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[19th Century Actor] AUTOBIOGRAPHY(十九世紀男演員自傳)

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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 








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-




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 




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 




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 




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 





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 tomorrow 
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 





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 





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 

"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 




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 




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 





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 

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 





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 

"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!" 





BOOTH'S THEATER, NEW YORK, November 15, 1871. 


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. 


CHICAGO, March 2, 1873. 


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 




Love and kisses from your grim old father. 


April 23, 1876. 


... 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 

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.... 




God bless my darling! 



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 ... 


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; 




To-morrow, a meeting of actors, managers, and artists at breakfast, to 
discuss and organise, if possible, a theatrical club[1] like the Garrick of 


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, 




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. 



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 




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... 





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[2] 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 




Ever your friend, 



[Three weeks after the assassination by his brother, John Wilkes Booth, 
of President Lincoln.] Saturday, May 6, 1865. 


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. 




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. 


[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 rattlepated 
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, 




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, 


[TO WALTER THOMAS] NEW YORK, August 28, 1889. 


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 









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. 


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 




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. 


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. 





... 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. 




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 




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. 



... 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? 





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 





[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, 








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 




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 




We had been told to descend to the stage at night with our white robes 
hanging free and straight, that Mr. Booth himself might drape them as we 
stood upon the pedestal. It really is a charming picture--that of the 
statues in the first act. Against a backing of black velvet the three white 
figures, carefully posed, strongly lighted, stand out so marble-like that 
when they slowly turn their faces and point to their chosen master, the 
effect is uncanny enough to chill the looker-on. 

Well, with white wigs, white tights, and white robes, and half strangled 
with the powder we had inhaled in our efforts to make our lips stay white, 
we cautiously descended the stairs we dared not talk, we dared not blink 
our eyes, for fear of disturbing the coat of powder-we were lifted to the 
pedestal and took our places as we expected to stand. Then Mr. Booth 
came--such a picture in his Greek garments as made even the men exclaim 
at him--and began to pose us. It happened one of us had very good limbs, 
one medium good, and the third had, apparently, walked on broom-sticks. 
When Mr. Booth slightly raised the drapery of No. 3 his features gave a 
twist as though he had suddenly tasted lemon-juice, but quick as a flash he 

"I believe I'11 advance you to the centre for the stately and wise 
Aspasia"--the central figure wore her draperies hanging straight to her feet, 
hence the "advance" and consequent concealment of the unlovely limbs. 
It was quickly and kindly done, for the girl was not only spared 
mortification, but in the word "advance" she saw a compliment and was 
happy accordingly. Then my turn came. My arms were placed about 
Aspasia, my head bent and turned and twisted--my upon my breast so that 
the forefinger touched my chin--I felt I was a personified simper; but I was 
silent and patient, until the arrangement of my draperies began--then I 
squirmed anxiously. 

"Take care--take care!" he cautioned. "You will sway the others if 
you move!" But in spite of the risk of my marble makeup I faintly 




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 




'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!" 


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 




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 

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




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 




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! 


[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; 




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 




"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." 

I gasped. It seemed to me I heard the leaden fall of my heart. "But 
Mr. Daly, what a responsibility! How on earth could I judge an actor for 

He held up an imperative band. "You think more after my own 
manner than any other person I know of. You are sensitive, responsive, 
quick to acknowledge another's ability, and so are fitted to study London's 
leading men for me!" 

I was aghast, frightened to the point of approaching tears! Suddenly I 
bethought me. 

"I'11 tell Mr. Lewis. He is there already you know, and let him judge 
for you." 

"Lewis? Good Lord! He has no independence! He'd see in an 
actor just what he thought I wanted him to see! I tell you, I want you to 
sort over London's leading men, and, if you see anything exceptional, 
secure name and theatre and report to me. Heavens knows, two long 
years have not only taught me that you have opinions, but the courage of 

Racing steps came up the stairs, and little Ned's voice called: "Miss 
Clara. Miss Clara, We are here!" 

I turned to Mr. Daly and said mournfully: 

"You have ruined the pleasure of my trip." 

"Miss Morris, that's the first untruth you ever told me. Here, please" 
and he handed me a packet of new books. 

"Thanks!" I cried and then flew down the stairs. Glancing up, I saw 
him looking earnestly after me. "Did you speak?" I asked hurriedly. 




And half-laughing, half-vexed, but wholly frightened at the charge laid 
upon me, I sprang into the carriage, to hold hands with mother all the way 
down to the crowded dock. 

One day I received in London this note from Mr. Augustin Daly: 

"MY DEAR MISS MORRIS: I find no letter here. Impatiently, A. 

And straightway I answered: 

"MY DEAR MR. DALY: I find no actor here. Afflictedly, C. M." 

And lo, on my very last night in London, after our return from Paris, I 
found the exceptional leading man. 

Ten days later, on a hot September morning, I was hurling myself upon 
my mother in all the joy of home-coming when I saw leaning against the 
clock on the mantel the unmistakable envelope, bearing the impious black 
scriggle that generally meant a summons. I opened it and read: "Cleaners 
in full possession here--look our for soap and pails, and report directly at 
box-office--don't fail! A. DALY." 

I confess I was angry, for I was so tired and the motion of the steamer 
was still with me, and besides my own small affairs were of more interest 
to me just then than the greater ones of the manager. However, my two 
years of training held good. In an hour I was picking my way across wet 
floors, among mops and pails toward the sanity and dry comfort of Mr. 
Daly's office. He held my hands closely for a moment, then broke out 
complainingly: "You've behaved nicely, haven't you? Not a single 
line sent to tell what you were seeing, doing, thinking?" 

"I beg your pardon--I distinctly remember sending you a line." He 
scowled blackly. I went on: "I thought your note to me was meant as a 
model, so I copied it carefully." 

Formerly this sort of thing had kept us at daggers drawn, but now he 
only laughed, and shaking his hand impatiently to and fro, said: "Stop it! 
ah, stop it! So you could not find even one leading man worth while, 

"Yes--just one!" 

"Then why on earth didn't you write me?" 




Mr. Daly's face was alight in a moment. He caught up a scrap of 
paper and a pencil, and, after the manner of the inexperienced interviewer, 
began: "What's he like?" 

"Tall, flat-backed, square-shouldered, free-moving, and wears a long 
dress-coat--that shibboleth of a gentleman--as if that had been his custom 
since ever he left his mother's knee." 

Mr. Daly ejaculated "good!" at each clause, and scribbled his impish 
small scribble on the bit of paper which rested on his palm. 

"What did he do?" he asked eagerly. 

"He didn't do," I answered lucidly. 

"What do you mean, Miss Morris?" 

"What I say, Mr. Daly." 

"But if the man doesn't do anything, what is there remarkable about 

"Why, just that. It was what he didn't do that produced the effect." 

"A-a-ah," said Mr. Daly, with long-drawn satisfaction, scribbling 
rapidly. "I understand, and you thought, miss, that you could not judge 
an actor for me! What was the play?" 

"Bulwer's 'Money,' and Marie Wilton was superb as--" 

"Never mind Marie Wilton," he interrupted impatiently, writing, "but 
Alfred Evelyn is such an awful prig." 

"Isn't he?" I acquiesced, "but this actor made him human. You see, 
Mr. Daly, most Evelyns are like a bottle of gas-charged water: forcibly 
restrained for a time, then there's a pop and a bang, and in wild freedom 
the water is foaming thinly over everything in sight. This man didn't 
kowtow in the early acts, but was curt, cold, showing signs of rebellion 
more than once, and in the big scene, well--!" 

"Yes?" asked Mr. Daly eagerly. 

"Well, that was where he didn't do. He didn't bang nor rave nor work 
himself up to a wild burst of tears!" ("Thank God!" murmured Mr. Daly 
and scribbled fast.) "He told the story of his past sometimes rapidly, 
sometimes making a short, absolute pause. When he reached the part 
referring to his dead mother, his voice fell two tones, his words grew 




Mr. Daly's gray, dark-lashed eyes were almost black with pleased 
excitement as he asked: "What's his name?" 

"Coghlan--Charles Coghlan." 

"Why, he's Irish?" 

"So are you--Irish-American," I answered defensively, pretending to 
misunderstand him. 

"Well, you ought to be Irish yourself!" he said sternly. 

"I did my best," I answered modestly. "I was born on St. Patrick's 

"In the mornin'?" he asked. 

"The very top of it, sor!" 

"More power to you then!" at which we both laughed, and I rose to go. 

As I picked up my sunshade, I remarked casually: "Ah, but I was 
glad to have seen, for once at least, England's great actor." 

"This Coghlan?" 

"Good gracious, no!" 

"What, there is another, and you have not mentioned him--after my 
asking you to report any exceptional actor you saw?" 

"I beg your pardon, sir. You asked me to report every exceptional 
leading man. This actor's leading man's days are past. He is a star by 
the grace of God's great gifts to him, and his own hard work." 

"Well!" snapped Mr. Daly. "Even a star will play where money 
enough is offered him, will he not?" 

"There's a legend to that effect, I believe.' 




"Certainly. He is billed as Mr. Henry Irving." 

Mr. Daly looked up from his scribbling. "Irving? Irving? Is not 
he the actor that old man Bateman secured as support for his daughters?" 

"Yes, that was the old gentleman's mistaken belief; but the public 
thought differently, and laboured with Papa Bateman till it convinced him 
that his daughters were by way of supporting Mr. Irving." 

A grim smile came upon the managerial lips as be asked. "What does 
he look like?" 

"Well, as a general thing, I think he will look wonderfully like the 
character he is playing. Oh, don't frown so! He--well, he is not 
beautiful, neither can I imagine him a pantaloon actor, but his face will 
adapt itself splendidly to any strong character make-up, whether noble or 
villainous." Mr. Daly was looking pleased again. I went on: "He 
aspires, I hear, to Shakespeare, but there is one thing of which I am sure. 
He is the mightiest man in melodrama to-day!" 

"How long did it take to convince you of that, Miss Morris? One act-
two--the whole five acts?" 

"His first five minutes on the stage, sir. His business wins applause 
without the aid of words, and you know what that means." 

Again that elongated "A-a-ah!" Then, "Tell me of that five minutes," 
and he thrust a chair toward me. 

"Oh," I cried, despairingly, "that will take so long, and will only bore 

"Understand, please, nothing under heaven that is connected with the 
stage can ever bore me." Which statement was unalloyed truth. 

"But, indeed," I feebly insisted, only to be brought up short with the 
words, "Kindly allow me to judge for myself." 

To which I beamingly made answer: "Did I not beg you to do that 
months ago?" But he was growing vexed, and curtly commanded: 

"I want those first five minutes--what he did, and how he did it, and 
what the effect was, and then"--speaking dreamily--"I shall know--I shall 

Now at Mr. Daly's last long-drawn-out "A-a-ah," anent Mr. Irving's 




"You see, Mr. Daly, I knew absolutely nothing of the story of the play 
that night. 'The Bells' were, I supposed, church-bells. In the first act 
the people were rustic--the season winter--snow flying in every time the 
door opened. The absent husband and father was spoken of by mother 
and daughter, lover and neighbour. Then there were sleigh-bells heard, 
whose jingle stopped suddenly. The door opened--Mathias entered, and 
for the first time winter was made truly manifest to us, and one drew 
himself together instinctively, for the tall, gaunt man at the door was cold-
chilled, just to the very marrow of his bones. Then, after general 
greetings had been exchanged, he seated himself in a chair directly in the 
centre of the stage, a mere trifle in advance of others in the scene, and 
proceeded to remove his long leggings. He drew a great coloured 
handkerchief and brushed away some clinging snow; then leaning forward, 
with slightly tremulous fingers, he began to unfasten a top buckle. 
Suddenly the trembling ceased, the fingers clenched hard upon the buckle, 
the whole body became still, then rigid--it seemed not to breathe! The 
one sign of life in the man was the agonisingly strained sense of hearing! 
His tortured eyes saw nothing. Utterly without speech, without feeling, 
he listened--breathlessly listened! A cold chill crept stealthily about the 
roots of my hair, I clenched my hands hard and whispered to myself: 'Will 
it come, good God, will it come, the thing he listens for?' When with a 
wild bound, as if every nerve and muscle had been rent by an electric 
shock, he was upon his feet; and I was answered even before that 
suffocating cry of terror--'The bells! the bells!'--and under cover of the 
applause that followed I said: 'Haunted! Innocent or guilty, this man is 
haunted!' And Mr. Daly, I bowed my head to a great actor, for though 
fine things followed, you know the old saying, that 'no chain is stronger 
than its weakest link.' Well I always feel that no actor is greater than his 
carefulest bit of detail." 




"I think an actor like that could win any public, don't you?" 

"I don't know," I lightly answered. "He is generally regarded as an 
acquired taste." 

"What do you mean?" came the sharp return. 

"Why, you must have heard that Mr. Irving's eccentricities are not to 
be counted upon the fingers of both hands?" 

Mr. Daly lifted his brows and smiled a contented smile: "Indeed? 
And pray, what are these peculiarities?" 

"Oh, some are of the figure, some of movement, and some of delivery. 
A lady told me over there that he could walk like each and every animal of 
a Noah's ark; and people lay wagers as to whether London will force him 
to abandon his elocutionary freaks, or he will force London to accept them. 
I am inclined to back Mr. Irving, myself." 

"What! What's that you say? That this fine actor you have 
described has a marked peculiarity of delivery--of speech?" 

"Marked peculiarities? Why, they are murderous! His strange 
inflections, his many mannerisms are very trying at first, but be conquers 

A cry stopped me--a cry of utter disappointment and anger! Mr. Daly 
stood staring at his notes a moment, then he exclaimed violently: "D--n! d-
n! oh, d--n!!!" and savagely tore his scribbled-on paper into bits and flung 
them on the floor. 

Startled at his vexation, convulsed with suppressed laughter at the 
infantile quality of his profanity, I ventured, in a shaking voice, "I think I'd 
better go?" 

"I think you had!" be agreed curtly; but as I reached the door he said in 
his most managerial tone: "Miss Morris, it would be better for you to 
begin with people's faults next time--" 

But with the door already open I made bold to reply: "Excuse me, 
Mr. Daly, but there isn't going to be any next time for me!" 

And I turned and fled, wondering all the way home, as I have often 








To boast of being able to appreciate Shakespeare more in reading him 
than in seeing him acted used to be a common method of affecting special 
intellectuality. I hope this delusion--a gross and pitiful one to most of us-
has almost absolutely died out. It certainly conferred a very cheap 
badge of superiority on those who entertained it. It seemed to each of 
them an inexpensive opportunity of worshipping himself on a pedestal. 
But what did it amount to? It was little more than a conceited and 
feather-headed assumption that an unprepared reader, whose mind is 
usually full of far other things, will see on the instant all that has been 
developed in hundreds of years by the members of a studious and 
enthusiastic profession. My own conviction is that there are few 
characters or passages of our great dramatists which will not repay 
original study. But at least we must recognise the vast advantages with 
which a practised actor, impregnated by the associations of his life, and by 
study--with all the practical and critical skill of his profession up to the 
date at which he appears, whether he adopts or rejects tradition--addresses 
himself to the interpretation of any great character, even if he have no 
originality whatever. There is something still more than this, however, in 
acting. Every one who has the smallest histrionic gift has a natural 
dramatic fertility; so that as soon as he knows the author's text, and obtains 
self-possession, and feels at home in a part without being too familiar with 
it, the mere automatic action of rehearsing and playing it at once begins to 
place the author in new lights, and to give the personage being played an 
individuality partly independent of, and yet consistent with, and rendering 
more powerfully visible, the dramatist's conception. It is the vast power 
a good actor has in this way which has led the French to speak of creating 
a part when they mean its first being played, and French authors are as 
conscious of the extent and value of this cooperation of actors with them, 
that they have never objected to the phrase, but, on the contrary, are 





It is often supposed that great actors trust to the inspiration of the 
moment. Nothing can be more erroneous. There will, of course, be 
such moments, when an actor at a white heat illumines some passage with 
a flash of imagination (and this mental condition, by the way, is 
impossible to the student sitting in his armchair); but the great actor's 
surprises are generally well weighed, studied, and balanced. We know that 
Edmund Kean constantly practised before a mirror effects which startled 
his audience by their apparent spontaneity. It is the accumulation of such 
effects which enables an actor, after many years, to present many great 
characters with remarkable completeness. 

I do not want to overstate the case, or to appeal to anything that is not 
within common experience, so I can confidently ask you whether a scene 
in a great play has not been at some time vividly impressed on your minds 
by the delivery of a single line, or even of one forcible word. Has not 
this made the passage far more real and human to you than all the thought 
you have devoted to it? An accomplished critic has said that Shakespeare 
himself might have been surprised had he heard the "Fool, fool, fool!" of 
Edmund Kean. And though all actors are not Keans, they have in 
varying degree this power of making a dramatic character step out of the 
page, and come nearer to our hearts and our understandings. 

After all, the best and most convincing exposition of the whole art of 
acting is given by Shakespeare himself: "To hold, as 'twere, the mirror 
up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the 
very age and body of the time his form and pressure." Thus the poet 
recognised the actor's art as a most potent ally in the representations of 
human life. He believed that to hold the mirror up to nature was one of 
the worthiest functions in the sphere of labour, and actors are content to 
point to his definition of their work as the charter of their privileges. 






It is necessary to warn you against the theory expounded with brilliant 
ingenuity by Diderot that the actor never feels. When Macready played 
Virginius, after burying his beloved daughter, he confessed that his real 





With regard to gesture, Shakespeare's advice is all-embracing. "Suit 
the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance 
that you overstep not the modesty of nature." And here comes the 
consideration of a very material part of the actor's business--by-play. 
This is of the very essence of true art. It is more than anything else 
significant of the extent to which the actor has identified himself with the 
character he represents. Recall the scenes between Iago and Othello, and 
consider how the whole interest of the situation depends on the skill with 
which the gradual effect of the poisonous suspicion instilled into the 
Moor's mind is depicted in look and tone, slight of themselves, but all 
contributing to the intensity of the situation. One of the greatest tests of 
an actor is his capacity for listening. By-play must be unobtrusive; the 
student should remember that the most minute expression attracts attention, 
that nothing is lost, that by-play is as mischievous when it is injudicious as 








I received, not very long ago, in a provincial town, a letter from a 
young lady, who wished to adopt the stage as a profession but was 
troubled in her mind by certain anxieties and uncertainties. These she 
desired me to relieve. The questions asked by my correspondent are 
rather typical questions-questions that are generally asked by those who, 
approaching the stage from the outside, in the light of prejudice and 
misrepresentation, believe the calling of the actor to be one morally 
dangerous and intellectually contemptible; one in which it is equally easy 
to succeed as an artist and degenerate as an individual. She begins by 
telling me that she has a "fancy for the stage," and has "heard a great many 
things about it." Now, for any man or woman to become an actor or 
actress because they have a "fancy for the stage" is in itself the height of 
folly. There is no calling, I would venture to say, which demands on the 
part of the aspirant greater searching of heart, thought, deliberation, real 
assurance of fitness, reasonable prospect of success before deciding to 
follow it, than that of the actor. And not the least advantage of a dramatic 
school lies in the fact that some of its pupils may learn to reconsider their 
determination to go on the stage, become convinced of their own unfitness, 
recognise in time that they will be wise to abandon a career which must 
always be hazardous and difficult even to those who are successful, and 
cruel to those who fail. Let it be something far sterner and stronger than 
mere fancy that decides you to try your fortunes in the theatre. 

My correspondent says she has "heard a great many things about the 
stage." If I might presume to offer a piece of advice, it would be this: 
Never believe anything you hear about actors and actresses from those 
who are not actually familiar with them. The amount of nonsense, 
untruth, sometimes mischievous, often silly, talked by otherwise rational 
people about the theatre, is inconceivable were it not for one's own 
personal experience. It is one of the penalties of the glamour, the illusion 





Now, the first question my correspondent asks me is this: "Does a 
young woman going on the stage need a good education and also to know 
languages?" To answer the first part of the question is not, I think, very 
difficult. The supremely great actor or actress of natural genius need 
have no education or knowledge of languages; it will be immaterial 
whether he or she has enjoyed all the advantages of birth and education or 
has been picked up in the streets; genius, the highest talent, will assert 
itself irrespective of antecedents. But I should say that any sort of 
education was of the greatest value to an actor or actress of average ability, 
and that the fact that the ranks of the stage are recruited to-day to a certain 
extent from our great schools and universities, from among classes of 
people who fifty years ago would never have dreamed of entering our 
calling, is one on which we may congratulate ourselves. Though the 
production of great actors and actresses will not be affected either one way 
or the other by these circumstances, at the same time our calling must 
benefit in the general level of its excellence, in its fitness to represent all 
grades of society on the stage, if those who follow it are picked from all 
classes, if the stage has ceased to be regarded as a calling unfit for a man 
or woman of breeding or education, 

The second question this lady asks me is this: 

"Does she need to have her voice trained, and about what age do 
people generally commence to go on the stage?" The first part of this 
question as to voice training touches on the value of an Academy of 
Acting. Of the value--the practical value--of such an institution rightly 





My correspondent also asks me a question which I shall answer very 
briefly, but which it is as well should be answered; She writes, "Are there 
many temptations for a girl on the stage, and need she necessarily fall into 
them?" Of course there are such temptations on the stage, as there must 
be in any calling in which men and women are brought into contact on a 
footing of equality; perhaps these temptations are somewhat intensified in 
the theatre. At the same time, I would venture to say from my own 
experience of that branch of theatrical business with which I have been 
connected--and in such matters one can only speak from personal 
experience--that any woman yielding to these temptations has only herself 
to blame, that any well-brought-up, sensible girl will, and can, avoid them 
altogether, and that I should not make these temptations a ground for 
dissuading any young woman in whom I might be interested from joining 
our calling. To say, as a writer once said, that it was impossible for a girl 




To all who intend to become actors and actresses, my first word of 
advice would be--Respect this calling you have chosen to pursue. You 
will often in your experience hear it, see it in print, slighted and 
contemned. There are many reasons for this. Religious prejudice, 
fostered by the traditions of a by no means obsolete Puritanism, is one; the 
envy of those who, forgetting the disadvantages, the difficulties, the 
uncertainty of the actor's life, see only the glare of popular adulation, the 
glitter of the comparatively large salaries paid to a few of us--such 
unreasoning envy as this is another; and the want of sympathy of some 
writers with the art itself, who, unable to pray with Goethe and Voltaire, 
remain to scoff with Jeremy Collier, is a third. There are causes from 
without that will always keep alive a certain measure of hostility towards 
the player. As long as the public, in Hazlitt's words, feel more respect for 
John Kemble in a plain coat than the Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack, so 
long will this public regard for the actor provoke the resentment of those 
whose achievements in art appeal less immediately, less strikingly, to their 
audience. But if they would only pause to consider, surely they might lay 
to their souls the unction that the immediate reward of the actor in his 
lifetime is merely nature's compensation to him for the comparative 
oblivion of his achievements when he has ceased to be. Imagine for one 
moment Shakespeare and Garrick contemplating at the present moment 
from the heights the spectacle of their fame. Who would grudge the 
actor the few years of fervid admiration he was privileged to enjoy, some 
one hundred and fifty years ago, as compared with the centuries of living 
glory that have fallen to the great poet? 

Sometimes you may hear your calling sneered at by those who pursue 
it. There are few professions that are not similarly girded at by some of 
their own members, either from disappointment or some ingrained 
discontent. When you hear such detraction, fix your thoughts not on the 
paltry accidents of your art, such as the use of cosmetics and other little 
infirmities of its practice, things that are obvious marks for the cheap sneer, 





You will read and hear, no doubt, in your experience, that acting is in 
reality no art at all, that it is mere sedulous copying of nature, demanding 
neither thought nor originality. I will only cite in reply a passage from a 
letter of the poet Coleridge to the elder Charles Mathews, which, I venture 
to think, goes some way to settle the question. "A great actor," he writes, 
"comic or tragic, is not to be a mere copy, a fac-simile, but an imitation of 
nature; now an imitation differs from a copy in this, that it of necessity 
implies and demands a difference, whereas a copy aims at identity and 
what a marble peach on the mantelpiece, that you take up deluded and put 
down with a pettish disgust, is compared with a fruit-piece of Vanhuysen's, 
even such is a mere copy of nature, with a true histrionic imitation. A good 
actor is Pygmalion's statue, a work of exquisite art, animated and gifted 
with motion; but still art, still a species of poetry." So writes Coleridge. 
Raphael, speaking of painting, expresses the same thought, equally 
applicable to the art of acting. "To paint a fair one," he says, "it is 
necessary for me to see many fair ones; but because there is so great a 
scarcity of lovely women, I am constrained to make use of one certain 
ideal, which I have formed to myself in my own fancy." So the actor 
who has to portray Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth--any great dramatic 
character--has to form an ideal of such a character in his own fancy, in fact, 
to employ an exercise of imagination similar to that of the painter who 
seeks to depict an ideal man or woman; the actor certainly will not meet 
his types of Hamlet and Othello in the street. 

But, whilst in your hearts you should cherish a firm respect for the 
calling, the art you pursue, let that respect be a silent and modest regard; it 
will be all the stronger for that. I have known actors and actresses who 
were always talking about their art with a big A, their "art-life," their "lifework," 
their careers and futures, and so on. Keep these things to 





To the successful actor society, if he desire it, offers a warm and 
cordial welcome. Its members do not, it is true, suggest that he should 
marry with their daughters, but why should they? An actor has a very 
unattractive kind of life to offer to any woman who is not herself 
following his profession. What I mean is that the fact of a man being an 
actor does not debar him from such gratification as he may find in the 
pleasures of society. And I believe that the effect of such raising of the 
actor's status as has been witnessed in the last fifty years has been to 
elevate the general tone of our calling and bring into it men and women of 
education and refinement. 

At the same time, remember that social enjoyments should always be a 
secondary consideration to the actor, something of a luxury to be sparingly 
indulged in. An actor should never let himself be beguiled into the belief 
that society, generally speaking, is seriously interested in what he does, or 
that popularity in drawing-rooms connotes success in the theatre. It does 





It is to a public far larger, far more real and genuine than this, that you 
will one day have to appeal. It is in their presence that you will finish 
your education. The final school for the actor is his audience; they are 
the necessary complement to the exercise of his art, and it is by the 
impression he produces on them that he will ultimately stand or fall; on 
their verdict, and on their verdict alone, will his success or failure as an 
artist depend. But, if you have followed carefully, assiduously, the 
course of instruction now open to you, when the time has arrived for you 
to face an audience you will start with a very considerable handicap in 
your favour. If you have learnt to move well and to speak well, to be 
clear in your enunciation and graceful in your bearing, you are bound to 
arrest at once the attention of any audience, no matter where it may be, 
before whom you appear. Obvious and necessary as are these two 
acquirements of graceful bearing and correct diction, they are not so 
generally diffused as to cease to be remarkable. Consequently, however 
modest your beginning on the stage, however short the part you may be 
called upon to play, you should find immediately the benefit of your 
training. You may have to unlearn a certain amount, or rather to mould 
and shape what you have learnt to your new conditions, but if you have 
been well grounded in the essential elements of an actor's education, you 
will stand with an enormous advantage over such of your competitors as 
have waited till they go into a theatre to learn what can be acquired just as 
well, better, more thoroughly, outside it. 

It has been my object to deal generally with the actor's calling, a 
calling, difficult and hazardous in character, demanding much patience, 
self-reliance, determination, and good temper. This last is not one of its 
least important demands on your character. Remember that the actor is 
not in one sense of the word an independent artist; it is his misfortune that 




Learn to bear failure and criticism patiently. They are part of the 
actor's lot in life. Critics are rarely animated by any personal hostility in 
what they may write about you, though I confess that when one reads an 
unfavourable criticism, one is inclined to set it down to anything but one's 
own deserving. I heard a great actor once say that we should never read 
criticisms of ourselves till a week after they were written--admirable 
counsel--but I confess I have not yet reached that pitch of self-restraint 
that would enable me to overcome my curiosity for seven days. It is, 
however, a state of equanimity to look forward to. In the meantime, 
content yourself with the recollection that ridicule and damning criticism 
have been the lot at some time in their lives of the most famous actors and 
actresses, that the unfavourable verdict of to-day may be reversed tomorrow. 
It is no good resenting failure; turn it to account rather; try to 
understand it, and learn something from it. The uses of theatrical 
adversity may not be sweet, but rightly understood they may be very 

Do not let failure make you despond. Ours is a calling of ups and 
downs; it is an advantage of its uncertainty that you never know what may 
happen next; the darkest hour may he very near the dawn. This is where 
Bohemianism, in the best sense of the term, will serve the actor. I do not 
mean by Bohemianism chronic intemperance and insolvency. I mean the 
gay spirit of daring and enterprise that greets failure as graciously as 





Do not despond in failure, neither be over-exalted by success. 
Remember one success is as nothing in the history of an actor's career; he 
has to make many before he can lay claim to any measure of fame; and 
over-confidence, an inability to estimate rightly the value of a passing 
triumph, has before now harmed incalculably many an actor or actress. 
You will only cease to learn your business when you quit it; look on 
success as but another lesson learnt to be turned to account in learning the 
next. The art of the actor is no less difficult, no less long in comparison 
with life, than any other art. In the intoxicating hour of success let this 
chastening thought have some place in your recollection. 

When you begin work as actors or actresses, play whenever you can 
and whatever you can. Remember that the great thing for the actor is to 
be seen as often as possible, to be before the public as much as he can, no 
matter how modest the part, how insignificant the production. It is only 
when an actor has reached a position very secure in the public esteem that 
he can afford, or that it may be his duty, to be careful as to what he 
undertakes. But before such a time is reached his one supreme object 
must be to get himself known to the public, to let them see his work under 
all conditions, until they find something to identify as peculiarly his own; 
he should think nothing too small or unimportant to do, too tiresome or 
laborious to undergo. Work well and conscientiously done must attract 
attention; there is a great deal of lolling and idleness among the many 




The stage will always attract a certain number of worthless recruits 
because it is so easy to get into the theatre somehow or other; there is no 
examination to be passed, no qualification to be proved before a person is 
entitled to call himself an actor. And then the life of an actor is 
unfortunately, in these days of long runs, one that lends itself to a good 
deal of idleness and waste of time, unless a man or woman be very 
determined to employ their spare time profitably. For this reason, I 
should advise any actor, or actress, to cultivate some rational hobby or 
interest by the side of their work; for until the time comes for an actor to 
assume the cares and labours of management, he must have a great deal of 
time on his hands that can be better employed than in hanging about clubs 
or lolling in drawing-rooms. At any rate, the actor or actress who thinks 
no work too small to do, and to do to the utmost of his or her ability, who 
neglects no opportunity that may be turned to account--and every line he 
or she speaks is an opportunity--must outstrip those young persons who, 
though they may be pleased to call themselves actors and actresses, never 
learn to regard the theatre as anything but a kind of enlarged backdrawing-
room, in which they are invited to amuse themselves at an 
altogether inadequate salary. 

In regard to salary, when you start in your profession, do not make 
salary your first consideration; do not suffer a few shillings or a pound or 
two to stand between you and work. This is a consideration you may 
keep well in mind, even when you have achieved some measure of success. 
Apart from the natural tendency of the individual to place a higher value 
on his services than that attached to them by others, it is often well to take 
something less than you ask, if the work offered you is useful. 
Remember that the public judge you by your work, they know nothing and 
care little about what is being paid you for doing it. To some people their 
own affairs are of such supreme importance that they cannot believe that 
their personal concerns are unknown to, and unregarded by, the outside 
world. The intensely personal, individual character of the actor's work is 
bound to induce a certain temptation to an exaggerated egotism. We are 




I would not for one moment advise an actor never to talk "shop"; it is a 
great mistake to think that men and women should never talk in public or 
private about the thing to which they devote their lives; people, as a rule, 
are most interesting on the subject of their own particular business in life. 
Talk about the affairs of the theatre within reason, and with due regard to 
the amenities of polite conversation, but do not confuse the affairs of the 
theatre, broadly speaking, with your own. The one is lasting, general; the 
other particular and fleeting. "_Il n'y a pas de l'homme necessaire_" [No 
man is indispensable]. Many persons would be strangely surprised if 
they could see how rapidly their place is filled after they are gone, no 
matter how considerable their achievement. It may not be filled in the 
same way, as well, as fittingly, but it will be filled, and humanity will 
content itself very fairly well with the substitute. This is especially true of 
the work of the actor. He can but live as a memory, and memory is 
proverbially short. 





When I went with Coghlan to see Henry Irving's Philip I was no 
stranger to his acting. I had been present with Tom Taylor, then dramatic 
critic of the _Times_, at the famous first night at the Lyceum, in 1874, 
when Henry put his fortune--counted, not in gold, but in years of scorned 
delights and laborious days, years of constant study and reflection, of 
Spartan self-denial and deep melancholy--when he put it all to the touch 
"to win or lose it all." This is no exaggeration. Hamlet was by far the 
greatest part that he had ever played or ever was to play. If he had failed-
but why pursue it? He could not fail. 

Yet, the success on the first night at the Lyceum, in 1874, was not of 
that electrical, almost hysterical splendour which has greeted the 
momentous achievements of some actors. The first two acts were 
received with indifference. The people could not see how packed they 
were with superb acting--perhaps because the new Hamlet was so simple, 
so quiet, so free from the exhibition of actors' artifices which used to bring 
down the house in "Louis XI" and in "Richelieu," but which were really 
the easy things in acting, and in "Richelieu" (in my opinion) not especially 
well done. In "Hamlet" Henry Irving did not go to the audience; he made 
them come to him. Slowly, but surely, attention gave place to admiration, 
admiration to enthusiasm, enthusiasm to triumphant acclaim. 

I have seen many Hamlets,--Fechter, Charles Kean, Rossi, Friedrich 
Haase, Forbes-Robertson, and my own son, Gordon Craig, among them,-but 
they were not in the same hemisphere! I refuse to go and see 
Hamlets now. I want to keep Henry Irving's fresh and clear in my 
memory until I die. 


When he engaged me to play Ophelia in 1878, he asked me to go 
down to Birmingham to see the play, and that night I saw what I shall 




The Birmingham night he knew I was there. He played--I say it 
without vanity--for me. We players are not above that weakness, if it be 
a weakness. If ever anything inspires us to do our best, it is the presence 
in the audience of some fellow-artist who must, in the nature of things, 
know more completely than any one what we intend, what we do, what we 
feel. The response from such a member of the audience flies across the 
footlights to us like a flame. I felt it once when I played Olivia before 
Eleonora Duse. I felt that she felt it once when she played Marguerite 
Gautier for me. 

When I read "Hamlet" now, everything that Henry did in it seems to 
me more absolutely right even than I thought at the time. I would give 
much to be able to record it all in detail, but--it may be my fault--writing is 
not the medium in which this can be done. Sometimes I have thought of 
giving readings of "Hamlet," for I can remember every tone of Henry's 
voice, every emphasis, every shade of meaning that he saw in the lines and 
made manifest to the discerning. Yes, I think I could give some pale idea 
of what his Hamlet was if I read the play! 

"Words, words, words!" What is it to say, for instance, that the 
cardinal qualities of his Prince of Denmark were strength, delicacy, 
distinction? There was never a touch of commonness. Whatever he did 
or said, blood and breeding pervaded it. 


His "make-up" was very pale, and this made his face beautiful when 
one was close to him, but at a distance it gave him a haggard look. Some 
said he looked twice his age. 

He kept three things going at the same time--the antic madness, the 
sanity, the sense of the theatre. The last was to all that he imagined and 
thought what, in the New Testament, charity is said to be to all other 




He neglected no _coup de theatre_ [theatrical artifice] to assist him, 
but who notices the servants when the host is present? 

For instance, his first entrance as Hamlet was what we call, in 
theatrical parlance, very much "worked up." He was always a 
tremendous believer in processions, and rightly. It is through such means 
that royalty keeps its hold on the feeling of the public and makes its mark 
as a figure and a symbol. Henry Irving understood this. Therefore, to 
music so apt that it was not remarkable in itself, but a contribution to the 
general excited anticipation, the court of Denmark came on to the stage. 
I understood later on, at the Lyceum, what days of patient work had gone 
to the making of that procession. 

At its tail, when the excitement was at fever-heat, came the solitary 
figure of Hamlet, looking extraordinarily tall and thin, The lights were 
turned down--another stage trick--to help the effect that the figure was 
spirit rather than man. 

He was weary; his cloak trailed on the ground. He did not wear the 
miniature of his father obtrusively round his neck! His attitude was one 
which I have seen in a common little illustration to the "Reciter," compiled 
by Dr. Pinch, Henry Irving's old schoolmaster. Yet, how right to have 
taken it, to have been indifferent to its humble origin! Nothing could 
have been better when translated into life by Irving's genius. 

The hair looked blue-black, like the plumage of a crow; the eyes 
burning--two fires veiled, as yet, by melancholy. But the appearance of 
the man was not single, straight, or obvious, as it is when I describe it, any 
more than his passions throughout the play were. I only remember one 
moment when his intensity concentrated itself in a straightforward 
unmistakable emotion, without side-current or back water. It was when 
he said: 

The play's the thing Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King 

and, as the curtain came down, was seen to be writing madly on his 




"0 God, that I were a writer!" I paraphrase Beatrice with all my heart. 
Surely a writer could not string words together about Henry Irving's 
Hamlet and say nothing, nothing. 

"We must start this play a living thing," he used to say at rehearsals, 
and he worked until the skin grew tight over his face, until he became livid 
with fatigue, yet still beautiful, to get the opening lines said with 
individuality, suggestiveness, speed, and power: 

_Bernardo_: Who's there? _Francisco_: Nay, answer me: 
stand, and unfold yourself. _Bernardo_: Long live the king! 
_Francisco_: Bernardo? _Bernardo_: He. _Francisco_: You 
come most carefully upon your hour. _Bernardo_: 'Tis now struck 
twelve: get thee to bed, Francisco. _Francisco_: For this relief much 
thanks: 't is bitter cold. 

And all that he tried to make others do with these lines he himself did 
with every line of his own part. Every word lived. 

Some said: "Oh, Irving only makes 'Hamlet' a love poem!" They said 
that, I suppose, because in the nunnery scene with Ophelia he was the 
lover above the prince and the poet. With what passionate longing his 
hands hovered over Ophelia at her words, "Rich gifts wax poor when 
givers prove unkind!" 


His advice to the players was not advice. He did not speak it as an 
actor. Nearly all Hamlets in that scene give away the fact that they are 
actors and not dilettanti of royal blood. Henry defined the way he would 
have the players speak as an order, an instruction of the merit of which he 
was regally sure. There was no patronising flavour in his acting here, not 
a touch of "I'11 teach you how to do it." He was swift, swift and simple-pausing 
for the right word now and again, as in the phrase "to hold as 't 
were the mirror up to nature." His slight pause and eloquent gesture, as 
the all embracing word "nature" came in answer to his call, were exactly 
repeated unconsciously, years later, by the Queen of Roumania (Carmen 
Sylva). She was telling us the story of a play that she had written. The 





The first letter that I ever received from Henry Irving was written on 
the 20th of July, 1878, from 15A Grafton Street, the house in which he 
lived during the entire period of his Lyceum management. 

DEAR MISS TERRY: I look forward to the pleasure of calling upon 
you on Tuesday next at two o'clock, 

With every good wish, believe me, Yours sincerely, 


The call was in reference to my engagement as Ophelia. Strangely 
characteristic I see it now to have been of Henry that he was content to 
take my powers as an actress more or less on trust. A mutual friend, 
Lady Pollock, had told him that I was the very person for him; that "All 
London" (a vile but convenient phrase) was talking of my Olivia; that I 
had acted well in Shakespeare with the Bancrofts; that I should bring to 
the Lyceum Theatre what players call "a personal following." Henry 
chose his friends as carefully as he chose his company and his staff. He 
believed in Lady Pollock implicitly, and he did not--it is possible that he 
could not--come and see my Olivia for himself. 

I was living in Longridge Road when Henry Irving came to see me. 
Not a word of our conversation about the engagement can I remember. I 
did notice, however, the great change that had taken place in the man since 
I had last met him in 1867. Then he was really very ordinary-looking-with 
a moustache, an unwrinkled face, and a sloping forehead. The only 
wonderful thing about him was his melancholy. When I was playing the 
piano, once, in the green room at the Queen's Theatre, he came in and 
listened. I remember being made aware of his presence by his sigh--the 
deepest, profoundest, sincerest sigh I ever heard from any human being. 
He asked me if I would not play the piece again. The incident impressed 
itself on my mind, inseparably associated with a picture of him as he 




And here, perhaps, is the place to say that I, of all people, can perhaps 
appreciate Henry Irving least justly, although I was his associate on the 
stage for a quarter of a century, and was on terms of the closest friendship 
with him for almost as long a time. He had precisely the qualities that I 
never find likable. 


He was an egotist, an egotist of the great type, never "a mean egotist," 
as he was once slanderously described; and all his faults sprang from 
egotism, which is, after all, only another name for greatness. So much 
absorbed was he in his own achievement that he was unable or unwilling 
to appreciate the achievements of others. I never heard him speak in high 
terms of the great foreign actors and actresses who from time to time 
visited England. It would be easy to attribute this to jealousy, but the 
easy explanation is not the true one. He simply would not give himself 
up to appreciation. Perhaps appreciation is a wasting though a generous 
quality of the mind and heart, and best left to lookers-on who have plenty 
of time to develop it. 

I was with him when he saw Sarah Bernhardt act for the first time. The 




As the years went on he grew very much attached to Sarah Bernhardt, 
and admired her as a colleague whose managerial work in the theatre was 
as dignified as his own; but of her superb powers as an actress I don't 
believe he ever had a glimmering notion! 

Perhaps it is not true, but, as I believe it to be true, I may as well state 
it: It was never any pleasure to him to see the acting of other actors and 
actresses. Salvini's Othello I know he thought magnificent, but he would 
not speak of it. 


How dangerous it is to write things that may not be understood! 
What I have written I have written merely to indicate the qualities in 
Henry Irving's nature which were unintelligible to me, perhaps because I 
have always been more woman than artist. He always put the theatre 
first. He lived in it, he died in it. He had none of my bourgeois 
qualities--the love of being in love, the love of a home, the dislike of 
solitude. I have always thought it hard to find my inferiors. He was 
sure of his high place. In some ways he was far simpler than I. He would 
talk, for instance, in such an ignorant way to painters and musicians that I 
blushed for him. But was not my blush far more unworthy than his 
freedom from all pretentiousness in matters of art? 

He never pretended. One of his biographers had said that he posed as 
being a French scholar. Such a thing, and all things like it, were 
impossible to his nature. If it were necessary, in one of his plays, to say a 
few French words, he took infinite pains to learn them, and said them 




"What do you want with fat, podgy, prize-fighter legs!" I expostulated. 

I brought help, too, in pictorial matters. Henry Irving had had little 
training in such matters; I had had a great deal. Judgment about colours, 
clothes, and lighting must be trained. I had learned from Mr. Watts, from 
Mr. Goodwin, and from other artists, until a sense of decorative effect had 
become second nature to me. 

Praise to some people at certain stages of their career is more 
developing than blame. I admired the very things in Henry for which 
other people criticised him. I hope this helped him a little. 





I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, A stage where every 
man must play a part. 

Shakespeare does not say "may" play a part, or "can" play a part, but 
he says _must_ play a part; and he has expressed the conviction of every 
intelligent student of humanity then and thereafter, now and hereafter. 
The stage cannot be held in contempt by mankind; because all mankind is 
acting, and every human being is playing a part. The better a man plays 
his part, the better he succeeds. The more a man knows of the art of 
acting, the greater the man; for, from the king on his throne to the beggar 
in the street, every man is acting. There is no greater comedian or 
tragedian in the world than a great king. The knowledge of the art of 
acting is indispensable to a knowledge of mankind, and when you are able 
to pierce the disguise in which every man arrays himself, or to read the 
character which every man assumes, you achieve an intimate knowledge 
of your fellow men, and you are able to cope with the man, either as he is, 
or as he pretends to be. It was necessary for Shakespeare to be an actor 
in order to know men. Without his knowledge of the stage, Shakespeare 
could never have been the reader of men that he was. And yet we are 
asked, "Is the stage worth while?" 


Napoleon and Alexander were both great actors--Napoleon perhaps the 
greatest actor the world has ever seen. Whether on the bridge of Lodi, or 
in his camp at Tilsit; whether addressing his soldiers in the plains of Egypt; 
whether throwing open his old gray coat and saying, "Children, will you 
fire on your general?" whether bidding farewell to them at Fontainebleau; 
whether standing on the deck of the _Bellerophon_, or on the rocks of St. 
Helena--he was always an actor. Napoleon had studied the art of acting, 
and he knew its value. If the power of the eye, the power of the voice, 







I stretch my eyes over the wide world, and the people in it, and I can 
see no one who is not playing a part; therefore respect the art of which you 
are all devotees, and, if you must act, learn to play your parts well. Study 
the acting of others, so that you may discover what part is being played by 


It is, therefore, not amazing that everybody is interested in the art of 
acting, and it is not amazing that every one thinks he can act. You have 
only to suggest private theatricals, when a house party is assembled at 
some country house, to verify the truth of the statement. Immediately 
commences a lively rivalry as to who shall play this part or that. Each 
one considers herself or himself best suited, and I have known private 
theatricals to lead to lifelong enmities. 

It is surprising to discover how very differently people who have 
played parts all their lives deport themselves before the footlights. I was 
acquainted with a lady in London who had been the wife of a peer of the 
realm, who had been ambassadress at foreign courts, who at one time had 
been a reigning beauty, and who came to me, longing for a new experience, 
and implored me to give her an opportunity to appear upon the stage. In 
a weak moment I consented, and as I was producing a play, I cast her for a 
part which I thought she would admirably suit-that of a society woman. 
What that woman did and did not do on the stage passes all belief. She 
became entangled in her train, she could neither sit down nor stand up, she 






respect his. And who can tell whether he is right or you are right? 
He has created them with much loving care; therefore don't sneer at them-don't 
jeer at them--it hurts! If you have reared a rosebush in your garden, 
and seen it bud and bloom, are you pleased to have some ruthless vandal 
tear the flowers from their stem and trample them in the mud? And it is 
not always our most beautiful children we love the best. The parent's 
heart will surely warm toward its feeblest child. 


It is very evident that any man, be he an actor or no actor, can, with 
money and with good taste, make what is technically termed a production. 
There is, as an absolute matter of fact, no particular credit to be attached to 
the making of a production. The real work of the stage, of the actor, does 
not lie there. It is easy for us to busy ourselves, to pass pleasantly our 
time, designing lovely scenes, charming costumes, and all the 
paraphernalia and pomp of mimic grandeur, whether of landscape or of 
architecture, the panoply of war, or the luxury of royal courts. That is 
fun--pleasure and amusement. No; the real work of the stage lies in the 
creation of a character. A great character will live forever, when paint 
and canvas and silks and satins and gold foil and tinsel shall have gone the 
way of all rags. 

But the long, lone hours with our heads in our hands, the toil, the 
patient study, the rough carving of the outlines, the dainty, delicate 
finishing touches, the growing into the soul of the being we delineate, the 
picture of his outward semblance, his voice, his gait, his speech, all 
amount to a labour of such stress and strain, of such loving anxiety and 
care, that they can be compared in my mind only to a mother's pains. 
And when the child is born it must grow in a few hours to completion, and 
be exhibited and coldly criticised. How often, how often, have those 





The student may well ask, "What are we to copy, and whom are we to 
copy?" Don't copy any one; don't copy any individual actor, or his 
methods. The methods of one actor--the means by which he arrives-cannot 
always be successfully employed by another. The methods and 
personality of one actor are no more becoming or suitable or adapted to 
another than certain gowns worn by women of fashion simply because 
these gowns are the fashion. In the art of acting, like the art of painting, 
we must study life--copy life! You will have before you the work of 
great masters, and you will learn very much from them--quite as much 
what to avoid as what to follow. No painting is perfect, and no acting is 
perfect. No actor ever played a part to absolute perfection. It is just as 
impossible for an actor to simulate nature completely upon the stage as it 
is impossible for the painter to portray on canvas the waves of the ocean, 
the raging storm clouds, or the horrors of conflagration. 

The nearer the artist gets to nature, the greater he is. We may admire 
Rubens and Rembrandt and Vandyke and Gainsborough and Turner, but 
who will dare to say that any one of their pictures is faultless? We shall 
learn much from them all, but quite as much what to avoid as what to 
emulate. But when you discover their faults, do not forget their virtues. 
Look, and realise what it means to be able to do so much, And the actor's 





The most severe critic can never tell me more, or scold me more than I 
scold myself. I have never left the stage satisfied with myself. And I 
am convinced that every artist feels as I do about his work. It is the 
undoubted duty of the critic to criticise, and that means to blame as well as 
to praise; and it must be confessed that, taking all things into consideration, 
the critics of this country are actuated by honesty of purpose and 
kindliness of spirit, and very often their work is, in addition, of marked 
literary value. Occasionally we will still meet the man who is anxious to 
impress his fellow citizens with the fact that he has been abroad, and 
tinctures all his views of plays and actors with references to Herr 
Dinkelspiegel or Frau Mitterwoorzer; or who, having spent a few hours in 
Paris, is forced to drag in by the hair Monsieur Popin or Mademoiselle 
Fifine. But as a matter of fact, is not the interpretation of tragedy and 
comedy by the American stage superior to the German and French?--for 
the whole endeavour in this country has been toward a closer adherence to 
nature. In France and in Germany the ancient method of declamation 
still prevails, and the great speeches of Goethe and Schiller and Racine 
and Corneille are to all intents and purposes intoned. No doubt this 
sounds very fine in German and French, but how would you like it now in 

The old-time actor had peculiar and primitive views as to elocution 
and its uses. I remember a certain old friend of mine, who, when he 
recited the opening speech in "Richard III.," and arrived at the line "In the 
deep bosom of the ocean buried," suggested the deep bosom of the ocean 
by sending his voice down into his boots. Yet these were fine actors, to 
whom certain young gentlemen, who never saw them, constantly refer. 
The methods of the stage have completely changed, and with them the 




Yet, whilst we have discarded these somewhat crude methods, we have 
perhaps allowed ourselves to wander too far in the other direction, and the 
critics are quite justified in demanding in many cases greater virility and 
force. The simulation of suppressed power is very useful and very 
advisable, but when the fire-bell rings the horses have got to come out, 
and rattle and race down the street, and rouse the town! 


Whilst we are on the subject of these creations of the poets and the 
actors, do you understand how important is discipline on the stage? How 
can an actor be away from this earth, moving before you in the spirit he 
has conjured up, only to be dragged back to himself and his actual 
surroundings of canvas and paint and tinsel and limelights by some 
disturbing influence in the audience or on the stage? If you want the best, 
if you love the art, foster it. It is worthy of your gentlest care and your 
kindest, tenderest thought. Your silence is often more indicative of 
appreciation than your applause. The actor does not need your applause 
in order to know when you are in sympathy with him. 

He feels very quickly whether you are antagonistic or friendly. He 
cares very little for the money, but a great deal for your affection and 
esteem. Discipline on the stage has almost entirely disappeared, and year 
after year the exercise of our art becomes more difficult. I am sorry to 
say some newspapers are, unwittingly perhaps, largely responsible for this. 
When an editor discharges a member of his force for any good and 
sufficient reason--and surely a man must be permitted to manage and 





The stage is not likely to die of neglect anywhere. But at this 
moment it cannot be denied that the ship of the stage is drifting somewhat 
hither and thither, Every breath of air and every current of public opinion 
impels it first in one direction and then in another, At one moment we may 
be said to be in the doldrums of the English society drama, or we are 
sluggishly rolling along in a heavy ground swell, propelled by a passing 
cat's paw of revivals of old melodramas. Again we catch a very faint 





What could not be done for the people of this land, were we to have a 
great and recognised theatre! Consider our speech, and our manner of 
speech! Consider our voices, and the production of our voices! Consider 
the pronunciation of words, and the curious use of vowels! Let us say we 
have an established theatre, to which you come not only for your pleasure, 
but for your education. Of what immense advantage this would be if 
behind its presiding officer there stood a board of literary directors, 
composed of such men as William Winter, Howells, Edward Everett Hale, 
and Aldrich, and others equally fine, and the presidents of the great 
universities. These men might well decide how the American language 
should be spoken in the great American theatre, and we should then have 
an authority in this country at last for the pronunciation of certain words. 
It would finally be decided whether to say fancy or fahncy--dance or 
dahnce--advertisement or advertysement, and so with many other words; 
whether to call the object of our admiration "real elegant"--whether we 
should say "I admire" to do this or that, and whether we should say "I 
guess" instead of "I think." And the voice! The education of the 
American speaking voice is, I am sure all will agree, of immense 
importance. It is difficult to love, or to continue to endure, a woman who 
shrieks at you; a high-pitched, nasal, stringy voice is not calculated to 




These men of whom I have spoken could meet once a year in the great 
green-room of this theatre of my imagination, and decide upon the works 
to be produced--the great classics, the tragedies and comedies; and living 
authors should be invited and encouraged. Here, again, we should have 
at last what we so badly need, an encouragement for men and women to 
write poetry for the stage. Nothing by way of the beautiful seems to be 
written for us to-day, but perhaps the acknowledgment and the hall-mark 
of a great theatre might prove an incentive. 


The training of the actor! To-day there is practically none. Actors 
and actresses are not to be taught by patting them on the shoulders and 
saying, "Fine! Splendid!" It is a hard, hard school, on the contrary, of 
unmerciful criticism. And he is a poor master who seeks cheap 
popularity amongst his associates by glossing over and praising what he 
knows to be condemnable. No good result is to be obtained by this 
method, but it is this method which has caused a great many actors to be 
beloved, and the public to be very much distressed. 

As for the practical side of an established theatre, I am absolutely 
convinced that the national theatre could be established in this country on 
a practical and paying basis; and not only on a paying basis, but upon a 
profitable basis. It would, however, necessitate the investment of a large 
amount of capital. In short, the prime cost would be large, but if the 
public generally is interested, there is no reason why an able financier 
could not float a company for this purpose. But under no circumstances 
must or can a national theatre, in the proper use of the term, be made an 
object of personal or commercial profit. Nor can it be a scheme devised 
by a few individuals for the exploitation of a social or literary fad. The 
national theatre must be given by the people to the people, and be 
governed by the people. The members of the national theatre should be 




It is not necessary to bother with further details; I only mention this to 
impress the reader with the fact that the national theatre is a practical 
possibility. From my personal experience I am convinced that serious 
effort upon the American stage meets with a hearty endorsement. 





The Bon and Berlaffa Company, in which my father was engaged, 
alternated in its repertory between the comedies of Goldoni and the 
tragedies of Alfieri. 

One evening the "Donne Curiose" by Goldoni was to be given, but the 
actor who was to take the harlequin's part, represented in that piece by a 
stupid slave called Pasquino, fell sick a few hours before the curtain was 
to rise. The company had been together for a few days only, and it was 
out of the question to substitute another play. It had been decided to 
close the theatre for that night, when Berlaffa asked: 

"Why couldn't your Tom take the part?" My father said that there 
was no reason why he shouldn't, but that Tom had never appeared in 
public, and he didn't know whether he had the courage. 

The proposition was made to me, and I accepted on the spot, 
influenced to no little extent by a desire to please the managers, who in my 
eyes were people of great importance. Within three hours, with my iron 
memory, I had easily mastered my little part of Pasquino, and, putting on 
the costume of the actor who had fallen ill, I found myself a full-fledged if 
a new performer. I was to speak in the Venetian dialect; that was 
inconvenient for me rather than difficult, but at Forte, where we were, any 
slip of pronunciation would hardly be observed. 

It was the first time that I was to go on the stage behind the dazzling 
footlights, the first time that I was to speak in an unaccustomed dialect, 
dressed up in ridiculous clothes which were not my own; and I confess 
that I was so much frightened that I was tempted to run back to my 
dressing-room, to take off my costume, and to have nothing more to do 
with the play. But my father, who was aware of my submissive 
disposition toward him, with a few words kept me at my post. 

"For shame!" said he; "a man has no right to be afraid." A man! 
was scarce fourteen, yet I aspired to that title. 




I must have had considerable aptitude for such comic parts as those of 
stupid servants, for everywhere that we went I became the public's 
Benjamin. I made the people laugh, and they asked for nothing better. 
All were surprised that, young and inexperienced as I was, I should have 
so much cleverness of manner and such sureness of delivery. My father 
was more surprised than anybody, for he had expected far less of my 
immaturity and total lack of practice. It is certain that from that time I 
began to feel that I was somebody. I had become useful, or at least I 
thought I had, and, as a consequence, in my manner and bearing I began to 
affect the young man more than was fitting in a mere boy. I sought to 
figure in the conversation of grown people, and many a time I had the pain 
of seeing my elders smile at my remarks. It was my great ambition to be 
allowed to walk alone in the city streets; my father was very loath to grant 
this boon, but he let me go sometimes, perhaps to get a sample of my 
conduct. I don't remember ever doing anything at these times which 
could have displeased him; I was particularly careful about it, since I saw 
him sad, pensive, and afflicted owing to the misfortune which had befallen 
him, and soon be began to accord me his confidence, which I was most 
anxious to gain. 


Often he spoke to me of the principles of dramatic art, and of the 
mission of the artist. He told me that to have the right to call one's self 
an artist one must add honest work to talent, and he put before me the 
example of certain actors who had risen to fame, but who were repulsed 
by society on account of the triviality of their conduct; of others who were 





The parts in which I won the most sympathy from the Italian public 
were those of Oreste in the tragedy of that name, Egisto in "Merope," 
Romeo in "Giulietta e Romeo," Paolo in "Francesca da Rimini," Rinaldo 
in "Pia di Tolommei," Lord Bonfield in "Pamela," Domingo in the 
"Suonatrice d 'Arpa," and Gian Galeazzo in "Lodovico il Moro." In all 
these my success was more pronounced than in other parts, and I received 
flattering marks of approval. I did not reflect, at that time, of how great 
assistance to me it was to be constantly surrounded by first-rate artists; but 
I soon came to feel that an atmosphere untainted by poisonous microbes 
promotes unoppressed respiration, and that in such an atmosphere soul and 
body maintain themselves healthy and vigorous. I observed frequently in 
the "scratch" companies, which played in the theatres of second rank 
young men and women who showed very notable artistic aptitude, but 
who, for lack of cultivation and guidance, ran to extravagance, 
overemphasis, and exaggeration. Up to that time, while I had a clear 








In my assiduous reading of the classics, the chief places were held 
among the Greeks by the masculine and noble figures of Hector, Achilles, 
Theseus, Oedipus; among the Scots by Trenmor, Fingal, Cuchullin; and 
among the Romans by Caesar, Brutus, Titus, and Cato. These characters 
influenced me to incline toward a somewhat bombastic system of 
gesticulation and a turgid delivery. My anxiety to enter to the utmost into 
the conceptions of my authors, and to interpret them clearly, disposed me 
to exaggerate the modulations of my voice like some mechanism which 
responds to every touch, not reflecting that the abuse of this effort would 
bring me too near to song. Precipitation in delivery, too, which when 
carried too far destroys all distinctness and incisiveness, was due to my 
very high impressionability, and to the straining after technical scenic 
effects. Thus, extreme vehemence in anger would excite me to the point 
of forgetting the fiction, and cause me to commit involuntarily lamentable 
outbursts. Hence I applied myself to overcome the tendency to singsong 
in my voice, the exuberance of my rendering of passion, the exclamatory 
quality of my phrasing, the precipitation of my pronunciation, and the 
swagger of my motions. 

I shall be asked how the public could abide me, with all these defects; 
and I answer that the defects, though numerous, were so little prominent 
that they passed unobserved by the mass of the public, which always 
views broadly and could be detected only by the acute and searching eye 
of the intelligent critic. I make no pretence that I was able to correct 
myself all at once. Sometimes my impetuosity would carry me away, 
and not until I had come to mature age was I able to free myself to any 
extent from this failing. Then I confirmed myself in my opinion that the 
applause of the public is not all refined gold, and I became able to separate 
the gold from the dross in the crucible of intelligence. How many on the 
stage are content with the dross! 




My desire to improve in my art had its origin in my instinctive impulse 
to rise above mediocrity--an instinct that must have been born in me, since, 
when still a little boy, I used to put forth all my energies to eclipse what I 
saw accomplished by my companions of like age. When I was sixteen, 
and at Naples, there were in the boarding-house, at two francs and a half a 
day, two young men who were studying music and singing, and to surpass 
them in their own field I practised the scales until I could take B natural. 
Later on, when the tone of my voice; had lowered to the barytone, 
impelled always by my desire to accomplish something, I took lessons in 
music from the Maestro Terziani, and appeared at a benefit with the 
famous tenor Boucarde, and Signora Monti, the soprano, and sang in a 
duet from "Belisaria," the aria from "Maria di Rohan,"and "La Settimana 
d'Amore," by Niccolai; and I venture to say that I was not third best in that 
triad. But I recognised that singing and declamation were incompatible 
pursuits, since the method of producing the voice is totally different, and 
they must therefore be mutually harmful. Financially, I was not in a 
condition to be free to choose between the two careers, and I persevered of 
necessity in the dramatic profession. Whether my choice was for the best I 
do not know; it is certain that if my success had been in proportion to my 
love of music, and I have reason to believe that it might have been, I 
should not have remained in obscurity. 


[In 1871, Salvini organised a company for a tour in South America, On 
his way thither he paused at Gibraltar, and gainfully.] 

At Gibraltar I spent my time studying the Moors. I was much struck 
by one very fine figure, majestic in walk, and Roman in face, except for a 
slight projection of the lower lip. The man's colour was between copper 
and coffee, not very dark, and he had a slender moustache, and scanty 
curled hair on his chin. Up to that time I had always made up Othello 
simply with my moustache, but after seeing that superb Moor I added the 
hair on the chin, and sought to copy his gestures, movements, and carriage. 





After a few months of rest [after the South American tour], I resolved 
to get together a new company, selecting those actors and actresses who 
were best suited to my repertory. The excellent Isolina Piamonti was my 
leading lady; and my brother Alessandro, an experienced, conscientious, 
and versatile artist, supported me. An Italian theatrical speculator 
proposed to me a tour in North America, to include the chief cities of the 
United States, and although I hesitated not a little on account of the 
ignorance of the Italian language prevailing in that country, I accepted, 
influenced somewhat by my desire to visit a region which was wholly 
unknown to me. Previous to crossing the ocean I had several months 
before me, and these served me to get my company in training. 

My first impressions of New York were most favourable. Whether it 
was the benefit of a more vivifying atmosphere, or the comfort of the 
national life, or whether it was admiration for that busy, industrious, work-
loving people, or the thousands of beautiful women whom I saw in the 
streets, free and proud in carriage, and healthy and lively in aspect, or 
whether it was the thought that these citizens were the great-grandchildren 
of those high-souled men who had known how to win with their blood the 
independence of their country, I felt as if I had been born again to a new 
existence. My lungs swelled more freely as I breathed the air 
impregnated with so much vigour and movement, and so much liberty, and 
I could fancy that I had come back to my life of a youth of twenty, and 
was treading the streets of republican Rome. With a long breath of 
satisfaction I said to myself: "Ah, here is life!" Within a few days my 
energy was redoubled. A lively desire of movement, not a usual thing 
with me, had taken possession of me in spite of myself. Without asking 




My first appearance was in "Othello." The public received a strong 
impression, without discussing whether or not the means which I used to 
cause it were acceptable, and without forming a clear conception of my 
interpretation of that character, or pronouncing openly upon its form. 
The same people who had heard it the first night returned on the second, 
on the third, and even on the fourth, to make up their minds whether the 
emotions they experienced resulted from the novelty of my interpretation, 
or whether in fact it was the true sentiment of Othello's passions which 
was transmitted to them--in short, whether it was a mystification or a 
revelation. By degrees the public became convinced that those excesses 
of jealousy and fury were appropriate to the son of the desert, and that one 
of Southern blood must be much better qualified to interpret them than a 
Northerner. The judgment was discussed, criticised, disputed; but in the 
end the verdict was overwhelmingly in my favour. When the American 
has once said "Yes," he never weakens; he will always preserve for you 
the same esteem, sympathy, and affection. After New York I travelled 
through a number of American cities--Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburg, 
Washington, and Boston, which is rightly styled the Athens of America, 
for there artistic taste is most refined. In Boston I had the good fortune to 
become intimately acquainted with the illustrious poet, Longfellow, who 
talked to me in the pure Tuscan. I saw, too, other smaller cities, and then 





From New Orleans we sailed to Havana, but found in Cuba civil war, 
and a people that had but small appetite for serious things, and was 
moreover alarmed by a light outbreak of yellow fever. One of my 
company was taken down with the disease, but I had the pleasure of seeing 
him recover, Luckily he had himself treated by Havanese physicians, who 
are accustomed to combat that malady, which they know only too well. 
Perhaps my comrade would have lost his life under the ministrations of an 
Italian doctor. In the city of sugar and tobacco, too, it was "Othello" 
which carried off the palm. Those good manufacturers of cigars 
presented me on my benefit with boxes of their wares, which were made 
expressly for me, and which I dispatched to Italy for the enjoyment of my 
friends. In spite of the many civilities which were tendered to me, in 
spite of considerable money profit, and of the ovations of its kind-hearted 
people, I did not find Cuba to my taste. Sloth and luxury reign there 


In Paris I found a letter from the Impresario Mapleson, who proposed 
that I should go to London with an Italian company, and play at Drury 
Lane on the off-nights of the opera. I was in doubt for a considerable 
time whether to challenge the verdict of the British public; but in two 
weeks after reaching Italy, by dint of telegrams I had got together the force 
of artists necessary, and I presented myself with arms and baggage in 
London, in the spring of 1875. 

Hardly had I arrived, when I noticed the posting, on the bill-boards of 
the city, of the announcement of the seventy-second night of "Hamlet" at 





I was very anxious to see the illustrious English artist in that part, and I 
secured a box and went to the Lyceum. I was recognised by nobody, and 
remaining as it were concealed in my box, I had a good opportunity to 
satisfy my curiosity. I arrived at the theatre a little too late, so that I 
missed the scene of Hamlet in presence of the ghost of his father, the scene 
which in my judgment contains the clue to that strange character, and from 
which all the synthetic ideas of Hamlet are developed. I was in time to 
hear only the last words of the oath of secrecy. I was struck by the 
perfection of the stage-setting. There was a perfect imitation of the effect 
of moonlight, which at the proper times flooded the stage with its rays or 
left it in darkness. Every detail was excellently and exactly reproduced. 
The scene was shifted, and Hamlet began his allusions, his sallies of 
sarcasm, his sententious sayings, his points of satire with the courtiers, 
who sought to study and to penetrate the sentiments of the young prince. 
In this scene Irving was simply sublime. His mobile face mirrored his 
thoughts. The subtle penetration of his phrases, so perfect in shading and 
incisiveness, showed him to be a master of art. I do not believe there is 
an actor who can stand beside him in this respect, and I was so much 
impressed by it, that at the end of the second act I said to myself, "I will 
not play Hamlet! Mapleson can say what he likes, but I will not play it"; 
and I said it with the fullest resolution. In the monologue, "To be or not 
to be," Irving was admirable; in the scene with Ophelia he was deserving 
of the highest praise; in that of the Players he was moving, and in all this 
part of the play he appeared to my eyes to be the most perfect interpreter 
of that eccentric character. But further on it was not so, and for the sake 
of art I regretted it. From the time when the passion assumes a deeper 
hue, and reasoning moderates impulses which are forcibly curbed, Irving 





The traditions of the English drama are imposing and glorious! 
Shakespeare alone has gained the highest pinnacle of fame in dramatic art. 
He has had to interpret him such great artists as Garrick, Kemble, Kean, 
Macready, Siddons, and Irving; and the literary and dramatic critics of the 
whole world have studied and analysed both author and actor. At present, 
however, tragedy is abandoned on almost all the stages of Europe. 
Actors who devote themselves to tragedy, whether classical romantic, or 
historical, no longer exist. Society-comedy has overflowed the stage, and 
the inundation causes the seed to rot which more conscientious and 
prudent planters had sown in the fields of art. It is desirable that the 
feeling and taste for the works of the great dramatists should be revived in 
Europe, and that England, which is for special reasons, and with justice, 
proud of enjoying the primacy in dramatic composition, should have also 
worthy and famous actors. I do not understand why the renown and 
prestige of the great name of Garrick do not attract modern actors to 
follow in his footsteps. Do not tell me that the works of Shakespeare are 





In 1880 the agent of an impresario and theatre-owner of Boston came 
to Florence to make me the proposal that I should go to North America for 
the second time, to play in Italian supported by an American company. I 
thought the man had lost his senses. But after a time I became convinced 
that he was in his right mind, and that no one would undertake a long and 
costly journey simply to play a joke, and I took his extraordinary 
proposition into serious consideration and asked him for explanations. 

"The idea is this," the agent made answer; "it is very simple. You 
found favour the last time with the American public with your Italian 
company, when not a word that was said was understood, and the 
proprietor of the Globe Theatre of Boston thinks that if he puts with you 
English-speaking actors, you will yourself be better understood, since all 
the dialogues of your supporters will be plain. The audience will concern 
itself only with following you with the aid of the play-books in both 
languages, and will not have to pay attention to the others, whose words it 
will understand." 

"But how shall I take my cue, since I do not understand English? 
And how will your American actors know when to speak, since they do 
not know Italian?" 

"Have no anxiety about that," said the agent. "Our American actors 
are mathematicians, and can memorise perfectly the last words of your 
speeches, and they will work with the precision of machines." 

"I am ready to admit that," said I, "although I do not think it will be so 




The persevering agent, however, closed my mouth with the words, 
"You do not sign yourself 'Salvini' for nothing!" He had an answer for 
everything, he was prepared to convince me at all points, to persuade me 
about everything, and to smooth over every difficulty, and he won a 
consent which, though almost involuntary on my part, was legalised by a 
contract in due form, by which I undertook to be at New York not later 
than November 05, 1880, and to be ready to open at Philadelphia with 
"Othello" on the 29th of the same month. 

I was still dominated by my bereavement, and the thought was 
pleasant to me of going away from places which constantly brought it 
back to my mind. Another sky, other customs, another language, grave 
responsibilities, a novel and difficult undertaking of uncertain outcome--I 
was willing to risk all simply to distract my attention and to forget. I 
have never in my life been a gambler, but that time I staked my artistic 
reputation upon a single card. Failure would have been a new emotion, 
severe and grievous, it is true, but still different from that which filled my 
mind. I played, and I won! The friends whom I had made in the United 
States in 1873, and with whom I had kept up my acquaintance, when they 
learned of the confusion of tongues, wrote me discouraging letters. In 
Italy the thing was not believed, so eccentric did it seem. I arrived in 
New York nervous and feverish, but not discouraged or depressed. 

When the day of the first rehearsal came, all the theatres were 
occupied, and I had to make the best of a rather large concert-hall to try to 
get into touch with the actors who were to support me. An Italian who 
was employed in a newspaper office served me as interpreter in 
cooperation with the agent of my Boston impresario. The American artists 
began the rehearsal without a prompter, and with a sureness to be envied 
especially by our Italian actors, who usually must have every word 
suggested to them. My turn came, and the few words which Othello 
pronounces in the first scene came in smoothly and without difficulty. 
When the scene with the Council of Ten came, of a sudden I could not 




During the remainder of the rehearsal one might have thought that I 
understood English, and that the American actors understood Italian, No 
further mistake was made by either side; there was not even the smallest 
hesitation, and when I finished the final scene of the third act between 
Othello and Iago, the actors applauded, filled with joy and pleasure. The 
exactitude with which the subsequent rehearsals of "Othello," and those of 
"Hamlet," proceeded was due to the memory, the application, and the 
scrupulous attention to their work of the American actors, as well as to my 
own force of will and practical acquaintance with all the parts of the play, 
and to the natural intuition which helped me to know without 
understanding what was addressed to me, divining it from a motion, a look, 
or a light inflection of the voice. Gradually a few words, a few short 
phrases, remained in my ear, and in course of time I came to understand 
perfectly every word of all the characters; I became so sure of myself that 
if an actor substituted one word for another I perceived it. I understood 
the words of Shakespeare, but not those of the spoken language. 

In a few days we went to Philadelphia to begin our representations. 
My old acquaintances were in despair. To those who had sought to 
discourage me by their letters others on the spot joined their influence, and 
tried everything to overthrow my courage. I must admit that the nearer 
came the hour of the great experiment, the more my anxiety grew and 
inclined me to deplore the moment when I had put myself in that dilemma. 
I owe it in a great degree to my cool head that my discouraging 




The first scene before the palace of Brabantio was received with 
sepulchral silence. When that of the Council of Ten came, and the 
narration of the vicissitudes of Othello was ended, the public broke forth 
in prolonged applause. Then I said to myself, "A good beginning is half 
the work." At the close of the first act, my adversaries, who were such 
solely on account of their love of art, and their belief that the two 
languages could not be amalgamated, came on the stage to embrace and 
congratulate me, surprised, enchanted, enthusiastic, happy, that they had 
been mistaken, and throughout the play I was the object of constant 
demonstrations of sympathy. 


From Philadelphia we went to New York where our success was 
confirmed. It remained for me to win the suffrages of Boston, and I 
secured them, first having made stops in Brooklyn, New Haven, and 
Hartford. When in the American Athens I became convinced that that 
city possesses the most refined artistic taste. Its theatrical audiences are 
serious, attentive to details, analytical--I might almost say scientific--and 
one might fancy that such careful critics had never in their lives done 
anything but occupy themselves with scenic art. With reference to a 
presentation of Shakespeare, they are profound, acute, subtle, and they 
know so well how to clothe some traditional principle in close logic, that if 
faith in the opposite is not quite unshakable in an artist, he must feel 
himself tempted to renounce his own tenets. It is surprising that in a land 
where industry and commerce seem to absorb all the intelligence of the 
people, there should be in every city and district, indeed in every village, 





The celebrated actor Edwin Booth was at this time in Baltimore, a city 
distant two hours from the capital. I had heard so much about this 
superior artist that I was anxious to see him, and on one of my off nights I 
went to Baltimore with my impresario's agent. A box had been reserved 
for me without my knowledge, and was draped with the Italian colours. 
regretted to be made so conspicuous, but I could not fail to appreciate the 
courteous and complimentary desire to do me honour shown by the 
American artist. It was only natural that I should be most kindly 
influenced toward him, but without the courtesy which predisposed me in 
his favour he would equally have won my sympathy by his attractive and 




I should say, from what I heard in America, that Edwin Forrest was the 
Modena of America. The memory of that actor still lives, for no one has 
possessed equally the power to give expression to the passions, and to 
fruitful and burning imagery, in addition to which he possessed 
astonishing power of voice. Almost contemporaneously a number of 
most estimable actors have laid claim to his mantle; but above them all 
Edwin Booth soared as an eagle. 

After a very satisfactory experience in Baltimore, I returned for the 
third time to New York, and gave "Othello," "Macbeth," and "The 
Gladiator," each play twice, and made the last two appearances of my 
season in Philadelphia. After playing ninety-five times in the new 
fashion, I felt myself worn out, but fully satisfied with the result of my 
venturesome undertaking. When I embarked on the steamer which was 
to take me to Europe, I was escorted by all the artists of the company 








WHEN twelve years old, I was booked with the famous actor and 
manager, Giuseppe Moncalvo, for the roles of a child. Soon after, owing 
to my slender figure, they made me up as a little woman, giving me small 
parts as maid. But they soon made up their minds that I was not fitted for 
such parts. Having reached the age of thirteen and developed in my 
figure, I was assigned several parts as second lady. In those days they 
could not be too particular in small companies. At the age of fourteen, I 
had to recite the first part among the young girls and that of the leading 
lady alternately, like an experienced actress. It was about this time, in the 
city of Novara (Piedmont) that I recited for the first time the "Francesca da 
Rimini" of Silvio Pellico. Though I was only fifteen my success was 
such that soon afterward they offered me the parts of leading lady with 
encouragement of advancement. 

My good father, who was gifted with a great deal of sense, did not 
allow his head to be turned by such offers. Reflecting that my health 
might suffer from being thrown so early into the difficulties of stage life 
he refused these offers and accepted a more modest place, as _ingenue_, in 
the Royal Company, under the auspices of the King of Sardinia and 
stationed during several months of the year at Turin. It was managed by 
the leading man, the most intelligent and capable among the stage 
managers of the time. The advice of this cultured, though severe man, 
rendered his management noteworthy and sought after as essential to the 
making of a good actor. 

Among the members of the company shone the foremost beacon-lights 
of Italian art, such as Vestri, Madame Marchionni, Romagnoli, Righetti, 
and many others who were quoted as examples of dramatic art, as well as 
Pasta, Malibran, Rubini, and Tamburini in the lyric art, 

My engagement for the part of _ingenue_ was to have lasted three 
years, but, after the year, I was promoted to the parts of the first lady, and 




To such unhoped-for and flattering results I was able to attain, by 
ascending step by step through the encouragement and admonition of my 
excellent teacher, Madame Carlotta Marchionni, a distinguished actress, 
and the interest of Gaetano Bazzi who also had great affection for me. It 
was really then that my artistic education began. It was then that I 
acquired the knowledge and the rules which placed me in a position to 
discern the characteristics of a true artist. I learned to distinguish and to 
delineate the comic and the dramatic passions. My temperament caused 
me to incline greatly toward the tender and the gentle. 

However, in the tragic parts, my vigour increased. I learned to 
portray transitions for the sake of fusing the different contrasts; a capital 
but difficult study of detail, tedious at times, but of the greatest importance. 
The lamentations in a part where two extreme and opposing passions are 
at play, are like those which in painting are called "chiaro-oscuro," a 
blending of the tones, which thus portrays truth devoid of artifice. In 
order to succeed in this intent, it is necessary to take as model the great 
culture of art, and also to be gifted with a well-tempered and artistic nature. 
And these are not to be confined to sterile imitation, but are for the 
purpose of accumulating the rich material of dramatic erudition, so that 
one may present oneself before the audiences as an original and artistic 

Some people think that distinction of birth and a perfect education will 
render them capable of appearing upon the stage with the same facility and 
nonchalance with which one enters a ball-room, and they are not at all 
timid about walking upon the boards, presuming that they can do it as well 
as an actor who has been raised upon them. A great error! 

One of the greatest difficulties that they meet is in not knowing how to 
walk upon a stage, which, owing to the slight inclination in con struction, 
easily causes the feet to totter, particularly if one is a beginner, and 
especially at the entrances and exits. I myself encountered this difficulty. 
Though I had dedicated myself to the art from my infancy and had been 
instructed with the greatest care every day of my life by my grandmother, 
at the age of fifteen my movements had not yet acquired all the ease and 




When I began my artistic apprenticeship, the use of diction was given 
great importance, as a means of judging an actor. At that time the 
audience was critical and severe. 

In our days, the same audience has become less exacting, less critical, 
and does not aim to improve the artist, by counting his defects. 
According to my opinion, the old system was best, as it is not in excessive 
indulgence and solely by considering the good qualities, without 
correcting the bad ones, that real artists are made. 

It is also my conviction that a person who wishes to dedicate himself 
to the stage should not begin his career with parts of great importance, 
either comic, dramatic, or tragic. The interpretation becomes too difficult 
for a beginner and may harm his future career: first, the discouragement 
over the difficulties that he meets; secondly, an excessive vanity caused by 
the appreciation with which the public apparently honours him. Both 
these sentiments will lead the actor, in a short time, to neglect his study. 
On the other hand, by taking several parts, he becomes familiar with the 
means of rendering his part natural, thus convincing himself that by 
representing correctly characters of little importance, he will be given 
more important ones later on. Thus it will come about that his study will 
be more careful. 


One of the greatest of the living examples of the school of realism is 
my illustrious fellow artist, Signor Tommaso Salvini, with whom, for a 
number of years, I had the fortune to share the fatigues and the honours of 
the profession which I also shared with Ernesto Rossi. The former was 
and is still admired. His rare dramatic merits have nothing of the 
conventional, but owe their power to that spontaneity which is the most 
convincing revelation of art. The wealth of plasticity which Salvini 
possesses, is in him, a natural gift. Salvini is the true exponent of the 
Italian dramatic art 




In the month of June, 1857, we began to rerehearse "Macbeth," at 
Covent Garden, London, It had been arranged for our company by Mr. 
Clarke, and translated into most beautiful Italian verse by Giulio Carcano. 
The renowned Mr. Harris put it on the stage according to English 
traditions. The representation of the part of Lady Macbeth, which 
afterward became one of my favourite roles, preoccupied me greatly, as I 
knew only too well what kind of comparisons would be made. The 
remembrance of the marvellous creation of that character as given by the 
famous Mrs. Siddons and the traditional criticisms of the press, might 
have rendered the public very severe and difficult to please. 

I used all my ability of interpretation to reveal and transmit the most 
minute intentions of the author. To the English audience it seemed that I 
had really incarnated that perfidious but great character of Lady Macbeth, 
in a way that surpassed all expectations. 

We had to repeat the drama for several evenings, always producing a 
most profound impression upon the minds of the audience, particularly in 
the grand sleep-walking scene. So thoroughly had I entered into the 
nature of Lady Macbeth, that during the entire scene my pupils were 
motionless in their orbit, causing me to shed tears. To this enforced 
immobility of the eye I owe the weakening of my eyesight. From the 
analytical study which I shall give of this diabolical character [at the close 
of her Memoirs] the reader can form for himself an idea of how much its 
interpretation cost me (particularly in the final culminating scene), in my 
endeavour to get the right intonation of the voice and the true expression 
of the physiognomy. 


My exceptionally good health never abandoned me through my long 
and tiresome journeys, though unfortunately I never was able to accustom 
myself to voyaging by sea. All through those rapid changes I acquired a 
marvellous store of endurance. That sort of life infused in me sufficient 
energy to lead me through every kind of hardship with the resolution and 
authority of a commanding general. All obeyed me. None questioned my 




The artistic management of the plays was left to me in all its details. 
Every order and every disposition came from me directly. I looked after 
all matters large and small, the things that every actor understands 
contribute to making the success of a play. 

Concerning my own personal interests, they were in charge of a 
private manager. 

I am proud to say that my husband was the soul of all my undertakings. 
As I speak of him, my heart impels me to say that he ever exercised upon 
me and my professional career the kindest and most benevolent influence. 
It was he who upheld my courage, whenever I hesitated before some 
difficulty; it was he who foretold the glory I should acquire, he who 
pointed out to me the goal, and anticipated everything in order that I 
should secure it. Without his assistance I never should have been able to 
put into effect the daring attempt of carrying the flag of Italian dramatic art 
all over the globe. 


During the month of September, 1866, for the first time in my life, I 
crossed the ocean on my way to the United States, where I remained until 
May 17th of the following year. It was in the elegant Lyceum Theatre of 
New York that I made my debut, on the 20th of September, with "Medea." 
I could not anticipate a more enthusiastic reception than the one I was 
honoured with. I felt anxious to make myself known in that new part of 
the world, and let the Americans hear me recite for the first time, in the 
soft and melodic Italian language. I knew that in spite of the prevailing 
characteristics of the inhabitants of the free country of George Washington, 
always busy as they are in their feverish pursuit of wealth, that the love for 
the beautiful and admiration for dramatic art were not neglected. During 





I made my fourth trip to London in 1873. Not having any new drama 
to present and being tired of repeating the same productions, I felt the 
necessity of reanimating my mind with some strong emotion, of 
discovering something, in a word, the execution of which had never been 
attempted by others. 

At last I believed I had found something to satisfy my desire. The 
admiration I had for the Shakespearean dramas, and particularly for the 
character of Lady Macbeth, inspired me with the idea of playing in 
English the sleeping scene from "Macbeth," which I think is the greatest 
conception of the Titanic poet. I was also induced to make this bold 
attempt, partly as a tribute of gratitude to the English audiences of the 
great metropolis, who had shown me so much deference. But how was I 
going to succeed? ... I took advice from a good friend of mine, Mrs. 
Ward, the mother of the renowned actress Genevieve Ward. She not only 
encouraged my idea, but offered her services in helping me to learn how to 
recite that scene in English. 

I still had some remembrance of my study of English when I was a girl, 
and there is no language more difficult to pronounce and enunciate 
correctly, for an Italian. I was frightened only to think of that, still I drew 
sufficient courage even from its difficulties to grapple with my task. 
After a fortnight of constant study, I found myself ready to make an 
attempt at my recitation. However, not wishing to compromise my 
reputation by risking a failure, I acted very cautiously. 

I invited to my house the most competent among the dramatic critics 
of the London papers, without forewarning them of the object and asked 
them kindly to hear me and express frankly their opinion, assuring them 
that if it should not be a favourable one, I would not feel badly over it. 




I aimed at no less a project than the impersonation of the entire role of 
Lady Macbeth in English, but such an arduous undertaking seemed so 
bold to me that I finally gave up the idea and drove away from my mind 
forever the temptation to try it. 


His was the spell o'er hearts Which only Acting lends-- The youngest 
of the sister arts, Which all their beauty blends: For ill can Poetry express 
Full many a tone of thought sublime, And Painting, mute and motionless, 
Steals but a glance of time, But by the mighty actor brought, Illusion's 
perfect triumphs come-- Verse ceases to be airy thought, And Sculpture to 
be dumb. 



<<[19th Century Actor] AUTOBIOGRAPHY(十九世紀男演員自傳)>> 〔完〕


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