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Edmund Kean and a farewell to the theatre…

November 9, 2009

Edmund Kean as Hamlet 1814

The Kean, was engaged to play three nights at Bristol at a hundred guineas for each performance.

On the first night, the house being crowded and the curtain being about to be raised, the call boy announced that fact to Mr. Kean, in the Green Room, desired him to send Mr. Macready to him. On his prompt appearance, the actor courteously but firmly stated that he would not appear on the stage until he had received his stipulated honorarium of a hundred guineas. Remonstrance’s, apologies, promises, appeals were plentiful, but in vain. And the actor got his money; and so the second night; and so the third night; upon which occasion, the man of genius, between the acts informed all hands, that he had provided a good supper and begged the pleasure of all company at the close of the performance; and it is almost needless to say, there were no defaulters.

After supper, Mr. Kean proposed the health of Mr Macready, prefacing the toast with this explanatory and apologetic statement:-

“Some years since I was one of his company and we were at Swansea. I was playing Hamlet one night, Harlequin the next, and doing the leading business and the hard work of the concern; but I had no soles to my boots; and when I begged our good friend to advance me some ten shillings for the emergency, he refused; and I thought and still think what a heartless display of absolute indifference to the urgent necessity which impelled me to make the request. “My friends, I own your manager no ill-will, but he has no claim upon my favour; and if I may have seemed harsh in my pecuniary dealings with him, I have acted as I have done, that I might teach him a lesson and benefit you all, and the profession of which we are members, by inculcating the Christian lesson of doing to others as we would they should do to us. Fill your glasses to the health of Mr. Macready!”

At the close of the season the Bristol company went to Swansea, wither I declined accompanying them and this ended my acquaintance with the elder Macready and, as it turned out my professional connection with theatricals.

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