Slike stranica


High-souled, and in the law of duty strong

With toil to climb the steep and narrow ways Which upward lead, it was no common praise To live in clear sense of the right and wrong Of his vocation, and his life-time long

To war against the baseness which betrays
The cause of honest excellence; his days
Spent in devoted study; from the throng
Of fashion-fawners dwelling far apart:

A sterling gentleman; great when he played
In England's noble drama, and the still
House wept, or loud applauded, as its heart
He wronght, and with imperious passion swayed

The reins of the full theatre at will.



"Quam potius laudandus hic est, quem prole paratâ
Occupat in parvâ pigra senecta casâ :

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Sic ego sim; liceatque caput candescere canis,
Temporis et prisci facta referre senem!"

Tibullus, lib. i. Eleg. 10, v. 39.

"Blest is his lot whom years advancing find

With children round him, and of frugal state:

Such would I be, though whitening locks remind

Of age, and of old times old men will prate."-ED. TRANS.


1793-1808.-Earliest recollections-Preparatory schools at Kensington and Birmingham-School mutiny-Father's theatre at Birmingham-King— Mrs. Siddons-Mrs. Billington-Lord Nelson at the theatre-Visit to relations at Dublin-Adventure at Chester-Entrance at Rugby-School lifeDr. Inglis-Fagging-Mother's death-School theatricals-The young Roscius-Rapid rise in the school-Unmerited punishment-William BirchFight with a bully-Dr. Wooll-Rugby speeches-More elaborate theatricals -Edmund Kean at Birmingham.

MARY STREET, TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD, 3RD MARCH, 1793. IF I am to select occurrences out of those which have befallen me, my judgment may err from many natural motives in the choice between such as I record and those I may omit. It will therefore probably be more judicious in me to refrain from any exercise of my discrimination in this rough draft of my life's accidents, and, beginning at the beginning, to note down all I



can remember, even in my infancy, of impressions, feelings, and incidents, reserving the task of sifting and deciding upon what may be worth preserving to a period when I can review the whole (should it be God's will I live to do it), and perceive the relation that small things may bear to the greater events of my history. The dim remembrance of my earliest years makes it certain to me that the "res angusta domi" called into active duty all the economical resources and active management of a mother (whose memory is enshrined in my heart's fondest gratitude) to supply the various wants of myself and an elder sister, who only lived long enough to make me sensible of her angelic nature. Four children had been born to my father before my birth, but this sister, Olivia, was the only one who survived long enough for association with my recollections. She was a year and a half old when I came into the world, and died a month after I had completed my fifth year; but she lives, like a dim and far-off dream, to my memory, of a spirit of meekness, love, and truth, interposing herself between my infant will and the evil it purposed. It is like a vision of an angelic influence upon a most violent and self-willed disposition. I do not remember her disappearance from amongst us, though I retain clear ideas of herself.

Infant-schools were a boon not then conferred on our generation, or I was quite young enough to have been among their little crowds when I was first " "got out of the way," and for a time out of mischief, by being carried to a day-school. My childhood and boyhood henceforth were all school; and it is even now with sorrow, deep and stern, that I reflect upon the companionship into which I was cast in those tender years. To God my thoughts revert in penitential gratitude for my escape. from many ills into which I might have been led by the depravity of associates among whom, an innocent child, I was then thrown. As it was, much unhappiness in after life resulted from ideas communicated by the vulgar-minded boys who were herded together under indifferent teachers at these preparatory schools. I can remember the fare, to have been to my palate, not then over nice, actually disgusting. But I had holidays, and a mother's love to welcome me home with tears of joy; and these happy variations of my drudging days stand out in pleasing relief through this obscure period.




From a preparatory school at Kensington, where we were dressed in uniform of scarlet jacket, blue or nankeen trousers, I was removed, for about three years, to one in St. Paul's Square, Birmingham, kept by a Mr. Edgell, a violent-tempered man, with small pretensions to the discharge of the office he had undertaken. In those days, however, he had a sort of local reputation, although his title to "the Revd.," prefixed to his name, was generally disputed, and assertions were very confidently made that he had laboured on a shop-board previous to his setting up as schoolmaster. The interval of a few weeks between my translation from one school to the other was passed at Cheltenham. My journey there differed somewhat from modern travelling. Leaving London with my father about noon by the Long Coach (a sort of clumsy omnibus), reaching Oxford after midnight, to supper in the kitchen of the inn, on beef (which I remember my father indignantly denounced as of mauvaise odeur), we arrived at Cheltenham in something less than twenty-four hours.

This populous and handsomely-laid-out town was then little more than one long street, with a few intersecting smaller ones. The Well Walk (or as it is now called, the Royal Old Wells) then was crowded in the early morning with visitors parading up and down after their daily dose of the waters. My inevitable tumbler, very unwillingly taken, and a little aviary near the little theatre, belonging to a Mr. Watson, make up the sum-total of my recollections of the place. At my new school I certainly made progress in arithmetic, having gone through Bonnycastle more than twice before I was ten years old. But recitation was my forte; in English Grammar and Reading I stood in the first class. Milton and Young being two of our school-books, I had to learn by heart long extracts from them, from Akenside, Pope, and pieces from 'Enfield's Speaker'-including Sterne, Thomson, Keate, Shakespeare, &c., which have been of some service to me in accustoming my ear to the enjoyment of the melody of rhythm. To cure me of the habit of misplacing my h's, my dear mother, I remember, took especial pains, and in teaching me Dryden's 'Alexander's Feast,' the line, as I pronounced it, "'Appy, 'Appy, 'Appy Pair!" was for some time an insuperable obstacle to progress. I have distinct impressions of certain states of feeling under various

events at this early period. A very strong will, headlong impulse, and a very loving disposition are evidenced to me in the several little occurrences that live before me as I look back to these childish days.

My facility in learning was remarked, and my power of retention was singular. My reading-books were very few, so that a Grecian, Roman, and English History, a selection from Plutarch, Tooke's Pantheon,' and the proper names at the end of the dictionaries, were read over and over again; but Pope's Homer was almost learned by heart. The production of a play was suggested by some of the bigger boys, and it was fixed to be Cato;' but no progress was made in it beyond my learning the part of Juba, and the boy who undertook that of Syphax, with the scenery and decorations, half finishing the crown I was to wear.

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There was a general spirit of mutiny awakened in the minds of the boys by some of the bigger ones, the aim and effect of which was, as I recollect, a determination to influence the parents in all ways to remove us from under Edgell's care, and a declared aversion to the Dionysius of our little state. The discovery of this insubordination brought down punishment and penitence upon the ring-leaders during an illness, a violent attack of the mumps, that confined me from school; and upon my return I, a very little boy, just ten years old, though at the head of the school, and a favourite of the dreaded tyrant, found myself a solitary conspirator! Upon occasion of an harangue from the despot, which concluded with his avowed determination to "make every boy obey him" -I muttered in my distant desk, "I'll be hanged if I'll obey you." A pardoned rebel near me, hearing the words, instantly denounced me. I was called up and questioned, and stood to what I had said. The consequence was inevitable; the master left the schoolroom to bring his birch out of a more distant apartment. I seized the occasion, and darted out of the schoolroom door. The yell of the recreant traitors, "He is gone! he is gone!" put the long-legged Polypheme in swift pursuit. I had, in my bewilderment, rushed up instead of down the hill, and was soon grasped in the fangs of the remorseless Edgell, who pounced upon me like a kite upon a tomtit in its crazy flight. Condign punishment was

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