Grimaldi’s farewell to Birmingham

Grimaldi and his son played once more in Birmingham, from August-September 1823. By now, Grimaldi was suffering from frequent bouts of illness and found it difficult to perform as he had done when young. A local reviewer commented ‘Mr. G. seems to be much the worse for wear.’ In his memoirs Grimaldi wrote that he had agreed to appear for two nights. Playbills show that he and his son were in Birmingham for a week. On Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 August, Grimaldi directed ‘a Grand Serio-Comic Pantomime called Ko and Zoa, or The Rival Indians’. On Thursday he performed as Scaramouch. On Friday he appeared in a new ‘COMIC PANTOMIME, comprising a Selection of the most successful Scenes from various Harlequinades… called Harlequin and the Three Wishes; or PUCK AND THE BLACK PUDDINGS.’

Grimaldi wrote that ‘The hit was so complete, and the sensation he excited so great that he felt infinitely better than he had done for a long time, and was so greatly restored that he was induced to accept an engagement for one additional night.’ This was on Monday 1 September. Mr. Bunn, the manager, gave him £186.12s as his share of the profits. But he soon fell ill again; ‘with the exception of his two final benefits, this was his last appearance… the last occasion of his calling forth those peals of merriment and approbation which, cheerfully as they sounded to him, had been surely ringing his death-knell for many years.’

Grimaldi appeared on stage twice more in 1828 when there were farewell benefit concerts, in March at Sadler’s Wells, and in June at Drury Lane. He found it difficult to stand, and had to sit on a chair for most of his performance. In addition to the money received following the farewell concerts – £895 – he later received a pension from the Drury Lane Theatrical Fund.

Grimaldi concluded his Memoirs in December 1836, ending with the verse:

Life is a game we are bound to play –
The wise enjoy it, fools grow sick of it;
Lovers, we find, have the stakes to pay,
The winners may laugh, for that’s the trick of it.

He died on 31 May 1837 and was later buried in St. James's churchyard, Pentonville, London.

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