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THEATRICAL REPRESENTATIONS in Private Houses, an, amusement, so, common in the Countries of the Continent, or, in Private Theatres, where Professional Actors would not be allowed to assist, were once very geueral in IRELAND. Domestic gaieties of this kind used to grow out of one another, and there have been times within the last half-century, in which they were remarkable, not only for their number, but for the importance of the Personş concerned in them. A Catalogue of all these Festive Meetings, as handed down to us by the Papers of the day, would exceed the proposed limits of our introductory Remarks; but soine of them deserve to be particularly noticed ; and from them we may collect this curious and amusing fact, that many of the names, most distinguished in the Parliamentary and Political transactions of the Country, during the best and brightest periods of her past History, will be found in the list of Performers in Private Plays. To indulge in any moral reflections upon this, is not our intention. The world, perhaps, may be wiser, and better than it used to be-We are sure that it is not happier.
In our brief notice of those little Theatrical Communities, we shall begin with that which assembled in the County of Armagh, in the year 1759, at Lurgan,; the seat of the celebrated William Brownlow, one of the Representatives of that County—“ A man,” says Mr. GRATTAN, “ with a station of mind in him, that would have become the proudest Senate in Europe.” To this Meeting, the Stage is indebted for the popular Entertainment of Midas. It was written upon that occasion by one of the Company, the late Mr. KANE O'Hara, and originally consisted of but one 'Act, commencing with the fall of Apollo from the
clouds. The Characters in the Piece were undertaken by the Members of the Family and their Relatives ; with the exception of the part of Pan, which was reserved by the Author for himself. Many additions were made to it, before its introduction to the Public ; and, among others, the opening scene of “ Jove in his Chair,” as it is now represented. A Preface to an early copy thus accounts for its being known beyond the Family-Party for whose amusement it was written.—“The first idea of it was conceived, and the plan in some manner executed, for the private entertainment of some persons of distinction in Ireland, at a time when I talian Burlettas were blended with the exhibitions of the Theatre, and almost triumphed over the best productions of our language. The public spirit of those, for whom it was originally intended, prevailed upon the Author to enlarge bis design, and Midas accordingly ventured on the Stage.”
In 1760, Mr. Thomas Connolly, another distinguished Member of the Irish Parliament, had one of these Theatrical Jubilees at Castletown, his residence in the County of Kildare. The “ First Part of Henry IV.” was one of their most attractive Performances, to which an Epilogue was spoken by Mr. Hussey Burgh, afterwards Chief Baron of the Exchequer. “ Mild,* moderate, and patriotic, Mr. Burgh was proud without arrogance, and dignified without effort; equally attentive to public concerns, and careless of his own, he had neither avarice to acquire wealth, nor parsimony to retain it; liberal even to profusion, friendly to a fault, and disinterested to a weakness; he was honest without affluence, and ambitious without corruption ; his eloquence was of the highest order, figurative, splendid and convincing. At the Bar, in the Parliament, and among the People, he was equally admired, and universally respected.”
The Earl of Kildare, afterwards DUKE OF LEINSTER, the Friend and Neighbour of Mr. CONNOLLY, opened his princely Mansion at Carton, to a series of similar Entertainments, in the year 1761. *“ The softness of philanthropy, the placidity of temper, the openness of sincerity, the sympathy of friendship, and the ease of integrity, stamped corresponding impressions on the artless countenance of this respected Nobleman, and left but little to conjecture as to the composition of his character. His elevated rank, and extensive connexions, gave him a paramount lead in Irish politics, which his naked talents would not, perhaps, have otherwise justified, but from the days of his maturity, to the moment of his dissolution, he was the undeviating friend of the Irish Nation. As a Soldier, and a Patriot, he performed his duties ; and in his plain and honorable disposition, was found collected a happy specimen of those qualities which best compose the gentleman.” Among the other Performances at Carton, was the Beggar's Opera, then the most popular of all the productions of the Stage. The casts of it will be sufficient to show the Rank of the individuals who partook of these amusements. Among the Ladies we find the Coun
* Historic Anecd. of Union.
Tess of Kildare, the Lady of the Mansion, and Lady Louisa CONNOLLY. Among the Gentlemen, Viscount PowerSCOURT, LORD CHARLEMONT, and Dean MARLAY, afterwards Bishop OF WATERFORD; but a Bill of the night's amusement is below.A Prologue + was spoken by the latter Gentleman, the production of his own classic pen. The rank of Earl was soon afterwards conferred upon Lord CHARLEMONT, in speaking of whom it is impossible to avoid adverting to the beautiful eulogy pronounced upon his memory, by Mr. Grattan, his friend and admirer.--" He was formed to unite the aristocracy and the people, with the manners of a Court, and the principles of a Patriot.Unassailable to the approaches of power, of profit, or of titles, he annexed to the love of freedom, a veneration for order, and cast on the crowd that followed him, the gracious shade of his own accomplishments, so that the very rabble grew civilized, as it approached his person. For years did he preside over a great army, without pay or reward ; and he helped to accomplish a great Revolution, without a drop of blood. Let slaves utter their slander, and bark at glory which is conferred by the People ; his name will stand ; and when their clay shall be gathered to the dirt to which they belong, his monument, whether in marble, or in the hearts of his Countrymen, shall be consulted as a subject of sorrow, and a source of virtue."
Some few years afterwards, that is, about the end of the year 1774, a taste for Dramatic amusements was very prevalent in the County of Kilkenny. Plays were got up at Knocktopher, Farmley, and Kilfane, the Seats of the late Sir Hercules LANGRISHE, Mr. Henry FLOOD,
But her keen rage so amiable is found,
| Reply to LORD CLARI-1800.
of Parliamentary celebrity, and Mr. Gervais Parker Bushe. The two former of these Gentlemen were then in the Irish House of Commons ; the latter had not yet taken a Seat there. Mr. Henry GRATTAN, connected by marriage with the family of Mr. Bushe, was a Member of this Theatrical Society, which passed from one elegant and hospitable Mansion to another, for the purpose of enjoying their classic recreations ; a little strolling community, of no mean talents, or ordinary pretensions.—Among other Plays, they performed Macbeth ; and it is rather curious to reflect, that of the two contending Heroes in the Play, Macduff became the lot of Mr. GRATTAN, while that of Macbeth devolved on his, then latent, rival, Mr. Flood. “My rival,* as they call him,"---says Mr. GRATTAN, long after their contentions on the Stage and in the Senate were equally at rest, “ and I should be unworthy the character of his rival, if in his grave I did not do him justice ; he had his faults, but he had great powers, great public effect. He persuaded the old, -he inspired the young--the Castle vanished before him. On a small subject he was miserable. Put into his hand a distaff, and like Hercules he made sad work of it; but give him the thunderbolt, and he had the arm of a Jupiter.” Such were the terms in which Mr. GRATTAN spoke of his opponent. He has himself since sunk into the grave, but the name he has left is immortal.-t“ Great men hallow a whole people, and
all who live in their time. What Irishman does not feel proud that he has lived in the days of GRATTAN? No Government ever dismayed him---the world could not bribe him---he thought only of Ireland---lived for no other object--dedicated to her his beautiful fancy, bis elegant wit, his manly courage, and all the splendour of his astonishing eloquence. He was so born, and so gifted, that poetry, forensic skill, elegant literature, and all the highest attainments of human genius, were within his reach ; but he thought the noblest occupation of man was to make other men free and happy; and in that straight line he went on for fifty years, without one sidelook, without one yielding thought, without one motive in his heart, which he might not have laid open to the view of God and man.”
In the year 1776, the Right Hon. David La Touche indulged the juvenile members of his family with a Theatrical Fete at Marlay, bis residence in the County of Dubliu. The lines that Milton wrote, were not considered by that excellent Gentleman to be unfit for the study and recital of his children, and the Masque of Comus # was chosen for their amusement.
Shane's-Castle, in the County of Antrim, the Seat of the Right Hon. John O'NEILL, who was afterwards raised to the Peerage, became the scene of Theatrical festivities, in the year 1785.---*“ Descended from the most celebrated Chiefs of ancient Ireland, this Gentleman bore, in his portly and graceful mein, indications of a proud and illustrious pedigree :--the generous openness of his countenance---the grandeur of his person---and the affability of his address, marked the dignity of his character, and, blending with the benevolence of his disposition, formed him one of the first Commoners of the Irish nation. In public and in private life Mr. O'Neill was equally calculated to command respect, and conciliate affection high-minded---open---and well educated---he clothed the sentiments of a Patriot iu the language of a Gentleman ;---his abilities were inoderate, but his understanding was sound ;---though he did not shrink from the approbation of the Court, he preferred the applauses of his Country, and formed one of the most perfect models of an aristocratic patriot.” This Gentleman, assisted by his friends, got up several Plays at Shane’s-Castle. The performances of the first night were,
Cymbeline,” and “ The Upholsterer.” The casts of the characters, taken from one of the Bills t of their little Theatre, are given below, as well as the copy of an # Epilogue written and spoken by the lovely Mistress of the Mansion, in the character of a Sylph. We see in this Bill, the name of the ill-fated LORD EDWARD FITZGERALD.
The Right Hon. Luke GARDINER, afterwards LORD MOUNTJOY, opened a Private Theatre in the year 1778, at the Lodge he then occupied in the Phoenix Park. The Perfor
• Hist. Anecd. of Union,
+ SHANE's-CASTLE THEATRE,
Monday Evening, the 28th November, 1785.