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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


342 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [North Bridge. Soon after, Mr. Ross advertised that he found ?? the general voice incline that the boxes and pit should be an equal price. -4s that is the case, no more than sixpence will be added to the tickets: boxes and pit 3s., galleries 2s. and IS. The manager?s first plan must therefore be in some degree contracted ; but no pains, care, or expense, will be spared to open the new theatre on the 14th of November next with as complete a company as can be got together.? Arnot, writing of the view of the edifice as seen from the bridge, truly averred that ?? it produces the double effect of disgusting spectators by its own deformity, and obstructing the view of the Register Office, perhaps the handsomest building in the nation. ? Its front was somewhat better, being entirely of polished ashlar, presenting a gable and moulded pediment, with three large circular-headed windows, opening upon a spacious balcony and balustrade, which crowned the portico. The latter consisted of six plain Doric pillars with a cornice. This faced the green slope of Multree?s Hill, on which the Register House was not built till 1772. The theatre was opened in December, 1769, at the total expense of &,ooo, and at the then rates of admission the house held A140. Its rival in the Canongate, when the prices were zs 6d., IS. 6d, and IS., held from A70 to L8o. The downfall of the bridge was the first difficulty with which Mr. Ross had to contend, as it cut off the only tolerable communication with the city j so there stood the theatre on the lonely slope, no New Town whatever beside it; only a straggling house or two at wide intervals ; and the ladies and .gentlemen obliged to come from the High Street by the way of Leith Wynd, or by Halkerston?s Wynd, which, in the slippery nights of winter, had to be thickly strewn with ashes, for the bearers of sedan chairs. Moreover, the house was often so indifferently lighted, that when a box was engaged by a gentleman he usually sent a pound or so of additional candles. Owing to these and other reasons Mr. Ross had two unsuccessful seasons. U The indifference of the company which the manager provided,? says h o t , ?gave little inducement to people at the expense of such disagreeable access to visit his theatre; but he loudly exclaimed in his own defence that good performers were so discouraged by the fall of. the bridge that they would not engage with him, and his popularity not being equal to his merit as an actor, but rather proportioned to his indolence as a manager, he made but an unsuc- -cessful campaign. The fact is,? adds knot, and his remark suits the present hour, ?Edinburgh does not give encouragement to the stage proportionable to the populousness of the city.? Losing heart, Mr. Ross leased the house for three years to the celebrated Samuel Foote, patentee of the Haymarket Theatre, at 500 guineas per annum, and he was the first great theatrical star that ever appeared on the Edinburgh stage. Cooperating with Messrs. Woodward and Weston, and a good company, he opened the house for the next season, and, after paying the proprietor his rent, cleared LI,OOO. He opened it on the 17th of November, 1770, with his own comedy, entitled, The Commissasary. ?? The audience was numerous and splendid, and the perfsrmance highly relished. The plays are regularly continued every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.?? On the 24th of the same month, before Robert Dundas of Amiston, Lord President of the Court, and a distinguished audience, he produced his comedy of The iKirror, in which the characters of Whitefield and other zealous ministers are held up to a ridicule amounting almost to blasphemy, particularly in the case of the former, who figures under the name of Dr. Squintum. On the following day Dr. Walker of the High Church, from the pulpit, made a keen and bitter attack upon Foote ?Lfor the gross profanation of the theatre on the preceding evening.? The difficulty of managing two theatres so far apart as one in London and another in Edinburgh, induced Foote to think of getting rid of his lease of the latter, prior to which he had a dispute with ROSS, requiring legal interference, in which he had the worst of it. Ross?s agent called on Foote in London, to receive payment of his bill, adding that he was about to return to Edinburgh. ?How do you mean to travel?? asked Foote, with a sneer. ?I suppose, like most of your countrymen, you will do it in the most economical manner ?? ?Yes,? replied the Scot, putting the cash laughingly into his pocket; ??I shall travel on foot (Foote).? And he left the wit looking doubly rueful and angry. Foote conveyed the lease to Messrs. West, Digges, and Bland, who at its expiry obtained a renewal of it from Ross for five years, at 500 guineas per annum. They made a good hit at first, and cleared A1,400 the first season, having opened with the well-known Mrs. Hartley. Digges had once been in the army, was a man of good connections, but a spendthrift. He was an admir- . scoff Mnx., ?770.
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North Bridge.] THE OLD THEATRE ROYAL. 343 able performer in fashionable comedy, and had been long a favourite at the Canongate Theatre. Bland was also well connected ; he had been a Templar, an ofiicer in the army at Fontenoy, and in the repulse of the British cavalry by the Highlanders on Cliftonmoor in 1745. For twenty-three years he continued to be a prime favourite on these old boards ; he was the uncle of Mrs. Jordan ; and Edmund Glover, so long a favourite also in Edinburgh and Glasgow, was nearly related to him. In 1774 Foote came from Dublin to perform here again. ?We hear,? says Ruddiman?s Magazine, ?that he is to perform seven nights, for which he is to receive A250. The Nabob, Th Bankmyt, The Maidof Bath, and Pie9 in Pattms, all of which have been written by our modern Aristophanes, are the four pieces that will be exhibited.? In these new hands the theatre became prosperous, and the grim little enclosure named Shakespeare Square-sprang up near it; but the west side was simply the rough rubble wall of the bridge, terminating in later years, till 1!60, by a kind of kiosk named ?The Box,? in which papers and periodicals weie sold. It was simply a place of lodging-houses, a humble inn or two, like the Red Lion tavern and oyster shop, At intervals between 1773 and 1815 Mr. Moss was a prime favourite at the Royal. One of his cherished characters was Lovegold in The Miser; but that in which he never failed to ?bring down the house ? was Caleb, in He wouZd 6e a Soldier, especially when in the military costume of the early part of George 111,?s reign, he sang his song, ? I?m the Dandy 0.? Donaldson, I in his Recollections,? speaks of acting for ihe, benefit of poor Moss in 1851, at Stirling, when he-who had delighted the audience of the then capital in the Mmchant of Venice-was an aged cripple, penniless and poor. ?? MOSS,? he adds, ?? caught the inspiration from the renowned Macklin, whose yew, by Pope?s acknowledgment, was unrivalled, even in the days of David Gamck, and he bequeathed to his protdgge? Moss that conception which descended to the most original and extraordinary Shylock of any period-Edmund Kean.? ? During the management of West Digges most of the then London stars, save Gamck, appeared in the old Royal. Among them were Mr. Bellamy, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Barfy, Mr. and Mrs. Yates, and, occasionally, Foote. Of Mrs. Yates Kaygives an etching in the character of the Duchess of Braganza, a play by an obscure author named Henry Crisp. The period to which his print refers was 1785, when-though she was well advanced in years, having been borm in 1729 (in London, but of Scottish parents)- she was paid at the rate of a hundred guineas per night by Mr. Jackson. From Mr. Digges she and her husband received seven hundred guineas at the end of one season. ?The gentlemen of the bar and some even of the bench had been zealous patrons of the drama since the Canongate days, even to the taking a personal concern in its affairs. They continued to do this for many years after this time. Dining being then an act performed at four o?clock, the aristocracy were free to give their attendance at half-past six, and did so in great numbers whenever there wasany tolerable attraction. So fashionable, indeed, had the theatre become, that a man of birth and fashion named Mr. Nicholson Stewart came forward one night, in the character of Richard III., to raise funds for the building of a bridge over the Carron, at a ford where many lives had been lost. On this occasion the admission to all parts of the house was five shillings, and it was crowded by what the journals of the day tell us was a poZite audience. The gentleman?s action was allowed to be just, but his voice too weak.?? In 1781 the theatre passed into the hands of Mr. John Jackson, author of a rather dull (c History of the Scottish Stage, with a Narrative of Recent Theatrical Transactions.? It was published at Edinburgh in 1793. Like his predecessors in the management he was a man of good education, and well connected, and had chosen the stage as the profession he loved best. In the second year of his rule Siddons appeared in the full power of her talent and beauty as Portia, at Drury Lane ; and Jackson, anxious to secure her for Edinburgh, hastened to London, and succeeded in inducing her to make an engagement, then somewhat of an undertaking when the mode of travel in those days is considered; and on the zznd of May, 1784, she made her appearance at the Theatre Royal, when, as the Edinburgh Week0 Magazine records, ((the manager took the precaution, after the first night, to have ar. officer?s guard of soldiers at the principal door. But several scuffles having ensued, through the eagerness of the people to get places, and the soldiers having been rash enough to use their bayonets, it was thought advisable to withdraw the guard on the third night, lest any accident had happened from the pressure of the crowd, who began to assemble round the doors at eleven in the forenoon.? Her part was Belvidera, Jaffier being performed ?Sketch of the Theatre Rod,? 1859.
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