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found in “ Chetwood's History of the Stage." A London actor, of the same name with the great dramatic poet, Ben Jonson, happening to pay a visit to Dublin, communicated to Betterton, on his return, Baker's manner of personating Falstaff, which, says Davies, Betterton " not only approved, but adopted, and frankly owned that the paviour's draught of Sir John was more characteristical than his own." This great actor died in 1710.
In the interval between Betterton and Quin, several actors were induced to attempt to bend this bow of Ulysses, but with very indifferent success. Barton Booth, at the express command of Queen Anne, ventured upon the character, for one night only, and then abandoned it in despair. The elder Mills also tried his skill in its representation; but, alas! the sober gravity of his face could never be made to express the inimitable humour of Falstaff. The fat figure, full voice, round face, and honest laugh of Harper, were more in his favour, but few gleams of intellect or genius beamed through his performance.
One of the earliest performances of Rich's Company at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields,
was the “ Merry Wives of Windsor," and in this, confessedly the feeblest portrait which our immortal bard has given of the merry knight, Quin gained such great applause, that he was soon induced to try his fortune in the more strongly marked delineation of the character, which is to be found in the First Part of Henry IV. He possessed a tall and bulky person, a strong and pleasing voice, a bold and manly countenance, and a piercing and expressive eye. His style of acting was highly animated, and his sarcasm poignant and biting. With these qualifications he could not fail to succeed in the representation of such a character as Falstaff, and in spite of some defects with which he was charged, he speedily gained the reputation of the most intelligent and judicious performer who had appeared in it since the days of Betterton.
Of Berry, Lowe, Shuter, Woodward, and Yates, who all in turn put on Falstaff"s habit, little need be said, as none of them are considered to have succeeded in the delineation of that soul of mirth and good humour with which the boundless fancy and creative genius of Shakspeare have animated his unwieldy carcase. Clever, as most of these actors were in their
respective lines, they were obviously unfit for the representation of a character so far above the common reach.
Henderson's performance of the character is, however, deserving of more particular mention, as being, in the opinion of many excellent judges, equal to that of Quin. In fact, these two celebrated actors appear to divide between them the honor of being the best Falstaffs of the last century, so difficult is it to decide on which of them the palm should be conferred. Quin was decidedly the superior in figure, voice, and countenance; and in the impudent dignity of the character, no one could even approach him. The external deficiencies of Henderson were supplied by a most excellent judgment; and in the gay levity and frolicksome humour which he displayed, he completely distanced all competitors.
Since the days of Henderson, we have had a variety of Falstaffs of all descriptions, good, bad, and indifferent. Among these, George Frederick Cooke is, perhaps, entitled to rank highest. Some few have been led to the performance of the character principally in consequence of their extraordinary bulk. Of these, the most remark
able was a Mrs. Webb, who enacted the part to the no small entertainment of an overflowing audience, for her own benefit, at the Haymarket Theatre. The excessive corpulence of Mr. Stephen Kemble also obtained for him the applause of a liberal and discerning public. Of the Falstaffs who at present occupy the stage, in the persons of Fawcett, Dowton, Bartley, and Charles Kemble, the former, perhaps, is the most equal in his performance, and the gross sensuality of the character loses nothing in his hands ; Dowton is exceedingly rich in the delineation of the ludicrous features of the character: Bartley's voice and figure are well suited to the part, and, added to the honest and hearty good humour by which he is distinguished, render him a very efficient representative of the merry and mirth-exciting knight; and Charles Kemble's personation of the character is marked by a number of clever points, and displays in several of the scenes much talent and discrimination.
FATHER AND SON.
One evening Tom Sheridan, sitting with his father over a bottle, was complaining of the emptiness of his pocket. The Right Hon. Manager
jocularly told him to go on the highway. “I have tried that already,” said he, “ but without
-“ Aye! how ?" said his father. Why,” resumed he," I stopped a caravan full of passengers, who assured me that they had not a farthing, as they all belonged to Drury Lane Theatre, and could not get a penny of their salary.”
This play, written jointly by Jonson, Chapman, and Marston, (in the Reign of James I.) containing some cutting sarcasms on the Scots, was the cause of the imprisonment of all three, and it was reported that they were to be pillo. ried, and deprived of their ears and noses. The throne was therefore supplicated, and, after strong intercession being made, they were liberated, when Jonson gave a feast in celebration thereof, in the midst of which his aged mother drank to him, and produced a paper of potent poi son, which she declared, if the sentence had been passed, she would have infused in her son Ben's drink; and added, more like a Roman matron, then an English old woman, that she designed to have drank it first!