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Preserving Mr. Panmure
Performed at The Comedy Theatre, London.
A comedy by Arthur Pinero.
Opened 19th January, 1911.
Starring: Marie Löhr, Lillian Braithwaite.

All Editorial and Photos (except where indicated) as published in Playgoer and Society Illustrated, Vol. III, No. 17.
PRINCIPAL CAST
Dramatis Personae
Played by
Josepha
Miss Marie Löhr
Myrtle
Miss Iris Hawkins
St. John Panmure
Mr. Arthur Playfair
Mrs. Panmure
Miss Lilian Braithwaite
Alfred Hebblethwaite
Mr. Edmund Maurice
Mrs. Hebblethwaite
Miss Kate Sergeantson
Dulcie Anstice
Miss Marguerite Leslie
Rt. Hon. Reginald Stulkeley
Mr. Dawson Milward
Miss Stulkeley
Miss Ada Ferrar
Talbot Woodhouse
Mr. Dion Boucicault
Hugh Loring
Mr. Rupert Lumley

STORY OF THE PLAY

The odour of sanctity which permeated "The Clewers" was due to the influence of Mrs. Panmure, whose religious tenets and austere intolerances had contrived to make the place unbearably dull for her friends. Gradually she had brought her reprobate husband to assume an appreciation of her narrow-minded ideas on the subject of religion. Indeed, so much had this prodigious humbug followed her lead that he was in the habit of preaching sermonettes to her assembled guests at evening prayers. At heart he was a scoundrel, a weak, despicable cad. Mrs., Panmure, on the other hand, was a thoroughly conscientious woman, suffering more or less from a warped outlook upon things in general.

Life at "The Clewers" had gone on in its usual humdrum, monotonous way until Mrs. Panmure introduced into her household the daughter of an old friend of the family and a schoolmate of hers, Josepha Quarendon, as governess to her own daughter, Myrtle. Myrtle had the appearance, mannerisms and conversation of an elderly spinster, and this was the raw material upon which Josepha had to work.

From the moment she arrived Josepha transformed the whole household. Happiness, laughter and sunshine had entered the place where it had never before existed. She and Mrs. Panmure were genuinely fond of each other, and she was a general favourite among all the guests of the Panmure family. There was a house party at "The Clewers." The guests included the Right Honourable Reginald Stulkeley, M.P., an expert on imported cocoa; Talbot Woodhouse, his private secretary; Alfred Hebblethwaite, M.P.; Mrs. Hebblethwaite, who was an aunt of Mrs. Panmure, and Mrs. Panmure's sister, Dulcie Anstice. Hugh Loring, engaged to Dulcie was also one of the party.

It was not difficult to see that Josepha was, from the point of view of the men, the centre of interest. Their marked attentions to her drew broad hints from the other ladies of the party. However, nothing of any consequence happened until the guests left the room to amuse themselves in various ways before dinner, leaving Mr. Panmure alone to compose the sermon he was expected to deliver at family prayers that evening. Totally at a loss for a subject, he wandered up and down the room, until the timely entrance of Josepha, and her offer to help him in his task of composition, put him out of his misery for the time being. It was a Saint's Day, she pointed out, the feast of St. Polycarp, and her suggestions for cribbing ideas and matter for the sermon from a dictionary of Saints were eagerly pounced upon by Mr. Panmure.

He thanked her effusively, and Josepha went into an adjoining room to get a book she had left there. He followed her, and there insulted her by kissing her. Josepha rushed back into the room, speechless with anger, wiping her lips in the endeavour to remove the stain of that loathsome kiss. Mr. Panmure followed her, and fell on his knees, imploring her forgiveness, thinking the whole while of his own skin, and what it would mean to him if the truth should come to his wife's ears. In her scorn and anger Josepha lifted a plate from the table, smashed it to fragments at his feet, and left him grovelling on the floor picking up the pieces.

Josepha's feelings were outraged, but her affection for Mrs. Panmure made it impossible for her to tell her, so she sought out Mrs. Hebblethwaite, and said she had just heard from a friend of hers who had been kissed by the head of the house in which she (the friend) was acting as governess. Josepha's friend had written to ask her what she should do under the circumstances, and she had come to ask Mrs. Hebblethwaite's advice. Her agitation aroused that lady's suspicions, and when Josepha had returned to her room she informed Mrs. Panmure and Dulcie Anstice of the occurrence. Josepha was sent for and questioned. Mr. Panmure came in, and he, having heard her declare that she would not mention the culprit's name, pretended to question her. Other than her statement that it was not Mr. Panmure, Josepha refused to say anything. With that she flung herself from the room, leaving Mrs, Hebblethwaite and Dulcie in a nervous condition, protesting to each other the innocence of Mr. Hebblethwaite and Hugh Loring. They discussed the other likely culprits. There was Mr. Stulkeley and his secretary! Ah, Mr. Panmure should go and interrogate them! Mr. Panmure accordingly promised to do so.

Mr. Stulkeley and his secretary had retired to the library, where the former was dictating a speech on cocoa. Suddenly a knocking at the French windows disturbed them. It was Josepha, who rushed into the room in high spirits. She had devised a plan! If either Mr. Stulkeley or Mr. Woodhouse would be kind enough to take the blame of that kiss on their own shoulders, it would save the situation! Both men were dumbfounded. While expressing their sorrow at the predicament in which Josepha was placed, they both refused, at which Josepha vowed she would walk up and down in the snowstorm outside their room until she caught a severe cold, and that they would be responsible for her death if such a calamity should happen as the result of her action.

Feelings of remorse eventually conquered the two men, and, turning up their trousers, they went out into the snow, and carried her by force into the room, her pretty evening dress much bedraggled and wet through. At the suggestion of Mr. Stulkeley, she retired into a little room adjoining, removed her soaking frock, and returned to the library clothed in a smoking-jacket, which she had found hanging up inside the door. When she heard from the two bachelors that the jacket belonged to Mr. Panmure her expression of horror revealed her secret, and she admitted that Mr. Panmure was the man who had kissed her. At her request, both Mr. Stulkeley and his secretary promised to guard her secret, for the sake of Mrs. Panmure.

A knock was heard at the door. Josepha and her wet clothes were hurried once more into the little room adjoining, and Mr. Panmure entered on his mission of discovery. He tried to draw confession from the one or the other, but in vain. Mr. Hebblethwaite and Hugh Loring entered the room, and accusations made by each to the other nearly led to blows, the situation being saved by the entrance of the ladies. Josepha meanwhile remained in the little room, where she had an opportunity of hearing the whole conversation and the final announcement by Talbot Woodhouse, who rose to the occasion, and declared before his host and hostess and their guests that he was the guilty person. Who can say what the consequences would have been had not Mrs. Panmure, admiring the courage of the man in admitting his fault, proclaimed her forgiveness? With a few noble words she presented him with the gilt badge of the League of Fine Souls, an institution presided over by the local parson, in which she was deeply interested. With this the company left the library for the drawing-room, where they were to assemble for family prayers.

PRESS REVIEW

(Black and White [London, UK] - 4th February, 1911)
PINERO IN PLAYFUL MOOD
"PRESERVING MR. PANMURE" AT THE COMEDY THEATRE BY TWEEDLEDEE

The production of a new Pinero play is always creative, virtuous in the main, and pleasantly followed by a hailstorm of perplexing commentary and, if one were to believe everybody one would have to hold alternately that Preserving Mr. Panmure is cheery, pessimistic, true to life, improbable, amusing, forced in its humour, and a dozen other contradictory things.

The real trouble with a dramatist who has been producing plays for three decades is that the theatre-goer cannot help thinking of his new work in relation to his older products; and if you go to see Preserving Mr. Panmure thoroughly primed with recollections of His House in Order or Mrs. Tanqueray, you will unconsciously be prejudiced in your judgment. If one could erase the associations of Pinero, I fancy this latest play would be considered to be precisely what it is called on the programme, "a comic play": that is, a play of comedy bordering every now and then on farce.

Now Sir Arthur Pinero is, in the first place, a writer of serious plays, in the second a writer of high literary comedy, and, last of all, a broadly comic dramatist. And it is in this order that this comic play is convincing: for, though comic, it has its serious moments, and its fun is not all farcical. Now, when Pinero is serious he is not sentimental. He is true to human nature with an earnestness that often makes the graver side of things almost repulsive. Apropos of this piece and its immediate predecessors, he has been accused of having lost his former cheerfulness of outlook and of cynically drawing ugly characters. But in Preserving Mr. Panmure the apparent unpleasantness is due entirely, to contrast. The essential of farce is that the audience must never really feel that the characters really exist, any more than the circus clown, with his pantaloons and his chalked face, exists. To laugh whole-heartedly at a broadly comic situation one must see the characters simply as freakish conceptions of the playwright's brain, beings in whose reality you agree to believe only so long as the curtain is up. An ordinary farce-writer would have made Mr. Panmure a fat and naively nervous creature, virtuous in the main, and pleasantly, almost sentimentally, comic in his efforts to conceal the fact that he had kissed his daughter's governess. Not so Pinero. Mr. Panmure with him is quite a reality, made still more true to life by the wonderful acting of Mr. Arthur Playfair. He is a repulsive type: a weak-minded old reprobate who cannot even be genuinely hypocritical about the snuffling psalm-singing to which he pretends to have been converted. The affair of the kiss is treated in all its ugliness. Miss Marie Löhr, as the young governess, takes it with quite obvious seriousness: and thus provides the chief parodox of the piece. Sentiment with broad humour makes farce: but, real live drama mingled with somewhat impossible comic situations is puzzling. Shakespeare mixed them, it is true: but not in the same scene, nor with identical characters. So that if you agree with these arguments, you will note a flaw in the dramatic logic of Preserving Mr. Panmure, a flaw, however, that fascinates like the mole on my lady's cheek.

These quibbles, however, are beside the mark. I have only mentioned this point of view because it may solve the puzzle to those who find the play perplexing. The important fact remains that Preserving Mr. Panmure is punctuated with spontaneous laughter from beginning to end. And most of this laughter arises from our dramatist's great skill in purely literary humour. The Myrtle of young Miss Iris Hawkins, an enfant terrible of a new type, who exceeds in punctiliousness and savoir faire all the matronly dames of the Panmure household, affords Mr. Pinero scope for tremendous fun. The principal situations of the piece, which depend upon the gradual elimination of all the men in the play as being the possible culprits in the matter of kissing the governess, are treated with that marvellous skill that one can only compare with Sardou's. Indeed, one of Sardou's last comedies, La Piste, comes into one's mind as a dramatic relative of the Panmure hullaballoo. In its avoidance of all the commonplaces of the usual "detective" play, Preserving Mr. Panmure is beautifully exhilarating. It exploits quite a new vein of humorous excitement.

Needless to say, the exponents have been chosen with great care, and interpret their roles with the refreshing exactitude that always accompanies the work of Pinero. Mr. Arthur Playfair, whom I have already mentioned as Mr. Panmure, displays his exquisite talent of character-drawing, which should in future be utilised more fully: Mr. Playfair's powers have too often been thrown away. Miss Marie Löhr is convincing everywhere except in the last act, where her sudden acceptance of Stulkeley (played by Mr. Dawson Milward) follows somewhat curiously an attitude of apparently genuine apathy towards her suitor. Of the other players, among whom are included Mr. Edmund Maurice, and Misses Lilian Braithwaite, Kate Serjeantson, Marguerite Leslie, and Ada Ferrar, Mr. Dion Boucicault, perhaps, is the most fortunate in a very delicately drawn study of an M.P.'s private secretary, whose mingled bravado and pusillanimity he depicts with many clever touches.

One of the most amusing incidents in Mr. Pinero's new play is the drawing of lots for the right to propose to the heroine. The two aspirants (played by Mr. Dion Boucicaulf and Mr. Dawson Milward) are here seen met with the difficulty of a jug whose neck is too narrow for the extrication of the, papers which have been shaken up in it.

Mr. Panmure, however, remained behind for a moment to take a sip of brandy to give him courage for the coming ordeal of preaching his sermon on St. Polycarp. As he was about to join his guests Josepha emerged from her hiding-place, told him what she thought of him, snatched his sermon from his hand and threw it into the fire. With the poker in her hand she ordered him out of the room to face his friends, and preach to them as best he could. The scene changed to Mr. Stulkeley's house in London. Josepha was the guest of Miss Stulkeley, who kept house for her brother.

Talbot Woodhouse, of course, was there, and from the conversation that ensued there was no doubt that both men were in love with Josepha. Neither of them had spoken to her on the matter, and, on the suggestion of Miss Stulkeley, they decided to draw lots for the first right to propose. It was also agreed that whoever should be fortunate to speak first should make a confession that the other also loved her, and would press his suit in due course. Mr. Stulkeley won the draw, and, when Josepha came into the room he formally proposed to her in a carefully-worded speech. Having suspicions that someone was listening, Josepha took a quill-pen from the writing-table and pushed it vigorously through the key hole.

It was then Talbot Woodhouse's turn to propose, and he came into the room with a black shade over his right eye, obviously the consequence of Josepha's tactics with the quill-pen. Josepha suggested that as they had already drawn lots for the right to propose; they should now draw lots for her hand. She wrote the words "Lucky man" on one of the slips of paper, and the other was supposed to be a blank. These she folded up and placed in a vase. Mr. Stulkeley had first draw, and drew the winning paper. Talbot Woodhouse was very disappointed, but, carelessly drawing the second slip from the vase, he also read the words "Lucky man." In this way Josepha Quarendon told Mr. Stulkeley that he was the lucky man, in as much as she gave her hand and heart to him, and that Talbot Woodhouse was the lucky man in that he was not destined to marry her.

Before this final lottery an incident occurred. Several cards were brought into the room announcing the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Panmure, Mr. and Mrs. Hebblethwaite, Dulcie Anstice, and Hugh Loring. Mr. Hebblethwaite explained that Mr. Panmure had made a full confession to his wife, and that the object of their visit to London was that he should repeat his confession before all the guests who were staying at "The Clewers" when the fatal kiss was given.

Mr. Panmure made his confession, and, pointing to an ornament on the lapel of his coat, said that it was the bronze badge of the League of Fine Souls, to which he had recently been appointed, and that it was his intention to endeavour to qualify for the gilt badge, a much higher branch of the League. This, then, is the story of "Preserving Mr. Panmure." We are left to hope and believe that Josepha's life in the future would still run its happy course as the wife of a Member of Parliament. We do not hear what becomes of Talbot Woodhouse, nor whether Mr. Panmure's resolutions were as rigidly carried out as they were readily made. For the peace of mind of dear Mrs. Panmure we can only hope they were.


ABOUT THE PLAYERS

MISS LILIAN BRAITHWAITE

It is difficult to realise that this talented actress only commenced her stage career shortly before the beginning of 1900. Although afterwards a member of Mr. Benson's Company, she made her first start with William Haviland in South Africa when this popular actor gave a Shakespearean Repertoire Season there. Returning to London, she joined Julia Neilson and Fred Terry, playing Celia to the former's Rosalind on tour. It was the same management who gave the young artiste her chance in town by engaging her to appear at the Haymarket in "Sweet Nell of Old Drury." At this time Mr. George Alexander was looking out for a leading lady, and soon Miss Braithwaite was installed at St. James's as leading lady, appearing in "The Importance of Being Earnest," "If I Were King," "Saturday to Monday," "Old Heidelberg," "Lady Windermere's Fan," etc. Leaving there she went to the Adelphi in 1905, and under Otho Stuart's management created the heroine's part in "Dr. Wake's Patient," a most sympathetic performance. Her Lady Teazle in "The School for Scandal," which showed her adaptability for Old English comedy, has proved a pitfall to many an actress. In "Preserving Mr. Panmure" her acting in the part of the saintly wife is a perfect study in still life. Her outlook on life is so placid, calm as the surface of some deep lake sheltered by heather hills. She is a beautiful embodiment of mistaken virtue and extreme niceness, but it has the real touch required.

MISS MARIE Löhr

In the issue of THE PLAYGOER AND SOCIETY ILLUSTRATED of June last, on page 126, will be found a short article on Miss Marie Löhr and her career. In "Preserving Mr. Panmure" this bright, fresh young actress has added yet another wreath to her laurels. For the part of Josepha Quarendon it would be difficult to choose an actress more fitted, naturally and by her art, than Miss Marie Löhr. Her performance is quite the best thing she has done, and has shown signs of the possession of those qualities which go to the making of a really great actress.

MISS MARGUERITE LESLIE

Born in Sweden, and of Swedish descent, Miss Leslie made her first appearance at the Manhattan Theatre in New York City in 1904. On that occasion she played Mrs. Ogden in "The Virginian." It was not until two years later - January, 1906, to be precise - that Miss Leslie made her first appearance in London. This event took place at His Majesty's Theatre, where she played Viola in "Nero." After a successful tour in "My Darling," we find her back again at the Criterion in 1907, playing in that wonderfully successful comedy, "A Night Out." Since then Miss. Marguerite Leslie has appeared in various plays, such as "Bellamy the Magnificent," "Concerning a Countess," "A Scotch Marriage," etc., etc. She is fond of out-door sport of any kind, her principal recreation being shooting, riding and golfing. Of a sweet and sympathetic nature, Miss Leslie has many friends. She is wrapped up in her work, and keenly interested in every detail of her profession. In evidence of this it is only necessary to watch her performance as Dulcie Anstice. It is carefully thought out, and is an excellent character study.

MR. DAWSON MILWARD

In the number of THE PLAYGOER AND SOCIETY ILLUSTRATED chiefly devoted to Cosmo Hamilton's "Mrs. Skeffington" will be found a short sketch of Mr. Dawson Milward's career. His present performance as The Right Honourable Reginald Stulkeley, M.P., is full of quiet dignity, and one that adds to his already great reputation.

MR. ARTHUR PLAYFAIR

One of the most remarkable performances of the present day is that of Mr. Arthur Playfair as St. John Panmure, J.P. It is some time since we have seen such a character on the stage. To play Panmure is a thankless task at the best, but it may be safely said that we have no other actor who could have translated the lines of Pinero with such subtle force and ingenuity. Mr. Arthur Playfair was born in India, and made his first appearance on the stage at the Grand Theatre, Douglas, in 1887. Since then he has appeared in a long list of productions at various theatres in London and the United States, including "Captain Swift," "The Man from Blankley's," "The Mountebanks," "A Man's Shadow," and "Mr. George." A great deal of the success of the revue, "Oh, Indeed!" at the Empire in 1908 was due to him, and many sketches which have been performed at the best music-halls owe much to his performances.

MISS ADA FERRAR

Although Miss Ada Ferrar has only a small part in "Preserving Mr. Panmure" she manages to introduce a good deal of feeling into it. As Miss Stulkeley, the sister of the Rt. Hon. Reginald Stulkeley, M.P., she appears in the last act. She is the sister of Beatrice Ferrar, and in 1891 she married the well-known art critic and editor, Mr. Walter Shaw Sparrow. Miss Ferrar is one of the many who look back upon their association with Mr. F. R. Benson and his famous Shakespearean companies with feelings of deep regard. Under leading managers she has appeared in various productions not only in this country, but in Australia, America and elsewhere.


SCENES FROM THE PLAY

Click any image for a larger view
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Myrtle (Miss Iris Hawkins) and Josepha (Miss Marie Löhr)
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The opening scene
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Afternoon Tea at 'The Clewers'
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Sir John Panmure tells the guests that he is now a preacher of sermonettes
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Josepha assists Mr. Panmure in the composition of his sermon
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Josepha's rage
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When the secret is out
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Josepha refuses to tell
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Josepha will tell her questioners nothing
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Who is the man
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Dulcie attempts to prevent Josepha from leaving
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The scene in the library
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Josepha carries out her threat
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Mr. Panmure is discovered
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Talbot Woodhouse's noble sacrifice
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Josepha's revenge
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Josepha tears up the sermonette
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At Mr. Stulkeley's house in London
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Mr. Panmure and his guests arrive to hear his confession
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The end of the play

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