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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


THE OLD THEATRE ROYAI,. 341 North Bridge.] happy reminiscences and bright associations in the minds of thousands; and it was one of the very few theatres that, escaping the ravages of fire, attain to a good old age. Prior to the reign of George 111. there was not a single theatre in Scotland countenanced by the law of the land. One which was erected in Glasgow in 1752, and on which a military guard mounted nightly, was demolished about two years after, by a mob when returning from one of Whitefields sermons ; but when the New Town' of Edinburgh was projected, a clause was introduced into the Act empowering t h e Crown to grant royal letters patent for the establishment of a theatre in Edinburgh. Mr. David ROSS, manager of a small one then existing, amid many difficulties, in the Canongate, and latterly of Covent Garden Theatre -a respectable man, who had managed two houses in Londonobtained the patent, and the foundationstone of the new theatre was laid on the 16th of March, 1768. prologue, which was written by Janies Boswell, who, in the following lines, referred to the new theatre as the first one licensed in Scotland :- " Whilst in all points with other lands she vied, The stage alone to Scotland was denied : Mistaken zeal, in times of darkness bred, O'er the best minds its gloomy vapours spread ; Taste and religion were opposed in strife. .---.*--- GEORGE DRUXMOND, LORD PROVOST. (From f :e E i i , ~ a v . n ~ by Mac&enzie, ofter ih2 Original in the Rwal In$mra*y.) . . In the stone was laid a silver plate, inscribed thus:- '' The first stone of this new theatre was laid on the 16th day of March, in the year of our Lord 1768, by David Ross, patentee and first proprietor of a licensed stage in Scotland. May this theatre tend to promote every moral and every virtuous principle, and may the representations be such *' To make mankind in conscious virtue bold, Live on each scene and be what they behold." But Mr. ROSS'S first legitimate performances as a licensed manager took place in the old theatre, which opened unusually late in the season, owing to a dreadful riot' that happened in January, and the repairs incident to which occupied ten months, during which there were no representations whatever. Ross opened then, with the patented company on the 9th of December, 1767, with the tragedy of the RnrZ of Essex. He spoke the And 'twas a sin to view this glass of life ! When the muse ventured, the ungracious task, To play elusion with unlicensed mask, Mirth was restrained ty statutory awe, And tragic greatness feared the scourge of law ; Illustrious heroes errant vapants seemed, And gentlest nymphs were sturdy begsnrs deemed." By the proposals for building this new theatre, according to the S o t s Mugazine for 1768, Mr. Ross had to raise Lz,.joo by twenty-five shares, at LIOO per share, for which the subscribers were to receive 3 per cent., and free access to all performances and every part of the house, except behind the scenes. "The house is to be IOO feet in length by 50 broad. To furnish new scenes, wardrobe,- and necessary decorations will, it is computed, cost A1,500 more: and the whole building, &c., is to be insured for A4,000, and mortgaged as security to pay the interest. As it would be impossible to procure good performers should the tickets continue at the low prices now paid, it is proposed to make the boxes qs., the pit 3s., the first gallery zs., and the upper IS. For these prices, says Mr. ROSS, this stage shall vie with those of London and Dublin. There shall be five capital men-actors, one good man-singer, one second ditto ; three capital womenactresses, two capital women-singers, one capital man-dancer, and one woman ditto; the rest as good as can be had : the orchestra shall be conducted with a good first fiddler, as a leader, a harpsichord, and the rest of the band persons of merit."
Volume 2 Page 341
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