Изображения страниц

ard that they might give him a cead latter. It air,ounts, at the best, to mille failthe. With exceeding com- no more than presumptive eviplaisance he shifted his post, came dence. Savage's story was generally round to the stage-box, where the believed, and the eloquence of an acViceroy usually sits on command complished pleader, such as Wilks, nights, received a real Irish gratu- might surely obtain sixty guineas lation, made the boys a speech, and from a gay and wealthy lady of damthen was suffered to go back again aged reputation, in the hope of softunder reiterated peals of applause. ening down an enduring scandal. Is not all this written down, with Many people have paid money to get ample details, in Lockhart's life of rid of offensive charges of which they his illustrious father-in-law ?

were innocent. Why then should not Wilks's natural benevolence showed the memory of this ill-conditioned itself on all occasions when an oppor- woman have the benefit of the doubt tunity occurred. He was ever fore- accorded to even greater criminals, most in promoting charitable objects, and which palliates, if it does not whether for his own less fortunate efface, an example of very unnatural countrymen and brethren of the sock, barbarity, otherwise difficult to beor for others who had no immediate lieve or comprehend ? claim. He originated the proposal In 1708 or 9, Cibber, Doggett, by which a benefit was granted to Wilks, and Mrs. Oldfield' were assoassist the parishioners of St. Martin's- ciated in a patent, as being the leadin-the-Fields to rebuild their church, ing representatives of the English and the Corinthian portico, so long stage. Betterton was nearly on the obscured, but now distinctly seen and shelf, and Booth had not then reached admired, stands as a monument of the eminence he afterwards attained, dramatic munificence. The wretched and which received its pedestal from Savage, whose life has been so elo- his performance of Cato, in 1712. The quently written by Dr. Johnson, re- triumvirate bought up the lady's inceived many tokens of Wilks's gene- terest for a secured salary of three rosity. This reprobate was most pro- hundred guineas per annum, and a bably an impostor also. His idle benefit clear of all charges. For courses or ill-fortune reduced him to some time, the new management such distress that sometimes he slept worked together harmoniously and on a bulk in the street, or was glad prosperously; but, by-and-by, they fell to creep into the theatre and seek a out, and many of the best actors left dog's bed between the scenes. Wilks them, and enlisted under rival bantook him by the hand, obtained for ners. A promise of increased salary him more than one benefit, and called and promotion in parts was the true upon his reputed mother, Mrs. Brett, cause of their secession, and not disformerly Countess of Macclesfield, to like to Wilks's tyranny,as Cibber avers. rouse, if possible, her compassion. Ryan chose £5 per week at Lincoln'sSuch was his insinuating address that Inn-Fields, with the part of Hamlet, he actually extorted from her sixty in preference to Laertes, and fifty guineas. She even promised one hun- shillings at Drury-lane. Quin predred and fifty more, but, being en- ferred the same double pay, with gaged in the bubble speculations of Tamerlane and Brutus, instead of the time, she soon lost so much the Dervise and Trebonius. Wilks money by the South Sea scheme, was the Achilles of the confederate that she made that the excuse for leaders, and, according to Cibber, as not keeping her word. At the same imperious, hot-headed, and absolute time she assured Wilks that Savage as that renowned firebrand. It apwas not her son; that he was palmed pears certain that his temper was upon her for the child, by Lord Rivers, warm, and his rule coercive; but he which she had put out to nurse, and was the most popular of the three knew to be dead; and that she could with those who worked under them-never acknowledge a pretender in the as an officer is always held in esteem character he claimed. This might be by the soldiers, who, while he makes true or false ; it might be a real con- them do their duty, sets the example viction or a fabricated excuse. Her of punctiliously performing his own. giving the money to Wilks has been Cibber's heart was at the gaming set down as a decisive proof of the table, and Doggett's on the stock ex

“You may cup

change; while Wilks's entire ener- able for lauding each other. Garrick gies were centred in his profession. qualified his warmest eulogiums with The love of acting and the enjoyment such drawbacks as, “Well, now-yes; of popular applause were as neces- it was good, but still,” &c. Of King's sary to his existence as the circula- Lord Ogleby, he said, “A clever piece tion of his blood. Cibber, after main- of acting, certainly, but not exactly taining that Wilks's violence drove my Lord Ogleby." The Kembles Doggett from the stage, and forced praised no one but themselves. John eight of their most effective rank and said of Edmund Kean, “ This strange file to go over to the enemy, makes a little man is painfully in earnest; laboured and qualified amende, as and Charles said of Young, “There's follows:-“If, therefore, I have been the great Zanga of the day for you !" obliged to show the temper of Wilks Macready sneered at Edmund Kean, in its natural complexion, ought I and Edmund Kean called Macready not, in balance of his imperfections, to a humbug. Dowton refused to subsay, at the same time, of him that, if scribe when a goblet was voted to he was not the most careful or judici- Kean for his Sir Giles Overreach, and ous, yet-as Hamlet says of the king, said it ought

to be given to Joe Manhis father-'take him for all in all,' den for his Marall. he was certainly the most diligent, Mr. Kean if you like,” he added, most laborious, and most useful actor “but you shall not bleed me. He that I have ever seen upon the stage wanted to play Sir Giles himself, in fifty years.

which he asserted was a comic chaHear, now, honest prompter Downes racter, and never rested until the (Rocius Anglicanus) who is quaint but committee gave the town an opporunprejudiced :-“Mr. Wilks, proper tunity of enjoying a hearty laugh at and comely in person, of graceful his Shylock. They tittered throughport, mien, and air; void of affecta- out, but the mirth reached its climax tion; his elevations and cadencies when he fainted in the arms of two just--congruent to elocution, especi- attendant Jews, in the trial scene, on ally in genteel comedy, and not inferior being told that he must “presently in tragedy. The emission of his becorne a Christian.” Dowton also words free, easy, and natural; com- undervalued Farren's Lord Ogleby, manding alternately vehement ap- which he fancied he could hit off plause and attentive silence in his more delicately, while nature with audience (I mean the judicious) ex- her own hand had stereotyped him cept where there are unnatural rants, for Mr. Sterling. Such are the va

garies of genius, blinded by vanity, "I'll mount the sky, which are equally mournful and unAnd kick the gods like footballs, as I fly.' accountable. Wilks did sometimes As Poet Durfey has it,

praise Booth, but Booth was never

known to commend Wilks. He even Which put the voice to such obstreperous disparaged him in Sir Harry Wildair. stretch,

Cibber says, satirically, “If the judgRequires the lungs of a smith's bellows to

ment of the crowd were infallible, if reach.'

applause and full houses are true tests He is, indeed, a finished copy of his of merit, I am afraid we shall be refamous predecessor, Mr. Charles duced to allow that the “Beggar's Hart."

Opera," was the best written play, Wilks often regretted that in tra- and Sir Harry Wildair, as Wilks gedy he had not the full and strong played it, the best acted part that voice of Booth to command and grace ever our English theatre had to boast his periods with. But Booth used to of.” say that if his ear had been equal to During Booth's inability to act, it, Wilks had voice enough to have which lasted from 1729 until his reached higher excellence in tragedy death in 1733, Wilks was called upon than he attained. In sorrow, tender- to play two of his parts, Jaffier and ness, or resignation, Wilks excelled Lord Hastings. Booth was, at times, Booth; but in the turbulent trans- in all other respects, except his inabiports of the heart, Booth again bore lity to go on the stage, in good health, the palm, and left all competition and went amongst the players for his behind him. Actors are not remark- amusement. Curiosity drew him to


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


the theatre when Wilks acted these Did you but know what joys your way characters, in which he had himself attend, appeared with uncommon lustre. All

You would not hurry to your journey's the world admired Wilks, except his

end." brother manager. Amidst the repeat- Wilks was fortunate in orginal ed bursts of applause he elicited, parts, the great stepping stones of Booth sat in gloomy silence.

every actor's career. In his favourite In 1721, Dryden's tragedy of “ Au- line of high comedy, in addition to rungzebe, was reproduced with a Farquhar's Archers, Mirabels, Plumes, powerful cast, and coinmanded five and Wildairs, enough of themselves repetitions. Wilks, Booth, Mills, to make a rising actor, he had Carlos Mrs. Oldfield, and Mrs. Porter sus- in “Love makes a Man,” Sir Charles tained the principal parts. Booth Easy in the “Careless Husband," : subdued the savage fierceness of Mo- Clerimont in the “Tender Husband,” rat purposely. He was considered Careless in the “Double Gallant," tamne because he slurred some of the Don Felix in the Wonder," and bombastic rant by which the charac- Sir George Airy in the “Busy Body.” ter is disfigured. Wilks won superior The latter he considered much below credit in Aurungzebe, particularly in his mark, and the whole play soʻmilkthe speech on the vicissitudes and and-waterish, that he threw down his disappointments of life, perhaps the part at rehearsal, and exclaimed that best specimen we have of the rhym- no audience could endure such stuff ing, tragic verse, so much the fashion för half an hour. His best efforts in of Dryden's day, which he freely in- tragedy were Hamlet, Castalio, Jafdulged and defended in his. Essay fier, Edgar, Macduff, and the Prince on Dramatic Poetry.” The lines are of 'Wales. He gave great importlittle remembered now, and are worth ance to the short part of Bucking, revival, not only for their intrinsic ham in “ "Henry the Eighth," and merit, but as a sample of an obsolete was much admired in Mark Antony. style :

In Lord Townly (“Provoked Hus

band”), produced in 1728, he was “When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat; Yet, fool'd with hope, men favour' the supposed to have been unequalled,

even by Garrick or Barry. In the deceit; Trust on, in hopes to-morrow will repay ;

last scene, with Lady Townly, when To-morrow's falser than the former day; he reproaches her with her faults, deLies more, and when it says we shall be termines on a separation, and finally bless'd

forgives her on repentance, he mingWith newer joys, cuts off what we pos- led a refined tenderness with his anger

which moved the audience to tears, Strange cozenage! None would live past and produced an effect that no subseyears again

quent representative has ever reached. Yet all hope pleasure from what still re

The history of this comedy, the joint main ; And from the dregs of life look to receive production of Cibber and Vanburgh,

is curious. Cibber's enemies, who had What the first sprightly runnings cannot give.

not forgiven the success of the “NonI'm tir'd of waiting for this chemic gold, juror,” were determined to damn the Which fools us young, and beggars us “Provoked Husband,” and they nearly when old."

succeeded. The interruptions were

numerous; and, during the fourth act, Addison pronounced these lines the the hisses so preponderated that the best in the play, and equal to many actors paused, and with difficulty succelebrated passages in Shakespeare. ceeded in overpowering the storm. Dr. Johnson considered the reply of The next day the papers unanimously Nornmahul, on the opposite side of announced à failure. Nevertheless, the question, as equal in poetry, and such was the inherent vitality of the superior in logic :

piece, that it was acted for twenty

eight successive nights, and left off to 66 'Tis not for nothing that we life pursue:

a receipt of £140, which could not be It pays our hopes with something ever

said of any new play throughout the Each day's a mistress unenjoy'd before; preceding fifty years. The “Provoked Like travellers, we are pleas'd with some

Husband” is still on the acting list, thing more.

despite the utter revolutions of times

sess d.


[ocr errors]

and manners, and the coarseness of impossible to consider the character the comic characters. Sir Francis he represented in any other light than Wronghead's account of his saying ay that of reality. But, what was still in the House of Commons, when he more surprising, that person

who should have said no, is a rich stroke of could thus delight an audience by the humour, which seems to have been gaiety and sprightliness of his manner, suggested by an anecdote which Bur. I met the next day in the street, net relates of Harley, afterwards Earl hobbling to a hackney coach, seemof Oxford, who was a personal fa- ingly so enfeebled by age and infirmivourite with Charles the Second. On ties that I could scarcely believe him some important question he voted in to be the same man.” opposition to the Court, for which the Robert Wilks died on the 27th of King chid him severely. The next September, 1732, and according to day he trimmed, and voted as his the three given 'dates of his birth, Majesty wished. The King took aged either sixty-seven, sixty-six, or notice of it at night, and said, com- sixty-two. He was interred in the placently, “You were not against me church-yard of St. Paul's, Covent to-day." No, Sir,” said Harley, “I Garden, where a monument was was against my conscience to-day.” erected to him by his widow. At his This was so drily delivered that the own request he was buried at midKing laughed heartily, and the joke night, to avoid ostentation ; yet this furnished conversation for some time peculiar honour was paid to his meafter.

mory, that the gentlemen of the choir In 1732, his last season, Wilks ap- belonging to the royal chapel came peared as Lord, Modely, in the voluntarily and performed an anthem

Modish Couple," and as Bellamont prepared for the occasion. Wilks was in the “Modern Husband,” two gay thrice married, and always unambimen of fashion in new plays. He tiously, from affection rather than still retained his youthful parts, and interest. His second wife was Elizaacted, for the last time, Carlos, in the beth, youngest daughter of Mr. Fer

Mistake,” on the 15th of May, the dinand Knapton, town clerk of Southconcluding night of the regular season, ampton and Steward of the New four months only before his death. Forest. Respectable fortunes had been He never appears to have contem- left to this lady and her two sisters, plated retirement, and may literally but, through some mismanagement, be said to have died in harness. Even they were lost, and the three were when his physical powers exhibited compelled to work as dressmakers for the inroads of time, his elasticity of a livelihood. The second Mrs. Wilks spirit soared above bodily decay, and bore him eight children, who all died to the last his eye sparkled, his step in infancy. His eldest daughter, bounded, and his genius flashed when Frances, by his first wife, married a he faced the footlights and listened Captain Price ; she also died, of small to the never-failing applause. Such pox, before she was twenty, and in are the excitements which enable en- the same year with her mother-in-law, thusiastic actors to forget, for the mo- 1714. After remaining a widower for ment, gout, rheumatism, or lumbago, seven years, Wilks united himself to and to rise victorious over the thou- Mrs. Mary Fell, relict of Charles Fell, sand enfeebling ailments that flesh is Esq., of an ancient family in Lancaheir to. Davies writes ; –“In Love shire, who survived him. She, too, for Love,' I saw Wilks, in his old age, was in reduced circumstances, and play Valentine with all the spirit and had to maintain herself and children fire of youth.” An eminent critic, by the needle. Wilks having bought speaking of this great artist, in 1729, some linen for shirts, requested an · said, “Whatever he did upon the acquaintance to get them made by a stage, let it be ever so trifling, whether good sempstress, and they were given it consisted in putting on his gloves, to Mrs. Fell. When half-a-dozen were looking at his watch, lolling on his sent home, Wilks was so pleased with cane, or taking a pinch of snuff-every the niceness of the work that he removement was marked with such an quested the gentlewoman to bring the ease of breeding and manner-every remainder herself. This she did, and thing told so strongly the involuntary an acquaintance thereupon commotion of a gentleman, that it was menced which wound up in a happy

marriage. Not long after, a friend 1732. Wilks seems to have carried asked him how, with his position and his generosity too far. A man who, means, he could sacrifice himself to a for more than twenty years, had been woman who had nothing. The reply in the receipt of £1,000 per annum was characteristic. “Sir, as Provi- should have realized enough to leave dence has been pleased to give me a his widow in a more affluent condicompetency sufficient to maintain my- tion. The London Magazine for Deself and a family, could I do better cember, 1732, said—“The case of Mrs. than take to my arms an amiable and Wilks deserves the utmost concern. virtuous lady who wanted that bless- The humane temper and universal ing? Love was the only motive that benevolence of her late husband left prompted me, and the circumstances her little, besides her share in the she was in rather serve to increase patent, for her support." my affection; and as I am fully con- We here close our memoir of Robert convinced our regard is reciprocal, Wilks, who appears to have possessed there will be noroom for complaint on many admirable qualities as a man, either side. I shall look upon her and to have ranked justly amongst children as my own; they shall want the greatest actors of his age. His nothing that is desirable, nor am I fame stood higher with his contemunder any apprehension of their not poraries than it does with posterity. discharging a filial duty to me, since But living estimation is of more value they have been educated in the best to the object of it than posthumous principles.” By his last will he left praise ; it smooths the rough paths of his widow sole executrix and legatee, life, encourages the labourer in his bequeathing to her all he possessed, task, assures him that he toils not in which consisted chiefly of his house, vain, and gives him payment in subplate, and furniture, in Bow-street, stantial cash rather than in doubtful and his interest in a new patent, promissory notes. dating from the 1st of September,


“INGENUAS didiscisse,” &c., is a and, consequently, the spirit and subproverb, the exceptions to which stance of his invective procluce the would outweigh the rule when applied coinbined effect of the painting and to the sayings and doings of authors the varnish of a stirring subject, or by profession. The uncomplimentary the mingled flavour of grape juice and remarks of politicians and rival haber- carbonic acid in champagne. dashers on each other, want colour There occasionally occur among our when placed beside those that issue men of letters some pretty fencing from the pens of novelists, dramatists, matches, but they want the airiness and literary critics. The will and and pungency of the little controvenom of the first two classes may be versies that arise among their brethas strong to inflict annoyance, but the ren of the palette and the steel pen vehicle is unfamiliar to them. Were in Paris. On our side the Manche it the contest to be carried on viva voce, is a battle of broad-swords or clubs ; they would, doubtless, acquit them- on the other, the fight is waged with selves effectively ; but in stereotyping feather-tipped arrows, sharp-pointed, what should be given off in earnest swift, and sure. heat, the animus, the zest, and the Whatever quarrels the mere man of aroma, are lost ; and the litera scripta, letters may have to maintain, the though bitter, is as flat as soda-water number is insignificant compared with when the carbonic acid has escaped. the hostile affairs of those who arBob Acres was sensible of this in- point themselves arbiters in matherent defect in a written challenge, ters political or literary. And as no when he begged leave of Sir Lucius Parisian sets any value on his incogto begin his warlike missive with an nito, the idea of“ battle and conflict” oath. But your man of letters is cannot be absent a moment from the more accustomed to ease his mind critic's mind when penning his charge. and heart by the pen than the tongue; Alphonse Karr kept literary people VOL. LXIII.—NO. CCCLXXV.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »