John_Pilkington - CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER IX.

I Leave Mr. O'Neill. Life with Students in Dublin. Theatrical Quarrels. I Resolve to go to Scotland.

            Early the succeeding morning a footman came to tell me everything was ready, and Mr. O'Neill waited breakfast for me.  When I came down I found him reclined in a pensive manner, with his elbow on the table, and his hand supporting his head: he continued silent for some time which made me enquire if he was unwell? He said he had slept none all night, he was so much concerned for my future happiness. I then gently reminded him how much it was in his power to promote it, by even doing what himself generously offered to me at Middleton. Jack, said he, you should have embraced it then; I told you my temper was changeable, and you now experience it. I answered, with tears in my eyes, it was but too apparent. I have, said he, paid for your place in the coach, your expenses on the road will not be great, and therefore I believe the sum I shall give you will be sufficient to answer the end: laying this, he slipped four half guineas into my hand, which I carelessly threw into my coat pocket, and mounting my horse, was soon out of sight. Resentment for some time kept up my spirits, but when I beheld myself in a bleak lonesome country, without a friend near me, or the hope of meeting one where I was going, and then my not having money sufficient, as I thought, to pay my travelling expenses, sunk me into the deepest melancholy, which could only find relief from a flood of tears: they continued plentifully to flow till I came to Belfast, where Mr. O'Neill's servant left me. Being called up before daybreak in the morning to take my place, the dawning light discovered me in company with two clergymen and two ladies, one of whom appeared a perfect beauty. The sight of the lovely charmer, and the hope of being her companion for two or three days, dissipated, for the present, all my gloomy reflections; and my having been so long conversant with the nobility, and persons of fortune, made me talk so much in their style, that I believe the company took me for such, at least the consequence strongly indicated it; for when we stopped to breakfast, one of the Levites, whom I afterwards learned was Archdeacon Hutchison, now a prelate, said, that it was customary, where there were more gentlemen than ladies in a coach, to treat them. To this, indeed, nothing but the narrowness of my purse could make me have the least objection, nor did I offer to do it publicly, whatever panics I felt about it; but the other man, who was a dissenting parson, and as formal as a full-dressed old maid, or a Methodist weaver in Spitalfields, warmly opposed it, and said, let every one pay their own quota, I will pay for no one but myself. This set us all on bantering the old gentleman, and the amiable and lovely Miss Molly Wier began now to court him. He was greatly enraged at being made the subject of our ridicule, and neither liking the company or the expense, took his leave of us the next afternoon. Miss Wier had a fine voice, and sung very well and very freely for us. I had now but the ruins of my former voice, but made mine a foil to her admirable one. The Arch-deacon was fond of poetry, and repeated several beautiful pieces to us, which, with other chat, made our journey very agreeable: but, as we continued to pay for the ladies, my poor sum was quite exhausted before I came within a few miles of Dublin; and should certainly have been put to the blush on this occasion, but that, as our last stage was at the Man of War, an excellent inn about twelve miles from our journey's end, the ladies insisted on treating us, to an entertainment more elegant than they had ever received from us, and more expensive, I am certain, than our mutual cost upon the whole. We here revealed ourselves to each other, and reciprocal invitations were passed and received for our future better acquaintance. I was set down in Dublin with about eighteen-pence in my pocket, most of which I had to pay for a coach to carry my baggage somewhere, but the destination of it, or myself, was undetermined till I was in it. My grandmother being then alive, and lodging within a few doors of my father, I desired to be set down there, as I knew I might deposit my portmanteau with her, though I could not hope a night's lodging, that permission I found; but indeed that was all, for she seemed in pain the few moments I stayed, lest I should eat anything; but under pretence, that if my father knew she received me; she might lose a little allowance she had from him for support. My brother, who then lived with her, received me more cordially, and procured me a bed with a school-fellow of ours, then a student in Trinity College. He was a sensible good-natured lad, and as he became my bed-fellow, I told him all my affairs. He said I should be welcome not only to share his bed but his commons, which he would have brought to his chamber while I continued with him. This he accordingly did, and though I had not an elegant life, I had a very happy one, as my companion was greatly beloved by all the young gentlemen that knew him, and received frequent invitations, always bringing me with him wherever he went. My brother, likewise, was frequently a sharer in our little parties of recreation and entertainment; and my being capable to dress extremely well, was far from making my company the less agreeable. My singing, which had hitherto rendered me an idler as to my reading, being now quite spoiled, I applied all my leisure hours to such books as my companion studied (I know the critic will say here, "This young man's leisure hours in the university must have been very few") I tell you, Sir, legebam, I read or did read. If I did not improve, so as to please you, a pox of my bringing up and my bad memory, for not retaining some scraps of Latin, to lug in by head and shoulders, and make my female readers want an interpreter.

            My friend had a levee of young gentlemen every morning, who entertained us with an account of all their adventures and different schemes to raise money. There was one of them in particular, who did not belong to the college, as he had been educated in the Romish religion, but was a complete master of low humour, which will amuse young hearers, though not create esteem; he had frequently breakfasted and dined with us, and as frequently promised that he would one day or other give us a grand entertainment at a tavern. We looked on him as a rattler, and had no hopes of his keeping his word; but one evening, that three or four of us were really at a loss how to compass a supper, he thundered at the door, and jumping in, in full spirits, cried, come lads, come to Reyley's, I've money enough.—Without saying more he flew for a coach, as there was a standing of them near, and hurrying us all into it, ordered to drive to the tavern. My dear lads, said he, how I bless the occasion that brings us together Nectar, Ambrosia, Champagne, Burgundy, Turtles and Ortolans, are at your service. Now regale my boys; I have, besides the most extraordinary story to tell you, that you must laugh at in spite of your teeth: any man that can hear it, and not burst his sides, will absolutely give me offence. No, I'm determined to kill you first with good eating and drinking, and bring you alive with laughter. By this time we were set down, and Willy, for so the lads called him, stepped majestically up to the bar, and ordered the coach to be paid for. Now gentlemen, said he, walk to the larder, and let every man fix on what he likes best, as the place was well stocked with fish, fowl, beef, mutton, ham and tongues. A supper was soon concluded on, but when he heard there could no ortolans be had, he was quite out of temper with the waiter, not fellow, said he, that I ever eat one, but that I'm told they are damned expensive. Can't you let us lave a pheasant or a turtle? He assured him they could not be had. Well then, said he, bring up Burgundy, Champagne, Claret, Port, Mountain and Sack. It may be supposed his talking at this rate procured us the best room in the house, where we were no sooner seated, than the waiter brought a bottle of each of the wines he had ordered. Go fetch them up by dozens you rascal, said he and in the meantime order your matter to make an inundation of rum, and a sea of rack punch. He had talked all this without permitting us to utter our astonishment. We all knew he was kept very poorly as to his pocket, very seldom having two shillings to command, which made us quite impatient to know on what foundation this mighty fabric was erected. He besought us to suspend our curiosity till we had drank one bottle apiece; which was done before supper was ready. In the meantime he exerted all his humour to divert us from coming to his fifth act, as he termed it, before we had attended to the first; so that other conversation arising, the bottle moving briskly about, and the entrance of supper, a most welcome sight to a parcel of hungry sophisters, kept us from further enquiry. Before supper was well over, a fiddler, a harper, and a piper, came to know if our honours wanted music; and as the wine put our spirits a little more upon a par with Willy's, we unanimously voted the band of music into the room, where they struck up immediately, and added much to our enjoyment, as they were ordered not to play but such tunes as were demanded. This mirth kept us awake till near four in the morning; at which time, having all drank too freely, it was necessary to come to an eclaircissement about the reckoning. Willy called the waiter, who had made out our bill upwards of twelve pounds. After he had received this, he insisted on our drinking the parting bottle, and hearing the history of his acquisition.

            You must know, said he, my mother is the most arrant old hypocrite this day upon earth. She has money hid in every hole and corner of the house: sometimes she lends it out to use; and frequently in a morning, when she is in the midst of her devotion over her beads, she calls my brother to be sure to arrest such a man, and take care that the interest is paid for such and such sums. She does not allow me a shilling from year to year, nor have I any comfort but what I industriously procure by stealing from her. She generally keeps her cash in a Christmas box, which she guards like the apple of her eye, and which I have made a thousand unsuccessful attempts to steal. Last night my better genius inspired me with a stratagem, which, not to anticipate your pleasure, you shall particularly hear: she has been a long time teasing me to go to confession, and to make my soul, as the terms it, with father Murphy:—and when I have refused her, she cried, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, take you out of my sight; if you were but with Mary and Joseph, my cares would be all over. I went home last night, and she was just lain down in bed. I entered the chamber, and falling on my knees, besought her blessing and forgiveness of all my crimes, as I had been with father Murphy, and he had enjoined me first to do that, and then fast for three days, incessantly praying to Mary and Joseph. The old woman was so delighted with this account, that she sat up in the bed, and besought Mary and Joseph to take me into their special protection. In the meantime, said he, I lost not the fair opportunity of diving into the pocket under her head for a Christmas box, which I have triumphantly brought off without the least suspicion, and my dear mother has had a peaceable night's rest through my deception. The moment I got the prize I flew to you, my dear boys, without ever examining the contents; so saying, he pulled out the box; threw it on the table, and desired one who sat next to him to count it out pro bono publico. The lad found it weighty, and concluded it contained at least twenty pieces; but upon unscrewing it there appeared, to our mutual confusion, the lead of a woman's sleeve, and about a dozen of large black patches. By G—d, said Willy; we are totally ruined; the old woman has lost her nose, and these are the patches she puts on it, which I have mistaken for a box of the same size that she keeps her cash in.

            How the reckoning was to be paid became now seriously the question, for five shillings was not in the company. Some of the lads took their hats, and made the best of their way out, so that only myself and two others remained to see the catastrophe. He besought us to go and leave him to his meditations, for I know, said he, if the worst comes to the worst, the old woman will redeem me: But damn it, said he, I'll try another stratagem. Upon this he called the waiter, and asked where his master was? The boy told him in bed. Well, said he, go ask him if he can change me a fifty pound bank note. The boy brought word he could not, but if his honour would sign the bill, and leave his direction, it was the same thing. This he readily did, and departed in high spirits. He came to us the next evening, and told us his mother had paid the bill upon sight, without the least hesitation; from whence, said he, I conclude she is either gone mad, or else very near her end.

            In my walks through the city, I met the unfortunate Captain Poekrich, who told me he was just returned from Shane's Castle, which journey he took at my instigation, and had not got as much by it as paid his expenses; however, he said, Mr. O'Neill had entertained him, and spoke very kindly of me. Well, Captain, said I, I am sorry you had no better success, but your disappointment there, was not more intolerable than mine in the hundred a year.

            During my residence in the college I became acquainted with an agreeable set of people, some of whom it may not be improper to name. Colonel Newburgh, that I have formerly mentioned, is both a lover and professor of music and poetry. He was intimate with Mr. Burroughs, then a Master of Arts in the College, and introduced me to that gentleman, who was upon many occasions very kind to me. He has a fine Poetical Genius, and has published some specimens of it. Upon the death of Mr. Pope, one Dalicourt, a clergyman, and an indifferent poet, wrote an elegy, in which he represented death in a charnel house, feeding his ravenous jaws on departed merit. Upon this occasion Mr. Burroughs wrote the following epigram:

 

When Dalicourt shall yield to fate,
And death the hapless poet eat;
If merit be his chief regale,
Poor death will have a sorry meal.

            Amongst this company, I met with Mr. The. Cibber, whose late untimely end may render some anecdotes of him now the more acceptable to my reader; and as I study their entertainment more than regularity, I hope they will pardon my digressions.

            Old Mr. Cibber, who knew the precarious life of a player, determined, by giving his son a good education, to qualify him for a better state; and to this end he sent him to a university, and intended him for the law or physic; but Theophilus had so strong a propensity to the stage, that the first thing he ever disobliged his father in, was becoming a player. That he excelled in several comic parts, has never been disputed even by his enemies, of .which I believe no man ever had more. The Mock Doctor and Scrub he was inimitable in, even to the last. Sir Courtly-Nice, Sir Fopling Flutter, Sir Novelty Fashion, and Lord Foppington, were parts in which he was generally applauded, and his being so seamed with the smallpox, made the coxcomb more ridiculous by his playing it. Old Cibber frequently declared to my mother, that he would never have believed Theophilus was his son, but that he knew the mother of him was too proud to be a whore.

            On his first arrival in Dublin he was very well received, and entertained in some of the best families, as I myself have been witness. The story of his domestic infelicity was little known in Ireland; and his being rather the gentleman than the comedian in private conversation, made him doubly acceptable. Mr. Sheridan had then lately made his appearance, who being the son of a clergyman, educated in their own university, and having a pretty knack at spouting, became the favourite of the town in tragedy; nor was Mr. Cibber less so in his comic capacity. But Mr. Sheridan, being of a proud aspiring temper, took offence that anyone should be applauded but himself; in consequence of which, he picked a quarrel with Theophilus, about a tragedy robe, that he was to have worn in the part of Cato, and made this pretence to dismiss a numerous and polite audience. Cibber, who knew the nature of an audience much better than Sheridan, when he found they murmured about being treated in this manner, came from behind the scenes in the dress of Syphax, and offered to read the part of Cato, if they would permit the play to proceed. The audience accepted of him, and he acquitted himself to their satisfaction. ln the meantime, Sheridan goes to the college, and acquaints the lads there that Cibber had used him extremely ill, and had the impudence to attempt Cato, and to keep the company after he had warned them to depart. This he alleged was done to undermine his interest with the public, and to prepossess them in Cibber's favour, who wanted to have the management of the Theatre in his own hands. The young gentlemen, irritated by these insinuations, went in a considerable body to the theatre, the next night that Cibber appeared, bred a great disturbance, broke up the company, and obliged Theophilus to procure the safety of his life, by making his escape through a window.

            Upon this a literary dispute commenced between Theophilus Cibber, comedian, and Thomas Sheridan, tragedian; which, on Cibber's part, was supported with true wit and humour, wherein he exposed his antagonist, and fairly confuted all his arguments. Sheridan who had neither wit, candour or justice on his side, had recourse to malignity and dirt, bringing over in a cruel manner Mr. Cibber's family affairs, which, admitting the worst, had no connection with the present contest. However, Cibber rallied him very genteelly on this head; and though Sheridan was then perfectly idolized, Cibber got the laugh against him through the whole dispute, as may be seen by looking over it pamphlet published in Dublin, called Cibber and Sheridan, or the Dublin Miscellany.

            But the many disturbances Mr. Sheridan's capricious, splenetic and haughty temper has since occasioned in Dublin, and his frequently affronting persons superior to him in birth and fortune, as if he supported the town, instead of the town supporting him, at length cured them of their partiality to this theatrical bashaw, and encouraged them to take arms and tear the house down about his ears. Upon this he came to London, and practised all the arts of puffing himself off that had proved so beneficial to him in Ireland; but played a whole season at Covent-Garden, with universal disapprobation. He again returned to Dublin, and upon a proper submission to the public, was again permitted to play; but his ambition and envy made him decline admitting any one into the company, whereof he was manager, whose merits could stand in any degree of competition with his own, or who could at any time eclipse his glory. This he endeavoured to gloss over, by decorating the play-house with silver branches and new scenes: but as the nobility and gentry had too long indulged his vanity, they at once forsook him, and subscribed to an entire new play-house, which is now under the management of Mr. Woodward and Mr. Barry, who have each of them merit to deserve encouragement, and modesty enough to make a proper use of it.

            Poor Theophilus, after encountering a thousand difficulties here, in endeavouring to establish himself at the theatre in the Hay-market, was going over to Barry and Woodward together with the surprising Maddox and others, who were altogether shipwrecked, and every soul perished on the coast of Scotland, 1758.

            Mr. Sheridan, since his last defeat, is again returned here, and very modestly proposes to talk four times in public, on the subject of elocution, for which every hearer is to pay one guinea. Orator Henly would have talked on the time subject four hundred times for one sixpence, and he was a parson himself; and at least as good a scholar as Mr. Sheridan; how he then, who is only a parson's son, can suppose a nation will be so infatuated as to countenance this project is difficult to account for.

            I cannot help taking notice here of a speech made by Peter Daly, Esq, an excellent Hibernian lawyer, who values himself on speaking with the accent of his native country. He was employed for the defendant, in a suit which Sheridan had commenced against Mr. Kelly, a gentleman of fortune, for kicking him behind the scenes and pulling his nose (treatment indeed a little too severe.) As soon as the cause was read over Mr. Daly. stood up, and said, my Lord, I am employed as counshell for —— Kelly, Esquire; but I don't undershtand who thish. Thomash Sheridan, Gentleman, is. Sheridan's counsel answered, it was Mr. Sheridan, patentee of the Theatre-Royal in Smock-Alley. Oh! says he, I undershtand tish Mr. Sheridan the actor: well, I have heard of gentlemen shailors and gentlemen tailors, but it's the firsht I heard of gentlemen actors or gentlemen merry-andrews.

            Some scribblers employed like me, in writing their own commentaries, would swell their pages with the most pompous characters of themselves, and endeavour to make matter of the most trivial circumstances of their lives: nay, there are such as have drawn fictitious, menial and insignificant persons, and made their hours of rising, going to bed, and recreation, subjects for the pen. For my own part, being strictly confined within the peals of truth, from which nothing can induce me to deviate; I will rather pass over such pages of my story, as seem dull to myself, than impose stupidity on my readers, merely because it is a part of my adventures. For this reason, I shall briefly declare, that after I had been near half a year with my friends in Trinity College, I received a sum of money from a lady formerly mentioned herein to whom I communicated my then present state by letter, with a particular detail of what had befallen me at Shane's Castle; but a the lady conjured me never to mention it, I have that regard to her memory, to be obedient to her commands, though I fancy anyone who has read the foregoing part of this work will be able, through the characters I have drawn, to trace the dream from whence this bounty flowed. It behoved me to consider upon the receipt of this, that it was my all, and therefore I was to make the most provident use of it. I consulted my brother on this head, and told him at the same time, I had a great desire to see Scotland, where I was told provisions and learning were exceeding cheap. He assured me, that if I could retire anywhere, till it was in his power to provide for me, he would then demonstrate the sincerity of his affection towards me: that it was very shocking to him, to see his family to cruelly separated, and to find my father deaf to all his entreaties in my favour. In a strange kingdom, said he, you may possibly meet with something to make you happy; in the meantime, what consolation a correspondence with me can afford you shall constantly have; and, my dearest Jack, I will strenuously exert all my faculties in the college, which I shall enter in a few days, to obtain some provision, that may enable me to lighten your distresses by an allowance. Upon this. I determined to visit that kingdom, and in a few days after taking leave of my worthy friends, and returning them thanks for my past subsistence, over a little entertainment I had provided, they accompanied me on board a Scotch collier, wherein I took my passage to a sea port of Scotland, and arrived there the next day.

 

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