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YOUR MAJESTY's favour to the subject of these memoirs has extended beyond his existence; even to the gracious acceptance of a very humble effort to do justice to his memory.
YOUR MAJESTY distinguished in Mr. Kemble, the scientific artist, the illustrator of our greatest poet, the improver of scenic representation, the scholar of elegant manners, the man of unblemished integrity and honour.
Such were the qualities which, to all sound dramatic taste, pointed out Mr. Kemble as the consummate director of our most liberal amusement. But it is not for me to pursue this theme, on which the HIGHEST JUDG MENT has long since pronounced.
In the admired exercise of his abilities as a manager and an actor, Mr. Kemble became involved in a calamity, which threatened him with irretrievable ruin ;-I mean the destruction by FIRE of Covent Garden theatre. He had reached at this time a period of his life, which could not flatter him with hopes of any very lengthened continuance of his exertions.
But at this moment of very severe affliction, the Royal Mind condescended to administer that PRINCELY CONSOLATION, Which was dear indeed to a spirit such as his; and the accompanying mark of the ROYAL MUNIFICENCE became doubly precious to him, from the GRACIOUS LANGUAGE, by which its acceptance was rendered, not merely a duty, but a PRIDE.
THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
80H STREET #EÄNCH
To the end of his highly-honoured life, the INTerest which he had excited suffered no diminution; and YOUR MAJESTY has deigned to express your royal satisfaction, "that a permanent record of that life was in contemplation."
For myself, so greatly favoured on this occasion, should YOUR MAJESTY indulgently consider what follows, as a faithful portrait of Mr. KEMBLE, and a not uninteresting view of the BRITISH STAGE, I shall indeed rejoice in a design, to which I owe this public expression of the veneration inspired by YOUR MAJESTY'S goodness, and of that sense of duty and attachment with which I must ever be,
Jan. 1, 1825.
Most devoted subject, and
I WAS occupied by an endeavour to ascertain the genuine portraits of our immortal Shakspeare, when I heard with infinite concern of the death of Mr. Kemble. I noticed that event in the following terms and I quote them here, that the reader may be aware of the engagement I then contracted, and decide how far, by the present work, my pledge to the public is redeemed.
"While these sheets are passing through the press, I am shocked and grieved with the intelligence, that my excellent friend had departed this life, at an age that allowed a reasonable hope of many years of honourable retirement. At no very distant period, I hope to deliver to the public a work, the object of which is to record his progress in the art which he professed; and also to display his personal character, as it unfolded itself during an intimacy of near thirty years. Fortunately, the materials before me are at once abundant and authentic. It is my design to pay equal attention to the splendid talents of his sister, Mrs. Siddons: I cannot at all hope to do justice to the one, without embracing the other in my theatrical picture; and even then the work would be imperfect, did it not notice the concurring, though not equal, merits of those who acted with these great performers during their ample professional course."*
*Note at pp. 17, 18. of Inquiry into the Authenticity, &c.
I have blended the LIFE OF MR. KEMBLE with the History of the Stage, because they throw light upon each other; and I know not how they could well be separated. What he advised was always referable to some system of management-what he acted was always to be compared with the performances of others; either aided by their skill, or injured by their want of it. I have therefore exhibited him as the central figure of my group; as the "observed of all observers ;" as the great artist of his time, as accomplished in theory as practice as one, in a word, whose countenance, figure, and gestures enabled him to convey what a mind of great reflection, and studies of infinite accuracy, pointed out as the true objects of the tragedian.
In the almost childish season of life, I imbibed that fondness for the stage, which, shall I say, compelled me to attend to it with constancy and passion ;-it constituted my sole amusement and principal expense-I studied, as though I had been to make it a profession. As I grew in years, I became known to a few of its most eminent professors. I had always good taste enough to look beyond professional skill in the choice of a friend; my prudence or my good fortune never associated me with one actor, whom I could not sincerely esteem as a man. I owe, therefore, to the profession, in public and in private, many of the most rational as well as most pleasing hours of my existence. When, at length, I ventured upon the stage as an author, I found the greatest kindness and support from the performers of three different theatres; and I hope that their merits have been properly estimated' in the present work. That I shall satisfy ALL who may have survived to read me, I cannot promise to myself; but I am quite sure of my intention to be just; and they may easily appease any ungratified portion of self-love, by imagining their critic "walking, or talking, or perhaps upon a journey," or (an old critical enormity,) that "peradventure he slept, and could not be awaked."
That Mr. Kemble chose to distinguish me by parti