Cadwallader Colden.

Lives & portraits of public characters .. (Volume 3) online

. (page 11 of 13)
Online LibraryCadwallader ColdenLives & portraits of public characters .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

degree of perfection ascribed to him before Marlow's
death : possibly he was, like Field, Pavy, &c. trained to it
from his childhood. That he had a fine person, and an ex-
pressive countenance, his portrait, still existing, evinces ;
the other necessary endowments of genius, voice, feeling,
&c. we may conclude him to have been possessed of from
the following extract. In some MSS. of the Lord Keeper
Puckering, in the Harleian Library, a writer of that age,
speaking of Alleyn about the period of his zenith, says,
that " he had then so captivated the town, and so mono-
polized the favour of his audience by those agreeable va-
rieties he could so readily command, in his voice, coun-
tenance, and gesture, and so judiciously adapt to the
characters he played, as even to animate the most lifeless
compositions, and so highly improve them, that he wholly
engaged those who heard and saw him, from considering



the propriety of the sentiments he pronounced, or of the
parts he personated ; and all the defects of the poet were
either beautified, palliated or atoned for, by the perfec-
tions of the player."

But the highest praise due to this great and good man
is, that having acquired a very considerable property by
his acting ; the profits of his theatre, called The Fortune,
in Whitecross-street ; his post of Keeper of the King's
Wild Beasts, or Master of the Royal Bear-Garden ; to-
gether with the dowry of two wives j he appropriated
nearly the whole of it to the building and endowment of
a college at Dulwich, called The College of God's Gift ;
of which munificence the following pious memorial, in his
own hand- writing, was found among his papers. " May
SJ6, 1620, my wife and I acknowledge the fine at the
Common-Pleas bar, of all our lands to the college : blessed
be God, that hath given us life to do it."

Prynne, in his Histrio-Mastix, says, the Fortune was
burnt to the ground by some accident, which I suppose
he thought a judgment, as all fanatical writers generally
do. The Globe play-house, situate on the Bankside, which
was thatched with reeds, was also burnt down in 1613;
and by the fall of the play-house in Black-Fryers, August,
1623, eighty-one persons of quality were killed.

The following are the names of our earliest plaj'-houses.
The Theatre; The Curtain ; The Cockpit ^ or Phcenix ; The
Swan ; The Rose ; The Hope,*

In the reign of Charles I. there were six play-houses
allowed in town ; the Black Fryars company, his majesty's
sei-vants ; the Bull, in St. John's Street; the Foitune;
another at the Globe ; and a sixth at the Coek-pit in Drury
Lane ; all which continued acting till the beginning of the
Civil Wars.t The scattered renmant of several of these

* See Malone's Shakspeare,

t The fanatical zeal of the Nonconformists could bear no ex-
hibitions or shows but their own : all staj^e-players these religion-
ists looked upon as prolane; and devoted the actors, whom they
denominated the children of Satan, to perdition. In Randolph's
Muses Looking Glass, 16o0, is the following humourous dialogue


houses, upon Kiug Charles's restoration, framed a com-
pany who again acted at the Bull, and built them a new
house in Gibbon's Tennis Court, in Clare Market ; in
which two places, they continued acting in 1660, 1661,
166'2, and part of 1663. In this time, they built a new
Theatre in Drury Lane, which opened on the 8th of April,
1663, with the Humorous Lieutenant.

The price of admission to the Globe, was one shilling
to the boxes, and sixpence to the pit ; and a mention is
made, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Woman Hater, of a
two-penny gallery. Seats of three-pence and a groat are
also mentioned ; and afterwards, to some of the houses,
the prices were from six-pence to two shillings and six-

The custom of playing in Inn Yards, is illustrated by
two orders of Privy Council ia 1557, preserved, with
other niinutes, among the Harieian manuscripts, at the
British Museum. The first, dated September, from St.
James's, is noticed, as " a letter to the Lord Maiore of
London, to give order, that some of his olHceres doe forth-
with repaire to the Bores Head, without Aldgate,* where
the Lordes are informed a lewde play, called ' A sack full
of Newxe' shall be plaied this day, the plaieres wliereof he
is willed to apprehend, aiid to commit to safewarde, untiil
he shall heare further from hence, and to take theire play-
between Bird, a feather-mau, and Mrs. Flowrdew, two of the
sanctified fraternity.

" Flow. It was a zealous prayer 1 heard a broker make con-
cerning play-houses.

Bird. For Charity was it?

Fhw. That the Gl-jle
Wherein (quotli he) reigns a whole world of vice.
Had been consumed! The Ph(enijc burnt to aslies;

The Fortave whipt for a blind w : Blackfriars

He wonders how he Kca;)'d demolishinj^

1' th' lime of reformation : lastly he wislied

The Bull might crusse the Thames to the Bear Garden,

And there be soundly baited !

Bird. A good prayer !"

* Now tiie Blue Doa; Inn.


booke from ihem, and to send the same Ijether.'^ The
next is a letter, seut on the following day, to the same
magistrate, " willinge him to sett at libertie the playeres
by him apprehended by order from hence yesterdaye, and
to give them and all otheres, playeres, throughout the
cittie, in commandment and charge, not to playe any
playes but between the Feast of All Saints and Shroftyde,
and then only such [as] are scene and allov^ed by the

In the reign of Elizabeth, the acting of plays was chieily
confined to Sundays, the hours of prayer being excepted.
In 1598, one u Cluck was the usual hour at which the
play begun ; but in 1609, it was thrown back to three.
The usual time consumed in the exhibition, was usually
two hours, as appears from a passage in the prologue to
Shakspeare's Henry "VIII.

■ " Those that come —

I'll undertake, may see away their shillwg
Richly in two short hours."

Haywood,* in his Actors Vindication, commending many
deceased players, concludes thus : " Among so many
dead, let me not forget the most worthy, famous Mr. Ed-
ward Allen, who in his life-time erected a colledge at
Dulledge for Poor People, and for Education of Youth :
When this Colledge was tinisht, this famous man was so
mingled with humility and charity, that he became his
own pensioner ; humbly submitting himself to that pro-
portion of diet and cloathes, which he had bestowed on

Dulwich College was founded for a master and warden,
who are always to be of the name of Alieyn or Allen, with
lour fellows, three of whom were to be divines, and the
fourth an organist ; and for six poor men, as many poor

* Heywood was a jester to Henry VIII, but who lived till tlie
beginning of Elizabeth's reign, and was one of the earliest dra-
matic writers


\vomen, and twelve boys, to be educated in the College bj
one of the fellows as school-master, and by another as
usher. To this College belongs a chapel, in which the
founder himself, who was several years master, lies
buried. The master of the College is lord of the manor
for a considerable extent of ground. Both he and the
warden must be unmarried, and are for ever debarred the
privilege of entering into that state, on pain of being
excluded the College.

The original edifice, which was begun about the year
1614, after a plan of Inigo Jones, is in the old taste, and
contains the chapel, master's apartment, &c. in the front,
and the lodgings of other inhabitants in the wings, whereof
that on the east side was handsomely new built in 1739 at
the expense of the College. The library once possessed a
valuable collection of old plays, the gift of AVilliam
Cartwright, the comedian, an acquaintance of the founder's.
Not far from the library is a gallery, containing 350
pictures, which were bequeathed by Sir Francis Bourgeois :
it contains, besides, some of the finest specimens by
Cuyp, Claude, Titian, and Vandyke ; a curious View of
London in 1603, with the representation of the city
procession on the Lord Mayor's day ; portraits of Mary
Queen of Scots, Sir Thomas Gresham, Sec. &c.

The College is accommodated with a very pleasant
garden, adorned with walks and a profusion of fruit trees.
Over the entrance is a latin inscription, stating the nature
of the charity, and by whom foimded.

He died November 25, 1626, in the sixty-first year of
Lis age ; and was interred in the chapel of his own college.

The conclusion to be drawn from the life of this admir-
able actor and excellent man is, that, however narrow-
minded and bigotted persons may have endeavoured to
degrade the stage in the eyes of the ignorant ; prudence,
integrity, benevolence, and piety, are as compatible with
the profession of a player, as with any other rank or
degree in life whatever.



Hfi sleeps In dust, and all llie Muses mourn,

He, whom each virtue filed, eacli grace refined.

Friend, teacLer, pattern, darling of mankind!

He sleeps in dust ! Beailie.

Shenstone was the eldest son of Thomas Shenstoiic, a
plain, uneducated country gentleman, whofimned his own
estate, and Anne Pen. He was born at the Leasowes, in
Hales-Owen, in Shropshire, in November, 1714.

He learned to read of an old dame, to whom perhaps
we are indebted for his poem of the School-mistress, de-
scriptive of his female pedagogue. He was soon removed
to the grammar-school in Hales-Owen, and afterwards
placed under the tuition of Mr. Crompton. at Solihul,
where he distinguished himself by so rapid a progress, as
to induce his father to determine on giving him a learned
education. In 1732, he was sent to Pembroke-college in
Oxford, being designed for the church ; but, though he
had the most av.rful notions of the wisdom, power, and
goodness of God, he never could be persuaded to enter
into oi'ders. After his first four years' residence at the
university, he assumed the civilian's gown, but without
shewing any intention to engage in the profession. It is
to be presumed, however, that he found both delight and
advantage at college, as he continued there ten years,
though he took no degree : during which period he em-
ployed himself in writing English poetry ; a small miscel-
lany of which, without his name, was published in 1737.


William sMenstone.

In 1740 he published his Judgment of Hercules, addressed
to Mr. Lyttleton ; and about two years afterwards he
produced his imitations of Spenser, The School-mistress.

His progenitors being all deceased before the expiration
of his minority, the management of his aflairs was en-
trusted to the Rev. Mr. Dolman, of Brorae in Staftbrd-
shire ; to whose attention he was indebted for his ease and
leisure ; whose integrity he always acknowledged with
gratitude ; and upon whose death, in 1745, the care of
his own fortune unavoidably fell upon him.

The sordid inheritor ruminates on how much per acre
the land does, or may be made to produce ; the prodigal
heir calculates what ready cash may be raised by selling
so-much timber, or the sale of the Mansion-house : Shen-
.stone surveyed his paternal fields only with a view to their
improvement in picturesque beauty, and spent his small
estate in adorning it.

In the preface to his " Worls in Verse and Prose,"
the ingenious and ingenuous Mr. Dodsley says, " He was
no (Economist : the generosity of his temper prevented him
from paying a proper regard to the use of money : he ex-
ceeded therefore the bounds of his paternal fortune, which,
before he died, was considerably encumbered. But when
one recollects the perfect paradise he had raised around
him, the hospitality with which he lived, his great indul-
gence to his servants, his charities to the indigent, and
all done with an estate not more than three hundred pounds
a year, one should rather be led to wonder that he left
any thing behind him, than to blame his want of oeconomy.
He left, however, more than sufficient to pay all his
debts, and by his will appropriated his whole estate for
that purpose. — His person," Mr. Dodsley adds, " as to
height, was above the middle stature, but largely and ra-
ther inelegantly formed : his face seemed plain till you
conversed with him, and then it grew very pleasing. In
his dress he was negligent, even to a fault ; though when
young, at the university, he was accounted a beau. He
vvore his own hair, which was grey very early, in a parti-
cular manner ; not from any afl'ectation of singularity,


bill fioin a maxim he had laid down, that without too
slavish a regard to fashion, every one should dress in a
manner most suitable to his own person and figure." In
November, 1751, he lost an only and beloved brother ;
whose death he thus pathetically laments, in a letter to
his friend Mr. Graves : — " How have I prostituted my
sorrow on occasions that little concerned me ! I am
ashamed to think of that idle ' Elegy upon Autumn,'
when I have so much more important cause to hate and to
condemn it now ; but the glare and gaiety of the Spring is
what I principally dread ; when I shall find all things re-
stored but my poor brother, and something like those
lines of Milton will run for ever in my thoughts :

" Thnf5, Avith the year,

Seasons return ; but not to me returns
A brother's cordial smile, at eve or morn."

I shall then seem to wake from amusements, company,
every sort of inebriation with which I have been endea-
vouring to lull my grief asleep, as from a dream ; and I
shall feel as if I were, that instant, despoiled of all I
have chiefly valued for thirty years together — of all my
present happiness, and all my future prospects. The me-
lody of birds, which he no more must hear ; the cheerful
beams of the sun, of which he no more must partake ;
every wonted pleasure will produce that sort of pain to
which my tempei: is most obnoxious."

"Whether it might be from consideration of the narrow-
ness of his income, or whatever motive, he never married ;
though it is said, he might have obtained the lady who
was the subject of his admired Pastoral Ballad, in
four parts ; " Absence, Hope, Solicitude, Disappointment:^'
but, from the title of the last division of the Ballad, it
should seem that the fair one, whoever she might be, was

Shenstone was one day walking through his romantic
retreat, in company with his Delia (whose real name was
Wilmot) when a person rushed out of a thicket, and


jnesfenlhio a pistol to his breast, demanded his nioiiev-
"Money," says he, "is not worth struggling!; for. You
cannot be poorer than I am ; therefore, unhappy man,
take it (throwing him his purse) and fly as quickly as
possible." The man did so : he threAv his pistol into
the water, and in a moment disappeared. Sheustone
ordered the foot-boy, who followed behind them, to pur-
sue the robber at a distance, and observe whither he went.
In a short time, the boy returned and informed his master
that he followed the man to Hales-Owen, where he lived ;
that he went also to the very door of his house, and peeped
tbrough the key-hole ; that as socn as the man entered, he
threw the purse on the ground, and addressed himself to
his wife: "Take (says he) the dear-bought price of my
honesty:" then taking two of bis children, one on each
knee, he said to them, " I have ruined my soul, to keep
you from starving ;" and immediately burst into a flood
of tears. Shenstone enquired after the man's character,
and found that he v*'as a labourer, who was reputed honest
and industrious, but oppressed by Avant and a numerous
family. He went to his house, when the man threw
himself at his feet, and implored mercy. Shenstone not
only forgave him, but found him employment as long as
he lived.

Shenstone wrote a poem on Delia's dying Kid ; where
he sajs —

A tear bedews my Delia's eye,
To think yon playful kid must die;
From crystal spring and dowery raetvd
Must in his prime of life r«cede !

Hie every frolic, liglit as air,
Deserves the gentle Delia's care ;
And tears bedew lier tender eye.
To think the playful kid must die.

But knows my Delia, timely wise,
How 30on this blameless era flies r
While violence and ciaft succeed.
Unfair design, and ruthless deed!


This elegaut poet, and amJaBle man, being seized by a
|)utrid fever, died at his "beautified" Leasowes, about
tive on Friday morning, February 11, 1763; and \vr.s
buried by the side of his beloved brother in the Cliurch-
yard of Hales-Owen.

The incidents of his life are few and simple ; consisting
only of occasional jaunts to London, Bath, &c. the improv-
ing and adorning his estates ; the paying and receiving
visits ; and the producing one of the most pleasing, if not
sublime, collections of poetry in the English language.

Sublimity indeed was not the attribute of Shenstone ;
neither does he seem to have had that relish for it in the
writings of others, which might have been expected iu a
poet of so tender and polished a genius.

Of Milton's sublime Masque he says, " Comus I have
once been at, for the sake of the songs, though I detest
it in any light : but as a dramatic piece the taking of it
seems a prodigy : yet indeed such-a-one, as was pretty
tolerably accounted for by a gentleman who sate by me in
the boxes. This learned sage, being asked how he liked
the play, made answer, ' he could not tell — pretty well,
he thought — or indeed as well as any other play — he
always took it, that people only came there to see and to
be seen — for as for what was said, he owned, he never
understood any thing of the matter.'

I told him, I thought a gieat many of its admirers were
in his case, if they would but own it." Had this con-
fession been made on seeing "Comus," as of late years
it has been presented, in a mutilated, mangled state, it
would not be surprising ; but the above v/as written iu
the year 1740, soon after its revival, with Dalton's con-
genial insertions, accompanied by Arne's delightful melo-
dies ; graced and enriched by the action and harmony of
Quin, Milward, Beard, Mrs. Clive, Mrs. Arne, and
Mrs. Gibber.

To do Shenstone justice, it must be acknowledged, that
he seems to have taken great pains to acquire a taste for
Spenser (see his Letters), but never to have thoroughly
accomplished it ; he wrote, hiiUGelf, so much to the ear,


that, " Where more is meant than meets tJie ear,** Was
" caviare" to him : and he is chiefly pleased with the
ludicrous of the sublime author of the " Four Hymns in
honour of Love, Beauty, Heavenly Love, and Heavenly
Beauty" "Daphnaida;" " The Ruines of Time;" "The
Tears of the Muses;" &c. &c. &c. and the unrivalled,
though but half-finished, " Faerie Queene."

The freedom of animadversion here assumed, is not, it
is hoped, used arrogantly ; it relates merely to taste,
which varies mentally, as vpell as coi-poreally, in almost
every man : the blameless subject of these strictures, let
his writings or opinions have been what they might, made
one flight above most men :


©s®^©^ l^S^aaaiBS

[/^ ^d£/i4:/u



&CC. &C. &C.

Some are born great, some atchieve greatness.
And soa)e have greatness thrust apon them.


George Vilmers was born on the 28th of August, 1592,
at Brookesby : he was the second son of George VilJiers,
and Mary, daughter of Anthony Beaumont, of Colehor-
ton, Esq. Wotton* says, the early years of young Villiers
were marked more for a love of frivolity, such as dancing,
than a thirst for literature and sound learning. Lloyd also,
in his State Favorities, mentioi:s, that "His skill in letters
was very mean : for liuding nature more indulgent to him
in the ornaments of the body than of the mind, the tendency
of his youthful genius was rather to improve those excellen-
cies wherein his choice felicity consisted, than to addict
himself to morose and sullen bookishness ; therefore his
chief exercise was dancing, fencing," &c. &:c.

He was sent to France, as being a cheap place ; but his
income was so scanty, that he was obliged to leave it ; and
returned to Loudon, and fell a wooing a daughter of Sir
Roger Ashton, a gentleman of the bed-chamber, and
master of the robes to James I. ; but he could not go on
with this match for want of 100 marks, to answer the ex-
pence of keeping himself decent ; he therefore entered into
friendship with Sir John Graham of the Privy Chamber,
who persuaded him to try his fortune at court ; and by
frequently shewing his tine shape, says Sir William Dug-
dale, the king (James I.) soon took notice of him ; it was
some time before that monarch shewed any kindness for
him, till in a progress at Althorp in Northamptonshire, at

* Lifeof Ruekingham, 4to. 1642.


ded, iu Older that Bnckingham might have his will on her ;
but she was rescued by Sir N. Bacon's sons.*

Yet, amidst all these inconsistencies, Buckingham was
ever the ardent interceder of unfortunate malefactors ; in
him was always found a successful advocate ; as it was his
constant saying, " that hanging was the worst use a man
could be put to."

Buckingham no^ lived in greater pomp than any noble-
man of his time ; having six horses to his carriage ; and
was carried about the streets in a chair on men's shoulders.
In dress, he was extravagant beyond precedent. It was
common with him at any ordinary dancing, to have his
cloathes trimmed with great diamond buttons, and to have
diamond hat-bands, cockades and ear-rings, to be yoked
with great and manifold knots of pearl ; — iu short, to be
manacled, fettered, and imprisoned in jewels ; insomuch,
that at his going over to Paris, in 16'{5, he had '27 suits
of clothes made, the richest that embroidery, lace, silk,
velvet, gold and gems could contribute ; one of which was
a white imcut velvet, set all over, both suit and cloak,
with diamonds, valued at four-score thousand pounds, be-
sides a great feather stuck all over with diamonds ; as were
also his girdle, hat-band and spurs.

His entertainments to the king were also of the most
sumptuous order, iu which the easy James would take
rather more than prudence dictated ; for he was one of
those who " never mixed water with bis wine.t "

Could James's eyes have been opened, he had now full
opportunity of observing how imfit Buckingham was for
the high station to which he was raised. Some accomplish-
ments of a courtier he possessed : of every talent of a
minister he was utterly destitute. Headstrong in his pas-
sions, and incapable equally of prudence and of dissimula-
tion ; sincere frojn violence rather than candour ; expensive
from profusion rather than generosity ; a waiiu friend ; a
furious enemy ; but without any choice or discernment iu
either. With these qualities he had early and quickly
mounted to the highest rank, and partook at once of the

• Divine Catastrophe, p. 1". f Sully':* Memoirs, vol. 2. p. 90.


insolence which attends a fortune newly acquired, and the
impetuosity belonging to persons born in high stations, and
unacquainted with opposition.* Indeed to such a height
did he carry his insolence, that he was about to strike the
Prince of Wales.

We now find Buckingham fully engaged in business :
hs was appointed to accompany the Prince of Wales to
Madrid to espouse the Infanta of Spain ; on which foolish
and expensive errand, it is well known they were unsuc-
cessfal. While in that capital, he received by the hands
of Lord Carlisle, the patent creating Iiim a Duke. On
his return to England, he was made Lord Vv''arden of the
Cinque Ports, and Steward of Hampton Court ; but these
were only outward marks of royal favour ; for the King
now began mortally to hate Backingham, on account of his
transactions in Spain : and the people also became disgusted
with him. At this critical juncture, King James died
(March 'i7th, Wib), but " not without causing strong-
suspicious against Buckingham, t" Indeed, in a pamphlet
called the Forerunner of Revenge, written by one Eglish-
am, a physician, it is positively stated that James was
poisoned by Buckingham, who gave him a white powder ;
and that Buckingham's mother applied a poisoned plaister
to James's heart and breast. Very much has been written
on this subject ; and however suspicious the conduct of
Backingham and his mother was, it was never proved
against them.^ The parliament, however, in the year

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13

Online LibraryCadwallader ColdenLives & portraits of public characters .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 13)