THE OLD ACTORS
(London Magazine, October, 1822)
I do not know a more mortifying thing than to be conscious of a foregone delight, with a total oblivion of the person and manner which conveyed it. In dreams I often stretch and strain after the countenance of Edwin, whom I once saw in Peeping Tom. I cannot catch a feature of him. He is no more to me than Nokes or Pinkethman. Parsons, and still more Dodd, were near being lost to me, till I was refreshed with their portraits (fine treat) the other day at Mr. Mathews’s gallery at Highgate; which, with the exception of the Hogarth pictures, a few years since exhibited in Pall Mall, was the most delightful collection I ever gained admission to. There hang the players, in their single persons, and in grouped scenes, from the Restoration—Bettertons, Booths, Garricks, justifying the prejudices which we entertain for them—the Bracegirdles, the Mountforts, and the Oldfields, fresh as Cibber has described them—the Woffington (a true Hogarth) upon a couch, dallying and dangerous—the Screen Scene in Brinsley’s famous comedy, with Smith and Mrs. Abingdon, whom I have not seen, and the rest, whom having seen, I see still there. There is Henderson, unrivalled in Comus, whom I saw at second hand in the elder Harley—Harley, the rival of Holman, in Horatio—Holman, with the bright glittering teeth in Lothario, and the deep paviour’s sighs in Romeo—the jolliest person ("our son is fat”) of any Hamlet I have yet seen, with the most laudable attempts (for a personable man) at looking melancholy—and Pope, the abdicated monarch of tragedy and comedy, in Harry the Eighth and Lord Townley. There hang the two Aickins, brethren in mediocrity—Wroughton, who in Kitely seemed to have forgotten that in prouder days he had personated Alexander—the specious form of John Palmer, with the special effrontery of Bobby—Bensley, with the trumpet-tongue, and little Quick (the retired Dioclesian of Islington) with his squeak like a Bart’lemew fiddle.