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Words, words, words.

August 2, 2009

SkullAs recreation, this was also the time that I spent with my beloved theatrical world; and one day making the acquaintance of Mr. Hamblin the leading tragedian of the Royalty Theatre in Wellclose Square, I naturally slid into the old groove and without further preparation assumed the position of my friend Hamblin, who went to the United States and was for many subsequent years proprietor of the Bowery Theatre in New York. My debut at the Royalty was in the character of Hamlet, which had the extraordinary run of a fortnight and launched me triumphantly on the rough ocean of dramatic popularity, or possibly, only notoriety.

One night I was impersonating the Dane, and had soliloquised “My father! me thinks I see my father!” when I was replied to by a stentorian voice from the pit, “And well you may, for there he sits in the gallery!” The fact was that while I supposed I was indulging my theatrical propensity unknown to any of my family (under the assumed name of Stanton) my kind father was vigilantly watchful of my whereabouts and nightly ensconced himself in a snug corner of the gallery that he might take stock of his errant son’s professional capacity.

My short experience in the country had apprised me of two facts. Firstly, that the general public have a strange but strong personal penchant for individual scamps who run away from home to become actors; feeding their vanity as they enter the stage door, as they tread the stage, and as they leave for home at the conclusion of the performance; especially the women. Secondly, that there is much truth in the loves of my life. Of the former I give a somewhat singular circumstance by way of illustration. At the close of one of my performances at the Royalty, two young gentlemen introduced themselves to me as enthusiastic admirers of the legitimate drama generally, and particularly of my impersonation of Shakespearean characters. Having thus flatteringly bespoke my indulgent ear then proceeded to enlighten me as to their immediate object. They were about to get up a private performance at the little theatre in Catherine Street, in the Strand, had fixed upon the Tragedy of Othello and only lacked the representative of the Moor to complete their cast; they therefore importuned me to accept the part for one night only and to ratify my acceptance by attending their rehearsal on the ensuing day. The wholesale application of their soft sawder completely subdued my will to their wishes. I consented and attended the rehearsal, but very speedily became aware that one of my new friends who was to enact “Iago,” had sadly mistaken his forte and mildly as I could, I told him so, and his faith in my judgement and his good sense prevented his making a fool of himself and, secured to the play-going community of the British Empire became one of the most genial and most popular comedians of the 1800’s, in the person of my good friend – Buckstone. His companion was a young stockbroker of the name of Wright who wisely cut theatricals for the more substantial though perhaps not more respectable or more moral occupation of ‘bulling and bearing’ onthe Stock Exchange.

My first and only benefit came at the close of the season, and it was a bumper; netting me over two hundred pounds which I suppose must, from the magnitude of the amount had driven me, if not mad, considerably beside myself; for I immediately determined upon seeing the world, and booked for Paris as my starting point in Europe and where else my wealth and good fortune might waft me.

The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 9, 2009 10:48 pm

    In beautiful Paris I found plenty of good company and also a few seedy compatriots who are ever on the wait and watch for poor victims to whom they stick like barnacles to a ships bottom – and among these fate, or something else, planted himself upon me with the most vindictive pertinacity. He was a native of “Old Ireland,” the most pleasant fellow I ever met; full of life and anecdote. We played lions by day and double-dummy by night for nearly a week, and then I got up one morning and, balancing my cash account, found that the two hundred had dwindled to five pounds!

    I quickly resolved upon my course of action and left Paris for London via Calais, where, however, ashamed to confess my latest folly to my father, I determined upon remaining for a while, and as professeur de la langue Anglaise taught the French the rudiments of the English tongue. Taking lodgings in the suburb of Saint Pierre and calling upon the head man of the place, Monsieur Noel, a wealthy brewer received me most kindly, and started me on a new undertaking with his three daughters as my first pupils. The number of my patrons increased in and around Calais until I was obliged and enabled to drive my way on the high road to professional prosperity, when, one unlucky day being out upon a stroll with some young French companions, they dared me to “follow the leader” over a pile of planks; and for the honour of my country. I did follow and cleared the leap all but one inch, and catching the edge of the plank with the heel of my boot, broke my leg. A month on my back brought on a fit of home sickness despite the daily visits of my sisterly pupils and I booked for London.

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