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THE DRAMATIC WRITERS OF IRELAND.NO. X.
JAYES KEXXEY-MISS EDGEWORTH-LADY MORGAN-LADY CLARKE-LORD VALENTIA-TYRONE POWER-LORD GLENGALL-LORD LANESBOROUG-REV. EDWARD GROVESSIR MARTIN ARCHER BHEE-FREDERIC EDWARD JONES,
"If anything be overlooked, or not accurately inserted, let no one find fault, but take into consideration that this history is compiled from all quarters." -TRANSLATION }
Few writers for the stage, in modern times, bave been more successful than JAMES KENNEY, who almost rivals O'Keeffe in the numerical amount of bis dramas, while he exceeds that rich humorist in variety of style. Tragedy, play, comedy, opera, farce, interlude, and melodrama, alternately employed his pen, which was seldom idle for forty years, during which long period he produced as many different pieces, the greater number of wbich are eminently attractive, and still keep the stage with undiminished popularity. It would be difficult to parallel him with any other author who has written so much and failed so seldom. Without the powerful or commanding originality by which a few greater names are distinguished, he is always fresh and agreeable, and cannot be classed as a copyist of any preceding school.
James Kenney was born in Ireland, about the year 1780. His family, on the male side, were genuine Hibernians for multiplied generations. His father filled, for many years, the situation of manager of Boodle's Club, in St.James's. street, of which he was also, in part, proprietor and institutor, and was well known and respected in the sporting world. The son, while yet a youth, being intended for a mercantile life, was placed in the banking-house of Messrs. Herries, Farquhar and Co.; and there (although not in the most congenial soil), in common with other young men of his own grade, imbibed a taste for the muses, and figured in private theatricals. His first acknowledged literary attempt appears to have been a small volume, published in 1803, entitled “ Society, a Poem, in two parts, with Other Poems.” The object was to set forth an agreeable antidote to the rhapsodical declama. tions of Zimmermann, and other dis. ciples of that mystical school, in praise of solitude, by picturing, in strong
VOL. XLVII.NO. CCLXXVII.
contrast, the pleasures and blessings of social intercourse. The work, as an indication of promise, was not without considerable merit, but has long been forgotten, and its very limited circulation naturally and fortunately induced the author to cultivate a much happier talent for dramatic composi. tion. He wrote a farce, called Raising the Wind, for the amateurs already alluded to, and acted Jeremy Diddler himself, preceded by Shylock.
The rapturous applause with which this celebrated farce was received, and the urgent advice of his coadjutors in the representation, induced him to offer it to the managers of Covent Garden, by whom it was immediately accepted. The production took place on the 5th of November, 1803, which proved an important epoch in the life of the writer. Raising the Wind ran thirtyeight nights without interruption, and still retains its place on the acting list as one of the best pieces of the class in the English language. Perhaps no farce has ever been repeated so often, in so many theatres, public and private, and none is more likely to enjoy a lasting immortality. On the night when it was first acted there was great attraction at Covent Garden. The performances commenced with The Fair Penitent, revived on that occasion for the combined talents of Mrs. Siddons, John Kemble, Charles Kemble, and George Frederic Cooke. A tragedy thus supported, and a crowded house, were almost certain heralds of success to a new farce of any pretensions. The original cast of Raising the Wind was as follows:-Jeremy Diddler, Lewis ; Fainwood, Simmonds; Sam, a Yorkshireman, Emery; Plainway, Blanchard ; Miss Laurelia Durable, an old maid, Mrs. Davenport; Peggy, daughter to Plainway, Mrs. Beverley. The acting was excellent throughout; that of Lewis, Emery, and Simmonds, inimitable. No suc
ceeding Jeremy Diddler ever came up to the original, although every executive light comedian has added to his reputation by personating the scheming hero, whose name has become generic to denote a numerons species, not like ly to become extinct with the rapidity of modern changes. The character of Diddler is not entirely new on the stage. Lackland in O'Keeffe's Fon. tainbleau, and Sponge in Reynolds's Cheap Living, are his theatrical progenitors; but Kenney is entitled to full praise for the skill and neatness with which he has arranged his piece, filled it with life and bustle, and introduced several of those whimsical situations which it is the legitimate province of farce to exhibit.
On the 20th of November, 1804, Kenney's second dramatie effort was ushered in at Drury-lane, under the title of Matrimony; a petite opera, taken from the “ Adolphe et Claire" of Marsollier. The materials are too scanty for an entertainment of two acts, and the piece has since been most judiciously improved by curtailment into one, and by the omission of un necessary songs. Matrimony was almost as successful as Raising the Wind, and is still in constant requisition. The contrivance of the plot, as far as respects the bringing the married couple into the same prison, is new and in genious, but the idea has been somewhat forestalled by Dibdin in the Jew and the Doctor. It will also remind many, of the scenes between Sir Robert and Lady Ramble, in Mrs. Inchbald's Every One has his Fault, and Sir Charles and Lady Racket, in Murphy's Three Weeks after Marriage. At the beginning of the present century, the companies of the two great London theatres presented an array of ability that would have illustrated with honour the best authors of the Elizabethan era. In a trifling afterpiece, such as Matrimony, there were combined the talents of Mrs. Jordan, Mrs. Bland, Elliston, Dowton, and Jack Johnstone. Too Many Cooks, another musical farce, by Kenney, acted at Covent Garden, on the 12th of February, 1805, must be included in the list of the condemned. It was received with some unequivocal marks of disapprobation, and after the third night, was withdrawn by the author. In his title he cut the proverb short, but he might have added the sequel as a commen.
tary on his failure. His next productions more than regained the ground he had lost. False Alarms, or My Cousin, a comic opera, in three acts, the music by Brabam and King, had a very successful and attractive run of twenty-one nights, at Drury-lane, in the early part of 1807. In this piece the author appears to have trusted entirely to good dramatic music, poetical words for the songs, smart dialogue, humour, incident, and situations, in fine, to have discarded machinery, drums, trumpets, noise, and spectacle, which were then high in the ascendant, and to have aimed at the restoration of a legitimate opera. In this instance he was fortunate; and while he repaid himself amply, brought money to the treasury of the theatre, without previously exhausting a larger sum on scene - painters, machinists, tailors, dressmakers, ovations, processions, elephants, camels, horses, dogs, and monkeys. In False Alarms Bannister had a comic song, "Major M.Pherson,” which was long chanted in every street by itinerant melodists; and Braham introduced, for the first time, his popular ballad, “ Said a Smile to a Tear." True comic opera is a very pleasing form of dramatic composi. tion, and is invariably enjoyed by any audience with intense relish. The sentimental charlatan, Rousseau, says, « Le plaisir du comique est fondé sur un vice du cậur." If this be true, a very large majority of the world are in an awful and hopeless extreme of human depravity.
Ella Rosenberg, first performed at Drury-lane, on the 19th of November, 1807, is one of the most agreeable and successful melodramas that the stage possesses. The serious nature of the subject prevented much introduction of those traits of broad humour which are usually looked for in an afterpiece ; but what was wanting on the score of farcical effect, was amply compensated by the glow of natural feeling and strong interest which pervades the entire piece. The heroine was originally performed by Mrs. Henry Siddons, one of the most accomplished actresses in her line that ever trod the boards, and who upheld, with undiminished lustre, the distinguished name that she acquired by marriage. Leigh Hunt characterised her style with happy accuracy when he wrote thus, in 1805 :“Her genius is entirely feminine, for
actresses, like queens, lose something of the woman, in proportion as they exhibit the powers of command, and the more rigorous acquirements. As sassinations and bloodshed are as little conducive to female delicacy of effect on the stage, as they were in real life with Christina of Sweden, or Catharine of Russia." He then observes “ The only prevailing fault in this actress is a monotonous delivery. The tones, indeed, are the sweetest in the world, but we should become tired of Apollo's lyre were it always in one key.”
The cast of Ella Rosenberg included Elliston, Mathews, and Bannister, It ran above forty nights during the first season, and is still constantly acted in all the theatres throughout the kingdom. Du Bois, who was then considered the Jupiter Tonans of critics, thus delivered his opinion in The Monthly Mirror :
Mathews, whose only humour consists in repeating his name, and talking about a speech which he makes in a blundering manner to the Elector. This is old and weak; nothing could be made of it. Ella Rosenberg is, wg understand, not translated, only taken from the French.' The dialogue throughout has much the smack of French liquor, which pro bably sparkled a little wben in its Gallic flask, but, being poured off into an English decanter, is exceedingly flat. Much as we admire the ingenuity of Mr. Kenney in Matrimony, and in this piece, we could wish that the author of Raising the Wind would not, $0 unnecessarily, covet his neighbour's goods, but give us more of that happy vein with which he at first entertained us."
" It will be seen, from the rough outline we have given, that the author rests his hope entirely on interesting incident and situation, which in some scenes were potent beyond anything we have lately bebeld. How this operated on the house was very observable, on the encore of a good glee, by King, which the majority of the audience evidently objected to, merely because they could not bear the action of the piece to be interrupted. Mrs. H. Siddons's Ella was full of every beauty of acting, exquisite pathos, and most eloquent and impressive dumb show. The scene where she rushes in as Storm is proceeding to execution, was, by the joint skill of Mrs. H. Siddons and Mr. Bannister, wrought up to the highest perfection of all that is fine and effective in theatrical art. The pleasure of the house on seeing Mr. Bannister return to his professional duties, after a long and severe sickness, was testified by a greeting that must have been most grateful to him. He is introduced singing, “Begone dull care,' words to which his presence generally compels a prompt and strict obedience. On this occasion, however, his comic powers yielded to a display of that talent in which he has no equal; the man of years, honest, plain, and unsophisticated, with a heart overflowing with affection and kindness. He and Mrs. H. Siddons were the great support of the piece. Mr. Elliston was clever, but his dress and moustachios gave him the look of a cut-throat, the very opposite of his character. The sole attempt at anything comic is in Sigismond Fluttermann, personated by
It seems as if our author had taken the hint, for, in his next effort, he went back to originality, soaring higher than he had hitherto ventured to ascend, and produced a comedy in five acts, entitled The World, which came out at Drury-lane, on the 31st of March, 1808, and had an attractive run of twentythree nights, throughout the remainder of that season. It was occasionally repeated during the next, until the ope, rations of the company were suspended by the burning of the theatre, on the night of the 24th of March, 1809. Lord Byron speaks harshly of this play in “ English Bards.” He says: " While Kerney's World – ah ! where is Kenney's Tires the sad gallery, lulls the listless pit."*
The criticism is unjust, and the fact mis-stated. The World has not the brilliancy of The School for Scandal, or the power of Money; but still it may take place above the average of modern drainas. The great fault lies in the construction of the fourth and fifth acts, which sink exactly where they should rise. The object is to show the folly of a blind submission to the dictates of fashion, and the mischief resulting from too great a fear of its dread laugh.” This is principally exempli. fied in the character of Echo, a young man from the country, who has deserted the girl of his heart, and comes to town for the purpose of making a figure in the world. With this view, he apes every fool or coxcomb he encounters, until failure of success and better coun. sel induce him to return to common
* In the first edition the lines ran-
" While Kenney's World just suffer'd to proceed,
Proclaims the audience very kind indeed."
sense and blighted affection. Cheviot ther three acts so utterly vapid and unthe poet, author, and foundling, living interesting. by his wits, is the ostensible hero, but On the 7th of March, 1812, Kenney's he is rather dull and prosaic, though musical afterpiece of Turn Out, was high-spirited and independent. The acted at the Lyceum Theatre, by the incidental characters of Dauntless and Drury - lane company. It was very Loiter, two idle nonentities, are amus successful, commanded twenty-eight reingly drawn; but that of Index is, per petitions, and still keeps the stage. Dow. haps, the best in the play. He is an ton and Miss Duncan (afterwards Mrs. old bachelor, who, without employ Davison) acquired much credit in the ment, really does more than half the two principal characters, Restive apd men of business in the world. He is Marian Ramsay. Before the close of popping in everywhere, knows every the same year, another excellent farce, body, and will do everything, because Love, Law, and Physic, added consider“ he has nothng to do." When Jack ably to our author's reputation. It Bannister retired from the stage, he ran forty-four nights during the first selected his original part of Echo, with season (at Covent Garden), and is still Walter, in The Children in the Wood, constantly acted in the metropolis and for his final appearance. This occurred provinces. There are many yet living on the 1st of June, 1815, and was the who have seen Liston, Mathews, Emelast occasion on which The World was ry, Blanchard, and Mrs. Gibbs, in their revived in London. Hazlitt, in a no original characters, and all together. tice of Bannister's farewell, says :- Such acting is not easily forgotten. “ The comedy of The World is one of Hazlitt says of Liston in this farcethe most ingenious and amusing of the “ It is hard to say whether the soul of modern stage. It has great neatness Mr. Liston has passed into Mr. Lubin of dialogue, and considerable origina Log, or that of Mr. Lubin Log into lity, as well as spriteliness of character. Mr. Liston ; but a most wonderful conIt is, however, chargeable with a gross geniality and mutual good understand. ness which is common to modern plays; ing there is between them. A more we mean the grossness of fashionable perfect personation we never witnessed. life in the men, and the grossness of Moliere would not have wished for a fine sentiment in the women." We richer representative of his Bourgeois confess that we are unable to discover Gentilhomme.” this blemish in the dialogue, which is We cannot say much in praise of the written throughout with ease and ele comedy of Debtor and Creditor, progance. Kenney rarely descends to pun, duced at Covent Garden, on the 20th and where he is equivocal, he is remark of April, 1814, which died quietly after ably neat. As, for instance, Echo eight repetitions, and is principally to be telling Lady Bloomfield, in an obscure remembered as containing the last oriway, that he had been pursued by ginal part (Barbara Green) acted by bailiffs, she observes, mistakingly – the inimitable daughter of Thalia, “ Yes, I know that you literary men Dorothea Jordan. On the 1st of June, are very much run after."
in that same year, her musical voice and Kenney's next production, a comic ringing laugh were heard for the last opera, called Oh! this Love, or the time on the boards of a London theatre, Masqueraders, appeared at the Lys in the character of Lady Teazle. She ceum, in June, 1810. This proved to took no farewell, and had no intention be a sad falling off, bitterly disappoint of then leaving the stage. In little ing to his friends and the public, and more than two years after, she died in was doomed to total extinction, after a strange land, deserted, overwhelmed a few profitless repetitions which ended with pecuniary embarrassment, and with the season. Perhaps be wrote in a prematurely hurried to the grave by hurry, or to order, or disliked his subject, anguish of mind. The inscription on or lent his name to what was not his own; her tombstone, in the church - yard but in either case (except the last) he of St. Cloud, near Paris, fixes her age must have found it difficult to put toge- at fifty;* but she must have been older,
• The epitaph, jointly supplied by two friends, runs as follows:-M. S., Dorothea Jordan, Quæ per multos annos, Londini, inque aliis Britanniæ Urbibus, scenam egregie ornavit; Lepore comico, vocis suavitate, Puellarum hilarium, alteriusque sexûs moribus, habitu, seeing that she made her first public ap- Child, which, through her admirable pearance under Ryder's management, acting in Little Pickle, obtained more in Dublin, in 1777, as Phæbe, in As notoriety than it deserved. But there
You Like It ; when, if the record allud. is stronger reason to suppose that it is ed to above be correct, she could only the production of Isaac Bickerstaff. have been in her eleventh year. Boa In 1815, Kenney'sfarce of The Forden, in his “Memoirs," places her tune of War obtained a run of fifteen birth as far back as 1762, which seems nights at Covent Garden. At the likely to be correct. This would make commencement of 1817, a drama, her fifty-four when she died, and fifteen founded on some facts which happened when she went on the stage. Water. in France, in 1687, as recorded in ford may feel proud of having been the "Les Causes Celebres," was brought birthplace of such a brilliant genius. out in Paris, with great momentary at
Her public career was a series of tri. traction, under the title of The Portumphal processions ; but in her private folio, or the Family of Anglade. The life there were some dark, intervening managers of Drury-lane and Covent clouds, and the close was melancholy in Garden pounced on the novelty sithe extreme. A mound was raised multaneously, and each produced his over her humble grave, shadowed by edition on the same night, February an acacia-tree, and planted at the pro the 1st. Howard Payne and Kenney per season with cypresses. This was were the respective adapters. The executed with taste, but has since Covent Garden version (Kenney's) was fallen into dilapidation, in the absence acted oftener than the other, but neiof a small sum of money necessary to ther lived beyond a few nights. It is keep it in repair. The effects which needless now to discuss the comparaMrs. Jordan possessed at St. Cloud tive merit of two pieces that have long were taken possession of by the officers been forgotten. of police,and after a certain time put up In May, 1817, Kenney produced to auction. The proceeding seems to two novelties at Drury-lane, of a very have been official, in consequence of different character, and within a few her dying in France intestate, when it days of each other. The first, a cobecame the duty of the King's solici medy, in four acts, called The Touchtor to collect and dispose of her pro- stone, or the World as it Goes; the perty for the benefit of creditors. second, a musical farce, in one act, Even her personal wardrobe was sold, under the whimsical title of A House amidst coarse jibes and vulgar mock- out at Windows. The comedy was ery. The fact rests on the evidence of scarcely successful, and the farce a a gentleman who was present. This failure. The former contained a good sad instance is painfully suggestive of hit at pretended esquires, who at that a new application of Pope's lines, in time were as prolific as mushrooms. his celebrated “Elegy on an Unfortu. Croply, a bailiff, says of one of the nate Lady”:
characters, “ Bless ye, he be turn'd
squire." " Squire !” replies Probe. " What can atone (O ever injur'd shade!
" What do you mean? a bank direcThy fate unpitied, and thy rites unpaid ! No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear
tor, or a strolling player?" In the Pleas'd thy pale ghost, or grac'd thy mournful bier, farce, the greater part of the dialogue By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd,
was carried on between parties who By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos'd ; By foreign hands thy humble grave adoru'd,
appear at the windows of a house, and By strangers honour'd, and by strangers mourn'd!" others standing on the stage. The
idea was new, but the audience neither It has been often said that Mrs. understood nor relished it. In Dec., Jordan wrote the farce of The Spoild 1817, the comedy of A Word for the
imitandis, nulli secunda: Ad exercendam eam, quâ tam feliciter versata est artem, ut res egenorum adversas sublevaret, nemo promptior. E vitâ exiit tertio Nonas Julii, 1816, anno nata 50. Mementote-Lugete." Sacred to the memory of Dorothea Jordan, who, for many years, at London and in the other cities of Britain, was the peculiar ornament of the stage. In comic humour, in sweetness of voice, in acting sprightly girls, and characters of the other sex, she was second to no one. She was always ready to exert her happy talents for the relief of distress. She died, July 5th, 1816, age fifty years. Remember her - mourn for her.