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* ^ Of his merit or success as an actor, at that period, we have not heard; but his mind seems to have been always full of his profession; for, while at Liverpool, he produced a tragedy on the story of Belisarius, and at York, brought on the stage an alteration of The New Way to pay Old Debts, and also of The Comedy of Errors, named in the alteration, Oh! its impossible! He, about the same time, published a small collection of verses, under the title of Fuitive Pieces. They were juvenile productions, with which, we have been told, he was so much discontented when he saw them in print, that, the very day after their publication, he destroyed every copy of them that he could recover from the publisher, or elsewhere; though with more modesty, perhaps, than dispassionate decision ; for we have heard, from a very good judge who had seen them that, though not faultless, they were certainly characterized by vivid flashes of feeling and fancy. A copy of these birth-strangled poems was, it is said, sold lately for 31. 58.
" Whilst at York, Mr. Kemble also tried a new species of entertainment in the theatre of that city, consisting of a repetition of the most beautiful odes from Mason, Gray, and Collins ; of the tales of Le Fevre and Maria from Sterne ; with other pieces in prose and verse ; and in this novel and hazardous undertaking met with such approbation, that we have ever since been overrun by crowds of reciters, who want nothing but his talents to be as successful as their original. In Edinburgh, he delivered a Lecture, of his own composition, on Sacred and Profane Oratory, which, while it proved him a sound critic in his own profession, obtained him the reputation of refined taste an ong men of letters. From Edinburgh he was engaged to act in Dublin, where he remained two years, and where the attraction of his exertions, and the applause that rewarded them, are still so fresh in every body's remembrance, as not to need our expatiating on them.
“ Mr. Kemble appeared on the stage for the first time in London, at Drury-lane theatre, on the 30th September 1783, in the character of Hamlet. His reception in the metropolis was highly favourable and encouraging, and his performance of the Danish Prince became, even then, the subject of universal discourse and approbation ; yet he had not, till some seasons after, the opportunity of displaying his abili. ties in their complete extent ; almost all the principal parts, both in tragedy and comedy, being at that time in the possession of Mr. Smith ; on whose retirement, in 1788, Mr. Kemble was promoted to that decisive lead in the tragic path, which he has ever since maintained with increasing powers and popularity.
"On the secession of Mr. King, Mr. Kemble became manager of Drury-lane theatre. In this office, which he held uninterruptedly for eight years, he amply justified the discernment that had placed him in it, by the many material improvements which he made in the gene. ral conduct of the preparatory business of the stage, in the regular deeorum of representation, in the impartial appointment of performers to characters suited to their real abilities, and in giving to all characters their true and appropriate costume. The departments of the painter and machinist were likewise objects of his constant attention; and to his study and exertions the drama is indebted for the present
propriety and magnificence of its scenery and decorations. These es. sential improvinents he still unremittingly supports; and, while they remain, they will at once give testimony to the good sense, the professional knowledge, and classical taste of their introducer, and lay our native drama under great obligations to him, for having raised it, in truth and splendour of representation, far above the competition of any other in Europe. “Mr. Kemble, at various times, during his management, has successfully prepared several of our old plays for performance, with alterations, more or less material, as modern manners might happen to require; and many new productions, particularly the plays of Deaf and Dumb, The Stranger, and the opera of The Siege of Pelgrade, are, we have heard, much indebted to his friendly and skilful assistance. In 1794, he produced, at Drury-lane theatre, a musical romance, called Lodoiska, which was performed during a long succession of nights with very great and merited applause. “In 1796 Mr. Kemble resigned the situation of manager of Drurylane theatre; but shortly after resumed, and held it till the end of the season 1800-1. In 1802 he visited the continent, for the liberal purpose of studying the French and Spanish stages, and of employing, for the improvement of our own theatre, whatever he might find worthy of adoption among the foreign professors of the scenic art. After passing a twelvemonth at Paris and Madrid, with very flattering marks of consideration in both those capitals, he returned home; and, having purchased a sixth part of the property of Covent-garden patent, &c. became manager of that theatre, where he has ever since continued indefatigably to discharge the multifarious and difficult duties of that arduous station. “This rapid sketch of Mr. Kenable's life might have been swelled to a very in posing bulk, by the insertion of some of those diverting and contradictory anecdotes respecting him, which lie scattered and forgotten in various obscure publications; but—as most of them that we have seen are only humorous traditions and ancient theatrical stories new-revived, stolen from the true owners, and by temporary illhumour on recent occurrences, in which he was, unluckily, destined to play his part, set down, mutato nomine, to Mr. Kemble’s account; and as the rest of them are, by the acknowledgment of their original propagator, the mere inventions of his own prolific imagination,-we shall not condescend to abuse the reader's patience, or credulity, by reviving and giving them any currency. The poet shall not say of us,
“Destroy his fib and sophistry; in vain;
“Mr. Kemble having been so much the subject of public notice of various kinds, we have taken great pains to ascertain the accuracy of the account here given of him. The result of our inquiries has been, a strong support of the declaration of the late excellent and judicious Isaac Reed: “I know not from what cause it has arisen (says he), but I think I have observed a more than common degree of inaccuracy in facts and dates relative to the stage.****Immediately on the death of Mr. Quin, in 1766, a pamphlet was published, professing to be an account of his life, in which the fact of his having killed a brother actor was related; but so related, that no one circumstance belonging to it could be depended on, except that a man was killed. Neither the time when the accident happened, the place where, the cause of the quarrel, the progress of it, or even the name or identity of the person, were stated agreeable to truth; and all these fables were imposed on the public at a time when many people were living, who could have contradicted them from their own personal knowledge.” Shakspeare, 8vo. 1803, vol. ii. p. 411. “It has been observed, that, whether on or off the stage, Mr. Kemble never lost sight of his profession. While performing, he is ever attentive to the minutest circumstance, whether relating to his own part, or to the sentiments expressed by others who may be concerned in the scene: when off the stage, he is diligently engaged in the pursuit of whatever may be connected with the history or illustration of his art. He has, therefore, at a prodigious expense, made an unrivalled collection of the dramatic works of British genius, and of books relative to the history of the stage; and, during the long period of his management in the two winter theatres, the public have been indebted to his researches into our ancient drama for the revival of many pieces of acknowledged merit, which had been long neglected and almost forgotten; but which his very judicious alterations have contributed to restore to their merited popularity.”
As an instance of merit neglected, and benevolence forsaken in the last extremity, Mrs. Ryves may, with propriety, be introduced. Such has frequently been the fate of genius and of virtue; yet to stimulate liberality to the protection of talents, examples of this nature can never be unavailing.
“Ryves, Elizabeth, was the author of three dramatic pieces, viz. ** 1. The Prude. C. O. 8vo. 1777. “2. The Triumph of Hymen. M. 8vo. 1777. “3. The Debt of Honour. Com. N. P. “This lady, who possessed great literary talents, died of disappointment and neglect, at her lodgings in Store-street, in April 1797. She is supposed to have been the author of The Hermit of Snowdon. Her poetical compositions are distinguished by vigour, taste, and even an air of originality. She was well acquainted with Italian and French literature, and had made no small progress in the classics. She translated from the French, Rousseau's Treatise on the Social Compact, and many other works of acknowledged merit, and was thought by many to have been employed several years in conducting the historical department of Dodsley's Jìnnual Register; but we believe that was not the case. A writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine has said of her. “A woman more benevolent God never created.” When her affairs were in a most foetical hosture (as indeed they often were, for she managed them but inconsiderately), and she lodged in an obscure part of the city, she would spend her last shilling, herself unprovided with a dinner, in the purchase of a joint of meat for a starving family that occupied the floor above her; yet, it seems, she herself was forsaken on
The next article is, in itself, so interesting, and so much the general theme, that we need only observe, we should insert it if we had no better reason than for the elegance with which it is composed : we could, however, were it necessary, adduce many still better.
“SHERIDAN, the RIGHT Hon. Richard BRINsley, who has been, with great propriety, styled the Congreve of the present day, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Sheridan, mentioned in the preceding and subsequent articles. He was born at Quilca, near Dublin, about the year 1752; and at the age of six years was brought to England, and placed at Harrow school, where he received his education, under the care of Dr. Summer. After having finished his studies at that seminary, he entered himself of the Middle Temple society, with a view to the profession of the law; but the attractions of dramatic poetry seem to have suspended his ardour in that pursuit. At the age of eighteen, he joined with another gentleman in translating the epistles of Aristaenetus from the Greek; and, before he arrived at the age of twentytwo, his first play, The Rivals, was acted. In the year 1776, Mr. Garrick, having resolved to quit all his theatrical connexions, entered into a treaty with Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Linley, and Mr. Ford, for the sale of his share and interest in the patent; which agreement was soon afterwards finished, and our author became one of the managers of Drurylane theatre. On the 13th of April 1773, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Linley, an accomplished lady of exquisite musical talents. Amidst the cares of a theatre, Mr. Sheridan had not kept clear of the concerns of the political drama. Among the connexions that he had formed in this way was the late Right Hon. Charles James Fox. To that great man, then at the height of his talents, we may, most probably, attribute Mr. Sheridan's commencement of senatorial honours. After a variety of expectations from parliamentary interests, he offered himself a candidate for the independent borough of Stafford, in the election of 1780, against the gentleman who had for some years represented it, and succeeded. His connexion with Mr. Fox naturally led him to the support of his party, at that time in opposition. His first effort in Parliament was on the subject of the employment of the military during the riots arising from the Protestant petition. On the accession to power of the second administration formed under the Marquis of Rockingham, in 1782, when Lord Shelburne and Mr. Fox were principal secretaries of state, and Burke was paymaster of the forces, Mr. Sheridan became under-secretary to his friend, and with him resigned, when the death of that noble Marquis again o the disposition of power. Again Mr. Sheridan returned to his former exertions with new vigour, and, in conjunction with other persons, set up a periodical paper, called The Jesuit, which had not been long established, when its authors rendered themselves liable to a pro
sectition. This was not long delayed; for Mr. Pitt, then just twentythree years old, was at the head of the administration, Mr. Dundas was the treasurer of the navy, &c. and Lord Shelburne at the head of the Treasury-board. The powerful party under Lord North was now in opposition, as well as that of Mr. Fox. A coalition was therefore, brought about by means of Edmund Burke, the mutual friend of both, for the purpose of creating a majority against administration. This was that celebrated coalition, against which every party joined in mutual recrimination. On the debate of the preliminary articles of peace (February 17, 1783), Mr. Sheridan had warmly seconded Lord John Cavendish, in an amendment of the address, which went to omit the approval of the treaty. Mr. Pitt, in answer to him, thought proper to commence his speech with the following exordium: “No man (he said) admired more than he did, the abilities of that Honourable Gentleman, the elegant sallies of his thought, the gay effusions of his fancy, his dramatic turns, and his epigrammatic points: and if they were reserved for the firosher stage, they would, no doubt, receive, what the Lionourable Gentleman’s abilities always did receive, the plaudits of the audience; and it would be his fortune, “Sui filausu gaudere theatri.” But this was not the proper scene for these elegancies; and he therefore called the attention of the House to the question,” &c. “In his reply to this, Mr. Sheridan said, that “On the particular sort of personality which the Right Honourable Gentleman had thought proper to make use of, he need not make any cornment; the firofiriety —the taste—the gentlemanly floint of it, must have been obvious to the House. But (continued he), let me assure the Right Honourable Gentleman, that I do now, and will at any time, when he chooses to repeat this sort of allusion, meet it with the most sincere good humour. Nay, I will say more—flattered and encouraged by the Right Honourable Gentleman's panegyric on my talents, if ever I again engage in the compositions to which he alludes, I may be tempted to an act of presumption—to attempt an improvinent on one of Ben Johnson's best characters—that of the Angry Boy in The Alchymist.”—The Coalition triumphed for a time, and Mr. Sheridan again returned to place (April 1783), as secretary to the Treasury, of which the Duke of Portland was first lord. Mr. Fox, at the same time, was secretary for the foreign affairs, and Lord North for the home department, while Mr. Burke, as before, was paymaster. In defence of the Bill for the Government of India, of his friend Mr. Fox, Sheridan evinced powers which appeared to astonish equally his auditors and the public. The time was, however, arrived when the whole men and measures of the English government were to experience a change, and Mr. Sheridan, with his friends, receded into a long exile from power, on Mr. Pitt's more general assumption of it—The latter gentleman now became first lord of the Treasury and chancellor of the Exchequer, with a number of new characters in the highest departments of the state. This did not, however, interrupt Mr. Sheridan's career to excellence. and importance as a parliamengary orator; for on the trial of Mr. HastV :).I., W L I o . .I.