In the beginning of the last century, a comedian of the name of Griffin, celebrated for his talents as a mimic, was employed by a comic author to imitate the personal peculiarities of the celebrated Dr. Woodward, whom he intended to be introduced in a comedy as Dr. Fossil. The mimic, dressed as a countryman, waited on the doctor with a long catalogue of complaints with which he said his wife was afflicted. The physician heard with amazement diseases and pains of the most opposite nature, repeated and redoubled on the wretched patient. The actor having thus detained the doctor until he thought himself completely master of his errand, presented him with a guinea as his fee. "Put up thy money, poor fellow," cried the doctor, "thou hast need of all thy cash, and all thy patience, too, with such a bundle of diseases tied to thy back." The mimic returned to his employer, who was in raptures at his success, until he told him that he would sooner die than prostitute his talents to render such genuine humanity food for diversion.
Senesino and Farinelli, when in England together, being engaged at different theatres on the same night, had not an opportunity of hearing each other, till, by one of those sudden revolutions which frequently happen, yet are always unexpected, they were both employed to sing on the same stage. Senesino had the part of a furious tyrant to represent and Farinelli that of an unfortunate hero in chains; but in the course of the very first song, the latter so softened the heart of the enraged tyrant, that Senesino, forgetting his assumed character, ran to Farinelli and embraced him.
It is a prevailing folly to be ashamed to shed a tear at any part of a tragedy, however affecting. "The reason," says the Spectator, "is, that persons think it makes them look ridiculous, by betraying the weakness of their nature. But why may not nature show itself in tragedy, as well as in comedy or farce? We see persons not ashamed to laugh loudly at the humour of a Falstaff,—or the tricks of a harlequin; and why should not the tear be equally allowed to flow for the misfortunes of a Juliet, or the forlornness of an Ophelia?" Sir Richard Steele records on this subject a saying of Mr. Wilks the actor, as just as it was polite. Being told in the green-room that there was a general in the boxes weeping for Juliana, he observed with a smile, "And I warrant you, sir, he'll fight ne'er the worse for that."
It is related in the annals of the stage, as a remarkable instance of the force of imagination, that when Banks's play of the Earl of Essex was performed, a soldier, who stood sentinel on the stage, entered so deeply into the distress of the scene, that in the delusion of his imagination, upon the Countess of Nottingham's denying the receipt of the ring which Essex had sent by her to the queen to claim a promise of favour, he exclaimed, "'Tis false! she has it in her bosom;" and immediately seized the mock countess to make her deliver it up.
Charles Hulet, a comedian of some celebrity in the early part of the last century, was an apprentice to a bookseller. After reading plays in his master's shop, he used to repeat the speeches in the kitchen, in the evening, to the destruction of many a chair, which he substituted in the room of the real persons in the drama. One night, as he was repeating the part of Alexander, with his wooden representative of Clitus, (an elbow chair), and coming to the speech where the old general is to be killed, this young mock Alexander snatched a poker, instead of a javelin, and threw it with such strength, against poor Clitus, that the chair was killed upon the spot, and lay mangled on the floor. The death of Clitus made a monstrous noise, which disturbed the master in the parlour, who called out to know the reason; and was answered by the cook below, "Nothing, sir, but that Alexander has killed Clitus."
Mr. Lewis Grummit, an eminent grazier of Lincolnshire, met late one night a commercial traveller who had mistaken his road, and inquired the way to the nearest inn or public house. Mr. G. replied, that as he was a stranger, he would show him the way to a quiet respectable house of public entertainment for man and horse; and took him to his own residence. The traveller, by the perfect ease and confidence of his manner, shewed the success of his host's stratagem; and every thing that he called for, was instantly provided for himself and his horse. In the morning he called, in an authoritative tone, for his bill, and the hospitable landlord had all the recompense he desired in the surprise and altered manners of his guest. It was from this incident that Dr. Goldsmith took the hint of Marlow mistaking the house of Mr. Hardcastle for an inn, in the comedy of "She Stoops to Conquer."
Mr. Quick, while performing the part of Romeo, was seized with an involuntary fit of laughter, which subjected him to the severe rebuke of his auditors. It happened in the scene of Romeo and the apothecary, who, going for the phial of poison, found it broken; not to detain the scene, he snatched, in a hurry, a pot of soft pomatum. Quick was no sooner presented with it, than he fell into a convulsive fit of laughter. But, being soon recalled to a sense of his duty by the reproofs of the audience, he came forward and made the following whimsical apology:—"Ladies and gentlemen, I could not resist the idea that struck me when the pot of pomatum, instead of the phial of poison, was presented. Had he at the same time given me a tea-spoon, it would not have been so improper; for the poison might have been made up as a lenitive electuary. But, if you please, ladies and gentlemen, we will begin the scene again without laughing."
Soon after the appearance of Garrick at the theatre of Drury Lane, to which he, by his astonishing powers, brought all the world, while Mr. Rich was playing his pantomimes at Covent Garden to empty benches, he and Mr. Garrick happened to meet one morning at the Bedford coffee-house. Having fallen into conversation, Garrick asked the Covent Garden manager, how much his house would hold, when crowded with company. "Why, master," said Rich, "I cannot well tell; but if you will come and play Richard for one night, I shall be able to give an account."
Morand, author of Le Capricieuse, was in a box of the theatre during the first representation of that comedy; the pit loudly expressing disapprobation at the extravagance and improbability of some traits in this character, the author became impatient; he put his head out of the box, and called, "Know, gentlemen, that this is the very picture of my mother-in-law. What do you say now?"
Foote, on his last journey to France for the recovery of his health, while waiting for the packet, entered the kitchen of the Ship tavern at Dover, and, addressing the cook, who prided herself in never having been ten miles out of town, exclaimed, "Why, cookee, I understand you have been a great traveller." She denying the charge, Foote replied, "Why, they tell me up stairs that you have been all over Grease, and I am sure I have seen you myself at Spithead."
A person talking to Foote of an acquaintance of his, who was so avaricious as even to lament the prospect of his funeral expences, though a short time before he had been censuring one of his own relations for his parsimonious temper—"Now is it not strange," continued he, "that this man would not remove the beam from his own eye, before he attempted to take the mote out of other peoples?" "Why, so I dare say he would," cried Foote, "if he were sure of selling the timber."