Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 48.djvu/122

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
There was a problem when proofreading this page.

turned. He was thereupon attacked by the companions of his assailant. But Quin, Ryan, and other actors gathered round him, and the aristocratic party rushed into the body of the house slashing the hangings with their swords, breaking the sconces, and doing so much damage that the theatre had to be shut for a couple of days. The offenders were expelled by the watchmen, whom Quin summoned [see Quin, James]; and the king, on the application of Rich, granted a guard, as at Drury Lane, to attend the theatre. ‘Harlequin Dr. Faustus,’ produced at Drury Lane in 1723, by Thurmond, a dancing master, was answered by Rich with ‘The Necromancer, or the History of Dr. Faustus,’ on 20 Dec. 1723. At Lincoln's Inn Fields, and subsequently at Covent Garden, extra prices were charged on the nights on which the pantomime was played. This caused some protest. The offer was then made to return the overcharge to those going out before the overture to the pantomime. On 21 Jan. Rich brought out ‘Harlequin, a Sorcerer,’ by Theobald, a piece subsequently revived at Covent Garden with prodigious success. ‘Harlequin Anna Bullen’ was given on 11 Dec. 1727. On 29 Jan. 1728 the production of Gay's ‘Beggar's Opera,’ refused at Drury Lane and accepted by Rich, eclipsed all previous success, making, as was said, ‘Gay rich, and Rich gay.’ It was given without intermission sixty-three times, and was revived next season and played both by the regular company and by children. The performance of Gay's sequel, ‘Polly,’ was prohibited by the lord chamberlain.

In 1730 Rich set on foot a subscription to build a house in Bow Street, Covent Garden, and gave a public exhibition of the designs of his architect, Shepherd. Before January 1731 six thousand pounds were subscribed and the building begun. Rich paid a ground-rent of 100l. a year to the Duke of Bedford. At the prices charged, 5s. to the boxes, 2s. 6d. to the pit, 2s. and 1s. to the gallery, and 10s. 6d. for a seat on the stage, the house was calculated to hold about 200l. An accident, by which several workmen were killed or injured, combined with some lack of funds, delayed the opening of the house until late in 1732. Meanwhile Rich's company opened the season at Lincoln's Inn Fields with ‘Hamlet’ on 22 Sept. 1732. On 5 Dec. the ‘Anatomist’ concluded, as was supposed, the performances at the old house, and on the 7th the new house opened unostentatiously with a revival of Wycherley's ‘Way of the World.’ To meet the great demand for seats, pit and boxes were ‘laid together at 5s.’ The only actor of primary importance in the cast was Quin, who played Fainall. The scenes were new and well painted, and the decorations handsome, and the piece ran for four nights. The ‘Beggar's Opera,’ with Miss Norsa as Polly, was then revived, and proved once more so successful that the regular company went back to Lincoln's Inn Fields, and did not return until 11 Jan. 1733. On 10 Feb. Gay's posthumous opera of ‘Achilles’ was given for the first time, and played for eighteen consecutive nights, compelling a further withdrawal of the regular company to Lincoln's Inn Fields. No pantomime was given, but Lun (Rich) played, 23 Jan., Harlequin in the ‘Cheats or the Tavern Bilkers, in a dialogue between Harlequin, Punch, and Scaramouch.’ Drury Lane showed hostile feeling to the new house, producing in rivalry the ‘Way of the World’ and the ‘Beggar's Opera.’ But Covent Garden held its own. Rich gave in all some 123 representations during his first season there, the theatre closing on 1 June. In spite of the augmented prices the receipts on the opening night were only 115l., and this was reduced on the second night to 61l. 7s. 6d. Ordinary prices began on 11 Dec. 1732. The largest amount obtained was with the ‘Beggar's Opera,’ which produced on the second night 122l. 11s. The house was visited by royalty about six times during the season. Hogarth's picture, erroneously dated 1728, of Rich's ‘Glory, or the Triumphant Entry into Covent Garden,’ refers to Rich's removal in 1732 to the new theatre. Vandergucht also issued a scenic print with the distich:

    Shakespeare, Rowe, Jonson, now are quite undone;
    These are thy triumphs, thy exploits, O Lun!

The somewhat sleepy and uneventful course of management was interrupted by the appearance of Garrick. When, on 10 May 1746, Garrick arrived in London, after his second visit to Dublin, he arranged for six performances at Covent Garden. These began on 11 June, and were remunerative alike to actor and manager. The following season Garrick remained at Covent Garden, Rich engaging in addition Quin and Mrs. Cibber. This season's profits are said to have amounted to 8,500l. Next year, when Garrick was at Drury Lane and Quin and Woodward had withdrawn from Covent Garden, matters were wholly different. Rich subsequently re-engaged Quin, Mrs. Woffington, Mrs. Cibber, Macklin, and other good actors. He exercised no influence over them, was despised by them, and was even held by some of them to