Abbildungen der Seite

content with saying he was a boy of great promise, insisted that he actually was at this moment a first rate performer, or that at least he would soon eclipse all competitors— Master Betty had played with great applause in Ireland and Scotland, at Birmingham, &c.-on this evening the audience was all impatience till the 1st act was over, as Master Betty was not to appear till the 2d—when he did appear, his success was complete—and the caresses bestowed on him off the stage were hardly less extravagant than the applauses he received on it—that the public should have been deceived on this occasion is not peculiarly to be wondered at, similar instances had occurred before, tho' not to the same degree-but that some persons of the first abilities in the kingdom, and even some good judges of theatricals, should have been carried away with the stream, is strange indeed.

Some little addition to Master Betty's height was made by art, but bis figure was still such as to disqualify him from playing with men and women without a manifest breach of propriety-if indeed a company of young persons of his own age could have been formed, he would have been seen to more advantage-he would then have appeared to be, what he really was, “ the Triton of the Minnows”—he represented filial affection, and such passions as he could feel, with considerable energy-he had little or no expression in his countenance—his action was remarkably good—his voice was very bad, and his mode of managing it peculiarly exceptionable—it seems to have been exactly a revival of that unnatural way of speaking, that musical cadence approaching towards recitative, which had prevailed on the stage (more or less) from about 1710 to 1740 -if Colley Cibber had been alive he would have exclaimed with rapture—“Ay! this is not like Garrick “ —the boy tones his words as he ought to do."

Julius Cæsar, on hearing a person read in an unnatural tone, observed, “ if you speak, you sing—if you sing, you sing badly.” Cumberland says

- "a revolution at this time “ took place, a caprice as ridiculous as extraordi“ nary-how I am to style this child of fortune, this

adopted favourite of the public, I do not rightly “ know—the bills of C. G. call him Master Betty, “ those of D. L. the young Roscius — Harris an

nounces him to the old women in the galleries in “a phrase that is familiar to them-Sheridan pre“ sents him to the senators in the boxes by the title “ of Roscius—in the mean time my friend Smith

(formerly of C. G. and D. L.) marries him to Mel

pomene with the ring of Garrick, and, strewing “ roses of Parnassus on the nuptial couch, crowns

happy Master Betty, alias Young Roscius, with a never fading chaplet of immortal verse" And now when death dissolves his mortal

" frame, “ His soul shall mount to heav'n, from whence

« it came, “ Earth keep his ashes, verse preserve his fame.' “ How delicious to be praised and panegerised in “ such a style, to be caressed by Dukes, and (which “ is better) by the daughters of Dukes, flattered by “ wits, feasted by Aldermen, and stuck up in the

“ windows of print shops*—what encouragement
“ does this great enlightened nation hold forth to
“merit? I declare I saw with surprise a man, who
“ led about a bear to dance for the edification of
“ the public, lose all his popularity in the street where
“ this exquisite young gentleman had his lodging-
“ the people ran to see him at the window, and left
66 the bear and the bear-leader in a solitude I saw
“ this exquisite young gentleman wafted to his morn-

ing's rehearsal in a vehicle, that to my vulgar optics
“ seemed to wear upon its polished doors a ducal
“ crown-I looked to see if John Kemble were on
“the braces, or Cooke perchance behind the coach
“ – I saw the lacquies at their post, but Glenalvon
“ was not there-I found John Kemble sick at home
“I said within myself-
“ • Oh! what a time have you chose out, brave

“ Caius, “To wear a ’kerchief? would you were not sick.' “ It is very natural to encourage rising genius—it “ is highly commendable to foster its first shoots“ we admire and caress a clever schoolboy, but we “ should do very ill, to turn his master out of his “ office, and put him into it—if the theatres persist “ in these puerilities, we shall have an influx of pig“ mies ; they will pour upon us in multitudes innu“ merable as a shoal of sprats, and when at last we

[merged small][ocr errors]

• One of these prints exhibited Master Betty and John Kemble on the same horse, Betty riding before—he was represented as saying to Kemble—“I don't mean to affront you ; but when two “persons ride on a horse, one must ride behind.”

" have nothing else but small fry to feed on, an epi“ demic nausea will take place.

“ There are intervals in fevers—there are lucid “ moments in madness - even folly cannot keep “ possession of the mind for ever-Master Betty

persisted in acting part after part, till he had run through his period of popularity, and found his “ true level.”

At the conclusion of the 2d season the bubble burst-he continued however to act at the provincial theatres for a year or two longer with great applause—his friends afterwards sent him to Cambridge—but that University cannot boast of having had the honour to confer a degree on him—while he was there he was remarkably silent, whenever the theatre became the subject of conversation - his motive for this strange taciturnity is best known to himself-but he certainly had not done any thing to be ashamed of-his friends and himself were quite right in taking advantage of the public mania, qui vult decipi, decipiatur, is a fair maxim on such occasions.

A celebrated actress, after hearing a lady of quality for a long time expatiate on Master Betty's merits, at last said very innocently, “what your

Ladyship observes may be very true, but, after all, “ it is impossible for a boy to make one feel like a man." Dec. 4. Douglas. Noryal = Master Betty, 3d

app.: Stranger= Hargrave: Glenalvon = Cooke: Lord Randolph = Murray: Lady Randolph= Mrs. Litchfield :--Cooke had as little inclination to play with a boy as either Kemble or Mrs. Siddons, but being improvident and poor, he could not refuse as they did-in his Journal for August 1810 he said—“I “ was visited by Master Payne, the American young “ Roscius ; I thought him a polite sensible youth, “and the reverse of our young Roscius”-in conversation he sometimes made a comparison between the two boys, very much in favour of Master Payne. (Dunlap.)

5. Lovers' Vows. Frederick = Master Betty, 18t time: Baron Wildenhaim= Murray : Anhalt = H. Siddons : Count Cassel = Farley : Verdun=Simmons: Amelia=Mrs. H. Siddons : Agatha= Mrs. Litchfield.

8. Douglas. Norval=Master Betty, being the last night of his app., till he returns in Jan. to complete his original engagement at this theatre.

One of the Managers of D. L., having seen him perform at Birmingham, made him an offer of half a clear benefit for 7 nights, a proposal naturally rejected, when he was making upwards of £60 per night in the country—as the friends of the boy now demanded 50 Guineas per night and a whole clear benefit, the D. L. Managers began to deliberate, and Harris in the interim engaged him on the terms proposed- this roused the D. L. Managers, who immediately sent Wroughton to outbid their rival, and to remind Master Betty's friends that they had made a prior proposal—his friends however, swayed by honour, observed that Harris had made a prior engagement ; but as the agreement between them did not forbid Master Betty from performing elsewhere in London during the intervening nights or weeks, the Managers of D. L. availed themselves of

« ZurückWeiter »