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the columns of the daily papers, and his attraction replenished the long-exhausted treasury of the theatre. It was in fact a rcalised dream
“And all went merry as a marriage-bell."
Charles Kean, in due course of time, was sent to school, preparatory for Eton College. His father resolved to give him a good education, an advantage he had never possessed himself. He was placed under the charge of the Rev. E. Polehampton, first at Worplesdon, in Surrey, and afterwards at Greenford, near Harrow. At this seminary he remained several years; the number of scholars was limited, and they were principally composed of nobleinen's sons. In June, 1824, he entered Eton as an “ Oppidan,” his father fixing his allowance, for board and education, at £300 per annum. His tutor was the Rev. Mr. Chapman, since Bishop of Ceylon; Dr. Goodall, Provost; and Dr. Keate, Head Master. He remained at Eton three years, being placed as high as the rules of the institution having reference to age would allow. When taken away, he was in the upper division, and had obtained much credit by his Latin verses. Boating and cricket are the two great amusements of the Etonians in summer; and Charles Kean became so expert a leader in aquatics, that he was chosen second captain of the “Long Boats," as they are called—no insignificant honor in Etonian eyes. Under the tuition of the celebrated Angelo, he also won distinction as an accomplished fencer-a valuable acquirement in the profession he was destined to pursue.
Up to this period, everything appeared happy and prosperous in the family. Charles was repeatedly assured by both his parents that he would inherit an ample fortune, and be placed in a distinguished profession. His mother preferred the church_his father inclined to the navy; but his own predilection was decid. edly for a military career. There can be no doubt whatever that Edmund Kean might have maintained his family in all the elegancies of life, and left behind him a sum amounting to £50,000. Since the days of Garrick, no actor had received so much money in so short a space of time. But clouds had long been darken. ing, and a crisis was at hand. Habits of irregularity and reckless extravagance had gradually settled upon him. Il-chosen associates estranged him from his wife and son ; he had still a few anxious friends, who stepped in, and endeavoured to arrest his downward course, but a legion of evil counsellors hemmed him round, and the warning voice passed by unheeded. He was falling from his high position_his popularity began to decline_his physical powers were sinking under premature decay, and his finances were exhausted.
Charles, who had for some time suspected the total derangement of his father's affairs, was startled into conviction by a pressing letter from his mother, received during his last half year at Eton, in the early part of 1827, entreating him to come to her immediately. He obtained permission to absent himself for a few days, and bastened to London. He found her suffering the most intense anxiety. She wept in his arms, and implored him not to leave her. It appeared that Mr. Calcraft, a Member of Parliament, and one of the most influential of the Drury-lane Committee of that day, had offered to procure for him a cadetship in the East India Company's service. His father thought the offer too eligible to be declined ; and in giving notice that he intended to accept it, ordered his son to make instant preparations for his departure. Mrs. Kean had been entirely separated from her husband for two or three years; she was reduced to a broken, pitiable state of health_nearly bed-ridden_helpless as an infant, and without a single relative to whom she could look for succour or consolation. Weighing these circumstances well, Charles Kean formed his determination, and sought an interview with his father, to bring matters to a final conclusion.
Edmund Kean was then precariously situated. His realised capital was gone, and he was living from day to day on the uncertain earnings which might cease altogether with increasing infirmities. He told his son that he must accept the offer of the cadetship, that he would provide his Indian outfit, and this being done, that he must depend entirely on his own exertions, and never apply to him for any future support or assistance. Charles replied that he was perfectly contented, and willing to embrace these conditions, provided something like an adequate allowance was secured to his mother. Finding that his father no longer had it in his power to promise this with any degree of certainty, he respectfully, but firmly, told him he would not leave England while his mother lived, and declined, with thanks, the kind proposal of Mr. Calcraft. This answer excited the anger of the elder Kean to the highest pitch; he gave way to the most intemperate passion, and a painful scene ensued.
“ What will you do," said he, “when I discard you, and you are thrown entirely on your own resources ?'
“In that case," replied the son, “ I shall be compelled to go on the stage (the father smiled in derision); and though I may never be a great actor, I shall at least obtain a livelihood for my mother and myself, and be obliged to no one."
The father stormed; the son endured a torrent of vituperation without losing his temper, or forgetting the respect due to a parent; they parted, and from that hour all intercourse between them was suspended. In the following July, when the Eton vacation came on, he was informed that his accounts were paid up, his allowance stopped, and he was not to return. A short time before this a young nobleman, one of his intimate associates, with whom he had first become acquainted at the preparatory school, seeing him unusually dejected, inquired into the cause. Kean, in the fulness of his heart, told him the result of his interview with his father, and that in all probability he should be driven to adopt the stage as his profession. “I quite approve of your resolution,” said his aristocratic friend, “and commend you warmly for it; but recollect this, if you do so, from that hour you and I must be strangers, as I never did, and never will speak to or acknowledge an actor.” About a year or so afterwards, when Charles Kean was acting at Leamington, the noble earl finding himself in the same hotel, moved off instantly, bag and baggage, to avoid the unhallowed propinquity : thus at least carrying out the consistency of his prejudice, without regard to his personal convenience.
Very fortunately Charles Kean had contracted no private debts, a rare occurrence in an Etonian. lle made his way to London, and hastened immediately to his mother's lodgings. Ile found her in sickness, in sorrow, and in poverty: A small yearly income, hitherto allowed by her husband, had been entirely withdrawn. They were without money, and utterly destitute of resources. À more forlorn condition can scarcely be imagined.
Precisely at this juncture, a misunderstanding arose between Edmund Kean and Mr. Stephen Price, the well known American lessce of Drury-lane theatre, and for the first time the great tragedian left liis old theatrical home, the scene of his early triumphs, to engage with Mr. Charles Kemble at Covent-garden. Mr. Price having heard how the son was situated, and thinking the name of Kean a powerful talisman, immediately made him an offer of engagement at Drury-lane for three years, with a salary of £10 a-week, to be increased to £11 and £12 during the second and third years, in case of success. The heart of the young man bounded with hope, and the offer was gratefully accepted. He stipulated, however, that he must first write to his father, who was then absent from London, and make him acquainted with the circumstance. Price approved of this, received the letter and undertook to forward it; but no answer was return. ed, and there is reason to believe the letter never reached the hands for which it was intended.
Thus Charles Kean became an actor. Necessity and not choice determined his lot in life. How little does the world in general know of the secret springs of our actions. It judges by the surface only, and can seldom penetrate the hidden depths, or sound the under currents, which, with controlling power, impel us on a course we otherwise might avoid, and never would have selected. For this act he was generally condemned. Nr. Calcraft considered him rash and ill-advised. His father's partisans denounced hiin as wilful, thankless, and disobedient-some shrugged their shoulders, while others shook their heads—and all, because he would not leave a helpless mother unprotected, who if, during his absence, his father had died, might have starved in her bed!
The future course of tlie young aspirant being now marked out, his first appearance on any stage took place at Drury-lane theatre on the opening night of the season, Monday, October the lst, 1827. Young Norval, in tone's tragedy of Douglas, was the character selected for the occasion. The was yet under seventeen, and so complete a stripling in appearance as well as in years, that the authorities of the theatre debated on the question of announcing him as Mr. Kean, junior, or Master Kean. Ile settled the point, by rejecting the latter designation with the utmost disclain. On the Saturday night previous to his appearance, a dress-reliearsal was suggested by the manager, that he might "face the lamps” for the first time, and familiarise himself with his stage costume. Many personal friends of Mr. Price, with some members of the committee, were present, who complimented him warmly on the success of his rehearsal. While supping afterwards in the manager's room, with true boyish feeling, he expressed a wish to show himself to his mother in his stage-habiliments of Norval. The manager consented, but wondering that he still lingered in the theatre, drew from him in a whisper the reluctant confession that he was without the means of paying for a hackney-coach. Price supplied the money, and young Kean flew to his mother's lodgings to display his finery, relate the encouragement he had received, and cheer her with the hopes and expectations with which he panted for the following Monday.
The eventful night arrived. Curiosity to see the son of the great actor, Edmund Kean, filled the vast theatre to overflowing. A first appearance before a London audience in those days was a much more serious business than it is at present a trying ordeal even for the experienced veteran, who might feel confident of his powers and had often tested their effects. What, then, must it have been to the unpractised novice, trembling at the sound of his own voice, and unnerved even by the sight of his own name for the first time in print? The awful moment is come-he stands before the audience, fairly launched on the experi. ment of his life—he has no time to think of all that hangs on the issue of the next two hours, but must brace his spirits to the task, and sink or swim according to the measure of his own unaided courage. The entrance of Young Norval is preceded by that of the attendants of Lord Randolph, bearing in custody the faithless servant, “the trembling coward who forsook his master.” The audience unluckily were led to mistake the latter worthy for the new candidate, and greeted hiin with the rounds of applause intended for the hero of the evening. Here was another damper, for, in such situations, the veriest trifles have their effect. He recovered himself, however, and went through his part with courage and increasing animation. Some good judges (and more than one were present who took an interest in his fate) could detect, even through all the rawness of an unformed style and the embarrassment of a novel situation, the germs of latent ability, and the promise of future excellence. The audience received him throughout with kind indulgence, encouraged him by frequent approbation, and called for him when the tragedy concluded. It was success certainly, but not decided success. Charles Kean felt that, although he had passed his examination with tolerable credit, he had neither attained “high honours,” nor achieved what, in theatrical parlance, is termed “a hit.”. On the following morning he rushed with feverish anxiety to the papers, and, without pausing, read them to his mother. His fate and hers, their future subsistence, the bread they were eating, the roof that covered them—all lay in the balance, and all depended on the dictum of the all-powerful press! It was unanimous in condemnation. Not simple disapproval or qualified censure, but sentence of utter incapacity—stern, bitter, crushing, and conclusive. There was no modified praise, no admission of undeveloped powers, no allowance for youth and inexperience. The crude effort of a school boy was dealt with as the matured study of a practised man. The hearts of both were struck with dismay—they wept in concert; and, for a moment, he was tempted to abandon the stage in despair, He proposed to Mr. Price to relieve him from the engagement, but this the manager considerately declined, and urged him to persevere. Hope is ever strong in the heart of youth: in the morning of life the voice of friendly encouragement impels more than the leaden tongue of censure can impede.
The youthful actor lingered at Drury-lane through the season, occasionally appearing as Norval, Selim in Barbarossa, Frederick in Lovers' Vows, and Lothaire in Monk Lewis's tragedy of Adelgitha, which was revived when
On this occasion Miss Ellen Tree, the future Mrs. C. Kean, acted Amelia Wildenbaim, this being the first time of their meeting together on the stage,
Mrs. Duff, an American actress, made her appearance. The houses had ceased to be crowded, his attraction dwindled to nothing—the audience grew cold in their applause. The papers, whenever they condescended to notice him, continued their censure ; and at length, almost heart-broken, he left London for the provinces, that he might have a better opportunity of obtaining the constant practice so much required.
During this tour, and while acting in Glasgow, he visited his father, who was then residing in the cottage he had built in the Isle of Bute. His reception was more cordial than he anticipated. Little allusion was made to the past, and a temporary reconciliation took place. This led to the elder Keans' proposing to act one night in the Glasgow theatre for his son's benefit, on the first of October, 1828_by singular coincidence, the anniversary of his debût. They appeared as Brutus and Titus, in Howard Payne's tragedy of Brutus. The house, as might be supposed on such an occasion, was crowded to excess, the receipts amounting to nearly £300. In January, 1829, the subject of our memoir returned to Drury-lane, and appeared as Romeo to the Juliet of Miss Phillips, a young clebútante of much promise, who, some few years afterwards, went to America, and married in New Orleans. But fortune was not yet prepared to smile on his efforts—the press discouraged, and the public neglected him. He remained a member of the company, but his services were seldom required. He was evidently of no importance to the management, and was losing his own time. He therefore took the first opportunity of again visiting the provinces, for the sake of hard study and frequent practice. In the course of the summer he acted, in conjunction with his father, in Dublin and Cork, appearing as Titus, Bassanio, Wellborn, Iago, Icilius, and Macduff.
In the October following, he accepted an offer from Mr. Morris, of the Hay. market Theatre, to play six nights, during the concluding fortnight of the season, for £20. He acted Romeo twice to Miss F. H. Kelly's Juliet, Frederick, in Lover's Vows, twice. On the fifth night he appeared as Sir Edward Mortimer, in the Iron Chest, and, for the first time in his life, felt that he had succeeded. The play was repeated on the closing night of the season with increased effect. The London press afforded him positive praise—he could scarcely believe it real. In the course of this year he visited Amsterdam and the Hague with an English company, under the management of an adventurer named Aubrey, being tempted by an offer of £20 a week, which his employer evidently never intended to pay, and of which, with the exception of a few pounds at the commencement, he never received a penny. After a short experiment of about three weeks, Aubrey decamped, leaving his actors without funds, and in rather an awkward predicament, to shift for themselves. As their only resource, they announced a general benefit at Amsterdam, to which the King of Holland contributed by a handsome present. The receipts were doled out in due proportion, and the modicum allotted to Charles Kean enabled him to return to England, by way of Calais. He now began to feel his strength; his powers were called forth by exercise, and he had obtained a mastery over the mechanical part of his profession—the knowledge of " stage business”_which practice only can accomplish. He therefore determined to try his fortune in America, and accordingly appeared at the Park Theatre, in New York, as Richard III., in the early part of September, 1830. The name of Kean was already well known to our transatlantic brethren, not only by the voice of fame, but by the two visits of his father, who had produced å most powerful and permanent impression throughout the United States. They were prepared to greet the son with warm cordiality. His reception was all he could desire: everywhere he attracted audiences, and gained applause and dollars. His hopes revived in proportion. It was no small triumph for a lad, still under twenty, to establish an enduring American reputation, in such characters as Richard Hamlet, Sir Edward ortimer, and Sir Giles Overreach.
In January, 1833, he returned to England. As if to prepare him for a cool reception at home, in descending into the boat which was to convey him on shore, he fell overboard. Such was his anxiety to reach London and see his mother, after an absence of more than two years, that he travelled all night from Portsmouth in his wet clothes, but fortunately sustained no injury from this act of hasty imprudence. Very soon after his arrival he was engaged by Mons. Laporte, at that time manager of Covent Garden, with a salary of £30 a-week, and stipulated, as a “ sine qua non," in opposition to the wishes of the management, that he should make his first appearance in Sir Edward Mortimer-his former success in that character at the Haymarket, in 1829, appearing a suffi. cient guarantee for a similar result in 1833. But he found himself mistaken. He was but coldly welcomed by the audience; the press veered round again, and the same papers which had formerly lauded his efforts in the same character, reversed their opinions, and fell back on the old tone of condemnation. There seemed to him in this “something more than natural,
but the mystery of which “bis philosophy" was unable to fathom. He had acted only a few nights with moderate success, when his father was engaged by Laporte, and in the month of March appeared as Shylock. But time and dissipation had done their work. The powers of the elder Kean had long been on the decline, and it was now painful to behold “the poor remains" of the once great delineator of Shakspere's noblest characters. He was reduced to a mere shadow, the wreck of what he had once been. There was still the occasional flash, which, as usual, electrified the audience, but the effort was momentary; the piercing eye, the sustained power, the epigrammatic distinctness, the thrilling energy, were gone for ever.
Laporte thought, naturally enough, that the appearance of the father and son in conjunction was likely to attract money to his almost empty treasury. They acted together for the first, and, as it was so fated, the only time in London, on the 25th of March, 1833. The play was Othello. The Moor, as usual, by Edmund Kean, Iago by Charles Kean, and Desdemona by Miss Ellen Tree. This eventful performance, the last appearance of the father on the mimic scene, and rapid precursor of his final exit from the stage of life, is thus graphically described in the pages of Barry Cornwall:*
“There was no rehearsal, nor any arrangement as to the mode of play ; but when the son arrived at the theatre in the evening, he was told that his father desired to see him. He went accordingly to his dressing-room, and found him shivering and exceedingly weak. 'I am very ill,' said he; “I am afraid I shall not be able to act. Mr. Charles Kemble, who was present, cheered him up; but to provide against the worst, a servant was desired to air a dress (such as Othello wears), in order that Mr. Warde might take up the part, in case Kean should actually break down before the conclusion of the play. The play commenced. After the first scene, Kean observed, “Charles is getting on to-night-he's acting very well ; I suppose that's because he is acting with me.' He was himself very fecble. He was, however, persuaded to proceed, and brandy and water was administered to him as usual. By this help he went on pretty well till the commencement of the third act; but before the dropcurtain rose, he said to his son, Mind, Charles, that you keep before me; don't get behind me in this act. I don't know that I shall be able to kneel ; but if I do, be sure that you lift me up. Still he pursued his way without faltering. He went off with Desdemona, and no one observed any change. But on entering, where he says, “What! false to me,' &c., he was scarcely able to walk across the stage. He held up, however, until the celebrated • Farewell,' which he uttered with all his former pathos; but on concluding it, after making one or two steps towards his son (who took care to be near him), and attempting the speech, • Villain ! be sure,' &c., his head sank on his son's shoulder, and the tragedian's acting was at an end. He was able to groan out a few words in Charles's ear—'I am dying—speak to them for me;' after which (the audience in kindness refusing to hear any apology) he was borne from the stage. His son, assisted by other persons, carried bim to bis dressingroom, and laid him on the sofa. He was as cold as ice; his pulse was scarcely perceptible, and he was unconscious of all that was going on around him. In this state he remained some time, when, the remedies which were applied having restored him to his senses, he was taken to the Wrekin tavern,' near the theatre, and Messrs. Carpue and Duchez (the surgeons) were sent for."
After a week's stay he was removed to Richmond, where he died on the 15th of May. A short time before his death, in an interval of serious reflection, he wrote a penitential and affectionate letter to his wife, entreating her forgiveness, and requesting her to visit him. The letter produced the desired effect. “Mrs. Kean answered this appeal by proceeding at once to Richmond. She saw her
• "Life of Edmund Kean." London. 1835,