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novel "The Pilot." T. P. Cooke had quitted the navy-where he had reaped honour and glory in the battle of St. Vincent-for the stage as early as 1804, in which year he made his appearance at the old Royalty.* As a member of the Drury Lane, Covent Garden, and English Opera House companies he had already attained a high position in his profession when he made his first appearance upon the Adelphi stage as Long Tom Coffin, a performance which was only to be exceeded thereafter upon other boards by his William in "Black Eyed Susan." This drama, one of the first, if not the first, of the long series of nautical pieces that for so many years delighted the audiences of the minor theatres, had a run of over two hundred nights. The genuine tar, however, that Cooke delineated from the life, in other hands became a caricature. Most of us remember the tremendous sailor hero of the old Surrey and Cobourg, who could knock down half-a-dozen stalwart ruffians with one blow of his fist or even the wind of it, and check their advance with a well-directed quid, who never opened his mouth without shivering his timbers, whose enemies were all swabs, whose sweetheart was a frigate, in short, whose entire phraseology was borrowed from his ship. The next year the weird drama of " The Flying Dutchman," in which Cooke played Vanderdecken, proved a great success. It had a magic-lantern effect for the production of the phantom ship, at that time considered a marvel of stage illusion. After the run of " The Pilot," Cooke betook himself to Paris, and played the pantomime part of the monster in "Frankenstein" at the Porte St. Martin for eighty nights. The performance was afterwards repeated in London, and from that time he became the recognised delineator of demon as well as of nautical life. In 1827 the theatre was again enlarged both before and behind the curtain. The success of this season was a powerful drama taken from the French, and revived, if I mistake not, by Fechter during his lesseeship of the Lyceum, called " Thirty Years of a Gambler's Life;" the version was by Buckstone, who joined the company this year, and made his first appearance as Bobby Trot in one of his own popular dramas, "Luke the Labourer." He had already played at the Surrey and the Cobourg, but this was the first time he came prominently before the London public.
On the 29th of September 1829, Terry having retired with a loss of ten thousand pounds which had been lent him by his great friend Walter Scott, Mathews entered into partnership with Yates, paying, so it is stated in his biography, £17,000 for his share. The partnership was a very appropriate one; several seasons before, Yates had appeared here in an entertainment entitled "Sketches
This was situated in Wellclose Square, near the Minories; it was opened in 1787. Benham made his first appearance upon the stage early in the first season. In 1828, it was the scene of a terrible accident, the iron roof fell, during rehearsa!, crushing to death thirteen persons and injuring twenty others,
of Life and Character," which he supported entirely himself; the two now united in a dualogue entertainment of a similar kind. Yates possessed great powers of mimicry as well as histrionic talent of a very high order; he was equally at home as Alexander, the rouè in "Victorine," as Mantalini, in "Nicholas Nickleby," as the bold Miles Bertram, in "The Wreck Ashore," and as Quilp in the "Old Curiosity Shop." During the next few years this house could boast of companies which made the name of the little minor theatre famous throughout the dramatic world: T. P. Cooke, John Reeve, O. Smith, most wonderful of all stage villains, Tyrone Power, greatest of Irish comedians, Wrench, Wilkinson, Buckstone; later on, Wright and Paul Bedford, Mrs. Yates, Mrs. Fitzwilliam, Mrs. Keeley, Mrs. Honey, Miss Keeley; then Madame Celeste, Miss Woolgar, and Mrs. Stirling, at that time one of the most charming heroines of domestic drama as she is now the incomparable representative of the "old women" of legitimate drama. But not even this array of talent, with plays by such hands as Jerrold, Poole, Buckstone, could in those evil days of theatrical speculation make the house pay. Yates had a great friend in the Duchess of St. Albans, who frequently came to his assistance, but all in vain. Mathews dying in 1835, his son, Charles the younger, took his place, but retired at the end of the first season. Then Yates took another partner, a man named Gladstone, who ultimately became sole lessee, and succeeded in effecting what his far cleverer predecessors had failed in, making the house pay. Poor Yates died broken-hearted in 1842, in the very zenith of his powers, at the early age of forty-seven. Edward Stirling tells a laughable story of him in "Old Drury Lane," which is worth repeating. During one of the Westminster elections he was seen by the mob entering the Tory polling booth. A cry was raised of "Yates voting against us, oh, oh!" The actor laid his hand upon his bosom, and vowed his heart was with them:
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, as soon as he could make himself heard, "On this joyous occasion pray be merciful-on this my first appearance on a political stage, and I promise you the last. You may return old Nick if you like; my wish is ever to please my best supporters, the people."
"Hurrah, bravo! give us Jim Crow!" shouted the mob. In an instant Yates, with the utmost sang froid, whistled the tune, danced a break-down round the hustings, and wound up with singing:
On my Jim Crow."
His wife, the once charming Miss Brunton, the sister of the Countess of Craven, was an incomparable heroine of melodrama,
as well as an admirable actress of legitimate comedy parts; old playgoers speak rapturously of her Victorine, in the play of that name, and of her impersonation of characters of that kind. She survived her husband nearly twenty years.
Buckstone's "Wreck Ashore," 1830, was the first of those dramas to which the peculiarly distinctive title of "Adelphi " has been affixed. John Reeve's Marmaduke Magog and the author's Jemmy Starling are still memories of delight to those who witnessed them. Poor John Reeve, a few years afterwards, broken in constitution and talent by a too free indulgence in conviviality, became such a wreck, and so pitiably incompetent, that even his most enthusiastic admirers would no more of him, and another took his place; he did not long survive the blow; he died in 1838, being only thirty-nine years of age. He was the last of an illustrious race-Shuter, Weston, Edwin and many others who had gone the same way.
Of Wright, Reeve's successor, the writer of this article has a vivid recollection. Those who have had the opportunity of making the comparison pronounce Wright to have been the only successor to Liston and Reeve. I have never seen any one since so irresistibly and naturally funny. He seldom resorted to an exaggerated make-up; in ordinary parts he wore a light, curly wig, such as was then affected by light comedians, an eccentric but not extravagant suit, while his broad, beaming face was disguised only by a touch of vermillion. He did not grimace, yet the moment he entered, and began to twist his eye-glass round his thumb in his own peculiar manner, you roared, and it was not only you who roared, but the actors as well sometimes. I have seen the action of the play stopped for seconds, and the performers so convulsed with laughter that they could not speak; and yet when it was over you asked yourself what had excited all this risibility, which had left you with stitches and aching sides; he had done nothing so very absurd. But humour seemed to ooze out of his fingers' ends and surround him as with an atmosphere. He was coarse; he was such a "gagger" that sometimes his parts were written in skeleton, as whether or not he would make his own version. But oh, ye gods! how comical he was!
Madame Celeste appeared at the Adelphi in 1838 in Bayle Bernard's drama of "St. Mary's Eve." She had then been some years upon the stage. When she first came over to England she could not speak a word of the language, and appeared in pantomime parts. In 1844 she became, in partnership with Benjamin Webster, lessee of the Adelphi, and, in the "Green Bushes," 1845, and the "Flowers of the Forest," 1847, rose to the zenith of her fame. When the writer first saw her, in 1855, she was in the full maturity of her incomparable powers. In her own peculiar line of characters, of which Miami and Cynthia were typical, she was unapproachable. Without being beautiful, she
had a marvellous fascination, and a figure that lent the most exquisite grace to her every movement. Who that saw her in the old days-alas! there was a terrible falling off in her more recent attempts can ever forget her second act of Miami? She was the Indian girl; lithe and graceful as a fawn, her whole soul given up to a wild, savage love, she was equally ready to slay herself or her lover upon the altar of passion. Then the transition, as she stood upon the bridge at the back and saw him embracing another. I have seen few stage pictures more terrible than that statuesque despair, that rigid face with the gleaming eyes. Other actresses I have seen pant and make faces, but Celeste was marble. Once or twice she gripped her carbine and half raised it, with a flash of fierceness that thrilled the spectators to the fingers' tips, then again she was motionless. But when she was alone, the finding of the picture, the break-down upon the words-"Poor mother, poor child, poor, poor Miami!" and so on to the end, when, with that vengeful shriek, she fired upon the faithless one, and lost, dazed, turned to stone again, was dragged off by the despairing wife. All was conceived and executed in a spirit of the finest art, raising commonplace melodrama to the regions of the legitimate. In the same play as originally cast was Mrs. Yates as Geraldine and Mrs. Fitzwilliam as Nelly O'Neill, performances, in their way, worthy to stand beside her own. In Cynthia she was equally if not more beautiful. What pathos there was in her last scene with what breathless silence the audience watched her every movement, her exquisite pantomime, and broke almost into a sympathetic sob as she buried the dagger in her heart. In this piece another famous name was added to the Adelphi roll, Miss Woolgar, who shared the honours with Celeste and Fitzwilliam as Lemuel. She was destined to be the last of the fine old company. It is the fashion now to sneer at Adelphi dramas; the world they pictured was not the real world; they will not stand the test of criticism; yet they were pretty, harmless, romantic stories, and would it be impertinent to suggest that they might have been a pleasanter entertainment than the gospel of rags and realismequally far from true pictures of life-that now usurp the stage of our melodramatic theatres. To stalls and boxes these may be curious as contrasts, but surely it is a strange taste for pit and gallery to desire to carry the sordid experiences of their every-day life with them to their amusements. Something drawn from the world of fancy might be more healthful recreation.
Another notable Adelphi success must not be forgotten-the dramatic version of Harrison Ainsworth's "Jack Sheppard which created a furore almost equal to "Tom and Jerry." Mrs. Keeley's Jack must have been a delightfully piquant performance; then there was Paul Bedford, with his famous song of "Jolly Nose." I was taken to see him when I was a very little boy, and have a dim remembrance of those tremendous depths to which his
fine bass descended upon the reiteration of "Jolly Nose." Charming Mrs. Keeley made many another hit on those boards, more than one in Dickens's characters-Smike, Dot, Little Nell-all of which brought plenty of grist to the Adelphi mill.
In 1853 Webster gave up the Haymarket, and went over to the Adelphi for good and all. And now began another series of Adelphi dramas, with which the names of Charles Reade, Tom Taylor, Watts Philips, and Dion Boucicault are chiefly associated. "Masks and Faces," "Two Loves and a Life," "The Poor Strollers," "The Dead Heart," and "Janet Pride." Like his predecessor Yates, Webster was what is called an all-round actor. Richard Pride, that in every other actor's hands became a commonplace melodramatic part, was in his a psychological study of drunkenness in its every mood, shaded off with rare artistic skill; a repulsive presentation, but immensely clever; what a transition to Triplet, half grotesque, wholly pathetic, the humour ous side touched with such delicate art, that smiles were drowned in tears; it was a piece of acting never to be forgotten. Tartuffe again, in the translation of Molière's masterpiece, would have done credit to the boards of the Français; to see him in Giles, the Somersetshire lout in the "Queensbury Fête," and you would imagine he could play no other style of part. One of his masterpieces was Robert Landry; the scene where he was brought out of the Bastille, the gradual awakening of consciousness and memory, which occupied many moments of dead silence, acted only by facial expression, was a most impressive performance.
One by one" the fell Sergeant Death" called off the famous company without others springing up to supply their places, O. Smith, Power, Wright, Mrs. Yates; others seceded; the old house was demolished in 1858, and a new and more spacious theatre rose upon its ruins. It began well with the "Colleen Bawn," the first of the sensational dramas, with its wonderful water-cave scene; wonderful then, but what should we think of it now? But it was the secret of the success, and it has been said that it was rather the invention of an old American stage carpenter than of the author. "Rip Van Winkle" was another notable production, and Jefferson's performance was worthy to be ranked. with anything that had gone before. Since then the Adelphi has scarcely held its own; to a somewhat barren record there is but one exception, Charles Reade's "Drink," in which Mr. Charles Warner gave his very remarkable performance, another study of the drink fiend, but on broader and more powerful lines than Boucicault had taken. After so long a period of depression, that people began to think that good fortune had for ever forsaken the old house, it has again become one of the most prosperous theatres in London; but as this article has to do only with the past, no more than a passing allusion to these recent successes comes within its scope.
H. BARTON BAKER.