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MS. of Mr. Henslow, the proprietor of the Rose Theatre, was more than once employed to improve the “ Spanish Tragedy," that eternal butt of all the wits of the age, and which they were never wearied of parodying and burlesquing. The article, as copied by Mr. Malone, was thus : “ Lent unto Mr. Alleyn, the 25 of September, 1601, to lend unto Bengemen Johnson, upon his writing of his adycions in Jeronymo, xxxx.s." In the following year it is also stated, “ that Bengemen wrote more adycions." These attempts to improve the popular favourites of the times, were, at any rate, more excusable than the paltry and contemptible “alterations” which have been, in later days, made by Cibber, Tate, and others of still less note, in some of the noblest of Shakspeare's plays.
TRAGICAL ACCIDENT AT THE OLD THEATRE
IN THE HAYMARKET.
On the 3rd of February, 1794, when their Majesties went to this Theatre, the crowd was so great, that, on the opening of the doors, in going down the steps leading to the pit, one or more persons fell, and others were precipitated over them, as the throng pressed on, not knowing what had happened. Fifteen respectable persons were unfortunately trampled to death! Twenty were taken
with fractured limbs, and other severe injuries, of which several did not long survive. This fatal accident was kept, as much as possible, a secret in the house ; and their Majesties were not informed of it until the .conclusion of the performances.
At the seventy-second performance of “ The Beggar's Opera," during its original run, Walker, who played Macheath, being rather imperfect in his part, Rich, the manager, observed, “How's this, Mister Walker? I thought you had a pretty, strong memory.”—“ So I have,” replied the actor ; you can't expect it to last for ever."
When Henderson, the celebrated performer, first made application to Garrick, and gave him "a specimen of his quality,” Garrick assured him, that he could not possibly convey articulate sounds to the audience of any Theatre. Foote said nearly the same. Colman at length took Henderson by the hand; and such was the success of the man who could not possibly convey an articulate
sound, that, during the first thirty-four nights of his performance at the Haymarket, the receipts were computed at no less than 45001.
FIRST FEMALE ACTORS.
The received tradition is, that Mrs. Saunderson, who belonged to D'Avenant's company, was the first English actress. She performed Ianthe, in the “ Siege of Rhodes," when it was first acted as a regular drama, on the opening of the Duke's Theatre, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in April, 1662; on which occasion, painted scenery was also, for the first time, introduced upon the English stage. The part of Ianthe had, indeed, been performed as early as 1656, when that entertainment was first produced at Rutland House, by a Mrs. Colman ; but at that time, through dread of the ruling powers, the dialogue was cut short, and entirely spoken in recitative, so that it was rather (as it was called) a “musical entertainment" than a play. Mr. Malone, however, asserts that the first woman who appeared in any regular drama on a public stage, performed the part of Desdemona ; but he has not been able to ascertain who the lady was. In order to claim precedence of Mrs. Saunderson, she must necessarily have played that character before April, 1662; and the only mention which we find of the performance of “ Othello," from the period of the Restoration, until that time, is in the MS. of Sir Henry Herbert, from which it appears that “ Othello” was performed by the Red Bull Company (who afterwards opened Drury Lane, and obtained the title of His Majesty's Servants), at their new Theatre, in Vere Street, Clare Market, on Saturday, December 8, 1660, for the first time that winter. From this, Mr. Malone concludes that it was on that day, that an actress first appeared on the English stage. On the opening of Drury Lane Theatre, in 1663, Desdemona was acted by Mrs. Hughes ; but it does not appear whether that lady had previously performed with the company at the Red Bull, or in Vere Street.
In proof that Desdemona was the first character performed by a female, Mr. Malone quotes, from a “ very scarce miscellany," a prologue, written by Thomas Gordon, to introduce the first woman that came to act on the stage, in the tragedy called the “ Moor of Venice.” The following extract from the prologue will shew the necessity of the innovation, and the plea put forward to justify its adoption :
“ Our women are defective, and so siz'd,
You'd think they were some of the guard disguis'd;
When you call Desdemona, enter Giant.” The following passage from a “ Prologue to the King,” in Jordan's Royal Arbor, is to the same purpose : “ For, doubting we should never play again,
We have play'd all our women into men,
QUIN AND GARRICK. In the agreement between these celebrated performers, in 1746, to assist each other with their abilities in several select plays, Quin laid his hand upon Shakspeare's “ Henry IV.” and called upon Garrick to give him his assistance, by exerting his talents in Hotspur; “ For you know, David," saith he, “ Falstaff is so weighty, that he cannot do without a lever.” The other complied, though very reluctantly; for he well knew that the portion of Hotspur, best suited to his animated style of acting, would be exhausted