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letter. What could be done? If I have not money, said I to myself, to pay for my discharge, I must find an equivalent some other way: and that must be by running away. I deserted, and that answered my purpose every bit as well as if I had bought my discharge.
“ Well, I was now fairly rid of my military employment; I sold my soldier's clothes, bought worse, and, in order, not to be overtaken, took the most unfrequented roads possible. One evening, as I was entering a village, I perceived a man, whom I afterwards found to be thé curate of the Parish, thrown from his horse in a miry road, and almost smothered in the mud. He desired my assistance; I gave it, and drew him out with some difficulty. He thanked me for my trouble, and was going off ; but I followed him home, for I loved always to have a man thank me at his own door. The curate asked an hundred questions; as, whose son I was; from whence I came; and whether I would be faithful. I answered him greatly to his satisfaction; and gave myself one of the best characters in the world for sobriety (Sir, I have the honour of drinking your health), discretion and fidelity. To make a long story short, he wanted a servant, and hired me. With him I lived but two months; we did not much like each other: I was fond of eating, and he gave me but little to eat; I loved a pretty girl, and the old woman, my fellow-servant, was ill-natured and ugly. As they endeavoured to starve mie between them, I made a pious resolution to prevent their committing murder; I stole the eggs as soon as they were laid; I emptied every unfinished bottle that I could lay my hands on ;, whatever eatable came in my way was sure to disappear ;- in short, they found I would not do; so I was discharged one morning, and paid three shillings and six-pence for two months wages.
“ While my money:was getting ready, I employed myself in making preparations for my departure : two
hens were hatching in an out-house; I went and habitually took the eggs, and not to separate the parents from the children, I lodged hens and all in my knapsack. After this piece of frugality, I returned to receive my money; and, with my knapsack on my back, and a staff in my hand, I bid adieu, with tears in my eyes, to my old benefactor. I had not gone far from the house, when I heard behind me the cry of Stop thief! but this only increased my dispatch ; it would have been foolish to stop, as I knew the voice could not be levelled at me. But hold—I think I passed those two months at the curate's without drinking. Come, the times are dry, and may
my poison, if ever I spent two more pious, stupid months in all
Well, after travelling some days, whom should I light upon but a company of strolling players? The moment I saw them at a distance, my heart warmed to them; I had a sort of natural love for every thing of the vagabond order : they were employed in settling their baggage, which had been overturned in a narrow way. I offered my assistance, which they accepted; and we soon became so well acquainted, that they took me as a servant. This was a paradise to me; they sung, danced, drank, eat, and travelled, all at the same time. By the blood of the Mirabels, I thought I had never lived till then ; I grew as merry as a grig, and laughed at every word that was spoken. They liked me as much as I liked them; I was a very good figure, as you see; and, though I was poor, I was not modest.
“I love a straggling life above all things in the world; sometimes good, sometimes bad ; to be warm to-day, and cold to-morrow; to eat when one can get it, and drink when (the tankard is out) it stands before
We arrived. that evening at Tenterden, and took a large room at the Greyhound; where we resolved to exhibit Romeo and Juliet, with the funeral procession, the grave, and the garden scene. Romeo was to be performed by a gentleman from the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane; Juliet by a lady who never appeared on any stage before; and I was to snuff the candles; all excellent in our way. We had figures enough, but the difficulty was to dress them. The same coat that served Romeo, turned with the blue lining outwards, served for his friend Mercutio; a large piece of crape sufficed at once for Juliet's petticoat and pall : a pestle and mortar from a neighbouring apothecary's, answered all the purposes of a bell; and our landlord's own family, wrapped in white sheets, served to fill up the procession. In short, there were but three figures among us that might be said to be dressed with any propriety : I mean the nurse, the starved apothecary, and myself. Our performance gave universal satisfaction: the whole audience were enchanted with our powers; and Tenterden is a town of taste.
• There is one rule by which a strolling player may be ever secure of success; that is, in our theatrical way of expressing it, to make a great deal of the character. To speak and act as in common life, is not playing; nor is it what people come to see: natural speaking, like sweet wine, runs glibly over the palate, and scarce leaves any taste behind it; but being high in a part resembles vinegar, which grates upon the taste, and one feels it while he is drinking. To please the town or country, the way is, to cry, wring, cringe into attitudes, mark the emphasis, slap the pockets, and labour like one in the falling sickness : that is the way to work-for applause, that is the way to
“ As we received much reputation for our skill on this first exhibition, it was but natural for me to ascribe part of the success to myself: I snuffed the candles, and, let me tell you, that, without a candle-snuffer, the piece would lose half its embellishments. In this manner we continued a fortnight, and drew tolerable houses; but the evening before our intended departure, we gave out our very best piece, in which all our strength was to be exerted. We had great expectations from this, and even doubled our prices; when, behold, one of the principal actors fell ill of" a violent fever. This was a stroke like thunder to our little company; they were resolved to go, in a body, to scold the man for falling sick at so inconvenient a time, and that, too, of a disorder that threatened to be expensive : I seized the moment, and offered to act the part myself in his stead. The case was desperate; they accepted my offer; and I accordingly sat down, with the part in my hand, and a tankard before me (Sir, your health), and studied the character, which was to be rehearsed the next day, and played soon after,
“I found my memory excessively helped by drinking : I learned my part with astonishing rapidity, and bid adieu to snuffing candles ever after. I found that Nature had designed me for more noble employments, and I was resolved to take her when in the humour, We got together in order to rehearse, and I informed my companions, masters now 'no longer, of the surprising change i felt within me. Let the sick man, said I, be under no uneasiness to get well again ; I'll fill his place to universal satisfaction; he may even die if he thinks proper; I'll engage that he shall never be missed. I rehearsed before them, strutted, ranted, and received applause. They soon gave out that a new actor of eminence was to appear, and immediately all the genteel places were bespoke. Before I ascended the stage, however, I concluded within myself, that, as I brought money to the house, I ought to have my share in the profits. Gentlemen, said I, addressing our company, I don't pretend to direct you; far be it from me to treat you with so much ingratitude: you have published my name in the bills, with the utmost good. nature; and, as affairs stand, cannot act without me: so, gentlemen, to shew you my gratitude, I expect to be paid for my acting as much as any of you, otherwise I declare off; I'll brandish my snuffers, and clip candles as usual. This was a very disagreeable proposal; but they found that it was impossible to refuse it; it was irresistible, it was adamant: they consented, and I went on in king Bajazet. My frowning brows, bound with a stocking stuffed into a turban, while on my cap. tived arms I brandished a jack-chain., Nature seemed to have fitted me for the part; I was tall, and had a loud voice; my very entrance excited universal applause ; I looked round on the audience with a smile, and made a most low and graceful bow, for that is the rule among us. As it was a very passionate part, I invigorated my spirits with three full glasses (the tankard is almost out) of brandy. By Alla! it is almost inconceivable how I went through it; Tamerlane was but a fool to me; though he was sometimes loud enough too, yet I was still louder than he: but then, besides, I had attitudes in abundance: in general I kept my arms folded up thus, upon the pit of
my stomach; it is the way at Drury-Lane, and has always a fine effect. The tankard would sink to the bottom before I could get through the whole of my merits : in short, I came off like a prodigy; and such was my success, that I could ravish the laurels even from a sirloin of beef. The principal gentlemen and ladies of the town came to me after the play was over, to compliment me upon my success; one praised my voice, another my person : Upon my word, says the 'squire's lady, he will make one of the finest actors in Europe; I say it, and I think I am something of a judge. --_ Praise in the beginning is agreeable enough, and we receive it as a favour : but, when it comes in great quantities, we regard it only as a debt, which nothing but our merit could extort: instead of thanking them, I internally applauded myself. We were desired to give our piece a second time; we obeyed, and I was applauded even more than before.