« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
their legs, sneaked out of the room as fast as they could, followed by Elliston, who, from the stentorian manner in which he continued to give his orders, appeared to be extremely emulous to outvie the roaring of the cataract that had been the subject in question, hustled and pushed about in all quarters by the numerous stage-carpenters, sceneshifters, supernumeraries, and other underlings whom the voice of Elliston had brought to the spot, and who, taking their cue from their employer, did not quit the discomfited worthies till they had fairly deposited them in the kennel of Brydges-street.
“There, sir," said Elliston, returning and addressing the dramatist, “ I think you will thank me for giving you such an excellent opportunity of teaching these persons how they come from Wapping again to instruct us in our knowledge of the Ganges. I thought I would just let them see that we are not to be taught any thing here."
This was all very well; but had the result been otherwise than it was, had the dramatist really taken the cataract on trust, really relied on his own fancy, as would have been natural and innocent enough, Elliston would have made it a pretext to reduce the price of his next production, and have domineered to his own advantage over the luckless bard with fulminations of his ignorance, for at least the remainder of the season. As it was, he took credit, when he found he could not do otherwise, for superior sagacity and trusting confidence, and where another would have been confounded, not only claimed congratulation for his generosity, but even exacted praise for a just appreciation, no less than a confident reliance on talents, which he affirmed he felt pride in displaying, as well as a pleasure in defending.
A MARINE HARLEQUIN. During the last war Elliston was at one time proprietor of the Dover theatre, where, as a great treat to the inhabitants, and by way of a grand draw on his benefit night, he had determined to produce an entirely new pantomime, in which all the tricks were to be of his own concocting; though the chief trick in it was, that unlike almost all the pieces he produced, it was totally innocent of any trick. All the properties of the theatre were called into requisition. The old scenery was touched up till it was tter than new; and the Clown and Pantaloon were duly instructed by Elliston in the various kicks and bumps that were to be given and taken ; the motley hero and heroine settled the different places in which they were to be found tripping, and to ensure the success of the production, and crown the whole, Elliston himself was to play the arch wizard, through whose agency the transformations were to be effected. All was hope and expectation. The eventful night arrived, the house was crowded to suffocation, when, fatal chance! just before the rising of the curtain for the pantomime to commence, Mr. Elliot, the performer who was to sustain the character of Harlequin, discovered on going to the wardrobe that their harlequin's dress had, through mistake, been left in London. What was to be done ? how play a pantomime without a harlequin's dress; and how satisfy the audience without a pantomime? The expedient of putting on fleshings, a sort of cotton dress which fits tight to the body, and getting the scene-painter to paint it with the usual party colours of the motley hero, whilst on the performer's person, was tried; but the
slight texture of the material, in the perspiration caused through the actor's exertions to operate on it, made the colours run one into another in such a manner that this resource was soon given up as impracticable ; other schemes were tried, but with no better success; all was despair, till Elliston becoming acquainted with the dilemma, his busy imagination, ever fertile in such cases, suggested an idea that fully promised to meet the emergency.
“ Have you a sailor's dress in the stock, Brett ?” he inquired of the tailor.
No, sir," answered Brett; " but a jacket and trousers can easily be borrowed of the Jew salesman in the High-street, on leaving a deposit.”
“ That will do capitally!" exclaimed Elliston. “Go to the front of the house and get five shillings from the gallery half-price, borrow the things, and let Elliot equip himself in them instantly; I will set all to rights.
What, sir, play Harlequin in a sailor's dress ?" “Ay, sir, nothing can be more appropriate, as I will soon convince you ; ring up the curtain," to the prompter, “that I may go on and address the audience; but first desire Mrs. Brooks (one of the actresses) to let me have the blue ribbon I observed on her bonnet this morning, that I may attach it, in a handsome bow, to my breast; it will look national, and be a pretty compliment."
His orders were complied with, and amidst the tumultuous plaudits of an audience composed of nearly half sailors, he walked on the stage and made the following extraordinary speech : 1
“ Ladies and Gentlemen, It is with the most heartfelt satisfaction I appear before you to express my deep and sincere gratitude for the brilliant and overpowering patronage with which you have honoured me this evening. I shall not attempt to conceal from you, ladies and gentlemen, that I have spared neither pains nor expense to deserve that patronage in the productions prepared for your entertainment. Our outlays have been enormous, our exertions unprecedented ; but still it has struck me, ladies and gentlemen, that a something further yet remained to be done, to evince my soul-swelling sense of your kind bounty, fortunately I have at length hit upon it;-it is but a trifle—but it is by such trifles, ladies and gentlemen, that the hearts of men are best developed ; and as I have not been able to put it in the bills in time that you may not be taken by surprise, I have determined on announcing it to you in person."
The audience were worked up to a high state of expectation and conjecture, and after bowing in return for the loud applause which this promise of something extra elicited, Elliston thus continued :
“I need not tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that the good town of Dover, your town, is the first naval town of the first naval country in the whole naval world (immense cheering). It was here that the great Alfred conquered, and brought into port the fleet of the Scandinavians; it was here that the heroic Sir Francis Drake destroyed the Spanish Armada! and it was with the inhabitants of this proud seaport, that Howe, Jervis, Rodney, Duncan, and the immortal Nelson, manned the various ships with which they annihilated the fleets of Holland, France and Spain !-(Uproarious approbation.) These are glories, ladies
and gentlemen, never to be forgotten, and it is to commemorate these glories, pay a proper compliment to the naval pre-eminence of this great country, achieved by the town of Dover, and at the same time evince my gratitude for the patronage of this evening, that I have determined on making the Harlequin of my pantomime a marine one! the more especially as he has to dance two or three hornpipes, which cannot be more appropriately executed than in the national costume of a British sailor's jacket and trousers.”
This announcement was hailed by the tars with three cheers, and Mr. Elliot actually played Harlequin in a sailor's jacket and trousers ; and thanks to this harangue, never perhaps with greater satisfaction to himself, or the audience.
MADEIRA AND SANDWICHES. Elliston had a mind singularly fruitful in expedients. As before remarked, he was always " ready at a pinch !”. Had every other means of subsistence failed him, such was his readiness of resource in an emergency, that he would have made a very good living by those ingenious, but somewhat uncertain agents—the wits! In fact, he had many of the prompt and painstaking, but perverse qualifications that distinguish the chevalier d'Industrie of our Gallic neighbours.
In one less notorious for the liveliness of his imagination, many of his actions, might have been ascribed to a more questionable source than mere eccentricity of conduct, and whimsicality of behaviour, and might have been visited in a way very far from pleasant; but " man may steal a horse where another may not look over the hedge." No Lapland witch ever raised the wind more readily than did Elliston on many occasions; but an example is worth fifty assertions.
The following anecdote, which is literally correct in every particular, will exemplify this peculiar trait of character in Elliston.
During one portion of his life, when the maggot seized him to give himself up to his inclinations, he would, whatever he was then engaged in, suddenly disappear and be absent for several days, his “ whereabout” during these lapses was always more than suspected by his confidential servants and friends; but as he always alleged when he reappeared that his temporary retirement had been for the purpose of giving himself up to undisturbed study, no one presumed to question his veracity any more than they did to break in upon his privacy-what his studies were was rather questionable. It was whispered,
His only books, were woman's looks,
And folly, all they taught him; but his island of Calypso was invariably respected, and the Circean enchantments into which he often imprudently plunged, were only broken through by his own free will. These unbendings, as he would call them being by no means unfrequent, his absence did not create either surprise or alarm, and the theatre was carried on in its usual regular way by his steady manager, Mr. Winston, and his trusty treasurer, Dunn. These delassements were but briefly reverted to when he reappeared, either by himself or them; silence on the subject seeming to be tacitly agreed upon.
It was after one of these disappearances, that he was encountered one morning in the middle of Fleet-street, by P. the dramatist, one of his employés.
“ Hold there,” said he, with his usual grandiloquence,“ on your allegiance, stand! The very man I wished to see, I have something very particular to say to you."
The first part of this assertion was true enough, he did wish to see P., as indeed he would have done any one just then, that he could kill half an hour with, and escape from himself; but as to having any thing particular to say to him that was a mere façon de parler.
“Where are you going to?" continued Elliston.
“but my path has no particular object at present.”
“ Then turn back and proceed with me; and as we go along, I'll communicate to you the matter on which I wish to consult you.'
The dramatist complied, and taking his arm, Elliston proceeded with him up Ludgate-bill, and through St. Paul's Churchyard, towards Cheapside, observing, however, all the time, to the dramatist's great surprise, a most portentous silence !
At length, P. timidly ventured to request Elliston would oblige him with some intimation of what it was he so particularly wished to speak to him about.
“Should you like a glass of Madeira, and a sandwich ?" replied Elliston, after a pause.
An answer certainly not very germane to the matter, though agreeable enough to the dramatist, as holding out promise of further entertainment.
“ I should have no sort of objection,” replied P.; “but I thought it was some other entertainment you wished to speak to me about."
“ You thought right,” said Elliston ; but we will attend to the body first-the mind afterwards. “How much money have you about you, Master Mathew ?”
Whether the dramatist had any or not, he did not think it prudent to own he had, Elliston generally forgetting to remember trifles bortowed on these occasions.
“No matter," replied Elliston, not at all disconcerted at his author's confession of want of funds. “I merely asked for information,' as Jeremy Diddler says; come along."
Through Cheapside they proceeded, and in due course passed into Lombard-street.
“He is going to his banker's,” thought the dramatist ; “it's all right.”
It happened, however, to be all wrong. The banking-houses of Bosanquet, Glyn, Masterman, Stephenson, &c., were successively passed, till they arrived at the corner of Gracechurch-street; here, the dramatist feeling somewhat fatigued, for the day was excessively hot, and having had his appetite whetted, by the thoughts of Elliston's proposed treat, delicately observed,
“You were saying something about a glass of Madeira and a sandwich, just now, sir; there is a very inviting tavern over the way, hadn't we better step in ?"
“True, true," said Elliston, making a sudden stop, “I certainly did
say something about a glass of Madeira and a sandwich, and I'll be as good as my word.”
Řere he gave himself up to a few moments' seemingly very profound meditation. Recovering from which, he inquired of the expectant dramatist, whether he knew if one Carruthers, a tea-dealer, did not reside somewhere near that spot ?"
“ Carruthers?" asked the dramatist,
“ Yes; one of the proprietors of the Royalty Theatre," answered Elliston. “I think, if I remember rightly, his shop is somewhere in this very street,” turning into Gracechurch-street. ** We will inquire.”
What this could have to do with the promised sandwiches and Madeira, P. could not conceive; but he involuntarily followed, and inquire they did; they were soon directed to the emporium of the man of souchong and twankay. Thither they proceeded. Elliston by his strut, &c., apparently increasing in personal consequence every step they advanced, till they reached the “ Golden Canister.”
Entering with much pomposity, followed by the wondering dramatist, Eliston advanced to one of the counters, and stopping a young man who was in the act of weighing some fine hyson, accosted him as follows:
“ My name is Robert William Elliston, of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Is your master, Mr. Carruthers, within ? If so, I wish to see him on particular business."
Taken quite aback by the stentorian voice with which this was uttered, and reflecting that he was not only facing the greatest comedian of his day, but the proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the young man left off serving the customer he was waiting on, a very touchy old lady, and with great trepidation, stammered out that Mr. Carruthers certainly was within, and he would call him down instantly. Suiting the action to the word, he accordingly flew up stairs, to the great indignation of the purchasing dowager, and very soon returned, followed by, his employer, who hobbled after him as fast as a very respectable gouty leg would permit.
Èlliston gave a knowing wink to the dramatist to follow him, and proceeded to a small space at the lower end of the shop, railed off as a sort of counting-house, to which he was invited by the man of figs, as being a privacy where they could speak together without interruption. Elliston's opening address to the master was nearly an echo of that to the man.
My name is Robert William Elliston, of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. You are Mr. Carruthers, I believe ?”
“I am, sir,” said the surprised grocer, marvelling what business Mr. Elliston could possibly have with him. “ What is your pleasure ?"
“ Allow me to introduce my friend ; this is Mr. P., the well-known dramatist. You have, of course, heard of P., the first comic writer we have ?"
“Happy to see the gentleman," replied the obsequious citizen; " though I can't say I have altogether exactly heard of him. What may be his business?"
“Are you not part proprietor of the Royalty Theatre, Mr. Carruthers ?" inquired Elliston, again winking with a peculiar archness of