Sunday, June 3, 2007

Roxburgh, Baillie & Siddons

[Daniel Terry to Sir Walter Scott]
30th June, 1812.

Dear Sir,--I delay'd replying to your most kind letter until I had deliver'd both your enclosures. That directed to Mr. Heber I delivered on the morning of the arrival at the Roxburgh Sale, where I found him with Mr. Kemble close at the auctioneer's back most busily employ'd. Miss Baillie's letter I never had an opportunity of taking to her 'til yesterday morning, so continually has my time been occupied morning and evening at the Theatre. Yesterday, however, was the beginning of a week of leisure, and I instantly sett off for Hampstead,* where I met with a most pleasing and gracious reception and experienced all the gratification I had anticipated from an introduction to the Lady I had so long and so greatly desired to see. I remain'd the best part of an hour at her Cottage, and received the favor of a very kind invitation to renew my visit and come and take my dinner with her. I do assure you, dear Sir, that I cannot express the gratification and pleasure I feel at the honor of this acquaintance and my sense of the kindness and friendship to which I am indebted for it.

From the manner in which I have been occupied you will easily suppose that I have had but few opportunities to attend the Roxburgh Sale, by which, at least, I have escaped Temptation, tho' to say truth it did not wear a shape attainable enough for me to embrace it. I believe not an article but sold much above its value, and all the Booksellers complain of the impossibility of purchasing anything out of the hands of gentleman-collectors. John Kemble was buying, the other morning, the modern comedies of Reynolds, publish'd at 1/6 and 2/- at 7/- and 10/- each. At this rate and with this spirit has everything except the very mere everyday rubbish been bought. . . Nothing is, as yet, arranged for my Winter employment. I have, however, neither fears nor impatience upon the subject. I am happy in being able to say, very honestly, that I have pleased and satisfied both the Town and Managers (a very essential point), and although it is impossible to avert one's mind of anxiety, I need not be under any great alarm about the eventual circumstances of my professional endeavours . . .

I went on Monday to witness the farewell of Mrs. Siddons. I endeavor'd but in vain at 1/2 past 4 to get into the pit; so with difficulty escap'd from the crowd, and was fortunate enough to get a seat in the upper boxes. The whole of the boxes, except the very highest, were in full dress as for the Opera; and in the pit, which of course was crammed, not above 20 females were discernable. At the conclusion of the dreaming scene, it is not correct to say, so many rounds were given--it was continuous, and seem'd likely to continue without end. The green curtain was lower'd, and a Mr. Chapman came forward to learn the sense of the house. It was understood (I believe) that the address was wish'd for: he retir'd, and in about ten minutes (the applause continuing all the while) Mrs. Siddons was discovered in a plain but elegant domestic dress. The whole house stood up; and the pit, to a man, threw up their hats, and huzzaed her 4 or 5 times. She spoke the address (such as it was) low and very agitated; her brother led her off amid the warmest and most glorious testimonies of public favor; and the play was universally desired to end. Very few remain'd to see the farce in full: the departure of this great genius was such as might satisfy the fondest wished of the fondest admirers. There was some fear of a riot from some circumstances which had been noticed in the papers about the partiality of her distributing places and receiving exorbitant prices for her tickets, but the only notice taken of these things was by one or two puppy 3/6 apprentices who came in at 1/2 price, at the back of the slips, and met with nothing but contemptuous hootings and laughter--fine specimens of the reformists in our politics, as well the nation's. I beg pardon for intruding so long upon your time, and telling you perhaps what you have already heard every particular of . . . I remain, dear Sir, yours faithfully and gratefully.
Danl. Terry.**

*This was a journey into the country for Terry. To-day, a tall Georgian house, enclosed by high walls, faces Romney's home in that quiet heart of Hampstead which fearfully defies the Underground and omnibuses down the hill. It looks, in the more general idea, very unlike a cottage to the sightseer, who will learn from L. C. C.'s tablet that here lived Joanna Baillie(1762-1851), the Scottish dramatist and poetess.

**Actor, playwright and friend of Sir Walter Scott.

-from The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott edited by Wilfred Partington (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) p. 23-25.

No comments: