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practice in Lieut. Gen. Elliott's regt. :—for half-a-guinea he makes known his method of learning any horse to lay down at the word of command, and defies any man to equal it for safety and ease.
“Mr. Astley exhibits at full speed the different guards made use of by Elliott's Prussian and Hessian Hussars, also the manner of Elliott's charging the French troops in Germany in the year 1761, when it was said that regiment were all taylors, notwithstanding they gained a compleat victory.
“Mr. and Mrs. Astley will perform this and every evening during the season, &c. The manner of Fence and Defence, as in real action, &c. &c. “Spoken by Mr. Astley as his horse lays down imitating death,
“My horse lies dead, apparent at your sight,
But I'm the man can set the thing to right;
(The horse appears quite dead.)
(The horse of his own accord rises.)
My wife, to conclude, performs the rest." In the spring of 1769 he took a piece of ground of an old man in Stangate-street, who formerly kept a preserve for pheasants there, but at that time a timber-yard; he advanced him 2001., and had the timber, &c. secured to him by way of mortgage : the old man left England and was never heard of again : at the same time he found a diamond-ring, worth 601., on Westminster Bridge, which was never advertised. He enclosed the timber-yard (the precise spot where Astley's Amphitheatre now stands) with a high paling, and built a wooden house in the situation of the present entrance: the lower part he made into stables, and the upper a long room for the gentry. The three rows of seats round the ride had a sort of pent-house covering—the centre was entirely open. He then advertised that slight showers would not prevent the performance, and that proper music was provided. Long room 2s.; Riding-school is. Open at 4, mount at 5. And he now, for the first time, introduced the “Tailor riding to Brentford in Character.” The next year he added tumbling, and introduced an additional rider; and at the conclusion of his season went to Paris. In the following year, 1771, he introduced tricks on the cards by himself, and advertised that the performance would take place wet or dry.
In 1772 he was opposed by Hughes, who enclosed a piece of ground near where the Albion Mills stood, on the Surrey side of Blackfriars Bridge, and called it the “ British Horse Academy :” it lasted only two seasons. He was assisted by Breslau, and a variety of amusements; and Miss Romanzini, a child of four years old (the present Mrs. Bland) sung there, being placed on a table in order to be seen. Astley this year, 1772, brought out his son, then five years old, who rode on two horses. On the 27th July he announced his last night; but the audience insisted on his continuing, and cried out“ Encore une autre fois,” and“ Encore une autre
semaine.” He replied, “I will;" and added, “Gentlemen and Ladies, by the generous encouragement I have met with in this my native country, for whom I have three times bled and am ready to bleed again in its defence; and wherever I am I can but do well, I will therefore postpone my journey, and exhibit to-morrow, and every evening till the 3rd of August, which, I hope, you will accept as the last day." In 1773 he announced that he had given up parading the streets, and“ never more intends that abominable practice.” Astley was a remarkably handsome, well-made man. In the parading he mentions, he commenced the
procession, mounted on his white charger, dressed à la militaire, in a light blue coat, followed by trumpets; two of his riders, in their costume, with his little learned pony looking out of a hackney-coach window, distributing bills for his British Riding School. On the 13th of July of that year, both he and Hughes were taken up for “illegally performing.” Hughes did not open any more, and Astley closed for the remainder of that season and the whole of the next. In Oct., 1777, at the Kingston assizes, “The King v. Philip Astley, Riding Master, Westminster Bridge, for performing, contrary to act 25 Geo. II., various feats of horsemanship accompanied with music.” After a hearing of three hours Astley was honourably acquitted.
In March, 1779, he announced two exhibitions by candlelight. roofed over his ride with the boards purloined by the mob from the hustings at the close of the election, for which he paid a mere trifle to the men as they brought them in. From this period he continually made improvements till it became a regular theatre, introducing all sorts of exhibitions-dogs, cats, monkeys, giants, dwarfs, monstrous craws, ladies with long hair, monkeys without tails, musical infant thirty-six months old, grimacers, whistlers, &c. &c. &c. In 1780 he announced “No dogs to be admitted.”
In 1782, his Majesty granted him letters-patent, for fourteen years, to enable him solely to exercise and train horses, in a peculiar manner, to stand the noise of drums, trumpets, music, explosion of large ordnance and small arms, as also to practise agility on horseback, as a reward for his unexampled pains. In this year Hughes opened the Royal Circus; and on the 27th of December both Hughes and Astley were taken up and committed to New Bridewell, in St. George's Fields, —they were liberated on the 13th of January. Hughes, by some manæuvre, continued his stage, but Astley was obliged to pull his down : the theatres were both suspended. In the autumn of this year the King of France gave him ground in Paris, and he built a theatre there, afterwards Franconi's, and for several years passed his winters there.
In 1792, after twenty years' management, he gave the theatre up to his son.
In 1794, while in France, his theatre was burnt, Aug. 17, and his wife died within a few days. He rebuilt the theatre, and opened it the following Easter Monday.
In 1803, in Sept., the theatre was again burnt down, and again rebuilt as before, and opened on the following Easter Monday.
In 1827 he built a theatre in Wych-street, which he called the Olympic Pavilion, which he disposed of to Elliston.
In his case before the House of Lords, in 1787, signed by the commanding officers of his regiment, it is stated, that by his spirited activity at Bremerlee, he was the principal means of saving several men and horses from the accidental oversetting of a boat, for which Lord Heathfield promoted, thanked, and rewarded him in front of the regiment, for his bravery.
At the battle of Emsdorf, he took a royal standard of France, prior to which his horse had been shot under him ; but being remounted, he brought off the standard from an escort of the enemy's infantry, during which he was wounded. Lord Heathfield particularly noticed this service, and Astley had the honour of laying the standard taken by him at his Majesty's feet in Hyde Park.
At the battle of Friedburg, when on the advanced guard, under a very heavy fire, he personally assisted in bringing off the hereditary Prince of Brunswick, when his Highness was wounded within the enemy's lines. Astley, then a serjeant, with only four dragoons, charged and repulsed a party of Hussars who were bearing down to take advantage of the Prince's situation.
Astley died on the 24th Oct., 1814, at his house Rue de Fauxbourg du 'Temple, at Paris, where he had retired by advice; and was buried in the Cemetery of Père le Chaise. He left all his interest in the amphitheatre to his son, for his life, and one-sixteenth to his widow. His complaint was the gout in his stomach : his age was 72.
On the 19th Oct., 1821, John Astley died at Paris, where he went for his health, aged 54. He died in the same bed, in the same apartment as his father, and was buried by his side.
As a specimen of the elder Mr. Astley's style of literary composition, we beg to submit the following letter, written from Paris in the year 1786:
According to promise in my last on the 20th I sitt down to write to my dear Mr and Mrs Pownal first I forgot to mention in my last concerning the monkey, if it has no tail and tractable, Mr. Astley would be glad you woud purches it for him, but if a tail he wont lern any thing, we have lost another since we came to Pariss the little Black facd one dyd partly the same as the other, I think we are rather unlucky in that Spetia of Animells-Now for our journey from Caliss; I was taken very ill the first night there with a violent pain in my heart shot throw to my sholder coud not turn in my beed, scears breath without screeming continued so 2 or 3 days: but thank God now am quite well. Poor J Taylor I think is a little crackd for he had not been in Pariss a week but he packd up his alls and was going to London skipd in his Room as if he was just come of Bedlam he sett 'of and lay one night at the place he was to take his carige from (which was a fish cart by the by) but the smell I suppose either turnd his stomack or his reason returnd, so he came back I have told him what you wrote. we was much (but not agreably) surprisd to find the nearer we came to Pariss we found snow, it continued 9 days very cold indeed we could not keep our selves warm but now we can site without fire again thank God for fireing here is a dear article we burnd near 2 guineas the first week Genl Jacio did not arrive before the 18th and we opend the 19th it was lucky we saild when we did or we should have been weather bound many days as he was. the Strong Man is gone to Brussells for his children I dont know when he will arrive we had a poor house on Tuesday I hope our Pig will take as he performs very well. I fancy you are very busy about your little box—God sent you boath your Healthis to Enjoy it many years pray does Mrs Smith remember to bring you some saleld as I begd of her, have you many Scholers, hope they will turn out better than they did on the Rideing and years past.
“I shall esteem it a favour you will write every opertunity you have as that will add much to my present hapiness we go from here to Brussels in the time we wait for the park for we dont take but 14, 16, or 18 pounds a night only on the Sundays Mr Nicolee has done all he can to hurt us he has got our tumbling taken a way which makes it lay very hard on poor John as he does his Peasant & 2 Horses every night & his knee very bad wears him out, would to god we had to or 3 years back taken care of our cash, and not run such lengths in Building as we might have enjoyd ourselves in the winter, but I doubt that grim looking gentlDeath will visit us before we shall have that comfort-Gods will be done;
“Mr. Astley has made a stage to be supported by 8 Horses for them to tumble on but it is not finished yet, but we are in hopes we shall in spite of Nicoley obtain our old permition : Mr Hercule is not yet arrivd from Brussels. when he comes it will be a little respite for son expect him every day. I began this letter the 23d but in hopes of good news in the schoole delayed sending it, but to no purpose so shall conclude with all our respects “ most obedient humble sert at command
« P ASTLEY Direction :
Paris Dec 4 1786. “ Mr. Pownall
to be left at the Royal Grove or Amp hi theatre
Riding House near
London." With this invaluable specimen we conclude for the present month; but it is with infinite satisfaction we announce to our readers, that if we happen to live for twelve more months, they shall be furnished with materials equally curious, amusing, and interesting.
BY T. C. GRATTAN, ESQ., AUTHOR OF HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS.”
MONT BLANC. Thank Heaven I am again free! Again in the open arms of Nature, on the mountain's side ; the eagle wheeling round my head; the wild flowers casting incense to the skies; the green wood and the river down below; the magnific hills shooting far up above the clouds! Was not Milton right when he said, “It were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicings with heaven and earth?”
Is it not rapture to have burst one's prison-bars—to tear off the mask -to spurn the mean deceits of life-to feel the elastic mind new nerved --and a fresh spring throbbing in the veins ? How infinite the joy, and how blessed the escape! Men are cruelly unjust to themselves and ungrateful to Heaven : almost all can appreciate a positive good, but not one in a hundred knows the value of negative blessings—and yet the sum of happiness is chiefly made up of such. Shunning the ills of life is scarcely of less moment than sharing its delights. Freedom from pain is in itself pleasure; but to know these truths one must have suffered. It is contrast that gives reality to feeling. What a bound, then, I have made from slavery to freedom! How I have "shuffled off the mortal coil” of vanity and vexation !
A winter spent in the narrowed circle of social restriction, audaciously miscalled “the world,” is a fit preparation for that combination of the world's real charms in which I am now revelling. Then let me look back awhile, that I may truly relish what is before me. Rise up again, ye scenes of sham delight, parodies of pleasure, intense deceptions! What an atmosphere it was! How every genuine feeling was parched and withered! What bloated sentiments panted through a forced existence! The distortion of heart shown on the anxious brow—the vanity, the pride, the cringing courtiers, the haughty nobles, the servile secondrates, the crowd of petty passions, which form the total of “ the great." How little of true elevation is there in that artificial sphere! What tottering stilts men mount on !—what rainbow blending of vapid colours, which people strive in vain to separate !-what forced distinction of classes forming the lustreless arch, a motley mixture of devices crowding one vast “escutcheon of pretence !”
In this state of things there is no fitness-scarcely any one is at their ease. The few who are so are really those who despise the many. The many, perceiving this, affect to imitate the few; and they twist themselves into an assumed contempt of each other, investing hatred and malice with a piebald robe of mock dignity. Thence comes the tossing of heads, the shrugs, the sneers, and all the fantastic tricks of “ fashionable” life. What a farce it is ! and this is the fitting scene where one may rightly look on it, away in far perspective, with, happily, no microscope at hand to show its insect monsters in a loathsome magnitude.
Here I can breathe without inhaling the fetid air of falsehood. Here I can boldly make companionship with Nature's denizens. I need not to ask the pedigree of the pine-trees—those forest oligarchs of countless generations. There lurks no contagion of vulgarity in those full-flowered rhododendrons. Disease is not in the wild thyme's breath. The bloom of this rock-rose is real. These snow-heaps are purity, and heaven's rays lie brightly on them.
Oh, Nature, how divine thou art !-how modestly sublime-how simply beautiful! How thy true worshipper's idolatry raises him into a part and parcel of thee! Who would not gladly let his turbid feelings pass through the filter of a scene like this
Far away stretches the valley-up shoot the everlasting peaks. The river lies in liquid loveliness below. The pine-woods clothe the moun. tain-side with interminable depths of green. The hills rise, chain above chain, till they melt away into the clouds. And I am on the very bosoni of Mont Blanc! the monarch of this giant mass ! the greatest elevation of the European world! But I must not lose myself in rhapsodies. Let me rather recollect what others have thought and felt in the self-same scene, and marvel at the wondrous difference the same objects produce in different men.
It is scarcely from the class of great and vigorous intellects that we are to look for just exemplars of human feeling in extraordinary cases. Power begets pride; and the ambition of display often overcomes the sense of real feelings. Great poets are therefore bad guides to the mind's wanderings in those stupendous scenes.