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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


346 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [North Bridge. Newcastle, to witness what all spoke of with wonder. There were one day applications for 2,557 places, while there were only 630 of that kind in the house. Porters and servants had to bivouac for a night in the streets, on mats and palliasses, in order that they might get an early chance to the box-office next day. The gallery doors had to be guarded by detachments of military, and the bayonets, it is alleged, did not remain unacquainted with blood. One day a sailor climbed to a window in front of the house, for a professional and more expeditious mode of admission ; but he told afterwards that he no sooner got into the port-hole than he was knocked on the head, and tumbled down the hatchway. Great quantities of hats, wigs, and shoes, pocket-books, and watches, were lost in the throng, and it was alleged that a deputation of London thieves, hearing of the business, came down to ply their trade.? * So much were the audience moved and thrilled, that many ladies fainted, particularly when Mrs Siddons impersonated Isabella in the Fatal Mar- . riage, and she had to portray the agony of a wife, on finding, after a second marriage, that her first and most loved husband, Biron, is alive ; and concerning this a curious story is told. A young Aberdeenshire heiress, Miss Gordon of Gicht, was borne out of her box in hysterics, screaming the last words she had caught from the great actress, ?Oh, my Biron ! my Biron ! ? There was something of an omen in this. In the course of a short time after she was married to a gentleman whom she had neither seen nor heard of at the epoch of Mrs. Siddons? performance, the Honourable John Byron, and to her it proved a ? fatal marriage,? in many respects, though she became the mother of the great Lord Byron. A lady who was present in the theatre on that night died so recently as In 1786 there died in hkr apartments in Shakespeare Square an actress who had come to fulfil an engagement, Mrs. Baddeley, a lady famous in those days for her theatrical abilities, her beauty, and the miseries into which she plunged herself by her imprudence. Her Ophelia and inany other characters won the admiratipn of Ganick; but her greatest performances were Fanny in the Clandestine Ma7- riage, and Mrs. Beverley in the Gamester. In I 788 a new patent was procured in the names of the Duke of Hamilton and Henry Dundas, afterwards Viscount Melville, with the consent of Mr. Jackson, at the expense of whom it was taken out. 1855. . - _. ~- ? Sketch of the Theatre Royal,? privately printed. Mr. Jackson, the patentee, having become bankrupt, Mr. Stephen Kemble leased the theatre for one year, and among those he engaged in 1792 were Mr. and Mrs. Lee Lewes, of whom Kay gives, us a curious sketch, as ?Widow Brisk? and the ?Tight Lad ? in the Road to Ruin. They had previously appeared in Edinburgh in 1787, and became marked favourites. Towards the close of their second season Kemble played for a few nights, while Mrs. Lewes took the parts of Lady Macbeth and Lady Randolph. Mrs. Esten, an actress greatly admired, now became lessee and patentee, while Stepheo Kemble, disappointed in his efforts to obtain entirely the Theatre Royal, procured leave to erect a? rival house, which he called a circus, at the head of Leith walk, the future site of many successive theatres. Mrs. Esten succeeded in obtaining a. decree of the Court of Session to restrain Kemble from producing plays; but the circus was nevertheless permanently detrimental to the old theatre, as it furnished entertainments for many years too closely akin to theatrical amusements. The ?? Annual Register ? for I 794 records a riot, of which this theatre was the scene, at the time when the French Revolution was at its height. The play being Charles the Fir.rt, it excited keenly the controversial spirit of the audience, among whom a batch of Irish medical students in the pit made some of their sentiments too audible. Some gentlemen whose ideas were more monarchical, rose in the boxes, and insisted that the orchestra should play God Save the King, and that all should hear it standing and uncovered; but the young Irish democrats sat still, with their hats on, and much violence ensued. Two nights afterwards a great noise was made all over the house, and it became evident that much hostility was being engendered. On the subsequent Saturday the two sets of people having each found adherents, met in the house for the express purpose of having a 4?row,?? and came armed with heavy sticks, for there was a wild feeling abroad then, and it required an outlet. When the democrats refused to pay obeisance to the National Anthem and respond to the cry of ? Off hats,? they were at once attacked with vigourchiefly by officers of the Argyleshire Fencibles-and a desperate fray ensued ; heads were broken and jaws smashed on both sides, and many were borne out bleeding, and conveyed away in sedans ; and conspicuous in the conflict on the Tory side towered the figure of young Walter Scott, then a newly-fledged advocate. He never after ceased to feel a glow of pleasure at the recollection of this
Volume 2 Page 346
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