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There is, however, enough genuine un-negatived Lamb (as he would say) remaining to make this edition of Wither a very desirable possession of all collectors of Lamb.
What is even more surprising than Lamb’s silence on the subject–which may easily be accounted for by the incomplete state of his correspondence–is the silence of Gutch himself. In 1847, when he told the story of Wither, he made no reference whatever to any use of Lamb’s notes beyond Lamb’s own, nor even mentioned the fact that a fuller edition of Wither was published by himself, although he refers his readers to two other editions, one earlier and one later, and remarks on the poet’s growing popularity. He quotes, however, a long pa.s.sage from Lamb’s 1818 essay, remarking that it was based upon the notes made in the original copy of Wither.
Gutch was wrong in stating that it was through him that Lamb became acquainted with Wither. It was only to _Philarete_ that Gutch introduced him. Lamb was first drawn to Wither by Coleridge, as he admits in the letter of July 1, 1796. In 1798 he wrote to Southey on the subject: “Quarles is a wittier writer, but Wither lays more hold of the heart….
I always love Wither … the extract from _Shepherd’s Hunting_ places him in a starry height far above Quarles.”
This note is already so long that I hesitate to add to it by quoting from Wither the pa.s.sages referred to by Lamb. They are, moreover, easily identifiable.
George Wither, or Withers, was born in 1588. His _Abuses Stript and Whipt_ was published in 1613; his _Shepherd’s Hunting_, written in part while its author was in the Marshalsea prison for his plain speaking in _Abuses_, was published in 1615; Wither’s _Motto_ in 1621, and _Fair Virtue, the Mistress of Philarete_, in 1622, but it may have been composed long before. Wither died in 1667. His light remained under a bushel for many years. The _Percy Reliques_, 1765, began the revival of Wither’s fame; George Ellis’s _Specimens_, 1805, continued it; and then came Lamb, and Gutch, and Southey, and it was a.s.sured.
Page 211, line 10. _No Shaftesbury, no Villiers, no Wharton._ Referring to the victims of Dryden and Pope’s satires–the first Earl of Shaftesbury in Dryden’s “Absalom and Achitophel,” “Albion and Albanius”
and “The Medal;” Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham, in “Absalom and Achitophel” and in Pope’s third “Moral Essay;” Philip, Duke of Wharton in Pope’s “Epistle to Sir Richard Temple.”
Page 211, line 23. _Where Faithful is arraigned._ Faithful was accused of railing also upon Lord Desire of Vain Glory, my old Lord Lechery and Sir Having Greedy.
Page 215. FIVE DRAMATIC CRITICISMS.
None of these were reprinted by Lamb.
During the year 1819 Leigh Hunt’s _Examiner_ gave Lamb his first encouragement to indulge in those raptures upon comedians which no one has expressed so well as he. The notices that follow preceded his _Elia_ essays on the “Old Actors” by some three years, although, as is pointed out in the notes to that work, the essay on the “Acting of Munden” first saw the light in _The Examiner_ of November 7 and 8, 1819, as one of the present series. The central figure, however, of the five pieces here collected together is Miss Kelly, Lamb’s friend and favourite actress of his middle and later life, whom he began to praise in 1813 (see “The New Acting,” page 177), and in praising whom he never tired.
Lamb’s sweet allusion to Miss Kelly’s “divine plain face” is well known.
It may be interesting, to add Oxberry’s description: “Her face is round and pleasing, though not handsome; her eyes are light blue; her forehead is peculiarly low … her smile is peculiarly beautiful and may be said to completely _sun_ her countenance.”
In _The Examiner_ for December 20, 1818, after Leigh Hunt’s criticism of Kenney’s comedy “A Word for the Ladies” is the following paragraph.
Leigh Hunt’s criticism is signed: this is not, nor is it joined to the article. There is, I think, good reason to believe it to be Lamb’s:–
“It was not without a feeling of pain, that we observed Miss KELLY among the _spectators_ on the first night of the new comedy. What does she do before the curtain? She should have been on the stage. With such youth, such talents,–
Those powers of pleasing, with that will to please,
it is too much that she should be forgotten, discarded, laid aside like an old fashion. It really is not yet the season for her ‘among the wastes of time to go.’ Is it Mr. STEPHEN KEMBLE, or the Sub-Committee; or what _heavy body_ is it, which interposes itself between us and this light of the stage?”
With these Eulogies of Miss Kelly is a.s.sociated one of the most interesting days in Lamb’s life, as the note on page 487 tells.
Page 215. I.–MRS. GOULD (MISS BURRELL) IN “DON GIOVANNI IN LONDON.”
_The Examiner_, November 22, 1818. Signed .
This criticism we know to be Lamb’s upon Talfourd’s testimony. He writes:–
Miss Burrell, a lady of more limited powers, but with a frank and n.o.ble style, was discovered by Lamb on one of the visits which he paid, on the invitation of his old friend Elliston, to the Olympic, where the lady performed the hero of that happy parody of Moncrieff’s, “Giovanni in London.” To her Lamb devoted a little article, which he sent to _The Examiner_ [a portion of the article is quoted]. Miss Burrell soon married a person named Gold, and disappeared from the stage.
Lamb pasted the article in his Alb.u.m or Commonplace Book accompanied by a portrait of the actress. Writing to Mrs. Wordsworth in February, 1818, he speaks of his power, during business, of reserving “in some corner of my mind ‘some darling thoughts, all my own,’–faint memory of some pa.s.sage in a book, or the tone of an absent friend’s voice–a s.n.a.t.c.h of Miss Burrell’s singing, or a gleam of f.a.n.n.y Kelly’s divine plain face.”
Page 215, line 2 of essay. _A burletta founded, etc._ This was “Rochester; or, King Charles the Second’s Merry Days,” by William Thomas Moncrieff (1794-1857).
Page 215, line 8 of essay. _Elliston and Mrs. Edwin._ Robert William Elliston (1774-1831), a famous comedian, and the lessee of the Olympic at that date, of whom Lamb wrote with enthusiasm in his _Elia_ essays, “To the Shade of Elliston,” and “Ellistoniana.” Elizabeth Rebecca Edwin (1771?-1854) was the wife of John Edwin the younger, a favourite actress in Mrs. Jordan’s parts.
Page 215, line 11 of essay. “_Don Giovanni._” “Giovanni in London; or, The Libertine Reclaimed,” 1817, also by Moncrieff–the play in which Madame Vestris made so great a hit a year or so later.
Page 216, line 14 from foot. _We have seen Mrs. Jordan._ Mrs. Jordan had left the London stage in 1815.
Page 216, line 10 from foot. _Great house in the Haymarket._ This was the King’s Theatre (afterwards His Majesty’s) where Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” was produced in 1817, with Ambrogetti, the buffo, in the caste. Lamb’s friend, William Ayrton, was the moving spirit in this representation.
Page 217. II.–MISS KELLY AT BATH.
_Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal_, January 30, 1819. The present article has been set up from that paper. Usually, however, it has been set up from Leigh Hunt’s copy in _The Examiner_, February 7 and 8, 1819, where it was quoted with the following introduction:–
The Reader, we are sure, will thank us for extracting the following observations on a favourite Actress, from a Provincial Paper, the _Bristol Journal_. We should have guessed the masterly and cordial hand that wrote them had we met with it in the East Indies. There is but one praise belonging to Miss KELLY which it has omitted, and which it could not supply;–and that is, that she has had finer criticism written upon her, than any performer that ever trod the stage.
The letter was written to John Mathew Gutch (see notes to Lamb’s essay on “George Wither”), who in 1803 became proprietor of _Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal_. Miss Kelly was at Bath in 1819 at the end of January and first half of February.
Page 217, first line of essay. _Our old play-going days._ The Lambs lodged with Gutch, who was then a law-stationer, at 34 Southampton Buildings, in 1800. Lamb was there alone for some time, during his sister’s illness, and it is probably to this period that he refers.
Page 217, second line. _Mrs. Jordan._ See note above. Miss Kelly played many of Mrs. Jordan’s parts.
Page 217, third line. _Dodd and Parsons._ See note to “The New Acting,”
Page 217, fourth line. _Smith or Jack Palmer._ William Smith (1730?-1819), known as Gentleman Smith. Lamb perhaps saw him on the night of May 18, 1798, his sole appearance for ten years; otherwise his knowledge of his acting could be but small. On that occasion Smith played Charles Surface in “The School for Scandal,” Joseph Surface being Jack Palmer’s great part (see the _Elia_ essay on “The Artificial Comedy,” for an a.n.a.lysis of Palmer’s acting).
Page 217, sixth line. _Miss Kelly._ See note to “The New Acting,” page 466. Frances Maria Kelly (1790-1882) made her debut at the age of seven in “Bluebeard” (the music by her uncle, Michael Kelly), at Drury Lane, in 1798. She was enrolled as a chorister of Drury Lane in 1799. She made her farewell appearance at Drury Lane in 1835.
Page 218, line 20. _Yarico._ In “Inkle and Yarico,” 1787, by George Colman the younger (1762-1836).
Page 218, line 11 from foot. _A Phbe or a Dinah Cropley._ Phbe, in “Rosina,” by Mrs. Frances Brooke (1724-1789). I do not find a Dinah Cropley among Miss Kelly’s parts. She played Dinah Primrose in O’Keeffe’s “Young Quaker”–Lamb may have been thinking of that.
Page 218, line 5 from foot. “_The Merry Mourners._” “Modern Antiques; or, The Merry Mourners,” 1791, by John O’Keeffe. It was while playing in this farce on February 17, 1816, that Miss Kelly was fired at by a lunatic in the pit. Some of the shot is said to have fallen into the lap of Mary Lamb, who was present with her brother.
Page 218, foot. _Inebriation in Nell._ Nell, in “The Devil to Pay,”
1731, originally by Charles Coffey (d. 1745), but much adapted. Nell was one of Mrs. Jordan’s great parts.
Page 219, line 2. _Our friend C._ Coleridge, who was also at Christ’s Hospital with Gutch. He says, in _Biographia Literaria_: “Men of Letters and literary genius are too often what is styled in trivial irony ‘fine gentlemen spoilt in the making.’ They care not for show and grandeur in what surrounds them, having enough within … but they are fine gentlemen in all that concerns ease and pleasurable, or at least comfortable, sensation.” In one of his lectures on “Poetry, the Drama and Shakespeare” in 1818, Coleridge says: “As it must not, so genius can not, be lawless;” which is the reverse of Lamb’s recollection.
Page 219. III.–RICHARD BROME’S “JOVIAL CREW.”
_Examiner_, July 4 and 5, 1819. Signed ****. Richard Brome’s “Jovial Crew; or, The Merry Beggars,” was first acted in 1641, and continually revived since then, although it is now no longer seen. Indeed our opportunities are few to-day of seeing most of the plays that Lamb praised. The revival criticised by Lamb began at the English Opera House (the Lyceum) on June 29, 1819.
Page 219, line 7 from foot. _Lovegrove._ William Lovegrove (1778-1816), a famous character actor. He ceased to be seen at except rare intervals after 1814.
Page 219, line 5 from foot. _Dowton._ See note to “The New Acting,” page 465.
Page 220, line 3. _Wrench._ Benjamin Wrench (1778-1843), a comedian of the school of Elliston.
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