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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 315 fury of passion, he hurled it with all his force at the head of the offender, who, escaping by the door, narrowly missed the blow. It was a failing of the little man. to be most vulnerable to female influence. His heart (to use a vulgar simile) was like a box of tinder, liable to be ignited by the smallest spark. A look, a glance, or a smile, was sufficient to flatter him that he had made a conquest. His credulity in this way led to many mortifying deceptions. Hugh was altogether a gay, lively fellow, and could join in a night’s debauch with the best of them. Drinking with a party one evening in a tavern on the South Bridge, he had occasion to quit the apartment for a short time, and mistaking his way on returning, walked into an empty hogshead lying beside the door. What with the darkness of the night, and the effects of the liquor, Hugh in vain kept groping for the handle of the door, while his friends within were astonished and alarmed at his absence. Losing all patience, he at last applied his cane, which he always carried with him, so vigorously against the end of the barrel, that not only his friends but a party of police, were brought to his rescue. Nothing afterwards could incense Hugh more than any allusion to his adventure in the sugar hogshead. He had been in Edinburgh a year or two previous, having been first employed by the Perth carriers about the year 1806. Although a capital scribe, and one who understood his duty well, his peculiarities of temper and manner were continually involving him in difficulties. On leaving the service of the Messrs. Cameron, with whom he had been above four years, he was next employed as clerk to the Hawick and Carlisle carriers, Candlemaker Row ; and subsequently, in a similar capacity, at Lord Elgin’s Colliery,’Fifeshire. He afterwards went to Kirkcaldy, where he acted as clerk to a flesher, and died about the year 1835. The Print of “Little Hughie” was executed in 1810, No. CCLXXVI. MR. HENRY JOHNSTON, IN THE CHARACTER OF HAMLET. THIS gentleman was born in Edinburgh in the year 1774. His father, Robert Johnston, was for many years keeper of an oyster tavern in Shakspeare Square, where he died on the 21st of January 1826. The original occupation of this venerable personage was a barber. His shop, in the High Street, was much frequented, from its proximity to the Parliament House, by gentlemen of the long robe. One morning while operating, as was his wont, upon the chin of
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316 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. the Hon. Henry Erskine, intelligence was brought that his wife had been safely delivered of a son-the subject of the present memoir. From this circumstance he was named after the learned gentleman. On leaving school, HENRYER SKINEJ OHNSTwOasN p laced by his father in the office of a Writer to the Signet ; but, finding Erskine’s Institutes not such pleasant reading as Shakspeare’s dramas, he soon abandoned the profession, and was for three years afterwards in the shop of a linen draper, from which he stepped on the boards of the Theatre-Royal. Jl’hen twenty years of age he recited “Collins’ Ode on the Passions” for ‘the benefit of a friend, with his manner of delivering which Mr. Stephen Kemble was so much struck, that he immediately offered him an engagement. He now made his appearance in the characters of Hamlet and Harlequin, to the great delight of an overflowing audience, attracted by the novelty of such an attempt. His success was complete ; and in order to distinguish him from his Irish namesake, he mas shortly afterwards endowed with the soubriqicet of “The Edinburgh Roscius.” In 1797, while he was the nightly attraction of the Scottish playgoers, Miss Parker, daughter of the proprietor of an exhibition, called (( The Storming of Seringapatam,” saw him act ; and seeing, fell desperately in love ; and after a very short, albeit impassioned courtship, she became Mrs. Johnston, although at that period only about fifteen. After playing at different theatres in the northern circuit, he went to Dublin to perform twelve nights, seven of which were devoted to the representation of Home’s egotistical hero, Douglas. Mrs. Johnston having prevailed on her husband to allow her to make one appearance, she did so, for the first time, on the occasion of his benefit, in the characters of Lady Contest in the Wedding-Day, and Josephine in The Children in the Wood, and was enthusiastically received. After Johnston had appeared with great success in Ireland, and most of the English provincial towns, Nr. Harris offered him an engagement, which he accepted, and appeared on the boards of Covent Garden in the character of Douglas, when he met with a most flattering reception. He next trode the Haymarket stage, at which theatre Mrs. Johnston made her appearance as Ophelia and Roxnlana, and immediately rose in the favour of the town. She became the rage ; and, unhappily for Mr. Johnston’s domestic comfort, and her own happiness and reputation, she yielded to the many temptations thrown in her way, and a separation ensued-she to blaze for a few short years in the theatrical hemisphere of London, and then to sink into comparative insignificance ; and he to become a houseless, heart-broken wanderer. For some time he was manager of the Glasgow Theatre; and on the 27th of December 1823, he opened the Caledonian Theatre, Edinburgh, where he remained some short time ; but his repeated losses at length caused him to give up the speculation. He did not return to Edinburgh till the autumn of 1830, when he appeared for four nights at the same theatre, then under the management of Mr. C. Bass. While in London he was universally admired for his performance of panto
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