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Title: Life of Edwin Forrest, Volume 1 (of 2) - The American Tragedian
Author: Alger, William Rounseville
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Life of Edwin Forrest, Volume 1 (of 2) - The American Tragedian" ***

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                          Transcriber's Note:

    The tables of contents and steel plates reflect future volumes.

    See end of text for further notes.

[Illustration: EDWIN FORREST. ÆT 45]

                            EDWIN FORREST,
                        THE AMERICAN TRAGEDIAN.

                      WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER.

                       "All the world's a stage,
              And all the men and women merely players."

                               VOLUME I.

                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.

              Copyright, 1877, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.


                             JAMES OAKES,


                             TRUE PYTHIAS

                       IN THE REAL LIFE OF THIS


                        THE FOLLOWING BIOGRAPHY

                             IS INSCRIBED.


THE AUTHOR of the following work apologizes for the delay of its
publication on the ground of long-continued ill health which unfitted
him for mental labor. He has tried to make amends by sparing no pains
in his effort to do justice to the subjects treated. The plan of the
ensuing biography is that of a philosophical history, which adds to the
simple narrative of events a discussion of the causes and teachings of
the events. The writer has interspersed the mere recital of personal
facts and incidents with studies of the principal topics of a more
general nature intimately associated with these, and has sought to
enforce the lessons they yield. His aim in this has been to add to
the descriptive interest of the work more important moral values.
The thoughtful reader, who seeks improvement and is interested in
the fortunes of his kind, will, it is believed, find these episodes
attractive; and the frivolous reader, who seeks amusement alone, need
not complain of disquisitions which he can easily skip.

The author foresees that some opinions advanced will be met with
prejudice and disfavor, perhaps with angry abuse. But as he has written
in disinterested loyalty to truth and humanity, attacking no entrenched
notion and advocating no revolutionary one except from a sense of duty
and in the hope of doing a service, he will calmly accept whatever
odium the firm statement of his honest convictions may bring. Society
in the present phase of civilization is full of tyrannical errors
and wrongs against which most persons are afraid even so much as to
whisper. To remove these obstructive evils, and exert an influence
to hasten the period of universal justice and good will for which the
world sighs, men of a free and enlightened spirit must fearlessly
express their thoughts and breathe their philanthropic desires into
the atmosphere. If their motives are pure and their views correct,
however much a prejudiced public opinion may be offended and stung to
assail them, after a little while their valor will be applauded and
their names shine out untarnished by the passing breath of obloquy. It
is, Goethe said, with true opinions courageously uttered as with pawns
first advanced on the chess-board: they may be beaten, but they have
inaugurated a game which must be won.


  CHAPTER I.                                                       PAGE

  PRELUDE                                                            13


  PARENTAGE AND FAMILY                                               32


  BOYHOOD AND YOUTH                                                  55


  DRAMATIC ART                                                       76






  BREAKING THE WAY TO FAME AND FORTUNE                              140


  AND THEIR CAUSES                                                  156


  --SPARTACUS.--METAMORA                                            193




  PROFESSIONAL TOUR IN GREAT BRITAIN                                294


  AND JACK CADE                                                     323


  --THE MACREADY CONTROVERSY AND RIOT                               387


  STANDARD OF CRITICISM                                             432


  ART                                                               482


  PLAYERS.--THE FUTURE OF THE DRAMA                                 523


  OUTER AND INNER LIFE OF THE MAN                                   549


  PRIZES AND PENALTIES OF FAME                                      582


  LOSS AND GAIN, GRIEF AND JOY                                      606


  NATURAL, AND ARTISTIC SCHOOLS OF ACTING                           639


  CHURCH AND THE THEATRE                                            671


  --CORIOLANUS.--OTHELLO.--LEAR                                     720


  CLOSING YEARS AND THE EARTHLY FINALE                              795


  I. THE WILL OF EDWIN FORREST                                      849

  II. THE FORREST MEDALS AND TOKENS                                 855



  Portrait of EDWIN FORREST ætat. 46. Engraved by _Fred. Halpin_

        "       "      "          21  Engraved by _Fred. Halpin_    262

  EDWIN FORREST as VIRGINIUS             "        _W. G. Jackman_   230

      "            METAMORA              "        _Jas. Bannister_  237

      "            SPARTACUS             "        _Fred. Halpin_    249

  REBECCA FORREST                        "        _R. Whitechurch_  424

  EDWIN FORREST as SHYLOCK               "        _D. G. Thompson_  738

      "            MACBETH               "        _Augustus Robin_  739

      "            RICHARD III.          "     _H. B. Hall & Sons_  746

      "            HAMLET                "        _G. H. Cushman_   751

      "            OTHELLO               "        _G. R. Hall_      769

      "            KING LEAR             "        _G. H. Cushman_   781

  Portrait of EDWIN FORREST ætat. 66     "      _H. B. Hall & Sons_ 795

  FORREST MEDALS                         "        _Samuel Sartain_  855

The engravings of Mr. Forrest in character are after photographs by




EDWIN FORREST has good claims for a biography. The world, it has
been said, is annually inundated with an intolerable flood of lives
of nobodies. So much the stronger motive, then, for presenting the
life of one who was an emphatic somebody. There is no more wholesome
or more fascinating exercise for our faculties than in a wise and
liberal spirit to contemplate the career of a gifted and conspicuous
person who has lived largely and deeply and shown bold and exalted
qualities. To analyze his experience, study the pictures of his deeds,
and estimate his character by a free and universal standard, is one of
the fittest and finest tasks to which we can be summoned. To do this
with assimilating sympathy and impartial temper, stooping to no meaner
considerations than the good and evil, the baseness and grandeur of
man as man, requires a degree of freedom from narrow distastes, class
and local biases, but rarely attained. Every effort pointing in this
direction, every biographic essay characterized by a full human tone
or true catholicity, promises to be of service, and thus carries its
own justification. The habit of esteeming and censuring men in this
generous human fashion, uninfluenced by any sectarian or partisan
motive, unswayed by any clique or caste, is one of the ripest results
of intellectual and moral culture. It implies that fusion of wisdom and
charity which alone issues in a grand justice. One of the commonest
evils among men is an undue sympathy for the styles of character and
modes of life most familiar to them or like their own, with an undue
antipathy for those unfamiliar to them or unlike their own. It is
a duty and a privilege to outgrow this low and poor limitation by
cultivating a more liberal range of appreciation.

There is still lingering in many minds, especially in the so-called
religious world, a strong prejudice against the dramatic profession.
Analyzed down to its origin, the long warfare of church and theatre,
the instinctive aversion of priest and player, will be found to be
rooted in the essential opposition of their respective ideals of life.
The ecclesiastical ideal is ascetic, its method painful obedience and
prayer, its chief virtues self-restraint and denial; the dramatic
ideal is free, its method self-development and culture, its ruling
aims gratification and fulfilment The votaries of these distinctive
sets of convictions and sentiments have from an early age formed two
hostile camps. Accordingly, when one known as a clergyman was said to
be writing the life of an actor, the announcement created surprise
and curiosity and elicited censorious comment. The question was often
asked, how can this strange conjunction be explained? It is therefore,
perhaps, not inappropriate for the author of the present work to state
the circumstances and motives which caused him to undertake it. The
narrative will be brief, and may, with several advantages, take the
place of a formal preface. Conventional prefaces are rarely read; but
the writer trusts that the statement he proposes to make will be not
only interesting to the reader but likewise helpful, by furnishing him
with the proper key and cue to the succeeding chapters. It may serve
as a sort of preparatory lighting up of the field to be traversed; a
kind of prelusive sketch of the provinces of experience to be surveyed,
of the lessons to be taught, and of the credentials of the author in
the materials and other conditions secured to him for the completion
of his task. This statement is to be taken as an explanation, not as
an apology. The only justification needed lies in the belief that the
theatrical life may be as pure and noble as the ecclesiastical; that
the theatre has as sound a claim to support as the church; that the
great actor, properly equipped for his work, is the most flexible
and comprehensive style of man in the world, master of all types of
human nature and all grades of human experience; and that the priestly
profession in our day has as much to learn from the histrionic as it
has to teach it.

In the winter of 1867, a man of genius, a friend in common between
us, having been struck by paralysis and left without support for his
family, I encountered James Oakes engaged in the benevolent business
of raising funds for the relief of the sufferers from this calamity.
Propitious conditions were thus supplied for the beginning of our
acquaintance in respect and sympathy. There were characteristic
cardinal chords in our breasts which vibrated in unison, and, in
consequence, a strong liking sprang up between us.

For forty years James Oakes had been the sworn bosom friend of Edwin
Forrest. He regarded him with an admiration and love romantic if not
idolatrous. He had, as he said, known him as youth, as man, in all
hours, all fortunes; had summered him and wintered him, and for nigh
half a century held him locked in the core of his heart, which he
opened every day to look in on him there. He resembled him in physical
development, in bearing, in unconscious tricks of manner, in tastes and
habits. Indeed, so marked were the likeness and assimilation, despite
many important differences, that scores of times the sturdy merchant
was taken for the tragedian, and their photographs were as often
identified with each other.

No one could long be in cordial relations with Oakes and not frequently
hear him allude to his distinguished friend and relate anecdotes of
him. Besides, I had myself recollections of Forrest warmly attracting
me to him. He was one of the first actors I had ever seen on the stage;
the very first who had ever electrified and spell-bound me. When a
boy of ten years I had seen him in the old National Theatre in Boston
in the characters of Rolla, Metamora, and Macbeth. The heroic traits
and pomp of the parts, the impassioned energy and vividness of his
delineations, the bell, drum, and trumpet qualities of his amazing
voice, had thrilled me with emotions never afterwards forgotten. I had
also, in later years, often seen him in his best casts. Accordingly,
when, on occasion of a visit of Forrest to his friend in Boston in the
early autumn of 1868, the offer of a personal interview was given me, I
accepted it with alacrity.

There were three of us, and we sat together for hours that flew
unmarked. It was a charmed occasion. There was no jar or hindrance,
and he without restraint unpacked his soul of its treasures of a
lifetime. The great range of experience from which he drew pictures
and narratives with a skill so dramatic, the rare ease and force of
his conversation, the deep vein of sadness obviously left by his
trials, the bright humor with which he so naturally relieved this
gloom and vented his heart, the winning confidence and gentleness
with which he treated me, no touch or glimpse of anything coarse or
imperious perceptible in that genial season,--all drew me to him with
unresisted attraction. I seemed to recognize in him the unquestionable
signals of an honest and powerful nature, magnanimous, proud, tender,
equally intellectual and impassioned, harshly tried by the world yet
reaping richly from it, capable of eloquent thoughts and great acts,
not less fond and true in friendship than tenacious in enmity, always
self-reliant, living from impulses within, and not, like so many
persons, on tradition and conventionality.

Such was the beginning of my private acquaintance with Forrest. Between
that date and his death I had many meetings and spent considerable
time with him. He took me into his confidence, unbosomed himself to
me without reserve, recounted the chief incidents of his life, and
freely revealed, even as to a father confessor, his inmost opinions,
feelings, and secret deeds. The more I learned of the internal facts
of his career, and the more thoroughly I mastered his character,
constantly reminding one--as his friend Daniel Dougherty suggested--of
the character of Guy Darrell in the great novel of Bulwer, the more I
saw to respect and love. It is true he had undeniable faults,--defects
and excesses which perversely deformed his noble nature,--such as
frequent outbreaks of harshness and fierceness, occasional superficial
profanity, a vein of unforgiving bitterness, sudden alternations of
repulsive stiffness with one and too unrestrained familiarity with
another. Still, in his own proper soul, from centre to circumference,
undisturbed by collisions, he was grand and sweet. When truly himself,
not chafed or crossed, a more interesting man, or a pleasanter, no one
need wish to meet.

Oakes had long felt that the life of his friend, so prominent and
varied and comprehensive, eminently deserved to be recorded in some
full and dignified form. He was seeking for a suitable person to
whom to intrust the work. With the assent of Forrest he urged me to
assume it. I did not at first accede to the proposal, but took it into
consideration, making, meanwhile, a careful study of the subject, and
arriving finally at the conclusions which follow.

I found in Edwin Forrest a man who must always live in the history
of the stage as the first great original American actor. This place
is secured to him by his nativity, the variety, independence, vigor,
and impressiveness of his impersonations, the important parts with
which he was so long exclusively identified, the extent and duration
of his popularity, and the imposing results of his success. Other
distinguished actors who have had a brilliant reputation in this
country have been immigrants or visitors here, as Cooke, Cooper,
Conway, Kean, Booth; or have been eminent only in some special part,
as Marble, Hackett, Setchell, Jefferson; or have enjoyed but a local
celebrity, as Burton, Warren, and others. But Forrest, home-born on
our soil, intensely national in every nerve, is indissolubly connected
with the early history of the American drama by a career of conspicuous
eminence, illustrated in a score of the greatest characters, and
reaching through fifty years. During this prolonged period his massive
physique, his powerful personality, his electrifying energy, his
uncompromising honesty and frankness, his wealth, the controversies
that raged around him, the unhappy publicity of his domestic
misfortune, and other circumstances of various kinds, combined, by
means of the newspapers, pamphlets, pictures, statuettes, caricatures,
to make him a familiar presence in every part of the country.
Therefore, whatever differences there may have been in the critical
estimates of the rank of his particular presentments or of his general
style of acting, it is impossible to deny him his historic place as the
first great representative American actor. He likewise _deserves_ this
place, as will hereafter be recognized, by his pronounced originality
as the founder of a school of acting--the American School--which
combined, in a manner without any prominent precedent, the romantic and
the classic style, the physical fire and energy of the melodramatic
school with the repose and elaborate painting of the artistic school.

It cannot be fairly thought that the great place and fame of Forrest
are accidental. Such achievements as he compassed are not adventitious
products of luck or caprice, but are the general measure of worth and
fitness. Otherwise, why did they not happen as well to others among
the hundreds of competitors who contended with him at every step for
the same prizes, but were all left behind in the open race? If mere
brawniness, strutting, rant, purchased favor, and clap-trap could
command such an immense and sustained triumph, why did they not yield
it in other cases, since there were not at any time wanting numerous
and accomplished professors of these arts? A wide, solid, and permanent
reputation, such as crowned the career of Forrest, is obtained only by
substantial merit of some kind. The price paid is commensurate with the
value received.

The common mass of the community may not be able to judge of the
supreme niceties of merit in the different provinces of art, to
appreciate the finest qualities and strokes of genius, and award their
plaudits and laurels with that exact justice which will stand as the
impartial verdict of posterity. In these respects their decisions are
often as erroneous as they are careless and fickle; and competent
judges, trained in critical knowledge, skilled by long experience to
detect the minutest shades of truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness,
desert and blameworthiness, will not hesitate to overrule the passing
partialities of the contemporary crowd, and rectify their errors for
the record of history. But the multitude are abundantly able--none more
so--to respond with admiring interest to the impression of original
power, recognize the broad outlines of a sublime and fiery soul, thrill
under the general signs of genius, and pay deserved tribute to popular
exhibitions of skill. And when this great coveted democratic tribute
has been given to a public servant, in an unprecedented degree, for
half a century, throughout the whole extent of a nation covering eight
millions of square miles and including more than thirty millions of
inhabitants, securing him a professional income of from twenty to
forty thousand dollars a season, and filling three dozen folio volumes
with newspaper and magazine cuttings composed of biographic sketches
of him and critical notices of his performances,--to undertake to set
aside the overwhelming verdict, as deceived and vulgar, is both idle
and presumptuous. To account for a career like that of Edwin Forrest
it is necessary to admit that he must have embodied force, intellect,
passion, culture, and perseverance in a very uncommon degree. And
in perceiving and honoring the general evidences of this the great
average of the people are better judges, fairer critics, than any
special classes or cliques can be; because the former are free from the
finical likes and dislikes, the local whims and biases, the envy and
squeamishness which prejudice the feelings and corrupt the judgments of
the latter.

The historic place and power of Forrest are of themselves one good
reason why his life should be fully and fairly written while all the
data are within reach. For it can hardly be a matter of doubt that
the theatre is destined in future ages to have in this country a rank
and a space assigned to it in the education and entertainment of the
public such as it has not yet known. The interest in types of human
nature, in modes of human life, in all the marvels of the inner world
of the soul, will increase with that popular leisure and culture which
the multiplication of labor-saving machinery promises to carry to an
unknown pitch; and as fast as this interest grows, the estimate of
the drama will ascend as the best school for the living illustration
of the experience of man. It is not improbable that the scholars and
critics of America a hundred or two hundred years hence will be looking
back and laboring with a zeal we little dream of now to recover the
beginnings of our national stage as seen in its first representatives.
For then the theatre, in its splendid public examples and in its
innumerable domestic reduplications, will be regarded as the unrivalled
educational mirror of humanity.

Of no American actor has there yet been written a biography worthy
of the name; though scarcely any other sphere of life is so crowded
with adventure, with romance, with every kind of affecting incident,
and with striking moral lessons. The theatre is a concentrated nation
in itself. It is a moving and illuminated epitome of mankind. It is
a condensed and living picture of the ideal world within the real
world. It has its old man, its old woman, its king and queen, its
fop, buffoon, and drudge, its youth, its chambermaid, its child, its
fine lady, its hero, its walking gentleman, its villain,--in short,
its possible patterns of every style of character and life. On the
surface of that little mimic world play in miniature reflection all
the jealousies and ambitions, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, plots
and counterplots, of the huge actual world roaring without. A clear
portrayal of this from the interior, or even a constant suggestion of
it in connection with the history of one of its representatives, must
be full of interest and edification.

It is very singular, and lamentable too, that while there are hundreds
of admirable and celebrated biographies of kings, generals, statesmen,
artists, inventors, merchants, authors, there is said not to exist a
single life of an actor which is a recognized classic, a work combining
standard value and popular charm. This is especially strange when we
recollect that the genius of the player has an incomparable claim for
literary preservation, because the glorious monuments of the deeds
of the others remain for the contemplation of posterity, but the
achievements of the actor pass away with himself in a fading tradition.
Architect, sculptor, painter, poet, composer, legislator, bequeath
their works as a posthumous life. The tragedian has no chance of this
sort unless the features and accents of the great characters he created
are photographed in breathing description on the pages that record his
triumphs and make him live forever, who otherwise would soon become a
bodiless and inaudible echo.

The highest value and service of histrionic genius consist herein; that
the magical power of its performances evokes in the souls of those who
throng to gaze on them the noblest thoughts and sentiments in a degree
superior to that in which they experience them in ordinary life. They
thus feel themselves exalted to a grander pitch than their native one.
If the great impersonations of Forrest can in a permanent biography be
pictured adequately in the colors of reality, each copy of the book
will perpetuate a reflex Forrest to repeat in literature on succeeding
generations what he did so effectively in life on his contemporaries;
namely, strike the elemental chords of human nature till they vibrate
with intense sympathy to sublimer degrees than their own of the great
virtues of manly sincerity, heroism, honor, domestic love, friendship,
patriotism, and liberty, which he illustrated in his chief parts.

Furthermore, every actor who excelling in his art maintains a high
character and bearing, and wins a proud social position and fortune,
exerts an effective influence in removing the traditional odium or
suspicion from his class, and thus confers a benefit on all who are
hereafter to be members of it. His example deserves to be lifted into
general notice. In the case of Forrest this consideration received an
unprecedented emphasis from the fact of his devoting the vast sum of
money amassed in his laborious lifetime to the endowment of a home for
aged and dependent members of his profession, and of a school for the
public teaching of the dramatic art.

Besides, he was a man of extraordinary strength and originality of
character, an imperious, self-defending personality, living steadfastly
at first hand from his own impulses, perceptions, and purposes, not
shiftily in faded reflections of the opinions and wishes of other
people at the second or third remove. He was a standing refutation of
the common prejudice against actors, that simulating so many fictitious
traits they gradually cease to have genuine ones of their own, and
become mere lay figures ready for every chance dress. If any man ever
was true to his own fixed type, Forrest was. The study of such a
character is always attractive and strengthening, a valuable tonic for
more dependent and aimless natures.

He lived a varied, wide, and profound life. He travelled extensively,
mingled with all sorts of people, the noble and the base, the high
and the low, observed keenly, reflected much, was exposed to almost
every sort of trial, and assimilated into his experience the principal
secrets of human nature. The moral substance of the world passed into
his soul, and the great lessons of human destiny were epitomized
there. He knew the inebriating sweetness of popular applause, and the
bitter revulsions consequent on its change into public disfavor and
censure. He wore the honors, suffered the penalties, and proved both
the solidity and the hollowness of fame on its various levels, from the
wild idolatry of ignorant throngs to the admiring friendship of gifted
and refined spirits. There are swarms of men of dry and contracted
souls, and of a poor, wearisome monotony of conventional habits, with
no spiritual saliency or relish, no free appropriation of the treasures
of the world, whose lives if written would have about as much dignity
and interest as the life of a dorbug or a bat. But when a man's
faculties are expansive, and have embraced, in a fresh, impulsive way,
a great range of experiences, the story is worth telling, and, if truly
told, will not fail to yield matter for profitable meditation.

In addition, Forrest always showed himself a man of sterling integrity,
inflexible truth, whose word was as good as his bond, who toiled in the
open ways of self-denial and industry to build his name and position.
He bribed no one to write him up, bought no one from writing him
down, stooped to no startling eccentricities or tricks to get himself
talked about, arranged no conspiracies to push his own claims or hold
others back, but by manly resolution, study, and effort paid the fair
price for all he won, triumphantly resisting those insidious lures of
indolence, dissipation, and improvidence so incident to a theatrical
career, and steadily raising himself to the summit of his difficult
profession, where he sat in assured mastery for two generations. There
was a native grandeur about him which attracted admiring attention
wherever he moved.

The life of one who for so long a time and in so great a degree
enjoyed the favor of his countrymen may be said to belong to the
public. The man who has been watched with such eagerness in the
fictitious characters of the stage kindles a desire to see him truly
in his own. It is proper that the story should be told for the
gratification of the natural curiosity of the people, as well as
for the sake of the numerous lessons it must inculcate. The lesson
of an adventurous and ascending career surmounting severe hardships
and obstacles,--the lesson of a varied, fresh, full, racy, and
idiosyncratic experience,--the lesson of an extraordinary knowledge of
the world, transmuting into consciousness the moral substance of the
sphere of humanity,--the lesson of self-respect and force of character
resisting the strongest temptations to fatal indulgence,--the lesson
of strong faults and errors, not resisted or concealed, but unhappily
yielded to, and the bearing of their unavoidable penalties,--the lesson
of resolute devotion to physical training developing a frail and feeble
child into a man of herculean frame and endurance,--the lesson of
talent and ambition patiently employing the means of artistic mental
improvement by independent application to truth and nature,--the lesson
of a brilliant fortune and position bravely won and maintained,--these
and other lessons, besides all those numerous and highly important ones
which the theatrical world and the dramatic art in themselves present
for the instruction of mankind, have not often been more effectively
taught than they may be from the life of Edwin Forrest.

The subject-matter of the drama, understood in its full dignity,
is nothing less than _the science of human nature and the art of
commanding its manifestations_. The exemplification of this in the
theatre in our country, it is believed, will hereafter be endowed
with a personal instructiveness and a social influence greater than
it has ever had anywhere else. For the moral essence and interest of
representative playing on the stage ultimately reside in the contrasts
between the varieties of reality and ideality in the characters and
lives of human beings. All spiritual import centres in the conflict
and reconciliation of actuals and ideals. In this point of view
the biography of the principal American as yet identified with the
histrionic profession assumes a grave importance for Americans. Such a
narrative will afford opportunity to show what are the elements of good
and bad acting both in earnest and in fiction; to contrast the folly of
living to gain applause with the dignity of living to achieve merit;
to exhibit the valuable uses of competent criticism, the frequency
and ridiculous arrogance of ignorant and prejudiced criticism; to
expose the mean and malignant artifices of envy, jealousy, and ignoble
rivalry. It will, in a word, give occasion for illustrating the true
ideal of life, the harmonious fruition of the full richness of human
nature, with instances of approaches to it and of departures from it.
To get behind the scenes of the dramatic art is to get behind the
scenes of the sources of power, the arts of sway, the workings of vice
and virtue, the deepest secrets of the historic world.

In the distinguishing peculiarities of his structure and strain
Edwin Forrest was one of those extraordinary men who seem to spring
up rarely here and there, as if without ancestors, direct from some
original mould of nature, and constitute a breed apart by themselves.
Alexander, Cæsar, Demosthenes, Mirabeau, Chatham, Napoleon, draw their
volitions from such an unsounded reservoir of power, have such latent
resources of intuition, can strike such all-staggering blows, that
common men, appalled before their mysteriousness, instinctively revere
and obey. In the primeval time such men loomed with the overshadowing
port of deities and were worshipped as avatars from a higher world.
One of this class of men has, if we may use the figure, a sphere so
dense and vast that the lighter and lesser spheres of those around
him give way on contact with his firmer and weightier gravitation.
Wherever he goes he is treated as a natural king. He carries his royal
credentials in the intrinsic rank of his organism. There is in his
nervous system, resulting from the free connection and uninterrupted
interplay of all its parts, a centralized unity, a slowly swaying
equilibrium, which fills him with the sense of a saturating drench of
power. His consciousness seems to float on his surcharged ganglia in an
intoxicating dreaminess of balanced force, which, by the transcendent
fearlessness and endurance it imparts, lifts him out of the category
of common men. The dynamic charge in his nervous centres is so deep
and intense that it produces a chronic exaltation above fear into
complacency, and raises him towards the eternal ether, among the
topmost heads of our race. Each of these men in his turn draws from
his admiring votaries the frequent sigh of regret that nature made but
one such and then broke the die. This high gift, this unimpartable
superiority, is a secret safely veiled from vulgar eyes. Fine spirits
recognize its occult signals in the pervasive rhythm of the spinal
cord, the steadiness of the eye, the enormous potency of function, the
willowy massiveness of bearing, and a certain mystic languor whose
sleeping surface can with swift and equal ease emit the soft gleams of
love to delight or flash the forked bolts of terror to destroy. This
gift, as terrible as charming, varies with the temperament and habits
of its possessor. In Coleridge its profuse electricity was steeped in
metaphysical poppy and mandragora. In our American Samuel Adams it
was gathered in a battery that discharged the most formidable shocks
of revolutionary eloquence. In Sargent S. Prentiss, one of the most
imperial personalities this continent has known, it stood at a great
height, but his body was too much for his brain, and, as in a thousand
other melancholy examples of splendid genius ruined, the authentic
divinity continually gave way to its maudlin counterfeit. Where the
spell of this supernal inspiration has been inbreathed, unless it
be accompanied by noble employment and gratified affection, either
the mind topples into delirium and imbecility, or the temptation to
drunkenness is irresistible. It can know none of the intermediate
courses of mediocrity, but must still touch some extreme; and one of
the five words, ambition, love, saintliness, madness, or idiocy, covers
the secret history and close of genius on the earth.

In his basic build, his informing temperament, the habitual sway of
his being, Forrest was a marked specimen of this dominating class
of men. The circumstances of his life and the training of his
mind were unfavorable to the full development of his power, in the
highest directions; and it never came in him to a refined and free
consciousness. Had it done so, as it did in Daniel Webster, he would
have been a man entirely great. Webster was scarcely better known by
his proper name than by his popular sobriquet of the godlike. He and
Forrest were fashioned and equipped on the same scale, and closely
resembled each other in many respects. The atlantean majesty of Webster
seemed so self-commanded in its immense stability that the spectator
imagined it would require a thousand men planting their levers at
the distance of a mile to tip him from his poise. When he drew his
hand from his bosom and stretched it forth in emphatic gesture, the
movement suggested the weight of a ton. It was so with Forrest. The
slowness of his action was sometimes wonderfully impressive, suggesting
to the consciousness an imaginative apprehension of immense spaces
and magnitudes with a corresponding dilation of passion and power.
His attitudes and gestures cast angles whose lines appeared, as the
imagination followed them, to reach to elemental distances. And it
is the perception or the vague feeling of such things as these that
magnetizes a spell-bound auditory as they gaze. The organic foundation
for this exceptional power is the unification of the nervous system
by the exact correlation and open communication of all its scattered
batteries. This heightens the force of each point by its sympathetic
reinforcement with all points. The focal equilibrium that results is
the condition of an immovable self-possession. This is an attainment
much more common once than it is in our day of external absorption and
frittering anxieties. Its signs, the pathetic and sublime indications
of this transfused unity, are visible in the immortal masterpieces of
antique art, in the statues of the gods, kings, sages, heroes, and
great men of India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It is now excessively
rare. Most of us are but as collections of fragments pieced together,
so full of strictures and contractions that no vibratory impact or
undulation can circulate freely in us. But Forrest had this open and
poised unity in such a degree that when at ease he swayed on his centre
like a mountain on a pivot, and when volition put rigidity into his
muscles the centre was solidaire with the periphery. And he was thus
differenced from his average fellow-men just as those two or three
matchless thoroughbred stallions who have so startlingly raised the
breed of horses in this whole country were differenced from their
plebeian brothers in the dray and at the plough.

The truth here indicated is one of surpassing importance. However
overlooked by the ignorant multitude, it was blindly felt by them, and
it was clearly seen by all who had the key to it, especially by women
of rich intuitions. With these Forrest was always an especial favorite.
Not only did the magnetizing signs of his power so work upon hundreds
of men all over the land that he was imitated by them, his habitudes of
bearing and voice copied and transmitted, but they also wrought more
deeply still on more sensitive imaginations, producing reactions there
to be transmitted thence upon their offspring and perpetuate his traits
in future generations. This is one of the historic prerogatives of the
potent and brilliant artist, one of the chosen modes by which selective
nature or providence improves the strain of our race. No biography can
have a stronger claim on public attention than one which promises to
throw light on the law for exalting the human organism to its highest
perfection,--a secret which belongs to the complete training of a
dramatic artist and the fascination with which it invests him in the
eyes of sensibility.

Still further, Forrest has a claim for posthumous justice as one who
was wronged in important particulars of his life and misjudged in
essential elements of his character. Outraged, as he conceived, in the
sanctities of his manhood, he bore the obloquy for years with outward
silence, but with an inner resentment that rankled to his very soul.
Endowed with a tender and expansive heart, cultivated taste, and a
scrupulous sense of justice, shrinking sensitively from any stain on
his honor, he was in many circles considered a selfish despot addicted
to the most unprincipled practices. His enemies, combining with
certain sets of critics, incompetent, prejudiced, or unprincipled,
caused it to be quite commonly supposed that he was a coarse, low
performer, merely capable of splitting the ears of the groundlings;
while, in fact, his intellectual vigor, his conversational powers, his
literary discernment, and his sensibility to the choicest delicacies of
sentiment were as much superior to those of the ordinary run of men as
his popular success on the stage was greater than that of the ordinary
stock of actors. Betrayed--as he and his intimate friends believed--in
his own home, he was, when at length, after long forbearance, moved to
seek legal redress, himself accused, and as he always felt, against
law, evidence, and equity, loaded with shameful condemnation and
damages. Standing by his early friends with faithful devotion and
open purse, he was accused of heartlessly deserting them in their
misfortunes. A penniless boy, making his money not by easy speculations
which bring a fortune in a day, but by hard personal labor, he gave
away over a quarter of a million dollars, and then was stigmatized
as an avaricious curmudgeon. Cherishing the keenest pride in his
profession and in those who were its honor and ornament,--bestowing
greater pecuniary benefactions on it than any other man who ever
lived, and meditating a nobler moral service to it than any other
mere member of it has conferred since Thespis first set up his
cart,--he was accused of valuing his art only as a means of personal
enrichment and glorification, and of being a haughty despiser of his
theatrical brothers and sisters. As a result of these industrious
misrepresentations, there is abroad in a large portion of the community
a judgment of him which singularly inverts every fair estimate of his
deserts after a complete survey. It seems due to justice that the facts
be stated, and his character vindicated, so far as the simple light of
the realities of the case will vindicate it.

Two definite illustrations may here fitly serve to show that the
foregoing statements are to be regarded not as vague generalities,
but as strict and literal truth. One is in relation to the frequent
estimate of Forrest as a quarrelsome, fighting man. Against this may be
set the simple fact that, with all his gigantic strength, pugilistic
skill, and volcanic irritability, from his eighteenth year to his death
he never laid violent hand in anger on a human being, except in one
instance, and that was when provocation had set him beside himself.
The other illustration is concerning his alleged pecuniary meanness.
When he was past sixty-five, alone in the world with his fast-swelling
fortune, under just the circumstances to give avarice its sharpest
edge and energy, he set apart the sum of fifty thousand dollars for an
annuity to an old friend, to release him from toil and make his last
years happy. Even of those called generous, how many in our day are
capable of such a deed in answer to a silent claim of friendship?

One more element or feature in this life, of public interest, of
attraction and value for biographic use, is its strictly American
character. All the outlines and setting of Forrest's career, the
quality and smack of his sentiments, the mould and course of his
thoughts, the style of his art, were distinctly American. His immediate
descent, on both sides, from European immigrants suggests the lesson
of the mixture in our nationality, the providential place and purpose
of the great world-gathering of nationalities and races in our
republic. His personal prejudice against foreigners, with his personal
indebtedness to the teachings and examples of foreigners,--Pilmore,
Wilson, Cooper, Conway, Kean,--brings up the question of the just
feelings which ought to subsist between our native-born and our
naturalized citizens; that true spirit of human catholicity which
should blend them all in a patriotism identical at last with universal
philanthropy and scorning to harbor any schismatic dislikes. And then
his intimate relations, at critical periods of his life, with the
most marked specimens of our Western and Southern civilization, bring
upon the biographic scene many illustrations of those unique American
characters, having scarcely prototypes or antitypes, which have passed
away forever with the state of society that produced them.

His experience arched from 1806 to 1872, a period perhaps more
momentous in its events, discoveries, inventions, and prophetic
preparations than any other of the same length since history began.
He saw his country expand from seventeen States to thirty-seven, and
from a population of six millions to one of forty millions, with its
flag floating in every wind under heaven. Washington, indeed, and
Franklin, were dead when the life of Forrest began; but Jefferson,
Adams, Madison, Marshall, and a throng of the Revolutionary worthies
were still on the stage. When he died, every one of the second great
cluster of illustrious Americans, grouped in the national memory, with
Clay, Calhoun, Webster, Irving, Cooper, and Channing in the centre, was
gone; and even the third brilliant company, Emerson, Hawthorne, Bryant,
Bancroft, and their peers, was already broken and faltering under the
blows of death and decay. During this time his heart-strings stretched
out to embrace, the vascular web of his proud sympathies was woven
over, every successive State and Territory added to our domain, till,
in his later age, his enraptured eyes drank in the wondrous loveliness
of the landscapes of California. By his constant travels and sojourns
in all parts of the land, by his acquaintance with innumerable persons
representing all classes and sections, by the various relationships
of his profession with literature, the press, and the general public,
there are suggestive associations, for more than fifty years, between
his person, his spirit, his fortunes, and everything that is most
peculiar and important in the historic growth and moral changes and
destiny of his country.

The composition of a narrative doing justice to a life with such
contents and such relations may well be thought worth the while of any
one. And if it be properly composed, if the programme here laid down
be adequately filled up, the result cannot fail to offer instructions
worthy the attention of the American people.

For the reasons now explained, the most intimate friends of Forrest
had often tried to induce him to write his own memoir. They knew that
such a work would possess extreme interest and value, and they felt
that he had every qualification to do it better than it could be done
by anybody else. But their efforts were vain. Pride in him was greater
than vanity. He had as much self-respect as he had self-complacency.
He was, therefore, not ruled by those motives which caused Cicero,
Augustine, Petrarch, Rousseau, Gibbon, and a throng of lesser men,
to take delight in painting their own portraits, describing their
own experiences, toning up the details with elaborate touches. To
the reiterated arguments urged by his friends, he replied, "I have
all my life been surrounded, as it were, by mirrors reflecting me to
myself at every turn; subjected to those praises and censures which
keep consciousness in a fever; accompanied at every step by a constant
clapping of hands and stamping of feet and pointing of fingers, with
the shout or the whisper, 'There goes Forrest!' I have for years been
sick of this fixing of attention on myself. I can enjoy sitting down
alone and recalling the scenes and occurrences of the past, regarding
them as objects and events outside. But to call them up distinctly as
parts of myself, and record them as a connected whole, with constant
references to the standards in my own mind and the prejudices in the
minds of my friends and my enemies,--I cannot do it. The pain of the
reminiscences, the distress of the fixed self-contemplation, would be
too much. It would drive me mad. Give over. No persuasion on earth can
induce me to think of it."

Every attempt to secure an autobiography having failed, the author of
the present work was led, under the circumstances before stated, and
with the promise that every facility should be afforded him, to assume
the task. In the first conversation held with him on the undertaking,
Forrest said, "Tell the truth frankly. Let there be no whitewashing.
Show me just as I have been and am." As he thus spoke, he took down
from a shelf of his library the first volume of the "Memoirs of
Bannister the Comedian," by John Adolphus, and read, in rich sweet
tones mellowed by the echoes of his heart, the opening paragraph, which
is as follows: "A friendship of many years' duration, terminated only
by his death, impels me to lay before the public a memoir of the life
of the late John Bannister. In executing this task I am exempted from
the difficulties that so frequently beset the author of a friendly
biographical essay: I have no vices to conceal, no faults to palliate,
no contradictions to reconcile, no ambiguities of conduct to explain. I
purpose to narrate the life of a man whose characteristic integrity and
buoyant benevolence were always apparent in his simulated characters,
and who in real life proved that those exhibitions were not assumed for
the mere purposes of his profession, but that his great success in his
difficult career arose in no small degree from that truth and sincerity
which diffused their influence over the personages he represented." As
the admiring cadence of his voice died sadly away, he laid down the
volume and said to his auditor, "For your sake, in the work on which
you have entered, I wish it were with me as it was with Bannister.
But it is otherwise. My faults are many, and I deserve much blame.
Yet, after every confession and every regret, I feel before God that
I have been a man more sinned against than sinning; and, if the whole
truth be told, I am perfectly willing to bear all the censure, all the
condemnation, that justly belongs to me. Therefore use no disguising
varnish, but let the facts stand forth."

Such were the words of Forrest himself; and in their spirit the author
will proceed, sparing no pains to learn the truth, neither holding
back or trimming down foibles and vices nor magnifying virtues,
recording his own honest convictions without fear or favor, hoping to
produce as the result a book which shall do justice to its subject, and
contain enough substantial worth and interest to repay the attention
its readers may bestow on it. The work will be written more from the
stage point of view than from the pulpit point of view, but most of
all from that popularized academic or philosophic point of view which
surveys the whole field of human life in a spirit at once of scientific
appreciation, poetic sympathy, and impartial criticism.

It is to be understood that the acts or traits herein described which
reflect particular credit on Edwin Forrest have not been paraded
or proclaimed by himself, but have either been drawn from him by
questioning or been discovered through inquiries set on foot and
documents brought to light by friends who loved and honored him, knew
how grossly he had been belied, and were determined that his true
record should be set before the public. The writer hopes his readers
will not here take a prejudice, imagining that they spy that frequent
weakness of biographers, a tendency to undue laudation. All that he
asks is that a candid examination be given to the evidence he adduces,
and then that a corresponding decision be rendered. While he tries to
do justice to the good side of his subject, he will be equally frank in
exposing the ill side and pointing its morals.

The sources of information and authority made use of are as follows:
First, conversations and correspondence, for five years, with Forrest
himself; second, conversations and correspondence with his chief
friends and intimates; third, half a dozen biographical sketches
of considerable length, several of them in print, the others in
manuscript; fourth, magazine articles and newspaper notices and
criticisms, extending through his entire career, and reaching to the
number of some twenty thousand; fifth, the mass of letters and papers
left by him at his death, and made available for my purpose by the
kindness of his executors. I must also make grateful acknowledgment, in
particular, of valuable suggestions and aid from Gabriel Harrison and
T. H. Morrell, two enthusiastic admirers of the player, whose loving
zeal for him did not end with his exit.




EDWIN FORREST made his first appearance on the stage of this world the
ninth day of March, 1806, in the city of Philadelphia. His father,
William Forrest, was a Scotchman, who had migrated to America and
established himself in business as an importer of Scottish fabrics.
He was of good descent. _His_ father, the grandparent of the subject
of this biography, is described as a large, powerfully-built man,
residing, in a highly respectable condition, at Cooniston, Mid-Lothian,
Edinburgh County, Scotland. In the margin is a copy of the family
coat of arms. It was discovered and presented to Mr. Forrest by his
friend William D. Gallagher. The motto, "Their life and their green
strength are coeval," or, as it may be turned, "They live no longer
than they bear verdure," happily characterizes a race whose hardy
constitutions show their force in vigorous deeds to the very end. He
who, in America, plumes himself on mere titular nobility of descent,
may be a snob; but the science of genealogy, the tracing of historic
lineages and transmitted family characteristics, deals with one of
the keenest interests of the human heart, one of the profoundest
elements in the destiny of man. And the increasing attention given to
the subject in our country is a good sign, and not the trifling vanity
which some superficial critics deem it. It deals with those complicated
facts of crossing or mingling streams of blood and lines of nerve out
of which--and it is a point of immeasurable importance--the law of
hereditary communication of qualities and quantities, influences and
destinies, is to be formulated.

William Forrest, after a long struggle against pecuniary
embarrassments, gave up his mercantile business, and obtained a
situation in the old United States Bank. On the closing of that
institution, in connection with which his merits had secured him the
friendly acquaintance of the celebrated millionaire Stephen Girard, he
received a similar appointment in the Girard Bank. This office he held
until his death, oppressed with the debts bequeathed by his failure,
supporting his family with difficulty, and leaving them quite destitute
at last.

Mr. Forrest was much esteemed for his good sense, his dignified
sobriety of demeanor, his strict probity, his modesty and industry.
Reserved and taciturn in manners, tall, straight, and slender in
person, he was a hard-working, care-worn, devout, and honest man,
who strove to be just and true in every relation. He had a pale and
sombre face, with regular features, which lighted up with strong
expressiveness when he was pleased or earnestly interested. He was
somewhat disposed to melancholy, though not at all morose, his
depression and reserve being attributable rather to weariness under his
enforced struggle with unfavorable conditions than to any native gloom
of temper or social antipathy.

Edwin, in his own later years, dwelt with veneration on the memory
of his father, and was fond of recalling his early recollections of
him, deeply regretting that there was no portrait or daguerreotype of
him in existence. He was wont to say that among the sweetest memories
that remained to him from his childhood were the rich and musical
though plaintive tones of his father's voice, the ringing and honest
heartiness of his occasional laugh, and the singular charm of his
smile. He said, "I used to think, when my father smiled, the light
bursting over his dark and sad countenance,--its very rarity lending it
a double lustre,--I used to think I never saw anything so beautiful."
The light of love and joy broke over his sombre features like sunshine
suddenly gilding a gray crag.

The unobtrusive, toilsome life of this worthy man, unmarked by any
salient points possessing general interest for the public, glided
on in even course to the close, darkened by the shadows of material
adversity, but brightened by the serene lights of domestic happiness
and self-respect. In his poverty he knew many mortifications, many
hardships of self-denial and anxious forethought. But in his upright
character and blameless conduct, in his retiring and religious
disposition, in the kind and respectful regard of all who knew him, he
experienced the supports and consolations deserved by such a type of
man,--a type common in the middle walks of American society, and as
full of merit as it is free from all that is noisy or meretricious.
He was not an educated man, not disciplined and adorned by the arts
of literary and social culture. But his virtues made him eminently
respectable in himself and in his sphere. He came of a good stock, with
noble traditions in its veins, endowed with sound judgment, refined
nervous fibre, a grave moral tone, and persevering self-reliance. He
died of consumption, in 1819, in the sixty-second year of his age.
In the death of his youngest son his blood was extinguished, and the
fire went out on his family hearth. No member of his lineage remains
on earth. The recollections of him, now dim threads in the minds of
a few survivors, will soon fall into the unremembering maw of the
past. Herein his life and fate have this interest for all, that they
so closely resemble those of the great majority of our race. Few can
escape this common lot of obscurity and oblivion. Nor should one care
much to escape it. It is not possible for all to be conspicuous,
famous, envied. Neither is it desirable. The genuine end for all is
to be true and good, obedient to their duty, and useful and pleasant
to their kind. If they can also be happy, why then, that is another
blessing for which to thank God. Beyond a question the most illustrious
favorites of fortune, amidst all the glitter and hurrah of their
lot, are often less contented in themselves and less loved by their
associates than those members of the average condition who attract so
little attention while they stay and are forgotten so soon when they
have gone. And, mortal limits once passed, what matters all this to
the immortal soul? The rank of a man in the sight of God and his fate
in eternity--which are the essential things alike for the loftiest and
the lowliest--depend on considerations very different from the tinsel
of his station or the noise of his career. One may be poor, weak,
obscure, unfortunate, yet be a truly good and happy man. That is the
essential victory. Another may be rich, powerful, renowned, enveloped
in the luxuries of the earth. If his soul is adjusted to its conditions
and wisely uses them, this is a boon still more to be desired; for he
too has the essential victory. The real end and aim of life always lie
within the soul, not in any exterior prize: still, the best outward
conditions may well be the most coveted, although there is no lot which
does not yield full compensations, if the occupant of that lot is what
he ought to be.

The foregoing sketch, brief and meagre as it is, presents all for which
the constructive materials exist.

In turning from the father to the mother of Edwin Forrest, the data are
as simple and modest as before, and a still more genial office awaits
the biographer. For she was an excellent example of a good woman,
gentle, firm, judicious, diligent, cheerful, religious, ever faithful
to her duties, the model of what a wife and a mother ought to be. Her
son growingly revered and loved her to the very end of his life, as
much as a man could do this side of idolatry; and he was anxious that
her portrait should be presented and her worth signalized in this book.
Ample opportunities will be afforded for doing this.

Rebecca Forrest was, in every sense of the words, a true mate and
helpmeet to her husband. He reposed on her with unwavering affection,
respect, and confidence, and found unbroken comfort and satisfaction
there, whatever might happen elsewhere. Through twenty-five years of
happy wedlock she shared all his labors and trials, joys and sorrows,
and survived him for a yet longer period, fondly venerating his memory,
scrupulously guarding and training his children. Her maiden name was
Lauman. Born in Philadelphia, she was of German descent on both sides,
her parents having migrated thither in early life, and set up a new
hearth-stone, to continue here, in a modified form, the old Teutonic
homestead left with tears beyond the sea.

William Forrest and Rebecca Lauman were married in 1795, he being at
that time thirty-seven years old, she thirty-two. Seven children were
born to them in succession at quite regular intervals of two years. The
nameless boy who preceded Edwin in 1804 died at birth. The remaining
six were all baptized in the Episcopal Church of Saint Paul, on Third
Street, in Philadelphia, by the Rev. Doctor Pilmore, on the same day,
November 13, 1813. The names of these six children, in the order of
their birth, were Lorman, Henrietta, William, Caroline, Edwin, and

The first of these to die was Lorman, the eldest of the family. He
was a tanner and currier by trade. He was over six feet in height,
straight as an arrow, lithe and strong, and of a brave and adventurous
disposition. He left home on a filibustering enterprise directed to
some part of South America, in his twenty-sixth year, and nothing was
heard of him afterwards. The following letter, written by Edwin to his
brother William, who was then at Shepherdstown, in Virginia, announces
the unfortunate design of poor Lorman:

  "PHILADELPHIA, August 1st, 1822.

"DEAR BROTHER,--I received your favor of 29th July, and noted its
contents. I am sorry to hear you have such ill luck. Your business in
this city is very good.

"Lorman has returned from New York, and intends on Monday next to
embark on board a patriot privateer, now lying in this port, for
Saint Thomas, and from thence to South America, where, in the patriot
service, he has been commissioned 1st lieutenant, at a salary of
eighty dollars per month. He screens himself from mother by telling
her he is going to Saint Thomas to follow his trade, being loath to
inform her of the true cause. A numerous acquaintance accompany him on
the said expedition. He wishes me to beg of you not to say anything
when you return more than he has allowed himself to say. It is a
glorious expedition, and had I not fair prospects in the theatric line
I should be induced to go.

"Come on as early as possible. You may stand a chance of getting a
berth in the Walnut Street Theatre, or, which is most certain and
best, work at your trade.

"Mrs. Riddle has removed her dwelling to a romantic scene in Hamilton
Villa. John Moore, advancing above mediocrity, performed Alexander
the Great for her benefit. Please write as early as possible. Till
then adieu. In haste, your affectionate brother,


The expedition proved an ill-starred one, and Lorman perished in it
in some unrecorded encounter, passing out of history like an unknown
breath. It seems fated that the paths to all great goals shall
be strewn with the wrecks of untimely and irregular enterprises,
unfortunate but prophetic precursors of the final triumphs. It has been
so in the case of the many premature and wrongful attempts to grasp for
the flag of the United States those backward and waiting territories
destined, perhaps, as the harmonies of Providence weave themselves
out, spontaneously to shoot into the web of the completed unity of the
Western Continent.

Many a gallant and romantic fellow, many a reckless brawler, many
a coarse and vulgar aspirant, many a crudely dreaming and scheming
patriot, half inspired, half mad, has fallen a victim to those
numerous semi-piratical attempts at conquest which have in the eyes
of some flung on our flag the lustre of their promise, in the eyes
of others, planted there the stains of their folly and crime. But if
there be a systematic plan or divine drift and purport in history,
every one of these efforts has had its place, has contributed its
quota of influence, has left its seed, yet to spring up and break into
flower and fruit. Then every life, buried and forgotten while the
slow preparations accumulate, will have a resurrection in the ripe
fulfilment of the end for which it was spent. Meanwhile, the brief and
humble memory of Lorman Forrest sleeps with the nameless multitude of
pioneers the forerunning line of whose graves invites the progress of
free America all around the hemisphere.

William, the second son, expired under a sudden attack of bilious
colic, at the age of thirty-four. He was a printer, and worked at this
trade for several years, buffeted by fortune from place to place. The
mechanical drudgery, however, irked him. The lack of opportunity and
ability to rise and to better his condition also disheartened and
repelled him; and before he was twenty-one he abandoned the business
of type-setting for an employment more suited to his tastes. He
adopted the theatrical profession and entered on the stage, of which
he had been an amateur votary from his early youth. Their common
dramatic aptitudes and aspirations were a strong bond of fellowship
between him and his youngest brother, and they had a thousand times
practised together at the art of acting, in private, before either
made his appearance in public. This coincidence of talent and ambition
between the brothers seems to reveal an inherited tendency. The local
reputation of the elder, once clear and bright, has been almost utterly
lost in the wide and brilliant fame of the younger. It is fitting that
it be here snatched from oblivion, at least for a passing moment. For
he was both a good man and a good actor, performing his part well
alike on the scenic stage and on the real one; though in his case,
as in that of most of his contemporaries, the merit was not of such
pronounced and impressive relief as to survive in any legible character
the obliterating waves of the half-century which has swept across it.
Yet his accomplishments, force, and desert were sufficient to make
him, in spite of early poverty and premature death, for several years
the respected and successful manager of the leading theatre, first of
Albany, afterwards of Philadelphia.

The following tribute was paid to him in one of the papers of his
native city on the day of his burial:

"When we are awakened from the dreams of mimic life, so vividly
portrayed by histrionic skill, to the fatal realities of life
itself, the blow falls with double severity. Such was the effect
on Monday evening, when, on the falling of the curtain at the Arch
Street Theatre, after the first piece, Mr. Thayer stepped forward,
announced the _sudden death_ of Mr. William Forrest, the Manager, and
requested the indulgent sympathy of the audience for the postponement
of the remaining entertainments. A shock so sudden and so profound
it has seldom been our lot to record. Engaged in his duties all the
morning, it appeared but a moment since he had been among us, in the
full enjoyment of health, when the hand of the unsparing destroyer
struck him down. Mr. Forrest was a great and general favorite among
his associates, to whom he was endeared by every feeling of kindness
and affection. Few possessed a more placid or even disposition, and
few won friends so fast and firmly. In his private relations he was
equally estimable, and the loss of him as a son and as a brother will
be long and severely felt."

He was also spoken of in the same strain by the journals of Albany, one
of them using these words: "Our citizens will regret to read of the
death of Mr. William Forrest. He was known here not only as a manager
of much taste and enterprise, but as an actor of conceded merit and
reputation. He was also esteemed here, as in Philadelphia, by numerous
acquaintances for his personal worth and social qualities. The tidings
of his decease will be received with sorrow by all who knew him."

So, on the modest actor, manager, and man, after the short and
well-meant scene of his quiet, checkered, not unsuccessful life, the
curtain fell in swift and tragic close, leaving the mourners, who would
often speak kindly of him, to go about the streets for a little while
and then fade out like his memory.

The three daughters of the family--none of them ever marrying--lived to
see their youngest brother at the height of his fame, and always shared
freely in the comforts secured by his prosperity. They were proud
of his talents and reputation, grateful for his loving generosity,
devoted to his welfare. In his absence from home their correspondence
was constantly maintained, and the only interruption their attachment
knew was death. Henrietta lived to be sixty-five years old, dying
of liver-complaint in 1863. The next, Caroline, died from an attack
of apoplexy in 1869, at the age of sixty-seven. And the youngest,
Eleanora, after suffering partial paralysis, died of cancer in 1871,
being sixty-three years old.

No one among all our distinguished countrymen has been more thoroughly
American than Edwin Forrest. From the beginning to the end of his
career he was intensely American in his sympathies, his prejudices,
his training, his enthusiasm for the flag and name of his country,
his proud admiration for the democratic genius of its institutions,
his faith in its political mission, his interest in its historic men,
his fervent love of its national scenery and its national literature.
He was also American in his exaggerated dislike and contempt for the
aristocratic classes and monarchical usages of the Old World. He did
not seem to see that there are good and evil in every existing system,
and that the final perfection will be reached only by a process of
mutual giving and taking, which must go on until the malign elements of
each are expelled, the benign elements of the whole combined.

In view of the concentrated Americanism of Forrest, it may seem
singular that he was himself a child of foreign parentage, his father
being Scotch, his mother German. But this fact, which at first appears
strange, is really typical. Nothing could be more characteristic
of our nationality, which is a composite of European nationalities
transferred to these shores, and here mixed, modified, and developed
under new conditions. The only original Americans are the barbaric
tribes of Indians, fast perishing away, and never suggested to the
thought of the civilized world by the word. The great settlements from
which the American people have sprung were English, French, Dutch, and
Spanish. To these four ethnic rivers were added a dark flood of slaves
from Africa, and vast streams of emigration from Ireland and Germany,
impregnated with lesser currents from Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Russia,
and other countries, adding now portentous signal-waves from China and

The history of European emigration to America is, in one aspect, a
tragedy; in another aspect, a romance. When we think of the hardships
suffered, the ties sundered, the farewells spoken, the aching memories
left behind, it is a colossal tragedy. When we think of the attractive
conditions inviting ahead, the busy plans, the joyous hopes, the
prophetic schemes and dreams of freedom, plenty, education, reunion
with following friends and relatives, that have gilded the landscape
awaiting them beyond the billows, it is a chronic romance. The
collective experience in the exodus of the millions on millions of men,
women, and children, who, under the goad of trials at home and the lure
of blessings abroad, have forsaken Europe for America,--the laceration
of affections torn from their familiar objects, the tears and wails of
the separation, the dismal discomforts of the voyage, the perishing
of thousands on the way, either drawn down the sepulchral mid-ocean
or dashed on the rocks in sight of their haven, the long-drawn
heart-break of exile, the tedious task of beginning life anew in a
strange land,--and then the auspicious opening of the change, the rapid
winning of an independence, the quick development of a home-feeling,
the assuagement of old sorrows, the conquest of fresh joys and a
fast-brightening prosperity broad enough to welcome all the sharers
still pouring in endless streams across the sea,--the perception of all
this makes the narrative of American immigration at once one of the
most pathetic and one of the most inspiring episodes in the history of
humanity. This tale--as a complete account of the emigrant ships, the
emigrant trains, the emigrant wagons, the clearings and villages and
cities of the receding West, would reveal it--stand unique and solitary
in the crowd of its peculiarities among all the records of popular
removals and colonial settlements since the dispersion of the Aryan
race, mysterious mother of the Indo-European nations, from its primeval
seat in the bosom of Asia. All this suffering, all this hope, all this
seething toil, has had its mission, still has its purpose, and will
have its reward when the predestined effects of it are fully wrought
out. Its providential object is to expedite the work of reconciling the
divided races, nations, parties, classes, and sects of mankind. The
down-trodden poor had groaned for ages under the oppressions of their
lot, victims of political tyranny, religious bigotry, social ostracism,
and their own ignorance. The traditions and usages of power and caste
which surrounded them were so old, so intense, so unqualified, that
they seemed hopelessly doomed to remain forever as they were. Then the
Western World was discovered. The American Republic threw its boundless
unappropriated territory and its impartial chance in the struggle of
life open to all comers, with the great prizes of popular education,
liberty of thought and speech, and universal equality before the law.
The multitudes who flocked in were rescued from a social state where
the hostile favoritisms organized and rooted in a remote past pressed
on them with the fatality of an atmosphere, and were transferred to a
state which offered them every condition and inducement to emancipate
themselves from clannish prejudices, superstitions, and disabilities,
to flow freely together in the unlimited sympathies of manhood, and
form a type of character and civilization as cosmopolitan as their
two bases,--charity and science. The significance, therefore, of the
colonizing movement from the Old World to the New is the breaking up
of the fatal power of transmitted routine, exclusive prerogative and
caste, and the securing for the people of a condition inviting them to
blend and co-operate on pure grounds of universal humanity. In spite of
fears and threats, over all drawbacks, the experiment is triumphantly
going on. The prophets who foresee the end already behold all the
tears it has cost glittering with rainbows.

America being thus wholly peopled with immigrants and the descendants
of immigrants, our very nationality consisting in a fresh and free
composite made of the tributes from the worn and routinary nations
of the other hemisphere, the distinctive glory and design of this
last historic experiment of civilization residing in the fact that
it presents an unprecedented opportunity for the representatives of
all races, climes, classes, and creeds to get rid of their narrow and
irritating peculiarities, to throw off the enslaving heritage imposed
on them by the hostile traditions and unjust customs of their past, no
impartial observer can fail to see the unreasonableness of that bitter
prejudice against foreigners which has been so common among those of
American birth. This prejudice has had periodical outbreaks in our
politics under the name of Native Americanism. In its unreflective
sweep it is not only irrational and cruel, but also a gross violation
of the true principles of our government, which deal with nothing
less than the common interests and truths of universal humanity. And
yet, in its real cause and meaning, properly discriminated, it is
perfectly natural in its origin, and of the utmost importance in its
purport. It is not against foreigners, their unlimited welcome here,
their free sharing in the privilege of the ballot and the power of
office, that the cry should be raised. That would be to exemplify
the very bigotry in ourselves against which we protest in others. It
is only against the importation to our shores, and the obstinate and
aggravating perpetuation here, of the local vices, the bad blood, the
clannish hates, the separate and inflaming antagonisms of all sorts,
which have been the chief sources of the sufferings of these people in
the lands from which they came to us. In its partisan sense the motto,
America for those of American birth, is absurdly indefensible. But the
indoctrination of every American citizen, no matter where born or of
what parentage, with the spirit of universal humanity _is_ our supreme
duty. Freedom from proscription and prejudice, a fair course and equal
favor for all, an open field for thought, truth, progress,--this
expresses the true spirit of the Republic. It is only against what is
opposed to this that we should level our example, our argument, and our
persuasion. The invitation our flag advertises to all the world is,
Come, share in the bounties of God, nature, and society on the basis of
universal justice and good will, untrammelled by partial laws, unvexed
by caste monopolies. Welcome to all; but, as they touch the strand,
let them cast off and forget the distinguishing badges which would
cause one portion to fear or hate, despise or tyrannize over, another
portion. Not they who happened to be born here, but they who have the
spirit of America, are true Americans.

The father and mother of Edwin Forrest were thoroughly Americanized,
and taught him none of the special peculiarities of his Scottish or
German ancestry. So far as his conscious training was concerned, in
language, religion, social habits, he grew up the same as if his
parentage had for repeated generations been American. This was so
emphatically the case that all his life long he felt something of the
Native American antipathy for foreigners, and cherished an exaggerated
sympathy for many of the most pronounced American characteristics. Yet
there never was any bigotry in his theoretical politics. His creed
was always purely democratic; and so was the core of his soul. He was
only superficially infected by the illogical prejudices around him.
Whatever deviations he may have shown in occasional word or act, his
own example, in his descent and in his character, yielded a striking
illustration of the genuine relation which should exist between all
the members of our nationality, from whatever land they may hail and
whatever shibboleths may have been familiar to their lips. Namely, they
should, as soon as possible, forget the quarrels of the past, and hold
everything else subordinate to the supreme right of private liberty and
the supreme duty of public loyalty, recognizing the true qualifications
for American citizenship only in the virtues of American manhood, the
American type of manhood being simply the common type liberalized and
furthered by the free light and stimulus of republican institutions.
Overlook it or violate it whoever may, such is the lesson of the facts
before us. And it is a point of the extremest interest that, however
much Forrest may sometimes have failed in his personal temper and
prejudices to practise this lesson, the constantly emphasized and
reiterated exemplification of it in his professional life constitutes
his crowning glory and originality as an actor. He was distinctively
the first and greatest democrat, as such, that ever trod the stage.
The one signal attribute of his playing was the lifted assertion of
the American idea, the superiority of man to his accidents. He placed
on the forefront of every one of his celebrated characters in blazing
relief the defiant freedom and sovereignty of the individual man.

Thus an understanding of the ground traversed in the present chapter is
necessary for the appreciation of his position and rank in the history
of the theatre. Boldly rejecting the mechanical traditions of the
stage, shaking off the artificial trammels of the established schools
of his profession, he looked directly into his own mind and heart and
directly forth upon nature, and, summoning up the passionate energies
of his soul, struck out a style of acting which was powerful in its
personal sincerity and truth, original in its main features, and, above
all, democratic and American in its originality.

But though the parents of Edwin did not try to neutralize the influence
of purely American circumstances of neighborhood and schooling for
their child, they could not help transmitting the organic individual
heritage of their respective nationalities in his very generation
and development. The generic features and qualities of every one
are stamped in his constitution from the historic soil and social
climate and organized life of the country of the parents through whom
he derives his being from the aboriginal Source of Being. Certain
peculiar modes of acting and reacting on nature and things--modes
derived from peculiarities of ancestral experience, natural scenery,
social institutions, and other conditions of existence--constitute
those different styles of humanity called races or nations. These
peculiarities of constitution, temper, taste, conduct, looks,
characterize in varying degrees all the individuals belonging to
a country, making them Englishmen, Spaniards, Russians, Turks, or
Chinese. These characteristics, drawn from what a whole people have
in common, are transmitted by parents to their progeny and inwrought
in their organic being by a law as unchangeable as destiny,--nay,
by a law which _is_ destiny. The law may, in some cases, baffle our
scrutiny by the complexity of the elements in the problem, or it may
be qualified by fresh conditions, but it is always there, working
in every point of plasma, every fibril of nerve, every vibration of
force. The law of heredity is obscured or masked in several ways.
First, the peculiarities of the two lines of transmitted ancestry, from
father and from mother, may in their union neutralize each other, or
supplement each other, or exaggerate each other, or combine to form new
traits. Secondly, they may be modified by the reaction of the original
personality of the new being, and also by the reaction of the new
conditions in which he is placed. Still, the law is there, and works.
It is at once the fixed fatality of nature and the free voice of God.

Edwin Forrest was fortunate in the national bequests of brain and blood
or structural fitnesses and tendencies which he received from his
fatherland and from his motherland. The distinctive national traits of
the Scottish and of the German character, regarded on the favorable
side, were signally exemplified in him. The traits of the former are
courage, acuteness, thrift, tenacity, clannishness, and patriotism; of
the latter, reasoning intelligence, poetic sentiment, honesty, personal
freedom, capacity for systematic drill, and open sense of humanity.
These two lines of prudential virtue and expansive sympathy were marked
in his career. The attributes of weakness or vice that belonged to
him were rather human than national. So the Caledonian and Teutonic
currents that met in his American veins were an inheritance of goodness
and strength.

Nor was he less fortunate in the bequeathal of strictly personal
qualities from his individual parents. Those conditions of bodily
and mental life, the offshoot of the conjoined being of father and
mother, imprinted and inwoven and ever operative in all the globules
of his blood and all the sources of his volition, were far above
the average both in the physical power and in the moral rank they
gave. His father was a tall, straight, sinewy man, who lived to his
sixty-second year a life of hardship and care, without the aid of
any particular knowledge of the laws of health. His mother was of an
uncommonly strong, well-balanced, and healthy constitution, who bore
seven children, worked hard, saw much trouble, but lived in equanimity
to her seventy-fifth year. From the paternal side no special tendency
to any disease is traceable; on the maternal side, only, through the
grandfather, who was an inveterate imbiber of claret, that germ of the
gout which ripened to such terrible mischief for him. In intellectual,
moral, and religious endowments and habits, both parents were of a
superior order, remarked by all who knew them for sound sense, sterling
virtue, unwearied industry, devout spirit and carriage. The good,
strong, consecrated stock, both national and personal, they gave their
boy, alike by generative transmission, by example, and by precept, was
of inexpressible service to him. He never forgot it or lost it. It
stood him in good stead in a thousand trying hours. Amidst the constant
and intense temptations of his exposed professional life, it gave him
superb victories over the worst of those vices to which hundreds of his
fellows succumbed in disgraceful discomfiture and untimely death. It
is true he yielded to follies and sins,--as, under such exposures, who
would not?--but his sense of honor and his memory of his mother kept
him from doing anything which would destroy his self-respect and give
him a bad conscience. This inestimable boon he owed to the moral fibre
of his birth and early training.

The thoughtful reader will not deem that the writer is making too much
of these preliminary matters. Besides their intrinsic interest and
value, they are vitally necessary for the full understanding of much
that is to follow. In the formation of the character and the shaping
of the career of any man the circumstance of supremest power is the
ancestral spirits which report themselves in him from the past, and
the organific influences of blood and nerve brought to bear on him
in the mystic world of the womb previous to his entrance into this
breathing theatre of humanity. The ignorance and the squeamishness
prevalent in regard to the subject of the best raising of children are
the causes of indescribable evils ramifying in all directions. It has
been tabooed from the province of public study and teaching, although
no other matter presents such pressing and sacred claims on universal
attention. It cannot always continue to be so neglected or forced into
the dark. The young giant, Social Science, so rapidly growing, will
soon insist on the thorough investigation of it, and on the accordant
organization in practice of the truths which shall be elicited. When
by analysis, generalization, experiment, and all sorts of methods and
tests, men shall have ransacked every other subject, it may be hoped,
they will begin to apply a little study to the one subject of really
paramount importance,--the breeding of their own species. When the same
scientific care and skill, based on accumulated and sifted knowledge,
shall be devoted to this province as has already been exemplified with
such surprising results in the improvement of the breeds of sheep,
cows, horses, hens, and pigeons, still more amazing achievements may
be confidently expected. The ranks of hopeless cripples, invalids,
imbeciles, idlers, and criminals will cease to be recruited. The
rate of births may perhaps be reduced to one-fourth of what it now
is, with a commensurate elevation of the condition of society by the
weeding out of the perishing and dangerous classes. And the rate
of infant mortality may be reduced to one per cent. of its present
murderous average. The regeneration of the world will be secured by the
perfecting of its generation.

These ideas were familiar to Forrest. He often spoke of them, and
wondered they were so slow to win the notice they deserved. For the
hypocrisy or prudery which affected to regard them as indelicate and
to be shunned in polite speech, he expressed contempt. In his soul the
chord of ancestral lineage which bound his being with a vital line
running through all foregone generations of men up to the Author of
men, was, as he felt it, exceptionally intense and sacred. And surely
the whole subject of our consanguinity in time and space is, to every
right thinker, as full of poetic attraction and religious awe on one
side as it is of scientific interest and social importance on the other.

Each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight
great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents. In every receding
generation the number doubles, from thirty-two to sixty-four, then
to one hundred and twenty-eight, and so on; so that at the twentieth
remove, omitting the factor of intermarriages, one has over a million
ancestors! So many threads of nerve thrilling into him out of the dark
past! So many invisible rivulets of blood tributary to the ocean of his
heart, the collective experiences of all of them latently reported in
his structure! His physiological mould and type, his mental biases and
passional drifts, his longevity, and other prospective experiences and
fate, are the resultant of these combined contributions modified by his
own choice and new circumstances. What can be conceived more solemnly
impressive, or to us morally more sublime and momentous, than this
picture of an immortal personality, isolated in his own responsible
thought amidst the universe, but surrounded by the mysterious ranks
of his ancestry, all connected with him by spiritual ligaments which
lengthen and multiply, but never break, as he tracks them, further
and further, through the annals of time, through prehistoric ages,
incapable of solution or pause till his faith apprehends the beginning
of their tremulous lines in the creative fiat of God!

Indulge in whatever theories we may, whether of continuous development
or of sudden creation, it is through our parents that we receive our
being. It is through our ancestry, spreading ultimately back to the
limits of the human race, that each of us descends from God. By them it
is that the Creator creates us. Well may the great Asiatic races, the
soft and contemplative Brahmins, the child-like Chinese, the pure and
thoughtful Parsees, worship their unknown Maker in forms of reverential
remembrance and adoration paid to their known ancestors, gathering
their relics in dedicated tombs or temples, cherishing their names and
examples and precepts with fond devotion, celebrating pensive and glad
festivals in their honor, preparing, around their pious offerings of
fruits and flowers, little seats of grass, in a circle, for the pleased
guardian spirits of their recalled fathers and mothers invisibly to
occupy. Let not the reckless spirit of Young America, absorbed in the
chase of material gain, and irreverent of everything but sensuous good,
call it all a superstition and a folly. There is truth in it, too, and
a hallowing touch of the universal natural religion of humanity.

America, in her hasty and incompetent contempt for the dotage, fails to
appropriate the wisdom of the Orient. More of their humility, leisure,
meditation, reverence, aspiration, mystic depth of intuition, will do
us as much good as more of our science, ingenuity, independence, and
enterprise will do them. The American people, in their deliverance
from the entrammelling conditions of the over-governed Old World, and
their exciting naturalization on the virgin continent of the West,
have, to some extent, erred in affixing their scorn and their respect
to the wrong objects. In repudiating excessive or blind loyalty to
titular superiors and false authority, they have lost too much of the
proper loyalty to real superiors and just authority. They are too much
inclined to be contented with respectability and the average standard,
instead of aspiring to perfection by the divine standard. They show
too much deference to public opinion, and are too eagerly drawn after
the vulgar prizes of public pursuit,--money and social position,--to
the comparative neglect of personal reflection and culture, personal
honor, and detachment in a self-sustaining insight of principles.
They think too subserviently of what is established, powerful,
fashionable,--the very vice from which the founders of the country fled
hither. They think too meanly and haltingly of the truth and good which
are not yet established and fashionable, but ought to be so,--thus
turning their backs on the very virtue which heaven and earth command
them in especial to cultivate, namely, the virtue of an unflinching
spirit of progress in obedience to whatever is right and desirable
as against whatever wrongfully continues to govern. The best critics
from abroad, and the wisest observers at home, agree that the most
distinctive vice in the American character is described by the terms
complacent rashness and assumption, crude impertinence, disrespect to
age, irreverence towards parents, contempt for whatever does not belong
to itself. This rampant democratic royalty in everybody has proved
sadly detrimental to that spirit of modesty and docility which, however
set against oppression and falsehood, is profoundly appreciative of
everything sacred or useful and sits with veneration at the feet of
the past to garner up its treasures with gratitude. The American who
improves instead of abusing his national privileges will maintain his
private convictions and not bend his knee slavishly to public opinion,
but he will treat the feelings of others with tenderness, bow to all
just authority, and reverently uncover his heart before everything that
he sees to be really sacred.

On these points, it will be seen in the subsequent pages, the subject
of the present biography, as a boldly-pronounced American citizen, was
in most respects a good example. If occasionally, in some things, he
practised the American vice,--self-will, unconscious bigotry intrenched
in a shedding conceit,--he prevailingly exemplified the American
virtue,--tolerance, frankness, generosity, a sympathetic forbearance in
the presence of what was venerable and dear to others, although it was
not so to him. While withholding his homage from merely conventional
sanctities, he never scoffed at them; and he always instinctively
worshipped those intrinsic sanctities which carry their divine
credentials in their own nature. The filial and fraternal spirit in
particular was very strong in him, and bore rich fruits in his life and

The conspicuous relative decay of the filial and fraternal virtues, or
weakening of the family tie, among the American people, the precocious
development and self-assertion of their children, wear an evil aspect,
and certainly are not charming. Yet they may be inevitable phases in
the evolution of the final state of society. They may distinguish a
transitional stage through which all countries will have to pass,
America being merely in the front. In ancient life the political
and social unit was the family. The whole family was held strictly
responsible for the deeds of each member of it. The drift marked by
democracy is to make the individual the ultimate unit in place of
the family, legally clearing each person from his consanguineous
entanglements, and holding him responsible solely for his own deeds
in relation to entire society. The movement towards individuality is
disintegrating; but, when completed, it may, by a terminal conversion
of opposites, play into a more intimate fellowship and harmony of
the whole than has ever yet been realized on earth. Thus it is not
impossible that the narrower and intenser domestic bonds may be giving
way simply before the extruding growth of wider and grander bonds, the
particular yielding merely as the universal advances. If the destiny
of the future be some form of social unity, some public solidarity
of sympathies and interests in which all shall mutually identify
themselves with one another, then the temporary irreverences and
insurgences of a democratic régime may have their providential purpose
and their abundant compensation in that final harmony of co-operative
freedom and obedience to which they are preparing the way out of
priestly and monarchical régimes.

Either this is the truth, that the youthful insubordination and
premature complacency, the rarity of generous friendships and the
commonness of sinister rivalries, which mark our time and land are
necessary accompaniments of the passage from individual loyalties
to collective loyalties, from an antagonistic to a communistic
civilization, or else our republicanism is but the repetition of a
stale experiment, doomed to renewed failure. There are political
horoscopists who predict the subversion of the American Republic and
its replacement by a monarchy. Thickening corruption and strife between
two hostile parties over a vast intermediate stratum of indifference
prompt the observer to such a conclusion. But a more auspicious faith
is that these ills are to be overruled for good. It is more likely
that both republicanism and monarchy, in their purest forms, are to
vanish in behalf of a third, as yet scarcely known, form of government,
which will give the final solution to the long-vexed problem, namely,
government by scientific commissions which will know no prejudice, but
represent all in the spirit of justice.

The exact knowledge, co-operative power, and disciplined skill
chiefly exemplified hitherto in war, or in great business enterprises
conducted in the exclusive interests of their supporters against
all others,--this combination, universalized and put on a basis of
disinterestedness, seeking the good of an entire nation or the entire
world, will furnish the true form of government now wanted. For no
government of the many by the few in the spirit of will, whether that
will represents the minority or the majority, can be permanent. The
only everlasting or truly divine government must be one free from
all will except the will of God, one which shall guide in the spirit
of science by demonstrated laws of truth and right, representing the
harmonized good of the whole.

In view of such a possible result, the trustful American, comparing
his people with Asiatics or with Europeans, can regard without fear
the apparent change of certain forms of virtue into correlative forms
of vice; because he holds that this is but a transient disentwining of
the moral and religious tendrils from around smaller and more selfish
objects in preparation for their permanent re-entwining around greater
and more disinterested ones, when private families shall dissolve into
a universal family, or their separate interests be conformed to its
collective interests. All humanity is the family of God, and perhaps
the historic selfishness of the lesser families may crumble into
individualities in order to re-combine in the universal welfare of this.

Meanwhile, it may well be maintained that the repulsive swagger of
self-assertion sometimes seen here is a less evil than the degrading
servility and stagnant spirit of caste often seen elsewhere. The
desideratum is to construct out of the alienated races and classes
of men here thrown together, jarring with their distinctions and
prejudices, yet under conditions of unprecedented favorableness, a new
type of character, carrying in its freed and sympathetic intelligence
all the vital and spiritual traditions of humanity. There are but
two methods to this end: one, the intermingling of the varieties in
generative descent; the other, the personal assimilation of contrasting
experiences and qualities by mutual sympathetic interpretation and
assumption of them. This latter process is the very process and
business of the dramatic art. The true player is the most detached,
versatile, imaginative, and emotional style of man, most capable of
understanding, feeling with, and reproducing all other styles, best
fitted, therefore, to mediate between hostile clans and creeds and
reconcile the dissonant parts of society and the race in its final
cosmopolite harmony.

Consequently, among the public agencies of culture destined to educate
the American people out of their defects and faults into a complete
accordant manhood--if, as is fondly hoped, that happy destiny be
reserved for them--the dramatic art will have an unparalleled place
of honor assigned to it. The dogmatic Church, so busy in toothlessly
mumbling the formulas of an extinct faith that it loses sight of the
living truths of God in nature and society, will be heeded less and
less as it slowly dies its double death in drivel of words and drivel
of ceremonies. But the plastic Stage, clearing itself of its abuses and
carelessness, and receiving a new inspiration at once religious in its
sacred earnestness and artistic in its free range of recreative play,
will become more and more influential as it learns to exemplify the
various ideals of human nature and human life set off by their graded
foils, and presents the gravest teachings disguised in the finest

In the democratic idea, every man is called on to be a priest and a
king unto God. Church and State, in all their forms and disguises, have
sought to monopolize those august rôles for a few; but the Theatre, in
the examples of its great actors, has instinctively sought to fling
their secrets open to the whole world; and, when fully enlightened by
the Academy, it will clearly teach what it has thus far only obscurely
hinted. It will reveal the hidden secrets of power and rank, the just
arts of sway, and the iniquitous artifices of despotism. And it will
assert the indefeasible claim of every man, so far as he wins personal
fitness and desert, to have open before him a free passage through all
the spheres and heights of social humanity. The greatest player is the
one who can most perfectly represent the largest scale of characters,
keeping each in its exact truth and grade, yet passing freely through
them all. That, too, is the moral ground and essence of democracy,
whose basis is thus the same as that of the dramatic art,--namely, a
free and intelligent sympathy giving men the royal freedom of mankind
by right of eminent domain. The priesthood and kingship of man are
universal in kind, but endlessly varied in degree, no two men on earth
nor no two angels in heaven having such a monotonous uniformity that
they cannot be discriminated. Each one has an original stamp and relish
of native personality. The law of infinite perfection, even in liberty
itself, is perfect subordination in the infinite degrees of superiority.

These opposed and balancing truths found a magnificent impersonation
on the stage in Edwin Forrest, and made him pre-eminently the
representative American actor. All his great parts set in emphatic
relief the intrinsic sovereignty of the individual man, the ideal of a
free manhood superior to all artificial distinctions or circumstances.
He showed man as inherent king of himself, and also relative king over
others in proportion to his true superiority in worth and weight.
When Tell confronted Gessler, or Rolla appeared with the Inca, or
Spartacus stood before the Emperor, or Cade defied the King, or
Metamora scorned the Englishman, the titular monarch was nothing in
the tremendous presence of the authentic hero. Genuine virtue, power,
and nobleness took the crown and sceptre away from empty prescription.
This was grand, and is the lesson the American people need to learn. It
enthrones the truth, while repudiating the error, of vulgar democracy.
That error would interpret the doctrine of equal rights into a flat
and dead uniformity, a stagnant level of similarities; but that truth
affirms an endless variety of degrees with a boundless liberty around
all, each free to fit himself for all the privileges of human nature
according to his ability, and entitled to enjoy those privileges in
proportion to the fitness he attains. The principle of order, rank,
authority, hierarchy, is as omnipotent and sacred in genuine democracy
as it is in nature or the government of God. The American idea, as
against the Asiatic and European, would not destroy the principle of
precedence, but would make that principle the intrinsic force and merit
of the individual, instead of any historic or artificial prerogative.
It asserts that there must be no horizontal caste or stratum in society
to prevent the vertical any more than the level circulation of the
political units. It declares that there shall be no despotic fixtures
reserving the most desirable and authoritative places for any arbitrary
sets of persons, but that there shall be divine liberty for the ablest
and best to gravitate by divine right to the highest places. That is
the American idea purified and completed. That, also, is the central
lesson of the dramatic art in its crowning triumphs on the popular
stage. And in the half-inspired, half-conscious representation of it
lay the commanding originality of Edwin Forrest, our first national

       *       *       *       *       *

The foregoing thoughts put us in possession of the data and place us
at the point of view for an intelligent and interested survey of the
field before us. And we will now proceed to the proper narrative of the
biographic details, and to the critical delineation of the professional
features suggested by the title of our work.



WHEN Edwin was born, his father, encumbered and oppressed by the debts
which his failure some years before had entailed on him, was serving in
a bank, at a small salary. The family, consisting then of the parents
and five children, were forced to live in a very humble style, and
to practise a stern economy. For many years they endured the trials
and hardships of poverty almost in its extremities. Yet, by dint of
industry, character, and tidiness, they managed to maintain respectable
appearances and a fair position. Both the father and mother were
exemplary members of the Episcopal Church, under the pastoral charge
of the Rev. Doctor Pilmore, on whose Sunday services they, with their
children, were regular attendants.

What they most lamented was their inability to give their boys and
girls the education and accomplishments whose absence in themselves
their strong judgment and refined sensibility caused them deeply to
regret. But they sought to make such compensation as they could by
example, by precept, by directing in the formation of their habits
and the choice of their associates, and by keeping them at the public
schools as long as possible.

Lorman, the eldest son, when of the proper age to earn his living, was
apprenticed to a tanner and currier. William, at a later period, was
set at work in a printing-office. Henrietta, the eldest daughter,--as
could not be avoided,--was early taken from under the rule of the
school-mistress to the side of her mother, to help in the increasing
labors of the household. Edwin went constantly to the public school
nearest his home, from the age of five to thirteen, together with his
eldest sister, Caroline, and also, for the last six years, with his
youngest sister, Eleanora.

During this period the life of the family presents little besides that
plain and humble story of toil, domestic fidelity, social struggle,
self-denial, and patience familiar in our country to a multitude of
families in the middle and lower walks. In the mean while, duties were
done, simple pleasures were enjoyed, plans were formed, hopes were
disappointed, the seasons came round, the years moved on, changes
occurred, experiences accumulated, as will happen to all, whether rich
or poor.

The youngest son gave more striking signs of talent than any of the
rest, and naturally the fonder anticipations of his parents centred
in him. They meant, at any cost, if it were a possible thing, to give
him such an education and training as would fit him for the Christian
ministry. They were led to this determination by the counsel of their
pastor, by their own pronounced religious feelings, and by the most
distinctive gift of the boy himself. That gift was the marked power
and taste of his elocution. It is interesting, and seems strange, as
we look back now, to think of the destiny of Forrest had the original
intention of his parents been carried out. Perhaps he would have
become a bishop, and a judicious and influential one. It is certainly
not impossible; so much do circumstances, companions, aims, duties,
the daily routine of life, contribute to make us what we are. The
essential germ or monad of the personality is unextinguishable, but
its development may be amazingly fostered and guided or twisted and
stunted. The coin of manhood remains what it is in itself, but its
image and superscription are determined by the mould and die with which
it is struck.

Edwin had a sweet, expressive, vigorous voice, with natural accent and
inflection, free from the common mechanical mannerisms. His superiority
in this respect over all his comrades was signal. With that unsparing
tendency to let down every superiority, to level all distinctions,
which is so characteristic of the rude democracy of the school-yard and
the play-ground, his fellows nicknamed him the Spouter!

From his very first attendance at church, when a mere child in
petticoats, he was much impressed by the imposing appearance and
preaching of Dr. Joseph Pilmore. Father Pilmore was a large man, with a
deep, rich voice, a manner of emphatic earnestness, his long powdered
hair falling down his shoulders after the fashion of an Addisonian wig.
The boy would not leave the pew until the old pastor came along, patted
him on the head, and gave him a blessing. He would then go home, make
a pulpit of a stuffed semicircular chair with a pillow placed on the
top of its back for a cushion, mount into it, and preach over from
memory parts of the sermon he had just heard,--with his sisters, and
such other persons as might be at hand, for an audience. At such times,
before he would consent to declaim, he used to insist on having his
costume, namely, a pair of spectacles across his nose, and a long pair
of tongs over his neck, their legs coming down his breast to represent
the bands of the preacher.

To the end of his life he retained a most grateful remembrance of his
first pastor. The picture of him as he used to appear in the pulpit
always remained in his imagination, a venerable image, unfaded,
unblurred. One favorite gesture of the reverend orator, a forcible
smiting of his breast, took such hold of the young observer that it
haunted him for years after he had gone upon the stage; and he found
himself often involuntarily copying it, even in situations where it was
not strictly appropriate.

Such were the grace, propriety, and vigor displayed by the infantile
declaimer, that when he went, as he often did, to see his brother
Lorman in the tannery where he was employed, the workmen would lift
him upon a stone table designed for dressing leather, listen to his
recitations, and reward him with their applause.

Among the most valued friends of the Forrest family at this time was
an elderly Scotchman, of great cultivation of mind, gentle heart, and
charming manners, who had seen much of the world, was an intense lover
of nature, possessed of fine literary taste and a rare natural piety
of soul. He delighted in talking over with his friend their common
memories of dear old Scotland, often quoting from Ferguson, Burns,
and other Caledonian celebrities. This was no less a person than the
famous ornithologist, Alexander Wilson; a man of sweet character, whose
pictures of birds, descriptions of nature, and effusions of sentiment
can never fail to give both pleasure and edification to those who
linger over his limpid and sinless pages. The little boy, fascinated by
the gentle personality, as well as by the picturesque conversation, so
different from that of the business or working men he usually heard,
was wont, on occasions of these visits, to draw near and attend to what
was said. One day his father exclaimed, "Come, Edwin, let us hear you
recite the speech of the Shepherd Boy of the Grampian Hills." Wilson
at once recognized the remarkable promise of the lad, and from that
time took a deep interest in him. He often heard him read and declaim,
corrected his faults, gave him good models of delivery, and called his
attention to excellent pieces for committing to memory. He taught him
several of the best poems of Robert Burns. Among these were the Dirge

  "When chill November's surly blast
   Made fields and forests bare,"

and the exquisite verses "To Mary in Heaven,"--

  "Thou lingering star with lessening ray,
   That lov'st to greet the early morn."

When the eager learner had mastered a new piece, he was all alive until
he could recite it to Wilson, who used to encourage and reward him
with gifts of the plates of his great work on American Ornithology,
which was then passing through the press. The service thus rendered was
of inestimable value. The picture is beautiful: the wise and loving
old man leaning in spontaneous benignity and joy over the aspiring
and grateful child,--forming his taste, moulding his mind and heart.
In a case like this, nothing can be more charming than the relation
of teacher and pupil. It is that proper and artistic relation of
experienced age and docile youth immortalized by antique sculpture in
the exquisite myth of Cheiron and Achilles. Forrest never forgot his
indebtedness to his early benefactor, but in his last days was fond of
citing, with admiring pathos, the dying words of his old friend: "Bury
me where the sun may shine on my grave and the birds sing over it."

Things were going on with the Forrest household in this modest and
hopeful way, when the heaviest calamity it had ever known befell it.
The death of its head, and the consequent cessation of his salary, left
the family destitute of the means of support. The good and judicious
mother showed herself equal to the emergency. Drying her tears and
holding her heart firm, she undertook to fulfil the offices of both
parents. With such help as she could get, she bought a little stock
or goods and opened a millinery-shop. In the mean time the two older
sons were earning a little at their trades, and the two older daughters
assisted their mother. They made bonnets, and various articles of
needle-work, while she worked, in her spare hours, at binding shoes.
In the later years of the proud fame and wealth of Forrest, as these
scenes floated back into his memory, his heart visibly swelled under
his breast, and tears filled his eyes.

The youngest daughter, then eleven, was kept at school. But it was
found necessary to abandon the plan of educating Edwin for the clerical
profession. Reluctantly his mother took him from school, and put him
at service, first, for a short time, in the printing-office of the
"Aurora," under Colonel Duane, where he was known as "Little Edwin,"
then in a cooper-shop on the wharf, and finally in a ship-chandlery
store on Race Street. This was in 1819, when he was thirteen years old.

Several years previously his taste for dramatic expression had directed
his attention to the stage. He had developed a keen love for theatrical
entertainments, and he let no opportunity of attending the theatre
go by unimproved. He found frequent means of gratifying this desire,
although his parents strongly disapproved of it. He also, in company
with his brother William, joined a Thespian club, composed of boys and
young men possessed with the same passion for theatricals as himself,
and gave much of his leisure time to their meetings and performances.
Many a time he and his fellows performed plays in a wood-shed, fitted
up for the purpose, to an eager audience of boys, the price of
admittance being sometimes five pins, sometimes an apple or a handful
of raisins.

The place he most delighted to visit was the old South Street Theatre,
long since passed away, with its great pit surmounted by a double row
of boxes. The most prominent object, midway in the first tier, was what
was called the Washington Box. This was adorned with the insignia of
the United States, and had often been occupied by Washington and his
family in the days when Philadelphia was the capital of the nation.
The boy used to regard this box with intense reverence. It was in this
theatre, then under the management of Charles Porter, that Forrest,
a lad of eleven, made his first public appearance on any stage. The
circumstances were amusing. He was in the street, playing marbles on
the pavement with some other urchins, when Porter came along, and said
to him, "Can you perform the part of a girl in a play?" "Why?" asked
Edwin, looking up in surprise. "Because," replied the manager, "the
girl who was to perform the character is sick." "Do you want me to
take the part?" "Yes. Will you?" "When is it to be played?" "To-morrow
night." "I will do it," answered the inconsiderate youth, triumphantly.
Porter gave him a play-book, pointed out the part he was to study, and
left him.

Edwin began forthwith, and was soon quite up in the part. But how to
provide himself with a suitable costume for the night! This was a great
difficulty. At length, bethinking him of a female acquaintance of his,
whose name was Eliza Berryman, he went to her and borrowed what was
needful in general, but not in particular.

Night came on, and the boy, as a substitute for a girl, was to take
the part of Rosalia de Borgia, in the romantic melodrama of Rudolph,
or the Robbers of Calabria. He went to the theatre and donned the
dress. Finding himself in want of a bosom, he tore off some portions
of scenery and stuffed them about his breast under the gown, and was
ready for the curtain to rise. He had been provided by the kind Eliza
with a sort of turban for the head, and for ringlets he had placed
horse-hair done into a bunch of curls. The first scene displayed
Rosalia de Borgia at the back of the stage, behind a barred and grated
door, peering out of a prison. As she stood there, she was seen by the
audience, and applauded. They could not then well discern her rugged
and somewhat incongruous appearance. Pretty soon Rosalia came in front,
before the foot-lights. Then at once rose a universal guffaw from the
assembly. She looked about, a little disconcerted, for the cause of
this merriment. To her intense sorrow and disgust, she found that her
gown and petticoat were quite too short, and revealed to the audience a
most remarkably unfeminine pair of feet, ankles, and legs.

He stood it for a time, until a boy in the pit, one of his mates, whom
he had told that he was going to play, and who was there to see him,
yelled out, "The heels and the big shoes! Hi yi! hi yi! Look at the
legs and the feet!" Forrest, placing his hand over his mouth, turned
to the boy, and huskily whispered, "Look here, chap, you wait till the
play is done, and I'll lick you like hell!" Then the boy in the pit
bawled out, "Oh, she swears! she swears!" The audience were convulsed
with laughter, the curtain came down, and poor Rosalia de Borgia, all
perspiration, was hustled off the stage in disgrace.

This ludicrous failure was his first, and, with one exception, his
last, appearance in a female part.

But he was not of a strain to give up in discomfiture. He determined
to appear again, and in something which he knew he could do well.
Accordingly, having prepared himself thoroughly in the famous epilogue
written by Goldsmith for Lee Lewis in the character of Harlequin, he
asked the manager to allow him another chance on the stage of the South
Street Theatre. Porter replied, rather roughly, "Oh, you be damned! you
have disgraced us enough already!" Deeply aggrieved by this rebuff,
young Forrest yet resolved to speak his piece at any rate. So, one
night, dressed in tight pantaloons and a close round jacket, he went
behind the scenes, got some paint of the scene-painter, and painted his
clothes, as well as he could, with stripes and diamonds, in resemblance
of a harlequin. Then, watching an opportunity, in the absence of
the manager from the stage, at the ringing down of the curtain he
suddenly sprang before the foot-lights, and, to the astonishment of the
audience, began,--

  "Hold, prompter, hold! a word before your nonsense;
   I'd speak a word or two to ease my conscience.
   My pride forbids it ever should be said
   My heels eclipsed the honors of my head."

At the word "heels" the audience took the joke, and, recognizing the
boy, loudly applauded him. Encouraged thus, he went on, and spoke the
whole epilogue in a most creditable manner, with thunders of applause
from the audience, and from manager Porter too, who had now come in.
Concluding with the last line,--

  "And at one bound he saves himself--like me,"--

Forrest turned a hand-spring and a flip-flap, and made his exit, to the
complete amazement of everybody in the theatre. He was vociferously
encored, again made his appearance, turned his flip-flap, and spoke his
piece even better than before. Encored still again, he did not come
back, but betook himself to his home as soon as possible, rejoicing in
the belief that the glory of his present triumph would offset the shame
of his previous fiasco.

Somewhat later he was duly announced in the bills, and repeated the
performance between the play and the after-piece, with as good success
as on the first occasion.

He kept his word with the boy in the pit, whose pointed remarks and
loud laughter had so much annoyed and provoked him. He inflicted the
promised thrashing, though--as he said, in relating the incident
more than fifty years later--it was one of the toughest jobs he ever
undertook. As soon as the combatants were satisfied, the victor and the
victim made up, shook hands, and remained ever afterwards firm friends.

A little domestic scene which occurred about this time may fitly
be introduced here, as illustrating the character and influence of
the mother, and also, as will appear in a subsequent chapter, the
assimilating docility of the child. It was a Sunday afternoon, in
the summer. The tired and careful mother sat at the open window, the
sunshine streaming across the floor, gazing at the passers in the
street, and musing, perhaps, on times long gone by. Edwin was turning
the leaves of a large pictorial copy of the Bible. A sudden explosion
of laughter was heard from him. "What are you laughing at, my boy? It
seems unbecoming, with that book in your hands." "Why, mother, I cannot
help it; it is so absurd. Here is a picture of the grapes of Eshcol;
and the bunches of them are so big and heavy that it takes two men,
with a pole across their shoulders, to carry them along! Is it not
funny?" "Edwin, come to me," replied the mother, with calm seriousness.
Taking his hand in hers, and looking steadily in his eyes, she said,
"Do you not think it very presumptuous and conceited in you, so young,
so ignorant, knowing only the climate and fruits of Pennsylvania, to
set yourself up to pronounce judgment in this way on the artist who
most likely had at his service the experience of travellers in all
countries? It is more than probable that in those tropical climes where
the Bible was written the vines might grow almost into trees, and bear
clusters of grapes ten times larger than any you ever saw. Modesty
is one of the best traits in a young person. I want you to remember
never again to laugh at the fancied ignorance and absurdity of another,
when perhaps the ignorance and absurdity are all your own." However
often he may have failed to practise the lesson, yet when, fifty-five
years afterwards, the old actor related the incident, the beating of
his heart, the tenderness of his voice, and the moisture in his eyes,
turned reverently towards the portrait of his mother on the wall,
showed how profoundly the influence of that hour had sunk into his soul.

When Master Forrest was in the first part of his fourteenth year,
he chanced one evening to be in the audience of a lecturer, in the
old Tivoli Garden Theatre, on Market Street, who was discoursing on
the properties of nitrous oxide, or, as it is more commonly called,
laughing-gas. The lecturer invited any of his auditors who desired to
come forward and inhale the exhilarating aura. The chance was one just
suited to the disposition of our hero. He stepped up and applied his
mouth and nostrils to the bag. In a moment, as the air began to work,
his ruling passion broke forth. Striking out right and left, to the no
slight consternation of those nearest him, he advanced to the front
of the stage, and declaimed a famous passage from the stage-copy of

  "What ho! young Richmond, ho! 'tis Richard calls:
   I hate thee for thy blood of Lancaster,"--

with extraordinary energy and effect. John Swift, an eminent lawyer of
that day, and a very cultivated and generous man, was so struck by the
dramatic talent and force of the lad that he took the pains to seek him
out and make his acquaintance, befriending him in the noblest manner,
and often thereafter giving him kind counsel and assistance.

Despite his constantly-growing zeal and devotion to dramatic matters,
Edwin kept his situation in the ship-chandlery store, and was tolerably
faithful to its duties. But his heart was not in the business. The
counter and the ledger had no charms for him. All his young enthusiasm
was for the play-book and the stage. His employer often found him
in a corner conning Shakspeare, or in the back office practising
declamation. He said to him one day, with a shake of his wiseacre head,
"Ah, boy, this theatrical infatuation will be your ruin! The way to
thrive is to be attentive to trade. Did you ever know a play-actor to
get rich?" But all this prudential advice, this chill preaching of
the shop, was utterly ineffectual on the strong imaginative bent and
passionate ambition it encountered.

While carrying parcels home to the customers of the firm, he sometimes
met with such adventures as a boy of his high and pugnacious spirit
would be likely to meet with in those times, when wrestling and
fighting were much more common, especially among boys, than they are
now. On a certain occasion, jostled and jeered by an older and bigger
boy than himself, he said, "You wait till I can deliver this bundle
and get back here, and I will fight you to your heart's content."
The fellow agreed to it. Away hied Edwin, and deposited his goods.
He then ran home and put on an old suit of clothes, to be in better
fighting trim. His mother asked him what he was going to do; and when
he explained, she begged him not to go, and used such arguments as she
could command to impress him with the wickedness and vulgarity of such
brutal encounters. But all in vain. "Mother," he said, "I have pledged
my word; I must do it. It would be mean not to." And he tore away,
repaired to the rendezvous, and, after a tough bout, gave his insulter
a terrible thrashing, and went quietly back to the ship-chandlery. It
must be confessed that, though inwardly tender and generous, he was
rough, easy to quarrel with, and not slow to go to the extremes of
fists and heels.

But one of the severest traits in him, all his life, one of the deepest
characteristics of his individuality, was the barbaric intensity of
his wrath against those who wronged him, the Indian-like bitterness
and tenacity of the spirit of revenge in his breast when aroused
by what he thought any wanton injury. He never laid claim to the
spirit of saintliness, but rather trod it under foot, as affectation,
pitiful weakness, or hypocrisy. This marked a gross limit of his moral
sensibility in his own personal relations, though he could keenly
appreciate the finest touches of abnegation and magnanimity in others.
To justice, as he saw it, he was always loyal. But, when his selfhood
was wounded, the pain of the bruise not rarely, perhaps, made him a
little blind or perverse. Two anecdotes of his boyhood throw light
on this point. In the one example he was, as it would seem, morally
without excuse; in the other, pardonable, but scarcely to be approved.

He was eating an apple in the street, when he came to a horse attached
to a baker's cart, standing beside the curb-stone. He amused himself
by holding the apple under the horse's nose, and, as often as the
animal tried to bite it, suddenly snatching it away, and fetching him
a blow on the mouth. At that mischievous moment the driver of the cart
came up, and, crying out, "What are you doing there, you damned little
scoundrel?" gave him a piercing cut across the leg with his whip. The
little fellow limped off in excruciating pain, but carefully marked
his enemy. The passion for revenge burned in him. He kept a sharp
lookout. Within a week he spied the driver a short distance ahead. He
picked up a stone, took good aim, and, striking him on the back of the
head, knocked him from his cart into the street. He then dismissed the
subject from his mind, satisfied that he had squared accounts. Many
would hold that, instead of squaring accounts, he had only made a bad
matter worse. But such was his way of regarding it; and the business of
a biographer is to tell the truth.

The other instance is impressive in its teaching. On a cold winter
morning he was trundling along the sidewalk a wheelbarrow loaded with
articles from the store. A Quaker, very tall and portly, dressed in
the richest primness of the costume of his sect, meeting him, ordered
him, in a very authoritative tone, to move off into the street. He
apologized, expostulating that he was weary, the load was hard for
him to carry, the sidewalk was much easier for him, and was amply
wide enough for the few people then out. Without another word the
sanctimonious old tyrant seized hold of the wheelbarrow, tipped it over
into the street, and, pushing the boy aside, walked on. The blood of
young Forrest boiled with indignation so that his brain seemed ready
to burst. The ground was covered slightly with snow. He sank on his
knees on it and tried in vain to pull up a paving-stone, to hurl at
his tormentor. Weeping bitterly with baffled rage, he gathered his
scattered load together and started on, cursing the cruel injustice to
which he had been forced to submit. For years and years after, he said,
the association of this outrage was so envenomed in his memory that
whenever he saw a Quaker he had to make an effort not instinctively to
hate him. Such wrongs as this, inflicted on a sensitive child, often
leave scars which rankle through life, permanently embittering and
deforming the character. No generous nature but will take the warning,
and considerately try to be ever just and kind to the young. In the
bearing and effect of early experiences on subsequent character, it is
profoundly and even wonderfully true that as the twig is bent the tree
is inclined.

The kind friend and patron young Forrest had won by his exhibition
at the Tivoli Garden did not forget him, but continued to give him
good advice and encouragement. About a year afterwards he introduced
him to the managers of the Walnut Street Theatre, Messrs. Wood and
Warren. In consequence of this friendly intercession, and of his own
promise, he was enabled to make his formal début, on the stage of the
Walnut Street Theatre, on the evening of November 27th, 1820, in the
character of Norval. His success was decisive. The leading Philadelphia
newspaper said, "Of the part of Norval, we must say that it was as
uncommon in the performance as it was extraordinary in just conception
and exemption from the idea of artifice. We mean that the _sentiment_
of the character obtained such full possession of the youth as to take
away in appearance every consideration of an audience or a drama, and
to give, as it were, the natural speaking of the shepherd boy suddenly
revealed by instinct to be the son of Douglas. We were much surprised
at the excellence of his elocution, his self-possession in speech and
gesture, and a voice that, without straining, was of such volume and
fine tenor as to carry every tone and articulation to the remotest
corner of the theatre. We trust that this young gentleman will find the
patronage to which his extraordinary ripeness of faculty and his modest
deportment entitle him."

It is certainly interesting to find in this, the first criticism of the
first regular appearance of Forrest, in the fifteenth year of his age,
a distinct indication of his most prominent characteristics throughout
his whole histrionic career, namely, his earnest realism, his noble
voice, his accurate elocution, and his steady poise. The notice was
from the pen of William Duane, of the "Aurora," then one of the ablest
and most experienced editors in the country, and afterwards Secretary
of the Treasury under General Jackson.

The play was repeated December 2d. December 29th he sustained the part
of Frederick, in Lovers' Vows; and January 6th, 1821, he assumed the
rôle of Octavian, in The Mountaineers. On the last occasion, which was
his benefit, the following notice was published in one of the morning
papers: "The very promising youth, Master Forrest, who has appeared
twice as Young Norval, and once as Frederick, is to perform Octavian
this evening, and the profits of the house are for his benefit. We
trust that this modest and promising youth will obtain the notice to
which he is certainly well entitled from the lovers of the drama and of
native genius."

Though the receipts from these his first four performances were not
unusually large, the popular applause and the critical verdict were
flattering. The results of the experiment confirmed his bent and fixed
his resolution for life.

During this year, that is, before he was fifteen years old, he made
another appearance on the stage, under circumstances which show the
native boldness and resolution of his character. Without advice or
assistance of any kind, he went alone to the proprietors of the Prune
Street Theatre and asked them to let it to him on his own account for
a single night. The proposition surprised them, but they admired the
pluck of the boy so much that they granted his request. He engaged the
company to support him, got his brother William to print the bills
announcing him in the character of Richard the Third, drew a good
house, and came off with a liberal quantity of applause and a small
pecuniary gain.

It was at this date, when Forrest was in his fifteenth year, that he,
who was destined to inspire so many poems, drew from the prophetic muse
of an admirer the first verses ever composed on him. They were written
by the Hon. Joseph R. Chandler, one of the most distinguished citizens
of Philadelphia, and then editor of the "United States Gazette."

  "Turn we from State to view the mimic Stage,
   Which gives the form and pressure of the age.
   Each season brings its wonders, and each year
   Some unfledged buskins on our boards appear;
   And Covent Garden sends us stage-sick trash
   To gather laurels or to pocket cash.
   A Phillipps comes to sing us Braham's airs,
   And Wallack, Finn, and Maywood strut with theirs.
   These sickly meteors dim our hemisphere,
   While rare as comets Cookes and Keans appear:
   These fopling twinklers, with their borrowed glare,
   Will meet our censure when we cease to stare.
   But the bright sun that gives our stage its rays
   Still lights and warms us by its innate blaze.
   We have a power to gild our drama's age,--
   COOPER'S our Sun, his orbit is our stage.
   Long may he shine, by sense and taste approved,
   By fancy reverenced, and by genius loved!
   And when retiring, mourned by every grace,
   May FORREST rise to fill his envied place!
   Dear child of genius! round thy youthful brow
   Taste, wit, and beauty bind thy laurel now.
   No foreign praise thy native worth need claim;
   No aid extrinsic heralds forth thy name;
   No titled patron's power thy merit decked:--
   The blood of Douglas will itself protect!"

The insight and the foresight indicated in the application of the last
line to the yet undeveloped boy are remarkable, and will thrill every
one who is familiar with the bearing and poise of the mature actor
and man. For in him the massive majesty of pose, the slow weight of
gesture, the fixedness of look, the ponderous gutturality and sweetness
of articulative energy, all revealed an intensity and equilibrium of
selfhood, a deep and vast power of personality, not often equalled. He
was nothing if not independent and competent to his own protection.

The eminent English tragedian Cooper was at that time living in
Philadelphia, in the intervals between his starring engagements. He was
an actor of pronounced and signal merits, and of great professional
authority, from his varied and long experience. Edwin had seen him in
several of his chief parts, with docile quickness had caught important
impressions from his performances, and was full of admiration for him.
When, after his early successes, he had determined to become an actor
himself, he longed for the sympathy and counsel of the illustrious
veteran. Accordingly, armed with an introduction, he went to see the
old king in his private state. He was received kindly, but with some
loftiness. Cooper told him he must not trust to his raw triumphs as
an amateur, but must be willing to serve a regular apprenticeship to
the art, and climb the ladder round by round, not trying to mount by
great skips. The best men in every profession, he said, were those
who had gone through all its experiences. The greatest lawyers he had
known in England, he declared, had begun their career by sweeping
out the law-office. Edwin, thinking his adviser meant him to stoop
to the position of a supernumerary or call-boy, rather petulantly,
but tellingly, answered, "When one knows how to read, he needs not to
learn his letters." The old man was nettled by the pert reply, and the
interview closed with coolness, though not, as has been reported, with
anger or alienation. They were ever afterwards good friends, frequently
meeting, and the veteran not only gave him much useful instruction,
but also used his influence to secure for the novice an engagement
in Boston. That there was no quarrel, no ingratitude, but, on the
contrary, both a thankful appreciation and a generous return from
the boyish aspirant and pupil, we shall, on a future page, cite the
testimony of the old actor himself, amidst the decay and want of his
last days.

The advice of Cooper was based on his own experience, and was sound.
He himself, at fourteen, had engaged under Stephen Kemble. Kemble kept
him a whole season without a single appearance. When he did appear,
it was as a substitute for another, in the character of Malcolm, in
Macbeth. He forgot his part, and was actually hissed off the stage.
But he persevered, and slowly worked his way to the very summit of the
profession. His advice to Edwin did not contemplate so low a descent as
the boy inferred, but only that he should be modest and studious, begin
in relatively humble parts, and grow by degrees. Forrest of his own
accord, or perhaps in consequence of Cooper's words, really followed
exactly this course a little later.

Although retaining his place in the store, his heart was given to
the theatre, and the dearest exercises of his soul were devoted to
the cultivation of the powers which, he hoped, would enable him at
some future time to shine as he had seen others shine. Not only had
Cooper presented a model to his admiring fancy, Edmund Kean also had
electrified his senses and indelibly stamped his imagination. It was
only two nights after his own benefit as Octavian that Kean began an
engagement of twelve nights in the same theatre. And of all in the
crowds who waited on this peerless meteor of the stage, melted at the
pathos of his genius, or trembled before the irresistible bursts of his
power, in not one did the exhibition kindle such imperishable wonder
and such idolatrous admiration as in the fond proud boy who was himself
aspiring to become a great actor, and who drew from what he then saw a
large share of the inspiration which afterwards urged him so high.

The nature of Edwin Forrest in his fifteenth year was remarkably
developed and mature, especially when we consider the small advantages
he had enjoyed. He was distinguished from most youths of his age by the
intensity and tenacity of his passion and purpose, and by the vividness
with which the objects of his thought were pictured in his mind. A
consequence of these attributes was a strong personal magnetism, a
power of attracting and deeply interesting susceptible natures with
whom he came in contact.

He was not without touches of a poetic and sentimental vein, leading
him sometimes to indulge in melancholy reveries. The following lines
were composed by him at this time,--that is, in 1820. They were found
among his posthumous papers, inscribed in his own hand, "Verses, or
Doggerel, written in my Boyhood":

   "Scenes of my childhood, hail!
      All hail, beloved years
    When Hope first spread life's sail,
      Ere sorrow came, or tears.
    Hail to the blissful hours
      Of life's resplendent morn,
    When all around was flowers,
      And flowers without a thorn!

   "Hail, guardians of my youth!
      Hail their instructions given,
    Showing the path of Truth,
      The flowery way to heaven!
    All hail the reverend place
      Where first I lisped His name,
    Where first my infant lips
      God's praises did proclaim!
    Inestimable precious scenes,
      Now faded and all past,
    Can you not fling one ray serene
      To cheer me on at last?
    Ah, no! Life's winter has set in,
      And storms and tempests rise;
    A chaos infinite of sin
      Sweeps full before my eyes.

   "This frail habiliment of soul
      Must shortly cease to be,--
    Some planet then my goal,--
      Home for eternity.

Another document from his pen at about the same time will certainly
interest readers who recall the circumstances of his situation then,
and the facts of his subsequent career. It is the earliest application
he ever made--and it was in vain--to the manager of a theatre for an

  "PHILADA., Dec. 6, 1820.

"To Mr. JAMES H. CALDWELL, New Orleans.

"SIR,--Having understood you intend to open your theatre in the city
of New Orleans some time during this month, I, by the advice of a
number of friends, have taken the liberty of addressing you relative
to an engagement. I am desirous of performing in your company for six
or eight nights, in such parts as I shall name at the foot of this

"I acted last season in Messrs. Warren and Wood's theatre for a
few nights, and drew respectable and profitable houses, which is a
difficult matter to do at this season in Philadelphia. For my capacity
I refer you to the managers above named, or to Col. John Swift, of
this city. Should you think it troublesome to write to these gentlemen
on the subject, I will procure the necessary papers and forward them
to you. If you conclude to receive me, I should like to hear on what
terms, and so forth. Address care of John R. Baker and Son, 61 Race
St., Philada.

  "Yours truly,

Among the first letters ever written by Edwin were three addressed
to his brother William, who had given up working as a printer and
become an actor, and was then absent on a professional engagement at
Harrisburg, Reading, and York. When we remember that these letters were
by a boy of sixteen, we shall not think them discreditable to him.
They throw light on his character at that time, and show what he was
doing. They also draw aside the veil of privacy a little, and give us
some glimpses of the domestic drama of his home, the bereaved family
industriously struggling to maintain itself, watched over perhaps from
the other side by the still-conscious spirit of its departed head.

  "PHILADELPHIA, 4th Feb'y, 1822.

"Mr. WM. FORREST, Harrisburg.

"DEAR BROTHER,--On Saturday evening last I performed Zaphna, in
Mahomet, at Walnut Street Theatre, to a pretty good house, which
would have been better had not Phillipps, the celebrated vocalist,
been announced to appear on the Monday following. I played on the
above evening better than ever I did before. After the murder of my
father, repeated bravos rose from all quarters. Last scene, bravos
again,--curtain fell amidst bravos kept up till the farce began and
was forced to be suspended. Mr. Wood called me to his apartment, and
told me to go on, they were calling for me. I informed him that I had
never appeared before an audience in that manner, and begged him to go
on for me. He did so, and asked the audience what was their pleasure.
Engagement! engagement! from every side. Mr. Wood said he had heard
nothing to the contrary; he was happy that Master Forrest had pleased
the audience, and if they wished it he should appear again. The people
testified their approbation, and the farce was suffered to proceed in

"I expect to appear with Mr. Phillipps this or next week. I anticipate
that they will hiss him when he appears to-night. More of this
by-and-by. Please write as early as possible, and let me know how you
make out. We are well, with the exception of myself. I have a severe
cold. I remain

  "Your affectionate brother,

"P.S.--Heavy snow falling."

  "PHILADELPHIA, 15th April, 1822.


"DEAR BROTHER,--I received your esteemed favor of the 13th instant,
and carefully noticed its contents. My brother, you complain of my not
writing to you since your arrival in Reading. The reason is this. A
gentleman called at the house and informed me that you would return to
the city on Saturday last. Lorman and I were on the point of coming up
to you, but affairs interfered.

"Lorman called on Johnson, according to your request. He informs him
that you can get work at the printing business without any difficulty,
the printers being very busy at present in this city. Therefore I
would advise you to quit the unfair Williams as early as possible. If
you fail in getting a situation at your trade, Stanislas will engage
you on your arrival to act in a good line of business. Therefore you
have a double advantage. The Walnut Street Theatre closes for the
season on Friday next with the new comedy of the Spy, written by a
young gentleman of New York. To-morrow evening I perform Richard Third
for my own benefit. Joel Barr called here a week or ten days after he
had been in town, to tell us you were well. Leave that pander of a
manager directly; do not stay another moment with him, is the advice
of your affectionate brother,


"P.S.--Henrietta says she is sorry you have two and a half shirts, but
that is better than she expected.

"Billy McCorkle says $12 ought to have been an object to you. Ah, he
says, it was a bad day's work when you left him!

"We expect you by the return stage. So pack up your tatters and follow
the drum.

  "E. F."

  "PHILADELPHIA, 1st June, 1822.


"DEAR BROTHER,--I take this opportunity of addressing myself to you
and asking your pardon for my ungrounded belief that you had been
guilty of misusing my letters. I have every reason now to believe that
Mrs. Allen must have invented some lie and told it to Stanislas.

"I have the pleasure of informing you that your friend Sam Barr is
married. Therefore wish him joy; for you know a man entering into such
a state stands in need of the good wishes of his friends. I am sorry
to relate that Sinclair is dead.

  "'There would have been a time for such a word.'

"The actors are not undoing themselves at Tivoli. A young gentleman
by the name of Ondes makes his appearance there this evening in the
character of Octavian. Mrs. Riddle has left the company.

"I leave the firm in Race Street this day. When you can spare from
your salary the sum of $5, I wish you would send it to me, as I at
present stand in much need, and ere long I will transmit it to you
again. We are all well, and hope that this will find you so. Write as
early as possible; in expectation whereof I remain

  "Yours, affectionately,
    "EDWIN F.

"P.S.--Mother is longing for your return, and I hope it will not be
long ere our wishes are fulfilled."

For the next two months he was in earnest training, developing the
muscles of his body and the faculties of his mind, practising athletics
and studying rôles, looking out meanwhile for some regular engagement
The following letter speaks for itself:

  "PHILADELPHIA, 7th Sept., 1822.

"JAMES HEWITT, Esq., Boston.

"SIR,--Having understood from Mr. Utt that you were about to form a
company of actors to go to Charleston, I have, by the advice of the
above-named gentleman, written to know whether you would afford me
an engagement in your concern or not, I having a desire to visit the
aforesaid city. As you must already be acquainted with the line of
business I have supported in Messrs. Wood and Warren's Theatre, it
is useless to say anything farther on that head, referring you to
Mr. Utt, Messrs. Wood and Warren, John Swift, Esq., of Philadelphia,
or to Mr. Thomas A. Cooper: the latter gentleman having procured me
an engagement in Mr. Dickson's theatre, Boston, which I declined,
thinking it better to be more remote, for some years at least, from
the principal cities.

"If, therefore, you have any idea of giving me a situation in a
respectable line, juvenile business, you will hear farther from me by
addressing a line to 77 Cedar Street, Philadelphia.

  "Your most obedient servant,
    "(In haste.)                EDWIN FORREST.

"P.S.--I should be pleased to learn your resolve as early as possible,
so that in case you decline my services I may be enabled elsewhere to
make arrangements."

This letter, like the one he had two years before addressed to
Caldwell, was fruitless. But his mind was firmly made up that he would
persevere until his efforts were successful. And, a few days later, the
opportunity he sought presented itself, and he left home to enter in
earnest on a regular apprenticeship to the vocation he had chosen.

Here, for a little space, we drop the thread of personal narrative for
the purpose of introducing a sketch of the origin and significance of
the dramatic art. As the subject of this biography is to be an actor,
his character to be shaped by the peculiar influences of the theatrical
profession, his career and fame to be permanently associated with the
history of that profession in America, an exposition of the origin and
nature of the drama, of its different forms and applications, and of
its personal uses, will bring the reader to the succeeding chapters
with a fuller appreciation of their various topics, and give him some
data for estimating the place which the art of acting has held, now
holds, and is destined hereafter to hold, in the experience of mankind.



ANY one who so analyzes the Dramatic Art as to see what its basis,
contents, and uses are, will be astonished to find what a deep and
wide feature it is in human nature, and how extensive and important
a part it plays in human life. The study of the great spectacle of
human existence as a whole, from the point of view of the Stage, in
the light of dramatic usages and imagery, imparts to it a keener, more
diversified, more comprehensive interest and instructiveness than it
can receive in any other way. The habit of thus seeing people and
things group themselves in pictures, of looking on scenes and acts in
their relationship as a whole, of reading character and getting at
states of mind and plucking out personal secrets by an intuitive and
cultivated art of interpreting the signs consciously or unconsciously
given, is spontaneous in men of the highest artistic genius, like
Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, and Goethe. And it lends a marvellous charm
and piquancy to their experience of the world, enchanting every object
with active significance, color, and mystery.

Thus the Theatre, technically so called, is but one of the lesser
spheres of the dramatic art. The tragedies and comedies coldly
elaborated there are often tame and poor to those enacted with the
flaming passions of life itself in parlors and kitchens, in palace and
hut and street. Every one of us is essentially an actor, the setting of
his performance furnished independently of his will wherever he goes,
all his schemes included and borne on in a divine plan deeper than he
dreams. Our own organism is the primary theatre, the proscenia of brain
and heart teeming with dramas which link our being and destiny with
those of all other actors from the beginning to the end of the world.
Every spot in which man meets his fellow-men is a secondary theatre,
arrayed with its scenery of circumstances, where each has his rôle and
all the characters and parts interplay upon one another with mixtures
of truth and deceit, skill and awkwardness, aspiration and despair.
One of the chief differences is that some get behind the scenes and
sharply understand a little of what is going on, while most take
their parts blindly, ignorant of what either themselves or others are
about, alternately before the foot-lights and back of the drop. And,
meanwhile, what is the blue, glittering wilderness of infinitude itself
but the theatre fitted up by God, with its doors of birth and death and
its curtains of day and night, for the training of the total company
of living creatures with which He has stocked it, from animalcule
to archangel? The Manager has assigned in the evolution of the
universal plot their just rôles to all the performers, with incessant
transmigrations of drudge and star, lackey and hero, sultan and beggar,
while the years move on and the generations pass and return, the whole
space of the stage being crowded as thickly with shifting masks and
disguises as a sunbeam is with motes.

All place being thus theatrical, and all conscious existence thus
having something dramatic, it is quite obvious how inadequate must be
their appreciation of the art of acting who recognize its offices only
in the play-house. The play-house is merely the scene of its purposed
and deliberate _exhibition_ as a professional art. In its different
kinds, with its different degrees of consciousness and complexity, as
a matter of instinct and culture it is _practised_ everywhere. Freeing
our minds from prejudices on the one side, and from indifference on the
other, let us, then, approach the subject with an earnest effort to
learn the truth and to see what its lessons are.

The history of the drama, in the usual accounts given of it, is
traced back to Thespis, Susarion, and others, in Greece, about six
centuries before Christ. But this has reference only to the most
detached and consummate form of the art. In order really to understand
its derivative basis, its ingredients, its numerous applications
and the moral rank and value of its several uses, we must go much
farther back, and study its gradual ascent. We must, indeed, not only
go beyond the polished states of civilization, but even beyond the
first appearance of man himself on the scene of this world. For the
rudiments of the dramatic art, the simple germs afterwards combined
and developed in human nature with higher additions, are manifested
in the lower animals. The naked foundations, the raw materials, of
the art of acting are shown in all gregarious creatures, and portions
of them even in solitary creatures. They are the crude instincts
of intelligence, imagination, and sympathy. Creatures who are made
alike have the same inner states of consciousness when they are under
the same outer conditions. They also reveal these inner states by
the same outer signs, namely, attitudes, movements, colors, cries,
nervous relaxations or contractions. Seeing in another creature the
signals of a certain state which has always in their own experience
been the accompaniment and cause of these same signals, they interpret
the signals accordingly, and enter into the same state themselves
by sympathy, the signals by a reversal of impulse reacting to cause
the state which they primarily denoted. Thus panics spread through a
swarm of birds, an army of wild horses, or a flock of sheep. Thus the
leader of a herd of buffaloes coming on the track of hunters or in
sight of a grizzly bear is terrified by the danger and starts off on
a run in another direction. The stiffened tail, erected ears, glaring
eyes, expanded nostrils, impetuous plunge, communicate the instinctive
intelligence and feeling through these signs from the nearest members
of the herd to those farther off, with extreme rapidity, and soon the
entire multitude is in one sympathetic state of alarm and flight. The
perception of danger by the leader awakened the feeling of fear and led
to the movement of escape. Those who had not these states of themselves
caught their signs and assumed their substance from the one who had.
Thus all are reinforced and saved by one.

There are animals and insects which on being touched, or being
approached by a superior enemy, instantly assume the attitude and
appearance of death. They recognize their peril, and seek to elude
notice by a motionless condition which simulates death. They thus
pretend to be other than they are, for the purpose of preserving the
power to remain what they are. The ruby-throated humming-bird of
Canada, if captured, feigns death by shutting its eyes and keeping
quite still, then making a vigorous effort to escape. Some birds
by false pretences of agitation lure the trapper away from the
neighborhood of their nest. Cats constantly feign sleep to further
their design of catching birds or mice. This shows not only a dramatic
gift, but also a clear purpose in the use of it.

This _playing 'possum_ is a dramatic artifice very prevalent even in
the lower regions of the animal kingdom. If it be thought that a bug
cannot possibly know so much, the reply is, Perhaps the bug itself
does not, but the presence of God, the creative and guardian Spirit
of nature, the collective experience of the total ancestry of the bug
organized in its nervous system, does know it; and it is this automatic
reason that plays the cunning game. A bear has been known to frequent
the bank of a stream where fishes were wont to come to the surface and
feed on the falling fruit of an overhanging tree, to splash the water
with his paw in imitation of the dropping fruit, and when the fish
appeared, seize and devour it! This neat little drama implies on the
part of the bear an imaginative conception of the different personages
and scenes in the situation, in advance, and then a deliberate
representation of his ideas in action. It would be the same thing as
human art if the bear could of its own impulse repeat the whole serial
action under other circumstances, as, for example, before a group of
bears off in the woods. This he cannot do; and thus is the animal drama
differenced from the human drama, instinct separated from art.

A great many animals are known to imitate the cries or motions
of the creatures they prey on, in order to allure them within
seizing-distance. For the sake of gaining some end they pretend to
be what they are not, and to entertain feelings and designs quite
different from their real ones. Certainly this is to be a hypocrite,
an actor, in the deepest sense of guile. The mocking-bird has the
faculty of mimicking the notes of all kinds of birds with marvellous
accuracy and ease. It takes great pleasure in practising the gift,
calling various kinds of timid songsters around it, and then with a
malicious delight pouring on their ears the screams of their enemies
and scattering them in the wildest terror. By this exercise of the
dramatic art the mocking-bird refreshes, varies, magnifies, the play of
its own life. In like manner, and with the same result, kittens, dogs,
lions, play games with one another, represent mimic battles, pretend to
be angry, to strike and bite, doing it all in a gentle manner, softened
down from the deadly earnestness of reality.

The aim and use of those crude elements or germs of the drama which
appear in the lower animal world would seem, therefore, to be the
enabling them to escape their pursuers, to seize their prey, to
vary and enlarge their lives by that gregarious interchange and
consolidation which is a mutual giving and taking of inner states
through outer signs. It is transmitted instinct, fitted to its ends
and acting within fixed limits, dependent for the most part on outward

Mounting from animals to men, we discover the earliest developments of
the dramatic art among the rudest tribes of savages. The prevalence
and exercise of the faculty of dramatization among the principal
tribes of barbarians in all parts of the world are equally striking
and extensive. It is one of the most prized and powerful portions of
their experience, and one of the first to impress the travellers who
visit them. It has three distinct provinces. The first is their own
actual lives, whose most exciting incidents, most salient features,
they repeat in mimic representation. Dressed in appropriate costumes,
they celebrate with counterfeit performances the Planting Festival,
the Harvest Festival, and other important events connected with the
phenomena of the year. They also dramatize with intense vividness
and vigor the experience of war,--the following of the trail of the
enemy, the ambush, the surprise, the struggle, the scalping of the
slain, the burning of the village, the gathering of the booty, the
return home, and the triumphant reception. This is not confined to the
North American Indians. The Dyaks of Borneo, the New Zealanders, the
Patagonians, the Khonds of Asia, the Negroes of Africa, and scores
of other peoples, have similar rites, besides numerous additional
ones less distinctively dramatic, covering the ceremonies of hunting,
fishing, marriage, birth, and death.

The second department of the drama among barbarians is their
impersonations of animals, their picturesque and terrible
representation of the passions and habits of reptiles, birds, and
beasts. Morgan, in his History of the Iroquois, gives a list of some
forty dances in which they acted out to the life stories based on
their own experience and on that of the creatures beneath them. But
we owe to Catlin some of the most graphic descriptions of the drama
among the North American savages. In the Eagle Dance, the braves dress
themselves as eagles, in plumes, feathers, beaks, talons; and they
shriek, whistle, sail, swoop, in exact imitation of them. In the Wolf
Dance, they go on all-fours, yelp, snarl, bark, and fill up the wolfish
programme to the very letter. In the Buffalo Dance, they each wear a
buffalo mask, consisting of the face, horns, and skin of a buffalo, and
mimic, in ludicrous burlesque, the sounds and motions of that unwieldy
creature. And so with bears, foxes, beavers, hawks, and the rest of the
fauna most familiar to them. In these performances they reproduce with
frenzied truth and force the most ferocious and deadly traits of their
prototypes, and often, among the savages of Fiji and South Africa, the
drama ends half drowned in blood. In Dahomey, where the Serpent is
worshipped, the votary crawls on his belly as a snake and licks the
dust before his idol, and sometimes becomes crazy with the permanent
possession of his part. The barbaric mind finds intense excitement and
enjoyment in these plays, hideous as they seem to us. They break up
the weary monotony of his life, and introduce the relish of games and
novelty and variety. They give him, what he so greatly craves, mental
amusement with physical passion and exertion. They are his almost only
antidote for the bane of stagnation.

On the other hand, great evils result from them. They never work upward
to reflect higher forms of character and life for redemptive imitation,
but downward, in the impersonating of creatures whose inferiority
either inflames the boastful and reckless self-complacency of the
actors, or else by its reflex influences takes possession of their
consciousness and animalizes them, degrading them to the level of the
brutes they portray. Secondly, the reception of the idea of the beast,
snake or vulture which they represent, their furious mimicry of it, the
spasmodic, rhythmical, long-continued movements they make in accordance
with it, tend to subject the brain to the automatic spinal and
ganglionic centres below, and thus furnish the conditions and initiate
the stages of all sorts of insanity. Much of the persistent degradation
and ferocity of the barbaric world is to be traced to this cause.

Nor is this the only evil; for, in the third place, when the savage
mind, after such a training, affects to penetrate the invisible
world and come back to report and portray the supernatural beings
who exercise authority there, it naturally takes its impulsive cue,
its ideal stamp, from the nervous centres under the inspiration of
which it acts. Those centres being possessed by the influences of
serpents, wolves, lust, hate, and murder, of course the spirits and
gods reflected will be fiends, incongruous mixtures of beast and
man, devilish monsters. Then the worship of these reacts to deepen
the besotted superstition and terror, the nightmare carnival of the
brain, out of which it originally sprang. And so the process goes on,
in a doomed circle of hopelessness. The time and faculty devoted by
the soothsayers and medicine-men who compose the priestly caste in
savagedom to the tricking out of their devil-gods and their mummery of
magic,--the time and faculty given by their followers to the enactment
of their obsessed ritual,--if directed to the creation and imitative
reproduction of superior types of human character and experience,
would soon lift them out of the barbaric state in which they have so
long grovelled. And it is a very impressive fact that every instance
revealed in history of a savage people rising into civilization is
accompanied by the tradition of some illustrious stranger from afar,
or some divinely-inspired genius emerging among themselves, who has
originated the rôle of a new style of man, thrown it out before them
for dramatic assimilation, and so impressed it on them as to secure
its general copying among them. This has, thus far in history, been
the divine plan for lifting the multitude: the appearance of a single
inspired superior whose characteristics the inferiors look up to
with loving reverence and put on for the transformation of their own
personalities into the likeness of his. That is the dynamic essence of
Christianity itself.

The next step in this survey of the psychological history of the
dramatic art whereby we are essaying to unfold its purport and its
final definition, leads us from barbaric life to the private homes of
the most cultivated classes of civilized society. The higher we go in
the scale of social wealth and rank, the larger provisions we shall
find made for gratifying the dramatic instincts of children, till we
come to the nursery of the baby prince, who has his miniature parks of
cannon and whole regiments of lead soldiers, and the baby princess,
who has a constant succession of dolls of all grades, costumes, and
ages. The little warrior animates his soldiers and their officers with
such ideas and passions as he has in himself or as he can get glimpses
of from his elders or from books, creates rôles for them, and puts
them through their paces and fortunes with such variety and succession
as he can contrive. And so his nursery is a theatre, and he is at
once author, manager, actors, supernumeraries, spectators, and all.
Likewise the young girl dresses up her dolls, takes them to church, to
balls, undresses them, puts them to sleep, weds them, celebrates their
funeral, in a word, transfuses all her own life, real and imaginative,
into them, and so reactingly multiplies herself and her experience,
and peoples the otherwise tedious vacancy of childhood with vital and
passionate processions, pathetically prefiguring all the tragedy and
comedy that are actually to follow. A Bengal newspaper, giving an
account of a curious marriage-procession through the streets of Dacca,
says, "In Indian households dolls play a far more important part than
they do in England, for all the perfection to which we have attained
in the art of making, clothing, and lodging them. Indian dolls are not
remarkable for beauty or close resemblance to human models; but in
bedecking them no expense is spared. They have a room to themselves,
and seem to enjoy as much attention as live children do elsewhere.
Feasts and garden-parties are given in their honor. The death of a
doll involves a great show of mourning, and the marriage of one is
a public event. In the present instance two dolls belonging to the
daughters of the wealthiest Hindus in Dacca were led out at the head
of a solemn procession, to the delight of the bystanders. After the
wedding ceremony the parents of the girls who had thus disposed of
their puppets laid out a few thousand rupees in feasting their friends
and caste-folk, as well as the neighboring poor."

As children grow older and become school-boys and school-girls, this
faculty and impulse do not cease to act, but, developed still further,
instead of imparting fancied life and action to inanimate toys, lead
them to imitative performances of their own, causing them to group
themselves together for the representation of games, and of the
historic scenes, social events, or fictitious stories which have most
impressed and pleased their imaginations.

The point of interest demanding attention at this stage of our inquiry
is how to discriminate clearly between the drama of the savage and
the drama of the child. The dramatization of the savage is mimetic, a
putting on from without of the disguise, the postures, sounds, motions,
of the animal he impersonates. He imitates the outer signs of the
animal; and these often in return produce in him the corresponding
states of consciousness. But the dramatization of the child is
creative, a projection from within of his own thoughts and emotions
into the counterfeit toys he personifies, and a consequent heightening
of his own sense of life by an imagination of its being imparted and
sympathetically taken up and shared. With the barbarian the primary
movement of action is from without inward; with the child it is from
within outward. There it is the interpretative assumption by the actor
of the signs of states in another; here it is the direct transference
by sympathetic imagination of the states of the actor to another. That
is the raw drama of the senses, this the initial drama of the soul.

We must pause here, before passing to the next head, to make a brief
exposition of another department and application of the dramatic power
of man, a department intermediate between the examples already given
and those which are to come. Its peculiarity is that it combines in
one, with certain original features of its own, the barbaric and the
childish drama. The creation of Fables is the strongest delight of the
dramatizing literary faculty in its first movements. Its workings are
to be traced in the ingenuous oral treasures preserved among tribes who
have no written language, as well as in the most beloved vernacular
writings current among the populace in civilized countries. Fables
are short compositions designed to teach moral truths, or to impress
moral truisms, by representing beasts, birds, reptiles, insects, trees,
flowers, or other objects, as endowed with the faculties of men,
retaining their own forms but acting and talking as men, exemplifying
the virtues and vices of men in characteristic deeds, followed by their
proper consequences. In the degrading barbarian drama the actors admit
into themselves the lower creatures whom they represent, putting on the
skins, movements, cries, of the crocodiles, hyenas, or boa-constrictors
the ideas of whom they take into their brains. In the naïve child
drama the little performers project the ideas of themselves into the
dolls and toys they personify and move. But in the fable drama these
two processes are joined, with a mere inversion of the subjects of the
first; for in fables the actors, in place of being, as in the plays of
savages, the assumed souls of animals and the disguised bodies of men,
are the disguised souls of men in the assumed forms and costumes of
animals. The one is an actual representation of animals by men for free
sport; the other is an imaginary representation of men by animals for
the inculcation of lessons, as, for example, in the well-known instance
of the Wolf and the Lamb. The author of a fable puts his own human
nature into the humbler creatures whom he dramatizes, with a deliberate
conscious thought, a creative exercise of the reflective faculty at the
second remove, quite unlike the instinctive and half-believing action
of the child who straddles a stick pretending that it is a horse. He
has a clear didactic purpose in addition to the sportive impulse of
fancy. This picturing of human nature and its experiences in the living
framework of the lower world yields the keenest pleasure to all who
have not outgrown it; and no one ought ever to outgrow it. He outgrows
it only by the gradual hardening of his heart and fancy, the immovable
stolidity of his faculties in their fixed ruts and crusts. It is the
favorite literature of the childhood of the world. It is filled with
quaint wisdom, raciness, and droll burlesque, as is abundantly to be
seen in the traditions of the Hottentots, the Esquimaux, the Africans,
and other barbaric nations. And in the classic compositions of Pilpai
the Persian, Lokman the Arab, Æsop the Greek, Phædrus the Roman, La
Fontaine the Frenchman, and other masters, it constitutes, with its
innocent gayety, its malicious mischief, its delicious wit and humor,
its cutting satire and caricature, one of the most exquisite portions
of cosmopolitan literature.

Hardly any other conception has given the people so much pleasure as
that Beast-Epic, or picture of human life in the vizards and scenery of
animal life, which, under the title of "Reynard the Fox," circulated
through Europe for centuries,--a sort of secular and democratic Bible,
read in palaces, quoted in universities, thumbed by toilsmen, delighted
in by all, old and young, high and low, learned and illiterate. There
the society and life of the Middle Age are reflected with grotesque
truth and mirth, grim irony, sardonic grins, comic insight, laughter
and tragedy, not without many touches of poetry and prophecy. There
are Noble the Lion, Isegrim the Wolf, Reynard the Fox, Chanticleer the
Cock, Bruin the Bear, Lampe the Hare, Hinze the Cat, and the rest,
each one representing enigmatically some class or order in the human
life of the romantic but cruel Feudal World. The poet, with a sly joy,
unfolds his pictures of wolves tonsured as monks, foxes travelling
as pilgrims to shrines and to Rome, cocks pleading as lawyers at the
judgment-bar. He asserts the moral standard of the plebeian instincts
against the conventional ecclesiastic and civil codes, and rectifies
his own wrongs as without rank, power, or wealth, but gifted with
genius and spirit, against the kings, barons, priests, and soldiers, by
portraying the uniform final success of the reckless, good-for-nothing,
but inexhaustibly bright, shifty, and fascinating Reynard. The
representative types of the strong, cruel, stupid men of prerogative
and routine are made to serve as foils for the scholar and actor,
with his spiritual flexibility, elusive swiftness of resource, inner
detachment and readiness.

The attractiveness of fables is fourfold. First, the charm of all
exercises of the dramatic art, namely, the incessant playing of human
nature with its elementary experiences in and out of all sorts of
masks and disguises of changing persons and situations. Second, the
congruous mixture in them of the most extravagant impossibilities and
absurdities with the plainest facts and truths; the union of sober
realities of reason and nature with incredible forms, giving fresh
shocks of wit and humor. Third, the constant sense of superiority and
consequent elated complacency felt by the human auditor or reader over
the animal impersonators of his nature, with the ludicrous contrasts
and suggestions they awaken at every turn. Fourth, the interest and
authority of the moral lessons, truisms though these may be, which they
so vividly bring out.

One cannot refrain from adding, in this connection, that there is a
further form of the dramatic inhabitation of our humbler brethren the
brutes, by kind and generous men, an example newly offered to notice
by the officers and friends of our Societies for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals. These gentlemen, by a divine extension of their
sympathy, quite in the spirit of the blessed Master who in his parables
immortalized the hen, the sparrow, the raven, the ox, and the ass,
transport themselves into the situation of the poor dumb creatures
who are so often abused, feel and speak for them, and try to remedy
their wrongs and to secure them their rights. They are spreading
abroad a disposition and habit of kindness which will not stop with
the first field of its application, but will extend to include in a
finer and vaster embrace the whole world of childhood, and all the
weak, degraded, and suffering classes of men. This development of
sympathy is one of surprising beauty and promise. It tends to do for
us what the doctrine of the transmigration of souls has done for the
Hindoos,--affiliate us with the entire series of living beings in
tender sentiment and mystery, as members of one family, under one law
of destiny. It will indeed redeem the whole world of humanity if it
shall be applied consistently to all as it was expressed by the famous
Rarey in the practical principle he applied to the taming of unruly
horses, namely: Free them from the spirit of opposition, and fill them
with the spirit of obedient trust, by showing them how groundless is
fear and how futile is resistance. The truth of God in the love of men
will one day end crime, cruelty, terror, and misery. O blessed vision,
how far away art thou?

The dramatic art, based on the science of human nature in the
revelation of its inner states through outer signs, is the exercise
of that power whereby man can indefinitely multiply his personality
and life, by identifying himself with others, or others with himself,
by divesting himself of himself and entering into the characters,
situations, and experiences of those whom he beholds or reads of or
creatively imagines. This definition elevates the art, in its pure
practice, high above the reach of cavil; for its central principle is
the essence of that disinterested sympathy and vicarious atonement
whose culmination on Calvary have deified the Christ.

Let us trace a little the rise and nature of this power from a point
of view somewhat different from the one in which we have already
considered it.

The life of a peach-tree, a rose-bush, or a squash-vine is rigidly
determined for it in advance by the seed from which it springs and
the soil and climate in which it grows. Its life is simply the sum of
actions and reactions between the forces in itself and the forces
in its environment; and this sum of dynamic relations is fixed
fatally by its organic structure. To a degree the same is true of
the life of a weasel, a pig, a horse, or an eagle; but this with two
modifications, two elements of greatening freedom and variety. First,
in connection with the consciousness and the power of locomotion
which distinguish the animal from the vegetable, it can change
its environment, from cliff to cave, from village to desert, from
field to shore, from hill to valley, or from a temperate zone to a
tropical, thus securing a large mass of changes in its surrounding
conditions, resulting in a correspondent diversity or increase in that
sum of actions and reactions which composes its life. Second, the
gregarious nature of animals enables them likewise, to some extent,
to supplement one another, to exchange states of consciousness and
unite their experience. Crows hold consultations and caw with mutual
intelligibility. A flock of wild geese understand the honk of their
leader, and obey every signal perfectly. Bees converse, build, hunt,
wage war, and carry on their little monarchical republic with amazing
cunning and consent.

But this associative alteration, enhancement, and interchange of life
receive an almost incredible development when we ascend to man. His
nature and destiny too, the fact that he is a man, not a tree or a
brute or an angel or a god, are determined for him by his parentage.
This hereditary descent decides his general character and status, and
also many details of special faculty and tendency. But in him all this
coexists with an immense freedom and power of foreign assimilation.
He can change and modify the conditions of his habitat in a thousand
particulars where the lower animals can do so in one. By free
education, drill, and habit, he can likewise indefinitely modify his
reactions on the same outer conditions. But far above all this in rank
and reach is his ability to _perfect his character by the characters of
others_, to make the most direct and copious levying on the experiences
of his fellow-men. He has not only the organic inheritance of his
ancestry and the traditional treasure of his country and people to work
with, but, furthermore, in history, science, and literature he has the
keys to the conscious wealth of all men in all lands and times.

The outward universe in which we live is one and the same in common
to all men. But the inner representation of this, the sum of all that
he has experienced and knows of it, is different with every man. Now,
it is with the revelation, the discovery, seizure, and exhibition of
this peculiar inner or ideal world of each individual that the dramatic
art in its practice in actual life is concerned. The business of most
persons seems to be rather to conceal and hold back, to falsify and
distort their inner states, than to reveal and impart them. Their
arts are disguise, imposture, and deception, rather than sincerity,
sympathy, and frankness. But the practical science of the drama puts
all the secrets in our power, and enables us to add to our own inner
world or conscious personal kosmos the related inner worlds of others,
almost without hindrance or limit.

A philosopher like Hegel, a scientist like Humboldt, a poet like
Rückert, deeply read in all literatures and trained to the facile
reproduction of every mode of thought and action, traverses all races
and ages, deciphering their symbols, reading their passions, royally
reaping their experimental conquests, thus virtually enlarging his
own soul to the dimensions of collective humanity and enriching
himself with its accumulated possessions. The first condition of truly
profound and vital acting is to have the knowledge, the liberty, the
spiritual energy and skill, to solve this inner side of the problem by
reconstructing in the mind and heart the modes of character, passion,
and conduct which are to be represented. They must be mastered and made
one's own before they can be intelligently exhibited. It is the part
of a charlatan to content himself with merely detecting and imitating
the outer signs. He is potentially the richest and freest man who is
most capable of assuming and subsidizing all other men. He is virtually
the king and owner of the world, though without crown or sceptre,
while many a titular king has nothing but these external insignia. The
greatest actor is the one who is the most perfect master of all the
signs of the inner states of men, and can in his own person exhibit
those signs with the most vivid power. He must have, to be completely
equipped for his work, a mind and a body whose parallel faculties and
organs are energetic and harmonic, every muscle of the one so liberated
and elastic, every power of the other so freed and connected, that they
can act either singly or in varied combination with others or with
the whole, with easy precision and vigor. The absence of prejudices
and strictures, contracting ignorance and hate, and the presence of
disinterested wisdom and openness, a trained intuitive sensibility,
will put all states of all souls in his possession by spontaneous
interpretation of their signals. Such an actor, perfected in his
own being and crowned with the trophies of human culture in every
department, is fitted to pass through all the grades and ranges of
society, reflecting everything, subjected to nothing, the sovereign of
mankind, the top of the world.

And now we are prepared to advance to the heart of our theme and show
the place of the drama in its full development in adult civilized
society, where all sorts of acting are not only diffused through
the daily life of the community, but also separated in a distinct
profession and supplied with a brilliant home. The drama, in its
finished literary and histrionic sense, is seen when a story, instead
of being merely described in forms, words, or colors,--as by sculpture,
narrative, and painting,--is exhibited by fit personages in living
action with all the appropriate accessories of looks, attitudes,
tones, articulations, gestures, and deeds. The end of this imitative,
reproductive, and creative exhibition is, as has already been said, to
enable the spectator to transpose himself out of himself into others,
assimilating them to himself or himself to them, thus unlimitedly
exchanging his personality and its conscious contents. In this sense
the dramatic faculty is universal, and its exercise, in an unsystematic
way, incessant. What other people do in a bungling and piecemeal
manner, without clear purpose or method, the professional actor does
with full consciousness and system, and exhibits for the pleasure and
edification of the observers. Everybody, from infancy to old age, with
such pliancy of fancy, resources of reason, wealth of sympathy, as
he can command, is always observing other people, studying, judging,
approving, copying, or condemning and avoiding. All that is wanting to
regulate and complete the art is, as Schlegel has said, to draw the
mimic elements and fragments clear off from real life, and confront
real life with them collectively in one mass. This is the sphere and
office of the Theatre, whose very business it is to hold up the mirror
to nature and humanity, that all styles of character and conduct may
be seen in their proper quality and their true rank, teaching the
spectators what to despise, what to admire, what to shun, what to
imitate or reproduce for the perfecting of their own characters and

There are in the exhibited drama three provinces or directions, the
lower, the intermediate, and the higher, or Comedy, Melodrama, and
Tragedy. In the lower drama, inferior types of men and manners are
exhibited for the various purposes of amusement, ridicule, satire,
correction. The direction of the moral and social faculties of the
spectators towards the persons and actions they contemplate is downward
from their own or the social mental standards of virtue, propriety,
and grace to the real exemplifications before them, the descending
movement which accompanies their perception of the incongruity
awakening laughter or tendencies to laughter, scorn or tendencies to
scorn, with a reflex of complacency in themselves. Comedy teaches,
so far as it ventures to teach at all and does not content itself
with mere entertainment, by the principle of opposition and contrast,
showing what _not_ to do and how _not_ to do it, suggesting grace by
awkwardness, hinting refinement by vulgarity, setting off beauty and
dignity by ugliness and triviality. This, as every one must see, is a
varied, effective, and fruitful mode of direct instruction as well as
of indirect and unpurposed educational moulding. No one can well be
thoroughly familiar with the genteel comedy of the theatres and remain
a boor. Such a familiarity is of itself a sort of social education.

In the higher drama, or Tragedy, the superior social types, lords,
ladies, geniuses, kings, and the nobler styles of character,
heroes, martyrs, saints, are represented, to awaken admiration and
reverence, to stir emulous and aspiring desires. Pity, love, and
awe, the profoundest passions and capacities of the soul, are moved
and expanded. The mysteries of fate and providence are shadowed
forth, and the most insoluble problems of morality and religion
indirectly agitated. Transcendent degrees of power, virtue, success,
and glory, or failure and suffering, are indicated; and all our
upward-looking faculties are put on the stretch, with the result of
assimilating more or less of the forms of being and experience on
which they sympathizingly gaze aloft. Here we are taught, sometimes
with a distinct aim, oftener by an unpurposed, contagious kindling
of suggested thought and feeling, innumerable lessons pertaining to
human nature and experience, the varieties of character and conduct,
the limits and retributions of virtue and vice, the extremes of hope
and despair, the portentous question of death, the omnipresent laws of
God. How much one shall be affected and changed, inspired and aided, by
all this, depends on his docility and earnestness in front of it, his
plasticity under it. But it is plain that it can scarcely be repeated
and continued without important effects on all who are not dolts.

The intermediate, or Melodrama, mixed of the other two and presented
on the ever-varying level between comic lowness and tragic height,
brings forward a medley of characters, greater and lesser, good, bad,
and indifferent, portraying life not truly as it is in fact, but
exaggeratedly, in heterogeneous combination, so set off in extravagant
relief and depression, emphasis of lights and shades, as to give it
a more than natural attraction for the senses. Without taxing any
faculties in the audience, it piques the curiosity of all by turns, and
exercises and refreshes them with its rapid changes and its glaring
effects, which provide strong sensations yet with small exaction on
the mind. Any explicit instruction it contains is incidental, since
its real business is to serve as a spiritual alterative directed to
the soul through the senses, to beguile heavy thoughts and cares, to
entertain and rest weary faculties with fresh objects, and fill idle
hours with pleasurable amusement. All this is certainly legitimate,
needed, and useful, although it may be abused by the employment of
illegitimate means, and thus perverted into an injury. But every good
thing is likewise capable of perversion, and ought to be judged by its
true intent, not by its aberrations.

Furthermore, it is to be said--and it is an important truth which
should in no wise be overlooked--that even when the play is petty and
worthless in plot, full of absurdities as many of our gaudy modern
pantomimes and spectacles are, and pernicious in its exhibitions of
nudity, impure postures, and prurient accessories,--even then a twofold
good may be derived from the show, in addition to the mere recreative
diversion and pleasure yielded. First, the sight of the superb power,
grace, and skill of the trained performers, disciplined and perfected
to the highest point of energy, self-possession, and easy and joyous
readiness for the execution of their functions, is a charming and
edifying sight. It is the display of models of human nature developed
to an extreme degree of strength, beauty, and flexibility,--a display
which tends to mould the eyes of the spectators, and through their eyes
to affect their souls and to exert educational influence on future
generations. Every spectator should be kindled by the sight to secure
for himself, for the highest fulfilment of life under the eyes of God,
the exemplary development which these performers have so laboriously
won for the mere purpose of exhibition and pay. The sacrifice and toil
they have devoted for the sake of applause, should we not be willing to
devote for the sake of entering on our full heritage in the universe?

Second, the melodrama, by its artistic groupings, colors, and
movements, its scenic processions, its magic pictures, its orderly
evolution of romantic adventures, the multiform interplaying of
the characters and fortunes of its actors upon one another, draws
our attention from ourselves, enlists our feelings in the fates of
others, and thus exercising our faculties, disciplines, purifies, and
emancipates them, making them readier and more competent for whatever
exigencies we may be called on to meet. This great good and use of
the dramatic art, its moral essence, is afforded to the profiting
beholder by almost every theatrical representation, namely, that, in
showing life concentrated and intensified, it holds up for imitation
the instructive spectacle, in its trained actors, of men passing from
themselves into the personalities and situations of others, mutually
appropriating one another's traits and experiences, supplementing
themselves with one another. This varied practice of reason,
imagination, and sympathy in assuming inner states and their outer
signs is the most effective culture and drill there is for freeing
human nature from the slavery of routine, and perfecting its entrance
on that heritage of unlimited sympathetic fellowships which will at
last realize the hydrostatic paradox in morals, and make one man
commensurate with all humanity. A drop balances an ocean by its dynamic
translation and interplay with all the drops!

Whatever dissent or qualification may be made by some to the foregoing
view, there will scarcely be any hesitation or difference of opinion
when we turn from the representation of bad characters or neutral
characters, the vile and the insignificant, to the grandest forms
of the drama, where we encounter the most pathetic and brilliant
impersonations of ideal excellence,--those patterns of loveliness and
heroism with which the Stage abounds in its pictures of stainless
and queenly women, fearless and kingly men. The natural influence of
weeping over the misfortunes and wrongs or worshipping the virtues
of a saintly sufferer, who resists not, complains not, resents not,
but bears all with angelic patience, sweetness, and fortitude, is to
soften and expand the heart and cultivate the tenderest graces of human
nature. The natural influence of tracing the indomitable enterprise,
valor, disinterestedness, and perseverance of a great genius, an
illustrious patriot or martyr, thrilling with the deepest admiration at
his virtues, is to foster in the susceptible breast burning aspirations
after kindred worth and distinction. This tendency may be neutralized
or prevented, but it is the natural influence, by which alone it is
fair to judge the best specimens of the drama. And he who should
undertake to estimate the total influence of the Stage in the model
characters it has held up as ideals for honor and imitation, would have
a task not less difficult than genial.

While War and Work, with the rehearsing discipline they exact, occupy
and ravage the fairest fields and promises of Human Life, and create
Weariness, Crime, Lust, and Death, as the horrid Reapers who tread
close in their steps, the Theatre--one bright home of Freedom, Art, and
Beauty, planted in a paradisal place--is prophetic of the time to come
when Love and Leisure shall have room to people the redeemed world with
their fair and sweet offspring, Play and Joy.

In the mean time, while the spirit of doubt, banter, and insincerity
is so rife,--while we meet on every hand that arid, cynical, and
contemptuous temper which thrives on mockery and badinage, fosters
an insolent complacency and laughter by degrading superior persons
and subjects in parodies and lampoons,--while our young men and women
are infested with a boastful conceit of superiority to all sentiment
and enthusiasm, and even our rising authors are so disenchanted, so
knowing, that persiflage and the ridicule of illusion and devotion are
their highest tests of experience and power,--under such conditions,
surely we shall all agree that the ideal revelations, the impassioned
music and eloquence, the free elevation above commonplace, the
portrayals of ingenuous faith and energy, that still linger on the
Stage, are to be held precious. Amidst so much formality and hypocrisy,
it is a boon to have a great actor break into us through the crust of
custom and startle our noblest powers into life.

The actor, in laboring to fit himself for the highest walk in his
profession, studies all forms of human nature and experience,
discriminates their ranks and worth, sees what is congruous and
becoming, or the contrary, and reproduces their powers in himself by
the practice of putting on their states and showing their signals.
This done disinterestedly, with a sovereign eye to duty and the Divine
Will, is the way for every one to educate himself towards that personal
perfection the pursuit of which is his supreme business on earth. He
thus learns to assume and absorb the ascending ideals that brighten
the pathway to heaven. Herein the dramatic art becomes glorified into
identity with religion.

The lowest range of the histrionic inhabitations of the soul is
_obsession_, where the man is insanely held by some inferior or evil
spirit, as when Nebuchadnezzar went out and ate grass, like an ox.
The next grade is _sympathetic domination_, where the idea of another
being is so vividly seated in the imagination of a person that for
the time it makes him its involuntary agent. The intermediate or
neutral level, half-way from the lowest to the highest, is the region
of _voluntary assumption_, or acting properly so called, where the
player by his own free intelligence and will reproduces or imitates
foreign characters. Then there is the ascent into _inspiration_, where
loftier influences or spirits than are native to the impersonator take
possession of him, enhancing his powers, animating and guiding him
beyond his own knowledge or volition. And lastly, there is the supreme
height of _divine incarnation_, where some deity stoops into the cloud
of mortality, or the infinite God in varying degrees deigns to inflesh
and enshrine himself in man. Christendom owns one unapproachable and
incomparable example in its august Founder. But in India, Egypt,
Greece, were mystic men, who, too wise and grand to be thought
lunatics, have claimed to be of a lineage divine and dateless. This is
a realm for silence. But every unique, whether Gautama or Jesus, is
only the transcending culmination of a rule that rises through levels
below. Either great men have played the rôles of incarnate gods or
descending gods have assumed the rôles of men on earth.



WHEN Edwin was nine years old, he was thin, pale, and had a slight
forward stoop of the chest and shoulders. He was full of fire, courage,
impulsive force, but had a quick pulse, a nervous habit, a sensitive
brain and skin. The tears came easily to his eyes, and under severe
exertion his endurance quickly gave out. At that time he seemed a fair
candidate for consumption and an early grave. His father is known, on
several occasions, to have expressed fears that he should not be able
to raise him.

A fortunate occurrence set the boy at work just at the right time and
in the right direction. Wherever a Circus travels through the country,
its performances take powerful effect on the impressible sympathies
of energetic and ambitious youths. As it departs, it often leaves
behind it a line of emulous lads, in mimic repetition of its scenes,
climbing ropes, leaping bars, walking on their hands, standing on their
heads, throwing somersaults, or posturing, balancing, and wrestling.
Such an experience befell Edwin, and his physical improvement under
it was rapid. It deepened his breathing, invigorated the circulation
of his blood, and straightened him up, bringing out his breast and
throwing back his shoulders. And in his seventeenth year, the period
which we have now reached, he was as fine a specimen of a manly
youth as one might wish to see. He had a free, open bearing, with
steadily-confronting eyes, and a clear, deep voice. He had never been
bashful; neither was he ever impudent or shameless. He was at once
self-possessed and modest, combining an air of sincerity and justice
with an expression of democratic independence. Such was the result, in
his outward appearance, of his character, his parental inheritance and
training, his dramatic practice, and his gymnastic exercises.

Accordingly, when, early in the September of 1822, it was announced
that the proprietors of the three theatres at Pittsburg, Lexington,
and Cincinnati had come to Philadelphia for the purpose of engaging
a company to perform alternately in those cities, and young Forrest,
depressed and impatient from the failure of his previous attempts to
secure a regular engagement, made personal application to manager
Jones, that gentleman was so much pleased with his words and his
bearing that he at once struck a bargain with him. The agreement was
that for a compensation of eight dollars a week he should play, without
a question, whatever parts he was cast in, no matter how high or how
low the parts were. He was willing now, despite his precocious starring
experiences, to take this humble position and hold himself ready for
anything at the beck and call of his superior, because he had come
keenly to feel how little he knew and how much he had to learn. And
his sound sense, with the good advice he had received, taught him that
there offered no other way so thoroughly and rapidly to master his
profession as by submitting to a regular drill in the miscellaneous
parts of the working stage, from top to bottom. He saw his path
to the dramatic throne through the steps of a docile and patient

It was always a characteristic of him that he was unwilling to utter
words while ignorant of their meaning. He studied what he was to speak,
that he might speak it with intelligence and propriety. Whether right
or wrong, he would, as a rule, always know what he meant to do, and
why and how. In illustration of this teachable spirit an incident may
be adduced which he ever gratefully remembered as one of the most
influential in his life.

When he was but fourteen, he was one evening in front of one of the
Philadelphia theatres, when his attention was fixed on two large
statues, or mythological figures, each carved from a single block of
wood, pedestal and all, placed in niches at each side of the entrance.
Under them were inscribed the names Thalia and Melpomene. "Who are
Thallea and Melpomeen?" he asked of an elder comrade with whom he was
wont to practise histrionics in the Thespian Club. "Oh, I don't know;
a couple of Grecian queens, I guess," was the reply. A gentleman,
handsomely dressed, with a benignant face and graceful mien, who had
overheard the question and the answer, stepped forward, took Edwin
by the hand, and said, "My lad, these figures, whose names you have
not pronounced correctly, represent two characters in the old Greek
mythology. This one, with the mask and the mirror, is Thalia, the
Muse of Comedy. That one, with the dagger and the bowl, is Melpomene,
the Muse of Tragedy. They are appropriately painted here, because the
theatre is the home of the drama, where both comedies and tragedies are
performed. Now, my boy, if you like to learn, there is a book, which
you can get at any book-store, called Walker's Classical Pronouncing
Dictionary, to which on all such occasions you can refer and find just
what you want to know." It was a beautiful action. And it fell on good
soil. Edwin bought the volume, and he never ceased to practise the
lesson or to be thankful to him who gave it, and on whose unknown head,
even to the end of life, his grateful heart showered benedictions.
When, many years later, that theatre was taken down, Forrest, in memory
of the incident above related, had the two statues purchased for him,
intending to set them up in his own private theatre.

Edwin was an affectionate boy, who won affection from others
notwithstanding his somewhat reckless spirit of adventure, frequent
coarseness of speech, and violence of temper. He was sympathetic, as
dramatic genius perforce must be, quick in intelligence, keen and eager
in observation, and of an honest manner and make throughout. He was
throbbing with hope and aspiration before the new prospect opened to
him as he went around to say farewell to those he loved, his favorite
companions among the amateur Thespians, and his benefactors. As he took
the hand of one after another and said good-bye, the cuff of his sleeve
repeatedly went to his eyes, and he felt those bitter twinges of pain
familiar to boyish bosoms on such partings in all generations and all
over the world. He went to the tannery, where, on the old stone table,
his declamations as a proud and happy child had been applauded by
Lorman and his fellow-workmen. He visited the tomb of his father, and
the house of his kind old pastor. Then came the last and severest trial
of his fortitude, the taking leave of his sisters, and, above all, of
his mother, who was always enshrined in his inmost soul as an object of
the most tender and sacred love. He girded himself up and got through
with it, he hardly knew how.

One small and humble trunk held all his effects,--a very scant
wardrobe, a few trifling keepsakes, a Bible the gift of his mother,
an edition of Shakspeare in one cheap volume, Walker's Classical
Pronouncing Dictionary, and a little collection of plays in pamphlet
form. Joining the company which Collins and Jones had gathered,
consisting of about a dozen persons, male and female, they regarded
one another with mutual interest; and, with that intuitive reading of
character which their professional art bestows, they in an amazingly
short time were intimately acquainted, and quite prepared to share
adventures, confidences, and lives. Besides Collins and Jones,
there were Groshorn, Scott, Eberle, leader of the orchestra, Lucas,
scene-painter, Henderson, stage manager, Davis, Mrs. Pelby, Mrs.
Riddle, Miss Fenton, Miss Sallie Riddle, and Miss Eliza Riddle. Several
of these not only had varied and ripe experience of the stage, but were
also highly distinguished for their talents and accomplishments. This
was especially the case with Mrs. Pelby and Mrs. Riddle.

The magnetic personality, the inexperienced youth, the attractive
ingenuousness, and the enthusiastic ambition of Forrest made him at
once a prominent object of attention in the company, all of whom were
ready to give him such instructions and aids as were in their power.
But, above all the rest, to the constant generous kindness and teaching
of Mrs. Riddle he always expressed himself as deeply indebted for
services rendered at the most critical period of his life, and whose
record remained as fresh in his latest memory as their results were
indelible in his being.

About the middle of October they began playing in Pittsburg, in a
building so ruinous and dilapidated that on rainy nights the audience
in the pit held up their umbrellas to screen themselves from the
leakings through the roof. The first performance was Douglas, Forrest
sustaining the part of Young Norval with much applause. In the course
of the season here he played many characters, in tragedy, comedy,
farce, and ballet. In grappling with these subordinate parts he
afterwards said he could distinctly remember that he often felt ashamed
to find how ignorant he was, and was almost appalled at the immense
task before him in becoming the actor he wished to be. But the progress
he felt he was making, combined with the unstinted praise he received,
kept his spirits at a high point.

The following letter, dated Pittsburg, October 10th, 1822, is the
earliest letter from him to his mother found among his papers after his

"DEAR MOTHER,--I arrived here yesterday at about eleven o'clock, and
am much pleased with the place and its inhabitants. I was quite out of
patience riding so long in the stage over such tremendous mountains,
but was greatly delighted, on reaching the summit of them, to view the
surrounding country,--so vast and varied a landscape.

"Pittsburg is three hundred miles from Philadelphia. It is a sort of
London in miniature, very black and smoky. The Alleghany River and
Mountains surround it. The theatre is very old.

"This, you know, is the first time I have ever been away from you.
I have felt many qualms of homesickness, and I miss you, dear, dear
mother, more than words can give out. Has William gone to Petersburg?
Furnish me with every particular, especially how our Tid is, and
whether she reads with the yard-stick. Give me an account, too, of my
Grandma, and of my _beautiful_ Sister. The long ride in the stage has
made my hurdies so callous that they would ward off a cannon-ball.

"Give my respects to all my friends, particularly to Philip. Inform
me also, if you can, how the Tivoli Garden gets on. Write as early as
possible, and pray pay the postage, as I am out of funds. I expect the
managers by the next stage. Mr. Hughes, formerly of the Walnut Street
Theatre, is here. I find him a perfect gentleman.

  "Your affectionate son,

In a short time the company collected their properties and took passage
on the Ohio River in a flat-boat for Maysville, Kentucky. They floated
lazily along for five days and nights, in delightful weather, through
lovely scenery new to the most of them, filling the time with stories,
games, and jokes,--a happy set, careless, healthy, and as gay and free
as the ripples of the stream that glanced around them. They played at
Maysville a few evenings with excellent success, greatly delighting the
rude Kentuckians, who thronged in from miles around.

Departing thence, they journeyed to Lexington, then the most important
town in the State, where they were encouraged to make a considerable
tarry, as they found a nice theatre, good patronage, and an uncommonly
intelligent auditory. The Transylvania University was here, under the
presidency of the celebrated Horace Holley. Many of the teachers and
pupils of the University attended the performances night after night.
Forrest was looked on as a lad of extreme promise. He made many friends
among the students. One of these friendships in particular, that formed
with young James Taylor, son of a wealthy planter of Newport, was kept
unbroken to the end of his life.

In 1870, Mr. William D. Gallagher, an old and dear friend of Mr.
Forrest, visited Col. Taylor at his estate in Newport. Taylor gave
him many pleasing reminiscences of his early days and his romantic
friendship with the young actor, then so world-famous. He said that
while at Lexington he one night invited Forrest to his hotel. He
acceded, without waiting to change his costume as Young Norval. He
spent the night with him, sharing his bed, and breakfasted with him
the next morning. After breakfast, as he went to his own quarters in
another street, the boys, attracted by his theatrical dress, followed
him with shouts and cheers.

President Holley was a man of very extraordinary oratorical power. He
was really a man of genius, his freedom of thought and his æsthetic
culture far in advance of his time. He had a great fame in his day,
but, leaving no visible work behind him, his name is now but a faded
tradition. He was so much struck by the performances of Forrest that he
generously sought him out and held several long interviews with him, in
which, with a masterly power which profoundly impressed his youthful
listener, he unfolded his views of art and of life and urged him to
cherish noble aspirations in the profession he had chosen. This contact
with the veteran preacher was one of the moulding points in the career
of the player. Such acts of condescension and disinterestedness--or
perhaps it is juster to call them acts of love and duty--are charming
and are divinely encouraging. There are more of them in the world
than we think, though certainly there are far fewer of them than there
ought to be. The record of each, while delightful to contemplate, is a
stimulus to produce others.

Holley urged Forrest to curb his taste for comic and farcical parts and
as soon as possible to cease appearing in such characters. He strove to
impress on him a deeper sense of his fitness for the highest walks of
tragedy, and explained to him most eloquently the noble qualities the
enactment of such parts both required and cultivated in the performer,
as well as the valuable lessons they taught to the spectator. He also
dwelt at length on the true principle of the dramatic art, which he
maintained to be not merely to hold the mirror up to crude nature, but
to give a choice and refined presentation of the truth. Nature, he
said, is reality, but art is ideality. The actor is not to reflect all
the direct and unrelieved facts of nature, but to present a selective
and softened or intensified reflection of them. Art plays the tune
of nature, he held, but with variations. He uttered these and other
thoughts with such remarkable grace and precision that Forrest said
the conversation made an epoch in his mind, although he differed from
him in opinion, then and always holding that the purpose of acting was
to show the exact truth of nature. Holley was right; and it is notable
that his youthful auditor in rejecting the view he advocated accurately
marked his own central defect not less than his most conspicuous merit
as an actor.

Closing their season at Lexington, February 22d, 1823, the company
started across the country for Cincinnati, the women with the
theatrical paraphernalia in covered wagons, the men on horseback.
Their good humor and abundant faculty for finding or making enjoyment
in everything stood them in hand during the journey, which their
rude accommodations and the wintry weather would otherwise have made
cheerless enough. They opened in Cincinnati, in the old Columbia Street
Theatre, on the evening of March 6th, 1823. The play was The Soldier's
Daughter. Forrest, who lacked just three days of being seventeen
years old, was assigned the humble part of Malfort, a serious walking
gentleman. His range of casts during this season was extremely varied,
reaching from the heights of dire tragedy to the level of ridiculous
pantomime. He danced in the then popular ballet of Little Red
Riding-Hood. He often sang comic songs between the plays. Eberle, who
was a good violinist, on one occasion appeared as an old broken soldier
with a wooden leg and a fiddle, accompanied by Forrest as his daughter
in a ragged female dress. The father fiddled, the daughter sang with
laughable pathos,--

  "Oh, cruel was my parients, as tored my love from me;
   And cruel was the great big ship as tooked him off to sea;
   And cruel was the capitaine and the boswain and the men,
   As didn't care a fardin if we never met agen."


The performance was encored so warmly that it was repeated many
successive nights. He also played Corinthian Tom in the extravaganza of
Tom and Jerry, Lubin in the Wandering Boys of Switzerland, and Blaize
in the Forest of Bondy, or the Dog of Montargis. In the last character
he sang this song:

  "Bondy's forest,--full of leaves;
   Bondy's forest,--full of thieves;
   They hold your bridle, take your cash,
   And then they give your throat a gash.
      Sing la, la, la, la, la."

At this time he had a trained dog, who knew as much as a great many
men. He was strongly attached to this dog, who appeared on the stage
with him in the Forest of Bondy and acted his part with striking
effect. He was a frisky and mischievous creature. He occupied the same
room with Edwin; and one morning he took advantage of the leisure his
habits as an early riser gave him to gnaw and tear in pieces one of his
master's only pair of boots. The poor actor was in a dilemma. He had
no money and no credit. In his wrath he thought of whipping the dog.
But that would boot nothing. The innocent creature knew no better. So
he pretended to have a sore foot, put a bandage on it, borrowed an old
slipper, and hobbled about until his wages fell due and enabled him to
buy a pair of shoes.

In contrast with the above-named comic casts, Forrest took the second
parts to the Damon, Brutus, and Virginius of the stars Pelby and
Pemberton, and at his own benefit played Richard the Third.

Without making a great sensation or achieving any brilliant success,
he was decidedly popular. Sol Smith and Moses Dawson, editors of the
two Cincinnati newspapers at that time, both praised him highly and
prophesied his future eminence. Moses Dawson--a leading Democrat of
the West, the first to raise the political banner inscribed with the
name of Andrew Jackson, and who is said to have died of joy at the
triumph of his party in the Presidential election of 1844--wrote the
earliest earnest and studious criticisms ever composed on the acting
of Forrest. He carefully noted all the points and peculiarities of the
youthful performer, honestly stated his defects and faults, generously
signalized his excellences, and made judicious suggestions for his
profit. His candid and thoughtful words were of great service to the
boy, and were never forgotten by the man.

A specimen from one of these articles will be of interest: "Mr.
Forrest has a finely-formed and expressive countenance, expressing
all the passions with marvellous exactness and power, and he looks
the character of Richard much better than could be expected from a
person of his years. He assumes a stately majesty of demeanor, passes
suddenly to wheedling hypocrisy, and then returns to the haughty strut
of towering ambition, with a facility which sufficiently evidence that
he has not only deeply studied but also well understood the immortal
bard. The scene with Lady Ann appeared to us unique, and superior to
everything we have ever seen, not excepting Kemble or Cooke. In the
soliloquies he uttered the sentiments as if they had arisen in his mind
in that regular succession, and we never once caught his eye wandering
towards the audience. Of the tent scene we do not hesitate to say that
it was a very superior piece of acting. Horror and despair were never
more forcibly represented. We consider Mr. Forrest's natural talents
of the highest grade, and we hope his good sense will prevent him from
being so intoxicated with success as to neglect study and industry. We
are willing to render to youthful talent a full meed of praise; but
while we applaud, we would caution. Applause should not be received as
a reward, but as an incentive to still further exertion to deserve it."

During his first engagement in Cincinnati, Forrest boarded with widow
Bryson, on Main Street. Almost half a century afterwards, William D.
Gallagher sought this excellent woman out, and obtained from her some
very interesting reminiscences. It seems that General Harrison, who was
subsequently President of the United States, came to Mrs. Bryson one
day and asked her to do him the favor to take as a boarder a young man
named Edwin Forrest, who was then playing at one of the theatres. The
General said he feared, if the youth boarded with the other players,
he would form bad habits. He wished to guard him from this, as he
considered him a young man of extraordinary ability, and destined to
excel in his profession. She assented. She said he was at that time
a beautiful boy, with deep and very dark brown eyes, a complexion of
marble clearness mantling with blood, and a graceful, sinewy form. He
once made her very angry by an insulting remark concerning one of the
female boarders, whose conduct did not suit his ideas of propriety.
Mrs. Bryson declared that she would not have such language used at
her table. He replied that of course he did not apply it to her. But
she could not forget, and sent for General Harrison, and related the
matter to him. He brought Edwin before her. The youth hung down his
head. "Poor fellow!" added the old lady, "it has been a long time since
then. Forty-six or seven years. Yet I can plainly see him standing
there now!" Eying him sternly, the General said, "Sir, the father of
this lady was a Revolutionary soldier; her husband was one of my trusty
officers in the late war; and she is a lady whom I highly esteem. When
I introduced you into her family, I did not suppose you would treat
her with disrespect; and I now ask you to make her a humble apology."
Edwin raised his head and said, "General, I did make a severe remark
concerning a particular person whom Mrs. Bryson thinks she knows, but
does not. It was an unguarded act. I am very sorry for it, and ask
her a thousand pardons. I assure you, madam, I would not, under any
circumstances, use words to hurt your feelings." He then turned and
made a humble excuse to Harrison, who reprimanded him with severity.
It did him good; it was a lesson he never forgot. But Mrs. Bryson
confessed that she learned soon after that he was right in what he had
said about the woman.

One Sunday evening there came up a dreadful thunder-storm. As the
thunders crashed and rattled, the frightened women, with Mrs. Bryson at
their head, rushed into Edwin's room. He went to the window, raised it,
took his sword and waved it out. When the electric flashes broke, it
looked as if the lightnings were dancing on the point of his sword. The
women fled out of his room with even greater terror than they had come
into it, and he laughed heartily to see them scamper.

Gallagher was present at an interview of Mrs. Bryson and her daughter
with Mr. Forrest in 1869, the first time they had met for forty-six
years. Although the daughter, Mrs. Kemp, was but a little girl when
they parted, he recognized her at the first glance. They spent a
long time in unrestrained enjoyment, talking over the events of the
old times as if they were things that had occurred but a few days
previously. Mrs. Bryson exclaimed, "Oh, Edwin Forrest, I can scarcely
realize it when I look at you and think what a beautiful boy you were
when we last met, and now see you such a great, heavy man, and getting
into age, too!"

At the end of the winter, Collins and Jones found their enterprise a
pecuniary failure. They incontinently shut up the theatre and turned
the whole company out to shift for themselves as best they could. These
poor children of Thespis were in a pitiful plight. Without money,
without employment or prospects, what could they do? About a dozen of
them, including Forrest, Mrs. Riddle, and her two daughters, determined
to extemporize a vagrant company, travel into the country, and try
their fortune from town to town. Their action was as prompt as their
pluck was good and their means small. With a couple of rickety wagons
and two dreadfully thin old horses, they started off for Hamilton, most
of them on foot. It is interesting to contemplate the little band of
strolling players as they thus set out on their adventures. On their
journey they scrutinized many a passing itinerant unlike themselves,
laughed and sang in jovial liberty, while the birds sang around them
by day and the stars twinkled over their heads by night. If there were
hardships in it, tough and scanty fare, rude conditions, weary trudges,
harsh treatment, wretched patronage, there were also in it rich
experiences of life at first hand, a rough relish, a free existence in
the open air, and all the traditional associations linking them to
the strollers of other times and lands, wandering minstrels, beggars,
apprentices, gypsies, and those travelling groups of actors who used to
perform in the yards of inns or the halls of baronial castles, and a
specimen of whom found a so much better than lenten entertainment from
the hands of Hamlet at Elsinore.

After performing at Hamilton for eight or ten nights, in the second
story of a venerable barn, with more applause than profit, they went
to Lebanon. An interesting reminiscence of this time is given by the
following fac-simile of a note afterwards redeemed by its signer, and
found carefully preserved among his papers at his death:


  Hamilton August 6th 1823
  Due Wm Cooper or order one
  dollar & fifty cents for Value Recd
  August 6th 1823----
  Edwin Forrest]

They met little encouragement at Lebanon, and proceeded to Dayton,
where they had still poorer success. In fact, their funds and their
hopes gave out together, and they agreed to disperse. Forrest had not
one cent in his pocket. He started on foot for Cincinnati, a distance
of about forty miles. Journeying along on the bank of the Big Miami
River, he spied a canoe on the other shore. How much easier it would
be to float than to walk! He stripped, plunged, and swam. As soon
as he was near enough to see that the boat was chained and locked,
the owner of it appeared and pointed a gun at him. He made backward
strokes to his clothes, and resumed his plod. It was evening when he
reached Cincinnati, pretty well fagged out. Some of his acquaintances
met him in the street, said an amateur club were that night to play
the farce of Miss in her Teens across the river at Newport, that one
of the fellows was drunk, and asked him if he would fill the vacancy.
He consented to do it for five dollars. They agreed to give that
price, and he went and did it. The excessive fatigue probably made it
the hardest-earned, as it was the sorest-needed, five dollars he ever
received. It nearly exhausted the proceeds of the performance.

In a short time the scattered strollers rejoined their forces at
Louisville to try one more experiment. They succeeded moderately
well. But Archibald Woodruff, keeper of the Globe Inn in Cincinnati,
had fitted up a hasty and cheap structure adjoining his tavern, and
christened it the Globe Theatre. He invited the Louisville company to
come and open it. They did so on the evening of June 2d, 1823, with
Douglas, Forrest as Norval. June 4th they gave the play of The Iron
Chest, Forrest as Sir Edward Mortimer, Mrs. Riddle as Lady Helen. On
subsequent nights he sustained among other characters those of George
Barnwell, Octavian in The Mountaineers, Jaffier in Venice Preserved,
and Richard the Third, besides several parts in low comedy.

But perhaps the most surprising fact connected with this portion of
his career is that he was the first actor who ever represented on
the stage the Southern plantation negro with all his peculiarities
of dress, gait, accent, dialect, and manners. This he did ten years
before T. D. Rice, usually denominated the originator of the Ethiopian
drama, made his début at the Bowery in the character of Jim Crow. Rice
deserves his fame, for, though preceded first by Forrest, and then in a
more systematic fashion by George W. Dixon, he was the man who really
popularized the burnt-cork and burlesque minstrelsy and made it the
institution it became.

The fortunes of the Globe were in such a state that the establishment
was on the point of breaking up, when Sol Smith hired it for one night.
He brought out three pieces, the comedy of Modern Fashions, a farce
entitled The Tailor in Distress, and the pantomime of Don Quixote. He
agreed to pay each performer two dollars. For this sum Forrest acted
a dandy in the first play, a negro in the second, and Sancho Panza
in the third. The Tailor in Distress was a light affair, composed by
Sol Smith, turning on local matters well known and very ludicrous.
The part of Ruban, the negro, assigned to Forrest, was full of songs,
dances, and fun. He was a servant, and his wife, who had nothing to
say, was to appear with him as a help to set off his performance. He
blacked himself up and rigged his costume quite to his content, when
it occurred to his thought that no one had been got for the part of
his black wife. He applied to the women of the theatre, but not one of
them was willing to black herself for the occasion. He recollected his
old African washerwoman, who lived in a shanty close by. He hurried
thither and knocked and went in. Dinah cried, "Wha, bress me! who am
dis? Gosh-a-massy, who be you? Whose chile am you?" He answered, in a
negro voice, "Wha, Dinah, duzzent you know Sambo?" "What Sambo?" she
answered. "No, I duzzent know nothin' about you. Who is you?" "Heaw!
heaw! You duzzent know me! Now, don't you petend you am ign'rant ob
dis chile." "Well, I say I be, and want to know who you am!" Time was
pressing, and he said, in simple earnest, "Dinah, I am Mr. Forrest,
from the theatre. I am all blacked and dressed to play the part of a
negro, and I must have a black wife to go on the stage with me. I want
you to do it." The astonished and incredulous washerwoman responded,
"De debbil you does!" Sharply examining her visitor, she recognized
him. "Reely, now, it be de fac'. You am Mass' Forrest. But what a funny
nigger you am! You nigger all ober!" "Yes, Dinah, but hurry along, or
we shall be late." "Well, I duzzent care; I goes along wid you anyhow."
So they hastened arm-in-arm to the theatre, and got there just in time.
The appearance of the darkies was greeted with loud applause, and when
Ruban began to let out the regular cuffy, as he always could in the
most irresistible way, with wide and suddenly breaking inflections of
voice, breathing guffaw, and convulsive double-shuffle, the enthusiasm
of the audience reached the highest pitch. The play was repeated
several nights to crowds.

The Distressed Tailor referred to a well-known representative of that
profession, named Platt Evans, who was a very curious and original
character. He was interviewed by Mr. Gallagher in 1869, who found
him a hale, active man of over eighty, and still fond of his joke.
Old Platt said, "The farce was a da-da-da-dam good thing; on-on-only
the character of me wa-was not true, as he stu-stu-stu-stuttered,
and I do-don't stu-stu-stutter!" He said he made a suit of clothes
for Forrest in 1823, and that once when he was in the store a fellow
accused him of being stuffed. Forrest took off his coat and vest, and,
striking his breast, exclaimed, "No, there is no padding here. It is
all honest, and I mean it always shall be!"

It was now the end of July. The theatre was shut, the actors adrift
and penniless. It was a hard time for them. Mrs. Riddle and her two
daughters lived for awhile in Newport in a little dilapidated cottage,
and Forrest spent part of his time with them. Invited to a party on one
occasion, he was in want of a clean shirt and collar. Mrs. Riddle took
a collar and a handkerchief of her own, washed and ironed them, pinned
the collar on, tied a piece of ribbon around his neck, fastened the
handkerchief over the bosom of his dingy shirt, and sent him smilingly
off to the festivity, where his disguise was probably little suspected.
Young, full of healthy blood, with a fiery imagination, it took but
little to make him happy in those days. And yet, poor, ill clad,
unemployed, with only a few chance friends, at a distance from mother
and home, it took but little to make him very unhappy.

For several weeks he obtained almost his sole food from the corn-fields
of General Taylor across the river in Newport. He used to break off an
armful of ears, take them to his old negro washerwoman, and get her to
boil them for him. Sometimes he made a fire under some stones out in
the field, roasted the corn and ate it without salt. It was a Spartan
dinner; but, fortunately, he had a Spartan appetite.

During this period he one day rowed over the river to Covington and
climbed a sightly eminence there wooded with a growth of oaks. He sat
down under a huge tree, pulled from his pocket his well-worn copy of
Shakspeare, and began to read. He had on a somewhat ragged coat and
a dilapidated pair of stage-boots whose gilding contrasted with the
rusty remainder of his costume. He was no little depressed that day
with loneliness and thinking of his destitute condition and precarious
outlook. He fell upon this passage in King Henry IV.:

  "O God! that one might read the book of Fate,
   And see the revolution of the times
   Make mountains level, and the continent,
   Weary of solid firmness, melt itself
   Into the sea! and, other times, to see
   The beachy girdle of the ocean
   Too wide for Neptune's hips; how chances mock,
   And changes fill the cup of alteration
   With divers liquors! O, if this were seen,
   The happiest youth--viewing his progress through,
   What perils past, what crosses to ensue--
   Would shut the book, and sit him down and die."

Edwin felt melancholy enough as he laid the volume on his knee, and his
head sank on his bosom in painful musing. After a long time, breaking
from his reverie, he looked up. There stood, erect before him, a stout
grape-vine. Apparently its tendrils had been torn from the oak by whose
side it grew, and finding itself cast off, alone, deprived of its
sustaining protection, it had rallied upon its own roots, spread and
deepened them, and now held itself bravely up in solitary independence,
as if it were not a vine but a tree. The moral lesson electrified him.
He took new heart, with the feeling that it would be shameful for him
to succumb when even a poor plant could thus conquer. Twenty years
afterwards, with a grateful memory of the incident, he bought that
whole woodland region, of some sixty acres, and named it Forrest Hill.
He owned it at the day of his death.

After another brief trial of the theatre at Lexington, late in the
autumn, Collins and Jones grew discouraged, gave up their business,
and released Forrest from his contract with them. James H. Caldwell,
an extremely good light comedian, and for many years proprietor and
manager of the theatre in New Orleans, wrote to him opportunely,
offering him an engagement for the ensuing season at a salary of
eighteen dollars a week. It is said that Caldwell was led to make this
proposition from his remembrance of having once seen the youth make an
original point of great power in the part of Richard the Third. It was
in the tent scene. All previous actors had been wont to awake from the
dream in a state of extreme affright, and either sit on the side of
the couch or stand near it. Forrest sprang from his reclining posture,
rushed forward to the foot-lights, and there fell upon his knees, with
his whole frame trembling, his face blanched with terror, his sword
grasped by the hilt in one hand and with the point in the floor, the
sword itself so shaking that it could be heard all over the house. The
intense realism with which this was done made it sensational in an
extraordinary degree.

When Forrest had accepted the proposal from Caldwell, the thought of
the long, long journey and the time that must elapse before he should
see his mother again gave him a homesick feeling. He shrank from his
engagement. Learning that his acquaintance Sol Smith was then in
Lexington collecting a troupe to play in Cincinnati, he called on him
and urgently begged to be employed. He said he had rather serve under
him for ten dollars a week than under a stranger for eighteen. He was
steadily refused. He went over to a circus which then chanced to be
there, and hired himself out for a year. Smith says he heard of this
with great mortification, and immediately called at the circus. There,
he adds, sure enough, was Ned in all his glory, surrounded by riders,
tumblers, and grooms. He was slightly abashed at first, but, putting
a good face on the affair, said, as he had been refused an engagement
at ten dollars a week by his old friend, he had agreed with these
boys for twelve. To convince Smith of his ability to sustain his new
line of business, he turned a couple of flip-flaps on the spot. Smith
took Edwin to his lodgings, and by dint of argument and persuasion
succeeding in getting him to abandon the profession of clown and fulfil
his promise to Caldwell.

He accordingly went to Louisville and took passage on a steamboat
down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. On the trip he
made the acquaintance of Winfield Scott and of John Howard Payne. The
celebrated general and the gifted author of Sweet Home seem both to
have been strongly attracted to the young actor. They held many long
conversations with him, and brought out, from their ample stores of
experience in the field and on the boards, anecdotes, principles,
criticism, and advice, which were not only highly entertaining to him
at the time but lastingly instructive and useful. He always accounted
his meeting with these two men as a particular piece of good fortune.
It betokens that he was at that period of his life an ingenuous and
docile spirit, however impulsive and wild still attracting the sympathy
and appropriating from the experience of his elders.



FORREST made his first appearance in New Orleans, at the American
Theatre, as Jaffier in Venice Preserved, February 4th, 1824, Caldwell
sustaining the part of Pierre. His individuality and his acting
immediately made a strong impression on the general audience, and
drew towards him the fervent personal interest of those particular
individuals, both men and women, whose qualities of character caused
them to feel a vivid curiosity and sympathy for highly-marked and
expressive specimens of human nature. Accordingly, he very soon had
many intimate friends among both sexes,--friends whose pronounced types
of being and impassioned styles of life wrought assimilatingly upon him
in that frank, lusty, and plastic period of his experience.

New Orleans at that time was a city of about thirty thousand
inhabitants. It was the chief commercial and social capital of the
South, and thoroughly conscious of its pre-eminence. On its small
but concentrated scale it was the gayest, most Parisian city in the
country. The Spanish and French blood of the original settlers of
Louisiana and of their early followers was largely represented in its
leading families. Then and there the chivalry of the slave-holding
South, in all its patrician characteristics both of virtue and of vice,
was at the acme of its glory. The types of men were unquestionably the
most varied and sharply defined and pushed to the greatest extremes of
development, the freedom and beauty of the women the most intoxicating
and dangerous, the social life the most voluptuous, passionate, and
reckless, of those of any city in the United States. Wealth was great,
easily found, carelessly lost, leisure ample, pride intense, living
luxurious, manly sports and exercises in physical training assiduously
cultivated, gambling common, duelling and every form of desperate
personal conflict constant, the code of manners alternately bewitching
in courtesy and terrible in ferocity. From every part of the State the
gentlemen planters loved to congregate in New Orleans, perfect masters
of their limbs, their faculties, their weapons, and their horses, not
knowing fear or embarrassment, living their thoughts and passions
spontaneously out, their tall forms aflush with bold sensibility, the
rich strength and grace of the thoroughbred pointing their elastic
motions. And in the parlor, the ball-room, at fashionable resorts, on
the promenades, the women were the peers of the men in their intensity
of being, their fondness of adventure, their courage, brilliance,
and piquancy. The crossing of tropical bloods, the long lineage of
aristocratic habitudes of ardent indulgence and leisurely culture, had
produced a class of women famed throughout the land for the symmetry
of their forms, the visible music of their movements, the dreamy
softness of their voices, and the bewildering charm of their eyes,
swimming seas of languor and fire. Many an imaginative and burning
nature asked no other paradise than the arms of these Creole houris.
But, unfortunately, the reverse of being immortal, its dissolving
views melted into degradation and vanished in death, too often with
accompaniments of frantic jealousy, crime, and horror.

These men and these women, naturally enough, were fascinating to the
adolescent actor, whose faculties were all aglow with ambition to
excel, whose curiosity was on edge in every direction to know the
contents of the living world which it was his profession to portray,
and whose passions were just breaking from their fullest bud. Nor was
he any less fascinating to them. His bluff courage, his young formative
docility and eagerness, his smiling openness of face and bearing,
so sadly changed in later years, and the nameless badge of personal
distinction and original force he bore on his front and in his accent,
drew the men to make much of him. So the outlines of his slender but
sinewy and breathing form with the muscles so superbly defined, the
deep and mellow tones of his ringing voice in which the clang-tints
of the whole organism were audible, his large and dark-brown eyes so
clearly set and brilliant, his fresh blood teeming over him in vital
revelation at each vehement mood, and the speaking truthfulness of his
portrayals of thought and sentiment in character, magnetized the women,
secured him many a flattering smile and note and flower, and led to
no slight experience in amours, which put their permanent stamp upon
his inner being, and often rose out of the vistas of memory in pictures
when he shut his eyes and mused in his lonely old age. A biography of
Forrest which omitted these things would be like a description of the
Saint Lawrence without an allusion to Niagara.

In his opening manhood, before repeated experiences of injustice,
slander, and treachery had in any degree soured and closed his soul,
Forrest had a heart as much formed for friendship as for love. He
was full of ingenuous life, sportive, affectionate, every way most
companionable. His friendships were fervent and faithfully cherished.
The disappointments, the revulsions of feeling, and the results on his
final character, we shall see in the later stages of this biography.

Caldwell felt a strong interest in the young actor, and was of service
to him outside of the theatre as well as within it. He introduced him
to a higher order of society with more aristocratic manners and refined
accomplishments than he had been accustomed to, thus affording him an
opportunity, had he been so minded, to make his upward way socially
not less than professionally. As a keen observer and a quick learner,
he did not fail to reap some valuable fruits from the advantages
thus afforded him. But his forte lay not in this direction. He had
then, and always afterwards, a deep distaste to all that is called
fashionable society. He was insuperably democratic in his very bones.
For the elaborate forms and conventionalities of the polite world he
had a rooted repugnance. He wanted to be free and downright in honest
speech and demeanor, making his outer manifestations correspond exactly
with his inner states. He could not bear, in accordance with the
conventions of the best society, to pretend to be inferior where he
felt himself superior, to affect to be interested when he was bored,
to express insincere nothings to give pleasure, and carefully hide
his most earnest thoughts and feelings lest they should give pain.
This art of polished intercourse--quite necessary in our world, and
often as artistic and useful as it is artificial and compromising--he
vehemently disliked and was never an adept in. Instead of gracefully
appropriating it for its gracious uses while spurning its evils, he
impatiently rebelled against it, stigmatizing it in blunt phrase as a
cursed hypocrisy. This defect in him it is needful to recognize as one
of the keys to his character and career. His athletic, bluff nature,
true and generous, lacked the flexible suavity of the spirituelle
qualities, a lack which prevented his universal success, causing him to
jar on persons of squeamish disposition or fastidious taste. Until a
long series of revulsive experiences had trained him to be silent and
reticent, his impulsive frankness and passionate love of freedom made
it extremely irksome and chafing to him purposely to adapt himself to
others at the expense of his own honest emotions. He never could be
in the slightest degree a courtier or a tuft-hunter, but--like Edmund
Kean, and many another man of genius whose abounding and impetuous
soul loved nature and truth in their spontaneous forms more than any
of the gilded substitutes for them--he ever preferred to be with those
in whose presence he could act himself out just as he was and just as
he felt. His playing in the theatre, instead of fitting, by reaction
unfitted him for playing in society. If, on the stage, he consented
to seem, all the more, off from it, he desired to be. The basis of
this veritable self-assertion was his vigorous manliness; and so far
it was creditable to him. But the extravagance to which he carried it
partook of pride and wilfulness, and was an error and a fault. The code
of fashion, tyrannical and imperfect as it is, has uses without which
society could scarcely get on. It cannot be neglected with impunity.
Forrest was no exception, but paid the penalty for his independence in
the neglect with which Fashion, as such, always treated him.

Among the foibles which especially beset the histrionic profession
are vanity, greed of applause, jealousy, invidious rivalry. Manager
Caldwell was not free from these weaknesses. His pride as a player was
as strong as his prudential regard for the interests of his theatre. No
actor in the South had been a greater favorite, and no member of his
company had ever rivalled him. He had carefully awakened an interest
in advance for his protégé, saying to his friends that he had engaged
in Kentucky a young man named Edwin Forrest, who had high talent, was
industrious, resolved to rise to the top of the profession, and who,
he was sure, would greatly please the New Orleans public. But when
the pupil made such rapid progress and gained such loud plaudits that
the master felt himself in danger of being eclipsed, he had recourse
to an artifice not uncommon, though certainly somewhat ungenerous. He
reserved the best parts for himself, and cast his rising competitor
in inferior or repulsive characters, most often in the part of an
old man. Forrest saw the design and inwardly resented it, though he
said nothing. He followed the wise course of trying to make the best
he could of the part assigned him. He made a careful study of the
peculiarities of age, in feature, in gait, in voice. He would often
sit in places of public resort and critically watch every old man who
came in or went out. Many a time when he had chanced to discover some
striking example of power and dignity or of weakness and decrepitude in
an old man he would follow him in the street and mentally imitate him,
reproducing and fixing what he saw. In this way he soon attained such
skill that his representations of these parts won him as much approval
as he had ever received for the more congenial and showy rôles to which
he had been accustomed.

Caldwell was fond of society, cared little for individuals, and, as
some thought, held his theatrical vocation subsidiary to personal ends.
The superficialities and insincerities of fashion did not distress him.
Forrest had an aversion to society, a passion for individuals, and an
intense ambition to excel in his art, which he loved for itself. It was
quite natural that the friendship of men so unlike, to say nothing of
their great disparity in years, should be streaked with coolnesses and
gradually cease. It was not long in dying, though they continued to
get along together comfortably, with some trifling exceptions, until
their bond was suddenly ruptured by an irritating event which will be
narrated on a succeeding page.

But it was outside of the circle of the theatrical company with which
he was associated in New Orleans that Forrest found the most rich and
decisive influences, at the same time developing his organism, moulding
his character, and enhancing his dramatic powers. These influences were
exerted on him chiefly through the five closest friends he had in the
city, five men intimately grouped, to be the confidant of one of whom
was to be the confidant of all, men of the most remarkable force and
finish of personality each in his own kind, each of them an intense
type of the class he represented. They were all men of great personal
beauty and strength, tall, supple, lithe, absolutely ignorant of fear,
chivalrous in disposition, loose in habits, kind and loving in their
native moods, but relentless and terrible in their wrath. Some insight
into the sympathetic assimilation of these superb and fearful persons
upon Forrest, and some tracing of the effect on his nature and on
his art of the cycle of experience which they revealed to him partly
by description, partly by personal introduction, are essential to an
understanding of his great career.

Those who are often and long together influence one another more than
is usually supposed. Their giving and taking of opinions, prejudices,
habits, and even organic peculiarities, are far beyond their own
conscious purpose or recognition. Not unfrequently intimate associates
obviously grow like one another in look, action, voice, passion, type
of character, quality of temper, style of manners, and mode of life.
This is confessedly matter of observation; but the law of its operation
or the importance of the results very few understand. It is the
sympathetic impartation and reproduction, between two or more parties,
of inner states through outer signs; and, as to noble qualities, it
is proportioned in degree to the docility of the persons, combined
with their richness of organization. Those who have plastic nervous
systems copiously furnished with force, and who are eager to improve,
take possession of one another's knowledge and accomplishments with
marvellous celerity. By intuition and instinct they seem to reflect
their contents and transmit their habitudes with mutual appropriation.
In this unpurposed but saturating school of real life what the superior
knows and does passes into the sympathetic observer by a sort of
contagion. Those whose nerves are capable of the same kinds and rates
of vibration play into each other and are attuned together, as the
sounding string of one musical instrument propagates its pulses through
the air and awakens a harmonic sound in the corresponding string of
another instrument. This is the scientific basis of what is loosely
called _human magnetism_, and it is a factor of incomparable import in
the problem of human life.

The one of Forrest's New Orleans friends first to be named is James
Bowie, inventor and unrivalled wielder of that terrible weapon for
hand-to-hand fights named from him the bowie-knife. He was a member of
the aristocratic class of the South, planter, gentleman, traveller,
adventurer, sweet-spoken, soft-mannered, poetic, and chivalrous,
and possessed of a strength and a courage, a cool audacity and an
untamable will, which seemed, when compared with any ordinary standard,
superhuman. These qualities in a hundred conflicts never failed to
bring him off conqueror. In heart, when not roused by some sinister
influence, he was as open as a child and as loving as a woman. In
soul high-strung, rich and free, in physical condition like a racing
thoroughbred or a pugilist ready for the ring, an eloquent talker,
thoroughly acquainted with the world from his point of view, he was a
charming associate for those of such tastes, equally fascinating to
friends and formidable to foes. As a personal competitor, taken nakedly
front to front, few more ominous and magnificent specimens of man have
walked on this continent.

His favorite knife, used by him awfully in many an awful fray, he
presented as a token of his love to Forrest, who carefully preserved it
among his treasured keepsakes. It was a long and ugly thing, clustering
with fearful associations in its very look; plain and cheap for real
work, utterly unadorned, but the blade exquisitely tempered so as not
to bend or break too easily, and the handle corrugated with braids of
steel, that it might not slip when the hand got bloody. Journeying in
a stage-coach, in cold weather, after stopping for a change of horses
a huge swaggering fellow usurped a seat belonging to an invalid lady,
leaving her to ride on the outside. In vain the lady expostulated with
him; in vain several others tried to persuade him to give up the place
to her. At last a man who sat in front of the offender, so muffled and
curled up in a great cloak that he looked very small, dropped the cloak
down his shoulders, took his watch in his left hand, lifted a knife in
his right, and, straightening himself up slowly till it seemed as if
his head was going through the top of the coach, planted his unmoving
eyes full on those of the intruder, and said, in a perfectly soft and
level tone which gave the words redoubled power, "Sir, if within two
minutes you are not out of that seat, by the living God I will cut
your ears off!" The man paused a few seconds to take in the situation.
He then cried, "Driver, let me out! I won't ride with such a set of
damned murderers!" That was Bowie with his knife. Fearful, yet not
without something admirable. Another anecdote of him will illustrate
still better the atmosphere of the class of men under whose patronizing
influence Forrest came in the company of his friend Bowie.

The plantations of Bowie and a very quarrelsome Spaniard joined each
other. The proprietors naturally fell out. The Spaniard swore he would
shoot Bowie on the first chance. The latter, not liking to live with
such an account on his hands, challenged his neighbor, who was a very
powerful and skilful fighter with all sorts of weapons and had in his
time killed a good many men. The Spaniard accepted the challenge, and
fixed the following conditions for the combat. An oak bench six feet
long, two feet high, and one foot wide should be firmly fastened in
the earth. The combatants, stark naked, each with a knife in his right
hand, its blade twelve inches in length, should be securely strapped to
the bench, face to face, their knees touching. Then, at a signal, they
should go at it, and no one should interfere till the fight was done.
The murderous temper of the arrangements was not more evident than the
horrible death of one of the men or of both was sure. But Bowie did not
shrink. He said to himself, "If the Spaniard's hate is so fiendish,
why, he shall have his bellyful before we end." All was ready, and a
crowd stood by. Bowie may tell the rest himself, as he related it a
dozen years after to Forrest, whose blood curdled while he listened:

"We confronted each other with mutual watch, motionless, for a minute
or two. I felt that it was all over with me, and a slight chill went
through my breast, but my heart was hot and my brain was steady, and I
resolved that at all events he should die too. Every fight is won in
the eye first. Well, as I held my look rooted in his eye, I suddenly
saw in it a slight quiver, an almost imperceptible sign of giving way.
A thrill of joy shot through my heart, and I knew that he was mine. At
that instant he stabbed at me. I took his blade right through my left
arm, and at the same time, by an upward stroke, as swift as lightning
and reaching to his very spine, I ripped him open from the abdomen to
the chin. He gave a hoarse grunt, the whole of his insides gushed out,
and he tumbled into my lap, dead."

An intimate of Bowie, and a firm patron and friend of Forrest, teaching
him much by precept in answer to his inquiries, and contagiously
imparting to him yet more by personal contact and example, was
Colonel Macaire. The real name of this man, and also those of the
two succeeding members of the group, are replaced here by fictitious
ones on account of their relatives who are still living. The two most
prominent traits of Macaire in social life were his enthusiasm for the
military art and his extreme fondness for horses. He was a finished
soldier and officer. The martial discipline had left its results
plainly all through his mind and his person, in a sensitive loyalty to
the code of honor, an easy precision of movement, and an authoritative
suavity of demeanor. The military art, on the whole, regarded in its
influences on individuals and nations, is perhaps the richest in its
power and the most exact in its methods of all the disciplines thus far
developed in history. Its drill, faithfully applied to a fair subject,
nourishes the habit of obedience and the faculty of command, regulates
and refines the behavior, lifts the head, throws back the shoulders,
brings out the chest, deepens the breathing, frees the circulation,
and through its marching time-beat exalts the rank of the organism
by co-ordinating its functions in a spirit of rhythm. It changes the
contracted and fixed action of the muscles for an action flowing over
the shoulders and hips and drawing on the spinal column instead of the
brain. And every work which can be shifted from the brain to the spine
is a mental economy especially needed in these days of excessive mental
action and deficient vital action.

Macaire was a great expert in horses, ever to be found where the
best thoroughbreds were to be seen, attending races with the most
avid relish. And it is well known that hardly anything else is so
effective in imparting vitality and courage to a man as the habit of
sympathetic contact with horses, looking at them, breathing with them,
handling them, driving them. The popular instinct says they give their
magnetism to their keepers. The fact is, the vibrations of the blood
and nerves of the animal are communicated to those of the man and
strengtheningly mix with them. The evil connected with this good is
that the companionship often not only imparts vital force and courage
but likewise stimulates the coarser animal passions. The tendency,
however, is neutralized in the man of refinement.

It was from his friendship with Macaire--attending races, going through
stables, visiting armories, drills, and fields of review--that Forrest
first learned to feel that keen love for horses which was one of his
passions to the end of his life, and first took that intelligent
interest in the law of the military drill which gradually grew upon him
until he had appropriated its fruits. For the inartistic rudeness of
his early gymnastic, his rough circus-tumbling, had left him somewhat
stiff and enslaved in parts of his body. But rhythmic movements,
regulated by will until they become automatic, free the muscles and
joints and give the organism a liberal grace, a generous openness
and ease of bearing. A few months after his début in New Orleans the
"Advertiser" remarked, "We are happy to be able to say that Mr. E.
Forrest now uses his limbs with freedom and grace." The improvement had
made itself plain.

The third of the set of comrades grouped about Forrest at this time
was Gazonac, one of the most remarkable of the gentlemen gamblers and
duellists for whom the Crescent City was famous fifty years ago. Such
were the qualities of this smooth, imperturbable, and accomplished
man, consummate master of every trick of his art and of every weapon
of offence or defence, and such was the tone of popular sentiment in
the place, that although gambling was his profession and duelling
his diversion he neither had a bad conscience in himself nor was
regarded as an outcast by the community. He was a rare judge and
adept in everything concerning the physical powers of men, and the
expression of their passions in real life under the most concentrated
excitements. And he was himself trained to the very nicest possible
degree of self-control. His muscular tissue, of the most elastic and
tenacious texture, covered him like a garment flowing around his joints
as if it had no fastenings, and under it he moved in subtle ease and
concealment, allowing no conceivable provocation to extort any signal
without consent of his will. His nervous system had been drilled to
act with the precision of astronomical clock-work. His conscious
calculations had the swiftness and exactitude of the instincts of
animals. What he did not know concerning the public sporting life and
the secret passionate life of the city was not worth knowing; and he
knew it not superficially but through and through. He had fought a
dozen duels and always killed his opponent. "How have you invariably
come off victor?" Forrest once asked him. "It is easy enough," he
answered, "if one is but complete master of himself, of his weapon, and
of the situation, cool as personified mathematics. I always shoot, on
an exact calculation, just enough quicker than my adversary for my ball
to strike him as he fires, and so disorder his aim."

An absolute social nonchalance in every emergency, a perfect
superiority to the fear of our fellow-beings singly or collectively, is
attainable only in one of three ways, if we omit idiotic insensibility,
sheer brute stolidity. First, by ourselves, as it were, impersonating
and representing the established standard of judgment, the code by
which we and our conduct are to be tested. This is the assured ease of
the fashionable leader, the noble, the king. Second, by utterly defying
that standard, and ignoring it, substituting for it a personal standard
of our own, or the code of some special class of our associates. This
is the sang-froid of the gambler, the stony courage of the habituated
criminal. He is immovably collected, cool, and brave, in spite of his
condemnation by law and morality, because he has displaced from his
consciousness the social standard of judgment prevalent around him
which he disobeys, and set up in its stead another standard which he
obeys. His conscience then does not make a coward of him. Self-poised
in what he himself thinks, he is not disturbed by mental reaction
on what he imagines other people think. The moment he violates his
own conscience or the code which he professes loyalty to, he feels
guilty, and to that extent becomes weak and cowardly. The third method
of superiority to fear is by conscious and direct obedience to the
intrinsic right, the will of God. This is the imperial heroism of the
saint and the martyr. Then the supreme code of the universe makes the
harmonious conscience indomitably superior to the frowning penalties of
all lesser and meaner codes, and no personal enemy, no hostile public
opinion, can terrify.

It was partly by the first, chiefly by the second, hardly at all, it
is to be feared, by the third, of these methods that Gazonac acquired
his marvellous self-possession and marble equilibrium of nerve. But
he had it. And the perfected empire of his being in the range of his
daily life, his transcendent fearlessness of everything external, his
superlative feeling of competency to every occasion, was in itself
a rare achievement and an enviable prize. He had disentangled and
freed the fibres of his brain from all imaginative references to the
opinions of other persons or to the requirements of any code but
the one enthroned in his own bosom. To this imperfect code he was
true, and therefore, however wrong and guilty he may have been, in
his self-sufficingness he did not suffer the retributions of a bad
conscience. He was shielded in the partial insensibility of a defective
conscience. If the conscience of a man be pure and expansive enough
properly to represent to him the will of God or the whole truth of
his duty, then a neglectful superiority to individual censures and to
social opinion is an heroic exaltation, which the more it sets other
men against him so much the more it shows him to be diviner than they.

Under the guidance of this typical man, who was always scrupulously
tender and careful with him, Forrest was initiated into all the
mysteries, all the heights and depths, of a world of experience
kept veiled and secret from most people. It was a world of dreadful
fascinations and volcanic outbreaks, extravagant pleasures and
indescribable horrors,--a world whose heroes are apt, as the proverb
goes, to die with their boots on. Together they visited cock-pits,
race-courses, bar-rooms, gambling-saloons, and every other resort
of disorderly passion and disreputable living. And the young actor
with his professional eyes drank in many a revelation of human nature
uncovered at its deepest places and in its wildest moods. It was a
fearful exposure, and he did not escape unscathed, though it seems from
his after-life that he was more instructed than he was infected. He
never forgot the impression made on him in the cock-pit by the rings
of staring visages, tier above tier, massed in frenzied eagerness
and regularly vibrating with the struggles of the feathered and
gaffed champions whose untamable ferocity of valor and pluck seemed
to satirize the vulgar pride of human battle. Still deeper was the
effect on his memory of the scene when, at a race, he saw a vast crowd,
including the governor of the State, the mayor of the city, members
of Congress, rich planters, leading lawyers and merchants, boatmen,
bullies, and loafers, all armed, yet behaving as politely as in a
parlor, restrained by the knowledge that at the slightest insult knives
would gleam, pistols crack, blood flow, and no one could foretell where
the fray would end.

On one occasion, taking a swim with Gazonac in Lake Pontchartrain,
Forrest saw a thick-set and commanding sort of man, with flashing
black eyes, his breast scarred all over with stabs. "Who is that?" he
asked. "It is Lafitte, the pirate," his comrade replied. A week or
two afterwards, he saw Lafitte, in the square fronting the cathedral,
running like a deer, chased by a man with a knife. Gazonac said, "Oh,
on the quarter-deck, with his myrmidons around him, he could play the
hero; but he was not a brave man. Some men can fight in crowds but
cannot fight singly. This requires courage." He then proceeded to
relate some examples of single-handed fights. Two friends of his fought
a duel on this wise. They were locked in a room in the dark, naked,
each having a knife. In the morning they were found dead in a bloody
heap, cut almost into strips. A man who can foresee such a result yet
go resolutely into it is no coward, Gazonac said.

Two others fought thus. They were to begin with rifles at three hundred
paces; if these failed, advance with pistols; and, these failing, close
with knives. At the first shot both dropped dead: the bullet of one
struck exactly between the eyes, that of the other pierced the pit of
the stomach.

In still another case, two men of his acquaintance were addressing
the same woman, and were very jealous of each other. At an offensive
remark of one the other said, "I will take your right eye for that!"
"Will you?" was the retort, which was scarcely spoken before his enemy
had gouged the eye from his head and politely handed it to him. He
quietly replied, "I thank you," and put the palpitating orb in his
pocket. Then, regardless of the streaming socket and the agony, with
the ferocity and swiftness of a tiger he turned on his remorseless
mutilator and with one stroke of a long and heavy knife nearly
severed his head from his body, and dilated above him shuddering with
revengeful joy.

Besides listening to innumerable descriptions of this sort, nearly as
vivid as sight itself, Forrest actually saw many terrible quarrels and
several fatal fights. And the convulsive exhibitions of human passion
and energy in their elemental rawness thus afforded were recorded in
his imagination and reproduced in the most sensational of his poses
and bursts. That he should be, under such a training, melodramatic
sometimes, whatever else he added, was inevitable. His school was
naturalistic and appalling. Even when he attained to so much that was
finer and higher, some portion of this still clung to him. He had, it
must be remembered, no academic advantages and no tutor, but was a
child of nature.

The fourth member of the Forrest group in New Orleans was Charles
Graham, captain of a steamer on the Mississippi. He was originally a
flatboatman, and was not only familiar with the traditions of the river
and the rude border-life concentrated on its current for so many years,
but well represented it all in himself. He was widely known among all
classes, and especially was such a favorite with the boatmen as to be a
sort of a king over them. Though of a kind heart, he was not incapable
of taking a frightful revenge when wronged or provoked. One of his
men having been abused in a house of disreputable women, he fastened
a cable around a large wooden pier on which the house rested, and,
starting his steamer, pulled the house over into the river and drowned
the whole obscene gang, then proceeded on his way as if nothing had

Such were the typical men in that half-barbaric and reckless
civilization. And it was by his intimacy with them at the most plastic
period of his life that Forrest so completely absorbed and stood for
the most distinctive Americanism of half a century ago. Graham was
fond of the drama, and was drawn warmly to Forrest from his first
appearance in Jaffier. He used to come to the theatre sometimes with a
throng of fifty or even a hundred boatmen in his train. And whenever
the actor indulged in his most carnivorous rages then their delight and
their applause were the most unbounded. It will be seen that the young
tragedian was at that time in a poor school for guiding to artistic
delicacy, but in a capital school for developing natural truth and

The last of the five friends who were most constantly with Forrest
and in one way or another exerted the strongest influences on him was
Push-ma-ta-ha, chief of the Choctaw tribe of Indians, who had a liking
for the white men and some of their arts and was in the custom of
paying long visits to New Orleans. Push-ma-ta-ha was indeed a striking
figure and an interesting character. He was in the bloom of opening
manhood, erect as a column, graceful and sinewy as a stag, with eyes
of piercing brilliancy, a voice of guttural music like gurgling waters,
the motions of his limbs as easy and darting as those of a squirrel.
His muscular tissue in its tremulous quickness seemed made of woven
lightnings. His hair was long, fine, and thick, and of the glossiest
blackness; his skin, mantled with blood, was of the color of ruddy
gold, and his form one of faultless proportions. A genuine friendship
grew up between this chief and Forrest, not without some touch of
simple romance, and leading, as we shall see, to lasting results in the
life of the latter.

Push-ma-ta-ha was a natural orator of a high order. He inherited this
gift from his father, for whom he had a superstitious veneration,
claiming that the Great Spirit had created him without human
intervention. Whether this idea had been implanted in him in his
childhood by some medicine-man, or was a poetic pretence of his own,
Forrest could not tell. The elder chief died in Washington, where he
was tarrying with a deputation. His dying words to his comrades are a
fine specimen of his eloquence; "I shall die, but you will return to
our brethren. As you go along the paths, you will see the flowers and
hear the birds sing, but Push-ma-ta-ha will see them and hear them no
more. When you shall come to your home, they will ask you, Where is
Push-ma-ta-ha? And you will say to them, He is no more. They will hear
the tidings like the sound of the fall of a mighty oak in the stillness
of the woods."

The North American Indian seen from afar is a picturesque object. When
we contemplate him in the vista of history, retreating, dwindling,
soon to vanish before the encroachments of our stronger race, he is
not without mystery and pathos. But studied more nearly, inspected
critically in the detail of his character and habits, the charm for
the most part disappears and is replaced with repulsion. The freedom
of savages from the diseased vices of a luxurious society, the proud
beauty of their free bearing, the relish of their wild liberty with
nature, exempt from the artificial burdens and trammels of our
complicated and stifling civilization, appeal to the imagination.
Poetical writers accordingly have idealized the Indian and set him off
in a romantic light, forgetting that savage life has its own vices,
degradations, and hardships. Cooper, the novelist, paints Indian
life as a series of attractive scenes and adventures, full of royal
traits. Palfrey, the historian, describes it as cheap, tawdry, nasty,
and horrid. There is truth, no doubt, in both aspects of the case;
but the artist naturally selects the favorable point of view, and the
dramatist impersonating a barbaric chieftain very properly tries to
emphasize his virtues and grandeur, leaving his meanness and squalor
in shadow. It is truth of history that the American Indian had noble
and great qualities. His local attachment, tribal patriotism, and
sensitiveness to public opinion, were as deep and strong, and produced
as high examples of bravery and self-sacrifice, as were ever shown
in Greece or Rome, Switzerland or Scotland. Nothing of the kind ever
surpassed his haughty taciturnity and indomitable fortitude. And if
his spirit of revenge was infernal in the level of its quality, it was
certainly sublime in the intensity and volume of its power. Although in
richness of mental equipment and experience there can be no comparison
between them, yet if we had the data for a series of complete parallels
and portraits; it would be extremely instructive to confront Philip
of Pokanoket with Philip of Macedon, Push-ma-ta-ha with Alcibiades,
Tecumseh with Attila, and Osceola with Spartacus. In kinds of passion,
in modes of thought, in styles of natural and social scenery, in
varieties of pleasure and pain, what correspondences and what contrasts
there would be!

The acquaintance of Forrest with Push-ma-ta-ha was the first cause of
his deep interest in the subject of the American Aborigines, of his
subsequent extensive researches into their history, and finally of his
offering a prize for a play which should embody a representative idea
of their genius and their fate.

However wild and questionable in a moral point of view were some of
Forrest's closest friends in New Orleans, and freely as he himself
indulged in pleasure, he shed the worst influences exerted on him, was
never recklessly abandoned to any vice whatever, but held a strong
curb over his passions, and was uniformly faithful and punctual in
the extreme to all his professional duties, steadily working in every
way he knew to improve and to rise. And he owed in several respects
an immense debt to these friends. For, stimulated by the sight of
their superb poise, courage, and exuberant fulness of animal life
and passion, he took them as models, and labored with unflagging
patience by a careful hygiene and gymnastic and critical self-control
to fortify his weak places and lift his constitutional vitality and
confidence to the highest point. He was temperate in food and drink,
scrupulous as to rest and sleep, abundant in bathing, manipulation,
and athletics. His development was steady, and he became in a certain
personal centrality of balance, an assured and massive authority of
bearing, unquestionably one of the most pronounced and imposing men on
the continent.

Nor, in that remote situation, in those tempted days, did he forget his
distant home, with the humble and repulsive hardships pressing on the
dear ones within it. He wrote to them affectionately, cheering them up,
sending them such small remittances as he could afford, and promising
larger ones in the future. With the very first money he received from
Caldwell, after paying his landlady, he purchased and forwarded by ship
to his mother a barrel of flour, a half-barrel of sugar, and a box of
oranges. His youngest sister, in the last year of her life, described
the scene in their home when these things arrived. She was out of the
house on an errand when they came. Entering the door, there sat her
mother weeping for joy, with an open letter in her hand. Caroline stood
with her bonnet on, just starting to take a dish of oranges to one of
their neighbors, and Henrietta rushed forward, crying, "Oh, Eleanora,
here is something from our dear Edwin!"

One evening, near the close of the season, Forrest had made so great
a sensation in the audience that they stamped, clapped, shouted, and
insisted on his coming before the curtain to receive their plaudits.
But he had left the theatre in haste to fulfil an appointment
elsewhere, and knew not of the honor designed for him. The people,
ignorant of his absence, were furious at what they chose to interpret
as his want of respect for them. They vowed vengeance. His benefit
was to come off a few nights later. It was whispered abroad that the
audience would not suffer him to perform unless he offered a meek
apology for his insolent disregard of their wishes. He determined that
he would not apologize, and that he would act. His friends, already
described, with a good number of trusty followers, each a match for
ten untrained men in a fight, were on hand, resolved to protect him,
and, as they phrased it, to put him through. As the curtain rose and
the youthful actor stepped forward, he was greeted with a shower
of hisses, mixed with cries of "Apology! Apology!" It was the first
experience of the kind he had ever known, and he felt for an instant
that horripilating chill called _gooseflesh_ creep over some parts of
his skin. But, nothing daunted, he at once, in the fixed attitude he
had assumed, turned his level eyes on the noisy crowd, and said, in
a calm, clear voice, "Gentlemen, not being guilty of any offence, I
shall make no apology. When you called me, I was out of hearing. Is it
just to punish me for a fault of which I am innocent?" A perfect hush
followed, and in a moment the changed temper of the audience declared
itself in a unanimous cheer, and the play went swimmingly on to the

Soon after the theatre had closed for the summer, about the middle of
June, Forrest was attacked by the dreadful fever to which the city was
periodically exposed. The low state of his finances caused him to dwell
in a malarious quarter near the river, and to stay there at a time
when the city was largely deserted by the better classes. It was the
first severe and serious illness he had suffered. His best friends were
away. He could not afford to hire special attendance. The disease raged
terribly. His pain was extreme, and his depression worse. He thought
he should die; and then bitterly he lamented that he had ever left his
home, to perish in this awful way among strangers. "And yet," he said,
"I meant it for the best; and what else could I do? Oh, my mother,
where are you? How little you imagine the condition your poor boy is
in now!" In his delirium he raved continually about his mother, and
sometimes fancied she was with him, and lavished endearing epithets on
her. So they told him after his recovery.

When he had been confined twelve or fourteen days, left alone one
afternoon, he managed to get on his clothes and crawl into the open
air. He was a most forlorn and miserable wretch, emaciated, trembling,
with a nauseous stomach and a reeling brain. The scene without was in
full keeping with his feelings. The squares were empty and silent. The
grass was growing in the deserted street. The air was thick, lurid, and
quivering with a sickly heat, while to his distempered fancy, through
the steamy haze above, the sun seemed to hang like a great yellow
scab. At that moment a crocodile five or six feet long crept up in
the gutter, and stared stupidly at him with its glazed and devilish
eyes. Horrified, he shook his fist with a feeble cry at the ominous
apparition, and the giant reptile waddled slowly away. He sat down on
the curb-stone, faint and despairing, when who should come along but
his good friend Captain Graham, just then landed at the wharf a few
rods below! Gazing with astonishment at the haggard wreck before him,
the captain exclaimed, "Why, good God, my boy, is that you?" "Yes,"
gasped the poor fellow, piteously, "this is all there is left of Edwin
Forrest." The captain lifted him up and almost carried him to his
boat, laid him on his own bed in the cabin, had him carefully sponged
all over, first with warm water, finally with brandy, then gave him a
heavy dose of raw whiskey. This acted as a benign emetic, and greatly
relieved him. He fell asleep, and slept sweetly all night. The next day
he returned to his lodgings convalescent. And in about three weeks he
was well enough to start off with Caldwell and a part of his company on
a theatrical tour through Virginia. The following letter tells us how
he was then, and what he was doing:

  "PETERSBURG, July 26th, 1824.

"BELOVED MOTHER,--I must indeed beg ten thousand pardons for not
writing to you earlier. Although we are separated, think not you are
forgotten by me. Oh, no, dear mother, you are ever in my memory,
and your happiness is my greatest wish. I hope, my dear mother, in
the course of three or four weeks, to be with you on a visit of a
fortnight or so, but must then return here to perform at Richmond and
Norfolk. I sincerely desire that this vacation may occur. Then I shall
see you; and I assure you such a meeting will be as great a happiness
as I can possess in this world.

"I hope all the family have enjoyed full health since you last wrote.
For myself, I have not altogether been myself since the severe attack
of the fever which I had previous to leaving New Orleans. Well, well,
I am in hopes I shall mend shortly and be myself again. The country
I am now in is delightful, and the climate far more agreeable to me
than that of the South. Please inform me of every little circumstance
that has happened lately. How are my dear sisters? Also, where is my
dear brother Lorman, of whom I have heard nothing for some time? Dear
mother, it will relieve me much if you can give me any information
concerning him.

"How does the old firm of John R. Baker, Son and--no, not clerk now!
But is it still in existence? Should you see Max Stevenson, ask him
whether he received my letter. Make my best regards to Sam Fisher, not
forgetting the worthy Levan. Where are Joe Shipley, Charley Scriver,
and Blighden Van Bann? I have not heard from them lately. Likewise
give me all the information you can respecting the theatres.

"Have you seen Mrs. Page? Mother, she is indeed an excellent lady,
one who merits every attention and regard; and I am sure your
ever-friendly and social feelings towards her will not be lessened
when you know that it will give infinite satisfaction to your wild but
truly affectionate son,


His anticipations of visiting home were doomed to disappointment. In a
letter to his mother, dated at Fredericksburg, September 29th, we find
him saying that he had been acting every night, except Sundays, and
that there was no prospect of an intermission. He adds, "I performed
Pythias for my opening here, and have succeeded to the delight of all
the inhabitants. I had some difficulty with the manager again. He cast
me, as an opening part, in Mortimer in the comedy of Laugh When You
Can. I refused to play it, and left the theatre. However, in two days I
saw my name in the bill for Pythias, and resumed my situation. All has
gone on smoothly since, and I have triumphed over him as a tragedian in
the opinions of those who recently esteemed him above praise or censure.

"As I passed through Washington on the way here, I had the satisfaction
of seeing the worthy old Philadelphia manager, Warren. He expressed
considerable surprise and pleasure when I introduced myself to him; for
I had changed and grown entirely out of his memory."

During this trip in Virginia, Forrest saw Chief-Justice Marshall in a
scene which always remained as a distinct picture in his memory. The
illustrious magistrate was stopping at a country inn in the course
of his circuit. The landlady was trying to catch a hen to roast for
dinner. The feat proving rather difficult for the aged and corpulent
hostess, the Chief Justice came forth to aid her. There he stood,
bare-headed, his vast silver shoe-buckles shining in the sun, a close
body-coat and a pair of tight velvet breeches revealing his spare and
sinewy form, striving to scare the refractory fowls into the hen-coop,
awkwardly waving his hands towards them and crying, "Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!"

A few weeks later, Marshall went to the theatre in Richmond. It was
the only time he had ever visited such a place. On invitation of
Manager Caldwell, he went behind the scenes, examined the machinery
and properties with great interest, and revealed his curiosity and
naïveté in such questions, Forrest said, as a bright and innocent boy
of sixteen might have asked. In recalling the incident when forty-five
years had passed, Forrest remarked that nearly every great man had a
good deal of the boy in him, but that Marshall showed the most of it,
in his child-like simplicity and frankness, of all the great men he
had ever known. Yes, those were simple times, times of high character
and modest living, the purity of the early Republic. And if the above
anecdote makes us smile, it also makes us love the stainless friend of
Washington, the great Justice whose ermine was never soiled even by so
much as a speck of suspicion.

While at Richmond, and again subsequently at New Orleans, Forrest had
the felicity of seeing La Fayette, also of playing before him and
winning his applause. The triumphal progress through America of this
beloved hero of two hemispheres was a proud recollection to all who
shared in it. It was a thrilling poem in action instead of words. The
enthusiasm was something which we in our more broken and cynical times
can hardly conceive. From town to town, from city to city, from State
to State, whole populations turned out to meet him, with bells, guns,
popular songs, garlands of flowers in the hands of school-children;
and he moved on beneath a canopy of banners amidst swelling music,
accompanied by the prayers and tears of the grateful people whom he had
befriended in the midnight of their struggle, and who idolized him now
that he had come back to bask in the noonday of their glory. It was one
of the most charming episodes in history, and one which no American
heart can afford to forget. Yet in this mixed world the sublime and
the ridiculous are usually near together. It was so in this case in
an incident which came under the personal observation of Forrest. He
stood near to La Fayette on one occasion when a long series of citizens
were introduced to him. Of course it became a wearisome formality to
the illustrious guest, who bore it with smiling fortitude by dint of
converting it into an automatic performance. As he shook hands first
with one, then with another, he would say, "Are you married?" If the
reply was "Yes," he would add, "Happy man!" If the reply was "No,"
still he would add, as before, "Happy man!"

Caldwell re-opened at the American Theatre January 3d, 1825, in The
Soldier's Daughter, Forrest taking the rôle of Malfort Junior. During
the month he played, among other parts, Adrian in the comedy of Adrian
and Orilla, Master of Ceremonies in Tom and Jerry, Joseph Surface in
the School for Scandal. The "Louisiana Advertiser" says, in a notice of
The Falls of Clyde, "Nothing could be more to our taste than the wild
music and dramatized legends of Scotland. Mr. E. Forrest never appeared
to so much advantage. Every person applauded him." Some weeks later
the same paper remarks, "Mr. Forrest's Almanza is well conceived, and
displays great genius."

At this period of his life Forrest was in the habit of writing verses
whenever his heart was particularly touched. Quite a number of his
effusions, mostly of an amatory cast, were published in the corner
of a New Orleans newspaper. A diligent search has brought them to
light, together with the fact that the lady to whom the most of them
were addressed is yet living in that city, the widow of one of its
most influential and wealthy merchants, and that she remembers well
her girlish admiration for the handsome young tragedian, and still
preserves in manuscript several letters and poems sent to her by him.
In his latter days he himself gave the following account of this slight
literary episode. "In my youth," he said, "I used to write poetry;
that is, as I should say, doggerel. The editor of the 'Louisiana
Advertiser' printed it, and encouraged me to compose more. I used to
read it over and think it very fine. But after a few years I looked at
the pieces again, and was mortified at their worthlessness. Glancing
around furtively to see if any one was observing me, I rushed the whole
collection into the fire. Oh, it was wretched stuff, infernally poor
stuff! Moses Y. Scott satirized my poetry in some lines beginning,--

  'With paces long and sometimes scanty,
   Thus he rides on with Rosinante!'"

A selection of three of the better among these pieces will suffice to
satisfy curiosity; and it is to be feared that after perusing them the
judgment of the reader will accord with that of Moses Y. Scott.

TO ----.

  "Thy spell, O Love, is elysium to my soul;
   Freely I yield me to thy sweet control;
   For other joys let folly's fools contend,
   Whether to pomp or luxury they tend.
   Let sages tell us, what they ne'er believe,
   That love must ever give us cause to grieve;
   Mine be the bliss C----'s love to prove,
   To love her still, and still to have her love.
   If without her of countless worlds possessed,
   I still should mourn, I still should be unblest.
   For her I'd yield whole worlds of richest ore,--
   Possessed of her, the gods could give no more.
   For her, though Paradise itself were given,
   I'd love her still, nor seek another heaven."


  "Ah, go not hence, light of my saddened soul!
    Nor leave me in this absence to lament;
   Thy going sheds dark chaos o'er the whole,--
    A noonday night from angry Heaven sent.

  "Ah, go not where, now tow'ring to the skies,
   Malignant hills to separate us rise;
   For should those smiling eyes, attemp'ring every ray,
   That now shine sweetly, lambent with celestial day,
   Averted from me e'er on distant objects roll,
   Melancholy's deep shade would shroud my lifeless soul.

  "Oh, stay thine eyes,--diffuse their animating ray,--
   And with their smiling pleasures brighten all the day.
   But if relentless 'gainst me with the fates you join,
   Then go! though still my heart, my soul, is thine.
   And when from me so distant thou art gone,
   Oh, yield one sigh responsive to mine own!"

The third piece was composed on occasion of the military funeral of
Henry K. Bunting, an intimate friend of Forrest, a young man of most
estimable character, whose early death was lamented by the whole

  "How slow they marched! each youthful face was pale,
   And downcast eyes disclosed the mournful tale;
   Grief was depicted on each manly brow,
   And gloomy tears abundantly did flow
   From each sad heart. For he whose breath had fled
   Was loved by all,--in honor's path was bred.
   I knew him well; his heart was pure and kind,
   A noble spirit, and a lofty mind.
   Virtue cast round his head her smiling wreath,
   Which did not leave him on his bed of death.
   His image lives, and from my grief-worn heart,
   While life remains, will never, never part.
   Weep, soldiers, weep! with tears of sadness lave
   Your friend and brother's drear, untimely grave!"

In March the celebrated and ill-starred Conway filled an engagement
in New Orleans. The witnessing of his performances formed one of the
epochs in the development of Forrest's dramatic power. He played
Malcolm to the Macbeth of the tall and over-impassioned tragedian, and
caught some valuable suggestions from his idiomatic individuality and
style. But it was the Othello of this powerful and unhappy actor which
most impressed him. He played this part with a sweetness and a majestic
and frenzied energy which no audience could resist. The whole truth
of the course of the ambition, love, jealousy, madness, vengeance,
desperation, remorse, and death of the noble but barbaric Moor was
painted in volcanic and statuesque outlines. Nothing escaped the apt
pupil, who with lynx-eyed observation fastened on every original point,
every electric stroke, and at this adolescent period drank in the
significance of the fully-developed passions of unbridled human nature.
It was not long after these mimic presentments when the real passions
in the darkly-tangled plot of his own existence wrought so convulsively
on poor Conway, the friction sunk so profoundly into the sockets and
vital seats of his being, that he went mad, threw himself overboard,
and all his griefs and fears at once in the deep bosom of the ocean

Early in May, Forrest's benefit was announced, and he was underlined
for Lear, "the first time in New Orleans." On account of bad weather
the benefit was postponed, and, when it did occur, instead of Lear he
performed Octavian, in Coleman's Mountaineers. The season closed with
the end of the month, when he played Carwin, the leading rôle in the
drama of Therese, by John Howard Payne.

The first actress in the company of the American Theatre at New
Orleans for the season of 1825 was Miss Jane Placide. She was born at
Charleston, and was then, in her twentieth year, deservedly a great
favorite with the Southern public. She was extremely beautiful in
her person, sweet in her disposition, piquant in her manners, and
artistically natural in her rôles. Among the many private suppliants
for her smiles rumor included both Caldwell and Forrest. Where the
tinder of such rivalry is lying about, flashes of jealousy, easily
provoked, may at any time elicit an explosion of wrath. So it happened
here, and the two men had a sharp quarrel. The young actor challenged
the calmer manager. He refused to accept it, saying their altercation
was an inconsiderate effervescence which had better be forgotten by
them both. But the temper of Forrest, aggravated by his hot associates
and the local code, was not so cheaply to be assuaged. He had the
following card printed and affixed in several conspicuous places:
"Whereas James H. Caldwell has wronged and insulted me, and refused me
the satisfaction of a gentleman, I hereby denounce him as a scoundrel
and post him as a coward. Edwin Forrest."

Caldwell, so far from being enraged at this sonorous manifesto,
laughed at it, quietly adding, "Like the Parthian, he wounds me
as he flies." For in the afternoon of the very day of his issuing
the ominous placard, Forrest had accepted an invitation from his
friend Push-ma-ta-ha to spend a month with him in the wigwams and
hunting-grounds of his tribe; and already, side by side, on horseback,
each with a little pack at his saddle, they were scampering away
towards the tents of the Choctaws, a hundred miles distant. Three
reasons urged him to this interesting adventure. First, he loved his
friend, the young Indian chief, and longed to see him in his glory at
the head of his people. Secondly, he was poor, and there it would cost
him nothing for food and lodgings. And thirdly, he desired to make a
personal study of Indian character, life, and manners.

The red men treated him, as the friend and guest of their chief, with
marked distinction, making him quickly feel himself at home. He adapted
himself to their habits, dressed in their costume, and, as far as he
could, took part in all their doings, their smokes, their dances, their
hunts, their songs. Their rude customs were not offensive but rather
attractive to him, and he was happy, feeling that it would not be hard
for him to relapse from civilization and stay permanently with these
wild stepchildren of nature. He seemed to come into contact with the
unwritten traditions of the prehistoric time, and to taste the simple
freedom that prevailed before so many artificial luxuries, toils, and
laws had made such slaves of us all. The fine chance here offered him
of getting an accurate knowledge of the American Indian, alike in his
exterior and his interior personality, he carefully improved, and when
he came to enact the part of Metamora it stood him in good stead.

One night Push-ma-ta-ha and Forrest were lying on the ground before a
big fire which they had kindled a little way out from the village. They
had been conversing for hours, recalling stories and legends for their
mutual entertainment. The shadows of the wood lay here and there like
so many dark ghosts of trees prostrate and intangible on the earth. The
pale smoke from their burning heap of brush floated towards heaven in
spectral volumes and slowly faded out afar. In the unapproachable blue
over their heads hung the full moon, and in the pauses of their talk
nothing but the lonely notes of a night-bird broke the silence. Like
an artist, or like an antique Greek, Forrest had a keen delight in the
naked form of man, feeling that the best image of God we have is nude
humanity in its perfection, which our fashionable dresses so travesty
and degrade. Push-ma-ta-ha, then twenty-four years old, brought up
from his birth in the open air and in almost incessant action of sport
and command, was from head to foot a faultless model of a human being.
Forrest asked him to strip himself and walk to and fro before him
between the moonlight and the firelight, that he might feast his eyes
and his soul on so complete a physical type of what man should be. The
young chief, without a word, cast aside his Choctaw garb and stepped
forth with dainty tread, a living statue of Apollo in glowing bronze.
"Push-ma-ta-ha," said Forrest, in wondering admiration, "who were your
grandparents?" His nostrils curled with a superbly beautiful disdain,
and, stretching forth his arm with a lofty grace which the proudest
Roman orator could not have surpassed, he replied, "My father was never
born. The Great Spirit shivered an oak with one of his thunderbolts,
and my father came out, a perfect man, with his bow and arrows in his

Whether this was superstitious inspiration or theatrical brag on the
part of the Indian, certainly the scene was a weird and wonderful one,
and the speech extremely poetic. Forrest used in after-years to say,
"My God, what a contrast he was to some fashionable men I have since
seen, half made up of false teeth, false hair, padding, gloves, and

But a sense of duty, in a few weeks, urged the actor to be seeking
an engagement for the next season, and, saying good-by forever to
his aboriginal comrades, he returned to New Orleans and took passage
in a small coasting-vessel for Philadelphia, where he arrived with a
single notable adventure by the way. For on the third day out they were
becalmed; and, suffering from the excessive heat, he thought to refresh
himself by a swim. With a joyous shout and splash he sprang from the
taffrail, and swam several times around the sloop, when, chancing to
look down and a little way behind, he saw a huge shark making towards
him. Three or four swift and tremendous strokes brought him within
reach of the anchor-chain, and he convulsively swung himself on deck,
and lay there panting with exhaustion. But the ruling passion was
strong even then. He immediately went over and over in consciousness,
in order to fix them in memory for future use in his art, the frightful
emotions he had felt while chased by this white-tusked devil of the



ONE morning, early in August, 1825, a young man of fine figure and
stately bearing, with bright dark-brown eyes, raven hair, and a clear,
firm complexion like veined marble, approached the door of a modest
house in Cedar Street, Philadelphia. Without knocking, he entered
quickly. "Mother! Henrietta!" he cried, springing towards them with
open arms. "Gracious Heaven, Edwin!" they exclaimed, "is it possible
that this is you, changed so much and grown so tall?" "Yes, mother,"
he said, "Heaven has indeed been gracious to me; and here I am once
more with you, after three years of strolling and struggling among
strangers. Here I am, with a light pocket but a stout heart. I shall
be something yet, mother; and then the first thing I am resolved to do
is to make you and the girls independent, so far as the goods of this
world go."

He had firm grounds for his confidence, as the sequel showed, though
many dark days of hope deferred were yet to put his mettle to the
proof. He was in his twentieth year, and his reputation had not reached
much beyond the local centres where he had gained it. But it was
plainly beginning to spread. Even his friendliest admirers had not the
prescience to discern the signs of that vast success which was to make
him a continental celebrity; but he knew better than they the fervor of
his ambition and the strength of the motives that fed it, and he felt
the consciousness of a latent power which justified him in sanguine
dreams for the future. His intuitive perception had interpreted better
than the critics or his friends the revelation and prophecy contained
in the effects he had already often produced on his audiences. He
knew very well himself that which it needed fame to make the public
consciously recognize. That fame he not only expected, but was resolved
to win.

In the autumn he succeeded in securing an engagement on moderate
terms at the theatre in Albany, then under the management of a
shrewd, capable, but eccentric Dutchman, Charles Gilfert. He was to
play leading parts in the stock company, and second parts to stars.
Albany, as the capital of the State of New York, during the theatrical
season was thronged with cultivated and distinguished people, and
was an excellent place for a dramatic aspirant to achieve and extend
a reputation. Forrest began with good heart and zeal, and, without
any sudden or brilliant success, received sufficient encouragement
to increase his confidence and keep him progressing. He took great
pains to perfect his physical development, exercising his voice in
declamation, practising gestures, and every night and morning taking
a thorough sponge-bath, followed by vigorous friction with coarse
towels. Immediately after his morning ablutions he always devoted a
half-hour to gymnastics,--using dumb-bells, springing, attitudinizing,
and walking two or three times about the room on his hands. One of the
most distinguished philosophical writers of our country, who was a
native of Albany and at that time a particular friend of Forrest, has
recently been heard to describe with great animation the pleasure he
used to take in visiting the actor at this early hour of the morning to
see him go through his gymnastic performances. The metaphysician said
he admired the enormous strength displayed by the player, and applauded
his fidelity to the conditions for preserving and increasing it, though
for his own part he never could bring himself to do anything of the

Nothing occurred through the winter out of the ordinary routine,
except his happy and most profitable intercourse with Edmund Kean,
during the last engagement filled in Albany by that illustrious actor
and unfortunate man. This encounter was of so much consequence to
Forrest that we must pause a little over it. It will be recollected
that he had, several years before, seen Kean perform a few nights in
Philadelphia, and that he was filled with enthusiasm about him. But
now the discipline and experience of five added years fitted him far
more worthily to appreciate the genius and to profit from the startling
methods and points of the tragedian whom many judges declare to have
been the most original and electrifying actor that has ever stepped
before the foot-lights.

Edmund Kean, born under the ban of society, treated as a dog, beaten,
starved, while yet an infant flung for a livelihood on his wits and
tricks as a public performer, associating mostly with vagrants and
adventurers, but occasionally with the best and highest, early became
a wonder both in the elastic strength of his small body and in the
penetrative power of his flashing mind. With sensibilities of extreme
delicacy and passions of terrific energy he combined a natural and
sedulously-cultivated ability of giving to the outer signs of inner
states their utmost possible distinctness and intensity. Perhaps there
never was, within his range, a greater master of the physiological
language of the soul, one who set facial expression in more vivid
relief. As a student of his art he went to no traditional school of
posture, no frigid school of elocution, but to the original school of
nature in the burning depths of his own mind and heart.

His direct observations of other men, and his reflex researches on
himself in his impassioned probationary assumptions of characters,
struck to the automatic centres of his being, the seats of those
intuitions which are historic humanity epitomized in the individual,
or the spirit of nature itself inspiring man. And when he acted there
was something so unitary and elemental in the unconscious depths from
which his revelations seemed to break in spontaneous thunderbolts
that sensitive auditors were filled with awe, utterly overwhelmed
and carried away from themselves. Coleridge said that seeing him act
Macbeth was like reading the play by flashes of lightning. In his
most impassioned moods his voice suggested, by the tense intermittent
vibration of his whole resonant frame revealed in it, the frenzied
energy of a tiger. He spoke then in a stammering staccato of spasmodic
outbursts which shook others because they threatened to shatter him.
After years of maddening scorn, poverty, drudgery, neglect, he vaulted
at one bound, with his first appearance as Shylock on the stage of
Drury Lane, into an almost fabulous popularity, courted and fêted by
the proudest in the land, and reaping an income of over fifty thousand
dollars a year. No wonder he grew wild, reeling with all sorts of
intoxication between the throne of the scenic king and the den of the
ungirt debauchee.

The essential peculiarity of Kean's greatness in his greatest effects
was that his acting was then no effort of will, no trick or art of
calculation, but nature itself uncovered and set free in its deepest
intensity of power, just on the edge, sometimes quite over the verge,
of madness. He penetrated and incorporated himself with the characters
he represented until he possessed them so completely that they
possessed him, and their performance was not simulation but revelation.
He brought the truth and simplicity of nature to the stage, but nature
in her most intensified degrees. His playing was a manifestation of the
inspired intuitions, infallibly true and irresistibly sensational. It
came not from the surfaces of his brain, but from the very centres of
his nervous system, and suggested something portentous, preternatural,
supernal, that blinded and stunned the beholders, appalled their
imagination, and chilled their blood. This same curdling automatic
touch Lucius Junius Brutus Booth also had; but it is asserted that he
was first led to it by imitating Kean.

At the time of his engagement in Albany, Kean was much marred and
broken from his best estate by his bad habits. The intoxication
of fame, the intoxication of love, and the dismal intoxication of
stimulants snatched to keep his jaded faculties at their height, had
done their sad work on him. Still, the habitudes of his genius lingered
fascinatingly with him, and he delivered his climacteric points
with almost undiminished power, between the cloudy intervals of his
weariness striking lightning and eliciting universal shocks.

Nothing could have been more fortunate for Forrest, just at that
time, than to watch such an actor in his greatest parts and come
into confidential contact with him. In playing Iago to his Othello,
Titus to his Brutus, Richmond to his Richard, the best chance was
afforded for this. About noon of the day they were to act together,
as Kean did not come to the rehearsal, Forrest called at his hotel
and asked to see him. He told the messenger to say to Mr. Kean that
the young man who was to play Iago wished a brief interview with him,
to receive any directions he might like to give for the performance
in the evening. "Show him up," said the actor, graciously. As Forrest
entered, with a beating heart, Kean rose and welcomed him with great
kindness of manner. In answer to a question as to the business of the
play, he said, "My boy, I do not care how you come on or go off, if
while we are on the stage you always keep in front of me and let not
your attention wander from me." He had not yet breakfasted, late as
it was, but was in a loose dressing-gown, with the marks of excessive
indulgence in dissipation and sleepless hours too plainly revealed
in his whole appearance. A rosewood piano was covered with spilth
and sticky rings from the glasses used in the debauch of the night.
"Have you ever heard me sing?" asked Kean. "Oh, yes, in Tom Tug the
Waterman." "Did you see my Tom Tug?" responded the actor, in a pleased
tone of caressing eagerness. "I learned those songs purely by imitation
of my old friend Incledon; and I approached him so closely that it was
said no one could tell the singing of one of us from that of the other.
But now you shall hear me sing my favorite piece." He sat down at the
piano, struck a few notes, and sang the well-known song of Moore,
"Farewell, but whenever you welcome the hour." His face was very pale,
and wore an expression of unutterable pathos and melancholy; his hair
was floating in confused masses, and his eyes looked like two great
inland seas. Both he and his auditor wept as he sang with matchless
depth of feeling and a most mournful sweetness,--

  "Let fate do her worst, there are relics of joy,
   Bright dreams of the past, which she cannot destroy,
   Which come in the night-time of sorrow and care
   And bring back the features that joy used to wear.
   Long, long be my heart with such memories filled!
   Like the vase in which roses have once been distilled,--
   You may break, you may ruin the vase, if you will,
   But the scent of the roses will hang round it still."

While he thus sang, he was, to the fancy of his moved and admiring
listener, himself the vase broken and ruined, and his genius, still
blooming over the ruins of the man, distilled its holy perfume around

The Othello of Kean was his unapproachable masterpiece, crowded with
electric effects in detail and crowned with a masterly originality as
a whole. It left its general stamp ineffaceably on the young actor who
that night confronted it with his Iago in such a manner as to win not
only the vehement applause of the house but likewise the warm approval
of the Othello himself. Forrest had carefully studied the character of
Iago in the independent light of what he knew of human nature. And
he conceived the part in what was then quite an original reading of
it. The current Iago of the stage was a sullen and sombre villain, as
full of gloom as of hate, and with such sinister manners and malignant
bearing as made his diabolical spirit and purposes perfectly obvious.
One must be a simpleton to be deceived by such a style of man. A man
like Othello, accustomed to command, moving for many years among all
sorts of men in peace and war, could be so played on only by a most
accomplished master of the arts of hypocrisy. Forrest accordingly
represented Iago as a gay and dashing fellow on the outside, hiding his
malice and treachery under the signs of a careless honesty and jovial
good humor. One point, strictly original, he made which powerfully
affected Kean. Iago, while working insidiously on the suspicions of
Othello, says to him,--

  "Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio;
   Wear your eye thus, not jealous,--nor secure."

All these words, except the last two, Forrest uttered in a frank and
easy fashion; but suddenly, as if the intensity of his under-knowledge
of evil had automatically broken through the good-natured part he was
playing on the surface and betrayed his secret in spite of his will,
he spoke the words _nor secure_ in a husky tone, sliding down from a
high pitch and ending in a whispered horror. The fearful suggestiveness
of this produced from Kean a reaction so truly artistic and tremendous
that the whole house was electrified. As they met in the dressing-room,
Kean said, excitedly, "In the name of God, boy, where did you get
that?" Forrest replied, "It is something of my own." "Well," said he,
while his auditor trembled with pleasure, "everybody who speaks the
part hereafter must do it just so."

There must, from all accounts, have been something supernaturally
sweet and sorrowful, an unearthly intensity of plaintive and majestic
pathos, in the manner in which Kean delivered the farewell of Othello.
The critics, Hazlitt, Procter, Lamb, and the rest, all agree in this.
They say, "the mournful melody of his voice came over the spirit like
the desolate moaning of the blast that precedes the thunder-storm."
It was like "the hollow and musical murmur of the midnight sea when
the tempest has raved itself to rest." His "tones sunk into the soul
like the sighing of the breeze among the strings of an æolian harp or
through the branches of a cypress grove." His voice "struck on the
heart like the swelling of some divine music laden with the sound of
years of departed happiness." The retrospect of triumphant exultation,
the lingering sense of delight, the big shocks of sudden agony, and
the slow blank despair, breathed in a voice elastic and tremulous
with vital passion and set off with a by-play of exquisitely artistic
realism, made up a whole of melancholy beauty and overwhelming power
perhaps never equalled. It was at once an anthem, a charge, and a
dirge. Forrest was inexpressibly delighted and thrilled by it, and he
did not fail to his dying day to speak of it with rapturous admiration.

Kean, both as a man and as an actor, made a fascinating impression on
the imagination and heart as well as on the memory of his youthful
supporter in the Albany theatre. What he had himself experienced under
the influence of this marvellous player, in the profound stirring of
his wonder and affection, remained to exalt his estimate of the rank
of his professional art and to stimulate still further his personal
ambition. This is the way the sensitive soul of genius grows, by
assimilating something from every superior ideal exhibited to it. Kean
himself, at a public dinner given him in Philadelphia on his return
thither from Albany, generously said that he had met one actor in this
country, a young man named Edwin Forrest, who gave proofs of a decided
genius for his profession, and who would, as he believed, rise to great
eminence. This kind act on the part of the veteran was reported to the
novice, and sank gratefully into his heart. To be praised by one we
admire is such a delight to the affections and such a spur to endeavor
that it is a pity the successful are not more ready to give it to the
aspiring. Ah, what a heaven this world would be if all the men and
women in it were only what in our better hours we dream and wish!

One incident occurred during this season at Albany showing
extraordinary character in so young a man. The fearful power of the
passion for gaming has been well known in all ages. It has prevailed
with equal violence and evil among the rudest savages and in the most
luxurious phases of civilization. Every year, at the present time, in
the capital centres of Christendom it explodes in forgeries, murder,
and suicides. And we read in the Mahabharata, the great Sanscrit epic
written we know not how many centuries before the Christian era, that
king Yudishthira was so desperately addicted to gambling that on one
occasion he staked his empire, and lost it; then his wife, and lost;
finally, his own body, lost that, and became the slave of the winner.
In New Orleans Forrest had felt something of the horrid fascination of
this passion. He had not, however, indulged much in it, although his
friend Gazonac, who stood at the head of the profession, had initiated
him pretty thoroughly into the secret tricks of the art.

The company of actors and actresses used often to stay after the play
was over and engage in games of chance. Forrest joined them several
times. He then steadily refused to do so any more; for he felt that the
gambling spirit was getting hold of him. But on a certain evening they
urged him so strongly that he consented,--determined to give them a
lesson. He said it was a base business, full of dishonest arts by which
all but the sharpest adepts could be cheated. They maintained that
there were among them neither decoys nor dupes, and they challenged
fraud. They played all night, and Forrest at last had won every cent
they had with them. He then rose to his feet, and denounced the habit
of gaming for profit as utterly pernicious. He recited some examples
of the horrors he had known to result from it. He said it demoralized
the characters of those who practised it, and, producing nothing, was
a robbery, stealing the time, thought, and feeling which might so
much better be devoted to something useful. With these words he swept
the implements of play into the fire, strewed the money he had won
on the floor, left the room, and went home in the gray light of the
morning,--and never gambled again from that hour unto the day of his

May 16th, 1826, Forrest made his first re-appearance on the stage of
his native city. It was on the occasion of a benefit given to his
old friend Charles S. Porter, manager of the theatre, it will be
remembered, in which he made his début as Rosalia de Borgia. He took
the part of Jaffier in Venice Preserved. His success was flattering
and complete. The leading journal of the city said, "He left us a
boy, and has returned a man. The talents he then exhibited, improved
by attention and study, now display themselves in the excellence of
his delineation. He is by no means what he was when he left us. His
delivery, attitudes, and gesture are similar to those of Conway; and
he could not have chosen a better model. Just in his conception of his
part, clear and correct in his utterance, graceful in his action, he
never offends us by unmeaning rant. When one so young relies more on
his own judgment than on the flattery of partial friends, we cannot
expect too much from him. We doubt if any aspirant at the same age
has ever equalled him. No performer, perhaps, ever was received and
continued to play with so much applause. On the dropping of the curtain
at the end of the fourth act, he was rewarded with nine rounds of

His unmistakable triumph was crowned by such loud and general calls
for an engagement that the manager came forward and announced that he
had secured the services of Mr. Forrest for two nights, and that he
would appear, on the evening after the next, in the character of Rolla.
This, on the whole, was the most signal and important victory he had
ever achieved. It consoled him and it spurred him. He slept sweetly
that night under his mother's roof, and in his dreams saw himself
decked with wreath and crown, time after time, through a long vista of
brightening successes.

The Bowery Theatre, in New York, now nearly finished, was to be opened
in the autumn, and its proprietors were on the watch to secure the
best talent for the company. They had heard favorable reports of the
acting of Forrest in Albany. Prosper M. Wetmore and another of the
directors of the new theatre made a journey to that city on purpose to
see a specimen of his performance and decide whether or not it would
be expedient to engage him. They were so much pleased with his playing
that they earnestly urged Gilfert, who was already engaged as manager,
to close with him at once. He did so, bargaining with him to play
leading parts for the first season at a salary of twenty-eight dollars
a week. Wetmore, who was a cultivated gentleman of literary habits,
afterwards Navy Agent at New York, became a fast friend of Forrest for
life, and half a century later was fond of recalling the incidents of
this journey, so interesting in the adventure and so pleasant in the

Gilfert had lost money at Albany, and, when he closed, his company
were dismissed unpaid, some of them utterly destitute. Forrest himself
was forced to leave his wardrobe with his hostess as security for
arrearages. He took passage down the Hudson to New York, and, securing
lodgings at a tavern in Cortlandt Street, began as best he could to
fill the time until the opening of the Bowery. He was a stranger in
the city. He was without money, without friends, his wardrobe in pawn,
with no stated employment to occupy his attention and pass the hours.
Naturally, life seemed dull and the days grew heavy. First he felt
homesick, then he felt sick of himself and sick of the world. His
faculties turned in on themselves, and made him so morbidly melancholy
that he thought of ending his existence. He actually went to an
apothecary and got some arsenic on pretence that he wanted to kill
rats. This revulsive and dismal state of feeling, however, did not last
long. An event occurred which brought him relief and caused him to
fling away the poison and resume his natural tone of cheerful fortitude
and readiness for enjoyment.

The propitious event referred to was this. An actor at the Park
Theatre, by the name of Woodhull, was about having a benefit, and
experienced much difficulty in deciding on something attractive for the
occasion. Walking in the street with Charles Durang, of Philadelphia,
who had recently seen Forrest act in that city, and expressing his
anxiety to him, Durang replied, "If I were you, I would try and get
Forrest to act for me. And there he is now, sitting under the awning
in front of the hotel. I will introduce you." The deed suited the
word, and in a moment Woodhull had made his request. At first Forrest
somewhat moodily declined, saying that he was penniless, friendless,
spiritless, and could do nothing. "But," the poor actor urged, "I have
a large family dependent on me, and this benefit is my chief reliance."
"Is that so?" asked Forrest. "It is, indeed," was the reply. "Then,"
said the generous tragedian, mounting out of his unhappiness, "I will
play Othello for you, and do my best." The new acquaintances parted
with hearty greetings, Woodhull to finish the arrangements for his
benefit, Forrest to prepare for his arduous task. For he felt that this
his first appearance in the chief metropolitan theatre of the country
was an ordeal that might make him or undo him quite.

He shut himself up in his room with his Shakspeare. He studied the
part with all the earnestness of his soul, over and over, with every
light he could bring to bear upon it, carefully perfected himself in
it according to his best ideal, and impatiently awaited the evening.
It came, and found a house poor in numbers, which disheartened him not
a whit. Durang was there, and has described the scene. The audience,
though neither fashionable nor large, was eager and susceptible. As
the actor came on, his careful costume, superb form, and reposeful
bearing made a strong sensation on the expectant auditory. And when
the sweet, resonant tones of his deep, rich voice broke forth in
the eloquence of an unaffected manliness, the charm was obviously
deepened. His remarkable self-possession and deliberate way of doing
just what he intended to do were very impressive, and, combined with
his terrible earnestness growing with the thickening plot, took hold
of the sympathies of the house more and more powerfully. In the
middle of the pit sat Gilfert, energetically plying his snuff-box and
inspecting alternately the player and the spectators. And when, in the
fourth act, as the pent flood of passion in the breast of the tortured
Othello burst in fearful explosion on Iago in one resplendent climax of
attitude, look, voice and gesture, and the whole audience rose to their
feet and gave vent to their unprecedented excitement in round after
round of cheering, the little Dutchman let his snuff-box mechanically
slip through his fingers, and cried, "By heaven, he has made a hit!"
The popular verdict was one of unqualified enthusiasm, and the
directors and manager of the Bowery felt that they had underrated their
prize. Gilfert hurried behind the scenes, lavishing congratulations on
his protégé, and promising the next day to pay his debts and supply him
with some pocket-money. In doing a kind thing for a needy fellow-actor,
Forrest found that he had also done an exceedingly good thing for

With the means he had wrung from the delinquent and doubtful but now
sanguine Gilfert, he proceeded to Albany and redeemed his wardrobe.
He then went to Washington, and played Rolla for the benefit of his
brother William. He next fulfilled an engagement as a Star for six
nights in Baltimore, and then paid a visit to his home in Philadelphia.
He was able from the remnant of his earnings to carry four hundred
dollars to his mother. And when he gave it to her, sitting happy at her
feet, and told her of his trials, and of his struggles against them,
as he felt her hand on his head and saw her fond eyes looking approval,
the sweetness of the satisfaction seemed to sink into his very bones.
So he himself said, and added, "The applause I had won before the
foot-lights? Yes, it was most welcome and precious to me; but, compared
with this, it was nothing, less than nothing!"

The Bowery was opened with great display and success the last week in
October. On the following Monday Forrest made his first appearance
there. Othello was the play. The house was thronged in all parts,
everything was fresh and new, eager expectation filled the air, and he
came forward encouraged by the memory of his decisive triumph at the
benefit of Woodhull, and nerved with determination now to outdo it.
Yet, in spite of all the favoring conditions, so much depended on the
result of his performance this night, and his sensitiveness was still
so little hardened by custom, that his nervousness and trepidation
were quite apparent to critical eyes. But as the play progressed this
wore off, and his acting became so sincere, so varied and vigorous,
he set his best points in such clean-cut relief, and his elocution
was so full of natural passion, that he carried the sympathies of
the audience with him ascendingly to the close. The ovation he then
received left no doubt as to the place he was thenceforth to hold in
the theatrical world of New York and the country. By unanimous consent,
admitting errors and faults both positive and negative, he had shown an
extraordinary breadth and raciness of original individuality, and an
extraordinary power of painting the character he had pictured in his
imagination so vividly that it should also live in the imaginations of
the beholders and kindle their sensibilities. This is the one test of
the true actor, that he can transmit his thoughts and passions into
others, causing his ideal so to move before them that they recognize
it and react on it with the play of their souls accordant with his.
This given, all defects are pardoned; this denied, all merits are
ineffectual. Forrest had this from first to last, whenever appeal was
made from dialect cliques to the great vernacular of human nature.

At the close of the performance Forrest was personally congratulated by
the stockholders of the theatre in the committee-room. Their chairman
said to him, "We are all very much more than gratified. You have
made a great hit; but, if you are willing, we would like to cancel
our engagement with you at twenty-eight dollars a week, and----" Here
Forrest interrupted him by saying, "Certainly, gentlemen; just as you
please; for I am confident I can readily command those terms almost
anywhere I feel disposed to play." "We have no doubt of it," replied
the chairman; "but we propose to cancel the engagement made with you at
twenty-eight dollars a week, and to draw an agreement giving you forty
dollars a week instead." This of course was very agreeable to him, and
accordingly it was so arranged.

With this night his histrionic probation was at an end, and fame and
fortune were secure. It was now that he made the acquaintance of James
Lawson, who was so enraptured with his playing that he sought an
introduction on the spot, and then went home and wrote for one of the
morning papers a glowing eulogium on the performance. Lawson remained
through life one of his most trusted and useful friends, especially in
his business concerns, never wavering in his loyalty to him for one
moment in all the succeeding years, and surviving to be one of the
trustees of his estate. Here, also, at the same time, and under the
identical circumstances, began his friendship with Leggett, one of the
most important and valued attachments he ever formed. Leggett, at that
time associated with Bryant in the editorship of the New York "Evening
Post," was a man of a high-strung, chivalrous nature, possessed of
uncommon talents and of immense force of character. Among his fine
tastes was a sincere passion for the drama. He was the elder by four
years, and had enjoyed far superior educational advantages. He loved
Forrest devotedly as soon as he knew him, and his affection was as
ardently returned. In their manly truth and generous sympathy, which
knew no taint of affectation or mean design, they were a great comfort
to each other. In the fourteen years that passed before death came
between them they rendered invaluable services to each other in many

The following letter is interesting in several respects. It shows
his great devotion to his mother, betrays his tendency to occasional
depression of spirit, and reveals even so early in his life that
irregular violence in the currents of his blood from the effects of
which he finally died. It bears date a little less than a month after
his début at the Bowery.

  "NEW YORK, Dec. 3d, 1826.

"MOST BELOVED MOTHER,--The reason I have not answered your letter
is a serious indisposition under which I have been laboring for
some time. But, thanks be to the Eternal (only for your sake and
my dear sisters'), I am now convalescent. You will ask, no doubt,
why it is only for your sake that I thank the Eternal. Because were
you separated forever from me existence would have no longer an
attraction. Again, you will wonder what has made me tired of life,
especially now that I am on the full tide of prosperity. Alas! I know
not how soon sickness may render me incapable of the labors of my
profession; and then penury, perchance the poor-house, may ensue. I
shudder to think of it. Yet the terrible reflection haunts me in spite
of myself; and were it not for you and the girls I should not shrink
to try the unsearchable depths of eternity. But no more of this gloomy

"Dining last Sunday with Major Moses, when the cloth was removed, as
I was preparing to take a glass of wine, I felt a pain in my right
breast, which rapidly increased to such a degree that I told the
Major, who sat next to me, of the singular sensation. I had no sooner
spoken than the pain shot to my heart and I fell upon the floor. For
the space of fifteen minutes I lay perfectly speechless. When, through
the kind attentions of the family (which I can never forget), I had in
a measure recovered, the pain was still very violent. A physician was
summoned, who bled me copiously, and this relieved my sufferings. In
consequence of my weakened and distressed condition, I was persuaded
to stay there all night. The next morning I returned to my lodgings,
and remained in-doors all day, though feeling perfectly recovered.
But the following evening, very injudiciously, I performed Damon.
The exertion in this arduous part caused a relapse, which, however,
was not seriously felt until Thursday evening, when I was performing
William Tell. Then, indeed, it was agony. All that I had suffered
before was but the shadow of a shade to what I then felt,--pains in
all my limbs, and my head nigh to bursting. With the unavoidable use
of brandy, ether, and hartshorn, I got wildly through the character.
Since that time I have had medical attendance and every attention
that kindness can show. In a few days, without doubt, I shall be on
the boards again.

"I received a few days ago a letter from William, which remains
unanswered. Please inform him of the cause. I shall take my benefit
shortly, and am led to believe that it will be all that I can desire.
Do not think I shall then forget those who heretofore may sometimes
have had cause to upbraid me. Farewell, dear mother.

"Tell Henrietta to write, and quickly, too.

  "Yours most affectionately,

His illness proved, as he thought it would, brief. His success knew
no abatement. He drew such crowds nightly and excited them to such a
pitch that the whole city became alive and agog about him. Of the many
tributes then paid him, these lines may serve as a specimen:

  "See how the stormy passions of the soul
   Are EDWIN FORREST'S, and at his control:
   How he can drive the curdling blood along
   Its choking channels--how his face and tongue
   Can check the current as it seeks the brain,
   Arrest its course, and bring it back again;
   Freeze it when circling round the glowing heart,
   Or thaw it thence, and bid it, melting, part;
   Rouse up revenge for Tell's unmeasured wrongs
   Until it echoes from a thousand tongues;
   Or melt the soul of friendship quite away
   When Damon claims his Pythias' dying day."

From this auspicious beginning he went steadily on gaining power and
public favor until his popularity was so conspicuous that one of the
managers of the rival establishment came to him with an offer of
three times the amount he was then receiving. He replied, "I cannot
listen to you, as I am engaged to Gilfert for the season." "You are
not bound by a legal paper, and therefore are free," expostulated the
wily bargainer. "Sir," was his characteristic answer, "my word is as
strong as any written contract." During this first winter, so rapidly
did his fame spread that Gilfert actually lent him repeatedly to other
theatres at two hundred dollars a night, he still paying him only his
forty dollars a week. Certain disinterested persons who learned this
fact commented on it to Gilfert himself with much severity. And at
the end of the engagement he said to the young man, "I want to engage
you for the next season, but I suppose our terms must be somewhat
different. What do you expect?" Forrest quietly looked at him, and
replied, "You have yourself fixed my value. You have found me to be
worth two hundred dollars a night." He was at once engaged at that rate
for eighty nights. And it is to be remembered that sixteen thousand
dollars then was equivalent to thirty thousand now. He had just passed
his twenty-first birthday. Thus in six short months the youthful artist
who came to the metropolis poor, scarcely known, little heralded,
had acquired an imposing fame, was surrounded by a brilliant host of
friends, and entered on his summer vacation prospective master of a
sumptuous income.



THE next marked division in the biography of Forrest covers the period
between his twenty-first and his twenty-eighth year, from the close of
his first engagement at the Bowery in 1827 to his departure for Europe
in 1834. No other actor ever lived who at so early an age achieved a
series of popular successes so steady, so brilliant, so extensive as
those which filled these seven triumphant and happy years. They yet
remain unparalleled. It was undoubtedly the most fortunate and the most
enjoyed period of all in his long career. His health and vigor were
superb, his faculties joyously unfolding, his senses in their keenest
edge, his glory spreading on all sides, money pouring into his purse,
the general love and praise lavished on him scarcely as yet broken by
the dissenting voices or alloyed by the signals of envy. His name was
emblazoned in the chief cities all over the land, the press teemed with
kindly notices, his performances were attended nightly by enthusiastic
crowds, who applauded him to the very echoes that applauded again.

In his social relations,--the secondary domain of life,--he saw his
desires flatteringly gratified in an increasing degree, his goings and
comings announced like those of a king, the eyes of the throng turned
after him wherever he went, his thoughts and passions taking electric
effect on the excited crowds who gathered to gaze on his playing,
choice friends suing for his leisure hours. The common estimate of him
and the popular feeling towards him are accurately reflected in the
sonnet addressed to him at this time by his friend Prosper M. Wetmore:

  "Enriched with Nature's brightest powers of mind,
     Deep is thy influence o'er man's feeling breast;
     When fiercest passions come at thy behest
   In all the magic strength of truth, they bind
   'Neath their broad spell the pulses of the heart,
     Freezing the soul with horror and dismay:
     O'er Tarquin's corse, where Brutus leads the way,
   Revenge stalks darkly forth: thy potent art
   Recalls the aged Lear to tell his woes,
     Enlisting in his cause each sense that thrills:
     Stern Richard smiles upon the blood he spills:
   Tell, patriot Tell, defies his tyrant foes.

  "Eagle-eyed Genius round thy youthful name
   Flashes the brilliance of a deathless Fame!"

And in the primary domain of life--his own physique--he was blessed
with a basis of favorable conditions quite as rare. His clean-sinewed
frame so firmly poised in its weighty centres, his rich flood of blood
copiously nourishing the seats of function, his generous intelligence
and his native fearlessness of temper, were the ground of a gigantic
complacency in himself which was equally pleasurable to him and
attractive to others so long as he intuitively experienced rather
than consciously asserted it. He was vaguely aware, in an uncritical
way, that his sphere was heavier than those of the men he met, that
the elemental rhythms of his being were larger, that the gravitation
of his personal force overswayed theirs. While this was indicated by
nature without his knowledge, it made him interesting, a sort of magnet
to which others swayed in loyal curiosity or affection. And such was
entirely the case up to this time. His frank, fresh nature was as yet
unwrung by injustice, malignity, and falsehood, unspoiled either by
souring adverses or sickening satieties. He was a wholesome specimen
of a man of the unperverted, untechnical human type, to whom, in his
personal harmony and power, with his loving and trusted friends and his
progressive grasping of the prizes of the great social struggle, the
experience of each day as it came and went was a cup of nectar which
he quaffed without a question, finding neither guilt at the top nor
remorse at the bottom.

But he had sufficient force and height of character not to yield
himself up to selfish indulgence. Notwithstanding the flattery bestowed
on him, he felt the defects in his education, and determined to
remedy them as well as he could. He knew that he needed the polish
of literary and social culture and the training of critical studies
alike to supplement the advantages and to neutralize the disadvantages
of the coarse and boisterous scenes--the bold and lawless styles of
men--amidst which much of his life in the West and South had been
passed. Accordingly, when the opportunity was given him for a choice
of associates, he took for his intimate friends in New York a very
different class from those he had affiliated with in New Orleans.
Without at all losing his taste for manly sports or shunning the
company of their votaries, his preferred friends were men of literary
and artistic tastes, of the highest refinement and the best social
rank. A large number of accomplished persons, like Leggett, Bryant,
Wetmore, Halleck, Inman, Ingraham, Dunlap, Lawson, were in those years
on affectionate terms with him as his avowed admirers. From their
example, their conversation, their criticism, he profited much. He
became a liberal buyer of books, and soon had an excellent library,
which he used faithfully, devoting a large portion of his leisure to
reading. Nor did he read idly. He read as a student, reflecting on
what he read, striving to improve his mind and taste by knowledge in
general, as well as to pierce more deeply into the philosophy of the
dramatic art in particular. He made himself familiar with the history
of plastic and pictorial art, with engravings of celebrated statues
and paintings, carefully noting their most impressive attitudes and
groupings. He also explored the history of costume in the principal
countries, classic, mediæval, and modern. The habit of reading
and meditating which he formed at this time was fostered by many
influences, grew stronger with his years, spread over wide provinces of
biography, poetry, philosophy, and science, and was to the very last
the chief solace and ornament of his existence.

While thus devoting himself with new zeal to mental culture, he did not
forego one whit of his old assiduity in exercises for the furtherance
of his bodily development. During his second year in New York he
took a series of lessons in boxing. He felt a great interest in this
art, became a redoubtable proficient in its practice, and was ever
an earnest and open admirer of its prominent heroes. Those who feel
this to be discreditable to him will find on reflection, if they think
fairly, that it was, on the contrary, a credit to him. Multitudes of
refined people have an intense admiration for superlative developments
of physical beauty, force, and courage, though they conceal their taste
because by the standards of a squeamish politeness it is considered
something low and coarse. But Forrest always scorned that style of
public opinion, defied it, and frankly lived out what he thought and
felt. At the time of the famous fight between Heenan and Sayers for
the belt of world-championship, it was clear that scholars, poets,
statesmen, divines, and even fashionable women, felt the keenest
interest in the contest. They read the details with avidity, and talked
of them with the liveliest eagerness. The fascination is nothing to
be ashamed of, but rather to be cultivated with pride. To a just
perception, the fighting is not attractive, but repulsive and dreadful.
It is the strength, grace, discipline, smiling fearlessness, superb
hardihood, connected with the struggle, the rare exaltation of the
most fundamental qualities of a kingly nature, that evoke admiration.
Surely it is better to be a perfect animal than an imperfect one. When
all things are in harmony, the finest corporeal condition is the basis
for the highest spiritual power. A champion in finished training,
with his perfected form, his marble skin, clear unflinching eyes,
corky tread, and indomitable pluck, is a thrilling sight. When the
crowd see him, their enthusiasm vents itself in a shout of delight.
His mauling his adversary into a disfigured mass of jelly is indeed
frightful and loathsome; but that is a base perversion, not the proper
fruition, of his high estate. The functional power of his bearing is
magnificent. He is in a condition of godlike potency. It is a higher
thing to admire this glorious wealth of force, ease, and courage than
to despise it. Personal gifts of strength, skill, fearlessness, are
certainly desirable on any level in preference to the corresponding
defects. To turn away from them with disgust is a morbid weakness, not
a proof of fine superiority. While in this world we cannot escape the
physical level of our constitution, however much we may build above it.
Is it not plainly best as far as possible to perfect ourselves on every
level of our nature? An Admirable Crichton, able to surpass everybody
on all the successive heights of human accomplishments, from fencing
with swords to fencing with wits, from dancing to dialectics, cannot
be held, except by a mawkish judgment, as inferior to a Kirke White
writing verses of pale piety while dying of consumption brought on by
over-stimulus of literary ambition.

Forrest had pretty thoroughly practised gymnastics, the exercises of
the military drill, horsemanship, and fencing, each of which has a
particular efficacy in developing and economizing power, by harmonizing
the nervous system, if the will does not interpose too much resistance
to the flow of the rhythmical vibrations through the muscles. He now
felt that there was a special virtue in the mastery of boxing; and
to avail himself of it he secured the services of George Hernizer, a
distinguished professor of the manly art, a man of immense strength,
great experience, and not a little moral dignity. Supreme mastership,
in whatever province it be achieved, even though it be in the mere
ranges of physical force and prowess, gives its possessor an assured
feeling of competency and superiority, which has an intrinsic moral
value and reflects itself through him in some quiet lustre of repose
and security. It is those whose equilibrium is most unstable who are
the most irritable and resentful. It is weakness and insecurity that
make one fretful and quarrelsome. Shakspeare says it is good to have a
giant's strength, but tyrannous to use it like a giant. We know that
the more gigantic the resources of a man the less tempted he is to put
them forth. It is ever your weakling who is naturally waspish.

Before putting on the gloves with his pupil for the first time,
Hernizer sat down with him and talked with him for half an hour in a
wise and kindly manner on the morality of the art, or the true spirit
in which it should be approached. He summed up in terse maxims the
principles which ought to govern all who practise it, and enforced them
with apt illustrations. He warned him especially never to lose his
temper, and never to presume on the advantages of his skill to strike
any man unnecessarily. He said that every boxer who had the instincts
of a gentleman was made more generous and forbearing by his safeguard
of reserved power. Forrest, eager to be at the work, and scarcely
appreciating the propriety or value of the lecture, listened to it
impatiently at the time, but remembered it with profit and gratitude
all his life. As he recalled the circumstances and lingered over the
narrative forty years later, a light of retrospective fondness played
in his eyes, and his tongue seemed laved and lambent with love.

When he had taken lessons for about six months, one day when his
nervous centres were aching with fulness of power, as he was sparring
with his teacher, a sort of good-natured berserker rage came over him.
The ancestral instincts of love of battle burned in his muscles, and he
longed to pitch into the strife in right down sincerity. "Come, now,
Hernizer," he cried, "let us try it for once in real earnest." "Pshaw!
no, no!" replied the master, parrying him off. But waxing warmer and
warmer in the play he pressed hard on him, putting in the licks so hot
and heavy that at last Hernizer, rallying on his resources, fetched
him a blow fair between the eyes that made him see stars and sent him
reeling against the wall. "I have got enough!" exclaimed Forrest,
with a laugh, as soon as he could collect himself, and went and threw
his arms around his teacher; and the two athletes stood in a smiling
embrace, their naked breasts clasped together, and the great waves
of warm blood mantling through them. Such a passage would have made
untrained and nervous men angry or sullen, but it only made these
giants laugh with pleasure and sharpened their fellowship. However,
Forrest said, he never again asked Hernizer to buckle to it in earnest.

Forrest did not inherit that herculean poise of power which for half a
century made him such a massive mark of popular admiration. He attained
it by training. And herein he is a splendid example to his countrymen,
thousands on thousands of whom, in their whining debility, dyspeptic
pallor, and fidgety activity, need nothing else so much as a thorough
physical regimen to replenish their blood, soothe their exasperated
nerves, and give a solid equilibrium to their energies. The Greeks and
Romans, the nobles and knights of the Middle Age, were wiser than we in
securing a superb physical basis for human perfection. Men like Plato,
Pericles, Æschylus, Sophocles, were foremost in the palæstra as well as
in the lists of mind. There never was another time or land in which the
excited suspicions and emulations of society tended so terribly as in
our own to fret and haggardize men and prematurely break them down and
wear them out. Our incessant reading, our excessive brain-work, cloys
the memory, impoverishes the heart, wearies the soul, and destroys
the capacity for relishing simple natural enjoyments. This is one
of the morals which the biography of Forrest ought to emphasize by
the brilliant contrast it exhibits. For he at thirty, the period when
laborious Americans begin to give out, had developed an organism of
extraordinary power, with cleanly-freed joints and firmly-knit fibres
and a copiously-stocked reservoir of vitality. With an unfailing
digestion which quickly assimilated the nutriment from what he ate,
effort slowly tired, rest rapidly restored him. As he himself once
expressed it, the engine was strong and there was always plenty of fire
under the boiler. He therefore felt no need of stimulation; and this,
no doubt, was one of his safeguards against that insidious temptation
to intemperance to which so many members of his profession, from the
exhausting nature of its irregular exertions, are fatally exposed. A
full force of vitality transfuses the elastic frame with an electric
consciousness of pleasure and wealth. It is the ready power to do
anything we like within the limits of our nature, just as a rich man
feels that he can buy this, that, or the other thing at any moment if
he wishes. In contrast with the drooping, tremulous man, overtasked and
drained, startled at each sound, shrinking from the thought of effort,
crossing the street to avoid the trial of accosting an acquaintance,
afflicted with lingering pains by the slightest injury, there is
nothing so inexhaustibly fascinating as an exuberant vigor of life in
the senses, easily shedding annoyances, quickly healing hurts, ready at
every turn for transmutation into any form of the universal good.

The effect of an artistic drill resolutely applied is something
which very few persons appreciate. Faithfully practised, its power
is surprising. Most observers, instead of recognizing its steady
accumulation of gains, attribute the startling result to exceptional
genius. Artistic drill for super-eminent excellence in _any_ personal
accomplishment has a moral value no less than a physical service but
little understood. It lifts one above the multitude in that particular
and gives him distinction. It thus fosters self-respect and puts him
at work with greater zeal and assurance. It is thus a moral basis
of inspiration and contentment. The _drill_ of the horseman, the
sportsman, the boxer, the soldier, the dancer, the singer, the orator,
has an effect quite distinct from and superior to that of labor or
exercise. Labor or exercise is straggling, broken, fitful; but drill
is regular, symmetric, _rhythmical_, and has an influence to refine and
exalt by economizing and directing the forces of the organism while
enhancing them. It is a discipline of art. In its final completeness,
corporeal and mental, it gives one an easy confidence, a feeling of
competency, which is a great luxury. It enables one to stand up before
his fellow-men with free chest and alert spirit and look straight in
their eyes without blenching and perform his tasks without flurry. This
was Forrest. He attained this deliberate self-possession, this mastery
of his resources, in a degree which cannot be ascribed to one actor out
of ten thousand, to one man out of a million.

A brief account of his first appearance in Boston will give an idea of
the experience which he enjoyed in those years, in constant repetition,
as his fresh engagements led him over the land from city to city.

  "BOSTON, February 7th, 1827.

"MY DEAR MOTHER,--Sunday evening I arrived, after a tedious and
wearisome journey, at the place which is called the literary emporium
of the Western hemisphere, and on Monday evening, for the first time
in my life, made my bow to the good people of Massachusetts. I was
received with acclamations of delight, and the curtain fell amidst
repeated and enthusiastic testimonials of gratification and approval.

"Here, mother, I must break off awhile; for Mr. Fisher, a Quaker
preacher, has just stepped in to see me. He was one of my
fellow-passengers hither in the stage-coach; and as he is a very
agreeable man, possessing much mind, I have a disposition to treat him
with deference and respect.

  "Evening, 11 o'clock.

"I have just returned from performing William Tell. The house was
crowded, and the applause generous. I am charmed with the Boston
people. They are both liberal and refined. In this place I shall add
much to my reputation, as well as enlarge my purse, and at present
this latter is as necessary and will be as acceptable as the former.

"Why does not brother William write me oftener than he does? Did you
receive the $100 I sent you?

"All court, every attention, is paid me here by the young men of first
respectability. These truly flattering attentions make me hold you,
beloved mother, dearer than ever before. I trust I shall not live in
vain, but hold my course a little longer, that I may restore you to
peace and competency and reflect a mellow light upon the evening of
your declining day.

"With sincerest love for sisters and brother, I am yours till death.


It was on the opening night of this engagement, February 5th, 1827,
in the old Federal Street Theatre, in the character of Damon, that
Forrest was seen for the first time by James Oakes, who was destined to
be his most intimate and devoted friend from that hour unto the close
of earth. After the play Oakes went behind the scenes and obtained an
introduction, his heart yet shaking from his eyes the watery signals
of the profound emotion awakened in him by the performance. The new
acquaintance was cemented by a long and happy conversation in the
room of the actor, though neither of them could then have dreamed how
momentous a part it was to bear henceforth in the lives of both. They
flowed harmoniously together as if they had been foreordained for each
other by being set to the same rhythm. Forrest was a little less than
twenty-one, Oakes a little less than twenty years old at that time.
They were as alert and sinewy, as free and pleasureful, as a couple of
bounding stags, and the world lay all before them in roselight. Ah,
what a tinge of pensive wonder, what a shade of mournful omen, would
have dropped on the bright sentiment of that exuberant season if they
could have foreseen all to the end,--the tragic sorrows and deaths of
so many of their friends, leaving these two to journey on, clinging the
closer the more others fell away!

A little over four months after his brilliant success in Boston, he
appeared, under circumstances less auspicious, in the capital of Rhode
Island, and had a short but ominous illness, which he described in a
letter to his mother.

  "PROVIDENCE, 20th June, 1827.

"DEAR MOTHER,--I performed for the first time under the immediate
patronage of Providence on Friday evening last. And, to say truth, it
was but to 'a beggarly account of empty boxes,'--a thing very strange
to me nowadays. The theatre is an old barn of a place, and reminds
me very much of the itinerant expeditions of my early days in Ohio
and Kentucky, days which often come back to my thought and twinge me
with their bitter-sweet memories. This edifice, however, is rendered
sacred in my eyes by the remembrance that George Frederick Cooke once
performed in it to enraptured audiences. The company is wretched,
but to-morrow it is to receive new acquisitions, and fair hopes are
aroused that in the event the enterprise will prove profitable.

"Last Monday evening, while enacting the character of Virginius,
in one of the most impassioned scenes, the blood rushed with such
violence into my head that it was with the utmost difficulty I could
complete the performance. Never in the course of my life have I
experienced such agony and horror as in that moment. I returned to my
lodgings and vainly commended myself to sleep. It was not till I had
had administered to me an anodyne powerful enough to have made me at
any other time sleep the sleep of death that I could secure repose.
The next morning I awoke unrefreshed and with little abatement of the
pain. A physician was sent for, who cupped me on the back of the neck,
producing instant relief. I have since been rapidly recovering, and
shall, no doubt, be perfectly competent to the intended performance of
Jaffier to-morrow night.

"I hope to pass a day or two with you about the 4th of July. Tell the
girls I shall bring them some presents. By the time I reach New York
you shall hear further about the bust for which I have given sittings
to a sculptor at the request of a group of my friends.

  "Your affectionate son,

By his fidelity in varied physical drill, Forrest had become a prodigy
of strength and endurance. With vivid passions, enormous vitality,
an ingenuous and sympathetic soul, a most attractive person, in the
unconventional habits of the freest of the professions, few men
were ever more beset within and without by the temptations to a
dissipated and spendthrift course. One guardian influence against
these temptations was the warning examples of so many members of his
profession whom he saw ruined by such indulgences, losing self-respect
and sinking to the lowest abandonment, coming to untimely graves, or
left in their age destitute and helpless. As one instance after another
of this sort came under his observation, he resolved to heed the
lesson, to be industrious, temperate, and prudent, and to husband his
earnings. His spontaneous tendency was to profusion, and he gave away
and lent lavishly. Learning wisdom, he became more careful in lending,
but always continued liberal in giving, and never had a passion for
saving until, largely alienated from society, he fell back as a natural
resource on that habit of accumulation which is so apt to grow by what
it feeds on.

But another influence of restraint and carefulness was stronger with
him than fear, and that was filial duty and love. Looking back to
those days from the closing part of his life, he said, with deep
emotion, "One of the strongest incentives to me in my early exertions
was the desire of relieving my mother and my sisters by securing them
independence and comfort in a home of their own." This sacred purpose
he had promised himself to fulfil. He never lost sight of it. Under
date of Buffalo, August 18th, 1827, he had written the following letter
to his mother:

"DEAR MOTHER,--After a tedious and not very profitable engagement at
Albany, I proceeded thence in a westerly direction with my friend
D. P. Ingraham, of whom you have often heard me speak in terms of
respect and admiration. I make this journey for the purpose of
recreation, in viewing the romantic beauties with which nature has
clothed and adorned herself in this part of our country, and the
developments of art and industry which are here so rapidly leading to
wealth and happiness. I have passed through a series of flourishing
towns,--Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Clinton, Vernon, Auburn,
Canandaigua, Rochester, and others,--all of which have given me
delight. Buffalo is in a dull situation, and I shall leave at once
in a steamboat for the Falls of Niagara. Before this tremendous and
sublime cataract I anticipate much pleasure in the excitement of those
exalted feelings in which my soul loves to luxuriate. From there we
shall go to Montreal and Quebec, and then return to New York.

"Before beginning my winter engagement I shall visit you. My salary
for the next year is advanced from $40 a week to $400. I should now
like--and indeed no pleasure in the world could equal it--to settle
you and my dear sisters down in some respectable, handsome, and quiet
part of Philadelphia, where you may gently pass your dear reserves of
time apart from the care and toil with which you have too long been
forced to struggle. I say Philadelphia, because I fear you could not
be prevailed on to come to New York. And indeed I do not wonder; for,
besides the numerous circle of friends you have, it is there that the
sacred ashes of my father lie.

"I shall write more fully anon.

  "Your affectionate son,

For three years now his income had been large and his investments
sagacious. The time had arrived for carrying out his design. It was
the autumn of 1829, when he was but twenty-three years old. Collecting
everything he possessed, he went from New York to Philadelphia, paid
the debts his father had left at his death twelve years before, bought
a house in the name of his mother and sisters, and deposited in the
bank to their account all he had remaining, thus securing them a
handsome support whatever might happen to him. What a luxury it must
have been to him to do this! It was the proudest and sweetest day he
had known in his life. The deed was an unobtrusive one, with no scenery
to emblazon it, no crowd to applaud; but the most eloquent climax he
ever made on the stage could not speak so strongly to the heart. His
own heart must have made blessed music in his breast as he returned to
New York thinking that for his dear mother and sisters, after so many
years of bitter poverty and toil, now there was to be no more drudgery
or anxiety. Meeting his friend Lawson the evening after his return, he
exclaimed, "Thank God, I am not worth a ducat!" and, relating what he
had done, received his heartiest congratulations on it.

At this time American literature in all its forms was chiefly derived
from English sources. As yet it scarcely had any vigorous, independent
existence. This was emphatically true of the drama. Hardly a play of
any success or note had been produced in this country by a native
author. All the literary circles were slavishly subjected to English
authority, and this whole province of life, both in respect of
intellectual production and taste and in respect to the business
management of it, was principally under English control. The managers
of our theatres felt that their interest lay in getting tested plays
from abroad at a merely nominal price, rather than in expending larger
sums on the risky experiment of securing original productions at home.
But Forrest was never an unthinking conformist in anything, accepting
what was customary simply because it was easiest and because others did
so. He had a bold individuality which was constantly showing itself.
The feeling of nationality and patriotic pride, too, was always intense
in him. Moved by this sentiment, as well as by the desire to secure
some parts which should be exclusively his own, he began a series of
liberal offers, from five hundred to three thousand dollars each, for
original plays by American authors. He hoped thus to do something
towards the creation of an American Dramatic Literature in the plays
which our writers would be stimulated to produce, and to contribute in
his own representations of them some original types of acted characters
to the youthful stage of his country. He was the first American actor
who had ever had the enterprise, ambition, and liberality to do this.
It shows generous qualities of character,--the boldness of genius and
faith,--especially when it is remembered that he was only twenty-two
years old when he issued his first proposal, which was published by his
friend Leggett with a brief preface in a weekly review of which he was
then proprietor and editor:

"We have received the following note from Edwin Forrest, and take
great pleasure in communicating his generous proposition to the public
in his own language. It is much to be desired that native genius may
be aroused by this offer from native genius, and that writers worthy
to win may enter the laudable competition.

"'DEAR SIR,--Feeling extremely desirous that dramatic letters should
be more cultivated in my native country, and believing that the dearth
of writers in that department is rather the result of a want of the
proper incentive than of any deficiency of the requisite talents, I
should feel greatly obliged to you if you would communicate to the
public, in the next number of the 'Critic,' the following offer. To
the author of the best Tragedy, in five acts, of which the hero or
principal character shall be an aboriginal of this country, the
sum of five hundred dollars, and half of the proceeds of the third
representation, with my own gratuitous services on that occasion. The
award to be made by a committee of literary and theatrical gentlemen.'"

The committee selected by Forrest consisted of his friends Bryant,
Halleck, Lawson, Leggett, Wetmore, and Brooks. Fourteen plays were
presented in competition, and the prize was adjudged to Metamora, or
the Last of the Wampanoags, by John Augustus Stone, of Philadelphia.
Afterwards, at intervals, a similar or a larger premium was offered,
until he had secured, in all, nine prize plays: Metamora, Oraloosa,
and The Ancient Briton, by Stone; The Gladiator, Pelopidas, and The
Broker of Bogota, by Robert Montgomery Bird; Caius Marius, by Richard
Penn Smith; Jack Cade, by Robert T. Conrad; and Mohammed, by George H.
Miles. In the last instance about eighty productions were forwarded to
the judges, and, as not one of them was thought to meet the conditions
assigned, Forrest sent his check for a thousand dollars to the author
of Mohammed, as that was considered the most effective composition,
though not well adapted to the stage. The result of his efforts in
fostering a native drama was indirectly wide and lasting, in calling
general attention to this province of letters and stimulating much
able work in it. The result directly was the writing of about two
hundred plays, nine of which received prizes. Of these nine-five proved
failures after a few trials. But four, namely, Metamora, The Gladiator,
The Broker of Bogota, and Jack Cade, possessed remarkable merits,
acquired an immense popularity, and are permanently identified both
with his personal fame and with the history of the American stage. An
analysis of their plots, specimens of their language, and a description
of the dramatic character of Forrest in his imposing power and purest
originality as the impersonator of their heroes will be given in the
next chapter. In leaving this feature of his career, its substance may
be briefly summed up. In one way and another, first and last, he paid
out from his private purse for the encouragement of a native dramatic
literature as much as twenty thousand dollars, in premiums, benefits,
and gratuities to several of the unfortunate authors. Recalling his
early poverty, scanty education, and hard struggles, this fact speaks
for itself. And the ridicule often in his life cast on him for the
comparative failure of the undertaking in a high literary sense, is
cheap and unmanly. It was a noble example. Its success personally, and
pecuniarily, was emphatic and brilliant in the extreme. Its public
influence was neither small nor dishonorable.

While Forrest was filling an engagement in Augusta, Georgia, in 1831,
there appeared in the "Chronicle" of that city, from the pen of its
editor, A. H. Pemberton, a spirited and vigorous article, entitled
"Calumny Refuted, A Defence of the Drama." It was written in response
to an article called "Theatre versus Sunday-Schools," published in "The
Charleston Observer" by a Presbyterian clergyman named Gildersleeve.
The "Chronicle" had warmly commended a favorite actress to the
patronage of the citizens of Augusta on occasion of her benefit;
whereupon Gildersleeve attacked, from a sectarian point of view, the
editor, the actress, and the theatrical art and profession, displaying
a narrow and intolerant spirit. Forrest was so much pleased with the
ability and catholic temper of the reply which followed, that he had it
printed in a pamphlet, with this dedication:


"MADAM,--With much pleasure we dedicate to you the following pages
from the pen of the editor of the Augusta 'Chronicle,' whose testimony
to your amiable qualities in private life and your talents in the
dramatic profession we cordially concur in, convinced that the base
and unmerited attack which has drawn forth the present publication
will meet the reprobation of an enlightened community, and ensure you
the public favor you so truly deserve. Wishing you all health and
happiness, we remain, Madam, your obedient servants."

  Signed by Edwin Forrest and fifteen other actors and actresses.

The summer of 1831 Forrest spent with his friend Robert M. Bird, author
of The Gladiator, in a long and delightful tour, visiting the Falls of
Niagara, the Natural Bridge in Virginia, the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky,
and passing through the Southern States by way of New Orleans to Vera
Cruz and Mexico. Just before starting on this journey he had brought
out one of his new plays in Philadelphia, referring to which the
"Chronicle" said, "We hope that to-night Mr. Forrest will perceive
in pit, box, and gallery substantial proof that his fellow-citizens
appreciate his exertions in insuring the success of plays produced
by his countrymen, and that they are anxious to treat him with a
liberality like that which has always distinguished himself."

His parting performance was Lear. The house was thronged to its
utmost capacity, and when the curtain fell there were unanimous and
long-continued calls for him. He came forward and made the following

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--Though exhausted by the exertions of the
evening, I cannot resist the opportunity, thus kindly afforded, to
return my unfeigned thanks, not only for the unceasing patronage and
liberal applause which you have bestowed upon my humble efforts as a
tragedian, but also for your unequivocal approbation of my labors in a
cause, the accomplishment of which is the proudest wish of my heart; I
mean the establishment of an AMERICAN NATIONAL DRAMA.

"My endeavors cannot but be crowned with success when thus ably
seconded by the intelligence of a community whose kindness I most
gratefully acknowledge, and whose good opinion it would be my boast to

"I am, for a while, about to forego the gratification of your
smiles,--to exchange the populous city for the mountain-top, the
broad lake, the flowering prairie, and the solitude of the pathless
wood,--in the hope that, thus communing, my heart may be lifted up,
and I may with more fidelity portray the lofty grandeur of the tragic
muse from having gazed into the harmonious, unerring, and interminable
volume of NATURE.

"Trusting I shall have the honor of appearing before you again
next season, I wish you the enjoyment of uninterrupted health and
happiness, and bid you, regretfully, _Adieu_."

Dr. Bird was an excellent travelling companion, being a man of most
genial quality, fine talents and scholarship, master of the Spanish
language, and very familiar with South America in its history,
geography, and scenery, and the characteristic traits of its people.
The scenes of two of his dramas were laid here; and at Bogotá and in
Peru they talked over the fates of Febro the Broker, and Oraloosa, the
last of the Incas. The trip proved a charming and profitable one, and
the friends came back to their tasks with increased zeal and vigor.

During the years now under review--from 1827 to 1834--the success and
prosperity of Forrest were uninterrupted and unbounded. Not a single
incident occurred seriously to mar his happiness. Professional and
social honors flowed on him from all quarters. The obstacles put in his
way became stepping-stones. He seemed to need only to wish a prize in
order to receive it. Ensphered in the splendid and sounding reputation
he had won, he passed in starring engagements from city to city through
the land, everywhere welcomed with enthusiastic acclaim and the mark of
incessant private attentions. To be a popular favorite in this country
fifty years ago was a very different thing from what it is now. Then a
famous man stood out conspicuously, and was heralded and followed and
huzzaed and talked about in a degree scarcely credible to the present
generation. Every day the individual seems to wither and dwindle more
and more as society dilates and clamors and pushes its monopolizing
claims. The conflict of interests, the noisy and hurrying battle of
life, the distracting multiplicity of pursuits, duties, and amusements,
leave us neither time nor faculty for leisurely contemplation or for
disinterestedly admiring other people. We are absorbed in ourselves and
the frittering hurly-burly about us. Fame is less sincere and valuable,
less easily retained, than it used to be when public attention was
not so preoccupied, so jaded and fickle. Those who are accustomed
to the rapid succession of actors, singers, orators, coming each
season, taking their fees, their bouquets, their applause, and utterly
forgotten as soon as they have passed, cannot well realize the extent
and steadfastness of the proud affection with which the American people
regarded Forrest. Nothing like it seems possible now.

He keenly enjoyed this popularity. Open-hearted as he was, and
democratic in temper, nothing else could have given him so much
pleasure or have been so stimulating to his ambition as this idolatry
from the masses. It was as a luxurious incense in his nostrils; and it
made him comparatively insensible to those sneers and snarls, those
malignant insinuations and mocking comments which no one running such
a triumphant career could expect altogether to escape. His prosperity
was so great, his progress so rapid and constant, his friends so
numerous and warm, the common tone of the press so eulogistic, that it
was easy for him to shed the assaults of his enemies unnoticed, and
to meet the gibes of rancorous critics with equanimity. Firm in his
health, proud in his strength, assured in his place, frank and trusting
in his love, and satisfied with his work and its prizes, he could
afford to smile at impotent attacks. He did so, and stood them for a
long time undisturbed.

But when, in later years, the bloom had been somewhat brushed from
life, and the freshness worn from experience, and the meaner phases
of human nature abundantly brought home to him,--then the war of
incompetent and unprincipled criticism, the storm of virulent personal
animosities, raging ever worse and worse, was a very different
thing. Then the stings of ridicule and falsehood were bitterly felt
and resented. Their poison sank deeply into his soul, and, rankling
there, made him a changed man. In a subsequent chapter there will be
an occasion to do justice to this subject and to its morals by a full
treatment. It is appropriate here merely to explain the causes of
the unfair depreciation and the venomous hostility with which he was
pursued from the time he first appeared suddenly in the theatrical
firmament as a star of the first magnitude.

The first cause of the endless flings, aspersions, and belittling
valuations of which Forrest was the subject is to be found in the mere
fact of his success itself. Every one familiar with the workings of
unregenerate human nature must confess the truth of this assertion,
dark and sad as it is. In this world of baffled aspirants and jealous
rivals the man who surpasses his competitors finds himself amidst a
host of foes, who, soured and angry at their own failure, are mortified
by his success and strive by malignant detractions to blacken his
laurels and drag him down to themselves. Envy is a frightful power
among men, and it is said by De Tocqueville to be the characteristic
vice of a democracy. Like a diseased eye, it is offended by everything
bright. Nobody assails the nobodies who never undertake anything.
Few assail the incompetents who fail in what they undertake. But let
a strong man conspicuously cover himself with coveted prizes, and
hundreds will be snarling at his heels, barking at his glory, eagerly
declaring that he does not deserve his success, but that it properly
belongs to them. A vast quantity of acrimonious criticism originates
in envy. The ancient Roman victors when they rode in a Triumph wore
amulets as a protection against the evil eyes of envy.

Another cause in Forrest of offence and numerous dislike was the
pronounced distinctiveness of his character, his marked and independent
manhood. Most people are of the conventional type in personality and
manners, each one as the rest are. And their likings are confined to
those of their own stamp. A man of fresh and decisive originality,
who is and appears just what God and nature have made him, who thinks
for himself, speaks for himself, acts himself out with freedom and
power, disturbs and repels them. He irritates their prejudices by
violating their standards. His frank and flexible spontaneity, his
uncovered impulsive revelation of his feelings, and fearless choice
of what he will do or will not do, imply a tacit contempt for their
meek conformities and spirit of routine. Thus their self-esteem is
hurt and they are made angry. Forrest was a man of this kind, not
addicted to swear in the polished phrase of the magistrate, but in his
own honest vernacular. The true theory of republican America is that
the people should _not_ be cast in the monotonous moulds of certain
classes or types, the national character a fixed repetition, but that
every citizen should be in himself a priest and a king before God,
with his own form and color and relish of individuality unrepressed by
any foreign dictation. This democratic idea was well realized in Edwin
Forrest. It made him all his life a touchstone of hostility to those
whose social subserviency it rebuked or whose aristocratic prejudices
it set bristling.

He drew forth the animosity and injurious influence of a third set of
opponents from among the least noble and successful members of his
own profession, with whom, from dissimilarities of tastes and habits
and preference for the opportunities of higher intercourse opened to
him, he did not intimately associate as an equal. He had an ample
supply of friends and comrades endowed with distinguished talents
and proud aspirations, scholars, poets, jurists, statesmen, whose
fellowship strengthened his ambition, nourished his mind, refined his
fancy, gratified his affections, and led him into the ideal world
of books and art. Courted by such gentlemen, with his rising fame
and fortune he naturally chose their society, to the neglect of that
of his fellow-actors whose haunts were low, whose habits loose, and
whose professional status a dull and hopeless mediocrity. It is not
customary for the distinguished leaders and masters in any profession
to associate in close intimacy with the rank and file of workmen in
their departments. It _is_ customary, however, for the rank and file
to resent the neglect and take their revenge in flouting. Giotto,
Lionardo, Raphael, Titian, did not hob-nob and lounge with the ordinary
painters of their day. The friends of artists are not artisans, but
other artists, their peers, noble patrons, celebrated persons, and
inspiring coadjutors. The blame so bitterly and often cast on Forrest
in this respect was unjust. The vindictive personal censures which
his sometimes absorbed and distant bearing elicited from injured
self-love were ignoble. The stock is no doubt often provoked to sneer
at the Star; but the action is not beautiful or worthy of deferential
attention. If the ordinary members of a profession, instead of looking
askance at the extraordinary ones and indulging in detraction, would
cultivate admiring sympathy, aspiring intelligence, and nobleness, they
would soon bridge the chasm that separates them. It is the absence
of generous sensibility and self-respecting application that at once
keeps them inferiors and prevents their superiors from becoming their
intimates. In the last twenty-five years of his life Forrest had, as a
consequence of what he had been through, an explosive irritability of
temperament, and not infrequently in moving among theatrical companies
betrayed an imperious sense of power. But he was profoundly just, ready
instantly to make princely amends when convinced of an error or wrong;
and under his harsh and volcanic exterior there always, even to the
very last, slept a deep spring of tenderness pure enough to reflect the
eyes of angels. It was perfectly natural that he should be misjudged.
Not one in a thousand could be expected to have the generous insight,
the detachment and gentleness, needed to read him aright. Consequently,
a swarm of false accusations and angry remarks pursued him like a buzz
of wasps enveloping his head.

Still further, he incurred the special resentment of that class of
newspaper critics who expected to receive tribute from those whom
they condescended to praise. Many of these writers for the press have
been so accustomed to be courted, flattered, compensated, that they
have come to regard a failure on the part of a public performer to
propitiate their good graces in advance by suppliant attentions, and
to acknowledge them afterwards by thanks if not by rewards, as just
cause for turning their pens against the delinquent. Forrest was
always too honest and too proud to stoop to anything of this kind.
He strove to do the best justice in his power to the characters he
impersonated, and would then leave the verdict to the instincts of the
public and the unbiassed judgments of competent critics. The utter
falsity, unfairness, shallowness, and absurdity which so often marked
the dramatic critiques of the press, a large proportion of which were
written by persons not only notoriously prejudiced and unprincipled
but also ignorant of the elementary principles of criticism, early
disgusted and angered him to such a degree that he would have nothing
whatever to do with this class of writers, but turned from them
with disdain. They knew his feeling, and they sought their revenge
by every sort of exaggeration and caricature. With artifices of
misrepresentation, burlesque, elaborate assault, and incidental jeer,
they racked their ingenuity to lessen his reputation and make him
wince. They succeeded better in the latter than in the former.

At that time, as has been said, the influence of English literature and
talent held almost exclusive possession of the field in this country,
most especially in theatrical matters. All the great travelling stars
of the stage, until Forrest rose, had been drawn from the English
galaxy. The chief dramatic critics were Englishmen. There was a
strong banded interest to keep these things so. But the rising spirit
of nationality was beginning to assert itself. In the conflict that
ensued, Forrest was made a central figure around whom the struggle
raged most fiercely. The English clique were pledged to maintain the
supremacy of their own school and its representatives, while the
Americans stood up distinctively in support and praise of whatever
was native. A majority of the worst critiques against Forrest were
written by foreigners under the instigation of the English clique.
The extent and power of this passionate bias on both sides are now so
nearly a mere matter of the past that it is not easy for the present
generation to realize them. The manager of a prominent New York journal
enlisted on the English side, who had a strong antipathy to Forrest on
personal grounds, resolved to write him down, cost what it might. A
friend of the actor said to the editor, "You cannot do it; he is too
popular." The editor replied, "The continual dropping of water wears
away the stone," and made his columns pour an incessant rain of satire
and abuse. Many a damaging estimate was levelled against him simply as
the first American tragedian who had by his original power acquired a
national reputation and promised through his increasing imitators to
found a school.

Besides all these sets of hostile regarders, he was misliked as a
man and maligned or disesteemed as an actor by another class, whose
representatives are very numerous, namely, those persons of a feeble
and squeamish constitution and sickly delicacy who could not stand
the powerful shocks he administered to their nerves. The robust and
towering specimens of impassioned manhood which he exhibited, teeming
with fearless energies, constantly breaking into colossal attitudes and
gestures, lightnings of expression and thunderbolts of speech, were
too much for them. Their quivering sensitiveness cowered before his
terrible fire and stride, and shrank from him with fear; and fear is
the parent of hate. Faint ladies, spruce clerks, spindling fops, and
perfumed dandies were horrified and wellnigh thrown into convulsions by
his Gladiator and Jack Cade. Then they vented their own weakness and
ignorance of virile truth in querulous complaints of his measureless
coarseness and ferocity. It is obvious that weaklings will shudder
before such heroic volcanoes of men as Hotspur and Coriolanus and
resent their own terror on its cause. Forrest produced the same effect
when he personated such overwhelming characters on the stage. Made on
that pattern and stocked with ammunition on that scale, he lived as it
were in reality the parts he played in fiction, and was ever, in his
own way and in his own measure, true to nature and life. The lion and
the tiger are not to be toned down to the style of the antelope or the
mouse because timid spectators may desire it for the sparing of their

Finally, one more class of play-goers were continually censuring
Forrest, casting blame even on his best portrayals. They had better
grounds for their fault-finding than the others, and were partly
justified in their verdicts, only unjust in their wilful exaggeration
of his defects and ungenerous in their prejudiced denial of his
conspicuous and imposing merits. Reference is now made to the select
class of refined and scholarly minds, exquisitely cultivated in all
directions, who insist that art is distinct from nature, being the
purified and heightened reflection of nature through the mind at one
remove from reality. Exuberance of power and sincerity was the primary
greatness of Forrest as a tragedian. A small but most commanding
portion of the public maintained that this too was the chief foible
and limitation of his excellence, leading him to attempt on the stage
a living resurrection of the crude truth of nature in place of that
idealized softening and tempered reflex which is the genuine province
of art. Shakspeare himself said that the end of playing was and is
not to bring nature herself upon the stage, but to _hold the mirror
up to nature_. The perfected artistic actor does not bring before
his audience the reality itself of life with all its interclinging
entanglements of passion and muscle, but he drops the repulsive
details, all unessential vulgarities, refines and combines the chief
features, harmonizing and heightening them in the process, and shows
the result as a free picture, like the original in form and color and
moving, but without its tearing ruggedness or expense of volition. This
view is a true one, though not the adequate truth in its completeness.
And this criticism is proper, though they who brought it against
Forrest, in their intolerance, urged it beyond its fair application to
him. It never was claimed that he was a perfect artist; it cannot be
honestly denied that he was a great one. As a rule he did, no doubt,
lack that last and most irresistible charm of genius, the easy curbing
of expenditure which is the divine girdle of art. The bewitchment of
the fairest of the goddesses lay in her cestus. The enchanting cestus
of art is continence around strength. Human nature flung back on its
elemental experiences in their extremest energy breaks loose from the
finished forms and manners of polite society, and the conventional
members of polite society are naturally displeased with the player who
presents a specimen of this kind in its tempestuous truth not refined
and tamed to their code. The great characters of Forrest were statues
of their originals, recast in their native moulds in his imagination
and heart, and placed directly on the stage in living action. The
excrescences unremoved by the chisel and file did not lessen their
truth or affect their sublimity. But in the eyes of dilettante critics
who had no free intellect behind their glasses and no generous passions
beneath their gloves, a perception of the marks of the moulds caused
all the heroic grandeur of the images to go for nothing.

It is necessary to bear in mind these six classes of critics in
order justly to understand the career of Forrest as an actor with
the extraordinary amount of depreciation, invective, and ridicule he
encountered as an offset to his surpassing popular success. For before
the cliques of critics spoke, while they were speaking, and after they
had spoken, unaffected by anything they said, the general average of
theatre-goers were played upon in their manliest sympathies by him
as by no other actor of his time, and the great mass of the people
followed him with their loving admiration and praise like a flood. And
in such matters as this, we may be well assured, the permanent judgment
of the multitude is never grandly wrong, however pettily right the
opinion of the opposing few may be.

January 8th, 1834, Forrest wrote to Henry Hart, officer of a literary
society in Albany, the following eminently characteristic letter. The
period of critical transition from youth to manhood which he spent in
Albany had left lingering recollections of interest and gratitude in
him which he gladly availed himself of this opportunity to express in
an act of public spirit.

"SIR,--The laudable zeal you have evinced in forming of the Young Men
of Albany, without regard to individual condition, an Association for
Mutual Improvement, is alike creditable to the heads that projected
and the hearts that resolved it. In a country like ours, where all
men are free and equal, no aristocracy should be tolerated, save
that aristocracy of superior mind, before which none need be ashamed
to bow. Young men of all occupations will now have a place stored
with useful knowledge where at their leisure they may assemble for
mutual instruction and the free interchange of sentiment. A taste for
American letters should be carefully disseminated among them, and
the parasitical opinion cannot be too soon exploded which teaches
that 'nothing can be so good as that which emanates from abroad.' Our
literature should be independent; and with a hearty wish that the
fetters of prejudice which surround it may soon be broken, I enclose
the sum of one hundred dollars to be appropriated to the purchase of
_books purely American_, to be placed in the library for the use of
the young men of Albany."

To this letter an interesting reply was written by the president of the
Association, Amos Dean:

"The Committee propose, sir, to expend your donation in the purchase
of books containing our political history, which, unlike that of most
other nations, is made up of the opinions and acts of a People, and
not of a Court. Our national existence was the commencement of a new
era in the political history of the world. In the commencement and
continuance of that existence, three things are to be regarded,--the
reason, the act, and the consequence. The first is found in the
recorded wisdom of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton,
Jay, Franklin, and a host of other worthies who shed the brilliant
light of the most gifted order of intellect around the incipient
struggles of an infant nation. The second, in the firm resolves of our
first councils, and the eloquent voice of our early battle-fields. The
third, in the many interesting events of our subsequent history, and
on the living page of our present prosperity.

"These constitute a whole, and the books from which that whole is
derivable must necessarily be '_books purely American_.' We shall
preserve and regard them as monuments of your munificence."

He was now twenty-eight years of age. He had been steadily on the
stage for over twelve years. The regular succession of engagements,
and even the constant repetition of enthusiastic crowds and applause,
began to be monotonous. He had accumulated a fortune of nearly two
hundred thousand dollars, and could afford a season of rest. He felt
that it would be a relief to throw off the professional harness for
a while, and look out upon life from an independent point of view.
He was also well aware that there was much for him yet to learn,
heights in his own art which he was far from having attained, and he
longed for a large interval of exemption from toil and care, wherein
he might quietly apply his faculties to learn, and let his energies
lie fallow for a new lease of exertion in the loftiest field of the
drama. Accordingly, he determined to set apart two years for travel,
observation, study, pleasure, and improvement in the principal
countries of the Old World.

Before his departure he received a public tribute of respect
and affection of such a character and from a collection of such
distinguished men that any man in the country, no matter of what
profession or rank, might well have felt proud to receive it. It took
place on the 25th of July, and the following account of the affair is
condensed from a report which appeared in the New York "Evening Post"
immediately afterwards:

"The intention of Mr. Forrest to visit Europe having been stated in
the public papers, his approaching departure was considered, by a
large number of his fellow-citizens, as presenting a proper occasion
to express to him, by some suitable public tribute, the estimation
in which he is held, alike for those talents which had placed him
at the head of his profession, and those virtues which had endeared
him to his friends. To carry out this object, a meeting was held at
the Shakspeare Hotel, when the subject was fully discussed, and a
committee appointed to consider and report to a subsequent meeting the
mode in which the object should be accomplished, so that the tribute
might be creditable to the taste of those presenting it and worthy of
the high character and merit of him to whom it was to be rendered. In
the mean while, the following gentlemen signed a paper expressing the
desire of the subscribers to take part in the contemplated testimonial:

  WM. T. M'COUN,
  R. R. WARD,

"The committee to whom the matter had been referred reported that
a gold medal, with a bust of Mr. Forrest in profile on one side,
surrounded by a legend in these words, _Histriom Optimo_, EDUINO
FORREST, _Viro Præstanti_, and a figure of the genius of Tragedy
with suitable emblems on the other, surrounded, as a legend, with
the following quotation from Shakspeare, '_Great in mouths of wisest
censure_,' would perhaps constitute the most expressive and acceptable
token of those sentiments of admiration and regard which it was the
wish of the subscribers to testify to Mr. Forrest. The report having
been unanimously adopted, the task of drawing up suitable designs was
confided to Mr. Charles C. Ingham. The dies were engraved by Mr. C. C.

"In accordance with the suggestions of many citizens, a public dinner
to Mr. Forrest was agreed upon as furnishing the most appropriate
opportunity of presenting to him this token of their regard. To this
end a committee was charged to make the necessary arrangements, and
the following is their invitation addressed to Mr. Forrest, together
with his reply:

  "NEW YORK, July 10, 1834.


"DEAR SIR,--A number of your friends, learning your intention
shortly to visit Europe, are desirous, before your departure, of an
opportunity of expressing, in some public manner, their sense of your
merits, professional and personal. It would be a source of regret to
them if one so esteemed, while sojourning in foreign lands, should
possess no memorial of the regard entertained for him in his own.

"We have been charged as a committee, with a view to carry this
purpose into execution, to request the pleasure of your company at a
dinner, at the City Hotel, on any day most agreeable to yourself.

  "With sincere esteem and respect,
    "We are your ob't serv'ts,
      R. R. WARD,

  "WASHINGTON HOTEL, July 12th, 1834.

"GENTLEMEN,--I have had the honor to receive your communication of
the 10th instant, inviting me to dine with a number of my friends at
the City Hotel previous to my approaching departure for Europe, and
signifying a desire to bestow upon me some token of regard, which, as
I journey in foreign lands, may preserve in my memory the friends I
leave in my own.

"I have received too many and too important testimonials from my
friends in New York to render any additional memorial necessary for
the purpose you indicate. But, knowing the pleasure which generous
natures feel in bestowing benefactions, I accept with lively
satisfaction the invitation you have conveyed to me in such grateful
terms; and may be excused if, in doing so, I express my regret that
the object of your kindness is not more worthy so distinguished a mark
of favor.

"With your permission, gentlemen, I will name Friday, the 25th
instant, as the day when it will best comport with the arrangements I
have already made, to meet you as proposed.

  "I am, with sentiments of great
    respect and regard,
      your ob't serv't,

"Messrs. WM. DUNLAP, and others.

"On Friday last, the day named by Mr. Forrest, this gratifying
testimonial of regard for an individual whose character as a citizen,
not less than his genius as an actor, has insured for him general
respect, was carried into effect at the City Hotel. The repast
provided for the occasion by Mr. Jennings, the accomplished director
of that establishment, displayed all that taste and splendor for which
his entertainments are remarkable. At six o'clock a very numerous
company, comprising a large number of our most distinguished and
talented citizens, sat down to the table. The Honorable Wm. T. McCoun,
Vice-Chancellor, presided, assisted by General Prosper M. Wetmore, Mr.
Justice Lownds, and Alderman Geo. D. Strong as Vice-Presidents. On the
right of the President was seated the guest in whose honor the feast
was provided, and on his left the Honorable Cornelius W. Lawrence,
Mayor of the City. Among the guests were the managers of the several
principal theatres in the United States in which the genius of Mr.
Forrest has been most frequently exercised, together with several of
the most esteemed members of the theatrical profession; among them the
veteran Cooper and the inimitable and estimable Placide.

"On the removal of the cloth the following regular toasts were


"1. _The Drama._--The mirror of nature, in which life, like Narcissus,
delights to contemplate its own image.

"2. _Shakspeare._--Like his own Banquo, 'father of a line of
kings'--monarchs who rule with absolute sway the passions and
sympathies of the human heart.

"Previous to offering the third toast, the chairman, Chancellor
McCoun, addressed the company in the following terms:

"To your kindness and partiality, gentlemen, I owe it that the
pleasing duty devolves upon me of consummating the object for which
we are this day met together. To render a suitable acknowledgment
to worth is one of the most grateful employments of generous minds.
But with how much more alacrity is such an office undertaken when
the worth is of so mingled a character that it equally commands the
admiration of our intellects and the applause of our hearts, and when
it is to be exercised not for merit of foreign growth and already
stamped with foreign approbation, but for the offspring of our own
soil and nursed into fame by our own encouragement.

"Eight years ago a youth came to this city unheralded and almost
unknown. His first introduction to the community was through one of
those acts of kindness on his part by which his whole subsequent
career has been distinguished. To add a few dollars to the slender
means of a poor but industrious and worthy native actor, this youth,
his diffidence overcome by his sympathy, appeared in the arduous
character of Othello before a metropolitan audience. What was the
astonishment and delight of the spectators when, instead of a raw
and ungainly tyro, they beheld one who needed only a few finishing
touches to render him the peer of the proudest in his art! A rival
theatre was then rapidly rising under the superintendence of a man
who has had few superiors as a director of the mimic world of the
stage. To this theatre the unheralded youth (now the 'observed of all
observers') was speedily transferred, and during the most brilliant
period of its history was its 'bright particular star.' Allured by the
strange and attractive light, the wealth, the talent, the fashion and
respectability of the city nightly crowded its benches. The carriages
of the luxurious were drawn up in long retinue before its doors,
and the laborious left their tasks and repaired in throngs to sit
entranced beneath the actor's potent spell. Not Goodman's Fields, when
Garrick burst, a kindred prodigy, on the astonished London audience,
displayed nightly a gayer scene nor resounded with heartier plaudits.

"Such success naturally elicited from rival theatres the most
splendid offers; yet, though earning a poor stipend and held but
by a verbal tie, this honorable boy--his prospects altered but his
mind the same--gave promptly such replies as showed that he valued
integrity at its proper price. I shall be pardoned for thus adverting
to one such instance among the many that might be adduced as finely
illustrative of his character to whose honor it is mentioned.

"The time soon came, however, when he began to reap a harvest of
profit as well as fame. And one of the first uses to which he turned
his prosperity was to arouse the dramatic talent of his countrymen.
The fruits of his liberality and judgment are several of the most
popular and meritorious tragedies which have been produced on the
modern stage. One of them, wholly American in its character and
incidents, has been performed more frequently and with more advantage
to the theatres than any other play in the same period of time on
either side of the Atlantic. Though not without defects as a drama,
it has the merit of presenting a strong and natural portrait of one
of the most remarkable warriors of a race the last relics of which
are fast melting away before the advancing tide of civilization.
Yet, whatever the intrinsic qualities of the production, no one
has witnessed it without feeling that its popularity is mainly to
be ascribed to the bold, faithful, and spirited personation of the
principal character; and, as the original of Metamora died with King
Philip, so his scenic existence will terminate with the actor who
introduced him to the stage. Among the other dramatic productions
which the same professional perspicuity and generous feeling gave
rise to are two or three of extraordinary merit. One of them, The
Gladiator, for scenic effect, strongly-marked and well-contrasted
characters, and fine nervous language, is surpassed by few dramas of
modern times.

"But while this young actor was thus encouraging with liberal hand the
literary genius of our countrymen, many an admiring audience beheld
through the medium of his personations the noblest creations of the
noblest bards of the Old World 'live o'er the scene' in all that
reality which only acting gives.

  "''Tis by the mighty actor brought,
    Illusion's perfect triumphs come;
   Verse ceases to be airy thought,
    And sculpture to be dumb.'

"Gentlemen, I have thus far dwelt on points in this performer's
history and character with which you are all acquainted. There are
other topics on which I might touch--did I not fear to invade the
sanctuary of the heart--not less entitled to your admiration. But
there are some feelings in breasts of honor and delicacy which, though
commendable, cannot brook exposure; as there are plants which flourish
in the caves of ocean that wither when brought to the light of day. I
shall therefore simply say that in his private relations, as in his
public career, he has _performed well his part_, and made esteem a
twin sentiment with admiration in every heart that knows him. I need
not tell you, gentlemen, that I speak of EDWIN FORREST.

"Mr. Forrest is on the eve of departure for foreign lands. To a man
combining so many claims on our regard, it has been thought proper
by his fellow-citizens to present a farewell token of friendship and
respect,--a token which may at once serve to keep him mindful that
Americans properly appreciate the genius and worth of their own land,
and which may testify to foreigners the high place he holds in our

"Mr. FORREST, I now place this memorial in your hands. It is one in
which many of your countrymen have been emulous to bear a part. It
is a proud proof of unusual virtues and talents, and as such may be
proudly worn. You will mingle in throngs where jewelled insignia
glitter on titled breasts; but yours may justly be the reflection that
few badges of distinction are the reward of qualities so deserving of
honor as those attested by the humbler memorial which now rests upon
your bosom.

"Gentlemen, I propose to you,--

"EDWIN FORREST--Estimable for his virtues, admirable for his talents.
Good wishes attend his departure, and warm hearts will greet his

"The speaker was interrupted at different points of his address with
the most enthusiastic applause, and on its conclusion the apartment
resounded with unanimous, hearty, and prolonged cheers, attesting at
once the concurrence of his hearers in the justness of his sentiments
and their sense of the happy and eloquent language in which they
were conveyed. When this applause at length subsided, Mr. Forrest
rose, and in a style of simple and unaffected modesty returned his
acknowledgments in a speech, of which we believe the following is
nearly an accurate report:

"Mr. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--A member of a profession which brings
me nightly to speak before multitudes, it might seem affectation in
me to express how much I am overcome by these distinguishing marks of
your kindness and approbation. I stand not now before you to repeat
the sentiments of the dramatist, but in my own poor phrase to give
utterance to feelings which even the language of poetry could not too
strongly embody; and I feel this evening how much easier it is to
counterfeit emotions on the mimic scene of the stage than to repress
the real and embarrassing yet grateful agitation which this rich token
of your favor has occasioned. My thanks must therefore be rendered
in the most simple and unstudied language, for I feel 'I am no actor

"You have made allusion in terms of flattering kindness to a period of
my life I can never contemplate without emotions of the most thrilling
and pleasurable nature,--a period which beheld me, with a suddenness
of transition more like a dream than reality, one day a poor, unknown,
and unfriended boy, and the next surrounded by 'troops of friends,'
counsellors ready to advise, and generous hearts prodigal of regard.
In my immature and unschooled efforts lenient critics saw, or thought
they saw, some latent evidences of talent, and, with a generosity
rarely equalled, crowded around me with encouragement in payment of
anticipated desert. The same spirit of kindness which matured the germ
continued its fostering influence through each successive development;
and now, at the end of eight years (eight _little_ years,--how brief
they have been made by you!), with unexhausted, nay, increasing
munificence, that spirit exercises itself in bestowing a memento of
esteem as much beyond the deserts of the man as its early plaudits
exceeded the merits of the boy.

"If, in the course of a career by you made both pleasant and
prosperous, I have appropriated a portion of your bounty to the
encouragement of dramatic literature, I have, as it were, acted as
your almoner, and have found my reward in the readiness with which you
have extended in its support the same cherishing hand that sustained
me in my youthful efforts. One of the writers whose services, at
my invitation, were given to the drama, after having proved his
ability by the production of a play the popularity of which you have
not exaggerated, lies in a recent and untimely grave. The other, to
whose noble Roman tragedy you have also particularly alluded, is now
pursuing a successful career of literature in another land; and it
is a source of no little pleasure to think that I have been in some
measure instrumental in calling into exercise a mind which, if I do
not overestimate its powers, will add a fresh leaf to that unfading
chaplet with which Irving and Cooper and Bryant and Halleck, with a
few other kindred spirits, have already graced the escutcheon of our

"One allusion in your remarks has awakened emotions of the keenest
sensibility. It brings home to me more strongly than all the rest
how _deeply_ I am indebted to you; for you have not only strewn my
own path with flowers, but enabled me to discharge with efficiency
the obligations of nature to orphan sisters and a widowed parent. To
you I owe it that after a period of adversity I have been permitted
to render her latter days pleasant 'and rock the cradle of reposing
age.' So far, however, from any compliment being due to me on this
score, I may rather chide myself with having fallen short in my filial
duties. Yet were it otherwise, how could he be less than a devoted son
and affectionate brother who has experienced parental kindness and
fraternal friendship _from a whole community_?

"This token of your regard I need not tell you how dearly I shall
prize. I am about to visit foreign lands. In a few months I shall
probably behold the tomb of Garrick,--Garrick, the pupil of Johnson,
the companion and friend of statesmen and wits,--Garrick, who now
sleeps surrounded by the relics of kings and heroes, orators and
bards, the magnates of the earth. I shall contemplate the mausoleum
which encloses the remains of Talma,--Talma, the familiar friend of
him before whom monarchs trembled. I shall tread that classic soil
with which is mingled the dust of Roscius,--of Roscius, the preceptor
of Cicero, whose voice was lifted for him at the forum and whose
tears were shed upon his grave. While I thus behold with feelings of
deferential awe the last resting-places of those departed monarchs of
the drama, how will my bosom kindle with pride at the reflection that
I, so inferior in desert, have yet been honored with a token as proud
as ever rewarded their most successful efforts! I shall then look upon
this memorial; but, while my eye is riveted within its 'golden round,'
my mind will travel back to this scene and this hour, and my heart be
with you in my native land.

"Mr. President, in conclusion, let me express my grateful sense of
your goodness by proposing as a sentiment,--

"_The Citizens of New York_--Distinguished not more by intelligence,
enterprise, and integrity than by that generous and noble spirit which
welcomes the stranger and succors the friendless.

"This speech was delivered with remarkable feeling and dignity, and
received the most earnest applause of every one present. The regular
toasts were continued.

"3. _Talent and Worth_--The only stars and garters of our nobility.

"4. _Hallam and Henry_--The Columbus and Vespucius of the Drama,--who
planted its standard in the New World.

"5. _Garrick and Kean_--The one a fixed and ever-shining light of the
stage; the other an erratic star, which dazzled men by its brightness
and perplexed them by its wanderings.

"6. _Kemble and Talma_--Their genius has identified their memory with
the undying fame of Shakspeare and Racine.

"7. _George Frederick Cooke_--A link furnished by the Stage to connect
the Old World with the New. Britain nursed his genius, America
sepulchres his remains.

"8. _The Dramatic Genius of our Country_--'The ruddy brightness of its
rise gives token of a goodly day.'

"These sentiments having evoked suitable responses, letters were read
from the manager of the Park Theatre and a famous American comedian.

  "THEATRE, July 24, 1834.

"GENTLEMEN,--I received your kind invitation to the dinner to be given
by his friends to Mr. Forrest on Friday, 25th instant, and sincerely
regret that professional duties will prevent my having the pleasure
of attending it. I regret my absence for more than one reason, as
nothing would give me greater pleasure than to witness so gratifying
a tribute of respect paid to a man to whom the stage is under so
many obligations. I do not allude to his talents, splendid as they
are, but to the effect that his exemplary good conduct and uniform
respectability of private character must have on the profession. I
trust that the honor conferred on Mr. Forrest on that day will induce
many of our brethren to follow his example, and serve to convince them
that the profession of an actor will never disgrace the professor if
the professor does not disgrace the profession.

"With much respect, gentlemen, I remain your obedient servant,


  "JAMAICA, L.I., 24th July, 1834.

"GENTLEMEN,--I have the honor of acknowledging your highly flattering
invitation to be present at a dinner to be given by the friends of
Mr. Forrest on Friday next at the City Hotel, but find to-day that
imperative and unalterable circumstances will prevent my being in
town; else, be assured, no one would have heartier pleasure in being
present on any occasion of paying a tribute of public respect to
so estimable a friend and deservedly distinguished an actor as our
countryman, Edwin Forrest, Esq.

"Allow me to thank the highly-respected gentlemen you represent, and
yourselves individually, for the esteemed compliment extended to me on
this interesting and patriotic occasion.

"I have the honor to be, gentlemen, your very obliged servant,


"Among the numerous volunteer toasts drank in the course of the
evening were the following:

"_By the President_--William Dunlap: to him the American stage owes
a threefold debt. Its director, his liberality elevated it into
consequence. Its dramatist, his genius peopled it with admired
creations. Its historian, he has embalmed the memory of its professors
and given permanence to their fame.

"_By the First Vice-President_--Nature and Art: the stage has united
the antipodes of philosophy.

"_By the Third Vice-President_--The Drama: the handmaid of refinement;
may the genius that conceives and the talent that embodies her fair
creations blend the dignity of virtue with the allurements of fancy!

"_By the Hon. Cornelius W. Lawrence_--The Stage: talent may
distinguish, but virtue elevates, its professors.

"_By Thomas A. Cooper_--The Histrionic Art: may it prove triumphant
over the attacks of priestcraft and fanaticism!--equally inimical to
religion and the stage.

"_By Nathaniel Greene, of Boston_--A kind welcome and just estimate
for foreign talent,--a proud confidence in that of native growth.

"_By William Leggett_--Shakspeare: a conqueror greater than Alexander.
The warrior's victories were bounded by the earth, and he vainly wept
for other worlds to conquer. The poet 'exhausted worlds, and then
imagined new.'"

The festivities were maintained with the greatest zest till early
morning, when the company broke up in unalloyed pleasure, leaving with
their guest the recollection of an occasion of the most flattering
nature. And shortly afterwards, when he embarked, sixty or seventy of
his closest friends went several miles down the harbor in a yacht.
Among them were Leggett and Halleck. Leggett, between whom and Forrest
had grown a love as ardent and heroic as that of the famed antique
examples, threw his arms around him with a tearful "God bless and
keep you!" Halleck said, "May you have hundreds of beautiful hours in
beautiful places, and come back to us the same as you go away, only
enriched!" Forrest replied, pressing his hand, "That is indeed the
wish of a poet for his friend. You may be sure when I am at Marathon,
at Athens, at Constantinople, I shall often recall your lines on Marco
Bozzaris, and be delighted to link with them the memory of this your
parting benediction."

His friends did not say good-bye until they had through their spokesman
commended him to the special graces of the captain. Then, wishing him
a happy voyage, they joined hands, gave him twenty-four cheers, and
sailed reluctantly apart, they to their wonted ways, he to a foreign

Leaving him on the deck, with folded arms, his chin on his breast,
gazing sadly at the receding West, we will now endeavor to form a just
estimate of his acting in his favorite characters at that time. We
will try to paint him livingly, just as he was in that fresh period of
his popularity and glory, the proud young giant and democrat of the
American Stage.



A NATION beginning its career as a colony is naturally dependent on the
parent country for its earliest examples in culture. Some time must
elapse; wealth, leisure, and other conditions favorable to spiritual
enrichment and free aspiration must be developed, before it can create
ideals of its own and achieve æsthetic triumphs in accordance with
them. Such was the case with America. Its mental dependence on England
continued long after its civil allegiance had ceased. Little by little,
however, the colonial temper and servile habit were repudiated in
one province after another of the national activity. Jefferson was
our first audacious and fruitful original thinker in politics. In
painting, Stuart arose as a bold and profound master, with no teacher
but nature. In fiction, Cooper opened a rich field, and reaped a
harvest of imperishable renown. In religion, the inspired genius of
Channing appeared with a leavening impulse which still works. And in
poetry, Bryant was the earliest who treated indigenous themes with a
distinction which has made his name ineffaceable.

In no other region of the national life was the colonial dependence
so complete and so prolonged as in the drama. The chief plays and
actors alike were imported. Scarcely did anything else dare to lift its
head on the theatrical boards. All was servile imitation or lifeless
reproduction, until Forrest fought his way to the front, burst into
fame, and by the conspicuous brilliance of his success heralded a
new day for his profession in this country. Forrest, as an eloquent
writer said a quarter of a century ago, was the first great native
actor who brought to the illustration of Shakspeare and other poets
a genius essentially American and at the same time individual,--a
genius distinguished by its freedom from all trammels and subservience
to schools, by its force in a self-reliance which seemed loyalty to
nature, and by its freshness in an ideal which gave to all his efforts
a certain moral elevation,--a genius which, after every deduction,
still remained as a something peculiarly noble and enkindling, highly
original in itself, and distinctively American. This is certainly his
historic place; and it was perhaps more fortunate than calamitous that
he was left in his early years so largely without teachers and without
models, to develop his own resources in his early wanderings as a
strolling player in the West by direct experience of the soul within
him and direct observation of the impassioned unconventional life about
him. He was thus forced to shape out of the mint of his own nature the
form and stamp and coloring of his conceptions. There was fitness and
significance in such a genius as his maturing and pouring itself out
under the shade of the Western woods, rising up amid their grandeur
clear and simple as a spring, till, fed and strengthened, it leaped
forth fresh and thundering as a torrent.

In characterizing Forrest as a tragedian by the epithet American, it
is necessary that we should understand what is meant by the word in
such a connection. We mean that he was an intense ingrained democrat.
Democracy asserts the superiority of man to his accidents. Its genius
is contemptuous of titular claims or extrinsic conditions in comparison
with intrinsic truth and merit. Its glance pierces through all pompous
circumstances and pretences, to the personal reality of the man. If
that be royal and divine, it is ready to worship; if not, it pays no
false or hollow tribute, no matter what outward prestige of attraction
there may be or what clamor of threats. That is the proper temper and
historic ideal of our republic; and that was Forrest in the very centre
of his soul, both as a man and as an actor.

But his individuality was in the general sense as deeply and positively
human as it was American or democratic. That is to say, he was an
affirmative, believing, sympathetic character, not a skeptical,
negative, or sneering one. He so vividly loved in their plain and
concrete reality his own parents, brothers and sisters, friends,
native land, that he could give vivid expression to such sentiments in
abstract generality without galvanizing his nerves with any artificial
volition. His affections preponderated over his antipathies. He was
not fond of badinage, but full of downright earnestness. He loved
the sense of being, enjoyed it, was grateful for its privileges,
and delighted to contemplate the phenomena of society. He had the
keenest love for little children, and the deepest reverence for old
age. He valued the goods of life highly, and labored to accumulate
them. He had a vivid sensibility for the beauties of nature. He had
an enthusiastic admiration of great men, and a ruling desire for the
prizes of honor and fame. His soul thrilled at the recital of glorious
deeds, and his tears started at a great thought or a sublime image or
a tender sentiment. Friendship for man, love for woman, a kindling
patriotism, a profound feeling of the domestic ties, a burning passion
for liberty, and an unaffected reverence for God, were dominant chords
in his nature. He had no patience with those vapid weaklings, those
disappointed aspirants or negative dreamers, who think everything
on earth a delusion or a temptation, nature a cheat, man a phantom
or a fool, history a toy, life a wretched chaos, death an unknown
horror, and nothing between worth an effort. He was, on the contrary,
a wholesome realist, full of throbbing vitality and eagerness,
embracing the natural goods of existence with a sharp relish, and
putting a worshipful estimate on the ideal glories of humanity.
Intellect, instinct, and affection in him were all alive,--free and
teeming springs of personal power. This rich fulness of positive life
and passion in himself both opened to him the elemental secrets of
experience and enabled him to play effectively on the sympathies of
other men.

Let such a man, trained under such circumstances, endowed with a
magnificent physique, overflowing with energy and fire, become an
actor, and it is easy to see what will be the leading ideal exemplified
in his personations. Exactly what this dominant ideal was will be
illustrated in the descriptions which are to follow. But a clear
statement of it in advance will aid us the better to appreciate those

The rank of any work of art is determined by the ideal expressed in
it, and the accuracy of its expression. As has been well said, no
art better illustrates this fact than the art of acting. Take, for
instance, the genius of Kemble. His ideal was authority. He was never
so impressive as in the illustration of a king or ruler. In Coriolanus,
in Macbeth, in Wolsey, in every character that gave opportunity for it,
he was ever expressing the sense of mental or official power as the
noblest of human attributes. So the ideal of Cooke was skepticism. He
was always best as a social infidel, uttering the bitterest sarcasms.
It was this faculty that rendered his Man of the World so great a
triumph. The ideal of Kean, again, was retribution. He was grandest as
the sufferer and avenger of great wrongs. And the ideal of Macready was
that of Kemble modified by its more fretful and impatient expression,
making him ever most effective in the display of some form of pride or
wounded honor, as in Werner, Richelieu, Melantius.

In distinction from the special ideals of these and the other
most celebrated tragedians of the past, the ideal of Forrest was
unquestionably the democratic ideal of universal manhood, a deep sense
of natural and moral heroism, sincerity, friendship, and faith. This
imperial self-reliance and instinctive honesty, this unperverted and
unterrified personality poised in the grandest natural virtues of
humanity, is the key-note or common chord to the whole range of his
conceptions, on which all their varieties are modulated, from Rolla
and Tell to Metamora and Spartacus, from Damon and Brutus to Othello
and Lear. Fearless, faithful manhood penetrates them all, is the great
elevating principle which makes them harmonics of one essential ideal.
To have exemplified so sublime an ideal, in so many grand forms, each
as clearly defined as a sculptured statue, during a half-century,
before applauding millions of his countrymen, is what stamps Forrest
and makes him worthy of his fame, singling him out in the rising
epoch of his country's greatness as one of the most imposing and not
unworthiest of her types of nationality.

There are two contrasted styles of the dramatic art which have long
been recognized and discriminated in the two schools of acting, the
Romantic and the Classic. Before proceeding to the best rôles of
Forrest in his earlier period, it is indispensable that we clearly
seize the essence of the distinction between these two schools.
Otherwise we shall fail to see the originality and importance of the
relation in which he stood to them.

The one school, in its separate purity, is sensational or natural,
exhibiting characters of physical and mental realism; the other
is reflective or artistic, representing characters of imaginative
portraiture. The former springs from strong and sincere impulses,
the latter from clear and mastered perceptions. That is based on the
instincts and passions, and is predominantly imitative or reproductive;
this rests on the intellect and imagination, and is predominantly
creative. The one projects the thing in reflex life, as it exists in
reality; the other reveals it, as in a glass. That is nature brought
alive on the stage; this is art repeating nature refined at one mental
remove. They resemble and contrast each other as the hurtless image
of the bird mirrored in the lake would correspond with its concrete
cause above, could it, while yet remaining a mere reflection, address
our other senses as it now does the eye alone. The sensational acting
of crude nature is characteristically sympathetic and mimetic in its
origin, enslaved, expensive of force, and mainly seated in the nervous
centres of the body. The artistic acting of the accomplished master is
characteristically spiritual and self-creative in its origin, free,
economical of exertion, and mainly seated in the nervous centres of
the brain. The one actor lives his part, and is the character he
represents; the other plays his part, and truly portrays the character
he imagines.

The Classic style is self-controlled, stately, deliberately does what
it consciously predetermines to do, trusts as much to the expressive
power of attitudes and poses as to facial changes and voice. It
elaborates its rôle by systematic critical study, leaving nothing
to chance, to caprice, or to instinct. The Romantic style permeates
itself with the situations and feeling of its rôle, and then is full of
impetuosity and abandon, giving free vent to the passions of the part
and open swing to the energies of the performer. The one is marked by
careful consistency and studious finish, the other by impulsive truth,
abrupt force, electric bursts. That abounds in the refinements of
polished art, this abounds in the sensational effects of aroused and
uncovered nature. The former is adapted to delight the cultivated Few,
the latter thrills the unsophisticated Many.

Now, it was the originality of Forrest that he combined in a most
fresh and impressive manner the fundamental characteristics of both
these schools,--in his first period with an undoubted preponderance
of the characters of physical realism, but in his second period with
an unquestionable preponderance of the characters of imaginative
portraiture. He was from the first both an artistic and a sensational
actor. None of his great predecessors ever came upon the stage with
conceptions more patiently studied, wrought up with a more complete
consistency in every part, or with the perspective, the foreshortening,
the lights and shades, arranged with more conscientious fidelity. His
idea of a character might sometimes, perhaps, be questioned, but the
clearness with which he grasped his idea, and the thorough harmony
with which he put it forth and sustained it, could not be questioned.
In this respect he was one of the most consummate of dramatic artists.
And as for the other side of the picture, the spontaneous sincerity and
irresistible force of his demonstrations of the great passions of the
human heart were almost unprecedented in the effects they wrought.

In an accurate use of the words, sensational acting would be acting
that took its origin in the senses and passed thence through the
muscles without the intervention of the mind. This is the acting
learned by the parrot, the dog, or the monkey, and by the mere mimic.
Artistic acting, on the other hand, is acting which originates in the
creative mind and is freely sent thence through the proper channels
of expression. The true definition of art is _feeling passed through
thought and fixed in form_. When the intellectualized feeling is fixed
in its just form, it should be made over to the automatic nerves, and
the brain be relieved from the care of its oversight and direction.
Then playing becomes beautiful, because it is at ease in unconscious
spontaneity. Otherwise, it often becomes repulsive to the delicate
observer, because it is laborious. This was the one defect of Forrest
which lamed him in the supreme height of his great art. His brain
continued to do the work. There was often too much volition in his
play, causing a muscular friction and an organic expense which made the
sensitive shrink, and which only the robust could afford. But no one
was more completely an artist in always passing his emotions through
his thought, knowing exactly what he meant to do and how he would do it.

The word melodramatic properly describes an action in which the
movement is physical rather than mental, and in which more is made
of the interest of the situations than of the revelation of the
characters. For example, the pantomimic expression of great passions is
melodramatic. In this sense Forrest often produced the highest effects
where the subject and the scene, the logic of the situation, required
it. But in the popular sense of the term, which makes it synonymous
with crudity and falsity, hollow extravagance, a vulgar aiming at a
sensation by exaggeration or artifices which disregard the harmonious
fitness of things, no actor could be more free from the vice. He
was always sincere, always earnest, always careful of the sustained
congruity of his representation. And within these limits, surely the
more intense the sensation he could produce, the better. Sensation
is the very thing desired in attending a play. The spectators know
enough for their present purpose; they want to be made to feel more
keenly, more purely, more nobly. Power and perfection on the lowest
level are superior to weakness and failure on that level, and are
not incompatible with power and perfection on all the higher levels,
but rather tributary to them. Did we not desire to be strong rather
than weak, to be handsome rather than ugly, to be admired rather than
scorned, all aspiration would cease, and the human race stagnate and
end. To be capable of such astounding outbursts of power and passion
as to electrify all who behold, curdle their very marrow, and cause
them ever after to remember you with wondering interest and fruitful
imitation, is a glorious endowment, worthy of our envy. To sneer at it
as sensationalism gives proof of a mean disposition or a morbid soul.

In the same sense in which Forrest was melodramatic, God and Nature
themselves are so. What can be more genuinely sensational than Niagara,
Mont Blanc, the earthquake, the tempest, the forked flash of the
lightning, the crashing roll of the thunder, the crouch of the tiger,
the dart of the anaconda, the shriek of the swooping eagle, the prance
of the war-horse in his proud pomp? And the attributes of all these
belong to man, with additions of nameless grandeur, terror, and beauty
beside, making him an incarnate representative of God on the earth.
To see Forrest in Lear, or Salvini in Saul, is to feel this. True
sensationalism, banished in our tame times from the selfish and servile
walks of common life, is the very desideratum and glory of the Stage.


One of the first characters in which Forrest enjoyed great popularity
was that of Rolla, the Peruvian hero. The play of "The Spaniards in
Peru," by Kotzebue, as rewritten by Sheridan from a paraphrase in
English, was for a long time a favorite with the public. It brought the
adventurers and wonderful achievements of the most romantic kingdom
in Christendom into picturesque combination with the strange scenes,
simplicity, and superstition of the newly-discovered transatlantic
world, and was full of music, pomp, pictures, poetic situations, and
processions. In literary style, the knowing critics call it tawdry and
bombastic; in ethical tone, sentimental and inflated. But the average
audiences, especially of a former generation, were not fastidious
censors. They went to the theatre less to judge and sneer than to be
moved with sympathy, enjoyment, and admiration. And they found this
play rich in strong appeals to the better instincts of their moral
nature. What the blasé found turgid, affected, or ludicrous, the
unsophisticated felt to be eloquent, poetic, and noble. For the fair
appreciation of a piece of acting, assuredly this latter point of view
is preferable to the former; for tragedy is a form of poetry, and has
as one of its purest functions the revelation of the moral ingredients
of man, lifted, enlarged, and glorified in its mirror of art.

Rolla is depicted as simple, grand, a nobleman of nature, frank,
ardent, impulsive, magnanimous,--his own truth and heroism investing
him with an invisible robe and crown of royalty. It was a rôle
precisely adapted to the young tragedian whose own soul it so well
reflected. Endowed with all the chivalrous sentiments, expansive
and kindling, uncurbed by the nil admirari standards of fashionable
breeding, he could fill up every extravagant phrase of the part without
any feeling of extravagance.

Pizarro and his followers are pictured throughout the play in an
odious light, as tyrants assailing the Peruvians without provocation
and slaughtering them without mercy. The sympathies of Las Casas and
of the noble Alonzo have been alienated from their own countrymen
and transferred to the barbarians, who are represented in the most
favorable colors as honest, affectionate, brave, standing in defence of
their liberty and their altars. Alonzo, disgusted and shocked by the
atrocities of Pizarro, has joined the Peruvians, and has been placed in
conjunction with Rolla at the head of their forces. The aged Orozembo,
seized by the Spaniards and brought before their leader, is questioned,
"Who is this Rolla joined with Alonzo in command?" He replies, "I will
answer that; for I love to repeat the hero's name. Rolla, the kinsman
of the king, is the idol of our army; in war, a tiger; in peace, more
gentle than the lamb. Cora was once betrothed to him; but, finding
she preferred Alonzo, he resigned his claim, to friendship and her
happiness." Pizarro exclaims, "Romantic savage! I shall meet this Rolla
soon." "Thou hadst better not," replies Orozembo; "the terrors of his
eye would strike thee dead."

In the next scene the way is still further prepared for the impression
of his appearance. His beloved Alonzo and Cora are discerned playing
with their child in front of a wood. They talk of Rolla, of his
sacrifice for them, and of his noble qualities. Shouts arise, when
Alonzo says, "It is Rolla setting the guard. He comes." At that instant
the sonorous tones of his voice are heard from outside the stage,
like the martial clang of a trumpet, uttering the words, "Place them
on the hill fronting the Spanish camp." Every eye is fixed, the whole
audience lean forward as he enters, and in a flash the magnetic spell
is on them, and they breathe and feel as one man. The stately ease of
his athletic port, his deep square chest, broad shoulders, and columnar
neck, his frank brow, with the mild, glowing, open eyes, the warm blood
mantling the brave and wooing face, seize the collective sympathy of
the assembly, and they break into wild cheering. He seems to stand
there, in his barbaric costume and majestic attitude, as a romantic
picture stereoscoped by nature herself. And when, in reply to the
exclamation of Alonzo, "Rolla, my friend, my benefactor, how can our
lives repay the obligations which we owe thee?" he says, "Pass them in
peace and bliss; let Rolla witness it, and he is overpaid,"--the very
soul of friendship and nobility seems to flow in the sweet music of his
liquid gutturals, and the charm is complete.

From this point onward to the close all was moulded and wrought up in
perfect keeping. He had fashioned to himself a complete image of what
Rolla should be in accordance with the conception in the play, his
carriage, walk, and attitudes, his style of gesture, his physiognomy,
his tone and habit of voice. He had imprinted this idea so deeply in
his brain, and had trained himself so carefully to its consistent
manifestation, that his portrayal on the stage had all the unity of
design and precision of detail which characterize the work of a
masterly painter. Instead of using canvas, pigment, and brush, he
painted his part in the air in living pantomime. In all his rôles this
was his manner more and more up to the crowning period of his career.

He gave extraordinary effectiveness to the famous address which Rolla
pronounces to the Peruvian warriors on the eve of battle, by the manly
truth and simplicity of his delivery,--"My brave associates, partners
of my toil, my feelings, and my fame." Instead of launching forth in a
swollen and mechanical declamation, he spoke with the straightforward
truth and the varied and hearty inflection of nature; and his honest
earnestness woke responsive echoes in every breast. Like Macklin and
Garrick on the English stage, Talma on the French, and Devrient on the
German, Forrest on the American was a bold and original innovator on
the inveterate elocutionary mannerism of actors embodied in what is
universally known as theatrical delivery. For the mouthing formality,
the torpid noisiness, the strained monotony and forced cadences of
the routine players, these men of genius substituted--only enlarging
the scale of power--the abruptness, the changes, the conversational
vivacity of tone, emphasis, and inflection, which are natural to a free
man with a free voice played upon by the genuine passions of life. This
was one of the chief excellences and attractions of Forrest throughout
his professional course. He was ever a man uttering thoughts and
sentiments,--not an elocutionist displaying his trade.

Alonzo, filled with a presentiment of death, charged his friend, in
such an event, to take Cora for his wife and adopt their child. Rolla,
finding after the battle that Alonzo was a prisoner, repeated his
parting message to his wife. Cora's suspicion was aroused, and she
accused him of deserting his friend for the sake of securing her. Then
was shown a fine picture of contending emotions in Rolla. Disinterested
and heroic to the last degree, to be charged with such baseness, and
that, too, by the woman whom he loved and revered,--it stung him to
the quick. Injured honor, proud indignation, mortified affection, and
magnanimous resolution were seen flying from his soul through his form
and face. He determines to rescue Alonzo by piercing to his prison and
assuming his place. Disguised as a monk, he asks the sentinel to admit
him to the prisoner. Being refused, he tries to bribe the sentinel.
This fails, and he appeals to him by nobler motives, revealing himself
as the friend of Alonzo, who has come to bear his last words to his
wife and child. The sentinel relents. Rolla lifts his eyes to heaven,
and says, "O holy Nature, thou dost never plead in vain!" and rushes
into the arms of his friend. After an earnest controversy, Alonzo
changes dress with him, and escapes, Rolla exclaiming, with a sigh of
satisfaction, "Now, Cora, didst thou not wrong me? This is the first
time I ever deceived man. If I am wrong, forgive me, God of Truth!"

All this was done with a sincerity and energy irresistibly contagious.
And when Elvira has armed him with a dagger and led him to the couch
of the sleeping Pizarro, when, instead of slaying his foe, he wakens
him and drops the weapon, showing how superior a heathen can be to a
Christian, and when the tyrant calls in his guards and orders them to
seize the hapless Elvira, the contrast of the confronting Rolla and
Pizarro, the example of godlike magnanimity and its foil of unnatural
depravity, stands in an illumination of moral splendor that thrills
every heart.

Two more scenes remained to carry the triumph of Forrest in the part
to its culmination. The child of Alonzo and Cora, in ignorance of who
he is, has been captured by the Spanish soldiers, and is brought in.
Pizarro bids them toss the Peruvian imp into the sea. With a start and
look of alternating horror and love, Rolla cries, "Gracious Heaven,
it is Alonzo's child!" "Ha!" exclaims Pizarro: "welcome, thou pretty
hostage. Now is Alonzo again in my power." After vain expostulation,
Rolla prostrates himself before the cruel captain, saying, "Behold
me at thy feet, thy willing slave, if thou wilt release the child."
Other actors, including the cold and stately Kemble, as they spoke
these words, sank directly on their knees. But Forrest introduced a
by-play of startling power, full of the passionate warmth of nature.
Regarding Pizarro with an amazement made of surprise and scorn waxing
into noble anger, he is seen making the strongest exertion to refrain
from rushing on the tyrant and striking him down. He begins to kneel.
Half-way in the slow descent, repugnance to stoop his manhood before
such baseness checks him, and he partly rises, when a glance at the
child overcomes his hesitation, and he sinks swiftly on his knees. The
Spaniard replies, "Rolla, thou art free to go; the boy remains." With
the rapidity of lightning, Rolla snatches the child and lifts him over
his left shoulder, and, waving his sword, cries, in clarion accents,
"Who moves one step to follow me dies on the spot!" He strikes down
three of the guards who oppose him, and rushes across a bridge at the
back of the stage. The soldiers fire, and a shot strikes him as he
vanishes with the child held proudly aloft. The view changes to the
Peruvian court. The king is seen with his nobles, and with Alonzo and
Cora distracted at the loss of their child. Shouts are heard. "Rolla!
Rolla!" The hero staggers in, bleeding, ghastly, and faint, and places
the child in its mother's arms, with an exquisite touch of nature
first drawing the little face down to his own and planting a kiss on
it, staining it from his bleeding wounds in the act. She exclaims,
"Oh, God, there is blood upon him!" He replies, "'Tis mine, Cora."
Alonzo says, "Thou art dying, Rolla." He answers, faintly, "For thee
and Cora." One long gasp, a wavering on his feet, a convulsion of his
chest, and he sinks in an inanimate heap.

The truth and power with which all this was done were attested by
the crowds that thronged to see it, their intense emotion, and the
universal praise for many years awarded to it.


Another chosen part of Forrest, in which he was received with
extraordinary favor, was that of William Tell. This play, like the
former, had a basis of untutored love and magnanimity; but the romantic
heroism of the character was less remote to the American mind, less
strained in ideality, than that of Rolla. The plot was simpler, the
language more eloquent, domestic love more prominent, and patriotic
enthusiasm more emphatic. In fact, the three constant keys of the
action are parental affection, ardent attachment to native land, and
the burning passion for liberty, corresponding with three central
elements of strength in the personality of the actor now drawn to the
part with a hungry instinct.

In preparation for this rôle, Forrest had first the native congruity
of his own soul with it. Then he studied the character in the text of
Knowles with the utmost care, analyzing every speech and situation.
Furthermore, he saturated his imagination with the spirit of the life
and legends of Switzerland, by means of histories, books of travel,
and engravings, till its people and their customs, its torrents,
ravines, pastures, chalets, cloud-capped peaks, and storms, were
distinct and real to him. In the next place, he paid great attention to
his make-up, arraying himself in a garb scrupulously accurate to the
fashion of a Switzer peasant and huntsman.

No actor placed greater stress on a fitting costume than Forrest. He
knew its subtle influences as well as its more obvious effects. The
more vital unity and sensitiveness we have, the more important each
adjunct to our personality becomes. A man who is a sloppy mess of
fragments is not influenced much by anything, and in return does not
much influence anything; but to a man whose body and soul form, as
it were, one vascular piece, the action and reaction between him and
everything with which he is in close relation is of great consequence.
The dress of such a person is another self, corresponding in some sort
with the outer man as his skin does with the inner man.

When Forrest came upon the stage with his bow and quiver, belted
tunic and tight buskins, with free, elastic bearing, and high tread,
deep-breathing breast, resounding voice, his whole shape and moving
moulded to the robust and sinewy manners of the archer living in the
free, open airs between the grass and the snow, he was an embodied
picture of the legendary Swiss mountaineer. At the first sight a
keen sensation was produced in the audience, for it kindled all the
enthusiastic associations fondly bound up with this image in the
American imagination.

It is morning, the sunrise creeping down the flanks of the mountains
and spreading over the lake and valley, in the background Albert
shooting at a mark, as Tell appears in the distance returning from an
early chase. Approaching, he sees the boy, and pauses to watch him
shoot. Poised on a crag, leaping with eager gaze of fondness fixed on
the little marksman, he looks like the statue of a chamois-hunter on
the cliffs of Mont Blanc, carved and set there by some superhuman hand.
Then the magic voice, breathing love blent in freedom, is heard:

                "Well aimed, young archer!
  There plays the skill will thin the chamois herd,
  And bring the lammergeyer from the cloud
  To earth; perhaps do greater feats,--perhaps
  Make man its quarry, when he dares to tread
  Upon his fellow-man. That little arm
  May pull a sinewy tyrant from his seat,
  And from their chains a prostrate people lift
  To liberty. I'd be content to die,
  Living to see that day. What, Albert!"

The lad, with a glad cry of "Ah, my father!" flies into his embrace,
while in unison, from pit to gallery, a thousand hearts throb warmly.

One point of very great beauty and power in this tragedy is the
remarkable manner in which the author has combined the impassioned love
of national liberty with the impassioned love of the natural scenery
associated with that liberty. To these numerous descriptions, marked
by the highest declamatory merit, Forrest did ample justice with his
magnificent voice.

Indeed, elocutionary force and felicity were ever a central charm in
his acting. He did not thrust the gift ostentatiously forward for
its own sake, but kept it subordinated to its uses. His first aim in
vocal delivery was always to articulate the thought clearly,--make it
stand out in unmistakable distinctness; his second, to breathe the
true feeling of the words in his tones; his third, by rate, pitch,
inflection, accent, and pause, to give some imaginative suggestion of
the scenery, of the thought, and thus set it in its proper environment.
In the first aim he rarely failed; in the second he generally
succeeded; and he often triumphed in the third. One example, which no
man of sensibility who heard him pronounce it could ever forget, was

                              "I have sat
  In my boat at night, when, midway o'er the lake,
  The stars went out, and down the mountain gorge
  The wind came roaring,--I have sat and eyed
  The thunder breaking from his cloud, and smiled
  To see him shake his lightnings o'er my head,
  And think I had no master save his own.
  You know the jutting cliff, round which a track
  Up hither winds, whose base is but the brow
  To such another one, with scanty room
  For two abreast to pass? O'ertaken there
  By the mountain blast, I've laid me flat along,
  And while gust followed gust more furiously,
  As if to sweep me o'er the horrid brink,
  And I have thought of other lands, whose storms
  Are summer flaws to those of mine, and just
  Have wished me there,--the thought that mine was free
  Has checked that wish, and I have raised my head
  And cried in thraldom to that furious wind,
  Blow on! This is the land of liberty!"

And the following is another example, still happier in the climax of
its eloquence:

                "Scaling yonder peak,
  I saw an eagle wheeling near its brow:
  O'er the abyss his broad expanded wings
  Lay calm and motionless upon the air,
  As if he floated there without their aid,
  By the sole act of his unlorded will,
  That buoyed him proudly up. Instinctively
  I bent my bow; yet kept he rounding still
  His airy circle, as in the delight
  Of measuring the ample range beneath
  And round about: absorbed, he heeded not
  The death that threatened him. I could not shoot--
  'Twas liberty! I turned my bow aside,
  And let him soar away."

Old Melctal, the father of Tell's wife, is led in by Albert, blind and
trembling, his eyes having been plucked from their sockets by order of
Gesler. As Tell, horror-struck, listened to the frightful story from
the lips of the old man, the revelation of the feelings it stirred
in him was one of the most genuine and moving pieces of emotional
portraiture ever shown to an audience. It was an unveiled storm of
contending pity, amazement, wrath, tenderness, tears, loathing, and
revenge. Every muscle worked, his soul seemed wrapt and shaken with
thunders and lightnings of passion, which alternately darkened and
illumined his features, and he seemed going mad, until at last he
seized his weapons and darted away in search of the monster whose
presence profaned the earth, crying, as he went, "Father, thou shalt be
revenged, thou shalt be revenged!" The power of this effort is shown
in the fact that more than one critic compared his struggle with his
own feelings under the narrative of Melctal to his subsequent struggle
with the guards of Gesler, when, like a lion amidst a pack of curs, he
hurled them in every direction, and held them at bay till overpowered
by sheer numbers. The mental struggle was quite as visibly defined and
terrible as the physical one.

In this play Forrest presented four successive examples of that proud
assertion of an independent, high-minded man which has been said to be
the real type of his character as a tragedian. These specimens were
differenced from one another with such clean strokes and bold colors
that it was an æsthetic as well as a moral luxury to behold him enact
them. The first was a trenchant, sarcastic scorn of baseness, spoken
when he sees the servile peasants bow to Gesler's cap, and the hireling
soldiery driving them to it:

                "They do it, Verner;
  They do it! Look! Ne'er call me man again!
  Look, look! Have I the outline of that caitiff
  Who to the outraged earth doth bend the head
  His God did rear for him to heaven? Base pack!
  Lay not your loathsome touch upon the thing
  God made in his own image. Crouch yourselves;
  'Tis your vocation, which you should not call
  On free-born men to share with you, who stand
  Erect except in presence of their God

The second example is the stern stateliness of unshaken heroism with
which he confronts insult and threats of torture and death, when,
chained and baited by the soldiers, Sarnem bids him down on his knees
and beg for mercy. They try to force him to the ground, inciting one
another with cowardly ferocity to strike him, put out his eyes, or
lop off a limb. His bearing and the soul it revealed were such as
corresponded with the descriptive comment wrung from the onlooking

  "Can I believe my eyes? He smiles. He grasps
   His chains as he would make a weapon of them
   To lay his smiter dead. What kind of man
   Is this, that looks in thraldom more at large
   Than they who lay it on him!
   A heart accessible as his to trembling
   The rock or marble hath. They more do fear
   To inflict than he to suffer. Each one calls
   Upon the other to accomplish that
   Himself hath not the manhood to begin.
   He has brought them to a pause, and there they stand
   Like things entranced by some magician's spell,
   Wondering that they are masters of their organs
   And not their faculties."

The third example is fearless defiance of tyrannical power, when,
bound and helpless, he confronts the cowering Gesler with majestic
superiority. The Austrian governor says, "Ha, beware! think on thy
chains!" Tell replies, with swelling bosom and flashing eyes,--

  "Though they were doubled, and did weigh me down
   Prostrate to earth, methinks I could rise up
   Erect, with nothing but the honest pride
   Of telling thee, usurper, to the teeth,
   Thou art a monster! Think upon my chains!
   Show me the link of them which, could it speak,
   Would give its evidence against my word.
   Think on my chains! 'They are my vouchers, which
   I show to heaven, as my acquittance from
   The impious swerving of abetting thee
   In mockery of its Lord!' Think on my chains!
   How came they on me?"

The fourth example is that of a grand, positive exultation in the moral
beauty and glory of human nature in its undesecrated experiences. In
response to the contemptible threat of the despot that his vengeance
can kill, and that that is enough, Tell raises his face proudly,
stretches out his arm, and says, in rich, strong accents,--

              "No: not enough:
  It cannot take away the grace of life,--
  Its comeliness of look that virtue gives,--
  Its port erect with consciousness of truth,--
  Its rich attire of honorable deeds,--
  Its fair report that's rife on good men's tongues:
  It cannot lay its hands on these, no more
  Than it can pluck his brightness from the sun,
  Or with polluted finger tarnish it."

The capacities of parental and filial affection in tragic pathos
are wrought up by Knowles in the last two acts with consummate and
unrelenting skill. The varied interest and suspense of the dialogue
and action between Tell and Albert are harrowing, as, neither knowing
that the other is in the power of Gesler, they are suddenly brought
together. Instinct teaches them to appear as strangers. The struggle to
suppress their feelings and play their part under the imminent danger
is followed with painful excitement as the plot thickens and the dread
catastrophe seems hurrying. Tell, ordered to instant execution, seeks
to speak a few last words to his son, under the pretext of sending a
farewell message to his Albert by the stranger boy. In a voice whose
condensed and tremulous murmuring betrays all the crucified tenderness
it refuses to express, he says,--

  "Thou dost not know me, boy; and well for thee
   Thou dost not. I'm the father of a son
   About thy age; I dare not tell thee where
   To find him, lest he should be found of those
   'Twere not so safe for him to meet with. Thou,
   I see, wast born, like him, upon the hills:
   If thou shouldst 'scape thy present thraldom, he
   May chance to cross thee; if he should, I pray thee,
   Relate to him what has been passing here,
   And say I laid my hand upon thy head,
   And said to thee--if he were here, as thou art,
   Thus would I bless him: Mayst thou live, my boy,
   To see thy country free, or die for her
   As I do!"

Here he turns away with a slight convulsive movement mightily held
down, and Sarnem exclaims, "Mark, he weeps!" The whole audience weep
with him, too; as well they may, for the concentration of affecting
circumstances in the scene forms one of the masterpieces of dramatic
art. And Forrest played it in every minute particular with an intensity
of nature and a closeness of truth effective to all, but agonizing to
the sympathetic. His last special stroke of art was the natural yet
cunningly-prepared contrast between the extreme nervous anxiety and
agitation that marked his demeanor through all the preliminary stages
of the fearful trial-shot for life and liberty, and his final calmness.
Until the apple was on the head of his kneeling boy, and he had taken
his position, he was all perturbation and misgiving. Then this spirit
seemed to pass out of him with an irresolute shudder, and instantly
he confirmed himself into an amazing steadiness. Every limb braced as
marble, and as motionless, he stood, like a sculptured archer that
looked life yet neither breathed nor stirred. The arrow flies, the boy
bounds forward unhurt, with the transfixed apple in his hand. Tell
then slays Gesler, and, dilating above the prostrated Austrian banner,
amidst universal exultation both on and off the stage, closes the play
with the shouted words,--

              "To arms! and let no sword be sheathed
  Until our land, from cliff to lake, is free!
  Free as our torrents are that leap our rocks,
  Or as our peaks that wear their caps of snow
  In very presence of the regal sun!"


The Damon of Forrest perhaps surpassed, in popular effect, all his
other early performances. The romantic story of the devotion of the
ancient Greek pair of friends, as narrated by Valerius Maximus, has
had a diffusion in literature and produced an impression on the
imaginations of men almost without a parallel. This is because it
appeals so penetratingly to a sentiment so deep and universal. Above
the mere materialized instincts of life there is hardly a feeling of
the human heart so profound and vivid as the craving for a genuine,
tender, and inviolable friendship. After all the disappointments
of experience, after all the hardening results of custom, strife,
and fraud, this desire still remains alive, however thrust back and
hidden. Remove the disguises and pretences, even of the aged and
worldly-minded, and it is surprising in the souls of how many of them
the spring of this baffled yet importunate desire will be found running
and murmuring in careful concealment. In the hurry and worry of our
practical age, so crowded with toil, rivalry, and distraction, the
sentiment is less gratified in real life than ever, a fact which in
many cases only makes the ideal still more attractive. Accordingly,
when the sacred old tale of the Pythagorean friends was wrought into a
play by Banim and Shiel, it struck the taste of the public at once. The
play, too, had exceptional rhetorical merit, and was constructed with
a simple plot, marked by a constant movement full of moral force and

Forrest had seen the rôle of Damon filled by Cooper with transcendent
dignity and energy, and the remembrance had been burned into his
brain. It was one of the most finished and famous impersonations of
that celebrated actor, who charged it with honest passion and clothed
it with rugged grandeur. The representation by Cooper, though unequal
and careless, was so just in its general outlines to the idea of the
author, that when Forrest first hesitatingly essayed the character, he
had as a disciple of truth, perforce, largely to repeat the example.
But he came to the part with a fresher youth, a more concentrated
nature, a keener ambition, and a more elaborate study; and, original
in many details as well as in the more conscientious working up of the
harmony of the different scenes, it was soon conceded that in the
portrayal as a whole and in the unprecedented excitement it produced
he had eclipsed his distinguished English forerunner on the American
stage. He entered into the spirit and scenery of the subject with so
intelligent and vehement an earnestness that he seemed not to act, but
to be, Damon, speaking the words spontaneously created in his soul on
the spot, not uttering any memorized lesson. It was like a resurrection
of Syracuse, with the despot and his tools plotting the overthrow of
its republican government, and the faithful friends seeking to prevent
the success of the scheme. The spectators forgot that the Sicilian city
had vanished ages since, and Dionysius and Pythias and Procles and
Calanthe all gone to dust. The reality was before them, and its living
shapes moved and spoke to the spell-bound sense.

The Damon of Forrest was in every respect grandly conceived and
grandly embodied. His noble form carried proudly aloft in weighty
ease, clad in Grecian garb, with long robe and sandals, corresponded
with the justice and dignity of his soul. He was in no sense a
sentimentalist or fanatic, but a man with intellect and heart balanced
in conscience,--equally a patriot, a philosopher, and a friend,--his
sentiments set in the great virtues of human nature loyal to the gods,
his convictions and love not mere instincts but embedded in his reason
and his honor. Yet, trained as he had been in the lofty ethics of
Pythagoras, the austere discipline deadened not, but only curbed, the
tremendous elemental passions of his being. Beneath his cultivated
stateliness and playfulness the impetuous volume and energy of his
natural feelings made them, reposing, grand as mountains clad with
verdure, aroused, terrible as volcanoes spouting fire. An inferior
actor would be tempted to weaken or slur everything else in order to
give the higher relief to the great central topic of friendship. It was
the rare excellence of Forrest that he gave as patient an attention
and as sustained a treatment to the gravity and zealous devotion of
the senator, the thoughtful habit of the scholar, the fondness of the
husband and father, as he did to the touching affection of the friend,
in his portraiture of Damon.

He makes his appearance in the street, on his way to the Senate, when
he encounters a crowd of venal officers and soldiers thronging to the
citadel, brandishing their swords and cheering for the despot. He
says, with a musing air first, then quickly passing through indignant
scorn to mournful expostulation,--

  "Then Dionysius has o'erswayed it? Well,
   It is what I expected: there is now
   No public virtue left in Syracuse.
   What should be hoped from a degenerate,
   Corrupted, and voluptuous populace,
   When highly-born and meanly-minded nobles
   Would barter freedom for a great man's feast,
   And sell their country for a smile? The stream
   With a more sure eternal tendency
   Seeks not the ocean, than a sensual race
   Their own devouring slavery. I am sick
   At my inmost heart of everything I see
   And hear! O Syracuse, I am at last
   Forced to despair of thee! And yet thou art
   My land of birth,--thou art my country still;
   And, like an unkind mother, thou hast left
   The claims of holiest nature in my heart,
   And I must sorrow for, not hate thee!"

The soldiery shout,--

  "For Dionysius! Ho, for Dionysius!

  _Damon._ Silence, obstreperous traitors!
   Your throats offend the quiet of the city;
   And thou, who standest foremost of these knaves,
   Stand back and answer me, a Senator,
   What have you done?"

And then he slowly leans towards them with dilating front, and sways
the whole crowd away from him as if by the invisible momentum of some
surcharging magnetism.

  "_Procles._ But that I know 'twill gall thee,
   Thou poor and talking pedant of the school
   Of dull Pythagoras, I'd let thee make
   Conjecture from thy senses: But, in hope
   'Twill stir your solemn anger, learn from me,
   We have ta'en possession of the citadel.

  _Damon._ Patience, ye good gods! a moment's patience,
   That these too ready hands may not enforce
   The desperate precept of my rising heart,--
   Thou most contemptible and meanest tool
   That ever tyrant used!"

Procles in a rage calls on his soldiers to advance and hew their
upbraider in pieces. At this moment Pythias enters, sees how affairs
stand, and, hastening to the side of his friend, calls out,--

  "Back! back! I say. He hath his armor on,--
   I am his sword, shield, helm; I but enclose
   Myself, and my own heart, and heart's blood, when
   I stand before him thus.

  _Damon._ False-hearted cravens!

   We are but two,--my Pythias, my halved heart!--
   My Pythias, and myself! but dare come on,
   Ye hirelings of a tyrant! dare advance
   A foot, or raise an arm, or bend a brow,
   And ye shall learn what two such arms can do
   Amongst a thousand of you."

A brief altercation follows, and the mob are appeased and depart,
leaving the two friends alone together. They proceed to unbosom
themselves, fondly communing with each other, alike concerning the
interests of the State and their private relations, especially the
approaching marriage of Pythias with the beautiful Calanthe. The
unstudied ease and loving confidence of the dialogue, in voice and
manner, plainly revealing the history of love that joined their souls,
their cherished luxury of interior trust and surrender to each other,
formed an artistic and most pleasing contrast to the hot and rough
passages which had preceded. And when the fair Calanthe herself breaks
in upon them, and Damon, unbending still more from his senatorial
absorption and philosophic solemnity, changes his affectionate
familiarity with Pythias into a sporting playfulness with her, the
colloquial lightness and tender banter were a delightful bit of skill
and nature, carrying the previous contrast to a still higher pitch.
It was a lifting and lighting of the scene as gracious and sweet as
sunshine smiling on flowers where the tempest had been frowning on

Learning that the recreant servants of the State are about to confer
the dictatorship of Syracuse on Dionysius, Damon speeds to the capitol,
to resist, and, if possible, defeat, the purpose. Undaunted by the
studious insolence of his reception, almost single-handed he maintains
a long combat with the conspirators, battling their design step by
step. It was a most exciting scene on all accounts, and was steadily
marked by delicate gradations to a climax of overwhelming power. He
wielded by turns all the weapons of argument, invective, persuasion,
command, and defiance, exhibiting magnificent specimens of impassioned
declamation, towering among the meaner men around him, an illuminated
mould of heroic manhood whereon every god did seem to have set his seal.

Finally, they pass the fatal vote, and cry,--

  "All hail, then, Dionysius the king.

  _Damon._ Oh, all ye gods, my country! my country!

  _Dionysius._ And that we may have leisure to put on
   With fitting dignity our garb of power,
   We do now, first assuming our own right,
   Command from this, that was the senate-house,
   Those rash, tumultuous men, who still would tempt
   The city's peace with wild vociferation
   And vain contentious rivalry. Away!

  _Damon._ I stand,
   A senator, within the senate-house!

  _Dion._ Traitor! and dost thou dare me to my face?

  _Damon._ Traitor! to whom? to thee?--O Syracuse,
   Is this thy registered doom? To have no meaning
   For the proud names of liberty and virtue,
   But as some regal braggart sets it down
   In his vocabulary? And the sense,
   The broad, bright sense that Nature hath assigned them
   In her infallible volume, interdicted
   Forever from thy knowledge; or if seen,
   And known, and put in use, denounced as treasonable,
   And treated thus?--No, Dionysius, no!
   I am no traitor! But, in mine allegiance
   To my lost country, I proclaim thee one!

  _Dion._ My guards, there! Ho!

  _Damon._ What! hast thou, then, invoked
   Thy satellites already?

  _Dion._ Seize him!

  _Damon._ Death's the best gift to one that never yet
   Wished to survive his country. Here are men
   Fit for the life a tyrant can bestow!
   Let such as these live on."

Forrest was so absolutely possessed by the sentiment of these passages,
that if, instead of standing in the Senate of Syracuse and representing
her little forlorn-hope of patriots, he had been standing in the
capitol of the whole republican world as a representative of collective
humanity, his delivery could not have been more proudly befitting and
competent. Such was the immense contagious flood of inspiration with
which he was loaded, that repeatedly his audiences rose to their feet
as one man and cheered him till the dust rose to the roof and the very
walls seemed to quiver.

Damon is cast into prison and doomed to die. The curtain rises on him
seated at a table, writing a last testament to be given to Pythias.
The solitude, the stillness, the heavy hour, the retrospect of his
life, the separation from all he loves, the nearness of death, combine
to make his meditations profound and sad. The picture of man and fate
which he then drew--so calm and grave and chaste, so relieved against
the other scenes--was an exquisite masterpiece. He lays down his
stylus. In an attitude of deep reflection--the left leg easily extended
and the hand pendent by its side, the right leg drawn up even with the
chair, his right elbow resting on the table, the hand supporting his
slightly-bowed head, the opened eyes level and fixed, with a voice of
manly and mournful music, every tone and accent faultless in its mellow
and pellucid solemnity--he pronounces this soliloquy:

  "Existence! what is that? a name for nothing!
   It is a cloudy sky chased by the winds,--
   Its fickle form no sooner chosen than changed!
   It is the whirling of the mountain-flood,
   Which, as we look upon it, keeps its shape,
   Though what composed that shape, and what composes,
   Hath passed--will pass--nay, and is passing on
   Even while we think to hold it in our eyes,
   And deem it there. Fie! fie! a feverish vision,
   A crude and crowded dream, unwilled, unbidden,
   By the weak wretch that dreams it."

The effect was comparable to that of suddenly changing the scene from
the clamorous multitude, bustle, and struggle of a noonday square to
the midnight sky, with its eternal stars and moon shining on a lonely
lake, whose serenity not a ripple or a rustling leaf disturbs.

Pythias visits him in his dungeon. The interview is conducted in a
manner so unaffected, so true to the finest feelings of the human
heart, that few and hard indeed were the beholders who could remain
unmoved. On the lamentation of Damon that he is denied the satisfaction
of pressing his wife and child to his bosom before he dies, Pythias
proposes to gain that privilege for him by being his hostage, if the
tyrant will consent. He makes the request.

  "_Dionysius._ What wonder is this?
    Is he thy brother?

   _Damon._ Not in the fashion that the world puts on,
    But brother in the heart.

   _Dion._ Oh, by the wide world, Damocles,
    I did not think the heart of man was moulded
    To such a purpose."

Six hours are granted Damon in which to reach his villa on the
mountain-side, four leagues distant, take his farewell, and return,
assured that if he is not at the place of execution at the moment
appointed the axe falls on his substitute.

The meeting with his Hermion and their boy in the garden of his villa,
his resolute adaptation of his manner to the untimely innocent prattle
of the child, the various transitions of tone and topic, the pathos
of the intermittent upbreaking of his concealed struggle, the gradual
unveiling of the awful announcement of his impending destiny, the
determined efforts at firmness in himself and consolation for her,
the clinging and agonized farewell,--all these were managed with a
truthfulness and a distinct setting to be attained by no player without
the utmost patience of study added to the deepest sincerity of nature.

He has lingered to the latest allowable moment. Hurrying out, he calls
to his freedman, Lucullus, "Where is my horse?" and receives the
following reply:

  "When I beheld the means of saving you,
   I could not hold my hand,--my heart was in it,
   And in my heart the hope of giving life
   And liberty to Damon--and--

  _Damon._ Go on!
   I am listening to thee.

  _Lucullus._ And in hope to save you
   I slew your steed.

  _Damon._ Almighty heavens!"

An ordinary actor would have said "Almighty heavens," at once; but
Forrest, seeming taken utterly by surprise, did not speak the words
till he had for some time prepared the way for them by a display of
bewildered astonishment, which revealed the workings of his brain so
clearly that the spectators could scarcely believe that the actor was
acquainted with the plot in advance. The facts of the situation seemed
presenting themselves to his inner gaze in so many pictures,--the
calamity, his broken promise, the disappointment and death of his
friend, the dread dishonor,--and their expressions--wonder, rage,
horror, despair, frenzy--visibly came out first in slow succession,
then in chaotic mixture. At last the gathered tornado explodes in one
burst of headlong wrath. Every rigid muscle swollen, his convulsed face
livid, his dilated eyes emitting sparks, with the crouch and spring of
an infuriated tiger he plunges on the hapless Lucullus and hoists him
sheer in air. Vain are the cries of the unfortunate wretch, idle his
struggles. Articulating with a terrible scream the words,--

  "To the eternal river of the dead!
   The way is shorter than to Syracuse,--
  'Tis only far as yonder yawning gulf,--
   I'll throw thee with one swing to Tartarus,
   And follow after thee!"--

his enraged master disappears with him in his grasp. The feelings of
the audience, wound to an intolerable pitch, audibly give way in a
long, loosened breath, as they sink into their seats with a huge rustle
all over the house.

Meanwhile, the fatal crisis nears, and Damon, delayed by the loss of
his steed, comes not. The stroke of time on the dial-plate against
the temple dedicated to the Goddess of Fidelity moves unrelentingly
forward. All is ready. The tyrant, his skepticism confirmed, is there,
indignant at the soul that in its fling of proud philosophy had made
him feel so outsoared and humbled. Pythias, agitated between a dreadful
suspicion of his friend and the fear of some unforeseen obstacle, parts
with Calanthe, and prepares for the beheading steel. A vast multitude
on the hills stretch their long, blackening outline in the round of the
blue heavens, and await the event.

  "Mute expectation spreads its anxious hush
   O'er the wide city, that as silent stands
   As its reflection in the quiet sea.
   Behold, upon the roof what thousands gaze
   Toward the distant road that leads to Syracuse.
   An hour ago a noise was heard afar,
   Like to the pulses of the restless surge;
   But as the time approaches, all grows still
   As the wide dead of midnight!
   A horse and rider in the distance,
   By the gods! They wave their hats, and he returns it!
   It is--no--that were too unlike--but there!"

Damon rushes in, looks around, exclaims, exultingly,--

  "Ha! he is alive! untouched!"

and falls, with a hysterical laugh, exhausted by the superhuman
exertions he has made to arrive in time. He soon rallies, and, when his
name is pronounced, leaps upon the scaffold beside his friend; and all
the god comes into him as, proudly erecting his form, he answers,--

  "I am here upon the scaffold! look at me:
   I am standing on my throne; as proud a one
   As yon illumined mountain where the sun
   Makes his last stand; let him look on me too;
   He never did behold a spectacle
   More full of natural glory. Death is-- Ha!
   All Syracuse starts up upon her hills,
   And lifts her hundred thousand hands. She shouts,
   Hark, how she shouts! O Dionysius!
   When wert thou in thy life hailed with a peal
   Of hearts and hands like that one? Shout again!
   Again! until the mountains echo you,
   And the great sea joins in that mighty voice,
   And old Enceladus, the Son of Earth,
   Stirs in his mighty caverns. Tell me, slaves,
   Where is your tyrant? Let me see him now;
   Why stands he hence aloof? Where is your master?
   What is become of Dionysius?
   I would behold and laugh at him!

  _Dionysius._ Behold me!
   Go, Damocles, and bid a herald cry
   Wide through the city, from the eastern gate
   Unto the most remote extremity,
   That Dionysius, tyrant as he is,
   Gives back to Damon life and freedom."

Like one struggling out of a fearful dream, the phantom mists receding,
horror expiring and brightening into joy, the great actor lifts
himself, relaxes, staggers into the arms of his Pythias, and the
curtain sinks. The people, slowly scattering to their homes, do not
easily or soon forget the mighty agitation they have undergone.


The two celebrated characters of early Roman history, Brutus and
Virginius, each the hero of a startling social revolution, as well
as of an appalling domestic tragedy, in which personal affection is
nobly sacrificed to public principle,--these imposing forms, each
enveloped in his grand and solemn legend, stalking vivid and colossal
in the shadows of antique time,--these sublime democratic idols of
old Rome, men of tempestuous passion and iron solidity, whose civic
heroism was mated with private tenderness and crowned with judicial
severity,--like statues of rock clustered with ivy and their heads
wreathed in retributive lightnings,--both these personages in all
their accompaniments were singularly well fitted for the ethical,
passionate, single-minded, and ponderous individuality of Forrest
to impersonate with the highest sincerity and power. He achieved
extraordinary success in them. There was in himself so much of the old
Roman pride, independence, concentrated and tenacious feeling, majestic
and imperious weight, that it was not hard for him to steal the keys of
history, enter the chambers of the past, and reanimate the heroic and
revengeful masks. He did so, to the astonishment and delight of those
who beheld the spectacle.

The play of "Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin," the best of the dramatic
productions of John Howard Payne, has been greatly admired. Its
title rôle was a favorite one with Kean, Cooper, Macready, Booth,
and Forrest; and they all won laurels in it. The interest of the
plot begins at once, and scarcely flags to the end. The murderous
tyrant, Tarquin, has forced his way to the throne through treason,
poison, and gore, and holds remorseless rule, to the deep though
muffled indignation and horror of the better citizens. His fears of
the discontented patriots have led him to murder their master-spirit,
Marcus Junius, and his eldest son. The younger son, Lucius, escaped,
and affected to have lost his reason, playing the part of a fool, and
meanwhile abiding his time to avenge his family and his country. He
kept his disguise so shrewdly that he was allowed to be much at court,
a harmless butt for the mirth of the tyrant and his fellows.

Forrest kept up the semblance of imbecility, the shambling gait,
the dull eyes and vacant face, the sloppy, irresolute gestures, the
apparent forgetfulness, with the closest truth. He had for years
studied the traits and phases of these poor beings in visits to
lunatic-asylums. But in the depicting of the fool there was some
obvious unfitness of his heavy bearing, noble voice, and native majesty
to the shallow and broken qualities of such a character. It did not
appear quite spontaneous or natural. He clearly had to act it by will
and effort. Yet there was a sort of propriety even in this, as the
part was professedly an assumed and pretended one. But when he cast
off the vile cloud of idiocy and broke forth in his own patrician
person, the effect of the foregone foil was manifest, and the new and
perfect picture stood in luminous relief. When Claudius and Aruns
had been badgering him, and had received some such pointed repartees
as a fool will seem now and then to hit on by chance, as they went
out he followed them with a look of superb contempt, and said, in an
intonation of intense scorn wonderfully effective,--

  "Yet, 'tis not that which ruffles me,--the gibes
   And scornful mockeries of ill-governed youth,--
   Or flouts of dastard sycophants and jesters,--
   Reptiles, who lay their bellies on the dust
   Before the frown of majesty!"

And the house was always electrified by the sudden transformation with
which then, passing from the words,

                                "All this
  I but expect, nor grudge to bear; the face
  I carry, courts it!"

he towered into prouder dimensions, and, as one inspired, delivered
himself in an outbreak of declamatory grandeur:

                  "Son of Marcus Junius!
  When will the tedious gods permit thy soul
  To walk abroad in her own majesty,
  And throw this visor of thy madness from thee,
  To avenge my father's and my brother's murder?
  Had this been all, a thousand opportunities
  I've had to strike the blow--and my own life
  I had not valued at a rush.--But still--
  There's something nobler to be done!--My soul,
  Enjoy the strong conception! Oh! 'tis glorious
  To free a groaning country,--
  To see Revenge
  Spring like a lion from the den, and tear
  These hunters of mankind! Grant but the time,
  Grant but the moment, gods! If I am wanting,
  May I drag out this idiot-feignéd life
  To late old age, and may posterity
  Ne'er hear of Junius but as Tarquin's fool!"

The manner in which, in his fictitious rôle, in his interview with
Tullia, the parricidal queen, whose prophetic soul is ominously alive
to every alarming hint, he veered along the perilous edges of his
feigned and his real character, the sinister alternation of jest and
portent, was a passage of exciting interest, sweeping the chords of
the breast from sport to awe with facile and forceful hand. The same
effect was produced in a still higher degree in the interview with his
son Titus, whose patriotism and temper he tested by lifting a little
his false garb of folly and letting some tentative gleams of his true
nature and purposes appear.

  "_Brutus._ I'll tell a secret to thee
    Worth a whole city's ransom. This it is:
    Nay, ponder it and lock it in thy heart:--
    There are more fools, my son, in this wise world,
    Than the gods ever made.

  _ Titus._ Sayest thou? Expound this riddle.
    Would the kind gods restore thee to thy reason--

   _Brutus._ Then, Titus, then I should be mad with reason.
    Had I the sense to know myself a Roman,
    This hand should tear this heart from out my ribs,
    Ere it should own allegiance to a tyrant.
    If, therefore, thou dost love me, pray the gods
    To keep me what I am. Where all are slaves,
    None but the fool is happy.

   _Titus._ We are Romans--
    Not slaves--

   _Brutus._ Not slaves? Why, what art thou?

   _Titus._ Thy son.
    Dost thou not know me?

   _Brutus._ You abuse my folly.
    I know thee not.--Wert thou my son, ye gods,
    Thou wouldst tear off this sycophantic robe,
    Tuck up thy tunic, trim these curléd locks
    To the short warrior-cut, vault on thy steed,
    Then, scouring through the city, call to arms,
    And shout for liberty!

   _Titus._ [_Starts._] Defend me, gods!

   _Brutus._ Ha! does it stagger thee?"

The simulation had been dropped so gradually, the unconsciously waxing
earnestness of purpose and self-betrayal were carried up over such
invisible and exquisite steps, that, when the electric climax was
touched, he who confronted Brutus on the stage did not affect to be
more startled than those who gazed on him from before it really were.

Finding his son is in love with the sister of Sextus, and in no
ripe mood for dangerous enterprise, he turns sorrowfully from him,

  "Said I for liberty? I said it not.
   My brain is weak, and wanders. You abuse it."

When left alone, he soliloquizes, beginning with sorrow, and passing
in the succeeding parts from sadness to repulsion, then to anxiety,
afterwards to hope, and ending with an air of proud joy.

  "I was too sudden. I should have delayed
   And watched a surer moment for my purpose.
   He must be frighted from his dream of love.
   What! shall the son of Junius wed a Tarquin?
   As yet I've been no father to my son,--
   I could be none; but, through the cloud that wraps me,
   I've watched his mind with all a parent's fondness,
   And hailed with joy the Junian glory there.
   Could I once burst the chains which now enthrall him,
   My son would prove the pillar of his country,--
   Dear to her freedom as he is to me."

Few things in the history of the stage have been superior in its way to
what Forrest made the opening of the third act in Brutus. It is deep
night in Rome, thunder and lightning, the Capitol in the background,
in front an equestrian statue of Tarquinius Superbus. Brutus enters,
revolving in his breast the now nearly complete scheme for overthrowing
the despot. Appearance, thoughts, words, voice, manner, all in strict
keeping with the time and place, he speaks:

  "Slumber forsakes me, and I court the horrors
   Which night and tempest swell on every side.
   Launch forth thy thunders, Capitolian Jove!
   Put fire into the languid souls of men;
   Let loose thy ministers of wrath amongst them,
   And crush the vile oppressor! Strike him down,
   Ye lightnings! Lay his trophies in the dust!

  [_Storm increases._

   Ha! this is well! flash, ye blue-forkéd fires!
   Loud-bursting thunders, roar! and tremble, earth!

  [_A violent crash of thunder, and the statue of Tarquin, struck
    by a flash, is shattered to pieces._

      What! fallen at last, proud idol! struck to earth!
  I thank you, gods! I thank you! When you point
  Your shafts at human pride, it is not chance,
  'Tis wisdom levels the commissioned blow.
  But I,--a thing of no account--a slave,--
  I to your forkéd lightnings bare my bosom
  In vain,--for what's a slave--a dastard slave?
  A fool, a Brutus? [_Storm increases._] Hark! the storm rides on!
  Strange hopes possess my soul. My thoughts grow wild.
  I'll sit awhile and ruminate."

Seating himself on a fragment of the fallen statue, in contemplative
attitude, his great solitary presence, blending with the entire scene,
presented a tableau of the most sombre and romantic beauty.

Valerius enters. Brutus cautiously probes his soul, and is rejoiced to
find him worthy of confidence. As they commune on the degradation of
their country, the crimes of the royal family, and the hopes of speedy
redemption, we seem to feel the sultry smother and to hear the muffled
rumble of the rising storm of an outraged people. As Valerius departs,
Tarquin himself advances, and gives a new momentum to the movement for
his own destruction. Still supposing Brutus to be an imbecile, with
shameless garrulity he boasts of the fiendish violence he has done to
Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, and the near kinswoman of Brutus
himself. This woman was of such transcendent loveliness and nobility of
person and soul as to have become a poetic ideal of her sex throughout
the civilized world in all the ages since. While Tarquin boastfully
described his deed, the effect on his auditor was terrific to see. The
inward struggle was fully pictured without, in the hands convulsively
clutched, the eyes starting from their sockets, the blood threatening
to burst through the swollen veins of the neck and temples. Finally,
the quivering earthquake of passion broke in an explosion of maniacal

  "The fiends curse you, then! Lash you with snakes!
   When forth you walk, may the red flaming sun
   Strike you with livid plagues!
   Vipers, that die not, slowly gnaw your heart!
   May earth be to you but one wilderness!
   May you hate yourself,--
   For death pray hourly, yet be in tortures,
   Millions of years expiring!"

He shrieked this fearful curse upon the shrinking criminal with
a frenzied energy which so amazed and stirred the audience that
sometimes they gave vent to their excitement in a simultaneous shout of
applause, sometimes by looking at one another in silence or whispering,

Lucretia, unwilling to survive the purity of her name, has stabbed
herself. Collatinus rushes wildly in with the bloody steel in his hand,
and tells the tale of horror:

  "She's dead! Lucretia's dead! This is her blood!
   Howl, howl, ye men of Rome.
   Ye mighty gods, where are your thunders now?"

Brutus, the full gale of oratoric fire and splendor swelling his frame
and lighting his features, seizes the dagger, lifts it aloft, and

                         "Heroic matron!
   Now, now, the hour is come! By this one blow
   Her name's immortal, and her country saved!
   Hail, dawn of glory! Hail, thou sacred weapon!
   Virtue's deliverer, hail! This fatal steel,
   Empurpled with the purest blood on earth,
   Shall cut your chains of slavery asunder.
   Hear, Romans, hear! did not the Sibyl tell you
   A fool should set Rome free? I am that fool:
   Brutus bids Rome be free!

  _Valerius._ What can this mean?

  _Brutus._ It means that Lucius Junius has thrown off
   The mask of madness, and his soul rides forth
   On the destroying whirlwind, to avenge
   The wrongs of that bright excellence and Rome.

  [_Sinks on his knees._]

   Hear me, great Jove! and thou, paternal Mars,
   And spotless Vesta! To the death, I swear,
   My burning vengeance shall pursue these Tarquins!
   Ne'er shall my limbs know rest till they are swept
   From off the earth which groans beneath their infamy!
   Valerius, Collatine, Lucretius, all,
   Be partners in my oath."

The above apostrophe to the dagger was marvellously delivered. As he
held it up with utmost stretch of arm and addressed it, it seemed to
become a living thing, an avenging divinity.

The next scene was given with a contrast that came like enchantment.
A multitude of relatives and friends are celebrating the obsequies
of Lucretia. Brutus, with solemn and gentle mien, and a delivery of
funereal gloom in which admiring love and pride gild the sorrow,
pronounces her eulogy. He paints her with a bright and sweet fondness,
and bewails her fate with a closing cadence indescribably plaintive.

                           "Such perfections
   Might have called back the torpid breast of age
   To long-forgotten rapture: such a mind
   Might have abashed the boldest libertine,
   And turned desire to reverential love
   And holiest affection. Oh, my countrymen!
   You all can witness when that she went forth
   It was a holiday in Rome; old age
   Forgot its crutch, labor its task,--all ran;
   And mothers, turning to their daughters, cried,
   'There, there's Lucretia!' Now, look ye, where she lies,
   That beauteous flower by ruthless violence torn!
   Gone! gone! gone!

  _All._ Sextus shall die! But what for the king, his father?

  _Brutus._ Seek you instruction? Ask yon conscious walls,
   Which saw his poisoned brother, saw the incest
   Committed there, and they will cry. Revenge!
   Ask yon deserted street, where Tullia drove
   O'er her dead father's corse, 'twill cry, Revenge!
   Ask yonder senate-house, whose stones are purple
   With human blood, and it will cry, Revenge!
   Go to the tomb where lies his murdered wife,
   And the poor queen, who loved him as her son,
   Their unappeaséd ghosts will shriek, Revenge!
   The temples of the gods, the all-viewing heavens,
   The gods themselves, shall justify the cry,
   And swell the general sound, Revenge! Revenge!"

The instant change, in that presence of death, from the subdued,
mournful manner to this tremendous burst of blazing eloquence was a
consummate marvel of oratoric effect, in which art and nature were at
odds which was the greater element. It might be said of Forrest in this
scene,--as Corunna in the play itself described to Horatius the action
of Brutus,--

  "He waved aloft the bloody dagger,
   And spoke as if he held the souls of men
   In his own hand and moulded them at pleasure.
   They looked on him as they would view a god.
   Who, from a darkness which invested him,
   Sprang forth, and, knitting his stern brow in frowns,
   Proclaimed the vengeful will of angry Jove."

The throng are so possessed with him that they propose to make him king
in place of Tarquin; but the patriot, his unselfish soul breathing
from his countenance and audible in his accent, convinces them of his
personal purity:

                  "No, fellow-citizens!
  If mad ambition in this guilty frame
  Had strung one kingly fibre,--yea, but one,--
  By all the gods, this dagger which I hold
  Should rip it out, though it entwined my heart.
  Now take the body up. Bear it before us
  To Tarquin's palace; there we'll light our torches,
  And, in the blazing conflagration, rear
  A pile for these chaste relics, that shall send
  Her soul amongst the stars. On!"

They sweep away to their victims, deliver the State, and seal an ample

The primary climax of the play has thus been reached. Brutus has
emerged from his idiot concealment and vindicated himself as the
successful champion of liberty and his country. He is next to appear
in a second climax, of still greater intensity and height, by the
personal sacrifice of himself as the martyr of duty. The first action
has the superior national significance, but the second action has the
superior human significance, and therefore properly succeeds. Titus,
the only son of the liberator, corrupted by his love of power and
pleasure, has, in a measure, joined the party of the Tarquins. He is
therefore regarded by the victor patriots as a traitor to Rome. Brutus,
torn between his parental affection and his public duty, is profoundly
agitated, yet resolute. He spares the life of Tarquinia, the betrothed
of Titus, at the same time warning him,--

  "This I concede; but more if thou attemptest,--
   By all the gods!--Nay, if thou dost not take
   Her image, though with smiling Cupids decked,
   And pluck it from thy heart, there to receive
   Rome and her glories in without a rival,
   Thou art no son of mine, thou art no Roman!"

For the defective treatment of the theme of the love of Brutus for his
son by the author the actor made the very best amends in his power by
improving every opportunity to suggest the depth and fervor of the tie,
in look and gesture and tone, in order to exalt the coming catastrophe.
Seated calmly in the curule chair as Consul, robed with purple, the
lictors with their uplifted axes before him, a messenger announces
the seizure of a young man at the head of an insurgent band. Valerius
whispers to Brutus,--

  "Oh, my friend, horror invades my heart.
   I know thy soul, and pray the gods to put
   Thee to no trial beyond a mortal bearing."

Mastering his agitation by a mighty effort, Brutus responds,--

  "No, they will not,--they cannot."

The unhappy Titus is brought in guarded. The father, all his convulsed
soul visible in his countenance and motions, turns from him, rises,
walks to his colleague, and says, with tremulous, sobbing voice,--

  "That youth, my Titus, was my age's hope,--
   I loved him more than language can express,--
   I thought him born to dignify the world."

The culprit kneels to him, and begs for clemency:

  "A word for pity's sake. Before thy feet,
   Humbled in soul, thy son and prisoner kneels.
   Love is my plea: a father is my judge;
   Nature my advocate!--I can no more:
   If these will not appease a parent's heart,
   Strike through them all, and lodge thy vengeance here!"

Almost overpowered, Brutus hesitates a moment, rallies, straightens
himself up, and exclaims, with lofty dignity,--

  "Break off! I will not, cannot hear thee further!
   The affliction nature hath imposed on Brutus,
   Brutus will suffer as he may.--Enough!
   Lictors, secure your prisoner. Point your axes.
   To the Senate--On!"

The last scene shows the Senate in the temple of Mars, Brutus in the
Consular seat. He speaks, beginning with solemn air and tones of
ringing firmness:

  "Romans the blood which hath been shed this day
   Hath been shed wisely. Traitors, who conspire
   Against mature societies, may urge
   Their acts as bold and daring; and though villains,
   Yet they are manly villains. But to stab
   The cradled innocent, as these have done,--
   To strike their country in the mother-pangs
   Of struggling childbirth, and direct the dagger
   To freedom's infant throat,--is a deed so black
   That my foiled tongue refuses it a name."

Here he pauses, falters a little, then slowly adds,--

  "There is one criminal still left for judgment:
   Let him approach."

Titus is led in by the lictors, with the edges of their axes turned
towards him. He kneels.

  "Oh, Brutus! Brutus! must I call you father,
   Yet have no token of your tenderness?

  _Brutus._ Think that I love thee by my present passion,
   By these unmanly tears, these earthquakes here,
   Let these convince you that no other cause
   Could force a father thus to wrong his nature.
   Romans, forgive this agony of grief,--
   My heart is bursting,--Nature must have way.
   I will perform all that a Roman should,--
   I cannot feel less than a father ought!"

The piteous look and choking accents with which he said to his son,
"Think that I love thee by my present passion," were irresistible. They
seemed to betoken that his heart was breaking. The sound of weeping was
usually audible in the audience, and hundreds might be seen wiping the
tears from their cheeks.

Justice holds its course, and the Consul sentences the guilty citizen
to the block:

  "_Brutus._ The sovereign magistrate of injured Rome
   A crime, thy father's bleeding heart forgives.
   Go,--meet thy death with a more manly courage
   Than grief now suffers me to show in parting;
   And, while she punishes, let Rome admire thee!

  _Titus._ Farewell forever!

  _Brutus._ Forever! Lictors, lead your prisoner forth.

   My hand shall wave the signal for the axe;
   Then let the trumpet's sound proclaim its fall.
   Poor youth! Thy pilgrimage is at an end!
   A few sad steps have brought thee to the brink
   Of that tremendous precipice, whose depth
   No thought of man can fathom. Justice now
   Demands her victim! A little moment,
   And I am childless.--One effort, and 'tis past!--
   Justice is satisfied, and Rome is free!"

Forrest made the finale an artistic climax of superlative originality,
finish, and power. He climbs the steps of the tribune to wave his
hand, as agreed, in signal for the execution. His face grows pale. He
struggles to lift his arm. Then, when the trumpet announces that the
deed is done, he absently wraps his head up in his toga, as if it were
something separate from his body which must not know what has taken
place. Suddenly his whole form relaxes and sinks heavily on the stage.


The rôle of Virginius, as filled by Forrest, had, with many
resemblances to that of Brutus, also many important differences. In
the domestic pictures of the first part, the sacred innocence and
artless ways of the motherless daughter and the overflowing fondness
of the widowed father, an element of more varied and tender beauty is
introduced. The play has a wider range of interest than that of Brutus,
and, while more attractive in some portions, is quite as terrible in
others. To the perfecting of his performance of it Forrest devoted
as much study and labor as to any part he ever acted. It obtained a
commensurate recognition and approval from the general public. In its
outlines as a piece of physical realism his rendering of Virginius
was as pronounced as that of his Brutus, and in its artistic finish
as an example of imaginative portraiture it was unquestionably far
superior. In addition to the exceptional power with which the central
motives were presented, there were incidental features of extreme
felicity. For instance, the vein of sarcasm which Virginius displays
towards the Decemvirs and their party was worked with a master-hand,
and the friendship for the crabbed but brave and good old Dentatus was
exhibited with a careless and bluff cordiality direct from nature. As
a complete picture of the antique passion and sublime strength of
the Roman character, the whole performance stood forth in pre-eminent
distinctness and vitality.

[Illustration: W. G. Jackman EDWIN FORREST AS VIRGINIUS.]

Sometimes, as an artist is lifting the curtain to expose his picture to
view, with the removal of the first corner of drapery the connoisseur
catches a glimpse of an exquisite bit of drawing and color which
convinces him that the entire work is a great and beautiful one. When
Forrest made his entrance in Virginius, with an irritated and impetuous
air, the earliest sound of his voice, so deep and resonant, coining and
propelling its words in air with such easy and percussive precision,
seized the attention of the auditory and gave assurance that something
uncommon was to come. With a quick articulation and an expostulating
tone he said, "Why did you make him Decemvir, and first Decemvir, too?"
He refers to the shameless Appius Claudius, and the key-note of the
play is struck by his inflection of the words.

He is not displeased on seeing reason for suspecting that his
daughter--an only and idolized child left him by his dead wife--is in
love with the noble young Lucius Icilius, for whom he has an excellent
liking. He sends for Virginia, who is still a schoolgirl, that he may
question her. She comes in, and sits upon his knee, saying, "Well,
father, what is your will?" At the sight of her his face lights as if
a sunbeam had suddenly fallen on it, and his voice has a sweet, low,
half-smothered tone, as if the words were spoken in his heart, and only
their softened echoes came forth:

  "_Virginius._ I wished to see you,
    To ask you of your tasks,--how they go on,--
    And what your masters say of you,--what last
    You did. I hope you never play
    The truant?

   _Virginia._ The truant! No, indeed, Virginius.

   _Virginius._ I am sure you do not. Kiss me!

   _Virginia._ Oh! my father,
    I am so happy when you are kind to me!

   _Virginius._ You are so happy when I'm kind to you!
    Am I not always kind? I never spoke
    An angry word to you in all my life,
    Virginia! You are happy when I'm kind!
    That's strange; and makes me think you have some reason
    To fear I may be otherwise than kind."

The parental tenderness of his manner, his speech, his kiss, seemed to
combine the love of a father and a mother in one. His hand meanwhile
was playing with her tresses in a way suggestive of unpurposed
instinctive fondness, exquisitely touching.

The transition was perfect when, meeting Icilius, after scrutinizing
him earnestly, as though to read his very soul, the rough soldier and
honest man succeeds to the adoring father:

   Thou seest this hand? It is a Roman's, boy;
   'Tis sworn to liberty,--it is the friend,
   Of honor. Dost thou think so?

  _Icilius._ Do I think
   Virginius owns that hand?

  _Virginius._ Then you'll believe
   It has an oath deadly to tyranny,
   And is the foe of falsehood! By the gods,
   Knew it the lurking-place of treason, though
   It were a brother's heart, 'twould drag the caitiff
   Forth. Dar'st thou take this hand?"

And when, a little later, he led his daughter to her lover and formally
betrothed them in these eloquent words, his whole frame betraying the
struggle at composure, it was a consummate moral painting of humanity
in one of its most sacred aspects:

  "Didst thou but know, young man,
   How fondly I have watched her, since the day
   Her mother died, and left me to a charge
   Of double duty bound,--how she hath been
   My pondered thought by day, my dream by night,
   My prayer, my vow, my offering, my praise,
   My sweet companion, pupil, tutor, child!--
   Thou wouldst not wonder that my drowning eye
   And choking utterance upbraid my tongue
   That tells thee she is thine!"

The plot progresses, and the air is thick with the clamor and strife
of Rome, the hates of parties and the reverberation of war. Virginius
is called to a distance with the army. His daughter is left under the
guardianship of her uncle. One day the lustful Appius has a sight of
her passing in the street.

  "Her young beauty,
   Trembling and blushing 'twixt the striving kisses
   Of parting spring and meeting summer,"

inflames him. He charges one of his minions to seize her, under the
pretext that she is the child of one of his slaves, sold to Virginius
and falsely proclaimed his daughter. With details of cruel atrocity
the deed is accomplished, in spite of the desperate interference of
Icilius. Lucius is sent as a messenger to the camp to inform Virginius.
Lucius tells him he is wanted immediately at Rome. With a start and
a look of dread anxiety he demands to know wherefore. The messenger
prevaricates and delays, but, on being chided and commanded to speak
out, says, "Hear me, then, with patience." Virginius replies, while his
restless fingers and the working of his toes, seen through the openings
of his sandals, most effectually contradict the words, "Well, I am

 "_Lucius._ Your Virginia--

  _Virginius._ Stop, my Lucius!
   I am cold in every member of my frame!
   If 'tis prophetic, Lucius, of thy news,
   Give me such token as her tomb would,--silence.
   I'll bear it better.

  _Lucius._ You are still--

  _Virginius._ I thank thee, Jupiter, I am still a father!"

The change of his countenance while uttering the word "father," from
the expression it wore on the word "silence," was like an unexpected
sunburst through a gloomy cloud. As Lucius went on in his narration,
the breathing of the listener thickened with intensity of suspense, his
heart beat with remittent throb, and he started at each point in the
outrage like one receiving electric shocks.

He departed for Rome, where his poor daughter was guarded in the house
of her uncle, Numitorius, in the deepest distress and terror. He
entered; and such was his expression as he cried, "My child! my child!"
and she rushed into his arms, that there were scarcely ever many dry
eyes in the theatre at that moment. Then it was something divine to
be seen, and never to be forgotten, to behold how he turned from his
blistering and disdainful apostrophe to the villain who had dared set
his panders after her, and, taking her precious head in his hands,
gazed in her face, saying,--

  "I never saw you look so like your mother
   In all my life!

  _Virginia._ You'll be advised, dear father?

  _Virginius._ It was her soul,--her soul, that played just then
   About the features of her child, and lit them
   Into the likeness of her own. When first
   She placed thee in my arms,--I recollect it
   As a thing of yesterday!--she wished, she said,
   That it had been a man. I answered her,
   It was the mother of a race of men.
   And paid her for thee with a kiss. Her lips
   Are cold now,--could they but be warmed again,
   How they would clamor for thee!

  _Virginia._ My dear father,
   You do not answer me! Will you not be advised?

  _Virginius._ I will not take him by the throat and strangle him!
   But I COULD do it! I could DO IT!"

They go to the Forum, where Appius is seated on the tribunal, supported
by the lictors and an armed troop. The acting of Forrest in the
trial-scene that followed was as genuine and moving, set in as bold
relief, as anything the American theatre has known. Who that saw him
can ever forget the imperial front with which, bearing Virginia on
his arm, he advanced before the judgment-seat,--the firm step, the
indomitable face, the parental love that seemed to throw a thousand
invisible tendrils around his child to hold her up! The tableau caused
a silence that was absolute, and was maintained so long that the
suspense had begun to be painful, when the kingly voice of Virginius
broke the spell:

  "Does no one speak? I am defendant here!
   Is silence my opponent? Fit opponent
   To plead a cause too foul for speech! What brow
   Shameless, gives front to this most valiant cause,
   That tries its prowess 'gainst the honor of
   A girl, yet lacks the wit to know that they
   Who cast off shame should likewise cast off fear!"

The strong, lucid, cutting tones in which these words were spoken
went vibrating into the breasts of the listeners, and thrilled them
with sympathetic echoes. The perjured witness was summoned by the
recreant judge. And the next passage of the play had a moral meaning
deep enough, and was represented with a truth and power grand enough,
to turn the stage for the time being into a pulpit and make the world
tremble at its preaching.

  "_Virginius._ And are you the man
    That claims my daughter for his slave?--Look at me,
       And I will give her to thee.

  _Claudius._ She is mine, then:
   Do I not look at you?

  _Virginius._ Your eye does, truly,
   But not your soul.--I see it, through your eye,
   Shifting and shrinking,--turning every way
   To shun me. You surprise me, that your eye,
   So long the bully of its master, knows not
   To put a proper face upon a lie,
   But gives the port of impudence to falsehood
   When it would pass it off for truth. Your soul
   Dares as soon show its face to me!"

Now the interest grows yet intenser and the influence of the actor
yet more penetrating in its simplicity and terrible beauty. Virginius
finds that nothing can save his daughter from the last profanation of
the tyrant except her immediate immolation by himself. For a moment
he is lost in a reverie, striving to think what he can do. By chance
he perceives a knife lying on the stall of a butcher. At the sight of
this providential instrument an electric change passes over his face,
revealing all his purpose with a grim joy, like the lightning-flash at
night illumining the murky sky and giving an instantaneous outline of
the clouds loaded with the coming storm. He moves gradually towards
the stall, smiling on Virginia a tender smile, full of the consolation
he sees in the prospect of her deliverance even by death. He pats her
lovingly on the shoulder while changing her from his left arm, that
with it he may reach the knife. He stealthily seizes it and passes
it behind him from the left hand to the right. With deep fondness he
breathes, "My dear Virginia," and gives her quick and fervent kisses,
which he appears striving to press into her very soul. Tears seem to
moisten his words,--

  "There is one only way to save thine honor,--
   'Tis this!"

And, swift as motion of the human arm can make it, the knife pierces
her heart. The storm has burst, the lightning has wreathed its
folds around the consecrated instrument of the work, and now the
thunder-tones of his voice crash through the theatre in the awful

  "Lo, Appius! with this innocent blood
   I do devote thee to the infernal gods!
   Make way there!
   If they dare
   To tempt the desperate weapon that is maddened
   With drinking my daughter's blood, why, let them.
   Thus, thus it rushes in amongst them. Way, there!"

His exit here used to excite the wildest huzzas, the men in the pit
standing with their hats in their uplifted hands, and the women in the
boxes waving their handkerchiefs.

Virginius heads the revolution, in which the revolted troops and the
commons join. The tyranny is hurled to the dust, the people freed, and
Appius lodged in prison. But the wronged and wretched father is broken
down by the preternatural horror and excitement he has undergone, and
loses his reason. He is next seen in his own desolate home, with a pale
and haggard face, and a look half wild, half dreamy, talking to himself:

  "'Tis ease! 'tis ease! I am content! 'Tis peace,--
   'Tis anything that is most soft and quiet.
    And after such a dream! I want my daughter.
    Send me my daughter! Will she come, or not?
    I'll call myself. Virginia!"

His call of Virginia was a call dictated by a dethroned mind. It was a
sound that appeared to come from a mysterious vault. There was a kind
of semi-wakefulness in it, like the utterance of a thought in a dream.
It had a touch of pity. It was an inverted form of sound, that turned
back whence it issued and fell dead where it was born, feeling that
there was no reply for it to keep it alive. Yet, after a pause, he
fancies he hears her answering; and he rapidly asks,--

  "Is it a voice, or nothing, answers me?
   I hear a sound so fine there's nothing lives
   'Twixt it and silence."

And then, with an entranced listening, he follows the illusory voice
around to different parts of the room, in the vain attempt to find
its source. An apathetic stare, a blank, miserable stupor, succeeds,
soon broken by the fancy that he hears her shrieking in the prison for
rescue from Appius,--and he darts away. Appius, meanwhile, is planning
an escape, and gloatingly counting over in imagination the victims he
will pick out to expiate for his present shame, when the shattered
Virginius, appalling even in his ruins, rushes in upon him, wildly
crying, "Give me my daughter!" The affrighted prisoner replies,--

  "I know nothing of her, Virginius, nothing.

  _Virginius._ Do you tell me so?
   Vile tyrant! Think you, shall I not believe
   My own eyes before your tongue? Why, there she is!
   There at your back,--her locks dishevelled, and
   Her vestment torn,--her cheeks all faded with
   Her pouring tears.
   Villain! is this a sight to show a father?
   And have I not a weapon to requite thee?"

In his distraught fury, feeling over his body for some weapon he
_discovers_ his own hands. A wild and eager delight shudders through
him as, holding these naked instruments before him, he springs on the
terrified Appius and strangles him to death. Lucius, Icilius, and
Numitorius enter, bearing the urn of Virginia. The wronged father and
sufferer looks up, and sighs, with a bewildered gaze,--

  "What a load my heart has heaved off! Where is he?
   I thought I had done it."

They call him by name. He makes no response. Icilius places the urn in
his right hand, with the single word, "Virginia." He looks at Icilius
and the urn, at Numitorius and Lucius, seems struck by their mourning
garb, looks again at the urn, breaks into a passion of tears, and falls
on the neck of Icilius, exclaiming, "Virginia!"


[Illustration: Jas Bannister EDWIN FORREST AS METAMORA.]

The famous prize-play of Metamora, by John Augustus Stone, is not a
work of much genius, and if published would have no literary rank; yet
it had all that was essential, in the striking merit of furnishing
the genius of the enactor of its leading character the conditions
for compassing a popular success of the most remarkable description.
With his performance of Metamora, Forrest impressed the masses of the
American people in a degree rarely precedented, and won a continental
celebrity full of idiomatic enthusiasm. Of course there were good
reasons for this warm favor from the surrendered many, despite the
disdain of the squeamish few, who can generally enjoy nothing, only
conceitedly criticise everything.

In the first place, the subject was indigenous, and thus came home to
the American heart and curiosity. In the imagination of our people
for more than a century the race of the aborigines of the land were
clothed with romantic associations and regretted with a sort of
national remorse. The disinterestedness of the fancy and the soul,
relieved from all proximity to their squalor, ferocity, and vice, with
a beautiful pity lamented their wrongs, their evanescence, and the
rapid disappearance of the wigwam and papoose and war-dance and canoe
of the painted tribes from hill and glen and wood and lake. In this
wide-spread sentimental interest the play took hold of powerful chords.
Although prosaic research and experience have so largely divested the
character of the Indian of its old romance and made his actual presence
a nuisance, nevertheless so long as the memories of our primeval
settlements and of our bloody and adventurous frontier traditions shall
live, so long will the American Indian be remembered with a sigh as the
_lost human poetry_ of the nature wherein he was cradled.

Furthermore, the play was stocked with fresh suggestions and images
of nature,--a store-house of those simple metaphors drawn direct
from the great objects of the universe, full of a rude pathos and
sublimity, and so natural to the genius of Indian chief and orator in
their talk. There was a piquance of novelty and a refreshing charm
to people--hived in towns and cities, and, stifled with artificial
customs, almost oblivious of any direct contact of their senses with
the solemn elementary phenomena of the surrounding universe--in hearing
Metamora speak, in a voice that echoed and painted them, of the woods,
the winds, the sun, the cliffs, the torrents, the lakes, the sea,
the stars, the thunder, the meadows and the clouds, the wild animals
and the singing birds. The meaning of the words so fitly intoned by
the player awoke in the nerves of the audience dim reminiscences of
ancestral experiences reverberating out of far ages forgotten long ago,
and they were bound by a spell themselves understood not.

And then there was the interest of a style of character and life, of
an idealized historic picture of a vanished form of human nature and
society, all whose elements stood in strange and fascinating contrast
with the personal experience of the beholders. It was the first time
the American Indian had ever been dramatized and put on the stage; and
this was done in a theme based on one of the romantic episodes of his
history embodied in a chieftain of tragic greatness.

In a production of art whose subject and materials lie in the domain
of unreclaimed nature, genius is not, indeed, permitted to falsify
any fundamental principle or fact, but is free to modify and add.
Otherwise, the creative function of art is gone, and only imitation
left. In this respect of combined truth and originality, the acted
Metamora of Forrest was a wonder never surpassed, in its own kind,
in the long story of the stage. He appeared the kingly incarnation
of the spirit of the scene, both of the outward landscape and of
the taciturn tribe that peopled it with their gliding shapes. He
appeared the human lord of the dark wood and the rocky shore, and the
natural ruler of their untutored tenants; the soul of the eloquent
recital, the noble appeal, and the fiery harangue; the embodiment
of a rude magnanimity, a deep domestic love, an unquivering courage
and fortitude, an instinctive patriotism and sense of justice, and a
relentless revenge. He appeared, too, the votary of a superstition
of singular attractiveness, blooming with the native wild-flowers of
the human mind, a faith so unaffected and open that it seemed to be
read by the stars of the Great Spirit as they looked down on the lone
Indian kneeling by the mound of his fathers, the hunted patriot lying
in ambush for his foes. Through all this physically-realized, wondrous
portraiture of the poetic, the tender, the noble, the awful, the
reverential, was mingled the glare of the crouching tiger. It was thus
that Forrest in his great creation of Metamora rendered all that there
was in the naturalistic poem of Indian life, to all that there was
justly adding an infusion of that ideal quality by which art appeals
to the nobler feelings of admiration and sympathy in preference to the
meaner ones of hate and scorn. In this performance he elaborated a
picture of the legendary and historic American Indian which to this day
stands alone beyond all rivalry.

Never did an actor more thoroughly identify and merge himself with
his part than Forrest did in Metamora. He was completely transformed
from what he appeared in other characters, and seemed Indian in every
particular, all through and all over, from the crown of his scalp to
the sole of his foot. The carriage of his body, the inflections of his
voice, his facial expressions, the very pose of his head and neck
on his shoulders, were new. For he had recalled all his observations
while on his visit with Push-ma-ta-ha among the Choctaws, when he had
adopted their habits, eaten their food, slept in their tents, echoed
the crack of his rifle over the surface of their lakes, and left the
print of his moccasins on their hunting-grounds. He had also patiently
studied their characteristics from all other available sources.
Accordingly, when he came to impersonate Metamora, or the Last of the
Wampanoags, modelled by the author of the play after that celebrated
New England Sachem, the son of Massasoit, known in history as King
Philip of Pokanoket, it was the genuine Indian who was brought upon the
stage, merely idealized a little in some of his moral features. The
attributes unnoticed by careless observers were distinctly shown,--the
sudden muscular movements, the repressed emotion, the peculiar mode of
breathing, the deep and vigorous gutturals flung out from the muscular
base of the abdomen, and the straight or slightly inward-pointing line
of the footfall. With a profound truth to fact, the general bearing of
Metamora on ordinary occasions was marked by a dull monotony of manner,
broken with awkward abruptness, and his grand poses were limited to
those times of great excitement when the human organism, if in a state
of dynamic surcharge, is spontaneously electrified with heroic lines,
and becomes an instrument with which impersonal passions or the laws of
nature gesticulate.

With the single and very proper exception of this partially heightened
moral refinement, the counterfeit was so cunningly copied that it
might have deceived nature herself. Many a time delegations of Indian
tribes who chanced to be visiting the cities where he acted this
character--Boston, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New
Orleans--attended the performance, adding a most picturesque feature
by their presence, and their pleasure and approval were unqualified.
A large delegation of Western Indians, seated in the boxes of the old
Tremont Theatre on such an occasion, were so excited by the performance
that in the closing scene they rose and chanted a dirge in honor of the
death of the great chief.

This incident recalls one which happened in the earliest theatre in
Philadelphia, when Mrs. Whitelock, the sister of Mrs. Siddons, was
playing, and when Washington was present. At the beginning of the
performance a group of Indians, who had come from the wilderness to
conclude a treaty, made their appearance in the pit in their native
costume. The dark, tall, gaunt figures glided in, and, without
noticing the audience or seeming to hear the claps of welcome which
greeted them, seated themselves, and fixed their eyes on the stage,
as unchangingly as if they were petrified. They sat through the chief
play like statues, with immovable tranquillity. But in the after-piece
an artificial elephant was introduced, which so electrified these sons
of the forest that they suddenly sprang up with a cry. They said there
had once been a great beast like this in their land. The next day they
called on the manager, inspected the mammoth of sticks, pasteboard, and
cloth, and asked to see by daylight the heavenly women who had appeared
on the stage the previous night.

The opening scene of Metamora was a glen, with ledges of stone, trees,
bushes, running vines, and flowers, the leading character seen, in his
picturesque, aboriginal costume, standing on the highest rock in an
attitude that charmed the eye. Leaning forward on his firmly-planted
right foot, the left foot thrown easily back on its tip, he had a bow
in his hands, with the arrow sprung to its head. As the arrow sped
from the twanging string he raised his eyes with eager gaze after
it, gave a deep interjection, "Hah!" bounded upon a rock below, and
vanished. In a few moments he re-entered, with his left arm bleeding,
as if it had been bitten in a struggle with a wild beast. Oceana, a
white maiden, passing, sees his wound and offers him her scarf to bind
it up. The mother of Oceana had once befriended Massasoit when he was
sick. Metamora, in his gratitude, had visited her grave with offerings
for the dead, and, on such an occasion, had rescued Oceana from a
panther. He hesitates before accepting, and fills the delay with a
by-play of pantomime so true to Indian nature, so new and strange to
the spectators, that it was invested with an absorbing interest. At
length he says, "Metamora will take the white maiden's gift." He then
gives her an eagle's feather, bids her wear it in her hair, and if she
is ever in danger he will fly to her rescue at the sight of this pledge
of his friendship.

As the play moves on, the audience are gradually borne back to the
early days of their fathers, and their dread struggle to establish
themselves on these Western shores. We see the thin and thriving
settlements constantly augmenting with reinforcements, and pushing the
natives before them. We are taken within the homes of the Indians,
shown their better qualities, their hopeless efforts, their mixed
resolution and misgiving before their coming fate. Our sympathies are
enlisted, before we know it, with the defeated party against ourselves;
and thus the author and actor won their just victory. For the
English are made to represent power and fraud, the Indians truth and
patriotism; and when their fugitive king pauses on a lofty cliff in the
light of the setting sun, gazes mournfully on the lost hunting-grounds
and desecrated graves of his forefathers, and launches his curse on
their destroyers, every heart beats with sorrow for him.

The class of speeches in which the instinctive love of nature that
unconsciously saturated the Indian soul is expressed, and the closeness
of their daily life to the elements of the landscape and the phenomena
of the seasons is revealed, were delivered with matchless effect.
Metamora, poised like the bronze statue of some god of the antique,
says, "I have been upon the high mountain-top when the gray mists were
beneath my feet, and the Great Spirit passed by me in wrath. He spoke
in anger, and the rocks crumbled beneath the flash of his spear. Then
I felt proud and smiled. The white man trembles, but Metamora is not

And again: "The war and the chase are the red man's brother and sister.
The storm-cloud in its fury frights him not; and when the stream is
wild and broken his canoe is like a feather, that cannot drown."

Another class of speeches, equally unique in character, and breathing
with compressed passion, were those in which the relative positions of
the intruding race and the native lords of the soil were described.
The style with which these were pronounced made the form of the actor
seem a new tenement in which the departed Sachem of the Pequots lived
and spoke again. "_Your_ lands?" he exclaims, with sarcastic disdain.
"They are mine. Climb upon the rock and look to the sunrise and to the
sunset,--all that you see is the land of the Wampanoags, the land of
Metamora. I am the white man's friend; but when my friendship is over I
will not ask the white man if I have the right to be his foe. Metamora
will love and hate, smoke the pipe of peace or draw the hatchet of
battle, as seems good to him. He will not wrong his white brother, but
he owns no master save Manito, Master of Heaven."

And at another time: "The pale-faces are around me thicker than the
leaves of summer. I chase the hart in the hunting-grounds; he leads me
to the white man's village. I drive my canoe into the rivers; they are
full of the white man's ships. I visit the graves of my fathers; they
are lost in the white man's corn-fields. They come like the waves of
the ocean forever rolling upon the shores. Surge after surge, they dash
upon the beach, and every foam-drop is a white man. They swarm over
the land like the doves of winter, and the red men are dropping like
withered leaves."

In these passages his declamation seemed to make the whole tragedy of
the story of the American Indians breathe and swell and tremble.

A wonderful interest, too, was concentrated in the personal traits of
Metamora himself as an individual; so true to his word, so faithful to
his friend, so devoted to his wife and child, so proud of his land and
his fathers, so fearless of his foe, so reverential before his God. "To
his friend Metamora is like the willow,--he bends ever at the breath of
those that love him. To others he is an oak. Until with your single arm
you can rive the strongest tree of the forest from its earth, think not
to stir Metamora when his heart says No."

In the earliest scene with his wife, when ready to start on a hunt,
he lingered, and directed her to take her child from its couch on the
earth. He then lifted it in his hands, and stood for several seconds
in an attitude so superbly defined in its outlines of strength and
grace that several pictures of it were published at the time. He asked,
with a look of fondness, suppressing his stern reserve, "Dost thou
not love this little one, Nahmeokee?" "Ah, yes!" she replied. He then
continued, in a caressing murmur like the runneling music of a brook,
"When first his little eyes unclosed, thou saidst that they were like
to mine." The expression of human love was so simple and complete, and
so exquisitely set in the wild seclusion of nature, suggestive of the
self-sufficingness of this little nest of affection embosomed in the
wood and forgetful of all else in the world, that it made many a soft
heart beat fast with an aching wish that stayed long after the scene
was gone.

In a later scene he describes to his wife a vision he has had in the
night. He relates it in a rich, subdued undertone, waxing intenser, and
giving the hearer a mixed feeling of mysterious reverie and prophetic
inspiration. "Nahmeokee, the power of dreams has been on me, and the
shadows of things to be have passed before me. My heart is big with
great thoughts. When I sleep, I think the knife is red in my hand and
the scalp of the white man is streaming." Here he gave an additional
height to his figure, a slight downward inclination to his head and
eyes, dropped his left arm listlessly, and, while the two halves of
his whole form were seen finely distinguished along the median line,
with his right hand, extended to its fullest distance straight from
the shoulder, grasped his bow, which stood perfectly erect from the
ground. It was a posture of beautiful artistic precision and meaning,
expressive of reflection with a quality of earnest listening in it, as
if waiting for a reply. The words of Nahmeokee, not fitting his mood,
slightly ruffled his temper, and then, with a crisp tone of voice which
in its change of quality and accent was so unexpected that it was like
a sudden sweep of the wind that rustles the dry leaves and hums through
the wood, he said, "Yes, when our fires are no longer red in the high
places of our fathers,--when the bones of our kindred make fruitful the
fields the stranger has planted amid the ashes of our wigwams,--when
we are hunted back like the wounded elk far towards the going down of
the sun,--our hatchets broken, our bows unstrung, and our war-whoops
hushed,--then will the stranger spare; for we shall be too small for
his eye to see!"

The controversy between the natives and the new settlers having reached
a perilous height, the latter dispatch a messenger asking Metamora to
meet them in council. Very angry, and deeming all talk useless, he
yet concludes to go. Unannounced, abruptly, he makes his peremptory
appearance amidst them. Settling strongly back on his right leg, his
left advanced at ease with bent knee, his right side half presented,
his face turned squarely towards them, he says, with Spartan curtness,
and in a manner not insolent, and yet indescribably defiant, "You sent
for me, and I have come." His action was so wonderfully expressive in
speaking these few words that they became a popular phrase, circulating
in the mouths of men in all parts of the country.

The same result also followed in another and simpler scene. He had
promised to meet the English at a certain time and place. They demanded
of him, "Will you come?" By mere force of manner he gave an immense
impressiveness to the simple reply, "Metamora cannot lie." The very
boys in the streets were seen trying to imitate his posture and look,
swelling their little throats to make the words sound big, as they
repeated, "Metamora cannot lie."

In an interview with the English, after deadly hostilities have begun
to rage, Aganemo, a subject of Metamora, who, for some supposed wrong,
has turned against him, is called in, and bears testimony against his
chief and his tribe. Metamora cries, "Let me see his eyes;" and, going
close in front of him, addresses the cowering recreant: "Look me in
the face, Aganemo. Thou turnest away. The spirit of a dog has entered
thee, and thou crouchest. Dost thou come here with a lie in thy heart
to witness against me? Thine eye cannot rest on thy chieftain. White
men, can he speak words of truth who has been false to his nation and
false to his friends?" Fitz Arnold says, "Send him hence." Metamora
interposes with an imperial mien full of dread import, "I will do
that," and strikes him dead on the spot, exclaiming, "Slave of the
whites, follow Sassamon,"--Sassamon being the name of another traitor
whom he had previously slain in the midst of his own braves.

Fitz Arnold orders his men to seize the high-handed executioner of
their witness. Towering alone in solitary and solid grandeur, with
accents and gestures whose impassioned sincerity painted every thought
as a visible reality and made the excited audience lean out of their
seats, Metamora hurled back his electric defiance:

"Come! my knife has drunk the blood of the traitor, but it is not
satisfied. Men of the pale race, beware! The mighty spirits of the
Wampanoags are hovering over your heads. They stretch their shadowy
arms and call for vengeance. They shall have it. Tremble! From East to
West, from the South to the North, the tribes have roused from their
slumbers. They grasp the hatchet. The pale-faces shall wither under
their power. White men. Metamora is your foe!"

The soldiers level their guns at him. He suddenly seizes a white man
and places him before himself. The living shield thus extemporized
falls, perforated with bullets. Metamora hurls his tomahawk to the
floor, where it sticks quivering, while he cries, "Thus do I defy your
power!" and darts away, leaving them dumb with astonishment.

The pathos with which Forrest rendered portions of the play of Metamora
was one of its most remarkable excellences and one of his most
distinctive trophies as a dramatic artist. No theory of the passions
or mere mechanical drill in their expression can ever teach a man to
be pathetic. Only a disagreeable mockery of it can thus come. Pathos
is the one particular affection that knows no deceit, but comes in
truth direct from the soul and goes direct to the soul. It may lie
dormant in us, as music lies in the strings of a silent harp, till a
touch gives it life. Speaking more or less in all, it speaks most in
those who cherish it most; and when it speaks it is felt by all,--red
man and white man, barbarian and philosopher. The pathos of Metamora
was not like that of Damon when he parted with his family to go to his
execution, not like that of Brutus when he sentenced his son to death,
not like that of Virginius when he slew his daughter. It was a pathos
without tears or gesture. The Indian warrior never weeps. It was almost
solely a pathos of the voice, and was as broad and primitive as the
unperverted faith and affection of man. The supreme example of this
quality in the play was finely set off by the contrast that immediately
foreran it, its soft, sad shades following a scene of lurid fury and

A peace-runner brings Metamora the news that Nahmeokee is a captive in
the power of his enemies. Leaving fifty white men bound as hostages to
secure his own safety, he starts alone to deliver her. As he approaches
the English camp, he hears Nahmeokee shriek. With one bound he bursts
in upon them, levels his gun, and thunders,--

"Which of you has lived too long? Dogs of white men, do you lift your
hands against a woman?" "Seize him!" they cry, but shrink from his
movement. "Hah!" he scornfully exclaims, "it is now a warrior who
stands before you, the fire-weapon in his hands. Who, then, shall
seize him? Go, Nahmeokee; I will follow thee." Then, reminding them of
his hostages, he turns on his heel and departs.

He is next discovered, with a slow and heavy step, approaching his
wigwam, where his rescued wife waits to receive him. He has seen that
the too unequal struggle of his countrymen is hopeless, and he appears
sad and gloomy. Telling Nahmeokee, who looks broken with grief, that he
is weary with the strife of blood, he says, "Bring me thy little one,
that I may press him to my burning heart to quiet its tumult." Without
his knowledge, the child had been killed by the white men a few hours
previous. The mother goes where the child is lying upon the ground,
lifts the skin that covers him, points at him, and drops her head in
tears. Metamora looks at the child, at the mother, stoops, and, with
rapid motions, feels the little face, arms, and legs. Suppressing the
start of horror and the cry of grief a white man would have given,
he sinks his chin slowly upon his breast and heaves a deep sigh, and
then utters the simple words, "Dead! cold!" in a tone low as if to
be heard by himself alone, and sounding like the wail of a sorrow in
some far-away world. Having lifted the dead child and fondled it in
his bosom and laid it tenderly back, he walks slowly to the weeping
Nahmeokee, places his hand on her shoulder, and says, in a soft voice
quivering with the tears not suffered to mount in the eyes, "Well, is
he not happy? Better that he should die by the stranger's hand than
live to be his slave. Do not bow down thy head. Thou wilt see him
again in the happy land of the spirits; and he will look smilingly
as--as--as I do now." Here the quality of smilingness was in the tones
of the voice only, while his face wore the impress of intense grief.
The voice and face thus contradicting each other presented a pathos so
overwhelming that it seemed as if nothing human could surpass it or
resist it.

His manner now changes. Some great resolution seems to have arisen in
him. His words have a tender yet ominous meaning in their inflection
as he asks Nahmeokee, "Do you not fear the power of the white man?
He might seize thee and bear thee off to his far country, bind those
arms that have so often clasped me, and make thee his slave. We cannot
fly: our foes are all about us. We cannot fight, for this [drawing his
long knife] is the only weapon I have saved unbroken from the strife.
It has tasted the white man's blood and reached the cold heart of the
traitor. It has been our best friend, and it is now our only treasure."
Here he drew her still closer, and placed her head on his bosom, and,
with the long knife in his hand, pointed upwards, and with an alluring,
indescribably sweet and aerial falsetto tone, painted a picture that
seemed to take form and color in the very atmosphere. There was a weird
dreaminess in his voice and a visionary abstractness in his gaze, as
with the words "long path in the thin air," he indicated the heavenward
journey of his dead child, that seemed actually to dissolve the whole
scene, theatre, actor, spectators, and all, into a passing vapor, an
ethereal enchantment.

"I look through the long path in the thin air, and think I see
our little one borne to the land of the happy, where the fair
hunting-grounds never know snows or storms, and where the immortal
brave feast under the eyes of the Giver of Good. Look upward,
Nahmeokee! See, thy child looks back to thee, and beckons thee to
follow." Drawing her closer with his left arm, and lowering his right,
he whispers, "Hark! In the distant wood I faintly hear the tread of the
white men. They are upon us! The home of the happy is made ready for
thee!" While this picture of fear and hope is vivid before her mind,
he strikes the blow, and in an instant she is dead in his arms. He
clasps her to his breast, presses his lips on her forehead, and gently
places her beside the dead child. He then shudders, and draws forth the
knife sheathed in her side, and kisses its blade in a sudden transport,
exclaiming, "She knew no bondage to the white men. Pure as the snow she
lived, free as the air she died!"

At this moment the hills are covered with the white men, pointing their
rifles at his heart. "Hah!" he cries. Their leader shouts, "Metamora is
our prisoner!" "No," he proudly responds, dilating with the haughtiest
port of defiance. "I live, the last of my race, live to defy you still,
though numbers and treachery overpower me. Come to me, come singly,
come all, and this knife, which has drunk the foul blood of your
nation, and is now red with the purest of mine, will feel a grasp as
strong as when it flashed in the glare of your burning dwellings or was
lifted terribly over the fallen in battle."

The order is given to fire upon him; and he replies, "Do so. I am weary
of the world; for ye are dwellers in it. I would not turn on my heel to
save my life." They shoot, and he staggers, but in his dying agonies
launches on them his awful malediction:

"My curses on ye, white men! May the Great Spirit curse ye when he
speaks in his war-voice from the clouds! May his words be like the
forked lightnings, to blast and desolate! May the loud winds and the
fierce red flames be loosed in vengeance upon ye, tigers! May the angry
Spirit of the Waters in his wrath sweep over your dwellings! May your
graves and the graves of your children be in the path where the red man
shall tread, and may the wolf and the panther howl over your fleshless
bones! I go. My fathers beckon from the green lakes and the broad
hills. The Great Spirit calls me. I go,--but the curses of Metamora
stay with the white men!"

He crawls painfully to the bodies of his wife and child, and, in a vain
effort to kiss them, expires, with his last gasp mixing the words, "I
die--my wife, my queen--my Nahmeokee!"



"The Gladiator," written by Robert Montgomery Bird, was another
prize-play, in which Forrest acquired a popularity which, if less
general, was more intense, than that secured for his Metamora. If
the admiration and applause given to it were drawn less universally
from men and women, from old and young, they were more fervent and
sustained, being fed by those elementary instincts which are strongest
in the robust multitude. The Spartacus of Forrest was more abused and
satirized by hostile critics than any of his other parts, because
it was the most "physical" and "melodramatic" of them all. Muscular
exertion and ferocious passion were carried to their greatest pitch in
it, though neither of these was displayed in a degree beyond sincerity
and fitness or the demands of the given situations on the given
embodiment of the character. There are actual types of men and actual
scenes of life which are transcendently "physical" and "melodramatic."
No actor can truly represent such specimens of human nature and such
conjunctures of human history _without_ being highly "physical" and
profoundly "melodramatic." Is it not the office of the player, the very
aim of his art, correctly to depict the truth of man and life? And,
recollecting what sort of a person the veritable Thracian gladiator
was, and what sort of a part he played, one may well ask how he can be
justly impersonated on the stage if _not_ invested with the attributes
of brawny muscularity, terrific indignation, stentorian speech, and
merciless revenge. Forrest was blamed and ridiculed by a coterie
because he did exactly what, as an artist cast in such a rôle, he ought
to do, and any deviation from which would have been a gross violation
of propriety. He simply exhibited tremendous mental and physical
realities with tremendous mental and physical realism. What else would
the demurrer have?

The fact is, the cant words "physical" and "melodramatic," as
demeaningly used in dramatic criticism, express a vulgar prejudice too
prevalent among the educated and refined,--a prejudice infinitely more
harmful than any related prejudice of the ignorant and coarse. They
seem to fancy the body something vile, to be ashamed of, to receive
as little attention and be kept as much out of sight as possible. But
since God created the body as truly as he did the spirit, and decreed
its uses as much as he did those of the spirit, the perfecting and
glorifying of the former are just as legitimate as the perfecting
and glorifying of the latter. The ecclesiastical interpretation of
Christianity for these fifteen hundred years is responsible, in common
with kindred ascetic superstitions of other and elder religions, for an
incalculable amount of disease, deformity, vice, crime, and untimely
death. The contempt for bodily power and its material conditions in
a superbly-developed and trained physical organism, the foul and
dishonoring notion of the superior sanctity of the celibate state, the
teaching that chastity is the one thing that allies us to the angels,
_with_ which every other sin may be forgiven, _without_ which no other
virtue is to be recognized,--these and associated errors--discords,
distortions, and inversions of nature--have been prolific sources
of evil. They lie at the root of the so common prejudice against a
magnificent and glowing condition of the physical organism, a prejudice
which feeds the conceit of the votaries of the present mental forcing
system, and causes so many dawdling idlers to neglect all use of those
vigorous measures of gymnastic hygiene which would raise the power and
splendor of body and soul together to their maximum.

The type of man produced by the Athenians in their best age, its
unrivalled combination of health and strength, energy and grace,
acumen and sensibility, organic harmony of mental peace and vital joy,
was very largely the fruit of their unrivalled system of gymnastics
regulated by music. Free America, with this example and so much
subsequent experience, with all the conquests of modern science at her
command, should inaugurate a system of popular training which will
acknowledge the equal sanctity of body and soul and render them worthy
of each other, a union of athletic and æsthetic culture making the body
the temporary illuminated temple of its indwelling immortal divinity.

The separating of human nature into opposed parts whose respective
highest welfare is incompatible must ever be productive of all kinds of
morbidity, monstrosity, and horror, through the final reactions of the
violated harmony of truth. Leading to the enforced culture of one side,
the mental, and the enforced neglect of the other, the material, it is
fatal to that rounded wholeness of the entire man which is the synonym
of both health and virtue. For the helpless subsidence of the soul in
the body is brutality or idiocy; the insurrectionary sway of the body
over the soul is insanity; the remorseless subdual of the body by the
soul is egotistic asceticism or murderous ferocity; but the parallel
development and exaltation of accordant body and soul give us the ideal
of health and happiness fulfilled in beauty, or the enthronement of
divine order in man. Therefore such a stimulating instance of organic
glory, extraordinary outward poise and inward passion, as the people,
thrilled in their most instinctive depths of enthusiasm, used to shout
at when they saw Forrest in his early assumptions of the rôle of
Spartacus, is not to be stigmatized as something offensive, but to be
hailed as something admirable.

In those happy and glowing years of his prime and of his fresh
celebrity, what a glorious image of unperverted manhood, of personified
health and strength and beauty, he presented! What a grand form he had!
What a grand face! What a grand voice! And, the living base of all,
what a grand blood! the rich flowing seed-bed of his human thunder and
lightning. As he stepped upon the stage in his naked fighting-trim, his
muscular coating unified all over him and quivering with vital power,
his skin polished by exercise and friction to a smooth and marble
hardness, conscious of his enormous potency, fearless of anything on
the earth, proudly aware of the impression he knew his mere appearance,
backed by his fame, would make on the audience who impatiently awaited
him,--he used to stand and receive the long, tumultuous cheering
that greeted him, as immovable as a planted statue of Hercules. In
the rank and state of his physical organism and its feelings he had
the superiority of a god over common men. The spectacle, let it be
repeated, was worthy the admiration it won. And had the personal
imitation of the care and training he gave himself been but equal to
the admiration lavished on their result, the benefit to the American
people would have been beyond estimate. But in this, as in the other
lessons of the drama, the example was relatively fruitless, because
shown to spectators who applaud without copying, seeking entertainment
instead of instruction. This, however, is clearly the fault of the
people, and not of the stage.

The play of "The Gladiator" is founded on that dark and frightful
episode in the history of Rome, the famous servile war headed by
the gladiators under the lead of Spartacus. Our sympathies are
skilfully enlisted on the side of the insurgents, who are goaded to
their desperate enterprise by insufferable wrongs and cruelties. It
abounds in pictures of insolent tyranny on one side, and with eloquent
denunciation and fearless resistance on the other, and the chief
character is a powerful presentation of a deep and generous manhood,
outraged in every fibre, lashed to fury by his injuries, and, after
superhuman efforts of revenge, expiring in monumental despair and
appeal to the gods. The horrors of oppression, the irrepressible
dignity of human nature, the reckless luxury of the rulers, the
suffering of the slaves, the revolting arrogance of despotism, and
the burning passion of liberty, are set against one another; and all
through it the mighty figure of Spartacus is made to fill the central
place. It was just the part for a democrat, who, despising what is
factitious, gloried in the ineradicable attributes of free manhood; and
Forrest made the most of it. For instance, it is easy for those who
knew him to imagine the energy and relish with which he would utter the
following lines when he came to them in his part:

  "I thank the gods, I am barbarian;
   For I can better teach the grace-begot
   And heaven-supported masters of the earth,
   How a mere dweller of a desert rock
   Can bow their crowned heads to his chariot-wheels.
   Man is heaven's work, and beggars' brats may herit
   A soul to mount them up the steeps of fortune,
   With regal necks to be their stepping-blocks."

In the intense sincerity and elaborate as well as spontaneous truth
of his performance, it was not a play that the spectators saw, but a
history; not a history, but a resurrection. Entering in the garb of a
slave, bound and whipped, his mighty frame and terrible aspect made
the abuse seem more awful. Tortured with insulting questions, his
proud spirit stung by wrong on wrong, he broke forth in desperation,
and carried the passions of the audience by storm, as with clenched
hands, and half erect from their seats, while the blood ran quicker
through their veins, they saw him rush into combat with his enemies
and chase them from the stage. They delighted to see the cruel subduer
of the world humbled by her own captive, who held her haughty prætors
by the heart and called on Thrace, on Africa, on the oppressed of all
nations, to pour the flood of their united hates on the detested city.
They rejoiced to hear him recite with bitter eloquence the story of
her degradation, and heap on her with hot scorn the recollection of
the time when Tiber ran blood and Hannibal hung over her like a cloud
charged with ruin. Every step, every word, vibrated on their feelings,
and when he fell their hearts swelled with a pang. For the actor had
been lost in the slave, the insurgent, the conqueror, the victim.

His first appearance as a captive in imperial Rome was deeply
affecting. "Is it a thousand leagues to Thrace?" he said, with a
whispered agony, the deadly lament of hopeless exile. He has been
purchased by Lentulus, an exhibitor of gladiators, on the strength of
the report that he was the most desperate, skilful, and unconquerable
fighter in the province. Bracchius, another proprietor of gladiators,
owns one Phasarius, a Thracian, who has always been victorious in his
combats. Phasarius was a younger and favorite brother of Spartacus,
supposed to have been killed in battle years before, but really taken
captive and brought to Rome. Now Bracchius and Lentulus propose a
combat between their two slaves. Spartacus, chained, is ordered in. He
asks, "Is not this Rome, the great city?" Bracchius replies, "Ay, and
thou shouldst thank the gods that they have suffered thee to see it.
What think'st thou of it?"

"_Spartacus._ That if the Romans had not been fiends, Rome had never
been great. Whence came this greatness but from the miseries of
subjugated nations? How many myriads of happy people that had not
wronged Rome, for they knew not Rome,--how many myriads of these were
slain, like the beasts of the field, that Rome might fatten upon their
blood, and become great? Look ye, Roman, there is not a palace upon
these hills that cost not the lives of a thousand innocent men; there
is no deed of greatness ye can boast, but it was achieved by the ruin
of a nation; there is no joy ye can feel, but its ingredients are blood
and tears."

Lentulus breaks in, "Now, marry, villain, thou wert bought not to
prate, but to fight."

"_Spartacus._ I will not fight. I will contend with mine enemy, when
there is strife between us; and if that enemy be one of these same
fiends, a Roman, I will give him the advantage of weapon and place;
he shall take a helmet and buckler, while I, with my head bare and my
breast naked, and nothing in my hand but my shepherd's staff, will
beat him to my feet and slay him. But I will not slay a man for the
diversion of Romans."

His master threatens to have him lashed if he refuses to contend in
the arena. The fearful attitude and fixed look with which Spartacus
received this threat, suggesting that he would strike the speaker
dead with a glance, were a masterpiece of expressive art not easily
forgotten by any one who saw it. Its possessing power seemed to freeze
the gazer while he gazed. Still refusing to fight, in moody despair he
bewails the destruction of his home by the Romans, and their murder
of his wife and young child. The female slaves of Bracchius here pass
by, and, to his amazement, among them Spartacus sees his lost Senona
and her boy. After a touching interview of contending joy and grief
with them, he agrees to enter the arena, on condition that if he is
victorious his reward shall be their liberation.

The next act opens with a view of the great Roman amphitheatre, crowded
with the people gathered to see those bloody games which were their
horrid but favorite amusement. The first adversary brought against
Spartacus is a Gaul. He soon slays him, though with great reluctance,
and only as moved to it by the prospect of freedom for his wife and
child. Then they propose as a second champion a renowned Thracian.
He flings down his sword and refuses to fight with one of his own
countrymen. But at last, on learning that liberty is to be had in
no other way, he suddenly yields. The Thracian is introduced. It is
Phasarius. A scene of intense pathetic power follows, as little by
little the brothers are struck with each other's appearance, suspect,
inquire, respond, are satisfied, and rush into a loving embrace. The
prætor treats their recognition and their transport of fraternal
affection as a trick to escape the combat, and orders them to begin.
Spartacus proposes to his brother to die sword in hand rather than obey
the unnatural command. In reply, Phasarius rapidly informs him that
he has already organized the elements of a revolt among his comrades,
and that it awaits but his signal to break out. Crassus angrily calls
on his guards to enter the amphitheatre and punish the dilatory
combatants. The manner in which Spartacus retorted, "Let them come
in,--we are armed!" never failed to stir the deepest excitement in the
theatre, causing the whole assembly to join in enthusiastic applause.
Port, look, gesture, tone, accent, combined to make it a signal example
of the sovereign potency of manner in revealing a master-spirit and
swaying subject-spirits.

On the entrance of the guards, Phasarius gives a shout, and the
confederate gladiators also plunge in, and a general conflict begins.
In this scene the acting of Forrest absorbed his whole heart. He was
so thoroughly imbued with the spirit of it that everything he did was
perfectly natural, full of that genuine fire which is so much beyond
all exertion by rule. It was universally agreed that more spirited and
admirable fighting was hardly to be conceived, the varied postures into
which he threw his massive form being worthy to be taken as studies for
the sculptor.

The rebellion grows apace in success and numbers. Spartacus rescues his
wife and child from the Roman camp, and seizes the niece of the prætor.
Phasarius falls in love with this young woman, and demands her of his
brother. Being refused because she is affianced to a youth in Rome,
he insists on his demand. In the altercation occurs one of the finest
and loftiest passages in the play, and it was rendered with a sublime

 "_Spartacus._ Come, look me in the face,
   And let me see how bad desires have changed thee.

  _Phasarius._ I claim the captive.

  _Spar._ Set thine eye on her:
   Lo, you! she weeps, and she is fatherless.
   Thou couldst not harm an orphan? What, I say,
   Art thou, whom I have carried in my arms
   To mountain-tops to worship the great God,
   Art thou a man to plot a wrong and sorrow
   'Gainst such as have no father left but Him?"

Phasarius revolts, and takes off more than half the army. Disastrously
defeated by Crassus, he returns with a broken fragment of his forces,
and is generously forgiven and restored to favor by Spartacus, who
intrusts him with an important separate command, and confides Senona
and her boy to his keeping, with the solemn charge that he shall avoid
all collision with the enemy. Phasarius, however, thirsting for Roman
blood, seeks an engagement, and is totally routed, his force cut in
pieces, and the mother and child both slain. The unhappy man, then,
mortally wounded, presents himself before his brother, tells his
fearful tale, and expires at his feet. In this interview the emotions
of anxiety, deprecation, grief, wrath, and horror, were depicted in all
their most forcible language in the person of Spartacus. One action in
particular was effective in the highest degree. Phasarius described the
crucifixion by the Romans of six thousand of their Thracian captives.
The highway on both sides, he said, was lined with crosses, and on each
cross was nailed a gladiator.

                              "I crept
  Thro' the trenched army to that road, and saw
  The executed multitude uplifted
  Upon the horrid engines. Many lived:
  Some moaned and writhed in stupid agony;
  Some howled and prayed for death, and cursed the gods;
  Some turned to lunatics, and laughed at horror;
  And some with fierce and hellish strength had torn
  Their arms free from the beams, and so had died
  Grasping headlong the air."

The agitations of the soul of the listener up to this point had been
delineated with fearful distinctness. But when told that his wife and
child had been killed, his head suddenly fell forward on his breast and
rested there, after vibrating four or five times in lessening degrees
on the pivot of the neck, as if utterly abandoned to itself. It was
marvellously expressive of the exhausted state, the woe-begone despair,
of one who had received a shock too great to be borne, a shock which,
had it been a little severer, would have prostrated his whole figure,
but, as it was, simply prostrated his head.

Deprived of all his kindred and of all hope, alone on the flinty earth,
rage and recklessness now seize the desolate Thracian, and he resolves
to sacrifice his captive, the niece of the prætor, in retaliation for
the slaughter of his own family; but a nobler sentiment restrains him,
and he dismisses her to her father. In this passage he displayed the
agony of generous grief subduing the desire of vengeance with a power
which, as a prominent English critic said, reminded the beholder of the
head of Laocoön struggling in the folds of the serpent, or of the head
of Hercules writhing under the torture of the poisoned shirt.

The prætor in return for his daughter sends Spartacus an offer of
pardon if he will surrender. Disdainfully rejecting the overture, he
has the horses in his camp slain, and sets everything on the chance of
one more battle, but against such odds as he knows can result only in
his defeat. With a frenzied thirst for vengeance he fights his way to
the presence of the Roman general, and, in the very act of striking him
down, exhausted from the accumulated wounds received in his passage of
blood, grows faint, reels, falls in the exact attitude of the immortal
statue of the Dying Gladiator, and expires.

A most remarkable proof of the histrionic genius of Forrest was given
in the profoundly discriminated manner with which the same mass and
fury of revengeful passion, the same rude breadth and tenderness of
affection and pathos, were shown by him in the two characters of
Metamora and Spartacus. In the Indian there was a stoical compression
of the emotions out of their revealing channels, an organic suppression
of starts and surprises and lamentations, a profound impassibility of
demeanor, an exterior of slow, stubborn, monotonous self-possession,
through which the volcanic ferocity of the interior crept in words of
slow lava, or flared as fire through a smouldering heap of cinders.
In the Thracian there was more variety as well as incomparably more
freedom and impulsiveness of expression. The exterior and interior
corresponded with each other and mutually reflected instead of
contradicting each other. In different exigencies the gladiator
exhibited in his whole person, limbs, torso, face, eyes, and voice,
the extremes of sullen stolidity, pining sorrow, convulsive grief,
ambitious pride, pity, anger, resolution, and despair, each well
shaded from the others. He had a wider gamut, as civilization is more
comprehensive than barbarism. The movements and expressions of Metamora
seemed to be instinctive, and originate in the nervous centres of the
physique; those of Spartacus to be volitional, originating in the
cerebral centres. In civilized life the body tends to be the reflex of
the brain; in savage life the brain to be the reflex of the body. This
historic and physiological truth Forrest knew nothing about, but the
practical results of the fact he intuitively observed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The seven characters, now described as fully as the writer can do it
with the data at his command, were the favorite ones in which Forrest
had gained his greenest laurels at the time of his visit to Europe.
Jaffier, Octavian, Sir Edward Mortimer, Sir Giles Overreach, Iago, and
other kindred parts, which he often acted with distinguished ability
and acceptance, he liked less and less, and gradually dropped them
altogether. In Febro, Cade, Melnotte, and Richelieu he had not yet
appeared. His Richard, Macbeth, Othello, Lear, Hamlet, and Coriolanus
will be more appropriately treated in a later chapter of his life, when
he had elaborated his conceptions of them to the highest finish in his
power. But his performances at the time now under consideration were,
in their spiritual substance, their general treatment and outlines,
what they remained to the end. The subsequent changes were merely
improvements in details, in gradual climax, in grouping, in symmetry
and unity. With his advancing years and experience and study, more and
more the parts were made to grow before the audience, so to speak, from
their roots upward, gaining strength and expansion as they rose. Gusty
irregularity, crudity, misproportion, discord, were carefully struck
out, and harmony secured by the just blending of light and shade. But
from first to last his style was consistent, and, like his personality,
knew no revolutions, only development.

In the practice of his profession it was a noble characteristic of
Forrest that he disliked to impersonate essentially bad or ignoble
characters. He hated to set forth passions, thoughts, or sentiments
meant to be regarded as base and repulsive, unless, indeed, it was to
make them odious and hold them up to detestation. Into this work he
threw himself with a gusto that was extreme. He was but too vehement
in the utterance of sarcastic denunciations of every form of meanness
or cruelty, his relish of the excoriation being often too keen, his
inflection of tone too widely sweeping, and his emphasis too prolonged
for the measure of any average sympathy. All was sincere with him in
it, but his expression was pitched in the scale of reality, while the
appreciation of the listeners was only pitched in the calmer scale of

He loved to stand out in some commanding form of virtue, heroism,
or struggle, battling with trials that would appall common souls,
setting a great example, and evoking enthusiasm. This was his glory.
The zeal with which he ever regarded this phase of his profession, the
delight with which he revelled in the contemplation of ideal strength,
fortitude, courage, devotion, was a grand attribute of his soul.
Accordingly, all his favorite parts were expressions of a high-souled
manhood, reverential towards God, truth, and justice, and fearing
nothing; a proud integrity and hardiness competent to every emergency
of life and death; an unbending will, based on right and entwined with
the central virtues of honor, friendship, domestic love, and patriotic
ardor. And surely these are the qualities best deserving universal
respect, the democratic ideals most wholesome to be cultivated. This is
what he most innately loved and stood on the stage to represent. He did
it with immense earnestness and immense individuality. He did it also
with a conscientious devotion to his chosen art and profession that
never faltered. In none of his performances was there ever anything
in the least degree savoring of pruriency or indelicacy. Never, after
his boyhood was past, could he be induced to appear in any trivial or
unmeaning role, destitute of moral purpose and dignity. With not one
of those many innovations which have detracted so much from the rank
and purity of the drama was his name ever associated. He was ever
strongly averse in his own person to touching in any way any play which
was not enriched and elevated by some imaginative romantic or heroic
creation. And, with a world-wide removal from the so common frivolity
and carelessness of his associates on the boards, he approached every
one of his performances with a studious sobriety, and went through it
with an undeniable dignity and earnestness, which should have lifted
him beyond the reach of ridicule, whatever were the faults an honorable
criticism might affirm.

The substance of the honest objections made to his acting may be
designated as ascribing to it two faults, an excess and a defect. The
excess was too much display of physical and spiritual force in the
expression of contemptuous or revengeful and destructive passion.
There was a basis for this charge, though the accusation was grossly
exaggerated. The muscular and passional strength and intensity of
Forrest, both by constitution and by culture, were so much beyond those
of ordinary men that a manifestation of them which was entirely natural
and within the bounds to him often seemed to them a huge extravagance,
a wilful overdoing for the sake of making a sensation. In him it was
perfectly genuine and not immoderate by the tests of nature, while
to them it appeared far to transgress the modest limits of truth.
Of course such explosions repelled and pained, sometimes revolted,
the sensibilities of the delicate and fastidious, while the more
ungirdled and terrific they were, so much the greater was the pleased
and wondering approval of those whose sympathies were stormed and
self-surrendered. Such was the histrionic fault of excess in Forrest,
if it may not rather be called the fault of those whose natures were
keyed so much below his that they could not come into tune with him.

The defect corresponding to this excess was lack of _souplesse_,
physical and spiritual mobility. He was unquestionably deficient, when
tried by a severe standard, in bright, alert, expectant, rich freedom
of play in nerves and faculties. His disposition was comparatively
obstinate in its pertinacity, and his body adhesive in its heaviness.
This gave him the ponderous weight of unity, the antique port of the
gods, but it robbed him in a degree of that supreme grace which is the
ability to compass the largest effects of impression with the smallest
expenditure of energy. It cannot be denied that he needed exactly what
Garrick had in such perfection, namely, that detached personality,
that quicksilver liberty and rapidity of motion, which made the great
English actor such a memorable paragon of variety and charm. Yet,
when these abatements are all allowed, enough remains amply to justify
his large historic claim in the honest massiveness and glow of his
delineations, set off alike by the imposing physique fit to take the
club and pose for a Farnesian Hercules, by a studious and manly art
unmarred with any insincere trickery, and by a powerful mellow voice of
vast compass and flexible intonation, whose declamation, modelled on
nature, and without theatrical affectation, ever did full justice to
noble thoughts and beautiful words.

Cibber said, in allusion to Betterton, "Pity it is that the momentary
beauties from an harmonious elocution cannot be their own record,
that the animated graces of the player can live no longer than the
instant breath and motion that presents them, or at best but faintly
glimmer through the memory or imperfect attestation of a few surviving
spectators." Could the author of this biography paint in their true
forms and colors and with full completeness the once vivid and vigorous
achievements of the buried master, had he with sufficient knowledge and
memory command of some notation whereby he could record every light and
shade of each great rôle so that they might be revived from the dead
symbols in all the lustre of their original reality, even as a musician
translates from the dormant score into living music an overture of
Mozart or a symphony of Beethoven, then were there a deathless Forrest
breathing in these pages who should stir the souls of generations
of readers to rise and mutiny against the depreciating estimates of
his forgotten foes and the encroachments of literary oblivion. But,
alas! to such a task the pen that essays the tribute is unequal, and
the writer must be content with the pale presentments he can but
imperfectly produce, sighing to think how true is the refrain of regret
taken up in every age by those who have mourned a departed actor, and
never better worded, perhaps, than in the famous lines by Garrick:

  "The painter dead, yet still he charms the eye;
   While taste survives, his fame can never die.
   But he who _struts his hour upon the stage_
   Can scarce extend his fame for half an age.
   Nor pen nor pencil can the _actor_ save,--
   The art and artist share one common grave."



The parting cheers died into silence, the ship began to speed through
the spray, the forms of his friends receded and vanished, the roofs and
spires of the city lowered and faded, the sun sank in the west, the
hills of Neversink subsided below the horizon, and only the gliding
vessel and her foamy wake broke the expanse of ocean and sky, when the
outward-bound Forrest for the first night sought his berth, relieving
the sadness of his farewell to America with thoughts of what awaited
him in Europe and Asia.

Life spread before him an alluring prospect, and nothing which he could
ask to encourage and stimulate his aspirations seemed to be wanting.
When he looked back, he could not fail to be grateful. Beginning the
struggle under such depressing circumstances,--poor, friendless,
uneducated,--he had won a handsome fortune, a national fame, a host
of admiring friends, and no inconsiderable amount of cultivation and
miscellaneous knowledge. And now, at twenty-eight, with two long years
of freedom from all responsibility and care before him, blessed with
superabundant health and strength and hope, he was on his way to the
enchanted scenes of the Old World,--the famous cities, battle-fields,
monuments, art-galleries, and pleasure-gardens,--of which he had read
and dreamed so much. He was going with an earnest purpose to improve
himself as well as to enjoy himself. This spirit, with a well-filled
purse, and the fluent knowledge of the French language which he had
acquired in New Orleans, were important conditions for the realization
of his aim. And thus, with alternate recollections of those left
behind, observations of the scenery and experiences of marine life,
mapping out the series of places he meant to visit, and thinking over
what he would do, the days wore by. He spread his cloak sometimes on
the deck in the very prow of the vessel, and lying on it upon his
back, so that he could see nothing but the sky and clouds, continued
there for hours, allowing the scene and the strong sensations it
awoke to sink into his soul, feeling himself a little speck floating
on a larger speck between two infinities. He said he often, years
afterwards, associated the remembrance of this experience with speeches
of Lear and Hamlet when representing those characters on the stage.

[Illustration: EDWIN FORREST. ÆT 21]

A fortnight of monotony and nausea, sprinkled with a few excitements,
passed, and the transatlantic shore hove in view, as welcome a vision
as his eyes had ever seen. Landing at Havre, he bade adieu to Captain
Forbes and the good ship Sully, made his way at once to Paris, and,
taking apartments, settled down to that delightful course of mingled
recreation and study to which he had long been looking forward.

A voyage across the ocean and a two years' residence in Europe for a
young American full of eager curiosity and ambition, cut loose from
the routine and precedents of home and friends, cannot but constitute
an epoch of extreme importance in his life. This must be true in its
effects on the development of his personal character, detaching him
and bringing out his manhood; and, if he is the votary of any liberal
art, true also in its influence on his professional culture. In 1834
such an enterprise was a greater event than it is now. The number of
American travellers in Europe was nothing like what it has grown to
be since. Furthermore, the multiplication of books and descriptive
letters, giving the most minute and vivid accounts of all that is most
interesting in a journey or residence in the different countries then
visited by Forrest, has been so great, that any prolonged presentation
of his adventures and observations there would now seem so out of date
and out of place as to be an impertinence. It will suffice for all the
legitimate ends of a biography if a few characteristic specimens of
what befell him and what he saw and did are furnished from his letters,
his diary, and his subsequent conversation. These will indicate the
spirit of the man at that time, and show something of the advantages,
personal and professional, which he gained from the social and artistic
sources of instruction opened to him while abroad. It will be seen
that, however strong the attractions of pleasure were to him, he did
not neglect the opportunities for substantial profit, but, keeping
his faculties alert to observe new phases of human nature and fresh
varieties of social life, he was especially careful to drink in the
beauties of natural scenery and to study the expressive possibilities
of the human form, as illustrated in the works of the greatest artists
of ancient and modern time.

The following letter was written shortly after his arrival in Paris:

"To say that I am pleased with what I have thus far seen of Paris
would be a phrase of very inadequate meaning: I am surprised and
delighted. I have been to the Louvre, the Tuileries, Place Vendôme,
St. Cloud,--here, there, and everywhere,--and I have not yet seen a
twentieth part of the objects which claim a stranger's attention. One
cannot go into the streets for a moment, indeed, but something new
attracts his curiosity; and it seems to me that my senses, which I
have heretofore considered adequate to the usual purposes of life,
ought now to be enlarged and quickened for the full enjoyment of the
objects which surround me. I have, of course, visited some of the
theatres, of which there are upwards of twenty now open. A number
of the best actors, however, are absent from the city, fulfilling
provincial engagements, and may not be expected back for a month or
more. I went to the Théâtre Porte St. Martin the other night, to see
Mademoiselle Georges, now, on the French stage, the queen of tragedy.
I saw her perform the part of Lucrece Borgia, in Victor Hugo's drama
of that name. Her personation was truly beautiful,--nay, that is too
cold a word; it was grand, and even terrible! Though a woman more
than fifty years old, never can I forget the dignity of her manner,
the flexible and expressive character of her yet fine face, and the
rich, full, stirring, and well-modulated tones of her voice. How
different is her and nature's style from the sickly abortions of
the present English school of acting, lately introduced upon the
American stage!--the snakelike writhing and contortion of body, the
rolling and straining of the eyeballs till they squint, the shuffling
gait, and the whining monotone,--how different, I say, from all this
is the natural and easy style of Mademoiselle Georges! In her you
trace no servile imitations of a bad model; but you behold that sort
of excellence which makes you forget you are in a theatre,--that
perfection of art by which art is wholly concealed,--the lofty and
the thrilling, the subdued and the graceful, harmoniously mingling,
the spirit being caught from living nature. I had been led to believe
that, in France, the highest order of tragic excellence had died
with Talma. It is not so. I consider Mademoiselle Georges the very
incarnation of the tragic muse.

"The French, it must be allowed, understand and practise the art of
living independently. They find you furnished apartments according
to your own taste and means--comfortable, handsome, or gorgeous--in
any part of the city or its environs. In your rooms you may either
breakfast, dine, and sup, or take only your coffee there, and dine at
a restaurant. This is to me, a bird of passage, and desirous of taking
a bird's-eye view of things, a delightful mode of living. Paris is
filled with restaurants and cafés of all sorts and sizes, where you
may obtain your 'provant,' as Captain Dalgetty would style it, at what
price you please, from the humble sum of a few sous up to the emptying
of a well-lined purse. Ladies, gentlemen, and whole families may be
seen at these places, enjoying their repast, and the utmost order and
decorum prevail. Some of these cafés are magnificently furnished. I
breakfasted in one yesterday the furniture and decorations of the
salon of which cost eighty thousand francs. Another agreeable thing
in Paris is, that you may one moment be in the midst of fashion,
pomp, and all the hollowness of the flattering crowd, and the next
buried in the sincere quiet of your own chamber, your very existence
blotted from the memories of those with whom, the unsophisticated
might have imagined, your society was of the utmost consequence. I say
this is pleasant when properly understood and appreciated. All that
is required of you is the superficial courtesy of life, which costs
a well-bred man nothing; and in return you have a well-dissembled
friendship, looking like truth, but which they would not have you to
cherish as a reality for the world. The sentiments of the heart are
quite too dull and too troublesome for their mercurial temperament;
and hence you seldom hear of a Frenchman's having a false friend."

The professional bias which so strongly dominated among the
associations in the mind of Forrest led him very early after his
arrival in the French metropolis, to visit the tomb of Talma. Carrying
a fresh laurel crown under his cloak, he sought out the consecrated
place among the crowd of undistinguished graves, reverently laid
his tribute there, and lingered long in meditation on the career,
the genius, the renown of the greatest stage-actor of France, and
the lessons to be learned from his life and character by ambitious
successors in his art. Thus, like Byron at the grave of Churchill, did
the player draw his profitable homily from "the glory," though, unlike
the morbid bard, he did not think of "the nothing, of a name."

One incident occurred in the experience of Forrest in Paris which has
much significance on several accounts. He had formed a very pleasant
acquaintance with the manager of one of the theatres. This manager
had a protégé of whose nascent talent as an actor he cherished a high
estimate. The youth was to make his début, and the manager asked the
American tragedian to attend the performance and give his opinion of
the promise it indicated. At the close of the play, asked to state his
candid impression without reserve, Forrest said to the manager, "He
will never rise beyond a respectable mediocrity. It is a perfectly
hopeless case. There are no deeps of latent passion in him, no
lava-reservoirs. His sensibility is quick, but all superficial. But
that Jewish-looking girl, that little bag of bones with the marble face
and flaming eyes,--there is demoniacal power in her. If she lives, and
does not burn out too soon, she will become something wonderful." That
little bag of bones was the then unknown Rachel!

The next selection presented from his correspondence was written to
Leggett several months later, and soon after Jackson's recommendation
of reprisals if the American claims on France were not paid:

"You see I still date from the gay metropolis of France. The
fascinations of Paris have held me longer than I intended; but I mean
to break from them by the first of next month, and cross into Italy.
I have read the President's admirable message: it breathes a spirit
worthy of himself, worthy of the occasion, worthy of my country. I
refer particularly, of course, to his views relative to France. His
energetic and manly sentiments have had the effect here of once more
_Americanizing_ Americans, and revived within them that love of country
which the pageantry and frivolity, the dreamy and debasing luxury of
this metropolis serve materially to enervate. The Chamber of Deputies
has not yet recovered from the shock occasioned by the unanticipated
recommendations of the message. Opinion is divided as to the course
which will be pursued; but from all I hear, and all I observe, I am
strongly inclined to believe that when they have recovered from their
bewilderment they will come to the conclusion that, in this instance at
least, honesty is the best policy; and perhaps they may consider also
that discretion is the better part of valor.

"By the way, I was presented to Louis Philippe on the third and last
evening of the usual presentations. I was accompanied by Mr. ----,
of Boston. We crossed over to the palace of the Tuileries (which is
nearly opposite to our hotel) about nine o'clock in the evening,
passed unquestioned by the numerous guards who throng the avenues of
the great court-yard, and entered the vestibule of the palace, filled
with an army of servants in rich liveries, standing in form, with all
the stiffness of militia officers on drill. We next ascended to an
elevated mosaic pavement, where we encountered two secretaries prepared
to receive the names of visitors. On entering the palace, we ascended
a grand staircase, the stone balustrade of which is beautifully
ornamented with lyres and snakes, under suns,--the crests of Colbert
and Louis XIV. On the first landing is the Salon of the Hundred Swiss,
which has four Ionic columns, and is ornamented with four statues of
Silence, two sitting and two erect. We next passed into the state
apartments. The first is the Salon of the Marshals, occupying the
whole of the centre pavilion, and having a graceful balcony on each
side. The walls are hung with portraits of the marshals of France
by the most eminent artists, and it also contains busts of several
distinguished French generals. In the next room, which is called the
Salon of the Nobles, we found a concourse of ladies and gentlemen,
comprising the orders of nobility, and all richly and appropriately
attired. This apartment is set off with gold, representing battles,
marches, triumphs, surrounded with ornaments and allegorical figures.
The Salon of Peace, which is the next room, contains also many costly
decorations; but I had less opportunity to observe these, as the crowd
became each moment denser and denser, and to make our way through it
demanded all our attention. This human current at last débouched
in the Salle du Trône, and, diffusing itself quickly around it, its
waves subsided like those of an impetuous torrent when it pauses in
the valley and spreads itself out, as if in homage, at the mountain's
foot. I need not tell you of the beauty of the throne, the richness
of its carved work, the profusion of gold ornaments with which it is
sprinkled, the gorgeousness of the crimson canopy which overhangs it,
or the pride-kindling trophies which are dispersed in picturesque
clusters at its sides. These things, and numerous like accessories,
your fancy will present to you with sufficient accuracy.

"The king had not yet entered, but was expected every moment; and the
interval afforded me an opportunity of studying the brilliant scene.
The effect at first was absolutely dazzling. The plumed and jewelled
company constantly moving and intermingling, so that the light played
in a thousand trembling and shifting beams, which flashed in arrowy
showers not only at every motion, but almost every respiration, of the
diamond-covered groups, and these groups multiplied to infinity by
the reflections of magnificent mirrors surrounded by chandeliers that
diffused excessive lustre through the room, presented a scene to me
which, as I eagerly gazed on it, almost pained me with its surpassing

"In the anxious hush of expectation, the old ladies, as if in
melancholy consciousness of the decay of their natural charms, busied
themselves in arranging their diamonds to the most dazzling effect
of brilliancy, while the young demoiselles threw hurried glances at
each other, scrutinizing their relative pretensions in the way of
decorations and personal beauty. The varieties of human character
found time to display themselves even in the brief and anxious period
of suspense while waiting for the entrance of royalty. Pride, envy,
jealousy, ambition, coquetry, were all at work. Here an antique and
embroidered dandy twisted his long and grizzly mustachios with an
air of perfect satisfaction, whilst his bump of self-esteem seemed
demanding immediate release from his tightened peruke. There an old
Spanish general talked loudly of the wars, and 'fought his battles
o'er again.' From a pair of melting eyes a fair one on one hand threw
languishing glances on the favored youth at her side, while the ruby
lip of another curled with contempt as a lighter figure or a fairer
face swept by.

"But a general movement of the crowd soon gave a new direction to
my thoughts; and my eyes, from studying the various features of the
splendid crowd, were now attracted to those of the king, who had just
entered the apartment. For a moment all was bustle. The ladies arranged
themselves along the sides of the spacious salon, and Louis Philippe,
with his queen, the two princesses, and the two dukes, Orleans and
Nemours, together with the officers and dames of honor, passed along
the line, politely and familiarly conversing with the ladies. After
satisfying our curiosity by gazing on the royal family, and having
followed them to the Salon of Peace, we returned again to the Salle
du Trône, where we took seats in front of the royal chair. Here I
sat meditating on the gaudy and empty show for some time, when an
officer suddenly entered and exclaimed, '_Messieurs, la Reine!_' and
immediately the queen entered. I rose and bowed, which she graciously
acknowledged, and passed into the apartment beyond, called the Hall
of Council. The king, with the rest of the family, attended by the
courtiers, followed the queen. The ladies had now all been presented,
and most of them had retired. About a hundred gentlemen were assembled
at the door of the Council-chamber, and myself and friend had scarcely
joined the group when the doors opened, and one by one those before us
passed in. A gentleman usher at the door demanded the names of those
who passed, and announced them to the court. After hearing those of
sundry marquises, counts, and others announced, it at last came to
my turn. My name was audibly repeated, I entered, and made my début
before the King of France with not half the trepidation I experienced
on presenting myself for the first time before a _sovereign_ in New
York--I mean the sovereign people--on an occasion you will recollect.
The king addressed a question to me in French, and after exchanging a
few sentences I bade him farewell, bowed to the queen and others of the
royal family, and withdrew.

"Our plain republicans often laugh at the mimic monarchs of the stage
for their want of grace and dignity. A trip to court would satisfy them
that real monarchs are not always overstocked with those qualities.

"I some time ago had the pleasure of an introduction to the celebrated
Mademoiselle Mars. She received me very cordially, and through her
polite offices the freedom of the Théâtre Français was presented to
me. Of all the actresses I have ever seen, M'lle Mars stands first in
comedy. In her you perceive the natural ease and grace which should
characterize the most finished lady of the drawing-room; and her quiet
yet effective style of acting is the most enchanting and delicate
triumph of the mimic art. You cannot witness one of her performances
without thinking that the genius of comedy belongs exclusively to
the French stage. Do not suppose that my opinion is influenced by
personal attentions: it was formed before I had had the pleasure of
being presented to her. Though possessing a splendid fortune, she still
exerts, fortunately for the lovers of the drama, her unrivalled talents
in her laborious and difficult profession. She lives in a palace, and
even her _salle du billard_ is an apartment which would well serve for
a corporation dinner.

"The great and almost the only topic of conversation in all circles
just now is the President's message, the recall of the French minister,
and the intimation to Mr. Livingston that his passports were at his
service. Allow a little time for the effervescence of public feeling
to subside, for the excitable temper of this mercurial nation to
grow calm, and I think the propriety of paying our claims will be

"While I scribble this desultory letter to you, I am with you in fancy,
and almost wish I were so in reality. I am tired of the glare and
frivolities of Paris, and long to tread again

  'The piled leaves of the West,--
   My own green forest land.'

"France is refined and polite; America is solid and sincere. France is
the land for pleasure; America the land for happiness. Adieu. I shall
go into Italy in a fortnight, from whence I will write you again."

The following letter, addressed to another friend, was written about
three weeks after the foregoing one:

"I am about bidding adieu to Paris, having been detained here by its
various fascinations much longer than I anticipated. I shall set out on
Tuesday next, with three young Americans, to travel by post through
Italy, so as to be in Rome before the termination of the Carnival. I
can at least claim the merit of not having been idle during my sojourn
in Paris, and the time has passed both agreeably and profitably.
Though the _dulce_ has been the chief object of my search, the _utile_
has been found with it, and has not been altogether neglected,
neither, as a separate aim. New sources of various information have
opened themselves to my mind at every turn in this great and gay and
ever-changing metropolis; and whether I hereafter resume the buskin,
or play a more real part in the drama of life, I think I shall find
my gleanings here of service to me. I have mingled with all ranks
of people, from the monarch who wears 'the golden round and top of
sovereignty,' down to the lowest of his subjects,

                'In smoky cribs,
  Upon uneasy pallets stretching them.'

"I have visited alike the perfumed chambers of the great and the poor
abodes of the lowly, the institutions of science, literature, and the
arts, the resorts of fashion, of folly, and of vice, and in all I
have found something which not merely served to fill up the passing
hour, but that furnished either substantial additions of knowledge or
agreeable subjects of future meditation and discourse. Human nature,
as modified by the different circumstances of life and fortune,
presents an ample and diversified volume to her student in Paris: and
in this bustling and glittering panorama, where everything seems most
artificial, one who looks beneath the surface may learn much of the
secret feelings, motives, passions, and genius of man.

"The President's message still continues to be the theme of much
conversation. In the saloons of the theatres, in the cafés and
restaurants, and on the public promenades I frequently hear the name of
General Jackson uttered by tongues that never before were troubled to
syllable it, and which do not pronounce it 'trippingly,' according to
Hamlet's advice, but twist it into various grotesque sounds. Passing
through Ste. Pélagie the other day (a prison for debtors), I overheard
one of the inmates of that abode discussing with great vehemence the
question of indemnity. He held a newspaper in his hand, and, as I
passed, exclaimed, '_La France ne devrait pas payer les vingt-cinq
millions!_' A fellow-feeling, thought I, makes us wondrous kind. The
anecdote of the porter, the soldier, and the debtor, in the 'Citizen of
the World,' occurred to my mind.

"By the way, the prison of Ste. Pélagie is a curious establishment. It
derives its name from an actress of the city of Antioch, who became a
penitent in the fifth century. No other prison in Paris presents so
diversified a picture, such a motley group of inmates, so singular an
association of rank, country, profession, and age. Barons, marquises,
and princes are among the cooped-up denizens of Ste. Pélagie. An
Austrian prince, one of these, is shut up here to answer the claims
of creditors to the amount of several millions. A café and restaurant
are maintained within the prison; and one entering these, were he not
reminded of his whereabouts by the gratings of the windows, might
easily imagine himself in the Café des Trois Frères of the Palais Royal.

"I regret that I was not in America to welcome James Sheridan
Knowles to our shores. I should have been glad to take the author of
'Virginius' and 'The Hunchback' by the hand,--ay, and by the heart
too; for, from all I hear, any man might be proud of his friendship.
But New York had this reception in her own hands, and it, no doubt,
was such a one as 'gave him wonder great as his content.' I remember,
very vividly, what sort of a reception she gave to a youth 'unknown to
fame,' in whom you are kind enough to take an interest,--a youth whose
highest ambition was only to strut his hour in those parts which the
genius of Knowles has created. Can I, then, doubt that to the dramatist
himself her greeting was most cordial?

"Adieu! I shall probably meet with Bryant in Rome; and, in conversing
with him of past scenes and distant friends, shall almost feel myself,
for a time, restored to their society."

The description of the first portion of his tour in Italy, in a long
letter to Leggett, also seems worthy of preservation, and will have a
various interest for the reader even now:

"I left Paris on the 11th instant on my projected ramble through Italy.
It was not without regret that I at last quitted the gay and brilliant
metropolis of France, which I had entered a total stranger but a
few months before, but in which I had experienced the most grateful
courtesies, and formed friendships with persons whose talents and
worth have secured them an abiding place in my esteem. As the towers
of Notre Dame and the dome of the Pantheon faded from my sight, I
sighed an adieu to the past, and turned with somewhat of apathy, if not
reluctance, to the future.

"At this season of the year the country of France presents to the
American traveller a cheerless appearance. Without forests to variegate
the scene with their many-colored garniture, and with rarely even a
hedge to define the boundaries of individual property, the country
looks somewhat like a wide, uncultivated common or storm-beaten
prairie; and in this state of 'naked, unfenced desolation,' even one of
those unsightly and zigzag structures which in America mark the limits
of contiguous farms would have been an agreeable interruption of the
monotony. The neat farm-houses of America, with all their accessories
bespeaking prosperity and thrift, are not met with here; but, instead,
a bleak, untidy hovel obtrudes itself on your sight, or your eyes,
turning from it, rest on a ruined tower or once proud château tumbling
into decay.

"I reached Lyons at midnight on the 13th, and spent the following day
in visiting the chief objects of interest in the city, among which were
the Museum of Antiquities and the Cathedral. My curiosity led me to
inspect the silk manufactories of this place; but the pleasure which I
should have derived from witnessing the beautiful creations of the loom
was wholly counteracted by the squalid and miserable appearance of the
poor creatures by whom the glossy fabrics are made,--attenuated, sickly
wretches, who waste their being in ineffectual toil, since the scanty
pittance which they earn is not enough to sustain life. My thoughts
reverted from these oppressed creatures to the slaves of America. The
condition of the latter is one of luxury in comparison. Yet they are
slaves,--how much is in a name!

"I crossed the Alps by Mont Cenis. The toil of this achievement is a
different thing now from what it was in the time of Pompey, who has
the honor of being set down as the first that made the passage. From
his time till 1811 the journey must have had its difficulties, since
it could only be performed on foot, or with a mule or donkey. Napoleon
then came upon the scene, and--_presto, change_--in five months a
carriage-road wound by an easy ascent from the base to the cloud-capped
summit, and thence down into the sunny lap of Italy. Napoleon! wherever
he passed he has left traces of his greatness stamped in indelible
characters. A thousand imperishable monuments attest the magnificence
of his genius. Here, now, at all seasons, a practicable road traverses
Mont Cenis, running six thousand feet above the level of the sea, and
uniting the valley of the Arck in Savoy to that of Doria Ripuaria in
Piedmont. What a bugbear the passage of the Alps is to the uninitiated!
and all travellers seem disposed to encourage the deception. For my
own part, the tales I had heard prepared me to anticipate an encounter
with all sorts of difficulties, and that I should avoid them only by
'hair-breadth 'scapes.' When I first mentioned my intention of crossing
Mont Cenis in the month of February, a laugh of incredulity was the
only answer I received from certain 'holiday and silken fools.' And
yet, when I came to test the nature of those perils which seemed so
formidable viewed from Paris, judge my surprise at finding one of the
best roads I was ever wheeled over, stealing up into mid-heaven by
such a gentle ascent, that, were not one continually reminded of his
whereabout by the roar of foaming waters, as they leap from fragment
to fragment of the huge, dissevered rocks, and tumble into 'steep-down
gulfs,' he might almost fancy himself gliding smoothly over one of
those modern contrivances which have realized, in some measure, the
wish of Nat Lee's hero, and 'annihilated time and space.'

"A Kentuckian once riding with me on the Albany and Troy turnpike,
after an interval of silence, in which he was probably comparing that
smooth road with the rough-hewn ways of his own State, suddenly broke
out, 'Well, this road has the leetlest tilt from a level I ever did
see!' The odd expression occurred to my mind more than once in crossing
the Alps. It may do to talk of the terrors of the Alps to certain
lap-nursed Europeans, who have never surmounted any but mole-hill
difficulties; but to Americans--or such Americans, at least, as have
seen something of their own magnificent country before hastening to
examine the miniature features of Europe--the Alps have no terror in
their threats. Land-Admiral Reeside or honest Joe Webster of Albany
would enjoy a hearty laugh to see for himself what Alpine dangers are,
and with one of his fast teams would contract to take you over the
mountains in no time at any season of the year.

"I should possess a graphic pen, indeed, were I able to communicate to
you, by the faint coloring of words, anything like an adequate idea of
the lofty grandeur of the scene which was spread out beneath me as I
paused on the summit of the mountain to cast back one more lingering
look on France. The sun was just setting, and the slant rays lighted
with dazzling lustre the snowy peaks around me, and bathed in a flood
of light like molten gold the crags and flinty projections of the
lightning-scathed and time-defying rocks. A dark cloud, like a funeral
pall, overhung the valley; the mountain-torrent hoarsely brawled
along its devious channel half choked with thick-ribbed ice; and a
thousand features of rude magnificence filled me with admiration of the
sublimity which marks this home of the tempest and avalanche. At the
hotel where I supped, a number of the peasantry were making the most
of the Carnival-time with music, masking, and dancing,--_and all this
above the clouds_!

"Day was just breaking when we entered Turin. The hum and stir of busy
life were just beginning, and the laborer, called from his pallet to
resume his toil, jostled in the street the sons of revelry, returning
jaded and worn out from the scenes of merriment. The traveller who
would view the Carnival in its most attractive guise should not break
in upon it with the pale light of morning, as what I saw on entering
Turin fully satisfied me. The lamps were still burning in the streets,
and the maskers wearily returning to their several homes. Poor
Harlequin, with sprained ankle, limped tediously away. Columbine hung
listlessly upon the arm of Pantaloon, whose chalky visage was without
a smile, and whose thoughts, if he thought at all, were probably
running much upon the same theme as honest Sancho's when he pronounced
a blessing on the man who first invented sleep. These exhausted
revellers, a weary sentinel here and there half dozing on his post, and
a houseless beggar wandering on his unappointed course, were the sights
that first drew my attention on entering the gates of Turin.

"The streets of Turin are spacious and clean, and cross each other
at right angles. Their regularity and airiness were quite refreshing
after being so long confined to the dungeon-like dimensions and gloom
of the byways of a French town. But these spacious streets, like those
of all other Italian cities, are overrun with mendicants, and I have
already had occasion to observe that where palaces most abound so also
do beggars. The foundations of the lordly structures of aristocracy
everywhere alike are laid on the rights of man, and the cement which
holds them together is mixed with the tears of human misery.

"Going to the church of St. Philip this morning, I encountered an old
man sitting on the pavement, supplicating for alms in heart-rending
tones. He could not have been less than eighty years of age, and his
long locks, of silvery whiteness, strayed thinly over his shrivelled
neck. His eyes were out,--those pure messengers of thought no longer
twinkled in their spheres,--but he still turned the orbless sockets to
each passer, imploring charity in the name of Him whose crucified image
he grasped in his attenuated fingers. I was touched by the spectacle,
and as I approached to drop my dole into his hand, I noticed a brass
plate hanging on his threadbare garment, the inscription on which
denoted that this mendicant had been regularly examined by the police,
and had taken out his license to beg! What a source this from which to
derive public revenue! What a commentary on the nature of government
in this oppressed country! What a contrast it suggested, in turning
my thoughts to my own land, where government is the people's choice,
the rulers their servants, and laws nothing more than recorded public

"On entering the church of St. Philip, I found before an altar blazing
with lights and enveloped in clouds of incense a priest performing
the impressive service of the Catholic Church. But the thing that
struck me was the democratic spirit which seemed to govern the
congregation in their public worship. I saw kneeling and mingling in
prayer the sumptuously clad and the ragged, the clean and the unclean,
the prince and the beggar. On the pavement at a little distance
from me lay extended a strapping mendicant, reduced in point of
clothing almost to the condition of Lear's 'unaccommodated man,' and
groaning out his prayers in tones that sounded more like curses than
supplications, while at his side, with graceful mien and placid brow,
knelt a Sardinian sylph, looking more like an angel interceding for
the prostrate wretch than a being of kindred nature asking mercy for

"The museum of Turin is of great extent, and contains vast apartments
devoted to natural history, mineralogy, and other sciences. There
are here, besides, some rare specimens of antique Greek and Egyptian
sculpture. The finest collection of paintings is in the palace of the
duchess, among them pictures by Vandyke, Rubens, Teniers, Murillo, and
other 'approved good masters.' I was much struck with a full equestrian
portrait of his present majesty Charles Albert, by Horace Vernet.
Vernet is one of the very few whose horses _live_ on the canvas.
The one to which I now allude is not only exhibited in all his fair
proportions, with muscles, thews, and sinews that seem swelling with
life, but actual, not counterfeit, spirit shines in the sparkle of his
eye and is seen in the breath of his distended nostrils.

"The Grand Opera House of Turin is very spacious, containing six rows
of boxes, dimly lighted by a single small chandelier suspended over the
centre of the pit. The rest of the lights are reserved for the stage,
by which the scenic effects are greatly heightened; but I doubt if
what is gained in that respect would reconcile an American audience to
sit in a sort of twilight so dim as scarcely to allow one to know the
complexion of the person sitting at his side. The performances were
very ordinary, and presented nothing worth mentioning or remembering."

He rode into beautiful Genoa over that magnificent Corniche road whose
left side is diversified with stretching fields and olive-orchards
and soaring cliffs, whose right side the blue ocean fringes. The city
has a charm to the imagination of an American from its connection
with Columbus, and a charm to the eye from that lovely semicircle of
mountains embracing it, and which so slope to the waves of the sea
in front and blend with the clouds of the sky in the rear that it is
often impossible for the gazer to tell where earth ends and heaven
begins. It was Sunday when Forrest entered Genoa. Looking out into the
glorious bay, he saw an American ship of war riding proudly at anchor,
the beautiful banner of stars and stripes hanging at her peak, every
mast and spar and rope mirrored in the glassy flood below. His breast
thrilled at the sight. He hired a boatman to row him out. Clambering
up the side, he asked permission of the commander to come on deck and
to stand underneath the flag. It was granted, and, looking up at the
silken folds floating between him and heaven, he breathed deeply in
pride and joy. "The ship," he said, "was a fragment of my country
floated away here, and in touching it I felt reunited to the whole

He made a long tarry in Florence, studying the treasures of art for
which that city is so renowned. He became intimate with Horatio
Greenough, for whose genius--hardly yet appreciated as it deserves--he
felt the warmest admiration. "He favored me," writes Forrest, "with
a sight of his yet unfinished model for the statue of Washington,
which was ordered by our government. He has represented the Father of
his Country in a sitting posture, his left hand grasping the sword
intrusted to him by the people for the achievement of their liberties,
and his right pointing upward, as if to express reliance on the God of
battles and the justice of his cause. With what different emotions did
I regard this statue from those created by the marble honors paid to
the Cæsars of the olden time! How my heart warmed with patriotic ardor
and my eyes moistened as I looked on the reverend image of the great
sage and hero! As an American I felt allied to him,--as an American I
felt, too, with a consciousness that diffused a warm and grateful flush
upon my cheek, that I was an heir to that sacred legacy of freedom
which he and his compatriots bequeathed to their country."

After visiting Rome, Naples, Venice, Verona, and other places of the
greatest interest in Italy, Forrest proceeded to Spain, where he spent
several delightful weeks. He made Seville his chief headquarters,
remembering the old Spanish proverb he had often heard, "Who sees not
Seville misses a marvel." One day, while riding on horseback in the
suburbs,--it being in the harvest-season,--he passed a vineyard in
which the peasants were at work. He saw one man standing with upturned
breast and outstretched arms to receive a bunch of grapes which another
man was cutting from a vine loaded with clusters so enormous that a
single one must have weighed forty or fifty pounds. At this sight he
reined in his horse, and his head sank on his bosom. The years rolled
back, and he was a boy again. Once more it was a Sunday afternoon in
summer, and through the open window of a house in Philadelphia the
sunshine was streaming across the floor where a young lad, with a
Bible in his hands, was laughing at the picture of two men carrying a
bunch of the grapes of Eshcol slung on a pole between them. Again the
hand of the mother was on the shoulder of the boy, and her dark eyes
fixed on his, and in his soul he heard, as distinctly as though spoken
audibly to his outward ear, the words, "Edwin, never laugh at the
fancied ignorance and absurdity of another, when perhaps the ignorance
and absurdity are all your own." The tears ran down his cheeks as,
starting up his horse, he said to himself, "Ah, mother, mother! dear
good soul, how wise and kind you were! What a fool I was!"

From Spain Forrest returned for a flying visit to Paris, where he wrote
the following letter to his mother, which may be taken as a specimen of
the large number he sent to her during his absence:

  "PARIS, July 3d, 1835.

"MY DEAR MOTHER,--Your letter of the 27th of May has this moment
reached me. How happy has the perusal of it made me! You write that
you have been sick, but that now you are well. How glad I am to hear
that you are restored! It is the dearest wish of my heart that health
and happiness may always be preserved to you,--to you and to my dear
sisters. Your welfare makes existence doubly sweet to me. I bear a
'charmed life' so long as you live and smile. All that I am I owe to
you. Your necessities prompted my ambition; your affection led me on
to triumph,--the harvest is your own, and my choicest wish is that you
may long live to enjoy it. I was in Naples the 9th of March last, the
anniversary of my birthday, and you were not forgotten. I drank a cup
of wine to you, and my heart grew proud while it acknowledged you the
source of its creation.

"It gives me great pleasure to hear that James Sheridan Knowles called
to see you, and I regret that your indisposition prevented you from
seeing him. I am told he is a sincere and warm-hearted man; and when
such estimable qualities are joined to the rare talents which he
possesses, the individual who combines them is as 'one man picked out
of ten thousand.'

"Mr. Wemyss, in sending to you the season-tickets (though you may
never use them), has acted like himself, and I most gratefully
acknowledge his politeness and courtesy. You say you are anxiously
counting the months and days until my return. In two months more we
shall have been parted for a year,--a whole year. That is a long time
in the calendar when hearts that love become the reckoners of the
hours. But the day draws on when we are to meet again; and after the
first moments of our happy greetings, when your blessing has confirmed
my return, and the emotions of the first hours shall be subdued into
the serene content that must surely follow, then will we regard our
present separation as a short dream of the past, and wonder that we
thought we were divided so long.

"I will forward to you by the ship which will carry this letter a
small box containing the following articles, viz., a necklace made
from the lava of Vesuvius, beautifully carved and set in gold,
together with a pair of ear-rings, for sister Henrietta; a cameo of
the three Graces and a pair of lava ear-rings for Eleanora; a cameo of
the Apollo Belvedere and a pair of lava ear-rings for Caroline. The
two cameos Caroline and Eleanora will have set in gold, to wear as
breast-pins, and charge the expense thereof to my account.

"Give my best respects to Goodman, and say how much I thank him for
his friendly attentions. I suppose Col. Wetherill is grubbing away at
his farm: or has he got tired of green fields and running brooks? If
you see him, say he is most gratefully remembered by me. I am glad
John Wall occasionally calls upon you. I like him much. And now, to
conclude, allow me to say to you, my dear mother, to be of good cheer,
for my wanderings will soon be over, and I shall again be restored to
you in unabated health and strength. And meanwhile, be assured that
your son,

  'Where'er he roams, whatever clime to see,
   His _heart_ untravelled fondly turns to thee.'


His short stay in the principal cities of the German
Confederation,--now so wondrously consolidated and transformed into the
German Empire,--though highly edifying and satisfactory to him at the
time, yields nothing which calls for present record, unless, perhaps,
a passing entry in his diary at Dresden be worthy of citation. "Rose
from a refreshing siesta and walked upon the fashionable Terrace.
The evening was calm and beautiful. The flowers and shrubs profusely
growing, the music of a fine band, the rush and patter of children's
feet, with the rapture of their voices in joyous sport, the eyes
of their parents beaming on them with tranquillity and hope, made
all around appear a paradise. My brow alone seemed clouded; it was,
however, but for an instant, as a quick thought of home sprang through
my brain, and busy memories of _her_ who had once watched my infant
steps stirred about my heart. Would that, unimpeded by space, I could
waft all my fond wishes to her at this moment!"

An excursion in Switzerland yielded him intense enjoyment. His studies
for the rôle of William Tell had made him familiar with this country,
and he longed to verify and complete his mental impressions by the more
concrete perceptions obtainable through the direct senses. To stand
in the village of Altorf and on the field of Grütli, to row a boat on
Lucerne and Unterwald, to scale the mountains and see the lammergeyer
swoop and hear the avalanche fall, to pause among the torrents and
precipices and cry aloud,

  "Ye crags and peaks. I'm with you once again;
   I call to you with all my voice; I hold
   To you the hands you first beheld, to show
   They still are free!"

must have given him no ordinary pleasure. At Chamouni he bought a copy
of that magnificent hymn of nature composed in this valley by Coleridge
during his visit here. Printed on a rough sheet, it was for sale at the
inn. Forrest had never seen it before. He climbed some distance up the
side of the great mountain. Reaching a grassy spot in full view of the
principal features of the landscape, he thrust his alpenstock in the
earth, hung his hat upon it, and, seating himself beside a beautiful
cascade whose steady roar mingled with his voice, he read aloud that
sublime poem whose solemn thoughts and gorgeous diction so well befit
the theme they treat.

  "Hast thou a charm to stay the morning star
   In his steep course? So long he seems to pause
   On thy bald awful head, O sovran Blanc!
   The Arve and Arveiron at thy base
   Rave ceaselessly; but thou, most awful form,
   Risest from forth thy silent sea of pines
   How silently!"

Speaking of the incident long years afterward, he said he did not
think of it at the time as any sort of religious service, but that his
emotions really made it as genuine a one as the recital of a liturgy in
any pettier and less divine cathedral.

From Germany he took ship to England. The following extract from a
letter home will give a glimpse of his experience in London, where it
was written:

"I have been here about three weeks, and it gives me great pleasure to
say that, from the abundant proofs I have had of _English hospitality_,
it amply deserves that world-wide reputation which has rendered the
phrase proverbial. Among men of letters, among the intelligent and
worthy of the middling class of society, and among those of my own
profession, I have found nothing but the warmest cordiality and
kindness. So grateful, indeed, has been the welcome I have received,
and so agreeably has my time passed, that it is with exceeding regret I
am about to tear myself away. But, being desirous of seeing the north
of Europe before I return to my native land, I must take advantage of
the present season to travel into Russia, as I fear that the 'eager and
nipping air' of the north at a later period would bite too shrewdly for
me. To-night I set out with my friend Wikoff for Hamburg, and thence to
St. Petersburg and Moscow.

"The present not being the season for theatricals in London, I have had
but scanty opportunities of judging of the merits of the performers.
I have seen Liston and Farren, however, both distinguished for their
talents, and both deservedly admired. Yet I have seen nothing to
alter the opinion which you know I have long entertained, that _Henry
Placide_ is the best actor on the stage in his own diversified range.

"I am very often solicited to perform during my sojourn abroad, but to
all such requests my answer is invariably in the negative. I tell my
friends here, as I told those at home before leaving, that my object
in visiting Europe was not professional. Thanks to my countrymen! they
have obviated the necessity of my going on such a tour.

"James Sheridan Knowles has come back, and I was at 'Old Drury' when
he reappeared. His reception was very warm and hearty, and after the
play (The Wife) he was called out, when he addressed the audience in
a few words expressive of his thanks for their cordial greeting, and
took occasion to advert, in very glowing terms, evidently prompted
by sincere feeling, to the kindness he had experienced in America.
He termed our country 'the bright land beyond the seas,' and our
country-people 'his brothers and sisters.' His acknowledgments of
gratitude were received by a full house with acclamations."

During the passage of the steamer William Jolliffe from London to
Hamburg, Forrest evidently found no little amusement in studying the
peculiarities of his fellow-passengers. He writes thus, for example:
"Almost always when travelling in a public conveyance, if you notice,
you will observe some one who tries to attract attention by standing
out _in relievo_ from the rest. Actuated by such a low ambition was
an overgrown, unwieldy, almost spherical lady, dubbed on the way-bill
honorable, and said to be the wife of a member of Parliament. This
_dame passée_ strove to ape the manners of a girl of sixteen, and
occasionally, in a fit of would-be-young-again, gave her huge frame a
motion on the promenade-deck that looked for all the world like the
wallowing of a great sea-turtle in shallow water. She was of Spanish
descent, and seemed delighted to show off her mastery of this foreign
tongue, to the astonishment of the wonder-wounded Dutchmen, who,
attracted by her bright-red mantle trimmed with ermine, and amazed at
her knowledge of the strange tongue, gazed upon her with a sort of
stupid reverence."

At Hamburg he attended a performance of Schiller's "Don Carlos," in
the great Stadt Theatre. "The building is very commodious, but badly
lighted by a single lustre depending from the dome. The play began at
half-past six and ended at eleven, and, as it seemed to me, was but
indifferently well represented. During these four and a half hours the
people paid the closest attention and showed no sign of uneasiness. How
an American audience would have shuffled!"

In Hamburg Forrest had his first experience of a Russian bath. His own
description of this is interesting, as the delight in baths of all
kinds was a growing passion with him even to the very last.

"Having reduced myself to nudity, a signal was given from an adjoining
apartment, like the theatrical noises which attend the splitting of
the charmed rock in the 'Forty Thieves.' A door now was opened upon
the side, a blanket thrown over my shoulders, and I was told in German
to go in. I obeyed. This was a small room, where the thermometer rose
to about one hundred. Here the blanket was taken from my shoulders,
and a door beyond opened, and in stalked a naked man, who motioned
me to follow him. I did so. I passed the portal, and was immediately
enveloped in steam and heat up at least to a hundred and ten of
Fahrenheit. This chamber was of oval shape, and had on one side three
or four shelves of wood, rising one above the other, on the first of
which I was told to sit down. After striving to breathe here for five
or six minutes, I was invited to sit upon the next, and after a certain
time to the next, and so on until I reached the last, near the ceiling,
where the heat must have been at least a hundred and twenty. By this
time the perspiration became profuse, and poured off in torrents.
The attendant now told me to descend to the third shelf; and then he
commenced rubbing and whipping me with fragrant twigs. Then I was
rubbed with soap, then told to stand in the centre of the floor, when
in a moment I was deluged with a shower of cold water, which seemed to
realize to me the refreshing thought of the poison-fevered monarch who
wished his kingdom's rivers might flow through his burning bosom. My
probation was now nearly over,--three-quarters of an hour at least in
this steaming purgatory. I returned to the first apartment, where I was
laid, almost exhausted, upon a couch, and covered with at least a dozen
blankets. Again the perspiration broke out upon me, and a boy stood by
to wipe the huge drops from my face and brow. One by one the blankets
were removed, and I was rubbed dry with white towels. Then I dressed
myself, paid for the bath, about a dollar, and something to the boys.
As I walked into the street, the atmosphere never before seemed so
pure. Every breath was like a delicious draught. At every step I felt
returning strength, and in about a half an hour a bottle of hock and a
dozen oysters made Richard wholly himself again."

At St. Petersburg Forrest found much to interest him, especially the
tomb of Peter the Great, the numerous relics and specimens of his
handiwork so carefully preserved, and the magnificent equestrian statue
by Falconet, erected in his honor by Catherine. While crossing a bridge
that spans the Neva, he one day observed a covered boat gliding
beneath, manned by half a dozen soldiers. On inquiry, he learned that
the boat contained some Polish noblemen who had been condemned to
slavery and chains for the crime of loving liberty and their country
too well. He describes a visit to the Palace of the Hermitage, where
there was a fine collection of paintings, among them one ascribed to
Jules Romain,--a very curious representation of the creation of woman.
"Adam is asleep, like a melodramatic hero just fallen into a reverie,
with his head resting on his right hand, quite in an attitude. The
Deity, as usual, is given as an infirm old man dressed in azure, and is
pointing to the side of our primeval parent, out of which mother Eve
seems to slide like a thief from his hiding-place!"

Moscow he found still more attractive and imposing, with its long,
romantic story, and the sublime tragedy of its conflagration in the
presence of the terror-struck army of Napoleon. A single extract from
his diary will suffice: "Went to the Kremlin. Passed the Holy Gate
with my hat on, unconscious of the _sacred_ precincts until a boor
of a Russian grunted at my ear and with violent gestures motioned
toward my head. It then struck me this must be the Holy Gate, through
which none dare pass without being uncovered. But, as I did not like
to be browbeaten into respect for their 'brazen images,' I passed
on sans cérémonie and without molestation. I walked to the terrace
which overlooks the gardens and the river, and looked down upon the
magnificent city, with her gorgeous palaces, her innumerable cupolas
and domes, dazzling amid the bright sunbeams with azure and gold. I
stood by the ancient residence of the Tsars, the scene of so much
history; and as I glanced over the immense assemblage of stately
structures spread far and wide across the vast plain below, all beaming
with as much freshness as if by the voice of magic they had just been
called into existence, my eyes drank in more delight than they ever
had before in looking upon a city, save only when in early life,
after an absence of years from my native place, I revisited my home.
The spectacle which Moscow presented was at the same time novel and
sublime. Its varied architecture was at once Oriental, Gothic, and
Classic, the delicate towering minarets of the East and the beauteous
majesty of the Grecian blending with the

                        'tall Gothic pile
  Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads,
  Bearing aloft the arched and ponderous roof.
  Which by its own weight stands immovable.'

"At night, it being the anniversary of the coronation of the Emperor,
the gardens about the Kremlin were magnificently illuminated, and
crowded, perhaps, with two hundred thousand people. The walls and
turrets of the Kremlin were filled with lamps wrought into the most
grotesque shapes and festooned with innumerable lights. So were the
trees, and in the dark and luxuriant foliage of the gardens they looked

  'Like winged flowers or flying gems.'"

From Moscow Forrest journeyed to Odessa, and thence through the Crimea
to Constantinople. Passing Balaklava and Inkerman and Sevastopol,
with what emotions he would have gazed about him could he but have
foreseen the terrific battles that were in twenty years' time to rage
there between the stubborn Slavonic power on one side and the leagued
array of France, England, and Turkey on the other! No such premonition
visiting his mind, he plodded on through the weary wastes till he
reached Aloupka, where the Count Woronzoff, General Nerisken, and the
Prince Gallitzin were resident proprietors of estates and lived in
sumptuous style. The Gallitzin family were intimate acquaintances of
that remarkable Russian lady, Madame Swetchine, whose conversion from
the Greek Church to the Roman, whose rare character and genius, great
friendships and brilliant salon in Paris, have secured for her name
such high and permanent celebrity.

Taking a horse and a guide, Forrest started out from Aloupka to explore
one of the neighboring Tartar villages.

"The houses are small, and generally built," he writes, "of stone,
with flat roofs made of logs covered with dirt and clay, smoothed so
as to form a comfortable floor to dry tobacco or grain upon. I asked
permission to enter one of the huts, which was immediately granted. I
found the clay floor scrupulously clean, the fire-place nicely swept,
and some woollen cloths spread upon raised surfaces on the sides of the
room, which seemed to serve as beds. The woman had a silver belt about
her, which, when I admired it, she took off and handed to me. I put it
around my waist. At this the children laughed. I gave them some money,
and mounted my horse and rode to the village church,--or mosque, as
they are Mohammedans. It was an old building of wood and stone, with
a ruinous wooden tower by its side, from which they cry to prayers.
I entered it. No one was there. There was a small wooden gallery at
one end, to which they ascend by a ladder. It was a shabby and dismal
place, and I hurried out of it back to the hotel."

On the following day, with his friend Wikoff, Forrest dined with
the Count Woronzoff. "At five o'clock a cannon is fired as a signal
to dress for dinner. In a half an hour a second gun is fired, and
the guests are seated. Soon after the first gun we started for the
castle. I saw there for the first time the Countess Sabanska. I paid
my respects to her and retired to another part of the room, as she
was talking with several gentlemen. She was very animated in her
conversation, with particularly vivid gesticulation and expression of
face. The Count's Tartar interpreter was playing billiards with one
of the attendants. In a few minutes the Count and Countess entered,
followed by a train of ladies and gentlemen. He introduced me to his
lady, also to Madame Nerisken and the Princess Gallitzin and her
daughter. I led Madame Nerisken to the table, and sat between her
and the Countess Woronzoff, whom I found to be a most agreeable and
interesting woman. Count Woronzoff sat opposite, with the Princess
Gallitzin on one side and the Countess Sabanska on the other. The
conversation, conducted in French, was anything but intellectual, as
the growth of the prince's vines seemed the all-absorbing topic. The
Countess Sabanska had now changed her whole manner from the extreme
vivacity and gayety she first evinced, and had become silent and
melancholy. Her thoughts seemed to be far away. How I should have liked
to read the depths of her soul and know what was moving there! After
dinner some of the ladies smoked cigarettes, and others played cards."

Constantinople opened to Forrest a fascinating glimpse of the
civilization of the East, with its ancient races of men, its strange
architecture and religious rites, its poetic costumes, its impressive
manners, and that glamour of mystery over all which makes Oriental life
seem to the Western traveller such a contrast to everything he has
been wonted to at home. He made the most of his time here in visiting
the historic monuments and trying to penetrate the open secrets of
Moslem habits and Turkish character; and he brought away with him,
on his departure for Greece, a crowd of mental pictures which never
lost their clearness or their interest. For the history of the city
of Constantine has been most rich in romance; and the scene unveiled
to the voyager who approaches it by daylight or by moonlight is a
vision of enchantment,--a wilderness of mosques, domes, cupolas, solemn
cypresses, and spouting fountains. On a beautiful day, when not a cloud
was in the sky nor a ripple on the Bosphorus, Forrest was surveying
the city and its environs from a boat in the midst of the bay, when he
saw, slowly approaching, a sumptuous barge, with awnings of silk and
gold, a banner with the crescent and inscriptions in Arabic floating
above, and a group of turbaned guards, with scimitars in their hands,
half surrounding a man reclined on a purple divan. "Who is that?" asked
Forrest of the guide. "That is the Padishah," was the reply. Forrest,
ignorant of this title of "the Shah of Shahs" for the Sultan of Turkey,
understood the guide to say, Paddy Shaw! and, supposing it to be some
rich Irishman who was cutting such a figure in the Golden Horn, was so
struck by the absurdity that he laughed aloud. The measured strokes
of the rowers, regular as a piece of solemn music, meanwhile had
brought the imperial freight nearly alongside. The guards looked at the
laughing tragedian as if they would have liked to chop his head off, or
bowstring him and sink him in a sack. The Sultan looked slowly at the
audacious American, without the slightest change of expression in his
sad, dark, impassive face,--and the two striking figures, so unlike,
were soon out of sight of each other forever!

Passing over the notes of his tour in Greece, as covering matters
now hackneyed from the descriptions given by hundreds of more recent
travellers and published in every kind of literary form, a single
extract from a letter to his mother is perhaps worthy of citation:

"From Constantinople I went to Smyrna, and thence into Greece. Here I
am now, at last, in the city of Athens, the glorious home not only of
the Drama, but also of so much else that has passed into the life of
mankind. Alas, how changed! With all the power of imagination which
I can conjure up, I am hardly able to convince myself that this was
the once proud city of Pericles, Plato, Æschylus, Demosthenes, and the
other men whose names have sounded so grand in the mouths of posterity.
Looking on the tumbled temples and desolate walls, I have exclaimed
with Byron,--

   'Ancient of days! august Athena, where,
    Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?
    Gone,--glimmering through the dream of things that were.
    First in the race that led to Glory's goal,--
    They're sought in vain, and o'er each mouldering tower,
  Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of power.'"

A personal adventure, also, that befell him at Athens, must not be
omitted. One beautiful afternoon, he had been inspecting the Parthenon
and what remained of its sculptured ornaments. Near where he stood, a
heap of skulls lay on the ground, skulls of some of the victims of the
last revolution, who had fallen in a battle of the Greeks and Turks.
His attention was drawn to the phrenological developments of several
of these skulls. Chancing at that moment to look down towards the
temple of Theseus, he saw, only a short distance from him, a man glide
from behind a column and walk away. The man was clad in the costume of
an Albanian, one of the most picturesque costumes in the world, and
looked as if he had freshly stepped out of a painting,--so beautiful
was the combination of symmetry in his form, grace in his motion, and
beauty in his dress. Perfectly fascinated, Forrest hastened forward and
addressed the stranger in English, in French, in Spanish; but vain was
every attempt to make himself understood. Just then Hill, the American
missionary for many years at Athens, came along. Forrest accosted him
with the inquiry, "Do you know who that man is yonder?" and, as much to
his amazement as to his delight, received the answer, "Why, do you not
know him? That is the son of Marco Bozzaris!" The lines of his friend

  "And she, the mother of thy boys.
   Will, by her pilgrim-circled hearth,
     Talk of thy doom without a sigh;
   For thou art Freedom's now, and Fame's;
   One of the few, the immortal names
     That were not born to die,"--

these lines, and his own parting scene with their author in New York
harbor, flashed into his mind, and he felt as if this incident alone
were enough to repay him for his whole journey.

On his return once more to Paris, in a letter to his friend Leggett he
sketches in epitome the ground he has been over. An extract follows:

"Since I saw you, I have indeed been in strange lands, and seen
strange sights. I have traversed the Baltic and the wide dominions
of the ambitious Autocrat,--crossed the Euxine and dipped into
Asia and European Turkey,--'kept due onwards to the Propontic and
Hellespont,'--wandered amid the faultless fragments of the 'bright
clime of battle and of song,'--sailed by the Ionian Isles,--visited
the chief towns of the Germanic Confederation,--and here I am at last,
safe and sound, in the ever-gay capital of France. I thank Heaven my
travelling in the 'far East' is at an end. One is badly accommodated
there in railroads and steamers. However, take it for all in all,
I have every reason to be satisfied with the voyage, for there is
no kind of information but must be purchased with some painstaking,
and one day I shall fully enjoy all this in calm retrospection from
the bosom of the unpruned woods of my own country. Yes, the sight
of the city of Moscow alone would amply repay one for all risks and
fatigues at sea. Never shall I forget my sensations when, from the
great tower of the Kremlin, one bright, sunny day, I looked down upon
that beautiful city. The numberless domes, beaming with azure and
with gold, the checkered roofs, the terraces, the garden slopes, the
mingling of all the styles and systems of architectural construction,
now massive and heavy, now brilliant and light, and everywhere fresh
and original, enchanted me. I am free to confess Russia astonished
me. I have sailed down the mighty Mississippi,--I have been in the
dark and silent bosom of our own forest homes,--I have been under
the eye of Mont Blanc and Olympus,--I grew familiar with Rome and
with London,--without experiencing the same degree of wonder which
fastened upon me in Russia. I thought there to have encountered with
hordes of semi-barbarians, yet I found a people raised, as it were,
at once from a state of nature to our level of civilization. Nor have
they apparently, in their rapid onward course, neglected the _means_
to render their progress sure. And then, what an army,--a million
of men! and the best forms of men,--the best disciplined, and able
to endure the 'labored battle sweat' by their constant activity, the
rigor of their climate, and their ignorance of all pleasures which
serve to effeminate. The navy, too, though in an imperfect state
compared with the army (in sailors, not ships), will doubtless soon
hold a distinguished rank. Only think of such a power, increasing
every day,--stretching out wider and wider, and all confessing one
duty,--obedience to the will of the absolute sovereign!"

About this time two significant entries are found in his diary. The
first one is: "Received intelligence of the death of Edwin Forrest
Goodman, the infant son of a friend.

            'All his innocent thoughts
  Like rose-leaves scattered.'"

The second is this: "And so Jane Placide is dead. The theatrical people
of New Orleans then have lost much. She imparted a grace and a force
and dignity to her rôle which few actresses have been able so admirably
to combine. She excelled in a profession in the arduous sphere of which
even to succeed requires uncommon gifts, both mental and physical. Her
disposition was as lovely as her person. Heaven lodge and rest her fair

The reader will recollect Miss Placide as the friend about whom young
Forrest quarrelled with Caldwell and withdrew from his service. How
strangely the millions of influences or spirits that weave our fate fly
to and fro with the threads of the weft and woof! While he was writing
the above words in the capital of France, her remains were sleeping in
a quiet cemetery of the far South, on the other side of the world, with
the inscription on the slab above her,--

                "There's not an hour
  Of day or dreamy night but I am with thee;
  There's not a wind but whispers o'er thy name,
  And not a flower that sleeps beneath the moon
  But in its hues of fragrance tells a tale
  Of thee."

He passed over to England again, to visit a few spots sacred in
his imagination which he had not seen in his former journey there.
Chief among these were the house and grave of Shakspeare, at
Stratford-upon-Avon. With the eagerness and devotion arising from the
lifelong enthusiasm of all his professional studies and experience,
reinforced by the feeling of the accumulated homage paid at that shrine
by mankind at large, he wandered and mused in the places once so
familiar with the living presence of the poet, and still seeming to be
suffused with his invisible presence. In the day he had made a careful
exploration of the church where the unapproachable dramatist lies
sepulchred. Late in the evening, when the moon was riding half-way up
the heaven, he clambered over the fence, and, while the gentle current
of Avon was lapping the sedges on its shore almost at his feet, gazed
in at the window and saw the moonbeams silvering the bust of the dead
master on the wall, and the carved letters of the quaint and dread
inscription on his tomb,--

  "Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
   To dig the dust encloséd here.
   Blessed be he who spares these stones,
   And cursed be he who moves my bones."

What a contrast the picture of him in this night-scene at the
church-window would have made for those familiar with his appearance on
the stage in the wrath of Coriolanus, the remorse of Macbeth, the sneer
of Richard, the horror of Othello, or the tempest of Lear!

It now lacked but a few days of being two years since Forrest left
America, and he began to feel powerfully drawn homewards. It had been
a period of unalloyed satisfaction, and he had much improved in many
ways, from his intercourse with different forms and classes of society,
from his contemplation of natural scenery in many lands, from his study
of the masterpieces of art, from his criticism of the performances
of the distinguished actors and actresses whom he saw, and from his
reading of many valuable books, including, among lighter volumes, such
works as those of Locke and Spinoza. In this long tour and deliberate
tarry abroad, wisely chosen in his early manhood, before his nature had
hardened in routine, with plenty of money, leisure, health, freedom,
and aspiration, he had drunk his fill of joy. His brain and spine and
ganglia saturated with an amorous drench of elemental force, drunk with
every kind of potency, he swayed on his centres in revelling fulness of
life. He had been in these two exempted years like Hercules in Olympus,
with abundance of ambrosia and nectar and Hebe on his knee. But now
his heart cried out for home, and the sense of duty urged him to gird
up his loins for work again. Something of his feeling may be guessed
from the fact that he had copied into his journal these lines of Byron:

            "What singular emotions fill
    Their bosoms who have been induced to roam,
  With fluttering doubts if all be well or ill,
    With love for many and with tears for some;
  All feelings which o'erleap the years long lost,
  And bring our hearts back to the starting-post."

He took passage in the Poland, and, with no notable adventure on the
voyage, arrived at New York on the 5th of August, 1836, to be received
with cheers into the open arms of a crowd of his friends as he stepped
ashore, prouder than ever of his birthright of American citizenship.



Two weeks of rest in his Philadelphia home, in delightful reunion with
his mother and sisters, and two weeks more devoted to the banquets
and parties with which his rejoicing friends there and in New York
celebrated his return, passed quickly. He had now to prepare to say
good-bye again. For overtures of such a flattering character had
been made to him while in England to return and give a series of
performances in the principal British theatres, that he had accepted
them, and was engaged to be there early in October. The desire,
however, after his long absence, to see him on the stage was so
general, and was urged so eagerly, that he determined to appear for
a few nights. Accordingly, he played the parts of Damon, Othello,
and Spartacus for five nights in the Chestnut Street Theatre, in
Philadelphia, and the same parts, with the addition of Lear, in the
Park Theatre, in New York. The crowd and the excitement on the opening
night were almost unprecedented, all the passages to the house being
blocked with applicants two hours before the rising of the curtain.
At the first glimpse of the actor in his stately senatorial garb, the
multitude that filled the entire auditorium with a packed mass of faces
rose as by one impulse and hailed him with deafening applause, kept up
until it seemed as if it was not to end. He had never played better, by
general consent, than he did this night. And when the play closed, and
the enthusiastic ovation which had saluted his entrance was repeated,
he certainly had every reason to feel in truth what he expressed in

"Ladies and gentlemen, for this warm peal of hands and hearts I have
only strength in my present exhausted state to say, I thank you. It
convinces me that neither time nor distance has been able to alienate
from me your kind regards. I am unable to speak what I wish; but
I can sincerely say that you make me proud this evening. And the
remembrance of the cordial greeting, after no common absence, given
me here in this city of my birth and my affection, will go down with
me to my latest hour as one of the happiest scenes of my professional

A similar reception, only, if possible, still more flattering in the
vastness of the throng and the fervor of the tributes, awaited him in
New York. Box tickets were sold at auction for twenty-five dollars
each,--a fact to which there had not at that time been anything like a
parallel known in this country. For his six performances he received
three thousand dollars, and the profit of the manager was estimated
at six thousand dollars. The public greeted his strong points with a
warmth which seemed to show that their admiration had grown during
his absence, and the critics spoke of an evident improvement in his
acting,--that it was less boisterous and more thoughtful than formerly.
Called out at the conclusion of the play, Othello, on the occasion of
his farewell, he alluded with deep emotions to the night, some ten
years before, when he had made his first appearance before a New York
audience. Then, a mere youth, just emerging from severe hardships,
and still oppressed by poverty and a dark prospect, with scarcely a
friend, he had tremblingly ventured to enact the part of Othello for
the benefit of a distressed brother-actor. The generous approbation
then given him had lent a new zeal to his ambition and a new strength
to his motives. From that hour his course had been one of unbroken
prosperity, for which he desired to return his most heartfelt thanks
to his countrymen, and to assure them that he would do his best not
to dishonor them in the mother-country, to which he was then bound.
"I shall carry with me," he added, "an indelible remembrance of your
kindness; and I hope that the recollection will be mutual, so that I
may say, with the divine Shakspeare,--

  'Our separation so abides and flies
   That yon, remaining here, yet go with me,
   And I, hence fleeting, still remain with you.'"

The audience responded to his speech with tempestuous huzzas, and he
withdrew, carrying this flattering scene fresh in his memory as he set
sail for his courageous enterprise on the other side of the sea.

It was a courageous and somewhat ominous adventure. For it is to be
remembered that the relationships of England and the United States were
very different in 1836 from what they are in our day. The memories
of the Revolutionary war and of the war of 1812 were still keen and
bitter; and the feelings of intellectual inferiority and literary
vassalage to the mother-country among the Americans engendered a sense
of wounded pride or irritable jealousy excessively sensitive to British
criticism, which, on the other hand, was generally marked by a tone of
complacent arrogance or condescending patronage. No American actor, at
least none of any note, had yet appeared on the boards in England. All
such international favors were on the other side,--and they had been
most numerous and long-continued. The illustrious Cooper, an Englishman
by birth and education, though so long domesticated in this country
both as citizen and actor as to be almost considered an American, had
been ignominiously hooted down on the most famous stage in London
amidst opprobrious cries of "Away with the Yankee! Send him back!" What
reception now would be vouchsafed to an American tragedian, fresh from
nature and the woods of the West, and all untrained in the methods of
the schools, who should dare essay to rival the glorious traditions
of old Drury Lane within her own walls?--this was a question which
caused many wise heads to shake with misgivings, and might well have
deterred any less fearless spirit than that of Forrest from putting it
to the test. But he believed, obvious as the antipathies and jealousies
between the two countries were, that the fellow-feeling and the love of
fair play were far stronger. In a speech delivered in his native city
the evening before his departure, he expressed himself thus:

"The engagement which I am about to fulfil in London was not of my
seeking. While I was in England I was repeatedly importuned with
solicitations, and the most liberal offers were made to me. I finally
consented, not for my own sake, for my ambition is satisfied with the
applauses of my own countrymen, but partly in compliance with the
wishes of a number of American friends, and partly to solve a doubt
which is entertained by many of our citizens, whether Englishmen would
receive an American actor with the same favor which is here extended
to them. This doubt, so far as I have had an opportunity of judging,
is, I think, without foundation. During my residence in England, I
found among the English people the most unbounded hospitality, and
the warmest affection for my beloved country and her institutions.
With this impression, I have resolved to present to them an American
tragedy, supported by the humble efforts of the individual who stands
before you. If I fail--I fail. But, whatever may be the result, the
approbation of that public which first stamped the native dramatist and
actor will ever be my proudest recollection."

Of all the friends to whom Forrest bade adieu, not one beside was
so dear to him as Leggett. The heart-ties between them had been
multiplied, enriched, and tightened by unwearied mutual acts of
kindness and service, and a thousand congenial interchanges of soul in
intimate hours when the world was shut out and their bosoms were opened
to each other without disguise or reserve. The letter here added speaks
for itself:

    "NEW YORK, Sept. 19th, 1836.

"DEAR MADAM,--I had the pleasure of accompanying your son Edwin
yesterday as far as Sandy Hook, and seeing him safely on his way for
Liverpool, with a fine breeze, in a fine ship, and with a fine set of
fellow-passengers. He was accompanied down the bay by a large number
of his friends, who, on the steamboat parting from the ship, expressed
their warm feelings for him in many rounds of loud and hearty cheers.
We kept in sight of the vessel till near sundown, by which time she
had made a good offing. Andrew Allen had gone on board with his
baggage the day previous, and everything was prepared for him in the
most comfortable manner. While we were on board the vessel with him,
we were invited by the captain to sit down to a collation prepared for
the occasion, and had the satisfaction of drinking to his health and
prosperous voyage, not only across the Atlantic Ocean, but across the
ocean of life also, in a glass of sparkling champagne. It would have
given me the most unbounded happiness to have been able to accompany
him to Europe, as he desired; but circumstances rendered it impossible
for me to gratify that wish. I am with him in _heart_, however, and
shall look most eagerly for the tidings of his safe arrival and
triumphant reception. Whatever news I get concerning him which I
think may be of interest to you, I shall take pleasure in immediately
communicating. Mrs. Leggett bade me remember her most affectionately
to you and your daughters, and to say that, should you visit New York
at any time during your son's absence, she shall expect you to make
her house your home. In this wish I most fully concur. Allow me to
assure you, madam, that

  "With great respect,
    "I am your obed't serv't,
      "WM. LEGGETT.

James K. Paulding, a close and dear friend of Forrest, met him one
sunshiny day in New York at the corner of Nassau and Ann Streets,
and expostulated with him against going across the sea to play.
"Washington," he said, "never went to Europe to gain an immortality.
Jackson never went there to extend his fame. Many others of our
greatest and most original men never visited the other hemisphere to
add lustre to their names. And why should you? Stay here, and build
yourself an enduring place in the mind of your own country alone. That
is enough for any man!" He spoke with extreme eloquence, heedless of
the busy throng who hurried by absorbed in so different a world from
that whose prospects kindled the idealistic and ambitious friends.
When Forrest was sailing out of the harbor, he recalled these words
with strong emotion, and felt for a moment as if he were guilty of a
sort of treachery to his own land in thus leaving it. Though the whole
incident, as here set down, may appear overstrained, it is a true
glimpse of life.

Forrest made his first professional appearance in England in Drury Lane
Theatre, on the evening of the 17th of October, 1836, in the rôle of
Spartacus, before an audience which crowded the house in every part
to its utmost capacity. His great American fame had preceded him, and
there was an intense curiosity felt as to the result of his experiment.
The solicitude was especially keen among the two or three hundred of
his countrymen who were present, and who knew the extreme democratic
quality of the play of the Gladiator. The tremendous bursts of applause
which his entrance called out soon put an end to all doubt or anxiety.
The favor in advance certified by the unanimous and long-continued
cheers he confirmed at every step of the performance, and wrought to
an extraordinary pitch at the close, when he was recalled before the
curtain and greeted with overwhelming plaudits. He returned his thanks
for the honor done him, and was loudly applauded when he said he was
sure that England and America were joined by the closest good-will, and
that the more enlightened portion of their population were superior
to any feeling of national jealousy. But on attempting to include the
author of the Gladiator in the approving verdict which the audience had
given himself, he was interrupted by numerous protests and repeated
cries, "Let us see you in some of Shakspeare's characters!"

The Courier of the next morning said,--

"America has at length vindicated her capability of producing a native
dramatist of the highest order, whose claims should be unequivocally
acknowledged by the Mother Country; and has rendered back some portion
of the dramatic debt so long due to us in return for the Cookes, the
Keans, the Macreadys, the Knowleses, and the Kembles, whom she has,
through a long series of years, seduced, at various times, to her
shores,--the so long doubted problem being happily solved by Mr. Edwin
Forrest, the American tragedian, who made his first appearance last
night on these boards, with a success as triumphant as could have been
desired by his most enthusiastic admirers on the other side of the
Atlantic. Of the numerous striking situations and touching passages in
the play, Mr. Forrest availed himself with great tact, discrimination,
and effect; now astounding all eyes and ears by the overwhelming
energy of his physical powers, and now subduing all hearts by the
pathos of his voice, manner, and expression. The whole weight of the
piece rests upon him alone, and nobly does he sustain it. His action
is easy, graceful, and varied; and his declamation is perfectly free
from the usual stage chant, catchings, and points. Indeed, nature
alone seems to have been his only model."

The "Sun" of the same date said,--

"Mr. Edwin Forrest, who has long held the first rank as a tragic actor
in America, made his first appearance here last night in a new drama,
also of American growth, entitled the _Gladiator_. The acting of Mr.
Forrest as Spartacus was throughout admirable. His very figure and
voice were in his favor, the one being strongly muscular, the other
replete with a rough music befitting one who in his youth has dwelt,
a free barbarian, among the mountains. He electrified his audience;
indeed, we have not heard more enthusiastic bursts of applause shake
the walls of an English theatre since _Othello_ expired with poor
Kean. The great recommendations of Mr. Forrest as a tragedian we take
to be strong passion, and equally strong judgment. In the whirlwind
of his emotions he never loses sight of self-control. He is the
master, not the slave, of his feelings. He appeals to no fastidious
coterie for applause; he is not remarkable for the delivery of this or
that pretty tinkling poetic passage; still less is he burdened with
refined sensibility, which none but the select few can understand; far
otherwise; he gives free play to those rough natural passions which
are intelligible all the world over. His pathos is equally sincere and
unsophisticated. His delivery of the passage,--

                   'And one day hence,
  My darling boy, too, may be fatherless,'--

was marked by the truest and tenderest sensibility. Equally successful
was he in that pleasing pastoral idea,--

  'And Peace was tinkling in the shepherd's bells,
   And singing with the reapers;'

which, had it been written in Claude's days, that great painter would
undoubtedly have made the subject of one of his best landscapes.

  'Famine shrieked in the empty corn-fields,'--

a striking image, which immediately follows the preceding one, was
given by Mr. Forrest with an energy amounting almost to the sublime.
Not less impressive was his delivery of

  'There are no Gods in heaven,'

which bursts from him when he hears of the murder of his wife and
child by the Roman cohorts. Mr. Forrest has made such a hit as has
not been made since the memorable 1814, when Edmund Kean burst on
England in Shylock. America may well feel proud of him; for though
he is not, strictly speaking, what is called a classical actor, yet
he has all the energy, all the indomitable love of freedom that
characterizes the transatlantic world. We say this because there were
many republican allusions in the play where the man spoke out quite as
much as the actor, if not more. Having seen him in Spartacus, we no
longer wonder at his having electrified the New World. A man better
fitted by nature and art to sustain such a character, and a character
better fitted to turn the heads of a nation which was the other day in
arms against England, never appeared on the boards of a theatre. At
the fall of the curtain he received such a tempest of approbation as
we have not witnessed for years."

The Morning Advertiser said,--

"When to the facts of a new play and a new actor is superadded the
circumstance that both the author and the player of the new tragedy
are Americans, and the first who ever tempted the intellectual taste
of the British public by a representation on the English stage,
the crowds which last night surrounded the doors long before they
were thrown open are easily accounted for. The applause which Mr.
Forrest received on his _entrée_ must have been very cheering to that
gentleman. He possesses a countenance well marked and classical; his
figure, a model for stage effect, with 'thew and sinew' to boot. His
enunciation, which we had anticipated to be characterized by some
degree of that _patois_ which distinguishes most Americans, even the
best educated, was almost perfect 'to the last recorded syllable,'
and fell like music on the ears. We here especially point to the less
declamatory passages of the drama; in those portions of it where he
threw his whole power of body and soul into the whirlwind, as it were,
of his fury, his display of physical strength was prodigious, without
'o'erstepping the modesty of nature.' The inflections of his voice
frequently reminded one of Kean in his healthiest days, yet there
did not appear the manner of a copyist. He was crowned with loud and
unanimous plaudits at least a dozen times during the representation."

The Court Journal gave its judgment thus:

"This chief of American performers is most liberally endowed by nature
with all the finest qualities for an actor. With a most graceful and
symmetrical person, of more than the ordinary stature, he has a face
capable of the sternest as of the nicest delineations of passion,
and a voice of deep and earnest power. We have never witnessed a
presence more noble and commanding,--one that, at the first moment,
challenged greater respect, we may write, admiration. As an actor,
Mr. Forrest is fervent, passionate, and active: there is no child's
play in whatever he does; but in the most serious, as in the slightest
development of feeling, he puts his whole heart into the matter, and
carries us away with him in either the subtlety or the strength of his
emotion. With powers evidently enabling him to outroar a whirlwind, he
is never extravagant,--he is never of 'Ercles' vein; his passion is
always from the heart, and never from the lungs. His last two scenes
were splendidly acted, from the strength, the self-abandonment of the
performer; he looked and moved as if he could have cut down a whole
cohort, and died like a Hercules. The reception of Mr. Forrest was
most cordial; and the applause bestowed upon him throughout the play
unbounded. At the conclusion of the tragedy he was called for, and
most rapturously greeted."

The Times described the figure, face, and voice of the actor, gave a
long abstract of the play, and said,--

"He played with his whole heart, and seemed to be so strongly imbued
with the part that every tone and gesture were perfectly natural, and
full of that fire and spirit which, engendered by true feeling, carry
an audience along with the performer. He made a powerful impression on
the audience, and must be regarded as an able performer who to very
considerable skill in his profession adds the attraction of a somewhat
novel and much more spirited style of playing than any other tragic
actor now on our stage."

The following extract is from the Atlas:

"If we were to estimate Mr. Forrest's merits by his performance of
the Gladiator, we should, probably, underrate, or, perhaps, mistake
the true character of his genius. The very qualities which render him
supreme in such a part would, if he possessed no other requisites,
unfit him for those loftier conceptions that constitute the highest
efforts of the stage. It would be impossible to produce a more
powerful performance, or one in all respects more just and complete,
than his representation of the moody savage Thracian. But nature has
given him peculiar advantages which harmonize with the demands of
the part, and which, in almost any other character in the range of
tragedy, would either encumber the delineation or be of no avail.
His figure is cast in the proportions of the Farnese Hercules. The
development of the muscles, indeed, rather exceeds the ideal of
strength, and, in its excess, the beauty of symmetrical power is
in some degree sacrificed. His head and neck are perfect models of
grandeur in the order to which they belong. His features are boldly
marked, full of energy and expression, and, although not capable of
much variety, they possess a remarkable tone of _mental_ vigor. His
voice is rich and deep, and susceptible of extraordinary transitions,
which he employs somewhat too frequently as the transitions of
feeling pass over his spirit. The best way, perhaps, of describing
its varieties is to say that it reminded us occasionally of Kean,
Vandenhoff, and Wallack, but not as they would be recalled by one who,
in the dearth of his own resources, imitated them for convenience,
but by one in whom such resemblances are natural and unpremeditated.
Mr. Forrest's action is bold, unconscious, and diversified; and the
predominant sentiment it inspires is that of athletic grace. In the
part of Spartacus all these characteristics were brought out in the
most favorable points of view; and the performance, exhausting from
its length and its internal force, was sustained to the close with
undiminished power. There is certainly no actor on the English stage
who could have played it with a tithe of Mr. Forrest's ability."

In response to the invitation or challenge to appear in some of the
great Shakspearean rôles, Forrest appeared many nights successively
in Othello, Macbeth, and Lear, and in them all was crowned with most
decisive and flattering triumphs. The praise of him by the press was
generous, and its chorus scarcely broken by the few dissenting voices,
whose tone plainly betrayed an animus of personal hostility. A few
examples of the newspaper notices may fitly be cited,--enough to give a
fair idea of the general impression he made.

The Globe, of October 25th:

"Mr. Forrest selected as his second character the fiery Othello, 'who
loved not wisely, but too well.' There was something nobly daring in
this flight, so soon, too, after he whose voice still dwells in our
ears had passed from among us. To essay before an English audience any
character in which Edmund Kean was remembered was itself no trifling
indication of that self-confidence which, when necessary, true genius
can manifest. To make that attempt in Othello was indeed daring.
And nobly, we feel proud to say, did the performance bear out the
promise. In the Senate scene his colloquial voice told well in the
celebrated address to the Seniors of Venice. He did not speak as if
the future evils of his life had even then cast their shadows upon
him. The calm equability of the triumphant general and successful
lover pervaded his performance throughout the first two acts, with
the exception of the scene of the drunken brawl in the second, where
he first gave token of the fiery elements within him. The third act
was a splendid presentment throughout. He had evidently studied the
character with the judgment of a scholar, 'and a ripe and good one:'
each shade of the jealous character of the easy Moor, from the first
faint guessings at his tempter's meaning to the full conviction of his
wife's dishonesty, was brought out with the touch of a master-hand,
and embodied with a skill equalling that of any actor whom we have
seen, and far, very far superior to the manner in which any other of
our living performers could attempt it. This third act alone would
have placed Mr. Forrest in the foremost rank of his profession had
he never done anything else; and so his kindling audience seemed to
feel, as much in the deep watching silence of their attention as in
the tremendous plaudits which hailed what on the stage are technically
called 'the points' he made.

"In the two succeeding acts he was equally great in the passages which
called forth the burning passions of his fiery soul; but we shall not
at present particularize; where all was good it would be difficult,
and we have already nearly run through the dictionary of panegyric. In
accordance with a burst of applause such as seldom follows the fall of
the curtain, _Othello_ was announced for repetition on Wednesday and

The commendation of the London Sun was still stronger:

"Mr. Forrest last night made his appearance here in the arduous
character of Othello. The experiment was a bold one, but was
completely successful. We entertain a vivid recollection of Kean in
this part; we saw his Moor when the great actor was in the meridian
vigor of his powers, and also when he was in his decline and could
do justice only to the more subdued and pathetic parts of the
character; and even with these recollections on our mind, we feel
ourselves justified in saying that Mr. Forrest's Othello, if here
and there inferior in execution to Kean's, was in conception far
superior. There is an elevation of thought and sentiment,--a poetic
grandeur,--a picturesqueness, if we may use such an expression, in
Mr. Forrest's notion of the character, which Kean could never reach.
The one could give electrical effect to all its more obvious points,
turn to admirable account all that lay on its surface; the other
sounds its depths,--turns it inside out,--apprehends it in a learned
and imaginative spirit, and shows us not merely the fiery, generous
warrior, the creature of impulse, but the high-toned, chivalrous
Moor; lofty and dignified in his bearing, and intellectual in his
nature,--such a Moor, in short, as we read of in the old Spanish
chronicles of Granada,--and who perpetrates an act of murder not so
much from the headstrong, animal promptings of revenge, as from an
idea that he is offering up a solemn and inevitable sacrifice to
justice. In the earlier portion of the character Mr. Forrest was
rather too drawling and measured in his delivery; his address to the
Senators was judicious, but not quite familiar enough; it should
have been more colloquial. It was evident, however, that throughout
this scene the actor was laboring under constraint; he had yet to
establish himself with his audience, and was afraid of committing
himself prematurely. Henceforth he may dismiss this apprehension; for
he has proved that he is, beyond all question, the first tragedian of
the age.... We have spoken of this gentleman's Othello in high terms
of praise, but have not commended it beyond its deserts. In manly and
unaffected vigor; in terrific force of passion, where such a display
is requisite; but, above all, in heartfelt tenderness, it is fully
equal to Kean's Othello; in sustained dignity, and in the absence
of all stage-trick and undue gesticulation, it is superior. Perhaps
here and there it was a little too elaborate; but this is a trivial
blemish, which practice will soon remedy. On the whole, Mr. Forrest
is the most promising tragedian that has appeared in our days. He
has, evidently, rare intellectual endowments; a noble and commanding
presence; a countenance full of varying expression; a voice mellow,
flexible, and in its undertones exquisitely tender, and a discretion
that never fails him. If any one can revive the half-extinct taste for
the drama, he is the man."

The Carlton Chronicle said,--

"It is impossible that any actor could, in person, bearing, action,
and utterance, better fulfil your fair-ideal of the noble Moor. All
the passages of the part evincing Will and Power are delivered after
a manner to leave the satisfied listener no faculty except that of
admiration. His bursts of passion are terrifically grand. There is
no grimace,--no exaggeration. They are terrible in their downright
earnestness and apparent truth. Nothing could be more heart-thrilling
than the noble rage with which he delivered the well-known passage,--

  'I had rather be a toad,
   And live upon the vapor of a dungeon,
   Than keep a corner in the thing I love,
   For others' uses;'

nothing more glorious than the burst in which he volleyed forth the
following passage, suppressed by the barbarians of our theatres,--

            'Like to the Pontic Sea,
  Whose icy current and compulsive course
  Ne'er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
  To the Propontic and the Hellespont;
  Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace,
  Shall ne'er look back, ne'er ebb to humble love,
  Till that a capable and wide revenge
  Swallow them up.'

Throughout the part, as he enacted it, there were several new
readings, in the player's phrase. They were all good,--they all
conveyed to us, who love Shakspeare, new ideas. Forrest, apart from
his playing, is no common man. In many scenes of the play, in which
it was the fashion to rant, Forrest contented himself with the
appropriate display of dignified and quiet power. This was beyond

The following extract is from the notice in the John Bull:

"It is where Iago first attempts to rouse the jealousy of Othello,
and, having created the spark, succeeds in fanning it to a consuming
fire, that Mr. Forrest may be said to have been truly great. Slowly he
appeared to indulge the suspicion of his wife's infidelity; in silent
agony the conviction seemed to be creeping upon him,--his iron sinews
trembling with dreadful and conflicting emotions,--rapid as thought
were his denunciations; and, with all the weakness of woman, he again
relapsed into tenderness,--pain had a respite, and hope a prospect.
Then came his fearful and startling challenge to Iago, ending,--

  'If thou dost slander her, and torture me,
   Never pray more: abandon all remorse;
   On horror's head horrors accumulate:
   Do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amazed;
   For nothing canst thou to damnation add
   Greater than that.'

"The almost savage energy with which this passage was delivered
produced an indescribable effect. Three long and distinct rounds of
applause testified how highly the audience was delighted with this
master-effort; and the most prejudiced must have been convinced that
they were witnessing the acting of no ordinary man."

The critique in the Albion was a notable one:

"Mr. Forrest made his first appearance on our boards on Monday
last, in the part of Othello. Mr. Forrest possesses a fine person,
an excellent thing in either man or woman; but, though this has
been much dwelt upon by the London critics, it is but a very minor
affair when speaking of such a man as Mr. Forrest. He carries
himself with exceeding grace and dignity, and his tread is easy
and majestic: he dresses with taste and magnificence. The picture
which he presented of the Moor was one of the most perfect which
we have witnessed. He gave us to see, like Desdemona, 'Othello's
visage in his mind,' of which he furnished us with a beautiful
and highly-finished portrait. Not content with acting each scene
well, he gave us a consistent transcript of the whole matter. Each
succeeding scene was in strict keeping with those that had preceded
it, showing that the actor had grasped the whole plot from beginning
to end, and that, from commencement to catastrophe, he had embodied
himself into strict identity with the person represented. His early
scenes were distinguished by a quiet and calm dignity of demeanor,
which, concomitant with the deepest tenderness of feeling, and a
high tone of manliness, he seems to have conceived the basis of
the Moor's character. In his address to the Senate, this dignified
self-possession, and a sense of what was due to himself, he made
particularly conspicuous. As the interest of the tragedy advanced,
we saw, with exceeding pleasure, that Mr. Forrest was determined to
depend for success upon the precept set forth by Shakspeare, 'To hold
the mirror up to nature.' With proper confidence in his own powers, he
disdained to overstep the prescribed bound for the sake of producing
effects equally at variance with nature and heterodox to good taste.
In the scene where he quells the drunken brawl, his acting throughout
was strikingly impressive of reality. Some of his ideas were novel,
and beautifully accordant with the tone of the character which he
wished to develop. Such was his recitation of the passage,--

  'Silence that dreadful bell! it frights the isle
   From her propriety.'

From the general group he turned to a single attendant who stood at
his elbow, and delivered the command in a subdued tone, as though
it were not intended for the ear of the multitude. This, though
effective, was judicious, and not overstrained. His dismissal of
Cassio was equally illustrative of the spirit to which we have
alluded. The audience testified their approbation by a loud burst
of applause. The final scene with Iago was beautifully played: the
gradual workings of his mind from calmness to jealousy were displayed
with striking effect. The transitions of emotion in the following
splendid passage were finely marked:

                  'If I do prove her haggard,
  Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings,
  I'd whistle her off, and let her down the wind,
  To prey at fortune. Haply, for I am black,
  And have not those soft parts of conversation
  That chamberers have: Or, for I am declined
  Into the vale of years; yet that's not much:
  She's gone: I am abused: and my relief
  Must be to loathe her. O the curse of marriage,
  That we can call these delicate creatures ours,
  And not their appetites! I'd rather be a toad,
  And live upon the vapor of a dungeon,
  Than keep a corner in the thing I love,
  For other's uses.
  Desdemona comes!'

The burst of mixed passions with which he uttered the first of these
sentences was terrific. His voice then sank into tones the most
touching, expressive of complaining regret. The conclusion seemed to
have excited him to the most extreme pitch of loathing and disgust,
and, as he sees Desdemona advancing, he, for a few moments, gazed upon
her with horror. The feeling gave way, and all his former tenderness
seemed to return as he exclaimed,--

  'If she be false, O then Heaven mocks itself,--
   I'll not believe it.'

The subsequent scene with Iago, a trial of physical as well as mental
strength, was well sustained. It is here that Iago, by a series of
artful manoeuvres, screws the Moor up to the sticking-place. To
the conclusion of the scene the vehement passions are continually
increasing, and the difficulty is for an actor so to manage his powers
as to give full effect to the whole, without sinking into apparent
tameness in the last imprecation. We will not attempt any description
of the bedchamber scene. The reiterated and protracted plaudits of the
audience showed how highly it was appreciated. The dying-scene was
equally novel and excellent. At the fall of the curtain the audience
testified their delight and approbation by the most marked and
vehement applause, which continued for several minutes."

The London Journal gave a long account of Forrest's Lear, of which this
extract contains the substance:

"We have been much amused by the conflict of opinion respecting this
representation. Some describe it as one of the most magnificent
triumphs of this or any age. Another denounces the performance as an
idle and false imposition, and the actor as an ignorant empiric, who
has crossed the Atlantic solely to practise on the gullibility of John
Bull. We do not think John quite so gullible; we do not believe that
in matters of intellectual recreation he is so apt to take

        'Those tenders for true pay
  Which are not sterling.'

We consider it may be pretty safely taken as a general rule that the
large popularity of any artist is here synonymous only with great
talent. We had also seen quite enough of Mr. Forrest to convince
us that he is a man of real talent, with very little, if any, mere
trickery in his acting, so that to stigmatize him as a quack or an
impostor was as great a violation of truth as of good feeling. At
the same time, it is right we should remark that the estimate we
had formed of his genius, from his previous representations, was
not sufficiently high to induce a belief in all that his eulogists
pronounced on his Lear. We, therefore, came to the conclusion that
in this case, as in others where opinions are so remote from each
other, the truth would, probably, be found midway between the two
extremes; and, on seeing and judging for ourselves on Monday night,
found our conclusion fully warranted. The general conception of the
'poor old king' is most accurately taken, and his general execution
of it fervid, earnest, and harmonious. He has evidently grappled
with the character manfully, and he never lets go his hold. The
carefulness of his study is sometimes a little too obvious, giving
an injurious hardness and over-precision. The awful malediction of
Goneril--that fearful curse, which can scarcely be even read without
trembling--was delivered by Mr. Forrest with a power and intensity
we never saw surpassed by any actor of Lear. It was an exhibition
likely to follow a young play-goer to his pillow and mix itself with
his dreams. Shakspeare has here given us a wild burst of uncontrolled
and uncontrollable rage, mixed with a deep pathos, which connects
the very terms of the curse with the cause of the passion,--an awful
prayer for a retribution as just as terrible. All this Mr. Forrest
evidently understood and felt; and he therefore made his audience feel
it with him. The almost supernatural energy with which Lear seems to
be carried on to the very termination of the malediction, when the
passion exhausts itself and him, was portrayed by Mr. Forrest with
fearful reality and effect. He also greatly excelled in the passage,--

  'No, you unnatural hags,
   I will have such revenges on you both,
   That all the world shall--I will do such things,--
   What they are yet, I know not; but they shall be
   The terrors of the earth.'

His delivery of these lines was marked with the same truth and power
as the curse, and very finely displayed the energy of will and
impotence of action which form so touching a combination in Lear's
character. But perhaps the very best point in Mr. Forrest's Lear,
because the most delicate and difficult passage for an actor to
realize, was his manner of giving the lines,--

  'My wits begin to turn.--
   Come on, my boy: how dost, my boy? Art cold?
   I am cold myself....
   Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
   That's sorry yet for thee.'

This beautiful passage is extremely touching, and Mr. Forrest fully
felt and adequately illustrated its pathos and its beauty."

Another of the authorities in British journalism, whose title the
writer cannot recover, wrote thus:

"If Mr. Forrest is great in Othello, we do not hesitate to say he is
much greater in Lear. Here the verisimilitude is perfect. From the
moment of his entrance to the finely-portrayed death, every passion
which rages in that brain--the love, the madness, the ambition, the
despair--is given the more forcibly that it flashes through the
feebleness of age. In that powerful scene where the bereaved monarch
laments over his dead daughter, Mr. Forrest acted pre-eminently well.
He bears in her lifeless body and makes such a moan over it as would
force tears from a Stoic. None, we think, who heard him put the
plaintive but powerful interrogatory,--

  'Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
   And thou no breath at all?'--

followed by the bitter and melancholy reflection,--

       'O! thou wilt come no more,
  Never! never! never! never! never!'

will ever forget the anguish depicted on Mr. Forrest's features, or
the heart-piercing melancholy of his tones. Mr. Forrest evinced,
throughout, a fine conception of the character. He did not surprise us
by a burst of genius now and then. His performance was equable,--it
was distinguished in every part by deep and intense feeling. The curse
levelled against Goneril (one of the most fearful passages ever penned
by man) was given with awful force. The last member of the speech--

                'That she may feel
  How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
  To have a thankless child!'--

was poured forth with an unrestrained but natural energy that acted
like an electric shock on the audience; a momentary silence succeeded
it; but immediately afterwards a simultaneous burst of applause
attested the great triumph of the actor. His mad-scenes, when,
delighting in a crown and sceptre of straw, Lear proclaims himself
'every inch a king,' were admirably conceived, and no less admirably
acted. There was no straining after effect,--there was no grimacery.
We saw before us the 'poor, weak, and despised old man,'--the 'more
sinned against than sinning,'--reduced to a state of second childhood,
and paying the too severe penalty which his folly and his credulity,
in listening to the hyperboles of his elder daughters and rejecting
the true filial affection of his youngest and once his most beloved
child, exacted from him."

It may be well, also, to quote what was said by the "London Times" of
November 5th:

"The part of Lear is one which many otherwise eminent actors have
found above, or at least unsuited to, their capacities. Mr. Forrest
played it decidedly better than anything he has as yet essayed in
this country. His conception of the character is accurate, and his
execution was uncommonly powerful and effective. If it be, as it
cannot be disputed that it is, a test of an actor's skill that he
is able to rivet the attention of the audience, and so to engage
their thoughts and sympathies that they have not leisure even to
applaud on the instant, he may be said to have succeeded most
completely last night. From the beginning of the play to the end,
it was obvious that he exercised this power over the spectators.
While he was speaking, the most profound silence prevailed, and it
was not until he had concluded that the delight of the audience
vented itself in loud applause. This was particularly remarkable
in his delivery of Lear's curse upon his daughters, the effect of
which was more powerful than anything that has lately been done on
the stage. It is not, however, upon particular passages that the
excellence of the performance depended; its great merit was that it
was a whole, complete and finished. The spirit in which it began was
equally sustained throughout, and, as a delineation of character and
passion, it was natural, true, and vigorous, in a very remarkable
degree. The mad-scenes were admirably played; and the last painful
scene, so painful that it might well be dispensed with, was given
with considerable power. The great accuracy and fidelity with which
the decrepitude of the aged monarch was portrayed was not among the
least meritorious parts of the performance. The palsied head and
quivering limbs were so correctly given as to prove that the actor's
attention has been sedulously devoted to the attempt to make the
performance as perfect as possible. A striking proof of his sense of
the propriety of keeping up the illusion he had created was manifested
in his reappearance, in obedience to the loud and general call of
the audience, at the end of the tragedy. He came on, preserving the
same tottering gait which he had maintained throughout, and bowed his
thanks as much in the guise of Lear as he had acted in the drama. This
would have been almost ridiculous in any but a very skilful actor:
in him it served to prevent too sudden a dissipation of the dramatic

The critical notices of the Macbeth of Forrest were of the same average
as the foregoing estimates of his other parts, though the faults
pointed out were generally of a description the exact opposite of those
currently ascribed to his acting. He was considered too subdued and
tame in the part:

"Mr. Forrest essayed the difficult character of Macbeth, for the
first time in this country, on Wednesday evening. We are inclined
to think that this highly-gifted actor has not often attempted this
part; because, though his performance displayed many noble traits of
genius, yet it could not, as a whole, boast of that equally-sustained
excellence by which his personation of Lear and of Othello was
distinguished. We were highly gratified by his exertions in that
part of the second act which commences with the 'dagger soliloquy,'
and ends with Macbeth's exit, overwhelmed with fear, horror, and
remorse. There is no man on the stage at present who could, in this
scene, produce so terrific an effect. Never did we see the bitterness
of remorse, the pangs of guilt-condemning conscience, so powerfully
portrayed. The storm of feeling by which the soul of Macbeth is
assailed, spoke in the agitated limbs of Mr. Forrest, and in the wild,
unearthly glare of his eye, ere he had uttered a word. On his entrance
after his bloody mission to Duncan's chamber, Mr. Forrest introduced
a new and a very striking point. Absorbed in the recollection of the
crime which he has committed, he does not perceive Lady Macbeth till
she seizes his arm. Then, acting under the impulse of a mind fraught
with horror, he starts back, uttering an exclamation of fear, as if
his way had been barred by some supernatural power. This fine touch,
so true to the scene and to nature, drew down several rounds of
applause. In the banquet scene, too, his acting was very fine; and the
greater part of the fifth act was supported with extraordinary energy.
That passage in which, having heard that 'a wood does come toward
Dunsinane,' Macbeth exclaims to the messenger,--

  'If thou speak'st false,
   Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,
   Till famine cling thee:--if thy speech be sooth,
   I care not if thou dost for me as much,'--

was delivered with astonishing force. Mr. Forrest gave those
melancholy reminiscences which occasionally float over the saddened
mind of Macbeth with intense and searching feeling. There was,
however, in many parts of his performance a lack of power. Mr. Forrest
was too subdued,--too colloquial. The speech of Macbeth, after the
discovery of the murder,--

  'Had I but died an hour before this chance,
   I had lived a blessed time,'--

was delivered with most inappropriate calmness. Macbeth would have
here 'assumed a virtue though he had it not,' and poured forth his
complainings in a louder tone. Again, Macbeth's answer to Macduff, who
demands why he has slain the sleepy grooms,--

  'Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
   Loyal and neutral, in a moment?--No man!'--

was wholly deficient in spirit, until Mr. Forrest came to the last
member of the sentence, which was given with due and proper emphasis.
In the rencounter with Macduff, where Macbeth declares that he 'bears
a charmed life,' the passage ought to be uttered as the proud boast
of one who was confident of supernatural protection, and not in a
taunting, sneering manner. Mr. Forrest's error is on the right side,
and is very easily corrected. Doubtless, in his future performance of
the character he will assume a higher tone in those parts of the play
to which we have alluded."

The Morning Chronicle said,--

"Mr. Forrest appeared last evening in the character of Macbeth, and in
the performance of it fully sustained the reputation he has already
obtained in the parts of Othello and Lear. Mr. Forrest brings to the
performance of Shakspeare's heroes an energy and vigor, tempered
with a taste and judgment, such as we rarely find combined in any
who venture to tread the stage. There is, besides, a reality in his
acting, an actual identification of himself with the character he
impersonates, stronger than in any actor we have ever seen. If this
was remarkable in his performance of Othello and Lear, it is not less
so in the performance of Macbeth. From the first act to the last--from
his first interview with the weird sisters, whose vague prophecy
instills into the mind that feeling of 'vaulting ambition' which
leads him to the commission of so many crimes, to the last scene, in
which he finds his charms dissolved, and begins, too late, to doubt
'the equivocation of the fiend'--he carried the audience completely
with him, and made them at times wholly unmindful of the skill of the
actor, from the interest excited in the actions of Macbeth."

In addition to his renderings of Spartacus, Othello, Lear, and Macbeth,
Forrest appeared also as Damon, and achieved a success similar to that
he had won in the same part at home.

"The part of _Damon_ is decidedly beneath Mr. Forrest's acknowledged
talents. No man could, however, have made more of the character than
he did, whether he appeared as the stern, uncompromising patriot, the
deep-feeling husband and father, or the generous and devoted friend.
His rebuke of the slavish senate, who crouch at the feet of the tyrant
Dionysius, was delivered with calm and earnest dignity; but his two
great scenes were that in which he learns that his freedman, Lucullus,
has slain his horse to prevent the anxious Damon from arriving in time
to rescue his beloved Pythias from the hands of the executioner; and
that with which the piece concludes, where, breathless and exhausted,
he rushes into the presence of his despairing friend.

"The burst of passionate fury with which he assailed the affrighted
freedman, in the former scene, was awfully fearful; and his expression
of wild, frantic, overwhelming joy when he beholds Pythias in safety,
and can only manifest his feelings by hysteric laughter, was perfectly
true to nature. Mr. Forrest's performance was most amply and justly

The actor had every reason to feel well pleased with the results of his
bold undertaking. His emotions are expressed in a letter written to
his mother under date of Liverpool, January 2d, 1837, in the course of
which he says,--

"Before this you have doubtless heard of my great triumphs in Drury
Lane Theatre; though I must confess I did not think they treated
the Gladiator and my friend Dr. Bird fairly. Yet, as far as regards
myself, I never have been more successful, even in my own dear land.
In the characters of Shakspeare alone would they hear me; and night
after night in overwhelming crowds they came, and showered their
hearty applause on my efforts. This, my dear mother, is a triumphant
refutation of those prejudiced opinions so often repeated of me in
America by a few ignorant scribblers, who but for the actors would
never have understood one line of the immortal bard."

But a fuller statement of his impressions in London, with interesting
glimpses of his social life there, is contained in a letter to Leggett:

"... My success in England has been very great. While the people
evinced no great admiration of the Gladiator, they came in crowds to
witness my personation of Othello, Lear, and Macbeth. I commenced my
engagement on the 17th of October at 'Old Drury,' and terminated it
on the 19th of December, having acted in all thirty-two nights, and
represented those three characters of Shakspeare twenty-four out of
the thirty-two, namely, Othello nine times, Macbeth seven, and King
Lear eight,--this last having been repeated oftener by me than by any
other actor on the London boards in the same space of time, except
Kean alone. This approbation of my Shakspeare parts gives me peculiar
pleasure, as it refutes the opinions very confidently expressed by a
certain _clique_ at home that I would fail in those characters before
a London audience.

"But it is not only from my reception within the walls of the theatre
that I have reason to be pleased with my English friends. I have
received many grateful kindnesses in their hospitable homes, and in
their intellectual fireside circles have drunk both instruction and
delight. I suppose you saw in the newspapers that a dinner was given
to me by the Garrick Club. Serjeant Talfourd presided, and made a very
happy and complimentary speech, to which I replied. Charles Kemble
and Mr. Macready were there. The latter gentleman has behaved in the
handsomest manner to me. Before I arrived in England, he had spoken
of me in the most flattering terms, and on my arrival he embraced the
earliest opportunity to call upon me, since which time he has extended
to me many delicate courtesies and attentions, all showing the native
kindness of his heart, and great refinement and good breeding. The
dinner at the Garrick was attended by many of the most distinguished

"I feel under great obligations to Mr. Stephen Price, who has shown
me not only the hospitalities which he knows so well how to perform,
but many other attentions which have been of great service to me, and
which, from his long experience in theatrical matters, he was more
competent to render than any other person. He has done me the honor to
present me with a copy of Shakspeare and a Richard's sword, which were
the property of Kean. Would that he could bestow upon me his _mantle_
instead of his weapon! Mr. Charles Kemble, too, has tendered me, in
the kindest manner, two swords, one of which belonged to his truly
eminent brother, and the other to the great Talma, the theatrical idol
of the _grande nation_.

"The London press, as you probably have noticed, has been divided
concerning my professional merits; though as a good republican I ought
to be satisfied, seeing I had an overwhelming majority on my side.
There is a degree of dignity and critical precision and force in their
articles generally (I speak of those against me, as well as for me,
and others, also, of which my acting was not the subject) that place
them far above the newspaper criticisms of stage performances which we
meet with in our country. Their comments always show one thing,--that
they have read and appreciated the writings of their chief dramatists;
while with us there are many who would hardly know, were it not
for the actors, that Shakspeare had ever existed. The audiences,
too, have a quick and keen perception of the beauties of the drama.
They seem, from the timeliness and proportion of their applause, to
possess a previous knowledge of the text. They applaud warmly, but
seasonably. They do not interrupt a passion and oblige the actor to
sustain it beyond the propriety of nature; but if he delineates it
forcibly and truly, they reward him in the intervals of the dialogue.
Variations from the accustomed modes, though not in any palpable new
readings,--which, for the most part, are bad readings, for there is
generally but one mode positively correct, and that has not been left
for us to discover,--but slight changes in emphasis, tone, or action,
delicate shadings and pencillings, are observed with singular and
most gratifying quickness. You find that your study of Shakspeare has
not been thrown away; that your attempt to grasp the character in its
'gross and scope,' as well as in its details, so as not merely to know
how to speak what is written, but to preserve its truth and keeping in
a new succession of incidents, could it be exposed to them,--you find
that this is seen and appreciated by the audience; and the evidence
that they see and feel is given with an emphasis and heartiness that
make the theatre shake.

"Though my success in London, and now here, has been great beyond my
fondest expectations; though the intoxicating cup of popular applause
is pressed nightly, overflowing, to my lips; and though in private I
receive all sorts of grateful kindnesses and courtesies,--yet--yet--to
tell the truth--there are moments when a feeling of homesickness comes
upon me, and I would give up all this harvest of profit and fame which
I am gathering, to be once more in my 'ain hame' and under 'the bright
skies of my own free land.'"

The above estimate of British dramatic criticism is a little
rose-colored, from the imperfect experience of the writer at the time.
It was not long before he knew more of it in its less attractive
aspect. For he found that the same unhappy influences of personal
prejudice and spite, of ignorance and spleen, of cabal interest and
corruption, which betrayed themselves in the American press, were
conspicuously shown also in the English. Only a few months before
the arrival of Forrest, a company of French players from Paris had
attempted to perform in London, and had been subjected to treatment,
through the instigation of the rival theatres, which had caused their
failure and deeply disgraced and mortified the public. The intense
self-interest and notorious jealousy of prominent players, as a class,
produced in London, as elsewhere, cliques who set up as champions each
of its favorite performer, and strove to advance him, not only by
rightful means, but likewise by the illegitimate method of putting his
competitors down. The chosen literary tool of a great tragedian, the
newspaper critic who arrogates to represent his interests, very often
volunteers services with which his principal has nothing to do. It was
so in London while Forrest played in Drury Lane. Macready, Vandenhoff,
Charles Kemble, Charles Kean, and Booth all had rival engagements.
Three different newspapers were the respective organs of three of these
actors. All three agreed in depreciating and abusing the stranger,
while each one at the same time spoke with detraction and sneers of the
favorites of the other two. While the general press spoke fairly of
each performer, and gave Forrest such notices as more than satisfied
him and his friends, these special papers indulged in fulsome eulogy
of their chosen idol and assailed the others with satire and insult.
For example, one writer says of Kean, "He stars in country theatres,
where his power of exaggerating the faults of his father's acting gives
delight to the unwashed of the gallery, who like handsome dresses,
noise, stamping, bustle, and splutter." A second says of Booth, "Bunn,
in his drowning desperation, catches at straws. He has put forward
Booth, the shadow and foil of Kean in bygone days. His Richard seems
to have been a wretched failure." A third says of Macready in Othello,
in the scene with Iago and Brabantio, "He comes on the stage with
the air of a sentimental negro rehearsing the part of Hamlet." And a
fourth characterizes the voice of Macready "as a combination of grunt,
guttural, and spasm." After such specimens of "criticism" on their own
countrymen, one need not feel surprised to read notices of a foreigner,
inspired by the same spirit, like the following from the "Examiner":
"Mr. Forrest has appeared in Mr. Howard Payne's foolish compilation
called Brutus. This is an American tragedy, and not ill-suited, on the
whole, to Mr. Forrest's style. The result was amazingly disagreeable."
The animus of such writing is so obvious to every person of insight
that it falls short of its mark, and does no injury to the artist
ridiculed. The writer shows himself, as one of his contemporaries said,
not a critic, but a caviller,--a gad-fly of the drama.

Among the squibs that flew on all sides among the partisans, abounding
in phrases like "the icy stilts and bombastic pomposity of Vandenhoff,"
"the stiff and disagreeable mannerism of Macready," "the affected,
half-convulsive croaking of Charles Kean," "the awkward ignorance and
brutality of Forrest," the American actor was treated, on the whole, as
well as the English ones. A gentleman who had a private box in Drury
Lane lent it to a friend to see Forrest in Othello. But it was one of
his off-nights, in which Booth was substituted as Richard. The next
morning these lines appeared in a public print, as full of injustice as
such things usually are:

  "Of Shakspeare in _barns_ we have heard;
     Yet who has the patience, forsooth,
   To witness King Richard the Third,
     Enacted to-night in a--BOOTH?
   The order to you I have brought,
     Not liking the Manager's trick;
   For instead of the FORREST I sought,
     He now only offers a _stick_."

The impression he made, however, his great and unquestionable success,
are best shown by certain salient facts with which the dramatic
critics, prejudiced or unprejudiced, had nothing to do: the brilliant
public banquet given in his honor by the Garrick Club, with Thomas Noon
Talfourd in the chair; the exhibition, at the Somerset House, of his
full-length portrait as Macbeth in the dagger-scene; and the numerous
valuable presents made to him by various eminent men, including a
superb original oil-portrait of Garrick;--these tell their own story.
At the close of his first engagement a testimonial was given him by
his fellow-actors, every one of them spontaneously joining in the
contribution. It was, as the "Morning Herald" described it, "a splendid
snuff-box of tortoise-shell, lined and mounted with gold, with a mosaic
lid, and the inscription,--

"To Edwin Forrest, Esq., the American tragedian, from the performers
of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in testimony of their admiration of
his talent as an actor, and their respect for him as a man. 'His worth
is warrant for his welcome hither.'--SHAKSPEARE."

The prolonged stay of Forrest in England was ostensibly to continue
for another season the brilliant professional life there opened to
him. But, in reality, a tenderer attraction constituted his principal
motive. He had met in the fashionable circles of the art life of London
a young lady of extreme beauty and of accomplished manners, thoroughly
imbued with musical and dramatic tastes, who had quite won his heart.
This was Catherine Norton Sinclair, daughter of a very distinguished
English vocalist. Miss Sinclair, with much force of character and
grace and vivacity of demeanor, had a personal loveliness which gave
her distinction wherever she appeared, and an ingenuous sympathetic
expression which made her a general favorite. She was the first and
only woman whom Forrest, with all his earnest but not absorbing
amours, had ever seriously thought of marrying. Her image, fixed in
his bewitched imagination wherever he went, made him impatient to be
with her again in fact. This was the magnet that drew him, after every
departure, so quickly back to London. The maiden, on the other hand,
was as much enamored as the man. More than thirty-six years afterwards,
when he was lying cold in his coffin, and so much of joy and hope and
pain and tragic grief lay buried between their separated souls, she
said, "The first time I saw him--I recall it now as clearly as though
it were but yesterday--the impression he made was so instantaneous
and so strong, that I remember I whispered to myself, while a thrill
ran through me, 'This is the handsomest man on whom my eyes have ever
fallen.'" On meeting they were mutually smitten, and the passion grew,
and no obstacles intervened, and they were betrothed. The intervals
between his starring engagements in the chief cities of the United
Kingdom he spent in courtship. It was a period of divine intoxication,
which they alone who have had a kindred experience can understand, when
life was all a current of bliss in a world sparkling with enchantment.
A favorite poet has said,--

  "Oh, time is sweet when roses meet,
     With June's soft breath around them;
   And sweet the cost when hearts are lost,
     If those we love have found them;"

and it was in 1837, on one of the fairest days of an English June,--a
day which, no doubt, they fondly supposed would stand thenceforth as
the most golden in all the calendar of their lives,--that the happy
pair were married, in the grand old cathedral of Saint Paul, in London.
The officiating clergyman was the Rev. Henry Hart Milman, a man equally
renowned as preacher, scholar, historian, and poet. The service was
performed in an imposing manner, before a brilliant assemblage, with
every propitious omen and the loving wishes of the multitude of friends
whose sympathies were there from both sides of the sea. Then followed
the long, delicious honeymoon, in which newly-wed lovers withdraw from
the world to be all the world to each other. Every benediction hovered
over them,--love, youth, health, beauty, fortune, the blessing of
parents, the pride of friends, the gilded vision of popularity. Nor
was the entrancement of their dream broken when they found themselves,
in the autumn, at home in the Republic of the West, welcomed with
outstretched hands by the friendly throng, who, as they came in sight,
stood shouting on the shore.



The interest of his friends and of the public at large in the returning
actor was increased by the laurels he had won in the mother-country,
and the prize hanging on his arm, whose beauty lent a choicer domestic
lustre to his professional glory. Wherever he played, the theatre
was crowded to overflowing, and the receipts and the applause were
unprecedented. The only alloy in his cup--and this was not then so
copious or so bitter as it afterwards became--was the acrimonious and
envenomed criticism springing alike from the envious and malignant, who
cannot see any one successful without assailing him, and from those
whose tastes were displeased or whose prejudices were offended by his

While fulfilling an engagement in Boston, he received a very
characteristic letter from Leggett, which may serve as a specimen of
their correspondence. It will be seen that the tragedian had urged on
the editor the writing of a play for him on the theme of Jack Cade and
his rebellion. He afterwards induced Conrad to reconstruct his play of
Aylmere, which in its original form was not suited to his ideas.

  "NEW YORK, Wednesday evening, Oct. 25th.

"MY DEAR FORREST,--I was in hopes of having a line from you before
this time, telling the Boston news, or so much of it at least as
concerns you and yours, which is what I care to hear. But you are
determined, I suppose, to maintain the character you have so well
earned, of being a most dilatory correspondent. I have had the
pleasure of hearing this evening, however, through another channel,
that you are drawing full houses; and I trust that all is going on
well in other respects. Placide and I took a walk out to Bloomingdale
last Sunday afternoon, and as we were returning we conjectured that
you and Catherine were just sitting down at the board of Mr. and Mrs.
Manager Barry.

"I have been down town this evening for the first time these several
days. I extended my walk to the Park Theatre, where Miss Tree was
performing _Rosalind_. The house was about $500; that at the National,
Vandenhoff, could not have exceeded $300. Miss Tree's engagement will
conclude with her benefit on Friday evening, when she will probably
have between $900 and $1000, making her average for the eleven nights
about $650. This is considered a very handsome business. Mad. Caridora
Allen opens on Monday evening, and her box sheet already shows a fine
display of fashionable names. She will have a full and _fine_ house.
She has been giving a touch of her quality at some of the soirées
of the exclusives, and is pronounced just the thing. The Woodworth
benefit limps tediously along. The returning of your money makes a
good deal of talk, and the conduct of the committee is much censured.
The motive, to injure you, and foist up Vandenhoff at your expense,
will meet with a sad discomfiture. My good public is too clear-sighted
to be humbugged in so plain a matter.

"I hope you continue to make yourself acquainted with that insolent
patrician _Coriolanus_. He was not quite so much of a democrat as you
and I are; but that is no reason why we should not use him if he can
do us a service. I wish Shakspeare, with all his divine attributes,
had only had a little of that ennobling love of equal human liberty
which is now animating the hearts of true patriots all over the world,
and is destined, ere long, to effect a great and glorious change in
the condition of mankind. What a vast and godlike influence he might
have exerted in moulding the public mind and guiding the upward
progress of nations, if his great genius had not been dazzled by the
false glitter of aristocratic institutions, and blinded to the equal
rights of the great family of man! Had I a little of his transcendent
intellect, I would assert the principles of democratic freedom in a
voice that should 'fill the world with echoes.'

"My own affairs remain in _statu quo_. I am still undetermined what
to do. I have been solicited to write for the democratic 'Monthly
Review,' just established in Washington, and there is some talk among
the politicians here of getting up a morning paper, and offering me
the place of principal editor. I have been turning over the Jack Cade
subject; but I confess I am almost afraid to undertake it. The theme
is a grand one, and I warm when I think of it; but I must not mistake
the ardor of my feelings in the sacred cause of human liberty for
ability to manage the mighty subject. Besides, the prejudices and
prepossessions of the world are against me, with Shakspeare on their
side. Who must not feel his feebleness and insignificance when called
to enter the list against such an antagonist? I must do something,
however, and shortly; for I can now say, with _Jaffier_, though unlike
him I am not devout enough to thank Heaven for it, that I am not worth
a ducat.

"I took a walk out to New Rochelle on Monday afternoon, and returned
yesterday morning. I need not say that you were the theme of much
of the conversation while I was there. Many questions were asked me
concerning your 'handsome English wife.'

"I shall long very earnestly for the 18th of December to arrive, when
I count upon enjoying another month of happiness. 'How happily the
days of Thalaba went by' during the five weeks of your late sojourn in
this city! I shall not speedily forget those pleasant evenings.

"It is past midnight now, and Elmira has been long in bed; otherwise I
should be enjoined to add her love to mine.

"Good-night, and God bless you both.

  "Yours ever,
    "WM. LEGGETT."

Not long after his return from England, some of the most distinguished
of his fellow-citizens joined in giving him the compliment of a public
dinner. The festival was of a sumptuous and magnificent character,
and drawing together, as it did, nearly all the marked talent and
celebrity of Philadelphia, the honor was felt to be one of no ordinary
value. Nicholas Biddle was president, supported by six vice-presidents
and eleven managers. The banquet was held on the 15th of December,
1837. Over two hundred gentlemen sat down at the table. Mr. Biddle
being kept away by a severe illness, the chair was occupied by Hon.
J. R. Ingersoll; Mr. Forrest was on his right, and in the immediate
vicinity were Chief-Justice Gibson, Judge Rogers, Recorder Conrad,
Colonel Swift, Mayor of the city, Dr. Jackson, of the University of
Pennsylvania, Prof. Mitchell, Dr. Calhoun, Dean of Jefferson College,
Morton McMichael, Robert Morris, R. Penn Smith, and Messrs. Dunlap,
Banks, Bell, and Doran, members of the Convention then sitting to
revise the Constitution of the State. Leggett was present from New
York, by special invitation.

The room was elegantly ornamented. The name of the chief guest was
woven in wreaths around the pyramids of confectionery, branded on the
bottles of wine, and embossed about various articles of the dessert. No
pains were spared to add to the entertainment every charm of grace and
taste adapted to gratify its recipient. One of the city papers said,
the next morning,--

"On no former occasion in Philadelphia has there been so numerous and
brilliant an assemblage for any similar purpose. The selectness of
the company, the zeal and enthusiasm they exhibited, and the cordial
greetings they bestowed, must have been especially gratifying to the
feelings of Mr. Forrest, springing as these testimonials did from a
proud recognition of his worth as a townsman."

The following letter explained the absence of the chosen president of
the day:

  "PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 15th, 1837.

"_Hon. R. T. Conrad,_

"MY DEAR SIR,--I regret much that indisposition will prevent me
from joining your festival to-day. Feeling, as I do, an intense
nationality, which makes the fame of every citizen the common property
of the country, I rejoice at all the developments of intellectual
power among our countrymen in every walk of life, and I am always
anxious to do honor to high faculties combined with personal worth.
Such a union the common voice ascribes to Mr. Forrest, and I would
have gladly added my own applause to the general homage. But this
is impracticable now, and I can therefore only convey through you a
sentiment which, if it wants the vigorous expression of health, has at
least a sick man's sincerity. It is,--

"The genius of our country, whenever and wherever displayed,--honor to
its triumphs in every field of fame.

  "With great regard, yours,
    "N. BIDDLE."

The cloth having been removed, Mr. Ingersoll rose, and said,--

"The friends of the drama are desirous of paying a merited tribute of
respect and esteem to one of the most distinguished and successful
of its sons. Well-approved usage upon occasions not dissimilar has
pointed to this our cheerful greeting as a fitting method for carrying
their desires into effect. It combines the compliment of public and
unequivocal demonstration with the kindness and cordiality of social
intercourse. It serves to express at once _opinions_ the result of
deliberate judgment, and _sentiments_ warm and faithful from the heart.

"To our guest we owe much for having devoted to the profession which
he has selected an uncommon energy of character and peculiar personal
aptitudes. They are both adapted to the happiest illustrations of
an art which, in the absence of _either_, would want a finished
representative, but, by a rare combination of faculties in _him_, is
enabled effectually 'to hold the mirror up to nature.' It is an art, in
the rational pleasures and substantial advantages derived from which
all are free to participate, and a large proportion of the educated and
liberal-minded avail themselves of the privilege. It is an art which,
for thousands of years, has been practised with success, admired,
and esteemed; and the men who have adorned it by their talents have
received the well-earned plaudits of their age, and the honors of a
cherished name.

"To our guest we owe the acknowledgment (long delayed, indeed) of the
sternest critics of an experienced and enlightened public, not our own,
that of one department at least of elegant literature our country has
produced the brightest living representative.

"To our guest we owe especial thanks that he has been the prompt,
uniform, and liberal patron of his art; that dramatic genius and merit
have never appealed to him for aid in vain; that he has devoted the
best-directed generosity, and some of his most brilliant professional
efforts, to their cause.

"To our guest we owe unmeasured thanks that he has done much by his
personal exertion, study, and example, to identify our stage with the
classic drama, and that he has made the more than modern Æschylus--the
myriad-minded Shakspeare--_ours_.

"We owe him thanks, as members of a well-regulated community, that, by
the course and current of his domestic life, the reproaches that are
sometimes cast upon his profession have been signally disarmed.

"And, in this moment of joyous festivity, we feel that we owe him
unnumbered thanks that he has offered us an opportunity to express for
him an unfeigned and cordial regard.

"These sentiments are embraced in a brief but comprehensive toast,
which I will ask leave to offer,--

"The _Stage_ and its MASTER."

Amid loud and long applause, Forrest rose, bowed his acknowledgments,
and replied,--

"MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I feel too deeply the honor this day
rendered me to be able to express myself in terms of adequate meaning.
There are times when the tongue is at best but a poor interpreter of
the heart. The strongest emotions do not always clothe themselves in
the strongest language. The words which rise to my lips seem too cold
and vapid to denote truly the sentiments which prompt them. They lack
that terseness and energy which the occasion deserves.

"The actor usually comes before the public in a 'fiction, in a dream
of passion,' and his aim is to suit his utterance and the ''havior of
the visage' to the unreal situation. But the resources of my art do not
avail me here. This is no pageant of the stage, to be forgotten with
the hour, nor this an audience drawn to view its mimic scenes.

"I stand amidst a numerous throng of the chiefest denizens of my native
city, convened to do me honor; and this costly banquet they present
to me, a munificent token of public regard. I feel, indeed, that I am
no actor here. My bosom throbs with undissembled agitation, and in
the grateful tumult of my thoughts I cannot 'beget a temperance to
give smoothness' to my acknowledgments for so proud a tribute. In the
simplest form of speech, then, let me assure you from my inmost heart,
I thank you.

"I have but recently returned from England, after performing many
nights on those boards where the master-spirits of the stage achieved
their noblest triumphs. You have heard from other sources with what
kindness I was received, and with what bounteous applause my efforts
were rewarded. Throughout my sojourn abroad I experienced only the most
candid and liberal treatment from the public, and the most elegant and
cordial hospitality in private. But I rejoice that the time has come
round which brings me again to the point from which I started; which
places me among those friends whose partial kindness discovered the
first unfoldings of my mind, and watched it with assiduous care through
all the stages of its subsequent development. The applause of foreign
audiences was soothing to my pride, but that which I received at home
had aroused a deeper sentiment. The people of England bestowed their
approbation on the results of long practice and severe study, but my
countrymen gave me theirs in generous anticipation of those results.

"_They_ looked with indulgence on the completed statue; _you_ marked
with interest from day to day the progress of the work till the rough
block, by gradual change, assumed its present form. Let me hope that it
may yet be sculptured to greater symmetry and smoothness, and better
deserve your lavish regard.

"The sounds and sights which greet me here are linked with thrilling
associations. Among the voices which welcome me to-night I distinguish
some which were raised in kind approval of my earliest efforts. Among
the faces which surround this board I trace lineaments deeply stamped
on my memory in that expression of benevolent encouragement with which
they regarded my juvenile attempts, and cheered me onward in the outset
of my career. I look on your features, sir" (said Mr. F., addressing
himself to the Mayor of the city, who occupied a seat by his right),
"and my mind glides over a long interval of time, to a scene I can
never forget. Four lustres are now nearly completed since the event
occurred to which I allude.

"A crowd was gathered one evening in the Tivoli Garden, to behold
the curious varieties of delirium men exhibit on inhaling nitrous
oxide. Several years had then elapsed since the great chemist of
England had made known the singular properties of exhilarating gas;
and strange antics performed under its influence by distinguished
philosophers, poets, and statesmen of Europe were then on record. It
was yet, however, a novelty with us, and the public experiments drew
throngs to witness them. Among those to whom the intoxicating agent
was administered (on the occasion referred to) there chanced to be a
little unfriended boy, who, in the instant ecstasy which the subtle
fluid inspired, threw himself into a tragic attitude and commenced
declaiming a passage from one of Shakspeare's plays. 'What, ho!' he
cried, 'young Richmond, ho! 'tis Richard calls; I hate thee, Harry, for
thy blood of Lancaster.' But the effect of the aerial draught was brief
as it was sudden and irresistible. The boy, awaking as from a dream,
was surprised to find himself the centre of attraction,--'the observed
of all observers.' Abashed at his novel and awkward position, he shrunk
timidly from the glances of the spectators, and would have stolen in
haste away. But a stranger stepped from the crowd, and, taking him
kindly by the hand, pronounced words which thrilled through him with
a spell-like influence. 'This lad,' said he, 'has the germ of tragic
greatness in him. The exhilarating gas has given him no new power. It
has only revealed one which lay dormant in him before. It needs only to
be cherished and cultivated to bring forth goodly fruit.'

"Gentlemen, the present chief magistrate of our city was that
benevolent stranger, and your guest to-night was that unfriended boy.
If the prophecy has been in any degree fulfilled,--if since that time
I have attained some eminence in my profession,--let my full heart
acknowledge that the inspiriting prediction, followed as it was with
repeated acts of delicate and considerate kindness, exercised the
happiest influence on the result. It was a word in season; it was a
kindly greeting calculated to arouse all the energies of my nature and
direct them to a particular aim. Prophecy oftentimes shapes the event
which it seems only to foretell. One shout of friendly confidence at
the beginning of a race may nerve the runner with strength to win the

"Happy he who, on accomplishing his round, is received with generous
welcome by the same friends that cheered him at the start. Among such
friends I stand. You listened with inspiring praise and augury to the
immature efforts of the boy, and you now honor with this proud token of
your approbation the achievements of the man.

"You nurtured me in the bud and early blossom of my life, and 'labored
to make me full of growing.' If you have succeeded, 'the harvest is
your own.'

"Mr. President and gentlemen, allow me to offer you, in conclusion, as
my sentiment,--

"_The Citizens of Philadelphia_--Alike ready at the starting-post to
cheer genius to exertion, and at the goal to reward it with a chaplet."

The newspaper reporter who described the occasion said,--

"It is not possible to convey by words any idea of the effect produced
by this speech. His delivery was natural, forcible, and unaffected; and
in many passages all who heard him were moved to tears. At the allusion
to Colonel Swift, the Mayor of the city, the whole company rose, and,
by a common impulse, gave six hearty cheers. Mr. Forrest sat down
amidst the most vehement applause."

Several sentiments were read, and excellent speeches made in response.
Morton McMichael ended his eloquent remarks thus:

"Before I sit down, however, allow me to call upon one whose genuine
eloquence will atone for my tedious prattle. For this purpose I shall
presently ask the company to join me in a health to one now near me,
who, though young in years, has already secured to himself a ripe
renown,--one who, in various departments of literature, has shown a
vigorous and searching mind,--one who, in all the circumstances in
which he has been placed, whether by prosperous or adverse fortune, has
so acquitted himself, that in him

                  'Nature might stand up
  And say to all the world, this is a man.'

I allude, sir, to the author of 'Conrad of Naples,' a tragedy which,
though written in the early years of nonage, bears upon it the
unmistakable impress of rich and fruitful soil. Nor is this the only
thing which my friend--for I am proud to call him so--has achieved in
the difficult walks of the tragic drama. His 'Jack Cade' is a fine,
spirited, stirring production, full of noble sentiments, clothed in
striking language; and if it could only be so fortunate as to secure
for the representative of its hero our own Spartacus, its success upon
the stage would be as pre-eminent as its deserts are ample. As an
essayist, too, this gentleman has made himself extensively known by
the energy and brilliance of his style, the justness and solidity of
his ideas, and the comprehensive range of his information. In years
gone by, his contributions to the press of this city were everywhere
recognized by their bold and manly eloquence; and in the gentle
pursuits of the Muses he has exhibited a fervor of thought and a
delicacy of expression seldom surpassed by any of our native poets. But
I see, sir, that my praises are distasteful to him, and I therefore at
once propose

"_Robert T. Conrad_--Distinguished alike by his success as a dramatist,
his skill as a poet, and his rich, ready, and glowing eloquence."

The Hon. R. T. Conrad then addressed the company, as follows:

"To those who are acquainted with the gentleman who has just taken
his seat, no act of generosity or kindness coming from him can be
wholly unexpected. I will not, therefore, plead, in extenuation of
my inability to return a suitable acknowledgment, the surprise which
his flattering reference to me, and the still more flattering manner
in which that reference was received, have excited. I may, however,
regret that the excess of his kindness deprives me of the power of
speaking the gratitude which it inspires,--gratitude which is only
rendered more profound by a consciousness that his praises are partial
and undeserved. The excitement which, when tranquil, fans and kindles
expression, when turbulent, overwhelms and extinguishes it. I feel this
on the present occasion. The compliment is not only beyond my ambition,
but beyond my strength. It comes to me as Jupiter did to the ambitious
beauty of old, consuming while it embraces. I am not, however, so
completely consumed in my blushes but that enough of me is left to say
to the gentleman who has done me this honor, and to the company who
joined in it, that I thank him and them most sincerely.

"Mr. McMichael has alluded to my former connection with the drama. The
memory of friendship alone could have retained or revived a thought
of my humble association, at an earlier period of my life, with the
literature of the stage. To me the recollection of those studies will
ever be grateful. Even the severest and most ascetic student can have
no reason to regret the time spent in the contemplation of the rich
stores of the British drama. He who has dwelt amid its glorious
structures--who has had the wizard spell of its mighty masters thrown
over his spirit--can never recur to it without enjoyment. Years may
pass over him, and the current of life drift him far away from those
pursuits, but, when recalled by an occasion like the present, he will
come back to them with all his former feelings,--

          'Feelings long subdued,
  Subdued, but cherished long.'

He will find all its haunted paths familiar to him, and the flowers
that bloom around those paths as fresh and as bright as when they first
sprang forth at the call of genius. Its ancient and lofty halls will
ring with the old and well-known voices, and its gorgeous and grotesque
creations pass before him like things of life and substance, rather
than the airy nothings of the imagination. If such be its ordinary
magic, how potent is the spell when the vision becomes half real; when
the leaves of the drama, like the written responses of the ancient
oracles, flutter with supernatural life; when the figures start from
the lifeless canvas and live and move and have their being in the
mighty art of a Forrest! Who that has stepped within the charmed circle
traced by his wand would sell the memory of its delight?

  'His is the spell o'er hearts
    Which only acting lends,
  The youngest of the sister arts,
    Where all their beauty blends:
  For poetry can ill express
    Full many a tone of thought sublime,
  And painting, mute and motionless,
    Steals but a glance of time.
  But by the mighty actor brought,
    Illusion's perfect triumphs come,
  Verse ceases to be airy thought,
    And sculpture to be dumb.'"

Mr. Conrad, with an allusion to the Hon. Joseph R. Chandler, gave this

"_The Press_--The source and safeguard of social order, freedom, and

Mr. Chandler said,--

"In the concluding portion of the remarks of the gentleman who
immediately preceded me, there was an allusion to my early acquaintance
with the distinguished guest of the evening. The gentleman was right,
sir. I can boast a long acquaintance with our guest, and an early
appreciation of those talents which have so often delighted us, and
which have led their possessor to his present eminence. I was among
those who witnessed the scene which has been so graphically described
by the gentleman himself, and among those who, having such ample means,
prophesied that success which has been attained; and I now see around
me many who are gratified this evening at the full evidence of their
prophecy's fulfilment.

"For more than twenty years, sir, I have had occasion to mark the
progress of our guest. I hope that the new relations into which that
gentleman has entered will not make offensive the unfortunate extent of
my reminiscence; it includes only a part of the years of my manhood,
while it extends far down into his boyhood. It extends to a time when
the first bud of his professional greatness began to blow; but even
then what struck his admirers as a new development could not have been
new to him,--an earlier love of the profession must have begotten some
consciousness of latent talent,--and when has a love of a pursuit,
and a consciousness of powers to prosecute it, failed to give hopes
of success? Well, sir, step by step has that gentleman ascended the
ladder, until he has reached the topmost round; and now, from the proud
eminence which he has attained, he invites us to look back with him,
and to glory in the means whereby he did ascend. Sir, he may glory in
them; and we, as his friends, may join in the felicitation. Steady and
rapid as has been that ascent, there is none to complain. The hundreds
of his profession whom he has passed in his upward flight have cheered
him on, and rejoiced in his success, as the deservings of talent and
toil. No envious actor repines at his lower station, but all feel that
their profession is honored in the achievements of its most successful

"But, sir, I feel that the object of this delightful festival is not
to reward the brilliant achievements of a performer: proud as we may
be, as Philadelphians, of his success, we have a higher motive; we
feel, and would by these ceremonies express, that our townsman has
successfully trod a path dangerous to all, and that green as is the
chaplet which he has acquired as an actor, its beauty and redolence are
derived from his virtues as a _man_. The credit of high professional
excellence is awarded, and the man admired,--that in the case of our
honored guest it has served to give exercise to the virtues of the
citizen, the friend, and the relative.

"On another, a former occasion, I united with many citizens now here in
a festival to a gentleman of eminence as an actor and of high credit
as a dramatic author. I allude to Mr. Knowles. The hospitalities of
the evening were acknowledged by the recipient, and were made most
gratifying to those who extended them. But how different were they from
those of this occasion! They lacked the interest of early associations,
the sympathy of common citizenship: the fame we celebrated was great,
but it was not _our own_. The occasion then was not like _this_; we
come here not to be hospitable, nor to extend courtesy to a stranger.
We come to express an appreciation of talent, our respects for
faculties nobly but meekly borne, our gratitude for true Americanism
exhibited abroad, and our appreciation of the gentleman at home,--to
say to the world that even as a stranger they may applaud the actor in
proportion to his deservings, because here at home, where he is fully
known, the _man_ is loved.

"Sir, alone and unaided has Forrest gained his present eminence, by
the ascending power of talents and perseverance alone; the press has
found time only to record his conquests of fame, and this festival is
the _spontaneous_ offering of admiring citizens to one of their number,
who, in doing so much for himself, has reflected honor on them.

"The Philadelphia press, however, sir, will ever feel it a duty to find
it a pleasure to encourage talents of a high order, and to promote
their appreciation and reward. I speak the more confidently, as I stand
among those of its directors who are concerned themselves in such a
course, and who feel their responsibility in this respect to society."

Richard Penn Smith responded to a toast with much felicity. He said
"he recalled with pleasure his intercourse with Mr. Forrest, for whom
he wrote his tragedy entitled _Caius Marius_, but regretted that even
the transcendent talents of his friend could not save his hero from
perishing among the ruins of Carthage."

Mr. Smith said that "on such an occasion it would be unpardonable
to overlook one who stood foremost in the ranks of our dramatic
writers,--a gentleman who had distinguished himself by his various
talents as an artist and an author, and whose dramatic works would
ultimately secure him an enviable fame." He referred to Wm. Dunlap, of
New York, and read the following letter:

  "NEW YORK, December 11th, 1837.

"GENTLEMEN,--I received, on the evening of the 9th instant, your
polite letter, doing me the honor of requesting my presence at a
public dinner to be given to Edwin Forrest on the 15th instant.
Nothing but the progress of winter, which I see around me, and feel
within, could prevent my testifying in person how highly I appreciate
the invitation of the committee and the gentleman to whom the public
mark of esteem is to be given. Permit me to offer a toast:

"The American Actor, who, both in public and private life, upholds the
honor of his country,--Edwin Forrest.


"Mr. President," said Mr. Smith, "I will offer you a toast, which I
have no doubt will be cordially responded to,--

"_William Dunlap_--The Nestor of the American Drama. May he live to see
the edifice become what his foundation promised!"

The President called upon Mr. Charles Ingersoll, chairman of the
Committee of Invitation, for a sentiment, to which Mr. Ingersoll

"MR. CHAIRMAN,--I have been desired by the committee to propose the
health of a gentleman who is among us,--a friend of our immediate
guest,--who has left his business in a sister city to comply with their
invitation to give us his presence to-day,--a gentleman well known in
the department of letters, as our guest upon your right is in that of
the drama, as peculiarly and characteristically American. We are met to
congratulate upon his successes a man radically American. The occasion
is, therefore, appropriate to the cultivation of nationality,--a virtue
which, though it is said to have grown into a weed in our political
and individual relations, we have never been accused of fostering
overmuch in literature and the arts; and he who cultivates it there
deserves our signal approbation. Short of that illiberality which
impedes the march of improvement, let us cherish a partiality, an
honest, homely prejudice, for what is our own. To know ourselves is not
the whole circle of wisdom; we must love ourselves too. Who sees an
American audience crowd to an American play and turn from Shakspeare
to call for Metamora and the Gladiator, and does not acknowledge in
this fond prejudice the germ of excellence? Patriotism itself is a
blind preference of our own earth; and shall there be no patriotism in
letters? Take from Walter Scott his local prepossessions,--his Scotch
kings, Scotch hills, Scotchmen, and the round of characters that he
carries with him to all times and all places wherever his scene be
laid,--deprive him, in a word, of his nationality, and what is he?
Cut from his harp his own strings, and where is his music? There is
no virtue without excess; such is human imperfection. Give us, then,
_nationality_, which is but a phase of patriotic feeling; give us
excess of it. Let us love the yet barren hills of our own literature,
and we shall learn to make them wave and smile with harvests. Let our
authors, like the gentleman we are about to drink to, strike their
roots into their native soil and spread themselves to their native sun,
and, like him, they will flourish. I propose

"A health and a hearty welcome to Mr. Leggett, whose pen, pointed
by a genius that is his own, is directed by a heart that is all his

Mr. Leggett said, that "to be complimented on such an occasion, and by
such an assemblage, with a particular notice, was an honor to which
he knew not how to reply. The courteous hospitality which made him a
partaker with them in their festal ovation to his distinguished friend
was an honor so far beyond his deserts as to call for his warmest
acknowledgments. But 'the exchequer of the poor,' thanks alone,
contained no coin which he dared offer in requital of the obligation
they had conferred.

"It is often lamented" (Mr. L. remarked) "that the actor's art, though
more impressive in its instant effects than painting or sculpture,
stamps no enduring memorial of its excellence, and that its highest
achievements soon fade from recollection, or survive only in its
vague and traditionary report. This complaint did not seem to him
altogether just. We best know how to estimate causes from the effects
they produce. The consequences of actions are their most lasting and
authentic chroniclers. What portrait, or what statue, could have
conveyed to us so exalted a notion of the loveliness of Helen of Troy
as the ten years' war provoked by her fatal charms? What 'storied urn
or animated bust' could have perpetuated the memory of Roscius like the
honors bestowed on him by the Roman Senate, the eulogium of Cicero, and
the tears--more eloquent than words--shed by that immortal orator upon
his grave?

"When I look around me, and behold this capacious hall thronged with
men eminent for station, admired for talent, and valued for various
private worth, and when I reflect on the object which convenes them
here, I cannot admit the peculiar perishableness of the actor's fame, I
cannot admit that he merely 'struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
and then is heard no more.' You have reared a monument to one actor, at
least, gentlemen, which will long commemorate his greatness, and convey
to your children, and your children's children, a lively impression of
the genius and virtues which elicited so proud and enviable a tribute!"

Mr. Leggett returned his sincere thanks for the honor of inscribing
his name on so enduring a record, and said he was proud to have it
associated with the proceedings of that day.

In conclusion, he asked the company to fill their glasses to the
following sentiment:

"_Philadelphia_--The Rome of the new world in this, that she has given
a second Roscius to mankind, while another of her sons bids fair to win
for her Athenian distinction by rivalling the fame of Æschylus."

Passing over the other speeches as of little interest now, it may
be well to state that among the letters of excuse read was one from
Washington Irving, regretting that it was not in his "power to join
in this well-merited tribute to theatrical genius and private worth;"
one from William Cullen Bryant, saying that it would give him "the
greatest pleasure to unite in any testimony to the professional merit
and personal worth of Mr. Forrest;" one from John P. Kennedy, who
"would rejoice in such an opportunity to acknowledge his share of the
indebtedness which the country at large owes to a gentleman whose
fame in his profession has become common property;" and one from the
celebrated player W. E. Burton, enclosing this happy toast: "The
Stage of Life,--although cast into inferior parts at the commencement,
industry and perseverance may eventually place us in the principal
characters. May we be found perfect at the conclusion of the play!"

Songs and music were interspersed among the addresses, the famous
vocalist Henry Russell singing several of his most exquisite ballads
with unrivalled effect; and the occasion, altogether, was one of
unclouded enjoyment in the passage and of lasting satisfaction in the

Forrest now purchased a house in New York, and established his home
there. He took a pew in the church of the Rev. Orville Dewey, the
brilliant Unitarian divine, on whose pulpit ministrations he was for a
series of years a regular attendant whenever he was in the city. The
attraction of this extremely original and eloquent preacher had drawn
together the most intellectual and cultivated congregation in New
York; and his influence, silently and in many an unrecognized channel,
has been diffusing itself ever since. The bold, rational, poetic,
yet profoundly tender and devout style of thought and speech which
characterized the sermons of Dewey had a great charm for Forrest, and
they were never forgotten by him. He always believed in a God whose
will is revealed in the laws of the material universe, and in the
rightful order of human life, and he bowed in reverence at the thought
of this mysterious Being, though often perplexed with doubts as to
particular doctrines, and always a sworn enemy to religious dogmatism.

The next event which interrupted the regular movement of his
professional and private life was the delivery of the oration at the
celebration, in the city of New York, of the sixty-second anniversary
of the Declaration of the Independence of the United States. The
celebration was held under the auspices of the Democratic party. Party
feeling was intense at the time, and to be the orator of the day on
the Fourth of July, in the chief metropolis of the land, was an honor
greatly coveted. The choice of Forrest showed the estimation in which
he was held, while, on the other hand, his personal celebrity and
magnetism lent unusual interest to the occasion. The popular desire
to hear him had been fed and fanned to the highest pitch by the
opposing newspaper comments, called out by the singular incident of
a political party selecting a tragedian as their orator. The services
were held in the old Broadway Tabernacle. Five thousand tickets of
admission had been given out, but the multitude rushed resistlessly
in, regardless of tickets, till the enormous building was stuffed to
suffocation. The oration, in its sentiments, its style, its delivery,
was extraordinarily successful. It was hailed with the most extravagant
admiration and praise. In thought and feeling it was really creditable
to its author, but its fervid rhetorical sentences and popular temper
were so exactly suited to the tastes of those who heard it, that their
estimate of its literary rank and philosophic value was stimulated
to a level that must seem amusing to any sober judge of such things.
The author's own opinion of it was modest enough, as appeared in
the apologetic preface he prefixed to it when published. Yet it
expressed his honest convictions and those of his auditors with so
much picturesque vigor, and those convictions were so generous and so
genuinely American, that the popularity of the oration was no matter of
wonder. It was printed in full in numerous journals, and many thousands
of copies in pamphlet form were distributed. Two or three extracts from
it are appended, to serve as specimens of its quality and indications
of the mind and heart of the author.

"FELLOW-CITIZENS,--We are met this day to celebrate the most august
event which ever constituted an epoch in the political annals of
mankind. The ordinary occasions of public festivals and rejoicings lie
at an infinite depth below that which convenes us here. We meet not in
honor of a victory achieved on the crimson field of war; not to triumph
in the acquisitions of rapine; nor to commemorate the accomplishment
of a vain revolution which but substituted one dynasty of tyrants for
another. No glittering display of military pomp and pride, no empty
pageant of regal grandeur, allures us hither. We come not to daze our
eyes with the lustre of a diadem, placed, with all its attributes of
tremendous power, on the head of a being as weak, as blind, as mortal
as ourselves. We come not to celebrate the birthday of a despot, but
the birthday of a nation; not to bow down in senseless homage before a
throne founded on the prostrate rights of man, but to stand erect in
the conscious dignity of equal freedom and join our voices in the loud
acclaim now swelling from the grateful hearts of fifteen millions of
men in acknowledgment of the glorious charter of liberty our fathers
this day proclaimed to the world.

"How simple, how sublime, is the occasion of our meeting! This vast
assemblage is drawn together to solemnize the anniversary of an event
which appeals not to their senses nor to their passions, but to
their reason; to triumph at a victory, not of might, but of right;
to rejoice in the establishment, not of physical dominion, but of an
abstract proposition. We are met to celebrate the declaration of that
inestimable principle which asserts the political equality of mankind.
We are met in honor of the promulgation of that charter by which we
are recognized as joint sovereigns of an empire of freemen; holding
our sovereignty by a right indeed divine,--the immutable, eternal,
irresistible right of self-evident truth. We are met, fellow-citizens,
to commemorate the laying of the corner-stone of democratic liberty.

"Threescore years and two have now elapsed since our fathers ventured
on the grand experiment of freedom. The nations of the earth heard
with wonder the startling principle they asserted, and watched the
progress of their enterprise with doubt and apprehension. The heart of
the political philanthropist throbbed with anxiety for the result; the
down-trodden victims of oppression scarce dared to lift their eyes in
hope of a successful termination, while they knew that failure would
more strongly rivet their chains; and the despots of the Old World,
from their 'bad eminences,' gloomily looked on, aghast with rage
and terror, and felt that a blow had been struck which loosened the
foundation of their thrones.

"The event illustrates what ample cause there was for the prophetic
tremors which thrilled to the soul of arbitrary power. Time has stamped
the attestation of its signet on the success of the experiment, and
the fabric then erected now stands on the strong basis of established
truth, the mark and model of the world. The vicissitudes of threescore
years, while they have shaken to the centre the artificial foundations
of other governments, have but demonstrated the solidity of the simple
and natural structure of democratic freedom. The lapse of time, while
it dims the light of false systems, has continually augmented the
brightness of that which glows with the inherent and eternal lustre of
reason and justice. New stars, from year to year, emerging with perfect
radiance in the western horizon, have increased the benignant splendor
of that constellation which now shines the political guiding light of
the world.

"How grand in their simplicity are the elementary propositions on
which our edifice of freedom is erected! A few brief, self-evident
axioms furnish the enduring basis of political institutions which
harmoniously accomplish all the legitimate purposes of government to
fifteen millions of people. The natural equality of man; the right of
a majority to govern; their duty so to govern as to preserve inviolate
the sacred obligations of equal justice, with no end in view but the
protection of life, property, and social order, leaving opinion free as
the wind which bloweth where it listeth: these are the plain, eternal
principles on which our fathers reared that temple of true liberty
beneath whose dome their children congregate this day to pour out their
hearts in gratitude for the precious legacy. Yes! on the everlasting
rock of truth the shrine is founded where we worship freedom; and

              'When the sweeping storm of time
  Has sung its death-dirge o'er the ruined fanes
  And broken altars of the mighty fiend
  Whose name usurps her honors, and the blood,
  Through centuries clotted there, has floated down
  The tainted flood of ages,'--

that shrine shall stand, unshaken by the beating surge of change, and
only washed to purer whiteness by the deluge that overwhelms all other
political fabrics.

"To the genius of Bacon the world is indebted for emancipating
philosophy from the subtleties of the schoolmen, and placing her
securely on the firm basis of ascertained elementary truth, thence to
soar the loftiest flights on the unfailing pinions of induction and
analogy. To the genius of Jefferson--to the comprehensive reach and
fervid patriotism of his mind--we owe a more momentous obligation. What
Bacon did for natural science, Jefferson did for political morals, that
important branch of ethics which most directly affects the happiness
of all mankind. He snatched the art of government from the hands that
had enveloped it in sophisms and mysteries that it might be made an
instrument to oppress the many for the advantage of the few. He
stripped it of the jargon by which the human mind had been deluded
into blind veneration for kings as the immediate vicegerents of God
on earth; and proclaimed in words of eloquent truth, which thrilled
conviction to every heart, those eternal self-evident first principles
of justice and reason on which alone the fabric of government should be
reared. He taught those 'truths of power in words immortal' you have
this day heard; words which bear the spirit of great deeds; words which
have sounded the death-dirge of tyranny to the remotest corners of the
earth; which have roused a sense of right, a hatred of oppression, an
intense yearning for democratic liberty, in myriads of myriads of human
hearts; and which, reverberating through time like thunder through the
sky, will,

      'in the distance far away,
  Wake the slumbering ages.'

"To Jefferson belongs exclusively and forever the high renown of having
framed the glorious charter of American liberty. This was the grandest
experiment ever undertaken in the history of man. But they that
entered upon it were not afraid of new experiments, if founded on the
immutable principles of right and approved by the sober convictions of
reason. There were not wanting then, indeed, as there are not wanting
now, pale counsellors to fear, who would have withheld them from the
course they were pursuing, because it tended in a direction hitherto
untrod. But they were not to be deterred by the shadowy doubts and
timid suggestions of craven spirits, content to be lashed forever round
the same circle of miserable expedients, perpetually trying anew the
exploded shifts which had always proved lamentably inadequate before.
To such men the very name of experiment is a sound of horror. It is a
spell which conjures up gorgons, hydras, and chimeras dire. They seem
not to know that all that is valuable in life--that the acquisitions of
learning, the discoveries of science, and the refinements of art--are
the result of experiment. It was experiment that bestowed on Cadmus
those keys of knowledge with which we unlock the treasure-houses of
immortal mind. It was experiment that taught Bacon the futility of
the Grecian philosophy, and led him to that heaven-scaling method of
investigation and analysis on which science has safely climbed to
the proud eminence where now she sits, dispensing her blessings on
mankind. It was experiment that lifted Newton above the clouds and
darkness of this visible diurnal sphere, enabling him to explore the
sublime mechanism of the stars and weigh the planets in their eternal
rounds. It was experiment that nerved the hand of Franklin to snatch
the thunder from the armory of heaven. It was experiment that gave this
hemisphere to the world. It was experiment that gave this continent to

"Let us not be afraid, then, to try experiments merely because they
are new, nor lavish upon aged error the veneration due only to truth.
Let us not be afraid to follow reason, however far she may diverge
from the beaten path of opinion. All the inventions which embellish
life, all the discoveries which enlarge the field of human happiness,
are but various results of the bold experimental exercise of that
distinguishing attribute of man. It was the exercise of reason that
taught our sires those simple elements of freedom on which they founded
their stupendous structure of empire. The result is now before mankind,
not in the embryo form of doubtful experiment; not as the mere theory
of visionary statesmen, or the mad project of hot-brained rebels: it
is before them in the beautiful maturity of established fact, attested
by sixty-two years of national experience, and witnessed throughout
its progress by an admiring world! Where does the sun, in all his
compass, shed his beams on a country freer, better, happier than this?
Where does he behold more diffused prosperity, more active industry,
more social harmony, more abiding faith, hope, and charity? Where are
the foundations of private right more stable, or the limits of public
order more inviolately observed? Where does labor go to his toil with
an alerter step, or an erecter brow, effulgent with the heart-reflected
light of conscious independence? Where does agriculture drive his team
a-field with a more cheery spirit, in the certain assurance that the
harvest is his own? Where does commerce launch more boldly her bark
upon the deep, aware that she has to strive but with the tyranny of the
elements, and not with the more appalling tyranny of man?

       *       *       *       *       *

"The day is past forever when religion could have feared the
consequences of freedom. In what other land do so many heaven-pointing
spires attest the devotional habits of the people? In what other land
is the altar more faithfully served, or its fires kept burning with a
steadier lustre? Yet the temples in which we worship are not founded
on the violated rights of conscience, but erected by willing hands;
the creed we profess is not dictated by arbitrary power, but is the
spontaneous homage of our hearts; and religion, viewing the prodigious
concourse of her voluntary followers, has reason to bless the
auspicious influence of democratic liberty and universal toleration.
She has reason to exclaim, in the divine language of Milton, 'though
all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so
truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting,
to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple! for who
ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Her
confuting is the best and surest suppressing.' The soundness of this
glorious text of religious liberty has now been approved to the world
by the incontestable evidence of our national experience, since it is
one of those 'columns of true majesty' on which our political fabric
stands. Let bigotry and intolerance turn their lowering eyes to our
bright example, and learn the happy, thrice happy consequences, both
to politics and religion, from placing an insuperable bar to that
incestuous union, from which, in other lands, such a direful brood of
error's monstrous shapes have sprung.

"It is one of the admirable incidents of democracy, that it tends,
with a constant influence, to equalize the external condition of man.
Perfect equality, indeed, is not within the reach of human effort.

  'Order is heaven's first law, and, this confest,
   Some are and must be greater than the rest,--
   More rich, more wise.'

"Strength must ever have an advantage over weakness; sagacity over
simplicity; wisdom over ignorance. This is according to the ordination
of nature, and no institutions of man can repeal the decree. But
the inequality of society is greater than the inequality of nature;
because it has violated the first principle of justice, which nature
herself has inscribed on the heart,--the equality, not of physical or
intellectual condition, but of moral rights. Let us then hasten to
retrace our steps wherein we have strayed from this golden rule of
democratic government. This only is wanting to complete the measure of
our national felicity.

"There is no room to fear that persuasion to this effect, though urged
with all the power of logic and all the captivating arts of rhetoric,
by lips more eloquent than those which address you now, will lead
too suddenly to change. Great changes in social institutions, even
of acknowledged errors, cannot be instantly accomplished without
endangering those boundaries of private right which ought to be held
inviolate and sacred. Hence it happily arises that the human mind
entertains a strong reluctance to violent transitions, not only where
the end is doubtful, but where it is clear as the light of day and
beautiful as the face of truth; and it is only when the ills of society
amount to tyrannous impositions that this aversion yields to a more
powerful incentive of conduct. Then leaps the sword of revolution from
its scabbard, and a passage to reformation is hewn out through blood.
But how blest is our condition, that such a resort can never be needed!
'Peace on earth, and good will among men,' are the natural fruits of
our political system. The gentle weapon of suffrage is adequate for
all the purposes of freemen. From the armory of opinion we issue forth
in coat of mail more impenetrable than ever cased the limbs of warrior
on the field of sanguinary strife. Our panoply is of surest proof, for
it is supplied by reason. Armed with the ballot, a better implement of
warfare than sword of the 'icebrook's temper,' we fight the sure fight,
relying with steadfast faith on the intelligence and virtue of the
majority to decide the victory on the side of truth. And should error
for awhile carry the field by his stratagems, his opponents, though
defeated, are not destroyed: they rally again to the conflict, animated
with the strong assurance of the ultimate prevalence of right.

  'Truth crushed to earth shall rise again;
    The eternal years of God are hers;
  But error wounded writhes in pain,
    And dies among his worshippers.'

"What bounds can the vision of the human mind descry to the spread of
American greatness, if we but firmly adhere to those first principles
of government, which have already enabled us, in the infancy of
national existence, to vie with the proudest of the century-nurtured
states of Europe? The Old World is cankered with the diseases of
political senility and cramped by the long-worn fetters of tyrannous
habit. But the empire of the West is in the bloom and freshness of
being. Its heart is unseared by the prejudices of 'damned custom;' its
intellect unclouded by the sophisms of ages. From its borders, kissed
by the waves of the Atlantic, to

                'The continuous woods
  Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound
  Save his own dashing;'

from the inland oceans of the North, to the sparkling surface of the
tropical sea, rippled by breezes laden with the perfumes of eternal
summer, our vast theatre of national achievement extends. What a course
is here for the grand race of democratic liberty! Within these limits a
hundred millions of fellow-beings may find ample room and verge enough
to spread themselves and grow up to their natural eminence. With a
salubrious clime to invigorate them with health, and a generous soil to
nourish them with food; with the press--that grand embalmer not of the
worthless integuments of mortality, but of the offsprings of immortal
mind--to diffuse its vivifying and ennobling influences over them; with
those admirable results of inventive genius to knit them together, by
which space is deprived of its power to bar the progress of improvement
and dissipate the current of social amity; with a political faith which
acknowledges as its fundamental maxim the golden rule of Christian
ethics, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you;' with these
means, and the constantly-increasing dignity of character which results
from independence, what bounds can be set to the growth of American
greatness? A hundred millions of happy people! A hundred millions of
co-sovereigns, recognizing no law but the recorded will of a majority;
no end of law but mutual and equal good; no superior but God alone!"

The keen admiration for Forrest prevalent among the democratic masses
had already led to frequent suggestions of him as a candidate for
political honors. His appointment as orator quickened the scent of
friends and foes in this direction. In the public prints the thought
of his nomination was advocated by some and satirized by others. The
following paragraph gives a glimpse into the life of the time:

"There is talk of sending our tragedian to Washington, to act a real
part on the political stage. By all means. Look at the play-writers
in Parliament,--Sheridan, Bulwer, Shiel, Talfourd! Our friend Knowles
is spoken of for a seat in the Commons. Why not Forrest? Down with
all illiberality, we say, in such matters. Let Forrest have a seat
in Congress. We like variety. And in these dog-days we like a little
frolic and fun, and insist upon a thundering audience for the oration
to begin with, and then we will clear the way for the Congressional
election. But fair and softly: what are we to do with his friend
Leggett? They cannot be separated: they must go together, like two
figs in a jar. If Forrest has a seat in Congress, Leggett must have a
stool near him. He can have a seat like a delegate, you know, from a
Territory, having a voice but no vote. We can manage that. He can go
from Coney Island without opposition, and it is essentially necessary
that he should go. Suppose Forrest should break down in a speech on the
Northeastern boundary, on the currency, on the Western land interests,
or on any other great constitutional or legal question, he has only to
turn round to his friend and say, in that remarkably silver voice of
his, '_York, you are wanted!_'"

Some scurrilous spirits charged that the oration delivered by Forrest
was not his own composition, but was furnished by his friend Leggett.
Leggett immediately published a point-blank denial, and affirmed that
he had nothing whatever to do with it. In a short time the anticipated
move was made; and, after careful consideration, it received the
following reply:

  "PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 17th, 1838.


"GENTLEMEN,--The circular letter addressed to me by you as Chairman
and Secretaries of the New York Democratic Republican Nominating
Committee for nominating Representatives to Congress, reached me
just as I was leaving the city, and I embrace the earliest moment of
leisure since my arrival here to write you in reply.

"To the first question proposed by the Nominating Committee, I take
great pleasure in returning an affirmative answer. The complete
separation of the political affairs of the country from the private
interests of trade, and especially from those of corporate banking
institutions, I regard as a consummation greatly to be desired by
every friend of popular government and of the equal rights of man. I
have already, on a recent public occasion, expressed my sentiments on
this subject, in general terms indeed, but with an earnestness which,
in some measure, may have evinced how deeply-seated is my dread of the
selfish and encroaching spirit of traffic, and of the aristocratic
character and tendency of chartered monopolies, wielding, almost
without responsibility, the fearful instrument of associated wealth.
Not only do I approve most cordially the plan of the administration
for an independent treasury, and the separation of Bank and State, but
fervently do I hope that the same democratic principles of legislation
may guide the action of every member of the confederacy until, at no
distant day, the last link shall be sundered which now, in any portion
of this republic, holds the general and equal good of the community in
fatal subserviency to the sordid interests of a few.

"To the first branch of your second question, also, I respond in the
affirmative; and so strong is my desire for the success of those
measures in support of which the Democracy is now contending, that,
although my professional engagements will call me, at the time of the
election, to a distance from the city of New York, I shall not let a
very considerable pecuniary sacrifice deter me from visiting it during
the three days, that my ballot may swell the majority which, I trust,
the Democracy of the metropolis of the Empire State will give on the
side of those contested principles which seem to me to lie at the very
foundation of popular liberty and to be essential to the permanency of
our political fabric.

"But to your last inquiry,--while impressed with a lively sense of
gratitude to those who have deemed my name worthy to be placed among
the number from which you are to select persons to discharge the
important duty of representatives to the national legislature,--I am
constrained to offer you a negative reply.

"It was intimated to me, when I was honored with an invitation to
pronounce an address before the Democracy of New York on the late
Anniversary of our Independence, that my name might possibly be
afterwards put in nomination on the list of candidates for Congress.
While I consented, promptly and cheerfully, to deliver the oration,
I at the same time explicitly disclaimed any ulterior views. The
duties of legislation, I thought, could not be adequately discharged
without more preparatory study and reflection than I had yet found
time to bestow upon the subject, and I felt unwilling to owe to the
misjudging partiality of my fellow-citizens an honor due to the merits
of some worthier man, as sincere in the cause of Democracy as myself,
and more able to do it service. My plans had also been arranged to
pursue my present profession for a few years longer, during which time
I hoped that the sedulous devotion of my leisure to political study
and observation might render me more capable, should I hereafter be
called to any public trust, of filling it with credit to myself and
advantage to the community. These are the views which I expressed in
reply to the committee by whom I was invited to deliver an oration on
the Fourth of July; and by these views my mind continues to be swayed.
I therefore, gratefully acknowledging the partial kindness of that
estimate of my talents and character which placed my name before you,
respectfully decline being a candidate for nomination.

  "With much consideration,
    "I have the honor to be, etc.,

The "Broker of Bogota" was in many respects the most meritorious of
all the prize-plays elicited by Forrest. It was written by Robert
Montgomery Bird, but was of a wholly different order from his other
tragedies. Brought out first in 1834 with marked success, it had
been suffered to lie in neglect for some time, both because of the
difficulty of finding satisfactory performers for the secondary parts
in it, and because the piece, while especially admired by refined
and cultivated judges, lacked those showy scenes and exciting points
which attract the crowd. But it was ever a particular favorite with
Forrest himself, who always delighted to play it, and always spoke of
it with enthusiasm and with deep regret that it was so much too fine
for his average audiences that he was obliged largely to lay it aside
for noisier and more glaring performances with not one tithe of its
merit. Having taken unwearied pains to perfect himself even to the
very minutest details in the representation of the title-rôle, he now
reproduced this play, and continued occasionally to repeat it, wherever
he felt confident of an appreciative audience, up to his last year upon
the stage. In the series of plays with which the name of Forrest is
identified, this one is of so unique a character that we must try to
give some distinctive idea of it; though it is difficult to do so.

The great passions of patriotism, liberty, ambition, revenge, public
spirit and enterprise, with their imposing accompaniments of conflict
and spectacle, are wholly absent from the piece. And yet it was
written expressly for Forrest, and by one who knew him in his inmost
peculiarities. And, despite the seeming strangeness of the assertion,
he never appeared in a part better fitted to his true being. It is a
purely domestic drama, a drama of individual and family affections and
trials. Its delineation was a dissection of the human heart in its
most common and familiar elements, only carried by circumstances to an
extreme intensity.

Baptista Febro is an old man doing a large business in Bogota as a
banker, conveyancer, money-lender, and legatee. He is widely known
and respected for his ability and his scrupulous integrity; he is
honest, frank, and humble to his employers; nevertheless imperative in
his family, though just and kind. The two pre-eminent passions which
dominate him are his personal honor and his parental affection. His
daughter Leonor is devotedly attached to her father; but his son Ramon
is a dissipated and ungrateful youth, whose vicious ways cause the
old man the keenest anguish. Febro turns his son away and refuses him
support, hoping by the consequent distress to lead him to repentance
and reformation. His heart torn with anxiety and bleeding with wounded
love, he watches for some signal of improvement or some overture for
reconciliation from his prodigal boy; but in vain. Ramon meanwhile, who
is more weak than wicked, is the helpless tool of an abandoned young
noble, Caberero, whom he has taken for a friend. Caberero is a cool,
dashing villain, utterly without conscience or fear, a brilliant and
hardened scoundrel, who fairly illuminates with his lurid deviltry
every scene in which he appears. Febro, learning these facts, sends
for Caberero and has a personal interview with him. He first attempts
to hire Caberero to give up his intimacy with Ramon and leave the
young man in freedom to follow the promptings of his own better nature
and the solicitations of his father. The contrast of the invulnerable
insolence of the rascal, his shameless betrayal of his own unprincipled
character and habits, with the earnest affection and simple sincerity
and honorable concern which agitated the old man, was a moral lesson of
the strongest kind, set in a dramatic picture of the finest art. Then,
finding all efforts at persuasion useless, the scorn and indignation of
the righteous man and the injured father gradually mount in his blood
till they break out in a paralyzing explosion of gesture and speech.
Towering in the grandeur of his own moral passion, and backed by that
dynamic atmosphere, of public opinion which invisibly enspheres the
good man pitted against the scoundrel, the broker makes the noble cower
and flee before the storm of his angry contempt.

Ramon is slowly driven to desperation by his vices and their natural
fruits. Caberero, malignantly resenting the denunciation and disdain of
Febro, resolves to break into his vaults and rob him of his deposits.
With diabolical ingenuity he entangles Ramon in the plot. They succeed,
and arrange matters so that it seems as if the robbery were a pretence
and a fraud on the part of the broker himself. He is brought before the
viceroy, accused, and condemned. Deprived of his property, of his son,
and, above all of his honor, the unhappy old man is almost crushed;
yet his consciousness of virtue sustains him, and his bearing in the
presence of the real culprits and his deceived judges, marked by every
sign and attribute of conscious rectitude as he appeals to God for his
final vindication, is a most impressive revelation of human nature
in a scene of extraordinary trial. Meanwhile, the shame and grief of
Febro are topped by a new calamity. Tidings are brought him that his
daughter has eloped, and that he is left desolate indeed. But now
Juanna, the betrothed of Ramon, who believes Febro incapable of the
dishonor charged on him, meets the young man and denounces him for not
defending his father. He tells her the facts of the case. Amazed at
such baseness, her conscience treads their troth under foot, and she
spurns the hideous criminal, and flies to the viceroy to vindicate
Febro. There she finds the broker searching for his daughter. Her story
is told and verified. The joy and gratitude and noble pride of the
old man at the removal of the stigma from his name made an exquisite
moral climax. Then it is also announced to him that his daughter is
not lost, but is the honorable wife of the son of the viceroy. This
delightful surprise breaks on his previous pleasure like a new morn
risen on mid-noon. But, alas, his hapless and guilty Ramon,--where is
he? What dreadful fate awaits him? At this moment a messenger enters
with the statement that Ramon, in a revulsion of remorse and despair,
had committed suicide by precipitating himself from a cliff. The sudden
reversal of emotion in the already over-tried Febro is too much; it
snaps the last chord. As if struck in the brain with an invisible but
deadly blow, he gazes first wildly, then vacantly, around, stretches
out his hands in a piteous gesture of supplication, staggers, and falls
lifeless on the floor.

To those who thought of Forrest as heaving the most ponderous bar and
fitted only for the rugged characters of the gymnastic school, his
impersonation of the "Broker of Bogota" was a surprise. There were
no sensational adjuncts in it, no roll of drum, gaudy procession,
or drawing of swords,--nothing but the naked, simple drama of real
life in its familiar course. But he never exhibited a more perfect
piece of professional workmanship. His portraiture of the business
dealings between the upright and courteous old broker and his varied
customers,--the torturing struggle of his sense of justice and his
parental affection,--the withering curse in which his pent agony burst
on the sneering villain in whom he saw the spoiler of his boy,--the
heart-rending wail with which he sorrowed over the sinfulness of his
darling, "Would to Heaven he had never been born!"--the alternating
crisis of suspense and fulfilment as the plot proceeds through gloom
and gleam of crime and innocence to the last awful climax, where the
mystery is transferred from time and human judgment through despair
and death into eternity and to the unknown tribunal there,--all were
represented with the almost microscopic fidelity of a pre-Raphaelite
picture. Nothing seemed wanting, nothing seemed superfluous. Every
tone, every glance, every gesture, every step, contributed towards
shaping out the ideal. The performance bore the impress of a study
as close and patient as that given to a household scene in the
masterpieces of the Dutch school of painting. But to appreciate it as
it deserved there was required an audience of psychologists, critically
interested in the study of human nature, and curious as to its modes
of individual manifestation. The general multitude must feel it to be
rather dull and tiresome. It was in this respect like the "La Civile
Morte" of Salvini, which, though perhaps his most absolutely perfect
piece of acting in its minute truth, was yet felt by many to be
tedious,--by the few to be most marvellous in its fascination.

One of the most striking examples of the skill and power of Forrest as
an artist is given in the distinction he always made in his rendering
of old age as seen respectively in Richelieu, in Lear, and in Febro.
How does he translate the wily craft, the pitilessness, the mocking
tenderness, of the first of these? He does it in so just and human
a manner, with so little of that blunt and electrizing power which
he displays in some other parts, that one who had not seen him in
Lear would be disposed to believe this his greatest representation
of age. The broken yet gigantic power of the old Lear in his fearful
malediction of Goneril is overwhelming, and gives a new idea of the
possible force of an aged and almost worn-out man. Lear is savagely
straightforward and honest. In the first scenes he sweeps the
spectators along with him in his passion and his rage. When maddened by
the injuries of his unnatural children, he still is artful and clear.
His very actions are unmistakable indications of his thoughts, and
the last scene of the tragedy deserves to stand alone as a picture of
suffering age in which past energy and passion spasmodically assert
themselves. Let this be contrasted with the half-simulated decadence
of Richelieu's powers. One feels from the very manner of the artist
that this is but partially real,--that a moment of success may kindle
into new life the man prostrated by bodily weakness. It comes, and
for the moment he looms before us, as if recreated by the success
of the intrigue which makes him again the genuine king of France.
Very different from Richelieu and from Lear is the portrait Forrest
gave of Febro. Here we have hale and honorable age, plain, sincere,
outspoken. There is nothing of the jocularly-dissembling craft of the
cardinal,--nothing of the ferocious passion of the discrowned monarch;
but all of the self-respect and candid bearing of an honorable servant,
the deep affection and authority of a father, and the impulsiveness of
a strong, genuine man. It is a more modest histrionic picture, none the
less true because less majestic.

The reader will be pleased to peruse the following genial critique
on Forrest as the "Broker of Bogota" from the pen of an unnamed but
reflective and tasteful writer, who first saw the play in Washington in

"We are glad that we have seen Forrest in the 'Broker of Bogota.'
His rendering of this conception has given us a nearer and a warmer
view of him. In this impersonation he puts off the armor of sternness
and inflexibility, and lets us into the world of a _heart_ in which
there are green arbors clad with sweet flowers, where lingering
sunlight wanders and happy birds sing. Right glad are we that we have
seen this picture of Forrest, for it has an eloquent breath for our
common humanity. It has given us a glimpse of _his_ nature which long
ago we should have rejoiced to see revealed, but whose richness we
dreamed not was there. What a volume is a man's life! The heart's
story,--always going on, always deepening the great drama of our being
as it progresses to the mortal act,--this story, in a strong inveterate
nature, writes in the public bearing and in all the features that
falsehood as to his sensibilities which the dreadful pen of pride
alone engraves. But we do not complain because the proud man _in the
conflict_ wears this covering of steel. In a mortal struggle with the
world it is often his only safety. Heaven help the weak who falter and
fall among the soft valleys of the heart when there are fastnesses
of strength to scale! We are told of victims fatally poisoned by the
breath of a flower whose fragrance floats at the base of a mountain
where it strikes its roots. That lost one, suffocated by perfume,
and that mountain, emblem of endurance and strength, are fit types
of the thought we would convey. But then we do _not_ love that any
man who towers in influence above his fellows shall go thus to the
grave!--that, like Byron, for example, he shall live in posterity
shamed by a record which is a libel upon the romance of his soul, and
written, too, by his own deathless genius. It is for this reason that
we are glad to have seen Forrest as the 'Broker of Bogota.' Here he
uplifts the veil, tears away the mask, and exhibits the tenderness
which, like a deep vein of gold, is intermixed with the iron in the
mine where his intellect sinks the shaft. Forrest, all of him, his
virtues and his faults, is an American product. He is no common man.
His power has a wider range than is given to that of the mere actor.
This is evident from the fact that all over the nation he elicits the
warmth of the partisan. His friends love him as men love a leader. His
enemies, we think, do not understand him. If apology, therefore, be
needed, thus we have given it for this somewhat personal criticism. We
regard the Broker as Forrest's masterpiece. In it there are vehement
power, flexibility, tenderness, sensibility, and all the light and
shade which belong to our full humanity. The story of the play is the
love of an honest, haughty, avaricious, fond old man for an erring
son, whom he seeks to redeem from dissipation and bad friends. It is
the love of the father for his boy, compared to which his coffers of
gold become as dross in his sight,--always peeping with the eyes of a
dove from the ark of the old man's heart, waiting for the deluge of
evil passions to subside in his child, that the olive-branch may be
wafted to him,--it is this love, sublime in forgiveness, ample for
protection, and which at last breaks his heart, that is so painted
here by the player as to make a dramatic movement of which Shakspeare
might have been the author. And it is this which we have called _the
poem of Forrest's heart_. A man of his intractable mould could not thus
simulate. There is a limit to that sort of power which art cannot pass.
In every detail this picture is so tenderly toned, so livingly brought
from the canvas, that it must be a _real_ revelation."

Another new part which Forrest in 1838 essayed with good success was
that of Claude Melnotte, in the brilliant and popular play of "The Lady
of Lyons," by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. Forrest, never having seen the
play performed, created his rôle afresh, and was the first actor who
ever represented it in America. This drama, as is well known to the
theatrical and reading world, is rich in eloquent language and in the
varied movement and surprises of its plot, shifting from the still
life of the peasant class to the pomp and clang of court and camp.
The hero is the son of a poor gardener, who, in his humble garb and
lot, has a soul full of poetry and aspiration. He falls in love with
the proud Pauline Deschapelles, and writes to her impassioned verses,
which she scorns as coming from one so much beneath her in station.
Claude, half maddened, assumes the dress and rank of the Prince of
Como, and wooes and wins and weds her. Then, revealing his true name
and person, he enlists in the army, goes to the wars, fights his way to
an illustrious renown and the baton of a marshal, returns, and wooes
and wins his bride anew. The whole character and the motives of its
situations differ most widely from all the parts in which Forrest had
gained his celebrity as an actor; and his friends shook their heads
with doubt when he proposed to attempt so novel and foreign a part. But
his intelligence and art proved quite competent to the undertaking. The
transformation he underwent, as shown by his picture when costumed for
the character, is a surprising evidence of his true dramatic faculty.
Instead of the weighty tragedian, whose Romanesque stateliness and
volcanic fire filled out the ideals of Virginius, Brutus, Spartacus,
he became a gay and ardent Frenchman, elastic with ambitious hope
and love. The ponderous gave way to the romantic, declamation to
conversational ease, monotone to graceful variety. The wooing breathed
the music of sincerity, the tones of martial pride rang like a trumpet,
and the gorgeous diction of the speeches never had better justice done
to it. A judicious critic of that day said, "We were never before
so astonished as at the real, genuine triumph of Forrest in Claude
Melnotte,--a part we had imagined so utterly unsuited to his genius. He
made many points of the most effective excellence; one, for example,
was in reading over the letter of Bauseant twice, the first time in
a rapid, half-conscious, half-trusting manner, the second time in a
slow, careful, and soliloquizing style. Nothing could be more natural
than this. But we cannot do justice to the acting, as a whole, in any
words at our command. It was in conception thoroughly studied and yet
easy, consistently wrought out, beautiful from beginning to end, from
the tender enveloping of the form of Pauline in his cloak to the calm
and respectful lifting from the table of the marriage settlement.
The critic who can harshly ridicule such a sincere and remarkable
performance must have in his nature something bitterly hostile to the
actor." Yet it must be confessed, however well the art of Forrest
overcame the difficulties of the rôle, it was not one really suited
to the spontaneities of his nature. The satire of his prejudiced
censors stung him more than the average approval gratified him, and
the performance was year by year less frequently repeated, and finally
was dropped. Still, there were in it many passages exemplifying the
high mission of the drama to refresh, to teach, and to uplift those
who submit themselves to its influence, when an eloquent interpreter
with contagious tones breathes glorious sentiments in charming words.
For instance, what a heavenly revelation and longing must be given by
this speech to souls of imaginative tenderness chafing under the grim
realities of care and hate and neglect!

  "Nay, dearest, nay, if thou wouldst have me paint
   The home to which, could Love fulfil its prayers,
   This hand would lead thee, listen!--A deep vale,
   Shut out by Alpine hills from the rude world;
   Near a clear lake, margined by fruits of gold
   And whispering myrtles; glassing softest skies,
   As cloudless, save with rare and roseate shadows,
   As I would have thy fate!
   A palace lifting to eternal summer
   Its marble walls, from out a glossy bower
   Of coolest foliage musical with birds,
   Whose songs should syllable thy name! At noon
   We'd sit beneath the arching vines, and wonder
   Why Earth could be unhappy, while the heavens
   Still left us youth and love! We'd have no friends
   That were not lovers; no ambition, save
   To excel them all in love; we'd have no books
   That were not tales of love,--that we might smile
   To think how poorly eloquence of words
   Translates the poetry of hearts like ours!
   And when night came, amidst the breathless heavens
   We'd guess what star should be our home when love
   Becomes immortal; while the perfumed light
   Stole through the mists of alabaster lamps,
   And every air was heavy with the sighs
   Of orange-groves, and music from sweet lutes,
   And murmurs of low fountains that gush forth
   I' the midst of roses!--Dost thou like the picture?"

And how, to any susceptible nature not yet deadened with prosaic
conceit, veneered with supercilious knowingness, such a strain as
this, livingly expressed on the stage, would reveal the superiority
of faith and affection to the grinding strifes of material rivalry,
and open that celestial world of the ideal wherein the pauper may be a
millionaire, the drudge an emperor!

  "Pauline, by pride angels have fallen ere thy time: by pride--
   That sole alloy of thy most lovely mould--
   The evil spirit of a bitter love,
   And a revengeful heart, had power upon thee.
   From my first years, my soul was filled with thee:
   I saw thee midst the flowers the lowly boy
   Tended, unmarked by thee,--a spirit of bloom,
   And joy, and freshness, as if Spring itself
   Were made a living thing, and wore thy shape!
   I saw thee, and the passionate heart of man
   Entered the breast of the wild-dreaming boy;
   And from that hour I grew--what to the last
   I shall be--thine adorer! Well,--this love.
   Vain, frantic, guilty, if thou wilt, became
   A fountain of ambition, and a bright hope;
   I thought of tales that by the winter hearth
   Old gossips tell,--how maidens sprung from kings
   Have stooped from their high sphere; how Love, like Death,
   Levels all ranks, and lays the shepherd's crook
   Beside the sceptre. Thus I made my home
   In the soft palace of a fairy Future!
   My father died; and I, the peasant-born,
   Was my own lord. Then did I seek to rise
   Out of the prison of my mean estate,
   And, with such jewels as the exploring Mind
   Brings from the cares of Knowledge, buy my ransom
   From those twin gaolers of the daring heart,--
   Low Birth and iron Fortune. Thy bright image,
   Glassed in my soul, took all the hues of glory,
   And lured me on to those inspiring toils
   By which man masters men! For thee I grew
   A midnight student o'er the dreams of sages!
   For thee I sought to borrow from each Grace,
   And every Muse, such attributes as lend
   Ideal charms to Love. I thought of thee,
   And Passion taught me poesy,--of thee.
   And on the painter's canvas grew the life
   Of beauty!--Art became the shadow
   Of the dear starlight of thy haunting eyes!"

In such examples the speaker behind the footlights becomes a more
thrilling preacher in a more genial pulpit, and teaches, for whoever
will heed, the most precious lessons in our existence.

The tragedy of "Jack Cade, the Bondman of Kent," was written by Robert
T. Conrad, who, in a prefatory note, acknowledges his "indebtedness
to the judgment and taste of Mr. Forrest in its preparation for the
stage," and ascribes "its flattering success at home and abroad to the
eminent genius of that unrivalled tragedian." Conrad took the name of
the despised rebel, cleared it of the odium and calumny with which
four hundred years of fierce prejudice had encrusted it, and presented
the notorious insurrectionary leader not as a vulgar demagogue and a
brutal leveller, but as an avenging patriot, who felt the wrongs of
the down-trodden masses and animated them to assert their rights. In
place of Jack Cade the coarse and contemptible upstart pictured in
Shakspeare, Conrad paints the portrait of Jack Cade the great English
democrat of the fourteenth century. He held that there were good
grounds in historic truth for this view; and, at all events, it was the
only view of the character which his sympathies could embrace and shape
to his purpose of producing a play at once suited to the personality
of Forrest as an actor and constituting an impassioned argument for
democracy. The tragedy is all on fire with democratic conviction and
passion. It breathes throughout the most intense feeling of the wrongs
and claims of the oppressed common people. It is a sort of battle-song
of liberty, written in blood and set to music. If a poetic license, it
was a generous one, thus to attempt to redeem from infamy the leader of
a popular movement against the monstrous kingly, priestly, and baronial
outrages under which the laboring classes had suffered so long, and
attract the admiration of the people to his memory and his cause. Such
was the feeling of Leggett, also, who longed to try his own hand at
a drama on this very theme, but could never quite raise his literary
courage to the point.

The main motive of the tragedy, then, is the exaltation of the
sublimest of mortal aspirations,--the grand idea of popular liberty and
equality--against unjust and cruel prerogative. It is a burning oration
and poem of democracy. It is full of the horrible wrongs of the feudal
system, the dreadful crime and ferocity of the past, but likewise
penetrated and glorified with those thrilling sentiments of justice,
freedom, and humanity which forecast the better ages yet to be. Thus,
while European and retrospective in the revengeful temper that glows
in its situations, it is American and prophetic in the moral and
social coloring which irradiates its plot. And herein is indicated the
secret of its immense popularity. The Jack Cade of Forrest stirred the
great passions in the bosom of the people, swept the chords of their
elementary sympathies with tempestuous and irresistible power. From
the first to the last it secured and maintained a success similar to
that which had previously crowned Metamora and Spartacus. The Lear
of Forrest was the storm, and his Broker of Bogota the rainbow, of
his passion. Othello was his tornado, which, pursuing a level line
of desolation, had on either side an atmosphere of light and love
that illumined its dark wings. Macbeth was his supernatural dream and
entrancement of spasmodic action. Hamlet was his philosophic reverie
and rambling in a charmed circle of the intellect. But Jack Cade was
his incarnate tribuneship of the people, the blazing harangue of a
later Rienzi inflamed by more frightful personal wrongs and inspired
with a more desperate love of liberty. In it he was a sort of dramatic
Demosthenes, rousing the cowardly and slumberous hosts of mankind to
redeem themselves with their own right hands.

The opening of the play brings before us a vivid picture of the
condition of the working-class, and the temper it had engendered; and
at the same time skilfully foreshadows the character of the hero.

 "_The hovels of the bond discovered._ JACK STRAW, DICK PEMBROKE, ROGER
   SUTTON (_bondmen_), _dressed coarsely, with implements of labor, as if
   going to their work_.

  _Straw._ Of corn three stinted measures! And that doled
   With scourge and curse! Rough fare, even for a bondman.

  _Pembroke._ Yet must he feed, from this, his wife and children;
   What if they starve? Courtnay cares not for that.

  _Sutton._ His music is the lash! He makes him merry
   With our miseries. Our lords are hot and harsh,
   Yet are they milder than their mongrel minions.

  _Straw._ I'd cheerly toil, were Courtnay yoked this day
   Unto my plough.

  _Pembroke._ He seizes on the havings,
   The little way-found comforts of the bond,
   Nor vouchsafes e'en a 'Wi' your leave, good man.'

  _Sutton._ Man, matron, maid,--alas that it is so!
   All are their victims.

  _Pembroke._ Would we were not men,
   But brutes,--they are used kindlier!

  _Straw._ Men are we not.
   Brutes only would bear this. Bond have there been
   Who brooked it not.

  _Pembroke._ Who were they?

  _Straw._ Old Cade, one;
   Who struck down the Lord Say,--not this base coystrel,
   Courtnay, but e'en Lord Say,--because he spurned him.

  _Pembroke._ He died for it.

  _Straw._ But what of that? 'Tis better
   To die than thus to live. His stripling son,--
   Young Cade,--remember you Jack Cade?

  _Pembroke._ Not I.
   Our Sutton must.

  _Sutton._ He who, some ten years gone,
   Fled from the barony?

  _Straw._ The same. Well, he,
   A bondman and a boy, stood by, when Say
   Wronged the pale widow Cade, by a base jest
   Upon the husband he had scourged to death.
   What think you did the boy?

  _Pembroke._ Rebuked his lordship?

  _Straw._ He struck him down, and 'scaped the barony.
   He hath ne'er since been heard of. So he won
   Both liberty and vengeance.

  _Sutton._ A brave boy!
  'Twas Friar Lacy taught him this: and he
   Says that all men are in God's image made,
   And all are equal."

The good democratic priest, Lacy, whose loving care and instructions
had largely moulded the mind of young Cade, says to the poor yeoman,--

                            "I've told you oft
  That man to man is but a brother. All,
  Master and slave, spring from the self-same fount;
  And why should one drop in the ocean flood
  Be better than its brother? No, my masters!
  It is a blasphemy to say Heaven formed
  The race, a few as men, the rest as reptiles."

The wretched hut of the lonely widow Cade is shown. She soliloquizes,--

  "A heavy lot and hopeless!
   Stricken with years and sorrow, and bowed down
   Beneath the fierce frown of offended power!
   The poor have no friends but the poor; the rich--
   Heaven's stewards upon earth--rob us of that
   They hold in trust for us, and leave us starveling.
   They shine above us, like a winter moon,
   Lustrous, but freezing."

She sighs for the return of her boy, who, when he fled from his tyrants
to seek a land where his heart might throb without the leave of a
master, had promised that he would come back some day in honor to
avenge her and to redeem his class. Meanwhile, he has become a stalwart
and experienced man. Under the name of Aylmere, he has won distinction
in the armies of Italy, and delved in the lore of the schools, but
never lost sight of his origin and his early hatred of the oppressors
of the poor. He now, disguised, enters the cot of his mother with
his wife, Mariamne, and their child. He is unrecognized. Lacy, with
fatherly pride, tells him of the brave boy missed so long, and proceeds
to describe how he had behaved when Lord Say had insulted his mother:

  "The proud lord would have spurned him; but young Cade"--

Here Aylmere, with sudden impulse, springs up, throws off his cloak,
and cries, with an exulting laugh,--

  "I struck him to my feet! I've not forgot it!
   How kissed his scarlet doublet the mean earth.
   Beneath a bondman's blow, and he a lord!
   That memory hath made my exile green!
   Look up, my mother, Cade hath kept his covenant.
   Could you read all my exile's history.
   You would not blush for it. And now I've come
   To shield and comfort thee."

This affecting scene was made to thrill every beholder to tears. As the
poor widow sank fainting under the shock of surprise and joy, and her
son knelt at her feet, all his own mother used to rise in his heart,
and his acting was no simulation, but the breathing truth itself.

The ruminations of the exiled Cade in Italy, whose altars, unwarmed
for a thousand years, were then lit up with the rekindled fires of
free-born Rome,--how he remembered his pale mother, and burned to
redeem his brethren, the herded and toil-worn bondmen,--this was
described in a speech of amazing eloquence, whose delivery was so
imaginative and natural in its free fervor that the images seemed
visibly presented while the tones palpitated among the pulses of their

                        "One night,
  Racked by these memories, methought a voice
  Summoned me from my couch. I rose,--went forth.
  The sky seemed a dark gulf, where fiery spirits
  Sported; for o'er the concave the quick lightning
  Quivered, but spoke not. In the breathless gloom,
  I sought the Coliseum, for I felt
  The spirits of a manlier age were forth;
  And there against the mossy wall I leaned,
  And thought upon my country. Why was I
  Idle, and she in chains? The storm now answered.
  It broke as heaven's high masonry were crumbling.
  The beetled walls nodded and frowned i' the glare;
  And the wide vault, in one unpausing peal,
  Throbbed with the angry pulse of Deity!
  I felt I could amid the hurly laugh,
  And, laughing, do such deeds as fireside fools
  Turn pale to think on.
  The heavens did speak like brothers to my soul,
  And not a peal that leapt along the vault
  But had an echo in my heart. Nor spoke
  The clouds alone; for o'er the tempest's din
  I heard the genius of my country shriek
  Amid the ruins, calling on her son,--
  On me! I answered her in shouts, and knelt,--
  Ev'n there in darkness, mid the falling ruins,
  Beneath the echoing thunder-trump,--and swore
  To make the bondmen free."

Domestic scenes occur, where the stern revolutionist, burning to avenge
the hoarded injuries of his class, unbends in tender endearments.
These two phases of his character heightened each other as the ivy
sets off the oak or the flower the rock. Both aspects were equally
planted in his nature, and so were equally spontaneous and truthful
in his playing. In one mood he says to Mariamne, with fond murmuring
inflections of voice, the very music of caressing love,--

  "Life's better joys spring up thus by the wayside;
   And the world calls them trifles, 'Tis not so.
   Heaven is not prodigal, nor pours its joys
   In unregarded torrents upon man;
   They fall, as fall the riches of the clouds
   Upon the parched earth, gently, drop by drop.
   Nothing is trifling that love consecrates."

New associations ruffling this mood away, the spirit of his fierce
mission sweeps through his soul, and his voice has the sonorous accents
of a clarion:

                              "I cannot be
  The meek and gentle thing that thou wouldst have me.
  The wren is happy on its humble spray;
  But the fierce eagle revels in the storm.
  Terror and tempest darken in his path;
  He gambols mid the thunder; mocks the bolt
  That flashes by his red, unshrinking eye,
  And, sternly-joyful, screams amid the din:
  Then shakes the torrent from his vigorous wing,
  And soars above the storm, and looks and laughs
  Down on its struggling terrors. Safety still
  Reward ignoble ease:--be mine the storm.
  Oh for the time when I can doff
  This skulking masquerade, and rush into
  The hottest eddy of the fight, and sport
  With peril!"

When they bring him accounts of the sufferings heaped on the poor by
their lords, he rejoices that the day of their deliverance is hastened
thus; for, he philosophizes,

  "'Tis better, being slaves, that we should suffer.
   Men must be thus, by chains and scourges, roused.
   The stealthy wolf will sleep the long days out
   In his green fastness, motionless and dull;
   But let the hunter's toils entrap and bind him,
   He'll gnaw his chained limbs from his reeking frame,
   And die in freedom. Left unto their nature,
   Men make slaves of themselves; and it is only
   When the red hand of force is at their throats
   They know what freedom is."

One scene of the play which he made wonderfully exciting was where the
licentious Lord Clifford steals into his cottage and offers violence
to Mariamne. Unexpectedly, as if he sprang up out of the earth just in
time to save his wife, Cade appears. He seemed an avatar of avenging
Providence as, hurling the base lord back, he loomed above him, with
uplifted dagger, his grand physical and moral superiority saying, as
plainly as speech,

  "Heaven, not heraldry, makes noble men."

With a fierce laugh he hisses out the words in a staccato of stinging

  "This is a noble death! The bold Lord Clifford
   Stabbed by a peasant, for no braver feat
   Than toying with his wife! Is 't not, my lord,
   A merry jest?

  _Clifford._ Thou wilt not slay me, fellow?

  _Aylmere._ Ay, marry will I! And why should I not?

  _Clifford._ Thou durst not, carle.

  _Aylmere._ Durst not!"

At the urgent solicitation of Mariamne, he spares the recreant noble;
but, before letting him go, he utters this speech in a manner which
appears to melt wonder, musing, scorn, and threatening into one
simultaneous expression:

  "Good Heaven! that such a worm, so abject, vile,
   Should eat into the root of royalty,
   And topple down whole centuries of empire!
   I will not crush you, reptile, now: but mark me!
   Steel knows no heraldry, and, stoutly urged,
   Visits the heart of a peer with no more grace
   Than it would pierce a peasant's. Have a care!
   The eagle that would seize the poor man's lamb
   Must dread the poor man's vengeance; darts there are
   Can reach you in your eyrie,--ay, and hands
   That will not grieve to hurl them. Get thee gone!"

Left alone with himself, he soliloquizes,--

  "And yet I slew him not! But--but--'twill come!
   It heaps my shame to heighten my revenge;
   And I will feast it fully. Would 'twere here,
   Here now! Oh, my arm aches, and every pulse
   Frets like a war-horse on the curb, to strike
   These bold man-haters down. 'Twill come, 'twill come!
   And I will quench this fire in a revenge
   Deep as our sufferings, sweeping as their wrongs!"

Another magnificent passage was the reply of Cade to the question
of the insurrectionists, what they should demand if they rose.
He replied,--mien, voice, and words, soul, face, and tongue, all
conspiring to one electric result of eloquence,--

            "God's first gift,--the blessed spirit
  Which he breathed o'er the earth.--
  'Tis that which nerves the weak and stirs the strong;
  Which makes the peasant's heart beat quick and high,
  When on his hill he meets the uprising sun
  Throwing his glad beams o'er the freeman's cot,
  And shouts his proud soul forth,--'tis Liberty!
  We will demand
  All that just nature gave and they have taken:
  Freedom for the bond! and justice in the sharing
  Of the soil given by Heaven to all; the right
  To worship without bribing a base priest
  For entrance into heaven; and all that makes
  The poor man rich in Liberty and Hope!
  Rend we a single link, we are rewarded.
  Freedom's a good the smallest share of which
  Is worth a life to win. Its feeblest smile
  Will break our outer gloom, and cheer us on
  To all our birthright. Liberty! its beam
  Aslant and far, will lift the slave's wan brow,
  And light it up, as the sun lights the dawn."

The meeting of Aylmere and Lord Say in the lonely wood was rendered in
a way that formed a picture of retributive and awful sublimity. Say was
the lord who long years before had caused the elder Cade to be tortured
and murdered. And more recently he had ordered the burning of the widow
Cade's cottage and forced her to perish in the flames. The avenger
confronts this man, but is ignorant of his name and person:

 "_Say._ Sirrah! I am a peer!

  _Aylmere._ And so
   Am I--thy peer, and any man's--ten times
   Thy peer, an thou'rt not honest.

  _Say._ Insolent!
   My fathers were made noble by a king!

  _Aylmere._ And mine by a God! The people are God's own
   Nobility; and wear their stars not on
   Their breasts, but in them!--But go to! I trifle.

  _Say._ Slave! I am the treasurer of the realm,--Lord Say!

  _Aylmere_ (_with a laugh of passionate triumph_).
   Fortune, for this I do forgive thee all!
   Heaven hath sent him here for sacrifice.
   The years have yielded up that hour so long
   And bitterly awaited. Thou must die!

  _Say._ Thou wouldst not slay me, fellow!

  _Aylmere._ Slay thee! Ay, by this light, as thou wouldst slay
   A wolf! Bethink thee; hast not used thy place
   To tread the weak and poor to dust; to plant
   Shame on each cheek, and sorrow in each heart?
   Hast thou not plundered, tortured, hunted down
   Thy fellow-men like brutes? Is not the blood
   Of white-haired Cade black on thy hand? And doth not
   Each wind stir up against thee, fiend! the ashes
   Of her whom yesternight you gave the flames?
   Slay thee, thou fool! Why, now, what devil is it
   That palters with thee, to believe that thou
   Canst do such deeds and live!

  _Say._ I am unarmed;
   'Twere craven thus to strike me at advantage.

  _Aylmere_ (_with a scornful laugh and throwing away the dagger_).
   Why, so it were! Hence, toy!
   But those the tiger hath against thee!--Now
   For vengeance, justice for the bondmen!"

Before the glorious insurrection of the toilsmen against their tyrants
is fairly afoot. Cade is entrapped into the power of his foes and
doomed to execution. Heart-sick of the cruelty of the rich and strong,
the unhappiness of the poor and weak, the failure of the generous
aspirants who would fain set things right, he said,--and his voice
had the sound of a consoling psalm swelling and fading along funeral

  "So be it! Death! the bondman's last, best friend!
   It stays th' uplifted thong, hushes the shriek,
   And gives the slave a long, long sleep, unwhipped
   By dreams of torture. In the grave there is
   No echo for the tyrant's lash;
   And the poor bond knows not to shrink, or blush,
   Nor wonder Heaven created such a wretch.
   He who has learned to die, forgets to serve
   Or suffer! Thank kind Heaven, that I can die!"

But by a fortunate turn of affairs he escapes from his prison in season
to head the decisive battle.

 "_Lacy._ Thank Heaven! thou'rt free!

  _Aylmere_ (_laughs_). Ay! once more free! within my grasp a sword.
   And round me freemen! Free! as is the storm
   About your hills; the surge upon your shore!
   Free as the sunbeams on the chainless air;
   Or as the stream that leaps the precipice,
   And, in eternal thunder, shouts to Heaven,
   That it is free, and will be free forever!

  _Straw._ Now for revenge! Full long we've fed on wrong:
   Give us revenge!

  _Aylmere._ For you and for myself!
   England from all her hills cries out for vengeance!
   The serf, who tills her soil, but tastes not of
   Her fruit, the slave that in her dungeon groans,
   The yeoman plundered, and the maiden wronged,
   Echo the call, in shrieks! The angry waves
   Repeat the sound in thunder; and the heavens,
   From their blue vaults, roll back a people's cry
   For liberty and vengeance!"

The peasants are victorious, and bring in a rabble of nobles and
priests as prisoners. They now have the sinister luxury of turning the
tables on their masters. This was done with a sarcasm whose relish
seemed to smack to the very bones and marrow.

 "_Lord._ You will not dare to hold us?

  _Aylmere._ Heaven forefend!
   Hold a lord captive! Awful sacrilege!
   Oh, no! We'll wait on you with trembling reverence!
   Ay, veil our brows before you,--kneel to serve you!
   What! hold a lord!

  _Archbishop._ He mocks us.

  _Aylmere._ Save your lordships!
   Pembroke, take hence and strip these popinjays,
   These moths that live for lust and slaughter! strip them,
   Garb their trim forms and perfumed limbs in russet.
   And drive them to the field! We'll teach you, lords,
   To till the glebe you've nurtured with our blood;
   Your brows to damp with honorable dew,
   And your fair hands with wholesome toil to harden.

  _Lord._ Thou wilt not use us thus?

  _Aylmere._ And wherefore not?

  _Lord._ Heaven gave us rank, and freed that rank from labor.

  _Aylmere._ Go to! thou speak'st not truth! Would Heaven, thou fool,
   Wrest nature from her throne, and tread in dust
   Millions of noble hearts, that worms like thee
   Might riot in their filthy joys untroubled?
   Heaven were not Heaven were such as ye its chosen."

The triumphant insurgents compel from the king the promise of a
charter declaring the bondmen free. But, at the height of his success
and glory, Cade is stabbed by a nobleman whom he has condemned to be
executed for his insufferable crimes. As he lies in a dying state,
a cry is heard without, declaring the proclamation of the charter.
Mowbray rushes in, bearing it unrolled, and displaying the royal seal.
Cade starts up with a wild burst of joy, seizes the charter, kisses
it, clasps it to his bosom, sinks to the floor with one slow, expiring
sigh,--and the curtain falls on the dead Liberator of the Bondmen of

It is a terrible play, full of the ravage of fearful passions, but it
is also full of that truth and that justice which are attributes of
God, and work their retributive results in hurricanes of hatred and
battle, as well as sow their blessings in milder forms. The chronic
political and social experience of mankind has always been terrible;
and the drama, to be true to its full function, must sometimes teach
terrible lessons terribly. The implacable animosity of Cade, his
vendetta-hunt for revenge, his frenzied curse on the murderous noble
who had mixed the blood and gray hairs of his mother with the ashes
of her cottage, his gloating satiation of his vengeance at last,
are not beautiful, but may be edifying. Provoked by such frightful
wrongs as he had known, and enlarged by connection with a whole race
similarly treated for ages, they appeal to the deepest instinct that
sleeps in the crude blood of human nature,--the wild tooth-for-tooth
and eye-for-eye justice of equivalent reprisals taken nakedly man to
man. This indomitable basis of barbaric manhood, with all its dread
traditions of even-handed retribution, was powerful in Forrest. He
believed in it as a natural revelation of the divine justice, and he
delighted in a part on the stage in which he could make its ominous
signals blaze against those who could wrong the poor or trample on
the weak; for thus he glorified the democrat he was by nature through
the democrat he displayed in his art. It is obvious that such a
performance must be extremely offensive to several classes of persons,
and give rise to expressions of censure and disgust. And here is a
key to considerable of the vindictive and contemptuous criticism
levelled against Forrest. But all such criticism is incompetent and
unfair, because springing from personal tastes and moods, and not from
standard principles. Unquestionably, those types of man representing
the moral ideals which tend to woo towards us the better future they
prophesy, are more lovely and benignant than the types representing
the real products and makers of history in the past, with all their
merits and faults. But judgment must not be pronounced on the dramatic
impersonation of a character from negative considerations of its
æsthetic or ethical inferiority to other forms of character. It is
to be rightly judged from its truth and power in its own kind and
range; for that is all that the player professes to exhibit. And,
furthermore, this is to be said in behalf of the moral influence of
a character represented on the stage whose energies spurn hypocrisy
and mean compromises, whose passions flame straight to their marks
without cowardice or disguise,--that such a character is far more
noble and wholesome than any of those common types of men who have no
originality of nature, no spontaneous power, but are made up of timid
imitations and a conventional worship of custom and appearance. One is
often tempted to say, Better the free impulses of that stronger and
franker time when the passions of men broke out through their muscles
in deeds of genuine love, righteous wrath, and lurid crime, than the
pale, envious, and sneaking vices that thrive under a civilization of
money, law, and luxury. Better express a hostile feeling through its
legitimate channels than secrete it to rankle in the soul. This was
the thought of Forrest; and there is, no doubt, some truth in it. But
it is to be said, on the other side, that the cultivated suppression
of antipathies weakens them, and it is by this method chiefly that the
world moves in its slow progress from the barbarisms of revenge to the
refinements of forgiveness.

It remains, in conclusion, also to be said, that whatever exceptions
the religious moralist or the fastidious critic may take to Cade, as
delineated by the author and as incarnated by the actor, he was never
the assassin, but always the judge,--his vengeance never the blow
of caprice, but always of Nemesis. Nor did he ever play the selfish
demagogue. His heart was pure, his hands were clean, his soul was
magnanimous, and his tongue was eloquent:

                      "I seek not power:
  I would not, like the seeled dove, soar on high
  To sink clod-like again to earth. I know
  No glory, save the godlike joy of making
  The bondmen free. When we are free, Jack Cade
  Will back unto his hills, and proudly smile
  Down on the spangled meanness of the court,
  Claiming a title higher than their highest,--
  An honest freeman!"

So far from being a vulgar agitator, catering to the prejudices of the
mob, he strives to restrain them from every extravagance, teaching them
their duty in golden words:

  "Liberty gives nor light nor heat itself;
   It but permits us to be good and happy.
   It is to man what space is to the orbs,
   The medium where he may revolve and shine,
   Or, darkened by his vices, fall forever!"

Certainly such a dramatic rôle has ample moral justification in what it
is from all fault-finding based on what it is not. The writer and the
player might join hands and say, in the language of their own hero,--

                "We cannot fail!
  The right is with us, God is with the right,
  And victory with God."

The performance was no mere strutting piece of empty histrionics, but
the carefully-studied and conscientious condensation into three hours
of a whole vigorous and effective life, devoted in a spirit of profound
justice to the avenging of wrongs and the disinterested service of the
needy. And in a world where the lives of most men are absorbed in the
gratification of pecuniary greed, sensual desire, or social vanity,
such a representation must be ennobling in its legitimate influence. If
in any instance its exhibition fed class-hatred or personal ferocity,
the blame lay with the spectator, not with the player any more than
it is a fault in the sunshine that it makes vinegar sourer. The true
moral result of the artistic portrayal of condign punishment is not to
cultivate the spirit of vengeance, but to dissuade from that primary
infliction of wrong which breeds punishment.

Leggett died in 1838, just as he had received an appointment to
Guatemala, a late and reluctant tribute from the triumphant political
party of which he was one of the noblest ornaments. He had been too
true to the principles of democracy to be popular with the partisan
leaders. They feared and disliked him for his incorruptible integrity
and his uncompromising devotion to impartial humanity and justice.
He perished before he was forty years old, in the midst of his
chivalrous warfare against slavery, a sacrifice to his heroic toils
and the over-generous fire of his enthusiasm. He had felt, as Forrest
said in his Fourth of July Oration, "If in any respect the great
experiment which America has been trying before the world has failed
to accomplish the true end of government,--the greatest good of the
greatest number,--it is only where she herself has proved recreant
to the fundamental article of her creed." Accordingly, reckless of
his selfish interests, he toiled to reform his party and bring its
practice up to its theory. His stern earnestness made enemies and held
him back from patronage. Forrest found in him a congenial spirit, and
loved him better than a brother. He furnished him first and last in his
two literary enterprises, the "Critic" and the "Plaindealer," about
fifteen thousand dollars, all of which was lost. After this, when the
unfortunate struggler was in extreme pecuniary and mental distress, the
two friends one evening were supping together in a private compartment
in a restaurant. The gloom, despondency, and haggard air of Leggett
alarmed his friend. "Has anything dreadful happened? What is the
meaning of this?" said Forrest. "Ah, my good friend," answered Leggett,
"it means that I am in absolute despair, and I am going to end the
miserable conflict now and here." He snatched the carving-knife from
the table and was on the point of thrusting it into his heart, when
Forrest seized his arm, exclaiming, "Good God, Leggett, be reasonable,
be calm! This is not just to your family or to your friends." "But,"
replied the unhappy man, "I am overwhelmed with debts: in another
week I shall have no roof over my head; and I see no prospect of
better days." The actor was deeply moved, and his voice faltered a
little. "Come, come," he said, "I have abundance, and am piling up
more. Why should you not share in it? I will relieve you of your worst
embarrassments with cash; and I have a nice house at New Rochelle, just
vacated by its tenant. I will give it to you freely, gladly. You are
still a young man; you have great talents and reputation; and there
is glorious work for you in the world yet. Come, cheer up, my good
fellow." And he took his friend by the arm, and did not leave him until
he received from him at his own door a hearty "God bless you, my dear
friend, and good-night!"

Forrest kept his word to the amount of about six thousand dollars more.
It was an act of impulsive love and aid to a noble man who deserved
it, and to whom the giver felt greatly indebted for his ever-faithful
friendship and sound counsels and the inspiring example of his
character. It was a secret which he never betrayed to the world at all.
It is now told for the first time by the biographer, to whom it was
reluctantly narrated in the course of those confidential communications
which reserved nothing.

Reputations fade out so fast, and the worthiest are forgotten so soon,
in our hurrying land and day, that the average reader can hardly be
supposed to know much, if anything, of this earliest and best friend
of Forrest. His quality of manhood is to be seen in the tribute of his
political and literary associate, William Cullen Bryant:

  "The earth may ring from shore to shore
     With echoes of a glorious name,
   But he whose loss our hearts deplore
     Has left behind him more than fame.

  "For when the death-frost came to lie
     Upon that warm and mighty heart,
   And quench that bold and friendly eye,
     His spirit did not all depart.

  "The words of fire that from his pen
     Were flung upon the lucid page
   Still move, still shake the hearts of men,
     Amid a cold and coward age.

  "His love of truth, too warm, too strong,
     For hope or fear to chain or chill,
   His hate of tyranny and wrong,
     Burn in the breasts he kindled still."

And his moral portrait is still more firmly drawn in prose in this
extract from the memorial of him by John G. Whittier: "William Leggett!
Let our right hand forget its cunning when that name shall fail to
awaken generous emotions and aspirations for a higher and worthier
manhood. True man and true democrat; faithful always to liberty,
following wherever she led, whether the storm beat in his face or
on his back; unhesitatingly counting her enemies his own; poor, yet
incorruptible; dependent upon party favor as a party editor, yet
risking all in condemnation of that party when in the wrong; a man of
the people, yet never stooping to flatter the people's prejudices; he
is the politician of all others whom we would hold up to the admiration
and imitation of the young men of our country. What Fletcher of Saltoun
is to Scotland, and the brave spirits of the old Commonwealth time are
to England, should Leggett be to America."

Forrest sorrowed deeply and long over the death of this brave man
and devoted friend. He never forgot him, nor ceased, in unbent and
affectionate hours, to recall his memory, with pleasing incidents of
their intercourse in those earlier days which wore romantic hues when
old age had stolen on the retrospective survivor.

A good example now occurs of those numerous bitter and cruel newspaper
attacks on Forrest, elicited by his great professional success, his
prominence before the public, and his brusque individuality. A paper,
fitly called "The Subterranean,"--edited by a brawling politician named
Mike Walsh,--whose motto was "Independent in everything, neutral in
nothing," published an article, a column in length, the substance of
which was as follows:

"William Leggett.--His Widow.--Disgraceful Conduct of Ned
Forrest.--Ingratitude of the Democracy.

"Leggett, like ourselves, battled boldly against all the power and
corruption of the Democratic party, and untiringly strove to achieve a
radical reform in its abuses. The purity of his principles proved fatal
to him. He was hunted and baited while living, the same as we have been
since his death, by every paltry and polluted scoundrel whose grasping
avarice is likely to be affected by the elevation of the destitute and
forlorn portion of their fellow-men.

"If battling for the oppressed and degraded portion of the human family
is to subject a man, while living, to want, misery, ingratitude, and
persecution, and to embitter his dying moments with the knowledge
that when dead his family will be left destitute in a selfish
world,--receiving the sneers of his enemies and the neglect of his
friends,--you will find but few possessed of sufficient courage to
tread so thorny, cheerless, and disheartening a path.

"We know not how to characterize the conduct of Ned Forrest in this
matter. Leggett found him in an obscurity from which he never could
have emerged by any effort of his own. With a magnanimous generosity
peculiar to men of great minds, he tendered the use of his intellect
and purse. Forrest gladly accepted it; and to that aid is he chiefly
indebted for the immense fortune which he has subsequently acquired.
Mrs. Leggett called on him the other day, and with a cold, heartless,
hell-born ingratitude, which we would have scarcely expected from the
most irredeemable hunker in existence, he treated her as though she
were the greatest stranger on earth,--refusing the common civility due
even to a stranger."

The purpose of this outrageous libel was a political one. It was
designed to break down the popularity of the favorite actor with the
New York Democracy, who were then again talking of bringing him into
official life. Walsh wished to make him unavailable as a candidate, so
as to keep the way open for another. In accordance with the programme,
means were taken to stir up indignation and excitement to mobocratic
pitch. It was noised abroad that there would be a riot. The theatre,
for the first time in years when he played, was but half full, and
with very few ladies. But Mrs. Forrest, with Mrs. Leggett at her side,
and a few other lady friends, were in a front box. When the player
came forward as the curtain rose, there was dead silence. Instead of
beginning the performance, he addressed the audience:

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--Allow me to say a few words to you in
vindication of myself from a slanderous attack which has been made
upon me by an obscene paper called 'The Subterranean,' and repeated
by the 'Herald,' the characteristics of which print I will not shock
your feelings by naming. To those who know me personally, I trust it is
unnecessary for me to repel such foul aspersions, but to those who do
not know me, I beg leave to submit the following very short letter:

  "'NEW YORK, October 30th, 1843.

"'MY DEAR FRIEND,--I have seen with surprise and astonishment in the
'New York Herald' of to-day an article which purports to be an extract
from a certain print published in this city, and said to be edited
by a Mr. Walsh; and I have no hesitation in declaring every charge
contained therein, so far as regards yourself, to be entirely false.


"Ladies and Gentlemen,--I am sorry to be obliged to intrude upon you
even for these few minutes, but, however small my pretensions may be as
an actor, you must allow me to say that I value my character as a man
and a citizen far higher than I should all the fame ever acquired by
all the actors that ever lived, from the days of Roscius down to our

At the conclusion of this pithy speech the audience rose and applauded
with enthusiasm, amidst which Forrest retired for a few seconds, and
then re-appeared as the Cardinal Richelieu.

The "Herald" of the next morning said:

"He evidently suffered from considerable nervous excitement; but that
passed away gradually, and in the closing scenes he was great,--worthy
of himself,--worthy of the warmest applause of the most judicious of
his audience. Had it not been for the timely publication in yesterday's
'Herald,' we would have had materials for a much more exciting
paragraph. A formidable band of rowdies had been organized; a riot
would undoubtedly have taken place had not the information given by us
led to the publication of Mrs. Leggett's letter in the 'Evening Post,'
and to judicious proceedings on the part of two worthy citizens who are
engaged in collecting a subscription for her benefit.

"It was an interesting scene:--the living vindicating his conduct to
the dead, whose arm while in life had so well sustained him, and in the
presence of _that_ witness."

Another instance of that personal abuse, of that annoying public
interference with private affairs, from which eminent artists,
particularly of the dramatic profession, suffer so much, was given
in connection with the proposition for a theatrical benefit for the
poor in Philadelphia. Forrest met this impertinence with a spirit of
resolute independence and common sense so characteristic that it is
worth while to relate the circumstances. In our country, subserviency
to public opinion is so common, a cowardly conformity to what fashion
commands or one's neighbors expect is so much the rule, that vigorous
assertions of individuality are wholesome, and every resolute rejection
on good grounds of the dictation of meddlers is exemplary. With all
his democracy, Forrest was ever a man quite competent to this style.
When the aforesaid benefit had been for some time officiously urged,
and Forrest did not see fit to volunteer his services, a great many
articles were printed reflecting on him for his backwardness, and
virtually demanding that he should come forward. He took advantage of
his great popularity, and risked it in so doing, to rebuke this kind of
procedure and to assert for himself and his professional associates the
right to dispose of their time and earnings as they themselves should
choose. This letter speaks for itself:

"DEAR SIR,--Your letter has just been received, in which you are
signified as the organ of several philanthropic gentlemen of this
city, desirous of obtaining my sentiments in relation to the
much-talked-of 'Benefit for the Poor.'

"You, sir, in common with my fellow-citizens with whom I have the
honor to be personally acquainted, will do me the justice to think
that I am not altogether void of 'tear-falling pity,' or that my
sympathies are entirely shut against the sufferings of the poor. So
far from this, sir, I am disposed to do all in my power to alleviate
their distresses, and will most cheerfully give two hundred dollars
(my price for one night's performance), or five hundred, nay, one
thousand, if _any one_ of your numerous anonymous correspondents, who
display so much anxiety for the relief of the poor, will 'go and do
likewise.' An act like this will argue a greater sincerity to serve
their fellow-creatures than the officious disposal of the time and
exertions of others (which costs _them_ nothing), or their boasted
philanthropy through the medium of the public press.

"From the numerous applications made to me to perform for charities
in almost every city that I visit, in my own defence I have found
it necessary to make a rule which prevents the exertion of my
_professional_ services in behalf of any charity, excepting that of
the Theatrical Fund for the relief of decayed or indigent actors. The
necessity of making such a rule will at once be obvious to you. For
if I performed for one and denied another, I must give offence; and
if I answered all the demands of this nature made upon me, my time
and energies must be thrown away upon others, to the total neglect
of myself and those who have the most immediate claims upon me. The
actor's profession 'is the means whereby he lives;' and who shall
dictate to him the disposal of his hard-earned gains, any more than to
the mechanic, the merchant, or the advocate?

"I thank you, sir, for the opportunity which you have afforded me of
vindicating myself in regard to this matter, and of making known my
reasons for declining to perform on the occasion referred to.

  "Very respectfully,
    "Your ob't servant,
      "ROBERT MORRIS, Esq.        "EDWIN FORREST."

The editor of the paper in which the letter was published added, "Now
let us see whether the benevolent souls who have been egging him on to
the execution of their purposes will show a generosity like his own!"

Travelling over the country amidst all kinds of people and scenes, as
he did in his avocation, Forrest naturally had many adventures. Two or
three of these may be narrated as having intrinsic interest or throwing
light on his character. He was once on board a Mississippi steamer when
a passenger, whose name and destination were unknown, was attacked by
the cholera in its most violent form. He was a dark, stalwart man, who
had been promenading the deck, showily dressed, a pistol projecting
from his left breast-pocket, a bowie-knife dangling under his right
arm. The unknown man felt that he was doomed, and had only just time
and strength to say that he had some money on his person, before
sinking back dead in the presence of the horror-struck throng. The
captain took from around the waist of the unfortunate man a quilted
belt, a foot in width, in which were packed thirteen thousand dollars
in gold eagles. As there was no known claimant for the money, it was
agreed that it should be given to a hospital in New Orleans. The boat
was anchored, and they hurriedly wrapped the body in a long roll of
canvas and placed it in a rude box, and went on shore to bury it. It
was a still, starlight night in August; and as the company landed on
their sombre errand, the wide waters of the river gleamed between its
dark shores. A continuous wood of gigantic cotton-wood trees stretched
from the bank, their trunks and boughs clasped by great vines, which
looked, among the fantastic shadows flung by the pitch-pine torches,
like so many serpents crawling in every direction. Digging a trench,
they lowered the box into it, with no other service than the muttered
words, "In the name of God we commit this body to the ground," threw
the earth over it, and returned and proceeded on their way. The
experience was a most impressive and dramatic one, the circumstances of
the scene combining to color and frame it into a vivid natural cartoon.

The following anecdote was published many years ago in the "Sunday
Courier," under his own signature, by Charles T. Heiner, of Baltimore,
and the narrative is known to be strictly authentic. It is given here
in his words, abbreviated:

"After a long absence, I found myself sailing up the Mississippi
River, bound for home. One morning, as I left my state-room, I saw
the passengers gathered on the forward deck. Inquiring the cause, I
was told that a man had just died who had left, without protection,
two children, a boy of seven years and a girl of five. The wife of
the man, I was also told, had recently died, and the children were
now orphans, and friendless and destitute. My informant had scarcely
ceased speaking, when I observed a gentleman of herculean mould and
dignified air, who possessed great personal beauty, pass by where I was
sitting, having on his arm the little daughter of the deceased, who
was sobbing bitterly, her little face nestled close to his breast. The
boy, who was also sobbing, the stranger led by the hand, and, while his
lips quivered and tears stood in his eyes, he was soothing the little
mourners with words of hope and kindness, his full, rich voice being
modulated to the tender tones of a woman. Much moved by the scene, I
followed them and a large number of passengers into the cabin, where I
found the two orphans standing in the centre of the group, their arms
around each other's necks, mingling their tears and sobs.

"'Come, come, be a little man,' said the stranger to the boy; 'don't
cry. I will take care of you,--I will be your father.' And he drew the
little girl to him and wiped the tears from her eyes, regardless that
his own were also overflowing, while the members of the group around
showed no less feeling than he.

"One of the number called the assembly to order by nominating a
chairman, a Mr. Jones, a planter, whose estate was about thirty miles
farther up the river. He accepted the office, and said that, with the
assent of the company, he would take charge of the orphans and rear and
educate them. This proposition was well received by all the passengers
except the stranger, who, during these proceedings, had been sitting
apart in conversation with the little waifs that the act of God had
cast upon the stream of charity. Hastily loosening the arms of the
little girl from about his neck, he stepped forward and addressed the

"'I have been forestalled,' said he, 'by the gentleman who has made
the proposal to which you have just listened. He has children,--I have
none. I will take one of these children, and here pledge my honor to
rear it with the same tenderness that I would exercise if it were my
own. Let me divide with your chairman these gifts of Providence, and I
will give him the privilege of electing which to take.'

"The silence which followed these remarks was broken by the voice of
the little boy, who was old enough to comprehend the nature of what
was passing, and who had been an eager listener to the words of the
stranger, and whose hand he now seized in both his own. 'Oh, don't take
me from my sister!' said he. 'When father died, he told me I must never
leave her. Let us both go with you; she loves me very much, and father
said that in a little while I should be strong enough to work for her.
Don't take her away from me!' And the little fellow's voice trembled,
and he looked imploringly into the stranger's face, who was melted to
tears by this appeal.

"'You shall not be separated, my little hero,' replied the stranger,
'but shall remain together.' Then, turning to the group, he said,--

"'I will relinquish my claim to your chairman; but it must be on
two conditions. The first is, that he shall draw on me annually for
one-half of all the expenses which may be incurred in the rearing and
educating of these orphans; and here is the first instalment of one
hundred dollars.'

"'I cheerfully assent to that,' replied Mr. Jones. 'What is the other?'

"'That if you should die, or circumstances should prevent your
continuing their protector, they shall be sent to me.'

"'I also agree to that.'

"'Take them, then, and may God bless them and you!' said the stranger,
as he kissed the weeping orphans, who, in that brief space of time,
with the quick instincts of children, had learned how much he was their

"The bell rang, planks were taken in, and, ten minutes after the scene
I have described, the steamer was once again puffing on her course,
leaving the little ones and their new friend standing on the bank of
the river waving us their sorrowful adieu.

"'Who is that gentleman?' said I to one of the passengers, whom I had
drawn apart.

"'Why, don't you know him? That is FORREST, the tragedian!'"

A letter written by Mrs. Forrest to her youngest sister-in-law,
Eleanora, while absent with Edwin on one of his distant theatrical
engagements, may find a fitting place here, for the interest of its
domestic allusions and of its description of the scenery on their

  "BUFFALO, August 29th, 1843.

"MY DEAR ELEANORA,--According to the promise made in Philadelphia,
I will endeavor to give you some account of our travels in the Far
West. From New York we went first to Detroit, where Edwin was engaged
to perform for six nights; but the business was so good that he was
induced to remain eleven.

"On leaving Detroit, we took the railroad to Jackson, the capital
of Michigan, and then proceeded by stage to a village called Battle
Creek, in all a journey of about one hundred and thirty miles. There
we remained overnight. After this we abandoned the public conveyances
so long as we travelled in Michigan,--the routes taken by the stages
being generally through the most uninteresting portions of the
country, and the additional expense of a private conveyance being
small, and the additional comfort great. Leaving Battle Creek, our
road lay through one of the most beautiful portions of the State. For
nearly twenty miles we rode through magnificent forests of huge old
oaks, unencumbered by any undergrowth, and surrounded on all sides
by wild flowers of every form and hue, roses, lilies, and the vivid
scarlet lobelia everywhere growing up in the richest luxuriance.
Occasionally we proceeded for a mile or two along the banks of the
Kalamazoo River, a most picturesque stream, but so shallow that it
may be easily forded almost anywhere. Sometimes we came to a natural
meadow hundreds of acres in extent, on which apparently no tree or
shrub has ever grown. These meadows are universally surrounded by high
banks and immense trees, the growth of ages, which leads one naturally
to suppose that they may have been the beds of lakes, of which there
are a great number in this part of the country. These meadows are of
infinite advantage to the farmer, yielding him fine crops of hay and
saving him the labor of at least one generation, which would otherwise
be employed in clearing away the trees. We spent some portion of a
day in the village of Kalamazoo in walking about the place in search
of Edwin's lots, which eventually we found. As the railroad will be
completed to this place next year, these lots will in all probability
be worth something. At Kalamazoo we remained one night, and started
the next morning for Prairie Ronde. Here we saw one of the wonders of
the western country, a magnificent prairie, fifteen miles across, the
greater portion of it in a high state of cultivation, the soil very
fine, and the farms in a flourishing condition, with a neat little
village in the centre. Those prairies, however, which are wholly
uncultivated present a much finer prospect to the traveller, being an
immense sea of wild flowers, stretching as far as the eye can reach,
without a tree or a shrub to interrupt the view. We remained one night
at a village on White Pigeon Prairie, about thirty miles from the last
one I named, and the next day proceeded to Niles. Our road, during
the greater portion of the morning, was through the woods, and by
the side of the St. Joseph River. The scenery is very beautiful. On
entering the village of Niles, Goodman, who was standing at the door
of his store, immediately recognized Edwin and stopped the carriage.
He insisted on our going to his house, which Edwin at first refused,
but Goodman said he had been expecting us all the week, and seemed
so anxious about the matter that Edwin finally consented to go. I am
sure you will be glad to hear that Edwin settled all his business with
Goodman, and is satisfied that he has acted honestly. We remained
there two days and a half, and he and Mrs. Goodman made us very
comfortable. They have a neat little cottage, and two acres of land
adjoining it, and apparently every comfort which they can require.
On leaving Niles, we went to St. Joseph, and there took the boat to
Chicago, a very pretty town finely situated on Lake Michigan. After
remaining here a day, we took a steamboat for the Upper Lakes, and in
two days reached Mackinaw, a most beautiful little island, where there
is an annual meeting of most of the Indian tribes, who gather there to
receive their pay from the Government. We at first purposed remaining
a few days there; but finding that there were no accommodations for
us, and that the boat would remain long enough to allow of our seeing
all that we wished, we walked on shore, saw a sufficient number of
Indians to satisfy all reasonable curiosity, and in a condition which
tends to destroy the romantic ideas we are apt to form of them. We
returned to our boat, which, after stopping at several places,
brought us in three days more to Buffalo. I must not omit to tell
you that on Sunday we had a sermon from an Episcopal minister, and,
there being no time the same day for any other, on Monday we had a
long discourse from a Mormon preacher; but, my paper being so nearly
full, I must not attempt to describe him. Edwin is going to play ten
or twelve nights here, and then we go to New York. I think this trip
has been of service to him; and he is of the same opinion. He is now
in excellent health. I have but little room left to make the many
inquiries I would wish concerning you and all in Tenth Street. I hope
your dear mother is fast recovering the use of her arm, and that her
health in other respects is good. We should like much to hear how she
is, and should be very glad to receive a few lines from you. I trust
that you and your sisters are all well, and that you escaped the
influenza. Edwin desires his love to mother, Henrietta, Caroline, and
yourself. In this I beg most heartily to join, and remain ever,

  "Yours, affectionately,

Forrest, after playing in Nashville in 1842 or 1843, visited Jackson
at the Hermitage, in Tennessee, where the venerable ex-President was
passing in peaceful retirement the last days of his stormy life.
Jackson, who was himself one of the greatest actors who ever appeared
off the stage, had often seen him act, knew him well, and not only made
him welcome, but insisted on his staying with him as his guest. Forrest
did so, and extremely enjoyed the intercourse with the celebrated man
for whom he had always cherished the greatest political and personal
admiration. It was in the height of the agitation about the annexation
of Texas to the United States. While there, Forrest broached this
topic. In an instant the stooped and faltering sage was all alive,
for he felt a passionate interest in the subject. In a few minutes,
warming with his own action, he rose to his feet, seized a map in his
left hand, and entered vehemently into the whole argument in behalf
of the project on political, commercial, and social grounds. As his
eyes glanced from point to point on the map, they glowed like two gray
balls of fire. His right hand followed the direction of his eyes, and
the pitch of his voice obeyed the inflections of his hand. His cheeks
flushed, his white hair flew back like the mane of an aged lion, his
head rose on his lifted and dilated neck, the motions of his limbs
and torse were made straight from their joints, and he inveighed with
the mien of an angry prophet. Forrest was actually startled by the
spectacle of so sudden a change from drooping decrepitude to sublime
power. He never forgot it as the best unintentional lesson he had ever
received in dramatic expression. He afterwards bore in mind this proof
of the electric capacity of feeble old age to be suddenly charged and
emit lightnings and thunders, when he modelled the great explosions of
his Richelieu.

Year on year now passed by with the fortunes of the player still
wearing an aspect nearly all smiles. Though liberal, he was prudent,
and the investments of his large income were always marked by shrewd
foresight. His strength was enormous, his health and spirits for the
most part were unvarying, his popularity was unabated, caps tossed for
him in the theatre and eyes turned after him in the street, his home
was blessed with love and peace, and his mother and sisters gave him
the pleasure of seeing their steady happiness in the honorable repose
and comfort he had provided for them. Well might he be an agreeable and
cheerful man, genial with his friends, delighting in his profession,
proud of his country and his countrymen, unpoisoned and undepressed as
yet by misjudgment and abuse. So things were with him when, in 1845,
attracted by a handsome managerial offer, moved by the desire of his
wife to revisit her early home, and encouraged by the recollection of
his flattering success before, with a strong hope of enhancing it in
repetition, he resolved to cross the sea once more, and, in a selection
of his favorite characters, present himself anew on the British Stage.

There was at this time one ominous element working in him which had
been the cause of considerable irritation to him already, and which
was to be unexpectedly aggravated in the experience now immediately
before him. In his twenty years of professional life with its waxing
celebrity he had encountered so many jealousies and slanders, so
much envy, meanness, and treachery,--in his intimacy with artists,
politicians, and other ambitious men his sharp discernment had seen so
much base plotting and backbiting, so much pushing of the unworthy into
prominence by dishonorable methods, and so much sacrificing of the
meritorious and modest by falsehoods and shameless tricks of superior
address,--that his early estimate of the average of human nature had
been lowered and some degree of distrust and reserve developed. The
change was not conspicuous, but it had begun, and it foreboded further
evil. He had an open, truthful nature, especially characterized by love
of justice and detestation of all double-faced or underhanded dealings.
He was also a man of a deep and sensitive pride. Finding himself
assailed continually with incompetent and acrimonious criticism, and
in some cases pursued with malignant libels, he was naturally nettled
and angered. With a man of his warm and tenacious temper the experience
was a dangerous one, which tended to feed itself and to grow by what it
fed on. Had he been gifted with that saintly spirit which bears wrong
and insult with meek or magnanimous forgiveness, he would have escaped
a world of strife and suffering. But in regard to injuries he was an
Indian rather than a saint. Accordingly, the interested opposition and
coarse abuse he met put him on probation for misanthropy. Fortunately,
his reason and sympathy were too strong to yield to the temptation.
But in his later career we shall see what was originally his generous
outward struggle with adversity and the social conditions of success
partially changed into a bitter inward conflict with men.



Few persons have any adequate idea of the prevalence, the force, the
subtile windings of envy and jealousy among men, especially among those
classes into whose life the principle of rivalry directly enters. The
more patiently and profoundly any one studies the workings of these
passions in his own soul, the larger will be his estimate of the part
they play in society. And then, if his experience be such as to admit
him to the secrets behind the scenes of social life, revealing to him
the selfish collusions, plots, bribes, and wire-pullings concealed
beneath the conventional appearances of openness and fair-play, his
allowance for the operation of sinister forms of self-love will receive
another important enlargement. No other class is so keenly beset by
these malign suspicions and grudges, these base motives to depreciate
and supplant one another, as those who are competitors for public
admiration and applause. There are obvious reasons for this fact, and
the fact itself is notorious and unquestionable. The annals of the
stage in all its departments, tragic, comic, operatic, teem and reek
with the animosities and cabals of those who have seemed to dislike
one another in even proportion as they were favorites of the public.
Forrest, with all his faults, was remarkably free from this mean and
odious vice of professional envy. He never sought by hidden means or
dishonorable arts of any kind either to gain laurels for himself or
to tarnish or tear off the laurels of others. He was always ready to
applaud merit in another, and always rejoiced generously to have his
fellow-actors generously praised when they deserved it. When on the
stage, he did not strive to monopolize everything, and add greatness
and lustre to his own part by belittling and darkening the parts
of others. He was not that kind of man. He had too strong a sense
of justice, too much pride and too much sympathy, to be capable of
such action. The form his self-love took when excited in hostility
was an angry resentment of injustice. The injustice might be fancied
sometimes, but it was that which he identified with the offender,
and hated accordingly. And his wrath manifested itself not in secret
or overt measures of injury, not in a silent malignity circulating
poisonously in the heart and brain, but in frank and passionate
expression on the spot, in hot gestures, flashes of face, and strokes
of voice. He vented his indignation extravagantly, like Boythorn, but
elaborated no methods of doing harm, and was incapable, in his haughty
self-respect, of purchasing a critic or consciously slandering a rival.

Garrick had such a prurient vanity, so morbid a dread of censure and
love of praise, that he not only persuaded hostile critics not to
attack him and friendly ones to write him up, but also freely used
his own skilful pen for the same purpose. He wrote anonymous feeble
condemnations of his own acting, and then replied to them anonymously
with convincing force, thus inflaming the public interest. Voltaire
is well known to have done the same thing. But these were both men of
vanity, not of pride. Vanity hates rivals, and is monopolizing and
revengeful, and a mother of all meannesses. Pride furiously resents
attacks on itself, but does not spontaneously attack others. It asks
but freedom and a fair field. Deny these, and it grows dangerous. When
any one assailed or undertook to lower Daniel Webster, he was met
with the most imperious repulse and transcendent scorn. The kindling
wrath of the haughty giant was terrible. But the mere supposition that
he could ever have stooped to offer a bribe to any one, or to curry
favor of any one, is absurd. Forrest was a man of the same mould. The
anger of such natures at any meddlesome attempt to disparage them has
this moral ground, namely, it is their aroused instinct of spiritual
self-preservation. The man of vulgar inferiority, in his coarse and
complacent stolidity, cares little for the estimates others put on
him. But the man conscious of a great superiority--a Webster or a
Forrest--is keenly alive to whatever threatens it. His sphere of mental
life enormously surpasses his sphere of physical life. The elemental
rhythm of his being, which marks the key-note of his constitution
and destiny, has a more massive and sensitive swing in him than in
average persons, and his feelings are intensely quick to drive back
every hostile or demeaning valuation ideally shrivelling and lowering
his rank. The consciousness of such a man is so vital and intelligent
that it intuitively reports to him every sneer, derogatory judgment,
or insulting look, as something intended to compress and hamper his
being of its full volume and freedom of function. Thus Forrest could
not meekly submit to be undervalued or snubbed; but he had no natural
impulse to undervalue or snub others, or to imagine that they stood in
his way and must be thrust aside.

The distinguished English actor, William Charles Macready, with whom
circumstances brought the American into a professional rivalry which
deepened into bitter enmity, was a man in every respect of a very
different type. All his life he had an extreme distaste and a moral
aversion to his profession; yet, by dint of incessant intellectual
and mechanical drill, he placed himself for a term of years at its
head in Great Britain. He was of vanity and irritability and egotistic
exactingness all compact, insanely sensitive to neglect and censure,
greedily avid of notice and admiration. He seemed scarcely to live
in the direct goals of life for their own sakes, but to be absorbed
in their secondary reflections in his own self-consciousness and in
his imaginations of the opinions of other people concerning him and
his affairs. A man of a morbidly introspective habit, a discontented
observer, a spiritual dyspeptic, he coveted social preferment and
shrank from the plebeian crowd,--

                  "And 'twas known
  He sickened at all triumphs not his own."

This severe estimate is unwillingly recorded, but it is amply
justified by his own memoirs of himself, posthumously published under
the editorship of his literary executor. His diary so abounds in
confessions and instances of bad temper, vanity, arrogance, angry
jealousy, and rankling envy, that it serves as a pillory in which
he exhibits himself as a candidate for contempt. In an article on
"Macready's Reminiscences," the "Quarterly Review" (English) says,
"Actors have an evil reputation for egotism and jealousy. No one ever
lay more heavily under this imputation than Mr. Macready while on the
stage. We have heard the greatest comedian of his time say of him,
'Macready never could see any merit in any actor in his own line until
he was either dead or off the stage.' The indictment was sweeping, but
this book almost bears it out. In his own words, the echo of applause,
unless given to himself, fills him 'with envious and vindictive
feelings.' He abhors and despises his own profession. While still on
the stage he says, 'It is an unhappy life. We start at every shadow
of an actor, living in constant dread of being ousted from popularity
by some new favorite.' After leaving the stage he says, 'I can now
look my fellow-men, whatever their station, in the face and assert my
equality.' And these things he says in the face of the fact that he
owed all his consequence to his success as an actor."

Macready had played a successful series of engagements in the United
States in 1843. He was well received, much praised, and carried home a
handsome sum, though the profit was mostly his own, since the managers
generally made little, and many of them actually lost by him. He
was not popular with the multitude, but was favored by the selecter
portion of the public. His enjoyment, too, of the eulogies written on
his acting was a good deal dashed by the censure and detraction in
which some of the writers for the press indulged. His social success,
however, was unalloyed. He and Forrest up to this time were on good
terms, terms of genuine kindness, though any strong friendship was
out of the question between natures so incompatible. Forrest had
honorably refused urgent invitations from several managers of theatres
in different cities to play for them at the time Macready was acting
in rival houses. The two or three weeks of his engagement in New York
Macready spent in the house of Forrest, who received a very cordial
letter of thanks from Mrs. Macready, in London, in acknowledgment of
his generous attentions and hospitality to her absent husband.

There were at that time many Englishmen connected with the leading
newspapers in this country. They naturally felt that the cause
of Macready was their own, and expatiated on the beauties of his
performances, not a little to the disparagement of the American player.
On the other hand, the national feeling of other writers affirmed the
greater merits of their own tragedian. By natural affinity the English
party drew to themselves the dilettante portion of the upper stratum of
society, the so-called fashionable and aristocratic, while the general
mass of the people were the hearty admirers of Forrest. The cold and
measured style of the foreigner, his rigid mannerism and studied
artificiality, were frequently spoken of in unfavorable contrast with
the free enthusiasm, the breathing sincerity and impassioned power, of
the native player. Forrest was called a rough jewel of the first water,
who scorned to heighten his apparent value by false accompaniments;
Macready a paste gem, polished and set off with every counterfeit gleam
art could lend. The fire of the one was said to command honest throbs
and tears; the icy glitter of the other, the dainty clappings of kid
gloves. Such expressions plainly betray the spirit that was working.
These comparisons--though there were enough of an opposite character,
painting the Englishman as a king, Forrest as a boor--greatly irked and
nettled Macready. And it was known that he went back to England with a
good deal of soreness on this point.

When Forrest made his first appearance in London, at Covent Garden
Theatre, a few months after the return of Macready from his American
trip, the latter, as well as all his compeers, Charles Kemble,
Charles Kean, and Vandenhoff, was without any London engagement. This
circumstance of itself was calculated to quicken jealousy towards an
intruding foreigner who threatened to attract much attention. However,
as it is known that Forrest had nothing to do with the depreciating
notices of Macready written in America, it is to be supposed that none
of the English tragedians had any hand whatever in the scurrilous
critiques of Forrest written in their country, or in the attempt
made to break him down and drive him from the London stage. But such
conspicuous personages always have in their train, among the meaner fry
of dramatic critics and their hangers-on, plenty of henchmen who are
eager to do anything in the fancied service of their lords, even to
the discredit and against the will of those whose cause they affect to

On the evening of the 17th of February, 1845, as Forrest appeared in
the character of Othello, he was saluted with a shower of hisses,
proceeding from three solid bodies of claqueurs, packed in three
different parts of the house. So often as the legitimate audience
attempted any expression of approval, it was overpowered by these
organized emissaries. Beyond any doubt it was a systematic plan
arranged in advance under the stimulus of national prejudice and
personal interest, whoever its responsible authors were or were not.
Forrest, though profoundly annoyed, gave no open recognition whatever
of the outrage, but went steadily on with his performance to the end.
The next evening, when he played Macbeth, the disturbances were more
determined than before; but the large majority of the crowded assembly
upheld the actor by their applause, and again he gave no heed to the
interruptions and insults. The force of the conspiracy was broken, and
gave no further overt signal, and the engagement was played through
triumphantly. But Forrest left Covent Garden with a bitter and angry
mind. He ruminated unforgivingly, as it was his nature to, on the
injurious and unprovoked treatment he had received. For the hisses,
suborned as they evidently were, did not constitute the worst abuse he
had to bear. Three or four of the London newspapers, known as organs of
special dramatic interests, most notably the organ of the bosom friend
of Macready, noticed him and his performances in a tone of comment
shamefully without warrant in truth. A few specimens will suffice to
prove the justice of this statement:

"Mr. Forrest's Othello is a burlesque of the elder Kean's mannerisms,
his air of depressed solemnity, prolonged pauses, and startling
outbursts, with occasional imitations of Vandenhoff's deep-voiced
utterance, varied by the Yankee nasal twang. His presence is not
commanding, nor his deportment dignified; for the assumption of
grandeur is not sustained by an imaginative feeling of nobleness. His
passion is a violent effort of physical vehemence. He bullies Iago, and
treats Desdemona with brutal ferocity. Even his tenderness is affected,
and his smile is like the grin of a wolf showing his fangs. The killing
of Desdemona was cold-blooded butchery."

"Our old friend Mr. Forrest afforded great amusement to the public by
his performance of Macbeth. Indeed, our best comic actors do not often
excite so great a quantity of mirth. The change from an inaudible
murmur to a thunder of sound was enormous. But the grand feature was
the combat, in which he stood scraping his sword against that of
Macduff. We were at a loss to know what this gesture meant, till an
enlightened critic in the gallery shouted out, 'That's right! sharpen

"Of Mr. Edwin Forrest's coarse caricature of Lear we caught a glimpse
that more than sufficed to show that the actor had no conception of
the part. His Lear is a roaring pantaloon, with a vigorous totter, a
head waving as indefatigably as a china image, and lungs of prodigious
power. There only wanted the candlewick mustaches to complete the stage
idea of a choleric despot in pantomime."

"Mr. Forrest's Richard the Third forms no exception to those murderous
attacks upon Shakspeare which this gentleman has so ruthlessly made
since his arrival amongst us. Since the time of that elder Forrest, who
had such a hand in the murder of the princes in the Tower, we may not
inappropriately take this last execution of Richard at Drury Lane to be

  'The most arch deed of piteous massacre
   That ever yet this land was guilty of.'

"We have tried very hard, since witnessing the performance, to discover
the principle or intention of it; but to no effect. We remember
some expressions, however, in an old comedy of Greene's, which may
possibly suggest something to the purpose. 'How,' says Bubble, on
finding himself dressed out very flauntingly indeed,--'how apparel
makes a man respected! The very children in the street do adore me!'
In almost every scene Mr. Forrest blazed forth in a new and most
oppressively-gilded dress, for which he received precisely the kind of
adoration that the simple Bubble adverts to."

But while the hostile papers characterized the change in the acting
of Forrest from what it was on his earlier visit as an unaccountable
deterioration, and censured him without reason, other journals took
up his defence, praised his performances warmly, and affirmed that he
had made great improvement. What the former stigmatized as a becoming
dull, cold, and formal, the latter eulogized as an outgrowing of former
extravagance and an acquiring of refinement, measure, and repose. As
he went on playing, his opponents diminished in numbers and virulence,
while his supporters increased, and at last he had conquered a real
triumph. It will be well to quote a few of the notices which appeared
in friendly and impartial quarters in contrast to those of an opposite
character already cited.

The Athenæum, in speaking of his opening night in Macbeth, said, "Mr.
Forrest's former manner has received considerable modification and
become mellowed with experience. He has learned that repose is the
final grace of art. In the startling crises of the play his voice and
action, both without effort, spring forth with crushing effect, not
because he is an actor who chooses thus to manifest strength, but
because he is a strong man, who simply exerts his excited energies.
Macbeth, as he now performs it, is a calm and stately, almost a
sculpturesque, piece of acting."

The Sun called his Lear a decisive triumph, and used the following

"Those contrasts, in which he delights, all tell well in the character
of Lear, and they were used with excellent discrimination and great
effect. There was something appalling in the bursts of fury with which
that weak-bodied but intensely-impassioned old man was occasionally
convulsed. The tottering gait, the palsied head, the feeble footsteps
of old age were admirably given; but the deep voice and the manly
contour of the figure showed that it was the old age of one who had
been, in the heyday of life, 'every inch a king.' It was the old
oak tottering to its fall, but the monarch of the forest still. The
passion, too, was most artistically worked up to a climax, increasing
in intensity from the scene in which he casts off Cordelia, through
the scene in which he curses Goneril, until in the scene in which
he becomes convinced of the treason of Goneril, when it became the
desolating hurricane, destroying even reason itself. The scenes with
Edgar were beautifully given. The different phases of the approach
of madness were admirably marked. You could see, as it were, reason
descending from her throne. The scene with Gloucester, too, was very
fine; the biting apothegms which Shakspeare has in this scene put into
the mouth of Lear were given with heartless, bitter, scornful, laughing
sarcasm, which is perhaps one of the most unfailing characteristics of
madness. The recognition of Cordelia was beautifully touching, and the
lament over her dead body was given with an expression of heart-rending
pathos of which we did not before imagine Mr. Forrest capable."

The praise given by the Times was still more emphatic:

"Mr. Forrest's Lear is, from beginning to end, a very masterly,
intelligent, and powerful performance, giving evidence of the most
careful and attentive study of the author's meaning, steering clear, at
the same time, of all fine-drawn subtleties and tricky point-making,
and affording a well-grasped and evenly-sustained impersonation of
that magnificent and soul stirring creation. He is certainly a better
Lear than any our own stage has afforded for some time. Although,
from Mr. Forrest's personal appearance, one would with difficulty
imagine him capable of looking the old man, fourscore and upwards, all
the attributes of age and feebleness, the palsied head and tottering
walk, are admirably assumed, and are never lost sight of throughout
the performance. At his first appearance he was received with
considerable applause, which was repeatedly renewed as he continued
with the scene,--commencing in a tone of kingly dignity and paternal
affection, and, after Cordelia's reply, gradually giving place to the
suppressed workings of his rage, which at last burst forth, at Kent's
interference, into an ungovernable storm, and lit up his features with
the most withering expression of fury. The curse at the end of the
second act, which was pronounced by Mr. Forrest in one scream of rage,
his body tremulously agitated with the violence of his emotion, brought
down burst after burst of applause, which lasted considerably after
the fall of the drop; and indeed an attempt was made to introduce that
very unusual compliment when the play is still unfinished, a call for
the actor. Such displays of physical power, although in this instance
perfectly called for and necessary, are not, however, the chief or the
best points on which the merits of Mr. Forrest's performance rest.
The scene where he discovers Kent in the stocks, and is subsequently
confronted with his two daughters, whose insults finally drive him off
distracted, was acted with great play and variety of expression,--Mr.
Forrest passing from one emotion to the other with childish fitfulness,
and displaying a keen and discriminate perception. The mad scenes
also in no less degree evinced the higher qualities of the actor. The
declamatory bursts of passionate satire on the vices and weaknesses
of the world, chaotically mingled with the incoherences of madness,
had evidently been a subject of minute study, and were shaded with
admirable nicety, the features constantly expressing the alternate
return of light and darkness on the old man's brain. In the last
act, the touching simplicity and tenderness of his manner, when too
exhausted for violent emotion, and the last burst of feverish energy
over the body of Cordelia, were equally well conceived. If there be any
fault to find, it was with the death, which was, perhaps, too minutely
true in its physical details.

"Mr. Forrest was called for at the conclusion, and received
enthusiastic marks of approbation."

The following extract is from a notice of his Othello by the John Bull:

"Mr. Forrest's former visit to this country must be fresh in the
memory of theatrical amateurs. His talents were then generally
admitted; but it was remarked that, though he possessed force, it
was more of a physical than a moral kind, and that his action was
more akin to melodrama than to tragedy. Since that time Mr. Forrest
seems considerably changed, and for the better. His action has become
more quiet, chaste, and subdued. It is now, perhaps, too careful and
measured, and we rather missed something of his former rough and
somewhat extravagant energy. We cannot help thinking that one or two
of our contemporaries have relied rather on their remembrance of what
Mr. Forrest _was_ than their perception of what he _is_. On the whole,
his representation of Othello well merited the immense applause it

Scores of notices like these in the best portion of the English press
prove conclusively enough the malignity of writers who could denounce
their American visitor as a theatrical impostor, worthy of nothing
but contempt. The London Observer, for example, could find nothing
better to say of the Metamora of Forrest than this: "His whole dramatic
existence is a spasm of rage and hatred, and his whole stage-life
one continuous series of murder, arson, and destruction to life and
property in its most hideous form. What a pity he could not be let
loose upon the drab-colored swindlers of Pennsylvania! Mr. Forrest did
not indicate one of the characteristics of the American Indian except
that wretched combination of sounds between a whine, a howl, and a
gobble, which is designated the war-whoop by those who think more of
poetry than of truth. Besides this sin of omission, he has to answer
for those sins of commission which so sadly deface his impersonation
of every part he has appeared in, namely, that cool, nonchalant
manner, that slow motion, and that ridiculous style of elocution, now
whispering, now conversational, ever and anon screaming, roaring,
bellowing, and raving, but never sustained, truthful, or dignified:

  'List to that voice! Did ever discord hear
   Sounds so well fitted to her untuned ear?'"

The Age and Argus spoke of the most extraordinary contrast of the
conduct of a part of the press towards Mr. Forrest to the treatment he
received when he acted at Drury Lane in 1836, and said, "Many persons
intimate that had he been now engaged there instead of appearing at the
Princess's, the theatrical reporters would have been unable to discover
a single fault in his performances,--managerial tact being competent
to guide the honest opinions of most of these gentry. The 'Observer'
endeavors to depict Mr. Forrest as a fool, an idiot, whose performance
is simply ludicrous; albeit we have reason to believe the writer is
the self-same person who seven years ago tried to write him up as a
first-rate tragedian."

Forrest thought, from some direct proofs and a mass of circumstantial
evidence, he could trace the fierce hostility with which he was met
to its chief source in Macready. He may have been mistaken; but such
was his belief. Macready, returning from America irritated towards him
as a more than formidable rival before the people, was now idle, and
had repeatedly failed to draw a remunerative audience in London. In
fact, such was the temper of the man that when manager Bunn was nightly
losing money by him, and, in order to make him break his engagement,
purposely vexed him by casts which he disliked, he one night rushed
off the stage in a fury, and, without a word of provocation, fell on
Bunn, a much smaller and weaker man, and beat him so dreadfully that
the poor manager lay in bed in frightful agony for two weeks. He was
prosecuted, convicted, and forced to pay a hundred and fifty pounds
damages. Macready was the intimate friend of the theatrical critic
who abused Forrest the most unrelentingly. He was the intimate friend
of Bulwer Lytton, who refused the request of Forrest to be allowed to
appear in his two plays of "Richelieu" and "The Lady of Lyons." He was
the intimate friend of Mitchel, the manager of the English theatrical
company in Paris, who rudely refused to see Forrest when he applied to
him for an interview. This last circumstance was especially mortifying,
as he had informed his friends before leaving home that he intended to
perform in Paris, and flattering notices of him and of his purposed
appearance among them had been published in the French press.[A]
Macready himself had failed to make an impression in Paris, and the
English company there was not pecuniarily successful. Forrest believed,
whether correctly or not, that his rival had interfered to prevent his
engagement there. Thus his antagonism was edged with a sharper hate.

[A] "Forrest a reçu le surnom de Talma de l'Amérique, et ce surnom
n'est point immérité. Forrest, de stature plus grande, plus athlétique
que Talma, a avec lui une certaine ressemblance de tête. Il a étudié
ce grand modèle auquel il a gardé une sorte de culte, et, dans son
dernier voyage de Paris, en 1834, sa première visite fut à la tombe du
grande artiste, sur laquelle il alla modestement et secrètement déposer
une couronne. Il y a quelque choses de touchant et d'éloquent dans cet
hommage apporté des rives lointaines du Nouveau-Monde à celui qui fut
le roi du théâtre européen. Forrest a dans son répertoire certains
rôles qui auront pour le public français un grand attrait de nouveauté.
Tel est, par exemple, celui de l'Indien Metamora, qu'il rend avec tant
d'énergie et de sauvage vérité. A son talent de premier ordre, Forrest
a dû non-seulement une réputation sans rivale en ce pays, mais encore
une très-belle fortune. Il est aussi haut placé comme homme que comme
artiste. Il est l'un des tribuns les plus éloquents du parti démocrate,
et il été un moment question de le nommer représentant du peuple au
congrès. Il a donc tout espèce de titres à une réception brillante et
digne de lui de la part du peuple parisien, si hospitalier à toutes
les gloires. A sa titres nombreux à cette hospitalité, M. Forrest en
a ajouté un encore, s'il est possible, par la manière honorable et
cordiale dont il a parlé de la France dans le discours d'adieu qu'il
a adressé l'autre jour aux habitans de Philadelphie. Voici la fin
de ce _speech_: 'Pendant le voyage que je vais faire à l'étranger,
je me propose de donner quelque représentations dans la capitale
de la France, où je recevrai, je n'en doute pas, l'accueil le plus
bienveillant et le plus cordial. Je crois que je ne hasarde rien en
osant tant espérer. Je parle d'après ma connaissance personnelle du
peuple français, au sein duquel je sais qu'un Américain est toujours
bien venu. Un Américain se souvient avec gratitude que la France a été
l'alliée, l'amie de son pays, dans la guerre de son indépendance, et la
nation française n'a point oublié que c'est à l'exemple de l'Amérique
qu'elle doit son initiation à la grande cause de la liberté humaine.'"

Meanwhile, the respective adherents of the rivals fanned the flames of
the quarrel by their constant recriminations in the press, and kept
the controversy spreading. Criticisms, accusations, rejoinders, flew
to and fro between the assailants and the champions of each side. An
extract from an article by one of the best-informed of the English
friends of the American actor, though obviously written with a bias,
yet throws light in several directions. He says, "There are half a
dozen writers for the press in London who are recipients of constant
attentions from the clique with which Macready lives, a clique of wits,
artists, authors, and men-about-town, who hover in the outskirts of
high life and form a barrier stratum between the lesser aristocracy and
the critics. The critics support upward, the clique transmit notice
downward, and Macready controls this clique by the consequence he has
as favored by the noblemen who play the patron to his profession.
Forrest is a true republican, and cannot be a courtier,--

  'He would not flatter Neptune for his trident.'

He neglects the finical rules and scorns to observe the demands of the
courtly circles which arrogate all superiority to themselves." Under
these circumstances a growing dislike and a final collision between the
men were inevitable by the logic of human nature.

Thus the quarrel went on, nor was confined to the scene of combat.
Its echoes rolled back to America, growing as they went, and adding,
somewhat extravagantly, to their individual import a national
significance. A long article appeared in the "Democratic Review,"
entitled "Mr. Forrest's Second Reception in England." A portion of it
will be found still to possess interest and suggestiveness:

"It is the fortune of this country to send over the water from time to
time men who are palpable and obvious embodiments of its spirit, and
who do not fail, therefore, to stir the elements among which they are

"Daniel Webster was one of these; and we all recollect how his motions
were watched, his words chronicled, his looks at court, in Parliament,
and at agricultural dinners taken down. They felt that he was a genuine
piece of the country, and, in presence of his oak-ribbed strength of
person and understanding, acknowledged that he belonged to the land he
came from. Mr. Forrest is another of these; quite as good in his way;
struck out of the very heart of the soil, and vindicating himself too
clearly to be misunderstood, as a creature of its institutions, habits,
and daily life. His biography is a chapter in the life of the country;
and taking him at the start, as he appears on the Bowery stage (a
rugged, heady, self-cultured mass of strength and energy thrown down
in the most characteristic spot in the American metropolis), and
running on with him through all his career, in the course of which it
became necessary for him more than once to take society by the collar,
down to the day when, in his brass-buttoned coat, he set out for this
second expedition to Europe, we shall find him American every inch, the
growth of the place, and well entitled to make a stir among the smooth
proprieties of the Princess's Theatre. And he has done so. When, after
an absence of something like seven years, he heaves up his sturdy bulk
against the foot-lights on the English house, the audience know him at
once to be genuine: but lurking in the edges of the place are certain
sharp-eyed gentlemen, who in the very teeth of the unquestionable force
before them, massive, irregular it may be, discover that Mr. Forrest
has lapsed from his early manner, and has subsided into tameness and

"Mr. Forrest's English position at this moment is, in our view, just
what his true friends would desire. He is carrying his audiences with
him; and has from the press just the amount of resistance required to
rouse him to new efforts, and to bring out the whole depth and force of
New-Worldism in him, to play an engagement such as he has never played
before, and to measure himself in assured strength by the side of the
head of the English school.

"Mr. Macready, an admirable performer, succeeds by subduing all of the
man within him; because he ceases, in the fulfilment of his function
as an actor, to have any fellowship with the beatings and turmoils and
agitations of the heart. He is classical in spirit, in look, and action.

"It is because he is a man of large heart, and does not forget it in
all the mazes of the stage, that Mr. Forrest has sway with the house.
He never loses sight of the belief that it is he, a man, with men
before him, who treads the boards, and asks for tears, and sobs, and
answers of troubled hearts. It is no painted shadow you see in Forrest;
no piece of costume; no sword or buckler moving along the line of light
as in a procession; but a man, there to do his four hours' work; it may
be sturdily, and with great outlay of muscular power, but with a big
heart; and if you fail to be moved, you may reasonably doubt whether
sophistication has not taken the soul out of you, and left you free to
offer yourself for a show-case or a clothier's dummy.

"We take an interest in Mr. Forrest because we see in him elemental
qualities characteristic of the country, and we feel therefore any
slight put upon him as, in its essence, a wound directed at the country
itself. He carries with him into action, upon the stage, qualities
that are true to the time and place of his origin. Whether rugged or
refined, he is upon a large scale, expansive, bold, gothic in his
style; and it is not, therefore, matter of wonder that he should have
encountered, both at home and abroad, the hostility of simpering
elegance and dainty imbecility."

Concluding his London engagement, Forrest proceeded to the principal
cities of the United Kingdom and appeared in his leading rôles, and was
uniformly greeted with full houses and unstinted applause. The tone of
the press towards him was everywhere highly flattering. At Sheffield
in particular his success was great. The dramatic company were as
much pleased with him as the audiences were, and took occasion on his
closing night to express their sentiment in a manner which gratified
him deeply. After the tragedy of Othello, Mr. G. V. Brooke, who had
sustained the part of Iago, invited Forrest to meet the theatrical
company in the green-room, and, entirely to his surprise, addressed him

"SIR,--A most pleasing duty has devolved upon me, in being deputed by
my brother actors to express the gratification and delight we have
experienced in witnessing your powerful talent as an actor, and your
courteous and gentlemanly bearing to your brother professors of the
sock and buskin. I am obliged to be very brief in my remarks, as some
of the gentlemen around me will have, in a very short time, to be on
duty at the post of honor. Allow me, then, sir, before you return to
the land of your birth, of which you are a brilliant ornament, to
present you, in the name of myself and brother actors, with this small
testimonial of our esteem, and to wish that health and prosperity may
attend you and Mrs. Forrest, whatever part of the globe it may be your
lot to visit."

The following was the inscription on the testimonial, which was a very
elegant silver snuff-box: "Presented to Edwin Forrest, Esq., by the
members of the Sheffield Theatrical Company, as a mark of their esteem
for him as an ACTOR and a MAN. January 30, 1846."

Forrest replied in the following words:

"I accept this gratifying token of the kind feeling entertained
towards me by the members of this company with mingled sentiments of
pride and satisfaction. Believe me, there is no praise that could be
awarded to my professional exertions so dear to me as that which is
offered by my brother actors; for they who, through years of toil,
have labored up the steep and thorny pathway which leads to eminence
in our laborious art, can alone appreciate the difficulties that must
be encountered and overcome. I shall ever look back with sincerest
pleasure to my intercourse with the Sheffield dramatic corps, to whose
uniform kindness I am greatly indebted for their prompt and cordial
co-operation in all the professional duties which we have been called
upon to perform together. Both here and at Manchester I have found you
always ready and willing to second my views, and any request made to
you at rehearsal in the morning you have never failed to perform with
alacrity and promptitude at night.

"You have in the kindest terms alluded to the courtesy which you
have been pleased to say has characterized my conduct towards all
the members of the company. In reply, I can only say, you have, each
and all, met me with an entirely correspondent feeling, and I thank
you from my heart. These same courtesies shown to one another are
productive of a vast amount of good. I cannot but remember that I, too,
have gone through the 'rough brake,' that I, too, began the profession
in its humblest walks; and I have not forgotten the pleasing and
inspiring emotions that were awakened in my youthful breast when I have
received a kind word, or an approving smile, from those who were 'older
and better soldiers' than myself. And at the same time my experience
has taught me that there is no one engaged in the art, be he ever so
humble, but some advantage may be gleaned from his observations. As I
knew not until this moment of your kind intention to present me with
this flattering testimonial, I am wholly unprepared to thank you as I
ought. There are feelings too deep to be expressed in words; and such
are my feelings now.

"Once more, I thank you: and permit me to add that, should any here, by
life's changing scene, be '_discovered_' in my country, I shall take
sincerest pleasure in promoting his views to the best of my ability."

While at Sheffield, Forrest attended a banquet given in honor of the
birthday of Robert Burns. In response to a toast proposed by the
chairman, "The health of Mr. Edwin Forrest, and Success to the Drama in
America," he said some of his earliest human and literary memories were
linked together with the story of Scotland and the genius of Burns.
His own father had left the Scottish hills to seek his fortune in an
American city. His earliest tutor, who had taken a generous interest
in him in his opening boyhood, and taught him to recite some of the
finest of the poems of Burns, was another Scottish emigrant,--Wilson
the ornithologist. After a few other words, he closed by reciting the
eloquent poem of his friend Fitz-Greene Halleck in memory of Burns,
which was received with vociferous cheering:

  "Praise to the Bard! His words are driven,
     Like flower-seeds by the far winds sown,
   Where'er beneath the arch of heaven
     The birds of fame have flown.

  "Such graves as his are pilgrim-shrines,
     Shrines to no code or creed confined,--
   The Delphian vales, the Palestines,
     The Meccas of the mind."

The Manchester Guardian published a critique on the Spartacus of
Forrest quite remarkable for its intelligent discrimination and choice
diction. As a description it is very just, but utterly mistaken in its
apparent implication that the spiritual should be made more distinctly
superior to the physical in this part. The writer seems not to have
remembered that Forrest was impersonating a semi-barbaric gladiator,
in whom, when under supreme excitement, the animal must predominate
over the intellectual. It would be false to nature to depict in such a
man under such circumstances ideality governing sense, reason calmly
curbing passion. It would be as absurd as to give a pugilist the mental
splendor and majesty of a Pericles. The way in which the critic paints
Forrest as representing Spartacus is exactly the way in which alone
the character could be represented without a gross violation of truth:

"This is, perhaps, of all others, the character in which Mr. Forrest
most excels; nay, stands alone. It implies and demands great physical
strength, a man of herculean mould, and we doubt if ever we shall again
look upon so fine a model of the lionhearted Thracian. That he is a
barbarian, too, is in favor of the actor; for what would be blemishes
in the polished Greek or haughty Roman are in keeping with the rude,
untutored nature of the Thracian mountaineer. Since his former visit,
Mr. Forrest has certainly improved, especially in the less showy
passages of the play; and we admire him most in the quiet asides, the
quick and clear directions as to the disposition of his troops, and
any other portions of the dialogue that do not demand great emotion.
In these he is natural and truthful. As before, when he comes to the
delineation of the deeper passions of our nature, it is by energetic
muscular action, and by the fierce shoutings or hoarse raving of his
voice, that he conveys the idea,--not by any of the nicer touches of
mental discrimination and expression. This course--an original one, in
which perhaps he stands supreme--is most effective, or rather least
defective, in this play, for the reason already given: in it his
acting is of a high, but certainly not of the highest, order. It is
the material seeking to usurp the throne of the ideal; physical force
clutching at the sceptre of the intellectual; with what success the
immutable laws of matter and mind will now, as ever, pronounce, in
their irreversible decrees. Still, it is an extraordinary histrionic
picture, which all lovers of the drama should contemplate. It is not a
thing to be laughed at or sneered down. Power there is; at times great
mental, as well as physical, power; but in the thrilling situations
of the piece, that which should be the slave becomes the master; and
energy of body reigns supreme over subordinated intellectual expression
and mental dignity. He is the Hercules, or the Polyphemus, not the
high-souled hero; and, in his fury, the raging animal rather than the
goaded and distracted man."

In Ireland, the acting of Forrest, the magnetic power of his
personality, the patriotic sentiments and stirring invectives against
tyranny with which his Spartacus and Cade abounded, conspired to
arouse a wild enthusiasm in his passionate and imaginative audiences,
and his appearances at Cork, Belfast, Dublin, were so many ovations.
The effect of his Jack Cade may be seen in this notice from the Cork

"The object of the writer seems to be to rescue Cade from the
defamation of courtly chroniclers and historians, who, either imbued
with an aristocratic indifference to the wrongs of an oppressed
people, or writing for their oppressors, misrepresented the motives
and ridiculed the power of the Kentish rebel. In this the author has
succeeded; for he flings round the shoulders of the rustic the garb
of the patriot, and fills his soul not only with a deep and thorough
hatred of the oppressors who ground the people to the earth and held
them down in bondage, but breathes into his every thought a passionate
and beautiful longing after liberty. The powerful representation of
such a play must produce a corresponding impression upon any audience;
how strong its appeal to the sympathies of an _Irish_ audience, may be
better imagined than described. It abounds with passionate appeals to
liberty, withering denunciations of oppression, and stinging sarcasms,
unveiling at a glance the narrow foundation upon which class-tyranny
bases its power and usurpation. In fact, from beginning to end, it is
an animated appeal to the best sympathies of MAN, stirring him to the
depths of his nature, as with a trumpet's blast.

"An objection might be made to some passages, that they are too
declamatory; but this is rather praise to the discrimination and
fidelity of the author to nature, than a reproach. When a leader has to
stir men's blood, to make their strong hearts throb, he uses not the
'set phrase of peace,'--he does not ratiocinate like a philosopher,
insinuate like a pleader; he talks like a trumpet, with tongue of
fire and with words of impassioned eloquence. Sufferings, wrongs,
indignities, dishonor to gray hairs and outrage to tender virginhood,
are not to be tamely told of, but painted with vivid imagination until
the heart again feels its anguish and the brow burns at the wrong. This
is the direct avenue to men's hearts,--the only way to rouse them to
desperate action; and hence the justice of Cade's declamation, when
addressing the crushed bondmen of Kent.

"Mr. Forrest's Aylmere had nothing in it of the actor's trick,--it
was not _acting_. He seemed thoroughly and entirely to identify himself
with the struggles of an enslaved people; and as every spirit-stirring
sentence was dashed off with the energy of a man in earnest it seemed
as if it had its birthplace in the heart rather than in the conceiving
brain. One passage, in which he calls down fierce imprecations on
the head of Lord Say, the torturer of his aged father and the coward
murderer of his widowed mother, was magnificently pronounced by Mr.
Forrest, amidst thunders of applause, as if the sympathy of the
audience ratified and sanctified the curse of the avenging son. Such is
the power of true genius!--such the force of passion, when legitimate
and earnest!"

At Cork he received the compliments of a poet in the happy lines that

  "O'er the rough mass the Grecian sculptor bent,
     And, as his chisel shaped the yielding stone,
     Rising, the world-enchanting Venus shone,
   And stood in youth and grace and beauty blent.
   Thus o'er each noble speaking lineament
     Of thy fine face, thy genius, FORREST, shines,
     And paints the picture in perfection's lines.
   With plastic skill Prometheus formed the clay;
     Yet soul was wanting in the image cold
   Till through its frame was shed life's glorious ray
     And fire immortal lit the mindless mould.
     Thus, while thy lips the poet's words unfold,
   With the rough ore of thought thy fancies play,
     And, with a Midas power, turn all they touch to gold!"

On his farewell night he acted Macbeth to a brilliant house. As
the drop-scene fell at the close of the last act, deafening shouts
re-echoed through the house, with calls for Forrest, which, on his
coming in front of the curtain to acknowledge them, were renewed and
kept up for a considerable time, the people rising _en masse_, and
paying the most marked tribute of their estimation. On silence being
restored, he said,--

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--Exhausted as I must necessarily feel, owing
to the character I have sustained, I cannot find language adequate to
express the sentiments that fill my bosom, neither am I able to return
suitable acknowledgments for the kindness which you are pleased to
evince towards me. I beg to thank you sincerely for the cordiality
and courtesy which I have experienced from the hospitable citizens of
Cork during my short sojourn in this 'beautiful city.' Long shall I
remember it, and in returning to my native country I shall bear with me
the grateful recollection of that courtesy and hospitality; and, when
there, I shall often think with pleasure and pride on the flattering
reception you were pleased to honor me with. I wish you all adieu, and
hope that the dark cloud that overhangs this fair country will soon
pass away; that a happier and brighter day will beam on her, and that
Ireland and her people will long enjoy the prosperity and happiness
they are so eminently entitled to, and which are so much to be desired."

He was quite as triumphant in Dublin as in Cork. The notice of his
opening in Othello shows this:

"Mr. Forrest, the American tragedian, made his first appearance on
Monday night, as Othello. The selection of the character was, for an
actor of great power, most judicious; for in all the glorious range
of Shakspeare's immortal plays there is not one so powerful in its
appeal to the sympathies of our nature, so masterly in its anatomy of
the human heart, or so highly-wrought and yet so beautiful a picture
of passion,--nor, for the actor, is there any character requiring more
delicacy of perception and personation in its details, nor so much
of terrible energy of the wrung heart and stormy soul in its bursts
of frenzied passion. An actor without a heart to feel and an energy
to express the fearful passion of the gallant Moor, whose free and
open nature was craftily abused to madness, could give no idea of the
character, and must needs leave the audience as cold and unmoved as

"But, to one glowing with the divine fire of genius, that wonderful
electricity by which the inmost nature of man is moved, and masses are
swayed as if by the wand of an enchanter, Othello is a noble character
for the display of his power,--a resistless spell, by which the eye
and ear and soul of the audience are held and moved and swayed. We
must admit that such an actor is Mr. Forrest, and that such is the
effect which his personation of the loving, tender, gentle, duped,
abused, maddened Moor produced upon us, and seemed to produce upon
his audience. From the rising to the falling of the curtain the
house was hushed in stilled, almost breathless, attention; and it
was not until stirred by some electrifying burst of passion that the
pent-up feeling of his listeners vented itself in such applause, such
recognition of the justness and naturalness of the passion, as man
gives to man in real life, and when, as it were, the interests of the
actor and the spectators are one. This species of involuntary homage
to the genius of his personation arose not only from the power which
a consummate actor acquires over the feelings of others, but from the
entire absence of all those contemptible tricks of the stage, those
affectations of originality, of individuality,--that is, stamping
the counterfeit manner of the actor upon the sterling ore of the
author,--those false readings and exaggerated declamations, which call
down injudicious but degrading approbation. Mr. Forrest is free from
all these defects. And yet his 'reading' is singularly telling. Not
one passage--nay, not one word--of the vivid, picturesque, nervous,
wondrous eloquence of the poet is lost upon the audience. What might
puzzle in the closet is transparent on the stage. The quaint form in
which the divine philosophy of Shakspeare clothes itself seems, by his
reading, its fit and apposite garb,--as if none other could so well
indicate its keen and subtile meaning. And all this is done without
aiming at 'points,' or striving after 'effects.' Then his tenderness
is tenderness--his passion, passion. Possessing a noble voice, running
from the richest base to the sweetest tenor,--if we might so describe
it,--full of flexibility, and capable of every modulation, from the
hurricane of savage fury to the melting tenderness of love, Mr.
Forrest can express all those varied and oftentimes opposite emotions
which agitate our nature, and which Shakspeare, as its most masterly
delineator, represents in all its phases in his immortal creations, and
not least in Othello. We were much struck with the beautiful fidelity
with which Mr. Forrest's look, gesture, tone, and manner painted the
gradual growth of jealousy, from the first faint, vague doubt, to its
full and terrible confirmation, and the change of Othello's nature,
from the frank soldier and the doting husband to the relentless fury of
the avenger. To our mind it was a noble picture,--bold, beautiful, and

An event illustrative of the spirit of Forrest occurred on his
last evening in Dublin. The play was "Damon and Pythias." The
Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland entered the theatre with a noble party,
escorted by a military company with martial music. The audience rose
with the curtain, and joined the whole dramatic corps in singing "God
save the Queen." Forrest never once during the play looked towards the
vice-regal box; and in the bows with which he acknowledged an honorary
call from the audience at the close, he studiously avoided seeing
the group of titularly-illustrious visitors. He was a democrat; he
liked the Irish and disliked their English rulers, and he would not
in his own eyes appear a snob. His taste and delicacy in the act were
questionable,--his sturdy honesty unquestionable. It reminds one of
Goethe and Beethoven standing together when the victorious Napoleon
passed in his pomp on the way to Berlin. Both were men of genius and
of nobleness; but the one was socially freed by cosmopolitan culture
and health, the other socially enslaved by natural inheritance and
morbidity. They acted with equal honesty, but in a very different way,
as Napoleon went by. Goethe made a low bow, and stood with inclined
front; Beethoven crushed his hat over his brows, and thrust himself
more stiffly up. Neither he nor Forrest could play the courtier. They
could not in social relations abnegate self and react impersonally
on others. They must assert that they were themselves, and were
democratically willing to allow everybody else the same privilege.

The reception of Forrest in Scotland, notably at Glasgow and Edinburgh,
was all that he could have asked. The first literary organ of Edinburgh
pronounced its judgment thus: "The three leading characteristics of
Mr. Forrest's acting appear to us to be, a bold intellectual grasp of
the written soul of his author; a remarkably vigorous and striking
execution, accompanied by an apparent contempt for mere conventional
rules or customs; and a rare faculty of expressing by the face what
neither pen can write nor tongue tell."

It was at Edinburgh that the actor performed what may perhaps be called
the most unfortunate and ill-omened deed in his life. Attending the
theatre to see Macready play Hamlet, he had applauded several good
points made by his rival. But in the scene where the court are about
assembling to witness the play within the play, and Hamlet says to

  "They are coming to the play; I must be idle.
   Get you to a place,"

Macready gallopaded two or three times across the stage, swinging his
handkerchief in rapid flourishes above his head. As he was affecting
to be mad, it does not seem that the action was in any extreme out
of character. But it struck Forrest as inexcusably unworthy, and a
desecration of the author. Accordingly, with his usual unpausing
forthrightness and reckless disregard of appearances, he gave vent
to his disgust in a loud hiss. Macready glowered at him and waved
his handkerchief towards him with an air of contemptuous defiance,
and repeated his movement. The right of a spectator to express his
condemnation of an actor by hissing is unquestioned. Had not Forrest
been himself a brother actor, and in unfriendly relations with
the performer, his hiss would not have been much noticed or long
remembered. But the special circumstances of the case gave it an
indelicacy and a bad taste which aggravated its import and led to
lasting consequences of hatred and violence. The following letter
addressed by Forrest to the editor of the London Times explains the
occasion which called it forth, and furnishes the reasons which in the
mind of its writer justified his primary deed, though they will hardly
be sufficient to justify it in the minds of impartial readers:

"SIR,--Having seen in your journal of the 12th inst. an article headed
'Professional Jealousy,' a part of which originally appeared in the
'Scotsman,' published in Edinburgh, I beg leave, through the medium of
your columns, to state that at the time of its publication I addressed
a letter to the editor of the 'Scotsman' upon the subject, which, as
I then was in Dumfries, I sent to a friend in Edinburgh, requesting
him to obtain its insertion; but, as I was informed, the 'Scotsman'
refused to receive any communication upon the subject. I need say
nothing of the injustice of this refusal. Here, then, I was disposed
to let the matter rest, as upon more mature reflection I did not
deem it worth further attention: but now, as the matter has assumed
a 'questionable shape,' by the appearance of the article in your
journal, I feel called upon, though reluctantly, to answer it.

"There are two legitimate modes of evincing approbation and
disapprobation in the theatre,--one expressive of approval by the
clapping of hands, and the other by hisses to mark dissent; and, as
well-timed and hearty applause is the just meed of the actor who
deserves well, so also is hissing a salutary and wholesome corrective
of the abuses of the stage; and it was against one of these abuses
that my dissent was expressed, and not, as was stated, 'with a view of
expressing his (my) disapproval of the manner in which Mr. Macready
gave effect to a particular passage.' The truth is, Mr. Macready
thought fit to introduce a fancy dance into his performance of Hamlet,
which I thought, and still think, a desecration of the scene, and at
which I evinced that disapprobation for which the pseudo-critic is
pleased to term me an 'offender'; and this was the only time during
the performance that I did so, although the writer evidently seeks, in
the article alluded to, to convey a different impression. It must be
observed, also, that I was by no means 'solitary' in this expression
of opinion.

"That a man may manifest his pleasure or displeasure after the
recognized mode, according to the best of his judgment, actuated by
proper motives, and for justifiable ends, is a right which, until now,
I have never once heard questioned; and I contend that that right
extends equally to an actor, in his capacity as a spectator, as to any
other man. Besides, from the nature of his studies, he is much more
competent to judge of a theatrical performance than any _soi-disant_
critic who has never himself been an actor.

"The writer of the article in the 'Scotsman,' who has most
unwarrantably singled me out for public animadversion, has carefully
omitted to notice the fact that I warmly applauded several points of
Mr. Macready's performance, and more than once I regretted that the
audience did not second me in so doing.

"As to the pitiful charge of 'professional jealousy' preferred against
me, I dismiss it with the contempt it merits, confidently relying upon
all those of the profession with whom I have been associated for a
refutation of the slander.

  "Yours respectfully,
  March, 1846.

On the appearance in an Edinburgh paper of the severe letter alluded
to in the foregoing, the indignation of Forrest was so intense that
he resolved to inflict summary punishment on its cause. In the early
evening he made an elaborate toilet, donning his best dress-suit,
putting on an elegant pair of kid gloves, carefully sprinkling himself
with cologne, and sought the dramatic critic, whom he supposed to
be the offender, in his customary seat in the upper tier of boxes.
Confronting the writer, he fixed his eyes on him, and through his set
teeth, in the deadliest monotone of suppressed passion, this question
glided like a serpent of speech: "Are you the author of the letter
in the 'Scotsman' relative to my hissing Macready?" The man shrunk a
little, and replied, "I am not." "It is fortunate for you that you are
not; for had you been, by the living God I would have flung you over
the balcony into the pit!" said Forrest, and left the box.

Besides this frightful instance of his angered state of mind, an
amusing one occurred while he was at Edinburgh. He was rehearsing,
when the proprietor and manager of the theatre, a diminutive and
foppish man, with a mincing squeak of a voice, came into the front and
disturbed the actors. Forrest did not recognize him, and cried out,
"Stop that noise!" The intruder retorted, with injured dignity, "This
is my theatre, sir; and I shall make as much noise in it as I please,
and when I please!" The explosive tragedian towered down upon him and
blazed out, in thunder-tones, "Damn you and your theatre! If you ever
dare to interrupt me again in this way when I am rehearsing, I will
knock your damned head off from your damned shoulders!" The terrified
proprietor shrunk away, and did not show himself in the house again
till the day after the tragedian's engagement had ended. Then Forrest
was in the dressing-room, packing his things, when he saw the manager
enter the adjoining room, where the treasurer was sitting. The dapper
little man advanced with nimble step, rubbing his hands briskly, and
asked, in his dapper little voice, "Has the great American pugilist
left town?" Forrest broke into hearty laughter at the ludicrous
contrast, and came forward with both hands extended, and they parted as
very good friends.

On the Fourth of July, Forrest presided at the celebration of the
anniversary of their national independence held by the Americans in
London, at the Lyceum Tavern. The building was decorated with American
flags, and the intellectual exercises after the dinner, introduced
by the chairman with an effective speech in defence and eulogy of
republican institutions, were sustained till a late hour with much

While in London--it may possibly be that the adventure occurred
during his previous visit--Forrest called, by invitation, on Jerome
Bonaparte, who was then residing there, and who had seen several of
his impersonations, and had expressed a high opinion of their merits.
In the course of their conversation, Forrest asked Jerome if he had
been personally acquainted with Talma. Smiles broke over the face
of the ex-king like sunny couriers from a hive of sweet memories,
as he replied, in an exquisitely-modulated voice, "I had the honor
of knowing that distinguished man well, and I esteemed him for his
character as much as I admired him for his art. He was an honest
patriot, who regarded not the fashions of the day. When Napoleon was
a poor corporal, Talma was his friend, and gave him free passes to
the theatre. He was equally the friend of the emperor, but asked no
preferment or gift from him. He was a republican at the first, and
he remained a republican to the last. His soul, sir, was as sublime
off the stage as his acting was on it." As he spoke these words,
Forrest says, a beam of reminiscent joy seemed at once to light up his
countenance and brighten his voice.

It was the end of August that the player, sore and weary of his exile,
ardently longing for home, sailed for his beloved America, where he
well knew a welcome of no ordinary character would greet him. And so it
proved. The current tone of the press breathed a hearty friendliness.
It assured him that his countrymen had followed his career from his
boyhood to his present proud position with a growing interest, and
that his recent experience abroad had deepened their attachment to
him. Whatever bars had from time to time presented themselves, he had
readily overpassed or brushed away, and he was congratulated on having
always made good his position with the decisive energy characteristic
of his country. He was told that he had secured the affections of the
masses of the people to such a degree that his name was a proverb among
them, and they would now spring to welcome him home as very few are

He waited but four days before appearing as Lear at the Park Theatre.
The New York Mirror says, "The house was crowded to excess. The pit
rose in mass, and long and loud was the applause, clapping of hands,
thumping of canes, waving of hats and handkerchiefs, ending with nine
cheers for Edwin Forrest, given with heart and soul. The recipient
evidently felt it all. Long may this relation between actor and people
be unbroken! It is for the good of both that it should exist. As a man,
Mr. Forrest is worthy of this confidence; as the representative of Lear
and the greatest nobleness of Shakspeare, and the loftiest minds of the
drama, he is trebly worthy of it, for he stands the representative of
an heroic truth and dignity. It is impossible that the people should
witness such a performance as that of King Lear without elevation and
purification of character. On Mr. Forrest's part such a reception must
recall to him, more forcibly than the language of any critic, the
responsibility that rests upon him as one of the chief representatives
of the American stage, an institution which, being yet in its infancy,
has capacity for good or evil, the development of which rests upon
the present generation. Those who look upon the stage now with any
interest regard it with respect to the future, and demand in any actor
or dramatic author a reverence for the theatre, and some services
in its cause. If we thought the theatre would always remain in its
present condition in this country, we should abandon it in despair. But
it cannot so remain, any more than our literature can remain merely
imitative, or our political life low and pestilent as it is. The stage
must rise. No one can render more aid to the cause than Mr. Forrest."

At the close of the play he was honored with the same enthusiastic
greeting as at his entrance, and he said, "Ladies and Gentlemen,--I
have not words fitly to acknowledge a reception so kind, so cordial,
so unexpected. It has so overpowered me that I cannot convey to you
the grateful emotions of my heart. Yet, while a pulse beats here or
memory continues, I shall ever remember the emotions of my soul at this
reception. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you."

The marked advance in the taste and finish of his performance was
owned by all. The Albion said, "He is infinitely more subdued and
quiet in his acting; his readings are more elaborated and studied.
His action and attitudes are more classic in their character; and a
dignified repose, rendered majestic at times by his imposing figure,
gives a tone to his performances wholly unlike the unrepressed energy
and overwhelming physical power that formerly were the prominent
characteristics of his style. As an instance of the beauty of his
present subdued style we would instance the passage in Lear commencing

  'You see me here, you gods, a poor old man'--

"The whole of this passage was given in a strain of subdued,
heart-broken pathos, exquisitely natural and effective. Similar touches
of genuine feeling are now thrown into his Othello,--which are perfect
triumphs of the art,--as are likewise those well-known bursts of
intense passion, given with a force of physical power unapproachable
perhaps by any living actor.

"Mr. Forrest occupies so prominent a position in his own country, as
the greatest living American actor, as the founder of a school,--for
he has literally founded a school, as may be seen from his numerous
imitators,--and from the influence of his high name,--that we mark
these changes in his style as especially worthy the attention of his
younger and less experienced cotemporaries."

On his benefit night, in response to the call of the auditory, he
made a brief speech, whose tenor showed that he fully felt the
responsibility of his position and meant to be faithful to it.
Returning his thanks, he added, "And, in the hope that you may
continue to approve my efforts, they shall henceforth be employed,
most strenuously, to bring the American stage within the influence
of a progressive movement, to call forth and encourage American
dramatic letters, to advance the just claims of our own meritorious
and deserving actors. Yet, while I shall endeavor to exert an
influence favorable to American actors, you will do me the justice
to believe that I am animated by no ungenerous motives towards the
really deserving of any other country; for I should blush to imitate
that narrow, exclusive, prejudiced, and, I may add, anti-American
feeling which prescribes geographical limits to the growth of genius
and talent. True worth is the birthright of no country, but is the
common property of all. And, ladies and gentlemen, if it pleases you to
applaud and to second, in this endeavor, my humble efforts, I will say
to you, in the language of the old Cardinal in the play,--

  "'There's no such word as _fail_!'"

Amidst the cheers elicited by these words, as he made his bow, a
garland, enclosing a copy of verses addressed to him, fell at his feet.
He raised it and retired, while the orchestra struck up "Home, Sweet

He then received another flattering compliment from many of the most
prominent of his fellow-citizens:

  "NEW YORK, Oct. 10th, 1846.


"DEAR SIR,--The undersigned, your friends and fellow-citizens,
desirous of expressing to you personally the high estimation they
entertain for your public and private character, avail themselves of
the occasion of your return from Europe to invite you to a public
dinner, and request that you will set apart one of the few days you
are to remain with us, that may be most convenient to you, to accept
of this slight tribute to your professional excellence and private

  "We are, with great respect,
    "Your obedient servants,
      SAML. WARD,
      B. F. VOORHIS,
      JAMES F. OTIS,
      C. A. CLINTON,
      JAS. T. BRADY,
      L. B. WYMAN,
      DR. JOHN F. GRAY,
      E. K. COLLINS,
      H. WEECKS,
      E. R. HART,
      A. INGRAHAM,
      A. G. STEBBINS,
      JOHN P. CISCO,
      J. M. MILLER,
      D. P. INGRAHAM,
      JAS. PHALEN,
      W. M. BECKWITH,
      ROBT. H. MORRIS,

To this letter he thus replied:

  "NEW YORK, Oct. 12th, 1846.

"GENTLEMEN,--I have had the honor to receive your very kind
letter of the 10th inst., in behalf of a number of my friends and
fellow-citizens, inviting me to a public dinner, and requesting me to
name a day most convenient to myself for its acceptance.

"It did not need this additional testimony to the many already
conferred upon me by my fellow-citizens of New York, to assure me of
their kind regard, and I feel for this, as well as for other tokens
of esteem, that I am indebted more to their kindness than to any
deserving upon my part.

"I accept, however, with pleasure, the invitation you have conveyed
to me in such flattering terms, and, with permission, appoint Friday
next, the 16th instant, as the day to meet my friends as they propose.

"I remain, gentlemen, yours, with sentiments of the highest respect
and regard,

  "To Messrs. WM. C. BRYANT, C. A. CLINTON, etc."

Accordingly, the committee of arrangements proceeded to prepare for
the proposed welcome, and selected the New York Hotel as the place. A
large and distinguished company sat down to the banquet. William Cullen
Bryant presided, assisted by David Graham, Jr., James T. Brady, Charles
M. Leupp, and Egbert Benson, as Vice-Presidents.

The first toast was "Our Country."

The next--"The American Stage. Its brilliant morning gives promise of a
glorious day."

In introducing the third toast, Mr. Bryant said, "It is with great
pleasure, gentlemen, that I proceed to fulfil a duty which your
kindness has laid upon me, that of proposing the health of the
distinguished man whom we are assembled to honor. A great actor,
gentlemen, is not merely an interpreter of the dramatic poet to the
sense of mankind; he is something more and greater: he is, in his
province, the creator of the character he represents. It is true that,
from the hints given by the framer of the drama, he constructs the
personage whom he would set before us; but he fills up an outline often
faint, shadowy, and imperfect, and gives it distinctness, light and
shade, and color; he clothes a skeleton with muscles, and infuses it
in the blood and breath of life, and places it in our midst, a being
of soul and thought and moved by the perpetual play of human passions.
Those who have seen the restorations of ancient statues by Michael
Angelo have admired the exquisite art, I should rather say the power
above art, with which the great Florentine--a genius, if ever one
lived--entered into the spirit of the old sculptors, and with what
faithful conformity to the manner of the original work, yet with what
freedom of creative skill, he supplied those parts which were wanting,
and animated modern marble with all the life of the antique. It is
thus with the artist of the stage: he supplies what the dramatist
does not give,--supplies it from the stores of his own genius, though
always in harmony with the suggestions of his author. He often goes
far beyond this: he sees in those suggestions features of character
which the author failed to perceive, or perceived but imperfectly, and
depths of passion of which he had no conception. With these he deals
like a skilful landscape painter, who from a few outlines in pencil,
which to the common eye appear confused and purposeless, brings out
upon the canvas a glorious scene of valley and mountain and dark woods
and glittering waters. Those who have read the Richelieu of Bulwer in
the closet and seen the Richelieu of Forrest on the stage will easily
comprehend what I mean; they have seen the sketch of the dramatist
matured and enriched, and wrought into consistence and strength, and
filled with power and passion, by the consummate art of the actor. How
well our friend has acquitted himself in what is justly esteemed the
highest effect of the histrionic art, that of personating the great
characters of Shakspeare's dramas, it is hardly necessary for me to
say, so ample and so universal is the testimony borne to his success
by intent and crowded audiences. The style of that divine poet is
so suggestive, the glimpses of character he casually but profusely
gives, are of such deep significance that he tasks the powers of the
stage more severely than any other author. To follow out all these
suggestions, to combine all these delicate and sometimes perplexing
traits of character into one consistent, natural, and impressive whole,
requires scarcely less a philosopher than an actor. And well has Mr.
F. sustained this difficult test. Never was the helpless and pathetic
yet majestic old age of Lear more nobly given, or in a manner to draw
forth deeper sympathies; never the struggle between love and suspicion
in the breast of Othello, his jealousy in its highest frenzy, and his
fine agony of remorse, more powerfully represented. After having placed
himself at the summit of his art by the successful representation of
these and other characters of Shakspeare in his own country, he has
lately returned to us with honors gathered in another hemisphere. It
is a source of satisfaction to the friends of Mr. Forrest that he
has not fallen a prey to the follies which so strongly tempt men of
his profession. He has given us another instance of the truth that a
great actor may be an irreproachable man; his private life has been an
example of those virtues which compel the respect even of that class
least disposed to look with favor on the profession of an actor,--such
an example as in the last century made Hannah More the personal friend
of David Garrick. In the intense competitions of the stage, Mr. Forrest
has obeyed a native instinct in treating his rivals with generosity,
and, when beset by calumny and intrigue, has known how to preserve the
magnanimous silence of conscious greatness. Genius may command our
admiration; but when we see the man of genius occupied only in the
endeavor to _deserve_ renown, and looking beyond the obstacles which
envy or malevolence lays in his path to the final and impartial verdict
of his fellow-men, our admiration rises to a higher feeling. Gentlemen,
I will no longer withhold from you the toast,--I give a name, without
a sentiment,--a name which suggests a volume of them,--I give you 'Our
guest, Edwin Forrest.'"

The toast was drunk amidst a tempest of demonstrations.

Mr. Forrest, manifestly agitated by the warmth of these tokens of good
will, replied in a speech which was interrupted with frequent applause.
He said, "Mr. President and gentlemen, I wish I could in adequate
language express my acknowledgments for the distinguished favor you
have conferred upon me this day. But the words which I endeavor to
summon to my lips seem poor and empty offerings in return for those
honors, deep and broad, with which your kindness loads me. The sounds
and sights that meet me here to bid me welcome,--the old familiar
voices that were raised in kind approval of my early efforts,--faces
whose smiles of sweet encouragement gave vigor to my heart to mount
the ladder of my young ambition,--this munificent banquet, spread with
no party views, the generous offering of my fellow-citizens of each
political faith,--the flattering sentiments so eloquently couched by
the distinguished man selected to impart them,--all these have stirred
my bosom with so many mingled feelings that, in the grateful tumult of
my thoughts, I cannot choose words to speak my thanks. A scene like
this is no fleeting pageant of the mimic art, to be forgotten with
the hour; but it is to me one of those sweet realities of life that
fill the heart and vibrate on the memory forever. Among the gratifying
tributes, both professional and personal, which you have paid me, you
have alluded in flattering terms to the silence I have ever observed
when assaulted by calumny or circumvented by intrigue. You will
pardon me, I am sure, if upon this occasion I break that silence for
a moment by referring to the opposition I encountered during my late
reappearance upon the London stage. An eminent English writer, in the
'North British Review,' makes these very just remarks: 'Our countrymen
in general have treated the Americans unkindly and unfairly, and have
been too much disposed to exaggerate their faults and to depreciate
their excellencies.' Here, then, we have an honest and candid avowal
of an indisputable fact. With regard to my own case, even before I had
appeared I was threatened with critical castigation, and some of the
very journals which, upon my former appearance in London, applauded me
to the echo, now assailed me with bitterest denunciations. Criticism
was degraded from its high office,--degraded into mere cavilling,
accompanied by very pertinent allusions to Pennsylvania bonds,
repudiation, and democracy.

  'All, all but truth falls still-born from the press.'

Relying implicitly upon the verity of this proposition, I quietly
awaited the expression of the 'sober second thought of the people;'
and I am happy to say I was not disappointed in the result. Their
approving hands rebuked the malice of the hireling scribblers, and
defeated the machinations of theatrical _cliques_ by whom these
scribblers were suborned. But enough of this. I now turn to contemplate
with pride and satisfaction my reception elsewhere. In Edinburgh,--the
most beautiful and picturesque city in Europe, where learning is a
delight and not an ostentation,--my reception professionally was
gratifying in the extreme, while nothing could exceed the friendly
hospitalities of private life, presented, as they were, by those
who to the highest intellectual culture unite the equally estimable
qualities of the heart. And as for Ireland, I need scarcely tell you
that in the land of the warm-hearted Irishman an American is always at
home. There, from the humblest as from the most exalted man he finds
a smile of welcome and a friendly grasp. How could it be otherwise
among a people so full of sensibility and impulse, of unselfishness
and magnanimity,--a people in whom misrule and tyranny have failed to
quench one spark of generous spirit, or to curdle one drop of the milk
of human kindness in their hearts? And now a word touching American
dramatic letters. One of the wishes nearest my heart has ever been
that our country should one day boast a Drama of her own,--a Drama
that shall have for its object the improvement of the heart, the
refinement of the mind,--a Drama whose lofty and ennobling sentiments
shall be worthy a free people,--a Drama whose eloquent and impressive
teaching shall promote the cause of virtue and justice, for on such
foundations must we rely for the perpetuity of our institutions. And
what is to prevent us from having such a Drama? Have we not in our
country all the materials, have we not the capacity for invention and
construction, and have we not pens (turning to Mr. Bryant) already
skilled in the sweet harmonies of immortal verse? In connection with
the cultivation and support of a National Drama, the friends of the
stage will not be unmindful of the claims of our own deserving actors,
among whom, I am proud to say, there are some may challenge successful
comparison with any of the 'Stars' that twinkle on us from abroad,
and, unlike most of those 'Stars,' they shine with their own and not
with a borrowed lustre. One of those actors, to whom I allude, is now
seated among you,--one who, in the just delineation of the characters
he represents, has now no equal upon the stage." (At this allusion to
Mr. Henry Placide, the applause was very enthusiastic.) "In conclusion,
Mr. President and gentlemen, permit me to offer as my sentiment,
'The Citizens of New York, distinguished for a bounty in which is no
winter,--an autumn 'tis that grows the more by reaping.'" (Drunk with
all the honors.)

Mr. Forrest's toast was responded to by the following, by Mr. Mickle,
the Mayor: "The Drama,--it teaches us to honor virtue and talent. We
follow its dictates in rendering honor to our guest to-night."

Mr. Mathews proposed the next toast: "American Nationality. In the
fusion of all its elements in a generous union under the influence of
a noble National Literature lies the best (if not the _only_) hope of
perpetuity for the American Confederacy."

General Wetmore rose and alluded to an eminent man who was present at
the last public dinner given to Mr. Forrest in New York, one of his
dearest friends, and who was now in his grave, and gave "The Memory of
William Leggett," which was drunk standing, and in solemn silence.

Other toasts were proposed, letters were read, speeches made, songs
sung, and every one seemed thoroughly to enjoy the occasion, which
closed by the whole company joining hands and singing "Auld Lang Syne."

Yet, amidst all these honoring and most enjoyable experiences at home,
Forrest had brought back with him from abroad a burning grudge. Shut
up in his bones, it gnawed upon his comfort and peace. The different
theatrical and social parties knew of his grievances through the press.
Among his friends, of course, he conversed freely of them; and there
was a multitude of his admirers among the populace who were as loyal
to him as clansmen to their chief. Their passions exaggeratingly took
up what their intelligence knew little about, and they were ripe for
mischief whenever an opportunity and the slightest provocation should
be afforded them. This, it should be understood, without any purposed
stimulus or overt hint from him. Such was the state of things when
Macready once more came to America. The ingredients were ready for a
popular explosion if a spark should be blown on them. Had the English
tragedian kept silent, the latent storm might not have burst; but,
unhappily, he began at once to make allusions to conspiracies, to
enemies, to a certain class in the community,--allusions which were but
too quickly caught up and applied and resented. And so the virus worked.

Place must here be found for a tender and tragic passage in the life of
Forrest, whose date remained thenceforth a sacred and solemn mark in
his memory,--the death of his mother.


Dear Lawson,

  My Mother is dead.
  That little sentence speaks
  all I can say, and more--much
    Yours truly
    Edwin Forrest.
  James Lawson.

  June 25. 1847.

This event occurred, after a brief and not painful illness, on the
twenty fourth of June, 1847, in the seventy-third year of her age. The
preceding fac-simile of the announcement of the sad event to one of his
oldest and dearest friends is expressive in its Spartan brevity.

The day after the burial, one of the papers said, "The funeral of the
mother of Edwin Forrest, the great American tragedian, took place
yesterday. She was buried in St. Paul's churchyard. The emotions of
the actor on taking his last look at the parent who had always loved
and cherished him so tenderly were far more keen than any he had ever
feigned on the stage. We regard the mother of a man of fame and genius
with an involuntary feeling of reverence. We think of her care and
tutoring of her child in his earliest years."

The grief of Forrest when the form of his mother sank from his sight
into the grave was indeed sharp and profound. His friend Forney said
to him afterwards, "I did not suppose you were so sensitive. I saw how
hard you had to struggle to control your feelings; and I think all the
more of you for it."

The loss of his mother was a great misfortune to Forrest, not only
in the sorrow and the sense of impoverishment it gave his heart, but
also in removing the strong restraint she had exerted upon his growing
distaste for society, his deepening resentment at the insincerity and
injustice around him, and his consequent tendency to shut himself up
in himself. If few men ever had a better mother, it may truly be said
few men ever were more faithful in repaying their filial indebtedness.
The love which Forrest cherished for his mother was a charming quality
in his character, and the generous devotedness of his conduct to her
was one of the finest features of his life. He used often to say that
he owed to the early lessons she had taught him everything that was
good in him. "Many and many a time," he said, "when I was tempted to
do wrong, thoughts of my mother, of her love for me, of her faith and
character, of what she would wish me to do and to be, came and drove
the offending temptation away."

We can see something, much, indeed, of her character, by reflection, in
the following letter written to her by Edwin from New Orleans in 1834,
on receipt of the tidings of the death of his brother William:


"MY DEAR MOTHER,--We have experienced a deep and irreparable loss.
You are deprived of a dutiful and affectionate son, my dear sisters
of a most loving and devoted brother, and I have now none on earth to
call by that tender and endearing name. The intelligence of William's
death was a severe shock to me, so sudden, so unexpected. It seems but
yesterday that I beheld him in the pride of his strength and manhood;
and I can scarcely credit that his 'sensible warm motion has become a
kneaded clod, doomed to lie in cold abstraction and to rot.' Yet is
it a too sad reality, and we must try to bear our affliction as we
ought. After the dreadful impression of the blow, my first thought
was of _you_, my mother. I knew how truly and tenderly you loved him,
and with great anxiety I have felt how deeply you must deplore the
loss of him now. But for my sake, dear mother, for the sake of all
your children, whose chief study in life is to make you happy, do not
give way to grief, lest it impair your health and deprive you of the
enjoyment of the many happy years through which it is our prayer that
you may yet live to bless us. Whatever befalls any of your children,
you must have the great consolation of knowing that in all your
conduct towards them you have always been as faithful and kind and
exemplary as any parent could possibly be.

"I have received letters from my friends Wetherill, Duffy, and
Goodman. When you next see those kind gentlemen, thank them in my name
for their grateful attention.

"I shall be with you in about three weeks, and I long for the time
to come, that I may talk with you face to face about our dear
William, and try, by my redoubled devotion, to make up to you for his
departure. Give my love to Henrietta, Caroline, and Eleanora.

"My dear mother, that your years may be long and increase in comforts
is the sincere prayer of your truly affectionate son,


From Vienna, under date of December 10th, 1835, he wrote thus to her:

"MY DEAR MOTHER,--You express a wish that it may not be long before
I am restored to you. You cannot wish this more sincerely than I
do. For, to speak truth, I am weary with this wandering, and sigh
for the sincere and tranquil joys of home. I hope, with the pleasure
and instruction I have received from my journeyings, to entertain
you during some long and friendly winter evenings, when we shall be
cosily seated together in that snug little room of yours by a good
coal-fire. How happy we shall be, dear mother! Then shall I see in
those dark and expressive eyes of yours some occasional symptoms of
doubt at my strange narrations, which, of course, I shall render
both clear and probable by an abundance of testimony. Thus shall our
evenings pass with calm reflection on my 'travel's history,' and you
shall banish all regrets that I have stayed away from you so long. It
will be a melancholy pleasure to contemplate the relics of our poor
Lorman. Time, time, how fleeting and momentary is man's existence when
compared with thy eternal march!"

In another letter to her during this same absence, he says, "Mother,
do you sometimes wish to see your wandering boy and take him to your
arms again? Why do I ask such a question? I know you do. Though all the
world should forget me, I shall still be cherished in your heart; and
your love is worth to me all the admiration of the world besides."

At a later time he wrote, "Beloved mother, it has been so long since I
have heard from you, that I grow anxious to know that you are well and
in the tranquil enjoyment of the blessings of this life. If ever any
one deserved life's peaceful evening,--do not think I flatter,--that
person is yourself. When I reflect upon the trials of poverty you have
endured, how, under the most trying afflictions, you have sustained
yourself with such becoming dignity, I cannot withhold the unfeigned
homage which prompts me to say that I am as proud of you, who gave me
birth, as you can ever have been of me in the choicest hours of my

And in the latest year of her life he wrote, "Dearly beloved mother,
is there not something I can send you which will give you pleasure?
Anything in the world which it is in my power to obtain you have
only to ask for in order to receive. You know I cannot experience a
keener happiness than in gratifying any desire of yours, to whom I owe

In the diary he kept during his first visit to Europe, this quotation
from Lavater was copied, with the appended verses: "'I require nothing
of thee,' said a mother to her innocent son, when bidding him farewell,
'but that you bring me back your present countenance.'

  "'What shall I bring thee, mother mine?
    What shall I bring to thee?
  Shall I bring thee jewels that shine
    In the depths of the shadowy sea?'

  "'Bring me that innocent brow, my boy!
    Bring me that shadowless eye!
  Bring me the tone of tender joy
    That breathes in thy last good-bye!'"

His mother ever remained in his memory a hallowed image of authority
and benignity, a presence associated with everything dear and holy. In
an hour of effusion, near the end of his own life, he said, "When I
saw her great dark eyes fixed on me, beaming with satisfied affection,
and listened to words of approval from her lips, O it was more to me
than all the public plaudits in the world! My God, what a joy it would
be to me now to kneel at her feet and worship her! And they say there
are such meetings hereafter. I know not, I know not. I hope it _is_
so." He had her portrait over the foot of his bed, that her face, as
in his childhood, might be the last sight he saw ere falling asleep,
and the first to greet him when he awoke. And among the papers left at
his death the following lines were found in his handwriting, either
composed by him or copied by him from some unnamed source:


  "Here is my mother's grave. Dear hallowed spot,
   The flight of these long years has changed thee not,
   Though all things else have changed; e'en this sad heart,
   In all, save thoughts of thee, which will not start,
   But, woven in my being, burn again
   With fires the torch of memory kindles still.
   Though I have wandered far in distant spheres,
   And mixed in many scenes of joy and tears,
   And found in all, perchance, some friends, and loved
   One who was even more, I ne'er have roved
   From thee, my mother, and thy sacred grave.
     I could forget, albeit a task severe,
   All forms, all faces, all that love e'er gave,
     Save thine, my mother,--that no time can wear.
   I have but one sad wish when life is o'er,--
   Whatever fate is mine, on sea or shore,
   Whoe'er may claim my ashes for a trust,
   They still may come to mingle with thy dust.
   'Tis fit this troubled heart, when spent with care,
     Again should turn to that unfailing breast,
   And find at last the home my childhood shared,--
     The quiet chamber of my mother's rest."

The wish has been fulfilled, and the forms of mother and son sleep side
by side where no pain, no harsh word, ever comes.

In the September of 1848 Macready had made his reappearance on the
American stage. Some of the friends of Forrest, democrats who had
potent influence with the Bowery Boys, or the muscular multitude of
New York, called on him, and proposed to have the English tragedian
driven from the theatre. Forrest felt that such a course would be
unworthy of him, and, instead of giving him revenge, would dishonor
his name, and make his enemy of increased importance. He refused to
have anything to do with such an attempt, and urged his friends to
drop the matter entirely. They did so. When, however, Macready, taking
advantage of a call before the curtain to make a speech, told the
public that he had been assured that he was to be met by an organized
opposition, and thanked them for the flattering reception which had
"defeated the plan," "baffled his unprovoked antagonists, and rebuked
his would-be-assailants," fresh indignation was stirred, and a great
deal of bad blood kindled. In Philadelphia he was saluted with some
hissing amidst the great applause. He then took occasion to say of
Forrest, directly, "He did towards me what I am sure no English actor
would have done towards him,--he openly hissed me." This caused an
intense excitement in the house, with several personal collisions. The
next day Forrest published a letter in the "Pennsylvanian," replying
to Macready's speech, and arraigning his conduct and his character
in very severe terms. The statements in the letter may all have been
true and just, but it was written in an angry temper, and had better
not have been written. It was not in good taste, and, spreading the
contagion of an inflamed individual quarrel among the community, was of
bad influence. Where his passions were concerned, good taste was not
the motto of Forrest. Downright honesty and justice, rather than the
delicate standards of politeness, were his aim. Macready retorted in a
published card, to which Forrest responded indirectly in several long
letters to a friend. Thus the controversy waxed hotter, and excited
wider and angrier interest. And when the English actor was ready to
begin his closing engagement in New York, in May, 1849, the elements
for a storm were all ready.

We can see the straight hitting from the shoulder of Forrest in every
sentence of his "Card." "I most solemnly aver and do believe that
Mr. Macready, instigated by his narrow, envious mind and his selfish
fears, did secretly suborn several writers for the English press to
write me down." We can see the wounded colossal arrogance of Macready
in the allusion to his antagonist entered in his diary at the time.
"The Baltimore papers characterize the performances of Forrest as
equal, if not superior, to mine, and speak of him as of an artist and a
gentleman. And I am to dwell in this country!" In the quarrel Macready
appears as a vain and fretful aristocrat, observant of the fashionable
code of courtesy, but capable of falsehood; Forrest as a proud and
revengeful democrat, scornful of the exactions of squeamish society,
and quite capable of bad taste. In both is visible the resentful and
morbid egotism of their profession in a blameworthy and repulsive form.
And the whole affair, on both sides, was undignified and ignoble in
its character; and in its public result--though, of course, neither of
them was directly responsible for this--it proved a murderous crime.
It reflects deep and lasting discredit both on the Englishman and on
the American. It may be of some use if it serves to illustrate the
contemptible and wicked nature of the vice of professional jealousy,
and to teach succeeding players whenever in their rivalry they meet
malignant envy or opposition, magnanimously to overlook and forget it.

On the evening of May 7th, Macready was to appear in Macbeth at the
Astor Place Opera House. The entire auditorium was crowded with an
assembly of the most formidable character, resolved that the actor
should not be suffered to play his part. There were comparatively few
of the friends of Macready present, most of the seats being secured
by the hard-handed multitude, who had made the strife an affair of
classes and were bent on putting down the favorite of what they
called the kid-gloved and silk-stockinged gentry. It is disagreeable
thus to recall these odious distinctions, but the truth of history
necessitates it. Suffice it to say that the tragedian was overwhelmed
with hisses, yells, derisive cries, followed by all kinds of missiles.
Chairs were hurled from the gallery, smashing on the stage. When it
was found that life was in danger, the curtain was lowered and the
performance abandoned. Macready proposed to break his engagement and
return to England. But the press condemned in the most scorching terms
the outrage which had been done him, and insisted that he should appear
again, and should be upheld at any cost. A letter was also sent him,
signed by forty-eight gentlemen, including many of the most eminent and
influential names in the city, urging him to continue his performances,
and promising him the support of the community. He consented to repeat
the trial.

In the mean time, the "Courier and Inquirer" had openly accused
Forrest of being the author of the violent scenes on the evening of
the seventh, but, convinced of its error, and threatened with a suit
for libel, had immediately retracted, and amply apologized for the
slander. Forrest had no share of any kind in any of these proceedings.
The worst that can be said of him is that he refused to interfere to
prevent the threatened violence. He sternly refused to interfere in the
slightest degree with the strife which had now detached itself from him
and fastened itself on the community and was raging between its top
and bottom. The defiant and scornful tone of the press towards those
whom it called rabble rowdies, lower classes, greatly incensed them,
and called forth the counter-epithets,--lordlings, English clique,
codfish-aristocracy. It was perfectly plain that a fearful tempest was
brewing. Both parties made preparations accordingly. The enemies of the
Englishman placarded the city with inflammatory handbills; and, on the
other hand, the civic authorities detailed three hundred policemen to
the scene of trial, and ordered two regiments of soldiers to be under
arms at their quarters.

On the evening of the 10th of May, Forrest was acting the Gladiator
in the Broadway Theatre when Macready attempted to act Macbeth in the
Astor Place Opera House. The latter house had been so well packed by
its friends with stalwart men that the Bowery Boys who were able to get
seats found themselves in a most decided minority. Still, they were
numerous enough to make a chaos of diabolical noises when the curtain
rose, whereupon the most of them found themselves incontinently hustled
out into the street. But their party was too strong and filled now with
too terrible a temper to be thus easily circumvented. The mob instantly
assailed the theatre in front and rear. The thundering plunges with
which they rushed against the doors shook the building, and volleys of
stones shattered the barricaded windows, while the shouts and yells of
the crowd might be heard a half a mile away. Meanwhile, the Seventh
Regiment and the National Guards were marching to the spot. They were
received with scoffs and hoots, clubs and paving-stones. The officers,
both civil and military, used every exertion to quiet the rioters and
avoid the final alternative of shooting upon them. All was vain. The
more they harangued, expostulated, entreated, warned, threatened, the
madder the mob seemed to grow. Already a large number of the soldiers
were disabled by severe wounds, and it appeared as if soon their
thronging assailants might wrench their weapons from them. At last the
reluctant order was given by General Hall, "Fire!" A single musket
replied. The mob laughed in derision, and pressed forward. General
Sandford repeated, "Fire!" Only three shots followed the word. Colonel
Duryea shouted, "Guards, fire!" The whole volley instantly flashed
forth with that sharper and heavier report which distinguishes the
service-charge from the mere powder and paper of field-day. The glare
lit up a sea of angry faces. For an instant were clearly seen the human
forms clustered on the steps and roofs of the adjacent buildings, the
broken lamps and windows in front, the billowing multitude spread
through the square and streets,--and then all was dark. The mob broke
and fled, leaving thirty dead bodies on the ground, and as many
severely wounded. The law by its armed force vindicated its authority
at the cost of this frightful tragedy, and taught the passionate and
thoughtless populace a lesson which it is to be hoped no similar
circumstances will ever call for again.

                          Transcriber's Note:

  Italics are shown thus: _sloping_.

  Small capitals have been capitalised.

  [Illustration: EDWIN FORREST. ÆT. 21] has been corrected from at 28
  in the list of steel plates.

  Illustrations have been moved out of mid-paragraph.

  Variations in spelling and hyphenation are retained.

  Punctuation has been retained as published.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Life of Edwin Forrest, Volume 1 (of 2) - The American Tragedian" ***

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