In Press and Literature
Oakland Tribune [USA], 10th November 1919
Oakland Actress Keeps Girlish Charm
Wife of Forbes-Robertson On Visit to America With Her Sister, Maxine Elliott, to erect Shaft to Her Father
Former Stage Star Wrapt in Interest for Four Pretty Daughters, the Eldest of Whom is 18 Years of Age
By Jane Dixon (special to The Tribune) - New York, Nov. 10
How lightly the fingers of time touch a lovely woman!
It has been five years since the one-time Jessie Dermott of Oakland, now Lady Forbes-Robertson - the star-eyed Gertrude Elliott - warmed her dainty feet against the soil of her birthland.
Since that time star-eyes have read the book of life as it was never before written, as it must never be written again - chapters grewsome, palpitant, pulsing, heart-smashing, soul-shattering. They have looked upon the great war from the midst of the ruins of it. Yet the shine in thm is undiminished. It is deeper, perhaps, a trifle more solemn, stedier, but the star points remain.
Greiving because the span of an ocean seperated her from her father, Captain Thomas Dermott, who died in Oakland January 11, 1915, after a quarter of a century residence, Lady Johnston and her sister, maxine Elliott, erected a monument to his memory at Rockland, Maine; the family birthplace. Now she comes to visit that monument and to "keep track of Sir Johnston," as she now explains it, during his present tour as a Shakespearian lecturer.
ACTIVE WAR WORKER
As the wife of one of the best beloved characters in all England, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, actor, scholar and gentleman. Gertrude Elliott found plenty of war work for willing hands to do.
Both she and her distinguished husband gave themselves up to the business of victory. Her soldiers and sailors hut, built on the plan of our own Eagle huts, was the most popular in London. The hostess, herself, practically lived there. She saw to it that things were kept cheery. She inducted every one of her friends of the stage, of the musical world, of the world of art and entertainment, into her service.
I called on Lady Forbes-Robertson the other day. "We like to be quiet," she said in explaining her choice of a temporary New York home.
And in that explanation lies the whole secret of Gertrude Elliott's ripening charm. She gives off an atmosphere of peace, of calm, of purpose, and a radiant, inviolable joy. Her black hair is luxuriant, as gracefully arranged as the day she went to her English home. Her. eyes are more intensely blue. She is more exquisite in every way. What a representative American woman to grace social and artistic circles of staid old England! We could not have chosen better.
"I want you to see the picture of my four daughters," she volunteered, the pride of the mother bird throbbing in the soft note of her voice.
Shades of yesterday! Jessie Dermot with four daughters - and the oldest is now eighteen.
"Quite a crowd, aren't they," she smiled. "This one, our first, is in school just outside Paris. Her drawing is full of promise. She is taking up painting seriously, and has already won honors. She loves a good time. I get glowing accounts of girlish escapades in the school. My husband says so far as he can discover the purpose of a young ladies finishing school is to give the young ladies a perfectly hilarious time."
Gertrude Elliott's artist daughter is as like her mother as the second pea in a pod. "She is even more like my sister, Maxine," declared the mother. "She has my sister's build — tall, more generously proportioned than myself. Our second girl is so much like her father in looks and manners she is really funny. Take this picture of her for example. I have a picture of Sir Johnston as Romeo, that could easily be mistaken for this very photograph."
"She is born to the stage, loves it, has loved it since she was a tiny tot. I'm afraid we will not be able to keep her out of the theater."
"Do you object to the theater for your children?" I asked.
The answer was the one you would expect from a gifted actress, wife of a great actor, both of whom graced and glorified the stage of two continents.
CHILDREN CHOOSE LIVES
"Certainly not. I will be proud, happy to have our daughter follow in the footsteps of her father. We do not urge our children to any line of endeavor. They must choose for themselves. Having chosen, we will do our best to guide and counsel them wisely."
Lady Forbes-Robertson told me something about English schools.
"I'm afraid our American boys and girls are not properly appreciative of their public school privileges," she said. "In England, until recently, parents did not send their children to school if they could possibly afford what was considered the more genteel method of education — a tutor or a governess at home.
"Fortunately for English men and women of the future, their parents are beginning to realize such segregation is a grave mistake. Children should be with children. It is better that way. There should be competition in lessons, exchange of youthful ideas, incentive of example.
"Even today an English family of any standing does not send its children to what we call a public school. Over there they are called board schools. To go to board school is to establish one's self hopelessly declasse. It is a stigma which sticks. It simply isn't done, except by the poorest people, the very lowest classes.
"An English family will skimp, save, pinch, deny itself, in order to send the son to some insignificant 'gentleman's school', the daughter to an equally ordinary 'ladies' school. The country is honeycombed with such schools.
CLASS DISTINCTION FORTIFIED
"The outcome of this striving to retain class barrier is a very inferior system of public schools. An English public school is really a joke. My husband says he believes it is because teachers in these schools are so poorly paid. Perhaps that is the secret — that and the staid old idea of class distinction. I do know public schools in Scotland are excellent, far ahead of the English, and partronized much as they are in America.
"I remember when I first went to England I made the obvious social error of remarking to a group of English friends I had been educated in the public schools. I suspect they pictured me as some sort of a youthful ragamuffin until my husband explained the situation. Then they asked all sorts of questions. They were astounded at the idea of a millionaire, a man of family, being proud to graduate his children from our public schools.
NO DESIRE TO QUIT STAGE
"You have not felt the call to retire from the stage, as Sir Johnston has done?"
"Gracious, no" was the quick retort. "I love it. My husband declares he will never again put the grease paint on his face. I do not know - perhaps not. But this feeling is not contagious. I am just as happy in my work as ever, and he is just as happy in my work as when he, too, was playing. Retiring from any work must be a matter of individual decision.
It is the privilege of the worker to go on with work until he or she feels the call to stop. Any other course would be basely selfish and unjust. It could not make for happiness.
Lady Forbes-Robertson spoke of the splendid impression American troops made as they marched in the recent peace parade in London. The strength of their physique, training and grooming were matters of favorable comment on all sides and both she and Sir Johnston, whose heart beats warmly for America, were pardonably proud of the dough boys and the flag under whose starry folds they marched.
"Don't feel too badly about your high cost of living," she warned the visitor from overseas at parting. "Try to remember London is worse, and Paris quite impossible. And just say to my friends and to Sir Johnston's we are happy to be here and hope we may stay until we must hurry home to trim the Christmas tree for the chilren."