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Title: Shadows of the Stage
Author: Winter, William, 1836-1917
Language: English
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SHADOWS OF THE
STAGE

BY
WILLIAM WINTER


    _"The best in this kind are but shadows"_

SHAKESPEARE


NEW YORK
MACMILLAN AND COMPANY
AND LONDON
1893


COPYRIGHT, 1892,
BY MACMILLAN & CO.

Set up and electrotyped May, 1892. Large Paper Edition printed May.
Ordinary Edition reprinted June, August, November, 1892; January, June,
October, November, 1893.

Norwood Press:
J.S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith.
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.



TO

Henry Irving

IN MEMORY AND IN HONOUR
OF ALL THAT HE HAS DONE
TO DIGNIFY AND ADORN THE STAGE
AND TO ENNOBLE SOCIETY
THIS BOOK IS GRATEFULLY INSCRIBED

    _"Cui laurus æternos honores
    Delmatico peperit triumpho"_



PREFACE.


_The papers contained in this volume, chosen out of hundreds that the
author has written on dramatic subjects, are assembled with the hope
that they may be accepted, in their present form, as a part of the
permanent record of our theatrical times. For at least thirty years it
has been a considerable part of the constant occupation of the author to
observe and to record the life of the contemporary stage. Since 1860 he
has written intermittently in various periodicals, and since the summer
of 1865 he has written continuously in the New York Tribune, upon actors
and their art; and in that way he has accumulated a great mass of
historical commentary upon the drama. In preparing this book he has been
permitted to draw from his contributions to the Tribune, and also from
his writings in Harper's Magazine and Weekly, in the London Theatre, and
in Augustin Daly's Portfolio of Players. The choice of these papers has
been determined partly by consideration of space and partly with the
design of supplementing the author's earlier dramatic books, namely:
Edwin Booth in Twelve Dramatic Characters; The Jeffersons; Henry Irving;
The Stage Life of Mary Anderson; Brief Chronicles, containing eighty-six
dramatic biographies; In Memory of McCullough; The Life of John Gilbert;
The Life and Works of John Brougham; The Press and the Stage; The Actor
and Other Speeches; and A Daughter of Comedy, being the life of Ada
Rehan. The impulse of all those writings, and of the present volume, is
commemorative. Let us save what we can._

    _"Sed omnes una manet nox,
    Et calcanda semel via leti."_

W.W.
APRIL 18, 1892.



CONTENTS.


  CHAP.                                        PAGE

     I. THE GOOD OLD TIMES                       13

    II. IRVING IN FAUST                          30

   III. ADELAIDE NEILSON                         47

    IV. EDWIN BOOTH                              63

     V. MARY ANDERSON                            90

    VI. OLIVIA                                  119

   VII. ON JEFFERSON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY            130

  VIII. ON JEFFERSON'S ACTING                   151

    IX. JEFFERSON AND FLORENCE                  159

     X. ON THE DEATH OF FLORENCE                169

    XI. SHYLOCK AND PORTIA                      178

   XII. JOHN McCULLOUGH                         185

  XIII. CHARLOTTE CUSHMAN                       206

   XIV. LAWRENCE BARRETT                        215

    XV. IRVING IN RAVENSWOOD                    226

   XVI. MERRY WIVES AND FALSTAFF                243

  XVII. ADA REHAN                               258

 XVIII. TENNYSON'S FORESTERS                    269

   XIX. ELLEN TERRY: MERCHANT OF VENICE         286

    XX. RICHARD MANSFIELD                       301

   XXI. GENEVIEVE WARD                          315

  XXII. EDWARD S. WILLARD                       322

 XXIII. SALVINI                                 339

  XXIV. IRVING AS EUGENE ARAM                   348

   XXV. CHARLES FISHER                          367

  XXVI. MRS. GILBERT                            374

 XXVII. JAMES LEWIS                             379

XXVIII. A LEAF FROM MY JOURNAL                  383



    _"--It so fell out that certain players
    We o'er-raught on the way: of these we told him;
    And there did seem in him a kind of joy
    To hear of it."_

HAMLET.

     _"Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world--though
     the cant of hypocrites may be the worst--the cant of criticism is
     the most tormenting. I would go fifty miles on foot, for I have not
     a horse worth riding on, to kiss the hand of that man who will give
     up the reins of his imagination into his author's hands,--be
     pleased he knows not why and cares not wherefore."_

TRISTRAM SHANDY.



SHADOWS OF THE STAGE.



I.

THE GOOD OLD TIMES.


It is recorded of John Lowin, an actor contemporary with Shakespeare and
associated with several of Shakespeare's greater characters (his range
was so wide, indeed, that it included Falstaff, Henry the Eighth, and
Hamlet), that, having survived the halcyon days of "Eliza and our James"
and lingered into the drab and russet period of the Puritans, when all
the theatres in the British islands were suppressed, he became poor and
presently kept a tavern, at Brentford, called The Three Pigeons. Lowin
was born in 1576 and he died in 1654--his grave being in London, in the
churchyard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields--so that, obviously, he was one
of the veterans of the stage. He was in his seventy-eighth year when he
passed away--wherefore in his last days he must have been "a mine of
memories." He could talk of the stirring times of Leicester, Drake,
Essex, and Raleigh. He could remember, as an event of his boyhood, the
execution of Queen Mary Stuart, and possibly he could describe, as an
eye-witness, the splendid funeral procession of Sir Philip Sidney. He
could recall the death of Queen Elizabeth; the advent of Scottish James;
the ruffling, brilliant, dissolute, audacious Duke of Buckingham; the
impeachment and disgrace of Francis Bacon; the production of the great
plays of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson; the meetings of the wits and poets
at the Apollo and the Mermaid. He might have personally known Robert
Herrick--that loveliest of the wild song-birds of that golden age. He
might have been present at the burial of Edmund Spenser, in Westminster
Abbey--when the poet brothers of the author of _The Faerie Queene_ cast
into his grave their manuscript elegies and the pens with which those
laments had been written. He had acted Hamlet,--perhaps in the author's
presence. He had seen the burning of the old Globe Theatre. He had been,
in the early days of Charles the First, the chief and distinguished
Falstaff of the time. He had lived under the rule of three successive
princes; had deplored the sanguinary fate of the martyr-king (for the
actors were almost always royalists); had seen the rise of the
Parliament and the downfall of the theatre; and now, under the
Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, he had become the keeper of an humble
wayside inn. It is easy to fancy the old actor sitting in his chair of
state, the monarch of his tap-room, with a flagon of beer, and a
church-warden pipe of tobacco, and holding forth, to a select circle of
cronies, upon the vanished glories of the Elizabethan stage--upon the
days when there were persons in existence really worthy to be called
actors. He could talk of Richard Burbage, the first Romeo; of Armin,
famous in Shakespeare's clowns and fools; of Heminge and Condell, who
edited the First Folio of Shakespeare, which possibly he himself
purchased, fresh from the press; of Joseph Taylor, whom it is said
Shakespeare personally instructed how to play Hamlet, and the
recollection of whose performance enabled Sir William Davenant to impart
to Betterton the example and tradition established by the author--a
model that has lasted to the present day; of Kempe, the original
Dogberry, and of the exuberant, merry Richard Tarleton, after whom that
comic genius had fashioned his artistic method; of Alleyne, who kept the
bear-garden, and who founded the College and Home at Dulwich--where they
still flourish; of Gabriel Spencer, and his duel with Ben Jonson,
wherein he lost his life at the hands of that burly antagonist; of
Marlowe "of the mighty line," and his awful and lamentable
death--stabbed at Deptford by a drunken drawer in a tavern brawl. Very
rich and fine, there can be no doubt, were that veteran actor's
remembrances of "the good old times," and most explicit and downright,
it may surely be believed, was his opinion, freely communicated to the
gossips of The Three Pigeons, that--in the felicitous satirical phrase
of Joseph Jefferson--all the good actors are dead.

It was ever thus. Each successive epoch of theatrical history presents
the same picturesque image of storied regret--memory incarnated in the
veteran, ruefully vaunting the vanished glories of the past. There has
always been a time when the stage was finer than it is now. Cibber and
Macklin, surviving in the best days of Garrick, Peg Woffington, and
Kitty Clive, were always praising the better days of Wilks, Betterton,
and Elizabeth Barry. Aged play-goers of the period of Edmund Kean and
John Philip Kemble were firmly persuaded that the drama had been buried,
never to rise again, with the dust of Garrick and Henderson, beneath the
pavement of Westminster Abbey. Less than fifty years ago an American
historian of the stage (James Rees, 1845) described it as a wreck,
overwhelmed with "gloom and eternal night," above which the genius of
the drama was mournfully presiding, in the likeness of an owl. The New
York veteran of to-day, although his sad gaze may not penetrate backward
quite to the effulgent splendours of the old Park, will sigh for
Burton's and the Olympic, and the luminous period of Mrs. Richardson,
Mary Taylor, and Tom Hamblin. The Philadelphia veteran gazes back to the
golden era of the old Chestnut Street theatre, the epoch of tie-wigs and
shoe-buckles, the illustrious times of Wood and Warren, when Fennell,
Cooke, Cooper, Wallack, and J.B. Booth were shining names in tragedy,
and Jefferson and William Twaits were great comedians, and the beautiful
Anne Brunton was the queen of the stage. The Boston veteran speaks
proudly of the old Federal and the old Tremont, of Mary Duff, Julia
Pelby, Charles Eaton, and Clara Fisher, and is even beginning to gild
with reminiscent splendour the first days of the Boston Theatre, when
Thomas Barry was manager and Julia Bennett Barrow and Mrs. John Wood
contended for the public favour. In a word, the age that has seen
Rachel, Seebach, Ristori, Charlotte Cushman, and Adelaide Neilson, the
age that sees Ellen Terry, Mary Anderson, Edwin Booth, Joseph Jefferson,
Henry Irving, Salvini, Coquelin, Lawrence Barrett, John Gilbert, John S.
Clarke, Ada Rehan, James Lewis, Clara Morris, and Richard Mansfield, is
a comparatively sterile period--"Too long shut in strait and few, thinly
dieted on dew"--which ought to have felt the spell of Cooper and Mary
Buff, and known what acting was when Cooke's long forefinger pointed the
way, and Dunlap bore the banner, and pretty Mrs. Marshall bewitched the
father of his country, and Dowton raised the laugh, and lovely Mrs.
Barrett melted the heart, and the roses were "bright by the calm
Bendemeer." The present writer, who began theatre-going in earnest over
thirty years ago, finds himself full often musing over a dramatic time
that still seems brighter than this--when he could exult in the fairy
splendour and comic humour of _Aladdin_ and weep over the sorrows of
_The Drunkard_, when he was thrilled and frightened by J.B. Booth in
_The Apostate_, and could find an ecstasy of pleasure in the loves of
Alonzo and Cora and the sublime self-sacrifice of Rolla. Thoughts of
such actors as Henry Wallack, George Jordan, John Brougham, John E.
Owens, Mary Carr, Mrs. Barrow, and Charlotte Thompson, together in the
same theatre, are thoughts of brilliant people and of more than commonly
happy displays of talent and beauty. The figures that used to be seen on
Wallack's stage, at the house he established upon the wreck of John
Brougham's Lyceum, often rise in memory, crowned with a peculiar light.
Lester Wallack, in his peerless elegance; Laura Keene, in her spiritual
beauty; the quaint, eccentric Walcot; the richly humorous Blake, so
noble in his dignity, so firm and fine and easy in his method, so
copious in his natural humour; Mary Gannon, sweet, playful, bewitching,
irresistible; Mrs. Vernon, as full of character as the tulip is of
colour or the hyacinth of grace, and as delicate and refined as an
exquisite bit of old china--those actors made a group, the like of
which it would be hard to find now. Shall we ever see again such an
Othello as Edwin Forrest, or such a Lord Duberly and Cap'n Cuttle as
Burton, or such a Dazzle as John Brougham, or such an Affable Hawk as
Charles Mathews? Certainly there was a superiority of manner, a tinge of
intellectual character, a tone of grace and romance about the old
actors, such as is not common in the present; and, making all needful
allowance for the illusive glamour that memory casts over the distant
and the dim, it yet remains true that the veterans of our day have a
certain measure of right upon their side of the question.

In the earlier periods of our theatrical history the strength of the
stage was concentrated in a few theatres. The old Park, for example, was
called simply The Theatre, and when the New York playgoer spoke of going
to the play he meant that he was going there. One theatre, or perhaps
two, might flourish, in a considerable town, during a part of the year,
but the field was limited, and therefore the actors were brought
together in two or three groups. The star system, at least till the time
of Cooper, seems to have been innocuous. Garrick's prodigious success
in London, more than a hundred years ago, had enabled him to engross the
control of the stage in that centre, where he was but little opposed,
and practically to exile many players of the first ability, whose lustre
he dimmed or whose services he did not require; and those players
dispersed themselves to distant places--to York, Dublin, Edinburgh,
etc.--or crossed the sea to America. With that beginning the way was
opened for the growth of superb stock-companies, in the early days of
the American theatre. The English, next to the Italians, were the first
among modern peoples to create a dramatic literature and to establish
the acted drama, and they have always led in this field--antedating,
historically, and surpassing in essential things the French stage which
nowadays it is fashionable to extol. English influence, at all times
stern and exacting, stamped the character of our early theatre. The tone
of society, alike in the mother country, in the colonies, and in the
first years of our Republic, was, as to these matters, formal and
severe. Success upon the stage was exceedingly difficult to obtain, and
it could not be obtained without substantial merit. The youths who
sought it were often persons of liberal education. In Philadelphia, New
York, and Boston the stock-companies were composed of select and
thoroughly trained actors, many of whom were well-grounded classical
scholars. Furthermore, the epoch was one of far greater leisure and
repose than are possible now--- when the civilised world is at the
summit of sixty years of scientific development such as it had not
experienced in all its recorded centuries of previous progress.
Naturally enough the dramatic art of our ancestors was marked by
scholar-like and thorough elaboration, mellow richness of colour,
absolute simplicity of character, and great solidity of merit. Such
actors as Wignell, Hodgkinson, Jefferson, Francis, and Blissett offered
no work that was not perfect of its kind. The tradition had been
established and accepted, and it was transmitted and preserved.
Everything was concentrated, and the public grew to be entirely familiar
with it. Men, accordingly, who obtained their ideas of acting at a time
when they were under influences surviving from those ancient days are
confused, bewildered, and distressed by much that is offered in the
theatres now. I have listened to the talk of an aged American
acquaintance (Thurlow Weed), who had seen and known Edmund Kean, and
who said that all modern tragedians were insignificant in comparison
with him. I have listened to the talk of an aged English acquaintance
(Fladgate), who had seen and known John Philip Kemble, and who said that
his equal has never since been revealed. The present day knows what the
old school was,[1] when it sees William Warren, Joseph Jefferson,
Charles Fisher, Mrs. John Drew, John Gilbert, J.H. Stoddart, Mrs. G.H.
Gilbert, William Davidge, and Lester Wallack--the results and the
remains of it. The old touch survives in them and is under their
control, and no one, seeing their ripe and finished art, can feel
surprise that the veteran moralist should be wedded to his idols of the
past, and should often be heard sadly to declare that all the good
actors--except these--are dead. He forgets that scores of theatres now
exist where once there were but two or three; that the population of the
United States has been increased by about fifty millions within ninety
years; that the field has been enormously broadened; that the character
of, the audience has become one of illimitable diversity; that the
prodigious growth of the star-system, together with all sorts of
experimental catch-penny theatrical management, is one of the inevitable
necessities of the changed condition of civilisation; that the feverish
tone of this great struggling and seething mass of humanity is
necessarily reflected in the state of the theatre; and that the forces
of the stage have become very widely diffused. Such a moralist would
necessarily be shocked by the changes that have come upon our theatre
within even the last twenty-five years--by the advent of "the sensation
drama," invented and named by Dion Boucicault; by the resuscitation of
the spectacle play, with its lavish tinsel and calcium glare and its
multitudinous nymphs; by the opera bouffe, with its frequent licentious
ribaldry; by the music-hall comedian, with his vulgar realism; and by
the idiotic burlesque; with its futile babble and its big-limbed,
half-naked girls. Nevertheless there are just as good actors now living
as have ever lived, and there is just as fine a sense of dramatic art in
the community as ever existed in any of "the palmy days"; only, what was
formerly concentrated is now scattered.

The stage is keeping step with the progress of human thought in every
direction, and it will continue to advance. Evil influences impressed
upon it there certainly are, in liberal abundance--not the least of
these being that of the speculative shop-keeper, whose nature it is to
seize any means of turning a penny, and who deals in dramatic art
precisely as he would deal in groceries: but when we speak of "our
stage" we do not mean an aggregation of shows or of the schemes of
showmen. The stage is an institution that has grown out of a necessity
in human nature. It was as inevitable that man should evolve the theatre
as it was that he should evolve the church, the judiciary tribunal, the
parliament, or any other essential component of the State. Almost all
human beings possess the dramatic perception; a few possess the dramatic
faculty. These few are born for the stage, and each and every generation
contributes its number to the service of this art. The problem is one of
selection and embarkation. Of the true actor it may be said, as Ben
Jonson says of the true poet, that he is made as well as born. The
finest natural faculties have never yet been known to avail without
training and culture. But this is a problem which, in a great measure,
takes care of itself and in time works out and submits its own solution.
The anomaly, every day presented, of the young person who, knowing
nothing, feeling nothing, and having nothing to communicate except the
desire of communication, nevertheless rushes upon the stage, is felt to
be absurd. Where the faculty as well as the instinct exists, however,
impulse soon recognises the curb of common sense, and the aspirant finds
his level. In this way the dramatic profession is recruited. In this way
the several types of dramatic artist--each type being distinct and each
being expressive of a sequence from mental and spiritual ancestry--are
maintained. It is not too much to say that a natural law operates
silently and surely behind each seemingly capricious chance, in this
field of the conduct of life. A thoroughly adequate dramatic
stock-company may almost be said to be a thing of natural accretion. It
is made up, like every other group, of the old, the middle-aged, and the
young; but, unlike every other group, it must contain the capacity to
present, in a concrete image, each elemental type of human nature, and
to reproduce, with the delicate exaggeration essential to dramatic art,
every species of person; in order that all human life--whether of the
street, the dwelling, the court, the camp, man in his common joys and
sorrows, his vices, crimes, miseries, his loftiest aspirations and most
ideal state--may be so copied that the picture will express all its
beauty and sweetness, all its happiness and mirth, all its dignity, and
all its moral admonition and significance, for the benefit of the world.
Such a dramatic stock-company, for example (and this is but one of the
commendable products of the modern stage), has grown up and crystallised
into a form of refined power and symmetry, for the purpose to which it
is devoted, under the management of Augustin Daly. That purpose is the
acting of comedy. Mr. Daly began management in 1869, and he has remained
in it, almost continually, from that time to this. Many players, first
and last, have served under his direction. His company has known
vicissitudes. But the organisation has not lost its comprehensive form,
its competent force, and its attractive quality of essential grace. No
thoughtful observer of its career can have failed to perceive how prompt
the manager has been to profit by every lesson of experience; what keen
perception he has shown as to the essential constituents of a theatrical
troop; with what fine judgment he has used the forces at his disposal;
with what intrepid resolution and expeditious energy he has animated
their spirit and guided their art; and how naturally those players have
glided into their several stations and assimilated in one artistic
family. How well balanced, how finely equipped, how distinctively able
that company is, and what resources of poetry, thought, taste,
character, humour, and general capacity it contains, may not, perhaps,
be fully appreciated in the passing hour. "_Non, si male nunc, et olim
sic erit._" Fifty years from now, when perchance some veteran, still
bright and cheery "in the chimney-nook of age," shall sit in his
armchair and prose about the past, with what complacent exultation will
he speak of the beautiful Ada Rehan, so bewitching as Peggy in _The
Country Girl_, so radiant, vehement, and stormily passionate as
Katherine; of manly John Drew, with his nonchalant ease, incisive tone,
and crisp and graceful method; of noble Charles Fisher, and sprightly
and sparkling James Lewis, and genial, piquant, quaint Mrs. Gilbert! I
mark the gentle triumph in that aged reminiscent voice, and can respect
an old man's kindly and natural sympathy with the glories and delights
of his vanished youth. But I think it is not necessary to wait till you
are old before you begin to praise anything, and then to praise only the
dead. Let us recognise what is good in our own time, and honour and
admire it with grateful hearts.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE.--At the Garrick club, London, June 26, 1885, it was my fortune to
meet Mr. Fladgate, "father of the Garrick," who was then aged 86. The
veteran displayed astonishing resources of memory and talked most
instructively about the actors of the Kemble period. He declared John
Philip Kemble to have been the greatest of actors, and said that his
best impersonations were Penruddock, Zanga, and Coriolanus. Mrs.
Siddons, he said, was incomparable, and the elder Mathews a great
genius,--the precursor of Dickens. For Edmund Kean he had no enthusiasm.
Kean, he said, was at his best in Sir Edward Mortimer, and after that in
Shylock. Miss O'Neill he remembered as the perfect Juliet: a beautiful,
blue-eyed woman, who could easily weep, and who retained her beauty to
the last, dying at 85, as Lady Wrixon Becher.

[Footnote 1: This paper was written in 1888, and now, in 1892, Mr.
Jefferson, Mr. Stoddart, Mrs. Drew, and Mrs. Gilbert are the only
survivors of that noble group.]



II.

HENRY IRVING AND ELLEN TERRY IN FAUST.


It is not surprising that the votaries of Goethe's colossal poem--a work
which, although somewhat deformed and degraded with the pettiness of
provincialism, is yet a grand and immortal creation of genius--should
find themselves dissatisfied with theatrical expositions of it. Although
dramatic in form the poem is not continuously, directly, and compactly
dramatic in movement. It cannot be converted into a play without being
radically changed in structure and in the form of its diction. More
disastrous still, in the eyes of those votaries, it cannot be and it
never has been converted into a play without a considerable sacrifice of
its contents, its comprehensive scope, its poetry, and its ethical
significance. In the poem it is the Man who predominates; it is not the
Fiend. Mephistopheles, indeed, might, for the purpose of philosophical
apprehension, be viewed as an embodied projection of the mind of Faust;
for the power of the one is dependent absolutely upon the weakness and
surrender of the other. The object of the poem was the portrayal of
universal humanity in a typical form at its highest point of development
and in its representative spiritual experience. Faust, an aged scholar,
the epitome of human faculties and virtues, grand, venerable,
beneficent, blameless, is passing miserably into the evening of life. He
has done no outward and visible wrong, and yet he is wretched. The utter
emptiness of his life--its lack of fulfilment, its lack of
sensation--wearies, annoys, disgusts, and torments him. He is divided
between an apathy, which heavily weighs him down into the dust, and a
passionate, spiritual longing, intense, unsatisfied, insatiable, which
almost drives him to frenzy. Once, at sunset, standing on a hillside,
and looking down upon a peaceful valley, he utters, in a poetic strain
of exquisite tenderness and beauty, the final wish of his forlorn and
weary soul. It is no longer now the god-like aspiration and imperious
desire of his prime, but it is the sufficient alternative. All he asks
now is that he may see the world always as in that sunset vision, in
the perfection of happy rest; that he may be permitted, soaring on the
wings of the spirit, to follow the sun in its setting ("The day before
me and the night behind"), and thus to circle forever round and round
this globe, the ecstatic spectator of happiness and peace. He has had
enough and more than enough of study, of struggle, of unfulfilled
aspiration. Lonely dignity, arid renown, satiety, sorrow, knowledge
without hope, and age without comfort,--these are his present portion;
and a little way onward, waiting for him, is death. Too old to play with
passion, too young not to feel desire, he has endured a long struggle
between the two souls in his breast--one longing for heaven and the
other for the world; but he is beaten at last, and in the abject
surrender of despair he determines to die by his own act. A childlike
feeling, responsive in his heart to the divine prompting of sacred
music, saves him from self-murder; but in a subsequent bitter revulsion
he utters a curse upon everything in the state of man, and most of all
upon that celestial attribute of patience whereby man is able to endure
and to advance in the eternal process of evolution from darkness into
light. And now it is, when the soul of the human being, utterly baffled
by the mystery of creation, crushed by its own hopeless sorrow, and
enraged by the everlasting command to renounce and refrain, has become
one delirium of revolt against God and destiny, that the spirit of
perpetual denial, incarnated in Mephistopheles, steps forth to proffer
guidance and help. It is as if his rejection and defiance had suddenly
become embodied, to aid him in his ruin. More in recklessness than in
trust, with no fear, almost with scorn and contempt, he yet agrees to
accept this assistance. If happiness be really possible, if the true
way, after all, should lie in the life of the senses, and not in
knowledge and reason; if, under the ministrations of this fiend, one
hour of life, even one moment of it, shall ever (which is an idle and
futile supposition) be so sweet that his heart shall desire it to
linger, then, indeed, he will surrender himself eternally to this at
present preposterous Mephistopheles, whom his mood, his magic, and the
revulsion of his moral nature have evoked:--

    "Then let the death-bell chime the token!
      Then art thou from thy service free!
    The clock may stop, the hand be broken,
      And time be finished unto me."

Such an hour, it is destined, shall arrive, after many long and
miserable years, when, aware of the beneficence of living for others and
in the imagined prospect of leading, guiding, and guarding a free people
upon a free land, Faust shall be willing to say to the moment: "Stay,
thou art so fair"; and Mephistopheles shall harshly cry out: "The clock
stands still"; and the graybeard shall sink in the dust; and the holy
angels shall fly away with his soul, leaving the Fiend baffled and
morose, to gibe at himself over the failure of all his infernal arts.
But, meanwhile, it remains true of the man that no pleasure satisfies
him and no happiness contents, and "death is desired, and life a thing
unblest."

The man who puts out his eyes must become blind. The sin of Faust is a
spiritual sin, and the meaning of all his subsequent terrible experience
is that spiritual sin must be--and will be--expiated. No human soul can
ever be lost. In every human soul the contest between good and evil must
continue until the good has conquered and the evil is defeated and
eradicated. Then, when the man's spirit is adjusted to its environment
in the spiritual world, it will be at peace--and not till then. And if
this conflict is not waged and completed now and here, it must be and it
will be fought out and finished hereafter and somewhere else. It is the
greatest of all delusions to suppose that you can escape from yourself.
Judgment and retribution proceed within the soul and not from sources
outside of it. That is the philosophic drift of the poet's thought
expressed and implied in his poem. It was Man, in his mortal ordeal--the
motive, cause, and necessity of which remain a mystery--whom he desired
and aimed to portray; it was not merely the triumph of a mocking devil,
temporarily victorious through ministration to animal lust and
intellectual revolt, over the weakness of the carnal creature and the
embittered bewilderment of the baffled mind. Mr. Irving may well say, as
he is reported to have said, that he will consider himself to have
accomplished a good work if his production of Faust should have the
effect of invigorating popular interest in Goethe's immortal poem and
bringing closer home to the mind of his public a true sense of its
sublime and far-reaching signification.

The full metaphysical drift of thought and meaning in Goethe's poem,
however, can be but faintly indicated in a play. It is more distinctly
indicated in Mr. Wills's play, which is used by Mr. Irving, than in any
other play upon this subject that has been presented. This result, an
approximate fidelity to the original, is due in part to the preservation
of the witch scenes, in part to Mr. Irving's subtle and significant
impersonation of Mephistopheles, and in part to a weird investiture of
spiritual mystery with which he has artfully environed the whole
production. The substance of the piece is the love story of Faust and
Margaret, yet beyond this is a background of infinity, and over and
around this is a poetic atmosphere charged with suggestiveness of
supernatural agency in the fate of man. If the gaze of the observer be
concentrated upon the mere structure of the piece, the love story is
what he will find; and that is all he will find. Faust makes his compact
with the Fiend. He is rejuvenated and he begins a new life. In "the
Witch's Kitchen" his passions are intensified, and then they are
ignited, so that he may be made the slave of desire and afterward if
possible imbruted by sensuality. He is artfully brought into contact
with Margaret, whom he instantly loves, who presently loves him, whom
he wins, and upon whom, since she becomes a mother out of wedlock, his
inordinate and reckless love imposes the burden of pious contrition and
worldly shame. Then, through the puissant wickedness and treachery of
Mephistopheles, he is made to predominate over her vengeful brother,
Valentine, whom he kills in a street fray. Thus his desire to experience
in his own person the most exquisite bliss that humanity can enjoy and
equally the most exquisite torture that it can suffer, becomes
fulfilled. He is now the agonised victim of love and of remorse. Orestes
pursued by the Furies was long ago selected as the typical image of
supreme anguish and immitigable suffering; but Orestes is less a
lamentable figure than Faust--fortified though he is, and because he is,
with the awful but malign, treacherous, and now impotent sovereignty of
hell. To deaden his sensibility, destroy his conscience, and harden him
in evil the Fiend leads him into a mad revel of boundless profligacy and
bestial riot--denoted by the beautiful and terrible scene upon the
Brocken--and poor Margaret is abandoned to her shame, her wandering, her
despair, her frenzy, her crime, and her punishment. This desertion,
though, is procured by a stratagem of the Fiend and does not proceed
from the design of her lover. The expedient of Mephistopheles, to lull
his prey by dissipations, is a failure. Faust finds them "tasteless,"
and he must return to Margaret. He finds her in prison, crazed and
dying, and he strives in vain to set her free. There is a climax,
whereat, while her soul is borne upward by angels he--whose destiny must
yet be fulfilled--is summoned by the terrible voice of Satan. This is
the substance of what is shown; but if the gaze of the observer pierces
beyond this, if he is able to comprehend that terrific but woeful image
of the fallen angel, if he perceives what is by no means obscurely
intimated, that Margaret, redeemed and beatified, cannot be happy unless
her lover also is saved, and that the soul of Faust can only be lost
through the impossible contingency of being converted into the likeness
of the Fiend, he will understand that a spectacle has been set before
him more august, momentous, and sublime than any episode of tragical
human love could ever be.

Henry Irving, in his embodiment of Mephistopheles, fulfilled the
conception of the poet in one essential respect and transcended it in
another. His performance, superb in ideal and perfect in execution, was
a great work--and precisely here was the greatness of it. Mephistopheles
as delineated by Goethe is magnificently intellectual and sardonic, but
nowhere does he convey even a faint suggestion of the god-head of glory
from which he has lapsed. His own frank and clear avowal of himself
leaves no room for doubt as to the limitation intended to be established
for him by the poet. I am, he declares, the spirit that perpetually
denies. I am a part of that part which once was all--a part of that
darkness out of which came the light. I repudiate all things--because
everything that has been made is unworthy to exist and ought to be
destroyed, and therefore it is better that nothing should ever have been
made. God dwells in splendour, alone and eternal, but his spirits he
thrusts into darkness, and man, a poor creature fashioned to poke his
nose into filth, he sportively dowers with day and night. My province is
evil; my existence is mockery; my pleasure and my purpose are
destruction. In a word, this Fiend, towering to the loftiest summit of
cold intellect, is the embodiment of cruelty, malice, and scorn,
pervaded and interfused with grim humour. That ideal Mr. Irving made
actual. The omniscient craft and deadly malignity of his impersonation,
swathed in a most specious humour at some moments (as, for example, in
Margaret's bedroom, in the garden scene with Martha, and in the duel
scene with Valentine) made the blood creep and curdle with horror, even
while they impressed the sense of intellectual power and stirred the
springs of laughter. But if you rightly saw his face, in the fantastic,
symbolical scene of the Witch's Kitchen; in that lurid moment of sunset
over the quaint gables and haunted spires of Nuremburg, when the
sinister presence of the arch-fiend deepened the red glare of the
setting sun and seemed to bathe this world in the ominous splendour of
hell; and, above all, if you perceived the soul that shone through his
eyes in that supremely awful moment of his predominance over the hellish
revel upon the Brocken, when all the hideous malignities of nature and
all those baleful "spirits which tend on mortal consequence" are loosed
into the aerial abyss, and only this imperial horror can curb and subdue
them, you knew that this Mephistopheles was a sufferer not less than a
mocker; that his colossal malignity was the delirium of an angelic
spirit thwarted, baffled, shattered, yet defiant; never to be
vanquished; never through all eternity to be at peace with itself. The
infinite sadness of that face, the pathos, beyond words, of that
isolated and lonely figure--those are the qualities that irradiated all
its diversified attributes of mind, humour, duplicity, sarcasm, force,
horror, and infernal beauty, and invested it with the authentic quality
of greatness. There is no warrant for this treatment of the part to be
derived from Goethe's poem. There is every warrant for it in the
apprehension of this tremendous subject by the imagination of a great
actor. You cannot mount above the earth, you cannot transcend the
ordinary line of the commonplace, as a mere sardonic image of
self-satisfied, chuckling obliquity. Mr. Irving embodied Mephistopheles
not as a man but as a spirit, with all that the word implies, and in
doing that he not only heeded the fine instinct of the true actor but
the splendid teaching of the highest poetry--the ray of supernal light
that flashes from the old Hebrew Bible; the blaze that streams from the
_Paradise Lost_; the awful glory through which, in the pages of Byron,
the typical figure of agonised but unconquerable revolt towers over a
realm of ruin:--

          "On his brow
    The thunder-scars are graven; from his eye
    Glares forth the immortality of hell."

Ellen Terry, in her assumption of Margaret, once more displayed that
profound, comprehensive, and particular knowledge of human love--that
knowledge of it through the soul and not simply the mind--which is the
source of her exceptional and irresistible power. This Margaret was a
woman who essentially loves, who exists only for love, who has the
courage of her love, who gives all for love--not knowing that it is a
sacrifice--and whose love, at last, triumphant over death, is not only
her own salvation but that also of her lover. The point of strict
conformity to the conception of the poet, in physique and in spiritual
state, may be waived. Goethe's Margaret is a handsome, hardy girl, of
humble rank, who sometimes uses bad grammar and who reveals no essential
mind. She is just a delicious woman, and there is nothing about her
either metaphysical or mysterious. The wise Fiend, who knows that with
such a man as Faust the love of such a woman must outweigh all the
world, wisely tempts him with her, and infernally lures him to the
accomplishment of her ruin. But it will be observed that, aside from the
infraction of the law of man, the loves of Faust and Margaret are not
only innocent but sacred. This sanctity Mephistopheles can neither
pollute nor control, and through this he loses his victims. Ellen
Terry's Margaret was a delicious woman, and not metaphysical nor
mysterious; but it was Margaret imbued with the temperament of Ellen
Terry,--who, if ever an exceptional creature lived, is exceptional in
every particular. In her embodiment she transfigured the character: she
maintained it in an ideal world, and she was the living epitome of all
that is fascinating in essential womanhood--glorified by genius. It did
not seem like acting but like the revelation of a hallowed personal
experience upon which no chill worldly gaze should venture to intrude.

In that suggestive book in which Lady Pollock records her recollections
of Macready it is said that once, after his retirement, on reading a
London newspaper account of the production of a Shakespearean play, he
remarked that "evidently the accessories swallow up the poetry and the
action": and he proceeded, in a reminiscent and regretful mood, to speak
as follows: "In my endeavour to give to Shakespeare all his attributes,
to enrich his poetry with scenes worthy of its interpretation, to give
to his tragedies their due magnificence and to his comedies their entire
brilliancy, I have set an example which is accompanied with great peril,
for the public is willing to have the magnificence without the tragedy,
and the poet is swallowed up in display." Mr. Irving is the legitimate
successor to Macready and he has encountered that same peril. There are
persons--many of them--who think that it is a sign of weakness to praise
cordially and to utter admiration with a free heart. They are mistaken,
but no doubt they are sincere. Shakespeare, the wisest of monitors, is
never so eloquent and splendid as when he makes one of his people
express praise of another. Look at those speeches in _Coriolanus_. Such
niggardly persons, in their detraction of Henry Irving, are prompt to
declare that he is a capital stage manager but not a great actor. This
has an impartial air and a sapient sound, but it is gross folly and
injustice. Henry Irving is one of the greatest actors that have ever
lived, and he has shown it over and over again. His acting is all the
more effective because associated with unmatched ability to insist and
insure that every play shall be perfectly well set, in every particular,
and that every part in it shall be competently acted. But his genius and
his ability are no more discredited than those of Macready were by his
attention to technical detail and his insistence upon total excellence
of result. It should be observed, however, that he has carried stage
garniture to an extreme limit. His investiture of _Faust_ was so
magnificent that possibly it may have tended in the minds of many
spectators, to obscure and overwhelm the fine intellectual force, the
beautiful delicacy, and the consummate art with which he embodied
Mephistopheles. It ought not to have produced that effect--because, in
fact, the spectacle presented was, actually and truly, that of a
supernatural being, predominant by force of inherent strength and charm
over the broad expanse of the populous and teeming world; but it might
have produced it: and, for the practical good of the art of acting,
progress in that direction has gone far enough. The supreme beauty of
the production was the poetic atmosphere of it--the irradiation of that
strange sensation of being haunted which sometimes will come upon you,
even at noon-day, in lonely places, on vacant hillside, beneath the dark
boughs of great trees, in the presence of the grim and silent rocks, and
by the solitary margin of the sea. The feeling was that of Goethe's own
weird and suggestive scene of the Open Field, the black horses, and the
raven-stone; or that of the shuddering lines of Coleridge:--

    "As one that on a lonesome road
      Doth walk in fear and dread,
    And, having once turned round, walks on
      And turns no more his head,
    Because he knows a frightful fiend
      Doth close behind him tread."



III.

ADELAIDE NEILSON AS IMOGEN AND JULIET.


Shakespeare's drama of _Cymbeline_ seems not at any time in the history
of the stage to have been a favourite with theatrical audiences. In New
York it has had but five revivals in more than a hundred years, and
those occurred at long intervals and were of brief continuance. The
names of Thomas Barry, Mrs. Shaw-Hamblin (Eliza Marian Trewar), and
Julia Bennett Barrow are best remembered in association with it on the
American stage. It had slept for more than a generation when, in the
autumn of 1876, Adelaide Neilson revived it at Philadelphia; but since
then it has been reproduced by several of her imitators. She first
offered it on the New York stage in May 1877, and it was then seen that
her impersonation of Imogen was one of the best of her works. If it be
the justification of the stage as an institution of public benefit and
social advancement, that it elevates humanity by presenting noble
ideals of human nature and making them exemplars and guides, that
justification was practically accomplished by that beautiful
performance.

The poetry of _Cymbeline_ is eloquent and lovely. The imagination of its
appreciative reader, gliding lightly over its more sinister incidents,
finds its story romantic, its accessories--both of the court and the
wilderness--picturesque, its historic atmosphere novel and exciting, and
the spirit of it tender and noble. Such a reader, likewise, fashions its
characters into an ideal form which cannot be despoiled by comparison
with a visible standard of reality. It is not, however, an entirely
pleasant play to witness. The acting version, indeed, is considerably
condensed from the original, by the excision of various scenes
explanatory of the conduct of the story, and by the omission of the
cumbersome vision of Leonatus; and the gain of brevity thereby made
helps to commend the work to a more gracious acceptance than it would be
likely to obtain if acted exactly according to Shakespeare. Its movement
also is imbued with additional alacrity by a rearrangement of its
divisions. It is customarily presented in six acts. Yet,
notwithstanding the cutting and editing to which it has been subjected,
_Cymbeline_ remains somewhat inharmonious alike with the needs of the
stage and the apprehension of the public.

For this there are several causes. One perhaps is its mixed character,
its vague, elusive purpose, and its unreality of effect. From the nature
of his story--a tale of stern facts and airy inventions, respecting
Britain and Rome, two thousand years ago--the poet seems to have been
compelled to make a picture of human life too literal to be viewed
wholly as an ideal, and too romantic to be viewed wholly as literal. In
the unequivocally great plays of Shakespeare the action moves like the
mighty flow of some resistless river. In this one it advances with the
diffusive and straggling movement of a summer cloud. The drift and
meaning of the piece, accordingly, do not stand boldly out. That astute
thinker, Ulrici, for instance, after much brooding upon it, ties his
mental legs in a hard knot and says that Shakespeare intended, in this
piece, to illustrate that man is not the master of his own destiny.
There must be liberal scope for conjecture when a philosopher can make
such a landing as that.

The persons in _Cymbeline_, moreover--aside from the exceptional
character of Imogen--do not come home to a spectator's realisation,
whether of sympathy or repugnance. It is like the flower that thrives
best under glass but shivers and wilts in the open air. Its poetry seems
marred by the rude touch of the actual. Its delicious mountain scenes
lose their woodland fragrance. Its motive, bluntly disclosed in the
wager scene, seems coarse, unnatural, and offensive. Its plot, really
simple, moves heavily and perplexes attention. It is a piece that lacks
pervasive concentration and enthralling point. It might be defined as
_Othello_ with a difference--the difference being in favour of
_Othello_. Jealousy is the pivot of both: but in _Othello_ jealousy is
treated with profound and searching truth, with terrible intensity of
feeling, and with irresistible momentum of action. A spectator will
honour and pity Othello, and hate and execrate Iago--with some infusion,
perhaps of impatience toward the one and of admiration for the
other--but he is likely to view both Leonatus and Iachimo with
considerable indifference; he will casually recognise the infrequent
Cymbeline as an ill-tempered, sonorous old donkey; he will give a
passing smile of scornful disgust to Cloten--that vague hybrid of
Roderigo and Oswald; and of the proceedings of the Queen and the
fortunes of the royal family--whether as affected by the chemical
experiments of Doctor Cornelius or the bellicose attitude of Augustus
Cæsar, in reaching for his British tribute--he will be practically
unconscious. This result comes of commingling stern fact and pastoral
fancy in such a way that an auditor of the composition is dubious
whether to fix his senses steadfastly on the one or yield up his spirit
to poetic reverie on the other.

Coleridge--whose intuitions as to such matters were usually as good as
recorded truth--thought that Shakespeare wrote _Cymbeline_ in his
youthful period. He certainly does not manifest in it the cogent and
glittering dramatic force that is felt in _Othello_ and _Macbeth_. The
probability is that he wrought upon the old legend of Holinshed in a
mood of intellectual caprice, inclining towards sensuous and fanciful
dalliance with a remote and somewhat intangible subject. Those persons
who explain the immense fecundity of his creative genius by alleging
that he must steadily have kept in view the needs of the contemporary
theatre seem to forget that he went much further in his plays than there
was any need for him to go, in the satisfaction of such a purpose, and
that those plays are, in general, too great for any stage that has
existed. Shakespeare, it is certain, could not have been an exception to
the law that every author must be conscious of a feeling, apart from
intellectual purpose, that carries him onward in his art. The feeling
that shines through _Cymbeline_ is a loving delight in the character of
Imogen.

The nature of that feeling and the quality of that character, had they
been obscure, would have been made clear by Adelaide Neilson's
embodiment. The personality that she presented was typical and unusual.
It embodied virtue, neither hardened by austerity nor vapid with excess
of goodness, and it embodied seductive womanhood, without one touch of
wantonness or guile. It presented a woman innately good and radiantly
lovely, who amid severest trials spontaneously and unconsciously acted
with the ingenuous grace of childhood, the grandest generosity, the most
constant spirit. The essence of Imogen's nature is fidelity. Faithful to
love, even till death, she is yet more faithful to honour. Her scorn of
falsehood is overwhelming; but she resents no injury, harbours no
resentment, feels no spite, murmurs at no misfortune. From every blow of
evil she recovers with a gentle patience that is infinitely pathetic.
Passionate and acutely sensitive, she yet seems never to think of
antagonising her affliction or to falter in her unconscious fortitude.
She has no reproach--but only a grieved submission--for the husband who
has wronged her by his suspicions and has doomed her to death. She
thinks only of him, not of herself, when she beholds him, as she
supposes, dead at her side; but even then she will submit and
endure--she will but "weep and sigh" and say twice o'er "a century of
prayers." She is only sorry for the woman who was her deadly enemy and
who hated her for her goodness--so often the incitement of mortal
hatred. She loses without a pang the heirship to a kingdom. An ideal
thus poised in goodness and radiant in beauty might well have
sustained--as undoubtedly it did sustain--the inspiration of
Shakespeare.

Adelaide Neilson, with her uncommon graces of person, found it easy to
make the chamber scene and the cave scenes pictorial and charming. Her
ingenuous trepidation and her pretty wiles, as Fidele, in the cave,
were finely harmonious with the character and arose from it like odour
from a flower. The innocence, the glee, the feminine desire to please,
the pensive grace, the fear, the weakness, and the artless simplicity
made up a state of gracious fascination. It was, however, in the revolt
against Iachimo's perfidy, in the fall before Pisanio's fatal
disclosure, and in the frenzy over the supposed death of Leonatus that
the actress put forth electrical power and showed how strong emotion,
acting through the imagination, can transfigure the being and give to
love or sorrow a monumental semblance and an everlasting voice. The
power was harmonious with the individuality and did not mar its grace.
There was a perfect preservation of sustained identity, and this was
expressed with such a sweet elocution and such an airy freedom of
movement and naturalness of gesture that the observer almost forgot to
notice the method of the mechanism and quite forgot that he was looking
upon a fiction and a shadow. That her personation of Imogen, though more
exalted in its nature than any of her works, excepting Isabella, would
rival in public acceptance her Juliet, Viola, or Rosalind, was not to
be expected: it was too much a passive condition--delicate and
elusive--and too little an active effort. She woke into life the
sleeping spirit of a rather repellant drama, and was "alone the Arabian
bird."

Shakespeare's Juliet, the beautiful, ill-fated heroine of his consummate
poem of love and sorrow, was the most effective, if not the highest of
Adelaide Neilson's tragic assumptions. It carried to every eye and to
every heart the convincing and thrilling sense equally of her beauty and
her power. The exuberant womanhood, the celestial affection, the
steadfast nobility, and the lovely, childlike innocence of Imogen--shown
through the constrained medium of a diffusive romance--were not to all
minds appreciable on the instant. The gentle sadness of Viola, playing
around her gleeful animation and absorbing it as the cup of the white
lily swallows the sunshine, might well be, for the more blunt senses of
the average auditor, dim, fitful, evanescent, and ineffective. Ideal
heroism and dream-like fragrance--the colours of Murillo or the poems of
Heine--are truly known but to exceptional natures or in exceptional
moods. The reckless, passionate idolatry of Juliet, on the
contrary,--with its attendant sacrifice, its climax of disaster, and its
sequel of anguish and death,--stands forth as clearly as the white line
of the lightning on a black midnight sky, and no observer can possibly
miss its meaning. All that Juliet is, all that she acts and all that she
suffers, is elemental. It springs directly from the heart and it moves
straight onward like a shaft of light. Othello, the perfection of
simplicity, is not simpler than Juliet. In him are embodied passion and
jealousy, swayed by an awful instinct of rude justice. In her is
embodied unmixed and immitigable passion, without law, limit, reason,
patience, or restraint. She is love personified and therefore a fatality
to herself. Presented in that way--and in that way she was presented by
Adelaide Neilson--her nature and her experience come home to the
feelings as well as the imagination, and all that we know, as well as
all that we dream, of beauty and of anguish are centred in one image. In
this we may see all the terrors of the moving hand of fate. In this we
may almost hear a warning voice out of heaven, saying that nowhere
except in duty shall the human heart find refuge and peace--or, if not
peace, submission.

The question whether Shakespeare's Juliet be correctly interpreted is
not one of public importance. It might be ever so correctly interpreted
without producing the right effect. There have been many Juliets. There
has, in our time, been no Juliet so completely fascinating and
irresistible as that of Adelaide Neilson. Through the medium of that
Shakespearean character the actress poured forth that strange,
thrilling, indescribable power which more than anything else in the
world vindicates by its existence the spiritual grandeur and destiny of
the human soul. Neither the accuracy of her ideals nor the fineness of
her execution would have accomplished the result that attended her
labours and crowned her fame. There was an influence back of these--a
spark of the divine fire--a consecration of the individual life--as
eloquent to inform as it was potent to move. Adelaide Neilson was one of
those strange, exceptional natures that, often building better than they
know, not only interpret "the poet's dream" but give to it an added
emphasis and a higher symbolism. Each element of her personality was
rich and rare. The eyes--now glittering with a mischievous glee that
seemed never to have seen a cloud or felt a sorrow, now steady, frank,
and sweet, with innocence and trust,--could, in one moment, flash with
the wild fire of defiance or the glittering light of imperious command,
or, equally in one moment, could soften with mournful thought and sad
remembrance, or darken with the far-off look of one who hears the waving
wings of angels and talks with the spirits of the dead. The face, just
sufficiently unsymmetrical to be brimful of character, whether piquant
or pensive; the carriage of body,--easy yet quaint in its artless grace,
like that of a pretty child in the unconscious fascination of infancy;
the restless, unceasing play of mood, and the instantaneous and perfect
response of expression and gesture,--all these were the denotements of
genius; and, above all these, and not to be mistaken in its irradiation
of the interior spirit of that extraordinary creature, was a voice of
perfect music--rich, sonorous, flexible, vibrant, copious in volume, yet
delicate as a silver thread--a voice

          "Like the whisper of the woods
    In prime of even, when the stars are few."

It did not surprise that such a woman should truly act Juliet. Much
though there be in a personality that is assumed, there is much more in
the personality that assumes it. Golden fire in a porcelain vase would
not be more luminous than was the soul of that actress as it shone
through her ideal of Juliet. The performance did not stop short at the
interpretation of a poetic fancy. It was amply and completely that--but
it was more than that, being also a living experience. The subtlety of
it was only equalled by its intensity, and neither was surpassed except
by its reality. The moment she came upon the scene all eyes followed
her, and every imaginative mind was vaguely conscious of something
strange and sad--a feeling of perilous suspense--a dark presentiment of
impending sorrow. In that was felt at once the presence of a nature to
which the experience of Juliet would be possible; and thus the conquest
of human sympathy was effected at the outset--by a condition, and
without the exercise of a single effort. Fate no less than art
participated in the result. Though it was the music of Shakespeare that
flowed from the harp, it was the hand of living genius that smote the
strings; it was the soul of a great woman that bore its vital testimony
to the power of the universal passion.

Never was poet truer to the highest truth of spiritual life than
Shakespeare is when he invests with ineffable mournfulness--shadowy as
twilight, vague as the remembrance of a dream--those creatures of his
fancy who are preordained to suffering and a miserable death. Never was
there sounded a truer note of poetry than that which thrills in
Othello's, "If it were now to die," or sobs in Juliet's "Too early seen
unknown, and known too late." It was the exquisite felicity of Adelaide
Neilson's acting of Juliet that she glided into harmony with that
tragical undertone, and, with seemingly a perfect unconsciousness of
it--whether prattling to the old nurse, or moving, sweetly grave and
softly demure, through the stately figures of the minuet--was already
marked off from among the living, already overshadowed by a terrible
fate, already alone in the bleak loneliness of the broken heart.
Striking the keynote thus, the rest followed in easy sequence. The
ecstasy of the wooing scene, the agony of the final parting from Romeo,
the forlorn tremor and passionate frenzy of the terrible night before
the burial, the fearful awakening, the desperation, the paroxysm, the
death-blow that then is mercy and kindness,--all these were in unison
with the spirit at first denoted, and through these was naturally
accomplished its prefigured doom. If clearly to possess a high purpose,
to follow it directly, to accomplish it thoroughly, to adorn it with
every grace, to conceal every vestige of its art, and to cast over the
art that glamour of poetry which ennobles while it charms, and while it
dazzles also endears,--if this is greatness in acting, then was Adelaide
Neilson's Juliet a great embodiment. It never will be forgotten. Its
soft romance of tone, its splendour of passion, its sustained energy,
its beauty of speech, and its poetic fragrance are such as fancy must
always cherish and memory cannot lose. Placing this embodiment beside
Imogen and Viola, it was easy to understand the secret of her
extraordinary success. She satisfied for all kinds of persons the sense
of the ideal. To youthful fancy she was the radiant vision of love and
pleasure; to grave manhood, the image of all that chivalry should honour
and strength protect; to woman, the type of noble goodness and constant
affection; to the scholar, a relief from thought and care; to the
moralist, a spring of tender pity--that loveliness, however exquisite,
must fade and vanish. Childhood, mindful of her kindness and her frolic,
scattered flowers at her feet; and age, that knows the thorny pathways
of the world, whispered its silent prayer and laid its trembling hands
in blessing on her head. She sleeps beneath a white marble cross in
Brompton cemetery, and all her triumphs and glories have dwindled to a
handful of dust.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE ON CYMBELINE.--Genest records productions of Shakespeare's
_Cymbeline_, in London, as follows: Haymarket, November 8, 1744; Covent
Garden, April 7, 1746; Drury Lane, November 28, 1761; Covent Garden,
December 28, 1767; Drury Lane, December 1, 1770; Haymarket, August 9,
1782; Covent Garden, October 18, 1784; Drury Lane, November 21, 1785,
and January 29 and March 20, 1787; Covent Garden, May 13, 1800, January
18, 1806, June 3, 1812, May 29, 1816, and June 2, 1825; and Drury Lane,
February 9, 1829; Imogen was represented, successively, by Mrs.
Pritchard, Miss Bride, Mrs. Yates, Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Bulkley, Miss
Younge, Mrs. Jordan, Mrs. Siddons, Mrs. Pope, Miss Smith, Mrs. H.
Johnston Miss Stephens, Miss Foote, and Miss Phillips. Later
representatives of it were Sally Booth, Helen Faucit, and Laura
Addison.



IV.

EDWIN BOOTH.


There was a great shower of meteors on the night of November 13, 1833,
and on that night, near Baltimore, Maryland, was born the most famous
tragic actor of America in this generation, Edwin Booth. No other
American actor of this century has had a rise so rapid or a career so
early and continuously brilliant as that of Edwin Booth. His father, the
renowned Junius Brutus Booth, had hallowed the family name with
distinction and romantic interest. If ever there was a genius upon the
stage the elder Booth was a genius. His wonderful eyes, his tremendous
vitality, his electrical action, his power to thrill the feelings and
easily and inevitably to awaken pity and terror,--all these made him a
unique being and obtained for him a reputation with old-time audiences
distinct from that of all other men. He was followed as a marvel, and
even now the mention of his name stirs, among those who remember him,
an enthusiasm such as no other theatrical memory can evoke. His sudden
death (alone, aboard a Mississippi river steamboat, November 30, 1852)
was pathetic, and the public thought concerning him thenceforward
commingled tenderness with passionate admiration. When his son Edwin
began to rise as an actor the people everywhere rejoiced and gave him an
eager welcome. With such a prestige he had no difficulty in making
himself heard, and when it was found that he possessed the same strange
power with which his father had conquered and fascinated the dramatic
world the popular exultation was unbounded.

Edwin Booth went on the stage in 1849 and accompanied his father to
California in 1852, and between 1852 and 1856 he gained his first
brilliant success. The early part of his California life was marked by
hardship and all of it by vicissitude, but his authentic genius speedily
flamed out, and long before he returned to the Atlantic seaboard the
news of his fine exploits had cleared the way for his conquest of all
hearts. He came back in 1856-57, and from that time onward his fame
continually increased. He early identified himself with two of the most
fascinating characters in the drama--the sublime and pathetic Hamlet and
the majestic, romantic, picturesque, tender, and grimly humorous
Richelieu. He first acted Hamlet in 1854; he adopted Richelieu in 1856;
and such was his success with the latter character that for many years
afterward he made it a rule (acting on the sagacious advice of the
veteran New Orleans manager, James H. Caldwell), always to introduce
himself in that part before any new community. The popular sentiment
toward him early took a romantic turn and the growth of that sentiment
has been accelerated and strengthened by every important occurrence of
his private life. In July 1860 he was married to a lovely and
interesting woman, Miss Mary Devlin, of Troy, and in February 1863 she
died. In 1867 he lost the Winter Garden theatre, which was burnt down on
the night of March 22, that year, after a performance of John Howard
Payne's _Brutus_. He had accomplished beautiful revivals of _Hamlet_,
_Othello_, _The Merchant of Venice_, and other plays at the Winter
Garden, and had obtained for that theatre an honourable eminence; but
when in 1869 he built and opened Booth's Theatre in New York, he
proceeded to eclipse all his previous efforts and triumphs. The
productions of _Romeo and Juliet_, _Othello_, _Richelieu_, _Hamlet_, _A
Winter's Tale_, and _Julius Cæsar_ were marked by ample scholarship and
magnificence. When the enterprise failed and the theatre passed out of
Edwin Booth's hands (1874) the play-going public endured a calamity. But
the failure of the actor's noble endeavour to establish a great theatre
in the first city of America, like every other conspicuous event in his
career, served but to deepen the public interest in his welfare. He has
more than retrieved his losses since then, and has made more than one
triumphal march throughout the length and breadth of the Republic,
besides acting in London and other cities of Great Britain, and gaining
extraordinary success upon the stage of Germany. To think of Edwin Booth
is immediately to be reminded of those leading events in his career,
while to review them, even in a cursory glance, is to perceive that,
notwithstanding calamities and sorrows, notwithstanding a bitter
experience of personal bereavement and of the persecution of envy and
malice, Edwin Booth has ever been a favourite of fortune.

The bust of Booth as Brutus and that of John Gilbert as Sir Peter,
standing side by side in the Players' Club, stir many memories and
prompt many reflections. Gilbert was a young man of twenty-three, and
had been six years on the stage, before Edwin Booth was born; and when,
at the age of sixteen, Booth made his first appearance (September 10,
1849, at the Boston Museum, as Tressil to his father's Richard), Gilbert
had become a famous actor. The younger man, however, speedily rose to
the higher level of the best dramatic ability as well as the best
theatrical culture of his time; and it is significant of the splendid
triumph of tragic genius, and of the advantage it possesses over that of
comedy in its immediate effect upon mankind, that when the fine and
exceptional combination was made (May 21, 1888, at the Metropolitan
Opera House, New York), for a performance of _Hamlet_ for the benefit of
Lester Wallack, Edwin Booth acted Hamlet, with John Gilbert for
Polonius, and Joseph Jefferson for the first Grave-digger. Booth has had
his artistic growth in a peculiar period in the history of dramatic art
in America. Just before his time the tragic sceptre was in the hands of
Edwin Forrest, who never succeeded in winning the intellectual part of
the public, but was constantly compelled to dominate a multitude that
never heard any sound short of thunder and never felt anything till it
was hit with a club. The bulk of Forrest's great fortune was gained by
him with _Metamora_, which is rant and fustian. He himself despised it
and deeply despised and energetically cursed the public that forced him
to act in it. Forrest's best powers, indeed, were never really
appreciated by the average mind of his fervent admirers. He lived in a
rough period and he had to use a hard method to subdue and please it.
Edwin Booth was fortunate in coming later, when the culture of the
people had somewhat increased, and when the old sledge-hammer style was
going out, so that he gained almost without an effort the refined and
fastidious classes. As long ago as 1857, with all his natural grace,
refinement, romantic charm, and fine bearing, his impetuosity was such
that even the dullest sensibilities were aroused and thrilled and
astonished by him,--and so it happened that he also gained the
multitude. To think of these things is to realise the steady advance of
the stage in the esteem of the best people, and to feel grateful that we
do not live in "the palmy days"--those raw times that John Brougham
used to call the days of light houses and heavy gas bills.

Mrs. Asia Booth Clarke, wife of the distinguished and excellent comedian
John S. Clarke, wrote a life of her father, Junius Brutus Booth, in
which she has recounted interesting passages in his career, and
chronicled significant and amusing anecdotes of his peculiarities. He
was on the stage from 1813 to 1852, in which latter year he died, aged
fifty-six. In his youth he served for a while in the British navy,
showed some talent for painting, learned the printer's trade, wrote a
little, and dabbled in sculpture--all before he turned actor. The
powerful hostility of Edmund Kean and his adherents drove him from the
London stage, though not till after he had gained honours there, and he
came to America in 1821, and bought a farm near Baltimore, where he
settled, and where his son Edwin (the seventh of ten children) was born.
That farm remained in the family till 1880, when for the first time it
changed hands. There is a certain old cherry-tree growing upon
it--remarkable among cherry-trees for being large, tall, straight,
clean, and handsome--amid the boughs of which the youthful Edwin might
often have been found in his juvenile days. It is a coincidence that
Edwin L. Davenport and John McCullough, also honoured names in American
stage history, were born on the same day in the same month with Edwin
Booth, though in different years.

From an early age Edwin Booth was associated with his father in all the
wanderings and strange and often sad adventures of that wayward man of
genius, and no doubt the many sorrowful experiences of his youth
deepened the gloom of his inherited temperament. Those who know him well
are aware that he has great tenderness of heart and abundant playful
humour; that his mind is one of extraordinary liveliness, and that he
sympathises keenly and cordially with the joys and sorrows of others;
and yet that he seems saturated with sadness, isolated from
companionship, lonely and alone. It is this temperament, combined with a
sombre and melancholy aspect of countenance, that has helped to make him
so admirable in the character of Hamlet. Of his fitness for that part
his father was the first to speak, when on a night many years ago, in
Sacramento, they had dressed for Pierre and Jaffier, in _Venice
Preserved_. Edwin, as Jaffier, had put on a close-fitting robe of black
velvet. "You look like Hamlet," the father said. The time was destined
to come when Edwin Booth would be accepted all over America as the
greatest Hamlet of the day. In the season of 1864-65, at the Winter
Garden theatre, New York, he acted that part for a hundred nights in
succession, accomplishing a feat then unprecedented in theatrical
annals. Since then Henry Irving, in London, has acted Hamlet two hundred
consecutive times in one season; but this latter achievement, in the
present day and in the capital city of the world, was less difficult
than Edwin Booth's exploit, performed in turbulent New York in the
closing months of the terrible civil war.

The elder Booth was a short, spare, muscular man, with a splendid chest,
a symmetrical Greek head, a pale countenance, a voice of wonderful
compass and thrilling power, dark hair, and blue eyes. His son's
resemblance to him is chiefly obvious in the shape of the head and face,
the arch and curve of the heavy eyebrows, the radiant and constantly
shifting light of expression that animates the countenance, the natural
grace of carriage, and the celerity of movement. Booth's eyes are dark
brown, and seem to turn black in moments of excitement, and they are
capable of conveying, with electrical effect, the most diverse
meanings--the solemnity of lofty thought, the tenderness of affection,
the piteousness of forlorn sorrow, the awful sense of spiritual
surroundings, the woful weariness of despair, the mocking glee of wicked
sarcasm, the vindictive menace of sinister purpose, and the lightning
glare of baleful wrath. In range of facial expressiveness his
countenance is thus fully equal to that of his father. The present
writer saw the elder Booth but once, and then in a comparatively
inferior part--Pescara, in Shiel's ferocious tragedy of _The Apostate_.
He was a terrible presence. He was the incarnation of smooth, specious,
malignant, hellish rapacity. His exultant malice seemed to buoy him
above the ground. He floated rather than walked. His glance was deadly.
His clear, high, cutting, measured tone was the exasperating note of
hideous cruelty. He was acting a fiend then, and making the monster not
only possible but actual. He certainly gave a greater impression of
overwhelming power than is given by Edwin Booth, and seemed a more
formidable and tremendous man. But his face was not more brilliant than
that of his renowned son; and in fact it was, if anything, somewhat less
splendid in power of the eye. There is a book about him, called _The
Tragedian_, written by Thomas R. Gould, who also made a noble bust of
him in marble; and those who never saw him can obtain a good idea of
what sort of an actor he was by reading that book. It conveys the image
of a greater actor, but not a more brilliant one, than Edwin Booth. Only
one man of our time has equalled Edwin Booth in this singular splendour
of countenance--the great New England orator Rufus Choate. Had Choate
been an actor upon the stage--as he was before a jury--with those
terrible eyes of his, and that passionate Arab face, he must have
towered fully to the height of the tradition of George Frederick Cooke.

The lurid flashes of passion and the vehement outbursts in the acting of
Edwin Booth are no doubt the points that most persons who have seen him
will most clearly remember. Through these a spectator naturally discerns
the essential nature of an actor. The image of George Frederick Cooke,
pointing with his long, lean forefinger and uttering Sir Giles's
imprecation upon Marrall, never fades out of theatrical history.
Garrick's awful frenzy in the storm scene of King Lear, Kean's colossal
agony in the farewell speech of Othello, Macready's heartrending yell in
_Werner_, Junius Booth's terrific utterance of Richard's "What do they
i' the north?" Forrest's hyena snarl when, as Jack Cade, he met Lord Say
in the thicket, or his volumed cry of tempestuous fury when, as Lucius
Brutus, he turned upon Tarquin under the black midnight sky--those are
things never to be forgotten. Edwin Booth has provided many such great
moments in acting, and the traditions of the stage will not let them
die. To these no doubt we must look for illuminative manifestations of
hereditary genius. Garrick, Henderson, Cooke, Edmund Kean, Junius Booth,
and Edwin Booth are names that make a natural sequence in one
intellectual family. Could we but see them together, we should
undoubtedly find them, in many particulars, kindred. Henderson
flourished in the school of nature that Garrick had created--to the
discomfiture of Quin and all the classics. Cooke had seen Henderson
act, and was thought to resemble him. Edmund Kean worshipped the memory
of Cooke and repeated many of the elder tragedian's ways. So far,
indeed, did he carry his homage that when he was in New York in 1824 he
caused Cooke's remains to be taken from the vault beneath St. Paul's
church and buried in the church-yard, where a monument, set up by Kean
and restored by his son Charles, by Sothern, and by Edwin Booth, still
marks their place of sepulture. That was the occasion when, as Dr.
Francis records, in his book on old New York, Kean took the index finger
of Cooke's right hand, and he, the doctor, took his skull, as relics. "I
have got Cooke's style in acting," Kean once said, "but the public will
never know it, I am so much smaller." It was not the imitation of a
copyist; it was the spontaneous devotion and direction of a kindred
soul. The elder Booth saw Kean act, and although injured by a rivalry
that Kean did not hesitate to make malicious, admired him with honest
fervour. "I will yield Othello to him," he said, "but neither Richard
nor Sir Giles." Forrest thought Edmund Kean the greatest actor of the
age, and copied him, especially in Othello. Pathos, with all that it
implies, seems to have been Kean's special excellence. Terror was the
elder Booth's. Edwin Booth may be less than either, but he unites
attributes of both.

In the earlier part of his career Edwin Booth was accustomed to act Sir
Giles Overreach, Sir Edward Mortimer, Pescara, and a number of other
parts of the terrific order, that he has since discarded. He was fine in
every one of them. The first sound of his voice when, as Sir Edward
Mortimer, he was heard speaking off the scene, was eloquent of deep
suffering, concentrated will, and a strange, sombre, formidable
character. The sweet, exquisite, icy, infernal joy with which, as
Pescara, he told his rival that there should be "music" was almost
comical in its effect of terror: it drove the listener across the line
of tragical tension and made him hysterical with the grimness of a
deadly humour. His swift defiance to Lord Lovell, as Sir Giles, and
indeed the whole mighty and terrible action with which he carried that
scene--from "What, are you pale?" down to the grisly and horrid viper
pretence and reptile spasm of death--were simply tremendous. This was in
the days when his acting yet retained the exuberance of a youthful
spirit, before "the philosophic mind" had checked the headlong currents
of the blood or curbed imagination in its lawless flight. And those
parts not only admitted of bold colour and extravagant action but
demanded them. Even his Hamlet was touched with that elemental fire. Not
alone in the great junctures of the tragedy--the encounters with the
ghost, the parting with Ophelia, the climax of the play-scene, the
slaughter of poor old Polonius in delirious mistake for the king, and
the avouchment to Laertes in the graveyard--was he brilliant and
impetuous; but in almost everything that quality of temperament showed
itself, and here, of course, it was in excess. He no longer hurls the
pipe into the flies when saying "Though you may fret me, you can not
play upon me"; but he used to do so then, and the rest of the
performance was kindred with that part of it. He needed, in that period
of his development, the more terrible passions to express. Pathos and
spirituality and the mountain air of great thought were yet to be. His
Hamlet was only dazzling--the glorious possibility of what it has since
become. But his Sir Giles was a consummate work of genius--as good then
as it ever afterward became, and better than any other that has been
seen since, not excepting that of E.L. Davenport. And in all kindred
characters he showed himself a man of genius. His success was great. The
admiration that he inspired partook of zeal that almost amounted to
craziness. When he walked in the streets of Boston in 1857 his shining
face, his compact figure, and his elastic step drew every eye, and
people would pause and turn in groups to look at him.

The actor is born but the artist must be made, and the actor who is not
an artist only half fulfils his powers. Edwin Booth had not been long
upon the stage before he showed himself to be an actor. During his first
season he played Cassio in _Othello_, Wilford in _The Iron Chest_, and
Titus in _The Fall of Tarquin_, and he played them all auspiciously
well. But his father, not less wise than kind, knew that the youth must
be left to himself to acquire experience, if he was ever to become an
artist, and so left him in California, "to rough it," and there, and in
the Sandwich Islands and Australia, he had four years of the most severe
training that hardship, discipline, labour, sorrow, and stern reality
can furnish. When he came east again, in the autumn of 1856, he was no
longer a novice but an educated, artistic tragedian, still crude in some
things, though on the right road, and in the fresh, exultant vigour, if
not yet the full maturity, of extraordinary powers. He appeared first at
Baltimore, and after that made a tour of the south, and during the
ensuing four years he was seen in many cities all over the country. In
the summer of 1860 he went to England, and acted in London, Liverpool,
and Manchester, but he was back again in New York in 1862, and from
September 21, 1863 to March 23, 1867 he managed what was known as the
Winter Garden theatre, and incidentally devoted himself to the
accomplishment of some of the stateliest revivals of standard plays that
have ever been made in America. On February 3, 1869 he opened Booth's
Theatre and that he managed for five years. In 1876 he made a tour of
the south, which, so great was the enthusiasm his presence aroused, was
nothing less than a triumphal progress. In San Francisco, where he
filled an engagement of eight weeks, the receipts exceeded $96,000, a
result at that time unprecedented on the dramatic stage.

The circumstances of the stage and of the lives of actors have greatly
changed since the generation went out to which such men as Junius Booth
and Augustus A. Addams belonged. No tragedian would now be so mad as to
put himself in pawn for drink, as Cooke is said to have done, nor be
found scraping the ham from the sandwiches provided for his luncheon, as
Junius Booth was, before going on to play Shylock. Our theatre has no
longer a Richardson to light up a pan of red fire, as that old showman
once did, to signalise the fall of the screen in _The School for
Scandal_. The eccentrics and the taste for them have passed away. It
seems really once to have been thought that the actor who did not often
make a maniac of himself with drink could not be possessed of the divine
fire. That demonstration of genius is not expected now, nor does the
present age exact from its favourite players the performance of all
sorts and varieties of parts. Forrest was the first of the prominent
actors to break away from the old usage in this latter particular.
During the most prosperous years of his life, from 1837 to 1850, he
acted only about a dozen parts, and most of them were old. The only new
parts that he studied were Claude Melnotte, Richelieu, Jack Cade, and
Mordaunt, the latter in the play of _The Patrician's Daughter_, and he
"recovered" Marc Antony, which he particularly liked. Edwin Booth, who
had inherited from his father the insanity of intemperance, conquered
that utterly, many years ago, and nobly and grandly trod it beneath his
feet; and as he matured in his career, through acting every kind of
part, from a dandy negro up to Hamlet, he at last made choice of the
characters that afford scope for his powers and his aspirations, and so
settled upon a definite, restricted repertory. His characters were
Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, Othello, Iago, Richard the Second, Richard the
Third, Shylock, Cardinal Wolsey, Benedick, Petruchio, Richelieu, Lucius
Brutus, Bertuccio, Ruy Blas, and Don Cæsar de Bazan. These he acted in
customary usage, and to these he occasionally added Marcus Brutus,
Antony, Cassius, Claude Melnotte, and the Stranger. The range thus
indicated is extraordinary; but more extraordinary still was the
evenness of the actor's average excellence throughout the breadth of
that range.

Booth's tragedy is better than his elegant comedy. There are other
actors who equal or surpass him in Benedick or Don Cæsar. The comedy in
which he excels is that of silvery speciousness and bitter sarcasm, as
in portions of Iago and Richard the Third and the simulated madness of
Lucius Brutus, and the comedy of grim drollery, as in portions of
Richelieu--his expression of those veins being wonderfully perfect. But
no other actor who has trod the American stage in our day has equalled
him in certain attributes of tragedy that are essentially poetic. He is
not at his best, indeed, in all the tragic parts that he acts; and, like
his father, he is an uneven actor in the parts to which he is best
suited. No person can be said to know Edwin Booth's acting who has not
seen him play the same part several times. His artistic treatment will
generally be found adequate, but his mood or spirit will continually
vary. He cannot at will command it, and when it is absent his
performance seems cold. This characteristic is, perhaps, inseparable
from the poetic temperament. Each ideal that he presents is poetic; and
the suitable and adequate presentation of it, therefore, needs poetic
warmth and glamour. Booth never goes behind his poet's text to find a
prose image in the pages of historic fact. The spectator who takes the
trouble to look into his art will find it, indeed, invariably accurate
as to historic basis, and will find that all essential points and
questions of scholarship have been considered by the actor. But this is
not the secret of its power upon the soul. That power resides in its
charm, and that charm consists in its poetry. Standing on the lonely
ramparts of Elsinore, and with awe-stricken, preoccupied, involuntary
glances questioning the star-lit midnight air, while he talks with his
attendant friends, Edwin Booth's Hamlet is the simple, absolute
realisation of Shakespeare's haunted prince, and raises no question, and
leaves no room for inquiry, whether the Danes in the Middle Ages wore
velvet robes or had long flaxen hair. It is dark, mysterious,
melancholy, beautiful--a vision of dignity and of grace, made sublime by
suffering, made weird and awful by "thoughts beyond the reaches of our
souls." Sorrow never looked more wofully and ineffably lovely than his
sorrow looks in the parting scene with Ophelia, and frenzy never spoke
with a wilder glee of horrid joy and fearful exultation than is heard
in his tempestuous cry of delirium, "Nay, I know not: is it the king?"

An actor who is fine only at points is not, of course, a perfect actor.
The remark of Coleridge about the acting of Edmund Kean, that it was
like "reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning," has misled many
persons as to Kean's art. Macready bears a similar testimony. But the
weight of evidence will satisfy the reader that Kean was, in fact, a
careful student and that he never neglected any detail of his art. This
is certainly true of Edwin Booth. In the level plains that lie between
the mountain-peaks of expression he walks with as sure a footstep and as
firm a tread as on the summit of the loftiest crag or the verge of the
steepest abyss. In 1877-78, in association with the present writer, he
prepared for the press an edition of fifteen of the plays in which he
acts, and these were published for the use of actors. There is not a
line in either of those plays that he has not studiously and thoroughly
considered; not a vexed point that he has not scanned; not a
questionable reading that he has not, for his own purposes in acting,
satisfactorily settled. His Shakespearean scholarship is extensive and
sound, and it is no less minute than ample. His stage business has been
arranged, as stage business ought to be, with scientific precision. If,
as king Richard the Third, he is seen to be abstractedly toying with a
ring upon one of his fingers, or unsheathing and sheathing his dagger,
those apparently capricious actions would be found to be done because
they were illustrative parts of that monarch's personality, warranted by
the text and context. Many years ago an accidental impulse led him, as
Hamlet, to hold out his sword, hilt foremost, toward the receding
spectre, as a protective cross--the symbol of that religion to which
Hamlet so frequently recurs. The expedient was found to justify itself
and he made it a custom. In the graveyard scene of this tragedy he
directs that one of the skulls thrown up by the first clown shall have a
tattered and mouldy fool's-cap adhering to it, so that it may attract
attention, and be singled out from the others, as "Yorick's skull, the
king's jester." These are little things; but it is of a thousand little
things that a dramatic performance is composed, and without this care
for detail--which must be precise, logical, profound, vigilant,
unerring, and at the same time always unobtrusive and seemingly
involuntary--there can be neither cohesion, nor symmetry, nor an
illusory image consistently maintained; and all great effects would
become tricks of mechanism and detached exploits of theatrical force.

The absence of this thoroughness in such acting as that of Edwin Booth
would instantly be felt; its presence is seldom adequately appreciated.
We feel the perfect charm of the illusion in the great fourth act of
_Richelieu_--one of the most thrilling situations, as Booth fills it,
that ever were created upon the stage; but we should not feel this had
not the foreground of character, incident, and experience been prepared
with consummate thoroughness. The character of Richelieu is one that the
elder Booth could never act. He tried it once, upon urgent solicitation,
but he had not proceeded far before he caught Joseph around the waist,
and with that astonished friar in his arms proceeded to dash into a
waltz, over which the curtain was dropped. He had no sympathy with the
moonlight mistiness and lace-like complexity of that weird and
many-fibred nature. It lacked for him the reality of the imagination,
the trumpet blare and tempest rush of active passion. But Edwin Booth,
coming after Forrest, who was its original in America, has made
Richelieu so entirely his own that no actor living can stand a
comparison with him in the character. Macready was the first
representative of the part, as everybody knows, and his performance of
it was deemed magnificent; but when Edwin Booth acted it in London in
1880, old John Ryder, the friend and advocate of Macready, who had
participated with him in all his plays, said to the American tragedian,
with a broken voice and with tears in his eyes, "You have thrown down my
idol." Two at least of those great moments in acting that everybody
remembers were furnished by Booth in this character--the defiance of the
masked assailant, at Rouel, and the threat of excommunication delivered
upon Barradas. No spectator possessed of imagination and sensibility
ever saw, without utter forgetfulness of the stage, the imperial
entrance of that Richelieu into the gardens of the Louvre and into the
sullen presence of hostile majesty. The same spell of genius is felt in
kindred moments of his greater impersonations. His Iago, standing in the
dark street, with sword in hand, above the prostrate bodies of Cassio
and Roderigo, and as the sudden impulse to murder them strikes his
brain, breathing out in a blood-curdling whisper, "How silent is this
town!" his Bertuccio, begging at the door of the banquet-hall, and
breaking down in hysterics of affected glee and maddening agony; his
Lear, at that supreme moment of intolerable torture when he parts away
from Goneril and Regan, with his wild scream of revenges that shall be
the terrors of the earth; his Richard the Third, with the gigantic
effrontery of his "Call him again," and with his whole matchless and
wonderful utterance of the awful remorse speech with which the king
awakens from his last earthly sleep--those, among many others, rank with
the best dramatic images that ever were chronicled, and may well be
cited to illustrate Booth's invincible and splendid adequacy at the
great moments of his art.

Edwin Booth has been tried by some of the most terrible afflictions that
ever tested the fortitude of a human soul. Over his youth, plainly
visible, impended the lowering cloud of insanity. While he was yet a
boy, and when literally struggling for life in the semi-barbarous wilds
of old California, he lost his beloved father, under circumstances of
singular misery. In early manhood he laid in her grave the woman of his
first love--the wife who had died in absence from him, herself scarcely
past the threshold of youth, lovely as an angel and to all that knew her
precious beyond expression. A little later his heart was well-nigh
broken and his life was well-nigh blasted by the crime of a lunatic
brother that for a moment seemed to darken the hope of the world.
Recovering from that blow, he threw all his resources and powers into
the establishment of the grandest theatre in the metropolis of America,
and he saw his fortune of more than a million dollars, together with the
toil of some of the best years of his life, frittered away. Under all
trials he has borne bravely up, and kept the even, steadfast tenor of
his course; strong, patient, gentle, neither elated by public homage nor
imbittered by private grief. Such a use of high powers in the dramatic
art, and the development and maintenance of such a character behind
them, entitle him to the affection of his countrymen, proud equally of
his goodness and his renown.



V.

MARY ANDERSON: HERMIONE: PERDITA.


On November 25, 1875 an audience was assembled in one of the theatres of
Louisville, Kentucky, to see "the first appearance upon any stage" of "a
young lady of Louisville," who was announced to play Shakespeare's
Juliet. That young lady was in fact a girl, in her sixteenth year, who
had never received any practical stage training, whose education had
been comprised in five years of ordinary schooling, whose observation of
life had never extended beyond the narrow limits of a provincial city,
who was undeveloped, unheralded, unknown, and poor, and whose only
qualifications for the task she had set herself to accomplish were the
impulse of genius and the force of commanding character. She dashed at
the work with all the vigour of abounding and enthusiastic youth, and
with all the audacity of complete inexperience. A rougher performance of
Juliet probably was never seen, but through all the disproportion and
turbulence of that effort the authentic charm of a beautiful nature was
distinctly revealed. The sweetness, the sincerity, the force, the
exceptional superiority and singular charm of that nature could not be
mistaken. The uncommon stature and sumptuous physical beauty of the girl
were obvious. Above all, her magnificent voice--copious, melodious,
penetrating, loud and clear, yet soft and gentle--delighted every ear
and touched every heart. The impersonation of Juliet was not highly
esteemed by judicious hearers; but some persons who saw that performance
felt and said that a new actress had risen and that a great career had
begun. Those prophetic voices were right. That "young lady of
Louisville" was Mary Anderson.

It is seldom in stage history that the biographer comes upon such a
character as that of Mary Anderson, or is privileged to muse over the
story of such a career as she has had. In many cases the narrative of
the life of an actress is a narrative of talents perverted, of
opportunity misused, of failure, misfortune, and suffering. For one
story like that of Mrs. Siddons there are many like that of Mrs.
Robinson. For one name like that of Charlotte Cushman or that of Helen
Faucit there are many like that of Lucille Western or that of Matilda
Heron--daughters of sorrow and victims of trouble. The mind lingers,
accordingly, impressed and pleased with a sense of sweet personal worth
as well as of genius and beauty upon the record of a representative
American actress, as noble as she was brilliant, and as lovely in her
domestic life as she was beautiful, fortunate, and renowned in her
public pursuits. The exposition of her nature, as apprehended through
her acting, constitutes the principal part of her biography.

Mary Anderson, a native of California, was born at Sacramento, July 28,
1859. Her father, Charles Joseph Anderson, who died in 1863, aged
twenty-nine, and was buried in Magnolia cemetery, Mobile, Alabama, was
an officer in the service of the Southern Confederacy at the time of his
death, and he is said to have been a handsome and dashing young man. Her
mother, Marie Antoinette Leugers, was a native of Philadelphia. Her
earlier years were passed in Louisville, whither she was taken in 1860,
and she was there taught in a Roman Catholic school and reared in the
Roman Catholic faith under the guidance of a Franciscan priest, Anthony
Miller, her mother's uncle. She left school before she was fourteen
years old and she went upon the stage before she was sixteen. She had
while a child seen various theatrical performances, notably those given
by Edwin Booth, and her mind had been strongly drawn toward the stage
under the influence of those sights. The dramatic characters that she
first studied were male characters--those of Hamlet, Wolsey, Richelieu,
and Richard III.--and to those she added Schiller's Joan of Arc. She
studied those parts privately, and she knew them all and knew them well.
Professor Noble Butler, of Louisville, gave her instruction in English
literature and elocution, and in 1874, at Cincinnati, Charlotte Cushman
said a few encouraging words to her, and told her to persevere in
following the stage, and to "begin at the top." George Vandenhoff gave
her a few lessons before she came out, and then followed her début as
Juliet, leading to her first regular engagement, which began at Barney
Macaulay's Theatre, Louisville, January 20, 1876. From that time onward
for thirteen years she was an actress,--never in a stock company but
always as a star,--and her name became famous in Great Britain as well
as America. She had eight seasons of steadily increasing prosperity on
the American stage before she went abroad to act, and she became a
favourite all over the United States. She filled three seasons at the
Lyceum Theatre, London (from September 1, 1883, to April 5, 1884; from
November 1, 1884, to April 25, 1885; and from September 10, 1887, to
March 24, 1888), and her success there surpassed, in profit, that of any
American actor who had appeared in England. She revived _Romeo and
Juliet_ with much splendour at the London Lyceum on November 1, 1884,
and she restored _A Winter's Tale_ to the stage, bringing forward that
comedy on September 10, 1887, and carrying it through the season. She
made several prosperous tours of the English provincial theatres, and
established herself as a favourite actress in fastidious Edinburgh,
critical Manchester, and impulsive but exacting Dublin. The repertory
with which she gained fame and fortune included Juliet, Hermione,
Perdita, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Julia, Bianca, Evadne, Parthenia,
Pauline, The Countess, Galatea, Clarice, Ion, Meg Merrilies, Berthe,
and the Duchess de Torrenueva. She incidentally acted a few other parts,
Desdemona being one of them. Her distinctive achievements were in
Shakespearean drama. She adopted into her repertory two plays by
Tennyson, _The Cup_ and _The Falcon_, but never produced them. This
record signifies the resources of mind, the personal charm, the exalted
spirit, and the patient, wisely directed and strenuous zeal that
sustained her achievements and justified her success.

Aspirants in the field of art are continually coming to the surface. In
poetry, painting, sculpture, music, and in acting--which involves and
utilises those other arts--the line of beginners is endless. Constantly,
as the seasons roll by, these essayists emerge, and as constantly, after
a little time, they disappear. The process is sequent upon an obvious
law of spiritual life,--that all minds which are conscious of the art
impulse must at least make an effort toward expression, but that no mind
can succeed in the effort unless, in addition to the art impulse, it
possesses also the art faculty. For expression is the predominant
necessity of human nature. Out of this proceed forms and influences of
beauty. These react upon mankind, pleasing an instinct for the
beautiful, and developing the faculty of taste. Other and finer forms
and influences of beauty ensue, civilisation is advanced, and thus
finally the way is opened toward that condition of immortal spiritual
happiness which this process of experience prefigures and prophesies.
But the art faculty is of rare occurrence. At long intervals there is a
break in the usual experience of stage failure, and some person hitherto
unknown not only takes the field but keeps it. When Garrick came out, as
the Duke of Gloster, in the autumn of 1741, in London, he had never been
heard of, but within a brief time he was famous. "He at once decided the
public taste," said Macklin; and Pope summed up the victory in the
well-known sentence, "That young man never had an equal, and will never
have a rival." Tennyson's line furnishes the apt and comprehensive
comment--"The many fail, the one succeeds." Mary Anderson in her day
furnished the most conspicuous and striking example, aside from that of
Adelaide Neilson, to which it is possible to refer of this exceptional
experience. And yet, even after years of trial and test, it is doubtful
whether the excellence of that remarkable actress was entirely
comprehended in her own country. The provincial custom of waiting for
foreign authorities to discover our royal minds is one from which many
inhabitants of America have not yet escaped. As an actress, indeed, Mary
Anderson was, probably, more popular than any player on the American
stage excepting Edwin Booth or Joseph Jefferson; but there is a
difference between popularity and just and comprehensive intellectual
recognition. Many actors get the one; few get the other.

Much of the contemporary criticism that is lavished upon actors in this
exigent period--so bountifully supplied with critical observations, so
poorly furnished with creative art--touches only upon the surface.
Acting is measured with a tape and the chief demand seems to be for
form. This is right, and indeed is imperative, whenever it is certain
that the actor at his best is one who never can rise above the
high-water mark of correct mechanism. There are cases that need a deeper
method of inquiry and a more searching glance. A wise critic, when this
emergency comes, is something more than an expert who gives an opinion
upon a professional exploit. The special piece of work may contain
technical flaws, and yet there may be within it a soul worth all the
"icily regular and splendidly null" achievements that ever were possible
to proficient mediocrity. That soul is visible only to the observer who
can look through the art into the interior spirit of the artist, and
thus can estimate a piece of acting according to its inspirational drift
and the enthralling and ennobling personality out of which it springs.
The acting of Mary Anderson, from the first moment of her career, was of
the kind that needs that deep insight and broad judgment,--aiming to
recognise and rightly estimate its worth. Yet few performers of the day
were so liberally favoured with the monitions of dullness and the
ponderous patronage of self-complacent folly.

Conventional judgment as to Mary Anderson's acting expressed itself in
one statement--"she is cold." There could not be a greater error. That
quality in Mary Anderson's acting--a reflex from her spiritual
nature--which produced upon the conventional mind the effect of coldness
was in fact distinction, the attribute of being exceptional. The
judgment that she was cold was a resentful judgment, and was given in a
spirit of detraction. It proceeded from an order of mind that can never
be content with the existence of anything above its own level. "He
hath," said Iago, speaking of Cassio, "a daily beauty in his life that
makes me ugly." Those detractors did not understand themselves as well
as the wily Italian understood himself, and they did not state their
attitude with such precision; in fact, they did not state it at all, for
it was unconscious with them and involuntary. They saw a being unlike
themselves, they vaguely apprehended the presence of a superior nature,
and that they resented. The favourite popular notion is that all men are
born free and equal; which is false. Free and equal they all are,
undoubtedly, in the eye of the law. But every man is born subject to
heredity and circumstance, and whoever will investigate his life will
perceive that he never has been able to stray beyond the compelling and
constraining force of his character--which is his fate. All men,
moreover, are unequal. To one human being is given genius; to another,
beauty; to another, strength; to another, exceptional judgment; to
another, exceptional memory; to another, grace and charm; to still
another, physical ugliness and spiritual obliquity, moral taint, and
every sort of disabling weakness. To the majority of persons Nature
imparts mediocrity, and it is from mediocrity that the derogatory denial
emanates as to the superior men and women of our race. A woman of the
average kind is not difficult to comprehend. There is nothing
distinctive about her. She is fond of admiration; rather readily
censorious of other women; charitable toward male rakes; and partial to
fine attire. The poet Wordsworth's formula, "Praise, blame, love,
kisses, tears, and smiles," comprises all that is essential for her
existence, and that bard has himself precisely described her, in a
grandfatherly and excruciating couplet, as

    "A creature not too bright and good
    For human nature's daily food."

Women of that sort are not called "cold." The standard is ordinary and
it is understood. But when a woman appears in art whose life is not
ruled by the love of admiration, whose nature is devoid of vanity, who
looks with indifference upon adulation, whose head is not turned by
renown, whose composure is not disturbed by flattery, whose simplicity
is not marred by wealth, who does not go into theatrical hysterics and
offer that condition of artificial delirium as the mood of genius in
acting, who above all makes it apparent in her personality and her
achievements that the soul can be sufficient to itself and can exist
without taking on a burden of the fever or dulness of other lives, there
is a flutter of vague discontent among the mystified and bothered rank
and file, and we are apprised that she is "cold." That is what happened
in the case of Mary Anderson.

What are the faculties and attributes essential to great success in
acting? A sumptuous and supple figure that can realise the ideals of
statuary; a mobile countenance that can strongly and unerringly express
the feelings of the heart and the workings of the mind; eyes that can
awe with the majesty or startle with the terror or thrill with the
tenderness of their soul-subduing gaze; a voice, deep, clear, resonant,
flexible, that can range over the wide compass of emotion and carry its
meaning in varying music to every ear and every heart; intellect to
shape the purposes and control the means of mimetic art; deep knowledge
of human nature; delicate intuitions; the skill to listen as well as
the art to speak; imagination to grasp the ideal of a character in all
its conditions of experience; the instinct of the sculptor to give it
form, of the painter to give it colour, and of the poet to give it
movement; and, back of all, the temperament of genius--the genialised
nervous system--to impart to the whole artistic structure the thrill of
spiritual vitality. Mary Anderson's acting revealed those faculties and
attributes, and those observers who realised the poetic spirit, the
moral majesty, and the isolation of mind that she continually suggested
felt that she was an extraordinary woman. Such moments in her acting as
that of Galatea's mute supplication at the last of earthly life, that of
Juliet's desolation after the final midnight parting with the last human
creature whom she may ever behold, and that of Hermione's despair when
she covers her face and falls as if stricken dead, were the eloquent
denotements of power, and in those and such as those--with which her art
abounded--was the fulfilment of every hope that her acting inspired and
the vindication of every encomium that it received.

Early in her professional career, when considering her acting, the
present essayist quoted as applicable to her those lovely lines by
Wordsworth:--

    "The stars of midnight shall be dear
    To her, and she shall lean her ear
        In many a secret place
    Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
    And beauty born of murmuring sound
        Shall pass into her face."

In the direction of development thus indicated she steadily advanced.
Her affiliations were with grandeur, purity, and loveliness. An inherent
and passionate tendency toward classic stateliness increased in her more
and more. Characters of the statuesque order attracted her
imagination--Ion, Galatea, Hermione--but she did not leave them
soulless. In the interpretation of passion and the presentation of its
results she revealed the striking truth that her perceptions could
discern those consequences that are recorded in the soul and in
comparison with which the dramatic entanglements of visible life are
puny and evanescent. Though living in the rapid stream of the social
world she dwelt aloof from it. She thought deeply, and in mental
direction she took the pathway of intellectual power. It is not
surprising that the true worth of such a nature was not accurately
apprehended. Minds that are self-poised, stately, irresponsive to human
weakness, unconventional and self-liberated from allegiance to the
commonplace are not fully and instantly discernible, and may well
perplex the smiling glance of frivolity; but they are permanent forces
in the education of the human race. Mary Anderson retired from the
stage, under the pressure of extreme fatigue, in the beginning of 1889
and entered upon a matrimonial life on June 17, 1890. It is believed
that her retirement is permanent. The historical interest attaching to
her dramatic career justifies the preservation of this commemorative
essay.

There is so much beauty in the comedy of _A Winter's Tale_--so much
thought, character, humour, philosophy, sweetly serene feeling and
loveliness of poetic language--that the public ought to feel obliged to
any one who successfully restores it to the stage, from which it usually
is banished. The piece was written in the maturity of Shakespeare's
marvellous powers, and indeed some of the Shakespearean scholars believe
it to be the last work that fell from his hand. Human life, as depicted
in _A Winter's Tale_, shows itself like what it always seems to be in
the eyes of patient, tolerant, magnanimous experience--the eyes "that
have kept watch o'er man's mortality"--for it is a scene of inexplicable
contrasts and vicissitudes, seemingly the chaos of caprice and chance,
yet always, in fact, beneficently overruled and guided to good ends.
Human beings are shown in it as full of weakness; often as the puppets
of laws that they do not understand and of universal propensities and
impulses into which they never pause to inquire; almost always as
objects of benignant pity. The woful tangle of human existence is here
viewed with half-cheerful, half-sad tolerance, yet with the hope and
belief that all will come right at last. The mood of the comedy is
pensive but radically sweet. The poet is like the forest in Emerson's
subtle vision of the inherent exultation of nature:--

    "Sober, on a fund of joy,
    The woods at heart are glad."

Mary Anderson doubled the characters of Hermione and Perdita. This had
not been conspicuously done until it was done by her, and her
innovation, in that respect, was met with grave disapproval. The moment
the subject is examined, however, objection to that method of procedure
is dispelled. Hermione, as a dramatic person, disappears in the middle
of the third act of Shakespeare's comedy and comes no more until the end
of the piece, when she emerges as a statue. Her character has been
entirely expressed and her part in the action of the drama has been
substantially fulfilled before she disappears. There is no intermediate
passion to be wrought to a climax, nor is there any intermediate mood,
dramatically speaking, to be sustained. The dramatic environment, the
dramatic necessities, are vastly unlike, for example, those of Lady
Macbeth--one of the hardest of all parts to play well, because exhibited
intermittently, at long intervals, yet steadily constrained by the
necessity of cumulative excitement. The representative of Lady Macbeth
must be identified with that character, whether on the stage or off,
from the beginning of it to the end. Hermione, on the contrary, is at
rest from the moment when she faints upon receiving information of the
death of her boy. A lapse of sixteen years is assumed, and then,
standing forth as a statue, she personifies majestic virtue and
victorious fortitude. When she descends from the pedestal she silently
embraces Leontes, speaks a few pious, maternal and tranquil lines (there
are precisely seven of them in the original, but Mary Anderson added
two, from "All's Well"), and embraces Perdita, whom she has not seen
since the girl's earliest infancy. This is their only meeting, and
little is sacrificed by the use of a substitute for the daughter in that
scene. Perdita's brief apostrophe to the statue has to be cut, but it is
not missed in the representation. The resemblance between mother and
daughter heightens the effect of illusion, in its impress equally upon
fancy and vision; and a more thorough elucidation is given than could be
provided in any other way of the spirit of the comedy. It was a
judicious and felicitous choice that the actress made when she selected
those two characters, and the fact that her impersonation of them
carried a practically disused Shakespearean comedy through a season of
one hundred and fifty nights at the Lyceum Theatre in London furnishes
an indorsement alike of her wisdom and her ability. She played in a
stage version of the piece, in five acts, containing thirteen scenes,
arranged by herself.

While Mary Anderson was acting those two parts in London the sum of
critical opinion seemed to be that her performance of Perdita was better
than her performance of Hermione; but beneath that judgment there was,
apparently, the impression that Hermione is a character fraught with
superlatively great passions, powers, and qualities, such as are only to
be apprehended by gigantic sagacity and conveyed by herculean talents
and skill. Those vast attributes were not specified, but there was a
mysterious intimation of their existence--as of something vague,
formidable, and mostly elusive. But in truth Hermione, although a
stronger part than Perdita, is neither complex, dubious, nor
inaccessible; and Mary Anderson, although more fascinating in Perdita,
could and did rise, in Hermione, to a noble height of tragic power--an
excellence not possible for her, nor for anybody, in the more juvenile
and slender character.

Hermione has usually been represented as an elderly woman and by such an
actress as is technically called "heavy." She ought to be represented as
about thirty years of age at the beginning of the piece, and forty-six
at the end of it. Leontes is not more than thirty-four at the opening,
and he would be fifty at the close. He speaks, in his first scene, of
his boyhood as only twenty-three years gone, when his dagger was worn
"muzzled, lest it should bite its master"--at which time he may have
been ten years old; certainly not more, probably less. His words, toward
the end of act third, "so sure as this beard's gray," refer to the beard
of Antigonus, not to his own. He is a young man when the play begins,
and Polixenes is about the same age, and Hermione is a young woman.
Antigonus and Paulina are middle-aged persons in the earlier scenes and
Paulina is an elderly woman in the statue scene--almost an old woman,
though not too old to be given in marriage to old Camillo, the
ever-faithful friend. In Mary Anderson's presentation of _A Winter's
Tale_ those details received thoughtful consideration and correct
treatment.

In Hermione is seen a type of the celestial nature in woman--infinite
love, infinite charity, infinite patience. Such a nature is rare; but it
is possible, it exists, and Shakespeare, who depicted everything, did
not omit to portray that. To comprehend Hermione the observer must
separate her, absolutely and finally, from association with the
passions. Mrs. Jameson acutely and justly describes her character as
exhibiting "dignity without pride, love without passion, and tenderness
without weakness." That is exactly true. Hermione was not easily won,
and the best thing known about Leontes is that at last she came to love
him and that her love for him survived his cruel and wicked treatment,
chastened him, reinstated him, and ultimately blessed him. Hermione
suffers the utmost affliction that a good woman can suffer. Her boy
dies, heart-broken, at the news of his mother's alleged disgrace. Her
infant daughter is torn from her breast and cast forth to perish. Her
husband becomes her enemy and persecutor. Her chastity is assailed and
vilified. She is subjected to the bitter indignity of a public trial. It
is no wonder that at last her brain reels and she falls as if stricken
dead. The apparent anomaly is her survival for sixteen years, in lonely
seclusion, and her emergence, after that, as anything but a forlorn
shadow of her former self. The poet Shelley has recorded the truth that
all great emotions either kill themselves or kill those who feel them.
It is here, however, that the exceptional temperament of Hermione
supplies an explanatory and needed qualification. Her emotions are never
of a passionate kind. Her mind predominates. Her life is in the
affections and therefore it is one of thought. She sees clearly the
facts of her experience and condition, and she knows exactly how those
facts look in the eyes of others. She is one of those persons who
possess a keen and just prescience of events, who can look far into the
future and discern those resultant consequences of the present which,
under the operation of inexorable moral law, must inevitably ensue.
Self-poised in the right and free from the disturbing force of impulse
and desire, she can await the justice of time, she can live, and she can
live in the tranquil patience of resignation. True majesty of the person
is dependent on repose of the soul, and there can be no repose of the
soul without moral rectitude and a far-reaching, comprehensive, wise
vision of events. Mary Anderson embodied Hermione in accordance with
that ideal. By the expression of her face and the tones of her voice, in
a single speech, the actress placed beyond question her grasp of the
character:--

                          "Good my lords,
    I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
    Commonly are--the want of which vain dew
    Perchance shall dry your pities--but I have
    That honourable grief lodged here, which burns
    Worse than tears drown."

The conspicuous, predominant, convincing artistic beauty in Mary
Anderson's impersonation of Hermione was her realisation of the part, in
figure, face, presence, demeanour, and temperament. She did not afflict
her auditor with the painful sense of a person struggling upward toward
an unattainable identity. She made you conscious of the presence of a
queen. This, obviously, is the main thing--that the individuality shall
be imperial, not merely wearing royal attire but being invested with the
royal authenticity of divine endowment and consecration. Much emphasis
has been placed by Shakespeare upon that attribute of innate grandeur.
Leontes, at the opening of the trial scene, describes his accused wife
as "the daughter of a king," and in the same scene her father is
mentioned as the Emperor of Russia. The gentleman who, in act fifth,
recounts to Autolycus the meeting between Leontes and his daughter
Perdita especially notes "the majesty of the creature, in resemblance of
the mother." Hermione herself, in the course of her
vindication--expressed in one of the most noble and pathetic strains of
poetical eloquence in our language--names herself "a great king's
daughter," therein recalling those august and piteous words of
Shakespeare's Katharine:--

    "We are a Queen, or long have thought so, certain
    The daughter of a king."

Poor old Antigonus, in his final soliloquy, recounting the vision of
Hermione that had come upon him in the night, declares her to be a woman
royal and grand not by descent only but by nature:--

    "I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,
    So filled and so becoming. In pure white robes,
    Like very sanctity, she did approach."

That image Mary Anderson embodied, and therefore the ideal of
Shakespeare was made a living thing--that glorious ideal, in shaping
which the great poet "from all that are took something good, to make a
perfect woman." Toward Polixenes, in the first scene, her manner was
wholly gracious, delicately playful, innocently kind, and purely frail.
Her quiet archness at the question, "Will you go yet?" struck exactly
the right key of Hermione's mood. With the baby prince Mamillius her
frolic and banter, affectionate, free, and gay, were in a happy vein of
feeling and humour. Her simple dignity, restraining both resentment and
grief, in face of the injurious reproaches of Leontes, was entirely
noble and right, and the pathetic words, "I never wished to see you
sorry, now I trust I shall," could not have been spoken with more depth
and intensity of grieved affection than were felt in her composed yet
tremulous voice. The entrance, at the trial scene, was made with the
stateliness natural to a queenly woman, and yet with a touch of
pathos--the cold patience of despair. The delivery of Hermione's
defensive speeches was profoundly earnest and touching. The simple cry
of the mother's breaking heart, and the action of veiling her face and
falling like one dead, upon the announcement of the prince's death, were
perfect denotements of the collapse of a grief-stricken woman. The skill
with which the actress, in the monument scene--which is all repose and
no movement--contrived nevertheless to invest Hermione with steady
vitality of action, and to imbue the crisis with a feverish air of
suspense, was in a high degree significant of the personality of genius.
For such a performance of Hermione Shakespeare himself has provided the
sufficient summary and encomium:--

    "Women will love her, that she is a woman
    More worth than any man; men that she is
    The rarest of all women."

It is one thing to say that Mary Anderson was better in Perdita than in
Hermione, and another thing to say that the performance of Perdita was
preferred. Everybody preferred it--even those who knew that it was not
the better of the two; for everybody loves the sunshine more than the
shade. Hermione means grief and endurance. Perdita means beautiful youth
and happy love. It does not take long for an observer to choose between
them. Suffering is not companionable. By her impersonation of Hermione
the actress revealed her knowledge of the stern truth of life, its
trials, its calamities, and the possible heroism of character under its
sorrowful discipline. Into that identity she passed by the force of her
imagination. The embodiment was majestic, tender, pitiable,
transcendent, but its colour was the sombre colour of pensive melancholy
and sad experience. That performance was the higher and more significant
of the two. But the higher form of art is not always the most
alluring--never the most alluring when youthful beauty smiles and rosy
pleasure beckons another way. All hearts respond to happiness. By her
presentment of Perdita the actress became the glittering image and
incarnation of glorious youthful womanhood and fascinating joy. No
exercise of the imagination was needful to her in that. There was an
instantaneous correspondence between the part and the player. The
embodiment was as natural as a sunbeam. Shakespeare has left no doubt
about his meaning in Perdita. The speeches of all around her continually
depict her fresh and piquant loveliness, her innate superiority, her
superlative charm; while her behaviour and language as constantly show
forth her nobility of soul. One of the subtlest side lights thrown upon
the character is in the description of the manner in which Perdita heard
the story of her mother's death--when "attentiveness wounded" her
"till, from one sign of dolour to another, she did bleed tears." And of
the fibre of her nature there is perhaps no finer indication than may be
felt in her comment on old Camillo's worldly view of prosperity as a
vital essential to the permanence of love:--

    "I think affliction may subdue the cheek,
    But not take in the mind."

In the thirty-seven plays of Shakespeare there is no strain of the
poetry of sentiment and grace essentially sweeter than that which he has
put into the mouth of Perdita; and poetry could not be more sweetly
spoken than it was by Mary Anderson in that delicious scene of the
distribution of the flowers. The actress evinced comprehension of the
character in every fibre of its being, and she embodied it with the
affluent vitality of splendid health and buoyant temperament--presenting
a creature radiant with goodness and happiness, exquisite in natural
refinement, piquant with archness, soft, innocent, and tender in
confiding artlessness, and, while gleeful and triumphant in beautiful
youth, gently touched with an intuitive pitying sense of the thorny
aspects of this troubled world. The giving of the flowers completely
bewitched her auditors. The startled yet proud endurance of the king's
anger was in an equal degree captivating. Seldom has the stage displayed
that rarest of all combinations, the passionate heart of a woman with
the lovely simplicity of a child. Nothing could be more beautiful than
she was to the eyes that followed her lithe figure through the merry
mazes of her rustic dance--an achievement sharply in contrast with her
usually statuesque manner. It "makes old hearts fresh" to see a
spectacle of grace and joy, and that spectacle they saw then and will
not forget. The value of those impersonations of Hermione and Perdita,
viewing them as embodied interpretations of poetry was great, but they
possessed a greater value and a higher significance as denotements of
the guiding light, the cheering strength, the elevating loveliness of a
noble human soul. They embodied the conception of the poet, but at the
same time they illumined an actual incarnation of the divine spirit.
They were like windows to a sacred temple, and through them you could
look into the soul of a true woman--always a realm where thoughts are
gliding angels, and feelings are the faces of seraphs, and sounds are
the music of the harps of heaven.



VI.

HENRY IRVING AND ELLEN TERRY IN OLIVIA.


It has sometimes been thought that the acting of Henry Irving is seen at
its best in those impersonations of his that derive their vitality from
the grim, ghastly, and morbid attributes of human nature. That he is a
unique actor, and distinctively a great actor, in Hamlet, Mathias,
Eugene Aram, Louis XI., Lesurque, and Dubosc, few judges will deny. His
performances of those parts have shown him to be a man of weird
imagination, and they have shown that his characteristics, mental and
spiritual, are sombre. Accordingly, when it was announced that he would
play Dr. Primrose--Goldsmith's simple, virtuous, homely, undramatic
village-preacher, the _Vicar of Wakefield_,--a doubt was felt as to his
suitability for the part and as to the success of his endeavour. He
played Dr. Primrose, and he gained in that character some of the
brightest laurels of his professional career. The doubt proved
unwarranted. More than one competent observer of that remarkable
performance has granted it an equal rank with the best of Henry Irving's
achievements; and now, more clearly than before, it is perceived that
the current of his inspiration flows as freely from the silver spring of
goodness as from the dark and troubled fountain of human misery.

On the first night of _Olivia_, at the Lyceum Theatre (it was May 27,
1885, when the present writer happened to be in London), Henry Irving's
performance of Dr. Primrose was fettered by a curb of constraint. The
actor's nerves had been strained to a high pitch of excitement and he
was obviously anxious. His spirit, accordingly, was not fully liberated
into the character. He advanced with cautious care and he executed each
detail of his design with precise accuracy. To various auditors, for
that reason, the work seemed a little Methodistical; and drab is a
colour at which the voice of the scoffer is apt to scoff. But the
impersonation of Dr. Primrose soon became equally a triumph of
expression and of ideal; not only flowing out of goodness, but flowing
smoothly and producing the effect of nature. It was not absolutely and
identically the Vicar that Goldsmith has drawn, for its personality was
unmarked by either rusticity or strong humour; but it was a kindred and
higher type of the simple truth, the pastoral sweetness, the benignity,
and the human tenderness of that delightful original. To invest goodness
with charm, to make virtue piquant, and to turn common events of
domestic life to exquisite pathos and noble exaltation was the actor's
purpose. It was accomplished; and Dr. Primrose, thitherto an idyllic
figure, existent only in the chambers of fancy, is henceforth as much a
denizen of the stage as Luke Fielding or Jesse Rural; a man not merely
to be read of, as one reads of Uncle Toby and Parson Adams, but to be
known, remembered, and loved.

Wills's drama of _Olivia_, based upon an episode in Goldsmith's story,
is one of extreme simplicity. It may be described as a series of
pictures displaying the consequences of action rather than action
itself. It contains an abundance of incident, but the incident is mostly
devoid of inherent dramatic force and therefore is such as must derive
its chief effect from the manner in which it is treated by the actors
who represent the piece. Nevertheless, the piece was found to be,
during its first three acts, an expressive, coherent, interesting play.
It tells its story clearly and entirely, not by narrative but by the
display of characters in their relations to each other. Its language,
flavoured here and there with the phraseology of the novel, is
consistently appropriate. The fourth and last act is feeble. Nobody can
sympathise with "the late remorse of love" in a nature so trivial as
that of Thornhill, and the incident of the reconciliation between Olivia
and her husband, therefore, goes for nothing. It is the beautiful
relation between the father and his daughter that animates the play. It
is paternal love that thrills its structure with light, warmth, colour,
sincerity, moral force, and human significance. Opinion may differ as to
the degree of skill with which Wills selected and employed the materials
of Goldsmith's story; but nobody can justly deny that he wrought for the
stage a practical dramatic exposition of the beauty and sanctity of the
holiest relation that is possible in human life; and to have done that
is to have done a noble thing.

Many persons appear to think that criticism falls short of its duty
unless it wounds and hurts. Goldsmith himself observed that fact. It
was in the story of _The Vicar of Wakefield_ that he made his playful
suggestion that a critic should always take care to say that the picture
would have been better if the painter had taken more pains. Wills
probably heard more than enough for his spiritual welfare about the
faults of his piece; yet there is really nothing weak in the play except
the conclusion. It is not easy to suggest, however, in what way the
fourth act could be strengthened, unless it were by a recasting and
renovation of the character of Squire Thornhill. But the victory was
gained, in spite of a feeble climax. Many persons also appear to think
that it is a sort of sacrilege to lay hands upon the sacred ark of a
classic creation. Dion Boucicault, perceiving this when he made a play
about _Clarissa Harlowe_, felt moved to deprecate anticipated public
resentment of the liberties that he had taken with Richardson's novel.
Yet it is difficult to see why the abundant details of that excellent
though protracted narrative should not be curtailed, in order to
circumscribe its substance within the limits of a practical drama.
Jefferson was blamed for condensing and slightly changing the comedy of
_The Rivals_. Yet the author, who probably knew something about his
work, deemed it a wretchedly defective piece, and expressed the
liveliest regret for having written it. Wills did not reproduce
Goldsmith's Vicar upon the stage: in some particulars he widely diverged
from it--and his work, accordingly, may be censured. Yet _The Vicar of
Wakefield_ is far from being a faultless production, such as a divinity
should be supposed to hedge. Critical students are aware of this. It is
not worth while to traverse the old ground. The reader who will take the
trouble--and pleasure--to refer to that excellent chapter on Goldsmith
in Dr. Craik's _History of English Literature_ will find the structural
defects of the novel specifically enumerated. If the dramatist has
ignored many details he has at least extracted from the narrative the
salient points of a consistent, harmonious story. The spectator can
enjoy the play, whether he has read the original or not. At the end of
its first act he knows the Vicar and his family, their home, their way
of life, their neighbours, the two suitors for the two girls, the
motives of each and every character, and the relations of each to all;
and he sees, what is always touching in the spectacle of actual human
life, the contrasted states of circumstance and experience surrounding
and enmeshing all. After this preparation the story is developed with
few and rapid strokes. Two of the pictures were poems. At the end of act
first the Vicar, who has been apprised of the loss of his property,
imparts this sad news to his family. The time is the gloaming. The
chimes are sounding in the church-tower. It is the hour of evening
prayer. The gray-haired pastor calls his loved ones around him, in his
garden, and simply and reverently tells them of their misfortune, which
is to be accepted submissively, as Heaven's will. The deep religious
feeling of that scene, the grouping, the use of sunset lights and
shadows, the melody of the chimes, the stricken look in the faces of the
women and children, the sweet gravity of the Vicar--instinct with the
nobleness of a sorrow not yet become corrosive and lachrymose, as is the
tendency of settled grief--and, over all, the sense of blighted
happiness and an uncertain future, made up a dramatic as well as a
pictorial effect of impressive poetic significance. In act second--which
is pictorial almost without intermission--there was a companion
picture, when the Vicar reads, at his fireside, a letter announcing the
restitution of his estate; while his wife and children and Mr. Burchell
are assembled around the spinet singing an old song. The repose with
which Henry Irving made that scene tremulous, almost painful, in its
suspense, was observed as one of the happiest strokes of his art. The
face and demeanour of Dr. Primrose, changing from the composure of
resignation to a startled surprise, and then to almost an hysterical
gladness, presented a study not less instructive than affecting of the
resources of acting. Only two contemporary actors have presented
anything kindred with Mr. Irving's acting in that situation and
throughout the scene that is sequent on the discovery of Olivia's
flight--Jefferson in America and Got in France.

Evil is restless and irresistibly prone to action. Goodness is usually
negative and inert. Dr. Primrose is a type of goodness. In order to
invest him with piquancy and dramatic vigour Henry Irving gave him
passion, and therewithal various attributes of charming eccentricity.
The clergyman thus presented is the fruition of a long life of virtue.
He has the complete repose of innocence, the sweet candour of absolute
purity, the mild demeanour of spontaneous, habitual benevolence, the
supreme grace of unconscious simplicity. But he is human and passionate;
he shows--in his surroundings, in his quick sympathy with natural
beauty, and in his indicated rather than directly stated ideals of
conduct--that he has lived an imaginative and not a prosaic life; he is
vaguely and pathetically superstitious; and while essentially grand in
his religious magnanimity he is both fascinating and morally formidable
as a man. Those denotements point at Henry Irving's ideal. For his
method it is less easy to find the right description. His mechanical
reiteration of the words that are said to him by Sophia, in the moment
when the fond father knows that his idolised Olivia has fled with her
lover; his collapse, when the harmless pistols are taken from his
nerveless hands; his despairing cry, "If she had but died!"; his
abortive effort to rebuke his darling child in the hour of her
abandonment and misery, and the sudden tempest of passionate affection
with which the great tender heart sweeps away that inadequate and paltry
though eminently appropriate morality, and takes its idol to itself as
only true love can do--those were instances of high dramatic achievement
for which epithets are inadequate, but which the memory of the heart
will always treasure.

It was said by the poet Aaron Hill, in allusion to Barton Booth, that
the blind might have seen him in his voice and the deaf might have heard
him in his visage. Such a statement made concerning an actor now would
be deemed extravagant. But, turning from the Vicar to his cherished
daughter, that felicitous image comes naturally into the mind. To think
of Ellen Terry as Olivia will always be to recall one especial and
remarkable moment of beauty and tenderness. It is not her distribution
of the farewell gifts, on the eve of Olivia's flight--full although that
was of the emotion of a good heart torn and tortured by the conflict
between love and duty--and it is not the desperate resentment with which
Olivia beats back her treacherous betrayer, when, at the climax of his
baseness, he adds insult to heartless perfidy. Those, indeed, were made
great situations by the profound sincerity and the rich, woman-like
passion of the actress. But there was one instant, in the second act of
the play, when the woman's heart has at length yielded to her lover's
will, and he himself, momentarily dismayed by his own conquest, strives
to turn back, that Ellen Terry made pathetic beyond description. The
words she spoke are simply these, "But I said I would come!" What
language could do justice to the voice, to the manner, to the sweet,
confiding, absolute abandonment of the whole nature to the human love by
which it had been conquered? The whole of that performance was
astonishing, was thrilling, with knowledge of the passion of love. That
especial moment was the supreme beauty of it. At such times human nature
is irradiated with a divine fire, and art fulfils its purpose.



VII.

ON JEFFERSON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY.


Joseph Jefferson has led a life of noble endeavour and has had a career
of ample prosperity, culminating in honourable renown and abundant
happiness. He was born in Philadelphia, February 20, 1829. He went on
the stage when he was four years old and he has been on the stage ever
since. His achievements as an actor have been recognised and accepted
with admiration in various parts of the world; in Australia and New
Zealand and in England, Scotland, and Ireland, as well as in the United
States. Among English-speaking actors he is the foremost living
representative of the art of eccentric comedy. He has not, of late
years, played a wide range of parts, but, restricting himself to a few
characters, and those of a representative kind, the manner in which he
has acted them is a perfect manner--and it is this that has gained for
him his distinctive eminence. Jefferson, however, is not simply and
exclusively an actor. His mind is many sided. He has painted landscape
pictures of a high order of merit,--pictures in which elusive moods and
subtle sentiments of nature are grasped with imaginative insight and
denoted and interpreted with a free, delicate, and luminous touch. He
has also addressed the public as an author. He has written an easy,
colloquial account of his own life, and that breezy, off-hand,
expeditious work,--after passing it as a serial through their Century
Magazine,--the Century Company has published in a beautiful volume. It
is a work that, for the sake of the writer, will be welcomed everywhere,
and, for its own sake as well as his, will everywhere be preserved.

Beginning a theatrical career nearly sixty years ago (1833), roving up
and down the earth ever since, and seldom continuing in one place,
Jefferson has had uncommon opportunities of noting the development of
the United States and of observing, in both hemispheres, the changeful
aspect of one of the most eventful periods in the history of the world.
Actors, as a class, know nothing but the stage and see nothing but the
pursuit in which they are occupied. Whoever has lived much among them
knows that fact, from personal observation. Whoever has read the various
and numerous memoirs that have from time to time been published by
elderly members of that profession must have been amused to perceive
that, while they conventionally agree that "all the world's a stage,"
they are enthusiastically convinced that the stage is all the world.
Jefferson's book, although it contains much about the theatre, shows him
to be an exception in this respect, even as he is in many others. He has
seen many countries and many kinds of men and things, and he has long
looked upon life with the thoughtful gaze of a philosopher as well as
the wise smile of a humourist. He can, if he likes, talk of something
besides the shop. His account of his life "lacks form a little," and his
indifference to "accurate statistics"--which he declares to be "somewhat
tedious"--is now and then felt to be an embarrassment. One would like to
know, for instance, while reading about the primitive theatrical times,
when actors sailed the western rivers in flatboats, and shot beasts and
birds on the bank, precisely the extent and limits of that period. Nor
is this the only queer aspect of the dramatic past that might be
illumined. The total environment of a man's life is almost equally
important with the life itself--being, indeed, the scenery amid which
the action passes--and a good method for the writing of a biography is
that which sharply defines the successive periods of childhood, youth,
manhood, and age, and, while depicting the development of the individual
from point to point, depicts also the entire field through which he
moves, and the mutations, affecting his life, that occur in the historic
and social fabric around him. Jefferson, while he has painted vigorously
and often happily, on a large canvas, has left many spaces empty and
others but thinly filled. The reader who accompanies him may,
nevertheless, with a little care, piece out the story so as to perceive
it as a sequent, distinct, harmonious, and rounded narrative. Meanwhile
the companionship of this heedless historian is delightful--for whether
as actor, painter, or writer, Jefferson steadily exerts the charm of a
genial personality. You are as one walking along a country road, on a
golden autumn day, with a kind, merry companion, who knows all about
the trees that fringe your track and the birds that flit through their
branches, and who beguiles the way with many a humorous tale and many a
pleasant remembrance, now impressing your mind by the sagacity of his
reflections, now touching your heart by some sudden trait of sentiment
or pathos, and always pleasing and satisfying you with the consciousness
of a sweet, human, broad, charitable, piquant nature. Although an
autobiographer Jefferson is not egotistical, and although a moralist he
is not a bore. There is a tinge of the Horatian mood in him--for his
reader often becomes aware of that composed, sagacious, half-droll,
quizzical mind that indicates, with grave gentleness, the folly of
ambition, the vanity of riches, the value of the present hour, the
idleness of borrowing trouble, the blessing of the golden medium in
fortune, the absurdity of flatterers, and the comfort of keeping a
steadfast spirit amid the inevitable vicissitudes of this mortal state.

Jefferson has memories of a boyhood that was passed in Washington,
Baltimore, and New York. He went to Chicago in 1838, when that place was
scarcely more than a village--making the journey from New York to
Buffalo in a canal-boat, and sailing thence, aboard a steamer, through
the lakes of Erie, Huron, and Michigan. He travelled with his parents,
and they gave dramatic performances, in which he assisted, in western
towns. It was a time of poverty and hardship, but those ills were borne
cheerfully--the brighter side of a hard life being kept steadily in
view, and every comic incident of it being seen and appreciated. His
father was a gentleman of the Mark Tapley temperament, who came out
strong amid adverse circumstances, and the early disappearance from the
book of that delightful person (who died in 1842, of yellow fever, at
Mobile), is a positive sorrow. His mother, a refined and gentle lady, of
steadfast character and of uncommon musical and dramatic talents and
accomplishments, survived till 1849, and her ashes rest in Ronaldson's
cemetery, in Philadelphia. Jefferson might have said much more about his
parents, and especially about his famous grandfather, without risk of
becoming tedious--for they were remarkably interesting people; but he
was writing his own life and not theirs, and he has explained that he
likes not to dwell much upon domestic matters. The story of his long
ancestry of actors, which reaches back to the days of Garrick (for there
have been five generations of the Jeffersons upon the stage), he has not
mentioned; and the story of his own young days is hurried rapidly to a
conclusion. He was brought on the stage, when a child, at the theatre in
Washington, D.C., by the negro comedian Thomas D. Rice, who emptied him
out of a bag; and thereupon, being dressed as "a nigger dancer," in
imitation of Rice, he performed the antics of Jim Crow. He adverts to
his first appearance in New York and remembers his stage combat with
Master Titus; and he thinks that Master Titus must remember it
also,--since one of that boy's big toes was nearly cut off in the fray.
That combat occurred at the Franklin theatre, September 30, 1837--a
useful fact that the autobiographer cares not to mention. He speedily
becomes a young man, as the reader follows him through the first three
chapters of his narrative,--of which there are seventeen,--and he is
found to be acting, as a stock player, in support of James W. Wallack,
Junius Brutus Booth, W.C. Macready, and Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Wallack, Jr.
Upon the powers and peculiarities of those actors, and upon the traits
of many others who, like them, are dead and gone (for there is scarcely
a word in the book about any of his living contemporaries), he comments
freely and instructively. He was "barn-storming" in Texas when the
Mexican war began, and he followed in the track of the American army,
and acted in the old Spanish theatre in Matamoras, in the spring of
1846; and, subsequently, finding that this did no good, he opened a
stall there for the sale of coffee and other refreshments, in the corner
of a gambling hell. He calls to mind the way of domestic life and the
every-day aspect of houses, gardens, people, and manners in Matamoras,
and those he describes with especial skill--deftly introducing the
portraiture of a dusky, black-eyed, volatile Mexican girl, to whom he
lost, temporarily, the light heart of youth, and whom he thinks that he
might have married had he not deemed it prudent to journey northward
toward a cooler clime. In New Orleans, at about that time, he first saw
the then young comedian John E. Owens: and he records the fact that his
ambition to excel as an actor was awakened by the spectacle of that
rival's success. Owens has had his career since then,--and a brilliant
one it was,--and now he sleeps in peace.

After that experience Jefferson repaired to Philadelphia, and during the
next ten years, from 1846 to 1856, he wrought in that city and in New
York, Baltimore, Richmond, and other places, sometimes as a stock actor,
sometimes as a star, and sometimes as a manager. He encountered various
difficulties. He took a few serious steps and many comic ones. He was
brought into contact with some individuals that were eminent and with
some that were ludicrous. He crossed the Allegheny mountains in
mid-winter, from Wheeling to Cumberland, in a cold stage-coach, and
almost perished. He was a member of Burton's company at the Arch Street
theatre, Philadelphia, and was one of the chorus in that great actor's
revival of _Antigone_--which there is little doubt that the chorus
extinguished. He was the low comedian in Joseph Foster's amphitheatre,
where he sang _Captain Kidd_ to fill up the "carpenter scenes," and
where he sported amid the turbulent rhetorical billows of _Timour the
Tartar_ and _The Terror of the Road_. He acted in New York at the
Franklin theatre and also at the Chatham. He managed theatres in Macon
and Savannah, where he brought out the blithe Sir William Don; and one
of the sprightliest episodes of his memoir is the chapter in which he
describes that tall, elegant, nonchalant adventurer. Don was a
Scotchman, born in 1826, who made his first appearance in America in
November 1850 at the Broadway theatre, New York, and afterward drifted
aimlessly through the provincial theatres. Don was married in 1857 to
Miss Emily Sanders, and he died at Tasmania, March 19, 1862, and was
buried at Hobartstown. Jefferson saw the dawn of promise in the career
of Julia Dean,--when that beautiful girl was acting with him, in the
stock--and afterwards he saw the noonday splendour of her prosperity;
and he might have recalled, but that sad touches are excluded from his
biography, her mournful decline. In 1853 he was stage manager of the
Baltimore museum, for Henry C. Jarrett, and in 1854 he was manager of
the Richmond theatre, for John T. Ford. Among the players whom he met,
and who deeply influenced him, were James E. Murdoch, Henry Placide,
Edwin Forrest, Edwin Adams, and Agnes Robertson. But the actor who most
affected the youth of Joseph Jefferson, whose influence sank deepest
into his heart and has remained longest in his memory and upon his
style, was his half-brother, Charles Burke: and certainly, as a
serio-comic actor, it may be doubted whether Charles Burke ever was
surpassed. That comedian was born March 27, 1822, in Philadelphia, and
he died in New York, November 10, 1854. Jefferson's mother, Cornelia
Frances Thomás, born in New York, October 1, 1796, the daughter of
French parents, was married in her girlhood to the Irish comedian Thomas
Burke, who died in 1824; and she contracted her second marriage, with
Jefferson's father, in 1826. Jefferson writes at his best in the
description of scenery, in the analysis of character, and in the
statement of artistic principles. His portraiture of Murdoch, as a
comedian, is particularly clear and fine. His account of Julia Dean's
hit, as Lady Priory, is excellent and will often be cited. His portrayal
of the reciprocal action of Burton and Charles Burke, when they were
associated in the same piece, conveys a valuable lesson. His anecdotes
of Edwin Forrest present that grim figure as yet again the involuntary
cause of mirth. It often was so. Jefferson, however, draws a veil of
gentle charity over those misused powers, that perverse will, that
wasted life. The most striking dramatic portraiture in the book is that
bestowed on Charles Burke, William Warren, George Holland, Tom Glessing,
and Edwin Adams. Those were men who lived in Jefferson's affections, and
when he wrote about them he wrote from the heart. The sketch of
Glessing, whom everybody loved that ever knew him, is in a touching
strain of tender remembrance.

Jefferson visited England and France in 1856, but not to act. At that
time he saw the famous English comedians Compton, Buckstone, Robson, and
Wright, and that extraordinary actor, fine alike in tragedy and comedy,
the versatile Samuel Phelps. In 1857 he was associated with Laura Keene
at her theatre in New York; and from that date onward his career has
been upon a high and sunlit path, visible to the world. His first part
at Laura Keene's theatre was Dr. Pangloss. Then came _Our American
Cousin_, in which he gained a memorable success as Asa Trenchard, and in
which Edward A. Sothern laid the basis of that fantastic structure of
whim and grotesque humour that afterward became famous as Lord
Dundreary. Sothern, Laura Keene, and William Rufus Blake, of course,
gained much of Jefferson's attention at that time, and he has not
omitted to describe them. His account of Blake, however, does not impart
an adequate idea of the excellence of that comedian. In 1858 he went to
the Winter Garden theatre, and was associated with the late Dion
Boucicault. His characters then were Newman Hoggs, Caleb Plummer, and
Salem Scudder--in _Nicholas Nickleby_, _The Cricket on the Hearth_, and
_The Octoroon_. Mr. Boucicault told him not to make Caleb Plummer a
solemn character at the beginning--a deliverance that Jefferson seems to
have cherished as one of colossal wisdom. He made a brilliant hit in
Salem Scudder, and it was then that he determined finally to assume the
position of a star. "Art has always been my sweetheart," exclaims
Jefferson, "and I have loved her for herself alone." No observer can
doubt that who has followed his career. It was in 1859 that he reverted
to the subject of Rip Van Winkle, as the right theme for his dramatic
purpose. He had seen Charles Burke as Rip, and he knew the several
versions of Washington Irving's story that had been made for the theatre
by Burke, Hackett, and Yates. The first Rip Van Winkle upon the stage,
of whom there is any record in theatrical annals, was Thomas Flynn
(1804-1849). That comedian, the friend of the elder Booth, acted the
part for the first time on May 24, 1828, at Albany. Charles B. Parsons,
who afterward acted in many theatres as Rip, and ultimately became a
preacher, was, on that night, the performer of Derrick. Jefferson's
predecessors as Rip Van Winkle were remarkably clever men--Flynn,
Parsons, Burke, Chapman, Hackett, Yates, and William Isherwood. But it
remained for Jefferson to do with that character what no one else had
ever thought of doing--to lift it above the level of the tipsy rustic
and make it the poetical type of the drifting and dreaming
vagrant--half-haunted, half-inspired, a child of the trees and the
clouds. Jefferson records that he was lying on the hay in a barn in
Paradise Valley, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1859, taking advantage
of a rainy day to read Washington Irving's _Life and Letters_, when that
plan came to him. It proved an inspiration of happiness to thousands of
people all over the world. The comedian made a play for himself, on the
basis of Charles Burke's play, but with one vital improvement--he
arranged the text and business of the supernatural scene so that Rip
only should speak, while the ghosts should remain silent. That stroke of
genius accomplished his object. The man capable of that exploit in
dramatic art could not fail to win the world, because he would at once
fascinate its imagination while touching its heart.

In 1861 Jefferson went to California and thence to Australia, and in the
latter country he remained four years. He has written a fine description
of the entrance to the harbour at Sydney. His accounts of "the skeleton
dance," as he saw it performed by the black natives of that land; of his
meeting with the haunted hermit in the woods; of the convict audience at
Tasmania, for whom he acted in _The Ticket-of-Leave Man_; and of the
entertainment furnished in a Chinese theatre, are compositions that
would impart to any book the interest of adventure and the zest of
novelty. Such pictures as those have a broad background; they are not
circumscribed within the proscenium frame. The man is seen in those
passages as well as the actor; and he plays his part well, amid
picturesque surroundings of evil and peril, of tragedy and of pathos. In
Australia Jefferson met Charles Kean and his wife (Ellen Tree), of whom
his sketches are boldly drawn and his memories are pleasant. Mr. and
Mrs. Kean afterward made their farewell visit to the United States,
beginning, when they reached New York (from San Francisco, in April
1865), with _Henry VIII._, and closing with _The Jealous Wife_. In 1865
Jefferson went from Australia to South America and passed some time in
Lima, where he saw much tropical luxury and many beautiful ladies--an
inspiriting spectacle, fittingly described by him in some of the most
felicitous of his fervent words. In June 1865 he reached London, and
presently he came forth, at the Adelphi, as Rip Van Winkle,--having
caused the piece to be rewritten by Mr. Boucicault, who introduced the
colloquy of the children, paraphrased for it the recognition scene
between King Lear and Cordelia, and kept Gretchen alive to be married to
Derrick. Mr. Boucicault, however, had no faith in the piece or the
actor's plan, and down to the last moment prophesied failure.
Jefferson's success was unequivocal. Friends surrounded him and in the
gentle and genial record that he has made of those auspicious days some
of the brightest names of modern English literature sparkle on his page.
Benjamin Webster, Paul Bedford, John Billington, John Brougham, and
Marie Wilton were among the actors who were glad to be his associates.
Robertson, the dramatist, was his constant companion--one of the most
intellectual and one of the wittiest of men. Planché, aged yet hearty
and genial (and no man had more in his nature of the sweet spirit of the
comrade), speedily sought him. Charles Reade and Anthony Trollope became
his cronies; and poor Artemas Ward arrived and joined the party just as
Jefferson was leaving it--as bright a spirit, as kind a heart, and as
fine and quaint a humourist as ever cheered this age--from which he
vanished too soon for the happiness of his friends and for the fruition
of his fame. "I was much impressed," says the comedian, "with Ward's
genial manner; he was not in good health, and I advised him to be
careful lest the kindness of London should kill him." That advice was
not heeded, and the kindness of London speedily ended Ward's days.

Jefferson came home in 1866 and passed ten years in America--years of
fame and fortune, whereof the record is smooth prosperity. Its most
important personal incident was his second marriage, on December 20,
1867, at Chicago, to Miss Sarah Warren. In July 1873 he made a voyage to
Europe, with his wife and William Warren, the comedian, and remained
there till autumn. From November 1, 1875 to April 29, 1876 and from
Easter 1877 until midsummer he was again acting in London, where he
redoubled his former success. In October 1877 he returned home, and
since then he has remained in America. The chronicle that he has written
glides lightly over these latter years, only now and then touching on
their golden summits. The manifest wish of the writer has been to people
his pages as much as possible with the men and women of his artistic
circle and knowledge who would be likely to interest the reader. Robert
Browning, Charles Kingsley, and George Augustus Sala come into the
picture, and there is a pleasing story of Browning and Longfellow
walking arm in arm in London streets till driven into a cab by a summer
shower, when Longfellow insisted on passing his umbrella through the
hole in the roof, for the protection of the cab-driver. Jefferson lived
for one summer in an old mansion at Morningside, Edinburgh, and he
dwells with natural delight on his recollections of that majestic city.
He had many a talk, at odd times, with the glittering farceur Charles
Mathews, about dramatic art, and some of this is recorded in piquant
anecdotes. "By many," says the amiable annalist, "he was thought to be
cold and selfish; I do not think he was so." There is a kind word for
Charles Fechter, whose imitations of Frederick Lemaitre, in _Belphegor,
the Mountebank_, live in Jefferson's remembrance as wonderfully graphic.
There are glimpses of James Wallack, Walter Montgomery, Peter Richings,
E.A. Sothern, Laura Keene, James G. Burnett, John Gilbert, Tyrone Power,
Lester Wallack, John McCullough, John T. Raymond, Mr. and Mrs. Barney
Williams, John Drew (the elder), F.S. Chanfrau, Charlotte Cushman, Mrs.
Drake, and many others; and the record incorporates two letters, not
before published, from John Howard Payne, the author of _Home, Sweet
Home_--a melody that is the natural accompaniment of Jefferson's life.
There is a pretty picture of that ancient supper-room at No. 2 Bulfinch
Place, Boston--Miss Fisher's kitchen--as it appeared when William Warren
sat behind the mound of lobsters, at the head of the table, while the
polished pewters reflected the cheerful light, and wit and raillery
enlivened the happy throng, and many a face was wreathed with smiles
that now is dark and still forever. In one chapter Jefferson sets forth
his views upon the art of acting; and seldom within so brief a compass
will so many sensible reflections be found so simply and tersely
expressed. The book closes with words of gratitude for many blessings,
and with an emblematic picture of a spirit resigned to whatever
vicissitudes of fortune may yet be decreed.

Jefferson's memoir is a simple message to simple minds. It will find its
way to thousands of readers to whom a paper by Addison or an essay by
Hume would have no meaning. It will point for them the moral of a good
life. It will impress them with the spectacle of a noble actor,
profoundly and passionately true to the high art by which he lives,
bearing eloquent testimony to its beauty and its worth, and to the fine
powers and sterling virtues of the good men and women with whom he has
been associated in its pursuit. It will display to them--and to all
others who may chance to read it--a type of that absolute humility of
spirit which yet is perfectly compatible with a just pride of intellect.
It will help to preserve interesting traits of famous actors of an
earlier time, together with bright stories that illumine the dry
chronicle of our theatrical history. And, in its simple record of the
motives by which he has been impelled, and the artistic purposes that he
has sought to accomplish, it will remain an eloquent, vital,
indestructible memorial to the art and the character of a great
comedian, when the present reality of his exquisite acting shall have
changed to a dim tradition and a fading memory of the past.



VIII.

ON JEFFERSON'S ACTING.


Fifty years from now the historian of the American stage, if he should
be asked to name the actor of this period who was most beloved by the
people of this generation, will answer that it was Joseph Jefferson.
Other actors of our time are famous, and they possess in various degrees
the affection of the public. Jefferson is not only renowned but
universally beloved. To state the cause of this effect is at once to
explain his acting and to do it the honour to which it is entitled. That
cause can be stated in a single sentence. Jefferson is at once a poetic
and a human actor, and he is thus able to charm all minds and to win all
hearts. His success, therefore, is especially important not to himself
alone but to the people.

Public taste is twofold. It has a surface liking, and it has a deep,
instinctive, natural preference. The former is alert, capricious,
incessant, and continually passes from fancy to fancy. It scarcely knows
what it wants, except that it wants excitement and change. Those persons
in the dramatic world who make a point to address it are experimental
speculators, whose one and only object is personal gain, and who are
willing and ready to furnish any sort of entertainment that they think
will please a passing caprice, and thereby will turn a penny for
themselves. To judge the public entirely by this surface liking is to
find the public what Tennyson once called it--a many-headed beast. With
that animal every paltry and noxious thing can be made, for a time, to
flourish; and that fact leads observers who do not carefully look
beneath the surface to conclude that the public is always wrong. But the
deep preference of the public comes into the question, and observers who
are able to see and to consider that fact presently perceive that the
artist, whether actor or otherwise, who gives to the public, not what it
says it wants but what it ought to have, is in the long run the victor.
The deep preference is for the good thing, the real thing, the right. It
is not intelligent. It does not go with thinking and reasoning. It does
not pretend to have grounds of belief. It simply responds. But upon the
stage the actor who is able to reach it is omnipotent. Jefferson
conspicuously is an actor who appeals to the deep, instinctive, natural
preference of humanity, and who reaches it, arouses it, and satisfies
it. Throughout the whole of his mature career he has addressed the
nobler soul of humanity and given to the people what they ought to have;
and the actor who is really able to do that naturally conquers
everything. It is not a matter of artifice and simulation; it is a
matter of being genuine and not a sham.

Still further, Jefferson has aroused and touched and satisfied the
feelings of the people, not by attempting to interpret literature but by
being an actor. An actor is a man who acts. He may be an uneducated man,
deficient in learning and in mental discipline, and yet a fine actor.
The people care not at all for literature. They do not read it, and they
know nothing about it until it is brought home to their hearts by some
great interpreter of it. What they do know is action. They can see and
they can feel, and the actor who makes them see and feel can do
anything with them that he pleases. It is his privilege and his
responsibility. Jefferson is one of those artists (and they are few) who
depend for their effects not upon what authors have written but upon
impersonation. He takes liberties with the text. It would not perhaps be
saying too much to say that he does not primarily heed the text at all.
He is an actor; and speaking with reference to him and to others like
him it would perhaps be well if those persons who write criticisms upon
the stage would come to a definite conclusion upon this point and
finally understand that an actor must produce his effects on the instant
by something that he does and is, and not by rhetoric and elocution, and
therefore that he should not be expected to repeat every word of every
part, or to be a translator of somebody else, but that he must be
himself. If we want the full, literal text of Shakespeare we can stop at
home and read it. What we want of the actor is that he should give
himself; and the true actor does give himself. The play is the medium. A
man who acts Romeo must embody, impersonate, express, convey, and make
evident what he knows and feels about love. He need not trouble himself
about Shakespeare. That great poet will survive; while if Romeo, being
ever so correct, bores the house, Romeo will be damned. Jefferson is an
actor who invariably produces effect, and he produces it by
impersonation, and by impersonation that is poetic and human.

Jefferson's performance of Acres conspicuously exemplifies the
principles that have been stated here. He has not hesitated to alter the
comedy of _The Rivals_, and in his alteration of it he has improved it.
Acres has been made a better part for an actor, and a more significant
and sympathetic part for an audience. You could not care particularly
for Acres if he were played exactly as he is written. You might laugh at
him, and probably would, but he would not touch your feelings. Jefferson
embodies him in such a way that he often makes you feel like laughing
and crying at the same moment, and you end with loving the character,
and storing it in your memory with such cherished comrades of the fancy
as Mark Tapley and Uncle Toby. There is but little human nature in Acres
as Sheridan has drawn him, and what there is of human nature is coarse;
but as embodied by Jefferson, while he never ceases to be comically
absurd, he becomes fine and sweet, and wins sympathy and inspires
affection, and every spectator is glad to have seen him and to remember
him. It is not possible to take that sort of liberty with every author.
You can do it but seldom with Shakespeare; never in any but his juvenile
plays. But there are authors who can be improved by that process, and
Sheridan--in _The Rivals_, not in _The School for Scandal_--is one of
them. And anyway, since it ought to be felt, known, understood, and
practically admitted that an actor is something more than a telegraph
wire, that his personal faculty and testimony enter into the matter of
embodiment and expression, Jefferson's rare excellence and great success
as Acres should teach a valuable lesson, correcting that pernicious
habit of the critical mind which measures an actor by the printed text
of a play-book and by the hide-bound traditions of custom on the stage.
Jefferson has had a royal plenitude of success as an actor, chiefly with
the part of Rip Van Winkle, but also with the characters of Caleb
Plummer, Bob Brierly, Dr. Pangloss, Dr. Ollapod, Mr. Golightly, and Hugh
de Brass. The reason of that success cannot be found in conventional
adherence to stage customs and critical standards.

Jefferson has gained his great power over the people--of which his great
fame is the shadow--- by giving himself in his art--his own rich and
splendid nature and the crystallised conclusions of his experience. As
an artist, when it comes to execution, he leaves nothing to chance. The
most seemingly artless of his proceedings is absolutely defined in
advance, and never is what heedless observers call impulsive and
spontaneous. But his temperament is free, fluent, opulent, and
infinitely tender; and when the whole man is aroused, this flows into
the moulds of literary and dramatic art and glorifies them. When you are
looking at Jefferson as Acres in the duel scene in _The Rivals_, you
laugh at him, but almost you laugh through your tears. When you see
Jefferson as Rip Van Winkle confronting the ghosts on the lonely
mountain-top at midnight, you see a display of imaginative personality
quite as high as that of Hamlet in tremulous sensibility to supernatural
influence, although wholly apart from Hamlet in altitude of intellect
and in anguish of experience. The poetry of the impersonation, though,
is entirely consonant with Hamlet, and that is the secret of Jefferson's
exceptional hold upon the heart and the imagination of his time. The
public taste does not ask Jefferson to trifle with his art. Its deep,
spontaneous, natural preference feels that he is a true actor, and so
yields to his power, and enjoys his charm, and is all the time improved
and made fitter to enjoy it. He has reached as great a height as it is
possible to reach in his profession. He could if he chose play greater
parts than he has ever attempted; he could not give a better
exemplification than he gives, in his chose and customary achievement,
of all that is distinctive, beautiful, and beneficent in the art of the
actor.



IX.

JEFFERSON AND FLORENCE IN OLD COMEDY.


A revival of _The Heir at Law_ was accomplished in the New York season
of 1890, with Joseph Jefferson in the character of Dr. Pangloss and
William James Florence in that of Zekiel Homespun. That play dates back
to 1797, a period in which a sedulous deference to conventionality
prevailed in the British theatre, as to the treatment of domestic
subjects; and, although the younger Colman wrote in a more flexible
style than was possessed by any other dramatist of the time, excepting
Sheridan, he was influenced to this extent by contemporary usage, that
often when he became serious he also became artificial and stilted. The
sentimental part of _The Heir at Law_ is trite in plan and hard in
expression. Furthermore that portion of it which, in the character of
Dr. Pangloss, satirises the indigent, mercenary, disreputable private
tutors who constituted a distinct and pernicious class of social
humbugs in Colman's day, has lost its direct point for the present age,
through the disappearance of the peculiar type of imposture against
which its irony was directed. Dr. Pangloss, nevertheless, remains
abstractly a humorous personage; and when he is embodied by an actor
like Jefferson, who can elucidate his buoyant animal spirits, his gay
audacity, his inveterate good-nature, his nimble craft, his jocular
sportiveness, his shrewd knowledge of character and of society, and his
scholar-like quaintness, he becomes a delightful presence; for his
mendacity disappears in the sunshine of his humour; his faults seem
venial; and we entertain him much as we do the infinitely greater and
more disreputable character of Falstaff,--knowing him to be a vagabond,
but finding him a charming companion, for all that. This is one great
relief to the hollow and metallic sentimentality of the piece. Persons
like Henry Moreland, Caroline Dormer, and Mr. Steadfast would be
tiresome in actual life; they belong, with Julia and Falkland and
Peregrine and Glenroy, to the noble army of the bores, and they are
insipid on the stage; but the association of the sprightly and jocose
Pangloss with those drab-tinted and preachy people irradiates even their
constitutional platitude with a sparkle of mirth. They shine, in spite
of themselves.

Colman's humour is infectious and penetrating. In that quality he was
original and affluent. As we look along the line of the British
dramatists for the last hundred years we shall find no parallel to his
felicity in the use of comic inversion and equivoke, till we come to
Gilbert. Though he was tedious while he deferred to that theatrical
sentimentality which was the fashion of his day (and against which
Goldsmith, in _She Stoops to Conquer_, was the first to strike), he
could sometimes escape from it; and when he did escape he was brilliant.
In _The Heir at Law_ he has not only illumined it by the contrast of Dr.
Pangloss but by the unctuous humour and irresistible comic force of the
character of Daniel Dowlas, Lord Duberly. Situations in a play, in order
to be invested with the enduring quality of humour, must result from
such conduct as is the natural and spontaneous expression of comic
character. The idea of the comic parvenue is ancient. It did not
originate with Colman. His application of it, however, was novel and his
treatment of it--taking fast hold of the elemental springs of mirth--is
as fresh to-day as it was a hundred years ago. French minds, indeed, and
such as subscribe to French notions, would object that the means
employed to elicit character and awaken mirth are not scientifically and
photographically correct, and that they are violent. Circumstances, they
would say, do not so fall out that a tallow-chandler is made a lord. The
Christopher Sly expedient, they would add, is a forced expedient.
Perhaps it is. But English art sees with the eyes of the imagination and
in dramatic matters it likes to use colour and emphasis. Daniel Dowlas,
as Lord Duberly, is all the droller for being a retired tallow-chandler,
ignorant, greasy, conventional, blunt, a sturdy, honest, ridiculous
person, who thinks he has observed how lords act and who intends to put
his gained knowledge into practical use. We shall never again see him
acted as he was acted by Burton, or by that fine actor William Rufus
Blake, or even by John Gilbert--who was of rather too choleric a
temperament and too fine a texture for such an oily and stupidly
complacent personage. But whenever and however he is acted he will be
recognised as an elemental type of absurd human nature made ludicrous by
comic circumstances; and he will give rich and deep amusement.

It is to be observed, in the analysis of this comedy, that according to
Colman's intention the essential persons in it are all, at heart, human.
The pervasive spirit of the piece is kindly. Old Dowlas, restricted to
his proper place in life, is a worthy man. Dick Dowlas, intoxicated by
vanity and prosperity, has no harm in him, and he turns out well at
last. Even Dr. Pangloss--although of the species of rogue that subsists
by artfully playing upon the weakness of human vanity--is genial and
amiable; he is a laughing philosopher; he gives good counsel; he hurts
nobody; he is but a mild type of sinner--and the satirical censure that
is bestowed upon him is neither merciless nor bitter. Pangloss, in Milk
Alley, spinning his brains for a subsistence, might be expected to prove
unscrupulous; but the moraliser can imagine Pangloss, if he were only
made secure by permanent good fortune, leading a life of blameless
indolence and piquant eccentricity. From that point of view Jefferson
formed his ideal of the character; and, indeed, his treatment of the
whole piece denoted an active practical sympathy with that gentle view
of the subject. He placed before his audience a truthful picture of old
English manners; telling them, in rapid and cheery action, Colman's
quaint story--in which there is no malice and no bitterness, but in
which simple virtue proves superior to temptation, and integrity is
strong amid vicissitudes--and leaving in their minds, at the last, an
amused conviction that indeed "Nature hath framed strange fellows in her
time." His own performance was full of nervous vitality and mental
sparkle, and of a humour deliciously quaint and droll. Dr. Panglass, as
embodied by Jefferson, is a man who always sees the comical aspect of
things and can make you see it with him, and all the while can be
completely self-possessed and grave without ever once becoming slow or
heavy. There was an air of candour, of ingenuous simplicity, of demure
propriety, about the embodiment, that made it inexpressibly funny. There
was no effort and no distortion. The structure of the impersonation
tingled with life, and the expression of it--in demeanour, movement,
facial play, intonation and business--was clear and crisp, with that
absolute precision and beautiful finish for which the acting of
Jefferson has always been distinguished. He is probably the only
American comedian now left, excepting John S. Clarke, who knows all the
traditional embellishments that have gone to the making of this part
upon the stage--embellishments fitly typified by the bank-note business
with Zekiel Homespun; a device, however, that perhaps suggests a greater
degree of moral obliquity in Dr. Pangloss than was intended by the
author. It was exceedingly comical, though, and it served its purpose.
Jefferson has had the character of Pangloss in his repertory for almost
forty years. He first acted it in New York as long ago as 1857, at Laura
Keene's theatre, when that beautiful woman played Cicely and when
Duberly was represented by the lamented James G. Burnett. It takes the
playgoer a long way back, to be thinking about this old piece and the
casts that it has had upon the American stage. _The Heir at Law_ was a
great favourite in Boston thirty years ago and more, when William Warren
was in his prime and could play Dr. Pangloss with the best of them, and
when Julia Bennett Barrow was living and acting, who could play Cicely
in a way that no later actress has excelled. John E. Owens as Pangloss
will never be forgotten. It was a favourite part with John Brougham. And
the grotesque fun of John S. Clarke in that droll character has been
recognised on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Jefferson's impersonation of Dr. Pangloss the predominant beauty was
spontaneous and perfectly graceful identification with the part. The
felicity of the apt quotations seemed to be accidental. The manner was
buoyant, but the alacrity of the mind was more nimble than the celerity
of the body, and those wise and witty comments that Pangloss makes upon
life, character, and manners flowed naturally from a brain that was in
the vigour and repose of intense animation. The actor was completely
merged in the character, which nevertheless his judgment dominated and
his will directed. No other representative of Pangloss has quite
equalled Jefferson in the element of authoritative and convincing
sincerity. His demure sapience was of the most intense order and it
arose out of great mental excitement. No other actor of the part has
equalled him in softness and winning charm of humour. His embodiment of
Dr. Pangloss has left in the memory of his time an image of eccentric
character not less lovable than ludicrous.

With Zekiel Homespun, an actor who is true to the author's plan will
produce the impression of an affectionate heart, virtuous principles,
and absolute honesty of purpose, combined with rustic simplicity.
Florence easily reached that result. His preservation of a dialect was
admirably exact. The soul of the part is fraternal love, and when Zekiel
finds that his trusted friend has repulsed him and would wrong his
sister, there is a fine flash of noble anger in the pride and scorn with
which he confronts this falsehood and dishonour. Florence in days when
he used to act the Irish Emigrant proved himself the consummate master
of simple pathos. He struck that familiar note again in the lovely
manner of Zekiel toward his sister Cicely, and his denotement of the
struggle between affection and resentment in the heart of the brother
when wounded by the depravity of his friend was not less beautiful in
the grace of art than impressive in simple dignity and touching in
passionate fervour. In point of natural feeling Zekiel Homespun is a
stronger part than Dr. Pangloss, although not nearly so complex nor so
difficult to act. The sentiments by which it is animated awaken instant
sympathy and the principles that impel command universal respect. No
actor who has attempted Zekiel Homespun in this generation on the
American stage has approached the performance that was given by
Florence, in conviction, in artless sweetness, in truth of passion, and
in the heartfelt expression of the heart.

Purists customarily insist that the old comedies are sacred; that no one
of their celestial commas or holy hyphens can be omitted without sin;
and that the alteration of a sentence in them is sacrilege. The truth
stands, however, without regard to hysterics: and it is a truth that the
old comedies owe their vitality mostly to the actors who now and then
resuscitate them. No play of the past is ever acted with scrupulous
fidelity to the original text. The public that saw the _Heir-at-Law_ and
the _Rivals_, when Jefferson and Florence acted in them, saw condensed
versions, animated by a living soul of to-day, and therefore it was
impressed. The one thing indispensable on the stage is the art of the
actor.



X.

ON THE DEATH OF FLORENCE.


The melancholy tidings of the death of Florence came suddenly (he died
in Philadelphia, after a brief illness, November 19, 1891), and struck
the hearts of his friends not simply with affliction but with dismay.
Florence was a man of such vigorous and affluent health that the idea of
illness and death was never associated with him. Whoever else might go,
he at least would remain, and for many cheerful years he would please
our fancy and brighten our lives. His spirit was so buoyant and
brilliant that it seemed not possible it could ever be dimmed. Yet now,
in a moment, his light was quenched and there was darkness on his mirth.
We shall hear his pleasant voice no more and see no more the sunshine of
a face that was never seen without joy and can never be remembered
without sorrow. The loss to the public was great. Few actors within the
last forty years have stood upon a level with Florence in versatility
and charm. His gentleness, his simplicity, his modesty, his affectionate
fidelity, his ready sympathy, his inexhaustibly patience, his fine
talents--all those attributes united with his spontaneous drollery to
enshrine him in tender affection.

William James Florence, whose family name was Conlin, was born in
Albany, July 26, 1831. When a youth he joined the Murdoch Dramatic
Association, and he early gave evidence of extraordinary dramatic
talent. On December 9, 1849 he made his first appearance on the regular
stage, at the Marshall theatre in Richmond, Virginia, where he
impersonated Tobias, in _The Stranger_. After that he met with the usual
vicissitudes of a young player. He was a member of various stock
companies--notably that of W.C. Forbes, of the Providence museum, and
that of the once-popular John Nickinson, of Toronto and Quebec--the
famous Havresack of his period. Later he joined the company at Niblo's
theatre, New York, under the management of Chippendale and John Sefton,
appearing there on May 8, 1850. He also acted at the Broadway, under
Marshall's management, and in 1852 he was a member of the company at
Brougham's Lyceum. On January 1, 1853 he married Malvina Pray, sister of
the wife of Barney Williams; and in that way those two Irish comedians
came to be domestically associated.

At that time Florence wrote several plays, upon Irish and Yankee
subjects, then very popular, and he began to figure as a star--his wife
standing beside him. They appeared at Purdy's National theatre, June 8,
1853, and then, and for a long time afterward, they had much popularity
and success. Florence had composed many songs of a sprightly character
(one of them, called _Bobbing Around_, had a sale of more than 100,000
copies), and those songs were sung by his wife, to the delight of the
public. The Irish drama served his purpose for many years, but he varied
that form of art by occasional resort to burlesque and by incursions
into the realm of melodrama. One of his best performances was that of
O'Bryan, in John Brougham's play of _Temptation, or the Irish Emigrant_,
with which he often graced the stage of the Winter Garden. In that he
touched the extremes of gentle humour and melting pathos. He was
delightfully humorous, also, in Handy Andy, and in all that long line of
Irish characters that came to our stage with Tyrone Power and the elder
John Drew. He had exceptional talent for burlesque, and that was often
manifested in his early days. _Fra Diavolo_, _Beppo_, _Lallah Rookh_,
_The Lady of the Lions_, and _The Colleen Bawn_, were among the
burlesques that he produced, and with those he was the pioneer.

Engagements were filled by Mr. and Mrs. Florence, at the outset of their
starring tour, in many cities of the republic, and everywhere they met
with kindness and honour. Among the plays written by Florence were _The
Irish Princess_, _O'Neil the Great_, _The Sicilian Bride_, _Woman's
Wrongs_, _Eva_, and _The Drunkard's Doom_. On April 2, 1856 Mr. and Mrs.
Florence sailed for England, and presently they appeared at Drury Lane
theatre, where they at once stepped into favour. The performance of the
_Yankee Gal_ by Mrs. Florence aroused positive enthusiasm--for it was
new, and Mrs. Florence was the first American comic actress that had
appeared upon the English stage. More than two hundred representations
of it were given at that time. Florence used to relate that his
fortunes were greatly benefited by his success in London, and he
habitually spoke with earnest gratitude of the kindness that he received
there. From that time onward he enjoyed almost incessant prosperity. A
tour of the English provincial cities followed his London season. He
acted at Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, and Dublin,
and both his wife and himself became favourites--so that their songs
were sung and whistled in the streets, wherever they went.

Returning to the United States Mr. and Mrs. Florence renewed their
triumphs, all over the land. In 1861 Florence played some of Burton's
characters in Wallack's theatre--among them being Toodle and Cuttle. At
a later period he made it a custom to lease Wallack's theatre during the
summer, and there he produced many burlesques. In 1863, at the Winter
Garden, he offered _The Ticket-of-Leave Man_ and acted Bob Brierly,
which was one of the best exploits of his life. In 1867 Wallack's old
theatre being then called the Broadway and managed by Barney Williams,
he brought to that house the comedy of _Caste_ and presented it with a
distribution of the parts that has not been equalled. The actors were
Mrs. Chanfrau, Mrs. Gilbert, Mrs. Florence, William Davidge, Owen
Marlowe, Edward Lamb, and Florence--who played George D'Alroy. In 1868
he presented _No Thoroughfare_ and enacted Obenreizer,--a performance
that established his rank among the leading actors of the time. In 1876
he made a remarkable hit as the Hon. Bardwell Slote in the play of _The
Mighty Dollar_, by Benjamin E. Woolff. That was the last important new
play that he produced. During the last fifteen years of his life he
offered selections from his accepted repertory. For a time he was
associated with Jefferson--to whom he brought a strength that was deeply
valued and appreciated, equally by that famous actor and by the
public--acting Sir Lucius O'Trigger in _The Rivals_ and Zekiel Homespun
in _The Heir-at-Law_.

The power of Florence was that of impersonation. He was imaginative and
sympathetic; his style was flexible; and he had an unerring instinct of
effect. The secret of his success lay in his profound feeling, guided by
perfect taste and perfect self-control. He was an actor of humanity, and
he diffused an irresistible charm of truth and gentleness. His place
was his own and it can never be filled.

       *       *       *       *       *

An Epitaph.

_Here Rest the Ashes of_
WILLIAM JAMES FLORENCE,
_Comedian_.

_His Copious and Varied Dramatic Powers, together with the Abundant
Graces of his Person, combined with Ample Professional Equipment and a
Temperament of Peculiar Sensibility and Charm, made him one of the Best
and Most Successful Actors of his Time, alike in Comedy and in Serious
Drama. He ranged easily from Handy Andy to Bob Brierly, and from Cuttle
to Obenreizer. In Authorship, alike of Plays, Stories, Music, and Song,
he was Inventive, Versatile, Facile, and Graceful. In Art Admirable; in
Life Gentle; he was widely known, and he was known only to be loved._

HE WAS BORN IN ALBANY, N.Y.,
    JULY 26, 1831.
HE DIED IN PHILADELPHIA PENN.,
    NOVEMBER 19, 1891.

       *       *       *       *       *

    By Virtue cherished, by Affection mourned,
    By Honour hallowed and by Fame adorned,
    Here FLORENCE sleeps, and o'er his sacred rest
    Each word is tender and each thought is blest.
    Long, for his loss, shall pensive Mem'ry show,
    Through Humour's mask, the visage of her woe,
    Day breathe a darkness that no sun dispels,
    And Night be full of whispers and farewells;
    While patient Kindness, shadow-like and dim,
    Droops in its loneliness, bereft of him,
    Feels its sad doom and sure decadence nigh,--
    For how should Kindness live, when he could die!

    The eager heart, that felt for every grief,
    The bounteous hand, that loved to give relief,
    The honest smile, that blessed where'er it lit,
    The dew of pathos and the sheen of wit,
    The sweet, blue eyes, the voice of melting tone,
    That made all hearts as gentle as his own,
    The Actor's charm, supreme in royal thrall,
    That ranged through every field and shone in all--
    For these must Sorrow make perpetual moan,
    Bereaved, benighted, hopeless, and alone?
    Ah, no; for Nature does no act amiss,
    And Heaven were lonely but for souls like this.



XI.

HENRY IRVING AND ELLEN TERRY IN THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.


In his beautiful production of _The Merchant of Venice_ Henry Irving
restored the fifth act, the jailer scene, and the casket scenes in full,
and the piece was acted with strict fidelity to Shakespeare. With Ellen
Terry for Portia that achievement became feasible. With an ordinary
actress in that character the comedy might be tedious--notwithstanding
its bold and fine contrasts of character, its fertility of piquant
incident, and its lovely poetry. Radiant with her fine spirit and
beautiful presence, and animated and controlled in every fibre by his
subtle and authoritative intellect, judiciously cast and correctly
dressed and mounted, Henry Irving's revival of _The Merchant of Venice_
captured the public fancy; and in every quarter it was sincerely felt
and freely proclaimed that here, at last, was the perfection of stage
display. That success has never faded. The performance was round,
symmetrical, and thorough--every detail being kept subordinate to
intelligent general effect, and no effort being made toward overweening
individual display.

Shakespeare's conception of Shylock has long been in controversy.
Burbage, who acted the part in Shakespeare's presence, wore a red wig
and was frightful in form and aspect. The red wig gives a hint of low
comedy, and it may be that the great actor made use of low comedy
expedients to cloak Shylock's inveterate malignity and sinister purpose.
Dogget, who played the part in Lord Lansdowne's alteration of
Shakespeare's piece, turned Shylock into farce. Macklin, when he
restored the original play to the stage--at Drury Lane, February 14,
1741--- wore a red hat, a peaked beard, and a loose black gown, playing
Shylock as a serious, almost a tragic part, and laying great emphasis
upon a display of revengeful passion and hateful malignity. So terrible
was he, indeed, that persons who saw him on the stage in that character
not infrequently drew the inference and kept the belief that he was
personally a monster. His look was iron-visaged; the cast of his
manners was relentless and savage. Quin said that his face contained not
lines but cordage. In portraying the contrasted passions of joy for
Antonio's losses and grief for Jessica's elopement he poured forth all
his fire. When he whetted his knife, in the trial scene, he was silent,
grisly, ominous, and fatal. No human touch, no hint of race-majesty or
of religious fanaticism, tempered the implacable wickedness of that
hateful ideal. Pope, who saw that Shylock, hailed it as "the Jew that
Shakespeare drew"--and Pope, among other things, was one of the editors
of Shakespeare. Cooke, who had seen Macklin's Shylock, and also those of
Henderson, King, Kemble, and Yates, adopted, maintained, and transmitted
the legend of Macklin. Edmund Kean, who worshipped Cooke, was
unquestionably his imitator in Shylock; but it seems to have been Edmund
Kean who, for the first time, gave prominence to the Hebraic majesty and
fanatical self-consecration of that hateful but colossal character.
Jerrold said that Kean's Shylock was like a chapter of Genesis.
Macready--whose utterance of "Nearest his heart" was the blood-curdling
keynote of his whole infernal ideal--declared the part to be "composed
of harshness," and he saw no humanity in the lament for the loss of
Leah's ring, but only a lacerated sense of the value of that jewel.
Brooke, a great Shylock, concurred with Kean's ideal and made the Jew
orientally royal, the avenger of his race, having "an oath in heaven,"
and standing on the law of "an eye for an eye." Edwin Forrest, the elder
Wallack, E.L. Davenport, Edwin Booth, Bogumil Davison, and Charles Kean
steadily kept Shylock upon the stage,--some walking in the religious
track and some leaving it. But the weight of opinion and the spirit and
drift of the text would justify a presentment of the Jew as the
incarnation not alone of avarice and hate, but of the stern, terrible
Mosaic law of justice. That is the high view of the part, and in
studying Shakespeare it is safe to prefer the high view.

There must be imagination, or pathos, or weirdness, or some form of
humour, or a personal charm in the character that awakens the soul of
Henry Irving and calls forth his best and finest powers. There is little
of that quality in Shylock. But Henry Irving took the high view of him.
This Jew "feeds fat the ancient grudge" against Antonio--until the law
of Portia, more subtle than equitable, interferes to thwart him; but
also he avenges the wrongs that his "sacred nation" has suffered. His
ideal was right, his grasp of it firm, his execution of it flexible with
skill and affluent with intellectual power. If memory carries away a
shuddering thought of his baleful gaze upon the doomed Antonio and of
his horrid cry of the summons "Come, prepare!" it also retains the image
of a father convulsed with grief--momentarily, but sincerely--and of a
man who at least can remember that he once loved. It was a most austere
Shylock, inveterate of purpose, vindictive, malignant, cruel, ruthless;
and yet it was human. No creature was ever more logical and consistent
in his own justification. By purity, sincerity, decorum, fanaticism, the
ideal was aptly suggestive of such men as Robert Catesby, Guy Fawkes,
and John Felton--persons who, with prayer on their lips, were
nevertheless capable of hideous cruelty. The street scene demands
utterance, not repression. The Jew raves there, and no violence would
seem excessive. Macklin, Kean, Cooke, and the elder Booth, each must
have been terrific at that point. Henry Irving's method was that of the
intense passion that can hardly speak--the passion that Kean is said to
have used so grandly in giving the curse of Junius Brutus upon Tarquin.
But, there was just as much of Shylock's nature in Henry Irving's
performance as in any performance that is recorded. The lack was
overwhelming physical power--not mentality and not art. At "No tears but
of my shedding" Henry Irving's Shylock took a strong clutch upon the
emotions and created an effect that will never be forgotten.

Ellen Terry's Portia long ago became a precious memory. The part makes
no appeal to the tragic depths of her nature, but it awakens her fine
sensibility, stimulates the nimble play of her intellect, and cordially
promotes that royal exultation in the affluence of physical vitality and
of spiritual freedom that so often seems to lift her above the common
earth. There have been moments when it seemed not amiss to apply
Shakespeare's own beautiful simile to the image of queen-like
refinement, soft womanhood, and spiritualised intellect that this
wonderful actress presented--"as if an angel dropped down from the
clouds." Her Portia was stately, yet fascinating; a woman to inspire awe
and yet to captivate every heart. Nearer to Shakespeare's meaning than
that no actress can ever go. The large, rich, superb manner never
invalidated the gentle blandishments of her sex. The repressed ardour,
the glowing suspense, the beautiful modesty and candour with which she
awaited the decision of the casket scene, showed her to be indeed all
woman, and worthy of a true man's love. Here was no paltering of a puny
nature with great feelings and a great experience. And never in our day
has the poetry of Shakespeare fallen from human lips in a strain of such
melody--with such teeming freedom of felicitous delivery and such dulcet
purity of diction.



XII.

JOHN McCULLOUGH IN SEVERAL CHARACTERS.


There is no greater gratification to the intellect than the sense of
power and completeness in itself or the perception of power and
completeness in others. Those attributes were in John McCullough's
acting and were at the heart of its charm. His repertory consisted of
thirty characters, but probably the most imposing and affecting of his
embodiments was Virginius. The massive grandeur of adequacy in that
performance was a great excellence. The rugged, weather-beaten plainness
of it was full of authority and did not in the least detract from its
poetic purity and ideal grace. The simplicity of it was like the lovely
innocence that shines through the ingenuous eyes of childhood, while its
majesty was like the sheen of white marble in the sunlight. It was a
very high, serious, noble work; yet,--although, to his immeasurable
credit, the actor never tried to apply a "natural" treatment to
artificial conditions or to speak blank verse in a colloquial
manner,--it was made sweetly human by a delicate play of humour in the
earlier scenes, and by a deep glow of paternal tenderness that suffused
every part of it and created an almost painful sense of sincerity.
Common life was not made commonplace life by McCullough, nor blank verse
depressed to the level of prose. The intention to be real--the intention
to love, suffer, feel, act, defend, and avenge, as a man of actual life
would do--was obvious enough, through its harmonious fulfilment; yet the
realism was shorn of all triteness, all animal excess, all of those
ordinary attributes which are right in nature, and wrong because
obstructive in the art that is nature's interpretation.

Just as the true landscape is the harmonious blending of selected
natural effects, so the true dramatic embodiment is the crystallization
of selected attributes in any given type of human nature, shown in
selected phases of natural condition. McCullough did not present
Virginius brushing his hair or paying Virginia's school-bills; yet he
suggested him, clearly and beautifully, in the sweet domestic repose
and paternal benignity of his usual life--making thus a background of
loveliness, on which to throw, in lines of living light, the terrible
image of his agonising sacrifice. And when the inevitable moment came
for his dread act of righteous slaughter it was the moral grandeur, the
heart-breaking paternal agony, and the overwhelming pathos of the deed
that his art diffused--not the "gashed stab," the blood, the physical
convulsion, the revolting animal shock. Neither was there druling, or
dirt, or physical immodesty, or any other attribute of that class of the
natural concomitants of insanity, in the subsequent delirium.

A perfect and holy love is, in one aspect of it, a sadder thing to see
than the profoundest grief. Misery, at its worst, is at least final: and
for that there is the relief of death. But love, in its sacred
exaltation,--the love of the parent for the child,--is so fair a mark
for affliction that one can hardly view it without a shudder of
apprehensive dread. That sort of love was personified in McCullough's
embodiment of Virginius, and that same nameless thrill of fear was
imparted by its presence,--even before the tragedian, with an exquisite
intuition of art, made Virginius convey his vague presentiment, not
admitted but quickly thrust aside, of some unknown doom of peril and
agony. There was, in fact, more heart in that single piece of acting
than in any hundred of the most pathetic performances of the "natural"
school; and all the time it was maintained at the lofty level of classic
grace. It would be impossible to overstate the excellence of all that
McCullough did and said, in the forum scene--the noble severity of the
poise, the grace of the outlines, the terrible intensity of the mood,
the heartrending play of the emotions, the overwhelming delirium of the
climax. Throughout the subsequent most difficult portraiture of
shattered reason the actor never, for an instant, lost his steadfast
grasp upon sympathy and inspiration. Every heart knew the presence of a
nature that could feel all that Virginius felt and suffer and act all
that Virginius suffered and acted; and, beyond this, in his wonderful
investiture of the mad scenes with the alternate vacancy and lamentable
and forlorn anguish of a special kind of insanity, every judge of the
dramatic art recognised the governing touch of a splendid intellect,
imperial over all its resources and instruments of art.

Virginius as embodied by McCullough was a man of noble and refined
nature; lovely in life; cruelly driven into madness; victorious over
dishonour, by a deed of terrible heroism; triumphant over crime, even in
forlorn and pitiable dethronement and ruin; and, finally, released by
the celestial mercy of death. And this was shown by a poetic method so
absolute that Virginius, while made an actual man to every human heart,
was kept a hero to the universal imagination, whether of scholar or
peasant, and a white ideal of manly purity and grace to that great
faculty of taste which is the umpire and arbiter of the human mind.

The sustained poetic exaltation of that embodiment, its unity as a grand
and sympathetic personage, and its exquisite simplicity were the
qualities that gave it vitality in popular interest, and through those
it will have permanence in theatrical history. There were many subtle
beauties in it. The illimitable tenderness, back of the sweet dignity,
in the betrothal of Virginia to Icilius; the dim, transitory, evanescent
touch of presentiment, in the forecasting of the festival joys that are
to succeed the war; the self-abnegation and simple homeliness of grief
for the dead Dentatus; the alternate shock of freezing terror and cry of
joy, in the camp scene--closing with that potent repression and
thrilling outburst, "Prudence, but no patience!"--a situation and words
that call at once for splendid manliness of self-command and an ominous
and savage vehemence; the glad, saving, comforting cry to Virginia, "Is
she here?"--that cry which never failed to precipitate a gush of joyous
tears; the rapt preoccupation and the exquisite music of voice with
which he said, "I never saw thee look so like thy mother, in all my
life"; the majesty of his demeanour in the forum; the look that saw the
knife; the mute parting glance at Servia; the accents of broken reason,
but unbroken and everlasting love, that called upon the name of the poor
murdered Virginia; and then the last low wail of the dying father,
conscious and happy in the great boon of death--those, as McCullough
gave them, were points of impressive beauty, invested with the
ever-varying light and shadow of a delicate artistic treatment, and all
the while animated with passionate sincerity. The perfect finish of the
performance, indeed, was little less than marvellous, when viewed with
reference to the ever-increasing volume of power and the evident reality
of afflicting emotion with which the part was carried. If acting ever
could do good the acting of McCullough did. If ever dramatic art
concerns the public welfare it is when such an ideal of manliness and
heroism is presented in such an image of nobility.

In Lear and in Othello,--as in Virginius,--the predominant quality of
McCullough's acting was a profound and beautiful sincerity. His
splendidly self-poised nature--a solid rock of truth, which enabled him,
through years of patient toil, to hold a steadfast course over all the
obstacles that oppose and amid all the chatter that assails a man who is
trying to accomplish anything grand and noble in art--bore him bravely
up in those great characters, and made him, in each of them, a stately
type of the nobility of the human soul. As the Moor, his performance was
well-nigh perfect. There was something a little fantastic, indeed, in
the facial style that he used; and that blemish was enhanced by the
display of a wild beast's head on the back of one of Othello's robes.
The tendency of that sort of ornamentation--however consonant it may be
deemed with the barbaric element in the Moor--is to suggest him as
heedful of appearances, and thus to distract regard from his experience
to his accessories. But the spirit was true. Simplicity, urged almost to
the extreme of barrenness, would not be out of place in Othello, and
McCullough, in his treatment of the part, testified to his practical
appreciation of that truth. His ideal of Othello combined manly
tenderness, spontaneous magnanimity, and trusting devotion, yet withal a
volcanic ground-swell of passion, that early and clearly displayed
itself as capable of delirium and ungovernable tempest. His method had
the calm movement of a summer cloud, in every act and word by which this
was shown. For intensity and for immediate, adequate, large, and
overwhelming response of action to emotion, that performance has not
been surpassed. There were points in it, though, at which the massive
serenity of the actor's temperament now and then deadened the glow of
feeling and depressed him to undue calmness; he sometimes recovered too
suddenly and fully from a tempest of emotion--as at the agonising appeal
to Iago, "Give me a living reason she's disloyal"; and he was not
enough delirious in the speech about the sybil and the handkerchief. On
the other hand, once yielded to the spell of desecrated feeling, his
mood and his expression of it were immeasurably pathetic and noble.
Those two great ebullitions of despair, "O, now forever," and "Had it
pleased heaven," could not be spoken in a manner more absolutely
heart-broken or more beautifully simple than the manner that was used by
him. In his obvious though silent suffering at the disgrace and
dismissal of Cassio; in the dazed, forlorn agony that blended with his
more active passion throughout the scene of Iago's wicked conquest of
his credulity; in his occasional quick relapses into blind and sweet
fidelity to the old belief in Desdemona; in his unquenchable tenderness
for her, through the delirium and the sacrifice; and in the tone of
soft, romantic affection--always spiritualised, never sensual--that his
deep and loving sincerity diffused throughout the work, was shown the
grand unity of the embodiment; a unity based on the simple passion of
love. To hear that actor say the one supreme line to Iago, "I am bound
to thee forever," was to know that he understood and felt the meaning
of the character, to its minutest fibre and its profoundest depth.

There were touches of fresh and aptly illustrative "business" in the
encounter of Othello and Iago, in the great scene of the third act. The
gasping struggles of Iago heightened the effect of the Moor's fury, and
the quickly suppressed impulse and yell of rage with which he finally
bounded away made an admirable effect of nature. In the last scene
McCullough rounded his performance with a solemn act of sacrifice. There
was nothing animal, nothing barbaric, nothing insane, in the slaughter
of Desdemona. It was done in an ecstasy of justice, and the atmosphere
that surrounded the deed was that of awe and not of horror.

For the character of King Lear McCullough possessed the imposing
stature, the natural majesty, the great reach of voice, and the human
tenderness that are its basis and equipment. No actor of Lear can ever
satisfy a sympathetic lover of the part unless he possesses a greatly
affectionate heart, a fiery spirit, and,--albeit the intellect must be
shown in ruins,--a regal mind. Within that grand and lamentable image of
shattered royalty the man must be noble and lovable. Nothing that is
puny or artificial can ever wear the investiture of that colossal
sorrow. McCullough embodied Lear as, from the first, stricken in
mind--already the unconscious victim of incipient decay and dissolution;
not mad but ready to become so. There is a subtle apprehensiveness all
about the presence of the king, in all the earlier scenes. He diffuses
disquietude and vaguely presages disaster, and the observer looks on him
with solicitude and pain. He is not yet decrepit but he will soon break;
and the spectator loves him and is sorry for him and would avert the
destiny of woe that is darkly foreshadowed in his condition. McCullough
gave the invectives--as they ought to be given--with the impetuous rush
and wild fury of the avalanche; and yet they were felt to come out of
agony as well as out of passion. The pathos of those tremendous passages
is in their chaotic disproportion; in their lawlessness and lack of
government; in the evident helplessness of the poor old man who hurls
them forth from a breaking heart and a distracted mind. He loves, and he
loathes himself for loving: every fibre of his nature is in horrified
revolt against such lack of reverence, gratitude, and affection toward
such a monarch and such a father as he knows himself to have been. The
feeling that McCullough poured through those moments of splendid yet
pitiable frenzy was overwhelming in its intense glow and in its towering
and incessant volume. There was remarkable subtlety, also, in the manner
in which that feeling was tempered. In Lear's meeting with Goneril after
the curse you saw at once the broken condition of an aged, infirm, and
mentally disordered man, who had already forgotten his own terrible
words. "We'll no more meet, no more see one another" is a line to which
McCullough gave its full eloquence of abject mournfulness and forlorn
desolation. Other denotements of subtlety were seen in his sad
preoccupation with memories of the lost Cordelia, while talking with the
Fool. "I did her wrong" was never more tenderly spoken than by him. They
are only four little words; but they carry the crushing weight of
eternal and hopeless remorse. It was in this region of delicate,
imaginative touch that McCullough's dramatic art was especially
puissant. He was the first actor of Lear to discriminate between the
agony of a man while going mad and the careless, volatile, fantastic
condition--afflicting to witness, but no longer agonising to the lunatic
himself--of a man who has actually lapsed into madness. Edwin
Forrest--whose Lear is much extolled, often by persons who, evidently,
never saw it--much as he did with the part, never even faintly suggested
such a discrimination as that.

To one altitude of Lear's condition it is probably impossible for
dramatic art to rise--the mood of divine philosophy, warmed with human
tenderness, in which the dazed but semi-conscious vicegerent of heaven
moralises over human life. There is a grandeur in that conception so
vast that nothing short of the rarest inspiration of genius can rise to
it. The deficiences of McCullough's Lear were found in the analysis of
that part of the performance. He had the heart of Lear, the royalty, the
breadth; but not all of either the exalted intellect, the sorrow-laden
experience, or the imagination--so gorgeous in its disorder, so
infinitely pathetic in its misery.

His performance of Lear signally exemplified, through every phase of
passion, that temperance which should give it smoothness. The treatment
of the curse scene, in particular, was extraordinarily beautiful for the
low, sweet, and tender melody of the voice, broken only now and
then--and rightly broken--with the harsh accents of wrath. Gentleness
never accomplished more, as to taste and pathos, than in McCullough's
utterance of "I gave you all," and "I'll go with you." The rallying of
the broken spirit after that, and the terrific outburst, "I'll not
weep," had an appalling effect. The recognition of Cordelia was simply
tender, and the death scene lovely in pathos and solemn and affecting in
tragic climax.

Throughout _Othello_ and _King Lear_ McCullough's powers were seen to be
curbed and guided, not by a cold and formal design but by a grave and
sweet gentleness of mind, always a part of his nature, but more and more
developed by the stress of experience, by the reactionary subduing
influence of noble success, and by the definite consciousness of power.
He found no difficulty in portraying the misery of Othello and of Lear,
because this is a form of misery that flows out of laceration of the
heart, and not from the more subtle wounds that are inflicted upon the
spirit through the imagination. There was no brooding over the awful
mysteries of the universe, nor any of that corroding, haunted gloom that
comes of an over-spiritualised state of suffering, longing, questioning,
doubting humanity. Above all things else Othello and Lear are human; and
the human heart, above all things else, was the domain of that actor.

The character of Coriolanus, though high and noble, is quite as likely
to inspire resentment as to awaken sympathy. It contains many elements
and all of them are good; but chiefly it typifies the pride of
intellect. This, in itself a natural feeling and a virtuous quality,
practically becomes a vice when it is not tempered with charity for
ignorance, weakness, and the lower orders of mind. In the character of
Coriolanus it is not so tempered, and therefore it vitiates his
greatness and leads to his destruction. Much, of course, can be urged in
his defence. He is a man of spotless honour, unswerving integrity,
dauntless courage, simple mind, straightforward conduct, and magnanimous
disposition. He is always ready to brave the perils of battle for the
service of his country. He constantly does great deeds--and would
continue constantly to do them--for their own sake and in a spirit of
total indifference alike to praises and rewards. He exists in the
consciousness of being great and has no life in the opinions of other
persons. He dwells in "the cedar's top" and "dallies with the wind and
scorns the sun." He knows and he despises with active and immitigable
contempt the shallowness and fickleness of the multitude. He is of an
icy purity, physical as well as mental, and his nerves tingle with
disgust of the personal uncleanliness of the mob. "Bid them wash their
faces," he says--when urged to ask the suffrages of the people--"and
keep their teeth clean." "He rewards his deeds with doing them," says
his fellow-soldier Cominius, "and looks upon things precious as the
common muck of the world." His aristocracy does not sit in a corner,
deedless and meritless, brooding over a transmitted name and sucking the
orange of empty self-conceit: it is the aristocracy of achievement and
of nature--the solid superiority of having done the brightest and best
deeds that could be done in his time and of being the greatest man of
his generation. It is as if a Washington, having made and saved a
nation, were to spurn it from him with his foot, in lofty and by no
means groundless contempt for the ignorance, pettiness, meanness, and
filth of mankind. The story of Coriolanus, as it occurs in Plutarch, is
thought to be fabulous, but it is very far from being fabulous as it
stands transfigured in the stately, eloquent tragedy of Shakespeare. The
character and the experience are indubitably representative. It was some
modified form of the condition thus shown that resulted in the treason
and subsequent ruin of Benedict Arnold. Pride of intellect largely
dominated the career of Aaron Burr. More than one great thinker has
split on that rock, and gone to pieces in the surges of popular
resentment. "No man," said Dr. Chapin, in his discourse over the coffin
of Horace Greeley, "can lift himself above himself." He who repudiates
the humanity of which he is a part will inevitably come to sorrow and
ruin. It is perfectly true that no intellectual person should in the
least depend upon the opinions of others--which, in the nature of
things, exist in all stages of immaturity, mutability, and error--but
should aim to do the greatest deeds and should find reward in doing
them: yet always the right mood toward humanity is gentleness and not
scorn. "Thou, my father," said Matthew Arnold, in his tribute to one of
the best men of the century, "wouldst not be saved alone." To enlighten
the ignorant, to raise the weak, to pity the frail, to disregard the
meanness, ingratitude, misapprehension, dulness, and petty malice of the
lower orders of humanity--that is the wisdom of the wise; and that is
accordant with the moral law of the universe, from the operation of
which no man escapes. To study, in Shakespeare, the story of Coriolanus
is to observe the violation of that law and the consequent retribution.

    "Battles, and the breath
    Of stormy war and violent death"

fill up the first part of the tragedy as it stands in Shakespeare, and
that portion is also much diversified with abrupt changes of scene; so
that it has been found expedient to alter the piece, with a view to its
more practical adaptation to the stage. While however it is not acted in
strict accordance with Shakespeare its essential parts are retained and
represented. Many new lines, though, occur toward the close. McCullough
used the version that was used by Forrest, who followed in the footsteps
of Cooper, the elder Vandenhoff, and James R. Anderson. There is,
perhaps, an excess of foreground--a superfluity of fights and
processions--by way of preparing for the ordeal through which the
character of Coriolanus is to be displayed. Yet when Hecuba at last is
reached the interest of the situation makes itself felt with force. The
massive presence and stalwart declamation of Edwin Forrest made him
superb in this character; but the embodiment of Coriolanus by
McCullough, while equal to its predecessor in physical majesty, was
superior to it in intellectual haughtiness and in refinement. An actor's
treatment of the character must, unavoidably, follow the large, broad
style of the historical painter. There is scant opportunity afforded in
any of the scenes allotted to Coriolanus for fine touches and delicate
shading. During much of the action the spectator is aware only of an
imperial figure that moves with a mountainous grace through the fleeting
rabble of Roman plebeians and Volscians, dreadful in war, loftily calm
in peace, irradiating the conscious superiority of power, dignity,
worth, and honourable renown. McCullough filled that aspect of the part
as if he had been born for it. His movements had the splendid repose
not merely of great strength but of intellectual poise and native mental
supremacy. The "I must be found" air of Othello was again displayed, in
ripe perfection, through the Roman toga. His declamation was as fluent
and as massively graceful as his demeanour. If this actor had not the
sonorous, clarion voice of John Kemble, he yet certainly suggested the
tradition of the stately port and dominating step of that great master
of the dramatic art. He looked Coriolanus, to the life. More of poetic
freedom might have been wished, in the decorative treatment of the
person--a touch of wildness in the hair, a tinge of imaginative
exaltation in the countenance, an air of mischance in the gashes of
combat. Still the embodiment was correct in its superficial
conventionality; and it certainly possessed affecting grandeur. Whenever
there was opportunity for fine treatment, moreover, the actor seized and
filled it, with the easy grace of unerring intuition and spontaneity.
The delicacy of vocalism, the movement, the tone of sentiment, and the
manliness of condition--the royal fibre of a great mind--in the act of
withdrawal from the senate, was right and beautiful. It is difficult not
to over-emphasise the physical symbols of mental condition, in the
street scene with "the voices"; but there again the actor denoted a fine
spiritual instinct. To a situation like that of the banishment he proved
easily equal: indeed, he gave that magnificent outburst of scorn with
tremendous power: but it was in the pathetic scene with Volumnia and
Virgilia that he reached the summit of the Shakespearean conception. The
deep heart as well as the imperial intellect of Coriolanus must then
speak. It is, for the distracted son, a moment of agonised and pathetic
conflict: for McCullough it was a moment of perfect adequacy and
consummate success. The stormy utterance of revolted pride and furious
disgust, in the denial of Volumnia's request--the tempestuous outburst,
"I will not do it"--made as wild, fiery, and fine a moment in tragic
acting as could be imagined; but the climax was attained in the pathetic
cry--

    "The gods look down, and this unnatural scene
    They laugh at."



XIII.

CHARLOTTE CUSHMAN.


Making, one summer day, a pilgrimage to the grave of Charlotte Cushman,
I was guided to the place of her rest by one of the labourers employed
about the cemetery, who incidentally pronounced upon the deceased a
comprehensive and remarkable eulogium. "She was," he said, "considerable
of a woman, for a play-actress." Well--she was. The place of her
sepulture is on the east slope of the principal hill in Mount Auburn.
Hard by, upon the summit of the hill, stands the gray tower that
overlooks the surrounding region and constantly symbolises, to eyes both
far and near, the perpetual peace of which it is at once guardian and
image. All around the spot tall trees give shade and music, as the sun
streams on their branches and the wind murmurs in their leaves. At a
little distance, visible across green meadows and the river
Charles,--full and calm between its verdant banks,--rise the "dreaming
spires" of Cambridge. Further away, crowned with her golden dome, towers
old Boston, the storied city that Charlotte Cushman loved. Upon the spot
where her ashes now rest the great actress stood, and, looking toward
the city of her home and heart, chose that to be the place of her grave;
and there she sleeps, in peace, after many a conflict with her stormy
nature and after many sorrows and pains. What terrific ideals of the
imagination she made to be realities of life! What burning eloquence of
poesy she made to blaze! What moments of pathos she lived! What moods of
holy self-abnegation and of exalted power she brought to many a
sympathetic soul! Standing by her grave, on which the myrtle grows dense
and dark, and over which the small birds swirl and twitter in the breezy
silence, remembrance of the busy scenes of brilliant life wherein she
used to move--the pictured stage, the crowded theatre, the wild plaudits
of a delighted multitude--came strongly on the mind, and asked, in
perplexity and sadness, what was the good of it all. To her but little.
Fame and wealth were her cold rewards, after much privation and labour;
but she found neither love nor happiness, and the fullest years of her
life were blighted with the shadow of fatal disease and impending death.
To the world, however, her career was of great and enduring benefit. She
was a noble interpreter of the noble minds of the past, and thus she
helped to educate the men and women of her time--to ennoble them in
mood, to strengthen them in duty, to lift them up in hope of
immortality. She did not live in vain. It is not likely that the
American people will ever suffer her name to drift quite out of their
remembrance: it is a name that never can be erased from the rolls of
honourable renown.

Charlotte Cushman was born on July 23, 1816, and she died on February
12, 1876. Boston was the place of her birth and of her death. She lived
till her sixtieth year and she was for forty years an actress. Her youth
was one of poverty and the early years of her professional career were
full of labour, trouble, heart-ache, and conflict. The name of Cushman
signifies "cross-bearer," and certainly Charlotte Cushman did indeed
bear the cross, long before and long after, she wore the crown. At first
she was a vocalist, but, having broken her voice by misusing it, she
was compelled to quit the lyric and adopt the dramatic stage, and when
nineteen years old she came out, at New Orleans, as Lady Macbeth. After
that she removed to New York and for the next seven years she battled
with adverse fortune in the theatres of that city and of Albany and
Philadelphia. From 1837 to 1840 she was under engagement at the old Park
as walking lady and for general utility business. "I became aware," she
wrote, "that one could never sail a ship by entering at the cabin
windows; he must serve and learn his trade before the mast. This was the
way that I would henceforth learn mine."

Her first remarkable hits were made in Emilia, Meg Merrilies, and
Nancy--the latter in _Oliver Twist_. But it was not till she met with
Macready that the day of her deliverance from drudgery really dawned.
They acted together in New York in 1842 and 1843, and in Boston in 1844,
and in the autumn of the latter year Miss Cushman went to England,
where, after much effort, she obtained an opening in London, at the
Princess's, and in 1845 made her memorable success as Bianca. "Since the
first appearance of Edmund Kean, in 1814," said a London journal of
that time, "never has there been such a _début_ on the stage of an
English theatre." Her engagement lasted eighty-four nights (it was an
engagement to act with Edwin Forrest), and she recorded its result in a
letter to her mother, saying: "All my successes put together since I
have been upon the stage would not come near my success in London, and I
only wanted some one of you here to enjoy it with me, to make it
complete." She acted Bianca, Emilia, Lady Macbeth, Mrs. Haller, and
Rosalind. A prosperous provincial tour followed, and then, in December,
1845, she came out at the Haymarket, as Romeo, her sister Susan
appearing as Juliet. Her stay abroad lasted till the end of the summer
of 1849, and to that period belongs her great achievement as Queen
Katharine.

From the fall of 1849 till the spring of 1852 Miss Cushman was in
America, and she was everywhere received with acclamation, gathering
with ease both laurels and riches. When she first reappeared, October 8,
1849, at the old Broadway theatre, New York--as Mrs. Haller--she
introduced Charles W. Couldock to our stage, on which he has ever since
maintained his rank as a powerful and versatile actor. He acted the
Stranger and subsequently was seen in the other leading characters
opposite to her own. Miss Cushman's repertory then included Lady
Macbeth, Queen Katharine, Meg Merrilies, Beatrice, Rosalind, Bianca,
Julia, Mariana, Katharine, the Countess, Pauline, Juliana, Lady Gay
Spanker, and Mrs. Simpson. Her principal male characters then, or later,
were Romeo, Wolsey, Hamlet, and Claude Melnotte. In 1852 she announced
her intention of retiring from the stage, and from that time till the
end of her days she wavered between retirement and professional
occupation. The explanation of this is readily divined, in her
condition. There never was a time, during all those years, when she was
not haunted by dread of the disease that ultimately destroyed her life.
From 1852 to 1857 she lived in England, and in the course of that period
she acted many times, in different cities. In December 1854, when dining
with the Duke of Devonshire, at Brighton, she read _Henry VIII._ to the
Duke and his guests, and in that way began her experience as a reader.
In the autumn of 1857 she acted at Burton's theatre, New York, and was
seen as Cardinal Wolsey, and in the early summer of 1858 she gave a
series of "farewell" performances at Niblo's Garden--after which she
again crossed the Atlantic and established her residence in Rome. In
June 1860 the great actress came home again and passed a year in
America. _Oliver Twist_ was given at the Winter Garden in the spring of
1861, when Miss Cushman acted Nancy, and J.W. Wallack, Jr., J.B.
Studley, William Davidge, and Owen Marlowe were in the company. In 1863,
having come from Rome for that purpose, Miss Cushman acted in four
cities, for the benefit of the United States Sanitary Commission, and
earned for it $8267. The seven ensuing years were passed by her in
Europe, but in October 1870 she returned home for the last time, and the
brief remainder of her life was devoted to public readings, occasional
dramatic performances, and the society of friends. She built a villa at
Newport, which still bears her name. She gave final farewell
performances, in the season of 1874-1875, in New York, Philadelphia, and
Boston. Her final public appearance was made on June 2, 1875, at Easton,
Pennsylvania, where she gave a reading. Her death occurred at the Parker
House, in Boston, February 18, 1876, and she was buried from King's
chapel.

There is a mournful pleasure in recalling the details of Miss Cushman's
life and meditating upon her energetic, resolute, patient, creative
nature. She was faithful, throughout her career, to high principles of
art and a high standard of duty. Nature gave her great powers but
fettered her also with great impediments. She conquered by the spell of
a strange, weird genius and by hard, persistent labour. In this latter
particular she is an example to every member of the dramatic profession,
present or future. In what she was as a woman she could not be
imitated--for her colossal individuality dwelt apart, in its loneliness,
as well of suffering that no one could share as of an imaginative life
that no one could fathom. Without the stage she would still have been a
great woman, although perhaps she might have lacked an entirely suitable
vehicle for the display of her powers. With the stage she gave a body to
the soul of some of Shakespeare's greatest conceptions, and she gave
soul and body both to many works of inferior origin. There is no
likelihood that we shall ever see again such a creation as her Meg
Merrilies. Her genius could embody the sublime, the beautiful, the
terrible, and with all this the humorous; and it was saturated with
goodness. If the love of beauty was intensified by the influence of her
art, virtue was also strengthened by the force of her example and the
inherent dignity of her nature.



XIV.

ON THE DEATH OF LAWRENCE BARRETT.

[Obiit March 20, 1891.]


The death of Lawrence Barrett was the disappearance of one of the
noblest figures of the modern stage. During the whole of his career, in
a public life of thirty-five years, he was steadily and continuously
impelled by a pure and fine ambition and the objects that he sought to
accomplish were always the worthiest and the best. His devotion to the
dramatic art was a passionate devotion, and in an equal degree he was
devoted to a high ideal of personal conduct. Doctrines of expediency
never influenced him and indeed were never considered by him. He had
early fixed his eyes on the dramatic sceptre. He knew that it never
could be gained except by the greatest and brightest of artistic
achievements, and to them accordingly he consecrated his life. Whenever
and wherever he appeared the community was impressed with a sense of
intellectual character, moral worth, and individual dignity. Many other
dramatic efforts might be trivial. Those of Lawrence Barrett were always
felt to be important. Most of the plays with which his name is
identified are among the greatest plays in our language, and the spirit
in which he treated them was that of exalted scholarship, austere
reverence, and perfect refinement. He was profoundly true to all that is
noble and beautiful, and because he was true the world of art everywhere
recognised him as the image of fidelity and gave to him the high tribute
of its unwavering homage. His coming was always a signal to arouse the
mind. His mental vitality, which was very great, impressed even
unsympathetic beholders with a sense of fiery thought struggling in its
fetters of mortality and almost shattering and consuming the frail
temple of its human life. His stately head, silvered with graying hair,
his dark eyes deeply sunken and glowing with intense light, his thin
visage pallid with study and pain, his form of grace and his voice of
sonorous eloquence and solemn music (in compass, variety, and sweetness
one of the few great voices of the current dramatic generation), his
tremendous earnestness, his superb bearing, and his invariable authority
and distinction--all those attributes united to announce a ruler and
leader in the realm of the intellect. The exceeding tumult of his spirit
enhanced the effect of this mordant personality. The same sleepless
energy that inspired Loyola and Lanfranc burned in the bosom of this
modern actor; and it was entirely in keeping with the drift of his
character and the tenor of his life that the last subject that occupied
his thoughts should have been the story of Becket, the great
prelate--whom he intended to represent, and to whom in mental qualities
he was nearly allied. In losing Lawrence Barrett the American stage lost
the one man who served it with an apostle's zeal because he loved it
with an apostle's love.

The essential attributes that Lawrence Barrett did not possess were
enchantment for the public and adequate and philosophic patience for
himself. He gained, indeed, a great amount of public favour, and,--with
reference to an indisputable lack of universal sympathy and
enthusiasm,--he was learning to regard that as a natural consequence of
his character which formerly he had resented as the injustice of the
world. Men and women of austere mind do not fascinate their
fellow-creatures. They impress by their strangeness. They awe by their
majesty. They predominate by their power. But they do not involuntarily
entice. Lawrence Barrett,--although full of kindness and gentleness,
and, to those who knew him well, one of the most affectionate and
lovable of men,--was essentially a man of austere intellect; and his
experience was according to his nature. To some persons the world gives
everything, without being asked to give at all. To others it gives only
what it must, and that with a kind of icy reluctance that often makes
the gift a bitter one. Lawrence Barrett, who rose from an obscure and
humble position,--without fortune, without friends, without favouring
circumstances, without education, without help save that of his talents
and his will,--was for a long time met with indifference, or frigid
obstruction, or impatient disparagement. He gained nothing without
battle. He had to make his way by his strength. His progress involved
continual effort and his course was attended with continual controversy
and strife. When at last it had to be conceded that he was a great
actor, the concession was, in many quarters, grudgingly made. Even then
detraction steadily followed him, and its voice--though impotent and
immeasurably trivial--has not yet died away. There came a time when his
worth was widely recognised, and from that moment onward he had much
prosperity, and his nature expanded and grew calmer, sweeter, and
brighter under its influence. But the habit of warfare had got into his
acting, and more or less it remained there to the last. The assertive
quality, indeed, had long since begun to die away. The volume of
needless emphasis was growing less and less. Few performances on the
contemporary stage are commensurate with his embodiments of Harebell and
Gringoire, in softness, simplicity, poetic charm, and the gentle
tranquillity that is the repose of a self-centred soul. But his deep and
burning desire to be understood, his anxiety lest his effects should not
be appreciated, his inveterate purpose of conquest,--that overwhelming
solicitude of ambition often led him to insist upon his points, to
over-elaborate and enforce them, and in that way his art to some extent
defeated itself by the excess of its eager zeal. The spirit of beauty
that the human race pursues is the spirit that is typified in Emerson's
poem of _Forerunners_--the elusive spirit that all men feel and no man
understands. This truth, undiscerned by him at first, had become the
conviction of his riper years; and if his life had been prolonged the
autumn of his professional career would have been gentle, serene, and
full of tranquil loveliness.

The achievement of Lawrence Barrett as an actor was great, but his
influence upon the stage was greater than his achievement. Among the
Shakespearian parts that he played were Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear,
Othello, Iago, Shylock, Leontes, Cassius, Wolsey, Richard III., Romeo,
and Benedick. Outside of Shakespeare (to mention only a few of his
impersonations) he acted Richelieu, Evelyn, Aranza, Garrick, Claude
Melnotte, Rienzi, Dan'l Druce, Lanciotto, Hernani, King Arthur, and
Ganelon. The parts in which he was superlatively fine,--and in some
respects incomparable,--are Cassius, Harebell, Yorick, Gringoire, King
Arthur, Ganelon, and James V., King of the Commons. In his time he had
played hundreds of parts, ranging over the whole field of the drama, but
as the years passed and the liberty of choice came more and more within
his reach, he concentrated his powers upon a few works and upon a
specific line of expression. The aspect of human nature and human
experience that especially aroused his sympathy was the loneliness of
beneficent intellectual grandeur, isolated by its supremacy and pathetic
in its isolation. He loved the character of Richelieu, and if he had
acted Becket, as he purposed to do, in Tennyson's tragedy, he would have
presented another and a different type of that same ideal--lonely,
austere, passionate age, defiant of profane authority and protective of
innocent weakness against wicked and cruel strength. His embodiment of
Cassius, with all its intensity of repressed spleen and caustic
malevolence, was softly touched and sweetly ennobled with the majesty of
venerable loneliness,--the bleak light of pathetic sequestration from
human ties, without the forfeiture of human love,--that is the natural
adjunct of intellectual greatness. He loved also the character of
Harebell, because in that he could express his devotion to the
beautiful, the honest impulses of his affectionate heart, and his ideal
of a friendship that is too pure and simple even to dream that such a
thing as guile can exist anywhere in the world. Toward the expression,
under dramatic conditions, of natures such as those, the development of
his acting was steadily directed; and, even if he fell short, in any
degree, of accomplishing all that he purposed, it is certain that his
spirit and his conduct dignified the theatrical profession, strengthened
the stage in the esteem of good men, and cheered the heart and fired the
energy of every sincere artist that came within the reach of his
example. For his own best personal success he required a part in which,
after long repression, the torrent of passion can break loose in a
tumult of frenzy and a wild strain of eloquent words. The terrible
exultation of Cassius, after the fall of Cæsar, the ecstasy of Lanciotto
when he first believes himself to be loved by Francesca, the delirium of
Yorick when he can no longer restrain the doubts that madden his jealous
and wounded soul, the rapture of King James over the vindication of his
friend Seyton, whom his suspicions have wronged--those were among his
distinctively great moments, and his image as he was in such moments is
worthy to live among the storied traditions and the bright memories of
the stage.

Censure seems to be easy to most people, and few men are rated at their
full value while they are yet alive. Just as mountains seem more sublime
in the vague and hazy distance, so a noble mind looms grandly through
the dusk of death. So it will be with him. Lawrence Barrett was a man of
high principle and perfect integrity. He never spoke a false word nor
knowingly harmed a human being, in all his life. Although sometimes he
seemed to be harsh and imperious, he was at heart kind and humble.
Strife with the world, and in past times uncertainty as to his position,
caused in him the assumption of a stern and frigid manner, but beneath
that haughty reserve there was a great longing for human affection and a
sincere humility of spirit. He never nurtured hostility. He had no
memory for injuries; but a kindness he never forgot. His good deeds were
as numerous as his days--for no day rolled over his head without its act
of benevolence in one direction or another. He was as impulsive as a
child. He had much of the woman in his nature, and therefore his views
were impetuous, strong, and often strongly stated; but his sense of
humour kept pace with his sensibility and so maintained the equilibrium
of his mind. In temperament he was sad, pensive, introspective, almost
gloomy; but he opposed to that tendency an incessant mental activity and
the force of a tremendous will. In his lighter moods he was not only
appreciative of mirth but was the cause of it. His humour was elemental
and whatever aspect of life he saw in a comic light he could set in that
light before the eyes of others. He had been a studious reader for many
years and his mind was stored with ample, exact, and diversified
information. He had a scholar's knowledge of Roman history and his
familiar acquaintance with the character and career of the first
Napoleon was extraordinary. In acting he was largely influenced by his
studies of Edmund Kean and by his association with Charlotte Cushman.
For a few years after 1864 his art was especially affected by that of
Edwin Booth; but the style to which he finally gravitated was his own.
He was not so much an impersonator as he was an interpreter of
character, and the elocutionary part of acting was made more conspicuous
and important by him than by any other tragedian since the days of
Forrest and Brooke.

It was a beautiful life prematurely ended. It was a brave, strong
spirit suddenly called out of the world. To the dramatic profession the
loss is irreparable. In the condition of the contemporary theatre there
are not many hopeful signs. No doubt there will be bright days in the
future, as there have been in the past. They go and they return. The
stage declines and the stage advances. At present its estate is low. Few
men like Lawrence Barrett remain for it to lose. Its main hope is in the
abiding influence of such examples as he has left. The old theatrical
period is fast passing away. The new age rushes on the scene, with
youthful vigour and impetuous tumult. But to some of us,--who perhaps
have not long to stay, and to whom, whatever be their fortune, this
tumult is unsympathetic and insignificant,--the way grows darker and
lonelier as we lay our garlands of eternal farewell upon the coffin of
Lawrence Barrett.



XV.

HENRY IRVING AND ELLEN TERRY IN RAVENSWOOD.


Merivale's play of _Ravenswood_, written in four acts, was acted in six.
The first act consists of a single scene--an exterior, showing the
environment of the chapel which is the burial place of the House of
Ravenswood. A rockbound coast is visible, at some distance, together
with the ruinous tower of Wolf's Crag--which is Ravenswood's sole
remaining possession. This act presents the interrupted funeral of Alan
Ravenswood, the father of Edgar,--introducing ten of the seventeen
characters that are implicated in the piece, and skilfully laying the
basis of the action by exhibiting the essential personalities of the
story in strong contrast, and denoting their relations to each other.
Each character is clearly and boldly drawn and with a light touch. The
second act consists of three scenes--an antique library in the ancient
manor-house of Ravenswood, a room in a roadside ale-house, and a room in
the dilapidated tower of Wolf's Crag. This act rapidly develops the
well-known story, depicting the climax of antagonism between the Lord
Keeper Ashton and Edgar of Ravenswood and their subsequent
reconciliation. The third act passes in a lovely, romantic, rural scene,
which is called "the Mermaiden's Well,"--a fairy-like place in the
grounds of Ravenswood,--and in this scene Edgar and Lucy Ashton, who
have become lovers, are plighted by themselves and parted by Lucy's
mother, Lady Ashton. The fourth and last act shows a room at Ravenswood,
wherein is portrayed the betrothal of Lucy to Bucklaw, culminating in
Edgar's sudden irruption; and finally, it shows the desolate seaside
place of the quicksand in which, after he has slain Bucklaw, Edgar of
Ravenswood is engulfed. The house that Scott, when he wrote the novel,
had in his mind as that of Sir William Ashton is the house of Winston,
which still is standing, not many miles from Edinburgh. The tower of
Wolf's Crag was probably suggested to him by Fast Castle, the ruin of
which still lures the traveller's eye, upon the iron-ribbed and gloomy
coast of the North Sea, a few miles southeast of Dunbar--a place,
however, that Scott never visited, and never saw except from the ocean.
There is a beach upon that coast, just above Cockburnspath, that might
well have suggested to him the quicksand and the final catastrophe. I
saw it when the morning sun was shining upon it and upon the placid
waters just rippling on its verge; and even in the glad glow of a summer
day it was grim with silent menace and mysterious with an air of
sinister secrecy. In the preparation of this piece for the stage all the
sources and associations of the subject were considered; and the
pictorial setting, framed upon the right artistic principle--that
imagination should transfigure truth and thus produce the essential
result of poetic effect--was elaborate and magnificent. And the play is
the best one that ever has been made upon this subject.

The basis of fact upon which Sir Walter Scott built his novel of the
_Bride of Lammermoor_ is given in the introduction that he wrote for it
in 1829. Janet Dalrymple, daughter of the first Lord Stair and of his
wife Margaret Ross, had privately plighted herself to Lord Rutherford.
Those lovers had broken a piece of gold together, and had bound
themselves by vows the most solemn and fervent that passion could
prompt. But Lord Rutherford was objectionable to Miss Dalrymple's
parents, who liked not either his family or his politics. Lady Stair,
furthermore, had selected a husband for her daughter, in the person of
David Dunbar, of Baldoon; and Lady Stair was a woman of formidable
character, set upon having her own way and accustomed to prevail. As
soon as she heard of Janet's private engagement to Lord Rutherford she
declared the vow to be undutiful and unlawful and she commanded that it
should be broken. Lord Rutherford, a man of energy and of spirit,
thereupon insisted that he would take his dismissal only from the lips
of Miss Dalrymple herself, and he demanded and obtained an interview
with her. Lady Stair was present, and such was her ascendency over her
daughter's mind that the young lady remained motionless and mute,
permitting her betrothal to Lord Rutherford to be broken, and, upon her
mother's command, giving back to him the piece of gold that was the
token of her promise. Lord Rutherford was deeply moved, so that he
uttered curses upon Lady Stair, and at the last reproached Janet in
these words: "For you, madam, you will be a world's wonder." After this
sad end of his hopes the unfortunate gentleman went abroad and died in
exile. Janet Dalrymple and David Dunbar meanwhile were married--the lady
"being absolutely passive in everything her mother commanded or
advised." As soon, however, as the wedded pair had retired from the
bridal feast hideous shrieks were heard to resound through the house,
proceeding from the nuptial chamber. The door was thereupon burst open
and persons entering saw the bridegroom stretched upon the floor,
wounded and bleeding, while the bride, dishevelled and stained with
blood, was grinning in a paroxysm of insanity. All she said was, "Take
up your bonny bridegroom." About two weeks later she died. The year of
those events was 1669. The wedding took place on August 24. Janet died
on September 12. Dunbar recovered, but he would never tell what occurred
in that chamber of horror, nor indeed would he permit any allusion to
the subject. He did not long survive the tragic event,--having been
fatally injured, by a fall from his horse, when riding between Leith
and Holyrood. He died on March 28, 1682. The death of Lord Rutherford
is assigned to the year 1685. Such is the melancholy story as it may be
gathered from Scott's preface. In writing his novel that great master of
the art of fiction,--never yet displaced from his throne or deprived of
his sceptre,--adopted fictitious names, invented fresh circumstances,
amplified and elevated the characters, judiciously veiled the
localities, and advanced the period of those tragical incidents to about
the beginning of the eighteenth century. The delicate taste with which
he used his materials has only been surpassed, in that beautiful
composition, by the affluent genius with which he vitalised every part
of his narrative. In no other of his many books has he shown a deeper
knowledge than is revealed in that one of the terrible passion of love
and of the dark and sinuous ways of political and personal craft. When
_The Bride of Lammermoor_ was first published no mention was made in it
of the true story upon which remotely it had been based; but by the time
Scott came to write the preface of 1829 other writers had been less
reticent, and some account of the Dalrymple tragedy had got into print,
so that no reason existed for further silence on that subject.

Sir Robert H.D. Elphinstone, writing in 1829, gave the tradition as
follows: "When, after the noise and violent screaming in the bridal
chamber comparative stillness succeeded and the door was forced, the
window was found open, and it was supposed by many that the lover, Lord
Rutherford, had, by the connivance of some of the servants, found means,
during the bustle of the marriage feast, to secrete himself within the
apartment, and that soon after the entry of the married pair, or at
least as soon as the parents and others retreated and the door was made
fast, he had come out from his concealment, attacked and desperately
wounded the bridegroom, and then made his escape, by the window, through
the garden. As the unfortunate bride never spoke after having uttered
the words mentioned by Sir Walter, no light could be thrown on the
matter by them. But it was thought that Dunbar's obstinate silence on
the subject favoured the supposition of the chastisement having been
inflicted by his rival. It is but fair to give the unhappy victim (who
was, by all accounts, a most gentle and feminine creature) the benefit
of an explanation on a doubtful point."

Merivale, in dealing with this story, gave a conspicuous illustration
of the essential dramatic faculty. The first act is the adroit expansion
of a few paragraphs, in the second chapter of the novel, which are
descriptive of the bleak, misty November morning when Alan Ravenswood
was borne to the grave; but by the introduction of the Lord Keeper and
of the village crones into that funeral scene he opened the whole
subject, indicated all the essential antecedents of the story, and
placed his characters in a posture of lively action. That the tone is
sombre must be conceded, and people who think that the chief end of man
is to grin might condemn the piece for that reason; but _Ravenswood_ is
a tragedy and not a farce, and persons who wish that their feelings may
not be affected should avoid tragedies.

In the second act Ravenswood seeks Ashton at Ravenswood manor, intending
to kill him in a duel, but his hand is stayed when he catches sight of
Lucy Ashton's portrait. The incident of Edgar's rescue of Lucy is used
in this scene. In a later scene Sir William Ashton and his daughter take
refuge in Wolf's Crag, and the bewitchment of Ravenswood is
accomplished. The quarrel between Edgar and Bucklaw is then given, as a
basis for the ensuing rivalry and deadly conflict between them. In the
third act there is a beautiful love-scene between Edgar and Lucy, the
dialogue being especially felicitous in tenderness and grace and fraught
with that reverential quality, that condition of commingled ecstasy and
nobleness, which is always characteristic of the experience of this
passion in pure natures. Lady Ashton's interruption of their happiness
and the subsequent parting have a vigorous dramatic effect. The
character of Lucy has been much strengthened, so that it differs from
that of the original precisely as Desdemona differs from Ophelia; and
the change is an improvement. The fourth act opens with "a song of
choristers heard outside." The letters of Lucy and Edgar have been
intercepted. The lady has been told that her lover is false. The suit of
Bucklaw has been urged. The authority of the stern mother has prevailed
over her daughter's will. It is the old story. "The absent are always
wrong"--and Ravenswood is absent. Lucy Ashton yields to her fate. The
marriage contract between Lucy and Bucklaw has just been signed when
Ravenswood bursts into the group. From that point the action is
animated equally with celerity and passion. The misery of Ravenswood
utters itself in a swift stream of burning words. The grief of Lucy ends
tragically in a broken heart and sudden death. The fight between Bucklaw
and Ravenswood clashes for a moment but is abruptly finished on the
moonlit sands, and Edgar is seen to leap down from a rock and rush away
toward the manor, where, as his dying foe has told him, the faithful and
innocent Lucy lies dead. He disappears and comes no more; but his old
servant takes up from the beach a single black plume--the feather of a
raven--which the tide has washed ashore, and which is the last relic and
emblem of the vanished master of Ravenswood.

The tragedy is kindred, as to its spirit, with _Romeo and Juliet_, and
like that representative poem of love and death it is intensely
passionate, sombre, and lamentable. The first and second acts of it pass
in almost unrelieved shadow. It begins with a funeral; it incorporates
the ingredients of misery, madness, and death; it culminates in a fatal
duel; and it ends in a picture of mortal desolation, qualified only by a
mute suggestion of spiritual happiness conveyed by the pictorial emblem
of the promise of immortality. It is a poetical tragedy, conceived in
the spirit and written in the manner of the old masters of the poetic
art. The treatment of Scott's novel is marked by scrupulous fidelity,
not indeed to every detail of that noble book, but to its essential
quality and tone. The structure of the play reproduces in action
substantially the structure of the original story. The scene in which
Edgar and Lucy avow their love and pledge themselves to each other is
written with exquisite grace and profound tenderness. The picture
presented upon the stage when the lovers are parted was one of
astonishing animation. The scene of the interrupted wedding and of Lucy
Ashton's agony, distraction, and death was one of intense power and
dramatic effect. The duel of Ravenswood and Bucklaw upon the desolate,
moon-lit sands was invested with the excitement of suspense and with
weird horror. And the final exposition of dramatic contrast,--when upon
the wide, bleak beach, with the waste of vacant sea beyond and the
eastern heaven lit with the first splendour of sunrise, the old man
stooped to take up the raven's feather, the last relic of
Ravenswood--was so entirely beautiful that the best of words can but
poorly indicate its loveliness. For an audience able to look seriously
at a serious subject, and not impatient of the foreground of gloom in
which, necessarily, the story is enveloped at its beginning, this was a
perfect work. The student of drama must go back many years to find a
parallel to it, in interest of subject, in balance, in symmetry, and in
sympathetic interpretation of character.

There is a quality of Hamlet in the character of Ravenswood. He is by
nature a man of a sad mind, and under the pressure of afflicting
circumstances his sadness has become embittered. He takes life
thoughtfully and with passionate earnestness. He is a noble person,
finely sensitive and absolutely sincere, full of kindness at heart, but
touched with gloom; and his aspect and demeanour are those of pride,
trouble, self-conflict--of an individuality isolated and constrained by
dark thoughts and painful experience. That is the mood in which Henry
Irving conceived and portrayed him. You saw a picturesque figure, dark,
strange, romantic--the gravity engendered by thought and sorrow not yet
marring the bronzed face and the elastic movement of youth--and this
personality, in itself fascinating, was made all the more pictorial by
an investiture of romance, alike in the scenery and the incidents
through which it moved. Around such a figure funereal banners well might
wave, and under dark and lowering skies the chill wind of the sea might
moan through monastic ruins and crumbling battlements. Edgar of
Ravenswood, standing by his lonely hearth, beneath the groined arches of
his seaside tower, revealed by the flickering firelight, looked the
ideal of romantic manhood; the incarnation of poetic fancy and of
predestinate disaster. Above the story of _Ravenswood_ there is steadily
and continuously impending, and ever growing darker and coming nearer,
the vague menace of terrible calamity. This element of mystery and dread
was wrought into the structural fibre of Henry Irving's performance of
the part, and consistently coloured it. The face of Edgar was made to
wear that haunted look which,--as in the countenance of Charles the
First, in Vandyke's portraits,--may be supposed, and often has been
supposed, to foreshadow a violent and dreadful death. His sudden tremor,
when at the first kiss of Lucy Ashton the thunder is heard to break
above his ruined home, was a fine denotement of that subtle quality; and
even through the happiness of the betrothal scene there was a hint of
this black presentiment--just as sometimes on a day of perfect sunshine
there is a chill in the wind that tells of approaching storm. All this
is warranted by the prophetic rhymes which are several times spoken,
beginning--"When the last lord of Ravenswood to Ravenswood shall ride."
A crone, Ailsie Gourlay by name, embodied with grim and grisly vigour by
Alice Marriott,--whose ample voice and exact elocution, together with
her formidable stature and her faculty of identification with the
character that she assumes and with the spirit of the story, made her of
great value to this play--hovered around Ravenswood, and aided to keep
this presage of evil doom fitfully present in the consciousness of its
victim. Henry Irving gave to the part its perfectly distinct
individuality, and in that respect made as fine a showing as he has ever
made of his authority as an actor. There was never the least doubt as to
what Ravenswood is and what he means. The peculiar elocution of Henry
Irving, when he is under the influence of great excitement, is not
effective upon all persons; but those who like it consider it far more
touching than a more level, more sonorous, and more accurate delivery.
He wrought a great effect in the scene of the marriage-contract. Indeed,
so powerful, sincere, and true was the acting upon all sides, at this
point, that not until the curtain began to descend was it remembered
that we were looking upon a fiction and not upon a fact. This points to
the peculiar power that Henry Irving and Ellen Terry conspicuously
possess--of creating and maintaining a perfect illusion.

During the earlier scenes the character of Lucy Ashton is chiefly marked
by the qualities of sweetness and of glee. No one acquainted with the
acting of Ellen Terry would need to be told how well and with what
charming grace those qualities were expressed by her. In the scene of
the wooing, at the Mermaiden's Well, Lucy Ashton was not a cold woman
trying to make herself loved,--which is what most actresses habitually
proffer upon the stage,--but a loving woman, radiant with the
consciousness of the love that she feels and has inspired. Nothing could
be imagined more delicate, more delicious, more enchanting than the
high-bred distinction and soft womanlike tone of that performance. The
character, at the climax of this scene, is made to manifest decision,
firmness, and force; and the superb manner in which she set the
maternal authority at naught and stood by her lover might seem to denote
a nature that no tyranny could subdue. Subdued, however, she is, and
forced to believe ill of her absent lover, and so the fatal marriage
contract is signed and the crash follows. When Ellen Terry came on for
that scene the glee had all vanished; the face was as white as the
garments that enswathed her; and you saw a creature whom the hand of
death had visibly touched. The stage has not at any time heard from any
lips but her own such tones of pathos as those in which she said the
simple words:--

    "May God forgive you, then, and pity me--
    If God can pity more than mothers do."

It is not a long scene, and happily not,--for the strain upon the
emotion of the actress was intense. The momentary wild merriment, the
agony of the breaking heart, the sudden delirium and collapse, were not
for an instant exaggerated. All was nature--or rather the simplicity,
fidelity, and grace of art that make the effect of nature.

Beautiful scenery, painted by Craven, framed the piece with appropriate
magnificence. The several seaside pictures were admirably
representative of the grandeur, the gaunt loneliness, and the glorious
colour for which Scotland is so much loved.

The public gain in that production was a revival of interest in one of
the most famous novels in the language; the possession of a scenical
pageant that filled the eye with beauty and strongly moved the
imagination; a play that is successful in the domain of romantic poetry;
a touching exemplification of the great art of acting; and once again
the presentment of that vast subject,--the relation of heart to heart,
under the dominion of love, in human society,--that more absorbs the
attention, affects the character, and controls the destiny of the human
race than anything else that is beneath the sun.



XVI.

THE MERRY WIVES AND FALSTAFF.


Shakespeare wrote _The Merry Wives of Windsor_ in 1601, and during the
Christmas holidays of that year it was presented upon the stage, before
Queen Elizabeth and her court, at Windsor Castle. In 1602 it was
published in London in quarto form, and in 1619 a reprint of that quarto
was published there. The version that appears in the two quartos is
considered by Shakespeare scholars to be spurious. The authentic text,
no doubt, is that of the comedy as it stands in the first folio (1623).
Shakespeare had written _Henry IV._--both parts of it--and also _Henry
V._, when this comedy was acted, and therefore he had completed his
portrait of Falstaff, whose life is displayed in the former piece and
whose death is described in the latter. _Henry IV._ was first printed in
1598 (we know not when it was first acted), and it passed through five
quarto editions prior to the publication of it in the folio of 1623. In
the epilogue to the second part of that play a promise is made that the
story shall be continued, "with Sir John in it," but it is gravely
doubted whether that epilogue was written by Shakespeare. The
continuation of the story occurs in _Henry V._, in which Falstaff does
not figure, although he is mentioned in it. Various efforts have been
made to show a continuity between the several plays in which Falstaff is
implicated, but the attempt always fails. The histories contain the real
Falstaff. The Falstaff of the comedy is another and less important man.
If there really were a sequence of story and of time in the portraiture
of this character plays would stand in the following order: 1, _Henry
IV., Part First_; 2, _The Merry Wives of Windsor_; 3, _Henry IV., Part
Second_; 4, _Henry V._ As no such sequence exists, or apparently was
intended, the comedy should be viewed by itself. Its texture is
radically different from that of the histories. One of the best
Shakespeare editors, Charles Knight, ventures the conjecture that _The
Merry Wives of Windsor_ was written first. Shakespeare invented the
chief part of the plot, taking, however, a few things from Tarlton's
_Newes out of Purgatorie_, which in turn was founded on a story called
The _Lovers of Pisa_. It is possible also that he may have derived
suggestions from a German play by Duke Henry Julius of Brunswick--a
contemporary, who died in 1611--to which _The Merry Wives of Windsor_
bears some resemblance, and of which he may have received an account
from English actors who had visited Germany, as the actors of his time
occasionally did.

Tradition declares that he wrote this comedy at the command of Queen
Elizabeth, who had expressed a wish to see Falstaff in love. This was
first stated by John Dennis, in the preface to an alteration of _The
Merry Wives of Windsor_ which was made by him, under the name of _The
Comical Gallant, or the Amours of Sir John Falstaff_, and was
successfully acted at Drury Lane theatre. That piece, which is paltry
and superfluous, appeared in 1702. No authority was given by Dennis for
his statement about Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare's play. The
tradition rests exclusively on his word. Rowe, Pope, Theobald, and other
Shakespeare editors, have transmitted it to the present day, but it
rests on nothing but supposition and it is dubious. Those scholars who
accept the story of Dennis, and believe that Shakespeare wrote the piece
"to order" and within a few days, usually fortify their belief by the
allegation that the comedy falls short of Shakespeare's poetical
standard, being written mostly in prose; that it degrades his great
creation of Falstaff; that it is, for him, a trivial production; and
that it must have been written in haste and without spontaneous impulse.
If judgment were to be given on the quarto version of _The Merry Wives_,
that reasoning would commend itself as at least plausible; but it is
foolish as applied to the version in the folio, where the piece is found
to be remarkable for nimbleness of invention, strength and variety of
natural character, affluent prodigality of animal spirits, delicious
quaintness, exhilarating merriment, a lovely pastoral tone, and many
touches of the transcendent poetry of Shakespeare. Dennis probably
repeated a piece of idle gossip that he had heard, the same sort of
chatter that in the present day constantly follows the doings of
theatrical people,--and is not accurate more than once in a thousand
times. _The Merry Wives of Windsor_ is a brilliant and delightful
comedy, quite worthy of its great author (though not in his most
exalted mood), who probably wrote it because his mind was naturally
impelled to write it, and no doubt laboured over it exactly as he did
over his other writings: for we know, upon the testimony of Ben Jonson,
who personally knew him and was acquainted with his custom as a writer,
that he was not content with the first draught of anything, but wrote it
a second time, and a third time, before he became satisfied with it. Dr.
Johnson, who had studied Shakespeare as carefully as any man ever
studied him, speaking of _The Merry Wives of Windsor_, says that "its
general power--that power by which all works of genius should finally be
tried--is such that perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator who did
not think it too soon at an end." A comedy that deserves such praise as
this--which assuredly is not misplaced--need not be dismissed as a
pot-boiler.

Knight's conjecture that _The Merry Wives_ was written before the
histories were written is a plausible conjecture, and perhaps worthy of
some consideration. It is not easy to believe that Shakespeare, after he
had created Falstaff and thoroughly drawn him, was capable of lessening
the character and making it almost despicable with paltriness--as
certainly it becomes in _The Merry Wives_. That is not the natural way
of an artistic mind. But it is easier to credit the idea that the
Falstaff of _The Merry Wives_ was the first study of the character,
although not first shown, which subsequently expanded into the
magnificent humorous creation of the histories. Falstaff in the comedy
is a fat man with absurd amorous propensities, who is befooled,
victimised, and made a laughing-stock by a couple of frolicsome women,
who are so much amused by his preposterous folly that they scarcely
bestow the serious consideration of contempt and scorn upon his
sensuality and insolence. No creature was ever set in a more ludicrous
light or made more contemptible,--in a kindly, good-humoured way. The
hysterical note of offended virtue is never sounded, nor is anywhere
seen the averted face of shocked propriety. The two wives are bent on a
frolic, and they will merrily punish this presumptuous sensualist--this
silly, conceited, gross fellow, "old, cold, withered, and of intolerable
entrails." If we knew no more of Falstaff than the comedy tells us of
him we should by no means treasure him as we do now; but it is through
the histories that we learn to know and appreciate him, and it is of the
man portrayed there that we always unconsciously think when, in his
humiliating discomfiture, we hear him declare that "wit may be made a
Jack-a-lent when 'tis upon ill employment." For the Falstaff of the
histories is a man of intellect, wisdom, and humour, thoroughly
experienced in the ways of the world, fascinating in his drollery,
human, companionable, infinitely amusing, and capable of turning all
life to the favour of enjoyment and laughter--a man who is passionate in
the sentiment of comradeship, and who, with all his faults (and perhaps
because of some of them, for faultless persons are too good for this
world), inspires affection. "Would I were with him," cries the wretched
Bardolph, "wheresome'er he is, either in heaven or in hell." It is not
Bardolph only whose heart has a warm corner for the memory of the poor
old jovial sinner, wounded to death by the falling off of
friendship--the implacable hardness of new-born virtue in the
regenerated royal mind.

A comprehensive view of Falstaff--a view that includes the afflicting
circumstances of his humiliation and of his forlorn and pathetic death
not less than the roistering frolics and jocund mendacity of his life
and character--is essential to a right appreciation of the meaning of
him. Shakespeare is never a prosy moralist, but he constantly teaches
you, if you have eyes to see and ears to hear, that the moral law of the
universe, working continually for goodness and not for evil, operates in
an inexorable manner. Yet it is not of any moral consideration that the
spectator of Falstaff upon the stage ever pauses to think. It is the
humour of the fat knight that is perceived, and that alone. The
thoughtful friends of Falstaff, however, see more in him than this, and
especially they like not to think of him in a deplorable predicament.
The Falstaff of _The Merry Wives_ is a man to laugh at; but he is not a
man to inspire the comrade feeling, and still less is he a man to
impress the intellect with the sense of a stalwart character and of
illimitable jocund humour. Falstaff's friends--whose hearts are full of
kindness for the old reprobate--have sat with him "in my Dolphin
chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire," and "have heard the
chimes at midnight" in his society, and they know what a jovial
companion he is--how abundant in knowledge of the world; how radiant
with animal spirits; how completely inexhaustible in cheerfulness; how
copious in comic invective; how incessantly nimble and ludicrous in wit
and in waggery; how strange a compound of mind and sensuality,
shrewdness and folly, fidelity and roguery, brazen mendacity, and comic
selfishness! They do not like to think of him as merely a fat old fool,
bamboozled by a pair of sprightly, not over-delicate women, far inferior
to him in mental calibre, and made a laughing-stock for Fenton and sweet
Anne Page, and the lads and lassies of Windsor, and the chattering Welsh
parson. "Have I lived," cried Falstaff, in the moment of his
discomfiture, "to stand at the taunt of one that makes fritters of
English?" He is a hard case, an inveterate sinner, as worthless as any
man well could be, in the eyes of decorum and respectability; but those
who know him well grow to be fond of him, even if they feel that they
ought to be ashamed of it, and they do not quite forgive the poet for
making him contemptible.

You can find many other figures that will make you laugh, but you can
find no other figure that makes you laugh with such good reason. It
seems incredible that Shakespeare, with his all-embracing mind and his
perfect instinct of art, should deliberately have chosen to lessen his
own masterpiece of humour. For Shakespeare rejoiced in Falstaff, even
while he respected and recorded the inexorable justice of the moral law
that decrees and eventually accomplishes his destruction. There is no
one of his characters whose history he has traced with such minute
elaboration. The conception is singularly ample. You may see Falstaff,
as Shallow saw him, when he was a boy and page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke
of Norfolk; you may see him all along the current of his mature years;
his highway robberies on Gadshill; his bragging narrative to Prince
Henry; his frolicsome, paternal, self-defensive lecture to the prince;
his serio-comic association with the ragamuffin recruits at Coventry;
his adroit escape from the sword of Hotspur; his mendacious
self-glorification over the body of Harry Percy; his mishaps as a
suitor to Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page; his wonderfully humorous interviews
with the Chief-Justice and with Prince John of Lancaster; his junketings
with Justice Shallow in Gloucestershire, and his rebuff and
consternation at his first and last meeting with King Henry V.; and
finally you may see him, as Mrs. Quickly saw him, on his death-bed, when
"'a cried out God! God! God! three or four times," and when "his nose
was as sharp as a pen, and 'a babbled o' green fields."

A good and faithful study of _King Henry IV._, and especially of the
second part of that play, is essential for a right appreciation of
Falstaff. Those scenes with the Chief-Justice are unmatched in
literature. The knight stands royally forth in them, clothed with his
entire panoply of agile intellect, robust humour, and boundless comic
effrontery. But the arrogant and expeditious Falstaff of _The Merry
Wives_--so richly freighted with rubicund sensuality, so abundant in
comic loquacity, and so ludicrous in his sorry plights--is a much less
complex person, and therefore he stands more level than the real
Falstaff does with the average comprehension of mankind. The American
stage, accordingly, by which more than by the printed book he has
become known to our people, has usually given its preference to the
Falstaff of the comedy. _The Merry Wives_ was first acted in New York on
October 5, 1788 at the John Street theatre, with Harper as Falstaff. On
April 1, 1807 it was produced at the old Park, and the Falstaff then was
John E. Harwood. The same stage offered it again on January 16, 1829,
with Hilson as Falstaff. A little later, about 1832, James H. Hackett
took up the character of Falstaff, and from that time onward
performances of _The Merry Wives_ occurred more frequently in different
cities of America. Nor was the historical play neglected. On August 7,
1848 a remarkably fine production of the comedy was accomplished at the
Astor Place Operahouse, New York, with Hackett as Falstaff, who never in
his time was equalled in that character, and has not been equalled
since. Another Falstaff, however, and a remarkably good one, appeared at
Burton's theatre on August 24, 1850, in the person of Charles Bass. On
March 14, 1853 _The Merry Wives_ was again given at Burton's theatre,
and Burton himself played Falstaff, with characteristic humour; but
Burton never acted the part as it stands in _Henry IV._ Hackett, who
used both the history (Part I.) and the comedy, continued to act
Falstaff almost to the end of his life and Hackett did not die till
1871. A distinguished representative of Falstaff in the early days of
the American theatre--the days of the renowned Chestnut in
Philadelphia--was William Warren (1767-1832), who came from England in
1796. In recent years the part has been acted by Benedict De Bar and by
John Jack. The latest Falstaff in America was that embodied by Charles
Fisher, who first assumed the character on November 19, 1872, at Daly's
theatre, and whose performance was picturesque and humorous.

On the English stage the historical play of _Henry IV._ was exceedingly
popular in Shakespeare's time. The first Falstaff, according to Malone,
whom everybody has followed as to this point, was John Heminge
(1555-1630). After him came John Lowin (1572-1654), who is thought to
have acted the part in the presence of Charles I. His successor seems to
have been Lacy, who died in 1681. Next came Cartwright, and in 1699 or
1700 the great Betterton (1635-1710) assumed the fat knight, acting him
in both parts of the history and in the comedy. Genest records
twenty-two revivals of the first part of _Henry IV._ upon the London
stage, at five different theatres, between 1667 and 1826; fifteen
revivals of the second part between 1720 and 1821; and sixteen revivals
of _The Merry Wives of Windsor_ between 1667 and 1811. Many English
actors have played Falstaff since Betterton's time, an incomplete though
sufficiently ample list of them comprising Estcourt, 1704; F. Bullock,
1713; J. Evans and J. Hall, 1715; Mills, 1716; Quin, "dignity and
declamation," 1738; Berry, 1747; Love (whose true name was James Dance),
1762; Shuter, 1774; John Henderson, one of the greatest actors that ever
lived, 1774; Mrs. Webb (once only), 1776; Ryder, 1786; Palmer, 1788;
King, 1792; Fawcett, 1795; Stephen Kemble, who was so fat that he could
play it without stuffing or bladder, 1802; Blissett, 1803; George
Frederick Cooke, 1804; Bartley, 1812; Charles Kemble, 1824; Dowton,
1824; Elliston, 1826; and Samuel Phelps, 1846. The latest representative
of Falstaff in England was H. Beerbohm-Tree, who, although a man of
slender figure, contrived to simulate corpulence, and who manifested in
his acting a fine instinct as to the meaning of the character and
considerable resources of art in its expression, although the
predominant individuality and the copious luxuriance of Falstaff's rosy
and juicy humour were not within his reach. Upon the American stage the
part is practically disused; and this is a pity, seeing that a source of
great enjoyment and one of the most suggestive and fruitful topics that
exist in association with the study of human nature are thus in a great
degree sequestered from the public mind. Still it is better to have no
Falstaff on the stage than to have it encumbered with a bad one; and
certainly for the peculiar and exacting play of _Henry IV._ there are
now no actors left: at least they are not visible in America.



XVII.

ADA REHAN.


In browsing over the fragrant evergreen pages of Cibber's delightful
book about the stage, and especially in reflecting upon the beautiful
and brilliant women who, drawn by his magic pencil, dwell there,
perpetual, in life, colour, and charm, the reflective reader may perhaps
be prompted to remember that the royal line of stage beauties is not
extinct, and that stage heroines exist in the present day who are quite
as well worthy of commemoration as any that graced the period of Charles
the Second or of good Queen Anne. Our age, indeed, has no Cibber to
describe their loveliness and celebrate their achievements; but surely
if he were living at this hour that courtly, characteristic, and
sensuous writer--who saw so clearly and could portray so well the
peculiarities of the feminine nature--would not deem the period of Ellen
Terry and Marie Wilton, of Ada Rehan and Sarah Bernhardt and Genevieve
Ward, of Clara Morris and Jane Hading, unworthy of his pen. As often as
fancy ranges over those bright names and others that are kindred with
them--a glittering sisterhood of charms and talents--the regret must
arise that no literary artist with just the gallant spirit, the
chivalry, the sensuous appreciation, the fine insight, and the pictorial
touch of old Cibber is extant to perpetuate their glory. The hand that
sketched Elizabeth Barry so as to make her live forever in a few brief
lines, the hand that drew the fascinating and memorable portrait of
Susanna Mountfort ("Down goes her dainty diving body to the ground, as
if she were sinking under the conscious load of her own
attractions")--what might it not have done to preserve for the knowledge
of future generations the queens of the theatre who are crowned and
regnant to-day! Cibber could have caught and reflected the elusive charm
of such an actress as Ada Rehan. No touch less adroit and felicitous
than his can accomplish more than the suggestion of her peculiar
allurement, her originality, and her fascinating because sympathetic and
piquant mental and physical characteristics.

Ada Rehan, born at Limerick, Ireland, on April 22, 1860, was brought to
America when five years old, and at that time she lived and went to
school in Brooklyn. No one of her progenitors was ever upon the stage,
nor does it appear that she was predisposed to that vocation by early
reading or training. Her elder sisters had adopted that pursuit, and
perhaps she was impelled toward it by the force of example and domestic
association, readily affecting her innate latent faculty for the
dramatic art. Her first appearance on the stage was made at Newark, New
Jersey, in 1873, in a play entitled _Across the Continent_, in which she
acted a small part, named Clara, for one night only, to fill the place
of a performer who had been suddenly disabled by illness. Her readiness
and her positive talent were clearly revealed in that effort, and it was
thereupon determined in a family council that she should proceed; so she
was soon regularly embarked upon the life of an actress. Her first
appearance on the New York stage was made a little later, in 1873, at
Wood's museum (it became Daly's theatre in 1879), when she played a
small part in a piece called _Thorough-bred_. During the seasons of
1873-74-75 she was associated with the Arch Street theatre,
Philadelphia,--that being her first regular professional engagement.
(John Drew, with whom, professionally, Ada Rehan has been long
associated, made his first appearance in the same season, at the same
house.) She then went to Macaulay's theatre, Louisville, where she acted
for one season. From Louisville she went to Albany, as a member of John
W. Albaugh's company, and with that manager she remained two seasons,
acting sometimes in Albany and sometimes in Baltimore. After that she
was for a few months with Fanny Davenport. The earlier part of her
career involved professional endeavours in company with the wandering
stars, and she acted in a variety of plays with Edwin Booth, Adelaide
Neilson, John McCullough, Mrs. Bowers, Lawrence Barrett, John Brougham,
Edwin Adams, Mrs. Lander, and John T. Raymond. From the first she was
devotedly fond of Shakespeare, and all the Shakespearian characters
allotted to her were studied and acted by her with eager interest and
sympathy. While thus employed in the provincial stock she enacted
Ophelia, Cordelia, Desdemona, Celia, Olivia, and Lady Anne, and in each
of those parts she was conspicuously good. The attention of Augustin
Daly was first attracted to her in December 1877, when she was acting at
Albaugh's theatre in Albany, the play being _Katharine and Petruchio_
(Garrick's version of the _Taming of the Shrew_), and Ada Rehan
appearing as Bianca; and subsequently Daly again observed her as an
actress of auspicious distinction and marked promise at the Grand Opera
House, New York, in April 1879. Fanny Davenport was then acting in that
theatre in Daly's strong American play of _Pique_--one of the few dramas
of American origin that aptly reflect the character of American domestic
life--and Ada Rehan appeared in the part of Mary Standish. She was
immediately engaged under Daly's management, and in May 1879 she came
forth at the Olympic theatre, New York, as Big Clemence in that author's
version of _L'Assommoir_. On September 17, 1879, Daly's theatre (which
had been suspended for about two years) was opened upon its present
site, the southwest corner of Thirtieth Street and Broadway, and Ada
Rehan made her first appearance there, enacting the part of Nelly Beers
in a play called _Love's Young Dream_. The opening bill on that
occasion comprised that piece, together with a comedy by Olive Logan,
entitled _Newport_. On September 30 a revival of _Divorce_, one of
Daly's most fortunate plays, was effected, and Ada Rehan impersonated
Miss Lu Ten Eyck--a part originally acted (1873) by Fanny Davenport.
From that time to this (1892) Ada Rehan has remained the leading lady at
Daly's theatre; and there she has become one of the most admired figures
upon the contemporary stage. In five professional visits to Europe,
acting in London, Paris, Edinburgh, Dublin, Berlin, and other cities,
she pleased judicious audiences and augmented her renown. Daly took his
company of comedians to London for the first time in 1884, where they
fulfilled an engagement of six weeks at Toole's theatre, beginning July
19. The second visit to London was made two seasons later, when they
acted for nine weeks at the Strand theatre, beginning May 27, 1886. At
that time they also played in the English provinces, and they visited
Germany--acting at Hamburg and at Berlin, where they were much liked and
commended. They likewise made a trip to Paris. Their third season abroad
began at the Lyceum theatre, London, May 3, 1888, and it included
another expedition to the French capital, which was well rewarded. Ada
Rehan at that time impersonated Shakespeare's Shrew. It was in that
season also that she appeared at Stratford-upon-Avon, where Daly gave a
performance (August 3, 1888) in the Shakespeare Memorial theatre, for
the benefit of that institution. The fourth season of Daly's comedians
in London began on June 10, 1890, at the Lyceum theatre, and lasted ten
weeks; and this was signalised by Ada Rehan's impersonation of Rosalind.
The fifth London season extended from September 9 to November 13, 1891.

This is an outline of her professional story; but how little of the real
life of an actor can be imparted in a record of the surface facts of a
public career! Most expressive, as a comment upon the inadequacy of
biographical details, is the exclamation of Dumas, about Aimée Desclée:
"Une femme comme celle-là n'a pas de biographie! Elle nous a émus, et
elle en est morte. Voilà toute son historie!" Ada Rehan, while she has
often and deeply moved the audience of her riper time, is happily very
far from having died of it. There is deep feeling beneath the luminous
and sparkling surface of her art; but it is chiefly with mirth that she
has touched the public heart and affected the public experience. Equally
of her, however, as of her pathetic sister artist of the French stage,
it may be said that such a woman has no history. In a civilisation and
at a period wherein persons are customarily accepted for what they
pretend to be, instead of being seen and understood for what they are,
she has been content to take an unpretentious course, to be original and
simple, and thus to allow her faculties to ripen and her character to
develop in their natural manner. She has not assumed the position of a
star, and perhaps the American community, although favourable and
friendly toward her, may have been somewhat slow to understand her
unique personality and her superlative worth. The moment a thoughtful
observer's attention is called to the fact, however, he perceives how
large a place Ada Rehan fills in the public mind, how conspicuous a
figure she is upon the contemporary stage, and how difficult it is to
explain and classify her whether as an artist or a woman. That blending
of complexity with transparency always imparts to individual life a
tinge of piquant interest, because it is one denotement of the
temperament of genius.

The poets of the world pour themselves through all subjects by the use
of their own words. In what manner they are affected by the forces of
nature--its influences of gentleness and peace or its vast pageants of
beauty and terror--those words denote; and also those words indicate the
action, upon their responsive spirits, of the passions that agitate the
human heart. The actors, on the other hand, assuming to be the
interpreters of the poets, must pour themselves through all subjects by
the use of their own personality. They are to be estimated accordingly
by whatever the competent observer is able to perceive of the nature and
the faculties they reveal under the stress of emotion, whether tragic or
comic. Perhaps it is not possible--mind being limited in its
function--for any person to form a full, true, and definite summary of
another human creature. To view a dramatic performance with a
consciousness of the necessity of forming a judicial opinion of it is
often to see one's own thought about it rather than the thing itself.
Yet, when all allowance is made for difficulty of theme and for
infirmity of judgment, the observer of Ada Rehan may surely conclude
that she has a rich, tender, and sparkling nature, in which the
dream-like quality of sentiment and the discursive faculty of
imagination, intimately blended with deep, broad, and accurate
perceptions of the actual, and with a fund of keen and sagacious sense,
are reinforced with strong individuality and with affluent and
extraordinary vital force. Ada Rehan has followed no traditions. She
went to the stage not because of vanity but because of spontaneous
impulse; and for the expression of every part that she has played she
has gone to nature and not to precept and precedent. The stamp of her
personality is upon everything that she has done; yet the thinker who
looks back upon her numerous and various impersonations is astonished at
their diversity. The romance, the misery, and the fortitude of Kate
Verity, the impetuous passion of Katharine, the brilliant raillery of
Hippolyta, the enchanting womanhood of Rosalind--how clear-cut, how
distinct, how absolutely dramatic was each one of those
personifications! and yet how completely characteristic each one was of
this individual actress! Our works of art may be subject to the
application of our knowledge and skill, but we ourselves are under the
dominance of laws which operate out of the inaccessible and indefinable
depths of the spirit. Alongside of most players of this period Ada Rehan
is a prodigy of original force. Her influence, accordingly, has been
felt more than it has been understood, and, being elusive and strange,
has prompted wide differences of opinion. The sense that she diffuses of
a simple, unselfish, patient nature, and of impulsive tenderness of
heart, however, cannot have been missed by anybody with eyes to see. And
she crowns all by speaking the English language with a beauty that has
seldom been equalled.



XVIII.

TENNYSON'S COMEDY OF THE FORESTERS.


"Besides, the King's name is a tower of strength." Thousands of people
all over the world honour, and ought to honour, every word that falls
from the pen of Alfred Tennyson. He is a very great man. No poet since
the best time of Byron has written the English language so well--that is
to say, with such affluent splendour of imagination; such passionate
vigour; such nobility of thought; such tenderness of pathos; such
pervasive grace, and so much of that distinctive variety, flexibility,
and copious and felicitous amplitude which are the characteristics of an
original style. No poet of the last fifty years has done so much to
stimulate endurance in the human soul and to clarify spiritual vision in
the human mind. It does not signify that now, at more than fourscore,
his hand sometimes trembles a little on the harp-strings, and his touch
falters, and his music dies away. It is still the same harp and the
same hand. This fanciful, kindly, visionary, drifting, and altogether
romantic comedy of _Robin Hood_ is not to be tried by the standard that
is author reared when he wrote _Ulysses_ and _Tithonus_ and _The Passing
of Arthur_--that imperial, unapproachable standard that no other poet
has satisfied.

    "Cold upon the dead volcano sleeps the gleam of dying day."

But though the passion be subdued and the splendour faded, the deep
current of feeling flows on and the strong and tender voice can still
touch the heart and charm the ear. That tide of emotion and that tone of
melody blend in this play and make it beautiful. The passion is no
longer that of _Enone_ and _Lucretius_ and _Guinevere_ and _Locksley
Hall_ and _Maud_ and _The Vision of Sin_. The thought is no longer that
of _In Memoriam_, with its solemn majesty and infinite pathos. The music
is no longer that of _The May Queen_ and the _Talking Oak_ and _Idle
Tears_. But why should these be expected? He who struck those notes
strikes now another; and as we listen our wonder grows, and cannot help
but grow, that a bard of fourscore and upward should write in such
absolute sympathy with youth, love, hope, happiness, and all that is
free and wandering and martial and active in the vicissitudes of
adventure, the exploits of chivalry, and the vagabondish spirit of gypsy
frolic. The fact that he does write in that mood points to the one
illuminative truth now essential to be remembered. The voice to which we
are privileged to listen, perhaps for the last time, is the voice of a
great poet--by which is meant a poet who is able, not through the medium
of intellect but through the medium of emotion, to make the total
experience of mankind his own experience, and to express it not only in
the form of art but with the fire of nature. The element of power, in
all the expressions of such a mind, will fluctuate; but every one of its
expressions will be sincere and in a greater or less degree will be
vital with a universal and permanent significance. That virtue is in
Alfred Tennyson's comedy of _Robin Hood_, and that virtue will insure
for it an abiding endurance in affectionate public esteem.

The realm into which this play allures its auditor is the realm of
_Ivanhoe_--the far-off, romantic region of Sherwood forest, in the
ancient days of stout king Richard the First. The poet has gone to the
old legends of Robin Hood and to the ballads that have been made upon
them, and out of those materials--using them freely, according to his
fancy--he has chosen his scene and his characters and has made his
story. It is not the England of the mine and the workshop that he
represents, and neither is it the England of the trim villa and the
formal landscape; it is the England of the feudal times--of gray castle
towers, and armoured knights, and fat priests, and wandering minstrels,
and crusades and tournaments; England in rush-strewn bowers and under
green boughs; the England in which Wamba jested and Blondel sung. To
enter into that realm is to leave the barren world of prose; to feel
again the cool, sweet winds of summer upon the brow of youth; to catch,
in fitful glimpses, the shimmer of the Lincoln green in the sunlit,
golden glades of the forest, and to hear the merry note of the huntsman
commingled, far away, with "horns of Elfland faintly blowing." The
appeal is made to the primitive, elemental, poetical instinct of
mankind; and no detail of realism is obtruded, no question of
probability considered, no agony of the sin-tortured spirit subjected to
analysis, no controversy promoted and no moral lesson enforced. For once
the public is favoured with a serious poetical play, which aims simply
to diffuse happiness by arousing sympathy with pleasurable scenes and
picturesque persons, with virtue that is piquant and humour that is
refined, with the cheerful fortitude that takes adversity with a smile,
and with that final fortunate triumph of good over evil which is neither
ensanguined with gore nor saddened with tears, nor made acrid with
bitterness. The play is pastoral comedy, written partly in blank verse
and partly in prose, and cast almost wholly out of doors--in the open
air and under the greenwood tree--and, in order to stamp its character
beyond doubt or question, one scene of it is frankly devoted to a
convocation of fairies around Titania, their queen.

The impulse that underlies this piece is the old, incessant, undying
aspiration, that men and women of the best order feel, for some avenue
of escape, some relief, some refuge, from the sickening tyranny of
convention and the commonplace, and from the overwhelming mystery with
which all human life is haunted and oppressed. A man who walks about in
a forest is not necessarily free. He may be as great a slave as anybody.
But the exalted imagination dwells upon his way of life as emancipated,
breezy, natural, and right. That way, to the tired thinker, lie peace
and joy. There, if anywhere--as he fancies--he might escape from all the
wrongs of the world, all the problems of society, all the dull business
of recording, and analysing, and ticketing mankind, all the clash of
selfish systems that people call history, and all the babble that they
call literature. In that retreat he would feel the rain upon his face,
and smell the grass and the flowers, and hear the sighing and whispering
of the wind in the green boughs; and there would be no need to trouble
himself any more, whether about the past or the future. Every great
intellect of the world has felt that wild longing, and has recorded
it--the impulse to revert to the vast heart of Nature, that knows no
doubt, and harbours no fear, and keeps no regret, and feels no sorrow,
and troubles itself not at all. Matthew Arnold dreamily and perhaps
austerely expressed it in _The Scholar Gypsy_. Byron more humanly
uttered it in four well-remembered lines, of _Childe Harold_:

    "Oh, that the desert were my dwelling-place,
      With one fair spirit for my minister,
    That I might all forget the human race,
      And, hating nothing, love but only her."

_Robin Hood_, as technical drama, is frail. Its movement, indeed, is not
more indolent than that of its lovely prototypes in Shakespeare, _As You
Like It_ and _A Midsummer Night's Dream_. With all the pastorals Time
ambles. But, on the other hand, Tennyson's piece is not a match for
either of those Shakespearean works, in massiveness of dramatic
signification or in the element of opportunity for the art of acting.
Character, poetry, philosophy, humour, and suggestion it contains; but
it contains no single scene in which its persons can amply put forth
their full histrionic powers with essentially positive dramatic effect.
Its charm resides more in being than in doing, and therefore it is more
a poem than a play, and perhaps more a picture than a poem. It is not
one of those works that arouse, agitate, and impel. It aims only to
create and sustain a pleased condition; and that aim it has
accomplished. No spectator will be deeply moved by it, but no spectator
will look at it without delight. While, however, _Robin Hood_ as a drama
is frail, it is not destitute of the dramatic element. It depicts a
central character in action, and it tells a representative love story--a
story in which the oppressive persecutor of impoverished age is foiled
and discomfited, in which faithful affection survives the test of trial,
and in which days of danger end at last in days of blissful peace.
Traces of the influence of Shakespeare--exerted by his pastoral comedies
and by the _Merry Wives of Windsor_--are obvious in it. There is no
imitation; there is only kinship. The sources that Scott explored for
some of the material used in _Ivanhoe_ also announce themselves. Many
stories could be derived from the old Robin Hood ballads. The poet has
only chosen and rearranged such of their incidents as would suit his
purpose--using those old ballads with perfect freedom, but also using
them with faultless taste.

Robin Hood was born at Locksley, in the county of Nottingham, about
1160, when Henry the Second was king. His true name was Robert
Fitzooth--a name that popular mispronunciation converted into Robin
Hood--and he was of noble lineage. Old records declare him to have been
the Earl of Huntingdon. He was extravagant and adventurous, and for
reasons that are unknown he preferred to live in the woods. His haunts
were chiefly Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire, and Barnsdale, in
Yorkshire. Among his associates were William Scadlock, commonly called
Scarlet; Much, a miller's son; Friar Tuck, a vagabond monk; and Little
John, whose name was Nailor. Robin Hood and his band were kind to the
poor; but they robbed the rich and they were specially hard on the
clergy. There is a tradition that a woman named Maid Marian went with
Robin into the forest, but nothing is known about her. Robin lived till
the age of eighty-seven, and he might have lived longer but that a
treacherous relative, the prioress of Kirkley--to whose care he had
entrusted himself in order that he might be bled--allowed him to bleed
to death. At the time indicated in Tennyson's comedy--the year 1194,
which was the year of King Richard's return from captivity in
Germany--he was thirty-four years old. It is the year of _Ivanhoe_, and
in the play as in the novel, the evil agent is the usurper Prince John.

Fifteen characters take part in this comedy. Act first is called "The
Bond and the Outlawry." The action begins in a garden before Sir Richard
Lea's castle--or rather the dialogue begins there, by which the basis of
the action is revealed. Maid Marian is Marian Lea, the daughter of Sir
Richard. Walter Lea, the son of Sir Richard, has been captured by the
Moors, and in order to pay the boy's ransom Sir Richard has borrowed a
large sum of money from the Abbot of York. That debt must presently be
paid; but Sir Richard does not see his way clear to its payment, and if
he does not pay it he must forfeit his land. The Sheriff of Nottingham,
a wealthy suitor for the hand of Marian, is willing to pay that debt, in
case the girl will favour his suit. But Marian loves the Earl of
Huntingdon and is by him beloved; and all would go well with those
lovers, and with Sir Richard, but that the Earl of Huntingdon is poor.
Poor though he be, however, he makes a feast, to celebrate his birthday,
and to that festival Sir Richard and his daughter are bidden. Act first
displays the joyous proceedings of that good meeting and the posture of
those characters toward each other. The Sheriff of Nottingham intrudes
himself upon the scene, accompanied by Prince John, who is disguised as
a friar. The Prince has cast a covetous eye upon Marian, and, although
he outwardly favours the wish of the Sheriff, he is secretly determined
to seize her for himself. The revellers at Huntingdon's feast, unaware
of the Prince's presence, execrate his name, and at length he retires,
in a silent fury. Robin gives to Marian a remarkable ring that he has
inherited from his mother. Later a herald enters and reads a
proclamation from Prince John, declaring the Earl of Huntingdon to be a
felon, and commanding his banishment. Robin cannot forcibly oppose that
mandate, and he therefore determines to cast in his lot with Scarlet and
Friar Tuck and other "minions of the moon," and thenceforward to live a
free and merry life under the green boughs of Sherwood Forest. A year is
supposed to pass. Act second, called "The Flight of Marian," begins with
a song of the Foresters, in the deep wood--"There is no land like
England." That is a scene of much gentle beauty, enhanced by Robin
Hood's delivery of some of the finest poetry in the play, and also by
the delicious music of Sir Arthur Sullivan. Robin descants upon
freedom, and upon the advantage of dwelling beneath the sky rather than
beneath a groined roof that shuts out all the meaning of heaven. There
is a colloquy between Little John, who is one of Robin's men, and Kate,
who is Marian's maid. Those two are lovers who quarrel and make it up
again, as lovers will. Kate has come to the forest, bringing word of the
flight of her mistress. Prince John has tried to seize Marian, and that
brave girl has repulsed and struck him; and she and her father have
fled--intending to make for France, in which land the old knight expects
to find a friend who will pay his debt and save his estate. While Robin
is considering these things he perceives the approach of Prince John and
the Sheriff of Nottingham, and, thereupon, he takes refuge in the hut of
an old witch and disguises himself in some of her garments. Prince John
and the Sheriff, who are in pursuit of Sir Richard and Marian, find
Robin in this disguise, and for a time they are deceived by him; but
soon they penetrate his masquerade and assail him--whereupon some of his
people come to his assistance, and he is reinforced by Sir Richard Lea.
Prince John and his party are beaten and driven away. Sir Richard is
exhausted, and Robin commits him to the care of the Foresters. Marian,
arrayed as a boy, and pretending to be her brother Walter, has been
present at this combat, as a spectator, and a sparkling scene of
equivoke, mischief, and sentiment ensues between Marian and Robin. That
scene Tennyson wrote and inserted for Ada Rehan, to whose vivacious
temperament it is fitted, and whose action in it expressed with equal
felicity the teasing temper of the coquette and the propitious fondness
of the lover. Robin discovers Marian's identity by means of the ring
that he gave her, and, after due explanation, it is agreed that she and
her father will remain under his protection. Act third is called "The
Crowning of Marian," and is devoted to pictures, colloquies, and
incidents, now serious and now comical, showing the life of the
Foresters and the humorous yet discriminative justice of their gypsy
chief. Sir Richard Lea is ill and he cannot be moved. The outlaws crown
Marian, with an oaken chaplet, and declare her to be their queen. Robin
Hood vindicates his vocation, and in a noble speech on
freedom--deriving his similes from the giant oak tree, as Tennyson has
ever loved to do--declares himself the friend of the poor and the
servant of the king; the absent Richard of the Lion Heart, for whose
return all good men are eager. Various beggars, friars, and other
travellers are halted on the road, in practical illustration of Robin's
doctrine; comic incidents from the old ballads are reproduced; and so
the episode ends merrily of these frolics in the wood. At that point a
delicious fairy pageant is introduced, presenting Queen Titania and her
elves and illustrating at once the grievance of the fairies against the
men whose heavy feet have crushed their toads and bats and flowers and
mystic rings, and Marian's dream of love. Sir Arthur Sullivan's music is
here again used, and again it is felt to be characteristic, melodious,
and uncommonly sweet and tender. Act fourth begins in a forest bower at
sunrise. Marian and Robin meet there and talk of Sir Richard and of his
bond to the Abbot of York--soon to fall due and seemingly to remain
unpaid. Robin has summoned the Abbot and his justiciary to come into the
forest and to bring the bond. King Richard, unrecognised, now arrives,
and in submission to certain laws of the woodland he engages in an
encounter of buffets, and prevails over all his adversaries. At the
approach of the Abbot, however, fearing premature recognition, the
monarch will flit away; but his gypsy friends compel him to accept a
bugle, upon which he is to blow a blast when in danger. The Abbot and
his followers arrive, and Robin Hood offers the money to redeem Sir
Richard's bond; but, upon a legal quibble, the Abbot declines to receive
it--preferring to seize the forfeited land. Prince John and the Sheriff
of Nottingham appear, and Robin and his Foresters form an ambuscade. Sir
Richard Lea has been brought in, upon his litter, and Marian stays
beside him. Prince John attempts to seize her, but this time he is
frustrated by the sudden advent of King Richard--from whose presence he
slinks away. The myrmidons of John, however, attack the King, who would
oppose them single-handed; but Friar Tuck snatches the King's bugle and
blows a blast of summons--whereupon the Foresters swarm into the field
and possess it. John's faction is dispersed, Marian is saved, the absent
Walter Lea reappears, Sir Richard is assured of his estate, the Abbot
and the Sheriff are punished, and Robin Hood and Maid Marian may
wed--for now the good King Richard has come again to his own.

The lyrics in the piece possess the charm of fluent and unaffected
sweetness, and of original, inventive, and felicitous fancy, and some of
them are tenderly freighted with that indescribable but deeply affecting
undertone of pathetic sentiment which is a characteristic attribute of
Tennyson's poetry.

The characters in the comedy were creatures of flesh and blood to the
author, and they come out boldly, therefore, on the stage. Marian Lea is
a woman of the Rosalind order--handsome, noble, magnanimous,
unconventional, passionate in nature, but sufficient unto herself,
humorous, playful, and radiant with animal spirits. Ada Rehan embodied
her according to that ideal. The chief exaction of the part is
simplicity--which yet must not be allowed to degenerate into tameness.
The sweet affection of a daughter for her father, the coyness yet the
allurement of a girl for her lover, the refinement of high birth, the
blithe bearing and free demeanour of a child of the woods, and the
predominant dignity of purity and honour--those are the salient
attributes of the part. Ada Rehan struck the true note at the
outset--the note of buoyant health, rosy frolic, and sprightly
adventure--and she sustained it evenly and firmly to the last. Every eye
was pleased with the frank, careless, cheerful beauty of her presence,
and every ear was soothed and charmed with her fluent and expressive
delivery of the verse. In this, as in all of the important
representations that Ada Rehan has given, the delightful woman-quality
was conspicuously present. She can readily impersonate a boy. No actress
since Adelaide Neilson has done that so well. But the crowning
excellence of her art was its expression of essential womanhood. Her
acting was never trivial and it never obtruded the tedious element of
dry intellect. It refreshed--and the spectator was happier for having
seen her. Many pleasant thoughts were scattered in many minds by her
performance of Maid Marian, and no one who saw it will ever part with
the remembrance of it.



XIX.

ELLEN TERRY: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.


It was perhaps an auspicious portent, it certainly is an interesting
fact, that the first play that was ever acted in America at a regular
theatre and by a regular theatrical company was Shakespeare's comedy of
_The Merchant of Venice_. Such at least is the record made by William
Dunlap, the first historian of the American theatre, who names
Williamsburg, Virginia, as the place and September 5, 1752 as the date
of that production. It ought to be noted, however (so difficult is it to
settle upon any fact in this uncertain world), that the learned
antiquarian Judge C.P. Daly, fortified likewise by the scrupulously
accurate Ireland, dissents from Dunlap's statement and declares that
Cibber's alteration of Shakespeare's _Richard the Third_ was acted by a
regular company in a large room in Nassau Street, New York, at an
earlier date, namely, on March 5, 1750. All the same, it appears to
have been Shakespeare's mind that started the dramatic movement in
America. The American stage has undergone great changes since that time,
but both _The Merchant of Venice_ and _Richard the Third_ are still
acted, and in the _Merchant_, if not in _Richard_, the public interest
is still vital. In New York, under Edwin Booth's management, at the
Winter Garden theatre, January 28, 1867, and subsequently at Booth's
theatre, and in London, under Henry Irving's management, at the Lyceum
theatre, November 1, 1879, sumptuous productions of the _Merchant_ have
brilliantly marked the dramatic chronicle of our times. Discussion of
the great character of Shylock steadily proceeds and seems never to
weary either the disputants or the audience. The sentiment, the fancy,
and the ingenuity of artists are often expended not only upon the
austere, picturesque, and terrible figure of the vindictive Jew, but
upon the chief related characters in the comedy--upon Bassanio and
Portia, Gratiano and Nerissa, Lorenzo and Jessica, the princely and
pensive Antonio, the august Duke and his stately senators, and the
shrewd and humorous Gobbo. More than one painting has depicted the
ardent Lorenzo and his fugitive infidel as they might have looked on
that delicious summer night at Belmont when they saw "how the floor of
heaven is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold," and when the
blissful lover, radiant with happiness and exalted by the sublime,
illimitable, unfathomable spectacle of the star-strewn firmament,
murmured, in such heaven-like cadence, of the authentic music of heaven.

It is not to be denied that lovely words are spoken to Jessica, and that
almost equally lovely words are spoken by her. Essayists upon the
_Merchant_ have generally accepted her without a protest--so much do
youth and beauty in a woman count in the scale when weighed against duty
and integrity. There is no indication that Shylock was ever unjust or
unkind to Jessica. Whatever he may have been to others he seems always
to have been good to her; and she was the child of that lost Leah of his
youthful devotion whom he passionately loved and whom he mourned to the
last. Yet Jessica not only abandoned her father and his religion, but
robbed him of money and jewels (including the betrothal ring, the
turquoise, that her mother had given to him), when she fled with the
young Christian who had won her heart. It was a basely cruel act; but
probably some of the vilest and cruelest actions that are done in this
world are done by persons who are infatuated by the passion of love.
Mrs. Jameson, who in her beautiful essay on Portia extenuates the
conduct of Jessica, would have us believe that Shylock valued his
daughter far beneath his wealth, and therefore deserved to be deserted
and plundered by her; and she is so illogical as to derive his
sentiments on this subject from his delirious outcries of lamentation
after he learned of her predatory and ignominious flight. The argument
is not a good one. Fine phrases do not make wrong deeds right. It were
wiser to take Jessica for the handsome and voluptuous girl that
certainly she is, and to leave her rectitude out of the question.
Shakespeare in his drawing of her was true to nature, as he always is;
but the student who wants to know where Shakespeare's heart was placed
when he drew women must look upon creatures very different from Jessica.
The women that Shakespeare seems peculiarly to have loved are Imogen,
Cordelia, Isabella, Rosalind, and Portia--Rosalind, perhaps, most of
all; for although Portia is finer than Rosalind, it is extremely
probable that Shakespeare resembled his fellow-men sufficiently to have
felt the preference that Tom Moore long afterward expressed:

    "Be an angel, my love, in the morning,
    But, oh! be a woman to-night."

When Ellen Terry embodied Portia--in Henry Irving's magnificent revival
of _The Merchant of Venice_--the essential womanhood of that character
was for the first time in the modern theatre adequately interpreted and
conveyed. Upon many play-going observers indeed the wonderful wealth of
beauty that is in the part--its winsome grace, its incessant sparkle,
its alluring because piquant as well as luscious sweetness, its
impetuous ardour, its enchantment of physical equally with emotional
condition, its august morality, its perfect candour, and its noble
passion--came like a surprise. Did the great actress find those
attributes in the part (they asked themselves), or did she infuse them
into it? Previous representatives of Portia had placed the emphasis
chiefly, if not exclusively, upon morals and mind. The stage Portia of
the past has usually been a didactic lady, self-contained, formal,
conventional, and oratorical. Ellen Terry came, and Portia was figured
exactly as she lives in the pages of Shakespeare--an imperial and yet an
enchanting woman, dazzling in her beauty, royal in her dignity, as
ardent in temperament as she is fine in brain and various and splendid
in personal peculiarities and feminine charm. After seeing that
matchless impersonation it seemed strange that Portia should ever have
been represented in any other light, and it was furthermore felt that
the inferior, mechanical, utilitarian semblance of her could not again
be endured. Ellen Terry's achievement was a complete vindication of the
high view that Shakespearean study has almost always taken of that
character, and it finally discredited the old stage notion that Portia
is a type of decorum and declamation.

Aside from Hazlitt, who thought that Portia is affected and pedantic,
and who did not like her because he did not happen to appreciate her,
the best analytical thinkers about Shakespeare's works have taken the
high view of that character. Shakespeare himself certainly took it; for
aside from her own charming behaviour and delightful words it is to be
observed that everybody in the play who speaks of her at all speaks her
praise. It is only upon the stage that she has been made artificial,
prim, and preachy. That misrepresentation of her has, perhaps, been
caused, in part, by the practice long prevalent in our theatre of
cutting and compressing the play so as to make Shylock the chief figure
in it. In that way Portia is shorn of much of her splendour and her
meaning. The old theatrical records dwell almost exclusively upon
Shylock, and say little if anything about Portia. In Shakespeare's time,
no doubt, _The Merchant of Venice_ was acted as it is written, the
female persons in it being played by boys, or by men who could "speak
small." Alexander Cooke (1588-1614) played the light heroines of
Shakespeare while the poet was alive. All students of the subject are
aware that Burbage was the first Shylock, and that when he played the
part he wore a red wig, a red beard, and a long false nose. No record
exists as to the first Portia. The men who were acting female characters
upon the London stage when that institution was revived immediately
after the Restoration were Kynaston, James Nokes, Angel, William
Betterton, Mosely, and Floid. Kynaston, it is said, could act a woman so
well that when at length women themselves began to appear as actors it
was for some time doubted whether any one of them could equal him. The
account of his life, however, does not mention Portia as one of his
characters.

Indeed the play of _The Merchant of Venice_, after it languished out of
sight in that decadence of the stage which ensued upon the growth of the
Puritan movement in England, did not again come into use until it was
revived in Lord Landsdowne's alteration of it produced at the theatre in
Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1701, and even then it was grossly perverted.
Forty years later, however, on St. Valentine's Day 1741, at Drury Lane,
when Macklin regenerated the character of Shylock, the original piece
was restored to the theatre. Women in the meantime had come upon the
stage. The garrulous and delightful Pepys, who had seen Kynaston play a
female part, records in his marvellous Diary that he first saw women as
actors on January 3, 1661. Those were members of Killigrew's company,
which preceded that of Davenant by several months, if not by a year; and
therefore the common statement in theatrical books that the first woman
that ever appeared on the English stage was Mrs. Sanderson, of
Davenant's company, at Lincoln's Inn Fields, is erroneous: and indeed
the name of the first English actress is as much unknown as the name of
the first Portia. When Macklin restored Shakespeare's _Merchant of
Venice_ to the stage it is not likely that the character of Portia was
dwarfed, for its representative then was Kitty Clive, and that actress
was a person of strong will. With Clive the long list begins of the
Portias of the stage. She was thirty years old when she played the part
with Macklin, and it is probable that she played it with dignity and
certain that she played it with sparkling animation and piquant grace.
The German Ulrici, whose descriptive epithets for Portia are "roguish
and intellectual," would doubtless have found his ideal of the part
fulfilled in Clive. The Nerissa that night was Mrs. Pritchard, then also
thirty years old, but not so famous as she afterward became.

The greatest actress on the British stage in the eighteenth century
undoubtedly was Margaret Woffington (1719-1760). Sarah Siddons, to whom
the sceptre passed, was only five years old when Woffington died. Both
those brilliant names are associated with Portia. Augustin Daly's _Life
of Woffington_--the best life of her that has been written, and one of
the most sumptuous books that have been made--contains this reference to
her performance of that part: "All her critics agree that her
declamation was accurate and her gesture grace and nature combined; but
in tragic or even dramatic speeches her voice probably had its limits,
and in such scenes, being overtaxed, told against her. As Portia she
appeared to great advantage; but when Lorenzo says, 'This is the voice,
or I am much deceived, of Portia,' and Portia replies, 'He knows me, as
the blind man knows the cuckoo, by the bad voice,' the audience laughed
outright, and Woffington, conscious of her deficiency, with great
good-humour joined with them in their merriment." The incident is
mentioned in the _Table Talk_ (1825) of Richard Ryan, to which book Daly
refers. Mrs. Siddons made her first appearance on the London stage as
Portia December 29, 1775, and conspicuously failed in the part on that
occasion, but she became distinguished in it afterward; yet it is
probable that Mrs. Siddons expressed its nobility more than its
tenderness, and much more than its buoyant and glittering glee, which
was so entirely and beautifully given by Ellen Terry. After Peg
Woffington and before Mrs. Siddons the most conspicuous Portia was Mrs.
Dancer, whom Hugh Kelley, in his satirical composition of _Thespis_,
calls a "moon-eyed idiot,"--from which barbarous bludgeon phrase the
reader derives a hint as to her aspect. Some of the tones of Mrs.
Dancer's voice were so tender that no one could resist them. Spranger
Barry could not, for he married her, and after his death she became Mrs.
Crawford. Miss Maria Macklin, daughter of the first true Shylock of the
stage, acted Portia, April 13, 1776, with her father. She is recorded as
an accomplished woman but destitute of genius--in which predicament she
probably was not lonesome. On June 11, 1777 Portia was acted at the
Haymarket by Miss Barsanti, afterward Mrs. Lister, an actress who, since
she excelled in such parts as were customarily taken by Fanny Abington
(the distinct opposite of Portia-like characters), must have been
unsuited for it. The names of Miss Younge, Miss Farren, Miss E. Kemble,
Miss Ryder, Mrs. Pope, Miss De Camp, and Miss Murray are in the record
of the stage Portias that comes down to 1800. Probably the best of all
those Portias was Mrs. Pope.

The beautiful Mrs. Glover played Portia in 1809 at the Haymarket
theatre. Mrs. Ogilvie played it, with Macready as Shylock (his first
appearance in that part), on May 13, 1823. Those figures passed and left
no shadow. Two English actresses of great fame are especially associated
with Portia--Ellen Tree, afterward Mrs. Charles Kean, and Helen Faucit,
now Lady Martin; and no doubt their assumptions of the part should be
marked as exceptions from the hard, didactic, declamatory, perfunctory
method that has customarily characterised the Portia of the stage. Lady
Martin's written analysis of Portia is noble in thought and subtle and
tender in penetration and sympathy. Charlotte Cushman read the text
superbly, but she was much too formidable ever to venture on assuming
the character. Portia is a woman who deeply loves and deeply rejoices
and exults in her love, and she is never ashamed of her passion or of
her exultation in it; and she says the finest things about love that are
said by any of Shakespeare's women; the finest because, while supremely
passionate, the feeling in them is perfectly sane. It is as a lover that
Ellen Terry embodied her, and while she made her a perfect woman, in all
the attributes that fascinate, she failed not, in the wonderful trial
scene, to invest her with that fine light of celestial anger--that
momentary thrill of moral austerity--which properly appertains to the
character at the climax of a solemn and almost tragical situation.

On the American stage there have been many notable representatives of
the chief characters in _The Merchant of Venice_. In New York, when the
comedy was done at the old John Street theatre in 1773, Hallam was
Shylock and Mrs. Morris Portia. Twenty years afterward, at the same
house, Shylock was played by John Henry, and Portia by Mrs. Henry, while
the brilliant Hodgkinson appeared as Gratiano. Cooper, whose life has
been so well written by that ripe theatrical scholar Joseph N. Ireland,
in one of the books of the Dunlap Society, assumed Shylock in 1797 at
the theatre just then opened in Greenwich Street. The famous Miss
Brunton (then Mrs. Merry), was the Portia, and the cast included Moreton
as Bassanio, Warren as Antonio, Bernard as Gratiano, and Blissett as
Tubal. How far away and how completely lost and forgotten those once
distinguished and admired persons are! Yet Cooper in his day was
idolised: he had a fame as high, if not as widely spread, as that of
Henry Irving or Edwin Booth at present. William Creswick--lately dead at
an advanced age in London--was seen upon the New York stage as Shylock
in 1840; Macready in 1841; Charles Kean in 1845. With the latter, Ellen
Tree played Portia. Charles W. Couldock enacted Shylock on September 6,
1852, at the Castle Garden theatre, in a performance given to
commemorate the alleged centenary of the introduction of the drama into
America. The elder Wallack, the elder Booth, Edwin Forrest, G.V. Brooke,
George Vandenhoff, Wyzeman Marshall, and E.L. Davenport are among the
old local representatives of the Jew. Madam Ponisi used to play Portia,
and so did Mrs. Hoey.

In December 1858, when _The Merchant of Venice_ was finely revived at
Wallack's theatre, with the elder Wallack as Shylock, the cast included
Lester Wallack as Bassanio, John Brougham as Gratiano, A. W. Young--a
quaintly comic actor, too soon cut off--as Launcelot Gobbo, Mary
Gannon--the fascinating, the irresistible--as Nerissa, and handsome Mrs.
Sloan as Jessica. The eminent German actor Davison played Shylock, in
New York, in his own language; and many German actors, no one of them
comparable with him, have been seen in it since. Lawrence Barrett often
played it, and with remarkable force and feeling. The triumphs won in it
by Edwin Booth are within the remembrance of many playgoers of this
generation. When he last acted the Jew Helena Modjeska was associated
with him as Portia. Booth customarily ended the piece with the trial
scene, omitting the last act; and indeed that was long the stage custom;
but with the true Portia of Ellen Terry and a good cast in general the
last act went blithely and with superb effect. The comedy was not
written for Shylock alone. He is a tremendous identity, but he is not
the chief subject. The central theme is Portia and her love. That theme
takes up a large part of the play,--which is like a broad summer
landscape strewn with many-coloured flowers that flash and glitter in
the sun, while slowly a muttering thunder-storm gathers and lowers, and
presently sweeps overhead, casting one black shadow as it passes, and
leaving the fragrant and glistening plain all the brighter and sweeter
for the contrast with its defeated menace and vanishing gloom.



XX.

RICHARD MANSFIELD AS RICHARD THE THIRD.


The ideal of Richard that was expressed by this actor did not materially
differ from that which has been manifested by great tragic actors from
Garrick to Booth. He embodied a demoniac scoffer who, nevertheless, is a
human being. The infernal wickedness of Richard was shown to be impelled
by tremendous intellect but slowly enervated and ultimately thwarted and
ruined by the cumulative operation of remorse--corroding at the heart
and finally blasting the man with desolation and frenzy. That,
undoubtedly, was Shakespeare's design. But Richard Mansfield's
expression of that ideal differed from the expression to which the stage
has generally been accustomed, and in this respect his impersonation was
distinctive and original.

The old custom of playing Richard was to take the exaggerated statements
of the opening soliloquy in a literal sense, to provide him with a big
hump, a lame leg, and a fell of straight black hair, and to make him
walk in, scowling, with his lower lip protruded, and declare with
snarling vehemence and guttural vociferation his amiable purpose of
specious duplicity and miscellaneous slaughter. The opening speech,
which is in Shakespeare's juvenile manner--an orotund, verbose manner,
which perhaps he had caught from Marlowe, and which he outgrew and
abandoned--was thus utilised for displaying the character in a massed
aspect, as that of a loathsome hypocrite and sanguinary villain; and,
that being done, he was made to advance through about two-thirds of the
tragedy, airily yet ferociously slaying everybody who came in his way,
until at some convenient point, definable at the option of the actor, he
was suddenly smitten with a sufficient remorse to account for his
trepidation before and during the tent-scene; and thereafter he was
launched into combat like a meteoric butcher, all frenzy and all gore,
and killed, amid general acclamation, when he had fenced himself out of
breath.

That treatment of the character was, doubtless, in part a necessary
consequence of Shakespeare's perfunctory adoption of the Tudor doctrine
that Richard was a blood-boltered monster; but in a larger degree it was
the result of Cibber's vulgar distortion of the original piece. The
actual character of the king,--who seems to have been one of the ablest
and wisest monarchs that ever reigned in England--has never recovered,
and it never will recover, from the odium that was heaped upon it by the
Tudor historians and accepted and ratified by the great genius of
Shakespeare. The stage character of the king has been almost as
effectually damned by the ingenious theatrical claptrap with which
Cibber misrepresented and vulgarised Shakespeare's conception, assisted
by the efforts of a long line of blood-and-thunder tragedians, only too
well pleased to depict a gory, blathering, mugging miscreant, such as
their limited intelligence enabled them to comprehend. The stage
Richard, however, may possibly be redeemed. In Cibber he is everything
that Queen Margaret calls him, and worse than a brute. In Shakespeare,
although a miscreant, he is a man. The return to Shakespeare,
accordingly, is a step in the right direction. That step was taken some
time ago, although not maintained, first by Macready, then by Samuel
Phelps, then by Edwin Booth, and then by Henry Irving. Their good
example was followed by Richard Mansfield. He used a version of the
tragedy, made by himself,--a piece indicative of thoughtful study of the
subject as well as a keen intuitive grasp of it. He did not stop short
at being a commentator. Aiming to impersonate a character he treated
Shakespeare's prolix play in such a manner as to make it a practicable
living picture of a past age. The version was in five acts, preserving
the text of the original, much condensed, and introducing a few lines
from Cibber. It began with a bright processional scene before the Tower
of London, in which Elizabeth, Queen of Edward IV., was conspicuous, and
against that background of "glorious summer" it placed the dangerous
figure of the Duke of Gloster. It comprised the murder of Henry VI., the
wooing of Lady Anne,--not in a London street, but in a rural place, on
the road to Chertsey; the lamentation for King Edward IV.; the episode
of the boy princes; the condemnation of Hastings,--a scene that
brilliantly denotes the mingled artifice and savagery of Shakespeare's
Gloster; the Buckingham plot; the priest and mayor scene; the
temptation of Tyrrel; the fall of Buckingham; the march to battle; the
episode of the spectres; and the fatal catastrophe on Bosworth Field.
Enough of the story was thus related to satisfy the Shakespeare scholar.

The notable peculiarity was the assumption that there are considerable
lapses of time at intervals during the continuance of the story. The
effort to reconcile poetry with history produced little if any
appreciable practical result upon the stage,--seeing that an audience
would not think of lapses of time unless those lapses were mentioned in
the play-bill. An incessant continuity of action, a ceaseless rush and
whirl of events, is the essential life of the play. No auditor can feel
that Richard has waited twelve years before making any movement or
striking any blow, after his aspiration that heaven will take King
Edward and leave the world for him "to bustle in." That word "bustle" is
a favourite word with Richard. And furthermore there is no development
of his character in Shakespeare's play: there is simply the presentation
of it, complete and rounded at the outset, and remaining invariably and
inflexibly the same to the close.

Mansfield, however, deduced this effect from his consideration of the
flight of time: a contrast between Richard at nineteen and Richard at
thirty-three, a contrast strongly expressive of the reactionary
influence that an experience of evil deeds has produced upon a man who
at first was only a man of evil thoughts and evil will. This imported
into the performance a diversity of delineation without, however,
affecting the formidable weight of the figure of Richard, or its
brilliancy, or its final significance. The embodiment was splendid with
it, and would be just as splendid without it. The presence of heart and
conscience in that demoniac human creature is denoted by Shakespeare and
must be shown by the actor. Precisely at what point his heaven-defying
will should begin to waver is not defined. Mansfield chose to indicate
the operation of remorse and terror in Richard's soul as early as the
throne scene and before yet the king has heard that the royal boys have
been murdered. The effect of his action, equally with the method of it,
was magnificent. You presently saw him possessed of the throne for which
he had so terribly toiled and sinned, and alone upon it, bathed in
blood-red light, the pitiable personification of gorgeous but haunted
evil, marked off from among mankind and henceforth desolate. Throughout
that fine scene Mansfield's portrayal of the fearful struggle between
wicked will and human weakness was in a noble vein of imagination,
profound in its sincerity, affecting in its pathos, and pictorial in its
treatment. In the earlier scenes his mood and his demeanour had been
suffused with a cool, gay, mockery of elegant cynicism. He killed King
Henry with a smile, in a scene of gloomy mystery that might have come
from the pencil of Gustave Dore. He looked upon the mourning Lady Anne
with cheerful irony and he wooed her with all the fervour that passion
and pathos can engender in the behaviour of a hypocrite. His
dissimulation with the princes and with the mayor and the nobles was to
the last degree specious. One of his finest points was the temptation of
Buckingham to murder the princes. There, and indeed at all points, was
observed the absence of even the faintest reminiscence of the ranting,
mouthing, flannel-jawed king of clubs who has so generally strutted and
bellowed as Shakespeare's Gloster. All was bold and telling in the
manner, and yet the manner was reticent with nature and fine with
well-bred continence.

With the throne scene began the spiritual conflict. At least it then
began to be disclosed; and from that moment onward the state of Richard
was seen to be that of Orestes pursued by the furies. But Mansfield was
right, and was consistent, in making the monarch faithful in his
devotion to evil. Richard's presentiments, pangs, and tremors are
intermittent. In the great, empty, darkening throne-room, with its
shadowy nooks and dim corners, shapeless and nameless spectres may
momentarily come upon him and shake his strong spirit with the sinister
menace of hell. Along the dark plains, on the fateful night before the
battle, the sad ghosts may drift and wander, moaning and wailing in the
ghastly gloom; and in that hour of haunted desolation the doomed king
may feel that, after all, he is but mortal man, and that his pre-ordered
destruction is close at hand and not to be averted; but Richard never
deceives himself; never palters with the goodness that he has scorned.
He dies as he has lived, defiant and terrible.

Mansfield's treatment of the ghost scenes at Bosworth was novel,
original, and poetic, and his death scene was not only a display of
personal prowess but a reproduction of historical fact. With a detail
like this the truth of history becomes useful, but in general the actor
cannot safely go back of the Shakespearean scheme. To present Richard as
he probably was would be to present a man of some virtue as well as
great ability. Mansfield's acting revealed an amiable desire to infuse
as much goodness as possible into the Shakespearean conception, but he
obtained his chief success by acting the part substantially according to
Shakespeare and by setting and dressing the play with exceptional if not
altogether exact fidelity to the time, the places, and the persons that
are implicated in the story.

Shakespeare's Richard is a type of colossal will and of restless,
inordinate, terrific activity. The objects of his desire and his effort
are those objects which are incident to supreme power; but his chief
object is that assertion of himself which is irresistibly incited and
steadfastly compelled by the overwhelming, seething, acrid energy of his
feverish soul, burning and raging in his fiery body. He can no more help
projecting himself upon the affairs of the world than the malignant
cobra can help darting upon its prey. He is a vital, elemental force,
grisly, hectic, terrible, impelled by volcanic heat and electrified and
made lurid and deadly by the infernal purpose of restless wickedness. No
actor can impersonate Richard in an adequate manner who does not possess
transcendent force of will, combined with ambitious, incessant, and
restless mental activity. Mansfield in those respects is qualified for
the character, and out of his professional resources he was able to
supply the other elements that are requisite to its constitution and
fulfilment. He presented as Richard a sardonic, scoffing demon, who
nevertheless, somewhere in his complex nature, retains an element of
humanity. He embodied a character that is tragic in its ultimate effect,
but his method was that of the comedian. His portrayal of Richard,
except at those moments when it is veiled with craft and dissimulation,
or at those other and grander moments, infrequent but awful and
agonising, when it is convulsed with terror or with the anguish of
remorse, stood forth boldly in the sunshine, a crystallised and deadly
sarcasm, equally trenchant upon itself and all the world, equally
scornful of things human and things divine. That deadly assumption of
keen and mordant mockery, that cool, glittering, malignant lightness of
manner, was consistently sustained throughout the performance, while the
texture of it was made continuously entertaining by diversity of colour
and inflection, sequent on changing moods; so that Richard was shown as
a creature of the possible world of mankind and not as a fiction of the
stage.

The part was acted by him: it was not declaimed. He made, indeed, a
skilful use of his uncommon voice--keeping its tones light, sweet, and
superficial during the earlier scenes (while yet, in accordance with his
theory of development, Gloster is the personification of evil purpose
only beginning to ripen into evil deed), and then permitting them to
become deeper and more significant and thrilling as the man grows old in
crime and haggard and convulsed in self-conflict and misery. But it was
less with vocal excellence that the auditor was impressed than with the
actor's identification with the part and his revelation of the soul of
it. When first presented Gloster was a mocking devil. The murder of
King Henry was done with malice, but the malice was enwrapped with glee.
In the wooing of Lady Anne there was both heart and passion, but the
mood was that of lightsome duplicity. It is not until years of scheming
and of evil acts, engendering, promoting, and sustaining a condition of
mental horror and torture, have ravaged his person and set their seal
upon him, in sunken cheek and hollow eye, in shattered nerves and deep
and thrilling voice, surcharged at once with inveterate purpose and with
incessant agony, that this light manner vanishes, and the demeanour and
action of the wicked monarch becomes ruthless, direct, and terrible.
Whether, upon the basis of a play so discursive, so episodical, so
irresolutely defined as Shakespeare's _Richard the Third_, that theory
of the development of its central character is logically tenable is a
dubious question. In Shakespeare the character is presented full-grown
at the start, and then, through a confused tangle of historical events,
is launched into action. Nevertheless in his practical application of it
Mansfield made his theory effective by a novel, powerful, interesting
performance. You could not help perceiving in Mansfield's embodiment
that Gloster was passing through phases of experience--that the man
changed, as men do change in life, the integral character remaining the
same in its original fibre, but the condition varying, in accordance
with the reaction of conduct upon temperament and conscience.

Mansfield deeply moved his audience in the repulse of Buckingham, in the
moody menace of the absent Stanley, in the denunciation of Hastings, and
in the awakening from the dream on the night before the battle.
Playgoers have seldom seen a dramatic climax so thrilling as his
hysterical recognition of Catesby, after the moment of doubt whether
this be not also a phantom of his terrific dream. It was not so much by
startling theatrical effects, however, as by subtle denotements, now of
the tempest and now of the brooding horror in the king's heart, that the
actor gained his victory. The embodiment lacked incessant fiery
expedition--the explosive, meteoric quality that astounds and dazzles.
Chief among the beauties was imagination. The attitude of the monarch
toward his throne--the infernal triumph, and yet the remorseful agony
and withering fear--in the moment of ghastly loneliness when he knows
that the innocent princes have been murdered and that his imperial
pathway is clear, made up one of the finest spectacles of dramatic
illumination that the stage has afforded. You saw the murderer's hideous
exultation, and then, in an instant, as the single ray of red light from
the setting sun streamed through the Gothic window and fell upon his
evil head, you saw him shrink in abject fear, cowering in the shadow of
his throne; and the dusky room was seemingly peopled with gliding
spectres. That treatment was theatrical, but in no derogatory sense
theatrical--for it comports with the great speech on conscience; not the
fustian of Cibber, about mutton and short-lived pleasure, but the speech
that Shakespeare has put into Richard's mouth; the speech that inspired
Mansfield's impersonation--the brilliant embodiment of an intellectual
man, predisposed to evil, who yields to that inherent impulse, and
thereafter, although intermittently convulsed with remorse, fights with
tremendous energy against the goodness that he scorns and defies, till
at last he dashes himself to pieces against the adamant of eternal law.



XXI.

GENEVIEVE WARD: FORGET ME NOT.


In the season of 1880-81 Genevieve Ward made a remarkably brilliant hit
with her embodiment of Stephanie De Mohrivart, in the play of _Forget Me
Not_, by Herman Merivale, and since then she has acted that part
literally all round the world. It was an extraordinary
performance--potent with intellectual character, beautiful with
refinement, nervous and steel-like with indomitable purpose and icy
glitter, intense with passion, painfully true to an afflicting ideal of
reality, and at last splendidly tragic: and it was a shining example of
ductile and various art. Such a work ought surely to be recorded as one
of the great achievements of the stage. Genevieve Ward showed herself to
possess in copious abundance peculiar qualities of power and beauty upon
which mainly the part of Stephanie is reared. The points of assimilation
between the actress and the part were seen to consist in an imperial
force of character, intellectual brilliancy, audacity of mind, iron
will, perfect elegance of manners, a profound self-knowledge, and
unerring intuitions as to the relation of motive and conduct in that
vast network of circumstance which is the social fabric. Stephanie
possesses all those attributes; and all those attributes Genevieve Ward
supplied, with the luxuriant adequacy and grace of nature. But Stephanie
superadds to those attributes a bitter, mocking cynicism, thinly veiled
by artificial suavity and logically irradiant from natural hardness of
heart, coupled with an insensibility that has been engendered by cruel
experience of human selfishness. This, together with a certain mystical
touch of the animal freedom, whether in joy or wrath, that goes with a
being having neither soul nor conscience, the actress had to supply--and
did supply--by her art. As interpreted by Genevieve Ward the character
was reared, not upon a basis of unchastity but upon a basis of
intellectual perversion. Stephanie has followed--at first with
self-contempt, afterward with sullen indifference, finally with the bold
and brilliant hardihood of reckless defiance--a life of crime. She is
audacious, unscrupulous, cruel; a consummate tactician; almost sexless,
yet a siren in knowledge and capacity to use the arts of her sex;
capable of any wickedness to accomplish an end, yet trivial enough to
have no higher end in view than the reinvestiture of herself with social
recognition; cold as snow; implacable as the grave; remorseless; wicked;
but, beneath all this depravity, capable of self-pity, capable of
momentary regret, capable of a little human tenderness, aware of the
glory of the innocence she has lost, and thus not altogether beyond the
pale of compassion. And she is, in externals,--in everything visible and
audible,--the ideal of grace and melody.

In the presence of an admirable work of art the observer wishes that it
were entirely worthy of being performed and that it were entirely clear
and sound as to its applicability--in a moral sense, or even in an
intellectual sense--to human life. Art does not go far when it stops
short at the revelation of the felicitous powers of the artist; and it
is not altogether right when it tends to beguile sympathy with an
unworthy object and perplex a spectator's perceptions as to good and
evil. Genevieve Ward's performance of Stephanie, brilliant though it
was, did not redeem the character from its bleak exile from human
sympathy. The actress managed, by a scheme of treatment exclusively her
own, to make Stephanie, for two or three moments, piteous and forlorn;
and her expression of that evanescent anguish--occurring in the appeal
to Sir Horace Welby, her friendly foe, in the strong scene of the second
act--was wonderfully subtle. That appeal, as Genevieve Ward made it,
began in artifice, became profoundly sincere, and then was stunned and
startled into a recoil of resentment by a harsh rebuff, whereupon it
subsided through hysterical levity into frigid and brittle sarcasm and
gay defiance. For a while, accordingly, the feelings of the observer
were deeply moved. Yet this did not make the character of Stephanie less
detestable. The blight remains upon it--and always must remain--that it
repels the interest of the heart. The added blight likewise rests upon
it (though this is of less consequence to a spectator), that it is
burdened with moral sophistry. Vicious conduct in a woman, according to
Stephanie's logic, is not more culpable or disastrous than vicious
conduct in a man: the woman, equally with the man, should have a social
license to sow the juvenile wild oats and effect the middle-aged
reformation; and it is only because there are gay young men who indulge
in profligacy that women sometimes become adventurers and moral
monsters. All this is launched forth in speeches of singular terseness,
eloquence, and vigour; but all this is specious and mischievous
perversion of the truth--however admirably in character from Stephanie's
lips. Every observer who has looked carefully upon the world is aware
that the consequences of wrongdoing by a woman are vastly more
pernicious than those of wrongdoing by a man; that society could not
exist in decency, if to its already inconvenient coterie of reformed
rakes it were to add a legion of reformed wantons; and that it is innate
wickedness and evil propensity that makes such women as Stephanie, and
not the mere existence of the wild young men who are willing to become
their comrades--and who generally end by being their dupes and victims.
It is natural, however, that this adventurer--who has kept a
gambling-hell and ruined many a man, soul and body, and who now wishes
to reinstate herself in a virtuous social position--should thus strive
to palliate her past proceedings. Self-justification is one of the
first laws of life. Even Iago, who never deceives himself, yet announces
one adequate motive for his fearful crimes. Even Bulwer's Margrave--that
prodigy of evil, that cardinal type of infernal, joyous, animal
depravity--can yet paint himself in the light of harmless loveliness and
innocent gayety.

_Forget Me Not_ tells a thin story, but its story has been made to yield
excellent dramatic pictures, splendid moments of intellectual combat,
and affecting contrasts of character. The dialogue, particularly in the
second act, is as strong and as brilliant as polished steel. In that
combat of words Genevieve Ward's acting was delicious with trenchant
skill and fascinating variety. The easy, good-natured, bantering air
with which the strife began, the liquid purity of the tones, the
delicate glow of the arch satire, the icy glitter of the thought and
purpose beneath the words, the transition into pathos and back again
into gay indifference and deadly hostility, the sudden and terrible mood
of menace, when at length the crisis had passed and the evil genius had
won its temporary victory--all those were in perfect taste and
consummate harmony. Seeing that brilliant, supple, relentless,
formidable figure, and hearing that incisive, bell-like voice, the
spectator was repelled and attracted at the same instant, and thoroughly
bewildered with the sense of a power and beauty as hateful as they were
puissant. Not since Ristori acted Lucretia Borgia has the stage
exhibited such an image of imperial will, made radiant with beauty and
electric with flashes of passion. The leopard and the serpent are fatal,
terrible, and loathsome; yet they scarcely have a peer among nature's
supreme symbols of power and grace. Into the last scene of _Forget Me
Not_,--when at length Stephanie is crushed by physical fear, through
beholding, unseen by him, the man who would kill her as a malignant and
dangerous reptile,--Genevieve Ward introduced such illustrative
"business," not provided by the piece, as greatly enhanced the final
effect. The backward rush from the door, on seeing the Corsican avenger
on the staircase, and therewithal the incidental, involuntary cry of
terror, was the invention of the actress: and from that moment to the
final exit she was the incarnation of abject fear. The situation is one
of the strongest that dramatic ingenuity has invented: the actress
invested it with a colouring of pathetic and awful truth.



XXII.

EDWARD S. WILLARD IN THE MIDDLEMAN AND JUDAH.


E.S. Willard accomplished his first appearance upon the American stage
(at Palmer's theatre, November 10, 1890), in the powerful play of _The
Middleman_, by Henry Arthur Jones. A representative audience welcomed
the modest and gentle stranger and the greeting that hailed him was that
of earnest respect. Willard had long been known and esteemed in New York
by the dramatic profession and by those persons who habitually observe
the changeful aspects of the contemporary stage on both sides of the
ocean; but to the American public his name had been comparatively
strange. The sentiment of kindness with which he was received deepened
into admiration as the night wore on, and before the last curtain fell
upon his performance of Cyrus Blenkarn he had gained an unequivocal and
auspicious victory. In no case has the first appearance of a new actor
been accompanied with a more brilliant exemplification of simple worth;
and in no case has its conquest of the public enthusiasm been more
decisive. Not the least impressive feature of the night was the steadily
increasing surprise of the audience as the performance proceeded. It was
the actor's way to build slowly, and at the opening of the piece the
poor inventor's blind ignorance of the calamity that is impending is
chiefly trusted to create essential sympathy. Through those moments of
approaching sorrow the sweet unconsciousness of the loving father was
expressed by Willard with touching truth. In this he astonished even as
much as he pleased his auditors; for they were not expecting it.

One of the most exquisite enjoyments provided by the stage is the advent
of a new actor who is not only new but good. It is the pleasure of
discovery. It is the pleasure of contact with a rich mind hitherto
unexplored. The personal appearance, the power of the eye, the variety
of the facial expression, the tones of the voice, the carriage of the
person, the salient attributes of the individual character, the altitude
of the intellectual development, the quality of the spirit, the extent
and the nature of those artistic faculties and resources that constitute
the professional equipment,--all those things become the subject first
of interested inquiry and next of pleased recognition. Willard is
neither of the stately, the weird, the mysterious, nor the ferocious
order of actor. There is nothing in him of either Werner, Manfred, or
Sir Giles Overreach. He belongs not to either the tradition of John
Kemble or of Edmund Kean. His personality, nevertheless, is of a
distinctive and interesting kind. He has the self-poise and the exalted
calm of immense reserve power and of tender and tremulous sensibility
perfectly controlled. His acting is conspicuously marked by two of the
loveliest attributes of art--simplicity and sincerity. He conceals
neither the face nor the heart. His figure is fine and his demeanour is
that of vigorous mental authority informed by moral purity and by the
self-respect of a manly spirit. Goodness, although a quality seldom
taken into the critical estimate, nevertheless has its part in spiritual
constitution and in consequent effect. It was, for instance, an element
of artistic potentiality in the late John McCullough. It operated
spontaneously; and just so it does in the acting of Willard, who, first
of all, gives the satisfying impression of being genuine. A direct and
thorough method of expression naturally accompanies that order of mind
and that quality of temperament. Every movement that Willard makes upon
the stage is clear, free, open, firm, and of an obvious significance.
Every tone of his rich and resonant voice is distinctly intended and is
distinctly heard. There are no "flaws and starts." He has formed a
precise ideal. He knows exactly how to embody and to utter it, and he
makes the manifestation of it sharp, defined, positive, and cogent. His
meaning cannot be missed. He has an unerring sense of proportion and
symmetry. The character that he represents is shown, indeed, all at
once, as a unique identity; but it is not all at once developed, the
manifestation of it being made gradually to proceed under the stress of
experience and of emotion. He rises with the occasion. His feelings are
deep, and he is possessed of extraordinary power for the utterance of
them--not simply vocal power, although that, in his case, is
exceptional, but the rare faculty of becoming convulsed, inspired,
transfigured, by passion, and of being swept along by it, and of
sweeping along his hearers. His manner covers, without concealing, great
intensity. This is such a combination of traits as must have existed--if
the old records are read aright--in that fine and famous actor, John
Henderson, and which certainly existed in the late Benjamin Webster. It
has, however, always been rare upon the stage, and, like all rare
jewels, it is precious. The actor who, from an habitual mood of sweet
gravity and patient gentleness, can rise to the height of delirious
passion, and there sustain himself at a poise of tempestuous
concentration which is the fulfilment of nature, and never once seem
either ludicrous or extravagant, is an actor of splendid power and
extraordinary self-discipline. Such an actor is Willard. The blue eyes,
the slightly olive complexion, the compact person, the picturesque
appearance, the melodious voice, the flexibility of natural action, and
the gradual and easy ascent from the calm level of domestic peace to the
stormy summit of passionate ecstasy recall personal peculiarities and
artistic methods long passed away. The best days of Edwin L. Davenport
and the younger James Wallack are brought to mind by them.

In the drama of _The Middleman_ Willard had to impersonate an inventor,
of the absorbed, enthusiastic, self-regardless, fanatical kind. Cyrus
Blenkarn is a potter. His genius and his toil have enriched two persons
named Chandler, father and son, who own and conduct a porcelain factory
in an English town of the present day. Blenkarn has two daughters, and
one of them is taken from him by the younger Chandler. The circumstances
of that deprivation point at disgrace, and the inventor conceives
himself to have suffered an odious ignominy and irreparable wrong. Young
Chandler has departed and so has Mary Blenkarn, and they are eventually
to return as husband and wife; but Cyrus Blenkarn has been aroused from
his reveries over the crucible and furnace,--wherein he is striving to
discover a lost secret in the potter's art that will make him both rich
and famous,--and he utters a prayer for vengeance upon these Chandlers,
and he parts from them. A time of destitution and of pitiful struggle
with dire necessity, sleepless grief, and the maddening impulse of
vengeance now comes upon him, so that he is wasted almost to death. He
will not, however, abandon his quest for the secret of his art. He may
die of hunger and wretchedness; he will not yield. At the last moment
of his trial and his misery--alone--at night--in the alternate lurid
blaze and murky gloom of his firing-house--success is conquered: the
secret is found. This climax, to which the preliminaries gradually and
artfully lead, affords a great opportunity to an actor; and Willard
greatly filled it. The old inventor has been bowed down almost to
despair. Grief and destitution, the sight of his remaining daughter's
poverty, and the conflict of many feelings have made him a wreck. But
his will remains firm. It is not, however, until his last hope has been
abandoned that his success suddenly comes--and the result of this is a
delirium. That situation, one of the best in modern drama, has been
treated by the author in such a manner as to sustain for a long time the
feeling of suspense and to put an enormous strain upon the emotion and
the resources of an actor. Willard's presentment of the gaunt,
attenuated figure of Cyrus Blenkarn--hollow-eyed, half-frantic,
hysterical with grief and joy--was the complete incarnation of a
dramatic frensy; and this, being sympathetic, and moving to goodness and
not to evil, captured the heart. It was a magnificent exhibition, not
alone of the physical force that sometimes is so essential in acting but
of that fervour of the soul without which acting is a mockery.

The skill with which Willard reserved his power, so that the
impersonation might gradually increase in strength, was one of the best
merits of his art. Blenkarn's prayer might readily be converted into the
climax of the piece, and it might readily be spoken in such a way that
no effect would be left for the culmination in the furnace-room. Those
errors were avoided, and during three out of the four acts the movement
of the piece was fluent, continuous, and cumulative. In this respect
both the drama and the performance were instructive. Henry Arthur Jones
has diversified his serious scenes with passages of sportive humour and
he has freighted the piece with conventional didacticism as to the
well-worn question of capital and labour. The humour is good: the
political economy need not detain attention. The value of the play does
not reside in its teaching but in its dramatic presentation of strong
character, individual experience, and significant story. The effect
produced by _The Middleman_ is that of moral elevation. Its auditor is
touched and ennobled by a spectacle of stern trial, pitiable suffering,
and stoical endurance. In the purpose that presides over human
destiny--if one may accept the testimony equally of history and of
fiction--it appears to be necessary first to create strong characters
and then to break them; and the manner in which they are broken usually
involves the elements alike of dramatic effect and of pathos. That
singular fact in mortal experience may have been noticed by this author.
His drama is a forcible exposition of it. _The Middleman_ was set upon
Palmer's stage in such a way as to strengthen the dramatic illusion by
the fidelity of scenery. The firing-house, with its furnaces in
operation, was a copy of what may be seen at Worcester. The picture of
English life was excellent.

When Willard played the part of Judah Llewellyn for the first time in
America (December 29, 1890), he gained from a sympathetic and judicious
audience a verdict of emphatic admiration. Judah Llewellyn is a good
part in one of the most striking plays of the period--a play that tells
an interesting and significant story by expressive, felicitous, and
incessant action; affects the feelings by situations that are vital
with dramatic power; inspires useful thought upon a theme of
psychological importance; cheers the mind with a fresh breeze of
satirical humour; and delights the instinct of taste by its crisp and
pungent style. Alike by his choice of a comparatively original subject
and his deft method in the treatment of it Henry Arthur Jones has shown
a fine dramatic instinct; and equally in the evolution of character and
the expression of experience and emotion he has wrought with feeling and
vigour. Most of the plays that are written, in any given period, pass
away with the period to which they appertain. _Judah_ is one of the
exceptions; for its brilliantly treated theme is one of perennial
interest, and there seems reason to believe, of a work so vital, that
long after the present generation has vanished it still will keep its
place in the theatre, and sometimes be acted, not as a quaint relic but
as a living lesson.

That theme is the psychic force in human organism. The author does not
obtrude it; does not play the pedant with it; does not lecture upon it;
and above all does not bore with it. He only uses it; and he has been so
true to his province as a dramatist and not an advocate that he never
once assumes to decide upon any question of doctrine that may be
involved in the assertion of it. His heroine is a young woman who thinks
herself to be possessed of a certain inherent restorative power of
curing the sick. This power is of psychic origin and it operates through
the medium of personal influence. This girl, Vashti Dethick, has exerted
her power with some success. Other persons, having felt its good effect,
have admitted its existence. The father of Vashti, an enterprising
scamp, has thereupon compelled the girl to trade upon her peculiar
faculty; little by little to assume miraculous powers; and finally to
pretend that her celestial talent is refreshed and strengthened by
abstinence from food, and that her cures are wrought only after she has
fasted for many days. He has thus converted her into an impostor; yet,
as her heart is pure and her moral principle naturally sound, she is ill
at ease in this false position, and her mental distress has suddenly
become aggravated, almost to the pitch of desperation, by the arrival of
love. She has lost her heart to a young clergyman, Judah Llewellyn, the
purity of whose spirit and the beauty of whose life are a bitter and
burning rebuke to her enforced deceitfulness of conduct. Here is a woman
innocently guilty, suddenly aroused by love, made sensitive and noble
(as that passion commonly makes those persons who really feel it), and
projected into a condition of aggrieved excitement. In this posture of
romantic and pathetic circumstances the crisis of two lives is suddenly
precipitated in action.

Judah Llewellyn also is possessed of spiritual sensibility and psychic
force. In boyhood a shepherd, he has dwelt among the mountains of his
native Wales, and his imagination has heard the voices that are in rocks
and trees, in the silence of lonely places, in the desolation of the
bleak hills, and in the cold light of distant stars. He is now a
preacher, infatuated with his mission, inspired in his eloquence,
invincible in his tremendous sincerity. He sees Vashti and he loves her.
It is the first thrill of mortal passion that ever has mingled with his
devotion to his Master's work. The attraction between these creatures is
human; and yet it is more of heaven than of earth. It is a tie of
spiritual kindred that binds them. They are beings of a different order
from the common order--and, as happens in such cases, they will be
tried by exceptional troubles and passed through a fire of mortal
anguish. For what reason experience should take the direction of misery
with fine natures in human life no philosopher has yet been able to
ascertain; but that it does take that direction all competent
observation proves. To Vashti and Judah the time speedily comes when
their love is acknowledged, upon both sides--the preacher speaking
plainly; the girl, conscious of turpitude, shrinking from a spoken
avowal which yet her whole personality proclaims. Yielding to her
father's malign will she has consented to make one more manifestation of
curative power, to go through once more,--and for the last time,--the
mockery of a pretended fast. The scene is Lord Asgarby's house; the
patient is Lord Asgarby's daughter--an only child, cursed with
constitutional debility, the foredoomed victim of premature decline.
This frail creature has heard of Vashti and believes in her, and desires
and obtains her society. To Professor Dethick this is, in every sense, a
golden opportunity, and he insists that the starvation test shall be
thoroughly made. Lord Asgarby, willing to do anything for his idolised
daughter, assents to the plan, and his scientific friend, cynical
Professor Jopp, agrees, with the assistance of his erudite daughter, to
supervise the experiment. Vashti will fast for several days, and the
heir of Asgarby will then be healed by her purified and exalted
influence.

The principal scene of the play shows the exterior of an ancient, unused
tower of Asgarby House, in which Vashti is detained during the fast. The
girl is supposed to be starving. Her scampish father will endeavour to
relieve her. Miss Jopp is vigilant to prevent fraud. The patient is
confident. Judah, wishful to be near to the object of his adoration, has
climbed the outer wall and is watching, beneath the window, unseen, in
the warder's seat. The time is summer, the hour midnight, and the
irrevocable vow of love has been spoken. At that supreme instant, and
under conditions so natural that the picture seems one of actual life,
the sin of Vashti is revealed and the man who had adored her as an angel
knows her for a cheat. With a difference of circumstances that
situation--in the fibre of it--is not new. Many a lover, male and
female, has learned that every idol has its flaw. But the situation is
new in its dramatic structure. For Judah the discovery is a terrible
one, and the resultant agony is convulsive and lamentable. He takes,
however, the only course he could be expected to take: he must vindicate
the integrity of the woman whom he loves, and he commits the crime of
perjury in order to shield her reputation from disgrace.

What will a man do for the woman whom he loves? The attributes of
individual character are always to be considered as forces likely to
modify passion and to affect conduct. But in general the answer to that
question may be given in three words--anything and everything! The
history of nations, as of individuals, is never rightly read until it is
read in the light of knowledge of the influence that has been exerted
over them by women. Cleopatra, in ancient Egypt, changed the history of
Rome by the ruin of Marc Antony. Another heroine recently toppled
Ireland down the fire-escape into the back-yard. So goes the world. In
Judah, however, the crime that is done for love is pursued to its
consequence of ever-accumulative suffering, until at length, when it has
been expiated by remorse and repentance, it is rectified by confession
and obliterated by pardon. No play ever taught a lesson of truth with
more cogent dramatic force. The cynical, humorous scenes are
delightful.

Willard's representation of Cyrus Blenkarn stamped him as one of the
best actors of the age. His representation of Judah Llewellyn deepened
that impression and reinforced it with a conviction of marked
versatility. In his utterance of passion Willard showed that he has
advanced far beyond the Romeo stage. The love that he expressed was that
of a man--intellectual, spiritual, noble, a moral being and one
essentially true. Man's love, when it is real, adores its object;
hallows it; invests it with celestial attributes; and beholds it as a
part of heaven. That quality of reverence was distinctly conveyed by the
actor, and therefore to observers who conceive passion to be delirious
abandonment (of which any animal is capable), his ardour may have seemed
dry and cold. It was nevertheless true. He made the tempestuous torrent
of Judah's avowal the more overwhelming by his preliminary
self-repression and his thoughtful gentleness of reserve; for thus the
hunger of desire was beautiful with devotion and tenderness; and while
the actor's feelings seemed borne away upon a whirling tide of
irresistible impulse his exquisite art kept a perfect control of face,
voice, person, demeanour, and delivery, and not once permitted a lapse
into extravagance. The character thus embodied will long be remembered
as an image of dignity, sweetness, moral enthusiasm, passionate fervour,
and intellectual power; but, also, viewed as an effort in the art of
acting, it will be remembered as a type of consummate grace in the
embodiment of a beautiful ideal clearly conceived. The effect of
spiritual suffering, as conveyed in the pallid countenance and ravaged
figure, in the last act, was that of noble pathos. The delivery of all
the speeches of the broken, humiliated, haunted minister was deeply
touching, not alone in music of voice but in denotement of knowledge of
human nature and human suffering and endurance. The actor who can play
such a part in such a manner is not an experimental artist. Rather let
him be called--in the expressive words of one of his country's poets--

    "Sacred historian of the heart
    And moral nature's lord."



XXIII.

SALVINI AS KING SAUL AND KING LEAR.


Salvini was grander and finer in King Saul than in any other embodiment
that he presented. He seized the idea wholly, and he executed it with
affluent power. He brought to the part every attribute necessary to its
grandeur of form and its afflicting sympathy of spirit. His towering
physique presented, with impressive accuracy, the Hebrew monarch, chosen
of God, who was "lifted a head and shoulders above the people." His
tremulous sensibility, his knowledge of suffering, his skill in
depicting it, his great resources of voice, his vigour and fineness of
action, his exceptional commingling of largeness and gentleness--all
these attributes combined in that performance, to give magnificent
reality to one of the most sublime conceptions in literature. By his
personation of Saul Salvini added a new and an immortal figure to the
stage pantheon of kings and heroes.

Alfieri's tragedy of _Saul_ was written in 1782-83, when the haughty,
impetuous, and passionate poet was thirty-four years old, and at the
suggestion of the Countess of Albany, whom he loved. He had suffered a
bereavement at the time, and he was in deep grief. The Countess tried to
console him by reading the Bible, and when they came upon the narrative
of Saul the idea of the tragedy was struck out between them. The work
was written with vigorous impulse and the author has left, in his
autobiography, the remark that none of his tragedies cost him so little
labour. _Saul_ is in five acts and it contains 1567 lines--of that
Italian _versi sciolti_ which inadequately corresponds to the blank
verse of the English language. The scene is laid in the camp of Saul's
army. Six persons are introduced, namely, Saul, Jonathan, David, Michel,
Abner, and Achimelech. The time supposed to be occupied by the
action--or rather, by the suffering--of the piece is a single day, the
last in the king's life. Act first is devoted to explanation, conveyed
in warnings to David, by Jonathan, his friend, and Michel, his wife. Act
second presents the distracted monarch, who knows that God has forsaken
him and that death is at hand. In a speech of terrible intensity he
relates to Abner the story of the apparition of Samuel and the doom that
the ghost has spoken. His children humour and soothe the broken old man,
and finally succeed in softening his mind toward David--whom he at once
loves, dreads, and hates, as the appointed instrument of his destruction
and the successor to his crown. Act third shows David playing upon the
harp before Saul, and chanting Saul's deeds in the service and defence
of Israel--so that he calms the agonised delirium of the haunted king
and wins his blessing; but at last a boastful word makes discord in the
music's charm, and Saul is suddenly roused into a ghastly fury. Acts
fourth and fifth deal with the wild caprices and maddening agonies of
the frenzied father; the ever-varying phenomena of his mental disease;
the onslaught of the Philistines; the killing of his sons; the frequent
recurrence, before his mind's eye, of the shade of the dead prophet; and
finally his suicidal death. It is, in form, a classical tragedy,
massive, grand, and majestically simple; and it blazes from end to end
with the fire of a sublime imagination.

Ardent lovers of Italian literature are fond of ranking _Saul_ with
_Lear_. The claim is natural but it is not valid. In _Lear_--not to
speak of its profound revelations of universal human nature and its vast
philosophy of human life--there is a tremendous scope of action, through
which mental condition and experience are dramatically revealed; and
there is the deepest deep of pathos, because the highest height of
afflicted goodness. In _Saul_ there is simply--upon a limited canvas,
without adjuncts, without the suggestion of resources, without the
relief of even mournful humour, and with a narrative rather than a
dramatic background--the portraiture of a condition; and, because the
man displayed is neither so noble nor so human, the pathos surcharging
the work is neither so harrowing nor so tender. Yet the two works are
akin in majesty of ideal, in the terrible topic of mental disease that
shatters a king, and in the atmosphere of desolation that trails after
them like a funeral pall; and it is not a wonder that Alfieri's Saul
should be deemed the greatest tragedy ever originated in the Italian
language. It attains a superb height, for it keeps an equal pace with
the severe simplicity of the Bible narrative on which it is founded. It
depicts the condition of an imaginative mind, a stately and robust
character, an arrogant, fiery spirit, a kind heart, and a royal and
regally poised nature, that have first been undermined by sin and the
consciousness of sin, and then crazed by contact with the spirit world
and by a nameless dread of the impending anger of an offended God. It
would be difficult to conceive of a more distracting and piteous state.
Awe and terror surround that august sufferer, and make him both holy and
dreadful. In his person and his condition, as those are visible to the
imaginative mind, he combined elements that irresistibly impress and
thrill. He is of vast physical stature, that time has not bent, and of
great beauty of face, that griefs have ravaged but not destroyed. He is
a valiant and sanguinary warrior, and danger seems to radiate from his
presence. He is a magnanimous king and a loving father, and he softens
by generosity and wins by gentleness. He is a maniac, haunted by
spectres and scourged with a whip of scorpions, and his red-eyed fury
makes all space a hell and shatters silence with the shrieks of the
damned. He is a human soul, burdened with the frightful consciousness
of Divine wrath and poised in torment on the precipice that overhangs
the dark, storm-beaten ocean of eternity. His human weakness is frighted
by ghastly visions and indefinite horrors, against which his vain
struggle only makes his forlorn feebleness more piteous and drear. The
gleams of calm that fall upon his tortured heart only light up an abyss
of misery--a vault of darkness peopled by demons. He is already cut off
from among the living, by the doom of inevitable fate, and while we pity
him we fear him. His coming seems attended with monstrous shapes; he
diffuses dissonance; his voice is a cry of anguish or a wail of
desolation; his existence is a tempest; there can be no relief for him
save death, and the death that ends him comes like the blessing of tears
to the scorched eyelids of consuming misery. That is the Saul of the
Bible and of Alfieri's tragedy; and that is the Saul whom Salvini
embodied. It was a colossal monument of human suffering that the actor
presented, and no one could look upon it without being awed and
chastened.

Salvini's embodiment of King Lear was a remarkable manifestation of
physical resources and of professional skill. The lofty stature, the
ample and resonant voice, the copious animal excitement, the fluent
elocution and the vigorous, picturesque, and often melodramatic
movements, gestures, and poses of Salvini united to animate and
embellish a personality such as would naturally absorb attention and
diffuse excitement. Every artist, however, moves within certain specific
and positive limitations--spiritual, mental, and physical. No actor has
proved equal to every kind of character. Salvini, when he acted Hamlet,
was unspiritual--giving no effect to the haunted tone of that part or to
its weird surroundings; and when he acted Macbeth he was unimaginative,
obscure, common, and therefore inadequate. The only Shakespearean
character that he excelled in is Othello, and even in that his ideal
displayed neither the magnanimity nor the tenderness that are in
Shakespeare's conception. The chief attributes of the Moor that he
interpreted were physical; the loftiest heights that he reached were
terror and distracted grief; but he worked with a pictorial method and a
magnetic vigour that enthralled the feelings even when they did not
command the judgment.

His performance of King Lear gave new evidence of his limitations.
During the first two acts he made the king a merely restless, choleric,
disagreeable old man, deficient in dignity, destitute of grandeur, and
especially destitute of inherent personal fascination--of the
suggestiveness of ever having been a great man. Lear is a ruin--but he
has been a Titan; the delight of all hearts no less than the monarch of
all minds. The actor who does not invest him with that inherent,
overwhelming personal fascination does not attain to his altitude. The
cruel afflictions that occur in the tragedy do not of themselves
signify: the pity is only that they should occur to him. That is the
spring of all the pathos. In Salvini's Lear there were beautiful moments
and magnificent bits of action. "I gave you all" and "I'm cold myself"
were exquisite points. He missed altogether, however, the more subtle
significance of the reminiscent reference to Cordelia--as in "No more of
that, I have noted it well"--and he gave, at the beginning, no
intimation of impending madness. In fact he introduced no element of
lunacy till he reached the lines about "red-hot spits" in Edgar's first
mad scene.

Much of Salvini's mechanism in Lear was crude. He put the king behind a
table, in the first scene--which had the effect of preparation for a
lecture; and it pleased him to speak the storm speech away back at the
upper entrance, with his body almost wholly concealed behind painted
crags. With all its moments of power and of tenderness the embodiment
was neither royal, lovable, nor great. It might be a good Italian Lear:
it was not the Lear of Shakespeare. Salvini was particularly out of the
character in the curse scene and in the frantic parting from the two
daughters, because there the quality of the man, behind the action,
seemed especially common. The action, though, was theatrical and had its
due effect.



XXIV.

HENRY IRVING AS EUGENE ARAM.


Henry Irving's impersonation of Eugene Aram--given in a vein that is
distinctly unique--was one of strange and melancholy grace and also of
weird poetical and pathetic power.

More than fifty years ago, just after Bulwer's novel on the subject of
Eugene Aram was published, that character first came upon the stage, and
its first introduction to the American theatre occurred at the Bowery,
where it was represented by John R. Scott. Aram languished, however, as
a dramatic person, and soon disappeared. He did not thrive in England,
neither, till, in 1873, Henry Irving, who had achieved great success in
_The Bells_, prompted W.G. Wills to effect his resuscitation in a new
play, and acted him in a new manner. The part then found an actor who
could play it,--investing psychological subtlety with tender human
feeling and romantic grace, and making an imaginary experience of
suffering vital and heartrending in its awful reality. The performance
ranks with the best that Henry Irving has given--with _Mathias_,
_Lesurques_, _Dubosc_, _Louis XI._, and _Hamlet_; those studies of the
night-side of human nature in which his imagination and intellect and
his sombre feeling have been revealed and best exemplified.

Eugene Aram was born at Ramsgill, in Nidderdale, Yorkshire, in 1704. His
father, Peter Aram, was a man of good family but becoming reduced in
circumstances he took service as a gardener on the estate of Sir Edward
Blackett, of Newby Hall. In 1710 Peter Aram and his family were living
at Bondgate, near Ripon, and there Eugene went to school and learned to
read the New Testament. At a considerably later period he was
instructed, during one month, by the Rev. Mr. Alcock, of Burndall. This
was the extent of the tuition that he ever received from others. For the
rest he was self-taught. He had a natural passion for knowledge and he
displayed wonderful industry in its acquisition. When sixteen years old
he knew something of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and later he made himself
acquainted with Chaldaic and Arabic. His occupation, up to this time,
was that of assistant to his father, the gardener; but about 1720 he was
employed in London as a clerk to a merchant, Mr. Christopher Blackett, a
relative to his father's patron, Sir Edward. He did not remain there
long. A serious illness prostrated him, and on recovering he returned to
Nidderdale, with which romantic region his fate was to be forever
associated. He now became a tutor, and not long after he was employed as
such at a manor-house, near Ramsgill, called Gowthwaite Hall, a
residence built early in the seventeenth century by Sir John Yorke, and
long inhabited by his descendants. While living there he met and courted
Anna Spance, the daughter of a farmer, at the lonely village of
Lofthouse, and in 1731 he married her. The Middlesmoor registry contains
the record of this marriage, and of the baptism and death of their first
child. In 1734 Eugene Aram removed to Knaresborough, where he kept a
school. He had, all this while, sedulously pursued his studies, and he
now was a scholar of extraordinary acquirements, not only in the
languages but in botany, heraldry, and many other branches of learning.
His life seemed fair and his future bright: but a change was at hand.
He had not resided long at Knaresborough before he became acquainted
with three persons most unlike himself in every way. These men were
Henry Terry, Richard Houseman, and Daniel Clarke. Houseman was a
flax-dresser. Clarke was a travelling jeweller. All of them were
intemperate; and it is supposed that the beginning of Eugene Aram's
downfall was the appetite for drink. The confederacy that he formed with
these men is not easily explicable, and probably it never has been
rightly explained. The accepted statement is that it was a confederacy
for fraud and theft. Clarke was reported to be the heir presumptive to a
large fortune. He purchased goods, was punctual in his payments, and
established his credit. He was supposed to be making purchases for a
merchant in London. He dealt largely in gold and silver plate and in
watches, and soon he made a liberal use of his credit to accumulate
valuable objects. In 1744 he disappeared, and he never was seen or heard
of again. His frauds became known, and the houses of Aram and Houseman,
suspected as his associates, were searched, but nothing was found to
implicate either of them.

Soon after this event Aram left Knaresborough--deserting his wife--and
proceeded to London, where for two years he had employment as a teacher
of Latin. He was subsequently an usher at the boarding school of the
Rev. Anthony Hinton, at Hayes, in Middlesex, and there it was observed
that he displayed an extraordinary and scrupulous tenderness and
solicitude as to the life and safety of even worms and insects--which he
would remove from the garden walks and put into places of security. At a
later period he found employment as a transcriber of acts of Parliament,
for registration in chancery. Still later he became an usher at the Free
School of Lynn, in Norfolk, where, among other labours, he undertook to
make a comparative lexicon, and with this purpose collated over 3000
words in English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Celtic. He had ample
opportunity to leave England but he never did so. At length, in 1759, a
labourer who was digging for limestone, at a place known as St. Robert's
Cave, Thistle Hill, near Knaresborough, came upon a human skeleton, bent
double and buried in the earth. Suspicion was aroused. These bones, it
was surmised, might be those of Daniel Clarke. His mysterious
disappearance and his associates were remembered. The authorities sent
forth and arrested Terry, Houseman, and Eugene Aram, and those persons
were brought to their trial at York. A bold front would have saved them,
for the evidence against them was weak. Aram stood firm, but Houseman
quailed, and presently he turned "state's evidence" and denounced Aram
as the murderer of Clarke. The accused scholar spoke in his own defence,
and with astonishing skill, but he failed to defeat the direct and
decisive evidence of his accomplice. Houseman declared that on the day
of the murder Clarke, Aram, and himself were in company, and were
occupied in disposing of the property which they had obtained; that Aram
proposed to walk in the fields, and that they proceeded, thereupon, at
nightfall, to the vicinity of St. Robert's Cave. Clarke and Aram, he
said, went over the hedge and advanced toward the cave, and Aram struck
Clarke several times upon the breast and head, and so killed him. It was
a dark night, and in the middle of winter, but the moon was shining
through drifting clouds, and Houseman said he could see the movement of
Aram's hand but not the weapon that it held. He was about twelve yards
from the spot of the murder. He testified that the body of Clarke was
buried in the cave. The presiding justice charged against the prisoner
and Eugene Aram was convicted and condemned. He subsequently, it is
said, confessed the crime, alleging to the clergyman by whom he was
attended that his wife had been led into an intrigue by Clarke, and that
this was the cause of the murder. Here, doubtless, is the indication of
the true nature of this tragedy. Aram, prior to his execution, was
confined in York Castle, where he wrote a poem of considerable length
and some merit, and also several shorter pieces of verse. On the morning
of his execution it was found that he had opened a vein in his arm, with
the intent to bleed to death, but the wound was staunched, and he was
taken to Knaresborough and there hanged, and afterward his body was hung
in chains in Knaresborough Forest. His death occurred on August 13,
1759, in the fifty-fifth year of his age. On the night before his
execution he wrote a rhythmical apostrophe to death:--

    "Come, pleasing rest! eternal slumber fall!
    Seal mine, that once must seal the eyes of all!
    Calm and composed my soul her journey takes;
    No guilt that troubles and no heart that aches."

Such is the story of Eugene Aram--a story that has furnished the basis
of various fictions, notably of Bulwer's famous novel, and which
inspired one of the best of the beautiful poems of Thomas Hood. Wills
gathered hints from it, here and there, in the making of his play; but
he boldly departed from its more hideous and repulsive incidents and
from the theory of the main character that might perhaps be justified by
its drift. In the construction of the piece Henry Irving made many
material suggestions. The treatment of the character of Aram was devised
by him, and the management of the close of the second act denotes his
felicity of invention.

The play opens in the rose-garden of a rural rectory in the sweet, green
valley of the shining Nidd. The time is twilight; the season summer; and
here, in a haven of peace and love, the repentant murderer has found a
refuge. Many years have passed since the commission of his crime, and
all those years he has lived a good life, devoted to study, instruction,
and works of benevolence. He has been a teacher of the young, a helper
of the poor, and he has gained respect, affection, and honourable
repute. He is safe in the security of silence and in the calm self-poise
of his adamantine will. His awful secret sleeps in his bosom and is at
rest forever. He has suffered much and he still suffers; yet, lulled
into a false security by the uneventful lapse of years and by that
drifting, desolate, apathetic recklessness which is sequent on the
subsiding storm of passionate sorrow, he has allowed himself to accept a
woman's love and to love her in return, and half to believe that his
long misery has expiated his sin and that even for him there may be a
little happiness yet possible on earth. Eugene Aram, the village
school-master, and Ruth Meadows, the vicar's daughter, are betrothed
lovers; and now, on the eve of their wedding morning, they stand
together among the roses, while the sun is going down and the sweet
summer wind plays softly in the leaves, and from the little gray church
close by a solemn strain of music--the vesper hymn--floats out upon the
stillness of the darkening day. The woman is all happiness, confidence,
and hope; the man, seared and blighted by conscious sin and subdued by
long years of patient submission to the sense of his own unworthiness,
is all gentleness, solicitude, reverence, and sorrow. At this supreme
moment, when now it seems that everything is surely well, the one man in
the world who knows Eugene Aram's secret has become, by seeming chance,
a guest in the vicarage; and even while Ruth places her hand upon her
lover's heart and softly whispers, "If guilt were there, it still should
be my pillow," the shadow of the gathering night that darkens around
them is deepened by the blacker shadow of impending doom. The first act
of the play is simply a picture. It involves no action. It only
introduces the several persons who are implicated in the experience to
be displayed, denotes their relationship to one another, and reveals a
condition of feeling and circumstance which is alike romantic, pathetic,
and perilous, and which is soon to be shattered by the disclosure of a
fatal secret. The act is a preparation for a catastrophe.

In the second act the opposed characters clash: the movement begins,
and the catastrophe is precipitated. The story opens at nightfall,
proceeds the same evening, and ends at the dawn of the ensuing day. The
scene of act second is a room in the vicarage. Aram and Parson Meadows
are playing chess, and Ruth is hovering about them and roguishly
impeding their play. The purpose accomplished here is the exhibition of
domestic comfort and content, and this is further emphasised by Ruth's
recital of a written tribute that Aram's pupils have sent to him, on the
eve of his marriage. Wounded by this praise the conscience-stricken
wretch breaks off abruptly from his pastime and rushes from the room--an
act of desperate grief which is attributed to his modesty. The parson
soon follows, and Ruth is left alone. Houseman, their casual guest,
having accepted the vicar's hospitable offer of a shelter for the night,
has now a talk with Ruth, and he is startled to hear the name of Eugene
Aram, and thus to know that he has found the man whose fatal secret he
possesses, and upon whose assumed dread of exposure his cupidity now
purposes to feed. In a coarsely jocular way this brutish creature
provokes the indignant resentment of Ruth, by insinuations as to her
betrothed lover's past life; and when, a little later, Ruth and Aram
again meet, she wooingly begs him to tell her of any secret trouble that
may be weighing upon his mind. At this moment Houseman comes upon them,
and utters Aram's name. From that point to the end of the act there is a
sustained and sinewy exposition, strong in spirit and thrilling in
suspense,--of keen intellect and resolute will standing at bay and
making their last battle for life, against the overwhelming odds of
heaven's appointed doom. Aram defies Houseman and is denounced by him;
but the ready adroitness and iron composure of the suffering wretch
still give him supremacy over his foe--till, suddenly, the discovery is
announced of the bones of Daniel Clarke in St. Robert's Cave, and the
vicar commands Aram and Houseman to join him in their inspection. Here
the murderer suffers a collapse. There has been a greater strain than
even he can bear; and, left alone upon the scene, he stands petrified
with horror, seeming, in an ecstasy of nameless fear, to look upon the
spectre of his victim. Henry Irving's management of the apparition
effect was such as is possible only to a man of genius, and such as
words may record but never can describe.

The third act passes in the churchyard. Aram has fled from the sight of
the skeleton, and has fallen among the graves. It is almost morning. The
ghastly place is silent and dark. The spirit of the murderer is broken,
and his enfeebled body, long since undermined by the grief of remorse
and now chilled by the night dews, is in the throes of death. The
incidents of the closing scene are simple, but they are heart-breaking
in their pathos and awful in their desolation. The fugitive Houseman
finds Aram here, and spurns him as a whimpering lunatic. Then, in this
midnight hour and this appalling place, alone in the presence of God,
the murderer lifts his hands toward heaven, confesses his crime, and
falls at the foot of the cross. Here Ruth finds him, and to her, with
dying lips, he tells the story of the murder and of all that he has
since endured. And just as his voice falters into silence and his heart
ceases to beat, the diamond light of morning gleams in the eastern sky
and the glad music of an anthem floats softly from the neighbouring
church. Upon that beautifully significant picture the final curtain
fell.

Wills's literary framework for the display of character and experience
is scarcely to be considered a perfect play. It begins by assuming on
the part of its auditor a knowledge of the mystery upon which it is
based. Such a knowledge the auditor ought certainly to have, but in
presence of an exact drama he derives it from what he sees and not from
remembrance of what he has read. The piece is, perhaps, somewhat
irrational in making Aram a resident, under his own name, of the actual
neighbourhood of his crime. It lowers the assumed nobility of his
character, furthermore, by making this remorseful and constantly
apprehensive murderer willing to yoke a sweet, innocent, and idolised
woman to misery and shame by making her his wife. And it mars its most
pathetic scene--the awful scene of the midnight confession in the
churchyard--by making Eugene Aram declare, to the woman of his love, the
one human being who comforts and sustains him on the brink of eternity,
that he has loved another woman for whose sake he did the murder. Since
the whole story was to be treated in a fanciful manner, a still wider
license in the play of fancy would, perhaps, have had a more entirely
gracious and satisfying effect. The language is partly blank verse and
partly prose; and, while its tissue is rightly and skilfully diversified
by judicious allowance for the effect of each character upon the garment
of individual diction, and while its strain, here and there, rises to
eloquence of feeling and beauty of imagery, there is a certain lack of
firmness in its verbal fibre. The confession speech that has to be
spoken by Aram comprises upward of ninety lines--and that is a severe
and perilous strain upon an actor's power of holding the public
interest. The beauties of the play, however, are many and strong. Its
crowning excellence is that it gives dramatic permanence to a strangely
interesting character.

The knowledge of human nature that Henry Irving revealed in this part
and the manner in which he revealed it were nothing less than wonderful.
The moment he walked upon the scene you saw the blighted figure of a man
who has endured, and is enduring, spiritual torment. The whole
personality was suffused with a mournful strangeness. The man was
isolated and alone. It was a purely ideal view of the character that
the actor denoted; for he made Eugene Aram a noble, tender, gentle
person, whom ungovernable passion, under circumstances of overwhelming
provocation, had once impelled to an act of half-justifiable homicide,
and who had for years been slowly dying with remorse. He touched no
chord of terror, but only the chord of pity. Like his portrayal of
Mathias, the picture showed the reactionary effect of hidden sin in the
human soul; but the personality of the sufferer was entirely different.
Each of those men has had experience of crime and of resultant misery,
but no two embodiments could possibly be more dissimilar, alike in
spiritual quality and in circumstances. Mathias is dominated by paternal
love and characterised by a half-defiant, ever-vigilant, and often
self-approbative pride of intellect, in being able to guard and keep a
terrible and dangerous secret. Eugene Aram is dominated by a saint-like
tenderness toward a sweet woman who loves him, and characterised by a
profound, fitful melancholy, now humble and submissive, now actively
apprehensive and almost frenzied. Only once does he stand at bay and
front his destiny with a defiance of desperate will; and even then it is
for the woman's sake rather than for his own. Henry Irving's acting
made clear and beautiful that condition of temperament. A noble and
affectionate nature, shipwrecked, going to pieces, doomed, but making
one last tremendous though futile effort to avert the final and
inevitable ruin--this ideal was made actual in his performance. The
intellectual or spiritual value of such a presentment must depend upon
the auditor's capacity to absorb from a tragedy its lessons of insight
into the relations of the human soul to the moral government of the
world. Many spectators would find it merely morbid and gloomy; others
would find it superlatively illuminative and eloquent. Its artistic
value the actor himself made evident to every comprehension. There is a
moment of the performance when the originally massive and passionate
character of Eugene Aram is suddenly asserted above his meekness,
contrition, and sorrow; when, at the sound of his enemy's voice, he
first becomes petrified with the sense of peril, and then calmly gathers
all his powers to meet and conquer the danger. The splendid
concentration, the perfect poise, the sustained intensity, the copious
and amazing variety and force of emotion, and the positive, unerring,
and brilliant art with which Henry Irving met that emergency and
displayed that frightful and piteous aspect of assailed humanity,
desperate and fighting for life, made up such an image of genius as
seldom is seen and never will be forgotten. Rapid transition has ever
been one of the commonest and most effective expedients used in
histrionic art. This, on the contrary, was an example of sustained,
prolonged, cumulative, artistic expression of the most harrowing and
awful emotions with which the human soul can be convulsed; and it was a
wonder of consummate acting. The same thoroughness of identification and
the same astonishing adequacy of feeling pervaded the scene in the
churchyard. At first, in the dusky starlight, only a shapeless figure,
covered with a black cloak, was seen among the gravestones, crouched
upon a tomb; but the man that rose, as if out of the grave, pallid,
emaciated, ghastly, the spectre of himself, was the authentic image of
majestic despair, not less sublime than pitiable, and fraught with a
power that happiness could never attain. Not in our time upon the stage
has such a lesson been taught, with such overwhelming pathos, of the
utter helplessness of even the strongest human will, when once the soul
has been vitiated by sin and the eternal law of right defied by mortal
passion. In the supplication to his astonished accomplice the actor
seemed like one transfigured, and there the haunted effect was extremely
awful.



XXV.

CHARLES FISHER.


In old times Charles Fisher often figured in the old comedies, and he
was one of the last of the thin and rapidly lessening group of actors
capable of presenting those pieces--wherein, although the substance be
human nature, the manner is that of elaborate and diversified artifice.
When he played Lieutenant Worthington, in _The Poor Gentleman_, he was a
gentleman indeed--refined, delicate, sensitive, simply courageous,
sustained by native integrity, and impressive with a dignity of manner
that reflected the essential nobility of his mind; so that when he
mistook Sir Robert Bramble for a bailiff, and roused that benevolent
baronet's astonishment and rage, he brought forth all the comic humour
of a delightful situation with the greatest ease and nature. He played
Littleton Coke, Sir Harcourt Courtly, old Laroque--in which he gave a
wonderful picture of the working of remorse in the frail and failing
brain of age--and Nicholas Rue, in _Secrets worth Knowing_, a sinister
and thrilling embodiment of avarice and dotage. He played Dr. Bland, the
elegant medical cynic of _Nos Intimes_; De la Tour, the formidable,
jealous husband of Henriette, in _Le Patte de Mouche_; Horace, in _The
Country Squire_; Goldfinch, in which he was airy, sagacious, dashing,
and superb, in _The Road to Ruin_; and Captain Cozzens, the nonchalant
rascal of _The Knights of the Round Table_, which he embodied in a style
of easy magnificence, gay, gallant, courageous, alert, imperturbable,
and immensely comic. He was the original Matthew Leigh in Lester
Wallack's romantic play of _Rosedale_ (1863). He acted Joseph Surface in
the days when Lester Wallack used to play Charles, and he always held
his own in that superior part. He was equally fine in Sir Peter and Sir
Oliver. When the good old play of _The Wife's Secret_ was revived in New
York, in 1864, he gave a dignified and impetuous performance of Sir
Walter Amyott. I remember him in those parts, with equal wonder at his
comprehensive variety of talent and admiration for his always adequate
skill. I saw him as the volatile Ferment, in _The School of Reform_,
and nothing could be more comic than his unwitting abuse of General
Tarragon, in that blustering officer's presence, or his equally
ludicrous scene of cross purposes with Bob Tyke. He was a perfect type,
as Don Manuel Velasco, in _The Compact_, of the gallant, stately Spanish
aristocrat. He excelled competition when, in a company that included
George Holland, W. Holston, A.W. Young, Mark Smith, Frederick C.P.
Robinson, and John Gilbert, he enacted the convict in _Never Too Late to
Mend_. He was equally at home whether as the King in _Don Cæsar de
Bazan_ or as Tom Stylus the literary hack, in _Society_. He passed
easily from the correct and sentimental Sir Thomas Clifford, of _The
Hunchback_, to the frivolous Mr. Willowear, of _To Marry or Not to
Marry_. No one could better express than he did, when playing Wellborn,
both pride of birth and pride of character. One of his most
characteristic works was Hyssop, in _The Rent Day_. His scope and the
rich resources of his experience are denoted in those citations. It is
no common artist who can create and sustain a perfect illusion, and
please an audience equally well, whether in such a part as Gilbert
Featherstone, the villain, in _Lost in London_, or old Baptista, in _The
Taming of the Shrew_. The playgoer who never saw Charles Fisher as
Triplet can scarcely claim that he ever saw the part at all. The quaint
figure, the well-saved but threadbare dress, the forlorn air of poverty
and suffering commingled with a certain jauntiness and pluck, the
profound feeling, the unconscious sweetness and humour, the spirit of
mind, gentility, and refinement struggling through the confirmed
wretchedness of the almost heart-broken hack--who that ever laughed and
wept at sight of him in the garret scene, sitting down, "all joy and
hilarity," to write his comedy, can ever forget those details of a true
and touching embodiment? His fine skill in playing the violin was
touchingly displayed in that part, and gave it an additional tone of
reality. I once saw him acting Mercutio, and very admirable he was in
the guise of that noble, brave, frolicsome, impetuous young gentleman.
The intense vitality, the glancing glee, the intrepid spirit--all were
preserved; and the brilliant text was spoken with faultless fluency. It
is difficult to realise that the same actor who set before us that
perfect image of comic perplexity, the bland and benevolent Dean, in
_Dandy Dick_, could ever have been the bantering companion of Romeo and
truculent adversary of fiery Tybalt. Yet this contrast but faintly
indicates the versatile character of his mind. Fisher was upon the
American stage for thirty-eight years, from August 30, 1852, when he
came forth at Burton's theatre as Ferment. Later he went to Wallack's,
and in 1872 he joined Daly's company, in which he remained till 1890. It
may be conjectured that in some respects he resembled that fine comedian
Thomas Dogget, to whom Sir Godfrey Kneller, the painter, said, "I can
only copy Nature from the originals before me, while you vary them at
pleasure and yet preserve the likeness." Like Dogget he played, in a
vein of rich, hearty, jocose humour, and with great breadth of effect
and excellent colour, the sailor Ben, in _Love for Love_. The
resemblance was in mental characteristics, not physique--for Dogget was
a slight and sprightly man, whereas Fisher could represent majesty as
well as frolic. After he went to Daly's theatre he manifested a
surprising range of faculty. He first appeared there on October 28,
1872, as Mr. Dornton, in _The Road to Ruin_, and on November 19,
following, he acted Falstaff for the first time. He presented there the
other Shakespearean parts of Leonatus, Armado, and Malvolio--the last of
these being a model of fidelity to the poet, and now a classic in
reputation. He also assumed Adam and Jaques. He presented the living
image of Shakespeare himself, in _Yorick_, and his large, broad, stately
style gave weight to Don Manuel, in _She Would and She Wouldn't_; to
that apt type of the refined British aristocrat, Sir Geoffrey Champneys,
in _Our Boys_; and to many a noble father or benevolent uncle of the
adapted French society drama. Just as Dogget was supreme in such parts
as Fondlewife, so was Fisher superb in the uxorious husband whom the
demure child-wife bamboozles, in the comedies of Molière. No man has
ever better depicted than he did a sweet nature shocked by calamity and
bowed down with grief, or, as in Joe Chirrup, in _Elfie_, manliness
chastened by affliction and ennobled by true love: yet his impersonation
of Fagin was only second to that of J.W. Wallack, Jr.; his Moody, in
_The Country Girl_, was almost tragic in its grim and grizzled
wretchedness and snarling wrath; and I have seen him assume to
perfection the gaunt figure and crazy mood of Noah Learoyd, in _The Long
Strike_, and make that personality a terrible embodiment of menace. From
the time he first acted the comic Major Vavasour, in _Henry Dunbar_, no
actor of equal quaintness has trod our stage. He died on June 11, 1891,
and was buried at Woodlawn.



XXVI.

MRS. G.H. GILBERT.


Students of the English stage find in books on that subject abundant
information about the tragedy queens of the early drama, and much
likewise, though naturally somewhat less (because comedy is more
difficult to discuss than tragedy), about the comedy queens. Mrs. Cibber
still discomfits the melting Mrs. Porter by a tenderness even greater
than the best of Belvideras could dispense. Mrs. Bracegirdle and Mrs.
Oldfield still stand confronted on the historic page, and still their
battle continues year after year. All readers know the sleepy voice and
horrid sigh of Mrs. Pritchard in Lady Macbeth's awful scene of haunted
somnambulism; the unexampled and unexcelled grandeur of Mrs. Yates in
Medea; the infinite pathos of Mrs. Dancer (she that became in succession
Mrs. Spranger Barry and Mrs. Crawford) and her memorable scream, as Lady
Randolph, at "Was he alive?"; the comparative discomfiture of both
those ladies by Mrs. Siddons, with her wonderful, wailing cry, as
Isabella, "O, my Biron, my Biron," her overwhelming Lady Macbeth and her
imperial Queen Katharine. The brilliant story of Peg Woffington and the
sad fate of Mrs. Robinson, the triumphant career of Mrs. Abington and
the melancholy collapse of Mrs. Jordan--all those things, and many more,
are duly set down in the chronicles. But the books are comparatively
silent about the Old Women of the stage--an artistic line no less
delightful than useful, of which Mrs. G.H. Gilbert is a sterling and
brilliant representative. Mrs. Jefferson, the great-grandmother of the
comedian Joseph Jefferson, who died of laughter, on the stage (1766-68),
might fitly be mentioned as the dramatic ancestor of such actresses as
Mrs. Gilbert. She was a woman of great loveliness of character and of
great talent for the portrayal of "old women," and likewise of certain
"old men" in comedy. "She had," says Tate Wilkinson, "one of the best
dispositions that ever harboured in a human breast"; and he adds that
"she was one of the most elegant women ever beheld." Mrs. Gilbert has
always suggested that image of grace, goodness, and piquant ability.
Mrs. Vernon was the best in this line until Mrs. Gilbert came; and the
period which has seen Mrs. Judah, Mrs. Vincent, Mrs. Germon, Mary Carr,
Mrs. Chippendale, Mrs. Stirling, Mrs. Billington, Mrs. Drew, Mrs.
Phillips, and Madam Ponisi, has seen no superior to Mrs. Gilbert in her
special walk. She was in youth a beautiful dancer, and all her motions
have spontaneous ease and grace. She can assume the fine lady, without
for an instant suggesting the parvenu. She is equally good, whether as
the formal and severe matron of starched domestic life, or the genial
dame of the pantry. She could play Temperance in _The Country Squire_,
and equally she could play Mrs. Jellaby. All varieties of the
eccentricity of elderly women, whether serious or comic, are easily
within her grasp. Betsy Trotwood, embodied by her, becomes a living
reality; while on the other hand she suffused with a sinister horror her
stealthy, gliding, uncanny personation of the dumb, half-insane Hester
Dethridge. That was the first great success that Mrs. Gilbert gained,
under Augustin Daly's management. She has been associated with Daly's
company since his opening night as a manager, August 16, 1869, when, at
the Fifth Avenue theatre, then in Twenty-fourth Street, she took part in
Robertson's comedy of _Play_. The first time I ever saw her she was
acting the Marquise de St. Maur, in _Caste_, on the night of its first
production in America, August 5, 1867, at the Broadway theatre, the
house near the southwest corner of Broadway and Broome Street, that had
been Wallack's but now was managed by Barney Williams. The assumption of
that character, perfect in every particular, was instinct with pure
aristocracy; but while brilliant with serious ability it gave not the
least hint of those rich resources of humour that since have diffused so
much innocent pleasure. Most of her successes have been gained as the
formidable lady who typifies in comedy the domestic proprieties and the
Nemesis of respectability. It was her refined and severely correct
demeanour that gave soul and wings to the wild fun of _A Night Off_.
From Miss Garth to Mrs. Laburnum is a far stretch of imitative talent
for the interpretation of the woman nature that everybody, from
Shakespeare down, has found it so difficult to treat. This actress has
never failed to impress the spectator by her clear-cut, brilliant
identification with every type of character that she has assumed; and,
back of this, she has denoted a kind heart and a sweet and gentle yet
never insipid temperament--the condition of goodness, sympathy,
graciousness, and cheer that is the flower of a fine nature and a good
life. Scenes in which Mrs. Gilbert and Charles Fisher or James Lewis
have participated, as old married people, on Daly's stage, will long be
remembered for their intrinsic beauty--suggestive of the touching lines:

    "And when with envy Time, transported,
      Shall think to rob us of our joys,
    You'll in your girls again be courted,
      And I'll go wooing with my boys."



XXVII.

JAMES LEWIS.


A prominent representative type of character is "the humorous man," and
that is Shakespeare's phrase to describe him. Wit is a faculty; humour
an attribute. Joseph Addison, Laurence Sterne, Washington
Irving--whatever else they might have been they were humourists. Sir
Roger de Coverley, Tristram Shandy, Uncle Toby, Diedrich Knickerbocker,
Ichabod Crane--these and other creations of their genius stand forth
upon their pages to exemplify that aspect of their minds. But the
humourist of the pen may, personally, be no humourist at all. Addison's
character was austere. Irving, though sometimes gently playful, was
essentially grave and decorous.

Comical quality in the humorous man whom nature destines for the stage
must be personal. His coming brings with it a sense of comfort. His
presence warms the heart and cheers the mind. The sound of his voice,
"speaking oft," before he emerges upon the scene, will set the theatre
in a roar. This was notably true of Burton and of William Warren. The
glance, motion, carriage, manner, and the pause and stillness of such a
man, instil merriment. Cibber says that Robert Nokes had a palpable
simplicity of nature which was often as unaccountably diverting in his
common speech as on the stage, John E. Owens, describing the conduct of
a big bee in an empty molasses barrel, once threw a circle of his
hearers, of whom I was one, almost into convulsions of laughter. Artemas
Ward made people laugh the moment they beheld him, by his wooden
composure and indescribable sapience of demeanour. The lamented Daniel
E. Setchell, a comedian who would have been as famous as he was funny
had he but lived longer, presented a delightful example of spontaneous
humour. It is ludicrous to recall the simple gravity, not demure but
perfectly solemn, with which, on the deck of a Hudson River steamboat,
as we were passing West Point, he indicated to me the Kosciuszko
monument, saying briefly, "That's the place where Freedom shrieked." It
was the quality of his temperament that made his playfulness delicious.
Setchell was the mental descendant of Burton, as Burton was of Reeve and
as Reeve was of Liston. Actors illustrate a kind of heredity. Each
species is distinct and discernible. Lester Wallack maintained the
lineage of Charles Kemble, William Lewis, Elliston, and Mountfort--a
line in which John Drew has gained auspicious distinction. John
Gilbert's artistic ancestry could be traced back through Farren and
Munden to King and Quin, and perhaps still further, to Lowin and Kempe.

The comedian intrinsically comical, while in his characteristic quality
eccentric and dry, has been exemplified by Fawcett, Blisset, Finn, and
Barnes, and is conspicuously presented by James Lewis. No one ever saw
him without laughter--and it is kindly laughter, with a warm heart
behind it. The moment he comes upon the stage an eager gladness diffuses
itself throughout the house. His refined quaintness and unconscious
drollery capture all hearts. His whimsical individuality never varies;
yet every character of the many that he has portrayed stands clearly
forth among its companions, a distinct, unique embodiment. The graceful
urbanity, the elaborate yet natural manner, the brisk vitality, the
humorous sapience of Sir Patrick Lundy--how completely and admirably he
expressed them! How distinct that fine old figure is in the remembrance
of all who saw it! But he has never played a part that he did not make
equally distinct. A painter might fill a gallery with odd,
characteristic creations by merely copying his compositions of
"make-up." The amiable professor in _A Night Off_, the senile Gunnion in
_The Squire_, Lissardo in _The Wonder_, Grumio in _The Shrew_--those and
many more he has made his own; while in the actor's province of making
comic characters really comical to others there is no artist who better
fulfils the sagacious, comprehensive injunction of Munden (imparted to a
youthful actor who spoke of being "natural" in order to amuse), "Nature
be d----d! Make the people laugh!" That, aside from all subtleties, is
not a bad test of the comic faculty, and that test has been met and
borne by the acting of James Lewis.



XXVIII.

A LEAF FROM MY JOURNAL.


[November 23, 1867.]

Thirty years hereafter many who are now active and honoured in dramatic
life will be at rest--their work concluded, their achievements a fading
tradition. But they will not be wholly forgotten. The same talisman of
memory that has preserved to our time the names and the deeds of the
actors of old will preserve to future times the names and the deeds that
are distinguished now in the mimic world of the stage. Legend, speaking
in the voice of the veteran devotee of the drama, will say, for example,
that of all the actors of this period there was no light comedian
comparable with Lester Wallack; that he could thoroughly identify
himself with character,--though it did not always please him to do so;
that his acting was so imaginative and so earnest as to make reality of
the most gossamer fiction; and that his vivacity--the essential element
and the crown of comedy-acting--was like the dew on the opening rose.
And therewithal the veteran may quaff his glass to the memory of another
member of the Wallack family, and speak of James Wallack as Cassius, and
Fagin, and the Man-in-the-Iron-Mask, and the King of the Commons, and
may say, with truth, that a more winning embodiment of bluff manliness
and humour was never known to our stage than the versatile actor who
made himself foremost in those characters. It will be impossible to
remember him without recalling his intimate professional associate,
Edwin L. Davenport. He was the only Brutus of his time, our old friend
will say, and in his prime the best Macbeth on the American stage; and
he could play almost any part in the drama, from the loftiest tragedy to
mere trash; and he was an admirable artist in all that he did. There
will be plenty of evidence to fortify that statement; and if the veteran
shall also say that Wallack's company contained, at the same time, the
best "old men" in the profession, no dissentient voice, surely, will
challenge the names of George Holland, John Gilbert, James H. Stoddart,
and Mark Smith. Cibber could play Lord Foppington at seventy-three; but
George Holland played Tony Lumpkin at seventy-seven. A young part,--but
the old man was as joyous as a boy and filled it with a boisterous,
mischievous humour at once delightful and indescribable. You saw him to
the best advantage, though, in Mr. Sulky, Humphrey Dobbin, and kindred
parts, wherein the fineness of his temperament was veiled under a
crabbed exterior and some scope was allowed for his superb skill in
painting character. So the discourse will run; and, when it touches upon
John Gilbert, what else than this will be its burden?--that he was
perfection as the old fop; that his Lord Ogleby had no peer; that he was
the oddest conceivable compound of dry humour, quaint manners,
frolicsome love of mischief, honest, hearty mirth, manly dignity, and
tender pathos. To Mark Smith it will render a kindred tribute. Squire
Broadlands, Old Rapid, Sir Oliver Surface--they cannot be forgotten.
Extraordinary truthfulness to nature, extraordinary precision of method,
large humanity, strong intellect, and refined and delicate humour that
always charmed and never offended--those were the qualities that
enrolled him among the best actors of his time. And it will not be
strange if Old Mortality passes then into the warmest mood of eulogium,
as he strives to recall the admirable, the incomparable "old woman" Mrs.
Vernon. She was a worthy mate of those worthies, he will exclaim. She
could be the sweet and loving mother, gentle and affectionate; the
stately lady, representative of rank and proud of it and true to it; and
the most eccentric of ludicrous old fools. She was the ideal Mrs.
Malaprop, and she surpassed all competitors in the character of Mrs.
Hardcastle. Mary Gannon was her stage-companion and her foil, he will
add--the merriest, most mischievous, most bewitching player of her time,
in her peculiar line of art. As Hester, in _To Marry or Not to Marry_,
and as Sophia, in _The Road to Ruin_, she was the incarnation of girlish
grace and delicious ingenuousness, and also of crisp, well-flavoured
mirth. No taint of tameness marred her acting in those kindred
characters, and no air of effort made it artificial. Nor was Fanny
Morant less remarkable for the glitter of comedy and for an almost
matchless precision of method. So will our friend of the future prose
on, in a vein that will be tedious enough to matter-of-fact people; but
not tedious to gentle spirits who love the stage, and sympathise with
its votaries, and keep alive its traditions--knowing that this mimic
world is as real and earnest as the strife that roars and surges around
it; that there as everywhere else humanity plays out its drama, whereof
the moral is always the same--that whether on the stage or in the mart,
on the monarch's throne or in the peasant's cot,

                    "We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep."


THE END.



THE WORKS OF

WILLIAM WINTER.


SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLAND. 18MO, CLOTH, 75 CENTS.

GRAY DAYS AND GOLD. 18MO, CLOTH, 75 CENTS.

SHADOWS OF THE STAGE. 18MO, CLOTH, 75 CENTS.

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"But it has seemed to the author of these poems--which of course are
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various representative moods of human feeling and various representative
aspects of human experience, and that therefore they may possibly
possess the inherent right to exist."--_From the Preface_.

"The verse of Mr. Winter is dedicated mainly to love and wine, to
flowers and birds and dreams, to the hackneyed and never-to-be-exhausted
repertory of the old singers. His instincts are strongly conservative;
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Poetry, of which gentleness is the soul, and simplicity the
garment.'"--_Saturday Review_.

"The poems have a singular charm in their graceful spontaneity."--_Scots
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"Free from cant and rant--clear cut as a cameo, pellucid as a mountain
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SHADOWS OF THE STAGE.

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"The fame of the actor more than that of any other artist is an
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the conditions under which his genius is exercised. While the impression
it makes is often more vivid and inspiring for the moment than that of
the poet and the painter, it vanishes almost with the occasion which
gave it birth, and lives only as a tradition in the memory of those to
whom it had immediately appealed. 'Shadows they are, and shadows they
pursue.'

"The writer, therefore, who, gifted with insight and a poetic enthusiasm
which enables him to discern on the one hand the beauties in a dramatic
work not perceived by the many, and on the other the qualities in the
actor which have made him a true interpreter of the poet's thought, at
the same time possessing the faculty of revealing to us felicitously the
one, and the other is certainly entitled to our grateful recognition.

"Such a writer is Mr. William Winter, easily the first,--for we know of
none other living in this country, or in the England he loves so much,
in whose nature the critic's vision is united with that of the poet so
harmoniously....

"Over and above all this, there is in these writings the same charm of
style, poetic glamour and flavor of personality which distinguish
whatever comes to us from Mr. Winter's pen, and which make them unique
in our literature."--_Home Journal_, New York


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OLD SHRINES AND IVY.

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CONTENTS.

       _SHRINES OF HISTORY._

    I. Storied Southampton.

   II. Pageantry and Relics.

  III. The Shakespeare Church.

   IV. A Stratford Chronicle.

    V. From London to Dover.

   VI. Beauties of France.

  VII. Ely and its Cathedral.

 VIII. From Edinburgh to Inverness.

   IX. The Field of Culloden.

    X. Stormbound Iona.

       _SHRINES OF LITERATURE._

   XI. The Forest of Arden: As You Like It.

  XII. Fairy Land: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

 XIII. Will o' the Wisp: Love's Labour Lost.

  XIV. Shakespeare's Shrew.

   XV. A Mad World: Anthony and Cleopatra.

  XVI. Sheridan, and the School for Scandal.

 XVII. Farquhar, and the Inconstant.

XVIII. Longfellow.

  XIX. A Thought on Cooper's Novels.

   XX. A Man of Letters: John R.G. Hassard.

"Whatever William Winter writes is marked by felicity of diction and by
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explanation of style; and he has written thus of England because she has
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and surely some memory of her venerable ruins, her ancient shrines, her
rustic glens, her gleaming rivers, and her flower-spangled meadows will
mingle with the last thoughts that glimmer through his brain when the
shadows of the eternal night are falling and the ramble of life is
done."--_From the Preface_.

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a convincing and eloquent interpreter of the august memories and
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Shakespeare Relics at Worcester.
  Byron and Hucknall Torkard.
    Historic Nooks and Corners.
      Shakespeare's Town.
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    The Stratford Fountain.
      Bosworth Field.
        The Home of Dr. Johnson.
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      The Heart of Scotland.
        Sir Walter Scott.
Elegiac Memorials.
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        At Vesper Time.

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romantic scenery of the mother-country with a mingled affection and
sentiment of which we have had no example since Irving's day."--_The
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"Much that is bright and best in our literature is brought once more to
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"They who have never visited the scenes which Mr. Winter so charmingly
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AUTHOR OF "OLIVER CROMWELL," ETC.

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"Those who are curious as to what they should read in the region of pure
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