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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


178 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Broughton Street. ruary, Messrs. Margarot, Muir, Skirving, and Palmer-to whose memory the grand obelisk in the Calton burying-ground has been erected-were transmitted from Newgate to a ship bound for Botany Bay. In those days, and for long after, there was a narrow close or alley named the Salt Backet, which ran between the head of Leith Street and the Low Calton, and by this avenue, in 1806, Janies Mackoul, alias ? Captain Moffat,? the noted thief, whom we have referred to in the story of Begbie?s assassination, effected his escape when pursued for a robbery in the Theatre Royal. Eastward of the head of Leith Street, and almost in the direct line of the Regent Arch, stood the old Methodist Meeting House. Facing Leith Walk, at the junction of Little King Street with Broughton Street, is the present Theatre Royal, occupying the site of several places of amusement its predecessors. -About the year 1792 Mr. Stephen Kemble, in the-course of his peripatetic life, having failed to obtain the management of the old Theatre Royal at the end of the North Bridge, procured leave to erect a new house, which he called a Circus, in what is described in the titles thereof as a piece of ground bounded by a hedge. Mrs. Esten, an admired actress, the lessee of the Theatre Royal, succeeded in cjbtaining a decree of the Court of Session against the production of plays at this rival establishment ; but it nevertheless was permanently detrimental to the old one, as it continued to furnish amusements too closely akin to the theatrical for years ; and in the scois Magazine for 1793 we read:--? Januasy 21. The New Theatre of Edinburgh (formerly the Circus) under the management of Mr. Stephen Kemble, was opened with the comedy of the RiuaZs. This theatre is most elegantly and commodiously fitted up, and is considerably larger than the Theatre Royal.? By the end of that season, Kemble, however, procured the latter, and retained it till 1800. A speculative Italian named Signor Corri took up the circus as a place for concerts and other entertainments, while collaterally with him a Signor Pietro Urbani endeavoured to have card and music meetings at the Assembly Rooms. Urbani was an Italian teacher of singing, long settled in Edinburgh, where, towards the croseof the eighteenth century, he published ?A Selection of Scots Songs, harmonised and improved, with simple and adapted graces,? a work extending to six folio volumes. Urbani?s selection is remarkable in three respects : the novelty of the number and kind of instruments used in the accompaniments ; the filling up of the pianoforte harmony ; and the use, for the first time of introductory and concluding symphonies to the melodies. He died, very poor, in Dublin, in 1816. Corri?s establishment in Broughton Street was eminently unsuccessful, yet he made it a species of theatre. ? If it be true,? says a writer, ? as we are told by an intelligent foreigner in 1800, that very few people in Edinburgh then spent a thousand a year, and that they were considered rather important persons who had three or four hundred; we shall understand how, in these circumstances, neither the theatre, nor Corri?s Rooms, nor the Assembly Rooms, could be flourishing concerns.? Itis said that Com deemed himself so unfortunate, that he declared his belief ?that if he bedme a baker the people would give up the use of bread.? Ultimately he failed, and was compelled to seek the benefit of the cessio bonorum. In a theatrical critique for 1801, which animadverts pretty freely on the public of the city for their indifference to theatrical matters, it is said:-?By a run of the SchooZ for SandaZ, an Italian manager, Corri, was enabled to swim like boys on bladders; but he ultimately sank under the weight of his debts, and was only released by the benignity of the British laws. Neither the universal abilities of Wilkinson, his private worth, nor his full company, could draw the attention of the capital of the North till he was some hundred pounds out of pocket; and though he was at last assisted by the interference of certain public characters, yet, after all, his success did little more than make up his losses in the beginning of the season.? In 1809 Mr. Henry Siddons re-fitted Corri?s Rooms as a theatre, at an expense of about L4,ooo. There performances were continued for two seasons, till circumstances rendered it necessary for Mr. Siddons to occupy the old Theatre Royal. In 1816 Corri?s Rooms, as the edifice was still called, was the scene of a grand&? given to the 78th Highlanders, ? or Ross-shire Buffs, who had just returned from sickly and unhealthy quarters at Nieuport in Flanders. On this occasion, we are told, the rooms were blazing with hundreds of lamps, ?shedding their light upon all the beauty and fashion of Edinburgh, enlivened by the uniforms of the officers of the several regiments.? The band of the Black Watch occupied the large orchestra, in front of which was a thistle, with the motto Pyenez garde. Festoons of the 4znd tartan, and the shields of the Duke of Wellington and the Marquis of Huntly, with cuirasses from the recent field of Waterloo, were among the decorations here. Elsewhere were ot!ier trophies, wXn the mottoes Egypf and Corunna. At the other end
Volume 3 Page 178
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