Page images
PDF
EPUB

minster than are placed upon the like amusements at the same period in every other part of the Metropolis,’ yet, it is apprehended, no alteration will take place. I have uniformly represented to parties expressing such fears, that I felt confident their apprehensions were unfounded.

66 Your Lordship would, however, confer a great favour upon those who originally did me the honour to place their cause in my hands, if your Lordship would, at your earliest convenience, inform me if I am correct in the conclusions to which I have

come,

in order that all doubts and misunderstanding upon this subject may be removed.

I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship’s obedient, humble servant,

THOMAS DUNCOMBE." To the Earl of Uxbridge, &c.

“ Windsor Castle, Feb. 13, 1840.

66 SIR,

“ In answer to your letter, which I had the honour of receiving last week, on the subject of the Theatres being closed during Lent, I beg to inform you that I have sent letters to the managers, stating that it will only be necessary to close them during Passion-week and on Ash Wednesday.

I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,

UXBRIDGE." Thomas S. Duncombe, Esq., Albany.

Now mark the monstrous incongruity too frequently committed by people possessing more means than mind, of which such a glaring instance as this has rarely occurred. No one has ever supposed that the Sovereign knows a tithe part of all that is done in the Sovereign's name; and, in this particular respect, no one could suppose that the gracious mistress of this fair land, with noble and expansive views upon all subjects brought under her cognizance, could, for a moment, retain one vestige of a system of bye-gone absurdities

No one ever dreamt that the prohibitions fulminated year after year against the dramatic performances of only some half-dozen theatres out of twenty, all within the boundaries of the metropolis, could have even been known to, much less have received the sanction of, that illustrious Lady; who, in many instances, has manifested to those by whom she has been surrounded and counselled, the vast superiority of youthful attainments over aged prejudices. That such was the fact, and that our gracious Queen would never have sanctioned a continuance of regulations, equally unwholesome and

* As a proof how rooted has been the determination to carry out the position which I laboured so long, but in vain, to maintain, it may be mentioned that when an attempt was made, a few days prior to the last Passion Week, to prohibit a continuance of the astronomical lectures then in course of delivery at Her Majesty's Theatre, by Mr. Howell, Mr. Duncombe brought the matter before parliament, and defeated the Government opposition by 73 to 49.

contemptible, when once brought under royal consideration, may best be ascertained from the statement of another fact, viz. that on the very first night of Lent, when the prohibition was taken off, Her Majesty was pleased to visit Covent Garden Theatre, and to sit out the evening's entertainments. It can hardly be believed, were it not a matter of such recent occurrence, that the advisers of a Sovereign could be found to denounce the adoption of a measure, which, on its adoption a few months afterwards, their Sovereign set the noble example of countenancing.

Dismissing this subject, I take leave to refer to another, fully dilated upon in the course of these Volumes, in which I was then much more responsibly interested, than I am now. of correspondence which passed between the Lord Chamberlain's Office and myself, upon the re-introduction of a German Opera in this country, will come under the reader's attention. It was an entertainment which, by the admirable manner in which it was sustained in Drury Lane Theatre, in the year 1833, had become extremely popular; and, in addition to the approbation of the people, had obtained the sanction and patronage of the Court. I had been desirous, season after season, of bringing it again before the public, but no favourable opportunity presented itself until the arrival in this country of the Chevalier Spontini. The musical reputation of that composer was a sufficient guarantee

.

A mass

for the manner in which the undertaking would be carried on; without going over the ground a second time, the reader will perceive that I was prohibited from giving any such amusement; but, at the very moment I am writing these remarks, I am the acting manager of the German Opera, under a licence from the Lord Chamberlain's Office, given to another! I can, however, so far solve two such apparently contradictory problems, by stating that the prohibitions were issued against me by the Marquis Conyngham, at that time Lord Chamberlain, while their repeal was effected by the liberal policy of his Lordship’s enlightened and distinguished successor, the Earl of Uxbridge. To the courteous consideration of this noble Lord the public are now indebted for the enjoyment of some of the best operas of the German school ; and by the same timely aid was Madame Vestris fortunate enough to have the power of availing herself of eleven nights in an earlier part of her season, towards the number she proposed to play, by which she has been enabled to close so much earlier, and thereby to escape the fearful odds against a patent manager, as the London season approaches its height*.

While on the subject of “ luck,” let me record such an instance, in this lady's management, as none of her predecessors ever had the good fortune

It is impossible to withhold a smile at the nonsensical tirades which hare appeared in print against the supposed premature close of

[ocr errors]

to meet with. Mr. Charles Kemble, who, theatrically speaking, was inurned in the year 1837—to whom a public dinner, all sorts of honors, and, finally, a superb piece of plate, were given on his retirement from the stage, to take upon himself the uninterrupted fulfilment of the duties devolving on “ the Examiner of all theatrical entertainments,”—having effected a transfer of that office to his son, suddenly made his re-appearance on the stage he had so long adorned; not, of course, in the expectation of another dinner, any more honors, or any more plate falling into his lap, but in obedience to a wish of his gracious Sovereign, and at the same time to show her how a few characters in the drama ought to be acted. While some parties maintained that he had been “dug up," and Macready had thereby been “ buried,” others regretted that his first retirement was not his final one;—and while the Montagues declared that he acted finer than ever, the Capuletslooked upon him as having gone altogether to decay. Be this as it may, I keep my own opinion to myself; being contented to record the most important part of the matterid est, THE ISSUE. Mr. Kemble performed six nights, on each of which he filled most of the crevices in Covent Garden Theatre; and if his acting had no other effect, it possessed the very useful and salutary one of bringing other performers to their

Covent Garden Theatre. By virtue of these said eleven nights in Lent, and by the previous advantage of having opened in September, Madame Vestris has extended her season to the same length as many of her predecessors did, who played through the month of June,

« PreviousContinue »