Dr. (John) Doran.

Their majesties' servants. Annals of the English stage, from Thomas Betterton to Edmund Kean (Volume 1) online

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By Dr.^DORAN, F.S.A.,


A Memoir op Dr. Doran, and an Introduction and Conclusion,



23 South Ninth Street.


€lin)aib ill. Ularb, $1.^.,






^ark of l^omaigt to ti)E .ilrtist anU Scstttm for tjit f runtJ,







I. — Prologue 9

II.— The Decline and FaU of the Players ... 32

III. — The "Boy Actresses," and the "Young Ladies" . . 47

IV". — The Gentlemen of the King's Company ... 70

"^ — Thomas Botterton 79

VI.— "Exeunt," and "Enter" 36

VII.— Elizabeth Barry 104

VIII. — "Their first appearance on this stage" .... 113

IX. — The Dramatic Poets. — Noble, gentle, and humble Authors . 127

X. — Professional Authors 147

XI. — The Dramatic Authoresses 163

XII. — The Audiences of the Seventeenth Century . . . 169

XIIL— A Seven Years' Rivalry 188

XIV. — The United and the Disunited Companies . . . 211

XV. — Union, Strength, Prosperity 216

XVI. — Competition, and what came of it 230

XVII. — The Progress of James Quin, and Dechne of Barton Booth 24 2

XVIII.— Barton Booth 265

XIX.— Mrs. Oldfield .288

XX.— From the Death of Anne Oldfield to that of Wilks . 301

XXL— Robert WUks 308

XXIL— Enter, Garrick 319

XXIIL — Garrick, Quin, Mrs. Porter 333

XXIV. — Rivalry; and Enter, Spranger Barry . , , . 343

XX Y.— The old Dublin Theatre 351

XXVI. — Garrick and Quin ; Garrick and Barry .... 357

XXVIL— The Audiences of 1700-1750 369

XXVIIL— Exit, James Quin 391

XXI.X.— England and Scotland 405


It has fallen to the lot of many to write books ; but it has
not fallen to the lot of many to write their lives, or, writing
them, to have them read. What makes an author a fit sub-
ject for biography, has seldom been determined, either by
himself or by his own generation. He may consider him-
self worthy of biographic honors, and they may not ; or
vice versa. What Shakespeare thought of his work, we
have no means of knoAving, other than such as we fancy we
detect in his Sonnets (which may, or may not, be autobio-
graphic) ; but what hundreds of scribblers have thought of
their work, we cannot well help knowing, even if we would,
so voluminous are the records which they have left behind
them. There was Percival Stockdale, for example ; who
was ever more convinced of his greatness than he ? He lived
to be seventy-five years old, and to publish upwards of
twenty different works ; — among which was a Life of Wal-
ler, whom he edited : a tragedy, and three volumes of poems :
four volumes of sermons : a treatise on Education : an En-
quiry into the Laws of Poetr}", with a Defence of Pope : two
volumes of Lectures on the Truly Eminent English Poets :
and Memoirs of his Life and Writings, which last, he knew,
would " live and escape the havoc that has been made of my
literary fame ! " Has it done so ? Did you ever hear of
the great Stockdale— cZar^^w et venerahile nomen ? If I
have rescued him for a moment from the wallet which
Time bears upon his back, and in which he drops alms for
Oblivion, it is because he is a representative of a class who



insist upon being considered what they are not — authors.
Others occur to me ; but surely one, — such an one as Perci-
val Stockdale, — is enough

" To point a moral, or adorn a tale."

They are not dead, for nothing can be said to have died,
that has not lived.

" Keep them. Oblivion, they are thine."

The writers who are most readily forgotten are frequently
those who have most entertained us, — not through their
creations, for they are in no sense creators; but through
the stores of knowledge which they have gathered for us.
They possess no interest outside of their work, which we
would as soon have furnished by machines as by men, if only
machines could furnish it, as perhaps they may some day.
Among the dubious definitions in Johnson's Dictionary,
there is one which remains unchanged. It is that of the
word Lexicogeapher, whom we are still instructed to be-
lieve "a harmless drudge." This definition, liberally inter-
preted, indicates the kind of writer whom I have in mind,
and who is more accurately described by Johnson's defini-
tion of the word Compiler: "A collector. One who
frames a composition from various authors." Whether a
compiler is an author, in the strict sense, may be questioned.
That he may be, and often is, an author, in an enjoyable
sense, is certain. If to frame a composition from various
authors is to be a compiler, as Johnson declared, Montaigne
was one, and Burton was another. That they were think-
ers, as well as compilers, does not change the character of
their work, which is the most learned and most suggestive
of the kind that we have. The elder Disraeli was also a
compiler ; but he cannot be called learned, in spite of his
multifarious reading, nor at all satisfactory except to super-


ficial inquirers. What he was, wlien critically examined,
and where many of his pretended " discoveries" were derived,
Bolton Corney has shown. Quite as entertaining as Disraeli,
and much more scholarly, was the late Dr. John Doran, Ph.D.
F.S.A., who ranks high among English collectors of ana,
and who, if he had been earlier in the field, might have been
a dangerous rival to the author of " The Curiosities of Litera-
ture." He has written largely of many things and many
men, and with an intelligence which makes us regret that
he contented himself with reproducing the work of others,
when he might have i^roduced better work of his own. He
seems not to have thought of himself, but of his literary
tasks, and, provided that these were faithfully performed,
to have been content with his lot, from which the calcula-
tions of vainer and more ambitious men were absent. Few
men of letters have written so well and so voluminously
as Dr. Doran, without leaving more memorials of their
lives than he. They are short and simjile, like the annals
of the poor ; but they are honorable to him and to Litera-

John Doran was born in London in 1807. If he could
not substantiate the common claim of his countrymen to be
descended from Irish kings, he was a member of an old
Irish family of Drogheda, to whose splendor in former times
he used to refer, b}^ declaring, with a humorous assumption
of historic seriousness, that they were the first people in
their particular part of the country to wear blue breeches !
Of his early life we are only told that he accompanied his
father to Paris, where he completed his education, and that
he resided several years in France and Germany, where the
knowledge that he obtained was more useful, and of greater
rarity then than it is to-day. A clever lad, with an attrac-
tion toward Literature, he wrote, at the age of fifteen, a
melodrama entitled "The Wandering Jew," which was
played at Surrey Theatre for the benefit of Thomas Blan-


chard ; and he was subsequently employed on the staff of
the Literary Chronicle, until it passed into the hands of
John Stirling and his friends. The Fourth Estate was
liberally represented at that time by young Doran's vivacious
and versatile countrymen, — and by none more brilliantly
than William Maginn, who was alike remarkable for his
talents and for his imprudence. He was, as we all remem-
ber, the original of Captain Shandon in " Pendennis," and
from all that I have read about him, I cannot think his por-
trait is overdrawn. Very different from this unfortunate,
but happy-go-lucky man of genius, was John Doran, who
possessed the gayety of the Celt without his recklessness ; who
was scrupulously exact in the performance of his professional
duties ; and whose pen, — at least, in his early manhood, — ■
was not his sole means of subsistence. If it was ever his
crutch, it was then only his staff.

Doran's first serious essay in Literature was the *' History
and Antiquities of the Town and Borough of Eeading, in
Berkshire" (1835), an elaborate work, which has long since
been forgotten by all save the antiquarian student, but
which must have had considerable merit of a special sort,
since it obtained for him the degree of M.A., and, after-
ward, of LL.D., from the University of Marburg. He
was, for eleven years, the editor of a London weekly news-
paper, which deeply concerned itself with religious politics
(whatever that may be), during which time he edited an
edition of Anthon's Xenophon's Anabasis. Six or seven
years later he became one of the editors of the Athenceum,
and burgeoned out from a journalist into an author. He
edited and finished *' Filia Dolorosa " (1853), a Memoir of
Marie Therese, Duchess d'Angouleme, which had been be-
gun by Mrs. Isbella Eomer, an English woman of letters,
who is only remembered by the titles of four or five works of
travels ; and he wrote a Life of Dr. Young for Tegg's edition
of that poet.


The list of Dr. Doran's writings (so far as I have been
able to complete it) is as follows : — " Table Traits, and
Something on Them " (1854) ; "Habits and Men " (1854) ;
''Queens of the House of Hanover" (1855); "Knights
and their Days " (1856) ; " Monarchs Retired from Busi-
ness" (1857) ; "History of Court Fools" (1858) ; "New
Pictures and Old Panels " (1859) ; " Princes of the House
of Wales" (1859) ; "Memoirs of Queen Adelaide" (1861) ;
"His Majesty's Servants" (1863); "Saints and Sinners"
(1868); "A Lady of the Last Century" (1873); "Mann
and Manners " (1876), and " London in Jacobite Times "
(1877). Among the works which he edited may be men-
tioned a " Selection of Ballads Contributed to Bentley's Mis-
cellany " (1859) ; and an English reprint of a volume of
essays by the late H. T. Tuckerman, entitled " The Col-
lector " (1868).

Dr. Doran's latest literary employment was the manage-
ment of Notes and Queries ; the plan of which was in the
line of the studies which he had pursued for years, and
which he brought to bear upon its pages with remarkable
success. His last contributions to Literature were papers
on " Dwarfs," in the new edition of the Encyclopedia Bri-
tannica ; a sketch on "Shakespeare in France" in the
Nineteenth Century (January, 1878) ; and a letter to the
editor of the Athenwum, upon the fiftieth anniversary of
the birth of that journal. He died at 33 Lansdowne Eoad,
' Netting Hill, on the 25th of January, 1878, after a brief
illness with bronchitis, and all that was mortal of him was
buried four days later at Kensal Green. He was sincerely
mourned by his friends. "It is not often," said the Athe-
ncBum, "that death, by a single blow, spreads such wide
sorrow amongst literary workers. For Doran was at home
in most of our literary coteries, and whilst no one encoun-
tered him in society •without being charmed by his pleasant
address and animated conversation, it was impossible for


any one to make the first approaches toward intimacy with
him, and not to entertain a cordial liking for one so over-
flowing with manly kindliness and honest sympathy. The
regard with which he inspired his habitual associates was a
sentiment of the closest attachment." He was one of the
few men whose age might well be doubted. ** Though he
never affected to be younger than his years, Doran did not
to the last strike casual observers, or even his ordinary ac-
quaintance, as a veteran whose career had begun in the first
decade of the present century. The whiteness of his hair
w^ould, indeed, have been appropriate to an octogenarian.
But to the last his countenance, voice, and manner were
those of a man in the middle stage of middle age. His
smile had the freshness of a yet earlier period, and his whole
bearing, as he delivered anecdote after anecdote to a group
of listeners at a dinner- table, or in the corner of a crowded
drawing-room, was so light and easy in its gayety, that no
stranger, seeing him for the first time in any of the earlier
months of last season, imagined how nearly he had ap-
proached the end of his seventieth year. On the other
hand, those intimate friends to whom he used to pour forth
his personal reminiscences of John Kemble and Mrs. Sid-
dons were induced by the remoteness of the recollections to
magnify his age in an amusing manner."

Dr. Doran's place in Literature will be among those who
have entertained as well as instinicted their readers, for his
works afford just the intellectual diversion that is most ac-
ceptable to men of cultivated taste and scholarly attainments
in their hours of idleness. **Even the slightest of -..nem
may be described as works in which a writer, having an un-
usually large acquaintance with curious and too generally
neglected literature, has reproduced the multifarious results
of his devious readings with excellent judgment and humor.
It should also be remembered, to the great credit of these
dexterous manipulations of the curiosities of literature, that


they exhibit everywhere the candor and sincerity for which
their autlior was remarkable. Had he been capable of con-
descending to artifices sometimes conspicuous in literary
achievements, Doran's facile pen could have easily worked
into pompous essays and pretentious treatises the materials
which he offered with equal modesty and openness to the
thousands of educated readers who were with good reason
thankful for them. But good as they are in their peculiarly
novel way, Dr. Doran's books do not give any adequate idea
of his literary usefulness. To a critical journal, that in
surveying the entire field of letters needs the assistance of
men possessing an accurate knowledge of the outlying fields
and the hidden nooks and corners of literary achievement,
he was of almost inestimable convenience and value. The
same may be said of his exceptional fitness for the editorial
management of Notes and Queries, which, in addition to
its other titles of respect, fully justifies the felicitous words
in which Lord Houghton, in an after-dinner speech, called
it a repertory of useless knowledge. Moreover, Dr. Doran
was especially serviceable to literary criticism on account of
his special knowledge of large subjects, as well as by the di-
versity of his out-of-the-way information. At present we
know not where to look for his equal as a student of eigh-
teenth century literature. Nor should it be forgotten that,
whilst he was remarkable as a critic for his knowledge of
details, he was even more remarkable for considerateness to-
ward the authors on whom he passed judgment. Perhaps
no critic ever did his full duty to the public Avith so much
tenderness toward writers. 'You are not mistaken, my
dear fellow, as to your facts,' he once remarked in his kind-
liest way to a young writer, 'but don't hurt people need-
lessly with that strong pen of yours. When you come to be
as old as I am, you will be sorry to remember that you have
been guilty of needless cruelty to any one.' The gentleness
of this just speech was very characteristic of the man, and

XIV m:emoir.

may help to account for the hold he had on the affections of
his friends."

A tender-hearted man, a scholarly student, a careful,
painstaking writer, who honored the profession by which he
lived — such was Dr. John Doran, who has left no successor
tnat is worthy of him.

R. H. S.


The ground which Dr. Doran has covered in what may be
callfid the biographical part of these volumes, occupies a century
and three-quarters, beginning with Thomas Betterton, who com-
menced his dramatic career in 1659, and ending with Edmund
Kean, who finished his dramatic career in 1833. Between these
dates flourished all the great actors and actresses of the English
stage — all, that is, except the first actors of the Elizabethan dra-
ma, of whom we know little or nothing except their names, and
the parts which they filled. That the original representatives of
Shakespeare's characters, — Burbage, Taylor, and the rest, — were
excellent players, tradition asserts, but in what their excellence
consisted we can only conjecture ; for dramatic criticism, if it can
be said to have existed then, was merely verbal, and dramatic
biography was unthought of. That tradition handed down to
their successors the way in which they played their Hamlets and
jRichards and Ziears, is more than likely : and that it lingers
yet on the stage is not improbable. Still, there is no certainty
about it, no such certainty, at any rate, as in the days of Charles
the First, when their immediate successors confronted audiences
who could remember their masters, and compare them with them.
The line of succession, — if broken, was broken during the Com-
monwealth, when the theatres were closed, and His Majesty's
Servants, as the players were called, followed the fortunes of his
luckless Majesty in the field, where they fought bravely, where
they became quartermasters, majors, coronets, and what not, and
where one of them, — a certain Will Robinson, — encountered the
savage Harrison, who ran his sword through him, shouting as he
did so, " Cursed is he who doeth the work of the Lord neg-
ligently ! "

The calling of the player was subject to many vicissitudes, and
much abuse. His first literary adversary was Stephen Gosson,
who, in his School o/ Abuses (1579), indulged in what he called



a "pleasant invective against poets, pipers, players, jesters, and
suchlike catterpillars of a Commonwealth," and who drew awful
examples from Roman history. A damned dramatist himself, he
launched damnation at all who succeeded. He was followed by
William Prynne, a voluminous Puritan pamphleteer, who elected
himself Dramatic Censor of the age, in his Histrio-Mastix : the
Players' Scoiirge, or Actors' Tragedle (iG33), for which he
was committed to the Tower, and sentenced to pay a fine of five
thousand pounds ; to be expelled from the Universary of Oxford,
from the Society of Lincoln's Inn, and from his profession of the
law ; to stand twice in the pillory, each time losing an ear ; to
have his book burnt before his face by the hangman ; and to suf-
fer perpetual imprisonment. A third assailant of the drama was
Jeremy Collier, an English Nonjuring bishop, who lashed him-
self into fury in A Short View of the Immorality and Pro-
fatieness of the English Stage (1698), evidences of which evil
qualities he found readily enough in the plays of Dryden, Con-
greve, and Vanbrugh. They defended themselves as well as they
could (some of them rather tamely, it must be confessed), and a
paper war of some years' duration was the consequence. Mr. S.
Austin Allibone, who is nothing if not moral, calls him the Re-
former of the English Stage, a distinction of no great value, if the
Stage be in the condition which he supposes, and which he sums
up as the School of Vice. " Certain it is," he eloquently remarks,
" that conducted as our theatres are at present, taking together
that which is acted upon, behind and before the stage, we con-
sider that no one who has a proper regard for the interests of
morality can consistently lend his influence or countenance to
such demoralizing exhibitions. If it should be thought that we
are too severe in our judgment, we answer that the facts of the
case are in this, as in every other question, the best evidence.
This evidence will prove that three out of every four young men
who become victims to licentiousness and intcmpeiance are first
introduced to vice through the medium of the theatre. As to
the other sex — how fathers can permit their daughters, husbands
their wives, lovers the objects of their affections, to have their
eyes and ears offended by what must be heard and witnessed by
those who visit the theatres, is marvellous indeed 1"


Thackeray disposed of Dr. Firinin, if I remember rightly, by
sending liim to America, where lie became connected with the
press. I forget how Dickens disposed of Pecksniff, but my own
impression is that that irrepressible moralist emigrated to Phila-
delphia, where he abandoned the difficult study of architecture
for the easier study of bibliography, and where, under a nom de
plume, he continued to remind us of our moral responsibilities,
by editing "A Critical Dictionary of English literature."

The sweet Puritan poet, Milton, thought better of the stage
than the sour Puritan critic Prynne, for a year or two before the
latter vented his rage upon it in the Hlstrio-Mastix, he made
his earliest appearance in print, in the Second Folio, in "An
Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatic Poet W. Shakespeare," the
greatness of whose genius he was the second poet, to pay homage
to, Ben Jonson being the first, and who, he declared, had built
for himself a live-long monument,

"And so sepulcliered in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die."

He had a wise and liberal mind, for one and not the least of the
intellectual recreations of his merry man was dfiUKved from the
drama :

" Then to the well-trod stage anon.
If Jonson's learned sock be on,
Or sweetest Sliakespeare, Fancy's child.
Warbles his native woodnotes wild."

The poera in which this Immortal celebrates himself and his
cloudless existence (" L'Allegro "), is saturated with the spirit of
Shakespeare, who, we may be sure, was Milton's constant com-
panion in the pleasant village of Horton, vhtre he passed six of
the happiest years of his life, and where he wrote that incompai a-
ble masque of which Shakespeare himself would have been pmud
— "Comas." The Age of Elizrdieth was the most dramatic age
that England had ever seen, not so much because it was crowded
with great events, (though these were not to be despised), as be-
cause it was "rammed with life," — abundant, valiant, dominant,
physical life, that shrank from nothing, and irrepressible intel-
lectual life that mastered whatever it grappled with, If there


was ever a time when Britons never would be slaves, it was then,
as Philip of Spain found to his cost, and as the pedantic followers
of the old schoolmen found to their cost. What an England it
was — the England of Sydney, Raleigh and Drake, — the England
of Spenser and Shakespeare ! Famous for many things, it was
famous above all for its dramatic writing, which in a few years
re iched a greatness that has ever since been the wonder of the
nations, who have bestowed their homage upon the Master through
whom it reached that greatness, and who now sits alone in the
Heaven of Fame, — the supreme poet of mankind ! What his
great contemporaries thought of him we have no accurate means of
knowing ; (there were no coffee-houses then where the wits of the
town met, and laid down critical laws, as they did a century later
at Will's; — and there were no diurnals that chronicled the doings
of the players at the Globe, or the Blackfriars ;) — but what was
thought of his works may be gathered from the writings of some
of his jealous fellows, who decried his successes, and to whom he
was an upstart crow beautified with their feathers (were you badly
plucked by him, Master Greene?) and may be inferred from the
fortune which these works produced him, and which enabled him
to retire, a prosperous gentleman, to Stratford. That he was
the most popular poet of the times is proved by the surreptitious
quartos, which would not have continued to be printed unless
there had been a demand for them, and by the testimony of Ben
Jonson, who declared that he worshipped his memory this side
of idolatry.

" Sweet Swan of Avon ! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear.
And make those flights upon the banks of Thanaes,
That did so take Eliza and our James I "

The fame of Shakespeare, which suffered eclipse under the
Commonwealth, set in darkness after the Restoration, which
ushered in the worst age of the English drama. Of the early
dramatists Beaumont and Fletcher were played ten times where
Sh:ikespeare was played once, and when Shakespeare was played
at all, his fair proportions were wofully mutilated. The flight

Online LibraryDr. (John) DoranTheir majesties' servants. Annals of the English stage, from Thomas Betterton to Edmund Kean (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 41)