Life and Work of Joanna Baillie
Chapter 4 - Stage History
In spite of Joanna
Baillies desire that her dramas should succeed on the stage, only
seven of the twenty-eightDe Monfort, The Family Legend, Henriquez,
The Separation, The Election, Constantine Paleologus, and Basilhave
been professionally produced. Between 1800 and 1826 the leading
theatres of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the United States
produced one or more of them. The extent of this stage-history has
not been appreciated, as most authorities content themselves with a
general statement that De Monfort and The Family Legend were
performed. Correction of many errors in detail would be of little
value, so that only the most important are noted in this chapter.
Among the names of actors who attempted to impersonate her greatest
characters will be found all the most famous of the age. The list is
headed by John Philip Kemble, Edmund Kean, and Mrs. Siddons; it also
includes Mr. and Mrs. Henry Siddons, Macready, Helen Faucit, and
Ellen Terry. In America, Cooper, Hodg-kinson, and Wood played De
Monfort. Such perfection of acting was required in the men and women
who hoped to succeed in these dramas that few of lesser ability
risked failure in them.
As De Monfort has the longest and most successful stage-history, it
will be discussed first; the others follow in chronological order.
Undoubtedly performances other than those recorded here occurred in
Scotland and Ireland. The early notices of performances, however,
are so incomplete that a full record is impossible to obtain.
1800, Tuesday, April 29, London, Drury
Lane Theatre, was the first performance of this play.1 It endured
the test in a creditable manner, as the announcement of its
repetition met with little opposition at the close of the
performance, and the testimonials of approbation were loud and
general. As a result, it was repeated on April 30, May 2, 3, 5, 6,
7, and 9, a total of eight performances. The usual statement assigns
eleven performances to this run. On May 1st, however, The Wheel of
Fortune was given, on May 8th A Bold Stroke for a Wife, and on May
4th there was no production. Monday, May 5th, was Mrs. Siddons
benefit performance, at which Dutton reports that she was honoured
with a fashionable, but not a numerous house.
Several additional actors are mentioned in connection with the
music, but their parts are not given; among them are Miss Stevens,
Mrs. Crouch, and Mr. Sedgwick.
Mr. Kemble was directly responsible for the production of De Monfort
at this time. In regard to Kemble's choice of this play Fitzgerald
says, 'A leading actor is always exposed to the temptation of being
blinded to the general merits of a piece, provided he finds a
character which he thinks may suit him.' The implication of these
words is established as a fact by the following statement by Boaden:
Mr. Kemble, however, had been struck with De Montfort, which I then
read by his desire, and he told me of his intention to make some
alterations to bring it better within the scope of stage
representation, and to act the character himself, consigning his
noble sister to the care of Mrs. Siddons.' This intention was
carried out, but the alteration was never published. The original
authorship was evidently still in doubt at the time of the first
performance. No name was given on the play-bill, and the Monthly
the Plays on the Passions without any reference to its authorship.6
The first clipping in Genests scrap-book refers to the author
(whoever he may be) and another one says, 'Miss Baillie, daughter
of the Physician of that name, is the supposed Author of the Play of
De Monfort/ Genests second-night clipping, dated May 1, 1800,
corrects this mistake, and says: Miss Bailey, %Sister of Dr. Bailey,
of Great Windmill Street, is the Authoress of the New Tragedy De
Monfort. She is a lady of a very fine genius, and promises to be a
literary ornament to her country.
Dutton expended both time and effort in order to compare the drama
as produced with the first printed edition. He found that the first
edition was already exhausted, and there were no copies available in
the libraries. A copy was finally lent to him, and he made his
report. He had hoped that the scenes to which he objected were the
work- of Kemble, but his final statement was that Kembles changes
consisted largely in the correction of grammatical errors. One
news-paper-critic came to a different conclusion, but apparently
made no attempt at accuracy. He says, Kemble, who has adapted the
piece to the Stage, has successfully bestowed great pains upon the
dialogue.' Genest was offended by an inconsistency in the first act
of the printed drama. The 1st scene closes with De Mont-forts
going to bed at night' he says, the scene changes, and he is
instantly discovered at breakfastit is to be hoped that Kemble
removed this absurditybut it does not appear from the Dramatic
Censor how this was managed in representation. Dutton specifies
only one dramatic change that Kemble made. In the last scene of the
third act, he made Rezenvelt refuse the challenge to fight with De
Monfort. He tells De Monfort to find out some free, some untried
arm, some adversary, against whom he had not that very morning sworn
never more to raise his arm in anger. To such a one, he says, you
may again be a trifling life in debt!again acknowledge, and again
forget!Ill not be guilty of your perjuries. This conduct . . .
undoubtedly displays a dignified and manly mind; and . . . must have
a greater tendency to inflame De Mont forts hatred, and prompt the
assassination of the man, who denied him the means of open revenge,
than had he a second time been the debtor to Rezenvelt's
Several slight changes should be noted, the most important of which
is the change of scene which accentuates the foreign local color of
the play. According to all the printed editions, the scene is
Amsberg in Germany, and no familiar localities are mentioned. In
them the spirit is not true to a Teutonic people, but is rather that
of a Catholic country. Since all the editions agree, it seems
logical to attribute all peculiarities in the acting version to
Kembles revision. In the reviews of the first performance, the
statement is made that the scene is Augsburg, and that De Monfort
fled from Vienna. That the names were given a German pronunciation
is indicated by the fact that the first-night reviewers spelled
Rezenvelt, Rasenvelt, and Raisenberg. The European Magazine assigns
to De Monfort the name of Mattheus.
The production of the drama was as perfect as money and skill could
make it. Kemble may have carried the pecuniary side, as well as the
artistic. Every care wa$ taken that the play should receive a proper
setting. The announcement promised Scenery, Musick, Dresses, and
Decorations entirely new. The scenery was designed by Mr. Greenwood
and Mr. Capon, who painted a very unusual pile of scenery,
representing a church of the 14th century, with its nave, choir, and
side aisles, magnificently decorated, consisting of seven planes in
succession. In width this extraordinary elevation was about 56 feet,
52 in depth, and 37 feet in height. It was positively a building.
The reviewers agreed that the scenery was magnificent, and must have
been very costly. Fitzgerald adds, 'The carpenters, however,
exhibited a prodigy of skill which might rival the ambitious efforts
of our day: ... [last scene] I suppose one of the earliest specimens
of set scenery.
In order to increase the attractiveness of the play, music was added
in several scenes. Mr. Shaw composed the 'highly pleasing and grand
music for the third act, and. Mr. Kelly for the second and fourth
acts. In the second act, a song by Miss Stevens' was
enthusiastically applauded.16 In the third act, Mr. Sedgwick sang a
glee written by Mr. Shaw, which occurs in the first edition, and was
Pleasant is the mantling bowl,
And the song of merry soul;
And the red lamps cheery light;
And the goblets glancing bright;
Whilst many a cheerful face around
Listens to the jovial sound.
Social spirits, join with me;
Bless the god of jollity.
The sacred music came in the fourth act, according to the
rearrangement. Mrs. Crouch sang a solo, which is a species of sacred
music, adapted to the situation in which it is sung, and has a very
sublime chorus.' Mr. Kelly's music for the requiem,
Departed soul! whose poor remains This hallowd lowly grave
contains, added to the solemnity of the scene. The performances at
Drury Lane could not be censured in 1800 for a lack of show:
Besides Pizarro, the Egyptian Festival, and the Tragedy of Montford,
are to be Grand Spectacles, and aided by the charms of music.'
According to the custom of the time, a prologue and epilogue were
added. The prologue, written by Francis North, and spoken by Mrs.
Powell, attempted a vindication of British genius against foreign
rivals,' and predicted that Joanna Baillie had restored Shakespeare
to the stage. The epilogue, written by the Duchess of Devonshire,
'served to confirm the sentiments inculcated by the events of the
piece.' Mrs. Siddons spoke it in her own costume, except on May 3d,
when she was so exhausted at the close of the performance that she
omitted it, and the drowsy audience' are said to have made no
The stage-history of De Monfort during this early run at Drury Lane
is the story of the Kemble family. Whether the play was written
especially for them or not, is an open question. At an early date
Joanna Baillie knew both John Philip Kemble and Mrs. Siddons, and in
De Monfort produced a drama whose principal parts were particularly
suited to their abilities. Frances Anne Kemble says that Joanna
Baillie wrote expressly for Mrs. Siddons the part of Jane De Monfort.
On the other hand, Miss Baillie herself said in 1804 that she made
the mistake of writing Constantine Paleologus with definite actors
in her thoughts, and adds, 'I hope also that this, standing alone,
as a single offence of the kind, . . . may be forgiven.' In spite of
this definite statement, her nephew says: 'It is probable that John
Kemble and his sister had been present to the mind of Joanna when
she composed the tragedy of De Monfort. Moulded as they were by
nature for the stage; adapted in form, voice, gesture, to produce
the greatest theatrical effects, once seen they could scarcely
afterwards be absent from the contemplations of the dramatic poet.'
The part of Rezenvelt was intended for Charles Kemble, who was
prevented by illness from appearing. Even without him, the drama was
characterized as 'a true family Play, the avowed aim of which seems
to have been the exhibiting of the Kembles to advantage, by putting
an extinguisher on all the rest of the performers.'
Of the quality of the acting on the part of the two principals there
can be no question. Mrs. Barbauld wrote shortly after the
performance that she had received great pleasure lately from the
representation of De Monfort. . . . The play is admirably acted by
Mrs. Siddons and Kemble.' According to Genest, De Monfort was one of
Kembles greatest parts, and his delineation of it was a
'masterpiece of the histrionic art. Hazlitt says: There is in the
chief character ... a nerve, a continued unity of interest, a
setness of purpose and precision of outline which John Kemble alone
was capable of giving; and there is all the grace which women have
in writing. In saying that De Montfort was a character which just
suited Mr. Kemble, I mean to pay a compliment to both.' Kemble was
particularly successful in depicting intense passion; in this part
he was amazingly powerful; and he showed how well he could conceive
and display the features of a passion, from which he was personally
more free than most men of his time.' His performance was a fine
example of the art; equally exhibiting the corroding effects of a
passion fostered in secret, and the ravages of ungovernable fury.
Twenty years later, De Monfort is still spoken of as 'a character in
which Mr. Kemble had distinguished himself.'
After characterizing the acting of Kemble as 'without fault' the
reviewer in the European Magazine continues: 'The other performers
had but few opportunities of showing their talents; but what little
they had to do, they did with propriety and spirit.' This statement
suggests the great discrepancy of opinion in regard to Mrs. Siddons
performance of the character of Jane De Monfort. One critic
declared: The character of Jane De Montford is a part very unworthy
of the talents of Mrs. Siddons, as she has but little connection
with the story, and appears brought forward merely to hear the wild
ravings of De Montford, and apologize for his infuriate revenge. In
accord with this opinion is Duttons statement that she fell 'at
times into rant and exaggerated declamation. Duttons criticism is
detailed. Disguising herself in a single fold of a thin veil,
through which the audience could clearly distinguish each feature;
he justly censures as a 'gross breach of propriety. The Monthly
Magazine attributes Mrs. Siddons partial failure to the author:
The part of Jane De Mont fort... is of that kind, in which we see
the authors conception to be good, but the work to be unfinished;
and Mrs. Siddons was not very successful in it.
In spite of these criticisms, there are many indications of a
contrary opinion. Campbell, in his Life of Mrs. Siddons, analyzes
the drama at length from the point of view of the producer, and then
says: 'Let it be remembered that Mrs. Siddons performance of Jane De
Monfort is no uninteresting part of the great actresss history. . .
. His [Kembles] acting in the piece, as well as Mrs. Siddons, was
amazingly powerful. ... I cannot dismiss the subject without
noticing that Joanna Baillie in her description of Jane De Monfort
has left a perfect picture of Mrs. Siddons. In this connection
should be quoted the following lines in Act II, Scene 1:
Page. So queenly, so commanding, and so noble,
I shrunk at first in awe; but when she smild,
For so she did to see me thus abash'd,
Methought I could have compassd sea and land
To do her bidding.
Lady. Is she young or old?
Page. Neither, if right I guess; but she is fair:
For Time hath laid his hand so gently on her,
As he too had been awd.
I thought at first her stature was gigantic; But on a near approach
I found, in truth, She scarcely does surpass the middle size.
... Is she large in stature ?
Page. So stately and so graceful is her form,
What is her garb ?
Page. I cannot well describe the fashion of it.
She is not deckd in any gallant trim,
But seems to me clad in the usual weeds Of high habitual state; for
as she moves Wide flows her robe in many a waving fold,
As I have seen unfurled banners play With the soft breeze.
Lady. It is an apparition thou hast seen.
Fre. Or it is Jane De Monfort.
If the satisfaction of the actress herself is important, we may
conclude that Jane De Monfort is a well-drawn character, for Mrs.
Siddons was so delighted with the part that she visited the author
in Hampstead, and on leaving begged, Make me some more Jane De
Of the other characters no notice was taken. Even Rezenvelt produced
no effect upon the critics; he is ignored by all the reviewers
except one, who dismisses him with a single sentence in regard to
the forbearance and good humour of his character.36 In the hands of
a Kemble, he would, in all probability, have made a strong
impression, as he seems to have done in later productions in which
the ability of the actors was more nearly equal.
On April 30th the play was performed, for the second time ... to a
numerous audience with increased success. Some very judicious
curtailments and alterations have been made, particularly in the
fourth and fifth acts; and in this improved state we have no doubt
of its becoming a permanent favorite of the Public.' Dutton says:
The piece is still much too long, and would receive great
additional improvement by totally rescinding the part of Conrad, who
is only an encumbrance of the Play. Various other alterations are
necessary to take off the heaviness of the Tragedy, by shortening
the term of its duration.' This curtailment was in accord with the
first-night criticisms, which declared that many were necessary 'to
shorten the performance and render it less tedious.' The criticism
of the part of Conrad was hot accepted by Kemble.
The feelings of the period objected to such improper incidents as
the introduction on* the scene of the dead body and of the murderer.
Objectionable details may have been altered, but the dramatic
situation required the introduction of both murderer and victim,
unless the last two acts were entirely rewritten. If subsequent
performances are accepted as evidence, public and professional
opinion varied on this point. In a criticism of a later New York
production, the statement was made that the hero failed most
completely in these final scenes, because he did not compare with
Kemble. The critic continues: Mr. Kemble in repeating the following
How with convulsive life he heavd beneath me,
Een with the deaths wound gord
O horrid, horrid!
Methinks I feel him still!
always gave an effect as Garrett in his most impressive scenes. But
when he exclaims:
It moves! it moves! the cloth doth heave and swell!
the audience as if animated by one spirit involuntarily rose from
In spite of the fact that it obtained the doubtful certificate of
honour, a succes d' estime' only these first two performances
seem to have drawn large houses. At the first performance the house
was full in every part' and in the boxes were some of the most
accomplished ornaments of the Haut Ton/40 Dutton was a clear-sighted
critic, for of later performances he wrote, The crowded houses, and
unbounded applause, with which De Montfort continues to be received,
are unhappily confined to the Play-bills. The Theatre exhibits a
beggarly account of empty boxes! 'On May 7 he wrote: To judge
from symptoms, which grow more prominent and alarming every night,
the new Tragedy is not much longer to linger out a miserable
existence/42 His prediction was correct, as it had but one later
performance. The reason for this failure is twofold. Sheridan
expressed the first when he coolly imputed its failure to the bad
taste of the public' Joanna Baillie herself discusses this reason.
She says: It has been urged, as a proof of this supposed bad taste
in the Public, by one whose judgment on these subjects is and ought
to be high authority, that a play, possessing considerable merit,
was produced some years ago on Drury-Lane stage, and notwithstanding
the great support it received from excellent acting and magnificent
decoration, entirely failed. It is very true that, in spite of all
this, it failed, during the eight nights it continued to be acted,
to produce houses sufficiently good to induce the managers to revive
it afterwards. But it ought to be acknowledged, that that piece had
defects in it as an acting play, which served to counterbalance
those advantages; and likewise that, if any supposed merit in the
writing ought to have redeemed those defects, in a theatre, so large
and so ill calculated to convey sound as the one in which it was
performed, it was impossible this could be felt or comprehended by
even a third part of the audience/44 The latter part of this
statement makes clear the second reason for the failure of De
The cast was:
De MonfortMr. Kean RezenveltMr. Cooper Count FrebergMr. Barnard
ManuelMr. Powell JeromeMr. Foote ConradMr. Bromley Jane De
MonfortMrs. Egerton Countess FrebergMiss Smithson AbbessMrs.
Knight NoviceMrs. Orger De Monfort seems, in this case, to have
been the choice of the management of the theatre rather than of the
tragedian. Lord Byron records that while he was on the sub-committee
of Drury Lane he was anxious to produce it. He says: 'I can vouch
for my colleagues, and I hope for myself, that we did our best to
bring back the legitimate drama. I tried what I could to get De
Montfort revived, but in vain.' On November 12, 1815, Scott wrote to
Joanna Baillie: I do most devoutly hope Lord Byron will succeed in
his proposal of bringing out one of your dramas; . . . I heartily
wish you would take Lord Byron into your counsels, and adjust from
your yet unpublished materials some drama for the public. In such a
case, I would, in your place, conceal my name till the issue of the
adventure. . . . The object of a drama is professedly to delight the
public at large, and therefore I think you should make the
experiment fairly.' Later he seems to have been successful, as the
following letter from Edmund Kean indicates: My Lord, I have been
some time acquainted with De Monfort, which according to your
Lordships desire, I have re-perused, and think it a most excellent
play, and the part particularly suited to my method of acting. But
whether the circumstance of its having been acted and not
succeeding, will not detract from any present success, I leave to
your Lordships consideration. Keans production of the part in New
York in 182051 may have been a preliminary trial as to its
possibilities, and his success there have been the determining
Kean hoped that he might do wonders with the part, and that 'his
peculiar aptitude for the delineation of an all-absorbing passion
would permanently establish the play upon the boards. Miss Baillie,
with alacrity, carefully revised the play, says Hawkins, bringing
out the character of De Monfort in stronger relief. The end of the
drama was changed to be more in accordance with the taste of the
age. De Monfort was made to fall into a fit of raving at his
misdoing, from which he was relieved by sudden death, upon which the
curtain fell. 'This we can hardly consider an alteration for the
better, says the Drama. The European Magazine regrets 'that the
original was not left as it was written. These alterations, however,
we presume, were made to suit the peculiar tact of Mr. Kean. Yet
Joanna Baillie herself approved of the change, for on May 8, 1819,
she wrote to Mr. George Bentley, The new ending which I have given
it is not so good for the closet, but it still appears to me that it
is better fitted for exhibition.' De Monforts hatred of Rezenvelt
was strengthened by the addition of a new motive; Rezenvelt was made
the victor not only in their school-boy rivalry, but also in a
contest for the love of a woman. In 1869 the copy of De Monfort that
Kean had marked for performance was in the possession of F. W.
Hawkins, his biographer.
Details in regard to the staging of the play are almost entirely
lacking. In Act I the program announces a festival, in which Miss
Tree will dance a pas seul. This is evidently a mistake in naming
the act, as the one newspaper-criticism refers to the gala-scene in
the second act. In Act IV occurred a banquet, with a glee composed
by Sir John Stevenson, and sung by Miss Povey, Mrs. Bland, and Mr.
Mason; and in Act V a requiem, composed by Mr. T. Cooke. The
European Magazine alone of all the reviews comments upon the staging
as follows: A Gala Scene in the second Act was very splendid, and
a requiem in the last was well performed.'
The attention of the critics seems to have centred in the acting of
the leading parts. The emphasis, however, upon the parts was very
different from that in the earlier production. Keans acting of De
Monfort is now under discussion, and Jane De Monfort is
insignificant. Cole says that the professional critics were' almost
unanimous in Kean's favor. The following statements substantiate his
decision. Macready was in London at the time, and says in his diary
that in the revival of Joanna Baillies De Monfort, with
alterations by the authoress, he shone out in the full splendour of
his genius, and that the performance was spoken of as singularly
triumphant. Drama declares that in this portrayal he was eminently
successful/ as it offered him novel opportunities, of which he took
advantage. This criticism concluded with the dictum that the piece
was perfectly successful. One writer in the Dublin University
Magazine says: We have heard from some who saw it, that the
performance was one of his greatest efforts; he acted with all his
tremendous energy, and at that time his powers were undiminished.55
Doran says that parts of it were played in his grandest style.
Campbell, in his Life of Mrs. Siddons, recalls the performance. 'It
was brought out again in 1821, he says, when Kean played the part
of De Monfort very ably. I shall never forget that performance.
There was a vast audience; among whom, I dare say, not three score
persons were personally acquainted with the author of the play. But
the poetic character of her who had painted the loves of Count Basil
and Valeria was not forgotten; and there was a deep and placid
attention paid to De Monfort, that might have led you to imagine
every one present was the poetesss friend. There was so much
silence, and so much applause, that, though I had misgivings to the
contrary, I was impressed at the end with the belief that the play
had now acquired and would henceforth for ever retain stage
Other critics were less enthusiastic in their decisions.
The European Magazine contained the most ferocious attack. As acted
by Mr. Kean, the reviewer says, the performance was not only
repulsive, but disgusting.' He then defends his decision: 'The
seizure of the murderer, ... his approaches to and recessions from
the corpse, his first horrors, and his final insanity, are among the
most depressing, revolting, and hideous exhibitions of the stage. De
Monfort lies beside the dead like a wild beast beside his prey; he
fondles the legs, and lifts the arms, and presses the hands, and
talks the most appalling language of familiarity of the murder. All
this goes beyond Tragedy, for it goes beyond human sufferance/ The
statement is later qualified; Mr. Kean * in the disclosure of his
aversion of Rezenvelt in the second Act, his interview with the
stranger, and his encounter in the fourth, was fully equal to any
similar exhibition of the stage . . . It is, however, we should
think, impossible, that his judges can be satisfied with the violent
distortions and unnatural ferocity of his hero.' The Ladys Magazine
adopts the same tone, with more emphasis, perhaps, upon the
pcrtrayal than upon the acting. In its opinion, De Monfort was in
the first three acts a maniac, and in the two last a monster. Mr.
Kean gave a terrific effect to the character, and, in some of the
scenes, seemed to harrow up the soul of the listening spectator.'
The final sensation was one of disgust and horror.
When critics so widely disagree, who is more entitled to a deciding
voice than the author? Miss Baillie, with a party of friends, sat in
the dress-circle, and her satisfaction was complete and
unequivocal; she complimented Kean on his acting in the warmest
terms, and from that time became one of the most ardent admirers of
his talents.' It is evident, then, that her conception of De Monfort
was as 'terrific as Keans, and that, in her opinion, the hero was
The part of Jane De Monfort was much changed in the alteration, in
order to throw Kean into greater prominence. Partly as a result of
this fact, the acting of Mrs. Egerton received little comment. Drama
says that she 'sustained her part with more effect than she has
thrown into any of her previous performances.' The European Magazine
is less tolerant: Mrs. Egerton played tolerably well, but her
shrill voice was rather out of tune and harsh.
Cooper as Rezenvelt seems to have been acceptable, as the European
Magazine says he was 'gentlemanly and animated' and Drama declares,
Mr. Cooper was never more happy than in his delineation of the
frank and generous victim, Rezenvelt.'
In spite of the success of the drama, as mentioned above, it was
withdrawn after five performances. The managers may have wished to
clear the boards for the dibut of Miss Edmiston, but Genest gives
December 4, Romeo and Juliet, as the next performance.60 Macready
regretted that it was withdrawn so early that he was unable to
witness it. He accounted for the brevity of the run by saying that
it was 'too heavy and gloomy to be attractive.' That the failure was
not a surprise to Kean is indicated by a conversation he held with
Campbell. 'When I congratulated Kean.'Campbell records, '... he told
me that, though a fine poem, it would never be an acting play.'
1822, June 19, Bath.63
Genest says that the drama was altered to suit Kean. Instead of
dying, as in the original fifth act, he was for a long scene on the
stage with the body of Rezenvelt, and latterly left alone with
itafter his last speech, he threw himself down, and the curtain
fell. It did not exactly appear whether he was supposed to die or
not the alteration was much for the worse.' This was evidently the
same alteration that Kean used at Drury Lane in 1821, and in all
probability was the form that he had tried with success in New York
In this version of the play, Kean's part was again put forward, and
Jane was thrown into the background.
Kean was very great when he heard Rezenvelt's foot on the
stairswhen he said to Conrad, I will believe them"very fair in
his apology to Rezenveltand fine in some few speeches in the fifth
act.' One critic said: De Montfort is peculiarly adapted for the
display of Mr. Keane's powers. . . . But much as we admire Mr.
Kean's delineation of the passions, and that of hate was certainly
in this instance depicted with all the force of reality; still,
unless the subordinate parts possess a share of interest, it cannot
keep alive the attention of a theatrical audience.'
Miss Dances record on the Bath stage was short and unfortunate. Her
reputation had been made in comedy; when she was announced as a
tragic actress in 1821, the Drama printed this epigram:
On having heard that Miss Dance was to appear in Tragedy.
Theres nothing novel in this age,
To see a dance upon the stage;
But 'twill indeed be novelty,
To see a Dance in Tragedy.
Genest says that 'Miss Dance played very wellshe reminded one
strongly of Mrs. Siddonsshe did not strike on her 1st appearance,
but she had improved greatly and the manager offered her a handsome
engagement for the next season.
1822, July 4, Birmingham, Theatre Royal.
It is noteworthy that Mr. Kean has the support of Miss Dance as
Jane, as in the Bath performance, but that the Rezenvelt is changed.
Ariss Gazette of Monday, July 1st, 1822, announces under the
heading, Theatre Royal, Birmingham, that 'the public are
respectfully informed that, in consequence of the unprecedented
success attendant on the exertions of the celebrated Mr. Kean, he
has been prevailed on to extend his engagement six nights longer,
being positively the only opportunity the public can have of
witnessing his extraordinary talent.' This announcement states that
Joanna Baillies tragedy of De Monfort will be performed on
Wednesday. Presumably the arrangement was altered, for the playbill
gives the date as Thursday, the fourth night of the reengagement
of Mr. Kean, and the Last Night but Two he can possibly have the
honour of appearing this season/ On July 8, 1822, the Theatrical
Looker-on of Birmingham speaks of three performances (given under
date of July 4)Othello, A New Way to Pay Old Debts, and De Monfort.
After criticizing the manner in which Mr. Kean * walked through
Othello/ with the result that the audience, to be even with him,
walked off/ the Observer dismisses Sir Giles Overreach with a word
of praise, and turns to De Monfort: Will any well-disposed
Christian tell us what the play of De Monfort is about ? For
ourselves, we give it up, and content ourselves with remarking, that
Kean occasionally delivered some very fine poetry in very fine
style, and was sometimes highly impassioned and effective. With Miss
Dance we are much pleased, and her performance of Jane De Monfort
induces us to pronounce her a lady of superior abilities, as well as
of personal charms. The rest were all but leather and prunello.
II. In Scotland.
1810, Edinburgh. The date of this
production is uncertain. A clipping from the Correspondent says: De
Montfort was subsequently acted' which would place the performance
after The Family Legend on January 29th, 1810. This date is
substantiated by the statements that The Family Legend was the first
of Joanna Baillies
plays to be produced in her native land,1 and that the success
which attended the performance of The Family Legend, induced the
managers to bring forward in the same season the play of De Monfort.'
According to Dibdin, Mrs. Siddons opened in Edinburgh on March 14th,
1810 in Macbeth, on March 15th played the Mourning Bride, and on
March 16th, Macbeth. On March 18th, 1810, Scott reported that Mrs.
Siddons had a very bad cold. I hope she will be able to act Jane De
Montfort, which we have long planned/4 From that date she was ill
until she reappeared on March 24th. Scott writes to Joanna Baillie
on March 30th, 1810, I have, I understand, missed the very finest
performance ever seen in Edinburgh,Mrs. Siddons (the elder) in Jane
De Monfort.' According to these statements, the performance of De
Monfort must have occurred between March 24th and March 30th.
Only three members of the cast are known. Mr. H. Siddons played De
Monfort, Mr. Terry played Rezenvelt, and Mrs. Siddons played Jane De
Monfort. Joanna Baillies biographer says that the part of Jane was
not so well supported [as that of De Monfort]' Scott says:
Everybody agrees that she was never more herself than in that
character; playing with her son, and upon his theatre was doubtless
one great cause, not only of exertion, but of real enthusiasm. She
fairly cried herself sick at her own part, so you may believe there
was fine work in the front, as they call the audience part of the
house; never was there such a night for those industrious females,
The critic in The Correspondent, however, is less enthusiastic. It
had little or no success' he says. It paid no compliments to our
country people. One would be almost inclined to believe, that if the
manager had put tartan plaids and philibegs upon the characters in
De Monfort, it would have had some of the success of The Family
There was evidently a feeling among the spectators that the action
was too improbable to be accepted. Scott write Joanna Baillie on
June 10th, 1810, concerning a Scotch murder which he says he has
referred to in order to substantiate the story of De Monfort.66 On
the other hand, it was reported that, 'in that comparatively small
theatre, the causes and development of the fatal passion were more
clear, the force and beauty of the language more prominent. . . .
The play met with much success. In the words of an eye-witness, the
effect produced was very great; there was a burst of applause when
the curtain fell, and the play was announced for repetition amid the
April 13th, New York, Park Theatre.68 Never performed in America,
says the Commercial Advertiser.
The cast was:
Jane De MonfortMrs. Melmoth Countess FrebergMrs. Jefferson
AbbessMrs. Hogg De MonfortMr. Hodgkinson RezenveltMr. Martin
Count FrebergMr. Harper ManuelMr. Powell JeromeMr. Hogg
BernardMr. Tyler GrimbaldMr. Hallam
The only source of information as to the form in which the play was
presented is the Commercial Advertiser of April nth and 13th, which
speaks of it as performed at the Drury Lane Theatre with unbounded
applause. The advertisement continues: 'In act 4th a Funeral Dirge,
composed by Pelisser. The vocal parts by Messrs. Tyler, Fox, Lee,
Shapter, etc., Miss Brett, Miss Harding, etc. From this statement
we can see that the performance was given with due attempt at
Hodgkinson was 'the ruling favorite of the States at this time, and
was considered a wonder. In the whole range of the living drama,
says Bernard, an English actor of this period, 'there was no variety
of character he could not perceive and embody, from a Richard, or a
Hamlet down to a Shelty or a Sharp. After this high praise, it is a
surprise to find equally strong opinions of Hodgkinsons failure in
the part of De Monfort.
'Hodgkinson was in every way unsuited to the character of the hero,
says Ireland,71 and Dunlap thinks that,
'with all his versatility and excellence, [he] had nothing of the
sublime or philosophic in his composition. He was incapable of
understanding De Montfort.
Mrs. Melmoth met with scarcely more favor. Ireland says:
'Beautifully as Mrs. Melmoth read her part, it required an
accommodating imagination to identify her with the noble Jane De
The result of this performance was failure, and no further dates of
performances are given. Dunlap philosophically adds: 'But let us
remember that all the apparent sublimity and real black letter of
John Kemble, and the greatly superior powers of his great sister,
could not render De Montfort popular in London. It would not perhaps
have been so in the time of Addison.
1809, Nov. 8, 10, and 17, New York, Park Theatre.
The cast was :
De MonfortMr. Cooper RezenveltMr. Young Count FrebergMr.
Robertson JeromeMr. Anderson- Jane De MonfortMrs. Twaits Countess
The Evening Journal of New York announced the coming performance,
with new scenery, dresses, and decorations. Aside from this, there
seems to be no record of its staging.
The acting received severe criticism from several writers. Dunlap
disapproved of the entire cast, and suggested another: Forrest for
De Monfort, Wood for Rezenvelt, 'but where is Jane?. Cooper was
more successful than Hodgkinson, in his opinion, but was not the
right man for the part, and failed to meet popular expectation. The
reviewer in the Evening Journal was more detailed in his criticism.
Few characters' he says, require more energy of feeling or more
masterly shades of discrimination than that of De Monfort. To these
we do not hesitate to say, Mr. Cooper, in a very few instances
indeed, gave that delicate polish, which is so eminently in the
power of genius and study to bestow. It was upon the whole a cold
and artificial piece of acting. . . . His greatest failure was in
the scene where he discovered the dead body of Rezenvelt.'
Mrs. Twaits also was unequal to the part she had undertaken.76 The
Evening Journal says her acting 'was respectable and nothing more,
as 'her appearance was far from answering the glowing description of
the enraptured Page.
Mr. Young as Rezenvelt received the most absolute condemnation. 'Mr.
Young was as far from Rezenvelt as South from North' said Dunlap,
and again the Evening Journal agress with him. We certainly think a
little more grace and elegance would have been no disadvantage to
Mr. Young, in pourtraying the character of so finished a gentleman.
Why was not the part given to Mr. Simpson? the only performer in the
Company, whose easy carriage, persuasive manners and fascinating
voice, could render the character interesting and attractive.'
There is no statement of the success of these presentations, or of
the reason for the withdrawal of the play. In a letter written to
George Bartley in 1819, Joanna Baillie says: Both you and Mrs.
Bartley are very kind in wishing to bring forward De Monfort in
America, but you must not let your zeal for my honor and glory stand
in the way of your own interest. I shall take the will for the deed;
and if Mr. Cooper does not think the character of De Monfort one
that he would like to act, it would be wrong to press it.' From this
statement it is evident that she knew nothing of this presentation
of De Monfort by Cooper in 1809.
1810, November 12, Baltimore, Baltimore Theatre.78 The advertisment
called De Monfort a 'celebrated tragedy never performed in
Baltimore. 'New dresses and decorations were promised. Only one
member of the cast was specifiedMrs. Twaits was to play Jane De
Monfort. There is little doubt, however, that the actors were the
same as in the performance in Philadelphia on February 8, 1811. In
the fourth act Wood advertised 'a procession with solemn dirge.'
1811, February 8, Philadelphia, Chestnut Street Theatre.
The United States Gazette published frequently from December 1 to 9,
1810, and January 14 to February 5, 1811, the following notice, with
slight variations: New Theatre Notice. A celebrated play by Joanna
Baillie, called De Monfort, "or the Force of Hatred" is in
rehearsal, and will be speedily produced. On February 5, 6, 7, and
8 the notice was more extended, and specified the date of Friday,
February 8, for the long-promised production. This was the first
The cast was:
De Montfort81Mr. Wood Jane De MontfortMrs. Twaits
RezenveltMr. Jefferson Countess FrebergMrs. Jefferis
Count FrebergMr. Cone AbbessMrs. Barrett
Several minor parts were assigned for this performance. The nuns and
lay sisters were assigned to Ladies . . .; in Act II, Scene 1, the
waiting woman was Mrs. Petit; the first monk was Barrett, the second
monk, Allen, and the porter, Drummond.
The manager of the Philadelphia Theatre at this time was William B.
Wood, the actor whom Dunlap had wished to see play the part of
Rezenvelt. In some way his attention was called to the play, and he
himself arranged it for presentation.
On the first blank leaf of Woods prompt-book82 occurs the statement
that the production lasted for two hours and twenty minutes. In
order to accomplish this improvement in length, Mr. Wood cut the
text very judiciously. Most of the omissions are condensations, as
in the case of Manuels account of his years of service with De
Monfort, in which Wood omitted all the details of the trouble
between servant and master, without injuring the coherence of
thought. Examples of the same sort of condensation occur in Act II.
There are also cuts in lines within the longer speeches in many
places. It should be noted that in this case the character of Conrad
or Grimbald is again retained. The only unusual change in the form
in which the drama was produced occurs at the beginning of the
second.scene of Act V of the stage-arrangement. Here Wood replaced
the eleven original lines by a speech of Basil:
What shall I be some few short moments hence?
Why ask I now? Who from the dead will rise To tell me of that awful
But be it what it may, or bliss or torment,
Annihilation, dark and endless rest,
Or some dread thing, mans wildest range of thought Hath never yet
conceiv'd, that change I'll dare Which makes me anything but what I
I can bear scorpions stings, tread fields of fire,
In frozen gulfs of cold eternal lie,
Be tossd aloft through tracks of endless void,
But cannot live in shame.
From the newspaper announcements and the promptbook, it is evident
that no effort was spared to make the production successful. The
last two advertisements before the performance promised entire new
dresses and decorations.
In scene one of Act II a band was used, and before the entrance of
Jane De Monfort there was inserted, 'a Masquerade Scene and Dancing
In the course of this scene, 'Master Whale, the infant Vestris' was
to dance fa new Pass eul [sic].' After the dancing, the entire
company was to appear. 'Scene second a very splendid apartment in
Count Frebergs house fancifully decorated. A wide folding-door
opened shows another magnificent room lighted up to receive company.
As the Masqueraders retire Enter Jane and Freberg. In the first
scene of Act IV there occurred a funeral procession of nuns to the
grave of a departed sister with a solemn Dirge. The
stage-directions for that act are specially full: Man at thunder,
Wind Ready, Second Moonlight flat. At the end of the scene are
explicit directions to use 'Storm, Thunder & Rain, as well as to
repeat the tempest in place of the song by the nuns, and at
intervals through the second scene. The storm covers the change from
scene two to three, and is repeated at the entrance of the monks
with De Monfort, and at the appearance of the monks carrying
Rezenvelts body. In Act V chains clank throughout one, the lamps
are turned down, and the bell is tolled at the change of scene. At
the very end the lamps are to be turned up again.
The newspaper accounts add that at the 'End of the play, Mrs. Wilmot
will sing in character, the celebrated Song of Blanch of Devon, from
Walter Scotts poem of the Lady of the Lake. Earlier advertisements
had announced with the comick opera of Matrimony, but the later
editions made no reference to any afterpiece.
No criticisms of this performance have as yet come to light. Most
dramas on the Philadelphia stage had only one performance in those
days, so that the fact that it was not repeated is not conclusive
evidence of its failure. The performance was for Mr. Woods benefit,
and the papers announced that box-tickets could be purchased for one
dollar, pit-tickets for three quarters, and gallery-tickets for half
a dollar. Durang says that Woods benefit in 1811 netted him
3,203.00. As there, is record of no other benefit for Wood during
this season, we may infer that this production of De Monfort was
fairly successful. Mr. Wood bespoke the enthusiastic support of his
audience by his statement in the preliminary notices that De Monfort
had been performed with unbounded applause at the Theatres of Drury
Lane, New York, etc. The fact that it was eleven years before Wood
revived the drama in Philadelphia would surely indicate that this
first Philadelphia performance was not greeted with 'unbounded
1820, New York.
De Monfort was played by Kean, according to H. B. Baker. He says:
In 1820 he [Kean] paid his first visit to America. In New York as
much as eighteen dollars were paid for the choice of a box to hold
nine persons. He reaped a golden harvest by his tour, and returned
to Drury Lane for the following season. He appeared as Hastings, Sir
Pertinax Macsycophant, Wol-sey, Don Felix,none of them good
performances. In Miss Baillies De Montfort, however, he scored a
1822, January 14, Philadelphia, Walnut Street Theatre. The first
performance in eleven years, Durang says. Preliminary notices ran in
the American Daily Advertiser from January 5 to 14.
The cast was:
De MontfortMr. Wood Jane De MontfortMrs. Wood
RezenveltMr. H. Wallack Countess FrebergMrs. Baker
Count FrebergMr. Darley AbbessMrs. Lefalle
ManuelMr. Burke JeromeMr. Warren GrimbaldMr. Greene
The presence of Grimbald shows that Wood was using again his early
edition as text. The drama was in five acts. It is evident that Mr.
and Mrs. Wood were no more successful in their acting of the tragic
brother and sister than earlier actors had been. Durang says: 'This
play is well written, but it is too much colored with the
metaphysics of passion to please a mixed audience They are not
suitable for acting plays. Kean, Hodgkinson, Cooper, and all the
bright performers essayed the part of De Mont-fort, but without the
desired effect. The heroine, Jane De Mont fort, had been as
carefully nursed by the lirst actresses without that success which
the part promised.
Wood says: 'An ill name hung on this Walnut Street theatre,
rendering all our efforts fruitless, but he adds, 'Joanna Baillies
De Montfort or the Force of Hatred, was revived and played to one
good house. This performance was again his benefit. The prices were
as usualbox, one dollar; pit, seventy-five cents; gallery, fifty
centsso that the performance must have netted him a fair amount.
1826, December 4, New York, Park Theatre, at half past six
The cast was:
De MonfortMr. Kean Jane De MonfortMrs. Barnes
RezenveltMr. Lee Countess FrebergMrs. Sharpe
Count FrebergMr. Woodhull AbbessMrs. Stickney
There is no criticism available of Keans acting at this time, but
Ireland states that * on this occasion Mrs. Barnes gave an admirable
representation of the noble Jane De Monfort.
This performance was Keans last benefit before leaving for England,
and was heralded as such. It was also, so far as is known, the last
performance of De Monfort on the professional stage.
THE FAMILY LEGEND
I. In Scotland.
1810, January 29, and thirteen
consecutive nights, Edinburgh,88 Theatre Royal. Now acting for the
first time. The first new play produced by Mr. H. Siddons.
The cast was:
Earl of ArgyleMr. Terry HelenMrs. H. Siddons
John of LorneMr. H. Siddons
Sir Hubert de GreyMr. Putnam
Although The Family Legend was written with the idea of offering it
to the Edinburgh Theatre,91 its final acceptance was due entirely to
the efforts of Walter Scott, who had become one of the acting
trustees for the general body of proprietors the year before. As
early as August 15, 1809, Scott had submitted the manuscript to
Henry Siddons, and reported that he was delighted with the piece
and determined to bring it out with as much force as he can possibly
muster. By October 27, 1809, the discussion of the terms on which
it was. to be produced was completed, and the details of costuming
were under way. Joanna Baillie says in the preface to the published
drama: The following play is not offered to the public as it is
acted in the Edinburgh Theatre, but is printed from the original
copy which I gave to that theatre.95 In 1809 Scott wrote her: I
will put all the names to rights, and retain enough of locality and
personality to please the antiquary, without the least risk of
bringing the clan Gillian about our ears. 'Knowing the strong
feelings of pride and clanship which had existed amongst
Highlanders, and which had not by any means become extinct, he
suggested that the title of Duart, the name of the property of the
Macleans, should be substituted for that the chief actually bore.
The name of the clan was changed to that of Clangillian.' Further
alterations in the manuscript were made by Mr. Henry Siddons, in
order to adapt the play to the Edinburgh stage. Lockhart says that
Scott appears to have exerted himself most indefatigably in its
behalf. He was consulted about all the minutice of costume, attended
every rehearsal, and supplied the prologue.
Most of our information about the scenery for this production is
contained in Scotts letter to the author, dated October 27, 1809.
With regard to the equipment of The Family Legend, I have been much
diverted with a discovery which I have made. I had occasion to visit
our Lord Provost (by profession a stocking-weaver), and was
surprised to find the worthy magistrate filled with a new-born zeal
for the drama. He spoke of Mr. Siddonss merits with enthusiasm, and
of Miss Baillies powers. almost with tears of rapture. Being a
curious investigator of cause and effect, I never rested until I
found out that this theatric rage which had seized his lordship of a
sudden, was owing to a large order for hose, pantaloons, and plaids
for equipping the rival clans of Campbell and Maclean, and which
Siddons was sensible enough to send to the warehouse of our
excellent provost.' In another letter he tells her: There is a
circumstance rather favorable to the effect upon the stage arising
from the contrast between the tartan worn by the Macleans, which has
a red glaring effect, and that of the Campbells, which is dark
green; thus the followers of the Chieftains will be at once
distinguished from each other.'
The Scots Magazine furnished the following details:
The scenery was very fine and striking, so far as the too limited
extent of the theatre would admit. We noticed only one impropriety.
One of the rooms in the interior of the Earls castle, instead of
displaying Gothic architecture, and the traces of antiquity, is
quite in the modern style, and crowded with Corinthian pillars.
Scott was much pleased with the theatre, which he declared was
large enough for every purpose' and Mr. Siddons told Scott at this
time that he preferred a small stage, 'because the machinery is
pliable and manageable in proportion to its size. Yet in 1820 the
manager was conscious of the limitations of this theatre, in
connection with another of Joanna Baillies plays, De Monfort.
Scott completed the prologue for The Family Legend on January 214.
The critic in the Scots Magazine says that it appeared to us worthy
of him, though we could not relish Mr. Terrys recitation. Mr. T.
should remember, that there is a difference between reciting and
acting.' The epilogue was written by Mr. Mackenzie, and was spoken
by Mrs. Siddons, in whose mouth 'it was truly charming* Her
recitation of it is a model of sweet and graceful playfulness.'
Of the acting little can be said in addition to Scotts report. The
journals of the time, however, substantiate some of his opinions.
'Mr. Siddons, in John of Lome, was, as he usually is, highly
respectable. He seemed to have a thorough conception of his part,
and supported it well throughout.' The Dublin University Magazine
describes Mrs. Henry Siddons as one of the most accomplished
actresses of her day,in the very foremost list of those whose
private virtues have enhanced the lustre of their professional
excellence/ On January 21 Scott wrote to a friend: 'The principal
female part is very prettily rehearsed by Mrs. Henry Siddons, our
Managers better half.' A more detailed criticism is given by the
Scots Magazine: 'Mrs. Siddons, in Helen, was also extremely
pleasing. This lady excells greatly in all gentle and tender scenes,
to which her mellow and liquid voice is admirably adapted. Scenes
which require dignity she does also well, tho not without some
straining/ Scotts fine criticism will be found below.
This production of The Family Legend seems to have been very
successful. The Monthly Mirror says: I will not trouble you with
any remarks, because as the authoress is a Scotswoman, and the play
founded upon a favorite Scots tradition, I might appear to you not
to be actuated by strict impartiality. I shall only mention that it
has been well received, although not with such unequivocal marks of
approbation as The Friend of the Family The writer in the Scots
Magazine is also very guarded in his approval. 'It unfortunately
He says, 'that a rumour had really gone forth against Miss Baillie's
capacity of adapting her pieces to theatrical representation. To all
these causes it may probably be ascribed, that there has appeared a
general disposition to talk lightly of The Family Legend. Hence we
went (on the third or fourth night) perhaps with some prepossession
against it. But though forced to admit that there were in the plot
faults, very great faults, sufficient to give a plausible colour to
this judgment, we were on the whole highly gratified. It appeared to
us that there were beauties, even in point of stage effect, which
might well establish its character as a popular and pleasing
addition to our stock of acting plays. The same writer, however,
gave as a final estimate an expression of opinion which summarizes
the more favorable criticism. The appearance of this piece' he says,
'may fairly be considered as forming an era in the literary history
of this metropolis. Since Douglas, no tragedy has made its
appearance on our stage, none at least that we recollect of, or that
has attracted any general attention/ The Correspondent for March 12,
1810, says: Its success here was evidently owing to this
nationality, and to no other recommendation. Applause was conferred
almost entirely upon those parts in which high compliments were paid
to the Scotch; the inhabitants of Edinburgh entirely forgot that
there was nothing more ludicrous than that people should applaud
praise given to themselves; and it was absolutely disgusting to see
even some of those who had the external shape of gentlemen sillily
nodding at and twitching one another, whenever any oi these absurd
compliments were paid. A bookseller, we hear, proposes to publish
the play!!! We would advise him to calculate on the sale of
five-and-twenty, and to sell these at so high a rate as to defray
The actor-manager who wrote on the plays for the Dublin University
Magazine in April, 1851, assents to the statement of the disgusted
critic quoted above, but with a different conclusion. The Edinburgh
public,' he says, 'were pleased and flattered by a national story,
given to them by a country-woman; it was received with warm applause
for fourteen consecutive nights, frequently repeated afterwards, and
remained long on the stock list of the theatre.'
That this national appeal was deliberate is indicated by a letter
written by Scott on January 21, 1810, in which he says: The
enclosed jangling verses are the only effort I have made in rhyme
since I came to Edinburgh for the winter. They were written within
this hour, and are to be spoken to a beautiful tragedy of Joanna
Baillie .... Henry Mackenzie, author of The Man of Feeling, writes
an epilogue; so the piece, being entirely of Scotch manufacture,
has, independent of its own merit, every chance of succeeding before
a national audience.'
Sir Walter Scott's letter to the author in regard to this
presentation is so full of personal comment that it should be
reproduced almost entire. On January'30, 1810, he wrote her:
You have only to imagine all that you could wish to give success to
a play, and your conceptions will still fall short of the complete
and decided triumph of The Family Legend. The house was crowded to a
most extraordinary degree; many people had come from your native
capital of the west; everything that pretended to distinction,
whether from rank or literature, was in the boxes, and in the pit
such an aggregate mass of humanity as I have seldom if ever
witnessed in the same space. It was quite obvious from the
beginning, that the cause was to be very fairly tried before the
public, and that if anything went wrong, no effort, even of your
numerous and zealous friends, could have had much influence in
guiding or restraining the general feeling. Some good-natured
persons had been kind enough to propagate reports of a strong
opposition, which, though I considered them as totally groundless,
did not by any means lessen the extreme anxiety with which I waited
the rise of the curtain. But in a short time I saw there was no
ground whatever for apprehension, and yet I sat the whole time
shaking for fear a scene-shifter, or a carpenter, or some of the
subaltern actors, should make some blunder, and interrupt the
feeling of deep and general interest which soon seized on the whole
pit, box, and gallery, as Mr. Bayes has it. The scene on the rock
struck the utmost possible effect into the audience, and you heard
nothing but sobs on all sides. The banquet scene was equally
impressive, and so was the combat. Of the greater scenes, that
between Lorn and Helen in the castle of Maclean, that between Helen
and her lover, and the examination of Maclean himself in Argyles
castle, were applauded to the very echo. Siddons announced the play
for the rest of the week,' which, was received not only with a
thunder of applause, but with cheering and throwing up of hats and
handkerchiefs. Mrs. Siddons supported her part incomparably,
although just recovered from the indisposition mentioned in my last.
Siddons himself played well indeed, and moved and looked with great
spirit. A Mr. Terry, who promises to be a fine performer, went
through the part of the Old Earl with great taste and effect. For
the rest I cannot say much, excepting that from the highest to the
lowest they were most accurately perfect in their parts, and did
their very best. Malcolm de Gray was tolerable but stickishMaclean
came off decentlybut the conspirators were sad hounds .... As the
play greatly exceeded the usual length (lasting till half-past ten),
we intend, when it is repeated to-night, to omit some of the
passages where the weight necessarily fell on the weakest of our
host, although we may hereby injure the detail of the plot. The
scenery was very good, and the rock, without appearance of
pantomime, was so contrived as to place Mrs. Siddons in a very
precarious situation to all appearance. The dresses were more tawdry
than I should have judged proper, but expensive and showy. I got my
brother Johns Highland recruiting party to reinforce the garrison
of Inverary, and as they mustered beneath the porch of the castle,
and seemed to fill the court-yard behind, the combat scene had
really the appearance of reality. Siddons has been most attentive,
anxious, assiduous, and docile, and had drilled his troops so well
that the prompters aid was unnecessary, and I do not believe he
gave a single hint the whole night; nor were there any false or
ridiculous accents or gestures even among the underlings, though God
knows they fell often far short of the true spirit. Mrs. Siddons
spoke, the epilogue extremely well: the prologue, which I will send
you in its revised state, was also very well received. Mrs. Scott
sends her kindest compliments of congratulation ; she had a party of
thirty friends in one small box, which she was obliged to watch like
a clucking hen till she had gathered her whole flock, for the crowd
was insufferable. I am going to see the Legend to-night, when I
shall enjoy it quietly, for last night I was so much interested in
its reception that I cannot say I was at leisure to attend to the
feelings arising from the representation itself.
Scott's reports did not end with the first nights performance. On
February 6th, he wrote the author:
Through this whole week the theatre has been fully attended, and by
all the fashionable people in town; on Saturday in particular the
house was as full as on Monday,fuller was impossible,and the most
enthusiastic approbation was express'd in every quarter. All this
while the Legend has been the only subject of town talk, where
praise and censure were of course mingled. The weight of criticism
falls on the head of Duart, and I observe that the fair critics in
general think that he gives up the lady too easily. . . . Yesterday
I went with all my little folks, who were delighted, and cried like
any little pigs over Helens distress.
He adds, Mrs. President Blair has requested the Legend for next
Saturday; a large house is expected.
On March 2, 1810, he wrote to his friend J. B. S. Morrit:
Miss Baillie's play went off capitally here, notwithstanding her
fond and overcredulous belief in a Creator of the World. The fact is
so generally believed that it is man who makes the Deity, that I am
surprised it has never been maintained as a corollary, that the
knife and . fork make the fingers. We wept till our hearts were
sore, and applauded till our hands were blistered what could we
more and this in crowded theatres.
The effect of this Edinburgh production is variously described.
Scott says: 'I must not omit to mention, that all through these
islands [the Hebrides] I have found every person familiarly
acquainted with The Family Legend, and great admirers.; Lucy Aikin,
on the other hand, wrote in a different tone to Mrs. Barbauld: 'The
Highland minister told us that the clan McLeod are offended with
Miss Baillies representation of their ancestor, and that their poet
has written a long Erse ballad giving a quite different account of
the matter. He was himself well acquainted with the traditions about
it, and had once been nearly cast away on the ladys rock.
The pecuniary results of The Family Legend must have been entirely
satisfactory to her. Scott estimated before the production that,
'supposing the piece to run nine nights and so forth, [the authors
rights] cannot be less than about £300 or £400. As the run was
fourteen nights in succession, the proceeds must have exceeded even
II. In England.
1811, March 4, Newcastle, Theatre Royal.
A Tragedy, (never acted here) called The Family Legend; or,
Caledonian Clans, and 'performed at the Theatre-Royal, Edinburgh,
to overflowing houses, with universal applause.
The cast was:
John of LomeMr. MCready HelenMiss Phillips
Sir HubertMr. Mansell
In his reminiscences, Macready says: The public favour attended me
in the fresh attempts I made, and the Earl of Essex, Roderick Dhu,
in a drama called the Knight of Snowdon, founded on Walter
Scotts Lady of the Lake, John of Lorne, in Miss Baillies play of
the Family Legend, and Julian, in a piece called the Peasant
Boy, which was exactly suited to my years, and which, from my
earnestness and reality, affected the audiences very deeply, all
strengthened the partiality of my early patrons.
1811, March 19, Bath.116 This was the first presentation there.
There is no notice of repetition.
The cast was:
Earl of ArgyleMr. Bengough HelenMiss Jameson
John of LorneMr. Abbott
For this production the play was reduced to four acts, but Scotts
prologue was retained. It was given for Mr. Abbott's benefit.117
Genest says that Miss Jameson * was a very pleasing actressjust the
actress wanted at Bathbut not good enough to have played principal
characters in London.118
1813, March 24, Newcastle, Theatre-Royal.119
'Not acted here these 2 years.
The cast was:
John of LorneMr. MCready HelenMiss' Sullivan
Earl of ArgyleMr. Evatt RosaMrs. Cuffley
MacleanMr. T. Short
No details are available concerning this production.
1815, May 29, London, Drury Lane. 'Never acted here, the play-bill
The cast was:
Earl of ArgyleMr. Bartley HelenMrs. Bartley
John of LorneMr. Rae RosaMiss Boyce
Sir Hubert de GreyMr. S. Penley
If the drama was presented as performed at the Theatre Royal,
Edinburgh, it is probable that the condensed form of the second
night was used. The play bill announces, 'New and Appropriate
Scenery, Dresses, and Decorations, but there seem to be no details
as to the production.
The original prologue, was spoken by Mr. Bartley, and the original
epilogue by Mrs. Edwin.
Mary Berry records her opinion of the acting and of the success of
the performance: 'I was in Lady Hardwicks box at Drury Lane to see
Joanna Baillies Family Legend acted for the benefit of Mrs.
Bartley. It succeeded better than I expected; the piece is really
interesting, and the interest is sustained and does not finish with
the catastrophe of the heroine. It could not have been worse acted;
however, the fine lines, spoilt as they were, were appreciated and
applauded by the pit.
Joanna Baillie attended this performance with Lord Byron and Mr. and
Mrs. Walter Scott.121 This was possibly the occasion that she
described to a friend on which Lord Byron was obliged by
politeness, to escort her and her sister to the opera, and her
perceiving that he was provoked, beyond measure at being there with
them, and that he made faces as he sat behind them.
Genest gives his opinion of the play in connection with this
performance: The last speech is contemptible, but on the whole this
is a good playthe language is frequently beautiful, and the plot is
interestingin the 3rd act a little pleasantry is introduced, but
March 22, Philadelphia.124 Brought out for the first time in
America. The Daily Advertiser calls it a new serious drama, and a
new historical drama. The national tone was emphasized by a Scots
Medley Overture, composed by Mr. Reinagle. There is no record of the
actors except that it was played for the benefit of Mrs. Wood. A
second performance was given March 27 for the benefit of Mr.
1816, June 7, Baltimore.126 Baltimore Theatre.
First time here, the serious play of The Family Legend in five
acts, performed at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, with great
applause. It was accompanied by the same Scots Medley as in
1808, November 7th, Liverpool, Theatre Royal.
Never acted upon any stage, 'an entirely new historical play.
The cast was:
Constantine PaleologusMr. Terry ValeriaMrs. Weston
MahometMr. Jones EllaMiss Grant
RodrigoMr. Rae LuciaMrs. Parker
JustinianiMr. D. Grant
The drama was here given a sub-title, The Band of Patriots. It was
altered for representation by Mr. Terry, whose benefit it was.
This 'Melodramatic spectacle, under the management of Dibdin, was
called Constantine and Valeria.
The Dublin University Magazine gives the following detailed account
of the Edinburgh production of Constantine Paleologus:
It was written expressly for Kemble and Mrs. Siddons129 and
glorious representatives they would have been of the two leading
personages, the last Caesar and his devoted partner. The reason why
they rejected this fine tragedy has never been explained; ... On
reading Constantine Paleologus I was much struck with its beauties
and capability for producing stage effect. In 1820, ... I selected
it for my benefit night, and bestowed much time and consideration in
arranging it for the purpose. . . . Miss Baillie happened to arrive
in Edinburgh on a visit to some friends, at this precise juncture,
and while the rehearsals were going on. The writer wrote Miss
Baillie, telling her his high opinion of her play, and saying that
it was necessary occasionally to omit beautiful passages, which were
not essential to the development of the plot, and sometimes even
impeded the progress of the action. He concluded by recalling to her
mind the fact that the play, in its original state, greatly exceeded
the usual length of acting tragedies; that the taste of the present
day inclined to the delineation of vehement passion, almost to the
exclusion of declamatory and didactic composition; and, lastly, that
the means afforded by a comparatively small theatrical company,
render it indispen-sible to condense the principal characters, so as
to place the weight of the representation in a few hands. . . . The
event was satisfactory to all concerned.130 The house was crowded,
the audience liberal of applause, and the authoress delighted. When
I was introduced to her in her private box, after the curtain fell,
she said she had never passed a happier evening in her life.
This production was very simply staged, and made no pretense at
pageantry. In a note the writer adds that performers were so much
annoyed with the constant rehearsals of this play, and the trouble
it occasioned them, that they christened it, as a green-room joke,
1825, June 30, Dublin, Theatre Royal.
This was the first Dublin production, and was repeated several
The cast was:
Constantine PaleologusMr. Abbott ValeriaMiss Jarman SenatorMr.
The advertisement states that it was a * New Historical Drama, in
Five Acts, . . . altered and adapted for representation in this
theatre. The alteration is undoubtedly the same as that used in the
Edinburgh production, as the same actor-manager describes the
production as his own.
The announcement promised 'new and appropriate Scenery, Dresses, and
Decorations' and adds: In the course of the Play the following
Scenery will be introduced:Suburbs of Constantinople and Distant
View of Turkish Encampment. Grand Banquet in the Imperial Palace.
Exterior of Palace of Constantine. Grand Chamber in the Palace,
commanding view of the Bosphorus. The Imperial Galley and
Fleet,Burning Ruins of Constantinople/ The manager assigns this
scenery to definite acts. 'We had here more extensive means than in
Edinburgh. New scenery was painted, and much pageantry introduced. A
splendid banquet in the imperial palace, in the first act; a
singularly well organized mob, in the second; a grand military
procession, in the third; the Bosphorus, with the imperial fleet and
galley, in the fourth; and, in the fifth, the storming of the city
and bearing off the body of the slain Emperor by his devoted band of
brothers.' Music was also added, as The Greek and Turkish Marches'
were composed by Mr. A. Lee.
Constantine Paleologus was very successful in Dublin, and repeated
several times to applauding audiences, while the press unanimously
spoke in liberal praise of author, adapter, actors, and the general
arrangements. I would revive it, but revivals are unlucky, while the
prestige in favour of new names and against old ones is too strong
to be resisted. In the pride of my heart I sent copies of my
adaptation to the two leading London theatres, thinking, with the
host of talent they then commanded, one or the other might deem it
worthy their attention, but I never could get an answer, although I
asked more than once, and almost with whispering humbleness (as
Shylock says), for that inexpensive and easy courtesy.'
1817, June 7, 9, 10, II, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 26, July 18, London,
English Opera House. Genest lists this as the first run of the
play;134 it was also Mr. Johnston's first appearance in that
The cast was:
BaltimoreMr. H. Johnston FreemanMr. Bartley TruebridgeMr. T.
Miss FreemanMiss Kelly Mrs. BaltimoreMrs. Chatterly Mrs.
Charles BaltimoreMr. Horn PeterMr. W. S. Chatterley
Besides these principals, the play-bill mentions more than forty
other actors and actresses, who had minor parts.
The play at this time was not produced as written, but was
transformed into a three-act * Musical Drama with the approbation of
the Authoress.' The lyrics were written by S. J. Arnold, and the
music was 'selected, arranged, and composed by Mr. Horn.'
Several new scenes were painted for this performance, as it was the
opening production of the year.
Little is known in regard to the acting. Genest says that Johnston
was a 'good actor' but states that he was not engaged after the
season of 18201821, a fact which affects somewhat our estimate of
his ability. Genest also remarks that Bartley looked and acted
Freeman particularly well.' The European Magazine comments upon the
minor characters: Though she [Miss Kelly] makes more of the part
than any other actress could do, the character is no compliment to
her talent. Mr. Horn was a very tame loverbut sang sweetly. W. S.
Chatterley . . . played the part with considerable humour, and Mrs.
Chatterley was extremely interesting.'
The prices were the usual ones for this theatre: Boxes, 5s; Pit, 3s;
Gallery, 2s; Upper Gallery, 1s.
Hazlitt ridicules The Election, as he saw it, as the perfection of
baby-house theatricals/ and says that it was performed * at the
Lyceum with indifferent success.'
1836, February 25, London, Covent
Garden.139 First Night of Miss Joanna Baillies New Tragedy.'
The cast was:
GarcioMr. Charles Kemble RevaniMr. G. Bennett Marquis of TortonaMr.
Pritchard GonzalosMr. Thompson .
MargaretMiss Helen Faucit SopheraMiss Wyndham NurseMiss Partridge
and minor characters.
LudoviquoMr. Tilbury Gan vinoMr. Fredericks PietroMr. J. Webster
GomezMr. Griffith HermitMr. Harris PilgrimMr. Bannister
The history of this play before its production is more varied than
that of Joanna Baillies other dramas. As early as August 23rd,
1819, Scott wrote to Lady Louisa Stuart in regard to it; I am in
sad perplexity just now about a play of Joanna Baillies which she
has sent to Mrs. Siddons (our manageress) to be acted in Edinburgh.
It contains abundance of genius and of fine poetry and passion: in
short, abundance of all that one expects particularly from her. But
then it is not well adapted for the stage, and many things cannot be
represented in the way the author has conceived them. There is a
coxcomb who turns out a man of courage and spirit. This is rather a
comic than a tragic character. Then there is a child,an infant,a
personage which, unless in the single instance of the pantomime
termed the Virgin of the Sun, has never succeeded. A wax doll is
ridiculous; a living infant more absurdly ludicrous. . . . Whatever
theatrical audiences may have been in former days, they are now such
a brutal assemblage that I am lost in astonishment at any one
submitting to their censure. Before January 18th, 1820, he had
decided the question, and wrote to Joanna Baillie: 'On conversing
with Mrs. Siddons when I came to town, and on seeing her company, I
could not think of trying The Separation; the company is by no means
strong in tragedy, and I own I could not have risked reputation so
dear to me as yours upon imperfect playing. I read it twice to my
family, and it drew tears. There is no record of the means used to
persuade Miss Baillie to allow another play of hers to appear on the
London boards. Evidently Henriquez and the Separation were ready at
about the same time.
In February, 1836, Fraser's Magazine reported in regard to these
plays that in Henriquez there is not a single line but would prove
effective in the hands of a skilful actor. The part seems made for
Charles Kemble, and Charles Kemble born to play the part. He is, we
have heard, most anxious to undertake it; and, with Miss Faucit to
support him in Leonora, surely such a tragedy, so acted, could not
fail of drawing houses, and proving profitable to the manager.
Frazer's Literary Chronicle says: 'It was stated that Henriquez was
the part C. Kemble had fixed onbut that Miss Helen Faucit objected,
on the ground that the character of Leonora was not sufficiently
prominent for her rising reputation, etc. etc. This is very
characteristic.C. Kemble was quite right in his selection, but like
a considerate man, gave way to the whim of the Lady Helen. As a
result of this family quarrel, Separation was substituted, as it
gave Miss Faucit a good opportunity to show her skill as an actress
in creating an original character. Henriquez was at once accepted
by the rival theatre, Drury Lane, where it was produced on March
The play was in five acts, and was staged with new scenery. The
play-bill announces 'new scenes. Hall in Count Garcios
Castle.Distant View of the Castle with Wild Alley and Grove,
Dressing Chamber of the CountessRamparts and Battlements of the
Castle. It seems to have had no embellishments of music or
The reviews of the day contain several criticisms of the acting. The
Garcio of Kemble, a very difficult part, . . . was all that could be
made of a character which could . excite no sympathy. He looked a
person of mark and likelihood" and declaimed like one practised in
the art.' The Literary Gazette criticizes only one thing about the
drama. It says 'The scenes between Garcio and his friend Rovani. . .
followed far too closely in imitation upon Othello and Cassio.'
Miss Faucit's performance of Lady Margaret was creditable to so
young an actress. Scenes of strong emotion were her best' said the
Athenceum. It was the first character she had been called upon to
originate, and she was naturally very nervous, both before and
during the performance. It was characteristic of her resourcefulness
and self-command, however, that she was not only able to control her
own nervousness on this occasion, but also to assist Charles Kemble,
who was acting with her. Kemble, nervous himself, and occasionally
at a loss for words, was so deaf that he could not hear the
prompter. Whereupon the novice forgot her own terrors and repeatedly
whispered his lines to him, a service for which he afterwards
expressed much gratitude.' The scene between Kemble and MissFaucit
in the third act was finely acted. The applause of the audience was
honestly won and freely bestowed on this scene/150 The Literary
Chronicle was less enthusiastic over Miss Faucit's acting than were
the other journals. It says merely, Miss Faucit was very
"respectable as all young ladies should be.'
On these two performers the. whole weight of the drama rested, and
scant attention was paid to the minor performers. The Literary
Gazette mentioned by name the three seconds, and the Athenceum makes
a definite charge against Mr. Bennett. It says, 'Mr. George Bennett'
played the part of Rovani with complete bouleversement of the
authors meaning/151 As usual, there is disagreement as to the
success of the production. Macready recorded in his diary for
February 26th, 1836: Read in the Times the report of last nights
debate, and of the failure of Miss Baillies play of Separation.
The Edinburgh Review said: Separation and Henriquez have been
represented on the stage; but neither with any brilliant success.
That the "Separation should not have succeeded we feel little
surprise; for its faults are great as well as its beauties; and the
interest, which is at its height in the third act, almost vanishes
with the disclosure of the murder, and the announcement of the
Countesss determination. On the other hand, the Ladys Magazine
reported: 'The audience called for Mr. Kemble and Miss Faucit at the
end of the play, and warmly greeted them. The uproarious character
of the ovation is shown by the Literary Gazette: At the fall of the
curtain the applause greatly predominated and the dead hero and
heroine were absurdly whistled and cat-called forward to receive the
sweet voices of the foolish among the audience. Rowton says:
The success which has attended the performance of The Sep-aration
and Henriquez shows that with performers sedulously bent on carrying
out the authors design, and willing to sacrifice momentary applause
for ultimate appreciation, Miss Baillie's plays would be as forcible
in acting as they are in striking on perusal. But our stage is too
melodramatic for this at present: and possibly the taste of the
public too melodramatic also. There is too great a love for
blue-fire and tin-foil, and broadsword combats as yet: when once
this taste for mere show is rendered subservient to the higher
effects of moral beauty and fitness, the Plays on the Passions
cannot fail to become popular upon the Stage.
Pecuniarily the production must have been fairly successful, as the
Literary Chronicle reports: 'As occasionally happens on a first
night the house was full.153 That this drama was considered an
experiment is indicated by the fact that the prices seem to have
been lowered. The play bill quotes them as: Boxes 4s-Half Price 2s.
Pit 2S-Half Price 1s. Lower Gallery is-No Half Price. Upper Gallery
6d. In spite of the excellent principals and the reduced price,
'the so much talked-of and wished-for experiment ... of producing
some of Miss Joanna Baillies dramas at a large theatre' did not
prove successful, and the The Separation was withdrawn.
1836, March 19, London, Drury Lane.
The 'First Night of the New Tragedy was apparently the last.
The cast was:
AlonzoMr. Warde LeonoraMiss Ellen Tree
Don HenriquezMr. Vandenhoff MenciaMiss Lee Don CarlosMr. King
BalthazarMr. Baker BiasMiss Poole
AntonioMr. Cooper and other minor actors.
The acting of Vandenhoff received unqualified praise from the
Literary Chronicle: 'He performed the part better than any actor now
on the boards could have done . . . He was most enthusiastically
greeted on the first night of his performing Henriquez" and he
merited the compliment. He had to sustain the whole weight of the
piece, and throughout displayed discriminating energy and a fine
perception of character. The same review speaks of Miss Ellen Tree
as an 'incomparably superior actress to Helen Faucit, and says that
she imparted to the role of Leonora the charm and grace of her own
bewitching womanhood. Her performance was perfectly successful.' The
Literary Gazette of the same date, however, speaks of Henriquez as
'not over well cast.'
At the close of the performance, Henriquez was announced for
repetiton, amid 'some tokens of disapprobation.' Easter Week was the
date set for its reappearance,155 but there are no further notices
in regard to it during the spring months. Nothing has led us so
completely to despair of the revival of true dramatic taste among
us' said the Edinburgh Review, as the announcement we have just
noticed in a newspaper that "Henriquez" when represented before a
London audience, had been treated, like its predecessors, with
comparative coldness.' Frasers Literary Chronicle says that it met
with much the same reception as The Separation: Every disposition
to deal most favourably with the piece was evinced by the performers
and by the audienceyet on the part of the latter we take upon
ourselves to say that the drama was endurednothing more.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.