[19th Century Actor] Autobiographies
Part 1 out of 3
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In Forty-four Volumes
A good play gives us in miniature a cross-section of life, heightened
by plot and characterisation, by witty and compact dialogue. Of
course we should honour first the playwright, who has given form to
each well knit act and telling scene. But that worthy man, perhaps at
this moment sipping his coffee at the Authors' Club, gave his drama
its form only; its substance is created by the men and women who, with
sympathy, intelligence and grace, embody with convincing power the
hero and heroine, assassin and accomplice, lover and jilt. For the
success of many a play their writers would be quick to acknowledge a
further and initial debt, both in suggestion and criticism, to the
artists who know from experience on the boards that deeds should he
done, not talked about, that action is cardinal, with no other words
than naturally spring from action. Players, too, not seldom remind
authors that every incident should not only be interesting in itself,
but take the play a stride forward through the entanglement and
unravelling of its plot. It is altogether probable that the heights
to which Shakespeare rose as a dramatist were due in a measure to his
knowledge of how a comedy, or a tragedy, appears behind as well as in
front of the footlights, all in an atmosphere quite other than that
surrounding a poet at his desk.
This little volume begins with part of the life story of Joseph
Jefferson, chief of American comedians. Then we are privileged to
read a few personal letters from Edwin Booth, the acknowledged king of
the tragic stage. He is followed by the queen in the same dramatic
realm, Charlotte Cushman. Next are two chapters by the first
emotional actress of her day in America, Clara Morris. When she bows
her adieu, Sir Henry Irving comes upon the platform instead of the
stage, and in the course of his thoughtful discourse makes it plain
how he won renown both as an actor and a manager. He is followed by
his son, Mr. Henry Brodribb Irving, clearly an heir to his father's
talents in art and in observation. Miss Ellen Terry, long Sir Henry
Irving's leading lady, now tells us how she came to join his company,
and what she thinks of Sir Henry Irving in his principal roles. The
succeeding word comes from Richard Mansfield, whose untimely death is
mourned by every lover of the drama. The next pages are from the hand
of Tommaso Salvini, admittedly the greatest Othello and Samson that
ever trod the boards. A few words, in closing, are from Adelaide
Ristori, whose Medea, Myrrha and Phaedra are among the great
traditions of the modern stage. From first to last this little book
sheds light on the severe toil demanded for excellence on the stage,
and reveals that for the highest success of a drama, author and artist
must work hand in hand.
How I came to play "Rip Van Winkle."
The art of acting.
Preparation and inspiration.
Should an actor "feel" his part?
Learning to act.
Playwrights and actors.
The Jefferson face.
To his daughter when a little girl.
To his daughter on her studies and on ease of manner.
On thoroughness of education.
On Jefferson's autobiography.
On the actor's life.
Lawrence Barrett's death.
His theatre in New York in prospect.
As to his brother, John Wilkes Booth, the slayer of Lincoln.
Advice to a young actor.
As a child a mimic and singer.
First visits to the theatre.
Plays Lady Macbeth, her first part.
To a young actress.
To a young mother.
Art her only spouse.
Farewell to New York.
Recollections of John Wilkes Booth.
The murder of President Lincoln.
"When, in a hunt for a leading man for Mr. Daly,
I first saw Coghlan and Irving."
SIR HENRY IRVING
The stage as an instructor.
Inspiration in acting.
Acting as an art: how Irving began.
Feeling as a reality or a semblance.
Gesture: listening as an art: team-play on the stage.
HENRY BRODRIBB IRVING
The calling of the actor.
Requirements for the stage.
Temptations of the stage.
Acting is a great art.
Relations to "society."
The final school is the audience.
Failure and success.
Hamlet--Irving's greatest part.
The entrance scene in "Hamlet."
The scene with the players.
Irving engages me.
Irving's simplicity of character.
Man and the Actor.
All men are actors.
Napoleon as an actor.
The gift for acting is rare.
The creation of a character.
A national theatre.
Training the actor.
A father's advice.
How Salvini studied his art.
Faults in acting.
The desire to excel in everything.
A model for Othello.
First visit to the United States.
Appearance in London.
Impressions of Irving's Hamlet.
The decline of tragedy.
Tragedy in two languages.
American critical taste.
Impressions of Edwin Booth.
Salvini and Rossi.
Appears as Lady Macbeth.
First visit to America.
Begins to play in English.
[William Winter, the dramatic critic of the New York _Tribune_, in
1894 wrote the "Life and Art of Joseph Jefferson," published by the
Macmillan Company, London and New York. He gives an account of
Jefferson's lineage, and then says:
"In Joseph Jefferson, fourth of the line, famous as Rip Van Winkle,
and destined to be long remembered by that name in dramatic history,
there is an obvious union of the salient qualities of his ancestors.
The rustic luxuriance, manly vigour, careless and adventurous
disposition of the first Jefferson; the refined intellect, delicate
sensibility, dry humour, and gentle tenderness of the second; and the
amiable, philosophic, and drifting temperament of the third, reappear
in this descendant. But more than any of his ancestors, and more than
most of his contemporaries, the present Jefferson is an originator in
the art of acting.... Joseph Jefferson is as distinct as Lamb among
essayists, or George Darley among lyrical poets. No actor of the past
prefigured him, ... and no name, in the teeming annals of modern art,
has shone with a more tranquil lustre, or can be more confidently
committed to the esteem of posterity."
The Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson, copyright, 1889, 1890, by the
Century Company, New York, was published 1891. From its chapters, by
permission, have been taken these pages.--ED.]
HOW I CAME TO PLAY RIP VAN WINKLE
The hope of entering the race for dramatic fame as an individual and
single attraction never came into my head until, in 1858, I acted Asa
Trenchard in "Our American Cousin"; but as the curtain descended the
first night on that remarkably successful play, visions of large type,
foreign countries, and increased remuneration floated before me, and I
resolved to be a star if I could. A resolution to this effect is
easily made; its accomplishment is quite another matter.
Art has always been my sweetheart, and I have loved her for herself
alone. I had fancied that our affection was mutual, so that when I
failed as a star, which I certainly did, I thought she had jilted me.
Not so. I wronged her. She only reminded me that I had taken too
great a liberty, and that if I expected to win her I must press my
suit with more patience. Checked, but undaunted in the resolve, my
mind dwelt upon my vision, and I still indulged in day-dreams of the
During these delightful reveries it came up before me that in acting
Asa Trenchard I had, for the first time in my life on the stage,
spoken a pathetic speech; and though I did not look at the audience
during the time I was acting--for that is dreadful--I felt that they
both laughed and cried. I had before this often made my audience
smile, but never until now had I moved them to tears. This to me
novel accomplishment was delightful, and in casting about for a new
character my mind was ever dwelling on reproducing an effect where
humour would be so closely allied to pathos that smiles and tears
should mingle with each other. Where could I get one? There had been
many written, and as I looked back into the dramatic history of the
past a long line of lovely ghosts loomed up before me, passing as in a
procession: Job Thornberry, Bob Tyke, Frank Ostland, Zekiel Homespun,
and a host of departed heroes "with martial stalk went by my watch."
Charming fellows all, but not for me, I felt I could not do them
justice. Besides, they were too human. I was looking for a
myth--something intangible and impossible. But he would not come.
Time went on, and still with no result,
During the summer of 1859 I arranged to board with my family at a
queer old Dutch farmhouse in Paradise Valley, at the foot of Pocono
Mountain, in Pennsylvania. A ridge of hills covered with tall
hemlocks surrounds the vale, and numerous trout-streams wind through
the meadows and tumble over the rocks. Stray farms are scattered
through the valley, and the few old Dutchmen and their families who
till the soil were born upon it; there and only there they have ever
lived. The valley harmonised with me and our resources. The scene
was wild, the air was fresh, and the board was cheap. What could the
light heart and purse of a poor actor ask for more than this?
On one of those long rainy days that always render the country so dull
I had climbed to the loft of the barn, and lying upon the hay was
reading that delightful book "The Life and Letters of Washington
Irving." I had gotten well into the volume, and was much interested
in it, when to my surprise I came upon a passage which said that he
had seen me at Laura Keene's theater as Goldfinch in Holcroft's comedy
of "The Road to Ruin," and that I reminded him of my father "in look,
gesture, size, and make." Till then I was not aware that he had ever
seen me. I was comparatively obscure, and to find myself remembered
and written of by such a man gave me a thrill of pleasure I can never
forget. I put down the book, and lay there thinking how proud I was,
and ought to be, at the revelation of this compliment. What an
incentive to a youngster like me to go on.
And so I thought to myself, "Washington Irving, the author of 'The
Sketch-Book,' in which is the quaint story of Rip Van Winkle." Rip
Van Winkle! There was to me magic in the sound of the name as I
repeated it. Why, was not this the very character I wanted? An Ameri
can story by an American author was surely just the theme suited to an
In ten minutes I had gone to the house and returned to the barn with
"The Sketch-Book." I had not read the story since I was a boy. I was
disappointed with it; not as a story, of course, but the tale was
purely a narrative. The theme was interesting, but not dramatic. The
silver Hudson stretches out before you as you read, the quaint red
roofs and queer gables of the old Dutch cottages stand out against the
mist upon the mountains; but all this is descriptive. The character
of Rip does not speak ten lines. What could be done dramatically with
so simple a sketch? How could it he turned into an effective play?
Three or four bad dramatisations of the story had already been acted,
but without marked success, Yates of London had given one in which the
hero dies, one had been acted by my father, one by Hackett, and
another by Burke. Some of these versions I had remembered when I was
a boy, and I should say that Burke's play and performance were the
best, but nothing that I remembered gave me the slightest
encouragement that I could get a good play out of any of the existing
materials. Still I was so bent upon acting the part that I started
for the city, and in less than a week, by industriously ransacking the
theatrical wardrobe establishments for old leather and mildewed cloth
and by personally superintending the making of the wigs, each article
of my costume was completed; and all this, too, before I had written a
line of the play or studied a word of the part.
This is working in an opposite direction from all the conventional
methods in the study and elaboration of a dramatic character, and
certainly not following the course I would advise any one to pursue.
I merely mention the out-of-the-way, upside-down manner of going to
work as an illustration of the impatience and enthusiasm with which I
entered upon the task, I can only account for my getting the dress
ready before I studied the part to the vain desire I had of witnessing
myself in the glass, decked out and equipped as the hero of the
I got together the three old printed versions of the drama and the
story itself. The plays were all in two acts. I thought it would be
an improvement in the drama to arrange it in three, making the scene
with the spectre crew an act by itself. This would separate the
poetical from the domestic side of the story. But by far the most
important alteration was in the interview with the spirits. In the
old versions they spoke and sang. I remembered that the effect of
this ghostly dialogue was dreadfully human, so I arranged that no
voice but Rip's should be heard. This is the only act on the stage in
which but one person speaks while all the others merely gesticulate,
and I was quite sure that the silence of the crew would give a lonely
and desolate character to the scene and add its to supernatural
weirdness. By this means, too, a strong contrast with the single
voice of Rip was obtained by the deathlike stillness of the "demons"
as they glided about the stage in solemn silence. It required some
thought to hit upon just the best questions that could be answered by
a nod and shake of the head, and to arrange that at times even Rip
should propound a query to himself and answer it; but I had availed
myself of so much of the old material that in a few days after I had
begun my work it was finished.
In the seclusion of the barn I studied and rehearsed the part, and by
the end of summer I was prepared to transplant it from the rustic
realms of an old farmhouse to a cosmopolitan audience in the city of
Washington, where I opened at Carusi's Hall under the management of
John T. Raymond. I had gone over the play so thoroughly that each
situation was fairly engraved on my mind. The rehearsals were
therefore not tedious to the actors; no one was delayed that I might
consider how he or she should be disposed in the scene. I had by
repeated experiments so saturated myself with the action of the play
that a few days seemed to perfect the rehearsals. I acted on these
occasions with all the point and feeling that I could muster. This
answered the double purpose of giving me freedom and of observing the
effect of what I was doing on the actors. They seemed to be watching
me closely, and I could tell by little nods of approval where and when
the points hit.
I became each day more and more interested in the work; there was in
the subject and the part much scope for novel and fanciful treatment.
If the sleep of twenty years was merely incongruous, there would be
room for argument pro and con; but as it is an impossibility, I felt
that the audience would accept it at once, not because it was an
impossibility, but from a desire to know in what condition a man's
mind would be if such an event could happen. Would he be thus
changed? His identity being denied both by strangers, friends, and
family, would he at last almost accept the verdict and exclaim, "Then
I am dead, and that is a fact?" This was the strange and original
attitude of the character that attracted me.
In acting such a part what to do was simple enough, but what not to do
was the important and difficult point to determine. As the earlier
scenes of the play were of a natural and domestic character, I had
only to draw upon my experience for their effect, or employ such
conventional methods as myself and others had used before in
characters of that ilk. But from the moment Rip meets the spirits of
Hendrik Hudson and his crew I felt that all colloquial dialogue and
commonplace pantomime should cease. It is at this point in the story
that the supernatural element begins, and henceforth the character
must be raised from the domestic plane and lifted into the realms of
To be brief, the play was acted with a result that was to me both
satisfactory and disappointing. I was quite sure that the character
was what I had been seeking, and I was equally satisfied that the play
was not. The action had neither the body nor the strength to carry
the hero; the spiritual quality was there, but the human interest was
wanting. The final alterations and additions were made five years
later by Dion Boucicault.
"Rip Van Winkle" was not a sudden success. It did not burst upon the
public like a torrent. Its flow was gradual, and its source sprang
from the Hartz Mountains, an old German legend, called "Carl the
Shepherd," being the name of the original story. The genius of
Washington Irving transplanted the tale to our own Catskills. The
grace with which he paints the scene, and, still more, the quaintness
of the story, placed it far above the original. Yates, Hackett, and
Burke had separate dramas written upon this scene and acted the hero,
leaving their traditions one to the other. I now came forth, and
saying, "Give me leave," set to work, using some of the
before-mentioned tradition, mark you. Added to this, Dion Boucicault
brought his dramatic skill to bear, and by important additions made a
better play and a more interesting character of the hero than had as
yet been reached. This adaptation, in my turn, I interpreted and
enlarged upon. It is thus evident that while I may have done much to
render the character and the play popular, it has not been the work of
one mind, but both as its to narrative and its dramatic form has been
often moulded, and by many skilful hands. So it would seem that those
dramatic successes that "come like shadows, so depart," and those that
are lasting, have ability for their foundation and industry for their
superstructure. I speak now of the former and the present condition
of the drama. What the future may bring forth it is difficult to
determine. The histrionic kaleidoscope revolves more rapidly than of
yore and the fantastic shapes that it exhibits are brilliant and
confusing; but under all circumstances I should be loath to believe
that any conditions will render the appearance of frivolous novices
more potent than the earnest design of legitimate professors.
THE ART OF ACTING
Acting has been so much a part of my life that my autobiography could
scarcely be written without jotting down my reflections upon it, and I
merely make this little preparatory explanation to apologise for any
dogmatic tone that they may possess, and to say that I present them
merely as a seeker after truth in the domain of art.
In admitting the analogy that undoubtedly exists between the arts of
painting, poetry, music, and acting, it should be remembered that the
first three are opposed to the last, in at least the one quality of
permanence. The picture, oratorio, or book must bear the test of
calculating criticism, whereas the work of an actor is fleeting: it
not only dies with him, but, through his different moods, may vary
from night to night. If the performance be indifferent it is no
consolation for the audience to hear that the player acted well last
night, or to be told that he will act better to-morrow night; it is
this night that the public has to deal with, and the impression the
actor has made, good or bad, remains as such upon the mind of that
The author, painter, or musician, if he be dissatisfied with his work,
may alter and perfect it before giving it publicity, but an actor
cannot rub out; he ought, therefore, in justice to his audience, to be
sure of what he is going to place before it. Should a picture in an
art gallery be carelessly painted we can pass on to another, or if a
book fails to please us we can put it down. An escape from this kind
of dulness is easily made, but in a theatre the auditor is imprisoned.
If the acting be indifferent, he must endure it, at least for a time.
He cannot withdraw without making himself conspicuous; so he remains,
hoping that there may be some improvement as the play proceeds, or
perhaps from consideration for the company he is in. It is this
helpless condition that renders careless acting so offensive.
PREPARATION AND INSPIRATION
I have seen impulsive actors who were so confident of their power that
they left all to chance. This is a dangerous course, especially when
acting a new character. I will admit that there are many instances
where great effects have been produced that were entirely spontaneous,
and were as much a surprise to the actors who made them as they were
to the audience who witnessed them; but just as individuals who have
exuberant spirits are at times dreadfully depressed, so when an
impulsive actor fails to receive his inspiration he is dull indeed,
and is the more disappointing because of his former brilliant
In the stage management of a play, or in the acting of a part, nothing
should be left to chance, and for the reason that spontaneity,
inspiration, or whatever the strange and delightful quality may be
called, is not to be commanded, or we should give it some other name.
It is, therefore, better that a clear and unmistakable outline of a
character should be drawn before an actor undertakes a new part. If
he has a well-ordered and an artistic mind it is likely that he will
give at least a symmetrical and effective performance; but should he
make no definite arrangement, and depend upon our ghostly friends
Spontaneity and Inspiration to pay him a visit, and should they
decline to call, the actor will be in a maze and his audience in a
Besides, why not prepare to receive our mysterious friends whether
they come or not? If they fail on such an invitation, we can at least
entertain our other guests without them, and if they do appear, our
preconceived arrangements will give them a better welcome and put them
more at ease.
Acting under these purely artificial conditions will necessarily be
cold, but the care with which the part is given will at least render
it inoffensive; they are, therefore, primary considerations, and not
to be despised. The exhibition, however, of artistic care does not
alone constitute great acting. The inspired warmth of passion in
tragedy and the sudden glow of humour in comedy cover the artificial
framework with an impenetrable veil: this is the very climax of great
art, for which there seems to be no other name but genius. It is
then, and then only, that an audience feels that it is in the presence
of a reality rather than a fiction. To an audience an ounce of genius
has more weight than a ton of talent; for though it respects the
latter, it reverences the former. But the creative power, divine as
it may be, should in common gratitude pay due regard to the
reflective; for Art is the handmaid of Genius, and only asks the
modest wages of respectful consideration in payment for her valuable
services. A splendid torrent of genius ought never to be checked, but
it should be wisely guided into the deep channel of the stream, from
whose surface it will then reflect Nature without a ripple. Genius
dyes the hues that resemble those of the rainbow; Art fixes the
colours that they may stand. In the race for fame purely artificial
actors cannot hope to win against those whose genius is guided by
their art; and, on the other hand, Intuition must not complain if,
unbridled or with too loose a rein, it stumbles on the course, and so
allows a well-ridden hack to distance it.
SHOULD AN ACTOR "FEEL" HIS PART
Much has been written upon the question as to whether an actor ought
to feel the character he acts, or be dead to any sensations in this
direction. Excellent artists differ in their opinions on this
important point. In discussing it I must refer to some words I wrote
in one of my early chapters:
"The methods by which actors arrive at great effects vary according to
their own natures; this renders the teaching of the art by any
strictly defined lines a difficult matter."
There has lately been a discussion on the subject, in which many have
taken part, and one quite notable debate between two distinguished
actors, one of the English and the other of the French stage [Henry
Irving and Mons. Coquelin]. These gentlemen, though they differ
entirely in their ideas, are, nevertheless, equally right. The method
of one, I have no doubt, is the best he could possibly devise for
himself; and the same may be said of the rules of the other as applied
to himself. But they must work with their own tools; if they had to
adopt each other's they would be as much confused as if compelled to
exchange languages. One believes that he must feel the character he
plays, even to the shedding of real tears, while the other prefers
never to lose himself for an instant, and there is no doubt that they
both act with more effect by adhering to their own dogmas.
For myself, I know that I act best when the heart is warm and the head
is cool. In observing the works of great painters I find that they
have no conventionalities except their own; hence they are masters,
and each is at the head of his own school. They are original, and
could not imitate even if they would.
So with acting, no master-hand can prescribe rules for the head of
another school. If, then, I appear bold in putting forth my
suggestions, I desire it to be clearly understood that I do not
present them to original or experienced artists who have formed their
school, but to the student who may have a temperament akin to my own,
and who could, therefore, blend my methods with his preconceived
Many instructors in the dramatic art fall into the error of teaching
too much. The pupil should first be allowed to exhibit his quality,
and so teach the teacher what to teach. This course would answer the
double purpose of first revealing how much the pupil is capable of
learning, and, what is still more important, of permitting him to
display his powers untrammeled. Whereas, if the master begins by
pounding his dogmas into the student, the latter becomes environed by
a foreign influence which, if repugnant to his nature, may smother his
It is necessary to be cautious in studying elocution and
gesticulation, lest they become our masters instead of our servants.
These necessary but dangerous ingredients must be administered and
taken in homeopathic doses, or the patient may die by being
over-stimulated. But, even at the risk of being artificial, it is
better to have studied these arbitrary rules than to enter a
profession with no knowledge whatever of its mechanism. Dramatic
instinct is so implanted in humanity that it sometimes misleads us,
fostering the idea that because we have the natural talent within we
are equally endowed with the power of bringing it out. This is the
common error, the rock on which the histrionic aspirant is oftenest
wrecked. Very few actors succeed who crawl into the service through
the "cabin windows"; and if they do it is a lifelong regret with them
that they did not exert their courage and sail at first "before the
Many of the shining lights who now occupy the highest positions on the
stage, and whom the public voice delights to praise, have often
appeared in the dreaded character of omnes, marched in processions,
sung out of tune in choruses, and shouted themselves hoarse for Brutus
and Mark Antony.
If necessity is the mother of invention, she is the foster-mother of
art, for the greatest actors that ever lived have drawn their early
nourishment from her breast. We learn our profession by the
mortifications we are compelled to go through in order to get a
The sons and daughters of wealthy parents who have money at their
command, and can settle their weekly expenses without the assistance
of the box office, indignantly refuse to lower themselves by assuming
some subordinate character for which they are cast, and march home
because their fathers and mothers will take care of them. Well, they
had better stay there!
But whether you are rich or poor, if you would be an actor begin at
the beginning. This is the old conventional advice, and is as good
now in its old age as it was in its youth. All actors will agree in
this, and as Puff says, in the _Critic_, "When they do agree on the
stage the unanimity is wonderful." Enroll yourself as a "super" in
some first-class theatre, where there is a stock Company and likely to
be a periodical change of programme, so that even in your low degree
the practice will be varied. After having posed a month as an
innocent English rustic, you may, in the next play, have an
opportunity of being a noble Roman. Do the little you have to do as
well as you can; if you are in earnest the stage-manager will soon
notice it and your advancement will begin at once. You have now made
the plunge, the ice is broken; there is no more degradation for you;
every step you take is forward.
A great American statesman said, "There is always plenty of room at
the top." So there is, Mr. Webster, after you get there. But we must
climb, and climb slowly too, so that we can look back without any
unpleasant sensations; for if we are cast suddenly upon the giddy
height our heads will swim and down we shall go. Look also at the
difficulties that will beset you by beginning "at the top." In the
first place, no manager in his senses will permit it; and if he did,
your failure--which is almost inevitable--not only will mortify you,
but your future course for some time to come will be on the downward
path. Then, in disgust, sore and disheartened, you will retire from
the profession which perhaps your talents might have ornamented if
they had been properly developed.
JOSEPH JEFFERSON IN MONTREAL
PLAYWRIGHTS AND ACTORS
In May, 1886, Mr. Jefferson paid a visit to Montreal, and greatly
enjoyed a drive through Mount Royal Park and to _Sault au Recollet_.
That week he appeared in "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Cricket on the
Hearth." Speaking of Boucicault, who dramatised Rip, he said to the
editor of this volume: "Yes, he is a consummate retoucher of other
men's work. His experience on the stage tells him just what points to
expand and emphasise with most effect. No author seated at his desk
all his life, without theatrical training, could ever have rewritten
Rip with such success. Among modern plays I consider 'The Scrap of
Paper' by Victorien Sardou to be the most ingenious of all. If Sardou
only had heart he would be one of the greatest dramatists that ever
lived. Had he written 'The Cricket on the Hearth,' Caleb Plummer
instead of being patient, resigned and lovable would have been filled
with the vengeful ire of a revolutionist."
With regard to Shakespeare Mr. Jefferson said:
"'Macbeth' is his greatest play, the deepest in meaning, the best knit
from the first scene to the last. While 'Othello' centres on
jealousy, 'Lear' on madness, 'Romeo and Juliet' on love, 'Macbeth'
turns on fate, on the supernal influences which compel a man with good
in him to a murderous course. The weird witches who surround the
bubbling caldron are Fates."
Recalling his early days on the boards he remarked: "Then a young
actor had to play a varied round of parts in a single season.
To-night it would be farce, to-morrow tragedy, the next night some
such melodrama as 'Ten Nights in a Bar-room.' This not only taught an
actor his business, it gave him a chance to find out where his
strength lay, whether as Dundreary, Hamlet, or Zeke Homespun."
THE JEFFERSON FACE
One of Mr. Jefferson's company that season was his son, Mr. Thomas
Jefferson. When I spoke of his remarkable resemblance to the
portraits of President Jefferson, I was told:
"If physiognomy counts for anything, all the Jeffersons have sprung
from one stock; we look alike wherever you find us. The next time you
are in Richmond, Virginia, I wish you to notice the statue of Thomas
Jefferson, one of the group surrounding George Washington beside the
Capitol. That statue might serve as a likeness of my father. When
his father was once playing in Washington, President Jefferson, who
warmly admired his talents, sent for him and received him most
hospitably. When they compared genealogies they could come no nearer
than that both families had come from the same county in England."
Montreal has several highly meritorious art collections: these, of
Course, were open to Mr. Jefferson. He was particularly pleased with
the canvases of Corot in the mansion of Sir George Drummond. That
afternoon another collector showed him his gallery and pointed to a
portrait of his son, for the three years past a student of art in
Paris. Mr. Jefferson asked: "How can you bear to be parted from him
He could be witty as well as kind in his remarks. A kinswoman in his
company grumbled that the Montreal _Herald_ had called her nose a
"No, my dear," was his comment, "it's not a poem, but a stanza,
On Dominion Square I showed him the site occupied by the Ice Palace
during the recent Winter Carnival; on the right stood a Methodist
Church, on the left the Roman Catholic Cathedral. He remarked simply:
"So there's a coolness between them!"
[Mr. William Winter's "Life and Art of Edwin Booth" is indispensable
to a student of the American stage. Here are two paragraphs chosen
from many as illuminating:
"The salient attributes of Booth's art were imagination, insight,
grace, intense emotion, and melancholy refinement. In Hamlet,
Richelieu, Othello, Iago, Lear, Bertuccio, and Lucius Brutus they were
conspicuously manifest. But the controlling attribute,--that which
imparted individual character, colour and fascination to his
acting,--was the thoughtful introspective habit of a stately mind,
abstracted from passion and suffused with mournful dreaminess of
temperament. The moment that charm began to work, his victory was
complete. It was that which made him the true image of Shakespeare's
thought, in the glittering halls of Elsinore, on its midnight
battlements, and in its lonely, wind-beaten place of graves.
"Under the discipline of sorrow, and through years that bring the
philosophic mind, Booth drifted further and further away from things
dark and terrible, whether in the possibilities of human life or in
the world of imagination. That is the direction of true growth. In
all characters that evoked his essential spirit--in characters which
rested on spiritualised intellect, or on sensibility to fragile
loveliness, the joy that is unattainable, the glory that fades, and
the beauty that perishes--he was peerless. Hamlet, Richelieu, Faust,
Manfred, Jacques, Esmond, Sydney Carton, and Sir Edward Mortimer are
all, in different ways, suggestive of the personality that Booth was
fitted to illustrate. It is the loftiest type that human nature
affords, because it is the embodied supremacy of the soul, and because
therein it denotes the only possible escape from the cares and
vanities of a transitory world."
The letters which follow are from "Edwin Booth: Recollections by his
daughter, Edwina Booth Grossman, and Letters to Her and to His
Friends." Copyright, 1894, Century Company, New York.--ED.]
TO HIS DAUGHTER
NEW YORK, November 15, 1871.
MY OWN DEAR DAUGHTER:
I arrived here last night, and found your pretty gift awaiting me.
Your letter pleased me very, very much in every respect, and your
little souvenir gave me far more delight than if it were of real gold.
When you are older you will understand how precious little things,
seemingly of no value in themselves, can be loved and prized above all
price when they convey the love and thoughtfulness of a good heart.
This little token of your desire to please me, my darling, is
therefore very dear to me, and I will cherish it as long as I live.
If God grants me so many years, I will show it you when you are a
woman, and then you will appreciate my preference for so little a
thing, made by you, to anything money might have bought. God bless
you, my darling! ...
God bless you again and again! Your loving father.
TO HIS DAUGHTER
CHICAGO, March 2, 1873.
MY DEAR BIG DAUGHTER:
Your last letter was very jolly, and made me almost happy. Pip (the
dog) is yelping to write to you, and so is your little brother, St.
Valentine, the bird; but I greatly fear they will have to wait another
week, for, you know, I have to hold the pen for them, and I have
written so many letters, and to-day my hand is tired.
Don't you think it jollier to receive silly letters sometimes than to
get a repetition of sermons on good behaviour? It is because I desire
to encourage in you a vein of pleasantry, which is most desirable in
one's correspondence, as well as in conversation, that I put aside the
stern old father, and play papa now and then.
When I was learning to act tragedy, I had frequently to perform comic
parts, in order to acquire a certain ease of manner that my serious
parts might not appear too stilted; so you must endeavour in your
letters, in your conversation, and your general deportment, to be easy
and natural, graceful and dignified. But remember that dignity does
not consist of over-becoming pride and haughtiness; self-respect,
politeness and gentleness in all things and to all persons will give
you sufficient dignity. Well, I declare, I've dropped into a sermon,
after all, haven't I? I'm afraid I'11 have to let Pip and the bird
have a chance, or else I'11 go on preaching till the end of my letter.
You must tell me what you are reading now, and how you progress in
your studies, and how good you are trying to be. Of that I have no
fear. I doubt if I shall get to Philadelphia in June; so do not
expect me until school breaks up and then--"hey for Cos Cob" and the
fish-poles! When I was last there the snow was high above our knees;
but still I liked it better than the city ....
Love and kisses from your grim old father.
TO HIS DAUGHTER
April 23, 1876.
MY DARLING DAUGHTER,
... When I was at Eton (I don't refer now to the dinner-table) my
Greek and Latin were of such a superior quality that had it not been
for an unforeseen accident I would have carried off all the honours.
The accident lay in this: I never went to school there except in
dreams. How often, ah! how often have I imagined the delights of a
collegiate education! What a world of never-ending interest lies open
to the master of languages!
The best translations cannot convey to us the strength and exquisite
delicacy of thought in its native garb, and he to whom such books are
shut flounders about in outer darkness. I have suffered so much from
the lack of that which my father could easily have given me in youth,
and which he himself possessed, that I am all the more anxious you
shall escape my punishment in that respect; that you may not, like me,
dream of those advantages which others enjoy through any lack of
opportunity or neglect of mine. Therefore, learn to love your Latin,
your French, and your English grammar; standing firmly and securely on
them, you have a solid foothold in the field of literature....
Think how interesting it will be hereafter to refer to your journal,
and see the rapid development, not only of your mind, but of your
moral growth; only do not fail to record all your shortcomings; they
will not stand as reproaches, but as mere snags in the tortuous river
of your life, to be avoided in succeeding trips farther down the
stream. They beset us all along the route, from the cradle to the
grave, and if we can only see them we can avoid many rough bumps.
God bless my darling!
TO HIS DAUGHTER
CHICAGO, October 9, 1886
... I am glad to know that baby has begun to crawl; don't put her on
her feet too soon; consider her legs a _la bow_.... I closed my first
week here with two enormous houses. A hard week's work has greatly
tired me.... Jefferson called and left with me the manuscript of his
reminiscences, which he has been writing. So far as he has written
it, it is intensely interesting and amusing, and well written in a
free and chatty style; it will be the best autobiography of any actor
yet published if he continues it in its present form. I sent you some
book notices from Lawrence Hutton's clippings for me.... In the
article I send to-day you will see that I am gently touched up on the
point of the "old school"; my reference was not to the old style of
acting, but the old stock theatre as a school--where a beginner had
the advantage of a great variety of experience in farces, as well as
tragedies and comedies, and a frequent change of programme. There is
no "school" now; there is a more natural style of acting, perhaps, but
the novice can learn nothing from long runs of a single play ...
TO HIS DAUGHTER
NEW YORK, January 5, 1888,
... As for God's reward for what I have done, I can hardly appreciate
it; it is more like punishment for misdeeds (of which I've done many)
than grace for good ones (if I've done any). Homelessness is the
actor's fate; physical incapacity to attain what is most required and
desired by such a spirit as I am a slave to. If there be rewards, I
am certainly well paid, but hard schooling in life's thankless lessons
has made we somewhat of a philosopher, and I've learned to take the
buffets and rewards of fortune with equal thanks, and in suffering all
to suffer--I won't say nothing, but comparatively little. Dick
Stoddard wrote a poem called "The King's Bell," which fits my case
exactly (you may have read it) . He dedicated it to Lorimer Graham,
who never knew an unhappy day in his brief life, instead of to me, who
never knew a really happy one. You mustn't suppose from this that I'm
ill in mind or body: on the contrary, I am well enough in both; nor am
I a pessimist. I merely wanted you to know that the sugar of my life
is bitter-sweet; perhaps not more so than every man's whose experience
has been above and below the surface.... Business has continued
large, and increases a little every night; the play will run two weeks
longer. Sunday, at four o'clock, I start for Baltimore, arriving
there at ten o'clock....
To-morrow, a meeting of actors, managers, and artists at breakfast, to
discuss and organise, if possible, a theatrical club like the
Garrick of London....
TO HIS DAUGHTER
DETROIT, April 04, 1890.
... Yes; it is indeed most gratifying to feel that age has not
rendered my work stale and tiresome, as is usually the case with
actors (especially tragedians) at my time. Your dear mother's fear
was that I would culminate too early, as I seemed then to be advancing
so rapidly. Somehow I can't rid myself of the belief that both she
and my father helped me. But as for the compensation? Nothing of
fame or fortune can compensate for the spiritual suffering that one
possessing such qualities has to endure. To pass life in a sort of
dream, where "nothing is but what is not"--a loneliness in the very
midst of a constant crowd, as it were--is not a desirable condition of
existence, especially when the body also has to share the "penalty of
greatness," as it is termed. Bosh! I'd sooner be an obscure farmer,
a hayseed from Wayback, or a cabinetmaker, as my father advised, than
the most distinguished man on earth. But Nature cast me for the part
she found me best fitted for, and I have had to play it, and must play
it till the curtain falls. But you must not think me sad about it.
No; I am used to it, and am contented.
I continue well, and act with a vigour which sometimes surprises
myself, and all the company notice it, and comment upon it. I'm glad
the babes had a jolly birthday. Bless 'em! Love for all.
TO HIS DAUGHTER
THE PLAYERS, NEW YORK,
March 22, 1891.
I'm in no mood for letter-writing to-day. The shock (of Mr. Lawrence
Barrett's death) so sudden and so distressing, and the gloomy,
depressing weather, entirely unfit me for the least exertion--even to
think. Hosts of friends, all eager to assist poor Mrs. Barrett, seem
helpless in confusion, and all the details of the sad business seem to
be huddled on her ...
General Sherman's son, "Father Tom," as he is affectionately called by
all the family and the friends of the dear old General, will attend.
He was summoned from Europe recently to his father's deathbed, and he
happens to be in time to perform services for his father's friend,
poor Lawrence. After the services to-morrow, the remains and a few
friends will go direct to Cohasset for the burial--Tuesday--where
Barrett had only two weeks ago placed his mother, removed from her New
York grave to a family lot which he had recently purchased at
Cohasset. He had also enlarged his house there, where he intended to
pass his old age in privacy. Doctor Smith was correct in his
assertion that the glandular disease was incurable, and the surgical
operation would prolong life only a year or so; the severe cold
produced pneumonia; which Barrett's physicians say might have been
overcome but for the glandular disease still in the blood. Mrs.
Barrett knew from the first operation that he had at most a year or so
to live, and yet by the doctor's advice kept it secret, and did
everything to cheer and humour him. She's a remarkable woman. She
has been expecting to be suddenly called to him for more than a year
past, yet the blow came with terrible force. Milly, Mr. Barrett's
youngest daughter, and her husband, came last night.... When I saw
Lawrence on Thursday he was in a burning fever and asked me to keep
away for fear his breath might affect me, and it pained him to talk.
He pulled through three acts of "De Mauprat" the night before, and
sent for his wife that night. His death was very peaceful, with no
sign of pain. A couple of weeks ago he and I were to meet General
Sherman at dinner: death came instead. To-night Barrett had invited
about twenty distinguished men to meet me at Delmonico's, and again
the grim guest attends....
My room is like an office of some state official; letters, telegrams,
and callers come every moment, some on business, many in sympathy.
Three hours have elapsed since I finished the last sentence, and I
expect a call from Bromley before I retire. A world of business
matters have been disturbed by this sudden break of contracts with
actors and managers, and everything pertaining to next season, as well
as much concerning the balance of the present one, must be rearranged
or cancelled. I, of course, am free; but for the sake of the company
I shall fulfil my time, to pay their salaries, this week here; and
next week in Brooklyn, as they were engaged by Barrett for my
engagement. After which they will be out of employment for the
balance of the season...
TO MISS EMMA F. CARY
SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY, 1864.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
A little lull in the whirl of excitement in which my brain has nearly
lost its balance affords me an opportunity to write to you. It would
be difficult to explain the many little annoyances I have been
subjected to in the production of "Richelieu," but when I tell you
that it far surpasses "Hamlet," and exceeds all my expectations, you
may suppose that I have not been very idle all this while. I wish you
could see it.
Professor Peirce has been here, and he will tell you of it. It
really seems that the dreams of my past life--so far as my profession
is concerned--are being realised. What Mary and I used to plan for my
future, what Richard and I used laughingly to promise ourselves in
"our model theatre," seems to be realised--in these two plays, at
least. As history says of the great cardinal, I am "too fortunate a
man not to be superstitious," and as I find my hopes being fulfilled,
I cannot help but believe that there is a sufficient importance in my
art to interest them still; that to a higher influence than the world
believes I am moved by I owe the success I have achieved. Assured
that all I do in this advance carries, even beyond the range of my
little world (the theatre), an elevating and refining influence, while
in it the effect is good, I begin to feel really happy in my once
uneasy sphere of action. I dare say I shall soon be contented with my
lot. I will tell you this much: I have been offered the means to a
speedy and an ample fortune, from all parts of the country, but prefer
the limit I have set, wherein I have the power to carry out my wishes,
though "on half pay," as it were....
Ever your friend,
TO MISS EMMA F. CARY
[Three weeks after the assassination by his brother, John Wilkes
Booth, of President Lincoln.]
Saturday, May 6, 1865.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I've just received your letter. I have been in one sense unable to
write, but you know, of course, what my condition is, and need no
I have been, by the advice of my friends, "cooped up" since I arrived
here, going out only occasionally in the evening. My health is good,
but I suffer from the want of fresh air and exercise.
Poor mother is in Philadelphia, about crushed by her sorrows, and my
sister, Mrs. Clarke, is ill, and without the least knowledge of her
husband, who was taken from her several days ago, with Junius.
My position is such a delicate one that I am obliged to use the utmost
caution. Hosts of friends are staunch and true to me. Here and in
Boston I feel safe. What I am in Philadelphia and elsewhere I know
not. All I do [know] of the above named city is that there is one
great heart firm and faster bound to me than ever.
Sent in answer to dear Mary's [his wife's] prayers--I faithfully
believe it. She will do what Mary struggled, suffered, and died in
doing. My baby, too, is there. Now that the greatest excitement is
over, and a lull is in the storm, I feel the need of that dear angel;
but during the heat of it I was glad she was not here.
When Junius and Mr. Clarke are at liberty, mother will come here and
bring Edwina [his daughter] to me. I wish I could see with others'
eyes; all my friends assure me that my name shall be free, and that in
a little while I may be where I was and what I was; but, alas! it
looks dark to me.
God bless you all for your great assistance in my behalf; even dear
Dick aided me in my extremity, did he not?
Give my love to all and kisses to George.
... I do not think the feeling is so strong in my favour in
Philadelphia as it is here and in Boston. I am not known there. Ever
TO MR. NAHUM CAPEN
[In response to an inquiry regarding his brother, John Wilkes Booth.]
WINDSOR HOTEL, NEW YORK,
July 28, 1881.
I can give you very little information regarding my brother John. I
seldom saw him since his early boyhood in Baltimore. He was a
rattle-pated fellow, filled with quixotic notions.
While at the farm in Maryland he would charge on horseback through the
woods, "spouting" heroic speeches with a lance in his hand--a relic of
the Mexican war--given to father by some soldier who had served under
Taylor. We regarded him as a good-hearted, harmless, though
wild-brained, boy, and used to laugh at his patriotic froth whenever
secession was discussed. That he was insane on that one point no one
who knew him well can doubt. When I told him that I had voted for
Lincoln's reelection he expressed deep regret, and declared his belief
that Lincoln would be made king of America; and this I believe, drove
him beyond the limits of reason. I asked him once why he did not join
the Confederate army. To which he replied, "I promised mother I would
keep out of the quarrel, if possible, and I am sorry that I said so."
Knowing my sentiments, he avoided me, rarely visiting my house, except
to see his mother, when political topics were not touched upon--at
least in my presence. He was of a gentle, loving disposition, very
boyish and full of fun--his mother's darling--and his deed and death
crushed her spirit. He possessed rare dramatic talent, and would have
made a brilliant mark in the theatrical world. This is positively all
that I know about him, having left him a mere school-boy, when I went
with my father to California in 1852. On my return in 1856 we were
separated by professional engagements, which kept him mostly in the
South while I was employed in the Eastern and Northern states.
I do not believe any of the wild, romantic stories published in the
papers concerning him; but of course he may have been engaged in
political matters of which I know nothing. All his theatrical friends
speak of him as a poor crazy boy, and such his family think of him. I
am sorry I can afford you no further light on the subject. Very truly
ADVICE TO A YOUNG ACTOR
[TO WALTER THOMAS]
NEW YORK, August 28, 1889.
MY DEAR MR. THOMAS:
I was surprised to learn that your engagement with Mr. Barrett is
terminated, and am sorry for the cause, although I believe the result
will be to your advantage. Your chances for promotion will be better
in a company that is not confined to so limited a repertoire as mine,
in which so few opportunities occur for the proper exercise of
youthful talent. A frequent change of role, and of the lighter
sort--especially such as one does not like forcing one's self to use
the very utmost of his ability in the performance of--is the training
requisite for a mastery of the actor's art.
I had seven years' apprenticeship at it, during which most of my
labour was in the field of comedy--"walking gentleman," burlesque, and
low comedy parts--the while my soul was yearning for high tragedy. I
did my best with all that I was cast for, however, and the unpleasant
experience did me a world of good. Had I followed my own bent, I
would have been, long ago, a "crushed tragedian."
I will, as you request, give you a line to Mr. Palmer, and I hope you
may obtain a position that will afford you the necessary practice.
With best wishes. Truly yours,
[Charlotte Cushman, a native of Boston, died in that city in 1876. No
actress ever excelled her as Meg Merrilies, Queen Katherine, and Lady
Macbeth. On the morning following her death, Mr. William Winter wrote
in the New York _Tribune_:--
... Charlotte Cushman was not a great actress merely, but she was a
great woman. She did not possess the dramatic faculty apart from
other faculties and conquer by that alone: but having that faculty in
almost unlimited fulness, she poured forth through its channel such
resources of character, intellect, moral strength, soul, and personal
magnetism as marked her for a genius of the first order, while they
made her an irresistible force in art. When she came upon the stage
she filled it with the brilliant vitality of her presence. Every
movement that she made was winningly characteristic. Her least
gesture was eloquence, Her voice, which was soft or silvery, or deep
or mellow, according as emotion affected it, used now and then to
tremble, and partly to break, with tones that were pathetic beyond
description. These were denotements of the fiery soul that smouldered
beneath her grave exterior, and gave iridescence to every form of art
that she embodied. Sometimes her whole being seemed to become
petrified in a silent suspense more thrilling than any action, as if
her imagination were suddenly inthralled by the tumult and awe of its
own vast perceptions."
Her frlend, Emma Stebbins, the sculptor, edited a memorial volume,
"Charlotte Cushman: Her Letters and Memories of Her Life," published
in 1878. By permission of the publishers and owners of the copyright,
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, the pages that follow are
AS A CHILD A MIMIC AND SINGER
On one occasion [wrote Miss Cushman] when Henry Ware, pastor of the
old Boston Meeting House, was taking tea with my mother, he sat at
table talking, with his chin resting in his two hands, and his elbows
on the table. I was suddenly startled by my mother exclaiming,
"Charlotte, take your elbows off the table and your chin out of your
hands; it is not a pretty position for a young lady!" I was sitting
in exact imitation of the parson, even assuming the expression of his
Besides singing everything, I exercised my imitative powers in all
directions, and often found myself instinctively mimicking the tones,
movement, and expression of those about me. I'm afraid I was what the
French call _un enfant terrible_--in the vernacular, an awful child!
full of irresistible life and impulsive will; living fully in the
present, looking neither before nor after; as ready to execute as to
conceive; full of imagination--a faculty too often thwarted and warped
by the fears of parents and friends that it means insincerity and
falsehood, when it is in reality but the spontaneous exercise of
faculties as yet unknown even to the possessor, and misunderstood by
those so-called trainers of infancy.
This imitative faculty in especial I inherited from my grandmother
Babbit, born Mary Saunders, of Gloucester, Cape Ann. Her faculty of
imitation was very remarkable. I remember sitting at her feet on a
little stool and hearing her sing a song of the period, in which she
delighted me by the most perfect imitation of every creature belonging
to the farmyard.
FIRST VISITS TO THE THEATRE
My uncle, Augustus Babbit, who led a seafaring life and was lost at
sea, took great interest in me; he offered me prizes for proficiency
in my studies, especially music and writing. He first took me to the
theatre on one of his return voyages, which was always a holiday time
for me. My first play was "Coriolanus," with Macready, and my second
"The Gamester," with Cooper and Mrs. Powell as Mr. and Mrs. Beverley.
All the English actors and actresses of that time were of the Siddons
and Kemble school, and I cannot but think these early impressions must
have been powerful toward the formation of a style of acting afterward
slowly eliminated through the various stages of my artistic career.
My uncle had great taste and love for the dramatic profession, and
became acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. William Pelby, for whom the
original Tremont Theatre was built. My uncle being one of the
stockholders, through him my mother became acquainted with these
people, and thus we had many opportunities of seeing and knowing
something of the fraternity.
About this time I became noted in school as a reader, where before I
had only been remarkable for my arithmetic, the medal for which could
never be taken from me. I remember on one occasion reading a scene
from Howard Payne's tragedy of "Brutus," in which Brutus speaks, and
the immediate result was my elevation to the head of the class to the
evident disgust of my competitors, who grumbled out, "No wonder she
can read, she goes to the theatre!" I had been before this very shy
and reserved, not to say stupid, about reading in school, afraid of
the sound of my own voice, and very unwilling to trust it; but the
greater familiarity with the theatre seemed suddenly to unloose my
tongue, and give birth as it were to a faculty which has been the
ruling passion ever since.
PLAYS LADY MACBETH, HER FIRST PART
With the Maeders I went [in 1836, when twenty years of age] to New
Orleans, and sang until, owing perhaps to my youth, to change of
climate, or to a too great strain upon the upper register of my voice,
which, as his wife's voice was a contralto, it was more to Mr.
Maeder's interest to use, than the lower one, I found my voice
suddenly failing me. In my unhappiness I went to ask counsel and
advice of Mr. Caldwell, the manager of the chief New Orleans theatre,
He at once said to me, "You ought to be an actress, and not a singer."
He advised me to study some parts, and presented me to Mr. Barton, the
tragedian of the theatre, whom he asked to hear me, and to take an
interest in me.
He was very kind, as indeed they both were; and Mr. Barton, after a
short time, was sufficiently impressed with my powers to propose to
Mr. Caldwell that I should act Lady Macbeth to his Macbeth, on the
occasion of his (Barton's) benefit. Upon this is was decided that I
should give up singing and take to acting. My contract with Mr.
Maeder was annulled, it being the end of the season. So enraptured
was I with the idea of acting this part, and so fearful of anything
preventing me, that I did not tell the manager I had no dresses, until
it was too late for me to be prevented from acting it; and the day
before the performance, after rehearsal, I told him. He immediately
sat down and wrote a note of introduction for me to the tragedienne of
the French Theatre, which then employed some of the best among French
artists for its company. This note was to ask her to help me to
costumes for the role of Lady Macbeth, I was a tall, thin, lanky girl
at that time, about five feet six inches in height. The Frenchwoman,
Madame Closel, was a short, fat person of not more than four feet ten
inches, her waist full twice the size of mine, with a very large bust;
but her shape did not prevent her being a very great actress. The
ludicrousness of her clothes being made to fit me struck her at once.
She roared with laughter; but she was very good-natured, saw my
distress, and set to work to see to how she could help it. By dint of
piecing out the skirt of one dress it was made to answer for an
underskirt, and then another dress was taken in in every direction to
do duty as an overdress, and so make up the costume. And thus I
essayed for the first time the part of Lady Macbeth, fortunately to
the satisfaction of the audience, the manager, and all the members of
TO A YOUNG ACTRESS [PART OF A LETTER]
... I should advise you to get to work; all ideal study of acting,
without the trial or opportunity of trying our efforts and conceivings
upon others, is, in my mind, lost time. Study while you act. Your
conception of character can be formed while you read your part, and
only practice can tell you whether you are right. You would, after a
year of study in your own room, come out unbenefited, save in as far
as self-communion ever must make us better and stronger; but this is
not what you want just now. Action is needed. Your vitality must in
some measure work itself off. You must suffer, labour, and wait,
before you will be able to grasp the true and the beautiful. You
dream of it now; the intensity of life that is in you, the spirit of
poetry which makes itself heard by you in indistinct language, needs
work to relieve itself and be made clear. I feel diffident about
giving advice to you, for you know your own nature better than any one
else can, but I should say to you, get to work in the best way you
All your country work will be wretched; you will faint by the way; but
you must rouse your great strength and struggle on, bearing patiently
your cross on the way to your crown! God bless you and prosper your
undertakings. I know the country theatres well enough to know how
utterly alone you will be in such companies; but keep up a good heart;
we have only to do well what is given us to do, to find heaven.
I think if you have to wait for a while it will do you no harm. You
seem to me quite frantic for immediate work; but teach yourself quiet
and repose in the time you are waiting. With half your strength I
could bear to wait and labour with myself to conquer fretting. The
greatest power in the world is shown in conquest over self. More life
will be worked out of you by fretting than all the stage-playing in
the world. God bless you, my poor child. You have indeed troubles
enough; but you have a strong and earnest spirit, and you have the
true religion of labour in your heart. Therefore I have no fears for
you, let what will come. Let me hear from you at your leisure, and be
sure you have no warmer friend than I am and wish to be,...
I was exceedingly pleased to hear such an account of your first
appearance. You were quite right in all that was done, and I am
rejoiced at your success. Go on; persevere. You will be sure to do
what is right, for your heart is in the right place, your head is
sound, your reading has been good. Your mind is so much better and
stronger than any other person's whom I have known enter the
profession, that your career is plain before you.
But I will advise you to remain in your own native town for a season,
or at least the winter. You say you are afraid of remaining among
people who know you. Don't have this feeling at all. You will have
to be more particular in what you do, and the very feeling that you
cannot be indifferent to your audience will make you take more pains.
Beside this, you will be at home, which is much better for a time; for
then at first you do not have to contend with a strange home as well
as with a strange profession. I could talk to you a volume upon this
matter, but it is difficult to write. At all events I hope you will
take my counsel and remain at home this winter. It is the most
wretched thing imaginable to go from home a novice into such a theatre
as any of those in the principal towns.
Only go on and work hard, and you will be sure to make a good
position. With regard to your faults, what shall I say? Why, that
you will try hard to overcome them. I don't think they would be
perceived save by those who perhaps imagine that your attachment for
me has induced you to join the profession. I have no mannerisms, I
hope; therefore any imitation of me can only be in the earnest desire
to do what you can do, as well as you can. Write to me often; ask of
me what you will; my counsel is worth little, but you shall command it
if you need it.
TO A YOUNG MOTHER
[FROM A LETTER]
... All that you say about your finding your own best expression in
and through the little life which is confided to you is good and true,
and I am so happy to see how you feel on the subject. I think a
mother who devotes herself to her child, in watching its culture and
keeping it from baleful influences, is educating and cultivating
herself at the same time. No artist work is so high, so noble, so
grand, so enduring, so important for all time, as the making of
character in a child, You have your own work to do, the largest
possible expression. No statue, no painting, no acting, can reach it,
and it embodies each and all the arts, Clay of God's fashioning is
given into your hands to mould to perfectness. Is this not something
grand to think of? No matter about yourself--only make yourself
worthy of God's sacred trust, and you will be doing His work--and that
is all that human beings ought to care to live for. Am I right?
EARLY GRIEFS. ART HER ONLY SPOUSE
[FROM A LETTER TO A FRIEND]
There was a time, in my life of girlhood, when I thought I had been
called upon to bear the very hardest thing that can come to a Woman.
A very short time served to show me, in the harder battle of life
Which was before me, that this had been but a spring storm, which was
simply to help me to a clearer, better, richer, and more productive
summer. If I had been spared this early trial, I should never have
been so earnest and faithful in my art; I should have still been
casting about for the "counterpart," and not given my entire self to
my work, wherein and alone I have reached any excellence I have ever
attained, and through which alone I have received my reward. God
helped me in my art isolation, and rewarded me for recognising him and
helping myself. This passed on; and this happened at a period in my
life when most women (or children, rather) are looking to but one end
in life--an end no doubt wisest and best for the largest number, but
which would not have been wisest and best for my work, and so for
God's work, for I know he does not fail to set me his work to do, and
helps me to do it, and helps others to help me. (Do you see this
tracing back, and then forward, to an eternity of good, and do you see
how better and better one can become in recognising one's self as a
minister of the Almighty to faithfully carry out our part of His great
plan according to our strength and ability?) 0 believe we cannot live
one moment for ourselves, one moment of selfish repining, and not be
failing him at that moment, hiding the God-spark in us, letting the
flesh conquer the spirit, the evil dominate the good.
Then after this first spring storm and hurricane of young
disappointment came a lull--during which I actively pursued what
became a passion,--my art. Then I lost my younger brother, upon whom
I had begun to build most hopefully, as I had reason. He was by far
the cleverest of my mother's children. He had been born into greater
poverty than the others; he received his young impressions through a
different atmosphere; he was keener, more artistic, more impulsive,
more generous, more full of genius. I lost him by a cruel accident,
and again the world seem to liquefy beneath my feet, and the waters
went over my soul. It became necessary that I should suffer bodily to
cure my heart-bleed. I placed myself professionally where I found and
knew all my mortifications in my profession, which seemed for the time
to strew ashes over the loss of my child-brother (for he was my child,
and loved me best in all the world), thus conquering my art, which,
God knows, has never failed me--never failed to bring me rich
reward--never failed to bring me comfort. I conquered my grief and
myself. Labour saved me then and always, and so I proved the eternal
goodness of God. I digress too much; but you will see how, in looking
back to my own early disappointments, I can recognise all the good
which came out of them, and can ask you to lay away all repinings with
our darling, and hope (as we must) in God's wisdom and goodness, and
ask him to help us to a clearer vision and truer knowledge of his
dealings with us; to teach us to believe that we are lifted up to him
better through our losses than our gains. May it not be that heaven
is nearer, the passage from earth less hard, and life less seductive
to us, in consequence of the painless passing of this cherub to its
true home, lent us but for a moment, to show how pure must be our
lives to fit us for such companionship? And thus, although in one
sense it would be well for us to put away the sadness of this thought
if it would be likely to enervate us, in another sense, if we consider
it rightly, if we look upon it worthily, we have an angel in God's
house to help us to higher and purer thinkings, to nobler aspirations,
to more sublime sacrifices than we have ever known before.
FAREWELL TO NEW YORK
[In 1874 Miss Cushman bade farewell to New York at Booth's Theatre,
after a performance as Lady Macbeth. William Cullen Bryant presented
an ode in her honour. In the course of her response Miss Cushman
Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks, but I thank you.
Gentlemen, the heart has no speech; its only language is a tear or a
pressure of the hand, and words very feebly convey or interpret its
emotions. Yet I would beg you to believe that in the three little
words I now speak, 'I thank you,' there are heart depths which I
should fail to express better, though I should use a thousand other
words. I thank you, gentlemen, for the great honour you have offered
me. I thank you, not only for myself, but for my whole profession, to
which, through and by me, you have paid this very grateful compliment.
If the few words I am about to say savour of egotism or vainglory, you
will, I am sure, pardon me, inasmuch as I am here only to speak of
myself. You would seem to compliment me upon an honourable life. As
I look back upon that life, it seems to me that it would have been
impossible for me to have led any other. In this I have, perhaps,
been mercifully helped more than are many of my more beautiful sisters
in art. I was, by a press of circumstances, thrown at an early age
into a profession for which I had received no special education or
training; but I had already, though so young, been brought face to
face with necessity. I found life sadly real and intensely earnest,
and in my ignorance of other ways of study, I resolved to take
therefrom my text and my watchword. To be thoroughly in earnest,
intensely in earnest in all my thoughts and in all my actions, whether
in my profession or out of it, became my one single idea. And I
honestly believe herein lies the secret of my success in life. I do
not believe that any great success in any art can he achieved without
[Clara Morris, Mrs. Frederick C. Harriott, is a native of Toronto,
Canada. Her remarkable powers as an emotional actress, early in
evidence, gave her for years the foremost place at Daly's Theatre, and
the Union Square Theatre, New York. Among the parts in which she
achieved distinction were Camille, Alixe, Miss Multon, Corn in
"Article 47," and Mercy Merrick in "The New Magdalen." Since her
retirement from the stage Clara Morris has proved herself to be a
capital writer, shedding the light of experience on the difficulties
of dramatic success. One of her books, "Life on the Stage,"
copyright, 1901, by Clara Morris Harriott and the S. S. McClure
Company, New York, by permission, has furnished this episode.--Ed.]
SOME RECOLLECTIONS OF JOHN WILKES BOOTH
In glancing back over two crowded and busy seasons, one figure stands
out with clearness and beauty. In his case only (so far as my
personal knowledge goes), there was nothing derogatory to dignity or
to manhood in being called beautiful, for he was that bud of splendid
promise blasted to the core, before its full triumphant
blooming--known to the world as a madman and an assassin, but to the
profession as "that unhappy boy"--John Wilkes Booth.
He was so young, so bright, so gay--so kind. I could not have known
him well; of course, too--there are two or three different people in
every man's skin; yet when we remember that stars are not generally in
the habit of showing their brightest, their best side to the company
at rehearsal, we cannot help feeling both respect and liking for the
one who does.
There are not many men who can receive a gash over the eye in a scene
at night, without at least a momentary outburst of temper; but when
the combat between Richard and Richmond was being rehearsed, Mr. Booth
had again and again urged Mr. McCollom (that six-foot tall and
handsome leading-man, who entrusted me with the care of his watch
during such encounters) to come on hard! to come on hot! hot, old
fellow! harder-faster! He'd take the chance of a blow--if only they
could make a hot fight of it!
And Mr. McCollom, who was a cold man, at night became nervous in his
effort to act like a fiery one--he forgot he had struck the full
number of head blows, and when Booth was pantingly expecting a
thrust, McCollom, wielding his sword with both hands, brought it down
with awful force fair across Booth's forehead; a cry of horror rose,
for in one moment his face was masked in blood, one eyebrow was
cleanly cut through--there came simultaneously one deep groan from
Richard and the exclamation: "Oh, good God! good God!" from Richmond,
who stood shaking like a leaf and staring at his work. Then Booth,
flinging the blood from his eyes with his left hand, said as genially
as man could speak: " That's all right, old man! never mind me--only
come on hard, for God's sake, and save the fight!"
Which be resumed at once, and though he was perceptibly weakened, it
required the sharp order of Mr. Ellsler, to "ring the first curtain
bell," to force him to bring the fight to a close a single blow
shorter than usual. Then there was a running to and fro, with ice and
vinegar-paper and raw steak and raw oysters. When the doctor had
placed a few stitches where they were most required, he laughingly
declared there was provision enough in the room to start a restaurant.
Mr. McCollom came to try to apologise--to explain, but Booth would
have none of it; be held out his hand, crying: "Why, old fellow, you
look as if you had lost the blood. Don't worry--now if my eye had
gone, that would have been bad!" And so with light words he tried to
set the unfortunate man at ease, and though he must have suffered much
mortification as well as pain from the eye--that in spite of all
endeavours would blacken--he never made a sign.
He was, like his great elder brother, rather lacking in height, but
his head and throat, and the manner of their rising from his
shoulders, were truly beautiful, His colouring was unusual--the ivory
pallor of his skin, the inky blackness of his densely thick hair, the
heavy lids of his glowing eyes were all Oriental, and they gave a
touch of mystery to his face when it fell into gravity--but there was
generally a flash of white teeth behind his silky moustache, and a
laugh in his eyes.
I played the Player-Queen to my great joy, and in the "Marble Heart" I
was one of the group of three statues in the first act. We were
supposed to represent Lais, Aspasia, and Phryne, and when we read the
cast I glanced at the other girls (we were not strikingly handsome)
and remarked, gravely: "Well, it's a comfort to know that we look so
like the three beautiful Grecians."
A laugh at our backs brought us around suddenly to face Mr. Booth, who
said to me:
"You satirical little wretch, how do you come to know these Grecian
ladies? Perhaps you have the advantage of them in being all beautiful
"I wish it would strike outward then," I answered. "You know it's
always best to have things come to the surface!"
"I know some very precious things are hidden from common sight; and I
know, too, you caught my meaning in the first place. Good night!" and
he left us.
We had been told to descend to the stage at night with our white robes
hanging free and straight, that Mr. Booth himself might drape them as
we stood upon the pedestal. It really is a charming picture--that of
the statues in the first act. Against a backing of black velvet the
three white figures, carefully posed, strongly lighted, stand out so
marble-like that when they slowly turn their faces and point to their
chosen master, the effect is uncanny enough to chill the looker-on.
Well, with white wigs, white tights, and white robes, and half
strangled with the powder we had inhaled in our efforts to make our
lips stay white, we cautiously descended the stairs we dared not
talk, we dared not blink our eyes, for fear of disturbing the coat of
powder-we were lifted to the pedestal and took our places as we
expected to stand. Then Mr. Booth came--such a picture in his Greek
garments as made even the men exclaim at him--and began to pose us.
It happened one of us had very good limbs, one medium good, and the
third had, apparently, walked on broom-sticks. When Mr. Booth
slightly raised the drapery of No. 3 his features gave a twist as
though he had suddenly tasted lemon-juice, but quick as a flash he
"I believe I'11 advance you to the centre for the stately and wise
Aspasia"--the central figure wore her draperies hanging straight to
her feet, hence the "advance" and consequent concealment of the
unlovely limbs. It was quickly and kindly done, for the girl was not
only spared mortification, but in the word "advance" she saw a
compliment and was happy accordingly. Then my turn came. My arms
were placed about Aspasia, my head bent and turned and twisted--my
upon my breast so that the forefinger touched my chin--I felt I was a
personified simper; but I was silent and patient, until the
arrangement of my draperies began--then I squirmed anxiously.
"Take care--take care!" he cautioned. "You will sway the others if
you move!" But in spite of the risk of my marble makeup I faintly
groaned: "Oh dear! must it be like that?"
Regardless of the pins in the corner of his mouth he burst into
laughter, and, taking a photograph from the bosom of his Greek shirt,
he said: "I expected a protest from you, Miss, so I came
prepared--don't move your head, but just look at this."
He held the picture of a group of statuary up to me. "This is you on
the right. It's not so dreadful; now, is it?" And I cautiously
murmured: "That if I wasn't any worse than that I wouldn't mind."
And so we were all satisfied, and our statue scene was very
successful. Next morning I saw Mr. Booth come running out of the
theatre on his way to the telegraph office at the corner, and right in
the middle of the walk, staring about him, stood a child--a small
roamer of the stony streets, who had evidently got far enough beyond
his native ward to arouse misgivings as to his personal safety, and at
the very moment he stopped to consider matters Mr. Booth dashed out of
the stage-door and added to his bewilderment by capsizing him
"Oh, good lord! Baby, are you hurt?" exclaimed Mr. Booth, pausing
instantly to pick up the dirty, tousled small heap and stand it on its
bandy legs again.
"Don't cry, little chap!" And the aforesaid little chap not only
ceased to cry, but gave him a damp and grimy smile, at which the actor
bent towards him quickly, but paused, took out his handkerchief, and
first carefully wiping the dirty little nose and mouth, stooped and
kissed him heartily, put some change in each freckled paw, and
continued his run to the telegraph office.
He knew of no witness to the act. To kiss a pretty, clean child under
the approving eyes of mamma might mean nothing but politeness, but
surely it required the prompting of a warm and tender heart to make a
young and thoughtless man feel for and caress such a dirty, forlorn
bit of babyhood as that.
Of his work I suppose I was too young and too ignorant to judge
correctly, but I remember well hearing the older members of the
company express their opinions. Mr. Ellsler, who had been on terms of
friendship with the elder Booth, was delighted with the promise of his
work. He greatly admired Edwin's intellectual power, his artistic
care; but "John," he cried, "has more of the old man's power in one
performance than Edwin can show in a year. He has the fire, the dash,
the touch of strangeness. He often produces unstudied effects at
night. I question him: 'Did you rehearse that business to-day, John?'
'No; I didn't rehearse it, it just came to me in the scene and I
couldn't help doing it, but it went all right didn't it?' Full of
impulse just now, like a colt, his heels are in the air nearly as
often as his head, but wait a year or two till he gets used to the
harness and quiets down a bit, and you will see as great an actor as
America can produce!"
One morning, going on the stage where a group were talking with John
Wilkes, I beard him say: "No; oh, no: There's but one Hamlet to my
mind--that's my brother Edwin. You see, between ourselves, he is
Hamlet--melancholy and all!"
THE MURDER OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN
That was an awful time, when the dread news came to us. We were in
Columbus, Ohio. We had been horrified by the great crime at
Washington. My room-mate and I had, from our small earnings, bought
some black cotton at a tripled price, as all the black material in the
city was not sufficient to meet the demand; and as we tacked it about
our one window, a man passing told us the assassin had been
discovered, and that he was the actor Booth. Hattie laughed, so she
nearly swallowed the tack that, girl-like, she held between her lips,
and I after a laugh, told him it was a poor subject for a jest, and we
went in. There was no store in Columbus then where play-books were
sold, and as Mr. Ellsler had a very large and complete stage library,
he frequently lent his books to us, and we would hurriedly copy out
our lines and return the book for his own use. On that occasion he
was going to study his part first and then leave the play with us as
he passed, going home. We heard his knock. I was busy pressing a bit
of stage finery. Hattie opened the door, and then I heard her
exclaiming: "Why--why--what!" I turned quickly. Mr. Ellsler was
coming slowly into the room. He is a very dark man, but be was
perfectly livid then--his lips even were blanched to the whiteness of
his cheeks. His eyes were dreadful, they were so glassy and seemed so
unseeing. He was devoted to his children, and all I could think of as
likely to bring such a look upon his face was disaster to one of them,
and I cried, as I drew a chair to him: "What is it? Oh, what has
happened to them?"
He sank down--he wiped his brow--he looked almost stupidly at me;
then, very faintly, he said: "You--haven't--heard--anything?"
Like a flash Hattie's eyes and mine met. We thought of the supposed
ill-timed jest of the stranger. My lips moved wordlessly. Hattie
stammered: "A man--he--lied though--said that Wilkes Booth--but he did
lie--didn't he?" and in the same faint voice Mr. Ellsler answered
slowly: "No--no! he did not lie--it's true!"
Down fell our heads, and the waves of shame and sorrow seemed fairly
to overwhelm us; and while our sobs filled the little room, Mr.
Ellsler rose and laid two playbooks on the table. Then, while
standing there, staring into space, I heard his far, faint voice
saying: "So great--so good a man destroyed, and by the hand of that
unhappy boy! my God! my God!" He wiped his brow again and slowly left
the house, apparently unconscious of our presence.
When we resumed our work--the theatre had closed because of the
national calamity--many a painted cheek showed runnels made by bitter
tears, and one old actress, with quivering lips, exclaimed: "One woe
doth tread upon another's heels, so fast they follow!" but with no
thought of quoting, and God knows, the words expressed the situation
Mrs. Ellsler, whom I never saw shed a tear for any sickness, sorrow,
or trouble of her own, shed tears for the mad boy, who had suddenly
become the assassin of God's anointed--the great, the blameless
We crept about, quietly. Every one winced at the sound of the
overture. It was as if one dead lay within the walls--one who
belonged to us.
When the rumours about Booth being the murderer proved to be
authentic, the police feared a possible outbreak of mob feeling, and a
demonstration against the theatre building, or against the actors
individually; but we had been a decent, law-abiding, well-behaved
people--liked and respected--so we were not made to suffer for the
awful act of one of our number. Still, when the mass-meeting was held
in front of the Capitol, there was much anxiety on the subject, and
Mr. Ellsler urged all the company to keep away from it, lest their
presence might arouse some ill-feeling. The crowd was immense, the
sun had gloomed over, and the Capitol building, draped in black,
loomed up with stern severity and that massive dignity only attained
by heavily columned buildings. The people surged like waves about the
speaker's stand, and the policemen glanced anxiously toward the not
far away new theatre, and prayed that some bombastic, revengeful
ruffian might not crop up from this mixed crowd of excited humanity to
stir them to violence.
Three speakers, however, in their addresses had confined themselves to
eulogising the great dead. In life Mr. Lincoln had been abused by
many--in death he was worshipped by all; and these speakers found
their words of love and sorrow eagerly listened to, and made no harsh
allusions to the profession from which the assassin sprang. And then
an unknown man clambered up from the crowd to the portico platform and
began to speak, without asking any one's permission. He had a
far-reaching voice--he had fire and go.
"Here's the fellow to look out for!" said the policemen; and, sure
enough, suddenly the dread word "theatre" was tossed into the air, and
every one was still in a moment, waiting for--what? I don't know what
they hoped for--I do know what many feared; but this is what he said:
"Yes, look over at our theatre and think of the little body of men and
women there, who are to-day sore-hearted and cast down; who feel that
they are looked at askant, because one of their number has committed
that hideous crime! Think of what they have to bear of shame and
horror, and spare them, too, a little pity!"
He paused. It had been a bold thing to do--to appeal for
consideration for actors at such a time. The crowd swayed for a
moment to and fro, a curious growling came from it, and then all heads
turned toward the theatre. A faint cheer was given, and afterward
there was not the slightest allusion made to us--and verily we were
That the homely, tender-hearted "Father Abraham"--rare combination of
courage, justice, and humanity--died at an actor's hand will be a
grief, a horror, and a shame to the profession forever; yet I cannot
believe that John Wilkes Booth was "the leader of a band of bloody
Who shall draw a line and say: here genius ends and madness begins?
There was that touch of--strangeness. In Edwin it was a profound
melancholy; in John it was an exaggeration of spirit--almost a
wildness. There was the natural vanity of the actor, too, who craves
a dramatic situation in real life. There was his passionate love and
sympathy for the South--why, he was "easier to be played on than a
Undoubtedly he conspired to kidnap the President--that would appeal to
him; but after that I truly believe he was a tool--certainly he was no
leader. Those who led him knew his courage, his belief in Fate, his
loyalty to his friends; and, because they knew these things, he drew
the lot, as it was meant he should from the first. Then, half mad, he
accepted the part Fate cast him for--committed the monstrous crime,
and paid the awful price. And since
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform,
we venture to pray for His mercy upon the guilty soul who may have
repented and confessed his manifold sins and offences during those
awful hours of suffering before the end came.
And "God shutteth not up His mercies forever in displeasure!" We can
only shiver and turn our thoughts away from the bright light that went
out in such utter darkness. Poor, guilty, unhappy John Wilkes Booth!
WHEN IN MY HUNT FOR A LEADING MAN FOR MR. DALY I FIRST SAW COGHLAN AND
[From "Life of a Star" copyright by the S. S. McClure Company, New
When the late Mr. Augustin Daly bestowed even a modicum of his
confidence, his friendship, upon man or woman, the person so honoured
found the circulation of his blood well maintained by the frequent and
generally unexpected demands for his presence, his unwavering
attention, and sympathetic comprehension. As with the royal
invitation that is a command, only death positive or threatening could
excuse non-attendance; and though his friendship was in truth a
liberal education, the position of even the humblest confidant was no
sinecure, for the plans he loved to describe and discuss were not
confined to that day and season, but were long, daring looks ahead;
great coups for the distant, unborn years.
The season had closed on Saturday. Monday I was to sail for England,
and early that morning the housemaid watched for the carriage. My
landlady was growing quivery about the chin, because I had to cross
alone to join Mr. and Mrs. James Lewis, who had gone ahead, My mother
was gay with a sort of crippled hilarity that deceived no one, as she
prepared to go with me to say good bye at the dock, while little Ned,
the son of the house, proudly gathered together rug, umbrella,
hand-bag, books, etc., ready to go down with us and escort my mother
back home--when a cab whirled to the door and stopped.
"Good heaven!" I cried, "what a blunder! I ordered a carriage; we
can't all crowd into that thing!"
Then a boy was before me, holding out one of those familiar summoning
half-sheets, with a line or two of the jetty-black, impishly-tiny,
Daly scrawls--and I read: "Must see you one minute at office. Cabby
will race you down. Have your carriage follow and pick you up here.
Don't fail! A. DALY."
Ah, well! A. Daly--he who must be obeyed--had me in good training. I
flung one hand to the mistress, the other to the maid in farewell,
pitched headlong into the cab, and went whirling down Sixth Avenue and
across to the theatre stage-door, then upstairs to the morsel of space
called by courtesy the private office.
Mr. Daly nonchalantly held out his band, looked me over, and said:
"That's a very pretty dress--becoming too--but is it not too easily
soiled? Salt water you know is--"
"Oh," I broke in, "it's for general street wear--my travelling will be
done in nightdress, I fancy."
"Ah, bad sailor, eh?" he asked, as I stood trembling with impatience.
"The worst! But you did not send for me to talk dress or about my
"My dear," he said suavely, "your temper is positively rabid." Then
he glanced at the clock on his desk and his manner changed. He said
swiftly and curtly: "Miss Morris, I want you to go to every theatre in
"But I can't!" I interrupted, "I have not money enough for that and my
name is not known over there!"
He frowned and waved his hand impatiently. "Use my name, then, or ask
courtesy from E. A. Sothern. He crosses with you and you know him.
But mind, go to every reputable theatre, and," impressively, "report
to me at once if you see any leading man with exceptional ability of
I gasped. It seemed to me I heard the leaden fall of my heart. "But
Mr. Daly, what a responsibility! How on earth could I judge an actor
He held up an imperative band. "You think more after my own manner
than any other person I know of. You are sensitive, responsive, quick
to acknowledge another's ability, and so are fitted to study London's
leading men for me!"
I was aghast, frightened to the point of approaching tears! Suddenly
I bethought me.
"I'11 tell Mr. Lewis. He is there already you know, and let him judge
"Lewis? Good Lord! He has no independence! He'd see in an actor
just what he thought I wanted him to see! I tell you, I want you to
sort over London's leading men, and, if you see anything exceptional,
secure name and theatre and report to me. Heavens knows, two long
years have not only taught me that you have opinions, but the courage
Racing steps came up the stairs, and little Ned's voice called: "Miss
Clara. Miss Clara, We are here!"
I turned to Mr. Daly and said mournfully:
"You have ruined the pleasure of my trip."
"Miss Morris, that's the first untruth you ever told me. Here,
please" and he handed me a packet of new books.
"Thanks!" I cried and then flew down the stairs. Glancing up, I saw
him looking earnestly after me. "Did you speak?" I asked hurriedly.
"That gown fits well--don't spoil it with sea-water!"
And half-laughing, half-vexed, but wholly frightened at the charge
laid upon me, I sprang into the carriage, to hold hands with mother
all the way down to the crowded dock.
One day I received in London this note from Mr. Augustin Daly:
"MY DEAR MISS MORRIS: I find no letter here. Impatiently, A. D."
And straightway I answered:
"MY DEAR MR. DALY: I find no actor here. Afflictedly, C. M."
And lo, on my very last night in London, after our return from Paris,
I found the exceptional leading man.
Ten days later, on a hot September morning, I was hurling myself upon
my mother in all the joy of home-coming when I saw leaning against the
clock on the mantel the unmistakable envelope, bearing the impious
black scriggle that generally meant a summons. I opened it and read:
"Cleaners in full possession here--look our for soap and pails, and
report directly at box-office--don't fail! A. DALY."
I confess I was angry, for I was so tired and the motion of the
steamer was still with me, and besides my own small affairs were of
more interest to me just then than the greater ones of the manager.
However, my two years of training held good. In an hour I was picking
my way across wet floors, among mops and pails toward the sanity and
dry comfort of Mr. Daly's office. He held my hands closely for a
moment, then broke out complainingly: "You've behaved nicely,
haven't you? Not a single line sent to tell what you were seeing,
"I beg your pardon--I distinctly remember sending you a line." He
scowled blackly. I went on: "I thought your note to me was meant as a
model, so I copied it carefully."
Formerly this sort of thing had kept us at daggers drawn, but now he
only laughed, and shaking his hand impatiently to and fro, said: "Stop
it! ah, stop it! So you could not find even one leading man worth
"Then why on earth didn't you write me?"
"Couldn't--I only found him on our last night in London."
Mr. Daly's face was alight in a moment. He caught up a scrap of paper
and a pencil, and, after the manner of the inexperienced interviewer,
began: "What's he like?"
"Tall, flat-backed, square-shouldered, free-moving, and wears a long
dress-coat--that shibboleth of a gentleman--as if that had been his
custom since ever he left his mother's knee."
Mr. Daly ejaculated "good!" at each clause, and scribbled his impish
small scribble on the bit of paper which rested on his palm.
"What did he do?" he asked eagerly.
"He didn't do," I answered lucidly.
"What do you mean, Miss Morris?"
"What I say, Mr. Daly."
"But if the man doesn't do anything, what is there remarkable about
"Why, just that. It was what he didn't do that produced the effect."
"A-a-ah," said Mr. Daly, with long-drawn satisfaction, scribbling
rapidly. "I understand, and you thought, miss, that you could not
judge an actor for me! What was the play?"
"Bulwer's 'Money,' and Marie Wilton was superb as--"
"Never mind Marie Wilton," he interrupted impatiently, writing, "but
Alfred Evelyn is such an awful prig."
"Isn't he?" I acquiesced, "but this actor made him human. You see,
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