صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

to the public voice, and that voice was now thundered against the proprietors in dire tones of resentment for that very acquiescence. During the first night on which the ballet was brought forward, the King attended the theatre, and the performances passed over with a stifled composure, but on the following evening nothing could stem the exasperation of the audience. This opposition was persisted in for five successive representations, blows were nightly struck in the house, a continued tumult prevailed, and at last, after doing considerable damage to the interior of the theatre, a mob proceeded to Garrick's residence, in Southamptonstreet, and demolished all his windows. The piece was therefore laid aside, and Garrick complained that he lost 40001. in the uproar.

After spending the years 1764 and 65 in a Continental excursion for the benefit of his health, he returned to London, and was received with the most flattering congratulations. From this period, however, he declined the assumption of any new parts, but continued to appear from season to season in those old characters which had first made him a favourite. In 1769 he signalized his admiration for Shakspeare, by instituting the Stratford Jubilee, an undertaking which afforded ample materials for wit and ridicule to the public prints of the day, and was in the celebration almost damped into a positive failure by rainy weather. For this disappointment, however, he was compensated in another way: he introduced the ceremony as a spectacle upon the stage, and it was repeated to crowded audiences for ninety-two nights. In 1773 death deprived him of his partner, Mr. Lacy, and the sole management of the theatre thenceforward devolved upon his shoulders. Equal popularity attended his efforts until the year 1776, when, feeling satisfied with the fortune and fame he had acquired, he resolved to retire to the ease of private life. He disposed of a moiety of his interest in the patent for 37,0002. ; and after performing the part of Don Felix in the “Wonder, for the benefit of the Theatrical Fund, took leave of the audience in these terms:

“ Ladies and Gentlemen, “ It has been customary with persons under my circumstances to address you in a farewell epilogue. I had the same intention, and turned my thoughts that way ; but, indeed, I felt myself as

incapable of writing such an epilogue as I should now be of speaking it. The jingle of rhyme and the language of fiction would but ill suit my present feelings.

(Here we are told he paused and wept.) Whatever may be the changes of my future life, the deep impression I have of your kindness will always remain here (hand upon breast) fixed and unalterable. I will very readily agree to my successors having more skill and ability for their station than I have, but I defy them all to take more sincere and more uninterrupted pains for your favour, or to be more truly sensible of it, than is your most obedient grateful servant.”

Garrick spent the remainder of his life, during the winter at his house in the Adelphi, and during the summer at a neat residence on the Thames, near Hampton Court. In this latter capacity of a country gentleman, the King put him into the commission of the peace, but he was not destined to enjoy any great happiness. The stone, a disorder to which he had been long subject, now began to make such inroads on his constitution that he was seldom free from pains, or equal to the excitement of society. With a hope of alleviating its tortures, he was induced to avail himself of some quack medicines, and by injudiciously tampering with the malady, encreased its ravages. During the Christmas of 1778 he was taken violently ill, while on a visit to Lord Spencer's seat, at Althorpe, but recovered sufficiently to return slowly to London, and expire at his house in the Adelphi, on the 20th of January, 1779. His funeral took place on the first day of the following month: it was a public one, solemnized with every circumstance of pomp, and attended by the highest characters in the country.

As a man, Garrick's character has generally been represented infected with much vanity and great parsimony, two faults for which his friend and tutor Doctor Johnson was accustomed alternately to condemn and defend him with earnest warmth. As an actor, we can only infer his capabilities from the variety of parts for which we find his name recorded, and adopt a description of his peculiarities from the attestations of those who were his contemporaries. In his Life by Davies, or by Murphy, but particularly in the former, an ample analysis of his many excel

lencies will be found. The following is the summary in which the editor of the Biographia Dramatica compresses the information thus derived :

“ Garrick in his person was low, yet well shaped and neatly proportioned, and, having added the qualifications of dancing and fencing to that natural gentility of manner, which no art can bestow, but with which our great, mother Nature endows many, even from infancy, his deportment was constantly easy, natural, and engaging. His complexion was dark; the features of his face pleasing and regular, but animated by a full black eye, brilliant and penetrating. His voice was clear, melodious, and commanding; and, although it might not possess the strong overbearing powers of Mossop, or the musical sweetness of Barry, yet it appeared to have a much greater compass of variety than either; and, from his judicious manner of conducting it, enjoyed that articulation and piercing distinctness, which rendered it equally intelligible, even to the most distant parts of an audience, in the gentle whispers of murmuring love, the halfsmothered accents of in-felt passion, or the professed and sometimes awkward concealments of an aside speech in comedy, as in the rants of rage, the darings of despair, or all the open violence of tragical enthusiasm.

“His particular forte or superior cast in acting, it would be perhaps as difficult to determine, as it would be minutely to describe his several excellencies in the very different casts in which he at various times thought proper to appear. Particular superiority was swallowed up in his universality; and should it even be contended, that there have been performers equal to him in their own respective fortes of playing, yet even their partisans must acknowledge there never existed any one performer that came near his excellence in so great a variety of parts. Tragedy, comedy, and farce, the lover and the hero, the jealous husband who suspects his wife's virtue without cause, and the thoughtless lively rake who attacks it without design, were all alike open to his imitation, and all alike did honour to his execution. Every passion of the human breast seemed subjected to his powers of expression; nay, even time itself appeared to stand still, or advance, as he would have it. Rage and ridicule, doubt and de

[ocr errors]

spair, transport and tenderness, compassion and contempt, love, jealousy, fear, fury, and simplicity, all took successive possession of his features, while each of them in turn appeared to be the sole possessor of those features. One night old age sat on his countenance, as if the wrinkles she had stamped there were indelible; the next the gaiety and bloom of youth seemed to overspread his face, and smooth even those marks which time and muscular coaformation might have really made there. Of these truths no one can be ignorant, who ever saw him in the several characters of Lear or Hamlet, Richard, Dorilas, Romeo, or Lusignan; Ranger, Bays, Drugger, Kitely, Brute, or Benedict. In short, Nature, the mistress from whom alone this great performer borrowed all his lessons, being in herself inexhaustible, and her variations not to be numbered, it is by no means surprising, that this, her darling son, should find an unlimited scope for change and diversity in his manner of copying from her various productions. As if she had marked him out for her - truest representative from the cradle, she bestowed on him such powers of expression in the muscles of his face, as no performer ever yet possessed; not only for the display of a single passion, but also for the combination of those various conflicts with which the human breast at times is fraught; so that in his countenance, even when his lips were silent, his meaning stood pourtrayed in characters too legible for any to mistake it.”

Facts, however, are the best testimonies, and we shall therefore offer an authentic anecdote :

“During his visit to France, he made a short excursion from the capital with the celebrated Parisian performer, Preville, They were on horseback, and Preville took a fancy to act the part of a drunken cavalier. Garrick applauded the imitation, but told him he wanted one thing which was essential to complete the picture; he did not make his legs drunk. Hold, my friend, (said he) and I will show you an English blood, who, after having dined at a tavern, and swallowed three or four bottles of Port, mounts his horse on a summer evening to go to his box in the country.' Proceeding immediately to exhibit all the gradations of intoxication, he called to his servant, that

the sun and the fields were turning round him; whipped and spurred his horse until the animal reared and wheeled in every direction : at length he lost his whip, his feet seemed incapable of resting in the stirrups, the bridle dropped from his hand, and he appeared to have lost the use of all his faculties. Finally, he fell from his horse in such a death-like manner, that Preville gave an involuntary cry of horror; and his terror greatly increased when he found that his friend made no answers to his questions. · After wiping the dust from his face, he asked again, with the emotion and anxiety of friendship, whether he was hurt. Garrick, whose eyes were closed, half opened one of them, hiccuped, and, with the most natural tone of intoxication, called for another glass. Preville was astonished; and when Garrick started up, and resumed his usual demeanour, the French actor exclaimed - My friend, allow the scholar to embrace his master, and thank him for the valuable lesson he has received.""

As an author, Garrick was only respectable : besides the dramatic works already noticed, he composed an infinitude of prologues, epilogues, songs, and epigrams, remarkable for liveliness and uncommon variety. Dr. Johnson has observed that Dryden wrote better prologues than Garrick, but that Garrick wrote more good ones than Dryden. He commemorated the death of Mr. Secretary Pelham in an ode, which, as we are told, ran through four editions in six weeks, and ridiculed a Mr. Fitzgerald, who had attacked him through the Craftsman, in a poem called “Fribleriad, which has been pointedly commended by Churchill. This effusion, however, affected his interests in an unexpected way, for soon after its appearance, Fitzgerald roused up a party who compelled the managers of Drury-lane to abandon a privilege which they had retained up to this period—of refusing any admissions at halfprice upon the night of a new representation. Sheridan honoured Garrick's death with a Monody, spoken at Drury-lane Theatre, but there does not remain room for its insertion.

« السابقةمتابعة »