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Horatio Lloyd at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow

Extract from 'Life of an Actor' by Horatio Lloyd


It was on a fine frosty morning, in the month of November, 1829, that I rose at five o'clock, and, after having dressed, went straight to my Father's bed-room to bid him and my mother good-by before leaving for, as I thought, a foreign land. My luggage was all in readiness for the hackney-coach that was to convey it and myself to the old White Horse coaching establishment in Fetter Lane. Between them, my parents gave me a long lecture as to my future conduct, which included injunctions to be sure and keep a note of all I saw on the way and send them full particulars, and to be sure and avoid acquiring the "Scotch dialect." I faithfully promised to observe both, a promise as faithfully fulfilled. In connection with the latter I may here state that I never attempted to play a Scotch part in all my life-excepting on one occasion only. This was on a benefit night of mine in Edinburgh, when I sang a song in character called "The Newhaven Fishwife." To the end that this effort should be as true to nature as possible in regards of pronunciation, a copy of the words was written for me phonetically by the late Andrew Nimmo, and carefully studied by me for the occasion. Nimmo was then a call-boy at the Theatre Royal; and, going afterwards to London, he became head-manager at Mitchell's, St James's Street, a faithful servant of which he remained until his death, some fifteen to twenty years ago.


But to resume. At last my father said, "Now, my boy, it is time you were off-God bless you!" My poor mother was sobbing for the loss of her foolish son; and- with the tears running down his own cheeks-my father said to her, "Bess, don't be ridiculous. One would think the boy was going away to Van Dieman's Land or the North Pole." I joined in, and cried as much as my mother did; and, as we embraced for the last time, felt much inclined to say, "I won't go at all!" But here, my father, assuming a rough tone of voice, said, "Come, now, away with you at once. A pretty fellow to call yourself a man: Besides-remember, if you're not happy, come back again at once. And if you want money, you've only got to write for it." They kissed me again; and, with a heavy heart, I at once left the room. I see them now, in my mind's eye, as I saw them then. If ever a family was blessed with loving and exemplary parents it was ours; and I'm proud to say that not one of their children ever gave them a moment's uneasiness-except myself. I was the black sheep, as I thought: for I was entering a profession which I knew they regretted I should adopt, but gave way simply to please me, their eldest (living) son, whom they loved not wisely but too well, and indulged in all his whims and fancies.


As the Hackney-coach with my luggage outside and myself inside, drove away from the door, I took a last look up at the house, and there, at the wide open window, were my kind parents waving farewell with their handkerchiefs to their prodigal son…..


Duly in accordance with announcement, the theatre was opened for the winter season on Monday, 15th November, 1830, the date of my first appearance on the boards of the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, my part being that of first gravedigger in "Hamlet." After the tragedy I sang a comic song. "The Humours of a Country Fair." And thereafter appeared in the farce of "Too Late for Dinner." I was well received by the audience, but the newspapers took no notice of me, or any of us. In fact the local press seem to have almost ignored public amusements in those days. Even Edmund Kean was only once or twice noticed during his engagement here at this time. It was on the following Monday following our opening that he was to appear; and, as I had never seen the great tragedian off the stage, I resolved to have a look at him so now, if possible. Kean never came to rehearsals, his secretary (Lee) attending in his stead, therefor I could not have my desire gratified until the evening. Then I was in waiting outside to watch his arrival. The carriage drove up, and he was helped out of it by Lee and an old friend of his own, Mr Robert Maxwell.

He was wrapped in a dark overcoat, lined throughout with fur, and had a fur cap on his head. As he took the arms of the two gentlemen mentioned and hobbled to the door of the manager's private house, he looked infirm indeed, stooping very much and mumbling to himself as he went up the steps, his favorite Jewess following behind. I looked on him with feelings of pity for his condition, mingled with the most unaffected veneration for his transcendent gifts. It grieved me beyond expression to see a comparatively young man- a man who ought to have been just then in the very prime of his life-he was only about forty at the time-got into premature old age through his own folly. Is this, I said to myself, the man who has created such a never to be forgotten sensation, far and near, by his wondrous genius? He looked a little, shriveled old man, and my only conjecture was whether he would be able to get through his arduous work at all. Any fear I might have had on this score however, was soon dispelled. Animated, no doubt, as he must have been by the warmth of the reception they gave him, all traces of feebleness seemed to leave him for the time being, and his performance was beyond my powers of criticism.

…In 1854, in conjunction with Mr David Fisher, I gave an entertainment entitled "Facts and Fancies," which was completely successful. In 1856 I took a benefit on occasion of a withdrawal from the Theatre Royal, and the stage proper - for a time only as it proved. Perhaps the circumstances can be best explained by an extract from the Glasgow Herald's notice of the occasion:-

"Last night Mr Lloyd took his benefit and farewell to the stage. As may have been expected on such an occasion the house was crowded from pit to ceiling. At the conclusion of the piece-'The Rivals'-Mr Lloyd came forward and spoke as follows:-

'Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it is customary, on taking a farewell, to look particularly miserable, and a white pocket-handkerchief occasionally produced is very effective. However on the present occasion I shall endeavor to look as pleasant as I can, and as I don't intend to weep, there was no necessity to bring a cambric. The truth is, Ladies and gentlemen, I intend shortly to meet you elsewhere, and that is why I do not feel so much the present parting; in fact, Glasgow will be my home-my headquarters…… The repeated vacations which take place now in theatres, and reductions of salaries during the summer season which managers seem to think it necessary to make, have reduced my income so considerably of late that I am compelled to think of some other means of working the oracle. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will tell you my intentions. After I have finished a short engagement in Edinburgh, I shall return here to prepare a new entertainment after the style of 'Facts and Fancies,' which was so successful as many will remember. Now all I ask of you my friends, is to give me a small share of your patronage. I don't want all 'Live and let live' is my motto. I only want a very leetle bit of your patronage, enough to enable me, at the end of a week's labours, to say to a friend when I meet him, in an independent manner, 'Will you dine with me to-morrow?' For I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, in these hard times I have had to pause before I said to my own children, 'Will you dine with me to-morrow?' But when I have done so, I will do 'em the credit to say that they have never insulted me by refusing the invitation; and I am sure it will be a source of great satisfaction for you to know that they take their meat extraordinar weel. And now, ladies and gentlemen, thanking you for your liberal patronage this evening, I bid you farewell! Before leaving, permit me to introduce to your kind notice a small chip of the old block.' (Note - This benefit took place at the Minerva Hall, Glasgow. M.L.)

This address, as may have been expected, was received with shouts of laughter and applause and at its conclusion Mr Lloyd brought forward his son Arthur, who, dressed in the nicest imitation of Mrs Florence, sang with great effect the two airs which rendered her so popular during her stay in this city."

...Having returned from Edinburgh in due course, I produced the entertainment referred to above in the Minerva Hall, Argyle Street, Glasgow, in December, 1856. It was entitled "Jack in the Box; or, How to Catch the Ten," and I was assisted in it by my son Frederick. The adventure proved a very successful one; the Herald, speaking of the piece on its merits, remarking that "it contains something to please every taste, and father and son sustain with great ability a merry-going piece of much diversity, in which the interest never flags.

From 'Life of an Actor' by Horatio Lloyd. Serialised in The Glasgow Weekly Herald, 1886 - Courtesy The Mitchell Library.

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