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excelled it in intrinsic merit, although lived, presented themselves in a palpably plagiarized from Beaumont and Fletcher's "Wild Goose Chase." The comparative failure of the last mentioned piece, which in time became popular, was entirely owing to the vast inundation of singers from Italy, tumblers and somnambulists from France, with dancing men, women, and dogs, by which public taste was then vitiated, and the Drury-lane company almost broke. Farquhar's two next productions, "The Twin Rivals" and the "Stage Coach," died and made no sign. The "Recruiting Officer," produced in 1706, kept the stage until very lately, and the "Beaux Stratagem," first acted in 1707, is allowed by all critics to be the author's masterpiece.
Wilks played the heroes in all Farquhar's comedies, except the first, and Farquhar, it was supposed, sketched them, particularly Captain Plume, from himself. They are said to embody his own adventures. They are invariably drawn as young, gay, rakish sparks-wild, frolicsome, and free-but honourable, brave, and accomplished; somewhat lax in moral practice, yet not depraved in principle; attractive companions, without being altogether eligible examples. The licence of speech and manners so universally indulged in and sanctioned in that age, has long given place to formal decency, which while it allows no approach to warm colouring, keeps at the same respectable distance from rich sallies of wit or entertaining adventures. The ore of genuine comedy is worked out. The world has become monotonous, respectable, uniform, and utilitarian. Distinctions are confounded or obliterated. There are scarcely any outward marks of difference between a lord and his butler or valet, his heir apparent or the fashioner of his garments. The duke dines at eight and his tailor does the same. A brown, green, or blue coat in a drawing-room would create nearly as much alarm as the appearance of a mad dog. "The age is grown so picked, that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe." Men, in every class, think, speak, look, act, and dress alike. The genius of Congreve, Farquhar, and Sheridan would rust and moulder for lack of the varied materials which, when they
single stroll down St. James's-street, Pall Mall, or Bond-street; in a drive round the park; an afternoon's lounge in a leading coffee or club house; a visit to a race-course, a high class gaming table, or a fashionable assembly. The most notorious "fast men of the present day, are feeble shadows of the bucks, bloods, rakes, quizzes, fine gentlemen, and petits maitres, eccentricities of the whip, turf, and hunting field, conversationalists and convivialists who figure with such individual distinctness in the plays, novels, and periodicals of the last century. Even the George Selwyns, Brummells, and Theodore Hooks of more recent days are an extinct genus. The bores, nevertheless, still flourish in immense numbers, and with endless ramifications. It is to be hoped we are, as we assume to be, better and wiser than our forefathers; for, beyond all question, we are infinitely more dull.
When Farquhar's last comedy was composed, in 1707, he had fallen into despondency, had sold his commission in the army to pay his debts, and was struggling with the poverty brought on partly by his own improvidence, and in some measure by a train of misfortunes beyond his power to remedy. Wilks found him one morning in his lodgings, giving way to despair and sinking into apathy. "Rouse yourself, George," he said; "write another play, and it shall be got up immediately." "Write!" cried Farquhar, starting from his chair. "Is it possible that a man can write common sense whose heart is broken, and who is without a shilling in his pocket?" The sentiment finds an echo in the remark which Dr. Johnson makes on Collins, the poet, when, under a similar pressure, it was suggested to him to undertake a philosophical work. "A man doubtful of his dinner, or trembling at a creditor, is not much disposed for abstract meditations or remote inquiries." Come, come, George," Wilks continued, banish melancholy, draw your drama, and bring the sketch with you to-morrow, for I expect you to dine with me. But as an empty pocket may cramp your genius and dull your wit, I desire you to accept my mite ;" and he presented him with twenty guineas.
The comedy was written, rehearsed, and acted within six weeks; but on the third night, appropriated to his benefit, poor Farquhar quitted this world, in his thirtieth year, prematurely worn down by disappointed hopes and the pressure of worldly distress. Wilks took charge of his funeral expenses, accepted cheerfully the legacy he bequeathed to him of two infant daughters, brought them up. carefully, and obtained benefits for both when they were of an age to be settled in the world.
Farquhar's humour was not confined to his comedies. It pervaded his ordinary acts and conversation. When he was on his deathbed, Wilks, who visited him daily, observed that Mrs. Oldfield thought he had dealt too freely with the character of Mrs. Sullen, in giving her to Archer without such a proper divorce as might be a security to her honour. "Oh," replied Farquhar, with his habitual vivacity, "I will, if she pleases, solve that immediately, by getting a real divorce, marrying her myself, and giving her my bond that she shall be a real widow in less than a fortnight." When he was at Trinity College, Dublin, he sent to a gentleman to borrow Burnet's History of the Reformation." The gentleman sent word that he never lent any book out of his chambers, but if he would come there he might make what use he pleased of it. Alittle while after, the owner of the book sent to borrow Farquhar's bellows, who replied "I never lend my bellows out of my chambers, but if you will be pleased to come here you may make any use of them you like."
Amongst the theatrical beauties and celebrities of the era we are treating of, we find Mrs. Rogers frequently named. She was not married, though in common with several single ladies on the stage, she assumed the matronly designation. Her rivalry of Mrs. Oldfield created a memorable schism in the dramatic microcosm, which amused the town for three months, and ended in her defeat; but the most remarkable passage in her history is her tendresse for Wilks, which created the more scandal and derision, as, in her youthful days, she professed prudery, and carried it to such an extent that she refused to act any heroine who was not immaculate. In 1697,
in an epilogue to a play called "The Triumphs of Virtue," presented to her as a gift, by the anonymous author, she volunteered a dangerous and unnecessary vestal vow, in the following doggrel. "If the ladies will smile on me," she said,
"I'll pay this duteous gratitude; I'll do That which the play has done,-I'll
At your own virtue's shrine my vows
And strive to live the character I play."
"The lady did protest too much," nevertheless, as we find in the sequel that she capitulated to Wilks after a long siege. She yielded, finally, through terror and compassion. The innamorato took to his bed, and thought or said he should never leave it, if she continued obdurate. In a jealous dispute, some time after, Cibber heard her reproach him in these words-" Villain, did I not save your life?" But "violent delights have violent ends." When they quarrelled, and mutual regard had subsided into indifference or hate, which happened in due course, they were frequently obliged, in the routine of duty, to act lovers together, such as Castalio and Monimia, Jaffier and Belvidera. The gentleman endeavoured to maintain the appearance of becoming affection, but the lady nursed her wrath up to such intensity, that, when they exchanged endearments in the business of the scene, she left on his features visible and sanguinary marks of her resentment. This, though death to Wilks, was sport to the audience, who soon became alive to the state of feeling between them, and such was the eagerness to behold this loving interchange, that plays which afforded an opportunity for the display never failed to attract a crowded house, and were constantly in demand. In the parting scene of "Venice Preserved," when Belvidera begs another embrace from Jaffier, as he is about to leave her for ever, the fair Rogers coiled herself together with flashing eyes and curved fingers, much in the position of the crouching leopardess, so graphically depicted by Madame Ristori in "Medea." As he said, "This-and no more," she rushed at and hugged him fearfully. At "another, sure another!" came rush and hug the second. At one for the
was then the reseal term for an unmarried female & had been sinu Shakspean'stion who calls Ana Pape this trigge tune. Wits was an opprobring word, as in Miffys there were, but • butty conces
tender babe you've taken such care of, I'll give't him truly," number three, more frenzied than the two preceding. "And now farewell for ever," number four, still increasing in ardour: "Heaven knows for ever! All good angels guard thee!" and exit the luckless Jaflier, hastily, with his handkerchief to his eyes, less to staunch his tears than to hide from the audience his lacerated lineaments. Mrs. Rogers either died or left the stage about the year 1719.
Wilks was nearly nine years in London, and had firmly established his position, before he ventured on the great touchstone of Hamlet, in 1706.. Betterton was alive, and although verging towards seventy, still considered without a rival in the part. Wilks struck out new beauties, and, on the whole, gave so much satisfaction, that although in particular scenes he was pronounced inferior to his predecessor, he made the play so attractive that it was frequently selected to open the season with. His Hamlet throughout was graceful,, earnest, and impressive, but occasionally too violent. The soliloquy on death he spoke with a serene, melancholy expression of countenance, and a grave, restrained action, in fine accordance with the philosophy of the sentiments. His voice was not always perfectly modulated, but his strong feeling was ever natural and affecting. In the assumed madness with Ophelia, in which Garrick's warmest admirers thought him too boisterous, Wilks retained enough of covered insanity, but at the same time preserved the feelings of a lover, and the delicacy of a gentleman. He conveyed what Edmund Kean, in our own days, so exquisitely blended, -the pain he suffered himself while compelled to inflict pain on a beloved object. With the Queen, in the third act, he was all that the author could have desired. When he presented the pictures, his reproaches were tempered by filial reluctance, and when he came to the pathetic exclamation, "Mother, for love of grace!" there was something in his manner inexpressibly gentle, and yet overwhelmingly persuasive. He surpassed every actor of his day in delicacy of address to ladies, and was scarcely equalled, long afterwards, by Barry himself. "To beseech gracefully, to
approach respectfully, to pity, to mourn, to love, are the places," says Steele (Tatler, No. 182), "wherein Wilks may be made to shine with the utmost beauty." Soon after his success in Hamlet, the same accomplished critic termed him " a perfect actor," and "the first of the present age.' His greatest fault was a propensity to perpetual movement. It was said of him, as also of Garrick, that he never could stand still. The constant bustle of rakish comedy had given an additional impulse to his constitutional mercury, Though often reminded of this blemish, he never could entirely conquer it.
One of Garrick's happiest passages in Hamlet was generally admitted to be his demeanour with the Ghost, so warmly eulogized by Fielding, in honest Partridge's amusing and natural criticism. Dr. Johnson found fault with this, in one of his cynical jokes, saying, Sir, the fellow would have frightened a real ghost." Wilks was objected to as being too noisy here, when he should have been subdued and awe-struck. Colley Cibber, accompanied by Addison, on the first night, tells us that they were both astonished at the bouncing manner in which Wilks deported himself in this scene. On another occasion, Booth reproached him with it. “I thought, Bob," said he, the next day, at rehearsal, "that last night you wanted to play at fisty-cuffs with me: you bullied that which you ought to have revered. When I acted the Ghost with Betterton, instead of my awing him, he terrified me. But a divinity hung round that man!" To this rebuke, Wilks replied, with his usual modesty, "Mr. Betterton and Mr. Booth could always act as they pleased; he, for his part, must do as well as he could." Garrick's extreme terror with the Ghost exceeded the sublime until it verged on the ridiculous, and would have been fatal in a less consummate master of his art, or an unestablished favourite. He triumphed where a clumsy imitator would have failed. It was so with Talma in Ducis' alteration, when he rushed on, heralded by loud shrieks from behind the scenes, fancying himself pursued by the paternal shadow, and ran, in confusion, against the chairs and tables. He was greeted by thunders of applause, when such
a natural conception, less delicately elaborated, or a doubtful prestige on the part of the actor, might have easily turned the tide into a flood of laughter.
Shakespeare makes Hamlet say, when he determines to test his uncle's crime by the "murder of Gonzago,"
"I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
He alludes to a well-known story, recent in the memory of the first spectators of the tragedy, and related by Thomas Heywood, in his "Apology for Actors," published in 1612. The Earl of Sussex's comedians acted a play called "Friar Francis," at Lynn Regis, in Norfolk, in 1593. In this a woman was represented, who, to obtain more readily the company of a paramour, murdered her husband. She is brought on the stage as haunted by his ghost. During the performance, another woman, an inhabitant of the town, was so impressed by the feigned action, that she shrieked and cried out, "Oh! my husband! my husband!" Being questioned, she confessed that, several years before, she had poisoned her husband under similar circumstances, and that his fearful image seemed to rise up before her in the form of the spectre in the play. She was afterwards tried and condemned for the fact. For the truth of this story, Heywood refers his readers to the judicial records of Lynn and many living witnesses.
A more recent illustration is named in the life of the celebrated actor, Ross. A young clerk, whose follies had placed him precisely in the situation of George Barnewell, having, through the influence of a Millwood, defrauded his master of £200, was taken alarmingly ill, and in an interview with his physician, Dr. Barrowby, confessed the whole of the circumstances, from a consciencestricken feeling produced by seeing Ross and Mrs. Pritchard in the principal characters of Lillo's tragedy. The doctor communicated the case to the youth's father, who paid the money instantly; the son recovered, and became an eminent merchant, and a good Christian. In a letter from Ross to a friend, dated the 20th of August,
1787, are these words:-"Though I never knew his name, or saw him to my knowledge, I had, for nine or ten years, at my benefit a note sealed up, with ten guineas, and these words: 'A tribute of gratitude from one who was highly obliged, and saved from ruin, by seeing Mr. Ross's performance of George Barnewell.'" Dr. Barrowby, with reference to the incident, said to Ross, in the greenroom, "You have done some good in your profession-more perhaps than many a clergyman who preached last Sunday.'
During the run of the popular drama of "The Maid and the Magpie" at Drury-lane and Covent Garden in 1815, a servant girl in the gallery at one of the theatres was so overcome by the natural pathos of the actress who personated Annette, and her protestations of innocence, that she exclaimed, "Let her go! I stole the spoons, and sold them."
The test we are treating of failed once in a signal instance, in the story of Derby and Fisher. These were two gentlemen intimately acquainted. The latter was a dependent on the former, who generously supplied him with the means of living suitable to his birth and education. But Fisher was base and ungrateful. After parting, one evening, with Mr. Derby, at his chambers in the Temple, with all the usual marks of friendship, Fisher contrived to get into the apartments, with an intent to rob and murder his benefactor. This foul scheme he fully accomplished. For some time no suspicion fell on the murderer. He appeared as usual in public places. Soon after, he sat in a side-box during one of Wilks's representations of Hamlet. When the actor repeated the passage which alludes to "guilty creatures sitting at a play," a lady, who happened to be close to Fisher, but without the slightest knowledge of who he was, or premeditation, turned round, and looking him full in the face, said, "I wish the villain who murdered Mr. Derby was here!" It was afterwards ascertained that this was the identical man. The other persons present in the box declared, that neither the speech of the actor, nor the involuntary exclamation of the lady, made the least external impression on the criminal. Fisher, not long after, escaped to Rome, where he professed himself a Roman Catho
lic, and obtained sanctuary. Richard Wilson, the landscape painter, saw and spoke to him more than thirty years after. He was then one of the conoscenti, and a dealer in pictures.
The heads of the English actors, without reference to the era or country of the character represented, were for a long time enveloped in huge, full-bottomed periwigs, which shrouded the features, and gave a sameness to the expression, approaching the effect of the ancient classical masks. Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard, Othello, Romeo, Benedick, or Mercutio, Bajazet or Brutus, Sir Harry Wildair or Lothario, all presented the same ponderous thatching. The fashion was introduced in the reign of Charles II., and continued until about 1730, by which time the restrained Ramillie, the tie, and pig-tail, superseded the heavier adornment. Addison, Congreve, and Steele met at Button's coffee-house in large flowing, flaxen wigs. Booth, Wilks, and Cibber, either on or off the stage, never appeared without them. They figure conspicuously in every portrait of the time. Booth was a classical scholar, conversant with antique busts, coins, and medals. He felt the false taste, but was too indolent to reform it. He and Wilks were known to have bestowed forty guineas each on a wig. Betterton's, as Hamlet, as may be seen in the frontispiece to. that play in Rowe's edition, flowed down to the skirts of his coat. Wigs are of ancient date. They were first worn by the Romans to hide baldness or blemish. Those of the Roman ladies were fastened upon a caul of goatskin. Fosbroke says (Encyclopædia of Antiquities),that strange deformity, the judge's wig, first appears as a general genteel fashion in the seventeenth century." Archbishop Tillotson was the first prelate who wore a wig, which was then not unlike the natural hair, and without powder. A letter from Charles II. to the University of Cambridge is still extant, in which he forbids the members to wear periwigs, smoke tobacco, and read their sermons. We are quite certain that not even a decree of the autocratic Star Chamber, had it been in existence, would have induced Sir Isaac Newton to forego the luxury of his pipe; and with respect to the wig interdict, the merry monarch should
have begun by repealing his own Rowley," the enormous dimensions of which rendered the name generic. A ludicrous incident occurred on the occasion of Bowen's benefit at the Haymarket, on the 27th of April, 1710, when the presence of four Indian kings was announced as the leading attraction. After they had been duly paraded to all the sights of London, a play was advertised under their especial patronage. The play was "Macbeth" but Shakespeare, Booth, and Wilks, on this night, played second fiddles. The galleries were crowded to suffocation, to get a look at the swarthy monarchs. The curtain drew up, but the gods, who had full possession of the upper regions, raised an appalling yell of displeasure. The kings were not visible. "We came to see the kings," shouted the celestials; we have paid our money to see them, and the kings we will have;" whereupon, Wilks, as stage manager, presented himself, and assured them that the kings, the real stars, were in the front box. "Put them where they can be seen, or there shall be no play," roared the malcontents. Wilks assured them that he had nothing on earth so much at heart as their gratification. Accordingly, he ordered out four chairs, and placed the kings, with great ceremony, on the stage, to the intense delight of John Bull, who was resolved to have what he had invested his shilling for, "the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill," as he demanded and obtained on a future and much more momentous occasion. Something very like a duplicate of this scene occurred in Dublin in 1826, when Sir Walter Scott made a tour through Ireland, and came one night to the theatre, to enjoy his favourite pastime, and sat in the centre of the house with his family, ensconced from the view of the galleries, which did not then, as now, extend round the full area of the audience part. The fact of his presence transpired, and suddenly a tremendous uproar suspended the performance. Abbott, the manager, who was on the stage, came down to the footlights in utter bewilderment, and asked what was the cause of the disturbance. "Sir Walter Scott," shouted five hundred voices. They then demanded to see the great wiz