William Charles Macready (1793 - 1873)   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

Macready on tour, 1828 - 1829

10th November -- Bury St. Edmunds (4 nights);  17th November - Sheffield (5 nights); 24th.-Cardiff (4 nights);  lst December - Bristol (6 nights);  9th December - Wolverhampton (3 nights); 17th December - Colchester (4 nights). 20th December - Ipswich (4 nights).

[Total receipt of year, £2,361 16s. 3d. Expenditure, £1,953 4s. 10d.   The plays chiefly performed during the English provincial engagements in 1828 were, Othello, Virginius, Macbeth, William Tell, Hamlet.']

1829. 5th January - Plymouth; 19th January - Path.  22nd January , &c. [Engagements at Bristol, Stratford, Warwick, Grantham, Pontefract, Halifax, Newcastle, Shields, Greenock, Kilmarnock.]

6th March - Belfast (6 nights;  23rd March to lst April - Worcester, Northampton, Stamford;  llth April .-On this day my dear father died. May the God of Mercy give grace to his departed spirit, and receive him into his eternal peace.  18th April.-- Followed my dear father's body to his grave. O God, bless and receive him, and spare me further trials of such a nature. Amen.   19th April - Reached my dear, dear home. Praised and blessed be the name of God for all his mercies and goodness to me. 11th July - Bristol;  24th August - Swansea; 3rd September - Returned home.   6th October - Brighton (4 nights); 12th October - Liverpool (6 nights);  19th October - -Birmingham (5 nights).

[Test from Macready's Reminiscences and Selections from his Dairies and Letters, Edited by Sir Frederick Pollock Bart., one of his executors.  Macmillan and Co 1875]


William Charles Macready (1793–1873), as Macbeth, 1821 in 'Macbeth' by George Clint. Oil on panel, 29.2 x 24.1 cm in the cCollection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  [Image in the public domain.]

Acting with Mrs. Siddons as Lady Randolph (1811-12)

. . . . when they reach the prison door she stopped, as if awakened from a trance, uttered a shriek of agony that would have pierced the hardest heart, and, rushing from them, flung herself, as if for union in death, on the prostrate form before her. She stood alone on her height of excellence. Her acting was perfection, and as I recall it I do not wonder, novice as I was, at my perturbation when on the stage with her. But in the progress of the play I gradually regained more and more my self-possession, and in the last scene as she stood by the side wing, waiting for the cue of her entrance, on my utterance of the words, 'My wife and sister! well-well! there is but one pang more, and then farewell world!' she raised her hands, clapping loudly, and calling out 'Bravo! sir, bravo!' in sight of part of the audience, who joined in her applause.

It would not be easy to describe the relief I felt when this trying night was over. The next morning I paid my required visit at her hotel, and going through the scenes of 'Douglas,' carefully recorded her directions, and, in a more composed state than I had been on the previous day, took my leave. I was, in ordinary terms, 'at home' in the part of Norval, and of course acted with more than usual care and spirit. But who that had ever seen it could forget her performance of Lady Randolph?

.  .  . .  In the part of Mrs. Beverley the image of conjugal devotion was set off with every charm of grace and winning softness. In Lady Randolph the sorrows of widowhood and the maternal fondness of the chieftain's daughter, assumed a loftier demeanour, but still the mother's heart showed itself above all power of repression by conventional control. In her first interview with Norval, presented as Lord Randolph's defender from the assassins, the mournful admiration of her look, as she fixed her gaze upon him, plainly told that the tear which Randolph observed to start in her eye was nature's parental instinct in the presence of her son. . . . . As he knelt before her she wreathed her fingers in his hair, parted it from his brow, in silence looking into his features to trace there the resemblance of the husband of her love, then dropping on her knees, and throwing her arms around him, she showered kisses on him, and again fastened her eyes on his, repeating the lines, 'Image of Douglas! Fruit of fatal love All that I owe thy sire I pay to thee!'

. . . . Mrs. Siddons after the play sent to me to say, when I was dressed, she would be glad to see me in her room. On going in, she 'wished,' she said, 'to give me a few words of advice before taking leave of me. You are in the right way,' she said, 'but remember what I say, study, study, study, and do not marry till you are thirty. I 'remember what it was to be obliged to study at nearly your age with a young family about me. Beware of that: keep your mind on your art, do not remit your study and you are certain to succeed.' . . . Her words lived with me, and often in moments of despondency, have come to cheer me.

[Text from Macready's Reminiscences and Selections from his Dairies and Letters, Edited by Sir Frederick Pollock Bart., one of his executors. Macmillan and Co 1875]


William Charles Macready (1793–1873) as Henry IV in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 2 ,1821 by John Jackson, oil on canvas, 914 mm x 616 mm.  Original bequeathed to the national Portrait gallery, Lonfon, by William Charles Macready, 1908.  [Original image in the public domain.]

Macready in Scotland, Autumn 1850

Dundee, 18th September - Hamlet;   Aberdeen, 19th September - Read Macbeth;  20th September - Read Hamlet;  Greenock, 23rd September - Iago. 24th September - Virginius; Paisley, 25th September - Iago; Glasgow, 26th September - Richelieu; 27th September - Iago; 30th September - Acted Virginius.

Called, and tried to say the few words I had prepared. I could not-so improvised something which led me into the current of the short speech intended. It is most extraordinary that I cannot find words or thoughts at the moment they are needed. The audience seemed satisfied with what I said.

Glasgow is ended-good Glasgow!  Paisley, 2nd October.  We reached Burns's birthplace-the cottage, bed, &c. There had God given breath to that sensitive frame and lighted up that divine genius. The other room was covered over with names, seeking immortality with pencil and penknife.

Afterwards to Alloway Kirk, now desecrated and divided into burying places.

[Macready's Reminiscences and Selections from his Dairies and Letters, Edited by Sir Frederick Pollock Bart., one of his executors.  Macmillan and Co 1875]


William Charles Macready (1793–1873), as Macbeth, 1821. (from 'Macbeth', Act II, Scene 2) by John Jackson. Oil on canvas, 125.7 x 100.3 cm In the collection of Royal Shakespeare Company.  [Original image in the public domain.]

Macready rehearses and acts with Sarah Siddons

She received me, saying, 'I hope, Mr. Macready, you have brought some hartshorn and water with you, as I am told you are terribly frightened at me,' and she made some remarks about my being a very young husband. Her daughter, Miss Cecilia Siddons, went smiling, out of the room, and left us to the business of the morning.

Her instructions were vividly impressed on my memory, and I took my leave with fear and trembling, to steady my nerves for the coming night. The audience were as usual encouraging, and my first scene passed with applause; but in the next-my first with Mrs. Beverley[in 'The Gamester'] - my fear overcame me to that degree that for a minute my presence of mind forsook me, my memory seemed to have gone, and I stood bewildered. She kindly whispered the word to me (which I never could take from the prompter), and the scene proceeded.   

What eulogy can do justice to her personations! How inadequate are the endeavours of the best writer to depict with accuracy to another's fancy the landscape that in its sublime beauties may have charmed him! 'The tall rock, the mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood' may have 'their colours and their forms' particularised in eloquent language, but can they be so presented to the 'mind's eye' of the reader as to enable him to paint from them a picture, with which the reality will accord? or will any verbal account of the most striking features of 'the human face divine'' convey a distinct portraiture of the individual? How much less can any force of description imprint on the imagination the sudden but thrilling effects of tone or look, of port or gesture, or even of the silence so often significative in the development of human passion! 'L'art de d6clamation ne laisse apres lui quo des souvenirs.'

. . . . I will not presume to catalogue the merits of this unrivalled artist, but may point out, as a guide to others, one great excellence that distinguished all her personations. This was the unity of design, the just relation of all parts to the whole, that made us forget tle actress in the character she assumed. Throughout the tragedy of 'The Gamester' devotion to her husband stood out as the mainspring of her actions, the ruling passion of her being; apparent when reduced to poverty in her graceful and cheerful submission to the lot to which his vice has subjected her, in her fond excuses of his ruinous weakness, in her conciliating expostulations with his angry impatience, in her indignant repulse of Stukely's advances, when in the awful dignity of outraged virtue she imprecates the vengeance of Heaven upon his guilty head. The climax to her sorrows and sufferings was in the dungeon, when on her knees, holding her dying husband, he dropped lifeless from her arms. Her glaring eyes were fixed in stony blankness on his face; the powers of life seemed suspended in her. . .

[Macready's Reminiscences and Selections from his Dairies and Letters, Edited by Sir Frederick Pollock Bart., one of his executors.  Macmillan and Co 1875]


Mrs Siddons and Mr Kemble as Mr and Mrs Beverley in The Gamester,
painted by Thomas Stothart (1755 - 1834), engraved by James Heath (1757 - 1834) and Published by Lowndes 1783. [Original image in the public domain.]

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