|The King Mimics Kemble|
We tend to be a little more familiar with the Prince Regent/King George IV’s many character flaws than any of his positive qualities. When he was in a good mood, he could be gracious, charming, and entertaining. Among other talents he had one I’ve always envied: He was a good mimic. Reading this bit from The English Spy, 1825, made me wish I could get my WABAC machine working.
~~~Previous to Mathews leaving this country for America, he exhibited a selection from his popular entertainments, by command of his Majesty, at Carlton Palace.—A party of not more than six or eight persons were present, including the Princess Augusta and the Marchioness of Conyngham. During the entertainment (with which the King appeared much delighted), Mathews introduced his imitations of various performers on the British stage, and was proceeding with John Kemble in the Stranger, when he was interrupted by the King, who, in the most affable manner, observed that his general imitations were excellent, and such as no one who had ever seen the characters could fail to recognise; but he thought the comedian's portrait of John Kemble somewhat too boisterous.—"He is an old friend, and I might add, tutor of mine," observed his Majesty: "when I was Prince of Wales he often favoured me with his company. I will give you an imitation of John Kemble," said the good-humoured monarch. Mathews was electrified. The lords of the bed-chamber eyed each other with surprise. The King rose and prefaced his imitations by observing, "I once requested John Kemble to take a pinch of snuff with me, and for this purpose placed my box on the table before him, saying 'Kemble, oblige (obleege) me by taking a pinch of snuff' He took a pinch, and then addressed me thus:—(Here his Majesty assumed the peculiar carriage of Mr. Kemble.) 'I thank your Royal Highness for your snuff, but, in future, do extend your royal jaws a little wider, and say Oblige.'" The anecdote was given with the most powerful similitude to the actor's voice and manners, and had an astonishing effect on the party present.