« AnteriorContinuar »
and Leon almost amounted to failures. Whatever whispers went abroad of Mr. Kean's private irregularities, he was ever attentive to his public duties, till the eventful evening of February 27, 1816, when his name appeared in the bills for the Duke of Milan; seven o'clock arrived, but not so Mr. K. Mr. Rae stated to the audience that every effort had been nade, by the management, to find their tragedian, but in vain, and proposed substituting Douglas for their entertainment; this was met by a cry of “Wait for Keun," and so they did. They waited with patience, till they lost all patience with waiting. At length, Ways and Means was performed instead of the tragedy, and the audience left to meditate on what had become of their favourite. Various rumours were of course afloat; some said he was tired of life and of his engagement,—thought his salary too small, and had gone to enlarge it by a draught on the Thames bank: certain it was, he had been upon the water at three o'clock that day; and those who knew his antipathy to that beverage, thought he could be there for no good purpose. The next morning the public prints teemed with accounts, and, at length, it was unanimously stated that he had been thrown from his gig, and broken, or severely injured his arm. He appeared on the following Monday, and the moment the curtain rose, there was an universal cry of “apology." The play was The Merchant of Venice, and Kean had not to appear till the third scene. The first and second scenes were performed amidst the deafening shouts of the non-contents, whilst he remained invulnerable to the manager's prayer, “ to say a few words.” When he entered, the storm raged in all its fury, and, after ineffectual attempts to proceed in the character, he approached the lamps, unbonneted, and said,
“ Ladies and Gentlemen,- It is the first time in my life
that I have been the unwilling cause of disappointment to the public. That, in this theatre, it is the first instance out of 269 performances, I appeal to your own recollection and to the testimony of the managers. It is to your favour I owe whatever reputation I enjoy, and on your candour I throw myself, when prejudice would deprive me of what you have bestowed.”
This address (for it is neither an apology nor au explanation,) satisfied the public, and we shall not at this time offer any remarks upon it, but shall merely state what we have heard as the real cause of disappointment, without pledging ourselves for the truth of the statement.
Mr. K. went to Deptford on the day in question, where a small company were performing ; and there, in the company of Jemmy Wright, an erratic comedian, got (let us be polite !) inebriated. Poor Wright was advertised for Maw-worm, but, at six o'clock, he was speechless, and our modern Roscius insisted on assuming the part in his stead; and became so noisy and ungovernable, that Mr. Trotter (the manager) was forced to thrust him off the stage, and in so doing, Mr. K. was precipitated down a flight of steps: from this, however, he sustained no injury save a bruise, and though it was stated that he had met with an accident, the whole of his complaint evaporated with a bottle of soda-water in the morning.
Since Mr. Kean's first appearance at Drury-lane Theatre, he has appeared in many characters; and though he has not, in every instance, gratified the unreasonable expectations of his admirers, yet he has always displayed considerable originality and unequalled talent. In pourtraying the emotions of the heart-sad Romeo and the whining Jaffier, he has certainly not eclipsed his contemporaries--but, in depicting the maliguaut revenge of Shylock,
the bold villainy of Overreach, the soul-subduing agonies of the noble and unsuspecting Othello, and the vast phalanx of evil passions that swayed the daring, desperate, and crafty Richard, Mr. K. has not, in our day, been equalled, and, perhaps, will vever be surpassed. In fact, every character which Mr. Kean has sustained, has elicited some bright scintillations of his matchless genius; but, as his style of acting is characterised by boldness and freedom, he has, of course, succeeded best in those parts which afford the most frequent opportunities for the display of energy and strong feeling, as (in addition to those abovementioned) Zanga, Bajazet, Luke, Kitely, Brutus, Octavian, Lear, &c. &c.
Of the level acting of Kean it is easy to speak, and consequently much has been said and written--but it is impossible to descant on the harrowing effect of his exertions when some overwhelming burst of passion agitates his frame, when his voice becomes stifled, and soul and body are convulsed by strong emotions. In situations like these, when he is in his spirit-stirring mood, and the energies of his body and gigantic powers of his mind are brought fully into action, language, powerful as it is, has ever been too weak to describe his excellence. We shall now proceed to consider the man, not the
Mr. Kean is, in person, five feet four inches, thick set, and inclined to corpulency; his hair is dark, his eye not very large, but remarkably expressive; his complexion sallow, and his countenance strongly betraying his Mosaic parentage, but capable of almost every variety of expression. His general character is generosity, amounting to profuseness; an instance of which occurred in his stripping off his great coat on a snowy night, and wrapping it round a miserable mendicant, Of his courage
he has evinced many instances, but he is notoriously tyrannical, and easily accessible by flattery; his faults are mostly of the head, his virtues of the heart. It has been Mr. K.'s ruin to prefer low society, to intercourse with rank and genius; and the Coal Hole, the O.P. and P. S., and the Antelope, White Hart-yard, were the places where he disgraced himself and his profession, however largely he may have contributed to the duty upon brandy.* At the former place, the Wolf Club held its meetings, where every man took an oath to support legitimate acting and run down pretenders. The way in which this oath was kept, was proved by the conduct pursued to Messrs. Meggott, Ed. wards, and Cobham, on their respective assumptions of Richard the Third. It is but justice for us to state, that Kean's urbanity and generosity to the poorer members of the profession, is peculiar and magnanimous. Mr. K.'s
gallantries have been numerous; and, as he seems to have pursued them more from vanity than desire, they are the less excusable. Mr. K. has one child living, a son of about 12 years of age, who bears no marked resemblance to his father.
It is asserted by this gentleman's friends, that he has awakened to a consciousness of the follies of part of his career, and has resolved to adopt a course of life more consonant with respectability. If this be true, no persons will rejoice more in the circumstance than ourselves. Mr. K, is only 38, and he possesses every qualification to render him valuable as au actor, and as a member of the community at large; and it is now in his power to regain all the fame that, even his friends must own, has become
* Be it understood, that we enter our protest against the company he sought, and not the place where he met that company.
somewhat tarnished, and replace himself on the same pinnacle of fame from which his follies have thrust him.
Mr. Kean is an entertaining companion, and sings with taste and expression; his voice is a tenor, neither very extensive nor powerful ; his falsetto is particularly pleasing; he accompanies himself on the piano-forte with more taste than skill; he is a tolerable mimic, and embodies Incledon and Braham with effect. His taste in gastronomy is not' epicurean, a rump-steak being his favourite repast. His memory is particularly retentive; his fencing is universally admired, and he dances with ease and elegance. His first salary at Drury-lane Theatre was 81. per week, which was, after his performance of Richard, doubled ; since that period it has been gradually raised to 301. on terms to play thrice a weck, and, if required to do more, 101. extra for every additional night. His benefits (save one, which he gave to the starving Irish,) have all been exceedingly productive.
(Under our title of Histric nic Anecdotes, many particulars will be given of Mr. Kean in succeeding numbers, that the length of this article prevents our inserting here. -EDITOR.]