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noon; but later hours came afterwards to be the fashion. Pepys notes, on one occasion, that the play was not over until eleven, and that he walked home by moonlight. And in Evelyn's correspondence, when complaining of the frequency of “our theatrical pastimes during the season of Lent,” when, he says, there are more wicked and obscene plays permitted in London than in all the world besides, he remarks “ that the ladies and the gallants come recking from the play late on Saturday night to their Sunday devotions; and the ideas of the farce possess their fancies to the infinite prejudice of devotion, besides the advantages it gives to our reproachful blasphemers.”
Strange and exciting was the scene, on the evening of February 2nd, 1679, at the Duke's Theatre, where, blazing with diamonds, and conspicuous by her painted doll-like beauty, sat Louise de Queronaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. Some roisterers, informed of her presence, were seized with a frenzy of morality, and with drawn swords and flaming torches made their way into the pit, shouting curses upon the Duchess of Portsmouth and other persons of honour. A general melée ensued, in which the intruders hurled their firebrands among the affrighted actors on the stage, while they pricked and slashed the limbs and bodies of the audience, until they were overpowered and driven out. Instead of punishing the rioters, Charles punished the unoffending actors, and closed the house during the royal pleasure.
Here is another curious incident, recorded by Pepys in 1667—“ how a gentleman of good habit, sitting just before us, cutting of some fruit in the midst of the play, did drop down as dead; but with much ado, Orange Moll
did thrust her finger adown his throat, and brought him to life again.”
It was at the Duke's Theatre in Dorset Gardens, on an April evening in 1682, that Charles, the son of Sir Edward Dering, quarrelled with a choleric young Welshman, named Vaughan, and not having room in the pit to fight it out, climbed on the stage, and exchanged thrust and pass before the excited audience. Dering got the worst of it, and was carried home, bleeding with a wound in the side; and Vaughan was detained a prisoner until the authorities were satisfied that the other offender's hurt was not mortal.
The fine gentlemen of the period would have found time hang heavy on their hands but for the hours passed in the Theatre. When weary of displaying themselves in the pit, or lounging in the boxes by the side of their lady-loves, they resorted to the tiring-rooms of the pretty actresses, and made merry with the paraphernalia of the toilette. One Saturday, in February, 1667, a certain Sir Hugh Myddelton commented with such rude freedom on the dressing processes of the nymphs of Drury Lane Theatre, that Rebecca Marshall sharply advised him to reserve his company for the ladies of the Duke's House since those who served the King did not meet with his approbation. In reply Sir Hugh, an ill-conditioned fellow, threatened he would kick, or that his footman should kick her. On the following Monday Mistress Marshall complained of this insult to the King, who, however, did not at once take notice of it. As she left the theatre on Tuesday evening, after the play, Sir Hugh hung about her, and at last whispered something to a ruffianly retainer, who thereupon followed her closely, and pressed against her with such violence that, alarmed lest he should rob or stab her, she screamed for help. The wretch for a minute or two was abashed; then, picking up some mud and refuse from the gutter, he daubed it about the actress's face and hair, and took to flight. The next day she lodged a second complaint with the King, who, some few days afterwards, issued a decree, prohibiting gentlemen from entering the tiring-rooms of the ladies of the King's Theatre. The prohibition, however, was as unwelcome to the actresses as to the beaux, and in a short time was, by mutual consent, ignored.
Of the audiences of the Restoration, that is, of those audiences so far as they were composed of fine ladies and fine gentlemen, Monsieur Henri Taine furnishes an elaborate picture. “They were rich,” he says, “ they had tried to deck themselves with the polish of Frenchmen ; they added to the stage moveable decorations, music, lights, probability, comfort, every external aid; but they wanted heart. Imagine these foppish and half-intoxicated men, who saw in love nothing beyond desire, and in man nothing beyond sensuality ; Rochester in the place of Mercutio. What part of his soul could comprehend poesy and fancy? The comedy of romance was altogether beyond his reach; he could only seize the actual world, and of this world but the palpable and gross externals. Give him an exact picture of ordinary life, commonplace and probable occurrences, literal imitations of what he himself was and did ; lay the scene in London, in the current year; copy his coarse words, his brutal jokes, his conversation with the orange-girls, his rendezvous in the Park, his attempts at French dissertation. Let him recognize himself, let him find again the people and the manners he had just left behind him in the tavern or the ante-chamber; let the theatre and the street reproduce one another. Comedy will give him the same entertainment as real life ; he will wallow equally well there in vulgarity and lewdness; to be present there will demand neither imagination nor wit; eyes and memory are the only requisites. This exact imitation will amuse him and instruct him at the same time. ... The author, too, will take care to amuse him by his plot, which generally has the deceiving of a husband or a father for its subject. The fine gentlemen agree with the author in siding with the gallant; they follow his fortunes with interest, and fancy that they themselves have the same success with the fair. Add to this, women debauched, and willing to be debauched; and it is manifest how these provocations, these manners of prostitutes, that interchange of exchanges and surprises, that carnival of rendezvous and suppers, the impudence of the scenes only stopping short of physical demonstration, these songs with their double meaning, that coarse slang shouted loudly and replied to amidst the tableaux vivants, all that stage imitation of orgie, must have stirred up the innermost feelings of the habitual practisers of intrigue.”
From the audiences we return to the actors.
When Killigrew opened the King's Theatre his company included Bateman, Baxter, Theophilus Bird, Blagden, Burt, Cartwright, Clem, Duke, Hancock, Charles Hart, Kynaston, Lacy, Mohun, Robert and William Shotterel, and Wintersel. He afterwards added Beeston, Bell, Charleton, Goodman, Griffin, Haines, Harris, Hughes, Liddell, Reeves, and Shirley. The ladies were Mrs. Corey, Eastland, Hughes, Knipp, Anne and Rebecca
Marshall, Rutter, Uphill, and Weaver; while at different dates engagements were made with Mrs. Boutell, Nell Gwynn, James, Reeves, and Verjuice. The members of the King's Company were formally sworn in at the Lord Chamberlain's office as His Majesty's servants, and the ten leading actors were not only entered on the establishment of the Royal Household, but supplied with a handsome uniform of scarlet cloth and silver lace.
To the Duke's Theatre belonged Betterton, Dixon, Lillieston, Lovell, James and Robert Nokes; and, afterwards, Blagden, Harris, Medbourne, Norris, Price, Richards, and Young The ladies were Mrs. Betterton, Davenport, Davies, Gibbs, Holden, Jennings, and Long.
Some degree of reputation attaches to Charles Hart, the grandson of Shakespeare's sister-not to be confounded with that other Hart who served as a major in Prince Rupert's cavalry. He began his professional career by playing women's parts, but after the Restoration asserted his histrionic capacity by his Alexander the Great (in Lee's play), his Cataline (in Ben Jonson's tragedy), and his Othello. He was not less successful as Manly in Wycherley's “Plain Dealer.” Rymer refers to him and Mohun as the Æsopus and Roscius of their time. His handsome presence made him a great favourite with the ladies, and we know that he was Nell Gwynn's 6 Charles the First.” In the scandalous chronicles his name is also associated with that of the Duchess of Cleveland. Says Pepys (April 7th, 1668) :—“Mrs. Knipp tells me that my Lady Castlemaine is mightily in love with Hart of their house ; and he is much with her in private, and she goes to him and do give him many presents; and that the thing is most certain, and Beck Marshall only