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CARDITY Church, in Wales, was destroyed two hundred years since, by a food in the river Severn. The following lines were written on the occasion of a new church being built on the site of the old one. They are now published for the first time.
HERE stood a house - - a house of God,
An earthly temple, built with stones;
Its graves received our faihers' bones :
But earthly temples must decay —
By slow or swift destruction fell;
The stateliest iower, the strongest wall;
The river rushed upon the sea;
The sea the river's rage repelled;
War with the warring waters held:
Till, as in dead of night the flash
Of lightning issues from a cloud,
Down to the deep the temple bowed;
• Thus far, nor farther shall ye go!
The river heard that voice, and fled;
The sign of wrath retiring, spread;
The fullness of that time behold:
Nine generations in their haste
Yet left the ground a hallowed waste;
I was walking one pleasant day in Sydney-Gardens, when I encountered a man who has since attained a very considerable celebrity. He had made his appearance in Bath in the character of Macbeth. I cannot sufficiently call to mind the nature of his success, nor did I know his ulterior views with respect to the profession. I believe he had produced one or two plays in Ireland, but had never undergone the ordeal of a London audience, without whose fiat fame is not easily to be acquired. It was SHERIDAN KNOWLES. My acquaintance with him was at that period limited. He had then as now an abstracted air, and a peculiar eccentricity of manner. He stopped short, and looking me full in the face, paused for a minute. I wondered what was to be the result. He then said, with great quickness of manner: • How are you, my boy ?'
Quite well,' was the natural reply.
As I was not aware that I had the right to make any reasonable objection to that arrangement, I simply said :
Indeed! A pause again. Yes; can I take any letters for you
?' • Where are you going ??
I have n’t made up my mind yet! And thus finished our colloquy.
It was proverbial among actors that in the city of Bristol the announcement of a farewell benefit operated as a signal for the public not to attend. Whether it arose from acuteness of sensibility, or the stri
king of the debtor and creditor account, I know not; but from the great prudence exercised in that part of the world in all matters of business, Í presume it was the latter: I was however satisfied of the impossibility that this neglect could occur to me; and my name flourished at the head of the bills for a farewell benefit previous to my appearance at the Theatre Royal, Covent-Garden. The morning came; but it was not necessary to procure the aid of the police to keep off the people from rushing to take places. The night followed, as in duty bound, and displayed a beggarly account of empty boxes.' Upon summing up the accounts with the treasurer, I found myself one guinea richer; and I jestingly said in the green-room that I would expend that sum in a card of thanks in each of the papers. This was understood to be, and which in sooth it was, a satire upon the abominable meanness of a majority of the performers, who were in the habit, after similar · benefits,' of returning thanks in the most abject and servile manner. My threat afforded them an admirable opportunity of being revenged upon one who had always loudly declaimed against so vile a practice. They there. fore defied me to execute it. That was enough. I lost no time in expending my surplus in three newspapers. I think the card ran thus:
* Mr. Abbott begs leave very respectfully to return his heartfelt acknowledgments to the public, for the very distinguished patronage with which he was honored on Monday evening; a patronage he could only claim from the length of time he has been devoted to their service. Mr. ABBOTT has great pleasure in assuring his friends that he sustained no loss by his benefit.'
I had one or two simple-hearted friends who took this affair literally, and said that I was very foolish for thanking them for nothing ; the city generally was not quite so innocent, and took the matter in great dudgeon. It created a sensation, and a resolution among many not to suffer me to appear again the short remainder of the season ; but, as on all similar occasions, I did not want for the support of many ardent friends. Mrs. Davison, formerly Miss Duncan, was engaged for a few nights, and appeared in the character of Letitia Hardy. What a charming actress she was, and how her beautiful Scotch melodies thrilled upon the ear ! She is still living, one of the brilliant remains of the olden school, whose memory ought to be cherished. I played Doricourt; and the moment my voice was heard at the wings, a storm of hisses and applause greeted my entrée. I immediately stepped forward, and with a most gracious cast of countenance, addressed the audience as follows:
• If any of those persons who are so liberal with their disapprobation will do me the favor to wait till the end of the performance, I will an. swer individually to what they may demand ; like a man, and not like a coward, who sneaks into the theatre, and under the pitiful pretence of having paid his admission money, conceives he has a right to disturb the respectable part of the audience by his ill-timed malignity.'
I completely triumphed, and was certainly not at all displeased, on leaving the theatre, to find that my universal challenge remained unan. swered. This was a silly, daring act, totally in opposition to my own natural character and feelings, and to which I was driven by a false sense of pride, on being urged by those whose opinion I ought carefully to have avoided. How easy is it to commit these follies - how impossi. ble to recall them!
I am now on my way to the great metropolis ; that Babel of sounds, that focus of ever-varied genius; that school of science, that sink of iniquity ; that seat of high virtue and never-fading honor, LONDON! Oh! how we must love and hate thee! The squalid misery which so often besets one's path, in frightful contrast with the splendor which at every turn meets the eye; the miserable outcasts from home, from hope, from reputation ; the fifty thousand wretches who prowl about each morning not knowing how or where to find a meal; and then the contrast; the busy hum of industrious artisans, whose cheerful looks denote a confidence in the dispensations of providence, and a proud satisfaction that should any unforseen misfortune befal them, they have still an honest character left, that sure passport of good feeling to the hearts of the richer and more fortunate.
I will now quietly take up my abode in the vicinity of Hyde-Park, and undergo all the formula of an introduction to Mr. Harris, the principal proprietor and manager of Covent Garden Theatre, and the still more awful presentation to Mr. Fawcett, the prime minister, alias stagedirector. I waited with trembling anxiety the first fearful interview with that many-headed monster, the public; my fears occasionally sinking my spirits to the lowest point of human misery; and then again those bitter throbs were counterbalanced by my hopes : but alas!
"What are our hopes ?
I appeared, greatly against my own desire, in the character of Florian, in the Foundling of the Forest.' I felt the impossibility of laying the foundation for future hopes in such a character; but I was sacrificed to the taste of Miss M-t, also engaged from Bath, and who wished to appear as the unknown female,' although she had previously been a member of Covent-Garden. What was the consequence ? My reception was as brilliant as an actor could possibly expect, with the opportunities allowed him in the representation of such a character; and I went joyfully homc, greeted with the congratulations of many dear friends, and full of anxiety to read the laudatory effusions in the press of the following morning. Imagine my horror on perusing the Times, as soon after day-break as I could procure the paper; where, instead of the laurels prepared to deck my brow, I found my success was very problematical. The stupid public, who the night before had been so extremely liberal with their applause, were entirely in the wrong, and the Times justly reproved them for their simplicity. A friend of mine, who was present and felt great interest in my success, but whose judgment, or rather want of it, was entirely swayed by the leading journals, upon being asked what he thought of my appearance, very innocently replied that he could not really say, for he had not seen the 'Times yet! That severe though admirable journal, at whose appearance on his breakfasttable the actor trembled, and upon whose fiat dwelt all his hopes and fears, cooly remarked :
• We may easily judge of the good taste of the débutant, from his
selecting such a play as the Foundling of the Forest for his first appearance before a London audience.'
If editors knew or troubled themselves about the anxiety occasioned by such remarks ; if they gave but one moment’s reflection to the misery they entail ; they would surely pause before they consigned to utter despair their wretched victim. The very basis of this criticism was founded upon a feeling which was incorrect, and the manager's selection gave me, even before my appearance, the greatest possible annoyance. The fact is that my engagement was made with the Covent-Garden proprietors in consequence of a disagreement with Mr. Charles Kemble; and it was fortunate for me that a reconciliation took place between the parties, relieving me from the great responsibility, and the apparent vanity, of filling up the immense vacuum occasioned by the loss of so distinguished an actor, and so bright an ornament to the profession. The natural consequence was, that I had, by slow degrees, to climb the Parnassian mount, and to consider myself peculiarly fortunate that I was enabled to gain a footing on so slippery a path. In justice, however, I cannot avoid saying that there is more true spirit of criticism and candor in the leading journals of London than those of most other countries can lay claim to. The subject is not considered unworthy the powers of the highest intellectual talent; their writings are for a class of persons possessing taste and intelligence, and the editors dare not profane the shrine of criticism by the looseness and balderdash so frequently displayed in other journals.
My reception was always favorable, and by slow degrees I won a path that led me into society the most flattering to my ambition. During my first season, the ci-devant. Young Roscius,' returned to the stage, and was engaged at Covent-Garden at the enormous salary of fifty. guineas per night! He was greatly attractive; and his engagement afforded me many opportunities of gaining favor with the public. I performed Southampton to his Essex, Lysimachus to his Alexander, etc.; and at length arrived at the distinction of being called by the times his rival! Then all was forgiven — all forgotten ; and I thought, as all the world did, that the Times was deservedly the best journal of the day.
Of what fickleness, what caprice is the public composed! True, the people went in crowds to witness his return to the stage, but where was the enthusiasm which formerly greeted his appearance ? At the early period of his career, the spirit of criticism slept, not slumbered. All was rapture; no alloy was mingled, in order to give a sterling quality to his performances. It is said that on one occasion the House of Lords adjourned to witness his representation of Hamlet : the philosophic abstractions of Hamlet, from a boy whose delight was playing at marbles ! And yet so great was the infatuation, that the masterspirits of the age, embracing such men as Pitt and Fox, were first and foremost in doing homage to his real or imaginary genius. If his head ached, and that perhaps accompanied by a slight fever, he was unable to perform : then the agitation of the fashionable world was not to be described ; the rush of carriages to the door; the numberless inquiries, the trembling anxiety with which they heard the response; the issue