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leaving Dover, I had them packed in the bottom of the chaise, and fancied them quite secure; but no,-a lynx-eyed custom-house officer, of the name of Tancred, while we were at dinner, stepped into the chaise, and spoiled me of my smuggled purchases. I strove to bribe, but the hard-hearted searcher was inexorable; and I was obliged to submit to the laws of my country, which, at the time, I thought very hard : however, cares were but trifles then, and I laughed away the loss; and on the 18th of March, 1787, arrived in London for the first time in my life. On the same evening, Stephen Storace and myself called upon Mr. Linley, at his house in Norfolk Street in the Strand, where I found his accomplished daughters, Mrs. Sheridan and Mrs. Tickell. Mrs. Sheridan asked me if I had
“ Richard Cour de Lion,” in Paris ; and on my telling her that I had, only four evenings before, she requested me to go and see it at Drury Lane that evening, as she was most anxious to know my opinion of the relative merits of the French and English pieces. General Burgoyne had translated it, and Mrs. Sheridan adapted it to the English stage.
I and Storace, accompanied by a young gentleman, set off for the theatre, but the piece was nearly half over. I must premise, that I was then totally uninformed as regarded the actors and
actresses at Drury Lane. Just as we entered the boxes, Richard was singing the romance from his prison, most loudly accompanied from behind the scenes by two French horns; I was astonished to hear an accompaniment so completely at variance with the intention of the composer, and which entirely spoiled the effect of the melody, nor did I think much of the vocal powers of the royal captive; and turning to Storace, said, “ If His Majesty is the first and best singer in your theatre, I shall not fear to appear as his competitor for public favour.” Storace laughed, and told me that the gentleman who upon that special occasion was singing, was Mr. John Kemble, the celebrated tragedian, who, to serve the proprietors, had undertaken to perform the part of Richard, as there was no singer at the theatre capable of representing it. However, as I was not gifted with intuition, my mistaking him for the principal vocalist of the theatre was natural enough, having a few days back seen Philippe, the first singer at the French theatre, perform the same part.
My friend Kemble laughed heartily when he was told that I had mistaken him for the Drury Lane Orpheus. By the way, I heard that when Kemble was rehearsing the romance, sung by Richard, Shaw, the leader of the band, called out from the orchestra, “ Mr. Kemble, my dear Mr. Kemble, you are murdering time.” Kemble, calmly and coolly taking a pinch of snuff, said, “ My dear Sir, it is better for me to murder time at once, than be continually beating him as you do."
Mrs. Jordan's acting in this drama was delightful, and the Laurette of Mrs. Crouch most interesting. I was struck with admiration of her wonderful beauty, and delighted to hear that she was to be my prima donna in the opera in which I was to perform. She seemed to me to aggregate in herself, like the Venus of Apelles, all that was exquisite and charming. I agreed with Mr. Linley for the remainder of the season at Drury Lane, and to make
my début in the part of Lionel, on Friday, the 20th of April, 1787.
There were oratorios performing at Drury Lane, under the united management of Mr. Linley, Doctor Arnold, and Madame Mara, who were joint proprietors. One evening, after the first act of the oratorio, I went into the green-room, where, amongst other ladies, was Madame Mara, to whom I had never spoken. Doctor Arnold said, “Pray, Mr. Kelly, tell us what sort of a singer is Signora Storace ?" I replied that, in my opinion she was the best singer in Europe. I meant, of course, in her line; but, as it proved afterwards, Madame Mara was highly offended at the praise which I had given to my friend, and said to a lady, when I quitted the green-room, that I was an impertinent coxcomb. I then knew nothing of Madame Mara, nor at that time valued her good opinion ; however, she carried her resentment so far against me, that she afterwards declared she would not sing where I did, if she could avoid it.
In selecting the opera of Lionel and Clarissa for my first appearance, I was guided in my choice by the circumstance of knowing all the songs, which, besides, were much in my style of singing. When the opera was produced, I sang all the original music, and introduced an Italian air of Sarti's, with English words, written for me by Mr. Richard Tickell, brother-in-law to Mr. Sheridan; and a duet, written by the well-known Doctor Lawrence, the civilian. I composed the melody, and Stephen Storace put the instrumental parts to it. This duet was his first introduction to Drury Lane theatre.—That eminent actor, King, who had been a friend of my father's in Dublin many years before, took a great deal of pains to instruct me in the dialogue of the part.—To Mr. Linley I was also much indebted for his able tuition, and from all the performers I experienced the most kind and friendly attentions.
At the time of my début, my friend Jack Johnstone was engaged at Covent Garden as first singer.
I saw him play Young Meadows, in “ Love in a Village;" he acted the part well, and sang the songs with good taste, and a peculiarly fine falsetto voice. Mrs. Billington was the Rosetta. I thought her an angel in beauty, and the Saint Cecilia of song
I remember one day, shortly after my first appearance, dining with my friend Jack Johnstone, in Great Russell-street, I met an eccentric Irishman, well known in Dublin, of the name of Long who was, by turns, an auctioneer and dramatist; he wrote a play called “ The Laplanders,” which was, at first, very coolly received by the audience, and afterwards very warmly condemned. He came to England to propose to Government a plan for paying off the national debt, or some such thing. He was, however, full of anecdote, and had a happy knack of telling stories against himself; one, I recollect, was, that, in his auctioneering capacity, amongst other schemes, he offered for sale, woollen cloths at a farthing a yard; yet, so completely was his character known, and so well appreciated, that he could not advance a bidding even upon that price. At one time, he told us his patience was actually worn out; and, in anger towards his auditory, he said he thought they would treat him with the same inattention, if he were to offer a guinea for sale. He then literally took a guinea out of