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and the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth appeared among the dancers. Evelyn thus speaks of this representation:- Saw a comedy at night at court, acted by the ladies only; amongst them, Lady Mary and Anne, his R. H.'s two daughters, and my dear friend Mrs Blagg, who, having the principal part, 'performed it to admiration.'
From that time we hear no more of such courtly pageants in England; though, within these few years, a taste for performances somewhat similar seems to have sprung up in some of the courts on the Continent, where spectacles founded on the stories of Ivanhoe and Lalla Rookh have been got up with a splendour which even the masques of our ancient Kings could hardly parallel. In the Divertisement' from Lalla Rookh, performed at the court of Berlin in 1822, the present Emperor and Empress of Russia played the parts of Feramorz and Lalla Rookh : the Duke of Cumberland personated Abdallah, the father of the Royal Minstrel; and the other characters in the Tableaux, selected from the poem, were represented by the Princes and Princesses of Prussia, and by the most distinguished persons of the court and society of Berlin.*
We should have mentioned, that during the reign of Oliver and his Saints, when stage-plays in public were so strictly prohibited, there were, besides the entertainments set on foot by Sir William Davenant at Rutland-House, occasional representations of plays at the houses of the nobility; and Holland-House, among its other memorable associations, is particularly mentioned as having been used for this purpose. These performances, however, though clandestine, or at least connived at by the ruling powers, cannot fairly be classed under the head of Private Theatricals; their object being to give relief to the unemployed players, who chiefly, if not exclusively, performed on these occasions. The same remark applies to what is called the "Private' Theatre of Davenant-Mr Malone, we believe, having no authority for asserting, that in the pieces at RutlandHouse, no stage-player performed.'
From the time of Charles II., till near the end of the last century, the Théâtre de Société of England affords but little, as far as we know, that is interesting. In the Memoirs of Lord Orford, we find, under the date 1751, the following curious notice: The 7th was appointed for the Naturalization Bill, but
* Lalla Roûkh, Divertissement mélé de Chants et de Danses, exe'cuté au Château Royal de Berlin, le 27 Janvier, 1822, &c. &c.— 'avec 23 planches coloriés.'
the House adjourned to attend at Drury-Lane, where Othello · was acted by a Mr Delaval and his family, who had hired the theatre on purpose. The crowd of people of fashion was so 'great, that the footmen's gallery was hung with blue ri"bands.'
The performances at the Duchess of Queensberry's, for the amusement of the royal personages of Leicester-House, are only memorable, we believe, for having enabled the favourite, Lord Bute, to display his fine legs (of which he was so proud) in the gay character of Lothario. We might next pass in review the theatricals of Winterslow, where no less an actor on the stage of life than the late Charles Fox- cælestis hic in dicendo vir'. played Horatio in the Fair Penitent, and Sir Harry in High Life below Stairs. At Holland-House, too, Mr Fox played Hastings to the Jane Shore of the beautiful Lady Sarah Bunbury.
Richmond-House presents another patrician theatre of the by-goue times, whose attractions, on one occasion, shortened the solemn sittings of the Senate, and brought Mr Pitt himself (to use his own words, on another occasion,) under the wand of the enchanter.' If the anecdote be true, which attributes to that festive evening the glory of having collected Pitt, Fox, and Sheridan together in one hackney-coach-of which hackney-coach it might well be said, 'sideraque alta trahit'-it is an event that, among the memorabilia of Private Theatres, is deserving of special and emphatic record.
We have thus hastily, and, we rather fear, tiresomely, put together the few particulars relating to Private Theatres that have fallen within the range of our research. It is now time, we feel, to take a little notice of the volume which has been the innocent cause of all this causerie, and which, though not intended, we believe, for circulation beyond the members of the institution to which it refers, appeared to us to warrant, by its connexion with the general history of the drama, the use that we have made of it.
The city of Kilkenny-where the performances commemorated in this volume were continued annually, with but few interruptions, from the year 1802 to 1819-possesses some ancient claims on the reverence of all lovers of the drama. The celebrated Bale, whose tragedy of Pammachius was acted at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1544, inhabited for some time, as Bishop of Ossory, the Palace of Kilkenny; and two of his sacred comedies, or mysteries, were, as he himself tells us, acted at the market-cross in that town. On the xx daye of August was the Ladye Marye, with us at Kilkennye, proclaimed Queen of England, &c. The yonge men in the forenone played a tra
gedye of God's Promises in the Old Lawe,' at the market'crosse, with organe-plaingis and songes, very aptely. In the ' afternone, again, they played a comedie of 'Sanet Johan Baptiste's Preachings, of Christe's Baptisynge, and of his Temptacion in the Vildernesse.' '*
From that period, till the middle of the last century, Ireland furnishes but few materials for a History of the Stage, Public or Private. So slow, indeed, was the progress of the drama in that country, that, in the year 1600, when England had been, for some time, enjoying the inspirations of Shakspeare's muse, we find the old tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex, the first rude essay of the art, represented before Lord Montjoy at the Castle of Dublin. It was, indeed, about the same period, when, as we have said, the taste for private acting reappeared in England, that a similar feeling manifested itself among the higher ranks of society in Ireland; and, in the year 1759, a series of amusements of this kind took place at Lurgan, in the county of Armagh, the seat of that distinguished Member of the Irish Parliament, William Brownlow. To this meeting,' says the editor of the volume before us, in his Introduction, the stage is indebted for the popular entertainment of Midas. It was ' written upon that occasion by one of the company, the late Mr 'Kane O'Hara, and originally consisted of but one act, com'mencing with the fall of Apollo from the clouds. The cha'racters in the piece were undertaken by the members of the 'family, and their relatives, with the exception of the part of 'Pan, which was reserved by the author for himself. Many 'additions were made to it before its introduction to the public, and, among others, the opening scene of Jove in his Chair,' as it is now represented."
To these representations succeeded, in 1760, a sort of Theatrical Jubilee, at Castletown, the residence of the Right Hon. Thomas Conolly, where, after the performance of the First Part of Henry 4th,' an epilogue was, it appears, spoken by Hussy Burgh-afterwards Baron of the Exchequer one of the most accomplished men that the Bar of Ireland has ever produced. In the year 1761, the Duke of Leinster opened his princely mansion at Cartown, to a series of entertainments of the same description; and, in a list of the characters of the Beggar's Opera, which was one of the pieces performed on this occasion, we find, among a number of other distinguished names (Lord Charlemont, Lady Louisa Conolly, &c.) the rather startling an
*The Vocacion of John Bale.
nouncement of-Lockit by the Rev. Dean Marly."'* This worthy pendant to the Bibienus of the Court of Leo 10th, spoke also a Prologue on the same occasion, written by himself, the concluding lines of which are as follows:
But when this busy mimic scene is o'er,
All shall resume the worth they had before;
Among the most interesting of the other performances recorded in this volume, are those got up in the year 1774, at the seats of Sir Hercules Langrishe and Mr Henry Flood,-where the two celebrated orators, Grattan and Flood, appeared together on the stage, and, in personating the two contending chieftains, Macbeth and Macduff, had a sort of poetical foretaste of their own future rivalry,- belli propinqui rudimenta.' We find the name of Mr Grattan again connected with private theatricals in the year 1776, when, after a representation of the Masque of Comus, at the country-seat of the Right. Hon. David' La Touche, an epilogue from the pen of Mr Grattan was spoken -the only copy of verses, we believe, that this illustrious son of Ireland is known to have written. The verses of great statesmen are always sure to be objects of curiosity,—even when, like those of Cicero, they have no other recommendation than their badness. Some specimens of the poetry of Mr Burke have lately been given to the world, and those who complain of his being too poetical in his prose, will perhaps be consoled by finding him so prosaic in his poetry. Pope says, with perhaps rather an undue pride in his art, that the corruption of a poet is the generation of a statesman ;'-if so, Burke must have been far gone in decomposition, when he wrote such verses. The epilogue of Mr Grattan, however, contains some lively and fluent lines, and our readers, we presume, will not be displeased to see a few of them here:
Hist! hist!-I hear a dame of fashion say,
* Afterwards Bishop of Waterford.
Would neither speak, nor laugh, nor dance, nor sing,
'But, gentle ladies! you'll, I'm sure, approve
The rapturous soul of song and sovereign ecstasy.'
We shall not further pursue the enumerations which this volume supplies of the various amateur performances that preceded those of Kilkenny,-except to remark that, in the list of the actors at Shane's Castle in 1785, there occurs one name, which, in the hearts of all true Irishmen, awakens feelings which they can hardly trust their lips to utter-Lord Edward Fitzgerald.
With the Theatricals of Kilkenny expired the last faint remains of what may be called the Social Era in Ireland. Adieu, 'Société !' was the lively dying-speech of one of the fellow conspirators of Berton, when about to submit his neck to the guillotine;-and adieu, Société !' might, with the same tra'gical mirth,' have been ejaculated by Ireland at the period of the Union. To such times as we have been describing-to such classic and humanizing amusements-has succeeded an age of bitter cant and bewildering controversy. Instead of opening their mansions, as of old, to such innocent and ennobling hospitalities, the Saint-Peers of the present day convert their halls into conventicles and conversion-shops. Where the theatre once re-echoed the young voices of a Grattan and a Flood, the arena is now prepared for the disputations of the Reverend Popes and Maguires. The scenes of Otway and Shakspeare have given way to the often-announced tragedies of Pastorini, and even Farce has taken its last refuge in Sir Harcourt Lees.
We have only to add, that this curious volume, which will, one day or other, be a gem in the eyes of the Bibliomaniac, contains portraits of all the most distinguished members of the Theatrical Society of Kilkenny, Mr Grattan, Mr Thomas Moore, Mr
*The Masque was acted by children.