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Title: Heroines of the Modern Stage
Author: Izard, Forrest, John Forrest, Baron
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Now Ready_


Each volume 12mo cloth

_Illustrated $1.50_

[Illustration: SARAH BERNHARDT]




  New York

  _All rights reserved_


  Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1915


The following pages give some account of those actresses who stand
out today as the most interesting to an English-speaking reader. The
Continental actresses included are those who gained international
reputations and belonged to the English and American stage almost as
much as to their own.

All actresses have been modern, in a sense, for the acting of female
rôles by women is distinctly a latter-day touch in that ancient
institution, the theatre.[1] Thus a book on modern actresses might
range from Elizabeth Barry to Mrs. Fiske. But while many volumes
already exist that serve well to keep alive the names of the
dead-and-gone heroines,[2] biographies of actresses whom we of today
have seen, are, in general, insufficient or inaccessible. That is
true even of such notable women as Sarah Bernhardt, Ada Rehan and
Mrs. Fiske; while accounts in English of such Continental actresses
as Duse and Réjane are altogether lacking. The author hopes that in
these chapters he has done something toward making better known the
careers of those actresses and of others who present themselves either
in vivid recollection or in the light of present day achievement. The
concluding chapter deals briefly with a number of American actresses of
the present, who, although not rising in all cases to the eminence or
popularity attained by those to whom separate chapters are given, yet
have made some distinct contribution to our stage.

The author’s thanks are due to Mr. Edwin F. Edgett for the loan of
material; to Mr. John Bouvé Clapp and to Mr. Robert Gould Shaw for the
use of the originals from which some of the illustrations were made;
and, for assistance of many kinds, to the editor of the series.

  Boston, Massachusetts,
    October, 1915.

                            F. I.


  PREFACE                                                              v

     I  SARAH BERNHARDT                                                3

    II  HELENA MODJESKA                                               52

   III  ELLEN TERRY                                                   93

    IV  GABRIELLE RÉJANE                                             126

     V  ELEONORA DUSE                                                171

    VI  ADA REHAN                                                    203

   VII  MARY ANDERSON                                                230

  VIII  MRS. FISKE                                                   265

    IX  JULIA MARLOWE                                                299

     X  MAUDE ADAMS                                                  324

    XI  SOME AMERICAN ACTRESSES OF TODAY                             347

        APPENDIX                                                     368

        BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                 377

        INDEX                                                        381


  SARAH BERNHARDT                                         _Frontispiece_

  HELENA MODJESKA                                                     52

  ELLEN TERRY                                                         92

  GABRIELLE RÉJANE                                                   126

  ELEONORA DUSE                                                      170

  ADA REHAN                                                          202

  MARY ANDERSON                                                      230

  MRS. FISKE                                                         264

  JULIA MARLOWE                                                      298

  MAUDE ADAMS                                                        324



“_Sarah-Bernhardt, Officier d’Académie, artiste dramatique, directrice
du théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt, professeur au Conservatoire_;” so run the
rapid phrases of the French “Who’s Who.” And, it might have added:
“personality extraordinary, and woman of mystery.”

“The impetuous feminine hand that wields scepter, thyrsus, dagger,
fan, sword, bauble, banner, sculptor’s chisel and horsewhip--it is
overwhelming.” Thus the poet Rostand epitomized “the divine Sarah.”
Her career, he said, gives one the vertigo--it is one of the marvels
of the nineteenth century. And he might have added, of the twentieth,
for Bernhardt, who began her stage career at the time of our Civil
War, was only recently, at an amazing age, to be seen on the stage of
London and Paris. There are many who think, with William Winter,[3]
that she has been merely “an accomplished executant, an experienced,
expert imitator, within somewhat narrow limits, of the operations of
human passion and human suffering.” The fact remains, the woman has
been a genius of work and achievement, “the Lady of Energy,” who has
fairly earned the title of great actress. It is difficult to think of
any woman the light of whose fame has carried to the ends of the earth
in quite the same way. To be sure it has not always been from the lamp
of pure genius. There have been self-advertising, scandal, extravagant
eccentricity, to swell the general effect, but back of all this has
been the worker.[4]

She was born in Paris, at 265 _Rue St. Honoré_, October 23, 1844.[5]
Her blood is a mingling of French and Dutch-Jewish. Her real name is
Rosine Bernard, and she was the eleventh of fourteen children. Of
her father hardly anything can be learned. Sarah herself says that
when she was still a mere baby he had gone to China, but why he went
there she had no idea. Her mother was, by birth, a Dutch Jewess,
by sympathy a Frenchwoman, by habit a cosmopolitan; “a wandering
beauty of Israel,” forever traveling. As much because there was no
home, therefore, as because the French have a custom of banishing
infants from the household, Sarah spent her childhood in the care of
a foster-mother, first in the Breton country, near Quimperlé (where
she fell in the fireplace and was badly burned), then at Neuilly,
near Paris. Her mother came seldom to see her, though there seems to
have been affection, at least on the child’s side. It was a lonely
childhood--made worse by the high-strung, sensitive nature that was
Sarah’s from the beginning.[6]

When Sarah was seven she was sent away to boarding school at Auteuil,
where she says she spent two comparatively happy years. Her mysterious
father then sent orders that she was to be transferred to a convent.
“The idea that I was to be ordered about without any regard to my
own wishes or inclinations put me into an indescribable rage. I
rolled about on the ground, uttering the most heartrending cries. I
yelled out all kinds of reproaches, blaming mamma, my aunts, and Mme.
Fressard for not finding some way to keep me with her. The struggle
lasted two hours, and while I was being dressed I escaped twice into
the garden and attempted to climb the trees and throw myself into the
pond, in which there was more mud than water. Finally, when I was
completely exhausted and subdued, I was taken off sobbing in my aunt’s

At the Augustinian convent at Grandchamp, Versailles, she was baptized
and confirmed a Christian. She became extravagantly pious and conceived
a passionate adoration of the Virgin. Nevertheless, she was fractious
and was more than once expelled.[8]

When she left the convent Sarah was a capricious, sensitive, religious
girl, who must indeed have constituted a problem for her mother. Sarah,
strangely enough, was herself strongly inclined to be a nun. But her
mother, who was a woman of the world and of means, had other plans and
provided as “finishing governess” for Sarah a Mlle. de Brabander. One
day, when she was fifteen, her fate was decided for her. At a family
council her own ambition to be a nun was voted down and the decision
was: “Send her to the _Conservatoire_.” Sarah had never even heard of
the famous school for actors of the government theatres. That same
evening she was taken to the theatre for the first time--the _Théâtre
Français_. _Brittanicus_ and _Amphitrion_ moved her profoundly, and
she left the theatre weeping, as much for the sudden shattering of her
cherished plan as from the effects of the plays.

Thus she began her studies at the _Conservatoire_ (1860) with no
love for the career chosen for her.[9] She was no beauty;--she was
decidedly thin, had kinky hair, and a pale face. But she worked
hard. Her extraordinary nervous energy and her intelligence had their
effect and when she left the _Conservatoire_ she had won two second
prizes.[10] The discernment of some of the judges[11] saw in her
something of the artist she was to be, and she immediately had a call
to the company of the _Comédie Française_. With the signing of her
contract came her resolve, that if the stage were to be her working
place, she would throw herself into her task with all her soul.
“_Quand-même_,”--in spite of all,--was already her motto,--she would,
in the face of any obstacle, win a place for herself.[12]

Though with wonderful success she has been busily pursuing that
object from that day to this, the beginnings of her career were
not promising. Her début (1862) in Racine’s _Iphigénie_ created no
particular comment. She remembers, however, that on that occasion, when
she lifted her long and extraordinarily thin arms, for the sacrifice,
the audience laughed.[13] Other parts fell to her, but she did not long
remain at the House of Molière. As other managers were later to learn,
Sarah cared little for agreements and contracts.

The occasion of her first desertion of the _Comédie_ was trivial
enough. Here at the great national theatre she expected to remain
always, but one day her sister trod on the gown of Mme. Nathalie,
another actress of the company, “old, spiteful and surly,” who in petty
anger shoved the girl aside. Sarah promptly responded by boxing the
ears of her elder colleague. Neither would apologize, and the quickly
achieved result was that the younger actress retired.

She remained away from the _Comédie Française_ for ten years, and it
was during this time that she laid the foundation of her fame. Brief
engagements at the _Gymnase_[14] and the _Porte St. Martin_ were
followed by an opportunity to join the company at the _Odéon_. MM.
Chilly and Duquesnel were the managers. The latter was young, kind
to Sarah, and discerning of her talents. As for Chilly, he was less
enthusiastic: “M. Duquesnel is responsible for you. I should not upon
any account have engaged you.”

“And if you had been alone, monsieur,” she answered, “I should not have
signed, so we are quits.”

Mlle. Bernhardt’s career--once she had launched herself upon
it--divides naturally into three periods: the six years (1866–1872)
at the _Odéon_, the playhouse of the Latin Quarter, “the theatre,”
she says, “that I have loved most”; another term (1872–1880) at the
_Française_; and her long career since, during which she has been her
own mistress, accepting engagements where it pleased her, managing
theatres of her own, and traveling over all the world.

Her first taste of success came when she played Zacharie in _Athalie_,
soon after she went to the _Odéon_. It fell to her to recite the
choruses, and the “_voix d’or_” won its first triumph. She was now
twenty-two. For four years, with plentiful interludes of temper and
temperament, she had been striving for success. Now, at the _Odéon_,
she worked and worked hard. “I was always ready to take any one’s place
at a moment’s notice, for I knew all the rôles.” Chilly, who at first
could see only her thinness[15] and not her ability, was brought round
to Duquesnel’s view of her. “I used to think,” she says again, “of my
few months at the _Comédie Française_. The little world I had known
there had been stiff, scandal-mongering, and jealous. At the _Odéon_
I was very happy. We thought of nothing but putting on plays, and we
rehearsed morning, afternoon, and at all hours, and I liked that very

At the _Odéon_ Sarah soon became the favorite of the students of the
_Quartier_. Rather to the disgust of the older patrons of the house,
the students were indiscriminate in their appreciation of the young
actress, and applauded her indifferent work equally with her successes.

For successes she now began to have. With difficulty M. Chilly was
induced to consent to the production of Coppée’s one-act play _Le
Passant_. But so successful was it that it not only ran for a hundred
nights, but Bernhardt and the beautiful Mlle. Agar played it for
Napoleon and Eugénie at the Tuileries. In _Kean_, by Dumas, she was, by
all accounts, admirable.[17]

George Sand came to the _Odéon_ for the rehearsals of her play
_L’Autre_. Of her Bernhardt says: “Mme. George Sand was a sweet
charming creature, extremely timid. She did not talk much but smoked
all the time.”

In the midst of her term at the _Odéon_ came an astonishing episode
in Bernhardt’s career--her activities during the Franco-Prussian War
of 1870–71. The theatres were of course closed, but it was not in
her nature to sit still and do nothing. Therefore she sent her young
son[18] out of the city, and in the fall of 1870, after her own severe
illness, proceeded to establish an army hospital in the foyers of the
_Odéon_, with herself as its working head. With an executive ability
and a zeal characteristic but none the less remarkable, she not only
organized its commissariat, and kept all the records and accounts, but
herself acted as one of the nurses. The section of her autobiography
that deals with the siege of Paris and with her journey through the
enemy’s country to Hombourg and back that she might bring home her
family, will afford some future historian a graphic impression of one
of the saddest days in the history of Paris.

When the _Odéon_ reopened, in the fall of 1871, Sarcey, the great
critic, said of Sarah, who played (in _Jean-Marie_) a young Breton
girl: “No one could be more innocently poetic than this young
lady. She will become a great _comédienne_, and she is already an
admirable artist. Everything she does has a special savor of its
own. It is impossible to say whether she is pretty. She is thin, and
her expression is sad, but she has queenly grace, charm, and the
inexpressible _je ne sais quoi_. She is an artist by nature, and an
incomparable one. There is no one like her at the _Comédie Française_.”

At the end of 1871 Victor Hugo, who had been practically an exile
during the Empire, came back to France. His return, as it proved,
meant another turning point in Sarah’s life, for when the _Odéon_
decided to produce his _Ruy Blas_, she was selected, after a good
deal of bickering, as the Queen. Hugo she found, despite her strong
previous prejudice against him, “charming, so witty and refined, and so

The play was produced on January 26, 1872. That night, in Bernhardt’s
own words, “rent asunder the thin veil which still made my future hazy,
and I felt that I was destined for celebrity. Until that day I had
remained the students’ little Fairy. I became then the elect of the
Public.” Hugo himself, on his knee, kissed her hands and thanked her.
M. Sarcey, who from the beginning was Bernhardt’s staunchest admirer
among the critics, praised her warmly: “No rôle was ever better adapted
to Mlle. Bernhardt’s talents. She possesses the gift of resigned and
patient dignity. Her diction is so wonderfully clear and distinct that
not a syllable is missed.”

The _Comédie Française_ now made overtures for her return to its
fold. Bernhardt at once accepted, which was wretchedly unfair to the
_Odéon_, for she owed much to Duquesnel. When in 1866 he persuaded
Chilly to take her on, she was comparatively unknown; now, in 1872, she
was rapidly becoming the talk of Paris. Her contract with the _Odéon_
had yet a year to run, but Sarah demanded, as the condition of her
remaining, an advance in the stipulated salary.[20] Chilly indignantly
refused; so Mlle. Bernhardt hurried away to the _Comédie_ and forthwith
signed her new contract. The _Odéon_ brought an action against her and
she had to pay a forfeit of six thousand francs.

This sudden change of scene is but one instance of the directness, not
to say unscrupulousness, of Bernhardt’s methods in advancing herself.
“_Quand-même_” it was to be, at any cost. If she had merely followed
her inclinations, however, she would probably have remained at the
_Odéon_, for she has often protested the attraction for her of the
scene of her first triumphs. The _Comédie_, on the other hand, had
never this appeal to her. As is easily understood, her imperiousness
and willfulness made her feel less at home at the more staid _Comédie_.
The other members of her company, with a few exceptions, were
unfriendly and jealous. Moreover she made almost a failure in her début
(in _Mlle. de Belle-Isle_), but this was due not to stage-fright, as
Sarcey guessed, but to her anxiety on seeing her mother, suddenly
taken ill, leave the theatre. Sarcey loyally championed her early
efforts, though he was often keenly critical also: “I fear,” he wrote
(apropos of _Dalila_), “that the management has made a mistake in
already giving Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt leading parts. I do not know
whether she will ever be able to fill them, but she certainly cannot
do so at present. She is wanting in power and breadth of conception.
She impersonates soft and gentle characters admirably, but her failings
become manifest when the whole burden of the piece rests on her fair
shoulders.” Other critics, particularly Paul de Saint-Victor, were
consistently hostile. She had in the company envious rivals who
inspired attacks on her, and she clashed frequently with M. Perrin, the
director of the theatre. With that indomitable persistence that is her
finest trait, however, she kept right on, and won her way to genuine
achievement. As Aricie in _Phèdre_ she made a secondary part notable.
Thus Sarcey: “There can be no doubt about it now. All the opposition to
Mlle. Bernhardt must yield to facts. She simply delighted the public.
The beautiful verses allotted to Aricie were never better delivered.
Her voice is genuine music. There was a continuous thrill of pleasure
among the entire audience.”

That she had thoroughly arrived was soon to be proved and re-proved.
Zaïre[21] was followed by Phèdre herself, Berthe in _La Fille de
Roland_, Doña Sol in _Hernani_, Monime in _Mithridate_, and revivals of
_Ruy Blas_ and _Le Sphinx_, each a personal triumph for the actress who
was so rapidly filling the eye of Paris.[22]

For Sarah Bernhardt had by now succeeded in making herself, if not a
universally acknowledged artist, at least a real Parisian celebrity.
It was not a reputation confined to the actress _per se_. Designedly or
not, Sarah set the tongues of Paris (and shortly of all Europe) wagging
by a continuous exhibition of eccentricity that amounts to a tradition.
To mention only what seem to be well authenticated manifestations of
her caprice: She kept a pearwood coffin at the foot of her bed, slept
in it and learned her parts in it. It is to be the veritable coffin
of her last resting place.[23] She kept as a further reminder of her
mortality a complete human skeleton in her bedroom. Years before she
had a tortoise as a household pet. She named it Chrysogère and had
a shell of gold, set with topazes, fitted to its back. Now she was
keeping two Russian greyhounds, a poodle, a bulldog, a terrier, a
leveret, a monkey, three cats, a parrot, and several other birds. Later
she had lions, and an alligator! She made ascents in a captive balloon
at the Exhibition and once in a balloon that was _not_ captive.[24]
Perrin was outraged by this caprice and tried to fine her for
“traveling without leave.” She wrote for the newspapers. She scorned
the fashions. She dabbled in painting and sculpture, and, particularly
with her chisel, her efforts were, if not noteworthy, at least
respectable. Indeed, a group sculpture won an honorable mention in the
Salon of 1876, though there were plenty to deny that it was really her
work. Her studiolike apartment was the rendezvous of all artistic Paris.

In 1879 her poetic, restrained, and generally admirable impersonation
of Doña Sol in _Hernani_ brought her general homage. On the night of
the one-hundredth performance Victor Hugo presided at a banquet in
her honor, and M. Sarcey, in behalf of her “many admiring friends,”
presented to her a necklace of diamonds.

When it was proposed, in 1879, that the _Comédie Française_ company go
to London, Sarah refused to go along unless she be made Associate “_à
parte entière_.”[25] Her proposal was rejected, and at a meeting of
the Committee M. Got represented the feeling that prevailed among the
directors of the theatre by crying: “Well, let her stay away! She is a
regular nuisance!” Sarah finally gave in, however, and in reward was
made “_Sociétaire à parte entière_.”[26]

On the first evening at the Gaiety, Bernhardt was to make her bow to
England in the second act of _Phèdre_. Just before she went on she
had one of her occasional bad attacks of stage fright, and could not
remember her lines. “When I began my part,” she wrote, “as I had lost
my self-possession, I started on rather too high a note, and when once
in full swing I could not get lower again; I simply could not stop.
I suffered, I wept, I implored, I cried out, and it was all real. My
suffering was horrible.” _The Telegraph_ next morning said: “Clearly
Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt exerted every nerve and fiber and her passion
grew with the excitement of the spectators, for when after a recall
that could not be resisted the curtain drew up, Mr. Mounet-Sully was
seen supporting the exhausted figure of the actress, who had won her
triumph only after tremendous physical exertion, and triumph it was,
however short and sudden.”

An American writer--probably Henry James--said at this time in the
_Nation_: “It would require some ingenuity to give an idea of the
intensity, the ecstasy, the insanity, as some people would say, of
curiosity and enthusiasm provoked by Mlle. Bernhardt.... She is not,
to my sense, a celebrity because she is an artist. She is a celebrity
because, apparently, she desires, with an intensity that has rarely
been equaled, to be one, and because all ends are alike to her.... She
has compassed her ends with a completeness which makes of her a sort of
fantastically impertinent _victrix_ poised upon a perfect pyramid of
ruins--the ruins of a hundred British prejudices and proprieties....
The trade of a celebrity, pure and simple, had been invented, I think,
before she came to London; if it had not been, it is certain that she
would have discovered it. She has in a supreme degree what the French
call the _génie de la réclame_--the advertising genius; she may,
indeed, be called the muse of the newspaper.”

But trouble was brewing, and the irrepressible Sarah was soon making
difficulties for her _confrères_. She insisted on her right to give
performances before private audiences on the nights she was not
appearing with the company. Perrin had flown into a rage when he
first heard of these performances, for it was the _Comédie’s_ chief
grievance against her that she _would not_ rest. There came a day in
London when Sarah sent word she was too tired to appear. A Saturday
audience had to be dismissed at the last moment; it was too late to
change the bill. A great commotion ensued among the company and in the
Paris press. So many and varied were the attacks on her that she was
on the point of resignation. She had brought to London a number of her
sculptures and paintings and gave an exhibition, selling a few pieces,
and entertaining at the gallery reception a group of aristocrats
and celebrities--Gladstone and Leighton among them. She made a trip
to Liverpool to buy more lions, and came back with a chetah, a wolf,
and a half dozen chameleons to add to her menagerie. The members of
the company thought she was ruining the dignity of “Molière’s House”;
and all manner of stories were told. “It was said,” she wrote, “that
for a shilling anyone might see me dressed as a man; that I smoked
huge cigars leaning on the balcony of my house; that at the various
receptions when I gave one-act plays, I took my maid with me for the
dialogue; that I practiced fencing in my garden, dressed as a _pierrot_
in white, and that when taking boxing lessons I had broken two teeth
for my unfortunate professor.” These stories were only less dreadful
than the tales told in Paris: that she had thrown a live kitten into
the fire, and poisoned two monkeys with her own hands!

As a matter of fact, it is probable that Sarah was finding irksome the
restrictions of the _Comédie_, was ambitious to earn more money and, as
anxious for her exit from the company as were her jealous _confrères_,
was only waiting for a chance to sever her contract. But contracts with
the _Française_ are not lightly broken. As Coquelin had told her: “When
one has the good fortune and the honor of belonging to the _Comédie
Française_ one must remain there until the end of one’s career.” She
had to watch her chance shrewdly.

Again returned to Paris, the company of the _Comédie_ revived, on
April 17, 1880, Augier’s _L’Aventurière_. From whatever cause--pique at
being assigned a part she disliked in a play she detested, a temporary
suspension of her usual power, or, as she says herself, illness that
prevented proper study of her part,--she failed rather miserably.
Even the usually indulgent Sarcey said: “Her Clorinde was absolutely
colorless”; and the other critics, to a man, wrote scathing reviews.
Sarah saw her chance, as she thought, and determined that this would be
her last performance at the _Comédie_. The morning after the fiasco she
wrote to Perrin:

    “_Monsieur l’Administrateur_:

    “You made me play before I was ready. You gave me only eight
    stage rehearsals, and there were only three full rehearsals of
    the piece. I could not make up my mind to appear under such
    conditions, but you insisted upon it. What I foresaw has come
    to pass, and the result of the performance has even gone beyond
    what I expected. One critic actually charges me with playing
    Virginie in _L’Assommoir_ instead of _L’Aventurière_! May
    Emile Augier and Zola absolve me! It is my first rebuff at the
    _Comédie_, and it shall be my last. I warned you at the dress
    rehearsal. You have gone too far. I now keep my word. When you
    receive this letter I shall have left Paris. Be good enough,
    Monsieur l’Administrateur, to accept my resignation as from
    this moment.

        Apr. 18, 1880.      SARAH BERNHARDT.”

An immense commotion at once arose, as if some tremendous political
upheaval had occurred. Sarah took train and disappeared in the
country, just as on a similar occasion, years before, she had suddenly
gone off to Spain. The press, her fellow players, and the author of the
play all poured upon her head a shower of abuse. M. Sarcey prophesied:
“She had better not deceive herself. Her success will not be lasting.
She is not one of those _artistes_ who can bear the whole weight of a
piece on their own shoulders, and who require no assistance to hold the
public attention.”[27] The _Comédie_ took legal action against her,
and a few months later, when the suit was tried, Sarah was formally
deprived of her standing as _sociétaire_, of her portion of the reserve
fund, amounting to more than eight thousand dollars, and in addition
had to pay the _Française_ damages of twenty thousand dollars. She
hadn’t the money, but she soon earned it, on her first American tour.

So ended, for good and all, Bernhardt’s connection with the government
theatres; so abruptly did she turn a corner in her remarkable career.
From her retirement Sarah announced, absurdly enough, that she would
renounce the stage, and live by painting and sculpture, for these, she
said, brought her thirty thousand francs ($6,000) a year. As a matter
of fact, within two weeks she signed a contract with Henry E. Abbey,
who post-haste crossed the ocean for the purpose, to go to America. His
English agent, Jarrett, had long been importuning her to go. Now she
was glad to accept.[28]

Sarah’s wanderings now began--those wanderings that have carried her
up and down the world, made her name familiar everywhere, brought her
riches and (in William Winter’s sonorous phrase) “such adulation and
advocacy as have seldom been awarded to even the authentic benefactors
of human society.” First she played a month in London, giving the
pieces she was preparing for the American tour, and scoring a
tremendous success, artistic, financial and social. A newspaper writer
said at this time: “It has been said here that English society is not
so eager this season to make her a social goddess as it was last; but
it would hardly be possible for a woman to be more thoroughly besieged
than is Sarah--that is the name by which people generally fondly call
her. To see her is almost as difficult as to see the Queen--I dare say
for people not connected with the artistic world even more so. Sarah
lives very comfortably--even luxuriously--and entertains lavishly. It
seems to me that the only lack of attention that she could possibly
complain of is that the Queen has not yet left her card, and that is a
complaint she must share with many people.”

To her amazement the Paris critics followed her to London, and praised
her extravagantly. Sarcey personally tried to induce her to return to
Paris, and M. Perrin sent Got, the _doyen_ of the _Comédie_, on the
same errand. Sarah refused; she was enjoying her freedom and her large
earnings. She went to Belgium and then to Denmark. At Copenhagen she
brought a storm about her ears by a gratuitous affront to the German
Ambassador to Denmark, Baron Magnus. At a dinner in her honor he
gallantly proposed a health to “_la belle France_.” Sarah was at once
on her feet, in a theatrical mood, mindful of the smarts that lingered
from the war of 1870–1871, and much impressed with her own importance.
“I suppose, _Monsieur l’Embassadeur de Prusse_,” she cried, “you mean
the _whole_ of France.” This obvious reference to Alsace-Lorraine
put the amiable Baron to confusion, broke up the dinner, threw
consternation into the French diplomats on duty in Copenhagen, and
enraged Bismarck. It is only fair to say that Sarah was genuinely sorry
for her impetuous “break.”

Before sailing for America, Sarah was prevailed upon to undertake
a month’s provincial tour in France--something she had never done.
She appeared in Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyons and Geneva.
Everywhere enthusiasm for her ran high. “Medals bearing her image and
superscription, Sarah Bernhardt bracelets and collars, photographs
and biographies were sold in the streets. At Lyons the Khedive’s son
unsuccessfully offered £80 for a stage-box.”[29]

On October 16, 1880, Mlle. Bernhardt sailed for New York. On November
8, at Booth’s Theatre, she made her first appearance in America in
_Adrienne Lecouvreur_, which, with much success, she had added to her
repertoire since leaving the _Comédie_.[30] Her triumph was immediate.
She had been told that New York would receive her coldly. At the end of
the play, however, “there was quite a manifestation and everyone was
deeply moved,” while after the play a large crowd serenaded and cheered
before her hotel. Sarah had been put on her mettle, and, as always, she
did her best in the face of possible opposition. And these ovations
repeated themselves in each city, both in the United States and in

The Bishop of Montreal took it upon himself to condemn Bernhardt, her
company, her plays, the authors and French literature in general. As
if in reply to his utterances, the public flocked to see Sarah. As is
usual with such strictures, the Bishop had given the best possible
advertising[31] and each night Sarah’s sleigh was dragged by cheering

Wherever she went, her astute managers saw to it that the Bernhardtian
advertising tradition was maintained: She went to Menlo Park to call
on Thomas A. Edison; at Boston she visited a captive live whale
in the harbor, and stood (and fell!) upon its back; in Canada she
visited a tribe of Iroquois; at Montreal she ventured on the ice in
the St. Lawrence and put her life in peril; visiting the Colt factory
at Springfield, Massachusetts, she fired off some newly invented
cannon;--“it amused me very much without procuring me any emotion,”
she wrote; at Chicago she witnessed the slaughtering of pigs at the
stock-yards; in St. Louis her jewelry was exhibited in a store window;
at Niagara she again endangered her life by getting herself into an
awkward place on the ice bridge below the falls.

Her object was accomplished, at all events. She had won in America
a new fame and a much needed fortune. She had earned more than one
hundred and eighty thousand dollars. She was now able to pay her debt
to the _Française_, and had a comfortable sum left. And her return
to France was a veritable return from Elba. Her vessel was met by
scores of small boats, gay with welcoming flags, and the wharves held
thousands of people shouting: “_Vive_ Sarah Bernhardt!” Her first
performance in France of _La Dame aux Camélias_, at Havre in May, 1881,
was “a perfect triumph.”

It is startling to reflect that a woman who thus reached the zenith of
her career a generation ago is still a working actress. What a triumph
for the frail physique and the dauntless will! It is worth while to get
a picture of her at about the time of her American tour, when she was
thirty-six years old. A correspondent who visited her in London wrote:
“I never was more agreeably disappointed in the appearance of a person
than when Sarah smilingly and merrily tripped into the room. She looked
infinitely fresher, brighter and prettier than I had ever seen her on
the stage. Her photographs are perfect caricatures--every one of them.
They give no idea of those wonderfully clear, translucent, great blue
eyes, with their now soft and melting and now keen and penetrating
glance; of her fresh and fair complexion, which on the stage is hidden
under a horrid mask of thick paint; of her beautiful light blond hair,
which lacks just a shade of being golden and is curled in the most
graceful fashion; of her tender and sensitive mouth, the slightest
motion of which is full of character and expression. I had never
considered her pretty. I now, after a most careful and painstaking
inspection, decidedly thought her so. She was charmingly dressed, too,
and her thinness of person, which is so generally marked, but which
she ridicules herself, was most artistically disguised. The waves of
lace and ruffles which fell about her neck appeared to hide a bust
worthy of Diana herself.”

Other contemporary accounts show that those who visited her at her
studio found her clad in a gray or white flannel suit of masculine
garments,--jacket, trousers, necktie and all, “looking something like
a thirteen-year-old boy.” Though Sarah performed wonders in the way
of self-advertising, more than one observer has noticed that she had
a certain natural dignity that was not altogether inconsistent with a
rather rollicking playfulness. “Her words are those of a lady,” wrote
one, “and her enunciation, though rapid, beautifully distinct.” She has
always been eminently hospitable.

In the engaging phrase of one of her biographers,[32] “Marriage was the
only eccentricity that Sarah had not yet perpetrated.” In the spring of
1882 she remedied this deficiency by marrying a member of her company,
a Greek named Damala, or, as he was known on the stage, Daria. Sarah
had been proceeding up and down Europe (always patriotically excepting
Germany), playing in France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway,
Russia, Italy, Austria and Spain, everywhere with immense success.[33]
In the midst of this tour, quite unexpectedly (April, 1882), came the
announcement of the marriage. In order to have the ceremony performed
in London, she had traveled from Naples, and then returned to Spain to
resume the tour.[34] It was the talk of the day that the reason for
Sarah’s sudden marriage and for the selection of London as the scene
of the ceremony, was not only her passing infatuation for Damala, but
also a wish to propitiate English Puritanism. For a tour of England and
Scotland soon followed. The marriage was not a huge success, however.
It lasted not more than a year.

The mere statement of Bernhardt’s wanderings is sufficiently
astonishing and is one proof of her wonderful vitality. In 1886, a tour
that lasted more than a year took her to Mexico, Brazil, Chile, the
Argentine,[35] the United States and Canada. Two years later she acted
in Constantinople, Cairo and Alexandria, besides most of the European
countries. In the early part of 1891 she left Europe for two years
and played not only in North and South America, but this time as far
afield as Australia. Sarah has been a cosmopolitan figure, if there
ever was one. As the land of readily won dollars, the United States has
naturally been much favored; for beginning in 1880, Bernhardt has made
no less than nine tours in America.[36]

Like a number of actors of the other sex, but almost alone among
actresses, Bernhardt has dabbled in the management of theatres. Soon
after her first American tour, she assumed control of the _Ambigu_
in Paris. If she had acted in her own theatre (as later she did) her
business venture might have succeeded. As it was, she was acting
_Fédora_ at the _Vaudeville_, and later, with only moderate success, in
Holland and Belgium. The _Ambigu_ languished. In the meantime, Sarah
had spent all her money. Finding herself in straits, she auctioned her
jewels, and realized handsomely on them. It was an event in Paris, and
the sale produced no less than thirty-five thousand dollars.

Her next venture in management was more successful. In 1883, on behalf
of her son, she bought a partnership in the _Porte St. Martin_, and
produced _Frou-Frou_ there for the first time in Paris. Her régime
at this house was interrupted by the long tour begun in 1886, but
continued, under the prosperity shed by her own presence, until 1893,
when she bought the _Renaissance_. Since that day she has owned her own
theatre, until 1899 at the _Renaissance_, and since then at the more
commodious _Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt_, her renaming of the _Théâtre des

When Bernhardt went to America for the first time she had in her
company an actress named Marie Colombier. For reasons that are
difficult to determine, this woman conceived a passionate hatred
of Sarah and on her return to France prepared, or had prepared for
her,[37] a thinly disguised pseudo-biography of Bernhardt which sold in
enormous numbers under the name _Les Memoires de Sarah Barnum_. This
pamphlet subjected Bernhardt to miscellaneous ridicule and abuse.
Although on the whole false, parts of it may have been true enough
to penetrate the armor against gossip that Sarah schooled herself to
wear. At any rate, she was furiously angry. When the book had been in
circulation long enough to give her action its proper background and
advertising value, Bernhardt one day turned up at Mme. Colombier’s
apartment, accompanied by her son and M. Jean Richepin, and armed with
a horsewhip. The party forced themselves in, and Sarah, great actress,
proceeded to chase her detractor about the place, beating her soundly
with the whip. A similar incident occurred at Rio de Janeiro in 1886.
Mme. Noirmont, a member of the company, one day “went for” Sarah with
strong language and the flat of her hand. Sarah was at first content
with the woman’s arrest, but one evening, between the acts, her desire
for revenge got the better of her, and Mme. Noirmont was, in her turn,
thoroughly horsewhipped. The cause of these (at the time) world famous
ructions, which are now important only--if at all--as shedding light on
Sarah’s frail humanity, has always remained shrouded in mystery.

Further proof that the “divine Sarah” was after all very human was
furnished in 1907 when she published a volume of reminiscences.[38]
William Winter’s estimate of this book is characteristic; it contains,
he says: “some passages of interest, but, as a whole, it is diffuse,
flamboyant, and artificial,--an eccentric contribution to theatrical
annals, mottled over by affectation, egregious vanity, and the
pervasive insincerity of an inveterate self-exploiter.” It would be
juster to say that the book shows in many places a more likable woman
than the eccentric celebrity was supposed to be, and that it contains
but few passages that are _not_ of interest. At any rate, it shows
Sarah to be, after all, in many respects like us commonplace people.

Whatever hostility she may have met in her earlier days, Bernhardt long
ago won the unqualified homage of her countrymen. To them she became
a cherished national institution, the great actress of her time. “The
great and only Sarah” is the phrase of the once scoffing Sarcey. “I am
not quite sure,” wrote Lemaître in 1894, “whether Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt
can say ‘How do you do?’ like any ordinary mortal. To be herself she
must be extraordinary, and then she is incomparable.” “You cannot
praise her for reciting poetry well,” said M. Theodore de Banville, a
poet learned in metres and rhythms; “she is the muse of poetry itself.
A secret instinct moves her. She recites poetry as the nightingale
sings, as the wind sighs, and as the water murmurs.”

“Her acting is the summit of art,”--again Sarcey--“our grandfathers
used to speak with emotion of Talma and Mlle. Mars. I never saw either
the one or the other, and I have barely any recollection of Rachel,
but I do not believe that anything more original and more perfect than
Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt’s _Phèdre_ has ever been seen in any theatre.”

To take this view of Sarah one must, perhaps, be a Frenchman. The
Sarcey of America, William Winter, certainly could not take it. With
what may be termed the utilitarian Puritanism that seeks in the
theatre to be “benefited, cheered, encouraged, ennobled, instructed,
or even rationally entertained,” he could see in Bernhardt’s art only
an exhibition of morbid eccentricity. Mr. Winter, here as elsewhere,
has been made intolerant of much in the institution he has served and
honored by his insistence on “intrinsic grandeur” in its characters.
He is always looking for “the woman essentially good and noble,”
whereas the modern drama has as one of its most cherished prerogatives
its right to portray mixed characters,--often women whose “essential
goodness” is mingled with much human frailty.

Fairly enough, however, according to his lights, does Mr. Winter
specify and define Bernhardt’s peculiar merits: “They are, in brief,
the ability to elicit complete and decisive dramatic effect from
situations of horror, terror, vehement passion, and mental anguish;
neatness in the adjustment of manifold details; evenly sustained
continuity; ability to show a woman who seeks to cause physical
infatuation and who generally can succeed in doing so; a woman in
whom vanity, cruelty, selfishness, and animal propensity are supreme;
a woman of formidable, sometimes dangerous, sometimes terrible mental

Not all of Madame Bernhardt’s impersonations, however, fall within
Mr. Winter’s proscribed class. She has at times shown a startling
propensity for breaking into new and strange fields. Her _Jeanne d’Arc_
(1890), a genuine success, was certainly not a “morbid eccentric.” “It
is impossible to make _Hamlet_ Parisian,” but, in 1899, Sarah played
_Hamlet_, to the satisfaction of the French at least. “She never did
anything finer,” said Rostand. “She makes one understand Hamlet, and
understand him beyond the possibility of a doubt.”[39] A year later
she was playing Reichstadt, the son of Napoleon, in _L’Aiglon_, an
impersonation that even Mr. Winter admitted “was one of beautiful
symmetry.” And of recent years Sarah has threatened--though as yet she
has not accomplished--the acting of Mephistopheles in _Faust_.

When Bernhardt was in London in 1895, George Bernard Shaw was in the
midst of his career as the dramatic critic of the _Saturday Review_,
serving a three-year term of what he called his slavery to the
theatre. He observed Sarah with none too sympathetic eyes, but what
he said shows, under his purposefully irritating exterior, the shrewd
critical insight that makes the “Dramatic Opinions and Essays” one of
the soundest books of theatrical comment, as well as one of the most

“Madame Bernhardt has the charm of a jolly maturity, rather spoilt and
petulant, perhaps, but always ready with a sunshine-through-the-clouds
smile if only she is made much of. Her dresses and diamonds, if
not exactly splendid, are at least splendacious; her figure, far
too scantily upholstered in the old days, is at its best; and her
complexion shows that she has not studied modern art in vain.... She
is beautiful with the beauty of her school, and entirely inhuman and
incredible. But the incredibility is pardonable, because, though it
is all the greatest nonsense, nobody believing in it, the actress
herself least of all, it is so artful, so clever, so well recognized
a part of the business, and carried off with such a genial air, that
it is impossible not to accept it with good-humor. One feels, when
the heroine bursts on the scene, a dazzling vision of beauty, that
instead of imposing on you, she adds to her own piquancy by looking
you straight in the face, and saying, in effect: ‘Now who would ever
suppose that I am a grandmother?’ That, of course, is irresistible;
and one is not sorry to have been coaxed to relax one’s notions of the
dignity of art when she gets to serious business and shows how ably she
does her work. The coaxing suits well with the childishly egotistical
character of her acting, which is not the art of making you think
more highly or feel more deeply, but the art of making you admire her,
pity her, champion her, weep with her, laugh at her jokes, follow her
fortunes breathlessly, and applaud her wildly when the curtain falls.
It is the art of finding out all your weaknesses and practicing on
them--cajoling you, harrowing you, exciting you--on the whole, fooling
you. And it is always Sarah Bernhardt in her own capacity who does this
to you. The dress, the title of the play, the order of the words may
vary; but the woman is always the same. She does not enter into the
leading character: she substitutes herself for it.”

Where a more tolerant judgment would proclaim Sarah’s inalterable
romanticism, Mr. Shaw, whose passion for truth and realism leave
him little room for the sort of truth and reality there may be in
the romantic, sees only the tricks of her trade: “Every year Madame
Bernhardt comes to us with a new play, in which she kills somebody
with any weapon from a hairpin to a hatchet; intones a great deal of
dialogue as a sample of what is called ‘the golden voice,’ to the
great delight of our curates, who all produce more or less golden
voices by exactly the same trick; goes through her well-known feat
of tearing a passion to tatters at the end of the second or fourth
act, according to the length of the piece; serves out a ration of the
celebrated smile; and between whiles gets through any ordinary acting
that may be necessary in a thoroughly businesslike and competent
fashion. This routine constitutes a permanent exhibition, which is
refurnished every year with fresh scenery, fresh dialogue, and a fresh
author, whilst remaining itself invariable. Still, there are real
parts in Madame Bernhardt’s repertory which date from the days before
the traveling show was opened; and she is far too clever a woman, and
too well endowed with stage instinct, not to rise, in an off-handed,
experimental sort of way, to the more obvious points in such an
irresistible new part as Magda.” On the whole, Shaw is something
less than fair to Sarah. But one cannot deny him an appreciative
chortle when he speaks of her “dragging from sea to sea her Armada of

On December 9, 1896, there was held a fête in Paris in honor of
Bernhardt--the most striking in a long line of similar occasions. It
was felt that her position as queen of the stage deserved a public
recognition. It was carried through with Gallic enthusiasm. Sardou
presided at a mid-day banquet attended by Coppée, Lemaître, Theuriet,
Lavedan, Coquelin, Charpentier, Rostand, and a host of others from
the literary and artistic world of Paris. Sardou hailed her as the
acknowledged sovereign of dramatic art, and bore testimony not only
to her acting, but also to “the benevolence, the charity, and the
exquisite kindness of the woman.” When Sarah had responded with a
few words of thanks, there was a great demonstration, emotionally
enthusiastic and Gallic. Later in the day, at the _Renaissance_, the
ceremonies were continued. Sarah gave the third act of _Phèdre_ and the
fourth act of _Rome Vaincue_. She gave her best efforts and her hearers
were much moved. Huret records that all his neighbors in the audience
were weeping. Then, five poets, François Coppée, Edmond Harancourt,
Catulle Mendès, André Theuriet and Edmond Rostand, advanced in turn,
each to read a sonnet in Sarah’s honor. When Rostand’s--the last and
best--was finished, she was seen to tremble and to stand weeping in
their midst. “No spectacle could be finer,” says Huret, “than this
woman, whose unconquerable energy had withstood the struggles and
difficulties of a thirty-years’ career, standing overwhelmed and
vanquished by the power of a few lines of poetry.”

Whether or not she was a divinely ennobled and beneficent artist,
this trait of “unconquerable energy” is undeniably a marvel. For
instance, in January, 1906, when she was sixty-one, she appeared in
Boston. In the twenty-six hours between half-past eight on Friday
evening and half-past ten on Saturday evening she acted Fédora, Phèdre,
and Cesarine in Dumas’s _La Femme de Claude_, each a long, exacting
and, one would think, exhausting rôle. At the end of the third play,
however, Bernhardt had her artistic resources and her strength as fully
under her command as at the beginning. And she had been forty-four
years on the stage. This was but an incident of a widely extended
tour, a sample of what she had been doing all her life.

In February, 1907, she was made a professor at the _Conservatoire_,
partly in an attempt to make her eligible for the cross of the Legion
of Honor. This was an honor that Sarah had long desired, and, it
must be said, deserved. Her service to her country as a herald of
its language and art--to say nothing of that during 1870--has been
inestimably greater than that of many who have received the honor.
But in France an actress is still without social position, and the
social conservatism of Paris officialdom always prevailed in the
face of Sarah’s champions. For no actress, merely as an actress, had
ever been admitted to the Legion. In January, 1914, however, it was
announced throughout the world that Mme. Bernhardt had received the
long-coveted decoration. The usual objections and traditions had been
interposed, but President Poincaire himself cut the red tape. In
March the formal presentation occurred. _L’Université des Annales_
organized the ceremony. Government officials, actors and actresses,
poets, playwrights and a throng of the notabilities of Paris gathered
to do Madame Sarah honor. The Minister of Fine Arts, on behalf of the
Government, presented the decoration and made a formal speech in which
he summed up her services as patriot and as a missionary of the French
language. Verses by Rostand and other poets were read, music composed
for the occasion was played, artists advanced and heaped flowers at
Bernhardt’s feet, and then came forward twelve actors and actresses,
each representing a famous character in Bernhardt’s repertoire, and
speaking lines from the original plays. The whole became a sonnet in
dialogue. Finally Bernhardt herself ended the very French but very
sincere occasion by an eloquent and tender speech of thanks.

About this time a photograph found its way into the American
newspapers. It showed Madame Sarah with the glittering cross of the
Legion pinned to her dress. Seated on her lap and gazing at the
decoration is Madame Sarah’s _great-grandchild_.

We have mentioned Mr. Winter’s wholesale repudiation of the plays in
which Bernhardt attained her eminence. Without subscribing to the total
depravity of such plays and of Bernhardt’s influence, one can freely
admit that her appeal fell below the supremest heights of drama, and
that her field was, after all, a narrow one. There were natural causes
for this narrowness. It was imposed by her personality. She partakes
to the fullest extent of that variation of the French character that
is predominatingly sensual, yet regards its sensuality as a kind of
spirituality. Again, her technical equipment as an actress included a
voice of such richness and variety of effect, and a power of gesture
and pose so naturally adapted to the grand style, that her tendency was
for the florid and rhetorical. Thus the idealistic or poetic play, on
the one hand, and the frankly naturalistic on the other, were beyond
her province. The result has been, most notably, a succession of plays
by Sardou--_Fédora_, _Théodora_, _La Tosca_, _Cléopâtre_, _Gismonda_,
_Zoraya_, in which the author “accepting her limitations, harped
time and time again upon the same notes. His heroines are creatures
all alike compounded of Bernhardtesque attributes--feline in their
endearments, tigerish in their passions of love and hate. As stage
figures they represent the boldest prose of the emotions, expressed
with a rhetoric that is flawless, but still rhetoric.”[40]

So much for the main note. In a career so astonishingly long and
successful there have been, of course, others. We have seen how, in
_L’Aiglon_, _Hamlet_, and _Jeanne d’Arc_ she boldly went outside her
usual field. Even within it there have been of course many moments of
winning appeal or great power. To none other than Mr. Winter did her
Frou-Frou appear pure-spirited, “an exquisite texture ... of childlike
womanhood,”[41] and as Floria Tosca “Bernhardt’s acting ... was
magnificent,--for it created the effect of perfect illusion”; it will
“be remembered with a shuddering sense of horror as long as anything is
remembered of her achievement.... Of its kind it was absolutely perfect
art.” In _La Femme X_ he found her art consummate. Her Marguérite
Gauthier in _La Dame aux Camélias_ did much to give that heroine
genuine and compelling appeal to the purer emotions, her Phèdre has
its moments of genuine nobility. And though it may be true that, in
the main, she worked in those strata of the drama that are of “little
benefit to humanity,” the sheer extent and strength of her influence
bear witness that much in her work found a response in the minds and
sympathies of two generations of people.

She is, after all, unique, whatever the loftiness of her message;
for the intensity of her power, the span of time over which she has
exercised it and the universality of her fame combine to write a
chapter that stands alone in theatrical annals.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the body of Bernhardtian legend has now been added the legend of the
leg. This time it is an authentic legend, and one that adds greatly to
Sarah’s merited fame for courage and will.

In February, 1915, she wrote to Mme. Jane Catulle Mendès:

“_My Dear_: As you perhaps have learned, they are going to cut off my
leg Monday. They should have done so last Sunday, but it seems I was
not sufficiently prepared for that first performance. The principal
artist, my right leg, had not learned its rôle. It has now learned it,
and it will be charming.”

There is a long story of patiently endured suffering back of that
lightly phrased note. In 1912 she made a visit to America, playing--as
before and since in London--in the vaudeville theatres short scenes
from her former successes. There were circumstances in her acting that
puzzled the beholders. She would take a fixed position and maintain
it for long periods. When she moved across the stage, it was usually
with another’s support. Such hamperings to her acting were commonly put
down to her advanced age, or sometimes to rheumatism. As a matter of
fact, Sarah had for ten years suffered from osteoarthritis--chronic
inflammation of the articulation of her right knee. The trouble
manifested itself first at Montevideo, and was there temporarily and
inadequately treated. From that time, at first intermittently and then
continuously, the knee brought her pain that she endured with fortitude
and without curtailment of her work. As time went on, she gradually
modified the business of her parts, and even had plays written to suit
her limitations,--as in _Le Procès de Jeanne d’Arc_, in which she stood
in court all during one act and in another remained seated at the side
of her bed.

In the Spring of 1914, while she was playing in Liège, she gave the
afflicted knee a slight sprain. Upon this, the trouble became acute.
She remained, first at her house on Belle Isle, and later at Andernos,
now Arcachon, with the knee in a fixed plaster cast. The pain was
reduced; Mme. Sarah could paint and could work on her memoirs, and her
general health was excellent; but here she was with her career cut off!
When the surgeons, hoping to replace the cast with some apparatus that
would permit her to walk, found that instead the knee would have to be
kept unmoved for an indefinite time, Sarah took matters into her own
hands, and ordered the offending member removed. It was better, she
said, in a letter to Maurice Barres, “to be mutilated than to remain

On February 22, 1915, at Bordeaux, in her seventy-first year, Mme.
Bernhardt’s right leg was amputated above the knee. “While the
hospital attendants were preparing for the operation,” said a dispatch
from her bedside, “the actress conversed volubly with her doctors:
‘Work is my life. So soon as I can be fitted with an artificial leg,
I shall resume the stage and all my good spirits shall be restored. I
hope again to be able to use all that force of art which now upholds
me and which will sustain me until beyond the grave,’”--a speech, as
Philip Hale said, “worthy of one of Plutarch’s men.” Surgeons and
nurses present at the operation were deeply impressed by the calm
courage with which she faced the operation.[42]

Even in the midst of the horrors and anxieties of universal war,
Bernhardt’s ordeal challenged world-wide sympathy. Portraits and
eulogies appeared in every paper. For a week or more, until it
became certain that the operation had been successful, bulletins on
her condition were printed daily. Queen Victoria of Spain, the aged
Eugénie, M. Deschanel, president of the Chamber of Deputies, Edmond
Rostand--these were only a few of those, both proud and humble, whose
messages poured in upon her from all quarters. Alexandra, Queen-mother
of Great Britain, sent word of the “sympathy which all England shares
for the greatest artist in the world.” After the operation, Mme.
Bernhardt said that she was to “live again. Already I am free from
suffering, happy and full of courage, and now I am going to get well
quickly. I shall retake my place in the world.”

This announcement was sufficiently astounding. The remarkable woman
then followed it with another,--that she would make a new tour in
America, this time not in the vaudeville theatres (where interest in
her was before not overwhelming), but in the regular theatres, where
she would offer a number of plays in which she has not yet been seen on
this side of the Atlantic.

Thus does Bernhardt remain vividly alive to the last. M. Jules Lemaître
once said that he admired her because of the unknown he felt to be
in her. “She might go into a nunnery, discover the North Pole, be
inoculated with rabies, assassinate an emperor, or marry a negro king,
and I should never be surprised at anything she did. She is more alive
and more incomprehensible by herself than a thousand other human

Thus it may be that she will again rally about her on the stage of
Paris the loyal affection that went out to her in the hospital. It is
an open secret that for half a dozen years the allegiance of her Paris
public has not always been unflagging. She is indubitably old, and her
affliction was imperfectly understood. And yet, when her latest play,
_Jeanne Doré_, by Tristan Bernard, was produced in December, 1913,
a flash of the old enthusiasm broke out again and one correspondent
described the occasion as “easily the most brilliant first night of the
Paris season so far.” The part, moreover, was an exacting emotional
one. In it Madame Sarah seems again to have shown her great power.


The acting of Madame Modjeska is still remembered vividly by American
and English theatregoers, yet its beginnings lie as far away in time
as the sixties and as distant in place as Poland. She was born on
October 12, 1840, in Cracow, the old Polish capital, now the second
city of Galitzia, or Austrian Poland. Twenty-five years before, by the
agreement of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, it had been proclaimed a
free city. In the year when Modjeska was six, however, Austria, greedy
then as now, broke her pledge and annexed the city. The Poles were
always a passionately patriotic people, and did not submit calmly.
Discontent grew to open revolt, but the hopes of the Cracovians were
crushed by the bombardment of the city by the Austrians in 1848.

[Illustration: HELENA MODJESKA]

Thus the little Helcia[43] was born in tragic times, and as a little
girl saw scenes of terror and bloodshed. Her mother’s house was struck
by the cannon shot, and she saw men and children killed before her very
door. The horrors of those days were vividly impressed upon her memory
and were perhaps not without their effect upon the nature of the future

Her father, Michael Opid, born in the Carpathian mountains, and a
teacher in the high school in Cracow, was a simple-hearted, lovable
man, something of a scholar and a great lover of music. He was
extremely fond of children. His own girls and boys and those of his
neighbors would gather about him in the evening, listening to the folk
lore of the mountaineers, Polish legends, and tales from the Iliad.
When Helcia, years later, herself studied Homer, those winter evenings
and their stories were vividly recalled. But Michael Opid’s chief
delight was music. He played several instruments, the flute especially
well. His melodies appealed almost too strongly to the sensitive little
Helcia, who during plaintive passages in the music would burst into
wails and cries. Singers and musicians were frequent visitors at the
Opid house, and in its atmosphere there was thus an artistic element,
which undoubtedly had some influence in determining the career of
Helcia. Her father died when she was seven, of consumption, induced by
exposure while seeking his drowned brother’s body. When he knew he was
dangerously ill, he returned to his native mountains to die.

It had been the second marriage of Madame Opid. She had been Madame
Benda, and having altogether ten children to care for, she could
give by no means exclusive attention to any one of them, even had
she known that that one was to be a great actress. The children were
well cared for so far as their bodily wants were concerned, but
their personalities were left to themselves to develop. For Helcia
this was not altogether unfortunate, for her imagination, stirred by
history-making events and by the songs and poems of which she was so
fond, had free rein. She did not care much for the society of other
children, and was not popular with them. She was a little dreamer,
almost painfully bashful, living much in a world of her imagination,
and fond of going to church. She would steal away alone to the
Dominican chapel, where she would lie face down on the floor, in the
manner of the peasant women, arms outstretched, kissing the floor and
praying for a miracle or a glimpse of an angel or a saint.

Her first schooling was in the house of a friend of her mother’s, a
woman with two well-educated daughters who taught the little Helcia, by
the time she was seven, to read with ease. She fed her imagination with
all the books she could find at hand. In school she liked her Polish
history, her French and her grammar.

When Helcia was seven, she was taken to the theatre for the first time.
The play was _The Daughter of the Regiment_, and was followed by a
ballet _The Siren of Dniestr_, in which little Josephine Hofmann (to be
Josef Hofmann’s aunt) dressed as a butterfly, hovered about in the air.
Helcia was entranced; to her it was all a dream of joy come true.[44]
She went to bed that night with a high fever, and for weeks afterward
she practiced the butterfly dance, watching her shadow on the wall,
much to the amusement of her small brothers. But theatricals became the
family pastime. Helcia’s three older brothers were enthusiastic. They
rigged up a stage at home, with the help of some other boys formed a
little company, and every month gave performances for admiring friends.
They excluded the girls, and played all the women’s parts themselves.
The home theatre was probably of great influence in the lives of
its members, for two of the boys, besides Helcia and her sister,
subsequently went on the stage.

In 1850, when Helcia was in her tenth year, Cracow was burned. The
conflagration lasted ten days, and a large part of the city was
destroyed. Madame Opid up to this time had been a woman of some
property. Her first husband had left her a small estate which she had
managed skillfully. Her two houses were now destroyed, her insurance
had lapsed ten days before, and she was practically ruined. Here was
more misfortune to impress the growing Helcia, to make her, for her
years, unusually sensitive and thoughtful. After a few days of almost
vagabondage, the family was given temporary quarters in a friend’s
house. There Helcia, left much to herself, spent her time reading her
_Life of St. Genevieve_, a treasured volume which she rescued in the
moment of peril. At length installed in a newly hired house, Madame
Opid sent Helcia and her little sister Josephine as day pupils to St.
John’s convent, and supplemented the teachings of the sisters with
lessons at home in music and dancing.

It was at this time, when Helena was ten, that she first met Gustave
Modrzejewski,[45] who was later to be her husband. He was twenty years
her senior. He was a friend of the family and taught the children
German, the hated language of the oppressor.

When Helena was twelve, her half-brothers Joseph and Felix Benda had
gone away to be actors on the professional stage. To relieve the quiet
at home she and her brother Adolphe Opid, who was then fifteen, wrote a
play, a one-act tragedy. The scene was laid in Greece, and the acting
required the death of Adolphe, and an impassioned scene of grief by
Helena when with a sob she threw herself over her dead lover’s body.
She drew from the sympathetic servants and her great-aunt Theresa
genuine tears, but her practical mother was unmoved, thought Helena
over-excited and forbade further theatricals.

At fourteen Helena finished the highest grade at the convent. This was
the end of her formal schooling, but she at once began a strenuous
and varied course of reading. She began with the Polish poets, of whom
there are several proudly cherished by their countrymen. It was the
family’s pleasant custom, fostered by the well-read Mr. Modrzejewski,
to read aloud in the winter evenings. In this way Helena learned
of Scott, Dickens, Dumas, George Sand, and many another. She had
neglected her German, and it was to stimulate an interest in the
disliked language that Mr. Modrzejewski proposed that she be taken to
see a German play. She was immensely excited, for it was seven years
since she had been to the theatre. The play was Schiller’s _Kabale und
Liebe_. She entered the theatre in a state of awe, she sat through the
performance in spellbound fascination, and the next morning with the
help of a dictionary began reading Schiller in German. Schiller became
for the time an overwhelming enthusiasm with her. She imagined herself
in love with him, and placed before her in her room his statuette, as a
kind of idol. Such extravagances as this, and the religious period that
preceded it, would have indicated to a discerning eye a promisingly
responsive and emotional nature. To those about her, however, even to
her mother, she was only a moody and at times excitable child whose
enthusiasm was to be repressed and whose future was doubtful. She
helped with the family work, as all did in this time of stress, but she
was living apart in a world of poetry, of vague and ardent dreams.

She was now taken to the theatre occasionally. Felix Benda had become
one of the popular actors of the local theatre. One day, when Helena
was about sixteen, he overheard her reciting to her sister. Surprised
and pleased, he took her next day to the house of one of the leading
actresses of the company, who as an artist of experience could judge
of the young girl’s chances of success on the stage. All this came
very suddenly. Helena had not seriously thought of a stage career.
The hearing was a trying ordeal, for she was terribly frightened.
After giving Helena a lesson or two, the actress was discouraging.
She advised Madame Opid to keep the young girl at home rather than
allow her to become a mediocre actress. For a while Helcia’s budding
ambitions were crushed.

Madame Opid, for one, was not disappointed. The family was not so well
off as it was before the fire and to Helcia fell a large share of the
housework. But she studied and read and thought, with unsettled mind
and changing purpose. At one time she thought she would try to achieve
fame as a writer; again, at her mother’s wish, she studied furiously
with a teacher’s examination in mind; again, to become a nun seemed
the only thing worth while. But shortly there came a rude shock to all
these plans. Fritz Devrient, a German actor of great talent, played
_Hamlet_ in Cracow, and Helena was taken to see him. She had heard
of Shakespeare, but had never seen or read any of his plays. The
effect on her was overwhelming. Shakespeare became her master then
and there, and she never deserted him. She spent a sleepless night,
and the longing to be an actress returned with redoubled strength.
She greedily read the plays of Shakespeare in Polish translations,
and his bust speedily replaced that of Schiller. The family friend,
Gustave Modrzejewski, to her great delight seconded her in her renewed
ambition, recommended that she study for the German stage as offering a
wider field than the Polish, and arranged for lessons from an excellent
actor, Herr Axtman. Indeed, his interest extended further, for when
Helcia was seventeen he urged that their marriage, which had come to be
an understood thing, take place at once. She had seen much of him; they
had read together Goethe and Lessing and the northern sagas; he was her
guardian and the kindly counselor of the family; and she looked on him,
a man more than twice her age, with real affection; and so they were
married at once.

After Helena had taken the name which she was to make so famous, there
followed a few quiet years during which her ambitions lay in abeyance.
When she was twenty her son Rudolphe was born. The little family,
and Madame Opid as well, moved to Bochnia, a little town in Austrian
Poland. Here it was that, owing to the circumstance that Bochnia
possessed salt mines, Mme. Modjeska had her first opportunity to appear
on a real stage. Some of the miners had been killed in an accident.
It occurred to the Modjeskis to give, for the benefit of the bereaved
families, some amateur theatricals. They met a friend, a dancing master
named Loboiko, who obtained a hall, hastily built some scenery and
acted as leading man of the company. There were but three others--a
young man who was the dancing master’s pupil, Helena as leading
lady, and Josephine, her younger sister. Stasia, their nine-year-old
niece, was prompter. The plays were two pieces now forgotten--_The
White Camelia_, in one act, in which Helena was a countess, and _The
Prima-Donna_, in which she was an Italian peasant girl who became an
actress. Delighted as she was to realize her cherished ambition to
appear on the stage before an actual audience, when the bell rang for
the rise of the curtain she was thoroughly frightened. Before she
went on she could not think of her lines, and she fairly shook with
nervousness. Yet once on the stage her words came to her and she found
herself, much to her surprise, quite at her ease. The dignitaries and
the country gentlemen of the district and the townspeople all turned
out for the performance, and for the two others that followed it, in
unexpectedly large numbers. Madame Modjeska’s acting, at this her first
opportunity for showing it, attracted attention. An actor and stage
manager from Warsaw, who happened to be in Bochnia and saw her act,
asked her how long she had been on the stage,--an amusing and pleasing
question,--and urged her to turn her eyes toward Warsaw. Such men
do not pay empty compliments, and Helena’s confidence now took new
hold. The prospect of going to Warsaw drove from her mind any idea of
becoming a German actress. It was Warsaw and the Imperial Theatre, or

Such was the modest beginning of a career. Mr. Modjeski, so far from
objecting to his young wife’s being an actress, saw in the new turn of
affairs a chance to retrieve the family fortunes and to get a living
for them all. A license for a traveling company was obtained from
Cracow, Mr. Modjeski constituted himself manager, and the little band
of players, travelling in a peasant’s wagon, went on to New Sandec.[46]
Here the company was gradually enlarged until it had nineteen members,
and here they stayed all summer. Helena was from the beginning their
star. She and her comrades were but strolling players, living in poorly
furnished quarters and eating frugal meals. She had but two dresses,
one black for tragedy, the other white for comedy. Yet she was happy
as never before or perhaps since. Long afterward she thrilled with the
recollection of the enthusiasm and joy of those early days. To live in
her own world of youth and eager beginnings and at the same time in
the imaginary world of her heroines, was a happiness that outweighed
all lack of comforts.

For more than a year the company traveled about in Austrian Poland.
It was during this period that the Polish insurrection of 1863 was
brewing. The oppression under which Russian Poland suffered found
sympathy in Galitzia and indeed the entire Polish people was in
mourning. Every one, at least in the towns, wore black, for the wearing
of colors was practically forbidden by public feeling. Yet people
contrived to go to the theatre, and “The New Sandec Combination,” as
it was called, prospered. Their Polish historical pieces roused the
patriotism of their audiences and did their share in maintaining the
spirit of the people in the face of the Russian outrages.

Madame Modjeska was the favorite of the provincial public to which her
company addressed itself. The popular demand for her was such that the
audiences fell off when she was not in the cast, and she consequently
was forced to appear constantly. When her daughter was born[47] she had
finished acting her part in a five act tragedy only two hours before;
and in ten days she was again appearing. The company grew in size and
improved in quality, and their repertoire was enlarged to include
such plays as Schiller’s _Die Räuber_ and _Sheridan’s The School for

This year and a half of “barnstorming” was invaluable experience
for Modjeska. It gave her confidence and technique, and, finally,
recognition. One of the managers of the endowed theatre of Lemberg[48]
had seen and liked her acting. In the autumn of 1862 the Modjeskis
retired from the strolling company, and after a few probationary
performances Helena, then twenty-two, was enrolled a member of the
resident company at Lemberg. With her first opportunity to play on a
well-equipped stage, with good actors, and before a city audience,
she felt that she had made a distinct step upward. She played a wide
variety of characters, ranging from great ladies to pages, _ingénues_,
and the soubrette parts in operetta. She profited by the example and
the friendly advice of Madame Ashberger, who was the leading lady, but
the younger women of the company were jealous of the upstart newcomer
with the pretty face. They influenced the management to give Modjeska
only small parts, and this, with the insufficiency of the salary,
so discouraged her that after a year at Lemberg she and her husband
returned to try their fortunes again in the provinces.

Mr. Modjeski established in the town of Czerniowce a stock company
that was largely a family affair. Joseph and Felix Benda, Helena’s
half-brothers, her sister’s husband and Josephine herself, all were
members, while Simon Benda led the orchestra. There were more than
twenty actors altogether, some of whom afterwards became famous in
Poland. The two years at Czerniowce Modjeska filled with hard work.
1863 marked the crisis in the affairs of unhappy Poland. The Galitzians
were only less stirred by the tyranny and bloodshed in Russian Poland
than their kinsfolk, the victims. Excitement and patriotic feeling
ran high and troops were being raised everywhere; yet throughout
this troublous period the theatres prospered. As for Modjeska, with
admirable energy and ambition she studied and worked. So far she had
not played in tragedy. On a visit to Vienna, a brief vacation she took
to see a bit of the world with Mr. Modjeski, a manager before whom
she tried her powers in a scene from _Marie Stuart_ advised her to
cultivate her voice and her German before essaying the more serious
rôles. Accordingly she practiced faithfully in the midst of a busy
career at the theatre. She had attained a considerable reputation
in Galitzia, and, as before, appeared constantly, not only in the
company’s home town but in towns about the province. She was happy in
her work, but her health was suffering, and for a while consumption
threatened her. Other troubles soon came. In 1865 her two year old
daughter died, and soon afterwards other misfortunes, of a domestic
nature, ended in her separation from her husband, whom she never saw

Moving now to her birthplace, Cracow, with her mother, her little son
and her brother Felix, she was soon a member of the company at the old
theatre where she had been taken, years before, to see the plays that
had so greatly excited her.

Modjeska began her three years at Cracow when she was almost
twenty-five. She had attained genuine popularity in her own province
and her reputation was beginning, among those particularly interested
in the drama, to extend to other parts of Poland. As the able stage
director at Cracow, Mr. Jasinski, told her, she had been petted by
the public and spoiled by the critics.[49] The Cracow theatre was
beginning a new era just at this time and with the importation into its
management of a group of enthusiastic and artistically well-equipped
men it set for itself a standard equal to that of the national theatre
at Warsaw. It was natural therefore that her term of service here
taught Modjeska much. First she learned from Mr. Jasinski for the first
time the proper delivery of blank verse. At his earnest solicitation,
and under the sting of remarks by a jealous fellow actress, who
advised her to leave serious parts alone, she resolutely undertook
tragic characters for the first time. Her parts were sometimes small,
sometimes important.[50] After her performance in _Don Carlos_, which
came a few months after she joined the company and for which she
prepared herself (since Mr. Jasinski had returned to Warsaw), she felt
that she had to a degree realized her ambition. She had succeeded in a
serious part, and was a recognized member of an important company. She
was absorbed and happy in her work and thought of little else.[51] The
political troubles of Poland, if not settled, were at least stifled.
There was outward calm to match the content with which Modjeska labored
during these important years. Those who consider success on the stage
easily achieved have only to look at such a period as this in the life
of a great actress. She frequently arose at five in the morning and
studied and rehearsed all day. She and her brother Felix would go
over scenes at all hours and in all places. She carefully worked out
the last detail of costuming, of pose or intonation, developing her
impersonations to her utmost. And when the time for performance came,
she threw herself into her work body and soul. There has always been
much discussion as to whether or not an actor, for the best effect,
should “feel his part.” Modjeska was always one of those who did. “I
really passed through all the emotions of my heroines,” she afterwards
wrote. “I suffered with them, cried real tears, which I often could
not stop even after the curtain was down. Owing to this extreme
sensitiveness I was exhausted after each emotional part, and often
had to rest motionless after the play until my strength returned. I
tried hard to master my emotions, but during my whole career I could
not succeed in giving a performance without feeling the agonies of my

It was during a visit of the Cracow Company to Posen, the capital
of Prussian Poland, that Madame Modjeska met Count Karol Bozenta
Chlapowski, who was soon to be her second husband.[52] He came of a
noble Polish family and had served in the revolt of 1863. At the time
he met Modjeska (1866) he was a writer on politics and the drama for
one of the newspapers of Posen. In this capacity he commented frankly
on the shortcomings he found in Modjeska’s acting, but his candor did
not prevent their becoming good friends. He coached her in French,
and they read and talked much together. It was here, when romance was
coming into her own life, that she read for the first time _Romeo
and Juliet_. It carried her to the highest pitch of enthusiasm for
Shakespeare. At her earnest wish, it was played successfully with
Modjeska as Juliet, while the company was in Posen.

Before she returned to Cracow to act, Modjeska was granted leave
of six weeks, with the suggestion that she go to Paris and study
the best French actors. Paris charmed her, while her visits to the
theatres--and every evening found her in one or another--were inspiring
to the sensitive young woman on the threshold of her own career. The
restraint of the French actors’ methods, their admirable grace and
precision, their imaginative identification with their characters, and
the _ensemble_ which is the mark of the French stage at its best, were
noted for her own good by the rising Polish star.

She was given an ovation when she reappeared at Cracow. _Romeo and
Juliet_ was repeated and, to her delight (for Shakespeare was her
constant enthusiasm), she had an opportunity to appear as Lady Anne in
_Richard the Third_, as Titania in _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_, and as
Desdemona in _Othello_. Many plays from the French and German were also
given, but the basis of the Cracow theatre’s repertoire was naturally

This was to Modjeska a happy and successful period. As was her custom,
she threw herself into her work with all her energy, and besides her
parts studied hard her French, her music, and even an elaborate course
in history. Indeed she worked so during this year (1866–7) that one
day, during a rehearsal of _Kabale und Liebe_ she suddenly lost her
memory; she could not think of a word of her part. In two weeks,
however, she had recovered and was at work again.

In 1868 she married Count Chlapowski and thereby became a member of
the aristocracy. She was not the first actress to marry into the
Polish nobility, but in her case, as in none before, the husband’s
family and society in general welcomed her with open arms. And indeed,
in receiving into their number a woman of her personal worth and
attainments, they were accepting rather than bestowing honor.

Now came the moment that Modjeska herself always believed to be the
turning point in her career. Seven years before, when she and three
other amateurs were giving their little plays for charity in Bochnia,
she had been seen, it will be remembered, by one of the staff of
managers of the Warsaw Imperial Theatre. He had told her that one
day he hoped to see her in Warsaw. Now, in 1868, her reputation as
one of the leading actresses of the Cracow theatre brought about the
fulfillment of his hope, for she was invited to Warsaw to give a
special series of performances. As for her, this was the realization
of a dream. She did not then even think of the career she was to
have in foreign lands in a language other than Polish. She was
intensely patriotic, and the utmost reasonable limit of her ambition
was to act in the Imperial Theatre at Warsaw. It was one of the great
state theatres of Europe, controlled and subsidized by the Russian
Government, and, with its various companies for serious drama, comedy,
opera, and comic opera, its ballet, choruses, orchestras, schools,
officials and employees, enrolled something over seven hundred people.
It was extraordinary for an actress who had not gone through the school
and waited her chance of gradual promotion to appear on its stage;
and the innovation aroused the keenest hostility among the members of
the company. The husband of one of the actresses was an editor, and
before Modjeska appeared, attacked her in print. When the newcomer
rehearsed for the first time attempts were begun to discredit her. The
rehearsal of her part in _Les Idées de Madame Aubray_ went so well that
she was jubilant until it was suddenly announced that owing to the
sickness of one of the actors (who up to now was apparently in perfect
health) the play would have to be changed. In the rehearsal Modjeska
had shown such ability that the clique arrayed against her knew their
point would be lost unless some play were put on that would test her
powers more severely. So _Adrienne Lecouvreur_ was suggested, a play
in which Rachel had been the only one thoroughly to succeed. Modjeska
saw the danger, but agreed to play Adrienne. At rehearsal she little
more than “walked through” her part, taking care not to reveal her best
powers, lest the unpleasant incident be repeated. The cabal succeeded,
however, in playing her another trick: at the last moment another
actress, the wife of the hostile editor, was given Modjeska’s part of
Adrienne for the first performance of the play’s revival. This was
intended to decrease the interest in Modjeska’s first appearance; yet
when her night arrived the great house was filled. The controversy over
her invitation to Warsaw, and the unusual spectacle of a nobleman’s
actress-wife continuing to act after her marriage, combined to arouse
the keenest interest.

The audience received her cordially, and listened attentively. At the
close of the fable of the two pigeons, a passage which she delivered
with much charm and tenderness, there was such applause as she had
never heard before. After each act she was called out again and again,
and at the end of the play received an unprecedented ovation. Even
those members of the company who had tried to prevent her appearance
were won over by her power, her grace, and her immediate success, and
appeared in her dressing-room to congratulate her. Next day all the
papers praised her, and during the next week the cards and invitations
that formed the tribute of Warsaw society poured in upon her.

Within a few days Modjeska had signed a contract to play at the
Imperial Warsaw Theatre the rest of her life, the term of her service
to begin in the autumn of 1869, for she had still (in 1868) to complete
her season in Cracow. In view of the conditions under which American
and English actors, even those of the first rank, are to-day obliged
to work, it is interesting to note the terms of Modjeska’s contract
at Warsaw. She was to have twenty-five thousand florins[53] a year,
four months holiday in each year, eight hundred roubles[54] yearly for
gowns, and an annual benefit performance. She was to be permitted to
act each year in six new plays of her own choice (a great concession on
the part of a conservative management) and was to be expected to appear
only three times a week! When she departed for Cracow, the people of
Warsaw crowded to the station, throwing flowers into her carriage, and
shouting their farewells. The visit to Warsaw had indeed been a triumph.

Count Chlapowski’s interest in a new political party and his editorship
of its daily paper in Cracow brought about him and his wife, who after
the end of the season in the spring of 1869 laid aside for the moment
her theatrical work, a political and literary _salon_. Poets, patriots,
scientific men, artists, all were found at the house of the charming
actress and the nobleman-editor[55]. During her three seasons at
Cracow she had played one hundred and thirteen parts--an impressive
achievement in itself. Modjeska was now expected to act in Warsaw for
the rest of her life. Instead, she remained less than seven years.

Her departure was brought about by several causes. It was not long
before she became the moving spirit of the whole vast organization.
As the extension of the repertoire was largely in her hands, it was
to her that translators and authors had to apply. She therefore had
considerable responsibility, which she appreciated, concerning the
development of the Polish drama. The management found itself deferring
to her in all kinds of matters. Moreover, her husband, forced to
a choice between his own career and hers, had given up his Cracow
interests, and together in Warsaw they soon found themselves the center
of social interest. Their _salon_ became an established and brilliant
affair. Her domination of an artistic and social world to which she
was a newcomer naturally aroused envy, and resulting attempts to make
her uncomfortable had their part in wearying her of Warsaw. Then, in
her ambition to enlarge and enrich the theatre’s repertoire, she had
constantly to combat the autocracy and unintelligence of the Russian
censorship. When she wished to produce _Hamlet_ the censor objected
to a play in which a King was murdered, as a possible suggestion of
disloyal ideas, and it was only when he was shown that the murder
was a family affair, not a public assassination, that he reluctantly
relented. To another play he objected on the ground that it contained
a Polish king, to a Russian an unthinkable person. The king had to be
changed to a prince. Covert allusions to the wrongs of Poland were
suspected where none existed and even certain words were taboo. A love
passage might be suspected to be an apostrophe to the oppressed mother
country; the word “slave” was considered objectionable, and “negro”
substituted; if a character said: “I love my country and my people,”
his affections were transferred by official order to his wife and
children, and, in one play the words: “He walked arm in arm with the
emperor and whispered in his ear,” were changed to “He walked three
steps behind the emperor and whispered in his ear”! Such obstructions
to Modjeska’s plans, though often amusing, were oftener maddening.

In 1875 Madame Mouchanoff, the wife of the president of the Warsaw
theatre, died. A woman of great refinement, intellect, and force, she
had befriended and inspired Modjeska, and the loss of her was severe.
In the same year Felix Benda died, another blow, for her half-brother
had been a good friend and wise counselor. In the meantime Modjeska
had herself had a severe illness. Now, in the spring of 1876, the
nervousness induced by her strenuous career on the stage and in society
combined with sorrow over the attacks on her and irritation with the
censor to induce a melancholy, a pessimism, that brought her to a
dangerous state of discouragement and ill-health.

One night the Chlapowskis and their guests were discussing America and
the coming Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia. At first in jest,
a general emigration to America was suggested. They would have there
an ideal community, a care-free natural life far removed from Russian
oppression, and Pani Helena[56] could have her much needed rest. The
idea took root. The would-be emigrants were thought foolish by most of
their friends, but Henryk Sienkiewicz (afterwards the famous author of
_Quo Vadis?_), Count Chlapowski himself, his friends Jules Sypniewski
and Lucian Paprocki, were all soon in deadly earnest. California they
had heard of as an earthly paradise, where life was idyllic and the
earth yielded up not only an easily won living, but fortune.

The suddenly achieved result was that Sienkiewicz sailed for America
in a few months, and the others arranged to follow. Modjeska obtained
leave of absence from the president of the theatre, who cheerfully
expected her to come back, but fixed a forfeit of six thousand roubles
if she did not. In June, 1876, she appeared in Warsaw for the last
time. There was a great popular demonstration. The house was crowded
and to the highest degree enthusiastic. After the performance the
audience formed a double rank to the gates of the theatre grounds and
shouted their farewells and praises. The public, at least, was with her
to the last.[57]

In July, 1876, she sailed from Bremen for New York, with Count
Chlapowski, her son Rudolphe, Jules Sypniewski, his wife and two
children, and Lucian Paprocki,--a strange band of pilgrims, artists
with little but their ideals and comradeship to fit them for pioneering
in a strange country, headed by a woman who was giving up a career of
_grande dame_ and _première artiste_ for the prospect of life on a farm
eight thousand miles or so from the scene of her triumphs!

Modjeska had never seen the ocean, and the voyage of thirteen days
was invigorating. Her party spent about a month in New York, making
excursions to Philadelphia to see the exposition, where she admired the
vegetables and fruits from California, experimented with those dainties
new to her, pop-corn and peanuts, and found them tasteless, and
visited the art exhibits. New York of 1876 she thought a “monstrous,
untidy bazaar.” In August they started for California, taking ship for
Panama. She found charming her first glimpse of the tropics, during
the railroad trip across the Isthmus, and the three weeks’ voyage on
the Pacific went far to restore her vigor and peace of mind.

The impression has been that Modjeska returned to the stage because of
the failure of the farming experiment which was now to be made. To a
certain extent this is true, but even before she reached California she
certainly had vague plans to act again. In a letter from New York she
had said: “It seems that I may be able to play in English, but first we
must go to California, according to our original plan.... Perhaps after
we get established in this new paradise I may pick up enough English to
play there, and when I get more mastery over the new language, I may
come here; for, however unattractive New York seems to me, it is the
metropolis of America, and it will give me pleasure to conquer it.”
This was surely forecasting the future. When she reached San Francisco,
Edwin Booth was playing there. It was proposed that she act Ophelia in
Polish, to his _Hamlet_. Rather to her relief, Booth, who had never
heard of her, declined. She saw him as Antony and as Shylock and of
course recognized him as the great actor that he was, though as yet she
could not understand English.[58]

As for the community farming experiment at Anaheim, it was a failure
that would appear ludicrous if it were not for its element of tragedy.
All of the experimenters were desperately homesick, and none of them
had the least practical notion of the task they had set themselves.
They talked more than they worked, quarreled and made up, and were
generally helpless. Modjeska, the queen of the Warsaw stage, did the
cooking, with the frightened assistance of a Polish maid they had taken
from a convent to be a helper with the children.[59] They had several
cows, but no one knew how to milk them, and their butter and milk
they had to buy. The orange trees were too young to bear, the season
was dry, the neighbors’ cattle ate the barley, the dogs ate the eggs,
and the ready money was fast disappearing. The unfortunate town-bred
would-be farmers were doomed to failure from the start. So Modjeska
determined upon the courageous and difficult course which brought
in time so great an addition to her fame. She decided to go to San
Francisco, learn English, and go upon the American stage.

In March, 1877, she wrote from San Francisco to a friend in Poland:
“I am hard at work, studying. That was my secret plan, at the very
beginning of our venture. Country life was simply to restore my
health and strength, which it did so effectively that people give me
twenty-four or twenty-six years of age, not more.... Next autumn I want
to ask the president[60] which he prefers, either six thousand roubles
for breaking my contract, or my return in two years with fame.”

She could not have returned to Warsaw, indeed, had she wished to do
so, for she was now poor. She even sold some of her family silver to
maintain herself and her son in San Francisco while Mr. Chlapowski[61]
was winding up the affairs of the farm. With a young Polish-American
woman as tutor, she labored incessantly with English, and to such
good effect that in about six months, having gotten Adrienne and
Juliet letter-perfect, she applied for an engagement at the California
Theatre. John McCullough was the star and manager, but he was absent.
His representative, Barton Hill, knew nothing of Madame Modjeska and
told her there was no opportunity to engage her as a star. Her friend
the tutor persisted, and obtained an appointment for a hearing, but
when Modjeska presented herself at the theatre he found himself unable
to keep the engagement. She was deeply discouraged. A star of the
first magnitude at home, here she had to beg for a hearing, and then
be refused. When she again applied at the theatre and Mr. Hill sent
word that he was too busy to see her, she was genuinely humiliated.
Some Polish friends interceded, however, and a rehearsal was arranged.
Mr. Hill at last heard her, in an act of _Adrienne Lecouvreur_. He was
unprepared for what he was to experience, for so far as he knew she
was merely another “society woman” with a craze for the stage. She was
stung to her best efforts, and at the end of the scene Mr. Hill was a
changed man.[62] Modjeska was to have a week, more if possible. She
had to go through another trial when Mr. McCullough returned, but the
result was a fortnight’s engagement. On the first night, playing in a
strange tongue, she was quite free from nervousness, and knowing the
part well did it full justice. She sent a dispatch of a single word,
“Victory,” to her husband; the newspapers pronounced her appearance
“the most confirmed dramatic triumph that ever occurred in the city”;
Sienkiewicz, then in San Francisco, sent a glowing letter to his Warsaw
paper, and Modjeska’s American career was launched.[63]

The next morning at eight o’clock an enterprising theatrical manager
called to propose her appearance in the eastern cities. In December,
1877, after less than a year’s study of English she appeared as a star
in New York. The story of her career in Poland had been one of long
continued striving, of years of mingled hard work and disappointment,
and of final brilliant success. In America, by what has become in stage
annals a classical example of will and courage, she attained equally
brilliant success in a few weeks, in a foreign land and in a recently
acquired tongue.

It was not long before Modjeska was firmly established as an
international artist--a title that has been applied with justification
to actresses only very rarely. From this time, in the early
eighties, until the close of the century she led the life of such an
artist--known to the theatregoers of two continents as no other of her
time save only Bernhardt. Her American tours brought her before the
public throughout the country, her name was equally familiar in the
various cities of the British Isles, while during her frequent visits
to Poland she acted in her own tongue among those to whom she had
become one of the country’s glories.[64]

In seeking the reasons for Modjeska’s brilliant success and in
estimating her as an actress, one at once recognizes that she was
first of all a woman of great charm, dignity and intelligence. She was
a _grande dame_, a woman who was also a “lady,” in the best sense of
that miscellaneous word. Her friendships in her native Poland included
literally almost every one who was distinguished or gave promise of
being so. Though born among the people, by unaffected personal worth
she found herself at once at home among the aristocracy into which she
married, an aristocracy of genuine breeding and simplicity. As we
shall see, her record of friendships in England and America was of the
kind that is achieved only by a choice spirit.

Provided she remains herself simple and well-poised, a woman of this
sort, when placed on the stage, has an obvious advantage in parts such
as Modjeska’s over the woman who with equal technical ability has not
had the same experience of the world. Without in the least forfeiting
acting ability or a capacity for identifying herself with a character,
Modjeska was plainly a gracious and noble-spirited woman. This quality
came over the footlights to her audience and was one of the secrets
of her appeal. “To mention her name, as the years drift away, will be
to recall a presence of stately dignity, of tender poetic beauty, of
exquisite refinement, and of perfect grace.... Her ministration as an
actress has taught again the old and precious lesson that poetry is not
a dream.”[65]

Modjeska’s art was fine tempered, subtle, delicate. She was not
physically robust, her voice was not the great tragic voice of a
Rachel, nor had it the thrilling tones of a Mary Anderson. And
there was always between her and her English speaking audiences
the intangible film of difference of speech, for obviously her
pronunciation could never be perfect. Yet by a genuinely dramatic
insight that was indisputably hers, a spontaneous naturalness of word
and gesture, and her great power of quiet intensity, she achieved a
forcefulness far beyond that possible to mere physical and vocal effort.

An example of her individual quality is afforded by her impersonation
of the heroine of _Camille_. In the hands of other actresses the play
had seemed “a piece that befogs moral perceptions and perplexes all
sentiments of right and duty.” Yet Modjeska’s Marguérite Gauthier
redeemed the play and made its heroine a real and tragic woman. “As we
think upon it,” said William Winter, “there rises in fancy a lithe,
willowy figure, just touched with a kind of strange richness--and
whose every movement is perfect grace. The face is pallid with sorrow;
the large, dark, liquid eyes are full of mournful light; the voice
pierces to the heart in its tones of supplication, and vibrates with
a nameless thrill of despairing agony. This figure obeys in every
motion the feeling that possesses it. The tumult of self-reproach, the
bitterness of doubt, the ecstasy of contented and confiding love, the
mingled torment and sublimity of enforced self-sacrifice, the devotion
to virtuous purpose, and the conflict betwixt earthly hope and heavenly
resignation are all expressed by it with the elements of absolute
sincerity and in a form responsive to the nicest touch of the guiding
thought which controls every particle of the work. It is impossible to
recognize with too much acceptance the splendid mechanism with which
the _artiste_ acts. It is a network of movement, attitudes, gestures,
pauses, glances, and quiet, indescribable, subtle suggestions which,
altogether, is faultless in delicacy and superb in completeness.” This
comes from one who watched Modjeska’s career with the kindly interest
of a friend, but it states with fairness, if with enthusiasm, the
distinctive qualities of Modjeska’s acting.

Great, however, as were Modjeska’s achievements as a tragic actress,
it was in Shakespearean comedy, that, in the opinion of many, she
succeeded most individually. Hers was essentially the imaginative
style of acting, and to Rosalind, Viola, Beatrice and Portia she gave
character and individuality as well as charm and grace. “To get out of
myself,” she said of her work, “to forget all about Helena Modjeska,
to throw my whole soul into the assumed character, to lead its life,
to be moved by its emotions, thrilled by its passions, to suffer or
rejoice,--in one word, to identify myself with it and reincarnate
another soul and body, this became my ideal, the goal of all my
aspirations, and at the same time the enchantment and attraction of my
work.” Thus her Rosalind and her Viola were not mere graceful, spirited
women. There was, besides, an idealization that lifted them into
the realm of poetry and a sense of impersonation that was a fitting
response to the imagination with which the characters were conceived.

With Modjeska’s first American tour began the formation of that circle
of friendships outside the theatre that would alone mark her as an
extraordinary woman. The names must suffice: Longfellow, Richard Watson
Gilder, Grant, Sherman, Henry Watterson, Eugene Field; and in Europe:
Tennyson, Lowell, Alma-Tadema, Burne-Jones, Watts, Justin McCarthy,
George Brandes, Hans von Bülow. With Longfellow, perhaps, was her most
cherished friendship. During her first visit to Boston he called on her
at her hotel and she and her son went to his house in Cambridge. “I
said I would gladly study some passages from his poems and recite them
to him, and I mentioned _Hiawatha_, but he stopped me with the words:
‘You do not want to waste your time in memorizing those things, and
don’t you speak of _Hiawatha_, or I will call you Mudjikiewis, which,
by the way, sounds somewhat like your name.’”[66]

It was Longfellow who urged Modjeska to act in London--the very summit
of her ambition. When in 1880 she had repeated there her American
success he wrote to her: “Now I can add my congratulations on your
triumphal entry into London. How pleasant it is to be able to say, ‘I
told you so!’ And did I not tell you so? Am I not worthy to be counted
among the Minor Prophets? I cannot tell you how greatly rejoiced I
am at this new success--this new wreath of laurel.” For London was
immediately won. Public, critics, society and fellow actors united to
make her welcome.

Poland, a small and unhappy country, has done more than its share in
furnishing the world with artists. With some of the most famous of
them Modjeska’s name is curiously linked. Paderewski, during her visit
to Poland in 1884, used to come to visit her. He was then a young man
of twenty-one whom it was impossible to keep away from the piano. She
encouraged him, overcame his doubts as to his fitness for a public
career, and that summer they appeared in the same program in Cracow.
They were friends during the rest of her life, and it was Paderewski
who in 1905 inspired the great farewell testimonial to Modjeska in New
York. “The first encouraging words I heard as a pianist,” he wrote,
“came from her lips; the first successful concert I had in my life was
due to her assistance.” It was she, too, who years before, in a Polish
mountain summer resort, first brought Jan and Eduard de Reszke before
an audience. They were both then under twenty.

In 1893 Madame Modjeska was one of four actresses[67] who addressed the
Women’s Congress at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Besides
her appearance before the Congress as an actress, she was asked to
speak on another occasion as a representative of Poland. The women
who were expected from Poland evidently feared the Czar’s displeasure
in case they spoke frankly concerning their country, and failed to
appear in Chicago. But Modjeska spoke her mind freely concerning the
grievances of the Poles. She was widely quoted in the papers, and
news of her speech reached St. Petersburg. Playing two years later in
Poland, she was about to act in Warsaw when word came from the Russian
government forbidding her appearance. Plans were made for an engagement
in St. Petersburg itself, but at the last moment, when large sums had
already been spent in preparation, she was told that her appearance in
the capital was forbidden. Shortly afterwards Modjeska and her husband
were ordered to leave Warsaw, and an imperial decree was issued to
the effect that they were never thereafter to enter any part of the
Russian territory. Efforts were often made to obtain permission to go
to Warsaw, but to the end of her life Modjeska was excluded from the
Czar’s dominions.[68]

In April, 1905, Madame Modjeska, then living in practical retirement
in California, received a letter signed by a number of authors, fellow
actors and artists in New York which acknowledged in affectionate terms
their debt and gratitude for her career, and offered her a public
testimonial in New York. This was the idea of Paderewski, who had
visited her in California but a short time before and like many others
was disturbed by the lack of public acclaim with which she was modestly
sinking into retirement.[69] The great pianist, much to his distress,
was prevented by an accident from being present, but the best known
actors appearing in New York at the time lent their services. Modjeska
herself played scenes from _Macbeth_ and _Mary Stuart_. Edmund Clarence
Stedman presented to Madame Modjeska a memorial scroll bearing
signatures of her many friends, actors, actresses, and her “attached
votaries in other walks of life--all made associates,” Mr. Stedman
said in addressing her, “by their delight in your genius and career. A
quarter-century ago you came to us from a land invested with traditions
of valor, beauty, and romance, from the brave and soulful country that
flashed its sword in our behalf and that in our own times enthralls
us with music,[70] and through you with impassioned tenderness and
artistic power. The felicities of art are limitless, and, as in
creations of our master playwright you found the most alluring range
for your own powers, so your fresh impersonations woke in us the sense
of ‘something rich and strange.’”

Modjeska, with tears in her eyes and her voice breaking with emotion,
briefly expressed her gratitude.

“Long may your enviable years flow on,” Mr. Stedman had said. But it
was only four years later that she died,[71] in California, where she
had always maintained her home, in a beautiful country place she called
Arden, not far from the scene of that ill-starred venture which after
all had its justification in giving to America a great actress. She was
buried in Cracow, the city of her birth.

“Hail to thee upon thy return to thy last resting place,” said Michael
Tarasiewicz at her funeral, “welcome thou, who might say of thyself as
did Countess Idalia: ‘I am here as a passing angel. I have let thee
see the lightning and disappeared upon the firmament of the sky.’...
For thy art, for thy constant work, for that thou hast never become
renegade to thy ideal, and that, in perfecting thy soul, thou hast been
perfecting the soul of humanity, be blessed.”


There was, in Sir Walter Scott’s day, an actor named Daniel Terry,
who was a part proprietor of the Adelphi Theatre in London. He was
furnished funds for that venture by Sir Walter, and according to
Lockhart enjoyed a large share of Scott’s regard and confidence. An
effort has sometimes been made to identify this Terry with the family
that in the latter half of the nineteenth century furnished England
with some of her most accomplished stage artists. But the connection
was one of name only, for Benjamin Terry, the father of Ellen, was the
son of an Irish builder, and eloped with the daughter of a Scottish

[Illustration: ELLEN TERRY]

Benjamin Terry and his wife, the parents of Ellen, were both actors,
not reckoned among the brilliant stars of their day, but respectably
talented, well-trained actors of the old school, better known in the
provinces than in the metropolis. Benjamin Terry was “a handsome,
fine-looking brown-haired man,” and his wife “a tall, graceful
creature, with an abundance of fair hair, and with big blue eyes set
in a charming face.” On the outlying “circuits,” in Edinburgh, and
later in the London company of Charles Kean, they were reasonably
successful in their profession; but their distinction--and a sufficient
one surely--is their remarkable family of sons and daughters. “Think
of it,” wrote Clement Scott; “Kate, with her lovely figure and comely
features; Ellen, with her quite indescribable charm; Marion, with a
something in her deeper, more tender, and more feminine than either
of them; Florence, who became lovelier as a woman than as a girl; and
the brothers Fred and Charles, both splendid specimens of the athletic

It was while Benjamin Terry and his wife were playing in Coventry
that, on February 27, 1848, their second daughter, Ellen Alicia, was
born. Coventry is proud of the fact, and there has been a rather brisk
dispute as to which house was the birthplace.[73]

From her earliest childhood, Ellen Terry knew the theatre and its
people. She was not one of those who, like Mary Anderson or Modjeska,
are forced to cherish ambitions in secret, for naturally and inevitably
the theatre absorbed her. She and her sister Kate, four years her
elder, were in their early girlhood as firmly established as popular
favorites as actresses of that age can be.

Ellen Terry’s fame has exceeded that of any other of Benjamin Terry’s
large family, but when she began her stage career she was naturally
known as Kate Terry’s little sister. Before Ellen made her first
appearance, at the age of eight, Kate had achieved marked success, for
a child, in Charles Kean’s company, and until she was twenty-three,
when she married and retired from the stage, she was recognized as one
of England’s leading actresses. The third of the Terry sisters, Marion,
and the youngest, Florence, had less distinguished but creditable
careers. There has not been a better instance of the hereditary beauty
and talent that occasionally concentrate in theatrical families.

Benjamin Terry and his wife became members of the company which about
the middle of the century the younger Kean gathered at the Princess’s
Theatre. Whatever the disappointments of Charles Kean’s career, he
was earnestly devoted to his art, he greatly developed the scenic
equipment of the stage of his day, and he made the Princess’s Theatre
an excellent school of acting.

Benjamin Terry not only acted parts at the Princess’s, but assisted
with the productions and stage management. Naturally enough, when
Kean’s series of Shakespearean revivals required the appearance of
children, the young Terry sisters were chosen. They had received what
training their parents could give them. “It must be remembered,” Ellen
Terry long afterward wrote, “that my sister and I had the advantage of
exceedingly clever and conscientious parents, who spared no pains to
bring out and perfect any talents that we possessed. My father was a
very charming elocutionist, and my mother read Shakespeare beautifully,
and they both were very fond of us and saw our faults with eyes of
love, though they were unsparing in their corrections. And, indeed,
they had need of all their patience; for my own part, I know I was a
most troublesome, wayward pupil.” Her father was constantly calling
for impromptu rehearsals of her lines--at the table, in the street or
’bus--whenever opportunity came. She remembers vividly going into a
drug store, where her father stood her on a chair to say her part for
the proprietor.

Trained for the stage from her earliest childhood, and destined
unquestioningly for the career of an actress, her first appearance came
and went so much as a matter of course that there has remained some
uncertainty as to the date and part. Miss Terry herself declares for
April 28, 1856, and Mamillius, in _The Winter’s Tale_. Much painstaking
research has been applied to the question, confirming her strong
impression. Yet Dutton Cook said he remembered seeing Kate and Ellen
Terry as the two princes in _Richard III_, and wrote: “My recollection
of Ellen Terry dates from her impersonation of the little Duke of York.
She was a child of six, or thereabout, slim and dainty of form, with
profuse flaxen curls, and delicately featured face, curiously bright
and arch of expression; and she won, as I remember, her first applause
when, in clear resonant tones, she delivered the lines:

  ‘Uncle, my brother mocks both you and me;
  Because that I am little, like an ape,
  He thinks that you should bear me on your shoulders’

Richard’s representative [Charles Kean] meanwhile scowling wickedly
and tugging at his gloves desperately, pursuant to paternal example
and stage tradition. A year or two later and the baby actress was
representing now Mamillius and now Puck.”

Mr. Cook’s recollection is not borne out by the play bills, however,
and it may safely be said that Ellen Terry’s first appearance was as
Mamillius when she was eight years old.[74]

Miss Terry has given us her own impressions of her first night as
Mamillius. “How my young heart swelled with pride--I can recall the
sensation now--when I was told what I had to do. There is something in
a woman’s nature which always makes her recollect how she was dressed
at any especially eventful moment of her life, and I can see myself,
as though it were yesterday, in my little red and white coat--very
short--_very_ pink silk stockings, and a row of tight sausage curls--my
mother was always very careful that they should be in perfect order and
regularity--clustered round my head. A small go-cart, which it was my
duty to drag about the stage, was also a keen source of pride, and a
great trouble to me. My first dramatic failure dates from that go-cart.
I was told to run about with it on the stage, and while carrying out
my instructions with more vigor than discretion, tripped over the
handle, and down I came on my back. A titter ran through the house,
and I felt that my career as an actress was ruined forever. Bitter and
copious were the tears I shed--but I am not sure that the incident has
materially altered the course of my life.”[75] The _Times_ concluded
its review of the production with the words: “And last--aye, and
least too--Miss Ellen Terry plays the boy Mamillius with a vivacious
precocity that proves her a worthy relative of her sister Miss Kate.”

She had soon played not only Mamillius, but also Puck in _A Midsummer
Night’s Dream_, Prince Arthur in _King John_, Fleance in _Macbeth_ and
other childish parts in plays less well remembered. “In those days,”
says Miss Terry, “I was cast for many a ‘dumb’ part. I walked on in
_The Merchant of Venice_ carrying a basket of doves; in _Richard II_
I climbed up a pole in the street scene; in _Henry VIII_ I was ‘top
angel’ in the vision, and I remember that the heat of the gas at that
dizzy height made me sick at the dress rehearsal! I was a little boy
‘cheering’ in several other productions.... In _The Merchant of Venice_
I was firmly convinced that the basket of doves which I carried on
my shoulder was the principal attraction of the scene in which it
appeared. The other little boys and girls in the company regarded those
doves with eyes of bitter envy. One little chorus boy, especially,
though he professed a personal devotion of the tenderest kind for me,
could never quite get over those doves.”

It is not to be thought that the young Terry sisters were merely
attractive and clever children. They were applauded, wrote Dutton Cook,
“not simply because of their cleverness and prettiness, their graces
of aspect, the careful training they evidenced, and the pains they
took, but because of the leaven of genius discernible in all their
performances--they were born actresses.... Here were little players who
could not merely repeat accurately the words they had learnt by rote,
but could impart sentiment to their speeches, could identify themselves
with the characters they played, could personate and portray.”

Thus Ellen Terry’s training began early and rigorously. “When I was
a child,” she wrote long afterwards, “rehearsals often used to last
until four or five in the morning. What weary work it was to be sure!
My poor little legs used to ache, and sometimes I could hardly keep
my eyes open when I was on the stage. Often I used to creep into the
green-room, and there, curled up in the deep recess of the window,
forget myself, my troubles, and my art--if you can talk of art in
connection with a child of eight--in a delicious sleep.” In the years
to come Ellen Terry rose to distinction first of all by virtue of her
radiant, charming personality and a natural gift for acting. But only
less important has been the infinitely varied, toilsome schooling in
actual experience, thus so early begun.[76]

When Ellen was twelve Charles Kean’s management of the Princess’s
came to an end. Her parents at once took advantage of the measure of
popularity which the sisters had acquired and presented them in a
“drawing-room entertainment.” It consisted of two short plays in which
Ellen and Kate assumed all the characters, of both sexes. The venture
was a success, and the little troupe, father, mother, two daughters
and a pianist, traveled far and wide throughout the Kingdom for more
than two years, driving from place to place in the primitive style of
strolling players.

Returning to London, Ellen Terry, whose name seems already to have
been fairly well established, had a part at the Royalty Theatre in a
dreadful play founded on Sue’s _Atar-Gull_. It was her rôle in this
gruesome drama to appear on the stage wrapped in the coils of a huge
serpent, and shrieking the terror appropriate to the situation. This
was at least an opportunity for one kind of acting and Miss Terry made
the most of it. The contemporary accounts show that she shrieked most
startlingly and whole-heartedly.

Kate Terry had joined the stock company at Bristol, and there Ellen,
when she was fourteen, went also. For a year she had the sound
training--the best an actor can have--of acting many widely varying
parts. “If I had to describe her acting in those days,” wrote a member
of the company, “I should say its chief characteristic was a vivacious
sauciness. Her voice already had some of the rich sympathetic quality
which has since been one of her most distinctive charms. Although
only in the first flush of a joyous girlhood, she was yet familiar
enough with the stage to be absolutely at home on it.... We, the young
fellows of that day, thought she was perfection; we toasted her in our
necessarily frugal measures; we would gladly have been her hewers of
wood and drawers of water. She had personal charm as well as histrionic
skill. Her smiles were very sweet, but, alack for all of us, they were
mathematically impartial.” During this stay in the west of England
(the Bristol company appeared also at Bath) she acted a wide range of
parts, from Shakespeare to extravaganza. The training, in quantity and
variety, which was afforded by the stock companies of the middle of the
last century, cannot easily be matched to-day. The theatrical system
of England and America has been revolutionized, and the long run,
the country-wide tour, the specialized actor, have become the rule.
Only within the last few years, as in the rise of the Irish national
theatre, the Manchester Players, and the upward trend in certain
American stock companies, can we see something of a return to earlier

There followed a year in London, in the company, headed by the older
Sothern, which was playing at the Haymarket. She was but fifteen,
yet the _Times_ said: “She is now matured into one of the happiest
specimens of what the French call the _ingénue_.” She played Gertrude
in _The Little Treasure_, Hero in _Much Ado about Nothing_, Lady
Touchwood in _The Belle’s Stratagem_, Julia in _The Rivals_, and also
Mary Meredith in a revival of _Our American Cousin_, in which Sothern
was his famous other self, Lord Dundreary;--not bad for fifteen!

At sixteen came one of those sudden and complete absences from the
stage that have strangely marked the career of one born to act. She
was married in 1864 to George Frederick Watts, the famous artist. He
was thirty-one years her senior. Watts was a man of great nobility of
character, he cared for her deeply, and the brief period of her life
with him she herself declared not wholly unhappy. Yet the marriage
was a mistake. Though she responded to the beauty and peace of her
new surroundings, and for a while at least was contented to forget
the theatre, she was little more than a child--exuberant, unused to
the restraint of a quiet country home; and she had tasted success.
The artist himself was oppressed with a feeling that he had spoiled
her life. In any event they soon separated, and she met him only once
thereafter, though years later they exchanged friendly letters.

When she was nearing twenty Ellen Terry returned to the stage, more or
less under the direction of Charles Reade, the famous novelist, then
part manager of the Queen’s. One of the best of English novelists of
the second degree, his main artistic interest was the theatre, and
he was, mistakenly, more ambitious of fame as a dramatist than as a
novelist. His play _The Double Marriage_ was founded on his novel
_White Lies_. It was well acted (Ellen Terry playing the heroine), and
well mounted, but a failure. Charles Reade’s oft-quoted description of
Ellen Terry in a way characterizes them both, the charming actress and
the brusque, facile writer: “Her eyes are pale, her nose rather long,
her mouth nothing particular, complexion a delicate brick-dust, her
hair rather like tow. Yet somehow she is beautiful. Her expression
kills any pretty face you see beside her. Her figure is lean and bony;
her hands masculine in size and form. Yet she is a pattern of fawn-like
grace. Whether in movement or repose, grace pervades the hussy.” The
two were to be excellent, even affectionate, friends.

The most noteworthy event of this brief engagement at the Queen’s was
her first appearance with Henry Irving, then of course a rising actor,
not yet the distinguished manager of later days. The play was Garrick’s
“mutilation” of _The Taming of the Shrew_ which he called _Katherine
and Petruchio_. Of this foreshadowing of what was to be, Miss Terry
writes: “There is an old story told of Mr. Irving being ‘struck with my
talent at this time and promising that if he ever had a theatre of his
own he’d give me an engagement!’ But that is all moonshine. As a matter
of fact I’m sure he never thought of me at all at that time. I was just
then acting very badly, and feeling ill, caring scarcely at all for
my work or a theatre, or anybody belonging to a theatre.” And again:
“From the first I noticed that Mr. Irving worked more concentratedly
than all the other actors put together, and the most important lesson
of my working life I learnt from him, that to do one’s work well one
must _work continually_, live a life of constant self-denial for that
purpose, and, in short, keep one’s nose upon the grindstone.” Of her
performance in the pseudo-Shakespearean piece the critics varied. “I
have not much recollection of the performance,” wrote Clement Scott,
“save that Ellen Terry was the sweetest shrew ever seen and that it
seemed barbaric to crack a whip in her presence.”

After acting for about a year at the Queen’s, Miss Terry again retired
from the stage, this time for six years. She disappeared from London
and the stage and wholeheartedly gave herself up to a tranquil domestic
life in the country. This was the period of her union with Charles
Wardell, her second husband, an excellent actor known to playgoers
as Charles Kelly. Of this union there have been two children, Ailsa
Craig, who played small parts at the Lyceum with her mother and Henry
Irving, and Gordon Craig, who, first an actor, is today recognized as
one of the most important and fertile workers toward a new art of stage

“I led a most unconventional life,” writes Miss Terry, “and experienced
exquisite delight from the mere fact of being in the country. No one
knows what ‘the country’ means until he or she has lived in it. ‘Then,
if ever, come perfect days.’... For the first time I was able to put
all my energies into living.... I began gardening, ‘the purest of human
pleasures’; I learned to cook, and in time cooked very well, though my
first essay in that difficult art was rewarded with dire and complete

“My hour of rising at this pleasant place near Mackery End in
Hertfordshire was six. Then I washed the babies. I had a perfect mania
for _washing_ everything and everybody. We had one little servant, and
I insisted on washing her head. Her mother came up from the village
to protest. ‘Never washed her head in my life. Never washed any of my
children’s heads.’

“After the washing I fed the animals. There were two hundred ducks and
fowls to feed, as well as the children. By the time I had done this,
and cooked the dinner, the morning had flown away. After the midday
meal I sewed. Sometimes I drove out in the pony-cart. And in the
evening I walked across the common to fetch the milk. The babies used
to roam where they liked on this common in charge of a bulldog, while
I sat and read. I studied cookery-books instead of parts--Mrs. Beeton
instead of Shakespeare!

“Oh, blissful quiet days! How soon they came to an end! Already the
shadow of financial trouble fell across my peace. Yet still I never
thought of returning to the stage.

“One day I was driving in a narrow lane, when the wheel of the
pony-cart came off. I was standing there, thinking what I should do
next, when a whole crowd of horsemen in ‘pink’ came leaping over the
hedge into the lane. One of them stopped and asked if he could do
anything. Then he looked hard at me and exclaimed: ‘Good God! It’s
Nelly!’ The man was Charles Reade.

“‘Where have you been all these years?’ he said.

“‘I have been having a very happy time,’ I answered.

“‘Well, you’ve had it long enough. Come back to the stage!’

“‘No, never!’

“‘You’re a fool! You ought to come back.’

“Suddenly I remembered the bailiff in the house a few miles away, and
I said laughingly: ‘Well, perhaps I would think of it if someone would
give me forty pounds a week!’

“‘Done!’ said Charles Reade. ‘I’ll give you that, and more, if you’ll
come and play Philippa Chester in _The Wandering Heir_.’”

Thus it was “dear, lovable, aggravating, childlike, crafty, gentle,
obstinate, and entirely delightful and interesting Charles Reade,”
to use Ellen Terry’s own characterization, who in 1874 induced her to
return to the stage. He was then managing the Queen’s. Since 1868 she
had not acted at all, but she was well remembered, and her reappearance
was cordially welcomed. The play was one of Reade’s own, _The Wandering
Heir_, and in course of it Miss Terry appeared in male attire--one of
the few times she had what old timers used to know as “breeches parts.”
From all accounts it was a buoyant, charming impersonation. The author
complimented her on her self-denial in making what he called “some
sacrifice of beauty to pass for a boy, so that the audience can’t say:
‘Why, James must be a fool not to see she is a girl.’”

From this time, in 1874, until more than thirty years later, Ellen
Terry was continuously before the public. In 1875, S. B. Bancroft
(later Sir Squire)--one of the ablest actor-managers of the
day--determined upon a daring experiment at his little Prince of
Wales’s Theatre, a bandbox of a theatre hitherto dedicated to the
“teacup and saucer drama.” This was his production of _The Merchant of
Venice_. The play has never been set more beautifully, and as we shall
see, it was in one part acted to perfection. But it failed through the
failure of Charles Coghlan as Shylock. For Ellen Terry, however, it
was really the first great triumph of her career. For her Portia on
this occasion was a real triumph. She was twenty-seven, in the very
perfection of her youth and beauty, and it was her first important
venture with a Shakespearean part. Her success was immediate, and
Portia, in the minds of many, always remained her most charming and
characteristic impersonation.[78] “Success I had had of a kind, and
I had tasted the delight of knowing that audiences liked me, and had
liked them back again! But never until I appeared as Portia at the
Prince of Wales’s had I experienced that awe-struck feeling which
comes, I suppose, to no actress more than once in a lifetime--the
feeling of the conqueror. In homely parlance, I knew that I had ‘got
them’ at the moment when I spoke the speech beginning: ‘You see me,
Lord Bassanio, where I stand.’ ‘What can this be?’ I thought. ‘_Quite_
this thing has never come to me before.’ It was never to be quite the
same again. Elation, triumph, being lifted on high by a single stroke
of the mighty wing of glory--call it by any name--it was as Portia
that I had my first and last sense of it.”

In spite of Miss Terry’s personal success, the Bancrofts’ splendid
revival of _The Merchant of Venice_ was short lived. Its thirty-six
performances served, however, to lay firmly the foundations of Ellen
Terry’s fame. Only three years were to elapse before she made her
epoch-making association with Henry Irving. She spent first a year
with the Bancrofts, helping them give life to a group of already
old-fashioned dramas, _Money_, _The Lady of Lyons_, _Masks and Faces_,
and _Ours_. “She enacted Clara Douglas and Pauline as well as they
have been ever played in our time, and showed us that the staginess of
the stagiest of old plays can be eliminated by acting so sincere and
natural as that of Ellen Terry.”[79]

Then came, in John Hare’s company at the Court Theatre, where the
other members included her husband and Charles Coghlan (besides Mr.
Hare himself), two years remarkable chiefly for _Olivia_. The success
of Mr. Hare’s venture was doubtful, when suddenly a happy idea came
to him,--a play made from _The Vicar of Wakefield_. It was a time of
enthusiasm for the eighteenth century. “We were all mad about blue
china, Chippendale chairs, Sheraton sideboards, old spinets, and brass
fire irons,” says one writer. “The age was exactly ripe for _The Vicar
of Wakefield_, and John Hare, with his keen instinct, pictured in
his mind’s eye an ideal Olivia in Ellen Terry.” W. G. Wills made the
play, and made it well. Play, setting, and acting conspired to make
_Olivia_ one of the best examples of the “play of a period.” As Olivia
herself Ellen Terry was supremely successful and appealing. Among her
non-Shakespearean characters it undoubtedly stands first, and for her
sake _Olivia_ was introduced into the Lyceum repertoire, and acted by
Irving and Terry for many years.

It was her acting in this part, indeed, that immediately preceded
and to a degree occasioned her becoming the chief support of Henry
Irving, who just at this time (1878) became manager of the Lyceum
Theatre. Irving’s ambition to gather the best possible company made
the choice natural, inevitable indeed. She had just turned thirty, she
was temperamentally fitted to complement his own peculiarly magnetic
personality, she was thoroughly accomplished, and she was already
universally popular. It is a question, as says Clement Scott, “how much
of Henry Irving’s success was due at the outset to the extraordinary
influence, charm, and fascination of Ellen Terry.” They were one in
their enthusiasm for their art, and they were alike in their artistic
prejudices. Like Irving, she was devoted to the poetic and romantic
drama, as opposed to the realistic, psychological drama of modern

Henry Irving and Ellen Terry acted together for twenty-four years.
One is used to being told that the Irving _régime_ at the Lyceum
constituted the most brilliant period of the English stage during the
latter half of the nineteenth century. Brilliant it certainly was--a
splendidly successful, dignified campaign in fostering the best English
stage traditions. Yet one cannot but sympathize with George Bernard
Shaw’s regret that Ellen Terry did not retire from Irving’s company
sooner than she did. “I have never made a secret of my opinion,” wrote
Shaw, “that the Lyceum undertaking, celebrated as it was, involved,
when looked at from the purely dramatic side of the stage art, a most
deplorable waste of two of the most remarkable talents of the end of
the last century.” What Mr. Shaw objected to was the exclusion from
the Lyceum repertoire of modern, radical dramatists, such as Ibsen,
Hauptmann, and doubtless Mr. Shaw himself. But while he thought that
Irving used Shakespeare’s plays not to interpret the dramatist’s
characters but as frames for figures which were creations of the
actor’s imagination, Mr. Shaw must needs say of Ellen Terry that “she
understood Shakespeare, and knew how to impersonate Beatrice, Juliet,
Imogen and the rest, intelligently, charmingly, exactly as they must
have appeared to Shakespeare in his mind’s eye.” And it is probably
true that Ellen Terry, devoted as she was to her “lovely art,” as she
called it, was not more than casually interested in the development
of the allied art, that of the dramatist. She disliked Ibsen, and had
no desire for his sake to desert the Lyceum. “Why did she remain so
long?” asks Mr. Shaw, and replying to himself: “The answer is found in
the fact that the Lyceum, while it did not call her dramatic faculties
into full play, gave the widest scope for the full development of a
wonderful sense of the picturesque.” In other words, she was attracted
by the romantic rather than the realistic, the poetic rather than the

We have traced the important steps of her rise to a high place in her
profession. How might one account for the personal element in this
success?--for, trained and accomplished artist as she was, personality
counted heavily in this progress. Well, there has been, can be, but
one Ellen Terry. In writing of her powerful charm the words of strong
men have run riot. “I never saw a more enchanting and ideal creature,”
wrote Clement Scott of her later girlhood. “She was a poem that lived
and breathed, and suggested to us the girl heroines that we most adored
in poetry and the fine arts generally. Later on, as we all know, Ellen
Terry played Queen Guinevere; but at this period she was ‘Elaine the
fair, Elaine the loveable, Elaine the Lily Maid of Astolat.’... She
was the Porphyria of Robert Browning and surely one of the crowned
queens in the _Morte d’Arthur_. I wish I could paint with pen an even
vague suggestion of this enchanting personality, tall, fair, willowy,
with hair like spun gold, a faultless complexion, the very poetry of
movement, with that wonderful deep-toned voice that has a heart-throb
in it.” If in her ’teens Ellen Terry was “ideal, mystical, mediæval,”
and suggested Elaine and Undine, who that ever saw her, in her later
career, as Olivia, but saw realized in flesh and blood the ideal of
English beauty?

“The rôle which she played in the life of her times,” says Mr. Shaw,
“can only be properly estimated when (perhaps fifty years hence)
her letters will be collected and published in twenty or thirty
volumes.[81] Then, I think, we shall discover that every celebrated man
of the last quarter of the nineteenth century had been in love with
Ellen Terry, and that many of these men had found in her friendship
the best return that could be expected from a gifted, brilliant and
beautiful woman, whose love had already been given elsewhere.” And
not only celebrated men. There have been countless lowly, unknown
devotees. “That much-used word ‘only’ can be used literally in regard
to Ellen Terry,” again says Mr. Shaw with unusual enthusiasm. “If
Shakespeare had met Irving on the street he would have recognized in
him immediately a distinguished type of the family of artists; if
he had met Ellen Terry he would have stared at her as at a new and
irresistibly charming type of woman.”

It seems clear that Ellen Terry’s success was after all one largely
of personality. She was splendidly successful, and no one could for
a moment deny the fascinating beauty of most of her acting. Yet was
she of the first flight of artists? It is difficult to answer _Yes_.
Her Portia and her Beatrice were the finest of her time, probably
the finest the stage has yet seen; her Olivia was a lovely, indeed
a perfect, realization of Goldsmith’s heroine, and in many another
character she charmed and moved her hearers. Yet when all is said
and done Ellen Terry, in her most successful parts, was simply her
glorified self. It is probably true--though the question was never
thoroughly put to the test--that she lacked that power, reserved for
the artist of first rank, of identifying herself equally well with
widely differing characters. True tragedy lay beyond her. Charles
Reade, at one time a constant and helpful critic of her acting, told
her that she was capable of any effect, _provided it was not sustained
too long_. “A truer word was never spoken,” says Miss Terry. “It has
never been in my power to sustain. In private life, I cannot sustain
a hatred or a resentment. On the stage, I can pass swiftly from one
effect to another, but I cannot fix one, and dwell on it, with that
superb concentration which seems to me the special attribute of the
tragic actress. To sustain, with me, is to lose the impression that
I have created, not to increase its intensity.” Always of a volatile,
light-hearted temperament in her own self, the acting of tragedy was
with her more a matter of routine duty than the natural response of her

But let us not seem to require too much of a providence that vouchsafes
so rarely an Ellen Terry. If criticism, when the final estimate
is written, is forced to recognize in her a circumscribed talent,
we who have seen her would not have had her otherwise than as she
was. And if one says she was not truly a great artist, another may
reply truthfully that with her art was second, life itself first.
“In contrast to Irving, to whom his art was everything and his life
nothing, she has found life itself more interesting than art,” says
George Bernard Shaw. “And while she was associated with him in his long
and brilliant management of the Lyceum Theatre she--the most modern of
modern women--considered it a higher honor to be an economic, exemplary
housewife than to be a self-conscious woman, whose highest aim was to
play the heroine in the old-fashioned plays in which Irving shone.”
Again, she lacked that all-sacrificing ambition that carries the artist
to the topmost heights. During her two absences from the stage, and
especially during the second, when she spent six years in the country,
happy as housewife and mother, she had no regrets for the stage, no
longing for its triumphs. And she was throughout her career content to
be a “useful” actress. She constantly uses that word. She was content,
first with private life, then with her ability to help the artistic
cause of Henry Irving.

Never has there been a better example than Ellen Terry of the blending
of trained acting ability with untamed high spirits. Her acting was
sure of its effects and yet shot through with gleams of her own radiant
charm and exuberance. And off the stage as well she was this same
blithe spirit. It was strange that she disliked the elder Sothern,
for if he had his equal in practical joking, it was in Ellen Terry.
She was thirty when she joined Irving. Yet one day when he came to
the foot of the stairs leading to her dressing room, he looked up to
see his new leading woman sliding down the banisters! The act was
characteristic, and so is her comment: “I remember feeling as if I had
laughed in church.... He smiled at me but didn’t seem able to get over
it.” But sunny as she was, she could weep too. When playing Olivia, she
generally wept, she says, for the part touched her more than any other.
“I cried too much in it, just as I cried too much later on in _Hamlet_,
and in the last act of _Charles I_. My real tears on the stage have
astonished some people, and have been the envy of others, but they have
often been a hindrance to me. I have had to _work_ to restrain them.”
She was occasionally oversensitive to adverse criticism. When a writer
in _Blackwood’s_ said she showed plainly that Portia loves Bassanio
before he has actually won her, Miss Terry was, she says, for years
made uneasy and lacking in sureness at this moment in the play. “Any
suggestion of indelicacy in my treatment of a part,” she wrote, “always
blighted me.”

To trace in detail the history of “Irving and Terry” would be tedious.
They acted together from 1878 to 1902. Their half dozen American tours
aroused the same enthusiasm and loyalty that during all that long
period was their portion at home.[82] Her retirement is so recent
that the actress’s Portia, her Beatrice, Juliet, Imogen, Ophelia (to
mention only the outstanding Shakespearean characters) are still fresh

It is probably true, as Mr. Shaw maintains,[84] that despite the
opportunities given her to act Shakespeare’s most charming heroines,
Miss Terry’s association with Henry Irving really resulted in
reducing her total accomplishment. Irving sacrificed her as he did
himself and everyone and everything else, to his art. To be sure he
mounted a number of plays--notably _Olivia_, _The Lady of Lyons_,
_Faust_, _Madame Sans-Gêne_, and perhaps some of the Shakespearean
comedies--primarily for her sake. Yet she little better than wasted
much time and effort in playing secondary and unsuccessful parts in
plays selected primarily for him. And, sorrow of sorrows, Rosalind,
whom she was born to play, he never made possible for her. How
incomparable she would have been!--a Rosalind of ideal aspect, of
delicious high spirits, of consummate grace and tenderness.[85]

But it seems, after all, rather futile and ungrateful, in the face of
what has really been, to cavil about what might have been. Ellen Terry
has actually been one of those rare spirits who confer a blessing
on a gray world by their mere presence. As a woman she was lovable,
simple, whole-heartedly human, generous, high spirited; as an actress,
uniquely delightful and in many impersonations, by virtue of nature and
instinct, of compelling power, even genius. Small wonder that we must
reckon her as one of the great line of English women of the theatre,
the last indeed of that small and scattered band, who, each in turn,
were the queens of the stage; small wonder, too, that by thousands
of hearts on both sides of the ocean she has been cherished as an
idealized fellow creature.

When she had at last left Sir Henry she bade fair to enlarge the scope
of her already well-rounded career by appearing in plays of a more
modern type than any that fell within the Lyceum’s scope. “When her
son, Mr. Gordon Craig, became a father,” wrote George Bernard Shaw,
“she said that no one would ever write plays for a grandmother. I
immediately wrote _Captain Brassbound’s Conversion_ to prove the
contrary. Once before I had tried to win her when I wrote _The Man of
Destiny_ in which the heroine is simply a delineation of Ellen Terry,
imperfect, it is true, for who can describe the indescribable?”[86]

When in 1905 Miss Terry played James M. Barrie’s delightful
_Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire_, it was felt, by those minded like Mr. Shaw,
and not disturbed by seeing her appear in a play widely diverging from
the Lyceum traditions, that at last she had come into her own--that she
was doing what she should have done years before, in giving her talents
to a modern play. And the next year she appeared as Lady Cecily in the
play that Shaw had written for a grandmother, and that had waited for
her seven years, _Captain Brassbound’s Conversion_.

She had been an actress fifty years. When the anniversary approached
the English world of the theatre bestirred itself to mark the
date fittingly. The celebration took the form of an astonishing
entertainment at Drury Lane. The programme ranged from songs,
recitations, _tableaux vivants_, through _Trial by Jury_ and scenes
from _The School for Scandal_, to an act from _Much Ado_, in which Miss
Terry herself was Beatrice, supported by a cast including a score of
the Terry family. The list of those who appeared on the stage of Drury
Lane on the afternoon of June 12, 1906, is simply a roster of the pick
of the actor’s profession in England; distinguished actors, if nothing
more could be found for them to do, thought themselves honored to walk
on as supernumeraries; Genée danced; Caruso sang; Signora Duse came
all the way from Florence to pay homage; the audience, which had begun
to gather for the great occasion as early as the previous day,[87] was
overwhelming in its enthusiasm, and altogether the occasion was an
unprecedented demonstration of loyalty and affection.

Early in the following year (1907) Miss Terry made her eighth and as an
actress her last tour of the United States.[88] Three years later, and
again in 1914, she came as a lecturer reading scenes from Shakespeare
and commenting on his heroines. It was good to see and hear her again
if only on the platform, even though, as William Winter said, it is one
thing to act, another to expound. “To see her as an actress was to
see a vital creature of beauty, passion, tenderness, and eloquence, a
being, in Cleopatra’s fine phrase, all ‘fire and air.’” On the lecture
platform she was not quite all that, but she was still Ellen Terry,
imperial of figure, rich of voice, buoyant of mood.[89] As such her
public in England and America saw its last of her.[90] She is now
living quietly in one of those small country houses the “collection” of
which has been one of her hobbies. She has given in generous measure
pleasure to many, many thousands;--more than pleasure, inspiration
indeed, to countless men and women. The realization of this must be a
great reward, to make happy the twilight of her life.


A certain Frenchman once voiced the feeling of his fellow Parisians
concerning Réjane by calling upon all good French provincials, who
would learn the language of the Boulevards in a single lesson, and
all children of other lands curious as to the pleasures, tastes, and
manners of Paris, to harken while he gave them this advice: “Go and
see Réjane. Don’t go to the _Opéra_, where the music is German; nor
to the _Opéra-Comique_, where it is Italian; nor yet to the _Comédie
Française_, where the sublime is made ridiculous, and the heroes
and heroines of Racine take on the attitudes of bull-fighters and
cigarette-makers; nor to the _Odéon_, nor to the _Palais-Royal_, nor
here, nor there, nor elsewhere: go and see Réjane. Be she at London,
Chicago, Brussels, St. Petersburg--Réjane is Paris. She carries the
soul of Paris with her, wheresoever she listeth.”

[Illustration: GABRIELLE RÉJANE]

Madame Réjane--the Parisienne: they are interchangeable terms. And
what is a Parisienne? Let our sprightly French friend--M. Dauphin
Meunier--tell us; he does it well:[91]

“A fabulous being, in an everyday human form; a face, not beautiful,
scarcely even pretty, which looks upon the world with an air at
once ironical and sympathetic; a brow that grows broader or narrower
according to the capricious invasions of her aureole of hair; an odd
little nose, perked heavenward; two roguish eyes, now blue, now black;
the rude accents of a street-girl, suddenly changing to the well-bred
murmuring of a great lady; abrupt, abundant gestures, eloquently
finishing half-spoken sentences; a supple neck--a slender, opulent
figure--a dainty foot, that scarcely touches the earth and yet can
fly amazingly near the ceiling; lips, nervous, sensuous, trembling,
curling; a frock, simple or sumptuous, bought at a bargain or created
by a Court-dressmaker; a gay, a grave demeanor; grace, wit, sweetness,
tartness; frivolity and earnestness, tenderness and indifference: such
is Woman at Paris: such is the Parisienne.

“No need for her to learn good manners, nor bad ones: she’s born with
both. According to the time or place, she will talk to you of politics,
of art, of literature--of dress, trade, cookery--of finance, of
socialism, of luxury, of starvation--with the patness, the sure touch,
the absolute sincerity, of one who has seen all, experienced all,
understood all. She is as sentimental as a song, wily as a diplomat,
gay as folly, or serious as a novel by Zola. What has she read? Where
was she educated? Who cares? Her book of life is Paris; she knows
her Paris by heart; and whoso knows Paris can dispense with further

Réjane was from the beginning a veritable child of Paris. She was born
on June 6, 1857, at 14 _Rue de la Duane_, in a business section of the
city. This street had been “one of the storm centers for almost every
great riot known to the Paris of the last century and a half.” The
little Gabrielle Charlotte Réju passed her infancy in that busy part of
Paris between _Porte Saint-Martin_ and _Place Château d’Eau_.

Her parents were poor. Her father had earlier been an actor and at one
time had directed a theatre at Arras.[92] When Gabrielle was born, and
during the years of her infancy, he was the ticket-taker and the keeper
of the buffet at the _Ambigu_. In the work of dispensing refreshments
Madame Réju, who came of a good Valenciennes family, actively assisted,
and even Gabrielle herself, when she grew old enough, was pressed into

With the home life virtually transferred to the lobbies of
the _Ambigu_, it was inevitable that Gabrielle, breathing the
mystery-filled atmosphere of a theatre, should at once feel its strong
influence. Like Ellen Terry and Mrs. Fiske, and unlike her compatriot
the great Sarah, Réjane was, from the beginning, of the theatre. She
was an amiably mischievous child, possessed of an immense curiosity
about life behind the scenes. She remembers vividly those early
days, in which she divided her time between her small duties, napping
in corners, and revelling in the delights that presented themselves
over the footlights. There she saw many of the stars of the day, Jane
Essler, Frédérick Lemaître, Marie Laurent, Adèle Page. On the night
of a new production, between the acts, she would go to her mother and
recount the story of the play and give childish imitations of the
various players. To imitate the fine gowns she saw on the stage, she
would make a train from the buffet napkins. One of the memories of her
childhood is the enchantment that possessed her when she saw herself,
dressed in a velvet robe and a royal diadem, reflected in Adèle Page’s
splendid cheval glass.

When Gabrielle was about five, her father died, and mother and daughter
were thrown on their own resources. Mme. Réju secured a position at
one of the other theatres, and Gabrielle went to school. She was to
some extent in the care of a friend, but she was privileged with
extraordinary liberties. Her mother gave her a franc each morning with
which to buy her evening meal, and it was with immense pride that she
would go forth alone to take her dinner at a restaurant. Often she
would save enough from her franc to buy an orange which she would
take with her into the balcony of the _Ambigu_, where she was still
privileged to go. There she would tarry to see an act of the play
before she went home.

It is clear that she was a precocious, clever child. She was already,
indeed, an actress. Her evening walk would invariably take her past her
beloved _Ambigu_. She made an event of this passage, putting on her
best attitudes and smiles for the artists who might be seated in the
terrace of the café.

This café of the _Ambigu_ was the scene of one of the oft-repeated
episodes of Réjane’s childhood. The proprietor, a relative of some
sort, was in the habit of beating his wife. One evening, Gabrielle, who
knew what to expect, happened--as was not unusual--to be in the café.
Soon the poor woman’s cries were heard as her lord and master belabored
her. A patron demanded of Gabrielle what the terrible noises meant.
“Oh, that, Monsieur,” she said. “Why, they’re rehearsing upstairs.”

Soon the mother changed her work, and took up the painting of fans.
Between sessions of the school, and all day on Thursdays, little
Gabrielle helped in this work and proved herself adept. They received
for this work about fifty cents per dozen fans. Madame Réju seems to
have been sensitive as to her new work. She and her young daughter,
too proud to have it known that they were doing work of that sort, or
perhaps for fear of offending certain rich relatives, took a neighbor
into their confidence and paid her for delivering the fans to _la
maison Meyer_.

If mother and daughter had continued to live in the immediate
neighborhood of the _Ambigu_ it is not unlikely that the already lively
ambition of the girl would have found its outlet at that theatre. We
have seen something of her enthusiasm for the _Ambigu_ and her close
relationship with its entourage. Once launched upon her career there
as an actress of popular drama, she would very likely have remained
there and missed the valuable training that she was to receive at the
_Conservatoire_. As it happened, however, when she was about ten her
mother moved from _Rue de Lancry_ to 17 _Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette_,
and in large measure the influence of the _Ambigu_ was removed.

On the same floor with Madame Réju and her daughter in their new
quarters lived a lady with whom they gradually formed a close
friendship. When the war of 1870 broke out, the new friend left Paris,
leaving her apartment in charge of Mme. Réju and Gabrielle. There the
windows, unlike those of Mme. Réju’s own suite, overlooked the street.
When the Commune brought the terrors of civil war to Paris, it was from
these windows that the child witnessed what was to her a terrible and
long-remembered sight, a street battle between the government troops
and the Communists. The bodies of slain men, carried past under those
windows, gave her her first glimpse of death.

The war past, Gabrielle, now fourteen, returned to school at the
_Pension Boulet_, _Rue Pigalle_. She applied herself diligently to her
somewhat neglected studies, and to such good purpose that the mistress
of the school, with whom Gabrielle had become a favorite, offered
her a position as an assistant with the younger pupils. She was to be
paid forty francs a month, and her luncheon. To her mother this seemed
to be the opening of an honorable career. Not so Gabrielle herself,
who cherished constantly her already fixed ambition to be an actress.
She was, however, fond of children, and to tide affairs over she took
a class of the younger pupils. She got along well enough with them
with their ordinary lessons, but her own instruction in sewing and
embroidery had been neglected, and she had to have the help of the
older of her pupils, to bridge the gap.

Occasionally, of a Sunday evening, Gabrielle was taken by her mother
to the house of a friend who gathered about herself a modest _salon_.
There came such men as Félicien David, the composer, Joseph Kelm, the
writer, and the architect, Frantz Jourdain. Gabrielle, young as she
was, with her natural gayety and spontaneity at once took her place
in the circle. She would sing for the assembly the popular songs of
the day--compositions often full of doubtful meanings that she very
imperfectly understood. Her little successes naturally strengthened
her longing to be an actress, to stir great houses as she amused this
little circle of friends.

To Gabrielle’s increasing ambition her mother set herself in
opposition. To her mind the forty francs per month was not lightly to
be sacrificed. And she said she did not care to be the mother of an
actress. She lived to own herself in the wrong.

One evening, as mother and daughter were passing the _Théâtre
Français_, they saw a crowd at the stage door. They questioned a
bystander and were told that this had been the farewell performance of
Regnier. Gabrielle insisted on waiting to see him come out. She had
never seen him, but every one knew of Regnier, great artist and lovable
personality. Soon he appeared, a little, old man, who got up into his
carriage and acknowledged the ovation with a modest and confused air.
Gabrielle never forgot her first and touching glimpse of the man to
whom she was soon to owe so much.

The struggle with her mother over her cherished plan to go on the
stage went on for another year. A Mlle. Angelo, a friend of Mme. Réju,
attempted to make peace by offering Gabrielle a _dot_ of 10,000 francs
if she would accept a plan to marry as a solution of the difficulty.
But Gabrielle refused to be bought off, and steadfastly clung to her
ambition, with the result that the mother at last gave in.

The friend from whose windows Gabrielle had seen the battling
Communists had returned to Paris and now took up the girl’s cause. She
introduced Gabrielle to Charles Simon,[94] who knew well the actor
Regnier, now an honored teacher at the _Conservatoire_. The girl was
duly introduced to Regnier, who received her affably but tried to
dissuade her from attempting the career of an actress. He was unable
to overcome the ardent resolution of Gabrielle, and finally consented
to receive her, for two months, on the condition that if at the end of
the time she failed to convince him of her calling she would promise to
give up the attempt for good and all. Sure of success, she promised.

Regnier’s first task was to cure his pupil of a thickness of diction.
For hours every day she practiced enunciation, but found her master
hard to please. Nevertheless he must have seen promise in her, for
during the summer (of 1872) he wrote to Charles Simon that when classes
assembled he would receive Gabrielle as a regularly enrolled pupil.
When the _Conservatoire_ reopened, she passed her entrance examination
by reading the rôle of Henriette in _Les Femmes Savantes_, and was
admitted. Here began, when she was fifteen, the serious work of her

She was an ardent pupil. Not content with the regular course, she and
her mother squeezed their narrow means that the girl might amplify her
studies with a number of private lessons with Regnier at his house.
He gave her the lessons, but when she offered to pay, he refused to
accept. “One does not accept pay,” he said, “when he is privileged to
deal with the temperament of an artist.” And, thus, the trial months
past, Regnier, instead of sending Gabrielle packing, engaged himself to
teach her as best he could, gratis, till her period as a student should

In January (1873), came the annual elimination examination. Gabrielle,
like the rest, submitted to the test that weeded out the less promising
pupils. She had a rôle--that of Agnes--not altogether suited to her,
her dress was not too well chosen, she was at the most awkward of ages,
and she was by no means the prettiest girl of the lot. Gazing at her,
Edward Thierry, director of the _Comédie Française_, said in a doubtful
tone to Regnier, “Do we keep _this_?” “Yes,” promptly replied Regnier,
“she is in my class and she stays.” At the end of the school year came
the annual competition. For her part in the preliminary examination
Regnier chose _L’Intrigue Épistolaire_. Thierry, again one of the
judges, failed to recognize her and said, “This child is charming! She
is the hope of the competition.” And, imitating his colleague’s former
doubting tone, Regnier now said, “We keep _this_, then?”

In the competition itself Gabrielle, in this same scene of _L’Intrigue
Épistolaire_, fell just short of a prize and received a _premier
accessit_, or honorable mention,--not bad for a girl just turned
sixteen and a mere beginner.[95]

In this competition Mlle. Legault won the first prize in comedy and
with it a post at the _Comédie Française_. Her departure left vacant
a scholarship of 1,200 francs. In the same competition her successor
to the scholarship was to be determined. Regnier had resolved to get
the scholarship, if possible, for Gabrielle. The professors who sat
in judgment were forbidden by a rule of the _Conservatoire_ to impart
personally any news of the outcome. Such information was to come
only from the administration. Regnier, however, conspired with his
favorite pupil to relieve her of suspense. If she were the successful
candidate for the scholarship he was to rub his nose as he left the
building. After the meeting, therefore, she stood anxiously in the
_porte-cochère_, awaiting her teacher and the behavior of his index
finger. Imagine the importance of the moment to the rather shabbily
dressed, not too well-fed, nervously anxious girl. To stay her hunger
as she waited she was eating bits from a long loaf tucked under her
arm. First came M. Legouvé, who, by a curious chance, rubbed his nose
briskly as he left the building. Then came MM. Beauplan and Ambroise
Thomas, and each, oddly enough, suddenly gave his nose a vigorous rub.
Gabrielle wondered, but could not believe that all these demonstrations
were for her. Finally, out came Regnier, smiling, and slowly rubbing
his nose with the end of his forefinger. For the moment the loaf of
bread had been forgotten. Now she waved it aloft, dancing about in an
ecstasy of joy.

The winning of the scholarship made it possible for Gabrielle to go
on with her studies in the two months’ interval that preceded the
reopening of the _Conservatoire_.

Francisque Sarcey was discerning enough to note the promise in this
sixteen year old girl. He said of her, in speaking to the playwright
Meilhac: “She has a face you would know as Parisian a mile off ... and
she is full of the devil. If this girl doesn’t make her way, I shall
be much surprised.... She is charming; she is piquant; and if I were a
manager I would engage her out of hand.”

To eke out the family income, Gabrielle had two pupils, youngster
though she was. They were young girls from Gascony, and it was her task
to cure them of their un-Parisian accent. She remembers that one day
when she was on her way to her pupils, the omnibus passed a church.
The crowd about the door, and the numerous flowers, denoted a funeral.
“They are burying Desclée,”[96] said a fellow passenger. Gabrielle had
seen Desclée in some of her notable successes:--_Froufrou_, _La Femme
de Claude_, _La Princesse Georges_--and had been stirred to renewed
ambition by her art. So now she was tempted to alight and pay her
respects to the dead actress’ memory; but she remembered her lesson,
and went on to her pupils.

Her last year (1873–4) at the _Conservatoire_ Mme. Réjane remembers not
only for its months of hard study but for an incident or two that,
trivial in themselves, had considerable importance in her youthfully
ambitious mind. One morning Regnier called on her to recite “_La Fille
d’Honneur_,” a poem she had memorized by hearing it often spoken by
a fellow pupil. She was horribly nervous. Her own two pupils were
present, as _auditrices_, and Gabrielle feared the usual frequent
interruption of Regnier, who as a rule made his pupils repeatedly go
back over imperfectly recited passages. This time, however, he allowed
her to proceed to the end, which agitated her still more, and then
he said in a solemn tone as if pronouncing a final judgment on her:
“_C’est très bien, ma petite; descends, tu seras une grande artiste_.”
Réjane says that the intense joy of that instant never was equaled
afterwards, even in the moments of her greatest triumphs.

The pupils of the _Conservatoire_ were permitted to accept engagements
to play on Sundays at the little theatre of the _Tour-d’Auvergne_.
There it was that Gabrielle made her first public appearance. The
play was _Les Deux Timides_, and in acting it she had the inexpert
assistance of Albert Carré. In the middle of the piece M. Carré was
seated at a desk, writing a letter, when his nose began to bleed. He
bolted from the stage, leaving the _débutante_ alone to face her first
audience in the midst of a staggering contretemps. Advice was hoarsely
whispered from the wings to do this or that, to walk off, to sit down,
to wait for Carré; Gabrielle coolly seated herself and took up the
writing of the letter until, a moment later, the bleeding stopped,
Carré returned.[97]

When the concours of 1874 arrived--the annual prize contest of
the _Conservatoire_--Gabrielle’s progress had been such that her
fellow-students and her professor all thought her sure of the first
prize in comedy. Regnier chose for her one of Roxelane’s scenes in
_Les Trois Sultanes_. When she had finished she felt that she had
done herself scant justice. Then the unexpected happened. She was
also to appear in a dialogue called _La Jeunesse_, by Emile Augier. A
youthful couple met at a fountain. The young man says: “Cyprienne!” She
exclaims: “Ah! Mon Dieu!” Gabrielle delivered this commonplace speech
with such a sincerity and intensity of emotion that the audience broke
into applause. Reassured, she played the dialogue through to the end
with a command of emotional acting that surprised even her friends, for
she had been thought of as only a _comédienne_, a soubrette.

When the prizes were announced, Gabrielle found that she had not only
missed getting the first comedy prize, but that she was to get only a
share of the second; the other half was to go to Mlle. Jeanne Samary,
she “of the perfect laugh.”

Regnier was chagrined. “_Malfaiteurs_,” he called the judges. And some
of the newspaper comment showed a recognition of unusual merit in the
young Réjane. Sarcey, the reigning king of the Paris critics, had
again been present, and _Le Temps_ rang with his praises of her. And
his praises were perhaps better than official prizes. A score of years
later, M. Meunier wrote:

“To-day, as then, though twenty years have passed, there is no
possibility of success, no chance of getting an engagement, for a pupil
on leaving the _Conservatoire_, unless a certain all-powerful critic,
supreme judge, arbiter beyond appeal, sees fit to pronounce a decision
confirming the verdict of the Examining Jury.... He smiles or frowns,
the Jury bows its head. The pupils tremble before this monstrous
Fetich--for the Public thinks with him, and sees only through his
spectacles; and no star can shine till his short sight has discovered
it. This puissant astronomer is Monsieur Francisque Sarcey....

“Monsieur Sarcey smiled upon and applauded Réjane’s début at the
_Conservatoire_. He consecrated to her as many as fifty lines of
intelligent criticism; and I pray to Heaven they may be remembered to
his credit on the Day of Judgment. Here they are, in that two-penny,
half-penny style of his, so dear to the readers of _Le Temps_:

“‘I own that, for my part, I should have willingly awarded to the
latter (Mlle. Réjane) a first prize. It seems to me that she deserved
it. But the Jury is frequently influenced by extrinsic and private
motives, into which it is not permitted to pry. A first prize carries
with it the right of entrance into the _Comédie Française_; and the
Jury did not think Mademoiselle Réjane, with her little wide-awake
face, suited to the vast frame of the House of Molière. That is well
enough; but the second prize which it awarded her authorized the
director of the _Odéon_ to receive her into his company; and that
perspective alone ought to have sufficed to dissuade the Jury from the
course it took.... Every one knows that at present the _Odéon_ is,
for a beginner, a most indifferent school.... Instead of shoving its
promising pupils into it by the shoulders, the _Conservatoire_ should
forbid them to approach it, lest they should be lost there. What will
Mademoiselle Réjane do at the _Odéon_? Show her legs in _La Jeunnesse
de Louis XIV_, which is to be revived at the opening of the season?
A pretty state of things. She must either go to the _Vaudeville_ or
to the _Gymnase_. It is there that she will form herself; it is there
that she will learn her trade, show what she is capable of, and prepare
herself for the _Comédie Française_, if she is ever to enter it....
She recited a fragment from _Les Trois Sultanes_.... I was delighted
by her choice. _Les Trois Sultanes_ is so little known nowadays....
What wit there is in her look, her smile! With her small eyes, shrewd
and piercing, with her little face thrust forward, she has so knowing
an air, one is inclined to smile at the mere sight of her. Does she
perhaps show a little too much assurance? What of it? ’Tis the result
of excessive timidity. But she laughs with such good grace, she has
so fresh and true a voice, she articulates so clearly, she seems so
happy to be alone and to have talent, that involuntarily one thinks of
Chenier’s line: “_Sa bienvenue au jour lui rit dans tous les yeux_.”...
I shall be surprised if she does not make her way.’”

Second prize or first, it mattered not, really; for she had, almost at
once, offers from three theatres: the _Odéon_, the government theatre
that by the conditions of the award had a right to her services, and
also from the _Vaudeville_ and the _Gymnase_. M. Duquesnel of the
_Odéon_ proposed, as Sarcey had predicted, that she take a part in the
impending _La Jeunesse de Louis XIV_. Réjane, however, declined to cut
short her studies at the _Conservatoire_, which had yet a few weeks to

Her choice fell to the _Vaudeville_, as the theatre best suiting her
methods and sympathies. Also, the pay there was to be four thousand
francs per year, and costumes, as against one hundred and fifty francs
per month at the _Odéon_. With the directors of the _Vaudeville_ she
signed a provisional contract, by the terms of which she was to join
their forces if the _Odéon_ did not press home its claim to her.
Weeks passed, the October openings came round, and still there was
no summons. In her anxiety she went to the office of the Minister of
Fine Arts and from him obtained a letter releasing her, in two days’
time, from her obligations to the _Odéon_. Before the two days were
up, however, she received from Duquesnel a summons to a rehearsal
of _La Jeunnesse_. Réjane hastened to see him. “Well,” he said, “we
shall rehearse to-morrow at one.” Réjane replied that she had one at
the _Vaudeville_ at the same hour. Duquesnel objected to the loss of
his promising recruit and showed an official letter bestowing her
services upon the _Odéon_. Gabrielle in turn showed the letter from the
Minister. Duquesnel was forced to yield, but afterwards lodged a suit
in which the _Odéon_ was awarded damages. “So,” said Réjane to Jules
Huret, “if the _Odéon_ can to-day boast its velvet chairs, it has me to
thank for them.”

And so Réjane began her career, when she was less than eighteen, with
a two years’ engagement at the _Vaudeville_. Her first few rôles[98]
were unimportant, and in them she attracted no particular notice, but
in September (1875) she appeared in _Madame Lili_, a one-act play in
verse, to such good purpose that Sarcey wrote of her: “Mademoiselle
Réjane is charming, with her roguery, her ingenuousness, her
tenderness. This pretty and piquant girl is spirited to her fingertips.
What a piece of good luck it is that she cannot sing; for if she had a
voice operetta would gobble her up.”

Yet Regnier wrote to her in the following April, on the day following
her appearance in _Le Premier Tapis_ (in which she sang an interpolated
song by Lecocq): “I was really astonished by your singing. You had
better cultivate this talent, which I didn’t know you had.” Offenbach
also heard her in this piece, and liked her singing so well that he
offered her twenty thousand francs a year for her signature to a
contract at the _Variétés_. Luckily she made no attempt to break her
contract with the _Vaudeville_.

That contract she renewed again and again until she had played eight
seasons at the theatre of her first choice. The best guide to her
growing art, and to the beginnings of her fame, are found in her
letters from Regnier, who followed her career with loving watchfulness,
and often with frank, kindly comment on her work. Their correspondence
forms a charming chapter of her youth.

Regnier’s birthday fell on the first of April. Every year Réjane wrote
to him on March 31 and sent him some small gift. In the year when she
was beginning her work at the _Vaudeville_ he wrote her:

“Ought you really send me presents, my child? Do I need assurances of
your affection? Do follow my advice, dear girl, save your money and
give me nothing but your friendship. That is the only present I desire
from you and, I warn you, it is the only one I shall accept in the
future. You hope to be able to celebrate my birthday for many years
to come. I hope so too. You will never have a better friend, a better
adviser, and no one, save only your mother, will ever bear your welfare
more at heart. I thank you, none the less, and with all my heart I
embrace you.”

At the close of a health-seeking trip she took in Holland and Belgium
in the summer of 1875 he wrote: “I knew you would get many new
impressions. You must always be on the search for like ones, for your
spirit, your ideas, your taste, your talent will thus find themselves.
Frequent our museums, stimulate your mind, read a great deal, even do a
little writing. Such is the intellectual regimen that will profit your
soul as the exercises I have advised will benefit your gentle body.”

Less exalted advice comes after _Le Verglas_ and _Le Premier Tapis_,
besides the commendation of her singing in the latter piece: “Keep
at your study and your work and let me repeat that it is the simple
and the veracious that brings the true effect. But I was more
than satisfied with you yesterday. _But_, please remember your
carriage--don’t waddle on one leg and then on the other; don’t
swallow your syllables and your words. Pronounce everything without
affectation, but also without negligence. I embrace you.”

After she had been a year and a half in harness, he was still
emphasizing the fundamentals. After _Le Perfide comme l’Onde_ he
wrote (November 26, 1876): “You are very pretty and very amusing in
your rôle.... _You are a comédienne_,--that you have proved. Between
ourselves, the other young ladies frightened me a bit. Do not you
allow yourself to fall into the general carelessness of carriage and
pronunciation. Really talk to those to whom your words are addressed,
and when your eyes peer into the auditorium remember it is a vacuum,
and never talk to any one therein. You know how to avoid this fault,
so look out for it, and remain natural. But you played well, were
applauded, and deserved to be.”

Her work must have pleased the directors of the _Vaudeville_, for
when the time came to renew her contract she signed for nine thousand
francs, a considerable advance over four thousand. Her mother, however,
had set her heart on nine thousand six hundred francs, and her
objections threatened to break off the negotiations. Réjane promised,
however, unknown to her mother, to repay the disputed six hundred
francs during the engagement.

“I economized on cress,” she relates. “Instead of getting two boxes at
three sous apiece, I got two boxes at five sous. From time to time I
put fifteen centimes into my boots. And one fine day I carried to the
managers one hundred and fifty laboriously collected francs. I must
say, to their credit, that they wouldn’t take the money. But my mother
never knew, and sometimes, endeavoring to crush me with the superiority
of a strong-minded woman, she would say: “There now! Without me, you
would never have had those six hundred francs.”

In the summer of 1877 she grew nervous over the forthcoming production
of _Pierre_. She wrote Regnier from Abbeville: “If you could only
give me one hour for the third act of _Pierre_. The nearer the
time approaches, the more I fear that act--all sentiment. If I am
unsupported by your good advice, my dear master, I cannot answer for

Regnier was eager to help her; and in his response he gives her more
fatherly advice: “My greatest wish is to help you in your work.... But
is it necessary for you to go to La Bourbelle, where you will stay
hardly two weeks? The time seems to me much too short for serious
treatment. Can’t you simply betake yourself to the waters of Enghien?

“Talk this over with your doctor: ask him if it is really good for
the nerves that that abominable musk or amber odor which perfumes
your letters should permeate your whole system. No doubt the odor is
agreeable, but still that is a matter of taste.”

The _première_ of _Pierre_ proved the first crowning success for the
young actress. Immediately after the performance, unable to restrain
her overflowing joy, she wrote to Regnier this enthusiastic letter:

“I have just had a _grand succès_, and I don’t wish to sleep before
thanking you, to whom I owe it. I have never been so happy as I am
tonight, and I believe that, if such a thing is possible, even my
affection for you has grown. One thing alone distresses me, and that
is my inability to repay you for all you have done. At each burst
of applause, I thought of you, dear master, who have given me your
time and made sure for me my future. No affection has ever been more
profound nor any gratitude so sincere, believe me. Without you I would
have been nothing, but with you--two hours ago they told me I was an
artist! I can open my heart to you. You cannot imagine how much is
included in that one word “artist” especially to a young girl, who
yesterday had doubts about the future and had need of reading all your
letters in order to give courage.... I am doubly happy. Do not mistake
for vanity the effects of the great joy I have been experiencing. How I
would work, dear master, to do you the honor of registering a multitude
of such nights!”

But good parts fell to Réjane’s lot only infrequently. The reigning
queen of the _Vaudeville_ was Mme. Bartet, and it was she, naturally,
who got most of the leading rôles. The public had begun to like
the young newcomer, whom it had come to know in her small but
repeated successes; but nevertheless she was kept more or less in
the background, encouraged only by Regnier and patiently waiting her

It was in this fashion that she spent the remaining time at the
_Vaudeville_ until she left it in the spring of 1882. That period,
whatever dissatisfactions it brought to her, is not without its high
lights. In _Le Club_ she has “_un vrai rôle_,” and played it, with
gratifying success, a hundred times. In April, 1879, Mme. Bartet fell
suddenly ill, and with only a few hours notice Réjane assumed the
older woman’s rôle in _Les Tapageurs_. When _Les Lionnes Pauvres_ was
revived, in November 1879, her Séraphine aroused one of those artistic
controversies which delight the French mind. Sarcey disapproved,
for once. M. Defère advised her to change her costumer. M. Barbey
d’Aurevilly on the other hand said she recalled Rachel and was a true
artist; Augier, the author of the play, sustained her; and stanch old
Regnier wrote her at length, discoursing on the art of acting and of
his _affection véritable_. Her Mimi in _La Vie de Bohème_ again saw the
critics at odds about her.

Altogether in her eight seasons at the _Vaudeville_, she had played
more than a score of parts, some of them genuine successes. Yet she
had not won genuine recognition at the hands of the directors, and
her position in the company was hardly in accord with her promise and
deserts. Sardou and the others responsible for the affairs of the
_Vaudeville_ seemed strangely blind to the fact that in Réjane they had
a _comédienne_ of the first order. But though she was by her superiors
much of the time either kept idle or employed in almost insignificant
parts, the rest of Paris speedily knew her for what she was. She was
in keen demand for all the special, semi-informal performances that
make up so large a part of the artistic life of the normal Paris. The
“spectacles” of the _Cercle de la rue Royale_, the _revues_ at the
_Epatant_, the dramatic trifles that were the adjuncts of authors’
readings, all found in Réjane a willing and able helper. She took these
artistic informalities seriously, rehearsed for them and costumed them
with care, and was so particularly well adapted to the work that she
became a marked favorite with the very social and artistic circles to
which the _Vaudeville_ catered.

As the directors, however, continued to give her insignificant parts,
it is not strange that she listened to those friends, like Pierre
Berton, who urged her to shake the dust of _Vaudeville_ from her feet.
“You are a star,” Berton told her. It happened that a star was the
quest just then of M. Bertrand of the _Variétés_ and with him she
signed a three years’ contract.

This moment may be said to mark the definite arrival of Réjane. She was
no longer to cool her heels in the greenroom or at home, and henceforth
she was to play, as a rule, principal parts. Moreover, the agreement
with the _Variétés_ was elastic enough to allow appearances at other
theatres, often in plays of more import than the light material of
which the _Variétés_ was the avowed medium. And when she returned, on
occasion, to the _Vaudeville_, it was not in minor rôles. Réjane had
assumed her due place on the stage of Paris.

It had not been a difficult rise. Though it is not possible to overlook
the elements of steadfast ambition, patience, and hard work in Réjane’s
early career, it is true that her native spirits, her _flair_, and
the training and friendship of Regnier made inevitable her right to a
prominent place on the stage of Paris.

With that place assured, we see her thenceforth steadily enlarging it,
progressing from part to part, appearing now in this theatre of Paris
and now in that, shortly venturing into the other capitals of Europe,
then making a tour--to be later repeated--in America, and finally
acquiring a theatre of her own in Paris,--an international figure, a
queen of comedy.

M. Porel, whom Réjane afterward married, has given a graphic account
of one of her earlier triumphs--and a typical Parisian first night.
The play was de Goncourt’s _Germinie Lacerteux_, the date, 1888; the
theatre the _Odéon_.

“Oh, that première! The beautiful theatre was crowded to the last inch
with an audience that was restless and seemed none too good-natured.
The journalists were furious because the dress rehearsal had been
behind closed doors. The women were puzzling themselves about
the subject of the play, and some of the literary gossips were
loudly telling all they thought they knew. The _cafétiers_ of the
neighborhood, disgruntled because the usual five _entr’actes_ had
been cut down to two, were protesting to the _claque_ against the
change, which interfered with the sale of the usual five bocks. Amid
the confusion of the lobbies were heard remarks that the piece was

“The curtain rises; Réjane makes her appearance, with her arms as red
as those of a kitchen-girl. In the ball gown of a servant-maid she is
indeed amazing. This little scene she plays well, and wins applause. In
the scene of the fortifications, some of the hissers are in evidence
before she enters; and then Réjane, so prettily modest, plays her
idyllic scene so well that the delighted audience breaks into cries
of ‘Bravo!, and the curtain is raised and raised again.... In one of
the following scenes, some of the audience refuse to listen to Mme.
Crosnier; she becomes confused, loses her head and begins over again.
Some cry aloud, some laugh, some hiss. Without Réjane the piece will
go on the rocks. A gesture, a poignant, sincere cry, and Réjane has
the house with her again. They applaud her, they recall her again and
again. During the _entr’acte_, there is a stormy time. Antoine is
indignant over the sneering of his neighbors and calls them scoundrelly
imbeciles. There is shaking of fists, challenges are exchanged, some
hiss, others applaud. It is in this atmosphere that the scene in
the creamery begins. Then it was that she quite won the house. She
is again recalled again and again, applauded by the whole audience.
She is acclaimed again, after the fall of the curtain in the scene
of the _Rue du Roiher_. The ladies were completely upset; they wept,
they clapped their hands. Even without Réjane, the two last scenes
finished themselves somehow. After that, de Goncourt’s play was to
live more than one night; and after that Réjane was assuredly a great

Two years later, when _Ma Cousine_, a comedy in three acts by
Henri Meilbac, was produced, Paris saw that Réjane had again made
extraordinary progress. “Playing,” says M. Huret, “in a vast
auditorium, a rôle that demanded large dramatic power, she responded
to that demand, and, exhibited new poise, control of voice, and
exactness of articulation. She who had heretofore almost expired of
apprehension at each new impersonation, was now calm, sure of herself,
almost indifferent. She sensed the authority that had come to her; she
held the audience in her hand. In _Décoré_, in _Monsieur Betsy_, she
had been one of a remarkable trio of actresses; now, in _Ma Cousine_,
she outshone her _confrères_ at all points. The author had set her
the difficult task of playing an act three quarters of an hour long
without rising from her couch. But she was equal to the occasion, and,
by the intelligence and sprightliness of her inflections, gestures and
facial expression, she made that chair itself a miniature theatre.”
It was in _Ma Cousine_ that Réjane introduced on the boards of the
_Variétés_, after careful study, a bit of dancing like that on view
at the _Elysée-Montmartre_; “she seized on and imitated the grotesque
effrontery of Mlle. Grille-d’Egout.” In other words the sprightly
Gabrielle performed a veritable can-can.

A little later M. Meunier, who was not remarkable for his kindness in
print to the dean of his craft, wrote: “Sarcey’s exultation knew no
bounds when, in 1890, Réjane again appeared in _Décoré_. Time, that had
metamorphosed the lissom critic of 1875 into a round and inert mass of
solid flesh, cruel Father Time, gave back to Sarcey, for this occasion
only, a flash of youthful fire, which stirred his wits to warmth and
animation. He shouted out hardly articulate praise; he literally rolled
in his stall with pleasure; his bald head blushed like an aurora
borealis. ‘Look at her!’ he cried, ‘See her malicious smiles, her
feline graces, listen to her reserved and biting diction; she is the
very essence of the Parisienne! What an ovation she received! How they
applauded her! and how she played!’ From M. Sarcey the laugh spreads;
it thaws the skepticism of M. Jules Lemaître, engulfs the timidity of
the public, becomes unanimous and universal, and is no longer to be

The day of Réjane’s greatest and most lasting success came with the
production, in 1893, of _Madame Sans-Gêne_, by Sardou, the latest of
the Parisian dramatists to answer the call of the great _comédienne_ in
their midst.

“Just as the first dressmakers of Paris measure Réjane’s fine figure
for the costumes of her various rôles, so the best writers of the
French Academy now make plays to her measure,” wrote M. Meunier in
1894. “They take the size of her temperament, the height of her talent,
the breadth of her acting; they consider her taste, they flatter her
mood; they clothe her with the richest draperies she can covet. Their
imagination, their fancy, their cleverness, are all put at her service.
The leaders in this industry have hitherto been Messrs. Meilhac and
Halévy, but now M. Victorien Sardou is ruining them. _Madame Sans-Gêne_
is certainly, of all the rôles Réjane has played, that best suited to
bring out her manifold resources. It is not merely that Réjane play
the washerwoman, become a great lady, without blemish or omission; she
_is Madame Sans-Gêne_ herself, with no overloading, nothing forced,
nothing caricatured. It is portraiture; history.

“Many a time has Réjane appeared in cap, cotton frock, and white apron;
many a time in robes of state, glittering with diamonds; she has worn
the buskin or the sock, demeaned herself like a gutter heroine, or
dropped the stately curtsey of the high-born lady. But never, except
in _Madame Sans-Géne_, has she been able to bring all her rôles into
one focus, exhibit her whole wardrobe, and yet remain one and the same
person, compress into one evening the whole of her life.”

What sort of woman presented herself to the gaze of her Parisian
admirers--and soon to American eyes--at this, the time of her greatest
triumph? Whatever other gifts she brought to her work, sheer beauty was
not one of them. “Is it her beauty?” asked M. Filon, seeking the source
of her power, and of her perfect understanding with her audiences.
“Certainly not. She is not pretty; one might even say ... but it
is more polite not to say it. To quote a famous _mot_, ‘She is not
beautiful, she is worse.’”[99]

Though Réjane never had the least claim to Mr. Vance Thompson’s
rhapsodic description of her as “amazingly and diabolically beautiful,”
she really has no quarrel with the fate that made her as she is.
Comedy was to be her mission, and if Wilde was right in his dictum
that “what serves its purpose is beautiful,” beautiful she is, after
all. For plain though it be, her face is a true comedy mask. “There
is comedy in every line of her face, in the arched eyebrows, the well
opened, dancing eyes, the tip-tilted nose, and the wonderful, mobile,
expressive mouth,” says William Archer. “This mouth is unquestionably
the actress’ chief feature; it conditions her art. With a different
mouth she might have been a tragedian or a heroine of melodrama, which
would have been an immense pity. It is not a beautiful feature from
the sculptor’s point of view; even from the painter’s it is not so
much a rose-bud as a full-blown rose. It has almost the wide-lipped
expansiveness of a Greek mask, but it is sensitive, ironic, amiable,

To others, her eyes have been her chief charm. They are large and gray,
changeful with the flexibility of Réjane’s whole nature, surmounted by
extraordinarily lofty and expressive brows, and often half covered by
eyelids almost languorous. Her hair is, or at least was, golden brown.
She is not tall. She is by no means commanding in figure. There is
nothing of the imposing stage queen about her; yet, in figure, as in
face, she has been perfectly equipped for her work as _comédienne de
Paris_. Being just that, she makes her hands and her body means to her
histrionic ends. Those who have repeatedly studied her art have found
the subtlety, the distinction, and the perfect command of her gestures
and her poses more than a match for even the brightness, or the sadness
or the tenderness of her face. In every critique of Réjane there crops
out a pointed reference to her wonderful fluency and flexibility of
style, her fertility of invention of expressive detail, the naturalness
of her transitions of mood. “Elasticity, dexterity and rapidity she has
in a superlative degree, and with them grace and geniality, together
with simple pathos and honest heat of temper. And of course she
possesses that peculiar fineness of taste which belongs to her nation
and which is very apparent in _Madame Sans-Gêne_, whose heroine may be
crude and uncultivated, but is never boorish or clownish, is awkward
but not ugly. Her voice is clear and pleasant, but her elocution is
less distinct than that of many other French artists, although her
tones mark unmistakably the spiritual and intellectual differences
which fluctuate through her speeches. She has an unfailing regard for
the proportions of her scenes, and never obtrudes herself into a
prominent place just because she is the star of the company.”[100]

We have heard much of the comic finesse of Réjane’s _Madame Sans-Gêne_.
Now listen to one acute observer (Arthur Symons) of another side of
her genius: “Réjane can be vulgar, as nature is vulgar; she has all
the instincts of the human animal, of the animal woman, whom man will
never quite civilize.... Réjane, in _Sapho_ or _Zaza_ for instance,
is woman ... loving and suffering with all her nerves and muscles,
a gross, pitiable, horribly human thing, whose direct appeal, like
that of a sick animal, seizes you by the throat at the instant in
which it reaches your eyes and ears. More than any actress she is the
human animal without disguise or evasion; with all the instincts, all
the natural cries and movements. In _Sapho_ or _Zaza_ she speaks the
language of the senses, no more.... In being _Zaza_, she is so far
from being herself (what is the self of a great actress?) that she
has invented a new way of walking, as well as new tones and grimaces.
There is not an effect in the play which she has not calculated; only,
she has calculated every effect so exactly that the calculation is not

M. Filon confessed himself baffled by the question of whether Réjane’s
marvelous liquidness of mood and method is due to something essential
in her nature, or merely to an incomparable power of imitation. “If
I shut my eyes,” he says, “I sometimes think I can hear the nasal
intonation, the little squeaky voice which belonged to Céline Chaumont.
A minute later this voice has the cadence, the sustained vibration,
the artistic break with which Sarah Bernhardt punctuates her diction,
and the transition is so skillfully managed that all these different
women--the woman who mocks, the woman who trembles, the woman who
threatens, the woman who desires, the woman who laughs, and the woman
who weeps--seem to be one and the same woman. For the matter of that, I
have set myself a problem which I should not be able to solve even with
the help of Réjane herself. Let us be content with what lies on the
surface. I am inclined to think that her resources consist of a host of
petty artifices, each more ingenious and more imperceptible than the
last. If one studied her secret one might draw up a whole set of rules
for the use of _comédiennes_.”

With _Sans-Gêne_ among her achievements, more and more word of her
became known outside of France. Unmitigatedly French though she was,
though there was little in her to suggest the universal appeal that
has made world artists of other actresses, by the sheer merit of the
thing she did, and because she was so complete an epitome of one phase
of her nation’s art, she was bound to become an international figure.
Her first appearance in London was in June, 1894. Her _Sans-Gêne_ there
instantly won her the recognition she deserved. America had not long
to wait. On February 27, 1895 she appeared in _Madame Sans-Gêne_ in
New York. She remained there several weeks, playing in _Divorçons_,
_Sapho_, _Ma Cousine_, the one act play _Lolotte_, and _Maison de
Poupée_ (Ibsen’s _A Doll’s House_), besides _Sans-Gêne_. Ten years
later[101] she made her second and last tour in America. In the
meantime Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Russia, Austria, Roumania,
Italy, Spain and Portugal had all seen her. Regnier’s nose rubbing had
assuredly been to good purpose.

One may as well admit at once that Réjane’s tours in the United States
were not successful, in the sense that continuously crowded houses
indicate success. The language was, of course, one stumbling block, for
a keen understanding of the foreign tongue was more necessary for a
taste for Réjane than for the broad effects, say, of a Bernhardt or a
Salvini. And if the language fell on baffled ears, the essence of the
plays, in some cases, antagonized the more puritanical of our public.
For the pieces Réjane played reflected a society and a point of view
for which many Americans found it hard to muster much sympathy. So
meager was the American response to Réjane’s art during her first visit
that she forswore us forever. Nine years sufficed to make her change
her mind. “But now (1904) as then,” said the New York _Times_, “she
is hampered by the moral bias of American audiences, and by the fact
that the manners she so searchingly studies and exquisitely depicts are
exotic--foreign alike to our sympathies and our experience.”

Whatever her popular success in America may or may not have been,
Réjane--in some of her parts at least--won the enthusiastic praise of
the critics and of the restricted public that knew its French well
enough to meet her on something like Parisian terms. The _pièce de
résistance_ of the first tour was _Madame Sans-Gêne_. Like most of
Sardou’s later dramas, it was a “tailor-made” play, written to suit
the personality and methods of its principal actress.[102] A secondary
object was evident in the effort to take advantage of the revival of
interest in Napoleon that marked, for no evident reason, the early
nineties. Technically the play was interesting chiefly as showing
the author in a new phase, for it was surprising to find Sardou, a
notorious disciple of Scribe, writing a piece that was little more
than a series of sketches. But Réjane lifted the whole affair to a
height at which it could be regarded only as one of the triumphs of the
nineteenth century theatre.

Réjane’s freshness, naturalness, tenderness, and charmingly subtle
sense of comedy as Catherine Hubscher in _Madame Sans-Gêne_ was
instantly recognized and celebrated in every American city that she
visited. In _Ma Cousine_, a light farce, she acted the soubrette
_Riquette_ with an abandon, a cleverness, a joyousness, that emphasized
her new public’s admiration of her. Her Nora, however, in _Maison de
Poupée_ (Ibsen’s _A Doll’s House_), revealed her in a new and more
serious light, demonstrating at once her genuine versatility and her
considerable emotional power. Even the unsavory _Sapho_ she made
something new and different, “moderating its excesses and enhancing
its better moods. Less pathetic directly than by suggestion, she often
moved by simple means a sympathy which _Sapho_ ill deserved.”

Just before Réjane began her second American tour she had an unhappy
experience in Havana. She gave there a series of eight performances,
the total result being chronicled in the American papers as a “fiasco.”
She had a welcome such as no actor or actress had ever before received
in Cuba. Thousands gathered at the pier as a private steamer went out
to meet her and bring her ashore; formal addresses of welcome and
bouquets were showered on her; and the Havana papers were full of odes
and eulogies. The first-night audience that gathered to see _Sapho_ was
the most brilliant ever seen in Havana, and the applause that greeted
Réjane’s entrance was prolonged and hearty. But the audience grew
colder and colder as the play progressed. The next day began a festival
period for the dramatic critics of Havana. They pounced upon _Sapho_
and Daudet, its author, and declared that while his sort of “esoteric
rot” might be what Frenchmen regard as the product of genius, they
rejoiced that such stuff could not pass as art in Havana.[103] Matters
grew worse with _La Pétite Marquise_ and _Zaza_, the company and the
mediocre productions were abused (“What did the actress mean by leaving
everything except her costumes in New York?” the papers asked. “Does
she believe that ‘any old thing’ is good enough for Havana?”), and the
young ladies of Havana were all kept away from Réjane’s improper plays.
Personalities became frequent in the papers, and one critic boldly
asserted that Réjane’s star had set. Her manager made matters worse
by revoking the passes of one paper, the lady herself provoked more
criticism by her refusal to be a guest at a reception at the Athenæum,
and altogether affairs reached such a pass that every one was immensely
relieved when Réjane and her company sailed away for New York. The
whole incident indicated more than anything else the narrow outlook
of the Cubans. “We are making our political independence apply to
everything,” wrote one of the critics. “America for the Americans, and
Cuba for the Cubans! Let the foreigner get out!”

When Réjane reached America her audiences found that she could not
altogether conceal the traces left by the flight of time--she was now
forty-seven--but that she had suffered no loss of her vivacity and
power. The tour of 1904–05 was not, however, the improvement over
that of ten years earlier that had been hoped for. The enthusiasm of
American audiences was not to be won over by the cynicism and frankness
of such pieces as _Amoureuse_, though the critics were not slow to
recognize the subtle and convincing quality of Réjane’s work even in
that play, which Mr. Winter gently characterized as “filthy trash.”

An unexpected circumstance gave new emphasis to the half-heartedness
of her welcome in the United States. It was simply a bit of bad luck
for Réjane, an injustice to a distinguished woman and artist, and
an illustration of the influence of American newspaper publicity.
James Hazen Hyde, then in the public eye because of his share in the
insurance scandals, was--as he has always since been--a generous patron
of the American study of French literature. He gave a dinner in New
York to honor the actress whose claim to honor none knew better than
he. It was said that on behalf of himself and his guests he gave her
a diamond crown. Accurately or not, it was reported next day--and
the news was not slow in traveling,--that Réjane’s gratefulness and
Gallicism took the form of her doing a sprightly dance on the table.
The incident was not important, but the wide publicity given it did not
tend to increase Réjane’s hold on that part of the public to which she
had, on her merits, so good a claim.

To get all the scandal over with at once, let us dispose of Réjane’s
husband. In 1892 she had married M. Porel, who had been an actor, then
director of the _Odéon_, and then of _Grand-Théâtre_. Soon after the
marriage he became co-director of the _Vaudeville_ and the _Gymnase_.
Early in the marriage there were two children, a daughter and a son. On
more than one occasion Madame Réjane began divorce proceedings, which
were halted when friends intervened and kept the couple together in
the interest of the children or of the parents’ professional welfare.
Finally both sued for divorce. After many preliminaries the husband was
granted the decree, though, eventually at least, the children were left
with the mother.

Naturally, the _Vaudeville_ was no longer open to her. But, as
Arnold Bennett (then not yet the distinguished novelist) wrote in
_P. T. O._,[104] though “Réjane may now and then suffer a brief
eclipse, she can be absolutely relied upon to emerge in a more blinding
glory. Exiled from her proper home, the _Vaudeville_, she naturally
wanted a theatre. She has got it. She took hold of the _Nouveau
Théâtre_, the unlikeliest and one of the most uncomfortable theatres in
Paris--the Lamoureaux concerts alone have succeeded there. She removed
everything from within its four walls, and presently frequenters of
the _Rue Blanche_ observed that the legend _Théâtre Réjane_ had been
carved on its façade. Last week she announced to her friends (that is
to say, to Paris) that she would be ‘at home’ on such and such a night.
The invitation added, ‘Comedy will be played.’ Her friends went, and
discovered the wonderfullest theatre in the town, incredibly spacious,
with lounges as big as the auditorium, wide corridors, and a scheme of
decoration at once severe and splendid. Réjane was written all over
it, even in the costumes of the women attendants. Paris was charmed,
astounded, electrified; and now Réjane flames a more brilliant jewel
than ever in the forehead of the capital.”

There, during the past ten years, she has appeared in more than a score
of new plays, none of them, perhaps, a new _Sans-Gêne_ or _Marquise_,
but each serving to keep in vigorous use one of the rarest talents
of the time. During this time, too, she has acted in South America
(1909), and occasionally, and as recently as the spring of 1915, she
has gone to London, where she has always been appreciated, sometimes to
act in the regular theatres, and sometimes to give in the music halls
one-act pieces like _Lolotte_, and scenes from the longer plays.[105]
“Madame Réjane long since announced to the world, by publicly going
about with a grown-up daughter, that she meant no more to depend for
even the smallest part of her charm and her power upon the semblance of
youthfulness,” wrote Mr. Bennett in 1906. “She is a middle-aged woman,
and she doesn’t care who knows it.” She is now even more certainly a
middle-aged woman, but she still has much of her essential vitality,
and of the force of a distinguished personality.

Off the stage Madame Réjane has always been a gracious and likable
woman, of a gentle, polished manner and lovable disposition that do
not always go with a pronounced and much applauded personality. She
has a summer place, “_Petit Manoir_,” a large, semi-Elizabethan villa
at Hennequeville, near Trouville, on the Normandy coast. There it has
been her habit to live quietly whenever her engagements permitted, with
her daughter Germaine and her son Jacques. She has always indulged a
taste for _objets de vertu_. “When not with her children or at the
theatre,” says Huret, “she is likely to find time to go in search of
paintings, or books or fine fabrics, a curious old fan, a bit of unique
lace, or a rare flower or jewel, with the joyous ardor that she puts
into everything and, as in her art, spending immense energy to achieve
the exquisite and the delicate, in a word, everything that makes for
the joy of working and of life.” The “_joie de travaille_” is one
characteristic of the great _comédienne_ that is likely to escape the
casual public. But work hard she did, and she made her company work
hard. “On the road” it was the regular thing to have daily rehearsals,
no matter what familiarity with the plays had been attained.

“The amazing variety of her artistry has been expressed,” says Huret,
“by two famous portraits of her, one by Chartran, the other by Besnard.
You could paint nothing more strikingly truthful than these portraits,
yet you cannot dream how unlike they are.... Besnard has retained
only those traits of his sitter which give her an expression that is
energetic, even a little brutal and sensual,--the popular Réjane, the
Réjane of the _Ambigu_, of realistic drama, the Réjane of _La Glu_ and
_Germinie Lacerteux_. Despite her silk gown and all her finery, Besnard
has seen her with the down-at-heel cloth boots that Germinie wore to
third-rate balls, and in the white floss-silk gloves which, to get a
realistic touch, she had borrowed from her servant-maid. That Réjane he
has caught admirably!

“But it is not thus that she has appeared to Chartran. He has seen her
in a dainty lace head-dress adorned with a rose-colored ribbon, her
hair loose over her eyes, her mobile mouth, her gracious oval face.
Above all he has seen her extraordinary and complex eyes, now quick,
now velvety, now perverse beneath their large, languorous eyelids: eyes
that are mocking, ardent, sparkling and dreamy. This is the Réjane
of Meilhac’s plays, the Réjane who is of the line of _comédiennes_
of the eighteenth century; it is _Ma Cousine_ who is about to become

“And this astonishing complexity of temperament is reflected in her
childhood, in her life, and in her tastes to-day. The youngster who
passed her evenings in the balcony of the _Ambigu_ sucking an orange,
who stood in ecstasy before the glass of Adèle Page, and who for years
dreamed of such a life as the acme of luxury,--her one sees in the
portrait by Besnard. But the young lady of the _Conservatoire_, the
favorite pupil of Regnier, who won her first success in _L’Intrigue
Épistolaire_, the elegant and finished interpreter of the life of the
_salons_ and _cercles_, the full-grown _artiste_ of _Marquise_: all
these live in the painting of Chartran.”

“_Ces deux jolis noms d’une seule et même personne: Réjane, Madame
Sans-Gêne_”; thus one of her countrymen happily characterized her.
But another was just as right when he called her “the innumerable


When the American papers announced, in the spring of 1914, that
Eleonora Duse had recovered her health and was contemplating a return
to the stage, the news had a curious effect, somewhat as if the New
York press had casually said that “Ada Rehan and Mr. Daly’s company
are to play _The Taming of the Shrew_ next Monday.” A little later
the cable brought the announcement that Bernhardt was thinking of
coming again to America, and though Mme. Sarah is almost old enough
to be Duse’s mother, the news of her coming had not the same effect
of turning the clock backward. For Bernhardt is apparently one of the
earth’s permanent phenomena, like the return of vegetation in the
spring; while the tragic figure of Duse, though she played in America
only a dozen years ago, seems somehow to belong to the last generation.

[Illustration: ELEONORA DUSE]

She is, however, not yet really an old woman, for she was born October
3, 1859. The genius of strange and hard experience, which has attended
her all her life, was present even at her birth, for it occurred in
a third-class carriage of a railway train, near Vigevano, while her
parents, the members of a band of actors, were on their way from
Venice to Milan. A troubled life then began.

For two generations, at least, her forebears had been player-folk,
of a rather humble station, most of them. An uncle was a player
differing greatly in kind from his famous niece, for he was known
throughout Northern Italy as an uproariously funny comedian.[106] Her
grandfather, Luigi Duse, was of a somewhat more serious turn, and
of a more important rank in the profession, for he is said to have
founded the Garibaldi Theatre at Padua. He founded also a troupe of
Venetian dialect comedians which was famous for many years. His four
sons were all actors, and one of them, Eleonora Duse’s father, was a
painter as well. Ultimately he left the stage to devote himself to
that art. Duse’s mother, too, was an actress, and, after her child was
baptized[107] and had attained the age of ten days, resumed her place
in the company, which now had another prospective member added to its
roster. Literally Duse knew the theatre and its people from the first
day of her life, and was forced into its service as a matter of course.

The father and mother were humble strolling players who wandered about,
often on foot, making a scanty living. The young Eleonora’s childhood
was thus filled on the one hand with poverty, often hunger, and on the
other hand, with the actor’s trade under her observation and a part of
her daily instruction.[108] Hers was really not a childhood at all, a
fact that helps to explain the note of melancholy and tragedy that has
pervaded her whole life.

A career as a stage child, however, seems to be the thing that produces
the notable actress,--the Siddons, the Terry, the Mrs. Fiske,--if only
the added something is present to endow the unconsciously absorbed
technique with the significance of personality and high intelligence.

At seven Eleonora was the prompter of the company. But she soon began
to absorb the words and something of the meaning of certain rôles.
At ten she was playing Cosette in _Les Misérables_. By the time she
was twelve she was regularly appearing on the rustic stages, often
impersonating characters far older than herself. There was much in the
old life of the strolling players that made for joyousness--witness
Modjeska’s tribute to her early experience of such life--and the young
Duse was not without her gay moods, in those days, but responsibility,
hard work and the impersonation of adult and much-troubled women, while
she was still in her middle ’teens, inclined her toward the seriousness
that has characterized her life. When she was fourteen her mother
died, and her duties as _tragédienne_ were supplemented by the care of
younger children. Is it any wonder that she soon seemed to be “walking
through life like a somnambulist”?[109]

Before she was sixteen she had acted a round of tragic parts, among
them Doña Sol, Francesca da Rimini (in the play by Pellico) and
Caverina, the heroine of Victor Hugo’s _Angelo_. When she was just
over sixteen she played Juliet, in Verona itself. The theatre--it was
the “Arena,” an open-air theatre--was crowded, and the actress roused
the assembly to enthusiasm by a Juliet that was girlish, beautiful and

But her term of what we would call “barnstorming” was not to end yet.
The vagabondage continued, varied first with a tour of Dalmatia, and
then by an occasional engagement, in small rôles, apart from the family

In 1879, when she was twenty, the company she had joined was playing
in Naples. Here, for some reason, its leading actress was lost to
it, on the eve of the presentation of _Thérèse Raquin_. To Duse, in
the emergency, was assigned the part of Thérèse. The stage--that of
the old Florentine Theatre--was a famous one; Salvini and Ristori had
often trod its boards. And she was to face the most discerning public
that had yet seen her. The result was in the way of recompense to
Duse for her years of struggle and poverty. Cesare Rossi, one of the
distinguished men of the theatre in the Italy of his day, was present.
Immediately he offered to place her under his own management. Duse’s
years of apprenticeship may be said to end at this point, for from now
on her progress was steadily upward.

Her marriage, which came at this time, when she was about twenty, was
only a brief interruption. It was another touch of tragedy in Duse’s
life. With her, “it has been difficult to choose the point when the
make believe of the theatre ended and the reality of life began.” Her
husband was a Signor Checchi, an actor of mediocre ability. A daughter
was born, but the marriage was to Duse a great disappointment.

Back to the stage she went, after this time of trial, with little heart
for her work, though Rossi had given her a good contract. Then, in
1880, while she was in Turin, she saw Bernhardt in _La Princesse de
Bagdad_, one of the plays by which the younger Dumas was making inroads
on the old-fashioned classical repertoire. Duse at once announced
her intention to play in the same piece. The resulting negotiations
with Dumas served not only to introduce some of his plays--of course
translated into Italian--into the theatre in Italy, but to begin a
warm though curiously impersonal friendship between the author and the
rising young actress. She conceived the most ardent admiration for the
man and his work, and it was not long before he was urging her to try
her fortunes in Paris. Many years were to elapse before she was to make
that venture, for very good reasons, as will later appear.[110]

Dumas, it would appear, and the success with which she made his plays,
_La Princesse de Bagdad_[111] and _La Femme de Claude_, understood and
liked in Italy, had a large share in restoring her interest in life
and her work, and in increasing her fame. She was rapidly becoming
known throughout Italy. By the time of her first venture outside of
Italy--which took her to faraway South America[112]--she had achieved
success in Turin, in Rome and in Milan.

As yet there was little thought of her as other than an Italian for
the Italians. Dumas’ appeals to act in Paris had always been in vain.
If reports of her acting had been carried home by visitors from the
great capitals, she was not thought of, as yet, as a world’s actress.
To carry plays to Moscow, to Vienna, to Berlin, and act them there
effectively in a foreign tongue, an actress must needs be of great
power, must have a genius that makes itself felt above all differences
of speech. In 1892 she went to Vienna, comparatively unheralded, and
from there word went forth that a new and great actress had come
from her native Italy and blazed into a sudden glory. Francisque
Sarcey, the distinguished French critic, had followed the company
of the _Comédie Française_ to Vienna, and from there wrote to the
_Temps_ accounts of her display of versatility in playing equally well
_Antony_ and _Cleopatra_, _La Dame aux Camélias_ (“_Camille_”) and
_Divorçons_. Sworn admirer of Bernhardt that he was, he easily found
faults in Duse, but he praised her justly too: “She is not handsome,
but has an intelligent and expressive face and wonderful mobility of
features. Her voice is not particularly musical, but its occasional
metallic vibrations produce thrilling effects. Her diction, like Mme.
Bernhardt’s, is distinct and clear, each syllable coming out with
well-rounded edges.” Though Sarcey thought her, as Cleopatra, to have
“the air of a crowned grisette,” (in contrast to Sarah, who was “always
the Queen of Egypt”) he confessed that “La Duse carried the house
by storm with her alternate explosions of fury and sudden tones of
touching tenderness.” Sarcey’s early sympathy for Duse was, as we shall
see, to be of benefit to her later. During this transalpine tour Duse
acted in Russia and Germany, as well as in Austria; and now was to come
her first venture in an English-speaking country.

In 1893 Americans interested in the European stage knew that Duse had
achieved fame in her own country and had succeeded notably in Austria
and Germany. The average American theatregoer knew little of her. Even
those who had heard of her had little notion that she really was an
actress of the first rank, fully worthy of comparison with Bernhardt
and Modjeska.

On an evening of January, 1893, when a large and brilliant audience
assembled at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York to see her
in _Camille_, the prevailing atmosphere was therefore one of
curiosity.[113] Duse had not long to wait before striking fire. One
who was present said: “Her power over an audience was manifested in a
very striking manner before she had been on the stage five minutes.
The actress had scarcely made her appearance and given her careless
nod of recognition to De Varville before everybody was in an attitude
of strained attention. Already the old and hackneyed character had
been revivified by the power of genius. Signora Duse does not attempt
to make a Frenchwoman of Camille, but fills her with the fire and
passion of her own Italian temperament. But both the fire and passion,
except at very rare intervals, are kept under complete control. Their
glow is apparent in all the love scenes, and breaks into flame at
one or two critical moments, but it is by the suggestion of force
in reserve that she makes her most striking effects. Only an artist
of the highest type could create so profound an impression with so
little apparent effort or forethought, by some light and seemingly
spontaneous gesture, by a sudden change of facial expression, or
by some subtle inflection of the voice. The chief beauties of her
impersonation are to be found in its lesser and, to the inexperienced
eye, insignificant details. All her by-play, although it appears to
be due only to the impulse of the moment, is dearly the result of the
most deliberate design, and changes with every variety of mood or
condition which it is meant to illustrate. The impetuous, audacious,
bored and querulous Camille of the first act becomes quite another
creature beneath the softening influence of the love passages with
Armand--such love passages as have not been witnessed in a New York
theatre half a dozen times in this generation--and is transformed into
a type of placid and contented womanhood in the country home of Armand.
She played the whole of this act with perfect skill and profoundest
pathos, and in the scene of parting with her lover, she suggested the
heart-breaking under a smile, with a simplicity so true and so poignant
that her own suppressed sob found many an echo in the audience.”[114]
In the many accounts of Duse’s Camille there is constant reference
to a simple and telling interpolation that she made in the scene in
which Armand publicly denounces her. Where other actresses have sought
to express Marguérite’s feelings only through facial expression and
pantomime, Duse spoke at intervals during his tirade her lover’s
name--“Armand!”--at first in simple incredulity, then in fright, then
in deeply hurt pride, then in heart-breaking anguish[115]. Sarcey,
however, severely condemned her for making this emendation, which, he
thought, ruined the naturalness and effectiveness of the scene.

Duse had come unheralded, but her few weeks in New York proved a
genuine “sensation.” She followed _Camille_ with _Fédora_, in which she
again demonstrated her strange power of creating a stirring dramatic
effect by the simplest and apparently the most unstudied means.
As Clotilde in _Fernande_ she presented another type: “The change
wrought in her by the dispatch that proved her lover’s perfidy was an
extraordinary illustration of suppressed emotion, and the remorseless
deliberation of her manner while beguiling the faithless Andre into
the net which she had spread for him was intensely eloquent of a
woman scorned. Not until after the marriage had been accomplished
did she give vent to the rage which she had restrained so long; but
when the floodgates of passion were once opened, the torrent of her
wrath and hate and scorn might almost be called appalling. This one
revelation of her power would place her instantly in the front rank
of emotional actresses.”[116] Another jealous woman was revealed in
Santuzza in _Cavalleria Rusticana_. Astonishing in this part was the
complete sinking of her own personality in that of a peasant woman.
By voice, walk, subtle suggestions of gesture and pose, she achieved
a masterpiece in what the French call “getting within the skin” of a
character. When to the other impersonations she added her Mirandolina
in _La Locandiera_, a part calling for a charming archness and humor,
and as sure a touch in comedy as Santuzza in tragedy, her wide range
was astonishingly revealed.[117]

After visiting a few other American cities, Duse’s company arrived
in London, and opened an engagement there in May (1893). She was the
first Italian since Salvini to claim London’s serious attention. She
was at least as unknown there to “the general” as she had been in New
York, though of course there were many who had either seen her on the
continent or had read glowing accounts of her. But there were many, at
first, to ask: “Who is she?” When she made her presence felt, as she
promptly did, there arose a fine critical storm with her as the center.
Bernhardt was idolized in London, appeared there in the same season,
and naturally comparison was rife. As a matter of fact, comparison
between Duse and Bernhardt, both of whom were well within their prime
in the early nineties, was one of the favorite intellectual amusements
of the day, with both professional and amateur critics. Duse succeeded
in London, however, as she had succeeded elsewhere.[118]

Thus had she swung about the world, making known her great gifts, and
firmly establishing a genuine, honestly won fame. Only Paris remained
to be conquered, and before she attempted that formidable task, she
visited America again.[119]

Now, at last, came Duse’s invasion of Paris. Why was it delayed so
long? What were the circumstances of her going? And how did she fare
there? The answers to these questions form a curious chapter in her
history, and in that of a great sister artist. Duse’s few weeks in
Paris in the early summer of 1897 mark the climax of her career, and
may well be described in some detail.

It is an established tenet of Parisian faith that nothing in the
artistic world can really be said to have won the stamp of authentic
achievement until it has been seen and approved by Paris. With much
justification, surely, the French are likely to consider themselves
final arbiters, and they do not go out of their way to discover merit
in a foreigner who has not yet shown his art in “the home of art.”

Paris had heard the echoes of Duse’s achievements, then, with the
comfortable feeling that if she really amounted to anything she would
come to Paris and prove it. Until then Parisians could wait. Duse was
known to be the best Italian actress, Dumas’ interest in her had been
evidenced years before, and her success in the large European cities
and in America and England was by no means unknown. But the occasional
whisper that Duse was comparable to Bernhardt herself brought only
indulgent smiles. The lady evidently avoided the test.

That she had avoided the test was true. Duse had been really afraid to
go to Paris. Later, after she had won the day, she admitted as much. A
failure in Paris would be, she recognized, a fatal blow to her prestige
and ambitions.

When Dumas had urged her to try her fortunes in the French capital,
he assumed that she would act in French. But Duse knew how sensitive
were French ears to the niceties of the language, how dependent on
purity and beauty of speech was much of the drama to which they were
accustomed, and how, she would be placing herself under a heavy
handicap in acting in a strange medium.

It was not, then, until in Austria, Russia, England and the United
States she had been warmly received while acting in her native tongue,
that the conquest of Paris began to seem possible.

Enter now, Sarah Bernhardt. Mme. Sarah, unlike most Parisians, had seen
Duse and knew her quality. She knew the truth of the growing impression
that Duse was really a worthy rival. Therefore, if Duse was really
coming to Paris, Sarah wished to involve herself in the proceedings,
and protect her position. It was announced that where others had failed
to induce Duse to come to Paris, Bernhardt had succeeded. More, she
had offered Duse the use of her own theatre. Thus Duse was put at once
in the position of _protégée_, and the press resounded with praises of
Sarah’s magnanimity.

Duse chose _Magda_ for her first appearance. It was a part well suited
to her, and in it she had less to fear in comparison with Bernhardt,
who had never scored so heavily with it as with her other rôles.
Bernhardt forthwith called on Duse, and the announcement at once
followed that the opening performance was to be changed to _La Dame aux
Camélias_ (_Camille_). Whatever the honesty of Bernhardt’s motives,
she had succeeded in inducing Duse to appear first in a part that was
one of Sarah’s own triumphs. One can imagine the new security that
Bernhardt felt.

The house was crowded with the most brilliant audience that Paris
could muster. Word had gone forth that one was to appear who had been
mentioned in the same breath with the idolized Bernhardt. Rochefort
was there, and so was Halévy, and Got, the _doyen_ of the _Française_,
and a throng of the distinguished men and women of the Paris of the
day. For the critics, Lemaître was there, and Catulle Mendes, and, most
important, Francisque Sarcey. Sarah herself was there, holding court,
and serene and smiling in her rôle of protecting friend.

The story of that first performance is soon told. It was a
disappointment. During the first act Duse was almost painfully
nervous; in the second she showed flashes of power, and won some mild
enthusiasm; in the third she was listened to only with patience; in the
fourth the audience took more pleasure in Ando, her “leading man,” than
in Duse herself; in the fifth she played the death scene beautifully,
but it was too late. “If someone had triumphed it was not Duse.”

Already Paris thought that it had taken Duse’s measure, and now that
the alleged comparison with Bernhardt was disposed of settled back to
enjoy her, if possible, for her own sake. _Magda_ followed. The critics
were a little more impressed. Sarcey in particular--his criticism
always appeared after a few days’ interval--poured balm on Duse’s
feelings. He began to see that all had not yet been told. “Everyone,”
he wrote, “was delighted to see so much naturalness combined with such
great force of feeling.... I think I am beginning to distinguish the
characteristic traits of her peculiar talent.”

After the first performance of _Magda_, Duse had been suddenly taken
ill. Immediately after Sarcey’s encouraging article--whether or not it
was the cause,[120]--she recovered and was ready for the lists again.

Bernhardt grew apprehensive. She proposed a gala performance in aid of
the fund for a memorial to Dumas. She announced that she would give
the last two acts of _La Dame aux Camélias_, and that Duse had been
asked to give the second and third acts of the same play. Now the third
act was the point where Duse had most signally failed to please Paris
on that memorable first night. She was by now wary of Bernhardt’s
“friendship,” and said that while she was eager to appear in honor of
Dumas, she would substitute the second act of _La Femme de Claude_. And
on this substitution she insisted in spite of all Mme. Sarah could say.

The audience had anticipated a rare feast of acting and was not
disappointed. It applauded both actresses to the echo. But notice
how Sarah worked into this occasion an element that had reference
not so much to the glorification of Dumas as to the glorification of
herself: “The curtain rises to disclose the celebrated bust of Dumas,
by Carpeaux, which occupies the center of the stage. Grouped about,
at a respectful distance, are all the artists who have taken part
in the performance, while in advance of all, face to face with the
bust itself, stands Sarah Bernhardt. She still wears the costume of
Marguérite Gauthier, and is there as the accepted symbol, the unrivaled
personification of Dumas’ immortal creation. Duse is in the background
along with the others.

“A poem has been composed especially for the occasion by Edmond
Rostand, in which Bernhardt is allowed to address Dumas in a tone of
familiar grandeur, as befits one genius in the presence of another.
After one expressive pause, therefore, she changes her attitude and

“‘She recites these exquisite verses [the account in the _Gaulois_
said] with a charm of tenderness, an intensity of feeling, that arouse
new transports of enthusiasm. The whole audience is on its feet,
quivering, with arms outstretched toward the prodigious _artiste_, who
makes an effort to bow, but is overcome by the force of her emotion.
The curtain rises and falls an incalculable number of times, disclosing
the great _tragédienne_ in her gracious attitude of homage to the great
dramatist. And then, with a movement of touching spontaneity, Sarah
goes to La Duse, seizes her hand, and both incline before the bust of
the master. The spectacle is one that will never be forgotten.’”[121]

How very Gallic! And how extremely effective as an apotheosis of
Bernhardt! With Duse triumphantly subordinated by means of Bernhardt’s
apparently magnanimous demonstrations of friendship, and with the Paris
season practically at an end, Mme. Sarah left town and repaired to

In spite of all, Duse went on. In rapid succession she played _La
Locandiera_, _Sogno di un Mattino di Primavera_ (a new play by
d’Annunzio), _La Femme de Claude_, and _Cavalleria Rusticana_.

A curious thing happened. Her great first-night audience Duse had not
been able to overwhelm. Now, by the slow-working influence of her
very genuine art, she gained a cumulative hold on the imagination
and affection of the Paris public. An open letter to her, signed
“Sganarelle,” appeared in _Le Temps_, appealing to her to give a
final matinée especially for her brother and sister artists to whom
“her methods had opened new horizons.” “Sganarelle” proved to be
Sarcey. His project was taken up with an enthusiasm that told how
effective, after all, had been Duse’s unobtrusive art. Lavrouniet, in
_Figaro_, speaking of Bernhardt and Duse, in a few sentences admirably
characterized the art of both. The former, he says, “from a constant
desire to be unique, supplies all the highest and rarest expressions
of art, except one--simplicity. In La Duse, we have seen on the stage
a woman’s nature and that of an _artiste_ completing each other--the
_artiste_ playing with all the sensitiveness of a woman, and the woman
allowing herself to be entirely absorbed in the _artiste_.” Lemaître
also wrote sympathetically: “She came to us, preceded by a European
reputation a rival sister of the great Sarah. We were not deceived, for
Duse is a dramatic _artiste_, original to the core, and of the first
rank. We were told she was beyond everything an astonishing realist;
that she lived her parts rather than played them, and in this way took
her audience by storm. And that statement is doubtless exact.... What
seems to me incontestably Mme. Duse’s is her singular charm and grace,
her sweetness and tenderness. On that account her search for the truth,
her solicitude to avoid the exhibition of any artifice, her realism,
so very minute and so very sincere, reach even to poetry. Hers is the
unique charm of a matured woman,--impassioned, bruised, suffering,
nervous,--in whom, however, survives a young and ingenuous grace,
almost that of a young girl, of a strange young girl.”

Duse promptly and gladly accepted the invitation to give the special
matinée. Her lease of Bernhardt’s theatre had expired and it was
necessary to write to England to ask the use of the house. Bernhardt
tendered it gratuitously, but, wishing still to have a share in all
that was going on, requested that the invitations bear her name and
Duse’s side by side. Duse saw difficulties. “I could not invite
my companions in France to come and admire me. That would be too
presumptuous.” When Sarah could not have her way, she suggested that
the performance be abandoned. Instead, the _Porte St. Martin_ was
secured. The newspapers got wind of the negotiations that Duse’s
manager and Bernhardt had been carrying on by telegraph, and when the
latter’s motives became apparent, there was another reaction in favor
of Duse. There was room in the _Porte St. Martin_ for only one-tenth
of the applicants for seats, and, when the day arrived, the audience
seemed to Sarcey “like a violin whose strings are tightened and ready
to vibrate under the bow.” “It was the first time,” he wrote, “I have
seen an audience thus formed and in such a frame of mind. There was
no artificial commotion; it was expectation, full of security and
joy.” Of what followed Jules Huret wrote in _Figaro_: “I am afraid
of my incompetence to describe the powerful, the profound emotion of
those three hours, where an entire audience composed of the flower of
French comedians, of well-known writers, great painters and celebrated
sculptors, honored a foreign _artiste_ with the most vibrating, the
most enthusiastic, the most poignant manifestation that it is possible
to witness.”

Duse played for them _Cavalleria Rusticana_, the last act of _La Dame
aux Camélias_, and the second act of _La Femme de Claude_. Never had
she acted better. When the curtain fell “the whole audience rose to its
feet, _bravas_ and _vivats_ thundered through the house, handkerchiefs
and hats were waving, flowers flew from boxes,--‘_Au revoir! Au revoir!
Au revoir!_’--and ten times the curtain had to be raised before the
smiling actress, who did not attempt to conceal her joy. Then the stage
was immediately invaded by the crowd. Some wished only to see her once
again; some must embrace her; others asked for a flower from the bunch
she held in her hand. During one whole hour the procession did not
cease. I saw there young actresses and rising actors, with tears in
their eyes, not daring to approach her. Coquelin wishes to act with her
just once and begs her to play in French.... Mme. Laurent comes also,
and slowly, with sober words, expresses her admiration. The Ambassador
of Italy and his wife arrive in their turn, and congratulate her with
happy faces. And her troupe, who leave to-day for Italy, wait to say
good-by.... She kisses them, much moved.” Next day Duse was fêted by
the _Comédie Française_. What a change was this in a few short weeks!
The ending was a fine outburst, of a sort possible only to the Latin
races, and it marked the very zenith of Duse’s career.

Such was Duse’s progress from a poverty-stricken, obscure childhood to
a place, at the age of thirty-eight, equal, to say the least, that of
any actress of her day.

Duse could not fail to find deep satisfaction in her progress from
triumph to triumph. But in her case one feels that biographical detail,
the accidents of place and date, matter comparatively little. She
was a curiously detached spirit. “If I had my will,” she once told
Arthur Symons, “I would live in a ship in the sea, and never come
nearer to humanity than that.” As it was, she lived only in the realm
of her art. She was of infinite natural dignity, a shy, proud woman,
always far removed from the petty publicities of theatrical life, like
some patrician living her isolated life on a country estate. An utter
simplicity and sincerity, the fruits of a fine nature and of “the
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” attended her always.[122] Her
face, pale and typically Italian, at once sad and ardent, is the face
of a woman who has thoroughly lived, but whose soul is equal to great
trials. Her health was never robust,[123] and bodily weakness has often
interrupted her work. Her voice was sad, her habit silence, though on
rare occasions she is said to talk merrily. Although Duse as an actress
and as a woman gives the impression of an all-pervading sadness, of a
profound thoughtfulness, “the thoughtfulness of one who comes toward
us from a sanctuary of brooding on life’s eternal questions,” the more
amiable and human traits are not wholly lacking in her. She is said
to be quick to grasp a joke and to be fond of humorous books. She is
extravagant in her delight in flowers. At her country place in Tuscany
she has literally thousands of rose bushes.

Of only medium height, she somehow on the stage suggested tallness.
Her hair was once of typical Italian jet-blackness, but long ago it
turned quite white, and she was forced on the stage to wear wigs; off
the stage, she is said to have taken pride in her white hair. For many
years she appeared on the stage without “make-up” of any kind, but
after about 1900 she found it necessary as a means to the appearance
of youth. Among the Italians she was known as “_dalle belle mani_,”
for her hands were, perhaps, her chief beauty, small and beautifully
wrought; and like the Italian she was, she used them expressively and
gracefully. Her reticent nature showed itself in her personal tastes.
Off stage and on she dressed with great simplicity, and she disliked

She became a great reader, and though she never acquired English,
Shakespeare was one of her enthusiasms. Maeterlinck was another.
Cryptic sciences fascinated her. In modern art, her sympathies were
with the symbolists and impressionists. It was not strange that
d’Annunzio, the poet-dramatist-novelist who was making his presence
felt in Italy about the time of her Paris triumph, should appeal to
her as a kindred spirit. His fiery exaltation of human passions, his
undoubted poetic gifts, she took for real genius, and about 1900 the
world heard that Duse had forsworn all dramatists else and would act
henceforth nothing but d’Annunzio’s plays. The poet and the actress
formed an association that was plainly more than that of friendship
or professional coöperation. That she was passionately devoted to
d’Annunzio for some years, and that their friendship was broken by the
publication of one of his novels--in which he made literary use of
what she considered their sacred alliance--was the talk of Europe. The
resulting separation she is said to have taken, as she had her earlier
love affair, with tragic seriousness. How much her retirement from the
stage was due to this disappointment, and how much merely to advancing
age, it is difficult to say.

The d’Annunzio campaign was not a success, even in Italy. His plays
were not saved by patriotic interest in the author or by affection
for the actress from being thought decadent and undramatic, though
everywhere the richness of their poetic strain was recognized. Duse’s
faith however, until the rupture with d’Annunzio, was unreasoning and
unswerving. She came to the United States again in 1902, acting in
his plays.[125] She did nothing with them to add to the fame she had
earlier acquired, though, in spite of d’Annunzio, her acting still
retained its freedom from artificiality or exaggeration.[126]

After her return to Europe her appearances became more infrequent. In
1904 she gave a “command performance” at the English court (she had
always been popular in England, which received comparatively well even
the d’Annunzio plays), and in 1906 she came all the way from Italy to
assist in the great testimonial to Ellen Terry. Illness, which assailed
her often, and weariness of her work, herself and all things else, kept
her from the stage most of the time. She continued, however, to keep
her company constantly under salary and at her command, and as late as
1909 it was her custom, when at rare intervals the spirit moved her,
to assemble them for brief appearances in the European capitals. Of
late years she has given her energy to the founding of a home for aged

By means first of vivid imagining and then by the revealing power of
an unobtrusive, lucid art Duse made herself the greatest _artiste_ of
her day. When the French said she had widened the horizon of her art
they paid tribute to what was, after all, something akin to original

“The furthest extremes of Duse’s range as an artist,” wrote Bernard
Shaw, who is only one of the critics to give her the foremost place
among modern actresses, “must always remain a secret between herself
and a few fine observers. I should say without qualification that
it is the best modern acting I have ever seen.... Duse is the first
actress whom we have seen applying the method of the great school
to characteristically modern parts or to characteristically modern
conceptions of old parts.... In Duse you necessarily get the great
school in its perfect integrity, because Duse without her genius would
be a plain little woman of no use to any manager.... Duse, _with_ her
genius, is so fascinating that it is positively difficult to attend
to the play, instead of attending wholly to her.... Sarah Bernhardt
has nothing but her own charm.... Duse’s own private charm has not yet
been given to the public. She gives you Césarine’s charm, Marguérite
Gauthier’s charm, the charm of La Locandiera, the charm, in short,
belonging to the character she impersonates; and you are enthralled by
its reality and delighted by the magical skill of the artist without
for a moment feeling any complicity either on your own part or on hers
in the passion represented.” Shaw did not hesitate to enter into the
once popular game of comparing Bernhardt and Duse, and in his estimate
Madame Sarah is indeed a bad second. “The French artist’s stock of
attitudes and facial effects could be catalogued as easily as her stock
of dramatic ideas: the counting would hardly go beyond the fingers of
both hands. Duse produces the illusion of being infinite in variety
of beautiful pose and motion. Every idea, every shade of thought and
mood, expresses itself delicately but vividly to the eye.... When it is
remembered that the majority of tragic actors excel only in explosions
of those passions which are common to man and brute, there will be no
difficulty in understanding the indescribable distinction which Duse’s
acting acquires from the fact that behind every stroke of it is a
distinctively human idea.”

Duse even in her early career, when she was but little more than
twenty, had already broken with dramatic traditions.[127] There was
a fairly definite Italian tradition which had been made familiar by
Ristori and which had been fostered by Salvini. If Duse had been French
instead of Italian and if she had undergone the regular training of
the _Conservatoire_, she would have met with another tradition, of
which at the time Bernhardt was becoming an efficient missionary,
imposing its standards even outside of France. Duse in some way escaped
all traditions. Her training, such as it was, had been with strolling
players and in provincial theatres. What this experience did succeed
in giving her was the habit of dramatic expression, a habit that, by
the time she had arrived at the age when the usual stage-struck girl
becomes an actress, had made her mistress of self-expression, free
from self-consciousness. Added to this habit of going directly to the
expression of an idea or emotion there was, in Duse’s case, besides
the sheer womanliness that shone through all her work, the ardent,
sympathetic imagination that enabled her to project herself into
another personality, sharing its emotions and divining its experiences
and actions. When these emotions and these actions reached the stage
of expression there was no rigid, school-taught method to hamper
her. An ingrained habit of expression, coupled with an illuminating,
self-effacing imagination, formed the secret of Duse’s famed
“naturalness.” Most actresses interpret or “portray” a character; Duse
became the character itself, transmuted into life in terms of Duse’s
own mind and spirit, and, as often as not something finer, more noble,
more sensitive, than the dramatist’s conception. Such a character, with
her, was “a figure designed and modeled beforehand, proportioned,
poised, and polished to the finger tips with a sculptor’s patient
assiduity, and then, by an ever renewed miracle endowed with ‘the
crowded hour of glorious life’ at the electric touch of the artist’s


As a superbly alive, radiant personality, Ada Rehan stands out in the
memory of any one who has ever seen her. She is of the great line of
actresses. She is (or one should say _was_, for Ada Rehan several
years ago passed from the stage) more nearly a Woffington, a Terry,
than any actress America has yet produced. Like Ellen Terry, she was a
miraculous blend of regal force, charm, and thoroughly grounded ability.

[Illustration: ADA REHAN]

Yet “miraculous” is hardly the word, for Ada Rehan labored long and
devotedly for the eminence that both America and England accorded her.
Hers was no sudden Mary-Anderson-like leap into “stardom,” nor did she
gain a prominent place on the stage with the comparative ease that
seems possible in these days. As we shall see, her apprenticeship was
exceedingly long and arduous. In proportion was her radiance, when
once she was placed in the map of “stars,” for Rehan will be at least
a tradition, to be placed with those of Woffington and Terry, when her
lesser sisters are long since quite forgotten. She was the supreme
embodiment for all time, one feels certain, of Katherine, Shakespeare’s
Shrew. That part she was born to play. Her Beatrice, her Rosalind, her
Viola were all memorable impersonations; and she played the heroines of
old English comedy in a way that again recalled the famous actresses of
the past.

Ada Rehan[129] was born in Limerick, Ireland. The fact is rich in
significance, for though she was brought to the United States while she
was a mere child, and received here all of her stage training, there
is no denying the strong Celtic strain in her, the Irish buoyancy and

The family came to America in 1865,[130] when Ada was about ten, and
settled in Brooklyn. None of her family had ever been on the stage, and
she went to school, as any other girl would, quite as if she were never
destined to be an actress. The three Crehan sisters must have been a
talented, attractive group of girls, however, for both of Ada’s elder
sisters preceded her to the stage, though neither of them gained a
tithe of the repute that was to come to the youngest of the three.[131]
When Ada first stepped on a stage, Kate, the eldest, had been on the
stage half-a-dozen years, and for four years had been the wife of
Oliver Doud Byron, the author and star of _Across the Continent_, a
great popular success of the day.[132] One night, when the Byrons were
playing _Across the Continent_, in Newark, New Jersey, the actress who
played Clara, a small part, was suddenly taken ill. Ada, who up to now
had had no idea, no definite idea at least, of attempting a stage
career, was pressed into service, and played the part that one night,
and played it with such confidence and success that a family council
straightway determined her fate for her. She was to go on the stage.

This date, 1873, is the first one of great importance in Miss Rehan’s
stage career. The next came six years later when Augustin Daly engaged
her as a member of his company at Daly’s Theatre. Theatre, company,
manager and “leading woman” there combined to write one of the most
brilliant chapters in America’s theatrical history.

The record of those six early years after her first appearance, and
before she went to Daly, is one of the most amazing industry and
progress. She played for a time with the Byrons, and made while with
them her first appearance in New York (1873) in a small part in _The
Thoroughbred_. Soon she went to Philadelphia for her first regular
engagement, as a member of Mrs. John Drew’s company at the Arch Street
Theatre. John Drew, the younger, the present actor of that name, made
his first appearance at about the same time, also in Mrs. Drew’s
company. Here Miss Rehan remained for two seasons (1873–75) receiving
much valuable training, though as yet she played only subordinate parts.

Then came several seasons of “stock”--“stock” according to the
old-fashioned system, in which the “stars” wandered from city to city,
finding in each place a company ready to support them in the standard
plays and ready to “get up” in new plays at short notice. As many of
the “stars” acted in the same plays, the stock company was less like
the present day organization so called, which presents a new play each
week and then drops it for good, than like a “repertoire company,” with
a number of plays always thoroughly at its command. The system made
for thorough training, as it combined with a wide range of material
opportunities for many performances of any given play. The later Daly
company, often called a stock company, was really such a repertoire
company save that it boasted its own fixed and brilliant “star,” Ada

After her two years with Mrs. John Drew, Miss Rehan went to Louisville
to join the stock company of Macauley’s Theatre, where she remained one
season (1875–6). If she had remained a few months longer she would have
assisted in the _début_ there of Mary Anderson.

She followed her year in Louisville with two seasons (1876–8) as a
member of John W. Albaugh’s company in Albany.[133] Here it was,
in December, 1877, while she was playing Bianca in _Katherine and
Petruchio_,[134] that Augustin Daly first saw her and observed her
exceptional talent.

At the end of her service with Mr. Albaugh she was but twenty-three.
And yet she had been a regularly engaged professional actress for
five years, had played Ophelia to Booth’s Hamlet and Lady Anne to John
McCullough’s Richard III, besides acting at various times Cordelia in
_Lear_, Desdemona in _Othello_, Celia in _As You Like It_, and Olivia
in _Twelfth Night_, and had appeared not only with Booth and McCullough
but with Adelaide Neilson, Lawrence Barrett, John Brougham, John T.
Raymond, and many of the other “stars” of the day.[135]

Next, during the season of 1878–79, Miss Rehan was for a brief period
in the company of Fanny Davenport. In the course of this engagement
a now forgotten play, _Pique_, was acted by Miss Davenport, and Ada
Rehan was given the part of Mary Standish. The author of the play was
Augustin Daly. When it was given at the Grand Opera House in New York,
in April, 1879, Mr. Daly again was struck by the promise of the young
actress whom he had seen as Bianca in Albany a year and a half before.
Immediately he placed her under his management and gave her the part
of Big Clémence in his own version of Zola’s _L’Assommoir_, which he
produced at the Olympic Theatre the following month. It was a small
part, she did it well, and within a few weeks was promoted to the part
of Virginie. In September of the same year she appeared for the first
time on the stage of Daly’s Theatre, which was built, oddly enough,
on the site of Wood’s Museum,[136] where six years ago she had acted
her small part in _The Thoroughbred_. It is worth mentioning that the
first parts--both in September, 1879--in the long list, literally of
hundreds, that she was to act during her twenty years with Mr. Daly
were Nelly Beers in _Love’s Young Dream_, and Lu Ten Eyck in _Divorce_.

With Ada Rehan the leading woman of the reorganized Daly company there
began a new era in her career, in Mr. Daly’s, and, it is fair to say,
in American acting. Until Mr. Daly’s death in 1899 Miss Rehan retained
her position, and in that time she progressed from obscurity to the
position of one of the leading actresses of her day, famous alike in
America and England, and famous even on the continent of Europe. With
Mr. Daly’s death, though she continued to act and to act well, there
passed the period of her peculiar fame, and in a half-dozen years she
had ceased to act altogether.

Such, in bald and brief outline, has been Rehan’s career. Of the
struggles, the aspirations, the triumphs of an actress, of her life, in
short, any mere record can tell but little.

What sort of woman was Ada Rehan? Well, she was of the royal line
of women, regal in her stature, opulent in bodily beauty, gracious
and rich in her nature. Her face, like her careless joyousness and
exuberant animal spirits, was Celtic. She was not beautiful in the
conventional sense, but as with Ellen Terry, simple beauty paled
beside her. Her hair was exuberant too, and brown, except where, in
the middle of her career, it became streaked with gray. She had the
gray-blue Irish eye. “What a great woman she was!” wrote one of her
more rhapsodic admirers.[137] “Tall, easy, almost majestic, except
that the geniality of her manner took from majesty its aloofness
and pride. When she spoke her voice came out mellifluently, so that
without forcing it seemed to pervade the room. It had something of the
quality of a blackbird’s note. Ada Rehan is not at all of a classic
type of countenance. She is genuine Celtic. To call her pretty would be
ridiculous, for prettiness is something that seems to dwindle beside
her. To call her beautiful would be neither completely expressive
nor apt, for her features have the warp of too many conflicting,
irrepressible emotions, and the turn of what one feels tempted to call
_rale ould Irish humor_. Yet the eyes, and the brow, and the head are
beautiful--the eyes especially, with their soft, lamp-like, mellow
glow, with their sharp, fiery glints, with their gorgon directness, or
again with their innumerable little twinkles of fun and sly melting
shadows, with the flashing from the lids and the eyelashes of light, or
the deep, still beaming that perhaps most eloquently of all speaks of
soul.” These are high words, indeed, but they had much provocation.

All these things, and more, Rehan appeared across the footlights. Off
the stage, simply as Ada Rehan, she was still the exceptional woman.
An actress who is capable of diverse and subtle characterizations
is often, singularly enough, in her own person a woman of essential
simplicity. Such seems to have been the case with Ada Rehan. Her lack
of pose can be glimpsed in various ways, in her capacity for pleasure
in the success of others, her ability to see and admire beauty and
talent in other women,--a severe test for any actress. “She was
generous and grateful, and she never forgot a kindness,” says Mr.
Winter. “Her mind was free from envy and bitterness ... and she never
spoke an ill word of anybody.” One more evidence of her simplicity was
her un-Bernhardtian sense of contentment in the limited opportunities
for personal glorification afforded by her position with Mr. Daly. As
we shall see, she refused numbers of offers to star, preferring the
comparative obscurity of her position as “Daly’s leading woman.” Notice
the phrases of a writer in the _Sun_, who observed her on the street
in New York in 1894, after her return from triumphant appearances in
London. “She exhibits a degree of calm serenity that might almost be
called matronly.... Her face wears a youthful and almost childish
expression.... Much of her time has been spent since her return in
looking in the shop windows, but apparently she has not purchased much,
either here or in Europe, as her attire is invariably that of a woman
who devotes little thought to dress!” But this writer goes on to say:
“No one would be likely to mistake her for anything but an actress
nowadays. Her distinction of bearing is so great that, even if her face
were not familiar to the public, a great many people would turn around
to look at her a second time as she walks along the street.”

Her early education was inconsiderable, and we are told that even
during her brief career in school she cared less for her lessons
than for romping with her three brothers,--a course that may not
have been without its value in preparing her for her success as
Katherine and Peggy Thrift. Later, however, she read much. She liked
Thackeray, and she particularly admired Balzac. “Her knowledge of
human nature,--gained partly by keen intuition and partly by close
observance,--was ample, various, and sound,” wrote William Winter, who
knew her well. “Her thoughts, and often her talk, dwelt upon traits of
character, fabrics of art, and beauties of nature, and she loved rather
to speak of these than of the commonplaces and practical affairs of the
passing day. Her grasp of character was intuitive; she judged rightly,
and she was seldom or never mistaken in her estimate of individuals.
Her perception was exceedingly acute, and she noted, instantly and
correctly, every essential trait, however slight, of each person who
approached her presence. She was intrinsically sincere, modest, and
humble--neither setting a great value on herself nor esteeming her
powers and achievements to be unusual; she has been known to be in
tears, at what she deemed a professional failure, while a brilliant
throng of friends was waiting to congratulate her on an unequivocal

Here, as elsewhere, Mr. Winter has poured out his praise with a lavish
hand. Yet it is clear that Ada Rehan added many fine qualities, for
those who knew her, to those qualities known to all who saw her:
vitality, a true sense of comedy, personal charm.

For a long time newspaper interviewers had the greatest difficulty in
getting Miss Rehan to talk for them. Like Duse and Mrs. Fiske, she
loathed the interview. By nature she was, within the circle of her
friends, candid and ingenuous, talking freely, stating frankly her
opinions and drawing freely from a fund of interesting anecdotes about
the personages she met and knew on both sides of the ocean. It is
related that during her first visit to London, she met at a dinner an
editor with whom she talked in her characteristic manner. He printed
all she said. Though she was of a kindly disposition and had said
nothing uncomfortable, she was annoyed by the incident, and for years
avoided journalists.[138]

Daly’s Theatre, in the days when Ada Rehan was at the height of
her charm and power, was sometimes called “the _Théâtre Français_
of America.” The leading man was John Drew (who did not become an
independent “star” until 1892); the comedian was James Lewis, a
talented, intelligent, genuinely comic actor;[139] the “dowager parts”
were played by the incomparable Mrs. James Gilbert; and the younger
women of the company were Isabel Irving and Kitty Cheatham, both
clever actresses, though they paled beside Rehan. At Daly’s one saw
acting that dispelled any impression of theatricalism. Mr. Daly’s
rule was rigorous, his standards exacting.[140] He was altogether an
exceptional manager, scholarly and thorough; and his instructions and
advice were of immense benefit to the actors in his company,--a fact
that Ada Rehan always freely acknowledged.

The list of parts that Miss Rehan in the twenty years between 1879 and
1899 acted in Mr. Daly’s company is simply amazing in its extent and
range. We think of her as Katherine, as Viola, Rosalind or Beatrice,
but she had been with Mr. Daly several years before the company
attempted Shakespeare. Before, there had been a long succession of
plays whose names mean nothing to us nowadays. Many of them were
adaptations, made by the versatile Mr. Daly himself, from the German.
Adaptations from the French, the American, and English stage had seen
in plenty; but the German comedies afforded Mr. Daly a comparatively
unworked field of which he made the most. One gets a satisfying sense
of the essential improvement since 1890 in the art of playwriting in
America upon reflecting that these translations and rearrangements of
pieces grown on a foreign soil would seem, if presented in our theatres
today, peculiarly thin and artificial. Miss Rehan’s more discerning
admirers regretted the waste of her great talent in them, but then, as
now, the theatre had to be made a paying institution in order to exist
at all, and these plays indubitably succeeded. The finished acting of
the Daly company, admirable both in individual impersonation and in
_ensemble_, made them one of the keenest of the theatrical pleasures
of the day.[141]

Miss Rehan did not at once leap into recognition as the leading
American actress of the day. For a long time she was thought of merely
as a prominent member of an excellent organization. Gradually, however,
by sheer merit, her preëminence became evident. With confidence she
undertook all kinds of rôles, and, in the midst of her work, there
would occasionally flash forth an impersonation that would seem, what
it often was, acting of unique quality.

Rehan was essentially a queen of comedy. Though she attempted from time
to time impersonations of a grave and even of a tragic nature, and by
virtue of sincerity and womanliness gave them much appeal, she never
would have gained her preëminent position by such means. Her range
was as wide, however, as the true meaning of the word “comedy,” and
extended from the graceful performance of the mirthful or sentimental
foolery of Daly’s adaptations, through the satire of _The Critic_ to
the farcical comedy of _The Shrew_, the tenderly romantic comedy of _As
You Like It_ and _Twelfth Night_, and the sophisticated “high comedy”
of _Much Ado_.[142]

It is difficult for one who has seen her in the part to think of
Shakespeare’s Katherine, in _The Taming of the Shrew_, without at
once thinking of Ada Rehan. The pride, the majesty, the complete
identification with the varying moods of the character, and the
humanity she gave to what can easily be made merely a stage figure,
were quite irresistible. Perhaps she succeeded so well in this part
because it was in many ways a reflection of her own personality.[143]

Her Rosalind, by all accounts, was probably the best, possibly
excepting Adelaide Neilson’s, that the American stage has seen; her
Viola “manifested a poetic actress of the first order.” Add to these
her Beatrice, her Mrs. Ford, her Helena, her Portia, not to speak of
the half dozen heroines of Shakespeare she played before she joined
Daly’s company, and you have a well rounded accomplishment as a
Shakespearean actress, which, if she had done nothing else, would have
won her fame.

And she did much else. One of Mr. Daly’s noteworthy departures from
the ordinary theatrical routine was his revival of various specimens
of old English comedy: _The Country Wife_ (in Garrick’s version
called _The Country Girl_), _The Inconstant_, _She Would and She
Would Not_, _The Recruiting Officer_ were all Restoration comedies,
modified by Mr. Daly to suit modern taste; and _The Critic_ was his
one-act rearrangement of Sheridan’s famous three-act satire of that
name. These pieces all involved difficult tasks for a modern actress,
for their language is of another time, their feelings of a different
civilization. The plays are never professionally revived nowadays; and
Mr. Daly’s ventures with them succeeded mainly through the conspicuous
ability of Miss Rehan to give her characters, whatever their dress or
speech, naturalness and vitality.

There was some surprise when Mr. Daly produced Coppée’s _The Prayer_,
for the usually buoyant Rehan had now to portray a thoroughly serious
character. Yet, says Mr. Winter:[144] “No one acquainted with her
nature was surprised at the elemental passion, the pathos, and the
almost tragic power with which she expressed a devoted woman’s
experience of affliction, misery, fierce resentment, self-conquest,
self-abnegation, forgiveness and fortitude. She did not then, nor at
any time, show herself to be a tragic actress, but she evinced great
force and deep feeling.”

It further strengthens one’s impression of Miss Rehan’s really
triumphant versatility to read the records of her Lady Teazle, which
subtly suggested the country girl within the fine lady; of her Letitia
Hardy with “its intrinsic loftiness of woman’s spirit”; of her Jenny
O’Jones, an irresistibly comic figure done in the spirit of frank
farce; or of any of her half hundred impersonations in modern comedy,
on which she lavished the spirit, the beauty, the technical proficiency
that were always in evidence, whether or not the material she worked
with was wholly deserving of her gifts. She was always ambitious,
always a patient hard worker, and she never slighted her tasks.

In 1884, when Miss Rehan and the reorganized Daly company had been
working together for five years, they made their first visit to London,
where they played a six weeks’ summer season at Toole’s Theatre. London
did not take kindly either to Mr. Daly’s pieces from the German,
which then formed their repertoire, or to Miss Rehan herself, whose
style of acting was a surprise to conservative eyes. William Archer
wrote in _The World_: “The style of Miss Ada Rehan is too crude and
bouncing to be entirely satisfactory to an English audience. She makes
Flos a painfully ill-bred young person,--surely not a fair type of
the American girl; and her way of emphasizing her remarks by making
eyes over the footlights is certainly not good comedy.”[145] Clement
Scott, on the other hand, praised her. No great impression was made,
on the whole, but two years later, (1886) when Mr. Daly again took his
company to London, Miss Rehan really made a name for herself, although
the plays were as yet what seem to us now paltry pieces for such an
actress: _A Night off_, and _Nancy and Company_. At this time Mr. Daly
offered his company in the English provincial cities and even ventured
to present them in Hamburg, Berlin and Paris, where they met some

Mr. Daly continued his biennial visit to London. In 1888, after the
failure there of _The Railroad of Love_,[146] he offered London its
first glimpse of Rehan’s Katherine the Shrew. The immediate result
was a grand chorus of critical praise, and a remarkable exhibition of
public interest. If on her first entrance “she ‘took the stage’ in a
manner that astonished even the oldest playgoer,” and if, as one paper
said, “Katherines had been seen before, but never such a Katherine as
this,” it is true that the actress herself also “took the stage” in
popular fancy. Rehan at home was something of a recluse, but now in
London she allowed “society” to pay her its tribute in its own way.
She was fêted, and dined, and given a public reception. Different this
from her habits in New York, where reading, and walks with her dogs,
made up the sum of her leisurely activity. During the 1888 tour Miss
Rehan played Katherine at Stratford-on-Avon (where her portrait in that
rôle was hung in the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre), and in Paris, where
Victorien Sardou assisted in her “great triumph.”

After another two years, in June, 1890, the company again appeared
in London, and this time, in the estimation of the critics,
her Rosalind--“a Rosalind who is a very woman, and never an
actress!”--surpassed even her Katherine.

From now on the trips to London became more frequent and it soon became
part of Mr. Daly’s programme to complete each season with a few months
in the English capital. He built there his own theatre, and it was Ada
Rehan who laid its corner-stone.[147] She visited Tennyson, who read to
her his play _The Foresters_, which Daly later produced with Miss Rehan
as Marian Lea.

In June, 1893, the new Daly’s Theatre was completed, and the company
deserted America for more than a year to go to London to establish the
success of the new house. It was dedicated by Miss Rehan’s performance
of the Shrew on June 27. _The Foresters_, _The School for Scandal_ and
_The Country Girl_ followed, and then in January, 1894, she acted for
London her Viola, which was new to her repertoire. Again a triumph,
for _Twelfth Night_ ran for one hundred and eleven performances. And
again Miss Rehan consented, as still she had never done in Now York, to
indulge in the life of society.

It was when she returned this time--after spending the summer of 1894
wandering about the Continent--that Miss Rehan became, for the first
time, a “star” in her own right. Miss Rehan’s loyalty to the Daly
company--or at least her steadfastness in refusing to be weaned away
from it--was rather remarkable. When the opportunity was offered her to
appear as a “star” and not merely as a member, drawing a fixed salary,
of Mr. Daly’s company, she at first refused. Finally she consented to
a brief tour, to supplement her usual work with Mr. Daly. Again, while
she was abroad she had received an offer from Possart to appear with
him at his theatre in Munich, another from Blumenthal, a third from
Sarah Bernhardt, and still another from a syndicate in London to manage
and head a company there. In New York, one of Mr. Daly’s rival managers
offered her “backing” as a “star” to the extent of $50,000. Miss Rehan
refused all these offers, and remained content as leading woman of the
Daly stock company. Even now the independent tour was limited to ten
weeks; then she returned to New York and her usual duties.[148]

In 1897 Mr. Daly sent Miss Rehan and his company on another English
tour. Beginning (on August 26) with a performance of _As You Like It_,
at Stratford-on-Avon, on the sward of the Shakespeare Memorial (of
which Miss Rehan was made one of the life governors) they proceeded to
the larger provincial cities, as far as Glasgow and Edinburgh, playing
_The Taming of the Shrew_, _As You Like It_, _Twelfth Night_, _The
School for Scandal_, and _The Last Word_. The results of the tour were
all Mr. Daly could have hoped. Miss Rehan, as Katherine, in particular,
swept all before her.

It was during this English visit that George Bernard Shaw, then
dramatic critic of the _Saturday Review_, wrote that he never saw
Miss Rehan act without burning to present Mr. Augustin Daly with a
delightful villa in St. Helena. He thought Mr. Daly was wasting Miss
Rehan’s rare talent, just as that other rare talent, Miss Terry’s,
was wasted by her enmeshment at the Lyceum. “Mr. Daly was in his prime
an advanced man relatively to his own time and place,” wrote Mr. Shaw.
“His Irish-American Yanko-German comedies, as played by Ada Rehan
and Mrs. Gilbert, John Drew, Otis Skinner and the late James Lewis,
turned a page in theatrical history here, and secured him a position
in London that was never questioned until it became apparent that
he was throwing away Miss Rehan’s genius. When, after the complete
discovery of her gifts by the London public, Mr. Daly could find no
better employment for her than in a revival of _Dollars and Cents_, his
annihilation and Miss Rehan’s rescue became the critic’s first duty.”
Mr. Shaw’s predilection for the psychological, realistic modern play
led to his irritation with Miss Rehan’s labors, as with Miss Terry’s,
and even to some doubt as to whether she was a creative artist or a
mere virtuosa. “In Shakespeare she was and is irresistible.... But how
about Magda?” Yet, with unwonted complaisance, Mr. Shaw also says, “I
have never complained; the drama with all its heroines levelled up to a
universal Ada Rehan has seemed no such dreary prospect to me; and her
voice compared to Sarah Bernhardt’s _voix d’or_, has been as all the
sounds of the woodland to the clinking of twenty-franc pieces.” And
again, “Her treatment of Shakespearean verse is delightful after the
mechanical intoning of Sarah Bernhardt. She gives us beauty of tone,
grace of measure, delicacy of articulation: in short, all the technical
qualities of verse music, along with the rich feeling and fine
intelligence without which those technical qualities would soon become
monotonous. When she is at her best, the music melts in the caress of
the emotion it expresses, and thus completes the conditions necessary
for obtaining Shakespeare’s effects in Shakespeare’s way.”

The memorable part of Ada Rehan’s career was now about to close. Before
Mr. Daly’s death in 1899 she added to her long list of impersonations
Roxane in _Cyrano de Bergerac_, Portia in _The Merchant of Venice_,
and Lady Garnet in _The Great Ruby_, but none of these brought her
any added fame. Augustin Daly died, in Paris, in June, 1899, and the
great chapter in Rehan’s life ended. Subsequently she was the star of
companies organized for her by new managers, and in 1900 she appeared
in a new play, _Sweet Nell of Old Drury_, in which she impersonated one
of her famous predecessors, Nell Gwynn.

In the spring of 1901 Miss Rehan suddenly ended her tour in this play,
and sailed to Europe, there to repair her broken health by living for
awhile at her bungalow on the coast of the Irish Sea. She had been more
or less ailing all the season, and the loss of her mother in January,
1901, added to her troubles. In 1903–04 she acted with Otis Skinner
as a “co-star” in plays from her old repertoire, _The Taming of the
Shrew_ and _The Merchant of Venice_ among them. One more season she
played, 1904–05, this time with Charles Richman as her chief support,
and then, on May 2, 1905, she appeared on the stage for the last time,
when she took part in the farewell to Modjeska at the Metropolitan
Opera House, New York. Rehan herself has never had such a testimonial,
though she deserved one as richly as the great Polish actress.
Unostentatiously she entered her profession, so she pursued it, and so
she left it, slipping out of public life so quietly that many playgoers
were half consciously expecting her reappearance years after she had
quit the stage for good. But she can have, as long as she lives, the
reward of as genuine a success as can come to any actress. And it is
also not beneath notice that she accumulated a fortune. Like Lotta
Crabtree, Ada Rehan took good care of her money. In 1891, when she had
been in Mr. Daly’s company twelve years, she was “worth something like
$300,000.” “She owns,” says a contemporary account, “a $30,000 house in
New York, possesses mortgages on adjoining property, and holds almost
enough stock in a New Jersey railroad to entitle her to the position of
director. She is not extravagant in anything except her love for dogs.”

Of dogs, and other animal pets, she was fond. She had a monkey, which
Mr. Winter, with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm, described as “an
interesting creature of its kind”; and she had, wherever she traveled,
a dog or two. “I have seen her wandering with her dog,” says Mr.
Winter “on the broad, solitary waste of the breezy beach that stretches
away, for many a sunlit mile, in front of her sequestered cottage on
the Cumberland shore of the Irish Sea. She was never so contented,
never so radiant, never so much herself, as in that beautiful
retreat.... There, encompassed by associations of natural beauty and
of historic and poetic renown, and surrounded by her books, pictures,
relics, music, and her pets, she was happy.”

Ada Rehan still lives, but, her work done, she remains out of the
public eye. She never appears in the public print. She is not yet
an old woman, and has many years to enjoy the memories of as true a
triumph as an actress can have. For by her exceptional, regally endowed
equipment and her devotion to her art, she upheld the gospel of the
actress,--poetry, beauty, life.


Though a stage career was inevitable for her, Mary Anderson did not
come of theatrical people. Her father, who died when she was four,
was of English birth and Oxford education, and as he was a personally
charming man of artistic tastes and devoted to books and the drama, it
was undoubtedly from him that she derived much of her temperamental
equipment for her work. Her mother, Marie Antoinette Leugers, was a
Philadelphian of German parentage, one of a large family rigorously
trained in the Catholic faith. Pious books, and not plays, formed
the mental food of that household, and the children were forbidden
to enter the theatre. The young Marie had been but little outside
this austere circle when she met and loved the also youthful Charles
H. Anderson, who then lived in New York. Opposition to the match was
natural, as young Anderson was not only not a Catholic but was looked
on by Marie’s parents as one of the worldly. He seems to have been a
thoroughly estimable young man, however, who was merely not of their
stamp. When the young couple were forbidden to see each other, it did
not take long for a secret correspondence to lead to an elopement.
Anderson was apparently of some means. He and his young wife, then
but eighteen, spent a leisurely year in New York and Philadelphia,
and in 1859 went by sea to California. In Sacramento, at the Eagle
Hotel, on July 28, 1859, was born their daughter. She was given almost
her mother’s name--Mary Antoinette Anderson. The young mother, it
will be remembered, was of a German family. It is perhaps not too
fanciful to think that the beauty of Mary Anderson, which was later the
treasured boon of two countries, was in part noticeably Teutonic and
traceable to her mother. But this beauty did not manifest itself at
once. The babe was red and ugly, in the manner of babes, and the still
childlike mother was a week or so in reconciling herself to her child’s
unpromising aspect. Then, however, also as usual, it was clear to her
that there never was such another baby.

[Illustration: MARY ANDERSON]

The mother’s family had never forgiven her for her marriage. When,
therefore, her husband was called to England, she took her year-old
Mary, and in 1860 moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where her uncle was
the pastor of a suburban German Catholic congregation. This Pater
Anton was a remarkable man. Born and educated in Germany, he lived
in Rome ten years, and then in Texas. Learned and eloquent, striking
in appearance, kind and simple, he was a great favorite with old and
young. He was soon to be a necessary guardian of the little Anderson
family, for Charles Anderson, who had returned from England and was
an officer in the Confederate army, died in 1863, still under thirty.
Mary was not yet four, and her little brother Joseph had been born
but a few months. It became the plan of the good Pater Anton to train
little Joseph as his medical assistant, and Mary he thought some day
might be his housekeeper, his helper with the poor, his assistant with
the choir, and his organist. How different this from the career she was
actually to have![149]

When Mary was eight her mother was married again, to Dr. Hamilton
Griffin, who had been a surgeon-major in the Confederate army. He was
to become, during Mary’s later career, her wise guide and her business

At the time of this marriage Mary was sent for the first time to
school. She was taken to the Convent of the Ursulines, near Louisville.
She was not at all a diligent student. She developed early a liking
for music, which with a little German was about all she could bring
herself to study. It is clear that, with a likable nature and a good
disposition, she was still somewhat of a problem for the good nuns who
were her teachers. At first she was utterly homesick,[150] but after
a term or so she began to like the convent. Then her serious sickness
with a fever kept her at home, but after a year’s rest she began school
again, this time at the Presentation Academy, a day school. In reading
she stood at the head of her class, but she was indifferent to her
other studies and was continually punished for not knowing her lessons.
Mary Anderson, on whom thousands were later to gaze as she stood, as
Galatea, on the statue’s pedestal, long before had practice when she
stood in the corner with a book balanced on her head, or sat on the
dunce-stool; this second punishment she positively liked for she could
“see the girls better, and the seat was so much more comfortable than
the hard benches.”

The little Mary Anderson of that day was a high-spirited girl,[151]
keenly intelligent in spite of indolence in school, who better than
study liked acting childish plays with her baby sister and brothers.
One night, when she was twelve, she heard for the first time the name
of Shakespeare and heard _Hamlet_ read. It marked the beginning of an
epoch in her life. For days she could think of nothing but _Hamlet_ and
the wonderful book which had “suddenly become like a casket filled with
jewels.” A few nights later she entered her surprised family circle
wrapped in a cloak and reciting a garbled version of one of Hamlet’s
speeches. From then on Shakespeare was her constant companion and
inspiration. About the same time she saw her first play--_Richard III_.
Impressed and delighted with this and other plays, she gradually became
a less forgetful and mischievous and a much more thoughtful little
girl. She and her brother would go to the Saturday matinées, arriving
hours before the performance for the pleasure of merely being in the
land of enchantment as long as possible.

When Mary was fourteen Edwin Booth came to Louisville. Here was a
turning point in her life. After seeing him in _Richelieu_--the first
great acting she had seen--she spent a sleepless night, her brain
teeming with her impressions of his art and with disturbing thoughts
as to her own destiny. She then and there decided on a stage career,
and resolved to study and to train herself. She kept her object a
secret, but made a bargain with her mother whereby she promised to
study diligently if allowed to do so at home, for school had become
unendurable. The mother accepted, for Mary could at least do no worse
than she had at the Academy. Now began a course of self-instruction
in Mary’s little room at the top of the house. Not only did she make
better progress than ever in the ordinary branches, but she carefully
trained her own voice, worked hard to overcome a natural awkwardness
by fencing and other exercises, and, above all in her own mind, she
memorized parts--Richard III, Richelieu, Pauline in _The Lady of
Lyons_, and the Joan of Arc of Schiller. One evening she astonished
her mother and Dr. Griffin with a scene from _The Lady of Lyons_.
Especially, was her stepfather impressed with the power which Mary
had suddenly revealed. At his solicitation an actor from the local
theatre called to hear her read. This Henry Wouds was in turn enough
impressed to speak of the young Miss Anderson to Charlotte Cushman, in
whose company he soon afterward acted. He sent word that Miss Cushman
would like to see the young aspirant and hear her read. So Mrs. Griffin
reluctantly allowed herself to be persuaded to take her daughter to
Cincinnati, where Miss Cushman was playing. The hearing took place in
the great actress’s hotel. Richelieu and Joan of Arc were the parts
selected. When the trial was over, Miss Cushman, somewhat to the
mother’s dismay, not only took Mary’s career as an actress for granted,
but thought it possible for her to begin, not as usual at the bottom
but, with a little more training, in parts of importance. She counseled
a course of lessons from George Vandenhoff, a veteran New York teacher
of stage technique.

At this point Mrs. Griffin’s thorough interest and sympathy were won.
She and Mary went to New York, and the short term of ten lessons of
an hour each was undergone, not with entire comfort for Mary, for her
teacher found it constantly necessary to repress her enthusiasm and
crude excess of vigor. The lessons were beneficial, however (they were
the only formal training in stage work Mary Anderson ever had), and she
returned to Louisville and her attic stage with unabated ambition. With
no one but her mother to guide her, Mary bent laboriously to her task,
renouncing all else. A year of this, and she began to be discouraged,
for there seemed to be no prospects of actual appearance. Then John
McCullough came to Louisville. As one of the most distinguished
actors of that day, his opinion and approval of Mary was sought by
the thoroughly enthusiastic Dr. Griffin. McCullough came reluctantly
to the Griffin home, openly skeptical as to the beginner’s claim to
attention, and determined to stay but a quarter of an hour. He stayed
for several hours, acted with Mary scenes from all the plays she knew,
called frequently thereafter to act Shakespeare with her, and ended by
introducing and recommending her to Barney Macauley, manager of the
Louisville Theatre, as an actress of great promise.

It was this manager who gave Mary her first opportunity to appear on
a real stage. Casually calling with Dr. Griffin at the theatre one
day, Mary was astonished and delighted to be asked to play Juliet at
a special performance, but two nights later. She knew the part well,
joyfully accepted, and literally ran home to tell the news to her
mother. The published announcement ran as follows:

    Saturday evening, November 27, 1875, Miss Mary Anderson, a
    young lady of this city, will make her first appearance on any
    stage as Juliet in Shakespeare’s _Romeo and Juliet_; Milnes
    Levick as Mercutio, and a powerful cast of characters.

There was but one rehearsal, on the day before; and on this occasion
Mary’s ideals suffered their first severe blow. The other actors
regarded her as an unpromising, awkward upstart, and were markedly
unhelpful and even hostile.

At this time she was sixteen; the train of her gown was the first
she had ever worn; she had never before faced a real audience from a
real stage; she had had but one imperfect rehearsal with her fellow
actors; yet she roused the house to genuine enthusiasm. This cordial
reception was partly due to the first appearance of a townswoman, and
her impersonation was certainly not without its crudities; yet the
newspaper accounts of the evening contain such comments as these: “We
are sure that last night saw the beginnings of a career which will shed
radiance on the American stage”; “Her achievement last night may be
fairly classed as remarkable”; “With but little further training and
experience she will stand among the foremost actresses.” The audience
was thrilled by her rich and powerful voice, and impressed by her
beauty and vigor.[152]

Mary Anderson’s career was thus suddenly and on the whole auspiciously
begun. It was the old story of being prepared when the opportunity
presented itself.[153] After waiting three months, during which she
learned new parts, she was offered a week at the Louisville Theatre, in
which she was to act, besides Juliet, Bianca in _Fazio_, Julia in _The
Hunchback_, Evadne in the play of that name, and Pauline in _The Lady
of Lyons_. This week was a disappointment, for the Louisville public
did not turn out in the numbers anticipated to see their young actress.
But in the week in St. Louis which soon followed she was moderately
successful. Then came two weeks in New Orleans. Miss Anderson’s
reputation had not reached so far, and the house had to be heavily
“papered” the first night to insure a respectably sized audience. The
business steadily improved, however, and by the end of the two weeks
her success was almost overwhelming,[154] coming as it did in a strange
city and on the heels of moderate fortune at home. The students of the
Military College showered her with flowers, she was made an honorary
member of the famous Washington Artillery Battalion, and as she rode
away from the city in the special car which the railroad had placed
at her disposal, Generals Beauregard and Hood and other distinguished
Southerners were at the station to bid her farewell.

But if the New Orleans engagement was little less than a triumph, her
next important venture, in San Francisco, was nothing more than a
disaster. It is an example of the heart-breaking trials that come to
the most successful actors that Mary Anderson, phenomenally fortunate
so far, failed dismally in San Francisco with both public and press.
The engagement was at John McCullough’s theatre, and it was only on the
last two nights that she made the anticipated favorable impression.
Much of this trouble originated with the indifference or worse of her
fellow actors, the members of the resident stock company. In those
days a traveling “star,” instead of taking with him on his tours his
own company, as at present, went practically alone and depended for
support on the permanent stock company in each town--a system which
did not make for artistic excellence, and which often gave occasion to
just such jealousy and hostility as helped to make Mary Anderson’s stay
in San Francisco unhappy. There was one bright spot, however. Edwin
Booth was in the city, and she met him for the first time. When she was
tempted to quit the stage disheartened, he said to her: “I have sat
through two of your performances from beginning to end--the first time
I have done such a thing in years--and I have not only been interested
but impressed and delighted. You have begun well. Continue, and you are
sure of success in the end.” The words were of immense encouragement.

There followed a tour of the South. In contrast to the venture in the
state of her birth, Miss Anderson was successful everywhere. She grew
fond of the South and made in Washington and elsewhere several of those
friendships for which her career was noteworthy. There was a quality in
Mary Anderson that attracted and held the interest and affection of the
people best worth knowing. In Grant she found a modest simplicity which
she greatly liked; in Sherman, a hearty personality and an interest in
what directly interested her--the stage. General Sherman was a good
enough friend, indeed, to consider himself entitled to correct the
growing girl’s tendency to stoop, and her illegible handwriting.

Still in her ’teens, Mary Anderson was by now firmly established
in her chosen profession. The period just past had been full of
discouragements and difficulties, as well as triumphs. Plunging as she
did, without any training to speak of, at once into the impersonation
of leading parts was an ordeal bound to result in occasional failure.
She afterwards said that she would not wish her dearest enemy to
pass through the uncertainties and despondencies of these early
years--circumstances which she left out of account on that sleepless
night after seeing Booth in _Richelieu_. She had come through the San
Francisco ordeal, which was enough to crush the spirit of a girl of
seventeen. She still suffered from want of systematic training, she
was still painfully conscious of the crudities of her own work, and
she lacked even the experience of seeing others in the rôles in which
the public compared her with tried favorites. She had seen Charlotte
Cushman as Meg Merriles, but as for Juliet, Evadne and Bianca, her own
feelings had been almost her sole resource. Like that of Fanny Kemble
and Garrick, her novitiate, had, after all, been extraordinarily brief.

There followed extensive tours which took her throughout the South and
Middle West, to Canada and finally to the goal of American actors,
the larger Eastern cities, Philadelphia, Boston, New York. In New
York she profited by the expert advice of Dion Boucicault and William
Winter, and the friendship of her elders in the profession--Lawrence
Barrett, Edwin Booth, Joseph Jefferson and Clara Morris. In Boston she
formed another of her invaluable friendships--with Longfellow. The old
poet and the young girl-artist delighted in each other’s company and
after her engagement was over, they went several times to the opera
together. Her professional success in the Eastern cities was such that
she could now feel that the ordeal was passed--that she had attained
fame. Not that she was by any means universally admired and approved;
a part of the public and some of the critics were not won over. Such,
while admitting her beauty and her promise, suspected her success. It
was, they said, too triumphant, too easy. Yet the undoubted fact was
that she had won her public. The Boston engagement was unmistakably
successful and in New York she enjoyed a “run” of six weeks.[155]

When she was nineteen Mary Anderson went abroad, not to appear
professionally, but for a vacation. In England she went the round
of conventional sight-seeing, much like any other tourist, but
in Paris she saw something of the French theatre and its actors.
Herself accustomed to the broad effects in acting, she was at first
disappointed by the restraint and _finesse_ of the French method.
Bernhardt, then in her early prime, received her cordially, saw much of
her, and even invited her to play Juliet in Paris; but Miss Anderson,
commendably conscious of her own as yet imperfect technique, declined.
Now a privileged visiting artist behind the scenes of the _Comédie
Française_, she recalled the days, not many years before, when she
and her small brother felt so privileged when allowed to sit before
the curtain of the old theatre in Louisville. Ristori, another great
actress, was friendly to Miss Anderson; but her greatest pleasure she
found in the treasures of the Louvre.

She returned to America refreshed in spirit and broadened in outlook.
She was now in her twentieth year. One of the recognized stars of the
day, her name and her acting became increasingly familiar.[156] There
came invitations from various English managers to appear in London, but
Miss Anderson did not yet feel ready to face such a test of her powers.
She contented herself with starring tours which took her here and there
in the United States and Canada. The artistic success of these years
was a varying quantity. As we shall see, she never succeeded, in some
eyes, in attaining great heights. For herself, she felt that her work
had accomplished some good, that her dream of early girlhood was to a
degree fulfilled. One great satisfaction was that she was often assured
in letters from young men and women that her Ion or Evadne or Parthenia
had helped them over crises of despondency and temptation. It speaks
well for her nobility of nature that in such tributes she found her
most gratifying applause. She had no reason to be dissatisfied with her
measure of success. Yet stage life had already begun in some ways to be
distasteful to her. She disliked the constant travel; she sadly missed
the home comforts at the command of the humblest in her audiences; the
lack of ideals in those with whom she had to work was often a keen
disappointment; and above all she was acquiring a keen distaste for the
extreme publicity of stage life--the necessity of constantly submitting
herself to the public gaze. She began to long for the quiet of domestic
life, but the die was cast; it was too late to alter the tenor of her
life, and she bent all her energies toward success in a new opportunity
that presented itself.

This was an invitation that came when she was twenty-four, to act in
London, at Henry Irving’s own theatre, the Lyceum. Henry E. Abbey had
taken the house for eight months and relied upon Miss Anderson to keep
it open all that time--a formidable task for an American actress new
to London. She was extremely apprehensive as to the outcome. Arriving
in England in the summer of 1883, she passed some time quietly in the
country before going up to London. Rural England charmed and rested
her. At Stratford she studied her Shakespeare in Shakespeare’s own
house, and spent many happy hours in the scenes familiar to the poet
so long her idol. She arrived in London three months before the date
of her first appearance. She faced the greatest trial of her career
with a foreboding that was not decreased by seeing the great acting of
Irving and Terry. When she chose _Ingomar_ for the opening bill, she
heard predictions of failure on every hand--the play had not been seen
in London for years and was called old-fashioned and stilted. But Miss
Anderson had wisely followed the sound advice of William Winter in
choosing Parthenia for her first London part, as she thereby avoided
awkward and possibly unfriendly comparison with English favorites.

When the opening night came the thought that almost on the scene of
the triumphs of Siddons, Garrick and Kean she was to venture before a
strange audience, filled her with dread. She found in her dressing-room
flowers from actor friends and telegrams from Booth, McCullough,
Lawrence Barrett, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and other cordial
well-wishers. When she made her first entrance she was greeted with the
longest and heartiest burst of applause that she had ever received.
The first scenes past, and her apprehension and despondency somewhat
allayed by such encouraging cordiality, her feelings made it difficult
for her to speak loudly. A kindly voice from the pit called out, “Mary,
please speak up a bit!” Her nervousness then fled, and by the time the
play was over it was plain that Mary Anderson had scored a brilliant
success. Her youth and beauty, her admirable vigor, and her eight years
of patient, hard-working acquirement of her art, had their reward. The
Lyceum was crowded nightly, and Mr. Abbey, who was prepared to close
the theatre in case the venture was a failure, kept it open for eight
months. There were a few weeks of _Ingomar_ and _The Lady of Lyons_
and then for the remaining time _Pygmalion and Galatea_. On one of the
first nights the Prince and Princess of Wales asked to be presented to
the actress.

During the first months of her stay in London she made her home--with
her mother and stepfather, who were with her constantly--in Maida
Vale, a secluded spot where she was free from intrusion and noise.
She made many quick expeditions to scenes made famous by Dickens, and
went again to Stratford. After a while, however, she moved to a larger
house in Kensington, and here London society, at its best, began to
find her out. As in America, the choicest spirits seemed naturally to
gravitate toward her. To her informal Sunday afternoon receptions came
artists, literary men, and statesmen. The “little bent figure with
its great kind heart” of the novelist Wilkie Collins became familiar;
Alma-Tadema, the artist, was another; W. S. Gilbert of Gilbert and
Sullivan, and author of _Pygmalion and Galatea_, naturally took a
personal interest in that play, and wrote for Miss Anderson a new
“curtain-raiser” for it, _Comedy and Tragedy_. Browning she frequently
met and he seemed to her more like one of the old-school Southern
gentlemen than a mystic poet. Either during this first season or the
next she numbered among her friends Mrs. Humphrey Ward, James Russell
Lowell, then American ambassador, Edmund Gosse, Lord Lytton, the artist
Watts, Gladstone, the novelist William Black, Cardinal Newman, and
Tennyson. She enjoyed to the full the art galleries of London, the
opportunities to hear the best music, and all the various activities
and interests which make London the capital of the English-speaking

Mary Anderson’s success in London was duplicated when she appeared
elsewhere in the British Isles. She was enthusiastically received in
Edinburgh and in Manchester. In Dublin, the good-natured crowd every
night took the horses from her carriage and dragged it through the
streets, while those running alongside shouted “Hurrah for America!”
and “God bless our Mary!” It was in Dublin, too, that the ingenious
“gallery gods” sent baskets of flowers down to the stage over a rope.

_Romeo and Juliet_ was the play determined upon for the next season in
London. A trip to Verona in quest of local data and sketches was to
occupy the summer. “What!” exclaimed James Russell Lowell when he heard
of this, “going into that glorious country for the first time, and in
the flush of youth! I am selfish enough to envy you.” While visiting
in Paris Miss Anderson had a charming interview with Victor Hugo, who
proposed a reception in her honor. But she pressed on to Verona, and,
like many another before and since, found the old city irresistible.

The Mary Anderson production of _Romeo and Juliet_ at the Lyceum in
1884 was lavish. So much of her time indeed was taken by the details
of the preparation of scenery and other accessories that she had
scant opportunity for re-studying her own part. But her excellent
memory helped her immensely. Once, after _Ion_ had been dropped from
her repertoire for three or four years, she rehearsed her entire long
part without in the meantime reading it, and with hardly a mistake.
The circumstances of the dress rehearsal of this production of _Romeo
and Juliet_ show how far the stagecraft of the day had departed from
the Elizabethan custom. The scenes were so many and so elaborate that
though the rehearsal began at seven in the evening, at five in the
morning Romeo, Juliet and Friar Laurence were still waiting for the
last act to be set. At eight in the evening the public would be there.
Discouraged and weary, Miss Anderson could not sleep; when she came
to the theatre to face the “first nighters,” she was tired in mind
and body and unfit for her work. The strain of that performance was
nerve-racking. Yet the audience was unaware that Juliet had all she
could do to get through her lines, and the cumbersome scenery was
set with amazing rapidity. The play was over at half after eleven, a
great success; yet to the actress herself her work that night was more
painfully unsatisfactory than any other she ever did. But she was hard
to please where her own impersonations were concerned. In her fourteen
years before the public, she was satisfied with her acting only once as
Bianca, once as Ion, never as Perdita and only once as Hermione. _Romeo
and Juliet_ ran, however, for a hundred nights. Mary Anderson became
so imbued with the sufferings of Juliet that she continually spoke of
them in her sleep. It is typical of her that, profoundly dissatisfied
with her impersonation, she constantly restudied and remodeled it until
she liked it better. The brother Joe, who used to gaze with Mary on
the green curtain of the Louisville Theatre, was the Tybalt of this

At this time (1885) it was proposed that Mary Anderson play _As You
Like It_ in the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford, and she
gladly accepted. She had never played Rosalind, and she studied the
character carefully. The occasion aroused great interest, and the
usually placid village was a gay place. The journalists were there
from London, people came from far and near for the play, the stage was
decorated with flowers from Shakespeare’s own garden. The audience was
distinguished and appreciative. The dean of American critics, William
Winter, was present, and, in his words, “It was for her [Miss Anderson]
that the audience reserved its enthusiasm, and this, when at length she
appeared as Rosalind, burst forth in vociferous plaudits and cheers, so
that it was long before the familiar voice, so copious, resonant, and
tender, rolled out its music upon the eager throng and her action could
proceed. Before the night ended she was continually cheered.” After
a provincial tour ending in Dublin, where her admirers gathered in
thousands under her window and sang _Come Back to Erin_, Miss Anderson
in September, 1885, returned to her own country after an absence of two

The accounts that preceded her of the remarkable scene that took
place in the Lyceum on her last night in London added interest to her
reappearance in America. One who was present that night wrote: “During
the evening it was manifest from the fervor of the applause with which
she was favored during the performance of _Pygmalion and Galatea_ and
_Comedy and Tragedy_ that the audience was exceptionally sympathetic,
but no idea of the scenes which followed the descent of the curtain
even entered the wildest dreams of any one present. The audience had
been all the evening quivering with emotion. As the curtain fell Miss
Anderson was loudly called for, and after the storm of applause which
greeted her presence had subsided to some extent, the lady, who was
transfigured with the excitement of the moment, said: ‘Ladies and
gentlemen--the dreaded last night has come--dreaded at least by me.
I have to part with you who have been so kind to me. The delight I
naturally feel at the prospect of returning to my native country is
tempered with a great regret, saddened by the thought that I must leave
you. I little imagined when I came before you for the first time, a
stranger feeling very helpless, tremblingly wondering what your verdict
on my poor efforts would be, how soon I should find friends among
you or what pain it would cost me to say, as I must say to-night,
“good-bye” to you. You have been very, very good. I have tried hard
to deserve your goodness. Please do not quite forget me. I can never
forget you or your goodness to me. I hope I am not saying good-bye to
you forever. I want to come back to you. [Tumultuous applause and cries
of ‘Do! Do!’ ‘Why leave at all?’] Dare I hope you will be a little glad
to see me. [Loud cries ‘We will!’ ‘Yes!’ etc.] I shall be very glad
to see you. [Immense cheers.] Until I do, good-bye. I thank you again
and again.’ At the conclusion of the speech the cheering and applause
continued without interruption until Miss Anderson--down whose cheeks
tears were pouring--had again come eight times before the curtain.
The audience, which by this time was on its feet in every part of the
house, and wildly waving handkerchiefs and hats, seemed struck by one
thought, and the first strain of _Auld Lang Syne_ seemed to burst
simultaneously from stalls and gallery. People who had never met before
seized and wrung each other’s hands. Ladies wept and flourished their
handkerchiefs hysterically. It is impossible to describe the scene.
When I tell you that it lasted for fully half an hour, you will get an
idea of what the Englishman, whom you Yankees call phlegmatic, can do
in the way of enthusiasm when you touch his heart. It was an ovation
which might have affected a monarch.”

The American tour that followed, in the season of 1885–6, took Miss
Anderson and her company (the custom by now was that of the traveling
organization) not only to New York, Boston, and the other cities in
the East and South, but to the Pacific coast. New York did not take to
_As You Like It_, but _Romeo and Juliet_ was a brilliant success. A
public reception in Sacramento proved the affection for Mary Anderson
of the city of her birth, but, strange to say, in the single night
she played there, the people of Sacramento provided her with only a
meagre audience. In San Francisco the warmth of her reception was very
different from the crushing disappointment she experienced there a
dozen years before.

Now came an entire year of rest. Offers to play in Spain, Germany,
France and Australia were refused. The glamour of stage life was
a thing of the past with Mary Anderson. By no means blind to the
artistic possibilities of the drama, and with still a high faith in
its moral function, a stage life for herself was becoming more and
more repugnant. She felt the need of calm, of normal life away from
the glare of the footlights. The winter of 1886–7 she spent in Paris,
in general study and particularly with her French and music. It is
characteristic of her that with a chance for recreation and social
life, and with all her triumphs behind her, she still sought to mend an
education she knew to be faulty.

The Lyceum in London was engaged for the following year (1887–8).
After casting about for some time for a suitable new play,[157] she
again fell back on Shakespeare and decided to give _The Winter’s Tale_,
“doubling” Perdita and Hermione--that is, playing both parts. It was
not an easy task. To Tennyson she mentioned her fear that the critics
would not receive the venture well. His reply was: “Thank God the time
is past for the _Quarterly_ or the _Times_ to make or mar a poem, play
or artist! Few original things are well received at first. People
must grow accustomed to what is out of the common before adopting
it. Your idea, if carried out as you feel it, will be well received
generally--and before long.”

_The Winter’s Tale_ was not enthusiastically received on its first
night. But if it was not at once a critical success, it was a popular
one, for it ran a hundred and sixty-four nights and could have
continued longer. This was the only time that Mary Anderson acted the
same play throughout a season. It is worth mentioning that the Leontes
of this production was J. Forbes-Robertson.[158]

It was during this London engagement that Miss Anderson saw much of
Tennyson. She visited him in his Surrey home, and on the Isle of Wight;
she joined him in long walks, rain or shine, in the country; he read
and talked to her for hours together at his own fireside. He prepared
for her a play _The Foresters_, a version of his pastoral _Robin
Hood_, and they visited the New Forest together in search of ideas for
scenery; but the play she never produced.

Mary Anderson was to have but one more season, or rather part of
a season, before retiring from the stage forever. She has become
the classic example of the actor retiring in the midst of a highly
successful career. She has herself[159] indicated the chief reason
for her choice: “After so much kindness from the public, it seems
ungrateful to confess that the _practice_ of my art (not the study of
it) had grown, as time went on, more and more distasteful to me. To
quote Fanny Kemble on the same subject: ‘Never’ (in my case for the
last three years of my public life) ‘have I presented myself before
an audience without a feeling of reluctance, or withdrawn from their
presence without thinking the excitement I had undergone unwholesome,
and the personal exhibition odious.’ To be conscious that one’s person
was a target for any one who paid to make it one; to live for months
at a time in one groove, with uncongenial surroundings, and in an
atmosphere seldom penetrated by the sun and air; and to be continually
repeating the same passions and thoughts in the same words--that was
the most part of my daily life, and became so like slavery to me that I
resolved after one more season’s work to cut myself free from the stage
fetters forever.”

There is much in this passage to give pause to the girl who longs for
a stage career, for the youthfully ambitious seldom see such a career
in its true perspective. Mary Anderson, one in ten thousand in her
equipment as an actress, one in a million in the triumphs she won, yet
was eager to give it all up. On the audience’s side of the footlights
the stage is (and rightfully so) a place of beauty, of inspiration,
of revelation of the truth. To the actor or actress it is more often
than not a place of stern toil, of uncertainty, of disappointment and

The provincial tour following the London engagement ended at Dublin,
where the public was as wildly enthusiastic as before. Some of the last
night audience even went so far as to follow in the same train to
Queenstown, awakening her at each stop with cheers and greetings.

There followed the final tour in the United States. At Louisville
she visited the scenes of her youth and received the congratulatory
resolutions of the state senate. She had begun the season with as much
zest as she could command, but the strain was beginning to tell on her
health. At Cincinnati she acted with difficulty, but completed the
engagement. At Washington, in the middle of inauguration week, in 1889,
the crisis was reached. “The first scenes of _The Winter’s Tale_ went
very smoothly. The theatre was crowded. Perdita danced apparently as
gayly as ever, but after the exertion fell fainting from exhaustion and
was carried off the stage. I was taken into the dressing-room, which
in a few moments was filled with people from the boxes. Recovering
consciousness quickly, I begged them to clear the room. Realizing
then that I would probably not be able to act any more that season,
though there were many weeks yet unfinished, I resolved at any cost to
complete that night’s work. Hurriedly putting on some color, I passed
the groups of people discussing the incident, and before the doctor or
my brother were aware of my purpose, ordered the curtain to be rung
up and walked quickly upon the stage. As I did so I heard a loud hum,
which I was afterwards told was a great burst of applause from the
audience. The pastoral scene came to an end. There was only one more
act to go through. Donning the statue-like draperies of Hermione, I
mounted the pedestal. My physician, formerly an officer in the army,
said that he had never, even in the midst of a battle, felt so nervous
as when he saw the figure of Hermione swaying on her pedestal up that
long flight of stairs. Every moment there was an hour of torture to
me, for I felt myself growing fainter and fainter. All my remaining
strength was put into that last effort. I descended from the pedestal,
and was able to speak all but the final line. This remained unuttered,
and the curtain rang down on my last appearance on the stage.”[160]

A little over a year after this unexpected close to her brilliant
public career Mary Anderson became Mrs. Antonio F. de Navarro. Her
husband was a native of New York, of Spanish extraction, and like
herself, of Catholic faith. They were married on June 17, 1890, at the
Catholic church at Hampstead, London. During the last half dozen years
of her stage career Mary Anderson had become almost an Englishwoman
by adoption. Her new home was made in the little village of Broadway,
Worcestershire, and there she has always since lived, enjoying the
peaceful life and the domestic happiness for which she longed and which
she so richly deserved. She has two children, a son and a daughter.
There have not been lacking attempts to tempt her again behind the
footlights. Enormous sums have been offered without the least effect.
For charity she has read or sung once or twice in modest programs, but
that is all. The people of Broadway fairly worship her for the gracious
and kindly lady she is. Since her marriage she has made a few visits to
America, and the American public of the theatre was recently reminded
of the former light of its stage when she assisted Robert Hichens in
the dramatization of _The Garden of Allah_. But Mary Anderson, though
she is now well under sixty, for a quarter of a century has been to
most of us only an illustrious name of the past, and to our elders a
tenderly treasured memory.

The estimate of Mary Anderson with which she has usually been
dismissed by the casually critical is that she was not a great actress,
but an unusually handsome, charming and talented woman who is memorable
chiefly as a demonstration that the stage can be the working place of a
wholesome, womanly woman.

As to whether she was a great actress there was and is a wide
difference of opinion. To her more partial admirers she was the
“authentic queen of the American stage,” who in each of her parts
“gave an individual and potential impersonation.”[161] “Such moments
in her acting,” wrote William Winter, who has always been her friend
and admirer, “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, are the eloquent, the absolute, the final denotements of genius.”

A great deal of contemporary criticism was decidedly less enthusiastic
than this. While thoroughly believing in Miss Anderson’s devotion to
her profession and her conviction of its dignity, many good judges saw
in her a woman of talent only, not a genius. The art of the theatre was
to her a matter of the highest ideals, deserving the service of the
best and noblest in the natures of its followers. Yet as an actress
practicing this art she seemed to many incapable of placing her work
on any but a personal basis. Insight into character, it was said, was
impossible to her--her Galatea, Parthenia, Pauline, Rosalind and the
rest were but herself in different guises. A striking instance of her
lack of dramatic insight was her inability to adapt herself to W. S.
Gilbert’s conception of his own _Galatea_. He wished her to suggest
the comic or satiric value of some of her speeches, but she was unable
to bring about the necessary subordination of her own personality. The
heroic and obviously tragic were her forte. A thoroughly good woman
herself, she was rigidly confined by the limits of her temperament, as
well as by her views of what the stage should show, to the delineation
of good women. She was probably quite incapable of expressing a purely
animal nature. “Her acting is polished, and in correct taste,” said the
_Morning Post_ of London, “what it wants is freshness, spontaneity,
_abandon_. Of the _feu sacre_ which irradiated Rachel and gives to
Bernhardt splendor ineffable, Miss Anderson has not a spark. She is not
inspired. Hers is a pure, bright, steady light; but it lacks any mystic
effulgence. She is beautiful, winsome, gifted, and accomplished. To say
this is to say much, and it fills to the brim the measure of legitimate
praise. She is an eminently good, but not a great artist.”

The word “beautiful” is sure to turn up in any criticism of Mary
Anderson. Never was the word used with more justification. She was “a
classic figure gotten by mistake into an unclassic epoch.” She was
of innate dignity, tall and statuesque, “of imperial figure,” fair
haired, blue-eyed. Her features were finely chiseled and regular and
at once suggested the Greek ideal. Her voice, rich, tender, and with
wonderfully full bodied and expressive lower tones, was one of her
chief charms. Many men today have those tones still echoing in their

But the spell of her beauty was that it seemed more than skin-deep. It
was the expression of a noble temperament, the beauty of a woman of
high feeling and sensitiveness, and yet of dignity. It was an essential
part of her appeal, though this was not an appeal to the eye alone.
It was the beauty of the actress, who could be sincerely concerned
first of all with the ideals of her art, of the woman who could say:
“The highest praise I receive is the knowledge that someone has gone
from the audience with an increased light as to the development of
character, a higher sense of moral responsibility, a better spiritual
condition for having seen the play.”

Whether or not this beautiful woman was a great actress, she was
“our Mary” to countless thousands, and such a title is not earned by
commonplaceness and dignity, however beautiful. About Mary Anderson
there hangs somehow a sense of enchantment, of the realization of an
ideal of loveliness, joy and purity. And whether or not she was a
genius, there is something heroic in the amplitude of her career. She
began as a poor girl, living in an obscure place, without connection
with the theatre. By her noble aspirations, her zeal and patience in
their pursuit, and her modesty and worth in their fulfillment, she
succeeded gloriously.

    In the autumn of 1915, in a performance for the benefit of
    one of the British war-charities, Mary Anderson acted the
    sleep-walking scene from _Macbeth_ and the balcony scene from
    _Romeo and Juliet_.


One afternoon a decade ago Minnie Maddern Fiske journeyed out
from Boston to the neighboring university city, went to Sanders
Theatre, scene of Harvard’s august ceremonies, and there she
talked--engrossingly--on her art. The occasion was in a way memorable.
In times not remotely past the possibility of an actress lecturing in
Sanders would have been doubtful.[162] But in 1905 Harvard was well
along in its career as one of the springs of the renaissance which
has of late years manifested itself in the English-speaking theatre.
If one said “Professor Baker’s work was beginning to make itself
felt” it would be saying the same thing in a different way. In many
respects the occasion was unusual The audience was interesting: the
professors were there to add dignity and academic distinction; the
students, of Harvard and Radcliffe, were there in force to represent
the newer spirit of inquiry and effort in matters dramatic; the stage
was represented in the audience as well as on the platform (and, oddly,
Francis Wilson, Edward H. Sothern and the speaker cover nearly the
whole dramatic range). There was an enthusiastic expectancy in the air.
One felt that here was the manifestation of something genuine and
strong. The speaker did not disappoint. Poised and confident, eager and
enthusiastic, she spoke for more than an hour and one felt at the end
that this small woman had signalized a new spirit in the theatre and in
the attitude of educated men toward the drama and its exponents.

[Illustration: MRS. FISKE]

She had started life as a baby actress and her formal schooling was
snatched here and there in the midst of an ever busy career. Most men
(and women) can exhaust the resources of academic training with a total
result less brilliant, however, than her hour on the stage of Sanders.
But it was only one form of a recognition which is freely accorded. It
is quite safe to say that since the death of Mansfield she has been the
most noteworthy American person of the theatre. She has consistently
championed drama of a high order, which is something superior to
theatrical art of a high order. So much would be true if she remained
the producer only. Mrs. Fiske, the actress, has placed herself among
the chosen few. She, as much as any other, brought to bear on the
American theatre what it sorely needed, a keen intellect attuned to the
new spirit of naturalism. She was born in a lucky day for this purpose,
for, as we shall see, she came to maturity at just about the time when
the rebirth in the English drama was making itself evident.

The stage always attracts to itself numbers of people who no doubt
sincerely fancy themselves drawn thither irresistibly. The theatre’s
lure is strong, yet most of its followers have entered upon a stage
career more or less as a matter of choice. With a small number,
however, the life has been inevitable. There has been no choice, no
attraction or glamour even. Such is Mrs. Fiske; she is indigenously of
the theatre.

Early in the last century an English girl of good family eloped with
her music teacher. Here, perhaps, began Minnie Maddern’s artistic
career, for this girl was her grandmother. After a while this music
master brought his family to America, where he conducted concert tours.
One daughter, Lizzie Maddern, the mother of Mrs. Fiske, not only was
the youthful cornetist of the company, but she arranged the music for
the orchestra and, indeed, became a musician of genuine ability, and,
later, an acceptable actress. She married Thomas Davey, a pioneer
theatrical manager who carried his company up and down through the
South and West in the days before personal management gave way to
the highly impersonal direction of the Broadway offices. Davey was
noted for his invasion of small unheard-of towns, where often the inn
dining-room served as a theatre and scenery was of the scantiest. The
actor’s life has its uncertainties and hardships in any age or country,
but in Western America of the middle of the nineteenth century the
conditions were often those known by the strolling players of old.
As we shall see, Mrs. Fiske long afterward, and for quite different
reasons, reverted for a time to the old practice of playing on
extemporized stages.

On December 19, 1865, Marie Augusta Davey was born in New Orleans.
From the first of her stage career, which began almost immediately,
she was known as Minnie Maddern. There is a pretty story of her first,
quite informal stage appearance. A careless nurse had left the baby
unguarded. She climbed from her bed, donned her clothes and went out
in search of the theatre and her mother. “I forgot to cry, I forgot to
be frightened, and I saw some fascinating things before a good-natured
fellow picked me up, discovered my identity and took me safely to the
theatre. I recall distinctly being held by my new friend and identified
at the box-office; then being passed over to a boy who took me around
to a narrow, dark door and carried me into a lumbery place and put me
in a chair where I looked out into what seemed a bright, sunshiny world
with queer trees and fairies. Just then I spied my mother. She was
dressed like a fairy, and she was just coming out of a water lily--for
it was the transformation scene of a spectacle. I slipped right out of
that chair, and, before any one saw what I was going to do, I ran right
to her and began explaining my nurse’s treachery. I am told that I was
received with applause, and that my first appearance, even though it
was impromptu, was a success.”

Previously, she had been “taken on” when the action required the
presence of a baby, and soon afterwards little Minnie appeared between
the farce and the tragedy to do her songs and dances. At three came
her first premeditated speaking appearance,[163] as the Duke of York
in _Richard III_, and from that day to this, excepting brief periods
in school[164] and a few years at the time of her marriage to Harrison
Grey Fiske, in 1890, she has been continuously and busily engaged in
her profession.

Her career divides sharply into two periods. To the first of these,
the twenty-five years that carried her to the time of her marriage,
she is now disposed to be rather indifferent. When she refers at all
to that time, which is not often, she speaks of the “prehistoric
days.”[165] It was, nevertheless, a period of thorough schooling,
arduous, but fruitful of technical excellence, and bringing early
triumphs--a babyhood and girlhood apprenticeship which is today, for
various reasons (one of them being laws in some states restricting
the appearance of children on the stage) practically inaccessible. To
indicate briefly her early experience it is enough to say that before
she was sixteen Minnie Maddern had appeared not only with her father’s
company, but with a dozen or more of the stars of the day, Laura Keene,
J. K. Emmet, Lucille Western, John McCullough, Joseph Jefferson, E. L.
Davenport, and the rest of that almost forgotten day. She went through
the whole range of juvenile parts,[166] soubrettes, harassed young
heroines, boys, fairies, the lads of Shakespeare’s plays, and so on
through the list, playing wherever the need of a clever child actress
called her. She wore long dresses on the stage long before she assumed
them in her own person, and by the time she was sixteen she was
conspicuously successful in old woman rôles![167] At sixteen, too, she
became a star in New York, though this venture was ill-advised. She had
won a public by her cleverness and her marked personality, but, much
to her credit, she was not adapted to the crude and blatantly personal
form of entertainment represented by _Fogg’s Ferry_, which was one of
the “protean shows” of those days. She was to wait, indeed, many years
more for the beginning of her identification with really significant
drama. During this young womanhood, from sixteen to twenty-odd, she
acted in plays which are never resurrected nowadays by even the most
undiscriminating stock company, and which are remembered, if at all,
by some old theatregoer who likes to recollect how appealingly, in
_Caprice_, Minnie Maddern used to sing “In the Gloaming.” _The Storm
Child_, _In Spite of All_, _The Child Wife_, _The Puritan Maid_, _Lady
Jemima_, _Featherbrain_--these are not so much as names nowadays,
even to those who know the theatre well. She had gained thorough,
indispensable training, but as yet no memorable achievement.[168]

In 1890 came her marriage and three years of retirement.[169] It
is, for many reasons, not strange that when she again took up her
stage career a new era seemed to begin for her. Not only must her own
nature, her insight, and her artistic equipment now have combined to
qualify her for new and greater efforts; the whole English speaking
theatre was gaining a new lease of life. Arthur Wing Pinero, just
emerging into his period of sureness of technique and a frank facing
of life; Henry Arthur Jones, dropping his earlier melodramatic manner
and about to produce _Michael and His Lost Angel_; Oscar Wilde, with
his momentary flash of high comedy; George Bernard Shaw, watchful of
the experimentation of others and in addition well saturated with
Ibsen; above all, the great Norwegian himself, whose influence knew
no difference of language;--these men were, in the early nineties,
bringing into English drama a vigor and a relation to life such as it
had not enjoyed since the closing of the theatres in 1642.

Mrs. Fiske was keenly, if to a certain degree unconsciously, alive to
these influences. To one attuned they were the _zeitgeist_. With an
eagerness new to the American theatre she was ambitious to attempt
the modern drama--a drama honest and frank in its outlook on life,
free from conventional restraint in its choice of themes, and taking
its tone from the realities in human character. Not always have the
qualities of the play been a match for the powers of the actress.
Yet, looking over the period since 1893,[170] the list is distinctly
noteworthy--first of all, Ibsen, who found in Mrs. Fiske a ready
champion. _A Doll’s House_, _Hedda Gabler_, _Rosmersholm_, _The Pillars
of Society_; surely they form a goodly showing. As for other Europeans,
we have Sardou furnishing her, in _Divorçons_, an opportunity,
brilliantly embraced, for comedy; Dumas _fils_ is represented by _La
Femme de Claude_, Sudermann by _Magda_, and Hauptmann by the short play
_Hannele_. Two of her greatest successes, _Tess of the D’Urbervilles_
and _Becky Sharp_ were unusually skillful and satisfying experiments
in that difficult form, the dramatized novel. _Leah Kleschna_ was
worth while as an attempt to raise melodrama into the field of social
drama; _The New York Idea_ is, so far, the best American example of
sophisticated, ironic comedy; and in very recent days Edward Sheldon’s
plays, _Salvation Nell_ and _The High Road_, have been courageous and
justified experiments--the most striking examples we have had of the
encouragement of the native dramatist of the newer school.

The capacity to key oneself to the inner meaning of a play, to react
on the genius of the author with sympathy and insight, sets apart the
artist from the crowd of mechanical players. For different actors there
are naturally different forms of this power. For Mrs. Fiske, it can be
said that her genius displays itself in the naturalism that reveals at
once the realities and the beauties of human nature. Let us see how the
group of representative plays named above has represented this power.

It can fairly be said that the distinguishing mark of this group
of plays has been its close relation to actual human life. This is
of course the distinguishing work of the most characteristic and
significant of modern English drama as a whole; but there is much more
of this sort of drama now than there was eighteen or twenty years
ago, and there has been, until very recently, more of this leaven of
truth to nature in the British theatre than in the American. Consider
for a moment the character of the average play upon which the public
in the United States spent during this period (and rightly enough
still spends) millions of dollars and hours. To name a few undoubted
successes: _When Knightwood was in Flower_, _The Heart of Maryland_,
_Lovers’ Lane_, _The Christian_, _Way Down East_, _Secret Service_,
_The Music Master_, _The Man from Home_, _Zaza_, _Charley’s Aunt_, _The
Prisoner of Zenda_, _Sherlock Holmes_, _The Chorus Lady_, _Rebecca of
Sunnybrook Farm_, _The Woman_, _Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford_. Without
denying the necessity of the theatre of mere amusement, of light
sentiment, of melodrama, one feels grateful for an ambition that has
sought and found something deeper.

To examine Mrs. Fiske’s plays more in detail will indicate both
the temper of the modern realistic school and the quality of her

As for Ibsen, there has been warm dispute as to the validity and
helpfulness of his message. Many go to the extreme of saying that
he should never be performed at all. With this question we are now
concerned only so far as to determine his attitude toward life and the
drama for there is no question as to his strength in determining the
tone and technique of later-day dramatists. As Mrs. Fiske herself has
said, “the most interesting, the most valuable plays written by others
are almost without exception pieces which display the influence of the
Norseman’s work. It would be an impertinence to say that Sudermann,
Fulda, Pinero, d’Annunzio and the Spanish playwright Echegaray do not
write interesting plays. They do, but after all their works are merely
those of devoted disciples--not those of the master.” To follow her in
her Ibsen creed (and she has the best critical thought with her) is to
believe him responsible for our search of truth in the theatre, for the
truth to nature that has brought a toning down of violent action and
heightened the desire, as Maeterlinck says, “to penetrate deeper and
deeper into human consciousness and place moral problems upon a high
pedestal. Bloodshed has grown less frequent, passions less turbulent;
heroism has become less unbending, courage less material and less
ferocious.” Ibsen appeals to the actor’s imagination, to all he has of
brain and soul. In these plays also the sensitive, discerning auditor
finds, not the sordid pessimism with which Ibsen has been so often
charged, but a burning zeal for rockbottom truth and sincerity and, in
some cases, the exaltation of tragedy. It is to be admitted that in his
reaction against the drama of futile romanticism, the “story book play”
of no character or consequence, Ibsen drew what were, in contrast, grim

By her unmistakable vocation for the realistic drama, her intellectual
acumen, her power and habit of thinking out her parts, both in their
larger significance and in their revealing details, Mrs. Fiske
was obviously fitted for Ibsen. The restlessness of his women,
their curiosity, their keen concentration, found a response in her
temperament as her blonde and nervous person pictured their physical
aspect. Histrionic methods moreover adapted themselves to both mood
and matter. It is interesting to inquire in a little detail what these
methods were and are, for, with modifications, they characterize all
her work.

The keynote of Mrs. Fiske’s acting is akin to that of naturalistic
drama itself, as the dramatist himself understands it. He must portray
humanity as it is, with the selection and stress necessary for
effectiveness in the theatre. His heroines must be embodied through
similar methods. Such impersonation Mrs. Fiske accomplishes with the
utmost economy of gesture, action and voice. There is no staginess,
none of the aggressive grace of the actress playing a part; she is
rather the woman living it. There is obvious none of the routine
technique which actors frequently learn of each other, or in schools.
This is not to say that her style is not an outgrowth of an earlier
technique of a period when no doubt she was sufficiently “stagey” and
conventional. In the later period she has refined, out of this earlier
experience and her own insight, a method remarkable for its suggestion,
its repression, its freedom from familiar device. To the end of
theatric effect and illusion she, like all artists, has well defined,
recognizable means--some, like her wide-ranged, emotion-charged voice,
natural gifts; others more or less deliberate. How deliberate, it would
be hard to say, so closely knit in good acting are calculation and
instinctive action. Her power of imparting the details of impersonation
is notable. Gesture, walk, pose, facial play, intonation, pause, all
are worked out with precision and yet with a reticent naturalness
that makes strongly for effectiveness. Particularly convincing is her
power of pregnant silence. In Hedda Gabler, “Mrs. Fiske’s power of
ominously significant silence, of play of feature that reveals the
working brain behind, rises very high in the final scene with Brack.
He knows her share in Lovborg’s ruin; he can bring his knowledge into
play in the sordid theatre of the police court. The price of silence is
the submission that Hedda, with all her curiosity and zest for evil,
is too coldly cowardly to pay. All her tragedy has curdled mean. Her
only refuge is the meaner and cowardly escape of suicide. She does not
speak, yet one sees the idea germinate, mount and possess her, until it
flowers into reckless action.”[171]

In the first act of _Salvation Nell_ “Mrs. Fiske, as the scrub woman
in the barroom, sat holding her drunken lover’s head in her lap for
fully ten minutes without a word, almost without a motion. Gradually
one could watch nothing else; one became absorbed in the silent pathos
of that dumb, sitting figure. Miss Mary Garden, herself a distinguished
actress, said of this, ‘Ah, to be able to do nothing like that.’ In
_Pillars of Society_, while the Consul was making his confession to
the mob, again Mrs. Fiske, as Lona, sat quiet, one of the crowd; but
gradually, as she saw the man she loved throwing off his yoke of
hypocrisy, the light of a great joy radiated from her face, ending
in a stifled cry, half-sob, half-laugh of triumph, of indescribable
poignancy. To one beholder, at least, it brought the rush of tears,
and made the emotional as well as the intellectual drift of the play
completely clear, completely fused and compelling. Is not this acting
of a very high order, this so intense living in the whole life of the
drama that her quietest moment is charged with tingling significance?
Is this not true ‘impersonation,’ indeed?”[172]

Akin to this power of eloquent silence is Mrs. Fiske’s use of
“felicitous pause.” In the middle of a sentence, sometimes in the
middle of a word, will come a momentary halt such as anyone in real
life is constantly making. The effect is strikingly realistic; the
wonder is that many others have not discovered and profited by its
simplicity and naturalness. And then, coupled with her many sided
faculty of repression, is a power of sudden, telling, emotional speech.
Piercing a mood of charged silence, a sentence spoken in Mrs. Fiske’s
eloquent voice is often of electrical effect.

By such methods, she made Hedda, “an abnormally evil and soulless
woman, steadily plausible, momentarily potent, always conceivably
human.” In the words of the same critic[173] she gave to Nora, in _A
Doll’s House_ “the very semblance of life. When these traits (disdain
of convention, curiosity, self-concentration) become abnormal and pass
over into morbid chagrin and recklessness, sordid selfishness, vicious
vindictiveness, hard soullessness and mean cowardice, Mrs. Fiske’s
intellect and her temperament follow them.”

Mrs. Fiske’s Rebecca West in _Rosmersholm_ excited differences of
opinion. To some any Ibsen play is a brilliant study of certain phases
of life, to others only a depressing study in degeneracy. It is natural
that the actress’ work should make varied impressions. In the moments
of intense passion she rose superbly to the occasion; her Rebecca had
intellectual poise; she suggested beautifully Rebecca’s renouncing
love. It was, as far as it went, a portrait equal to any of her others,
but in a degree she failed to suggest plausibly the fascinating
half-intellectual and half-emotional force that gave Rebecca her
influence in Rosmer’s house. She was a shade too detached, a little
lacking in the warmth that must have belonged to Rebecca’s ideals and
to her love for Rosmer.

One may frankly admit, indeed, that Mrs. Fiske’s acting does not please
all tastes. What some find to be her repressive force is in the eyes
of others “stilted awkwardness.” The qualities which to most are her
most salient characteristics are to some her “intolerable mannerisms.”
One comment on her Hedda was that there was “not a large or spontaneous
moment in it,” that it was “an adroitly articulated mosaic, an
assemblage of details, all precise exposition, rather than a jointless
and living whole.” Her personality has been described as “cerebral”
and “brittle,” and her art as “too predominantly intellectual.”
Attention has been called to her “maddening rising inflection,” and,
with wearisome reiteration, to what has been called her “unfortunate
mannerism of runningallthewordsofasentenceintooneanother.” In this
last criticism there is a measure of justice, for at times her speech
has been disconcertingly rapid. There has been improvement in this
respect of late years, however, and to those playgoers themselves
temperamentally adapted to enjoy her work, her enunciation has been
seldom indistinct, her so-called awkwardness and mannerisms full of
significance, and her “cerebral” acting and personality the means of
true impersonation.

_The Pillars of Society_, since it is a social satire rather than an
outright tragedy, afforded Mrs. Fiske as Lona Hessel an opportunity
for brilliant comedy. It was a small part, too small indeed to have
bestowed on it her powers. But she has never chosen plays for their
“star parts.” She made Lona a delightfully humorous, honest-hearted
woman, a masterpiece, within its limits, of satiric comedy. Especially
fine was her acting during Bernick’s confession to the mob. We have
already seen how she sat in one of her motionless silences, listening,
in her face the joy of victory--a joy that finally expressed itself
in “a little smothered sob of triumphant love which no other American
actress could have invented, or could have executed.”

Mrs. Fiske’s skillful acting of the lighter passages in _The Pillars
of Society_ gives point to a contention of many of her admirers--that
she should oftener be seen in comedy. In the two conspicuous instances
of her ventures into comedy--_Divorçons_ and _The New York Idea_,
she has been strikingly successful. In Sardou’s play she acted with
“a refined abandon that was positively captivating, making Cyprienne
deliciously capricious and delightfully feminine.” _The New York Idea_
William Archer found to be “a social satire so largely conceived and
so vigorously executed that it might take an honorable place in any
dramatic literature.” It is an example of high comedy, the comedy “that
smiles as it chastises.” The title is explained in one of the lines:
“Marry for whim and leave the rest to the divorce court--that’s the New
York idea of marriage.” In its lightness of mood and speech the play is
a comedy, yet in the author’s mind the underlying interest is serious,
his purpose being not to make fun of or satirize true love, but to make
fun of and call attention to the frivolous, inconsequential attitude
toward marriage and divorce. American playwrights have seldom attempted
the satirical high comedy of manners. _The New York Idea_, with its
spirited, delicately pungent wit, is by all odds the best example so
far. Mrs. Fiske brought to bear on her part, that of a wife whose love
for her husband persisted after divorce, a lightness and sureness of
touch that were a match for the play’s best qualities. Her resources of
changeful mood happily expressed Cynthia Karslake’s high bred reticence
of sentiment and rather sophisticated gayety.[174]

_Tess of the D’Urbervilles_ was written by Lorimer Stoddard within
one week, but the result was, in the opinion of William Dean Howells,
one of the great modern tragedies, worthy to be ranked with Ibsen’s
_Ghosts_. At least Mr. Stoddard wrote a strong, truthful play, in the
main faithful to the novel by Thomas Hardy that was its original. It
was felt at the time that the American stage had risen for once to
unaccustomed literary and dramatic heights. The play was produced in
1897. It was as Tess that Mrs. Fiske fully “arrived.” Of her most
notable characters only Nora in _A Doll’s House_ had preceded. Her
abilities had been generally recognized but until now play and part
had never so fortunately aided her. She was not Thomas Hardy’s Tess.
It was futile to expect that she would be, for the Tess of the book
was simple, primitive, impulsive, whereas Mrs. Fiske’s art was always
better adapted to reflection and complexity. Such qualities she gave
her Tess. And naturally her smallness and blondness do not at once
suggest Hardy’s heroine. Yet her work was enthusiastically praised.
In spite of her disadvantages, in this part, of person and method,
the keenness of her perception of _her_ Tess and the nervous force
with which she imparted that perception to the audience made a deep
impression. Ir moments like that in which she discovers her husband to
be ignorant of her past life, or that of the return of the supposed
dead Angel Clare, her power of repressed emotion was most effective.
While actually doing almost nothing, her horror and amazement were
strongly felt across the footlights. The few sentences to her husband
that recall the years of waiting and disillusion, were simply spoken
but with the agony of Tess’s pitiful tragedy. The play was at once
successful, and the admirers of Mrs. Fiske, who had waited long for a
suitable opportunity for her, felt at last satisfied.

It is as Becky Sharp, in a play based on Thackeray’s _Vanity Fair_,
that Mrs. Fiske is by many most gratefully remembered. The author was
Langdon Mitchell, who several years later was to write for her _The
New York Idea_. _Vanity Fair_ is of course an immensely complicated
study of all kinds of characters in all sorts of relations. At first
blush it does not seem promising theatrical material. Mr. Mitchell
wisely did not attempt to produce a “dramatization,” but selected the
most dramatic incidents of the book, took the bare plot thence and
wove about it, largely in his own dialogue, a well-constructed play.
The climax is the scene of Lord Steyne’s visit to Rebecca, with the
unexpected arrival home of Rawdon Crawley. This scene, played with
consummate skill by Maurice Barrymore as Rawdon, Tyrone Power (and
later George Arliss) as Steyne, and Mrs. Fiske as Becky, was admittedly
one of the high water marks in the history of American acting. The
scene of the Duchess of Richmond’s ball on the eve of Waterloo, with
the stage full of people at first gay and thoughtless, and then in
succession attentive, doubtful, certain of danger, terror-struck, was
a masterpiece of complex and thrilling illusion. Mrs. Fiske’s Becky
is thought by many her finest portrait. Here was an opportunity for
subtlety, for piquancy, for brilliancy, for varying moods, for humor.
If the Steyne incident was the big moment of the play there were a
number of lesser ones. In the half-comic, half-tragic scene in which
Becky wheedles out of Steyne money to pay Rawdon’s debts, Mrs. Fiske
was superb. In its uniformly effective acting, its literary interest,
its legitimately spectacular appeal, and its success as an experiment
with the native dramatist, Becky Sharp stands strongly forth in any
review of Mrs. Fiske’s career.

In _Mary of Magdala_ Mrs. Fiske ventured, none too wisely, into the
field of poetic Biblical tragedy. Christ and his teachings, and the
greatest tragedy of all, form the substance of the play. The stage
management was imposing, the production sumptuous and accurate. Tyrone
Power as Judas was a genuinely tragic figure and in the strongest
scene--that of the temptation by the Roman who was seeking to have Mary
buy the safety of Jesus--Mrs. Fiske showed great power. Yet the play
was superficial and often clumsy, the treatment of its lofty theme
incongruous, and Mrs. Fiske’s acting in a measure disappointing. She
lacks the sensuous in her temperament and method, and on the whole she
lacked in this part sustained power. She was hardly the Magdalene of
the Orient.

More surely within the sphere designated by her large but specialized
talents was _Leah Kleschna_, a strong drama of the redemption of a
thief’s daughter by the influence of a man whose house she attempted
to rob. The narrative is continuously and plausibly interesting, the
incidents of great dramatic effectiveness. The play was “modulated
melodrama”--an effort to lift a story of striking incident and broadly
drawn emotions into the realm of reality. In the light it throws on the
nature of the thief, its making and its possible breaking, the play
had its social bearing. The immediate popularity of _Leah Kleschna_
was a hopeful sign to those interested in the growth of a worthy
native drama. With some point it was asked why the author had not
placed the scene of his play in America instead of Paris. Mr. McLellan
has not, perhaps, borne out the promise of this one play, but it is
interesting to note how many of Mrs. Fiske’s later plays have been of
native writing. To be sure success has not always been the result.
With moderately gratifying results she has played three one-act plays
of her own writing,--_The Rose_, _A Light from St. Agnes_, and _The
Eyes of the Heart_, all written years before, besides a one-act play,
_Dolce_, by John Luther Long. _The New York Idea_ and _Salvation Nell_
are both, of course, absolutely American. After _Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh_
and _The New Marriage_, both by Americans, came _The High Road_ by
Edward Sheldon, the young author of _Salvation Nell_. The foreign-made
plays, _Rosmersholm_, _Hannele_, _The Pillars of Society_ and _Lady
Patricia_ have varied this programme, but it is plain that Mrs. Fiske
in her encouragement of the native dramatist has been courageous and
persistent to a point that few of her rival managers have cared to

The most interesting instance is Mr. Sheldon. While he was still a
student in Harvard, his _Salvation Nell_ was accepted by Mrs. Fiske.
Produced in 1908, it made a curious impression. Without the contour or
substance of sound, full-bodied drama, and largely depending for its
popular appeal on the faithfulness of the scenes of the New York slums,
the play nevertheless showed the young author’s gift for situation, and
afforded Mrs. Fiske a part well adapted to her gifts. This comment is
almost equally true of _The High Road_, of four years later, which Mr.
Sheldon does not call a play at all. It is a “pilgrimage” in which Mary
Page is taken through nearly forty years of her life, successively as a
young New York State country girl, the mistress of a rich young artist,
the awakening young idealist rebelling as she matures, as the woman’s
labor organizer, and as the devoted wife of a distinguished statesman.
The play is not a great one, nor even a big one, but it is firmly
interesting and the range of effect for Mrs. Fiske is obvious.

Praise for her steadfast desire to search out native-made plays
cannot be too strong, and some of these ventures have been among her
unqualified successes, but many of her admirers feel that Mrs. Fiske’s
continued experimentation with the newer school of American dramatists
should be modified--if modification is necessary--to obtain the
thorough-going effectiveness of play, player and production she has at
times attained. Let us have more _Becky Sharps_ and _New York Ideas_,
even if it must be in revival.

One important factor in Mrs. Fiske’s success has been only hinted. The
married life of people of the theatre has been a frequent and sometimes
justified cause for unpleasant comment. In the case of Mrs. Fiske much
of the success of the better known half of the house has been to a
degree due to her husband. It is pleasant to record this fact--not that
it is a unique situation (for married stage folk can be normally happy
more readily than is thought) but because Mr. Fiske’s share in his
wife’s productions has not been wholly understood. In a recent letter
which Mrs. Fiske distributed to the press she gives to her husband a
generous share of the credit for the excellence which has always marked
the productions of the Manhattan Company. To him is due, she says, the
taste and thoroughness of the settings. The play which she was giving
at the time and which gave the announcement point, was _The High Road_.
The second act is placed in an apartment in upper New York, furnished
by an artist of training and knowledge. The scene bears this out in
a way that strikes a new note in stage decoration. The tapestries,
the reproductions of oil paintings, carved doors and mantelpiece, the
furniture, are accurate to the last detail.

Mr. Fiske leased and managed the Manhattan Theatre in New York for
the few years beginning in 1901. With this theatre as headquarters
the Fiskes waged vigorous war for eight years against the so-called
theatrical syndicate, a combination of theatre owners and producing
managers which had for years been acquiring the leases or ownership of
most of the theatres of the country. The Fiskes steadfastly held out
against the dictates of this syndicate as to their plans for tours, and
preferred not to become the property of a monopoly which was operated
primarily for its money gains. When their continued resistance was
strengthened by other “independents,” the trust made it increasingly
difficult to find theatres to play in. During her tour in 1904 in _Leah
Kleschna_ Mrs. Fiske in some cities played in summer gardens, and on
improvised stages in halls, much as she used to do in the old days of
barnstorming. With the rise of a rival syndicate, a rise made possible
partly through Mrs. Fiske’s help, the lines have loosened and the
Fiskes have no longer any difficulty in “booking” their plays.

The Fiskes’ organization has become definitely known as the Manhattan
Company, though they no longer control the theatre of that name. “As a
producer of plays” Madame Réjane once said, “Mrs. Fiske has no superior
in Europe.” The uniformity of ability in the actors, the adjustment of
the characters which often kept Mrs. Fiske herself in the background,
contrary to the usages of “stars,” the detailed excellence of the stage
“business” (as the ballroom scene in _Becky Sharp_) have always given
the productions the interest, the appearance of life itself. It is
familiar knowledge among those who have closely watched the American
stage that Mrs. Fiske is one of the best stage directors of the time.
The careful, extended rehearsal of a play is hard work, but Mrs.
Fiske, with the active nervous temperament that demands hard work, is
equal to it. She personally directs the rehearsals of her companies,
and when one remembers _Mary of Magdala_, for instance, which demanded
a hundred actors and was rehearsed more than six weeks, or when one
recollects the practically flawless stage management of any Fiske
production, her merit as an imaginative producer becomes apparent. Like
her acting, her stage management is quiet, effective, tensely alive.

During the retirement immediately following her marriage, and since,
Mrs. Fiske has found time to write a number of plays. _A Light from
St. Agnes_ is a one-act play of much dramatic power telling a tragic
story of low life among the bayous of Louisiana. _The Rose_ is another
one-act tragedy once played by Rosina Vokes’s company. _The Eyes of the
Heart_ is likewise a short play, having for its principal character an
old blind man who, after losing his fortune, is kept in ignorance of
his poverty by his family and friends. All three of these pieces were
played at various times and with considerable success by Mrs. Fiske
and her company. She wrote several other plays, some of them longer,
but none well known today. _John Doe_ was a dramatization of a sketch
by Mr. Fiske; _Grandpapa_, _Not Guilty_ and _Common Clay_ were all
long plays; _Fontenelle_, which she wrote with Mr. Fiske, was played
by James O’Neill; _Countess Roudine_ was written with the help of Paul
Kester and was once in the repertoire of Modjeska. _The Dream of
Matthew Wayne_ was also written by Mrs. Fiske.

Mrs. Fiske has said that the life of an actor is intolerably narrowed
if he has no interests outside the theatre. Such interests she has. The
strongest is her devotion to the welfare of dumb animals. The trapping
of fur bearers, the cruel conditions in cattle trains, lack of shelter
on the ranges, bull-fights, vivisection, all have had her for an enemy.
Individual cases of cruelty are constantly receiving relief at her
hands and to various allied causes her money and time has been given
generously. She often makes addresses before meetings in the interest
of such reforms, and at such times the actress is quite forgotten in
the humane woman.[175]

The often discussed limitations of Mrs. Fiske have always been said
to include her physical equipment. She is no Bernhardt or Terry in
stature. During most of her career she has been slender, and there are
dozens of women on the stage who will never attain a hundredth part
of her compelling personal power, who are nevertheless her superiors
in superficial beauty. The truth seems to be that in her has been
demonstrated again that when the essentials of acting of a high order
are present, actual beauty is a comparatively negligible factor. Nor
can beauty, to a degree, be denied her. Her face is, one might say, of
the Scandinavian type. Her hair always was and still is, beautiful,--a
reddish golden--radiantly golden when dressed to advantage and seen
in the glow of the footlights. Her eyes are, at a guess, gray (though
even her intimate friends disagree as to their precise color); they are
large and, as no one who has watched their part in an impersonation
need be told, expressive. Some have complained that her carriage is
not graceful; but it has something more and better than grace, for it
has significance, fittingness in every walk across the stage, every
pose. With more justice has comment been made upon her enunciation,
which at times has been undeniably too rapid. As for the voice itself,
it is among her chief means to her effects--wide-ranged and sensitive
to the mood. It is at one moment charged with emotion, quivering or
repressed, at another hard as steel, and again simply matter of fact.
The contrasts are of great, and probably nicely calculated, effect.

The high-minded judgment which has enabled Mrs. Fiske to select plays
which never have a false appeal, her freedom from that self-importance
which distorts the meaning of plays for the sake of giving prominence
to the “star,” are indications of her qualities as a woman. She has
broad sympathies, enthusiasms for affairs outside the theatre, and
cherishes no inflated notion as to her importance other than as a
woman of the theatre. In her travels, or visiting other theatres,
it is her habit to be heavily veiled and altogether lacking in the
“theatrical.”[176] She is much more nervous when addressing, _in sua
persona_, a small meeting in the interests of some humane movement
than when facing a theatre full of people. On the other hand she has
an unusually keen sense of humor, and some of her best bits of acting
are said to be in impromptu efforts called forth by some circumstance
arising within the “family” of her company.[177] One of her engaging
traits is her complete freedom from the spirit of rivalry and criticism
that sometimes characterizes actors. By those close to her she is said
never to speak ill of any one. Indeed her acquaintance among other
“stars” is limited; while in the world outside the theatre her friends
are many and often distinguished. It may not be uninteresting that Mrs.
Fiske, unlike many of her profession, likes “playing one-night stands”;
that she does not weary of the endless travel of theatrical life;[178]
that she is continually studying to perfect her impersonations or to
prepare for future work; and that she has a playful dread of being
referred to as “intellectual.” That word, as applied to Mrs. Fiske, has
become hackneyed.

The warmest admirers of Mrs. Fiske will admit her limitations. They
will, indeed, be grateful for them; for her physical and mental
equipment, while they withheld from her certain ranges of drama,
simply forbade the adoption by her of the tissue of unrealities which
constitutes conventional acting. Without either losing for a moment
the sense of conditions imposed by the theatre, or gaining her effects
by means of commonplaceness set baldly on the stage, she has evolved
an extraordinary realism made up of truth to nature combined with a
sense of theatric art so nicely adjusted that even in its most telling
moments it is the art that conceals art. It is, in the last analysis,
a method that is the visible expression of a rich nature. And by the
unalterable fixity of her high aims, the dignity and strength of what
she has tried to do, she has earned the gratitude of all those who look
forward to an influential, high-minded American stage.

    In the spring of 1914 Mrs. Fiske revived _Mrs.
    Bumpstead-Leigh_, and in it proved herself at the height of
    her powers as an adroit _comédienne_. At the beginning of the
    season of 1914–15 she acted, in several Middle Western cities,
    in a new play by John Luther Long and Frank Stayton. _Lady
    Betty Martingale_ was an ambitious production that took her
    into an unfamiliar field, and that promised to rival _Becky
    Sharp_ as a feast of acting and spectacle. It was a “costume
    comedy,” with the London of the eighteenth century as its
    setting. The play was unfortunately lacking in substance and
    dramatic interest, and was withdrawn after a brief career.


None of Julia Marlowe’s forebears was identified with the theatre,
and she was turned toward the stage almost by accident. When once
her fate was determined, her abilities and ambitions were nurtured
with the care and privacy given a prize-winning rose, and she was
offered then to the public almost full blown. She was none of the wild
flowers of the stage--the Ellen Terrys and Minnie Madderns--that grow
into a recognized position so gradually that they seem to have been
there always. In her sudden leap into public notice Julia Marlowe was
something of a parallel to Mary Anderson. Miss Anderson never played
anything but “star” parts; nor did Miss Marlowe when once she had
called for recognition as a grown-up actress. In her early ’teens,
however, years before her début, she had had more than a glimpse of the

[Illustration: JULIA MARLOWE]

Her real name was Sarah Frances Frost. She was born in the little town
of Caldbeck, in Cumberlandshire, England, and was brought to America
when she was about five. Her family settled in Kansas, but soon removed
to Ohio, living first in Portsmouth, and then, when Fanny (as she was
then called) was about nine, in Cincinnati. There her father, who
appears to have been some sort of skilled mechanic, died while she was
still a child. Her mother was married again to one Hess, the proprietor
of a small hotel, frequented by stage people; but this circumstance
seems not to have been a determining factor in the young girl’s career.
Fanny, with her sister Annie, was sent to the public school.[179] One
day,[180] when Fanny was thirteen, she came running home to her mother,
much excited. She had, she said, a chance “to be an actress and make
some money.” Colonel Robert E. J. Miles, a successful manager of the
early eighties, was organizing one of the numberless juvenile companies
that played Gilbert and Sullivan’s _Pinafore_ throughout the country.
“He wanted Fanny,” said her mother, “because she was pretty, to play
one of the small parts. Well, I did not think much of the stage, and
was strongly opposed to having Fanny undertake anything of the kind,
but she persisted, and finally so annoyed me that I partially gave my
consent. That was the beginning of it.”

During the season of 1880–1881, and the two seasons following, the
young actress was known as Fanny Brough--her mother’s family name. She
was promoted from the chorus of _Pinafore_ to play Sir Joseph Porter,
and she was, besides, Suzanne in _The Chimes of Normandy_ and a page
in _The Little Duke_. The significance of this first engagement lies
chiefly in the fact that the stage management of the company was in
the hands of Ada Dow, a sister-in-law of Colonel Miles. This woman
had been a competent though inconspicuous actress, and she was a good
stage-director. In one of her charges, moreover--Fanny Brough--she had
the discernment to see an actress of exceptional promise. It was to
Miss Dow that Fanny Brough, renamed Julia Marlowe, was later to owe her
early-won position as an actress of genuine attainments.

Her experience in operetta young Fanny Brough followed by playing
six weeks as little Heinrich in one of the several _Rip van Winkle_
companies that sprang into being after Joseph Jefferson’s success in
the play. The Rip in this instance was Robert McWade. Then came Colonel
Miles’ attempt to make a “star” of Josephine Riley, in the season of
1882–1883. In the company were Miss Dow and Fanny Brough, who now, as
Balthazar in _Romeo and Juliet_, had her first Shakespearean part. She
also had the formidable duty, for one of her years, of playing Maria in
_Twelfth Night_.[181]

During these few years the possibilities for greater things lying in
the young actress must have become more and more apparent to Colonel
Miles and Miss Dow. Soon after the venture with Miss Riley, Fanny
Brough disappeared from the stage and was taken to New York by Miss
Dow, and there put through a course of training such as few actresses
ever undergo.

Off the stage the young aspirant was a rather awkward, self-conscious
girl, of a serious turn of mind, imaginative, and like the youthful
Mary Anderson, and many another, an enthusiast in her admiration
for Shakespeare. Years afterward Julia Marlowe said that she could
remember no real childhood. She had gone to no children’s parties,
and had had no girl friends. “The experiences which come to growing
children as part of their girl life came to me only as part of my stage
experience. The first long dress I wore was not as a girl, but on the
stage as Myrene in _Pygmalion and Galatea_.” “At this time,” says one
account, “she was a saucer-eyed, yellow skinned girl, of a melancholic
temperament, high-strung, eager, restless, and unbearable to herself
when unoccupied. Her chief joy was to revel in the woes of tragedy

Obviously this was raw material. That the same girl a few years later
stepped before the public in the large Eastern cities and, if not
at once financially successful, almost at once was recognized as a
well-graced, promising actress, says much not only for her native
ability, but also for the quality and thoroughness of the training that
took place in the interim.

Miss Dow[182] took an apartment on Thirty-sixth Street and a house in
Bayonne, New Jersey. In these places--and especially at Bayonne--the
girl’s studies were prosecuted with the greatest faithfulness for
something over three years. There is not the least doubt that Miss
Marlowe, during this period of tutelage, worked hard to deserve her
later success. Five parts[183] were selected from the “classic”
repertoire of the day and were studied assiduously. The pupil learned
the cardinal principle of leaving no dramatic effort to chance,--of
knowing a part so thoroughly well that it can be rendered with a
confidence in all the gestures and tones to be employed. So well indeed
was this groundwork laid that it probably had its lasting effect on the
actress’s art. It has been the commonplace criticism of Miss Marlowe
that she lacks the note of spontaneity, that there is evidence of
premeditation in all she does. “One would not urge,” said the _Evening
Standard_ when she went to London in 1907, “that the outstanding
feature of her art is that it is art concealed.”

“I never needed the spur,” Miss Marlowe has said of her days as Miss
Dow’s pupil. “The aim of my instructors should have been, perhaps, to
keep me from working too hard. Nobody deluded me with the assurance
that I was a genius. Indeed the contrary impression was steadfastly
enforced, and I secretly decided that I might make myself a genius if I
only worked hard enough.”

Besides the minute study of particular rôles, her tasks included music,
dancing, gymnastic exercises, the history and literature of the drama,
and, under the teaching of a singing master, much practice in voice
development. The utmost care was taken in matters of carriage and
“stage deportment.”[184]

Miss Dow’s pupil endured the rigors of this training until the spring
of 1887. Now, it was thought, the young actress was ready to bid for
the public’s notice. It was the fixed idea of both the pupil and her
teacher that she would appear only as a “star” and only in “classic”
plays. It was but natural that managers were slow to place so much
confidence in an untried actress. Months passed, and no manager could
be found to take her at her own valuation. What would have been
considered by many a good actress attractive offers she repeatedly
declined. Finally it was again Colonel Miles who became her patron, as
he had been years before. A company was organized, and the erstwhile
Fanny Brough, bearing now her new name, made a brief tour (April and
May, 1887) in Connecticut, playing Parthenia, Galatea and Pauline.
The opening performance was in New London on April 27. She played
_Ingomar_, and the next day’s local paper said that she was a genius
and would “yet wear a crown of diamonds.” Pleasing as this praise
may have been to Miss Marlowe, the truth is that the brief tour was
insignificant, and that not the slightest ripple was caused in the
great centers by her début in “the provinces.”

The real beginning of Julia Marlowe’s career came the following
October[185] when, still under Colonel Miles’ management, she gave a
single matinée performance of _Ingomar_ at the Bijou Theatre in New
York. “Every one but me,” says Miss Dow, “had lost confidence in her.
Mr. Miles asked me in trembling tones if I realized what it would mean
if she were a failure. Julia had been in such a state of fright for a
few days before the performance that she lost her voice temporarily.
When the curtain rose on her début she talked so low for a time that no
one could hear her. Then I said from the wings, ‘Julia, if you don’t
speak up, I’ll come out on the stage to you.’ She grew angry at this,
and from then on everything went smoothly. At the end of the first
act there was a silence for a long enough time for her to get to her
dressing room. Then the house burst into a storm of applause and she
was called before the curtain again and again.”

The town had paid her compliment of curiosity, the critics were
more enthusiastic than could have been hoped, and the managers made
her various offers, which she consistently refused; all of which
constituted a successful début for an actress new to important parts.
She was virtually beginning her career at the top, in America’s
theatrical capital,--a course involving courage and a high-minded
disregard of the many short cuts to easily won material rewards.

Julia Marlowe’s best publicity agent at this time was Robert G.
Ingersoll. The “great agnostic” had been “managed,” in his lecture
tours, by Colonel Miles’ partner, and was prevailed upon to see Miss
Marlowe act. However great and good a man he was, Colonel Ingersoll
was not especially skilled as a dramatic critic. Still, such was his
influence that his letters of extravagant praise, widely copied in the
press, did more than any other one thing to fix her name in the public

In December of 1887 she followed the October matinée by a week at
the Star Theatre in New York, playing Juliet and Viola as well as
Parthenia, without doing much either to add to or detract from the
earliest impression. And then, after this week, came another term of
discouraging delay. There came renewed offers of positions in support
of other stars, or in plays not to her liking. But she refused them,
and said she would play as a star, in the “classics,” or not at all.
Evidently the Miles contingent about this time lost some of its
enthusiasm, for it seems that a six weeks’ tour that took her as far
as Cincinnati was financed by a new backer, said to be a Sixth Avenue
restauranteur named Bristol. Success did not yet alight on the Marlowe
banner, however, and Mr. Bristol lost his five thousand dollars.

Financial success, indeed, was slow in coming to Miss Marlowe, a
fact which may seem curious to a public that of late years has been
accustomed to seeing the mere words “Julia Marlowe” and later “Sothern
and Marlowe” sufficient to fill any theatre. The restauranteur--art
supported by oysters!--was followed in his part of “backer” by the
New York photographer Falk, who with a supreme faith in his star saw
twenty-five thousand dollars slip through his fingers before a change
of management and the growing reputation of Miss Marlowe turned the

It was in the fall of 1888 that the American public began generally to
be aware of the presence on its stage of a new and beautiful actress.
Mr. Fred Stinson was now made Miss Marlowe’s manager. He was more
adroit than his predecessors, and engaged for her support an excellent
company that included Charles Barron, who had been leading man at the
Boston Museum, William Owen, an excellent Shakespearean comedian,
Robert Taber (who later became Miss Marlowe’s husband), and Mary Shaw.
A week was spent in Washington, and then another week in Brooklyn.
C. M. S. McLellan, writing in the New York _Press_ of November 25,
1888, refers to her as “Julia Marlowe, a girl who played a number of
parts in Brooklyn last week.” “She has a tip-tilted nose,” he goes on,
“wide, imploring eyes, a slender shape buoyant with health and youth,
a songful voice, and the accidental movements of an innocent.... She is
now an artiste, in sweet embryo.... It is the apparent pliancy of Julia
Marlowe, both mental and physical, which makes you admire her now. It
also makes you wonder what her fate is to be.”

The first genuine triumph of her career came to Miss Marlowe when she
reached Boston. Her week at the Hollis Street Theatre in December,
1888, was the first completely reassuring experience of her career,
for there, for the first time, did she win the genuinely enthusiastic
response of public and critics. In Philadelphia, too, and in Baltimore,
and Chicago, she found a cordial welcome. Her ambitions were beginning
to be realized, Miss Dow’s labors justified, and Mr. Falk’s coffers
were once more filled.

A correspondent of the Boston _Herald_, writing from Brooklyn in 1888,
gives his impressions of the rising “star”: “Anything more unlike than
this young girl off the stage [he had been ‘an audience of one in
assisting at her Thanksgiving repast, which was hurriedly swallowed
between matinée and evening performances’] and as the character she
represents before the footlights I have seldom seen. It is as though
she were two distinct individuals, bearing absolutely no relation
in manner, face, figure, temperament or intelligence to each other.
Away from the footlights, and divested of the rôle she personates,
Miss Marlowe is a frank, girlish young woman, almost awkward in her
movements, and shy and retiring to excess in manner and speech. There
are times when she seems almost plain and again one is surprised into
thinking her absolutely beautiful.... She is not at all assertive;
on the contrary, she impresses one as a person who would never force
herself into any prominence. This is Miss Marlowe off the stage.

“On the stage? Well, I had a mental shock when I saw her as Parthenia.
It was like a transformation scene, and so complete that I almost
failed to recognize the actress as the same shy, unformed girl I had
been chatting with. Is she a great actress? Decidedly, no. But I would
wager a good deal that the day is not far distant when she will be
hailed as such.”

Successful as she began now to be in other cities, she did not at
once win as much favor in New York. It took her ten years to become
as popular in the metropolis as she was in “the provinces.” Taking a
general view of Miss Marlowe’s career it would seem that her conquest
of New York coincided fairly accurately with her modification of her
early ideals as to playing nothing but the “classic” parts, for,
lying between the period of which we have been speaking and the later
“Sothern and Marlowe” campaign with Shakespeare, there were some years
(roughly from 1897 to 1904) when the “classics” were pretty well

The first change in the hitherto carefully guarded repertory came in
1894, when she was married to her “leading man,” Robert Taber. With
a self-subordination rare enough among newly-fledged “stars” she saw
herself taking, at times, inferior and sometimes quite unsuited parts
in plays produced primarily for the sake of Mr. Taber. The worst
instance was _Henry IV_, in which Mr. Taber was an admirable Hotspur
and Miss Marlowe a Prince Hal who was hopelessly at variance with the
ideal of the part.[188] At this time she was known as “Julia Marlowe
Taber,” but the change involved some sacrifice, for, by 1894, the name
“Julia Marlowe” had a definite value and the public did not respond
enthusiastically to the new order of things. It is a theatrical axiom
that the public does not like to see man and wife acting together.
One manager[189] brought suit because, having contracted for “Julia
Marlowe,” he got “Mr. and Mrs. Robert Taber.” It has been said that
Frederick Stinson, the manager who had labored for years to develop the
prestige that attached to Miss Marlowe’s name, aged visibly when his
work was so rapidly undone.

The artistic coalition that was thought would be the result of the
marriage turned out a comparative failure. Unfortunately a personal
element that proved anything but helpful entered the situation. Mr.
Taber was a skilled actor of a rather hard style--but the printed
criticisms of their productions often brought more praise to Mrs.
Taber than to him,--naturally enough, as she was the better artist.
His resentment at his comparative artistic failure went to such
lengths that he quarreled with his wife, and, after three seasons of
married joint-stardom they went their separate ways: Taber to London
to act with Irving, and his wife, after a meeting in France, and an
ineffectual effort on her part to effect a reconciliation, to America
to resume her career as Julia Marlowe.[190]

A survey of the plays the Tabers gave together from 1894 to 1897
does not show that the public was warranted, from any lack of their
adherence to the Marlowe standard of play, in withholding its former
allegiance. There was, to be sure, the mistake, _Henry IV_. Mrs. Taber
was, moreover, a comparative failure as Mrs. Hardcastle and as Lydia
Languish--for her _forte_ was not eighteenth century comedy--and
_Romola_ afforded scarcely any opportunities for her, while Mr. Taber’s
Tito had a great success. But all of these plays excepting _Henry IV_
were really incidental, and at different times during these three years
Mr. and Mrs. Taber were playing a number of the old Julia Marlowe
successes: _Romeo and Juliet_, _Twelfth Night_, _As You Like It_, _Much
Ado_, _Ingomar_, _Pygmalion and Galatea_, _The Hunchback_, and _The
Lady of Lyons_.

It was not until 1897, when the separation had taken place and Miss
Marlowe had placed herself under the management of C. B. Dillingham,
associated with Charles Frohman, that her period of artistic eclipse,
and of great commercial prosperity, began. At the dictation of her new
management, she abandoned almost altogether the heroines of poetic
drama, and began a seven-year term in the service of the dramatized
novel and the quickly forgotten modern ephemeral play. _The Countess
Valeska_, _Colinette_, _Barbara Frietchie_, _When Knighthood Was in
Flower_, and _The Cavalier_ make rather a sorry showing when compared
with most of the list just given. She was made at last a successful
“star” in New York,[191] but, as John Corbin wrote at the close of this
period of eclipse, she was “mourned by the ‘road’ [i.e., the country
outside New York] as the living tomb of a youth of abundant promise.”

Of these plays of the interregnum it is curiously true that those
least entitled to serious consideration as drama, _Barbara Frietchie_
and _When Knighthood Was in Flower_, were the most successful in
advancing Miss Marlowe to the heights of popularity. _Colinette_--which
was adapted from a French play--and _The Countess Valeska_--from the
German--were both justified as skillfully written romantic dramas, of
much strength and charm, if not of permanent value. _Barbara Frietchie_
and _When Knighthood Was in Flower_, however, were highly artificial,
thin, pseudo-historical dramas, one dealing with the heroine of
Whittier’s poem--the play was by the prolific Clyde Fitch--and the
other a fictional episode in the life of Mary Tudor, the sister of
Henry VIII. Miss Marlowe’s sincerest admirers deeply regretted the
time and energy she spent, year after year, on these and like plays;
but they often asserted that her acting transformed and beautified the
material with which she worked. As Colinette, according to Mr. Winter,
she “gave a performance of singular flexibility and of exceptionally
artistic grace, such as not only pleases while passing but leaves
in the memory an ideal of noble and lovable womanhood,”--strong and
partial words, but indicative of the glamour Miss Marlowe has thrown
over inferior plays. “Her utterance of Barbara’s appeal to her father
for her wounded lover’s life,” says Mr. Winter of her acting in Mr.
Fitch’s play, “was spoken with exquisite beauty, and her expression of
the frenzy of grief, on finding him dead, reached as great a height as
is possible to spoken pathos.”

As for _When Knighthood Was in Flower_, an English critic later
said: “There is a certain lilt and go, a touch of nature among the
fool’s fabric of the melodrama, which set her far above our steady
practitioners in the same act of sinking. And, above all, a sense of
parody pierced through words and actions, commenting wittily on the
nonsense of romance which so many were so willing to take seriously.
She was a live thing; defiantly and gayly conscious of every absurdity
with which she indulged the babyish tastes of one more public.”

All this playing in popular pieces of the day involved a certain amount
of additional training for the work that was to come,--the third
and last period of Marlowe’s work,--the ten years during which she
and Edward Sothern were “joint stars.” She brought to her new work a
variously experienced, thoroughly disciplined art.

It sent something like a thrill through that large part of the public
interested in the theatre, when it was announced, in the summer of
1904, that Julia Marlowe and E. H. Sothern were to act together in
Shakespeare. It was felt that the actress was again coming into her

Some of her parts with Mr. Sothern were but revivifications of heroines
of her early career: Juliet, Viola, Beatrice, Rosalind; others she
attempted for the first time during one or another of these years from
1904 to 1914: Ophelia, Katherine the Shrew, Lady Macbeth, and, at the
inauguration of the ill-fated New Theatre in New York, Cleopatra in
_Antony and Cleopatra_.

The American public, whatever its expectations in 1904, has since
come to take a rather complacent view of its privilege in seeing
Miss Marlowe and Mr. Sothern act Shakespeare together. They have
been financially extremely successful. Several other attempts during
this period to popularize Shakespeare in America (and some of them
were “produced” and acted in a manner to make them fit rivals) have
struggled through brief and only moderately well supported existences;
while Sothern and Marlowe have gone on for the best part of ten years,
drawing crowded houses. Yet many an old time playgoer, who has followed
Julia Marlowe’s career since its beginnings, will tell you that nothing
she has done since has quite equaled, in the combined appeal of its
fresh youth, its varied beauty, and its unforced poetic moods, the
acting of the Julia Marlowe of early days.

The summer of 1906 Miss Marlowe spent--as she has many others--in
Europe. One of the places she visited was the birthplace of Jeanne
d’Arc, for she was contemplating the production of Percy MacKaye’s play
concerning the Maid. When she returned to America, she and Mr. Sothern
dissolved their association with the Frohman side of the theatrical
house, and went over to the Shuberts. There followed the production
of a group of plays new to her experience, _John the Baptist_,
by Sudermann, in which she played Salome, _The Sunken Bell_, by
Hauptmann, a piece retained from Mr. Sothern’s earlier repertoire, and
_Jeanne d’Arc_.

It was with the last two plays, and with _Romeo and Juliet_, _Hamlet_,
_As You Like It_, _When Knighthood Was in Flower_, and _Twelfth Night_,
that Miss Marlowe ventured for the first time to appear in London, in
the spring of 1907. The success of the Sothern and Marlowe engagement
at the Waldorf Theatre hung at first in the balance, for the first play
presented was _The Sunken Bell_, which failed to appeal to London. As
for Miss Marlowe as Rautendelein, she was dismissed by Mr. Walkley
in _The Times_ as showing the grace and elfishness and charm of the
character; “but she was not,” he continued, “exactly a frisky fairy.”

The tide turned with Miss Marlowe’s Viola, and, somewhat to the
surprise of his followers at home, with Mr. Sothern’s Hamlet, which was
hailed as a distinguished achievement.

One English writer, Arthur Symons, quite lost his head in admiration
of the American visitors. “We have not in our whole island,” he wrote,
“two actors capable of giving so serious, so intelligent, so carefully
finished, so vital an interpretation of Shakespeare, or indeed of
rendering any form of poetic drama on the stage.” Beerbohm Tree gave
them a supper at His Majesty’s; Mr. Asquith was there, a prince or
two, and, more to the point, a representative group of England’s stage
workers. “There is danger,” said _The Evening Standard_ when she played
Viola, “of our all becoming Marlowe worshipers if she goes on like

Though the London critics appraised Mr. Sothern’s Hamlet higher than
American reviewers ever did, and though the newspaper comment on each
play was favorable, except on _The Sunken Bell_ and _When Knighthood
Was in Flower_, the London public did not attend in great numbers.

Still, the English tour may be said to mark the apex of the career of
both artists. When they returned home each was for a time again an
independent “star.” When the ambitiously planned New Theatre, in New
York, opened its doors for what was fondly hoped would be the dawn
of a new era in the American theatre, Miss Marlowe and Mr. Sothern
were the leading members of a cast assembled to perform _Antony and
Cleopatra_. The production pleased neither public nor critics, and
it cannot be said that Miss Marlowe will be remembered chiefly for
her Cleopatra. Since then “Sothern and Marlowe” have again carried
Shakespeare up and down the country.

Why is it that the public, loyal as it has been to them, has taken
their untiring campaign in fostering the Shakespeare tradition so
much as a matter of course? Perhaps it is because nearly everyone
speaking English now takes Shakespeare himself as a matter of course,
to be accepted, like starlight and the blessings of a free government,
with unenthusiastic complacence, and because Miss Marlowe herself
is so utterly Shakespearean. For everything she has done has had a
Shakespearean tinge. “She was so infinitely more charming [as Mary
Tudor] than the play justified her in being,” someone once wrote.
“She looked exactly as she would have looked had the play been

“Those of us who saw her as the Queen Fiametta remember well how
incongruously like Hermione she looked and was. When Miss Marlowe
played Colombe in _Colombe’s Birthday_ she seemed to forget that she
wasn’t playing Rosalind. And even in Mr. Esmond’s distinctly modern
drama, _Fools of Nature_, Miss Marlowe to more than one spectator
suggested the England of Shakespeare’s day oftener than the England of
to-day.”[194] As for Shakespeare’s plays themselves: Her Viola, both of
the early days and of the later period, was so lovely an embodiment of
the poet’s ideal that he himself would have been satisfied with it; her
Juliet, her Beatrice, her Rosalind, all in more or less degree, were
filled with the peculiarly Shakespearean spirit, the radiant sweetness
and vitality of his women.

There is abroad among the theatregoers of America a peculiar, almost
personal affection for Miss Marlowe, which is not inconsistent with the
complacent feeling of which we have spoken. There is about Marlowe none
of the overpowering sense of riding the whirlwind that has accompanied
Bernhardt in her royal progresses about the planet; she has none of the
picturesque ebullience of a Terry, nor even the specialized appeal of
Maude Adams. She has been a happy “combination of the poetically ideal
and the humanly real” that wins, for a beautiful and skillful actress,
a position in the popular heart, even if it does not take her, because
of more or less extraneous characteristics, into the front rank of

Miss Marlowe, in her quoted utterances, has occasionally thrown light
on her attitude toward her own work and toward her profession:

“I wish they wouldn’t confound me so much with the parts I play and
imagine I must be playing my own emotions because I give the part I am
playing an air of reality.”

“It isn’t the rewards that one works for;[195] we work because we have
to, because we can’t stop. Except for a shallow or vain nature there is
nothing in the rewards of this profession commensurate with its pains;
but in the very labor of it there’s joy, if you’re born to know it,
that nothing else can approximate for you.”

Those who have known Miss Marlowe in her own person say that the
simplicity and the good taste observable in her work as an actress
find a counterpart in her life off the stage. The home she maintained
for years at Highmount in the Catskills was a quiet retreat where she
enjoyed the outdoors, her books, and the society of a group of friends,
most of whom were not personages known to the theatergoing public.
Her liking for books, which is said to be keen, induced her not only
to carry about on her travels hundreds of volumes, but at one time to
take up seriously the study of the mysteries of bookbinding. One summer
she spent in Germany, taking lessons in that craft, and in her library
are a number of volumes, illuminated and bound by her own hands. She
sings a little, plays the piano well, and has a well-grounded musical
knowledge. Unlike many another successful actress--Mary Anderson, for
instance--she retained her early strong love for her profession.

“The rarest quality of Miss Marlowe’s art,” says Elizabeth McCracken,
one of Miss Marlowe’s closest friends, with what is probably true
insight, “is its lovely youthfulness. Her mirth is utterly young; at
its gayest, it is tinged by a certain wistful gravity. Her woe is
young, too; at its saddest, no drop of bitterness stains it. Children
instinctively accept her as a kindred spirit, someone not so different
from themselves as most grown-ups.”

Add to this engaging youthfulness--another name, perhaps, for her sense
of poetry--her dark and buoyant beauty, her rich voice that lent its
own music to Shakespeare’s, and you have Julia Marlowe, not a genius,
certainly, but one of America’s gracious women, who has brought beauty
in many forms to the American stage in a period when, but for her, it
had been sadly lacking.


To say that she is the most valuable piece of theatrical property in
the country is a brutally commercial way to speak of an artist; but
that is the familiar and true, if one-sided, estimate of Maude Adams.
From a small career, notable in its way, as a child actress, through
a girlhood that had its struggles and trials, to an early share of
success and then to an amazing degree of affectionate popularity, a
popularity far exceeding that of greater artists, has been her record.
The mere announcement of her name, without respect to the play she
is acting, is enough to fill any theatre in the United States. Her
popularity is such that it amounts almost to an unreasoning worship.
One can safely say that, among the women, at least, of America there is
an unorganized Maude Adams cult. And whatever the lack of proportion
between this adulation and the intrinsic artistic worth of her
achievements, it cannot be said that Miss Adams’ popularity has been
unfairly won. She has let her acting--whatever its limitations--and
her variously expressed ambitions speak for themselves, without
Bernhardtian advertising. The public knows her not at all except as
it sees her across the footlights. She is one of the dignified women of
the theatre.

[Illustration: MAUDE ADAMS]

Her mother, Annie Adams, an actress well known to the passing
generation of playgoers, was descended collaterally from the
Presidential Adamses of Massachusetts. James Kiskadden, the father
of Maude Adams, “a man of handsome masculinity,” at the time of his
daughter’s birth had come out of the Middle West to practice in Salt
Lake City his business of banking.[196] Annie Adams has been better
known as the mother of Maude Adams than as an actress in her own right;
nevertheless she has had a long career as a capable actress. When Maude
was born in Salt Lake City, on November 11, 1872, her mother was a
member of the local stock company.

The public had not long to wait for its first glimpse of Maude Adams.
When she was nine months old she was taken one night to the theatre
where her mother was playing. According to the custom of the day, the
evening’s entertainment ended with a short farce, this time _The Lost
Child_. In this piece a baby is carried on and off the stage several
times, to be finally carried in on a platter and set down before its
distracted father. The baby used on this occasion was only a month or
so old, and, as might have been expected, it began to howl lustily in
the midst of its travels about the stage. Just at this moment Mrs.
Adams, who was not playing in the second piece, was about to leave the
theatre, when the stage manager caught sight of little Maude. Miss
Adams’ début took place instantly, for she was placed on the platter
and rushed onto the stage in place of the howling child. As the latter
was some eight months the younger, the audience was treated to the
unusual spectacle of seeing a child take on twenty pounds in a few

After a while the family moved to San Francisco. From time to time the
little Maude appeared on the stage, although for the most part she
lived the life of the ordinary child. Her glimpses of the life of the
stage were probably more than enough, however, to “bend the twig.”
Once her mother was supporting J. K. Emmett in _Fritz in Ireland_. Mr.
Emmet had seen Maude and wished to have her play a child’s rôle in this
piece. Her father at first demurred, as Maude was only five. The child
was eager to take the part, however, and was finally allowed to do so.

After another interval of dolls and books, she played, when about six,
the child in _A Celebrated Case_. She learned her small part so well
that she had ample leisure to memorize most of the rest of the play.
One man in the company, it is said, was often in her debt for swift and
accurate prompting.

The rest of her childhood was divided between school--the Presbyterian
School for Girls in Salt Lake City--and occasional appearances on the
stage. Her mother insisted on the schooling, and Maude was bright
enough at her studies. But one cannot wonder that the life of the
stage had already enthralled the little girl. At any rate she left her
books on occasion, to play such parts as Eva in _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_,
Paul in _The Octoroon_, and Oliver Twist.

“Little Maudie Adams” came to be the first choice for children’s
parts in the best companies playing along the Pacific coast. One who
saw much of her in those days, and who took pains to give her much
undoubtedly valuable instruction, was David Belasco. “I was the stage
manager of the Baldwin[197] then,” said Mr. Belasco. “James A. Herne
and I were playing there together, and in our plays there was usually
a child’s part. Annie Adams I had known for some years as one of the
best character actresses of the West, but my first remembrance of Maude
Adams is of a spindle-legged little girl, unusually thin and tall for
her age, with a funny little pigtail and one of the quaintest little
faces you ever saw. I don’t think even her mother considered Maudie
pretty in those days. But even in her babyhood there was a magnetism
about the child,--some traces of that wonderfully sweet and charming
personality which was to prove such a tremendous advantage to her in
the later years.... She could act and grasp the meaning of a part long
before she was able to read. When we were beginning rehearsals of a
new play I would take Maudie on my knee and bit by bit would explain
to her the meaning of the part she had to play. I can see her now, with
her little spindle legs almost touching the floor, her tiny face, none
too clean, perhaps, peering up into mine, and those wise eyes of hers
drinking in every word. I soon learned to know that it was no use to
confine myself to a description of her own work: until I had told the
whole story of the play to Maudie, and treated her almost as seriously
as if she were our leading ‘star,’ she would pay no attention. She was
serious-minded in her own childish way even in those days, and once she
realized that you were treating her seriously there was nothing that
child would not try to do.”[198]

One of “Little Maudie’s” successes at this time was in _Chums_, which
Mr. Belasco had adapted from an old English play _The Mariner’s
Compass_. Mr. Herne, who played in it at the time, later made and acted
in another version, _The Hearts of Oak_. The character Crystal (for
whom Mr. Heme undoubtedly named his daughter) occurs in both versions.
“From the time Maude Adams created the rôle,” says Mr. Belasco, “it
became one of the most vital parts of the play. _Chums_, in short,
scored an immense success, and ‘Little Maudie’ for time being was the
heroine of the town.”

Mrs. Adams had seen to it that Maude received more of the ordinary
schooling than sometimes falls to the lot of a child actress. When she
was thirteen, however, her schooling was called complete. The girl had
had her taste of success and during her term at school had dreamed of
returning to the stage. She told her mother: “It’s no use my studying
any more, mother.... I want to go on the stage again, so that I may
be with you.” But when the attempt was made it proved to be not the
easiest thing in the world. As a child actress of less than ten, she
had found parts awaiting her. As a young girl in her middle teens,
parts were much harder to find. She traveled about with her mother,
getting an occasional small part, such as one of the old women in
_Harbor Lights_, or the Princess in _Monte Christo_. In the meantime,
she studied hard, absorbing her mother’s instructions and learning many

When Miss Adams was just under sixteen she and her mother crossed the
country--in the caste of the melodrama, _The Paymaster_,--to try their
fortunes in the Middle West and finally in New York. Although it is
on record that she won “a great deal of praise for her simplicity and
beauty,” one can see, in the account of her nightly “plunge into a
tank of real water,”[199] a far cry to her later distinction as the
interpreter of the subtleties of Barrie.

According to thrice-repeated tales, which her mother has recently taken
occasion to deny, it was only after a discouraging period of waiting
and of fruitless visits to managers, that Miss Adams got her first
opportunity, when _The Paymaster_ had run its course. A more tangible
tradition is to the effect that while awaiting something better Miss
Adams worked for a while as a ballet girl.[200] According to Mrs.
Adams, Maude had not long been in New York when Daniel Frohman offered
her a position in the company supporting E. H. Sothern. Virginia Harned
took up the cause of the young actress, and introduced her to Mr.
Sothern. “I must have been a strangely unattractive and unclassified
creature at the time,” says Miss Adams, “too young for mature parts and
too old for child impersonations. Miss Harned, who had played child
parts with me, had succeeded in interesting Mr. Sothern in me and one
great day I was invited to dine with them in a public restaurant. I am
sure that I disgusted Mr. Sothern with my unconquerable bashfulness and
awkwardness. Painfully diffident, I scarcely uttered a word during the
whole of that dinner. Nonetheless I was soon afterward engaged to play
in the Sothern company.”[201]

The engagement with Sothern was brief, however, like all that had gone
before. Not until she was given the part of Dot Bradbury in Hoyt’s
farce _A Midnight Bell_ (in March 1889) did circumstances combine to
give her a good part, a long engagement, and some public notice. Until
now she was quite unknown to the public at large. But she played this
part through the spring and all during the following season. Discerning
playgoers, and a critic here and there, began to speak of her as one
of the promising youngsters of the stage, and what was more important,
she attracted the attention of Charles Frohman, who in the fall of 1890
was organizing a stock company for the Twenty-third Street Theatre.
Mr. Frohman gave Miss Adams a place in this company, and from that day
until his death--twenty-four years--she remained under his management.

Her first part with Mr. Frohman was a small one--Evangeline Bender in
_All the Comforts of Home_. She gave it some distinction, however, and
in her next part, in _Men and Women_, she was watched with interest.
That Mr. Frohman’s choice of this new actress was unfortunate, was the
opinion of many. She was small, thin, pale--quite the opposite of the
accepted type of stage beauty; but she acted well enough, apparently,
for soon she was playing Nell, the crippled girl in _The Lost
Paradise_. The part called for one passage of heightened emotion,--“a
fierce little bit of melodrama” that served to attract new notice
to Miss Adams. “In an audience of seasoned first-nighters and blasé
fashionables there were moist eyes and a surreptitious blowing of noses
when Maude Adams gave rein to that tender pathos which is all her own,”
says one witness. “This wan, hopeless figure peering wistfully from its
shabby raincoat out upon a life she could neither know nor understand
was a triumph of natural emotion simulated with superb restraint.” Mr.
Frohman showed his new company not only to New York, but sent it on
long tours throughout the country.

So well did Miss Adams acquit herself in these first two years with
Mr. Frohman that in 1892, when John Drew left the company of Augustin
Daly after eighteen years’ service, and became a “star,” he insisted
on having her as his leading woman. Mr. Frohman, his new manager,
had had in mind someone of more established reputation, of more
thoroughly tried gifts. But Mr. Drew had his way, and Miss Adams her
first real opportunity. She was surprisingly successful. The play was
_The Masked Ball_.[202] Her part was a brilliant, high-comedy rôle,
demanding at once spirit and subtlety. It was admitted that she did
not look the part, that there was something awkward and boyish about
her Suzanne Blondet. Yet her intelligence, her fine voice, her charm,
and her sincerity in emotional passages won her much warm praise. It
was her difficult task in one passage of this play to act a woman
who is feigning intoxication. To make this tipsy scene anything but
disagreeable was a severe test for a comparatively unknown woman, who
at best had much to do to win her audience. Win it she did, however,
for she was called a dozen times before the curtain. _The Masked Ball_
had a successful career of a year and a half, and Maude Adams, at its
close, had pretty well established herself. At less than twenty she was
a “leading woman,” the youngest of the day.

Miss Adams remained as John Drew’s principal supporting actress for
five seasons--from the fall of 1892 to the spring of 1897.[203]

The success of _The Masked Ball_ was not repeated at once, not until
four years later, indeed, when _Rosemary_ gave both Mr. Drew and Miss
Adams excellent opportunities. In the meantime she had had occasional
small triumphs, and only one approach to downright failure--in _The
Squire of Dames_. In this play she had the part of a flippant,
heartless young society woman, and, truth to tell, she didn’t do much
with it. In the _Bauble Shop_, however, she had had an opportunity
for her simplicity and pathos, while in _That Imprudent Young Couple_
she rose superior to the play, and prompted this criticism: “That
Miss Adams was able to interest her audience at all last night was
due entirely to the charm of her own personality. Her work is still
exceptional in its daintiness and its simplicity.... She has found
the short cut from laughter into tears. It is good to see that the
remarkable success that has come to this young actress has not turned
her head.”

As for _Rosemary_, the last play of the John Drew-Maude Adams period,
it is to be said that it is one of the most charming of the many plays
of its gifted and long-laboring author, Louis N. Parker. It is a
pleasantly old-fashioned, idyllic comedy of the England of Victoria’s
accession, and seems to have disclosed equally Miss Adams’s gifts of
comedy and of pathos;--a play well suited to her middle period.

At this time James M. Barrie was in America. He was planning the
dramatization of his novel _The Little Minister_. He saw Miss Adams as
Dorothy and marked her at once as the woman to play his Lady Babbie.
Mr. Frohman already had half-formed plans for promoting her, and the
opportunity to play _The Little Minister_ came just at the right
moment. Mr. Drew was deprived of his popular leading woman, and on
September 13, 1897, at the Lafayette Square Opera House in Washington
(and two weeks later at the Empire in New York) Maude Adams was
launched upon her career as a “star.” The success of play and player
was immediate and great, for on this occasion began that combination
of dramatist and actress--Barrie and Maude Adams--that has proved so
singularly appealing,--not only in this play, but in _Quality Street_,
in _Peter Pan_, _What Every Woman Knows_, and in _The Legend of

For three whole seasons Maude Adams played Lady Babbie, the first
season in New York and then, until the spring of 1900, up and down the
whole country. It earned for her several fortunes. The play is, as Mr.
Winter[205] has said, a “neat but inadequate paraphrase” of the novel,
and the character of Babbie has not the substance and power of the
Babbie of the book. Relieved of the necessity for an emotional power
that is probably beyond her, Miss Adams was left free to delight her
audience with the waywardness and sweetness of the new Babbie of the
play. Miss Adams gave the character a peculiar other-worldly charm that
seemed then to have made its way to the stage for the first time, and
that lingers in the minds of many playgoers as the best remembered
achievement of her career. It is probably true that she had even before
had parts calling for more varied and difficult work, but the popular
success of _The Little Minister_ was one of the extraordinary incidents
in American theatrical annals.[206]

To vary the task of repeating the same rôle months on end, and (perhaps
chiefly) to satisfy her ambitions, Miss Adams essayed, in the Spring of
1899, her first Shakespearean part, Juliet in _Romeo and Juliet_. The
result was anything but a complete success, though her thick-and-thin
admirers professed themselves pleased. William Faversham was Romeo,
and James K. Hackett, Mercutio. Miss Adams as Juliet left much to be
desired. She has a gracious, elfish, quite individual charm; she has
winning humor and a quiet, directly appealing power of pathos; she is
the interpreter _par excellence_ of the delicate, touching whimsies
of Barrie; but she has not, or had not then, tragic power. Juliet,
it need not be said, demands a large share of such power. Young as
Shakespeare represents her to be, she is a creature of glamorous beauty
and consuming passion. Such Miss Adams could not make her. She could
and did make Juliet pleasantly and touchingly girlish, a graceful,
fragile, pathetic figure. But _Romeo and Juliet_ was not an artistic
success (though it was a financial one) and Miss Adams speedily
dropped the part. “I have not done what I intended to do,” she honestly

But her next part was not, as one might have expected, a return to the
medium of her accepted successes. It was even a step further away.
Bernhardt, in the spring of 1900, had acted the Duke of Reichstadt
in Rostand’s play _L’Aiglon_. Reichstadt was the son of Napoleon the
Great and Marie Louise of Austria. The play tells the story of his
abortive attempt to regain his father’s throne. Miss Adams, a few
months after Bernhardt’s production in Paris, essayed the part in New
York, of course in an English version.[207] Like one part she had
played before, Juliet, and another she was to play later, Chanticler,
Reichstadt was too large and exacting a part for her. Yet by reason
of her own physical characteristics she suggested the weakness and
effeminacy of the young Duke, and in the lighter scenes she was
pleasing and satisfying. In the more serious scenes--and there are two
that require great acting in the tempestuous strain: the Mirror Scene,
in which Reichstadt is shown by Metternich the hopeless weakness of
his character and the desperation of his cause; and the scene on the
battlefield of Wagram, where “the eaglet” is crushed by visions of his
father’s ruthless career,--in these scenes Miss Adams was interesting
and pathetic, but she hardly exhausted the possibilities.[208] The
production of _L’Aiglon_ could not, however, fail to add to her
artistic reputation and to her immense popularity, if that were

With _Quality Street_, a delightful, simple, sunshiny play by Barrie in
which she was the lovable and thoroughly feminine Phœbe Throssell, and
in the far less attractive play _The Pretty Sister of José_, in which
she was a Spanish girl, “of delicate, winning sensibility,”[209] Miss
Adams returned to the sort of acting which in _The Little Minister_ had
made her name universally known.

Never, however, before or since, has Miss Adams’ popularity risen
to such a pitch as it did upon the production of _Peter Pan_. First
produced in 1905, it ran for three seasons, and when Miss Adams revived
it recently and took it far and wide about the country it proved
as popular as ever. It may be, as Mr. Winter says, “immeasurably
inferior, in fancy and satire, to _Alice in Wonderland_.” But then, Mr.
Winter found it at times puerile and tedious, and could discern nothing
in it but a diversion for children. _That_ it certainly was, but the
children’s ages ran from four to fourscore. It was a matter of common
observation, even in that supposed center of case-hardened worldliness,
New York, that the audiences were largely of grown-ups, and that
stock-brokers, “tired business men,” and others who would flee miles
from the ordinary “children’s play,” came not once, but thrice, a dozen
times, in some cases, to see the triumph of Peter over Captain Hook.
The elfin quality, the gracious charm and warm-hearted humor of Miss
Adams’ _Peter Pan_ may not have been sufficient to make it, as a feat
of acting, her most memorable achievement; but play and player have won
their way into the public’s affections more thoroughly than anything
else she has done--more even than _The Little Minister_.

In another Barrie play, _What Every Woman Knows_--produced after the
comparatively short life of _The Jesters_, a romantic mediæval play
in which she displayed her familiar ability without working any great
advance or change--Miss Adams accomplished what remains as probably
the most noteworthy acting, _as acting_, of her career. She entered
thoroughly into the part of Maggie Wylie--the Scotch woman who, while
regaining, in a novel way, her errant husband, demonstrates again “what
every woman knows,”--the dependence of mere man upon woman. The play
was a delightful instance of Barrie’s gift for dressing human truths in
whimsical fancy; Miss Adams, in the well chosen words of Mr. Winter,
combined “goodness, tenderness, magnanimity, pride, motherhood, and
pity with some little dash of tartness,--and gave a performance which
needed only flexibility and more essential Scotch character to make it
as entirely enjoyable as it was artistically consistent.”[210]

When Maude Adams was announced as Mr. Frohman’s choice for Chanticler
in Rostand’s barnyard drama of that name, there was much plain-spoken
wonder. It was felt by even her most cordial well-wishers that her
ambitions and Mr. Frohman’s indulgence of them could not well go
further. Facetiously expressing this feeling, _Life_ announced that
Mr. Frohman’s next production would be Shakespeare’s tragedy of _King
Lear_, with Maude Adams in the title part. Chanticler demands an actor
of the somewhat florid style, at least an actor skilled in poetic
speech. The “make-up” is as nearly as possible the fac-simile of our
old friend the barnyard rooster, comb, tail feathers, spurs and all.
It can easily be seen that an elocutionist, in such a part, is a
necessity. It was generally said that the single and obvious choice
for Chanticler was Otis Skinner, who would indeed have been ideal.
Still, Miss Adams, somehow, certainly escaped failure. She is fragile
and a woman, not a robust man; but her Chanticler took on, through her
intelligence and sincerity, a share of the impressiveness that the part
needed, though one felt that Miss Adams could have been spending her
ability to better advantage. The apparent perversity that has taken
a sweetly feminine, very American woman, of limited powers but sure
ability to delight within her proper, modern field, and made her first
a heroine of Shakespearean tragedy, then a decadent, disease-stricken
youth, then a young mediæval nobleman in masquerade, and later the
embodiment, several times life size, of a rooster, has been one of
the strange phenomena of the recent American stage. The extenuating
circumstances are first that managers are always more or less at a loss
for good plays, particularly for a strongly individualized actress; and
further that Miss Adams, greatly to her credit, did nothing without
casting over it at least the glamour of a fine intelligence and an
admirable ambition.

A marvelous exhibition of what Miss Adams and Mr. Frohman, when
they put their heads together, could do in the way of contrast to
Phœbe Throssell and Maggie Wylie, was the production for a single
performance in the great Stadium at Harvard, one night in June, 1909,
of Schiller’s _Maid of Orleans_. Miss Adams had played _Twelfth Night_
in Sanders Theatre one evening a year before. The _Maid of Orleans_
was an outgrowth of the earlier performance and was undertaken at
the suggestion of the German department of Harvard. That there were
one hundred and fifty mounted knights in full armor, one thousand
men-at-arms, two hundred citizens, one hundred and fifty women and
children, one hundred and twenty musicians, and ninety singers,
besides sixty speaking parts, gives some idea of the magnitude of
this unique presentation. In the coronation scene more than fifteen
hundred persons were on the improvised Stadium stage. The cost of
this single evening’s performance, with its specially constructed
scenery and long preparation, was tremendous. And Maude Adams planned
and carried through the entire proceeding. “This,” said one perhaps
over-enthusiastic spectator, “is the biggest thing ever undertaken by
any woman, except the one she is representing.” And through it all Miss
Adams was playing the Maid, even to leading, on a great white charger,
the troops of France in the battle charge. The spectacular effects--the
storm scene, the battle scene, the scene of the coronation--were vastly
impressive, though the petite figure and delicate art of the principal
actress were often lost in the largeness of her surroundings.

Maude Adams and James M. Barrie seem to have been, artistically, born
for each other. At any rate, it is in his plays--_The Little Minister_,
_Quality Street_, _Peter Pan_, _What Every Woman Knows_,--that she
has deservedly won her fame. The latest in the list is _The Legend
of Leonora_, in which she has forsaken Chanticler’s feathers and
Peter Pan’s breeches once more to don petticoats. It brings Miss
Adams back to a doting public in a part that gives rein to her old
time ability as a light _comédienne_. That a portion of this public
is more or less shocked to see its beloved Maude Adams playing the
part of a murderess--even though Leonora and her crime are amiable
unrealities--indicates the strongly personal element in the popularity
of the actress.[211]

This personal element has been introduced into the Maude Adams worship
solely across the footlights. That is to say, the public knows next to
nothing of her as a human being except as her personality is poured
into and out of her work. Out of a native shyness as well as out of
a desire to avoid publicity except as an actress, she carries her
self-effacement off the stage to the last degree. She is never met at
social gatherings, she has never addressed meetings or written magazine
articles; she is seldom seen on the streets or driving in the park,
and the occasions on which she has, in many years, gone to any theatre
as one of the audience could be numbered on one’s fingers. She dresses
with the utmost quietness and with small regard to current styles.

But her shrinking from “the general” is, one need hardly say, without
trace of a sour attitude toward the world. She is said to be chary of
personal friendships, but those who know her best speak glowingly of
her bountiful kindness. She has, of course, made a great deal of money.
A considerable share of it has gone, unostentatiously, to the relief of
the needy. She is said to have a list of pensioners:--old, destitute
players, or acquaintances of her early life.[212]

Miss Adams has always taken a keen interest in the mechanical side
of the theatre. More than most actresses she knows the intricacies
and the artistry of scenery and lighting, and has much to say of them
when she is to appear in a new part. She has, indeed, her own office
in the Empire Theatre building and there conducts the many details
of organizing a production. In adoring a sweet and fragile woman her
admirers are likely to forget that Maude Adams is a thoroughly trained
woman of the theatre, of tried executive ability.

The sweetness and simplicity of Maude Adams herself and of her acting
comes in part, one is tempted to think, from her very real love of
nature. She has a New York home--and a quiet retreat it is--but her
real abiding place, when her work permits, is at Sandygarth Farm on
Long Island, where she owns what may fairly be called an estate. She
has there her stables, her kennels, her fields under cultivation, her
woods; and she knows the details of farming only less well than the
secrets of stagecraft. She has, too, a bungalow in the Catskills.
She is fond of riding and of long walks in the country. Books form
an inevitable furnishing in all three houses. She has given herself
a good schooling in French, and she is on more than speaking terms
with the philosophers and poets. She likes foreign travel, and has
made several trips to Europe and the near East. She plays well the
piano and the harp and when opportunity offers she goes to symphony
concerts. Altogether she is a serious-minded devotee of the essential,
the beautiful and the simple. She is of course aware of her own great
popularity. But the feeling it inspires in her is said by her friends
to be one of humility and wonder. And whatever her rank as an artist,
she has sent across the footlights her simplicity, her sense of
sweetness and light, to be a beneficent influence. Her picture, cut
from a magazine and pinned to the wall of a ranch house in the far
West, or of a tenement in the slums of an Eastern city, is a symbol of
something good added to American life.


“There is no great acting now,” the veteran theatregoer will tell you.
“The day of the stars has passed.” He who remembers vividly Charlotte
Cushman, Edwin Booth and Madame Janauschek feels that times have
changed indeed. And he is quite right. But sometimes he is sure, with
Mr. Winter, that they have changed altogether for the worse. And there
he is wrong. If it seems true that with the passing from our stage
of Madame Modjeska, Miss Rehan and Miss Marlowe the robes of high
priestess of our stage, to whom all the people delight to burn incense,
grace alone the slender form of Miss Maude Adams, that fact does not
necessarily argue a lack of genius in the artists that remain. We are,
on the whole fortunately, abolishing the rank of high priestess.

All the women, with one or two exceptions, who are the subjects of the
preceding chapters have been out-and-out exponents of the star system.
It is an undesirable system, which is not essential to the theatre
and which is only a passing phase, though it has lasted a matter of
centuries, and though we owe to it many names that make illustrious the
annals of the drama. It is undesirable because it subordinates the
play, which first and last should be “the thing,” to the interpreter
of the play, because it exercises a vicious influence on playwrights
who write to clothe personalities rather than their own ideas, and an
equally vicious influence on actors who think of plays primarily as
opportunities for histrionic exploits. “But,” some one says, “did not
Shakespeare himself write plays that are obviously for stars?” Well,
he certainly wrote plays upon which starship has battened. Like any
other good plays, however, Shakespeare’s plays are even better when
the starship, as such, is left out, as any one will testify who has
seen them acted without the extraneous element that is symbolized by
enormous type on the play-bill.

To think of the theatre first of all in terms of actors and actresses
is, however, natural enough. It is a popular way of looking at the
theatre, and it would be idle to expect its total disappearance. And
it would be ungrateful. Actors and actresses are public servants and
benefactors, to whom recognition and praise are due. But recognition
is one thing; starship, with all its adulations,--Bernhardtism,--is
another. And there are good reasons for thinking that other aspects of
the theatre are also becoming popular.

The early years of the twentieth century have been a period of rapid
development in the theatre, a development marked by at least two
broad phenomena: first, the growing public sense of the drama as an
art, of which acting is a component part, not the chief end; and,
secondly, the revolution in the technique of stagecraft. To sum up
the matter in a word, the stage is struggling, rather blindly, to
liberate itself from the conventions that intervene between audience
and play. As an incident in that liberation, the star system is on its
way, not to destruction, for the actor of genius will always remain a
compelling figure, but at least to broad modification. Starless casts
and repertory companies have been plentiful enough to indicate the
beginnings of a strong, new current.

Again, playwriting and acting, hand in hand, have become more
realistic, more subtle, more psychological; there are far fewer
opportunities for broad effects than in the old days, there is far less
of the intense concentration of playwright and audience on a single
character and a single actor or actress. It is probable that even
if a Bernhardt or a Duse or a Cushman should spring up in our midst
she would find effective physical and psychological barriers to an
ascension to starship as those illustrious women have known it.

Very briefly indicated, these are some of the phases of the phenomenon
that may easily be mistaken by the cherisher of traditions as the
passing of first-rate acting. Though it is different in tone and
method, and leads less often to extreme heights of public notice,
acting to-day succeeds as well in its adaptation to the newer ideal of
the primacy of the play as did the older school in the exaltation of
the actor.

It is a rather odd circumstance that while the English stage is rich
in its actors and comparatively scantily supplied with excellent
actresses, the reverse is true in America, so far as concerns the
younger generation. Our civilization seems to breed actresses thickly
at home, and to entice them from abroad. When Edward Sothern, Otis
Skinner, David Warfield, Henry Miller, Robert Mantell, John Drew,
William Gillette and even Mr. Hackett, Mr. Faversham and Mr. Daly shall
have retired from the stage, who is to help Ernest Glendinning and
the imported Mr. Lou-Tellegen maintain the honors of their sex? But
when Mrs. Fiske and Maude Adams shall have followed Julia Marlowe into
retirement, there still will be, even if Ethel Barrymore and Margaret
Anglin should regrettably have left the stage, a considerable group of
still younger actresses, none of whom may ever achieve stardom as it
was once practiced, but each of whom fits with admirable ability into
the newer order of things.

Better than almost any one else, Miss Barrymore represents the dangers
of the star system. The daughter of one of America’s best actors,
Maurice Barrymore,[213] and the niece of another, John Drew, she was a
marked victim from the beginning. Charles Frohman made her a star in
1900, when she was twenty-one. She had had a scant half dozen years
of training in her uncle’s company in America and in Henry Irving’s
company in England, and had not played more than a dozen parts in all.
She was made a star simply on the strength of a pleasing personality,
intelligence, a pretty face, and a working grasp of stage behavior.

During the next decade, playing in pieces like _Captain Jinks of the
Horse Marines_, _Cousin Kate_, and _Sunday_, she attracted and held
a loyal public that liked to see her personality exploited in those
comparatively insignificant plays, just as adoring theatregoers throng
today to see Billie Burke and Marie Doro, whatever the slenderness and
frothiness of the play. But let Miss Barrymore, in an effort to be a
real actress, try her hand at submerging herself in an un-Barrymorelike
character, in a play of any serious interest, and that adoring public
was bewildered and disappointed and remained away from the theatre.
Such are the fruits of thinking of the theatre in terms of the actor.

But Miss Barrymore had it in her to be a real actress. Once in a
while, prompted by her ambition, she would do something that her fond
followers would think was queer. Thus, during this decade, from 1900
to 1910, in the midst of her prosperous playing of popular pieces, she
acted at one time or another _Carrots_, a one-act play from the French
in which she gave a pathetic picture of the boy-hero; then, at a single
plunge, Ibsen’s _A Doll’s House_; then _Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire_, a play
that Barrie wrote for Ellen Terry, and in which Miss Barrymore, to the
consternation of her peculiar public, appeared as a gray-haired matron;
and finally _The Silver Box_, an unrelievedly serious and honest play
by Galsworthy, in which she descended to the depths by acting an
ordinary scrub-woman.

Not all of these did Miss Barrymore play signally well; her starship,
limiting her to a play or two per year, had simply not afforded her the
training to become the actress she has since shown herself to be. But
in these brief experiments at least she was feeling her way out of the
entanglements of theatrical pettiness.

When Miss Barrymore, in January, 1910, appeared in Pinero’s
_Mid-Channel_, she had married and become a mother. Whether the
admirers of her former girlish charm and slenderness liked it or
not, she was now inevitably a deeper-natured and more mature woman
and, consequently, capable of deeper and better acting. The fact was
speedily proved in _Mid-Channel_. The play is a grim tragedy of English
middle-class life, in which a fine-natured wife, after a gradual course
of unhappy, deteriorating life with a selfish and sensual husband, ends
her problems with suicide;--surely not one of the pretty Barrymore
parts. “There will be hosts of the ‘Barrymore public,’ no doubt, who
will feel that in _Mid-Channel_ they cannot laugh with her,” wrote
Walter Prichard Eaton. “But to some more thoughtful men and women it
is a source of rare satisfaction that at last the promise of that
lovely voice and expressive face has been fulfilled, and you can weep
with her, suffer with her, understand through the spell of her acting
a little better the sorrows and perplexities of our frail humanity.
In short, Miss Barrymore has become an actress.... Her many admirers,
gathered in force, who evidently knew more about her than they cared
about Pinero, were disposed to laugh in the first act during the scenes
of her bickerings. But never after that did she allow them to suppose
for an instant that they were not watching a serious and passionate
study of a woman’s tragedy.”

After _Mid-Channel_, Miss Barrymore had to be considered as one of the
artists of our stage, if she and her managers could only agree to let
her remain so. She revived _Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire_, and played it with
far more feeling and a more convincing sense of maternity than she had
shown before; she has played the insurgent wife in Barrie’s one-act
masterpiece, _The Twelve-Pound-Look_, with a sure-handed mastery of
the ironic and subtle that belongs only to a finished actress; she
has, most recently of all, acted Madame Okraska, in the dramatization
of _Tante_, with a keenness of insight into character and a finesse
that showed again how far she had traveled since the days of _Captain
Jinks_. Let us hope that henceforth Miss Barrymore’s unquestioned
talent will not be allowed to expend itself on unworthy material.

Next to Mrs. Fiske, the leading actress of our contemporary stage is
undoubtedly Margaret Anglin.[214] Her training has had a wider range,
and her artistry a more varied accomplishment, than those of any other
actress on our stage. Born in Canada of a non-theatrical family, she
came to New York to study. She is one of our few brilliant actresses
who have come to the stage by way of the dramatic schools. In 1894,
when she was eighteen, she was Madeline West in Charles Frohman’s
production of _Shenandoah_. When she was twenty she was playing Ophelia
and Virginia in James O’Neill’s company, and from that day to this she
has been one of America’s dependable and versatile stage artists.

A few years ago we thought of her as a powerful emotional actress
who had come through an apprenticeship in barnstorming, and an early
recognition of merit as Roxane to Mansfield’s Cyrano, to full measured
achievement in _Mrs. Dane’s Defence_, _The Great Divide_, and _The
Awakening of Helena Ritchie_,--with a large number of plays and parts
scattered in between. But of late years she has broadened her art and
made secure her place among contemporary actresses not only by plunging
wholeheartedly into a campaign in Shakespeare, but by ranging even
farther and acting the heroines of Greek tragedy. Miss Anglin is as
effective in comedy--witness _Green Stockings_ and _Lady Windermere’s
Fan_ as recent instances, and her Lady Eastney in _Mrs. Dane’s
Defence_ for an earlier one--as she is in emotional rôles; she has
acted in Australia as well as in America; she was the first artist to
carry about the country a repertoire of plays set in accordance with
the ideals of the new stagecraft; and as Mr. Eaton has said, “as a
stage manager she has succeeded in reviving something of the atmosphere
of good breeding, of polite comedy, of perfect ensemble and polish,
which we associate with the memory of Lester Wallack.” It is an ample,
dignified career, now happily at its height, of hard working service to
the art of the actress.

When in 1913 Miss Anglin made herself a Shakespearean actress-manager,
the size of her repertoire, the general excellence of her
interpretations, and the revelation of the beauties of the new stage
art that signalized her performances combined to give American
theatregoers a new idea of her ability and broadening ambition.
The plays were _The Taming of the Shrew_, _Twelfth Night_, _As You
Like It_, and _Antony and Cleopatra_; the scenery in each case was
a beautiful example--by Livingston Platt--of the imaginative revolt
from old stage conventions that has notably marked the last decade;
and Miss Anglin’s own women of Shakespeare,--though her Cleopatra was
a comparative failure and was soon dropped from her repertoire, and
though her Viola was to a degree lacking in high spirits--were charming
and technically admirable impersonations.

In the Greek Theatre of the University of California at Berkeley, Miss
Anglin has acted four of the classic dramas of ancient Greece,--the
_Antigone_ and the _Electra_ of Sophocles, the _Iphigenia in Auris_
and the _Medea_ of Euripides. Though her training and her speech have
always been primarily those of the modern actress, she has revealed
in these classic tragedies a simplicity of method and an authority of
voice and presence that few actresses, either of England or America,
could equal. With Miss Lillah McCarthy presenting so beautifully the
women of Greek tragedy at one end of the country, and Miss Anglin at
the other, the classics have had a day of real, if brief, glory.

If the roster of American actresses is given a cosmopolitan aspect by
the inclusion of the names of Edith Wynne Matthison, Martha Hedman,
Hedwig Reicher and Bertha Kalich, all of whom lived many years in
Europe, the most striking example of all is Alla Nazimova.[215] She
was born in Russia, went to school in Switzerland, studied the violin
at Odessa, the drama in Moscow, and after a few years’ apprenticeship
in her native land and a year at St. Petersburg, she acted with Paul
Orleneff’s company (of course, in Russian) in London. Coming then to
America she played a season in Russian with her compatriots; and then,
in June, 1906, having signed a contract to act in English in November
of the same year, she set herself to the mastery of the new language,
much as Modjeska had done thirty years before. She kept her word,
and when the appointed time came she acted _Hedda Gabler_, which she
followed during the next half-dozen years, with others of Ibsen’s
plays: _A Doll’s House_, _The Master Builder_, _Little Eyolf_, as well
as several other plays, like _The Comet_, _The Marionettes_, and _Bella
Donna_, in none of which the actress possessed the significance that
marked her when she confined herself to Ibsen.

To play first in an obscure hall on the lower East Side, then in two or
three scarcely less obscure theatres, and then, a year and a half after
her unheralded arrival, to act in a new tongue in one of New York’s
leading theatres--it all makes one of the most dramatic of careers.
If, however, Nazimova is “a tigress in the leash of art,” as Julius
Huneker called her, an artist must hold the leash, or it becomes too
much a circus tigress, going through the expected tricks, but in a cage
of which she is always conscious. Nazimova did us a real service in
her vivid impersonation of Ibsen’s heroines. Mrs. Fiske apart, no one
else has done much for Ibsen in this country. But apparently she cannot
go on playing Ibsen profitably; her art, which “expresses itself in a
continual physical virtuosity which startles and thrills,” does not
find an outlet in the sort of play English and American dramatists are
likely to write; and, as Mr. Ruhl points out, “of late she has drifted
far from her simpler beginnings and over-accented the more exotic side
of her personality as if determined to ‘run it into the ground.’” Like
another actress of striking talent, Nance O’Neil, Madame Nazimova is
idle chiefly because she and the dramatists seem unable to meet on a
common ground.

The case for the poetic actress is little better. After acquiring
in England a thorough grounding in her profession, Edith Wynne
Matthison[216] came to America in 1903 and played _Everyman_ with a
dignity, a charm of voice and person, and a poetic poignancy that made
the fifteenth-century “morality” forever memorable for any one who saw
it. After brief experiments with Viola, Portia, and Kate Hardcastle,
she returned to England, and then, after dividing the intervening years
between her old home and her new, she settled more or less permanently
in America in 1910, when she joined the company of the New Theatre. She
must be regarded as of the American theatre.

Miss Matthison is preëminently a poetic actress. Her moods and methods,
her rich and tender voice, her whole training and personality fit her
rarely for the realization of the heroines of poetic drama. How truly
this is not the age of the poetic drama, however, is shown by the short
list of rôles--outside of Shakespeare’s heroines--that Miss Matthison
has had, at once adapted to her and worthy of her talents. At the New
Theatre she played Sister Beatrice in Maeterlinck’s play of that name,
_The Piper_, and Light in _The Blue Bird_. And the New Theatre was
not wholly a response to public taste; it was largely an attempt to
foster it. For the rest, Miss Matthison’s American appearances (and her
English experience was similar) have been distributed among many plays
of many kinds, some of them excellent, like _The Great Divide_ and _The
Servant in the House_, but all of them rather beside the point, so far
as Miss Matthison’s peculiar talent was concerned. When she played, and
beautifully played, Andromache in Mr. Barker’s recent production of
_The Trojan Women_, she again came briefly into her own.

If Miss Anglin and Miss Matthison almost exhaust our list of first-rate
poetic actresses (now that Miss Marlowe has retired), the case is far
otherwise with the _comédiennes_. There are two, at least,--Grace
George and Laura Hope Crews,--who are practiced adepts, thoroughly at
home amid the subtleties of high comedy.

The place of Miss George[217] among American actresses is only partly
indicated by the announcement that she is to direct her own theatre in
New York. Though she merits that distinction, it is one that is easily
within the grasp of the wife of William A. Brady. But it is indeed
something to be one of our few actresses who are mistresses of comedy.
Miss George made her first appearance on the professional stage
(she had previously acted much as an amateur) as long ago as 1894,
but it was not until 1907, when she acted Cyprienne in _Divorçons_,
that she disclosed her talent brought to its fullness by long and
varied training. Playing with her in _Divorçons_ was that excellent
actor, Frank Worthing, and the effect produced by them remains one
of the memorable incidents of American acting.[218] During the dozen
years that preceded _Divorçons_ and again during the period that has
followed, Miss George has been condemned to play in a long succession
of comparatively inferior plays. The list is varied only occasionally
by brief appearances in genuine high comedy, such as her Lady Teazle in
_The School for Scandal_ at the New Theatre and her Beatrice in _Much
Ado About Nothing_. Taking it all in all, she is best represented, so
far, by her Cyprienne, an admirable impersonation, compact with rich
humor, naturalness and charm,--and achievement in real comedy. Miss
George promises to come into her own, however, with the opening of the
theatre in New York of which she is to be the guiding spirit and the
chief actress, for, if promise fails not, it is to be a rigorously
guarded home of nothing but the best in the realm of comedy.

Like Miss George, Laura Hope Crews[219] has earned by long training
and by brilliant accomplishment the admiration she now wins. She had
been a child actress in the far West, and, returning to the stage
in her ’teens, had undergone the rigorous training of stock company
work in San Francisco and New York for a half dozen years before she
attracted any considerable notice. Such an experience in American stock
companies, with weekly changes of bill, means either a sinking to a
dead level of mechanical acting, or a constantly enlarging technical
resource. The latter was the case with Miss Crews. As Mr. Eaton has
pointed out, though she has come to be looked upon as an actress of
such sunny parts as Polly in _The Great Divide_, and the whimsical
heroine of _Her Husband’s Wife_, it is because Miss Crews for so long
went from such plays as Hoyt’s _A Bunch of Keys_, to others like
_Magda_ and _Hedda Gabler_ that she is today not merely an attractive
personality, but an actress of complete technical equipment. Such she
has again proved herself to be by the finesse of her impersonation of
the wife in _The Phantom Rival_. By virtue of the power of consistent
impersonation which she brings to bear upon her warmly human heroines,
her high spirits and her thoroughly trained resources of humorous
suggestion, she has earned a high place as a _comédienne_; but the
sincerity and the variety of her art would equip her at a moment’s
notice to revert to the emotional heroines of a more sober drama.

It is becoming too apparent that we have seen the last of the charming
and delicate art of Annie Russell; the physical power and the
emotional intensity of Nance O’Neil’s very real talent find their
expression only in plays of a Bernhardtian type that to a great extent
has gone out of fashion on the American stage; Rose Stahl, after a long
career as America’s best stock actress, leaped into international fame
by a single masterpiece of characterization (in _The Chorus Lady_)
which she has not since had an occasion to duplicate; and the charming
and well-grounded acting ability of Henrietta Crosman, always condemned
to deal with second-rate plays, seems to have run its course, so far as
the public is concerned.

To replace these and the other actresses[220] who have dropped from
the ranks of active service, or who will, before many years pass,
do so, there is, as we have said, no lack of younger women. A stage
that can count upon Helen Ware, Margaret Illington, Emma Dunn, Elsie
Ferguson, Emily Stevens, Frances Starr, Jane Cowl, Martha Hedman, Doris
Keane, Laurette Taylor, Irene Fenwick, and Florence Reed is suffering
no weakness on its distaff side. If only our accomplished young
actors were as numerous! For each of these women is more than a mere
personality--she is a real actress, mistress of the tools of her trade.

Like Miss Anglin, Margaret Illington learned the rudiments of her
art in a dramatic school. Coming then from Chicago to New York, she
was immediately engaged by Daniel Frohman for a part in _The Pride
of Jennico_. That was fifteen years ago, and it would be beside
the point to rank her with those who are, comparatively, untried
beginners. Miss Illington is a practiced player with more than a score
of excellent impersonations to her credit; of which Mrs. Leffingwell
in _Mrs. Leffingwell’s Boots_, Nina Jesson in _His House in Order_,
Marie Voysin in _The Thief_, Maggie Schultz in _Kindling_, and Elinor
Shale in _The Lie_ are merely the outstanding names. But she is still
young and she is one of those who can be counted on to carry on the
torch for years to come. “Miss Illington leaves no delicate nuance
of expression untouched,” has been written of her. “She has great
vitality and physical beauty; she has a perfectly secure and accurate
dramatic instinct.... In two of the finest moments [of _The Lie_] Miss
Illington rises to tragic heights. In all of the lighter scenes she is
deliciously youthful and piquant.... Fleeting glimpses of humor and
enfolding sweetness, and then the big frantic outbursts of righteous
anger and superb accusations.” In a part of quite another sort, the
harassed wife in _Kindling_, Miss Illington “acted the ignorant, dumbly
struggling, desperate mother truly, simply, touchingly.”

Miss Ferguson is a graduate of the musical comedy chorus, and, for
an actress who shows so much ability, her dramatic training has been
brief. Only a half dozen rôles had followed her chorus-girls days when
she was given a part in _Such a Little Queen_. She was not a star
when the play was produced, but not many days had gone by when her
managers boldly, and perhaps prematurely, elevated her to starship. Her
beauty and intelligence went far to justify her promotion, and when
the pleasantries of _Such a Little Queen_ and _The First Lady of the
Land_ were followed by the greater complexities of _The Strange Woman_
and _Outcast_, it became plain that Miss Ferguson’s emotional truth
and sense of impersonation could be those of only a genuine actress.
The intellectual note that is strong in her work, and the fluency,
versatility and certainty of the technique that she has somehow
acquired in her short career, make her the most promising of our
younger actresses.

Like Miss Ferguson, Miss Stevens is beautiful, and alive to the
finger-tips with the keen intelligence of the modern American woman at
her best. Excellent training in her distinguished cousin’s company she
has followed by pleasing performances of Emmy in _Septimus_ and Anne
in _Man and Superman_, but of late the plays to which she has been
assigned,--like _The Child_ and _The Garden of Paradise_, have failed
so lamentably that the light of her talent is in temporary eclipse.

In Helen Ware, America has an actress who, though her art, as so far
revealed, is comparatively limited in scope, is in the very first
rank of impersonators of highly-colored “character” parts and of
the masterful women of modern melodrama. Her vivid gypsy girl in
_The Road to Yesterday_ impressed American theatregoers when she had
been on the stage a half-dozen years, and since then her work in
_The Third Degree_, _The Woman_ and _Within The Law_ have more than
reënforced that impression. She is an utterly sincere actress, who
plans and executes her characterizations with admirable and convincing

Emma Dunn’s succession of perfectly limned stage portraits of elderly
women; Frances Starr’s achievements as Laura Murdock in _The Easiest
Way_ and as Dorothy in _The Case of Becky_; Jane Cowl’s Mary Turner
in _Within The Law_, an impersonation that took Miss Cowl at a single
bound almost to the side of Helen Ware; the beautifully feminine and
intelligent acting--in an acquired tongue--of Martha Hedman, who has
come to us from Sweden; the charmingly restrained and skillful work
of Florence Reed in _The Yellow Ticket_; Doris Keane’s admirably
lifelike and subtle impersonation of a prima donna of the sixties in
_Romance_; Irene Fenwick’s vivid Lily Kardos in _The Song of Songs_,
and Laurette Taylor’s exotic princess in _The Bird of Paradise_, and
her delightfully human, humorously pathetic, internationally memorable
Peg;--these have hardly had time to become memories. Surely, so far
as actresses are concerned, our stage is richly endowed. And not only
with native talent. Hedwig Reicher, of German birth and training and an
excellent actress of Ibsen’s heroines, and Bertha Kalich, who was born
in Austria and acted in New York in Yiddish, have both adopted America
and the English tongue and, like Alla Nazimova and Martha Hedman, must
henceforth be counted among America’s actresses. Mimi Aguglia is living
in our midst, and acts in Italian when, all too rarely, opportunity
presents itself.

As for visitors from England, Marie Tempest, Mrs. Patrick Campbell
and Gertrude Elliott are almost as familiarly known in this country
as at home; the girlish charm of Phyllis Neilson-Terry, and the ample
art of Lillah McCarthy, who is equal alike to the exacting demands of
Greek tragedy and Shavian satire, it has recently been the privilege
of America to witness; Mary Forbes is a newcomer, an actress skilled
in both poetic drama and realistic plays; and the too rare visits of
the Irish Players have given us the pungent and stimulating art of Sara

This chapter, or rather this list,--it could be little more with so
many ladies clamoring for their deserved attention,--has at least
made one thing clear. On the feminine side of the art of acting, the
only art in which women compete with men on more than even terms, the
American stage is in a healthy condition. It has been said, often with
cynical emphasis, that in America the audiences of women condition the
whole art of the drama. But it is not only at the box-office that women
outweigh the men in their share in our theatre.



The actress, as an established element in the theatre, is comparatively
modern. The English stage had been a flourishing public institution
for something more than a century when, in the first years of the
Restoration, veritable women began regularly to replace those lads and
beardless men who in Shakespeare’s day enacted stage heroines.

There are, to be sure, fleeting glimpses of women acting in England
much earlier in the seventeenth century, while boys were regularly
playing women’s parts. King James spent immense sums on his court
revels, and his Queen, Anne, was both actress and manager--no doubt
with much professional coaching. In 1625--the first year of the reign
of Charles I--there was a merry round of plays acted at Hampton Court
at Christmas time. “The demoiselles,”--who, as Doran surmises, were
probably the maids of honor--“mean to present a French pastoral wherein
the Queen is a principal actress.”[221] Thus the first actresses in
England were amateurs, and among them were two Queens of the Realm!
Henrietta Maria was, of course, French, and it was due to this fact,
and to her liking for the stage, that actresses from France came to
London[222]--doubtless the first professional actresses to appear
there. The fashion--or rather the obvious advantages--of the acting of
women’s parts by women appears to have commended itself much earlier
on the continent than in England. “They have now,” contemptuously says
Prynne,--the author of _Histrio-Mastix_ (1633) and the theatre’s best
hater,--“their female players in Italy and other foreign parts.”[223]

The French actresses who came to act at Blackfriars may have pleased
their countrywoman, the Queen. But they seem to have had, on the whole,
a rather hard time. “Glad am I to say,” wrote Thomas Brand, another
stout Puritan, “they were hissed, hooted, and pippin-pelted from the
stage, so that I do not think they will soon be ready to try the same
again.” Prynne was furiously abusive. He calls the actresses by a
variety of names, of which “monsters” is one of the mildest.

But to some extent, the idea had taken root, and during the ten years
before the closing of the theatres, in 1642, women occasionally
replaced the boys and men who passed for heroines. In _The Court
Beggar_, a play enacted in London in 1632, one of the characters, Lady
Strangelove, says: “The boy’s a pretty actor, and his mother can play
her part. The women now are in great request.” These early actresses
were, however, not regularly employed, their names have not come down
to us, and it is correct to say that professional English actresses
appear for the first time, when, in 1660, the theatres were reopened,
after their eighteen years’ suppression by the Puritans.[224]

There were two companies, Killigrew’s and D’Avenant’s. Each had its
regularly enrolled actresses, whose names are recorded. Among them
were Mrs. Corey, Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Knipp, the Marshall sisters, Mrs.
Davenport, Mrs. Saunderson, and, a little later, Nell Gwynn.

No one, however, took the trouble to make certain for posterity the
name of the first of them to appear. We know that she played Desdemona,
in an adaptation of _Othello_, called _The Moor of Venice_; that she
was of Killigrew’s company; that the date was December 8, 1660, and the
place the Red Bull; and that Thomas Jordan wrote for the occasion “A
Prologue, to introduce the first woman that came to act on our stage.”
But who the actress was is not known. Two names are the likeliest:
Margaret Hughes, and Anne Marshall. Mrs. Hughes was “more remarkable
for her beauty than for her great ability.” “A mighty pretty woman,”
says Pepys of her, “and seems, but is not, modest.” She was married
later to Prince Rupert, and brought him to the verge of bankruptcy.
Anne Marshall, the other chief claimant, was a competent actress of
the day, remarkable chiefly for being the daughter of a prominent
Presbyterian clergyman.

At first the old practice of giving the women’s parts to boys
threatened to survive, alongside the new custom of employing women.
For a few years both played the heroines, but the race of actors who
could portray women was fast dying out and, owing to a changed public
opinion, was not replenished.[225] When, in 1663, the King granted
patents to Killigrew and D’Avenant, those managers were virtually
instructed to employ none but women to represent female characters:
“Whereas”--the royal patents read,--“the women’s parts in plays have
hitherto been acted by men in the habits of women, at which some have
taken offense, we do give leave that for the time to come all women’s
parts be acted by women.” In a year or so the “boy-actresses” had
virtually disappeared from the stage.

Our old friend Pepys had the pleasure,--undoubtedly a keen one for
him,--of seeing some of the earliest appearances of actresses in
London. We have it from him that in 1661 he saw women acting in
Beaumont and Fletcher’s _Beggar’s Bush_. If he was present at the Red
Bull on the eighth of the previous December, when the first English
actress walked on, he strangely omits to say so.

Something should be said of the changing conditions in the actress’
calling since 1660. As we all know, the complete social recognition
of actors and actresses is distinctly modern. Of course, in the
nature of things, they were always the objects of acclamation and
often admiration; but they were long in attaining real public
respect, strange as that seems to an actor-worshiping (or especially
actress-worshiping) age.

There was plenty of historical background for the old state of things.
The ancients loved their theatre, but their actors did not, as a rule,
rank high in public estimation. According to Cicero, at one time any
Roman who turned actor was disincorporated and unnaturalized by order
of the Censors; and Livy states that players were not thought good
enough for common soldiers. The early Christians maintained the same
attitude, probably with better reason, for in their day the drama fell
into a parlous state. The two councils of Arles excommunicated all
players, and in A. D. 424 another church council declared that “the
testimony of people of ill-reputation, of players, and others of such
scandalous employments, shall not be admitted against any person.”

With the rise of the wonderful Elizabethan drama in England the
actors attained a measure of respect, mixed, however, with a certain
condescension.[226] Later in the seventeenth century, when actresses
began regularly to appear on the English stage, the actor’s standing
was at least no better. William Mountford, a respectable actor, one of
the most accomplished of his day, was killed in a street brawl by Lord
Mohun and Captain Hill, two dissolute “gentlemen,” who were attempting
to abduct the renowned actress, Anne Bracegirdle. Mohun was tried in
1692 by the House of Lords, and though he was flagrantly guilty, he
was acquitted, 69 to 14. During the hearing one nobleman could not
understand why so great a fuss should be made about so small a matter
and said that “after all, the fellow was but a player, and players are
rogues.” And of the period immediately following, John Fyvie says:
“In the earlier part of the eighteenth century anybody might insult
an actor with impunity; and if an actor were thrashed by a person of
quality neither he nor anybody else would have dreamed that he had any
right to retaliate.”[227]

Dr. Johnson’s comments have been quoted as typifying the attitude
which even in Garrick’s day, a man of intellect could maintain toward
the player’s profession,[228] though it is to be noted that not even
in the Doctor’s distinguished circle were his prejudices generally
shared. And Johnson himself, it will be remembered, felt honored to
receive a visit from the celebrated Mrs. Siddons. “At all periods
of his life, Johnson used to talk contemptuously of players,” says
Boswell, “for which, perhaps there was formerly too much reason
from the licentious and dissolute manners of those engaged in that
profession. It is but justice to add,” Boswell goes on, “that in our
own time such a change has taken place, that there is no longer room
for such an unfavorable distinction.”

A century had, indeed, seen a change. In 1660, when actresses invaded
the theatre, there was a long road to travel before the actor could
be thought of as he is today,--innocent of social stigma until proved
guilty. It was then the other way about,--he belonged to an outcast
class, until he proved himself deserving of exceptional consideration.

Naturally, when women came to join the actors’ ranks, they shared more
than to the full the social disadvantages attaching to the calling,
simply because they _were_ women; for, as is well known, it is a queer
twist of the ingrained chivalric attitude toward the sex that when a
woman ranges herself with men of a doubtful class she is accorded a
double portion of the disfavor in which that class may be held. In
any event, the first century of English actresses saw them, for the
most part, doing their best to justify the stigma. Anne Bracegirdle
was notorious in her day, not for lapses from virtue, but actually
for leading a measurably pure life. So singular, in her day, was the
actress who was not the mistress of some one her social superior that
virtuous “Bracey” was hailed as a phenomenon. A number of lords and
gentlemen once met round a festive board and pledged a large purse to
be offered to her as a tribute to her rare chastity.[229] Her sister
actresses, and many who were to follow in the eighteenth century, were,
in many instances, openly the mistresses of lords and other “fine
gentlemen.” It seems superfluous to say of the average nineteenth
century actress that her standards of life were, in general, far
different from those of her earlier sisters; and the fact is of much
importance in its direct bearing on one of the most interesting changes
that have occurred in the realm of the theatre: the improvement in the
social status of the actor and actress.

For another cause of that change we may look to the general dramatic
awakening that characterized the latter part of the nineteenth
century,--the vitalization of the theatre as the home of an art worthy
the study and appreciation of the best minds. In 1660 and for many
years later the English-speaking theatre, at least, was not _that_.

Until fairly recent times the acting class was recruited mainly from
those who were either born to it or who drifted into it more or less
as a matter of chance. Here, too, the nineteenth century saw a change.
Partly as a cause and partly as a result of the improved social
standing of the actor, ambitious men and women of good family in
increasing numbers adopted the stage as a profession.

Again, the latter-day recognition of the stage found a significant
expression, in England, in the knighting of a succession of
distinguished actors and dramatists: Henry Irving, Squire Bancroft,
Arthur Wing Pinero, John Hare, Charles Wyndham, George Alexander,
Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Johnston Forbes-Robertson. In their own country,
and, as one may as well admit, in America too, the knighting of actors
could not fail further to dignify the calling.

All of these causes have acted and interacted, through the years, to
help bring the actor and the actress to a point of public interest and
esteem that is reached by few of the world’s “authentic benefactors.”
Most important of all, however, as a cause of their progress to
something very like adulation has been the increasingly strong position
of the theatre as the artistic meeting ground of all the people. The
drama of 1660 was the amusement of a restricted class; now it is the
universal art. Its skilled exponents, affected by a strong general
interest, cannot fail to receive,--unless they willfully reject it--the
respect and admiration of their contemporaries.


Of the large number of books that deal, exclusively or incidentally,
with theatrical biography, the following may be named as especially
readable, and as offering further reading in the field covered by the
present volume:

  Anderson, Mary, _A Few Memories_, New York, 1896.

  Archer, William, _The Theatrical World_, 5 vols. London, 1893–97.

  Baker, Henry Barton, _Our Old Actors_, 2 vols. London, 1878.

  Bernhardt, Sarah, _Memories of My Life_, New York, 1907.

  Clapp, Henry Austin, _Reminiscences of a Dramatic Critic_, Boston,

  Clapp, John Bouvé, and Edwin Francis Edgett, _Players of the
      Present_, 3 parts. (In Dunlap Society Publications.) New York,

  Cook, Dutton, _Hours with the Players_, 2 vols. London, 1881.

  Doran, John, _Annals of the English Stage_, London, 1888. 3 vols.
      (Edited and revised by Robert W. Lowe.)

  Eaton, Walter Prichard, _At the New Theatre and Others_, Boston, 1910.

  Faxon, Frederick W. (Editor), _The Dramatic Index_; (An Annual Index
      of Books and Magazine Articles.) Boston, 1908–

  Fyvie, John, _Comedy Queens of the Georgian Era_, New York, 1907.

  Fyvie, John, _Tragedy Queens of the Georgian Era_, New York, 1909.

  Huret, Jules, _Sarah Bernhardt_ (Translated by G. A. Raper), London,

  Huret, Jules, _Loges et Coulisses_, Paris, 1901.

  Mapes, Victor, _Duse and the French_, New York, 1899. (In Dunlap
      Society Publications.)

  Matthews, Brander, & Laurence Hutton (Editors), _Actors and Actresses
      of Great Britain and the United States_, 5 vols. New York, 1886.

  McKay, Frederic E., & Charles E. L. Wingate (Editors), _Famous
      American Actors of To-day_, 2 vols. New York, 1896.

  McLeod, Addison, _Plays and Players in Modern Italy_, London, 1912.

  Modjeska, Helena, _Memories and Impressions_, New York, 1910.

  Robins, Edward, _Echoes of the Playhouse_, New York, 1895.

  Robins, Edward, _Twelve Great Actresses_, New York, 1900.

  Ruhl, Arthur, _Second Nights_, New York, 1914.

  Scott, Clement, _Ellen Terry_, New York, 1900.

  Shaw, George Bernard, _Dramatic Opinions and Essays_, 2 vols. New
      York, 1906.

  Simpson, Harold, & Mrs. Charles Braun, _A Century of Famous
      Actresses_, London, 1913.

  Strang, Lewis C., _Famous Actresses of the Day in America_, 2 series.
      Boston, 1899, 1902.

  Strang, Lewis C., _Players and Plays of the Last Quarter Century_, 2
      vols. Boston, 1903.

  Symons, Arthur, _Plays, Acting and Music_, London, 1903.

  Terry, Ellen, _The Story of My Life_, New York, 1908.

  Walkley, A. B., _Playhouse Impressions_, London, 1892.

  Winter, William, _Other Days_, New York, 1908.

  Winter, William, _Shakespeare on the Stage_, 2 series. New York,
      1911, 1915.

  Winter, William, _The Wallet of Time_, 2 vols. New York, 1913.


  Abbey, Henry E., 26, 29 note, 246, 247.

  Abington, Frances, iii.

  Adams, Annie, 325.

  Adams, Maude, 324–46;
    parentage and birth, 325;
    career as a child actress, 325–29;
    goes to New York, 329;
    with E. H. Sothern, 330;
    _A Midnight Bell_, 331;
    in Charles Frohman’s company, 331–2;
    John Drew’s leading woman, 332–34;
    becomes a “star,” 334;
    _The Little Minister_, 335;
    _Romeo and Juliet_, 336;
    _L’Aiglon_, 337;
    _Peter Pan_, 338–9;
    _What Every Woman Knows_, 339–40;
    _Chanticler_, 340–41;
    _The Maid of Orleans_, 341–2;
    Miss Adams and Barrie, 342;
    her personality, 343–6;
    her _repertoire_, 333 (note), 335 (note); 347.

  Agar, Marie, 13.

  Aguglia, Mimi, 366.

  _Aiglon, L’_, 337.

  Aldrich, Mildred, 271 (note).

  Alexander, George, 376.

  Alexandra, Queen, 49.

  Allen, Viola, 362 (note).

  Allgood, Sara, 366.

  Alma-Tadema, Laurence, 87, 248.

  _Ambigu_, The, 129–30.

  Anderson, Mary, 230–264;
    parentage, 230;
    birth, 231;
    girlhood and schooling, 232–35;
    decides on a stage career, 236;
    first appearance, 237;
    early trials, 239–40;
    acts in eastern cities, 242;
    goes abroad, 244;
    her _repertoire_, 245 (note);
    acts in London, 246–7;
    her friendships, 248;
    a London ovation, 252;
    distaste for the theater, 256–7;
    last appearance on the stage, 268–9;
    marriage, 260;
    her acting, 261–2;
    her personality, 262–3; 269 (note).

  Angelo, Mlle., 133.

  Anglin, Margaret, 354–6.

  Antoine, André, 153.

  Archer, William, 157, 184 (note), 202, 221 and note, 283.

  Arliss, George, 286.

  Arnold, Matthew, 45 (note).

  Arthur, Julia, 362 (note).

  Asquith, Herbert, 318.

  Augier, Emile, 139, 150.

  Baker, George Pierce, 265.

  Bancroft, Squire B., 109, 111, 376.

  Barrett, Lawrence, 208, 242, 247.

  Barrie, James M., 334, 342.

  Barron Charles, 308.

  Barry, Elizabeth, iii.

  Barrymore, Ethel, 350–53.

  Barrymore, Maurice, 286, 350.

  Bartet, Jeanne, 149, 180 (note).

  Bates, Blanche, 362 (note).

  Beauplan, Victor, 136.

  Beauregard, General, 240.

  _Becky Sharp_, 285.

  Belasco, David, 327–8.

  Bennett, Arnold, 166, 168.

  Bernhardt, Maurice, 13 note, 32 note, 34.

  Bernhardt Sarah, iv, 3–51;
    birth, 5;
    schooling, 6–7;
    at the _Conservatoire_, 8–9;
    her motto, 9;
    _début_ at the _Comédie Française_, 10;
    at the _Odéon_, 11–16;
    hospital services during War of 1870, 13;
    returns to the _Comédie_, 16;
    eccentricities, 19;
    her sculpture, 19, 22;
    acts in London, 20–23;
    leaves the _Comédie_, 24;
    first American appearance, 28;
    marriage, 31;
    world-wide tours, 32;
    becomes a manager, 33;
    the “Marie Colombier” and Mme. Noirmont scandals, 34;
    the _Memoirs_, 35;
    her art, 36–41, 44–46;
    _fêtes_ in her honor, 41, 43;
    Sarah the worker, 4, 42;
    professor at the _Conservatoire_, 43;
    admitted to Legion of Honor, 43;
    loses her leg, 47;
    _repertoire_, 12, 18, 28, 33 (notes); 160, 171, 175, 183,
            184 (note), 186–92, 199, 201, 224, 226, 244.

  Berton, Pierre, 133 (note), 151.

  Bertrand, Eugène, 151.

  Besnard, Paul, 169.

  Betterton, Mrs., iii.

  Bingham, Amelia, 362 (note).

  Black, William, 248.

  Bloodgood, Clara, 362 (note).

  Bonnetain, Paul, 34 (note).

  Booth, Edwin, 77 and note, 208, 234, 240, 242, 247, 347.

  Boucicault, Dion, 242.

  Bracegirdle, Anne, iii, 373, 375 and note.

  Brady, William A., 359.

  Brand, Thomas, 369.

  Brandes, George, 87.

  Brougham, John, 208.

  Browning, Robert, 248.

  Burke, Billie, 351.

  Burne-Jones, Edward, 87.

  Byron, Arthur, 205 (note).

  Byron, Oliver Doud, 205.

  Campbell, Mrs. Patrick, 366.

  _Captain Brassbound’s Conversion_, 121–122.

  Carew, James, 123 (note).

  Carter, Mrs. Leslie, 362 (note).

  Carré, Albert, 138.

  Caruso, Enrico, 123.

  Cayvan, Georgia, 89 (note).

  _Chanticler_, 340.

  Charpentier, Gustave, 41.

  Chartran, T., 169.

  Chartres, Mme. Vivanti, 194 (note).

  Chaumont, Céline, 160.

  Cheatham, Kitty, 214.

  Checchi, Signor, 175.

  Chetwood, Wm., 371 (note).

  Chilly, M., 11, 12.

  Chlapowski, Count Karol Bozenta, 67, 69, 72, 75, 76, 79, 82–3 (note),
            90 (note).

  Coghlan, Charles, 109, 111.

  Coghlan, Rose, 362 (note).

  Coleman, Mrs. Edw., 370 (note).

  Collins, Wilkie, 248.

  Colombier, Marie, 34.

  _Comédie Française_, profit-sharing system, 20 (note);
    see Bernhardt and Réjane.

  Conquest, Ida, 362 (note).

  Cook, Dutton, 96–7, 99.

  Coppée, François, 41, 42.

  Coquelin, B.-C., 23, 41, 193.

  Corbin, John, 45, 314.

  Corey, Mrs., 370.

  Cowl, Jane, 362, 365.

  Crabtree, Lotta, 228.

  Craig, Ailsa, 106.

  Craig, Gordon, 106, 121.

  Crehan, Kate, 205 and note.

  Crews, Laura Hope, 359, 360–1.

  Crosman, Henrietta, 362.

  Crosnier, Mme., 153.

  Cushman, Charlotte, iv, 235, 239 (note), 347.

  Daly, Arnold, 350.

  Daly, Augustin, 207, 208, 214–15 and note, 219–20, 222–27.

  Daly’s Theatre, London, 223.

  Damala, M., 31.

  d’Annunzio, Gabriel, 197, 276.

  d’Aurevilly, B., 150.

  D’Avenant, William, 370 and note, 371.

  Davenport, Mrs., 370.

  Davenport, E. L., 270.

  Davenport, Fanny, 208.

  Davey, Thomas, 267.

  David, Félicien, 132.

  Davies, Acton, 328, 336 (note).

  Dean, Frederic, 344 (note).

  de Banville, Theodore, 36.

  Defère, M., 150.

  de Lesseps, F., 20 (note).

  de Navarro, Antonio F., 260.

  de Reszke, Eduard, 89.

  de Reszke, Jan, 89.

  de Saint-Victor, Paul, 17.

  Deschanel, Paul, 49.

  Desclée, Aimée Olympe, 137 and note, 222 (note).

  Devrient, Fritz, 58.

  Dillingham, C. B., 313.

  _Doll’s House, A_, 280.

  Doran, Dr. John, 368.

  Dornis, Jean, 174 (note).

  Doro, Marie, 351.

  Doucet, C., 9 (note).

  Dow, Ada (Mrs. Currier), 301, 302 and note, 306.

  Drew, John, 206, 214, 226, 332–4, 350.

  Drew, Mrs. John, 204 (note), 206.

  Drew-Barrymore, Georgie, 350 (note).

  Dumas, Alexandre, _fils_, 175–7, 185, 188–9.

  Dumas, Alexandre, _père_, 13 (note).

  Dunn, Emma, 362, 365.

  Duquesnel, M., 11, 16, 142, 143.

  Duse, Eleonora, iv, 123, 171–202;
    birth, 171;
    family, 172;
    childhood, 173–4;
    first important appearances, 174, 175;
    marriage, 175;
    Duse and Dumas, 176;
    foreign appearances, 177–8;
    acts in America, 178, 183;
    her art, 179–81, 199–202;
    acts in London, 183;
    acts in Paris, 184–93;
    the Dumas memorial performance, 188–9;
    her personality, 194–6;
    the d’Annuzio alliance, 197;
    her _repertoire_, 182 (note), 197 (note); 265 (note).

  Eaton, Walter Prichard, 280, 352, 355, 361.

  Eberle, Robert, 344 (note).

  Echegaray, Jose, 276.

  Edison, Thomas A., 29.

  Elliott, Gertrude, 366.

  Elliott, Maxine, 362 (note).

  Emmet, J. K., 270, 326.

  Easier, Jane, 129.

  Eugénie, former Empress, 49.

  Faversham, William, 336, 350.

  Fenwick, Irene, 363, 365.

  Ferguson, Elsie, 302, 364.

  Field, Eugene, 87.

  Filon, Augustin, 156 and note, 159.

  Fiske, Harrison Grey, 269, 289–90, 292.

  Fiske, Mrs. Minnie Maddern, 181 (note); 265–298;
    speaks at Harvard, 265;
    her significance, 266;
    parentage, 267;
    birth, 268;
    career as a child actress, 268–71;
    marriage and retirement, 272;
    Mrs. Fiske and the modern spirit, 273;
    her _repertoire_, 270 (note), 274 (note);
    her art, 275–87;
    encouragement of native-made drama, 288–9;
    Mr. Fiske’s share, 289–90;
    the theatrical syndicate, 290–1;
    as a stage director, 291;
    as a playwright, 292;
    outside interests, 293;
    her personality, 294–6; 357.

  Forbes, Mary, 366.

  Forbes-Robertson, J., 255, 376.

  Frohman, Charles, 313, 331–2, 350.

  Frohman, Daniel, 330.

  Fulda, Ludwig, 276.

  Fyvie, John, 373 and (note).

  Garden, Mary, 279.

  Genée, Adeline, 123.

  George, Grace, 359–60.

  Gilbert, Mrs. James, 214, 226.

  Gilbert, W. S., 248, 255, 262.

  Gilder, Richard Watson, 87.

  Gillette, William, 350.

  Gladstone, Wm. E., 248.

  Glendinning, Ernest, 350.

  Gosse, Edmund, 248.

  Got, François, 20, 27, 187.

  Grant, General U. S., 87, 241.

  Griffin, Dr. Hamilton, 232, 236, 237.

  Griffith, Frank Carlos, 269 (note), 271 (note), 293 (note),
            295 (note), 296 (note).

  Grille-d’Egout, Mlle., 154.

  Gwynn, Nell, 370.

  Hackett, James K., 336, 350.

  Hale, Philip, 49.

  Halévy, L., 155, 187.

  Harancourt, Edmond, 42.

  Hare, John, 111, 376.

  Harned, Virginia, 330, 362 (note).

  _Hedda Gabler_, 279, 280.

  Hedman, Martha, 356, 362, 365.

  Herne, James A., 327–8.

  Hichens, Robert, 260.

  _High Road, The_, 289.

  Hill, Barton, 80 and note.

  Hollis Street Theatre, Boston, 225 (note), 309.

  Hood, General, 240.

  Howells, William Dean, 284, 314 (note).

  Hughes, Margaret, 370.

  Hugo, Victor, 14 and note, 249.

  Huneker, James, 357.

  Huret, Jules, 7 (note), 128 (note), 143, 153, 168, 169, 192.

  Hyde, James Hazen, 165.

  Ibsen, Henrik, 273, 276–7, 279–81, 357.

  Illington, Margaret, 362, 363.

  Ingersoll, Robert G., 306–7, and note.

  Irish national theatre, 103.

  Irving, Henry, 105, 112–3, 115, 117, 118, 120, 215 (note), 247, 351,

  Irving, Isabel, 214, 362 (note).

  Irwin, May, 362 (note).

  James, Henry, 21.

  Janauschek, Francesca, v, 347.

  Janis, Elsie, 49 (note).

  Jefferson, Joseph, 242, 270.

  Johnson, Samuel, 373–4 and note.

  Jones, Henry Arthur, 273.

  Jordan, Dorothy, iii.

  Jordan, Thomas, 370, 371 (note).

  Jourdain, Frantz, 132.

  Kalich, Bertha, 356, 366.

  Kean, Charles, 95, 97, 101.

  Keane, Doris, 362, 365.

  Keene, Laura, 270.

  Kelly, Charles; see Wardell.

  Kelm, Joseph, 132.

  Kemble, Frances Ann, iv, 256.

  Kester, Paul, 292.

  Killigrew, Thomas, 370, 371.

  Kiskadden, James, 325.

  Knipp, Mrs., 370.

  _L’Aiglon_, 337.

  Laurent, Marie, 129.

  Lavedan, Henri, 41.

  _Leah Kleschna_, 287.

  Legault, Mlle., 135.

  _Legend of Leonora, The_, 343.

  Legouvé, Ernest, 136.

  Lemaître, Frédérick, 129.

  Lemaître, Jules, 36, 41, 50, 155, 187.

  Levick, Milnes, 237.

  Lewis, James, 214, 226.

  _Little Minister, The_, 334–5.

  Long, John Luther, 288, 298.

  Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 87–88, 242.

  Lowell, James Russell, 87, 248, 249, 255.

  Lyceum Theatre, 113–114.

  Lynch, Arthur, 210, 218 (note).

  Lytton, Lord, 248.

  Macauley’s Theatre, Louisville, 207.

  McCarthy, Justin H., 87.

  McCarthy, Lillah, 356, 366.

  McCracken, Elizabeth, 321, 323.

  McCullough, John, 79–80, 81 (note), 208, 236, 247, 270.

  MacKaye, Percy, 124 (note).

  McLellan, C. M. S., 215 (note), 288, 308.

  Macready, William C., 98 (note).

  McWade, Robert, 301.

  _Madame Sans-Gêne_, 155–6, 158, 160, 162 and note.

  Maeterlinck, Maurice, 277.

  Magnus, Baron, 27.

  _Maid of Orleans, The_, 341.

  Manchester Players, The, 103.

  _Man of Destiny, The_, 122.

  Mannering, Mary, 362 (note).

  Mansfield, Richard, 225 (note).

  Mantell, Robert, 350.

  Mapes, Victor, 189 (note).

  Marlowe, Julia, 89 (note), 299–323;
    birth, 299, 305 (note);
    girlhood, 300;
    first appearances, 300;
    course of training, 302–4;
    returns to stage, 305;
    early uncertainties, 306–8;
    first triumph, 309;
    marriage to Robert Taber, 311;
    _repertoire_, 311 (note);
    the Julia Marlowe Taber period, 311–3;
    the period of the commercial plays, 313–6;
    the “Sothern and Marlowe” period, 316–21;
    acts in London, 318;
    at the New Theatre, 319;
    her personality, 321–3; 347.

  Marshall, Anne, 370.

  Martin, Frederick Roy, 164.

  _Mary of Magdala_, 287.

  Matthison, Edith Wynne, 356, 358–9.

  Maurice, Paul, 15 (note).

  Maxwell, Perriton, 330 (notes).

  Mayer, Gaston, 168 (note).

  Meilhac, Henri, 137, 153, 170.

  Mendès, Catulle, 38 (note), 42, 187.

  Mendès, Catulle, Mme. Jane, 47.

  Meunier, Dauphin, 126, 140, 154, 155.

  _Mid-Channel_, 352.

  Miles, Robt. E. J., 301, 305.

  Miller, Henry, 350.

  Mitchell, Langdon, 285.

  Modjeska, Helena, 52–92;
    birth, 52;
    childhood, 52–58;
    marriage, 59;
    first appearance, 60;
    life as a strolling player, 61;
    joins company at Lemberg, 63;
    in stock company at Czerniowce, 63;
    in company of Cracow theatre, 64–69;
    goes to Imperial Theatre at Warsaw, 70;
    goes to America, 76;
    the farming experiment in California, 78;
    first appearance in America, 81;
    _repertoire_, 82 (note);
    her personality, 83;
    her art 85–87;
    her friendships, 87;
    her address at the Chicago Exposition, 89;
    testimonial of 1905, 90;
    death, 92; 347.

  Modrzejewski, Gustave, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64.

  Mohun, Lord, 373.

  Morris, Clara, 89 (note), 242, 362 (note).

  Mountford, William, 373.

  Naptal-Arnault, Mme., 128 (note).

  Nazimova, Alla, 356–8.

  Neilson, Adelaide, v, 208, 219.

  Neilson, Julia, 94 (note).

  Neilson-Terry, Phyllis, 94 (note), 366.

  Newman, Cardinal, 248.

  New Theatre, The, 124 (note), 316, 319, 359.

  _New York Idea, The_, 283–284 (note).

  Noirmont, Mme., 35.

  Offenbach, J., 145.

  Oldfield, Anne, iii.

  _Olivia_, 111–2.

  O’Neil, Nance, 358, 362.

  O’Neill, James, 292.

  Orleneff, Paul, 356.

  Owen, William, 308.

  Paderewski, Ignace J., 88, 90, 91 (note).

  Page, Adèle, 129.

  Parker, H. T., 279, 280.

  Parker, Louis N., 334.

  Peabody, Josephine Preston, 124 (note).

  Pepys, Samuel, 370, 371.

  Perrin, Emile, 17, 19, 22, 24, 27.

  _Peter Pan_, 338–9.

  _Pillars of Society_, 279, 282.

  Pinero, A. W., 273, 276, 376.

  Poincairé, Raymond, 43.

  Porel, D. P., 152, 166.

  Power, Tyrone, 286, 287.

  Prince of Wales’s Theatre, 109.

  Princess’s Theatre, 95.

  Provost, Jean, 9 (note).

  Prynne, William, 369.

  Rachel (Rachel Felix), iv, 45 (note), 150.

  Raymond, John T., 208.

  Reade, Charles, 104, 108, 116.

  Reed, Florence, 363, 365.

  Regnier, F. J., 9 (note), 133, 134, 135 and note, 136, 138, 140, 144,
            145–9, 150, 151, 161.

  Rehan, Ada, iii, 203–229;
    birth, 204;
    brought to America, 204;
    her family, 205;
    first appearance, 205;
    in various companies, 206–209;
    joins Augustin Daly, 209;
    her _repertoire_, 208 (note), 217 (note);
    her personality, 210–13;
    the Daly Company, 214;
    her acting, 217–21, 226;
    first plays in London, 221;
    becomes a “star,” 224;
    her last appearances, 227–8; 347.

  Reicher, Hedwig, 356, 366.

  Réjane, Gabrielle, 126–170;
    birth, 128;
    childhood, 128–131;
    at school, 131–133;
    enters the _Conservatoire_, 133;
    first public appearance, 138;
    joins the _Vaudeville_, 142;
    _repertoire_, 143–4 (note);
    correspondence with Regnier, 145–9;
    informal appearances, 150;
    joins the Variétés, 151;
    a typical first night, 152;
    _Madame Sans-Gêne_, 165;
    her personality, 126, 156, 168–70;
    her art, 158–160;
    appearances outside France, 160–1, 167;
    the American tours, 161;
    the Havana fiasco, 163–4;
    the Hyde dinner, 165;
    marriage, 166;
    the _Théâtre Réjane_, 166–7; 291.

  Richepin, Jean, 34 (note), 35.

  Richman, Charles, 228.

  Riley, Josephine, 301.

  Ristori, Adelaide, iv, 200, 244.

  Robinson, Mary, iv.

  Robson, Eleanor, 362 (note).

  Rochefort, Henri, 187.

  _Rosemary_, 334.

  _Rosmersholm_, 281.

  Rossi, Cesare, 175.

  Rostand, Edmond, 3, 4 (note), 41, 42, 43, 49, 189.

  Ruhl, Arthur, 357.

  Russell, Annie, 362.

  Russell, Hattie (Harriet Crehan), 205 (note).

  _Salvation Nell_, 279, 288.

  Salvini, Tommaso, 183, 200.

  Samson, Joseph, 9 (note).

  Sand, George, 13.

  Sarcey, Francisque, 10 (note), 15, 17, 25, 36, 137, 140, 144, 150,
            154, 155, 177, 187, 190, 192.

  Sardou, Victorien, 25 (note), 41, 150, 155, 162, 223.

  Saunderson, Mrs., 370.

  Scott, Clement, 94, 106, 111, 112, 114, 221, 222 (note).

  Scott, Sir Walter, 93.

  Sembrich, Marcella, 91 (note).

  Shannon, Effie, 362 (note).

  Shaw, George Bernard, iii, 38, 113–4, 115, 117, 120, 121, 199,
            225–7, 273.

  Shaw, Mary, 308, 362 (note).

  Sheldon, Edward, 288.

  Sherman, General Wm. T., 87, 241.

  Siddons, Sarah, iv, 374.

  Sienkiewicz, Henryk, 75, 81.

  Simon, Charles, 133.

  Skinner, Otis, 226, 227, 350.

  Sothern, E. A., 103, 118.

  Sothern, E. H., 265, 316–20, 330, 350.

  Stahl, Rose, 362.

  Starr, Frances, 362, 365.

  Stedman, E. C., 91, 92.

  Stevens, Emily, 362, 364.

  Stinson, Fred, 308, 312.

  Stoddard, Lorimer, 284.

  Sudermann, Hermann, 276.

  Symons, Arthur, 159, 194, 318.

  Synge, John M., iii.

  Taber, Robert, 308, 311–2, 313 (note).

  Tarasiewicz, Michael, 92.

  Taylor, Laurette, 362, 366.

  Tellegen, Lou, 350.

  Tempest, Marie, 366.

  Tennyson, Lord, 87, 223, 248, 256.

  Terry, Beatrice, 94 (note).

  Terry, Benjamin, 93, 94, 95, 96.

  Terry, Charles, 94 and note.

  Terry, Ellen, iii, 93–125;
    parentage, 93;
    family, 94–5;
    birth, 94;
    early training, 96, 99–100;
    first appearance, 96–8;
    a strolling player, 101;
    _Atar-Gull_, 102;
    at Bristol, 102–3;
    with the elder Sothern, 103;
    marriage and retirement, 103–4;
    returns to stage, 104;
    acts first with Irving, 105;
    second retirement, 106–8;
    returns to stage, 109;
    with S. B. Bancroft, 109–11;
    first plays Portia, 109;
    with John Hare, 111–12;
    _Olivia_, 111;
    becomes leading woman at the Lyceum, 112;
    the Irving _régime_, 113;
    her personality, 114, 118, 121;
    Bernard Shaw’s estimate, 113, 115, 117, 120;
    her art, 116;
    leaves Irving’s company, 121;
    the Terry Jubilee, 122;
    a lecturer on Shakespeare, 123–4;
    _repertoire_, 119 (note); 247.

  Terry, Florence, 94, 95.

  Terry, Fred, 94 and note.

  Terry, George, 94 (note).

  Terry, Kate, 94, 95, 101, 102.

  Terry, Marion, 94, 95.

  Terry, Minnie, 94 (note).

  _Tess of the D’Urbervilles_, 284.

  Theuriet, André, 41, 42.

  Thierry, Edward, 135.

  Thomas, Ambroise, 136.

  Thompson, Vance, 157.

  Tilden, Samuel J., 244 (note).

  Tree, H. Beerbohm, 318, 376.

  Vandenhoff, George, 236.

  Varrey, Charles, 20 (note).

  Verbruggen, Mrs., iii.

  Victoria, Queen, of Spain, 49.

  von Bülow, Hans, 87.

  Walkley, A. B., 318, 319 (note).

  Wallack, Lester, 355.

  Walsh, Blanche, 362 (note).

  Ward, Mrs. Humphrey, 248.

  Wardell, Charles, 106, 123 (note).

  Ware, Helen, 362, 365.

  Warfield, David, 350.

  Watterson, Henry, 87, 232 (note), 238 (note), 244 (note).

  Watts, George Frederick, 87, 103–4, 248.

  Western, Lucille, 270.

  White, LeGrand, 272 (note).

  Wilde, Oscar, 157, 273.

  Wills, W. G., 112.

  Wilson, Francis, 265.

  Winter, William, 3, 26, 35, 37, 38, 44, 46, 85, 90 (note), 123, 165,
            211, 212, 220 and note, 228, 238 (note), 242, 247, 251,
            261, 313 (note), 315, 335, 338 and note, 340, 347.

  Woffington, Margaret, iii.

  Worthing, Frank, 360.

  Wyndham, Charles, 376.

  Young, Mary, 214 (note).

  Zimmern, Helen, 196 (note).


[1] See Appendix: _The First English Actresses_, and _The Change in the
Actor’s Social Status_.

[2] For the lives of actresses of earlier days the reader is referred
to the bibliography at the end of the volume. The outstanding names
are: Elizabeth Barry, 1658–1713; Anne Bracegirdle, 1663–1748; Anne
Oldfield, 1683–1730; Catherine Clive, 1711–1785; Hannah Pritchard,
1711–1768; Susannah Maria Cibber, 1714–1766; Margaret Woffington,
1720–1760; Mary Porter--d. 1765; George Anne Bellamy, 1731–1788;
Frances Abington, 1737–1815; Sarah Siddons, 1755–1831; Mary Robinson
(“Perdita”) 1758–1800; Dorothy Jordan, 1762–1816; Frances Anne Kemble,
1809–1893; Charlotte Cushman, 1816–1876; Helena Faucit, 1817–1898;
Rachel Felix, 1821–1858; Adelaide Ristori, 1822–1906; Francesca
Janauscheck, 1830–1904; Adelaide Neilson, 1846 (?)-1880.

Some of the names in this list are, of course, among the greatest
in theatrical history. In Anne Bracegirdle and Elizabeth Barry the
Restoration rejoiced in two actresses of the first order. “Bracey”
was the Ada Rehan of her day, a blithe creature of comedy who seems
to have possessed the temperament and the charms of the typical born
actress. Cibber called her “the _Cara_, the Darling of the Theatre.”
She excelled in the comedies of Congreve, but she was versatile, and
played also in tragedy. Elizabeth Barry was England’s first great
tragic actress. She was of the august, severe, _tragedienne_ type that
was later exemplified in Siddons and Ristori, and that has nowadays,
with the decline of the poetic drama, virtually disappeared. With
these women, and with a number of others,--some of whom, like Mrs.
Betterton and Mrs. Verbruggen, were skilled actresses,--the standard
was surprisingly early set high.

Anne Oldfield charmed the England of Addison and Steele with a
versatility and brilliance of acting that has never been surpassed. She
acted with great majesty and fire in the tragedies of the day,--such as
_Cato_ and _The Distressed Mother_,--while in comedy she “played with
the enthusiasm of a child.” There is much in the sunny amiability, the
volatile, zestful personality and the wide-ranged equipment of “Nance”
Oldfield to remind one of that modern actress,--Ellen Terry,--who often
herself impersonated Mistress Oldfield.

One thinks again of Terry in reading of Margaret Woffington. “The
Woffington” was a beauty, a hard worker, an adept in comedy, and only
less successful in tragedy. She played captivatingly the rakish Sir
Harry Wildair in Farquhar’s _The Constant Couple_; she was notably good
in parts as diverse as Sylvia in _The Recruiting Officer_ and Cordelia
in _Lear_; but the parallel to Ellen Terry appears when we read of her
lovely Portia and of her Rosalind (a part that Terry was born to play,
but somehow never tried). “Peg” Woffington was one of that long line of
geniuses with whom Ireland has continued to enrich the English theatre,
from her day and Sheridan’s down to that of Ada Rehan, Bernard Shaw and

Frances Abington, a person of temper and caprice, but a true daughter
of comedy nevertheless; Dora Jordan, who was really two Dora
Jordans,--“one the whimsical, hoydenish performer, all laughter, or the
delineator of graceful sentiment,--the other, only seen off the stage,
a shrewd little woman, of kind heart and exquisite sensibility”; Mary
Robinson, the “Perdita” of him who was to be George IV of England,
and a graceful, appealing actress of the tenderly comic and of such
characters as Viola and Rosalind--the Julia Marlowe of the eighteenth
century; such are hints of a few of those women who have continued the
line of gifted actresses of comedy and sentiment down from the days of
Bracegirdle and Oldfield.

For commanding figures in tragedy, for the Duses and Bernhardts of
earlier days, we must look, as a rule, outside of England and America.
There is, to be sure, always Sarah Siddons, a majestic figure, a
veritable Queen of Tragedy, who made her characters--such as Lady
Macbeth and Queen Katherine--awe-inspiring even to those who acted
with her. Her niece, Frances Ann Kemble, was prevented from being a
truly great actress only by a dislike for the stage. As it was, with
her Juliet, her Belvidera in _Venice Preserved_, and her Julia in _The
Hunchback_ she takes her place in that succession of tragic actresses
which, with the change in theatrical fashions, has now ceased, and
which has had its best examplars on the Continent rather than in

In Charlotte Cushman, America produced a tragic actress of commanding
dignity and power. She was “a noble interpreter of the noble minds of
the past,” a stately and vigorous woman, unique as Meg Merrilies, and a
powerful and poetic interpreter of Shakespeare’s tragic women.

The daughter of a Jew, Rachel Felix was a Parisian by birth, and thus
far she was an earlier Bernhardt. In the thrilling intensity of her
acting and in the capricious imperiousness of her own nature, she again
suggests Madame Sarah. She introduced a measure of naturalness of
speech and spontaneity of action into the French theatre, and here her
influence was like that of Duse.

The rise of Adelaide Ristori spelled the decline of the great Rachel.
In her earnestness, in her choice of plays, in the quiet dignity of her
life and nature, Ristori is recalled by that later great Italian, Duse.
And just as Duse invaded Paris and rivaled the reigning queen of the
stage there, so (only more successfully) did Ristori when she replaced
Rachel in French esteem. Ristori’s parts, however, suggest rather
Bernhardt, though in general all four actresses--Rachel, Ristori,
Bernhardt and Duse--have worked in the same _metier_. Ristori’s great
parts were Medea, Francesca, Myrrha, Lady Macbeth, Phédre, Marie Stuart
and Queen Elizabeth.

Janauscheck, “the last of the actresses of the ‘grand style,’” born in
Prague and for years a successful _tragedienne_ in Germany, anticipated
Modjeska by her adoption of America and the English tongue. She too
was an heroic woman, who impressed her generation by the intensity and
sincerity of her acting, her wonderful voice, and the dignity she lent
her profession. Her best parts were in _Bleak House_, _Brünnhilde_,
_Medea_ and _Marie Stuart_.

Adelaide Neilson, a womanly and gracious personality, an ideal
Juliet, and a Shakspearean actress who as Viola, Imogen and Rosalind
foreshadowed and combined many of the merits of Modjeska, Rehan and
Marlowe, died in the ripeness of her youth and ability.

[3] _The Wallet of Time._

[4] “All these things that I have known only in the telling--all these
journeys, these changing skies, these adoring hearts, these flowers,
these jewels, these embroideries, these millions, these lions, these
one hundred and twelve rôles, these eighty trunks, this glory, these
caprices, these cheering crowds hauling her carriage, this crocodile
drinking champagne--all these things, I say, astonish, dazzle, delight,
and move me less than something else which I have often seen: this--

“A brougham stops at a door; a woman, enveloped in furs, jumps out,
threads her way with a smile through the crowd attracted by the
jingling of the bell on the harness, and mounts a winding stair;
plunges into a room crowded with flowers and heated like a hothouse,
throws her little beribboned handbag with its apparently inexhaustible
contents into one corner, and her bewinged hat into another, takes off
her furs and instantaneously dwindles into a mere scabbard of white
silk; rushes on to a dimly lighted stage and immediately puts life into
a whole crowd of listless, yawning, loitering folk; dashes forward and
back, inspiring every one with her own feverish energy; goes into the
prompter’s box, arranges her scenes, points out the proper gesture and
intonation, rises up in wrath and insists on everything being done over
again; shouts with fury; sits down, smiles, drinks tea and begins to
rehearse her own part; draws tears from case-hardened actors who thrust
their enraptured heads out of the wings to watch her; returns to her
room, where the decorators are waiting, demolishes their plans and
reconstructs them; collapses, wipes her brow with a lace handkerchief
and thinks of fainting; suddenly rushes up to the fifth floor, invades
the premises of the astonished _costumier_, rummages in the wardrobes,
makes up a costume, pleats and adjusts it; returns to her room and
teaches the _figurantes_ how to dress their hair; has a piece read to
her while she makes bouquets; listens to hundreds of letters, weeps
over some tale of misfortune, and opens the inexhaustible little
chinking handbag; confers with an English _perruquier_; returns to the
stage to superintend the lighting of a scene, objurgates the lamps and
reduces the electrician to a state of temporary insanity; sees a super
who has blundered the day before, remembers it, and overwhelms him with
her indignation; returns to her room for dinner; sits down to table,
splendidly pale with fatigue; ruminates her plans; eats with peals
of Bohemian laughter; has no time to finish; dresses for the evening
performance while the manager reports from the other side of a curtain;
acts with all her heart and soul; discusses business between the acts;
remains at the theatre after the performance, and makes arrangements
until three o’clock in the morning; does not make up her mind to go
until she sees her staff respectfully endeavoring to keep awake; gets
into her carriage; huddles herself into her furs and anticipates the
delights of lying down and resting at last; bursts into laughing on
remembering that some one is waiting to read her a five-act play;
returns home, listens to the piece, becomes excited, weeps, accepts
it, finds she cannot sleep, and takes advantage of the opportunity
to study a part! This is the Sarah I have always known. I never made
the acquaintance of the Sarah with the coffin and the alligators. The
only Sarah I know is the one who works. She is the greater.”--Edmond
Rostand, in _Sarah Bernhardt_, by Jules Huret.

[5] The correct date and place, according to the official record of the
_Conservatoire_. The year has sometimes been given 1845. Some accounts
have given Holland, others Havre, as the birthplace. Sarah herself says

[6] At Neuilly her aunt Rosine came one day to see her. “I insisted
that I wanted to go away at once. In a gentle, tender, caressing voice,
but without any real affection, she said all kinds of pretty things.
She then went away. I could see nothing but the dark, black hole which
remained there immutable behind me, and in a fit of despair I rushed
out to my aunt who was just getting into her carriage. After that I
knew nothing more. I had managed to escape from my poor nurse and had
fallen down on the pavement. I had broken my arm in two places and
injured my knee cap. I was two years recovering.” _Memoirs._

[7] _Memoirs._

[8] “One day, when we heard that all the schools in France, except
ours, had been given bonbons on the occasion of the baptism of the
Prince Imperial, I proposed to several other girls that we should run
away, and I undertook to manage it. Being on good terms with the sister
in charge of the gate, I went into her lodge and pretended to have a
hole in my dress under the armpit. To let her examine the hole I raised
my arms toward the cord communicating with the gate, and whilst she was
looking at my dress I pulled the cord, my accomplices rushed out, and I
followed them. Our entire stock of provisions, ammunition, and sinews
of war consisted of a few clothes, three pieces of soap in a bag, and
the sum of seven francs fifty centimes in money. This was to take us
to the other end of the world! A search had to be made for us, and as
the good sisters could hardly undertake it, the police were set on our
track. There was not much difficulty in finding us, as you may imagine.
I was sent home in disgrace. On another occasion, I had climbed on to
the wall separating the convent from the cemetery. A grand funeral was
in progress and the Bishop of Versailles was delivering an address. I
immediately began to gesticulate, shout and sing at the top of my voice
so as to interrupt the ceremony. You can imagine the scene--a child of
twelve sitting astride a wall, and a bishop interrupted in the midst of
a funeral oration! The scandal was great.”--Huret.

[9] “Consequently I entered the _Conservatoire_. The next question
was, in which class was I to study? Beauvallet said: ‘She will be a
_tragedienne_.’ Regnier maintained: ‘She will be a _comédienne_,’ and
Provost put them in agreement by declaring: ‘She will be both.’ I
joined Provost’s class.”--Huret.

[10] One for tragedy in 1861, and one for comedy in 1862. She never won
a first prize.

[11] M. Regnier and M. Doucet among them. Both had been her teachers,
as had M. Provost and M. Samson, the latter of whom had taught Rachel.

[12] She says she had chosen this device at the age of nine, “after
a formidable jump over a ditch which no one could jump, and which
my young cousin had dared me to attempt. I had hurt my face, broken
my wrist and was in pain all over. While I was being carried home I
exclaimed furiously: ‘Yes, I would do it again, _quand-même_, if any
one dared me again. And I will always do what I want to all my life.’
In the evening of that day, my aunt, who was grieved to see me in such
pain, asked me what would give me any pleasure. My poor little body
was all bandaged, but I jumped with joy at this, and quite consoled I
whispered in a coaxing way: ‘I should like to have some writing paper
with a motto of my own.’ My mother asked me rather slyly what my motto
was. I did not answer for a minute, and then, as they were all waiting
quietly, I uttered such a furious ‘_Quand-même!_’ that my Aunt Faure
started back muttering: ‘What a terrible child!’”

[13] The great critic Sarcey’s comments in _L’Opinion Nationale_
were read to her by her mother: “Mlle. Bernhardt, who made her début
yesterday in the rôle of Iphigénie, is a tall, pretty girl with a
slender figure and a very pleasing expression. The upper part of
her face is remarkably beautiful. She holds herself well, and her
enunciation is perfectly clear. This is all that can be said for
her at present.” “The man is an idiot,” said her mother, “you were

[14] Characteristically, she brought her engagement at the _Gymnase_
to a sudden close by quietly going to Spain the day after the first
performance of a play in which she disliked her part.

[15] Thin she was, and thin she remained. She once said, in after
years: “As for me, if I should cease to be thin, what would become of
some of the Paris journalists? Scarcely a day but they have some _mot_
about me personally. Really I am almost the _raison d’être_ of some of
these small wits!”

[16] She played at the _Odéon_: Albine in _Britannicus_; Sylvia in _Le
Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard_; Zacharie in _Athalie_; the Baroness in
_Le Marquis de Villemer_; Mariette in _François le Champi_; Hortense
in _Le Testament de César Girodôt_; Anna Damby in _Kean_ (Dumas’
_Sullivan_); in _La Loterie du Mariage_; Zanetto in _Le Passant_ by
Coppée; in _L’Autre_ by George Sand; Armande in _Les Femmes Savantes_;
Cordelia in _King Lear_; in _Le Bâtard_; _L’Affranchi_; _Jean-Marie_,
by Andre Theuriet; _Les Arrêts_ by de Boissières, _Le Legs_; _Le Drame
de la Rue de la Paix_; _Fais ce que dois_, by Coppée; _La Baronne_ by
Edmond and Foussier; _Mlle. Aïsse_; and the Queen of Spain in _Ruy
Blas_ by Victor Hugo.

[17] On the first night of Dumas’ play, the distinguished author was
the victim of a remarkable demonstration by the audience. He sat in
a box with “Oceana.” The novelist’s alliance with this woman was
evidently unpopular, for a great shout was sent up and many in the
audience were heard to call for the woman’s removal. In the midst of
the uproar the play, already long delayed, was begun. The woman finally
left the house. The _Figaro_ next day said: “Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt
appeared wearing an eccentric costume, which increased the tumult, but
her rich voice--that astonishing voice of hers--appealed to the public,
and she charmed them like a little Orpheus.”

[18] Now about five. Although she was a mother Sarah had not yet

[19] Mme. Bernhardt tells a rather pretty story of the great novelist:
“One day when the rehearsal was over an hour earlier than usual, I was
waiting, my forehead pressed against the window pane, for the arrival
of Mme. Guérard, who was coming to fetch me. I was gazing idly at
the footpath opposite, which is bounded by the Luxembourg railings.
Victor Hugo had just crossed the road and was about to walk in. An
old woman attracted his attention. She had just put a heavy bundle of
linen down on the ground and was wiping her forehead, on which were
great beads of perspiration. In spite of the cold, her toothless mouth
was half open, as she was panting and her eyes had an expression of
distressing anxiety, as she looked at the wide road she had to cross,
with carriages and omnibuses passing each other. Victor Hugo approached
her, and after a short conversation, he drew a piece of money from his
pocket, handed it to her, then taking off his hat he confided it to
her and, with a quick movement and a laughing face, lifted the bundle
to his shoulder and crossed the road, followed by the bewildered
woman. The next day I told the poet that I had witnessed his delicate,
good deed. ‘Oh,’ said Paul Maurice, ‘every day that dawns is a day of
kindness for him!’”

[20] It was small enough, to be sure. Her demand was for only 15,000
francs ($3,000) a year.

[21] It was on the occasion of the first night of this play that she
says she reverted to a trick of her childhood. Once when she had been
fed something disagreeable, Sarah deliberately drank off a bottle of
ink in the hope that she would die and vex her mother. Now when Perrin
refused her a month’s needed holiday and forced her to play Zaïre in
midsummer: “I was determined to faint, determined to vomit blood,
determined to die, in order to enrage Perrin. Although the rôle was
easy, it required two or three shrieks which might have provoked the
vomiting of blood that frequently troubled me at that time. I uttered
my shrieks with real rage and suffering, hoping to break something.
But my surprise was great when the curtain fell at the end of the
piece, and I got up quickly to answer to the call and salute the public
without languor, without fainting, ready to recommence the piece. I had
commenced the performance in such a state of weakness that it was easy
to predict that I should not finish the first act without fainting. And
I marked this performance with a little white stone--for that day I
learned that my vital force was at the service of my intellect.” This
is a significant passage. It helps to explain the wonder of Bernhardt’s
unexampled vitality in the face of hard work and a frail physique.

[22] She remained at the _Comédie_ this time eight years, 1872–1880.
Her first appearances were: Gabrielle in _Mlle. de Belle-Isle_, Junie
in _Britannicus_, 1872; Chérubin in _Le Mariage de Figaro_, Léonora
in _Dalila_, Mrs. Douglas in _L’Absent_, Marthe in _Chez l’Avocat_,
_Andromaque_, Aricie in _Phèdre_, 1873; _Peril en la Demeure_, Berthe
de Savigny in _Le Sphinx_, _La Belle Paule_, _Zaïre_, Phèdre in
_Phèdre_, 1874; Berthe in _La Fille de Roland_, _Gabrielle_, 1875; Mrs.
Clarkson in _L’Etrangère_, Posthumia in _Rome Vaincue_, 1876; Doña
Sol in _Hernani_, 1877; Desdemona in Aicard’s _Othello_ (once only),
Alcmène in _Amphitrion_, 1878; Monime in _Mithridate_, 1879; Clorinde
in _L’Aventurtière_, 1880.

[23] For many years her tomb in Père Lachaise has been awaiting her.

[24] She published an account of these aerial experiences: _Dans les
nuages; Impressions d’une Chaise_.

[25] The Associates or _Sociétaires of the Comédie Française_ are
sharers in the profits, a custom that has come down from the days
of Molière. A member of the company is at first a _pensionnaire_,
and serves upon a salary only. After proving his worth he is made
_Sociétaire_. He does not at once receive a full share of the profits,
however, but must progress from an eighth, fourth and half share to the
full rank of _Sociétaire_ _à parte entière_. Bernhardt had been made
_Sociétaire_ in 1875. During the year 1879 the share received by the
leading actors and actresses of the _Comédie_ varied from 55,000 to
70,000 francs, besides their salaries. Sarah’s share was 62,000 francs.

[26] Perrin and his fellow directors were not the only ones who felt
the strain imposed by Sarah’s presence on earth. She herself tells of
the dying words of Charles Varrey: “I am content to die because I shall
hear no more of Sarah Bernhardt and the great Français.” The latter was
de Lesseps, then much in the public eye.

[27] In this statement, for once, M. Sarcey justified Sardou’s tribute,
inspired, seven years later, by Sarcey’s criticism of _La Tosca_:
“Sarcey, who knows nothing about painting, music, architecture or
sculpture, and to whom Nature has harshly denied all sense of the

[28] She was to have $1,000 per night, half the receipts over $3,000,
$200 a week for hotel bills, and a special car.

[29] Huret.

[30] She played on this tour: _La Dame aux Camélias_ (sixty-five
times); _Frou-Frou_ (forty-one times); _Adrienne Lecouvreur_
(seventeen); _Hernani_ (fourteen); _Le Sphinx_ (seven); _Phèdre_
(six); _La Princesse Georges_ (three); and _L’Etrangère_ (three),--one
hundred and fifty-six performances in all, with average receipts of
$2,820. She acted in half a hundred cities of the East, Middle West
and South, including New York, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Springfield,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, Cincinnati,
Memphis, Louisville, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

[31] In Chicago another bishop attacked Bernhardt and her plays. Mr.
Abbey, her manager, thereupon sent him this letter: “Whenever I visit
your city I am accustomed to spend four hundred dollars in advertising.
But as you have done the advertising for me, I send you $200 for your

[32] Huret.

[33] A dispatch from Moscow represents the feeling there: “Sarah
Bernhardt is extremely hoarse and cannot appear this evening. General
consternation prevails.” She finally did act in Berlin, in 1902.

[34] Sarah Bernhardt’s son Maurice was born in 1865 and was, therefore,
seventeen at the time of his mother’s marriage.

[35] The Argentinos, in enthusiastic but ill-advised generosity,
presented Sarah with an estate of thirteen thousand acres. As if Sarah
could feel at home so far from Paris!

[36] Mme. Bernhardt’s more important productions, since she became a
manager in her own right, have been as follows: _Fédora_, 1882; _Nana
Sahib_, 1883; _Macbeth_, _Théodora_, 1884; _Marion Delorme_, 1885;
_Hamlet_ (Ophelia), _Le Maître des Forges_, 1886; _La Tosca_, 1887;
_Francillon_, 1888; _Lena_, 1889; _Jeanne d’Arc_, _Cléopâtre_, 1890;
_Pauline Blanchard_, _La Dame de Chalant_, 1891; _Les Rois_, 1893;
_Izeïl_, _Gismonda_, 1894; _Magda_, _La Princesse Lointaine_, 1895;
_Lorenzaccio_, 1896; _Spiritisme_, _La Samaritaine_, _Les Mauvais
Bergers_, 1897; _La Ville Morte_, _Lysiane_, _Médée_, 1898; _Hamlet_,
1899; _L’Aiglon_, 1900; _Francesca da Rimini_, 1902; _Andromache_,
1903; _La Sorcière_, 1904; _Tisbe_, _Angelo_, 1905; _La Vierge
d’Avila_, 1906; _Les Bouffons_, 1907; _La Belle au Bois Dormant_, _La
Courtisane de Corinthe_, 1908; _Le Proces de Jeanne d’Arc_, 1909; _La
Femme X_, _Judas_, _Le Coeur d’Homme_ (written by herself), _La Beffa_,
1910; _La Reine Élisabeth_, _Une Nuit de Noel_, 1912; _Jeanne Doré_,

To the plays she had acted during the first American tour, 1880–81,
(see page 28, note) she added, on her subsequent visits: 1887,
_Fédora_, _Le Maître des Forges_, _Théodora_; 1891, _La Tosca_,
_Cléopatra_; 1891–92, _Jeanne d’Arc_, _La Dame de Chalant_, _Pauline
Blanchard Leah_; 1896, _Izeïl_, _Magda_, _Gismonda_, _La Femme de
Claude_; 1900–01, (with Coquelin) _L’Aiglon_, _Hamlet_, _Cyrano de
Bergerac_; 1905–06, _La Sorcière_, _Angelo_, _Sapho_, _Tisbé_. (During
the tour of 1905–06, while acting in Texas she was forced on two or
three occasions to appear in a circus tent in lieu of a theatre. The
“theatrical trust” had for some reason denied her the privilege of
acting in its theatres.) In 1910–11 she appeared, for the first time
in America, in _La Femme X_, _La Samaritaine_, _Jean-Marie_, _Sœur
Beatrice_, and _Judas_.

[37] It was really written, gossip said, by M. Paul Bonnetain. Sarah
replied with an equally abusive book about Mlle. Colombier, which was
entitled _La Vie de Marie Pigeonnier_, and which was probably written
by M. Richepin.

[38] It carries her story down to her return from the first American
tour, in 1881. A second volume was vaguely promised.

[39] But to Mr. Winter her Hamlet was a “dreadful desecration”! When
she produced the play in Paris, the late M. Catulle Mendes and another
journalist fought a duel, having disputed as to whether Hamlet was fat
or not.

[40] John Corbin in the _New York Sun_, Dec. 17, 1905. A quarter of
a century earlier, Matthew Arnold had written of Bernhardt, then in
the midst of her first visit to London: “One remark I will make,
a remark suggested by the inevitable comparison of Mlle. Sarah
Bernhardt with Rachel. One talks vaguely of genius, but I had never
till now comprehended how much of Rachel’s superiority was purely in
intellectual power, how eminently this power counts in the actor’s
art as in all art, how just is the instinct which led the Greeks to
mark with a high and severe stamp the Muses. Temperament and quick
intelligence, passion, nervous mobility, grace, smile, voice, charm,
poetry--Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt has them all; one watches her with
pleasure, with admiration, and yet not without a secret disquietude.
Something is wanting, or, at least, not present in sufficient force;
something which alone can secure and fix her administration of all the
charming gifts which she has, can alone keep them fresh, keep them
sincere, save them from perils by caprice, perils by mannerism; that
something is high intellectual power. It was here that Rachel was so
great; she began, one says to oneself, as one recalls her image and
dwells upon it--she began almost where Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt ends.”

[41] “Her fiery, voluble utterance of jealous rage when at last she
seemed to lose all control of herself (without ever losing it) ...
was as splendid, whether viewed as expression of human nature or
illustration of proficiency in acting, as any professional exploit of
hers in the whole of her long career.... It was in her showing of the
sweetly capricious quality of the character, however, that the actress
was supremely fine.” _The Wallet of Time, Vol. I._

[42] When the American _comédienne_, Elsie Janis, omitted from her
London program her imitation of Bernhardt, Sarah heard of it and cabled
to Miss Janis: “I am very well. Continue to charm the public with
imitations of me.”

[43] The Polish diminutive of Helena.

[44] “She went into the kitchen when she got home, in order to make
the experiment herself. She built a great pile of all the saucepans
and frying-pans, and then, climbing to the top, tried to stand
there upon one toe. Naturally this venture ended in disaster; and
Madame Opid vowed Helcia should go no more to the theatre, for it
excited her too much. Nor did she again enter a theatre until she was
fourteen.”--Collins, _Modjeska_.

[45] The masculine form. The feminine ends in -ska. Madame Modrzejewska
later simplified the name to Modjeska.

[46] “The picture of this first professional trip stands vividly before
my eyes. The weather was glorious!... We were young, full of spirit and
hope, and the country enchanting. The joy was so great that I sang. We
made plans for future work, we rode in the clouds, building Spanish
castles.”--_Memories and Impressions of Helena Modjeska._

[47] Marylka; she lived but two years.

[48] The capital of Galitzia.

[49] One of the circle of friends in the aristocratic and literary
world which Modjeska now began to acquire was the Countess Patocka.
On the occasion of Modjeska’s first visit to her, “her judgment was
just and most kind. She said she thought I was unsuited to certain
parts, but she was much pleased with my romantic impersonations and
also with some of the characters in high comedy. She had seen Rachel
and Ristori, and told me I had neither their strong ringing voice nor
their tragic statuesque poses. ‘You see,’ said she, ‘they were born
with those gifts, and God created you differently. You have, instead
of those grand qualities, sensitiveness, intuition, grace’; and then
she added, laughingly, ‘You are as clever as a snake. You played the
other evening the Countess in _The White Camelia_ as if you were born
among us. Where did you meet countesses?’ I answered that she was the
only great lady I had ever laid eyes on. ‘You see,’ said she, ‘that was
intuition.’”--_Memories and Impressions._

[50] Some of her characters at this time were Princess Eboli in _Don
Carlos_, by Schiller; Louise Miller in _Kabale und Liebe_, by Schiller;
Barbara in the tragedy of that name by Felinski; Ophelia in _Hamlet_;
Doña Sol in _Ernani_, by Victor Hugo; the wife in _Nos Intimes_, by
Sardou; and Adrienne Lecouvreur in the play of that name by Scribe and

[51] “I do not recollect going to parties, save to those given twice
a year by the manager, Count Skorupka; one dancing party during the
Carnival and another at Easter time, and then I danced! Oh, how I
danced! with all my soul in it, for I never did anything by halves.
Still I preferred the few receptions at my brother’s house.”--_Memories
and Impressions._

[52] Gustave Modrzejewski had died some time before.

[53] Ten thousand dollars.

[54] Over two thousand dollars.

[55] On one occasion Modjeska acted as an impromptu reporter for her
husband’s paper, proving the reliability of her stage-trained memory.
Liebelt, the scientist, delivered a lecture on Spectrum Analysis,
and as no stenographic reporter was to be had, Modjeska went to the
hall, listened intently to the lecturer and although the subject was
absolutely new to her, went home and wrote a complete résumé of the
lecture, technical and Latin words included. Her report was printed,
while that of a reporter was used merely as an introduction.

[56] “Mrs. Helena.”

[57] Her repertoire at Warsaw had been wide-ranged and long, embracing
translations of Shakespeare, and of many French and German plays
as well as the numerous Polish parts. She introduced the obvious
but hitherto neglected method of playing Shakespeare in a Polish
translation directly from the English, instead of through a French

[58] In 1877 Edwin Booth had, rightly enough, declined to play with
Modjeska. In 1889, however, it was another story. Lawrence Barrett,
at that time Booth’s manager, proposed her appearance as a “co-star.”
Modjeska gladly availed herself of the opportunity to act with Mr.
Booth, and played with him in _Hamlet_, _Macbeth_, _The Merchant of
Venice_, _Much Ado about Nothing_, and _Richelieu_. The tour took them
throughout the East and the Middle West.

[59] The entire party would leave their farm and go on short vacation
trips. Of one of these, Modjeska says: “I listened and looked at
everything, but I grew quite sad when I turned my eyes toward the
ocean. The blue waters of the great Pacific reminded me of our first
sea-voyage when we left our country. The recollections of the happy
past, spent among beloved people,--Cracow, with its churches and
monuments, the kind friends waiting for our return, the stage, and the
dear public I left behind,--all came back to my mind, and I felt a
great acute pang of homesickness. I stepped away from the rest, threw
myself on the sand and sobbed and sobbed, mingling my moans with those
of the ocean, until, exhausted, I had not one drop of tears left in my
eyes. A sort of torpor took the place of despair, and the world became
a vast emptiness, sad and without any charm.”

[60] Of the Imperial Theatre in Warsaw.

[61] He became an American citizen and dropped his title of nobility.
Because of the difficulty in pronouncing Chlapowski, he was known in
America by his second name, and was called Mr. Bozenta.

[62] “Hill was a worthy man and a good actor ... but there will
always be something ludicrous in the thought of Barton Hill sitting
in judgment on Helena Modjeska. ‘He was very kind--Meester Hill,’
said the actress; ‘but he was ne-ervous and fussy, and he patronized
me as though I were a leetle child. “Now,” he said, “I shall be very
critical--ve-ery _severe_.” I could be patient no longer: “Be as
critical and severe as you like,” I burst out, “only do, please, _be
quiet_, and let us begin!” He was so surprised he could not speak, and
I began at once a scene from _Adrienne_. I played it through and then
turned to him. He had his handkerchief in his hand and was crying. He
came and shook hands with me and tried to seem quite calm. “Well,” I
asked, “may I have the evening that I want?” “I’ll give you a week, and
more, if I can,” he answered.’”--William Winter, _The Wallet of Time_.

[63] It was John McCullough who at this time suggested the modification
of her name. Her professional name in Poland had always remained
Modrzejewska. When confronted with this, McCullough said: “Who on earth
could read that, I wonder? I fear you will be compelled to change
your name, Madame.” She suggested Modgeska, which he smilingly said
would remind people of Madagascar. The “g” was changed to “j.” “Now,”
McCullough said, “it is quite easy to read, and sounds pretty, I think.”

[64] Her first appearance in New York was in _Adrienne Lecouvreur_.
The other plays of that season and the one following were _Romeo
and Juliet_; _Camille_; _Frou-Frou_; _Peg Woffington_ (in which she
failed); and _East Lynne_ (which she heartily disliked).

_Adrienne Lecouvreur_, _Romeo and Juliet_ and _Camille_ were for many
years retained in her repertoire. Her appearances in other plays
were as follows: _Heartsease_ (adaptation of _Camille_), London,
1880; _Marie Stuart_, London, 1880; _Juana_, (a failure, by W. G.
Wills), London, 1881; _A Doll’s House_, Warsaw, 1882; _Odette_,
London, 1882; _As You Like It_ and _Twelfth Night_, New York, 1882;
_Nadjezda_ (by Maurice Barrymore), 1884; _Two Gentlemen of Verona_,
_Cymbeline_, and _Prince Zillah_, season of 1885–6; _Les Chouans_,
_Measure for Measure_, _Dona Diana_, and _Daniela_, 1886; with Edwin
Booth, _Hamlet_, _Much Ado about Nothing_, _Macbeth_, _Merchant of
Venice_, and _Richelieu_, 1889; _Countess Roudine_ (by Paul Kester
and Minnie Maddern Fiske), and _Henry VIII_, 1892; _The Tragic Mask_,
1893; _Magda_, 1894; _Mistress Betty Singleton_ (by Clyde Fitch),
1895; _Antony and Cleopatra_, 1898; _The Ladies’ Battle_, 1900; _Marie
Antoinette_ (by Clinton Stuart) and _King John_, 1900. In a letter
furnishing some of the above dates, Modjeska’s husband, who died in
Cracow, in March, 1914, wrote from Rzegocin, Posen, July 10, 1913:

“_The Tragic Mask_ was written by Mr. E. Reynolds. It was an original
play, somewhat deficient in construction; but the dialogue was very
clever. _Daniela_ was a translation from a German play by Phillippi.
The translators were Hamilton Bell and Moritz von Sachs. As to _Les
Chouans_: This was an adaptation of Balzac’s novel of the same title,
made in French by the well-known actor and dramatist, Pierre Berton,
and translated by Paul Potter.

“In addition to the abovesaid repertoire it must be mentioned that
Madame Modjeska played _A Doll’s House_ not only in Poland, but also
in America, in Louisville, in the season of 1883–1884. This was, to my
knowledge, the first production of Ibsen on an English-speaking stage.
Though the part of Nora was considered in Poland, I think rightly, one
of Modjeska’s best ones, _A Doll’s House_ did not appeal then to the
American public. According to local critics, and especially to Henry
Watterson, the audiences were not yet ripe for Ibsen.

“Besides the plays you enumerated, Mme. Modjeska appeared yet in a few
others on special occasions. Thus, in the spring of 1884, in Cincinnati
at a dramatic festival, she played Desdemona to Tom Keene’s Othello.
In 1905 in Los Angeles, she took part in a charitable performance and
played Hermione in _The Winter’s Tale_, and in the summer of 1907
appeared equally for charity in a little French comedy entitled _The
Spark_. To be complete, I must yet mention a short proverb by Hamilton
Aide, produced in London in a reception for the Prince of Wales in
1883, the name of which has escaped my memory.

“But Mme. Modjeska did not play only in English in America. She gave
two consecutive performances in Chicago in Polish for charitable
purposes, supported by a company of amateur workingmen. One was a
comic part in a popular peasant comedy, the other a tragic queen in
a historical drama. Twice also she played in French: once in 1884 in
London in a graceful proverb of Augier entitled _The Post-scriptum_;
she was supported by the above-named Pierre Berton. The second time
she acted in French in Los Angeles in 1907 for the ‘French Alliance’
in that beautiful one-act drama _Le Pater_. As I mentioned her several
charity performances, I may be allowed to remark that Mme. Modjeska
rarely omitted an occasion to appear for charitable objects. In
January, 1909, about ten weeks before her end, already then very weak
and ill, she took part in a great benefit performance for the victims
of the Messina earthquake, in Los Angeles, giving the sleepwalking
scene of _Macbeth_.

“I will add that outside of the twelve Shakespearean plays mentioned by
you, and the two named above by me, Madame Modjeska acted in Poland in
two more--_Richard III_ and _The Taming of the Shrew_. Her repertoire
on the Polish stage known to me consisted of more than one hundred and
ten parts.”

[65] William Winter in the New York _Tribune_.

[66] _Memories and Impressions._

[67] The others being Clara Morris, Georgia Cayvan, and Julia Marlowe.

[68] This prohibition did not apply to Austrian or Prussian Poland, of
course, and she afterwards acted more than once in Cracow, Lemberg, and

[69] “During her long professional career, though Modjeska was
‘presented’ by various managers, her personal representative was her
husband, Bozenta,--one of the kindest, most intellectual, and most
drolly eccentric men it has been my fortune to know. Neither he nor
his wife was judicious in worldly matters, while--as is not unusual in
such cases--both thought themselves exceptionally shrewd and capable.
Their professional labors were abundantly remunerative, but, being
improvident and generous, they did not accumulate wealth. The close
of Modjeska’s life, contrasted with the brilliancy of her career, was
pathetic and forlorn. I called on her, a few months before her death,
in the refuge, a little cottage, she had found, at East Newport. The
great actress greeted me with gentle kindness and presently, as though
my coming had reminded her of other days and scenes, she looked about
the small narrow room in which we were. ‘Ah, it ees small,’ she said,
‘very small, this place of ours. But, what of that? It ees large enough
for two old people to sit in--and _wait_.’ As I came away her lovely
eyes were suffused with tears. She looked at me long and fixedly.
‘Good-by, my good friend,’ was all she said. She seemed to foresee that
it was our last parting.”--(William Winter, _The Wallet of Time_.) It
is not to be thought from this that Modjeska died poor. Of the vast sum
(said to be $800,000) that she earned on the American stage, she left
at her death something over $100,000, in California real estate, stocks
and bonds, and jewelry. It is true, however, that she was lavishly
generous, and that her bounty was bestowed in many places, private
and public. She was the founder of an industrial school for girls in
Cracow, for which she gave $100,000.

[70] A reference to Sembrich and Paderewski.

[71] April 8, 1909, on Bay Island, East Newport, California, whither
she had moved from “Arden” but a few months before. Her final
appearance on the stage was in the spring of 1907.

[72] These brothers and sisters were all actors or actresses except
Charles, who was a stage manager, and the father of the actresses
Minnie and Beatrice Terry. Mr. Scott does not mention another
brother--George--who was identified with the business side of the
theatre. Fred Terry married the actress Julia Neilson, and their
daughter, Phyllis Neilson-Terry, is today among the most promising
young women on England’s stage. There were two other brothers, Ben and
Thomas, and three children died--twelve in all.

[73] No. 5 Market Street makes out the best case.

[74] Her own memory is perhaps not an infallible guide, but in a
characteristic letter (September 26, 1887) to Clement Scott she was
emphatic enough: “Mr. Dutton Cook’s statement was inaccurate, that’s
all! I didn’t contradict it, although asked to do so by my father at
the time, for I thought it of little, if of any interest. The very
first time I ever appeared on any stage was on the first night of
_The Winter’s Tale_, at the Princess’s Theatre, with dear Charles
Kean. As for the young princes,--them unfortunate little men, I never
played--not neither of them--there. What a cry about a little wool!
It’s flattering to be fussed about, but ‘Fax is Fax!’”

[75] Another childish blunder marks Miss Terry’s only meeting with the
great actor Macready. She accidentally jostled him while running to her
dressing-room. He smiled at her apology, and said: “Never mind, you are
a very polite little girl, and you act very earnestly and speak very

[76] Miss Terry relates the rise and fall of her childish vanity at
this time: “The parts we play influence our characters to some extent,
and Puck made me a bit of a romp. I grew vain and rather ‘cocky,’
and it was just as well that during the rehearsals for the Christmas
pantomime in 1857, I was tried for the part of the fairy Dragonetta and
rejected. [The children’s parts at the Princess’s were assigned after
competitive trials. For Mamillius “Nelly” had been chosen out of half
a dozen aspirants.] I believe that my failure was principally due to
the fact that I hadn’t flashing eyes and raven hair--without which,
as every one knows, no bad fairy can hold up her head and respect
herself.... Only the extreme beauty of my dress as the maudlin ‘good
fairy’ Golden-star, consoled me. I used to think I looked beautiful in
it. I wore a trembling star in my forehead, too, which was enough to
upset any girl.” A little later: “I think my part in _Pizarro_ saw the
last of my vanity. I was a worshiper of the sun and, in a pink feather,
pink swathings of muslin, and black arms, I was again struck by my own
beauty. I grew quite attached to the looking glass which reflected that
feather! Then suddenly there came a change. _I began to see the whole
thing._ My attentive watching of other people began to bear fruit, and
the labor and perseverance, care and intelligence, which had gone to
make these enormous productions dawned on my young mind. Up to this
time I had loved acting because it was great fun, but I had not loved
the grind. After I began to rehearse Prince Arthur in _King John_, I
understood that if I did not work I could not act! And I wanted to
work. I used to get up in the middle of the night and watch my gestures
in the glass. I used to try my voice and bring it up and down in the
right places. And all my vanity fell away from me.”

[77] “It was a chicken! Now, as all the chickens had names--Sultan,
Sultan, Duke, Lord Tom Noddy, Lady Teazle, and so forth--and as I was
very proud of them as living birds, it was a great wrench to kill one
at all, to start with. It was the murder of Sultan, not the killing of
a chicken. However, at last it was done, and Sultan deprived of his
feathers, floured, and trussed. I had no idea _how_ this was all done,
but I tried to make him ‘sit up’ nicely like the chickens in the shops.

“He came up to the table looking magnificent--almost turkey-like in his

“‘Hasn’t this chicken rather an odd smell?’ said our visitor.

“‘How can you!’ I answered. ‘It must be quite fresh--it’s Sultan!’

“However, when we began to carve, the smell grew more and more potent.

“_I had cooked Sultan without taking out his in’ards!_

“There was no dinner that day except bread-sauce, beautifully made,
well-cooked vegetables, and pastry like the foam of the sea. I had a
wonderful hand for pastry.”

[78] Of her first night as Portia the _London Daily News_ said: “This
is indeed the Portia that Shakespeare drew. The bold innocence, the
lively wit and quick intelligence, the grace and elegance of manner,
and all the youth and freshness of this exquisite creation can rarely
have been depicted in such harmonious combination. Nor is this
delightful actress less successful in indicating the tenderness and
depth of passion which lie under that frolicsome exterior. Miss Terry’s
figure, at once graceful and commanding, and her singularly sweet and
expressive countenance, doubtless aid her much; but this performance is
essentially artistic, ... in the style of art which cannot be taught.”

[79] Clement Scott.

[80] Ellen Terry dismisses Ibsen’s women as “silly ladies,” “drawn
in straight lines,” and easy to play; a characteristic, if radically
unjustified view.

[81] “She has always been an indefatigable and charming letter-writer,
one of the greatest letter writers that ever lived,” says Mr. Shaw, the
happy recipient of many of her letters.

[82] On one of her last American tours Miss Terry attended in New York
the first night of a young playwright’s new work, and at the end of the
third act he was presented to her. She congratulated him warmly: “It is
very good,” she said, “your play is very good indeed, and I shall send
all my American friends to see it.”

“In that case,” said the playwright, with a very low and courtly bow,
“my little piece will sell ninety million tickets.”

[83] The dates of her most important impersonations since joining Henry
Irving: Ophelia in _Hamlet_, 1878; Pauline in _The Lady of Lyons_; Ruth
Meadows in _The Fate of Eugene Aram_, Queen Henrietta Maria in _Charles
I_, Portia in _The Merchant of Venice_, 1879; Iolanthe in _King
René’s Daughter_, Beatrice in _Much Ado about Nothing_, 1880; Camma
in _The Cup_, Letitia Hardy in _The Belle’s Stratagem_, Desdemona in
_Othello_, 1881; Juliet in _Romeo and Juliet_, Beatrice at the Lyceum
(her previous appearance had been at Leeds), 1882; Viola in _Twelfth
Night_, 1884; Olivia in _Olivia_ (revival), Margaret in _Faust_, 1885;
Ellaline in _The Amber Heart_, 1887; Lady Macbeth, in _Macbeth_,
1888; Catherine Duval in _The Dead Heart_, 1889; Lucy Ashton in
_Ravenswood_, 1890; Queen Katherine in _Henry VIII_, Cordelia in _King
Lear_, 1892; Rosamund in _Becket_, Nance Oldfield in _Nance Oldfield_,
1893; Queen Guinevere in _King Arthur_, 1895; Imogen in _Cymbeline_,
1896; Madame Sans-Gêne in the play of that name, 1897; Clarisse in
_Robespierre_, 1899; Volumnia in _Coriolanus_, 1901; she acted under
Irving’s management for the last time in 1902, playing Portia at his
final performance at the Lyceum; Mistress Page in _The Merry Wives of
Windsor_, 1903; _Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire_, 1905; Lady Cecily Waynflete
in _Captain Brassbound’s Conversion_, Hermione in _The Winter’s
Tale_, 1906. On April 28, 1906, the fiftieth anniversary of her first
appearance, she played Francisca in _Measure for Measure_ (once only)
at the Adelphi.

[84] Mr. Shaw’s article on Ellen Terry appeared, in German, in the
_Neue Freie Presse_ of Vienna. And there are several striking passages
concerning her in the _Dramatic Opinions and Essays_.

[85] Yet, characteristically, she was better satisfied than some of her
admirers: “I have sometimes wondered,” she wrote, “what I should have
accomplished without Henry Irving. I might have had ‘bigger’ parts but
it doesn’t follow that they would have been better ones, and if they
had been written by contemporary dramatists my success would have been
less durable. ‘No actor or actress who doesn’t play in the classics--in
Shakespeare or old comedy--will be heard of long,’ was one of Henry
Irving’s statements, and he was right.”

[86] Ellen Terry never played _The Man of Destiny_. Irving accepted it
and shelved it.

[87] The first to appear was an elderly woman who long before noon on
Monday placed herself and her campstool outside the entrance to the
theatre. The performance was not scheduled to begin until the next day
at half past one. During Monday afternoon and evening the gathering
outside the doors steadily increased in size, until, at midnight there
were many hundreds. Miss Terry, late Monday night, appeared to greet
the waiting enthusiasts, and Mr. Arthur Collins, the manager of Drury
Lane, furnished them a supper of hot coffee, rolls and cake. When
the doors were at last opened many of those who had thus patiently
waited failed to find room within the theatre. The proceeds of this
entertainment, together with those of a popular subscription in England
and America, went to Miss Terry and amounted to about forty thousand

[88] It was during this tour that Miss Terry made her third marriage,
to James Carew, an actor of her company. Charles Wardell (Charles
Kelly) died in 1885.

[89] During this tour the honor and affection she had won in the minds
of Americans were attested by various testimonials. She was given at a
special ceremony the Founder’s Medal of the now extinct New Theatre in
New York, a “farewell banquet” was tendered her there, and in both New
York and Boston she received an elaborate “book of welcome,” signed by
many notable people and accompanied by poetic addresses, composed in
one case by Percy MacKaye and in the other by Josephine Preston Peabody.

[90] In January, 1914, she appeared at King’s Hall, London, as the
Abbess in two performances of _Paphnutius_, a play written in the tenth
century by Hroswitha, a Benedictine nun. It was on this old play that
Anatole France founded his romance _Thaïs_. Thus did Ellen Terry, at
nearly three score and ten, continue to furnish proof of her still
youthful spirit and readiness for work. Later in the year she went
to Australia to give there her Shakspearean lecture-readings. The
great European war broke out, and conditions in Australia became so
unfavorable that Miss Terry sailed for the United States, where she
again lectured in a few of the larger cities.

For some years she had had increasing trouble with her eyes. Frequently
she would spend the periods between the scenes in a darkened room. On
February 23, 1914, in New York, Miss Terry underwent an operation,
which proved successful, for the removal of a cataract from her right
eye. In June, 1915, she reappeared in London on the occasion of a
matinee given at the Haymarket in aid of one of the war charities.
The play--a ballet pantomime called _The Princess and the Pea_--was
the first musical piece in which Miss Terry ever took part. On this
occasion also her two grandchildren made their stage _début_.

[91] In “The Yellow Book,” Vol. II (1894).

[92] Further precedent for Gabrielle’s career was furnished by her
aunt, Mme. Naptal-Arnault, at one time a _pensionnaire_ of the _Comédie

[93] For much of the information in the early part of this chapter the
author is indebted to _Loges et Coulisses_, by Jules Huret.

[94] Who, twenty-eight years later, with Pierre Berton, was to write
for her _Zaza_, one of her most successful plays.

[95] Mme. Réjane recalls that her costume on this occasion was the
object of much solicitude on the part of Regnier. On the day of the
contest he came to her house at nine in the morning to pass judgment on
her dress, which was made of white tarlatan at nine _sous_ per metre,
and cost in all about ten francs. Mme. Regnier loaned gloves for the

[96] Aimée Olympe Desclée (1836–1874), of the _Gymnase_, who excelled
in modern French emotional plays. She acted with success in London, and
also appeared in Belgium and Russia.

[97] The students played also in the suburbs, at Versailles, Mantes,
and Chartres. It was at Chartres, where she had a part in _Les Paysans
Lorrains_, that the playbills first named her Réjane. Till now she had
gone by her own name of Réju. She played also, while still a student,
at _matinées-conférences_ at the _Porte-Saint-Martin_, in _Le Depit
Amoureux_ and _Les Ménechmes_.

[98] Her first appearance at the _Vaudeville_ was on March 25, 1875.
Her first three parts were small rôles in _La Revue des Deux-Mondes_,
_Fanny Lear_, and _Vaudeville’s Hotel_. There followed: _Madame Lili_,
_Midi à Quatorze Heures_, _Renaudin de Caen_, _La Corde_, 1875; _Le
Verglas_, _Le Premier Tapis_, _Les Dominos Roses_, _Perfide comme
L’Onde_, _Le Passe_, 1876; _Pierre_, _Les Vivacités du Capitaine Tic_,
_Le Club_, 1877; _Le Mari d’Ida_, 1878; _Les Memoires du Diable_, _Les
Faux Bonshommes_, _Les Tapageurs_, _Les Lionnes Pauvres_, 1879; _La Vie
de Bohème_, _Le Père Prodigue_, 1880; _La Petite Sœur_, _Odette_, 1881;
_L’Auréole_, _Un Mariage de Paris_, 1882; all at the _Vaudeville_.
At various theatres: _Les Demoiselles Clochart_, _La Princess_, _Les
Variétés de Paris_, _La Nuit de Noces de P. L. M._, _La Glu_, 1882;
_Ma Camarade_, 1883; _Les Femmes Terribles_, 1884; _Clara Soleil_,
1885; _Allo! Allo!_, _Monsieur de Morat_, 1886–87; _Décoré_, _Germinie
Lacerteux_, _Shylock_, 1888; _Marquise_, 1889; _La Famille Benoîton_,
_Le Mariage de Figaro_, _La Vie à Deux_, 1889–90; _Ma Cousine_,
1890; _Amoreuse_, _Fantasio_, _La Cigale_, _Brevet Supérieur_, 1891;
_Lysistrata_, _Sapho_, 1892; _Madame Sans-Gêne_, 1893; _Villégiature_,
_Les Lionnes Pauvres_, _Maison de Poupée_, 1894; _Viveurs_, 1895;
_Lolotte_, _La Bonne Hélène_, _Le Partage_, _Divorçons_, 1896; _La
Douloureuse_, 1897; _Paméla_, _Le Roi Candaule_, _Zaza_, _Le Calice_,
_Georgette Lemeunier_, 1898; _Le Lys Rouge_, _Mme. de Lavalette_,
1899; _Le Faubourg_, _Le Béguin_, _La Robe Rouge_, _Sylvie ou la
Curieuse d’Amour_, 1900; _La Pente Douce_, _La Course du Flambeau_,
1901; _La Passerelle_, _Le Masque_, _Le Joug_, 1902; _Heureuse_,
_Antoinette Sabrier_, 1903; _La Montansier_, _La Parisienne_, 1904;
_L’Age D’Aimer_, 1905; _La Piste_, 1906. At the _Théâtre Réjane_:
_La Savelli_, 1906; _Paris-New York_, _Suzeraine_, _Les Deux Madame
Delauze_, 1907; _Qui Perd Gagne_, _Israël_, 1908; _Trains de luxe_,
_L’Impératrice_, _Le Refuge_, 1909; _Madame Margot_, _La Flamme_,
_M’Amour_, 1910; _L’Enfant de l’Amour_ (at the _Porte St. Martin_), _La
Revue Sans-Gêne_, 1911; _L’Aigrette_, _Un Coup de Téléphone_, _Aglaïs_
(at _Comédie Royale_), 1912; _Alsace_, _L’Irrégulière_, 1913; _Le
Concert_, 1914.

[99] “Her queer little face catches hold of you, by both the good and
bad elements in your nature. All the intelligence, the devotion, the
pity of a woman are to be read in her wonderful eyes, but below there
is the nose and mouth of a sensual little creature, a vicious, almost
vulgar, smile, lips pouted for a kiss, but with a lingering, or a
dawning, suggestion of irony. Moreover, she is exactly the reigning
type, the type that one meets constantly on the Paris pavements when
the shop girls are going to lunch. If you happen to be born _marquise_
or _duchesse_ you copy the type, and the result is all the more
piquant.”--Augustin Filon, “The Modern French Drama.”

[100] The Boston _Courier_, May 19, 1895.

[101] Her second American season began in New York, Nov. 7, 1904.
During this tour she appeared for the first time in America in
_Amoureuse_, _La Passerelle_, _Zaza_, _La Petite Marquise_, and _La

[102] Originally _Madame Sans-Gêne_ was to have been produced at the
_Grand-Théâtre_, of which M. Porel, Réjane’s husband, was manager.
He gave up the house, however, before the play could be given. Other
managers begged for it, but of each in turn M. Sardou demanded:
“Have you Réjane in your company?” and as the answer was always in
the negative, he added: “Then there is no use of our talking about
it.” Soon M. Carré admitted M. Porel to a co-directorship of the
_Vaudeville_, and there the play was produced, with immediately great
success. M. Sardou was not the sole author. He had considerable help
from M. Moreau.

[103] Correspondence of Frederick Roy Martin in the _Boston
Transcript_, November 9, 1904.

[104] Dec. 29, 1906.

[105] In 1906, she attempted, with M. Gaston Mayer, to found a French
repertoire theatre in London, but the experiment was not successful and
lasted only one season.

[106] It is probably for this comedian that the street _Calle Duse_ in
Chioggio, near Venice, is named.

[107] “A curious circumstance attended her baptism at Vigevano. In
accordance with the custom of the country the child was carried to the
church in a shrine gilded and ornamented with jewels. A detachment of
Austrian soldiery marched past the baptismal procession, and mistaking
the shrine for the relics of some saint, halted and saluted. When he
returned to his wife the father said to her: ‘Forgive me, dear, that
I am unable to bring me a present for giving me a daughter, but I can
give you a happy omen. Our daughter will be something great some day;
already they have shown her military honors.’”

[108] In after years, when she had won fame and name, she used to carry
about a little antique coffer in which as a babe she used to lie while
her mother was upon the stage.

[109] According to Jean Dornis (_Le Théâtre Italien Contemporaine_) her
father said that she contracted a disease known as _Salmara_--or “The
Spleen of Venice.” The victim of this ailment is “enveloped, as in a
fantastic mist, with the sadness of the past, the bitterness of the
present, and the uncertainty of the future.”

[110] Years after the time of which we are speaking, the two met at
the home of Dumas, at Marly. When she found herself in the room with
the man she had long venerated, she was speechless with emotion, and,
the accounts say, burst into tears. When she finally acted in Paris,
in 1897, Dumas was dead. She acted there on the occasion of the great
testimonial to his memory. See page 188.

[111] In the last edition of his plays Dumas appends a footnote to _La
Princesse de Bagdad_: “There is in the last scene a stage direction
that is not found in other editions. After having said to her husband:
‘I am innocent, I swear it to you, I swear it to you,’ Leonetta, seeing
him incredulous, places her hand on the head of her son and says a
third time, ‘I swear it to you!’ This gesture, so noble and convincing,
was not used in Paris. Neither Mlle. Croizette nor I thought of it;
none the less, it was irrefutable and irresistible. Inflection alone,
however powerful, was not enough.” As a matter of fact, until Duse
introduced this bit of “business” no one had ever been able to make the
scene convincing, and as the success of the whole play hangs on this
scene, _La Princesse de Bagdad_ had always been a comparative failure.
Dumas goes on to pay tribute to Duse for introducing his work into
Italy, and in conclusion says: “It is to be regretted for our art that
this extraordinary actress is not French.”

[112] 1885.

[113] Though her first night audience was described as “large and
brilliant,” Duse’s audiences during her first American tour were
generally not large in numbers. They were, however, drawn from a
discriminating part of the public, the part that regards the drama
as an art and goes to the theatre only when its own high standards
are likely to be met. During the 1896 tour she attracted the same
discerning public, but also, this time, that other public which runs to
fads. “La Duse” became something of a fad, but happily at no sacrifice
of the quality of her acting.

[114] _The Critic_, for January 28, 1893. The story has often been told
of Mme. Bartet, the distinguished actress of the _Comèdie Française_,
and Duse’s swoon in _La Dame aux Camélias_. So powerful and so natural
was Duse at the point where Marguérite swoons, that Bartet, perhaps
sensible of Duse’s own bodily weakness, cried out: “Great Heavens! She
has really fainted.”

[115] There is much in Mrs. Fiske’s acting to remind one of Duse,
different as the two are in many ways. There is in each, in the first
place, the same service to an art of an exceptional intellect, the
same high minded devotion to ideals. Each has been a mistress of the
subtleties, both of conceptions of characters and of means to set
those conceptions forth. Each depends on the significant repression
of emotion, rather than on expansive exposition of emotion. Each is,
in spite of a fundamental seriousness, expert in comedy. Coming to
details, each depends largely on rapidity of utterance, with occasional
arbitrary pauses. Of the former--in a possible excess--Mrs. Fiske has
been sufficiently charged; the latter Duse has been sometimes accused
of carrying to undue lengths. Finally each has her wholesome distaste
for eccentricities and meritricious publicity. Mrs. Fiske is Duse
translated into American.

[116] _The Critic_, February 11, 1893.

[117] During her tour in America in 1893, Duse’s parts were: Marguérite
Gauthier in _La Dame aux Camélias_; _Fédora_; Clotilde in _Fernande_;
Santuzza in _Cavalleria Rusticana_; Mirandolina in _La Locandiera_;
Cyprienne in _Divorçons_; Francine in _Francillon_, and Césarine in _La
Femme de Claude_. During her second American tour in 1896, Duse played
_Magda_ for the first time in this country, and also some plays from
her former repertoire, _La Dame aux Camélias_, _Cavalleria Rusticana_
and _La Locandiera_. On her next visit, in 1902, which was during the
d’Annunzio period, she played _La Gioconda_, _La Citta Morta_, and
_Francesca da Rimini_, all by d’Annunzio.

[118] She played for London _A Doll’s House_ and _Antony and
Cleopatra_, as well as _Camille_, _Fédora_, _Cavalleria Rusticana_ and
_La Locandiera_.

[119] When Duse was in the United States for the second time, in 1896,
she withstood, as before, all attempts to interview her. This fact did
not prevent some enterprising persons from publishing to the world that
she had confessed a dislike of America. The report was widely spread,
but the fact was that Duse did not make the statement.

Her Magda gave a new revelation of her skill. “In suggesting the
social standing of the returned prodigal, Mme. Duse takes a middle
course between the frank Bohemianism of Bernhardt and the loftier
aristocratic air adopted by Modjeska. It is interesting to note how
she emphasizes the theatrical nature of Magda’s past life, by just
those little exaggerations of pose and gesture common to nearly all
stage performers, but from which she herself, in ordinary conditions
is almost ideally free. These manifestations of self-consciousness are
confined to the second act, and vanish when the inner self of the woman
is brought to the surface by the influence of powerful emotions.”--_The
Critic_, March 7, 1896. An instance, this, of Duse’s remarkable
subtlety in acting. At the point where Magda drives her former lover
from her presence, she “easily reached and maintained herself at a
height of emotion which can only be described as tragic, and she
wrought the effect without exposing herself, even for an instant, to
the charge of exaggeration or rant.” Of this scene William Archer, a
little later, said that until he saw it he did not fully realize the
dynamic potentialities of human utterance.

[120] Unlike many of her sister actresses, Duse made a practice of
reading the criticisms of her acting.

[121] From Victor Mapes’ _Duse and The French_, to which the author is
indebted for his account of Duse’s Paris _début_.

[122] In 1898 Mme. Vivanti Chartres, one of Duse’s few intimate
friends, said (in the New York _Dramatic Mirror_): “Duse’s hatred of
publicity and newspaper interviews has assumed the proportions of
a mania.... When we were alone together, talking of the play I was
writing for her, or discussing modern art, her youthful struggles
with poverty, or the world weariness that came to her finally with
her splendid success, Duse was herself--impulsive, eager, passionate,
tender, sad. But the mere announcement of a visitor would freeze her
into silent hauteur.

“I stayed with her in Turin for some time. We used to go out driving
in the _Valentino_ every morning, for Duse said she needed to
begin the day by looking at ‘green things.’ She was crowding the
_Teatro Carignano_, the receipts averaging 10,000 francs for each
performance--a stupendous sum for Italy. Yes, Duse certainly makes
a great deal of money, but she spends all that she makes. She is
exceedingly generous. One day she gave a magnificent diamond ring to
a dressmaker whom Worth had sent to her from Paris with her _Dame aux
Camélias_ dresses. And she pays her entire company all the year round,
although during the last eighteen months she has given only twenty-two

“At Monte Carlo we stayed at the Victoria, the dullest if most
aristocratic hotel in the place. But Duse has a taste for the dismal
and the melancholy. She is very sad--the saddest woman I have ever
known. She cannot even bear people’s voices. After the strain of her
performance she drives home quite alone, and sits down to her supper in
solitude and silence. During the days that I was with her we used to
sit at opposite ends of the large table, sometimes without exchanging
half a dozen words, and she used to laugh her approval across to me
when I absolutely refused to answer her if she made any attempts at
polite conversation.

“Duse _chez elle_ dresses almost always in white satin. Her gowns are
loose and limp, and folded carelessly around her.... She is a charming
woman, highly cultured, sincere, brave and good. Her conversation, when
she chooses to speak, is startlingly brilliant.”

[123] It was her rule not to play more than four performances a week.
When she was in her thirties, the world was told that she was a
sufferer from “pulmonary phthisis,” and that her impending doom was
one of the causes of her seclusion and sadness. All through her career
there were periodic reports of her illness, of canceled engagements and
interrupted tours.

[124] “She spends enormous sums on books and photographs, on bonbons
and _scissors_--a curious hobby of hers, as she buys pair after pair,
which she afterwards loses.... Another of her fads, which in Italy is
a decided novelty, is hygiene; for to the average Italian mind, the
simplest rules of health and sanitation, even the combination of warmth
and good ventilation, are mysteries, to inquire into which would be
useless and ridiculous. That Duse should like to have a fire and to sit
with the window open at the same time, quite passes their powers of
comprehension.” Helen Zimmern in _Fortnightly Review_, 1900.

[125] Her d’Annunzio parts, extending from 1897 to 1902, were: Isabella
in _Sogno di Mattino di Primavera_, Anna in _La Citta Morta_, Silvia in
_La Gioconda_, Helena in _La Gloria_, and Francesca in _Francesca da

[126] “In _La Gioconda_, the scene in the studio, when the wife,
burdened with a sense of intolerable worry, finds herself face to face
with the woman who has supplanted her--would to a second rate actress
prove an irresistible temptation to frenzied rant; but Duse plays
it with a sustained intensity of controlled detestation and scorn
which was infinitely more impressive, more artistic and more true. In
the horrible climax she leaves details of her destroyed hand to the
imagination.” _The Critic._

[127] “Her method does not admit even the possibility of pose. In the
quietest and most delicate of her scenes Bernhardt always bears traces
of her school and its traditions of _autorité_. Duse on the other hand,
goes to the most daring lengths in self-effacement. Her stillness is

“Even what is exaggerated in Italian gesture has in her a sort of
anomalous grace, and preserves the richness and geniality of nature.”
_The Athenæum_, 1885.

[128] William Archer.

[129] The name was really Crehan. Why was it changed? Perhaps because
in its original form it was too baldly Irish. Yet Ada’s two elder
sisters had taken to the stage and both appeared with the name O’Neill.
Her mother was Harriet O’Neill, her father William Crehan. There were
six children, three boys and three girls. The story used to be current
that “Crehan” became “Rehan” through an error of printing; that when
Ada first appeared in Philadelphia, with Mrs. Drew, she was named on a
playbill “Ada C. Rehan”; and that, in view of the favorable newspaper
notices given the new actress, Mrs. Drew advised her to retain the name
inadvertently given her,--all interesting surely, and perhaps true.
Playbills of the Arch Street Theatre (Philadelphia) of 1874, however,
give “Ada Crehan.”

[130] The date of her birth has always been given as April 22, 1860.
There are reasons for thinking it must have been earlier. It would not
be the only instance in which an actress’ age has been reduced by a
retroactive manipulation of dates. Her first appearances on the stage
were in 1873 and 1874, and by the time she went to Daly, in 1879, she
had had an extended experience that would be simply marvelous for a
girl of nineteen. Her hair began to turn gray about 1894. Mr. Winter
says the streaks of gray came prematurely. Of course, they did, in
any event, but thirty-four is an extraordinarily early age for such
a phenomenon in an actress. An anecdote, not worth repeating, in the
_Boston Record_ for November 24, 1888, is introduced in this way: “Ada
Rehan is forty years old and over. She makes up fairly for girlish
rôles ... but at close sight in the cold light of day she shows her
age.” If worthy of any consideration, this paragraph would place the
birthdate before 1850, obviously going to the other extreme. The
correct date is undoubtedly 1855, or thereabout. Thus she was about
eighteen when, in 1873, she made her first appearance.

[131] The eldest, Kate, “had been a choir singer in Limerick, and while
singing at a concert one day in New York was heard by Harvey Dodworth
and invited to join the chorus for Lester Wallack’s production of the
opera of _Don Cæsar de Bazan_. She accepted, and was also joined by her
younger sister Hattie, that being the début of the Crehan family upon
the stage.”

[132] Arthur Byron, the actor, is their son. Harriet, the second
sister, had a long and comparatively inconspicuous career on the stage
as Hattie Russell. Two brothers, William Crehan and Arthur Rehan, were
more or less definitely identified, after Ada’s success, with the
business side of the theatre.

[133] While in his employ she appeared also in Baltimore.

[134] Garrick’s version of _The Taming of the Shrew_.

[135] In these pre-Daly days Miss Rehan played, besides the
Shakespearean parts named, a host of others that it would be
tedious and useless to name. Most of them would suggest nothing to
a present-day theatregoer. A few that may have some significance
are: Esther Eccles in _Caste_, Hebe in _Pinafore_, Lady Florence in
_Rosedale_, Lady Sarah in _Queen Elizabeth_, Little Em’ly in _David
Copperfield_, Louise in _Frou-Frou_, Marie de Comines in _Louis XI_,
Mary Netley in _Ours_, Pauline in _The Lady of Lyons_, Queen of France
in _Henry V_, Ursula in _Much Ado About Nothing_, and Virginia in
_Virginius_. There were about ninety in all.

[136] On the southwest corner of Thirtieth Street and Broadway.

[137] Arthur Lynch, in _Human Documents_.

[138] Still, in 1888, when the Daly company was playing in Paris,
several of its members were interviewed, (seemingly about particularly
trivial matters) and Miss Rehan was one of the talkers. She was said to
have been pessimistic about the wisdom of marriages among actresses,
particularly to actors. This is an ever fresh subject for debate. A
writer in the New York _Dramatic Mirror_, September 15, 1888, wrote a
column to refute Miss Rehan’s remarks.

[139] “I would go to the theatre any night if only to see him run his
fingers over the invisible keys of the sofa cushion.”--“Brunswick” in
the _Boston Transcript_.

[140] Mary Young, herself a member of Daly’s Company, in a talk to
the Drama League of Boston in 1914, said: “Mr. Daly was a most polite
gentleman, with extraordinary eyes of green, as clear and sharp as they
were kind and laughing; wonderful, all-seeing eyes!... The strictest
discipline reigned everywhere. Every member, with the exception of
Miss Rehan, seemed to be in a state of complete terror. Mr. Daly was
supreme and held his company of distinguished players with a grip of
iron. Rules and regulations were posted everywhere. One or two that I
recall were: ‘The way to succeed--mind your own business,’ and ‘How to
be happy--keep your mouth shut.’ I was amazed to see some of the extra
girls hide behind pieces of scenery rather than face those remarkable
eyes that might be cast their way as Mr. Daly was casually passing
from one part of the stage to another.... However, to my mind he was
a just man, although his temper often caused him to seem to do unjust
things.... His heart was kind and he could not treasure up a wrong
against any one who had once gained his confidence and respect.”

C. M. S. McLellan, who nowadays writes “books” for operettas, (and
who wrote _Leah Kleschna_ for Mrs. Fiske) in 1888 was writing for
the New York _Press_ what passed for amusing comment on theatrical
matters. His chatter about Mr. Daly and Miss Rehan does a little toward
characterizing both: “At the stage door you find a bulldog. Mr. Daly
secluded himself in a padded room at the end of a secret passage. He
comes down to the dog kennel to freeze all reporters. Editors are
invited up to the green room. Henry Irving is supposed to be the only
man who ever penetrated to the padded chamber, and he tells the story
that while he was there Mr. Daly opened a bottle of claret and smiled.
The claret part of the story is generally credited, but unless Mr.
Irving is degenerating in his choice of words we think there was some
mistake about the smile.

“But if any of us ever had doubts concerning the healthfully hilarious
influence exerted by Mr. Daly’s benignity upon a great comedy company
we have only to glance at Miss Rehan and be converted. We have had that
baby pout of hers in opera and in Shakespeare, that imperious, uplifted
nose of hers in Jenny O’Jones and Helena, and as the snows of various
cycles descend on the heads of her worshipers the musical purr of the
Rehan still sings the third sweet song of seven. And when she smiles,
the light of pearls and rubies creeps out and illumines the nooks that
the calcium cannot penetrate.

“So why should not Mr. Daly live in a padded room and manage the
electric buttons that blush all this youth and divine color across a
befogged community? He is entitled to padded rooms, bulldogs and cold
hands. If he does nothing for the next forty years but keep the crack
of doom out of Rehan’s purr he will have earned the right to be made
Sheriff of New York County.”

[141] The list of parts played by Miss Rehan before she began the
acquirement of her more famous repertoire cannot, and need not, be made
complete here. Some of them were: Isabelle in _Wives_; Cherry Monogram
in _The Way We Live_; Donna Antonina in _The Royal Middy_; Psyche in
_Cinderella at School_; Muttra in _Xanina_; Selina in _Needles and
Pins_; Phronie in _Dollars and Sense_; Thisbe in _Quits_; Tekla in
_The Passing Regiment_; Tony and Jenny O’Jones in _Red Letter Nights_;
Barbee in _Our English Friend_; Aphra in _The Wooden Spoon_; Floss in
_Seven-Twenty-Eight_; Nancy Brusher in _Nancy and Company_, and Etna in
_The Great Unknown_.

The more important parts played by Miss Rehan during her twenty years
with Mr. Daly were: Baroness Vera in _The Last Word_; Tilburina in
_The Critic_; Oriana in _The Inconstant_; Julia in _The Hunchback_;
Lady Teazle in _The School for Scandal_; Miss Hayden in _The Relapse_;
Pierrot; The Princess in _Love’s Labours Lost_; Valentine Osprey in
_The Railroad of Love_; Mrs. Ford in _The Merry Wives of Windsor_;
Peggy Thrift in _The Country Girl_; Odette in _Odette_; Rose in _The
Prayer_; Annis Austin in _Love on Crutches_; Doris in _An International
Match_; Thisbe in _A Night Off_; Dina in _A Priceless Paragon_; Mrs.
Jassamine in _A Test Case_; Hippolyta in _She Would and She Would Not_;
Helena in _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_; Katherine in _The Taming of
the Shrew_; Rosalind in _As You Like It_; Viola in _Twelfth Night_;
Beatrice in _Much Ado About Nothing_; Letitia Hardy in _The Belle’s
Stratagem_; Sylvia (and Captain Pinch) in _The Recruiting Officer_;
Xantippe in _La Femme de Socrate_; Kate Verity in _The Squire_.

[142] “Ada Rehan is of a superior race of women. She can be enormously
interesting simply standing looking out of a window, her back to the
audience, immobile, but with a ‘calmness’ that sends off vibrations
that stir the pulses very curiously, and make her always the magnet,
the center. She pauses, but it is the pause of a fine balance of strong
feelings. She is all alive; she whirls round and comes into the action
with a bold ringing stroke that has been adjudged to perfection. She
can stride--not like a man, for she is always a fine woman--but like
the daughter of Fingal, the sister of Ossian. She can bang a door
like a chord of martial music. She can precipitate herself headlong
into a room, and seizing her opponent or her lover, for she is equal
to all occasions, at the critical wavering movement, sweep in with a
wrestler’s power and lift him metaphorically helpless off his feet.
Yet in all these displays Rehan is never violent in a narrow way, or
streaky, or hard, or wiry.... The beauty of repose is delightful in
her, the calm musing meditation, and the deep harmonious passion of
devotion; so also is the quick salient swerve of emotion wherein the
soul is suddenly shaken to its depths by love, by fear, by admiration
... we find life and flesh and blood throughout, and everywhere the
fire of the soul that animates it.” Arthur Lynch, in _Human Documents_,
London, 1896.

[143] “Playing Katherine brought me much satisfaction, but a very bad
reputation for temper,” she once said. “I have often been amused at
seeing the effect that a first performance of the ‘Shrew’ in a strange
place produced on the employers of the stage. They shunned me as
something actually to be feared. During a long run I have heard it said
that I hated my Petruchio. I looked upon this as a compliment.”

[144] For an enlightening exposition of Miss Rehan’s acting in her
various rôles see his _The Wallet of Time_, Vol. II.

[145] On a later visit of the Daly company to London, Mr. Archer chewed
and swallowed these words, thus: “‘Crude and bouncing.’ Ye gods!
this of the swan-like Valentine Osprey of _The Railroad of Love_ and
the divine Katherine of _The Taming of the Shrew_! True, it is six
years since these lines were written, and Miss Rehan’s art may--nay,
must--have ripened in the interval. I try to persuade myself that I may
not have been so far wrong after all, but it won’t do.... There must
have been beauties in the performance of six years ago to which I was
inexcusably blind.”

[146] In spite of Clement Scott’s praise: “Acting of this kind, so
beneath the surface, so distinctly opposed to the commonplace, and so
eloquent with finest touches of woman’s nature, we do not believe has
been seen since the death of Aimée Desclée.”

[147] October 30, 1891.

[148] She began her first “starring” tour at the Hollis Street Theatre,
Boston, (on September 24, 1894) where many interesting events have
taken place. Here Julia Marlowe, six years before, had won her first
really genuine recognition. The Hollis Street Theatre was first
opened in 1885, and is still often referred to as the best-equipped
theatre (on the stage) in the country. It was built in the site of the
old Hollis Street Church, where John Pierpont, grandfather of John
Pierpont Morgan, and Thomas Starr King preached. The walls of the
church building of 1808 were incorporated in the theatre. The opening
attraction was _The Mikado_. In the course of its run of twenty weeks
Richard Mansfield appeared as Ko-Ko.

[149] Mary Anderson was the child of a devout Catholic mother, her
brief period of schooling was in Catholic schools, her beloved Pater
Anton was of course a strong influence for her adherence to that faith,
and, throughout her public life and since, her devotion to her church
has been constant and earnest. One of her friends (Henry Watterson)
expressed the conviction that to her religion she owed much of the
fortitude that carried her through the ordeals and failures of her

[150] “The convent was a large, Italian-looking building, surrounded by
gardens and shut in by high, prison-like walls. That first night in the
long dormitory, with its rows of white beds and their little occupants,
some as sad as myself, my grief seemed more than I could bear. The moon
made a track of light across the floor. A strain of soft music came in
at the open window; it was only an accordion, played by someone sitting
outside the convent wall; but how sweet and soothing it was! The simple
little melody seemed to say: ‘See what a friend I can be! I am music
sent from heaven to cheer and console. Love me, and I will soothe and
calm your heart when it is sad, and double all your joys.’ It kept
saying such sweet things to me that soon I fell asleep, and dreamed I
was at home again. From that moment I felt music a panacea for all my
childhood’s sorrows.”--Mary Anderson, _A Few Memories_.

[151] While a mere girl, Mary learned to ride a horse. Twice a year a
visit was made to an Indiana farm. She learned to ride spirited horses
without saddle or bridle. Riding was always her favorite amusement.
Long afterwards, in London, a riding-master once said to her: “Why,
Miss Handerson, you ’ave missed your vocation. What a hexcellent circus
hactor you would ’ave made! I’d like to see the ’orse as could throw
you now.”

[152] One who was present told William Winter “that notwithstanding
the conditions inseparable from youth and inexperience, it was a
performance of extraordinary fire, feeling and promise. Its paramount
beauty, he said, was its vocalism. Miss Anderson’s voice, indeed, was
always her predominant charm. Certain tones of it--so thrilling, so
full of wild passion and inexpressible melancholy--went straight to the
heart, and brought tears into the eyes.”--_Other Days._

Throughout her career all observers noted the richness and
expressiveness of Mary Anderson’s voice, especially its thrilling lower
tones. After she retired from the stage, indeed, she paid considerable
attention to singing, and once sang in public, in a small way, for

[153] Henry Watterson, the journalist of Louisville and one of Miss
Anderson’s earliest friends and advisers, tells this story to indicate
the self-reliance that was the cue to her success: “On one occasion,
after a long discussion, the counselor whom she had sought, quite worn
out with his failure to convince her, exclaimed with some irritation:
‘Don’t you know that I am double your age, and have gone over all this
ground, and can’t be mistaken?’ ‘No,’ she coolly replied, ‘I don’t
know anything I have not gone over myself.’ She considered everything
that was relevant, consulted everybody who could give information, and
decided for herself.”

[154] It was during this engagement, that the young actress played for
the first time the character of Meg Merriles, thus, perhaps unwisely,
challenging comparison with Charlotte Cushman, who had made the part
peculiarly her own.

[155] It does Mary Anderson nothing but credit to point out that at
the time she was first claiming the attention of the East she had not
yet grown to be quite the Mary Anderson the world remembers. She was
already beautiful, but she was as yet a comparatively friendless,
inexperienced young girl, ignorant of much of the art of the theatre
and with undeveloped taste in dress; yet self-confident and perhaps
just a bit spoiled. The manager of the theatre at which she played
her first engagement in New York (in November, 1877) long afterward
remembered its details. On the opening night “there was about three
hundred dollars in money and a good paper house. Never was a Pauline
attired in such execrable taste. The ladies of the audience could not
conceal their smiles; but in the cottage scene Miss Anderson’s fine
voice and her beauty captured everybody. Other plays followed. As
Parthenia she looked a picture in her simple costume, and her manner of
saying ‘I go to cleanse the cup’ enchanted the audience. As Bianca in
_Fazio_ she wore modern costumes, and but for her youthful beauty would
have been absurd.

“On the first night, after the performance, I started home for supper,
when it occurred to me that perhaps Miss Anderson would like something
to eat after her hard work. So I called at Dr. Griffin’s rooms in West
Twenty-eighth Street and found the future Queen of Tragedy eating a
cold pork chop as she sat on a trunk. The whole party accepted my
invitation and we went to the nearest restaurant. On our way we passed
a candy store and Mary looked so longingly at the window that I asked
whether she would like some candy. ‘Oh, yes!’ she cried, and jumped
up and down on the pavement with pleasure. She selected a pound of
molasses cream drops and commenced to eat them at once. The supper
began with oysters on the half shell. To see Mary Anderson eat oysters
and candy alternately was terrible; but a handsome girl may do anything

“The papers were very kind to Miss Anderson during her first
engagement. She made a success of youth and loveliness; but the public
did not rush in to see her.

“After a while, Henry Watterson, who had known her in Louisville, came
to town and took an interest in her. He brought with him ex-Governor
Tilden, who was taken behind the scenes to be introduced to the new
star. He whispered to me, ‘What a remarkably handsome girl! No actress,
but how very handsome!’”

[156] Her repertoire at this time (1879) was: Bianca in _Fazio_;
Juliet in _Romeo and Juliet_; Lady Macbeth (the sleep-walking scene);
Parthenia in _Ingomar_; Berthe in _The Daughter of Roland_; Julia in
_The Hunchback_; Pauline in _The Lady of Lyons_; Meg Merriles in _Guy
Mannering_; Evadne in _Evadne_; Duchess of Torrenucra in _Faint Heart
Never Won Fair Lady_; Ion in _Ion_; soon afterwards she added the
Countess in Knowles’ _Love_, Galatea in _Pygmalion and Galatea_, and
Desdemona in _Othello_ (once only).

[157] Miss Anderson said that during this search she considered W. S.
Gilbert’s _Brantingham Hall_, but, as the chief character was not
adapted to her, she declined it. Gilbert amusingly asked her if this
was because she found anything gross in it. “For,” he said, “I hear
that you hate gross things so much that you can hardly be induced to
take your share of the gross receipts.”

[158] On the occasion of the one hundred and fiftieth performance of
_The Winter’s Tale_ at the Lyceum, Miss Anderson was presented with a
large laurel wreath from which were suspended a number of streamers in
blue and gold, and bearing the names--three hundred and ninety-two in
number--of all the members of the company and staff of the theatre,
even to the call boy. In the center of the wreath, and supported by
chains, was a brass tablet with the inscriptions: “_En Souvenir_ of the
One-hundred and Fiftieth performance of _The Winter’s Tale_, presented
to Miss Mary Anderson by the members and employees, Lyceum Theatre,
London, March 2, 1888,” and on the other side:

 “‘The hostess of the meeting, pray you, bid the unknown friends to
            us welcome....
  Come, quench your blushes, and present yourself that which you are,
            mistress o’ the feast.’...”

                    _The Winter’s Tale_, Act IV, Scene 4.

[159] _A Few Memories_--1896.

[160] It would be an impertinence to doubt the good faith of Mary
Anderson’s own statement as to the immediate cause of her retirement
in March, 1889. It is nevertheless interesting to observe that at the
time, and later, the newspapers freely discussed circumstances which
do not enter into her account. One theory was that adverse critical
comment, which was found in many reviews of her acting, disturbed
her seriously, and preyed more and more upon her mind until she lost
faith in her own power, and underwent in consequence a somewhat severe
nervous prostration. There was even a wide-spread report that she
became mildly insane,--which was promptly discredited and which was of
course merely a piece of sensationalism. Particular mention is made of
one Louisville critic who, during Miss Anderson’s early years was one
of her friends and advisers, but who, when she returned at the height
of her career, sincerely believed her spoiled and a much less fine
actress than she had given promise of becoming. He therefore wrote a
frank and fearless analysis of her acting, in which he found much to
dispraise. It is impossible to tell with accuracy how much truth there
is in this story. Miss Anderson herself says that it was never her
habit to read newspaper criticisms of her work, except that someone
kept for her those that might prove helpful and that these were used as
possible hints when she began work another season.

[161] William Winter.

[162] Duse furnished the only previous instance.

[163] At Little Rock, Arkansas.

[164] At different times, and as the exigencies of engagements
permitted, in Montreal, New Orleans, Louisville, the Ursuline Convent
in St. Louis, a French school in Cincinnati, and other private schools.

[165] “A person less given to reminiscence than Mrs. Fiske I cannot
imagine. Upon revisiting in her professional tours the scenes of her
childhood days one would naturally expect a great actress to remark,
‘Here is where I made my first appearance,’ or ‘Here I played the Widow
Melnotte when I was only twelve’; but I do not recall that I ever heard
Mrs. Fiske make the slightest allusion to persons or places, with
one or two exceptions. She was appearing at Robinson’s Opera House,
Cincinnati. As she entered the dressing room on the opening night she
glanced about, and then at me, as if to determine whether or not it
was safe to intrust me with the information. She then remarked that
when a child she was brought into that room to see Mary Anderson in
reference to playing some child character in one of Miss Anderson’s
plays,--_Ingomar_, as she thought.”--Griffith, _Mrs. Fiske_.

[166] The parts she played in this childhood period included: Duke
of York in _Richard III_; Willie Lee in _Hunted Down_; Prince Arthur
in _King John_, and others of Shakespeare’s children; Damon’s son in
_Damon and Pythias_; Little Fritz in _Fritz_; Paul in _The Octoroon_;
Franko in _Guy Mannering_; Sybil in _The Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing_;
Mary Morgan in _Ten Nights in a Barroom_; the child in _Across the
Continent_; the boy in _Bosom Friends_; Alfred in _Divorce_; Lucy
Fairweather in _The Streets of New York_; the gamin and Peachblossom
in _Under the Gaslight_; Marjorie in _The Rough Diamond_; the child
in _The Little Rebel_; Adrienne in _Monsieur Alphonse_; Georgie in
_Frou-Frou_; Heinrich and Minna in _Rip van Winkle_; Eva in _Uncle
Tom’s Cabin_; the child in _The Chicago Fire_; Hilda in _Karl and
Hilda_; Ralph Rackstraw in _Pinafore_; Clip in _A Messenger from Javis
Section_; the sun god in _The Ice Witch_; children and fairies in
_Aladdin_, _The White Fawn_ and other spectacular pieces; François in
_Richelieu_; and Louise in _The Two Orphans_.

[167] “The extraordinary thing about Mrs. Fiske’s early career is
that she should have been even _permitted_ to play the range of
characters that she did.... Frequently a young woman who is physically
well developed easily passes for a much older person, and the eye is
satisfied even if the ear be not, but little Minnie _was_ little,
and held her audiences then by her genius, as she subsequently has
continued to do.”--Griffith.

[168] It is of this period that Mildred Aldrich wrote, in her article
on Mrs. Fiske in _Famous American Actors of To-day_: “It was twilight
on a very cold day when I knocked at her room at Hotel Vendome. A
clear voice bade me enter and in a moment I had forgotten my cold
drive. It was a voice which I can never forget, and which even as I
write of it comes to my ear with a strange delicious insistence. As
the door closed behind me there rose from the depths of a large chair,
and stood between me and the dim light from the window a slender,
childish figure, in a close-fitting, dark gown. The fading light, the
dark dress, threw into greater relief the pale face with its small
features and deep eyes, above and around which, like a halo, was a
wealth of curling red hair. I had been told that she was young; but
I was not prepared for any such unique personality as hers, and I
still remember the sensation of the surprise she was to me as a most
delightful experience. This was not the conventional young actress to
whom I have been accustomed; this slight, undeveloped figure, in its
straight, girlish gown reaching only to the slender ankles. There was
a pretty assumption of dignity; there was a constant cropping out in
bearing, in speech, in humor and in gestures of delicious, inimitable,
unconcealable youth which was most fetching and which had something so
infinitely touching in it.

“I have never encountered a face more variable. At one moment I would
think her beautiful. The next instant a quick turn of the head would
give me a different view of the face and I would say to myself, ‘She is
plain’; then she would speak, and that beautiful musical _mezzo_, so
uncommon to American ears, and from which a Boston man once emotionally
declared ‘feeling could be positively wrung, so over-saturated was it,’
would touch my heart and all else would be forgotten. Such was Minnie
Maddern when I first met her on her eighteenth birthday.”

[169] This was not her first marriage. She had been married when she
was about sixteen to LeGrand White, a musician and theatrical manager.
They were divorced about two years before she married Mr. Fiske.

“For two years before her marriage [to Mr. Fiske] she had been
continually worried with the theatre and her rest was a welcome one.
She had many interests beside the stage, and loved to get away to a
little cottage, at Larchmont, where she took an active part in all the
doings, and where she was a familiar figure driving a little yellow
cart madly over the roads, more often bare headed than not, and always
with that wonderful red hair flying in the wind.”--Mildred Aldrich.

[170] The list of productions beginning with Mrs. Fiske’s return to
the stage in 1893, and not including revivals, is as follows: _A
Doll’s House_, and _Hester Crewe_ (by Mr. Fiske), 1893; _Frou-Frou_,
1894; _The Queen of Liars_ (_La Menteuse_) and _A White Pink_, 1895;
_A Light from St. Agnes_ (by Mrs. Fiske) and _La Femme de Claude_,
1896; _Divorçons_ and _Tess of the D’Urbervilles_, 1897; _A Bit of
Old Chelsea_ and _Love Finds a Way_ (_The Right to Happiness_) 1898;
_Little Italy_, _Magda_, and _Becky Sharp_, 1899; _The Unwelcome Mrs.
Hatch_ and _Miranda of the Balcony_, 1901; _Mary of Magdala_, 1902;
_Hedda Gabler_, 1903; _Leah Kleschna_, 1904; _The Rose_, and _The Eyes
of the Heart_ (one-act plays by Mrs. Fiske), 1905; _Dolce_, and _The
New York Idea_, 1906; _Rosmersholm_, 1907; _Salvation Nell_, 1908;
_Hannele_, _The Pillars of Society_, and _Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh_, 1910;
_The New Marriage_, 1911; _Lady Patricia_ and _The High Road_, 1912;
_Lady Betty Martingale, or The Adventures of a Hussy_, 1914.

[171] H. T. Parker in the _Boston Transcript_.

[172] W. P. Eaton.

[173] H. T. Parker.

[174] In 1907 Mrs. Fiske took _The New York Idea_ on an unprecedented
tour throughout the West. She played not only as far South as the
Mexican border, and along the Pacific coast, but even went into the
Canadian Northwest as far as Edmonton, appearing in many towns that
had never before seen a theatrical company of the highest grade. And
_The New York Idea_, a sophisticated comedy addressed to Eastern
audiences, was successful everywhere. At Globe, Arizona, the audience
contained hundreds who had come from long distances by train, stage
or horse-back. Calgary demanded a return engagement. At Edmonton the
play was given in a rink on an improvised stage, and lasted from eleven
o’clock--the time of the arrival of the belated train--till two of the
early northern dawn.

[175] “There never was a case of lame or scurvy dog that fell under
Mrs. Fiske’s notice that did not get instant relief. A mangy and
ownerless mongrel cur on the street never failed to find a friend in
her. If she were in a carriage, no conveyance was too good for Towser
or Tige. Towser or Tige might never have had a bath during all of his
unhappy dog days, but into the carriage went the friend of man, and the
coachman was directed to steer for the nearest veterinarian, who was
forthwith subsidized to make a good dog out of a very much frazzled
one, and send the bill to Mrs. Fiske. All over this glorious country
dogs were being repaired, boarded, and rebuilt as good as new, when
masters were adopted for them, and ‘the dog that Mrs. Fiske saved’
lived his allotted span and expired loved, honored, and respected. With
horses, too, it was just the same. I believe if she were on the way
to a matinée with the house all sold out, and an abused or otherwise
pitiful case of horse attracted her attention,--and it _would_--she
would sacrifice that matinée before she would the horse.”--Griffith.

[176] Mrs. Fiske at one time was fond of visiting the motion-picture
theatres, heavily veiled and sitting in the back of the house. The
better grade of foreign films interested her. And she has recently
shown more broad-mindedness toward a growing art than some actresses
much lower than she in the artistic scale; for she has herself recently
acted _Tess_ and _Becky Sharp_ for the motion-picture camera.

“When attending another theatre, as she sometimes does on a Wednesday
afternoon, she would like, if she could, to occupy an obscure balcony
seat, or at the back downstairs; but if that is not feasible, and a box
must be taken, she generally ensconces herself behind the drapery, in
as inconspicuous a place as possible. There is absolutely nothing of
the spectacular or ‘theatrical’ about Mrs. Fiske.”--Griffith.

[177] “During a rehearsal her poodle entered the theatre and calmly
and unconsciously crossed the stage, keeping at a respectful distance
from her, however, only condescending to notice her mistress with
a side glance. This was so contrary to her customary dashing and
bounding approach, that Mrs. Fiske stopped the rehearsal and called to
Fifi to come to her. But not Fifi; she merely glanced and continued
her dignified and stately promenade across the stage. Persistently
and with authority Mrs. Fiske ordered the queenly Fifi to approach.
Not for Hecuba--no approach, only a pause. Mohammed must go to the
mountain, and Mrs. Fiske did the approaching. Did Fifi grin, or what
did the slight gleam of white teeth portend? It was merely the flash of
lightning, for the thunder came soon after in a low growl of defiance.
Never had such a thing happened before. This impromptu play was good,
with Mrs. Fiske at her best, and the audience of actors stood by
immensely interested. With tragic emphasis Mrs. Fiske stamped her foot
and, pointing in the direction of her dressing room, ordered the black
woolly beast to begone and quit her sight, to let the dressing room
hide her, and a few things like that, and added something about Fifi’s
bones being marrowless and her blood cold, and about the absence of
speculation in her eyes which she did glare with. Just then Mr. Gilmore
remarked: ‘That’s not Fifi--that’s my dog Genie.’ Laughter--quick

[178] “When a series of one-night stands was being played--and she has
a perfectly frantic fondness for them--it was our custom to charter a
Pullman, as she lived in the car instead of in hotels.... This she most
urgently requested to have placed ‘_not_ at the end of the train.’ The
rear-end collision had mortal terrors for her.... The same nervous fear
applied to non-fireproof hotels, in any of which Mrs. Fiske will not go
above the second story.... Mrs. Fiske appears never to weary of travel,
and while she objects to starts ranging from five to ten o’clock A.M.,
an earlier or later leaving hour does not disturb her; in fact, she
says she rarely falls asleep until near morning. We had a prohibition
against ringing the berth bells before ten A.M., and also against any
kind of alarm clock.... Very rarely Mrs. Fiske went to the dining car
in the train, her dislike for making herself conspicuous being very
marked. This modesty was exemplified in her fondness for veils, as she
always wore at least one, and more generally two.... Her unceasing
employment of time when on tour is in study. It is a never-ending
labor, and one that evidently delights her. The preparation for things
to come--perhaps a year or more ahead--is always in her mind.... During
all my time [thirteen years] with Mrs. Fiske she never lost a single
night from illness.”--Griffith.

[179] On Ninth Street, between Vine and Race.

[180] According to an interview with Mrs. Hess, printed in 1897 in the
Cincinnati _Commercial Tribune_.

[181] She was also Myrene in _Pygmalion and Galatea_ and Stephen in
_The Hunchback_.

[182] Miss Dow was for many years known as the aunt of Miss Marlowe.
There was no actual relationship; but by legal agreement or otherwise
Miss Marlowe was an “adopted niece” of the older woman. Miss Dow’s
interest in her young charge was, naturally, not wholly altruistic.
That is, there was a signed agreement by virtue of which Miss Dow
was to share heavily in any earnings of Miss Marlowe for a term of
years after the début, and was to have a voice in the management of
her affairs. After the actress’ emergence in 1887 as Julia Marlowe,
however, Miss Dow’s management continued for only a few years. There
was even newspaper talk of Miss Marlowe’s having “thrown over” her
guide and friend, after she began to meet success. Miss Dow became Mrs.
Currier. Her training of Fanny Brough started her on a long career as a
dramatic teacher, in which capacity she was active as recently as the
autumn of 1915.

[183] Juliet in _Romeo and Juliet_, Julia in _The Hunchback_, Parthenia
in _Ingomar_, Pauline in _The Lady of Lyons_ and Galatea in _Pygmalion
and Galatea_.

[184] “Whole plays were rehearsed. The instructor served both as
audience and prompter. She read all the parts save the heroine’s.
Scenery and the position of the other players were indicated by tables
and chairs. When _Romeo and Juliet_ was rehearsed, the back of a
venerable haircloth sofa was the balcony rail. With her chin resting
upon it and her gaze fixed tenderly upon a worn place in the carpet,
she first recited Juliet’s impassioned good-night to her lover.”

[185] On the twentieth. How old was Julia Marlowe on this important
day of her life? The date of her birth has been variously given, and
authority might be found for any year between 1864 and 1870. As a
matter of fact, the Register of Baptisms of the Parish of Caldbeck
shows that she was baptized September 23, 1866. Thus she was at least
twenty-one at the time of her début, though she was popularly supposed
to be about eighteen.

[186] Besides other things, Colonel Ingersoll said: “To retain the
freshness that is her greatest charm she will have to ... pay no
attention to the critics. Her talent needs no guide save that afforded
by her experience and her own mentality.” One Alfred Ayres, writing to
the editor of the New York _Dramatic Mirror_, voiced the protest that
was felt in many quarters against Colonel Ingersoll’s kindly meant
over-enthusiasm: “What nonsense clever men do sometimes talk, when
they talk about things they know little or nothing about!... There is
not a novice in America more in need of guidance than is Miss Julia
Marlowe. To let her go her own way would be to let her go to ruin.
She is already on the high-road to becoming merely coy, coddling, and
goody-goody.” Colonel Ingersoll became Miss Marlowe’s personal friend.
At least one summer she spent with his family.

[187] Beginning with her New York début in 1887, Julia Marlowe’s
first appearances in her various parts were as follows: Parthenia in
_Ingomar_, Juliet in _Romeo and Juliet_, Viola in _Twelfth Night_,
1887; Julia in _The Hunchback_, Pauline in _The Lady of Lyons_, 1888;
Rosalind in _As You Like It_, Galatea in _Pygmalion and Galatea_, 1889;
Beatrice in _Much Ado About Nothing_, 1890; Imogen in _Cymbeline_,
Charles Hart in _Rogues and Vagabonds_, 1891; Constance in _The Love
Chase_, 1893; Letitia Hardy in _The Belle’s Stratagem_, Chatterton in
_Chatterton_, Lady Teazle in _The School for Scandal_, 1894; Colombe in
_Colombe’s Birthday_, Prince Hal in _Henry IV_, Kate Hardcastle in _She
Stoops to Conquer_, 1895; Lydia Languish in _The Rivals_ (supplementary
spring season, with “all-star cast”), Romola in _Romola_, 1896; Mary in
_For Bonnie Prince Charlie_, The Countess in _The Countess Valeska_,
1897; Colinette in _Colinette_, Barbara in _Barbara Frietchie_, 1899;
Mary Tudor in _When Knighthood Was in Flower_, 1901; Fiametta in
_The Queen Fiametta_, Charlotte Oliver in _The Cavalier_, 1902; Lady
Barchester in _Fools of Nature_, 1903; Ophelia in _Hamlet_, 1904;
Katherine in _The Taming of the Shrew_, Portia in _The Merchant of
Venice_, 1905; Salome in _John the Baptist_, Jeanne in _Jeanne d’Arc_,
Rautendelein in _The Sunken Bell_, 1906; Madonna Gloria in _Gloria_,
Yvette in _The Goddess of Reason_, 1908; Cleopatra in _Antony and
Cleopatra_, 1909; Lady Macbeth in _Macbeth_, 1910.

[188] For Henry IV Mr. and Mrs. Taber had to learn to wear armor. They
used genuine armor, and to accustom themselves to it they wore it for
hours each day in their apartments.

[189] Frank Howe, of the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia.

[190] She obtained a divorce in January, 1900. Four years later Taber
died, of tuberculosis, “at a refuge in the Adirondack Mountains,
provided for him,--for he had been rendered practically destitute by
illness--through the goodness of his former wife.” (Winter.)

[191] In the season of 1895–96 during the “Mr. and Mrs. Taber” period,
they had played with some success at Wallack’s, practically her first
down-town engagement since the début in 1887. It was during this
engagement that William Dean Howells wrote enthusiastic praise of her

[192] This memorable alliance first went into effect in Chicago,
September 19, 1904, at the Illinois Theatre. It continued for three
seasons, after which, during the seasons of 1907–8 and 1908–9, each
again headed separate companies. In 1909 they rejoined forces, and
continued to act together until the spring of 1914, when Miss Marlowe
was taken sick, and Mr. Sothern continued alone. At this time it was
announced that Miss Marlowe had retired from the stage for good. There
was subsequently some talk of a farewell tour, but Miss Marlowe’s
retirement was definitely confirmed in the summer of 1915. As everyone
knows, the two stars became man and wife. The marriage occurred in
London, in 1911.

[193] Mr. Walkley wrote in _The Times_ an eloquent tribute to
her Viola, which he found “bewitching.” “In the purely sensuous
element in Shakespeare, in the poet’s picture of frankly joyous and
full-blooded womanhood, the actress is in her element, mistress
of her part, revelling in it and swaying the audience by an
irresistible charm. She aims at no startling ‘effects’; she seems
to be simply herself--herself, that is, glorified by the romance of
the part--enjoying the moment for the moment’s sake, and so making
the moment a sheer enjoyment for the spectator. That is now clearly
shown which in her earlier parts could only be divined--that here is a
genuine individuality, a temperament of real force and peculiar charm.
High-arched brows over wide-open, eloquent eyes; a most expressive
mouth, now roguish with mischief, now trembling with passion; a voice
with a strange croon in it, with sudden breaks and sobs--these, of
course, are purely physical qualifications which an actress might have
and yet not greatly move us. But behind these things in Miss Marlowe
there is evidently an alert intelligence, a rare sense of humor and
a nervous energy which make, with her more external qualities, a
combination really fine. She beguiled not only Olivia, but the whole
house to admiration. Here, then, is one of Shakespeare’s true women.”

[194] Elizabeth McCracken.

[195] One can doubt the _entire_ truth of this statement without
denying the larger truths lying in her general statement.

[196] James Kiskadden died when Maude was ten years old.

[197] In San Francisco.

[198] Acton Davies--_Maude Adams_.

[199] Part of the time, at least, Mrs. Adams substituted herself for
Maude when the time for this plunge arrived.

[200] “Yes, I confess it,” she has declared, “I was in the ballet
for six brief months. There is much to be learned there, and some
the ballet’s teachings may be advantageously applied to the art of
acting. Studied forms of dancing are not, perhaps, an essential part
of a player’s outfit, but they have a certain related value not to be
lightly esteemed.”--Perriton Maxwell.

[201] Perriton Maxwell. Her parts in Mr. Sothern’s company were: Louisa
in _The Highest Bidder_, and Jessie Deane in _Lord Chumley_.

[202] Produced at Palmer’s Theatre, New York, October 3, 1892. It was a
French play, adapted by Clyde Fitch.

[203] Her parts were: Suzanne in _The Masked Ball_, 1892; Miriam in
_The Butterflies_, 1894; Jessie Keber in _The Bauble Shop_, 1894;
Marion in _That Imprudent Young Couple_, 1895; Dora in _Christopher,
Jr._, 1895; Adeline Dennant in _The Squire of Dames_, 1896; Dorothy
Cruikshank in _Rosemary_, August, 1896. On December 9, 1896, she played
Mary Verner in _Too Happy by Half_.

[204] The plays and parts of Maude Adams’ “stardom” are as follows:
Lady Babbie in _The Little Minister_, 1897; Mrs. Hilary in _Mrs. Hilary
Regrets_ (special performance, with John Drew), 1897; Juliet in _Romeo
and Juliet_ (supplementary spring season), 1899; Duke of Reichstadt
in _L’Aiglon_, 1900; Phœbe Throssell in _Quality Street_, 1901;
Pepita in _The Pretty Sister of José_, 1903; Amanda Affleck in _’Op
O’ Me Thumb_ (in one act), 1905; _Peter Pan_, 1905; Viola in _Twelfth
Night_ (at Harvard), 1908; Chicot in _The Jesters_, 1908; Maggie
Wylie in _What Every Woman Knows_, 1908; Joan of Arc in _The Maid of
Orleans_ (at Harvard), 1909; Rosalind in _As You Like it_ (University
of California), 1910; _Chanticler_, 1911; Leonora in _The Legend of
Leonora_, 1913. This list does not include revivals.

[205] _The Wallet of Time_, vol. II.

[206] “Children, corsets and cigars were named after her;--as a matter
of fact I know one ten-year-old child who has thirteen dolls, and every
one of them bears the same identical name, Maude Adams.”--Acton Davies.

[207] Prepared by Louis N. Parker and Edward Rose.

[208] “She was at her best in the scene of supplication and childlike
blandishment with the old Austrian Emperor. The vein of Miss Adams
is domestic and romantic--not tragic. She carried the second act of
the play with sustained vivacity and gratifying skill. Possessed of
a gentle personality and capable of a piquant behavior, Miss Adams
was a sprightly and bonnie lass in _The Little Minister_, and that
performance furnished the measure of her ability. As Reichstadt she
gave an intelligent performance, on a commonplace level.”--William
Winter, _The Wallet of Time_.

[209] William Winter. His appreciation of some qualities of the
impersonation did not prevent his saying: “Pepita, as impersonated by
Miss Adams, was a tenuous damsel, of peevish aspect, who closed her
teeth and spoke through them, producing, at times, a strange, nasal
sound, as of a sheep bleating.”

[210] “At the moment when Maggie destroys Shand’s written promise of
marriage and again at the moment when she gazes on the beauty who has
bewitched her husband, Miss Adams attained to the loftiest height she
has reached, in the expression of feeling.”--_The Wallet of Time._

[211] And indicates also, in the same people, a lamentably restricted
judgment of the artistic side of what they see on the stage.

[212] Frederic Dean has given one or two cases of her bounty: “There
used to be an old doorkeeper at the stage entrance of the Empire
Theatre. One day he was taken sick and his place was filled by another.
Miss Adams learned that the old chap had lost his position and made a
hurried search for him, tracing him, at last, to an East Side tenement.
It was long after midnight when she found him. He was very ill and was
being taken care of by his faithful wife as best she could. Doctors
and nurses were immediately summoned and every possible comfort
provided; and the next morning, and the next, and the next came Lady
Bountiful--and every day, until the sufferer died a month later.

“For sixteen years Robert Eberle was in Charles Frohman’s employ as
business manager. One year, late in the season, he was taken ill and
left in a hospital in South Bend, Indiana. Miss Adams was playing in
the West at the time, and hearing of Mr. Eberle’s illness--though
several hundred miles from the hospital--left her company on Saturday
night, went to South Bend, spent Sunday at the sick man’s bedside, and,
leaving orders for the best of medical treatment, returned to her work
just in time to dress for her part on Monday night.”

[213] Ethel Barrymore was born at Philadelphia, August 15, 1879. Her
mother was the actress, Georgie Drew-Barrymore.

[214] Margaret Anglin was born at Ottawa, April 2, 1876. Her father was
Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, and her brother was Chief

[215] Alla Nazimova was born at Yalta, Crimea, Russia, June 4, 1879.

[216] Edith Wynne Matthison was born at Birmingham, England.

[217] Grace George was born at New York City, December 25, 1879.

[218] Following the American production, Miss George played _Divorçons_
in London.

[219] Laura Hope Crews was born at San Francisco.

[220] Besides Miss Russell, Miss O’Neil, Miss Stahl and Miss Crosman,
these are some of the American actresses of the closing years of the
nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, who
merit more notice than can be given them here, but whose achievements
are recorded in the books named in the bibliography: Viola Allen, Julia
Arthur, Blanche Bates, Amelia Bingham, Clara Bloodgood, Mrs. Leslie
Carter, Rose Coghlan, Ida Conquest, Maxine Elliott, Virginia Harned,
Isabel Irving, May Irwin, Mary Mannering, Clara Morris, Eleanor Robson,
Effie Shannon, Mary Shaw and Blanche Walsh. Some in this list, like
Miss Irwin, Miss Coghlan and Miss Shannon, are, happily, still active.
And Miss Arthur announces her return to the stage.

[221] Rutland to Nethersole.

[222] 1629.

[223] Women acted in Italy as early as 1560, and actresses appeared in
France probably not much later. The earliest French actress of whom
there is definite record is Marie Vernier, who acted in Paris, in her
husband’s company, in 1599. In Spain the practice of substituting boys
and men in women’s parts seems never to have obtained. Going back to
antiquity, it is to be noted that while the Greeks never tolerated
actresses on their stage, in Rome occasional women players were by no
means unknown.

[224] In the interim D’Avenant had ingeniously circumvented the
restrictions placed by Cromwell’s government on the theatres, by
devising a species of opera. They were really plays, in the grand
style, modeled after Italian pieces, and with a musical accompaniment
to take the curse off. In one of these, _The Siege of Rhodes_,
performed in 1656, two women, Mrs. Edward Coleman and another, played
Ianthe and Roxalana.

[225] Thomas Jordan’s prologue shows that the “boys” were now sometimes
dangerously near middle age:

  “Our ‘women’ are defective, and so sized,
   You’d think they were some of the guard disguised;
   For, to speak truth, men act, that are between
   Forty and fifty, wenches of fifteen;
   With bone so large, and nerve so incompliant,
   When you call DESDEMONA, enter GIANT.”

“Old Chetwood tells a story which amply illustrates the absurdity of
the ‘men-actresses.’ King Charles II, he says, coming to the theatre
to see _Hamlet_ and being kept waiting for some time, sent the Earl of
Rochester behind to see what was causing the delay. He returned with
the information that ‘the Queen was not quite shaved.’ ‘Odsfish!’ said
the King. ‘I beg her Majesty’s pardon. We’ll wait till her barber has
done with her.’”--Lowe’s _Betterton_.

[226] As seems clear, for instance, from Hamlet’s unusual consideration
of them. The often-quoted law enacted in the reigns of Elizabeth and
James seems, however, to have been directed not against the established
city companies, but against the wandering country players. It reads,
quaintly enough: “All bear-wards, common players of interludes,
counterfeit Egyptians, etc., shall be taken, adjudged, and deemed
Rogues and Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars, and shall sustain all pain and
punishment as by this act is in that behalf appointed.” For a résumé
of the phases of the actor’s lack of social position see John Fyvie’s
“Comedy Queens of the Eighteenth Century.”

[227] “Of course, in the theatrical profession, as in every other,
there have always been exceptional individuals whose characters and
abilities (especially if they managed to acquire a little wealth)
have raised them into the highest society of their time. But in the
case of actors it was always quite apparent that they were only there
in sufferance, and were tolerated because they were amusing. It was
thought a stinging satire, for example, when ‘Junius,’ incidentally
addressing Garrick, wrote: ‘Now mark me, _vagabond_; keep to your
pantomimes or be assured you shall hear of it.’”

[228] “Goldsmith having said, that Garrick’s compliment to the Queen,
which he introduced into the play of _The Chances_, which he had
altered and revised this year, was mean and gross flattery; Johnson:
‘... as to meanness (rising into warmth), how is it mean in a player--a
showman--a fellow who exhibits himself for a shilling, to flatter his
queen?’ (1773).

“He (Foote) mentioned, that an Irish gentleman said to Johnson,
‘Sir, you have not seen the best French players.’ Johnson: ‘Players,
Sir! I look on them as no better than creatures set upon tables
and joint-stools to make faces and produce laughter, like dancing
dogs.’--‘But, Sir, you will allow that some players are better than
others?’ Johnson: ‘Yes, Sir, as some dogs dance better than others.’

“I wondered (said Johnson) to find Richardson displeased that I ‘did
not treat Cibber with more _respect_. Now, Sir, to talk of _respect_
for a _player_’ (smiling disdainfully). Boswell: ‘There, Sir, you
are always heretical; you never will allow merit to a player.’
Johnson: ‘Merit, Sir, what merit? Do you respect a rope-dancer, or
a ballad-singer?’ Boswell: ‘No, Sir; but we respect a great player,
as a man who can conceive lofty sentiments, and can express them
gracefully.’ Johnson: ‘What, Sir, a fellow who claps a hump on his
back, and a lump on his leg, and cries, “I am Richard the Third”?’”
(1777).--Boswell’s “Life of Johnson.”

[229] And even of Bracegirdle, the incomparably virtuous, certain
doubts exist. Mountford is thought by some to have been a favored
lover; and later Congreve, the poet, was accounted the actor’s

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences
of inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed. In particular,
“to-day”, “today”, and similar words were printed both ways. When
hyphenated versions of those words appeared at the ends of lines, the
hyphens were retained.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.
All references to pages in the Preface were incorrect.

Page 33, Footnote 34: Uses both “Tisbe” and “Tisbé”.

Page 172, Footnote 107: “I am unable to bring me a present” probably is
a misprint for “bring you a present”.

Page 198, Footnote 125: “Sogno” was misprinted as “Songo”; changed here.

The Index refers to footnotes by the pages on which they originally
appeared. In versions of this eBook that use hyperlinks, those
references remain page-oriented; they do not link to specific footnotes.

Footnotes originally appeared at the bottoms of pages and were numbered
within chapters. In this eBook, they have been moved to the end,
following the Index, and renumbered in a single sequence.

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