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contracted notions of tradespeople in provincial towns, who scrupled—he could not for the life of him surmise why-to give gentlemen in his line credit. His prospects, however, he said, were capital—if he only had £5 ; but the want of this insignificant sum prevented his reaching the metropolis and realizing a handsome fortune. Of this he did not entertain the slightest doubt. In fact, he assured me, that if he only had fair play, he would have been at the top of his profession, and wallowing in wealth long ago; because, as he pretty plainly hinted, there not being at present a man on the British stage (with the exception of himself), that could render full and complete justice to Shakespeare, there was little or nothing to prevent such a desirable consummation.
“Of course, you have seen my Macbeth ?” said he.
I confessed that I had not had that pleasure. Indeed, I was obliged to own that I was ignorant of even the name of the distinguished tragedian in whose company I had the honour to find myself.
“Name, my good sir, my professional name (at present) is Stanley Marmaduke Stanley-how do you like it? Noble name! fine associations !--Charge, Chester, charge-on Stanley, on!' and egad, I will on' as soon as I get those five pounds.”
“Professional name," quoth I, taken rather aback.
660 true! my real name--that is, the name my ancestors were contented to put up with, and obliging enough to transmit to me, was Wiggins !-actually Wiggins ! Think of that!—to which they had the excellent taste to prefix Timothy, in compliment to my Uncle, the barberTimothy Wiggios !-Hamlet by Timothy Wiggins! Good Heavens, sir, it was not to be endured. Could the great Garrick himself be resuscitated, and play Hamlet under the name of Wiggins, the critics would sneer, and the audience laugh at him.”
I cordially admitted that as far as euphony was concerned, Wiggins was not exactly the thing, and wishing to take at least a seeming interest in the fate of the said Wiggins, alias Stanley, inquired if he had any existing engagement.
“Why, yes,” said he, drawing up his collar, which being starchless, required some management to keep it in an upright position. sent lead in Weazle's company-little Nic Weazle's—a gentleman well known in these districts—and now performing at the temporary theatre in the neighbouring village of B
“ But Weazle, I presume, is like the rest of the managerial tribe-blind to merit, eh?”
“Why, not exactly. I must do him the justice to say, that he does appreciate me, and stands my friend as far as lies in his power.”
“ His power !—why, is he not manager-autocrat-supreme dictator?" Mr. Stanley laid his hand impressively on my shoulder.
Sir,” said he, in a troublous voice, and with a peculiar expression of countenance, which induced me to surmise that he must himself have been entrapped sometime or other in the share of matrimony; "sir, Weazle is a married man!”
I at pre
66 The devil
Alas! poor Weazle ! Now, you see, I happen to be disgracious in the eyes of Mrs. W. for sundry
In the first place, I have interfered more than once, when I certainly had no business, and prevented her beating her liege lord ; and secondly, I was the man that detected her affair with Brown, and informed Weazle of it.
6. Affair with Brown !"
Why, yes. The truth is—' frailty, thy name is woman!' Mrs. Weazle does not happen to be exactly • as pure as unsunded snow!'
• Chaste as the icicle
That hangs on Diana's temple.' You understand me? She despises Weazle, and suffers her eye' to hunt after new fancies !' Now, this Brown—a fellow that takes the seconds in tragedy, sings comic songs, plays Harlequin, paints scenes, and makes himself generally useful, has hit Mrs. Weazle’s fancy; and the anchaste virago takes every opportunity to elevate him and disparage me. Why, sir_but you will scarcely credit it—she actually wanted memme! (emphasizing every word)—to play Macduff to Browne's Macbeth !”
I was horror-stuck, of course; and, looking him incredulously in the face, exclaimed, “ Impossible !"
“Why, doubtless, it appears, so to you, and all the world”—(nearly all actors have an impression that the general business of the world is suspended when any squabble occurs among themselves, and some labour under this hallucination to an almost incredible extent)—"I knew you
would not-could not, believe it; but (rising from his seat, and laying his hand upon his heart) I do solemnly assure you, sir, upon my word and honour as a gentleman, such was really the fact !"
My countenance indicated that the world was coming to an end, but I faltered out compose yourself, my dear fellow.”
“I will try. Much-injured shade of Shakespeare-Browne's Macbeth !- Landlord, another bottle—and I indignantly spurned the damning degradation—she commanded Weazle to dismiss me!"
" And did he comply ?".
He must have done it—legally married-no choice you know; but, luckily, there happened to be a £3 penalty in the way in case of breach of covenants, which, of course, rendered the thing impossible."
66 Infamous woman !"
“Ay, you may say that—exceedingly infamous; and what is worse, ugly to boot-five feet eleven and a beard, besides being partial to liquor', as I am a tragedian! But that's not all—your health, sir—she now takes every opportunity of marring my points, and ruining my effects. It was only the other week we had to enact Hamlet. I, of course, was Hamlet, Well, you shall hear.' Weazle ought to have played first grave-diggerbut what does this incarnation of evil-Mrs. Weazle-do, but take advantage of her husbanu's partial intoxication-your especial good health.
sir !-to persuade him he would make a hit as the Ghost of Hamlet's father! I saw her design at once-it was to kill me !" “ Kill you !"
That is, professionally kill me; and I told Weazle so; and what do you think was the reward of my candour ?”
“We live in a base and ungrateful world, my dear sir—it is almost impossible to say."
“Why, the vain-glorious blockhead told me that I was not the only man of ability in the world—others, he flattered himself (he did flatter himself, indeed !) had talent—the Ghost had been too often entrusted to inferior actors, and he was determined the part should, for once, have justice done it! Justice !—Think, sir, of a shrimp of a fellow, scarcely five feet high, very asthmatic, with a crab-like shuffle in his gait, one leg being shorter than the other, and a voice like unto that of a penny trumpet, personating the buried majesty of Denmark!' How self-love will blind a man!—don't you think so ?”.
66 I do indeed. But did it turn out as you anticipated ?”
“Worse, sir, much worse! Why, as soon as the Spirit appeared, and I commenced (in capital voice) my Angels and ministers of grace, defend us !' there was a universal grin all over the house ; and when the trifling abortion went on to speak of his brother, whose natural gifts were poor to to those of his ! derisive cries of' Well done, Weazle !-bravo, little Weazle !' shook the theatre. All this, would you believe it, the misguided man took in good faith ! and has since talked of trying the part in London ! Well, this went on- - very pleasant, was it not ?-until he made his exit, sqneaking out, “Adieu, adieu, adieu ! remember me !' amid a tumult of noise and uproar which he calls applause. Now, this was excellent sport, and very agreeable, I dare say, to those who were enjoying themselves, but only imagine my situation! Can you conceive it, sir ? There was I standing gazing after my Father's Spirit with a countenance on which love, fear, pity, awe, horror, reverence, indignation, and amazement, were visibly depicted—and the whole house convulsed with laughter !"
6 Shameful ! shameful !!”
But what vexed me most was, that it entirely killed my attitude ! had taken some pains with it,-it was, in fact, supremely good, and I had made up my mind that it would produce a sensation ! I
of course, unwilling to change it until the audience had sufficiently recovered from their ill-timed mirth to be able to appreciate its elegance and originality. This they were in no hurry to do, and I remained standing in the same posture until an impatient bumpkin in the gallery bawled out, 'I say, Measter Hamlet, be'st goin' to speak or noa ?' This was rather too niuch, and so disconcerted me, that I forgot the text, but went on (appropriately enough) apostrophising the Spirit, Remember thee! ay, thou poor ghost !' and egad, I will not forget him in a hurry!"
But I am afraid I grow tiresome. It is a very different matter enjoying the good humoured detail of a gentleman's ludicrous distresses over a bottle, and coldly relating them to the public on paper. Suffice it to say, that we enjoyed each other's company mightily; and on his informing me, among other matters, that his “ benefit was fixed” for the ensuing week, when he proposed electrifying the inhabitants of Bwith his “Othello," I begged to know where tickets were to be secured. Upon this he produced from his pocket sundry pieces of card, on which were written, “ Mr. Stanley's Night-Boxes." Of these I took half-adozen, at two shillings each, paying the money for the same; the unexpected and unusual feel of which so elated the worthy tragedian, that he pressed me to walk towards the post road, where he could find an inn, and he would treat me to a beef-steak and a bottle of wine. This, however, I declined, and promising faithfully to sec him make his grand effort in the ensuing week, I shook hands and parted with the happiest and most amusing “ill-used gentleman” I had ever met with.
The Monday evening of the ensuing week saw me quietly ensconced in the stage box of the temporary theatre at B - It was a building used for all the great events which occured in that marvellous little town.
All sorts of mountebanks, jugglers, travelling portrait painters, equestrians, quacks, lecturers on elocution, and other birds of passage, hired it during their brief sojourn ; in it the B-Debating Society expended its weekly accumulation of eloquence ; divines of every persuasion, but without any stationary congregation, held forth beneath its sheltering and important roof; and in it the several Auxiliary Branch Societies of the district annually gathered themselves together. In times of great political excitement, however, its mere local notoriety was emerged in its astonishing national importance. Public meetings were held in it, to overave the government ; and it was well understood by the inhabitants of B-generally, and by the leading speakers especially, that the passage of many important measures lately was principally owing (though the government did not like to confess it) to the over-powering floods of declamation that had issued from this very edifice. At present it was in the hands of Weazle, who had selected it as an eligible place from whence to disseminate a knowledge of Shakespeare and the legitimate drama, over the surrounding district ; and, with the exception of the scenery, machinery, dresses, decorations, company, and orchestral department, the arrangements certainly did him credit.
It was a capital house. Nearly all the aristocracy of B-, consisting of the principal grocer, butcher, linen-draper, hatter, and publican, with their respective families, crowded the boxes with beauty and fashion ; whilst several farmers and farmeresses in the vicinity represented the agricultural interest. The rest of the audience consisted of the usual mis.. cellaneous contributions of a county district. Altogether there had not been such a house in B within the memory of the oldest play-going inhabitant; it contained upwards of £18 sterling, and the austere of the neighbourhood predicted that some signal calamity was certain to follow such a scene of gaiety and dissipation.
It is not my intention (did I possess the power) to systematically criticize the entertainments of the evening; parts of the performance seer
a very fair counterpart to the account furnished me of Hamlet; notwithstanding which, the audience maintained that grave and decorous demeanour which ought always to pervade a house on the representation of a tragedy. I cannot, however, refrain from a passing notice of the Othello and Desdemona of the evening, personated by my friend and Mrs. Weazle. I have seen Kean as the Moor, anıl though much gratified on the whole, candour compels me to say, in justice to an unknown great man, in many respects he was decidedly inferior to Wiggins—that is to say, Stanley. I know very little about such matters, but it appeared to me that Kean neither stamped nor tore his hair (wool) with half the fury, nor rolled his eyes about until nothing could be seen but the white, with one quarter the effect. In the celebrated scene touching the loss of the handkerchief, there was no comparison. Wiggings reiterated his demand for the handkerchief !”_5 the handkerchief !”_" the handkerchief !”— with a force, increasing the volume of his voice at each interrogation, of which Kean was physically incapable. Opinions may differ about shades of excellence, but facts are stubborn things; and it was ascertained that he was most distinctly heard by the village blacksmith on the opposite side of the street, during the operation of shoeing a horse. This speaks volumes. His exertions drew down thunders of applause, and proved among other things, that whatever might be the state of the pockets, prospects, or habiliments of the “ill-used gentleman,” his lungs, at least, were in excellent condition and free from the slightest taint of pulmonary affection.
In the more pathetic portions of the character, I cannot say that I felt tearfully inclined; but this I rather attribute to a want of becoming sensibility on my part, as the frequent application of white handkerchiefs to the eye, and adjacent features of sundry farmer's daughters and dressmakers, incontestibly proved that my friend knew how to move the waters. In short, to use the emphatic words of the judicious and discriminating critic of the “B—- Advertiser,” with whom Wiggins used to smoke his pipe and take his pot—"it was one of the most powerful, pathetic, terrific, and energetic performances ever witnessed on any stage in any age.”
of the Desdemona of Mrs. Weazle, I cannot speak so highly. The fact was, she was not exactly the figure for the part, being truly, as my friend had described her, “five feet eleven with beard.” She was, too, extremely stout in proportion even to her height, and had a stride like a grenadier's, so that she fairly put one in mind of the heroines of the gender masculine in the ancient time, when, in the words of an old poet, men acted
" That were between
When you call'd Desdemona-enter Giant !" She was, in good truth, a formidable looking lady; and as I gazed at her, I thought, despite his faults, with sorrow and commiseration of Mr. Weazle. In her earlier years, she might have had a waist, but at present such an article did not constitute a portion of her anatomy, so that there