Imatges de pÓgina

So many

soon released from durance by the kindly enterprise and energy. Occasionally, howintervention of Lord Chancellor Thurlow, ever, his passion for speculation ended diswhose daughters Astley had taught riding. astrously. He attempted to establish Subsequently the chancellor was instru- floating baths in the Thames off Westmental in obtaining a license for Astley's minster, and with this view constructed a Amphitheatre, and the magistrates saw fit covered vessel of enormous proportions. to sanction the opening of the Royal Circus. This great bathing machine, however, The two theatres now entered upon a course found little favour-it was not a washing of rivalry of a most active kind.

generation. After a few years the scheme Astley, jealous of his “ birthright,” as he was abandoned, and the floating bath was wont to consider his precedence in broken up and sold for firewood. On the establishing an amphitheatre on the Surrey king's birthday he gave a grand display of side of the Thames, now followed the ex- fireworks from barges moored in the centre ample of the Royal Circus, and added a of the Thames off Lambeth. stage to his ring. He embellished his accidents resulted from this exhibition that house after a new fashion, painting the it was in time abandoned. In lieu of it he interior to resemble foliage, and gave the established a boat-race, and gave a wherry theatre the new name of the Royal Grove. as a prize to the winner. He was an exA substantial roof now protected the circus pert swimmer, and one day for a wager or riding-school. The timber employed in floated on his back in the Thames from this improvement he obtained on very Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars, with a moderate terms. In those days, after a flag erect in each hand. Westminster election, it was the privilege The French Revolution hindered for of the mob to pull down and appropriate some time his performances in Paris. His the planks and poles that had composed amphitheatre was converted into barracks. the hustings in Covent Garden. Astley After the peace of Amiens, however, he announced his willingness to purchase these prosecuted his claims before the First materials, and was soon the possessor of a Consul, regained possession of his premises, sufficient supply.

and obtained rent for the whole period of During the intervals of his seasons at their occupancy by the troops of the Revothe Royal Grove, Astley carried his troupe lution. of equestrians and voltigeurs to Dublin He had previously resumed his old proand Paris, and established amphitheatres fession, and served on the Continent in the in both those cities. In Paris he originated army of the Duke of York. And the the cirque known to modern times as Fran- veteran trooper had anew distinguished coni's. It was in 1786 that young Astley himself. In a retreat, by a spirited had the honour of exhibiting his feats of manquvre, he had recaptured a piece of strength and agility in the presence of the ordnance, drawn by four horses, which the Court of Versailles. The king and queen, French were carrying away. The royal much impressed with his skill as an eques- commander, greatly pleased, straightway trian, his grace of port and symmetry of gave him the four horses as a reward for figure, presented him with a gold medal his activity. Astley immediately sold the || set with diamonds, and surnamed him the steeds by auction on the field, and expended English Rose, in allusion to the title of the the proceeds in refreshments for the comFrench Rose, which had been bestowed rades of his troop. upon that most renowned of male dancers, On the 16th of August, 1794, the Royal the elder Vestris. In Paris, however, Grove Theatre was burnt to the ground. Astley brought upon himself the interfe- The duke, reading an account of the fire in rence of the police. His endeavour to erect the newspapers, at once gave Astley leave a stage was met by a prohibition at the in- of absence to return home, and, if possible, stance of a M. Nicolai, the proprietor of a retrieve his heavy loss. With extraordirival entertainment. But Astley discomfited nary activity he set to work to rebuild his opposition by so contriving that his stage house in Lambeth, and meanwhile engaged rested upon the backs of sixteen horses, the old Lyceum Theatre for equestrian perharnessed, tackled, and arranged after a formances. On Easter Monday, 1795, he plan of his own. Upon this platform he was enabled to open a new Amphitheatre could exhibit such feats and tricks as seemed of Arts greatly superior in size, elegance, good to him, while the entertainment was and convenience to his former house. He still within the terms of his license to pre- now advanced the rate of charges for adsent equestrian performances only. mission, and ventured upon performances !

The man's life was one of unremitting of a more pretentious character. On the



score of his military achievements, he obe involved a loss of thirty thousand pounds, tained the patronage both of the Prince of which little more than a sixth was of Wales and the Duke of York, and in covered by insurance. Very shortly after 1798 was permitted, for the first time, to his return, however, Astley laid the first bestow upon his establishment the title of stone of a new building, which was comAstley's Royal Amphitheatre. After the pleted in sufficient time to open on Easter peace he acquired great popularity by ad- Monday, 1804. He was his own architect, mitting soldiers of all ranks gratis to his and supervised the works unceasingly. performances, and providing special seats “ Early or late, hail, rain, frost, snow, or adjoining the orchestra for their accommo- sunshine impeded him not.

There he was, dation. The audience crowded the theatre drilling the men at their work, as if he had merely to look at the troops fresh from been training a regiment of soldiers for the the war, and a spectacle of the Siege of rigid duties of a winter's campaign.” So Valenciennes, produced with great com- writes a member of his company. pleteness, attracted all London. It may be Astley now retired from active interest added that, previous to the real siege, in the control of the establishment, still reAstley had been of service to the govern ceiving, however, one clear half of the ment in superintending the shipping of the annual profits. The other half went to horses of the artillery from Greenwich and young Astley, who was manager, and had Woolwich. When King George and his for partners Messrs. Parker, Hardy, Crosssons returned from witnessing the disem- man, Smith, and Davis, who had probably barkation of the victorious army, they found the capital requisite for the reconpassed the doors of the amphitheatre, and struction of the theatre. But the elder received the salute of its manager, attired equestrian could not long endure to be in the Windsor uniform, and mounted upon idle. He was old, bent, and grey, had a splendidly caparisoned charger.

grown very rotund of figure, and suffered “Who is that, Frederick ?” asked the severely at times from the wound he had

received in his youth. Still he felt there " Mr. Astley, sir,” explained the Duke of was life in him yet. He could not hope to York; “one of our good friends—a vete- present himself any more in the circus as ran-one that fought in the German war.” a performer, but the career of a manager

Thereupon the sovereign bowed in his was still open to him. Why should he not most gracious manner to the equestrian. establish a new amphitheatre on the MidAstley's delight was extreme. For days dlesex side of the Thames? He obtained he could say nothing to his friends but, a sixty years lease, from the Earl of Craven, “The king bowed specially to me. What of a shapeless piece of ground in Wychdo you think of that, my dear boy?” street, Strand, which had recently been

But the brief peace brought great peril cleared by the removal of a rookery of unand fresh troubles to Astley. He was in savoury tenements, and set to work to Paris on the eve of the issue of the build the Olympic Pavilion. Some old famous decree for the detention of all Eng- naval prizes being then on sale, he purlish subjects in France. News reached chased the timber of a French man-of-war him that his amphitheatre had again been (he always described the vessel as the destroyed by fire. A passport could not Wheel de Parry'), and with the masts, possibly be procured. He feigned illness, yards, and bowsprit, he formed the main and obtained permission to proceed to props and supports of his new playhouse. Montpellier to drink the waters. From Seated in his one-horse chaise, barely thence, accompanied by two of his nieces, spacious enough to contain his redundant he journeyed to the frontier, and by con- portliness, he was in attendance day after stantly exhibiting a brace of pistols he day, directing his workmen, and, with his compelled the postilion to force his horses old vehemence, urging on the completion to their topmost speed. The frontier of the building. There was little brickcrossed, he proceeded more leisurely to work, the interior being in the form of a Frankfort, where he learned of the death tent, and the roof of tin. The accommodaof his wife. From Frankfort he journeyed tion for the audience consisted of one tier of north, and at length was able to take ship boxes and a pit, in the rear of which was for England. His safe arrival excited the what was called the gallery, separated from greatest surprise. His friends had all con- the pit by iron chains. The theatre, which cluded that he was one of the unfortunates cost him eight hundred pounds only, was made prisoners under the Milan decree. opened to the public in 1806, under a

The second burning of the amphitheatre license obtained through the influence of

Queen Charlotte, for “music, dancing, chapel. There could be no question of the burlettas, pantomime, and equestrian ex- fact, for upon hearing a peculiar clicking hibitions."

together of the nails of the forefinger and The undertaking proved a disastrous thumb-one of the signs or sounds Astley failure. Let him present what attractions had always employed in training his studhe might—even to the sparring exhibitions Billy had pricked up his ears, pranced and of Dutch Sam, and other famous pugilists dauced in a very remarkable manner. The --the public could not be induced to recognition was mutual. Billy's present patronise Astley's Middlesex Amphitheatre. proprietor was well content to part with After losing ten thousand pounds, he de- him at a very moderate price, " for,” as he termined, in 1813, to dispose of it. "We'll explained, " though he's the best-tempered throw the bone, Johnny,” he said to his creature breathing, yet sometimes he does son, “and let the dogs fight for it. Some cut such very rum capers that we calls him one will snap at it.” Elliston became the the Mountebank.” Forthwith Billy was purchaser of the Olympic Pavilion for a restored to his friends; all was forgiven, sum of two thousand eight hundred pounds, and he reappeared in the circus as though and the grant of a small annuity during he had never been absent from it, made the life of Astley. There was but one tea, went through all his “business," and payment of the annuity. On the 20th of so continued to do for many years, dying October, 1814, aged seventy-two, Astley at last of sheer old age, universally redied at his house adjoining the Amphi- spected and regretted. theatre in Paris, and was interred in the But a steed even more famous than cemetery of Père la Chaise. His son, Billy was Astley's charger, the Spanish " Young Astley," to whom he had be- Horse, given him by General Elliott after queathed the interest arising from his the German war. The Spanish Horse somewhat encumbered property, survived could perform all Billy's tricks and more; seven years only, dying in Paris in the could ungirth his own saddle, wash his own same house," the same bed, and the same feet in a pail of water, and, as some allege, bed-room,” says one exact biographer-in even curry-comb himself. The Spanish 1821. The son was laid beside his father Horse is reputed to have lived to the in Père la Chaise.


age of forty-two. When his teeth Philip Astley was undoubtedly the best failed him, he subsisted upon a daily allowhorse-tamer of his time, and as a judge of ance of two half-quartern loaves. Even what may be called “trick horse-flesh," he after death he served the theatre of which has perhaps never been equalled. He ge- he had long been a main ornament and nerally obtained his stud from Smithfield, support. His hide was tanned and made caring, as he said, "little for shape, make, into a thunder drum, “which," writes an or colour; temper was the only considera- intimate friend of the deceased, “was tion.” He rarely gave more than five placed on the prompt side of the orchestra, pounds for each. For this price he had and when its rumbling sounds died on the obtained his accomplished horse Billy, ears of those who knew the circumstances, a great popular favourite, playful as a it served to their recollection as a parting kitten with those he knew, and deeply knell.” The thunder drum probably went versed in all the learning of the circus. the


theatrical properties.

It Billy could fire off pistols, take a tea-kettle must have perished in 1841-if it survived off a blazing fire, lay the cloth, arrange cups so long—when for a third time Astley's and saucers, and invite the clown to tea. amphitheatre was totally consumed by fire. All agreed that he could do everything but It has been said that Astley was unedutalk. But one day Billy was arrested by cated, and it may be added that he was a the sheriff, not on account of any extrava- man of somewhat violent temper. gance of his own, but owing to the miscon- energetic nature was wont to find expresduct of a groom, one Saunders, to whom he sion in very intemperate language. But had been lent. Saunders had been many time out of mind fierce words and commiyears in Astley's employ, and had borrowed natory expletives have been considered inBilly to exhibit him by way of private dispensable to the due carrying on of the speculation. This terminated in the prison business of the stage. He was a very ment of Saunders in the Fleet, and the despot in his theatre. He had the reputasale of Billy to the highest bidder. For tion of applying his whip indiscriminately three years the favourite was lost sight of. to his biped and quadruped players. Accidentally two of Astley's “riders” dis- haps it was only to the last named he recovered Billy drawing a cart in White-ferred, however, when he said to Mr. Harris,


Do you

the manager of Covent Garden, who had “Strange," said Mr. Delabole, laying complained of the insubordination of his aside the newspaper, and advancing tocompany, “Why don't you serve your per- wards the rack, *that I did not notice this formers as I do mine? Never let 'em have last night. It must have been there, but I anything to eat till they've done acting.” must have overlooked it in my eagerness When told by his master-carpenter that it to get at Irving's reply. From my dear would be impossible to produce a new play Philip, eh! Now, what can he want ?” he by the time he had fixed for its perform- muttered, as he tore open the envelope and ance, he demanded angrily, “Who's Mr. hastily perused its contents. Impossible, sir? I don't know him. I Mr. Delabole's eyebrows, at first upnever heard of him. He don't live in this lifted, then contracted, betokened astonishhouse, sir! and he never shall ! Go to ment and dissatisfaction at what he read. your work!"

He was obeyed, and the “Two or three days away from London, piece was duly forthcoming at the stated and he's to be married to-morrow week, date.

think you are dealing with and to travel for at least a month. What your horses ?” John Kemble asked him can take him away just now? You're a once, with superb scorn, when a dispute slippery customer, Master Philip,” conhad arisen in regard to the rent to be paid tinued Mr. Delabole, shaking his head as for the Liverpool Theatre, the property of he apostrophised his absent friend, "a very the tragedian, which Astley had hired for slippery customer! And yet what a clever a season. “D-n you, sir!" cried Astley, fellow! What an admirable notion that hotly, “and do you think you are going to was of getting Asprey to insist on old play Richard the Third over me !" But, Heriot's people keeping from the invalid with all his peremptory speech and rough- all letters and telegrams, anything touchness of manner, he seems to have been ing on business matters ! That secures affectionately regarded by the members of us from any chance of discovery during his company.

He was straightforward in the next few days, which are all important. his dealings with them, and had real con- Irving has now been informed that his sideration for their interests. Still it was friend has signed the memorandum of asnot advisable for them to run counter to sociation, thereby testifying to his belief in his opinions as a stage-manager. Of the the soundness of the concern. He will public he was certainly a most faithful ser- probably write or telegraph at once to vant, and laboured most assiduously for their Springside, but neither his letter nor his entertainment. And he succeeded in win- message will be shown to his friend. In ning a higher place in general regard for forty-eight hours, perhaps, in a week at equestrian performances than they had furthest, according to Asprey's idea, old ever previously attained. From first to Heriot will be dead. His illness will be last he constructed no fewer than nineteen sufficient excuse for his not having replied amphitheatres.

to his friend's inquiry, and Mr. Irving will

stand committed to the subscription of a CASTAWAY.

good round sum to prop the falling fortunes BY THE AUTHOR OF "BLACK SHEEP," "WRECKED IN

of the Terra del Fuegos mine.

“That cutting off the invalid from all communication with the ontside world was Vane’s idea, and the signature-how admir

ably it was done! but Master Philip must On the morning after the dinner given not think that I am paid in full, or that I by the directors of the Friendly Grasp In- intend to make no further use of that insurance Office, on the occasion of their formation which I was lucky enough to half-yearly audit

, at which Doctor Asprey obtain. Now that he has done what I reand Mr. Delabole had been present, the quire, he shall marry the widow without last-named gentleman, attired in a gorgeous any unpleasant suggestion on my part of dressing gown, now and then making a Miss What's-her-name, the actress, and the slight addition to his toilet, now and then Chepstow register. But when he returns taking stray snatches of breakfast from to town I shall have to talk to him like a the well-laden table, and all the time parent about the investment of Mrs. Benglancing at the newspaper which he carried dixen's sixty thousand pounds. Meanabout with him, suddenly saw the end of while, I wonder what can take him away a letter sticking out from the rack which just now? I will send for Gillman, andformed the usual receptacle for his corre- by Jove! I had forgotten it was Sunday !" spondence in his absence.

he cried, as the ringing of the church bells

PORT," &c. &c.



his ear;

broke upon

Sunday, when Gill- use," he would remark, “ of a policeman man is probably enjoying his domestic dressing up himself as a butcher or a cabfelicity at Camden Town, and would object man, or what not ? He don't get rid of his to being disturbed. However, I will send policeman's hands, does he ? he don't get for him to-morrow morning, and put him rid of his policeman's feet, does he ? You on the scent again.”

could swear to both of 'em anywhere, just Mr. Delabole's guess as to the manner as if they were in berlins and bluchers. in which Mr. Gillman was spending his Besides, if you don't want to be seen don't Sabbath was not entirely correct. In an show yourself, leastways to make any ordinary way Mr. Gillman was in the mark. • Did you see any one go by ?' perhabit of devoting himself to his family on haps they ask. "Yes,' says you, having a Sunday, and spending the morning in noticed, "I saw a butcher or a cabby.' No washing himself—a proceeding which, with one can tell what I am; all they could say him, was not daily but hebdomadal; getting is, “I saw a man, and not much of that rid of the growth of a straggling but stub- neither.'” born beard, putting on his Sunday suit, Mr. Gillman's companion, however-for consisting of swallow-tail black coat, rusty he was not alone-evidently did not enterblack trousers, and black satin waistcoat tain the same idea. When he first entered very much frayed at the pockets, and his the room, his wideawake hat was pulled Sunday shirt, which was exuberant in down over his brow, the collar of his coat waving collar and bulging breast, but fell was pushed up over his ear, and it was not short in the matter of wristband. Thus until he had looked round and ascertained, magnificently arrayed, Mr. Gillman, after without doubt, that they were quite alone, presiding over the one o'clock dinner, and that he emerged from his wrappings, and smoking a long clay pipe, as he indoc- showed the somewhat worn and anxious trinated himself with the politics of the features of Mr. Philip Vane. Sunday newspaper, and glowed with de- The conference between this worthy pair light as he read the fulminations of Brutus had been long, and, on Philip Vane's part, against a dissipated aristocracy, would take animated. He had asked his questions the children for a very wretched and impetuously, cogitated over the replies, melancholy walk, from which they would and expressed his determination with a all return draggled, and wearied, and cross ; vehemence which seemed to awake no reand Mr. Gillman would not recover his sponse in Mr. Gillman's quiet little frame. equanimity until, the children having been Drawing hieroglyphical figures with the duly slapped and sent to bed, he and Mrs. stem of the empty pipe on the beer-stained G. would settle down to a quiet “ bit of table before him, Mr. Gillman sat, speaksupper” and a glass of “ something hot,” ing only when he was spoken to, and then

which they would discuss their family packing his reply into the smallest possible and their neighbours until bedtime.

compass. This, however, was an extraordinary " And that was the last time


heard occasion. It was, indeed, one o'clock, of her ?” asked Philip Vane, after a pause and on Sunday; but instead of being at of some minutes' duration. home, dispensing portions of the baked "The very last,” replied Mr. Gillman. shoulder of mutton and the potatoes "Employed in the telegraph-office at swimming beneath it in a brown dish, Mr. Springside ?" Gillman was seated in an up-stairs room of “ Exactly; she and her sister got in the Dog and Duck at Mortlake, an un- there through the influence of a clergyman, touched glass of ale and a clean pipe on the name oftable before him. Mr. Gillman was in his “Never mind his name," interrupted working-day suit, which was merely a Vane, “I don't want that now. All this shabby repetition of his Sabbath garb, coincides exactly with my own ideas upon minus the black satin waistcoat. He was the subject.” engaged on a secret mission, and it was “I shall have a spare day or two this most important that he should not be re- week, Mr. V., I expect,” said Gillman, cognised; but though his whole life was " and I could run down to Springside if you passed in spying and dogging, in listening wish it, and—” and marking down, Mr. Gillman never · No, not the slightest occasion for you condescended to the adoption of disguise. to do that. You have brought the inquiry He had a very mean opinion of the detec. to a perfectly satisfactory conclusion. And tive police in general, and of their conduct there,” laying the note on the table, “are in such matters in particular. “What is the the ten pounds I promised you."


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