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TILE FIFTEENTH VOLUME.
· W'E beg to renew our grateful acknowledgments for the liberal patronage ruhich has been so uniformly extended to this work. Notwithstanding the multiplicity of periodical productions that have lately started into existence, with various pretensions to public notice, the MONTHLY MIRROR still continues its triumphant progress, and is enabled to set the most powerful competition at bold defiance.
This confidence in our strength will not relax our efforts to please. To our collection of PORTRAITS of eminent public characters, which, as a series, hare never been equalled in a work of this description, and which, as we know the value of our peculiar resources, could not have been procured by the most respectable of our rirals, we have recently made several important additions : and, in every other department of the . publication, we shall exert our best ability to support the credit which it has so long maintained in the circles of taste and litenaturc.
The portrait of Johy ADOLPHUS, Esq. F. A. S. intended for the present time, shall appear in our next.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
With a Portrait. MR. JAMES COBB, whose portrait is given in our present number, has peculiar claims to the notice of a publication, whose avowed province is to hold the dramatic mirror up to nature ; since, even from his boyish days, he has uniformly evinced a strong and unconquerable attachment to the drama : few authors have taken more ardent pains to deserve success, and very few indeed have been more fortunate - in its attainment.
This gentleman's first allurement to the stage, and perhaps the circumstance which attached him so strongly to dramatic pursuits, was an introduction to that admirable actress, and amiable woman, Miss Pope, for whose benefit, in the year 1773, our young candidate for fame, sent, anonymously, an occasional prologue. These annual addresses were, at that time, expected by the public from actors, as a kind of acknowledgment for past favours, and a promise of future exertion.
This poetic effort was the fifth this lady liad been favoured with that season, and, amidst a “ choice of difficulties," she laid the whole of them, with all their imperfections on their heads, before the scrutinizing and critical eye of Garrick. Mr. COBB's was the cho. sen address, and a line, altered by the pen of our immortal Roscius, we understand, he still preserves as a precious relique.
His first regular performance, submitted to the awful tribunal of an audience, was a farce, or rather petit comedy, called the ConTRACT, or FEMALE CAPTAIN, represented at Drury Lane in 1779, and twice, we believe, at the Haymarket the following year. This piece was written for his friend, Miss Pope's benefit, and introduced Miss Walpole in REGIMENTALS ; no particular hopes of its lasting success were entertained by the author--the FEMALE
CAPTAIN performed her exercise with applause, and was then suffered to stand at ease upon the prompter's shelf.
Next came the Wedding Night, a musical piece, translated from the French, and set to music by Doctor ARNOLD. With this entertainment Mr. COLMAN the elder was infinitely delighted : he never missed a single rehearsal ; and on the heroine, Miss Twist, not answering his expectation, Mrs. CARGILL was engaged upon the spur of the occasion, not more than four nights preceding the performance. The quaintness of this French piece was Caviare to the general. The hisses of the audience nearly put the bride into fits; and the writer of this article well recollects the author's declaring, in a moment of conviviality, that, on walking home that night to Stratford Green, where his family then resided, he took every gust of wind through the trees for a cat-call, and every whisper among the leaves for a hiss. · The farce of “Who'd have thought it,” produced at Covent Garden, in 1779, for the late Mr. Wilson's benefit, and afterwards at the Haymarket in 1780, experienced a better fate, and we are astonished that the manager of Govent Garden has never thought of its revival. In speaking of this piece, we cannot refrain from inserting a song, sung in it by Charles Bannister, which at once proves the genius and the philanthropy of its author.
· The addiitonal verse, it is said, was written at the desire of their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales, and Duke of York, in honour of the Duke of Clarence, and sung before the Royal bro. thers at the Beef Steak Club, of which select and convivial society Mr. Cobb has long been a member. In the year 1781, our author indulged his Muse with a promenade in KENSINGTON GARDENS, performed, we believe, for Wilson's benefit. It aimed at the fashion and follies of the day : when they dropped, of course the piece, in its tuin, dropped with them.
Four years after this, Mr. COBB; profiting by time and experience, launched his Humourist at Drury Lane ; a piece which at önce fixed his own fame, as well as that of his ingenious friend, Mr. John BANNISTER, whose performance of Dabble affords the ne plus ultra of caricature. Dabble was evidently a good humoured hit at Mr. Patence, the advertising dentist, nor was the picture at all overcharged. To sum up Mr. P.'s whimsicalities at once, we have only to state, and we vouch for the authenticity of our anecdote, that he presented a piece to the managers, in which there were no less than fourteen dinners, and as many suppers ; " for my dear Sir," observed Patence, “how can you expect good things in common life, without plenty of eating and drinking.”
The same auspicious year, 1785, produced, at the express requi. sition of Mr. Sheridan (to whom our author had been previously ... introduced by Mr. Burke) the STRANGER AT HOME, a comic opera, with much charming melody by Linley, and with it came an actress, who, we trust, whilst her health and spirits remain, will never be a STRANGER to dramatic truth and nature :-it was Rosa that first introduced Mrs. JORDAN as a singer, and in an ORIGINAL character.
In 1787, an interlude called ENGLISH READINGS, was sent tothe elder Colman anonymously. The bantling, happily conceived, and neatly executed, was received with delight-nursed with carefondled by the audience for five nights, and strangled on the sixth by a party of desperadoes from Coachmaker's Hall, and other as respectable places, dedicated to the practice of English Readings.
The First Floor, in 1787, made ample amends for the fate of Cross Readings. Mr. Bannister, in Tartlett, still continues to set gravity at defiance, and though the present manager of Drury Lane, never improperly descends to court applause, in Tim Tartlett, at
least, he evinces more than one ludicrous proof that he has no absolute aversion to a puff.
In 1788 the opera of LOVE IN THE EAST proved our author quite at home, as might be naturally expected, with Indian ink. This piece had more good writing than situations for music, and therefore, though aided by Mr. Kelly, Mrs. Crouch, and Miss Romanzini (now Mrs. Bland), it proved little more than a ninedays' wonder.
In the same season Mr. Cobb tried his hand successfully in assisting Mr. King (then the manager) in a pantomiine called HurLY BURLY; and a charming air of his own composition, sung by Mrs. Wilson, afforded an additional proof how nearly poetry and music are allied.
And here we cannot help noticing a curious fact ;-not a single opera of Mr. Cobb’s has ever been produced, in which some favourite air or duet has not been of his own composition. Added to a perfect knowledge of music, he plays, with no mean degree of execution, on the violin, and has often surprised his friends by his skill and taste in painting.
In the same year the DocTOR AND APOTHECARY introduced the ever-to-be-lamented STEPHEN STORACE ;
And in 1789, the HAUNTED Tower, aided by the same admired composer, ushered SIGNORA STORACE to the English theatre. It formed a new era in one walk of the stage : the opera was no longer the mere vehicle for music ; it became a new species of the drama, in which an interesting story, regularly developed, is contrasted and enlivened with scenes of comic effect, as most powerfully exemplified in the succeeding operas of Mr. Cobb; but we will record them in regular succession.
The Siege of Belgrade, 1791. The Prince of Wales, during its progress to performance, finding the movements of the Siege tediously retarded, condescended to ask Mr. KemBLE the reason why the opera was not announced for representation ? “ Please your Royal Highness,” replied the manager, " we shall proceed to Action the very moment the author has determined whether the AUSTRIANS or Turks shall gain the VICTORY.
[To be concluded in our next.]