Arthur H. (Arthur Henry) Beavan.

James and Horace Smith ... A family narrative based upon hitherto unpublished private diaries, letters, and other documents online

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Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Henry) BeavanJames and Horace Smith ... A family narrative based upon hitherto unpublished private diaries, letters, and other documents → online text (page 7 of 20)
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This accident caused an immense sensation in
London, where the idea had from the first been
regarded as chimerical and ridiculous ; so much so
that the wits had at once produced a satirical pro-
spectus for getting rid of the difficult ascent by the
summary process of removing the hill itself

" It is intended," they said, " by means of a mechani-
cal slide, to remove the whole of the hill into the vale
behind Caen Wood, where the seven ponds now are,
thereby forming a junction with Hampstead, and
inviting the approach of the two hamlets in a more
sociable manner. On the spot where Highgate now
stands, it is intended to form a large lake of salt
water of two miles over or thereabouts, beginning at
the north end of Kentish Town, and reaching to the
spot where the White Lion at Finchley now stands."

The prospectus went on to say, that the said lake
was to be supplied with sea-water from the Es.sex
roast by means of pipes, and to be stocked with all
kinds of sea-fish except sharks, " there being plenty
of these to be had in the neighbourhood." Further,
it was intended, it said, to erect a large building in
the centre of the wood on the north side of the lake,



"THE HIGHGATE TUNNEL" 95

which building was to be used for insane surveyors
and attorneys who had lately infested the neighbour-
hood of Highgate, to the annoyance of the ordinary
inhabitants.

Horace Smith seized the ojDportunity, and under
the pseudonym of " Momus Medlar, Esq.," produced
a burlesque operatic tragedy in two acts, called
The Highgate Tunnel, or, the Secret Arch, which
was accepted by John Miller, the dramatic publisher
of 25 Bow Street, was produced at the Lyceum
Theatre on Thursday, the 2nd of July, 1812, and had
what was then considered " quite a run " of twenty-
four nights.

Robert Smith, to whom the secret of the author's
real name had been confided, was proud enough of
his son's success, though tradition and professional
etiquette forbade him openly to approve. The
following bald entry appears in his Journal : —

October, 1812. — A few months ago, my son Horace
wrote a little after-piece for the stage, called The
Highgate Tunnel, which was brought out at the
Lyceum Theatre in the Strand, and had a run.

There was, of course, after the fashion of the day,
a Prelude to this production, termed An Ode to
Fortttne, when Momus Medlar, Esq., one of the
characters, and "Author of the New Tragedy,"
invokes the fickle Goddess : —

Kick down (and welcome) Highgate Arch,

But be content with one ill,
When from the Gallery Ruin nods,
Oh ! whisper silence to the gods,

And spare the Muses' Tunnel !



9G JAMES AND HORACE SMTTII

The gods were pleased, and the critics favourable.
Even the leading journal, the Times (July 4, 1812),
condescended to bestow upon the piece the following
remarks : —

It is a burlesque, and a not unamusing one, on
some of the late Covent Garden meludranias. The
Secret Mine is treated with ridicule, if not very
dexterous, at least very allowable ; and by the help
of some popular melodies, the piece proceeds to its
conclusion without any violent offence to criticism.
Ridicule has been long since disallowed as the test
of truth, and it nmst not rise into a test of dramatic
merit ; but whatever makes some of the later jiro-
ductions of the mclodramc manufacture hide their
diminished heads renders a general service to public
taste. The plot of the present piece is founded on
the terrors of the Highgate publicans of losing
their trade by the change of the road. The princi-
pal sufferer has " a daughter fair," who has won the
heart of a youthful miner. He is promised her
hand on betraying the key-stone of the arch. The
publicans project a general attack ; they are dis-
comhted ; they attack again on horseback ; the
battle is joined with fierceness, till, like Virgil's bees,
exigui pulvcris jadu, the battle is stilled by a cloud
of dust from above, — the arch gives way, — and the
combatants all fall instantly dead. This is sustained
Avith .some lively dialogue, and some ])aro(lies of
favourite passages. The music is tolerably well
selected ; and the piece, without admitting of much
])raise from the nature of the thing, is sufficiently
well-conceived for its object.

One of the parodies here referred to was recited
by Jerry Grout, described in the play-bill as " an



"ALL THE WORLD'S A STABLE" 97

honourable bricklayer, lover, and tunnelleer," who
soliloquizes thus : —

'Tis all the same —
All the World's a stable,
And all the men and women ride on horses ;
Youth has its field-horse ; age its chamber-horse ;
And one man in his time mounts many hobbies,
To travel many stages. — First, the rocking-horse.
See-saw succeeding to the nurse's arms : —
And then the braying donkey with his driver,
Mounted by Margate Miss in shining spencer,
Trotting to Dandelion.^ Then the hack
By priggish cockney guided, prime, bang up.
Whose threaten'd lash is all my eye, like that,
Beneath his Mistress's eyebrow : — Then the palfrey
Bearing an Actress feather'd like shuttlecock,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the Secret Mine. — Last scene of all,
That ends this jockey, groomish history,
Is second childishness, and neighing Actors,
Whose dull horse-play can raise a dull horse-laugh,
Sans wit, sans speech, sans taste, sans everything. —
And now, my Mum, what say'st thou to a glass ?

The musical portion of the burlesque included
another amusing parody set to Dr. Arne's noble air,
" The soldier, tir'd of war's alarms." It was sung by
Tom Trowel, " a vocal labourer," to the words —

The bricklayer, tir'd of bearing hods,

Deserts his gang, exhausted nods.
And snores both loud and clear ;

But if the penny trumpet sound.

He jumps, transported, from the ground.
And claims his pot of beer.

From early youth Horace, like his brother James,
was an intense admirer of the drama, particularly
of the plays of Richard Cumberland. These had

^ A place of amusement near Margate.

H



98 JAMES AND HORACE SMITH

fallen out of fixshion ; and in the year 1805, while
Horace was still in a city counting-house, his con-
viction that this neglect was utterly unwarranted
became so strong, that he wrote a poem deploring
the lamentable absence of taste on the part of the
theatre-going public in ])referring the dramatic
works of other writers to those of Cumberland.

This effusion fell into Cumberland's hands, and
he was so pleased that he quickly made the
author's acquaintance, and introduced him into his
own literary circle, and, to Horace's great delight,
to most of the notable actors of the day.

Thus James and Horace Smith soon came to
know everybody in any way connected with the
stage, and amongst them Miller, the dramatic
publisher of Bow Street, and Charles William
Ward, both of whom were destined to influence very
considerably the lives of the brothers.

Ward was of good famih' and well-connected, and
had married Jane Linley, a younger sister of
Brinsley Sheridan's first wife. He possessed a ver-
satile talent, social tact, and easy manners, and had,
besides, considerable judgment in l)usiness matters,
so that he was well fitted for the responsible position
of secretary to the Theatre Royal, Di'iiry Lane.

Ward was of a convivial disposition, as were most
of the popular men of his day, and an exc(>llcnt
judge of port, the frequent imbibing of which
generous liquor had .set its sign and seal on
his nose. Hence the sobriquet of " Portsoken ^
^ One of the City ward."?.



AN EPIDEMIC OF FIRE 99

Ward," privately bestowed upon him by Horace
Smith.

It was really the Smiths' acquaintance with Ward
that led to their writing Rejected Addresses. But
here it is necessary that I should diverge slightly
from the chronological order which I have endea-
voured to maintain in this family narrative.

On the 20th of September, 1808, a great sensation
was created in London by the total destruction of
Covent Garden Theatre, attended by sad loss of
life.

The recollection of this catastrophe was fresh in
people's memories, when the town was startled
(January 1809) by the intelligence that the entire
east wing of St. James's Palace, including their
Majesties' private apartments, and those of the
Duke of Cambridge, had been burnt down, and the
rest of the Palace saved only with great difficulty.

An epidemic of terrible fires seemed to have set
in. At the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the Cir-
cassian Bride was running; and on the 24th of
February, 1809, — the first Friday in Lent,— the
theatre, according to custom throughout that season
of mortification and fasting, was closed until the
following day, and left in charge of the usual watch-
men and caretakers. About eleven o'clock that
night, a gentleman named Kent, residing in Tavistock
Street, Covent Garden, happened to be passing, and
noticed a strong light in one of the second-floor
windows of the theatre facing Little Russell Street.
He watched it for a few minutes, and deciding' that



100 JAMES AND HORACE SMITH

it betokened nothing more unusual than workmen
busy upon an urgent piece of repairs or alterations,
passed on.

In twenty niiuutes, however, the light had in-
creased, and tongues of fire began to make their
appearance at the window. Alarm was given, and
messengers were dispatched in every direction for
the fire-engines. At that time there was no Fire
Brigade, but each of the Insurance Companies (and
there were sixteen) maintained a number of engines,
with a staff of firemen in distinctive costume.

The engines were only in.uinals, ani] incapable of
forcing the water to any great distance or in any-
thing like an adecjuate (piantity for a large fire.
By the time the " Hand-in-Hand," quickly foUcjwed
by the " Phcenix " and the " Sun," had reached the
spot, the entire upper portion of the great edifice
was in a blaze, at an elevation that would have
severely taxed the powers of even a modern "steamer."

As it was, the manuals confined their attention to
the surrounding houses, and, the su})]ily of water
being plentiful, managed to keep them from catching
alight. The sight was splendid : an iiiiKiMk.n mass
of fiame enwrapped the whole building from Brydges ^
(now Catherine Street) Street to Drury Lane, a
distance of one hundred and fifty 3'ards. I'y nn'd-
night the roof had fallen in, and with it the gigantic
wooden figure of Apollo that had stood on the
summit; and soon afterwards, a poition of the

' Catlicrinc Street fonnfrly oii<le<l at Kxeter Street, wlieiice
t<j Little Kussell Street it wud called lirydj^cs Street.



THE BURNING OF DRURY 101

outer walls in Russell Street and Vinegar Yard fell
down, completely blocking up the passage.

By three o'clock the flames had nearly subsided,
and at five o'clock a.m. all was over, and nothing
but the mere shell remained of the structure that
eighteen years before had been re-built by Holland,
when Garrick's Drury Lane — styled by Mrs. Siddons,
from the magnitude of its dimensions, the " Wilder-
ness " — was pulled down.

An enormous crowd, kept well in check by a strong
detachment from the Horse Guards and Foot Guards,
and estimated to number at least a hundred thousand
souls, quickly assembled, as, from the central position
of the fire, the reflection of the flames was visible

for miles. ^

Far and wide
Across red Thames's oleaming tide,
To distant fields the blaze was borne,
And daisy white and hoary thorn
In borrow'd histre seem'd to shame
The rose or red sweet Wil-li-am.
To those who on the hills around
Behold the tiames from Drury's mound,

As from a lofty altar rise,
It seem'd that nations did conspire
To offer to the god of fire

Some vast stuj^endous sacrifice ! ^

In all directions the tops of the houses were
covered with people, and from those that commanded

^ Now that a large open space has been created by the
pulling down of part of Catherine Street near Russell Court,
a fine view can be obtained of Drury Lane Theatre, and it is
easy to realize what a commanding site the great building
occupies.

^ Rejected Addresses.



102 JAME8 AND HORACE SMITH

a view of the river it was possible to distinguish
every person crossing Westminster and BlacktViars'
Bridges, so bright was the light that ]>laycd upon
the water. And so great was the heat given out by
the conflagration that it was distinctly felt across
Covent Garden Market, at the portico of St. Paul's
Church.

A considerable time elapsed before arrangements
could be made for the re-erection of the theatre.
There were many questions to decide, and money
was slow to come in. But by July of 1811, the
Committee — appointed under the Act of Parliament,
which authorized the formation of a Joint-Stock
Company for the re-building by shares (^f £100
each — met under the presidency of Mr. Samuel
Whitbread, M.P., the celebrated brewer, and were
able to report that subscriptions were flowing in
freely.

Various designs for the now building were con-
sidered, and, finally, Mr. Benjamin Wyatt was
appointed architect; and his jilan, acrom])anied by
a lucid explanatory tract, was freely circulated in
the paj)crs, and on the whole approved of by the
public.

A certain kind of pro\ision was madi- against
possible future conflagrations, by means of an acpie-
duct of con.siderable deiith, ingeniously designed by
Colonel Congreve, to furnish the house with an am})le
supply of water, shoidd Jiccidont occur from fire. It
was to be effected by an engine that would play from
the stage into every box in the house! This is



"CONGREVE'S PLUG" 103

referred to by Horace Smith in the Rejected
Addresses : —

Again should it burst in a blaze,

In vain would they ply Congreve'e plug,

For nought could extinguish the rays
From "the gknce of divine Lady Mugg.



CHAPTER XI
1812

Competition for Address to be spoken at opening of new
Drury Lane Theatre — Some of the Addresses — The re-opening
of Drury Lane Theatre — How Rejected Addresses came to be
written — Its publication.

It was arranged by the Committee that the opening
night of the new theatre should be on the 10th of
October, 1812 ; and on the 12th of August preceding,
there appeared the following announcement in the
leading daily paper : —

" REBUILDING OF DRURY LANE THEATRE.

" The Committee are desirous of promoting a free
and fair competition for an Address to be spoken
upon the opening of the Theatre, which will take
place on the 10th of October next. They have, there-
fore, thought tit to ann(junce to the public, that
they will be glad to receive any such compositions,
addressed to their Secretary, at the Treasury Office
in iJrury Lane, on or before the 10th of September,
sealed up, with a distinguishing word, number, or
motto on the cover, corresponding with the inscrip-
tion on a separate sealed paper, containing the name



"WITHOUT A PHCENIX" 105

of the author, which will not be opened unless con-
taining the name of the successful candidate."

The brothers Smith had previously been made
aware by their friend, Mr. Ward, that such a competi-
tion would be promoted, and Horace, taking advan-
tage of this information, prepared a genuine address,
which was sent up with the others, and shared the
same fate of rejection. It was incorporated in his
volume of Rejected Addresses as " An Address without
a Phoenix," and concludes thus : —

Oil ! may we still, to sense and nature true,

Delight the many, nor offend the few.

Though varying tastes our changeful Drama claim.

Still be its moral tendency the same —

To win by precept, by example warn,

To brand the front of Vice with pointed scorn,

And Virtue's smiling brows with votive wreaths adorn.

As many as one hundred and twelve Addresses were
sent in to the Committee, who heroically sat and
patiently listened while each one in turn was recited
before them. Some were brief, others of inordinate
length ; in fifteen, the poet " flashes his maiden
sword." In general they bore a close resemblance to
each other; thirty contained complimentary allusions
to Wellington, and to Whitbread, the breAver ; and in
no fewer than sixty-nine, the fabled Phcenix was
invoked. Even Whitbread, who himself sent in an
Address, had a Phoenix, but, according to Sheridan,
he made more of the bird than his rivals had done,
entering into particulars, and describing its wings,
beak, tail, etc. ; in short, it was " a poulterer's descrip-
tion of a Phoenix."



lOG JAMES AND HORACE SMITH

Some few of the Addresses were manifestly not
seriously meant to be spoken ; and the professionals
in the poetical world studiously abstained from
competing.

Bravely the Committee struggled through their
thankless task. One Address, abounding in pathos,
from the pen of the well-known W. T. Fitzgerald,
of whom Lord Byron wrote —

" Shall hoarse Fitzgerald bawl
His creaking couplets in a tavern hall — "

tiied their " staying " powers very severely. Six
hours were spent in discussing the merits of this
lengthy and elaborate elegiac, until at last it was
decided, ncm. con., that, as it was confessedly by far the
longest, it should be referred to the prompter to
report, whether, with that superior merit, it might
not, in his opinion, prove also the fittest, as giving the
scene-shifters more time to arrange matters before
the rising of the curtain.

Eventually the Committee, sadly puzzled what to
do, since none came up to their expectations, decided
to reject them all, and in their dilemma applied to
Lord Byron, who acceded to their request, and
provided them with an Address which was duly
recited at the re-opening.

All London was ai?tir, and, as the hmir of opening
approached, the streets leading to Drury Lane were
crowded with sight-seers, ])atiently waiting in the
pouring rain, up to their knees in mud. Scjldiers
guarded the entrances to the theatre, and admitted



MRS. DAVID GARRICK 107

the company so gradually that there was no crushing
or confusion.

The house was rapidly filled with an enthusiastic,
well-behaved audience, who considerately abstained
from hanging their shawls and coats over the front of
the boxes, thus leaving the splendid decorations open
to the sight of all.

When the curtain drew up at half-past six o'clock,
the entire company came forward and sang " God
Save the King " and " Rule, Britannia," received with
the loudest applause.^ Then came Lord Byron's
Address, spoken by Elliston dressed as Hamlet. It
began thus —

" In one dread night, our city saw and sighed,
Bowed to the dust, the Drama's tower of pride,
In one short hour beheld the blazing fane,
Apollo sink, and Shakspeare cease to reign,"

and finished — after more than sixty lines — with the
following —

" The curtain rises — may our stage unfold
Scenes not unworthy Drury's days of old !
Britons our judges, Nature for our guide,
Still may we please, long, long — may ijou preside."'

A touching incident occurred before the perform-
ance began. As Mrs. Garrick entered the box
specially reserved for her, the audience rose, and
welcomed her with three such hearty cheers, in
memory of her incomparable husband, that the poor
old lady, deeply moved by this exhibition of popular
affection, shed tears.

^ The leader of the band was Sir George Smart.



108 JAMES AXT) TIORACE SMTTTI

Tilt' play ^ thi-'H proci't'ilid, lullowod l»y the farce,
The Devil to Pay. The audience was full of good-
humour, and " all went uierry as a mamage-bell."

Finally, it was said that the sum taken that night
at the doors amounted to £S59.

So passed the memorable performance, at which
(it need hardly be said) James and Horace Smith
were present, the former relating to his friends his
personal recollection of the opening of the former
Drury Lane Theatre, when, between the play and the
farce, an epilogue, written by George Colman, had
been " excellently spoken " by Miss Farren.

Of course a good deal of discontent was felt among
the one hundred and twelve " rejected," from the fact
of Ijyron not having com^Jctcd ; but only one of the
number tried publicly to air his grievance. This was
a certain Dr. Busby, who, soon after the re-opening,
created considerable disturbance by addressing the
audience from one of the boxes, and, af'tci- much
interruption and confusion, prevailed upon the good-
natured au<li('nco to allnw him to i-ccitc his own
rejected Adtlrcss from the stage. His voice, however,
was so weak as to be almost inaudible; the ])ublic
hafl given him a chance, and he had failed. Dr.
Busliy, ])olitely handeil from the stage by the stage-
manager, bowed respectfully to the audience, and
di.-^ajtjjearod.^

' UituiJpt — Elliston ill tlm title role, Mr>. Mountain as
Oplitlia, an<l Mr. Pnpr.' a-* the CMin-it.

' In the Briti.-'h Mnseuin, on tlie title-pa^G of a book cdntaiir
ing .some " Genuine Rejected Addresses," the Library authori-



"WHAT ABOUT THE REJECTED?" 109

On the 21st of August — just six weeks before
the re-opening — James Smith was dining with the
general secretary, C. W. Ward, at the Piarra
Coffee House, Covent Garden. Ward had been
telling Smith of the large number of Addresses
that within a fortnight after the issue of the ad-
vertisement had come to hand, and of his opinion
that the bulk of them would turn out to be inferior
and absurd compositions; whereupon, James im-
provised some verses that sent Ward, who had by
this time consumed the greater part of a magnum of
fine old port, into fits of laughter. Suddenly he ex-
claimed, " But what about all the rejected ones, my

boy ! Won't there be a d d row when the av/ard

is given ! They'll be wanting the rejected Addresses
published, just to show the public what they were
like. Now, I have an idea ; why shouldn't you try
and make fun of them all, and write yoior idea of the
rejected ones !" — " Well, I don't know," said James,
" perhaps I may try ; " and nothing more was said
upon the subject. But the hint thrown out was not
forgotten; James repeated it to Horace, who caught
at the idea, and together they concocted a plan of
action.

It was, of course, impossible for them to know for
a certainty who had or who had not sent in Addresses,
or who were likely to do so ; but from some casual



ties have thought it prudent to append a pencilled note, to
the effect that they were not written by James and Horace
Smith.



110 JAMES AND HORACE SMITH

ivniarks made hy Ward, they wore almost sure that
William Thomas Fitzgerald would be in the list, and
also Dr. Thomas Busby, Mus. Doc, notorious for his
classical translation of Lucretius ; but whether the
great lights in the literary firmament would show
on this occasion was a matter of surmise. Another
and grave difficulty stood in the way, which Horace
shall ex})lain in his own words.

No sooner was the idea of oui- work conceived
[says he] than it was about to be abandoned in embryo,
from the apprehension that we hafl no time to mature
and bring it forth, as it was indispensable that it
should be written, printed, and jtubiislu'd by the
opening of Drury Lane Theatre, which would only
allow us an interval of six weeks, ;ui(l wr had both of
us other avocations that precluded us from the full
command of even that limited period. Encouraged,
h«nvever, by the conviction that the thought was a
good one, and by the hope of making a lucky hit, we
set to work, con amore, our very hurry not im])robablv
enabling us to strike out at a heat what we might
have foiled to produce so well, had we possessed time
enough to hammer it into more careful and elaborate
form.

Our first difficulty, that of selection, was l)y no
means a light (jue. . . . We had t(» confine ourselves
to writers whose style ;uid lial.it of thought, being
more marked and jieculiar, was more capable of
exaggeration and distraetion. To avoid polities and
personality, to imitate the turn ofmiudas well as the
idiraseology of our originals, and at all events to raise
a harmless laugh, were our main objects; in the
attainment of whieh united aims we were sometimes
hurri(Ml into extravagance, Ijy attaching nuich more
importance to the last than to the first.



SCOTT, REAL AND FALSE 111

The Rejected Addresses consist of twenty-one
effusions in prose and verse, supposed to have been
sent in to the Committee and rejected as un-
suitable ; they are also supposed to have fallen into
the hands of the authors, and to have been published
by them as fair samples of the state of poetry in
Great Britain. In reality, they are clever imitations
of well-known poets and writers ; but, strictly speak-


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Online LibraryArthur H. (Arthur Henry) BeavanJames and Horace Smith ... A family narrative based upon hitherto unpublished private diaries, letters, and other documents → online text (page 7 of 20)