Ira Frederick Aldridge (1807-1867)   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

Aldridge and Seymour; a Cooling Relationship

A week after his engagement at Dublin’s Theatre Royal ended on December 20, 1833, Aldridge accepted a contract for four nights at the Theatre in Limerick run by actor-manager Frank Seymour.  Aldridge had known Seymour for years, having performed for him in Glasgow in April 1827, in Belfast in July 1829 (when Aldridge played opposite Charles Kean), and possibly in several other theatres Seymour had managed in Scotland and Ireland before 1834. The two men apparently were good friends, or perhaps, whatever they thought of each other, they saw renewed collaboration as working to their mutual advantage.

Aldridge had toured with Seymour and his troupe because it was the easiest way for him to earn a living. Ireland did not have enough permanent theatres to keep him employed in a succession of short-term engagements for an entire year.  Also, teaming up with a touring company spared him the trouble of trying to secure work on his own. As his letter to MacDonnell in Cork indicates, Aldridge did not employ an agent to make bookings for him. Yet the very fact that he wrote to MacDonnell suggests that he was by now dissatisfied with the arrangement he had with Seymour and wanted to break loose from the routine of performing week after week with the same group of actors.  He desired more independence, more opportunity to determine his own working conditions and to chart his own future as a performer.

[From Ira Aldridge: The Vagabond Years, 1833-1852, by Bernth Lindfors.]

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Othello
Ira Aldridge as Othello ca 1830 [Image in the public domain.]

 . . . . Galway, Mullingar, and probably many more, and in each of which, assisted by Mr Edmondston and Mr Templeton, he dazzled large crowds with his 'Grand Classical and Dramatic Eentertainments', which now included scenes from Zaraffa as illustrations. The only surprising incident on this itinerary was communicated in an alarming report from the Roscommon Journal.

'We perceive that Mr Aldridge has been humbugging the people of Galway for the last fortnight.   On Monday he promised them a rich treat in the nature of a performance by the Officers of the 5th foot - but when the day arrived, those who expected something for their money must have felt somewhat disappointed, for that morning, Mungo*, his lovely bride, carriage and servants made their disapperarance.   We wonder whether Mr Aldridge intends trying his hand again in Athlone, where he figured away in such and extraordinary manner that he left the town enjoying the contempt of almost every person who gave him their support. It is astonishing with what effrontery such fellows seek patronage, where so much native ability, talent, propriety of conduct and integrity can be found totally neglected.'

Two weeks later, however, the Roscommon Journal felt compelled to eat its words.

'It appears that some mistake has occurred relative to the appearance of Mr Aldridge in Galway on Monday night, the 5th inst. From the paragraph in this Journal of the 10th, it would be inferred that Mr Aldridge had no performance whatsoever on Monday night, and that he left the town next morning with the money he received for the tickets. The facts which have since that been communicated to us, contradict the assertion.   Mr Aldridge has, it appears, a respectable audience on Monday evening, and it is stated that two Officers performed on the occasion. In justice to Mr Aldridge, we feel bound to correct the error, particularly as it originated with us.'

*Mungo is a character in The Padlock, often played by Aldridge.

[From Ira Aldridge: The Vagabond Years, 1833-1852, by Bernth Lindfors. and Roscommon Journal, 1839]

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MungoIra Frederick Aldridge as Mungo in 'The Padlock',   stipple and line engraving by T. Hollis, after William Paine.  Published by John Tallis & Company, London ca 1850  274 mm x 176 mm.  Purchased, 1966, by the National Portrait Gallery, London.  [This version of the image in the public domain.]


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