Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

177

No. XII.
MR. TERRY.

.mr. Daniel Terry, one of the most sterling actors of our day, was born at Bath, about the year 1780; and received his education partly at the Grammar-school of that city, and partly at a private academy kept by the Rev. Edward Spencer, at Winkfield, in Wiltshire. It having been thought that he discovered a strong propensity to the science of architecture, he was placed under Mr. Samuel Wyatt, with whom he remained five years. At the expiration of that term, however, his partiality for the stage strongly manifested itself. His first dramatic essay is said to have been Heartwell, in the farce of " The Prize," a part affording but little scope for the display of histrionic talent. In 1803, he was staying at Sheffield for a week, and embraced the opportunity, which the presence in that town of Mr. Macready's company afforded him, of playing Tressel, in "Richard the Third;" Cromwell, in "Henry the Eighth;" Edmund, in "King Lear;" and a few other subordinate parts, experimentally: but, whether disappointed in his expectations of eminent success, or from some other cause, he returned to his original profession ; which, however, he finally quitted in 1805, and entered himself as a volunteer in the corps dramatique of Mr. Stephen Kemble, then performing in some of the principal towns in the North of England. With this company he remained until its dissolution in August, 1806; and gained in it considerable experience as an actor, by a year and a half's very varied and laborious practice. From hence Mr. Terry went to Liverpool, where he made slow but sure steps in public favour. He continued there

VOL. XIV. N

until November, 1809; when, on the secession of Mr. Meggott, he was engaged by Mr. Henry Siddons to lead the business of the Edinburgh Theatre. It was at Edinburgh that he first acquired considerable popularity, and to that city he was ever after strongly attached. Whilst there, he made the acquaintance of Mr. Ballantyne, the celebrated publisher; and was by him introduced to Sir Walter Scott, who from that period remained on the most intimate and friendly footing with him. In the spring of 1812, he was induced, by the offer of an engagement at the Haymarket Theatre, to take leave of his friends and the stage at Edinburgh, in order to court what is ever the ultimatum of an actor's ambition — the favourable testimony to his talents of a London audience. He made his first appearance in London on the 20th of May, 1812, in the character of Lord Ogleby, in "The Clandestine Marriage;" and was favourably received. He continued, during this and the next season, to play in succession a variety of old and new parts, with undiminished success. In September, 1813, he concluded an engagement with the managers of Covent Garden, with whom he remained until some disagreement about remuneration induced him, in 1822, to transfer his services to the rival establishment of Drury Lane, then under the management of Mr. Elliston. At Drury Lane Mr. Terry remained until 1825, when, in conjunction with Mr. Yates, he purchased the Adelphi Theatre. On this occasion, Sir Walter Scott proved himself "a friend indeed;" becoming, it is said, Mr. Terry's security for the payment of his part of the purchase-money. The speculation was considered a good one, and the theatre continued to thrive for two seasons, under the joint management of Mr. Terry and Mr. Yates. About this time, however, unpleasant rumours of pecuniary embarrassments on the part of Mr. Terry (totally unconnected with Mr. Yates or the theatre, and, indeed, incurred previous to their partnership,) began to attract so much public notice as to render a dissolution of the partnership necessary. This was accomplished, and Mr. Terry compounded in a handsome dividend with his creditors. Over this part of Mr. Terry's history we are desirous to pass as lightly and rapidly as possible. Suffice it to say, that Mr. Terry's shattered nerves sank under the many painful trials to which his unfortunate circumstances subjected him. He was unable to rally, and to combat with adversity. After the settlement of his affairs, he was re-engaged at Drury Lane Theatre, and on the opening night of the season appeared there in the characters of Sir Peter Teazle and Peter Simpson. On this occasion, his acting exhibited a considerable falling off of his accustomed powers: his limbs seemed palsied, and his memory imperfect. He relinquished his engagement from ill health; and, after lingering for several weeks, expired on the 23d of June, 1829. Whilst he was in Edinburgh, Mr. Terry married Miss Nasmyth, a daughter of the celebrated artist. By her he has left four children. The following able analysis of Mr. Terry's professional merits appeared shortly after his death in "The Spectator :"—

"When a favourite actor takes leave of life and the stage together, the feelings of the parties who have regarded him with favour are not unlike those which rise on the departure of a friend. There is that knowledge of the minutest variations of countenance and voice—tokens imperceptible to general acquaintance — which is possessed only by old intimates; and thus when an intercourse—ever agreeable to one of the parties, though too often sustained by the other with pain and heaviness of heart — is interrupted by death pouncing on him who has so often beguiled us out of ourselves, the privation not unreasonably ranks among those saddening blows, of which a man must endure his appointed number ere he drops himself. There are several circumstances—accidental some, and some peculiar to the performer who has so recently made his last exit—to dispose those who have stood by the theatre through good report and evil, of which the last hath in these latter days fearfully preponderated, to muse with more than usual regret on the departure of Terry; one of. tha last green leaves lingering on a trunk older than the Yardley oak, whilst yet that oak stood, and as hollow, sapless, rotten, and decayed.

"' Time made thee what thou wast, king of the woods;
And Time hath made thee what thou art — a cave
For Owls To Roost In. . . . Thou hast outlived
Thy popularity, and art become

\ . ... a thing Forgotten as the foliage of thy youth. .
Thine arms have left thee. . . . Some have left
A splinter'd stump bleach'd to a snowy white;
And some memorial none, where once they grew.
Yet life still lingers in thee, and puts forth
Proof not contemptible of what she can
Even where death predominates.'

"Terry, if not the last, was of the very last few surviving intellectual performers, of whom Kemble, and, before him, Garrick, are the departed chiefs. It is not the intention of this obituary tribute to ill-appreciated excellence, of however high an order, to claim for Terry an even rank with those great names; but he was of them, and he is high in the class in which they were pre-eminent; and if it may be presumed that souls hereafter, disentangled from those fleshy integuments which in this life hide congenial spirits from each other, know and are known of one another with a less unerring instinct, poor Terry will find himself welcomed by all that ever lived great or intellectual in his art, with that spiritual embrace 'which obstacle finds none Of membrane, joint, or limb.'

"Like Kemble, our lamented friend—for so it pleases the writer to regard him, though except on the stage his eyes beheld him never—brought to the profession which he adorned a high respect for the art, as offering, when duly considered and legitimately and successfully pursued, an intellectual eminence, to which it was worthy of a cultivated mind to aspire. Such success to secure by such arduous path, Terry exerted in the study a strong understanding cultivated by scholarship; and found full employment for a mind above the common level, in what the actors of this day see only an exercise of features, voice, and limbs — pleasing, as has been well remarked, when they chance to please, 'they know not why;' and offending, as they mostly do, 'they know not how.' Terry's pretensions as a man of letters have been stated by contemporaries with due distinction; and those who knew him well can testify, on better grounds than of the Waverley romances, 'Terrified into treading the stage *,' that his reading had not been thrown away on unpropitious ground, but that his conversation exhibited the fruits of a naturally good soil, well sown and carefully nurtured. Something there must have been in the man who preserved through life the constant regard of the most accomplished mind of this age; and the friendship of Sir Walter Scott, of all men's least likely to be unworthily bestowed, was, in the instance of Terry, merited by qualifications which that great man knows to respect wherever and in whomsoever he happens to discover them. He who played so many parts eminently well on the stage, uniformly enacted one and the same with equal ability off; and the claims of the well-informed gentleman reinforced in the esteem of his friend those of the admirable player, and rendered his presence as acceptable at the table as in the theatre.

"The acting of Terry was eminently the result of intellectual labour—the produce of a strong imagination and quick sympathy, roused and acted on by the works of the great men whose visions he undertook to embody; and rectified and invigorated by study in that larger volume of nature in which

• The once Great Unknown's own pun, in noticing Terry's successive adaptations of his novels to the stage.

f

« ElőzőTovább »