presiding genius, the lovely mistress of the mansion, seemed to blend with the whole scene.
“ When my visit to Shane's Castle was over, I entered into another engagement in Dublin. Among the actors in that theatre was Mr. Digges, who had formerly held a high rank in the drama, but who was now, by age and infirmity, reduced to a subordinate and mortifying situation. It occurred to me that I might be of some use to him, if I could persuade the manager to give him a night, and the actors to perform for him, at the close of my engagement; but when I proposed my request to the manager, he told me it could not be, because the whole company would be obliged to leave the Dublin theatre, in order to open the theatre at Limerick; but that he would lend.the house for my purpose, if I could procure a sufficient number of actors to perform a play. By indefatigable labour, and in spite of cruel annoyances, Mr. Siddons and myself got together, from all the little country theatres, as many as would enable us to attempt • Venice Preserved.' Oh! to be sure, it was a scene of disgust and confusion. I acted Belvidera, without having ever previously seen the face of one of the actors; for there was no time for even one rehearsal; but the motive procured us indulgence. Poor Mr. Digges was most materially benefited by this most ludicrous performance; and I put my disgust into my pocket, since money passed into his. Thus ended my Irish engagement; but not so my persecution by the manager, at whose instance the newspapers were filled with the most unjust and malignant reflections on