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room till you satisfy me by doing so." Struck by his manner, Mr. Abernethy threw himself back in his chair, and assuming the posture of a most indefatigable listener, exclaimed, in a tone of half surprise, half humour, -"Oh! very well, Sir ; I am ready to hear you out. Go on, give me the whole-your birth, parentage, and education. I wait your pleasure ; go on.” Upon which Curran, not a whit disconcerted, gravely began
My name is John Philpot Curran. My parents were poor, but I believe honest people, of the province of Munster, where also I was born, at Newmarket, in the county of Cork, in the year one thousand seven hundred and fifty. My father being employed to collect the rents of a Protestant gentleman, of small fortune, in that neighbourhood, procured my admission into one of the Protestant free-schools, where I obtained the first rudiments of my education. I was next enabled to enter Trinity College, Dublin, in the humble sphere of a sizer:”—and so he continued for several minutes, giving his astonished hearer a true, but irresistibly laugbable account of his “ birth, parentage, and education,” as desired, till he came to his illness and sufferings, the detail of which was not again interrupted. It is hardly necessary to add, that Mr. Abernethy's attention to his gifted patient was, from that hour to the close of his life, assiduous, unremitting, and devoted.'
On one occasion, Mr. Abernethy was highly amused with the course pursued by a lady who was aware of his detestation of ignorant loquacity and silly affectation. Abruptly entering his consulting-room, without uttering a word, she 'thrust towards him her finger, which had received a severe injury. Mr. Abernethy looked first at her face, and then at her finger, which he dressed ; and the fair patient instantly and silently withdrew. In a few days she called again, and again protruded the affected part. “ Better?" asked Mr. Abernethy;— " Better," answered the lady: again the finger was dressed, and again the lady left the apartment. After several similar visits, at length she held out her finger free from all bandages, and in fact healed. “ Well ?" enquired Mr. Abernethy ;—“ Well," echoed the lady.—“Upon my soul, Madam," exclaimed the delighted surgeon, “ you are the most rational woman I ever met with !")
Beneath all this repulsiveness of manner, Abernethy, it is believed, disguised a really benevolent disposition, of which we shall add one or two instances.
pleasant part of our task remains to be performed: it is to record the humanity and liberality of Mr. Abernethy. Where poverty and disease have prevented individuals from waiting upon him in his own house for advice, he has been frequently known not only to visit them constantly, and at inconvenient distances, without fee or reward, but generously to supply them from his own purse with what their wants required. More affecting instances of charity and generosity, seconding the utmost exertions of medical skill, could not be produced from the life of any of bis contemporaries (liberal and admirable as the conduct of
many of them is) than from that of John Abernethy. The following is one example :
* In the year 1818, Lieutenant D- - fell from his horse on a paved street in London, and fractured his skull and arm, whilst bis horse trod
on his thigh, and grievously injured the limb. Mr. Abernethy was the surgeon nearest to the young man's lodgings ; he was sent for; he came, and attended daily. After the lapse of months, convalescence took place amidst great weakness, when Abernethy enjoined the adoption of shell-fish diet at Margate. His grateful patient requested information as to the amount of his pecuniary debt for professional aid and care. Abernethy smiled, and said, “Who is that young woman ?"_" She is my wife.”— “What is your rank in the army?"_“I am a half-pay Lieutenant."“ Oh! very well; wait till you are a General; then come and see me, and we'll talk about it."
• One of the students at the Hospital intimated to Mr. Abernethy that he wished to become his “ dresser," the usual fee for which is sixty guineas for the year. Mr. Abernethy invited the young man to breakfast with him the next morning, to arrange the matter ; and in the meantime, having made some enquiries respecting him, ascertained that he was attentive and clever, but in straitened circumstances. At the breakfast table the student took a small bag from his pocket, containing the sixty guineas, and placed it on the table ; when it was instantly returned to him by Mr. Abernethy, who, in the most kind and friendly manner, insisted upon his applying the money to the purchase of books, and other necessary means of improvement. That student is now a practitioner of considerable eminence in the metropolis.'
It is well known that Abernethy displayed the oddities of his manner even in the style of his lectures.
In lecturing, Mr. Abernethy's manner was peculiar, abrupt, and conversational ; and often when he indulged in episodes and anecdotes, he convulsed his class with laughter, especially when he used to enforce his descriptions by earnest gesticulation. Frequently, while lecturing, he would descend from his high stool, on which he sat with his legs dangling, to exhibit to his class some peculiar attitudes and movements illustrative of the results of different casualties and disorders ; so that a stranger coming in, unacquainted with the lecturer's topics, might easily have supposed him to be an actor entertaining his audience with a monologue, after the manner of Matthews or Yates. This disposition, indeed, gave rise to a joke among his pupils of “ Abernethy at Home," whenever he lectured upon any special subject. In relating a case, he was seen at times to be quite fatigued with the contortions into which he threw his body and limbs; and the stories he would tell of his consultations, with the dialogue between his patient and himself, were theatrical and comic to the greatest degree.'
The story related of his courtship is perfectly characteristic.
• The reported fashion of Mr. Abernethy's courtship and marriage is extremely characteristic. It is told, that while attending a lady for several weeks, he observed those admirable qualifications in her daughter, which he truly esteemed to be calculated to render the married state happy. Accordingly, on a Saturday, when taking leave of his patient, he addressed her to the following purport:_“You are now so well that I need not see you after Monday next, when I shall come and pay you my farewell visit. But, in the meantime, I wish you and your daughter seriously to consider the proposal I am now about to make. It is abrupt and unce
remonious, I am aware; but the excessive occupation of my time by my professional duties affords me no leisure to accomplish what I desire by the more ordinary course of attention and solicitation. My annual receipts amount to -1., and I can settle l. on my wife : my character is generally known to the public, so that you may readily ascertain what it is. I have seen in your daughter a tender and affectionate child, an assiduous and careful nurse, and a gentle and ladylike member of a family; such a person must be all that a husband could covet, and I offer my hand and fortune for her acceptance. On Monday, when I call, I shall expect your determination ; for I really have not time for the routine of courtship.” In this humour the lady was wooed and won ; and the union proved fortunate in every respect. A happier couple never existed.'
This eminent man died, after a protracted illness, at his house at Enfield, on the 20th of April, 1831. To the last he persevered in his theory, that the stomach is the prime cause of all our maladies. “It is all the stomach,” he said, accounting for his own complaint; we use our stomach ill when we are young, and it uses us ill when we are old.” It is a curious and extraordinary fact, adds his biographer, 'that he gave strict directions that his body should be carefully watched, to prevent its being examined or opened.'
There have been so many lives of Mrs. Siddons given to the world, that we may be excused from entering at any length into the merits of the rather inflated memoir of that distinguished actress, which appears in the present volume. The reader, however, will feel a pleasure, in the present dearth of high dramatic talent, in being reminded of some of the characters in which she never had, and probably never will have, a rival. Her first great effect upon the town was produced by her representation of Isabella.
• Isabella, in Southerne's tragedy of that name, was the character she selected; and her performance, judging from the language of contemporary criticism, was even thus early cast in a mould which she never saw reason to alter, during the thirty years she continued to represent it. This fulness of perfection is the exclusive attribute of genius of the bighest order. Inferior minds strive to produce complete effects by laborious study, and successive improvements; superior ones seize at once what they design to do, and execute what they design with the same rapidity. It is the flight of the arrow which goes directly to its mark. And any one who has a clear remembrance of Mrs. Siddons, will recollect that there was a uniformity in her style of personating all her characters, instead of a perpetual effort to strike out new beauties; the natural result of a vivid conception in the first instance, regulated afterwards by profound judgment.
It is unnecessary to add that her success was decisive. The putlic bad never before beheld an actress whom Nature had so prodigally gifted. She combined all the separate excellences of her predecessors and contemporaries, and added to their common stock her own exclusive endowments. Mrs. Siddons was majestic, Mrs. Crawford pathetic, Miss Younge
enthusiastic; the voice of the first was melodious, that of the second harsh, that of the third tremulous. As to features, Mrs. Yates was after the antique, but she had little Alexibility; Mrs. Crawford was even handsome, but the expression of her countenance was rather satirical ; of Miss Younge, the features wanted prominence and relief, and the eye had little colour. In their style of acting they differed considerably. Mrs. Yates studied to be graceful; Mrs. Crawford was vehement, and threw ber arms out from side to side, struck the bosom, &c.; Miss Younge had acquired the temperance in action which Shakspeare recommends, and in every motion was correct and refined, delicate and persuasive. Their rival, as we have said, had all their separate excellences united, with all that they had not. There was no invidious but to curtail her of her full perfections, in every requisite that imagination could devise.
It is allowed, we believe, on all hands, that her master-piece was Lady Macbeth. Those who have had the good fortune to see her in that tragedy, may say that they have witnessed a performance, every way worthy of the great mind by which the character was drawn. It was in itself a model, fit for the study of the sculptor or the painter, who desired to represent the figure of woman in its most sublime attitudes.
“ If we may be allowed to parody the almost (if not quite) Hibernian passage of our great epic poet, that in the lowest deep there is a lower still, we should say, that Mrs. Siddons having gained the topmost point of fame already, she this season, at one spring, placed herself upon a yet loftier elevation. We allude to her performance of Lady Macbeth, in which character she appeared for the first time on the 2d of February, 1785, when “criticism, and envy, and rivalry, sunk before her. From that hour her dominion over the passions was undisputed, her genius pronounced to be at least equal to her art, and Sir Joshua's happy thought of identifying her person with the Muse of tragedy, confirmed by the immutable decision of the public. We entirely acquiesce in the opinion that has been expressed with regard to this magnificent effort—that if, since the Eumenides of Æschylus, tragic poetry had produced nothing so terrible and sublime 13 the Macbeth of Shakspeare, it may be said with equal truib, that since dramatic fiction bas been invested with seeming reality, nothing superior to the Lady Macbeth of Mrs. Siddons has been seen. But it would demand an elaborate essay to show fully in what consisted the extraordinary excellence of this performance; while, as words cunnot describe looks, or give the perfect image of living action, much of what did constitute it must of necessity be incommunicable. There are many yet surviving who remember what it was. When there shall be none remaining who can do so, the recollection of the most perfect exhibition which the stage ever presented,—the exhibition of one of Shakspeare's greatest creations in a spirit akin to his own mighty conceptions,– will have passed away for ever ; and all that mere language can effect will be to exhaust itself in vague generalities. From the first night of her appearance in this character down to her retirement from the stage, it became her exclusive possession. Not but there were those who attempted to dispute the possession ; but the intermediate space was so vast, Mrs. Siddons' elevation was so unapproachable, that each attempt was soon
abandoned. Garrick's Lear, or John Kemble's Coriolanus, was not more exclusively made his than Mrs. Siddons made Lady Macbeth her’s. The policy of abstaining so long from the performance of such a character was now apparent; for by what new poetic wonder could it be followed ? All other force in female character is comparative feebleness on the English stage.
The writer of the memoir has thought it right to take some notice of the imputations which have been frequently made, both in public and private, against Mrs. Siddons's generosity of disposition in pecuniary matters. We shall give his vindication of her upon this point; but we fear that it will not be deemed a triumphant one:
One accusation was early made, and to the last by some maintained, against Mrs. Siddons,—that of parsimony. It is of little moment now to discuss the justice of this charge; but it was at least prudent, if she shared any portion of those friendly fears that were expressed as to the permanency of ber attractions, that she should husband carefully for her family the means she was then enabled to command; and it is just possible that what began in prudence continued from habit. At the period we are describing, she was publicly accused “of lingering behind the rest of the congregation, in the gallery of St. Martin's Church, to avoid a present of benevolence to the Westminster Dispensary.” Lingering behind! An odd way this of managing such an affair. Would it not have been much better to go out first, along with the bulk of the congregation ? By such a contrivance, a person who really wished to save half-a-crown, might stand a fair chance of doing so without observation; but to be the last, to linger till the church warden's plate was full, and till the holder of the plate had nothing to do but to note the charitable deeds of the straggling few that brought up the rear, was surely the only way to invite observation, and to render as conspicuous as possible the solitary meanness. Such clumsy detraction, however, did her rising greatness provoke ; and, in all probability, the more general imputation of covetousness was fastened upon her, not so much from any real evidence of a sordid disposition, as from the laudable contrast which her prudence and frugality presented to the proverbial prodigality of the profession to which she belonged.'
Mrs. Siddons died on the 8th of June, 1831, when she had nearly completed her 76th year. Her remains are deposited in a vault in Paddington church; they should, undoubtedly, have found a place in Westminster. We
pass over the memoir of the Rev. Robert Hall, the distinguished Bristol preacher, as we shall have occasion to allude to it, when the edition of his works, which is now nearly completed, shall lie before us. The principal materials for the life of Sir Murray Maxwell, have been derived from the voyages of Captain Hall, and Mr. M.Leod; and are therefore so well known, that the repetition of any of the particulars which those writers so well detailed, must be considered, in the present volume, as at least superfluous. Of Mr. Hope, with whose biography the public would most willingly be