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But there was another unexpected preliminary still. The landlord came to the door, with the bill in his hand, and its amount absorbed nearly every shilling they had between them! The return was a fit finale to the visit. The clouds kept their promise: the rain soon fell in torrents, and, both utterly drenched, they had to drive, with the lady's gauze hat melted over her face, and her summer dress dissolved into a dew, through the crowded streets, where they were known by half the world, to their home.
"When we met again over our comfortable quiet dinner," says the biographer, "my husband asked me calmly, what I thought of the trick that had been played us, and whether I could recollect what injury we had ever done to the Captain, that could suggest such barbarous revenge? He then placed the bill before me, which was not only for the horse, but for the lavish entertainment with which we had been provided. Oh,' I exclaimed, you ought not to have discharged the whole; Captain will be quite vexed at your doing so, and perhaps offended.' But Mathews was at last wide awake. He only asked drily, 'Do you think so?'”
We have given this little odd adventure as it has pleased the biographer to give it to us. But we must ob serve, that there is another version of the story; that the "Captain" has taken up the matter gravely in the newspapers, and that he has certainly thrown its authority into considerable disrepute. However, we have neither time nor space to pursue the topic, and as no name has been given, we are under no kind of obligation to right his fair fame. The story-as Sir Lucius O'Trigger says "the quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands." The story was an excellent one for Mathews's own style; and nothing could be more amusing than to have heard him tell it, with all its growing discomforts, its half-humorous, halfannoying offences, and the appropriate finish of the whole-his paying the unexpected reckoning! It reminds us of some of the adventures of Gil Blas, when he was laughed out of supper and money by his more knowing compatriots, and found that compliments cost him at once his time and his purse. It has the substance of a leash of French farces,
In a letter from Lichfield, Mathews gives a curious instance of local pride. At the inn, he had been drinking some fine Lichfield ale, which reminded him of the Beaux' Stratagem, and he exclaimed, "I eat my ale, and I drink my ale." “Sir,” said the waiter, much to his surprise, and evidently familiar with the quotation, "there are two rooms in this house, exactly in the state they were, when that there play was written. Mr Boniface lived here, sir." "This is a curious town altogether," replied Mathews; "Mr Garrick ought to have been born here." "To be sure he ought, sir," exclaimed the waiter; "I am glad to hear you say that; it was too bad of his father to go to Hereford, when his wife was so near her time-but we claims him for all that, sir."
At Oswestry, his performances were visited by an extraordinary pair of originals, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby, who came from Llangollen, twelve miles, to see him, and returned that night; making it a rule never to sleep from home. Whatever amusement Mathews might have given to the "dear inseparable inimitables," they seem to have furnished him with quite as much in their turn. "Oh, such curiosities! I was nearly convulsed. I could scarcely get on, for the first ten minutes after my eye caught them. Though I had never seen them before, I instantaneously knew them. As they are seated, there is not one point to distinguish them from men. The dressing and powdering of their hair, their well starched neckcloths; the upper part of their habits, which they always wear, even at a dinner party, made precisely like men's coats, and regular black beaver men's hats, they looked exactly like two respectable superannuated old clergymen-one the picture of Borolawski! I was highly flattered, as they were never seen in the theatre before."
An anecdote is told during his residence in Dublin, of his happy power of imitation, in the instance of the celebrated Curran-a task peculiarly difficult, among a people to whom Mathews was nationally a stranger, and who were accurately acquainted with the peculiarities of that memorable individual. One day after dinner, at Seapoint, a boarding-house on the
borders of the bay of Dublin, at a time when Queen Caroline formed so frequent a subject of discussion, the conversation growing rather warm, one of the company, in order to divert it, proposed the health of John Philpot Curran. "Pooh," said another, "the man is dead; what do you mean by proposing his health?" The former still insisted on proposing his toast. "I'll bet you five guineas," said the matter-of-fact man, "that Curran is dead." The bet was accepted, the toast was drunk; Mathews rose, and, in the style of Curran, made a harangue on the trial of Queen Caroline. The imitation was so happy in both manner and language, that the better immediately handed over the money, exclaiming, "I have lost, fairly lost, Curran is not dead, and can never die, while Mathews lives!"
Yet it is certain, that, amusing as all his imitations were, he failed most in his attempts at Irish character. In the first place, he never could catch the true Irish tone, whether of high life or low life; his accent was a caricature, his humorous illustrations were palpably taken from jest-books and tours, and his Irish pathos was especially a failure.
While the Scotch seem to have acknowledged his close conception of their character; and his burlesques of the English were true to the life, no Irishman could ever endure to see Mathews in his Irish imitations. His Frenchmen were almost equally bad, -the mere caricatures of the stage, the common and vulgar exaggerations which our English novelists had been in the habit of imagining, during the last century, for Frenchmen. The reason in both instances was the same. The Irish are genuine humorists; and the manners of Frenchmen palpably approach extravagance. The imitator, to strike, must be more humorous than the one, and more extravagant than the other. Yet thus to exceed fact in both, without violating taste in either, is the difficulty-a difficulty which Mathews, clever as he was, never overcame. His outlines of the Irishman and the Frenchman were equally distorted; and his colours commonplace, glaring, and theatrical. It was in the English character that he showed his skill. The mingled sullenness and humour, the spleen and good-nature, the strong sense, yet simplicity, and the habitual oddity, with
the hatred of affectation, which constitute the better and more unadulterated specimens of John Bull, were caught by him with the happiest tact, and transmitted to his performance with living vividness.
One of the inconveniences which beset all public persons in London, is that of being called on to make speeches at public dinners. Nothing more deserves the name of a bore; and Mathews, having an especial abhorrence of those feats, never appeared at any but those of the "Theatrical Fund," and "Merchant Tailors'
School," where he was educated. The manner in which he acquitted himself on one of those occasions, when he was called on to return thanks for the toast of "the Stewards of the Theatrical Fund," exhibits his usual pleasant dexterity. After some customary flourishes as to the lateness of the period at which he was appointed to this duty, which he called a too serious one to be imposed upon a comic performer, he touched upon the excuses which had been made by other actors:
"One of the principal tragedians," said he, "thought that he was too Young for such an undertaking. Surely I have a better right to this excuse, for every one knows I am but a Minor proprietor of the Adelphi. Mr Keeley, though so often seen to advantage, thought that he should not be seen here. He was too short, he said I hope I shant be thought too long-and Mr Blanchard thought his voice too weak for the room, he not having been used to speak in a larger space than Covent Garden for the last twenty-five years; and I feared that I should not be heard at all, having lately contracted my voice for the Adelphi ; and, having also set up to be my own master, I had some fear that it would be infra dignitatem to speak among his Majesty's servants.' We may conceive with what good-humour a speech of this order, delivered in Mathews's happy and imitative style, must have been received at a dinner festivity.
One source of that ill health which wore out his latter days, was an extraordinary and unwise disregard of weather. We have seen how much he occasionally suffered from this species of heroism during his earlier life. But at length, one day returning from town on his pony, in an unusually
cold atmosphere, he complained of a "chill all over him," and an affection of the chest. From this attack he never completely recovered. In a subsequent letter to a friend, he calls it "his first illness."
ed by a tipsy sailor. The audience were fretted, and the performance was disturbed. Mathews was representing an astronomer, pointing with his telescope to the stars. "There's Jupiter there's Venus"-the sailor Like all humorists he was fond of gave another growl from the gallery having characters round him. One" and there," said the astronomer, of those was the man who attended him turning his glass to the spot where the as his dresser at the theatre; an odd delinquent sat, "there is the Great creature, who loved a misery, and was Bear.' never so important, or perhaps so happy, as when he had some petty disaster to relate, which he regularly magnified into a great one. His master christened him Bat-Owlet, a double name of disaster. One night, when Mathews went to perform at the Adelphi, with spirits unusually depressed, from anxiety for his son, who was then extremely ill in Italy, Bat met him at the door of his dressing-room, with a lengthened face, and the ominous words-"I am sorry to say, sir, that I have some very unpleasing news to communicate to you.'
"Heavens!" said Mathews, sinking into a chair," tell me at once, and don't keep me in suspense."
"Well then, sir," said Bat," I am sorry to say I can't find your tinker's hat any where."
Next night he met his master with less formality." Sir, I have something very extraordinary to tell you." "Well?"
"Sir, you will be surprised to hear, that, by a very strange coincidence, I have found your tinker's hat," (the hat belonging to his character in the play.) Many of the happiest hits of Mathews's recitations were the result of chance. He was once teased by the reiterated invitations of a schoolmaster to attend his boys' speech-day. Always exceedingly vexed by this species of performance, on this occasion he started from his chair, and gave his wife a specimen, in the style of the presumed speakers, of the nonsense which he must be condemned to hear. His solitary auditor found the scene so amusing, that she insisted on his giving it to the public. His son wrote a song on it, and Mathews fabricated a dialogue; his mimicry of big boys and little boys did the rest, and the "School Orator" became a remarkably favourite scene with the public.
Some of his impromptus, too, were dexterous enough. One night his performance at Liverpool was interrupt
Mathews seems to have been perpetu ally the victim of accidents, and to have been "killed" as often as any ex-chancellor living. At Plymouth, performing in his "At Home," the curtain, which was as usual rolled up on a large pole, gave way through some awkwardness of the carpenters, and dropped on his head, striking him to the ground with such force that he lay insensible—the papers said for “ an hour," but his letter to his wife "ten minutes." was bled on the spot, and by due care set on his feet again.
A new project now entered the brain of this man of many projects. It was to play English humour to a French audience; and, in this idea, he and Yates went to Boulogne, and from Boulogne to Paris. At Boulogne, which was crowded with English, the exhibition was received with boundless applause. The enterprise was more delicate at Paris, where the notion that any one but a Frenchman understood nature, or that any language but French could express wit, had never occurred to ninety-nine out of every hundred of that brilliant community. However, they were well received; the Parisians satisfied themselves that they perfectly understood allusions which had often tasked the brains of his countrymen-that they felt all the force of Cockneyisms which, among us, are never known to the west of Temple Bar, and that they were masters of all the oddities of a national language, which no Frenchman has ever understood, or can understand-and of national character, which is as unknown to them as that of the inhabitants of the north star. But they were very civil, and they wrote criticisms in the spirit of civility; and so far they did all that could be expected of them. To suppose that they could enjoy the performance, was to suppose the most impossible of impossibilities.
But Mathews was still destined to be the real or reputed victim of ca
sualty. A report reached England, that he had been killed by a theatrical rival, in the shape of a she-elephant, which also had gone to try her talents among the Parisians. He had thus
the opportunity which the ex-chancellor is said to have since innocently enjoyed, of hearing a little of what the world thinks of him, before he shall be where newspapers come not. From the actor's instance, it is evident that to be talked of does not require to have had a travelling biographer. The tale produced its echo far and wide in the newspapers, and Falstaff himself was never more lamented. "Indeed," says his biographer, "this unaccountable report produced so much interest, such gratifying testimonies of regard from every quarter, that my dear husband knew, by anticipation, all that attended his actual demise," -a knowledge which, we will presume, must have much reconciled him to the latter contingency. The story of the elephant was founded on some circumstance of its having kicked some one related to Yates, who being Mathews's partner in the Adelphi, was evidently regarded as bound to share his fortunes in all shapes and all directions.
As to the matter of newspaper opinions on any public man's decease, with all our respect for those "thunderers," we hold it cheap. We never knew an instance where there was not some panegyrist to be found for the departed exhibitor, whether saint or sinner, whether on the stage of Drury Lane or of St Stephen's. Some of those writers think it not worth their while to waste their pens in cutting up the dead subject, and dismiss him with a civil paragraph; others "snatch a grace" by exhibiting their forgiveness of the culprit when he can sin no more; others think it fashionable to make his elegy with "poor fellow we could have better spared a better man:" "he was not so black, after all." In our experience we never remember any individual, however deserving of being scorned, who had not his modicum of this cheap praise. We have seen newspapers polished in praise of Waithman, patriotic on Cobbett, and magnanimous on Thurtell. We have no doubt, that when Lord Melbourne shall have met his fate, he, too, will have some equally glowing tribute to his virtues; and, if
they can discover nothing else to praise, "those bearers of the pall" will praise his indefatigable appetite, his inexhaustible indolence, and his unrivalled skill in doing the public business without giving himself more trouble on the point than her Majesty's monkey.
Mathews's sudden conception of character was certainly most extraordinary. The little incident which we are about to mention will at once show our meaning, and his powers. Old Godwin, the once celebrated author of Caleb Williams, wrote him the following note:
"My dear Sir,-I am at this moment engaged in writing a work of fiction, a part of the incidents of which will consist of escapes in disguises. It has forcibly struck me that, if I could be indulged in the pleasure of half an hour's conversation with you on the subject, it would furnish me with some hints which, beaten on the anvil of my brain, would be of eminent service to me on the occasion. Would you condescend to favour me by making the experiment ?-the thing will not admit of delay.-W. G.”
Mathews appointed an early day, and Godwin dined with him at his cottage. Mathews, after dinner, entered into conversation on the subject, and, showing him a number of disguises, satisfied the author's conscience on the point of escapes. While they were engaged in this conversation, a knocking was heard at the door of the cottage, and the servant announced " Mr Jenkins." "A neighbour of ours," said Mathews," and a very talking one, who sometimes makes his way in among us." He then went out to send the talker away, if possible, by mentioning that Mr Godwin was there, and on business. But this turned out the most unlucky of all intimations, for this eccentric gentleman instantly expressed the strongest desire to see a man" of whom he had heard so much," and forced his way, rather hurriedly, into the room.
Godwin was chagrined; but Mr Jenkins made his bow, introduced himself without any kind of embarrassment, and immediately began to overwhelm the author with recollections of his works, with panegyrics, and a thousand enquiries of what he had written, what he was about to write, what his ideas were upon all possible topics; until Godwin, exhausted by
this indefatigable talker, and hopeless of renewing the subject which had brought him there, turned round to bid Mr and Mrs Mathews good-night. The lady was there, but her husband had left the room. This, however, made no difference with the eloquent and enraptured Mr Jenkins; who, when he found that the fretted author could be detained no longer, politely did the honours, and attended him to the door. In the act of opening it, Mr Jenkins was suddenly metamorphosed into Mr Mathews! and Godwin thus returned home, furnished with an unanswerable proof of the power of disguise.
This was highly ingenious; but Mathews was more than a jester, and a letter of his, in which the character of Garrick is discussed, shows how rationally he could form his estimate of a character whom many contributed to malign, and how spiritedly he could express his judgment. He had been reading the Correspondence of Garrick then just published. His letter is to Fawcett the actor.
"I forward to you the second volume of the Correspondence. Did I say too much? was it not a treat? Glorious Garrick! Putting an extreme casethat a large property, which had been fifty years in Chancery, could be awarded to the claimants only by the decision from evidence, whether Garrick was a generous or a parsimonious man? would not this correspondence completely settle the question in favour of the former quality?
"So much for contemporary biography. Davies, Murphy, and others, have all endeavoured, but, with affected candour in their statements, to leave an impression of his meanness, vanity, and various other despicable qualities. Here we have evidence clear as the noonday sun to the contrary. And observe the comments on the character of his future biographers (or libellers) from the great and good. I allude to the various observations on Murphy and Davies, two wretched actors, whose vanity induced them to believe that Garrick alone prevented their success. Yet even those men, while he was alive, repeatedly add their testimony to the universal admiration which he excited. Look at the repentance of those who quarrelled with him; observe the deathbed recantation of proud Messop, an open foe to David, whose enmity he repaid by relieving his distresses he dies, calling on God to
bless him. I am sure you will have felt the same glow of delight, at the elevation of our art by the publication of such a work."
All this is well said, and justly said. It is true that Garrick's fame is now not much to any one. A man who has "slept well" for three-fourths of a century, may fairly henceforth sleep in peace. Yet there is some satisfaction in believing, that soon or late justice will be done to every one. A race of feeble authors and needy actors, who continually begged from Roscius during his life, attempted to make money of their own bitterness by scribbling memoirs of him when he was in his grave. His reluctance to pamper these paltry people with money was his crime; and Foote, and other profligates of the same school, who never kept a shilling nor deserved to have had one, employed themselves in railing at the parsimony of a man, who, by his mere talents, had made a handsome fortune-lived like a gentleman, while they were swindling every body—kept up a rank for his profession which it had never known before-associated with the first men of the land for ability, learning, and station-was the friend of Burke, Johnson, the great Chatham, Earl Camden, Reynolds, and a crowd of others, forming the best society of Europe and after all this, at his death, left an opulent establishment to his widow. The man who did these things might be prudent, but he was the reverse of mean or parsimonious ; in fact, he was evidently liberal where liberality could be well placed. Johnson and Goldsmith knew this by long experience, though coxcombs and swindlers, drudges and drones, might have felt that his purse-strings were too tight for them to dip their hands in.
Mathews was still to be the subject of adventure. The Speaker, Manners Sutton, (since Lord Canterbury,) had, with the courtesy habitual to that very accomplished person, given him the privilege of a seat under the gallery of the House of Commons; he passing to it privately through the Speaker's house. There he frequently remained till a late hour, returning, not to Kentish Town, but to the house of a friend at Milbank to sleep. One night, after sitting out an unusually long debate, he returned to his friend's house,