Richard Mant.

Public and private life of that celebrated actress, Miss Bland, otherwise Mrs. Ford, or, Mrs. Jordan; late mistress of H. R. H. the D. of Clarence; now King William IV., founder of the Fitzclarence family .. online

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Online LibraryRichard MantPublic and private life of that celebrated actress, Miss Bland, otherwise Mrs. Ford, or, Mrs. Jordan; late mistress of H. R. H. the D. of Clarence; now King William IV., founder of the Fitzclarence family .. → online text (page 4 of 13)
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In the season of 1782-83, she did not appear until the close of
February, when in defiance of Mr. Kemble, the acting manager,
she brought out a new comedy, entitled Anna, said to be the pro-
duction of a Miss Cuthbertson, aided by Mrs. Jordan. Respecting
this composition, disputes ran very high, our heroine maintaining
that novelty was essentially requisite, while Mr. Kemble con-
tended that nothing was required beyond the sterling drama,
whereby she, as well as himself and Mrs. Siddons, had so per-
manently established their reputations. There was, indeed, little
to recommend this comedy, the leading features of which were
the disguise of our actress, and an appeal to her vocal powers
— being, as usual, very effective \ but the production proving too



Life of Mrs. Jorda:!^.

31

vapid to command success, was condemned accordingly. For her
benefit this season, our heroine selected Murphy's comedy of All
in the Wrong, personating Lady Restless ; and Kelt, in the farce
of The Devil to Pay.

On the 29th of Novembei', 1794, was represented a two-act
comedy, from the pen of Mrs. Robinson, entitled Nobody, wherein
Mrs. Jordan sustained a character; but the production was of a
nature by no means suited to the public taste, and the piece was,
in consequence, laid upon the shelf. On this occasion it became
obvious that however kind and sympathising the heart of OT^r
actress might be, she was by no means formed to combat this fury
of opposition, which was manifested in the representation of the
present piece, in no very measured terms. The comedy w^as tried
a second time, but as might be expected, Nobody came to nothing.
At the same juncture, Mrs. Inchbald wrote a farce for Mrs.
Jordan, called Tlte Wedding Day, wherein she warbled that most
effective of ballads. In the dead of the Night, which in itself
possessed sufficient charms to ensure the success that attended
this little production.

Under the continued management of Mr. Kemble, Ave next find
Miss Mellon, afterwards Mrs. Coutts, and now Duchess of St.
Albans, treading the boards of Drury Lane, on the 31st of Jan-
uary, 1795, when she personated the character of Lydia Lang^iish
in The Rivals. This essay proved so satisfactory to the leader of
the dramatic corps, that the lady secured an engagement for the
line of characters sustained by Mrs. Jordan. It is but justice to
add that Miss Mellon possessed a very considerable share of
theatric talent, and when we add — after speaking of our heroine
— that in sustaining the parts of Rosalind and the Romj), the
lady in question maintained a very respectable footing, even be-
fore a London audience, we conceive no further panegyric requisite.
It may not be improper to remark, that Miss Mellon's features
at that period possessed a considerable share of naivete, and her
figure was slim, elastic, and elegant.

On the 12th of May, was produced the comedy of First Lov%
by Mr. Cumberland, wherein Mrs. Jordan was empowered to
display her talents in the pathetic,-— having to sustain the character
of Sahina Rosny, whose parents were supposed to have perished
during the French revolution : when alone and unprotected, she
had effected her escape to Italy, where an English nobleman be-
trayed her by means of a false marriage. Some of the scenes
introduced were painfully afiecting, particularly one between
Miss Farren and our actress, concerning which the author himself
remarked: "When two such exquisite actresses conspired to



32 Life of Mrs. Jordan.

support me, I will not be so vain as to presume I could have stood
without their help."— J/em. Vol. II. j). 281.

In 1796, Mrs. Jordan experienced a miscarriage, and was in
consequence detained for a few months from her duties. This
circumstance led the writers for the public press to renew their
virulent attacks, in the course of which, it was infamously asserted
that her non-attendance was the effect of caprice ; whereas her
pliysician. Dr. Warren, was tlie sole regulator of her conduct, on
that, as well as other occasions.

In February, Mr. Kemble revived the comedy of Tlie Plain
Dealer, by Wyclierly, wherein he personated Manly to the Fidelia
of Mrs. Jordan, on which occasion, according to the statement of
Mr. Boaden, " She quite subdued him." The writei- above alluded
to, then proceeds to state as follows: — "He (Mr. Kemble) told
me that she was absolutely irresistible, and I am sure he thought
what he said ; there had been a good deal of contest, occasionally,
between them, and he was sometimes accused of not sufficiently
studying, or pi'omoting her interest. Miss Fai-ren often disputed
points of management with him ; and he had great difficulty to
keep the steady course which his own judgment had settled. I
freely admit that he had done more for Mrs. Joi'dan in the way
of revival and alteration, than for any other actress, if you even
name his sister, Mrs. Siddons."

In a note, Mr. Boaden further adds, in reference to this topic :
" What he (Mr. Kemble) said to me upon this occasion, will be
rightly understood. He used the language of Yorick, when he
was no jester : — ' It may seem I'idiculous enough to a torpid heart:
I could have taken her into my arms, and cherished her, though
it was in the open street, without blusliing.' " Such an expression
from the frigid lips of Mr. Kemble, was a compliment conferred
upon the pathos of Mrs. Jordan's style of acting, that speaks
volumes in her praise.

From the above period, we have little of consequence to record,
until the ever memorable night of the 2nd of April, 1796, on
which occasion our heroine personated a character in the pseudo
drama of Shakspeare, the production of a youthful impostor under
eighteen years of age ; in whose work, entitled his Confessions,
when speaking of our actress, he thus expresses himself : —

" As the native sweetness of her (Mrs. Jordan's) voice had so
invariably excited public approbation, I conceived that by writing
a ditty expressly for that lady, I should, in a gi'eat measure,
benefft the piece when represented. In consequence of this sup-
position, I composed the annexed verses, which were very suitably
set to music by William Lindley, Esqr., and received with un-



Life of Mrs. Jordan. 33

bounded plaudits when sung by the inimitable actress alluded to,
on the night of the representation of the play.

" I should here acquaint the reader, in order to account for the
statement above (that the ditty was expressly composed for that
personage), that every leading character introduced, was positively
written for some cei"tain performer ; and it was for the same
reason I caused the lady in question to assume the masculine
attire, as she was so universally allowed to become the male
costume."

The Shakspearian fabricator, therefore, feeling conscious from
the applause our actress uniformly received in the execution of
ballads (witness "The Cuckoo " song in As you Like it, — "Since
then I'm doomed," in the Spoiled Child, — " In the dead of the
night," sung in the Wedding Day, &c.), that nothing would tend
so much to render his production palatable, as a strain from the
lips of our Syren — was prompted to compose the following lines,
which were sung by Thalia with her wonted pathos.

BALLAD.

She sung, while from her eye ran down

The silv'ry drop of sorrow ;
From Grief she stole away the crown,
Sweet Patience, too, did borrow : —
Pensive she sat,
While Fortune frown'd.
And smiling, woo'd sad Melancholy.

Keen Anguish fain would rive her heart,

And sour her gentle mind ;
But Charity still play'd her part,
And Meekness to her soul did bind ;
She bowed content,
Heav'd forth one sigh,'
Sang, wept, then turned to Melancholy.

Careless, her locks around her hung.

And strove to catch the dewy tear ;
The plaintive bird in pity sung,

And breath'd his sorrow in her ear.
Amaz'd she look'd,
And thank'd his care,
Then sunk once more to Melancholy.

The same writer, on another occasion, speaking of our actress,
thus expresses himself : —

" I think it but justice in this place to offer my sincere thanks
to that lady, for her kind endeavours on a subsequent occasion,
when she had to sustain one of the principal characters in the
drama. I also beg to state that I shall ever be mindful of her



34 Life of Mrs. Jordan.

particular kindness and aftability during the visit made to lier ;
as also for her complacency and condescension during ray long
continuance in the green-room of the theatre, on the representation
of my play ; when not only her transcendant abilities as an
actress were exerted in my behalf before the curtain, but reani-
mating expressions while in the green-room continually flowed
from her lips, in order to rouse me from the mental depression
under which I so obviously laboured on that eventful occasion."

In reference to his forgeries, young Ireland further informs us,
at page 222 of his Confessions, as follows : —

"In consequence of the general astonishment and curiosity
excited by the manuscripts, his Royal Highness the Duke of
Clarence became desirous of inspecting the papers, which being
intimated to Mr. Ireland, a time was fixed upon, when I was
made of the party, and with Mr. Samuel Ireland i-epaired to the
apartments occupied by his Royal Highness, in St. James's
Palace.

" Having carefully inspected all the documents produced, the
usual questions were put to me respecting the original discovery
of the manuscripts, in which Mrs. Jordan also joined — when
my former statements were, as usual, adhered to. His Royal
Highness, I perfectly remember, made numerous objections, and
particularly to the redundancy of letters, apparent throughout
the papers. To every question, however, the answers were made
as usual, and thus the doubts which arose in his Royal Highness's
mind, were obviated by Mr. Ireland."

Now, without wishing to offer an intentional affront to Mr.
Ireland, we cannot conceive him so iinbued with the attributes of
folly, as seriously to have told us that his Royal Highness of
Clarence was aware of the mode of spelling in the days of our
great poet. The simple fact is. Master Ireland, you were
desirous of hoaxing anew, by giving perspicuity to a brain where-
with you felt fully aware it was not imbued. All this, however
was pardonable ; you deceived his Royal Highness, you subse-
quently confessed the fraud, and therefore tendered the best salve
in your power to heal the wound inflicted.

In the month of October, 1797, a new comedy was rehearsed
at Drury Lane theatre, from the pen of Frederick Reynolds, Esqr.
called Cheap Living, in which piece Mrs. Jordan had to sustain
the character of Sir Edicard Bloomly, a boy of fifteen, who pre-
tended to ape all the airs and manners of an adult. She at this
period began to feel repugnance at assuming the male costume,
and was particularly dissatisfied with the youthful chax'acter above
mentioned ; a circumstance that gave great umbrage to Mr



Life of Mrs. Jordan. 35

Wrougbton, the acting manager, who, during one of the rehearsals
of this piece, said to her in his accustomed frank manner :

" Why, Mrs. Jordan, you are grand — quite the Duchess again
this morning."

" Yery likely," was the reply, "for you are not the first person
who has this very day condescended to honour me, ironically,
with the same title."

Assuming her wonted smile, and without the slightest pique
being apparent in her gesture, Mrs. Jordan, with all that charac-
teristic humour wherewith she had been gifted by nature, pro-
ceeded to make the following statement. That during the morning,
having been necessitated to discharge her Irish cook for imper-
tinence : having paid the wages, the indignant purveyor of the
palate, taking up a shilling and vehemently banging it upon the
table, exclaimed :

"Arrah, now, honey, with this thirteener, won't I sit in the
gallery, and won't your Royal Grace give me a courtesy, and
■won't I give your Royal Highness a howl, and a hiss into the
bargain ! "

It was at this period ]Miss Farren retired from the boards of
Drury Lane theatre, preparatory to her union with the Earl of
Derby, when Mrs. Jordan undertook to personate many of the
characters that had been sustained by that justly esteemed per-
former. We particularly recollect seeing our heroine, on more
occasions than one, support the part of Lady Teazle in the School
for Scandal, which, although not stamped with that air of fashion
and ton assumed by her pi'edecessor, was nevertheless marked by
a peculiar naivete that compensated for any lack of the excel-
lencies elicited by Miss Farren.

The following complimentary lines on the diversified talents of
!Mrs. Jordan, are extracted from a work entitled Memoirs of th»i
Green Room, being thus headed : —

A POETICAL CHAEACTER.

To make us feel ev'n Garrick's loss no more,

And be what he and Pritchard were before, — •

Like them, an equal share of praise to gain,

In mirth's gay sallies or the tragic strain.

This to perform, at last did Jordan come,

And rais'd their buried graces from the tomb.

When Viola, to hopeless flames a prey,

Pines with her smother' d love, and fades away.

Each sentence moves «s, more from lips like those.

And ev'ry line with added beauty glows !

When wandering wild, to seek what climes afford

Some certain tidings of her captive lord —



36 Life of Mrs. Jordan.

Matilda roams ; — the melancholy strain,

Wakes in each breast a gently pleasing pain :

At that sad voice, the nerves responsive beat :

" It lends a very echo to the seat

Where love is tliron'd,"-So soft it sounds that hence,

The tuneful nothings steal the charms of sense.

Again behold the Country Qirl appears,

With arch simplicity. — The Queen of Tears

Flies far away : — Mirth rules the sportive night,

And all is rapture, laughter, and delight !

'Tis not the actress speaks — 'tis Nature all :

No tinsel tricks the -wandering sense recall.

Th' illusion lasts throughout, — in ev'ry tone,

Unfetter'd genius stamps her for its own.

Who that had only seen her in some part,

Where, as in Viola, she charms the heart :

Where ev'ry step is elegance ; — and trrace

Informs each feature of that lovely face I

Who that had seen her thus could e'er presume.

To think those speaking eyes could still assume

The rolling vacancy and senseless si-are.

That mark the gawkiiiess of hoyden's air ? —

Or who that only had Matilda seen,

And the soft tenderness of Richard's Queen,

Would e'er conceive that the same form might show,

The rakish freedom of a rattling beau ?

Such are thy pow'rs, so vast and unconfin'd,

Quick as a thought, and shifting as the wind !

May wealth and fortune all thy steps attend,

And private worth retain the private friend ;

For, if report speaks true, that face imparts

An honest copy from the best of hearts —

The gen'rous feelings of a lib'ral mind,

And solid sense with gay good humour join'd.

The next character in which we find Mrs. Jordan figure was a
melo-dramatic cast, namely, Angela, in the Castle Spectre, a pro-
duction from the pen of Matthew George Lewis, Esqr., otherwise
Monk Lewis, son of the Deputy Secretary at war. This piece
was produced on the 14th of December, and continued such a
favourite as completely to recruit the exhausted treasury of Drury
Lane theatre. The peculiar effect of the phantom scene, when
Mrs. Powel, as the mother, issued in ghostly guise from the chapel,
to administer the benediction on her persecuted daughter, Angela
(Mrs. Jordan), was productive of an efiect upon the audience no
tongue can describe ; the whole being accompanied by a species
of cathedral chaunt from the pen of Jomelli, the composer, that
rendered the scene next to superhuman.

After the successful run cf this melo-dramatic entertainment,
Mrs. Jordan's talents were uniformly called into action to pourtray
the Country Girl, or figure in the Confederacy, the Will, &c.,



Life of Mrs. Jordan. 37

until the representation of Kotzebue's Stranger, on the 24th of
March, 1798, afforded her a respite from the unvarying nightly
toil to which she had been so long subjected.

The fruits of our heroine's brilliant intercourse, were a quick
succession of progeny, which, it will subsequently appear", ter-
minated in a family of ten children, — five males, and an equal
number of the opposite sex ; who, with the offspring formerly
brought to Mr. Ford, and the child supposed to have been the
fruit of the infamous Mr. Daly's criminal proceeding,— placed our
actress among the rank of those who are termed prolific females.

On the 22nd of March, 1799, appeared a comedy from the pen
of Mr. Morris, the Barrister, entitled the Secret, wherein our
heroine sustained the part of Rosa, when it was a general remark
that she seemed to have become more than usually partial to the
expi'ession of sentimental and affecting passions. The fact is, she
sustained the character with such peculiar effect, that the melan-
choly of her demeanour seemed the result of some hidden circum-
stances more intimately connected with mind, than the bare
mimickry of care and sorrow. The epilogue by Mr. Coleman, was
delivered by our heroine with such peculiar effect as to command
an encore, a very unusual theatrical incident. At the pei'iod to
which we refer, we glean the following anecdote from Mr. Boaden's
Life of Mrs. Jordan, vol. 2. p. 12.

" It was about this piece (Tlie Secret) I remember we had been
speaking, when she told me she had another East Indian offered
at her shrine, which she would trouble me to read. I did so, and
we talked the piece over at her town residence in Somerset-street,
Portman-square. She had not told me Avho was the author of the
play, but there was that in it which merited consideration. I
gave Iier my opinion frankly, and pointed out the indecorum of
the interest ; however, though not a moral play, it was written
evidently, I said, by a man of talent, and as a benefit piece, pre-
ferable to an old one. Mrs. Jordan here, in confidence, informed
me that the Duke had taken the trouble to read it at her desire,
also ; and that we agreed most decisively in our opinions. She
was in charming spirits, I remember, that morning, and occa-
sionally ran over the strings of her guitar. Her young family
were playing about us, and the present Colonel Geox'ge Fitzclarence
(now Earl of Munster), then a child, amused me much with his
spirit and strength ; he attacked me, as his mother told me, his
fine tempered father was accustomed to permit him to do himself.
He was certainly an infant Hercules. The reader will judge of
the pleasure with which I have since viewed his career, as a
soldier ; and I owe him my best thanks for his instructive and



38 Life op Mrs. Jordan.

amusing Journey across India, througli Egypt to England, in the
winter of 1817-18, "whicli he dedicated to his late Majesty George
the Fourth, when Prince Regent. I shall here merely say that
his fourth chapter in this work is written with great skill, and
possesses that interest whicli arises from actual facts at critical
periods ; from difficulties surmounted by patience and exertion ;
abounding in the terrible and destructive, unexaggerated and
minutely detailed. As a moving picture, this division of the
work may, with advantage, stand a comparison with the best
passages of those who travel to seek eflects."

Mrs. Jordan, on the 22nd of April, appeared in the East Indian,
for her benefit. This comedy was the production of Mr. Lewis,
as well as a farce called the Twins, which he also presented to
Bannister, who adopted it for his benefit night.

Late in this year (1799), Miss Biggs personified Zorayda, in
the place of our actress, who candidly confessed her predilection
for the pathetic, alleging that had she been blessed early in life
by an intercourse with refined company, she felt convinced that
she might have attained eminence as a tragedian.

Early in the year 1800, our heroine resumed her dramatic
career, and on the 10th of May performed in a comedy written
by Prince Hoare, called Indiscretion. On the 15th of the same
month, their Majesties, accompanied by the Princesses, Sec, visited
Drury Lane theatre, to see She would and She zvould not, and the
Humourist of Mr. Cobb, a farce that had been recommended by
Edmund Burke to Sheridan, in the year 1785. His Majesty had
j*ust entered the box, when a man starting up from the front of the
pit, levelled a horse pistol at the King, which he discharged.
The monarch, advancing to the front of the box, waved his hand
to the Queen in order to deter her from entering, and then, to
dispel all apprehension among the audience respecting liis safety,
laying his right hand upon his breast, bowed in acknowledgment
for the extreme anxiety manifested by the crowds assembled.

Hatfield was secured, but so great was the general horror
evinced, that Mrs. Jordan was obliged to present herself, who gave
assurance to the audience "that he was perfectly secured, and
properly attended," when the play was ordered to proceed.

The Drury Lane company, and more particularly our heroine,
had long lamented that the political sentiments of Mr. Sheridan
should prove a bar to the visits of their Majesties to that theatre;
however, from speeches that had been delivered in parliament,
and the patriotic sentiments put into the mouth of Holla by the
manager, it began to be inferred that the King would be led to
repeat his visits. Thia supposition was strengthened by a know-



Life of Mrs. Jordan. 39

ledge that the Princesses were particularly anxious to witness the
performances of the lady who had so completely captivated their
royal brother. Such had been the feeling entertained prior to
the above incident, which it Avas apprehended, would at once put
a stop to any further attendance on the part of George the Third
and the Royal Family.

Mrs. Jordan, on the 18th of January, 1800, was delivered of a
daughter, at Busby Park, which circumstance acted as a bar to
her appearance in public, until the 12th of March, when she per-
sonated the Country Girl, with all the fascinations attending its
representation in younger days.

In the above month appeared Cumberland's piece, entitled
Lovers' Resolutioiis, in which Mrs. Jordan personified Racket, a
very appropriate name for the busy character assigned to her in
this piece. On the 24:th of ^Nlay, our heroine appeared as Lady
Teazle, for the benefit of that sterling master of his art, the late
Mr. King, who on the night in qnestion, retired from the stage,
accompanied by the rapturous plaudits of his admiring auditors.
As we conceive the ciitique of Mr. Boaden sterling on this occa-
sion, we will quote his words from p. 96 of his Life of Mrs. Jordan.

"She (Mrs. Jordan) differed essentially from her predecessors
in this— that as to tliem, the six inanths of fashionable life had
totally divested them of their original habits— they did not act
the fine lady ; they seemed never to have occupied any other
station than the one present. Mrs. Jordan thought the rather
coarse pleasantries which her Ladyship lavished upon Sir Peter,
were more in the tone of her /ormer than the present condition,
and she therefore returned to its frank and abrupt discontent ;
she quarrelled with her old rustic petulance, and showed her
natural complexion; — her rouge, and her finesse she reserved for
artificial life. She wanted the recovering dignity of Abington,
to advance before the prostrate screen ; but her voice aided her
very natural emotion, and though she was not superior in the
part, she merited consideration, and to be compared with the
printed play, rather than the manner in which it had been acted."

During the summer of this year, Mrs. Jordan occasionally
performed at the Richmond theatre, and subsequently at Margate,
upon the accustomed terms of £180 for six nights, and a clear
benefit. It was on this occasion, that while personating the
Country Girl, our heroine's drapery became ignited, but the
flames were so speedily extinguished, that she sustained no injury;
when in her accustomed playful manner, she returned her heart-
felt thanks to the audience for the sympathy they had evinced in
regard to the dangerous situation in which she had been placed.



4U LlKi: UK -Mus. J GUI) AN.

On the 1 Gth of September, under tlu- direction of Mr. Bannister,
Mrs. Jordan opened the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in the char-
acter of liisiirri', in the comedy of the Inconstant ; soon after whioli,
Mr. Cherry being engaged, resolved to nuike our actress liis friend;
for which purpose he undertook to produce a play, exhiljiting our


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Online LibraryRichard MantPublic and private life of that celebrated actress, Miss Bland, otherwise Mrs. Ford, or, Mrs. Jordan; late mistress of H. R. H. the D. of Clarence; now King William IV., founder of the Fitzclarence family .. → online text (page 4 of 13)