- Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells (Hardcover) | Kepler's Books
- Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells (Hardcover)
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After a while, I stopped praying for you. It hurt too much and I had enough blood to clean up, so I stopped doing it. I became a stranger, even to myself. I wonder if you would have even recognized me. I came back from Thailand with my heart shattered and it has been a patient, arduous process of picking up the shards. One wrong move. After a while, we started to get the hang of it. I became more and more comfortable with the person I was becoming.
Even if it missed some pieces from the person before all this. Waking up in the morning became more of the thing I actually wanted to do. Those were some of the darkest times of my life but despite all that, I met the slow-moving God. I was sitting in a coffeeshop, my mind adrift in a state of caffeinated rumination. I started journaling about my loneliness, giving language to some of the painful thoughts that still echoed in my mind every now and then.
I am too slow. People have left me behind. Abandoned me. We have matching scars. Who would have ever thought. And just like that, you made your rudely unwelcome cameo back into my life. Months ago, I purposefully removed our group picture from my desktop slideshow but this was no photographic memory to forget. Mental images flooded my thought space like pop-up spam. I saw your charcoal-tinted hands. Hardened from years of playing with fire and getting burned.
Your missing finger, still itching you as if a cruel joke from the gods to remind you of the people who are now nothing but phantom limbs in your life. I saw your cloudy eyes. The bags under your eyes drooped, tired from the cold, sleepless nights. Cold, from the vacant space in your soul carved out by the woman who left you. No degree of tropical heat could remove the chill that made your heart shiver each night.
I wondered which kept you up at night more, the sleep apnea or the loneliness. I saw your hunched-over posture, carefully balanced over disabled, crossed legs. I thought about how even as one is crippled, his heart can run so far. Because enough people had left you already. Because you had seen far more untimely goodbyes than any human heart should ever see. I wanted you to meet the slow-moving God that I met in your home country who waited for me. My vision did. I saw a man who pulled people in because he wanted them so desperately, but pushed them away when he needed them the most.
A man who asked for visitors to keep him company and numb the loneliness for a brief summer, only to abuse them. This is the conversation I wish we could have had before we said goodbye. Six months and twelve days after I leave Thailand, I can finally say that the Trek is over. The last order of unfinished business. Read the Kid, part one and part two. Writing the Kid, pt. Read part one first!
I have been jumping into difficult conversations with my family, particularly those of reconciliation and relational healing. Conversations I never imagined possible. This past week, I talked to my parents. At last. If you are not 2nd-gen Asian-American, this can be a pretty big deal.
Born into the wrong culture. Turns out we have more in common than I thought. Born last into a family of five other siblings, he had a lot to live up to. Competition for a game he never signed up for. And the cards were already stacked against him. While his close friends seemed to have no difficulty playing this game, the boy thought more of how to keep up with them, rather than actually playing the game well. As the boy grew older, he realized he no longer wanted to play the game. Perhaps the game was not meant for him anyways.
Everyone else made it. They attended the prestigious universities and flaunted hopes of a future as bright as their titles and accomplishments. Never passed a math class after elementary school. The boy ended up on an assembly line at a manufacturing plant. The boy left church, running away from a community that he thought could never fully accept him. He was thrown on a path and expected to trace footsteps he could never follow.
So he carved his own. He had no choice. They labeled it rebellion. Though he found his own way, remnants of his past life still stuck to him, like thick blood. He only wished better for his children. Who was this boy? Had his story become so lost that it was nothing but a faded memory? Her mastery was near unparalleled. It was as if she was meant to follow this path.
She made it happen. She did it. She was accepted into the best university in the nation. And yet, it turned out that even she, of all people, had her imperfections. She seemed to be able to impress everyone with her academic prowess except for the person that mattered the most — her father.
Why do you still have a C? Why are you so skinny? Despite her otherwise flawless report card, her stern father seemed to be unable to see past her one glaring C. Her accomplishments, he could not affirm her for. Or perhaps, he did not know how to. It is striking how one person can change your world entirely and skew your vision forever — for better or for worse — if you let them. That sounds… awful. Did that not anger you? What did the girl feel in the moment? But we were too scared of him. He would hit us if we forgot to do our homework.
Or if we failed to meet his expectations. She told me how the girl used to help her unscholarly, less-than-studious little brother by doing his homework for him. Maybe this time, I can save him the beating. One day, the girl was caught in her benevolent, clandestine activities. Her father found her out. He struck her across the face. Who was this girl? Had her story become so diluted in a twisted effort to save face?
Why is it that all we remember of her story is the picturesque, scholarly, and well-behaved daughter? Had no one listened and validated her complete story, even the dark and messy parts? For the longest time, we were just ghostly figures floating lifelessly past each other in the hallways and dining rooms. Our relationship was as blurry as our memories. Together, we shared a haunted house. For the first time in years, we shared this strange, yet oddly-familiar feeling together.
One of being seen. One of those songs that are so old that they are like new. The expert consequentially responds to the newly created needs by prescribing another treatment, which would only give rise to yet another deficit, requiring another treatment. A detrimental, crippling cycle is inadvertently manufactured in an attempt to provide help. The patient faithfully takes his pill daily but the pill produces some deleterious side effects.
So what does he do? He goes back to the doctor, of course. The patient diligently takes both pills but to his surprise, this new pill spawns its own side effects. So the doctor prescribes yet another pill with more side effects! You get the idea. In the end, the solution to the problem the medication was made to solve is to get rid of the medication itself.
We see this all the time in social work and non-profit attempts to aid underprivileged communities. And as with individuals, we do same with communities. But there is something fundamentally wrong and unhelpful in our thinking. The problem is that we are viewing people by their deficits and needs, rather than their strengths and assets. To take it a step deeper, the lenses by which we view their deficits are easily susceptible to cultural, gender, and worldview biases.
Go figure. Any community psychologist knows that the ultimate goal is empowerment. And the potent self-fulfilling prophecy does the rest. The ex-gang member teenager. The father living on the street. As I digested these new concepts in my Community Psychology class last semester, I felt a deep sense of compassion for those who felt identified by their weaknesses rather than by who they fully were.
For some reason, this time was different. Inglis was the headmaster: a pale, ascetic-looking man, whose deportment was grave, dignified, and awe-inspiring; the clicking of the latch of the door by which he entered the Upper Schoolroom instantly produced a silence like a chill, and the "boldest held his breath for a time. To give some idea of the abuse of power by the prmopostors, or sixth-form boys, an incident at the very beginning of my school days will be sufficient.
One morning, in passing through the schools, "the Doctor," or "Inglis"-according to whom his title might be addressed-was followed by a boy about fourteen years of age, in deep mourning. This boy, whose name was Crowther, had been expelled the half-year before, and on this occasion the Doctor read a letter from him generally believed to be in his mother's writing expressing his contrition for his fault, mentioning his aggravated distress under the recent loss of his father, and begging to be restored.
The letter brought tears into the eyes of several of the boys, and Inglis pronounced his public pardon, and his restoration to his place. His offence was having been sent fagged by his praepostor master to Grime's Spinnys, about two and a half miles distant, to steal ash-plants to be beaten with. There was no resource-he was seen by Inglis as he passed in his carriage, and being questioned "who had sent him," he refused to give the name of his tyrant. A box on the ear was the punishment of his contumacy, and on his saying he "was not to be struck," and persisting in his refusal to give up the name of his superior, he underwent immediate expulsion.
One of the - a short time before had held the back of his fag to the fire so long in torture, that the poor fellow, who was still during my time at school in the fourth form, was seriously ill, and his brutal master flogged severely for his atrocious conduct. The longest day, however, will have an end, and though the short half-year was so unhappily lengthened to me, it reached the holidays at last; and with a party in a chaise I arrived at Leicester,.
The mail I had for the whole long journey to myself, dining by myself at the Black's Head, in Nottingham, and, but for the thought that every mile brought me nearer home, the day would have been a melancholy one. We had left Leicester at ten o'clock in the morning, and eleven at night was the time at which we reached Sheffield-a journey which in the present day would occupy, I fancy, about two hours, or two hours and a half! I had no difficulty in finding my father's lodgings in Norfolk Street, and on inquiring for my parents, was taken up to my father, who was in bed, and, as they told me, ill.
He had not expected me, having written to our friend at Leicester to detain me there some days. The night was one of thoughtless rest to me; but the morning brought with it tidings of an event that has been ever since a memory of sorrow to me. That mother whom I had so longed to see, so dear, so precious, was gone indeed. My father informed me that she had died the day before my return. I had the mournful comfort of looking on her in her placid sleep, and through succeedings years that image of tranquillity and love has not left me. It was a house of mourning in which my holidays were spent.
I followed her to the grave, which I have often, always in passing through Sheffield, remembered and revisited. In a newspaper of that period these lines'were published shortly after her death: " The following impromptu will not be deemed inappropriate, as it is written from the heart, in the full force of its feelings, by one who knew her well, and who faithfully declares that however deficient it may be in poetical merit he has not deviated in a single line from the rigid maxim of 'De mortuis nil nisi verum.
Death of Mother-Schcol Theatricals. Where, Death, thy sting? One amusement of the bigger boys was in getting up plays, which were acted to their school-fellows in one of the boarding-houses, Bucknill's. They were very fairly done, only that it was necessary at the end of every scene to drop the curtain in order to change one for another. In the course of time these plays were removed to a sort of hall at the School-house called the "Over School," the reading and sitting-room of the School-house fifth and sixth form boys. In grateful testimony they considered themselves obliged to give me, although in the Under School, parts in their performances, and my theatrical career at Rugby was begun as prompter-a distinguished post for an Under School boy; and I ran through the characters of Dame Ashfield in 'Speed the Plough,' Mrs.
Inglis retired from the head-mastership, to be susceeded by Dr. Wooll, I had made some progress in the school, having reached the fifth form. I recollect one day, when playing at foot-ball in the school close, Dr. Inglis was walking on the gravel walk that surrounds it. He called me to him, and desiring me to " keep on my hat," continued his walk with me by his side.
Hie inquired of me what my father designed for me. I told him that I was intended for the law. He continued: "Have you not thought of your father's profeSiop? But if you had had any thoughts that way I should have wished to give you some advice, which I am glad to believe is now unnecessary. During his term of office the subject of the French invasion engrossed all thoughts, and monopolised conversation. The whole country was armed, drilled, and well accoutred, and Rugby furnished its two companies of wellequipped, well-marshalled volunteers.
The elder boys had their blue coats cuffed and collared with scarlet, and exercised after school-hours with heavy wooden broad-swords. Nothing was talked of but Bonaparte and invasion. Suddenly a wonderful boy, a miracle of beauty, grace, and genius, who had acted in Belfast and Edinburgh, became the theme of all discourse. My father had brought him to England, and his first engagement was at Birmingham, where crowded houses applauded his surprising powers to the very echo. In London, at both Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres, throughout the whole country, "the young Roscius" became a rage, and in the furore of public admiration the invasion ceased to be spoken of.
He acted two nights at Leicester, and on a half-holiday, my cousin Birch having sent a note to excuse me and his eldest son from the afternoon's callings-over at my father's request, Tom Birch and myself were smuggled into a chaise, and reached Leicester in time for the play-' Richard III. John Kemble and H. Harris, son of the Patentee of Covent Garden, sat in the stage box immediately.
I remember John Kemble's handkerchief strongly scented of lavender, and his observation, in a very compassionate tone, "Poor boy! In subsequent engagements with my father we became playfellows, and off the stage W. West Betty was a boy with boys, as full of spirits, fun, and mischief as any of his companions, though caressed, fondled, and idolised by peeresses, and actually besieged for a mere glimpse of him by crowds at his hotel door.
An instance of the " madness that ruled the hour" was given at Dunchurch, where he stopped to dine and sleep, being prevented from acting at Coventry in Passion Week by Cornwallis, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry. One of the leading families in the county, who were on their way to Coventry to see him, were stopped by the news at Dinchurch. The lady begged and entreated the landlord to get her a sight of "the young Roscius. Rapid Rise in the School. Betty and their son were just going to dinner, and if she chose to carry in one of the dishes she could see him, but there was no other way.source.gits.id/the-blue-ribbon-the-afterlife.php
Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells (Hardcover) | Kepler's Books
I mention this as one among the numerous anecdotes of his popularity. T'he Prince of Wales made him handsome presents, and in short he engrossed all tongues. After the play at Leicester, Tom Birch and myself got into our chaise, and travelling through the night, reached Rugby in good time for "first lesson" in the morning.
This rough draft of the incidents of my life may never go beyond the circle of my own family, but in remarking the cause of those errors, which will be found to abound in it, whether originating in myself, induced by culpable example, or resulting from mistaken instruction, lessons may be learned and experience obtained that may serve as beacons to those I love and leave behind me, and which may prove, as I pray to God they may, in some slight degree expiatory of the faults here registered. With this purpose in view I have, after some deliberation, resolved not to omit even those trifling circumstances of my boyhood to which may be traced some of the delinquencies of my maturer life.
But none deceive us so much as we ourselves, and with all my earnest resolves, I may very possibly, though undesignedly, in relation colour facts in tenderness to my own portion of blame, or view in the light of prejudice the conduct of others engaged with me. Let me hope that I shall hold to that severe rule of truth which I have always laboured to inculcate in you, my dear children. The rapidity of my onward course in the school was unchecked; but the spirit with which I worked at my advancement became darkened by an occurrence that reduced me to a level which I had gloried in feeling myself above.
The question has been long disputed of the effect produced on boys by corporal punishnbent. In the expression of this opinion I am not going to offer any palliation of my own misdoings, but to recall the facts as they occurred. I had reached the top of the lower fourth form without the disgrace of corporal punishment, and it was thought by the boys around me, and it was one hope of my ambition, that I should pass through the school unscathed personally or morally by this degrading infliction.
One morning the news current in the boy's hall at our boarding-house my cousin Birch's was the " great fun" of the preceding evening, when a boy, half a fool, of the name of J--, had been made drunk by --, --, and-- with the Hall beer, and had exhibited most ridiculous antics, to their great amusement. The boys plied the foolish fellow with mugs of the "swipes," and then hustled him about to accelerate the effects of his draughts.
I had no hand whatever in the business. The result was that the boy was very sick, and the affair was repeated to Birch. The boy in his stupefied state was questioned, and he gave my name with those of the real delinquents. I was afterwards informed that my name was sent up to Dr. Inglis, on which I went to Birch to protest my innocence, and to offer testimony to the fact that my culpability was that of many others, viz. Birch very sternly repelled me, telling me I might explain to Dr. Inglis what I had to say. The prmpostor the next day at lessons came for me, and I was conducted by him to the Doctor's School, where the condemned were.
I assured the Doctor that I was free from any participation in the offence beyond being present. His answer was, "Macready, I am very sorry to see you here, but Mr. Birch has ' sent you up' the term in use and I must whip you. I wish he was in h-1! William Birch, my tutor's son and my third cousin, was present, and would, I knew, report me to his father, which I fancy I almost wished.
My anguish and the fury of my heart blinded me to everything else. It had been Birch's custom to have me every Sunday to " dine in the parlour," a very great indulgence; but this was only one among the many many proofs he gave me of his partiality to me. On the following Sunday as we took our places at dinner in the Hall, where Mrs.
Birch superintended, the distribution of the fare, the man-servant came to me with the usual message,. William Birch. He repeated his message three or four times, till I said, "I shall not go;" when Mrs. Birch took the word: "Let him alone, Thomas, if he doesn't choose. I could not have gone into the parlour after what I had been guilty of saying of my benefactor, and I joined with other boys in pranks that I should before have been careful to avoid.
It is an evil sign in our nature, which I could not but perceive, that it was an evident satisfaction to some among them that I had fallen from my "pride of place. He was the most severe, but the most liked of all the masters. His undeviating system was, if a boy, called up at a lesson, made a mistake, he gave him a light imposition; upon a second omission he increased the imposition; upon a third the inexorable words were, " Sit down, you need not do your punishments.
I went with dread to take my place in his form. With stern rigour he blended encouragement; and each Saturday those boys who had acquitted themselves well during the week were " sent up. Some time after my father passed through Pugby, and of course went to see Birch. I was sent for into the parlour, and there my dear and good friend for such lie was to his dying day related to my father with tears in his eyes my behaviour. I had been guiltless of the first offence, which the poor half-idiot lad had acknowledged afterwards; but the belief of Birch had been that the beer had been drugged, that tobacco had been put into it for the purpose of intoxicating the boy, without which the offence could scarcely have been considered a penal one, and in his anger, which was sometimes hasty, he would not pause for inquiry.
I repeated the assurance of my innocence of the fault ascribed to me, and with an overcharged heart expressed my contrition for my ungrateful forgetfulness of all his kindness to me. It was understood that he forgave me, and I returned to a better sense of my duty. I was afterwards occasionally, and not unfrequently, invited into the parlour; but the regular Sunday dinners, where I was as one of his family, were not resumed. I may say with one of Cumberland's characters, "My passions were my.
L masters," and even in reaching the " years that bring the philosophic mind" I have had to continue the conflict with them. It was in the lower fourth form an incident occurred which caused some amusement in the school. Upon some absurd pro tence a very bullying boy, by name B--, affected to take umbrage at some words or action I remember we could not divine the meaning of his irritation alleged by him against myself and another of our house, Jeston, on which he sent us a challenge to fight us both together that evening.
Being both of us of his own age and size, it seemed excessively ridiculous, and in accepting his cartel I told Jeston that I would fight him first, and if he thrashed me, he should then take his turn. We went after the last evening lesson to the ground appointed, but met no one. At night B-- sent me a note we were all in the same boarding-house to the effect that on reflection he withdrew the challenge of fighting both together, but that he would fight us one after the other after dinner the next day. My answer informed him that such had been my intention, and that we would give him the meeting in the field proposed.
The next day, after I saw him with his second quit the dinner-table, I rose, and, nudging Jeston, who stuck to his mutton, followed with my second to Caldecot's Close. We took our ground; I was perfectly collected, and did not fear my adversary. Without the least injury to myself, in five rounds he was sufficiently beaten to give in, and the event made a roar among the boys at calling-over, when reported amongst them.
It was an attempt to bully which met a proper check. The year saw a change, in the appointment of Dr. Wooll from Midhurst, to the headmastership. Inglis had not been popular, and the numbers, which had sunk considerably under his later years, received a very considerable accession soon after Wooll's inauguration. I was among the few who regretted the departure of Inglis, and it is only justice to his memory to remark that the preparation for a lesson to be said to him tasked the diligence and ability of his scholars.
Wooll was too indulgent; and with such impunity could we trifle with our work, that I have taken up my Sophocles with the leaves uncut. Seeing me cut the leaves in school, he called me ur and dismissed me with a reprimand. There was no longer the same pressure on my industry to which I had been accustomed under Inglis, and in time I became so sensible of my retrogression, that I set myself to work on halfholidays or in the evenings to make translations of Homer and Virgil with such notes and parallel passages as my boyish brain could furnish.
Occasionally I would smother my fire with ashes under the grate, "ignes suppositos cineri doloso," to deceive the servant as he went his nightly rounds at ten o'clock, get into bed with my clothes on, and when the house was all asleep, would get up, having hung up cloths to prevent the light being seen in my window, and with strong tea which I made in my room, sit up to a late hour working a4 my Homer or 'Georgics. Recitationzs at Rugby. Wooll was a very agreeable, good-natured, amiable, pompous little man. I think of him with great regard; he was very kind to me, and greatly liked by the boys of gentlemanly character.
But he was not a scholar, and the preference given to him by the Trustees in his competition with Dr. Butler, Master of Shrewsbury School, afterwards Bishop of Lichfield, spoke little for their judgment. Wooll varied our compositions by introducing English verses once every month; he gave prizes for compositions in Latin and English verse once a year, and to test the elocutionary powers of the fifth and sixth forms, gave also prizes for speaking.
The latter were inconsiderable, but the novelty gave interest to them. He gave me the closet scene in 'Hamlet,' with Skeeles as the Queen, and an imaginary ghost. I remonstrated with him upon the extreme difficulty of such a scene, and he silenced me by saying, " If I had not intended you to do something extraordinary, I should not have taken you out of your place. Ricketts were the best speakers. Latin Prize Poem. Robinson Major his own S.
Ricketts, Major his own nlish Prize Poem. Panthea and Abradates"' composition. Very pretty, and extremely well spoden. Rank in School. Adam to the Archangel Electra Chorus in ' Caractacus ' Leonidas.. Lord Cromartie.. Alexander's Feast,. State Trials. Pretty well. Surprisingly well indeed. Very well. Very excellent indeed. IL They were prominent in the plays, which we got up in a much more expensive style than in Dr.
Inglis's time, and with great completeness. The Doctor chose to ignore our proceedings, and we even obtained permission to act them to audiences invited from the town an'd neighbourhood. My father furnished us with dresses; and the scenery, provided by subscriptions among ourselves, was very creditable to the artist powers of Walhouse and Ricketts, with assistants. Our play the next year, when Robinson and Ricketts had left for the Universities, was Dr. Young's ' Revenge,' with the farce of ' Two Strings to your Bow.
Walhouse was the Alonzo and Ferdinand; my parts were Zanga and Lazarillo. The success was great; we were all much applauded, and I remember the remark of a Mr. Caldecot, reported to me, 1" I should be uneasy if I saw a son of mine play so well. The half-year closed with speeches before an auditory consisting only of the school and the gentry of the town.
My place was the last among the speakers, and I can now remember the inward elation I felt in marking, as. I slowly rose up, the deep and instant hush that went through the whole assembly; I recollect the conscious pride I felt, as the creaking of my shoes came audibly to my cars whilst I deliberately advanced to my place in the centre of the school.
My speech was the oration of Titus Quintius translated from Livy. It was a little triumph in its way, but the last I was doomed to obtain in dear old Rugby. It was on my return home for one of my Christmas holidays that in passing through Birmingham I found the manager of the theatre there which my father had relinquished on entering on his Manchester speculation had sent tickets for a box. Conceiving it proper that the civility should be acknowledged by the appearance of some of our family, I went with one of my sisters and a friend.
The play was 'The Busy-body,' very badly acted, and the after-piece a serious pantomime on the ballad of 'Alonzo and Imogene. F ather's. How little did I know, or could guess, that under that shabby green satin dress was hidden one of the most extraordinary theatrical geniuses that have ever illustrated the dramatic poetry of England! When, some years afterwards, public enthusiasm was excited to the highest pitch by the appearance at Drury Lane of an actor of the name of Kean, my astonishment may easily be conceived on discovering that the little insignificant Alonzo the Brave was the grandly impassioned personator of Othello, Richard, and Shylock!
IN penning this record the continual recurrence of the "first person" grates against my taste and inclination, but an autobiography cannot dispense with 1's.
Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells (Hardcover)
My views had been to strive for one of the exhibitions to help me forward at Oxford, where a degree would have accelerated the period of being called to the Par. But it was otherwise decreed. My father, who had accumulated a little property in the Funds by his successful management of the Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, and other theatres, outbid his competitors for the lease of the new Manchester Theatre, recently built, the expense attending which, its painting, furniture, and complete fitting up, swallowed the whole of his investment.
A partner who could not fulfil the conditions of his contract added to his embarrassment, and a disastrous season left him minus to a very con:siderable amount. On my return home for the holidays of the winter, , I was not apprised of the difficulties under which my father was labouring. He was a man of a very sanguine temperament, and clung to hope till affairs became desperate.
This was made known to me in a very painful way. I had given offence-I cannot remember in. Chiefly owing to the interposition of the lady then staying in our house, my father inflicted a severe punishment upon me, which I conceived unmerited, and I took the truant boy's resolution to leave my home. Through my sisters this became known to the lady alluded to, and she took occasion to talk to me-to remonstrate with me, informing me of the desperate state of my father's affairs, and of his inability to pay my bills at Rugby for the last half-year.
I was determined not to go back to Rugby under such circumstances. What then was to be done? Would not my going on the stage relieve my father from the further expense of my education? My expectations did not go beyond this result. The extravagant views, however, of my counsellor looked to another Young Rosciusfurore I being not yet sixteen years of age , and speculated on a rapid fortune! I had neither the vanity nor the folly to entertain for one instant such ideas; but if I could lighten the load then pressing on my father by foregoing the cost of my education, and could aid him by my co-operation, that I was willing and ready to do.
She advised me to go at once to my father, then at the theatre about a mile distant, make my peace with him, and propose this alternative to him. I fancy she had prepared him for it, in signifying her intention to speak to me on the subject. I found him in his private room in the theatre, and expressing my regret for having offended him, stated my wish, as my bills at Rugby could not be paid, to take up the stage as a profession.
He made a slight demur to the proposal, intimating that Mr. Birch would arrange for the non-payment of the-bills-that it had been the wish of his life to see me at the Par, but that if it was my real wish to go upon the stage, it would be useless for him to oppose it. I gave him to understand that my mind was made up, and the die was cast.
I was not then aware of the distance between the two starting-points of life. My father was impressive in his convictions that the stage was a gentlemanly profession. My experience has taught me that whilst the law, the church, the army, and navy give a man the rank of a gentleman, on the stage that designation must be obtained in society though the law and the Court decline to recognise it by the individual bearing.
In other callings the profession confers dignity on the initiated, on the stage the player must contribute respect to the exercise of his art. This truth, experienced too late, has given occasion to many moments of depression, many angry swellings of the heart, many painful convictions of the uncertainty of my position. I was not aware, in taking it, that this step in life was a descent from that eqglality in which I had felt myself to stand with those of family and fortune whom our education had made my companions.
I had to live to learnthat an ignorant officer could refuse the satisfaction of a gentleman on the ground that his appellant was a player, and that, whilst any of those above-named vocations, whatever the private character, might be received at Court, the privilege of. In giving once a very liberal subscriptionto a charity, Macklin was asked what name was to be placed before it. Macklin, Esq. My brother Edward, younger than myself by five years, continued his studies at a day-school at Manchester, whilst I, making myself as useful as I could to my father in his struggle through the remainder of his theatrical season, divided the time at my disposal between occasional snatches of work at my old classic authors, taking lessons in fencing, and getting by heart the words of such youthful characters in the drama as would seem most likely to suit my age and powers.
I have had reason to question the judgment of my father in much that he would recommend and insist upon in my preparation for the stage. With a certain amount of cleverness, his notions and tastes were what I may call too " stagey" to arouse or nurse the originality of a first-rate actor.
He referred always to what he had seen, and cited the manner in which past celebrities would deliver particular passages. Among players his models of excellence in their particular walks were Macklin and Henderson, the theatrical Titans to whose remote grandeur he looked back with confident veneration. He held with high esteem Kemble, and even Pope and Holman, with whom he was contemporary; but Macklin and Henderson, who had been the admiration of his early youth, held the foremost rank in his estimation.
He had acted the part of Horatio in the Dublin Theatre three times in one week with three different Hamlets-Holman, Kemble, and Henderson-and with all the personal advantages of the two former, he regarded Henderson as immeasurably their superior. Macklin, whose personation of Shylock to its true reading had elicited the impromptu of Pope, " This is the Jew that Shakespeare drew," was my father's theatrical oracle. His portrait hung over the fireplace of our little dining-room, with the inscription, Charles Macklin, aged It was said of him that at nineteen he could not read.
It is however certain that he was servant, similar to what at Oxford is called a "scout," at Trinity College, Dublin. The custom was for these servants to wait in the courts of the college in attendance on the calls of the students. To every shout of "Boy! After Macklin by his persevering industry had gained a name as author and actor, in one of his engagements at the Dublin Theatre some unruly young men caused a disturbance, when Macklin in very proper terms rebuked them for their indecent behaviour.
The audience aplauded; but one of the rioters, thinking to put him down by reference to his early low condition, with contemptuous bitterness shouted out "Boy! His manner was generally harsh, as indeed was his countenance. So much so that on some one speaking to Quin of the " strong lines" of Macklin's face, he cut short his remarks with, "The lines of his face, sir?
You mean the cordage. There was good advice, though conveyed in his gruff voice and imperious tone. Keep your eye fixed on me when I am speaking to you! Attention is always fixed; if you take your eye from me you rob the audience of my effects, and you rob me of their applause! After he had left the stage, which the utter loss of memory compelled him to do, my father paid him a visit in London, and his account of it gave curious evidence of an inveterate prejudice surviving the decay of physical and intellectual power.
The old man, with lack-lustre eye, was sitting in his arm-chair unconscious of any one being present, till Mrs. Macklin addressed him. Macready come to see you. Macready, my dear. Macready, you know, who went to Dublin to act for your benefit. Who wrote it? What was it about? My poor father, in frequent apprehaenion of arrest, was from time to time obliged to absent himself, and to study modes of concealment whilst taking measures at that time necessary, from the state of the law to make himself a dealer in goods, in order to pass through the Court of Bankruptcy.
Before the close of the theatre, Mr. John Fawcett, an excellent comic actor, a man very much respected, and an old friend of my father, came down to fulfil engagements with him at the Manchester and Newcastle Theatres. At the close of his Manchester engagement I travelled with him to Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he acted during the raceweek, and where I was commissioned by my father to overlook the course of affairs during a short summer season, in fact to be the deputed manager.
Macready from that burden. I wish also to know whether I or any of my brothers could be of service to your younger brother in any mode, or to your sisters. Whatever your father may point out I will endeavour to the utmost of my power to accomplish. Your friend Jeston called here last week, and surprised me with the account of your being manager of a theatre, for which your age seemed not yet sufficient; but your desire to assist your father, which I find from Jeston was the reason of your adopting your present profession, gives you power, which I ardently hope will bring you the rewards of success, and I esteem your character highly for exerting yourself in one of the first of all virtues, filial affection.
II, him, explaining his views with respect to you and the rest of the family. My wife unites with me in sincere regards. William has sailed again to India. Mary is tolerably well. The theatre being closed, I went on a most tearful journey " I had left my dear Phillis behind" to meet, after the sale of our housefurniture, my father at Birmingham, where the greatest sympathy was shown with his misfortunes.
The manager of the theatre there took advantage of the public feeling, and made an engagement with him for a few nights' performances, which were extremely well attended; but the night of his benefit was one that returned a receipt never before known there. Not only was every place occupied, but very many sent presents, and from one club a purse was made by every member paying a guinea for his ticket.
This happy circumstance placing him in present funds, he left Birmingham, accompanied by me, on his route to Leicester. Here we parted for a time, he remaining to conduct the affairs of the theatre, and I taking the coach to London to pay my visit to my father's friend, Mr. My reception was most friendly, though the recollection has not escaped me of the awkwardness and loneliness I felt for the first time among strangers, who in their frank hospitality soon ceased to be so. I reached London, September , the day after the opening of the New Covent Garden Theatre, which, to the wonder of the time, had been built in a year from the date of the destruction of the old one.
My father's command that, from the danger of becoming an imitator, I should not see John Kemble act, proved unnecessary; for the O. Siddons' appearance. A little disturbance had been anticipated on account of the prices being raised from six shillings to seven shillings in the boxes, and from three shillings to four shillings in the pit; but the proprietors of the theatre too confidently relied on the beauty and splendour of the edifice reconciling the public to the advance. The spirit of resistance was, however, persevering and indomitable.
After three or four weeks the tumult became so far lulled that the three first acts of each performance were listened to by the scanty audiences that attended; but at half-price the well-organised opposition rushing in, began the O. The scenes presented by the acting audience, and the " hubbub wild " that deafened the ear, baffle description. Some of the leading pugilists of the day were franked into the boxes, to champion the cause of the proprietors. Biots-A8ctorss of the Day. Horns, catcalls, and all imaginable discordant sounds were mingled in the vast uproar.
I was a frequent visitor, my name being put upon the free-list, and had the satisfaction of seeing Cooke, Young, C. Kemble, Murden, Fawcett, Emery, Listen, and other first-rate performers, for three acts each night, but soon grew tired of the eternal din, that became one same barbarian yell. This continued for some months, until the menaced ruin of the establishment induced the proprietors to come to an agreement with the self-installed representatives of the public, and a pacification was ratified on terms of mutual concession.
Seven shillings for the boxes were conceded by the insurgents, and three-and-sixpence was yielded to them as the price of admission to the pit. The Drury Lane Company meanwhile, who had been burned out of their theatre, profited largely by this interruption of the Covent Garden performances, having opened the Lyceum, which was nightly filled by those who wished to see plays acted.
I was a frequent auditor, my business being to see as much good acting as 1 could. Elliston had taken the Surrey Theatre, where the law allowed him to perform only burlettas, and here I saw him act Macbeth as a pantomime, and Captain Macheath in 'The Beggars' Opera,' the words of Gay thrown into jingling rhyme.
Every morning before breakfast my walk was from Thornhaugh Street to the Albany to take lessons in fencing from Angelo; and I certainly was industrious in my endeavour to acquire grace and skill in the use of the small-sword. I became aquainted with Morton, Reynolds, Theodore Hook, and Vernon, since known for the gift of his splendid gallery of pictures to the nation.
Tom Sheridan I also met in the park, and recollect his handsome, sickly face, and lively, good-humoured manner. My evenings were given regularly to some theatre, and my early mornings as regularly to Angelo. On that occasion there was a gas star before one of the houses in Pall Mall, which relighted itself as the wind every now and then partially blew out some of its jets. This was, I think, the first public experiment of gas; and it was a very general opinion that it never could be rendered serviceable.
How frequently have the predictions of prejudice and ignorance been falsified by science! My visit, from which I derived considerable benefit, being ended, I returned to Leicester, and thence prpceeded to Manchester, where by appointment I rejoined my father. We slept at the 'Bridgewater Arms' that night, and the next day late in the afternoon I went with him to the house of the sheriffs officer, to whom he was to surrender himself.
When I found him actually a prisoner, my fortitude gave way, and I burst out into tears. He had evidently a struggle to collect himself, but he did so, saying, " There is nothing I cannot bear but compassion. If you cannot. I was but sixteen years old, and " the world was all before me. I was quite alone, and every performer in the theatre, of which I now entered on the direction, was a stranger to me; and what aggravated the difficulty of my undertaking, several were in a state of mutiny, their salaries being considerably in arrear.
The slovenly manner in which the business of the theatre was carried on by the persons in office was apparent to me in the play I saw represented the night of my arrival. I was surprised and vexed to find that it was a novelty. I enforced more attention at the rehearsals; announced a piece upon the subject of the late. The money I had been able to provide was nicely calculated to carry us through.
It was the week before Christmas, and regular December weather. My hopes of relief from the obligations which still embarrassed me, and of raising the credit of my father's theatres, rested on the approaching season at Newcastle. The best performers from Chester were to meet there the elite of the Leicester troop, and together would form a very good provincial company.
We left Chester, where I had learned my first lesson of the world's difficulties, on Christmas Eve, and, with four in a chaise and luggage, could not expect in winter roads to move on very expeditiously. Travelling all night we reached Brough, a small town on the wild borders of Westmoreland, about noon on Christmas Day, where we stopped to lunch. To our utter dismay the landlord entered the room with the note in his hand to inform us he did not like the look of it, that he therefore demurred to give change for it, and that he could not send us forward, from the state of the roads, without four horses!
Here was a dead lock! Journey from Chester to Newcastle. My position, if I could not reach Newcastle in time, must have been deplorable. We sent for the landlord; he was not within, having gone up to his farm! Time began to press, for it was already evident we could not under any circumstances reach Newcastle that night; but what means of extrication were there?
My watch had been left at Chester to eke out the needful amount for this journey. Those of my three cornpagnons de voyage were laid on the table, and the landlord, who had returned, was once more summoned. I gave him what references of respectability I could, and, finding him immovable in his refusal to send us on without four horses, we submitted to this extra charge on condition he would advance three pounds upon the watches and give change for the five-pound note.
After some hesitation he yielded; the post-boy was paid, the four horses were put to, and the postillions charged to instruct the innkeeper at the next stage to forward us with a pair. The crew with a flowing sheet sailing "Away from the Bay of Biscay, O," could scarcely have felt greater relief than we did in finding ourselves in full gallop from what had threatened to be our prison in Brough. We gave three cheers as we cleared the dreary little town, and on reaching Durham late in the evening found our funds just equal to the payment of the chaise that landed us there.
Being well known here, there was no stint to the enjoyment of a good supper and good beds, the bill for which I took with me to Newcastle betimes the next morning, obtaining cash from the treasurer of the theatre to remit the full discharge of all to our obliging host of the Wheatsheaf.
The event of the season at Newcastle did not disappoint me. The company was very superior to the average of provincial theatres.
A little before the close of the season in the spring he obtained with his release his certificate of bankruptcy, with most complimentary testifications to his uprightness and liberality. It was at Birmingham that the commission of his bankruptcy was taken out, and at one of the meetings, on the question being put of what should be done with his plate among which was a handsome vase presented to him for his aid to the Birmingham General Hospital , George Freer, a principal creditor, stood up and said, "If they took Macready's plate, he should instantly propose.
In the early part of the season a person imposed on me, by the name of " Harrison," the belief that he was the great concert singer of that day, and I very gladly engaged him to sing a certain number of songs on a particular evening. His name was posted in the formidable large letters of the playbills, and there was an attendance eager to see and hear the famous tenor of the Ancient Concerts; but, in proportion to my satisfaction at the appearance of the audience, was my horror and dismay at seeing the fellow go on the stage in a pair of white duck trousers it was winter , a chapeau-bras under his arm, and with an unsteadiness of deportment that showed he had been sacrificing much more liberally to Bacchus than to Apollo.
Before he had got through his first song the hissing began, and a chorus of hootings responded to his unsteady attempts to bow himself off. I sent on the stagemanager to state the fraud that had been practised on me, and to make the tender to the dissatisfied of the return of their admission-money. Few took advantage of it; therefore the next morning, having reduced the receipt of the night to that of the lowest average of the season, I sent the surplus with a note to the General Hospital, declining on the part of the management to profit by the imposition.
On another occasion I was threatened with a challenge for having, in my capacity as manager, forcibly removed a young man from the boxes who, in a state of intoxication, was disturbing the audience. Omnia, mutantur is a familiar proverb of the oldest philosophy.
In this world of changes the theatrical calling has undergone revolutions as complete as those of science or religion. Witness the difference between the present state of the stage and its condition when I entered on it. At that time a theatre was considered indispensable in towns of very scanty populations. The prices of admission varied from 5s. But beyond that, the regularity of rehearsal and the attention paid to the production of plays, most of which came under the class of the " regular drama," made a sort of school for him in the repetition of his characters and the criticism of his auditors, from his proficiency in which he looked to Covent Garden or Drury Lane as the goal of his exertions.
Whimsical Exedient. Farren; from York Fawcett, C. Mathews, Emery, Harley, J. The distance from London was then so great, and the expense and fatigue of travelling was such as to make a journey then more rare; and the larger towns, as York, Newcastle, Bath, Exeter, Norwich, were centres or capitals of provincial circles, to which the county families resorted for the winter season, or crowded to the public weeks of races and assizes, when the assembly-rooms and the theatres were the places of fashionable meeting.
My experience of country theatres never presented me with any scenes resembling the barn of Hogarth's Strolling Players, but it was not altogether without its whimsical expedients and ludicrous mishaps. On the first representation of the grand Ballet of Action of Macbeth I was most busily and anxiously engaged in looking after the working of the machinery, which was very complicated, and urging on the performers.
In the scene after Duncan's murder there was scarcely three minutes' time for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to wash the blood from their hands. Macbeth, poor Conway, on rushing from the stage in an agony of despair, exclaimed, " Oh! What shall I do? There was not an instant for reflection. I snatched up the first semblance of cloth that lay to hand, with which he dried his half-washed hands, and dashed back to the stage again.
With the water and cloth in my hands I met at the foot of the stairs Lady Macbeth in equal perplexity, who hastily availing herself of the ready aid, rushed back to her place on the stage. The curtain fell that night with much applause on our barbarous violation of Shakespeare, and I went to my lodgings through a deep snow, insensible to the cold from the satisfaction I felt in the success of the evening. The next morning the acting manager met me with a very grave countenance, foretelling " the nature of a tragic volume," and opened his tale of woe with,-' Sir, I am very sorry to tell you, there are thieves in the theatre!
Let every inquiry be made, that they may be punished, or at least turned out of the place. What has been stolen? Simkin's breeches! When he went to dress himself at the end of the evening, his breeches were gone, and he was obliged to walk home to his lodgings through the snow without any. After a little time, however, a thought crossed me, and I asked the manager what kind of small clothes they were. When he told me they were brown kerseymere, it flashed across me that I had seized them for Conway's. The injury was repaired, but the story of Simkin's small clothes was for some time repeated as against my impetuosity.
With my father's return my responsibilities ceased; and it was no light load from which my inexperience, not always able to avoid mistakes, was relieved. One morning I remember, when my father was present, showing one of them, who had to personate a savage, how, in making a sort of tiger-spring upon his enemy, suddenly to lapse into astonishment on seeing his own figure reflected in the polished surface of his antagonist's shield.
My father was taken by surprise, and involuntarily said for he was not very prodigal of his praise , " If you can do anything like that on the stage there will be few come near you. The peculiar situation in which I had been placed for the greater part of a year was one, as I now look back upon it, that might have determined my lot for more severe trials than have, I say it thankfully, fallen to my share. It almost unavoidably threw me into intimacy with minds not capable of improving, nor likely much to benefit one so young and impulsive as myself; and led me into occasional dissipation, which might have induced habits destructive of ability and reputation.
To my excellent friends the Misses Hedley, three maiden sisters of good family, and almost oracles in the best social circles of Newcastle, I owe my rescue from the liabilities I was then incurring. They were lovers of the theatre; one particular box was nightly reserved for them, which they scarcely ever failed to occupy for some part of the evening. A little before the close of the season they gave me an invitation to take tea with them, and took advantage of the occasion to represent to me that some of the leading people in the place would be ready to show me kindness and attention if they were sure that I was select in my associates.
They pointed out to me the evils and dangers of dissipation and low company in the career I was about to enter on, and induced me by their friendly and sensible expostulations to give attentive consideration to a subject of such consequence to young people entering life.
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That they became the firm and cordial friends of myself and my sisters to the end of their lives is the proof that their thoughtful interposition between me and ill-fortune was not without some result. Happy is the destiny that gives to a youth of unbounded spirits and uncontrollable excitability, like myself, the blessing of early monitors, whether in the more painful discipline of consequent suffering or in the more indulgent agency of pre-admonition such as theirs. The vocation of player, as well as that of teacher, is often under.
Debut at Birmingham in Romeo. Too often is it made for the idle and ignorant a refuge from the duties of painstaking industry; and in daily intercourse with men and women so actuated, and circumstanced, it is not to be wondered at if youth should soon lose its freshness and the lofty tone of thought with which it was prepared to enter on its career. We reached Birmingham with so.
But the theatre opened; the company, which was still further reinforced, was pronounced very good, and all went on satisfactorily. Conway was the great favourite. My father, to whom I of course deferred, had selected Romeo for the character of my debut, and accordingly I was row in earnest work upon it. Frequently in the course of my solitary attempts the exclamation would escape me, "I cannot do it;" and in some of my private rehearsals I had the discouraging remark of my father, " that will not do," to damp my courage and cast the gloomy shade of doubt on my exertions.
Still, however, I persevered; and as the time of making the desperate plunge approached, my hopes were somewhat cheered by the encouragement of the lady who was rehearsing her part of Juliet with me Mrs. Young from Drury Lane Theatre , and my father's admission of "very great improvement. There was a mist before my eyes. I seemed to see nothing of the dazzling scene before me, and for some time I was like an automaton moving in certain defined limits.
I went mechanically through the variations in which I had drilled myself, and it was not until the plaudits of the audience awoke me from the kind of waking dream in which I seemed to be moving, that I gained my self-possession, and really entered into the spirit of the character and, I may say, felt the passion I was to represent.