Charles Macklin

Charles Macklin, actor and playwright, was well known to many of the people we have been writing about. The following is the account of his funeral, taken from an addendum to volume 2 of his own memoirs published in 1798, which is of particular interest to us as the Reverend John Ambrose, subject of our last article, was present. Macklin had died at his house on Tavistock Row on the 11th July, 1797. 

Charles Macklin by John Opie c.1792, National Portrait Gallery
Charles Macklin by John Opie c.1792, National Portrait Gallery

The funeral took place on the 16th July, 1797.

His remains were conveyed on the Saturday following, at half past one in the afternoon, to Covent Garden Church, the cavalcade consisted of a hearse and four, and three coaches and four.

The following Gentlemen attended as mourners.

Mr Hull, of Covent-Garden theatre,  Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Griffith, Dr. Akinson, Mr. Barlow, Dr. Kennedy, Mr. Kirkman, Mr. Brandon, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Davies, Mr. Ledger, Drury Lane theatre, Mr. Munden, Covent-Garden theatre.

The corpse was taken into the vestry, and prayers were read over it in a very impressive manner, by the Rev. Mr. Ambrose, who had been a pupil of Mr. Macklin, and from the respect he bore his tutor, had come from Cambridge, to perform the last act of kindness, in reading over him the funeral service. – After this ceremony, the body was interred in the vault close to the north gate of the Churchyard, at the entrance of Covent-garden.

On the coffin plate was inscribed,

MR. CHARLES MACKLIN,

Comedian,

Died the 11th of July, 1797,

Aged 97 Years.

The funeral was respectfully conducted by Mr. Slope of Covent Garden Theatre.

His true age has long been disputed, some accounts adding ten years on to his age at death.

macklin

click on image to enlarge

Great crowds of people had assembled to view the procession and burial. Macklin reputedly left £50 for Parson Ambrose to attend his funeral, possibly not with the intended result as in Charles Macklin: An Actor’s Life by William W. Appleton is the following note:

It had always been the actor’s wish to avoid useless pomp and, accordingly, only three coaches followed the hearse. But at St Paul’s [Covent Garden] a great number of spectators had gathered, and a delegation of friends from the Antelope. Prayers were recited by an ex-pupil, the Reverend Mr. Ambrose, ‘in an impressive and pathetic manner’ which would no doubt have displeased him.

‘The Antelope’ was Macklin’s favourite tavern, situated in White Horse Yard, Drury Lane, a place where he spent a great deal of time. Of the mourners listed above, we can give the following information.

Johan Zoffany's Charles Macklin as Shylock, detail of paintwork for Tate conservation project (www.tate.org.uk)
Johan Zoffany’s Charles Macklin as Shylock, detail of paintwork for Tate conservation project (www.tate.org.uk)

Edward Barlow and Richard Hughes were both treasurers of the Covent Garden theatre. Thomas Hull was an actor, manager and playwright, Mr Kirkman was Macklin’s biographer, Mr Brandon was the box office keeper and Dr Akinson is given elsewhere as Dr Atkinson. Joseph Munden was an actor at the theatre and Dr. Morgan Hugh Kennedy was a close friend of David Garrick, Samuel Foote and others. His wife, the former Mrs Margaret Farrell, had formerly been a popular singer at both Covent Garden and the Haymarket. Dr Kennedy was active in petitioning for clemency (without success) for the Reverend William Dodd, the Macaroni Parson, whom we have written of before.

Charles Macklin as Shylock in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice', Covent Garden, 1767/1768 by Johann Zoffany (c) The Holburne Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Charles Macklin as Shylock in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’, Covent Garden, 1767/1768 by Johann Zoffany
(c) The Holburne Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
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