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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


B I 0 GRAPH I C AL SIC E T C H ES. 113 No. LV. MRS. SIDDONS, MR. SUTHERLAND, MRS. WOODS, OF THE THEATRE ROYAL, EDINBURGH. EVERYo ne who has turned over the leaves of a dramatic biography is acquainted with the usual statements relative to the l i e of MRS. SmDoNs,-how she first appeared at Drury Lane Theatre, in the year 1775, as the representative of Portia, and towards the end of the season degenerated into a walking Venus in the pageant of the Jubilee,-how she returned to the Bath Theatre the year following,-how, a few years afterwards, she reappeared in London with extraordinary success, and, after a brilliant career, finally retired from the stage in July 1812. Her biographers, however, have never indulged the world with any thing like a detailed account of her first appearance on the Edinburgh stage, which occurred on the 22d May 1784. During her engagement, “the rage for seeing her was so great, that one day there were 2557 applications for 630 places ; ” and many even came from Newcastle to witness her performances.’ Her engagement was owing to a few spirited individuals, who took all risk on themselves, the manager of the Edinburgh Theatre being afraid of hazardous speculations. The Edinburgh Feekly Magazine, in its report of her appearance, mentions, that “ the manager had taken the precaution, after the first night, to have an 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 in the use of 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.” The attractioas of BJi-8. Siddons were 80 great, that few could resist the temptation of visiting the Theatre. Amongst those whom her fascinations had drawn from their burrows in the Old Town, was 8 respectable gentleman belonging to the profession of the law, of the name of Fraaer, who was induced to take this, to him, most extraordinary step, in order to gratify his daughter. The play selected was Venice fieserued; and, after some little di5culty, the father and daughter were seated in the pit. Old Fraser listened to the first act with the most perfect composure : the second followed, and in the course of it he asked his daughter, Which waa the woman Siddona 1 ” She, perfectly amazed, solved the difficulty by pointing out Bdvidem, the only female in the play. Nothing more occurred tii the catastrophe. Then, but not till then, he turned to his daughter and inquired, (‘18 thia a comedy or a tragedy ? ”-“Bless me, Papa ! a tragedy, to be sure,”-‘6 So I thought, for I’m beginning to feel a commotioa” Q
Volume 8 Page 167
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114 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. The plays in which she acted were as follows :- May 22. Venice Preserved. June 5. Jane Shore. 24. Gamester. 7. Douglas. 26. Venice Preserved. 27. Gamester. 10. Mourning Bride. 29. Mourning Bride. June 1. Douglas. Charity Workhouse). 9. Grecian Daughter (for her benefit). 11. Grecian Daughter (for benefit of the 3. Isabella. On the 12th she set out for Dublin, where she was engaged to perfonn twenty nights for 51000. In speaking of her appearance in Douglas, the Cowant observes, “We have seen Rlrs. Crawford in the part of Lady Randolph, and she played it perhaps with more solemnity and as much dignity as Mrs, Siddons, but surely not with so much interesting sensibility. It would far exceed our limits to point out or describe the many beauties that charmed us in the representation of this piece, Mrs. Siddons never once disappoints the spectator ; but from the moment of her appearance she interests and carries along his admiration of every tone, look, and gesture. While the discovery of her son gradually proceeds, she suspends the audience in the most pleasing interesting anxiety. “ During the beautiful narration of Old Norval, when he says- ‘ Red came the river down, and loud and oft The angry spirit of the water shriek’d,’ etc., she kept the audience by her looks and attitude in the most silent anxious attention, and they read in her countenance every movement of her soul. But when she breaks out- ‘ Inhuman that thou art ! How could’st thou kill what waves and tempests spared ?’ they must be of a flinty nature indeed who burst not into tears. ‘( When she discovers herself to her son- ‘ My son ! my son ! I am thy mother, and the wife of Douglas,’ we believe there was not a dry eye in the whole house.” She shared 250 a night for ten nights, and at her benefit drew €350, besides a sum of S260, with which a party of gentlemen presented her. From the subscribers she received an elegant piece of plate, on which was engraved-“ As a mark of esteem for superior genius and unrivalled talents, this vase is respectfully inscribed with the name of SIDDONS. The poetical epistle which follows, showing the ferment into which her presence threw the town, is clever, and worthy of preservation :- Mrs. Siddons played eleven nights exclusive of the charity one. Edinburgh, 9th June 1784.”
Volume 8 Page 168
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