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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Thomas Abthorpe Cooper to William Godwin, 16 August 1792

Contents Vol. I
Ch. I. 1756-1785
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Ch. III. 1788-1792
Ch. IV. 1793
Ch. V. 1783-1794
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
Ch. VII. 1759-1791
Ch. VII. 1791-1796
Ch. IX. 1797
Ch. X. 1797
Ch. XI. 1798
Ch. XII. 1799
Ch. XIII. 1800
Contents Vol. II
Ch. I. 1800
Ch. II. 1800
Ch. III. 1800
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Ch. IX. 1812-1819
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
Ch. XII. 1832-1836
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Newcastle, Aug. 16, 1792.

“The die is cast, and when, having tottered some time, I thought myself firm, at that instant the fate was reversed, and I fell headlong without hopes of recovery. I will now explain my meaning, and I am afraid that the explanation will be more serious than you may expect from this introduction. I told you in my last of the doubtful manner of talking of Mr Kemble, and at last of his saying that he would keep me, and endeavour to bring me forward, on account of his respect for Mr Holcroft. Irresolute blockhead! he has again altered his mind. Now he has got the shadow of a reason for his final determination, to which, although one of the most irresolute, I believe he will adhere; but observe, although I call it the shadow of a reason, I do not mean to say that I was without blame. He desired me to study Malcolm against the next time it was acted. But the next morning I told him that I would undertake it for that time, as I had two before me: he consented. I went through the part very well, and tolerably perfectly, till I came within two lines of the end of the play (I speak the last speech), and there I wanted the word. The noise behind scenes, the play being nearly over, prevented my hearing the prompter, and in an instant some people at the back of the gallery, as I guessed, began to hiss, and immediately everybody else began to clap, which lasted for a minute, and as we were so near the end it was not advisable to wait the conclusion of the bustle to say the few words that remained. The trumpets sounded, and the curtain fell. My blame consisted in want of courage, or recollection, in not skipping to the next line the very instant they began to hiss, and it was impossible to catch the word. Mr Kemble made this his handle, declared I was totally unfit for the profession, and that I had not one single requisite for an actor, and in fine, he said, ‘As a friend, I advise you to return to London. I cannot keep you.’ I told him that I would undertake anything, however low, if I was not qualified for higher, and in proportion to my little utility would be willing to receive little.
I told him I should be willing to take the salary of Mr Charteris, junr. (a foolish fellow about my age), and he certainly could not deny that I should be of equal, if not more utility than him. He could not deny it, but he did not want a person of that description—that Mr Ch. was going to leave. I thought I had submitted already too much for honesty, and therefore would submit no further. I asked if that was his reason for dismissing him. This question was a home-thrust at his own equivocation. He said, ‘he had no business to account to me for his motives.’ I answered ironically, begging his pardon that it was an improper question. I believe he understood me literally. I have too much dependence on your sense of justice to think that you will blame me for not stooping to his pride any further than honesty would justify, and altering my manner when I perceived his injustice, which I did with moderation, as appears from his not even understanding my irony (which perhaps you do not, for from hurry I’m afraid I am not very intelligible). I ought to observe, in addition, that Mr Charteris goes away by his own choice with a number of other actors from Mr Kemble’s company, who are going to stroll as a sharing company. I have been endeavouring to get admission into it, but have not succeeded, and I suppose shall not. The most disagreeable part of my most disagreeable situation, is that I am afraid I must determine on something without waiting for advice. I write, however. If you can suggest any means by which in London I can earn 10s. 6d. per week, at the expense even of four or five hours a day. 10s. 6d. is sufficient to live on. Write . . . I shall presently be left alone here. It is now Thursday. They play here for the last time on Friday.

T. Cooper.”