Page images
PDF
EPUB

He was soon versed in all the intricacies of the Italian conversation pieces and finales, and acquired the reputation upon the continent, of being an excellent tenor.'-— Boaden, vol. i. pp. 350, 351.

Thus accomplished he easily came to take a distinguished lead in the musical world, and his line connected him in a like degree with the various theatres. True it is that fortune was humorous and did not always smile upon Michael, though he courted her in every possible shape. He gives a very diverting account of his pursuits and the emoluments which attended them, in a dialogue betwixt him and the Commissioners of the income-tax, a set of gentlemen eminent some years since for the interest they took in prying into the concerns of other folks.

Mr. Kelly, in the pride of his heart, had reported his income as amounting to £500 yearly; but the unreasonable commissioners were not contented, and urged that his various employments must bring him twice or thrice that annual sum. The push and parry are as well maintained as between Tilburina and her father in the Critic.

“ Sir," said I, “I am free to confess I have erred in my return; but vanity was the cause, and vanity is the badge of all my tribe. I have returned myself as having 5001. per annum, when, in fact, I have not five hundred pence of certain income.”

Pray, sir," said the commissioner, are you not stage-manager of the Opera-house?"

Yes, sir,” said I; “ but there is not even a nominal salary attached to that office; I perform its duties to gratify my love of music.'

“Well, but, Mr. Kelly," continued my examiner, "you teach ?" “I do, sir,” answered I;

“ but I have no pupils. * I think,” observed another gentleman, who had not spoken before, " that you are an oratorio and concert singer?”

You are quite right,” said I to my new antagonist; “but I have no engagement."

Well, but at all events,” observed my first inquisitor, "you have a very good salary at Drury Lane."

" A very good one, indeed, sir," answered I; - but then it is never paid."

you

bave always a fine benefit, sir,” said the other, who seemed to know something of theatricals.

Always, sir,” was my reply; " but the expenses attending it are very great, and whatever profit remains after defraying them, is mortgaged to liquidate debts incurred by building my saloon. The fact is, sir, I am at present very like St. George's Hospital, supported by voluntary contributions; and have even less certain income, than I felt sufficiently vain to return." :-Kelly, vol. ii. pp.

189191. Well done, Michaela brace, brave et demi-We see the dismayed commissioners gazing on each other with dejected and

embarrassed

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

« But

embarrassed aspects, while Mike walks out of the room humming the motivo of some meditated composition—CANTAVIT VACUUS.

To be sure this was being in the case of the conjurer who could devour any quantity of fire, but was unable to procure bread to eat. But it is explained by the connection of Kelly as a composer with the celebrated Sheridan.

That comet of eccentric genius was Kelly's patron friend, sometimes partner, and often companion; and how could he thrive, in a worldly sense, with such a principal? The senator and statesman was continually bringing the poor composer into scrapes by his utter neglect of economy, and hitching him out again by ingenuity such as none but he possessed. Some of his tricks on Kelly were, however, sufficiently harmless. On one occasion, to adorn some burletta, Kelly bad to sing a song, which Sheridan was to introduce by a speech; and the actor requested, as a particular favour, Iris part might be as short as possible. This jumped with Sheridan's humour, and the speech was accompanied by a stage-direction, enjoining Kelly to gaze for a moment at a cottage in the distance, and to proceed thus ;

Here stands my Louisa's cottage--and she must be either in it or out of it. The audience were much amused at this sublime and solitary speech.--vol. ii. p. 63. Some other good jokes passed betwixt the wit and the melodist. When Kelly had a dangerous fall on the stage, Sheridan alleged that he exclaimed * And if I had been killed now, who was to maintain me for the rest of my life?' Though he allowed his friend the confusion of ideas commonly imputed to the Green Isle, he would not permit him to possess its dialect: for one night, when Kelly performed an Irish character, Sheridan called to compliment him upon his excellent English. On another occasion Sheridan was to have an audience, on theatrical business, of the late king, for which purpose his present Majesty condescended to propose carrying him down at an appointed hour to Windsor. In order that Sheridan might be near Carlton-house, and sure of keeping his appointment at twelve next day, Kelly, retiring to sleep in the country, gave up his own bed in Pall Mall to his patron. But, unluckily, Sheridan detected in Michael's pantry a cold neck of mutton, together with a comfortable reserve of five bottles of port, two of Madeira, and one of brandy, all which he cousumed with a brace of jolly companions, and, busied with poor Kelly's good cheer, quite neglected, and indeed incapacitated himself for the purpose for which he had borrowed his lodging.--vol. ii.225. A still more severe joke was his subjecting Kelly to be arrested for an upholsterer's bill with which he had no personal concern. But Sheridan on this occasion did his friend ample justice. He

not

Q 39

bot only persuaded the upholsterer to release Kelly, but, to punish the citizen for his unjust and ungenerous arrest, he borrowed two hundred pounds of him.

One more extraordinary anecdote of this singular compound of genius and carelessness, and we have done.

Pizarro was brought forward as the stay and prop of Drury; all the boxes were bespoke and the scenery prepared ; and still Kelly had not been supplied with one word of the songs for which he was to compose music, and the half-distracted composer dunned the bard in vain. - Some hope was afforded by a summons at ten o'clock one evening, when Sheridan carried him off from a choice party just at the sweetest hour of the night, but it was only to show him the Temple of the Sun, through the vapours of a large bowl of negus which the bard had planted in the critics' row of the empty pit. At length they got to work and a curious process it was." * Here,' said Sheridan, I design a procession of the virgins of the sun, with a solemn hymn.' Kelly sung a bar or two suitable for the occasion. :.' He (Sheridan) then made a sort of rumbling noise with his voice, (for he had not the slightest idea of turning a tune,) resembling a deep, gruff bow, wow, wow; but though there was not the slightest resepblance of an air in the noise he made, yet so clear were his ideas of effect, that I perfectly understood his meaning, though conveyed through the medium of a bow, wow, wow.'—Kelly, vol. ii. pp. 145, 146.

Cora's song Sheridan did supply; and Kelly got some songwright to do the rest after the ideas which he had collected from these · bow, wow, wows. By the way, the choral hymn of these same virgins, vol. i. p. 193., the same which in Peeping Tom is set to the words of Pretty Maud, is erroneously termed by Mr. Kelly a Scotch air. It is an English ballad of the reign of George I., on the catastrophe of the celebrated pirate, beginning

• My name is Captain Kidd,

When I saild, when I sail'd, &c.' At last, while Pizarro was in the act of being performed, all that was written of the play was actually rehearsing, and incredible as it may appear, until the end of the fourth act, neither Mrs. Siddons, nor Charles Kemble, nor Barrymore, bad all their speeches for the fifth! Mr. Sheridan was up stairs in the prompter's room, where he was writing the last part of the play, while the earlier parts were acting; and every ten minutes he brought down as much of the dialogue as he bad done, piecemeal, into the green-room, abusing himself and his negligence, and making a thousand winning and soothing apologies, for bave ing kept the performers so long in such painful suspense.'-Kelly, vol. ii. pp. 146, 147 Talk after this of being hunted with privter's devils, with! copy, sir--the press stands ;' pshaw.

There

more

There are good anecdotes of many literary characters in this amusing miscellany. Some mistakes there must be : such, for example, is the statement that Mr. Lewis, author of the Monk, was poisoned by two favourite negroes, to whom he had bequeathed their liberty, and who became impatient for their legacy. That aniable, though odd man, died of sea-sickness as he returned from visiting his estate in the West Indies,* where it is most certain he had exerted himself to improve the condition of his slaves. The disease was aggravated by bis persisting in a fatal opinion of his own, that taking emetics would remove the nausea.

There is a very diverting account of a party at Mr. Cumberland's, near Tunbridge, with Jack Bannister, how the veteran read the Men of Mirth, a new play, instead of opening a fresh bottle; how Kelly fell asleep during the reading; and what effect bis snoring produced on the sensitive verves of the poet; with nuch more to the same purpose.

Mr. Kelly's style of story-telling is smart and lively, a little protracted now and then, as will happen to a professed narrator. In point of propriety we have only one stricture to make : the author ought to have spared us his sentimental lamentation over poor Mrs. Crouch; it is too much in the line of Kotzebue morality. We never wish to press ourselves into the private in trigues and arrangements of public performers, but the joys or sorrows which attend such connections must not be blazoned as matters of public sympathy. There is bad taste in doing so. Mr. Kelly has told us many good stories, we beg to requite him with one of Northern growth. A young man in the midland counties of Scotland, boorishly educated and home-bred, succeeded in due time to his father's estate, and, as the lairdship was considerable, began to be looked on as desirable company in the houses of those prudent matrons who have under their charge one, or more than one,

“ Penniless lass, wi' a lang pedigree." One of this class, a lady of considerable rank, was, in the intervals of a formal entertainment, endeavouring to make the wealthy young cub a little more at ease by the ordinary jokes on his celibacy, and exhortations to take a wife with all speed. The interest which her ladyship seemed to take in the matter induced the sapient youth to explain his ideas of domestic convenience in these emphatic words, drawled out in the broad Angus dialect, without the least sense of impropriety, ' Na, my Jeddy ; wives is

* • I would give many a sugar-cane
Monk Lewis were alive again.'.
Lord Byron (MS.).

fashious

fashious bargains--but I keep a missie.' We leave the application to the Signior Kelly.

A variety of persons are mentioned in Kelly's Memoirs, whose public exhibitions have given an hour of pleasure to conelude the human day of care, and who in their private capacity have enlightened the social circle, and afforded gravity itself a good excuse for being out of bed at midnight. Of these some are still labouring in their old walk; Liston, for example, whose face is a comedy; and whose mere utterance makes a jest out of dullness itself; and Charles Mathews, driven from the public stage to make way for puppets and pageants, and compelled to exert his talents, so extraordinary for versatility and inexhaustible resource, in making his own fortune instead of enriching the patentees. Others enjoy a well-won independence in the quiet shade of retirement. There is Jack Bannister, honest Jack, who in private character, as upon the stage, formed so excellent a representation of the national character of Old England-Jack Bannister, whom even foot-pads could not find it in their heart to injure.* There he is, with his noble locks now as remarkable when covered with snow as when their dark honours curled around his manly face, singing to his grand-children the ditties which used to call down the rapture of crowded theatres in thunders of applause. There is the other Jack too, who discriminated every class and character of his coun: trymen, with all the shades which distinguish them, from the highbred Major O’Flanagan down to Looney Mac Twolter-he too enjoys otium cum dignitate. The recollection of past mirth has in it something sorrowful; the friends with whom we have shared it are gone ; and those who promoted the social glee must feel their powers of enlivening decrease as we feel ours become less susceptible of excitement. Others there are mentioned in these

pages whom our dim eyes seek in vain;' their part has been played ; the awful curtain has dropped on them for ever.

Art. XI. - The History of England, from the Invasion of

Julius Cæsar to the Revolution of 1688. By David Hume,

Esq. New Edition. London. 1825. WHATEVER opinions may be entertained respecting the

faith which ought to be placed in a modern narrative of ancient history, there is, generally speaking, hardly any doubt concerning the truth of the materials from whence the composition

* This distinguished performer and best of good fellows was actually stopped one. evening by two foot-pads, who recognizing in his person the general favourite of the English audience, begged his pardon and wished himn good night. Horace's wolf was a jokc to this.

« PreviousContinue »