Montreal Gazette, 22 July 1843, page 2

Theatre Royal image From Dickens' Montreal
Theatre Royal image From Dickens’ Montreal

TO THE EDITOR OF THE MONTREAL GAZETTE

Sir, – An editorial having appeared in the Morning Courier of this day’s date, calling upon me to explain the circumstances under which it has been rendered imperative that I should close the Theatre, my respect for the public (which first fostered any humble ability which I may possess) urges me to solicit the insertion of this letter in the columns of the Gazette; intended as a reply to the different queries and statements relative to the matter in question, contained in the Morning Courier.

It is perfectly true, as stated, that “the bills for the evening’s entertainment had been issued, as usual,” but I thought that my Prompter, Mr Baker (my representative within the Theatre upon all occasions) after receiving my orders, would have a notice displayed upon the doors, to the effect that the Theatre would be closed for that evening. My reason for so doing was as follows” The melodrama of Robert Macaire had been “asked for,” and, accordingly, on Tuesday last, it was “cast,” for performance on the following evening. To Miss Rock (my principal actress) was assigned the leading female character, a part which can scarcely be supposed to be beneath her ability, when it is known that it was played with considerable éclat by Mrs Wm West, at Covent Garden Theatre. Miss Rock objected to the character, and informed Mrs Baker that she “would not play it.” I certainly did not understand how any actress to whom I was paying the salary that I did to Miss Rock, for leading my business, could justifiably decline the part in question. My information that she did so, was gained through Mr Barnett (my treasurer), who came to me, from Mr Baker, just as I was stepping into a boat to cross the Island, on business of some consequence to myself, and I told Mr Barnett to tell the Prompter to have the bill made out as I directed. In what manner this was conveyed to Miss Rock (for she bitterly complains of the message sent) of course, I cannot say. That evening I received a note from Miss R, couched in the most imperative mood, in which she informed me that she would not be “commanded or driven”. I met the lady that evening in the Theatre, and, as we played together in Beauty and the Beast, I did not see fit to speak to her upon the subject of the note, not wishing to come to any personal disagreement when both immediately before the public. On the following morning (Wednesday), Mr Baker informed me that Miss Rock still refused. I told him to try and get Mrs Sutherland to play the part. That was objected to by her husband. What was now to be done- change the piece I decidedly not; I had to do that only the night before, for Mr Hill, who was ill. I must plead guilty to having been extremely angry at Miss Rock’s conduct, but I think that no one will say that I had not reason to be so; and when Mr Baker informed me of the difficulties thrown in my way, I told him to tell the company that “the Theatre must close.” He did so. I now found myself in great difficulty, but I immediately set to work energetically to try and arrange my affairs. Miss Rock says, in a letter to me, that I could not be found, during the day, by Mr Hill or any of my company. This is not the fact. During the business hours of the day, it is perfectly true that I was not at my usual quarters; but why? I was closely engaged making arrangements for my future proceedings, and endeavouring to collect monies due to me (in which I fortunately succeeded) for the purpose of paying my carpenters, &c. No one connected with my Theatre can say that I owe them aught; it is not attempted: and if I have ruined myself, I have at least the consolation of knowing that there are no theatrical claims against me. I returned to my hotel at dinner time. I was seen there by many, and had much conversation with and advice from my friends, as to how I was to proceed. At eight o’clock in the evening, I heard that Mr Hill, the rest of the company, and (mirabile dacts) Miss Rock!! Walked down to the Theatre as usual. Why any one should have gone, I do not know, after receiving the message I sent by my prompter; by why Miss Rock should have gone, passes comprehension. It could not have been to play Marie, which she had positively refused to do. Learning that no notice had been placed upon my doors, I gave the Treasurer an order upon the subject. Hearing also that a gentleman and a lady of the highest respectability had presented themselves at the Box Office for admission, I made it my business to wait upon the parties to explain and apologize for the doors being closed, which I believe that I did to their entire satisfaction. I also wrote notes to some constant patrons of the Theatre. Under date of the 19th instant, I have been served with a Lawyer’s Letter, at the suit of Mr Chas Hill, for closing my Theatre; but I do not fear the result. I have also been furnished with a paper signed by the majority of the company, which informs me that they were, “one and all, at the Theatre, prepared to rehearse the performance” for Wednesday evening. This is signed by Mr and Mrs Hill and Miss Rock, and in the face too of Miss Rock’s informing me, in black and white, that “our party” (meaning the Hill family and herself) were not there, but only going to set off to the Theatre when they heard of the rehearsal being stopped. The circular above referred to, I have reason to know, is now regretted by many who signed it; it was subscribed to in a moment of excitement, formented by the person who heads it: – but the difficulty which is implied by the terms in which it is couched, is now removed, and I trust in a few days, to be able to present the greater part of the old favourites of my company before the public, with reinforcement of talent. I fear that I am trespassing at too great length upon your patience: but permit me, before I close, and state, in explanation of all that has happened, a very general belief within the walls of the Theatre, and shared in by most of those who are cognizant of its concerts; it is this, Miss Rock and Mr and Mrs C Hill, have been in the habit of travelling together, giving vaudeville dramatic entertainments throughout the United States. They are under engagements to one another to do so again. They have just, received the proceeds of lucrative benefits, and they are now anxious to set off on what is almost always a money-making speculation, and we have seen the way in which they now embarrass me, and drive me to cancel engagements, or shut up my Theatre.

Your most obedient servant,
J Nickinson.

Montreal Gazette, 24 July 1843, page 2

Theatre Royal

We learn that the differences which took place between the manager of the Theatre, on the one side, and Mr Hill and Miss Rock, upon the other, have been amicably adjusted, and that, in consequence, the Theatre will be opened this evening, with the melo-drama of Robert Macaire, Miss Rock performing the character, the rejection of which was the cause of the late difficulty, which terminated in the closing of this favourite place of amusement. We are informed that concessions have been made upon both sides, and that Mr Nickinson appears to be satisfied, that he was in error in the supposition expressed in hi s letter to us (which appeared in Saturday’s paper) to the effect that Mr Hill and Miss Rock were anxious to set off upon a professional tour, and therefore abruptly caused the closing of his doors. There appears to us to have been faults on both sides, and the sooner the occurrences are forgotten, the better for the Theatre.

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