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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


348 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [North Bridge. musical farce, entitled HaZZow 3a+, which is not included in tne ?? Biographia Dramatica.? Burns wrote a prologue for him, attracted to him by his having been a friend of his own predecessor, Robert Fergusson. With the old house whose history we have been recording all the eminent literary men of Edinburgh whose names have been of note between 1769 and 1859 have been intimately associated, and none more than he who was the monarch of them all-Sir Walter Scott A lover of the drama from his earliest years, as soon as he had a home of his own the chief objects of his lavish hospitality were the leading actors, and among the first of his theatrical friends was the famous tragedian Charles Young ; and soon after he was on intimate terms with Mrs. Siddons and Mr. John Kemble, When the twenty-one years of the patent expired in 1809, it was transferred to certain assignees, two of whom were Mr. Walter Scott, and Henry Nackenzie author of ?The Man of Feeling;? and it was at the suggestion of the former that Mr. Henry Siddons, only son of the great tragedienne, applied for the patent, which was readily granted to him and at the same time an arrangement was entered into for the possession of the house. Now, indeed, commenced the first part of the most brilliant history of the Edinburgh Theatre Royal, the second being unquestionably that of the management of Mr. R. H. Wyndham. CHAPTER XLIV. EAST SIDE OF NORTH BRIDGE (coontinwed). Old Theatre Royal-Management of Mr. Henry Siddons-Mr. Murray-Miss ONeill-Production of Rob Ray-Visit of George IV. to thc Theatre-Edinbureh Theatrical Fund-Scott and his Novels-Retirement of Mr. Murray-The Management of Mr. and MIX. Wyndham - -The Closing Night of the Theatre. MR. SIDDONS? powers as an actor were very respectable ; moreover, he was a scholar, a man of considerable literary ability, and a well-bred gentleman; and though last, not least, he possessed a patrimony which he was not afraid to risk in the new speculation. He hoped that his mother and his uncle John would aid him by their powerful influence, and to have them acting together on these boards would be a great event in the history of the theatre. Mr. Siddons agreed to be content with half-the profits of the house and a free benefit; Kernble asked the same terms, and added that he would be glad to come North and play for some time. ?It was indeed a brilliant time for the house when it had Mr. H. Siddons for Archer, Belcour, and Charles Surface ; Mr. Terry for Sir Peter Teazle, Sir Anthony Absolute, and Lord Ogleby; Mr. Mason for stern guardians and snappish old men in general; William Murray for almost anything requiring cleverness and good sense; Mr. Berry for low comedy; Mrs. Henry Siddons equally for Belvidera and Lady Teazle; Mrs. Nicol for Mrs. Malaprop, and an endless variety of inexorable old aunts and duennas ; and Mrs. William Peirson for Audrey, Priscilla Tomboy, and William in Rosina ; when Mrs. Joanna Baillie had a play brought out on our stage, prologued by Henry Mackenzie and epilogued by Scott, and whenever the scenery and decorations were in tlie hands of artists of such reputation as Mr. Nasmyth and Mr. J. F. Williams. Mrs. Siddons came in March, 18 I 0, and performed a round of her great parts-still appearing in the eyes of our fathers the female Milton of the stage, as she had done twenty-six years before in the eyes of their fathers. Mr. John Kemble,? continues this account, written in 1859, ?? stalked on in July, the first time he had graced the boards for ten years. . But the glories of the season were not yet exhausted. The handsome Irish Johnstone, with his inimitable Major O?Flaherty and Looney McTwolter ; Emery, with his face like a great copper kettle, in such English rustic parts as Tyke and John Lump ; Mrs. Jordan with her romping vivacity and good-nature in the Country Girl and other such parts, were among the rich treats presented to the Edinburgh public in 1810.? In 1815 Mr. Henry Siddons, after conducting the theatre in the same spirited and generous manner,? died prematurely of hard work and anxiety, deeply regretted by the Edinburgh people of every class, and his mot!ier, who had been living in retirement, and was then in her sixtysecond year, appeared for a few nights for the benefit of his family, whom he left somewhat impoverished. His widow carried on the house in conjunction with her brother, the well-known WilIiam Murray, as stage-manager, and it continued still to possess an excellent company. The beautiful young Irish
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North Bridgt.] were again seen bivouacking all night, on straw or pallets, under the portico of the house, or in the adjacent square, for the purpose of securing seats for their employers the moment the doors were open. Again it became a recognised amusement for peop!e to proceed thither after breakfast to see, about the time of the box-office unclosing, the fights that ensued between the liverymen and the imtable Highland porters. But in the year 1819 Miss O?Neill quitted the stage, and became eventually Lady Becher of Ballygiblio Castle, in the couiity of Cork. THE WAVERLEY DRAMAS. which she had to pay yearly as rent and purchase. money. Thus one day she was shocked and startled by a harsh, cold letter, in the usual legal form, arresting all moneys in her hands until certain claims were settled, at a time when she had scarcely a penny wherewith to make payment. It was at this desperate crisis that Walter Scott came to the rescue. His Rob Roy, operatically dramatised, hadalreadyproved a marked success at Covent Garden, and it was now prepared for the Edinburgh Theatre, with an excellent cast and much ?49 girl, Miss Elizabeth ONeill, ?who seemed designed by nature to catch the tragic mantle as it fell from Mrs. Siddons? shoulders,? appeared in the theatre in August, ISIg-two months after Waterloo. The characters in which she always achieved the greatest success were Juliet, Mrs. Haller, Jane Shore, and Mrs. Beverley ; and on the occasion of her first appearance, the old scene of the Siddons furore was renewed, and porters and livery servants In 1816 Edmund Kean appeared in Edinburgh, to startle and delight the people by his vivid action; then came the elder Matthews, with his wondrous humour and power of mimicry, and then Miss Stephens and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kemble ; yet with all this excellence the management did not prosper, and when the season of 1819 opened, matters seemed so gloomy that it was doubtful if Mrs. Henry Siddons could collect the L2,ooo THE OLD 1HEATRE ROYAL. (Fmm a Drawing by T. H. Shfherd.publi~hdin 1829.)
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