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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.
Volume 2 Page 342
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