June 29 1812: Sarah Siddons Leaves the Stage

On June 29, 1812, Sarah Siddons, the great actress takes leave of the stage, playing Lady Macbeth. At end of her sleep walking scene, the audience refused to allow the play to continue. The curtain was drawn. Tumultuous applause continued. Then the curtain rose again to reveal Siddons dressed in white, seated at a table. The audience applauded and she came forward and read a poetical farewell speech. John Cam Hobhouse was present. He writes briefly about it in a less than enthusiastic manner:
She made a poetical farewell speech, written by Horace Twiss – play stopped after her last scene, pit waved hats – I went in to the Pit – almost killed getting in. House filled from top to Bottom with all the rank of London – Sheridan in the orchestra – Mrs Siddons affected – but Kemble more so – never go in pit again.  It had not been planned to finish the performance at Act V scene i (the Sleepwalking scene); but, after Siddons’ farewell address, Kemble (her brother) stepped forward weeping and asked the house whether it wanted the show to go on, and the house indicated that it didn’t. 
Siddons would continue to appear on the stage even after her farewell performance but with less success. One writer noting: "During the latter years of her professional life, however, she became unwieldy in person, and stagy, heavy, and monotonous in style; when she appeared for the last time in 181 7, as Lady Randolph, no spark of that superlative genius, over which Hazlitt rhapsodised, lit up the performance." Her Farewell Address  spoken on June 29 1812 is reproduced below. 

Farewelll Address 

On leaving the Stage, June 29, 1812.
Written by HORACE TWISS, Esq.

WHO has not felt, how growing use endears
The fond remembrance of our former years?
Who has not sigh'd, when doom'd to leave at last
The hopes of youth, the habits of the past,
The thousand ties and interests, that impart
A second nature to the human heart,
And, wreathing round it close, like tendrils, climb,
Blooming in age, and sanctified by time ?

Yes ! at this moment, crowd upon my mind
Scenes of bright days for ever left behind ;
Bewildering visions of enraptured youth,
When hope and fancy wore the hues of truth ;
And long-forgotten years, that almost seem
The faded traces of a morning-dream !
Sweet are those mournful thoughts ; for they renew
The pleasing sense of all I owe to you ;
For each inspiring smile, and soothing tear —
For those full honours of my long career,
That cheer'd my earliest hope, and chas'd my latest fear!

And though, for me, those tears shall flow no more,
And the warm sunshine of your smile is o'er, —
Though the bright beams are fading fast away,
That shone unclouded through my summer-day, —
Yet grateful Memory shall reflect their light
O'er the dim shadows of the coming night,
And lend to later life a softer tone,
A moonlight tint, a lustre of her own.

Judges and Friends ! to whom the tragic strain
Of Nature's feeling never spoke in vain,
Perhaps your hearts, when years have glided by,
And past emotions wake a fleeting sigh,
May think on her whose lips have poured so long
The charmed sorrows of your Shakespear's song. —
On her, who, parting to return no more,
Is now the mourner she but seem'd before, —
Herself subdued, resigns the melting spell,
And breathes, with swelling heart, her long, her last farewell !

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