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consequence of Elliston, or at all changed his nature, knew not the essential greatness of the man whom they disparage. It was my fortune to encounter him near St. Dunstan's Church (which, with its punctual giants, is now no more than dust and a shadow), on the morning of his election to that high office. Grasping my hand with a look of significance, he only uttered, —" Have you heard the news?"—then with another look following up the blow, he subjoined, "I am the future Manager of Drury Lane Theatre." — Breathless as he saw me, he stayed not for congratulation or reply, but mutely stalked away, leaving me to chew upon his new-blown dignities at leisure. In fact, nothing could be said to it. Expressive silence alone could muse his praise. This was in his great style.
But was he less great, (be witness, O ye Powers of Equanimity, that supported in the ruins of Carthage the consular exile, and more recently transmuted for a more illustrious exile, the barren constableship of Elba into an image of Imperial France), when, in melancholy after-years, again, much near the same spot, I met him, when that sceptre had been wrested from his hand, and his dominion was curtailed to the petty managership, and part proprietorship, of the small Olympic, his Elba? He still played nightly upon the boards of Drury, but in parts alas! allotted to him, not magnificently distributed by him. Waiving his great loss as nothing, and magnificently sinking the sense of fallen material grandeur in the more liberal resentment of depreciations done to his more lofty intellectual pretensions, "Have you heard" (his customary exordium)—"have you heard," said he, "how they treat me? they put me in comedy." Thought 1—but his finger on his lips forbade any verbal interruption—" where could they have put you better?" Then, after a pause—"Where I formerly played Romeo, I now play Mercutio," — and so again he stalked away, neither staying, nor caring for, responses.
O, it was a rich scene, — but Sir A C ,
the best of story-tellers and surgeons, who mends a lame narrative almost as well as he sets a fracture, alone could do justice to it — that I was witness to, in the tarnished room (that had once been green) of that same little Olympic. There, after his deposition from Imperial Drury, he substituted a throne. That Olympic Hill was his "highest heaven;" himself "Jove in his chair." There he sat in state, while before him, on complaint of prompter, was brought for judgment — how shall I describe her?—one of those little tawdry things that flirt at the tails of choruses — a probationer for the town, in either of its senses — the pertest little drab— a dirty fringe and appendage of the lamps' smoke — who, it seems, on some disapprobation expressed by a "highly respectable" audience, had precipitately quitted her station on the boards, and withdrawn her small talents in disgust.
"And how dare you," said her Manager—assuming a censorial severity which would have crushed the confidence of a Vestris, and disarmed that beautiful Rebel herself of her professional caprices —I verily believe, he thought her standing before him—" how dare you, Madam, withdraw yourself, without a notice, from your theatrical duties?" "I was hissed, Sir." "And you have the presumption to decide upon the taste of the town?" "I don't know that, Sir, but I will never stand to be hissed," was the subjoinder of young Confidence —when gathering up his features into one significant mass of wonder, pity, and expostulatory indignation—in a lesson never to have been lost upon a creature less forward than she who stood before him — his words were these: "They have hissed me."
'Twas the identical argument a fortiori, which the son of Peleus uses to Lycaon trembling under his lance, to persuade him to take his destiny with a good grace. "I too am mortal." And it is to be believed that in both cases the rhetoric missed of its application, for want of a proper understanding with the faculties of the respective recipients.
"Quite an Opera pit," he said to me, as he was courteously conducting me over the benches of his Surrey Theatre, the last retreat, and recess, of his every-day waning grandeur.
Those who knew Elliston, will know the manner in which he pronounced the latter sentence of the few words I am about to record. One proud day to me he took his roast mutton with us in the Temple, to which I had superadded a preliminary haddock. After a rather plentiful partaking of the meagre banquet, not unrefreshed with the humbler sort of liquors, I made a sort of apology for the humility of the fare, observing that for my own part I never ate but of one dish at dinner. "I too never eat but one thing at dinner"—was his reply — then after a pause — "reckoning fish as nothing." The manner was all. It was as if by one peremptory sentence he had decreed the annihilation of all the savory esculents, which the pleasant and nutritious-food-giving Ocean pours forth upon poor humans from her watery bosom. This was greatness, tempered with considerate tenderness to the feelings of his scanty but welcoming entertainer.
Great wert thou in thy life, Robert William Elliston! and not lessened in thy death, if report speak truly, which says that thou didst direct that thy mortal remains should repose under no inscription but one of pure Latinity. Classical was thy bringing up! and beautiful was the feeling on thy last bed, which, connecting the man with the boy, took thee back in thy latest exercise of imagination, to the days when, undreaming of Theatres and Managerships, thou wert a scholar, and an early ripe one, under the roofs builded by the munificent and pious Colet. For thee the Pauline Muses weep. In elegies, that shall silence this crude prose, they shall celebrate thy praise.