« PreviousContinue »
very indifferently on both these occasions—for hie drank deep and forgot his parts.'-- vol. i. p. 189.
At last appeared his deus ex machina in the shape of the late amiable and learned Dr. Drury, head-master of Harrow, who happened to be present at Teignmouth, in August, 1813, when Kean took his benefit, playing Rolla in the tragedy, and his old character of Harlequin in the farce. The Doctor was greatly struck --he took occasion to call on Kean the next morning, inquired into his situation and prospects, and volunteered to recommend him to the notice of the London managers ; the result of which was, after various dirty tricks and tantalizing delays, his being engaged for Drury Lane: articles signed for three years—his salary to be 81. a week for the first year, 9l. the second, and 101. the third. He borrowed 51. and proceeded to London-but weeks and weeks passed on after his first appearance in the green-room before the mis-manager thought fit to call for his services; and, some dispute having been got up as to his salary, he was reduced to the extreme of destitution--so much so, that when it was at last settled that he should come forth in Shylock, about the middle of January, 1814, his poor wife seems to have been sorely put to it to provide him with a beef-steak and a pot of porter, by way of preparation for the trial. He had not dined for several days before ; and the little man with the capes '-(the only upper garment lie possessed being an old great coat with such appendages, it was ihus they distinguished him about the theatre)—the little man not having had heart to put out any of his strength at the one rehearsal which took place, the performers unanimously anticipated a failure. We know the result. Kean's success was complete—and next morning, like Byron after the publication of Harold, he awoke and found himself famous' Mr. Cornwall gives many different reports of the eventful night—but we must be contented with this little sketch of the interior of Mrs. Kean's lodging, which was in the house of a Miss Williams, in Cecil-street. We extract it chiefly because it has the very rare effect of placing the actor himself before us in rather an amiable point of view—but it also affords a fair specimen of that style of narrative which Mr. Cornwall mistakes for easy and graceful :
During the hours of performance, she had been waiting the result at home. It may be imagined how much anxiety must have prevailed, when not only the fame of her husband, but the very existence of himself and family hung on the event. For, to be damned in London is to be damned in the country; and the actor who once earned his humble crust in the provinces, whilst untried at the fastidious bar of the metropolis, is by no means sure of regaining his old position, if, on being tried, he should be found wanting. The hours, therefore, passed gloomily enough. At last, about half-past ten o'clock, the Misses Williams, and also Mr. Hewan and Mr. Watts (two artists
YOL LIV. NO, CVII.
who lodged in the house), returned. The first comer was Mr. Hewan, in reply to whose knock, Mrs. Kean ran down to the door, and, in breathless haste, demanded to know their fate. The good-natured artist answered her anxious interrogation in the kindest and broadest Scotch (which we regret being obliged to translate after our poor English fashion) :-"Oh! Mistress Kean! you need have nothing to fear. He's the greatest little man that has appeared since the time of Garrick. I can't tell you all—but, by St. Andrew,'— (this flourish, Mr. Cornwall, is an evident interpolation]— in that long speech, where he gives it to Antonio, •You spate upon me, and for that I must lend you so much money ; '-Oh! his eye-as he turned it up towards the merchant, at the end—said (as plainly as I speak it now,) “There ! take that in your pipe, and smoke it."" This was great news. Presently came in Mr. Watts, who was equally delighted. He did not enter into detail, but spoke particularly as to the fine expression of Kean's face, adding, “ Do you think he will sit to me for his picture? I should like to take him, in Shylock, by candlelight." Next followed the Misses Williams, exulting in the accomplishment of their prophecies; and, finally, about eleven o'clock, arrived the hero of the night himself. He ran up stairs, wild with joy, and cried out,“ Oh, Mary! my fortune's made! Now you shall ride in your carriage!”
• A mighty change had been wrought in a brief period. Four or five hours before, he said, on quitting the house, that he wished he was going to be shot. Now, all the gloom of the morning dissipated and forgotten, he seemed to tread on air. He told his wife, indeed, that when he found the audience “ going with him," he was inspirited and exalted to such a degree, that“ he could not feel the stage under him." His sensations had now sunk a little---almost to a rational level. In order, however, that every one might be a partaker of the new happiness, even the child was taken out of his cradle and kissed by his father, who said, “ Now, my boy, you shall go to Eton.”— vol. ii. pp. 42-45.
An eye-witness,' quoted but not named, of the performance which had ended thus triumphantly, says
• I went behind the scenes to congratulate him. I found him in a small dressing-room, in the most remote part of the house, occupying it in common with two or three of the second-rate actors, and no friend near him: it was a great contrast to the scene I shortly afterwards witnessed on his first appearance in Othello, when his dressing-room was filled with the first wits of the day, who formed a semicircle around him, whilst he was contemplating his new costume in a cheval glass, and practising attitudes. I remember Reynolds raising an extended palm, and saying, “ Hush! do not disturb him!”
'I called upon Mrs. Kean when his benefit was announced. I do not exaggerate when I say, that money was lying about the room in all directions; the present Mr. C. Kean, then a fine little boy with rich curling hair, was playing with some score of guineas (then a rare coin) on the floor; bank notes were in heaps on the mantel-piece, table, and sofa; and poor Mrs. K. was quite bewildered with plans of the house and applications.' -vol. ii. pp. 40, 41.
How very absurd-and yet how very true-is what follows !
'I remember three ladies being introduced, who approached Mrs. K. as if she were a divinity. Little Charles had deserted his guineas, and mounted himself on a large wooden horse with stirrups. "What a sweet child!" they whispered, and eyed him as if he had been a young prince. I think the receipts of that benefit amounted to 11501.'vol. ii. pp. 40, 41.
After playing Shylock six times, the new idol of the first wits' appeared in Richard—and again he electrified the audience. We all
• Remember how the pit applauded Kean,
With hand disarm'd still daring Henry's blade'-but really the outline of the rest of his history must be sufficiently familiar to most of our readers—and Mr. Cornwall has, wilfully or not, so dealt with the details—curtailing what might have been interesting, and pouring himself out in vapid redundancy upon matters of no mark or moment—that we must be excused from attempting to follow him through his unsubstantial labyrinth. To apply to him an old criticism upon Suckling's Aglaura
• This great roluminous pamphlet may be said
To be like one that hath more hair than head.' A single dictum of the player's is worth preserving : when he came home after bis first appearance in Othello, his anxious wife met him with Oh! what did Lord Essex think
you??-he answered—D— Lord Essex! the pit rose at me!'
Perhaps half of the second volume consists of essays upon the great Shakspearian characters in which Kean was supposed to excel-essays which, Mr. Cornwall must forgive us for saying, were uncalled for, and which have no pretensions to originality, vigour, or even grace; and the other half is given to mawkish, milk-and-water dilutions of the absurd extravaganzas in which poor Kean dissipated talents, health, and wealth ; until he at length sunk, as an actor, almost as low as, first and last, he seems to have been in most points of his personal character. Our charitable suspicion is, that he had from the beginning a spice of insanity in him : if not, brandy did the business. But he seems to have been considerably stimulated and encouraged in his vicious career by two circumstances, neither of which is even alluded to by his biographer. In the first place, he attracted the attention of Lord Byron when on the committee of Drury Lane—and appears to have ever afterwards nourished the idea of being, · in his own way,' a Byron; hence the cottage in Bute—the midnight gallops--the Indian chieftainship !!!-and probably the beautiful story of 'Little Breeches, which Mr. Cornwall is too decorous to say almost anything about—and which really ought to have put crim. con. out of fashion. Secondly, Kean was fervently taken up, on bis tirst success, by a certain set of petty newspaper
critics, now forgotten, who hated Kemble, partly perhaps because they could not understand his merits, but chietly because he was a gentleman and avoided their society. These creatures had a potent hand in the ruin of Kean, whose vanity was omnivorous, but preferred garbage. They applauded as beauties all the worst faults of the player-his harsh, abrupt tricks of transition-his affected croak of pathos—and his mountebank strut of dignity; and they with equal sense and taste apologized for, as 'ebullitions of humanity,' hearty, unsordid outbursts,' &c. &c.— we have almost forgotten their jargon too—those unremitting debauches of the unhappy cock-of-the-walk,' which, after ruining his character and peace, conducted him to an early grave.
It is surprising—but such is the fact--this book, the history of a man who may be said to have lived for the table, gives us hardly any specimens of his table-talk-and only one that we can suppose worth extracting :
• It is to be observed, that he was always anxious, and even uncomfortable, in his intercourse with persons of superior rank. Whe. ther he went to Mr. Whitbread's, to Mr. Grenfell's, or to Cashiobury, it was all the same. Indeed his discomfort was so apparent, that Mr. Whitbread said to his wife, “ We don't invite him, because it seems so painful to him.” Kean himself accounted for his distaste for high company in a way sufficiently satisfactory. "I don't understand them," said he, " when they talk about speeches in parliament and so forth, and their conversation is about little else ; and when they talk about acting, it is such nonsense! I would rather dine at home, or go with some of my friends up the river."?—vol. ii. p. 70.
The 'friends' he alluded to were some of those candle-snuffers in whose society alone he ever felt at home--and by up the river' he meant to the Red House at Battersea, or the · Eel-pie Island;' but his last journey was ' up the river,' for he died at Richmond, on the 15th of May, 1833. It is agreeable to know that he was reconciled, when on his death-bed, to his wife and son, from whom he had been for seven or eight years wholly estranged ; and it is painful to gather, that after having squandered thousands upon thousands in every possible vileness of selfish indulgence, he left them both beggars.
We hope when Mr. Cornwall next comes before us, we shall at least find him to have been occupied on some subject more worthy of public attention, and more suited to the gifts and accomplishments which procured for himself at an early period of his life a not worthless reputation. For the present we nuust conclude with assuring the few respectable persons, male and female, who still adorn the profession of the stage, that we sincerely pity the mortification which must have been inflicted on them by the contemporaneous appearance of Mrs. Butler's Journal' and this ' Life of Kean,'
Art. VI.-1. Physiologie du Goût: ou Méditations de Gastro
nomie Transcendante; Ouvrage Théorique, Historique et à l'ordre du Jour. Dédié aux Gastronomes Parisiens. “Par Un Professeur (M. Brillat Savarin), Membre de plusieurs Socié
tés Savantes, 2 tomes. 5me edition. Paris. 1835. 2. The French Cook. A System of Fashionable and Economical
Cookery; adapted to the Use of English Families, 8c. By Louis Eustace Ude, ci-devant Cook to Louis XVI. and the Earl of Sefton, &c. &c. &c. 12th edition. With Appendix,
&c. London. 1833. M. HENRION de Pexsey, late President of the Court of
Cassation, the magistrate (according to M. Royer Collard) of whom regenerated France has most reason to be proud, expressed himself as follows to MM. Laplace, Chaptal, and Berthollet, three of the most distinguished men of science of their day:—' I regard the discovery of a dish as a far more interesting event than the discovery of a star, for we have always stars enough, but we can never have too many dishes ; and I shall not regard the sciences as sufficiently honoured or adequately represented amongst us, until I see a cook in the first class of the Institute.' We may probably have been suspected of partially coinciding with the opinion of the president, from a recent article on the principles which ought to regulate the choice and preparation of food.* ' It is our present intention, in spite of any such surmises, to submit to our readers a sketch of the history, present state, and literature-for it has a literature-of cookery. As regards the historical part of the inquiry, indeed, we shall be exceedingly brief, and not at all learned—bestowing only a passing glance on the ancients, and hurrying on as fast as possible to France ; where only the art is generally understood and appreciated—where only it has ever yet received the smallest portion of the honours which M. de Pensey considers as its due.
It is sagaciously remarked by Madame Dacier, that Homer makes no mention of boiled meat in any of his works; and in all the entertainments described by him, as in the dinner given by Achilles to the royal messengers in the ninth Iliad, the piece de resistance undoubtedly is a broil; from which it is not perhaps illogically inferred, that the Greeks had not as yet discovered the mode of making vessels to bear fire. This discovery is supposed to have reached them from Egypt, and they rapidly turned it to the best possible account.
The Athenians, in particular, seem to have as much excelled the rest of Greece in gastronomy, as the French, the modern pation most nearly reQuart. Rev. No. CIV. p. 206.