Scanned and proofed by Ron Burkey (email@example.com). I have retained all of the original spelling and punctuation from the printed edition. Italicized text is delimited with underlines. Footnotes are collected at the end, and are indicated by brackets, thusly: .
Library of Little Masterpieces In Forty-four Volumes
Edited by GEORGE ILES
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.
JOSEPH JEFFERSON 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.
EDWIN BOOTH 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.
CHARLOTTE CUSHMAN 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. Early griefs. Art her only spouse. Farewell to New York.
CLARA MORRIS 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.
ELLEN TERRY Hamlet—Irving's greatest part. The entrance scene in "Hamlet." The scene with the players. Irving engages me. Irving's egotism. Irving's simplicity of character.
RICHARD MANSFIELD Man and the Actor. All men are actors. Napoleon as an actor. The gift for acting is rare. The creation of a character. Copy life! Self criticism. Discipline imperative. Dramatic vicissitudes. A national theatre. Training the actor.
TOMMASO SALVINI First appearance. 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. In Cuba. Appearance in London. Impressions of Irving's Hamlet. The decline of tragedy. Tragedy in two languages. American critical taste. Impressions of Edwin Booth.
ADELAIDE RISTORI First appearances. Salvini and Rossi. Appears as Lady Macbeth. As manager. 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 future.
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 American actor.
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 Catskills.
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 the ideal.
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 particular audience.
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 achievements.
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 muddle.
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 ideas.
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 ability.
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 mast."
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 living.
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 so long?"
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 poem.
"No, my dear," was his comment, "it's not a poem, but a stanza, something shorter."
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
BOOTH'S THEATER, 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 excuses.
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 yours.
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 yours,
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 offered.—ED.]
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 face.
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 the company.
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 can.
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 said:]
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 it....
[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 within?"
"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 said:
"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 completely.
"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?' He answers:
'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 perfectly.
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 Lincoln.
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 grateful.
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 conspirators."
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 pipe."
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 IRVING
[From "Life of a Star" copyright by the S. S. McClure Company, New York, 1906.]
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 sailing qualities?"
"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 London, and—"
"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 any kind."