Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


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.
Volume 2 Page 343
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