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them with a new house in 1674. Eight years later, on Killigrew's death, the two companies united, and started at the New Drury Lane Theatre, also built by Wren, on the 16th of November, 1682.
Before we put together a few biographical and critical notes respecting the Actors and Actresses of the Restoration, we must say a word or two in description of the theatres in which, and of the audience before which, they donned the sock and buskin. The usual hour of performance, at least in Charles II.'s early years, was three in the afternoon. The house was lighted, partly by the light of heaven, which the open roof—for the pit was not covered over*—freely admitted, and partly by flaring candles, which were trimmed by regular “snuffers.” Two rows of boxes † accommodated the King and his courtiers, the nobles, and the wealthier gentry; but the company in the pit was frequently among the best, and thither resorted the wit and the critic, on whose fiat the fate of play and players depended. Thither, too, went the gay gallants of the period, dividing their attention between the fair actresses on the stage and the beauties in the boxes, with a ready glance for a pretty face among the orange girls, who pushed the sale of their costly fruit. When, in February, 1668, Sir George Etherege's comedy, “She Would if She Could," was produced at the Duke's House, the pit was crowded with a brilliant company, including Buckingham, and Dorset, and Sedley, which incontinently condemned the play, much to the dissatisfaction of its author. Our wonder that ladies could attend the performance of so indecent a drama is not much lessened by the fact that they could, if they chose, appear in masks ; * but from the comments of Pepys on the charming faces he saw, and so loved to see, we infer that the number who made even this slight concession to decorum must have been very small.
* Pepys records, on one occasion, the inconvenience caused by a storm of
+ The prices of admission to the boxes seem to have ranged from 48. to 18d. On the first night of a new piece the prices were sometimes doubled. (See Pepys, Dec. 16th, 1661.)
The patronage of the Court was extended to the Stage during Charles's reign on a more liberal scale than ever before or since. The saturnine King, so falsely called “The Merry Monarch,” went to the theatre, almost every night, to escape for awhile from the ennui which consumed him, and of course was followed by everybody who breathed the atmosphere of the Court. I think the “auditorium” must often have presented a more interesting, and certainly a more entertaining spectacle than the stage. As, for example, on the 20th of April, 1661, when Mr. Pepys at the Cockpit saw the King, and the Duke of York and his recently-wedded Duchess. The play was Fletcher's “Humorous Lieutenant,” not very well acted ; but Mr. Pepys found great pleasure in seeing “so many great beauties, especially Mrs. Palmer (in due time to be known as Lady Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland), with whom the King did discover a great deal of familiarity.” Again, on October 2nd, 1662, when Catherine of Braganza made her first public appearance :—“I did go thither,” says Pepys, "and by very great fortune did follow four or five gentlemen who were carried to a little private door in the wall, and so crept through a narrow
*" I remember," says Colley Cibber, “ the ladies were then observed to be decently afraid of venturing bare-faced to a new comedy, till they had been assured they might do it without insult to their modesty ; or if their curiosity were too strong for their patience, they took care at least to save appearances, and rarely came in the first days of acting, but in masks, which custom, however, had so many ill consequences attending it, that it has been abolished these many years.”
place, and come into one of the boxes next the King's, but so as I could not see the King or Queen, but many of the fine ladies, who yet are really not so handsome generally as I used to take them to be, but that they are finely dressed. There we saw "The Cardinal' [by James Shirley], a tragedy I had never seen before, nor is there any great matter in it. The company that come with me into the box were all Frenchmen, that could speak no English; but Lord ! what sport they made to ask a pretty lady that they got among them, that understood both French and English, to make her tell them what the actors said.”
On the 21st of November Mr. Pepys took his wife to the Cockpit, and they had excellent places, and saw the King, and Queen, and the boy-Duke of Monmouth, and my Lady Castlemaine, and all the fine ladies. He was there again on the 1st of December-he was always making vows not to go to the theatre for a certain period, and always breaking these vows—and saw acted a translation of Corneille’s “ Cid "_"a play,” he says, “I have read with great delight, but is a most dull thing acted, which I never understood before, there being no pleasure in it, though done by Betterton, and by Ianthe [Mrs. Betterton], and by another fine wench [Mrs. Norton] that is now in the room of Roxalana [Mrs. Davenport] ; nor did the King or Queen once smile all the whole play, nor any of the whole company seem to take any pleasure, but what was in the greatness and gallantry of the com
We fear our dear friend Pepys had a touch of snobbishness or flunkeyism in his character, for when he went to the Duke's Theatre, on December 27th, to see the “ Siege of Rhodes,” he expresses himself as not pleased with the audience: the house was “full of citizens—there hardly being a gallant man or woman present !” And it was so on New Year's Day, 1663: “the house was full of citizens, and so the less pleasant.” But on this occasion, to make some amends, Mrs. Davenport, the actress, was there, in the chief box, radiant in a velvet gown, which was then “the fashion.”
At the Cockpit, on the 5th, the Duke and Duchess of York were present, and before all the audience “ did show some impertinent, and methought, unnatural dalliances, such as kissing of hands, and leaning upon one another.” But these great people seldom manifested much respect for the audience-or for themselves. What a scene is that which Pepys sketches for us as having occurred at the King's Theatre one day in January, 1664:—“How the King, coming the other day to his Theatre to see “The Indian Queen,' my Lady Castlemaine was in the next box before he came; and leaning over other ladies awhile to whisper with the King, she rose out of the box and went into the King's, and set herself on the King's right hand, between the King and the Duke of York; which put the King himself, as well as everybody else, out of countenance "—this impertinent feat being intended to prove to the world that she had not, as was supposed, lost the royal favour.
On the 4th of October Pepys went to see a foolish play called “ The General," and happened to sit near to Sir Charles Sedley, who “at every line did take notice of the dulness of the part and badness of the action, and that most pertinently.”
Another time he sees among the company Cromwell's daughter, Mary, with her husband, Viscount Falconbridge, and is much pleased by her gracious looks and modest dress, and by the timidity with which she shrinks from the gaze of curious spectators, putting on her vizard, and keeping it on all the play. But he is more gratified, we fancy, by the sight of laughing Nell Gwynn, who, with her fair locks and bright eyes, shines conspicuous in the front of the house, sometimes filling the soul of Pepys with exultation by condescending to chat with him, and sometimes moving his admiration by the sharp repartees she fearlessly exchanges with the most celebrated wits of the time.
On the 5th of June, 1665, he attends the performance at the Duke's Theatre of Lord Orrery's play of “Mustapha;” but “all the pleasure of the play was” that the King and Lady Castlemaine were present, “and pretty witty Nell Gwynn and the younger Marshall sat next us; which pleased me mightily.”
There is a curious entry in the Diary for December 21st, 1668. The King and his Court went to see “ Macbeth " at the Duke's Theatre, and Pepys sat just under them and Lady Castlemaine, and “close to a woman that comes into the pit, a kind of a loose gossip that pretends to be like her, and is so, something. The King and Duke of York minded me, and smiled upon me, at the handsome woman near me, but it vexed me to see Moll Davies, in a box over the King's and my Lady Castlemaine's, look down upon the King, and he up to her; and so did my Lady Castlemaine once, to see who it was ; but when she saw Moll Davies, she looked like fire, which troubled
We have remarked that, on the restoration of the Theatres, their performances began at three in the after