286 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. oup north,” Sir William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Stirling. His tragedies, however, are dramatic only in title, and not at all adapted for the stage. James VI. endeavoured to mediate between the clergy and the encouragers of the drama, and, by his royal authority, stayed for a time their censure of theatrical representations. In the year 1592, a company of English players was licenced by the King to perform in Edinburgh, against which an act of the Kirk-sessions was forthwith published, prohibiting the people to resort to such profane amusements.2 The King appears to have heartily espoused the cause of the players a few years later, as various entries in the treasury accounts attest, e.g. :- “ Oct. 1599.-Item, Delyuerit to his hienes selff to be gevin to ye Inglis commeidianis X;i crownes of ye sone, at iijli. ijs. viijd. ye pece. Nov.-Item. Be his lUabes directioun gevin to Sr George Elphingstoun, to be delyuerit to ye Inglis commedians, to by timber for ye preparatioun of ane hous to thair pastyme, as the said S‘ George ticket beiris, xl. l i ; ” and again a sum is paid to a royal messenger for notifying at the Cross, with sound of trumpet, “his Mat‘= plesour to all his lieges, that ye saidis commedianis mycht vse thair playis in E@,” &c. In the year 1601, an English company of players visited Scotland, and appeared publicly at Aberdeen, headed by “ Laurence Fletcher, comediane to his Majestie.” The freedom of that burgh was conferred on him at the same time that it was bestowed on sundry French knights and other distinguished strangers, in whose train the players had arrived. Mr Charles Knight, in his ingenious life of Shakspeare, rshows that this is the same player whose name occurs along with that of the great English dramatist, in the patent granted by James VI,, immediately after his arrival in the southern capital in 1603, in favour of the company at the Globe ; and from thence he draws the conclusion that Shakspeare himself visited Scotland at this period, and sketched out the plan of his great Scottish tragedy amid the scenes of its historic events. By the same course of iuference, Shakspeare’s name is associated with the ancient Tennis Court at the Water Gate, as it cannot be doubted that his Majesty’s players made their appearance at the capital, and before the Court of Holyrood, either in going to or returning from the northern burgh, whither they had proceeded by the King’s special orders ; but it must be confessed the argument is a very slender one to form the sole basis for such a conclusion. The civil wars in the reign of Charles I., and the striking changes that they led to, obliterated all traces of theatrical representations, until their reappearance soon after the Restoration. One curious exhibition, however, is mentioned in the interval, which may be considered as a substitute for these forbidden displays. “ At this tyme,” says Nicoll, in 1659, ‘ I thair wes brocht to this natioun ane heigh great beast, callit ane Drummodrary, quhilk being keipit clos in the Cannogate, nane haid a sight of it without thrie pence the persone, quhilk producit much gape to the keipar, in respect of the great numberis of pepill that resoirtit to it, for the sight thairof. It wes very big, and of great height, and clovin futted lyke unto a kow, and on the bak ane saitt, as it were a sadill, to sit on. Thair wes brocht in with it ane liytill baboun, faced lyke unto a naip.” Drummond of Hawthornden’a Letters, Archzeol. Scot. vol. iv. p. 83. ’ ‘‘ Nov. 1599.-Item, to Wm. Forsf, measenger, paasand with lettrea to the mercat crow of Eam, chairging ye elderia and deacouna of the haill four aeasionia of Ed“. to annull thair act maid for ye diacharge of certane Iuglis commedianis, L a., viiij. d.”-Treasurers’ accounts. 8 Nicoll’a Diary, p. 226.
THE CANONGA TE AND ABBEY SANCTUAR Y. 287 During the government of the Earl of Rothes as High Commissioner for Scotland, a play called " Marciano, or the Discovery," by Sir Thomas Sydserff, was acted on the festival of St John, before his Grace and his Court at Holyrood,' and at the Court of the ~ Duke of York, at a somewhat later period, a regular company of actors were maintained, and the Tennis Court fitted up for their performances, in defiance of the scandal created by such innovations.s Lord Fountainhall notes among his " Historical Observes," 3- U 15th Novembris 1681, being the Quean of Brittain's birthday, it was keeped by our Court at Halirudhouse with great solemnitie, such as bonfyres, shooting of canons, and the acting of a comedy, called Mithridutes King of Pontus, before ther Royal1 Hynesses, &c., wheirin Ladie Anne, the Duke's daughter, and the Ladies of Honor ware the onlie actors." Not only the canonists, both Protestant and Popish-adds my Lord Fountainhall, in indignant comment-" but the very heathen roman lawyers, declared all scenicks and stage players infamous, and will scarce admit them to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper "-a somewhat singular mark of disapprobation from heathen lawyers I The Revolution again banished the drama from Scotland, and we hear no more of it' till the year 1714, when the play of Macbeth was performed at the Tennis Court, in presence of a number of the Scottish nobility and gentry assembled in Edinburgh for a grand archery meeting. Party politics ran high at the time, some of the company present called for the favourite song, May the King enjoy his ain again," ' while others as stoutly opposed it, and the entertainments wound up in a regular mdlke, anticipatory of the rebellion which speedily followed. But the scene of his successful patronage of the drama appears to have been first chosen by Signora Violante, an Italian dancer and tumbler, who afterwards took the legitimate drama under her protection and management. This virago, as Arnot styles her,5 returned to Edinburgh, " where she fitted up that house in the foot of Carrubber's Close, which has since been occupied as a meeting-house by successive tribes of sectaries." Driven from this quarter, as we have seen, the players betook themselves to the Taylor's Hall, in the Cowgate, and though mere strolling bands, they were persecuted into popularity by their opponents, until this large hall proved insufficient for their accommodation. A rival establishment was accordingly set "going, and in the year 1746, the foundation-stone of the first regular theatre in Edinburgh was laid within the Play-house Close, Canongate, by Mr John Ryan, then a London actor of considerable repute. Here the drama had mainly to contend with the commoner impediments incidental to the proverbial lack of prudence and thrift in the management of actors, until the year 1756, when, on the night of the 14th December, the tragedy of Douglas, the work of a clergyman of the Kirk, was f i s t presented to an Edinburgh audience. The clergy anew returned to the assault with redoubled zeal, and although they were no longer able to chase the players from the stage, John Home, the author of the obnoxious tragedy, Allan Ramsay's unfortunate theatrical speculation has already been referred to. Campbell's Journey, vol. ii. p. 163. Fountainhall's Hiatorical Observes, p. 51. * Tide, vol. i. p. 103. Tytler concludes his account of the Duke's theatrical entertainment with the following inference, which would have done credit to s history of the Irish stage c" Private balla and concerts of music, it would aeem, were now the only species of public entertainmente amongst us ! "-Archsol. Scot. vol. i p. 504. ' Campbell's History of Poetry in Scotland, p. 353. Arnot, p. 366.