Gallini, Sir John

, a native of Italy, a cele brated stage-dancer and dancing-ma&ter, some time patentee of the opera-house, and always proprietor of the concert-rooms in Hanover-square, seems to merit some notice, although rather from the fashion, than the worth of his character. He came into this country early in life, after having obtained considerable distinction as a dancer at Paris, and first appeared on our opera stage in 1759, where his style of dancing pleased very much, and performed in 1759 in the opera of “Farnase,” composed by Perez, where he is styled “II Signer Giovanni Andrea Gallini, director of the balli, and principal dancer,” and occasionally appeared on the same stage until 1763, after which his name is no longer to be found in books of the lyric theatre, either as ballet-master or principal dancer.

It was soon after his professional celebrity at the operahouse that he married lady Elizabeth Bertie, sister of the late earl of Abingdon. Admitted at first as a dancingmaster, by his vivacity, talents, knowledge of the Italian language, and manners, he so insinuated himself into the favour of this noble family, as to bring about this not very creditable alliance. Many ridiculous stories were in | circulation at the time, of signor Gallini’s expectations of the honours which would accrue to him by his marriage into a noble family; which he imagined would confer on him the title of My lord. But he was soon convinced of his mistake, and content with an inferior title. When the marriage became a subject of conversation, Dr. Burney happened to hear in the gang-way of the opera pit the following conversation. One of two ladies going into the front boxes, says to the other, “It is reported that one of the dancers is married to a lady of quality;” when Gallini, who happened to be in the passage near the lady who spoke, says, “Lustrissima, son io.” “And who are yon?” demanded the lady. “Eudenza, mi chiamo signor Gallini esquoire.” This match, as is usual with such disproportioned alliances, was not the source of permanent felicity. They lived asunder many years. Lady Elizabeth died Aug. 17, 1804, aged 80.

By his great benefits at the theatre, and fashion as a dancing-master at the principal schools and houses of the nobility and gentry, he, with unwearied diligence and excessive parsimony, had accumulated a fortune sufficient to purchase in 1786 the patent of the opera house, when he became sole impresario of that theatre.

It was after this period, in going to Italy to engage performers, that he obtained his title at Rome of the pope, who made him “Cavaliere del speron d’Oro,” knight of the golden spur, the only order which his holiness has to bestow. But lord Kenyon, when his title was introduced in court on a trial, refused to acknowledge it, and treated the assumption with indignation and contempt. Sir John, however, continued to retain it, and was abetted by the public.

Although he was extremely worldly, dextrous at a bargain, and cautious in his dealings with mankind, he became an unfortunate projector in his attempt at a rapid increase of his property. The rooms in Hanover-square, we believe, were very productive, as he let every floor and every room, not only to concerts, balls, and assemblies, but to exhibitions, lectures, and lodgers of all kinds, scarcely allowing himself a habitable apartment for his own residence. When the opera house was burned down in 1789, he advanced 30,000l. towards rebuilding it, and sent an architect to Italy to procure plans of all the great theatres of that country, out of which to choose the most | eligible for the new construction; but it has been generally believed, that by some jumble of clashing interests, or chicane of law, the management was taken out of his hands, and he not only lost his power but his money. While the great theatre in the Hay market was rebuilding, sir John fitted up the opposite little theatre as a temporary opera house, but it was so small and inconvenient, that it could not contain an audience sufficient to cover his expences. The next year the Pantheon was transformed into an opera house before that in the Haymarket was finished; and the unfortunate knight of the golden spur, tired of the squabbles and accidents which happened previous to the opening of his new theatre, sold his patent, and afterwards wholly confined himself to the produce of his Hanoversquare rooms, and the exercise of his profession as a dancjng-master, to the end of his life.

Indeed, at the time of the French revolution, he could not resist the temptations which were thrown out in that country for turning the penny in the purchase of the estates of the guillotined and emigrant nobility and gentry under the title of national domains. And he bought an estate near Boulogne, which cost him 30,000l.; but of which, by the artifice of French lawyers, and connivance of the usurpers, he was never able to obtain secure possession, and at length abandoned all hopes of the estate or his money. This loss had much less effect upon his avaricious character than could be expected, considering that he was so rigid an economist, that his private life would furnish materials for a new drama on the subject of frugality. It has, however, been justly said of him, that he was generally considered as the most able teacher of his art that ever appeared in this country; and is supposed, by his incessant labours in this respect, notwithstanding his great losses, to have left money and effects to the Amount of lOO,Ooo/. to portion his family, which consisted of' a son and two daughters. He was a very shrewd, intelligent man, who perfectly knew the world; and, if he was not generous, he was, however, honourable in his dealings; and if few had cause to be grateful for his bounty, no one had a right to complain of his injustice.

In the height of his professional practice and favour he published a book, in which he gave a history of dancing, from its origin, and the manner in which it is practised in various parts of the world. It appeared in 1762, under the title | of “A Treatise on the art of Dancing, by Giovanni Andrea Gallini, director of the dancers at the royal theatre in the Haymarket,” 8vo. Until the more elegant “Lettres sur la Dance” of the celebrated ballet-master Noverre, published at Stutgard in 1760, had penetrated into this country, Gallini’s book was much read and talked of as a literary performance; but unluckily, in a work of M. Cahusac, published at the Hague, in three small volumes, 1754, 12mo, we find all the historical part of Gallini’s treatise, with the same stories of the wonderful powers of the ancient mimics Bathyllus and Pylades, at Rome, their quarrel, and the feuds it occasioned; and his biographer seems to think that he never had literature sufficient to write an original work in his own language, or even to translate such a one as that of Noverre or Cahusac into any language. Gallini, by temperance and exercise, enjoyed a good state of health, and escaped decrepitude to the last: for it was said in the printed accounts that “sir John Gallini, on Saturday, 5th of January, 1805, rung his bell at eight o‘clock, and, upon his servant entering his chamber, ordered his breakfast to be prepared immediately, his chaise to be at the door at nine o’clock, and his chariot in waiting at three.A few minutes after giving these directions, he complained of not being well, and said, “I will rest till nine o’clock.” In half an hour he rang his bell again, and ordered medical assistance, as he had a violent pain in his stomach. Dr. Hayes and Dr. Wood immediately attended; butatnineo’clock he expired without a groan, aged about? I. 1

1

Rees’s Cyclopedia, —Gent. Mag. 1605.