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in the character of the
( TRAGIC") MISE,) ngroven with permessomby Anthonr: Cardon. from the celebrated facture ferinted by Silesh Kormotis now in the profesion
if William Smith (s." HNA
LA BELLE ASSEMBLÉE;
For FEBRUARY, 1812.
a New and Improved Series.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF ILLUSTRIOUS AND
The Twenty-ninth Number.
It has been said with some degree of That genius, at least historic genius, 18 point, yet with a greater degree of justice, hereditary, we will not pretend to say; that the stage cannot degrade the perform- yet if we go back to the earliest years of er, but that it rests with the performer this actress's life, we must allow that perwhether he shall adorn or disgrace the haps much of her present excellence is destage.
pendant upon early bias, for we may allf indeed the stage had always been trod || most literally assert that she was born by characters like the subject of our present amidst crowns, daggers, and sceptres, and biography, it would never have required cradled in Melpomene's buskin. an apologist; but unfortunately, it may be Her father, Roger Kemble, was we beboth proud and sorry to boast that it here lieve descended from a respectable Catholie presents to our view a rare instance of family in Herefordshire, or in the immediate elevated female worth in private life, en vicinity of that county. His friends seem joying the full tide of popular applause in to have had different views for him than her public character.
those which he afterwards pursued, for We call it a rare instance, because al- they placed him at a very respectablo though the present day has produced seve school near the city of Hereford; but the ral bright examples of the female world, impulse of youthful genius was irresistible, some of whom have quitted the Green | and at a very juvenile period he entered Room to perform some of the highest cha- || with ardour on the profession of a strolling racters in society, yet in the last, and in player; where his merit was soon distinthe age preceding it, the most glaring in- | guished by Mr. Ward, the manager, whose stances of a contrary kind have been so approbation was certainly highly complinumerous as almost to have established a
mentary to the young candidate for public system of prejudice against those who ven- || applause, as he is said to have been a perture on a public exhibition. It is to be former on the London boards in the days presumed, however, that a few such in- of Booth and Betterton, and that with a stances as Mrs. Siddons, and some of her considerable degree of credit. But there cotemporaries, brighter perhaps from cer was another member of Mr. Ward's family tain contrasts, will totally remove au ob- 1 who also seems to have been a good judge loquy no longer well merited,
of young Kepible's merit, and whose ap
probation was perhaps even more pleasing || chance having brought the company to a to hin than that of her father; as a proof village in Lancashire, in the neighbourhood of this she soon after united her fate to his; of a family of opulence where there were and the young couple in due time not only many visitors; the excellencies of Mrs. succeeded to all the thrones and crowns Siddous were even there so conspicuous as of the house of Ward, but speedily esta to attract the notice of Miss Boyle, a young blished a new dynasty, of the female branch
lady of fortune and fashion (afterwards the of which Mrs. Siddons was their first and
wife of the Right Hon. John O'Neil, and earliest hope.
mother of the present Earl), who not only An itinerant stage is a kind of hot-bed
paid ber the tribute of admiration, but on for genius, as the young shoots from the
a more intimate knowledge admitted her to parent stock are often forced into bloom
her private friendship, and by her recomat a time of life when in others the bud is
mendation led the way to an engagement scarcely beginning to expand; of course both for herself and busband, with Mr. we find that whilst almost in infancy, Miss
Younger, whose territories extended from Kemble was brought forward as a siliger ;
Liverpool to Birmingham and their vicinibut this was tot agreeable to her taste, for
ties. Here she had an opportunity of aceven then she felt herself possessed of those quiring both fame and experience; and powers which have since so often delighted
having established her character as a first not only the metropolitan audiences, but rate actress upon a provincial stage, it was every audience in the United Empire.
thought she might be acceptable to a LonBut the Tragic Muse had not then such
don audience. complete possession of her boxom as to
An engagement accordingly took place lcave no room for the entrance of another with Drury-Lane, where she perfornied a and more laughing deity, for we find that whole winter; but it is said that Garrick in her early bloom she excited a passion felt so alarmed at the idea, even of female in the breast of Mr. Siddons, then a fellow rivalship, that he would only permit her to votary of the mimic muses, which was re-l perform the inferior parts, of the Queer in turned with mutual ardour; but family Richard III. and the second rate ladies in reasons not permitting the accomplishment genteel Comedy. But if disgusted with of their wishes, Miss Kemble quietly laid || the egotism of the manager, she was still down the bowl and dagger, and with a more so with the scurrility of a disappointed praiseworthy prudence shunning the so author, whose afterpiece, in which she percicty of the man whom she was forbid to formed, being justly damned, he took ad. marryy engaged herself in the humble ca
vantage of his power, as Editor of a Newspacity of lady's maid with Mrs. Greathead, paper, to attack her in a most illiberal and then residing at Guy's Cliff, in Warwick- || disrespectful manner. Had justice indeed shire. But even here she was on classic been done her by the manager; had she ground, and only eight miles distant from been permitted to perform those parts the birth-place of the immortal Shakespeare which would have displayed her real exhimself; it is not to be supposed therefore, | cellencies to the public, she would have that her early bias would siuk into obli- || raised an host of friends, and risen superior vion; accordingly we find that twelve to obloquy; but it is almost ever the lot of months were sufficient to convince her virtuous merit to be forced to shrink from that a life of dependance was not suited to the clamours of the illiberal and the apathy her taste; she soon after united herself to of the misjudging. the man of her heart, and the young couple There was, however, still a wide field were content for present support to enlist for the display of her powers, and the Bath themselves under the banners of a strolling stage afforded her a temporary asylum; monarch, whose subjects were of such a and here she applied herself not only to description as to render our two youthful | perform but also to improve, in which it adventurers a most valuable acquisition. has been said she was much aided by the
It was about this period, we believe, that frjendly assistance of the “ Poet of the
Poor," then a bookseller at that emporium. On the 10th of October, 1782, she made of fashion; whilst her private worth placed her entree, in this second engagement at her so high in the scale of female excel- Drury-Lane, in the part of Isabella, in the lence, that she became not only patronized Fata! Marriage; in which her eldest son, but courted by ladies of the first fashion, Henry, also made his first appearance as amongst whom the late Duchess of Devon- the Child. shire was conspicuous, and by whose re It is needless to recapitulate the approcommendation she received another en
bation that followed; the public were gageme:it at Drury-Laue, under more fa- actually thunderstruck with her excellenvourable auspices, for the jealous moment cies; the house was crowded night after was no more.
night, and Comedy was almost forgotten. Her gratitude to her Bath friends induced Mr. Sheridan had too much judgment not her not only to speak a farewell address, to see and appreciate the full value of his but even inspired her with sufficient poetic acquisition. Accordingly he not only inardour to write it herself; in this she as creased her salary, but with a becoming serted that nothing but three most power- spirit of generosity gave her an extra beful reasons could have induced her to leave nefit. This benefit was even given so early those friends even for the higher salary of in the season as before the Christmas holia London theatre, and concluded her ad- days; and her exertions in Belcidera were dress with this apology :
so transcendant, that in addition to the pro
fits of an overflowing house, she received “ Bat to my promise: If I thus am bless'd
the honourable testimonial of a letter of In friendship link’d-beyond my worth caress'd; 1 Since I'm sccure in my employer's aid,
approbation and esteem from the gentleWho meets my wishes ere they scarce are made ;
men of the long robe, accompanied with a Why do you quit (you'll say) such certain gain, purse of one hundred Guineas; the whole To trust caprice, and its vexatious train? being conducted under the active friendship What can compensate for the risks yon run? of Counsellors Fielding and Pigot. And wbat your reasons ? Surely you bave none. To argue here, would be your time's abuse,
Independent of the pecuniary compliMy word I keep my reasons I produce. ment, this was a mark and mode of ap
[Here her three children were displayed. plause quite unprecedented, except in one These are the moles that heave me from your side, instance, when Booth charmed the house Where I was rooted-where I would have died.
with his performance of Cato. Stand forth, ye elves, and plead your mother's
Mrs. Siddons was now considered as cause, Ye little magnets—whose strong influence draws fixed on the London boards for life; and Me from a point, where ev'ry gentle breeze this gave her an opportunity of being of Wafted my bark to happiness and ease;
great assistance to the various branches of Sends me advent'rous on a larger main,
lier family, and led the way to the introIn hopes that you may profit hy my gain."
duction of her brother to the metropolis in Notwithstanding the plain good sense of 1784, as well as of her sisters, Mrs. Whitthis energetic address, there were still some
lock, and Miss Fanny Kemble, afterwards
Mrs. Twiss. little minds, who, unwilling that she should quit Bath, tried every peiti art to injure
The summer recess gave her an opporher well earned fame, and had the impu- 1 tunity of recruiting her health, by a country dence to accuse her of ingratitude, and of excursion; and she was prevailed upon to loving money. When told of these un
| accept of an engagement at Dublin for a handsome attacks, Mrs. Siddons coolly an
few nights, where her transcendant powers swered, that it was true she did love money,
! were fully enjoyed, and as amply rebecause she loved her children; but that
warded. in other respects she considered herself as In the winter of 1783 she returned to under no obligation which should prevent London, and was shortly after honoured her from making the most of those talents with the command of their Majesties, who with which she was endowed.
were highly struck with her excellence,