"From the Haymarket canting rogues in grain."—"Rejected Addresses."
The Old Market for Hay and Straw—A Seller of "Sea Coal"—Foreign Ambassadors in Peril—Rogues "in Grain"—Addison in a Garret—Thackeray on Addison—Sir John Suckling's Heroine—Tiddydoll and his Gingerbread—Lord Eldon's Pint of Wine—Dr. Wolcott and
Madame Mara—Michael Kelly's Wine Vaults—Assault on Sir John Coventry—Baretti: his Trial for Murder—Shows in the Haymarket—The Animal Comedians—The Cat's Opera—O'Brien, the Irish Giant—Weeks's Museum—The "Little Theatre in the Haymarket:" its
History—Foote: his "Cat Music"—Ancedotes of Foote—"Romeo" Coates—The Theatre in Colman's Hands—A Sad Accident—Reconstruc
tion of the Theatre by Nash—Liston's Appearance in Paul Pry—Subsequent Managers and Actors at the Haymarket: Mr. Benjamin
Webster. Mr. Buckstone, Mr. Charles Mathews—"Lord Dundreary."
The broad street denominated the Haymarket,
connecting Pall Mall East with the eastern end of
Piccadilly, was a place for the sale of farm-produce
as far back as the reign of Elizabeth; and in
Aggas's plan it appears under its present name,
It was then evidently a rural spot, as there were
hedgerows on either side, and few indications of
habitations nearer than the "village of Charing."
At that time, as may be gathered from an inspection of the plan referred to, the air was so pure
and clear, that the washerwomen dried their linen
by spreading it upon the grass in the fields, as
nearly as possible on the spot where now stands
Her Majesty's Theatre. Down to the reign of
William III. it was the public highway, in which
carts loaded with hay and straw were allowed to
stand for sale toll-free; but in 1692 the street was
paved, and a tax levied on the carts according to
their loads. But this was not the first market held
here; for, as far back as the reign of Charles II.,
John Harvey and another person received a grant
empowering them, and their heirs after them, to
hold markets here for the sale of oxen and sheep
on Mondays and Wednesdays; but the grant was
found to violate a part of the Charter granted by
Edward III. to the City of London, and was accordingly annulled. At the beginning of the eighteenth
century we find the Crown, however, leasing the
tolls of the Haymarket for ninety-nine years to one
Derick Stork. The market for hay and straw, three
times a week, continued to be held here as lately
as the reign of George IV., when it was removed
to Cumberland Market, near Regent's Park.
JOSEPH ADDISON. (From an authentic Portrait)
In 1708 Hatton speaks of the Haymarket as "a
very spacious and public street, in length 340
yards, where is a great market for hay and straw;"
and it is described by Malcolm in 1807 as "an
excellent street, 1,020 feet in length, of considerable
breadth, and remarkably dry, occasioned by the
descent from Piccadilly."
Apart from the obstruction arising from the
heavy-laden carts, which on certain days occupied
the middle of the street, the Haymarket, and
especially its eastern side, is described by Malcolm
as a "pleasant promenade;" and he speaks of that
side as being occupied by several eminent tradesmen's houses and the "Theatre Royal," of which
we shall have to say more presently.
On the opposite, or western side, he adds, is
the "King's Theatre for Italian operas," which he
describes as "fronted by a stone basement in
rustic work, with the commencement of a very superb
building of the Doric order, consisting of three
pillars, two windows, an entablature, pediment, and
balustrade." "This," he adds, "if it had been
continued, would have contributed considerably to
the splendour of London; but the unlucky fragment is fated to stand as a foil to the vile and
absurd edifice of brick pieced to it, which I have
not patience to describe." How little could he
anticipate the future glories of the Italian opera on
this very spot!
One of the earliest tradesmen in the Haymarket
appears to have been a coal-merchant, or, as he
was then styled, a vendor of sea-coal. A "token"
used by him is in the British Museum; it bears
this inscription—"Nathanil Robins, at the Seacoale seller, 1666." Reverse—"Hay Markett,
in Piccadilla, his half-penny." About half-way
down, on the east side, at the south-west corner
of James Street, and on the site of the building
now known as Clarence Chambers, stood till very
recently a large house which dated from the time
of Charles II.; tradition says that it was frequented
by that monarch and the Duke of York, who used
to walk through it to the Tennis Court at the back.
During the riots which ensued on the accession
of William and Mary to the throne vacated by
James II., the house of the minister of the Duke of
Florence, which was in this street, had a narrow
escape of being burnt and sacked by the mob, as
was also that of the Spanish ambassador. Sir
Henry Ellis, in his second series of "Original
Letters," quotes one from an eye-witness, dated
December 13, 1688, who describes the scene, the
"train-bands coming up only just in time to save
the house from destruction, and that only after the
officer at their head being shot through the back."
The attack, however, was renewed a day or two
afterwards, when Macaulay tells us that the house
above mentioned was destroyed by the infuriated
mob, who paraded the streets, almost unchecked,
with oranges on the top of their drawn swords
and naked pikes. "One precious box," he adds,
"the Tuscan minister was able to save from the
marauders. It contained some volumes of memoirs
written in the hand of King James himself."
The authors of the "Rejected Addresses," in
their imitation of Crabbe, as shown in the line
quoted as a motto for this chapter, would seem to
give a bad name to the Haymarket and its inhabitants, on the score of moral character, if we are
to take literally the expression "rogues in grain."
But if the meaning of the adjective "canting" as
applied to them is to be understood in its ordinary
sense, some explanation of it is certainly required;
for we never heard of the Haymarket assuming
even the appearance of rigid virtue.
In a garret in this street, literally up "three
pair of stairs," was living Joseph Addison, when he
was waited on by the Hon. H. Boyle, Chancellor
of the Exchequer under Lord Godolphin, and
requested to write a poem on the battle of Blenheim. The Whig hack jumped at the offer, and
penned "The Campaign," which led to his immediate appointment as a Commissioner of Appeals,
and to his subsequent advancement by the Whig
party. Unfortunately, it is impossible, by the help
of letters or of the parish rate-books, to identify
the house in which Addison actually lived here;
for though Pope visited the house for that purpose,
and "made a note of it," saying to his companion,
"In this garret Addison wrote his 'Campaign,'"
yet he has forgotten to record its exact whereabouts. D'Israeli, in his "Curiosities of Literature," in noticing this incident, adds—"Nothing
less than a strong feeling impelled the poet to
ascend this garret—it was a consecrated spot to
his eye; and certainly a curious instance of the
power of genius contrasted with its miserable
locality! Addison, whose mind had fought through
'a campaign' in a garret, could he have called
about him 'the pleasures of imagination,' had
probably planned a house of literary repose, where
all parts would have been in harmony with his
mind. Such residences of men of genius have been
enjoyed by some; and the vivid descriptions which
they have left us convey something of the delightfulness which charmed their studious repose."
Thackeray, in his own peculiar manner, thus
deals with this incident in Addison's career:—"At
thirty-three years of age that most distinguished
wit, scholar, and gentleman was without a profession and an income. His book of 'Travels' had
failed; his 'Dialogue on Medals' had no particular success; his Latin verses, even though
reported the best since Virgil, or Statius, at any
rate, had not brought him a Government place;
and Addison was living up two shabby pair of
stairs in the Haymarket, in a poverty over which
old Samuel Johnson rather chuckles, when in these
shabby rooms an emissary from Government and
fortune came and found him. A poem was wanted
about the Duke of Marlborough's victory of Blenheim. Would Mr. Addison write one? Mr.
Boyle, afterwards Lord Carleton, took back to
Lord Treasurer Godolphin the reply that Mr.
Addison would. When the poem had reached a
certain stage, it was carried to Godolphin; and the
last lines which he read were these:—
"'But oh, my muse! what numbers wilt thou find
To sing the furious troops in battle join'd?
Methinks I hear the drum's tumultuous sound
The victor's shouts and dying groans confound;
The dreadful burst of cannon rend the skies,
And all the thunders of the battle rise.
'Twas then great Marlborough's mighty soul was proved,
That in the shock of charging hosts unmov'd,
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examined all the dreadful scenes of war,
In peaceful thought the field of death surveyed,
To fainting squadrons lent the timely aid,
Inspired repulsed battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So when an angel by Divine command,
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia passed,
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleased th' Almighty's orders to perform,
Rides on the whirlwind and directs the storm.'
"Addison," continues Thackeray, "left off at a
good moment. That simile was pronounced to be
one of the greatest ever produced in poetry. That
angel, that good angel, flew off with Mr. Addison,
and landed him in the place of Commissioner of
Appeals! . . . . In the following year Mr. Addison
went to Hanover with Lord Halifax, and the year
after was made Under-Secretary of State. Oh!
angel-visits! you come 'few and far between' to
literary gentlemen's lodgings! Your wings seldom
quiver even at second-floor windows now!"
It is not generally known that this immediate
neighbourhood was the scene of the wedding of
the young lady so prettily celebrated in the cavalier
song of Sir John Suckling, in which occur the oftquoted lines:—
"Her feet beneath her petticoat
Like little mioe stole in and out
As if they fear'd the light;
But oh! she dances such a way!
No sun upon an Easter day
Is half so fine a sight."
The place is identified by the second verse,
which runs thus:—
"At Charing Cross, hard by the way,
Where we (thou know'st) do sell our hay,
There is a house," &c.
Among the eccentric characters who had their
haunts in and about the Haymarket, was "Tiddydoll," the celebrated vendor of ginger-bread and
the king of itinerant dealers in such wares, who
figures in Hogarth's picture of the "Idle Apprentice"
at Tyburn. His proper name was Ford; and Mr.
Frost, in his "Old Showmen," records the fact that
he was so well-known a character, that once, being
missed from his usual stand in the Haymarket on
the occasion of a visit which he paid to a country
fair, a "catch-penny" (fn. 1) account of his alleged murder
was printed, and sold in the streets by thousands.
But in spite of its alleged production of "rogues
in grain," we find that, in the reigns of Anne and
of George I., the Haymarket was inhabited by a
few of "the quality." Thus, Lord Sackville was
born in 1716 in the Haymarket, where his father,
he is careful to tell us, then resided.
Cyrus Redding tells us that he well remembered
Lord Eldon often stealing into the "George Coffee
House" at the top of the Haymarket, to get a pint
of wine, as Lady Eldon did not permit him to
enjoy it in peace at home. Redding did not like
Eldon, either as a Tory or as a man. "His words,"
he writes, "were no index of his real feelings. He
had a sterile soul for all things earthly except
money, doubts, and the art of drawing briefs."
The Haymarket is said to have been the scene of
the meeting between Dr. Wolcott ("Peter Pindar")
and Madame Mara, with reference to the sale of
the manuscript of the song, "Hope told a Flattering Tale," which the doctor had written expressly
for Madame Mara, and which she had sung for
the first time at one of her own benefits. The
next day she sold the manuscript. The doctor, it
appears, had already done the same, and the two
purchasers, after a long dispute, which neither had
the power to settle, agreed to wait on Mara, and
solicit her interference. She consented; and, as
she was going in search of Dr. Wolcott, he happened
here to cross her path. He had already heard of
the circumstance, and, like the prima donna, was
not disposed to refund the money he had received.
"What is to be done?" said Mara. "Cannot you
say you were intoxicated when you sold it?"
"Cannot you say the same of yourself?" replied
the satirist; "one story would be believed as soon
as the other."
Dr. Wolcott, whose fondness for liquor of all
kinds was notorious, might possibly at the time
have been making his way to the house of Michael
Kelly, the once popular singer and composer, who
was in business in this street as a wine merchant.
The singer had written over his door in conspicuous
letters—"Michael Kelly, Composer of Music and
Importer of Wine." Sheridan, it is said, suggested
the following alteration—"'Michael Kelly, Importer of Music and Composer of Wine;' for,"
observed the wit, "none of his music is original,
and all his wine is, since he makes it himself."
Sheridan's favourite haunt at this time, it may be
remarked, was the "One Tun Tavern" in Jermyn
Street, close by.
Hard by was the scene of the famous assault on
Sir John Coventry, which occasioned the passing
of the "Coventry Act," Sir John being waylaid here
on his way to or from his lodgings, and having his
nose slit by some young men of high rank for an
ill-timed, and perhaps ill-judged, reflection on the
theatrical amours of his sovereign.
This episode of Sir John Coventry is mentioned
by Sir Walter Scott, in his "Life of Dryden," as a
parallel to the assault on that poet by hired ruffians
in Rose Street, which we have already mentioned.
He observes, that "in the age of the second Charles,
a high and chivalrous sense of honour was esteemed
Quixotic, and that the Civil War had left traces
of ferocity in the manners and sentiments of the
people. Encounters where the assailants took all
advantages of number and weapons were as frequent, and were held as honourable, as regular
duels." The assault on Sir John Coventry, he adds,
"caused the famous statute against maiming and
wounding, called the 'Coventry Act;' an act highly
necessary, since so far did our ancestors' ideas of
manly forbearance differ from ours, that Killigrew
introduces the hero of one of his comedies, a
cavalier and the fine gentleman of the piece, as
lying in wait for and slashing the face of a poor
courtesan who had cheated him."
On the 3rd of October, 1769, as we learn from
Boswell's "Life of Johnson," another assault of a
very similar nature to the above took place here.
It appears that Mr. Baretti, the author of the wellknown "Italian Dictionary," was going hastily up
the street, when he was accosted by a woman, who
behaving with great rudeness, he was provoked to
give her a blow on the hand; upon which three
men immediately interfering and endeavouring to
push him from the pavement, with a view to throw
him into a puddle, he was alarmed for his safety,
and rashly struck one of them with a knife (which
he constantly wore for the purpose of cutting fruit
and sweetmeats), and gave him a wound, of which
he died the next day. Baretti was arraigned at the
Old Bailey for murder, and among the numerous
witnesses called to give evidence as to character,
appeared Dr. Johnson himself. This, his biographer
supposes, was the only time in his life that the
doctor ever appeared as a witness in a court of
justice. "Never," he adds, "did such a constellation of genius enlighten the awful Sessions-house,
emphatically called Justice-hall; there were Mr.
Burke, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Beauclerk, and Dr. Johnson: and undoubtedly their favourable testimony
had due weight with the court and jury. Johnson
gave his evidence in a slow, deliberate, and distinct
manner, which was uncommonly impressive. It
is well known that Mr. Baretti was acquitted."
Situated in the centre of the pleasure-going Westend population, the Haymarket is a great place for
hotels, supper-houses, and foreign cafés; and it
need hardly be added here, that so many of its
taverns became the resort of the loosest characters,
after the closing of the theatres, who turned night
into day, and who were so constantly appearing
before the sitting magistrates in consequence of
drunken riots and street rows, that the Legislature
interfered, and an Act of Parliament was passed,
compelling the closing of such houses of refreshment at twelve o'clock.
The street and its neighbourhood have long been
noted for places of amusement, and for those kinds
of entertainment which are generally known as
"popular." About the year 1750 a collection of
performing dogs and monkeys from Italy, and
exhibited under the name of the "Animal Comedians" at a place in the Haymarket known as
"Mrs. Midnight's Oratory," became so famous that
they were made the subject of a paper in the
Adventurer. The writer discourses in a most learned
style on the various animal prodigies and strange
biped performers that had lately appeared "within
the bills of mortality"—such as the "modern
Colossus;" the "female Samson;" the "famous
negro, who swings about his arms in every direction;" the "noted ox with six legs and two bellies;"
the "beautiful panther-mare;" the "noted fire
eater, smoking out of red-hot tobacco pipes, champing lighted brimstone, and swallowing his infernal
mess of broth;" the "most amazing new English
chien savant;" the "little woman that weighs no
more than twenty-three pounds;" the "wonderful
little Norfolk man;" the "wonderful Stentor;"
the "wonderful man who talks in his belly;" the
"wire-dancer;" the "five dancing bears;" and the
"much-applauded stupendous ostrich."
In 1758, or the following year, Bisset, the famous
animal-trainer, hired here a room, in which he
announced a public performance of the "Cat's
Opera," supplemented by tricks of a horse, a dog,
and some monkeys. Mr. Frost, in his "Old Showman," tells us that, "besides the organ-grinding and
rope-dancing performances, the monkeys took wine
together, and rode on the horse, pirouetting and
somersaulting with the skill of a practised acrobat.
One of them also," he adds, "danced a minuet with
the dog. The 'Cat's Opera' was attended by
crowded houses, and Bisset cleared a thousand
pounds by the exhibition in a few days. He afterwards taught a hare to walk on its hind legs and beat
a drum; a feathered company of canaries, linnets,
and sparrows to spell names, tell the time by the
clock, &c.; half-a-dozen turkeys to execute a country
dance; and a turtle (or more probably a tortoise) to
write names on the floor, having its feet blackened
for the purpose. After a successful season in
London, he sold some of the animals, and made a
provincial tour with the rest, rapidly accumulating a
considerable fortune." "At the Opera Room in
the Haymarket," in the reign of George II., were
exhibited by Fawkes, the showman, some waxwork figures, which went through the comical
tragedy of "Tom Thumb."
According to a placard immortalised by Mr.
John Timbs in his "Romance of London," at No.
61 in this street, O'Brien, the Irish Giant, whose
skeleton is to be seen in the Museum of the College
of Surgeons, as already stated by us, (fn. 2) was exhibited
in 1804. He is thus described:—"He is indisputably the tallest man ever shown; is a lineal
descendant of Brian Boru, and resembles that great
potentate. All the members of the family are
distinguished by their immense size. The gentleman alluded to measures near nine feet high."
Owing to his great height he was most unwieldy,
and could scarcely walk up an incline, so that he
had to rest his hands for support on the shoulders
of two men in walking up Holborn Hill. When
he wished to light his pipe, Mr. Timbs tells us, he
used to take the top off a street-lamp. Once on a
journey in his own carriage he was stopped by a
robber; but when he looked out of the window,
the thief rode off, frightened at his height. He
exhibited himself for more than twenty years, and
realised a large sum; and we are told that he was
seldom absent from Bartlemy Fair. He died in
Another of the principal places of amusement in
the Haymarket, in the early part of the present
century, was Weeks's Museum. The grand room,
which was upwards of one hundred feet in length,
was hung entirely with blue satin, and contained a
variety of figures, which exhibited the powers of
At the top of the street, at the north-east corner,
facing Weeks's Museum, stood a place of public
amusement—in fact, a gaming-house, familiar
to the readers of the comedies of the time as
"Shaver's Hall;" its name being derived from the
barber of Lord Pembroke, who built it out of his
earnings. It occupied the whole of the southern
side of Coventry Street from the Haymarket to
Hedge Lane. It is described by Garrow in a
letter to Lord Strafford, in 1635, as "a new Spring
Garden, erected in the fields beyond the Mews."
For the following minute description of it we are
indebted to the industry and research of John
Timbs:—From a survey of the premises made in
1650, we gather that Shaver's Hall was strongly
built of brick, and covered with lead; its large cellar
was divided into six rooms; above these were four
rooms, and the same in the first storey, to which
there was a balcony commanding a view of the
bowling-alleys that sloped to the south. In the
second storey were six rooms, and over the same a
walk with leads, and enclosed with rails, "very
curiously carved and wrought," as was also the staircase throughout the house. On the west were large
kitchens and coal-house, with lofts over it. At the
entrance-gate to the upper bowling-green was a
"parlour-lodge," close to which a double flight of
steps led down to the lower bowling-alley. There
was still beyond this another bowling-alley, and an
orchard well planted with choice fruit-trees, as also
"one pleasant banqueting house, and one other fair
and pleasant apartment called the Green Room, and
one other Conduit House, and two turrets adjoining the walls." Beyond, to the south, was also "one
fair Tennis Court, of brick, tiled, well accommodated with all things fitting for the same." This
is the Tennis Court which till recently stood at
the corner of James Street, the last building shown
on Faithorne's plan in 1658.
On the east side of the upper part of the Haymarket, in the year 1720, if not still later, was
living the widow of Colonel Thomas Panton, the
successful gamester, who, having realised a sudden
fortune as the keeper of a gaming-house in Piccadilly, had the good sense to invest his gains in a
house and land, and abandon cards and the dicebox. His name is still kept up in that of Panton
Street, and of Panton Square; but the bulk of his
wealth was carried by his daughter on her marriage
into the family of Lord Arundell of Wardour, who
gave his name to Arundell Street adjoining, and
also, as we have said, to Wardour Street, in Soho.
On the same side of the street, opposite Charles
Street, stands the Haymarket Theatre. Its early
history runs as follows:—
In the year 1720 an enterprising carpenter
named John Potter built a small playhouse in the
Haymarket, on the site of the "King's Head Inn."
The cost of the building was £1,000, and Potter
further expended £500 in decorations, scenery, and
dresses. He leased the theatre, immediately after
its completion, to a company of French actors, who
were at that time much favoured by the English
aristocracy, and who performed under a temporary
licence from the Lord Chamberlain. This company
styled themselves "The French Comedians of his
Grace the Duke of Montague," that nobleman
being their principal patron, and opened the new
house on the 29th of December, 1720, with the
comedy of La Fille à la Morte, ou le Badeaud
de Paris. At this time, and for several years
afterwards, Potter's speculation was known to the
play-going world as "The New French Theatre."
About ten years later, being then occupied by an
English company, it began to be spoken of as
"The Little Theatre in the Haymarket"—a title
which it retained until the original edifice was
pulled down in 1820, having just completed a century
of existence. Its site is now occupied by the
"Café de l'Europe." In 1734 it was in the occupation of Henry Fielding, the great novelist and
dramatist, with a congenial band, styled in the
play-bills. "The Great Mogul's Company, recently
dropped from the clouds." His opening piece was
entitled Pasquin, and, being a social satire of the
most caustic nature, it achieved great popularity,
and had a run of more than fifty nights. Elated by
his success, Fielding produced a second piece,
called The Historical Register, a political satire,
which contained so audacious a caricature of Sir
Robert Walpole, under the name of "Quidam,"
that the Prime Minister's resentment led to the
passing of that Act which requires all dramatic
pieces to be submitted to the approval of the Lord
Chamberlain before they can be performed.
THE OLD HAYMARKET THEATRE.
We are told by Mr. Frost, in his "Old Showmen," already quoted, that "Punch's celebrated
company of comical tragedians from the Haymarket
performed the most comical and whimsical tragedy
that ever was tragedised by any tragical company
of comedians, called The Humours of Covent
Garden, by Henry Fielding, Esq."
In 1745 the "Little Theatre," having passed
through the hands of several managers, each of
whom had only a temporary licence, was opened
without the ceremony of a licence of any sort by
Theophilus Cibber, who succeeded in evading the
usual penalty by the manner in which his advertisements were worded. They ran thus:—"At
Cibber's Academy, in the Haymarket, will be a
concert; after which will be exhibited gratis a
rehearsal in the form of a play, called Romeo and
Juliet." It is probable, however, that in spite
of this ingenious artifice, Mr. Cibber received an
official hint which induced him to announce, in
the autumn of the same year, that "Mr. Cibber's
company, being busily employed in reviving several
pieces, are obliged to defer playing until further
In 1747 the house was daily crowded by fashionable audiences to witness Samuel Foote's humorous
entertainments, entitled "Foote giving Tea," &c.,
which included life-like imitations of the most
notable characters of the day.
Apropos of Foote's entertainment, a good story
of the silly Duke of Cumberland is told by Mr.
W. C. Hazlitt, in his "New London Jest Book."
One night he was in the green-room here. "Well,
here I am, Mr. Foote," said he, "ready to swallow
all your good things." "Your royal highness,"
answered the witty actor, "must have the digestion
of an ostrich, for I never knew you to throw up any
When Foote first opened this theatre, amongst
other projects, he proposed to entertain the public
with an imitation of cat music. For this purpose he
engaged a man famous for his skill in mimicking
the mewing of cats. This person was called "Cat
Harris." As he did not attend the rehearsal of this
odd concert, Foote desired Shuter would endeavour
to find him out and bring him with him. Shuter
was directed to some court in the Minories where
this extraordinary musician lived; but not being
able to find the house, Shuter began a cat solo;
upon this the other looked out of the window, and
answered him with a cantata of the same sort.
"Come along," said Shuter, "I want no better information that you are the man. Mr. Foote stays
for us—we cannot begin the cat opera without you."
All sorts of stories are told of Foote, and some of
them on very good authority. A few of them will
bear repeating here.
Foote could not bear to see anybody or anything
succeed in the Haymarket but himself and his own
writings, and forgot that a failure of the new scheme
might possibly endanger the regular payment of his
annuity. His pique broke out sometimes in downright rudeness. One morning he came hopping
upon the stage during the rehearsal of the Spanish
Barber, then about to be produced; the performers
were busy in that scene of the piece where one
servant is under the influence of a sleeping draught,
and another of a sneezing powder. "Well," said
Foote, dryly, to the manager, "how do you go on?"
"Pretty well," was the answer; "but I cannot
teach one of these fellows to gape as he ought to
do." "Can't you?" replied Foote; "then read
him your last comedy of The Man of Business,
and he'll yawn for a month."
On another occasion he was not less coarse,
though more laughable, to an actor than he had
been to the manager. This happened when Digges,
of much celebrity out of London, and who had
come to town from Edinburgh, covered with
Scottish laurels, made his first appearance in the
Haymarket. He had studied the antiquated style
of acting; in short, he was a fine bit of old stagebuckram, and "Cato" was therefore selected for the
first essay. He "discharged the character" in the
same costume as it is to be supposed was adopted
by Booth when the play was originally acted; that
is, in a shape, as it was technically termed, of the
stiffest order, decorated with gilt leather upon a
black ground, with black stockings, black gloves,
and a powdered periwig. Foote had planted himself in the pit, when Digges stalked on before the
public thus formidably accoutred. The malicious
wag waited till the customary round of applause
had subsided, and then ejaculated, in a pretended
under-tone, loud enough to be heard by all around
him, "A Roman chimney-sweeper on May-day!"
The laughter which this produced in the pit was
enough to knock up a débutant, and it startled the
old stager personating the Stoic of Utica; the
sarcasm was irresistibly funny, but Foote deserved
to be kicked out of the house for his cruelty and
The theatre barely escaped being destroyed,
in 1749, by an enraged mob, the victims of a hoax
planned by the eccentric Duke of Montague, who
had caused an advertisement to appear, stating
that, "on the 16th of January, a conjurer would
jump into a quart bottle at the Little Theatre."
On the appointed day thousands of persons were
assembled in and around the theatre to witness
the exploit, and a furious riot was the result of
In 1766 the Duke of York, who was Foote's
staunch patron, obtained for him a royal patent for
his life, in virtue of which the "little" playhouse
became a "Theatre Royal," and Foote, who had
leased it as a summer theatre since 1762, now
purchased the premises on which it was built, and
greatly altered and enlarged the building. It is
said that on one occasion, when out on a party of
pleasure with the Duke of York and other illustrious
personages, Foote met with an accident which in
the end was overruled to his advantage. He was
thrown from his horse, and his leg being broken, he
was forced to submit to amputation. It was in
consequence of this accident the duke obtained for
him the patent above mentioned. "Strange as it
may appear, with the aid of a cork leg he performed
his former characters with no less agility and spirit
than before, and continued by his laughable performances to draw together crowded houses."
Remarkable for his wit as well as for his marvellous power of mimicry, neither friend nor patron was
sacred from Foote's merciless satire, provided the
person were sufficiently well known to be worth the
trouble. It must, however, be urged in his defence,
that his friends were no more troubled with scruples
of delicacy than himself, and seem to have considered gross personalities to be the soul of wit.
Foote's uncle, Captain Goodere, having been
executed for the murder of his brother, Sir John
Goodere, Mr. Cooke, the translator of "Hesiod,"
once presented Foote to a select society, with the
agreeable introductory remark, "This is the nephew
of Captain Goodere, the gentleman who was lately
hung in chains for murdering his brother."
Another little episode in the annals of the Haymarket Theatre is perhaps worth mentioning here.
In the early days of the Regency—about the year
1810—there suddenly appeared at the West-end a
wealthy gentleman, of middle age, and of West
Indian extraction, named Robert Coates. He was
of good-figured appearance, dressed well, and even
showily, and always wore a quantity of fur. At
evening parties, to which he gained an entrance,
his buttons and knee-buckles were studded with
diamonds. There was a great mystery about his
antecedents, and the public curiosity was heightened by the announcement that he proposed to
appear at the Haymarket Theatre in the character
of "Romeo." By hook or by crook he contrived
to arrange for this appearance, and on the night the
house was crowded to suffocation, the play-bill
having given out that an "amateur of fashion"
had consented to perform "for one night only;"
and it was generally whispered that the rehearsal
gave unmistakable signs that the tragedy would be
turned into a comedy. But his appearance outdid
all expectations. Mr. Coates's dress was grotesque
in the extreme. In a cloak of sky-blue silk, profusely spangled, red pantaloons, a vest of white
muslin, and a wig of the style of Charles II.,
capped by an opera hat, he brought down the
whole house with laughter before he opened his
lips, and the laughter was increased by the fact
that his nether garments, being far too tight,
burst in seams which could not be concealed.
But when his guttural voice was heard, and he
showed his total misapprehension of every part of
the play, especially in the vulgarity of his address to
"Juliet," and in his equally absurd rendering of the
balcony scene, the whole thing was so comic, that
gallery and pit were equally convulsed with laughter,
and the piece ended in an uproar. It is needless
to add that, for the character of the theatre,
"Romeo" Coates, as he was afterwards called,
was not allowed to appear again upon the stage at
the Haymarket, though he possibly amused his
friends by amateur performances in private.
To this theatre belongs the somewhat eccentric
and amusing story of Lady Caroline Petersham,
told by Horace Walpole:—
"Your friend Lady C——P——has entertained
the town with a new scene. She was t'other night
at the play with her court—viz., Miss Ashe, Lord
Barnard, M. St. Simon, and her favourite footman,
Richard, whom, under pretence of keeping places,
she always keeps in her box the whole time to see
the play at his ease. Mr. Stanley, Colonel Vernon,
and Mr. Vaughan arrived at the very end of the
farce, and could find no room but a row and a half in
Lady C——'s box. Richard denied their entrance
very impertinently. Mr. Stanley took him by the
hair of his head, dragged him into the passage, and
thrashed him. The heroine was outrageous; the
heroes not at all so. She sent Richard to (Sir
John) Fielding for a warrant: he could not grant
it; and so it ended." On this incident Lady
Lepel Hervey remarks, "Come and hear a little
of what is going on in town. . . . . You will
hear of ladies of quality who uphold footmen in
In 1770 the theatre was engaged by one Maddox,
a performer on the slack wire; and it is said that
his were the most prosperous entertainments ever
carried on in this house. His profits in one season
are stated to have amounted to £11,000, being
£2,500 more than Garrick's a few years earlier.
In 1776 Foote sold his interest in the theatre to
George Colman the elder for an annuity of £1,600,
and Colman, on Foote's death, early in the following year, obtained the whole property for £800.
And now, for a period of nearly fifty years, the
Haymarket Theatre was the property of George
Colman, passing, in 1794, on the death of George
the elder, into the hands of George the younger,
under whose management it was one of the most
prosperous theatres in London.
On the 3rd of February, 1794, a dreadful accident
happened here, through the pressure of the crowd,
who had assembled in great numbers, in consequence of the play on that night having been commanded by their Majesties. On opening the pit
door, the rush was so strong, that a number of
persons were thrown down, and fifteen persons
deprived of life, and upwards of twenty others
materially injured by bruises and broken limbs.
Most of the sufferers were respectable persons, and
among the dead were two of the heralds.
An old lady named Wall, for whom Colman,
from early associations, appears to have had a kind
consideration, had been an actress in a subordinate
situation for many seasons in this theatre. We
must all pay the debt of nature; and, in due time,
the old lady died. Somebody from the theatre
went to break the intelligence to Colman, who, on
hearing it, inquired "whether there had been any
bills stuck up!" The messenger replied in the
negative, and ventured to ask Mr. Colman why he
had put that question. Colman answered, "They
generally paste bills on a dead wall, don't they?"
In 1820, Colman having sold his entire interest
in the theatre, the old edifice was pulled down, and
the present building erected, on almost the same
site, from a design by John Nash. The front is
of stone, and is about sixty feet in length, and
nearly fifty in height. The entrance is through a
handsome portico, the entablature and pediment
being supported by six columns of the Corinthian
order; above are circular windows connected by
sculpture of an ornamental character. Under the
portico are five doors, leading respectively to the
boxes, pit, galleries, and box-office. The shape of
the interior differs from that of every other theatre
in London, being nearly a square, with the side
facing the stage very slightly curved. The expense
of the new building was about £20,000. It is a
remarkably neat and pretty house, having two tiers
of boxes, besides other half-tiers parallel with the
lower gallery, and will seat about 1,500 persons
The first great success of the new theatre was
Poole's comedy of Paul Pry, which was produced
in 1825, with Liston in the principal character,
supported by William Farren, Mrs. Waylett, Mrs.
Glover, and Madame Vestris. With such a caste
it cannot be a matter of surprise that the piece
had a run of 114 nights, and that the price of a
box was sometimes paid for a seat in the gallery.
In 1837 Mr. Benjamin Webster became the
lessee, and collected around him a brilliant company. Messrs. Macready, Charles Kean, Tyrone
Power, Sheridan Knowles, Charles Mathews the
younger, Mrs. Glover, Mrs. Nisbet, Miss Ellen Tree,
Madame Vestris, Miss Cushman, Miss Helen
Faucit, and Mrs. Stirling, were the most notable
stars which shone in the Haymarket Theatre
during Mr. Webster's management. In 1843 the
lessee made a spirited effort in behalf of the
modern drama, by offering a competition prize
of £500 for the best comedy. The piece selected
was Quid pro Quo, by Mrs. Gore, which was
performed in the year 1844, and turned out a
dead failure, a result partly compensated by the
enormous success of Charles Mathews in Used
Up, which was produced here shortly afterwards.
Mr. Webster relinquished his connection with the
Haymarket in 1853, after having effected great
improvements at his own expense. He widened
the proscenium eleven feet, introduced gas at an
expense of £500 per annum, and presented the
central chandelier to the proprietors. The theatre
then passed into the hands of Mr. Buckstone,
under whose management it has run a career of
uninterrupted prosperity. For several years it was
the only house in London where the standard
English comedies, such as The School for Scandal,
The Rivals, &c., were regularly performed, the pièce
de résistance being as regularly followed by a farce
in which Mr. Buckstone sustained the principal part.
For a quarter of a century since Mr. Buckstone
became the lessee of the Haymarket he was the
life and soul of his company; and just as in those
days his "Tony Lumpkin" and "Bob Acres"
seemed the chief features of the old comedies, so
now the humours of "My Lord Dundreary" and
the exquisite grace of Mr. Gilbert's fairy dramas
would be accounted insipid, without the pinch of
Attic salt with which the veteran actor flavours the
In a work published in 1808 it is made a subject
of complaint that there were only two theatres,
whereas London, in the reign of Elizabeth and
James I., the golden age of the English drama, was
not a tenth part of its then size, and yet nevertheless it contained seventeen theatres. "More
theatres are therefore wanted," adds the writer; and
he complains bitterly of the restrictions imposed
on the dramatic muse by the exclusive privileges
conferred on Drury Lane and Covent Garden. It
is perhaps worthy of note that the first new theatre
to break the ice of these restrictions was the Haymarket, as already related in this chapter.