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the last scene Lothario's dead body lies on the bier, under decent covering; and it was usual for Warren, Powell's dresser, to take his master's place, instead of a dummy. On one occasion, forgetting how he was employed, Powell called angrily for his dresser, and at last with such a threatening emphasis that the poor fellow leaped up in a hurry, and ran from the stage. In his flight it so befell that his cloak caught in the bier, which was overturned, along with table and lamps, books and boxes, and even the Fair Penitent herself. The audience broke into a peal of laughter, and the catastrophe became the jest of the town. With a proper sense of what was due to its author, Betterton stopped the play in its full flood of success, so that the public might have time to forget the untoward incident.
Justly resenting the unfair treatment to which he and his fellow-actors were subjected by the proprietors of the theatre, Betterton, in 1695, collected round him a first-rate company, and opened a new theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Congreve wrote for him his “Love for Love,” which was produced on the first night, and was an immense triumph. “Scarcely any comedy within the memory of the oldest man had been equally successful. The actors were so elated that they gave Congreve a share in their theatre; and he promised in return to furnish them with a play every year, if his health would permit.” Two years passed, however, before he produced “The Mourning Bride,” the success of which was even greater than that of “Love for Love." But gradually the new theatre ceased to attract; and no better future attended a theatre in the Haymarket, which some of Betterton's friends and admirers built for him. He had lost most of his fortune in an East Indian speculation into which he had been tempted by his friend, Sir Frederick Watson ;* and a “benefit” which was given him in the season of 1708-9 was very welcome to the aged actor. In money for admission he received only £76; but the donations poured in so liberally that the net result was not less than £520. On this occasion he played Valentine in “Love for Love.” Next year it was determined that the benefit should be repeated. At the time Betterton was suffering severely from gout; and before he could limp upon the stage was compelled to resort to violent medicines. The part he had chosen was Melantius in “ The Maid's Tragedy” (April 10th, 1710), and he performed it with much of his old fire. But the remedies employed drove the gout to his head, and in a few days it proved fatal. He died on the 28th, and was interred with many tokens of public admiration and regret in Westminster Abbey. “Having received notice,” says Sir Richard Steele, in The Tatler that “the famous actor, Mr. Betterton, was to be interred this evening in the cloisters near Westminster Abbey, I was resolved to walk thither and see the last offices done to a man whom I always very much admired, and from whose action I had received more strong impressions of what is great and noble in human nature, than from the arguments of the most solemn philosophers, or the descriptions of the most charming poets I have ever read.”
Cibber tells us that this brilliant actor did not exceed the middle stature; that his aspect was grave and pene
* Watson himself was wholly ruined, and the generous Betterton adopted his daughter (afterwards Mrs. Bowman).
trating; his limbs strongly knit rather than gracefully proportioned; and his voice, which he managed with wonderful skill, more manly than sweet. An ill-natured sketch of him by Anthony Aston—the first of the notorious race of “captious critics”-speaks of his figure as clumsy, with a large head, a short, thick neck, and a corpulent body; his eyes were small, he says, and his face was pock-marked; while he had thick legs, large feet, and short fat arms which he rarely raised above his stomach. Over these personal disadvantages, which, however, Aston certainly exaggerated, his genius completely triumphed ; and even our captious critic acknowledges-what the public for half a century gladly recognized—that he was “a superlatively good actor.”
Such were the principal “ ornaments of the stage” when Charles II. was King. It is the misfortune of the actor that he can bequeath to posterity only a tradition and a name; his work is as fugitive as himself; nothing lives of all that he accomplishes. We have no means of comparing him with his successors, and must take his merits upon trust, in the hope that his contemporaries were not more frequently mistaken in their judgments than we are !