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diately produced out of a woman's quarterly allow-
ance ; but, as I have not the least doubt of Mr. Siddons
oeing ready and willing to offer this testimony of
regard and gratitude, I beg you will arrange the busi-
ness with him immediately. I will write to him this


day, if I can find a moment's time. If you can devise
any quicker mode of accomplishing your amiable
purpose, rely upon my paying the 80 within the next
six months. For God's sake do not let it slip through.
If I knew how to send the money from here, I would
do it this instant ; but, considering the delay of
distance, and the caprice of wind and sea, it will be
more expeditiously done by Mr. Siddons. God bless
and restore you to perfect health and tranquillity."

We can read between the lines of this letter, as we
know that about this time she received a pressing
request from her husband for money to fit out their
son George for India, and to pay debts incurred on the
decoration of the house in Great Marlborough Street,
suggesting that in consequence she had better accept
an engagement in Liverpool. She preferred, however,
though harassed by disagreements with Jones the
manager, to remain in Dublin. A report was circu-
lated, as on the occasion of her first visit to Ireland,
that she had refused to play for the benefit of the
Lying-in Hospital, a charity much patronised by the
Dublin ladies. She indignantly refuted this accusa-
tion, ending with words that show her state of mental
suffering :

" It is hard to bear at one and the same time the
pressure of domestic sorrow, the anxiety of business,
and the necessity of healing a wounded reputation ;
but such is the rude enforcement of the time, and I
must sustain it as I am enabled by that Power who
tempers the wind to the shorn lamb."

Her son George came and spent a fortnight with
her before his departure for India, and the news from
home concerning her daughter still seemed good.
Like a thunderbolt, therefore, from a summer sky,


came a letter from Mr. Siddons addressed to Miss Wil-
kinson, saying that Sally was very ill, but begging her
not to make Mrs. Siddons anxious by telling her. Miss
Wilkinson, however, felt it to be her duty to show the
letter. The mother's heart divined all that was not
said. She declared her intention of starting for Eng-
land without delay. A violent gale had blown for
some days, and no vessel would leave the harbour.
Two days later a reassuring letter came from Siddons
addressed to his wife, telling her all was well again,
and advising her to go to Cork. She went, but her
miserable state of mind may be guessed from a letter
addressed to Mrs. Fitzhugh :

" Cork, March 21st, 1803.;

" How shall I sufficiently thank you for all
your kindness to me ? You know my heart, and I may
spare my words, for, God knows, my mind is in so
distracted a state, that I can hardly write or speak
rationally. Oh ! why did not Mr. Siddons tell me
when she was first taken so ill ? I should then have
got clear of this engagement, and what a world of
wretchedness and anxiety would have been spared to
me ! And yet good God ! how should I have crossed
the sea? For a fortnight past it has been so dan
gerous, that nothing but wherries have ventured to
the Holy Head; but yet I think I should have put
myself into one of them if I could have known that
my poor dear girl was so ill. Oh ! tell me all about her.
I am almost broken-hearted, though the last accounts
tell me that she has been mending for several days.
Has she wished for me ? But I know I feel that she
has. The dear creature used to think it weakness in



me when I told her of the possibility of what might
be endured from illness when that tremendous element
divides one from one's family. Would to God I were
at her bedside ! It would be for me then to suffer
with resignation what I cannot now support with any
fortitude. If anything could relieve the misery I feel,
it would be that my dear and inestimable Sir Lucas
Pepys had her under his care. Pray tell him this,
and ask him to write me a word of comfort. Will
you believe that I must play to-night, and can you
imagine any wretchedness like it in this terrible state
of mind ? For a moment I comfort myself by reflect-
ing on the strength of the dear creature's constitution,
which has so often rallied, to the astonishment of us
all, under similar serious attacks. Then, again, when
I think of the frail tenure of human existence, my
heart fails and sinks into dejection. God bless you !
The suspense that distance keeps me in, you may
imagine, but it cannot be described."

Meantime, no letters came. The winds raged with-
out, and no vessel could cross. At the end of the
week the news that arrived was not satisfactory. She
made up her mind to throw up her engagement at any
cost, and return. She and Patty Wilkinson set out
for Dublin; there they were again detained, and
received no news. Nearly beside herself with anxiety,
she again appealed to Mrs. Fitzhugh :

11 Dublin, April 2nd, 1803.

" I am perfectly astonished, my dear Friend, that I
have not heard from you after begging it so earnestly.
Good God ! what can be the reason that intelligence
must be extorted, as it were, in circumstances like


mine ? One would think common benevolence, setting
affection quite aside, might have induced some of you
to alleviate as much as possible such distress as you
know I must feel. The last letter from Mr. Siddons
stated that she was better. Another letter from Mr.
Montgomery, at Oxford, says that George gave him the
same account. Why why am I to hear this only
from a person at that distance from her, and so ill-
informed as the writer must be of the state of her
health ? Why should not you or Mr. Siddons have
told me this ? I cannot account for your silence at
all, for you know how to feel. I hope to sail to-night,
and to reach London the third day. God knows when
that will be. Oh God ! what a home to return to,
after all I have been doing ! and what a prospect to
the end of my days."

At last she was able to cross to Holyhead. At
Shrewsbury she received a letter from Mr. Siddons
confirming the worst accounts of Sally's illness, but
begging her to "remember the preciousness of her
own life, and not to endanger it by over-rapid travel-
ling." As she read, Miss Wilkinson was called from
the room ; a messenger had arrived with the news 0f
the girl's death. Mrs. Siddons guessed what had
happened by the expression of Miss Wilkinson's face
when she returned, and, sinking back speechless, lay
for a day " cold and torpid as a stone, with scarcely
a sign of life."

Her own family came forward with consolation and
help. Her brother John wrote a letter, which she
received at Oxford ; her brother Charles came to meet
her, and conducted her on her first visit to her
widowed mother. Every other grief had sunk into
insignificance by the side of the death of her daughter.


So worn out was she with misery and overwork, that
the doctors recommended the quiet and bracing air of
Cheltenham. We get a glimpse of her frame of mind
in a letter addressed thence to her friend Mrs. Fitz-
hugh in June 1803 :

"The serenity of the place, the sweet air and
scenery of my cottage, and the medicinal effect of the
waters, have done some good to my shattered constitu-
tion. I am unable at times to reconcile myself to my
fate. The darling being for whom I mourn is
assuredly released from a life of suffering, and num-
bered among the blessed spirits made perfect. But to
be separated for ever, in spite of reason, and in spite
of religion, is at times too much for me. Give my
love to dear Charles Moore, if you chance to see him.
Have you read his beautiful account of my sweet
Sally ? It is done with a truth and modesty which
has given me the sincerest of all pleasures that I am
now allowed to feel, and assures me still more than
ever that he who could feel and taste such excellence
was worthy of the particular regard she had for
him. 5 '

The life out of doors at Birch Farm, reading " under
the haystack in the farm-yard," rambling in the fields,
and " musing in the orchard," gradually soothed the
poignancy of her grief. " Rising at six and going to
bed at ten, has brought me to my comfortable sleep
once more/' she writes. " The bitterness and an-
guish of selfish grief begins to subside, and the
tender recollections of excellence and virtues gone
to the blessed place of their eternal reward, are
now the sad though sweet companions of my lonely

In spite of all her stoicism and resolve, however, the



sense of her loss would come back, carrying away all
artificial barriers of restraint.

"If he thinks himself unfortunate," she wrote of a
friend, (C let him look on me and be silent ' the
inscrutable ways of Providence.' Two lovely creatures
gone, and another is just arrived from school with all
the dazzling frightful sort of beauty that irradiated the
countenance of Maria, and makes me shudder when I
look at her. I feel myself like poor Niobe grasping to
her bosom the last and youngest of her children ; and,
like her, look every moment for the vengeful arrow of
destruction. Alas ! my dear Friend, can it be won-
dered at that I long for the land where they are gone
to prepare their mother's place? What have I here.?
Yet here, even here, I could be content to linger still in
peace and calmness content is all I wish. But I must
again enter into the bustle of the world ; for though
fame and fortune have given me all I wish, yet while
my presence and my exertions here may be useful to
others, I do not think myself at liberty to give myself
up to my own selfish gratification. The second great
commandment is ' Love thy neighbour as thyself,' and
in this way I shall most probably best make my way
to Heaven."

How inscrutable, indeed, are the ways of Provi-
dence. Sally was her eldest daughter and her dearest
child. She had been born two months before that
terrible period of probation and failure at Drury Lane.
Hers were the baby fingers, hers the baby voice, that
had coaxed the poor young mother back to resignation
and courage. She was twenty-seven when she was
taken, and had ever been the sunshine of the home.
Yes, she was the dearest. Strange that, deaf to our
anguish and suffering, those are so often they who are


taken. If a heart in such a trial can still believe and
trust and love, then it is faith indeed heaven-born,
sublime. And such, we see, was the broken-hearted

During her stay at Birch Farm, John Kemble,
Charles Moore, and Miss Dorothy Place, her daughter
Sally's particular friend, came to stay with her. In
July they all of them made an excursion along the
Wye, after which she paid a visit to her friend Mr.
Fitzhugh at Bannister's, and then returned to London,
where she made an engagement to act the following
winter at Covent Garden.

Other trials awaited Mrs. Siddons, trials that, to
a woman of her proud and sensitive temper, must
have been torture in the extreme. Whatever her
sufferings had been in the course of her professional
career, from scandal and misrepresentation, her cha-
racter as a wife and mother had been untouched.
Now, when no longer young, and anxious to escape
from the harassing turmoil of the stage into the
dignity and calm of a domestic life, surrounded by her
children and friends, a blow fell on her under which,
for the time, she almost sank. The circumstance is
not alluded to either by Campbell or Boaden, but is
so interwoven with Mrs. Siddons's existence, and so
colours her mode of thought at the time, that it can
hardly be passed over.

Mrs. Siddons met Katherine Galindo, author of
the libel, at the theatre in Dublin. She was a
subordinate actress, and her husband a fencing-
master. It is difficult to understand how she can have
become so intimate, except that her own perfect sin-
cerity and openness led her to bestow confidence on a
variety of persons, many of them not in any way



worthy of it. Her daughter, Cecilia, who later wrote
Recollections of her mother, says that, instead of being
hard and calculating, as the outside public imagined,
her mother was, on the contrary, too easy too much
disposed to be ruled by people inferior in every way to
herself, credulous to an extraordinary extent, always
trusting to appearances, and never willing to suspect
anyone. Perhaps, also, the great actress's weakness
was a wish to " make use " of people, and a love of
flattery both dangerous qualities for a woman in her
position, laying her open, as they did, to the machina-
tions of adventurers. Be it as it may, we are as-
tounded at the girlish sentimentality of the letters she
wrote to the Galindos. Allowing even for the Laura
Matilda style of expression of the period, they show
the substratum of romanticism that underlies her cha-
racter. The Galindos accompanied her to Cork, and
then to Killarney. Mrs. Siddons used all her influ-
ence to induce Harris, of Covent Garden, to give Mrs.
Galindo an engagement ; but Kemble, when he ar-
rived from abroad, refused to ratify it. A letter from
Mrs. Inchbald says :

" When Kemble returned from Spain in 1803,
he came to me like a madman, said Mrs. Siddons
had been imposed upon by persons whom it was
a disgrace to her to know, and he begged me to
explain it so to her. He requested Harris to with-
draw his promise of his engaging Mrs. G. at Mrs.
Siddons's request. Yet such was his tenderness to his
sister's sensibility, that he would not undeceive her
himself. Mr. Kemble blamed me, and I blamed him
for his reserve, and I have never been so cordial since.
Nor/' ends Mrs. Inchbald, with the prim self-
sufficiency quite consistent with what we know of the


" dear Muse," " have I ever admired Mrs. Siddons
so much since ; for, though I can pity a dupe, I
must also despise one. Even to be familiar with
such people was a lack of virtue, though not of

We read later in Rogers's Table Talk that, not
long before Mrs. Inchbald's death he met her walk-
ing near Charing Cross, and we are not astonished to
be told that she had been calling on several old
friends, but had seen none of them some being really
not at home, and others denying themselves to her.
ff I called," she said, " on Mrs. Siddons. I knew she
was at home, yet I was not admitted/'

To return, however, to the Galindos. The wretched
woman was stung to the quick by the withdrawal of
her engagement at Covent Garden, and although Mrs.
Siddons advanced a thousand pounds to the hus-
band to buy a share in a provincial theatre, and
showed them much kindness, the jealous and infuriated
wife published in pamphlet form a wild and libellous
attack on the great actress, to which she added the
letters that had passed between them in their days
of intimacy. By artfully turning and suppressing
sentences here and there, she succeeded in giving a
significance never intended in the originals. Although
she said she had advanced nothing but what she could
substantiate by the most certain evidence, if called
upon to do so, she gave no proof whatever except of
her own wild jealousy and unreasoning disappointment
at being refused an engagement at Coveut Garden.

It seems incredible that a woman of Mrs. Sid-
dons's social knowledge can have been so imprudent
as to enter into such an intimacy, and to write in
such a strain of deep affection to people she had

214 MBS. 8IDDON8.

known only so short a time. The following is a speci-
men :

" Holyhead, Sunday, 12 o'clock.

" For some hours we had scarce a breath of wind,
and the vessel seemed to leave your coast as unwillingly
as your poor friend. About six o'clock this morning
the snowy tops of the mountains appeared ; they
chilled my heart, for I felt that they were emblematic
of the cold and dreary prospect before me. Mr.
has been very obliging ; he has just left us, but it is
probable we shall meet again upon the road. I
thought you would be glad to know we were safely
landed. I will hope, my beloved friends, for a renewal
of the days we have known, and in the meantime
endeavour to amuse and cheer my melancholy with
the recollection of past joys, though they be ' sweet
and mournful to the soul.'

" God bless you all, and do not forget

" Your faithful, affectionate,


A little later she writes :


" Pray ask Mr. G to send me those sweet lines

* To Hope ' that which he gave me is almost effaced
by my tears and let it be written by the same hand.
I could never describe what I have lost in you, my
beloved friends, and the sweet angel that is gone for
ever ! Good God ! what a deprivation in a few days.
Adieu ! Adieu ! "

Needless to say, this " screeching " friendship ended
as one might expect. As we have said, she failed to
obtain an engagement for Mrs. Galindo at Co vent
Garden, and lent Galindo a thousand pounds to help


him to take shares in a theatrical company at Man-
chester. He never repaid the thousand pounds, and
became abusive when she asked for it. She accused
him, in a letter addressed to Miss Wilkinson, of "hypo-
crisy and ingratitude/' and the wife accused her of
having nourished an affection passing the bounds of
propriety for her husband. All her real friends mus-
tered round her, but she suffered terribly.
She wrote to Dr. Whalley :

" Among all the kind attentions I have received,
none has comforted me more, my dear friend, than
your invaluable letter. I thank God all my friends
are exactly of your opinion with respect to the manner
of treating this diabolical business. To a delicate
mind publicity is in itself painful, and I trust that a
life of tolerable rectitude will justify my conduct to
my friends. I have been dreadfully shaken, but I
trust that the natural disposition to be well will shortly
restore me. My dear Cecilia is, indeed, all a fond
mother can wish/'




JOHN KEMBLE was now both actor and manager at
Covent Garden, and the results were much more satis-
factory in every way to Mrs. Siddons. Harris the
proprietor was strictly punctual in his payments, and
the Kemble family, who numbered Charles Kenible
in their ranks, were sufficient to make the performances
attractive enough to the public. Mrs. Siddons appeared
in several of her old parts ; amongst others in Elvira,
when the actor Cooke came on so drunk as to be
unable to act his part. He did not improve matters
by attempting to excuse himself. He could only
articulate, " Ladies and Gentlemen, my old complaint,"
when he was removed, and Henry Siddons had to read
his part. Fit pendant to the- night when he ap-
peared as Sir Archy Macsarcasm with Johnstone, who
was playing Sir Calaghan. There was a dead pause :
At last Johnstone, advancing to the footlights, said
with a strong brogue, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr.
Cooke says he can't spake," which bull was received
with roars of laughter and hisses.

The great actress performed sixty times that season.


At its conclusion she went on a visit to Mrs. Darner
at Strawberry Hill, where she met Louis Philippe,
afterwards King of France, and the Prince Regent.
The two ladies, whenever they were together, indulged
their passion for sculpture. As winter approached she
suffered much from rheumatism, and, for the sake of
country air, removed from Great Marlborough Street
to a cottage at Hampstead for a few weeks. Mr.
Siddons, who was also a martyr to rheumatism, had
advocated the change, and the old gentleman was
much delighted with his new abode. He ate his
dinner, and, looking out at the beautiful view that
stretched before the windows, observed, " Sally, this
will cure all our ailments." In spite of his hopes,
however, Mrs. Siddons was confined to bed for weeks
with acute rheumatism. She tried electricity with
some beneficial effect, but suffered anguish while
undergoing the treatment.

As the winter advanced they returned to town ;
but Mr. Siddons grew so much worse that he re-
solved to try the waters of Bath. Mrs. Siddons
parted, therefore, with her house in Marlborough
Street, and took lodgings for herself and Miss Wil-
kinson in Princes Street, Hanover Square. Her
landlord there was an upholsterer of the name of
Nixon. He and his wife always talked afterwards with
the deepest affection of Mrs. Siddons. One day, look-
ing at Nixon's card, she found that he was also an
undertaker, and said laughingly, " I engage your ser-
vices to bury me, Mr. Nixon." Twenty-seven years
afterwards Nixon did so.

During the winter and spring of 1804 and 1805
Mrs. Siddons only performed twice at Covent Garden,
partly in consequence of delicate health, partly in


consequence of the appearance of Master Betty, the
" young Eoscius/' a prodigy whom the public ran after
with an enthusiasm that seems inexplicable. Managers
gave him sums that a Garrick or a Siddons were unable
to obtain ; his bust was done by the best sculptors ; his
portrait painted by the best artists, and verses written
in a style of idolatrous adulation were poured upon
this boy of thirteen. Actors and actresses were
obliged to appear on the stage with him to avoid giving
offence. Mrs. Siddons and Kemble, with praiseworthy
dignity, retired while the infatuation lasted. She went
to see him, however, and gave him what praise she
thought his due. Lord Abercorn came into her box,
declaring it was the finest acting he had ever seen.
" My lord," she answered, " he is a very clever, pretty
boy, but nothing more/'

Independently of the boy Betty, or any other trials
in her profession, Mrs. Siddons now began to long for
rest. We have seen how years before, when in Dublin,
she had expressed herself to Dr. Whalley : " I don't
build any castles, but cottages without end. May the
great Disposer of all events but permit me to spend
the evening of my toilsome, bustling day in a cottage
where I may sometimes have the converse and society
which will make me more worthy those imperishable
habitations which are prepared for the spirits of just
men made perfect ! "

In the April of 1805 she satisfied this wish by taking
a cottage at Westbourne, near Paddington. With the
help of Nixon she fitted it up luxuriously, built an
additional room behind for a studio, and laid out the
shrubbery and garden. Westbourne was then, we
are told, one of those delightful rural spots for which
Paddington was distinguished. It occupied a rising


ground, and commanded a lovely view of Hampstead,.
Highgate and the distant city. Mrs. Siddons's was
a small retired house, in a garden screened with poplars
and evergreens, resembling a modest rural vicarage,
standing, it is said, on the site now levelled for
the Great Western Railway Station. She loved, she
said, to escape from " the noise and din of London "
to the green fields surrounding her new home.

Here her friends congregated round her also. Miss
Berry and Madame D'Arblay both mention, in their
diaries, having spent an afternoon and met many
people at Mrs. Siddons's country retreat.

" I spoke in terms of rapture of Mrs. Siddons to
Incledon," Crabb Robinson tells us. " He replied,
' Ah ! Sally 's a fine creature. She has a charming
place on the Edgware Road. I dined with her last
year, and she paid me one of the finest compliments I
ever received. I sang The Storm after dinner. She
cried and sobbed like a child. Taking both of my
hands she said, " All that I and ray brother ever did ia
nothing compared with the effect you produce." '

The following lines were written by Mr. Siddons,
describing his wife's country retreat, during the last
visit he ever paid to it :


Would you I 'd Westbourne Farm describe ;

I '11 do it then, and free from gall,
For sure it would be sin to gibe

A thing so pretty and so small.

The poplar walk, if you have strength,
Will take a minute's time to step it ;

Nay, certes, 'tis of such a length,
'Twould almost tire a frog to leap it.



But when the pleasure-ground is seen,

Then what a burst conies on the view ;
Its level walk, its shaven green,

For which a razor's stroke would do.


Now, pray be cautious when you enter,

And curb your strides from much expansion ;

Three paces take you to the centre,
Three more, you 're close against the mansion.


The mansion, cottage, house, or hut,

Call 't what you will, has room within

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