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“A HEARTY, rather boisterous old fellow; of strong, rather coarse features, who read his plays in a loud rollicking style, with marked emphasis and strong dashes of the brogue. Brusque in manner, slovenly in dress, absent in mind, quick and rapid in utterance, he gave you rather the idea of an Irish schoolmaster." Such is the description given by an actor (George Vandenhoff), of the famous dramatist, who was hailed by his generation as a second Shakespeare. A warm-hearted, generous creature, ever acting on the impulse of the moment, as quick at appreciating a benefit as he was at taking an offence, real or imaginary; liying solely in the day, taking no heed for the morrow, and with the indomitable energy of a sanguine mind in a vigorous body, every one loved him : "dear Knowles," "kind, gentle Knowles," are the epithets that seem to flow spontaneously from the pen of all whoremember him. Even had he been wealthy, his heart would have been too large for his means; a tale of distress would draw the last guinea from his pocket. One day, in the green-room of one of the patent theatres, he found an old actress, whom he had met years before in a strolling company, crying bitterly. Asking what was the matter, she told him how she had been struck with a sudden deafness, and how the manager had given her the alternative, either to give up her engagement or go into the wardrobe as an attendant. your eyes, old girl," he said kindly, “and come along with me; you shall never want a home while I have one.” And he kept his word, and she lived under this good Christian's roof until the day of her death, which did not come for many years. It need scarcely be said that he was constantly imposed upon. While playing at Bristol, a man came to him with a pitiable tale ; he was a drawing-master, he could get no pupils, and he and his wife, who was on a sick-bed, were absolutely starving. Soft
hearted Knowles would have scouted with indignation the idea of inquiring into the truth of the story : “You shall teach one of my boys while I am here," he said : paid him a month's lessons in advance, and gave him a couple of bottles of wine for the sick wife at home. It was the first and last time he ever saw
Many comical stories are related of his absence of mind. Walking along the Quadrant one day with Bayle Bernard, Planché tells us, he was accosted by a gentleman with, “You're
“ a pretty fellow, Knowles! After fixing your own day and hour to dine with us, you never make your appearance, and from that time to this we have never heard from you.”
“I couldn't help it, upon my honour,” replied Knowles ; “and I've been so busy ever since I haven't had a moment to write or call. How are you all at home?”
“Oh, quite well ; but now name another day, and keep your word. Shall we say Thursday, at six ? ”
Yes, I'll be there. My love to them all.” The gentleman went on his way, rejoicing in the idea that he had secured Knowles this time.
“Who's that chap, I wonder ?” asked the dramatist of his companion, as they resumed their walk. He had not the least idea. Late in the morning he would' suddenly remember that he had invited eight or ten friends to dinner, and drive his poor wife to her wits' ends to prepare for them. Sometimes he would leave home and forget all about his guests, who would arrive to find themselves unexpected. His carelessness about money was astounding. More than once he would have been the loser of considerable sums but for the honesty of the people into whose hands they fell. On one occasion, he had promised to send his wife £200 on a certain day. As it did not come to hand, she wrote to apprise him of the fact. He had sent it according to arrangement; it was the fault of the post-office officials. Down he sat, and wrote a furiously indignant letter to the Postmaster-General. By return came the reply from Sir Francis Freeling, who held the office at the time, and who, after informing Mr. Knowles that he had received such gratification from his works that he regarded him quite in the light of a personal friend, went on to state that such a letter as he described was lying at the post-office, but there was neither signature inside nor address outside. My dear sir," wrote back Knowles, “ you are right, and I was wrong. God bless you! I'll call upon you when I come to town."
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He had the true Irish weakness for bulls. “My dear fellow," he said to Abbot, the actor, one day, " I'm off to-morrow, can I take any letters for you?” “Where are you going?” was the query “Well, I haven't quite made up my mind," was the naïve answer. As 0. Smith was one day walking along the Strand, he suddenly ran against Knowles, who seized him by the hand and eagerly inquired after his health. “I think you mistake me for some one else; I am 0. Smith," said the actor, who had not a personal acquaintance with him. beg ten thousand pardons,” apologised Knowles; “ I took you for your namesake, T. P. Cooke.”
The life of a man who so frequently metamorphosed himself-for he was at different times a soldier, a doctor, an actor, a school-teacher, a dramatist, and last and strangest of all, a Baptist preacher !--cannot be devoid of interest; and having endeavoured to sketch his portrait in the foregoing anecdotes, I will now proceed to give some account of his
His grandmother, Frances Sheridan, was the sister of Thomas Sheridan, the actor, and consequently the aunt of Richard Brinsley. This was how he came to be christened James Sheridan Knowles. On the father's side, it would appear, he was of good but poor family. John Knowles, the grandfather, was associated with Thomas Sheridan in the management of the Dublin Theatre; thus we see the dramatic proclivity was to a certain extent hereditary. The father, however, was the most prosaic of men, and regarded his son's early itch for scribbling poetry with much the same horror as he would have felt at the development of some vicious propensity. For the boy was a precocious genius who began to write plays, and, with some companions, to act them in the drawing-room at home, at twelve years old. But, to begin with the beginning, he was born at Cork on the 12th of May, 1784. As an infant he was very delicate, and his parents feared he would share the fate of the two children who had come before him, both of whom had died soon after their birth. When he was nine years old, the Knowleses left Cork for London. He was not sent to school, his education being undertaken by his mother, a kind, liberal-minded woman, who did all she could to foster the talents which her bright, clever boy gave such. early indications of possessing. The father, although he had no sympathy with poetry, at least in his domesticities, dabbled a little in literature, as we shall presently see.
Hazlitt was a frequent visitor at his house, and the critic took a liking to