pronounced NED SHUTER to be the greatest comic genius he had
ever known. He was the original Old Hardcastle and Sir Anthony
Absolute, Papillon in "The Liar," and Justice Woodcock
in "Love in a Village." Strange to say, he was a follower
of Whitefield's, a constant attendant at the Tottenham Court
Road Chapel, and divided his time pretty equally between drinking,
playing, and praying; when drunk he could scarcely be restrained
from going into the fields and preaching upon original sin and
regeneration. Tate Wilkinson, who was a hanger-on upon Shuter,
relates how he used to accompany him on Sunday mornings at six
to the Tottenham Court Road Chapel; at ten to another meeting-house
in Long Acre; at eleven back to Whitefield's chapel; at three
to some other; and in the evening to Moorfields. He was very
liberal to the Whitefieldites, and it is said that Whitefield
himself, although a bitter denouncer of all persons and things
dramatic, on the occasion of Shuter's benefit recommended the
congregation to attend the theater for once, on that night
His first appearance was at Covent Garden
in 1745, as "The Schoolboy," for the benefit of an
actor named Chapman, and he was so young that he was announced
in the bills as "Master Shuter," as he was in those
of Drury Lane a twelvemonth afterwards. He died November 1st,
1776. His last performance was Falstaff, for his own benefit,
in the preceding May; but between the bottle and the tabernacle
his faculties were nearly gone. "He was more bewildered
in his brain," says Wilkinson, "by wishing to acquire
imaginary grace than by all his drinking; like Mawworm he believed
he had a call." In his reasonable moments he was a lively,
shrewd companion, full of originality, whim, and humor; all he
said and did was his own, for it was with difficulty he could
read his parts, and he could just sign his name and no more;
but he was the delight of all who knew him on or off the stage.
John Taylor relates how he and his father dined and passed an
evening with him at the "Blue Posts" Tavern in Russell
Street, and how all the people in the neighboring boxes could
do nothing but listen to his comic stories and bon-mots.
Another time they were at some gardens, when the people gathered
together in such crowds to hear his humorous sallies, that the
waiters could not move about to serve. "No person thought
of retiring while Shuter remained, and I remember seeing him
in the midst of his friends, as if he were the monarch of merriment."
He was equally a favorite with the most distinguished people
in the realm. It is related that one night two of the royal princes
came behind the scenes to have a chat with him. Their presence
was anything but welcome on that occasion, as Shuter desired
to study his part. "By Jove," he said suddenly, "the
prompter has got my book; I must fetch it. Will your Royal Highness,"
addressing one of his visitors, "be so obliging as to hold
my skull-cap to the fire?" "Oh, certainly, Shuter,"
replied the Prince. "And perhaps you, your Royal Highness,"
turning to the other, " will condescend to air my breeches
while I am gone?" The second request was as cheerfully complied
with as the first. Returning presently with another actor, and
peeping through the keyhole, he saw his two visitors still engaged
as he had left them, patiently awaiting his return.
This article was originally
published in English Actors: From Shakespeare to Macready.
New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1879.