Imatges de pÓgina

himself in Tragedy. Curiosity was excited as much by his great age, as by his theatrical abilities. It was so extraordinary to see a man, at nearly the age of 100, performing parts of humour and vivacity, that, whenever his name appeared in the bills, there was a certainty that the house would be crowded.

• On the 28th of November, 1788, Mr. Macklin lost his recollec. tion to so high a degree, in the performance of Sir Pertinax Mac. Sycophant, that he was compelled to address the audience again, and inform them, that, unless he found himself more capable, he should not again venture to solicit their attention.-What a pity it was to behold the venerable father of the stage, who had so highly entertained the public, for many years, and who had laboured all his life time with assiduity and industry, struggling at once with poverty of circumstance and imbecility of intellect.--However, so it was; but Mr. Macklin's mind, like the flashes of an expiring taper, displayed signs of vigour to the very end of his theatrical career.

* In the month of February, 1789, he performed Shylock and Sir Archy MacSarcasm, at Covent-Garden theatre, on the same night, with amazing spirit, and with great applause; and, a few months after, sustained the character of Sir Pertinax Mac-Sycophant, in the Man of the World, which part is not less, according to the theatrical language: than thirty-six lengths, cach length being forty-four lines, including the cues.

• Mr. Macklin played the very laborious part of Sir Pertinax, at a time when he was in his one hundredth year, with a vigour and a spirit that astonished every beholder.-His last attempt upon the stage was on the 7th of May, 1789, in the character of Shylock, for his own benefit. He went through the first act, but not being pleased with his own execution, and finding his incapacity increase upon him, and after making repeated but ineffectual efforts to overcome the stupor, which clouded his reason, he was obliged to come forwarsi, and apologize for the interruption that he had given the performance, and to request that Mr. Ryder might be permitted to finish his part.

• The company, with true British sympathy, accepted the change without hesitation, and the father of the British drama took his last and very affecting farewel of the stage, amidst the tears and thundering plaudits of a most crowded audience.'

We happened to be present ourselves at this very affecting last act of the veteran's theatrical life; and no tragedy that we had ever seen so oppressed our spirits as this inemento mori, this seeming departure of the soul from the body!

• Though Mr. Macklin had taken his final leave of the stage, it became no easy matter for him to lay aside all thoughts of it. He still occupied himself in revising and preparing his dramatic works for representation, and was a constant frequenter of the theatre. This practice he continued till within a very short time of his death.'


The following 70 pages are occupied by letters to his son ; who, from the little that was heard of him, must have been " without niark or likelihood.” With all the pains which Macklin had bestowed on his education, and the money and patronage which he expended in his favour, he seems to have been at once listless' and restless. He disappointed all his father's hopes of distinguishing and enriching himself in India as a merchant, and returned to Europe, without his permission, as poor as he went. He then entered on the study of the Law, at the Temple : but of that he soon became weary; and lastly, he obtained a commission in the army, in which, during the American war, he is said by Mr. K. to have distinguished himself: but we hear of him from no other quarter. On his return, his constitution seems to have been injured ; and he died at an early period of his life, without bequeathing to posterity any marks of the utility of his existence.

• The hand of time began now to make very visible impressions on the faculties of Mr. Macklin, whose debility of mind, and infirmity of body, were considerably increased by narrow, we had almost said indigent, circumstances. However, by the advice of his friends, ' his two plays, viz. The Man of the World, and Love-à-la-mode, were, under the superintendance of Mr. Murphy, first printed, and offered to the public by subscription ; when the large contributions of several illustrions and distinguished characters, the Literati, admirers and professors of the drama, amounted to upwards of 1500l. which sum, under the direction of Dr. Brocklesby, John Palmer Esq. and Mr. Longman, trustees, was laid out (in conformity to the proposals, which had been made to the public) in the purchase of an annuity of 200l. for Mr. Macklin, and 751. for Mrs. Elizabeth Macklin, his wife, in case she survived him. This comfortable provision seemed to revive the old man's drooping spirits, and had an amazing effect upon his faculties.

His mind became easy and tranquil, and his memory grew better. This subscription reflects the highest credit on British benerolence, and the list of subscribers, that is prefixed to the printed plays, will go down to posterity, as a noble record of the subscribers' bounty, and the actor's merit.'

No part of this work is more curious and interesting, than the account which the author gives of the melancholy effects of extreme old age on the mental retention of this memcrable Struldbrug of the stage, in the year before Time allowed the dart of Death to be thrown.

• Three weeks before his death, he took very little sustenance; but, what is not a little remarkable, his mental faculties returned, to an astonishing degree. He knew every body that visited him, and he heard, saw, understood, and conversed, without the least difficulty. On the 11th July, 1797, he got up, washed himself in warm gin, lay down again, and, after having conversed with Mrs. Macklin with great tranquillity, in about an hour he exclaimedlet me go! let me go! laid himself backward, and expired without a groan.


« Hc

[ocr errors]

• He was born on the ist of May, 1690, and died at the advanced age of 107 years, two months, and ten days.'

Mr. Kirkman’s zeal and friendship have kept back nothing that could redound to the honour and fame of his relation. We have now an account of his funeral, and an elaborate character of him as a man, a comic writer, a husband, a parent, and a friend, in the true style of a monumental inscription. His biographer, or rather panegyrist, determined not to "draw his frailties from their dread abode,” has made him all perfection !

A description of his extraordinary manner of living, which his great longevity has rendered interesting, is also given; and, in the appendix, we have a list of Mr. Macklin's dramatic works, consisting of six pieces; four of which were unsuccessful, and never printed. The other two, Love-à-la-mode, and The Man of the World, which are printed, never failed, during his performance in them, to attract a crowded audience, and to receive very just applause.—To this enumeration of his productions, is added a list of the characters which he performed while he trod the stage, amounting to upwards of 160.

The memory of Mr. K. cannot be deemed deficient : for he remembers his anecdotes so well as to repeat them two or three times. In the first vol. p. 264, speaking of the great applause which M. received when he first appeared in Shylock, he says :

• In the dumb action of the trial scene he was amazingly descriptive; and, through the whole, displayed such unequalled merit, as justly entitled him to that very comprehensive, though concise, compliment paid him by Mr. Pope, who sat in the stage-box, on the third night of the representation, and who emphatically exclaimed

« This is the Jew

That Shakspeare drew.” In the 2d vol. p. 427, the same tune is again played, with variations.

. Several years before his death, Mr. Macklin happened to be in a large company of ladies and gentlemen, among whom was the celebrated Mr. Pope. The conversation having turned upon Mr. Macklin's age, one of the ladies addressed herself to Mr. Pope, in words to the following effect :-“ Mr. Pope, when Macklin dies, you must write his epitaph.”-“ That I will, Madam,” said Pope; "nay, I will give it to you now:

Here lies the few

That Shakespeare drew." The whole company highly approved of this Epitaph, and Mr. Macklin has often related this anecdote in our hearing with great slee; and a more jest, comprehensive, and concise inscription never was writtene

[ocr errors]

This epitaph, or impromptu, ascribed to Pope, is a two-edged sword: as it at once paints the actor and the man. Indeed, we know not whether he was as sordià as vulgar Jews are supposed to be, but we believe that his tender feelings for such Christe ians as he disliked were of the same sort.

We are willing to allow to Macklin his due portion of professional merit, which was certainly very considerable, though much more confined than he was willing to allow. We do not remember that he succeeded in any character which bespoke a good heart, except Bert, and Sir Hugh Evans. Sir Francis Wronghead's simplicity and folly he represented very well : but in tragedy, he never could gain cordial and hearty applause in any one character. Macbeth and Richard he not only thought he could represent better than Garrick, but he insisted on the town thinking so too: the town, however, knew that envy and presumption were the stimuli to these attempts, and it was with great unwillingness that he was ever heard. He never could obtain a hearing in Lear. His theories were specious, and imposed on young actors: but neither his own declamation, nor that of any of his pupils, ever succeeded in serious parts. His uncommon longevity latterly excited a respect and a reverence for his opinions, to which the world would not have subscribed in antecedent times, before oblivion had veiled the évents of the earlier years of his life.

Of the merit of these Memoirs, we have incidentally given our opinion already, by detecting inaccuracies in facts, dates, and language, and violations of impartiality. We could still point out others : but the article is already extended to such a length, that the additional space which we can afford shall be chiefly appropriated to an indication of the most agreeable parts of the work, to those of our readers who may be curious to know more of this celebrated Comedian's life than they have already learnt.

Imprimis, we must inform them that there is a very good print of Macklin facing the title-page.

The account of his first performance of Sl.glock is amusing, and (we believe) tolerably accurate : as is that of Barry's first appearance in Othello.

Dr. Johnson's admirable Prologue on Garrick becoming patentee and manager of Drury-Lane theatre, though often printed before, will always be read with pleasure. There is also inserted a good Prologue, which was spoken by Macklin on his return to Drury-Lane after a quarrel and a long absence ;-and a farewel Epilogue on quitting the theatre to open a tavern.

The materials of the second vol. seem to be much more inte. resting than those of the first; but Macklin's inveterate hatred



of Garrick, and his biographer's distortion of every narrative in which Mr. G. has any concern, will be offensive to a great part of the nation whom his talents had delighted on the stage, and whom his wit and humour had enlivened in society.

The history of Macklin's undertaking to play tragedy at Co. vent-Garden, of the riots which it occasioned, and of the trial of the rioters, we have already described as entertaining, and as instructive to young men of spirit and of turbulent dispositions; since it will enable them to judge how far they may proceed in damning a play, or in pelting an offending actor off the stage, provisionally, with impunity; and what it will cost to form a party to drive him thence entirely for the rest of his life.

The character of Mrs. Macklin, the last wife of our hero, and her behaviour to him in every situation until his last sigh, note withstanding the great disparity in their age, are extremely praiseworthy, and are well recorded ;-and the account of the decay of his faculties, and of its effects on his memory, is (as we have before said) very curious and interesting. We should have made some citations from this part, but were obliged to desist by the consideration of the length of this article ; to which we now put a period.

[ocr errors]

Art. XIV. The British Cabinet : containing Portraits of illustrious

Personages, engraved from original Pictures ; with Biographical Memoirs. By John Adolphus, F.S. A. Vol. I. Large 4to.

2l. 2s. Boards. Harding. 1799. IT T is certainly a pleasing employment to contemplate the

portraits of eminent characters; for it is in some measure similar to being introduced to their acquaintance, and we had almost said enjoying their conversation :- but the degree of this pleasure depends on the celebrity of the persons represented, on the likeness exhibited, and on the excellence of the painter's performance. Where the character is highly distinguished, the resemblance powerful, and the artist deservedly illustrious, then our satisfaction is complete. Our curiosity, on the other hand, is faintly excited, and our gratification proportionably small, if “ names ignoble, born to be forgot,” are the objects; or if the painter's or the engraver's task has been indifferently executed.

Of the present publication, the author thus speaks in his Preface:

• The British Cabinet is presented to the public as a collection comprising portraits of persons illustrious either for birth, actions, or acquirements, of whom a memorial is preserved in the volumes of history and biography, but no respectable or authentic portraits have been perpetuated by engraving.

• Collections

« AnteriorContinua »