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Title: Life of Edwin Forrest, the American Tragedian. Volume 2 (of 2)
Author: Alger, William Rounseville
Language: English
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  ÆT 65

                             EDWIN FORREST,
                        THE AMERICAN TRAGEDIAN.


                       WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER.

                               “All the world’s a stage,
               And all the men and women merely players.”

                               VOLUME II.

                         J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.

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


                              CHAPTER XIV.
                             OF CRITICISM.

The newspaper in some countries has been a crime and in others a luxury.
In all civilized countries it has now become a necessity. With us it is
a duty. It is often corrupted and degraded into a nuisance. It ought to
be cleansed and exalted into a pure benefaction, a circulating medium of
intelligence and good will alone. Certainly it is far from being that at
the present time. It is true that our newspapers are an invaluable and
indispensable protection against all other tyrannies and social abuses;
and their fierce vanity, self-interest, and hostile watchfulness of one
another keep their common arrogance and encroachments pretty well in
check. If they were of one mind and interest we should be helplessly in
their power. From the great evils which so seriously alloy the immense
benefits of the press, Forrest suffered much in the latter half of his
life. The abuse he met irritated his temper, and left a chronic
resentment in his mind. Two specimens of this abuse will show something
of the nettling wrongs he encountered.

A Philadelphia newspaper stigmatized him in the most offensive terms as
a drunkard. Now it was a moral glory of Forrest that, despite the
temptations to which his professional career exposed him, he was never
intoxicated in his life. The newspaper in question, threatened with a
libel suit, withdrew its words with an abject apology,—a poor
satisfaction for the pain and injury it had inflicted.

The other instance was on occasion of the driving of Macready from the
stage of the Astor Place Opera House. A New York newspaper, in language
of studied insolence, called Forrest the instigator and author of the
outrage. “Mr. Forrest succeeded last night in doing what even his bad
acting and unmanly conduct never did before: he inflicted a thorough and
lasting disgrace upon the American character.” “To revenge himself on
Mr. Macready he packed the house and paid rowdies for driving decent
people away.” “With his peculiar tastes he will probably enjoy the
infamy and deem it a triumph.” Forrest, instead of cowhiding the writer
of this atrocious slander,—as some men of his high-spirited nature would
have done,—sent a letter, through his legal friend Theodore Sedgwick,
demanding immediate retraction and apology. The editor assented to the
request, confessing that he had spoken with no knowledge of facts to
justify him!

From the time of his first appearance on the stage, Forrest was a
careful reader of the criticisms on his performances. He generally read
them, too, with a just mind, discriminating the valuable from the
worthless, quick to adopt a useful hint, indignant or contemptuous
towards unfairness and imbecility. There were three classes of persons
whose comments on his performances gave him pleasure and instruction. He
paid earnest attention to their remarks, and was always generous in
expressing his sense of indebtedness to them.

The first class consisted of those who had a personal friendship for
him, combined with a strong taste for the drama, and who studied and
criticised his efforts in a sympathetic spirit for the purpose of
encouraging him and aiding him to improve. Such men as Duane and
Chandler and Swift in Philadelphia, Dawson in Cincinnati, Holley at
Louisville, Canonge in New Orleans, Leggett and Lawson in New York, and
Oakes in Boston, gave him the full benefit of their varied knowledge of
human nature, literary art, and dramatic expression. Their censure was
unhesitating, their questionings frank, their praise unstinted. Among
these friendly critics the name of James Hunter, of Albany, one of the
editors of “The Daily Advertiser,” in the important period of young
Forrest’s engagement there, deserves to be remembered. He was one of the
best critics of that day. He used to sit close to the stage and watch
the actor with the keenest scrutiny, not allowing the smallest
particular to escape his notice. Then at the end of the play he would in
a private interview submit to his protégé the results of his
observation, carefully pointing out every fault and indicating the
remedy. He lived to see the favorite, who profited so well from his
instructions, reach the proudest pitch of success and fame. When Mr.
Hunter died, Forrest interrupted an engagement he was filling in a
distant city in order to attend the funeral, and followed the remains of
his old benefactor to the tomb as one of the chief mourners.

The second class of commenters on the playing of Forrest from whose
judgments he received satisfaction and help was composed of that portion
of the writers of dramatic criticism for the press who were
comparatively competent to the task they undertook. They were men who
were neither his friends nor his foes, but impartial judges, who knew
what they were writing about and who recorded their honest thoughts in
an honorable spirit and a good style. Among the many thousands of
articles written on the acting of Forrest during the fifty years of his
career there are hundreds written in excellent style, revealing
competent knowledge, insight, and sympathy, and marked by an
unexceptionable moral tone. They suggest doubts, administer blame, and
express admiration, not from caprice or prejudice, but from principle,
and with lights and shades varying in accordance with the facts of the
case and the truth of the subject. These articles have an interest and a
value in the highest degree creditable to their authors, and they go far
to redeem the dramatic criticism of our national press from the severe
condemnation justly provoked by the greater portion of it. Did space
allow, it would be a pleasure to cite full specimens of this better
class of dramatic critiques from the collected portfolios left behind
him by the departed actor. Enough that he profoundly appreciated them,
and that in various directions they did good service in their day.

The third class whose words concerning his performances Forrest gladly
heeded were men who simply gave truthful reports of the impressions made
on themselves, not professing to sit in judgment or to dogmatize, but
honestly declaring what they felt and what they thought. Free from
prejudices and perversities, fair average representatives of human
nature in its ordinary degrees of power and culture, their experiences
under his impersonations, ingenuously expressed, were always interesting
and instructive, throwing light on many secrets of cause and effect, on
many points of conventional falsity and of natural sincerity, in
histrionic portrayals. Often while the newspaper writer who pretends to
know the most about the dramatic art is so full of conceit and biases
that his verdict on any particular representation has neither weight nor
justice, the instincts of the bright-minded and warm-hearted boy or
girl, the native intelligence and sympathy of the unsophisticated man or
woman, whose soul is all open to the living truth of things, are almost
infallible. Nobody knew this better than our tragedian, or was readier
to act on it.

The light and joy he drew from these three sets of critics found a heavy
counterpoise in the unjust estimates, perverse, exaggerated, malignant,
or absurd, of which he was constantly made the subject by five classes
of censors. The first were his personal enemies. Among the meaner fry of
men who came in contact with him, a multitude hated him from jealousy
and envy, from resentment of his independent and uncompromising ways,
his refusal to grant them his intimacy or to serve their purposes. They
sought to gratify their animosity by backbiting at his reputation, and
especially by trying to destroy his professional rank. Year after year
they made the columns of many a newspaper groan and reek under the load
of their abuse, ranging from envenomed invective to grotesque ridicule.
For example, a jocose foe said, in parody of the great Moslem
proclamation, “There is but one Bowery, and Hellitisplit is its profit.”
And a serious foe said, “Mr. Forrest is an injury to the stage. He is a
false leader, an oppression, a bad model, and a corrupter of the popular
taste.” A great part of the hostile criticism he suffered may be traced
to bitter personal enmity, which had but slight regard to truth or
fairness in its attacks on him, whether as man or as player.

The next class of assailants of Forrest in his professional repute were
not his personal enemies, but were the tools of the various cliques,
cabals, or social castes who had an antipathy for him and for the party
to which he belonged. The English interest was especially active and
bitter against him after his quarrel with Macready. Some of these
writers were wilfully corrupt in their attitude and consciously false in
their written estimates. They expressed neither their own feelings nor
their own convictions, but merely the passion and policy of their
employers. For example, at the time of the death of the tragedian a
well-known editor confessed to a friend that some twenty years
previously, when he was a reporter, his employer sent him to the theatre
to see Forrest play, and with explicit directions to write the severest
condemnation he could of the actor. He went accordingly, and made notes
for a savage satirical article, although at the moment of his making
these notes the tears were streaming down his cheeks, so sincere and so
powerful was the representation which he was, against his conscience,
preparing to abuse. Much dishonorable work of this kind has been done,
and still is done, by men disgracefully connected with the press.

Another set of critics who assailed the acting of Forrest were those
whose tastes were repelled by his realistic method and robust energy. He
was too vehemently genuine, his art not far enough removed from material
reality, to suit their fancy. They demanded a style more graceful,
delicate, and free. Under the impulse of their resentful prejudices they
overlooked his great merits, depreciated everything he did, angrily
denied him his just rank, magnified every fault beyond measure, and
maliciously caricatured him. A volume might be filled with articles
purely of this description, proceeding from writers whose want of native
manliness unfitted them for appreciating the magnificent manliness of
his impersonations, and whose offended fastidiousness expressed itself
in terms which were an offence to justice.

The fourth class of abusers of Forrest were men who had an instinctive
repugnance for the imposing grandeur of the types of character he
represented, for the self-sufficing, autocratic power and stateliness of
his impersonations. Mean and envious spirits dislike to look up to those
higher and stronger than themselves. Those who either never had any
romance and reverence or have been disenchanted, feel an especial enmity
or incompetent contempt for every one whose character and bearing appeal
to those qualities. This disinclination to admire, this wish to look on
equals or inferiors alone, is the special vice of a democracy.
Demagogues, whether in politics or in letters, are men of torpid
imaginations and dry hearts,—slow to worship, quick to sneer. The style
of man enacted by Forrest, full of an imperial personality, overswaying
all who come near, massive in will, ponderous in movement, volcanic in
passion, majestic in poise, was hateful to the cynical critic the petty
proportions of whose soul were revealed and rebuked in its presence. He
seized the weapon of ridicule to revenge himself on the actor whose
grander portrayals angered him instead of aweing or shaming or
delighting him. There seems to be among us in America a growing dislike
for the contemplation on the stage of the grandest heroism and power,
and an increasing fondness for seeing specimens of commonplace or
inferiority promotive of amusement. Already in his life Forrest was a
sufferer by this degradation of popular taste, and were he now to appear
in our theatres he would feel it still more.

The fifth and largest class of writers who assumed to criticise the
acting of Forrest was made up of persons professionally connected with
the press, whose blundering or extravagant estimates arose rather from
their ignorance and utter incompetency for the task they undertook than
from a spirit of antipathy or partisanship. The censures and laudations
in these notices were the cause of an immense amount of varied
mortification, amusement, vexation, and anger, as they came under his
eyes. No small portion of the criticisms in the American newspapers on
actors, singers, lecturers, and other public characters have been
written, and still continue to be written, by uneducated and
inexperienced young men scarcely out of their teens, serving an
apprenticeship in the art and trade of journalism. With low aims and
views, slight literary culture, superficial knowledge of life, a vile
contempt for sentiment, a cynical estimate of human nature, equally
ready to extol and to denounce for pay, these writers are the nuisance
and the scandal of their craft. Were their articles accompanied by their
names they would be destitute of weight or mischief; but, published with
apparent editorial sanction, they often assume a pernicious importance.

The art of a people expresses the character and aspiration of a people
and reacts to develop them. To sit in judgment on it is a high and
sacred office, for which none but the most intelligent, refined, and
honorable are fit. The praise and blame given to artists play on the
living sensibilities of that most sensitive class whose careers are a
vital index of the moral state of the community. Yet this momentous
office is frequently entrusted to beardless youths, whose chief
experience is in dissipation, and who unblushingly sell their pens to
the highest bidder. A severe article exposing this abuse appeared in the
“Round Table” in 1864, written by the editor, and entitled “Dramatic
Critics in New York.” Forrest put it in one of his scrap-books with the
endorsement, “How true this is!” Mr. Sedley said, “What dramatic
criticism in New York has been the public well know. Its low, egotistic,
unfair, malicious character, its blind partialities and undying hates,
its brazen ignorance and insulting familiarity, have given it wide
notoriety and brought upon it equally wide contempt.”

There is no art which more needs to be criticised than that of criticism
itself, because there is none which requires in its votary such varied
knowledge and cultivation, and such integrity of mind and purity of
motive; because, furthermore, no other art is exposed to such subtle
temptations of prejudice and vanity. The critic, in assuming to be a
judge, is no exception to other writers. Like them he reveals and
betrays himself in what he writes. In dissecting others he lays his own
soul bare. In consciously judging them he pronounces unconscious
judgment on himself,—in the tenderness or the insensibility, the
generosity and candor or the meanness and spite, the knowledge and
beauty or the ignorance and foulness, which he expresses. The pen of a
base, vindictive critic is a stiletto, a fang, or an anal gland. The pen
of a competent and genial critic is the wand of an intellectual Midas
turning everything it touches to gold. For such a critic has the true
standard of judgment in his knowledge, and, whatever the merit or
demerit of the work he estimates, as he points out its conformity with
that standard or its departure from it his lucid illustration is always
full of instruction and help.

But the great majority of those journalists who presume to print their
estimates of histrionic performances are profoundly ignorant of the
elements of the dramatic art. Thus, having no knowledge of the real
standard of judgment by which all impersonations should be tested, they
cannot fairly criticise the artists who appear before them for a
verdict. Instead of criticising or even justly describing them they
victimize them. They use them as the stalking-horses of their own
presumption or caprice, prejudice or interest. Unable to write with
intelligent candor on the subject which they profess to treat, they
employ it only as a text whereon to append whatever they think they can
make effective in displaying their own abilities or amusing their
readers. The unfittedness of such critics for their task is sufficiently
proved by the chief attributes of their writing, namely, prejudice,
absurd extravagance, reckless caprice, ridiculous assumption of
superiority, violent efforts to lug in every irrelevant matter which
they can in any way associate with the topic to enhance the effect they
wish to produce regardless of justice or propriety.

A few specimens of these various kinds of criticism will be found full
of curious interest and suggestiveness, while they will illustrate
something of what the proud and sensitive nature of Forrest had to
undergo at the hands of his admirers and his contemners.

One enthusiastic worshipper, in the year 1826, overflowed in the
following style: “In the Iron Chest, on Thursday evening last, Mr.
Forrest established a name and a fame which, should he die to-morrow,
would give him a niche in the temple of renown to endure uncrumbled in
the decay of ages!” Another one wrote thus: “In his Richard, Macbeth,
Lear, and Othello, Mr. Forrest displays abilities and accomplishments
which, for power and finish, we do not believe have ever been at all
approached by any other actor that ever stepped upon the stage. The
range of his delicate and varied by-play and the terrific energy of his
explosions of naked passion leave the very greatest of his predecessors
far in the rear and deep in the shade!” Such slopping eulogy defeats its
own purpose. For want of discrimination its exaggerations are unmeaning
and powerless. To be thus bedaubed and plastered with praise mortifies
the actor, and injures him with the judicious, though springing from a
generous sensibility and most kindly meant. This style of praise,
however, is quite exceptional. The general run of critics have
altogether too much knowingness and vanity for it. Their cue is to
depreciate and detract, to satirize and belittle, so as either directly
or indirectly to imply the superiority of their own knowledge and taste.
Your ordinary critic is nothing if not superior to the artist he assumes
to estimate. The publicity and admiration enjoyed by the performer seem
to taunt the critic with his own obscurity and neglect, and he seeks an
ignoble gratification in denying the merit of what he really envies.
This base animus of the baser members of a properly high and useful
literary guild betrays itself in many ways. For example, one of this
sort, sneering at the idea of applauding the genius of an actor,
characterized dramatists as “the class of men who administer in the most
humiliating of all forms to the amusement of a large and mixed
assembly.” It needs no more than his own words to place Pecksniff before
us in full life.

Through the whole dramatic life of Forrest one class of his assailants
were found accusing him of tameness and dulness, while another class
blamed him for extravagant energy and frenzied earnestness. Both classes
spoke from personal bias or capricious whim, instead of judging by a
fixed standard of truth and discerning where reserve and quietness were
appropriate and where explosive vehemence was natural. One critic, in
1831, says, “He wants passion and force. He has no sincerity of feeling,
no spontaneous and climacteric force. He often counterfeits well,—for
the stage,—but nature is not there.” At the same time the critic
attached to another journal wrote, “Mr. Forrest’s greatest fault is lack
of self-control and repose. His feelings are so intense and mighty that
they break through all bounds. With added years, no doubt, he will grow
more reserved and artistic.” Thirty years later the same blunt
contradiction, the same blind caprice or prejudice, are found in the two
extracts that follow:

“For nearly three months the heavy tragedian has weighed like an incubus
on the public, which now, that the oppression of this theatrical
nightmare is removed, breathes freely. We part with Mr. Forrest without
regret; he has taken his leave, and, as that slight acquaintance of his,
William Shakspeare, remarks, he could ‘take nothing we would more
willingly part withal.’ Those only who, like ourselves, have constantly
attended his performances, have a true knowledge of their tedium and
dulness. The occasional visitor may bear with Mr. Forrest for a night or
two, but we are really nauseated. The stupid, solemn, melancholy
evenings we have passed in watching his stupid, solemn, and melancholy
personations will always be remembered with disgust. Nothing but a sense
of duty compelled us to submit to this ineffable bore.”

“Mr. Forrest belongs to the robustious school of tragedy,—that class who
‘split the ears of the groundlings,’—and his eminent example has ruined
the American stage. He is a dramatic tornado, and plucks up the author’s
words by the roots and hurls them at the heads of the audience. He
mistakes rant for earnestness, frenzy for vigor. The modulations of his
voice are unnatural, and his pauses painful. A man in a furious passion
does not measure his words like a pedagogue declaiming before his
school, but speaks rapidly and fiercely, without taking time to hiss
like a locomotive blowing off steam. Mr. Forrest was not so in his
prime; and he has probably borrowed the habit from some antiquated actor
who has been afflicted with asthma.”

There is no candid criticism in such effusions of obvious prepossession
and satire. They show no reference to a fixed standard, no sincere
devotion to the interests of truth and art; but a desire to awaken
laughter, a purpose to make the player appear ridiculous and the writer
appear witty. The same may be said of the following examples, wherein
amusing or malignant ridicule takes the place of fair and intelligent
judgment. Such writers care not what their victims suffer, or what
justice suffers, so long as they can succeed in gaining attention and
raising a laugh. They feel with the English critic who excoriated Payne
for his Macbeth, “No matter if the labor we delight in physics Payne, it
_pays_ us.”

First. “Mr. Forrest’s personation of the Broker of Bogota is feeble and
uninteresting. Contrasted with his _Othello_, it has the advantage which
the Stupid has over the Outrageous. _Febro_ may be compared to one of
those intolerable bores who prose and prose, with sublime contempt of
all that is interesting, for hours. _Othello_ is like one of those
social torments who destroy your peace of mind with incessant and
furious attacks. The bore is the negative of Good; his opposite is the
affirmative of Evil.”

Second. “We can account for the popularity which Forrest enjoys as the
greatest master of the Epigastric School of Acting on no other
hypothesis than that of the innate depravity of human taste. Like the
vicious propensity in mankind to chew tobacco and drink whisky, the
majority of men have a depraved appetite for this false and outrageous
caricature of human nature which Mr. Forrest calls acting. Our
strictures apply in a lesser degree to the stage delineations of all
tragedians. They are all false, and Forrest is only a little more so.
His particular excellence seems to lie in his extraordinary power of
pumping up rage from his epigastrium, and expectorating it upon his
audience, through the interstices of his set teeth. Other tragedians
equal him in their facial contortions, and in the power of converting
their chests into an immense bellows violently worked. His great rival,
McKean Buchanan, excels Mr. Forrest in this department of high art, but
fails in the epigastric power. Mr. Forrest may well claim to stand at
the head of the Epigastric School. He does not underestimate the value
of epilepsy in delineation, and ‘chaws,’ tears, rends, and foams at the
mouth quite as artistically as the best of his rivals; but he especially
cultivates his epigastrium. We do not want Mr. Forrest to die soon. But
when he _does_ pass away, we have a physiological and anatomical
curiosity which we would be pleased to have gratified at the expense of
a _post mortem_ on the great tragedian. We have a grave suspicion that,
deep down in his stomach, beneath the liver and other less important
viscera, he has concealed additional vocal apparatus, by means of which
he is enabled to produce those diabolical _tremolo_ sounds which have so
often thrilled and chilled his auditors. But in our opinion, with its
two great exponents, Edwin Forrest and McKean Buchanan, the Epigastric
and Epileptic School of Acting will pass away.”

Third. “We thought to have dropped Mr. Edwin Forrest as a subject of
newspaper remark; but several of his friends, or persons who think
themselves such, are very anxious that we should do him justice, as an
actor, though that is just what they ought to fear for him. We will take
his performance as Richard. In this part, in the first place, his gait
is very bad, awkward, and ungraceful. Richard may, possibly, have halted
a little, but he did not roll like a sailor just ashore from a three
years’ cruise. A king does not walk so. Then, his features are totally
devoid of expression; he can contort, but he can throw neither meaning
nor feeling into them. When he attempts to look love, anger, hate, or
fear, he resembles one of the ghouls and afrites in Harper’s new
illustrated edition of the Arabian Nights. He wins Lady Anne with a
smile that would frighten a fiend, and that varies not a single line
from that with which he evinces his satisfaction at the prospect of
gaining the crown, and his contempt for the weakness of his enemies. A
more outrageous and hideous contortion still expresses his rage at
Buckingham’s importunity, and at the reproaches of his mother. When he
awakes in the tent-scene, he keeps his jaws at their utmost possible
distension for about two minutes, and presents no bad emblem of an
anaconda about to engorge a buffalo; one might fling in a pound of
butter without greasing a tooth. At the same time, his whole frame
writhes and shakes like a frog subjected to the action of a galvanic
battery. We have seen folks frightened and convulsed before now, but we
never saw one of them retain his senses in a convulsion. We like a deep,
manly, powerful voice; but we dislike to hear it strained to the screech
of a damned soul in hell-torment, like Mr. Forrest’s when he calls on
his drums to strike up and his men to charge. Often he displays his
tremendous physical energies where there is not the least occasion for
them, and as often does he repress them where they are needed. For
instance, Richard ought to work himself into a passion before he slays
King Henry. Mr. Forrest kills him as coolly and as quietly as a butcher
sticks a pig or knocks down a calf, and he repulses Buckingham with the
voice and action of a raving maniac. But Mr. Forrest is not to blame for
his face, which is as nature moulded it, neither because he has but
three notes to his voice, nor because the only inflections he is capable
of are their exaltation and depression. But he need not aggravate the
slight deformity of Richard more than Shakspeare did, who greatly
exaggerated it himself. Nor do we blame him for raving, ranting,
roaring, and bellowing to houses who never applaud him but when he
commits some gross outrage upon good taste and propriety. He adapts his
goods to his market, and he does wisely.”

As a contrast and offset to the foregoing specimens of self-display
disguised as criticism of another, it is but fair to cite a few extracts
from different writers who had really something appropriate to say on
the subject they were treating, and who said it with exemplary
directness and impartiality:

“As a reader Mr. Forrest has, in our opinion, few equals. Believing him
to be the most overrated actor on the stage, we are yet not blind to his
merit, but are glad to speak of the least of his excellences, and only
wish they were more numerous. Let us take his inherent faults for
granted, and consider his reading at the best. Does he fail in the first
essential,—intelligibility? On the contrary, he enunciates a thought
with such clearness that the meaning cannot be mistaken. Does he fail to
give the rhythm and the rhetoric of verse? On the contrary, verse in his
utterance retains its melody and music, and the high-sounding eloquence
of words its majesty. He subtly marks the changes of reflection, and
keeps the leading idea emphatic and distinct. There stands the _thought_
at least, no matter if the _feeling_ is a thousand miles away. He has
carved the statue correctly, though he wants the power of the ancient
sculptor to give the cold marble life. This he cannot do by ‘emphasizing
every word,’ in the unnatural way of which our correspondent accuses
him. Analyze one of his well-read sentences, and mark how the strong
word and the strong sound fall together; then listen to most of the
actors that surround him, and notice with what amusing vehemence they
shout their ‘ands’ and ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’ They begin every sentence with
a stentorian cry that dwindles into an exhausted whisper.”

“As regards Forrest, we are often amused to hear people, who have vainly
refused for years to recognize his great histrionic abilities, wonder
how it is that he invariably attracts crowded houses whenever he
performs. We do not know any actor of his rank who has been so
scurrilously abused and to so little purpose. The most elaborate
pretences at criticism are always poured out on his devoted head, and if
the power of the press could have written a man down he surely would
have been long since; for he has few special champions among
acknowledged critics, a fact which shows how deep is the feeling against
him among particular classes. We must candidly confess to have never
been biased by profound admiration of Forrest’s acting, and yet we must
also admit that after having calmly, patiently, and attentively watched
some entire performances of his, we were convinced that he really
possessed far greater powers of mind than any of the critics ever had
given him credit for. His style is apt to be uneven, and men of his
mould of intellect cannot always enact the same parts with the same good
taste. But of his superb elocution,—of the noble idea of latent force
and suppressed passion which his whole manner embodies,—of the
perfection of manly dignity and physical development which have never
had a better representative on the stage than in his person,—of the
marvellous voice, so musical in its sound, and so happily adjusted in
its modulations to increase the expression of a sentence,—there ought,
in our judgment, to be no abatement of that admiration so long and so
justly accorded to him. If all the critics in the country were with one
voice to deny the existence of these things, their fiat would be
powerless against the evidence of men’s senses. We admit that he has no
subtlety of intellect, no finely-drawn perceptions of delicate shades of
human character. What he does is the result of the action of a very
strong mind, capable of being directed in a particular channel with
resistless energy; but this is the very class of minds out of which have
arisen some of the greatest men in the world’s annals. When Forrest
performs an engagement people go to see him who know all his defects,
but they go because it is the only acting of the highest class they have
the opportunity of seeing, and it is so far above the rivalry of such
actors as have been here during the last decade as to admit of no

“It is said when Canova was finishing a choice marble that his friends
were very anxious to see the work on exhibition, but the great artist
restrained their impatience, and proposed to gratify their desire at the
end of a given term. At the expiration of the time, his friends
assembled eagerly, and, in tones of disappointment, exclaimed, ‘What
have you been doing? You have been idle; you have done nothing to your
piece.’ To which he replied, ‘On the contrary, my chisel has been
exceedingly busy; I have subdued this muscle, I have brought out this
feature, enlivened this expression, polished my marble.’ ‘Oh, but,’ said
they, ‘these are mere trifles!’ ‘They may be,’ he said, ‘but trifles
make up the sum of perfection.’ The Virginius of Mr. Forrest revived
this anecdote of Canova, as well as remembrances of his early
performances. The difference in the two cases, however, is that it is
not the artist now, but his friends that see the perfection. Virginius
has long been identified with Mr. Forrest’s fame; but, great as the
lustre may be which his surpassing self-possession, noble and balanced
bearing, rich, copious, and manly elocution, and deft, minute, and
relative action have heretofore thrown upon this character, it has now
been still more varied and beautified by the mellow tints that shadow
and relieve the local splendor of salient features. It is indeed a
masterpiece of acting and the ‘top of admiration.’ It is difficult to
perceive any point of improvement that could give it more truth, in its
lifelike resemblance, as a copy of fiction; and we are sure, after the
ribaldry which of late years has degraded the boards, that there is not
a single lover of the drama who saw this enactment who does not feel
grateful to Mr. Edwin Forrest for his manly reassertion of the dignity
of the stage.”

“We are disposed to admit the greatest liberty possible to the
theatrical critic employed upon the daily press, but we cannot help
alluding to the disgracefully savage bitterness of the writer in one of
our weekly contemporaries as equally damaging to his employer’s
reputation and his own. Mr. Forrest has now passed that period of his
life in which he might have been injured by the malevolence of the
individual. In the mass, criticism bows before his assured superiority,
and it is simply a petty spite which dares persistently to deny his
claims to genius of the highest order. He is no longer a man respecting
whose position in the history of the American stage there can be any
dispute. He stands completely alone. We are induced this week to make
this remark from having freshly seen him in ‘_Othello_’ and ‘_Macbeth_.’
Can any observer who remembers his interpretation of the first of these
characters, some twenty years since, or his rendering of the last one,
but four years ago, and is disposed to examine them fairly, with
reference to his present reading and acting of either part, deny this?
If he does so, we can but feel that he is alike ungifted with the talent
to recognize and the honesty to admit the wide difference which exists
between them. His ‘_Othello_’ is now a most coherent and perfect whole.
Where is the artist who can infuse a more perfect and thorough spirit of
love than he does in that scene where he meets _Desdemona_ again in
Cyprus, after having quitted her in Venice? Where is the one who grows
under the heat of _Iago’s_ viperous tongue into a more sublimely savage
delineation of jealousy than he does in the subsequent acts? Is not his

                            ‘I love thee, Cassio,
                  But never more be officer of mine,’

one of the most perfect bits of natural feeling that has ever been
uttered upon the stage? Friendship, anger, pity, and justice are all
struggling within him, and shape the sorrow of the words that strip his
lieutenant of the office which he considers him no longer worthy to
retain. It may be observed that in alluding to these points we have not
marked any of those more obvious beauties which have for many years been
acknowledged in his representation of this character. These are settled
excellencies in the estimation of all who love the tragic stage. Certain
lines have been stereotyped to us by the genius of those who have
embodied this greatest of Shaksperian characters; but for those who will
reverently observe his impersonation, there are hitherto hidden points
developed by Forrest which justify us in laughing at those whose
resolute hatred of the artist blinds them to his excellence, and to the
wonderful finish in the histrionic portraits which he offers them. We
have good artists amongst us, but we certainly have none who can for a
moment be fairly compared with him; and therefore is it that we say the
man who constantly undervalues him simply marks himself as notoriously
incapable of balancing the critical scales.”

The next extract is taken from a long article by the well-known scholar
and author, Dr. R. Shelton Mackenzie:

“We once heard a great author say, ‘Scurrility is the shadow of Fame,
and as often precedes as follows it.’ That author was Bulwer, and his
remark has the weight of an aphorism. With respect to Mr. Edwin Forrest,
it is singular that he has been assailed in his native town by
scurrility at an advanced period of his brilliant career, and at a time
when his powers have ripened into something very close to perfection.

“Unless the actuating principle of the writer be a merely malignant
dislike of the man, it seems almost impossible to us that any critic,
possessed of the ordinary intelligence current among the more
respectable members of the fraternity, can refuse or be so morally blind
as not to see the wide difference existing between the Forrest of the
present time and the Forrest who was admitted by the public to be the
greatest American actor some twenty years ago. At that time he was
wonderful,—wonderful by his intensity, his dashing power, his superb
manhood, his fine voice, and his noble presence. This made him a great
artist. He might have many faults, but these were obliterated from the
mind of the spectator by his many and dazzling merits, which were even
the more striking from the comparative blemishes with which they were

“The artistic career of Edwin Forrest has now, however, made a great
stride in advance. He has polished, refined, and completed his style. It
was said of Garrick, who was several years older than Forrest when he
retired from the stage, that in his latter seasons he acted better than
ever, and the fact that he never, even when a master in the art, ceased
to be a student, explained the cause. The same may be said, and even
with more truth, of Edwin Forrest. There is no living actor half so
studious as himself. His mind, always under thorough self-cultivation,
has matured in later years, and the effects are apparent. He is so near
perfection as an actor that it is impossible to be so attracted by his
excellencies now as we might have been when contrast made them more

“Fully to appreciate the various power of Mr. Forrest cannot be done by
examining him in any single character. We have therefore waited until
his engagement is nearly completed, and have carefully studied him in
eleven different characters,—_Richelieu_, _Damon_, _Richard III._,
_Hamlet_, _Othello_, _Virginius_, _Macbeth_, _Lucius Junius Brutus_,
_Febro_, _Jack Cade_, and _Lear_. Of these, perhaps, his _Lear_, his
_Othello_, his _Macbeth_, his _Richelieu_, and his _Damon_ are the
greatest; but there is comparatively so little difference in excellence
between his _Hamlet_ and his _Othello_, his _Virginius_ and his _Damon_,
that he might reasonably except to us for noting that difference, which,
after all, is in some measure the result of a purely physical variation
in the bodily means at his disposal for each special embodiment.

“The almost even excellence, in so many of his great parts, to which
Edwin Forrest has attained, contains in itself a strong assertion of his
right not only to the first place in the histrionic annals of the last
few years, but registers a positive claim to the highest position, as an
artist, in all histrionic history to which the slightest degree of faith
can be attached. To be at the same time a great _Hamlet_ and a great
_Othello_, even granting a difference in the excellence of the two
parts, argues that the actor possesses to a larger extent than common
that intellectual adaptability without which it would be impossible for
him to represent two such widely different men. Slightly deranged, a
philosophic dreamer, without the capability of sustained action,
energetic only by immediate impulse, the Danish Prince differs widely
from the passionate, powerful, one-purposed, and sublimely simple nature
of the Moor. In grasping these two opposite characters as completely as
Edwin Forrest has done, he has displayed an intellectual strength of the
highest order, approaching very nearly to that subtlety of intelligence
which is but rarely coupled with genius, but which, when coupled with
it, makes it a genius of the highest order.

“This subtlety of intelligence he develops in his wonderful rendering of
_Richard_, as widely opposed a character to both or either of the others
as could well be presented to us. For the physical nature of _Richard_
he has preferred Horace Walpole’s ‘Historic Doubts’ to Shakspeare’s
delineation of the man, but in portraying him intellectually Edwin
Forrest has simply depended on himself. He paints _Richard_ with strong
and vigorous execution, as a crafty and cruel hypocrite, with a
positively unequalled subtlety of touch, rendering his hypocrisy frank
and pleasant to the outside observer and coloring it with a comedy of
which he offers no example in _Othello_ and but a vague suspicion in
_Hamlet_. His love-scene with _Lady Anne_ is a marvellous piece of
acting, which excerpts from the character as a worthy pendant to the mad
scene in _Lear_. It was probably much more easily, although more
recently, perfected by him than the latter, inasmuch as the last named
was the result of careful and minute study, while the former is simply
an effort of pure cultured genius which is as positively real as stage
simulation ever can be. But this difference in character of the three
extends even to those points in which _Richard_ touches upon the two
others. _Richard_ is a man of strong passion as well as _Othello_. He is
a philosopher as well as _Hamlet_. But passion is suppressed in
_Richard_ under the vest of his craft. It is addressed to other objects
than _Othello_ yearns for. It is bold and crafty. _Othello_ is brave and
honest. This is wonderfully discriminated by Mr. Forrest. The philosophy
of _Hamlet_ is reflective and uncertain, colored by study and lunacy.
That of _Richard_ is worldly and practical, subjected by him to his
immediate ambition. Here Mr. Forrest, as an artist, is truly admirable.
In _Hamlet_ his philosophy is impulsively given to the audience. In
_Richard_ it is reasoned out and calculated with.

“Let us look at _Macbeth_, reaching, as _Richard_ does, at the Crown.
Most of our modern actors vary the two but little in their manner,
without following the line of difference made between them by the great
dramatist. This difference was in the intellectual strength of their
natures. _Richard_ is the tool of nobody. _Macbeth_ is but a plaster in
the fingers of his wife. How exquisitely does Mr. Forrest mark out the
two natures! You trace _Macbeth’s_ indecision of purpose in his very
manner. His entrance in the first scene is characterized by it. The
breaking off from his friends,—his return to himself when addressed by
them,—his interjectional reveries,—his uncertainty of action, are all as
they are given to us by Shakspeare, but scarcely such as we might have
expected a man of Mr. Forrest’s physical temperament to embody. In
_Richard_ the ambition is positive. He does not reason of the acts which
he commits. Hence here the artist’s actions are positive. When he
commits or orders one of these deeds which tend to secure his desires or
objects, it is done at once. The positive decision of the man is
translated by the actor, whether it be in the passionate command or the
sneering jest, by the calculated impulse of the man.”

Here is a part of an elaborate attack written by a relentless enemy and
persecutor, quite remarkable for the untempered way in which it mixes
truth and misrepresentation, justice and wrong:

“Mr. Forrest is now an actor who depends almost entirely on his voice as
a medium of expression. He throws all his force into his reading;
elocution is intended to compensate for everything,—for facial
expression, for suitable action, for muscular vigor, and often, indeed,
for true feeling and appreciation. By his impressive reading he
frequently gains applause when in reality he deserves condemnation.
There are whole scenes in his _Lear_ unredeemed by one spark of feeling,
the poverty of which he attempts to hide under a superficial gloss of
elocutionary charlatanism. His fine voice aids him in this attempt; for
that he has a noble voice, of great power,—whose tones are often
commanding, and sometimes would be tender if they were inspired by any
sincere feeling,—no one who has heard him can doubt. Take away this
voice and Mr. Forrest is a nonentity, for _he cannot act_, and his face
has no variety of expression. We know that, instead of using this fine
element of success well, he has abused it; for his mannerisms of tone
are perpetual, and disfigure every lengthy passage he reads. His voice
has too great a burden to bear.

“This is one reason why he is so very monotonous. Another and a deeper
reason is that the man himself is nothing but a monotone. No man on the
stage has a more strongly marked individuality than Mr. Forrest; once
seen, he cannot be easily forgotten, nor can his performances ever be
confused in memory with those of others. Yet this individuality is a
prison-house to him; he cannot escape from it. He is forced, in spite of
himself, to play every character in exactly the same way. He develops
_Spartacus_ by the identical methods he employs in _Hamlet_; his _Lear_
and his _Claude Melnotte_ are made impressive, not by different styles.
He has but one style. He is Edwin Forrest in everything; and, worse than
this, he seems to care nothing for the best character he plays in
comparison with his own success. Egotism is a marked peculiarity of his
acting; he seems to say to the audience, not, ‘How fine is this
character! how great was the author!’ but ever, ‘How finely _I_ play it!
am I not the greatest actor you ever saw?’

“Of course this strong personality is sometimes to Mr. Forrest an
advantage. There are _rôles_ which are adapted to his powers,—such as
_Virginius_, _Damon_, and _Spartacus_. These he plays well because they
do not require of him the transcendent power of genius,—the imagination
which enables a man to penetrate the motives of a being foreign to
himself, and to re-create in his own living nature the beauty and the
passion of a dream. These he plays well because he finds in them
something of himself. And even in Shaksperian characters, which are
alien to his nature, he occasionally meets a passage which he _can_
feel, and which he therefore expresses; and these moments of
earnestness, occurring suddenly in the midst of long scenes of
artificiality and dulness, are like flashes of lightning in a black
midnight: while they last they are bright, but when they are gone they
make the darkness deeper.”

The two brief notices that succeed appeared at the same time and in the
same city in two opposed newspapers. The contrast is amusing, and it is
easy to see how little impartial critical judgment went to the
composition of either of them, as well as how bewildering they must have
been to the reader who was seeking from the judgment of the press to
form a dispassionate opinion on the merits of the actor:

“Having within the present year closely criticised Edwin Forrest’s
performances during a long engagement, we do not intend to bore our
readers with repetitions of what we have said. Mr. Forrest will go
through his programme like a machine, and like most machines it may be
discovered that his powers have suffered somewhat by wear and tear. He
has long since passed the point of improvement. Fully settled in his own
conceit that his personations are the most wonderful that the world ever
saw, his only care will be to heighten defects which he considers
beauties, and to dwell with increased tenderness upon each fault. There
are some mothers who give their hearts to their puny, deformed, and bad-
tempered children, to the neglect of others who are handsome, gentle,
and intelligent. Mr. Forrest is an admirer of this policy. He slights
his better qualities in acting, and dandles his absurdities with more
than just parental fondness. His faults are inveterate; his beauties
daily grow homely. It would be supererogation to expose at length those
vices and stage tricks which have already been freely cauterized.”

“During the week Mr. Forrest has been performing the characters of
_Richelieu_, _Damon_, _Richard_, and _Hamlet_. At each representation
the invariable compliment of a crowded house has been paid him. With the
advance of every year this actor seems to grow greater. The
intellectuality of his acting becomes more and more apparent. The
experience of years is now devoted to his art; a lifetime is
concentrated upon the development of his transcendent genius. Mr.
Forrest has shaped the colossal block of crude genius into wonderful
statues of natural and lovely proportions. No intelligent praise can be
extravagant which extols the exceeding beauty of the conceptions of this
wonderful artist. We can scarcely think of Mr. Forrest’s fame as
otherwise than increasing. It throws around his name a luminous halo,
whose brightness and extent the progress of years will only intensify
and enlarge.”

One more specimen will suffice. It is from the pen of an anonymous
English critic:

“If Forrest is not in a paroxysm, he is a mere wicker idol; huge to the
eye, but _full of emptiness_,—a gigantic vacuum. His distortions of
character are monstrous; the athletic, muscular vigor of his Lear is a
positive libel upon consistency and truth. Spartacus was made for him,
and he for Spartacus; the athlete is everlastingly present in all his
personations. His ravings in Othello, in Macbeth, and in Richard the
Third are orgasms of vigorous commonplace.

“When Mr. Forrest represents terror, his knees shake, his hands vibrate,
his chest heaves, his throat swells, and his muscles project as if he
were under the influence of a galvanic battery or his whole frame put in
motion by a machine. He always appears anxious to show the toughness of
his sinews, the cast-iron capabilities of his body, and the prodigious
muscularity of his legs, which really haunt the spectator’s eyes like
huge, grim-looking spectres, appearing too monstrous for realities, as
they certainly are for the dignified grace of tragedy. He delights to
represent physical agony with the most revolting exaggerations. When he
dies, he likes that the audience should hear the rattles in his throat,
and will, no doubt, some day have a bladder of pig’s blood concealed
under his doublet, that, when stabbed, the tragic crimson may stream
upon the stage, and thus give him the opportunity of representing death,
in the words of his admirers, _to the life_.

“Perhaps no stronger test of Mr. Forrest’s want of intellectual power as
an actor can be given than his slow, drawling, whining mode of
delivering the speech to the senate, in the play of Othello. No
schoolboy could do it worse, and though in the more energetic scenes
there is a certain mechanical skill and seeming reality of passion, yet
the charm which this might be calculated to produce is lost by the
closeness of resemblance to a well-remembered original. It is almost
frightfully vigorous, and though there are some touches of true energy,
this is much too boisterous, coarse, and unrelieved by those delicate
inflections which so eloquently express true feeling to obtain for it
that meed of praise only due to the efforts of original genius. There is
much art and much skill in Mr. Forrest’s acting; but its grand defect is
the general absence of truth.”

The medley of praise and abuse, the hodge-podge of incongruous opinions,
seen in the foregoing illustrations of newspaper criticism, arose far
less from any contradiction of excellences and faults in the acting of
Forrest than from the prejudices and ignorance of the writers. A large
proportion of those writers were obstinately prepossessed or corruptly
interested, and few of them had any distinct appreciation of the
constituent elements of the dramatic art. Destitute of the true standard
of criticism, the final canon of authority, their judgments were at the
mercy of impulse and chance influences.

But Forrest was no solitary, though he was an extreme, sufferer in this
respect. The greatest of his predecessors, all the most gifted and
famous actors and actresses, have had to undergo the same pitiless
ordeal. Those concerning whose illustrious pre-eminence there can be no
question whatever have borne the same shower of detraction, insult, and
ridicule, the same pelting of cynical badinage. The restless vanity,
presumptuous conceit, and _blasé_ omniscience of the common order of
critics have spared none of the conspicuous dramatic artists. And if any
one infer from the abuse and depreciation rained on Forrest that he must
have been guilty of the worst faults, he may draw the like conclusion
from the like premises in relation to every celebrated name in the
history of the stage.

The bigoted opposition and belittling estimates met by Talma in his bold
and resolute effort to displace the conventional inanity and stilted
bombast of the French stage with truth and nature are a matter of
notorious record. Some of his sapient critics thought they were
administering a caustic censure when they uttered the unwitting
compliment, extorted by their surprise at his severe costume and grand
attitudes, “Why, he looks exactly like a Roman statue just stepped out
of the antique.” The biographers of Garrick give abundant evidence of
the misrepresentation, ridicule, and manifold censure with which his
enemies and rivals and their venal tools pursued and vexed him. He even
stooped to buy them off, and sometimes counteracted their malice with
his own anonymous pen. Horace Walpole wrote, “I have seen the acting of
Garrick, and can say that I see nothing wonderful in it.” His small
stature, his starts and pauses, were, in especial, maliciously
animadverted on. Mossop was sneered at as “a distiller of syllables,”
Macklin for the prominent “lines, or rather cordage, of his face,” and
Quin for the “mechanic regularity and swollen pomp of his declamation.”
George Steevens wrote a bitter satire, utterly unjust and unprovoked, on
Mrs. Siddons. She and her brother, John Philip Kemble, were stigmatized
as icebergs and pompous pretenders, and were repeatedly hissed and
insulted on the stage. Before her marriage, while Siddons was playing at
the Haymarket, a critic, trying to put her down, wrote to Hayley, the
manager, “Miss Kemble, though patronized by a number of clamorous
friends, will prove only a piece of beautiful imbecility.” In 1807 a
leading London newspaper said of George Frederick Cooke, “His delivery
of Lear is just what it is in Richard: in its subdued passages, little
and mean; in its more prominent efforts, rugged, rumbling, and staccato,
resembling rather a watchman’s rattle than any other object in art or

William Robson, in his “Old Play-Goer,” says of Edmund Kean, “His person
and carriage are mean and contemptible, his judgment poor, his pathos
weak, his passion extravagant and unnatural;” and then sums up his
estimate of the immortal histrionist in these remarkable words: “He is
nothing but a little vixenish black girl in short petticoats!” On the
first appearance of Kean in Philadelphia some critics there, who were
great admirers of Cooke, called him “a quack, a mountebank, a vulgar
impostor.” William B. Wood said of Kean, when he had just finished a
rehearsal and gone out, “He is a mere mummer.” Joseph Jefferson, great-
grandfather of the Joseph Jefferson of Rip Van Winkle fame,—a beautiful
and noble old man, afterwards characterized by Forrest in loving memory
as “one of the purest men that ever lived, sad, sweet, lofty,
thoughtful, generous,”—overheard the remark, and replied, with a quiet
indignation in his tone, “Ah, Wood, you would give all the riches you
ever dreamed of amassing in this world to be another just such a
mummer.” The “London Spectator,” in 1836, said, “Bunn in his drowning
desperation catches at any straw. He has just put forward Booth, the
shadow and foil of Kean in bygone days. Booth’s Richard seems to have
been a wretched failure.” At the same time another English journal used
the following expressive language, in which the writer evidently does
justice to himself whatever he endeavors to do to the actors he names:
“Since the retirement of Young and the death of Kean, the very name of
tragedy has passed away from us. We have had to submit to the
presumptuous and uninspired feelings of Mr. Bell-wether Kemble, or to
the melodramatic jerks and pumpings of Mr. Macready.”

An American critic wrote thus of the Nancy Sykes of Charlotte Cushman:
“Miss Cushman’s performance is of the Anatomical Museum style. Her
effects are thrilling and vulgar. Her poses are awkward, and her
pictures unfinished and coarse in outline. She has an unpleasantly pre-
raphaelite death scene, and is dragged off, stiff and stark, when all
the characters express their internal satisfaction at the circumstance
by smiling, shaking hands, and joining in a feeble chorus. The secret of
her attraction is vigor. The masses like vigor. If they can have a
little art with it, very well. But vigor they must have.” Of late it has
been the fashion to extol Miss Cushman as the queenly mistress of all
the dignities and refinements of the dramatic profession; but the
foregoing notice is exactly of a piece with the treatment visited upon
Forrest for many years by the vulgar coteries of criticism, whose aim
was not justice and usefulness but effect upon the prejudiced and the
careless. Even the quiet and gentlemanly Edwin Booth has been as
unsparingly assailed as he has been lavishly praised. An insidious
article on him, entitled “The Machine-Actor,” called him a “self-acting
dramatic machine warranted;” and while admitting, with great generosity,
that “he was not wholly destitute of dramatic ability,” attributed his
success and reputation chiefly to extraneous conditions, in especial the
shrewdness of “his managing agent, who judiciously prepared his houses
for him, and pecuniarily and personally appreciated the power of the
press and conciliated the critics.” The two following notices of Mr.
Booth’s Melnotte—the first obviously by a critic who had, the second by
one who had not, been “conciliated”—are quite as absurd in their
contradiction as those so often composed on Forrest:

“On Monday evening last we enjoyed the first opportunity of seeing Mr.
Edwin Booth in the character of _Claude Melnotte_, in the ‘Lady of
Lyons.’ Our impressions of Mr. Booth in the part may be briefly summed
up in saying that he is one of the very best _Claudes_ we have ever
seen,—scholarly, sustained, and forcibly reticent at all points,—not so
youthful in his make-up as to suggest the enthusiastic boy of Bulwer’s
drama, but in all other regards the very ideal of the character. His
marvellously melodious voice sounds to peculiar advantage in the rich
prose-poetry of the more sentimental passages, and in the passages of
sterner interest the latent strength of the tragedian comes nobly into
play. Booth’s _Claude_ is an unqualified success, and its first
rendering was witnessed by an audience brilliant in number and
intelligence and markedly enthusiastic in their reception of the best

“Mr. Booth’s _Claude Melnotte_ was a failure. It was neither serious nor
sentimental, comic nor tragic. The best that can be said of it is that
it came near being an effective burlesque. When he first came on to the
stage, I almost thought it was his intention to make it so. His carriage
and general make-up were those of one of Teniers’ Dutch boors, even to
the extent of yellow hair combed straight down the forehead and clipped
square across from temple to temple. His action consisted mainly in a
series of shrugs. I don’t remember a natural movement of body or
expression of countenance, from the beginning of the piece to the end;
nor a natural tone of voice.”

Still later we have seen different representatives of the press, both in
America and in England, alternately describing the wonderful Othello of
Salvini as “the electrifying impersonation of a demi-god” and as “an
exhibition of disgusting brutality.”

The class of examples of which these are a few specimens show how little
worthy the ordinary newspaper dramatic criticism is to be considered
authoritative. No branch of journalism, allowing for notable individual
exceptions, is more incompetent or more corrupt, because no other set of
writers have so difficult a task or are so beset by vicious influences.
Their vanity, prejudice, and interest worked upon, their sympathies
appealed to by the artist and his friends, their antipathies by his
rivals and foes, harassed and hurried with work, moved by promises of
money and patronage, no wonder they often turn from the exactions of
conscientious labor and study to something so much easier. The
unsophisticated portion of the public, who are too much influenced by
what they read in the papers, and who fancy that applause is a good
proof of merit and censure a sure evidence of fault, ought to know how
full of fraud and injustice the world of histrionic ambition and
criticism is, and to learn to give little weight to verdicts not
ascertained to come from competent and honest judges. The husband of
Madame Linguet, a favorite actress at the Italian Theatre in Paris,
hired a party to hiss every other actress, but to applaud her to the
echo. A ludicrous mistake let out the secret. Linguet told his men one
night to hiss the first actress who appeared and applaud the second. The
play was changed, and in the substituted piece Madame Linguet came
forward first, and was overpowered with hisses. Sir John Hill asked Peg
Woffington if she had seen in the paper his praise of her performance
the previous evening in the part of Calista. She thanked him for his
kindness, but added that the play was changed and she had acted the
character of Lady Townley. In a New York paper, in 1863, this notice
appeared: “Mr. Forrest repeated, by special request, his great character
of Spartacus last evening, before one of the most brilliant and
enthusiastic audiences of the season. His acting was grand throughout,
and at the end of the last act he received a perfect ovation from the
audience.” Appended to this, in his own handwriting, pasted in one of
his scrap-books, were found these words: “Mr. Forrest on the night above
referred to was in Philadelphia, and did not act at all, having been
called home by the death of his sister.”

After going over the mass of ignorant, capricious, and contradictory
criticism bestowed on Forrest,—criticism destitute of fundamental
principles or ultimate insight,—the reader may well feel at a loss to
know how he is to regulate his judgment upon the subject and form a just
estimate of the actor and his performances. The critics, instead of
aiding, bewilder him, because themselves appear to be wildly adrift. To
work our way through the chaos it is necessary for us to understand
distinctly what the dramatic art is in its nature and object, and what
are the materials and methods with which it aims to accomplish its
purpose. The answers to these inquiries will clear away confusion, lay
bare the elements of the art, and put us in possession of those laws of
expression which constitute the only final standard for justly
criticising the efforts of the player.

Considered in its full scope, the drama is _the practical science of
human nature exemplified in the revelation of its varieties of character
and conduct_. It aims to uncover and illustrate man in the secret
springs of his action and suffering and destiny, by representing the
whole range and diversity of his experience in living evolution. The
drama is the reflection of human life in the idealizing mirror of art.
In what does this reflection consist? In the correct exhibition of the
different modes of behavior that belong to the different types of
humanity in the various exigencies of their fortunes. The critic,
therefore, in order to be able to say whether histrionic performances
are true or false, consistent or inconsistent, noble or base, refined or
vulgar, artistically elaborated and complete or absurdly exaggerated and
defective, must understand the contents of human nature in all its
grades of development, and know how the representatives of those grades
naturally deport themselves under given conditions of inward
consciousness and of exterior situation. That is to say, a man to be
thoroughly equipped for the task of dramatic criticism must have
mastered these three provinces of knowledge; first, the characters of
men in their vast variety; second, the modes of manifestation whereby
those characters reveal their inward states through outward signs;
third, the manner in which those characters and those modes of
manifestation are affected by changes of consciousness or of situation,
how they are modified by the reflex play of their own experience.

Every man has three types of character, in all of which he must be
studied before he can be adequately represented. First he has his
inherited constitutional or temperamental character, his fixed native
character, in which the collective experience and qualities of his
progenitors are consolidated, stamped, and transmitted. Next he has his
peculiar fugitive or passional character, which is the modification of
his stable average character under the influence of exciting impulses,
temporary exaltations of instinct or sentiment. And then he has his
acquired habitual character, gradually formed in him by the moulding
power of his occupation and associations, as expressed in the familiar
proverb, “Habit is a second nature.” The first type reveals his
ancestral or organic rank, what he is in the fatal line of his
parentage. The second shows his moral or personal rank, what he has
become through his own experience and discipline, self-indulgence and
self-denial. The third betrays his social rank, what he has been made by
his employment and caste. The original estimate or value assigned to the
man by nature is indicated in his constitutional form, the geometrical
proportions and dynamic furnishing of his organs, his physical and
mental make-up. The estimate he puts on himself, in himself and in his
relations with others, his egotistical value, is seen in the transitive
modifications of his form by movements made under the stimulus of
passions. The conventional estimate or social value awarded him is
suggested through the permanent modifications wrought in his organs and
bearing by his customary actions and relations with his fellows. Thus
the triple type of character possessed by every man is to be studied by
means of an analysis of the forms of his organs in repose and of his
movements in passion or habit.

The classes of constitutional character are as numerous as the human
temperaments which mark the great vernacular distinctions of our nature
according to the preponderant development of some portion of the
organism. There is the osseous temperament, in which the bones and
ligaments are most developed; the lymphatic temperament, in which the
adipose and mucous membrane preponderate; the sanguine temperament, in
which the heart and arteries give the chief emphasis; the melancholic
temperament, in which the liver and the veins oversway; the executive
temperament, in which the capillaries and the nerves take the lead; the
mental temperament, in which the brain is enthroned; the visceral
temperament, in which the vital appetites reign; the spiritual
temperament, in which there is a fine harmony of the whole. The
enumeration might be greatly varied and extended, but this is enough for
our purpose. Each head of the classification denotes a distinct style of
character, distinguished by definite modes of manifesting itself, the
principal sign of every character, the key-note from which all its
expressions are modulated, being the quality and rate of movement or the
_nervous rhythm_ of the organism in which it is embodied.

Besides the vernacular classes of character ranged under their leading
temperaments, there are almost innumerable dialect varieties arising
from these, as modified both by the steady influence of chronic
conditions of life, historic, national, local, or clique, and by fitful
and eccentric individual combinations of faculty and impulse. For
instance, how many types of barbarian character there are,—such as the
garrulous, laughing, sensual Negro, the taciturn, solemn, abstinent
Indian, the fat and frigid Esquimaux, the Hottentot, the Patagonian, the
New Zealander,—all differing widely in stature, feature, gesture,
disposition, costume, creed, speech, while agreeing in the fundamentals
of a common nature. Among civilized nations the diversity of characters
is still greater. It would require an almost endless recital of
particulars to describe the differences of the Chinaman, the Japanese,
the Egyptian, the Persian, the Arab, the Hindu, the Italian, the
Spaniard, the German, the Russian, the Frenchman, the Englishman, the
American. And then what a maze of attributes, each one at the same time
clear in its sharpness or its profundity, qualify and discriminate the
various orders, castes, and groups of society!—the Brahmin, the Sudra,
the king, the slave, the soldier, the doctor, the lawyer, the priest,
the teacher, the shop-keeper, the porter, the detective, the legislator,
the hangman, the scientist, and the philosopher. Every professional
pursuit, social position, mechanical employment, physical culture,
spiritual belief or aptitude, has its peculiar badge of dress, look,
posture, motion, in which it reveals its secrets; and the pettifogger or
the jurisconsult, the prophet or the necromancer, the Quaker and the
Shaker, the Calvinist and the Catholic, the tailor, the gymnast, the
gambler, the bully, the hero, the poet, and the saint, stand unveiled
before us. How the habitual life reveals itself in the bearing is
clearly seen in the sailor when he leaves his tossing ship for the solid
shore. His sensation of the strange firmness of the earth makes him
tread in a sort of heavy-light way,—half wagoner, half dancing-master.
There is always this appearance of lightness of foot and heavy upper
works in a sailor, his shoulders rolling, his feet touching and going.

To know how consistently to construct an ideal character of any one of
these kinds, at any given height or depth in the historic gamut of
humanity, and to be able to embody and enact it with the harmonious
truth of nature, is the task of the consummate actor. And to be
qualified to catalogue all these attributes of human being and
manifestation with accuracy, recognizing every fitness, detecting every
incongruity, is the business of the dramatic critic. Who of our ordinary
newspaper writers is competent to the work? Yet the youngest and crudest
of them never hesitates to pronounce a snap judgment on the most
renowned tragedians as if his magisterial “we” were the very ipse dixit
of Pythagoras!

Still further, the task of the actor and of the critic is made yet more
complicated and difficult by the varied modifications of all the classes
of character indicated above under the influence of specific passion.
The great dramatic passions, which may be subdivided into many more, are
love, hatred, joy, grief, jealousy, wonder, pity, scorn, anger, and
fear. To obtain a fine perception and a ready and exact command of the
relations of the apparatus of expression to all these passions in their
different degrees as manifesting different styles of character, to know
for each phase of excitement or depression the precise adjustment of the
limbs, chest, and head, of intense or slackened muscles, of compressed
or reposeful lips, of dilated or contracted nostrils, of pensive or
glaring or fiery or supplicating eyes, of deprecating or threatening
mien, of firm or vacillating posture, is an accomplishment as rare as it
is arduous. All this is capable of reduction by study and practice to an
exact science, and then of development into a perfect art. For every
passion has its natural law of expression, and all these laws are
related and consistent in an honest and earnest character, incoherent
only in a discordant or hypocritical character. There is an art to find
the mind’s construction in the face. The spirit shines and speaks in the
flesh. And a learned eye looks quite through the seemings of men to
their genuine being and states. This is indeed the very business of the
dramatic art,—to read the truths of human nature through all its
attempted disguises, and expose them for instruction. How minute the
detail, how keen the perception, how subtle and alert the power of
adaptation requisite for this, may be illustrated by a single example.
Suppose a criminal character is to be played. He may be of a timid,
suspicious, furtive type, or careless, jovial, and rollicking, or brazen
and defiant, or sullen and gloomy, yet be a criminal in all. He may be
portrayed in the stage of excitement under the interest of plot and
pursuit, or in success and triumph, or in defeat and wrath, or in the
shame and terror of detection, or in final remorse and despair. There is
scarcely any end to the possibilities of variety, yet verisimilitude
must be kept up and nature not violated.

But we have as yet hardly hinted at the richness of the elements of the
dramatic art and the scope of the knowledge and skill necessary for
applying them. The aim of the dramatic art being the revelation of the
characters and experiences of men, the question arises, By what means is
this revelation effected? The inner states of man are revealed through
outer signs. Every distinct set of outer signs through which inner
states are made known constitutes a dramatic language. Now, there are no
less than nine of these sets of signs or dramatic languages of human

The first language is forms. When we look on an eagle, a mouse, a horse,
a tiger, a worm, a turtle, an alligator, a rattlesnake, their very forms
reveal their natures and dispositions and habits. In their shapes and
proportions we read their history. So with man. His generic nature, his
specific inheritance, his individual peculiarities are signalized in his
form and physiognomy with an accuracy and particularity proportioned to
the interpreting power of the spectator. The truth is all there for the
competent gazer. The actor modifies his form and features by artifice
and will to correspond with what should be the form of the person whose
character he impersonates. And _costume_, with its varieties of outline
and color, constitutes a secondary province artificially added to the
natural language of form.

The second language is attitudes. Attitudes are living modifications of
shape, or the fluencies of form. There are, for example, nine elementary
attitudes of the feet, of the hands, of the toes, of the head, which may
be combined in an exhaustless series. Every one of these attitudes has
its natural meaning and value. All emotions strong enough to pronounce
themselves find expression in appropriate attitudes or significant
changes of the form in itself and in its relations to others. He who has
the key for interpreting the reactions of human nature on the agencies
that affect it, easily reads in the outer signs of attitude the inner
states of defiance, doubt, exaltation, prostration, nonchalance,
respect, fear, misery, or supplication, and so on.

The third language is automatic movements, which are unconscious escapes
of character, unpurposed motions through which the states of the mover
are betrayed, sometimes with surprising clearness and force. For
instance, how often impatience, vexation, or restrained anger, breaks
out in a nervous tapping of the foot or the finger! What can be more
legible than the fidgety manner of one in embarrassment? And the degree
and kind of the embarrassment, together with the personal grade and
social position and culture of the subject, will be revealed in the
peculiar nature of the fidgeting. There is a whole class of these
automatic movements, such as trembling, nodding, shaking the head,
biting the lips, lolling the tongue, the shiver of the flesh, the quiver
of the mouth or eyelids, the shudder of the bones, and they compose a
rich primordial language of revelation, perfectly intelligible and
common to universal humanity.

The fourth language is gestures. This is the language so marvellously
flexible, copious, and powerful among many barbarous peoples. It was
carried to such a pitch of perfection by the mimes of ancient Rome, that
Roscius and Cicero had a contest to decide which could express a given
idea in the most clear and varied manner, the actor by gestures, or the
orator by words. Gestures are a purposed system of bodily motions, both
spontaneous and deliberate, intended as preparatory, auxiliary, or
substitutional for the expressions by speech. There is hardly any state
of consciousness which cannot be revealed more vividly by pantomime than
is possible in mere verbal terms. As fixed attitudes are inflected form,
and automatic movements inflected attitude, so pantomimic gestures are
systematically inflected motion. The wealth of meaning and power in
gesticulation depends on the richness, freedom, and harmony of the
character and organism. The beauty or deformity, nobleness or baseness,
of its pictures are determined by the zones of the body from which the
gestures start, the direction and elevation at which they terminate,
their rate of moving, and the nature and proportions of the figures,
segments of which their lines and curves describe. Music has no clearer
rhythm, melody, and harmony to the ear than inflected gesture has to the
eye. The first law of gesture is, that it follows the look or the eye,
and precedes the sound or the voice. The second law is, that its
velocity is precisely proportional to the mass moved. The third and
profoundest law, first formulated by Delsarte, is that efferent or
outward lines of movement reveal the sensitive life or vital nature of
the man; that afferent or inward lines reveal the percipient and
reflective life or mental nature; and that immanent or curved lines,
blended of the other two, reveal the affectional life or moral nature.

The fifth language is what is called facial expression. It consists of
muscular contractions and relaxations, dilatations and diminutions, the
fixing or the flitting of nervous lights and shades over the organism.
Its changes are not motions of masses of the body, but visible
modifications of parts of its periphery, as in smiles, frowns, tears.
The girding up or letting down of the sinews, the tightening or
loosening or horripilating creep of the skin, changes of color, as in
paleness and blushing, and all the innumerable alterations of look and
meaning in the brows, the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the chin, come
under this head. The delicacy, power, and comprehensiveness of this
language are inexhaustible. So numerous and infinitely adjustable, for
instance, are the nerves of the mouth, that Swedenborg asserts that no
spoken language is necessary for the illuminated, every state of the
soul being instantly understood from the modulation of the lips alone.

The sixth language is inarticulate noises, the first undigested
rudiments of the voice. All our organic and emotional states, when they
are keen enough to seek expression, and we are under no restraint,
distinguish and reveal themselves in crude noises, each one the
appropriate effect of a corresponding cause. We breathe aloud, whistle,
gasp, sigh, choke, whimper, sob, groan, grunt, sneeze, snore, snort,
sip, hiss, smack, sniff, gulp, gurgle, gag, wheeze, cough, hawk, spit,
hiccup, and give the death-rattle. These and kindred noises take us back
to the rawest elemental experiences, and express them to universal
apprehension in the most unmistakable manner. The states of the organism
in its various sensations, the forms its affected parts assume under
different stimuli, are as dies which strike the sounds then made into
audible coins or medals revelatory of their faces. This is the broadest
and vulgarest language of unrefined vernacular man. The lower the style
of acting the larger part this will play in it. From the representation
of high characters it is more and more strained out and sublimated away,
the other languages quite superseding it.

The seventh language is inflected tones, vocalized and modulated breath.
The mere tones of the sounding apparatus of the voice, in the variety of
their quality, pitch, and cadence, reveal the emotional nature of man
through the whole range of his feelings, both in kind and degree. The
moan of pain, the howl of anguish, the yell of rage, the shriek of
despair, the wail of sorrow, the ringing laugh of joy, the ecstatic and
smothering murmur of love, the penetrative tremor of pathos, the solemn
monotone of sublimity, and the dissolving whisper of wonder and
adoration,—these are some of the great family of inflected sounds in
which the emotions of the human heart are reflected and echoed to the
recognition of the sympathetic auditor.

The eighth language is articulated words, the final medium of the
intellect. Vocal sounds articulated in verbal forms are the pure vehicle
of the thoughts of the head, and the inflected tones with which they are
expressed convey the accompanying comments of the heart upon those
thoughts. What a man thinks goes out on his articulate words, but what
he feels is taught in the purity or harshness of the tones, the pitch,
rate, emphasis, direction and length of slide with which the words are
enunciated. The word reveals the intellectual state; the tone, the
sensitive state; the inflection, the moral state. The character of a man
is nowhere so concentratedly revealed as in his voice. In its clang-
tints all the colors and shades of his being are mingled and symbolized.
But it requires a commensurate wisdom, sensibility, trained skill and
impartiality to interpret what it implies. Yet one fact remains sure:
give a man a completely developed and freed voice, and there is nothing
in his experience which he cannot suggest by it. Nothing can be clearer
or more impressive than the revelation of characters by the voice: the
stutter and splutter of the frightened dolt, the mincing lisp of the
fop, the broad and hearty blast of the strong and good-natured boor, the
clarion note of the leader, the syrupy and sickening sweetness of the
goody, the nasal and mechanical whine of the pious hypocrite, the muddy
and raucous vocality of vice and disease, the crystal clarity and
precision of honest health and refinement. Cooke spoke with two voices,
one harsh and severe, one mild and caressing. His greatest effects were
produced by a rapid transition from one of these to the other. He used
the first to convince or to command, the second to soothe or to betray.

Actions speak louder than words; and the ninth language is deeds, the
completest single expression of the whole man. The thoughts, affections,
designs, expose and execute themselves in rounded revelation and
fulfilment in a deed. When a hungry man sits down to a banquet and
satisfies his appetite, when one knocks down his angered opponent or
opens the window and calls a policeman, when one gives his friend the
title-deed of an estate, everything is clear, there is no need of
explanatory comment. The sowing of a seed, the building of a house, the
painting of a picture, the writing of a book or letter, any intentional
act, is in its substance and form the most solid manifestation of its
performer. In truth, the deeds of every man, in their material and moral
physiognomy, betray what he has been, demonstrate what he is, and
prophesy what he will become. They are a language in which his purposes
materialize themselves and set up mirrors of his history. Deeds are,
above all, the special dramatic language, because the dramatic art seeks
to unveil human nature by a representation of it not in description, but
in living action.

These nine languages, or sets of outer signs for revealing inner states,
are all sustained and pervaded by a system of invisible motions or
molecular vibrations in the brain and the other nerve-centres. The
consensus of these hidden motions, in connection at the subjective pole
with the essence of our personality, at the objective pole with other
personalities and all the forces of the kosmos, presides over our bodily
and spiritual evolution; and all that outwardly appears of our character
and experience is but a partial manifestation of its working. From the
differing nature, extent, and combination of these occult vibrations in
the secret nerve-centres originate the characteristic peculiarities of
individuals. It may not be said that all the substances and forms of
life and consciousness _consist in_ modes of motion, but undoubtedly
every vital or conscious state of embodied man is _accompanied by_
appropriate kinds and rates of organic undulations or pulses of force,
and is revealed through these if revealed at all. The forms and measures
of these molecular vibrations in the nerve-centres and fibres,—whether
they are rectilinear, spherical, circular, elliptical, or spiral,—the
width of their gamut, with the slowness and swiftness of the beats in
their extremes,—and the complexity and harmony of their co-operation,—
determine the quality and scale of the man. The signals of these
concealed things exhibited through the nine languages of his organism
mysteriously hint the kinds and degrees of his power, and announce the
scope and rank of his being. This is the real secret of what is vulgarly
called animal magnetism. One person communicates his vibrations to
another, either by direct contact, or through ideal signs intuitively
recognized and which discharge their contents in the apprehending soul,
just as a musical string takes up the vibrations of another one in tune
with it. He whose organism is richest in differentiated centres and most
perfect in their co-ordinated action, having the exactest equilibrium in
rest and the freest play in exercise, having the amplest supply of force
at command and the most consummate grace or economy in expending it, is
naturally the king of all other men. He is closest to nature and God,
fullest of a reconciled self-possession and surrender to the universal.
He is indeed a divine magnetic battery. The beauty and grandeur of his
bearing bewitch and dominate those who look on him, because suggestive
of the subtlety and power of the modes of motion vibrating within him.
The unlimited automatic intelligence associated with these interior
motions can impart its messages not only through the confessed languages
enumerated above, but also, as it seems, immediately, thus enveloping
our whole race with an unbroken mental atmosphere alive and electric
with intercommunication.

The variety of human characters, in their secret selfhood and in their
social play,—the variety of languages through which they express
themselves and their states, all based on that infinitely fine system of
molecular motions in the nerve-centres where the individual and the
universal meet and blend and react in volitional or reflex
manifestation,—the variety of modes and degrees in which characters are
modified under the influence of passion within or society and custom
without,—the variety of changes in the adaptation of expression to
character, perpetually altering with the altering situations,—such are
the elements of the dramatic art. What cannot be said can be sung; what
cannot be sung can be looked; what cannot be looked can be gesticulated;
what cannot be gesticulated can be danced; what cannot be danced can be
sat or stood,—and be understood. The knowledge of these elements
properly formulated and systematized composes the true standard of
dramatic criticism.

It is obvious enough how few of the actors and critics of the day
possess this knowledge. Without it the player has to depend on
intuition, inspiration, instinct, happy or unhappy luck, laborious
guess-work, and servile imitation. He has not the safe guidance of
fundamental principles. Without it the critic is at the mercy of every
bias and caprice. Now, one of the greatest causes of error and injustice
in acting and in the criticism of acting is the difficulty of
determining exactly how a given character in given circumstances will
deport and deliver himself. With what specific combinations of the nine
dramatic languages of human nature, in what relative prominence or
subtlety, used with what degrees of reserve or explosiveness, will he
reveal his inner states through outer signs? Here the differences and
the chances for truthful skill are innumerable; for every particular in
expression will be modified by every particular in the character of the
person represented. What is perfectly natural and within limits for one
would be false or extravagant for another. The taciturnity of an iron
pride, the demonstrativeness of a restless vanity, the abundance of
unpurposed movements and unvocalized sounds characteristic of
boorishness and vulgarity, the careful repression of automatic language
by the man of finished culture, are illustrations.

And then the degree of harmony in the different modes of expression by
which a given person reveals himself is a point of profound delicacy for
actor and critic. In a type of ideal perfection every signal of thought
or feeling, of being or purpose, will denote precisely what it is
intended to denote and nothing else, and all the simultaneous signals
will agree with one another. But real characters, so far as they fall
short of perfection, are inconsistent in their expressions, continually
indefinite, superfluous or defective, often flatly contradictory.
Multitudes of characters are so undeveloped or so ill developed that
they fall into attitudes without fitness or direct significance, employ
gestures vaguely or unmeaningly, and are so insincere or little in
earnest that their postures, looks, motions, and voices carry opposite
meanings and thus belie one another. It requires no superficial art to
be able instantly to detect every incongruity of this sort, to assign it
to its just cause, and to decide whether the fault arises from conscious
falsity in the character or from some incompetency of the physical
organism to reflect the states of its spiritual occupant. For instance,
in sarcastic speech the meaning of the tone contradicts the meaning of
the words. The articulation is of the head, but the tone is of the
heart. So when the voice is ever so soft and wheedling, if the language
of the eyes and the fingers is ferocious, he is a fool who trusts the
voice. In like manner the revelations in form and attitude are deeper
and more massive than those of gesture. But in order that all the
expressions of the soul through the body should be marked by truth and
agreement, it is necessary that the soul should be completely sincere
and unembarrassed and that the body should be completely free and
flexible to reflect its passing states. No character furnishes these
conditions perfectly, and therefore every character will betray more or
less inconsistency in its manifestations. Still, every pronounced
character has a general unity of design and coloring in its type which
must be kept prevailingly in view.

The one thing to be demanded of every actor is that he shall conceive
his part with distinctness and represent it coherently. No actor can be
considered meritorious who has not a full and vivid conception of his
rôle and does not present a consistent living picture of it. But, this
essential condition met, there may be much truth and great merit in many
different conceptions and renderings of the same rôle. Then the degree
of intellectuality, nobleness, beauty, and charm, or of raw passion and
material power, in any stated performance is a fair subject for critical
discussion, and will depend on the quality of the actor. But the critic
should be as large and generous as God and nature in his standard, and
not set up a factitious limit of puling feebleness and refuse to pardon
anything that goes beyond it. He must remember that a great deal ought
to be pardoned to honest and genuine genius when it electrifyingly
exhibits to the crowd of tame and commonplace natures a character whose
scale of power is incomparably grander than their own. It is ever one of
the most imposing and benign elements in the mission of the stage to
show to average men, through magnificent examples of depth of passion,
force of will, strength of muscle, compass of voice, and organic play of
revelation, how much wider than they had known is the gamut of humanity,
how much more intense and exquisite its love, how much more blasting its
wrath, more awful its sorrow, more hideous its crime and revenge, more
godlike its saintliness and heroism.

It is not to be pretended that Forrest had ever made the systematic
analysis of the dramatic art sketched above. But when it was submitted
to him he instantly appreciated it with enthusiasm; for he was
experimentally familiar with all the rudiments of it. He was all his
life an earnest student of human nature, in literature, in social
intercourse, in his own consciousness, and in the critical practice of
his profession. In fixing his rank as an actor the only question is how
far he had the ability to represent in action what he unquestionably had
the ability to appreciate in conception. While some of his admirers have
eulogized him as the greatest tragedian that ever lived, some of his
detractors have denounced him as one of the worst. The truth, of course,
lies between these extremes. His excellences were of the most
distinguished kind, but the limitations of his excellence were obvious
to the judicious and sometimes repulsive to the fastidious.

To be the complete and incomparable actor which the partisans of Forrest
claim him to have been requires some conditions plainly wanting in him.
The perfect player must have a detached, imaginative, mercurial, yet
impassioned mind, free from chronic biases and prejudices, lodged in a
rich, symmetrical body as full of elastic grace as of commanding power.
The spirit must be freely attuned to the whole range of humanity, and
the articulations and muscles of the frame so liberated and co-operative
as to furnish an instrument obviously responsive to all the play of
thought and emotion. Now, Forrest, after his early manhood, under the
rigorous athletic training he gave himself, was a ponderous Hercules,
magnificent indeed, but incapable of the more airy and delicate
qualities, the fascination of free grace and spontaneous variety. He
lacked the lightning-like suppleness of Garrick and of Kean. His rugged
and imposing physique, handsome and serviceable as it was, wanted the
varying flexibility of the diviner forms of beauty, and so put rigid
limitations on him. The same was true mentally; for while his intellect
was keen, clear, broad, and vigorous, and his heart warm and faithful,
and his passion deep and intense, yet his seated antipathies were as
strong as his artistic sympathies, and shut him up in scorn and
hostility from whole classes of character. Both physically and
spiritually he was moulded in the fixed ways of the general type of
characters which his own predominant qualities caused him to affect.
These were grand characters, glorious in attributes, sublime in
manifestation, but in spite of all his art many of their traits were in
common, and there was something of monotony in the histrionic cortége,
electrifying as their scale of heroism and strength was. Could he but
have mastered in tragedy the spirituelle and free as he did the sombre
and tenacious, he had been perfect.

The same defect here admitted for his form and mind, it must be
confessed applied to his facial expression, gesture, and voice. As in
attitude he could express with immense energy everything slow and
tremendous in purpose or swift and resistless in execution, while the
more subtile and fleeting moods were baffled of a vent, so in look and
motion and tone he could give most vivid and sustained revelation to all
the great cardinal emotions of the human breast, the elemental
characteristics of our nature, but could not so well expose the more
elusive sentiments and delicate activities. As in his tone and limbs so
in his face and voice, the heavy style of gymnastic culture had fixed
itself in certain rigid moulds or lines, which could not break up in
endless forms accordant with endless moods, melting into one another,
all underlaid by that living unity which it is the end of a true
æsthetic gymnastic to produce. On occasion of his first professional
visit to London an English journal well said,—

“Mr. Forrest is in person most remarkable for symmetrical but somewhat
Herculean proportions. He might take the Farnese club and stand a
perfect model to painter or sculptor. His neck is also as a pillar of
strength, and his head is finely set on. His features are marked, but by
no means of a classic caste, nor are they well suited for histrionic
effect. Abundantly indicative of energy, they have not breadth of
character, or beauty, or variety of expression. Under strong excitement
they cut or contrast into sharp angularities, which cannot harmonize
with the grand in passion.”

Even the marvellous voice of Forrest—celebrated as it was for power,
tenderness, and manly sincerity—was prevailingly too dark or too
crashing. He articulated a certain range of thoughts and intoned a
certain range of feelings with superb correctness and force. Still, his
voice wanted a clarity and a bolted solidity corresponding with its
sombreness and its smashing violence. That is to say, while it
wonderfully expressed the ordinary contents of understanding and
passion, it relatively failed in delivering the contents of
intellectualized imagination and sentiment. His voice was astonishing in
volume of power, tearing fury of articulation, long-drawn cadences of
solemnity and affectional sweetness, but it was deficient in light
graceful play, brilliancy, concentrated and echoing sonority. For the
absolute perfection often claimed in its behalf its crashing gutturality
needed supplementing with that Italian quality of transparent, round,
elastic, ringing precision which delivers the words on the silent air
like crystal balls on black velvet.

The everlasting refrain in the cry of the weak or snarling critics of
Forrest was that he overdid everything,—striding, screeching, howling,
tearing passions to tatters, disregarding the sacred bounds of
propriety. That there was an apparent modicum of justice in this charge
must be admitted. And yet when all the truth is seen the admission makes
but a very small abatement from his merit. There is a comparatively raw
elemental language of human nature, such as is seen in the sneer, the
growl, the hiss, the grinding of the teeth, muscular contortion, which
is progressively restrained, sifted out and left behind with the advance
of polished dignity and refinement. In his impersonations Forrest
unquestionably retained more of this than is tolerated by the standard
of courtly fashion. His democratic soul despised courtly fashion and
paid its homage only at the shrine of native universal manhood. But, on
the other hand, it is unquestionable that these vigorous expressions
were perfectly in accordance with truth and nature as represented in men
of such exceptional strength and intensity as he and the types of
character he best loved to portray. He gave extraordinarily vigorous
expression to an extraordinarily wide gamut of passion because he
sincerely felt it, and thus nature informed his art with it. He did not
in cold blood overstep truth for effect, but he earnestly set forth the
truth as he conceived and felt it. With the mould and furnishing given
by his physique and soul for the great rôles he essayed, efforts were
easy and moderate which pale and feeble spindlings might well find
extravagant or shocking. The fault clearly is more theirs than his.
Power, sincerity, earnestness, are always respectable except to the
envious. His total career is proof enough how profound and conscientious
and popularly effective his sincerity, earnestness, and power were. But
he must needs run the scathing gauntlet which all bold originality has
to run. It is the same in all the arts. Nine-tenths of the current
criticism is worthless and contemptible, because ignorant or corrupt.
Beethoven was ridiculed as a madman and a bungler, Rossini sneered at as
a shallow trickster, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi denounced as
impostors, and Wagner systematically scouted as an insufferable
charlatan. As Lewes says, “The effort to create a new form is
deprecated, and a patient hearing denied. Repeat the old forms, and the
critics denounce the want of originality. Present new forms, and the
critics, deprived of their standards, denounce the heresy. It remains
with the public to discover real genius in the artist, and it does so by
its genuine response to his work.”

In reply to the accusation of overdoing a character by excessive force
of demonstration, Forrest might fairly have asked his critics, Overdone
for whom? For Boythorn or for Skimpole? For Coriolanus or for Launcelot
Gobbo? For Spartacus or for a dry-goods clerk? The precision with which
he conceived each of his leading characters, the patience with which he
elaborated all its elements into a consistent unity, the thoroughness
with which he assimilated it into his soul and identified himself with
it, and the unfaltering coherency and bold relief with which he enacted
it, carefully observing every condition of perspective and light and
shade and relative emphasis, placed his chief rôles among the most
complete specimens of the dramatic art in their way. And they forced
from his own generation the almost universal acknowledgment of his
solitary pre-eminence on the American stage. An anonymous writer justly
said of him in 1855, “An actor of the most positive qualities, decisive
in discrimination, pronounced in every attitude and phase, his
embodiments have sharp and stern definition. Therefore they challenge
with double force the most searching criticism, and invite while they
defy the sneers of less bold and more artificial schools. His
delineations are not mere cartoons, where the faults, like the virtues,
are elusive and shadowy. They are pictures finished with unmistakable
color, sharp expression of form, and a single, unerring meaning. Their
simplicity is such that if not grand they would be shallow commonplace:
just as it is but a step from Doric majesty to unrelieved and squat
ugliness. A modern school of actors is perplexing itself to get rid of
demonstration on the stage, to avoid scrupulously what is called ‘a
scene,’ to express passion by silent and gentlemanly bitterness, to
reduce all emotion to bloodless and suppressed propriety. Love is to be
made a morbid gnawing; anger clipped as close as hypocrisy; jealousy
corrode, but never bubble; joy be trim and well behaved; and madness
violent only at rare intervals. Not of such stuff as this are made the
Virginius, the Lear, the Metamora, and the Hamlet of Forrest. It is not
in his nature to polish passion until, like a sentence too much refined,
it loses all that is striking and natural. His anger is not conveyed off
like electricity by invisible agents. His moods are construed in his
audience by instinct, not by analysis. The moment he touches an
emotional key a major chord is struck that rings out clear and piercing
and brings back an echo equally distinct.”

The “London Times” said of the Metamora of Forrest, “It is a most
accurate delineation of Indian character. There is the awkward bluntness
that even approaches the comic and raises a laugh when it defies; and
there is, rising from behind this, the awful sense of right that makes
the Indian respected as a wronged man. The dull deportment which
petrifies the figurative language that flows lazily from the lips, and
the hurricane of passion that rages beneath it, are the two elements of
the character, and the manner in which they are combined by Mr. Forrest
renders his Metamora a most remarkable performance.” In contrast with
the foregoing fairness of statement the following specimen of base and
insolent ridicule is a literary curiosity:

“The _Metamora_ of Mr. Forrest is as much like a gorilla as an Indian,
and in fact more like a dignified monkey than a man. It has not the face
of a man, nor the voice nor the gait of a man. Du Chaillu’s description
of the gorilla would apply equally well to Forrest’s _Metamora_. We are
told by that celebrated traveller that upon the approach of an enemy
this ferocious baboon, standing upright on his hind legs, his eyes
dilated, his teeth gritting and grinding, gives vent to divers snorts
and grunts, and then, beating his breast fiercely with his hands till it
sounds like a muffled drum, utters a loud roar. What a singular
coincidence! The similarity need scarcely be pointed out. Substitute the
words ‘great tragedian’ for ‘ferocious baboon,’ omit the word ‘hind,’
and you have as accurate a description of Mr. Forrest in _Metamora_ as
any reasonable man could wish. The snorting, gritting, and especially
the beating of the breast and roaring, are so familiar to us, that we
could almost imagine that the tragedian and the traveller have met.”

One more example of the kind of “criticism” too common in the American
press will suffice:

“Can any man or woman who has paid a dollar to see Mr. Forrest in any of
his great characters recall any evidence in real life to substantiate
his assertions that such bellowing is natural? Did anybody ever see
anybody that looked as Mr. Forrest looks when he pretends to be
representing the passions of rage, hate, remorse? If Mr. Forrest ‘holds
the mirror up to nature,’ he first carefully scrawls over the face
certain hideous etchings, with only a small portion of surface here and
there left open for reflection. His Othello is a creature to be kicked,
instead of feared or loved, if met with in actual life. Is it credible
that any one was ever actually moved or interested in witnessing one of
this actor’s tedious and absurd performances?”

Ample reply to these brutal inquiries is afforded by the rapt silence,
the copious tears, and the all-shaking plaudits of the unprecedented
crowds, drawn for so long a series of years in every part of the country
by the magnetic impersonations which have secured him the first
illustrious place in the history of his country’s stage. But two or
three individual anecdotes possess interest enough to warrant their
preservation here.

While he was enacting the part of Iago to the Othello of Edmund Kean in
Albany one night, a stalwart canal-boatman was seated in the pit, so
near the stage that he rested his elbow on it close to the footlights.
Iago, in the scene where he had wrought so fearfully on the jealousy of
the Moor, crossed the stage near the boatman, and, as he passed, the man
looked savagely at him and hissed through his teeth while grinding them
together, “You damned lying scoundrel, I would like to get hold of you
after this show is over and wring your infernal neck!” When they met in
the dressing-room, Kean generously said to Forrest, “Young man, if my
acting to-night had received as high a compliment as that brawny fellow
in the pit bestowed on yours I should feel very proud. You made the
mimic show real to him, and I will tell you your acting merited the

Mr. Rees recalls among his interesting reminiscences an incident of
which he was a witness in New Orleans. Forrest was delivering the curse
in Lear with his wonted fierce and overwhelming vehemence. Mr. Rees
heard a strange sound proceeding from some one beside him, and, turning,
found, to his alarm, an elderly gentleman with his eyes fixed, his mouth
open, and a deathly paleness overspreading his face. Seizing him by the
shoulders and giving him a sudden jerk, he caused a reaction of the
blood. The gentleman gasped, heaved a deep sigh, and gazed around like
one awaking from a troubled sleep. The awful curse so awfully uttered,
which had taken away his breath, seemed still ringing in his ears. “One
moment more and I should have been a dead man,” he said. And, looking
towards the vacant stage, he asked, “Is that terrible old man gone?”

Hazlitt tells the traditional story that once when Garrick was acting
Lear the crown of straw which he wore was discomposed or fell off, which
happening to any common actor would have caused a burst of laughter; but
with him not the slightest notice was taken of the accident, but the
attention of the audience remained riveted. The same thing actually
befell Forrest, and gave the most astonishing proof of his absorbed
earnestness and magnetizing power. It was in the old Broadway Theatre,
near Anthony Street. He was performing Lear, with Barry, Davidge,
Conway, Whiting, Madame Ponisi, Mrs. Abbott, and other favorites in the
cast. In the last scene of the second act, when depicting the frenzy of
the aged monarch, whose brain, maddened by injuries, was reeling on its
throne, in the excitement of the moment Forrest tore the wig of whitened
hair from his head and hurled it some twenty feet towards the
footlights. The wig thus removed, there was revealed to the audience a
head of glossy raven locks, forming a singular contrast to the hoary
beard still fastened by a white cord to the actor’s chin. Not the least
embarrassment resulted either to actor or to spectators. Amidst the vast
assembly not a titter was heard, scarce a smile discerned. Enchained,
entranced by the power of the player, two thousand breathless spectators
gazed with bedimmed eyes on the mimic scene. Nor made he any pause or
hesitation. Still did that superb voice, so rich and grand in melody and
compass, speak forth in anguish and wrath the indignant denunciation of
the outraged king and father, making every heart tremble with his tones.
One of the actors on the stage at the time, in describing the event more
than twenty years afterwards, said that as he recalled the effect
produced by Forrest in that scene on the house, and on the players about
him, it seemed something superhuman.

In the tragedy of Cleopatra, by Marmontel, an asp had been made so
natural that it seemed alive. As it approached the queen its eyes
sparkled like fire, and it began to hiss. At the close of the scene one
asked a critic who sat by him how he liked the play. He replied, “I am
of the same opinion as the asp.” This is the case with the average sort
of critic, whose commonplace inferiority of soul seeks to revenge
itself, whose vanity or complacency seeks to exalt itself, by a
demeaning estimate of every artist of whom he writes. But, fortunately,
there are numerous instances of a nobler style, men equally just and
generous, who in all their judgments hold individual prejudices in
abeyance, and, actuated solely by public spirit and love of truth and of
art, follow the guidance not of whim or interest, but of general
principles, as exemplified in the great fixed types of character and
modified in their dialect variations. One writer of this kind has
admirably said,—

“Every actor has some particular excellence, which stamps his style in
everything he does. This in Forrest is the ever visible manliness of
spirit, and love of equality and liberty, which place his Damon,
Spartacus, Brutus, and all characters of a like nature so far above the
reach of other actors. He is always the _true man_, casting defiance in
the face of tyranny; his hand always open to the grasp of a friend,
resolute, generous, and faithful. This spirit is something which every
true heart, be its owner rich or poor, learned or unlearned, will always
acknowledge and worship as the noblest attribute of man; and here is the
real secret of Forrest’s success. The unlettered cannot but admire him
for this feature, while to those who can appreciate artistic finish and
detail, his acting must be an inexhaustible source of pleasure. After he
has gone the stage will feel his worth. Who has not wept over the last
act of Brutus? Who has not felt his ‘seated heart knock at his ribs’
while listening to the tragedian’s astonishing delivery in the third act
of Damon and Pythias? Who that has ever heard him exclaim in the last
act of the Gladiator, ‘There are no gods in heaven!’ can accuse him of
being coarse or vulgar? Indeed, it may be said of his acting in many
characters (as a Shaksperian commentator has said of Lear), ‘The genius
of antiquity bows before it, and moderns gaze upon it with awe.’”

The strong proclivity of professional artists to jealousy is as
proverbial as the tendency of the critic to attack and belittle. Forrest
suffered much from both. His imperious independence, not less than his
great success, provoked it, and he was maligned, spattered, and
backbitten sufficiently from the stage as well as from the office. If in
this respect he was an exception, it was merely in degree. The mortified
and envious actors of Drury Lane discussing Kean in the greenroom, one
of them sneeringly remarked, “They say he is a good harlequin.” “Yes,”
retorted honest Jack Bannister, “an extraordinary one; for he has leaped
over all your heads.” But the other side of this view was also true, and
Forrest numbered his most enthusiastic admirers in the dramatic
profession itself in all its ranks. They paid him many tributes from
first to last, on which he justly set the highest value. For when the
player is intelligent and candid, his special experience makes him the
most competent critic of a player. The extent to which the peculiar
style of Forrest took effect in producing imitators, conscious and
unconscious,—who often, it is true, unhappily, copied his least
praiseworthy points,—was a vast and unquestionable testimonial to his
original power. And in here leaving the subject of criticism, it is
enough, passing over the recorded praises of his genius by many leading
American actors, to set down the deliberate estimate of James E.
Murdock, himself a player of uncommon merit, as well as a man of refined
scholarly culture. Some one had made a degrading allusion to Forrest,
when Murdock replied, “Never had I been able to find a fitting
illustration of the massive and powerful acting of Forrest until, on a
visit to Rome some years ago, I stood before the mighty works of Michael
Angelo,—his Last Judgment, his gigantic Moses. Call it exaggerated if
you will. But there it is, beautiful in symmetry, impressive in
proportions, sublime in majesty. Such was Edwin Forrest when
representing the chosen characters of Shakspeare.” The illustration was
as exact as the spirit that prompted it was generous. It indicates
precisely the central attribute of the subject. For the powerful and
reposeful port, the elemental poise and swing of the colossal figures of
Angelo, reveal just what the histrionic pose and bearing of Forrest
revealed, namely, the preponderance in him of the universal over the
individual, the working of the forces of nature rather than the
straining of his will. This is what makes a personality memorable, for
it is contagious on others, and so invisibly descends the ages.

                              CHAPTER XV.

Forrest was now in his forty-fourth year, as magnificent a specimen of
manhood perhaps as there was on the continent. His strength, vitality,
fulness of functional power, and confronting fearlessness of soul before
the course of nature and the faces of men, were so complete as to give
him a chronic sense of complacency and luxury in the mere feeling of
existence endowed with so much ability to do whatever he wished to do.

Despite a few annoying drawbacks his cup of outward prosperity too was
full. It is true his fancy had been somewhat disenchanted and his temper
embittered by experiences of meanness, ingratitude, and worthlessness,
the envy and rancor of rivals, the shallowness and malignity of the
multitude, and especially by a lasting soreness created in his heart
from his late English trip and its unhappy sequel. It is also true that
this evil influence had been negatively increased by the loss of the
wise and benign restraint and inspiration given him during their lives
by the devoted friendship of Leggett and the guardian love of his
mother. Still, he had an earnest, democratic sympathy with the masses of
men and a deep pride in their admiration. His popularity was unbounded.
His rank in his art was acknowledged on the part of his professional
brethren by his election as the first President of the Dramatic Fund
Association, a society to whose exchequer he contributed the proceeds of
an annual benefit for many years. He had fought his way with strenuous
vigor through many hardships of orphanage, poverty, defective education,
and a fearful furnace of temptations. And his reputation in every
respect was without stain or shadow. This was certified by all sorts of
public testimonials, the offers of political office and honor, the
studied eulogies of the most cultivated and eloquent civilians, the
smiling favors of the loveliest women in the land, the shouts of the
crowd, and the golden filling of his coffers. His large earnings were
invested with rare sagacity, his sound financial judgment and skill
always enabling him to reap a good harvest wherever he tilled his
fortune. He was at this time already worth two or three hundred thousand
dollars. And this, in an age of Mammon, is a pledge to society of high
deserts and a hostage for good behavior.

But above all he was signally blessed in his married life, the point in
a character like his by far the most central and vital of all. The first
ten years of his state of wedlock had indeed been happy beyond the
ordinary portion of mortals. It was a well-mated match, he a noble
statue of strength, she a melting picture of beauty, mutually proud and
fond of each other, his native honesty and imperious will met by her
polished refinement and conciliatory sweetness. Beyond all doubt he
deeply and passionately loved her. And well he might, for his nature was
one greatly endowed in all points for impassioned love, and she was in
person, disposition, and accomplishments equally adapted to awaken it.
“She was perfection,” said one, in allusion to her bridal landing in
America; “the most beautiful vision I ever saw.” After the death of
Forrest she herself said, “The first ten years of our married life were
a season of contentment and happiness, scarcely ruffled by so much as a
summer flaw; then bickering began, followed by deeper misunderstanding,
and the fatal result drew on, which I have always deplored.” Yet even in
these halcyon years, too short and too few, there was one thing wanting
to finished household felicity. This one want was children, the eternal
charm of the passing ages of humanity. Of the four pathetic creatures
born to them, but one lived, and that only for a few months. Abandoning
the hope of heirs to his name and fortune, and foreseeing that his
estate was destined to be a large one, Forrest, with the long
anticipation characteristic of a reflective mind, bethought him what
disposal he had best make of his acquisitions when he should be forced
to relinquish them in death. He settled upon a purpose combining
elements of romance, beneficence, and imposing permanence, which showed
him possessed of qualities above the vulgar average of men.

He bought an extensive tract of land on the banks of the Hudson, about
sixteen miles from New York, on a site commanding one of the most
enchanting prospects in the world. Here he proposed to erect a building
to be called Fonthill Castle, somewhat after the fashion of the old
ruined structures on the banks of the Rhine, whose beauty should gratify
his taste, whose conveniences should secure his household comfort, whose
historic and poetic suggestiveness should please his countrymen passing
up and down the river, and whose final object should be an enduring
memorial of his love for his profession and of his compassion for its
less fortunate members. The building of a house is an epoch of great
interest in the lives of many men. This was especially so in the life of
Forrest. In a chiselled orifice of the corner-stone of Fonthill Castle
he placed specimens of the American coinage, a copy of Shakspeare, and
the following paper,—marred only by its betrayal of that prejudice
against foreigners which was so unworthy of his own nature and of his

  “In building this house, I am impelled by no vain desire to occupy a
  grand mansion for the gratification of self-love; but my object is
  to build a desirable, spacious, and comfortable abode for myself and
  my wife, to serve us during our natural lives, and at our death to
  endow the building with a sufficient yearly income, so that a
  certain number of decayed or superannuated actors and actresses of
  American birth (_all foreigners to be strictly excluded_) may
  inhabit the mansion and enjoy the grounds thereunto belonging, so
  long as they live; and at the death of any one of the actors or
  actresses inhabiting the premises, his or her place to be supplied
  by another from the theatrical profession, who, from age or
  infirmity, may be found unable to obtain a livelihood upon the
  stage. The rules and regulations by which this institution is to be
  governed will, at some future day, be framed by

                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

To this charity he meant to devote his whole property forever. As the
estate grew in value an American Dramatic School was to be added to it,
lectures delivered, practical training imparted, and native histrionic
authors encouraged. It was estimated that in fifty years the rich acres
surrounding the Castle would be a part of New York, and that the rise of
value would make the bequest at last one of the noblest known in any

Fonthill Castle was built of gray silicious granite of extraordinary
hardness and fine grain, hammer-dressed and pointed with gray cement.
The building consists of six octagon towers clumped together, the
battlements of some notched with embrasures, the others capped with
corniced coping. The highest tower rises about seventy feet from the
base, the centre tower, the main tower, the library tower, the drawing-
room tower, and the dining-room tower being of proportioned heights. The
basement contains the kitchen, cellar, and store-rooms. On the next
floor are the parlor, banquet-hall, study, boudoir, and library. The
centre tower comprises a hall or rotunda, and above this a picture-
gallery lighted from the dome. The upper rooms are divided into chambers
for guests and apartments for servants. The staircase tower has a spiral
staircase of granite inserted in a solid brick column, rising from the
basement to the top of the tower, with landings on each floor leading to
the chief apartments. The architectural design was understood to be
chiefly the work of Mrs. Forrest, with modifications by him. It combined
the Norman and Gothic styles, softened in detail so as to embrace some
of the luxuries of modern improvements. For instance, the drawing-room
and banqueting-room are lighted with deep, square, bay-windows, while
those of the upper chambers and of the boudoir are of the Gothic order.
In other portions of the edifice are to be seen the rounded windows of
the Norman period, with their solid stone mullions dividing the
compartments again into pointed Gothic. Loop-holes and buttresses give
the structure the military air of a fortified castle. There are two
entrances, one on the water side, one on the land side. From the summit
of the staircase tower one sees up the river as far as Sing Sing and
down to Staten Island. On the opposite shore frowns the wall of the
Palisades. On the north lie Yonkers, Hastings, Nyack, the lovely inlet
of Tappan Zee, and the cottages of Piermont, glistening like white
shells on the distant beach.

During the progress of the building Forrest had improvised a rude
residence on the grounds, which he constantly visited, growing ever more
deeply attached to the place and to his enterprise. In this romantic
spot, one Fourth of July, he gathered his neighbors and friends, to the
number of some two or three hundreds, and held a celebration,—reading
the Declaration of Independence and delivering an oration, followed by
the distributing of refreshments under waving flags and amidst booming
guns. It was a brilliant and joyous affair,—a sort of initial, and, as
it proved, farewell, dedication of the scene with commingled friendly
and patriotic associations. For in its opening stages of suspicion and
distress the domestic tragedy had already begun which was destined to
make the enchantments of Fonthill so painful to him that he would
withdraw from it forever, sell it to a Catholic sisterhood for a
conventual school, and take up his final abode in the city of his birth.

In the spring of 1848 Forrest was fulfilling a professional engagement
in Cincinnati, and his wife was with him. One day, on entering his room
at the hotel unexpectedly, he saw Mrs. Forrest standing between the
knees of George W. Jamieson, an actor of low moral character, whose
hands were upon her person. Jamieson at once left the room. Forrest was
greatly excited, but the protestations of his wife soothed his angry
suspicion, and he overlooked the affair as a mere matter of
indiscreetness of manners. Still, the incident was not wholly forgotten.
And some months later, after their return home, certain trifling
circumstances came under his observation which again made him feel
uneasy. On opening a drawer in which his wife kept her papers, he found,
addressed to her, the following letter, worn and rumpled, and in the
handwriting of this Jamieson:

“And now, sweetest Consuelo, our brief dream is over; and such a dream!
Have we not known real bliss? Have we not realized what poets love to
set up as an ideal state, giving full license to their imagination,
scarcely believing in its reality? Have we not experienced the truth
that ecstasy is not a fiction? I have; and, as I will not permit myself
to doubt you, am certain you have. And oh! what an additional delight to
think,—no, to know, that I have made some hours happy to you! Yes, and
that remembrance of me may lighten the heavy time of many an hour to
come. Yes, our little dream of great account is over; reality stares us
in the face. Let us peruse its features. Look with me and read as I do,
and you will find our dream is ‘not all a dream.’ Can reality take from
us, when she separates and exiles us from each other,—can she divide our
souls, our spirits? Can slander’s tongue or rumor’s trumpet summon us to
a parley with ourselves, where, to doubt each other, we should hold a
council? _No! no!_ a doubt of thee can no more find harbor in my brain
than the opened rose shall cease to be the hum-bird’s harbor. And as my
heart and soul are in your possession, examine them, and you will find
no text from which to discourse a doubt of _me_. But you have told me
(and oh! what music did your words create upon my grateful ear) that you
would _not doubt me_. With these considerations, dearest, our
separation, though painful, will not be unendurable; and if a sombre
hour should intrude itself upon you, banish it by knowing there is one
who is whispering to himself, Consuelo.

“There is another potent reason why you should be happy,—that is, having
been the means of another’s happiness; for I _am_ happy, and, with you
to remember and the blissful anticipation of seeing you again, shall
remain so. I wish I could tell you my happiness. I cannot. No words have
been yet invented that could convey an idea of the depth of that
passion, composed of pride, admiration, awe, gratitude, veneration, and
love, without being earthy, that I feel for you.

“Be happy, dearest; write to me and tell me you are happy. Think of the
time when we shall meet again; believe that I shall do my utmost to be
worthy of your love; and now God bless you a thousand times, my own, my
heart’s altar.

“I would say more, but must stow away my shreds and tinsel patches. Ugh!
how hideous they look after thinking of you!

                 “Adieu! adieu! and when thou’rt gone,
                 My joy shall be made up alone
                 Of calling back, with fancy’s charm,
                 Those halcyon hours when in my arm
                                   Clasped Consuelo.

                 “Adieu! adieu! be thine each joy
                 That earth can yield without alloy,
                 Shall be the earnest constant prayer
                 Of him who in his heart shall wear
                                   But Consuelo.

                 “Adieu! adieu! when next we meet,
                 Will not all sadness then retreat,
                 And yield the conquered time to bliss,
                 And seal the triumph with a kiss?
                                   Say, Consuelo.”

On reading this missive, as might well be supposed, Forrest was struck
to the heart with surprise, grief, and rage. To one of his ample
experience of the world it seemed to leave no doubt of an utter lapse
from the marriage-vow on the part of its recipient. He was heard rapidly
pacing the floor of his library until long after midnight, when his wife
arrived from a party and a violent scene of accusation and denial
occurred. He wrote an oath, couched in the most stringent and solemn
terms, which she signed, swearing that she was innocent of any criminal
infringement of her marital obligations. He was quieted, but not
satisfied. On questioning the servants as to the scenes and course of
conduct in his house during his absences, and employing such other
methods of inquiry as did not involve publicity, he learned a variety of
facts which confirmed his fear and resulted in a fixed belief that his
wife had been unfaithful to him. Many a jealous husband has entertained
a similar belief on insufficient and on erroneous grounds. He, too, may
have done so. All that justice requires to be affirmed here is the
assertion that he was himself firmly convinced, whether on adequate or
inadequate evidence, that he had been grossly wronged, and he acted on
that conviction in good faith. The pretence that he had tired of his
marriage, longed to be free, and devised false charges in order to
compass his purpose, is a pure slander, without truth or reason. And as
to the theory of the distinguished counsel against him, namely, that he
found himself by the building of Fonthill Castle involved in a financial
ruin that would disgrace him and change its name to Forrest’s Folly, and
so, as the easiest way out, he deliberately “determined to have a
quarrel with his wife for some private cause not to be explained, and
then to assign the breaking up of his family as the reason for
relinquishing his rural residence,”—it is not only the flimsiest of
fancies, but a perfect absurdity in face of the facts, and an infamous
outrage on the helpless memory of the dead. Could a woman of the mind,
spirit, position, and with the friends of Mrs. Forrest be expected
meekly to submit to such a fiendish sacrifice? How does such a thought
seem in the light of the first letters of the parties in the
controversy? The supposition, too, is inconceivably contradictory to the
character of Forrest, who, however rough, violent, or furious he may
sometimes have been, was not a man of cruel injustice or selfish
malignity, was never a sneaking liar and hypocrite. Furthermore, no
financial difficulty existed; since the fortune of Forrest at that time
was about three hundred thousand dollars, and his direct earnings from
his professional labor some thirty thousand a year. Fonthiil cost him
all told less than a hundred thousand, and on separating from his wife,
in addition to carrying the load of Fonthiil for six years longer, the
residence which he purchased and occupied in Philadelphia was worth
nearly as much more, and, besides paying out over two hundred thousand
dollars in his divorce lawsuits, his wealth was steadily swelling all
the time.

After the intense personal hostility and indomitable professional zeal
and persistency with which Charles O’Conor pushed the cause of his fair
client, in eight years securing five repetitions of judgment, heaping up
the expenses for the defendant, as he says, “with the peculiar effect of
compound interest,” he should not have penned so unfounded and terrible
an accusation. The man who could sacrifice the honor and happiness of
his wife with the motive and in the manner O’Conor attributes to Forrest
must be the most loathsome of scoundrels. But in the very paper in which
the great illustrious lawyer presents this theory he says, “Mr. Forrest
possessed great talents, and, unless his conduct in that controversy be
made a subject of censure, he has no blemish on his name.” The innocence
of Mrs. Forrest is publicly accredited, and is not here impugned. But
history abundantly shows that her husband’s affirmation of her guilt
does not prove him to have been a wilful monster. His suspicion was
naturally aroused, and, though it may have been mistaken, naturally
culminated, under the circumstances accompanying its course, in an
assured conviction of its justice.

In his proud, sensitive, and tenacious mind, recoiling with all its
fibres from the fancied wrong and shame, the poison of the Consuelo
letter worked like a deadly drug, burning and mining all within. By day
or by night he could not forget it. The full experience of jealousy, as
so many poor wretches in every age have felt it, gnawed and tore him. He
who had so often enacted the passion now had to suffer it in its dire
reality. For more than a year he kept his dark secret in silence, not
saying a word even to his dearest friends, secluding himself much of the
time, brooding morbidly over his pent-up misery. Now he learned to probe
in their deepest significance the words of his great Master,—

          “But oh, what damned minutes tells he o’er
          Who dotes yet doubts, suspects yet strongly loves!”

The evidence of the love he had for his wife and of the agony his
jealousy caused him is abundant. His letters to her are tender and
effusive. Such extracts as these are a specimen of them: “I am quite
tired of this wandering, and every hour I wish myself again with you.
God bless you, my dearest Kate, and believe me wholly yours.” “This is a
warm, bright, beautiful day, and I am sitting at an open window in the
Eutaw House; and while I write there is above me a clear, blue,
cloudless sky,—just such a day as I yearn to have with you at Fonthill.”
“I saw Mr. Mackay to-day. He spoke of you in terms of unmitigated
praise, and said you were every way worthy of my most devoted affection.
Of course he made conquest of my whole heart. I do love to hear you
praised, and value it most highly when, as in the present instance, it
is the spontaneous offering of the candid and the good.” “Your two
letters have been received, and I thank you, my dearest Kate, for your
kind attentions in writing to me so often. Indeed, your messages are
always welcome.” “I seem quite lonely without you, and even in this
short absence have often wished you were here. But the three weeks
_will_ pass away, and then we shall see each other again.” Many
witnesses in the trial testified to the happy domestic life of the
couple, their devoted attentions and confiding tenderness up to the time
of their dissension. And that the change which then occurred was as
secretly painful as it was publicly marked is beyond doubt. He appeared
no longer on the stage, but shunned society, even shrank from his
friends, wore a gloomy and absorbed air, and brooded in solitude. The
following verses—as unjust as they are severe, for jealousy is always
more or less insane, a morbid fixture displacing the freedom of the
mind—reflecting his feelings were found after his death, in his
handwriting, copied into one of his scrap-books at the date of the
divorce trial:

         Away from my heart, for thy spirit is vain
           As the meanest of insects that flutter in air;
         I have broken the bonds of our union in twain,
           For the spots of deceit and of falsehood are there.

         The woman who still in the day-dawn of youth
           Can hold out her hand to the kisses of all,
         Whose tongue is polluted by guile and untruth,
           Doth justify man when he breaks from her thrall.

         But think not I hate thee; my heart is too high
           To prey on the spoil of so abject a foe;
         I deem thee unworthy a curse or a sigh,
           For pity too base, and for vengeance too low.

         Then away, unregretted, unhonored thy name,
           In my moments of scorn recollected alone,—
         Soon others shall wake to behold thee the same
           As I have beheld thee, and thou shalt be known.

When at last he spoke reservedly on the subject to his confidential
friend, he said he had begun life a very poor boy, had struggled hard to
reach a pinnacle, and it now seemed severe to be struck down from all
his happiness by one individual, and that one the woman whom he had
loved the most of all on earth. And when the listener to whom he spoke
replied with praises of the physical and spiritual beauty of Mrs.
Forrest, he exclaimed, “She now looks ugly to me: her face is black and
hideous.” This friend, Lawson, wrote these words at the time: “I am
persuaded that both parties are still warmly attached to one another.
He, judging by his looks, has suffered deeply, and has grown ten years
older during the last few months. She is not less affected.”

At length a natural but unfortunate incident carried their alienation to
the point of a violent and final rupture. In indignant reply to some
cutting remarks on her sister, Mrs. Forrest inconsiderately said to her
husband, “It is a lie!” If there was one point on which he had always
been proudly scrupulous, as every friend would testify, it was that of
being a man of the uttermost straightforward veracity, whatever might
betide. The words, “It is a lie!” fell into his irascible blood like
drops of molten iron. He restrained himself, and said, “If a man had
said that to me he should die. I cannot live with a woman who says it.”
From that moment separation was inevitable and irrevocable.

A little later they agreed to part, mutually pledging themselves not to
allow the cause to be made known. Before leaving his house she asked him
to give her a copy of the works of Shakspeare as a memento of him. He
did so, writing in it, “Mrs. Edwin Forrest, from Edwin Forrest,” a sad
alteration from the inscription uniformly made in the books he had
before presented to her, “From her lover and husband, Edwin Forrest.”
Taking her in a carriage, with a large portrait of himself at the most
glorious height of his physical life, he accompanied her to the house of
her generous friends, Parke and Fanny Godwin, whose steadfast fidelity
had caused them to offer her an asylum in this trying hour. Parting from
each other silently at that hospitable door, the gulf of pain between
them was henceforth without a bridge. Slow months passed on, various
causes of irritation still at work, when the following letter, which
explains itself, was written:

  “I am compelled to address you, by reports and rumors that reach me
  from every side, and which a due respect for my own character
  compels me not to disregard. You cannot forget that before we parted
  you obtained from me a solemn pledge that I would say nothing of the
  guilty cause; the guilt alone on your part, not on mine, which led
  to our separation; you cannot forget that, at the same time, you
  also pledged yourself to a like silence, a silence that I supposed
  you would be glad to have preserved; but I understand from various
  sources, and in ways that cannot deceive me, that you have
  repeatedly disregarded that promise, and are constantly assigning
  false reasons for our separation, and making statements in regard to
  it intended and calculated to exonerate yourself and to throw the
  whole blame on me, and necessarily to alienate from me the respect
  and attachment of the friends I have left to me. Is this a fitting
  return for the kindness I have ever shown you? Is this your
  gratitude to one who, though aware of your guilt and most deeply
  wronged, has endeavored to shield you from the scorn and contempt of
  the world? The evidence of your guilt, you know, is in my
  possession; I took that evidence from among your papers, and I have
  your own acknowledgment by whom it was written, and that the
  infamous letter was addressed to you. You know, as well as I do,
  that the cause of my leaving you was the conviction of your
  infidelity. I have said enough to make the object of this letter
  apparent; I am content that the past shall remain in silence, but I
  do not intend, nor will I permit, that either you, or any one
  connected with you, shall ascribe our separation to my misconduct.

  “I desire you, therefore, to let me know at once, whether you have
  by your own assertions, or by sanctioning those of others,
  endeavored to throw the blame of our miserable position on me. My
  future conduct will depend on your reply.

                                            “Once yours,
                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

To this the writer received immediate response:

  “I hasten to answer the letter Mr. Stevens has just left with me,
  with the utmost alacrity, as it affords me, at least, the melancholy
  satisfaction of correcting misstatements, and of assuring you that
  the various rumors and reports which have reached you are false.

  “You say that you have been told that I am ‘constantly assigning
  false reasons for our separation, and making statements in regard to
  it intended and calculated to exonerate myself and throw the whole
  blame on you;’ this I beg most distinctly to state is utterly

  “I have, when asked the cause of our sad differences, invariably
  replied that was a matter only known to ourselves, and which would
  never be explained, and I neither acknowledge the right of the
  world, nor our most intimate friends, to question our conduct in
  this affair.

  “You say, ‘I desire you, therefore, to let me know at once, whether
  you have by your own assertions, or by sanctioning those of others,
  endeavored to throw the blame of our miserable position on me.’ I
  most solemnly assert that I have never done so, directly or
  indirectly, nor has any one connected with me ever made such
  assertions with my knowledge, nor have I ever permitted any one to
  speak of you in my presence with censure or disrespect. I am glad
  you have enabled me to reply directly to yourself concerning this,
  as it must be evident to you that we are both in a position to be
  misrepresented to each other; but I cannot help adding that the tone
  of your letter wounds me deeply: a few months ago you would not have
  written thus. But in this neither do I blame you, but those who have
  for their own motives poisoned your mind against me; this is surely
  an unnecessary addition to my sufferings, but while I suffer I feel
  the strong conviction that some day, perhaps one so distant that it
  may no longer be possible for us to meet on this earth, your own
  naturally noble and just mind will do me justice, and that you will
  believe in the affection which, for twelve years, has never swerved
  from you. I cannot, nor would I, subscribe myself other than,

                                       “Yours now and ever,
                                               “CATHARINE N. FORREST.”

The above letter was succeeded five days later by another:

  “In replying to the letter I received from you on Monday last, I
  confined myself to an answer to the questions you therein ask me;
  for inasmuch as you said you were content that the past should
  remain in silence, and as I was myself unwilling to revive any
  subject of dispute between us, I passed over the harsh and new
  accusations contained in your letter; but on reading and weighing it
  carefully, as I have done since, I fear that my silence would be
  construed into an implied assent to those accusations. After your
  repeated assurances to me prior to our separation, and to others
  since then, of your conviction that there had been nothing criminal
  on my part, I am pained that you should have been persuaded to use
  such language to me. You know as well as I do that there has been
  nothing in my conduct to justify those gross and unexpected charges,
  and I cannot think why you should now seem to consider a foolish and
  anonymous letter as an evidence of guilt, never before having
  thought so, unless you have ulterior views, and seek to found some
  grounds on this for divorce. If this be your object, it could be
  more easily, not to say more generously, obtained. I repeatedly told
  you that if a divorce would make you happy, I was willing to go out
  of this State with you to obtain it, and that at any future time my
  promise to this effect would hold good. You said such was not your
  wish, and that we needed no court of law to decide our future
  position for us. From the time you proposed our separation, I used
  no remonstrance, save to implore you to weigh the matter seriously,
  and be sure, before you decided, that such a step would make you
  happy; you said it would, and to conduce as much as lay in my power
  to that happiness, was my only aim and employment until the day you
  took me from my home. Of my own desolate and prospectless future I
  scarcely dared to think or speak to you, but once you said that if
  any one dared to cast an imputation on me, not consistent with
  honor, I should call on you to defend me. That you should,
  therefore, now write and speak as you do, I can only impute to your
  yielding to the suggestions of those who, under the garb of
  friendship, are daring to interfere between us; but it is not in
  their power to know whether your happiness will be insured by
  endeavoring to work my utter ruin. I cannot believe it, and implore
  you, Edwin, for God’s sake, to trust to your own better judgment;
  and, as I am certain that your heart will tell you I could not seek
  to injure you, so likewise I am sure your future will not be
  brighter if you succeed in crushing me more completely, in casting
  disgrace upon one who has known no higher pride than the right of
  calling herself your wife.

                                               “CATHARINE N. FORREST.”

To this Forrest replied thus:

  “I answer your letter dated the 29th and received by me on the 31st
  ult., solely to prevent my silence being misunderstood. Mr. Godwin
  has told me that the tardy reply to the most material part of mine
  of the 24th was sent by his advice. I should indeed think from its
  whole tone and character that it was written under instructions. I
  do not desire to use harsh epithets or severe language to you; it
  can do no good. But you compel me to say that all the important
  parts of yours are utterly untrue. It is utterly untrue that the
  accusations I now bring against you are ‘new.’ It is utterly untrue
  that since the discovery of that infamous letter, which you
  callously call ‘foolish,’ I have ever, in any way, expressed my
  belief of your freedom from guilt. I could not have done so, and you
  know that I have not done it. But I cannot carry on a correspondence
  of this kind; I have no desire to injure or to crush you; the fatal
  wrong has been done to me, and I only wish to put a final
  termination to a state of things which has destroyed my peace of
  mind, and which is wearing out my life.

                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

The next step in the tragedy was the filing of an application for
divorce by Forrest in Philadelphia, instantly counterchecked by a
similar application on the part of Mrs. Forrest in New York. He was led
to his suit because, in his own words, “unwilling to submit to calumnies
industriously circulated by my enemies that I had unmanfully wronged an
innocent woman, the only choice open to me was either to assert my
rectitude before the tribunals of my country or endure throughout life a
weight of reproach which I trust my entire life proves undeserved.” Her
obvious motive in the counter-suit was the instinctive impulse and the
deliberate determination to protect herself from remediless disgrace and
utter social ostracism. No woman with her spirit, and with the host of
friends which she had in the most honored walk of the community, could
willingly accept the fearful penalty of letting such a case go by
default, whether she were innocent or guilty. To those who held her
innocent, as the best people did, her attitude appealed to every
chivalrous sentiment of admiration and sympathy; but to him who believed
her guilty, as her husband did, it presented every motive to aggravate
anger and resentment. The inevitable consequences resulted, and a
prolonged struggle ensued, which was a desperate fight for moral
existence. The miserable details need not be specified. As the combat
thickened, the deeper grew the passions on each side, and the more
damaging the charges and alleged disclosures. The hostile championship
likewise became intenser and wider. The trial, with the incrimination of
adultery and the recrimination of the same offence, began in December,
1851, and reached through six weeks. No trial of the kind in this
country had ever awakened so eager and extended an interest. The
evidence and arguments were minutely reproduced in the press, sold by
wholesale in every corner of the land, and devoured by unnumbered
thousands with every sort of scandalous gossip and comment. The
completed report of the trial fills two enormous volumes of more than
twelve hundred pages each. The lady gained much for her cause by her
strict propriety of language, her elegant deportment, the unequalled
ability and passionate zeal of her counsel, and the exalted character of
her large circle of influential and unfaltering friends. The man lost as
much for his cause by the partisan prejudices against him, by the
imprudences of his more reckless friends, and especially by the
repelling violence and coarseness of expression and demeanor to which in
his exasperated state he was too often tempted. Abundant examples have
already been furnished in these pages of his scholarly taste,
intellectual dignity, moral refinement and strength. Justice to the
truth requires the frank admission that there was also in him a rude and
harsh element, a streak of uncivilized bluntness or barbaric honesty of
impulse, shocking to people of conventional politeness. These people did
him injustice by chiefly seeing this cruder feature in his character,
for it was quite a subordinate part of his genuine nature. But it is
only fair to give specimens of the level to which it not unfrequently
sank him in social appearance. In his eyes observance of external
seemings was nothing in comparison with sincerity to internal realities.
After his separation, but before his divorce, meeting his wife in the
street, she said he kept her there walking up and down for over two
hours in a pouring rain, hearing and replying to him, neither of them
having an umbrella. At this same period watching one night to see who
entered or left his house, in which his wife was still residing, though
alone, a man named Raymond came out. The following intelligible dialogue
immediately took place, as sworn to in court by Raymond himself. “Why
are you sneaking away like a guilty man?” “Edwin Forrest, you have
waylaid me by night with a bludgeon. You want a pretence for attacking
me, and I shall not give it you.” “Bludgeon! I don’t want a bludgeon to
kill you. Damn you, I can choke you to death with my hands. But you are
not the man I am after now. If I catch that damned villain I’ll rip his
liver out. I’ll cut his damned throat at the door. You may go this time,
damn you. But I have marked you, all of you, and I’ll have vengeance.”
This style of speech, as laughable as it is repulsive, and which really
marked not at all the extent but merely the limitation of his culture,
greatly injured him, alloying alike his worth, his peace, and his
success. In one instance alone, however, did his violence of temper
carry him beyond discourteous and furious speech to illegal action.
Meeting in Central Park Mr. N. P. Willis, whom he regarded as one of the
chief fomenters of his domestic trouble, he inflicted severe personal
chastisement on him. The sufferer prosecuted his assailant, and secured
a verdict with damages of one dollar. Forrest brought a suit against
Willis for libel, and gained a verdict with five hundred dollars

In the divorce case a somewhat unexpected judgment was decreed against
Forrest, acquitting his wife and condemning him to pay costs and three
thousand dollars a year for alimony. He appealed, and was defeated, with
an added thousand dollars a year alimony. Five times he appealed,
carrying his case from court to court, and every time was baffled and
thrown. And it actually was not until 1868, after eighteen years of
unrelenting litigation,—years filled with irritation, acrimony, and
every species of annoyance, settling in many instances into a lodged
hatred,—that he finally abandoned further resistance and paid over the
full award. Sixty-four thousand dollars came to Mrs. Forrest, of which
sum the various expenses swallowed fifty-nine thousand, leaving the
pittance of five thousand,—an edifying example of the beauty of legal

The writer is unwilling in any way to enter between the now long and
forever separated disputants or to go behind the rendering of the court.
The defendant is dead, and only requires for justice’s sake the
assertion that he believed himself to have been wronged, and that he
acted on that belief with the unforgivingness belonging to him. The
plaintiff has suffered fearfully enough for any imprudence or error, was
believed by her intimate and most honored friends to be innocent, was
vindicated by a jury after a most searching trial, and is now living in
modest and blameless retirement. She has a right to the benefit of her
acquittal, and shall be left unassailed to that unseen Tribunal which
alone is as just and merciful as it is infallible.

The verdict of the jury was hailed with acclamations by one party, with
amazement and derision by the other. Rumors and charges of perjury,
fraud, and corruption were rife, and many a character suffered badly,
while the end left the contestants pretty much where the beginning found
them, with the exception of the bad passion, costs, and anguish that lay
between. They had been hoisted into a public pillory in the face of the
whole country, subjected to all kinds of odious remarks, the very
sanctities of their being defiled and profaned by the miscellaneous
gawking and commenting of the prurient crowd. Besides all this long
strain on his feelings and huge drain on his purse, Forrest had the
angry grief of seeing large numbers of his most cherished friends fall
away from him to the side of his antagonist, never to be spoken to
again. And then he had the mortification of defeat amidst the cheers and
jeers of his foes, who combined to honor the victorious lawyer to whom
at every step he owed his repulses with a brilliant banquet and a
service of plate, including a massive silver pitcher bearing the
inscription, “From God the conquering champion cometh!” He was just the
kind of man to feel these things most keenly. No wonder the unsuccessful
warfare and its shameful close stung his pride, envenomed his
resentment, darkened his life, and left on him rather a permanent wound
than a scar. But, sure of the rightfulness of his cause, his self-
respect and his faith in ultimate justice for the iniquity he felt had
been done him enabled him to bear up with defiant fortitude. And he was
far from being unsustained without, numerous as were the familiar
associates who deserted him. Whenever he appeared in public the same
enthusiastic multitudes as of old greeted him with an even wilder
admiration. Many a voice and pen were lifted to defend and applaud him,
while many attacked him. The tributes in the newspapers more than
equalled the denunciations. Two examples in verse will show the estimate
of him and his cause formed by close acquaintances:

                           TO EDWIN FORREST.

           Thou noble and unflinching one,
             Who stoodst the test so firm and true;
           Doubt not, though clouds may hide the sun,
             The eye of truth shall pierce them through.

           Heed not the sneer and heartless mirth
             Of those whose black hearts cannot know
           The sterling honesty and worth
             Of him at whom they aim the blow.

           Thy peace is wrecked—thy heart is riven—
             By her so late thy joy and pride,
           And thou a homeless wanderer driven
             Upon the world’s tumultuous tide.

           Yet doubt not, for amid the throng
             There’s many a heart beats warm and high
           For him who cannot brook a wrong,
             Whose noble soul disdains a lie.

           Then hail, Columbia’s gifted son,
             Pride of our glorious Drama, hail!
           Thou deeply wronged and injured one,
             Let not thy hope or courage fail.

           Though perjury seek thy name to blight,
             And venomed tongues with envy rail,
           The truth, in all its lustre bright,
             ’Gainst heartless fops shall yet prevail.

                                                       M. C.

                   TO EDWIN FORREST.

           May I, in this gay masquerade of thought,
                   When crowds will seek thee,
           With gay devices curiously wrought,
                   And love-words greet thee,
           Bestow the offering of an earnest soul,
                   Though it be vain
           As to Niagara’s eternal roll
                   The drops of summer rain!

           A thought of thee dwells ever in my heart
                   And haunts my brain,
           And tears unbidden to mine eyelids start
                   Whene’er I hear thy name.
           Yet ’tis no love-thought,—no impassioned dream
                   Of wild unrest
           Quickening my pulses when with earnest beam
                   Thine eyes upon me rest.

           But something deeper, holier far than this,—
                   A mournful thought
           Of all the sorrow and the loneliness
                   With which thy life is fraught,—
           Of thy great, noble heart, so rudely torn
                   From the deep trust of years,—
           Of the proud laurels which thy brow has worn,
                   Dim with the rust of tears;

           Of wrongs and treachery in the princely home
                   Thy genius earned;
           Thy hearth made desolate, thy pathway lone,
                   Thy heart’s deep worship spurned;
           Thy manly prayer for justice coldly met
                   With mocking jeers,
           The seal of exile on thy forehead set
                   For all thy coming years.

           Most deeply injured! yet unshaken still
                   Amid the storm,
           Thy soul leans calmly on its own high will
                   And waits the coming morn.
           And all pure hearts are with thee, and beat high
                   To know at last
           The world will scan thee with unbiassed eye,
                   Revoking all the past.


A fortnight after the close of the trial, Forrest began a new engagement
at the Broadway Theatre.

One of the leading journals of the day said, “The return of Mr. Forrest
to the stage, from which he has been so long self-exiled, will form the
most interesting feature in the dramatic season. There have been many,
though we have not been of the number, who have thought he would never
reappear on the boards after the unwarrantable treatment he received at
the hands of the maliciously and ignorantly prejudiced. Mr. Forrest,
however, has justly relied upon the spirit of fair play which
characterizes the American people. Let all men be fairly judged before
they are condemned, and especially those who, like him, have long and
manfully withstood such a ‘downright violence and storm of fortune’ as
would have overwhelmed most men, and whose careers have added to the
lustre of their country’s history. We believe that he will never have
cause to say, like Wolsey,—

                                      ‘I shall fall
                Like a bright exhalation in the evening,
                And no man see me more!’

but that he who has so long

                              ‘Trod the ways of glory,
            And sounded all the depths and shoals of honor,
            Will find a way, out of his wreck, to rise in.’

“All men have their faults, and envy makes those of the great as
prominent as possible.

            ‘Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues
            We write in water.’

“Much to their ignominy, the assailants of Forrest have never given him
credit for those high-minded and disinterested acts of generosity which
those who know him best can never recall without admiration, and which,
when his history is written, will leave little comfort to his maligners,
professional or otherwise. We wish for him a delighted welcome back to
the stage, and a complete deliverance from the toils in which his
enemies have sought to destroy him.”

The house was packed to its extremest capacity, and hundreds clamored in
the streets. An inscription was hung across the parquet, “This is the
people’s verdict!” As he entered on his ever favorite roll of Damon, the
audience rose en masse, and greeted him with waving hats, handkerchiefs,
and scarfs, and long, deafening plaudits, which shook the building from
dome to foundation. In matchless solidity of port he stood before the
frenzied tempest of humanity, and bowed his acknowledgments slowly, as
when Zeus nods and all Olympus shakes. A shower of bouquets entwined
with small American flags fell at his feet. He addressed the assembly
thus, constantly interrupted with cheers:

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—After the unparalleled verdict which you have
rendered me here to-night, you will not doubt that I consider this the
proudest moment of my life. And yet it is a moment not unmingled with
sadness. Instinctively I ask myself the question, Why is this vast
assemblage here to-night, composed as it is of the intelligent, the
high-minded, the right-minded, and last, though not least, the beautiful
of the Empire City? Is it because a favorite actor appears in a favorite
character? No, the actor and the performances are as familiar to you as
household words. Why, then, this unusual ferment? It is because you have
come to express your irrepressible sympathy for one whom you know to be
a deeply-injured man. Nay, more, you are here with a higher and a holier
purpose,—to vindicate the principle of even-handed justice. I do not
propose to examine the proceedings of the late unhappy trial; those
proceedings are now before you, and before the world, and you can judge
as rightly of them as I can. I have no desire to instruct you in the
verdict you shall render. The issue of that trial will yet be before the
court, and I shall patiently await the judgment of that court, be it
what it may. In the mean while I submit my cause to you; my cause, did I
say?—no, not ‘my’ cause alone, but yours, the cause of every man in this
community, the cause of every human being, the cause of every honest
wife, the cause of every virtuous woman, the cause of every one who
cherishes a home and the pure spirit which should abide there. Ladies
and gentlemen, I submit my cause to a tribunal uncorrupt and
incorruptible; I submit it to the sober second-thought of the people. A
little while since, and I thought my pathway of life was filled with
thorns; you have this night strewed it with roses (looking at the
bouquets at his feet). Their perfume is gratifying to the senses, and I
am grateful for your beautiful and fragrant offering.”

The success of the entire engagement was unprecedentedly brilliant.
Called before the curtain at the close of the final performance, he

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—This is the sixty-ninth night of an engagement
which, take it all in all, has, I believe, no parallel in the history of
the stage. It is without parallel in its duration, it is without
parallel in the amount of its labors, and it is without parallel in its
success. For sixty-nine almost successive nights, in despite of a season
more inclement than any I ever remember, the tide of popular favor has
flowed, like the Pontic Sea, without feeling a retiring ebb. For sixty-
nine nights I have been called, by your acclamations, to the spot where
I now stand to receive the generous plaudits of your hands, and I may
say hands with hearts in them. No popular assembly, in my opinion,
utters the public voice with more freedom and with more truth than the
assembly usually convened within the walls of a theatre. If this be so,
I have reason to be greatly proud of the demonstration which for twelve
successive weeks has greeted me here. Such a demonstration any man ought
to be proud of. Such a demonstration eloquently vindicates the thought
of the great poet:

                ‘Sweet are the uses of adversity,
            Which, like the toad, though ugly and venomous,
            Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.’

Such a demonstration speaks more eloquently to the heart than any words.
Such a demonstration contains in it an unmistakable moral. Such a
demonstration vindicates me more than a thousand verdicts, for it
springs from those who make and unmake judges.”

But despite the flattering applause of the multitude, added to the
support of his own conscience, and notwithstanding his abounding health
and strength and enhancing riches, from the date of his separation and
desire for divorce the dominant tone of the life of Forrest was changed.
His demeanor had a more forbidding aspect, his disposition a sterner
tinge, his faith in human nature less genial expansion, his joy in
existence less spontaneous exuberance. The circle of his friends was
greatly contracted, a certain irritable soreness was fixed in his
sensibility, he shrank more strongly than ever from miscellaneous
society, and seemed to be more asserting or protecting himself cloaked
in an appearance of reserve and gloom. In fact, the excitement and
suffering he had gone through in connection with his domestic
unhappiness gave his whole nature a fearful wrench, and deposited some
permanent settlings of acridity and suspicion. The world of human life
never again wore to him the smiling aspect it had so often worn before.
His sense of justice had been wounded, his heart cut, his confidence
thrown back, and his rebelling will was constrained to resist and to

And why all this strife and pain? Why all this bitter unyielding
opposition and writhing agony under what was and is and will be?
Wherefore not quietly accept the inevitable with magnanimous gentleness
and wisdom, and, without anger or fuss or regret, conform his conduct to
the best conditions for serenity of soul and wholesomeness of heart, in
contentment with self and charity for all? Why not rather have
suppressed wrath, avoided dispute, foregone retaliation, parted in peace
if part they must, and, each uncomplained of and uninterfered with by
the other, passed freely on in the strangely-checkered pathways of the
world, to test the good of life and the mystery of death and the
everlasting divineness of Providence? How much more auspicious such a
course would have been than to be so convulsed with tormenting passions
and strike to and fro in furious contention! Yes, why did they not
either forgive and forget and renew their loving covenant, or else
silently divide in kindness and liberty without one hostile deed or
thought? Thus they would have consulted their truest dignity and
interest. But, alas! in these infinitely delicate, inflammable, and
explosive affairs of sentiment, dignity and interest are usually
trampled contemptuously under foot by passion.

Every one acts and reacts in accordance with his style and grade of
character, his degrees of loyalty or enslavement to the different
standards of action prevailing around him. A man held fast in a certain
low or mediocre stage of spiritual evolution will naturally conduct
himself in any trying emergency in a very different manner from one who
has reached a transcendent height of emancipation, spontaneity, and
nobleness. And there were two clear reasons why Forrest, in this most
critical passage of his life, did not behave purely in the best and
grandest way, but with a mixture of the vulgar method and the better
one. First, he had not attained that degree of self-detachment which
would make it possible for him to act under exciting circumstances
calmly in the light of universal principles. He could not disentangle
the prejudiced fibres of his consciousness from the personality long and
closely associated with his own so as to treat her with impartiality and
wisdom, regarding her as an independent personality rather than as a
merged part of his own. He must still continue related to her by
personal passion of some kind, when one passion died an opposite one
springing up in its place. And, secondly, he could not in this matter
free himself, although in many other matters he did remarkably free
himself, from the tyranny of what is called public opinion. He had in
this instance an extreme sensitiveness as to what would be thought of
him and said of him in case his conduct openly deviated much from the
average social usage. Thus his personal passions, mixed up in his
imagination with every reference to the woman he had adored but now
abominated, incapacitated him from acting consistently throughout with
disinterested delicacy and forbearance, though these qualities were not
wanting in the earlier stages of the difficulty before he had become so
far inflamed and committed.

Speculation is often easy and practice hard. One may lightly hold as a
theory that which when brought home in private experience gives a
terrible shock and is repelled with horror and loathing. Both Forrest
and his wife had reflected much on what is now attracting so much
attention under the title of the Social question. They both entertained
bold, enlightened views on the subject, as clearly appears from a
remarkable letter written from Chicago, in 1848, by Mrs. Forrest in
reply to one from James Lawson. A comprehensive extract, followed by a
few suggestions on the general lessons of the subject, particularly as
connected with the dramatic art, shall close this unwelcome yet
indispensable chapter of the biography.

“It is impossible, my dear friend, that the wonderful change which has
taken place in men’s minds within the last ten years can have escaped
the notice of so acute an observer as you are; and if you have read the
works which the great men of Europe have given us within that time, you
have found they all tend to illustrate the great principle of progress,
and to show at the same time that for man to attain the high position
for which he is by nature fitted, woman must keep pace with him. Man
cannot be free if woman be a slave. You say, ‘The rights of woman,
whether as maid or wife, and all those notions, I utterly abhor.’ I do
not quite understand what you here mean by the rights of woman. You
cannot mean that she has none. The poorest and most abject thing of
earth has some rights. But if you mean the right to outrage the laws of
nature, by running out of her own sphere and seeking to place herself in
a position for which she is unfitted, then I perfectly agree with you.
At the same time, woman has as high a mission to perform in this world
as man has; and he never can hold his place in the ranks of progression
and improvement who seeks to degrade woman to a mere domestic animal.
Nature intended her for his companion, and him for hers; and without the
respect which places her socially and intellectually on the same
platform, his love for her personally is an insult.

“Again, you say, ‘A man loves her as much for her very dependence on him
as for her beauty or loveliness.’ (Intellect snugly put out of the
question.) This remark from you astonished me so much that I submitted
the question at once to Forrest, who instantly agreed with me that for
once our good friend was decidedly wrong. (Pardon the heresy, I only say
for once.) What! do you value the love of a woman who only clings to you
because she cannot do without your support? Why, this is what in nursery
days we used to call ‘cupboard love,’ and value accordingly. Depend upon
it, as a general rule, there would be fewer family jars if each were
pecuniarily independent of the other. With regard to mutual confidence,
I perfectly agree with you that it should exist; but for this there must
be mutual sympathy; the relative position of man and wife must be that
of companions,—not mastery on one side and dependence on the other.
Again, you say, ‘A wife, if she blame her husband for seeking after new
fancies, should examine her own heart, and see if she find not in some
measure justification for him.’ Truly, my dear friend, I think so too
(when we do agree, our unanimity is wonderful); and if after that self-
examination she finds the fault is hers, she should amend it; but if she
finds on reflection that her whole course has been one of devotion and
affection for him, she must even let matters take their course, and rest
assured, if he be a man of appreciative mind, his affection for her will
return. This is rather a degrading position; but a true woman has pride
in self-sacrifice. In any case, I do not think a woman should blame a
man for indulging in fancies. I think we discussed this once before, and
that I then said, as I do now, that he is to blame when these fancies
are degrading, or for an unworthy object; the last words I mean not to
apply morally, but intellectually. A sensible woman, who loves her
husband in the true spirit of love, without selfishness, desires to see
him happy, and rejoices in his elevation. She would grieve that he
should give the world cause to talk, or in any way risk the loss of that
respect due to both himself and her; but she would infinitely rather
that he should indulge ‘new fancies’ (I quote you) than lead an unhappy
life of self-denial and unrest, feeling each day the weight of his
chains become more irksome, making him in fact a living lie. This is
what society demands of us. In our present state we cannot openly brave
its laws; but it is a despotism which cannot exist forever; and in the
mean time those whose minds soar above common prejudice can, if such be
united, do much to make their present state endurable. It is a fearful
thing to think of the numbers who, after a brief acquaintance, during
which they can form no estimate of each other’s characters, swear
solemnly to love each other while they ‘on this earth do dwell.’ Men and
women boldly make this vow, as though they could by the magic of these
few words enchain forever every feeling and passion of their nature. It
is absurd. No man can do so; and society, as though it had made a
compact with the devil to make man commit more sins than his nature
would otherwise prompt, says, ‘Now you are fairly in the trap, seek to
get out, and we cast you off forever,—you and your helpless children.’
Man never was made to endure even such a yoke as unwise governments have
sought to lay on him; how much more galling, then, must be that which
seeks to bind the noblest feelings and affections of his nature, and
makes him—

          ‘So, with one chained friend, perhaps a jealous foe,
          The dreariest and the longest journey go.’

“That there is any necessity to insure, by any means, a woman’s
happiness, is a proposition you do not seem to have entertained while
writing your letter of May 24th; but perhaps we are supposed to be happy
under all circumstances.”

There is for man and woman on this earth one supreme happiness, one
contenting fulfilment of destiny, whether there are more or not. It is a
pure, calm, holy, and impassioned love, joining them in one life,
filling both soul and body with a peaceful and rapturous harmony,
glorifying the scenery of nature by its reflection, making the current
of daily experience a stream of prophetic bliss, revealing to them
authentic glimpses of God in each other, and opening eternity to their
faith with mystic suggestions of worlds bygone and worlds to come, lives
already led and forgotten and lives yet to be welcomed. This is the one
absolute blessing, without whose appeasing and sufficing seal the human
creature pines for he knows not what, and dies unsatisfied, no matter
how much else is granted him. Any one to whom this divine fortune falls,
and whose conscience, instead of wearing it proudly as a crown of glory
in the sight of God, shrinks with it guiltily before the sight of men,
is a contemptible coward, unworthy of the boon, and sure to forfeit it.
As the most original thinker, the boldest diver into the mysteries of
our nature, America has produced, expresses it,—

                 “The sense of the world is short,
                 Long and various the report,
                   To love and be beloved.
                 Men and gods have not outlearned it,
                 And how oft soe’er they’ve turned it,
                   ’Tis not to be improved.”

Thousands, enslaved by the conventional, distracted by the external,
absorbed in the trivial, may be ignorant of the incomparable importance
of the truth here expressed, care nothing about it, and give themselves
up to selfish ambitions and contemptible materialities. This must be so,
since the blind cannot see; and even the seeing eye sees in an object
only what it brings the means of seeing; and the marvellous heights and
depths of experience are fatally locked from the inexperienced.
Nevertheless, the truth above affirmed survives its overlooking by the
unworthy, and every man and woman gifted with profound insight and
sensibility knows it and feels it beyond everything else. The great
multitudes of society also have at least dim glimpses of it, strange
presentiments of it, blind intuitions awakening a strong and incessant
curiosity in that direction. This is the secret cause of the universal
interest felt in the subject of love and in every instance of its
transcendent experience or exemplification. One of the most central
functions of art—whether written romance, painting, sculpture, music, or
the drama—is directly or indirectly to celebrate this truth by giving it
concentrated and relieved expression, and thus inciting the
contemplators to aspire after their own highest bliss. To those whose
emotions are rich and quick enough to interpret them, what are the
finest songs of the composers but sighings for the fulfilment of
affection, or raptures in its fruition, or wailings over its loss? With
what unrivalled power Rubens, in his fearful pictures of love and war,
has uncovered to the competent spectator the horrible tragedy all
through history of the intimate association of lust and murder,
libidinous passion and death! And pre-eminently the stage, in all its
forms,—tragic, comic, and operatic,—has ever found, and always will
find, its most fascinating employment and crowning mission in the open
display—published to those who have the keys to read it, veiled from all
who have not—of the varied bewitchments, evasions, agonies, and
ecstasies of the passion of love between the sexes. That is the most
effective actor or actress whose gamut of emotional being and
experience, real and ideal, is greatest, and whose training gives
completest command of the apparatus of expression, making the organism a
living series of revelations, setting before the audience in visible
play, in the most precise and intense manner, the working of love, in
all its kinds and degrees, through the language of its occult signals.
The competent actor shows to the competent gazer the exact rank and
quality of the love actuating him by the adjustment of his behavior to
it,—every look and tone, every changing rate and quality in the rhythm
of his motions, every part of his body which leads or dominates in his
bearing, whether head, shoulder, chest, elbow, hand, abdomen, hip, knee,
or foot, having its determinate significance. Thus people are taught to
discern grades of character through styles of manners, inspired to
admire the noble and loathe the base at the same time that they are
deepened in their own desires for the divine prizes of beauty and joy.

The most wholesome and triumphant art of the stage has always taught in
its personifying revelation that the highest blessedness of human life
is the perfect attunement of the natures of man and woman in a perfect
love around which nature thrills and over which God smiles. No diviner
lesson ever has been or ever will be taught on this earth. All other
fruitions here are but preliminaries to this, all sacrifices penances
for its failure, all diseases and crimes the fruit of its violation.

In contrast with this glorious proper fulfilment of affection, wherever
we look on the history of our race we find six great chronic tragedies
which dramatic art has portrayed perhaps even more fully than it has the
positive triumph itself.

First, is the tragedy of the indifferent heart which neither receives
nor gives nor possesses love. Thin and sour natures, frivolous, dry,
cynical, or hard and arrogant,—the enchanted charms and mysteries of
nature and humanity have no existence for them. They sit aloof and
sneer, or plot and struggle and get money and win office, or eat and
drink and joke and sleep and perish,—the amazing horrors and the
entrancing delights of experience equally sealed books to them. They may
attain incidental trifles, but, with their poor, shrivelled, loveless
hearts, not attaining that for which man most was made, to the sorrowing
gaze of nobler natures their earthly lot is a tragedy.

Secondly, is the pathetic tragedy of being loved without the power to
return it. Coquetry, which has strewn its way everywhere with ravaged
and trampled prizes, reverses this, and without sympathy or principle
seeks to elicit and attract affection merely to pamper vanity and
gratify an obscene love of power; and this too is a tragedy, but one of
a fiendish import. The other is a sad and painful experience, yet with
something of an angelic touch in it. It seems to hint at a great
dislocation somewhere in the past of our race, causing this plaintive
discord of conjoined but jarring souls, whose incongruous rhythms can
never blend though in juxtaposition, like an ill-matched span whose
paces will not coincide but still hobble and interfere. To be the
recipient of a great absorbing love which one is absolutely unable to
reciprocate is to any one of generous sympathies a keen sorrow.
Sometimes too it is a sharp and wearing annoyance. And yet it is not
infrequent, both out of wedlock and in it. There are limits alike of
adaptation and of misadaptation to awaken love; and we can never have
any more love than we awaken or give any more than is awakened in us.
There are fatalities in these relations wholly beyond the reach of the
will. When two persons are married whose characters, culture, and
fitnesses place them on such different levels that they can meet only by
a laborious ascent on one side or a distasteful descent on the other,
where the ideal life of one is constantly hurt and baffled and flung in
on itself from every attempt at genial fellowship, any high degree of
love is hopeless. The conjunction is a yoke, not a partnership. Respect,
gratitude, pity, service, almost every quality except love, may be
earned. But love comes, if it come at all, spontaneously, in answer to
the native signals which evoke it. In vain do we strive to love one not
suited to us nor fitted for us; and a sensitive spirit forced to receive
the affectionate manifestations of such a one is often sorely tried when
seemingly bound to appear blessed.

The same considerations apply with double weight and poignancy to the
third and larger class of tragedies of affection, namely, those who love
where they are not acceptable and cannot win a return. Piteous indeed is
the lot, touching the sight, of one humbly offering his worship,
patiently continuing every tender care and service at a shrine which,
despite every effort to change or disguise its insuperable repugnance,
must still feel repugnant. And then, furthermore, there is the anguish
of the homage welcomed at first and toyed with, but soon betrayed and
cast away. The pangs of jilted love are proverbial, and the experience
is one of the commonest as it is one of the cruellest in the world.
Broken hearts, blasted lives, early deaths, terrible struggles of
injured pride and sacred sentiment to conceal themselves and hold
bravely up, caused by failures to secure the hand of the one devotedly
beloved but idly entreated, are much more numerous than is imagined by
the superficial humdrum world. They are in reality so numerous that if
they were all known everybody not familiar with the poetic side and
shyer recesses of human nature would be astonished. This forms a heavy
item in the big statistics of human woe.

The examples contained under the head of the fourth tragedy are the
experiences of those who are full of rich affections but find no
congenial person on whom to bestow them or from whom to obtain a return.
Accordingly, their real passions find only ideal vents in fervent
longings and dreams, in music, prayer, and faith, or embodiment in
industry and beneficence. Their unfulfilled affection thus either
fortifies their being with the culture and good works it prompts, or
opens an imaginative world into which they exhale away in romantic
desires. A noble woman whose rare wealth and effusiveness of soul had
not been happily bestowed, once said, with a sigh, to Thackeray, when
they had been conversing of the extremes in the character of the great
Swift, “I would gladly have suffered his brutality to have had his
tenderness.” The remark pierces us with a keen and wide pain expanding
to brood in pity over the vast tragedy of humanity pining unsatisfied in
every age. Yes, exhalations of sinless and ardent desire, yearnings of
beautiful and baffled passion, are wasted in the air, sufficient, if
they were legitimately appropriated, to make the whole world a heaven.
Ah, let us trust that they are not wasted after all, but that they enter
into the air to make it warmer and sweeter for the breathing of the
happier generations to come, when the earth shall be purely peopled with
children begotten by pairs all whose rhythms correspond, and who love
the individuality of self in one another not less because they love the
universality of God in one another more.

The fifth tragedy in the history of human affection consists of the
instances of those who have been blessed with an adequate love rounded
and fulfilled on both sides, but who have ceased to possess it longer,
except in its results. They have in some cases outgrown and wearied of
their objects, in others been outgrown and wearied of, in others still
been parted by death. These examples likewise are tragic each in its
way, but less melancholy on the whole than the others. These have had
fruition, have, once at least, lived. The memory is divine. If they are
worthy, it enriches and sanctifies their characters, and, in its
treasures of influence, remains to be transferred from its exclusive
concentration on one and freely poured forth on humanity, nature, and
God. It then prepares its possessor for that immortal future of which it
is itself an upholding prophecy. And so every deep and tender nature
must feel with the poet that it is better to have loved and lost than
never to have loved at all.

But the sixth tragedy of love is the most lacerating and merciless of
the whole, and that is the tragedy of jealousy. This dire passion played
the most ravaging part in the domestic life of Forrest, and his
enactment of it in the rôle of Othello held the highest rank in his
professional career. It has also exercised a most extensive and awful
sway in the entire history of the human race up to this moment. The
relative place and function of the dramatic and lyric stage cannot be
appreciated without a full appreciation of this hydra passion, the
green-eyed monster that makes the meat it feeds on.

Even of its victims few clearly understand the ingredients and essence
of jealousy. In the catalogue of the passions it is the impurest, the
insanest, and the most murderous. Every composition whose elements blend
in harmony is pure. Earth is pure and honey is pure, but a mixture of
earth and honey is impure. So in moral subjects. Loyalty is pure, being
consonantly composed of reverence and obedience; conscious disloyalty is
impure, being inconsonantly composed of a perception of rightful
authority and rebellious resistance to it. Now, no other passion is
composed of such an intense and incongruous combination of intense
opposites as jealousy. In it love and hate, esteem and scorn, trust and
suspicion, hope and fear, joy and pain, swiftly alternate or
discordantly mix and conflict. It is these meeting shocks of
contradictory polarities repulsing or penetrating one another in the
soul, rending and exploding in every direction in the consciousness of
its victim, that make jealousy the maddest and most slaughterous because
it is the most violently impure passion known to man. In every one of
its forms, when strong enough, it is a begetter of murders, has been
ever since the devil first peered on Adam and Eve embracing in Paradise,
and will be until it is abolished by slowly-advancing disinterestedness.
It is an appalling fact that the murders of wives by jealous husbands
are tenfold greater in number than any other single class of murders.
When we add to these the husbands murdered by their wives, and the
despatched paramours on both sides, the wild and deadly raging of
jealousy may be recognized in something of its frightful fury.

The cause of the greater prevalence of murder between the married is not
far to seek. It is the weariness of an over-close and continual
intimacy, with the wearing and goading irritations it engenders. It is
the tyrannical assertion of the possession of one by the other as
something owned and to be governed. This provokes the rebellious and
revengeful instincts of a personality aching to be free; and the
aggravated and ruminating desire is finally so nourished and stung as to
burst into frenzied performance. And those ill-starred couples one of
whose members violently destroys the life of the other are insignificant
in number when compared with those who are slowly and stealthily
murdered without the explicit consciousness of either party, by the
gnawing shock and fret of discordant nerves, the steady grinding out of
the very springs and sockets of the faculties by repressive contempt and
hate and fear. A proud, sensitive woman may go into the presence of her
husband an angel, and leave it a fiend, her _amour-propre_ having been
wounded in its sacredest part and filled with irrepressible resentment.
Persons of genius, of absorbing devotion to an aim, are either more
unhappy in wedlock or else more exquisitely blessed and blessing than
others. They live largely in an ideal realm, on a ticklish level of
self-respect, a height of consciousness vital to them. Socrates, Cicero,
Dante, Milton, Chateaubriand, Byron, Bulwer, Kean, Talma, Thackeray,
Dickens, are examples. A collision jars the statue off its pedestal. A
tone of contempt or a look of indifference cuts like a dagger, tears the
spiritual tissues of selfhood,—and the invisible blood of the soul
follows, draining faith, love, life itself, away. The one vast secret of
pleasing and living happily with high sensitive natures is sympathetic
and deferential attention. Where this is not given, and there is sorrow
and chafing, an intercourse which is ever a slow moral murder, and often
inflamed into a swift physical murder, that liberty of divorce should be
granted for which the chaste and noble Milton so long ago made his plea.
Society should cease to say, Whom man has joined together let not God
put asunder!

Having seen what the constituent elements of jealousy are, it now
remains to probe its essence. What is jealousy in its substance and
action? It is the appropriation of one person by another as a piece of
property, and a spontaneous resentment and resistance to any assertion
of its personality on its own part. The jealous man virtually says, “She
belongs to me and not to herself. If she dares to alienate herself from
me or give anything to anybody besides me, I will kill her.” The jealous
woman says, “He is mine, and if he leaves me or smiles on another I will
stab him and poison her.” This is the fell passion in its fiercest
extreme of selfishness.

Viewed in another light it is less dreadful, though just as narrow and
selfish. The lover has assimilated the beloved as a portion of his own
being. His life seems bound up in her and dependent on her. Her
withdrawal is a loss so impoverishing to his imagination that it
threatens death. He feels that the dissolution of their unity will tear
him asunder. Then jealousy is his instinct of self-preservation, rising
in grief, pain and anger to repel or revenge an attack on the dearest
part of his life. Still, in this form as in the previous it implies the
subdual and suppression of one personality by another, and is the sure
signal of a crude character and an imperfect development. The rich,
generous nature, detached from himself, full of free affection, living
directly on objects according to their worth, ready to react on every
action according to its intrinsic claim, is not jealous. Liberty and
magnanimity at home and abroad are the marks of the fully-ripened man.
He knows his own personal sovereignty and abundant resources as a child
of God and an heir of the universe, and frankly allows the equal
personal sovereignty of each of his fellow-creatures. He claims and
grants no imposition of will or slavish subserviency, but seeks only
spontaneous companionship in affection. Mechanical conformity and
hypocrisy can be compelled. Love, veiled in its divinity, comes and goes
as it lists, and is everywhere the most authentic envoy of the Creator.
Jealousy is mental slavery, spiritual poverty, the ravenous cry of
affectional starvation, the blind, fallacious, desperate, murderous
struggle of a frightened and famishing selfhood.

The conduct dictated by such a passion must be of the worst kind. It
begins with a mean espionage and ends with a maniacal violence. Its
relentless cruelty compels its objects to have recourse to the most
unprincipled methods to avert its suspicion and avoid its wrath, sinking
self-respect and honorable frankness in hypocrisy and fraud. Why is the
word or even the oath of any man or woman in regard to a question of
chastity or fidelity to the marriage vow almost universally considered
perfectly worthless? It is because the penalties of dereliction on the
part of woman are so intolerable, so much worse than death, that to
secure escape from them the social conscience justifies means which the
social code condemns. Accordingly, we see the highest personages, the
greatest dignitaries and popular favorites, go into court and openly
perjure themselves, while society cries bravo! The woman is so fearfully
imperilled that for her rescue the fashionable standard of honor
sustains deliberate perjury, the debauching of religious conscience on
the very shrine of public authority.

This wicked social exculpation of the male and immolation of the female
is a lingering accompaniment of the historic evolution of man, the
survival in human civilization of the selfish instincts which in the
lower ranks of the animal kingdom cause the stronger to drive away the
weaker and monopolize the weakest. Among the most potent and fearless
beasts the male, seeing any other male sportively inclined, is seized
with a frenzy to kill him and appropriate the object. Animal man has the
same instinct, and it has smeared the entire course of history with
broad trails of blood and victimized womanhood by the double weapons of
force and fear. The spectacle of the harem of one man with a thousand
imprisoned women guarded by eunuchs tells the whole story. But surely
when human beings, no longer remaining mere instinctive animals, become
free personalities, lords of thought and sentiment, each with a separate
individual responsibility distinctly conscious and immortal, they should
govern themselves by spontaneous choice from within and not be coerced
by an artificial terror applied from without.

The method in history of giving the strongest males possession of the
females is no doubt the mode in which nature selects and exalts her
breeds. But as society refines it will be seen that the strength of
brute instinct, the strength of position, the strength of money, the
strength of every artificial advantage, should be put aside in favor of
the diviner strength of genius, goodness, beauty, moral and physical
completeness of harmony. Freedom would secure this as compulsion
prevents it. Man is destined to outgrow the destructive monopolizing
passion of jealousy native to his animality. This is shown by his
capacity for chivalry, which is a self-abnegating identification of his
personality with the personalities of others, not merely freeing them
from his will, but aiding them to secure their own happiness in their
own way.

The effort to suppress free choice by the use of terror has been tried
terribly enough and long enough. It has always proved an utter failure,
viewed on any large scale. Has the awful penalty affixed to any
deviation from the prescribed legal method of sexual relations wholly
prevented such deviation? It has often led to concealment and
duplicity,—two lives carried on at once, a life of demure conformity in
public, a life of passionate fulfilment in secret. The well-understood
sacrifice of truth to appearance has ever served to inflame the mistrust
and swell the vengeance of the jealous. The only real remedy will be
found in perfect truth, frankness, and justice. In regard to the
personal autonomy of the affections, woman should be raised to the same
status and be tried by the same code as man. That code should not be as
now the legacy of the brutish and despotic past, but the achievement of
a scientific morality, those laws of universal order which express the
will of the Creator, the collective harmony of Nature. Since the unions
of the sexes are of all grades and qualities, all degrees of impurity
and beastliness or of purity and sacredness, the parties to them cannot
be justly judged by a single rigid rule of external technicality, and
ought not to be sealed with one unvarying approval of respectable or
branded with one monotonous stigma of illicit. They should be judged by
the varying facts in the case as they are in the sight of God; and when
those facts are not known in their true merits there is no competency or
right to judge the man or the woman at all. The present judgments of
society unquestionably ought in many cases to be reversed. For example,
it is to be said that the women who consort with men they loathe, and
against their will breed children infected with ferocious passions and
diseased tendencies, no matter how regularly they are married or how
proud their social position, should be condemned or rescued. Also it is
to be said that persons filled with a true and divine love, whether
sanctioned or unsanctioned by conventional usages, claim to be left to
the inherent moral reactions of their acts, and to the unprejudiced
judgments of the competent. This central truth, compromise whom it may,
and encompassed with delicacies and with difficulties as it may be, is
to be firmly maintained, although Pecksniff and Grundy shriek at it
until the whole continent quivers.

The distinction of love and freedom from lust and license is obvious,
and the unleashing of the latter in the disguise of the former cannot be
too vehemently deprecated. But that a man or a woman may cherish in the
wedded state an impure and detestable passion, or outside of it know a
heavenly one, is a truth which can be denied only by a character of
odious vulgarity. The rank and worth of a love are to be estimated by
its moral and religious quality in the sight of God and its natural
influence on character. To estimate it otherwise, as is usually done, is
to violate morality and religion with conventionality, and in place of
nature, sincerity and truth install arbitrary artifice, hypocrisy and
falsehood. The grand desiderata in all relationships of affection are,
first, the observance of open truth and honor, second, the recognition
of their varying grades of intrinsic nobleness and charm or intrinsic
foulness and criminality, and the treatment of the parties to them
accordingly. Meanwhile, the frank and clear discussion of the subject is
imperatively needed. The double system hitherto in vogue of at once
enforcing ignorance and stimulating prurience by banishing the subject
from confessed attention and study into the two regions of
shamefacedness and obscenity has wrought immeasurable evil. For the
sexual passion, morbidly excited by nearly all the influences of
society, and then mercilessly repressed by public opinion, has a morbid
development which breaks out in those monstrous forms of vice which are
the open sores of civilization. Take away the inflaming lures of mystery
and denial—shed the clear, cold light of scientific knowledge on the
facts of the case and the principles properly regulative of conduct—and
the passion will gradually become moderate and wholesome. Science has
brought region after region of human life under the light and guidance
of its benign methods. The region of the personal affections in society
and the procreation of posterity, being most obstinately held by
passions and prejudices, longest resists the application of impartial,
fearless study to the usages imposed by traditional authority. The
consistent doing of this will be one of the greatest steps ever taken.
It will break the historic superstition that the conjunction of a pair
married in seeming by a priest is necessarily holier than that of a pair
married in reality by God, destroy the stupid prejudice which makes in
the affectional relations of the sexes only the one discrimination that
they are in or out of wedlock, and remove the cruel social ban which
renders it impossible for straightforward sincerity of affection and
honesty of speech to escape the dishonor which double-facedness of
passion and duplicity of word and deed so easily shoulder aside. And
when this is done, much will have been done to inaugurate the better era
for which the expectation of mankind waits.

The principal reason why the married so frequently experience satiety
and weariness, and the consequent sting of a foreign hunger provocative
of the wandering which gives occasion for jealousy, is that in their
long and close familiarity the partners come to feel that they have seen
all through and all around each other, have exhausted each other of all
fresh charm, piquancy, and interest. The genuine remedy for this, the
only really adequate and enduring remedy, is the recognition in each
other of the infinite mystery of all conscious being, a free personality
on endless probation and destined for immortal adventures. Then each
will be to the other—what every human being intrinsically is—a
concentrated epitome of the Kosmos and an explicit revelation of God.
There is no revelation of the free conscious God except in the free
conscious creature, and in every such being there is one. Let a pair be
worthy to see and feel this truth, and there can be no exhaustion of
their mutual interest, because before their reverential observation
there can be no end to the surprises of the infinite in the finite. Then
the sweetness, the wonder, the varying lure of love will never wither
and die into indifference, nor roil and perturb into jealousy and

No doubt to many these views will seem a transcendental romance, a
delusive dream. Not every one has the nature finely touched to fine
issues capable of living in the ether of these ideal heights. But there
_are_ on the earth holy and entranced souls who live there. It is
obvious enough how absurdly inapplicable all this class of
considerations must be to the basest kinds of persons, those who, like
brutes, wallow in styes of sensuality, or, like devils, surrender
themselves to the tyranny of the lowest passions. Such must needs be
relegated to an inferior standard. Those whose consciences are coarser
and lower than the code of society may most properly be held in
subjection by its laws. But those whose consciences are purer and higher
than the current social code, the nobler natures who sincerely aspire to
the fulfilment of their destiny as children of God, should be a law unto
themselves. They will not be tyrants over or spies upon one another.
Full of self-respect and mutual respect, owning the indefeasible
sovereignty of each personality in the offices of its individual being,
they will pass and repass shrouded in transparent royalty, exacting no
subjection, making no inquiries.

And now this long and central chapter in the life of Forrest, with the
essential lessons it has for others, may be ended by a brief statement
of the moral scale of degrees in the conduct of different men under the
provoking conditions of jealousy.

One man detects the woman to whom he is legally united, but whom he
hates and loathes, in criminal relations with another. He takes an axe,
chops them in pieces, then sets the house on fire, and, cutting his own
throat, falls into the flames. In other cases his insane fury satiates
itself with a single victim, the man or the woman, as caprice dictates.
This is crazy ferocity, making its subject first a maniac, then a tiger,
then a devil. Has not humanity by its smothered approval too long kept
the diabolical horror of this style of behavior recrudescent?

Another mournful and shocking form of this tragedy there is. And it is a
form repeated far more frequently in its essential features than ever
comes to the open light of day. A man of a sombre, vivid, and proud
nature, possessed with a passion so absorbing that it sways his being
with tidal power, awakens to the fact that the love he thought all his
own has wandered elsewhere. His heart stands still and his brain reels.
His love is too true and deep to change. To injure her is as impossible
as to restrain himself. He says not a word, makes not a sign, but his
sad, dark purpose is fixed. He leaves directions that no questions be
asked, no public notice taken of him or of his fate further than the
most modest funeral, and that a plain stone be reared over him with the
single word, _Infelicissimus_. Then a pistol-ball in his heart closes
the throbbing of an agony too great to be borne. The suicide is the
pathetic slave of his passion. Surely for such there must be a sequel in
some choicer world, where the tangled plot will be cleared up and the
soul not be thus helplessly self-entangled.

In the third case, a husband, receiving proof of the infidelity of his
honored and trusted wife, in a furious revulsion of scorn and
detestation thrusts her into the street, proclaims her offence
everywhere, and seeks release and redress in a public court. This is one
form of the average of social feeling and conduct in such a case. It is
the common spirit of revenge cloaked in justice. It may not be thought
base, but it cannot be called noble.

In still another example the jealous man is now enraged and now
distressed with conflicting impulses to revenge and to pardon. First he
storms and threatens, then he weeps and entreats; now, he strides up and
down, tearing his hair, crying and sobbing; and now he rushes out and
confides his misery, begging for sympathy and counsel. And whether he
condones or dismisses the offender depends on her own policy. This
course, ruled by no principle, is a mess of incoherent impulse, raw and
childish, a manner of proceeding of which, although it is so common, any
grown-up and well-conditioned man should be ashamed.

In the next instance we see the man, on learning his misfortune in
losing the exclusive affection of her whom alone he has loved, staggered
by the blow, smitten to the heart with grief, flung upon himself in
recoiling anguish. But, to shield her from disgrace, and to avoid shame
to himself and scandal to the public, he keeps the secret sacredly;
ending, however, all marriage intimacy, their lives henceforth a mere
contiguity of ice and gloom until death. This is another expression of
the average level of men and style of social feeling, not lower, not
much higher, than might be expected.

A greatly superior example, finer and braver, comparatively rare,
perhaps, yet with a larger list of performers than many would suppose,
is where the fault is frankly confessed and freely forgiven, just as
other faults are, or the deed justified and accepted on the ground of an
integral affection and an approving conscience willing with courageous
openness to take every consequence. There is valor, dignity,
consistency, force of character in this. It is impossible for persons of
low animal instincts or where there is treachery and lying.

But the highest degree of chivalry under such circumstances is that
exemplified by the man who, cleansed from the foul and cruel usages of
the past, freed from the taints of the tyrannical masculine selfhood,
does what man has so rarely done, but what multitudes of women have
often done. He shows a love so pure and exalted that it subordinates his
selfhood and blends his happiness in that of the beloved object. For her
well-being he is willing to stand aside and yield up every claim. Is
such generosity beyond the limit of human nature? It may be beyond the
limit of _historic_ human nature, trailing the penalties of the past. It
is not beyond the limit of _prophetic_ human nature, carrying the
purposes of God.

No doubt some barrier at present is necessary; and society has a right
to give the law, from insight, but not from despotism. Monogamic union
is the true relation, and its vow should not be broken by either party.
But if it _is_ broken the social penalty should be the same for man as
for woman. In such case the parties should either condone or separate
without furious controversy or personal revenge. Truth and fitness
should be set above conventionality and prejudice, and frankness remove
hypocrisy. Such alone is the teaching of this chapter, which invokes the
pure, steady light of science to shine on the facts of sex, cleanse
foulness out, and bring the code of society into unison with the code of

                              CHAPTER XVI.

One of the most striking traits in the character of Forrest was a
profound respect for his profession and a scrupulous observance of the
duties it imposed. His conscientiousness in studying his parts, in being
punctual in rehearsal and at performance, in holding all considerations
of convenience or pleasure sternly subordinate to the conditions for the
best fulfilment of his rôle, were worthy of exact imitation. Before
beginning a season he went into training, carefully regulating his
habits in diet and in hours of exercise and sleep; and during an
engagement he always exerted a good deal of self-denial in the nursing
and husbanding of his powers. He strove also to improve in his
renderings not only by an earnest, direct study of the part, and by a
careful attention to critical suggestions from every quarter, but
likewise by keeping his faculties alert during his own performances to
catch every hint of inspiration from nature or accident, to seize on the
causes of each failure or success, and to utilize the experience for the

These same habits of punctuality and critical self-observation belonged
to Mrs. Siddons, and were one of the secrets of her astonishing rise,
just as they were of that of Forrest. The first time that Mrs. Siddons
played the part of Lady Macbeth, she says, “So little did I know of my
part when it came night that my shame and confusion cured me, for the
remainder of my life, of procrastinating my business.” After this first
performance of Lady Macbeth, Mrs. Siddons recalled in her dressing-room
what she had done, and practised various improvements. Trying to get the
right look and tone for the words, “Here’s the smell of the blood
still,” she did it so naturally that her maid exclaimed, “Dear me,
ma’am, how hysterical you are! I vow, ma’am, it’s not blood, but rose-
paint and water!”

Perhaps the just sense which Forrest had of the dignity of his
profession, and likewise his sense of manly behavior, will be shown most
forcibly by an anecdote. An old schoolmate of his, who had become a
clergyman, met him one day and asked the favor of a ticket to his
performance of Lear that evening, but added that he wished his seat to
be in a private box where he could see without being seen. “No, sir,”
was the reply with which the player rebuked the preacher; “when I look
at my audience I should feel ashamed to see there one who is ashamed to
be seen. Permit me to say, sir, that our acquaintance ends here.” Had he
remembered the lines of Richard Perkins to the old dramatic author
Thomas Heywood, their quotation would have been apt and pungent:

            “Still when I come to plays, I love to sit,
            That all may see me, in a public place,
            Even in the stage’s front, and not to get
            Into a nook and hoodwink there my face.
            This is the difference: Some would have me deem
            Them what they are not: I am what I seem!”

In no element or domain of his life was Forrest more misunderstood and
belied than in regard to his general and particular relations with the
other members of his profession. Justice to his memory requires that the
truth be shown; and, besides, the subject has a strong interest.

The exercise of the dramatic faculty by itself is productive of
tenderness, largeness, flexibility, and generosity of mind and heart. It
is based on a rich, free intelligence and sensibility, and serves
directly to quicken and invigorate the imagination and the sympathies.
In fact, so far as its offices are fulfilled it delivers one from the
hard, narrow limits of his own selfhood, familiarizes him with the
conception and feeling of other grades and styles of character, conduct,
and experience, through his passing assumptions of their parts and
identification with their varieties develops the whole range of his
nature, and makes him, while sensitive to differences, tolerant of them
and full of charity. The true moral genius of the drama, supremely
exemplified in Shakspeare, is the same genial gentleness and forbearing
magnanimity towards every form of humanity as is shown by the God whose
earth sustains and sky overarches and rain and sun and harvest visit and
bless alike the coward and the hero, the saint and the scoundrel. For
the moral essence of the drama consists in the recognition and
appreciation of character and manners, not in asserting the will of self
nor in assailing the wills of others. But there is a sharp contradiction
between this natural tendency of the dramatic art by itself and the
ordinary influence exerted by the professional practice of the art as a
means of gaining celebrity and a livelihood. If the former would develop
a generous emulation to see who can best reproduce in sympathetic
imagination every height and depth of human nature and life, the latter
instinctively stimulates a hostile rivalry to see who can secure the
best parts and win the most pay and praise. Thus the members of the
histrionic profession are drawn to one another in kindly sentiment by
the intrinsic qualities of their art, but thrown into a hostile relation
by those accidental conditions of their trade which make them selfish
competitors for precedence. The breadth of the intrinsic tendency of the
art is seen in the unparalleled mutual interest and kindness of actors
and actresses, as a class standing by one another in all times of
adversity with a generosity no other class exhibits; the aggravating
power of the accidental influence of the profession is exposed in the
notorious jealousy and irritability of these hunters after popularity.
Accordingly, among the votaries of the stage a great many friendships
are fostered and a great many rankling animosities are bred.

Forrest had all his life too profound an interest in his art, too
exalted an estimate of the mission of the stage, too dignified and just
a mind, too deep and ready a sympathy, to be capable of the contempt and
dislike for his theatrical compeers and associates of which he was often
accused. He was an irascible and imperious man. He was not a suspicious,
an envious, or an unkind man. And the high spirit of affection and
munificence breathing in his beautiful bequest of all his fortune to
soothe the declining years of aged or disabled actors and to elevate
their favorite art, will awaken a late remorse for the great wrong done
his heart.

Others have suffered the same wrongs. Mrs. Siddons was accused of
“pride, insolence, and savage insensibility to the distresses of her
theatrical associates.” She was satirized in the daily papers for her
parsimony and avaricious inhospitality. The charges were cruelly unjust.
The truth simply was that she was engrossed in labor, study, and the
fulfilment of her duties to her family, while the meaner part of the
profession and of the public wished her to give herself to their
convivialities. Lawyers are not expected to plead cases for one another
gratuitously, nor doctors to transfer a fee to a rival. Why should an
actor alone be held bound to give his time and earnings to his
associates whenever they ask? The practice of calling up and
representing together the noblest sentiments of human nature is expected
to create in them more friendship, more genial feeling, than is
cultivated in others. This is a compliment to the profession. But any
actor of high rank who protects his individuality and asks no favor
beyond justice and good will, dignifies his profession and serves the
true interests of its members.

Forrest had too profound and assured a sense of his own place and rank
and worth to be restlessly inquisitive and sensitive as to what his
associates thought or felt about him, or to feel any mean twinge of
jealousy at any attention they could draw. He did not, as Macready and
so many other renowned players did, desire to monopolize everything to
himself when before an audience. On the contrary, nothing so much
pleased him as to see another actor or actress studious, aspiring, and
successful. Then the more applause they secured the better he liked it.
But one point there was in his conduct which gave much offence to many
and was not forgiven by them. He shrank from all familiar association
with those of his profession who were not gentlemen and ladies in their
personal self-respect and professional conduct. He had a horror for
carelessness, sloth, unpunctuality, untruthfulness, drunkenness, or
other common neglect of duty and thrift, whether arising from a slipshod
good nature or from depravity. And it is notorious that the dramatic
profession, although the freest of all professions from the darker
crimes, is much addicted to indulgence in the vices associated with
conviviality and a relaxed sternness of social conscience. The
temptations to these snares of soul and body Forrest had felt and
resisted. The opposite traits he had made a second nature. He liked men
and women who kept their word, did their duty, saved their money, and
aspired to do more excellent work and win a better position. It was
because so many of those with whom he came in contact on the stage were
not studious, prompt, careful, self-respectful, but idle, loose,
negligent, reckless, that he stood socially aloof from them, censured
them, and drew their hostility. But the more faithful and honorable body
of the profession always cherished a warm appreciation of his sterling
qualities of character and stood in the most friendly personal relations
with him. Repeatedly, in different periods of his career, in Great
Britain and in America, the whole company of a theatre, at the close of
one of his engagements, united in bestowing some gift, with an address,
in testimony of their sense of his courtesy, their admiration for his
genius, and their gratitude for his professional example. John
McCullough, who for five years played second parts to him and was his
intimate comrade on and off the stage, speaks of him thus: “He was exact
to a moment in every appointment; and the tardiness of any one delaying
a rehearsal stirred his mightiest anger. He would sternly say to the
offender, ‘You have stolen from these ladies and gentlemen ten minutes
of their time,—ten minutes that even God cannot restore.’ But to those
whom he saw attentive and industrious he was the kindest of men. No
matter how incapable they might be, he aided them to the full extent of
his power, often at rehearsal playing the most unimportant parts to
teach an actor, and encouraging him by kind words and treatment. He
never recognized the existence of weaknesses so long as they did not
interfere with business. An actor might be what he pleased in private
life until he carried the effects into moments of duty, and then he knew
no mercy. On the stage he was the best and easiest of men. It was a
pleasure to act with him. He would in every way assist those around him,
aid them in every possible fashion, and do all to strengthen their faith
in him and in themselves. Particularly was this so in the case of
subordinates; while to equals who showed the slightest carelessness or
injustice he was unrelenting.” And in this connection the following
letter written by Forrest to Thomas Barry, manager of the old Tremont
Theatre and of the later Boston Theatre, is very characteristic:

                                      “BALTIMORE, December 17th, 1854.

  “MY DEAR MR. BARRY,—From an expression which you used to me while I
  had the pleasure to be with you last in Boston, I inferred that you
  could not justify my conduct towards Mr. —— in refusing him
  permission to act with me during my late engagement there. When I
  briefly replied to your expression, I supposed I had answered your
  objections. But, thinking over the matter since, I am not so certain
  that I had convinced you of my undeniable right to pursue the course
  I then adopted. So I will now more fully state my views of the

  “It is an axiom that a man in a state of liberty may choose his own
  associates, and if he find one to be treacherous and unworthy he may
  discard him. Therefore I discard Mr. ——. Again, I never believed in
  the hypocrisy which tells us to love our enemies. _My_ religion is
  to love the good and to eschew the evil. Therefore I eschew Mr. ——.
  Physical cowardice may be forgiven, but I never forgave a moral
  coward; and therefore I forgive not Mr. ——. He who insists upon
  associating, professionally or otherwise, with another known to
  despise him, is a wretch unworthy of the name of man. Consequently
  Mr. —— is unworthy of the name of man. But, sir, besides all this, I
  have an indisputable right to choose from the company such actors as
  I consider will render me the most agreeable as well as the most
  efficient support.

  “In my rejection of Mr. —— I took the earliest care not to
  jeopardize any of the interests of your theatre. For I advised you
  in ample time of my resolution, warning you of my intentions, and
  giving my reasons therefor, so that you might choose between the
  services of Mr. —— and my own. For, while I claim the right in these
  matters to choose for myself, I unhesitatingly concede the same
  right to another.

  “And now if, after this expression of my views relative to this
  thing, you still hold to the opinion that my conduct was
  unjustifiable, you cannot with the slightest propriety ask me to
  fulfil another engagement so long as Mr. —— remains in your company.
  For I pledge you my word as a man that he shall never, under any
  circumstances, act with me again.

                                                   “Yours truly,
                                                       “EDWIN FORREST.


Two incidents of a different kind will illustrate other qualities in the
character of Forrest. A boy of sixteen or seventeen had a few lines to
recite. At rehearsal his delivery was incorrect and annoying. Forrest
repeated the lines, and asked to have them read in that manner. Each
attempt failed more badly than the preceding. At last, quite irritated
and out of patience, Forrest said, “Not so, not so. Read the passage as
I do.” The boy looked up with an injured but not immodest air, and
replied, “Mr. Forrest, if I could read the lines as you do, I should not
be occupying the low position I do in this company.” Forrest felt that
his petulance had been unjust. His chin sank upon his breast as he
paused a moment in reflection. Then he said, “I am properly rebuked, and
I ask your pardon.” At the close of the rehearsal he went to the manager
and inquired, “How much do you give that boy a week?” “Eight dollars.”
“Well, during my engagement pay him sixteen, and charge the extra amount
to me.”

At another rehearsal the company had been waiting some time for the
arrival of a subordinate player who was usually very prompt and
faithful. When the delinquent entered, Forrest broke out testily, “Well,
sir, you see how long you have detained us all.” The poor man, pale, and
struggling with emotion, answered, humbly, “I am very sorry. I came as
soon as I could. I have suffered a great misfortune. My boy died last
night.” A thrill of sympathy went through the company. Forrest stepped
forward and took the man respectfully by the hand, and said, “Excuse me,
my friend, and go back to your home at once. You ought not to be here
to-day, and we will get along in some way without you.” Then, giving him
a fifty-dollar bill, he added, “And accept this with my sincere

The tremendous strength of Forrest, and the downright earnestness with
which he used it on those unhappy men whose business it was to be
seized, shaken, and hurled about, gave rise to scores of apocryphal
stories concerning his violence in acting and the terrible sufferings of
his subordinates. In many of these stories, under their exaggeration,
something characteristic can be discerned. On a certain occasion when he
impersonated a Roman hero attacked by six minions of a tyrant, he
complained that the aforesaid minions were too tame; they did not come
upon him as if it were a real struggle. After his storming against their
inefficiency, the supernumeraries sulked and consulted. Their captain
said, “If you want this to be a bully fight, Mr. Forrest, you have only
to say so.” “I do,” he replied. When the scene came on, the hero was
standing in the middle of the stage. The minions entered and deployed in
rapid skirmishing. One struck energetically at his face, a second
levelled a strenuous kick at his paunch, and the remainder made ready to
rush for a decisive tussle. For one instant he stood astounded, his
chest heaving, his eyes flashing, his legs planted like columns of rock.
Then came two minutes of powerful acting, at the end of which one
supernumerary was seen sticking head foremost in the bass-drum of the
orchestra, four were having their wounds dressed in the greenroom, and
one, finding himself in the flies, rushed on the roof of the theatre
shouting “fire!” Forrest, called before the curtain, panted his thanks
to the audience, who, taking it as a legitimate part of the performance,
protested that they had never before seen him act so splendidly. The
story is questionable, yet through its grotesque dilatation undoubtedly
one lower and lesser phase of the actor and of his public may be seen.

During the earlier years of his own pecuniary prosperity, Forrest lent
at various times sums of money ranging from one dollar to five hundred
dollars to a large number of his more improvident theatrical associates.
In very few instances were these sums repaid. In most cases the
obligation was suffered to go by default, and in many the favor of the
loans, so far from being felt as a claim for gratitude, proved a source
of uneasiness and alienation. To a man of his just, careful,
straightforward character and habits this multiplied experience of
dishonesty, often coupled with treachery and slander, was extremely
trying. It nettled him, it embittered him, it tended strongly to close
his originally over-free hand against applications to borrow, and made
him sometimes suspicious that friendly attentions were designed, as they
not unfrequently were, as means to get at his purse. The rich man is
much exposed to this experience, with its hardening and souring
influence on character, especially the rich man in a profession like the
dramatic abounding with impecunious and unthrifty members. Under these
circumstances it was certain that many unsuccessful applicants for
pecuniary favors, persons whom he refused because he thought them
unworthy, would slander him. But throughout his life his heart and hand
were generously open to the appeals of all distressed actors or
actresses on whom he believed assistance would not be thrown away. In
many an instance of destitution and suffering among his unfortunate
brethren and sisters sick, deserted, dying, did his bounty come to
relieve and console. Among his papers a score or more of letters were
found, with widely-separated dates, from well-known members of the
profession, containing requests of this sort or thanks for his prompt
responses. For example, there was one from the estimable gentleman and
veteran actor George Holland gratefully acknowledging a gift of two
hundred dollars. The kind deeds of Forrest were not blazoned, but
carefully concealed. Yet the few friends who had his inmost confidence,
who were themselves the frequent channels of his secret beneficence,
knew how free and full his charities were, especially to worthy and
unfortunate members of the dramatic profession. In the course of his
career he gave over fifty benefits for needy associates, dramatic
authors, and public charities,—from Porter, Woodhull, Devese, and Stone,
to John Howard Payne and J. W. Wallack and the Dramatic Fund
Association,—the proceeds of which were upwards of twenty-five thousand
dollars. And when, in consequence of the thickening requests for such
favors and the invidiousness of a selection, he made a rule not to play
for the benefit of any one, unless in some exceptional case, he would
still often give towards the object his price for a single performance,
two hundred dollars. Yet, such is the unreasonableness of censorious
minds, he was severely blamed for showing an avaricious and
unsympathizing spirit towards his theatrical contemporaries. The
accusation frequently appeared in print and stung him, though he could
never brook to answer it.

Many a time on the last night of his engagement at a theatre he would
send for the treasurer and make him his almoner for the distribution of
sums varying from five to fifteen dollars to the humbler laborers, the
scene-shifters, gasman, watchman, and others whose incomes were hardly
enough to keep the wolf from their doors. During one of his engagements
at Niblo’s Garden the actors and actresses for some reason did not
receive their regular salary. Learning the fact, he refused to take his
share of the proceeds until they had been paid; and, going still
further, he advanced a sum from his own pocket to make up what was due

More interesting and important, however, than his pecuniary attitude
towards his fellow-players is his moral relation. And this in one aspect
was eminently sweet and noble. If he avoided unworthy actors with
contempt, he yielded to no one in the admiration, gratitude, and love he
cherished for the gifted and faithful, the lustre of whose genius gilded
the theatre, and the merit of whose character lifted and adorned the

The earliest strong and distinct feeling of love, in the usual sense of
the word, ever awakened in him, he said, was by a young and fascinating
actress in the part of Juliet, whom he saw in a Philadelphia theatre
when he was in his thirteenth year. What her name was he knew not, nor
what became of her, nor could he remember who played Romeo to her; but
the emotions she awakened in him by her representation of the sweet girl
of Verona, the picture of her face and form and moving, remained as fair
and bright and delicious as ever to the end of his days. Recounting the
story to his biographer one evening in the summer of 1869 as he sat in
his library, the moonlight streaming through the trees in at the open
window and across the floor, he said, “A thousand times have I wondered
at the intensity of the impression she made on my boyish soul, and
longed to know what her after-fate was. She was a vision of enchantment,
and, shutting my eyes, I seem to see her now. Years ago I came across
the following lines, which so well corresponded to my remembrance of her
that I committed them to memory:

        “‘’Twas the embodying of a lovely thought,
        A living picture exquisitely wrought
        With hues we think, but never hope to see
        In all their beautiful reality,
        With something more than fancy can create,
        So full of life, so warm, so passionate.
        Young beauty, sweetly didst thou paint the deep
        Intense affection woman’s heart will keep
        More tenderly than life! I see thee now,
        With thy white-wreathed arms, thy pensive brow,
        Standing so lovely in thy sorrowing.
        I’ve sometimes read, and closed the page divine,
        Dreaming what that Italian girl might be,
        Yet ne’er imagined look or tone more sweet than thine.’”

An actor named James Fennell, endowed with a superb figure and a noble
elocution, and a great favorite with play-goers in the boyhood of
Forrest, made an indelible impression on him. The finished actor,
however, was an unhappy man, thriftless in his affairs, and an
inveterate drunkard. When he had become an old man his intemperance grew
so gross, and his indebtedness to his landlady was so great, that she
would keep him no longer. Driven away, he roamed about for some time in
despair. Finally, on a bitter winter’s night, amidst a pelting snow-
storm, he came back and knocked at the door. The landlady opened the
window and looked out. Fennell, a picture of woebegone wretchedness,
struck an attitude and recited the lines,—

         “Pity the sorrows of a poor old man,
           Whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door;
         His days are dwindled to the shortest span:
           Oh, give relief, and heaven will bless your store;—”

with such powerful pathos that the heart of the woman relented, and she
took him in and cared for him till, a little later, he died. The piteous
case of this actor, whose infirmity destroyed the fruits of his genius,
taught the youthful Forrest a lesson which he never forgot.

Instead of looking to artificial stimulants to prop up forces flagging
under the strain of the irregular exertions and late hours of a player,
he learned to depend on a sufficient supply of plain, wholesome food,
carefully and slowly taken, and a scrupulous observance of full hours of
sleep. Had they followed this wise course, how many—like the brilliant
and wayward Kean, whose conduct disgraced the profession his genius
glorified, and poor Mrs. George Barrett, whose beauty of person and
motion intoxicated the beholder—would have been kept from their untimely
and unhonored graves!

The first actor of really strong original power and commanding art under
whose influence Forrest came in his early youth was Thomas A. Cooper.
From him the boyish aspirant caught much that was valuable. He always
retained a grateful recollection of his debt, and spoke warmly of his
benefactor. In the destitute age of the veteran, Forrest was one of the
first movers in securing a benefit for him. Unable himself to act on the
occasion in New York, he got up another benefit at New Orleans, in which
he acted the chief part, and raised a handsome sum for his old
instructor. Cooper warmly acknowledged the kindness of his young friend
in a published card. On another occasion also the same spirit was shown.
One of the daughters of Cooper was to make her débût in the character of
Virginia, the performance to be for the benefit of Cooper. Forrest
agreed to give his services and play the part of Virginius. As soon as
he heard that Miss Cooper would feel more confidence if her father
played that part, Forrest consented to undertake the part of Dentatus.
One of the daily journals remarked, “This is another instance of that
generous kindness on the part of Mr. Forrest which has bought him golden
opinions from all sorts of people. The public will award him the meed
which such an act merits.”

Another actor of consummate merit, both as artist and as man, there was
in Philadelphia, in whose public performances and personal intercourse
the boy Forrest took the keenest delight,—Joseph Jefferson, the
incomparable comedian, great-grandfather of the present Joseph Jefferson
the exquisite perfection and unrivalled popularity of whose Rip Van
Winkle have filled the English-speaking world with his fame. The elder
Jefferson was a man universally beloved for his charming qualities of
character and universally admired for his inimitable art. Forrest’s
memory of him was singularly clear and strong and sweet. Whenever
touching on this theme his tongue was full of eloquent music and his
heart seemed steeped in tender reverence and love. He said the Theatre
had produced some saints as well as the Church, and Jefferson was one of
the most benignant and faultless. For thirty-five years he was the soul
and life of the Philadelphia stage, the pre-eminent favorite of all,
delighting every one who saw him with the quiet felicities and
irresistible strokes of an art that was as nature itself. He played the
characters of fools,—Launcelot Gobbo, Dogberry, Malvolio, the fool in
Lear,—Forrest said, in a manner that made them actually sublime,
suggesting something supernatural, through their mirth and simpleness
insinuating into the audience astounding and overpowering meanings. In
his age Jefferson risked his little fortune, the modest earnings of an
industrious life, in an enterprise of his friend Warren, the theatrical
manager. It was all lost. Once more he appealed to the patrons who had
always smiled on him. The summer birds had flown, and his benefit-night
showed him an empty house. The blow actually killed him. He left the
city and went to Harrisburg, where he soon afterwards died among
strangers. Hearing of his poverty and loneliness at Harrisburg, Forrest,
who was then in his high tide of success, wrote to him that he would get
up a benefit for him at the Arch Street Theatre and play Othello for
him. But the heart-broken player replied that he would never be a
suppliant for patronage in that city again. While he lay in his room
very sick, the doctor called and found him reading Lalla Rookh. “I can
assure you of a cure,” said the physician. Jefferson replied, in a sad
but firm voice, “My children are all grown up. I am of no further use to
them; and I am weary of life. I care not to get well. I think it is
better to be elsewhere.” And so he died. Chief-Justice Gibson placed a
marble slab over his dust, with a happy inscription which some nameless
but gifted friend of the actor has appended to his own tributary verses.

          For thee, poor Player, who hast seen the day
            When stern neglect has bent thee to her state,
          With fond remembrance let the poet pay
            One tribute to thy melancholy fate.

          Haply some aged man may yet exclaim,
            “Him I remember in his youthful pride,
          When sober age ran riot at his name,
            And roaring laughter held his bursting side.”

          There at his home, the father, husband kind,
            Oft have I noted his calm noon of life;
          With humor chastened, and with wit refined,
            Enjoy the social board with comforts rife.

          Him have I seen when age crept on apace,
            Portraying to the life some earlier part,
          The soul of mirth reflected from his face,
            While bitter pangs disturbed his throbbing heart.

          One night we missed him from his ancient chair,
            Placed by our host beside the blazing hearth;
          Another passed, yet still he was not there,
            Gone was the spirit of our former mirth!

          The future came, and with it came the tale,
            How Time had cured the wounds the world had given;
          How Death had wrapt him in his sable veil
            And gently borne him to the gates of heaven.

          Beneath the shadow of a sacred dome
            The pride and honor of our stage reclines;
          There stranger hands conveyed him to his home,
            And graced his memory with these sculptured lines:

                          Beneath this marble
                      _Are deposited the ashes of_
                           JOSEPH JEFFERSON,
                   _An actor whose unrivalled powers_
              Took in the whole extent of Comic Character,
                  From Pathos to heart-shaking Mirth.
             His coloring was that of nature, warm, fresh,
          And enriched with the finest conceptions of Genius.
            He was a member of the Chestnut Street Theatre,
                    In its most high and palmy days,
                           _and the compeer_
                   OF COOPER, WOOD, WARREN, FRANCIS,
                        _and a host of worthies_
                             like himself,
              _Are remembered with admiration and praise._

The love and reverence which Forrest cherished for this exquisite actor
and good man were in the eyes of the numerous friends who often heard
him express them in fond lingering reminiscences, a touching proof of
the goodness of his own heart despite all the scars it had suffered.

When Forrest was playing at Louisville in his youth, during a rehearsal
of Macbeth he came to the lines,—

           “Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapped in proof,
           Confronted him with self-comparisons,”

when Drake, the manager of the theatre, who happened to be on the stage,
said to him, “Boy, who was Bellona? And who was her bridegroom?” The
stripling tragedian was forced to answer, “I do not know.” “Then,”
exclaimed Drake, “get a classical dictionary and study the thing out.
Never go on spouting words ignorant of their meaning.” “Thank you, sir,
for so good a piece of advice,” replied young Forrest, with a little
mortification in his air. “I have had that lesson before, but see that I
have failed to practise it as I ought to have done.” A long time after,
in another city, when Drake had become a venerable white-haired
gentleman, Forrest was rehearsing Othello in his presence. These lines
were spoken relating to the magic handkerchief:

            “A sibyl, that had numbered in the world
            The sun to course two hundred compasses,
            In her prophetic fury sewed the work;
            The worms were hallowed that did breed the silk;
            And it was dyed in mummy, which the skilful
            Conserved of maidens’ hearts.”

A citizen who was standing by Drake asked him if he could explain these
strange words. He said he could not. Forrest immediately gave, with
great rapidity of utterance, an elegant and lucid exposition of the
classical superstitions on which the passage is based. He did it with
such grace and force that the whole company broke into applause. He
turned to Drake with a low bow and said, “My dear sir, I owe this to
you. Do you remember the lesson you taught me at Louisville, fifteen
years ago, about Bellona and her bridegroom? Allow me now to thank you.”
As he took him by the hand the tears were rolling down the cheeks both
of the old man and of the young man.

Forrest ever remembered with gratitude the kindness shown him by Mr.
Jones, one of the managers under whom he made his first journey to the
West and served his practical apprenticeship on the stage. And when the
player had become a mature man, crowned with prosperity, living in his
great mansion on Broad Street, in Philadelphia, and the manager was
destitute and forsaken, bowed by misfortune and old age, he gave his
early benefactor a home, taking him into his own house, treating him
with kind consideration, comforting his last days, and following his
dust to the grave with affectionate respect.

The relations of Forrest with the ladies who acted principal parts with
him were almost uniformly of the most satisfactory character, marked by
the greatest courtesy, justice, and delicacy. There were two or three
instances of strong dislike on both sides. But in all the other
examples, from his first assistants, Mrs. Riddle and Miss Placide, to
his latest protégées, Miss Kellogg and Miss Lillie, there was nothing
but the highest esteem and the most cordial good-will between the
parties, their kind sentiments towards him ever sincere, his grateful
recollections of them unalloyed. To that estimable woman and gifted
actress, Mrs. Riddle, he especially felt himself indebted. In a letter
to his biographer he says of her, “To her most kind and unselfish
friendship, her motherly care, her wise counsels, the valuable
instructions her artistic genius and experience enabled her to give me
during two of the most critical years of my young life, I owe more of
acknowledgment and affection than I can easily express or ever forget.”

But the most beautiful of all his relations with women of the dramatic
profession was the long and sacred friendship subsisting between him and
Mrs. Sarah Wheatley. This honored lady, distinguished even more for the
rare strength and beauty of her character than for her extraordinary
histrionic talent, was a great favorite with the theatrical public of
New York. She was one of the few examples that charm and uplift all who
feel their influence, of a perfectly balanced womanhood, commanding the
whole range of feminine virtues, from modest gentleness and self-denial
to august dignity and authority, fitted to sweeten, adorn, or aggrandize
any station. She first went upon the stage, without any preparatory
training, to relieve and support her family, and, as it were by
instinctive fitness, was instantly at home and a mistress there. And
after withdrawing from the public, she lived amidst the worship of her
children and her children’s children to an extreme old age, full of
exalted worth and serenity, the admiration and delight of the widest
circle of friends, who felt that the atmosphere of her presence and
manner more than repaid every attention they could lavish on her. Mrs.
Wheatley saw the Othello of Forrest on the memorable night he played for
the benefit of poor Woodhull. She felt his power, foresaw what he might
become, and, with a generous impulse, went to him from behind the scenes
and spoke kindly to him words of warm appreciation. The poor, unfriended
youth was deeply touched. This was the beginning of an acquaintance
which was never interrupted or shadowed by the faintest cloud, but grew
stronger and holier to the end. She never noticed his foibles, for he
never had them in her presence; and he thought of her with a loving
veneration second only to that he felt for his mother. Her son, Mr.
William Wheatley,—widely known to the dramatic profession as actor and
manager, and esteemed by all for his talent, integrity, and refinement,—
speaking of the beauty of this friendship after the death of the great
tragedian, whom he had known long and most intimately, said, “If there
was one sentiment deeper and keener than any other in the soul of
Forrest, it was his reverence for a pure and good woman: and I know that
his esteem for my mother approached idolatry, and that she regarded him
with maternal fondness.”

On a certain occasion when his friend James Oakes was with Forrest in
his room at a hotel in New York, something had occurred which had
greatly enraged him. He was pacing up and down the floor in a fury,
tearing and swearing with the greatest violence. A servant knocked at
the door, and announced that Mrs. Wheatley was in waiting. “The change
that came over my friend at the announcement of this name,” said Oakes,
“was like a work of magic. The wrinkles left his brow, a smile was on
his mouth, and his angered voice grew calm and musical.” “Mrs.
Wheatley?” he said. “Ask her if she will do me the honor to come to my
parlor.” Then, turning to his silent friend, he exclaimed, “Oakes, if
you want to see a woman fit to be worshipped by every good man, a model
of grace and dignity, a living embodiment of wisdom and goodness, you
shall now have that grand satisfaction.” As she entered he lifted his
head illuminated with joy, threw open his arms, and cried, “Why, Mother
Wheatley, how long it is since I saw you last,—more than a year!” “It
_is_ a long time,” she answered, with a sweet and grave fervor; “it _is_
a long time; and how has it been with you all the while, my boy?” Oakes
adds, “It was a picture as charming to behold as anything I ever saw. It
stands in my memory holy to this day.” When such experiences are found
in the life of one whose biography is to be written, they should be
recorded, and not, as is usually done, be carefully omitted; for these
sacred passages are just what is most wholesome and needful in a world
gone insane with selfish struggles, hatred, and indifference.

Of the appreciation Forrest had of the genius of the great comedian
William E. Burton, he gave a striking expression in the last year of his
life. He had been confined to his bed for several weeks in great agony.
Oakes was sitting by him. Their talk turned upon the unrivalled gifts
and charm of old Joseph Jefferson. Forrest poured out his heart warmly,
as he always did, on this favorite theme. He then spoke of the wonderful
pathos and instructiveness which might be thrown into the humblest comic
characters, and added in close, “I would give twenty thousand dollars to
have Burton alive again for ten years to go over the country and play
the fools of Shakspeare!”

All who knew Forrest with any intimacy were well aware of his
enthusiastic appreciation of the genius and affection for the memory of
Kean. He never tired of expatiating on this subject. And he always felt
a sharp pleasure in the recollection that when his friend Hackett, the
incomparable American Falstaff, called on Kean in London, only a few
days before his death, the first words of the dying tragedian were a
kind inquiry after the welfare of Edwin Forrest. In his library one day,
showing a friend a superb steel engraving of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s
portrait of John Philip Kemble, he said earnestly and with a regretful
tone, “I would give a thousand dollars in gold for a likeness of Kean as
good as this is of Kemble.” He was familiar with the principal histories
of the stage and biographies of players, and felt the keenest interest
in their characters, their styles of acting, their personal fortunes. He
also felt a pride in the fame and triumphs of his best contemporaries.
He was always on kind terms with the elder Booth, to whom he assigned
dramatic powers of a very extraordinary degree, although he believed
that considerable of their effectiveness was caught from the contagious
and electrifying example of Edmund Kean. In the last year of his life,
when he was badly broken down in health and fortune, Booth said to
Forrest one day, “I want to play the Devil.” “It seems to me,” said
Forrest, “that you have done that pretty well all your life.” “Oh, I
don’t mean that,” replied Booth; “I am referring to the drama of Lord
Byron. I want to play Lucifer to your Cain. Would not that draw,—you
cast in the character of Cain, I in that of Lucifer?” “I think it
would,” remarked Forrest. “We _must_ do it before we die,” replied
Booth,—and went away, soon to pass into the impenetrable shadow, leaving
this too with many another broken and unfulfilled dream.

Forrest assigned an exalted artistic rank to the very varied dramatic
impersonations of Mr. E. L. Davenport, every one of whose rôles is
marked by firm drawing, distinct light and shade, fine consistency and
finish. His Sir Giles Overreach was hardly surpassed by Kean or Booth,
and has not been approached by anybody else. His quick, alert, springy
tread full of fire and rapidity, the whole man in every step, fixed the
attention and made every one feel that there was a terrific
concentration of energy, an insane possession of the nerve-centres,
portending something frightful soon to come. An old play-goer on
witnessing this impersonation wrote the following impromptu:

    “While viewing each remembered scene, before my gaze appears
    Each famed depictor of Sir Giles for almost fifty years;
    The elder Kean and mighty Booth have held all hearts in thrall,
    But, without overreaching truth, you overreach them all!”

It is a satisfaction to put on record this judgment of one artist
concerning another whose merit transcends even his high reputation,—
especially as a coolness separated the two men, Mr. Davenport having
through a misapprehension of the fact of the publication of Jack Cade by
Judge Conrad inferred that it had thus in some sense become the property
of the public, and produced the play on the stage, while Forrest held it
to be his own private property. He had been so annoyed by such
proceedings on the part of other actors before, provoking him into angry
suits at law, that his temper was sore. He wrote sharply to Mr.
Davenport, who, even if he had made a mistake, had done no conscious
wrong and meant no offence, and who replied in a calmer tone and with
better taste. Here the matter closed, but left an alienation,—for
Forrest when irritated was relentlessly tenacious of his point. Mr.
Davenport is a man of gentle and generous character, respected and
beloved by all his companions. He is also in all parts of his profession
a highly accomplished artist and critic. Accordingly, when he expresses
the conviction, as he repeatedly has both before and since the decease
of his former friend and great compeer, that Forrest was beyond
comparison the most original and the greatest actor America has
produced, his words are weighty, and their spirit honors the speaker as
much as it does the subject.

In a letter written to Forrest twenty-five years earlier, under date of
October 10th, 1847, Mr. Davenport had said, “I have not words to express
the gratification and pleasure I felt in witnessing your masterly
performance. It was probably the last time I shall have an opportunity
to see you for years; but I assure you, however long it may be, the
remembrance will always live in my mind as vividly as now.”

The treatment also which Mr. John McCullough received from Forrest
during his five years of constant service under him, the impression he
made on his young coadjutor, and the permanent esteem and gratitude he
secured from him, are all pleasant to contemplate. At the close of their
business arrangement, Forrest said to McCullough, “I believe I have kept
my agreement with you to the letter; but before we part I want to thank
you for your strict fidelity to your professional duties at all times.
And allow me to say that I have been most of all pleased to see you
uniformly so studious and zealous in your efforts to improve. Continue
in this course, firm against every temptation, and you will command a
proud and happy future. Now, as a token of my esteem, I put in your
hands the sum of five hundred dollars, which I want you to invest for
your little boy, to accumulate until he is twenty-one years old, and
then to be given to him.” McCullough says that with the exception of two
or three unreasonable outbreaks, which he immediately forgave and
forgot, Forrest was extremely kind and good to him, sparing no pains to
encourage and further him. And in return the young man would at any time
have gladly given his heart’s blood for his dear old imperious master,
whom, in his enthusiasm, he held to be the most truthful and powerful
actor that ever lived. Such an estimate by one of his talent and rank,
making every allowance for the personal equation, is an abundant offset
for the squeamish purists who have stigmatized Forrest as “a coarse
ranter,” and the prejudiced critic who called him “a vast animal
bewildered with a grain of genius.” It may well be believed that in the
history of his country’s drama he will be seen by distant ages towering
in statuesque originality above the pigmy herd of his imitators and

Gabriel Harrison was another actor on whom the personality and the
playing of Forrest took the deepest effect. He was a long time on the
stage, and, though he afterwards became an author, a teacher, and a
painter, he never abated the intense fervor of his enthusiasm for the
dramatic art. His “Life of John Howard Payne,” and his “Hundred Years of
the Dramatic and Lyric Stage in Brooklyn,” show him to be a man of much
more than common intelligence and culture. He knew Forrest well for many
years, and cherished the warmest friendship for him as a man whose
nature he found noble and whose intercourse charming. The last
Thanksgiving Day that Forrest had on earth, Harrison, by invitation,
spent with him alone in his Broad Street mansion, enjoying a day of
frank and memorable reminiscences, delicious effusions of mind and heart
and soul. Harrison, writing to the biographer of his friend in protest
against the epithet melodramatic, records his estimate thus: “Are the
wonderful figures of Michael Angelo melodramatic because they are so
strongly outlined? Is Niagara unnatural and full of trick because it is
mighty and thunders so in its fall? When I looked at it, its sublimity
made me feel as if I were looking God in the face; and I have never
thought that God was melodramatic. I have seen Forrest act more than
four hundred times. I have sat at his feet as a pupil artist learning of
a master artist. In all his chief rôles I have studied him with the most
earnest carefulness, from his _tout ensemble_ to the minutest
particulars of look, tone, posture, and motion. And I say that without
doubt he was the most honest, finished, and powerful actor that ever
lived. Whenever I saw him act I used to feel with exultation how
perfectly grand God had made him. How grand a form! how grand a mind!
how grand a heart! how grand a voice! how grand a flood of passion,
sweeping all these to their mark in perfect unison! My memory of him is
so worshipful and affectionate, and so full of regret that I can see him
no more, that my tears are blotting the leaf on which I write.”

One further incident in the life of Forrest will also serve to
illustrate his feeling towards the _personnel_ of his profession. It is
not without an element of romantic interest. It will fitly close the
treatment of this part of the subject. At the end of the war he received
a letter from a granddaughter of that Joseph Jefferson whose memory he
had always cherished so tenderly. Residing in the South, the fortunes of
war had reduced her to poverty, and she asked him to lend her a hundred
dollars to meet her immediate necessities. With joyous alacrity he
forwarded the amount, and deemed the ministration a great privilege. The
sequel of the good deed will please every one who reads it. It need only
be said that at the date of the ensuing correspondence Forrest had just
been bereaved of his last sister, Eleonora:

                                       “PHILADELPHIA, June 13th, 1871.

  “MY DEAR MR. FORREST,—I understand from my aunt, Mrs. Fisher, that
  during my absence from America, and when she had become destitute
  from the effects of the war, you were kind enough to let her have
  one hundred dollars.

  “My being nearly related to the lady sufficiently explains why I
  enclose you the sum you so generously gave.

  “Permit me to offer my condolence in your late sad loss, and to ask
  pardon for addressing you at such a time.

                                            “Faithfully yours,
                                                        “J. JEFFERSON.


                                       “PHILADELPHIA, June 15th, 1871.

  “DEAR MR. JEFFERSON,—I received your note of 13th inst., covering a
  check for one hundred dollars, in payment of a like sum loaned by
  me, some years since, to your relative, Mrs. Fisher.

  “I have no claim whatever on you for the liquidation of this debt.
  Yet, as the motive is apparent which prompts you to the kindly act,
  I make no cavil in accepting its payment from you.

  “With thanks for the touching sympathy you express in my late
  bereavement, I am sincerely yours,

                                                       “EDWIN FORREST.


When an actor vanquishes the jealous instinct of his tribe and really
admires another, his professional training gives a distinct relish and
certainty to his praise. When Garrick heard of the decease of Mrs.
Theophilus Cibber, a sister of Arne the musician, he said, “Then Tragedy
is dead on one side.” Also when seeing Carlin Bertinazzi in a piece
where, having been beaten by his master, he threatened him with one hand
while rubbing his wounded loins with the other, Garrick was so delighted
with the truthfulness of the pantomime that he cried, “See, the back of
Carlin has its expression and physiognomy.” Old Quin had a strong
aversion to Mrs. Bellamy, and a conviction that she would fail. But at
the close of the first act, as she came off the stage, he caught her in
his arms, exclaiming, generously, “Thou art a divine creature, and the
true spirit is in thee.” Within a year of the expulsion of Mrs. Siddons
from Drury Lane as an uninteresting performer, Henderson declared that
“she was an actress who had never had an equal and would never have a
superior.” She remembered this with deep gratitude to her dying day; and
when his death had left his family poor she played Belvidera in Covent
Garden for their benefit.

Forrest was abundantly capable of this same liberal spirit. No admirer
of Henry Placide in his best day could be more enthusiastic in his
eulogy than Forrest was, declaring that in his line he had no living
equal. He said the same also of the Jesse Rural and two or three other
parts of William R. Blake. He had likewise a profound admiration for the
romantic and electrifying Othello of Gustavus Vasa Brooke. And of the
performance of Cassio in Othello and of Cabrero in the Broker of Bogota,
by William Wheatley, he said, “They were two of the most perfect pieces
of acting I ever saw. One night when he had performed the part of
Cabrero better than he ever had done it before, producing a sensation
intense enough in the applause it drew to gratify the pride of any
player, he said to me, as he left the stage, ‘Never again will I play
that part.’ And, surely enough, he never did. The reason why was a
mystery I have not been able to this day to fathom.”

Forrest once said, “An intelligent, sympathetic actor, who resists the
social temptations of his profession and keeps dignity of character and
high purpose, ought to be the most charming of companions. In a great
many cases this is the fact. With their insight into character, their
power of interpreting even the most unpurposed signals, the secrets of
society are more open to them than to others, and they have more
adventures. This naturally makes them interesting.” He gave two examples
in illustration. When he was playing in England, he and James Sheridan
Knowles became warm friends. Knowles had often seen Mrs. Siddons act.
Forrest asked him what was the mysterious effect she produced in her
celebrated sleep-walking scene of Lady Macbeth. He said, “I have read
all the high-flown descriptions of the critics, and they fall short. I
want you to tell me in plain blunt phrase just what impression she
produced on you.” Knowles replied, with a sort of shudder, as if the
mere remembrance terrified him still, “Well, sir, I smelt blood! I swear
that I smelt blood!” Forrest added that the whole life of that amazing
actress by Campbell was not worth so much to him as this one Hogarthean
stroke by Knowles.

The other anecdote related to an incident which happened to John
McCullough, who for several years had been playing second parts to
Forrest. He was staying in Washington. Two or three nights before the
assassination of President Lincoln he was awakened by tears falling on
his face from the eyes of some one standing over him. Looking up, he saw
Wilkes Booth, and exclaimed, “Why, what is the matter?” “My God,”
replied the unhappy man, already burdened with his monstrous crime, and
speaking in a tone of long-drawn melancholy indescribably pathetic, “My
God, how peacefully you were sleeping! _I_ cannot sleep.”

Another element of strong interest in actors, giving them an imaginative
attraction, is the obvious but profound symbolism of their art, the
analogies of scenic life and human life. Harley, while playing Bottom in
Midsummer Night’s Dream, was stricken with apoplexy. Carried home, the
last words he ever spoke were the words in his part, “I feel an
exposition to sleep coming over me.” Immediately it was so, and he slept
forever. The aged Macklin attended the funeral of Barry. Looking into
the grave, he murmured, “Poor Spranger!” One would have led him away,
but the old man said, mournfully, “Sir, I am at my rehearsal; do not
disturb my reverie.” The elements of the art of acting are the applied
elements of the science of human nature. They are the same on the stage
as in life, save that there they are systematized and pronounced, set in
relief, and consequently excite a more vivid interest. How rich it would
have been to share in the fellowship of Lekain and Garrick when in the
Champs Elysées they practised the representation of drunkenness! “How is
that?” said Lekain. “Very well,” replied Garrick. “You are all drunk
except your left leg.”

Such works as Colley Cibber’s Apology, the several lives of Garrick,
Boaden’s Life of Kemble, Macklin’s Memoirs, Campbell’s Life of Mrs.
Siddons, Galt’s Lives of the Players, Proctor’s Life of Kean, Collier’s
Annals of the Stage, Doran’s His Majesty’s Servants, were familiar to
Forrest. His memory was well stored with their contents. He had
reflected carefully and much on the general topics of which they treat,
and he conversed on them with eloquence and with wisdom. He cherished an
eager interest in everything pertaining to his profession viewed in its
most comprehensive aspect. His intelligent and profound enthusiasm for
the theatre gave him an entire faith that the drama is destined to
flourish as long as human nature shall be embodied in men. Its seeming
eclipse by cheaper and coarser attractions he held to be but temporary.
Its perversion and degradation in meaningless spectacles and prurient
dances will pass by, and its restoration to its own high mission, the
exhibition of the grandest elements of the soul in the noblest
situations, the teaching of the most beautiful and sublime lessons by
direct exemplification in breathing life, will give it, ere many
generations pass, a glory and a popular charm it has never yet known.
Then we may expect to see a great purification and enrichment of the
subject-matter presented on the stage. The mere animal affections will
cease to have an exaggerated and morbid attention paid to them. Justice
will be done to the generic moral sentiments of man, and to his noblest
historic and ideal types. The passions of love of truth and spiritual
aspiration will dilate in treatment, those of individual jealousy and
social ambition dwindle. Instructive and inspiring plays will be
constructed out of the veracious materials furnished by characters and
careers like those of Columbus and Galileo.

Certainly the realization of such a vision is a great desideratum;
because the theatre is a sort of universal Church of Humanity, where
good and evil are shown in their true colors without formalism or cant.
Its influence—unlike that of sectarian enclosures—is to draw all its
attendants together in common sympathies towards the good and fair, and
in common antipathies for the foul and cruel. Men are more open and
generous in their pleasures than in their pains. Places of public
amusement are the first to vibrate to the notes of public joy or grief,
defeat or triumph. Telegrams announcing victories or calamities are read
from the stage. Theatres are sure to be decked on great festival or
pageant days, the popular pulse beating strongest there.

The taste for dramatic representations is native and ineradicable in
man. It is a fixed passion with man to love to see the passions of men
exhibited in plot and action, and to watch the mutual workings of
characters on one another through their different manners of behavior.
Just now, it is true, the great, complex, terribly exciting and exacting
drama of real life, revealed to us in the newspaper and the novel and
the telegraph, so fastens and drains our sympathies that we lack the
ideal freedom and restful leisure to enjoy the stage drama so eagerly as
it was enjoyed at an earlier and simpler time. But this will not always
be so;—

             “The world will grow a less distracting scene,
             And life, less busy, wear a gentler mien.”

Forrest looked for a revival, at no remote date, in America and Europe,
of the ancient Greek pride and joy in athletic exercises and the
development of nude strength and beauty. The reflex influence from such
a revival, he imagined, would flood the stage with a new lustre, making
it a resplendent and exalted centre for the inspiring exposure to the
public of the perfected models of every form of human excellence. Then
the gymnasium, the circus, the race-course, dance, music, song, and the
intellectual emulations of the academy may all be grouped around the
theatre and find their dazzling climax in the scenic drama, made
religious once more as it was in the palmiest day of Greece.

                             CHAPTER XVII.
                    OUTER AND INNER LIFE OF THE MAN.

The external life of Forrest from the close of his first engagement
after the divorce trial to the year 1869—the period stretching from his
forty-sixth to his sixty-third year—was largely but the continual
repetition of his old triumphs, varied now and then with some fresh
professional glory or new personal adventure. To recite the details of
his travels and theatrical experiences would be to make a monotonous
record of popular successes without any important significance or
general interest. A brief sketch of the leading incidents of this period
is all that the reader will care to have.

The immense publicity and circulation given to the sensational reports
of the long-drawn legal warfare between Forrest and his wife in their
suits against each other added to his great fame a still greater
notoriety, which enhanced public curiosity and drew to the theatre
greater crowds than ever whenever he played. From Portland and Boston to
Cincinnati and St. Louis, from Buffalo and Detroit to Charleston and New
Orleans, the announcement of his name invariably brought out an
overwhelming throng. The first sight of his person on the stage was the
signal for wild applause. At the close of the performance he was often
called before the curtain and constrained to address the assembly, and
then on retiring to his hotel was not unfrequently followed by band and
orchestra and complimented with a serenade.

The ranks of his enemies, reinforced with the malevolent critics or
Bohemians whom he would not propitiate by any favor, social or
pecuniary, continued to fling at him and annoy him in every way they
could. But while their pestiferous buzzing and stinging made him sore
and angry, it did not make him unhappy. His enormous professional
success and broad personal following prevented that. One example of his
remarkable public triumphs may stand to represent scores. It was the
last night of a long and most brilliant engagement in New York. The
“Forrest Light Guard,” in full uniform, occupied the front seats of the
parquet. No sooner had the curtain fallen on the performance of
Coriolanus than the air grew wild with the prolonged shouts of “Forrest!
Forrest!” At last he came forth, and the auditory, rising en masse,
greeted him with stormy plaudits. “Speech! speech!” they cried. He
responded thus:

  “I need not tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that I am gratified to
  see this large assemblage before me; and I have an additional
  gratification when I remember that among my troops of friends I have
  now a military troop who have done me the honor to grace my name by
  associating it with their soldier-like corps. This night, ladies and
  gentlemen, ends my labors _inside_ of the theatre for the season. I
  call them labors, for no one who has not experienced the toil of
  acting such parts as I have been called upon nightly to present to
  you, can have any idea of the labor, both mental and physical,
  required in the performance of the task. They who suppose the
  actor’s life to be one of comparative ease mistake the fact
  egregiously. My experience has shown me that it is one of
  unremitting toil. In no other profession in the world is high
  eminence so difficult to reach as in ours. This proposition becomes
  evident when you remember how many of rare talents and
  accomplishments essay to mount the histrionic ladder, and how very
  few approach its topmost round. My earliest ambition was distinction
  upon the stage; and while yet a mere child I shaped my course to
  reach the wished-for goal. I soon became aware that distinction in
  any vocation was only to be won by hard work and by an unfailing
  self-reliance. And I resolved

              ‘with such jewels as the exploring mind
          Brings from the caves of knowledge, to buy my ransom
          From those twin jailers of the daring heart,
          Low birth and iron fortune.’

  I resolved to educate myself; not that education only which belongs
  to the schools, and which is often comprised in a knowledge of mere
  words, but that other education of the world which makes words
  things. I resolved to educate myself as Garrick, and Kemble, and
  Cooke, and, last and greatest of all, Edmund Kean, had done. As he
  had done before me, I educated myself. The self-same volume from
  which the Bard of Avon drew his power of mastery lay open before me
  also,—the infallible volume of Nature. And in the pages of that
  great book, as in the pages of its epitome, the works of Shakspeare,
  I have conned the lessons of my glorious art. The philosopher-poet
  had taught me that

                 ‘The proper study of mankind is man;’

  and, in pursuit of this study, I sojourned in Europe, in Asia, in
  Africa, as well as in the length and in the breadth of our own proud
  Republic. To catch the living lineaments of passion, I mixed with
  the prince and with the potentate, with the peasant and with the
  proletary, with the serf and with the savage. All the glorious works
  of Art belonging to the world, in painting and in sculpture, in
  architecture and in letters, I endeavored to make subservient to the
  studies of my calling. How successful I have been I leave to the
  verdict of my fellow-countrymen,—my fellow-countrymen, who, for a
  quarter of a century, have never denied to me their suffrages.
  Ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken thus much not to indulge in any
  feeling of pride, nor to gratify any sentiment of egotism, but I
  have done so in the hope that the words which I have uttered here
  to-night may be the means, perhaps, of inspiring in the bosom of
  some young enthusiast who may hereafter aspire to the stage a
  feeling of confidence. Some poor and friendless boy, perchance,
  imbued with genius, and with those refined sensibilities which are
  inseparably connected with genius, may be encouraged not to falter
  in his path for the paltry obstacles flung across it by envy,
  hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. Let him rather, with a
  vigorous heart, buckle on the armor of patient industry, with his
  own discretion for his tutor, and then, with an unfaltering step,
  despising the malice of his foes,

           The steep where Fame’s proud temple shines afar.’”

A shower of bravos broke out, bouquets were thrown upon the stage, and
the actor slowly withdrew, crowned with the applauses of the people like
a victorious Roman in the Capitol.

As the years passed on, Forrest came to take an ever keener interest in
accumulating wealth. A good deal of his time and thought was devoted to
the nursing of his earnings. He showed great shrewdness in his
investments, which, with scarcely a single exception, turned out
profitably. He was prudent and thrifty in his ways, but not parsimonious
or mean. He lived in a handsome, generous style, without ostentation or
extravagance, keeping plenty of servants, horses, and carriages, and a
table generous in wholesome fare but sparing of luxuries. This love of
money, and pleasure in amassing it, though it became a passion, as, with
his bitter early experience of poverty and constant lessons of the evils
of improvidence, it was natural that it should, did not become a vice or
a disease; for it never prevented his full and ready response to every
claim on his conscience or on his sympathy. And within this limit the
love of accumulation is more to be praised than blamed. In final
refutation of the gross injustice which so often during his life charged
upon him the vice of a grasping penuriousness, a few specimens of his
deeds of public spirit and benevolence—not a list, but a few specimens—
may fitly be recorded here. To the fund in aid of the Democratic
campaign which resulted in the election of Buchanan as President he sent
his check for one thousand dollars. He gave the like sum to the first
great meeting in Philadelphia at the outbreak of the war for the defence
of the Union. In 1867, when the South was in such distress from the
effects of the war, he gave five hundred dollars to the treasurer of a
fund in their behalf, saying, “God only knows the whole suffering of our
Southern brethren. Let us do all we can to relieve them, not stopping to
question what is _constitutional_; for charity itself fulfils the law.”
He subscribed five hundred dollars towards the relief of the sufferers
by the great Chicago fire in 1871. The ship “Edwin Forrest” being in
distress on the coast, the towboat “Ajax,” from New York, went to her
assistance, having on board three pilots. The “Ajax” was never heard of
afterwards. To the widows of the three lost pilots Forrest, unsolicited,
sent one thousand dollars each. On two separate occasions he is known to
have sent contributions of five hundred dollars to the Masonic Charity
Fund of the New York Grand Lodge. These acts, which were not
exceptional, but in keeping with his nature and habit, are not the acts
of an unclean slave of avarice. The jealousy too often felt towards the
rich too often incites groundless fault-finding.

It is true that an absorbing passion for truth, for beauty, for
humanity, for perfection, is more glorious and commanding than even the
most honorable chase of riches. But it is likewise true that reckless
idlers and spendthrifts are a greater curse to society, breed worse
evils, than can be attributed to misers. Self-indulgence, dependence,
distress, contempt, the worst temptations, and untimely death, follow
the steps of thriftlessness. Self-denial, foresight, industry, manifold
power of usefulness, wait on a well-regulated purpose to secure
pecuniary independence. Money represents the means of life,—the command
of the best outer conditions of life,—food, shelter, education, culture
in every direction. In itself it is a good, and the fostering of the
virtues adapted to win it is beneficial alike to the individual and the
community, despite the enormous evils associated with the excessive or
unprincipled pursuit of it. Sharp and exacting as he was, the absolute
honesty and honor of Forrest in all pecuniary dealings were so high
above suspicion that they were never questioned. Although often
wrongfully accused of a miserly and sordid temper, he never was accused
of falsehood or trickery. The large fortune he obtained was honorably
earned, liberally used, and at last nobly bestowed. He had a good right
to the deep, vivid satisfaction and sense of power which it yielded him.
His fortune was to him a huge supplementary background of support, a
wide border of the means of life surrounding and sustaining his
immediate life.

An extract from a letter written by him to his biographer may fitly be
cited to complete what has been said above. Under date of August 28th,
1870, he wrote. “The desire I had for wealth was first fostered only
that I might be abler to contribute to the comforts of those whose veins
bore blood like mine, and to smooth the pathway to the grave of the
gentlest, the truest, the most unselfish friend I ever knew—my mother!—
and so, from this holy source, to widen the boundaries of all good and
charitable deeds,—to relieve the wants of friends less fortunate than
myself, and to succor the distressed wherever found. In early life, from
necessity, I learned to depend solely upon myself for my own sustenance.
This self-reliance soon gave me power in a small way to relieve the
wants of others, and this I never failed to do even to the extent of my
ability. So far did I carry this feeling for the distress of others that
I have frequently been forced to ask an advance of salary from the
theatre to pay the current expenses of my own frugal living. And this I
have done when in the receipt of eight thousand dollars a year. I have
been very, very poor; but in my whole life I have never from need
borrowed more than two hundred dollars in all. I have lent two thousand
times that sum, only an infinitesimal part of which was ever returned.”

In 1851 Forrest moved from New York to Philadelphia, and took his three
sisters to live with him. But he paid frequent visits to his romantic
castle on the Hudson. During one of these visits an incident occurred
which presents him to the imagination in real life in a light as
picturesque and sensational as many of those scenes of fiction on the
stage in which he had so often thrilled the multitude who beheld him.
The steamboat “Henry Clay,” plying on the Hudson between New York and
Albany, when opposite Fonthill was suddenly wrapt in flames by an
explosion of its boiler, and sunk with a crowd of shrieking passengers.
The New York “Mirror” of the next day said, “We are informed that while
the unfortunate wretches were struggling, Edwin Forrest, who was then at
his castle, seeing their condition, rushed down to the river, jumped in,
and succeeded in rescuing many from a watery grave, as well as in
recovering the bodies of several who were drowned.”

In 1856 Forrest sold Fonthill to the Catholic Sisterhood of Mount Saint
Vincent, for one hundred thousand dollars. For the devout and beneficent
lives of the members of this order he had a profound reverence; and
immediately on completing the sale he made to the Mother Superior a
present of the sum of five thousand dollars. And so ended all the dreams
of domestic peace and bliss his fancy had woven on that enchanted spot,
still to be associated with memories of his career and echoes of his
name as long as its gray towers shall peer above the trees and be
descried from afar by the sailers on the lordly river below.

In 1857 Forrest received an unparalleled compliment from the State of
California. The Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Secretary, Treasurer, and
Comptroller of the State, twenty-seven members of the Senate, with the
Secretary and Sergeant-at-Arms, the Speaker and forty-eight members of
the House of Representatives, sent him a letter of invitation to make a
professional visit to the Golden Coast. It read as follows:

                         “STATE CAPITOL, SACRAMENTO, April 20th, 1857.

  “RESPECTED SIR,—The undersigned, State officers and members of the
  Senate and Assembly, a small portion of your many admirers on the
  coast of the Pacific, avail themselves of this, the only mode under
  their control, of signifying to you the very high estimation, as a
  gentleman and an actor, in which you are generally and universally
  held by all who have a taste for the legitimate drama. Genuine taste
  and rigid criticism have united with the verdict of impartial
  history to pronounce you the head and leader of the noble profession
  to which you have consecrated abilities that would in any sphere of
  life render you eminent. We believe that so long as Shakspeare is
  remembered, and his words revered, your name, too, will be
  remembered with pride by all who glory in the triumphs of our Saxon

  “In conclusion, permit us to express the hope that your existing
  engagements will so far coincide with our wishes as to permit us, at
  an early day, to welcome you to the shores of the Pacific, assuring
  you of a warm and sincere reception, so far as our efforts can
  accomplish the same, and we feel that we but express the feelings of
  every good citizen of the State.”

To this he replied:

                                       “PHILADELPHIA, July 10th, 1857.

  “GENTLEMEN,—With a grateful pleasure I acknowledge your
  communication of April 20th, delivered to me a short time since by
  the hands of Mr. Maguire.

  “Your flattering invitation, so generously bestowed and so
  gracefully expressed, to enter the Golden Gate and visit your
  beautiful land, is one of the highest compliments I have ever
  received. It is an honor, I venture to say, that was never before
  conferred on one of my profession.

  “It comes not from the lovers of the drama or men of letters merely,
  but from the Executive, the Representatives, and other high
  officials of a great State of the American Confederacy; and I shall
  ever regard it as one of the proudest compliments in all my
  professional career.

  “Believe me, I deeply feel this mark of your kindness, not as mere
  incense to professional or personal vanity, but as a proud tribute
  to that art which I have loved so well and have followed so long:

                   “‘The youngest of the Sister Arts,
                   Where all their beauty blends.’

  “This art, permit me to add, from my youth I have sought personally
  to elevate, and professionally to improve, more from the truths in
  nature’s infallible volume than from the pedantic words of the
  schools,—a volume open to all, and which needs neither Greek nor
  Latin lore to be understood.

  “And now, gentlemen, although I greatly regret that it is not in my
  power to accept your invitation, I sincerely trust there will be a
  time for such a word, when we may yet meet together under the roof
  of one of those proud temples consecrated to the drama by the taste
  and the munificence of your fellow-citizens.”

During the crisis of his domestic unhappiness—1849–1852—Forrest had
withdrawn from the stage for about two years. In 1856, stricken down
with a severe attack of gout and inflammatory rheumatism, wearied also
of his long round of professional labors, he retired into private life
for a period of nearly five years. He now devoted his time to the care
of his rapidly increasing wealth, and to the cultivation of his mind by
reading, studying works of art, and conversing with a few chosen
friends, leading, on the whole, a still and secluded life. At this time
an enthusiastic religious revival was going on in the city, and it was
reported that the tragedian had been made a convert. An old and dear
friend, the Rev. E. L. Magoon, wrote to him a very cordial letter
expressing the hope that this report was well founded. Here is the reply
of Forrest:

                                        “PHILADELPHIA, March 27, 1858.

  “I have much pleasure in the receipt of yours of the 23d instant.

  “While I thank you and Mrs. Magoon with all my heart for the kind
  hope you have expressed that the recent rumor with regard to my
  highest welfare may be true, I am constrained to say the rumor is in
  this, as in most matters which pertain to me, most pitifully in
  error: there is not one word of truth in it.

  “But in answer to your questions, my good friend,—for I know you are
  animated only by a sincere regard for my spiritual as well as for my
  temporal welfare,—I am happy to assure you that the painful attack
  of inflammatory rheumatism with which for the last three months I
  have combated is now quite overcome, and I think I may safely say
  that with the return of more genial weather I shall be restored once
  more to a sound and pristine health.

  “Then, for the state of my mind. I do not know the time, since when
  a boy I blew sportive bladders in the beamy sun, that it was ever so
  tranquil and serene as in the present hour. Having profited by the
  leisure given me by my lengthened illness seriously to review the
  past and carefully to consider the future, both for time and for
  eternity, I have with a chastened spirit beheld with many regrets
  that there was much in the past that might have been improved; more,
  perhaps, in the acts of omission than in acts of commission, for I
  feel sustained that my whole conduct has been actuated solely by an
  honest desire to adhere strictly to the rule of right; that the past
  has been characterized, as I trust the future will be, to love my
  friends, to hate my enemies,—for I cannot be a hypocrite,—and to
  live in accordance with the Divine precept: ‘As ye would that men
  should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.’

  “And now for that ‘higher welfare’ of which you speak, I can only
  say that, believing, as I sincerely do, in the justice, the mercy,
  the wisdom, and the love of Him who knoweth the secrets of our
  hearts, I hope I may with

             ‘An unfaltering trust approach my grave,
             Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
             About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.’

  “Hoping you are in the enjoyment of good health, and that you still
  prosper in the ‘good work,’ which to you I know is a labor of love,

                                                “I am your friend,
                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

At length, rested in mind and body, chastened in taste, sobered and
polished in style, but with no abatement of fire or energy, sought by
the public, solicited by friends, urged by managers, and impelled by his
own feelings, he broke from his long repose, and reappeared in New York
under circumstances as flattering as any that had ever crowned his
ambition. Niblo’s Garden was packed to its remotest corners with an
auditory whose upturned expanse of eager faces lighted with smiles and
burst into cheers as he slowly advanced and received a welcome whose
earnestness and unity might well have thrilled him with pride and joy.
The following lines, strong and eloquent as their theme, written for the
occasion by William Ross Wallace, contain perhaps the most truthful and
characteristic tribute ever paid to his genius, drawing the real contour
and breathing the express spirit of the man and the player.

                             EDWIN FORREST.

 Welcome to his look of grandeur, welcome to his stately mien,
 Always shedding native glory o’er the wondrous mimic scene,
 Always like a mighty mirror glassing Vice or Virtue’s star,
 Giving Time his very pressure, showing Nations as they are!

 Once again old Rome—the awful—rears her red imperial crest,
 And _Virginius_ speaks her downfall in a father’s tortured breast;
 Once again far Albion’s genius from sweet Avon leans to view,
 As he was, her thoughtful _Hamlet_, and the very _Lear_ she drew.

 Nor alone does Europe glory in the Actor’s perfect art,—
 From Columbia’s leafy mountains see the native hero start!
 Not in depths of mere romances can you _Nature’s_ Indian find;
 See him there, as God hath made him, in the _Metamora_ shrined.

 Where hast thou, O noble Artist,—crowned by Fame’s immortal flower,—
 Grasped the lightnings of thy genius? caught the magic of thy power?
 Not, I know, in foreign regions,—for thou art too true and bold:
 ’Tis the _New_ alone gives daring thus to paint the shapes of _Old_:

 From the deep full wind that sweepeth through thine own wild native
 From the organ-like grand cadence heard in autumn’s solemn floods,
 Thou hast tuned the voice that thrills us with its modulated roll,
 Echoing through the deepest caverns of the hearer’s startled soul:

 From the tender blossoms blooming on our haughty torrents’ side—
 Like some angel sent by Pity, preaching gentleness to Pride—
 Thou didst learn such tender bearing, hushing every listener’s breath,
 When in thee poor _Lear_, the crownless, totters gently down to death:

 From the boundless lakes and rivers, from our broad continuous climes,
 Over which the bell of Freedom sounds her everlasting chimes,
 Thou didst catch that breadth of manner; and to wreath the glorious
 Sacred flames are ever leaping from thy democratic soul.

 Welcome then that look of grandeur, welcome then that stately mien,
 Always shedding native glory o’er the wondrous mimic scene,
 Always like a mighty mirror glassing Vice or Virtue’s star,
 Giving Time his very pressure, showing Nations as they are!

After a long absence from Albany, Forrest fulfilled an engagement there
in 1864. It carried his mind back to his early struggles in the same
place, though few of the kind friends who had then cheered him now
remained. There was no vacant spot, however, any more than there was any
loss of fervor. On the last night the audience—so crowded that “they
seemed actually piled on one another in the lobbies”—called him before
the curtain and asked for a speech. He said,—

“I am very glad, ladies and gentlemen, that an opportunity is thus
afforded me to say a few words, to thank you for your generous welcome
here, and also for the kind applause you have lavished on my
performances. In Albany I seem to live a twofold existence,—I live one
in the past, and I live one in the present,—and both alike are filled
with the most agreeable memories. Here, within these very walls, even in
my boyish days, I was cheered on to those inspiring toils

                      ‘Which make man master men.’

Here, within these walls, while yet in my boyish days, one of the
proudest honors of my professional life was achieved; for I here essayed
the part of Iago to the Othello of the greatest actor that ‘ever lived
in the tide of times,’—Edmund Kean. To me there is music in the very
name,—Edmund Kean, a name blended indissolubly with the genius of
Shakspeare; Edmund Kean, who did more by his acting to illustrate the
Bard of all time than all the commentators from Johnson, Warburton, and
Steevens down to the critics of the present day. It was said of Edmund
Kean by a distinguished English poet, that ‘he read Shakspeare by
flashes of lightning.’ It is true; but those flashes of lightning were
the coruscations of his own divine mind, which was in affinity with the
mind of Shakspeare. Now I must beg leave to express my heartfelt thanks
for this demonstration of your favor, hoping at no distant day to meet
you again.”

Thus it is clear that, whatever the sufferings of Forrest may have been,
however many trials and pangs his growing experience of the world may
have brought him, he had great enjoyments still. Besides the proud
delight of his professional successes and the solid satisfaction of his
swelling property, he had an even more keen and substantial complacency
of pleasure in his own physical health and strength. His enormous vital
and muscular power supported a superb personal consciousness of joy and
contentment. He trod the earth like an indigenous monarch, afraid of
nothing. The dynamic charge, or rather surcharge, of his frame was often
so profuse that it would break out in wild feats of power to relieve the
aching muscles. For instance, one night when acting in the old Tremont
Theatre in Boston, under such an exhilarating impulse he struck his
sword against a wooden column at the side of the stage as he was passing
out, and cut into it to the depth of more than three inches. An
Englishman who sat near jumped from his seat in terror, and tremblingly
said, as he hastened out, “He is a damned brute. He is going to cut the
theatre down!” This full vigor of the organic nature, this vivid
relishing edge of unsatiated senses, yielded a constant feeling of
actual or potential happiness, and clothed him with an air of native
pride which was both attractive and authoritative. He had paid the price
for this great prize of an indomitable physique in systematic exercises
and temperance. He wore it most proudly and kept it intact until he was
fifty-nine years old. The lesson of his experience and example in
physical culture is well worth heeding.

The fashion of society in regard to the education and care of the body
has passed through three phases. The most extraordinary phase, in the
glorious results it secured, was the worship of bodily perfection among
the Greeks, a reflex revival of which was shown by the nobles and
knights at the period of the Renaissance. The Greek gymnastic of the age
of Pericles, as described by Plato so often and with such enthusiasm,—a
gymnastic in which music, instead of being an end in itself, a sensuous
luxury of the soul, was made a guide and adjunct to bodily training,
giving rhythm to every motion, or that grace and economy of force which
so much enhances both beauty and power,—lifted men higher in unity of
strength and charm of health and harmony of faculties than has anywhere
else been known. The Grecian games were made an ennobling and joyous
religious service and festival. The eager, emulous, patriotic, and
artistic appreciation of the spectators,—the wondrous strength, beauty,
swiftness, rhythmic motions, imposing attitudes of the athletes,—the
legends of the presence and contentions of the gods themselves on that
very spot in earlier times,—the setting up of the statues of the victors
in the temples as a worship of the Givers of Strength, Joy, and Glory,—
served to carry the interest to a pitch hardly to be understood by us.
The sculptures by Phidias which immortalize the triumph of Greek
physical culture show a harmony of the circulations, a compacted unity
of the organism, a central poise of equilibrium, a profundity of
consciousness and a fulness of self-control, a perfect blending of the
automatic and the volitional sides of human nature, which must have
exalted the Olympic victors at once to the extreme of sensibility and to
the extreme of repose. It is a million pities that this ideal should
ever have been lost. But in Rome, under the military drill and unbridled
license of the emperors, it degenerated into a brutal tyranny and
sensuality, the gigantic superiority of potency it generated being
perverted to the two uses of indulging self and oppressing others.

The next swing of the historic pendulum flung men, by the reaction of
spirituality, over to the fatal opposite,—the ecclesiastic contempt and
neglect of the body. The Christian ideal, or at least the Church ideal,
in its scornful revulsion from gladiators and voluptuaries, glorified
the soul at the expense of the loathed and mortified flesh. At the base
of this cultus was the ascetic superstition that matter is evil, that
the capacity for pleasure is an infernal snare, and that the only way to
heaven is through material maceration and renunciation. Sound philosophy
and religion teach, on the contrary, that the body is the temple of God,
to be developed, cleansed, and adorned to the highest degree possible
for His habitation.

The third phase in the history of bodily training is that neutral
condition, between the two foregoing extremes, which generally
characterizes the present period,—a state of almost universal
indifference, or a fitful alternation of unregulated attention to it and
neglect of it. The pedagogue gives his pupils some crude exercises to
keep them from utterly losing their health and breaking down on his
hands under the barbaric pressure of mental forcing; the drill-sergeant
disciplines his recruits to go through their technical evolutions; the
dancing-master trains the aspirants for the mysteries of the ballet; and
the various other classes of public performers who get their living by
playing on the curiosity, taste, or passion of the public, have their
specialities of bodily education for their particular work. But a
perfected system of æsthetic gymnastics, based on all that is known of
the laws of anatomy, physiology, and hygiene,—a system of exercises
regulated by the exactest rhythm and fitted to liberate every
articulation, to develop every muscle, and to harmonize and exalt every
nerve,—such a system applied from childhood to maturity for the purpose
not of making professional exhibitors of themselves, but of perfecting
men and women for the completest fulfilment and fruition of life itself,
does not yet exist. It is the great educational desideratum of the age.
Co-ordinating all our bodily organs and spiritual faculties, unifying
the outward organism and the inward consciousness, it would remove
disease, crime, and untimely death, open to men and women the highest
conditions of inspiration, and raise them towards the estate of gods and
goddesses. Avoiding equally the classic deification of the body and the
mediæval excommunication of it, emerging from the general indifference
and inattention to it which belong to the modern absorption in mental
work and social ambition, the next phase in the progress of physical
education should be the awakening on the part of the whole people of a
thorough appreciation of its just importance, and the assigning to it of
its proportionate place in their practical discipline. This is a work
worthy to be done now in America. As democratic Athens gave the world
the first splendid gymnastic training with its transcendent models of
manhood, so let democratic America, improving on the old example with
all the new treasures of science and sympathy, make application to its
citizens of a system of motions for the simultaneous education of bodies
and souls to the full possession of their personal sovereignty, making
them all kings and queens of themselves, because strong and beautiful
and free and happy in every limb and in every faculty!

There is a vulgar prejudice among many of the most refined and religious
people against the training of the body to its highest condition, as if
that necessitated an animality fatal to the richest action of mind,
heart, and soul. The fop whose delicacy is so exquisite that the least
shock of vigorous emotion makes him turn pale and sicken, fancies the
superb athlete a vulgar creature whose tissues are as coarse as wire
netting and the globules of his blood as big as peas. But in reality the
presence of fidgeting nerves in place of reposeful muscles gives feebler
reactions, not finer ones, a more irritable consciousness, not a richer
one. Were this squeamish prejudice well founded it would make God seem a
bungler in his work, essential discord inhering in its different parts.
It is not so. The harmonious development of all portions of our being
will raise the whole higher than any fragment can be lifted alone. The
two finest and loftiest and richest flowers of Greek genius, Plato and
Sophocles, were both crowned victors in the Olympic games. But this
strong, lazy prejudice has widely fulfilled itself in fact by limiting
the greatest triumphs of physical culture to the more debased and
profane types,—to professional dancers and pugilists. And even here it
is to be affirmed that, on this low range of brawn and pluck and skill,
physical power and prowess are better than physical weakness and
cowardice. It is better, if men are on that level, to surpass and be
admired there than to fail and be despised there. But since one God is
the Creator of flesh and spirit, both of which when obedient are
recipients of his influx and held in tune by all his laws, the best
material states are not hostile, but most favorable, to the best
spiritual fulfilments. The life of the mind will lift out of, not mire
in, the life of the body. And hitherto unknown revelations of inspired
power, delight, and longevity wait on that future age when the
vindication of a divineness for the body equally sacred with that of the
soul shall cause the choicest persons to be as faithful in physical
culture for the perfection of their experience as prize-fighters are for
winning the victory in the ring. Give us the soul of Channing, purest
lover and hero of God, in the body of Heenan, foremost bruiser and
champion of the world; the soul of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, tender
poetess of humanity, in the body of Fanny Elssler, incomparable queen of
the stage;—and what marvels of intuitive perception, creative genius,
irresistible authority, and redemptive conquest shall we not behold!

Such is one of the prophecies drawn from the supremest examples of
combined mental and physical culture in the dramatic profession. Forrest
fell short of any such mark. His gymnastic was coarse and heavy, based
on bone and muscle rather than brain and nerve. The sense of musical
rhythm was not quick and fine in him. His blood was too densely charged
with amorous heat, and his tissues too much clogged with his weight of
over two hundred pounds, for the most ethereal delicacies of
spirituality and the inspired imagination. But within his limitations he
was a marked type of immense original and cultivated power. And his
sedulous fidelity in taking care of his bodily strength and health is
worthy of general imitation. He practised athletics daily, posturing
with dumb-bells or Indian clubs, taking walks and drives. He was
extremely attentive to ventilation, saying, “The first condition of
health is to breathe pure air plentifully.” He ever sought the sunshine,
worshipping the smile of the divine luminary with the ardor of a true
Parsee. “The weather has been pernicious,” he says in one of his
letters. “Oh for a day of pure sunshine! What a true worshipper of the
Sun I have always been! And how he has rewarded me, in the light of his
omnipotent and kindly eye, with health and joy and sweet content! How
reasonable and how sublime was the worship of Zoroaster! I had rather be
a beggar in a sunny climate than a Crœsus in a cloudy one.” He was
temperate in food and drink, shunning for the most part rich luxuries,
complex and highly-seasoned dishes, falling to with the greatest relish
on the simplest and wholesomest things, especially oatmeal, cracked
wheat, corn-meal mush, brown bread, Scotch bannocks, cream, buttermilk.
When fatigued, he turned from artificial stimulants and sought recovery
in rest and sleep. When hard-worked, he never omitted going regularly to
bed in the daytime to supplement the insufficient repose of the night.
He had great facility in catching a nap, and at such times his deep and
full respiration was as regular as clock-work. But above all the rest he
attributed the greatest importance to keeping his skin in a clean and
vigorous condition. Night and morning he gave himself a thorough
washing, followed by energetic scrubbing with coarse towels and a
percussing of his back and spine with elastic balls fastened to the ends
of two little clubs. His skin was always aglow with life, polished like
marble, a soft and sensitive yet firm and flowing mantle of protection
and avenue of influences between his interior world and the exterior
world. This extreme health and vigor of the skin relieved the tasks put
on the other excretory organs, and was most conducive to vital energy
and longevity.

The one fault in the constitution of Forrest was the gouty diathesis he
inherited from his grandfather on the maternal side. This rheumatic
inflammability—a contracted and congested state of some part of the
capillary circulation and the associated sensory nerves accumulating
force to be discharged in hot explosions of twinging agony—might have
been cured by an æsthetic gymnastic adapted to free and harmonize all
the circulations,—the breath, the blood, the nerve-force. But,
unfortunately, his heavy and violent gymnastic was fitted to produce
rigidity rather than suppleness, and thus to cause breaks in the nervous
flow instead of an equable uniformity. This was the secret of his
painful attacks and of his otherwise unexpectedly early death. There are
three natures in man, the vital nature, the mental nature, the moral
nature. These natures express and reveal themselves in three kinds or
directions of movement. The vital nature betrays or asserts itself in
eccentric movement, movement from a centre; the mental, in acentric
movement, movement towards a centre; the moral, in concentric movement,
movement around a centre. Outward lines of motion express vital
activity, inward lines express mental activity, curved lines, which are
a blending of the two other, express moral or affectional activity. This
physiological philosophy is the basis of all sound and safe gymnastic.
The essential evil and danger of the heavy and violent gymnastic of the
circus and the ring is that it consists so largely of the outward and
inward lines which express the individual will or vital energy and
mental purpose. Each of these tends exclusively to strengthen the nature
which it exercises. Straight hitting, pushing, lifting, jumping, in
their two directions of exertion, tend to expand and to contract. That
is vital, and this is mental. Both are expensive in their drain on the
volition, but one tends to enlarge the physical organism, the other to
shrink it and to produce strictures at every weak point. The former
gives a heavy, obese development; the latter an irritable, irregular, at
once bulgy and constricted development. The vice of the vital nature
dominating unchecked is gluttony, and its end, idiocy. The vice of the
mental nature is avarice, both corporal and spiritual, and its end,
madness. The vice of the moral nature, when it becomes diseased, is
fanaticism; and its subject becomes, if the vital element in it
controls, an ecstatic devotee; if the mental element controls, a
reckless proselyter. Now, a true system of gymnastic will perfect all
the three natures of man by not allowing the vital or the mental to
domineer or its special motions to preponderate, but blending them in
those rotatory elliptical or spiral movements which combine the generous
expansion of the vital organs and the selfish concentration of the
mental faculties in just proportion and thereby constitute the language
of the moral nature. Rigid outward movements enlarge the bulk and
strengthen sensuality. Rigid inward movements cramp the organism and
break the unity and liberty of its circulations, leading to every
variety of disease. But flowing musical movements justly blent of the
other two movements, in which rhythm is observed, and the extensor
muscles are used in preponderance over the contractile so as to
neutralize the modern instinctive tendency to use the contractile more
than the extensor,—movements in which the motor nerves are, for the same
reason, used more than the sensory,—will economize the expenditure of
force, soothe the sensibilities, and secure a balanced and harmonious
development of the whole man in equal strength and grace. Such a system
of exercise will remove every tendency to a monstrous force in one part
and a dwarfed proportion in another. It will secure health and beauty in
a rounded fulness equally removed from shrivelled meagreness and
repulsive corpulence. It will make its practiser far more than a match
for the huge athletes of the coarse school, as the man whose every limb
is a whip is thrice more puissant and terrible than the man whose every
limb is a club. The deepest secret of the final result of this æsthetic
gymnastic is that it gives one the perfect possession of himself in the
perfected unity of his organism, _the connective tissue being so
developed by the practice of a slow and rhythmical extensor action that
it serves as an unbroken bed of solidarity for the whole muscular
coating of the man_. Nothing else can be so conducive as this to
equilibrium, and consequently to longevity. When the unity of the
connective tissue is broken by strictures at the articulations or
elsewhere, the waves of motion or force ever beating through the webs of
nerves are interrupted, stopped, or reflected by devitalized wrinkles
which they cannot pass. Thence result the innumerable mischiefs of
inflammation in the outer membrane and catarrh in the inner.

The æsthetic gymnastic, which will serve as a diacatholicon and panacea
for a perverted and sick generation, is one whose measured and
curvilinear movements will not be wasteful of force but conservative of
it, by keeping the molecular vibrations circulating in the organism in
perpetual translations of their power, instead of shaking them out and
losing them through sharp angles and shocks. This will develop the brain
and nerves, the genius and character, as the old system developed the
muscles and the viscera. It will lead to harmony, virtue, inspiration,
and long life, as the old system led to exaggeration, lust, excess, and
early death. How greatly it is needed one fact shows, namely, the steady
process which has long been going on of lessening beauty and increasing
ugliness in the higher classes of society, lessening roundness and
increasing angularity of facial contour. The proof of this historic
encroachment of anxious, nervous wear and tear displacing the full grace
of curved lines with the sinister sharpness of straight lines is given
in most collections of family portraits, and may be strikingly seen by
glancing from the rosy and generous faces of Fox and Burke or of
Washington and Hamilton to the pinched and wrinkled visages of Gladstone
and D’Israeli or of Lincoln and Seward.

There is probably only one man now living who is fully competent to
construct this system of æsthetic gymnastic,—James Steele Mackaye, the
heir of the traditions and the developer of the philosophy of François
Delsarte. It was he of whom Forrest, two years before his own death,
said, “He has thrown floods of light into my mind: in fifteen minutes he
has given me a deeper insight into the philosophy of my own art than I
had myself learned in fifty years of study.” If he shall die without
producing this work, it will be a calamity to the world greater than the
loss of any battle ever fought or the defeat of any legislative measure
ever advocated. For this style of gymnastic alone recognizes the
infinitely solemn and beautiful truth that every attitude, every motion,
tends to _produce_ the quality of which it is the legitimate expression.
Here is brought to light an education constantly going on in every one,
and far more momentous and fatal than any other. Here is a principle
which makes the body and the laws of mechanics as sacred revelations of
the will of God as the soul and the laws of morality. Here is the basis
of the new religious education destined to perfect the children of men,
abolish deformity, sickness, and crime, and redeem the earth.

Had Forrest practised such a style of exercise, instead of weighing
upwards of two hundred pounds and suffering from those irregularities of
circulation which often disabled, at length paralyzed, and at last
killed him at sixty-seven, he would have weighed a hundred and sixty,
been as free and agile as he was powerful, and lived without an ache or
a shock to ninety or a hundred.

His faithful exercises, defective as they were in the spirit of beauty
and economy, gave him enormous vital potency and tenacity. He felt this
keenly as a priceless luxury, and was justly proud of it. He used to be
extremely fond of the Turkish bath, and once said, “No man who has not
taken a Turkish bath has ever known the moral luxury of being personally
clean.” He was a great frequenter of the celebrated establishment of Dr.
Angell, on Lexington Avenue, in New York. After the bath and the
shampoo, and the inunction and the rest, on one occasion, as he was
striding up and down the room, feeling like an Olympian god who had been
freshly fed through all the pores of his skin with some diviner viands
than ambrosia, he vented his slight grief and his massive satisfaction
in these words: “What a pity it is that a man should have to suffer for
the sins of his ancestors! Were it not for this damned gouty diathesis,
I would not swap constitutions with any man on earth,—damned if I

It was in 1865, while playing, on a terribly cold February night, in the
Holliday Street Theatre, in Baltimore, that Forrest received the first
dread intimation that his so proudly cherished prerogative of bodily
strength was insecure. He was enacting the part of Damon. The theatre
was so cold that, he said, he felt chilled from the extremities of his
hands and feet to the centre of his heart, and the words he uttered
seemed to freeze on his lips. Suddenly his right leg began twitching and
jerking. He nearly lost control of it; but by a violent effort of will
he succeeded in getting through the play. Reaching his lodgings and
calling a physician, he found, to his great grief and horror, that his
right sciatic nerve was partially paralyzed.

An obvious lameness, a slight hobble in his gait, was the permanent
consequence of this attack. It was sometimes better, sometimes worse;
but not all his earnest and patient attempts to cure it ever availed to
find a remedy. It was a mortifying blow, from which he never fully
recovered, though he grew used to it. His strength of build and movement
had been so complete, such a glory to him, he had so exulted in it as it
drew admiring attention, that to be thus maimed and halted in one of its
most conspicuous centres was indeed a bitter trial to him. Still he kept
up good heart, and fondly hoped yet to outgrow it and be all himself
again. He was just as faithful as ever to his exercises, his diet, his
bathing, his rest and sleep; and he retained, in spite of this shocking
blow, an astonishing quantity of vital and muscular energy. Still a
large and dark blot had been made on his personal splendor, and all
those rôles which required grace and speed of bodily movement sank from
their previous height. Notwithstanding his strenuous endeavors to
neutralize the effects of this paralysis, its stealthy encroachments
spread by imperceptible degrees until his whole right side—shoulder and
chest and leg—shrank to smaller dimensions than the left, and at last he
was obliged when fencing to have the sword fastened to his hand. And yet
he continued to act to the end; acting still with a remarkable physical
power and with a mental vividness not one particle lowered from that of
his palmiest day. But, after the year 1865, for any of his old friends
who remembered the electrifying spontaneity of his terrible
demonstrations of strength in former days, to see him in such casts as
Metamora, Damon, Spartacus, and Cade, was painful.

In the month of January, 1866, Forrest had a most gratifying triumph in
Chicago. The receipts were unprecedentedly large, averaging for the five
nights of his engagement nearly twenty-five hundred dollars a night. He
wrote to his friend Oakes: “Eighteen years since, I acted here in a
small theatre of which the present mayor of Chicago, J. B. Rice, Esq.,
was manager. The population, then about six thousand, is now one hundred
and eighty thousand, with a theatre that would grace Naples, Florence,
or Paris. The applause I have received here has been as enthusiastic as
I have ever known, and the money-return greater. It beats the history of
the stage in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, and
New Orleans. Give me joy, my dear and steadfast friend, that the veteran
does _not_ lag superfluous on the stage.”

Early in the same year he accepted the munificent offer made by the
manager of the San Francisco theatre to induce him to pay a professional
visit to California. He remembered the flattering letter sent him by the
government of the State nine years before. He felt a keen desire, as a
patriotic American, to view the wondrous scenery and products of the
golden coast of the Pacific, and he also was ambitious that the youngest
part of the country should behold those dramatic portrayals which had so
long been applauded by the oldest. Landing in San Francisco on the third
of May, he was serenaded in the evening by the Philharmonic Society, and
on the fourteenth made his débût in the Opera House in the rôle of
Richelieu. The prices of admission were doubled, and the seats for the
opening night were sold at auction. The first ticket brought five
hundred dollars. “At an early hour last night,” said one of the morning
papers, “the tide of people turned with steady current towards the Opera
House. Throng after throng approached the portal and melted into the
vast space. Inside, the scene was one of extraordinary magnificence.
Hundreds of flaming jets poured a flood of shadowless light on the rich
painting and gilding of the amphitheatre, the luxurious draperies of the
boxes, and the galaxy of wealth and beauty smiling beneath its rays.” He
played for thirty-five nights to an aggregate of over sixty thousand
persons, and was paid twenty thousand dollars in gold. His engagement
was suddenly interrupted by a severe attack of his old enemy the gout.
He fled away to the cedar groves, the mineral springs, and the
mountains, to feast his eyes on the marvellous California landscapes and
to nurse his health. His enjoyment of the whole trip, and in particular
of his long tarry at the Mammoth Tree Grove, was profound. He delighted
in recalling and describing to his friends one scene in this grove, a
scene in which he was himself a striking figure. Visible in various
directions were gigantic trees hundreds of feet in height, whose age
could be reckoned by centuries, bearing the memorial names of celebrated
Americans, — Bryant, Lincoln, Seward, Longfellow, Webster, Kane,
Everett, and the darling of so many hearts, sweet Starr King,—whose top,
three hundred and sixty-six feet high, overpeers all the rest. Here the
Father of the Forest, long ago fallen, his trunk four hundred and fifty
feet long and one hundred and twelve feet in circumference at the base,
lies mouldering in gray and stupendous ruin. A hollow chamber, large
enough for one to pass through on horseback, extends for two hundred
feet through the colossal trunk of this prone and dead monarch of the
grove, whose descendants tower around him in their fresh life, and seem
mourning his requiem as the evening breeze sighs in their branches.
Forrest mounted a horse, and, with all the pageant personalities he had
so long made familiar to the American people clustering upon his own,
rode slowly through this incredible hollow just as the level beams of
the setting sun illuminated the columns of the grove and turned it into
a golden cathedral.

In September he wrote to Oakes,—

“Here I am still enjoying the salubrious air of the mountains, on
horseback and afoot, and bathing in waters from the hot and cold springs
which pour their affluent streams on every hand.

“My health is greatly improved, and my lameness is now scarcely
perceptible. In a few weeks more I shall return to San Francisco to
finish my engagement, which was interrupted by my late indisposition. My
present intention is not to return to the East until next spring; for it
would be too great a risk to encounter the rigors of a winter there
which might prove disastrous. You are aware that the winter in San
Francisco is much more agreeable than the summer; and after my
professional engagement there I shall visit Sacramento and some few
other towns, and then go to Los Angelos, where I shall enjoy a climate
quite equal to that of the tropics. I am determined to come back to you
in perfect health. How I should like to take a tramp with you into the
mountains this blessed day! I can give you no reasonable idea of the
beauty of the weather here. The skies are cloudless, save with the rare
and rosiest shadows, not a drop of rain, and yet no drought, no aridity;
the trees are fresh and green, and the air as exhilarating as

The news of the serious illness of his sister Caroline caused him to
abandon the purpose of resuming his interrupted engagement in San
Francisco, and, enriched with a thousand agreeable memories, on the
twentieth of October he set sail for home.

The sentiment of patriotism was a fervid element in the inner life of
Forrest, a source of strength and pleasure. He had a deep faith in the
democratic principles and institutions of his country, a large knowledge
and enjoyment of her scenery, a strong interest in her honor,
industries, and fortunes, and an unshaken confidence and pride in her
sublime destiny. His sympathy in politics, which he studied and voted on
with intelligent conviction, had always been Southern as well as
democratic; but at the first sound of the war he sprang into the most
resolute attitude in defence of the imperilled cause of freedom and
humanity. He wrote the following letter to one of his old friends in the
West in June, 1861:

“The political aspect of our country is ominous indeed, and yet I hope
with you that in the Divine Providence there will be some great good
brought out of this evil state of affairs which will prove at last a
blessing to our country. Oftentimes from that we consider evil comes a
reviving good. I trust it may prove so in this case. I do not, however,
condemn the South for their feelings of just indignation towards the
intermeddling abolitionist of the North,—the abolitionist who for years
by his incendiary acts has made the homestead of the planter a place of
anxiety and unrest instead of peace and tranquillity. But I do condemn
the leaders of this unwarrantable rebellion, those scurvy politicians
who, to serve their own selfish ends, flatter and fool, browbeat and
threaten honest people into an attitude which seems to threaten the
safety of our glorious Union. I still believe in man’s capacity to
govern himself, and I prophesy that by September next all our
difficulties will be adjusted. The South will know that the North has no
hostile, no subversive feelings to gratify, that it is the Union of the
States—that Union cemented by the blood of patriot sires—which is to be
preserved unbroken and inviolate, and that under its fraternal ægis all
discord shall cease, all wounds be healed. To this end we must be ready
for the field; we must gird up our loins and put on our armor; for a
graceful and lasting peace is only won when men are equals in honor and
in courage. And to this end it gives me pleasure to know that my
namesake, your son ——, has decided to take arms in defence of the Union
of the States and the Constitution of our fathers; and, more, that his
good mother, as well as yourself, approves his resolution. Now is the
time to test if our Government be really a shield and a protection
against anarchy and rebellion, or merely a rope of sand, an illusion, a
chimera; and it is this spontaneous uprising of every friend of freedom
rallying around the flag of his country—that sacred symbol of our
individual faith—which will proclaim to the world in tones more potent
than heaven’s thunder-peal that we HAVE a Government stronger and more
enduring than that of kings and potentates, because founded on equal and
exact justice, the offspring of man’s holiest and noblest nature, the
attribute of God himself.”

Two years later, he wrote in a letter to another friend,—

“Great God! in what a melancholy condition is our country now! _An
ineradicable curse begin at the very root of his heart that harbors a
single thought that favors disunion._ May God avert the overwhelming

He made himself familiar with the triumphs of American genius in every
department of industry and art, and glowed with pride over the names of
his illustrious countrymen. The following brief letter reveals his
heart. He never had any personal acquaintance with the brilliant man
whose departure he thus mourns.

                                           “NEW YORK, July 15th, 1859.

  “MY DEAR OAKES,—It is with the deepest emotions I have just heard of
  the death of Rufus Choate. His decease is an irreparable loss to the
  whole country. A noble citizen, a peerless advocate, a great
  patriot, has gone, and there is no one to supply his place. In the
  fall of this great man death has obtained a victory and humanity
  suffered a defeat.

                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

One other letter of his should be preserved in this connection, for its
eloquent expression of blended friendship and patriotism:

                                       “PHILADELPHIA, July 28th, 1862.

  “MY DEAR FRIEND,—Where are you, and what are you doing? Are you ill
  or well? I have telegraphed to you twice, and one answer is that you
  are ill, another that you are much better. I called on Mr.
  Chickering during my recent visit to New York, and he assured me you
  could not be seriously ill, or he would have been advised of it; and
  so I calmed my fears. That you have greatly suffered in mind I have
  reason to know. The death of Colonel Wyman assured me of that. You
  must have felt it intensely. But he fell nobly, in the discharge of
  a most sacred duty which consecrates his name forever among the
  defenders of the Union of his country. I too have lost friends in
  the same glorious cause,—peace and renown to their ashes! Among them
  one, the noblest of God’s manly creatures, Colonel Samuel Black, of
  Pennsylvania. Enclosed you have a merited eulogy of him by our
  friend Forney, who knew him well. Let us prepare ourselves for more
  of the same sad bereavements. This unnatural war, which has already
  ‘widow’d and unchilded many a one,’ has not yet reached its
  fearfullest extent. The Union cemented by the blood of our fathers
  must and shall be preserved; this is the unalterable decree of the
  people of the Free States. Better that all the slaves should perish
  and the blood of all those who uphold the institution of slavery
  perish with them, than that this proud Temple, this glorious Union
  consecrated to human freedom, should tumble into ruins. Do you
  remember what Tom Paine, the great Apostle of Liberty, wrote to
  General Washington in 1796? ‘A thousand years hence,’ he writes,
  ‘perhaps much less, America may be what Britain now is. The
  innocence of her character, that won the hearts of all nations in
  her favor, may sound like a romance, and her inimitable virtue be as
  if it had never been. The ruins of that Liberty thousands bled to
  obtain may just furnish materials for a village tale. When we
  contemplate the fall of empires and the extinction of the nations of
  the Old World we see but little more to excite our regret than
  mouldering ruins, pompous palaces, magnificent monuments, lofty
  pyramids. But when the Empire of America shall fall the subject for
  contemplative sorrow will be infinitely greater than crumbling brass
  or marble can inspire. It will not then be said, here stood a temple
  of vast antiquity, a Babel of invisible height, or there a palace of
  sumptuous extravagance,—but here, oh painful thought! the noblest
  work of human wisdom, the greatest scene of human glory, THE FAIR

  “May God in his infinite wisdom avert from us such a moral
  desolation! Write to me soon, and tell me all about yourself. I have
  been ill of late and confined to my bed. I am now better.

                                                       “EDWIN FORREST.


The earnestness of the feeling of Forrest as an American exerted a
profound influence in moulding his character and in coloring his
theatrical representations. The satisfactions it yielded, the proud
hopes it inspired, were a great comfort and inspiration to him. And he
said that one of his greatest regrets in dying would be that he should
not see the unparalleled growth, happiness, and glory of his country as
they would be a hundred years hence.

Another source of unfailing consolation and pleasure to him was his love
of nature. He took a real solid joy in the forms and processes of the
material creation, the changing lights and shades of the world, the
solemn and lovely phenomena of morning and evening and summer and
winter, the gorgeous upholstery of the clouds, and the mysterious
marshalling of the stars. His letters abound in expressions which only a
sincere and fervent lover of nature could have used. Writing from
Philadelphia in early October, when recovering from a severe illness, he
says, “It is the true Indian summer. The sunbeams stream through the
golden veil of autumn with a softened radiance. How gratefully I receive
these benedictions from the Universal Cause!” And in a letter dated at
Savannah, November, 1870, he writes to his biographer, “Ah, my friend,
could the fine weather you boast of having in Boston make me feel fresh
and happy, Heaven has sent enough of it here to fill a world with
gladness. The skies are bright and roseate as in summer, the air is
filled with fragrance drawn by the warm sun from the balsamic trees,
while the autumnal wild-flowers waft their incense to the glorious day.
All these things I have enjoyed, and, I trust, with a spirit grateful to
the Giver of all good. Yet all these, though they may meliorate in a
degree the sadness of one’s life, cannot bind up the broken heart, heal
the wounded spirit, nor even, as Falstaff has it, ‘set a leg.’”

This taste for nature, with the inexhaustible enjoyment and the refining
culture it yields, was his in a degree not common except with artists
and poets. While acting in Cleveland once in mid-winter, he persuaded a
friend to walk with him for a few miles early on a very cold morning.
Striding off, exulting in his strength, after an hour and a half he
paused on the edge of the lake, his blood glowing with the exercise, his
eyes sparkling with delight, while his somewhat overfat companion was
nearly frozen and panted with fatigue. Stretching his hand out towards
the magnificent expanse of scenery spread before them, he exclaimed,
“Bring your prating atheists out here, let them look on that, and then
say there is no God—if they can!”

An eminent New York lawyer, an intimate friend of Forrest, who had spent
his whole life in the city absorbed in the social struggle, was utterly
indifferent to the beauties of nature. He had never felt even the
loveliness of a sunset,—something which one would think must fill the
commonest mind with glory. Walking with him in the environs of the city
on a certain occasion when approaching twilight had caused the blue
chamber of the west to blaze with such splendors of architectural clouds
and crimsoned squadrons of war as no scenic art could ever begin to
mock, Forrest called the attention of his comrade to the marvellous
spectacle. “I have no doubt,” said the lawyer, “that I have seen a great
many of these things; but I never cared anything about them.” The
disciple of Shakspeare proceeded to discourse to the disciple of Coke
upon Littleton on the charm of natural scenery, its soothing and
delight-giving ministrations to a man of taste and sensibility, in a
strain that left a permanent impression on his hearer, who from that
time began to watch the phenomena of the outward world with a new

But even more than in his professional triumphs, his increasing store of
wealth, his animal health and strength, his patriotism, or his love for
the works of God in nature, Forrest found during the last twenty years
of his life a never-failing resource for his mind and heart in the
treasures of literature. He gathered a library of between ten and
fifteen thousand volumes, well selected, carefully arranged and
catalogued, for the accommodation of which he set apart the finest
apartment in his house, a lofty and spacious room running the whole
length of the edifice. In this bright and cheerful room all the
conveniences of use and comfort were collected. Beside his desk, where
from his chair he could lay his hand on it, superbly bound in purple
velvet, on a stand made expressly for it, rested his rare copy of the
original folio edition of Shakspeare, valued at two thousand dollars.
Around him, invitingly disposed, were the standard works of the
historians, the biographers, the poets, and especially the dramatists
and their commentators. Here he added to his shelved treasures many of
the best new works as they appeared, keeping himself somewhat abreast
with the fresh literature of the times in books like Motley’s
Netherlands, Grimm’s Life of Michael Angelo, and Hawkins’s Life of Kean,
which he read with a generous relish. Here, ensconced in an arm-chair by
the window, or lolling on a lounge in the centre of the library, or
seated at his study-table, he passed nearly all the leisure time of his
lonely later years. Here he would occupy himself for many an hour of day
and night,—hours that flew swiftly, laden with stingless enjoyment,—
passing from volume to volume sipping the hived sweetnesses of the
paradisal field of literature. Here, alone and quiet in the peopled
solitude of books, he loved to read aloud by the hour together,
listening to himself as if some one else were reading to him,—the
perfection of his breathing and the ease of his articulation being such
that the labor of utterance took nothing from the interest of the
subject, while the rich music and accurate inflections of his voice
added much. Here his not numerous intimates, with occasional callers
from abroad,—Rees, Forney, and his particular favorite, Daniel
Dougherty,—would often drop in, ever sure of an honest welcome and
genial fellowship, and speed the time with wit and humor, reminiscence,
anecdote, argument, joke, and repartee, vainly seeking to beguile him
into that more general society which would have gladly welcomed what he
could so richly give and take.

An extract from a letter of his written in June, 1870, is of interest in
this connection:

“I will read Forster’s Life of Walter Savage Landor, of which you speak,
at my first leisure; though I consider Forster personally to be a snob.
You will find among my papers in your possession exactly what I think of
him. For Landor, even as a boy, I had a great admiration. I sate with
wonder while I quaffed instruction at the shrine of his genius. There is
a book just published in England which I shall devour with an insatiable
mental appetite. It is called ‘Benedict Spinoza, his Life,
Correspondence, and Ethics.’ It is the first time that his works have
been collected and published in English. So that I shall have a rare
treat. His Ethics I have read in a French translation which I found in
Paris years ago; and its perusal divided my time between the pleasures
of the town and the intellectual culture which the study of his sublime
philosophy gave me. It was called ‘Spinoza’s Ethics; or, Man’s
Revelation to Man of the Dealings of God with the World.’”

Yes, his library was indeed his sure refuge from care and sorrow, a
sweet solace for disappointment and vacancy and heartache. Here, in the
glorious fellowship of the genius and worth of all ages, he fully
gratified that love of reading without whose employment he would hardly
have known how to bear some of the years of his checkered life. An
anecdote will illustrate the strength of this habit in him and afford an
interesting glimpse of the interior of the man. In his library one
summer afternoon, the notes of birds in the trees and the hum of bees in
his garden languidly stealing in at the open window, he sat, with the
precious Shakspeare folio in his lap, conversing with his biographer. He
said, “If I could describe how large a space Shakspeare has filled of my
inward life, and how intense an interest I feel in his personality, no
one would believe me. I would this moment give one hundred thousand
dollars simply to read—even if the instant I had finished its perusal
the manuscript were to be destroyed forever—a full account of the first
eighteen years of the life of Shakspeare,—such an account as he could
himself have written at forty had he been so minded, of his joys and
sorrows, hopes and fears, his aspirations, his disappointments, his
friendships, his enmities, his quarrels, his fights, his day-dreams, his
loves; in short, the whole inward and outward drama of his boyhood.” It
was certainly one of the most striking tributes ever paid to the genius
of the immortal dramatist. A thorough familiarity with the works of
Shakspeare is of itself an education and a fortune for the inner man.
There all the known grades of experience, all the kinds of characters
and styles of life seen in the world, are shown in their most vivid
expressions. There all the varieties of thought and sentiment are
gathered in their most choice and energetic forms of utterance. There
are stimulus and employment for every faculty. There is incitement for
all ambition, solace for all sorrow, beguilement for all care,
provocation and means for every sort and degree of self-culture.
Shakspeare is one of the greatest teachers that ever lived, and those
players who have character, docility, and aspiration are his favorite
pupils. Betterton, who was born in 1635, only twelve years after the
death of Shakspeare, made a journey from London to Warwickshire on
purpose to gather up what traditions and anecdotes remained of him.
Garrick was the author of the remarkable centennial celebration of his
memory. And the voice of Kemble faltered and his tears were visible as
in his farewell speech on the stage he alluded to the divine Shakspeare.

Anecdotes of the conduct and expressions of a man when he is off his
guard and unstudiedly natural give a truer picture of his character than
elaborate general statements. And three or four brief ones may be given
to close this chapter with an impartial view of the inner life of
Forrest in its contrasted aspects of refinement and even sublimity at
one time, and of rude severity and coarseness at another.

One summer evening, when he was paying a visit to his friend Oakes, they
were at Cohasset, sitting on a piazza overhanging the sea. Mr. John F.
Mills, one of the best men that ever lived, whose beautiful spirit gave
pain to his host of friends for the first time only when he died, was
with them. There had been a long storm, and now that it had subsided the
moaning roar of the sea was loud and dismal. Forrest addressed it with
this extemporaneous apostrophe, as reported by Mr. Mills: “Howl on,
cursed old ocean, howl in remorse for the crimes you have committed.
Millions of skeletons lie bleaching on your bed; and if all our race
were swallowed there to-night you would not care any more for them than
for the bursting of a bubble on your breast. There is something dreadful
in this inhumanity of nature. Therefore I love to hear you groan, you
heartless monster! It makes you seem as unhappy as you make your victims
when they empty their stomachs into you or are themselves engulfed.
Gnash your rocky teeth and churn your rage white. Thank God, your cruel
reign will one day end, and there will be no more sea.”

The next evening they sat in the same place, but the moon was up, and
his mood was different, more placid and pensive than before. The swell
and plunge of the billows on the beach made solemn accompaniment to the
guttural music of his voice. There was a mournfulness in the murmur of
his tones as elemental and sad as the tremendous sighing of the sea
itself. “This world,” he said, “seems to me a penal abode. We have all
lived elsewhere and gone astray, and now we expiate our bygone offences.
There is no other explanation that I can think of for the tangled snarl
of human fates. True, since we are ignorant of these sins, our
punishment seems not just. But then we may some time recover memory of
all and so understand everything clearly. It is all mystery now, but if
there is any explanation I am convinced we are convicts working out our
penances, and hell is not hereafter but here. Just hear those breakers
boom, boom, boom. Do they not seem to you to be drumming the funereal
Rogue’s March for this Botany Bay of a world?”

A stranger to Forrest, merely to gratify his vanity by drawing the
attention of a company to his speech, said he had seen the celebrated
actor drunk in the gutter. The friend who reported this to Forrest would
not reveal who the man was. But one day he pointed him out on the
opposite sidewalk. The outraged and angry tragedian went quietly over
and accosted the slanderer; “Do you know Edwin Forrest, and do you say
you once saw him drunk in the gutter?” On receiving an affirmative reply
he broke out in the strong vernacular of which he was a master, “Now,
you sneaking scoundrel and lying calumniator, I am Edwin Forrest. I ache
all over to give you the damnedest thrashing you ever tasted. But it is
against my principles. I should be ashamed of myself if I stooped to
take such advantage of your cowardly weakness. But, while I will not do
it with my body, in my mind I kick and spit on you. Now pass on, and
relish yourself, and be damned, you human skunk.”

Although Forrest used much profane language, his real spirit was not an
irreverential one. His profanity was but an expletive habit, a safety-
valve for wrath. When expostulated with on the custom, he said, “I never
knowingly swear before ladies or clergymen, lest it should shock or
grieve them. But at other times, when it is necessary either for proper
emphasis or as a vent for passion too hot and strong, why I let it rip
as it will.”

In connection with the Broad Street mansion which he occupied at the
time of his death, Forrest built and fitted up a handsome private
theatre. John Wiser, a scenic artist, arranged and painted it. At its
completion Forrest seated himself in a large chair, and, after
expressing his pleasure at the effect, said, “John, do you know what
would be the most delightful sight in the world, eh? If I could only see
this room filled with children, and a company of little boys and girls
playing on that stage.”

One day when Forrest was walking with a friend in Brooklyn a beggar
accosted them. Tears were in his eyes, and he had a ragged exterior as
well as a tottering form and a pale and sunken look. With a plaintive
voice he said, “For the love of heaven, gentlemen, give me a trifle for
the sake of my starving family. You will not feel it, and it will
relieve a half a score of hungry ones. Will you not aid me?” Forrest
looked at the man for a moment as if reading his very soul, and then
said, while placing a golden eagle in his hand, “Yes, my friend, you are
either a true subject for charity or else the best actor I ever saw.”

Forrest always carried his professional humor and docility with him. He
gave a ludicrous description of an amateur grave-digger who lived in
Philadelphia. He was worth fifty thousand dollars, yet whenever a grave
was to be made he liked to have a hand in it. His nose was so turned up
that his brains might have been seen, had he possessed any. And his
voice was a perfect model for the second grave-digger in Hamlet, saying,
“The crowner hath set on her, and finds it Christian burial.”

A strolling exhibitor of snakes came to Louisville when Forrest was
playing there in his youth. Wishing to feel the strongest emotions of
fear, that he might utilize the experience in his acting, Forrest asked
the man to take care of the head of a boa-constrictor some twelve feet
in length and let the hideous reptile crawl about his naked neck. He
never forgot the cold, clammy slip of the coils on his flesh and the
sickening horror it awakened.

                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                     PRIZES AND PENALTIES OF FAME.

The next important feature to be studied in order to appreciate the
character and life of Forrest is his experience of the prizes and the
penalties of fame. For he had a great fame; and fame, particularly in a
democratic country, inflicts penalties as well as bestows prizes. Not
one man in a thousand has enough force and tenacity of character to
determine to gain the solid and lasting prizes of life. Average men
willingly put up with cheap and transient substitutes for the real ends,
or with deluding mockeries of them. They seek passing pleasures instead
of the conditions of permanent happiness; applause instead of merit; a
crowd of acquaintances instead of true friends; notoriety or stagnant
indifference instead of fame. There is nothing more worthy of contempt,
although it is so miserably common, than the mean and whining cant which
puts negation and failure above affirmation and success, constantly
asserting the emptiness and deceit of all earthly goods. In opposition
to this morbid depreciation of every natural attractiveness without and
desire within, nothing is more wholesome or grand than a positive grasp
and fruition of all the native worths of the world. A great deal of the
fashionable disparagement and scorn of the prizes of wealth, position,
reputation, is but unconscious envy decrying what it lacks the strength
and courage to seize. The fame which a gifted and faithful man secures
is the reflex signal of the effects he has produced, and a broad, vivid,
healthy enjoyment of it is an intrinsic social good to be desired. It is
one of the greatest forces employed by Providence for the education of
men and the advancement of society. To condemn or despise it is to fling
in the face of God. The fancied pious who do this are dupes of an
impious error.

Fame is a life in the souls of other men added to our own. It is a
feeling of the effect we have taken on the admiration and love of those
who regard us with honoring attention and sympathy. It is a social
atmosphere of respect and praise and curiosity, enveloping its subject,
fostering his self-esteem, keeping his soul in a moral climate of
complacency. The famous man has a secret feeling that the contributors
to his glory are his friends, loyal to him, ready to protect, further,
and bless him. Thus he is fortified and enriched by them, their powers
ideally appropriated to his ideal use. Thus fame is the multiplication
of the life of its subject, reflected in the lives of its givers. This
is the real cause of the powerful fascination of fame for its votaries;
for there is no instinct deeper in man than the instinct which leads him
to desire to intensify, enlarge, and prolong his existence; and fame
makes a man feel that in some sense his existence is multiplied and
continued in all those who think of him admiringly, and that it will
last as long as their successive generations endure. As Conrad makes
Jack Cade say,—

                          “Fame is the thirst
              Of gods and godlike men to make a life
              Which nature made not, stealing from heaven
              Its imaged immortality.”

And so in its ultimate essence and use fame represents a magnified and
prolonged idealization of direct personal experience. It is ideal means
of life, a deeper foundation and wider range of reflected sympathetic
life embracing and sustaining immediate individual life. This great
prize is evidently a good to be desired, the evils connected with it
belonging not to itself but to unprincipled methods of pursuing it,
vulgar errors in distributing it, and the selfish perversion of its true
offices. It exists and is enjoyed in various degrees, on many different
levels, from the plebeian enthusiasm for the champion boxer to the
aristocratic recognition of a great thinker. As we ascend in rank we
lose in fervor. Fame is seen in its ruddiest intensity at the funeral of
Thomas Sayers celebrated by fifty thousand screaming admirers; in its
palest expansion in the renown of Plato, whose works are read by
scattered philosophers and whose name glitters inaccessibly in the
eternal empyrean. The reason for this greater heat of glory on its lower
ranges plainly is that men feel the sharpest interest in the lowest
bases of life, because these are the most indispensable. Existence can
be maintained without transcendent talents, but not without health,
strength, and courage. Animal perfection goes before spiritual
perfection, and its glory is more popular because more appreciable.

Forrest drank the intoxicating cup of fame on widely separated levels,
from the idolatrous incense of the Bowery Boys who at the sight of his
herculean proportions shied their caps into the air with a wild yell of
delight, to the praise of the refined judges who applauded the
intellectual and imaginative genius of his Lear. It was a genuine luxury
to his soul for many years, and would have been a far deeper one had it
not been for the alloys accompanying it. He enjoyed the prize because he
had honorably won it, not sacrificing to it the more commanding aims of
life; and fame is a mockery only when it shines on the absence of the
goods greater than itself,—honor, health, peace, and love. He suffered
much on account of it, in consequence of the detestable jealousies,
plots, ranklings, and slanders always kindled by it among unhappy rivals
and malignant observers. But one suffering he was always spared, namely,
the bitter mortifications of the charlatan who has snatched the outward
semblance of the prizes of desert without paying their price or
possessing their substance. Striving always to deserve his reputation,
he did not forfeit his own esteem. The satisfaction he received from
applause was the joy of feeling his own power in the fibres of the
audience thrilling under his touch. Fame was the magnifying and
certified abstract of this,—a vast and constant assurance in his
imagination of life and power and pleasure. Dry sticks, leather men, may
sneer at the idea, but the rising moral ranks of souls are indicated by
the intensity with which they can act and react on ideal considerations.
Fame puts a favorable bias on all our relations with the approving
public, and thus enriches our inner life by aiding our sympathies to
appropriate their goods.

The actor lives in an atmosphere electrized with human publicity, and
walks between walls lined with mirrors. Everything in his career is
calculated to develop an acute self-consciousness. And then by what
terrible trials his sensitiveness is beset in his exposure to the
opposite extremes of derision and eulogy! Dr. Johnson, alluding at one
time to the sensibility of Garrick, said, contemptuously, “Punch has no
feelings.” At another time, praising his genius, he said, sublimely,
“His death eclipsed the gayety of nations.” The actor tastes the
sweetness of fame more keenly than any other, because no other lives so
directly on it or draws the expression of it so openly and directly.
Bannister was invited by the royal family at Windsor one evening to read
a new play, and was treated with the utmost regard. The very next night
he was stopped by a footpad, who, dragging him to a lamp to plunder him,
discovered who he was, and said, “I’ll be damned if I can rob Jack
Bannister.” Having thus the esteem of both extremes of society, it is
safe to conclude that he enjoyed the admiration of all between. And this
boon of public honor and love will seem valuable to a performer in
proportion to the quickness and depth of his emotional power. “The awful
consciousness,” said Mrs. Siddons, “that one is the sole object of
attention to that immense space, lined as it were with human intellect
all around from top to bottom, may perhaps be imagined, but can never be
described.” A vulgar performer would rush on as if those heads were so
many turnips. The genius of imaginative sensibility is the raw material
for greatness. Forrest had much of this, although his self-possession
was so strong; and under his composed exterior, even after he had been
thirty years on the stage, he often shrank with temporary trepidation
from the ordeal of facing a fresh audience. His enjoyment of the
tributes paid to him was commensurately deep.

And, stretching through the long fifty years of his professional course,
how varied, how numerous, how interesting and precious, these crowded
tributes were! There was no end to the compliments paid him, echoes of
the impression he had made on the country. Now it was a peerless race-
horse, carrying off prize on prize, that was named after him. Then it
was some beautiful yacht, club-boat, or pilot-boat, of which there were
a dozen or more to whose owners he presented sets of flags. At another
time it was a noble steamer or merchantman, of which there were a good
many named for him, each adorned with a statue of some one of his
characters as a figure-head. Locomotives and fire-engines also were
crowned with his name and his likeness. Military companies, too, took
their titles from him and carried his face copied on their banners. The
following letter indicates another of the results of his fame:

                                        “WALTHAM, February 12th, 1871.


  “DEAR SIR,—Being one of the small army of boys called after you, I
  should feel happy to receive some token from my illustrious
  namesake, if nothing more than his autograph. Hoping to see you
  before you leave the stage,

                                        “I am respectfully yours,
                                                “EDWIN FORREST MOORE.”

Seven different dramatic associations, composed of amateurs and
professionals, were formed in the cities of Portland, Boston, New York,
and elsewhere, bearing his name. And the notices of him in the
newspapers were to be reckoned by thousands, ranging all the way from
majestic eulogium to gross vituperation.

Portraits of him, paintings, engravings, photographs, in his own
individuality and in his chief impersonations, were multiplied in many
quarters. Numerous plaster casts of him, four or five busts in marble,
and one full-length statue of surpassing grandeur, were taken. Many
celebrated artists studied him, from Gilbert Stuart, whose Washington
stands supremely immortal in American portraiture, to William Page,
whose lovingly elaborated Shakspeare may become so in creative
portraiture. Page has depicted Forrest in the role of Spartacus. He
shows him at that moment of the scene in the amphitheatre where he
utters the words which he never spoke without moving the audience to
repeated bursts of applause: “Let them come in: we are armed!” The last
portrait ever painted by the dying Stuart was of Forrest, then in his
youth and only just beginning to become famous. Forrest used often to
speak of his sitting to Stuart, whose strong fiery soul was enclosed in
a frame then tottering and tremulous with age. “He was an old white
lion,” said Forrest, “and so blind that I had to tell him the color of
my eyes and of my hair. By sudden efforts of will he _threw_ the lines
and bits of color on the canvas, and every stroke was speech.”

Of the likenesses of Forrest published in this volume, the frontispiece
is engraved from a daguerreotype of him at the age of forty-six; the
succeeding one is from a painting by Samuel Lawrence, and shows him as
he was at twenty-eight; the last one is from a photograph taken when he
was in his sixty-seventh year. The illustrations of him in dramatic
characters are from photographs made after he had passed sixty and had
suffered partial paralysis. They do no justice to him as he appeared in
his perfect meridian.

Of all the expressions of admiration, affection, pleasure, called forth
by a professional artist, of all the forms or signals of fame, perhaps
none is more flattering or more delightful to the recipient than the
tributary verses evoked from souls endowed with the poetic faculty. As
such natures are finer and higher than others, their homage is
proportionally more precious. During his life more than fifty poems
addressed to Forrest were published, and gave him a great deal of pure
pleasure. A few specimens of these offerings may properly find a place

The following lines felicitously copied were thrown upon the stage to
him one evening in a bouquet:

                           TO EDWIN FORREST.

                 When Time hath often turned his glass,
                   And Memory scans the stage,
                 Foremost shall then thy image pass,
                   The Roscius of this age.

The succeeding piece was written in 1828:

                           TO EDWIN FORREST.

     Young heir of glory, Nature’s bold and favorite child,
     Nurtured ’midst matchless scenes of wild sublimity,
     Thou who wert reared with sternest truth in groves of song,
     To thy bare arm the grasp is given to hurl the bolts
     Of wrathful heaven. ’Tis thine, with thundering voice to shake
     Creation to her centre, wakening love or rage,
     And show thyself as angels or as demons are.
     Yea, thou didst seem, as at the shrine I saw thee kneel,
     With that bold brow of thine, like some creation bright
     From higher spheres breathing thy inspiration there,
     As if the Altar’s flame itself had lit thine eye
     With all the dazzling radiance of the Deity.
     Go forth. Already round thy brow the wreath of fame
     Amidst thy godlike locks with classic grace is curled.
     Go forth, and shine, the Sun of the dramatic world!

                                                   R. M. WARD.

The next piece, in which he is associated with his friend Halleck, is
dated 1830:

                           TO EDWIN FORREST.

         When genius, with creative fancy fraught,
         Moulds some new being for the sphere of thought,
         How the soul triumphs as, supremely blest,
         She opes her temple to the welcome guest,
         And her white pulses feel, with answering glow,
         The kindred breath of the young presence flow!

         Such moments, bright as hours in heaven that bring
         To spirits life, a pure and deathless thing,
         Cheer him who, warm with poesy’s true flame,
         Rears in his bower of song the birds of fame;
         He whose wreathed locks the lyric laurels wear
         Green with immortal dew and cloudless air;
         Whose harp-chords wildly echoed back the swell
         Of glory’s clarion when BOZZARIS fell,—
         Thus knew his human fancies grow divine,
         And poured their spirit o’er the happy line.

         Yet not alone the sons of song can feel
         This joy along the grateful senses steal.
         To him who, musing, waits at Nature’s throne,
         And feels, at last, her wealth become his own,
         Then with the priceless gold, thought, passion, heart,
         And feeling, tempers to the test of art,
         Blends these with poesy’s mysterious spell
         Strange as the sigh of ocean’s rosy shell,
         No less belong the triumph-throb, the pride
         To mind-ennobling sympathies allied,
         The deep emotion, and the rapture free;
         And these, O Forrest, we behold in thee!

         Who e’er has marked thine eye, thy matchless mien,
         While, all forgetful of the mimic scene,
         Spurning the formal, manner-taught control,
         Thou bar’st the fire that lightens in the soul,
         Has deemed there moved the form that Shakspeare drew
         From visions bright with passion’s warmest hue,
         As, wildly garbed in awful tragic guise,
         MACBETH, OTHELLO, LEAR, he saw arise.

         When the last outrage of oppression falls
         On man enthralled by man, and Freedom calls
         Some champion to flash her steel where’er,
         Bloody and black, death, shrieking, hovers near,
         Who can portray like thee the throe of hate
         Which warns the tyrant of his dreadful fate?
         Who image forth th’ exalted agony
         Of strife and maddening hope of victory?
         There thrills an echo of the pulse, the tone,
         That universal man exults to own,
         A voice which teaches craven souls that War
         For right than guilty Peace is holier far;
         Nor suffers them to breathe and pass away
         As dust that ne’er forsook its primal clay.

The lines that follow next were printed in 1852, after the divorce

                           TO EDWIN FORREST.

  In every soul where Poesy and Beauty find a place,
  Thy image, Forrest, sits enshrined in majesty and grace.
  Could but the high and mighty bard, whose votary thou art,
  Have seen with what a matchless power thou swayest the human heart,
  He too had bowed beneath the spell and owned thy wondrous sway,
  And bound thy brow with laurel, and with flowers strewn thy way.

  The clouds of grief that for a time obscured thy brilliant morn,
  Like to the envious shadows that would dim the rising sun,
  Meridian’s fame has put to flight. Cast not thy glances back,
  But in the light of fearless genius hold thine onward track.

                                                    MARGARET BARNETT.

This sonnet was written in the same year:

                           TO EDWIN FORREST.

          King of the tragic art! without compeer!
          Thy sway is sovereign in the scenic realm;
          And where thy sceptre waves, or nods thy helm,
          All crowd to be thy royal presence near.
          Thou speakest,—we are stilled; the solemn Past,
          Rich with grand thought, and filled with noble men
          Over whose lives and deeds time’s veil is cast,
          Rises to view, and they do live again!
          While thou dost tread life’s stage, thy lofty fame,
          Undimmed, shall grow, and be the drama’s pride
          Centuries hence, when all shall see thy name
          Carved deep and high her noblest names beside;
          And, with the noblest placed, will aye be found,
          In Thespis’ fane, thy statue, laurel-crowned!

                                                  R. H. BACON.

Here is a tribute penned in 1862, in the midst of our civil war:

                       EDWIN FORREST AS “DAMON.”

               Great master of the tragic art,
                 Whose genius moves the passions’ spring,
               To melt the eye and warm the heart
                 With love of virtue, hate of sin,
               Is it our nation’s bleeding fate
                 That gives thee such heroic fire
               Singly to brave the Senate’s hate
                 And faith for country’s good inspire?
               Yes; ’tis not all the mimic scene
                 We view when now beholding thee;
               The heart-strung voice and earnest mien
                 Of “Damon” breathe pure liberty.
               The test of friendship true is there;
                 But hope for freedom more than life
               Starts the usurping tyrant near—
                 Pleads for the boy—weeps for the wife.
               O art divine! when Forrest brings
                 His matchless eloquence to bear,
               Denouncing treason’s poisonous stings,
                 While for his loved land falls the tear,
               The temple of the Muses, filled
                 With beauty, fashion, youth, and age,
               Proves admiration for the skilled
                 And perfect artist of the stage.

                                       G. C. HOWARD.

And a year later the following eloquent verses were published by their
author in the Philadelphia “Press:”


                   Pride of the Grecian art,
                     King of the glorious act,
                   Whose sceptre-touch can start
                     From airiest fancy fact!
                   Sole monarch of the stage!
                     Thy crowning is the truth
                   That garners unto age
                     The laurel-wreaths of youth.
                   Were massive mien or mould
                     Of Thespian gods divine
                   E’er richer in the gold
                     Of Thespian grace than _thine_?
                   A voice that thrills the soul
                     Through all her trembling keys,
                   From deepening organ-roll
                     To flute-born symphonies;
                   An eye that gleams the light
                     Of Tragedy’s quick fire,
                   And soul that sweeps aright
                     Each grandest poet-lyre,—
                   These into living thought,
                     FORREST! in thee sublime
                   The Thespian gods have wrought,
                     A masterpiece for Time!

                   Not from the clods of earth
                     ’Mid grovelling toil and strife
                   Thy GENIUS hailed her birth
                     To all her peerless life;
                   Her viewless home hath been
                     Where Poesy hath flung
                   Its sweetest words to win
                     The music of thy tongue!
                   How Manhood’s honor rose,
                     How perished Woman’s shame,
                   When robed in worth and woes
                     Thine own VIRGINIUS came!
                   How Freedom claims a peal
                     And Tyranny a knell
                   When BRUTUS waves the steel
                     Where Slave and Tarquin fell!
                   When SPARTACUS leads on
                     Each gladiator-blade,
                   Or feudal tyrants fawn
                     To lion-hearted CADE,—
                   How every listening heart
                      its narrow span,
                   And, in that glorious art,
                     Adores the peerless man!

                   But dearer than the rest
                     We own thy mystic spell
                   To lave the lingering breast
                     Where Avon’s sweetness fell!
                   To marshal from the page
                     And summon from the pen
                   Of SHAKSPEARE, to _thy_ stage,
                     His living, breathing men!
                   No longer Shakspeare’s line,
                     But _studious_ gaze controls;
                   It girds and gilds from _thine_
                     The multitude of souls!
                   While Genius claims a crown,
                     Or mimic woe a tear,
                   Paled be the envious frown
                     And dumb the cynic sneer
                   That barreth from thy heart
                     Or veileth from thy name
                   The loftiest, grandest part
                     Of histrionic FAME!

                                             C. H. B.

A single sonnet more shall end these examples of the poetic tributes to
the genius and worth of Forrest; tributes which, adding lustre to his
career and shedding comfort and joy into his heart, were and are one of
the most attractive illustrations of the value and sweetness of the
prize of fame:


    Light-born, and limned by Heaven! It is no cheat,
      No image; but himself, his living shade!
    With hurried pulse, the heart leaps forth to greet
      The man who merits more than Tully said
    Of his own Roscius, that the histrion’s power
      Was but a leaf amid his garland wreath.
    His swaying spirit ruled the magic hour,
      But his vast virtues knew no day, no death.
    He seems not now, but is. And I do know,
      Or think I do, what meaning from those lips
    Would break; and on that bold and manly brow
      There hangs a light that knows not an eclipse,
    The light of a true soul. If art can give
    The bodied soul this life, who doubts the soul will live?

                                                  ROBERT T. CONRAD.

Public and private banquets were given in honor of the actor by
distinguished men in all parts of the country, occasions drawing
together brilliant assemblages and yielding the highest enjoyment to
every faculty of sense and soul. To meet around the social table, decked
with everything that wealth and taste can command, the most eminent
members of the learned professions, artists, authors, statesmen, the
leaders of the business world, beautiful and accomplished women, and
pass the hours in friendly converse seasoned with every charm of culture
and wit, is one of the choicest privileges society can bestow in
recognition and reward of worth and celebrity. Among the more notable of
these honors may be mentioned as especially brilliant and locally
conspicuous at the time a dinner given him at Detroit by General Lewis
Cass, one at Cincinnati by his old friend James Taylor, one at New
Orleans by a committee of the leading citizens, including some of his
early admirers, and, later, one at Washington by his intimate and
esteemed friend Colonel Forney, then Clerk of the House of
Representatives. During one of his engagements in Washington he dined
with a distinguished company under the princely auspices of Henry Clay.
The great Kentuckian, in allusion to Pierre Soulé, a Louisiana Senator,
who was a passionate orator but wanting, perhaps, in sobriety of
judgment and steadiness of character, said to one of the guests, “A mere
actor, sir, a mere actor!” At that instant chancing to catch the eye of
Forrest, he promptly added, with the courteous grace of self-possession
and winsome eloquence native to his thoroughbred soul, “I do not allude,
Mr. Forrest, when I use the word actor thus demeaningly, to those men of
genius who impersonate the great characters of Shakspeare and the other
immortal dramatists, holding the very mirror of truth up to nature; I
refer to the man who in real life affects convictions and plays parts
foreign to his soul.”

At a banquet given in honor of John Howard Payne, the first vice-
president, Prosper M. Wetmore, an old and dear friend of Forrest, paid
him a compliment which, received as it was by the brilliant company with
three times three enthusiastic cheers, must have given him a proud
pleasure. Mr. Wetmore said, “Before mentioning the name of the gentleman
whose health I am about to ask you to drink, I take this opportunity to
say a word in relation to the generosity of his heart and the richness
of his mind. He was one of the very first who took an interest in the
festival of Thursday last, and kindly offered his name and services to
add to the attractions of the evening. He has always been the foremost
to do his share in honoring our sons of genius; and his purse has never
been shut against the meritorious who stood in need of his bounty. His
talents as an actor you all know and appreciate. Allow me to give you—
Edwin Forrest:

              “His health; and would on earth there stood
                Some more of such a frame,
              That life might be all poetry,
                And weariness a name.”

Such as above described were the satisfactions afforded to Forrest by
his fame. They are what thousands have vainly wished to win, fondly
believing that if they could gain them they should be happy indeed. But
to these advantages there are drawbacks, corresponding to these prizes
there are penalties, which were experienced by Forrest in all their
varieties of bitterness. The evils which dog the goods of public life,
as their shadows, went far to disenchant him, to sour him, to make him
turn sadly and resentfully into himself away from the lures and shams of

To any man of honorable instincts, clear perceptions, and high
principles, the incompetency, corruption, and selfish biases of many of
those who assume to sit in judgment on the claims of the competitors for
public favor and glory, the shallowness and fickleness of the average
public itself, the contemptible means successfully used by ignoble
aspirants for their own advancement and the defeat of their rivals, the
frequent reaction of their own modesty and high-mindedness to obscure
and keep down the most meritorious, have a strong influence to rob
ambition of its power, destroy all the relish of its rewards, and make
fame seem worthless or even odious. Critics write in utter ignorance of
the laws of criticism or standards of judgment, and even without having
seen the performance they presume to approve or to condemn. Claqueurs
are hired to clap one and to hiss another irrespective of merit or
demerit. Wreaths, bouquets, rings, jewelled snuff-boxes, are purchased
by actors or actresses themselves, through confederates, to be then
presented to them in the name of an admiring public. A vase or cup or
watch has been known to go with a popular performer from city to city to
be presented to him over and over with eulogistic addresses of his own
composition. A brazen politician, successful in compassing a nomination
and election by shameless wire-pulling, mendacity, and bribery, then
receives the tribute of an ostentatious testimonial of which he is
himself the secret originator and prime manager. No one who has not had
long experience of the world and been admitted behind the scenes, with
the keys for interpreting appearances, can suspect how common such
things are. They are terribly disheartening and repulsive to a generous
soul. They destroy the splendor and value of the outward prizes of
existence, and thus paralyze the grandest motives of action. When fools,
charlatans, and swindlers carry off honors, then wisdom, genius, and
heroism are tempted to despise honors. When the owl is umpire in a
contest of song between the donkey and the nightingale, and awards the
prize to the brayer, the lark and the mocking-bird may well decline to
enter the lists.

In the fashionable rage for Master Betty, Kemble and Siddons were quite
neglected; as the levee of Tom Thumb drew a throng of the nobility and
fashion of London while poor Haydon, across the street, watched them
with a gnawing heart from the door of his deserted exhibition. Cowper
says in his “Task,”—

                                 “For Betty the boy
           Did strut and storm and straddle, stamp and stare,
           And show the world how Garrick did not act.”

When, with pompous incompetency, Lord Abercorn told Mrs. Siddons that
“that boy would yet eclipse everything which had been called acting in
England,” she quietly replied, with crushing knowledge, “My lord, he is
a very clever, pretty boy, but nothing more.” Garrick said it was the
lot of actors to be alternately petted and pelted. And Kemble, when
congratulated on the superb honors given him at his final adieu to the
stage, responded, “It was very fine, but then I could not help
remembering that without any cause they were once going to burn my
house.” Genius and nobility naturally love fame, worship the public,
would pour out their very life-blood to gain popular sympathy and
admiration; but after such experiences of baseness and wrong and error
the fascination flies from the prizes they had adored as so sacred, and
never more do their souls leap and burn with the old enthusiasm of their
unsophisticated days. The injustice of the world drives from it the love
and homage of its noblest children.

Parasites and egotists seek association with a famous man merely to
gratify their vanity, though they call it friendship. They fawn on him
to share a reflection of his glory, to reap advantage from his
influence, or to beg loans of his money; and when circumstances unmask
their characters and show how they were preying on his frankness, he is
revolted and his confidence in human nature shaken. Many a man of a
sweet and loving nature, like the noble Timon, has gone out to the world
with throbbing heart and open arms, and, met with selfishness and
treachery, reacted into despair and hate. One of the penalties of a
great reputation with its personal following is to be annoyed by
sycophants, toadies, the impertinent curiosity of a miscellaneous throng
who have neither genuine appreciation for talent nor sincere love for
excellence, but a pestiferous instinct for boring and preying. Mrs.
Siddons, bereaved of her children amidst her great fame, was so annoyed
by worrying interruptions, assailed by envy, slandered by enemies, and
vexed by parasites, that she breathed the deepest wishes of her soul in
these lines:

               “Say, what’s the brightest wreath of fame,
                 But cankered buds that opening close?
               Ah, what the world’s most pleasing dream,
                 But broken fragments of repose?

               “Lead me where peace with steady hand
                 The mingled cup of life shall hold,
               Where time shall smoothly pour his sand,
                 And wisdom turn that sand to gold.

               “Then haply at religion’s shrine
                 This weary heart its load shall lay,
               Each wish my fatal love resign,
                 And passion melt in tears away.”

The falsehood, the injustice, the plots, insincerity and triviality that
gather about the surfaces and course of a showy popular career Forrest
experienced in their full extent. He was not deceived by them, but saw
through them. They repelled and disgusted him, angered and depressed
him. They did not make him a misanthrope, but they chilled his demeanor,
hardened his face, checked the trustfulness of his sympathy, and gave
him an increasing distaste for convivial scenes and an increased liking
for his library and the chosen few in whom he could fully confide. He
was a man who esteemed justice and sincerity above all things else.
Flattery or interested eulogy he detested as much as he did venal
prejudice and blame. He loathed the unmeaning, conventional praises of
the journals, the polite compliments of acquaintances or strangers, but
was glad of all honest estimates. His dignity kept him from mingling
with the audience as they conversed on their way out of the theatre, but
he loved to hear what they said when it was repeated by one whom he
could trust. Nothing more surely proves that deep elements of love and
pride instead of shallow vanity and selfishness formed the basis of his
character than the fact that he hated to mix in great companies, either
public or private, where he was known and noticed, but loved to mingle
with the population of the streets, with festive multitudes, where,
unrecognized, he could look on and enter into their ways and pleasures.
“It is a great feat,” he used to say, “to resist the temptations of our
friends.” He did it when he withdrew from the obstreperous enthusiasm of
those who adulated him while revelling at his expense and shouting, “By
heaven, Forrest, you are an institution!”—forsaking them, and giving
himself exclusively to nature, his art, his books, and his disinterested

The practice of the arts of purchasing unearned praise, the tricks of
the mean to circumvent the noble, the accredited verdicts of titled
ignorance, and the fickle superficiality of popular favor, lessen the
value of common fame in the eyes of all who understand these things.
They foul its prizes and repel ingenuous spirits from its pursuit. The
same influence is exerted in a yet stronger degree by the experience of
the malignant envy awakened in plebeian natures by the sight of the
success of others contrasted with their own failure. It was long ago
remarked that

              “With fame in just proportion envy grows;
              The man that makes a character makes foes.”

The selfishness—not to say the innate depravity—of human nature, as
transmitted by historic inheritance, is such that every one who has not
been regenerated by the reception or culture of a better spirit secretly
craves a monopoly of the goods which command his desires. He dislikes
his competitors, and would gladly defeat their designs and appropriate
every waiting laurel to himself. In 1865 Forrest wrote, in a letter to
Oakes, “Yes, my dear friend, there are many in this world who take
pleasure in the misfortunes of their fellow-men and gloat over the
miseries of their neighbors. And their envy, hatred, and malice are
always manifested most towards men of positive natures.”

Souls of a generous type leave this base temper behind, and rejoice in
the glory of a rival as if it were their own. But mean souls, so far
from taking a disinterested delight in the spectacle of triumphant
genius or valor justly crowned with what it has justly won, are filled
with pain at the sight, a pain obscenely mixed up with fear and hate.
Wherever they see an illustrious head they would fain strike it down or
spatter it with mud. Their perverse instincts regard every good of
another as so much kept from them. There was a powerful passage in the
play of Jack Cade which Forrest used to pronounce with tremendous
effect, ingravidating every word with his own bitter experience of its

         “Life’s story still! all would o’ertop their fellows;
         And every rank, the lowest, hath its height,
         To which hearts flutter with as large a hope
         As princes feel for empire! but in each
         Ambition struggles with a sea of hate.
         He who sweats up the ridgy grades of life
         Finds in each station icy scorn above;
         Below him, hooting envy!”

The extent to which this dark and malign power operates in the breasts
of men is fearful. The careless see it not, the innocent suspect it not;
carefully disguising itself under all sorts of garbs, it dupes the
superficial observer. But the wise and earnest student of human life who
has had large experience knows that it is almost omnipresent. In every
walk of society, every profession,—even in the Church and among the
clergy,—are men who fear and hate their superiors simply because they
are superior, and the inferiors feel themselves obscured and taunted by
the superiority. A good free man loves to reverence a superior, feels
himself blessed and helped in looking up. But the slave of egotism and
envy feels elevated and enriched only in looking down on those he
fancies less favored than himself. It is a frightful and disheartening
phase of human nature; but it ought to be recognized, that we may be
guarded against it in others and stimulated to outgrow it in ourselves.

No other profession is so beset by the temptations and trials of this
odious spirit as the histrionic, which lives directly in the public
gaze, feeding on popular favor. And among all the actors America has
produced, no other had so varied, so intense and immense an experience
of the results of it as Forrest. He wrote these sad and caustic words in
his old age: “For more than forty years the usual weapons of abuse,
ridicule, and calumny have been unceasingly levelled at me, personally
and professionally, by envious associates, by ungrateful friends turned
traitors, by the hirelings of the press, and by a crowd of causeless
enemies made such by sheer malignity.” In a speech made twenty-two years
previously in the Walnut Street Theatre, in response to a call before
the curtain, he had said, “I thank you with all my heart for this
glorious and generous reception. In the midst of my trials it is
gratifying to be thus sustained. I have been assailed, ladies and
gentlemen, by a fiendish combination of enemies, who, not content with
striking at my professional efforts, have let loose their calumnies upon
my private character and invaded the sacred precincts of my home. Apart
from the support of my ardent and cherished friends is the consciousness
that I possess a reputation far dearer than all the professional honors
that the world could bestow,—a reputation which is dearer to me than
life itself. I will therefore pursue unawed the even tenor of my way. I
will, with God’s blessing, live down the calumnies that would destroy me
with my countrymen; and, turning neither to the right hand nor to the
left hand, will fearlessly toil to preserve to the last the reputation
of an honest and independent American citizen.”

To a man of his keen feeling and proud self-respect it must have been a
torture to read the studiously belittling estimates, the satires, the
insults, the slanderous caricatures continually published in the
newspapers under the name of criticism. No wonder they stirred his rage
and poisoned his repose, as they wounded his heart, offended his
conscience, and made him sometimes shrink from social intercourse and
sicken of the world. One critic says, “He is an injury to the stage. He
has established a bad school for the young actors who are all imitating
him. He has a contempt for genius and a disrelish for literature.”
Against this extract, pasted in one of his scrap-books, Forrest had
written, “Oh! oh!” A second writes, “It is impossible for us to admit
that a man of Mr. Forrest’s intelligence can take pleasure in making of
himself a silly spectacle for the amusement of the ignorant and the
sorrow and pity of the educated. We prefer to believe that it is even a
greater pain for him to play Metamora than it is for us to see him play
it. In that case, how great must be his anguish!” A third philosophizes
thus on his playing: “The best performances of Mr. Forrest are those
tame readings of ordinary authors which offer no opportunity for
enormous blunders. In the flat, dreary regions of the commonplace he
walks firmly. But he climbs painfully up Shakspeare as a blind man would
climb a mountain, continually tumbling over precipices without seeming
to know it. He shocks our sensibilities, astonishes our judgment,
bewilders and offends us; and this is at least excitement, if not
entertainment. But his Brutus is a remarkably stupid performance. The
only way in which he can redeem its stupidity is to make it worse; and
if he wants to do this he must inspire it with the spirit of his Hamlet
or his Othello.” A fourth makes malicious sport at his expense in this
manner: “Mr. Forrest excels every tragedian we remember in one grand
achievement. He can snort better than any man on the stage. It is an
accomplishment which must have cost him much labor, and of which he is
doubtless proud, for he introduces it whenever he gets a chance. His
snort in Hamlet is tremendous; but that dying, swan-like note, which
closes the career of the Gladiator, is unparalleled in the whole history
of his sonorous and tragic nose. It must be heard, not described. We can
only say that when he staggers in, with twenty mortal murders on his
crown, with a face hideous with gore, and falls dying on the stage, he
sounds a long, trumpet-like wail of dissolution, which is the most
supernaturally appalling sound we ever heard from any nose, either of
man or brute.” And a fifth caps the climax by calling him “A herculean
murderer of Shakspeare!” So did a critic say of Garrick, on the eve of
his retirement, “His voice is hoarse and hollow, his dimples are
furrows, his neck hideous, his lips ugly, especially the upper one,
which is raised all at once like a turgid piece of leather.” “He is a
grimace-maker, a haberdasher of wry faces, a hypocrite who laughs and
cries for hire!” Well might Byron exclaim,—

               “Hard is his fate on whom the public gaze
               Is fixed forever to detract or praise.”

A servile fawning on the press, a cowardly fear of its censures, a
tremulous sensitiveness to its comments, is one of the chief weaknesses
of American society. Its unprincipled meddlesomeness, tyranny, and
cruelty are thus pampered. A quiet ignoring of its impertinence or its
slander is undoubtedly the course most conducive to comfort on the part
of one assailed. But the man who has the independence and the courage
publicly to call his wanton assailant to account and prosecute him, even
though shielded by all the formidable immunities of an editorial chair,
sets a good example and does a real service to the whole community.
Every American who values his personal freedom should crown with his
applause the American who seizes an insolent newspaper by the throat and
brings it to its knees; for unkind and unprincipled criticism is the
bane of the American people. The antidote for this bane is personal
independence supported by personal conscience and honor in calm defiance
of all prying and censorious espionage. This would produce individual
distinction, raciness, and variety, resulting in an endless series of
personal ranks, with perfect freedom of circulation among them all;
whereas the two chief exposures of a democracy are individual envy and
social cowardice, yielding the double evil of universal rivalry and
universal truckling, and threatening to end in a dead level of conceited
mediocrity. The envy towards superiors which De Tocqueville showed to be
the cardinal vice of democracy finds its worst vent in the newspaper
press, which assails almost every official in the country with the
foulest accusations. Are these writers destitute of patriotism and of
faith in humanity? Are they ignorant of the fact that if they convince
the public that their superiors are all corrupt the irresistible reflex
influence of the conviction will itself corrupt the whole public?

That American citizen who has original manhood and lives a fresh, honest
life of his own, regardless of the dictation of King Caucus or Queen
Average,—the most heartless and vulgar despots that ever reigned,—sets
the bravest of examples and teaches the most needed of lessons. Fenimore
Cooper did this, criticising the errors and defects of his fellow-
citizens as an enthusiastic and conscientious patriot should who sets
humanity and truth above even country and fashion, and in consequence he
was misunderstood, lampooned, and insulted by the baser newspapers, and
finally, after one or two hundred libel suits, hounded into his grave.
If they ever come to their senses, his repentant countrymen will one day
build him a monument. Forrest was much this sort of man. He asserted
himself, resented and defied dictation, and wanted others to do the
same. He secured at different times a verdict with damages against the
proprietors of four newspapers, and threatened libel suits against three
others, which he withdrew on receiving ample public apology. The apology
given in one instance, where he had been professionally abused and
personally accused of drunkenness, is of so exemplary a character that
it ought to be preserved. And here it is:

“It will perhaps be remembered by most of our readers that Mr. Edwin
Forrest brought a libel suit against the proprietors of this paper for
articles which appeared in our issues of 10th, 17th, and 24th of
November, 1867. The solicitations and representations of mutual friends
have induced Mr. Forrest generously to consent to the withdrawal of the
case. Under these circumstances it becomes our duty as it is our
pleasure, to express our regret at the publication of the articles in

“The articles complained of were, we frankly admit, beyond the limits of
dramatic criticism; and the present proprietors, who saw them for the
first time when printed, were at the time and still are sincerely sorry
they appeared. Though not personally acquainted with Mr. Forrest, we do
know, what the world knows, that he has always been prompt and faithful
in his professional engagements; and his bitterest enemies, if he have
any, must admit that he is not only eminent in his profession but
especially free from the vice of intemperance.”

The newspaper attack from which he suffered the most was so peculiar in
some of its features as to demand mention. In 1855 a series of elaborate
critiques on his chief rôles appeared in a leading metropolitan journal.
They were so scholarly, careful, and strong in their analysis of the
plays, and so cutting in their strictures on the player, that they
attracted wide attention and did him much damage. Now, two hands were
concerned in these articles. The learning, thought, and eloquence were
furnished by a German of uncommon scholarship and talent, who deeply
felt the power and merit of Forrest as an actor and considered him a man
of accomplished dramatic genius. The articles, as he wrote them, were
then padded with demeaning epithets and scurrilous estimates of Forrest
by one who was filled with prejudices theoretical and personal. Could
Forrest have totally disregarded the articles, fortified in a
magnanimous serenity, it had been well. He could not do it. He took them
home with extreme pain and with extreme wrath, intensely resenting their
injustice and their unkindness. This is a specimen of what is inflicted
and suffered in the battle of public life. It tempts one to say, Blessed
is the man who escapes all publicity, and lives and loves and dies
happily in private! No doubt, however, it is best to say, with the grand
old Faliero,—

              “I will be what I should be, or be nothing.”

His long, crowded experience of unfairness and unkindness deposited in
Forrest a burning grudge against the world, a fierce animosity towards
his injurers, an angry recoil of self-esteem, and a morbid exaggeration
of the real vices of society. In one of his letters to a friend he
writes, “This human life is a wretched failure, and the sooner
annihilation comes to it the better.” An old poet makes one of his
characters who had been deeply wronged say,—

             “I will instruct my sorrows to be proud,
             For grief is proud and makes his owner stout.”

Mrs. Montagu wrote to John Philip Kemble under similar circumstances,
“If you retire, from an opinion that mankind are insincere, ungrateful,
and malignant, you will grow proud by reflecting that you are not like
these Pharisees.” How such an opinion in Forrest marred his peace of
mind and rankled in his general feelings—although much kindliness to men
and much enjoyment of life still remained—was obvious enough in his
later years, and is vividly expressed in many of his letters. “It would
amaze and shock the honest, upright people of this country,” he writes,
“could they but know as I do how these sage judges, these benign law-
peddlers, are manipulated by outsiders to give any decree that malice
and money may demand.” Again he writes, “I have all my life been cheated
and preyed on by harpies, right and left. While they have enjoyed my
money and maligned me I have toiled on for the next batch of swindlers.
I have squandered more than a quarter of a million dollars on friends
who, with a few noble exceptions, have returned my kindness not only
with ingratitude but with obloquy.” And at another time he says still
more at length, “Whatever my enemies may say of me—be it good or bad—
matters but little. I would not buy their mercy at the price of one fair
word. I claim no exemption from the infirmities of my temper, which are
doubtless many. But I would not exchange the honest vices of my blood
for the nefarious hypocrisies and assumed virtues of my malignant
detractors. I am no canting religionist, and I cordially hate those who
have wronged and backbitten me. I have—yes, let me own that I have—a
religion of hate; not of revenge, for while I detest I would not injure.
I have a hatred of oppression in whatever shape it may appear,—a hatred
of hypocrisy, falsehood, and injustice,—a hatred of bad and wicked men
and women,—and a hatred of my enemies, for whom I have no forgiveness
excepting through their own repentance of the injuries they have done
me. I have never flattered the blown-up fool above me nor crushed the
wretch beneath me.

                 “‘I have not caused the widow’s tear,
                   Nor dimmed the orphan’s eye;
                 I have not stained the virgin years,
                   Nor mocked the mourner’s cry.’”

“As for those who misjudge and mislike me, I hate and defy them, and
appeal for justice to Nature and God, confident that they will one day
grant it.”

These expressions but too plainly reveal the sore places in his heart.
Ah, could he but have attained a sweet and magnanimous self-
sufficingness, frankly forgiven and forgotten his foes, and outgrown all
those chronic contempts and resentments,—could he but have turned his
thoughts away from brooding over the vices of men, and dwelt
prevailingly on the other side of the picture of the world,—how much
more peaceful and dignified and happy his age would have been! But this
is hardly to be expected of one passionately struggling in the emulous
arena, his veins swollen with hot blood in which still runs the barbaric
tradition, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. To expurgate that
old animal tradition and introduce in its place the saintly principle of
forgiveness needs patient suffering and leisurely culture grafted on a
fine spirit. When this result is secured, man rises superior to wrong,
to enmity, to disgrace, is content to do his duty and fulfil his destiny
in the love of truth and humanity, sure that every one will at last be
rewarded after his deserts, and letting the cruel or ridiculous caprices
of fortune and fame pass by him as unregarded as the idle wind.

It would not be fair to the truth of the case if this chapter left the
impression that Forrest found on the whole the penalties of his fame
bitterer to bear than its prizes were sweet to enjoy. The opposite was
the fact. The annoyances attendant on his great reputation alloyed but
destroyed not the comfort it yielded in its varied tributes and in its
vast supporting sense of sympathetic life. Besides, the very vexations
consequent on it were often accompanied by their own outweighing
compensations. Sallying out of the Tremont House in Boston, one
forenoon, arm in arm with his friend Oakes, and passing down Washington
Street, his attention was caught by a hideous caricature of himself in a
shop-window. A group of boys were gazing at it in great merriment. “Good
heavens, Oakes,” he cried, “just look at that infernal thing! It is
enough to make one curse the day he was born.” At that moment one of the
boys recognized him, and exclaimed to the others, “Here he is!” Forrest
whispered to his friend, “Boys are impartial; they have not the
prejudices men have. I am going to ask them their opinion. Look here,
boys, do I look like that?” One of them, a little older than the rest,
answered, promptly, “Well, we knew that it was you; but then you see
there is this difference,—this makes us laugh, and you make us cry.”
“Thank you, my lad, thank you,” responded Forrest, “Come on, Oakes; I
have got better than I bargained for. My enemy when he produced that
beastly monstrosity little dreamed what a pleasure he was going to give
me.” And, as they swung slowly along, he said, half musingly, “I wonder
why they always degrade me by caricature and never exalt me by
idealization.” The solution, which he left unattempted, is this.
Caricature is the exaggeration of bad points, idealization is the
heightening of good points. It is much easier to make the bad appear
worse than it is to make the good appear better. Man intuitively likes
to attempt what he feels he can succeed in, and dislikes to attempt what
he feels he shall fail in. Therefore, when commonplace natures represent
their superiors they lower them by travesty rather than raise them by
improvement. And so in critical art caricature abounds over

                              CHAPTER XIX.
                          GAIN, GRIEF AND JOY.

In addition to the satisfaction yielded by his professional triumphs,
the growth of his fortune, the enjoyment of his health and strength, his
taste for literature, his delight in nature, his love of country, and
the tributes of his fame, there was another element in the life of
Forrest which was of eminent importance, the source of a great deal of
comfort and not a little pain,—his friendships. Some sketch of this
portion and aspect of his experience must be essayed, though it will
perforce be a brief and poor one because these delicate concerns of the
heart are shy and elusive, leaving few records of themselves as they
glide secretly to oblivion enriching only the responsive places which
they bless and hallow as they pass. There are many histories which no
historian writes, and the inmost trials and joys of the soul are mostly
of them.

Friendship, in our times, is more thought about and longed for than it
is talked of, and more talked of than experienced. Yet the experience
itself of men differs vastly according to their characters, situations,
and companions. To some, in their relations with humanity, the world is
made up of strangers; they have neither acquaintances, enemies, nor
friends. To some it consists of enemies alone. To a few it holds only
friends. But to most men it is divided into four groups,—a wilderness of
strangers, a throng of acquaintances, a snarl of enemies, and a knot of
friends. Among the members of this larger class the chief distinctions
lie in the comparative number and fervor of their lovers and of their
haters, and in the comparative space they themselves assign to their
experience respectively of sympathy and of antipathy. Some men pursued
by virulent foes have the gracious faculty and habit of ignoring their
existence, giving predominant attention to congenial persons, and
forgetting annoyances in the charm of diviner employment. Others are
continually infested by persecutions and resentments as by a species of
diabolical vermin which tarnish the brightness of every prize, destroy
the worth of every boon, and foster a chronic irritation in
consciousness. To hate enemies with barbaric pertinacity of
unforgivingness tends to this latter result, while to love friends with
frank and joyous surrender tends to the former. Both the sinister and
the benign experience were well illustrated in the life of Forrest, who
had sympathetic companionship richly and enjoyed it deeply, although he
was pestered by a mob of parasites, censors, and assailants whom he
religiously abhorred and loathed. Hostility filled a large, dark, sad,
cold place in his history, friendship a prominent, bright, warm, and
happy place. The two facts have their equal lesson,—one of warning, one
of example. Blessed is the fortunate man who cherishes his friends with
loving enthusiasm, but never has a single grudge or fear or sneer for a

The universal interest felt in the subject of friendship—the strange
fascination the story of any ardent and noble instance of it has for all
readers,—the intense longing for such an experience which exists
explicit or latent in the centre of every heart in spite of all the
corrupting and hardening influences of the world—is a pathetic signal of
the mystery of our nature and a profound prophecy of our destiny. It
means that no man is sufficient unto himself, but must find a complement
in another. It means that man was not made to be alone, but must
supplement himself with his fellows. The final significance of
friendship—whereof love itself is but a specialized and intensified
variety—is an almost unfathomable deep, but it would appear to be this.
Every man in the structure and forces of his physical organism is an
epitome of all Nature, a living mirror of the material universe; and in
the faculties and desires of his soul he is a revelation of the Creator,
a conscious image of God. As the ancients said, man is a little universe
in the great universe,—_microcosmos in macrocosmo_. But every one of
these divine microcosms has a central indestructible originality
differencing it from all the rest. This is the eternal essence or monad
of its personality, which reflects in its own peculiar forms and colors
the substances and lights and shades of the whole. Thence arises that
inexhaustible charm of idiosyncrasy, that everlasting play and shimmer
of individual qualities, which constitutes the lure for all pursuit, the
zest wherewith all life antidotes the monotonous bane of sameness and
death. Now the secret of friendship becomes clear in the light of these
statements. First, it is the destiny of every man eternally to epitomize
in his own being the universe of matter and mind,—in other words, to be
an intelligent focal point in the surrounding infinitude of nature and
the interior infinitude of God. Secondly, he is to recognize such an
epitome embodied and endlessly varied in the endless variety of other
men, all of whom are perfectly distinguishable from one another by
unnumbered peculiarities, every shape and tinge of their experience
determined by their personal moulds and tints. Thirdly, the entire life
of every person consists, in the last analysis, of a mutual
communication between his selfhood and that surrounding Whole made up of
everything which is not himself,—an interchange of action and reaction
between his infinitely concentrated soul and his infinitely expanded
environment. Fourthly, when two men, two of these intellectual and
sentient microcosms, meet, so adjusted as mutually to reflect each other
with all their contents and possibilities in sympathetic communion,
their life is perfected, their destiny is fulfilled, since the infinite
Unity of Being is revealed in each made piquant with the bewitching
relish of foreign individuality, and nothing more is required, save
immortality of career in boundless theatre of space, to round in the
drama with sempiternal adventures and surprises, as, beneath the
sleepless eye of the One, the Many hide and peep beneath their incarnate
masks in life after life and world beyond world. Thus the highest idea
of the experience of friendship is that it is God glimmering in and out
of the souls of the friends in revelation of their destiny,—as Plato
would say, the perpetually varied perception of the SAME under the
provocative and delightful disguise of the OTHER. And every lower idea
of it which has any truth is in connection with this and points up to
it,—from the revellers who entwine their cups and attune their glee, the
soldiers who stand side by side in battle, and the politicians who vote
the same ballot, to the thinkers who see the same truths and the martyrs
who die in allegiance to the same sentiment. Everywhere, on all its
ranges, friendship means communion of lives, sharing of thought and
feeling, co-operative fellowship of personalities, the reflection of one
consciousness in another. Those who meet only at the bottom of the scale
in sensual mirth should be able sometimes, at least by the aid of a
literary telescope, to see those who commingle at its top in immortal
faith and aspiration.

Forrest possessed in a marked degree many of the qualities of a good
friend; although, of course, it is not pretended that he had the mental
disinterestedness, the refined spirituality, or the profound philosophic
and religious insight which calls one to the most exalted style and
height of friendship as it is celebrated for perpetual remembrance in
the In Memoriam of Tennyson. He was affectionate, quick of perception,
full of spontaneous sympathy and a deep and wide humanity, strictly
truthful, in the highest degree just in his principles and purposes
though often badly warped by prejudice, prompt in attention, retentive
in memory, and inflexibly faithful to his pledge. If he was proud, it
was not an arrogant and cruel pride, but a lofty self-assertion bottomed
on a sense of worth. And even in regard to his irascible temper, the
inflammability and explosiveness were on the surface of his mind, while
tenderness, justice, and magnanimity were in its depths, excepting where
some supposed meanness or wrong had caused hate to percolate there. The
keenness and tenacity of his feelings took effect alike in his
attractions and repulsions, so that he was as slow to forget a comrade
as he was to forgive a foe. In London he saw two carriage-dogs who had
been mates for years running along together, when one of them was
crushed by a wheel and killed. The other just glanced at him, and,
without deigning so much as to stop and smell of him, trotted on. From
the sight of this Forrest caught such a contempt for the whole breed of
carriage-dogs that he could never afterwards look at one without
disgust. It was hardly fair perhaps to spread over an entire race what
was the fault of one, but the impulse was generous. So long as any man
with whom he had once been friends behaved properly and treated him
justly he remained as true as steel to his fellowship. But open
dereliction from duty, or clear degradation of character, or, in
particular, any instance of baseness, cowardice, or treachery, moved his
scorn and anger and fatally alienated him. It will be remembered that
while yet a mere youth he played very successfully at Albany with Edmund
Kean, whose genius he idolized. After the play a man whom he had always
liked said to him, “Your Iago was better than Kean’s Othello.” Forrest
says, “I never spoke to that man again!”

There was a strong feeling of kindness and admiration between him and
Silas Wright, the celebrated Democratic Senator from New York. The day
was once fixed for an important debate between Silas Wright and Daniel
Webster. Early in the morning a man who had seen Wright drinking deeply
and somewhat overcharged went to Webster and said, “You will have an
easy task to-day in overthrowing your adversary; he already reels.”
Indignant at the meanness of the remark, the great man frowned darkly
and answered in his sternest tones, “Sir, no man has an easy victory
over Silas Wright, drunk or sober,” and stalked away. Forrest used to
tell this anecdote with characteristic relish of the rebuke pride gave
impertinence. He could well appreciate traits of character and modes of
conduct which he did not profess to practise but openly repudiated for
himself. For instance, though he preferred truth to charity when they
were opposed, he often quoted with the warmest admiration the sentiment
uttered by some one on the death of Robert Burns: “Let his faults be
like swans’ feet, hid beneath the stream.” And he also once said, “The
finest eulogy I ever heard spoken of General Grant was, as uttered by an
old acquaintance of his, ‘He never forgot a friend nor remembered an
enemy.’ Ah, is not that beautiful? If it be justly said, as I am sorry
to say I very much doubt, it sets a grace around his head which he
himself could never set there.” It is certainly a very curious—though
not at all an extraordinary—illustration of human nature to set against
the above utterance of Forrest the following quotation from a letter of
his dated Syracuse, October 5, 1868: “I saw by the telegraphic news in
the paper this morning that George W. Jamieson was killed last night by
a railroad train at Yonkers. God is great; and justice, though slow, is
sure. Another scoundrel has gone to hell—I trust forever!”

Of the very large number of friends Forrest had, his intimacy continued
to the end of life with but comparatively few. Fatal barriers and chill
spaces of separation came between him and a great many of them, caused
sometimes by mere lapse of time and pressure of occupation or removal of
residence and change of personal tastes, sometimes by alienating
disagreements and collisions of temper. These estrangements were so
numerous that he acquired the reputation of being a quarrelsome man and
hard to get along with, which was not altogether the fact.

One class of his earlier friends were in many cases converted into
enemies on this wise. Boon companions are easy to have, but cheap,
superficial, fickle. Genuine friendship, on the other hand, generous
community of life and aspiration, co-operative pursuit and enjoyment of
the worthiest ends, is a rare and costly prize, requiring virtues and
imposing tasks. Multitudes therefore are tempted to put up with jovial
fellowship in the pleasures of the table and let the desire for an
ennobling intercourse of souls die out. The parasitic and treacherous
nature of most pot-fellowship is proverbial. How well Shakspeare paints
it in his version of Timon! When the eyes of the generous Athenian were
opened to the selfishness of his pretended friends he became so rankling
a misanthrope that the Greek Anthology gives us this as the epitaph
sculptured on his sepulchre:

           “Dost hate the earth or Hades worse! Speak clear!
           Hades, O fool! There are more of us here.”

Forrest was not many years in learning how shallow, how selfish, how
untrustworthy such comrades were. He had too much ambition, too much
earnestness and dignity to be satisfied with a worthless substitute for
a sacred reality. He would not let an ungirt indulgence of the senses in
conviviality take the place of a consentient action of congenial souls
in the enjoyment of excellence and the pursuit of glory. More and more,
therefore, he withdrew from these scenes of banqueting, story-telling,
and singing, and found his contentment more and more in books, in the
repose and reflection of solitude, and in the society of a select few.
The most of those whom he thus left to themselves resented his defection
from their ways, and repaid his former favor and bounty with personal
dislike and invidious speech.

Another class of his quondam friends he broke with not on the ground of
their general principles and social habits but in consequence of some
particular individual offence in their individual character and conduct.
His standard for a friend—his standard of honesty, sincerity, and manly
fairness—was an exacting one, and he brooked no gross deviation from it.
When he believed, either correctly or incorrectly, that any associate of
his had wilfully violated that standard, he at once openly repudiated
his friendship and walked with him no more. In this way dark gaps were
made in the ranks of his temporary friends by the expulsion thence of
the satellites who preyed on his money, the actors who pirated his
plays, the debauchees who dishonored themselves, the companions who
betrayed his confidence and slandered his name. And thus the crowd of
his revengeful assailants was again swelled. A single example in
illustration of his conduct under such circumstances is marked by such
racy vigor that it must be here adduced. A man of great smartness and of
considerable distinction, with whom he had been especially intimate, but
whom, having discovered his unworthiness, he had discarded, sought to
reingratiate himself. Forrest wrote him this remarkable specimen of
terse English:

                                          “NEW YORK, January 14, 1859.

  “I hope the motives which led you to address me a note under date of
  13th inst. will never induce you to do so again. Attempts upon
  either my credulity or my purse will be found alike in vain. No
  person however malicious, as you assume to believe, could change my
  opinion of you. Your intention to write a book is a matter which
  rests entirely with yourself. May I, however, take the liberty of
  suggesting that at this late day such a thing is not really needed,
  to illustrate your character, to alter public opinion, nor to prove
  to the world how great a dust can be raised by an ass out of place
  in either diplomacy or literature? There is already enough known of
  your career to prove that your task of becoming the apologist for a
  prostitution which has girdled the globe is one congenial to your
  tastes, fitted to your peculiar abilities, and coincident with your
  antecedents even from your birth to the present day.

                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

Furthermore, an important circle of his most honored friends fell away
from Forrest under circumstances peculiarly trying to his feelings. All
those who in the time of his domestic unhappiness and the consequent
lawsuits sympathized with the lady and supported her cause against him
he regarded as having committed an unpardonable offence. He would never
again speak with one of them. It was a heavy defection. It inflicted
much suffering on him and bred a bitter sense of hostility towards them,
with a sad feeling of impoverishment. For the places they had occupied
in his heart and memory were thenceforth as so many closed and sealed
chambers of funereal gloom.

But, after all the foregoing failures have been allowed for, there
remain in the life we are contemplating a goodly number of friendships
full of hearty sincerity and wholesome human helpfulness and joy,—
friendships unstained by vice, unbroken by quarrels, undestroyed by
years. Several of these have already been alluded to; especially the
supreme example in his opening manhood, his relations with the eloquent,
heroic, and generous William Leggett. Some account also has been given
of his endeared intimacy with James Lawson, who first greeted him on the
night of his first appearance in New York, and whose faithful attachment
to his person and interests grew closer and stronger to the day of his
death, never for an instant having seen the prospect of a breach or
known the shadow of a passing cloud. “My friend Lawson,” said Forrest,
when near his end, “is a gentleman on whom, as Duncan remarked of the
thane of Cawdor, I have always built an absolute trust. He has, in our
long communion of nigh fifty years, never failed me in a single point
nor deceived me by so much as a look, but has been as good and kind to
me as man can be to man.” Here is one of his letters:

                                          “PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 1, 1869.

  “DEAR LAWSON,—I am glad you like the notice of _Spartacus_. It was
  written by our friend Forney, in his hearty and friendly spirit.

  “My dear friend Lawson, it is not money that I play for now, but the
  excitement of the stage keeps me from rusting physically and
  mentally. It drives away the canker care, and averts the progress of
  decay. It is wholesome to be employed in ‘the labor we delight in.’
  What prolonged the life of Izaak Walton, but his useful employments,
  which gave vigor to his mind and body, until mildly drew on the slow
  necessity of death? I hope to take you by the hand when you are
  ninety, and tell some merry tales of times long past. Day after to-
  morrow I leave home for Cincinnati, and shall be absent in the West
  for several months, and return with the birds and the buds, to see
  you once more, I hope, in your usual enjoyment of health and
  happiness. God bless you.

                                              “Your sincere friend,
                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

And now some examples of less conspicuous but true and valued
friendships, selected from among many, claim brief place in this
narrative. William D. Gallagher, a Quaker by persuasion, a man of
literary tastes and a most quiet and blameless spirit, cherished from
boyhood a fervid admiration and love for Forrest ever gratefully
appreciated by him. He took extreme pains to collect materials for the
biography of his friend, materials which have been often used in the
earlier pages of this volume. Forrest desired his biographer, if he
could find appropriate place in his work, to record an acknowledging and
tributary word in memory of this affectionate and unobtrusive friend.
The fittest words for that purpose will be the following citation from a
letter of Forrest himself. “I deeply regret to inform you of the death
of William D. Gallagher, who on his recent visit to Boston was so much
pleased in forming your acquaintance and hearing your discourses. He was
a man to be honored and loved for his genuine worth. He was quite free
from every vice of the world. He carried the spirit of a child all
through his life. He was as pure and gentle, I believe, as an angel.
Though he cut no figure in society, I was proud to know that so good a
man was my friend. I used to feel that I had rather at any time clasp
his hand than that of the heir apparent to the throne of England.”

In the chief cities which Forrest every year visited professionally he
formed many delightful acquaintances, many of which, constantly renewed
and heightened by every fresh communion of heart and life, ripened into
precious friendships. Of these, John C. Breckinridge, of Lexington,
Kentucky, and John G. Stockly, of Cleveland, Ohio, and Charles G.
Greene, of Boston, Massachusetts, may be named. But more particular
mention should be made of James V. Wagner, of Baltimore. A Baltimore
correspondent of the “National Intelligencer,” in one of his
communications, says, “We learn that the distinguished American
tragedian during his recent sojourn in this city has presented a
splendid carriage and pair of horses to his long-tried and faithful
friend, our fellow-citizen James V. Wagner. When the celebrated actor
was but a stripling and at the beginning of his career, Mr. Wagner took
him warmly by the hand, and has been his ardent admirer and friend from
that time to the present. The gift is a magnificent one, and reflects
credit on bestower and receiver. It is an establishment altogether fit
for a duke or a prince.” In 1874 a son of Mr. Wagner gives this pleasing
reminiscence of the frequent and ever-charming visits of Forrest at his
father’s house: “Often in childhood have I sat upon his knee, and, as I
then felt, listened to the words of Metamora, Jack Cade, and Lear in
broadcloth. Often did he stroke my little black locks and ask me if I
would become a carpenter, a lawyer, a minister, or a merchant. I can
testify to his fondness for young children, consequently his goodness of

Judge Conrad, the eloquent author of Jack Cade, the high-souled,
brilliant man, was a very dear and close friend of Forrest. The
impulsive and generous writer gave the appreciative and steadfast player
much pleasure and inspiration by his intercourse, and received a cordial
esteem and many important favors in return. On Forrest’s arrival from
Europe with his wife in 1846 he was greeted with this hearty letter by

  “MY DEAR MR. AND MRS. FORREST,—A thousand warm and hearty welcomes
  home! I had hoped to greet you in person, but my engagements
  preclude me that pleasure. You doubtless find that the creaking and
  crazy world has been grating upon its axis after the rough old
  fashion since you left us; that there are fresh mounds in the grave-
  yard, and fresh troubles in the way to it; but I am sure that you
  find the hearts of old as true as ever. Your wandering way has had
  anxious eyes watching over it; and your return is, in this city,
  hailed with general rejoicing. Absence embalms friendships: friends
  seldom change when so separated that they cannot offend. And to one
  who has a circle such as you have, I should think it almost worth
  while to go abroad for the luxury of returning home. Thank God that
  you are back and in health!

  “Mrs. Conrad and our girls unite with me in bidding you welcome. The
  news of your arrival made a jubilee with the children. We all look
  forward anxiously for the privilege of taking you by the hand.

                                           “Very truly your friend,
                                                       “R. T. CONRAD.”

One brief interruption to this friendship there was. It originated in
some misunderstanding which provoked anger and pain. Forrest wrote at
once, not unkindly, and asked an explanation. He was rejoiced by the
immediate receipt of the following letter, which he endorsed with the
single word “Reconciliation,” and they were again united:

                                       “PHILADELPHIA, June 25th, 1849.

  “MY DEAR FORREST,—Your letter throws the duty of apology upon me,
  and, from my heart, I ask your pardon, and will tear to tatters all
  record of what has passed. But there is no madness Coleridge tells
  us, that so works upon the brain as unkindness in those we love.

  “Forget what has passed,—but not until you have forgiven one whose
  pulses beat sometimes too hotly, but will always beat for you. This
  single cloud in our past—a past all bright to me—has been absorbed
  by the nobler and purer atmosphere of your nature. Surely it cannot
  now cast a shadow.

  “Before the receipt of your note I had written a letter under my own
  signature, replying to a brutal attack upon you in the Boston
  ‘Aurora Borealis’ in relation to your course towards dramatic
  authors. It will appear in McMakin’s ‘Courier,’ and I have seized
  the occasion to make some editorial remarks upon the subject that
  will not dissatisfy you; and, as the circulation of the ‘Courier’ is
  nearly wide as that of the wind, I think it will do good.

  “Let me sign this hasty note as most truly and heartily

                                                    “Your friend,
                                                        “R. T. CONRAD.


The friendship with James Taylor, described in a previous chapter of
this biography, which was so pleasant and valuable to Forrest at the
time, never died, but was kept fresh and strong to the last. This will
appear from the interesting letters that follow:

                                  “FIRE ISLAND, N.Y., July 14th, 1870.


  “MY DEAR FRIEND,—When you were last at my house I promised you a
  copy of my portrait of George F. Cooke. I could not until now
  procure such a copy as I thought worthy to be sent you. It was first
  photographed and then painted, and is an exact counterfeit of the
  original. It is not full size. Several attempts were made to get a
  good photograph copy, or _negative_, and in the present size it was
  the most perfect. The history of this picture (I mean the one in my
  possession) is as follows: A young gentleman by the name of Jouitt
  studied portrait-painting with Sully in 1816, and on his leaving for
  his native State, Kentucky, Sully presented him with this picture of
  Cooke, being a copy of his _original picture of the great
  tragedian_. Jouitt presented the picture to Captain John Fowler, of
  Lexington, Ky., in 1818, and he on his death-bed in 1840 gave it to
  me. He was an old pioneer, and came to Kentucky with my mother in
  1783. Now, my old and much-admired friend, please accept this
  portrait as a testimony of my high regard for you as a gentleman and
  a man of genius. I often have a vivid recollection of the old times
  when we were together,—the night you slept with me at Kean’s Hotel,
  and the New Year’s dinner at Ayer’s Hotel with Clay, Merceir, and
  others. We were young then, full of life, hope, and enthusiasm; and
  I do not feel old yet. These days, my friend, I look back on with
  pleasure. I was not then vexed or troubled with the cares of life.
  If we should never meet again, I wish you much happiness and length
  of days. I am here enjoying the breezes of ‘Neptune’s salt wash,’
  fishing, and sailing. I shall return to New York in a week or ten
  days. Please write to me at the St. Nicholas, as I desire to know
  whether the picture reached you uninjured.

                                           “Yours very sincerely,
                                                       “JAMES TAYLOR.”

                                       “FIRE ISLAND, August 1st, 1870.


  “MY DEAR FRIEND,—Yours of the 21st of July was forwarded to me from
  New York at the close of last week, and I regret that it was out of
  my power to comply with your request to meet you at your home in
  Philadelphia. I have been here now over three weeks,—a most
  delightful cool place,—and I only regret that I have to leave it in
  the midst of the hot season to return to Kentucky, where business
  calls me. I am gratified that you liked the portrait; it is in fact
  a true copy of the original. Dear Ned, I often think of our young
  days in Lexington with our friends Lewis, Turpin, Clay, and others,
  and how happy we were amidst those scenes. But they are gone, and we
  are almost old men. I hope we shall gracefully go down to death,
  having courageously fought the battle of life. You will leave a name
  and a fame behind you as one of the great masters of the dramatic
  art. Should you again visit the West, you know where to find your

                                                       “JAMES TAYLOR.”

Another letter, much longer and more important, was addressed by Mr.
Taylor to S. S. Smith, a common friend to the two persons,—a friend of
whom Forrest once wrote to Oakes, “If my old friend S. S. Smith does not
go to heaven when he dies, the office of door-keeper there is a sinecure
and the place might as well be shut up. He is one of the most honest,
kind-hearted, trustworthy men I have ever known. I have always cherished
the warmest esteem for him.” This letter was written after the death of
Forrest, and contains a most interesting and touching tribute to him. It
belongs in the closing chapter rather than here.

Among the long- and well-cherished friends of Forrest, of a later date
than Taylor, were the two distinguished New York counsellors John Graham
and James T. Brady. The sudden death of the latter at the zenith of his
manhood called from him a strong expression of feeling in a letter to
one of their common friends: “The death of Brady shocked me very much.
He was a genial, noble man, and an eloquent and honest lawyer,—every way
so unlike the pettifogging peddlers of iniquity and the corrupt and
ermined ruffians of the bench whom we have known. I feel honored in
saying that I was his friend and that he was mine. His place will not
easily be supplied with any of those who knew him, and could not know
him without loving him. What an interesting figure he was, and how he
drew all eyes where he came, with his beating heart, his bright frank
face, his large and warm presence! He was a contrast indeed to those
commonplace creatures concerning whom nobody cares anything, and never
asks who they are, or what they do, or whence they come, or where they
go. I regret that he should have died and not have made friends with
John Graham. How I should like to have been instrumental with you in
bringing about a reconciliation between them!”

And now we come to the central, crowning, supreme friendship which most
of all alleviated the life and blessed the heart of Forrest alike when
he was young and when he was old,—the glowing bond of cordiality that
knit his soul with the soul of James Oakes. One of the two partners in
this happy league of unselfish love and faithful service has passed
through nature to eternity, while one still lives. To do justice to the
relation on the side of the former it is necessary to know something of
the character of the man who sustained the other side of it. And though
it is a delicate office, and one somewhat offensive to fashion, to speak
frankly of the traits of the living, except indeed in assault and
censure, yet, since truth is truth, and moral lessons have the same
import whether drawn from those who are alive or from those who are
dead, one who is called to tell the story of a departed Damon may
perhaps venture honestly and with modesty to depict his lingering

Oakes is a man of positive nature, downright and forthright, as blunt
and strong in act and word as Forrest himself, and, so far, fitted to
meet and mate him. He has made a host of foes by his bluff truth of
speech and deed, his sturdy standing to his opinion, his straight march
to his purpose. These foes, no matter who they were, high or low, he has
always scorned and defied with unfaltering and unrepentant vigor. He has
likewise made a host of friends, by his sound judgment always at their
service, his genially affectionate spirit, and his unwearied devotion to
gentle works of humanity in befriending the unfortunate and ministering
to the distressed, the sick, and the dying. To these friends, rich and
poor alike, and whether basking in popular favor or crushed under
obloquy, he has always been steadfastly true. No fickle misliker or mere
sunshine friend he, but, like Forrest, tenacious both in antipathies and
sympathies. His nature has ever been wax to receive, steel to retain,
the memory of injuries and of benefits, hostility and love. His
sensitive openness to the beauty of nature, to the charm of poetry, to
the voice of eloquence, to the touch of fine sentiment, is extreme.
Anything pathetic, noble, or grand makes his tears spring quicker than a
woman’s, and his blood burns with instant indignation and his heart
beats fast and loud against injustice, cruelty, or meanness. And yet he
is not what is called a society man, a careful observer of the sleek
proprieties of the polite world of conventional appearances. On the
contrary, in many things his aboriginal love of free sincerity has
shocked these. And he has been a strong lover of horses, of dogs, of
sporting life, and of the rough, warm, honest ways of fearless and
spontaneous sporting men. A soft heart, a true tongue, a clear head,
self-asserting character and life, pity for suffering, defiance to
pretension, contempt for fashion when opposed to nature, have been his
passports to men and theirs to him. From his boyhood he has taken
delight in doing kind deeds to the needy, carrying wines, fruits,
flowers, and other delicacies to the sick, being a champion for the weak
and injured, whether man or woman or child or quadruped or bird.
Hundreds of times has he been seen in drifting snow-storms, undeterred
by the pelting elements, in his wide-rimmed hat, shaggy overcoat, and
long boots up to his thighs, loaded with good things, on his way to the
bedside of some disabled friend or some poor sufferer forgotten by
others. His enemies no doubt may justly bring many accusations against
him. His friends certainly will confess his defects and faults. He
himself would blush at the thought of claiming immunity from a full
share of the weaknesses and sins of men. But no one who knows him,
whether friend or foe, can question his extreme tenderness, tenacity,
and fidelity of nature, his rare sensibility of hate for detestable
forms of character and action, his heroic adhesion and indefatigable
attentiveness to all whom he admires and loves.

His moral portrait is limned by the hand of one who had known him most
thoroughly on his favorable side as a friend for nearly all his
lifetime, in this private epistle:

                              “NEW YORK, Sunday morning, May 24, 1874.

  “MY DEAR OAKES,—Your letter of the 22d reached me yesterday morning,
  and was read and re-read with pleasure. When you tell me you foot up
  sixty-seven, I find it difficult to believe you, and if you refer me
  to the record I shall still exclaim with Beau Shatterly (do you
  remember how poor Finn used to play it?), ‘D—n parish registers!
  They’re all impudent impositions and no authority!’

  “There are a few exceptional men in the world who project their
  youth far forward into their lives, and this not so much from force
  of constitution as from the size of their hearts. You are one of
  these few phenomenal men. That you may long continue to flourish in
  perennial spring is my sincerest prayer. You have been just and
  generous (except to yourself),—to what extent you forget. I think
  the recording angel must sometimes curse your good deeds, you have
  given him or her or it (there is no sex to angels) so many to record
  in that huge log-book which is kept up aloft for future reference.
  In the race for salvation, while the saints (professional) are
  plying steel and whipcord, jostling each other and riding foul, you
  will distance them and go into the gate at an easy canter under no
  pull at all. As for me, it is different. I stood near the pyramid of
  Caius Sextius at Rome, at the grave of Keats, and read his epitaph
  by himself, ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water,’ and said,
  That ought to be mine. However, I went up the steps of the Santa
  Scala on my knees, invested fifty francs or so in indulgences, and
  left the Eternal City whiter than snow,—but perhaps only as a whited
  sepulchre is sometimes whiter than snow.

  “Excuse my levity. You will read between the lines and find plenty
  of sad and serious thoughts there. If I did not valiantly fight
  against bitter memories, I should cave.

                                            “Yours entirely,
                                                            “F. A. D.”

Oakes had many friends besides Forrest, some of whom he had known
earlier and most of whom were friends in common to them both. Among the
chief of these may be named—and they were men of extraordinary talent,
force, racy originality of character, and depth of human passion—George
W. Kendall and A. M. Holbrook, editors of the New Orleans “Picayune,”
William T. Porter, editor of the “Spirit of the Times,” Dr. Charles M.
Windship, of Roxbury, the romantic and tragic William Henry Herbert,—
better known as Frank Forrester, a sort of modern Bertrand du Guesclin,
who, when the woman he loved deceived him, resolutely severed every tie
joining him with humanity and the world, requested that no epitaph
should be written on him save “The Most Unhappy,” and quieted his
convulsed brain with a bullet,—Sargent S. Prentiss, of Mississippi,
Thomas F. Marshall, of Kentucky, George W. Prentice, Albert Pike,
Colonel Powell T. Wyman, and Francis A. Durivage. The inner lives of
such characters as these, and others whose names are not given, fully
revealed, show in human experience gulfs of delight and woe, degrees of
intensity and wonder, little dreamed of by the peaceful and feeble
superficialists who fancy in their innocence that the life of the
nineteenth century is tame and dull, wholly wanting in the extremities
of spiritual adventure and social excitement that marked the times of
old. The knowledge of the sincere life of society to day—the real
unconventional life behind the scenes—as it was uncovered and made
familiar to Forrest and Oakes, when it is suddenly appreciated by a
thoughtful scholar, an inexperienced recluse, gives him a shock of
amazement, a mingled sorrow and wonder which make him cry, “What a sad,
bitter, strange, beautiful, terrible world it is! O God! who knows or
can even faintly guess from afar the meaning of it all? These fathomless
passions of men and women, giving a bliss and a pain which make every
other heaven or hell utterly superfluous,—these temptations and crimes
which horrify the soul and curdle the blood,—these betrayals and
disappointments that break our hearts, unhinge our reason, and
precipitate us into self-sought graves, mad to pluck the secret of
eternity,—who shall ever read the infinite riddle and tell us what it
all is for?”

As the heaping decades of years rolled by, Oakes had to part with many
of his dearest friends at the edge of that shadow which no mortal, only
immortals, can penetrate. But, unlike what happens with most men, his
friendly offices ceased not with the breath of the departed. For one and
another and another and another of his old comrades, whom he had
assiduously nursed in their last hours, when all was ended, with his own
hands he tenderly closed the eyes, washed the body, put on the burial-
garments, and reverently laid the humanized clay in the earth with
farewell tears. To so many of his closest comrades had he paid this last
service that at length in his twilight meditations he began to feel a
chilly solitude spreading around. It was in such a mood that he wrote a
letter to one of the surviving and central figures of that group of
strong, brave, fiery-passioned men, who knew the full height and depth
of the romance and tragedy of human experience, and had nearly all gone,
most of them untimely, and several by their own hands. It was to Albert
Pike that he wrote. What he wrote moved Pike to compose an essay, “Of
Leaves and their Falling,” in which this touching, tributary passage
occurs. Having alluded to the dead of their circle,—Porter, Elliot,
Lewis and Willis Gaylord Clark, Herbert, Wyman, Forrest, and others,—he
proceeds: “James Oakes, of the old Salt-Store, 49 Long Wharf, Boston,—
‘Acorn’ of the old ‘Spirit of the Times,’—lives yet, as generous and
genial as ever. He loved Porter like a brother, and, in a letter
received by me yesterday, says, ‘This is my birthday! 67 is marked on
the milestone of my life just passed. Among the few old friends of my
early days who are left on this side the river, none is dearer to me
than yourself. As I creep down the western slope towards the last
sunset, my old heart turns with irresistible longings to those early
friends, my love for whom grew with my growth and strengthened with my
strength. Alas, how few are left! As I look back upon the long line of
grave-stones by the wayside that remind me of my early associates, a
feeling of inexpressible sadness possesses me, and my heart yearns
towards the few old friends left, to whom I cling with hooks of steel.’
And so he thanks me for a poem sent him, and tells me how he has worked
for the estate of Forrest, and sincerely and affectionately wishes that
God may bless me and keep me in health for many years to come.

“Ah, dear old friend! the cold November days of life have come for both
of us, and the dull bars of cloud scowl on the barren stubble-fields,
the wind blows inhospitably, and the hills in the distance are bleak and
gray and bare, and the winter comes, when we must drop from the tree,
and be remembered a little while, and then forgotten almost as soon as
the dead leaves.

“Well, what does it matter to us if we are to be forgotten before the
spring showers fall a second time on our graves, as Porter was, except
by two or three friends? What is it to the leaf that falls, killed by an
untimely frost, whether it is remembered or forgotten by its fellows
that still cling to the tree, to fall a little later in the season? Men
are seldom remembered after death for anything that you or I would care
to be remembered for.

“Porter would not have cared to be remembered by many, nor by any one,
unless with affection for his unbounded goodness of heart and
generosity. Nor am I covetous of large remembrance among men. If I
should die before him, I should wish, if I cared for anything here after
death more than a dead leaf does, to have Oakes come to my grave, as I
wish that he and I could go to that of Porter, and there repeat, in the
language to which no translation can do justice, this exquisite threnody
of Catullus:

                      INFERIÆ AD FRATRIS TUMULUM.

            Multas per gentes et multa per æquora vectus,
              Advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
            Ut te postremo donarem munere mortis,
              Et mutum nequicquam alloquerer cinerem,
            Quandoquidem Fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,
              Heu miser indigne frater ademte mihi
            Nunc tamen interea hæc prisco quæ more parentum
              Tradita sunt tristes munera ad inferias,
            Accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,
              Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

“Discontented with the translations whereof by Lamb, Elton, and Hodgson,
I have endeavored this more literal one:

          “Through many nations, over many seas,
            Brother, to this sad sacrifice I come
          To pay to thee Death’s final offices,
            And, though in vain, invoke thine ashes dumb,
          Since Fate’s fell swoop has torn thyself from me,—
          Alas, poor brother, from me severed ruthlessly!

          “Therefore, meanwhile, these offices of sorrow,
            Which, by old custom of our fathers’ years
          To the last sacrifice assigned, I borrow,
            Flowing with torrents of fraternal tears,
          Accept, though only half my grief they tell,—
          And so, forever, brother, bless thee, and farewell!”

Such as he has been above described was the man who for forty-three
years best loved Edwin Forrest and whom in return Edwin Forrest best
loved. How much this means, the narrative of their friendship that
follows will show.

At the time of their first meeting, which took place at the close of the
actor’s debut in Boston in the play of Damon and Pythias, Forrest was
within a few weeks of twenty-one and Oakes a little less than twenty.
They had so many traits and tastes in common that their souls chimed at
once. When absent they corresponded by letter, and, seizing every
opportunity for renewed personal fellowship, their mutual interest
quickly ripened into a fervent attachment. Oakes had a passion for the
theatre and the drama. He earnestly studied the principal plays
produced, and soon began scribbling criticisms. These paragraphs he
often gave to the regular reporters and dramatic critics of the
newspapers, and sometimes sent them directly in his own name to the
editors. Afterwards, over the signature of “Acorn,” he acquired good
reputation as a stated contributor to several leading journals in the
East and the South. Both he and Forrest were great sticklers for a
vigorous daily bath and scrub, and very fond of athletic exercises,
which they especially enjoyed together, an example which might be copied
with immense advantage by many daintily cultured people who fancy
themselves above it. They were about equally matched with the gloves and
the foils, if anything Forrest being the better boxer, Oakes the better
fencer, as his motions were the more nimble.

As time passed and their mutual knowledge and confidence increased, the
sympathies of the friends were more closely interlocked and spread over
all their business interests and affectional experiences, and their
constantly crossing letters were transcripts of their inner states and
their daily outer lives. They scarcely held any secret back from each
other. Forrest almost invariably consulted Oakes and carefully weighed
his advice before taking any important step. Oakes made it his study to
do everything in his power to aid and further his honored friend alike
in his personal status and in his professional glory. For this end he
wrote and moved others to write hundreds and hundreds of newspaper
notices, working up every conceivable kind of item calculated to keep
the name and personality of the actor freshly before the eyes of the
public. His letters, with the alert instinct of love, were varied to
meet and minister to the trials and condition of him to whom they were
addressed, congratulating him in his triumph, counselling him in his
perplexity, soothing him in his anger, consoling him in his sorrow. In
the innumerable letters, transmitted for nearly fifty years at the rate
of from two to seven a week, Oakes used to enclose slips snipped from
the newspapers, and extracts from magazines and books, containing
everything he found which he thought would interest, amuse, or edify his
correspondent. Thus was he ever what a friend should be,—a mirror
glassing the soul and fortunes of the counterpart friend; but a mirror
which at the same time that it reflects what exists also reveals the
supply of what is needed.

One of the charms of the correspondence of Oakes and Forrest is the
ingenuous freedom with which their feelings are expressed. A shamefaced
or frigid reticence on all matters of sentiment or personal affection
between men seems to be the conspicuous characteristic of the Anglo-
Saxon race. The most that the average well-to-do Englishman or American
can say on meeting his dearest friend is, Well, old fellow, how goes it?
Glad to see you! It is painful for a really rich and tender heart to
move about in this sterile wilderness of dumb and bashful sympathy or
frozen and petrified love. But these friends were wont to speak their
free hearts each to each without reserve or affectation. Early in their
acquaintance Oakes writes thus:

  “MY DEAR FORREST,—I cannot tell you how much delight I had in your
  visit to me. When you left, the sinking of my heart told me how dear
  you had become. The more I see of you the more I find to honor and
  to love. I set your image against the remembrance of all the scamps
  I have known, and think more highly of the human race. How I long
  for the day when you will visit Boston again or I shall come to you!
  Command my services to the fullest extent in anything and in
  everything. For I am, from top to bottom, inside and out, and all
  through, forever yours,

                                                        “JAMES OAKES.”

And Forrest replies:

  “MY DEAREST AND BEST OF FRIENDS,—Thanking you for your hearty
  letter, which has given me a real pleasure, I assure you you could
  not have enjoyed my visit more than I did. Your encouraging smiles
  and delicate attentions gave a daily beauty to my life while I was
  under the same roof with you. In my life I have had the fellowship
  of many goodly men, brave and manly fellows who knew not what it was
  to lie or to be afraid. I have never met one whose heart beat with a
  nobler humanity than yours. I am proud to be your friend and to have
  you for mine. God bless you, and keep us always worthy of one

                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

Every summer for the last thirty years of his life Forrest made it a
rule to spend a week or a fortnight with Oakes, when they either
loitered about lovely Boston or went into the country or to the seaside
and gave themselves up to leisurely enjoyment, “fleeting the time
carelessly as they did in the golden world.” Then the days and nights
flew as if they were enchanted with speed. These visits were regularly
repaid at New York, at Fonthill, at Philadelphia. Whenever they met,
after a long separation, as soon as they were alone together they threw
their arms around each other in fond embrace with mutual kisses, after
the manner of lovers in our land or of friends in more tropical and
demonstrative climes.

A single forlorn tomato was the entire crop raised at Fonthill Castle in
the season of 1851. As the friends stood looking at it, Oakes suddenly
plucked, peeled, and swallowed it. The tragedian gazed for some time in
open-eyed astonishment. At length with affected rage he broke out,
“Well, if this is not the most outrageous piece of selfishness! an
impudent and barbarous robbery! That was the tomato which I had
cherished and depended on as the precious product of all the money and
pains I have spent here. And now you come, whip out your jack-knife,
and, at one fell swoop, gulp down my whole harvest. I swear, it is the
meanest thing I ever knew done.” They looked each other in the eyes a
moment, burst into a hearty laugh, and, locking arms, strolled down to
the bank of the river.

When Forrest engaged his friend S. S. Smith to oversee the laying out of
his estate of Forrest Hill, at Covington, opposite Cincinnati, he named
one of the principal streets Oakes Avenue. When he purchased and began
occasionally to occupy the Springbrook place he named the room opposite
his own Oakes’s Chamber. In his Broad Street Mansion, in Philadelphia,
there was a portrait of Oakes in the entry, a portrait of Oakes in the
dining-room, a portrait of Oakes in the picture-gallery, a portrait of
Oakes in the library, and a general seeming presence of Oakes all over
the house. Early one summer day, while visiting there, Oakes might have
been seen, wrapped in a silk morning-gown of George Frederick Cooke,
with a wig of John Philip Kemble on his head and a sword of Edmund Kean
by his side, tackled between the thills of a heavy stone roller, rolling
the garden walks to earn his breakfast. Forrest was behind him, urging
him forward. Henrietta and Eleanora Forrest gazed out of a window at the
scene in amazement until its amusing significance broke upon them, when
their frolicsome peals of laughter caused the busy pair of laborers
below to pause in their task and look up.

Oakes was fond of being with Forrest during his professional engagements
as well as in his vacations. And the hours they then spent together
yielded them a keen and solid enjoyment. This experience was most
characteristic of their friendship, and is worthy of description. Oakes
would go to the play and watch with the most vigilant attention every
point in the performance. Then he would go behind the scenes to the
dressing-room. There the excited and perspiring actor, blowing off
steam, stripped and put himself in the hands of his body-servant, who
sponged him, vigorously rubbed him dry, and helped him to dress. Locking
arms, and avoiding all hangers-on who might be in the way, the friends
proceeded to their room at the hotel. Forrest would then throw off his
coat and boots, and loosen his nether garments so as to be perfectly at
ease, and call for his supper. It was his custom, as he ate nothing
before playing, to refresh himself afterwards with some simple dish. His
usual food was a generous bowl of cold corn-meal mush and milk. This he
took with a wholesome relish, the abstinent Oakes sharing only in
sympathy. Then was the tragedian to be seen in his highest social glory;
for he threw every restraint to the wind and gave full course to the
impulses of his nature. “Now here we are, my friend,” he would say, “and
let the world wag as it will, what do we care? Is it not a luxury to
unbutton your heart once in a while and let it all out where you know
there can be no misunderstanding? Come, go to, now, and let us have a
good time!” And a good time they _did_ have. They recalled past
adventures. They planned future ones. They gave every faculty of wit,
humor, and affection free play, without heed of any law beyond that of
their own friendly souls. Then, if he happened to be in the vein,
Forrest would tell anecdotes of other players, and give imitations of
them. He would take off with remarkable felicity the peculiarities of
Irishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Englishmen, and, above all, of negroes.
Very few comic actors at their best on the stage appear better in
portraying ludicrous dialect characters or in telling funny stories than
Forrest did on these occasions when giving himself full swing with his
friend alone, thoroughly unbent from professional duty and social
stiffness. No one who then saw him sitting on the floor mimicking a
tailor at work, rolling on the bed in convulsions of laughter, or
representing the double part of two negro woodsawyers who undertook to
play Damon and Pythias, would dream that this was the man whom the world
thought so grim and sour and gloomy. He used to say, “It is often the
case that we solemn tragedians when off the stage are your jolliest
dogs, while your clowns and comedians are dyspeptic and melancholy in
private.” There was a genuine vein of humor in him very strong and
active. He was extremely fond of indulging it. He read “Darius Green and
his Flying Machine” with great effect. He said he would like very much
to recite it to the author, Mr. Trowbridge, and then recite to him the
“Idiot Boy,” that he might perceive the contrast of the humor in the one
and the pathos in the other as illustrated by a tragedian.

Another feature in the friendship of Forrest and Oakes was their
frequent co-operation in works of mercy to the suffering and of
championship for the weak and wronged. In reading over their voluminous
correspondence many cases have been brought to light in which they took
up the cause of a poor man, an orphan, or an unfortunate widow, against
cruel and rapacious oppressors. One instance of this was where a rich
man was endeavoring by legal technicalities to defraud a widow and her
children of all the little property they had. Forrest heard of it, and
his just wrath was stirred. He wrote to Oakes to stand in the breach and
defeat this iniquity, promising to furnish whatever money was needed to
secure justice. It was a difficult case, and the poor woman was in
despair. But Oakes stood by her with acute advice and sympathy and
courage that never failed. After a hard and long fight, and a good deal
of expense, the right was vindicated. Writing to Forrest an account of
the result, and thanking him for his check, Oakes said, “This act is in
such keeping with your magnificent soul, and joins so with a multitude
of kindred deeds in reflecting lustre on you, that if my heart did not
feel at least as much satisfaction for your sake as for my own I would
tear it out and fling it at your feet.”

The following extract is from another letter:

“Your letter enclosing a hundred and fifty dollars reaches me this
moment. In an hour it will be in the hands of the poor forlorn creature
who indeed has no claim but the claim of a common humanity on either of
us, but whose near death of disease ought not to be anticipated by a
death of neglect, starvation, and cold. Your charity will now prevent
that. Once this unhappy woman moved in a high circle, envied and admired
by all. Now everybody deserts her death-garret. The Day of Judgment, if
there ever is one, will uncover strange secrets. Among the shameful
secrets dragged to light there will be glorious ones too,—like this your
response to my appeal for a desolated, forgotten outcast.”

In 1856 Forrest had a severe illness which, in connection with his
domestic sorrow and vexatious litigation, greatly depressed his spirit.
Oakes, ever watchful and thoughtful for him, held it to be essential
that he should take a prolonged respite from public life and labor. On
purpose to persuade him to this course, to which he was obstinately
averse, Oakes made a journey to Philadelphia. After their greetings he
said, bluntly, “Forrest, I have come to ask a great favor.” Forrest
broke in on his speech with these words: “Oakes, in all our long
acquaintance never once have you asked anything of me in a selfish
spirit; and often as I have followed your advice I have never yet made a
mistake when I have allowed myself to be guided by you. Whatever the
request is which you have to make, it is granted before you make it.”
Oakes was deeply moved, but, commanding himself, he said, “Your
professional life has been one of hard work. Your health is not good,
and you are no longer young. You have money enough. You are now at the
top notch of your fame. To keep your rank there you will have to make
great exertions. You ought to have a good long rest. Now I want you to
promise me that you will not act again for three years.” Forrest drew a
long breath and dropped his head forward on his breast. In a minute he
looked up and said, “Ah, my friend, you have tested me in my tenderest
point. But it shall be so.” Nearly four years passed before he again
confronted an audience from his theatrical throne and welcomed their

A group of the most ardent admirers of Forrest combined and subscribed a
handsome sum of money to secure a full-length marble statue of him in
one of his classic characters. But he shrank from the long and tedious
sittings, and refused to comply with their request. Oakes, who was
doubly desirous of securing this memorial, first as a tribute to his
illustrious friend, second as an important piece of patronage to a
gifted artist then just entering his career, now undertook the work of
persuasion. To his solicitation Forrest replied, “What troubles me is
the weary sittings I must undergo. But since you put this matter on
personal grounds, and ask me to endure the load for the sake of an old
unselfish friendship,—which cannot appeal in vain,—I yield with pleasure
to your request. Whenever Mr. Ball shall come to Philadelphia I will
submit myself with alacrity to the torture.”

The name of Thomas Ball has acquired celebrity in art since that day,
but this statue of Forrest in the character of Coriolanus will always
stand as a proud landmark in his sculptured path of fame. It was a true
work of love not less than of ambition. For in the long hours of their
fellowship in the preparatory studying and sketching and casting the
sitter and the artist grew friends. The sculptor took his model and
sailed for Florence, there to produce the work he had conceived. And
when a year and a half had gone by, the complete result, safely landed
in Boston and set up for view in an art-gallery, greeted the eyes of
Oakes and gladdened his heart. For it more than met his expectations, it
perfectly contented him. He wrote to Mr. Ball, “I am glad the statue
came unheralded to our shores, and am content to let the verdict of the
public rest on the merits of the work. I congratulate you on an
unequivocal and grand success. As a personal likeness of Forrest it is
most truthful, and as an illustration of the Shakspearean conception of
the Roman Consul it is sublime. For more than forty years I have known
this man with an intimacy not common among men. Indeed, our friendship
has been more like the devotion of a man to the woman he loves than the
relations usually subsisting between men. In all my intercourse with the
world I have never known a truer man or one with a nobler nature than
Edwin Forrest, whose real worth and greatness will not be acknowledged
by the world until he is dead. I rejoice that one of his own countrymen
has given to posterity this true and magnificent portrait of him in
immortal marble. The eloquence of this marble will outlive the
malevolence of all the enemies and of all the critics who have assailed

Forrest was indeed fortunate in the peaceful and time-enduring victory
achieved for him by the artist in this sculptured Coriolanus, whose
haughty beauty, and right foot insupportably advanced with the planted
weight of all imperious Rome, will speak his quality to generations yet
unborn. What a melancholy contrast is suggested by the words of Mrs.
Siddons after seeing the marble counterfeit of John Philip Kemble: “I
cannot help thinking of the statue of my poor brother. It is an absolute
libel on his noble person and air. I should like to pound it into dust
and scatter it to the winds.”

The Coriolanus is colossal, eight feet and a half in height and weighing
six tons. The forms and muscles of the neck, the right side of the
chest, the right arm, left forearm, feet, and lower portion of the left
leg, are delineated in perfection, the remaining parts being concealed
by the folds of the mantle which is drawn around the left shoulder,
while the head is slightly turned to the right. The face and head are
superbly finished and seem pregnant with vitality. The whole expression
is one of massive and imperious strength, adamantine self-sufficingness,
reposeful, yet animated and resolute. It represents him at that point in
the play where he repels the intercessions of his mother and wife, and

                         “Let the Volces
             Plough Rome and harrow Italy, I’ll never
             Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand
             As if a man were author of himself
             And knew no other kin.”

So much pleased was Forrest with the statue, as his lingering gaze
studied it and drank in its majestic significance reflected on him from
the superb and classic pomp of marble, that he begged the privilege of
purchasing it from the subscribers. And so it now stands in the Actors’
Home founded by his will. The enthusiastic and efficient zeal of Oakes
in securing this work drew his friend to him with an increased feeling
of obligation and of attachment, which he frankly expressed in an
eloquent letter of thanks.

Forrest and Oakes had from time to time many pleasing adventures
together. A specimen or two may be related. Strolling in a quiet square
in Baltimore, they came upon a company of boys who were playing marbles.
“My little fellows,” said the tragedian, with his deep voice of music,
“will you lend me a marble and let me play with you?” “Oh, yes,” said a
barefoot, smiling urchin, and held up a marble in his dirty paw. Forrest
took it, sank on one knee, and began his game. In less than half an hour
he had won every marble they had, and the discomfited and destitute gang
were gazing at him in astonishment. “Don’t you see,” he then said, “how
dangerous it is for you to play with a stranger, about whose skill or
whose character you are wholly ignorant? Boys, as you grow up and mix in
the fight of life it will always be useful to you to know in advance
what kind of a fellow he is with whom you are going to deal.” One of the
boys, who had been sharply eying him, whispered to another, “I guess he
is Mr. Forrest, the play-actor, you know, at the theatre.” The other
replied, “Well, I should like to go there and see if he can playact as
well as he plays marbles.” “Yes,” said Forrest, “come, all of you. I
want you to come. I will do my best to please you.” And he wrote an
order of admission for them, gave them back their marbles, and bade them

Once when he was filling an engagement in Boston, Oakes told him a story
of a humble mechanic whose landlord had compelled him to pay a debt
twice over, under circumstances of cruelty which had brought out proofs
of a most heroic honesty and refined sensibility in the poor man.
Forrest listened to the narrative with rapt attention. At its close he
exclaimed, “That landlord is a stony-hearted brute, and this mechanic is
a man of a royal soul! I must go and see him and his family before I
leave Boston.” Thanksgiving Day came that week. A friend of Oakes had
sent him for his Thanksgiving dinner an enormous wild turkey, weighing
with the feathers on twenty-seven and a half pounds. He showed this to
Forrest on Wednesday and told him they were to feast on it the next day.
“No, old chap,” replied Forrest; “you and I will dine on a beefsteak,
and take the wild turkey to the noble fellow who paid Shylock his money
twice.” Immediately after breakfast on Thanksgiving Day a barouche was
ordered, the big black turkey, looking nearly as large as a Newfoundland
dog, placed on the front seat, and Forrest and Oakes took the back seat.
They drove to the theatre. Forrest accosted the box-keeper: “Mr. Fenno,
I want for to-night’s performance six of the best seats in the house,
for an emperor and his family who are to honor me by their presence.”
Fenno gave him the tickets and declined to take pay for them. He
insisted on paying for them, saying, “They are my guests, sir.” They
then rode over to East Boston to the house of the honest man, found him,
announced their names, explained the cause and object of their visit,
and were invited in by him and introduced to his wife and four children.
Forrest kissed each one of the children. He brought in the huge turkey
and laid it on the table. Then, turning to the wife, he said, “We have
brought a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner; and if you and your noble
husband and children enjoy as much in eating it as my friend and myself
do in offering it you will be very happy. And I am sure you deserve
great happiness, and I have faith that God will give it to you all.” He
then presented the tickets for the play of Metamora, saying, “I shall
look to see if you are all in the seats before I begin to act.” Not one
of them had ever been inside of a theatre. The sensations that were
awaiting them may be imagined. When the curtain rose and Metamora
appeared on the stage amidst that tumultuous applause which in those
times never failed to greet his entrance, he walked deliberately to the
front, fixed his eyes on the little family, bowed, and then proceeded.
Throughout the play he acted for and at that group, who seemed far
happier than any titular royalty could have been. Though this happened
twenty years before his death, he never forgot when in Boston to inquire
after the _American emperor_! The honest man is still living, and should
this little story ever meet his eye he will vouch for its entire truth.

A few extracts taken almost at random from the letters of these friends
will clearly indicate the substantial earnestness and warmth of their
relation. Letters when honest and free reveal the likeness of the
writer, photographing the features of the soul, a feat which usually
baffles artistic skill and always defies chemical action.

“You will doubtless receive this note to-morrow,—my birthday,—when, you
say, you will _think_ of me. Tell me the day, my dear friend, when you
do _not_ think of me! God bless you! Last night I acted at Washington in
Damon and Pythias. The sound of weeping was actually audible all over
the house as the noble Pythagorean rushed breathlessly back to save his
friend and then to die. What a grand moral is told in that play! What
sermon was ever half so impressive in its teaching! Had Shakspeare
written on the subject he had ‘drowned the stage with tears.’”

“I cannot let this day pass without sending to you a renewed expression
of the esteem and high regard with which through so many years my heart
has unceasingly honored you. A merry Christmas to you, my glorious
friend, and a happy New Year, early in which I hope again to take you by
the hand.”

“As the years go by us, my noble Spartacus, many things slip away never
to return, and many things that stay lose their charm. But one thing
seems to grow ever more fresh and precious,—the joy of an honest
friendship and trust in manly worth. May this, dear Forrest, never fail
for you or for me, however long we live.”

“God bless you, Oakes, for your kindly greeting on the New Year’s day!
Though I was too busy to write, my soul went out to you on that day with
renewed messages of love, and with thanks to Almighty God that he has
quickened at least two hearts with an unselfish and unwavering devotion
to each other, and that those two hearts are yours and mine.”

“You are almost the only intimate friend I have had who never asked of
me a pecuniary favor, and to whom I am indebted for as many personal
kindnesses as I ever received from any. I will send you my portrait to
hang in your parlor, with my autograph, and with such words as I have
not written, and will never write, upon another.”

“It gives me great pleasure, my much-loved friend, to know that in a few
days more I shall see you again, and reach that haven of rest, the
presence of a true friend, where the storms of trouble cease to

“And now, my friend, permit me to thank you for all the delicate
attentions you so considerately showed me during my late visit, and for
your noble manly sympathy for me in the wound I received from the legal
assassins of the Court of Appeals, who by their recent decision have
trampled upon law, precedent, justice, and the instinctive honor of the
human heart.”

On the eve of his professional trip to California, Forrest wrote to
Oakes, “My dear friend, how much I should like, if your business matters
would permit, to have you accompany me to California! I would right
willingly pay all your expenses for the entire journey, and I am sure
you would enjoy the trip beyond expression. Is it not _possible_ for you
to arrange your affairs and go with me? It would make me the happiest
man in the world.”

The scheme could not be realized, and after his own return he wrote,
“Yes, in a few days I will come to you in Boston, my dear friend. We
will talk of scenes long gone, and renew the pleasant things of the past
in sweet reflections on their memory. We will hopefully trust in the
future that our friendship may grow brighter with our years, and cease,
if it must cease then, only with our lives.”

In 1864 he had written, “I think we both of us have vitality enough to
enjoy many happy years even in this vale of tears; but then we must
occupy it together. For

                    “‘When true hearts lie withered,
                      And fond ones are gone,
                    Oh, who would inhabit
                      This bleak world alone?’”

There was a partial change in his tone four years later, when he wrote,
“I think with you that we ought not to live so much asunder. Our time is
now dwindled to a span; and why should we not _together_ see the sinking
sun go brightly down on the evening of our day? What a blessed thing it
would be to realize that dream of Cuba I named to you when we last met!”

In 1870 Oakes determined to retire from business, and Forrest wrote to
him from Macon, Georgia,—

“I am glad to hear you are about to close your toils in the ‘Old Salt
House’ and give your much-worn mind and body the quiet repose they need.
In this way you will receive a new and happy lease of life, enlarge your
sphere of usefulness to your friends, and be a joy to yourself in giving
and taking kindnesses. I look forward with a loving impatience to the
end of my professional engagements this season, that I may repair to
Philadelphia, there to effect a settlement of such comforting means as
shall make the residue of your life glide on in ceaseless ease. Do not,
I beg you, let any pride or sensitiveness stand in the way of this my
purpose. It is a debt which I owe to you for the innumerable kindnesses
I have experienced at your hands, and for your unwearied fidelity to all
my interests.”

Oakes rejected the proposition, though keenly feeling how generous and
beautiful it was. Argument and persuasion from friendly lips, however,
at length overcame his repugnance, and the noble kindness—so uncommon
and exemplary among friends in our hard grasping time—was finally as
gratefully accepted as it was gladly bestowed. This gift was the most
effective stroke of _real_ acting that ever came from the genius of the
player. Taken in connection with his traits of generous sweetness and
his clouded passages of ferocious hate, it reveals a character like one
of those barbaric kings who loom gigantic on the screen of the past,
dusky and explosive with the ground passions of nature, but wearing a
coronet of royal virtues and blazing all over with the jewelry of
splendid deeds. It shows in him such a spirit in daily life as would
enable him to utter on the stage with no knocking rebuke of memory the
proud words of the noble Roman:—

             “When Marcus Brutus grows so covetous
             To lock his rascal counters from his friends,
             Be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts,
             Dash him to pieces.”

To anticipate here the sequel and earthly close of the friendship of
Forrest and Oakes would be to detract too much from the proper interest
of the last chapter of this biography. The story may well be left for
the present as it stands at this point, where a half-century of
unfaltering love and service was repaid not only by a heart full of
gratitude but also with a munificent material Philadelphia, there to
effect a settlement of such comforting means as shall make the residue
of your life glide on in ceaseless ease.

When the hand that wrote these tender words had been nigh four years
mouldering in the tomb the survivor was heard to say, “Every year, every
month, every day, I more and more appreciate his noble qualities and
miss more and more his precious companionship. And I would, were it in
my power, bring him back from the grave to be with me as long as I am to

In ending this chapter of the friendships of Forrest, the justice of
history requires a few words more. For there are several names of
friends, who were long very dear to him and to whom he was very dear,
which should be added to those set down above. The reason why no account
of their relationship has been embodied here, is simply that the writer
had not knowledge of any incidents which he could so narrate as to make
them of public interest. Yet the friendships were of the most endeared
character, full of happiness, and never marred or clouded. The names of
the Rev. Elias L. Magoon, Colonel John W. Forney, and Mr. James Rees
should not be omitted in any list of the friends of Edwin Forrest. And
still more emphatic and conspicuous mention is due to that intimate,
affectionate, and sustained relation of trust and love with Daniel
Dougherty, on which the grateful actor and man set his unquestionable
seal in leaving him a bequest of five thousand dollars and making him
one of the executors of his will and one of the trustees of his estate.

                              CHAPTER XX.

Forrest being the most conspicuous and memorable actor America has
produced, it is desirable to fix the place and rank which belong to him
in the history of his profession. To do this with any clearness or with
any authority we must first penetrate to the central characteristics of
each of the great schools of acting, illustrate them by some examples,
and explain his relation to them.

Omitting the consideration of comedy and confining our attention to
tragedy, the most familiar distinction in the styles of dramatic
representation is that which divides them into the two schools called
Classic and Romantic or Ancient and Modern. But this enumeration is
altogether insufficient. It needs to be supplemented by two other
schools, namely, the Natural and the Artistic.

The antique theatres of Greece and Rome stood open in the air unroofed
to the sky, and were so vast, holding from ten thousand to two hundred
thousand spectators, that the players in order not to be belittled and
inaudible were raised on the high cothurnus and wore a metallic mask
whose huge and reverberating mouth augmented the voice. The word persona
is derived from _personare_, to sound through. Dramatis personæ
originally meant masks, and only later came to denote the persons of the
play. The conditions suppressed all the finer inflections of tone and
the play of the features. The actor had to depend for his effects on
measured declamation, imposing forms and attitudes, slow and appropriate
movements, simple pictures distinctly outlined and set in bold relief.
The characters principally brought forward were kings, heroes, prophets,
demi-gods, deities. It was the stately representation of superhuman or
exalted personages, full of exaggerated solemnity and pomp both in
bearing and in speech. All this naturally arose from the circumstances
under which the serious drama was developed,—the audience a whole
population, the player at a distance from them, in the scenery of
surrounding sea and mountains and the overhanging heaven. The traditions
of the Classic School came directly down to the subsequent ages and gave
their mould and spirit to the modern theatre. They have been kept up by
the long list of all the great conventional tragedians in their stilted
pose and stride and grandiose delivery, until the very word theatrical
has come to signify something overdone, unreal, turgid, hollow,

But when, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, in Italy, Spain,
Germany, France, and England, the drama revived and asserted itself in
such an extended and deepened popular interest,—when the theatres were
built on a smaller scale adapted for accurate seeing and hearing, and
the actors and the stage were brought close to the limited and select
audience,—when the plays, instead of dealing mainly with sublime themes
of fate and the tragic pomp and grandeur of monarchs and gods, began to
depict ordinary mortal characters and reflect the contents of real
life,—the scene changed from an enormous amphitheatre where before a
city of gazers giants stalked and trumpeted, to a parlor where a group
of ladies and gentlemen exhibited to a company of critical observers the
workings of human souls and the tangled plots of human life. The buskins
were thrown off and the masks laid aside, the true form and moving
displayed, living expression given to the features, and the changing
tones of passion restored to the voice. Then the mechanical in acting
gave way to the passionate; the Classic School, which was statuesque,
receded, and the Romantic School, which was picturesque, advanced.

The Classic School modulates from the idea of dignity. Its attributes
are unity, calmness, gravity, symmetry, power, harmonic severity. Its
symbol is the Greek Parthenon, whose plain spaces marble images people
with purity and silence. The Romantic School modulates from the idea of
sensational effect. Its attributes are variety, change, excitement,
sudden contrasts, alternations of accord and discord, vehement extremes.
Its symbol is the Christian Cathedral, whose complicated cells and
arches palpitate as the strains of the organ swell and die within them
trembling with sensibility and mystery. The ancient tragedian
represented man as a plaything of destiny, sublimely helpless in the
grasp of his own doings and the will of the gods. The chief interest was
in the evolution of the character, which had but one dominant chord
raised with a cunning simplicity through ever-converging effects to a
single overwhelming climax. The modern tragedian impersonates man as now
the toy and now the master of his fate, a creature of a hundred
contradictions, his history full of contrasts and explosive crises. The
chief interest is in the complications of the character and the
situations of the plot so combined as to keep the sympathies and
antipathies in varying but constant excitement. The vices of the former
school are proud rigidity and frigidity, pompous formality and
mechanical bombast. The vices of the latter school, on the other hand,
are incongruity, sensational extravagance, and affectation. The Classic
virtue is unity set in relief, but a mathematical chill was its fault.
The Romantic virtue is variety set in relief, but its bane was
inconsistency. The true tone of the heart, however, and the breathing
warmth of life which it brings to the stage more than atone for all its
defects and excesses.

The Romantic School early began to branch in two directions. In one it
degenerated into that Melodramatic Medley which, although it has a
nameless herd of followers, does not deserve to be called a school,
because it has no system and is but instinct and passion let loose and
run wild. In the other direction, joining with the traditional stream of
example from its Classic rival, the Romantic issued in what should be
named the Natural School. So the Classic School, too, forked in a double
tendency, one branch of which led to death in an icy formalism and
slavish subserviency to empiric rules, while the other led to the
perfecting of vital genius and skill in the rounded fulness of truth;
not truth as refracted in crude individualities but as generalized into
a scientific art. This higher result of the double issue of the Classic
School, joined with the higher result of the double issue of the
Romantic School, constitutes the Artistic School. The Natural School is
to be defined as having merely an empiric foundation, in it the contents
of human nature and their modes of manifestation being grasped by
intuition, instinct, observation, and practice, with no commanded
insight of ultimate principles. The Artistic School, on the contrary,
has a scientific foundation, in it the materials and methods being
mastered by a philosophical study which employs all the means of
enlightenment and inspiration systematically co-ordinated and applied.

Betterton was a noble representative of the classic style with a large
infusion of the romantic and the natural and with a strong determination
towards the artistic. Garrick had less of the first two and more of the
third and fourth. In the history of the British stage Garrick is an
epochal mark in the progressive displacement of theatricality by nature.
He ridiculed the noisy mechanical declamation of the stage and
introduced a quiet conversational manner. He agreed with the suggestion
of his friend Aaron Hill that Shakspeare, judging from his wise
directions to the players in Hamlet, must himself have been a fine
actor, but in advance of the taste of his time. Quin, Young, Kemble,
Conway, and Vandenhoff were examples of the classic type of acting,
while Barton Booth, Mossop, and Spranger Barry exemplified the more
passionate and impulsive romantic type. Macklin was a bold and
intelligent though somewhat coarse and hard representative of the
Natural School. Cooper and Cooke, each of whom had a personality of
great original power, veered between the three preceding schools, with a
large and varying element of each one infused in their impersonations.
But the fullest glory of the Romantic School was seen in Edmund Kean,
the coruscations of whose meteoric genius blazed out equally in the
sensational feats of the melodramatic and in the profound triumphs of
the natural. In France, Lekain, Talma, and Lemaître moved the stiff
traditions of their art many degrees towards the simplicity and the free
fire of truth, released the actor from his stilts, and did much to
humanize the strutting and mouthing stage-ideal transmitted by tyrannic

The Classic and the Romantic School each had its separate reign. The
Melodramatic offshoot of the latter also had and still has its
prevalence, yielding its mushroom crops of empiric sensationalists. But
in the historic evolution of the art of acting there must come a
complete junction of two great historic schools in one person. The
plebeian Lekain, a working goldsmith, was not bred in the laps of
queens, as Baron said an actor ought to be; but, as Talma declared of
him, Nature, a nobler instructress than any queen, undertook to reveal
her secrets to him. And he broke the fetters of pedantry, repudiated the
sing-song or monotonous chant so long in vogue, and brought the
unaffected accents of the soul on the stage. Living, however, in the
very focus of monarchical traditions and habits, subject to every royal
and aristocratic influence, he could not establish in the eighteenth-
century-theatres of France the true Democratic School of Nature. This
was necessarily left for America and the nineteenth century. Edwin
Forrest was the man. By his burning depth and quick exuberance of
passion, his instinctive and cultivated democracy of conviction and
sentiment, his resolute defiance of old rules and customs, and his
constant recurrence to original observation of nature, it was easy for
him to master the Romantic School, while the spirit and mode of the
Classic School could not be difficult for one of his proud mind,
imposing physique, and severe self-possession. The intense bias he
caught from Kean in the melodramatic direction and the lofty bias
imparted to him by Cooper in the stately antique way were supplemented,
first, by his wild strolling experiences and training in the West and
South, secondly, by his patient self-culture and studies at the prime
fountain-heads of nature itself. In addition to this, he rose and
flourished in the midst of the latest and ripest development of all the
unconventional institutions and influences of the most democratic land
and people the world has yet known. And so he came to represent, in the
history of the drama, the moment of the fusion of the Classic and
Romantic Schools and their passage into the Natural School. As the
founder of this school in the United States he has been followed by a
whole brood of disciples,—such as Kirby, Neafie, Buchanan, and Proctor,—
who have reflected discredit on him by imitating his faultiness instead
of reproducing his excellence.

Substantially intellectual, impassioned, profoundly ambitious, with
flaming physical energies, with a very imperfect education, and few
social advantages, Forrest was early thrown into the company of men who
had great natural force of mind, and were frank and generous, but
comparatively unpolished in taste and reckless in habits, leading a life
of free amusement, conviviality, and passion often exploding in frenzied
jealousies, rages, duels, deaths. He resisted the temptations that would
have proved fatal to him, as they did to so many of his fellows, kept
his self-respect, and faithfully studied and aspired to something
better. He was exposed to the widest extremes of praise and abuse,—
petted without bounds and assailed without measure. He kept his head
unturned by either extravagance, though not uninjured, and swiftly
sprang into a vast and intense popularity. But under the circumstances
of the case—his burning impulsiveness and exuberant energy and lack of
early culture, his tempestuous associates, and the general rawness or
sensational eagerness of our population at that time—he would have been
a miracle if his acting had not been marred with faults, if he had not
been extravagant in displays of muscle and voice, if he had not been in
some degree what his hostile critics called a melodramatic actor. Yet
even then there were excellences in his playing, virtues of sincerity,
truthfulness, intelligence, electric strokes of fine feeling, exquisite
touches of beauty, confluences of light and shade, sustained unity of
design, which justified the admiration and gave ground for the excessive
eulogies he received. In melodrama the action is more physical than
mental, the exertions of the actor blows of artifice to produce an
effect rather than strokes of art to reveal truth. But in this sense
Forrest always, even in his crudest day, was more tragic than
melodramatic, his efforts explosions of the soul through the senses
rather than convulsions of the muscles,—vents of the mind and glimpses
of the spirit rather than contortions of the person, limbs, voice, and
face. And he went steadily on, reading the best books, studying himself
and other men, scrutinizing the unconscious acting of all kinds of
persons in every diversity of situation, sedulously trying to correct
errors, outgrow faults, gain deeper insight, and secure a fuller and
finer mastery of the resources of his art.

Consequently his career was a progressive one, and in his latest and
mentally best days he gave impersonations of the loftiest and most
difficult characters known in the drama which have hardly been
surpassed. The prejudices against him as a strutting and robustious
ranter who shivered the timbers of his hearers and tore everything to
tatters were largely unwarranted at the outset, and for every year
afterwards were a gross wrong. In the time of his herculean glory with
the Bowery Boys it may be true that his fame was bottomed on the great
lower classes of society, and made its strongest appeals through the
signs he gave of muscle, blood, and fire; yet there must have been
wonderful intelligence, pathos, and beauty, as well as naked power, to
have commanded, as his playing did at that early day, the glowing
tributes paid to him by Irving, Leggett, Bryant, Chandler, Clay, Conrad,
Wetmore, Halleck, Ingraham, Lawson, and Oakes. He always had sincerity
and earnestness. His audiences always felt his entrance as the
appearance of a genuine man among the hollow fictions of the stage. His
soul filled with power and passion by nature, without anything else was
greater than everything else could be without this. A celebrated English
actress generously undertook to train a young beginner, who was yet
unknown, to assume higher parts. Tutoring her in the rôle of a princess
neglected by the man she loved, the patroness could not get the pupil to
make her concern appear natural. “Heaven and earth!” she exclaimed.
“Suppose it real. Suppose yourself slighted by the man you devotedly
loved. How would you act then in real life?” The hopeless reply was, “I?
I should get another lover as quickly as I could.” The instructress saw
the fatal, fatal defect of nature. She shut the book and gave no more
lessons. Nature must supply the diamond which art polishes.

The youthful Forrest not only had nature in himself, but he was a
careful student of nature in others. He used to walk behind old men,
watching every movement, to attain the gait and peculiarities of age. He
visited hospitals and asylums, and patiently observed the phases of
weakness and death, the features and actions of maniacs. His reading was
a model of precision and lucidity in the extrication of the sense of the
words. One of his earlier critics said, “He grasps the meaning of a
passage more firmly than any actor we know. He discloses the idea with
exactness, energy, and fulness, leaving in this respect nothing to be
desired. His recitation is as clear as a mathematical demonstration.” He
had also an exquisite tenderness of feeling and utterance which
penetrated the heart, and a power of intense mournfulness or delicious
sadness which could always unseal the eyes of the sensitive. He studied
the different forms of actual death with such minute attention that his
stage deaths were so painfully true as to excite repugnance while they
compelled admiration. The physical accompaniments were too literally
exact. He had not yet learned that the highest artistic power lowers and
absorbs the minor details in its broad grasp and conspicuous portrayal
of the whole. The Natural School, as a rule, does not enough
discriminate between the terror that paralyzes the brain and the horror
that turns the stomach. In the part of Virginius, Forrest for some years
had the hollow blade of the knife filled with a red fluid which, on the
pressure of a spring as he struck his daughter, spurted out like blood
following a stab. A lady fainted away as he played this scene in
Providence, and, feeling that the act was artifice, and not art, he
never afterwards repeated it. So it was nature, and not art, when Polus,
the Roman tragedian, having to act a part of great pathos secretly
brought in the urn the ashes of his own son. In distinction equally from
artifice and from nature, art grasps the essential with a noble
disregard of the accidental, and finely subordinates what is particular
to what is general.

The Classic School modulates from the idea of grandeur or dignity; its
aim is to set unity in relief, and its attribute is power in repose. The
Romantic School modulates from the idea of effectiveness; its aim is to
set the contrasts of variety in relief, and its attribute is power in
excitement. The Natural School modulates from the idea of sincerity; its
aim is to set reality in relief, exhibiting both unity in variety and
variety in unity, and its attribute is alternation of power in repose
and power in excitement, according to the exigencies of character and
circumstance. The Artistic School modulates from the idea of truth; its
attributes are freedom from personal crudity and prejudice, liberation
of the faculties of the soul and the functions of the body, and an exact
discrimination of the accidental and the individual from the essential
and the universal; and its aim is to set in relief in due order and
degree every variety of character and experience, every style and grade
of spiritual manifestation, not as the workings of nature are made known
in any given person however sincere, but as they are generalized into
laws by a mastery of all the standards of comparison and classification.
Sincerity is individual truth, but truth is universal sincerity. “Why do
you enact that part in Macbeth as you do?” asked a friend of Forrest.
“Because,” he replied, “that is the way I should have done it had I been
Macbeth.” Ah, but the question is not how would a Forrestian Macbeth
have done it, but how would a Macbethian Macbeth do it? The sincere
Natural School of acting is hampered by the limiting of its vision to
the reflections of nature in the refracting individuality of the actor.
The true Artistic School purifies, corrects, supplements, and harmonizes
individual perceptions by that consensus of averages, or elimination of
the personal equation, which dispels illusions and reveals permanent

Forrest stands at the head of the Natural School as its greatest
representative, with earnest aspirations and efforts towards that final
and perfect School whose threshold he thoroughly crossed but whose
central shrine and crown he could not attain. He attained a solitary
supremacy in the Natural School, but could not attain it in the Artistic
School, because he had not in his mind grasped the philosophically
perfected ideal of that School, and did not in his preliminary practices
apply to himself its scientifically systematized drill. His ideal and
drill were the old traditional ones, based on observation, instinct, and
empirical study, modified only by his originality and direct recurrence
to nature. But Nature gives her empirical student merely genuine facts
without and sincere impulses within. She yields essential universal
truths and principles only to the student who is equipped with
rectifying tests and a generalizing method. Destitute of this, both
theoretically and practically, Forrest wanted that clearness and
detachment of the spiritual faculties and the physical articulations,
that consummated liberty and swiftness of thought and feeling and
muscular play, which are absolutely necessary to the perfect actor. He
was so great an artist that he gave his pictures background, foreground,
proportion, perspective, light and shade, gradations of tone, and unity;
but he fell short of perfection, because carrying into every character
too much of his own individuality, and not sufficiently seizing their
various individualities and giving their distinctive attributes an
adequate setting in the refinements of an intellectualized
representation of universal human nature.

The perfect artist—such an one as Delsarte was—will build a form of
character in the cold marble of pure intellect and then transfuse it
with passion till it blushes and burns. He will also reverse the
process, seize the spiritual shape born flaming from intuitive passion,
change it into critical perception, and deposit it in memory for
subsequent evocation at will. This is more than nature: it is art
superimposed on nature. Garrick, Siddons, Talma, Rachel, Salvini,
Forrest, were natural actors, and, more, they were artists. But the only
supreme master of the Artistic School known as yet, whose theoretic
ideal and actual training were perfect, was the great dramatic teacher
François Delsarte.

Nature is truth in itself. But it is the ideal operation of truth that
constitutes art. Acting, like all art, is truth seen not in itself, but
reflected in man. It should not exhibit unmodified nature directly. It
should hold up the mirror of the human soul and reveal nature as
reflected there. It is a Claude Lorraine mirror of intellectual
sympathy, softening, shading, toning,—just as Shakspeare says, begetting
a temperance which gives smoothness to everything seen. The fights of
the gladiators and the butcheries of the victims in the Roman
amphitheatre were not acting, but reality. The splendor of art was
trodden into the mire of fact. The error, the defect, the exaggeration
in the acting of Forrest, so far as such existed, was that sometimes
excess of nature prevented perfection of art. If certainly a glorious
fault, it was no less clearly a fault.

But as he advanced in years this fault diminished, and the polish of art
removed the crudeness of nature. Step by step the tricks into which he
had been betrayed revealed themselves to him as distasteful tricks, and
the sturdy impetuous honesty of his character made him repudiate them.
Too often in his earlier Lear he gave the impression that he was
buffeting fate and fortune instead of being buffeted by them; but slowly
the spiritual element predominated over the physical one, until the
embodiment stood alone in its balanced and massive combination of
sublimated truth, epic simplicity, exquisite tenderness, and tragic
strength. So his young Damon was greatly a performance of captivating
points and electrical transitions, stirring the audience to fever-heats
of fear and transport. No one who saw his wonderful burst of passion
when he learned that his slave had slain the horse that was to carry him
to the rescue of his friend and hostage—no one who saw his reappearance
before the block, stained and smeared with sweat and dust, crazed and
worn, yet sustained by a terrible nervous energy—could say that in any
class of passion he ever witnessed a truer or a grander thing. But the
conception was rather of a hot-blooded knight of the age of chivalry
than of a contemplative, resolute, symmetrical Greek senator. Gradually,
however, the maturing mind of the actor lessened the mere tumult of
sensational excitement, and increased and co-ordinated the mental and
moral qualities into a classical and climacteric harmony. One of the
most striking evidences of the progressive artistic improvement of
Forrest was the change in his delivery of the celebrated lament of
Othello, “Farewell the tranquil mind.” He used, speaking it in a kind of
musical recitative, to utter the words “neighing steed” in equine tones,
imitate the shrillness of “the shrill trump,” give a deep boom to the
phrase “spirit-stirring drum,” and swell and rattle his voice to portray
“the engines whose rude throats the immortal Jove’s dread clamors
counterfeit.” He learned to see that however effective this might be as
elocution it was neither nature nor art, but an artificiality; and then
he read the passage with consummate feeling and force, his voice broken
with passionate emotion but not moulded to any pedantic cadences or
flourishes. And yet it must be owned that after all his sedulous study
and great growth in taste, his too strong individuality would still crop
out sometimes to mar what else had been very nigh perfect. For instance,
there was, even to the last, an occasional touch of vanity that was
repulsive in those displays of voice which he would make on a favorite
sonorous word. In the line of the Gladiator, “We will make Rome howl for
this,” the boys would repeat as they went homeward along the streets his
vociferous and exaggerated downward slide and prolongation of the
unhappy word _howl_. And the same fault was conspicuous and painful in
the word _royal_, where Othello says,—

                                  “’Tis yet to know,
            (Which, when I know that boasting is an honour,
            I shall promulgate,) I fetch my life and being
            From men of royal siege.”

Despite this and other similar flaws, however, he had an intense
sincerity and force of nature, a varied truth blent in one consistent
whole of grand moral effectiveness, that place him high among the most
extraordinary players. His youthful Gladiator and Othello were as
impetuous, volcanic, and terrible as any of the delineations of
Frederick Lemaître. His mature Coriolanus had as imperial a stateliness,
as grand a hauteur, as massive a dynamic pomp, as were ever seen in John
Philip Kemble. His aged Lear was as boldly drawn and carefully finished,
as fearfully powerful in its general truth, and as wonderfully tinted,
toned, shaded, and balanced in its details, as any character-portrait
ever pictured by David Garrick. In the various parts he played in the
successive periods of his career he traversed the several schools of his
art,—except the last one, and fairly entered that,—and displayed the
leading traits of them all, the lava passion of Kean, the superb
pomposity of Vandenhoff, the statuesque kingliness of Talma, the
mechanically studied effects of Macready. His great glory was
“magnanimous breadth and generosity of manly temperament.” His faults
were an occasional slip in delicacy of taste, inability always to free
himself from himself, and the grave want of a swift grace and lightness
in the one direction equal to his ponderous weight and slowness in the
other. Thus, while in some respects he may be called the king of the
Natural School, he must be considered only a striking member, and not a
model, of the Artistic School. After his death his former wife, Mrs.
Sinclair, who was in every way an excellent judge of acting, and could
not be thought biased in his favor, was asked her opinion of him
professionally. She replied, “He was a very great artist. In some things
I do not think he ever had an equal; certainly not in my day. I do not
believe his Othello and his Lear were ever surpassed. His great
characteristics as an actor were power and naturalness.” In illustration
of this judgment the following anecdote, told by James Oakes, may be

“I was visiting my friend in Philadelphia, and went to the theatre to
see his Virginius. He had said to me at sunset, ‘I feel like acting this
part to-night better than I ever did it before;’ and accordingly I was
full of expectation. Surely enough, never before in his life had I seen
him so intensely grand. His touching and sublime pathos made not only
women but sturdy men weep audibly. As for myself, I cried like a baby. I
observed, sitting in the pit near the stage, a fine-looking old
gentleman with hair as white as snow, who seemed entirely absorbed in
the play, so much so that the attention of Forrest was drawn to him, and
in some of the most moving scenes he appeared acting directly towards
him. In the part where the desperate father kills his daughter the
acting was so vivid and real that many ladies, sobbing aloud, buried
their faces in their handkerchiefs and groaned. The old gentleman above
alluded to said, in quite a distinct tone, ‘My God, he has killed her!’
Afterwards, when Virginius, having lost his reason, comes upon the stage
and says, with a distraught air, ‘Where is my daughter?’ utterly
absorbed and lost in the action, the old man rose from his seat, and,
looking the player earnestly in the face, while the tears were streaming
from his eyes, said, ‘Good God, sir, don’t you know that you killed
her?’ After the play Forrest told me that when he saw how deeply
affected the old gentleman was he came very near breaking down himself.
He esteemed it one of the greatest tributes ever paid him, one that he
valued more than the most boisterous applause of a whole audience.”

The following critical notice of the histrionic type and style of
Forrest is from the gifted pen of William Winter, whose dramatic
criticisms in the New York “Tribune” for the past ten years have been
marked by a knowledge, an eloquence, an assured grasp and a
conscientiousness which make them stand out in refreshing contrast to
the average theatrical commenting of the newspaper press. Making a
little allowance for the obvious antipathy and sympathy of the writer,
the article is both just and generous:

“Mr. Forrest has always been remarkable for his iron repose, his perfect
precision of method, his immense physical force, his capacity for
leonine banter, his fiery ferocity, and his occasional felicity of
elocution in passages of monotone and colloquy. These features are still
conspicuous in his acting. The spell of physical magnetism that he has
wielded so long is yet unbroken. The certainty of purpose that has
always distinguished him remains the same. Hence his popular success is
as great as ever. Strength and definiteness are always comprehensible,
and generally admirable. Mr. Forrest is the union of both. We may liken
him to a rugged old castle, conspicuous in a landscape. The architecture
may not be admired, but the building is distinctly seen and known. You
may not like the actor, but you cannot help seeing that he is the
graphic representative of a certain set of ideas in art. That is
something. Nay, in a world of loose and wavering motives and conduct, it
is much. We have little sympathy with the school of acting which Mr.
Forrest heads; but we know that it also serves in the great educational
system of the age, and we are glad to see it so thoroughly represented.
But, while Mr. Forrest illustrates the value of earnestness and of
assured skill, he also illustrates the law of classification in art as
well as in humanity. All mankind—artists among the rest—are distinctly
classified. We are what we are. Each man develops along his own grade,
but never rises into a higher one. Hence the world’s continual wrangling
over representative men,—wrangling between persons of different classes,
who can never possibly become of one mind. Mr. Forrest has from the
first been the theme of this sort of controversy. He represents the
physical element in art. He is a landmark on the border-line between
physical and spiritual power. Natures kindred with his own admire him,
follow him, reverence him as the finest type of artist. That is natural
and inevitable. But there is another sort of nature,—with which neither
Mr. Forrest nor his admirers can possibly sympathize,—that demands an
artist of a very different stamp; that asks continually for some great
spiritual hero and leader; that has crowned and uncrowned many false
monarchs; and that must for ever and ever hopelessly pursue its ideal.
This nature feels what Shelley felt when he wrote of ‘the desire of the
moth for the star, of the night for the morrow.’ To persons of this
order—and they are sufficiently numerous to constitute a large minority—
Mr. Forrest’s peculiar interpretations of character and passion are
unsatisfactory. They see and admire his certainty of touch, his profound
assurance, his solid symmetry. But they feel that something is wanting
to complete the artist. But enough of this. It is pleasanter now to
dwell upon whatever is most agreeable in the veteran’s professional
attitude. Mr. Forrest is one of the few thorough and indefatigable
students remaining to the stage. He has collected the best Shakspearean
library in America. He studies acting with an earnest and single-hearted
devotion worthy of all honor, worthy also of professional emulation.
Every one of his personations bears the marks of elaborate thought.
According to the measure of his abilities, Mr. Forrest is a true and
faithful artist; and if, as seems to us, the divine spark be wanting to
animate and glorify his creations, that lack, unhappily, is one that
nearly all artists endure, and one that not all the world can supply.”

And now it is left to show more clearly and fully, while doing justice
to what Forrest was in his own noble School of Nature, how he fell short
in that other School of Art which is the finest and greatest of all.

The voice of Forrest, naturally deep, rich, and strong, and developed by
constant exercise until it became astonishingly full and powerful,
ministered largely to the delight of his audiences and was a theme of
unfailing wonder and eulogy to his admirers. It may not be said which is
the most important weapon of the actor, the chest and neck, the arm and
hand, the face and head, or the voice; because they depend on and
contribute to one another, and each in its turn may be made the most
potent of the agents of expression. But if the primacy be assigned to
any organ it must be to the central and royal faculty of voice, since
this is the most varied and complex and intellectual of all the channels
of thought and emotion. A perfected voice can reveal almost everything
which human nature is capable of thinking or feeling or being, and not
only reveal it, but also wield it as an instrument of influence to
awaken in the auditor correspondent experiences. But for this result not
only an uncommon endowment by nature is necessary, but likewise an
exquisite artistic training, prolonged with a skill and a patience which
finally work a revolution in the vocal apparatus. Only one or two
examples of this are seen in a generation. The Italian school of
vocalization occasionally gives an instance in a Braham or a Lablache.
But such perfection in the speaking voice is even rarer than in the
singing. Henry Russell, whose reading and recitative were as consummate
as his song, and played as irresistibly on the feelings, had a voice of
perhaps the most nearly perfect expressive power known in our times. He
could infuse into it every quality of experience, color it with every
hue and tint of feeling, every light and shade of sentiment. To speak in
illustrative metaphor, he could issue it at will in such a varying
texture and quality of sound, such modified degrees of softness or
hardness, energy or gentleness, as would suggest bolts of steel, of
gold, of silver, or of opal; waves of velvet or of fire; ribbons of
satin or of crystal. His organism seemed a mass of electric sensibility,
all alive, and, in response to the touches of ideas within, giving out
fitted tones and articulations through the whole diapason of humanity,
from the very _vox angelica_ down to the gruff basses where lions roar
and serpents hiss. This is a result of the complete combination of
instinctive sensibility in the mind and developed elocutionary apparatus
in the body. The muscular connections of the thoracic and abdominal
structures are brought into unity, every part playing into all the parts
and propagating every vibration or undulatory impulse. At the slightest
volition the entire space sounding becomes a vital whole, all its walls,
from the roof of the mouth to the base of the inside, compressing and
relaxing with elastic exactitude, or yielding in supple undulation so as
to reveal in the sounds emitted precisely the tinge and energy of the
dominant thought and emotion. Then the voice appears a pure mental
agent, not a physical one. It seems to reside in the centre of the
breath, using air alone to articulate its syllables. Commanding, without
any bony or meaty quality, both extremes,—the thread-like diminuendo of
the nightingale and the stunning crash of the thunderbolt,—it gives
forth the whole contents of the man in explicit revelation.

This perfection of the Italian School has been confined to the lyric
stage. Perhaps the nearest examples to it on the dramatic stage were
Edmund Kean for a short time in his best period, and Forrest and Salvini
in our own day. Forrest had it not in its complete finish. He grew up
wild, as it were, on a wild continent, where no such consummate training
had ever been known. Left to himself and to nature, he did everything
and more than everything that could have been expected. But _perfection_
of voice, a detached vocal mentality which uses the column of
respiratory air alone as its instrument, sending its vibrations freely
into the sonorous surfaces around it, he did not wholly attain. His
voice seemed rather by direct will to employ the muscles to seize the
breath and shape and throw the words. He could crash it in sheeted
thunder better than he could hurl it in fagoted bolts, and he loved too
much to do it. In a word, his voice lacked, just as his character did,
the qualities of intellectualized spirituality, ethereal brilliancy,
aerial abstraction and liberty from its muscular settings and
environment. Had these qualities been fully his in body and soul, in
addition to what he was, he would have been the unrivalled paragon of
the stage. The fibres of the backbone and of the solar plexus were too
much intertangled with the fibres of the brain, the individual traits in
him were too closely mixed with the universal, for this. But
nevertheless, as it was, his voice was an organ of magnificent richness
and force for the expression of the elemental experiences of humanity in
all their wide ranges of intelligence, instinct, and passion. It could
do full justice to love and hate, scorn and admiration, desire,
entreaty, expostulation, remorse, wonder, and awe, and was most
especially effective in pity, in command, and in irony and sarcasm. His
profound visceral vitality and vigor were truly extraordinary. This grew
out of an athletic development exceptionally complete and a respiration
exceptionally deep and perfect. When Forrest under great passion or
mental energy spoke mighty words, his vocal blows, muffled thunder-
strokes on the diaphragmatic drum, used to send convulsive shocks of
emotion through the audience. The writer well remembers hearing him
imitate the peculiar utterance of Edmund Kean in his most concentrated
excitement. The sweet, gurgling, half-smothered and half-resonant
staccato spasms of articulation betokened the most intense state of
organic power, a girded and impassioned condition as terrible and
fascinating as the muscular splendor of an infuriated tiger. The voice
and elocution of Forrest were all that could be expected of nature and a
culture instinctive, observational, and intelligent, but irregular and
without fundamental principles. What was wanting was a systematic drill
based on ultimate laws and presided over by a consummate ideal, an ideal
which is the result of all the traditions of vocal training and triumphs
perfected with the latest physiological knowledge. Then he could have
done in tragedy what Braham did in song. Braham sang, “But the children
of Israel went on dry land.” He paused, and a painful hush filled the
vast space. Then, as if carved out of the solid stillness, came the
three little words, “through the sea.” The breath of the audience
failed, their pulses ceased to beat, as all the wonder of the miracle
seemed to pass over them with those accents, awful, radiant, resonant,
triumphant. He sat down amid the thunder of the whole house, while
people turned to one another wiping their eyes, and said, Braham!

If the voice is the soul of the drama, facial expression is its life. In
the latter as in the former Forrest had remarkable power and skill, yet
fell short of the perfection of the few supreme masters. He stood at the
head of the Natural School whose representatives achieve everything that
can be done by a genuine inspiration and laborious study, but not
everything that can be done by these conjoined with that learned and
disciplined art which is the highest fruit of science applied in a
systematic drill. Imitatively and impulsively, with careful study of
nature in others, and with sincere excitement of his own faculties of
thought and feeling, he practised faithfully to acquire mobility of
feature and a facile command of every sort of passional expression. He
succeeded in a very uncommon yet clearly limited degree. The familiar
states of vernacular humanity when existing in their extremest degrees
of intensity and breadth he could express with a fidelity and vigor
possible to but few. His organic portraitures of the staple passions of
man were exact in detail and stereoscopic in outline,—breathing
sculptures, speaking pictures. Pre-eminently was this true in regard to
the basic attributes and ground passions of our nature. His Gladiator in
his palmiest day of vital strength was something never surpassed in its
kind. Every stroke touched the raw of the truth, and it was sublime in
its terribleness. At one moment he stood among his enemies like a column
of rock among dashing waves; at another moment the storm of passion
shook him as an oak is shaken by the hurricane. And when brought to bay
his action was a living revelation, never to be forgotten, of a dread
historic type of man,—the tense muscles, the distended neck, the
obstructed breath, the swollen arteries and veins, the rigid jaws, the
orbs now rolling like the dilated and blazing eyes of a leopard, now
white and set like the ferocious deathly eyes of a bull, while smothered
passion seemed to threaten an actual explosion of the whole frame. It
was fearful, but it was great. It was nature at first hand. And he could
paint with the same clear accuracy the sweeter and nobler phases of
human nature and the higher and grander elements of experience. His
expressions of domestic affection, friendship, honesty, honor,
patriotism, compassion, valor, fortitude, meditation, wonder, sorrow,
resignation, were marked by a delicate finish and a pronounced
distinctness of truth seldom equalled. For example, when in Virginius he
said to his motherless daughter, “I never saw you look so like your
mother in all my life,” the pensive and effusive tenderness of his look
and speech irresistibly drew tears. When he said to her, “So, thou art
Claudius’s slave!” the combination in his utterance of love for her and
ironic scorn for the tyrant was a stroke of art subtile and effective
beyond description. And when, in his subsequent madness, he exhibited
the phases of insanity from inane listlessness to raving frenzy, when
his sinews visibly set as he seized Appius and strangled him to death,
when he sat down beside the corpse and his face paled and his eyes
glazed and his limbs slowly stiffened and his head dropped in death,—his
attitudes and movements were a series of vital sculptures fit to be
photographed for immortality.

Still, after every eulogy which can justly be paid him, it must be said
that he remained far from the complete mastership of his art in its
whole compass. Neither in conception nor execution did he ever grasp the
entire range of the possibilities of histrionic expression. Had he done
this he would not have stood at the head of the spontaneous and
cultivated Natural School, but would have represented that Artistic
School which practically still lies in the future, although its
boundaries have been mapped and its contents sketched by François
Delsarte. For instance, the feat performed by Lablache after a dinner at
Gore House, the representation of a thunder-storm simply by facial
expression, was something that Forrest would never have dreamed of
undertaking. Lablache said he once witnessed, when walking in the Champs
Elysées with Signor de Begnis, a distant thunder-storm above the Arc de
Triomphe, and the idea occurred to him of picturing it with the play of
his own features. He proceeded to do it without a single word. A gloom
overspread his countenance appearing to deepen into actual darkness, and
a terrific frown indicated the angry lowering of the tempest. The
lightnings began by winks of the eyes and twitchings of the muscles of
the face, succeeded by rapid sidelong movements of the mouth which
wonderfully recalled the forked flashes that seem to rend the sky, while
he conveyed the notion of thunder in the shaking of his head. By degrees
the lightnings became less vivid, the frown relaxed, the gloom departed,
and a broad smile illuminating his expressive face gave assurance that
the sun had broken through the clouds and the storm was over.

By a Scientifically Artistic School of acting is not meant, as some
perversely understand, a cold-blooded procedure on mechanical
calculations, but a systematic application of the exact methods of
science to the materials and practice of the dramatic art. It means an
art of acting not left to chance, to caprice, to imitation, to
individual inspiration, or to a desultory and indigested observation of
others and study of self, but based on a comprehensive accurately
formulated knowledge of the truths of human nature and experience, and a
perfected mastery of the instruments for their expression. To be a
worthy representative of this school one must have spontaneous genius,
passion, inspiration, and mimetic instinct, and a patient training in
the actual exercise of his profession, no less than if he belonged to
the Classic, the Romantic, or the Natural School; while in addition he
seizes the laws of dramatic revelation by analysis and generalization,
and gains a complete possession of the organic apparatus for their
display in his own person by a physical and mental drill minute and
systematic to the last degree. The Artistic School of acting is the
Classic, Romantic, and Natural Schools combined, purified, supplemented
and perfected by adequate knowledge and drill methodically applied.

Human nature has its laws of manifestation as well as every other
department of being. These laws are incomparably more elusive, obscure,
and complicated than those of natural philosophy, and therefore later to
gain formulation; but they are not a whit less real and unerring. The
business of the dramatic performer is to reveal the secrets of the
characters he represents by giving them open manifestation. Acting is
the art of commanding the discriminated manifestations of human nature.
If not based on the science of the structure and workings of human
nature it is not an art, but mere empiricism, as most acting always has

Delsarte toiled forty years with unswerving zeal to transform the
fumbling empiricism of the stage into a perfect art growing out of a
perfect science. He was himself beyond all comparison the most
accomplished actor that ever lived, and might, had he pleased, have
raised whirlwinds of applause and reaped fortunes. But, with a heroic
abnegation of fame and a proud consecration to the lonely pursuit of
truth, he refused to cater to a public who craved only amusement and
would not accept instruction; and he died comparatively obscure, in
poverty and martyrdom. He mastered the whole circle of the sciences and
the whole circle of the arts, and synthetized and crowned them all with
an art of acting based on a science of man as comprehensive as the world
and as minute as experience. It is to be hoped that he has left works
which will yet be published in justification of his claim, to glorify
his valiant, neglected, and saintly life, and to enrich mankind with an
invaluable bequest.

Every form has its meaning. Every attitude has its meaning. Every motion
has its meaning. Every sound has its meaning. Every combination of
forms, attitudes, motions, or sounds, has its meaning. These meanings
are intrinsic or conventional or both. Their purport, value, rank,
beauty, merit, may be exactly determined, fixed, defined, portrayed. The
knowledge of all this with reference to human nature, methodically
arranged, constitutes the scientific foundation for dramatic
representation. Then the art consists in setting it all in free living
play. The first thing is a complete analysis and synthesis of the
actions and reactions of our nature in its three divisions of
intelligence, instinct, and passion; mind, heart, and conscience;
mentality, vitality, and morality. The second thing is a complete
command of the whole apparatus of expression, so that when it is known
exactly what the action of each muscle or of each combination of muscles
signifies, the actor may have the power to effect the requisite muscular
adjustment and excitation. The first requisite, then, is a competent
psychological knowledge of the spiritual functions of men, with a
sympathetic quickness to summon them into life; and the second, a
correspondent knowledge of anatomy and physiology applied in a gymnastic
drill to liberate all parts of the organism from stiffness and stricture
and unify it into a flexible and elastic whole.

The æsthetic gymnastic which Delsarte devised, to perfect the dramatic
aspirant for the most exalted walks of his profession, was a series of
exercises aiming to invigorate the tissues and free the articulations of
the body, so as to give every joint and muscle its greatest possible
ease and breadth of movement and secure at once the fullest liberty of
each part and the exactest co-operation of all the parts. When the pupil
had finished this training he was competent to exemplify every physical
feat and capacity of man. Furthermore, this teacher arranged certain
gamuts of expression for the face, the practice of which would give the
brows, eyes, nose, and mouth their utmost vital mobility. He required
his pupil to sit before a mirror and cause to pass over his face, from
the appropriate ideas and emotions within, a series of revelatory
pictures. Beginning, for instance, with death, he ascended through
idiocy, drunkenness, despair, interest, curiosity, surprise, wonder,
astonishment, fear, and terror, to horror; or from grief, through pity,
love, joy, and delight, to ecstasy. Then he would reverse the passional
panorama, and descend phase by phase back again all the way from ecstasy
to despair and death. When he was able at will instantly to summon the
distinct and vivid picture on his face of whatever state of feeling
calls for expression, he was so far forth ready for entrance on his
professional career.

Such is the training demanded of the consummate actor in that Artistic
School which combines the excellences of the three preceding schools,
cleansing them of their excesses and supplying all that they lack. The
prejudice against this sort of discipline, that it must be fatal to all
charm of impulse and fire of genius and reduce everything to a frigid
construction by rule, is either a fruit of ignorance or an excuse of
sloth. It is absurd to suppose that the perfecting of his mechanism
makes a man mechanical. On the contrary it spiritualizes him. It is
stiff obstructions or dead contractions in the organism that approximate
a man to a marionette. It is a ridiculous prejudice which fancies that
the strengthening, purification, and release of the organism from all
strictures destroys natural life and replaces it with artifice, or
banishes the fresh play of ideas and the surprising loveliness of
impulse by reducing the divine spontaneity of passion to a cold set of
formulas. The Delsartean drill so far from preventing inspiration
invites and enhances it by preparing a fit vehicle and providing the
needful conditions. The circulating curves of this æsthetic gymnastic,
whose soft elliptical lines supersede the hard and violent angles of the
vulgar style of exercise, redeem discordant man from his fragmentary
condition to a harmonious unity. He is raised from the likeness of a
puppet towards the likeness of a god. Then, as the influence of thought
and feeling breathes through him, the changes of the features and the
movement of the limbs and of the different zones of the body are so
fused and interfluent that they modulate the flesh as if it were
materialized music.

               “Unmarked he stands amid the throng,
               In rumination deep and long,
               Till you may see, with sudden grace,
               The very thought come o’er his face,
               And by the motion of his form
               Anticipate the bursting of the storm,
               And by the uplifting of his brow
               Tell where the bolt will strike, and how.”

Delsarte could shrink and diminish his stature under the shrivelling
contraction of meanness and cowardice or suspicion and crime until it
seemed dwarfed, or lift and dilate it under the inspiration of grand
ideas and magnanimous passions until it seemed gigantic. Every great
emotional impulse that took possession of him seemed to melt all the
parts of his organism together into a flexible whole with flowing
joints, and then his fused movements awed the spectator like something
supernatural. His face was a living canvas on which his soul painted the
very proportions and hues of every feeling. His voice in tone and
inflection took every color and shadow of thought and emotion, from the
sombre cloudiness of breathing awe to the crystalline lucidity of
articulating intellect. His inward furnishing even richer than the
outward, he would sit down at the piano, in a coarse overcoat, in a room
with bare walls, and, as he acted and sang, Œdipus, Agamemnon, Orestes,
Augustus, Cinna, Pompey, Robert le Diable, Tartuffe, rose before you and
revealed themselves in a truth that appeared almost miraculous and with
a power that was actually irresistible. It was no reproduction by
painful mimicry of externals, no portrayal by elaborate delineation of
details. It was positive identification and resurrection. It was a real
recreation of characters in their ensemble of being, and an exhibited
reanimation of them by imaginative insight and sympathetic assimilation.
Most wonderful of all, and greatest proof of the value of his system of
drill, he could catch a part by inspiration and go through it under the
automatic direction of nature, and then deliberately repeat the same
thing by critical perception and conscious free will; and he could also
reverse the process with equal ease, critically elaborate a rôle by
analysis and then fix it in the nerves and perform it with inspired
spontaneity. This was the highest possible exemplification of the
dramatic art by the founder of its only perfect school. It was Classic,
because it had the greatest dignity, repose, power, symmetry, unity. It
was Romantic, because it was full of the most startling effects,
beautiful combinations, sudden changes, surprising contrasts, and
extremes. It was Natural, because exactly conformed to the facts of
experience and the laws of truth as disclosed by the profoundest study
of nature. And above all it was supremely Artistic, because in it
intuition, instinct, inspiration, intelligence, will, and educated
discipline were reconciled with one another in co-operative harmony, and
everything was freely commanded by conscious knowledge and not left to

True art is never merely an imitation of nature, nor is it ever purely
creative; but it is partly both. It arises from the desire to convert
conceptions into perceptions, to objectify the subjective in order to
enhance and prolong it in order to revive it at will and impart it to
others. Art, Delsarte said, with his matchless precision of phrase, is
feeling passed through thought and fixed in form. Grace without force is
the product of weakness or decay, and can please none save those whose
sensibilities are drained. Force without grace is like presenting a
figure skinned or flayed, and must shock every one who has taste. But
grace in force and force in grace, combined impetuosity and moderation,
power revealed hinting a far mightier power reserved,—this is what
irresistibly charms all. This is what only the very fewest ever attain
to in a superlative degree; for it requires not only richness of soul
and spontaneous instinct, and not only analytic study and systematic
drill, but all these added to patience and delicacy and energy. The
elements of the art of acting are the applied elements of the science of
human nature; yet on the stage those elements are different from what
they are in life in this respect, that there they are set in relief,—
that is, so systematized and pronounced as to give them distinct
prominence. That is precisely the difference of art from nature. It
heightens effect by the convergence of co-operative agencies. For
instance, when the variations of the speech exactly correspond with the
changes of the face, how the effect of each is heightened! Aaron Hill
said of Barton Booth that the blind might have seen him in his voice and
the deaf have heard him in his visage. Of those in whom nature is equal
he who has the greater art will carry the day, as of those in whom art
is equal he who has more nature must win. A lady said, “Had I been
Juliet to Garrick’s Romeo, so ardent and impassioned was he, I should
have expected that he would come up to me in the balcony; but had I been
Juliet to Barry’s Romeo, so tender, so eloquent and seductive was he,
that I should certainly have gone down to him.” In these two great
actors nature and art contended which was stronger. Very different was
it with Macready and Kean, of whom it used to be said respectively, “We
go to see Macready in Othello, but we go to see Othello in Kean.” The
latter himself enjoyed, and delighted others by showing, a transcript of
the great world of mankind in the little world of his heart. The

            “Whate’er the part in which his cast was laid,
            Self still, like oil, upon the surface played.”

Talma said, “In whatever sphere fate may have placed a man, the grand
movements of the soul lift him into an ideal nature.” The greatness of
every truly great actor shows itself in the general ideal which
characterizes his embodiments. If he has any originality it will publish
itself in his ideal. Now, while most actors are not only second-rate but
also second-hand, Forrest certainly was original alike as man and as
player. He was distinctively original in his personality, original and
independent in the very make of his mind and heart. This subtle and
striking originality of personal mind and genius was thoroughly leavened
and animated by a distinctively American spirit, the spirit generated by
the historic and material conditions of American society and the social
and moral conditions of American life. He was original by inherited
idiosyncrasy, original by his natural education, original by his self-
moulding culture which resented and shed every authoritative
interference with his freedom and every merely traditional dictation. He
was original in going directly to the instructions of nature and in
drawing directly from the revelations of his own soul. He was original
in a homely intensity of feeling and in a broad and unsophisticated
intelligence whose honest edges were never blunted by hypocritical
conformity and falsehood. And above all, as an actor he exhibited his
originality in a bearing or style of manners thoroughly democratic in
its prevailing scornful repudiation of tricks or squeamish nicety, and a
frank reliance on the simplicity of truth and nature in their naked

Now, precisely the crowning originality of Forrest as an actor, that
which secures him a distinctive place in the historic evolution of the
drama, is that while the ideals which the great actors before him
impersonated were monarchical, aristocratic, or purely individual, he
embodied the democratic ideal of the intrinsic independence and royalty
of man. Give Kemble only the man to play, he was nothing; give him the
paraphernalia of rank and station, he was imposing. But Forrest, a born
democrat, his bare feet on the earth, his bare breast to his foes, his
bare forehead to the sky, asked no foreign aid, no gilded toggery, no
superstitious titles, to fill the theatre with his presence and thrill
the crowd with his spell. There is an egotism of pride, an egotism of
vanity, an egotism of conceit, all of which, based in want of sympathy,
are contemptible and detestable. Forrest was remarkable for a tremendous
and obstinate pride, but not for vanity or conceit; and his sympathy was
as deep and quick as his pride, so that he was not an odious egotist,
although he was imperious and resentful. Many distinguished players have
trodden the stage as gentlemen, Forrest trod it as man. The ideal of
detachment, authority throned in cold-blooded self-regard, has been
often set forth. He exhibited the ideal of identification, burning
honesty of passion and open fellowship. The former is the ideal of
polite society. The latter is the ideal of unsophisticated humanity.
Macready asserted himself in his characters; Forrest asserted his
characters in himself. Both were self-attached, though in an opposite
way, and thus missed the perfect triumph which Delsarte achieved by
abolishing self and always resuscitating alive in its pure integrity the
very truth of the characters he essayed. Macready as an elaborate and
frigid representative of titular kings was a sovereign on the boards, a
subject elsewhere. Forrest as an inborn representative of natural kings
was a true sovereign in himself everywhere and always. The former by his
petulant pride and pomp and his drilled exemption from the sway of the
sympathies secured the approval of a sensitive and irritable _nil
admirari_ class. The latter by the fulness of his sympathies and his
impassioned eloquence as the impersonator of oppressed races awakened
the enthusiastic admiration of the people. A line, said an accomplished
critic, drawn across the tops of the points of Macready would leave
Forrest below in matters of mechanical detail, but would only cut the
bases of his pyramids of power and passion. His chief rôles were all
embodiments of the elemental vernacular of man in his natural virtue and
glory rather than in the refinements of his choicest dialects. Always
asserting the superiority of man to his accidents, he will be remembered
in the history of the theatre as the greatest democrat that up to his
time had ever stepped before the footlights. He had sincerity,
eloquence, power, nobleness, sublimity. His want was beauty, charm. The
epithets strong, fearless, heroic, grand, terrible, magnificent, were
fully applicable to him; but the epithets bright, bold, brisk, romantic,
winsome, graceful, poetic, were inapplicable. In a word, though
abounding in the broad substance of sensibility and the warm breath of
kindness, he lacked the artificial polish and finesse of etiquette; and
consequently the under-current of dissent from his fame, the murmur of
detraction, that followed him, was the resentment of the conventional
society whose superfine code he neglected and scorned.

For this penalty, however, his sincerity and direct reliance on nature
gave ample compensation in making him capable of inspiration. Adherence
to mere authority, tradition, usage, or dry technicality, is fatal to
inspiration. This carried to an extreme makes the most cultivated player
a mere professor of postures and stage mechanics,—what the French called
Macready, “_L’artiste de poses_.” There is an infinite distance from
such external elaboration to the surprises of feeling which open the
soul directly upon the mysteries of experience, send cold waves of awe
through the nerves, and convert the man into a sublime automaton of
elemental nature, or a hand with which God himself gesticulates. Then
the performing of the actor originates not on the volitional surfaces of
the brain, but in the dynamic deeps of the spine and ganglia, and he
seems an incarnate fagot of thunderbolts. Then the gesticulating arms,
modulated by the profound spinal rhythms, become the instruments of a
visible music of passion mysteriously powerful. For all action from the
distal extremities of the nerves is feverish, twitching, anxious, with a
fidgety and wasteful expensiveness of force, while action from their
central extremities is steady, harmonious, commanding, economical of
force. The nearer to the central insertions of the muscles the initial
impulses take effect, so much the longer the lines they fling, the
acuter the angles they subtend, the vaster the segments they cut and the
areas they sweep. This suggests to the imagination of the spectator,
without his knowing the meaning or ground of it, a godlike dignity and
greatness. Forrest was full of this hinted and hinting power. It was the
secret of his loaded personality and magnetizing port.

Art, while it is not pure and simple nature, is not anything substituted
for nature nor anything opposed to nature. It is something superadded to
nature, which gives the artist supreme possession of his theme, supreme
possession of himself, and supreme command of his treatment of his
theme. It is a grasped generalization of the truths of nature freed from
all coarse, crude, and degrading accidents and details. The consummate
artist, observing the principle or law, does everything easily; but the
empiric, striving at the facts, does everything laboriously. Feeling
transmuted into art by being passed through thought and fixed in form is
transferred for its exemplification from the volition of the cerebral
nerves to the automatic execution of the spinal nerves. This does not
exhaust the strength, but leaves one fresh after apparently the most
tremendous exertions. Talma, Rachel, Salvini, did not sweat or fatigue
themselves, however violent their action seemed. But when feeling,
instead of having been passed through thought and fixed in form for
automatic exhibition, is livingly radiated into form by the will freshly
exerted each time, the exaction on the forces of the organism is great.
It is then nature in her expensiveness that is seen, rather than the art
which secures the maximum of result at the minimum of cost. It was said
of Barry that excessive sensibility conquered his powers. His heart
overcame his head; while Garrick never lost possession of himself and of
his acting. The one felt everything himself before he made his audience
feel it; the other remained cool, and yet by his kingly self-control
forced his audience to feel so much the more. In his direct honest
feeling and exertion Forrest paid the expensive penalty of the Natural
School. After playing one of his great parts he was drenched with
perspiration and blew off steam like a locomotive brought to rest. The
nerves of his brain and the nerves of his spinal cord were
insufficiently detached in their activities, too much mixed. Like Edmund
Kean, he was as a fusee, and the points of the play were as matches; at
each electric touch his nerve-centres exploded and his muscles struck
lightning. But in the Artistic School the actor is like a lens made of
ice, through which the sunbeams passing set on fire whatever is placed
in their focus. The player who can pour the full fire of passion through
his soul while his nerves remain firm and calm has command of every
power of nature, and reaches the greatest effects without waste. But, as
Garrick said,—

              “In vain will Art from Nature help implore
              When Nature for herself exhausts her store.”

The essence of the dramatic art or the mission of the theatre is the
revelation of the different grades of character and culture as exhibited
in the different styles of manners, so that the spectator may assign
them their respective ranks. The skill or bungling of the actor is shown
by the degrees of accuracy and completeness which mark his portraitures.
And the predominant ideal illustrated in his impersonations betrays the
personal quality and level of the actor himself.

Manners are the index of the soul, silently pointing out its rank. All
grades of souls, from the bottom of the moral scale to its top, have
their correspondent modes of behavior which are the direct expression of
their immediate states and the reflex revelation of their permanent
characters. The principle of politeness or good manners is the law of
the ideal appropriation of states of feeling on recognition of their
signs. Sympathy implies that when we see the sign of any state in
another we at once enter into that state ourselves. Interpreting the
sign we assimilate the substance signified and thus reflect the
experience. Everything injurious, repulsive, or petty, pains, lessens,
and lowers us. The signs of such states therefore are to be withheld.
But the signs of beautiful, powerful, sublime, and blessed states enrich
and exalt those who recognize them and reproduce their meaning. The
refinement and benignity of any style of manners are measured by the
largeness and purity of the sphere of sympathetic life it implies, the
generosity of its motives, and the universality of its objects. The
vulgarity and odiousness of manners are measured by the coarseness of
sensibility, the narrow egotism, the contracted sphere of consciousness
implied by them. Thus the person who fixes our attention on anything
spiritual, calming, authoritative, charming, or godlike, confers a
favor, ideally exalting us above our average level. But all such acts as
biting the nails or lips, taking snuff, smoking a cigar, talking of
things destitute of interest save to the vanity of the talker, are bad
manners, because they draw attention from dignified and pleasing themes
and fasten it to petty details, or inflict a severe nervous waste on the
sensibility that refuses to be degraded by obeying their signals.

Now, there are four generic codes of manners in society, each of which
has its specific varieties, and all of which are exemplified in the
theatre,—that great explicit “mirror of fashion and mould of form.”
First there is the code of royal manners, the proper behavior of kings.
Kings are all of one family. They are all free, neither commanding one
another nor obeying one another, each one complete sovereign in himself
and of himself. The sphere of his personality is hedged about by a
divinity through which no one ventures to peep for dictation or
interference. In his relations with other persons the king is not an
individual, but is the focal consensus of the whole people over whom he
is placed, the apex of the collective unity of the nation. He therefore
represents public universality and no private egotism. He is the symbol
of perfect fulfilment, wealth, radiance, joy, peace. By personal will he
imposes nothing, exacts nothing, but like the sun sheds impartially on
all who approach him the golden largess of his own complete
satisfaction. That is the genuine ideal of royal manners. But the actual
exemplification is often the exact opposite,—an egotistic selfishness
pampered and maddened to its very acme. Then the formula of kingly
behavior is the essence of spiritual vulgarity and monopolizing
arrogance, namely, I am the highest of all: therefore every one must bow
to me and take the cue from me! Then, instead of representing the
universal, to enrich all, he degrades the universal into the individual,
to impoverish all. Then his insolent selfishness at the upper extreme
produces deceit and fawning at the lower extreme. The true king imposes
nothing, asks nothing, takes nothing, though all is freely offered him,
because he radiates upon all the overflow of his own absolute
contentment. Every one who sees him draws a reflected sympathetic
happiness from the spectacle of his perfect happiness.

The formula expressed in truly royal manners is, I am so contented with
the sense of fulfilment and of universal support that my only want is to
see every one enjoying the same happiness! In a perfected state the
formula of democratic manners will be identical with this. For then the
whole community with its solidarity of wealth and power will be the
sustaining environment whereof each individual is a centre. But as yet
the private fortune of each man is his selfishly isolated environment;
and the totality of individual environments bristles with hostility,
while every one tries to break into and absorb the neighboring ones.

The code of aristocratic manners, too, has its sinister or false
development as well as its true and benign development. The formula
which, in its ungenial phase, it is forever insinuating through all its
details of demeanor, when translated into plain words is this: I am
superior to you and therefore command you! But the real aristocratic
behavior does not say the inferior must obey the superior. On the
contrary, it withholds and suppresses the sense of superiority, seems
unconscious of it, and only indirectly implies it by the implicit
affirmation, I am glad to be able to bless and aid you, to comfort,
strengthen, and uplift you! The false aristocrat asserts himself and
would force others to follow his lead. The true aristocrat joyously
stoops to serve. His motto is not, I command, but Privilege imposes

The twofold aspect of plebeian manners affords a repetition of the same
contrast. The plebeian manner, discontented and insurrectionary, says,
You are superior to me, and therefore I distrust, fear, and hate you!
The plebeian manner, submissive and humble or cringing, says, I am
inferior to you, and therefore beseech your favor, deprecating your
scorn! But the plebeian manner, honest, manly, and good, says, You are
superior to me, and I am glad of it, because, looking up to you with
admiration and love, I shall appropriate your excellence and grow like
you myself!

Finally, we come to the democratic code of manners. The spurious formula
for democratic behavior is, I am as good as you! This is the
interpretation too common in American practice thus far. It is the
insolent casting off of despotic usages and authorities, and the
replacing them with the defiant protest of a reckless independence. I am
as good as you, and therefore neither of us will have any regard or
deference for the other! But in wide distinction from this impolite and
harsh extreme, the formula implied in the genuine code of democratic
manners is, We are all amenable to the same open and universal standard
of right and good, and therefore we do not raise the question at all of
precedency or privilege, of conscious superiority or inferiority, but we
leave all such points to the decision of the facts themselves, and are
ready indifferently to lead or to follow according to the fitness of
intrinsic ranks!

Spurious democracy would inaugurate a stagnant level of mediocrities, a
universal wilderness of social carelessness and self-assertion. Genuine
democracy recognizes every man as a monarch, independent and supreme in
his interior personal sphere of life, but in his social and public life
affiliated with endless grades of superiors, equals, and inferiors, all
called on to obey not the self-will of one another, or of any majority,
but to follow gladly the dictates of those inherent fitnesses of
inspiration from above and aspiration from below which will remain
eternally authoritative when every unjust immunity and merely
conventional or titular rank has been superseded. This was the style of
manners, this was the implied formula of behavior, embodied by Forrest
in all his great rôles. Affirming the indefeasible sovereignty of the
individual, he neither wished to command nor brooked to obey other men
except so far as the intrinsic credentials of God were displayed in
them. Thus, under every accidental or local diversity of garb and
bearing, he stood on the American stage, and stands and will stand in
front there, as the first sincere, vigorous, and grand theatrical
representative of the democratic royalty of man.

                              CHAPTER XXI.

In an early chapter of this biography an analysis was given of the
dramatic art considered in its psychological origin and in its personal
uses for those who practise it. This was done that the reader might have
in his mind the data requisite for forming an intelligent judgment on
the life which was to be recorded and criticised in the succeeding
chapters. But in order to appreciate the just moral rank and worth or
the legitimate influences of such a life in its public sphere and
aspects, it is necessary to understand something of the historic
development and the social uses of the dramatic art,—its distinctive
genius in contrast with the other liberal professions, and the natural
effects on those who witness its exhibitions. The subject teems with
matters of unsuspected importance, and its discussion will yield
surprising revelations.

Before attempting to trace the rise of the Theatre and its struggle with
its rivals, we must get an adequate idea of the essential substance of
the art practised in the Theatre. For this purpose it will be necessary
to approach the subject from a point of view different from those
generally taken hitherto.

The practice of the dramatic art rests on the differences of men amidst
their similarities. The whole intercourse of life really consists at
bottom in a complex and subtile game of superiorities and inferiorities,
full of tests and tricks, surprises, pains, and pleasures. Every one who
has not been regenerated from the selfish heritage of history into a
saintly disinterestedness is constantly impelled by a desire far deeper
than his consciousness to wish to see others inferior to himself, to
feel himself superior to others, and to get this relative estimate
accepted in the imaginations of the bystanders. Human experience in
society is a half-open and half-disguised battle for advantage and
precedence, inward and outward, private and public, filled with attacks
and defences, feints and traps, overtures and defiances, every
conceivable sort of coarse or exquisite artifices for winning victories
and inflicting defeats in the occult and endless game of personal

All comparisons imply standards of judgment. There are eight of these
standards,—four primary, and four secondary. The first of the primary
standards of excellence by which we try ourselves and one another is
bodily health, strength, grace, and beauty. The second is moral
character, goodness of disposition, purity and nobility of motives. The
third is genius and talent, brilliant powers of creative or beneficent
action. The fourth is technical acquisitions, artificial learning and
accomplishments, charm of manners, skill in doing attractive or
important things. The first of the secondary standards by which men are
estimated in society is hereditary rank or caste, birth, blood, and
title. The second is official place and power, social position and
influence. The third is reputation and fame. The fourth is wealth. All
these standards, it will be observed, find their ultimate meaning and
justification in the idea of adaptedness for the fulfilment of the ends
of life. Good is the fruition of function. The highest personal beauty
and genius imply the greatest fitness for the fulfilment of function.
Wealth is a material means, fame an ideal means, for the fruition of

But obviously there are distinctions of grade and of authority among
these standards, and he who ranks high when judged by one of them may
rank low according to another. It is the continual subterfuge of self-
love at the inner tribunal to evade the tests of the standards that are
unfavorable to it, and to court comparison by those whose verdicts are
surest to be flattering. On the contrary, in testing other people, the
egotistic and ungenerous person instinctively applies the tests most
likely to insure condemnation. This is the first vice of introspection
and of mutual criticism.

The second evil is setting lower standards above higher ones,
attributing more importance to apparent or conventional claims than to
real and intrinsic merits. In all ignoble circles, among all men and
women of low sensibility or of shallow routine, there is a steady
tendency to estimate self and associates by factitious and hollow
standards of good instead of the inherent and substantial standards.
More deference is paid to dress and title than to form and bearing.
Privileged descent and station are put before genius and worth. Deeds
and deserts go to the wall in favor of shows and professions. Riches are
esteemed above character. What others think of us is deemed of greater
account than what God knows of us. This turning topsy-turvy of the
standards for the judging of men is what fills the world with the
confusion, wickedness, and misery of a rivalry that is as detestable as
it is pernicious and sad.

No two men can be exactly alike. Inequality is the universal law of
existence. Without it there would be an unbroken monotony and stagnation
equivalent to death. It is the play of greater and lesser, fairer and
homelier, wiser and foolisher, higher and lower, better and worse,
richer and poorer, older and younger, that intersperses the spectacle of
being and the drama of experience with the glimpsing bewitchments of
surprise, the ravishing zest of pursuit and success, the everlasting
freshness and variety of desire, change, suspense, risk, and adventure.
The essential moral struggle for superiority, in which all men are
forever engaged whether they know it or not, is the divine method of
enchanting them with life and luring them forward. It would be an
unmixed good, covering all intercourse with the charm of a theatrical
beauty and spicing every day with the relish of a religious game, were
it not for the predominant vices of fraud, envy, and tyranny
surreptitiously introduced into the contest. Did all men regard their
superiors with joyous reverence and aspiration, their equals with co-
operative friendship, and their inferiors with respectful kindness and
help, never of their own will raising the question as to who shall
command or lead and who obey or follow, but leaving these points to be
decided by the laws in the manifest fitness of things, the unlikenesses
and inequalities which now set them at wretched odds would be the very
conditions of their orchestral harmony and the chief elements of their
converging delight. The general genius of the dramatic art, purified and
perfected, tends directly to bring this about, while the special genius
of each of the other liberal professions stands obstructively in the
way. For the spirit of each of the other professional classes segregates
it from general humanity into a privileged order whose members maintain
its prerogatives by means of a necessary _peculium_ for which their
special interest makes them desire that the rest of the world shall
depend exclusively on them. But the dramatic spirit freely enters the
soul and lot of every condition of men for the sympathetic
interpretation and intuitive feeling of their contents. The genuine
temper of this art, separate from the depraved usages of society, would
teach men to honor and copy those above, to love and blend with those
around, and to example and help those beneath. Then the strong and
cunning would no longer take selfish advantage of their power and hold
the masses of mankind in subjection by the triple bond of interest,
fraud, and fear. According to the principles of universal order, life
would everywhere become a mutual partnership of teaching and blessing
from above and learning and following from below, a spontaneous giving
and taking of all good things in justice and love without violence and
without money. Every one rendering his share of service in the co-
operation of the whole, no portion would be victimized by the rest, but
in the perfected equity and good will there would be abundant wealth for
all and plenty of leisure for each.

There are certain select places or focal buildings in which all the
secrets of human nature are revealed and the arts of power grasped. Each
of these has become the centre of a profession which has employed the
knowledge and skill given by its social position to secure certain
advantages to its members and make the rest of mankind pay tribute to
them in return for the benefits they claim to bestow or in
acknowledgment of the authority they claim to possess. These are the
ruling or leading classes of the world, in whose hands the keys of power
are lodged. The advantages of their situation where all the secrets of
experience are uncovered and all the arts of influence developed, their
exemption from the hardships of physical drudgery, their varied training
in mental accomplishments and cumulative inheritance of superiority,
place the rest of mankind in subjection to them. Had they
disinterestedly used their power to enlighten and free other men, to
educate and enrich other men, the world would long since have been
redeemed. They have used it to secure special advantages for themselves,
making others their servants on whose uncompensated blood and sweat they
live. Therefore the strife and crime and poverty and misery of the world

All forms of experience are laid bare in the palace of the king. Every
variety of character and of fortune is stripped of its disguises there;
every mode of behavior, every rank of motives, exposed in its true
signals. The lynx-eyed and selfish scrutiny which has its seat there
utilizes this knowledge, and the rules and methods in which ages have
generalized it, to endow the imperial profession with the peculiar
attributes and treasures by which they govern. The true function of the
king or other ruler is to represent the whole people with his
superiority of position and endowment, to warn, guide, enlighten, and
bless them, using all his privileges faithfully for their service. But
the reverse of this has been his prevailing vice in all times. He has
used his power for his own selfish luxury and the emoluments of his
favorites, making government less a means of universal welfare and more
a means of exalting the few at the cost of the many. The game of
comparisons, instead of being made a divine play of variety and surprise
in service and love, has been made a cruel engine for the oppression of
the weak by the strong. The individual interest of the governing class
has perverted its universal function into a personal privilege. The
genius of the palace is selfish luxury in irresponsible power.

In the tent of the general the same revelation of the secrets of human
nature is made as in the royal palace, and the skill in assuming
authority and in controlling men thereby acquired is embodied in the
military profession, which is always the right arm of the imperial
profession. The genuine office of the martial profession is to raise the
protecting and executive energy of a nation to its maximum by scientific
precision of movement and unquestioning obedience to command. Its
twofold vice has been the fostering of a love of war or reckless spirit
of conquest, and the making of the officer a martinet and of the soldier
a puppet utterly mindless of right or wrong in their blind obedience to
orders. An army is a machine of destruction wielded by the most
consummate art the world has yet known. When that absolute obedience and
that perfect discipline and that matchless devotion become intelligent
and free, and are directed to beneficent ends, they will redeem the
world. But thus far the genius of the military headquarters is arbitrary
power in automatic drill to avenge and to destroy.

By the sick-bed, in the hospital and the asylum, all the treasures of
memory are yielded up, all the mysteries of passion exposed, all the
operations of the soul unshrouded before the eyes of the physician. In
this knowledge, and in the ability which the accumulated experience of
so many centuries has gained to assuage pain, to heal disease, and to
give alleviating guidance, an immense deposit of power is placed in the
hands of the medical profession. The blessed function of the profession,
in its universal aspect, is to instruct the people in the laws of health
and to rescue them from suffering and danger. Its interest, in its class
aspect, thrives on the ills of other men. The more sickness there is,
the more completely dependent on them it is for remedy, the better for
their interest. The great vices of the craft have been charlatanism and
quackery, the owlish wisdom of the gold-headed cane and the spectacled
nose, and a helpless addictedness to routine and prescription. All the
defects of the profession, however, are fast vanishing, all its virtues
fast increasing, as under the infiltrating inspirations of science it is
shedding its bigotry and pride, subordinating pathology to hygiene,
repudiating its besotted faith in drugging, and freely throwing open to
the whole world the special discoveries and insights it used so
carefully to keep to itself as sacred secrets. This is its disinterested
phase. In its selfish phase its genius is a jealous guarding of its
knowledge and repute as a means of power and gain.

The arts of rule are learned, the mechanism of human nature is unveiled
in all the agencies of influence that work it, perhaps even more fully
in the police-office, the court-house, and the prison, than in either of
the places previously named. Brought before the bar of the judge,
surrounded by the imposing and terrible array of the law with its dread
apparatus of inquisition and punishment, every secret of the human heart
is extorted. The culprit, the hero, the high and the low, the weak and
the strong, all kinds and states of men, there betray their several
characteristics in their demeanor, and uncover the springs of the world
in its deepest interests, passions, and plots. Thus the legal
profession, manipulating the laws, sitting as umpires for the decision
of the complex conflicts of men in the endless collisions of their
universal struggle of hostile interests, consummate masters of every
method and artifice of power, have a place nearest to the seat of
government. Their hands are on the very index and regulator of public
authority. Their omnipresent instinct, ever since the rise of the black-
gowned confraternity, has chiefly inspired and shaped as well as
administered the judicial code of society. Now, their profound knowledge
of the arts of sway, their matchless skill in victory and evasion, their
vast professional prerogative, have been chiefly used not to bless
mankind, but to win offices, honors, and fees from them. The universal
function of the lawyer is justice, the prevention or reconciliation of
disputes, the teaching of men to live in harmonious equity. But his
private individual and class interest is litigation, the putting of the
cause of a client above the public right, the retention of his light
that other men in their darkness may be forced to look to him for
guidance. The genius of the law is the nursing of its own authority by
preserving occult technicalities, blind submission to precedents, and
the pursuit of victory regardless of right or wrong.

But the priestly profession, in the temple of religion, has penetrated
more profoundly into the soul than any of the other ruling castes to
seize the secrets of character and elaborate the arts of sway. Through
the lattice-work of the confessional breathes the dismal murmur of the
sins and miseries of men and sighs the glorious music of their
aspirations. The whole reach of experience in its degradations of vice
and its heights of virtue, from apathy to ecstasy, is a familiar thing
to the contemplation of the priest. Confided in or feared, set apart
from other men that he may study them and manage their faiths, nothing
is hidden from him. Suppressing or concealing his own passions, he
learns to play on those of others and mould them to his will. So
Jesuitism, entrenched in the superiority of its detaching and despotic
drill, holds obedience by that cold eyeball which has read human nature
so deeply and so long, plucking from it the tale of its weaknesses and
thus the secrets of rule. Every mystery of man and his life is revealed
to him who presides in the temple, at the altar, the confessional, and
the grave, and who is called in to pronounce the will of God at every
crisis of experience. His style and tenure of power are more ominous,
pervasive, and fatal than any other, because claiming a sanction
supernatural and absolute. It plants in heaven and hell the endless
lever of its hopes and fears to pry up the primitive instincts of
humanity and wrench apart the natural interests of the world. The
sublime office of the priesthood, in its generous and universal aspect,
is to teach men the truths of morality and religion and to administer
their consolations to human sorrow and doom. But, perverting this benign
office, it seeks to subdue all men to itself by claiming the exclusive
deposit of a supernatural revelation. Then it seeks its class interest
at the cost of the interests of the whole, puts authority in the place
of demonstrated truth, and persecutes dissent as the unpardonable sin.
The virtues of the clerical profession are studiousness, personal
purity, philanthropic works, self-sacrifice, and conscientious piety.
Its vices are the hideous brood of fanaticism, intolerance, cruelty,
love of power, vanity, a remorseless greed for subjecting the real
interests of the present world to the fancied interests of a future one.
The historic animus of priesthoods has been dictatorial superstition and
bigotry, setting their own favorite dogmas above the open truths of the
universe, and either superciliously pitying or ferociously hating all
outside of their own narrow folds.

The next place for the revelation of the contents of human nature in all
the ranges of its experience is the studio of the artist. The open and
impassioned sensibility of the great artist gives him free admission to
the interiors of all whom he sees, and his genius enables him to
translate what is there and record it in his works. All experiences are
registered in the organism, and their signals, however invisible or
mystic to ordinary observers, are obvious and full of meanings to the
insight of genius. Sir Godfrey Kneller declared that the eyebrow of
Addison seemed to say, “You are a much greater fool than you think
yourself to be, but I would die sooner than tell you so!” The magic
attraction of the greatest works of art resides really in their occult
revelation of the inherent ranks of the persons depicted. Their
clearness or foulness, their beauty or deformity, their grace or
awkwardness, their radiant joy or their squalid and obscene
wretchedness, are so many hints of the degrees of good and evil in men
and women,—explicit symbols of their potencies of function, their
harmony or discord of powers. In their forms, proportions, attitudes,
gestures, lights and shades of expression, their respective capacities
for woe or bliss are ranged along the scale of human possibility. Thus,
in the paintings of Rubens the whole history of voluptuousness is made
transparent from the first musical breath of desire to the last lurid
madness of murder. In the sculptures of Phidias the most exquisite
living development into unity of all the organs and faculties of man is
petrified for posterity to behold and be stimulated to the same
achievement. In the statues of Buddha is clearly seen by the initiated
eye the intoxicating sense of godhead in the soul, the infinite dream
and entrancement of nirvana,—the molecular equilibrium of the cells of
the body and the dynamic equilibrium of the atoms of consciousness. This
is the charm and mystery with which art fascinates even its unwitting
beholders. But its great lessons of organic ranks and potencies, of
higher and lower characters and experiences, are not distinctly taught.
They are only suggested for those who have the keys to interpret them.
Thus they often give an idle pleasure or provoke a piquant curiosity,
but yield no moral fruit, no lasting benefit. The function of the artist
is revelation by inspired genius, and through this revelation to exalt
the ideals, purify and expand the sensibilities, and kindle the
aspirations of men while giving them a refined pleasure. His vice is the
luxurious enjoyment of his gifts as a subtile ministration to self-
indulgence. His class interest is not to communicate his gifts, but to
secure admiration and patronage for them. It is questionable whether as
yet art has not on the whole done more to unnerve and mislead than to
consecrate and uplift. Its genius is sympathetic insight catering to
complacence and luxury rather than prompting to edification.

All other artists, however, must yield to the dramatic performer of
genius and experience as to the completeness with which he pierces the
secrecy of human nature and commands its manifestations. The actor gains
his knowledge of men not indirectly by ruling and making use of them,
but directly by intuitive perception and mimetic intelligence and
sympathy entering into all their conditions and experiences, reproducing
in himself their inner states of being and the outer signs of them.
Then, on the stage, he gives systematic exhibitions of the varieties of
character and life for the amusement and the instruction of the public.
The ideal of his art is the exemplification in living action of the
grades of personalities, the contrasts of conduct, the styles of
manners, so set off with appropriate foils and true standards as to
cause the spectators to discriminate the rank and worth of each, be
warned from the unworthy with fear and loathing, and drawn to the
excellent with admiration and love. This is contagious education
disguised in beguiling entertainment. Thus the genius of the drama is
earnest improvement concealed in free play, edification masked in

The vice that besets the player is not selfishness, despotism, avarice,
indifference, or the subserving of a class interest opposed to the
general interest. He is characteristically free from such faults. His
great error is using his art for ostentation and vanity merely to win
applause and profit. He is tempted to sacrifice the spirit of
earnestness and teaching for the spirit of sport and pleasure, playing a
part simply for people to enjoy, instead of adding to this lessons for
them to learn. As the church, in order to escape from its barren routine
of preceptive and ceremonial repetitions, needs the dramatic spirit of
reflective sympathy and living action, so the theatre, in order to
escape from its too frequent emptiness and tawdry frivolity, needs the
academic spirit of earnest instruction. When the dramatic spirit whose
home and throne are in the theatre shall add to what it already
possesses moral and religious earnestness, making the scene of its art a
school for training aspirants to perfection, it will be seen to be the
purest and richest spirit in the world. It will teach all to enter into
the soul and fortune of each, and each to feel himself bound up in one
bundle of life and destiny with all,—even as he, the Christ, who was the
divinest creature that ever wore this humanized and tearful mask of
clay, played the role of no individual ego, but impersonated collective
humanity, dramatically identifying himself to the end of time with all
the broken and suffering members of our race, saying, “Inasmuch as ye
have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”
The universal prevalence of that same moralized and religious dramatic
spirit in all men is all that is needed for the immediate and perfect
redemption of the world. Dogmatic theology, ecclesiastical polity, and
sectarian mechanism do more to delay than to expedite the time.

Thus it is plain that the professions that radiate from the palace, the
tent, the hospital, the tribunal, the temple, the studio, and the
theatre all have vices which largely neutralize their good offices and
prevent the fulfilment of their true mission, namely, the spreading of
the kingdom of heaven over the whole earth in the redemption of men from
ignorance, oppression, strife, and want.

There is another building, the seat of another profession, quite exempt
from the evils which alloy and burden the foregoing. The academy takes
all knowledge, scientifically considered, for its province; and the
teaching profession administer their possession as no _peculium_ of
their own, but as an open and free inheritance for all. They have no
class interest to foster as against the welfare of the whole. They have
no dogma of authority to impose, aside from the inherent authority of
truth and right. They do not wish to rule, only to teach every one self-
rule. The academic spirit would break open the enclosures bristling with
technical secrets, the strongholds of partial power, and dispense
freedom to all instead of despotic sway to the ruler, justice to all
instead of victory for the client, health to all instead of a fee to the
doctor, the grace of God to all instead of a salary for the priest. The
vice of the teaching class is the pedagogic dryness of routine and
verbal iteration. Academic education needs to add to itself everywhere
the dramatic spirit of life, that creative action of free sympathy which
will supplement the preceptive word with the exemplifying deed and
change the prosaic aridity for poetic freshness and bloom. It also needs
the military principle of drill, or organic habits of rhythm, wherever
applicable; but not to displace spontaneous intelligence and choice. It
likewise needs to proclaim the religiousness of scientific truth, that
every truth of morals or things is a demonstrable revelation of the will
of God, and the same for all men of all lands and faiths. Then the
academic profession will in itself reject the excesses and supply the
defects of all the other professions, and be the one guiding class in a
condition of mankind which has thrown off obsolete leading-strings. For,
while the ideal state of mankind will have no despotic or selfish ruler,
soldier, lawyer, doctor, or priest, it will always have a class of
teaching artists and artistic teachers, men of original genius and
inspiration, to refresh, enlighten, and guide their less gifted
brethren. To such a class the final government of the world will be
intrusted, not governing by the force of authority but by the persuasion
of light. Then partisan politics, ruling by human will declared in a
majority of votes, will be transmuted into social science, guiding by
the will of God revealed in demonstration. Those who desire to lift
themselves at the expense of others, and to live without labor by
appropriating the toil of others, will dislike such a conception, and
scout it as visionary. But their spirit is bad and must pass away;
because Christ, or God incarnate in man, is surely one day to reign,
putting every enemy under his feet and being All in all.

This millennial state might soon be ushered in if the ruling
professions, instead of guarding their class privileges and keeping the
rest of the world under them, sought disinterestedly to fulfil their
universal functions, securing order, justice, freedom, health, virtue,
piety, and education to all. But in reality the chief desire which
actuates them and shapes their policy and efforts is the instinctive
desire to avoid hardships and secure luxuries by governing other men and
appropriating the fruits of their labor without any equitable return.
This is seen now concentrated in the universal struggle for money,
because the superstition of money enables its possessor to command the
products of others without producing anything himself. How can this
fatal spell be broken, and that condition of society be inaugurated
wherein all things shall be exchanged for love alone, except labor and
its products, and these be exchanged on the principle of equivalences of
cost, abjuring the tyrannical fraud of profit? It can only be brought
about through an increased spirit of sympathy animating an improved
social science. And this is primarily the office of the dramatic
principle of imaginative identification, which is to make every one feel
for all others as if he were in their place.

Thus it is clear that the genuine moral work of the drama is essentially
the same as that of the gospel,—to redeem men from self-love by sympathy
for their kind. And yet the theatre and the church have stood askance,
and the priests and the players generally been enemies. What is the
origin, what the significance, what the remedy, of this quarrel between
those who should be friends and co-workers? A brief historic sketch and
a little human analysis will answer these questions, perhaps with some
profit as well as light.

The dramatic instinct and faculty are native in man in all times and
conditions. When David was afraid of his life in the house of Achish,
king of Gath, “he played the madman, scrabbling on the posts of the gate
and letting his spittle fall down on his beard.” But a theatre is a
fruit only of a high civilization, and it always reflects that
civilization. In India it seems to have been at first an appanage of the
palace, designed to give amusement to the king and his nobles and
favorites. It presented poetic descriptions of nature, romantic pictures
of life, songs, dances, and satires. In the Hindoo temples also were
sometimes enacted mythological religious and mystical dramas by the
priests and their assistants, less with theatrical machinery than in
words and movements, representing avatars of the gods, notably the
avatars of Vishnu as Rama and Krishna, supernatural adventures,
transmigrations, and scenes in other worlds. In China and Japan the
drama was in ancient times, as it still is, largely confined to the
illustration of history, presenting in long-drawn performances minute
pictures of legendary or historic personages, events, costumes, manners,
and customs. But it was in Egypt, where the priesthood was so distinct a
caste, so powerful an order, possessed of so much secret knowledge and
mechanism, that the doctrines and ritual of religion itself were first
wrought into a drama of the most sensational and appalling kind. In the
depths of the temple, with pomp of numbers and dresses, with music,
gorgeous and terrible scenery, artificial thunders and lightnings,
heavens and hells were unveiled, the dead shown in their immortal state,
celestial spirits and demons and deities were revealed, and such lessons
were enforced as suited the purposes of the managers of the spectacle.
It was a tool in the hands of the priests to play on the fears and hopes
of the people, who were taught to regard what they saw not as anything
artificial but as a vision of the supernatural. This was the drama of
the cryptic church, the theatre of the priestly conclave.

In Greece, as in Egypt,—possibly derived thence,—the earliest theatre
and drama were religious and secret. In the Bacchic and Eleusinian and
other mysteries, the incarnation, penance, death, and resurrection of
some god were represented, and in connection with the spectacle various
religious and philosophical doctrines were taught in symbolic shows.
Every art of influencing the imagination and the senses was here
employed,—the imposing forms and gestures of the hierophant and his
helpers impersonating the demiurgus and his train,—light and darkness,
colors, strange noises, music, incantations, rhythmic processions,
enchanting and maddening dances. But, as there was in Greece no distinct
priesthood separate from the rulers and leaders of the state, the
intense interest and power of this mode of impression could not remain
sequestered from the people and confined to a few sacred legends. The
great freedom and restless intelligence and critical personal emulation
of the Greeks soon brought forth from its seclusion this fascinating and
peerless method of teaching, planted it on an open stage, applied it to
sacred and political subjects, to character and experience, and gave the
world the first public theatre of the people. Still retaining in its
best examples its original religious dignity and solemnity, it added
many other qualities, developed comedy alongside of tragedy, and in its
combination of ideal and satirical types and manners rendered the stage
a mirror for the mimic reflection of the real scenes of human life. Thus
it escaped from privacy and priestly management into publicity under the
direction of a literary and political class. It was wielded for the
threefold purpose of moral and religious impression, of social or party
influence, and of displaying various styles of character and behavior
for popular amusement and edification.

In Rome the drama was modified and varied in some particulars from its
Greek model, but no new feature was added. It nearly lost its religious
quality, became more exclusively social and sensational, extended its
range only to profane and degrade it into the barbarity of the circus
and the arena. The Greek poet dealing with the simulated woes of the
soul was displaced by the Roman gladiator dealing in the real agonies of
the body, and the supernal beauty of classic tragedy expired in the
applauded horrors of butchery.

As the drama and the theatre in the Oriental and in the Classic world
had a priestly and religious origin and character, so was it with their
revival and first development in Christendom. The early Christian Church
regarded the games, spectacles, and plays of the moribund civilization
amidst which it arose in regenerating energy, with intense abomination,
as intimately associated with and characteristic of the idolatrous pagan
faith, the persecuting pagan power, and the corrupt pagan morals,
against whose insidious influence and threatening array the new type of
belief and life had to maintain itself. Tertullian and other
distinguished Christian fathers fulminated against the actors and their
associates excommunication in this world and damnation in the next. But
after a while, as the young religion got established, spread among
millions of adherents, and had itself a vast popular sway to uphold and
extend, the love of power and the spirit of politic conformity entered
into it. Seeing what a strong attraction for the public was inherent in
the spectacular drama, with its costume, scenery, dialogue, and action,
and what a power it possessed for insinuating persuasion and
instruction, the church began to adopt its methods, modified to suit the
new ideas and situation. First the bait of amusement, sport, and
burlesque was thrown out to draw in and please the rabble by licensing
to be held in the church the Feast of Asses, the Feast of Fools, and
other like riotous and farcical mummeries borrowed with certain
alterations from the pagan Saturnalia. Then, to add a serious element of
edification, the priests dramatically constructed and enacted in
Miracle-Plays, Mysteries, and Moralities the chief events in Scriptural
history, the outlines of dogmatic theology, the lessons of practical
duty, and the claims of ecclesiastical authority, seeking thus to draw
the crowd and teach and drill them to obedience. The virtues and vices
of men, temptation, death, judgment, were allegorized, personified, and
brought on the stage to impress the rude audience. The Creation, the
Flood, the Crucifixion, the Day of Judgment, were represented. God,
Christ, the Virgin, angels, the devil and his imps, were shown. John
Rastale, brother-in-law of Sir Thomas More, composed a Merry Interlude
to serve as a vehicle of science and philosophy, explaining the four
elements and describing various strange lands, especially the recently
discovered America. The characters were Nature, Humanity, Studious
Desire, Sensual Appetite, a Taverner, Experience, Ignorance, and a
Messenger who spoke the prologue. These plays, simple, crude, fantastic,
grotesque, as they were, suited the tastes of the time, administered fun
and terror to the spectators, who alternately laughed and shuddered
while the meaning of the creed and the hold of its power sank deeper
into their souls. There was a mixture in it of good and evil, recreation
and fear, truth and superstition, fitted to the age and furnishing a
transition to something better.

            “When friars, monks, and priests of former days
            Apocrypha and Scripture turned to plays,
            The Festivals of Fools and Asses kept,
            Obeyed boy-bishops and to crosses crept,
            They made the mumming Church the people’s rod,
            And held the grinning bauble for a God.”

But quite aside from all these dramatic excrescences of the church,
these artifices for catering to and influencing the public, there has
been always imbedded in the very substance of Christianity, ever since
the great ecclesiastical system of dogmatic theology was evolved, a
profound and awful tragedy, the incomparable Drama of Redemption, whose
subject is the birth, life, teachings, sufferings, death, and
resurrection of Christ, whose action sweeps from the creation of the
world to the day of doom, whose characters are the whole human race, God
and his angels, Satan and his demons, and whose explicating close opens
the perfect bliss of heaven for the elect and seals the hopeless agony
of hell for the damned. This is the unrivalled ecclesiastical drama
whose meaning the Protestant Church makes implicit in its creed but the
Catholic Church makes explicit not only in the colossal pathos and
overpowering _miserere_ of Passion Week, but also in every celebration
of the mass, at whose infinite dénouement of a dying God the whole
universe might well stand aghast.

In the course of time the companies of actors who, in connection with
the priests or under their permission and oversight, had played in the
Mysteries and Moralities, gradually detached themselves from
ecclesiastical localities and management, and, with licenses obtained
from sacred and secular authority, set up on their own account, strolled
from place to place, giving entertainments in public squares, at fairs,
in the court-yards of inns, in the mansions of nobles, and in the
palaces of royalty. Then kings and great dukes came to have their own
select companies of players, who wore their livery, obeyed their orders,
and ministered to their amusement and ostentation. Herein the drama was
degraded from its proper dignity to be a vassal of vanity and luxury. In
a masque performed at the marriage of an Italian duke in the sixteenth
century, Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Diana, Venus, and Mars appeared bringing
in dishes of dainties and waiting on the guests. The immortal gods
represented as servants to honor and ornament a human festival!

At length the dramatic profession, forsaking courts and inns, secured a
separate home of its own, and became a guild by itself, independently
established in the distinct theatre and appealing directly to the
general public for support. In the secret theatre of the priests the
substance of the drama, based on such legends as those of the Hindoo
Krishna, the Egyptian Osiris, and the Greek Dionysus, was fiction
exhibited as fact or poetry disguised as revelation. In the open theatre
of the state the substance of the drama, in such examples as the
Prometheus of Æschylus, was mythology, moral philosophy, or poetry
represented as history. In the plays foisted on the mediæval Christian
church the dramatic substance was tradition, ceremonial, and dogma
taught as religion. But now, with the rise of the educated histrionic
profession, all this passed away, and in the freed theatre of the people
the substance of the drama became coincident with the realities of human
life, a living reflex of the experience of society. In Portugal and
Spain, Lope de Vega and Calderon developed the highest flower and finish
of the Mysteries and Miracle-Plays in their transition from the
ecclesiastical to the social type of the drama, while in England,
France, Italy, and Germany the stage became a rounded mirror of the
world, reflecting human nature and conduct in their actual form, color,
and motion. Then the theatrical art was rapidly developed in all its
varieties,—the drama of character and fate, or tragedy; the drama of
plot and intrigue, or romance; and the drama of manners, or comedy and
farce. Then the theatre instinctively assumed for its whole business
what its comprehensive function now is and must ever remain, yet what it
has never grasped and wielded with distinct consciousness, but only
blindly groped after and fumbled about,—namely, the exhibition of the
entire range of the types of human character and behavior so set off
with the contrasts of their foils and in the light of their standards as
to make the spectators feel what is admirable and lovely and what is
contemptible and odious, as the operation of the laws of destiny is made
visible before them. But all who penetrate beneath mere appearances must
perceive that just in the degree in which the theatre does this work it
is trenching on the immediate province of the church, and the players
fulfilling a function identical in moral substance with that of the

The church aims directly to teach and to impress, to persuade and to
command. The theatre aims directly to entertain, indirectly to teach,
persuade, and impress. It often accomplishes the last three aims so much
the better because of the surrendered, genial, and pleased condition of
soul induced by the success of the first one. Another advantage the
theatre has had over the church, in attempting to educate or exert
influence, is that it does it without the perfunctory air or the
dogmatic animus or repulsive severity of those who claim the tasks of
moral guidance and authority as their supernatural professional office.
The teachings of the theatre have also a freshness and attraction in
their inexhaustible range of natural variety which are wanting to the
monotonous verbal and ritualistic routine of the set themes and
unchanging forms in the ecclesiastical scheme of Sunday drill. And then,
finally, all natural competition of the dry, bleak pulpit with the stage
becomes hopeless when the priest sees the intense sensational pleasure
and impression secured for the lessons of the player by the convergent
action of the fourteen-fold charm of the theatre,—namely, the charm of a
happy and sympathetic crowd; the charm of ornate architectural
spaciousness and brilliancy; the charm of artistic views of natural
scenery; the charm of music; the charm of light and shade and color in
costumes and jewelry and on figures and landscapes now illuminated and
now darkened; the charm of rhythmic motion in marches and processions
and dances; the charm of poetry; the charm of eloquence in word and tone
and look and gesture; the charm of receiving beautiful lessons
exquisitely taught; the charm of following an intricate and thickening
plot to its satisfactory explication; the charm of beholding in varied
exercise human forms which are trained models of strength, beauty, and
grace; the charm of seeing the varieties of human characters act and
react on one another; the charm of sympathy with the fortunes and
feelings of others under exciting conditions rising to a climax; the
charm of a temporary release from the grinding mill of business and
habit to disport the faculties of the soul freely in an ideal world.

Is it not obvious that such a power as this should be utilized by the
most cultivated minds in the community for the highest ends?

When in the independent theatre such a power as this arose, no longer
asking favors or paying tribute, bidding with such a fearful
preponderance of fascinations for that docile attention of the populace
whereof the clergy had previously held a monopoly, it was no wonder that
the church looked on its rival with deadly jealousy. And there was good
ground for this jealousy separate from any personal interests or
animosities. For _the respective ideals of life held up by the priest
and the player_ are diametrically opposed to each other. This is the
real ultimate basis of the chronic hostility of the church and the
theatre. The deepest genius of the one contradicts that of the other.
The ecclesiastical ideal of life is abnegation, ascetic self-repression
and denial; while the dramatic ideal of life is fulfilment, harmonic
exaltation and completeness of being and function. Which of these ideals
is the more just and adequate? If God made us, it would appear that the
fulfilment of all the normal offices of our nature in their co-ordinated
plenitude of power is his will. It is only on the theory that the Devil
made us in opposition to the wisdom and wish of God, that intrinsic and
sheer denial can be our duty. Lower abnegation as a means for higher
fruition, partial denial for the sake of total fulfilment, are clear and
rational obligations. But the idea that ascetic self-sacrifice as an end
pure and simple in itself is a virtue or a means of salvation is a
morbid superstition with which the church has always been diseased, but
from which the theatre has always been free. Accordingly, the two
institutions in their very genius, as interpreted from the narrow
professional point of view, are hostile. The vices of the church have
been sour asceticism, fanatical ferocity, sentimental melancholy, dismal
gloom, narrow mechanical formalism and cant, and a deep hypocrisy
resulting from the reaction of excessive public strictness into secret
indulgence. The vices of the theatre, on the other hand, have been
frivolity, reckless gayety, conviviality, and voluptuousness. But these
vices have been envisaged with the virtues of quick sympathy, liberal
sentiment, an ingenuous spirit of enjoyment, open docility, universal
tolerance and kindliness.

Purified from its accidental corruptions and redeemed from its shallow
carelessness, the theatre would have greater power to teach and mould
than the church. Aside from historic authority and social prestige, its
intrinsic impressiveness is greater. The deed must go for more than the
word. The dogma must yield to the life. And while in the pulpit the
dogmatic word is preached in its hortatory dryness, on the stage the
living deed is shown in its contagious persuasion or its electric
warning. Character is much more plastic to manners than to opinions.
Manners descend from the top of society; opinions ascend from the
bottom. This is because opinions indirectly govern the world while
manners directly govern it. And the ruling class desire to maintain
things as they are, that they may keep their prerogatives. Therefore
they are opposed to new doctrines. But the ground masses of the people,
who are ruled, desire to change the _status quo_ for their own
betterment. Now the church, representing the vested interests of
traditional authority and the present condition of things, has become a
school of opinions, not for the free testing and teaching of the True,
but for the drill of the Established; while the theatre, in its genuine
ideal, is what the church ought to be,—a school of manners, or
manufactory of character.

Another superiority of the genius of the drama to the genius of theology
is the freedom and largeness of the application of its method. The moral
principle of the dramatic art is _disinterested sympathy animating
plastic intelligence for the interpretation and free circulation of
souls and lives_. It is the redemptive or enriching supplementation of
the individual with society. For in order to put on a superior we must
first put off self. And there is nothing nobler in the attributes of man
than his ability to subdue the tyranny of old egotistic custom with new
perception and impulse, and thus start on a fresh moral career endlessly
varied and progressive. The theatre gives this principle a natural and
universal application through the whole moral range of human life. The
ecclesiastical dogmatist restricts it to a single supernatural
application to the disciple of Christ, and would monopolize its
influence to that one channel. Notoriously every bigot would drill the
whole world in his own fixed mould, to his own set pattern, stiff,
harsh, ascetic, exclusive. But the cosmopolite would see exemplified in
mankind the same generous liberty and variety which prevail in nature.
He would, instead of directing attention only to the sectarian type of
saint, hold up all sorts of worthy ideals that each may be admired and
copied according to its fitness and beauty.

The church paints the world as a sad and fearful place of probation,
where redemption is to be fought for while the violent and speedy end of
the entire scene is implored. The theatre regards it as a gift of beauty
and joy to be graciously perfected and perpetuated. The ideal of the
priest and the ideal of the actor contrast as Dominic and Pericles, or
as Simeon Stylites and Haroun-al-Raschid. All the words denoting the
church and its party—ecclesia, église, kirche, congregation—signify a
portion selected or elected and called aside by themselves for special
salvation, apart from the great whole who are to be left to the general
doom. But the word theatre in its etymology implies that the world of
life is something worthy of contemplation, beautiful to be gazed at and

The priest naturally disliked the player because he was more attractive
to the public than himself. He also disliked him because disapproving
his art. The very object of the drama is by its spectacle of action to
rouse the faculties and excite the feelings of the assembly who regard
it. But the priest would not have the passions vivified; he would have
them mortified. The contemplation of the dread passion and sacrifice of
Christ, the fear of sin and of death and judgment, should exclude or
suppress all other passions. On the contrary, the dramatist holds to the
great moral canon of all art, that perfected life is the continuous end
of life, and that the setting of intelligence and emotion into ideal
play, a spiritual gymnastic of the passions in mental space disentangled
from their muscular connections, purifies and frees them.

The priest not only holds that the dramatic ideal of the natural
fulfilment of the offices of being is opposed to the religious ideal of
grace, is profane, and tends directly to ruin; he likewise, from all the
prejudices of his own rigidity of mould and bigoted routine, believes
that the facility and continual practice of the actor in passing from
assumption to assumption and from mood to mood must be fatal to moral
consistency, must loosen the fibre of character, and produce
dissoluteness of soul not less than of life. This is mostly a false
prejudice. Those of the greatest dramatic mobility of genius and
versatile spiritual physiognomy, like Cervantes, Molière, Goethe,
Schiller, Dickens, Voltaire, and the very greatest actors and actresses,
like Talma, Garrick, Rachel, Siddons, had the most firm and coherent
individuality of their own. Their penetrations and impersonations of
others reacted not to weaken and scatter but to define and gird their
own personal types of being and behavior. The dramatic type of character
is richer and freer than the priestly, but not less distinctly

Another circumstance stirring a keen resentment in the church against
the theatre is that it has often been attacked and satirized by it. When
the divines, who had long enjoyed a monopoly of the luxurious privilege
of being the censors of morals, the critics of other men, found
themselves unceremoniously hauled over the coals by the actors, their
vices exposed to the cautery of a merciless ridicule, their personal
peculiarities caricatured, it was but human nature that they should be
angry and try to put down the new censorship which with its secular
vigor and universal principles confronted the ecclesiastical standard.
The legal, medical, and clerical professions have often had to run the
gauntlet of a scorching criticism on the stage. Herein the drama has
been a power of wholesome purification; but it could not hope to escape
the penalty of the wrath of those it exposed with its light and
laughter. It has done much to make cant and hypocrisy odious and to
vindicate true morality and devotion by unmasking false. Louis XIV. said
to Condé, “Why do the saints who are scandalized at Tartuffe make no
complaint of Scaramouche?” Condé replied, “Because the author of
Scaramouche ridicules religion, for which these gentry care nothing; but
Molière ridicules themselves, and this they cannot endure.” The censure
and satire on the stage, concealed in the quips of fools or launched
from the maxims of the noble, have often had marked effect. Jesters like
Heywood and Tarleton, who were caressed by kings and statesmen, under
their masks of simplicity and merriment have shot many a brave bolt at
privileged pretences and wrongs and pompous imposition. The power of
satire is often most piercing and most fruitful. The all-wise Shakspeare
makes his melancholy Jaques say,—

            “Invest me in my motley: give me leave
            To speak my mind, and I will through and through
            Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
            If they will patiently receive my medicine.”

Furthermore, the priest often has an antipathy for the player because in
spite of his arrogated spiritual superiority feeling himself personally
inferior to him. The preacher, rigid, hide-bound, of a dogmatic and
formal cast, cannot take off the mobile, hundred-featured actor, who, on
the contrary, can easily include and transcend him, caricature him, and
make him appear in the most ridiculous or the most disagreeable light.

           “If comprehension best can power express,
           And that’s still greater which includes the less,
           No rank’s high claim can make the player’s small,
           Since acting each he comprehends them all.”

Molière can show up Tartuffe, Tartuffe cannot show up Molière. Therefore
Tartuffe fears and hates Molière, excommunicates him, denies his body
consecrated burial, and, with a sharp relish, consigns his soul to the
brimstone gulf. The prevailing temper of the clerical guild towards the
histrionic guild, from the first till now, has been uncharitable and
unjust, intellectually unappreciative and morally repulsive. This is
shown all the way from the frenzied De Spectaculis of Tertullian and the
vituperative Histrio-Mastix of Prynne to the sweeping denunciation of
the drama by Henry Ward Beecher, who, never having seen a play, condemns
it from inherited prejudice, although himself every Sunday carrying a
whole theatre into his pulpit in his own person. An English clergyman in
1792 uttered these words in a sermon on the drama: “No player or any of
his children ought to be entitled to Christian burial or even to lie in
a church-yard. Not one of them can be saved. And those who enter a play-
house are equally certain with the players of eternal damnation. No
player can be an honest man.” Richard Robinson, who played Wittipol in
“The Devil is an Ass” so as to win warm praise from Ben Jonson, was, at
the siege of Bassinge-House, shot through the head after he had laid
down his arms. A puritan named Harrison shot him, crying, “Cursed be he
that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully!” The body of the favorite
Parisian actor Philippe in 1824 was refused religious rites by the
priests, and his friends were so incensed that the military had to be
called out to quell the riot. A kindred disturbance was narrowly escaped
at the death of Talma. When the wife of Nokes, a dancing-master, had
rescued Edmund Kean and his wife and children from actual starvation and
lent them a room, the landlord, a Christian clergyman named Flower, said
that “no theatrical people should have the room.” And it is matter of
fresh remembrance how the same spirit of bigotry was manifested by a
Boston bishop in refusing confirmation to the universally respected and
beloved Thomas Comer because he led the orchestra in a theatre, and by a
New York pastor who declined to read the funeral-service over the
estimable George Holland because he had been an actor.

It must be affirmed that the chief animus of the clerical profession has
been the desire to be obeyed, and that this is less Christian and less
amiable than the ruling spirit of the dramatic profession, which is the
desire to be loved. But the real spirit which ought to reign supreme in
every one is neither the desire to be obeyed nor the desire to be loved,
but the desire to be harmonized with the principles of universal order,
giving and taking accordingly without egotistic exactions of any kind
whether dictatorial or sympathetic. And this result can only be attained
by means of the dramatic art of mutual sympathetic interpretation
universally applied under the guidance of moral and religious

The church of Christ, in opposition to the example of its divine
Founder, has been made an exclusive enclosure for a privileged class of
believers. In it their prejudices are cherished and their ascetic ideal
glorified and urged on all. The Saviour himself was a miracle of
tolerance and inclusiveness, mingling freely with the common people, not
spurning the publican, the sinner, or the harlot, but regarding all
ranks in the great brotherhood of humanity with a sweet and
inexhaustible kindness. There was one exception alone. Towards the
bigot, the pharisee, the hypocrite, the tyrant, his scorn and
indignation burned. But all other forms of man moved only his impartial
love or his healing compassion. This was the divinely democratic genius
of Christ, but has not been the genius of the priesthood who with
arrogance and persecution have claimed to represent him. The theatre has
been far more expansive in the range of its sympathies than the church.
The highest dramatic genius that has ever appeared in the world,
Shakspeare, shows in his works a serene charity, a boundless toleration,
a genial appreciation of the widest extremes, kindred to that of God in
nature and grace. His loving imagination, like the all-holding sky,
embraces Trinculo, Bardolph, Poins, Falstaff, and Malvolio, as well as
Bassanio, Prospero, Hamlet, Cæsar, and Lear; Audrey and Quickly, as well
as Portia and Cordelia.

The first glory of the theatre is its freedom from sectarianism; and its
first use is to radiate abroad this generous spirit of universality, not
bigotedly limiting attention to any one province of life or any single
ideal, but revealing the whole world of man in its heights and breadths
and depths, exhibiting in turn every variety of ideal and doing justice
to them all. “The drama,” Macklin said, “should be a perfect
reproduction of general nature as it passes through human life in every
character, age, rank, and station.” Taught this by genius, experience,
and learning, it teaches the common observer how wondrously large and
rich is the world of mankind. Emperors and clowns pass, saints and
villains jostle, heroes and murderers meet, the divine lady and the foul
virago appear and vanish,—and all the meanings and values of their
traits and fortunes are laid bare to those who see and can understand.
There is indeed no other revelation of the complex contents and
destinies of humanity in this world so competent as that afforded in
dramatic literature and the theatre. For here all is concentrated,
heightened, set off, and revealed by aid of the most exquisite
contrivances of art of every sort.

One of the most penetrative and wonderful but least generally
appreciated of these contrivances is the explication of the good and
evil or beauty and ugliness of souls and deeds, the moral worth and
significance of dispositions and situations, by means of music.
Rubinstein has depicted in his symphony of Ivan the Terrible the
character of that frightful monster of the Russian throne. In this
musical character-picture he has painted his hero in the blackest
colors, revealing his hideous traits and moods by violent and spasmodic
tones repulsively combined. But Mozart is the most dramatic of the
composers,—the very Shakspeare of the musicians. The personages of his
operas are distinctive creations, true to life. They appear to think,
feel, and act in tones and combinations of tones. Each of the musical
characters keeps his individuality, however the passions and scenes and
events change. The features and outlines of the characters are defined
or determined by the style, the phrases, the time, rhythm, range,
inflections, and accompaniment. In place of this, Wagner marks his chief
personages by the mannerism of repeating the same phrase with the same
instruments whenever one of them reappears. In the Tannhäuser, as often
as Venus enters the high chromatic violin tremolo and rhythmical whisper
of the wind instruments are repeated. The artifice is profound, and its
effect mysteriously impressive. The meaning of the mystery lies in the
facts that the sounds of the music correspond with vibrations in our
nerves, and that every quality of passion has its peculiar forms and
rates of vibration. The ratios in the physical sound are parallel with
other ratios in the spiritual consciousness. And so Giovanni and
Leporello, Elvira and Anna, are distinguished. And so the Benediction of
the Poignards and the Mass for the Dead are contrasted.

Characters are interpreted on the stage by means of their visible
motions also. For the upper classes, the most dignified personages in
the stately tragedy, there is a solemn pomp of bearing, and the
employment of marches and processions. Everything partakes more of
slowness and formality. The most heavenly human characters, or angelic
visitants from another world, are indicated by floating contours and
melodious lines of motion. Perfected equilibrium in the body is the sign
of perfected harmony in the soul. Devils or demoniac men are suggested
by dances full of excessive energy, hideous and sudden contortions,
convulsive jumps and climaxes.

The central characteristic of the genuine melodrama, now nearly or quite
obsolete, was its combination of musical tone and muscular movement as a
method of dramatic revelation and impression. Its theme and scene lay in
the middle or lower class and in a limited sphere. Thus, while the
assassination of a monarch suggested a tragedy, a village murder would
form the subject of a melodrama. But all the gestures and pantomime of
the performers were regulated or accompanied by instrumental music
played forte or fortissimo, piano or pianissimo, as the situation
required. The villain was marked by an orchestral discord or crash,
while lovers billed and cooed to the mellifluous breathings of the
German flute. Villagers always came over a bridge at the rise of the
curtain to lively music. The heroine entered to eight bars of plaintive
melody. Four harsh and strongly accented bars heralded the approach of
the villain. The characters struggled to hurried music, recognized one
another and were surprised to chords, and crept about in caves and dark
apartments to mysterious pizzicato strains. All this correspondence of
sound, color, and motion works on the souls of the audience in the
profoundest manner, obscurely suggestive of innumerable things beyond
the reach of any clear memory and below the depths of any distinct
apprehension. It stirs up that automatic region of our nature compacted
of prehistoric experiences.

Few persons have any idea how closely the theatre even in its romantic
extravaganzas and fairy spectacles reflects the truths of human life. It
merely intensifies the effect and produces a magical impression by
expanding and shrinking the measures of space and time. But all its
seeming miracles are in the outer world slowly brought about in prosaic
reality. The suddenness of the changes in the mimic scenes ought to open
our eyes to the equal marvellousness of them in the gradual substance of
history. Harlequin in his spangled vestment, with his sword of
enchantment, pursuing the lovely Columbine, and always outwitting and
baffling the clumsy attempts of the Clown and Pantaloon to circumvent
him, is the type of how the aristocracy of genius has always snatched
the sweet prizes of the world from blundering plebeianism amidst the
astonishment, laughter, and rage of the bewildered bystanders, who so
imperfectly comprehend the game. The relations of coexistence and
sequence, the working of laws of cause and effect that preside over
events in the actual world, are not altered in the theatre. It is only
their measures or rates of action that are trifled with so to the
amazement of the senses. Appreciating this, it is obvious that no
transformation scenes on the stage can possibly equal the real ones in
life itself. Mohammed, the poor factor of Kadijah, receives an
inspiration, preaches a new faith, is hunted by his foes, conquers
nation after nation, till a quarter of the earth exults under his
crescent flag and hails him infallible prophet of Allah. Columbus
conceives a thought, his frail pinnaces pierce their perilous way over
the ocean, and a new world is discovered. Louis Napoleon is taken from
teaching French for a livelihood in New York to be throned in the palace
of the Tuileries and to inaugurate the _Exposition Universelle_
surrounded by the leading monarchs of the earth. The young Rachel,
haggard and ill clad, begged an influential person to obtain leave for
her to appear on the stage of the Théâtre Français. He told her to get a
basket and sell flowers. When she did appear, and heaps of bouquets were
thrown at her feet, after the curtain fell she flung them all into a
basket, slung it from her shoulders, and, kneeling to the man who had
advised her to go and sell flowers, asked him, half in smiles and half
in tears, if he would not buy a nosegay. Nothing that befalls the
glittering Harlequin or Columbine amidst the swift enchantments of the
theatre is fuller of astounding contrasts than these realities, if our
thought but escapes the tyranny of space and time.

An artifice of vast power by which the theatre intensifies its
revelations of character and experience, conduct and destiny, so as to
make them more effective and apparently more significant than the
original realities themselves are in actual life, is by increasing the
range and vividness of the standards and foils by which they are judged,
carrying them lower and raising them higher and making their contrasts
sharper than they are seen elsewhere. The fool used to have the head of
his stick or mock sceptre painted with human features, and talk and play
with it as if it were an intelligent comrade. This was his bauble, in
allusion to which Shakspeare says, “The fool holds his bauble for a
god.” Scoggan, the famous mummer, used to dress up his fists and make
them act for the amusement of a dinner company. This is the secret of
the vulgar delight in the clown, with his ridiculous dress made up of
absurdities, his face whitened with chalk and flour and blotched with
red patches and black and yellow streaks, his lips painted in
elongations so that when he laughs his mouth seems to open from ear to
ear. The mental disparity of his standard of intelligence and manners
with that in the minds of the spectators elicits roars of coarse joy
from them. It was said of Mazurier, the great Punchinello, that he was
in deformities what Apollo was in perfections. Humped equally before and
behind, perched on the legs of a heron, equipped with the arms of an
ape, he moved with that stiffness without force, that suppleness devoid
of reaction, characterizing the play of a body which has not in itself
the principle of its movement, and whose members, set in action by a
wire, are not attached to the trunk by articulations, but by rags. He
imitated mechanism with as close a fidelity as in another rôle mechanism
is made to imitate man. He seemed to be human and yet to have nothing
human. His motions and falls were such that one believed him made not of
flesh and bone but of cotton and thread. His face was wooden, and he
carried illusion to such a pitch that the children took him for a
gigantic puppet which had grown.

Even below this there is a lower dramatic depth still, and filled with
yet keener sport for a large class. The reflection of human life in the
marionette or puppet-show makes a revelation of a phase of human nature
as profound and fearful as it is unexpected. The revelation is not
consciously made, but springs from an intuitive perception of truth and
sense of fitness as marvellous as anything in the history of the drama.
It has long been known that there is an intimate likeness between the
insane class and the criminal class. They both show the effect of
removing the restraints exerted on the ego by its sympathetic
connections with the general public. The restraint exercised on the
indulgence of egotistic feelings and interests by a consideration of the
feelings and interests of others being lifted off, these selfish
instincts, which are the deepest organic heritage from ancestral
history, break recklessly out. Now, the puppet has no sympathy. Moved
not by his brain and heart but by wires attached to his limbs, his
character shows the result. He is personified selfishness and whim. His
individual will is absolutely reckless of other wills or of
consequences. His ferocity is murderous, his jollity fiendish, his
conduct a jumble of animal passions, cunning impulses, and chaotic
impressions. This is unregenerate man released from social order and
given over to himself. And there is a deep, sinister, raw pleasure for
an uncultivated soul in the sight of a being freed from every law but
that of self-indulgence. This is the secret of the fascination of the
plebeian puppet-show.

Sometimes there has been in it a strange and terrible element of social
satire. The lower class vent through it their hatred for their
oppressors. One type of the Italian Polichinelle was a representative of
the populace angered and made vindictive by their wrongs. He lays the
stick lustily on the shoulders of his master and on the necks of the
police, and takes summary vengeance for the iniquities of official
justice. He is also a frightful cynic. He says, “I despise men so much
that I care not what they think or say of me. I have suffered as much as
others, but I have turned my back and my heart into leather. I am
laughter personified, triumphant laughter, wicked laughter. Pshaw for
the poor creatures knocked over by a breath! I am of iron and wood, old
also as the world.” “In thus speaking,” says his French historian, “he
is truthful; for his heart is as dry as his baton, and he is a thorough
egotist. Ferocious under his seeming good humor, he does evil for the
love of it. Valuing the life of a man no more than that of a flea, he
delights in quarrels and massacres.” He has no sincere affection, no
reverence, no fear either of God or devil, is always eager for coarse
and low enjoyment, and laughs most loudly when he has done the cruellest
deeds. He is the very type of the strong, vital, abandoned criminal; and
he opens a huge vista into the most horrible experience of the human

And now it will be a relief to turn attention aloft in the opposite
direction. The upward action of the dramatic art is its benign aspect.
The egotist looks down to learn how great he is, and up to learn how
little. The generous man looks up to feel how rich he is, and down to
feel how poor. The former sees himself in contrast with others, the
latter sees himself in unison with them. This may be exemplified in
comedy as well as in tragedy. The portraiture of reality on the stage
hitherto has perhaps chiefly aimed to amuse by exhibiting the follies
and absurdities of people and making the spectators laugh at them in
reaction from standards in their own minds. It will one day aim to
correct the follies and absurdities of the spectators by setting before
them models of superiority and ideals of perfection.

To enter into and appropriate the states and prerogatives of those
happier, greater, and better than we, either for an admiring estimate of
them, for the enrichment of ourselves, or for the free play of desirable
spiritual qualities, is at once recreation, luxury, redemption, and
education. This is the highest application of the dramatic principle,
the mending of the characters of men with the characters of superior
men. And it tends to the reconciliation and attuning of all the world.
This is the principle which Paul illustrates in his doctrine that true
circumcision is not of the flesh but of the soul, and that the genuine
children of Abraham are the new race of spiritual characters which,
reproducing his type of faith and conduct, will supersede his mere
material descendants. He also says that those who measure themselves by
themselves and compare themselves among themselves are not wise. The
complement of this statement would be that we should compare ourselves
with all sorts of people, that we may put off every imperfection of our
own and put on every perfection of theirs. And the same apostle gives
this principle its supremest application in his immortal text, “Put ye
on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Pauline formula for the salvation of the
world embodies the regenerating essence of the dramatic art, which is
the assimilation by less divine characters of a more divine one, raising
them into fellowship with the Divinest. It calls on all men to “behold
with open face, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord,” and gaze on it
until “they are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the
Spirit of the Lord.”

In distinction from this high use of the dramatic life and spirit, the
fault of the ordinary range of coarse and careless men is the utter
absence of all vital sympathetic insight. Fixed in the grooves of habit,
shut up in their own hard and narrow type, they move stolidly among
other men, insensible to the treasures they contain, giving and taking
no more than so many sticks would.

And in some who have a fair share of the dramatic instinct it suffers a
direct inversion of its purest office. For the weak and reckless allow
themselves to be degraded to the level of the worst characters they
behold, adopt their customs, assume their traits, copy their vices, and
repeat their retributive ruin. The man of moral earnestness is warned
and armed by a dramatic knowledge of the profligate and criminal. Only
the impure or heedless idler will be led astray by it.

Yet there is another abuse of this art of dramatic penetration, which,
if less fearful, is more frequent and almost as much to be reprehended,
namely, a fruitless toying with it in a spirit of mere frivolity. A
great many persons enter imaginatively into the states of other people,
neither to honor and imitate nor to disapprove and avoid, but in empty
sport and as an ostentatious luxury of vanity and pride. There is
nothing which vulgar natures are so fond of as, in vulgar phrase,
feeling their oats, pampering their fancied superiority to those they
contemplate. They hate to be rebuked and commanded by excellences beyond
their own attainment. They love to look down on something beneath their
own arrogated estimate of self. And so they come to interpret almost
everything they see as being inferior, and to draw from it a reflex
complacency. Their noisy laughter is but an indirect self-applause
consisting of what Emerson has called “contemptible squeals of joy.” For
whatever a man can laugh at he deems he is superior to. Nothing did the
audiences at the old miracle-plays enjoy half so keenly as laughing at
the devil when he was driven through a trap-door in a sulphurous shower
of fire and squibs. The reason why a superficial exhibition of wit or
humor is so popular is that it affords, at so low a price of effort, the
luxury of the feeling of detachment and mastery. The insincere or
unconsecrated nature always prefers a cheap seeming superiority to a
costly real one. However much Harlequin and Punch and Judy may relieve
and amuse, and thus find justification, they do not purify nor lift nor
inspire nor educate the ordinary spectator. The genuine drama does all
these in addition to bestowing the richest entertainment. Still, it must
be remembered that the influence of a performance depends ultimately on
the character and spirit of the spectator. Some persons seeing
Washington would think nothing of his character, but be absorbed in
admiration of his regimentals. One, at a given exhibition, will be
simply entertained. Another will be debauched. A third will be lastingly
impressed, stimulatingly edified. A fourth may enjoy the delusive luxury
of a criticising superiority, persuading himself that he includes and
transcends the characters whose enactments he so clearly understands and
sees around. Those who laugh at those who weep fancy they are above them
while really grovelling below in vulgar insensibility. One may easily
lift armor he cannot wear.

The next use of the theatre, the most obvious of its serious uses, lies
in the force with which it carries the great practical truths of
morality home to the heart and the soul. The power of the stage in
enforcing moral lessons, the rewards of virtue, the beauty of nobleness,
the penalties of vice and crime, the horrors of remorse and disgrace,
the peace and comfort of a self-approving conscience, is greater than
that of any other mode of teaching. Its living exemplification of the
workings of good and evil in the secret soul and in the social sphere
has an effectiveness of incitement and of warning far beyond that of the
mere didactic precept or exhortation of the pulpit. It is said that many
a dissipated and felonious apprentice who saw Ross play George Barnwell
was turned from his evil courses by the terrible force of the
representation. One who was thus saved used every year anonymously to
send Ross on his benefit-night the sum of ten guineas as a token of his
gratitude. And Dr. Barrowby assured the player that he had done more
good by his acting than many a parson had by his preaching. This
educational function or moral edification in uncovering the secrets of
experience and showing how every style of character and conduct entails
its own compensatory consequences is even now a high and fruitful office
of the theatre, frivolous and corrupt as it often is. And when the drama
shall be made in all respects what it ought to be, fulfilling its own
proper ideal, it will be beyond comparison the most effective agency in
the world for imparting moral instruction and influence. The teaching of
the stage is indeed all the more insinuating and powerful because it is
indirect and not perfunctory or interested. The audience are not on
their guard against it. It works with the force of nature and sincerity

                                   “I have heard
               That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
               Have by the very cunning of the scene
               Been struck so to the soul that presently
               They have proclaimed their malefactions.”

No thoughtful and earnest person could possibly see the wickedness of
Iago, the torture of Othello, the struggle and remorse of Macbeth,
depicted by a great actor and not be profoundly instructed, moved, and
morally fortified.

Not only does the drama array its teachings of morality in living forms
so much more contagious and powerful than abstract precepts, but it also
gives the highest examples of didactic eloquence. It abounds in the most
beautiful expressions of poetry and philosophy, the wisest and most
charming instances of insight and moralizing experience, verbal
descriptions of character and of nature set off with every adjunct of
oratoric art and heightening scenery. The preaching on the stage is
often richer and sounder as well as more splendid than that heard from
the pulpit. Besides, the pleasing excitement of the scene, the
persuasive interest of the play, the surrendered and receptive spirits
of the crowd blending in quickest sympathy and applause always over the
most disinterested and exalted sentiments, predispose every hearer to
the most favorable mood for being impressed by what is lovely, good, and
great. The actor, inspired by his theme and his audience, makes
thousands thrill and weep as he gives burning utterance to burning
thoughts or infuses his own high spirit into beautiful and heroic
examples of eloquence and virtue. When in Macbeth Forrest said,—

                 “I dare do all that may become a man,
                 Who dares do more is none;”—

when in the Peruvian hero he replied to the accusation from Pizarro of
having spoken falsely, “Rolla utter falsehood! I would I had thee in a
desert with thy troop around thee, and I but with my sword in this
unshackled hand!” when in Damon he said, in rebuke of the corrupt and
sycophantic office-seeker,—

           “I told you, boy, I favored not this stealing
           And winding into place: what he deserves,
           An honest man dares challenge ’gainst the world,”—

it must have been a brutish breast in which his words did not start
generous and ennobling echoes. Tell says,—

                     “Ha! behold in air
             Where a majestic eagle floats above
             The northern turrets of the citadel,
             And as the sun breaks through yon rifted cloud
             His plumage shines, embathed in burning gold,
             And sets off his regality in heaven!”

To have such a picture painted in speech and action so vividly that the
hearers are transported out of themselves and tremble with pleasure is
an educational influence of a pure and lofty order. The victorious
Spartacus soliloquizes,—

             “A cloud is on my path, but my ambition
             Sees glory in it. As travellers, who stand
             On mountains, view upon some neighboring peak
             Among the mists a figure of themselves
             Traced in sublimer characters; so I
             Here see the vapory image of myself
             Distant and dim, but giant-like.”

All who take the impression of the actor and his imagery in this passage
must receive some sense of the greatness of man and the mystery of his
destiny, and feel themselves magnified beyond their wonted state. And
when Forrest spoke these words of Virginius whole audiences were
electrified by their power and inspirited with their sublime faith:

           “Whoever says Justice will be defeated—
           He lies in the face of the gods. She is immutable,
           Immaculate, and immortal. And though all
           The guilty globe should blaze, she will spring up
           Through the fire and soar above the crackling pile
           With not a downy feather ruffled by
           Its fierceness!”

The noble lines of the poet full of great thoughts, scarcely heeded and
soon forgotten by the reader, are by the fiery or solemn elocution of
the actor sculptured on the memories of his auditors for ineffaceable

The theatre is always in some degree a school of manners, but it ought
to be far more distinctly and systematically such. The different
personages are foils and contrasts to set one another off. As they act
and react in their various styles of being and of behavior, they
advertise and illuminate what they are, and tacitly, but with the most
penetrative effect, teach the spectator to estimate them by mutual
comparisons and by reference to such standards as he knows. Grandeur and
meanness, awkwardness and grace, brutal or fiendish cruelty and divine
sensibility, selfish arrogance and sweet renunciation, grossness and
delicacy,—in a word, every possible sort and grade of inward disposition
and of outward bearing are exemplified on the stage. The instructive
spectacle is too often gazed at with frivolity and mirth alone. But more
profound, more vital, more important lessons are nowhere in the world
taught. This art of manners precisely fitted to the character and rank
of the person has been particularly studied in the Théâtre Français. The
writer saw a play represented there in which there were three distinct
sets of characters. The first belonged to the circle of royalty, the
second to the gentry, and the third were of the laboring class. The
second carefully aped the first, and the third painfully aped the
second. The bearing of the first was composed, easy, dignified; that of
the second was a lowered copy with curious differences made most
instructively perceptible; while the third was a ludicrous travesty. The
superior always, as by a secret magic, overswayed and gave the cue to
the inferior. The king, disguised, sat down at table with a plebeian.
The king ate and drank slowly, quietly, with a silent refinement in
every motion; but the plebeian hurried, shuffled, fussed, choked, and
sneezed. The actor who is really master of his whole business teaches in
a thousand indescribably subtile ways a thousand indescribably valuable
lessons for all who have eyes to see and intelligence behind the eyes to
interpret what they see and apply its morals to their own edification.

Another service rendered by the theatre is in uncovering the arts of
deceit and villainy. In their unsophisticated openness the innocent are
often the helpless victims of seductive adepts in dissipation and crime.
All the designing ways and tricks of the votaries of vice, the
hypocritical wiles of brilliant scoundrels, their insinuating movements,
the magnetizing spells they weave around the unsuspicious, are exposed
on the stage in such a manner as fully to put every careful observer on
guard. This unmasking of dangers, this warning and arming, is a species
of moral instruction quite necessary in the present state of society,
and nowhere so consummately exhibited as before the footlights. Nor is
it to be fancied that the instruction is more demoralizing than
guardian; for the instinctive sympathies of a public assembly move
towards virtue, not towards vice. They who seem to be corrupted by
public plays are inwardly corrupt beforehand.

A further and fairer utility of the stage is the exact opposite of that
last mentioned. It is the delightful privilege of dramatic performers to
exhibit pleasing and admirable types of character and display their
worths and graces so as to kindle the love and worship of those who
behold, and awaken in them emulous desires for the noble virtues and the
exquisite charms which they see so divinely embodied. If the
manifestation of heroism, piety, modesty, tenderness, self-sacrifice,
glorious aspiration in the drama is not an educational and redemptive
spectacle, it must be because the stolidity and shallowness of the
audience neutralize its proper influence. Then it is they who are
disgraced, not the play which is discredited.

It is also a signal function of dramatic acting to reveal to ordinary
people the extraordinary attributes of their own nature by exemplifying
before them the transcendent heights and depths of the human soul.
Average persons and their average lives are prosaic and monotonous,
often mean and tiresome or repulsive. They have no conception of the
august or appalling extremes reached by those of the greatest
endowments, the intensities of their experience, the grandeurs and the
mysteries of their fate. In contrast with the tame level of vulgar life,
the dull plod of the humdrum world, the theatre shows the romantic side
of life, the supernal passions and adventures of genius, the
entrancements of dreaming ideality, the glimpsing hints and marvels of
destiny. An actor like Garrick or Salvini, an actress like Rachel or
Ristori, carrying the graduated signals of love to the climax of
beatific bliss, or the signals of jealousy to the explosive point of
madness, makes common persons feel that they had not dreamed what these
passions were. In beholding a great play greatly performed an audience
gain a new measure for the richness of experience and the width of its
extremes. Thus average people are brought to see the exceptional
greatnesses of humanity and initiated into some appreciation of those
astonishing passions, feats, and utterances of genius which must
otherwise have remained sealed mysteries to them. Rachel used to stand,
every nerve seeming an adder, and freeze and thrill the audience with
terror, as her fusing gestures, perfectly automatic although guided by
will, glided in slow continuity of curves or darted in electric starts.
The commanding majesty, intelligence, and passion of Siddons seemed to
bring her audience before her and not her before her audience. A great
actor enlarges the diapason of man. Our kind is aggrandized in him. He
is copy to men of grosser faculty and teaches them how to feel. It was
this sort of association in his mind that made Dryden say of the aged
Betterton, with such magnifying pomp of phrase,—

           “He, like the sun, still shoots a glimmering ray,
           Like ancient Rome majestic in decay.”

But the central and essential office of the drama is to serve as a means
of spiritual purification, freedom, and enrichment. It is a most
powerful alterative for those wearied, sickened, and soured with
egotism. It takes them out of themselves, transfers their thoughts from
their own affairs, and trains them in disinterested sympathy. They are
made to hate the tyrants, loathe the sycophants, admire the heroes, pity
the sufferers, love the lovers, grieve with the unhappy, and rejoice
with the glad. Redeemed from the dismal treadmill of the ego, they enter
into the fortunes of others and put on their feelings, and, exulting to
be out of the purgatory of self-consciousness, they roam at large in the
romantic paradise of sympathetic human kind. As we sit in the theatre
and follow the course of the play, a torrent of ideal life is poured
through the soul, free from the sticky attachments of personal
prejudices, slavish likes and dislikes, viscous and disturbing
morbidities. It therefore cleanses and emancipates. This is what
Aristotle meant in saying that the soul should be purged by the passions
of pity and terror. The impure mixture of broken interests and
distracted feelings known in daily life is washed away by the
overwhelming rush of the emotions and lessons of a great tragedy. One
may recognize in another the signs of states—a glow of muscle, a vigor
of thought, a height of sentiment—which he could not create in himself,
but which he easily enters into by sympathy. An actor of splendid genius
and tone, in the focus of a breathless audience, is for the hour a
millionaire of soul. Two thousand spectators sitting before him divest
themselves of themselves and put him on, and are for the hour
millionaires of soul too. And so the stage illustrates a cheap way to
wealth of consciousness, or every man his own spiritual Crœsus.

The histrionic art is likewise the best illustration of history. No
narrative of events or biographic description can vie with a good play
properly set on the stage in giving a vivid conception of an ancient
period or a great personage. It steals the keys of time, enters the
chambers of the past, and summons the sleeping dead to life again in
their very forms, costumes, and motions.

          “Time rushes o’er us: thick as evening clouds
          Ages roll back. What calls them from their shrouds?
          What in full vision brings their good and great,
          The men whose virtues make a nation’s fate,
          The far forgotten stars of human kind?
          _The Stage, that mighty telescope of mind!_”

What are the words of Tacitus or Livy in their impression on the common
mind compared with the visible resurrection of the people and life of
Rome in “Virginius,” “Brutus,” “Julius Cæsar,” or “Antony and
Cleopatra”? Colley Cibber said, with felicitous phrase, “The most a
Vandyke can arrive at is to make his portraits of great persons seem to
think. A Shakspeare goes further, and tells you what his pictures
thought. A Betterton steps beyond both, and calls them from the grave to
breathe and be themselves again in feature, speech, and motion.” The
theatrical art puts in our hands a telescope wherewith we pierce distant
ages and nations and see them as they were.

And as it revives the truths and wonders of antiquity, so it reflects
the present world, depicting in its successive scenes all forms of
society and experience, from the luxuries of the palace to the
wretchedness of the hovel. Moreover, in addition to thus lifting the
curtain from the past and the present, it gives prophetic glimpses of
the future, in its representations of ideal types of men and women and
in its poetic pictures of happier times yet to bless the world. While
most buildings are devoted to the mere interests and comforts of the
private individual or family, or to mechanical business and selfish
scheming, well is it that there should be one fair and open edifice
dedicated to the revelation of human nature in its whole extent, of
human experience in all its seriousness and mirth, of human love and
hope in all their beautiful glory.

But, after all the uses of the theatre enumerated above, there remains
to be stated what is perhaps its most constant, most valuable and
universal benefit; namely, its delightful ministry of recreation and
amusement. In its charmed enclosure there is a blessed escape from the
jading cares and toils and hates and griefs and fears that so harass and
corrode heart and mind in the emulous strifes of the world. Here
pictures of beauty and bravery are exhibited, adventures of romantic
interest set forth, the most sublime deeds and engaging traits of men
lifted into relief, a tide of pride and joy and love sent warm to the
hearts of the crowd, and all factitious distinctions swept away, as
thousands of eyes gaze on the same scenes and thousands of bosoms beat
together with one emotion. In the drama all the arts are concentrated,
and made accessible to those of the most moderate means, with a splendor
which elsewhere, if found at all, can be commanded only by the favored
few. There is the rich and imposing architecture of the theatre itself,
with its stately proportions and fair ornaments. There is the audience
with its brilliant toilets and its array of celebrity, beauty, and
fashion. There are colors in every direction, and painting in the
elaborate scenery heightened by the gorgeous illumination poured over
all. There is sculpture in the most exquisite forms and motions, the
living statuary of the trained performers. There are poetry and oratory
in the skilled elocution of the speakers. There are the interest of the
story, the interplay of the characters, and the evolution and climax of
the plot. There is the profound magnetic charm of the sympathetic
assembly, all swayed and breathing as one. And then there is the
penetrative incantation, the omnipotent spell of rhythm, in the music of
the orchestra, the chant of the singers, the dancing of the ballet.

Here indeed is an art equally fitted to amuse the weary, to instruct the
docile, and to express the inspired. The prejudiced deprecators of the
drama have delighted to depict the kings and queens of the stage
descending from their scenic pedestals, casting off their tinsel robes,
and slinking away in slovenly attire into cellar and garret. How much
worthier of note is the reverse aspect, the noble metamorphosis actors
undergo when the prosaic belittlement of their daily life of poverty and
care slips off and they enter the scene in the greatest characters of
history to enact the grandest conceptions of passion and poetry! And
there is an influence in great impersonations to purify and ennoble
their performers. The law of congruity necessitates it. “If,” said
Clairon, “I am only an ordinary woman for twenty of the twenty-four
hours of the day, no effort I can make will render me more than an
ordinary woman when I appear as Agrippina or Semiramis.” The actor, to
make heroic, sublime, or tender manifestations of the mysterious power
and pity and doom of human nature, must have these qualities in his
soul. No petty or vulgar nature could be competent to such strokes of
wonder and pathos as the “Prithee, undo this button!” of Garrick; the
“Fool, fool, fool!” of Kean; the “Vous pleurez, Zaïre!” of Lekain; the
“After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well!” of Forrest.

The theatre offers us an unrivalled opportunity for the economical
activity of all our faculties, especially of our finer sentiments, which
there play freely, disconnected from the exacting action of the studious
intellect. The whole concentrated mass of life shown in action on the
stage is ideally radiated into the bosoms of the beholders without cost
to them. They despise, they admire, they laugh, they weep, they feel
complacent in their contempt or in their reverence. Many who are too
poor and outcast, or too busy and worn, or too proud and irascible, or
too grieved and unfortunately circumstanced, for the indulgence of these
feelings in real life, find the luxuries copiously and cheaply supplied
in the scene. This is one reason why so many play-goers retain such
grateful recollections of their favorites. Steele said, “From the acting
of Mr. Betterton I have received more strong impressions of what is
great and noble in human nature than from the arguments of the most
solid philosophers or the descriptions of the most charming poets.”
Robson declared, “I never came away from seeing Bannister without
feeling ten years younger, and that if I had not, with Christian, got
rid of my sins, I had got rid of what was pretty nearly as heavy to
carry, my cares.” A noble lady of Edinburgh who in her youth had seen
Siddons, when blind and nearly speechless in the torpor of extreme age,
on being reminded of the great actress, broke into enthusiastic
expressions, while smiles lighted up the features pale and wrinkled with
nearly a hundred years.

An old English writer asking how he shall seclude and refresh himself
from fretting care and hardship puts aside every form of vicious
dissipation, and says,—

            “My faculties truly to recreate
            With modest mirth and myself to please,
            Give me a PLAY that no distaste can breed.
            Prove thou a spider and from flowers suck gall;
            I will, bee-like, take honey from a weed,
            For I was never puritanical.”

Collective history looked at from the human point of view may sometimes
appear a chaos, but seen from the divine auditorium above it is a
perfect drama, the earth its stage, the generations its actors. Thus the
argument of Thomas Heywood was sound, No Theatre, No World!

               “If then the world a theatre present,
               As by the roundnesse it appears most fit,
               Built with starre-galleries of high ascent
               In which Jehove doth as spectator sit
               And chief determines to applaud the best,
               But by their evil actions doome the rest,
               He who denies that theatres should be
               He may as well deny the world to me!”

For as the world is a stage, so the stage is a world. It is an artistic
world in which not only the natural but also the supernatural world is
revealed. This is shown with overwhelming abundance of power in William
Winter’s description of the Saul of Alfieri as rendered by Salvini:

“It depicts the condition of an imaginative mind, a stately and robust
character, an arrogant, fiery spirit, an affectionate heart, and,
altogether, a royal and regally-poised nature, that have first been
undermined by sin and the consciousness of sin, and then crazed by
contact with the spirit-world and by a nameless dread of the impending
anger of an offended God. It would be difficult to conceive of a more
distracting and piteous state. Awe and terror surround this august
sufferer, and make him both holy and dreadful. In his person and his
condition, as these are visible to the imaginative mind, he combines all
the elements that impress and thrill. He is of vast physical stature,
which time has not bent, and of great beauty of face, which griefs have
ravaged but not destroyed. He is a valiant and bloody warrior, and
danger seems to radiate from his presence. He is a magnanimous king and
a loving father, and he softens by generosity and wins by gentleness. He
is a maniac, haunted by spectres and scourged with a whip of scorpions,
and his red-eyed fury makes all space a hell and shatters silence with
the shrieks of the damned. He is a human soul, burdened with the
frightful consciousness of the Almighty’s wrath, and poised in torment
on the precipice that overhangs the dark and storm-beaten ocean of
eternity. His human weakness is affrighted by ghastly visions and by all
manner of indefinite horrors, against which his vain struggles do but
make more piteous his awful condition. The gleams of calm that fall upon
his tortured heart only light up an abyss of misery,—a vault of darkness
peopled by demons. He is already cut off from among the living by the
doom of inevitable fate, and while we pity him we fear him. His coming
seems attended with monstrous shapes; he diffuses dissonance; his voice
is a cry of anguish or a wail of desolation; his existence is a tempest;
there can be no relief for him save death, and the death that ends him
comes like the blessing of tears to the scorched eyelids of consuming
misery. That is the Saul of the Bible and of Alfieri’s tragedy; and that
is the Saul whom Salvini embodies. It is a colossal monument of human
suffering that the actor presents, and no man can look upon it without
being awed and chastened and lifted above the common level of this

But the culminating utility and glory and eulogy of the art of the
theatre are not that it furnishes common people an opportunity for
learning what are the exceptional greatness, beauty, and wonder of human
nature by the sight of its most colossal faculties unveiled and its most
marvellous terrors, splendors, sorrows, and ecstasies exposed for study,
but that _its inherent genius tends to produce expansive sympathy,
sincerity of soul, generous deeds, and an open catholicity of temper_.
No other class is so true and liberal to its own members in distress or
so prompt in response to public calamity as that of the actors. Their
constant familiarity with the sentiments of nobleness and pity imbues
them with the qualities. In trying exigencies, personal or national,
their conduct has often illustrated the truth of the compliment paid
them by the poet:

             “These men will act the passions they inspire,
             And wave the sabre as they sweep the lyre.”

Macklin said, “I have always loved the conscious worth of a good action
more than the profit that would arise from a bad one.” A famous singer
was passing through the market-place of Lyons one day, when a woman with
a sick child asked alms of him. He had left his purse behind, but,
wishing to aid the woman, he took off his hat, sang his best, and
hastily gave her the money he collected.

          “The singer, pleased, passed on, and softly thought,
          Men will not know by whom this deed was wrought;
          But when at night he came upon the stage,
          Cheer after cheer went up from that wide throng,
          And flowers rained on him. Nothing could assuage
          The tumult of the welcome save the song
          That for the beggars he had sung that day
          While standing in the city’s busy way.”

So when in his old age the great tenor, Duprez, reappeared to sing some
stanzas he had composed in behalf of the sufferers by an inundation, as
he said he could no longer utter the sensational cry of Arnold in
William Tell, _Suivez-moi_, but that he still had strength to sing
_Secourons le malheur_, the house rang with plaudits.

The flexibility of the actor, his sympathetic art, the affecting poetic
situations in which he is seen set off by aggrandizing and romantic
adjuncts, clothe him with fascinating associations, make him gazed after
and courted. This is one secret of the keen interest felt in him. He who
gives the most powerful signs of soul is naturally thought to have the
greatest soul. The great have always been drawn to make favorites of
actors. Demosthenes was the friend of Satyrus; Cicero, of Roscius; Louis
the Fourteenth, of Molière; Bolingbroke, of Barton Booth; Napoleon, of
Talma; Byron, of Kean. The Duke of Northumberland gave Kemble ten
thousand pounds sterling. Lord Loughborough settled a handsome annuity
on Macklin in his destitute age; and when the old actor in his one
hundred and eighth year was about to die he besought the friend who had
agreed to write his life to make grateful mention of this.

Players have given kings and nobles greater benefits than they have
received from them, often teaching them character as well as manners.
When the Earl of Essex told Edmund Kean that by continuing to associate
with Incledon, the decayed singer, he would endanger his own further
welcome in the upper class, the actor replied, “My lord, Incledon was my
friend, in the strictest sense of the word, when I had scarcely another
friend in the world; and if I should now desert him in the decline of
his popularity and the fall of his fortunes I should little deserve the
friendship of any man, and be quite unworthy of the favorable opinion
your lordship has done me the honor to entertain for me.” Thus speaking,
he rose, and, with a profound bow to the earl, left the room.

The greatest social characters have not only always affected the society
of gifted players, but have themselves had a profound passion for the
personal practice of the art. This is because the art deals with all the
most subtile secrets of human nature and experience, out of which grow
those arts of power which they feel to be their peculiar province. It is
also because in this practice they escape from the empty round of the
merely conventional and titular which soon becomes so wearying to the
soul and so nauseous to the heart, and come into the realm of reality.
The effect produced by the king, the deference paid to him, may be
hollow. The power of the actor depends on genuine gifts, on his own real
being and skill and charm. And he sees through all cold forms and
shallow pretences. His very art, in its bedizenments and factitious
accessories, sickens him of all shams in private life. There he wants
sincerity and the unaffected substantial goods of nature, a friendly
fellowship springing straight from the heart. When the wife of Kean
asked him what Lord Essex had said of his Shylock, the actor replied,
“Damn Lord Essex. The pit rose at me!” A common soldier with whom Cooke
had quarrelled refused to fight him because he was rich and the persons
present would favor him. Cooke said, “Look here, sir. This is all I
possess in the world,” showing three hundred and fifty pounds in bank-
notes, which he immediately thrust into the fire, holding the poker on
them till they were consumed. Then he added, “Now I am a beggar, sir.
Will you fight me now?”

This democratic spirit which spurns social affectations and tramples
unreal claims, keenly recognizing distinctions but insisting that they
shall be genuine and not merely supposititious, is the very genius of
the drama as felt in its inmost essence. Rulers have ever delighted to
evade their imprisonment in etiquette, put on an incognito, and disport
themselves in the original relishes of human intercourse on the basis of
facts. Nothing in literature is more charming than the adventures in
this kind of Haroun-al-Raschid and his Vizier in the Arabian Nights’
Entertainments. Nero and Commodus were proudest of all to strip off
their imperial insignia and win plaudits by their performances in the
amphitheatre. Julius Cæsar acted in his own theatre the part of Hercules
Furens. He was so carried away by the spirit of the rôle that he
actually killed the youth who played Lycus and swung the body two or
three times round his head. Louis the Fourteenth appeared in the
Magnificent Lovers, by Molière, and pantomimed, danced, sang, and played
on the flute and the guitar. He especially loved in gorgeous ballets to
perform the rôle of the Sun; and in the ballet of the Seasons he
repeatedly filled the rôle of the blonde Ceres surrounded by harvesters.
Even Oliver Cromwell once acted the part of Tactus in the play of
“Lingua, or the Combat of the Five Senses for Superiority.”

But the life of the dramatic profession is not all a brilliant round of
power, gayety, and indulgence. It too has sacrifices, toils, tears,
strenuous duty and virtue, tragedy, mystery, and triumph. The strange
picture of human life and death is nowhere more vividly reflected than
in the theatrical career. The little prodigy James Speaight, whose
performances on the violin had for three years been applauded by crowds,
when he was not yet seven years old, was one evening slightly ill as he
left the stage. About midnight his father heard him say, “Gracious God,
make room for another little child in heaven.” The father spoke,
received no answer, and on going to him found him dead. In 1819, a Mlle.
Charton made her débût at the Odéon. Her enchanting loveliness and
talent captivated all. Intoxicated Paris rang with her praises. Suddenly
she ceased to act. A jealous lover had flung into that beautiful and
happy face a cup of vitriol, destroying beauty, happiness, and eyesight
forever. She refused to prosecute the ruffian, but sat at home,
suffering and helpless, and was soon absorbed in the population and
forgotten. What could be more dreadful than such a doom, or more
pathetic than such submission! In fact, many of those who lived by
acting on the stage have given as noble specimens of acting off of it as
are to be found in history. Mrs. Porter, a famous actress of the
generation preceding Garrick, riding home after the play, in a one-horse
chaise, was accosted by a highwayman with a demand for her money. “She
levelled a pistol at him, when he changed his tone to supplication, told
her his name and the abode of his starving family, and appealed to her
compassion so strongly that she gave him ten guineas. He left her, and,
as she lashed her horse, the animal started aside, upset the chaise, and
in the fall her hip-joint was dislocated. Notwithstanding all the pain
and loss the man had thus occasioned her, she inquired into his
circumstances, and, finding that he had told her the truth, raised sixty
pounds among her acquaintances and sent it to his family.” Her lameness
forced her to leave the stage, and she had herself to subsist upon

The dread shrinking and anxiety felt by Mrs. Siddons on the night of her
first successful appearance in London, after her earlier failure, were
such as common natures cannot imagine, and such as nothing but a holy
love for her young dependent children could have nerved even her heroic
nature to bear. The dying away of the frenzied shouts and plaudits left
her half dead, as she wrote to a friend. “My joy and thankfulness were
of too solemn and overpowering a nature to admit of words or even tears.
My father, my husband, and myself sat down to a frugal supper in a
silence uninterrupted except by exclamations of gladness from Mr.
Siddons. My father enjoyed his refreshments, but occasionally stopped
short, and, laying down his knife and fork, and lifting up his venerable
face, and throwing back his silver hair, gave way to tears of

The essence of the ecclesiastical and theatrical quarrel lies in the
relation of the natural passions to duty. It is especially concentrated
and prominent in regard to the passion of love, concerning which the
opposed views are seen on the one side in the prurient plays constantly
produced on the boards, and on the other side in the repressive
injunctions as constantly iterated from the pulpit. The latter loudly
commands denial, the former silently insinuates indulgence. The one is
inflamed with the love of power, the other is infected with the love of
pleasure. The battle can never be ended by the victory of either party.
The strife is hopeless so long as the ascetic ideal is proclaimed alone,
kindling the bigoted mental passions, and the voluptuous ideal is
exhibited alone, inflaming the loose sensual passions. Each will have
its party, and they will keep on fighting. The only solution lies in the
appearance and triumph of that juster and broader ideal which shows that
the genuine aim and end of life are not the gratification of any
despotic separate passions, whether spiritual or physical, but the
perfection of individual being in social unity. The two combatants,
therefore, must be reconciled by a mediator diviner than either of them,
armed with a truer authority than the one and animated by a purer mind
than the other. That mediator is Science, unfolding the psychological
and physiological laws of the subject, and bringing denial and
indulgence into reconciliation by giving wholesomeness and normality to
every passion, which shall then seek fulfilment only in accordance with
the conditions of universal order, securing a pure harmony at once of
all the functions of the individual and of all the interests of society.
The incomplete and vain formula of the church is, Deny thyself. The
equally defective and dangerous formula of the theatre is, Indulge
thyself. But the perfect and bridging formula of science is, So deny or
rule in the parts of thy being and life as to fulfil thyself in the

Virtue is not confined to the votaries of the pulpit, but is often
glorified in the votaries of the stage. Vice, if sometimes openly
flaunted in the theatre, is sometimes secretly cherished in the church.
Neither should scorn the other, but they should mutually teach and aid
each other, and combine their methods as friends, to purify, enlighten,
and free the world. Each has much to give the other, and as much to
receive from it. For, while the mischief of the ascetic ecclesiastic
ideal of repression and denial is the breeding of a spirit of sour and
fanatical gloom, its glory is the earnest conscience, the trimmed lamp,
and the girt loins. Add this sacred self-restraint, which allows no
indulgence not in accordance with the conditions of universal order, to
the genial dramatic ideal of man and life,—a perfect organism and
perfect faculties in perfect conditions of fulfilment and liberty, or
the greatest amount of harmonious experience rooted in the physical
nature and flowering in the spiritual,—and it is the just ideal.

The true business of the church is to inculcate morality and religion.
Its perversions are traditional routine, creed authority, and ceremony.
The true business of the theatre is to exhibit characters and manners in
their contrasts so as to secure appropriating approval for the best,
condemnation and avoidance for the worst. Its perversions are
carelessness, frivolity, and license. When the church purifies itself
for its two genuine functions,—truth and consolation,—and the theatre
cleanly administers its two genuine functions,—wholesome recreation and
earnest teaching,—their offices will coincide and the strife of priest
and player cease.

                             CHAPTER XXII.

At the date of this writing, although there are many good actors in
America, there are none who are generally recognized as great. There
also appears for the time to be a decline in the popular taste for the
serious and lofty drama, and a general preference for sensational,
comic, and spectacular plays. In vain does the call-boy summon the
sublime characters and parts that entranced the audiences of a bygone
generation. They seem to have died with the strong and stately actors
who gave them such noble life and motion. The sceptred pall of gorgeous
tragedy has vanished from the stage, it may almost be said, and for the
poet and the thinker have been substituted the carpenter, the scene-
painter, the upholsterer, and the milliner. Nudity, prurience, broad
appeals to sensual passion, extravagant glare and movement and noise,
have largely thrust aside tragic action, romantic sentiment, and moral
grandeur. Even though the depravation be but temporary, marking a
transitional crisis, it is a feature unpleasant to contemplate. And it
may be of some service, not only in completing the picture of the life
of Forrest, but likewise in revealing the higher social uses and lessons
of his art, to give a description of the chief of those massive and
heroic rôles he loved best to fill in the ripest period of his
professional career. The accounts must be brief and fragmentary, and
very inadequate at the best. To preserve or re-create the full
impression of a great actor in a great part, he should be sculptured in
every attitude and movement, with every gesture and look, and painted in
every tone, emphasis, and inflection of his voice. Yet, without
attempting this impossible feat in the case of Forrest, enough may be
rapidly indicated in general sketches to enable intelligent readers to
form some approximate conception of his leading impersonations and of
the influences they were calculated to exert.

The pictures of the acting of Forrest now to be essayed must be
tantalizingly faint and imperfect, in the absence of an art to translate
and reproduce all the other eight dramatic languages of human nature in
the one language of words. But to appreciate even these poor attempts at
their worth one preliminary condition on the part of those who read is
pre-eminently necessary. They must remember that Forrest was one of
those rare men profusely endowed with that mysterious power to interest
and impress which is popularly called personal magnetism. He was
signally charged with that secret spell, that loaded and swaying
fascination, which all feel though no one understands, which
contagiously works on those who come within its reach, seizing
curiosity, enlisting sympathy, or evoking repulsion. The distinguishing
differences of men in this respect are indescribable and fatal. No art
can efface them or neutralize them. For an artist who makes direct
personal appeal to an audience the having or the not having this
magnetic gift is as the hidden core of destiny. With it obstacles are
removed as by magic, friends won, enemies overthrown, and wherever the
possessor sails through the community he leaves a wide phosphorescent
wake of social interest and gossip. Without it, though flags are waved
and trumpets are blown and all pains taken to make an impression and
secure a victorious career, yet the efforts prove futile and public
attention wanders listlessly away. One seems created to be the victim of
perpetual slights, dry, trivial, destitute of charm, nobody caring
anything about him; while another, freighted with occult talismans,
strangely interests everybody. The recognition of such contrasts is one
of the most familiar facts of experience. These phenomena are suggested
by the word sphere as applied to the characteristic influence of
personality. The spiritual sphere or signalling power of an individual
is described as attractive or repulsive, strong or weak, vast or little,
harmonious or discordant. The mystery is not so blankly baffling as it
has been supposed, but is in a large degree susceptible of rational

Out of a hundred accomplished singers, beautiful in person and
marvellous in voice, one prima donna shall surpass all the rest in
fascinating the public. There is a nameless distinction in her bearing,
there is an indescribable charm in her song, which bewitch and enthrall,
are her irresistible passports to public enthusiasm, and make her sure
of a long and dazzling career; while one after another of the rest with
desperate exertions and fitful plaudits disappear. Here is a tragedian
who exercises the same spell and quickly obscures his distanced rivals.
He advances on the stage with a quiet step, his mantle negligently
crossing his breast, his countenance calm. Without a start, without a
gesture, without a word, he simply is and looks. Yet, as he approaches,
awe spreads around him. Why this breathless silence all over the
theatre, this rooted attention from every one? He seats himself, he
leans on the arm of the chair; his voice, quick and deep, seems not to
utter common words, but to pronounce supernatural oracles. By what
transcendent faculty does he render hate so terrible, irony so
frightful, disdain so superhuman, devotion so entrancing, love so
inexpressibly sweet, that the whole assembly rivet their eyes and hold
their breath while their hearts throb under the mystic influence of his
action? The secret is purely a matter of law without anything of chance
or whim or caprice in it. It is the profound and universal law which
regulates the exercise of sympathetic influence by one person on
another. It has two elements, namely, beauty and power. Beauty and power
both can be expressed in shapes, features, motions, and tones. Shapes,
features, and tones are results and revelations of modes of motion. The
face is shaped and modulated by the ideal forces within, the rhythmical
vibrations which preside over the processes of nutrition. All those
shapes or movements in a person which in their completeness constitute,
or in their segments imply, returning curves or undulations, such as
circles, ellipses, and spirals, are beautiful. They suggest economy of
force, ease of function, sustained vitality, and potency. But abrupt
changes of direction, sudden snatches and breaks of movement, sharp
angles, are ugly and repellent, because they suggest waste of force,
difficulty of function, discord of the individual with the universal,
and therefore hint evil and death. The serpent was anciently considered
a symbol of immortality on account, no doubt, of all its motions being
endless lines or undulations circling in themselves. This is the law of
beauty which just in proportion to its pervasive prevalence and
exhibition in any one gives its possessor charm. The subtile indication
of this in the incessant and innumerable play of the person fascinates
and delights all who see it; and those who do not consciously perceive
it are still influenced by it in the unconscious depths of their nature.

The element of power is closely allied in its mode of revelation and
influence with that of beauty. Every attitude, gesture, or facial
expression is composed of contours and lines, static and dynamic, latent
and explicit, fragmentary and complete, straight, curved, or angularly
crooked. Now, the nature of these lines, the degree in which their
curves return or do not return into themselves, the nature and sizes of
the figures they describe, or would describe if completed according to
their indicative commencements, determine their beauty or ugliness and
decide what effect they shall produce on the spectator. The beauty and
the pleasure it yields are proportioned to the preponderance of endless
lines suggestive of circulation of force without waste, and therefore of
perfect grace and immortal life. But that sense of power which breeds
awe in the beholder is measured by the proportion of exertion made to
effect produced. All force expended passes off on angular lines. The
angles of movement may be obtuse or sharp in varying degrees, and
consequently subtend lines of different lengths. All attitudes and
gestures compose curves and figures, or cast lines and form angles,
which constitute their æsthetic and dynamic values, those measuring
beauty, these measuring power. For, on the principle of the lever and
momentum, the power expended at the end of a line is equal to that
exerted at the beginning of the line multiplied by its length. The
amounts of exertion and the lengths of lines are unconsciously estimated
by the intuitions of the observer, and the unconscious interpretations
to which he is led are what yield the impressions he experiences on
seeing any given actor. The greatest sense of power is received when the
minimum of initial effort is seen with the maximum of terminal result;
when the smallest weight at the central extremity balances the largest
one at the distal extremity. The law of combined beauty and power of
action, then, is contained in the relations of returning lines and
lengths of straight lines. The measure of dramatic expression is this:
impression of grace is according to the preponderance of perpetuating
curves, and impression of strength according to the degrees of the
angles formed by the straight lines. That actress or actor in whose
organism there is the greatest freedom of the parts and the greatest
unity of the whole, the most perfect co-operation of all the nerve-
centres in a free dynamic solidarity and the most complete surrender of
the individual will to universal principles, will make the deepest
sensation,—in other words, will have the largest amount of what has been
vaguely called personal magnetism. The divinest character expresses
itself in softly-flowing forms and inexpensive movements. The most royal
and august majesty of function indicates its rank of power by the
slightest exertions implying the vastest effects. Frivolous, false, and
vulgar characters are ever full of short lines, incongruous, fussy, and
broken motions, curves everywhere subordinated and angles obtrusive.
Such persons are, as it is said, destitute of magnetism. They do not
interest. They cannot possibly charm or awe. It is a law of
inexpressible importance that _the quality, grade, and measure of a
personality are revealed primarily in the proportions, secondarily in
the movements, of the physical organism_. These proportions and
movements betray alike the permanent features of the indwelling
character and all its passing thoughts and emotions. The truth is all
there, though the spectator may be incompetent to interpret its signals.
The most harmonious and perfect character will show the most exquisite
symmetry and grace of repose and action. The irregulated, raw, and
reckless type of character expresses itself in awkward, violent, or
incongruous movements, wasteful of energy yet not impressive in result.
Beauty of motion, the implication of endless lines, is the normal sign
of loveliness of soul. Grandeur of soul or dynamic greatness of mind is
indicated by implicit extent and ponderous slowness of motion. When the
smallest displays of motion at the centres suggest the most sustained
and extended lines, the impression given of power is the most mysterious
and overwhelming. The most tremendous exertions, in lines and angles
whose invisible complements are small, produce a weak impression,
because they make no appeal to the imagination. The beauty of the
figures implied in the forms of the movements of a man is the analogue
of his goodness; the dimensions of the figures, the analogue of his
strength. And in the case of every one the spectators are constantly
apprehending the forms of these figures and how far they reach, and
emotionally reacting in accordance with the results thus attained. It is
not a conscious and critical process of the understanding or the senses,
but a swift procedure of the intuitions or organic habits, including the
sum of ancestral experiences deposited in instinctive faculty. Many who
are ignorant of this law of the revelation of human nature, and of the
sympathetic influence of man on man involved in it, may feel that the
whole conception is merely a fine-spun fancy, with no solid basis in
fact. But a perfect parallel to the process here described as taking
place through the eye has been both mathematically and visibly
demonstrated in the case of the ear. The beauty of form as perceived by
the eye depends on implicit perception of geometric law, and is
proportioned to the simplicity of the law and the variety of the outline
embodying it, just as the harmony of colors or the harmony of sounds
depends on the implicit perception of arithmetical ratios, and is
proportioned to the harmony of times in which the vibrations of the
visible or audible medium occur. We distinguish the beauty and the
quality of a tone of the same pitch produced by different instruments or
voices, and our feelings are differently affected with pleasure or pain
as we listen to them. But the beauty of a tone consists in the
equidistance of the pulsations of air composing it, and the quality of a
tone consists in the forms of the pulsations. The auditory apparatus
reports the symmetry or asymmetry of the pulsations in form and rate,
and the soul, intuitively grasping the secret significance, is delighted
or disturbed accordingly. The charm of a delicious, musical, powerful
voice has these four elements, beautiful forms in its vibrations,
perfect rhythm or equidistance in its vibrations, varying breadth in its
vibrations, and varying extent of vibratory surface in the sounding
mechanism. Without knowing anything about any of these conditions, the
sensitive hearer, played on by them through his ear, accurately responds
in feeling. It is exactly the same, in the case of the eye, with the
geometrical lines and figures involved in the bearing of a person. If
these are beautiful in forms, graceful in motions, sublime in implicit
dimensions, the impression is delightful and profound; while if they are
petty and incoherent, or clumsy and unbalanced, their appeal is
superficial and disagreeable. This is the law of personal magnetism,
which always exerts the vastest swing of power from the most exactly
centred equilibrium. The mysteries of God are revealed in space and time
through form and motion. They are concentrated in rhythm, which, as
defined by Delsarte, is the simultaneous vibration of number, weight,
and measure. We are creatures of space and time; all our experience has
been written and is organized in that language. Our whole nature
therefore in its inmost depths corresponds and thrills to the mystic
symbols of harmony or discord with love and pleasure or with fear and
pain. The secret of the delight that waits on the perception or feeling
of beauty and power is the recognition of sequent ratios which express
symmetry in time or algebraic law, and coexistent ratios which express
symmetry in space or geometric law. Spatial symmetry is the law of
equilibrium, the adjustment of the individual with the universal, and
measures power. Temporal symmetry is the law of health, the pulsating
adjustment of function with its norm, and measures the melodious flow of
life. Rhythm is the constant dynamic reproduction of symmetry in space
and time combined. It is the secret of personal magnetism. Its charm and
its power are at their height when the symmetries are most varied in
detail and most perfect in unity.

Now, Forrest ever possessed this magnetic temperament, this firmly
poised and ingravidated personality, and ever wielded its signals with
startling effect. The tones and inflections of his sweet and majestic
voice in its wide diapason were felt by his hearers palpitating among
the pulses of their hearts. His attitude, look, and gesture in great
situations often produced on a whole assembly the electric creep of the
flesh and the cold shudder of the marrow. His fearlessness and
deliberation were conspicuous and proverbial. A censorious critic said,
“Mr. Forrest is the most painfully elaborate actor on the stage. He
swings in a great slow orbit, and, though he revolves with dignity and
sublimity, the sublimity is often stupid and the dignity a little
pompous. He dwells so long on unimportant passages that one might
imagine he intended to take up an everlasting rest on a period, to go to
sleep over a semicolon, or spend the evening with a comma. His pauses
are like the distances from star to star, and if he continues in his
course people will have time to stroll in the lobbies between his
sentences. His performances might be defined by his enemies as infinite
extensions of silence with incidental intervals of speech.” Through this
enveloping burlesque one discerns the poise, sang-froid, and grandeur of
the man.

Senator Stockton, passing the Broadway Theatre one evening, met a friend
coming out, and asked him, “What is going on in there?” The reply was,
“Oh, nothing: Forrest is in one of his pauses!” An admiring critic said
of him, and if the diction be exaggerated it yet invests the truth,
“There is no actor living who takes a stronger hold of the feelings of
his audience or grasps the passions of the human heart with such a
giant-like clutch. He is as imposing and daring in his action as the
mountain condor when he darts on the flock, or the bird of Jove when he
wheels from the peaks and burnishes his plumage in the blaze of the sun.
It is not one here and there that submits to his sovereignty. The entire
audience are swayed and fashioned after the workings of his soul. He
permits none to escape the potency of his sceptre, but makes all bow to
his terrible and overwhelming mastery.” Of course different persons had
different degrees of susceptibility to this elemental power and
earnestness of nature and to this trained and skilled display of art,
though all must feel it more or less either as attraction or as
repulsion. The varying effects of the playing of character through its
signs is the genuine drama of life itself. The idiot holds his bauble
for a god, as Shakspeare says. The ruffian is hardened against all
delicate and noble manifestations of mind. The dilettante, in his
dryness, veneer, and varnish, is incapable of any enthusiasm for
persons. And there are multitudes so harassed and exhausted in the
selfish contests of the day, their hearts and imaginations so perverted
or shrivelled, that the brightest signals of heroism, genius, and
saintliness shine before them in vain. The play of personal qualities,
the study and appreciation of them, are more neglected now than they
ever were before. It is one of the greatest of social calamities; for it
takes the social stimulus away from spiritual ambition or the passion
for excellence. And it is one of the supreme benefactions conferred on
society by a great actor that he intensifies and illuminates the
revelatory language of character and fixes attention on its import by
lifting all its modes of expression to their highest pitch.


In a previous chapter an attempt was made to describe Forrest in those
characters of physical and mental realism with which his fame was
chiefly identified during the earlier and middle portions of his popular
career. It remains now to essay a similar sketch of those characters of
imaginative portraiture which he best loved to impersonate in the
culminating glory and at the close of his artistic career. In the Rolla,
Damon, Spartacus, Metamora of his young manhood he was, rather than
played, the men whose parts he assumed, so intensely did he feel them
and so completely did he reproduce nature. He wrestled with the genius
of his art as Hercules with Antæus, throwing it to the ground
continually, but making its vitality more vigorous with every fall. As
years passed, and brought the philosophic mind, they tempered and
refined the animal fierceness, strained out the crudity and excess, and
secured a result marked by greater symmetry in details, fuller harmony
of accessories, a purer unity in the whole, and a loftier climax of
interest and impression. Then studious intellect and impassioned
sentiment, guided by truth and taste, preponderated over mere instinct
and observation, and imaginative portraiture took the place which had
been held by sensational realism. This is what in dramatic art gives the
violence of passion moderating restraint, puts the calm girdle of beauty
about the throbbing loins of power. Imagination, it is true, cannot
create, but it can idealize, order, and unify, unravel the tangled snarl
of details, and wind the intricacies in one unbroken thread, making
nature more natural by abstraction of the accidental and arrangement of
the essential. This was what the acting of Forrest, always sincere and
natural, for a long time needed, but at last, in a great degree,
attained, and, in attaining, became genuinely artistic.

The Richelieu of Forrest was a grand conception consummately elaborated
and grandly represented. It was a part suited to his nature, and which
he always loved to portray. The glorious patriotism which knit his soul
to France, the tender affection which bound his heart to his niece, the
leonine banter with which he mocked his rivals, the indomitable courage
with which he defied his foes, the sublime self-sufficingness with which
he trusted in fate and in the deepest emergencies prophesied the dawn
while his followers were trembling in the gloom, his immense personal
superiority of mind and force swaying all others, as the sun sways its
orbs,—these were traits to which Forrest brought congenial qualities and
moods, making their representation a delight to his soul.

He dressed for the part in long robes, an iron-gray wig, and the scarlet
cap of a cardinal. He stooped a little, coughed, but gave no signs of
superannuation. As the conspiracies thickened about him and the end drew
on, he seemed visibly to grow older and more excitable. His age and
feebleness, though simulated with an exquisite skill, were not obtruded.
Though the picture of an old man, it was the picture of a very grand old
man, like the ruin of a mighty castle, worn by time and broken by
storms, yet towering proudly in its strength, with foundations the
earthquake could not uproot and battlements over which the thunder
crashed in vain. Forrest made the character not only intensely
interesting and exciting by the great variety of sharp contrasts he
brought into reconciliation in it, but also admirable and lovable from
the honest virtues and august traits it embodied. He represented
Richelieu as a patriotic statesman of the loftiest order, and also as a
sage deeply read in the lore of the human heart, tenaciously just, a
careful weigher of motives, his sometimes rough and repellent manner
always covering a deep well of love and a rich vein of satire.

In the opening scene, the cunning slyness of the veteran plotter and
detective, the dignity of the great statesman, and the magnetic command
of the powerful minister were revealed in rapid alternation in a manner
which was a masterpiece of art.

           “And so you think this new conspiracy
           The craftiest trap yet laid for the old fox?
           Fox? Well, I like the nickname. What did Plutarch
           Say of the Greek Lysander?
           That where the lion’s skin fell short, he eked it
           Out with the fox’s! A great statesman, Joseph,
           That same Lysander!”

There was in the delivery of these words a mixture of sportiveness and
sobriety, complacency and irony, which spoke volumes. Then, speaking of
Baradas, the conceited upstart who expected to outwit and overthrow him,
the expression of self-conscious greatness in his manner, combined with
contempt for the mushroom success of littleness, made the verbal passage
and the picture he painted in uttering it equally memorable as he said,—

              “It cost me six long winters
              To mount as high as in six little moons
              This painted lizard. But I hold the ladder,
              And when I shake—he falls!”

As his hand imaginatively shook the ladder, his eye blazed, his voice
grew solid, and the audience saw everything indicated by the words as
distinctly as if it had been presented in material reality. Nothing
could be more finely drawn and colored than the variety of moods, the
changing qualities of character and temper, called out in Richelieu by
the reactions of his soul on the contrasted persons of the play and
exigencies of the plot as he came in contact with them. When, alluding
to the attachment of the king for his ward as an ivy, he said—

                                   “Insidious ivy,
         And shall it creep around my blossoming tree,
         Where innocent thoughts, like happy birds, make music
         That spirits in heaven might hear?”—

there was a fond caressing sweetness in his tones that fell on the heart
like a celestial dew. Into what a wholly different world of human nature
we were taken in the absolute transformation of his demeanor with
Joseph, the Capuchin monk, his confidant! Here there was a grim humor,
an amusing yet sinister banter:

                               “In my closet
           You’ll find a rosary, Joseph: ere you tell
           Three hundred beads I’ll summon you. Stay, Joseph.
           I did omit an Ave in my matins,—
           A grievous fault. Atone it for me, Joseph.
           There is a scourge within; I am weak, you strong.
           It were but charity to take my sin
           On such broad shoulders. Exercise is healthful.”

His interview with De Mauprat reminded one of a cat playing with a
mouse, or of a royal tiger which had laid its paw on one of the sacred
cattle and was watching its quiverings under the velvet-sheathed claws.
When De Mauprat expects to be ordered to the block, Richelieu sends him
to his darling Julie:

            “To the tapestry chamber. You will there behold
            The executioner: your doom be private,
            And heaven have mercy on you!”

The delightful humor here follows the desperate terror like sunlight
streaming on a thunder-cloud. What a contrast was furnished in the
allusion to the detested Baradas and his confederates when the aroused
cardinal, after the failure of every method to conciliate, towers into
his kingliest port, and exclaims, with concentrated and vindictive

           “All means to crush. As with the opening and
           The clenching of this little hand, I will
           Crush the small vermin of the stinging courtiers!”

The central and all-conspicuous merit of Forrest’s rendering of
Richelieu was the unfailing felicity of skill with which he kept the
unity of the character clear through all the variety of its
manifestations. It was a character fixed in its centre but mobile in its
exterior, dominated by a magnificent patriotic ambition, open to
everything great, tinged with cynicism by bitter experience, if
irascible and revengeful yet full of honest human sympathy. He enjoyed
circumventing traitors with a finesse keener than their own, and defying
enemies with a haughtiness that blasted, while ever and anon gleams of
gentle and generous affection lighted up and softened the sombre
prominences of a nature formed to mould rugged wills and to rule stormy

It is only great actors who are able to make the individuality of a
character imperially prominent and absorbing yet at the same time to do
equal justice to every universal thought or sentiment occurring in the
part. Forrest was remarkable for this supreme excellence. Whenever the
author had introduced any idea or passion of especial dignity from the
depth of its meaning or the largeness of its scope, he was sure to
express it with corresponding emphasis and finish. This makes a dramatic
entertainment educational and ennobling no less than pleasurable. When
François, starting on an important errand, says, “If I fail?” Richelieu
gazes on the boy, while recollections of the marvellous triumphs of his
own career flit over his face, and exclaims, with an electric
accentuation of surprise and unconquerable assurance,—

              In the lexicon of youth, which fate reserves
              For a bright manhood, there is no such word
              As fail!”

When the huge sword of his martial period at Rochelle drops from his
grasp, and he is reminded that he has other weapons now, he goes slowly
to his desk, the old hand from which the heavy falchion had dropped
takes up the light feather, his eyes look into vacancy, the soldier
passes into the seer, an indefinable presence of prophecy broods over
him, and the meditative exultation of his air and the solemn warmth of
his voice make the whole audience thrill as his sculptured syllables
fall on their ears:

            Beneath the rule of men entirely great
            The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
            The arch-enchanted wand! Itself a nothing,
            But taking sorcery from the master hand
            To paralyze the Cæsars and to strike
            The loud earth breathless. Take away the sword:
            States _can_ be saved without it.”

When Julie, appealing to him for aid which he cannot promise,
expostulatingly asks,—

                       “Art thou not Richelieu?”—

he answers in a manner whose attitude, look, and tone instantly carry
the imagination and sympathy of the soul-stricken auditors from the
individual instance before them to the solemn pathos and mystery of the
destiny of all mankind in this world:

                                “Yesterday I was:
                To-day, a very weak old man: to-morrow,
                I know not what!”

So, when, amidst unveiled treason, hate and fear and sickening
ingratitude, left alone in his desolation, his spirit for a moment
wavered under the load of suspicion and melancholy, but quickly rallied
into its own invincible heroism, he so painted and voiced the successive
moods that every bosom palpitated in living response:

           “My leeches bribed to poisoners; pages
           To strangle me in sleep; my very king—
           This brain the unresting loom from which was woven
           The purple of his greatness—leagued against me!
           Old, childless, friendless, broken—all forsake,
           All, all, but the indomitable heart
           Of Armand Richelieu!”

Never was transition more powerful than from the minor wail of
lamentation with which Forrest here began to the glorious eloquence of
the climax, where his vocal thunderbolts drove home to every heart the
lesson of conscious greatness and courage. The treachery was depicted
with a look and voice expressive of a weary and mournful indignation and
scorn touched with loathing; the desertion, with bowed head and drooping
arms, in low, lingering, tearful tones; the self-assertion was launched
from a mien that swelled with sudden access of inspiration, as if
heaving off its weakness and stiffened in its utmost erection.

Another imposing instance in which Forrest so rendered a towering sense
of genius and personal superiority as to change it from egotism to
revelation, merging the individual peculiarity in a universal attribute,
was where the armed De Mauprat comes upon the solitary cardinal and
tells him the next step will be his grave. The defiant retort to this
threat was so given as to impress the audience with a sense of prophetic
power, a feeling that the destiny of man is mysteriously linked with
unseen and supernatural ranks of being:

                                     “Thou liest, knave!
             I am old, infirm, most feeble—but thou liest.
             Armand de Richelieu dies not by the hand
             Of man. The stars have said it, and the voice
             Of my own prophetic and oracular soul
             Confirms the shining sibyls!”

A crowning glory of the impersonation of this great rôle by Forrest was
the august grandeur of the method by which he set the intrinsic royalty
of Richelieu over against the titular royalty of Louis. In many nameless
ways besides by his subtile irony, his air of inherent command masked in
studied courtesy of subordination, and the continual contrast of the
comprehensive measures and sublime visions of the one with the petty
personal spites and schemes of the other, he made it ever clear that the
crowned monarch was a sham, the statesman the real one anointed and
sealed by heaven itself. This true and democratic idea of superiority,
that he is the genuine king, not who chances to hold the throne, but who
knows how to govern, received a splendid setting in all the interviews
of the king and the cardinal. When the conspirators had won Louis to
turn his back on his minister with the words,—

                  “Remember, he who made can unmake,”—

who that saw it could ever forget the dilating mien and burning oratoric
burst which instantly made the sovereign seem a menial subject, and the
subject a vindicated sovereign?

              “Never! Your anger can recall your trust,
              Annul my office, spoil me of my lands,
              Rifle my coffers: but my name, my deeds,
              Are royal in a land beyond your sceptre.
              Pass sentence on me if you will. From kings,
              Lo, I appeal to Time!”

Again, when Louis, with mere personal passion, had harshly rebuffed him
with the words,—

                                 “For our conference
                   This is no place nor season,”—

the narrow selfishness of the king makes him seem a pygmy and a plebeian
in the light of the universal sentiment and expansive thought with which
Richelieu overwhelmingly responds,—

                          “Good my liege, for justice
              All place is a temple and all season summer.
              Do you deny me justice?”

But the grandest exhibition of the superiority of democratic personal
royalty of character and inspiration to the conventional royalty of
title and place, the supreme dramatic moment of the play, was the
protection of Julie from the polluting pursuit of the king. Folding the
affrighted girl to his breast with his left arm, he lifted his loaded
right hand, and, with visage of smouldering fire and clarion tone,

                           “To those who sent you!
             And say you found the virtue they would slay,
             Here, couched upon this heart, as at an altar,
             And sheltered by the wings of sacred Rome.

Baradas asserts that the king claims her. Then came such a climax of
physical, moral, and artistic power as no man could witness without
being electrified through and through. Forrest prepared and executed
this climax with an exquisite skill that made it seem an unstudied
inspiration. His intellect appeared to have the eager fire that burns
and flashes along a train of thought, gathering speed and glory as it
moves, till at last it strikes with irresistible momentum. At first with
noble repression the low deep voice uttered the portentous words,—

                                   “Ay, is it so?
           Then wakes the power which in the age of iron
           Burst forth to curb the great and raise the low.”

Here the surge of passion began to sweep cumulatively on. The eyes grew
wild, the outstretched hands quivered, the tones swelled and rang, the
expanded and erected figure looked like a transparent mass of fire, and
the climax fell as though the sky had burst with a broadside of

             “Mark where she stands! Around her form I draw
             The awful circle of our solemn Church.
             Set but a foot within that holy ground,
             And on thy head, yea, though it wore a crown,
             I launch the curse of Rome!”

The sudden passage of Richelieu from the extreme of tottering feebleness
to the extreme of towering strength, under the stimulus of some
impersonal passion, illustrated a deep and marvellous principle of human
nature. Forrest never forgot how startlingly he had once seen this
exemplified by Andrew Jackson when discussing the expediency of the
annexation of Texas to the United States. A disinterested and universal
sentiment suddenly admitted to the mind, lifting the man out of egotism,
sometimes seems to open the valves of the brain, flood the organism with
supernatural power, and transform a shrivelled skeleton into a glowing
athlete. Richelieu had fainted, and was thought to be dying. The king
repents, and restores his office, saying,—

             “Live, Richelieu, if not for me, for France!”

In one instant the might of his whole idolized country passes into his
withered frame.

        “My own dear France, I have thee yet, I have saved thee.
        All earth shall never pluck thee from my heart,
        My mistress France, my wedded wife, sweet France!”

It was the colossal scale of intellect, imagination, passion, and energy
exposed by Forrest in his representation of Richelieu that made the rôle
to ordinary minds a new revelation of the capacities of human nature.
When, with a tone and inflection whose sweet and long-drawn cadence
almost made the audience hear the melody of the spheres clanging in
endless space, he said,—

               “No, let us own it, there is One above
               Sways the harmonious mystery of the world
               Even better than prime ministers,”—

he produced on the stage a religious impression of which Bossuet might
have been proud in the pulpit. And to hear him declaim, with a modest
pomp and solemn glow of elocution befitting the thoughts and imagery,
the following passage, was to receive an influence most ennobling while
most pleasurable:

                     “I found France rent asunder;
           The rich men despots, and the poor, banditti;
           Sloth in the mart, and schism in the temple;
           Brawls festering to rebellion, and weak laws
           Rotting away with rust in antique sheaths.
           I have re-created France, and from the ashes
           Of the old feudal and decrepit carcass
           Civilization, on her luminous wings,
           Soars, phœnix-like, to Jove. What was my art?
           Genius, some say; some, fortune; witchcraft, some.
           Not so: my art was JUSTICE!”

It was no wonder that Charles Kean, after beholding this interpretation
of Richelieu by Forrest, said to his wife, “Ellen, this is the greatest
acting we have ever seen or ever shall see.” It was but just that Henry
Sedley, himself an accomplished actor and owned to be one of the best
dramatic critics in the country, should write, “We can imagine a
Richelieu more French than that of Mr. Forrest, but we cannot well
conceive one more full of dramatic passion, of sustained power, or of
the mysterious magnetism that takes captive and sways at will the
average human imagination.”

                        SHAKSPEAREAN CHARACTERS.

In all the last forty years of his life Forrest was an enthusiastic
reader and student of Shakspeare. As his experience deepened and his
observation enlarged and his familiarity with the works of this
unrivalled genius became more thorough, his love and admiration rose
into wondering reverence, and ended in boundless idolatry. His library
teemed with books illustrative of the plays and poems of the immortal
dramatist. He delighted to pore even over the commentators, and the
original pages were his solace, his joy, and his worship. He relished
the Comedies as much as he did the Tragedies, and in the Sonnets found
inexhaustible beauties entwined with exquisite autobiographic
revelations. Thus he came within the esoteric circle of readers. One of
the latest schemes with which his heart pleased his fancy was a design
to erect in some suitable place in his native city a group of statuary
representing Shakspeare with Heminge and Condell, the two editors whose
pious care collected and gave to posterity the matchless writings which
otherwise might have been lost.

The personal feelings and the professional pride of Forrest were more
bound up with his representations of Shakspearean characters than with
any others. Of the eight Shakspearean rôles which he played, those of
Shylock and Iago were early dropped, on account of his extreme distaste
for the parts, and his unwillingness to bear the ideal hate and loathing
they awakened in the spectators. But to the remaining six parts—Macbeth,
Richard, Hamlet, Coriolanus, Othello, and Lear—he gave the most
unwearied study, and in their representation showed the extremest
elaboration of his art. He spent an incredible amount of time and pains
in striving to grasp the true types and attributes of these characters,
and in perfecting his portrayals of them according to the intentions of
the author and the realities of nature. And he actually attained
conceptions of them far more comprehensive, accurate, and distinct than
he received credit for. His playing of them, too, was marked not only by
a bold sweep of power and truth, but also by a keenness of insight, a
delicate perception of fitness, a just distribution of light and shade,
a felicity of transition and contrast, which were lost on the average of
an audience. The knowledge that his finest points were not appreciated
by many was one of his trials. In spite of this, however, his own
conviction of the minute truthfulness and merit of his acting of
Shakspearean characters, based on indefatigable study of nature and
honest reproduction of what he saw, was the sweetest satisfaction of his
professional life. He always wished his fame to stand or fall with a
fair estimate of his renderings of these rôles. And one thing is to be
affirmed of him, which the carelessness of miscellaneous assemblies
superficially seeking amusement generally failed to appreciate, namely,
that he felt profoundly the solemn lessons with which those characters
were charged, and conscientiously endeavored to emphasize and enforce
them, making his performance a panorama of living instruction, an
illuminated revelation of human nature and human destiny, and not a mere
series of piques of curiosity or traps for sensation.

In the ordinary dramatist or novelist a character is manufactured out of
a formula, but in Shakspeare every great character is so deeply true
that it suggests many formulas. In the highest ancient art situations
vary with characters; in average modern art characters vary with
situations; in Shakspeare both these results are shown as they are in
real life, where sometimes characters are moulds for shaping situations,
and sometimes situations are furnaces for testing characters. Of old,
when life was deeper because less complex, the dramatized legend was the
channel of a force or fate; there its interest lay. In Shakspeare the
interest is not to see the supernatural force reflected blazing on a
character, but rather to see it broken up by the faculties of the
character, to see it refracted on his idiosyncrasies. This makes the
task of the player more difficult, because he must seize the unity of
the character in its relations with the plot, and keep it clear, however
modulated in variety of manifestations. This Forrest did in all his
Shakspearean impersonations. Though few who saw him act appreciated it,
the distinctness with which he kept this in view was his crowning merit
as an artist.


  D G Thompson




Many actors have represented Macbeth as a coward moulded and directed at
will by his stronger wife,—a weakling caught like a leaf in an
irresistible current and hurried helplessly on to his doom. Such is not
the picture painted by Shakspeare. Such was not the interpretation given
by Forrest. Macbeth is a broad, rich, powerful nature, with a poetic
mind, a loving heart, a courageous will. He is also strongly ambitious,
and prone to superstition. To gratify his ambition he is tempted to
commit a dreadful crime, and the temptation is urged on him by what he
holds to be supernatural agencies. After misgivings and struggles with
himself, he yields. The horrid deed being perpetrated, the results
disappoint him. The supernatural prophecies that led him on change to
supernatural terrors, his soul is filled with remorse, his brain reels,
and as the sequel of his guilt thickens darkly around him he rallies his
desperate energies and meets his fate with superb defiance. The struggle
of temptation in a soul richly furnished with good yet fatally
susceptible to evil, the violation of conscience, the overwhelming
retribution,—these points, softened with sunny touches of domestic love
and poetic moral sentiment, compose the lurid substance and movement of
the drama. And these points Forrest embodied in his portraiture with an
emotional intensity and an intellectual clearness which enthralled his

As he came over the hills at the back of the stage, accompanied by
Banquo, in his Highland tartan, his plumed Scotch cap, his legs bare
from the knee to the ankle, his pointed targe on his arm, with his free
and commanding air, and his appearance of elastic strength and
freshness, he was a picture of vigorous, breezy manhood. His first words
were addressed to Banquo in an easy tone, such as one would naturally
use in describing the weather:

               “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.”

The witches hailing him with new titles and a royal prophecy, he

                                 “And seems to fear
                     Things that do sound so fair.”

As they concluded, the manner in which, with subdued breathing
eagerness, he said,—

             “Stay, you imperfect speakers; tell me more,”—

showed what a deep and prepared chord in his soul their greeting had
struck. And when they made themselves vapor and disappeared, he stood
rapt in the wonder of it, and replied to the question of Banquo,
“Whither have they vanished?” with a dissolving whispering voice, in an
attitude of musing suspense and astonishment,—

            “Into the air; and what seemed corporal melted
            As breath into the wind. Would they had stayed!”

When the missives from the king saluted him Glamis and Cawdor, he
attributed more than mortal knowledge to the weird sisters; and at once
the terrible temptation to gratify his ambition by murder seized his
soul, and conscience began to struggle with it. This struggle, in all
its dread import, he pictured forth as he delivered the ensuing
soliloquy with speaking features and in quick low tones of suppressed
questioning eagerness:

                    “This supernatural soliciting
            Cannot be ill; cannot be good. If ill,
            Why hath it given me earnest of success,
            Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor.
            If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
            Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,
            And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
            Against the use of nature?
            My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,
            Shakes so my single state of man that function
            Is smothered in surmise, and nothing is,
            But what is not.”

In uttering these words he painted to eye and ear how temptation divides
the soul into the desiring passion and the forbidding principle and sets
them in deadly contention. Then the apologetic sympathy of his reply to
the expostulation of Banquo,—

             “Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure,”—

showed the gentle quality of his nature:

           “Give me your favor: my dull brain was wrought
           With things forgotten. Kind gentlemen, your pains
           Are registered where every day I turn
           The leaf to read them. Let us toward the king.”


  A. Robin.



Macbeth was one originally full of the milk of human kindness, who would
not play false, but would win holily what he wished highly: yet his
ambition was so sharp that the sight of the coveted prize made him wild
to snatch it the nearest way. This conflict Forrest continually
indicated by alternations of geniality towards his comrades and of
lowering gloom in himself, while his brain seemed heaving in the throes
of a moral earthquake. Thus, when Duncan had indicated Malcolm as
successor to the throne, Macbeth betrayed the depths of his soul by
saying, with sinister mien, aside,—

             “The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step
             On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,
             For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires!
             Let not light see my black and deep desires.”

The earnest and tender warmth which Forrest made Macbeth put into his
greeting of his wife after his absence, his dangers in battle, and his
mysterious adventure with the witches, proved how deeply he loved her.
And his first words,—

                                  “My dearest love,
                    Duncan comes here to-night,”—

were spoken with an abstracted and concentrated air that fully revealed
the awful scheme that loomed darkly far back in his mind. Left alone
with himself, the temptation renewed the struggle between his better and
his worse self. In the long and wonderful soliloquy, beginning—

          “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well,”—

he painted the gradual victory of reason, honor, conscience, and
affection over the fell ambition that was spurring him to murder, and,
as Lady Macbeth entered, he exclaimed, with a clearing and relieved

             “We will proceed no further in this business.”

But the stinging taunts with which she upbraided him, and the frightful
energy of her own resolution with which she eloquently infected him,
worked so strongly on his susceptible nature that he reinstalled his
discarded purpose, and went out saying firmly,—

                            “I am settled, and bend up
              Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.”

In this scene he so distinctly exhibited the operation of her influence
on him, the slow change of his innocent determination into uncertain
wavering, and then the change of the irresolute state into guilty
determination, that the spectators could almost see the inspiring
temptress pour her spirits into him, as with the valor of her tongue she
chastised his hesitation away.

When he next appeared he looked oppressed, bowed, haggard, and pale, as
if the fearful crisis had exerted on him the effect of years of misery.
In half-undress, with semi-distraught air, his hushed and gliding manner
of sinewy stealth, in conjunction with the silence and darkness of the
hour, conveyed a mysterious impression of awe and terror to every soul.
He said to the servant, with an absent look and tone, as if the words
uttered themselves without his heed,—

             “Go; bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
             She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.”

Then slowly came the appalling climax in the temptation whose influences
had been progressively operating in the automatic strata of his being
deeper than his free consciousness could reach. Those influences were
now ready to produce an illusion, by a reversal of the normal action of
the faculties unconscious ideas reporting themselves outwardly as
objects. Buried in thought, he stands gazing on the floor. Lifting his
head, at last, as if to speak, he sees a dagger floating in the air. He
winks rapidly, then rubs his eyes, to clear his sight and dispel his
doubt. The fatal vision stays. He reasons with himself, and acts the
reasoning out, to decide whether it is a deception of fancy or a
supernatural reality. First he thinks it real, but, failing in his
attempt to clutch it, he holds it to be a false creation of the brain.
Then its persistence drives him insane, and as he sees the blade and
dudgeon covered with gouts of blood he shrieks in a frenzy of horror.
Passing this crisis, he re-seizes possession of his mind, and, with an
air of profound relief, sighs,—

                            “There’s no such thing:
                It is the bloody business which informs
                Thus to mine eyes.”

Then, changing his voice from a giant whisper to a full sombre vocality,
the next words fell on the ear in their solemn music like thunder
rolling mellowed and softened in the distance:

                             “Now o’er the one half world
               Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
               The curtained sleep.”

Gathering his faculties and girding up his resolution for the final
deed, as the bell rang he grasped his dagger and made his exit, saying,—

                “Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
                That summons thee to heaven or to hell.”

These words he spoke, not with the bellowing declamation many players
had given them, but in a low, firm tone tinged with sadness, a tone
expressive of melancholy mixed with determination. As he came out of the
fatal chamber backwards, with his hands recking, he did not see Lady
Macbeth standing there in an attitude of intense listening, until he
struck against her. They both started and gazed at each other in
terror,—an action so true to nature that it always electrified the

Then at once began the dread reaction of sorrow, fear, and remorse.
Forrest made the regret and lamentation of Macbeth over the crime and
its irreparable consequences exquisitely piteous and mournful. The
marvellous wail of his description of innocent sleep forfeited
thenceforth, the panic surprise of his

            “How is it with me when every noise appals me?”

the lacerating distress of his

         “Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou couldst!”

penetrated the heart of every hearer with commiseration.

Forrest gave Macbeth, in the first scene of the play, a cheerful and
observant air; after the interview with the witches he was absorbed and
abstracted; pending his direful crime he was agitated, moody, troubled,—

             “Dark thoughts rolling to and fro in his mind
             Like thunder-clouds darkening the lucid sky;”

after the murder he was restless, suspicious, terrified, at times
insane. These alterations of mood and manner were distinctly marked with
the evolution of the plot through its salient stages. Of the pervasive
remorse with which the moral nature of Macbeth afflicted and shook him,
Forrest presented a picture fascinating in its fearful beauty and truth.
When he spoke the following passage, the mournfulness of his voice was
like the sighing of the November wind as it throws its low moan over the
withered leaves:

                         “Better be with the dead,
           Whom we to gain our peace have sent to peace,
           Than on the torture of the mind to lie
           In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave:
           After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well:
           Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor poison,
           Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
           Can touch him farther.”

Then, seeking sympathy and consolation, he turned to the partner of his
bosom and his greatness with the agonizing outburst,—

             “O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife.”

Close on the awful remorse and on the pathetic tenderness, with
consummate truth to nature the selfish instincts were shown hardening
the man in his crime, making him resolve to strengthen with further ill
things bad begun:

                                   “I am in blood
             Stept in so far, that, should I wade no more,
             Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”

So unstably poised was his disposition between his good affections and
his wicked desires that the conflict was still repeated, and with each
defeat of conscience the dominion of evil grew completer. As his
remorseful fears translated themselves into outward spectres, Forrest
vividly illustrated the curdling horror human nature experiences when
guilt opens the supernatural world to its apprehension. He made Macbeth
show a proud and lion-mettled courage in human relations, but seem cowed
with abject terror by ghostly visitations. His criminal course collects
momentum till it hurries him headlong to wholesale slaughters and to his
own inevitable ruin. In his mad infatuation of self-entangling crime he
says of his own proposed massacre of the family of Macduff,—

                              “No boasting like a fool:
              This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool.”

Relying on the promise of the witches that none of woman born should
harm him, and that he should never be vanquished till Birnam wood came
to Dunsinane, he added crime to crime till the whole land was in arms
for his overthrow. Then, despite his forced faith and bravery, a
profound melancholy sank on him. His vital spirits failed. He grew sick
of life and weary of the sun. To this phase of the character and career
Forrest did conspicuous justice. Nothing of the kind could exceed the
exquisite beauty of his readings of the three famous passages,—

            “I have lived long enough; my way of life
            Has fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf:”

                   ·       ·       ·       ·       ·

            “Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
            Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow?”

                   ·       ·       ·       ·       ·

            She should have died hereafter:
            “There would have been a time for such a word.”

His voice lingered on the melodious melancholy of the words and every
line of his face responded to their mournful and despairing

When told that Birnam wood was moving, the sense of supernatural power
turned against him. For a moment he stood, a solid dismay. Then he
staggered as if his brain had received a blow from the words which smote
to its reeling centre. So, when Macduff exposed to him the paltering of
the fiends in a double sense, his boasted charm seemed visibly to melt
from him, and he shrank back as though struck by a withering spell. His
towering form contracted into itself, his knees shook, and his sword
half dropped from his grasp. But the next instant, goaded by the taunts
of his adversary, he rallied on his native heroism, braced himself for
the struggle as if he resolved to rise superior to fate whether natural
or demoniac, and fell at last like a ruined king, with all his blazing
regalia on. The performance left on the mind of the appreciative
beholder, stamped in terrible impress, the eternal moral of temptation
and crime culminating in fatal success and followed by the inevitable
swoop of retribution:

                       “Naught’s had, all’s spent,
               Where our desire is got without content.”


Quite early in his histrionic career Forrest wrote to his friend
Leggett, “My notions of the character of Richard the Third do not accord
with those of the players I have seen personate it. They have not made
him gay enough in the earlier scenes, but too sullen, frowning, and
obvious a villain. He was an exulting and dashing, not a moody, villain.
Success followed his schemes too rapidly and gave him too much elation
to make appropriate the haggard and penthouse aspect he is usually made
to wear. Contempt for mankind forms a stronger feature of his character
than hatred; and he has a sort of reckless jollity, a joyous audacity,
which has not been made conspicuous enough.” In general accord with this
conception he afterwards elaborated his portraiture of the deformed
tyrant, the savage humorist, the murderous and brilliant villain. He set
aside the stereotyped idea of Richard as a strutting, ranting, gloomy
plotter, forever cynical and sarcastic and parading his crimes. Not
excluding these traits, Forrest subordinated them to his cunning
hypocrisy, his gleaming intellectuality, his jocose irony, his exulting
self-complacence and fiendish sportiveness. He represented him not only
as ravenously ambitious, but also full of a subtle pride and vanity
which delighted him with the constant display of his mental superiority
to those about him. Above all he was shown to be possessed of a laughing
devil, a witty and sardonic genius, which amused itself with playing on
the faculties of the weaklings he wheedled, scoffing at what they
thought holy, and bluntly utilizing the most sacred things for the most
selfish ends. There can be no doubt that in removing the conventional
stage Richard with this more dashing and versatile one Forrest restored
the genuine conception of Shakspeare, who has painted him as rattling
not brooding, exuberantly complacent even under his own dispraises, an
endlessly inventive and triumphant hypocrite, master of a gorgeous
eloquence whose splendid phrases adorn the ugliness of his schemes
almost out of sight. His mental nature devours his moral nature, and,
swallowing remorse, leaves him free to be gay. The character thus
portrayed was hard, cruel, deceitful, mocking,—less melodramatically
fiendish and electrical than the Richard of Kean, but more true to
nature. The picture was a consistent one. The deformity of the man,
reacting on his matchless intellect and courage and sensual passion, had
made him a bitter cynic. But his genius was too rich to stagnate into an
envenomed gloom of misanthropy. Its exuberance broke out in aspiring
schemes and crimes gilded with philosophy, hypocrisy, laughter, and
irony. Moving alone in a murky atmosphere of sin and sensuality, he knew
himself to the bottom of his soul, and read everybody else through and
through. He believed in no one, and scoffed at truth, because he was
himself without conscience. But his insight and his solid understanding
and glittering wit, making of everything a foil to display his self-
satisfied powers, hid the degradation of his wickedness from his own
eyes, and sometimes almost excused it in the eyes of others. Yet, so
wondrous was the moral genius of Shakspeare, the devilish chuckling with
which he hugged the notion of his own superiority in his exemption from
the standards that rule other men, instead of infecting, shocked and
warned and repelled the auditor:


  H B Hall & Sons



         “Come, this conscience is a convenient scarecrow;
         It guards the fruit which priests and wise men taste,
         Who never set it up to fright themselves.”

Thus in the impersonation of him by Forrest Richard lost his perpetual
scowl, and took on here and there touches of humor and grim comedy. He
burst upon the stage, cloaked and capped, waving his glove in triumph
over the downfall of the house of Lancaster. Not in frowning gutturals
or with snarling complaint but merrily came the opening words,—

               “Now is the winter of our discontent
               Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

Gradually as he came to descant upon his own defects and unsuitedness
for peace and love, the tone passed from glee to sarcasm, and ended with
dissembling and vindictive earnestness in the apostrophe,—

        “Dive, thoughts, down to my soul. Here Clarence comes.”

The scene with Lady Anne, where he overcomes every conceivable kind and
degree of obstacles to her favor by the sheer fascination of his gifted
tongue, was a masterpiece of nature and art. He gave his pleading just
enough semblance of sincerity to make a plausible pathway to the
feminine heart, but not enough to hide the sinister charm of a
consummate hypocrisy availing itself of every secret of persuasion. It
was a fearful unmasking of the weakness of ordinary woman under the
siege of passion. No sermon was ever preached in any pulpit one-half so
terrible in power for those prepared to appreciate all that it meant.
When Lady Anne withdrew, the delighted vanity of Richard, the self-
pampering exultation of the artist in dissimulation, shone out in the
soliloquy wherewith he applauded and caressed himself:

       “Was ever woman in this humor wooed?
       Was ever woman in this humor won?
       I’ll have her,—but I will not keep her long
       To take her in her heart’s extremest hate,
       With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,
       The bleeding witness of my hatred by;
       Having heaven, her conscience, and these bars against me!
       And I no friends to back my suit withal,
       But the plain devil, and dissembling looks!
       And yet to win her,—all the world to nothing!”

In many places in the play his air of searching and sarcastic
incredulity, and his rich vindictive chuckle of self-applause, were as
artistically fine as they were morally repulsive. As Kean had done
before him, he made an effective point in speaking the line,

              “To shrink my arm up like a withered shrub:”

he looked at the limb for some time with a sort of bitter discontent,
and struck it back with angry disgust. When the queenly women widowed by
his murderous intervention began to upbraid him with his monstrous
deeds, the cool audacity, the immense aplomb, the half-hidden enjoyment
of the joke, with which he relieved himself from the situation by
calling out,—

             “A flourish, trumpets! strike alarums, drums!
             Let not the heavens hear these tell-tale women
             Rail on the Lord’s Anointed!”—

were a bit of grotesque satire, a gigantic and serviceable absurdity,
worthy of Rabelais.

The acting of Forrest in the tent-scene, where Richard in his broken
sleep dreams he sees the successive victims of his murderous hand
approach and threaten him, was original and effective in the highest
degree. He struggled on his couch with horrible phantoms. Ghosts pursued
him. Visions of battle, overthrow, despair, and death convulsed him.
Acting his dreams out he dealt his blows around with frightful and
aimless energy, and with an intense expression of remorse and vengeance
on his face fell apparently cloven to the earth. He then arose like a
man coming out of hell, dragging his dream with him, and, struggling
fiercely to awake, rushed to the footlights, sank on his knee, and spoke
these words, beginning with a shriek and softening down to a shuddering

            “Give me another horse! Bind up my wounds!
            Have mercy, Jesu! Soft; I did but dream.
            O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
            The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
            Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.”

The merely selfish individual instincts and passions of unregenerate
human nature are kept from breaking out into the crimes which they would
spontaneously commit, by an ethical regulation which consists of a set
of ideal sympathies representing the rights and feelings of other men,
representing the word of God or the collective principles of universal
order. The criminal type of character embodied in Richard throws off or
suppresses this restraining and retributive apparatus, and enthrones a
lawless egotism masked in hypocrisy. Thus, Richard had so obscured,
clogged, and deadened the moral action of conscience, that his egotistic
passions held rampant supremacy, and success made him gay and exultant,
unchecked by any touch of remorse or shame. In his own eyes he clothed
himself in the glimmering mail of his triumphant deeds of wickedness,
and dilated with pride like Lucifer in hell. He could not weep nor
tremble, but he could shake with horrid laughter. In drawing this
terrible outline Shakspeare showed that he knew what was in man. In
painting the audacious picture Forrest proved himself a profound artist.
And the moral for the spectators was complete when the hardened
intellectual monster of depravity, in the culmination of the secret
forces of destiny and his own organism, was stripped of his self-
sufficiency, and, as the supernatural world broke on his vision, he
stood aghast, with curdled blood and stiffened hair, shrieking with
terror and despair.

Forrest was too large, with too much ingrained justice and heavy
grandeur, to be really suited for this part. He needed, especially in
its scolding contests of wit and spiteful invective, to be smaller,
lighter, swifter, more vixenish. It was just the character for Kean and
Booth, who in their way were unapproachable in it. Yet the conception of
Forrest was far truer on the whole; and his performance was full of
sterling merit.


The clear good sense, the trained professional skill, and the deep
personal experience of Forrest gave him an accurate perception of the
general character of Hamlet. There will always be room for critical
differences of judgment on the details. But he could not commit the
gross blunders illustrated by so many noted actors who have exhibited
the enigmatical prince either as a petulant, querulous egotist morbidly
brooding over himself and irritable with everybody else, or as a
robustious, periwig-pated fellow always in a roaring passion or on the
verge of it. Forrest saw in the mind and heart of Hamlet sweet and noble
elements of the courtier, the scholar, the philosopher, the poet, and
the lover, but joined with a sensitive organization whose nerves were
too exquisitely strung not to be a little jangled by the harsh contact
of the circumstances into which he was flung. He regarded him as
naturally wise, just, modest, and affectionate, but by his experience of
wrong and fickleness in others, and of disturbed health in himself, led
to an exaggerated self-consciousness profoundly tinged with mournfulness
and easily provoked to sarcasm. In the melancholy young Dane was
embodied the sad malady of the highest natures, the great spiritual
disease of modern life,—an over-excited intellectuality dwelling with
too much eagerness and persistence on the mysteries of things; allured,
perplexed, baffled, vainly trying to solve the problems of existence,
injustice, misery, death, and wearying itself out with the restless
effort. Thus there is produced a tendency of blood to the head, which
leaves the extremities cold, the centres congested, and the surface
anæmic. The fevered and hungry brain devours the juices of the body, the
exhausted organic and animal functions complainingly react on the
spiritual nature or conscious essence with a wretched depression,
everything within is sicklied over with a pale cast of thought, and
everything without becomes a sterile and pestilent burden. The strong
and gentle nature, finely touched for fine issues, but too delicately
poised, is stricken with the disease of introspective inquiry, and, not
content to accept things as they are and wholesomely make the best of
them, keeps forever probing too curiously into the mysterious cause and
import of events, until mental gloom sets in on the lowered physical
tone. Then the opening of the supernatural world upon him, revealing the
murder of his father and imposing the duty of vengeance, hurries him in
his weakened and anxious condition to the edge of lunacy, over which he
sometimes purposely affects to pass, and sometimes, in his sleepless
care or sudden excitement, is really precipitated. Such was the
conception which Forrest strove to represent in his portraiture of
Hamlet. And in rendering it he did all he could to neutralize the ill-
adaptedness of his stalwart person and abounding vigor for the
philosophical and romantic sentimentality of the part by a subdued and
pensive manner and a costume which made his figure appear more tall and
slender. He laid aside the massive hauteur of his port, and walked the
stage and conversed with the interlocutors as a thoughtful scholar would
walk the floor of his library and talk with his friends. Even when he
broke into passionate indignation or scorn a restraining power of
culture and refinement curbed the violence. Still, the incongruity
between his form and that of the ideal Hamlet was felt by the audience;
and it abated from the admiration and enjoyment due to the sound
intelligence, sincere feeling, beautiful elocution, and just acting
which he displayed in the performance.


  G H Cushman



Most players of Hamlet, in the scene where he first appears among the
courtiers before the king and queen, have taken a conspicuous position,
drawing all eyes. Forrest, with a delicate perception that the deep
melancholy and suspicion in which he was plunged would make him averse
to ostentation, was seen in the rear, as if avoiding notice, and only
came forward when the king called him by name with the title of son. He
then betrayed his prophetic mislike of his uncle by the dark look and
satirical inflection with which he said, aside,—

              “A little more than kin and less than kind.”

His reply to the expostulation of his mother against his grief seeming
so particular and persistent,—

              “Seems, madam: nay, it is: I know not seems.
              ’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
              Nor customary suits of solemn black,”—

was given with a sincerity, naturalness, and beauty irresistible in
effect. His grief and gloom appeared to embody themselves in a voice
that wailed and quivered the weeping syllables like the tones of a bell
swinging above a city stricken with the plague. The impression thus
produced was continued, modified with new elements of emotion, and
carried to a still higher pitch, when, left alone, he began to commune
with himself and to utter his thoughts and feelings aloud. What an all-
pervasive disheartenment possessed him, how sick he was of life, how
tenderly he loved and mourned his father, how loathingly he shrank from
the shameless speed and facility wherewith his widowed mother had
transferred herself to a second husband,—these phases of his unhappiness
were painted with an earnest truthfulness which seized and held the
sympathies as with a spell.

            “O that this too, too solid flesh would melt,
            Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew:
            Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
            His canon ’gainst self-slaughter. O God! O God!
            How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
            Seem to me all the uses of this world!”

Hamlet had been a deep solitary self-communer, had penetrated the hollow
forms and shows of the conventional world, and with his questioning
spirit touched the very quick of the mystery of the universe. His soul
must have vibrated at least with obscure presentiments of the invisible
state and supernal ranges of being in hidden connection with the scenes
in which he was playing his part. Forrest revealed this by his manner of
listening to Horatio while he described how he and Marcellus and
Bernardo had seen the ghost of the buried majesty of Denmark walking by
them at midnight. This sense of a providential, retributive,
supernatural scheme mysteriously interwoven with our human life was
breathed yet more forcibly in his soliloquizing moods after agreeing to
watch with them that night in hope that the ghost would walk again:

          “My father’s spirit in arms! All is not well;
          I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
          Till then sit still, my soul. Foul deeds will rise,
          Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.”

When Hamlet, with Horatio and Marcellus, came upon the platform at
twelve to watch for the ghost, and said,—

              “The air bites shrewdly: it is very cold,”—

he finely indicated by his absent and preoccupied manner that he was not
thinking about the cold, but was full of the solemn expectation of
something else. He took a position nigh to the entrance of the ghost,
and continued his desultory talk about the custom of carousing in
Denmark, till the spectral figure stalked in, almost touching him. Then
Hamlet turned, with a violent start of amazement and a short cry, and,
while the white face looked down into his own, uttered the most
affecting invocation ever spoken by man, in a subdued and beseeching
tone that seemed freighted with the very soul of bewildered awe and
piteous pleading. His voice was in a high key but husky, the vocality
half dissolved in mysterious breath. His look was that of startled
amazement touched with love and eagerness. The remorseful Macbeth
confronted the ghost of Banquo with petrifying terror. The thunder-
struck Richard saw the ghosts of his victims with wild horror. But
Hamlet was innocent; his spirit was that of truth and filial piety; and
when the marble tomb yawned forth its messenger from the invisible world
to revisit the glimpses of the moon, although his fleshly nature might
tremble at recognizing the manifest supernatural, his soul would indeed
be wonder-thrilled but not unhinged, feeling itself as immortal as that
on which it looked. His figure perfectly still, leaning forward with
intent face, his whole soul concentrated in eye and ear, breathed mute
supplication. And when in reply to the pathetic words of the ghost,—

                         “My hour is almost come
               When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
               Must render up myself,”—

he said,—

                          “Alas, poor ghost!”—

his voice was so heart-brokenly expressive of commiseration that the
hearers almost anticipated the response,—

                 “Pity me not: but lend thy serious hearing
             To what I shall unfold.”

The harrowing tale finished, the task of revenge enjoined, the ghost
disappears, saying,—

                  “Adieu! adieu! Hamlet, remember me.”

Nothing in dramatic art has ever been conceived more overwhelmingly
affecting and appalling than this scene and speech. A withering spell
seemed to have fallen on Hamlet and instantly aged him. He looked as
pale and shrivelled as the frozen moonlight and the wintry landscape
around him. He spoke the soliloquy that followed with a feeble and slow
laboriousness expressive of terrible pain and anxiety:

                     “Hold, hold, my heart;
           And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
           But bear me stiffly up! Remember thee?
           Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
           In this distracted globe. Remember thee?
           Yea, from the table of my memory
           I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,
           All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
           That youth and observation copied there,
           And thy commandment all alone shall live
           Within the book and volume of my brain.”

To these words Forrest imparted an expression loaded with the whole
darkening and dislocating effect which the vision and injunction of his
father had exerted on him and was thenceforth to exert. For he was
changed beyond the power of recovery. He now moves through the mysteries
of the play, himself the densest mystery of all, at once shedding and
absorbing night, his steady purpose drifting through his unstable plans,
and his methodical madness hurrying king, queen, Polonius, Ophelia,
Laertes, and himself to their tragic doom. The load of his supernatural
mission darkens every prospect; yet his royal reason rifts the darkness
with its flashes, the splendor of his imagination flings rainbows around
him, and the native tenderness of his heart contrasts with his hard and
lonely fate like an Alpine rose springing from the crags and pressing
its fragrant petals against the very glacier. He was unhappy before,
because his faculties transcended his conditions, his boundless soul
chafed under the trifles of every-day experience, and his nobleness
revolted from the hollow shams and frivolous routine which he saw so
clearly. But now that the realm of the dead has opened on him, filling
him with distressful doubts and burdening him with distasteful duty,
revealing murder on the throne and making love and joy impossible, his
miserable dejection becomes supreme. He seeks to escape from the
pressure of his doom in thought, conversation, friendship, sportive wit.
Embittered by his knowledge, he turns on the shallow and treacherous
praters about him with a sarcastic humor which seems not part of his
character but elicited from him by accidents and glittering out of his
gloom like lamplight reflected on an ebony caryatid, or like a scattered
rosary of stars burning in a night of solid black.

Forrest endeavored to represent in their truth the rapid succession of
transitory and contradictory moods of Hamlet and yet never to lose the
central thread of unity on which they were strung. That unity was
imaginative intellectuality, introspective skepticism, profound
unhappiness, and a shrinking yet persistent determination to avenge the
murder of his father. The great intelligence and skill of the actor were
proved by his presenting both the variety and the unity, and never
forgetting that his portraiture was of a refined and scholarly prince
and a satirical humorist who loved solitude and secrecy and would rather
be misunderstood than reveal himself to the crowd. Among the many
delicate shadings of character exemplified in the impersonation one of
the quietest and best was the contrast of his sharp lawyer-like manner
of cross-examining Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and detecting that in
the disguise of friends they were really spies, with the thoughtful and
gracious kindness of his dealing with the players. Seated part of the
time, he spoke to the poor actor like an old friend, and called him
back, when he was retiring, to add another thought, and finally
dismissed him with a sympathetic touch on his shoulder and a smile.

The closet scene with the queen-mother, as Forrest played it, was a
model of justness. He began in a respectful and sorrowing tone.
Gradually, as he dwelt on her faithlessness to his father, and her
loathsome sensuality, his glowing memory and burning words wrought him
up to vehement indignation, and he appeared on the point of offering
violence, when the ghost reappeared with warning signal and message. The
suddenness of change in his manner—pallor of face, shrunken shoulders,
fixed dilatation of eyes—was electrifying. And when in response to the

             “O Hamlet, thou hast rent my heart in twain!”

he said,—

               “O throw away the worser part of it,
               And live the purer with the other half.
               Good-night: but go not to my uncle’s bed:
               Assume a virtue if you have it not,”—

he compressed into his utterance, in one indescribable mixture, a world
of entreaty, command, disgust, grief, deference, love, and mournfulness.

The scene in the church-yard was one full of felicitous design and
execution. Entering slowly with Horatio, he seemed, as he looked about,
invested with a religious reverence. Then he sat down on a tombstone,
and entered easily into conversation in a humorous vein with the clown
who was digging a grave. At the same time he kept up an even flow of
understanding with Horatio. He so bore himself that the audience could
reach no foregone conclusion to withdraw their absorbed attention from
the strange funereal phantasmagoria on which the curtain was soon to
sink like a pall. Over the skull of Yorick, in quick transition from the
bantering with the clown, his reminiscences, not far from mirth, his
profound yet simple moralizing, so heartfelt and natural, were naïve and
solemn and pathetic to the verge of smiles and awe and tears. When he
learned that Ophelia was dead, and that this grave was for her, he
staggered, and bent his head for a moment on the shoulder of his friend
Horatio. Though so quickly done, it told the whole story of his love for
her and his enforced renunciation.

Of all who have acted the part no one perhaps has ever done such
complete justice to the genius of Hamlet as Forrest did in his noble
delivery of the great speeches and soliloquies, with full observance of
every requirement of measure, accent, inflection, and relative
importance of thought. Some admired actors rattle the words off with no
sense whatever of the fathomless depths of meaning in them. In the
famous description by Hamlet of the disenchanting effect of his heavy-
heartedness the voice of Forrest brought the very objects spoken of
before the hearer,—the goodly frame, the earth; the most excellent
canopy, the air; the brave overhanging firmament; the majestical roof
fretted with golden fire. And when, turning from the beauty of the
material universe to the greater glory and mystery of the divine foster-
child and sovereign of the earth, man, he altered the tone of admiration
to a tone of awe, his speech stirred the soul like the grandest chords
in the Requiem of Mozart, thrilling it with sublime premonitions of its
own infinity.

Forrest thoroughly understood from the combined lessons of experience
and study the irremediable unhappiness and skepticism of the great,
dark, tender, melancholy soul of Hamlet,—how sick he was at heart, how
nauseated with the faithless shallowness of the hangers-on at court, how
weary of life. He comprehended the misery of the affectionate nature
that had lost all its illusions and was unable to reconcile itself to
the loss,—the unrest of the ardent imagination that could not forego the
search for happiness though constantly finding but emptiness and
desolation. And he made all this so clear that he actually startled and
spell-bound the audience by his interpretation of the wonderful
soliloquy wherein Hamlet debates whether he had not better with his own
hand seize that consummation of death so devoutly to be wished, and

                           “The whips and scorns of time,
           The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
           The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
           The insolence of office, and the spurns
           That patient merit of the unworthy takes.”

The deep intuition that felt there were more things in heaven and earth
than philosophy had ever dreamed, the sore resentment at the unjust
discriminations of the world, the over-inquisitive intellect of the fool
of nature, horridly shaking his disposition with thoughts beyond the
reaches of his soul, the instinctive shrinking from the undiscovered
country after death, the broken will forever hankering after action but
forever baffled from it, the unfathomable desire for rest, the intense
ennui raising sighs so piteous and profound that they seemed to shatter
all the bulk,—all these were so brought out as to constitute a
revelation of the history of genius diseased by excessive exercise
within itself with no external outlets of wholesome activity. This
lesson has the greatest significance for the present time, when so many
gifted men allow their faculties to spin barrenly in their sockets,
incessantly struggling with abstract desires and doubts, wasting the
health and strength all away because the spiritual mechanism is not
lubricated by outward fruition of its functions, till normal religious
faith is made impossible, and at last, in their sterilized and irritable
exhaustion, they apotheosize despair, like Schopenhauer, and perpetually
toss between the two poles of pessimism and nihilism,—Everything is bad,
Everything is nothing! The true moral of the revelation is, Shut off the
wastes of an ambitious intellect and a rebellious will by humility and
resignation, do the clear duties next your hand, enjoy the simple
pleasures of the day with an innocent heart, trusting in the benignant
order of the universe, and you shall at last find peace in such an
optimistic faith as that illustrated by Leibnitz,—Everything is good,
Everything in the infinite degrees of being from vacuity to plenum is
centred in God!

It has always been felt that in Hamlet Shakspeare has embodied more of
his own inner life than in any other of his characters. Certainly Hamlet
is the literary father of the prolific modern brood of men of genius who
fail of all satisfactory outward activity because wasting their
spiritual peace and force in the friction of an inane cerebral strife
and worry. Few appreciate the true teaching or importance of this
portrayal. Hamlet said he lacked advancement, and that there was nothing
good or bad but thinking made it so, and that were it not that he had
bad dreams he could be bounded in a nutshell and count himself king of
infinite space. His comments on others were usually contemptuous and
satirical. He despised and mocked Polonius, and treated Osric,
Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern with scorn and sarcasm. And yet, although
he vilifies the general crowd and the drossy age, he is clearly
sensitive to public opinion and really most anxious to appear well, and
unwilling to bear a wounded name. In a word, he represents that class of
select and unhappy spirits whose great imaginative sympathy is
constantly showing to them themselves reflected in others and others
reflected in themselves, the result of the comparisons being personal
complacence and social irritability. For they form an estimate of their
own superiority which they cannot by action justify to others and get
them to ratify. The disparity of their inward power and their outward
production annoys them, fixes itself in chronic consciousness, and in
the consequent spiritual resistance and fret expends all the energy
which if economized and fruitfully directed would remove the evil they
resent and bless them with the good they desire. Then they react from
the world into cynical bitterness and painful solitude. The empty
struggle and misanthropic buzz within exhaust brain and nerves, and
initiate a resentful, desponding, suicidal state made up of discordant
aspiration and despair. Unable to fulfil themselves happily they madly
seek to destroy themselves in order to end their misery. The remedy lies
in a secret at once so deep and so transparent that hardly any of the
victims ever see it. It is simply to think less pamperingly of
themselves and more lovingly of others; cease from resistance, purify
their ambition with humble faith, and in a quiet surrender to the
Universal allow their drained and exasperated individuality leisure to
be replenished and harmonized. Corresponding with a religious attunement
of the soul, nervous tissues divinely filled with equalizing vitality
and power are the physical ground of contentment with self, nature,
mankind, destiny, and God. And the man of genius who has once lost it
can gain this combined moral and physical condition only by a modest
self-conquest, lowering his excessive exactions, and giving him a fair
outlet for his inward desires in productive activity.

Forrest distinguished the wavering of his Hamlet from the indecision of
his Macbeth and the promptitude of his Richard, and contrasted their
deaths with a luminous marking both fine and bold. Richard, whose
selfish intellect and stony heart had no conscience mediating between
them, with solid equilibrium and ruthless decision swept directly to his
object without pause or question. His death was characterized by
convulsions of impotent rage that closed in paralyzing horror. The
conscience of Macbeth made him hesitate, weigh, and vacillate until
rising passion or foreign influence turned the scale. His death was one
of climacteric bravery and frenzied exertion embraced in reckless
despair. The intellect of Hamlet set his heart and his conscience at
odds, and kept him ever balancing between opposed thoughts and
solicitations. He had lost his stable poise, and was continually tipping
from central sanity now towards dramatic madness, now towards
substantial madness. He died with philosophic resignation and
undemonstrative quietude. While all the mutes and audience to the act
looked pale and trembled at the tragic chance, he bequeathed the
justification of his memory to his dear Horatio, gave his dying voice
for the election of Fortinbras, and slowly, as the potent poison quite
o’ercrowed his spirit, let his head sink on the bosom of his one friend,
and with a long breath faintly whispered,—

                        “The rest is silence;”—

and then all was done.

          “Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince,
          And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

In the few pages of this tragedy Shakspeare gives perhaps the supremest
existing example of the richness and power of the dramatic art. It sums
up the story of life,—the joy of lovers, the anguish of bereavement, the
trial of friendship, hope and fear, plot and counterplot, lust, hatred,
crime and the remorse that follows, hearty mirth contrasted with sublime
despair, death, and the dark ignorance of what it all means which shuts
around the horizon with impenetrable clouds. Here are expressed an
intensity of passion, a bitter irony, a helpless doubt, a vain struggle,
a saturating melancholy and a bewildered end which would be too
repulsive for endurance were it not for the celestial poetry which plays
over it and permeates it all and makes it appear like a strange and
beautiful dream.

As to the interpretation by Forrest of the part of Hamlet in the play it
is but fair to quote in close what was said by a severe and unfriendly
anonymous critic who admitted that the intelligence shown was uncommon,
the elocution perfect, the manner discreet, the light and shade
impressive. “Mr. Forrest struggles continually with Mr. Forrest. Mind
wrestles with muscle; and although intellect is manifest, it is plain
that the body with great obstinacy refuses to fulfil the demands of
thought. To conceive bright images is a different thing from portraying
them on the canvas. And when Mr. Forrest, attempting with high ambition
to do that which nature forbids him to do, makes of philosophy a
physical exhibition and reduces mental supremacy to the dominion of
corporeal authority, he must blame that fate which cast him in no common
mould and gave to the body a preponderance which neither study nor
inspiration can overcome.” The critic here indicates the defect of the
actor, unquestionably, but so exaggerated as to dwarf and obscure his
greater merits.


Not many dramatic contrasts are wider than that between the complex
imaginative character of the melancholy Hamlet, spontaneously betaking
himself to speculation, and the simple passionate character of the proud
Coriolanus, instinctively rushing to action. There was much in the build
and soul of Forrest that closely resembled the haughty patrician, and he
was drawn to the part by a liking for it accordant with his inherent
fitness for it. For several years he played it a great deal and produced
a strong sensation in it. So thoroughly suited were he and the part for
each other, so pervasive and genuine was the identification of his
personal quality with the ideal picture, that his most intimate friend,
and the gifted artist chosen for the work, selected this as the most
appropriate representative character for his portrait-statue in marble.

The features and contour of the honest, imperious, fiery, scornful, and
heroic Coriolanus, as impersonated by Forrest with immense solidity and
distinctness, were simple but grand in their colossal and unwavering
relief. Kemble had been celebrated in this rôle. He played it as if he
were a symmetrical statue cut out of cold steel and set in motion by
some precise mechanical action. Forrest added to this a blood that
seemed to flame through him and a voice whose ponderous syllables
pulsated with fire. Stern virtue, ambition, deep tenderness,
magnanimity, transcendent daring and pride and scorn,—the man as soldier
and hero in uncorrupt sincerity and haughty defiance of everything wrong
or mean,—these were the favorite attributes which Forrest met in
Coriolanus, and absorbed as by an electric affinity, and made the people
recognize with applauding enthusiasm. He might well utter as his own the
words of his part to Volumnia,—

                                      “Would you have me
                False to my nature? Rather say, I play
                The man I am.”

What unconsciously delighted Forrest in Coriolanus, and what he
represented with consummate felicity and force of nature, was that his
aristocracy was of the true democratic type; that is, it rested on a
consciousness of intrinsic personal worth and superiority, not on
conventional privilege and prescription. He loathed and launched his
scorching invectives against the commonalty not because they were
plebeians and he was a patrician, but because of the revolting
opposition of their baseness to his loftiness, of their sycophancy to
his pride, of their treacherous fickleness to his adamantine
steadfastness. As an antique Roman, he had the resentful haughtiness of
his social caste, but morally as an individual his disdain and sarcasm
were based on the contrast of intrinsically noble qualities in himself
to the contemptible qualities he saw predominating in those beneath him.
And although this is far removed from the beautiful bearing of a
spiritually purified and perfected manhood, yet there is in it a certain
relative historical justification, utility, and even glory, entirely
congenial to the honest vernacular fervor of Forrest.

Coriolanus, in his utter loathing for the arts of the demagogue, goes to
the other extreme, and makes the people hate him because, as they say,
“For the services he has done he pays himself with being proud.” At his
first appearance in the play he cries to the citizens, with scathing

            “What’s the matter, you dissentient rogues,
            That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
            Make yourselves scabs?
                                    He that trusts to you,
            Where he should find you lions, finds you hares;
            Where foxes, geese. You are no surer, no,
            Than is the coal of fire upon the ice,
            Or hailstone in the sun. Hang ye! Trust ye?
            With every minute you do change a mind;
            And call him noble that was now your hate;
            Him vile, that was your garland.”

As his constancy despises their unstableness, so his audacious courage
detests their cowardice:

          “Now put your shields before your hearts, and fight
          With hearts more proof than shields.”

Seeing them driven back by the Volsces, he exclaims,—

                                   “You souls of geese
           That bear the shapes of men, how have you run
           From slaves that apes would beat? Pluto and hell!
           All hurt behind; backs red, and faces pale
           With flight and agued fear! Mend, and charge home,
           Or, by the fires of heaven, I’ll leave the foe
           And make my wars on you.”

In all these speeches the measureless contempt, the blasting irony, the
huge moral chasm separating the haughty speaker from the cowering
rabble, were deeply relished by Forrest, and received an expression in
his bearing, look, and tone, everyway befitting their intensity and
their dimensions. Particularly in the reply to Sicinius,—

                                         “Shall remain!
             Hear you this Triton of the minnows? Mark you
             His absolute ‘shall’?”—

the width of the gamut of the ironical circumflexes gave one an enlarged
idea of the capacity of the human voice to express contempt. And when
his disdain to beg the votes of the people and his mocking gibes at them
had aggravated them to pronounce his banishment, his superhuman
expression of scornful wrath no witness could ever forget:

            “You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
            As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
            As the dead carcasses of unburied men
            That do corrupt my air, I banish you.”

His eyes flashed, his form lifted to its loftiest altitude, and the
words were driven home concentrated into hissing bolts. As the enraged
mob pressed yelping at his heels, he turned, and with marvellous
simplicity of purpose calmly looked them reeling backwards, his single
sphere swallowing all theirs and swaying them helplessly at his magnetic

His farewell, when “the beast with many heads had butted him away,” was
a noble example of manly tenderness and dignity, all the more pathetic
from the self-control which masked his pain in a smiling aspect:

                             “Thou old and true Menenius,
             Thy tears are salter than a younger man’s,
             And venomous to thine eyes. I’ll do well yet.
             Come, my sweet wife, my dearest mother, and
             My friends of noble touch, when I am forth,
             Bid me farewell, and smile. I pray you, come.
             While I remain above the ground, you shall
             Hear from me still.”

But his most charming and delightful piece of acting in the whole play
was the interview with his family on his return with Aufidius and the
conquering Volscians before the gates of Rome. The swift-recurring
struggle and alternation of feeling between the opposite extremes of
intense natural affection and revengeful tenacity of pride were painted
in all the vivid lineaments of truth. Fixed in the frozen pomp of his
power and his purpose, he soliloquizes,—

           “My wife comes foremost, then the honored mould
           Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand
           The grandchild to her blood. But out, affection!
           All bond and privilege of nature, break!
           Let it be virtuous to be obstinate.
           What is that curt’sy worth, or those doves’ eyes,
           Which can make gods forsworn? I melt and am not
           Of stronger earth than others. My mother bows;
           As if Olympus to a molehill should
           In supplication nod; and my young boy
           Hath an aspect of intercession, which
           Great nature cries, ‘Deny not.’ Let the Volsces
           Plough Rome and harrow Italy; I’ll never
           Be such a gosling to obey instinct; but stand
           As if a man were author of himself
           And knew no other kin.”

But when Virgilia fixed her eyes on him and said, “My lord and husband!”
his ice flowed quite away, and the exquisite thoughts which followed
were vibrated on the vocal chords as if not his lungs but his heart
supplied the voice:

                                  “Like a dull actor now,
            I have forgot my part, and I am out,
            Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh,
            Forgive my tyranny; but do not say,
            For that, ‘Forgive our Romans.’ O, a kiss
            Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge!
            Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss
            I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip
            Hath virgined it e’er since. You gods! I prate,
            And the most noble mother of the world
            Leave unsaluted. Sink, my knee, i’ the earth;
            Of thy deep duty more impression show
            Than that of common sons.”

Yielding to the prayers of Volumnia, he took her hand with tender
reverence, and said, with upturned look and deprecating tone,—

                                “O, mother, mother!
            What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope,
            The gods look down, and this unnatural scene
            They laugh at.”

From the solemn reverence of this scene the change was wonderful to the
frenzied violence of untamable anger and scorn with which he broke on
Aufidius, who had called him “a boy of tears:”

             “Measureless liar, thou hast made my heart
             Too great for what contains it. Boy! O slave!
             Cut me to pieces, Volsces; men and lads,
             Stain all your edges on me. Boy! False hound!
             If you have writ your annals true, ’tis there,
             That, like an eagle in a dovecote, I
             Fluttered your Volsces in Corioli:
             Alone I did it. Boy!”

The signalizing memorable mark of the Coriolanus impersonated by Forrest
was the gigantic grandeur of his scale of being and consciousness. He
revealed this in his stand and port and moving and look and voice. The
manner in which he did it was no result of critical analysis, but was
intuitive with him, given to him by nature and inspiration. He exhibited
a gravitating solidity of person, a length of lines, a slowness of
curves, an immensity of orbit, a reverberating sonority of tone, which
illustrated the man who, as Menenius said, “wanted nothing of a god but
eternity, and a heaven to throne in.” They went far to justify the
amazing descriptions given in the play itself of the impressions
produced by him on those who approached him.

           “Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods.
           Marked you his lip, and eyes?”

                                         “Who is yonder?
           O gods! he has the stand of Marcius.”

           “The shepherd knows not thunder from a tabor
           More than I know the sound of Marcius’ tongue
           From every meaner man.”

           A carbuncle entire, as big as thou art,
           Were not so rich a jewel. Thou art a soldier
           Even to Cato’s wish, not fierce and terrible
           Only in strokes; but, with thy grim looks, and
           The thunder-like percussion of thy sounds,
           Thou mak’st thine enemies shake, as if the world
           Were feverous and did tremble.”

           “The man I speak of cannot in the world
           Be singly counterpoised.”

When, after his peerless feats in battle, the army and its leaders would
idolize him with praises, crown him with garlands, and load him with
spoils, he felt his deeds to be their own sufficient pay, and waved all
the rewards peremptorily aside with a mien as imposing as if some god

                “Were slily crept into his human powers
                And gave him noble posture.”

Entering the capital in triumph, the vast and steady imperiality of his
attitude, the tremendous weight of his slightest inclination, as though
the whole earth were the pedestal-slab on which he stood, drew and
fascinated all gaze.

                                   “Matrons flung gloves,
           Ladies and maids their scarfs and handkerchiefs,
           Upon him as he passed; the nobles bended
           As to Jove’s statue; and the commons made
           A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts.”

The rare and exalted use of such acting as this is that it invites the
audience to lift their eyes above the vulgar pettinesses to which they
are accustomed and extend their souls with a superior conception of the
dignity of human nature and of the mysterious meanings latent in it.

The Coriolanus of Forrest was a marble apotheosis of heroic strength,
pride, and scorn. His moral glory was that he asserted himself on the
solid grounds of conscious truth, justice, and merit, and not, as
popular demagogues and the selfish members of the patrician class do, on
hollow grounds of assumption, trickery, and spoliating fraud. There was
great beauty, too, in his reverential love for his mother, his tender
love for his wife, his hearty love for his friend, and his magnanimous
incapacity for any recognized littleness of soul or of deed. The weight
and might of his spirit could give away victories and confer favors, but
could not steal a laurel or endure flattery. His fatal defect was that
he did not know the spirit of forgiveness, and was utterly incompetent
to self-renunciation. He had the repulsive and fatal fault of a crude,
harsh, revengeful temper, that clothed his gigantic indirect egotism in
the glorifying disguise of justice and sacrificed even his country to
his personal passion. Just and true at the roots, his virtues grew
insane from pride. Wrath destroyed his equilibrium, and belched his
grandeur and his life away in incontinent insolence of expression. Like
all the favorite characters of Forrest, however, he was no starveling
fed on verbality and ceremony, no pygmy imitator or empty conformist,
but one who lived in rich power from his own original centres and let
his qualities honestly out with democratic sincerity of self-assertion.
There is indeed a royal lesson in what he says:

             “Should we in all things do what custom wills,
             The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
             And mountainous error be too highly heaped
             For truth to o’er-peer.”

Still, self-will ought abnegatingly to give way in docile and
disinterested devotion to the public good. The great, strong, fearless
man should conquer himself, render his pride impersonal, renounce
revenge for individual slights or wrongs, and, instead of despising and
insulting the plebeian multitude, labor to abate their vices, remove
their errors, guide their efforts, and build their virtues into a fabric
of popular freedom and happiness. Then the selfish, passional ideal of
the past would give way to the rational, social ideal which is to redeem
the future. For, as a general rule thus far in the history of the world,
power, both private and public, in the proportion of its degree, has
been complacent instead of sympathetic, despotic instead of helpful,
indulging its own passions, despising the needs of others, filling
civilization itself with the spirit of moral murder. The chief
characters of Shakspeare embody this pagan ideal. Is there not a
Christian ideal, long since divinely born, but still waiting to be
nurtured to full growth, to be illustrated by dramatic genius, and to be
glorified in universal realization?


There was no character in which Forrest appeared more frequently or with
more effect on those who saw him than in that of Othello. He was pre-
eminently suited to the part by his own nature and experience, as well
as by unwearied observation and study. The play turns on the most vital
and popular of all the passions, love, and its revulsion into the most
cruel and terrible one, jealousy. He devoted incredible pains to the
perfecting of his representation of it; and undoubtedly it was, on the
whole, the most true and powerful of all his performances, though in
single particulars some others equalled and his Lear surpassed it.
Unprejudiced and competent judges agreed that he portrayed Othello in
the great phases of his character,—as a man dignified, clear, generous,
and calm,—as a man ecstatically happy in an all-absorbing love,—as a man
slowly wrought up through the successive degrees of jealousy,—as a man
actually converted into a maniac by the frightful conflict and agony of
his soul,—and, finally, as a man who in the frenzy of despair closes the
scene with murder and suicide;—that he acted all this with an intensity,
an accuracy, a varied naturalness and sweeping power very rarely
paralleled in the history of the stage. The reason why the portraiture
received so much censorious criticism amidst the abundant admiration it
excited was because the scale and fervor of the passions bodied forth in
it were so much beyond the experience of average natures. They were not
exaggerated or false, but seemed so to the cold or petty souls who knew
nothing of the lava-floods of bliss and avalanches of woe that ravage
the sensibilities of the impassioned souls that find complete fulfilment
and lose it. It is a most significant and interesting fact that when the
matchless Salvini played Othello in the principal American cities to
such enthusiastic applause, his conception and performance of the part
were so identical with those of Forrest, and he himself so closely
resembled his deceased compeer, that hundreds of witnesses in different
portions of the country spontaneously exclaimed that it seemed as if
Forrest had risen from the dead and reappeared in his favorite rôle. The
old obstinate prejudices did not interfere; and although Salvini made
the passion more raw and the force more shuddering and carried the
climax one degree farther than the American tragedian had done, actually
sinking the human maniac in the infuriated tiger, he was greeted with
wondering acclaim. If his portraiture of the Moor was a true one,—as it
unquestionably was,—then that of Forrest was equally true and better


  G R Hall



In the first speech of Othello, referring to the purpose of Brabantio to
injure him with the Duke, Forrest won all hearts by the impression he
gave of the noble self-possession of a free and generous nature full of
honest affection and manly potency. He alluded to Brabantio without any
touch of anger or scorn, to himself with an air of quiet pride bottomed
on conscious worth and not on any vanity or egotism, and to Desdemona
with a softened tone of effusive warmth which betrayed the precious
freight and direction of his heart:

                            “Let him do his spite;
              My services, which I have done the seignory,
              Shall out-tongue his complaints. My demerits
              May speak, unbonneted, to as proud a fortune
              As this that I have reached. For know, Iago,
              But that I love the gentle Desdemona,
              I would not my unhoused, free condition
              Put into circumscription and confine
              For the sea’s worth.”

The easy frankness of his look and the rich flowing elocution of his
delivery of these words indicated a nature so ingenuous and honorable
that already the sympathies of every man and woman before him were won
to the Moor. This impression was continued and enhanced when, in
response to the abusive epithet of Brabantio and the threats of his
armed followers, he said, in a tone of unruffled self-command, touched
with a humorous playfulness and with a deprecating respect,—

       “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.—
       Good seignior, you shall more command with years,
       Than with your weapons.”

There was an exquisite moral beauty in the whole attitude and carriage
which Forrest gave Othello in the scene in the council-chamber, where he
replied to the accusations of using spells and medicines to draw
Desdemona to his arms. There was a combination of modest assurance and
picturesque dignity in his bearing, and a simple eloquence in his
pronouncing of the narrative of all his wooing, so artistic in its
seeming artlessness, so full of breathing honesty straight from the
heart of nature, that not a word could be doubted, nor could any hearer
resist the conviction expressed by the Duke,—

             “I think this tale would win my daughter too,
             Good Brabantio.”

To the bewitching power of simple sincerity and glowing truth he put
into this marvellous speech hundreds of testimonies were given like that
of the refined and lovely young lady who was heard saying to her
companion, “If that is the way Moors look and talk and love, give me a
Moor for my husband.”

When Desdemona entered, while she stayed, as she spoke, as she departed,
all the action of Othello towards her, his motions, looks, words,
inflections, clearly betokened the nature and supremacy of his affection
for her. Through the high and pure character of these signals it was
made obvious that his love was an entrancing possession; not an animal
love bred in the senses alone, but a love born in the soul and flooding
the senses with its divineness. On the keen fires of his high-blooded
organism and the poetic enchantments of his ardent imagination the
exquisite sweetness of this surrendered and gentle Desdemona played a
delicious intoxication, and the enthrallment of his passion made the
very movement of existence a rapture. Everything else faded before the
happiness he felt. Life was too short, the earth too dull, the stars too
dim, for the blissful height of his consciousness. In contrast with this
enchanted possession, day, night, joy, laughter, air, sea, the thrilling
notes of war, victory, fame, and power, were but passing illusions. The
voice of duty could rouse him from his dream, but the moment his task
was done he sank again into its ecstatic depths. All this still
saturation of delight and fulness of expanded being the Othello of
Forrest revealed by his acting and speech on meeting Desdemona in Cyprus
after their separation by his sudden departure to the wars. As, all
eager loveliness, she came in sight, exclaiming, “My dear Othello!” the
sudden brightness of his eyes, the rapturous smile that clothed his
face, his parted lips, his heaving breast and outstretched arms, were so
significant that they worked on the spectators like an incantation. And
when he drew her passionately to his bosom, kissed her on the forehead
and lips, and gazed into her face with unfathomable fondness, it was a
picture not to be surpassed of the exquisite doting of the new-made
husband while the honeymoon yet hung over them full-orbed in the silent
and dewy heaven, its inundation undimmed by the breath of custom. Then
he spoke:

                      “O, my soul’s joy!
            If after every tempest come such calms,
            May the winds blow till they have wakened death;
            And let the laboring bark climb hills of seas
            Olympus-high, and duck again as low
            As hell’s from heaven! If it were now to die,
            ’Twere now to be most happy; for, I fear,
            My soul hath her content so absolute,
            That not another comfort like to this
            Succeeds in unknown fate.”

The last lines he uttered with a restrained, prolonged, murmuring music,
a tremulous mellowness, as if the burden of emotion broke the vocal
breath into quivers. It suggested a tenderness whose very excess made it
timid and mystic with a pathetic presentiment of its own evanescence.
The yearning, aching deliciousness of love filled his breast so more
than full that even while he seemed to strive to hold back all verbal
expression for fear of losing the emotional substance, it broke forth
itself with melodious softness in the syllabled beats of the lingering

                “I cannot speak enough of this content:
                It stops me here: it is too much of joy.
                Come, let us to the castle. O, my sweet,
                I prattle out of fashion, and I dote
                In mine own comforts.”

In the scene of the drunken brawl in Cyprus most actors had made Othello
rush in with drawn sword, crying, with extravagant pose and emphasis,
“Hold, for your lives!” Forrest entered without sword, in haste, his
night-mantle thrown over his shoulders as if just from his bed. He went
through the scene, rebuking the brawlers and restoring order, with an
admirable moderation combined with commanding moral authority. Only
once, when answer to his inquiry was delayed, his volcanic heat burst
out. He spoke rapidly, with surprise rather than anger, and bore down
all with a personal weight that had neither pomp nor offence, yet was
not to be resisted. Throughout the first and second acts Forrest played
Othello as a man of beautiful human nature, noble in honor, rich in
affection, gentle in manners, though, when justly roused, capable of a
terrific headlong wrath:

                             “Now, by Heaven,
             My blood begins my safer guides to rule;
             And passion, having my best judgment collied,
             Assays to lead the way. If I once stir
             Or do but lift this arm, the best of you
             Shall sink in my rebuke.”

In the third act the diabolical malignity and cunning of Iago begin to
take effect, more and more insinuating poisonous suspicions and doubts
into the naturally open and truthful mind of Othello. The process and
advancement of the horrid struggle found in Forrest a man and an artist
to whose experience of human nature and life no item in the whole dread
catalogue of the courses, symptoms, and consequences of love encroached
on and subdued by jealousy was foreign, and whose skill in expression
was abundantly able to set every feature of the tragedy in distinct
relief. As now the guileless Desdemona shone on him, and anon the
devilish Iago distilled his venom, he was torn between his loving
confidence in his wife and his confiding trust in his tempter:

            “As if two hearts did in one body reign
            And urge conflicting streams from vein to vein.”

When he saw or thought of her a blessed reassurance tranquillized him;
when he heeded the hideous suggestions of his treacherous servant a
frozen shudder ran through him. The waves of tenderness and violence
chased one another over the mimic scene. At one moment he said,—

             “If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself.
             I’ll not believe it.”

At another moment he writhed in excruciating anguish under the fearful
innuendoes which Iago wound about him. The spectacle was like that of an
anaconda winding her tightening coils around a tiger until one can hear
the cracking of the bones in his lordly back.

When the fiendish suggestions of Iago first took thorough effect the
result startled even him, and he gazed on the awful convulsions in the
face of his victim as one might look into the crater of Vesuvius. That
which had seemed granite proved to be gunpowder. As with the prairie
fire: the traveller lets a spark fall, and the whole earth seems to be
one rushing flame. Then swiftly followed those lacerating alternations
of contradictory excitements which are the essence of jealousy,—the
mixture of intense opposites into an experience of infernal discord. His
love lingers on her and gloats over her, and will not believe any evil
of her. His suspicion makes him shrink into himself with horror:

                            “O curse of marriage,
            That we can call these delicate creatures ours,
            And not their appetites.”

Now he seeks relief in loathing and hating her, trying to tear her dear
image out from among his heart-strings. From the crazing agony of this
effort he springs wildly into wrath against her traducer. Forrest
expressed these sudden and violent transitions from extreme to extreme
with exact truth to nature, by that constant interchanging of intense
muscles and languid eyes with intense eyes and languid muscles which
corresponds with the successive apprehension of a blessing to be
embraced and an evil to be abhorred. The change in his appearance and
moving too was commensurate with what he had undergone. As he advanced
to meet his wife on her arrival in Cyprus, he walked like one inspired,
weightless and illumined with joy:

            “Treading on air each step the soul displays,
            The looks all lighten and the limbs all blaze.”

But after the dreadful doubt had ruined his peace, he grew so pale and
haggard, wore so startled and dismal a look, was so self-absorbed in
misery, that he appeared an incarnate comment on the descriptive words,—

            “Look where he comes! Not poppy nor mandragora,
            Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
            Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
            Which thou ow’dst yesterday.”

There was an imaginative vastness and unity in the soul of Othello which
aggrandized his experiences and allowed him to do nothing by halves.
Forrest so perceived and exemplified this as to make his performance
come before the audience as a new revelation to them of the colossal and
blazing extremes, the entrancing, maddening, and fatal extremes, to
which human passions can mount. His love, his conflict with doubt, his
melancholy, his wrath, his hate, his revenge, his remorse, his despair,
each in turn absorbingly possesses him and floods the earth with heaven
or hell.

The unrivalled speech of lamentation over his lost happiness he gave
not, as many a famous actor has, partly in a tone of complaining
vexation and partly with a noisy pomp of declamation. He began with an
exquisite quality of tearful regret and sorrow which was a breathing
requiem over the ruins of his past delights. The mournfulness of it was
so sweet and chill that it seemed perfumed with the roses and moss
growing over the tomb of all his love.

              “I had been happy if the general camp,
              Pioneers and all, had tasted her sweet body,
              So I had nothing known.”

Then the voice, still low and plaintive, swelled and quivered with the
glorious words that followed:

                             “O, now, forever,
             Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!
             Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
             That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!”

And as he ended with the line,

                “Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone!”

his form and limbs drooping, his lips sunken and tremulous, his very
life seemed going out with each word, as if everything had been taken
from him and he was all gone. Suddenly, with one electrifying bound, he
leaped the whole gamut from mortal exhaustion to gigantic rage, his
eyeballs rolling and flashing and his muscles strung, seized the
cowering Iago by the throat, and, with a startling transition of voice
from mellow and mournfully lingering notes to crackling thunderbolts of
articulation, shrieked,—

            “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 wild inspiration subsided as swiftly as it had risen, and left him
gazing in blank amazement at what he had done. Again his struggling
emotions were carried to a kindred climax when Iago told him the
pretended dream of Cassio. He uttered the sentence, “I will tear her all
to pieces,” in a manner whose force of pathos surprised every heart. His
revenge began furiously, “I will tear her”—when his love came over it,
and he suddenly ended with pitying softness—“all to pieces.” It was as
if an avalanche, sweeping along earth and rocks and trees, were met by a
breath which turned it into a feather. In the next act he gave an
instance just the reverse of this: first he says, with doting fondness,
“O, the world hath not a sweeter creature;” then, the imaginative
associations changing the picture, he screams ferociously, “I will chop
her into messes!”

Thence onward Othello was painted in a more and more piteous plight. The
great soul was conquered by the remorseless intellect of Iago, leagued
with its own weakness and excess. He grew less massive and more
petulant. He stooped to spies and plots, and compassed the assassination
of Cassio. His misery sapped his mind and toppled down his chivalrous
sentiments until he could unpack his sore and wretched heart in abusive
words and treat Desdemona with unrelenting cruelty.

Finally his tossing convulsions passed away, and a fixed resolution to
kill the woman who had been false to him settled down in gloomy
calmness. The curtain rose and showed him seated at an open window
looking out on the night sky. Desdemona was asleep in her bed. He sighed
heavily, and in slow tones, loaded with thoughtful and resigned
melancholy, soliloquized,—

            “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,—
            Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!—
            It is the cause. Yet I’ll not shed her blood,
            Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
            And smooth as monumental alabaster.
            Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.
            Put out the light, and then put out the light.
            If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
            I can again thy former light restore,
            Should I repent me. But once put out thy light,
            Thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature,
            I know not where is that Promethean heat
            That can thy light relume.”

He permitted the audience to see the vast dimension and intensity of his
love, doubt, agony, sorrow, despair, vengeance,—and the revelation was
appalling in its solemnity. Henceforth even his invective was moderated
and quiet. He seemed to fancy himself not so much revenging his personal
wrong as vindicating himself and executing justice. He did not make a
horror of the killing, as Kean did. He drew the curtains apart,—a slight
struggle,—a choking murmur,—and as Emilia knocked at the door, and he
turned, with the pillow in his hand, his listening attitude and his
bronze face and glistening eyes formed a dramatic picture not to be
forgotten. Then came the final revulsion of his agonizing sorrow:

             “O, insupportable! O, heavy hour!
             Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
             Of sun and moon; and that the affrighted globe
             Should yawn at alteration.”

His deadly distress and paralyzing bewilderment now illustrated what he
had before said, that he loved her so with the entirety of his being
that the loss of her, even in thought, brought back chaos:

                         “Had she been true,
               If heaven would make me such another world
               Of one entire and perfect chrysolite,
               I’d not have sold her for it.”

When Emilia revealed the plot by which he had been deceived, and
convinced him of the innocence of his wife, an absolute desolation and
horror of remorse, as if a thunderbolt had burst within his brain, smote
him to the floor. Staggering to the fatal couch, his gaze was riveted on
the marble face there, and a broken heart and a distracted conscience
moaned and sobbed in the syllables,—

          “Now, how dost thou look now? O, ill-starred wench!
          Pale as thy smock! when we shall meet at compt,
          This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven,
          And fiends will snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl?
          Even like thy chastity.
          O, cursed, cursed slave! Whip me, ye devils,
          From the possession of this heavenly sight!
          Blow’ me about in winds! roast me in sulphur!
          Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire!
          O Desdemona! Desdemona! dead?”

The strain had been too great to be borne, and he was himself nearly
dead. He wore the aspect of one who felt that to live was calamity, and
to die the sole happiness left. Collecting himself, he spoke the calm
words of appeal that justice might be done to his memory, nothing
extenuated nor aught set down in malice. He turned towards the
breathless form, once so dear, with a look of tenderness slowly
dissolving and freezing into despair. Then, with one stroke of his
dagger, he fell dead without a groan or a shudder.

            “This did I fear, but thought he had no weapon;
            For he was great of heart.”

Some actors have made Othello feared and disliked; others have caused
him to be regarded with moral curiosity or poetic interest. As Forrest
impersonated him he was first warmly admired, then profoundly pitied. Of
the tragedians most celebrated in the past, according to the best
descriptions which have been given of their representations, it may be
said that the Othello of Quin was a jealous plebeian; the Othello of
Kean, in parts a jealous king, in parts a jealous savage; the Othello of
Vandenhoff, a jealous general; the Othello of Macready, a jealous
theatrical player; the Othello of Brooke, a jealous knight; the Othello
of Salvini, a jealous lover transformed into a jealous tiger; but the
Othello of Forrest was a jealous man carried truthfully through all the
degrees of his passion. One of his predecessors in the rôle had veiled
the woes of the man beneath the dignities of his rank and station as a
martial commander; another had theatricized the part, with wondrous
study and toil, elaborating posture, look, and emphasis, presenting a
correctness of drawing which might secure admiring criticism but could
never move feeling; yet another, fascinated with the romantic
accessories and vicissitudes of the character, made a gorgeous picture
of a gorgeous hero in a gorgeous time. Forrest analyzed away from his
Othello all adventitious circumstances; took him from the picturesque
scenes of Venice, stripped off his official robes, and placed him on the
stage in the glories and tortures of his naked humanity, a living mirror
to every one of the struggles of a master-passion tearing a great heart
asunder, driving a powerful mind into the awful abyss of insanity,
making a generous man a coward, an eavesdropper, a murderer, and a

The explicit contents and teaching of the part as Shakspeare wrote it
and as Forrest acted it are the unspeakable privilege and preciousness
of a supreme human love crowned with fulfilment, and the fearful nature
and results of an ill-grounded jealousy. The deeper implicit meaning and
lesson it bears is the animal degradation, the frightful ugliness and
danger, the intrinsically immoral and murderous character of the passion
of jealousy. This all-important revelation latent in the tragedy of
Othello has not been illumined, emphasized, or brought into relief on
the stage as yet. It ought to be done. The historical traditions of
tyrannical selfishness, almost universally organized in the interests of
the world, which make men feel that in sexual love the lover possesses
the object of his love as an appanage and personal property, all whose
free wishes are merged in his will and whose disloyalty is justly
visited with merciless cruelty and even death itself, have blinded most
persons to the inherent unworthiness and vulgarity, the inherent
ferocity and peril, of the passion of jealousy. It is common among
brutes, and belongs to the brutish stage in man. It cannot be imagined
in heaven among the cherubim and seraphim. Freedom, the self-possession
of each one in equilibrium with all others and in harmony with universal
order, belongs to the divine stage of developed humanity. There can be
no certainty against madness, crime, and self-immolation so long as an
automatic passion in the lower regions of the organism enslaves the
royal reason meant to reign by right from God. Happen what may, self-
poise and the steady aim at progress towards perfection should be kept.
This cannot be when love is degraded to physical pleasure sought as an
end, instead of being consecrated to the fruitful purposes for which it
was ordained. The only absolute pledge of blessedness and peace between
those who love and would hope to love always is an adjustment of conduct
based not on mere feeling, whether low or high, but on feeling as itself
subdued and disciplined by reason, justice, and truth, first developed
in the thinking mind and constituted as it were into the science of the
subject, then appropriated by the sentiments and made habitual in the
individual character. What details of conduct will result, what
innovations on the present social state will be made, when a scientific
morality shall have mastered the subject and formulated its principles
into practical rules, it is premature to say. But it is certain that the
leading of one life in the light and another one in the dark will be
forbidden. It is certain that the discords, the diseases, the
distresses, the crimes, which are now so profuse in this region of
experience will be no longer tolerated. And it is safe to prophesy that
such delirious expressions of hate and revenge as have hitherto usually
been thought tragic and terrible will come to be thought bombastic and

         “O that the slave had forty thousand lives;
         One is too poor, too weak for my revenge!
         Now do I see ’tis true. Look here, Iago;
         All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven. ’Tis gone.—
         Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!
         Yield up, O love, thy crown, and hearted throne,
         To tyrannous hate! swell, bosom, with thy fraught;
         For ’tis of aspics’ tongues! O blood, blood, blood!”

Othello, like most of the characters of Shakspeare, illustrates the
historic actual, not the prophetic ideal. The present state of society
is so ill adjusted, so full of painful evils, that things cannot always
remain as temporary and local habits and mere empirical authority have
seemingly settled them. To think they can is the sure mark of a narrow
mind, a petty character, and a selfish heart. Nothing is more certain
than continuous change. Nothing is, therefore, more characteristic of
the genuine thinker than his ability to contemplate other modes of
thought, other varieties of sentiment, than those to which he was bred.
With the progress of social evolution the hitherto prevalent ideas of
love and jealousy may undergo changes amounting in some instances,
perhaps, to a reversal. Meanwhile, those who are not prepared to adopt
any new opinions in detail should, with hospitable readiness impartially
to investigate, consider within themselves which is better, an imperial
delicacy and magnanimity in those who love causing them to refuse to
know anything that occurs in absence so long as each preserves self-
respecting personal fidelity to the ideal of progressive perfection? or,
as at present, spiritual mutilation and misery, treacherous concealment,
espionage, detection, disgrace, frenzy, and death?

One thing at all events is sure, namely, that of him alone whose love
for God, or the universal in himself and others, is superior to his love
for the individual, or the egotistic in himself and others, can it ever
be safely said, as it was once so mistakenly said of the unhappy Moor,—

                           “This is a man
             Whom passion cannot shake; whose solid virtue
             The shock of accident nor dart of chance
             Can neither graze nor pierce.”


Nearly every season for more than forty years Forrest played the part of
Lear many times. He never ceased to study it and to improve his
representation, adding new touches here and there, until at last it
became, if not the most elaborately finished and perfect of all his
performances, certainly the sublimest in spiritual power and tragic
pathos. As he grew old, as his experience of the desolating miseries of
the world deepened, as his perception was sharpened of the hollowness
and irony of the pomps and pleasures of human power contrasted with the
solemn drifting of destiny and death, as the massiveness of his physique
was expanded in its mould and loosened in its fibre by the shocks of
time and fate, he seemed ever better fitted, both in faculty and
appearance, to meet the ideal demands of the rôle. He formed his
conception of it directly from the pages of Shakspeare and the dictates
of nature. His elaboration and acting of it were original, the result of
his own inspiration and study. Heeding no traditional authority, copying
no predecessor, but testing each particular by the standard of truth, he
might have proudly protested, like the veritable Lear,—


  G H Cushman



                “No, they cannot touch me for coining,—
                I am the king himself.”

No person of common sensibility could witness his impersonation of the
character during his latter years without paying it the tribute of tears
and awe.

Lear appears in a shape of imposing majesty, but with the authentic
signals of breaking sorrow and ruin already obvious. He is a king in the
native build and furniture of his being, not merely by outward rank. His
scale of passion is gigantic, and always exerted at the extremes. When
deferred to and pleased, his magnanimity is boundless and his love most
tender. But, once crossed, nothing can restrain his petulance, and his
outbursts of anger are terrible to others and dangerously expensive to
himself. His identity is always marked by greatness, like some huge
landmark dwarfing everything near. There is a royal scope and altitude
belonging to the structure of his soul which is never lost. It is seen,
whether he be ruler, outcast, or madman, in the grandeur of his mien, in
the majestic eloquence of his thought and expression, in the towering
swell of his ambition. He is ever insistingly conscious of his
kingliness, and must be bowed to and have his way, as much when with the
poor fool he hides his nakedness from the pelting blast as when in
august plenitude of power he divides his realm among his children. This
central point of unity Forrest firmly seized, and made it everywhere in
his representation abundantly prominent and impressive.

At the opening of the play Lear is a very old man. Moved by some secret
premonition of failing reason or decay, he is about to abdicate his
crown. He is seen to be an imperial spirit throned in an enfeebled
nature, a power girdled with weakness. An exacting and unbridled spirit
of authority, a splenetic assertion of his kingly will, with the
incessant worries and frictions to which such a habit always gives rise,
have undermined his poise and lowered his strength, and brought his mind
into that state of unstable equilibrium which is the condition of an
explosive irritability fated to issue in madness. He himself, in the
organic strata below his free intelligence, has obscure premonitions of
his crumbling state; but every intimation of it which reaches his
consciousness fills him with an angry resentment that seeks some instant

The task to indicate all this, so clearly, with such moving force, with
such combination of overtopping power and piteous weakness, as to fix it
all in the apprehending sympathies of the audience, was marvellously
accomplished by Forrest in the opening scene. The vast frame whose
motions were alternately ponderous and fretful, the pale massive face,
the restless wild eyes, the rich deep voice magnificent in oratoric
phrase and breaking in querulous anger,—these, skilfully managed,
revealed at once the ruining greatness of the royal nature, dowered with
imposing and gracious qualities but fatally cored with irritable self-

                      “Know that we have divided
        In three our kingdom; and ’tis our fast intent
        To shake all cares and business from our age;
        Conferring them on younger strengths, while we,
        Unburthened, crawl toward death. Tell me, my daughters,
        (Since now we will divest us, both of rule,
        Interest of territory, cares of state,)
        Which of you, shall we say, doth love us most?
        That we our largest bounty may extend
        Where nature doth with merit challenge.”

The treacherous Goneril and Regan, whose heartless natures their younger
sister so well knew, made such fulsome protestations as shocked her into
a dumb reliance on her own true affection; and when the yearning and
testy monarch fondly asks what she can say, her whole being of love and
sincerity is behind her words:

              “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
              My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty
              According to my bond.”

Then broke forth the insane pride and self-will, which, brooking no
appearance of opposition or evasion, were stricken with judicial
blindness and left to prefer evil to good, to embrace the selfishness
which was as false and cruel as hell, and to reject the love which was
as gentle and true as heaven. With a terrible look, and a deep intensely
girded voice, whose rapid accents made his whole chest shake with
muffled reverberations, like a throbbing drum, he cried,—

         “Let it be so: thy truth then be thy dower;
         For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
         The mysteries of Hecate, and the night;
         By all the operations of the orbs,
         From whom we do exist, and cease to be;
         Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
         Propinquity, and property of blood,
         And as a stranger to my heart and me
         Hold thee, from this, forever. The barbarous Scythian,
         Or he that makes his generation messes
         To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
         Be as well neighbored, pitied, and relieved,
         As thou, my sometime daughter.”

And when the noble Kent would have interceded, his frenzied wrong-
headedness peremptorily destroyed the last hope of remedy:

              “Peace, Kent!
              Come not between the dragon and his wrath.”

Then, with the piteous side-revelation,—

             “I loved her most, and thought to set my rest
             On her kind nursery,”—

he subscribed and sealed his hideous fault by harshly driving the poor,
sweet Cordelia from his presence, and banishing from his dominions the
best friend he ever had, honest Kent.

The disease in the nature of Lear, a morbid self-consciousness that
prevented alike self-rule and self-knowledge, did not let his passion
expire like flaming tinder, but kept it long smouldering. Forrest
pictured to perfection its recurring swells and tardy subsidence. Each
advancing step showed more completely the vice that had cloyed the
kingly nobility and gradually prepared the retributive tempest about to
burst. His injured vanity feeding itself with its own inflaming
deception now made his fancy ascribe to the angelic Cordelia, dismantled
from the folds of his old favor, such foul and ugly features of
character that he called her

                         “A wretch whom nature is ashamed
               Almost to acknowledge hers,”—

while, perversely investing the tiger-breasted Goneril and Regan with
imaginary goodness and charm, he said to them,—

                      “Ourself, by monthly course
            With reservation of an hundred knights,
            By you to be sustained, shall our abode
            Make with you by due turns. Only we will retain
            The name and all the additions to a king.”

So to combine in the representation of Lear the power and the weakness,
the mental and physical grandeur and irritability, as to compose a
consistent picture true to nature, and to make their manifestations
accurate both in the whirlwinds of passion and in the periods of calm,—
this is what few even of the greatest actors have been able to do.
Forrest did it in a degree which made the most competent judges the most
enthusiastic applauders. The nervous and tottering walk, with its sudden
changes, the quick transitions of his voice from thundering fulness to
querulous shrillness, the illuminated and commanding aspect passing into
sunken pallor and recovering, the straightenings up of the figure into
firm equilibrium, the palsying collapses,—all these he gave with a
precision and entireness which were the transcript and epitome of a
thousand original studies of himself and of grand old men whom he had
watched in different lands, in the streets, in lunatic asylums.

But the deepest merit of this representation was not its exactness in
mimetic simulation or reproduction of the visible peculiarities of
shattered and irascible age. Its chief merit was the luminous revelation
it gave of the inner history of the character impersonated. He made it a
living exhibition of the justifying causes and the profound moral
lessons of the tragedy of the aged monarch, who, self-hurled both from
his outer and his inner kingdom, was left to gibber with the gales and
the lightnings on the rain-swept and desolate moor. In every fibre of
his frame and every crevice of his soul Forrest felt the tremendous
teachings intrusted by Shakspeare to the tragedy of Lear. It is true the
feeling did not lead him morally to master these teachings for a
redemptive application to himself; and his own experience paid the
bitter penalty of a personal pride too exacting in its ideal estimate of
self and others. But the feeling did enable him dramatically to portray
these lessons, with matchless vividness and power, and a rugged realism
softened and tinted with art. Shakspeare’s own notion of Lear is
remarkably expressed by one of the characters in the play: “He hath ever
but slenderly known himself. Then we must look from his age to receive
not alone the imperfections of long-engrafted condition, but,
therewithal, the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring
with them.”

The whole history of the world in every part of society abounds with
correspondences to the cruel error, the awful wrong, committed by Lear
in accepting Goneril and Regan and rejecting Cordelia. But there is a
cause for everything that happens. These dread and lamentable injustices
arise from vices in the characters that perpetrate them. Their blindness
is the punishment for their sin. The most inherent and obstinate sin in
every unregenerate soul is excess of egotistic self-love. The strongest
and richest natures are most exposed to this evil disguised in shapes so
subtile as to deceive the very elect, making them unconsciously desire
to subdue the wills of others to their will. This is a proud and fearful
historic inheritance in the automatic depth of man below his free
consciousness. Overcoming it, he is divinely free and peaceful. Yielding
to it, he wears his force away in unhappy repinings and resentments.
Aggravated by indulgence, it blinds his instincts and perverts his
perceptions, makes him praise and clasp the bad who yield and flatter,
denounce and shun the good who faithfully resist and try to bless. This
profound moral truth Shakspeare makes the dim background of the tragedy,
whose foreground blazes with a dreadful example of the penalties visited
on those who violate its commands. He teaches that those who, bound and
blinded by wilful self-love, embrace the designing and corrupt instead
of the honest and pure, are left to the natural consequences of their
choice. These consequences are the avenging Nemesis of divine
providence. The actor who, as Forrest did, worthily illustrates this
conception, becomes for the time the sublimest of preachers; for his
appalling sermon is not an exhortation verbally articulated, it is a
demonstration vitally incarnated.

The monstrous mistake of Lear soon brought its results to sight. The
poor old monarch, fast weakening, even-paced, in his wits and muscles,
but not abating one jot of his arrogant self-estimate and royal
requiring, was so scolded, thwarted, and badgered by Goneril that he was
quite beside himself with indignation. Then, most pitiably in his
distress, relenting memory turned his regards towards the faithful
gentleness he had spurned:

                         “O, most small fault!
           How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show,
           Which, like an engine, wrenched my frame of nature
           From the fixed place, drew from my heart all love,
           And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
           Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
           And thy dear judgment out.”

Uttering these remorseful words, striking his forehead, Forrest stood,
for a moment, a picture of uncertainty, regret, self-deprecation, and
woe. Then a sense of the insulting disrespect and ingratitude of Goneril
seemed to break on him afresh, and let loose the whole volcanic flood of
his injured selfhood. Anguish, wrath, and helplessness drove him mad.
The blood made path from his heart to his brow, and hung there, a red
cloud, beneath his crown. His eyes flashed and faded and reflashed. He
beat his breast as if not knowing what he did. His hands clutched wildly
at the air as though struggling with something invisible. Then, sinking
on his knees, with upturned look and hands straight outstretched towards
his unnatural daughter, he poured out, in frenzied tones of mingled
shriek and sob, his withering curse, half adjuration, half malediction.
It was a terrible thing, almost too fearful to be gazed at as a work of
art, yet true to the character, the words, and the situation furnished
by Shakspeare. Drawing for the moral world comparisons from the material
world, it was a maelstrom of the conscience, an earthquake of the mind,
a hurricane of the soul, and an avalanche of the heart. By a perfect
gradation his protruded and bloodshot eyeballs, his crimsoned and
swollen features, and his trembling frame subsided from their convulsive
exertion. And with a confidence touching in its groundlessness, he
bethought him,—

                                “I have another daughter,
              Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable.”

He went to her, and said, with a distraught air of sorrowful anger, more
pathetic than mere words can describe,—

            “Thy sister’s naught: O Regan! She hath tied
            Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here:
            I can scarce speak to thee; thou’lt not believe
            With how depraved a quality,—O Regan!”

Told by her that he was old, that in him nature stood on the verge of
her confine, that he needed guidance, and had best return to Goneril and
ask her forgiveness, he stood an instant in blank amazement, as if not
trusting his ears; a tremor of agony and rage shot through him, fixed
itself in a scornful smile, and, throwing himself on his knees, he
vented his heart with superhuman irony:

           “Dear daughter, I confess that I am old:
           Age is unnecessary; on my knees I beg
           That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”

Goneril entered. Shrinking from her partly with loathing, partly with
fear, he exclaimed, in a tone of mournful and pleading pain befitting
the transcendent pathos of the imagery,—

                                   “O Heavens!
           If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
           Allow obedience, if yourselves are old,
           Make it your cause: send down, and take my part!”

As Regan and Goneril chaffered and haggled to reduce the cost of his
entertainment, he revealed in his face and by-play the effect their
conduct had on him. The rising thoughts and emotions suffused his
features in advance of their expression. He stood before the audience
like a stained window that burns with the light of the landscape it
hides. He then began in a low tone of supplicating feebleness and
gradually mounted to a climax of frenzy, where the voice, raised to
screaming shrillness, broke in helplessness, exemplifying that degree of
passion which is impotent from its very intensity. Those critics who
blamed him for this excess as a fault were wrong, not he; for it belongs
to a rage which unseats the reason to have no power of repression, and
so to recoil on itself in exhaustion:

            “You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
            As full of grief as age; wretched in both.
            If it be you that stir these daughters’ hearts
            Against their father, fool me not so much
            To bear it tamely: touch me with noble anger.
            O, let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
            Stain my man’s cheeks. 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.”

The elemental storm at that moment heard rumbling in the distance
actually seemed an echo of the more terrible spiritual storm raging in

The scene by night on the heath, where Lear, discrowned of his reason,
wanders in the tempest,—the earth his floor, the sky his roof, the
elements his comrades,—was sustained by Forrest with a broad strength
and intensity which left nothing wanting. Even the imagination was
satisfied with the scale of acting when the old king was seen, colossal
in his broken decay, exulting as the monarch of a new realm, pelted by
tempests, shrilling with curses, and peopled with wicked daughters! His
eyes aflame, his breast distended, his arms flying, his white hair all
astream in the wind, his voice rolling and crashing like another thunder
below, he seemed some wild spirit in command of the scene; and he
called, as if to his conscious subjects,—

        “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
        You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout,
        Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
        You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
        Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
        Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
        Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
        Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters.
        I tax not you, ye elements, with unkindness:
        I never gave you kingdom, called you children;
        You owe me no subscription. Then let fall
        Your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave,
        A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man.
        But yet I call you servile ministers
        That will with two pernicious daughters join
        Your high-engendered battles ’gainst a head
        So old and white as this. O, O, ’tis foul.”

These last words, beginning with “_high_-engendered battles,” he
delivered with a down-sweeping cadence as mighty in its swell as one of
the great symphonic swings of Beethoven. The auditor seemed to hear the
peal strike on the mountain-top and its slow reverberations roll through
the valleys. The next speech, commencing with,—

                                   “Let the great gods,
             That keep this dreadful pother o’er our heads,
             Find out their enemies now,”—

and ending with,—

                                           “I am a man
                 More sinned against than sinning,”—

he pronounced in a way that emphasized the vast ethical meaning involved
in it, and illustrated the strong humanity of Lear. He seemed to be
saying, “These woes are just; I have been proud, rash, and cruel; but
others have treated me worse than I have treated them.” This unconscious
effort at a halting justification, this disguised appeal for kindly
judgment, was profoundly natural and affecting. Then his brain reeled
under its load of woe, and he sighed, with a piteous bewilderment, “My
wits begin to turn,” bringing back with awful fulfilment his prophetic
prayer long before, “O, let me not be mad, sweet heaven! keep me in
temper: I would not be mad!”

There was something in the immense outspread of the sorrows of Lear and
the enlacement of their gigantic portrayal with the elemental scenery of
nature, the desolate heath, the blackness of night, the howling gale,
the stabbing flashes of lightning, overwhelmingly pathetic and sublime.
The passion of Othello pours along like a vast river turbulent and
raging, yet with placid eddies. The passion of Lear is like the
continual swell and moan of the ocean, whose limitless expanse, with no
beacon of hope to meet the eye, baffles our comprehension and bewilders
us with its awful mystery. This part of the play, as Forrest represented
it in person and voice, gave one a new measure of the greatness of man
in his glory and in his ruin. And in the subsequent scenes, where the
disease of Lear had progressed and his faculties become more wrecked, he
was so interpreted from the splendid might over which he had exulted to
the mournful decay into which he had sunk, that when he said, in reply
to a request to be allowed to kiss his hand, “Let me wipe it first; it
smells of mortality,” the whole audience felt like exclaiming, with

              “O ruined piece of nature! This great world
              Shall so wear out to naught.”

The acting of all the closing scenes with Cordelia was something to be
treasured apart in the memories of all who saw it and who were capable
of appreciating its exquisite beauty and its unfathomable pathos. When
he was awakened out of the merciful sleep which had fallen on the
soreness of his soul, and heard her whose voice was ever soft, gentle,
and low, addressing him as she had been wont in happier days, his look
of wondering weariness, his mistaking her for a spirit in bliss, his
kneeling to her, his gradual recognition of her,—all these were executed
with a unity of purpose, a simplicity of means, and an ineffable
tenderness of affection, to which it is impossible for any verbal
description to do justice. Who, that did not carry a stone in his breast
in place of a heart, could refrain from tears when he heard the
exhausted sufferer—his gaze fixed on hers, his hands moving in
unpurposed benediction, a solemn calm wrapping him after the long
tempest, passing from the old arrogance of self-assertion into a supreme

           “Where have I been? Where am I?—Fair daylight?
           I am mightily abused.—I should even die with pity
           To see another thus.”

Who that saw his instinctive action and heard his broken utterance when
she was dead, and he stood trying with insane perseverance to restore
her, fondling her with his paralyzed hands, can ever forget? With
insistent eagerness he asked,—

             “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
             And thou no breath at all?”

With complaining resignation he said,—

                                   “Thou’lt come no more,
               Never, never, never, never, never!—”

With wild surprise he exclaimed, while his lips parted and a weird and
shrivelling smile stole through his wearied face,—

            “Do you see this?—Look on her,—look,—her lips,—
            Look there, look there!”

He stood erect and still, gazing into vacancy. Not a rustle, not a
breath, could be heard in the house. Slowly the head nodded, the muscles
of the face relaxed, the hands opened, the eyes closed, one long hollow
gasp through the nostrils, then on the worn-out king of grief and pain
fell the last sleep, and his form sank upon the stage, while the parting
salvos of the storm rolled afar.

Such were the principal characters represented by Edwin Forrest. So, as
far as an incompetent pen can describe their portraiture, did he
represent them. The work was a dignified and useful one, moralizing the
scene not less than entertaining the crowd. It was full of noble lessons
openly taught. It was still richer, as all acting is, in yet deeper
latent lessons to be gathered and self-applied by the spectators who
were wise enough to pierce to them and earnest enough to profit from

For every dramatic impersonation of a character in the unravelling of a
plot and the fulfilment of a fate is charged with implicit morals. This
is inevitable because every type of man, every grade of life, every kind
of conduct, every style of manners, embodies those laws of cause and
effect between the soul and its circumstances which constitute the
movement of human destiny, and illustrates the varying standards of
truth and beauty, or of error and sin, in charming examples to be
assimilated, or in repulsive ones to serve as warnings. Thus the stage
is potentially as much more instructive than the pulpit, as life is more
inclusive and contagious than words. The trouble is that its teaching is
so largely disguised and latent. It sorely needs an infusion of the
religious and academic spirit to explicate and drive home its morals.
For instance, when Coriolanus says, with action of immovable

             “Let them pull all about mine ears; present me
             Death on the wheel, or at wild horses’ heels;
             Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian rock,
             That the precipitation might down stretch
             Below the beam of sight, yet will I still
             Be thus to them,—”

it is a huge and grand personality, filled to bursting with arrogant
pride and indirect vanity, asserting itself obstinately against the mass
of the people. As a piece of power it is imposing; but morally it is
vulgar and odious. The single superior should not assert his egotistic
will defiantly against the wills of the multitude of inferiors and hate
them for their natural resistance. He should modestly modulate his self-
will with the real claims of the collective many, or blend and assert it
through universal right and good, thus representing God with the
strength of truth and the suavity of love. That is the lesson of
Coriolanus,—a great lesson if taught and learned. And, to take an
exactly opposite example, what is it that so pleases and holds everybody
who sees the exquisite Rip Van Winkle of Joseph Jefferson? Analyze the
performance to the bottom, and it is clear that the charm consists in
the absence of self-assertion, the abeyance of all egotistic will.
Against the foil of his wife’s tartar temper, who with arms akimbo and
frowning brow and scolding acidity of voice opposes everything, and
asserts her authority, and, despite her faithful virtues, is as
disagreeable as an incarnated broomstick, Rip, lazy and worthless as he
is, steals into every heart with his yielding movement, soft tones, and
winsome look of unsuspicious innocence. He resists not evil or good,
neither his appetite for drink nor his inclinations to reform. The
spontaneity, the perfect surrender of the man, the unresisted sway of
nature in him, plays on the unconscious sympathies of the spectators
with a charm whose divine sweetness not all the vices of the vagabond
can injure. It is, in this homely and almost unclean disguise, a moral
music strangely wafted out of an unlost paradise of innocence into which
drunkenness has strayed. But the real secret of the fascination is
hidden from most of those who intuitively feel its delicious
fascination. Did the audience but appreciate the graceful spirit of its
spell, and for themselves catch from its influence the same unresisted
spontaneousness of soul in unconscious abnegation of self-will, they
would go home regenerated.

But beyond the special lessons in the parts played by Forrest, he was,
through his whole professional course, constantly teaching the great
lesson of the beauty and value of the practice of the dramatic art for
the purposes of social life itself. Should the stage decline and
disappear, the art so long practised on it will not cease, but will be
transferred to the ordinary walks of social life. Nothing is so charming
as a just and vivid play of the spiritual faculties through all the
languages of their outer signs, in the friendly intercourse of real
life. But in our day the tendency is to confine expression to the one
language of articulate words. This suppression of the free play of the
organism stiffens and sterilizes human nature, impoverishes the
interchanges of souls makes existence formal and barren. The most
precious relish of conversation and the divinest charm of manners is the
living play of the spirit in the features, and the spontaneous
modulation of the form by the passing experience. A man grooved in
bigotry and glued in awkwardness, with no alert intelligence and
sympathy, is a painful object and a repulsive companion. He moves like a
puppet and talks like a galvanized corpse. But it is delightful and
refreshing to associate with one thoroughly possessed by the dramatic
spirit, who, his articulations all freed and his faculties all earnest,
speaks like an angel and moves like a god. The theatre all the time
offers society this inspiring lesson. For there are seen free and
developed souls lightening and darkening through free and sensitive
faces. If bodies did not answer to spirits nor faces reveal minds,
nature would be a huge charnelhouse and society a brotherhood of the
dead. And if things go on unchecked as they have been going on, we bid
fair to come to that. It is to be hoped, however, that the examples of
universal, liberated expression given on the stage will more and more
take effect in the daily intercourse of all classes. As a guiding hint
and stimulus in that direction, the central law of dramatic expression
may here be explicitly formulated. All emotions that betoken the
exaltation of life, or the recognition of influences that tend to
heighten life, confirm the face, but expand and brighten it. All
emotions that indicate the sinking of life, or the recognition of
influences that threaten to lower life, relax and vacate the face if
these emotions are negative, contract and darken it if they are
positive. In answer to the exalting influences the face either grasps
what it has or opens and smiles to hail and receive what is offered; in
answer to the depressing influences, it either droops under its load or
shuts and frowns to oppose and exclude what is threatened. The eyes
reveal the mental states; the muscles reveal the effects of those states
in the body. In genial states active, the eyes and the muscles are both
intense, but the eyes are smiling. In genial states passive, the eyes
are intense, the muscles languid. In hostile states active, both eyes
and muscles are intense, but the eyes are frowning. In hostile states
passive, the eyes are languid, the muscles intense. In simple or
harmonious states, the eyes and the muscles agree in their excitement or
relaxation. In complex and inconsistent states, the eyes and the muscles
are opposed in their expression. To expound the whole philosophy of
these rules would take a volume. But they formulate with comprehensive
brevity the central law of dramatic expression as a guide for
observation in daily life.

In filling up the outlines of the majestic characters imperfectly limned
in the preceding pages, exhibiting them in feature and proportion and
color and tone as they were, setting in relief the full dimensions and
quality of their intellect and their passion, living over again their
experiences and laying bare for public appreciation the lessons of their
fate, Forrest found the high and noble joy of his existence, the most
satisfying employment for his faculties, and a deep, unselfish solace
for his afflictions. He reposed on the grand moments of each drama, as
if they were thrones which he was loath to abdicate. He dilated and
glowed in the exciting situations, as if they were no mimic reflections
of the crises of other souls, but original and thrilling incarnations of
his own. He lingered over the nobler utterances, as if he would have
paused to repeat their music, and would willingly let the action wait
that the thought might receive worthy emphasis. Every inspired
conception of eloquence, every delicate beauty of sentiment, every
aggrandizing attitude of man contained in the plays he lifted into a
relief of light and warmth that gave it new attraction and more power.
And to trace the thoughts and feelings that gained heightened expression
through him, echoed and working with contagious sympathy in the hearts
of the crowds who hung on his lips, was a divine pleasure which he would
fain have indefinitely prolonged. But the movement on the stage, that
affecting mirror of life, hurries forward, the business of the world
breaks in upon philosophy, and the dreams of the poet and the player
burst like painted bubbles.

Meanwhile, not only do the parts played and the scenes amidst which they
are shown vanish and become the prey of oblivion, but those who played
them disappear also, leaving the providential and prophetic Spirit of
Humanity, a sublimer Prospero, to say,—

                                  “These, our actors,
                As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
                Are melted into air, into thin air.”

                             CHAPTER XXIII.

When in the fullest glory of his strength and his fame Forrest bought a
farm and quite made up his mind to retire from the stage forever. While
under this impulse he played a parting engagement in New Orleans. Called
out after the play, he said, among other things, “The bell which tolled
the fall of the curtain also announced my final departure from among
you. I have chosen a pursuit congenial to my feelings,—that pursuit
which the immortal Washington pronounced one of the most noble and
useful ever followed by man,—the tilling of the soil. And now, ladies
and gentlemen, I have to say that little word which must so often be
said in this sad, bright world,—farewell.” The purpose, however, passed
away with its now forgotten cause. Again he seriously thought for a
little time, when a nomination to Congress was pressed on him, of
exchanging his dramatic career for a political one. This idea, too, on
careful reflection he rejected. And once more, when depressed and
embittered by his domestic trouble, and sick of appearing before the
public, he was for a season strongly tempted to say he would never again
enter the theatre as a player. With these three brief and fitful
exceptions he never entertained any design of abandoning the practice of
his profession, until a shattering illness in the spring of 1872
compelled him to take the step. Then he took the step quietly, with no
public announcement.

Thus the dramatic seasons of the five years preceding his death found
the veteran still in harness, working vigorously as of old in the art of
which he had ever been so fond and so proud. His earnings during each of
these seasons were between twenty-five and forty thousand dollars, and
the applause given to his performances and the friendly and flattering
personal attentions paid him were almost everywhere very marked. He had
no reason to feel that he was lingering superfluous on the stage. Many,
it is true, asked why, with his great wealth, his satiation of fame, his
literary taste, his growing infirmity of lameness, he did not give up
this drudgery and enjoy the luxury of his home in leisure and dignity.
There were two chief reasons why he persisted in his vocation. No doubt
the large sum of ready money he earned by it was welcome to him, because
while his fortune was great it was mostly unproductive and a burden of
taxes. No doubt, also, he well relished the admiration and applause he
drew; for the habit of enjoying this had become a second nature with
him. Neither of these considerations, however, was it which caused him
to undergo the toil and hardship of his profession to the last. His real
motives were stronger. The first was the sincere conviction that it was
better for the preservation of his health and faculties, his interest
and zest in life and the world, to keep at his wonted task. He feared
that a withdrawal of this spur and stimulus would the sooner dull his
powers, stagnate him, and break him down. He often asserted this. For
example, in 1871 he wrote thus, after speaking of what he had suffered
from severe journeyings, extreme cold, poor food, many vexations, and a
fall over a balustrade so terrible that it would have killed him had it
not been for his professional practice in falling: “This is very hard
work; but it is best to do it, as it prevents both physical and mental
rust, which is a sore decayer of body and soul.”

But the most effectual motive in keeping him on the stage was a real
professional enthusiasm, an intense love of his art for its own sake. He
felt that he was still improving in his best parts, in everything except
mere material power, giving expression to his refining conceptions with
a greater delicacy and subtilty, a more minute truthfulness and finish.
He keenly enjoyed his own applause of his own best performances. This
was a satisfaction to him beyond anything which the critics or the
public could bestow or withhold. It was a luxury he was not willing to
forego. He was a great artist still delighting himself with touching and
tinting his favorite pictures, still loyal to truth and nature, and
feeling the joy of a devotee as he placed now a more delicate shade here
or a more ethereal light there, producing a higher harmony of tone, a
greater convergence of effects in a finer unity of the whole. Even had
this been an illusion with him, it would have been touching and noble.
But it was a reality. His Richelieu and Lear were never rendered by him
with such entire artistic beauty and grandeur as the last times he
played them. In the thoughts of those who knew that as he went over the
country in his later years the plaudits of the audiences and the
approvals of critics were insignificant to him in comparison with his
own judgment and feeling, and that he deeply relished the minutely
earnest and natural truth and power and rounded skill of his own chosen
portrayals of human nature, the fact lent an extreme interest and
dignity to his character. This unaffected enthusiasm of the old artist,
this intrinsic delight in his work, was a sublime reward for his long-
continued conscientious devotion, and an example which his professional
followers in future time should thoughtfully heed. He wrote to a friend
from Washington near the close of his career, “Last night I played Lear
in a cold house, with a wretched support, and to a sparse and
undemonstrative audience. But I think I never in my life more thoroughly
enjoyed any performance of mine, because I really believed, and do
believe so now, that I never before in my life played the part so well.
For forty years I have studied and acted Lear. I have studied the part
in the closet, in the street, on the stage, in lunatic asylums all over
the world, and I hold that next to God, Shakspeare comprehended the mind
of man. Now I would like to have had my representation of the character
last night photographed to the minutest particular. Then next to the
creation of the part I would not barter the fame of its representation.”
This, written to a bosom friend from whom he kept back nothing, when the
shadow of the grave was approaching, was not egotism or vanity. It was
truth and sincerity, and its meaning is glorious. What a man works for
with downright and persevering honesty, that, and the satisfaction or
the retribution of it, he shall at last have. And there is only one
thing of which no artist can ever tire,—merit. The passion for mere fame
grows weak and cold, and, under its prostituted accompaniments, dies out
in disgust; but the zeal and the joy of a passion for excellence keep
fresh and increase to the end.

Aside from that self-rewarding love of his art and delight in exercising
it and improving in it, of which no invidious influence could rob him,
Forrest continued still to be followed by the same extremes of praise
and abuse to which he had ever been accustomed. But one grateful form of
compliment and eulogy became more frequent towards the close. He was in
the frequent receipt of letters, drawn up and signed by large numbers of
the leading citizens of important towns, urging him to pay them a visit
and gratify them with another, perhaps a final, opportunity of
witnessing some of his most celebrated impersonations. Among his papers
were found, carefully labelled, autograph letters of this description
from New Orleans, Savannah, Cincinnati, Louisville, Detroit, Troy, and
other cities,—flattering testimonials to his celebrity and the interest
felt in him. These dignified and disinterested demonstrations were
fitted to offset and soothe the wounds continually inflicted on his
proud sensibility by many vulgar persons who chanced to have access to
newspapers for the expression of their frivolity, malignity, or envy.
For detraction is the shadow flung before and behind as the sun of fame
journeys through the empyrean. To illustrate the scurrilous treatment
Forrest had to bear, even in his old age, from heartless ribalds, it is
needful only to set a few characteristic examples in contrast with his
real character. His professional and personal character, in the spirit
and aim of his public life, is justly indicated in this brief newspaper

“In the line of heroic characters—such as Brutus, Virginius, Tell—Mr.
Forrest has had no rival in this country. He is himself rich in the
generous, manly qualities fitted for such grand ideal parts. The old-
time favorite plays of the heroic and romantic school, like Damon and
Pythias, are well-nigh banished from the stage. The materialistic
tendencies and aspirations of this intensely practical age disqualify
most audiences for seeing with the zest of their fathers a play so
purely poetic and imaginative as the immortal tale of the Pythagorean
friends. That Mr. Forrest, almost alone among his contemporaries, should
cling to this style of plays with such true enthusiasm is evidence of
the fidelity with which he seeks purity rather than attractiveness in
the models of his art. His name has never been identified with a single
one of the meretricious innovations which have within the past two
decades so lowered the dignity of the drama. Every play associated with
his person has some noble hero as its central figure, and some sublime
moral quality and lesson in the unravelling of its plot. And his
unwavering seriousness of purpose in everything he plays cannot be
questioned, whatever else may be questioned.”

The above estimate is sustained by the unconscious betrayal, the latent
implications, in the following speech made by Forrest himself when
called out after a performance:

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—For this and for the many tokens of your kind
approbation, I return you my sincere and heartfelt acknowledgments. It
is a source of peculiar gratification to me to perceive that the drama
is yet, with you, a subject of consideration. Permit me to express my
conviction that it is, in one form or another, whether for good or for
evil, intimately blended with our social institutions. It is for you,
then, to give it the necessary and appropriate direction. If it be left
in charge of the bad and the dissolute, the consequences will be
deplorable; but if the fostering protection of the wise and the good be
extended to it, the result cannot but tend to the advancement of morals
and the intellectual improvement of the community. It is indeed the true
province of the drama

            ‘To wake the soul by tender strokes of art,
            To raise the genius, and to mend the heart;
            To make mankind in conscious virtue bold,
            Live o’er each scene, and be what they behold;
            For this, the tragic muse first trod the stage,
            Commanding tears to stream through every age;
            Tyrants no more their savage nature kept,
            And foes to virtue wondered how they wept.’”

What a descent from the above level to the ridicule, insult, and
misrepresentation in notices like the succeeding:

“Forrest reminded us of the Butcher of Chandos, and his rendition of the
fifth act was reminiscent of the wild madness, the ungovernable
bellowings and fierce snortings of a short-horned bull chased by a score
of terriers. He raved, and rumbled, and snorted, and paused, gathering
wind for a fresh start, as if the ghost of Shakspeare were whispering in
his ear,

         ‘Now crack thy lungs, and split thy brazen pipe;
         Blow, actor, till thy sphered bias cheek
         Outswell the colic of puffed Aquilon;
         Come, stretch thy chest, and let thy eyes spout blood;
         Thou blow’st for Hector.’

We are fearful that the more he studies and improves his part the worse
it will be.”

“Last night we went with great expectations to the Academy of Music to
see Forrest. We were never so astonished as to witness there the most
successful practical imposition ever played on the public. Manager Leake
has got Old Brown the hatter there, with his white head blacked, playing
leading parts under the assumed name of Edwin Forrest.”

“Mr. Forrest dragged his weary performances out to empty boxes last
week. Save in his voice, which still soars, crackles, rumbles, grumbles,
growls and hisses, as in his younger days, this great actor is but a
dreary echo of his former self. Appropriately may he exclaim,—

                     ‘Othello’s occupation’s gone!’

and it would be well if, like the heroic Moor, he would bid farewell to
the bustling world by an abrupt retirement from the stage, instead of
inflicting nightly stabs upon his high reputation and wounding his old-
time friends by his attempts to soar into the sublime regions of

“The interest that still crowds the theatre whenever Mr. Forrest appears
is less admiration of his present power than curiosity to see a gigantic

“The intellectual portion of the community never thoroughly appreciated
the style of histrionic gymnastics which our great tragedian has
introduced; the ponderous tenderness and gladiatorial grace of his
conceptions, though excellent in their way, had never any charm for
people of delicate nerves, who delight not in viewing experiments in
spasmodic contortion, or delineations of violent death, evidently after
studies from nature in the slaughterhouse! But lately the faithful
themselves are tiring of it.”

The man with a thin and acid nature who aspires to be an author or an
artist, and cannot succeed, sometimes becomes a spiteful critic. The
only pity is that he should usually find it so easy to get an organ for
his spites. Would-be genius hates and criticises, actual genius loves
and creates. The former enviously despises those who succeed where he
has failed, the latter generously admires all true merit.

And now it will be a relief to turn from such criticisms to facts. The
season of 1871 was marked by an experience altogether memorable in the
professional history of Forrest, his last engagement in New York, where
he played for twenty nights in February at the Fourteenth Street
Theatre, sustaining only the two roles of Lear and Richelieu. These were
his two best parts, and being characters of old men his cruel sciatica
scarcely interfered with his rendering of them. One or two newspaper
writers complained, as if it were a crime in the actor and a personal
offence to them, that “when Forrest came this season to New York he
neglected, and apparently with a purpose, the usual precautions of
metropolitan managers, and seemed to avoid all the modern appliances of
success, either from a contempt for the appliances or from indifference
as to the result.” They did not seem once to suspect that his scorn for
every species of bribery or meretricious advertising, his frank and
careless trust in simple truth, was, considering the corrupt custom of
the times, in the highest degree honorable to him and exemplary for
others. It was always his way to make a plain announcement of his
appearance, and then let the verdict be what it might, with no
interference of his.

There was no popular rush to see him now. In the crowd of new
excitements and the quick forgetfulness belonging to our day, the
curiosity about him and the interest in him had largely passed away. But
the old friends who rallied at his name, and the respectable numbers of
cultivated people who were glad of a chance to see the most historic
celebrity of the American stage before it should be too late, were
unanimous in their enthusiastic admiration. They declared with one voice
that his playing was filled with wonderful power in general and with
wonderful felicities in detail. That metropolitan press, too, from which
he had so long received not only unjust depreciation, but wrong and
contumely, spoke of him and his performances now in a very different
tone. Its voice appeared a kindly response to what he had privately
written to his friend Oakes: “Well, I am here, here in New York once
more, and on Monday next begin again my professional labor,—labors begun
more than forty years ago in the same city. What changes since then in
men and things! Will any one of that great and enthusiastic audience
which greeted my efforts as a boy, be here on Monday evening next to
witness the matured performance of the man? If so, how I should like to
hear from his own lips if the promises of spring-time have been entirely
fulfilled by the fruits of the autumn of life!” Without any notable
exception, extreme praise was lavished on his acting, and his name was
treated with a tenderness and a respect akin to reverence. It seemed as
though the writers felt some premonition of the near farewell and the
endless exit, and were moved to be just and kind. The late amends
touched the heart of the old player deeply. It was a comfort to him to
be thus appreciated in the city of his greatest pride ere he ceased
acting, and to have the estimates of his friends endorsed in elaborate
critiques from the pens of the best dramatic censors, William Winter,
Henry Sedley, John S. Moray, and others. It is due to him and to them
that some specimens of these notices be preserved here. Space will allow
but a few extracts from the leading articles:

“Edwin Forrest, the actor, who is identified with much that is
intellectual, picturesque, and magnificently energetic in the history of
the American stage, is again before the New York public. His
reappearance is deeply interesting upon several accounts. His
reputation, far from being confined to the United States, extends
wherever the language of Shakspeare is spoken, and to a great many
countries where translations have rendered that poet’s meanings known.
His name has grown with the name of the American people, and has
greatened with the increasing greatness of the country. At home and
abroad he is recognized as the superbly unique representative of several
characters whose creators owe their inspiration to the genius of
American history. No other actor has presented Americans with such
powerful and original conceptions of King Lear, Coriolanus, and Macbeth.
No other unites such grand physical forces with such intellectual vigor
and delicacy. His hand has an infinity of tints at its command, and his
tenderest touches are never weak. He is, therefore, deservedly and
almost universally considered as the fair representative of what
Americans have most reason to be proud of in the history of their stage.
He is not a weak copyist of foreign originalities and of schools of the
past. His virtues and his vices, dramatically speaking, are his own. His
genius is thoroughly self-responsible, and his strong, conscious, and
magnificent repose is resplendently suggestive of the degree in which
the great actor rates, and has a right to rate himself.”

“Mr. Forrest can indeed be now admired more than he ever was before; for
his magnificent and picturesque energies are now chastened and
restrained by great intellectual culture, and softened by the presence
of that tender glow which varied experience is pretty sure to ultimately
lend. One strives in vain to recall the name of any other actor, either
in this country or in England, who possesses such immense physical
energies under such perfect subservience to the intellect. We insist
more particularly upon this point, because it is one upon which even the
admirers of Mr. Forrest are not apt to dwell. There is a very large
class of people who are so absorbed in the generous breadth, the
brilliant coloring, and the large treatment of Mr. Forrest’s favorite
themes, that they neglect to give him credit for intellectual niceties
and delicate emotional distinctions. They vulgarly admire merely the
large style and heroic presence of the man, and the rich reverberations
of a voice that all the demands of the entire gamut of passion have not
yet perceptibly worn, and they omit to give him that intellectual
appreciation which is very decidedly his due. In no other character
which he is fond of playing are all these qualifications so harmoniously
united as in Lear. In no other character are the distinctive qualities
of Mr. Forrest’s genius so beautifully blended and played. Those who
have been familiar with his rendering of this character in the days that
are past will take a curious pleasure in accompanying him from scene to
scene, and from act to act, and in remarking how true he remains to the
ideal of his younger years, and how powerful he is in expressing that
ideal. It is a rare thing for an actor to awaken in a later generation
the same quality and degree of delight that he awoke in his own. It is a
rare thing for him to be as youthful in his maturity as he was mature in
his youth, and to thus succeed in delighting those who measure by a
standard more exacting and severe than the standard was which the
public, in an earlier age of American dramatic art, was fond of
applying. Mr. Forrest has passed these tests. We do not care for the
ignorant sarcasm of those who claim that the ‘school’ he represents is a
‘physical’ school. It is a school wherein Mr. Forrest is supreme master,
and where an unrivalled voice and physique are made absolutely
subservient to intellectual expression.”

“Never were plaudits better deserved by any actor in any age than those
which have been showered down upon Forrest during the past week. His
conception and his rendering of King Lear were alike magnificent. In his
prime, when theatres were crowded by the brightest and fairest of
America, who listened spell-bound to the favorite of the hour, he never
played this character half so well. The idiosyncrasy of his nature
forbade it. The fierce ungovernable fire within him could not be
restrained within the limits of the rôle. Forrest could never modulate
the transport of his feelings. He leaped at once from a calm and even
tenor to the full violence of frenzied anger. There was no _crescendo_,
no gradation. He was so fully possessed of his rôle that he threw aside
every consideration of different circumstances which the case suggested.
He was for the moment Lear, but not Shakspeare’s old man: he was
Forrest’s Lear. Hence the fire of furious anger and the decrepitude of
age were alike exaggerated. But these things have passed away. Age has
tamed the lion-like excesses of the royal Forrest, and his impersonation
of King Lear is now absolutely faultless. Seeing and hearing him under
the disadvantages of a mangled text, a poor company, a miserable _mise
en scène_, and a thin house, the visitor must still be impressed by the
one grand central figure, so eloquent, so strong, so sweet in gentlest
pathos. There is an unconscious reproach in the manner in which he bows
his head to the shouts of applause. He is the King Lear of the American
stage; he gave to his children, the public, all that he had, and now
they have deserted him. They have crowned a new king before whom they
bow, and the old man eloquent is cheered by few voices. The
consciousness of his royal nature supports him. He knows that while he
lives there can be no other head of the American stage; but still he is
deserted and alone. That some such feeling overpowered him when the
flats parted, and the audience, seeing the king on his throne, cheered
him, there can be little doubt. He bowed his head slightly in response
to the acclamations of those scantily-filled seats. But throughout the
play there was an added dignity of sorrow, which showed that the neglect
of the public had wounded him. He knew his fate. He recognized that he
was a discrowned king, and that the fickle public had crowned another
not worthy of sovereignty and having no sceptre of true genius. The play
went on and he became absorbed in his rôle, forgetting in the delirium
of his art that his house was nearly empty. Had there been but five
there, he would have played it. For to him acting is existence, and the
histrionic fire in his bosom can never be quenched save with life.
Actors may come and actors may go, but it will be centuries before a
Lear arises like unto this man Forrest, whom the public seems to have so
nearly forgotten.”

“The curtain rose a few minutes after eight, and the cold air issuing
from the stage threw a chill over the audience. But when at last the
scene opened and revealed Lear on his throne, the old form in its Jove-
like grandeur, the quiet eye that spoke of worlds of reserved power,
brought back the memories of old, and round after round of applause
stopped the utterance of the opening words. There was such a heartiness
of admiring welcome about the thing, so much of the old feeling of
theatrical enthusiasm, that Forrest felt for once compelled to stand up,
and, with a bend of his leonine head, acknowledge the welcome. He tested
the love of his daughters; he gave away his kingdom, taking, as he gave
it, the sympathies of the audience. He called on the eldest, and was
taunted; he lost his ill-controlled temper, and finally, goaded till his
whole frame seemed about to shatter, he invoked the curse of heaven. As
he spoke, you could hear all over the house that hissing of breath drawn
through the teeth which sudden pain causes, and when the curtain fell
people looked into each other’s eyes in silence. Then you would hear,
‘That is acting.’ ‘It is awful!’ Then suddenly rose bravos, not your
petty clapping of hands, but shouts from boxes and orchestra, and they
came in volleys. The old king tottered calmly out before the curtain,
looked around slowly, and bowed back. But there was now in that quiet
eye a suppressed gleam in which those nearest the stage could read as in
a book the pride and gratification of genius enjoying the effect of its

“With the drawbacks of ordinary scenery and a wretched support, Forrest
gives us a Richelieu which at the close of the fourth act nightly draws
forth a perfect whirlwind of applause, and brings the veteran before the
curtain amidst a wild cry of enthusiasm which must stir old memories in
his bosom. His genius spreads an electric glow through the house and
carries the sympathies by storm.”

“Mr. Forrest’s reading of Richelieu is remarkable for its firmness and
intelligibility of purpose, for its singular pathos, for its often
unaffected melody of elocution, and—in this point approaching his Lear—
for its revelation, at intervals, of unmistakable subtlety of thought.
Like his Lear, too, the part is embroidered over with those swift
touches of electricity that gild and enrich the underlying fabric which
might otherwise appear too weighty and sombre.”

“The actor who would vitalize this part has no common work to perform.
It is incumbent upon him to make martial heroism visible through a veil
of intellectual finesse, and to indicate the natural soldier-like
qualities of the man projecting through that smoothness and
dissimulation which the ambition of the statesman rendered expedient. It
is necessary for him to develop so that they may be perceived by the
audience those characteristics which Bulwer has unfolded in the play
through the instrumentality of long soliloquies that are necessarily
omitted upon the stage, and unless this is done by the actor the
character is deprived of that subtlety and force and that human
complexity of motive which Bulwer, in spite of his artificiality and
conceits, contrives to make apparent.”

“This, however, is the task which Mr. Forrest performs to perfection.
Not being a purely intellectual character, Richelieu demands in the
delineation all those aids which are desirable from Mr. Forrest’s august
physique and wonderfully rich voice. A just discrimination compels us to
own that beside this representation that of Mr. Booth appears faint and
pale. A film seems to cover it; whereas the representation of Mr.
Forrest gathers color and strength from the contrast. As a piece of mere
elocution Mr. Forrest’s reading is exquisitely beautiful, the ear
floating upon the profound and varied music of its cadences. But,
flawlessly exquisite as are these graces of enunciation, they are, after
all, merely channels in which the spirit of the entire interpretation
runs. The most cultured man in the audience which last night filled the
Fourteenth Street Theatre might have closely followed every line which
the actor enunciated, without being able to perceive wherein it could be
more heavily freighted with significance.”

But perhaps the most gratifying testimony borne at this time to the
natural power and artistic genius and skill of Forrest was the following
eloquent article by Mr. Winter, whose repeated previous notices of the
actor had been unfavorable and severe, but who, irresistibly moved, now
showed himself as magnanimous as he was conscientious:

“Probably the public does not quite yet appreciate either the value of
its opportunity or the importance of improving it. Two facts, therefore,
ought to be strongly stated: one, that Mr. Forrest’s personation of Lear
is an extraordinary work of art; the other, that, in the natural order
of things, it must soon pass forever away from the stage. Those who see
it now will enjoy a luxury and a benefit. Those who miss seeing it now
will sow the seed of a possible future regret. We have not in times past
been accustomed to extol, without considerable qualification, the acting
of Mr. Forrest. This was natural, and it was right. An unpleasant
physical element—the substitution of muscle for brain and of force for
feeling—has usually tainted his performances. That element has been
substantially discarded from his Lear. We have seen him play the part
when he was no more than a strong, resolute, robustious man in a state
of inconsequent delirium. The form of the work, of course, was always
definite. Strength of purpose in Mr. Forrest’s acting always went hand
in hand with strength of person. He was never vague. He knew his intent,
and he was absolutely master of the means that were needful to fulfil
it. Precision, directness, culminating movement, and physical magnetism
were his weapons; and he used them with a firm hand. Self-distrust never
depressed him. Vacillation never defeated his purpose. It was the
triumph of enormous and overwhelming individuality. Lear could not be
seen, because Mr. Forrest stood before him and eclipsed him.

“All that is greatly modified. Time and suffering seem to have done
their work. It is no secret that Mr. Forrest has passed through a great
deal of trouble. It is no secret that he is an old man. We do not touch
upon these facts in a spirit of heartlessness or flippancy. But what we
wish to indicate is that natural causes have wrought a remarkable change
in Mr. Forrest’s acting, judged, as we now have the opportunity of
judging it, by his thrilling delineation of the tremendous agonies and
the ineffably pathetic madness of Shakspeare’s Lear. In form his
performance is neither more nor less distinct than it was of old. Almost
every condition of symmetry is satisfied in this respect. The port is
kingly; the movement is grand; the transitions are natural; the delivery
is resonant; the intellect is potential; the manifestations of madness
are accurate; the method is precise. But, beyond all this, there is now
a spiritual quality such as we have not seen before in this extremely
familiar work. Here and there, indeed, the actor uses his ancient snort,
or mouths a line for the sake of certain words that intoxicate his
imagination by their sound and movement. Here and there, also, he
becomes suddenly and inexplicably prosaic in his rendering of meanings.
But these defects are slight in contrast with the numberless beauties
that surround and overshadow them. We have paid to this personation the
involuntary and sincere tribute of tears. We cannot, and would not
desire to, withhold from it the merited recognition of critical praise.
Description it can scarcely be said to require. Were we to describe it
in detail, however, we should dwell, with some prolixity of remark, upon
the altitude of imaginative abstraction which Mr. Forrest attains in the
mad scenes. Shakspeare’s Lear is a person with the most tremulously
tender heart and the most delicately sensitive and poetical mind
possible to mortal man, and his true grandeur appears in his overthrow,
which is pathetic for that reason. The shattered fragments of the column
reveal its past magnificence. No man can play Lear in these scenes so as
to satisfy, even approximately, the ideal inspired by Shakspeare’s text
unless he knows, whether by intuition or by experience, the vanity, the
mutability, the hollowness of this world. The deepest deep of philosophy
is sounded here, and the loftiest height of pathos is attained. It is
high praise to say that Mr. Forrest, whether consciously or
unconsciously, interprets these portions of the tragedy in such a manner
as frequently to enthrall the imagination and melt the heart. The
miserable desolation of a noble and tender nature scathed and blasted by
physical decay and by unnatural cruelty looks out of his eyes and speaks
in his voice. This may be only the successful simulation of practised
art; but, whatever it be, its power and beauty and emotional influence
are signal and irresistible.”

The New York “Courier” said, in a striking editorial, “The engagement of
Edwin Forrest at the Fourteenth Street Theatre, and the praises lavished
on him by the whole press of this city, afford us an opportunity to make
a little contribution to the truth of history.” The “Courier,” after
maintaining that Forrest had always been a great actor, and that the
total change of tone in the press was not so much owing to his
improvement as to the fact that time had softened and removed the
prejudices of his judges, continues,—

“When Edwin Forrest, who might have been called at the time the American
boy tragedian, was playing at the Old Bowery, and Edmund Kean at the Old
Park, there was a little society of gentlemen in this city, who were
passionate admirers of the drama. Young in years, they were already ripe
in scholarship and profound as well as independent critics. Amongst
them, and constantly associating together, were Anthony L. Robertson,
afterwards Vice-Chancellor; John Nathan, afterwards law partner with
Secretary Fish; John Lawrence; John K. Keese, better known as ‘Kinney
Keese,’ the wittiest and most learned of book auctioneers, whose mind
was a Bodleian Library and whose tongue a telegraph battery of joke and
repartee, and a dozen others,—all since eminent at the bar, in
literature, or in national politics. Their little semi-social, semi-
literary society was known as ‘The Column,’ and subsisted for many
years. During the rival engagements of Kean and Forrest these gentlemen
went backwards and forwards between the ‘Park’ and the ‘Bowery,’ and
after witnessing the ‘Lear’ of the greatest of English actors since
Garrick, and the Lear of Forrest, unanimously decided, upon the most
careful and critical discussion, that, great as Kean was, Forrest was
THE Lear. Unhappily he was only an American boy, and American actors
were not then the fashion. It was in the days of Anglomania, and the
fashion was to pooh-pooh everything that had not graduated at Covent
Garden or Drury Lane and lacked the full diploma of cockney approbation.
Forrest, both as man and actor, was a full-blooded American and a sturdy
Democrat,—two fearful crimes at a time when art was measured wholly by
an English standard and politics reduced criticism to almost as
despicable servility as they do now. Happily for the impartiality of
discussion in art we have outlived the period of Anglomania, and are
rather virtuously proud than otherwise of anything genuinely American.
And this Edwin Forrest is. His career, too, is a fine example at once of
personal devotion to art, and of ‘the sober second thought of the
people,’ which all the critics failed to alter. For, even when the
latter were most mad against him, he always drew crowds, and we may say
safely, by the power of native genius, supported only by an iron will,
he has shone for fifty years, with increasing lustre, as a star in the
dramatic firmament. William Leggett of the Evening _Post_, who was a
power in New York politics and loved Forrest as a brother, tried to draw
him, in his early manhood, into politics. Had the latter consented to
abandon his profession, he might have commanded, at that time, any
nomination in the gift of the New York Democracy, and risen to the
highest political employments in the State. But he had chosen art as a
mistress, and refused to abandon her for the colder but equally exacting
idol of the mind,—political ambition. It is to this refusal we owe the
fact that our stage is still graced by the greatest actor America has
ever produced.”

The dramatic season of 1871–72 gave an astonishing proof of the vital
endurance and popular attractiveness of the veteran player, then in his
sixty-sixth year. Between October 1st and April 4th he travelled over
seven thousand miles, acted in fifty-two different places, one hundred
and twenty-eight nights, and received the sum of $39,675.47. He began at
the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, proceeded to Columbus and
Cincinnati, and then appeared in regular succession at New Orleans,
Galveston, Houston, Nashville, Omaha, and Kansas City. At Kansas City
excursionists were brought by railroad from the distance of a hundred
and fifty miles, at three dollars each the round trip. From this place
his series of engagements took him to Saint Louis, Quincy, Pittsburg,
Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Troy, and
Albany. From Albany he journeyed to Boston, where he opened an
engagement at the Globe Theatre with Lear, before an audience of great
brilliancy completely crowding the house. He had a triumph in every way
flattering, although the herculean toils of the season behind him had
most severely taxed his strength. How he played may be imagined from the
following report, made by a distinguished author in a private letter. “I
went last night to see Forrest. I saw Lear himself; and never can I
forget him, the poor, discrowned, wandering king, whose every look and
tone went to the heart. Though mimic sorrows latterly have little power
over me, I could not suppress my tears in the last scene. The tones of
the heart-broken father linger in my ear like the echo of a distant
strain of sad sweet music, inexpressibly mournful, yet sublime. The
whole picture will stay in my memory so long as soul and body hang

On the Monday and Tuesday evenings of the second week, he appeared as
Richelieu. He had taken a severe cold, and was suffering so badly from
congestion and hoarseness that Oakes tried to persuade him not to act.
He could not be induced, he said, to disappoint the audience by failing
to keep his appointment. Oakes accompanied him to his dressing-room,
helped him on with his costume, and, when the bell rang, led his
tottering steps to the stage entrance. The instant the foot of the
veteran touched the stage and his eye caught the footlights and the
circling expanse of expectant faces, he straightened up as if from an
electric shock and was all himself. At the end of each scene Oakes was
waiting at the wing to receive him and almost carry him to a chair.
Besought to take some stimulant, he replied, “No: if I die to-night,
they shall find no liquor in me. My mind shall be clear.” And so he
struggled on, playing by sheer dint of will, with fully his wonted
spirit and energy, but the moment he left the eyes of the audience
seeming almost in a state of collapse. The play was drawing near its
end. And this, though no one thought of it, this was to be the last
appearance of Edwin Forrest on the stage. Débût, Rosalia de Borgia,—
interval of fifty-five years with slow illumination of the continent by
his fame,—exit, Richelieu! Oakes stood at the wing, all anxiety, peering
in and listening intently. The characters were grouped in the final
tableau. He stood central, resting on his left foot, his right slightly
advanced and at ease, his right arm lifted and his venerable face
upturned. Then his massive and solemn voice, breaking clear from any
impediment, was heard articulating with a mournful beauty the last words
of the play:

                           “There is ONE above
           Sways the harmonious mystery of the world
           Even better than prime ministers. Alas!
           Our glories float between the earth and heaven
           Like clouds that seem pavilions of the sun
           And are the playthings of the casual wind.
           Still, like the cloud which drops on unseen crags
           The dews the wild-flower feeds on, our ambition
           May from its airy height drop gladness down
           On unsuspected virtue; and the flower
           May bless the cloud when it hath passed away.”

Then, instead of inclining for the rise of the audience and the fall of
the curtain, he gazed for an instant musingly into vacancy, and, as if
some strange intuition or prophetic spirit had raised the veil of fate,
uttered from his own mind the significant words, “_And so it ends_.”

He slept little that night, and, the next day, was clearly so much worse
that Oakes insisted resolutely that he should not act at any rate. He
was announced for Virginius, and was so set on going that his friend had
almost to use force to restrain him. Dr. S. W. Langmaid, so justly
eminent for his faithful skill, was called. He said, positively, “If you
undertake to act to-night, Mr. Forrest, you will in all likelihood die
upon the stage.” He replied, pointing to Oakes, “Then I owe my life to
that dear old fellow yonder; for if he had not obstinately resisted I
should certainly have gone.” Pneumonia set in, and for more than a week
a fatal result was feared. During all this time Oakes was his constant
nurse, catching a few moments of sleep when he could, but for the whole
period of danger never taking off his clothes except for a daily bath.
Unwearied and incessant in attentions, he left not his station until his
friend was so far recovered as to be able to start for Philadelphia. The
day after the convalescent reached home he wrote a letter of
affectionate acknowledgment to Oakes for all the services rendered with
such a loving fidelity. Here is an extract from it: “The air is sunny,
warm, and delicious, and I am pervaded by a feeling of rest which
belongs only to home. How marvellously I was spared from death’s
effacing fingers, and permitted for a little longer time to worship God
in the glad sunshine of his eternal temple. To your tender care and
solicitude during my illness I owe everything.” And thus the old tie of
friendship between the pair received another degree of depth and was
cemented with a new seal.

Here it is fit to pause awhile in the narrative, go back a little to
gather up a few interesting things not yet mentioned, and supplement the
account previously given of his inner life by some further description
of the kind of man he was in social intercourse and in the privacy of
his home during his last years.

His home was always a charmed and happy place to him, although
sorrowfully vacant of wife and children. He took great delight in the
works of art he had collected. In his picture-gallery he had paintings
of which he really made friends; and often of a night when he was
restless he would rise, go to them, light the gas, and gaze on them as
if they had a living sympathy to soothe and bless his spirit. But his
library was the favorite haunt where he felt himself indeed at ease and
supplied with just the ministration and companionship he craved. It
opened in the rear upon a spacious garden. Mr. Rees once asked him why
he did not clear up this garden and beautify it with more flower-beds.
He answered, “I prefer the trees. When I sit here alone the whistling of
the wind through their branches sounds like a voice from another world.”
He always went away with regret and came back with pleasure. Nor was his
satisfaction altogether solitary. Writing to Oakes once he says, “Yes,
my friend, I am indeed happy once more to reach this sweet haven of
rest, my own dear home. My sisters received me with the greatest joy,
the servants with unaffected gladness, and the two dogs actually went
into ecstasies over me. It was a welcome fit for an emperor.”

The loss of his three sisters one by one struck heavy blows on his
heart, and left his house darker each time than it had been before. In
1863 he writes,—

  “DEAR FRIEND OAKES,—I cannot sufficiently thank you for the kind
  words of sympathy you have expressed for me in my late unhappy
  bereavement—the loss of my dear sister Henrietta, who on the death
  of my beloved mother devoted her whole life to me. Her wisdom was
  indeed a lamp to my feet, and her love a joy to my heart. Ah, my
  friend, we cannot but remember such things were that were most dear
  to us. Do we love our friends more as we advance in life, that our
  loss of them is so poignant, while in youth we see them fall around
  us like leaves in winter weather as though the next spring would
  once more restore them? I read your letter to my remaining sisters,
  and they thanked you with their tears. You may remember that once
  under a severe affliction of your own—the death of a loved friend—I
  endeavored to console you with the hope of immortality. That fails
  me now.”

In 1869 he wrote again, “My sister Caroline died last night. We have a
sad house. Why under such bereavements has God not given us some
comforting reasonable hope in the future, where these severed ties of
friendship and love may be again united? Man’s vanity and self-love have
betrayed him into such a belief; but who knows that the fact
substantiates it?” And in 1871 once more he wrote, “My sister Eleanora
is dead, and there is now no one on earth whose veins bear blood like
mine. My heart is desolate.” This obituary notice appeared at the time:

“The death of Eleanora Forrest, sister of Mr. Edwin Forrest the
tragedian, has cast a gloom over the large circle of her acquaintances,
which time alone can dispel; but the gloom which rests over the
household in which her gentle sway and influence brought peace and
happiness no change of time or season can ever remove. To one, at least,
the light of home went out with her life. To one, now the last of his
race, his splendid mansion will be as some stately hall deserted. Its
light has gone out; the garlands which her hands twined are dead; ‘the
eyes that shone, now dimmed and gone,’ will only appear again to him in
memory. Memory, however,

                             “‘Is but a gift
                   Within a ruined temple left,
                   Recalling what its beauties were
                   And then painting what they are.’

“There was something so mild, so pure, so Christian-like, in this lady,
that her passing away from us is but a translation from earth to Heaven,
like a flower blooming here for awhile to find eternal blossom there.

“Kind, gentle, with a hand open to charity, she did not remain at home
awaiting the call of the destitute and suffering, but when the storms
and the tempests of winter came and the poor were suffering, bearing
their poverty and wretchedness in silence, she came forth unsolicited to
aid them. We could name many instances of this; but she, who while
living did not wish her charities known, receives her reward from One
who reads the human heart and sways the destinies of mankind. The writer
of this speaks feelingly of one whom it was a pleasure and a happiness
to know. If ever a pure spirit left its earthly tenement to follow
father, mother, brothers, and sisters to the home ‘eternal in the
skies,’ it was that of Eleanora Forrest. There are many left to mourn
her loss, but only one of kindred remains to grieve. To him the
knowledge of her many virtues, sisterly affection, and the bright
hereafter, must bring that peace no friendly aid can effect. Let us
remember, in our hours of affliction, that

                “‘Life’s a debtor to the grave,
                Dark lattice, letting in eternal day.’”

The revolutions of his tempestuous blood, the resentful memory of
wrongs, the keen perception of insincerity, shallowness, and
evanescence, and the want of any grounded faith in a future life gave
Forrest many hours of melancholy, of bitterness, and almost of despair.
But he never, not even in the darkest hour, became a misanthrope or an
atheist. In one of his commonplace books he had copied these lines which
he was often heard to quote:

            “The weariness, the wildness, the unrest,
              Like an awakened tempest, would not cease;
            And I said in my sorrow, Who is blessed?
              What is good? What is truth? Where is peace?”

A few of his characteristic expressions in his depressed moods may have
interest for the reader:

“Is there then no rest but in the grave? Rest without the consciousness
of rest? The rest of annihilation?”

“I am very sad and disheartened at the iniquitous decisions of these
juries and judges. I could willingly die now with an utter contempt for
this world and a perfect indifference to my fate in the next.”

“I wish the great Day of Doom were not a chimera. What a solace it would
be to all those whom man has so deeply wronged!”

“This human life is a wretched failure, and the sooner annihilation
comes to it the better.”

While these impulsive phrases reveal his intense and unstable
sensibility, they must be taken with great allowance, or they will do
injustice to his better nature. They are transitory phases of experience
betraying his weakness. In his deeper and clearer moods he felt a
strange and profound presentiment of immortality, and surmised that this
life was neither the first nor the last of us. But living as he did
mostly for this material world and its prizes, he could not hold his
mind steadily to the sublime height of belief in the eternal life of the
soul. And so all sorts of doubts came in and were recklessly
entertained. Had his spirituality equalled his sensibility and
intelligence, and had he aimed at personal perfection as zealously as he
aimed at professional excellence, his faith in immortality would have
been as unshakable as was his faith in God. Also could he have filled
his soul with the spirit of forgiveness and charity instead of harboring
tenacious instincts of hate and disgust, he would have been a serene and
benignant man. His complaining irritability would have vanished in a
devout contentment; for he would have seen a plan of exact compensations
everywhere threading the maze of human life.

But then he would not have been Edwin Forrest. Inconsistent extremes,
unregulated impulsiveness, unsubdued passion, some moral incongruity of
character and conduct, of intuition and thought, belonged to his type of
being. It is only required that those who assume to judge him shall be
just, and not be misled by any superficial or partial appearance of good
or evil to give an unfair verdict. His defects were twofold, and he had
to pay the full penalty for them. First, no man can lead a really happy
and noble life, in the high and true sense of the words, who is infested
with feelings of hate and loathing towards persons who have injured him
or shown themselves detestable. He must refuse to entertain such
emotions, and with a magnanimous and loving heart contemplate the fairer
side of society. For almost all our experience, whether we know it or
not, is strained through and tested and measured by our emotional
estimates of our fellow-men. It is chiefly in them, or in ourselves as
affected by our thoughts of them, that God reveals himself to us or
hides himself from us. Second, Forrest not only dwelt too much on mean
or hostile persons and on real or fancied wrongs, but he did not live
chiefly for the only ends which are worthy to be the supreme aim of man.
The genuine ends of a man in this world are to glorify God, to serve
humanity, and to perfect himself. And these three are inseparably
conjoined, a triune unity. The man who faithfully lives for these
religious ends will surely attain peace of mind and unwavering faith in
a Providence which orders everything and cannot err. The highest
conscious ends of Forrest were not religious, but were to glorify his
art, to perfect his strength and skill, and to win the ordinary prizes
of society,—wealth, fame, and pleasure. Elements of the superior aims
indeed entered largely into his spirit and conduct, but were not his
proposed and consecrating aim. This, as now frankly set forth, was his
failure, and the lesson it has for other men.

But, on the other hand, he had his praiseworthy success. If he was
inferior to the best men, he was greatly superior to most men. For he
was no hypocrite, parasite, profligate, squanderer of his own resources,
or usurper of the rights of others. After every abatement it will be
said of him, by all who knew the man through and through, that he was
great and original in personality, honest in every fibre, truthful and
upright according to the standard of his own conscience, tender and
sweet and generous in the inmost impulses of his soul. On the other
hand, it must be admitted that he was often the obstinate victim of
injurious and unworthy prejudices, and abundantly capable of a profanity
that was vulgar and of animosities that were ferocious. This is written
in the very spirit which he himself inculcated on his biographer, to
whom he addressed these words with his own hand in 1870: “Having
revealed myself and my history to you without disguise or affectation, I
say, Tell the blunt truth in every particular you touch, no matter where
it hits or what effect it may have. To make it easier for you, I could
well wish that my whole life, moral and mental, professional and social,
could have been photographed for your use in this biographical
undertaking. And then, ‘though all occasions should inform against me,’
though I might have too much cause to sigh over my many weaknesses and
follies, no single act of mine, I am sure, should ever make me blush
with shame. I always admired the spirit of Cromwell, who said sternly,
when an artist in taking his portrait would have omitted the disfiguring
wart on his face, ‘Paint me as I am!’”

Forrest was one of those elemental men who want always to live in direct
contact with great realities, and cannot endure to accept petty
substitutes for them, or pale phantoms of them at several removes. He
craved to taste the substantial goods of the earth in their own
freshness, and refused to be put off with mere social symbols of them.
He loved the grass, the wind, the sun, the rain, the sky, the mountains,
the thunder, the democracy. He loved his country earnestly, truth
sincerely, his art profoundly, men and women passionately and made them
love him passionately,—the last too often and too much. For these
reasons he is an interesting and contagious character, and, as his
figure is destined to loom in history, it is important that his best
traits be appreciated at their full worth.

It is but justice, as an offset to his occasional fits of the blues and
to the lugubrious sentiments he then expressed, some of which were
quoted a page or two back, to affirm the truth that if he suffered more
than most people he likewise enjoyed much more. Prevailingly he loved
the world, and set a high value on life and took uncommon pains to
secure longevity. As a general thing his spirit of enjoyment was sharp
and strong. One illustration of this was the pronounced activity of the
element of humor in him. This humor was sometimes grim, almost sardonic,
and bordering on irony and satire, but often breathed itself out in a
sunny playfulness. This lubricated the joints and sockets of the soul,
so to speak, and made the mechanism of experience move smoothly when
otherwise it would have gritted harshly with great frictional waste in
unhappy resistances. It is difficult to give in words due illustration
of this quality, of its genial manifestations in his manner, and of its
happy influence on his inner life. But all his intimate friends know
that the trait was prominent in him and of great importance. When on
board the steamer bound for California, sick and wretched, he sent for
the captain, and with great earnestness demanded, “For how much will you
sell this ship and cargo?” After giving a rough estimate of the value,
the captain asked, “But why do you wish to know this?” Forrest answered,
“I want to scuttle her and end this detestable business by sinking the
whole concern to the bottom of the sea!” A soft-spoken clergyman, who
occupied the next state-room, overheard him giving energetic expression
to his discontent, and called on him to expostulate on the duty of
forbearance and patience, saying, “Our Saviour, you know, was always
patient.” “Yes,” retorted the actor, grimly, “but our Saviour went to
sea only once, and then he disliked it so much that he got out and
walked. Unfortunately, we cannot do that.”

At another time a Calvinistic divine had been trying to convince him of
the punitive character of death, arguing that death was not the original
destiny of man, but a penalty imposed for sin. “What,” said Forrest, “do
you mean to say that if it had not been for that unlucky apple we should
have seen old Adam hobbling around here still?”

Even to the end of his life he had the heart of a boy, and when with
trusted friends it was ever and anon breaking forth in a playfulness and
a jocosity which would have astonished those who deemed him so stern and
lugubrious a recluse. One day he went into a druggist’s shop where he
was familiar, for some little article. The druggist chanced to be alone
and stooping very low behind his counter pouring something from a jug.
Forrest slipped up and leaning over him thundered in his ear with full
pomp of declamation, “An ounce of civet, good apothecary!” The poor
trader revealed his comic fright by a bound from the floor which would
not have disgraced a gymnast.

On arriving at the places where he was to act he was often annoyed by
strangers who pressed about him with pestering importunity merely from a
vulgar curiosity. On these occasions he would sometimes, as he reached
the hotel and saw the crowd, leap out of the carriage, say with a low
bow to his agent, “Please keep your seat, Mr. Forrest, and I will
inquire about a room,” and then vanish, laughing in his sleeve, and
leaving the embarrassed McArdle to sustain the situation as best he

His just and complacent pride in his work, too, kept him from being
chronically any such disappointed and grouty complainer as he might
sometimes appear. It is a sublime joy for a man of genius, a great
artist, to feel, as the reward of heroic labor engrafted on great
endowment, that his rank is at the top of the world; that in some
particulars he is superior to all the twelve hundred millions of men
that are alive. There were passages in the acting of Forrest, besides
the terrific burst of passion in the curse of Lear, which he might well
believe no other man on earth could equal.

The knowledge and culture of Forrest were in no sense limited to the
range of his profession. He was uncommonly well educated, not only by a
wide acquaintance with books, but also by a remarkably varied
observation and experience of the world. Whenever he spoke or wrote,
some proof appeared of his reading and reflection. Speaking of Humboldt,
he said, “Humboldt was a man open to truth without a prejudice. He was
to the tangible and physical world what Shakspeare was to the mind and
heart of man.” Characterizing a religious discourse which much pleased
him, he said, “Its logic is incontrovertible, its philosophy
unexceptionable, and its humanity most admirable,—quite different from
those homilies which people earth with demons, heaven with slaves, and
hell with men.” On one occasion, alluding to the facts that Shakspeare
when over forty attended the funeral of his mother, and that his boy
Hamnet died at the age of twelve, he regretted that the peerless poet
had not written out what he must then have felt, and given it to the
world. His genius under such an inspiration might have produced
something which would have made thenceforth to the end of time all
parents who read it treat their children more tenderly, all children
love and honor their parents more religiously. But, he added, it seemed
contrary to the genius of Shakspeare to utilize his own experience for
any didactic purpose. At another time he said, “Shakspeare is the most
eloquent preacher that ever taught humanity to man. The sermons he
uttered will be repeated again and again with renewed and unceasing
interest not only in his own immortal pages, but from the inspired lips
of great tragedians through all the coming ages of the world.”

A touching thing in Forrest in his last years was the unpurposed organic
revelation in his voice of what he had suffered in the battle of life.
What he had experienced of injustice and harshness, of selfishness and
treachery, of beautiful things relentlessly snatched away by time and
death, had left a permanent memorial in the unstudied tones and cadences
of his speech. As he narrated or quoted or read, his utterance was
varied in close keeping with what was to be expressed. But the moment he
fell back on himself, and gave spontaneous utterance from within, there
was a perpetual recurrence of a minor cadence, a half-veiled sigh, a
strangely plaintive tone, sweet and mournful as the wail of a dying wind
in a hemlock grove.

A trait of Forrest, to which all his friends will testify, was the
perfect freedom of his usual manner in private life from all
theatricality or affectation. His bearing was natural and honest,
varying truthfully with his impulses. With an actor so powerfully marked
as he this is not common. Most great actors carry from their
professional into their daily life some fixed strut of attitude or
chronic stilt of elocution or pompous trick of quotation. It was not so
with Forrest, and his detachment from all such habits, his straight-on
simplicity, were an honor to him and a charm to those who could
appreciate the suppression of the shop in the manly assertion of dignity
and rectitude. He had no swagger, though he had a swing which belonged
to his heavy equilibrium. His speech attracted attention only from its
uncommon ease and finish, not from any ostentation. The actor, it has
been justly said, is so far contemptible who keeps his mock grandeur on
when his buskins are off, and orders a coffee-boy with the air of a
Roman general commanding an army. He seems ever to say by his manner, It
is easier to be a hero than to act one. Charles Lamb relates that a
friend one day said to Elliston, “I like Wrench because he is the same
natural easy creature on the stage that he is off.” Elliston replied,
with charming unconsciousness, “My case exactly. I am the same person
off the stage that I am on.” The inference instead of being identical
was opposite. The one was never acting, the other always. Mrs. Siddons,
it is said, used to stab the potatoes, and call for a teaspoon in a tone
that curdled the blood of the waiter. Once when she was buying a piece
of calico at a shop in Bath, she interrupted the voluble trader by
inquiring, Will it wash? with an accent that made him start back from
the counter. John Philip Kemble, dissatisfied with Sheridan’s management
and resolved to free himself from all engagements with him, rose in the
greenroom like a slow pillar of state, and said to that astonished
individual, “I am an eagle whose wings have long been bound down by
frosts and snows; but now I shake my pinions and cleave into the general
air unto which I am born.” Sheridan looked into the heart of the eagle,
and with a few wheedling words smoothed his ruffled plumage and made him
coo like a dove in response to new proposals. Greatness of soul is
necessary for a great actor, quick detachableness, and facility of
transitions, with full understanding, sensibility, and fire; but cold
counterfeits of these, empty forms of them swollen out with mechanic
pomp, are as odious as they are frequent. Some are great only when
inspired and set off by grand adjuncts; others are great by the native
build of their being. Forrest was of this latter class. He knew how to
act in the theatre, and to be simple and sincere in the parlor.

But, when all is said, the greatest quality and charm of Forrest, the
deepest hiding of his magnetism, was his softness and truth of heart,
the quickness, strength, and beauty of his affection. Bitter experience
had taught him, before he was an old man, not to wear his heart on his
sleeve for the heartless to peck at it. But how shallow the observation
which, not seeing his heart on his sleeve, incontinently concluded that
he had none! The reverential gratitude with which he delighted to dwell
on the memory of his mother, the yearning fondness with which he was
wont to recall the names of his early benefactors and dwell on the
thought of the few living friends who had been ever kind and true to
him, amply demonstrated the strong grasp of his affection. “My mother,”
he one day said to him who now copies his words, “was weeping on a
certain occasion in my early childhood when she was hard pressed by
poverty and care. My father, in his grave, almost awful way, said to
her, ‘Do not weep, Rebecca. It will do no good. I know it is very dark
here. But it is all right. Above the clouds the sun is still shining.’ I
remember it made a great impression on my young mind; and many a time in
afterlife it came up and was a comfort to me. Ah, what, what would I not
give if I could really believe that when that dear good soul left the
earth my father met her ‘on a happier shore,’ and said, ‘Rebecca, you
will weep no more now. Did I not tell you it was all right?’” After the
death of Forrest, nigh a quarter of a century after it was written, was
found among his papers a faded and tear-stained letter, enclosing two
withered leaves, which read thus:


  “These leaves were taken from your mother’s grave, on Sunday, August
  5th, 1849, and are presented as a humble but sacred memorial by your

                                                            “W. H. M.”

There is no surer proof of plentifulness of love within than is shown by
its finding vent in endearments lavished on lower creatures and on
inanimate things,—flowers, books, pictures, birds, dogs, horses. All
these were copiously loved by Forrest. All his life he had some dog for
a friend, and for the last twenty years he kept two or more. In the
summer of 1870 a little turkey in his garden, only a week old, by some
accident got its leg broken. He saw it, and commiserately picked up the
poor thing, carefully set its leg, laid it in a basket of wool, hung it
in a tree in the sunshine, and tenderly nursed and fed it till it was
whole. This and the succeeding incidents occurred under the observation
of his biographer, who was then paying him a visit.

He used to go into his stable and pat and fondle his horses and talk
with them, looking in their eyes and smoothing their necks, as if they
had full intelligence and sympathy with him. “Why, Brownie, poor
Brownie, handsome Brownie, are you not happy to come out to-day?” he
said, as we rode along the Wissahickon, in a tone so tender and sad that
it moistened the eyes of his human hearer. It was his custom to go up
the river-side to a secluded place, and there get out and feed the horse
with apples. One day he had forgotten his supply, and, as he dismounted
and walked along in front of Brownie, he was touched to find the
intelligent creature following him, smelling at his pockets and nudging
him for her apples.

In one aspect it was beautiful, in another it was mournful, to see him
going about his house, lonely, lonely, solacing himself for what was
absent with humble substitutes. He had a mocking-bird wonderfully gifted
and a great favorite with him and his sister. It bore the nickname of
Bob. In moulting it fell sick, lost both voice and sight, and seemed to
be dying. The great soft-hearted tragedian, thought by many to be so
gruff and savage, was overheard, as he stood before the cage, talking to
the sick bird, “Ah, poor Bob, poor Bob! Your myriad-voiced throat has
filled my house with wondrous melodies these years past. Why must this
cruel affliction come to you? You are a sinless creature. You cannot do
any harm. It perplexes my philosophy to know why you should have to
suffer in this way. Ah, little Bob, where now are all your sweet
mockeries? Blind? Dumb? It cuts me to the very soul to think of it. Ah,
well, well!” And he tottered slowly away, musing, quite as his Lear used
to do on the stage when unkindness had broken the old royal heart.

Another characteristic incident is worth relating. He had a chamber at
the Metropolitan Hotel fronting on Broadway. Oakes and the present
writer were in a rear room. He sent for us to come to him and see the
funeral-procession of Farragut pass. He sank on his knees at the open
window as the sacred corse went by, and we saw the tears streaming down
his cheeks. The bands played a dirge, and the soldiers and marines
marched on, visible masses of music in blue and gold, as the sailors
proudly carried their dead admiral through the central artery of the
nation, and every heart seemed vibrating with reverence and grief. “The
grandest thing about this,” said Forrest, “is that he was a good man,
worthy of all the honor he receives. He whose modesty kept his bosom
from ever swelling with complacency while he was alive may now well
exult in death, as the sailors, unwilling to confide their commander to
any catafalque, lovingly bear him on their shoulders to his grave.”

The love which Forrest had for children was one of the deepest traits of
his disposition. This tenderness was the same all through his career,
except that it seemed to grow more profound and pensive in his age. Two
anecdotes selected from among many will set this quality in an
interesting light. When he was in the fullest strength of his manhood
and was acting in Boston at the old National Theatre, there was at his
hotel a very sick child whose mother was quite worn out with nursing it.
Forrest begged permission to take care of the little sufferer through
the succeeding night, that the mother might sleep. The mother, fearing
that the terrible Metamora would prove rather a repulsive nurse for her
darling, hesitated, but at length gave consent. At the close of the play
he hurried back with so much haste that half the paint was left on one
of his cheeks. Through the whole night, hour after hour, he paced up and
down the room, tenderly soothing the fevered babe, which lay on his
great chest with nothing but a silk shirt between its face and his skin.
The mother slept, and so did the child. And when the doctor came in the
morning, he said that the care of Forrest and the vitality the infant
drew from his body during the long hours had saved its life.

             All night long the baby-voice
               Wailed pitiful and low;
             All night long the mother paced
               Wearily to and fro,
             Striving to woo to those dim eyes
               Health-giving slumbers deep;
             Striving to stay the fluttering life
               With heavenly balm of sleep.

             Three nights have passed—the fourth has come;
               O weary, weary feet!
             That still must wander to and fro—
               Relief and rest were sweet.
             But still the pain-wrung, ceaseless moan
               Breaks from the baby-breast,
             And still the mother strives to soothe
               The suffering child to rest.

             Lo, at the door a giant form
               Stands sullen, grand, and vast!
             Over that broad brow every storm
               Life’s clouds can send has passed.
             Those features of heroic mould
               Can waken awe or fear;
             Those eyes have known Othello’s scowl,
               The maniac glare of Lear.

             The deep, full voice, whose tones can sweep
               In thunder to the ear,
             Has learned such softness that the babe
               Can only smile to hear.
             The strong arms fold the little form
               Upon the massive breast.
             “Go, mother, _I_ will watch your child,”
               He whispers; “go and rest!”

             All night long the giant form
               Treads gently to and fro;
             All night long the deep voice speaks
               In murmured soothings low,
             Until the rose-light of the morn
               Flushes the far-off skies:
             In slumber sweet on Forrest’s breast
               At last the baby lies.

             O Saviour, Thou didst bid one day
               The children come to Thee!
             He who has served Thy little ones,
               Hath he not, too, served Thee?
             Low lies the actor now at rest
               Beneath the summer light;
             Sweet be his sleep as that he gave
               The suffering child that night!

                                     LUCY H. HOOPER.

The other anecdote, though less dramatic, is of still deeper
significance as a revelation of his soul. During the last ten or twelve
years of his life, when he was fulfilling his engagements in the
different cities, he used so to time and direct his walks that he might
be near some great public school at the hour when the children were
dismissed. There he would stand—the grim-looking, lonely old man, whose
surface might be hard, but whose heart was very soft—and gaze with a
thoughtful and loving regard on the throng of boys and girls as they
rushed out bubbling over with delight, variously sorting and grouping
themselves on their way home. This was a great enjoyment to him, though
not unmixed with an attractive pain. It soothed his childless soul with
ideal parentage, gave him a bright glad life in reflected sympathy with
the dancing shouters he saw, and stirred in his imagination a thousand
dreams, now of the irrevocable past, now of the mysterious future.

Resuming the narrative with the opening of June, 1872, Forrest is lying
in his bed in a woeful state, brought on him by a nostrum called
“Jenkins’s cure for gout.” A doctor Jenkins of New Orleans told him if
he would take it, it would produce an excruciating attack of the
disease, but would then eradicate it from the system and effect a
permanent cure. He took it. He experienced the excruciating attack. The
permanent cure did not follow. As soon as Oakes learned of his
situation, body racked with torture, limbs palsied, mind at times
unhinged and wandering, he started for the scene. His own words will
best describe their meeting. “When I entered his chamber he was in a
doze, and I stood at his bedside until he awoke. Opening his eyes, he
gazed steadily into my face for about a minute. He knew me then, and
said, in the most touching manner, ‘My friend, I am always glad to see
you, but never in my life so much so as now.’ Again looking steadily at
me for about a minute, he said, ‘Oakes, put my hand in yours: it is
paralyzed but true.’ I took his hand tenderly from the bed and placed it
in mine. He could not move the fingers, but I felt his noble heart throb
through them. At once I began organizing my hospital. I had him washed,
his flannel and the bed-linen changed, the doors and windows flung wide
open, and gave him all he could take of the best of nourishment,—
strawberries, fresh buttermilk, and beef tea strong enough to draw four
hundred pounds the whole length of the house. Already he is greatly
improved. I keep him perfectly quiet, allowing no one on any excuse
whatever to see him.” Under this style of doctoring and nursing, all
impregnated with the magnetism of friendship, it was natural that in
three weeks he should be comfortably about his house, as he was.

One morning in the midst of his illness, but when he had passed a night
free from pain, and his mind was in a most serene state yet marked by
great exaltation of thought and language, he began relating to Oakes, in
the most eloquent manner, his recollections of old Joseph Jefferson, the
great comedian. He told how when a boy he had visited that beautiful and
gifted old man; what poverty and what purity and high morality were in
his household; how he had educated his children; and how at last he had
died among strangers, heart-broken by ingratitude. He told how he had
seen him act Dogberry in a way that out-topped all comparison; how at a
later time he had again seen him play the part of the Fool in Lear so as
to set up an idol in the memory of the beholders, for he insinuated into
the words such wonderful contrasts of the greatness and misery and
mystery of life with the seeming ignorant and innocent simplicity of the
comments on them, that comedy became wiser and stronger than tragedy.

His listener afterwards said, “We two were alone. Never had I seen him
so deeply and so loftily stirred in his very soul as he was then about
Jefferson. His eulogy had more moral dignity and intense religious
feeling than any sermon I ever heard from the pulpit. It was as grand
and fine as anything said by Cicero. This was especially true of his
closing words. When he seemed to have emptied his heart in admiring
praises on the old player, he ended thus, querying with himself as if
soliloquizing: ‘Is it possible that all of such a man can go into the
ground and rot, and nothing of him at all be left forever? If he is not
immortal, he ought to be. It must be that he is, though our philosophy
cannot find it out.’”

It is a curious proof of how his moods shaped and colored his beliefs to
read in connection with the above the following extract from a letter he
wrote in 1866. “There is great consolation in the sincere belief of the
immortality of the soul. If I could honestly and reasonably entertain
such a faith, that the love and friendship of to-day will extend through
all time with renewed devotion, death would have no sting and the grave
no victory. I quite envied the closing hours of Senator Foote the other
day. He was so serenely confident of seeing all his friends again, that
by the perishing light of his fervid brain he seemed for a moment to
realize the illusion of his earth-taught faith.”

It was now September. The semi-paralyzed condition of his limbs forbade
every thought of returning to the stage that season; though, with a
self-flattery singular in one of so experienced and clear a head, he
fondly hoped to recover in time, and to act for years yet. His interest
in everything connected with his profession knew no abatement, and he
always took the most cheerful view of the future of the drama. He did
not yield to that common fallacy which glorifies the past at the expense
of the present and holds that everything glorious is always in decline
and sure ere long to perish. Sheridan said, while surrounded by Johnson,
Burke, Hume, Robertson, Gibbon, Pitt, and Fox, “The days of little men
have arrived.” The trouble is that we see the foibles and feel the
faults of our contemporaries, but not those of our predecessors who sit,
afar and still, aggrandized into Olympians in historic memory. Mrs.
Siddons often saw before her, sitting together in the orchestra, all in
tears, Burke, Reynolds, Fox, Gibbon, Windham, and Sheridan. Yet in her
day as now the constant talk was of the failing glory of the theatre.
Also in the time of Talma, in 1807, Cailhava presented a memoir to the
Institute of France, “Sur les Causes de la Décadence du Théâtre.” The
fact is, the theatres of the world were never so numerous, so splendid,
so largely attended, as now; the playing as a whole was never so good,
the morality of the pieces never so high, and the behavior of the
audiences never so orderly and refined. In spite of everything that can
be said on the other side, this is the truth. The former advantage of
the drama was simply that it stood out in more solitary and conspicuous
relief, occupied a larger relative space, and made therefore a greater
and more talked-of sensation. Its rule is now divided with a swarm of
other claimants. Still, intrinsically its worth and rank must increase
in the future, and not diminish. Forrest always clearly held to this
faith, and was much cheered by it. His conviction that the drama was
charged with a sacred and indestructible mission, and his enthusiastic
love for the personal practice of its art,—these were thoughts and

             “In him which though all others should decay,
             Would be the last that time could bear away.”

Accordingly, he would withdraw from the worship of his life, if withdraw
he must, only piecemeal and as compelled. His voice was unimpaired, and
he had for years been solicited to give readings. And so he resolved,
since he could not play Hamlet and Othello on the stage, he would read
them in the lecture-room.

Therefore he read these two plays in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Brooklyn,
New York, and Boston. Although the rich mellow fulness, ease, and force
of his elocution were highly enjoyable, and there were many beauties of
characterization in his readings, his physique was so deeply shattered,
and his vital forces so depressed, that the vivacity, the magnetism, the
spirited variety of power necessary to draw and to hold a miscellaneous
crowd were wanting. The experiment was comparatively a failure. The
large halls were so thinly seated that, though the marks of approval
were strong, the result was not inspiring. He felt somewhat
disheartened, much wearied, and sighed for a good long period of rest in
his own quiet home. And so on Saturday afternoon, December 7, 1872, in
Tremont Temple, Boston, he read Othello, and made unconsciously his last
bow on earth to a public assembly, with the apt words of the unhappy
Moor, whose character much resembled his own:

          “I kissed thee ere I killed thee: no way but this,—
          Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.”

Oakes went with him to the train, saw him comfortably installed in the
car, and bade him an affectionate good-bye. “Another parting, my
friend!” said Forrest: “the last one must come some time. I shall
probably be the first to die.” Arriving at the hotel in New York, he
ordered a room and a fire, and went to bed, “and lay there thinking,” as
he said, “what a pleasant time he was indebted to his friend for in
Boston.” He reached home safely on the 9th. Two days he passed in rest,
lounging about his library, reading a little, and attending only to a
few necessary matters of business. “The time glided away like an
ecstatic dream, without any let or hindrance,” he wrote on the 11th to
Oakes,—the last letter he ever penned,—closing with the words, “God
bless you ever, my dear and much valued friend.”

The earthly finale was at hand. Twenty years before this, in 1852, he
wrote to one of his early friends:

  “I thank you for your kindness in drinking my health in company with
  my sisters to-day, the anniversary of my birth. The weather here is
  gloomy and wears an aspect in accordance with the color of my fate.
  There is a destiny in this strange world which often decrees an
  undeserved doom. The ways of Providence are truly mysterious. From
  boyhood to the present time I have endeavored to walk the paths of
  honor and honesty with a kindly and benevolent spirit towards all
  men. And I am not unwilling that my whole course of life should be
  scrutinized with justice and impartiality. When it shall be so all
  weighed together I have no fear of the result. And yet I have been
  fearfully wronged, maligned, and persecuted. I do not, however, lose
  my faith and trust in that God who will one day hold all men to a
  strict and sure account. Kind regards to all, and believe me,

                                              “Ever yours,
                                                      “EDWIN FORREST.”

On the eighth recurrence of the same anniversary after the date of the
above sombre epistle—that is, in 1860—he wrote these words: “Friendship
is as much prostituted as love. My heart is sick, and I grow aweary of
life.” And once more, on the 9th of March, 1871, he set down his feeling
in the melancholy sentence, “This is my birthday, another funeral
procession in my sad life, and the end not far off.” These expressions
reveal the gloomier side of a soul which had its sunny side as well, and
the more painful aspect of a life which was also abundantly blessed with
wealth, triumphs, and pleasures. But be the outward lot of any man what
it may, unless he has communion with God, a love for his fellows that
swallows up every hatred, and a firm faith in immortality, the burden of
the song of his unsatisfied soul will ever be, “Vanity of vanities, all
is vanity.”

But sooner or later there is an hour for every earthly vanity to cease.
Nothing mortal can escape or be denied the universal fate and boon of
death. Its meaning is the same for all, however diverse its disguises or
varied its forms. A slave and prisoner, starved and festered in his
chains, groaned, as the sweet and strange release came, “How welcome is
this deliverance! Farewell, painful world and cruel men!” A Sultan,
stricken and sinking on his throne, cried, “O God, I am passing away in
the hand of the wind!” A fool, in his painted costume, with his grinning
bauble in his hand, said, as he too vanished into the hospitable
Unknown, “Alackaday, poor Tom is a dying, and nobody cares. O me! was
there ever such a pitiful to-do?” And a Pope, the crucifix lifted before
his eyes and the tiara trembling from his brow, breathed his life out in
the words, “Now I surrender my soul to Him who gave it!”

The death of a player is particularly suggestive and impressive from the
sharp contrast of its perfect reality and sincerity with all the
fictitious assumptions and scenery of his professional life. The last
drop-scene is the lowering of the eyelid on that emptied ocular stage
which in its time has held so many acts and actors. The deaths of many
players have been marked by mysterious coincidences. Powell, starting
from the bed on which he lay ill, cried, “Is this a dagger which I see
before me? O God!”—and instantly expired. Peterson, playing the Duke in
Measure for Measure, said,—

          “Reason thus with life:
          If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
          That none but fools would keep; a breath thou art”—

and fell into the arms of the Friar to whom he was speaking; and these
were his last words. Cummings had just spoken the words of Dumont in
Jane Shore—

            “Be witness for me, ye celestial hosts,
            Such mercy and such pardon as my soul
            Accords to thee and begs of heaven to show thee,
            May such befall me at my latest hour”—

when he suddenly gasped, and was dead. Palmer, while enacting the part
of the Stranger, having uttered the sentence in his rôle, “There is
another and a better world,” dropped lifeless on the stage. In such
instances Fate interpolates in the stereotyped performance a dread
impromptu which must make us all feel what mysteries we are and by what
mysteries enshrouded.

The morning of the 12th came, and the death of Edwin Forrest was at
hand. In the early light, solitary in the privacy of his chamber, he who
had no blood relative on earth, the last of his race, was summoned to
give up his soul and take the unreturning road into the voiceless
mystery. He who in the mimic scene had so often acted death was now to
perform it in reality. Now he who in all his theatrical impersonations
had been so democratic, was to be, in his closing and unwitnessed human
impersonation, supremely democratic, both in the substance and in the
manner of his performing. For this severing of the spirit from the
flesh, this shrouded and mystic farewell of the soul to the world, is a
part cast inevitably for every member of the family of man, and enacted
under conditions essentially identical by all, from the emperor to the
pauper. Perform or omit whatever else he may, every one must go through
with this. Furthermore, in the enactment of it all artificial dialects
of expression, all caste peculiarities of behavior, fall away; the
profoundest vernacular language of universal nature alone comes to the
surface, and the pallor of the face, the tremor of the limbs, the
glazing of the eye, the gasp, the rattle, the long sigh, and the
unbreakable silence,—are the same for all. Death knows neither
politeness nor impoliteness, only truth. Now the hour was at hand whose
coming and method had been foresignalled years ago, when, at Washington,
an apoplectic clot hung the warning of its black flag in his brain. No
visible spectators gathered to the sight, whatever invisible ones may
have come. No lights were kindled, no music played, no bell rang, no
curtain rose, no prompter spoke. But the august theatre of nature,
crowded with the circulating ranks of existence, stood open for the
performance of the most critical and solemn portion of a mortal destiny.
And suddenly the startling command came. With a shudder of all the
terrified instincts of the organism he sprang to the action. There was a
sanguinary rush through the proscenium of the senses. The cerebral stage
deluged in blood, the will instantly surrendered its private functions,
all fleshly consciousness vanished, and that automatic procedure of
nature, which, when not meddled with by individual volition, is
infallible, took up the task. Then, step by step, point for point, phase
on phase, he went through the enactment of his own death, in the
minutest particulars from beginning to end, with a precision that was
absolutely perfect, and a completeness that could never admit of a
repetition. It was the greatest part, filled with the most boundless
meaning, of all that he had ever sustained; and no critic could detect
the slightest flaw in its representation.

The appalling performance was done, the actor disrobed, transformed, and
vanished, when the servants, concerned at his delay to appear, and
alarmed at obtaining no answer to their knocking, entered the chamber.
The body, dressed excepting as to the outer coat, lay facing upwards on
the bed, with the hands grasping a pair of light dumb-bells, and a livid
streak across the right temple. A near friend and a physician were
immediately called. But it was vain. The fatal acting was finished, and
the player gone beyond recall.

       The curtain falls. The drama of a life
         Is ended. One who trod the mimic stage
       As if the crown, the sceptre, and the robe
         Were his by birthright—worn from youth to age—
       “Ay, every inch a king,” with voiceless lips,
       Lies in the shadow of Death’s cold eclipse.

       _Valete et plaudite!_ Well might he
         Have used the Roman’s language of farewell
       Who was “the noblest Roman of them all;”
         For Brutus spoke, and Coriolanus fell,
       And Spartacus defied the she-wolf’s power,
       In the great actor’s high meridian hour.

       How as the noble Moor he wooed and wed
         His bride of Venice; how his o’erwrought soul,
       Tortured and racked and wildly passion-tossed,
         Was whirled, resisting, to the fatal goal,
       Doting, yet dooming! Every trait was true;
       He lived the being that the poet drew.

       Room for the aged Cardinal! Once more
         The greatest statesman France has ever known
       Waked from the grave and wove his subtle spells;
         A power behind, but greater than, the throne.
       Is Richelieu gone? It seems but yesterday
       We heard his voice and watched his features’ play.

       Greatest of all in high creative skill
         Was Lear, poor discrowned king and hapless sire.
       What varied music in the actor’s voice!
         The sigh of grief, the trumpet-tone of ire.
       Now both are hushed; we ne’er shall hear that strain
       Of well-remembered melody again.

       No fading laurels did his genius reap;
         With Shakspeare’s best interpreters full high
       His name is graven on Fame’s temple-front,
         With Kean’s and Kemble’s, names that will not die
       While memory venerates the poet’s shrine
       And holds his music more than half divine.

                                             FRANCIS A. DURIVAGE.

Before noon Oakes received the shock of this portentous telegram from
Dougherty: “Forrest died this morning; nothing will be done until you
arrive.” He started at once, and reached Philadelphia in the bitter cold
of the next morning at four o’clock. Describing the scene, at a later
period, he writes, “I went directly into his bedchamber. There he lay,
white and pulseless as a man of marble. For a few minutes it seemed to
me that my body was as cold as his and my heart as still. The little
while I stood at his side, speechless, almost lifeless, seemed an age.
No language can express the agony of that hour, and even now I cannot
bear to turn my mind back to it.”

Arrangements were made for a simple and unostentatious funeral; a modest
card of invitation being sent to only about sixty of his nearest friends
or associates in private and professional life. But it was found
necessary to forego the design of a reserved and quiet burial on account
of the multitudes who felt so deep an interest in the occasion, and
expressed so strong a desire to be present at the last services that
they could not be refused admission. When the hour arrived, on that dark
and rainy December day, the heavens muffled in black and weeping as if
they felt with the human gloom below, the streets were blocked with the
crowd, all anxious to see once more, ere it was borne forever from
sight, the memorable form and face. The doors were thrown open to them,
and it was estimated that nearly two thousand people in steady stream
flowed in and out, each one in turn taking his final gaze. The house was
draped in mourning and profusely filled with flowers. In a casket
covered with a black cloth, silver mounted, and with six silver handles,
clothed in a black dress suit, reposed the dead actor. Every trace of
passion and of pain was gone from the firm and fair countenance, looking
startlingly like life, whose placid repose nothing could ever disturb
again. All over the body and the casket and around it were heaped floral
tributes in every form, sent from far and near,—crosses, wreaths,
crowns, and careless clusters. From four actresses in four different
cities came a cross of red and white roses, a basket of evergreens, a
wreath of japonicas, and a crown of white camelias. Delegations from
various dramatic associations were present. A large deputation of the
Lotus Club came from New York with the mayor of that city at their head.
All classes were there, from the most distinguished to the most humble.
Many of the old steadfast friends of other days passed the coffin, and
looked their last on its occupant, with dripping eyes. One, a life-long
professional coadjutor, stooped and kissed the clay-cold brow. Several
poor men and women who had been blessed by his silent charities touched
every heart by the deep grief they showed. And the household servants
wept aloud at parting from the old master who had made himself earnestly
loved by them.

The only inscription on the coffin-lid was the words,

                             EDWIN FORREST.

             _Born March 9, 1806. Died December 12, 1872._

The pall-bearers were James Oakes, James Lawson, Daniel Dougherty, John
W. Forney, Jesse R. Burden, Samuel D. Gross, George W. Childs, and James
Page. The funeral cortége, consisting of some sixty carriages, moved
through throngs of people lining the sidewalk along the way to Saint
Paul’s Church, where the crowd was so great, notwithstanding the rain,
as to cause some delay. It seemed as though the very reserve and
retiracy of the man in his last years had increased the latent popular
curiosity about him, investing him with a kind of mystery. A simple
prayer was read; and then, in the family vault, with the coffined and
mouldering forms of his father and mother and brother and sisters around
him, loving hands placed all that was mortal of the greatest tragedian
that ever lived in America.

The announcement of the sudden and solitary death of Forrest produced a
marked sensation throughout the country. In the chief cities meetings of
the members of the dramatic profession were called, and resolutions
passed in honor and lamentation for the great man and player, “whose
remarkable originality, indomitable will, and unswerving fidelity,” they
asserted, “made him an honor to the walk of life he had chosen,” and
“whose lasting monument will be the memory of his sublime delineations
of the highest types of character on the modern stage.”

For a long time the newspapers abounded with biographic and obituary
notices of him, with criticisms, anecdotes, personal reminiscences. In a
very few instances the bitterness of ancient grudges still pursued him
and spoke in unkindness and detraction. There are men in whose meanness
so much malignity mixes that they cannot forgive or forget even the
dead. But in nearly every case the tone of remark on him was highly
honorable, appreciative, and even generous. Two brief examples of this
style may be cited.

“One thing must be said of Edwin Forrest, now that he lies cold in the
tomb—he never courted popularity; he never flattered power. Importuned a
thousand times to enter society, he rather avoided it. The few
friendships he had were sincere. He never boasted of his charities; and
yet we think, when the secrets of his life are unsealed, this solitary
man, who dies without leaving a single known person of his own blood,
will prove that he had a heart that could throb for all humanity. Having
known him and loved him through his tribulations and his triumphs for
more than a generation, we feel that in what we say we speak the truth
of one who was a sincere friend, an honest citizen, and a benevolent

“In our view Edwin Forrest was a great man; the one genius, perhaps,
that the American stage has given to history. The conditions of his
youth, the rough-and-tumble struggle of a life fired by a grand purpose,
the loves, hates, triumphs, and failures that preceded the placing of
the bays upon his brow, and the long reign that no new-comer ventured to
disturb, all point to a nature that could do nothing by halves and bore
the ineffaceable imprint of positive greatness. He was, essentially, a
self-made man. All the angularities that result from a culture confined
by the very conditions of its existence to a few of the many directions
in which men need to grow were his. His genius developed itself
irresistibly,—even as a spire of corn will shoot up despite encumbering
stones,—gnarled, rugged, and perhaps disproportioned. His art was
acquired not in the scholar’s closet or under the careful eye of learned
tradition, but from demonstrative American audiences. Therefore such
errors of performance as jumped with the easily excited emotions of an
unskilled auditory were made a part of his education and his creed by a
law which not even genius can surmount. So Forrest grew to giant
stature, a one-sided man. Experience and a liberal culture in later life
worked for him all that opportunity can do for greatness. That these did
not wholly remove the faults of his early training was inevitable, but
they so broadened his life and power that men of wisest censure saw in
him the greatest actor of his time, and a man who under favorable early
conditions would have stood, perhaps, peerless in the history of his
art. Such a man, bearing a life flooded with the sunshine of glory, but
often clouded with storm and almost wrecked by the pain that is born of
passion, needs from the nation that produced and honored him, not
fulsome adulation or biased praise, but dispassionate analysis and
intelligent appreciation.”

One elaborate sketch of his life and character was published—by far the
ablest and boldest that appeared—whose most condemnatory portion and
moral gist ought to be quoted here, for two reasons. First, on account
of its incisive power, honesty, and splendid eloquence. Second, that
what is unjust in it may be seen and qualified:

“The death of this remarkable man is an incident which seems to prompt
more of indefinite emotion than of definite thought. The sense that is
uppermost is the sense that a great vitality, an enormous individuality
of character, a boundless ambition, a tempestuous spirit, a life of rude
warfare and often of harsh injustice, an embittered mind, and an age
laden with disappointment and pain, are all at rest. Mr. Forrest, partly
from natural bias to the wrong and partly from the force of
circumstances and the inexorable action of time, had made shipwreck of
his happiness; had cast away many golden opportunities; had outlived his
fame; had outlived many of his friends and alienated others; had seen
the fabric of his popularity begin to crumble; had seen the growth of
new tastes and the rise of new idols; had found his claims as an actor,
if accepted by many among the multitude, rejected by many among the
judicious; and, in wintry age, broken in health, dejected in spirit, and
thwarted in ambition, had come to the ‘last scene of all’ with great
wealth, indeed, but with very little of either love or peace or hope.
Death, at almost all times a blessing, must, in ending such an
experience as this, be viewed as a tender mercy. His nature—which should
have been noble, for it contained elements of greatness and beauty—was
diseased with arrogance, passion, and cruelty. It warred with itself,
and it made him desolate. He has long been a wreck. There was nothing
before him here but an arid waste of suffering; and, since we understand
him thus, we cannot but think with a tender gratitude that at last he is
beyond the reach of all trouble, and where neither care, sorrow, self-
rebuke, unreasoning passion, resentment against the world, nor physical
pain can any more torment him. His intellect was not broad enough to
afford him consolation under the wounds that his vanity so often
received. All his resource was to shut himself up in a kind of feudal
retreat and grim seclusion, where he brooded upon himself as a great
genius misunderstood and upon the rest of the world as a sort of
animated scum. This was an unlovely nature; but, mingled in it, were the
comprehension and the incipient love of goodness, sweetness, beauty,
great imaginings, and beneficent ideas. He knew what he had missed,
whether of intellectual grandeur, moral excellence, or the happiness of
the affections, and in the solitude of his spirit he brooded upon his
misery. The sense of this commended him to our sympathy when he was
living, and it commends his memory to our respect in death.”

The writer of the powerful article from which the above extract is
taken, in another part of it, said of Forrest, “He was utterly selfish.
He did not love dramatic art for itself, but because it was tributary to

Now, although the brave and sincere spirit of the article is as clear as
its masterly ability, something is to be said in protest against the
sweeping verdict it gives and in vindication of the man so terribly
censured. That there is some truth in the charges made is not denied.
All of them—except the two last, which are wholly baseless—have been
illustrated and commented on in this biography, but, as is hoped, in a
tone and with a proportion and emphasis more accordant with the facts of
the whole case. The charges, as above made, of sourness, ferocity,
arrogance, cynicism, wretchedness, wreck, and despair, are greatly
unjust in their overcharged statement of the sinister and sad,
profoundly unfair in their omission of the sunny and smiling, features
and qualities in the life and character with which they deal. The writer
must have taken his cue either from inadequate and unfortunate personal
knowledge of the man or from representations made by prejudiced parties.
Ample data certainly are afforded in preceding pages of this volume to
neutralize the extravagance in the accusations while leaving the truth
that is also in them with its proper weight.

One fact alone scatters the entire theory that the social and moral
condition of the tragedian was so fearfully dismal, forlorn, and
execrable,—the fact that he had high and precious friendships with
women, tenderly cherished and sacredly maintained. These were the
foremost joy and solace of his life. They were kept up by unfailing
attentions, epistolary and personal, to the last of his days. Into these
relations he carried a fervor of affection, a poetry of sentiment, a
considerate delicacy and refinement of speech and manner, which secured
the amplest return for all he gave, and drew from the survivors, when he
was gone, tributes which if they were published would cover him with the
lustre of a romantic interest. But it is forbidden to spread such
matters before the common gaze. They have a sacred right of privacy
which must be no further violated than is needed to refute the absurd
belief that the experience of Edwin Forrest was one of such unfathomable
desolation and unhappiness.

No, a portrait in which he is shown as a man whose all-ruling motives
were cruel egotism, pride, vanity, and avarice, a man “whose nature
fulfilled itself,” and for that reason made his life a half-ignominious
and half-pathetic “failure,” will be repudiated by his countrymen. At
the same time his genuine portrait will reveal the truth that while he
loved the good in this world well, he hated the evil too much,—the truth
that while he sought success by honorable means, he too rancorously
loathed those who opposed him with dishonorable means,—and the truth
that while he won many of the solid prizes of existence and enjoyed them
with a more than average measure of happiness, he missed the very
highest and best prizes from lack of spirituality, serene equilibrium of
soul, and religious consecration.

His literary agent for three years and intimate theatrical confrère for
a much longer period, Mr. C. G. Rosenberg, moved by the injurious things
said of him, published an article admitting his explosive irritability,
but affirming his justice and kindness and fund of genial humor and
denying the charges of an oppressive temper and arrogant selfishness.
His business manager and constant companion for a great many years loved
him as a brother, and always testified to his high rectitude of soul and
his many endearing qualities. In one of his latest years, when this
faithful servant lost a pocket-book containing over three thousand
dollars of his money, and was in excessive distress about it, Forrest,
without one sign of anger or peevishness or regret, simply said, in a
gentle tone, “Do not blame yourself, McArdle. Accidents will happen. We
can make it all up in a few nights. So let it go and never mind.” John
McCullough, who for six years had every condition requisite for reading
his character to the very bottom, bore witness to his rare nobility and
social charm, saying, “In heart he was a prince, and would do anything
for a friend. A thorough student of human nature, gifted with intensity,
he applied himself to the heart, and ever reached it. He was essentially
an autocrat. His personal magnetism was great, and he could draw
everything to him. Wherever he might be, men recognized him as king, and
he reigned without resistance, also without imposition.” For six years,
after the close of the War, he gave a one-armed soldier, as a vegetable
garden, the free use of a piece of land worth twenty-five thousand
dollars. This is an extract from one of his letters: “Notice has been
sent me that the price of the picture by Tom Gaylord is one hundred and
fifty dollars, but that if I think this too much I may fix my own price.
No doubt it is more than the painting is worth, but as the young man is
just beginning, and needs to be cheered on, I shall gladly give it to
encourage him for his long career of art.” When a certain poor man of
his acquaintance had died, and his widow knew not where to bury him, he
gave her a space for this purpose in his own lot in the cemetery. And
every winter he gave private orders to his grocer to supply such
suffering, worthy families as he knew, with what they needed, and charge
the bills to him. Surely these are not the kind of deeds done by, these
not the kind of tributes paid to, a misanthropic old tyrant,
discontented with himself, sick of the world, and breathing scorn and
wrath against everybody who approached him.

The following letter, addressed by one of the oldest and choicest
friends of Forrest to another one, speaks for itself:

                                     “NEWPORT, KY., December 30, 1872.

  “S. S. SMITH, ESQ.,—

  “MY DEAR FRIEND,—Our old and distinguished friend is no more. It is
  a great sorrow to us and to his country. The papers show that all
  mourn his loss, for he and his fame belonged to the public. I knew
  Forrest well; except yourself, no man knew him better than I did. He
  was a man of genius, of great will and energy, and, without much
  education, by his own untiring efforts raised himself to the very
  highest pinnacle of fame in his profession. There was a grandeur in
  the man, in every thing he did and said, and hence the great
  admiration his friends had for him. He was a truly noble and
  generous man, one who loved his friends with devotion, and despised
  his enemies. I first made his acquaintance at Lexington, Kentucky,
  in the fall of 1822. He came there with Collins & Jones as one of
  their theatrical corps. He was then between sixteen and seventeen,
  and was the pet of us college boys. He made his first appearance as
  Young Norval, and the boys were so much taken with him that after
  the play was over we went to the greenroom, and took him, dressed as
  he was in character, to a supper. That night he slept with me in my
  boarding-house. We had breakfast in my room, and it was late before
  he left. I wanted to lend him a suit to go home in; but no, he would
  go in his Highland costume, a feather in his hat, straight down Main
  Street, with a crowd of boys following him to his hotel. He played
  all that winter in Lexington, and when the Medical and Law Colleges
  broke up in the spring he went to Cincinnati. That was in March or
  April, and he boarded at Mrs. Bryson’s, on Main Street. In the
  summer of 1823 he came to Newport with Mrs. Riddle and her daughter
  and two or three actors, and rented a house on the bank of the
  river. I assisted him in fixing up a small theatre in the old frame
  buildings of the United States barracks at the Point of Licking, and
  we had plays there until October. My brother-in-law, Major Harris,
  played Iago to his Othello. I was to have played Damon to his
  Pythias, but some difficulty occurred which prevented it. Forrest
  was then very poor, but kept up his spirits, and spent many nights
  with me in my father’s old office. His great delight was to get in a
  boat and sail for hours on the river when the wind was high. In the
  fall of 1823 he returned with Collins & Jones to Lexington, the
  Drakes, I think, uniting, and played the winter of 1823-24. He
  played with Pelby and his wife, and Pemberton, an actor from
  Nashville. He improved rapidly in his profession, and had always one
  of the most prominent characters cast to him. In fact, he would play
  second to no man. I was very intimate with him that whole winter,
  and on the first day of January, 1824, Tom Clay and several of us
  gave a fine dinner at Ayers’s Hotel, and he was the _distinguished
  guest_. We all made speeches and recitations, and before we had
  finished the entertainment we had an extensive audience. Forrest had
  many intimate friends among the students, and he often attended the
  college declamations. He had a great admiration for the eloquence of
  Doctor Holley, our President, and has often told me of the benefit
  he derived from the style of this remarkable orator. In March of
  1824 I returned home, after the breaking up of the Law School, and
  played Zanga, in Young’s Revenge, at the Columbia Street Theatre,
  for the benefit of old Colonel John Cleve Symmes. We had a crowded
  house. Sallie Riddle played in the same piece. It was to enable Mr.
  Symmes to get to his Hole at the North Pole; but, poor man, he never
  got further than New York. I think Mr. Forrest went that spring to
  New Orleans. I am very certain he was not in Cincinnati when I
  played in the Revenge, otherwise he would have performed in the same
  play. It has been published in the papers that Forrest was once a
  circus rider and tumbler. No such thing. The only time he was ever
  connected with a circus was when with the circus company in
  Lexington he played Timour the Tartar. Mrs. Pelby and others were in
  the same piece. He looked Grandeur itself when mounted on Pepin’s
  famous cream-colored horse. After March, 1824, I did not meet Mr.
  Forrest again until the spring of 1828. He was then playing in New
  York, and I saw him in his great character of Othello. His star had
  then begun to rise, and it continued to rise until it reached its
  zenith, and there it continued to shine until the last hour of his
  life. His place cannot be filled in this country. Great actors are
  born, and not made. To be a great tragedian a man must possess the
  soul, the passion, and the eloquence to delineate the character he
  represents. Forrest had that beyond most men.

  “I thank you for the paper containing his will and other
  reminiscences of him. My wife has been since his death clipping from
  the newspapers all that has been written about him, and has put the
  notices in her scrap-book. Some of the journals have done him
  justice, others have not; but posterity will cherish his memory and
  feel proud of the man. In 1870 I had a copy made of my portrait of
  George Frederick Cooke by Sully, and sent it to him. I think you saw
  it. He wrote me at Fire Island, New York, a long and affectionate
  letter acknowledging the receipt of the portrait and pressing me to
  spend a week with him at his house. My daughter, Mrs. Jones, has the
  letter, and has copied it in her book of original letters written to
  my father by Henry Clay and many other distinguished men of our
  country. The last time Mr. Forrest was in Cincinnati he walked over
  one morning to see me and the family. We took him back in my
  carriage to his hotel, and as he parted from my daughter Martha and
  myself his eyes were filled with tears, and he exclaimed, ‘God bless
  you!’ and left us. This was the last time I ever saw our
  distinguished and much beloved friend. My daughter, only last night,
  was speaking of this event of our parting, and how much affected Mr.
  Forrest seemed to be.

  “Forrest was a great favorite with my wife. She knew him in 1823 and
  1824, and, before our marriage, had often witnessed his performances
  at Lexington when a girl. She well knew the great friendship that
  united us: hence in referring to our boy and girl days in Lexington,
  Kentucky, she often speaks of Forrest, and how much he was respected
  and his company sought by the college boys at Old Transylvania. I
  have a very fine daguerreotype picture of our friend, and two quite
  large photographs he sent me through you several years ago. They
  will be faithfully preserved and handed down to my children and to
  their children as the picture of a man concerning whom it may well
  be said, ‘Take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like

  “All we have left to us, my friend, is to meet and talk over the
  pleasure we once enjoyed in the company of our friend. He was so
  full of wit and humor! And how well he told a story! I remember the
  day, some years back, he and you spent at my house. All my family
  were present, together with several friends, and he fascinated us
  all at dinner by his eloquence, and his incidents of foreign travel.
  How heartily we laughed at the anecdotes which he told with such
  fine effect! Then we had music at night, and he recited the ‘Idiot
  Boy,’ to the delight of every one, and it was the ‘witching time of
  night’ when the company broke up.

                    “I am very truly your friend and obedient servant,
                                                      “JAMES TAYLOR.”

Alas, how easy it is, and how congenial it seems to be to many, to let
down and tarnish the memory of a great man by an estimate in which his
vices are magnified and his virtues omitted! So did old Macklin say of
David Garrick, “He had a narrow mind, bounded on one side by suspicion,
by envy on the other, by avarice in front, by fear in the rear, and with
self in the centre.” But against every unkind or demeaning word spoken
of the departed Forrest a multitude of facts protest. Two of these may
be cited to show the genius he had to make himself loved and admired and

On receiving intelligence of the death of his benefactor, a literary
gentleman who had been tried by severe misfortunes of poverty and
blindness and paralysis, and had experienced extreme kindness as well as
generous aid at the hands of Forrest, wrote to Oakes a long letter,
eloquent with gratitude and admiration, and closing with the poetic
acrostic which follows. The writer thoroughly knew and loved the actor
both personally and professionally,—a fact that adds value to his
eulogistic appreciation:

          Ever foremost in histrionic fame,
          Death cannot dim the lustre of thy name.
          Wondrously bright the record of thy life,
          In spite of wrongs that drove thee into strife.
          Nobler by far than titled lord or peer!

          Friend of thy race, philanthropist sincere,
          On earth esteemed for charms of intellect,
          Renowned as well for manhood most erect;
          Reserved, but kind, from ostentation free,
          Envying no one of high or low degree,
          Scorning all tricks of meretricious kind,
          Thy course is run, thy glory left behind!

                                            LOUIS F. TASISTRO.

On the first anniversary of his death a company of gentlemen, actuated
by purely disinterested motives, met in New York and organized the Edwin
Forrest Club, with a president, vice-president, and seven directors.
“The primary object of the club shall be to foster the memory of the
great actor, to erect a statue of him in the Central Park, and to
collect criticisms, pictures, and all things relating to him, for the
purpose of forming a Forrest Museum.” After the memory of Forrest had
been drunk standing, Mr. G. W. Metlar, a friend from his earliest
boyhood, paid an affectionate eulogy to his worth. Others offered
similar tributes. And the corresponding secretary of the club, Mr.
Harrison, said, “Gentlemen, however well the world may know Mr. Forrest
as an actor, it knows comparatively nothing of him as a man. A kinder
heart never beat in the bosom of a human being. In the finer sympathies
of our nature he was more like a child than one who had felt an undue
share of the rude buffets of ingratitude. When speaking with him of the
troubles of others I have often seen his eyes suffused with tears. The
beggar never knocked at his door and went away unladen. And many is the
charity that fell from his manly hand and the relieved knew not whence
it came; but

              ‘Like the song of the lone nightingale,
              Which answereth with her most soothing song
              Out of the ivy bower, it came and blessed.’

And I may say with conscientious pride that however much any of the
great actors may have done for their national stage, Mr. Forrest, equal
to any of them, has done as much for the theatre of his country, and
will remain a recognized peer in the everlasting group.

          ‘He stands serene amid the actors old,
          Like Chimborazo when the setting sun
          Has left his hundred mountains dark and dun,
          Sole object visible, the imperial one
          In purple robe and diadem of gold.
          Immortal Forrest, who can hope to tell,
          With tongue less gifted, of the pleasing sadness
          Wrought in your deepest scenes of woe and madness?
          Who hope by words to paint your Damon and your Lear?
          Their noble forms before me pass,
          Like breathing things of a living class.’

The longer I allude to the tragedian the stronger becomes the sadness
that tinctures my feelings to think that he is no more, and that the
existence of the gifts Nature had so liberally bestowed on him had to
cease with the cessation of his pulse.”

Everything set down by the biographer in this volume has been stated in
the simple spirit of truth. And if the pen that writes has distilled
along the pages such a spirit of love for their subject as makes the
reader suspect the writer possessed with a fond partiality, he asks, Why
is it so? His love is but a response to the love he received, and to the
grand and beautiful qualities he saw. A dried-up and malignant heart
does not breathe such effusive words in such a sincere tone as those
which, in 1869, Forrest wrote to Oakes: “The good news you send of the
restored health of our dear friend Alger gives me inexpressible relief.
Now I go into the country with abounding joy.”

The fortune Forrest had laboriously amassed would amount, it was
thought, when it should all be made available, to upwards of a million
dollars. It was found that in his will he had left the whole of it—
excepting a few personal bequests—to found, on his beautiful estate of
“Spring Brook,” about eight miles from the heart of Philadelphia, the
EDWIN FORREST HOME, for the support of actors and actresses decayed by
age or disabled by infirmity.

The trustees and executors have arranged the grounds and prepared the
buildings, removed thither all the relics of the testator, his books,
pictures, and statues, and made public announcement that the home is
ready for occupation. Thus the greatest charity ever bequeathed in the
sole interest of his own profession by any actor since the world began
is already in active operation, and promises to carry the name it wears
through unlimited ages. It pleasantly allies its American founder with
the old tragedian Edward Alleyn, the friend of Shakspeare, who two
hundred and fifty years ago established munificent institutions of
knowledge and mercy, which have been growing ever since and are now one
of the princeliest endowments in England.

Those who loved Forrest best had hoped for him that, reposing on his
laurels, pointed out in the streets as the veteran of a hundred battles,
the vexations and resentments of earlier years outgrown and forgotten,
enjoying the calls of his friends, luxuriating in bookish leisure,
overseeing with paternal fondness the progress of the home he had
planned for the aged and needy of his profession, taking a proud joy in
the prosperity and glory of his country and in the belief that his
idolized art has before it here amidst the democratic institutions of
America a destiny whose splendor and usefulness shall surpass everything
it has yet known,—the days of his mellow and vigorous old age should
glide pleasantly towards the end where waits the strange Shadow with the
key and the seal. Then, they trusted, nothing in his life should have
become him better than the leaving of it would. For, receding step by
step from the stage and the struggle, he should fade out in a broadening
illumination from behind the scenes, the murmur of applause reaching him
until his ear closed to every sound of earth.

It would have been so had he been all that he should have been. It was
ordained not to be so. Shattered and bowed, he was snatched untimely
from his not properly perfected career. But all that he was and did will
not be forgotten in consequence of what he was not and did not do.

He will live as a great tradition in the history of the stage. He will
live as a personal image in the magnificent Coriolanus statue. He will
live as a learned and versatile histrionist in the exact photographic
embodiments of his costumed and breathing characters. He will live as a
diffused presence in the retreat he has founded for his less fortunate
brethren. Perhaps he will live, in some degree, as a friend in the
hearts of those who perusing these pages shall appreciate the story of
his toils, his trials, his triumphs, and his disappearance from the eyes
of men. He will certainly live in the innumerable and untraceable but
momentous influences of his deeds and effluences of his powerful
personality and exhibitions caught up by sensitive organisms and
transmitted in their posterity to the end of our race. And, still
further, if, as Swedenborg teaches, there are theatres in heaven, and
all sorts of plays represented there, those who in succeeding ages shall
recall his memory amidst the shades of time may think of him still as
acting some better part before angelic spectators within the unknown
scenery of eternity.

Here the pen of the writer drops from his hand in the conclusion of its
task, and, with the same words with which it began, ends the story of


                       THE WILL OF EDWIN FORREST.

I, EDWIN FORREST, of the city of Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania, do
make and publish this my last Will and Testament.

I give, bequeath and devise unto my friends JAMES OAKES, Esquire, of
Boston, JAMES LAWSON, Esquire, of New York, and DANIEL DOUGHERTY,
Esquire, of Philadelphia, all my property and estate, real and personal,
of whatsoever description and wheresoever situated, upon the trusts and
confidences hereinafter expressed; and I also appoint them my executors
to administer my personal estate and bring it into the hands of said
trustees; that is to say, upon trust,

_First._ That they the said trustees, the survivors and survivor of
them, shall be authorized to sell all my real estate, at public or
private sale, at such times as in their judgment shall appear to be for
the best advantage of my estate, excepting from this power my country
place, in the Twenty-third Ward of the city of Philadelphia, called
“Springbrook,” and to convey to purchasers thereof a good title, in fee
simple, discharged of all trusts and obligation to see to the
application of the purchase moneys; and such purchase moneys, and the
proceeds of all the personal estate, shall be invested in such
securities and loans as are made lawful investments by the laws of
Pennsylvania, and shall be in the joint names of the trustees under my
Will. The investments which I shall have made my executors or trustees
may retain or change as they may think for the best advantage of my

_Secondly._ Upon trust, to pay to my two sisters, Caroline and Eleanora,
jointly, while both remain single, and to the survivor of them until her
marriage or death, which shall first happen, an annuity of six thousand
dollars, in equal quarterly payments, in advance, from the date of my
decease; and should one marry, then to pay the said annuity of six
thousand dollars unto the other until marriage or death, whichever event
shall first happen; said annuity, however, not to be a charge upon any
real estate which shall be sold, but only upon the proceeds, and upon
trust to permit my said sisters, and the survivor of them, to use and
occupy my country place called Springbrook, with the necessary furniture
and utensils, and stock, until marriage or death as aforesaid, free of
all charge for rent, and to take the income and profits thereof; and the
said trustees shall pay the taxes thereon, and keep the same in repair.

_Thirdly._ To take and hold all said property and estate in trust for an
institution, which they will call “THE EDWIN FORREST HOME,” to embrace
the purposes of which I hereinafter give the outlines; which institution
shall be established at my country place called Springbrook, certainly
within twenty-one years after the decease of the survivor of my said
sisters, and sooner if found judiciously practicable.

The following is an _Outline of my Plan_ for said Home, which may be
filled out in more detail by the Charter and By-Laws.

ARTICLE 1st. The said Institution shall be for the support and
maintenance of Actors and Actresses, decayed by age, or disabled by
infirmity, who if natives of the United States shall have served at
least five years in the Theatrical profession; and if of foreign birth
shall have served in that profession at least ten years, whereof three
years, next previous to the application, shall have been in the United
States; and who shall in all things comply with the laws and regulations
of the Home, otherwise be subject to be discharged by the Managers,
whose decision shall be final.

ARTICLE 2d. The number of inmates in the Home shall never exceed the
annual net rent and revenue of the Institution; and after the number of
inmates therein shall exceed twelve, others to be admitted shall be such
only as shall receive the approval of the majority of the inmates as
well as of the Managers.

ARTICLE 3d. The said corporation shall be managed by a Board of
Managers, seven in number, who shall in the first instance be chosen by
the said Trustees, and shall include themselves so long as any of them
shall be living, and also the Mayor of the city of Philadelphia for the
time being; and as vacancies shall occur, the existing Managers shall,
from time to time, fill them, so that, if practicable, only one vacancy
shall ever exist at a time.

ARTICLE 4th. The Managers shall elect one of their number to be the
President of the Institution; appoint a Treasurer and Secretary,
Steward, and Matron, and, if needed, a Clerk; the said Treasurer,
Secretary, Steward, Matron, and Clerk subject to be at any time
discharged by the Managers; except the Treasurer, the said officers may
be chosen from the inmates of the Home; and the Treasurer shall not be a
Manager, nor either of his sureties. The Managers shall also appoint a
Physician for the Home.

ARTICLE 5th. Should there be any failure of the Managers to fill any
vacancy which may occur in their board for three months, or should they
in any respect fail to fulfil their trust according to the intent of my
Will and the Charter of the Institution, it is my will, that upon the
petition of any two or more of said Managers, or of the Mayor of the
City, the Orphans’ Court of Philadelphia county shall make such
appointments to fill any vacancy or vacancies, and all orders and
decrees necessary to correct any failure or breach of trust, which shall
appear to said court to be required, as in case of any other
testamentary trust, so that the purposes of this charity may never fail
or be abused.

ARTICLE 6th. The purposes of the said “Edwin Forrest Home” are intended
to be partly educational and self-sustaining, as well as eleemosynary,
and never to encourage idleness or thriftlessness in any who are capable
of any useful exertion. My library shall be placed therein in precise
manner as now it exists in my house in Broad Street, Philadelphia. There
shall be a neat and pleasant theatre for private exhibitions and
histrionic culture. There shall be a picture gallery for the
preservation and exhibition of my collection of engravings, pictures,
statuary, and other works of art, to which additions may be made from
time to time, if the revenues of the Institution shall suffice. These
objects are not only intended to improve the taste, but to promote the
health and happiness of the inmates, and such visitors as may be

ARTICLE 7th. Also as a means of preserving health, and consequently the
happiness, of the inmates, as well as to aid in sustaining the Home,
there shall be lectures and readings therein, upon oratory and the
histrionic art, to which pupils shall be admitted upon such terms and
under such regulations as the Managers may prescribe. The garden and
grounds are to be made productive of profit as well as of health and
pleasure, and, so far as capable, the inmates not otherwise profitably
occupied, shall assist in farming, horticulture, and the cultivation of
flowers in the garden and conservatory.

ARTICLE 8th. “The Edwin Forrest Home” may also, if the revenues shall
suffice, embrace in its plan, lectures on science, literature and the
arts; but preferably oratory and the histrionic art, in manner to
prepare the American citizen for the more creditable and effective
discharge of his public duties, and to raise the education and
intellectual and moral tone and character of actors, that thereby they
may elevate the drama, and cause it to subserve its true and great
mission to mankind, as their profoundest teacher of virtue and morality.

ARTICLE 9th. The “Edwin Forrest Home” shall also be made to promote the
love of liberty, our country and her institutions, to hold in honor the
name of the great Dramatic Bard, as well as to cultivate a taste and
afford opportunity for the enjoyment of social rural pleasures.
Therefore there shall be read therein, to the inmates and public, by an
inmate or pupil thereof, the immortal Declaration of Independence, as
written by Thomas Jefferson, without expurgation, on every Fourth day of
July, to be followed by an oration under the folds of our National flag.
There shall be prepared and read therein before the like assemblage, on
the birthday of Shakspeare, the twenty-third of April in every year, an
eulogy upon his character and writings, and one of his plays, or scenes
from his plays, shall, on that day, be represented in the theatre. And
on the first Mondays of every June and October the “Edwin Forrest Home”
and grounds shall be opened for the admission of ladies and gentlemen of
the theatrical profession, and their friends, in the manner of social
picnics, when all shall provide their own entertainments.

The foregoing general outline of my plan of the Institution I desire to
establish, has been sketched during my preparations for a long voyage by
sea and land, and should God spare my life, it is my purpose to be more
full and definite; but should I leave no later Will or Codicil, my
friends, who sympathize in my purposes, will execute them in the best
and fullest manner possible, understanding that they have been long
meditated by me and are very dear to my heart.

They will also remember that my professional brothers and sisters are
often unfortunate, and that little has been done for them either to
elevate them in their profession or to provide for their necessities
under sickness or other misfortunes. God has favored my efforts and
given me great success, and I would make my fortune the means to elevate
the education of others, and promote their success and to alleviate
their sufferings, and smooth the pillows of the unfortunate in sickness,
or other disability, or the decay of declining years.

These are the grounds upon which I would appeal to the Legislature of my
Native State, to the Chief Magistrate of my Native City, to the Courts
and my Fellow-Citizens to assist my purposes, which I believe to be
demanded by the just claims of humanity, and by that civilization and
refinement which spring from intellectual and moral culture.

I, therefore, lay it as a duty on my Trustees to frame a bill which the
Legislature may enact as and for the Charter of said Institution, which
shall ratify the Articles in said Outline of Plan, shall authorize the
Mayor of the City to act as one of its Managers, and the said Court to
exercise the visitatorial jurisdiction invoked; and prevent streets from
being run through so much of the Springbrook grounds as shall include
the buildings and sixty acres of ground. Such a Charter being obtained,
the corporation shall be authorized, at a future period, to sell the
grounds outside said space, the proceeds to be applied to increase the
endowment and usefulness of the Home. And so far as I shall not have
built to carry out my views, I authorize the said Managers, with consent
of my sisters, or survivor of them, having a right to reside at
Springbrook, to proceed to erect and build the buildings required by my
outline of plan, and towards their erection apply the income,
accumulated or current, of my estate. And should my sisters consent, or
the survivor of them consent, in case of readiness to open the Home, to
remove therefrom, a comfortable house shall be procured for them
elsewhere, furnished, and rent and taxes paid, as required in respect to
Springbrook, at the cost and charge of my estate, or of the said
corporation, if then in possession thereof. Whensoever the requisite
Charter shall be obtained, and the corporation be organized and ready to
proceed to carry out its design, then it shall be the duty of said
Trustees to assign and convey all my said property and estate unto the
said “Edwin Forrest Home,” their successors and assigns forever; and for
the latter to execute and deliver, under the corporate seal, a full and
absolute discharge and acquittance forever, with or without auditing of
accounts by an auditor of the court as they may think proper, unto the
said Executors and Trustees.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this fifth
day of April, eighteen hundred and sixty-six.

                                                  EDWIN FORREST, [SEAL.]

  Signed, sealed, declared and published as and for his last Will and
  Testament by Edwin Forrest, in our presence, who at his request and
  in his presence, and in presence of each other, have hereunto set
  our hands as witnesses thereto.

                                                      ELI K. PRICE,
                                                      H. C. TOWNSEND,
                                                      J. SERGEANT PRICE.

Whereas I, EDWIN FORREST, of the city of Philadelphia, State of
Pennsylvania, having made and duly executed my last Will and Testament
in writing, bearing date the fifth day of April, eighteen hundred and
sixty-six. Now I do hereby declare this present writing to be as a
Codicil to my said Will, and direct the same to be annexed thereto, and
taken as a part thereof.

And I do hereby give and bequeath unto my friend James Lawson, Esq., of
the city of New York, the sum of five thousand dollars.

And, also, to my friend Daniel Dougherty, Esq., the sum of five thousand

And, also, to my beloved friend Miss Elizabeth, sometimes called Lillie
Welsh, eldest daughter of John R. Welsh, broker, of Philadelphia, the
sum of five thousand dollars.

And, also, to my friend S. S. Smith, Esq., of Cincinnati, Ohio, the sum
of two thousand dollars.

And, also, to the benevolent society called the Actors’ Order of
Friendship, “the first one of that name established in Philadelphia,” I
will and bequeath the like sum of two thousand dollars.

In witness whereof, I, the said Edwin Forrest, have to this Codicil set
my hand and seal, this fifth day of April, eighteen hundred and sixty-

                                                  EDWIN FORREST, [SEAL.]

  Published and declared as a Codicil to his Will in our presence, by
  E. Forrest, who in his presence and at his request have signed as
  witnesses in presence of each other.

                                                      ELI K. PRICE,
                                                      H. C. TOWNSEND,
                                                      J. SERGEANT PRICE.

Whereas I have this day, October 18th, 1871, provided my friend James
Oakes with an annuity of twenty-five hundred dollars during his life, I
have erased from this Codicil and do revoke the five thousand dollars’
legacy to him, and now do bequeath the said sum of five thousand dollars
intended for James Oakes, to my beloved friend Miss Elizabeth, sometimes
called Lillie Welsh, eldest daughter of John R. Welsh, broker, of
Philadelphia. This five thousand dollars is to be given in addition to
the sum of five thousand dollars already bequeathed to the said Miss
Welsh, making in all to her the gift of ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

In witness hereof I set my hand and seal.

                                                  EDWIN FORREST, [SEAL.]

  Witnesses present at signing:

                            GEO. C. THOMAS,
                            J. PAUL DIVER.



                          THE FORREST MEDALS.

The duplicate of the first medal in gold was presented by Mr. Forrest to
the New York Historical Society, at a meeting held June 22d, 1868,
through the hands of James Lawson. It was accepted, with a vote of
thanks to the donor, and placed in the archives of the Society.

The legend or motto on the second medal is from a sonnet by James Lawson
“To Andrew Jackson,” which may be found in Duyckinck’s Cyclopædia of
American Literature, vol. ii. p. 280, New York edition, 1855.

The tokens were issued by tradesmen as a mode of advertisement. They are
an interesting proof of the great popularity of the tragedian.


  _Ob._—A profile head of Forrest, facing to the left. Below the head
        engraver’s initials, “C. C. W., Sc.”

  _Leg._—“Histrioni optimo Eduino Forrest, viro præstanti, MDCCC.

  _Rev._—The muse of Tragedy seated, holding in one hand a wreath, the
        other holding a dagger, and resting on her lap. A mask resting
        beside her.

  _Leg._—“Great in mouths of wisest censure.”

  _Ex._—“C. INGHAM, Del.”

            Metal, silver; size, 1–11/16 inch; edge plain. Two struck in
        gold, twenty-six in silver.


  _Ob._—A profile bust of Forrest, facing to the left.

  _Leg._—“Edwin Forrest.”

  _Ex._—In small letters, “_A. W. Jones, Del._ F. B. Smith & Hartmann,
        N. Y., fecit.”

  _Rev._—A wreath bound with a ribbon, on which are inscribed the names
        of Mr. Forrest’s celebrated characters. Within the wreath, “Born
        in the City of Philadelphia, Pa., March 9, 1806.” “Just to
        opposers, and to friends sincere.”

            Metal, copper; size, 3 inches; edge plain. Two struck in
        silver; also struck in tin.


  _Ob._—A profile head of Forrest, facing to the left. Below the head
        the engraver’s name, “Merriam, Boston.”

  _Leg._—“Edwin Forrest, born March 9, 1806.”

  _Rev._—An olive wreath, enclosing the words, “Rose by his own
        efforts,” also engraver’s name, “Merriam, Boston.” Outside of
        the wreath, “Just to opposers, and to friends sincere.”

            Metal, copper; size, 1⅕ inch; edge plain. Also struck in

                          THE FORREST TOKENS.


  _Ob._—A profile bust of Forrest enclosed with laurel branches, and
        facing to the right.

  _Rev._—“E. Hill, Dealer in Coins, Medals, Minerals, Autographs,
        Engravings, Old Curiosities, &c., No. 6 Bleecker St., N. York,

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as last.

  _Rev._—Half-length figure of a man smoking. Legend, “No pleasure can
        exceed the smoking of the weed.”

            Metal, tin; edge milled; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. I.

  _Rev._—A box of cigars (regalias), two pipes crossed above the box.
        Legend, “Levick, 904 Broadway, New York, 1860.”

            Metal, tin; edge milled; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. I.

  _Rev._—“F. C. Key & Sons, Die Sinkers and Medalists, 123 Arch St.,
        Phila.,” enclosed within a circle of thirty-two stars.

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—A profile bust of Forrest, facing to the right. Legend, “Edwin

  _Rev._—Same as Rev. IX., last.

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._— Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—Profile bust of Webster, facing to the right. Legend, “Daniel

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—“Dedicated to Coin and Medal Collectors,” enclosed by two palm
        branches crossed. Ex., “1860.”

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—A race-horse standing, and facing to the left. “Mobile Jockey
        Club.” “Member’s Medal.”

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—A witch riding on a broomstick. “We all have our hobbies.” “G.
        H. L.”

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—The name “Key” in large letters occupying the entire centre of
        the field; within the name are enclosed in small letters the
        following, “Ornamental Medal and Seal Die Sinkers, &c., &c., 329
        Arch St., Phila.” The whole surrounded by a constellation of

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—“Not transferable, 1853.”

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—Cupid on a dolphin. Ex., “1860.”

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


  _Ob._—Same as No. V.

  _Rev._—“F. C. Key & Sons, Die Sinkers and Medalists, 123 Arch St.,

            Metal, tin; edge plain; size, 1⅛ inch.


 Acrostic on Forrest, 845.

 Actions, the ninth dramatic language, 467.

 Actor, fame of, not perishable, 338.

 Actors, generosity of, 526.
   lives of, 20.

 Adams, Samuel, 24.

 Æsthetic gymnastic, 659.

 Albany, speech of Forrest there in 1864, 559.

 Alger, William R., 846.

 Allen, Caridora, 324.

 Alleyn, Edward, 847.

 America, characteristic faults of, 49.
   composite of races in, 47-52.
   future of drama in, 547.
   idea and genius and destiny of, 40-44.
   lessons for, from the East, 48.

 American Drama, 421.

 American School of Acting, 17.

 Americanism, intense, of Forrest, 39, 40.

 Angelo, Michael, 480.

 Animal magnetism, 468, 469.

 Animals, societies for preventing cruelty to, 86.

 Aristocratic code of manners, 669.

 Artistic School of Acting, 646, 658-662.

 Asp, hisses the Cleopatra of Marmontel, 479.

 Asses, Feast of, in the Church, 685.

 Astor Place Opera-House Riot, 430-432.

 Atheists, 576.

 Athletic development, its glory, 251.

 Attitudes, the second dramatic language, 464.

 Auld Lang Syne, 422.

 Ball, Thomas, sculptor, his Coriolanus statue, 631-633.

 Bannister, John, Forrest’s admiration of, 30.
   his retort on the jealous actors, 480.
   his vast popularity, 585.

 Barnwell, George, moral power of the play, 703.

 Baron, the French actor, 643.

 Barrett, Mrs. George, 533.

 Barry, Thomas, 527.

 Bath, Russian, Forrest’s first one, 283.

 Battle of the Theatre and the Church, 682-695.

 Beecher, Henry Ward, on theatre, 693.

 Bertinazzi, the pantomimist, 544.

 Betty, Master, the Infant Roscius, 595.

 Biddle, Nicholas, 325.

 Bird, Robert M., 169.

 Black, Colonel Samuel, 574.

 Blake, William R., his Jesse Rural, 545.

 Bob, Forrest’s mocking-bird, 824.

 Bogota, Broker of, 350.

 Bohemians, dramatic critics, 438, 549.

 Bonaparte, Jerome, Forrest’s interview with, 413.

 Booth, Edwin, abusive criticism of, 457.
   the elder, 540.
   Wilkes, affecting anecdote of, 546.

 Borgia, Rosalia de, Forrest appears as, 60.

 Bowie, Colonel James, 118-120.

 Bozzaris, Marco, 192, 289.

 Brady, James T., 618.

 Breeding, animals and human species, laws of, 46.

 Broker of Bogota, 350.

 Brooke, Gustavus Vasa, plays Iago to Forrest’s Othello, 401.

 Brownie, Forrest’s horse, 823.

 Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 563.

 Brutus, 220.

 Bryant, William Cullen, 338.
   speech at Forrest Banquet, 417.

 Bryson, Mrs., Forrest boards with, 105.

 Burns, Robert, birthday festival in memory of, 403.

 Burton, W. G., his toast, 339.

 Cade, Jack, by R. T. Conrad, 360.

 Caldwell, James H., 71, 111, 116, 137.

 California, official honors to Forrest, 555.
   visit of Forrest there, 570.

 Cass, Lewis, gives a banquet in honor of Forrest, 593.

 Catullus, his threnody, 624.

 Chamouni, Forrest reads Coleridge’s hymn there, 281.

 Chandler, Joseph R., 333.
   verses on Forrest, 67.

 Channing, William Ellery, 563.

 Character, three types of, in every man, 460.

 Charm, fourteen-fold, of the theatre, 688.

 Children, Forrest’s love for, 581, 824-826.

 Childs, George W., 836.

 Chinese Drama, 683.

 Choate, Rufus, death of, 573.

 Church and Theatre reconciled, 718.

 Circus, Forrest engages as a rider in, 112.

 Claqueurs, hired, 594.

 Classic School of Acting, 640.

 Clay, Henry, anecdote of, 593.

 Clown, secret of the vulgar delight in, 698.

 Club, the Edwin Forrest, 845.

 Coleridge, 24.

 Columbine and Harlequin, 697.

 Columbus, 698.

 Comer, Thomas, subjected to priestly bigotry, 694.

 Comparisons, personal, uses of, 673.

 Conrad, Robert T., 169, 332, 615, 616.

 Consuelo letter, the, 486.

 Contradictory accounts of Forrest’s Claude Melnotte, 458.

 Conway, the ill-fated actor, 136.

 Cooke, George Frederick, 456.

 Cooper, J. Fenimore, tribute to, 601.

 Cooper, Thomas A., interview of Forrest with, 68, 533.

 Coriolanus, as played by Forrest, 762-769.
   Leggett on, 324.

 Criticism, dramatic, in newspapers, 458.
   need of, for the critics, 439.

 Critics, Forrest grateful to three classes of, 434-436.

 Cushman, Charlotte, her Nancy Sykes, 457.

 Damon, 211.

 Davenport, E. L., 540.
   his tribute to Forrest, 541.

 Dawson, Moses, 104.

 Death always essentially the same, 831.
   and immortality, Forrest on, 814.
   of actors, 831.
   of Forrest, 832.

 Definition of the Drama, 22, 459.

 Delsarte, François, 657-662.

 Democracy, ideal of, in Forrest, 53.

 Democratic code of manners, 669.

 Democratic Review on Forrest’s second reception in England, 399.

 Dewey, Rev. Orville, his eloquence, 339.

 Dougherty, Daniel, 16, 577, 834, 836.

 Drake, the theatrical manager, 536.

 Drama, definition of, 22, 459.

 Dramatic Art, definition of, 87.
   illustrated in fables, 84.
   in animals, 78-80.
   in children, 83, 84.
   in savages, 80-82.

 Dramatic Art, in society and in the theatre, 90.
   varieties and levels of the, 95.

 Dramatic literature, American, patronized by Forrest, 167-170.

 Duane, William, first criticism on Forrest, 66.

 Dunlap, William, letter of, 336.

 Durang, Charles, 149.

 Durivage, F. A., letter by, 620.
   poem by, 833.

 Elssler, Fanny, 563.

 Emperor, the American, 634.

 England, Forrest’s first appearance in, 298.
   American actors in, 296.

 Envy, 173.
   vanity, and jealousy among actors, 387.

 Eshcol, grapes of, 62, 278.

 Evans, Platt, and the Distressed Tailor, 109.

 Expression, laws of, 463.

 Facial expression, the fifth dramatic language, 465.

 Fame defined, 583.
   not to be despised, 582.

 Farragut, Admiral, funeral of, 823.

 Feast of Asses, 685.
   of Fools, 685.

 Febro, Richelieu, and Lear, as represented by Forrest, 354.

 Fennell, James, 532.

 Five classes of censorious critics, 436-439.

 Focal points in society where human nature is revealed, 674-680.

 Fonthill Castle, 484, 485.

 Fools of Shakspeare, 540.

 Forgiveness of enemies, beauty and wisdom of, 605.

 Forms, the first dramatic language, 464.

 Formula of central law of dramatic expression, 793.

 Forney, John W., 577, 593, 836.

 Forrest, Mrs. Catherine N., 483.
   letters by her, 382, 493, 506.

 Forrest, Edwin, the author’s first interview with, 15.
   misrepresentations of him, 26, 27.
   his father, 33.
   his mother, 35.
   his brothers and sisters, 36-39.
   intended for Christian ministry, 56.
   first appearance on the stage, 60, 61.
   takes nitrous oxide in the Tivoli Garden, 63.
   his spirit of revenge, 64, 65.
   his early practice of gymnastics, 96.
   sickness of, in New Orleans, 130.
   chased by a shark, 139.
   his gymnastics, 141.
   forswears gambling, 147.
   his débût in New York, 150.
   pays his father’s debts, 167.
   makes his mother and sisters independent, 167.
   attacks on, and enmity to, 173-179.
   public dinner to, in New York, 181.
   disliked to impersonate ignoble characters, 259.
   visits the grave of Talma, 266.
   public dinner to, in Philadelphia, 325.
   nominated for Congress, 348.
   his letter on the giving of benefits by actors, 378.
   hisses Macready, 410.
   anecdotes of, at Edinburgh, 412.
   his limitations as an actor, 472.
   flings off his wig on the stage, 478.
   tribute to, by James E. Murdoch, 480.
   his jealousy of his wife, 488-490.
   first appearance on the stage after divorce, 502.
   his tremendous strength, 539.
   portraits of, at different ages, 586, 587.
   originality of, 664.
   thrice thought of leaving the stage, 795.
   his letter on Lear, 797.
   his last appearance in New York, 801-810.
   last appearance on the stage, 811.
   defects in character of, 816.
   his love of his mother, 822.
   estimates of, after his death, 836-840.
   his lasting memory, 847, 848.

 Fourth-of-July celebration, oration by Forrest, 339.
   in London, 413.

 French notice of Forrest in Parisian journal, 398.

 Friendship, its rarity, its nature, its meaning, 606-609.

 Future of the Drama in America, 547.

 Gallagher, William D., 101, 105, 614.

 Gambling, its fearful power, 147.

 Garrick, 455.
   and Lekain in Paris, 546.
   his couplet on Nature and Art, 667.
   tomb of, 189.

 Garrick Club, banquet to Forrest by, 316.

 Gaylord, Tom, 841.

 Gazonac, the gambler and duellist, 122-124.

 Genealogy, its interest and importance, 32.

 Genius of the Drama in Shakspeare, 524.

 Genoa, Forrest boards an American man-of-war at, 277.

 Georges, Mademoiselle, 264.

 Gestures, the fourth dramatic language, 465.

 Gilfert, Charles, the manager, 147, 150, 154, 155.

 Gospel and Drama have the same end, 682.

 Government, the ideal of, 51.

 Graham, Captain, 126, 131.

 Graham, John, 618.

 Grant, General, 610.

 Great men, 23, 24.

 Greek Drama, 683.

 Greene, Charles Gordon, 614.

 Gymnastic, æsthetic system, 563-566.
   ecclesiastic contempt for, 561.
   the Greek, 560.
   training of Forrest, 564.

 Hackett, James H., 191.
   the American Falstaff, 540.

 Halleck, Fitz-Greene, 192, 403.

 Hamlet, as played by Forrest, 751-762.

 Harlequin and Columbine, 697.

 Harrison, Gabriel, 542.
   acknowledgments to, 31.
   speech by, 845, 846.

 Harrison, William Henry, his kindness to Forrest, 105.

 Heenan, John C., 563.

 Henry Clay, burning of the steamer, 554.

 Hereditary qualities in Forrest, 45.

 Heredity, law of, 44, 45.

 Hernizer, George, teaches Forrest to spar, 160, 161.

 Heywood, Thomas, lines to, 524.

 Hissing justified by Forrest, 411.

 Holland, George, 531.
   subject of priestly bigotry, 694.

 Holley, President Horace, 101, 102, 842.

 Home, the Edwin Forrest, for Decayed Actors, 847.

 Hooper, Lucy H., poem by, 825.

 Hospital, secrets of human nature discovered in, 676.

 Humboldt, Forrest’s tribute to, 820.

 Humor, a happy attribute, 818.

 Humorous anecdotes of Forrest, 819.

 Hunter, James, a valuable critic of Forrest, 434.

 Iago, the canal-boatman on Forrest’s, 477.

 Idea, the American, Asiatic, and European, 54.

 Ideal of life, the ecclesiastic and the dramatic, 689.

 Ideals expressed in acting, 195, 196.

 Immigration to America, 40, 41.

 Indian summer, 575.

 Ingersoll, Charles, his speech at the Forrest banquet in Philadelphia,

 Ingersoll, Joseph R., 327.

 Ingham, C. C., the artist, 182.

 Ingraham, D. P., 166.

 Irving, Washington, 338.

 Jackson, Andrew, Forrest’s visit to, 384.

 Jamieson, George W., 486, 610.

 Japanese Drama, 683.

 Jealousy, its different levels, 513-522.
   the, of Forrest, 488-490.

 Jefferson, Joseph, his letter to Forrest, 544.

 Jefferson, Joseph, the elder, 456, 534-536.
   Forrest’s tribute to, 827.

 Jefferson, Thomas, tribute to, by Forrest, 343.

 Johnson, Dr. Samuel, on Garrick, 585.

 Jones, the theatrical manager, 537.

 Juliet, actress in, first awakened love in Forrest, 532.

 Kean, Edmund, 141-146.
   belittling and insulting critiques on, 456.

 Kellogg, Miss Gertrude, 537.

 Kemble, Charles, presents two swords to Forrest, 317.

 Kemble, John Philip, 456.

 Kennedy, John P., 338.

 King, Starr, tree in Mammoth Grove, 571.

 Kingship and priesthood of man, 53.

 Kneller, Sir Godfrey, on Addison, 678.

 Knowles, James Sheridan, 275.
   his anecdote of Siddons, 545.

 Lablache, his facial picture of a thunder-storm, 657.

 Labor and Cost, 682.

 La Fayette, Forrest sees him, 133.

 Lafitte, the pirate, 125.

 Landor, Walter Savage, 577.

 Languages, the nine dramatic, 464.

 Laughter, abuse of, 702.

 Laws of dramatic expression, 793.

 Lawson, James, 152, 491, 506, 836.
   a great friend of Forrest, 613, 645.

 Lawyer, a New York, taught love of nature by Forrest, 576.

 Lear, as played by Forrest, 781-792.
   Forrest’s letter on, 797.

 Leggett, William, 152, 192.
   anecdotes of, 373.
   desires to write a play on Jack Cade, 325.
   his death in 1838, 372.
   letter of Forrest to, 316.
   letter of, to mother of Forrest, 297.
   speech in Philadelphia, 337.
   toast in memory of, 422.

 Leggett, William, tributes to, by Bryant and Whittier, 374.

 Lekain, the French actor, 643.
   and Garrick in the Champs Elysées, 546.

 Lesson of Coriolanus, 791.
   of Rip Van Winkle, 792.

 Lessons in the acting of Forrest, 792, 793.

 Library, the, of Forrest, 578.

 Lillie, Miss, 537.

 Limitations of Forrest as an actor, 472.

 Love, in human life and in dramatic art, 508-510.
   the six tragedies of, 510-513.

 Macbeth, as played by Forrest, 737-746.

 Mackaye, James Steele, 567.

 Mackenzie, Dr. R. Shelton, 448.

 Macklin, Charles, 455.
   on Garrick, 844.

 Macready, William Charles, 389-391.

 Magnetism, human, 26, 118.
   personal, its power, its grades and law, 721-726.

 Magoon, Rev. E. L., 556.

 Man, his inherent kingship and priesthood, 53.
   his nine dramatic languages, 464.

 Manliness of Forrest as an actor, 664.

 Manners, index of souls, 667.
   the art of, seen on the stage, 706.
   the four codes of, 668.

 Marionette-play, or a puppet-show, 699.

 Marriage of Forrest and Miss Sinclair, 321.

 Mars, Mademoiselle, Forrest’s introduction to, 270.

 Marshall, Chief-Justice, Forrest sees him, 132.

 Mazurier, the famous Punchinello, 699.

 McArdle, Joseph, 819, 840.

 McCoun, Chancellor, his speech at the Forrest Banquet, 1855, 185-187.

 McCullough, John, 527, 542, 840.

 McMichael, Morton, 331.

 Melnotte, Claude, by Lord Lytton, 356.

 Melodrama, defined, 696.

 Melodramatic acting, 543, 643.
   justified, 250.

 Memory, the, of Forrest, 847, 848.

 Metamora, 237.
   London Times on, 476.

 Miles, George H., 169.

 Millennial state, how to be secured, 682.

 Mills, John F., his report of Forrest’s talk at Cohasset, 579, 580.

 Milman, Henry Hart, 321.

 Mob, the Forrest-Macready, dispersed by military, 431.

 Mohammed, 697.

 Money, evils of the intense struggle for, 682.
   Forrest’s alleged love of, 552, 553.
   ingratitude of borrowers of, 530.

 Moralities and Mysteries, 686.

 Moray, John S., 802.

 Morrell, T. H., a friend of Forrest, 31.

 Mossop, 455.

 Mother, Forrest’s love for his, 423-428, 822.

 Motions, tend to produce the emotions they express, 568.

 Movements, automatic, the third dramatic language, 464.

 Murdoch, James E., his tribute to Forrest, 480.

 Music, revelation of characters by, 695.

 Mysteries and Moralities, 686.

 Napoleon, Louis, 698.

 Natural School of Acting, 643.

 Nature and art in acting, 648, 663.

 Negro, Forrest the earliest impersonator of, on the stage, 108, 109.

 New Orleans, characteristics of, 113, 114.

 Newspapers, their good and evil, 432.

 Nine dramatic languages of man, the, 464.

 Noises, inarticulate, the sixth dramatic language, 466.

 Oakes, James, at the bier of Forrest, 833.
   causes this biography to be written, 14-16.
   his description of Forrest in Virginius, 650.
   his first meeting with Forrest, 164.
   his friendship with Forrest, 624-638.
   his impression of Mrs. Wheatley, 533.
   letters of Forrest to, 571, 573, 813, 814.
   nurses Forrest, 812, 826, 830.
   sketch of him, 619-624.

 Oblivion speedily overtakes most men, 34.

 O’Conor, Charles, his attack on Forrest, 486.

 Originality has to buffet detraction, 475.

 Othello, as played by Forrest, 769-781.

 Padishah, Forrest’s adventure with, 288.

 Page, William, his portrait of Forrest as Spartacus, 586.

 Paine, Thomas, letter of, to Washington, 574.

 Palace of king, secrets of human nature discovered in, 675.

 Paralysis, Forrest attacked by, 569.

 Parasites, 595.

 Passions, the great dramatic, 463.

 Paulding, James K., his advice to Forrest, 238.

 Penalties of fame, 594.

 Personal criticism, two evils of, 672.

 Physical training, 158, 159.

 Pike, Albert, 623, 624.

 Pilmore, Dr. Joseph, 56.

 Placide, Henry, 282.

 Placide, Miss Jane, 137, 291.

 Player, the perfect, his requirements, 472.

 Plebeian code of manners, 669.

 Politeness, principle of, 667.

 Popularity, formerly and now, 172.

 Porter, Charles S., the manager, 59, 147.

 Prentiss, Sargent S., 24.

 Press, its abuses in America, 432, 433.

 Pride and vanity, 388.

 Priest and player, their hostility, 689-695.

 Priesthood and kingship of man, 53.

 Prison, secrets of human nature discovered in, 676.

 Prizes and penalties of fame, 594.

 Profanity a safety-valve sometimes, 580.

 Professional habits, 523.

 Professions, the, 674-682.
   the academic, 681.
   the artistic, 678.
   the dramatic, 679.
   the imperial, 675.
   the legal, 676.
   the medical, 676.
   the military, 675.
   the priestly, 667.

 Puppet-show, 699.

 Push-ma-ta-ha, the young Choctaw chief, 125, 128, 138.

 Quaker, cruelty of, to young Forrest, 65.

 Quarrel, the Macready and Forrest, 422, 428-431.

 Quin, 455.

 Rachel, Forrest’s early prophecy of her greatness, 266.
   her astonishing power, 707.

 Readings, dramatic, by Forrest, 829.

 Rees, James, 577, 813.
   anecdote by, 478.

 Richard, as played by Forrest, 746-751.

 Richelieu, as played by Forrest, 728-737.

 Riddle, Mrs., 99, 106, 110, 537.

 Riot, Astor Place Opera-House, 430-432.

 Robson, William, his “Old Play-Goer,” 456.

 Rolla, 199.

 Roman Drama, 684.

 Romantic School of Acting, 641.

 Royal code of manners, 668.

 Russian Bath, Forrest’s, at Hamburg, 283.

 Salvini, his La Civile Morte, 354.
   his Othello compared with Forrest’s, 769.
   inconsistent judgments on, 458.

 San Francisco, Forrest’s first appearance there, 570.

 Sarcasm, contradiction of tone and word, 470.

 Satire of priests by players, 692, 693.

 Saul, representation of, by Salvini, 712-718.

 Sayers, Thomas, the pugilist, his funeral, 583.

 Schools of Acting, 630-670.

 Scoggan, the fool, 698.

 Sedley, Henry, 439, 802.

 Servility to the newspaper press an American vice, 600, 601.

 Shakspeare, 524.
   Forrest’s tribute to, 820.
   remarkable tribute to, 578.

 Shakspearean characters, interest of Forrest in, 737-739.

 Shark, a, chases Forrest, 139.

 Siddons, Mrs. Sarah, 456, 523, 525.
   verses by, 596.

 Sinclair, Catherine Norton, Forrest first meets, 320.

 Sinclair, Mrs. C. N., 650.

 Sinister and benign aspects of the four codes of manners, 668-670.

 Smith, Sol, 104, 112, 618.

 Sonnet to Forrest, 406.

 Spartacus, 249.

 Spinoza, Benedict, his Ethics, 578.

 Standard, true, of criticism, 459, 469.

 Standards for judging men, primary and secondary, 672.

 Steevens, George, satirizes Mrs. Siddons, 456.

 Stone, John A., 169.

 Stratford-upon-Avon, Forrest’s visit there, 291.

 Stuart, Gilbert, his last portrait one of Forrest, 586.

 Studio, secrets of human nature discovered in, 676.

 Sunshine, Forrest’s love of, 564.

 Swift, Colonel John, 63, 333.

 Talfourd, Thomas Noon, 316.

 Talma, 189, 266, 317, 455.

 Tartuffe, 692.

 Tasistro, Louis F., acrostic on Forrest by, 845.

 Taylor, James, 101, 616-618.
   letter by, 841-844.

 Tell, 204.

 Temperaments, the chief varieties enumerated, 461.

 Temple, secrets of human nature discovered in, 667.

 Tent of general, secrets of human nature discovered in, 675.

 Terrible fall from a balustrade, 796.

 Theatre, alleged decline of, 828.
   a nation in itself, 19.
   fourteen-fold charm of, 688.
   its future, 19.
   its relation to church and state, 52.
   secrets of human nature discovered in, 679.
   the whole universe a divine one, 77.

 Theatres of Greece and Rome, 639.

 Theatricality, Forrest’s freedom from, off the stage, 821, 822.

 Timon and parasitic friendship, 611.

 Tivoli Garden, 329.

 Tones, inflected, the seventh dramatic language, 466.

 Tragedy, melodrama, and comedy compared, 91-93.

 Training, physical, 158, 159, 161.

 Tree, Ellen, 324.

 Trowbridge, J. T., his “Darius Green,” 629.

 Union, the American, Forrest on, 573.

 Uses, social, of the dramatic art, 695.

 Verses written by Forrest, 134-136.

 Vincent, Mount Saint, Catholic sisterhood, 554.

 Virginius, 230.

 Voice of Braham, 655.
   of Henry Russell, 653.

 Voice, the perfection of, 653-656.

 Voyage to Europe, 263.

 Wagner, James V., 614.

 Wallace, William Ross, poem on Forrest, 558.

 Walpole, Horace, 455.

 Walsh, Mike, his attack on Forrest, 375.

 Webster, Daniel, 25, 388.

 Wetmore, Prosper M., verses by, 156.

 Wheatley, Mrs. Sarah, 538.

 Wheatley, William, 538, 545.

 Willis, N. P., 498.

 Wilson, Alexander, the ornithologist, 57, 58.

 Winter, Willia