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of law in the Temple ; but, as the dullness and gravity of this study did not suit the volatile vivacity of his temper and genius, he soon quitted it.
He married a young lady of a good family and some fortune; but, their tempers being very opposite to each other, a perfect harmony did not long subfift between them. He now launched into all the fashionable foibles of the age, gaming not excepted, and in a few years spent his whole fortune. As he had long taken a disgust to the study of the law, he was obliged to have recourse to the stage, and made his first appearance in the character of Othello, but with no great success. He afterwards performed Fondlewife, in which he succeeded much better; and, indeed, it was one of his favourite characters ever after. He next attempted Lord Foppington, but he listened to the advice of his friends, and prudently gave it up. As Mr. Foote was never a capital actor in the plays of others, his salary of course could not be equal to his gay and extravagant mode of living: he at lait contracted fo many debts, thal he was obliged to take refuge in the verge of the court, to secure himself from the resentment of his creditors.
A very laughable stratagem at length relieved him from his neceflitics. Sir Francis Delaval
had long been his intimate friend, and had disfipated his fortune by similar extravagance. A rich lady, an intimate acquaintance of Foote, was fortunately at that time bent upon a matrimonial scheme. Foote strongly recommended to her to consult, on this momentous affair, the conjuror in the Old Bailey, whom he represented as a man of suriprfing skill and penetration. He employed an acquaintance of his own to personate the conjuror, who depicted Sir Francis Delaval at full length, described the time when, the place where, and the dress in which she should see him. The lady was so struck with the coincidence of every circumstance, that she married the knight in a few days after. For this service Sir Francis settled an annuity upon Foote, which enabled him once more to appear upon the busy stage of life.
Mr. Foote now assuming the double character of author and performer, in 1747 opened his Little Theatre in the Haymarket, with a dramatic piece of his own writing, called The Diver. fions of the Morning. This piece consisted of nothing more than the introdu&tion of several well-known characters in real life, whose manner of conversation and expreslion our author had very happily hit off in the diction of his drama, and still more happily represented on the
stage, by an exact and most amazing imitation, not only of the manner and tone of voice, but even of the very persons, whom he intended to take off. Among these characters there was in particular a certain physician, who was much better known from the oddity and singularity of his appearance and conversation, than from his eminence in the practice of his profeflion. The celebrated Chevalier Taylor, the oculist, who was at that time in the height of his vogue and popularity, was also another object, and indeed deservedły fo, of Mr. Foote's mimicry and ridicule. In the latter part of this piece, under the character of a theatrical director, our author took off, with great humour and accuracy, the several files of
every principal performer on the Eng
Among those players, with whom Mr. Foote made free, was the facetious Harry Woodward, who returned the compliment in a little piece, called Tit for Tat, of which the following was the beginning: « Callid forth to battle, see
appear, “ To try one fall with this fam'd auctioneer.” In the very same piece Mr. Woodward, in the character of Foote, says,
“ But when I play'd Othello, thousands swore
The Diversions of the Morning at first met with some little opposition from the civil magistrates of Westminster, under the fan&tion of the act of parliament for limiting the number of playhouses; but our author being patronised by many of the principal nobility and gentry, the opposition was over-ruled ; and, after altering the title to that of Giving Tea, he proceeded without farther molestation, representing it through a run of upwards of forty mornings to crowded and splendid audiences.
The ensuing season he produced another piece of the same kind, which he called An Auction of Pictures. In this he introduced new and popular characters, all well known, particularly Sir Thomas de Veil, then the acting justice of peace for Westminster; also Mr. Cock, the celebrated auctioneer, and the equally famous orator Henley. This piece was also well received by the public.
Notwithstanding the favourable reception these pieces met with, they have never yet appeared in print, nor would they perhaps give any great pleasure in the perufal; for, consisting principally of characters, whose peculiar singularities could never be perfectly represented in black and white, they might probably appear flat and infipid, when diverted of the strong colourings which Mr. Foote had given them in his personal representations. It may not be improper here to observe, that he himself represented all the principal characters in each piece, which stood in need of his mimic powers to execute, shifting from one to the other with all the dexterity of a Proteus, to the wonder and astonishment of his genteel and numerous auditors.
However, he now proceeded to write pieces with more dramatic accuracy and regularity, his Knights being the produce of an ensuing season; yet in this also, though his plot and characters seemed less immediately personal, it was apparent, that he kept some particular real personages strongly in his eye in the performance, and the town took on themselves to fix them where the resemblance appeared to be the most striking
Mr. Foote continued from time to time to entertain the public, by selecting for their use such characters, as well general as individual, as seemed most likely to contribute to the exciting our laughter, and best answer the principal end of dramatic writings of the comic kind, such as relax the mind from the fatigue of business or anxiety.