Edinburgh Bookshelf

Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


THE CANONGA TE AND ABBEY SANCTUAR Y. 287 During the government of the Earl of Rothes as High Commissioner for Scotland, a play called " Marciano, or the Discovery," by Sir Thomas Sydserff, was acted on the festival of St John, before his Grace and his Court at Holyrood,' and at the Court of the ~ Duke of York, at a somewhat later period, a regular company of actors were maintained, and the Tennis Court fitted up for their performances, in defiance of the scandal created by such innovations.s Lord Fountainhall notes among his " Historical Observes," 3- U 15th Novembris 1681, being the Quean of Brittain's birthday, it was keeped by our Court at Halirudhouse with great solemnitie, such as bonfyres, shooting of canons, and the acting of a comedy, called Mithridutes King of Pontus, before ther Royal1 Hynesses, &c., wheirin Ladie Anne, the Duke's daughter, and the Ladies of Honor ware the onlie actors." Not only the canonists, both Protestant and Popish-adds my Lord Fountainhall, in indignant comment-" but the very heathen roman lawyers, declared all scenicks and stage players infamous, and will scarce admit them to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper "-a somewhat singular mark of disapprobation from heathen lawyers I The Revolution again banished the drama from Scotland, and we hear no more of it' till the year 1714, when the play of Macbeth was performed at the Tennis Court, in presence of a number of the Scottish nobility and gentry assembled in Edinburgh for a grand archery meeting. Party politics ran high at the time, some of the company present called for the favourite song, May the King enjoy his ain again," ' while others as stoutly opposed it, and the entertainments wound up in a regular mdlke, anticipatory of the rebellion which speedily followed. But the scene of his successful patronage of the drama appears to have been first chosen by Signora Violante, an Italian dancer and tumbler, who afterwards took the legitimate drama under her protection and management. This virago, as Arnot styles her,5 returned to Edinburgh, " where she fitted up that house in the foot of Carrubber's Close, which has since been occupied as a meeting-house by successive tribes of sectaries." Driven from this quarter, as we have seen, the players betook themselves to the Taylor's Hall, in the Cowgate, and though mere strolling bands, they were persecuted into popularity by their opponents, until this large hall proved insufficient for their accommodation. A rival establishment was accordingly set "going, and in the year 1746, the foundation-stone of the first regular theatre in Edinburgh was laid within the Play-house Close, Canongate, by Mr John Ryan, then a London actor of considerable repute. Here the drama had mainly to contend with the commoner impediments incidental to the proverbial lack of prudence and thrift in the management of actors, until the year 1756, when, on the night of the 14th December, the tragedy of Douglas, the work of a clergyman of the Kirk, was f i s t presented to an Edinburgh audience. The clergy anew returned to the assault with redoubled zeal, and although they were no longer able to chase the players from the stage, John Home, the author of the obnoxious tragedy, Allan Ramsay's unfortunate theatrical speculation has already been referred to. Campbell's Journey, vol. ii. p. 163. Fountainhall's Hiatorical Observes, p. 51. * Tide, vol. i. p. 103. Tytler concludes his account of the Duke's theatrical entertainment with the following inference, which would have done credit to s history of the Irish stage c" Private balla and concerts of music, it would aeem, were now the only species of public entertainmente amongst us ! "-Archsol. Scot. vol. i p. 504. ' Campbell's History of Poetry in Scotland, p. 353. Arnot, p. 366.
Volume 10 Page 311
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print