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DEATH OF ROMNEY.
finishing his portraits, that he was forever disappointed of receiving payment for them by the casualties and revolutions in the families they were designed for, so many of his sitters were killed off, so many favorite ladies were dismissed, so many fond wives divorced, before he would bestow half an hour's pains upon their petticoats, that his unsalable stock was immense, whilst with a little more regularity and decision, he would have more than doubled his fortune, and escaped an infinitude of petty troubles that disturbed his temper. At length, exhausted rather by the languor than by the labor of his mind, this admirable artist retired to his native country in the North of England, and there, after hovering between life and death, neither wholly deprived of the one, nor completely rescued by the other, he continued to decline, till at last he sunk into a distant and inglorious grave, fortunate alone in this, that his fame is consigned to the protection of Mr. Hayley, from whom the world expects his history; there, if he says no more of him, than that he was at least as good a painter as Mr. Cowper was a poet, he will say enough ; and if his readers see the parallel in the light that I do, they will not think that he shall have said too much.
When I first knew Romney, he was poorly lodged in Newport Street, and painted at the small price of eight guineas for a three-quarters portrait: I sat to him, and was the first who encouraged him to advance his terms, by paying him ten guineas for his performance. I brought Garrick to see his pictures, hoping to interest him in his favor; a large family piece un luckily arrested his attention; a gentleman in a close-buckled bob-wig and a scarlet waistcoat laced with gold, with his wife and children (some sitting, some standing), had taken possession of some yards of canvas very much, as it appeared, to their own satisfaction, for they were perfectly amused in a contented abstinence from all thought or action. Upon this unfortunate group when Garrick had fixed his lynx's eyes, he began to put himself into the attitude of the gentleman, and turning to Mr. Romney—Upon my word, sir,” said he, 'this is a very regular well-ordered family, and that is a very bright well-rubbed mahogany table, at which that motherly good lady is sitting, and this worthy gentleman in the scarlet waistcoat is doubtless a very excellent subject to the state (I mean if all these are his children), but not for your art, Mr. Romney, if you mean to pursue it with that success which I hope will attend you.' The modest artist took the hint, as it was meant, in good part, and turned his family with their faces to the wall. When Romney produced my portrait, not yet finished-It was very well, Garrick observed: "That is very like my friend, and that blue coat with a red cape is very like the coat he has on, but you must give him something to do; put a pen in his hand, a paper on his table, and make him a poet; if you can once set him down well to his writing, who knows but in time he may write something in your praise ?' These words were not absolutely unprophetical : I maintained a friendship for Romney to his death; he was uniformly kind and affectionate to me, and cer. tainly I was zealous in my services to him. After his death I wrote a short account of him, which was published in a magazine; I did my best, but must confess I should not have undertaken it, but at the desire of my excellent friend Mr. Green, of Bedford Square, and being further urged to it by the wishes of two other valuable friends, Mr. Long, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, and Mr. Daniel Braythwaite, whom I sincerely esteem, it was not for me to hesitate, especially as I was not then informed of Mr. Hayley's purpose to take that work upon himself.
Here I am tempted to insert a few lines, which about this time I put together, more perhaps for the purpose of speaking civilly of Mr. Romney than for any other use that I could put them to; but as I find there is honorable mention made of Sir Joshua Reynolds also, I give the whole copy as a further proof, that neither in verse or prose did I ever fail to speak of that celebrated painter but with respect so justly due.
"When Gothic rage had put the arts to flight
Yet monkish ignorance had not quite effac'd
Of painters then the celebrated race
Late, very late, on this sequester'd isle
Apart and bending o'er the azure tide,
See ante, p. 195, for a sketch of Romney.
CHAPTER X I.
His dramas-Mrs. Siddons-Kemble—Reflections on theatrical fame-Contro
versy with the Bishop of Llandaff— With Dr. Parr-Mr. Dilly-BoswellRogers-Lines to Richard Sharpe-Sir James Bland Burges-Miss FarrenJohn Palmer-Lord Sackville-His interview with Lord Mansfield-His death—The Impostor'—' Arundel — Principles on which a novel should be conducted — Paradise Lost' —- Calvary – Tristram Shandy'—Junius'Burke's reflections on the French Revolution—Variety of Cumberland's writings—His dramatic labors— The Jew-Bannister-Dowton-Mrs. Blud. worth-Fugitive compositions.
I PERCEIVE I must resume the immediate subject of these Memoirs; it is truly a relief to me, when I am called off from it, for unvaried egotism would be a toil too heavy for my mind. When I attempt to look into the mass of my productions, I can keep no order in the enumeration of them; I have not patience to arrange them according to their dates; I believe I have written at least fifty dramas, published and unpublished. Amongst the latter of these there are some which, in my sincere opinion, are better than most which have yet seen the light; they certainly have had the advantages of a more mature correction. When I went to Spain I left in Mr. Harris's hands a tragedy on the subject of The Elder Brutus ;' the temper of the times was by no means suited to the character of the play; I have never written any drama so much to my own satisfaction, and my partiality to it has been flattered by the judgment of several, who have read it. I have written dramas on the stories of "False Demetrius,' of Tibereus in Capreæ,' and a tragedy on a plot purely inventive, which I entitled, Torrendal;' these, with several others, may, in time to come, if life shall be continued to me, be formed into a collection and submitted to the public.
About the time at which my story points, my tragedy of "The Carmelite' was acted at Drury Lane, and most ably supported by Mrs. Siddons, who took the part of the Lady of Saint Valori, and also spoke the Epilogue. She played inimitably, and in those days, when only men and women trod the stage, the public were contented with what was perfect in nature, and of course admired and applauded Mrs. Siddons ;
they could then also see merit in Mr. Kemble, who was in the commencement of his career, and appeared in the character of the youthful Montgomeri. The audiences of that time did not think the worse of him because he had reached the
of man. hood, and appeared before them in the full stature and com. plete maturity of one of the finest forms, that probably was ever exhibited upon a public stage. A revolution since then
A has taken place, à caprice, as ridiculous as it is extraordinary, and a general act of superannuation has gone forth against every male performer, that has a beard. How I am to style this young child of fortune, this adopted favorite of the public, I don't rightly know; the bills of Covent Garden announce him as Master Betty, those of Drury Lane as the young Roscius. Roscius, as I believe upon the authority of Shakspeare, was an actor in Rome, and Cicero, who admired him, made a speech in his praise. All this, of course, is very right on both sides, and exactly as it should be. Mr. Harris announces him to the old women in the galleries in a phrase that is familiar to them; whilst Mr. Sheridan, presenting him to the senators in the boxes by the style and title of Roscius, fails perhaps in his little representative of the great Roman actor, but perfectly succeeds in his own similitude to the eloquent Roman orator. In the mean time, my friend Smith, of Bury, with all that zeal for merit, which is natural to him, marries him to Melpomene, with the ring of Garrick, and strewing roses of Parnassus on the nuptial couch, crowns happy master Betty, alias Young Roscius, with a never-fading chaplet of immortal verse :-
And now, when death dissolves his mortal frame,
Earth keep his ashes, verse preserve his fame. How delicious to be praised and panegyrized in such a style; to be caressed by dukes, and (which is better), by the daughters of dukes, flattered by wits, feasted by aldermen, stuck up in
When Kemble appeared for the first time in London, at Drury Lane Theatre, on the 30th Sept. 1783, he had attained the age of twenty-six. His Hamlet was universally applauded. In Taylor's poem, entitled "The Stage,' will be found a critical estimate of his talents as an actor.
* To close in order due our long career,