Imágenes de página

other great man, by committing the same error himself. But, though it cannot avail as an excuse, such a conformity of ideas serves as a summons to a much more vigilant examination of the case than might else be instituted. One man might err from inadvertency; but that two, and both men trained to habits of constant meditation, should fall into the same error makes the marvel tenfold greater.

Now we confess that, as to Michael Angelo, we do not pretend to assign the precise key to the practice which he adopted. And to our feelings, after all that might be said in apology, there still remains an impression of incongruity in the visual exhibition and direct juxtaposition of the two orders of supernatural existence so potently repelling each other. But, as regards Milton, the justification is complete; it rests upon the following principle:

In all other parts of Christianity, the two orders of superior beings, the Christian heaven and the Pagan pantheon, are felt to be incongruous not as the pure opposed to the impure, (for, if that were the reason, then the Christian fiends should be incongruous with the angels, which they are not,)— but as the unreal opposed to the real. In all the hands of other poets, we feel that Jupiter, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, are not merely impure conceptions, but that they are baseless conceptions, phantoms of air, nonentities; and there is much the same objection, in point of just taste, to the combination

of such fabulous beings in the same groups with glorified saints and angels, as there is to the combination, by a painter or a sculptor, of real fleshand-blood creatures with allegoric abstractions.

This is the objection to such combination in all other poets. But this objection does not apply to Milton: it glances past him; and for the following reason: Milton has himself laid an early foundation for his introduc tion of the Pagan pantheon into Christian groups: the false gods of the heathen world were, according to Milton, the fallen angels. They are not false, therefore, in the sense of being unreal, baseless, and having a merely fantastical existence, like our European fairies, but as having drawn aside mankind from a pure worship. As ruined angels under other names, they are no less real than the faithful and loyal angels of the Christian heavens. And in that one difference of the Miltonic creed, which the poet has brought pointedly and elaborately under his reader's notice by his matchless catalogue of the rebellious angels, and of their Pagan transformations in the very first book of the Paradise Lost, is laid beforehand the amplest foundation for his subsequent practice; and at the same time, therefore, the amplest answer to the charge preferred against him by Dr Johnson, and by so many other critics who had not sufficiently penetrated the latent theory on which he acted.


SOME time has now passed since the publication of the former volumes of this ingenious and amusing performer's life. The two volumes now before us bring it to the close, and thus enable his countrymen to have a full view of his career.

Mathews was certainly a man of very remarkable ingenuity. Comparison is the only standard which we can adopt in matters of this kind, and he is immeasurably above the Dibdins, Stevenses, and the crowd of reciters and givers of imitations during the last fifty years. These volumes are often laudatory beyond all bounds; for some of his performances were intolerably trainant, and the more he laboured the less the audience smiled. But it must be acknowledged that this was the fault much more of the compilers of the recitations, clever as they sometimes were, than of the reciter. His imitations deserved a higher name than mimicry; they were always dexterous, often happy, and sometimes even refined.

In 1818, Mathews commenced his provincial ramblings once more. It is curious, that though his biographer sighs profusely, and he groans perpetually, over those travels, which they both pronounce the hardship of hard. ships, he was, somehow or other, constantly on the road. It is good phi. losophy to believe, that there are no effects without causes; and the unquestionable cause of this effect was, that the actor liked to be on the road, and the biographer had no possible objection to his being on it as much as he liked. We cannot discover a single instance in which the love of a quiet life prevailed over the charms of a country trip, or in which the plea sant sufferer was not permitted to run round half the empire for a "couple of nights," wherever he could be called by a speculating manager, or had a hope of swelling his banker's book by an additional guinea. In this we do not make the slightest objection to the better half or the worse. It was the business of both to make money when they could; we object only to the

sentimentality, to the contempt of money, in the midst of as eager a pursuit of it as we ever happen to have seen recorded; and to the lamentation over calamities which were encountered in spite of weekly experience, and which an offer from a manager at the Scilly Isles, or at the North Pole, would evidently have wiped clean from the complainant's brain, though it might have left the story among the treasures of his memorandum-book.

Soon after Mathews's partial retirement from his engagement with Arnold, he set out on a tour of the country towns,-a tour which, notwithstanding all his deprecation, he volunteered to the last hour of his life. One of his letters from Liverpool in 1818, gives an account, in his whimsical style, of the difficulties always thrown by fate or fortune in his way.

"We drove on to Coventry that night -got up early, to be ready for the Liverpool mail at eight it arrived. Sent up to know if there was a place. Man returned Yes, sir, one place outside. Sent my portmanteau-gobbled breakfast-presently saw man return with my portmanteau. Smelt a misery-bookkeeper had just discovered that the place had been promised to a gentleman the night before. No other coach to Liverpool that day. Set off on a mere scent of a coach to Birmingham, per gig-tired horse-eighteen miles-drove very fast to Heard there was no get there by twelve. coach till four-obliged to make up my mind to go by that. Gobbled up my dinner to be ready. Went to the coachoffice at four-told London coach was not come in, and the other could not start till Went at

half an hour after its arrival. five-not arrived-fidgets increased-promised to arrive at nine next morning. Did not believe that-saw two hours fast adding to that-anticipated alarm of Liverpool managers rehearsal dismissed. At last coach arrived, and at half-past six I was

turned off.

"I was told the coach was later by two hours than ever known. Found it was licensed to carry six inside, and travelled all night. Saw two women with a child

Memoirs of Charles Mathews, Comedian. By Mrs Mathews. Vols. 3 and 4,

[ocr errors]

a-piece-took outside place-it began to rain-in ten miles forced to get in-I made the eighth! One of the ladies was told not, on no account, to expose the child to night air-five months old, sour milk in a bottle! One man did howl in his sleep, an eccentricity allied, I suspect, to madness. I awoke once, and found the windows close up. Eight inside-horrible, most horrible! I was stewed-but it rained the whole night, and I was obliged to endure it. I was compelled to have recourse to violent rage and ridicule wherever I could address the guard, to get any air at all.

"So, after all the pains and trouble to myself to avoid travelling at night in the


mail, I exchanged it for the heavy Liverpool, (a term I shall never forget.) travel all night with eight people, and that the night before I perform! However, its all over, and I am well."

One piece of his ill luck was to suffer for the rogueries and absurdities of would-be rivals, some of whom adopted his style, and others bore, or borrowed, his name. About this time, when he was playing at Gravesend, a sort of military-looking servant applied to him for "an admission to the theatre." Mathews asked, on what ground. The fellow said, that Mrs Mathews knew him very well, and that she would have given it him, if she were there. And, on being asked "where he had known the lady," his answer was equally prompt and startling. "Oh, very well, when she lived with Captain Silcox of the 10th. I lived with the Captain then, before she ran along with you." In fact, there had been a stroller, who called himself "Mathews, the celebrated comedian," and who had roved the country with the woman in question.

Mathews's sensitiveness to his professional dignity was sometimes amusingly touched. He was in the habit of using oranges and eggs for his voice. Copeland (we presume the manager of the Dover Theatre) saw "four oranges and two eggs in the list furnished. What,' said he to the property man, does he do tricks with them? I never heard that before. Why, I saw no conjuring mentioned in the bills.'"


An adventure of the supposed Mrs Mathews, rather oddly stimulates the biographer's recollection of an adventure which promised very nearly_to justify the footman's mistake. The lady's expression is, "this pleasant

reminiscence of a caprice imputed to me, reminded us of a ridiculous adventure which occurred about two years after our marriage." She tells the story at great length, and evidently con amore; but we must be content with an outline. She and her husband had driven into Kent in a low fourwheeled chaise, and enjoyed fine weather; but, on their return, as they reached Dartford, the weather broke, and they were driven to take shelter in the inn by a sudden storm. This was peculiarly unlucky, as both husband and wife were to play at the Haymarket on that evening. A stage. coach passed, but it was full; a postchaise was ordered, but "all the horses were out." In this dilemma there was nothing for it but to order dinner, and, in case the weather should not clear up, take their chance in the open chaise. However, from this difficulty they were relieved at the close of dinner, by the landlord's coming in to mention that, if the lady would not object to a return chaise, there was one at the gate. To this the lady did object, on the ground that the man might take up other travellers. Finally, the matter was settled by calling in the postboy, and paying him a sum additional, on the express condition that he should not take up any other person by the way. It was necessary that Mrs Mathews should be early in town, as she played in the first piece of the night, and as Mathews played in the last, he was enabled to remain, and bring on the pony. The postchaise was instantly on the road. Immediately after, a hussar officer, who had been dining in the inn, and had seen the departure of the lady alone, ordered his horse and followed her. Mathews perceiving this, and indignant at the possibility of an affront being offered to his wife, left his unfinished dinner on the table, ordered out his chaise, and galloped after her, through the storm. On reaching the parties at last, after a long and desperate chase, he found, to his astonishment, and we have no doubt to his indignation, the officer seated in the carriage. We give Mrs Mathews's own words" He had whipt with such desperate energy, that he had gained ground so rapidly as at length to be near enough to the party in advance for his loud halt' to arrest the postilion, and somewhat to startle the occu

pants of the chaise, which was immediately stopt. Another stroke of his whip brought the pursuer parallel with it, and to the surprise of the young lady, and the confusion of the young gentleman, appeared the soaked and angry husband." The officer immediately got out of the carriage and ran away; the wife was, as she tells us herself, "ordered to descend from the vehicle, and was pulled up hastily into the little chaise." Of the officer's conduct, the narrator says, "that during his continuance in the chaise, all was refined politeness, and as attention was not uncommon to one of my age, that which he paid me was not calculated to startle or displease." What would startle her delicacy or displease her vanity, it would perhaps not be very easy to define; but we should not have been at all surprised if Mr Mathews had instantly sent the lady home to her mamma, if she had


[ocr errors]

In the autumn of this year he went to Ireland, from which he writes "I have the pleasure to tell you I am safely landed, after a passage of nineteen hours. I was sick the whole of the way, and driven from my usual place, the deck, by rain, which poured all night, and my box-coat proved to be inadequate.' On his landing he started for Kilkenny. Ireland, though a theatrical country, seems never to have been a theatrical one for Mathews. They are a people of jokers, and probably a professional joker from England was felt to be de-trop. He made his way into Kilkenny, then a great place for private theatricals, where, of course, his theatricals came to a bad market. Kilkenny has long since abandoned this road to fame, all its theatricals now consisting in the farce of Papist Election, and all its heroes reduced to the mummery of Joseph Hume's patriotism. But, in other days, it exhibited a general conflux of all the neighbouring gentry, and a compilation of amateur abilities, which might have done very well for a minor theatre in London.

Mathews, with his usual. Irish ill luck, arrived just in time to find every spot occupied. "I came here," says his letter to his wife," on Saturday night, time enough to see Macbeth and High Life Below Stairs. I have no hesitation in saying that they are

not only the best private theatricals I have ever seen, but that the whole play of Macbeth, in point of decoration, scenery, choruses, &c. &c., was better got up than it would have been in any theatre out of London. I was quite astonished, and highly amused with the farce. Crampton and a Mr Corry, in the two servants, inimitable. The latter is really a very fine actor."

But on the main point, his chance of making any addition to his own finance, all was a blank. He predicts the results with all the minuteness of vexation. "As to my performance here, all will be a total failure. I am just in the situation of a benefit at York on the Monday after the race week; and standing at the hotel on Tuesday, and seeing all the company pour out of the town! Kilkenny itself does nothing for the private theatricals. They are supported by families from the neighbourhood, and even as far as Dublin. They finished the plays on Saturday night, and on Sunday began to move. To-night there is a ball and masquerade, given by Major Bryan, and every body is go ing; and to-morrow morning all the horses in the town are ordered, and by night the town will be empty." This was a heap of calamity which might have overwhelmed a less experienced sufferer than Mathews. However, he consoled himself by the reflection, that the people who had thus deserted the town were of the first fashion in Dublin! Arguing, probably, that as they would not take the trouble to see him in Kilkenny, the consequence was clear, that they would in the capital.

To add to the other discomforts of this man of pleasantry, he was almost a constant sufferer from bodily indisposition. When he had not a broken arm, he had a rheumatism; when he had cured a fractured leg, he got a fever to supply its annoyance; when all else was well, he was regularly visited by some strange torture of the tongue, which swelled to an unusual extent, and alternately threatened dumbness and strangulation. At last he broke his hip, for a permanent occupation; and it employed him during the rest of his days. At this particular period the tongue was the tormentor. He


“My tongue is in statu quo, relief appears hopeless. Every medical man I consult, totally disapproves of the mode of treatment resorted to by his predecessor. This is comfortable, and so cheering! I was miserably ill at Kilkenny, and, suspecting the cause, discontinued the medicine for a day or two. On my journey I commenced it again; and it nearly drove me mad. I can conceive nothing more horrible- the fever, headache, lassitude,


sickness. I was afraid to attempt to walk by myself; my legs tottered under me, and I had the sensation of very drunk yesterday!' At last I became so miserably ill that a physician was sent for, and I was obliged to up and tell him' about my tongue. Why, sir, the man who gave you laudanum was mad, and you were mad to take it.' However, certain it is, I got gradually better when I dis continued the laudanum, though it has taken four or five days to drive away the effects from my constitution."

Mathews continually reminds us of the story of Carlini, the memorable mimic, who, going to a physician to complain of desperate dejection, received for answer, that, if he wanted to recover from it, he ought to go and laugh at Carlini! He seems to have been singularly assailed by mental depression, at a time when he was amusing the world. In Dublin he writes to his wife :-"Your letters are a great solace to me, for, in my blue-devil fits, my fiend is ingenious in tormenting, and I am sure to brood on all sorts of imaginary evils. A few lines of Curran's were very congenial to my own feelings, as I read them two or three days back, when wandering all alone on Kilkenny Hill:—

“Whether we're sunder'd by the final


Or envious seas disjoining roll between, Absence, the dire effect is still the same, And death and distance differ but in name."" In the midst of his sorrows, however, the ancient merriment breaks out, and he gives a happy instance of native criticism. At some exhibition of private theatricals, a gentleman had corrected one of the amateurs, who pronounced the word full like gull. The amateur complied with the hint on the night of performance, but when Mathews next met him at a public table, he cried out to his corrector“You were wrong about that word after all; I have found it in poetry, my boy. Hudibras has it; and I am

right, for he has made it rhyme to pul!," (which he also, of course, pronounced like gull.)

From Waterford he writes again; his Irish ill luck never failed him :— "This is a wretched place for theatricals—the first night very bad. Nobody knew I was to act, till the morning of the day I appeared; and the second night the rain prevented the possibility of people going out. The theatre is only temporary-no boxes; I don't know a human being; but the manager is a rara avis-a gentleman, and I board with him in a most comfortable and clean house. The boxes are taken for to-night, and the day is beautiful."

All this promised well, but the spell was not to be broken. "I had written thus far," says he, "when the Mayor himself rapt at the door, to say, The Queen is dead!' This has so sadly deranged me and my plans, that I know not what to do, or what to say, -the play is stopped, and the poor manager in despair."

But England was always his true anchoring ground; and his next pro

vincial tour made amends for his HiIt has been rebernian disasters.

[ocr errors]

marked of actors, that they come nearest to sailors in the labour of their gains, and the recklessness of their expenditure; and of sailors, that "whatthey earn like horses, they spend Mathews had no sooner like asses. made a little money, than he took a ninety-nine years' lease of a house and grounds near Highgate, a sufficiently long period at least for his personal tenure; and, as immediately, commenced that happy expedient for getting rid of money, building! He began, too, a collection of theatrical portraits, and for those he built a gallery. Common sagacity might have told him the inordinate expense which this especial addition must have involved. show-room, attached to a show-house, belonging to a man of mirth and countless acquaintanceship, within three miles of all the idlers of London, MUST have been a perpetual inn, and so it happened. The visiters were not to be shut out, nor sent away; thus time, feasting, and hospitality were in perpetual requisition; and if Matthews had been a keeper of lions, instead of a lion himself, he could not have been more molested by popular curiosity; sometimes civil, sometimes


« AnteriorContinuar »