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you have got the theatrical cacoethes ; you have rubbed your shoulder against the scene: nay, is it not so ? Holcroft answered that it was.
Well, and what great hero should you wish to personate ? Hamlet, or Richard, or Othello, or who ?' Holcroft replied that he distrusted his capacity for performing any that he had mentioned. Indeed l said he, 'that's a wonderful sign of grace. I have been teased these many years by all the spouters in London, of which honourable fraternity I dare say you are a member; for I can perceive no stage varnish, none of your true strolling brass lacker on your face. No, indeed, Sir.' 'I thought so. Well, Sir, I never saw a spouter before that did not want to surprise the town, in Pierre, or Lothario, or some character that demands all the address and every requisite of a master in the art. But, come, give us a touch of your quality-a speech. There's a youngster,' pointing to his secretary, 'will roar Jaffier against Pierre. Let the loudest take both.' Accordingly, he held the book, and at it they fell. The scene they chose was that of the before-mentioned characters in Venice Preserved.' little while after they began, it seems that Holcroft took the hint that Foote had thrown out, and restrained his wrath. But this appeared so insipid, and the ideas of rant and excellence were strongly connected in his mind, that when Jaffier began to exalt his voice, he could no longer contain
himself; but, as Nic Bottom says, 'they both roared so, that it would have done your heart good to hear them. Foote smiled, and after enduring this vigorous attack upon his organs of hearing as long as he was able, interrupted them.
“Far from discouraging our new beginner, he told him that with respect to giving the meaning of the words, he spoke much more correctly than he had expected. But,' said he, like other novices, you seem to imagine that all excellence lies in the lungs; whereas such violent exertions should be used very sparingly, and upon extraordinary occasions; for if an actor make no reserve of his powers, how is he to rise according to the tone of the passion ?" He then read the scene they had rehearsed, and with so much propriety and ease, as well as force, that Holcroft was surprised, having hitherto supposed the risible faculties to be the only ones over which he had any great power."
Thomas Holcroft came away from this celebrated wit, delighted with the ease and frankness of his behaviour, and elated with his prospect of success. Unluckily, however, he had already entered into negotiation with a very different person ; and tempted by an offer nominally higher, in point of salary, agreed with Macklin for a small engagement
a theatre in Dublin. The brutal manners of Macklin are well known. Hazlitt says, that until the
age of forty he could not even read; an asser
tion which, considering the undoubted merit of his play, “The Man of the World,” appears all but incredible. It is, however, certain that he was coarse, illiterate, and unfeeling; and the manner in which he suffered the Dublin manager to depart from the engagements into which he had entered with poor Holcroft does very little honour to his principles.
For the next seven years our luckless adventurer was tossed about the world as a strolling player, taking all parts, but succeeding best in old men and low comedy, singing in choruses, filling the post of prompter-always penniless, and sometimes nearly starved. At the end of that time his prospects improved ; some family connection (it is not said what) threw him upon the powerful protection of the Grevilles and the Crewes, and we find him numbered in the Drury Lane company, and coniplaining in a letter to Sheridan of walking in processions, and playing the part of a dumb steward in “ Love for Love."
Nevertheless, matters are mending. He takes a house in London, marries a second wife, becomes a recognised author, and is employed by the London booksellers to write an account of the riots of 1780. Whilst attending the Old Bailey trials for that purpose, he was happy enough to save the life of an innocent man, who had nearly been condemned through the mistake of a witness.
Things go better. He brings out his less-known novels, his least celebrated, but still successful plays; and becomes one of the best and most voluminous translators upon record. happens to take up an English version of a French or German book of that period—“Memoirs of Baron Trenck," or " Caroline de Litchfeld”-and if that version have in it the zest and savour of original writing, we shall be sure to find the name of Thomas Holcroft in the title-page.
One of his translating feats was remarkable. Beaumarchais' wonderful play of “Figaro," was carrying the world before it in Paris, and would be sure to make the fortune of an English theatre. But the comedy was unpublished, and no copy could be procured from any quarter.
Holcroft made up his mind to attend the performance every evening until he had fixed the whole work in his memory. He took a friend with him, and they wrote down their several recollections on their return, very literally comparing notes. When it is remembered that the “Marriage of Figaro,” is the longest play in the French language, the effort of a foreigner bringing the whole away in a week or ten days will appear most extraordinary, for not the slightest memorandum could be made in the theatre. His translation under the name of “Follies of a Day" appeared almost immediately at Covent Garden, producing him six hundred pounds from the manager, besides a large sum for the copyright.
This was perhaps the happiest time of Mr. Holcroft's life—this and a few succeeding years. His comedies, “ Duplicity,” “The School for Arrogance,” and “ The Road to Ruin," evinced talent (I had well nigh written genius) of the highest order. The serious parts above all are admirable. Perhaps no scenes have ever drawn so many tears as those between the father and the son in the last-mentioned play. The famous “ Good Night” is truly the one touch of nature that makes the whole world kin; and although I have seen it played as well as anything can be played by Munden and Elliston, I have always felt that the real merit belonged to the author. His greater novels, too, “Anna St. Ives” and “Hugh Trevor,” were full of powerful writing; and he seemed destined to a long course of literary prosperity. A terrible domestic grief came to break the course of this felicity. I transscribe Mr. Hazlitt's narrative :
“ William Holcroft was his only son, and favourite child; and this very circumstance, perhaps, led to the catastrophe which had nearly proved fatal to his father, as well as to himself. He had been brought up, if anything, with too much care and tenderness; he was a boy of extraordinary capacity, and Mr. Holcroft thought no pains should be spared for his instruction and improvement.
From the first,