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The Life of an Actor

An Autobiography by H. F. Lloyd, Comedian

Late of the Theatre Royal Edinburgh and Glasgow

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CLEARING FOR THE LAST ACT

The Disruption and its effect on the profession

I must now for the present, take leave of the reader. Those who have done me the honour of perusing these remembrances will remember that the year 1843 bulks pretty largely therein.

Among other events, it was the year of "my first management." It was the year in which my friend Montague Stanley bade adieu to the stage, and the year in which poor Elton perished in the wreck of the "Pegasus."

Apart from stage matters, it was a notable year in Scotland, on account of the famous split in the Established Church. As I find amongst my records a notice of the event, under the heading of "A Theological Rumpus or Edinburgh in 1843", I have decided to make use of it for the opening of this chapter.

So much has been, and is being said in these days, regarding "Disestablishment," that a certain amount of sameness must now characterise the controversy. But the great affair of '43, from an actor's point of view; "Lloyd on the Disruption" let us call it, should be a little variety.

My opening observation was at any rate, a true one, namely that the very free fight for a Free Church would not readily be forgotten. It caused, I continue, the greatest confusion and trouble in every class of society. It was well called the "Disruption," for it proved most completely successful in dividing families, separating brother from brother and sister from sister, and severing friendships and associations of many years standing.

The row commenced in Edinburgh, and spread like wildfire throughout Scotland. All the great ministers of the Kirk, - or the majority of them, at any rate - seceded from the Established Church, and formed what was then called the Free Church. It brought business of every description to a stand-still - mine in particular; for the ministers did not give us a fair chance of having a free fight.

They preached against us from their pulpits, and fired their great guns against us most furiously. They told their congregations not to waste their money on absurd exhibitions or places of amusement, where they would hear but obscenity, see nothing but vulgar ridiculous pranks, and learn nothing but wickedness.

Give freely to the new Church was their watchword, - give all that you can spare to the good cause, and, to give them their due, they preached to some effect.

Mr Murray told me it was the worst season he ever had. So bad was the business, that he had to close for a time; thereby throwing upwards of a hundred persons out of employment for months. Never since he commenced management, he declared, had he seen such miserable audiences in point of numbers, as those which compelled him to shut up the theatre.

The seceders left no stone unturned to raise funds, no matter from what source. Silver-plate, snuff-boxes, pencil-cases, &c. &c. were sent in on all sides, to swell the oustentation money box. Even poor servant girls were not exempted from taxation; for, when being hired, they were in many cases compelled by their mistresses to agree to a deduction from their wages, in aid of the good cause. Many a young minister lived to lament secession. One who lived in the same house with me, told me that he deeply regretted having "come out," but that he had been persuaded, in fact, almost threatened into it, by some of the big men in the body. The minister of the Established Church in Leith parish, made a good reply on his being asked if he intended to come out. "Not likely," he said, "I had trouble enough to get in."

Mr Murray told me that he paid £50 a year for the minister's stipend and the support of the church which he attended, and all he got in return was abuse. After he retired, and I had the Theatre Royal for a time, as the reader is aware, I wrote to the well-known Dr Guthrie to say how happy I should be if he would accept of the proceeds of a "free" benefit, in aid of the "Ragged Schools" in which he took such an interest. He write me a very kind letter in reply, thanking me for the offer, but at the same time stating that he had nothing to do with the "financial" affairs of the schools, and referring me to the secretary - whose name I forget, or I should print not - who, he had no doubt, would be very grateful for my proffered assistance. I wrote to that official accordingly; who good, pious Christian, replied to me, declining to accept any donation from such sources!

Dr Guthrie himself was evidently one of those clergymen who saw no harm in visiting a play-house. In the earlier periods of his ministry, he frequently attended the Edinburgh Theatre; one occasion I remember particularly, when I saw him in the boxes, with the book of the play in his hand, witnessing Charles Kean's performance of Shylock. And why not!!!

MAJOR SIR WALTER SCOTT AND HIS FATHER'S NOVELS

In May, 1868, there appeared the following extract from the Inverness Courier. It was headed "Major Sir Walter Scott," and ran as follows:- The Athenaeum of May 16 mentions a report that Sir Walter Scott's eldest son made a sort of merit of the fact that he had never read a line of his father's novels. This is incredible. Major Scott was reputed to be an intelligent man, proud of his father's fame and worth. Lockhart used to say that Major Scott wrote letters almost worthy of his father's pen. When in India with his regiment, in 1843, Major Scott, hearing that a Highland battalion was to pass about 50 miles from his station (Bangalore), rode that distance one day and back the next, merely to hear the 'skirl' of the pipes! In this incident (which we give on the authority of a private letter of Mr Lockhart's,) we seem to have a touch of the first Sir Walter.

Having something to say on the matter, I sent the subjoined letter to the editor of the Citizen, in the columns of which paper it appeared on the 2nd June, 1868:-

"Sir, I observed in the Citizen recently a notice copied from the Inverness Courier, which brought a rather interesting circumstance to my recollection. The notice allude to quotes thus:- 'The Athenaeum of May 16 mentions a report that Sir Walter Scott's eldest son made a sort of merit of the fact that he had never read a line of his father's novels.' The editor of the Inverness Courier seems to doubt this; in short, he says 'this is incredible'.

Now I beg to state that Major Scott made use of nearly the very same words to myself, some years ago in Edinburgh. It was at a party to which I had the honour of being invited, given at Sir Harry Jardine's, 123 Prince's Street, in that city, who was the King's Remembrancer.

In an after-dinner conversation, I first asked the Major if he could get me an autograph of his father's. The Major said that he never kept letters, but promised to search on his return to Abbotsford and, if one could be found, to send it to me. This promise was fulfilled two days afterwards, and I have now his own letter, which enclosed an unfinished one of his father's to Sir Samuel Shepherd. I, very naturally, being in the presence of the son of so great a man, took an opportunity of stating how much delight I had experienced in reading his father's novels. The only response he made to this was a long puff of smoke from his cigar, - 'Ye-es,' - and a sip of claret; but the word 'yes' was said in a way which seemed to imply, 'very likely, but really, I don't know anything about them.' I then remarked, interrogatively,

"I presume, Sir Walter, there is scarcely a line in your father's works but what you read before it reached the public?"

"Me," he replied, quite waking up from his usually heavy style; "My dear fellow, I never read a line of my father's works in my life!"

I asked his old school-fellow, Henry Jardine, next day, if he believe Sir Walter. Jardine said;

"Every word. He wouldn't take the trouble to read anything unless obliged to do so." - Yours truly,

F. LLOYD - Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 1st June, 1868.

P.S - I may mention that, at the party above referred to, there were present, the two sons of Sir Henry Jardine, Major Sir Walter Scott and his brother Charles, then holding a situation in Somerset House; Mr John Ferrier, W. S.; Professor Ayton, and Mr Alexander Macdonald Lockhart of Lee - all now dead. - F. L."

A few days after the insertion of this letter, there was published, in the same journal, another which was as follows:-

"Sir, - I have only just seen Mr Lloyd's interesting letter in your paper relative to Colonel Sir Walter Scott. I have no doubt of the perfect correctness of Mr Lloyd's statement, but, at the same time, I know that Colonel Scott had read his father's novels. He pleaded ignorance to avoid questioning on the subject. I lived within half a mile of him, during the last three or four years of his residence in India. He was a fine, handsome, manly fellow, upwards of 6ft. high, and the very model of a dragoon. It would have done his father's heart good to have seen him at the head of his regiment, which was one of the best disciplined, best mounted, and best officered ever seen in India. He lost his health through his devotion to field sports; forgetting that the sun of Mysore was not the sun of Melrose, and that wading amongst the tanks and mullahs of India was a very different thing from fishing up to his middle in the Tweed." - "AN OLD INDIAN OFFICER, London, 6th June, 1868."

It will be observed that the writer of this letter says he has "no doubt of the perfect correctness" of my statement, but he, at the same time, asserts positively that he knows that Colonel Scott (he was Major at the time I met him), had read his father's novels. I repeat, as positively, that he told me that he had not read them, so that if the Indian officer were correct, Sir Walter must have informed one or other of us untruly. I have no rights, however, to doubt the veracity of his statement to me for a moment. My decided opinion of him is that he was too much of a gentleman to have replied to my question falsely, even "to avoid questioning."

SIR WALTER SCOTT

When quite a boy, I had the pleasure of seeing the great Sir Walter Scott himself. My father one day called me hurriedly into the dining-room, and, directing my attention with his finger to the opposite side of the street, said; "Do you see that lame gentleman in the brown frock coat?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Well," said my father, "that is the great author, Walter Scott. So that, should anyone ever speak of him hereafter in presence, you can truly say that you have seen him."

Site of Horatio Lloyd's Father's shop on 71 The Strand in. Photo M.L. 2003.I should explain that at the time I obtained this glance at the famous novelist, he was knocking at the door of his friend, Mr Daniel Terry, whose house immediately adjoined the Adelphi Theatre, and was exactly opposite my father's house on the other side of the Strand.

Right - Site of Horatio Lloyd's Father's shop on 71 The Strand in. Photo M.L. 2003.

Terry was at that time, co-partner in the directorate of the Adelphi with another clever actor, Mr Frederick Yates, father of the present well-known editor and proprietor of the World.

Scott had always been a friend and admirer of Terry, from the time of their becoming acquainted in the Green-room of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. He was surety for Terry's share in the Adelphi to the former proprietors, and those who have read Lockhart's life of his illustrious father-in-law, will remember that Scott's esteem for the man who, as be said, Terry fled his novels for the stage, was very great.

Mrs Terry was a native of Edinburgh, and, though speaking with a very broad Scotch accent, was a remarkably agreeable and lady like person. She was a daughter, if I remember rightly, of Nasmyth, the Scottish landscape painter, who painted the famous act-drop, a view of the Clyde from Old Kilpatrick, looking downward, the loss of which was so much deplored when it was destroyed, with everything else in the place, in the burning of the Queen Street Theatre, Glasgow, in January, 1829.

A CLERGYMAN'S LOVE VERSES

In 1876, I was in Dublin for a short time on a visit to my son, Arthur; and having nothing particular to do, one dull day I strolled into the Law Courts, where a breach of promise case, Fraser versus Gamble, was going on. The defendant was a clergyman, and the plaintiff one of his congregation. You can imagine the fun an Irish counsel for the plaintiff would make out of such a case; but I am merely going to give you, preceded by a few of the remarks with which he introduced it - a poetical effusion contained in one of the defendant's letters to the plaintiff:-

"My Lord and Gentlemen of the jury, before concluding my address, I shall read you, from another epistle sent to my client, a production truly Byronic; and, though to the vulgar the diction may be inexplicable, to you, my Lord and Gentlemen of the jury, it will be perfectly apparent.

I contend that the lines herein contained are most suggestive in their meaning of something - or nothing; but what is actually meant by them I candidly admit is beyond my comprehension. I shall, therefore, leave them entirely to your Lordship to interpret to the intellectual gentlemen of the jury in your summing up.

I give the defendant credit for his poetry; its originality is painfully pleasing. I read it with uncontrollable delight - yes, my Lord, - delight. To think that we had among us another Tom Moore or, perhaps, I might more properly say, another Jonathan Swift, judging from the peculiar phraseology made use of, and the defendant being of the same profession as the great Dean of St Patrick's. I will now endeavour to give you the lines in question; and if you, Gentlemen of the jury, can refrain from tears when you hear them, you must have hearts of steel. Now, then -

"Oh, had I a tumpitum, tumpitum too,
In the land of the olive and fig,
I would sing of my tumpitum tumpi to you,
And play on the thingamijig;

And if in the tumpitum battle I fall,
A tumpitum's all that I crave;
Oh! bury me deep in the what-you-may-call,
And plant thingumabobs over my grave."

The above was read, it is needless to say, amid roars of laughter, in which the learned Judge so heartily joined, that it was some time before he could collect himself in order to express to his learned brother, the counsel for the plaintiff, how much he was obliged to him for leaving the interpretation, of so moving a production, to him (his Lordship).

A DONKEY I MET IN DUBLIN

Another day, on this same visit to the Irish metropolis, I was sitting quietly in my lodgings on the ground floor, with the window wide open to let in as much air as possible on that hot, Summer's afternoon. Ensconced behind a wire gauze blind, I could see, without being seen, the passers-by or anything going on in the street. Presently, there comes along a cart laden with big empty barrels, and drawn by a very small donkey. It stopped suddenly, close to the pavement, just opposite the window at which I sat. The poor animal began to sniff at a puddle of dirty water in the gutter, to ascertain, as I suppose, if it was drinkable, when a loud voice from a few yards in advance called out, in genuine Hiberian accent, "Och, ye monster come on wid yey. Is it a baste ye'd be makin' av yourself, and drink dat stuff, when ye close to home and can get the clane thing by only axin' for it? Come on, Biddy, and don't make an ass av yourself."

Upon this, Biddy, as Pat called her, lifted her head from the gutter, and began to show her teeth. "Och, none av yer blarney," said Pat; "d'ye think I've nothin' to do but stand here all day argyfyin' wid you."

Biddy still kept moving her lips and Pat continued; "Yes, I daresay yer right, but we can settle that affair when we get home." Here, Biddy set up a most pitiful hee-haw.

"Och! murder!" says Pat; "sure ye've put me pipe out! But if yer goin' to show off yer ill-temper in the same fashion as your forefather did to Balaam, when he was ax'd politely to move on - why, ye needn't trouble yoourself, for I don't understand yer language. And what's more, I niver heard of anyone but Balaam that did, and we've only his word for it. And it's my opinion, Mr B must have been an ass himself, or he wouldn't have understood it either. So come on to the corner wid yer durty tabs, whilst I light me pipe, and let's have no more of yer coddin' ."

And away they went, Pat with his arm round Biddy's neck, singing "The Sprig of Shillela", and "Shamrock so Green," whilst Biddy amused herself by nibbling with her lips at the knees of his patched trousers.

The amusing feature in the whole affair was that Pat "discoursed" thus to his donkey, while there was not a soul but himself to be seen on the street, so that nothing he said could have been meant for any ears, save the long ones of Biddy alone.

SOME GLASGOW SHAKESPEAREAN CRITICS

When Miss Litton took the Theatre Royal, Cowcaddens, Glasgow, some four or five years ago, she brought an excellent company with her from London, including, I may mention, Messrs Herman Vezin and Lionel Brough. I was only there one night, when the piece performed was "As You Like It" - admirably put upon the stage, let me add.

At the end of the first act, I came out of the circle where I had been sitting, and took a stroll round the lobby. Whilst, so engaged a carriage drove up, and there came out from it Mr -, one of the great ones of the city, and a party, all in full dress. They went upstairs, and, on my returning to see the rest of the play, I found that I was sitting directly behind them. I could not help hearing their conversation, and was no little amused at the criticisms passed upon the different performers. The ignorance displayed by this aristocratic party with regard to the drama generally, was something delightful, - in its way.

Some of the questions, answers, and remarks which thus came upon my ear were so ludicrously absurd, that, on my return home, I jotted them down, and here is a sample; In the first place, they never referred to their programmes. The old gentleman knew all the performers by head-mark, perhaps. One of the ladies said it was "awfully slow." - "Don't be in a hurry," said paterfamilias - "Wait till the clown comes on."

Programme for The Royal Italian Circus / Formerly Hengler's Grand Cirque - Circa 1905 - Click to see Entire Programme.Then, when Touchstone made his appearance, the well-informed one shuffled about in his seat, and actually grinned with anticipatory delight. "Now, for the fun!" he said. A slight pause; Neither mamma nor the daughters seemed to see the fun coming.

Right - Programme for The Royal Italian Circus / Formerly Hengler's Grand Cirque - Circa 1905 - Click to see Entire Programme.

At last one of the latter asked if the clown did "any tumbling."

"No," replied papa, "he's what they call a Shakespearian clown; but he's not so amusing as he was when we saw him at Hengler's."

"Is that the man we saw at Hengler's Cirque, papa?" inquired one of the young ladies.

"What's his name, papa?"

"Wallet, my dear."

"No it isn't," said a small brother, looking at the programme, "his name is Brough."

"What!" exclaimed papa, - "let me look, - so it is. I was sure it couldn't be the great Wallet!"

Oh, the pleasure of acting before a discriminating audience!

"Yes, but I don't like his dress half as well."

HELEN FAUCIT ON "TOUCHSTONE"

Apropos of "As You Like It," will the reader kindly excuse any little touch of vanity that may be apparent in my reproducing the following extract from an article written by Lady Theodore Martin (Helen Faucit), and published in Blackwood's Magazine:-

"Out of London, I never saw the play of "As You Like It" more fully enjoyed or better acted than in Edinburgh. There, in the first years of my visits, a fine illustration was given of the way in which a minor part may be raised into importance, by the actor's skill.

Mr Murray, the manager, was the William. Night after night, I used to go to the side-scenes to see the only bit in the fifth act in which he appears with Touchstone. He was the very man, one felt, whom Shakespeare had in his mind; dress, voice, look, manner, were all life-like - just such a blunder-head, good-natured, staring, grinning, frightened oaf as at once provokes and falls an easy victim to the waggishness of Touchstone. He had so little to say, and yet so much to suggest. The Touchstone of the same theatre in those days, a Mr Lloyd, was almost the best I have ever seen, and, though wanting in the courtly demeanour, which I think is one of Touchstone's characteristics, he brought out the dry, quaint, sententious humour of the man, with the happiest effect.

GARRICK'S FAREWELL

Probably the greatest actor that has ever adorned the British stage, David Garrick, took his farewell of it, on the evening of Monday, 10th June 1776, the last part in which he appeared being, Don Felix, in "The Wonder," supported by Mrs Yates. After the play, he stepped to the front of a splendid and sympathising audience to take his final farewell of them.

He appeared to be much moved, and, at these signs of emotion, the house was moved too, but rather to tears than applause. In a few phrased he bade his old world Adieu. He came forward very slowly; not a sound was heard. His face was seen to work as he tried to speak. He could scarcely get through his few sentences, which commenced with these words:- "The jingle of rhyme, and the language of fiction would but ill-suit my present feelings."

He retired slowly up the stage, his eyes fixed on that vast audience with a lingering longing, and then stopped. The shouts of applause from that brilliant amphitheatre were mingled with sobs and tears. To his ears were borne, from many quarters, the word "Farewell!" "Farewell!" The wonderful eyes, still brilliant, were turned wistfully again and again to that sea of sympathetic faces, till at last, with an effort, he tore himself from their view.

GARRICK'S DEATH AND A FUNERAL

Garrick lived for only two years after leaving the stage. He died on 20th January 1779 aged 63 years. No actor had ever died so rich or so well earned of his riches. He left £100,000 behind him, and was burried in Westminster Abbey on 1st February, 1779. The line of caringos at the funeral extended from his own house in Adahi Street, Strand, to the Abbey. On each side of the actor's bier at his grave stood the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Camden, the Earl of Ossory, Earl Spencer, Lord Philmerston, and Sir Watkin Wynn. Beyond the grave - opened under Shakespeare's Monument - crowded Samual Johnson, Edmund ?, Charles Fox, and a host of other distinguished men. "I am dissapointed," cried Johnson, "by that stroke of death, which has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure."

HERE I BREAK OFF AND SAY FAREWELL

A poster for a Benefit production of 'Our Party' with Horatio and Arthur Lloyd, and Katty King, at the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow in October 1884 - Click to Enlarge.Here I break off, and say farewell, but not for ever, as I hope to appear before my readers once more, and that ere long, and in all the dignity of a volume.

My dear and old friends and patrons, I have candidly given you in these chapters a little history of myself, from the first age, "the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms," with sketches of the intermediate ages, down until approaching the "last, sans everything" -no, -no-not so. Not sans friends; I must not say that. I am not without friends; and though now out of sight, I hope I shall not be altogether out of mind. For my own part, I must ever retain a lively recollection of the pleasant- I will not say hours, but years we have passed together. Ay, it is now fifty-five years since I came amongst you, and it would be strange indeed if, looking back over this length of time, I could be ungreatful enough to forget the favours so long and so amply bestowed upon me at your hands.

Right - A poster for a Benefit production of 'Our Party' with Horatio and Arthur Lloyd, and Katty King, at the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow in October 1884 - Click to Enlarge. The poster is one of a large collection of original Lloyd Posters collected since the mid 1800s by members of the family and found recently after being lost for 50 years. To see all these posters see the Poster Index here.

My last appearance in public was on the stage of the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow, on Friday, 24th October, 1884, for the benefit of my son Arthur (see poster right); and I shall never appear in public again. The enthusiastic reception I met with after a two years' absense from the boards, overpowered the old stager. My nerves got so unstrung that I expected every moment to be obliged to give up. At the conclusion of the little sketch in which I appeared, I as quickly as possible got home and into bed. I was taken seriously ill, and have never been thoroughly well since. I had promised to play for Mr E. L. Knapp's benefit, some ten days later on; but the mere thought of doing so made me worse. Under these circumstances, I was compelled to send an appology to him stating that it would be impossible for me to fulfil my engagement. I was very sorry for it because Mr Knapp had always been most kind to me during a pretty long connection. I sincerely wish him every success, health, long life, and happiness.

If I here omit mentioning by name any other dear friends, I trust they will not set it down to neglect or forgetfullness. It is simply from a fear that I might give offence, not being certain that in every case my doing so would be aproved of by those interested. Finally, I hope that each and all will accept my most respectful Adieu.

--------

.End of Horatio Lloyd's Autobiography.

EDITORIAL FROM THE GLASGOW WEEKLY HERALD

Horatio Lloyd's Autobiography as serialised in the Glasgow Weekly Herald from May the 22nd 1856

Our readers will be glad to learn from the hint given above that Mr Lloyd's Reminiscences, which have afforded them so much pleasure during the past few months, are to be re-published in a volume. They will be considerably extended, and the work will no doubt have a very large sale, not only among Mr Lloyd's many friends, who remember him as an ornament of the Glasgow stage, but among all who take an interest in the drama, and also among that other numerous circle who will value the book as contributing a striking glimpse of one of the most interesting sides of our local history.

As far as I am aware, the volume above was never published, if you have any information to the contrary I would really appreciate it if you would Contact me. M.L.

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