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the failure of this play, which was acted only a few nights, the attempt to give prominence to Booth was abandoned, he only appearing four times more during the remainder of the season.

It may seem strange that the event in this instance should so utterly have defeated expectation; but from the many opportunities subsequently afforded me of testing the fallibility of opinion in these cases, the conclusion has been forced upon me that the most experienced judges cannot with certainty predict the effect in representation of plays which they may hear read, or even see rehearsed. Some latent weakness, some deficient link in the chain of interest, imperceptible till in actual presence, will oftentimes balk hopes apparently based on the firmest principles, and baffle judgments respected as oracular.


1817.-First acquaintance with Richard Lalor Sheil-His appearance and conversation-The 'Apostate'-Macready as Pescara-Importance of acting at rehearsal-Ludwig Tieck's opinion of Macready-John Kemble's last nights-Reappearance of Mrs. Siddons for his benefit-Kemble's last performance of Macbeth-Talma present-Kemble's powers and failings as an artist-Dinner to Talma at the Clarendon Hotel.

THIS unlooked-for result ought, perhaps, to have acted as a lesson, teaching me for the future confidence in the ultimate triumph of careful and honest study; but, not enjoying the advantage of a very sanguine temperament, my spirits had begun to give way in contemplating the impediments already interposed to my attainment of the highest rank; and in speculating on the adverse chances that might further arise, I began to cast about my thoughts in quest of some other mode of life less subject to those alternations of hope and dejection which so frequently and so painfully acted upon my temper. Still my resolution never wavered to do, as far as in me lay, the best in whatever was to be done, and an occasion soon arose to put my firmness to the test. "A call" was sent me to attend the reading of a new tragedy. The author was Richard Sheil, a young briefless Irish barrister, recently married to a very pretty woman, niece of the Irish Master of the Rolls. one could look at Sheil and not be struck with his singular physiognomy. A quick sense of the humorous and a lively fancy gave constant animation to his features, which were remarkable for their flexibility. His chin projected rather sharply, and his mouth was much indrawn. The pallor of his sunken cheek suggested a weakness of constitution, but lent additional lustre to his large, deep-set eyes, that shone out with





expression from underneath his massive overhanging brow. His conversation was most delightful, richly stored as his mind was with the literature of many tongues, and teeming with the original conceptions of a very fertile imagination. It was at the chambers of our mutual friend Wallace, in the Temple, that I made his acquaintance, which soon ripened into a friendship that continued unbroken to his death. With his dramatic successes my own fortunes became in some measure identified; but it was not with less interest that I watched his upward progress from his spirit-stirring appeals in the Catholic Association in behalf of his disqualified countrymen to his frequent displays of eloquence in the House of Commons, and his eventual participation in the offices of our government.

Young, Charles Kemble, Miss O'Neill (who took a great interest in the author), and others, with myself, met in the manager's room to hear him read his play, 'The Apostate.' The peculiarity of his appearance, regardless as he was of the niceties of dress, together with his harsh, shrill voice, caused several of his auditors at first to cast furtive glances from one to the other significant of no very high expectation; but his intense earnestness and impassioned delivery soon riveted attention, and all were presently absorbed in the progress of the scenes. Applause followed their close; and as the written parts were distributed to their several representatives, my forebodings were verified when the MS. of Pescara was put into my hands. Mournfully and despondently I received it. Charles Kemble's consolation for me in the green-room was, Why, William, it is no doubt a disagreeable part, but there is passion in it." Which being true, there was nothing for me but to think how to work it out with the most powerful effect, and to work I went upon it with my usual determination.

It was the custom of the London actors, especially the leading ones, to do little more at rehearsals than read or repeat the words of their parts, marking on them their entrances and exits, as settled by the stage-manager, and their respective places on the stage. To make any display of passion or energy would be to expose oneself to the ridicule or sneers of the green-room, and few could be more morbidly sensitive to this than myself. But the difficulty of attaining before an audience



perfect self-possession, which only practice can give, made me resolve to rehearse with the same earnestness as I would act ; reasoning with myself that if practice was of the value attributed to it, this would be a mode of multiplying its opportunities, of proving the effect of my performance, and of putting myself so much at ease in all I might intend to do that the customary nervousness of a first night would fail to disturb or prevent the full development of my conceptions. Upon making the experiment I may quote Dryden's line, "Tis easy said, but oh! how hardly tried!" I found it much more difficult to force myself to act in the morning with the cold responses and the composed looks of Miss O'Neill, Young, and the rest than at night before the most crowded auditory. Frequently in after-years when I have given certain directions to actors rehearsing, the answer has been, “Sir, I never can act at rehearsal, but I will do it at night." To which I had only one reply, "Sir, if you cannot do it in the morning, you cannot do it at night; you must then do something because you must go on, but what you cannot do now, or cannot learn to do, you will not be more able to do then." The task I found a very hard one, but I fought successfully against my mauvaise honte, and went doggedly to it. By this means I acquired more ease in passing through the varieties of passion, confirming myself in the habit of acting to the scene alone, and, as it were, ignoring the presence of an audience, and thus came to wield at will what force or pathos I was master of.

Our rehearsals, now my regular school of practice, brought us to the night of the play's representation, May 3rd, to which I went with fear and trembling; but I knew what I had to do, and I did it. The tragedy obtained a complete success. Young acted admirably the old Moor Malec; Charles Kemble was spirited, chivalrous, and gallant in Hemeya; and Miss O'Neill beautiful in Florinda. In her apology for her love of Hemeya the words seemed to flow in music from her chiselled lips. It was the perfection of elocution. In the fourth act her efforts to save her lover, and her recoil of horror from the proposals of Pescara, raised the enthusiasm of the audience to a tumult of applause, and the act-drop fell amidst the acclamations of the whole house. The character of Pescara




tended to improve my position with the critical portion of the playgoing public, but in its extreme odiousness rather prejudiced me with the generality.* At a later period a testimony was afforded me, in the opinion of the illustrious Ludwig Tieck, which more than compensated me for the pains I had taken and the anxiety I had undergone. In his 'Letters on the English Drama,' in 1817, he records the impression produced on him by this performance. In remarking upon it he says, "This villain was admirably represented, and was indeed so vehement, truthful, and powerful a personation, that for the first time since my arrival in England I felt myself recalled to the best days of German acting. If the young man continues in this style, he will go far."

Kemble's last nights were now drawing to a close, but not answering the manager's expectation of their attraction, were given for benefits to those performers who chose to pay their extra price. He acted Hotspur for Young, Macbeth for Charles Kemble, the Stranger for Miss O'Neill, Hamlet for Miss Stephens, Wolsey for Farley, and Penruddock for Blanchard. I saw him in Hotspur, Macbeth, the Stranger, Hamlet, Wolsey, Brutus, Octavian, King John, Lord Townley, and Coriolanus. Of these I gave the preference to King John, Wolsey, the Stranger, Brutus, and his peerless Coriolanus. On his last performance of Macbeth Mrs. Siddons was induced to reappear for her brother Charles Kemble's benefit. The theatre was crowded. The musicians were ejected from the orchestra, which was filled with seats for spectators, among whom was Talma himself, then on a visit to England. As a very great favour Charles Kemble gave me a place in the third circle. Immense applause greeted the entrance of the Queen of Tragedy, the unrivalled Siddons, as Lady Macbeth. It was indeed Mrs. Siddons in person, but no longer the Mrs. Siddons on whose every look and accent enraptured crowds would hang breathless with delight and astonishment-who

* From the Morning Herald, May 5th, on The Apostate." The author must feel much indebted to Mr. Macready for the bold and masterly style in which he represented Count Pescara. He was particularly happy in the severe irony which constitutes a prominent feature of this tyrant; and when his indignation was aroused, and he could no longer conceal the passions which were consuming his heart, his delivery was rapid, fervent, and impressive. He looked the character completely."

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