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Monday, June 22, 2015

Rebutting your own death notice

Back in 1849, Shakespearean actor George Buckingham read the notice of his own death in the Sydney Morning Herald.  And, forthwith, quoting freely from the Bard, he wrote a rebuttal -- which must be one of the cleverest and most funny I have ever read.

Here is how it went:

To the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.


HORATIA -- Look, my lord, it comes!
HAMLET -- Angels and Ministers of grace defend us! Be thou spirit of health or goblin damned. O, anser me. Why, the sepulchre, wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd, hath op'd has ponderous and marble jaws, and cast thee up again!

RESPECTED SIR -- A report of my decease having appeared in your paper some few months since, the perusal of which caused my hair to bristle "Like quills upon the fretful porcupine," I beg to denounce the same as "a weak invention of the enemy." I assure you, sir, this announcement of "So much for Buckingham," has created quite a Tempest in my family, therefore I would say with Miranda, "if by your art, my dearest editor, you have put the wild waters in this roar, allay them."

"Be off then, let me be."

By your insertion of this, I would say with Au olicus, "Softly, dear sir; good sir, softly!"

Happy in concluding that this Comedy of Errors has turned out Much Ado about Nothing, and that All's Well that ends well -- I now beg once more to make my exit, and say "I have hope to live and am not prepared to die" and, like Hecate, in Macbeth,  I can say "Hark! I am called; my little spirit, see, sits in a foggy cloud and stays for me."

Or perhaps this would be more appropriate --

Show his eyes, and grieve his heart,
Come like shadow, so depart

Mr. Editor, I remain yours,
Sans everything,


Auckland, New Zealand
June 13, 1849.

The picture is of the Olympia Theatre in Melbourne, where Buckingham appeared.  He was one of the very earliest actors/stage managers in New Zealand and Australia, and I have been unable to find any images of either him, or his family, or of the Royal Victoria Theatre and the Fitzroy Theatre that he built and/or managed, the first in Melbourne, and the second in Auckland.

The letter was published in the New Zealander, 13 June 1849.

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