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appearance on the stage at Wolverhampton, (1776) in the character of Theodosius (Force of Love), with so much success, that he pursued his theatric fame at Leicester. Nobody there saw, or foresaw, what they liked; for almost every body hissed. The only applause came from Mr. Cradock, who gave this account of his unpopularity with other people, and his good acceptance with himself: “ that he was totally unlike the rest of his associates."
“ What Cradock thus cheeringly said,” says Este of Kemble's biographer, “was by Kemble at least, we may suppose, easily believed. Perhaps, it deserved to be so; for Cradock, besides having the pursuits and pleasures of a man of fortune, was himself an actor. as well as a writer of tragedy—as well, the world says, not better.
“ At Gloucester, Kemble suffered nearly the same discomfiture, and soothed himself with yet better consolation. For, on Cradock's encouragement, he ventured largely, and in some instances so luckily, that a clergyman in residence not only applauded him in the play house, but made his praise be noticed by Warburton!
“ Whatever was new and ingenious was sure of furtherance from that prelate. He opened his doors to Kemble, and heard him in some of Hamlet and Macbeth. The new readings were approved, and on the whole, the meeting went off so well that it lasted much longer than was at first intended.
“ Kemble dined with the Bishop of Gloucester!
“ And thus, perhaps, allowably, a little giddy when he sat down, he seemed, from his drinking, less likely to rise up sober!
« Excess never found a friend in Warburton. His table was well served, and he loved the pleasures of it, but he knew how to stop himself, and other people. He thought Kemble called for ale rather too often, and he very properly told him so. His reproof had neatness in it as well as virtue,"Young man," said the Bishop, " they who thus drink ale, will think ale!"
“ If Kemble, notwithstanding this, was not quite cool when he went away, the inspiration may be supposed of better quality, than what had been in his cups--the mantling bliss of vanity!
“ And who would not be reasonably vain, in thus at once making a way in life, from thc bottom of it to the top? And when a boy, and in a barn, getting a dinner, by his own attractions, in the palace of Gloucester, and with Warburton the bishop!" Upon this fustian of parson Este, a clever, but eccentric and ri
. diculous writer, Mr. Reid, has this manuscript note:--" 22d May,
1795, Mr. Kemble called upon me, and I showed him the preceding account, and inquired concerning the truth of it. He told me that he had performed at Leicester and Gloucester, and had been very kindly noticed by Mr. Cradock; but that, as to the anecdote of the Bishop of Gloucester, there was no truth in it whatever.”
From Leicester he proceeded to Manchester and Liverpool; and after some time was engaged by Tate Wilkinson, the York manager. His success and conduct in this company will be best gathered from the manager's own relation in his Wandering Patentee.
Mr. Kemble made his first appearance at Hull in the character of Macbeth, October 30, 1778; next he acted Archer, which was not unlike his manner of playing uiry comedy now. He, from soon getting well connected at Hull, and from his merits rising daily as to reputation, aided by a strong imagination, and a nerved understanding, it may easily be supposed soon gained popularity and attention, on and off the stage.
In the course of the year 1778, he acted Lord Aimworth, without songs; and perhaps his performance was not the worse for that omission. It must be observed, however, that he was not the only instance of such a strange opera undertaking: for Barry and Mossop, when The Maid of the Mill was in high repute, aided that musical performance by each, as rival opera performers, at their different theatres of Crow-street and Smock-alley, by acting the character of Lord Aimworth; and I never heard it decided for the honour of either, which was the best.-To the credit of Mr. Kemble, I must mention, that he undertook the character, not from whim or choice, but to assist a brother actor on a benefit night.
On Tuesday, December 29, Mr. Kemble presented the town, on his benefit night, with a tragedy of his own, intitled Belisarius; which was received with candour, credit, and applause.
Mr. Kemble, on his appearance at York, soon made way, but not rapidly; for the public will have favourites of their own: instances of which I have often seen and observed, that by setting up a ner favourite only rivets another set as determinately hostile to any new favoured rival, and, not unlike political partizans, reason is little consulted. I remember desiring a servant of mine particularly to see the play of Hamlet, and he would not stir from
house to the theatre: after some interrogation of mine, why he would not attend the theatre, he said it was's because Mr. Kemble played
Hamlet." Well,” says I, “and he plays Hamlet excellently well."-" That may be, sir, but I am sure I could not abide to see Mr. Kemble play Hamlet; you know, sir, it is Mr. Cummins's part.”And in the million there are more such critics than can be easily imagined, created from want of judgment, spleen, envy, partiality, obstinacy, and a thousand et ceteras.
Mr. Kemble's first appearance in the York theatre was on the 19th of January, 1789, in the formidable Prince Orestes: a quarrel at the rehearsal, relative to which side, P. S. or O. P. for Orestes to make his entrance, in the fifth act, to the jealous great Priam's daughter, Hermione, was combated strongly by the prince and the princess; however the hero conquered the heroine; and he preserved his situation, more from a show of superiority and knowledge, I believe, than as to any real opinion being material to Mr. Kemble as to either, P. S. or 0. P.; I was chosen umpire, and I believe perplexed the controversy more than settled it.
Mr. Kemble's second appearance at York was, by his own choice, in Ranger: his third, Edward the Black Prince. In many passages of that character, he made the audience feel his great propriety and sterling merit. His benefit was his own tragedy of Belisarius, on Saturday, March 27th; which was well received, and his interest and reputation deservedly on the increase.
Mr. Kemble presented Mrs. Hunter, for her benefit night, with a piece called The Female Officer.
Murphy's “ Zenobia" was appointed for Thursday, April 15th, purposely for introducing a lady in that character, who came from Ireland to slay the tragic princesses in Yorkshire, by dint of a superior force of arms.
On that fatal night, a lady of family, well known at that time, was present; her name was Saville, possessed of strong sense, and with that a most poignant turn of satire, and never curbed her laugh when she chose to be in the comic vein, whether it was tragedy or comedy. Two circumstances occurred to make this night unfortunate: Miss Saville possessed the stage-box, and had her beaux to talk and laugh with; she unluckily took a sudden antipathy to the new stage heroine, and never failed, on her appearance, to show her great disapprobation, by the strongest marks of contempt and ridicule. From some unaccountable partiality, she had also adopted an opinion greatly to the prejudice of Kemble, Vol. IV.
who acted Teribazus; so that in the last act, when Kemble and the lady were fully employed in the agonizing scenes of death, Miss Saville, to satisfy her satirical vein, gave such way to her impetuosity of temper and spirits, that she really, as Lady Townly says, “talked (and laughed) louder than the players." The new actress not having made any favourable impression, so as to gain the hearts of the audience, was left destitute of all support, and certainly appeared to every disadvantage, by receiving such discouraging treatment, as might have damped the courage of Mademoiselle Cordé. Kemble being not a little nettled at Miss Saville's pointed rudeness, (which certainly did not reflect honour or credit either to her family or herself,) in the last scene conveyed looks of disdain (of which he was and is capable) to the lady, which looks were as scornfully returned with reiterated bursts of laughter. On the repeated repetition of such injurious and indelicate behaviour, Mr. Kembie made a full and long stop, and when at last called on by the audience to “ Go on! go on!”-he with great gravity, and a pointed bow to the stage-box, said he was ready to proceed with the play as soon as that lady had finished her conversation, which be perceived the going on with the tragedy only interrupted. This called up the roses into chceķs not the most remarkable for being feminine or delicate; and fury, indignation, and lightning flashed from her eyes: the audience were roused from their stupor, and in general hissed the lady in the stage-box, and several voices cried “ Out! Out!” This was treatment “ horrible, most horrible," for a lady who prided herself on family more than fortune, and whose spirits, at certain times, were under the control of the moon. She could not bear such an unexpected insult, either from the audience or the player. She summoned most of the officers, gentlemen of the North-Riding militia, who were assembled at York, and unluckily, I may almost say, in the theatre, for they obeyed the lady's commands in a body, and came to my house, which adjoins the theatre, and with one voice commanded Mr. Kemble into their presence.--I said it was an unfortunate accident to the audience and the performers; I had not any doubt but Mr. Kemble would immediately appear before them, but at the same time begged leave to hint, that Mr. Kemble had the education and the principles of a gentleman implanted in his mind, and therefore wished that, if they looked on Mr. Kemble as a good acior and an acquisition to the public, and me as the manager, to consider, that if they offered lordly language or authority to him, he would not submit to any ungentlemanlike degradation, and we should only suffer a mutual loss: they urged an affront to a lady from a performer, so insultingly given, demanded reparation. I waited on my friend Kemble, prepared him for the purpose, and left him to be directed by a judgment much superior to my own. When he entered my dining-room, the officers seemed peremptory and warm; Kemble was cool, deliberate, determined, and not to be alarmed by threats or numbers; after much altercation, it was concluded, that instantly an explanation should be given, to reconcile the matter to them as the defenders of the lady, and the audience. The officers returned to their stations in the theatre, and, at the end of the overture, they called on Mr. Kemble. The audience in the interim had laid their nobs together, and concluded, on mature deliberation, that matters were carrying that greatly intruded on their rights,—that Miss Saville was a constant disturber,—that the officers wanted to degrade Kemble, for only having acted with the spirit of a man; and they did, for once, allow that an actor might feel when insulted on the stage, at least equal to those off
And the spurns that patient merit bears, &c.
struck their ideas forcibly: therefore, when Kemble appeared, the pit and galleries cried out, “ No apology! No apology!” The boxes insisted on Kemble's being heard, which at last was unanimously agreed to; and he stated, with great calmness and precision, the state of an actor so disagreeably circumstanced, and was proceeding with great justness, propriety, and elegance, in an extempore and honourable defence of the stage, which making against the opinion of the boxes, they cried out, “ We want none of your conversation or jabbering here, it is very impudent and impertinent; talk no more, sir, but instantly ask pardon.” Mr. Kemble, with face erect, voice distinct, pride manifestly hurt, and with expression equal to his best line in Coriolanus, full of disdain, firmly said « Pardon!—No, sirs-Never!”_and left the stage with bursts of approbation from the audience. The heroes were left planetstruck; but no one more or half so much disappointed as the queen of the quarrel: for Miss Saville, expecting with great exultation, pardon from the insolent actor, turned pale and sick-and enraged left the theatre. The boxes found it a vain struggle to call for Kemble again that night to make reparation; and they left the