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GARRICK and Lacy effected a most material stage reformation-which was afterwards adopted at C. G.
Wilkinson and Davies say that this was done in 1762.
The theatres formerly were not large enough for the benefit night of a favourite performer—therefore the following advertisement was usually added on this occasion ; “ Part of the Pit will be railed into " the Boxes, and the Stage will be formed into an “ Amphitheatre where servants will be allowed to
keep places”* see Mrs. Clive's bt. D. L. March 20 1738.
* Tho' this amphitheatre seems in the first instance to have been meant for box company, yet it was not unusual in the case of an overflow, to admit persons at a lower rateMrs. Bellamy,
When a great house was not expected, then the performer usually added to the bottom of the bill, “ N.B. not any building on the stage” – what was termed a building on the stage was certainly the greatest nuisance that ever prevailed — Wilkinson tells us that he had seen Mrs. Cibber prostrating herself on an old couch covered with black cloth, as the tomb of the Capulets, with at least 200 persons behind her-- when Quin returned to the stage to play Falstaff for Ryan's benefit, notwithstanding the impatience of the audience to see their old acquaintance, he was several minutes before he could pass through the numbers that wedged him in. (Wilkinson.)
Holland acted Hamlet for his 1st benefit-he was born at Cheswick, in the neighbourhood of London, where his father then resided—when the night came, his friends attended, and his native village was left almost literally empty-among the rest of his visiting acquaintance, was a country girl, seated at the west end of the amphitheatre, where she had an easy egress.
On the appearance of the Ghost, by the usual stage trick, Hamlet's hat few off, and lay nearly at the damsel's feet-she, pitying the situation of her young friend, gently stole from her seat, took
the hat, and placed it upon Holland's head, with the broad corner foremost, as it is generally worn by a drunken man--she regained her seat with apparent exultation for the friendly feat she had performed, in defending the young prince from such a “nipping " and an eager air,” as he had just been shivering under, and Hamlet proceeded to finish the scene, unconscious of the ridiculous figure in which he was placed -the audience, unwilling to break in upon the solem. nity of the performance, bit their lips, and with difficulty restrained their risibility, till the Ghost and Hamlet were fairly off the stage, when they indulged themselves in one of the loudest laughs ever heard in a theatre.
in relating the quarrel between herself and Mrs. Hamilton, says, that Mrs. Hamilton having a full gallery disposed of the overflow in the boxes, and upon the stage, preferring their two shillings apiece to empty benchesHolland must have done the same at his benefit.
But tho' it was on benefit nights alone that the public were allowed to seat themselves on the stage, yet gentlemen seem to have claimed a constant right of admission behind the scenes.
Garrick was fully sensible of the absurdity of having one audience on the stage, and another before the curtain - he was reminded that Sheridan by his resolute behaviour had conquered the refractory spirit of the Irish Gentlemen, by shutting his stage.door against them ; and after suffering many vexations and much opposition, had supported his right with the sanction of legal authority - Much as Garrick wished for a reformation, yet he was for some time deterred by the obstacles that prevented it—he had three parties to encounter, all of them formidable, and when united, truly alarming-1st to banish
* Wilkinson relates this story with rather more pleasantry; but as Jackson was actually present, his account must be preferred.
young men of fashion from behind the scenes was judged a daring attempt ; as the Manager's right to rule where they were concerned, was looked on as a vulgar law, to which none but the mean spirited submitted—2ndly, the going behind the scenes on benefit nights pleased young clerks and others, who liked to see the actresses nearer than they were accustomed to-3rdly most of the principal and some of the middling rank of performers, would not choose to pay the charges for their benefit nights, and be abridged of £100 or £150 advantage accruing from the building and general admission on the stage-Garrick and Lacy on consulting together, very judiciously concluded, that the plan of reformation must be preceded by a considerable enlargement of the playhouse; and that if it could be so contrived, that the space before the curtain should contain as many persons, as had formerly filled the pit, boxes, galleries, and the stage, nobody could have any pretence to murmur.
The theatre was accordingly enlarged-Murphy says to a receipt of £335- and from that time scarcely any but the performers were permitted to visit the scenes of the playhouse. (Wilkinson and Davies.)
Sept. 18. Careless Husband, and Old Maid.
21. Beggar's Opera. Macheath = Lowe : Peachum = Moody : Lockit = Bransby : Filch = Parsons, his 1st appearance there: Lucy=Mrs. Clive : Mrs. Peachum = Mrs. Parsons, her 1st appearance there : Diana Trapes = Mrs. Bradshaw :-with Lying Valet. Sharp= Vernon.
23. Beggar's Opera. Peachum = Yates : Polly=