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Then take the circuit of my little fields,
Reflect with gratitude, they come from you."
On his retirement he took up his residence at Bury St. Edmunds. In May, 1798, he returned to the stage for one night, and acted Charles for the benefit of his old friend King. He was greatly received by a very full house, and, at the close of the play, modestly apologized for a veteran's playing a youthful part, with the following couplet:
"Soften your censure where you can't commend,
And when you judge the actor-spare the friend."
He prided himself on never having played in an afterpiece; and it was reported that he had a clause in his articles exempting him from acting on a Monday during the hunting season, and providing that he should never wear a beard, or go down a trap. Several attacks were made upon him on these points, particularly by a person under the signature of "IMPROVEMENTS," which produced the following letter to a well-known editor :
"Beaufort Buildings, Tuesday 14th.
"DEAR SIR, I am much obliged by your polite and friendly letter, and should return you my thanks in person this morning, was I not much indisposed by a bad cold.
"I flatter myself I am not, or ever was, inattentive to the admonitions of fair criticism when they come from persons of avowed taste, knowledge, and experience; but how is an actor to determine when the most contradictory opinion appears in different papers, and from anonymous and concealed characters? The late Mr. Barry was persecuted for three months by a person who at last proved to be a servant he had discharged for drunkenness and dishonesty, and was afterwards transported for shoplifting. How, then, can I be certain that IMPROVEMENTS' is entitled to any attention? If he is a gentleman he would not so mischievously attack me under a mask. I should be happy to convey to him my wish to take him by the nose in return for his so repeatedly taking me by the beard. The circumstance of the beard is simply this: At the first reading of the 'Carmelite,' Mr. Cumberland was inclined to his wearing a beard; but, on being convinced there was not such a thing as a bearded Carmelite, and the difficulty of throwing off the disguise, he agreed that the beard would be too gross an imposition on the lady, and therefore declined the whole of that business, and directed Packer to speak humble Carmelite instead of bearded, as published in his copy. Now, Sir, I dare say I need not take any pains to convince you I can have no objection to wearing the beard if the author wished it, or had you in your critique recommended it, or any other allowed critic. Indeed, I never see any paper but yours and the 'Herald, unless by great chance; so that I may, perhaps, seemingly pay an inattention to the hints of other papers; *but in truth I am little solicitous about them.*
"A paper quarrel with a masked enemy is a disagreeable business; but if you can put me in any method of conveying a letter to IMPROVEMENTS,' you would add a very particular obligation to those already received by, Sir, "Your very sincere and obliged humble servant,
"W. SMITH. "Should this critic attack me again, I should not be sorry (provided you have no objection) to see my letter in your paper, omitting the line thus
In 1801 he wrote the following sensible and corrective letter to
Cooke, upon hearing of some gross irregularities in which that extraordinary comedian had indulged himself, to the annoyance of the public, to the degradation of his own character, to the debasement of the profession to which he belonged, and to the injury of that very reputable establishment of which he was then a member :
“Bury, April 27, 1801.
"DEAR SIR,-Depending on the assurance you gave me in your letter with which you favoured me, I ventured to pledge myself for your conduct to various friends, among which were Mr. Coutts (who tells me he has seen you), Lord and Lady Guildford, and many others of consequence.
"I have heard with real pleasure of your success, with real concern of your indiscretions.
"My dear Cooke, seriously consider what you have at stake-Fame! fortune! comfort! and esteem! Consider the patronage and applause which the public have shown and are inclined to show you. To insult them is shameful ingratitude; to degrade yourself by intemperance is madness. You owe the public much: pay it as a man, as a gentleman, by good manners, by respect and gratitude. Have some regard, too, to the character of an actor of the first rate, and do not disgrace the drama.
"I have said enough either to offend or rouse you from your distemperance, but must recommend Anthony's speech, in 'All for Love,' to your frequent contemplation :-
'Though fortune did not
Come smiling to your youth,
Yet purpled greatness meets your ripened years,' &c.
The privilege of age, love for the reputation of the actor, and honour for the drama, I offer in excuse for this liberty; and you are bound to admit it; and I trust you will at the same time believe me
Your very sincere friend and well-wisher,
"Mr. Cooke, Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London."
In February, 1806, he came to town to see young Betty act, and was so much pleased with his young Norval and Achmet, that he made him a present of a gold cornelian seal, with a beautiful impression of the head of Garrick, considered one of the best likenesses extant: the following lines and admonitory note accompanied the flattering pre
"TO MASTER BETTY.
"Roscius, the boast of Rome's dramatic story
Not more illustrious by his scenic art
To grace his talents with a taste refined:
May'st thou, young genius of the present hour,
"Young Gentleman-The fame of your talents has drawn an old fellowlabourer in the theatric vineyard from his retirement, at a considerable dis
tance in a very advanced age, and he feels himself well rewarded for his trouble.
"May your success continue, and may you live to be an honour to the stage and to your country.
"Let me recommend to you strict attention to the moral duties and to the cultivation of your mind by the arts and belles-lettres, without which little improvement can be gained in your profession, much less in society.
Accept from me a sea!, a strong likeness of our predecessor, Garrick ; when you are acquainted with his character, keep his virtues in your mind, and imitate his professional talents as far as possible.
Could'st thou in this engraved pebble trace
The living likeness of his plastic face,
His magic eye would thy whole soul inspire."
In June, 1806, he accompanied his friend Cumberland to witness the début of his protegé, Rae, who made his first appearance that evening, at the Haymarket Theatre, in Octavian, in the "Mountaineers:" they sat in the orchestra. The peasant who in that play hangs the keg at the mouth of the cave previous to Octavian's entrance was played by KEAN. When Kean became the rage in 1814, Smith came to town purposely to see him, and returned at least half a Keanite; but then he had always been more than half a non-Kembleite.
After a very long life of great respectability, he died in Sept., 1819, in his 89th year, at Bury St. Edmunds. He directed that no biographical record of him should appear after his death. He was buried, in accordance with his wish, without pomp; and there is no stone nor other indication of the place of his interment. His will was proved on the 14th October following, and the property sworn to be under 18,000l., which was principally left to his widow.
We now come-inasmuch as order" is not the "order of the day -to a very curious correspondence between Sir Walter Scott and Mr. Elliston, the lessee of Drury Lane Theatre, which has never before seen the light, but one which cannot fail to be extremely interesting.
SIR WALTER SCOTT AND ELLISTON.
Elliston applied twice to Sir Walter Scott, then Mr. Scott, to write for the stage. His first application was made in December, 1811, and must have been for the Surrey Theatre, as he was at that time unconnected with Drury Lane: his second application was made on his becoming lessee of Drury Lane Theatre, August, 1819.
Edinburgh, 6th January, 1812. SIR,-I was favoured with your letter, and am much obliged to you for the polite expressions it contains, as well as your supposing me capable of advancing in any degree the dramatic art or the advantage of its professors, as I am very fond of the stage, which is the only public amusement that I ever indulge in. I have at times, from my own inclination, or at the solicitation of friends, partial, like yourself, to my other productions, been tempted to consider the subject your letter proposes to me. But, upon a mature consideration of my own powers, such as they are, and of the probable consequences of any attempt to write for the theatre which might fall short of
*How far our friend the Manager infringes upon this last condition, we are not prepared to surmise.-ED.
complete success, I have come to the determination of declining every overture of the kind, of which I have received several. I have, therefore, only to express my regret that it is not in my power to assist your exertions, which, I have no doubt, the public favour and your own talent will render successful without such aid. I am very glad I have been indirectly the means of supplying new subjects for your theatre, and am very much, Sir, "Your obedient servant,
"Robert Elliston, Esq., 9, Stratford-place,
Elliston's second application ran thus:
"MY DEAR SIR,-Some years since I put the question, which I am now about to repeat.
"Will you write a play, and will you give me the refusal of it?
"I am aware that you have encouraged a doubt of your possessing the tact of that art; but may not the trial be made? I am willing to stake largely upon the result, and your fame need not be hazarded, because I will give you my sacred honour that no exposition of the author shall take place without your consent. Interested as I am in the result of this application, it is probable that my anxiety may betray me into unbecoming solicitation.
"Without, however, pressing the question further, I trust you will excuse and feel for those apprehensions which my new honours must produce. I am desirous of passing my ordeal with the public approbation, and it is in your power to uphold my interests and the interests of the stage, if you feel an inclination to assist the fallen fortunes of an establishment over which the genius of Garrick presided, and which has been graced by the talents of a Siddons and a Jordan.
"I am, &c.
"R. W. ELLISTON." "Abbotsford, 3rd August, 1819.
"DEAR SIR,-I am favoured with your letter, and am much obliged by your favourable opinion of my supposed dramatic talents. But the time is long gone by that I could or dared have attempted any thing for the stage, and I by no means feel disposed to risk any reputation I have acquired upon so slippery and uncertain an adventure. It is not so much the power of conceiving dramatic character, and putting its expressions into the language of passion, which ensures success in the present day, as the art of constructing a fable and interesting the spectators in a series of events which proceed gradually to an interesting conclusion. Now, if I had in my better days any talent of the former description, it is much impaired by a course of illhealth; and of the last and most material requisite to success, I never possessed a shadow, for I never yet began a poem upon a preconcerted story, and have often been well advanced in composition before I had any idea how I was to end the work.
"I wish you every success in your new and difficult situation, and have the honour to be, dear Sir,
Very much your faithful servant,
"R. Elliston, Esq., Leamington Spa, Warwickshire."
All this is remarkable, and worthy of remark; but as our readers are disposed to change the strain from
"Grave to gay, from lively to severe,"
we think we cannot conclude this first portion of our leaves-autumnal as they are, they are golden-better than with a letter from that most
renowned of all-because the first of all-equestrian performers, which, whatever the feelings of our readers may be upon any other of our first collection, we will venture to say will not affect them the least.
Philip Astley was brought up to his father's trade, a veneer cutter, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at which place he was born in 1742: he enlisted in the 15th, or Elliott's own Light Horse, when he was seventeen. was always a remarkably expert horseman, and, in consequence of his equestrain skill, was speedily made rough-rider, teacher, and breaker to the regiment. After eight years' honourable service, he obtained his discharge, and the General gave him, as a mark of his esteem, a charger, which charger lived to the age of 42. On his arrival in London, he found Paire had realised a competency by horse-riding at Chelsea, and that Johnson and Sampson were exhibiting their feats of horsemanship at the Three Hats at Islington, at the Dog and Duck, and elsewhere, with considerable profit. With his charger, and a horse he bought in Smithfield, he set up for himself. He hired a field near Wright's Halfpenny Hatch, afterwards Curtis's, very near Cuper's Gardens, where now stands the White Horse public-house in the Cornwall-road, Waterloo from a Bridge: as there was no public thoroughfare near, he was enabled, non-payers without much expense, by a partial fence, to exclude view of his exhibitions. He then put forth as follows:"4th April, 1768.-Activity on Horseback, by Mr. Astley, Serjeant-Major in his Majesty's Royal Regement of Light Dragoons commanded by Lieut. General Elliott-near twenty different attitudes will be performed on one, two, and three horses, every evening during the summer, Sundays excepted, at his Riding School next Wright's Horse, or Halfpenny Hatch, Lambeth Marsh-not the Dog and Duck. N.B. Turn down on the left hand as soon as over Westminster Bridge, or at the turnpike, and over Black Friars Bridge by Christ Church turn on the right-being situated between the two bridges and near Cuper's Gardens. Doors to be opened at 4, and he will mount at 5-seats one shilling-standing-places sixpence-will be much obliged to those ladies and gentlemen who will honour him with their company, and will do everything in his power to gain their favour."
On the nights he performed, he placed himself, on his white charger, in his regimentals, at the end of Pedlar's Acre, the first turning on the left on the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge; there he gave out his bills and pointed out the way to his Riding School, as he termed it. His Riding School was a field partly enclosed by some sheds, and the rest slightly paled in: in the centre stood a pigeon-house, across the top of which he placed a drummer, who accompanied his evolutions. He was very successful, and put forth many curious advertisements and bills. After a few nights he announced a room at two shillings to see the performances this was one of the sheds or barns-he made money. He next advertised to teach riding
"The true and perfect seat on horseback. There is no creature yields so much profit as the horse; and if he is made obedient to the hand and spur, it is the chief thing that is aimed at. He undertakes to break in the most vicious horse in the kingdom, for the road or field, to stand fire, drums, &c.; and those intended for ladies to canter easy. His method between the jockey and ménage is peculiar to himself; no gentleman need despair of being a complete horseman that follows his directions, having eight years'