صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

don on the approach of winter. It was in this year that he began to exhibit the great versatility of his powers by assuming characters not only in comedy, but even in broad farce. To enumerate all his performances, or describe the particular effect which he produced at each effort, were a minute task inconsistent with the brevity imposed upon these sketches. It must, therefore, suffice to observe, that he continued a prosperous career at Drury Lane until the winter of the year 1745, when a stage quarrel with Macklin and some others, which excited considerable attention at the moment, but has long lost its interest, induced him to ·go a second time to Dublin, where he was made joint-manager with the elder Sheridan of the theatre in Smock Alley.

During this interval the fortune of the large London houses was disastrous in the extreme: that in Drury Lane laboured under a complication of difficulties, while that in Covent Garden was only enabled to wind up the year's accounts somewhat favourably, by giving Garrick 3001. for six performances. The engagement was renewed during the next year, and there ended his appearance as a hired actor; for such was the crowd he now drew with him, and so complete the desertion from the one theatre while he played at the other, that the Drury Lane patent was repeatedly brought into the market for sale. Tenders of it were made to several persons, but no one seemed willing to risk any thing upon it, though the price demanded was very moderate. At last it was suggested that Garrick, who had by this time acquired an exemplary character for personal discretion and frugality, should be introduced to assist Mr. Lacy, the only remaining proprietor of any responsibility. The offer once accepted, conditions were soon adjusted : a renewal of the patent was solicited and obtained; Lacy undertook to direct the general property, while Garrick managed the stage; and the house opened under auspicious circumstances, with the best of prologues, composed by Dr. Johnson and delivered by Garrick, in the spring of 1747.

The company mustered upon this occasion was strong in numbers, and commanding in talent: Barry,* Macklin, Mrs. Woffing

[graphic]

Spranger Barry, the only actor of the day who stood by Garrick as a rival, was interred in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, and should therefore be commemorated here. A writer in a recent number of Blackwood's Magazine, who seems to have witnessed his performances, thus describes

ton, Mrs. Clive, and Mrs. Cibber, headed the roll; but, what with jealousy of the acting manager, and the intrigues of Covent Garden, they, one after another, broke their engagements, and, though some found it prudent to return, particularly Mrs. Cibber, they were never all of them reunited under the same authority. These disappointments, however, disheartened Garrick in no apparent degree; he redoubled his exertions, and soon exalted the theatre to a flourishing state. Of the means by which this end was attained, his own dramatic compositions formed no mean portion : of them, therefore, it may be proper to treat here. His first essay was the farce of the · Lying Valet,' produced in Goodman's Fields so early as the year 1741: it was taken from the French, and acquiring the praise due to an interesting plot and original characters, was often rehearsed with applause. This was followed, and with greater success, by · Miss in her Teens, or the Medley of Lovers,' a diverting farce, produced at Covent Garden in 1747, which retained its place on the stage for a considerable time. "Lethe,' a dramatic satire, as it is now printed, appeared at Drury Lane, in 1749, but claims an earlier birth. It was his first production, having been performed at Drury Lane, in 1740; reproduced at Goodman's Fields during the following year; printed in 1745, and finally enlarged, as before stated, in 1749. But though the wit of this piece was confessedly good, and the points strong, and though Garrick played three different characters in it with his wonted facility, great opposition was offered to its reception at the beginning. Perseverance and corrections, however, smoothed its way, and it at last became a standard drama.

his merits:-"In Romeo, he disputed the palm with Garrick ; in Lear, approached to an equality; and in Othello and Alexander the Great, shone unrivalled.” Born and educated in Dublin, he there made his appearance on the stage. His chief sources of attraction were the gifts of bountiful nature; a melodious voice, elegant figure, and most gentlemanly address. He preceded Garrick on the London boards ; became manager of the Dublin theatre about the year 1760, and in that speculation lost all his property. Coming back to London after this disaster, he continued to play the leading parts in tragedy at Covent Garden, Drury Lane, and the Haymarket, until the period of his death, which took place during the year 1777, at the age of 58. He was married, but left no issue. His wife was the fair tragic actress Mrs. Dancer, subsequently better known by the name of her third husband, Mr. Crawford.

The Fairies, an opera, from the · Midsummer Night's Dream,' and • The Tempest,' an opera, also from Shakspeare's play of the same name, were brought forward, the one for the season of 1755, and the other for that of 1756. The music to both was composed by Smith, and pleased, but the compilations themselves were puny, and only answered for purposes of the moment,

Catherine and Petruchio, produced in 1756, being nothing more than a judicious transposition of Shakspeare's · Taming of the Shrew,' requires no comment. Florizel and Perdita,' acted in the same year, stands in the same predicament: it is only an extract from the Winter's Tale.' 'Lilliput,' a dramatic entertainment, which was got up for Woodward's benefit, in 1757, may

be dismissed with a notice that it was played by children: it boasts, however, one revival. The farce of the - Male Coquette,' a second compliment to the same benefit, had more merít, and, notwithstanding the solecism of the title, succeeded to some popularity. The characters whom it exposed to ridicule were the dandies of that day, who passed by the name of Daffodils. 'The Guardian,' a comedy in two acts, was a charitable contribution to a benefit given at Drury Lane in 1759, for the relief of Christopher Smart, an unhappy poet, then suffering an imprisonment for debt. Taken from the Pupille' of Fagan, it is simple and sentimental: it was published in 1773, and has been occasionally revived. “The Enchanter, or Love and Magic, a musical drama, acted in 1760, is distinguishable as the piece in which Leoni, the singer, was originally introduced to the stage. "The Farmer's Return from London,' was an interlude presented to Mrs. Pritchard for her benefit in 1762, but frequently repeated on account of the humorous account it gave of the fol. lies and wonders of the town-the Coronation and the Cock-lane Ghost. "The Clandestine Marriage,' a comedy in five acts, first performed in 1766, is beyond question the best composition to which the name of Garrick is attached; but, if the story told by the elder Colman, who was admitted on the title-page to the honour of joint authorship, be correct, and no one has arraigned it, little merit can be awarded to him for it. “ Garrick," said Colman, according to a verbal account, “ brought me two acts, deşiring me to put them together, and do what I could with them. I did put them together, for I put them into the fire, and wrote

the play myself.” “Neck or Nothing,' a farce from the French of Le Sage, was damned in 1766; and Cymon,' a dramatic romance, acted during the following year, deserved the same fate, but was urged into considerable effect by a misplaced richness of scenery and musical elegance. The Peep behind the Curtain, or the New Rehearsal,' was a farce which ran with uncommon applause for one hundred and eighty nights during the season of 1767. The music was by Barthelemon, a man of such ready talent and pleasing address, that Garrick promised to make his fortune. The first work put into his hands for this great purpose, was the music to this farce, by which Garrick cleared some thousands of pounds, but out of which he only gave the deluded musician forty pounds, though he had promised fifty guineas. • The Irish Widow,' a comedy in two acts, from the French of Moliere, was successful in 1772. The Christmas Tale,' a dramatic entertainment, in five parts, was hooted from the stage in 1774, notwithstanding the beauties of some scenery by De Lutherbourg, and music by Dibdin. • Bon Ton, or High Life above Stairs,' was represented for the benefit of King, in 1775, and much praised for liveliness, character and moral.

• May Day," a musical farce, acted in the same year, is only memorable for the first introduction of Miss Abrams, the singer, who composed the popular air of Crazy Jane.' : The Theatrical Candidates,' a musical prelude, in 1775; and · Linco's Travels,' an interlude for King's benefit, in 1767, were his last compositions. It is to be observed, however, that he acquired considerable reputation by the alterations, and even additions which he intro-' duced at different times into several of our standard dramas, such as Wycherley's 'Country Girl,' Ben Jonson’s • Every Man in his Humour, Shirley's Gamester,' &c. &c.

Garrick married in June, 1749: his lady was an opera-dancer from Vienna, the place of her birth, whence she came to this country, with high recommendations to the patronage of the Earl of Burlington. Her maiden name was originally Viegel, which, for the sake of softness, she afterwards changed into Violette. Whether from admiration of her professional accomplishments, or respect for the friends who introduced her, she was treated by the noble lord just mentioned with uncommon attention, made an inmate at Burlington House, watched over by the Countess with

maternal care, and presented with a fortune of 60001. upon the day of her marriage. Circumstances so extraordinary gave rise to a very general idea that she was his lordship’s natural daughter ; but the supposition has been justified by no facts. The match, however, was in every respect a cordial and happy one: the circle of Garrick's acquaintance included the most distinguished men in literature and the arts ; he was moreover familiar with the great, and, by a happy admixture of respectful ease and' unexceptionable decorum, secured for her the society of the most dignified characters.

The reputation in which Garrick now stood before the world was, beyond a question, far superior to any previously enjoyed by a member of his profession. Happy as an author, and as an actor equally perfect in tragedy, comedy, or farce, he was more particularly honoured as a reformer of the pure drama, and the reviver of its chief idol, Shakspeare. But, though his career mus in truth be described as prosperous and successful from beginning to end, yet an evident parsimony in his managerial system, and occasionally something like a vain indifference to authors, brought about several mortifying ebullitions of popular hostility. The year 1756,' above others, was marked by these feelings. The press had been for some time employed to rail against what was then termed the avaricious disposition of the Drury-lane proprietors, who grudged the expense of varying the public entertainments with a more decorative stage, dancing, music, gay scenery, &c. The bare merits of antient authors were alone offered for amusement, and this was set down as an instance of great presumption. In order to appease these murmurings, a ballet-master was appointed, with full powers to collect an effective body of figurants, who in a short time amounted to a hundred in number. They were drawn from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France, and were presented before the town in a grand entertainment of dancing, entitled the Chinese Festival. Meantime, however, a war was declared against France, and on the instant another clamour was raised against the managers--they were loudly reproached for encouraging a set of French actors and workmen, and thus employing the common enemies of the country. This was an unfortunate predicament; the new engagements had been entered into in obedience

« السابقةمتابعة »