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1908, The McClure Company
1907, 1908, The S.S. McClure Company 1907,
1908, Ellen Terry




"The Merchant of Venice" was acted two hundred and fifty consecutive nights on the occasion of the first production. On the hundredth night every member of the audience was presented with Henry Irving's acting edition of the play bound in white velum--a solid and permanent souvenir, paper, print and binding all being of the best. The famous Chiswick Press did all his work of this kind. On the title page was printed:

"I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul remembering my good friends."

At the close of the performance which took place on Saturday, February 14, 1880, Henry entertained a party of 350 to supper on the stage. This was the first of those enormous gatherings which afterwards became an institution at the Lyceum.

It was at this supper that Lord Houghton surprised us all by making a very sarcastic speech about the stage and actors generally. It was no doubt more interesting than the "butter" which is usually applied to the profession at such functions, but every one felt that it was rather rude to abuse long runs when the company were met to celebrate a hundredth performance!

Henry Irving's answer was delightful. He spoke with good sense, good humour and good breeding, and it was all spontaneous. I wish that a phonograph had been in existence that night, and that a record had been taken of the speech. It would be so good for the people who have asserted that Henry Irving always employed journalists (when he could not get Poets Laureate!) to write his speeches for him! The voice was always the voice of Irving, if the hands were sometimes the hands of the professional writer. When Henry was thrown on his debating resources he really spoke better than when he prepared a speech, and his letters prove, if proof were needed, how finely he could write! Those who represent him as dependent in such matters on the help of literary hacks are just ignorant of the facts.

During the many years that I played Portia I seldom had a Bassanio to my mind. It seems to be a most difficult part, to judge by the colorless and disappointing renderings that are given of it. George Alexander was far the best of my Bassanio bunch! Mr. Barnes, "handsome Jack Barnes," as we called him, was a good actor, is a good actor still, as every one knows, but his gentility as Bassanio was overwhelming. It was said of him that he thought more of the rounding of his legs than the charms of his affianced wife, and that in the love-scenes he appeared to be taking orders for furniture! This was putting it unkindly, but there was some truth in it.

He was so very dignified! My sister Floss (Floss was the first Lyceum Nerissa) and I once tried to make him laugh by substituting two "almond rings" for the real rings. "Handsome Jack" lost his temper, which made us laugh the more. He was quite right to be angry. Such fooling on the stage is very silly. I think it is one of the evils of long runs! When we had seen "handsome Jack Barnes" imperturbably pompous for two hundred nights in succession, it became too much for us, and the almond rings were the result.

Mr. Tyars was the Prince of Morocco. Actors might come, and actors might go in the Lyceum company, but Tyars went on for ever. He never left Henry Irving's management, and was with him in that last performance of "Becket" at Bradford on October 13, 1905--the last performance ever given by Henry Irving who died the same night.

Tyars was the most useful actor that we ever had in the company. I should think that the number of parts he has played in the same piece would constitute a theatrical record.

I don't remember when Tom Mead first played the Duke, but I remember what happened!

"Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too."

He began the speech in the Trial Scene very slowly.

Between every word Henry was whispering: "Get on--get on!" Old Mead, whose memory was never good, became flustered, and at the end of the line came to a dead stop.

"Get on, get on," said Henry.

Mead looked round with dignity, opened his mouth and shut it, opened it again, and in his anxiety to oblige Henry, did get on indeed!--to the last line of the long speech.

"We all expect a gentle answer, Jew."

The first line and the last line were all that we heard of the Duke's speech that night. It must have been the shortest version of it on record.

This was the play with which the Lyceum reopened in the autumn of 1880. I was on the last of my provincial tours with Charles Kelly at the time, but I must have come up to see the revival, for I remember Henry Irving in it very distinctly. He had not played the dual rôle of Louis and Fabien del Franchi before, and he had to compete with old playgoers' memories of Charles Kean and Fechter. Wisely enough he made of it a "period" play, emphasizing its old-fashioned atmosphere. In 1891, when the play was revived, the D'Orsay costumes were noticed and considered piquant and charming. In 1880 I am afraid they were regarded with indifference as merely antiquated.

The grace and elegance of Henry as the civilized brother I shall never forget. There was something in him to which the perfect style of the D'Orsay period appealed, and he spoke the stilted language with as much truth as he wore the cravat and the tight-waisted full-breasted coats. Such lines as--

"'Tis she! Her footstep beats upon my heart!"

were not absurd from his lips.

The sincerity of the period, he felt, lay in its elegance. A rough movement, a too undeliberate speech, and the absurdity of the thing might be given away. It was in fact given away by Terriss at Château-Renaud, who was not the smooth, graceful, courteous villain that Alfred Wigan had been and that Henry wanted. He told me that he paid Miss Fowler, an actress who in other respects was not very remarkable, an enormous salary because she could look the high-bred lady of elegant manners.

It was in "The Corsican Brothers" that tableau curtains were first used at the Lyceum. They were made of red plush, which suited the old decoration of the theater. Those who only saw the Lyceum after its renovation in 1881 do not realize perhaps that before that date it was decorated in dull gold and dark crimson, and had funny boxes with high fronts like old-fashioned church pews. One of these boxes was rented annually by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. It was rather like the toy cardboard theater which children used to be able to buy for sixpence. The effect was somber, but I think I liked it better than the cold, light, shallow, bastard Pompeian decoration of later days.

In Hallam Tennyson's life of his father, I find that I described "The Cup" as a "great little play." After thirty years (nearly) I stick to that. Its chief fault was that it was not long enough, for it involved a tremendous production, tremendous acting, had all the heroic size of tragedy, and yet was all over so quickly that we could play a long play like "The Corsican Brothers" with it in a single evening.

Tennyson read the play to us at Eaton Place. There were present Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, William Terriss, Mr. Knowles, who had arranged the reading, my daughter Edy, who was then about nine, Hallam Tennyson, and a dog--I think Charlie, for the days of Fussie were not yet.

Tennyson, like most poets, read in a monotone, rumbling on a low note in much the same way that Shelley is said to have screamed in a high one. For the women's parts he changed his voice suddenly, climbed up into a key which he could not sustain. In spite of this I was beginning to think how impressive it all was, when I looked up and saw Edy, who was sitting on Henry's knee, looking over his shoulder at young Hallam and laughing, and Henry, instead of reproaching her, on the broad grin. There was much discussion as to what the play should be called, and as to whether the names "Synorix" and "Sinnatus" would be confused.

"I don't think they will," I said, for I thought this was a very small matter for the poet to worry about.

"I do!" said Edy in a loud clear voice, "I haven't known one from the other all the time!"

"Edy, be good!" I whispered.

Henry, mischievous as usual, was delighted at Edy's independence, but her mother was unutterably ashamed.

"Leave her alone," said Henry, "she's all right."

Tennyson at first wanted to call the play "The Senator's Wife," then thought of "Sinnatus and Synorix," and finally agreed with us that "The Cup" was the best as it was the simplest title.

The production was one of the most beautiful things that Henry Irving ever accomplished. It has been described again and again, but none of the descriptions are very successful. There was a vastness, a spaciousness of proportion about the scene in the Temple of Artemis which I never saw again upon the stage until my own son attempted something like it in the Church Scene that he designed for my production of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 1903.

A great deal of the effect was due to the lighting. The gigantic figure of the many-breasted Artemis, placed far back in the scene-dock, loomed through a blue mist, while the foreground of the picture was in yellow light. The thrilling effect always to be gained on the stage by the simple expedient of a great number of people doing the same thing in the same way at the same moment, was seen in "The Cup," when the stage was covered with a crowd of women who raised their arms above their heads with a large, rhythmic, sweeping movement and then bowed to the goddess with the regularity of a regiment saluting.

At rehearsals there was one girl who did this movement with peculiar grace. She wore a black velveteen dress, although it was very hot weather, and I called her "Hamlet." I used to chaff her about wearing such a grand dress at rehearsals, but she was never to be seen in any other. The girls at the theater told me that she was very poor, and that underneath her black velveteen dress, which she wore summer and winter, she had nothing but a pair of stockings and a chemise. Not long after the first night of "The Cup" she disappeared. I made inquiries about her, and found that she was dying in hospital. I went several times to see her. She looked so beautiful in the little white bed. Her great eyes, black, with weary white lids, used to follow me as I left the hospital ward, and I could not always tear myself away from their dumb beseechingness, but would turn back and sit down again by the bed. Once she asked me if I would leave something belonging to me that she might look at until I came again. I took off the amber and coral beads that I was wearing at the time and gave them to her. Two days later I had a letter from the nurse telling me that poor Hamlet was dead--that just before she died, with closed eyes, and gasping for breath, she sent her love to her "dear Miss Terry," and wanted me to know that the tall lilies I had brought her on my last visit were to be buried with her, but that she had wiped the coral and amber beads and put them in cotton-wool, to be returned to me when she was dead. Poor "Hamlet"!

Quite as wonderful as the Temple Scene was the setting of the first act, which represented the rocky side of a mountain with a glimpse of a fertile table-land and a pergola with vines growing over it at the top. The acting in this scene all took place on different levels. The hunt swept past on one level; the entrance to the temple was on another. A goatherd played upon a pipe. Scenically speaking, it was not Greece, but Greece in Sicily, Capri, or some such hilly region.

Henry Irving was not able to look like the full-lipped, full-blooded Romans such as we see in long lines in marble at the British Museum, so he conceived his own type of the blend of Roman intellect and sensuality with barbarian cruelty and lust. Tennyson was not pleased with him as Synorix! How he failed to delight in it as a picture I can't conceive. With a pale, pale face, bright red hair, gold armor and a tiger-skin, a diabolical expression and very thin crimson lips, Henry looked handsome and sickening at the same time. Lechery was written across his forehead.

The first act was well within my means; the second was beyond them, but it was very good for me to try and do it. I had a long apostrophe to the goddess with my back turned to the audience, and I never tackled anything more difficult. My dresses, designed by Mr. Godwin, one of them with the toga made of that wonderful material which Arnott had printed, were simple, fine and free.

I wrote to Tennyson's son Hallam after the first night that I knew his father would be delighted with Henry's splendid performance, but was afraid he would be disappointed in me.

"Dear Camma," he answered, "I have given your messages to my father, but believe me, who am not 'common report,' that he will thoroughly appreciate your noble, most beautiful and imaginative rendering of 'Camma.' My father and myself hope to see you soon, but not while this detestable cold weather lasts. We trust that you are not now really the worse for that night of nights.

"With all our best wishes,

"Yours ever sincerely,


"I quite agree with you as to H.I.'s Synorix."

The music of "The Cup" was not up to the level of the rest. Lady Winchilsea's setting of "Moon on the field and the foam," written within the compass of eight notes, for my poor singing voice, which will not go up high nor down low, was effective enough, but the music as a whole was too "chatty" for a severe tragedy. One night when I was singing my very best:

"Moon, bring him home, bring him home,
Safe from the dark and the cold,"

some one in the audience sneezed. Every one burst out laughing, and I had to laugh too. I did not even attempt the next line.

"The Cup" was called a failure, but it ran 125 nights, and every night the house was crowded! On the hundredth night I sent Tennyson the Cup itself. I had it made in silver from Mr. Godwin's design--a three-handled cup, pipkin-shaped, standing on three legs.

"The Cup" and "The Corsican Brothers" together made the bill too heavy and too long, even at a time when we still "rang up" at 7:30; and in the April following the production of Tennyson's beautiful tragedy--which I think in sheer poetic intensity surpasses "Becket," although it is not nearly so good a play--"The Belle's Stratagem" was substituted for "The Corsican Brothers." This was the first real rollicking comedy that a Lyceum audience had ever seen, and the way they laughed did my heart good. I had had enough of tragedy and the horrors by this time, and I could have cried with joy at that rare and welcome sight--an audience rocking with laughter. On the first night the play opened propitiously enough with a loud laugh due to the only accident of the kind that ever happened at the Lyceum. The curtain went up before the staff had "cleared," and Arnott, Jimmy and the rest were seen running for their lives out of the center entrance!

People said that it was so clever of me to play Camma and Letitia Hardy (the comedy part in "The Belle's Stratagem") on the same evening. They used to say the same kind thing, "only more so," when Henry played Jingle and Matthias in "The Bells." But I never liked doing it. A tour de force is always more interesting to the looker-on than to the person who is taking part in it. One feels no pride in such an achievement, which ought to be possible to any one calling himself an actor. Personally, I never play comedy and tragedy on the same night without a sense that one is spoiling the other. Harmonies are more beautiful than contrasts in acting as in other things--and more difficult, too.

Henry Irving was immensely funny as Doricourt. We had sort of Beatrice and Benedick scenes together, and I began to notice what a lot his face did for him. There have only been two faces on the stage in my time--his and Duse's.

My face has never been of much use to me, but my pace has filled the deficiency sometimes, in comedy at any rate. In "The Belle's Stratagem" the public had face and pace together, and they seemed to like it.

There was one scene in which I sang "Where are you going to, my pretty maid?" I used to act it all the way through and give imitations of Doricourt--ending up by chucking him under the chin. The house rose at it!

I was often asked at this time when I went out to a party if I would not sing that dear little song from "The Cup." When I said I didn't think it would sound very nice without the harp, as it was only a chant on two or three notes, some one would say:

"Well, then, the song in 'The Belle's Stratagem'! That has no accompaniment!"

"No," I used to answer, "but it isn't a song. It's a look here, a gesture there, a laugh anywhere, and Henry Irving's face everywhere!"

Miss Winifred Emery came to us for "The Belle's Stratagem" and played the part that I had played years before at the Haymarket. She was bewitching, and in her white wig in the ball-room, beautiful as well. She knew how to bear herself on the stage instinctively, and could dance a minuet to perfection. The daughter of Sam Emery, a great comedian in a day of comedians, and the granddaughter of the Emery, it was not surprising that she should show aptitude for the stage.

Mr. Howe was another new arrival in the Lyceum company. He was at his funniest as Mr. Hardy in "The Belle's Stratagem." It was not the first time that he had played my father in a piece (we had acted father and daughter in "The Little Treasure"), and I always called him "Daddy." The dear old man was much liked by every one. He had a tremendous pair of legs, was bluff and bustling in manner, though courtly too, and cared more about gardening than acting. He had a little farm at Isleworth, and he was one of those actors who do not allow the longest theatrical season to interfere with domesticity and horticulture! Because of his stout gaitered legs and his Isleworth estate, Henry called him "the agricultural actor." He was a good old port and whisky drinker, but he could carry his liquor like a Regency man.

He was a walking history of the stage. "Yes, my dear," he used to say to me, "I was in the original cast of the first performance of 'The Lady of Lyons,' which Lord Lytton gave Macready as a present, and I was the original François when 'Richelieu' was produced. Lord Lytton wrote this part for a lady, but at rehearsal it was found that there was a good deal of movement awkward for a lady to do, so I was put into it."

"What year was it, Daddy?"

"God bless me, I must think.... It must have been about a year after Her Majesty took the throne."

For forty years and nine months old Mr. Howe had acted at the Haymarket Theater! When he was first there, the theater was lighted with oil lamps, and when a lamp smoked or went out, one of the servants of the theater came on and lighted it up again during the action of the play.

It was the acting of Edmund Kean in "Richard III." which first filled Daddy Howe with the desire to go on the stage. He saw the great actor again when he was living in retirement at Richmond--in those last sad days when the Baroness Burdett-Coutts (then the rich young heiress, Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts), driving up the hill, saw him sitting huddled up on one of the public seats and asked if she could do anything for him.

"Nothing, I think," he answered sadly. "Ah yes, there is one thing. You were kind enough the other day to send me some very excellent brandy. Send me some more."[1]

[Footnote 1: This was a favorite story of Henry Irving's, and for that reason alone I think it worth telling, although Sir Squire Bancroft assures me that stubborn dates make it impossible that the tale should be true.]

Of Henry Irving as an actor Mr. Howe once said to me that at first he was prejudiced against him because he was so different from the other great actors that he had known.

"'This isn't a bit like Iago,' I said to myself when I first saw him in 'Othello.' That was at the end of the first act. But he had commanded my attention to his innovations. In the second act I found myself deeply interested in watching and studying the development of his conception. In the third act I was fascinated by his originality. By the end of the play I wondered that I could ever have thought that the part ought to be played differently."

Daddy Howe was the first member of the Lyceum company who got a reception from the audience on his entrance as a public favorite. He remained with us until his death, which took place on our fourth American tour in 1893.

Every one has commended Henry Irving's kindly courtesy in inviting Edwin Booth to come and play with him at the Lyceum Theater. Booth was having a wretched season at the Princess's, which was when he went there a theater on the down-grade, and under a thoroughly commercial management. The great American actor, through much domestic trouble and bereavement, had more or less "given up" things. At any rate he had not the spirit which can combat such treatment as he received at the Princess's, where the pieces in which he appeared were "thrown" on to the stage with every mark of assumption that he was not going to be a success.

Yet, although he accepted with gratitude Henry Irving's suggestion that he should migrate from the Princess's to the Lyceum and appear there three times a week as Othello with the Lyceum company and its manager to support him, I cannot be sure that Booth's pride was not more hurt by this magnificent hospitality than it ever could have been by disaster. It is always more difficult to receive than to give.

Few people thought of this, I suppose. I did, because I could imagine Henry Irving in America in the same situation--accepting the hospitality of Booth. Would not he too have been melancholy, quiet, unassertive, almost as uninteresting and uninterested as Booth was?

I saw him first at a benefit performance at Drury Lane. I came to the door of the room where Henry was dressing, and Booth was sitting there with his back to me.

"Here's Miss Terry," said Henry as I came round the door. Booth looked up at me swiftly. I have never in any face, in any country, seen such wonderful eyes. There was a mystery about his appearance and his manner--a sort of pride which seemed to say: "Don't try to know me, for I am not what I have been." He seemed broken, and devoid of ambition.

At rehearsal he was very gentle and apathetic. Accustomed to playing Othello with stock companies, he had few suggestions to make about the stage-management. The part was to him more or less of a monologue.

"I shall never make you black," he said one morning. "When I take your hand I shall have a corner of my drapery in my hand. That will protect you."

I am bound to say that I thought of Mr. Booth's "protection" with some yearning the next week when I played Desdemona to Henry's Othello. Before he had done with me I was nearly as black as he.

Booth was a melancholy, dignified Othello, but not great as Salvini was great. Salvini's Hamlet made me scream with mirth, but his Othello was the grandest, biggest, most glorious thing. We often prate of "reserved force." Salvini had it, for the simple reason that his was the gigantic force which may be restrained because of its immensity. Men have no need to dam up a little purling brook. If they do it in acting, it is tame, absurd and pretentious. But Salvini held himself in, and still his groan was like a tempest, his passion huge.

The fact is that, apart from Salvini's personal genius, the foreign temperament is better fitted to deal with Othello than the English. Shakespeare's French and Italians, Greeks and Latins, medievals and barbarians, fancifuls and reals, all have a dash of Elizabethan English men in them, but not Othello.

Booth's Othello was very helpful to my Desdemona. It is difficult to preserve the simple, heroic blindness of Desdemona to the fact that her lord mistrusts her, if her lord is raving and stamping under her nose! Booth was gentle in the scenes with Desdemona until the scene where Othello overwhelms her with the foul word and destroys her fool's paradise. Love does make fools of us all, surely, but I wanted to make Desdemona out the fool who is the victim of love and faith; not the simpleton, whose want of tact in continually pleading Cassio's cause is sometimes irritating to the audience.

My greatest triumph as Desdemona was not gained with the audience but with Henry Irving! He found my endeavors to accept comfort from Iago so pathetic that they brought the tears to his eyes. It was the oddest sensation when I said "Oh, good Iago, what shall I do to win my lord again?" to look up--my own eyes dry, for Desdemona is past crying then--and see Henry's eyes at their biggest, luminous, soft and full of tears! He was, in spite of Iago and in spite of his power of identifying himself with the part, very deeply moved by my acting. But he knew how to turn it to his purpose: he obtrusively took the tears with his fingers and blew his nose with much feeling, softly and long (so much expression there is, by the way, in blowing the nose on the stage), so that the audience might think his emotion a fresh stroke of hypocrisy.

Every one liked Henry's Iago. For the first time in his life he knew what it was to win unanimous praise. Nothing could be better, I think, than Mr. Walkley's[1] description: "Daringly Italian, a true compatriot of the Borgias, or rather, better than Italians, that devil incarnate, an Englishman Italianate."

[Footnote 1: Mr. A.B. Walkley, the gifted dramatic critic of The Times.]

One adored him, devil though he was. He was so full of charm, so sincerely the "honest" Iago, peculiarly sympathetic with Othello, Desdemona, Roderigo, all of them--except his wife. It was only in the soliloquies and in the scenes with his wife that he revealed his devil's nature. Could one ever forget those grapes which he plucked in the first act, and slowly ate, spitting out the seeds, as if each one represented a worthy virtue to be put out of his mouth, as God, according to the evangelist, puts out the lukewarm virtues. His Iago and his Romeo in different ways proved his power to portray Italian passions--the passions of lovely, treacherous people, who will either sing you a love sonnet or stab you in the back--you are not sure which!

We played "Othello" for six weeks, three performances a week, to guinea stalls, and could have played it longer. Each week Henry and Booth changed parts. For both of them it was a change for the worse.

Booth's Iago seemed deadly commonplace after Henry's. He was always the snake in the grass; he showed the villain in all the scenes. He could not resist the temptation of making polished and ornate effects.

Henry Irving's Othello was condemned almost as universally as his Iago was praised. For once I find myself with the majority. He screamed and ranted and raved--lost his voice, was slow where he should have been swift, incoherent where he should have been strong. I could not bear to see him in the part. It was painful to me. Yet night after night he achieved in the speech to the Senate one of the most superb and beautiful bits of acting of his life. It was wonderful. He spoke the speech, beaming on Desdemona all the time. The gallantry of the thing is indescribable.

I think his failure as Othello was one of the unspoken bitternesses of Henry's life. When I say "failure" I am of course judging him by his own standard, and using the word to describe what he was to himself, not what he was to the public. On the last night, he rolled up the clothes that he had worn as the Moor one by one, carefully laying one garment on top of the other, and then, half-humorously and very deliberately said, "Never again!" Then he stretched himself with his arms above his head and gave a great sigh of relief.

Mr. Pinero was excellent as Roderigo in this production. He was always good in the "silly ass" type of part, and no one could say of him that he was playing himself!

Desdemona is not counted a big part by actresses, but I loved playing it. Some nights I played it beautifully. My appearance was right--I was such a poor wraith of a thing. But let there be no mistake--it took strength to act this weakness and passiveness of Desdemona's. I soon found that, like Cordelia, she has plenty of character.

Reading the play the other day, I studied the opening scene. It is the finest opening to a play I know.

How many times Shakespeare draws fathers and daughters, and how little stock he seems to take of mothers! Portia and Desdemona, Cordelia, Rosalind and Miranda, Lady Macbeth, Queen Katherine and Hermione, Ophelia, Jessica, Hero, and many more are daughters of fathers, but of their mothers we hear nothing. My own daughter called my attention to this fact quite recently, and it is really a singular fact. Of mothers of sons there are plenty of examples: Constance, Volumnia, the Countess Rousillon, Gertrude; but if there are mothers of daughters at all, they are poor examples, like Juliet's mother and Mrs. Page. I wonder if in all the many hundreds of books written on Shakespeare and his plays this point has been taken up? I once wrote a paper on the "Letters in Shakespeare's Plays," and congratulated myself that they had never been made a separate study. The very day after I first read my paper before the British Empire Shakespeare League, a lady wrote to me from Oxford and said I was mistaken in thinking that there was no other contribution to the subject. She enclosed an essay of her own which had either been published or read before some society. Probably some one else has dealt with Shakespeare's patronage of fathers and neglect of mothers! I often wonder what the mothers of Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia were like! I think Lear must have married twice.

This was the first of Henry Irving's great Shakespearean productions. "Hamlet" and "Othello" had been mounted with care, but, in spite of statements that I have seen to the contrary, they were not true reflections of Irving as a producer. In beauty I do not think that "Romeo and Juliet" surpassed "The Cup," but it was very sumptuous, impressive and Italian. It was the most elaborate of all the Lyceum productions. In it Henry first displayed his mastery of crowds. The brawling of the rival houses in the streets, the procession of girls to wake Juliet on her wedding morning, the musicians, the magnificent reconciliation of the two houses which closed the play, every one on the stage holding a torch, were all treated with a marvelous sense of pictorial effect.

Henry once said to me: "'Hamlet' could be played anywhere on its acting merits. It marches from situation to situation. But 'Romeo and Juliet' proceeds from picture to picture. Every line suggests a picture. It is a dramatic poem rather than a drama, and I mean to treat it from that point of view."

While he was preparing the production he revived "The Two Roses," a company in which as Digby Grant he had made a great success years before. I rehearsed the part of Lottie two or three times, but Henry released me because I was studying Juliet; and as he said, "You've got to do all you know with it."

Perhaps the sense of this responsibility weighed on me. Perhaps I was neither young enough nor old enough to play Juliet. I read everything that had ever been written about her before I had myself decided what she was. It was a dreadful mistake. That was the first thing wrong with my Juliet--lack of original impulse.

As for the second and the third and the fourth--well, I am not more than common vain, I trust, but I see no occasion to write them all down.

It was perhaps the greatest opportunity that I had yet had at the Lyceum. I studied the part at my cottage at Hampton Court in a bedroom looking out over the park. There was nothing wrong with that. By the way, how important it is to be careful about environment and everything else when one is studying. One ought to be in the country, but not all the time.... It is good to go about and see pictures, hear music, and watch everything. One should be very much alone, and should study early and late--all night, if need be, even at the cost of sleep. Everything that one does or thinks or sees will have an effect upon the part, precisely as on an unborn child.

I wish now that instead of reading how this and that actress had played Juliet, and cracking my brain over the different readings of her lines and making myself familiar with the different opinions of philosophers and critics, I had gone to Verona, and just imagined. Perhaps the most wonderful description of Juliet, as she should be acted, occurs in Gabriele d'Annunzio's "Il Fuoco." In the book an Italian actress tells her friend how she played the part when she was a girl of fourteen in an open-air theater near Verona. Could a girl of fourteen play such a part? Yes, if she were not youthful, only young with the youth of the poet, tragically old as some youth is.

Now I understand Juliet better. Now I know how she should be played. But time is inexorable. At sixty, know what one may, one cannot play Juliet.

I know that Henry Irving's production of "Romeo and Juliet" has been attributed to my ambition. What nonsense! Henry Irving now had in view the production of all Shakespeare's actable plays, and naturally "Romeo and Juliet" would come as early as possible in the programme.

The music was composed by Sir Julius Benedict, and was exactly right. There was no leit-motiv, no attempt to reflect the passionate emotion of the drama, but a great deal of Southern joy, of flutes and wood and wind. At a rehearsal which had lasted far into the night I asked Sir Julius, who was very old, if he wasn't sleepy.

"Sleepy! Good heavens, no! I never sleep more than two hours. It's the end of my life, and I don't want to waste it in sleep!"

There is generally some "old 'un" in a company now who complains of insufficient rehearsals, and says, perhaps, "Think of Irving's rehearsals! They were the real thing." While we were rehearsing "Romeo and Juliet" I remember that Mrs. Stirling, a charming and ripe old actress whom Henry had engaged to play the nurse, was always groaning out that she had not rehearsed enough.

"Oh, these modern ways!" she used to say. "We never have any rehearsals at all. How am I going to play the Nurse?"

She played it splendidly--indeed, she as the Nurse and old Tom Mead as the Apothecary--the two "old 'uns" romped away with chief honors, had the play all to nothing.

I had one battle with Mrs. Stirling over "tradition." It was in the scene beginning--

"The clock struck twelve when I did send the nurse,
And yet she is not here...."

Tradition said that Juliet must go on coquetting and clicking over the Nurse to get the news of Romeo out of her. Tradition said that Juliet must give imitations of the Nurse on the line "Where's your mother?" in order to get that cheap reward, "a safe laugh." I felt that it was wrong. I felt that Juliet was angry with the Nurse. Each time she delayed in answering I lost my temper, with genuine passion. At "Where's your mother?" I spoke with indignation, tears and rage. We were a long time coaxing Mrs. Stirling to let the scene be played on these lines, but this was how it was played eventually.

She was the only Nurse that I have ever seen who did not play the part like a female pantaloon. She did not assume any great decrepitude. In the "Cords" scene, where the Nurse tells Juliet of the death of Paris, she did not play for comedy at all, but was very emotional. Her parrot scream when she found me dead was horribly real and effective.

Years before I had seen Mrs. Stirling act at the Adelphi with Benjamin Webster, and had cried out: "That's my idea of an actress!" In those days she was playing Olivia (in a version of the "Vicar of Wakefield" by Tom Taylor), Peg Woffington, and other parts of the kind. She swept on to the stage and in that magical way, never, never to be learned, filled it. She had such breadth of style, such a lovely voice, such a beautiful expressive eye! When she played the Nurse at the Lyceum her voice had become a little jangled and harsh, but her eye was still bright and her art had not abated--not one little bit! Nor had her charm. Her smile was the most fascinating, irresistible thing imaginable.

The production was received with abuse by the critics. It was one of our failures, yet it ran a hundred and fifty nights!

Henry Irving's Romeo had more bricks thrown at it even than my Juliet! I remember that not long after we opened, a well-known politician who had enough wit and knowledge of the theater to have taken a more original view, came up to me and said:

"I say, E.T., why is Irving playing Romeo?"

I looked at his distraught. "You should ask me why I am playing Juliet! Why are we any of us doing what we have to do?"

"Oh, you're all right. But Irving!"

"I don't agree with you," I said. I was growing a little angry by this time. "Besides, who would you have play Romeo?"

"Well, it's so obvious. You've got Terriss in the cast."


"Yes. I don't doubt Irving's intellectuality, you know. As Romeo he reminds me of a pig who has been taught to play the fiddle. He does it cleverly, but he would be better employed in squealing. He cannot shine in the part like the fiddler. Terriss in this case is the fiddler."

I was furious. "I am sorry you don't realize," I said, "that the worst thing Henry Irving could do would be better than the best of any one else."

When dear Terris did play Romeo at the Lyceum two or three years later to the Juliet of Mary Anderson, he attacked the part with a good deal of fire. He was young, truly, and stamped his foot a great deal, was vehement and passionate. But it was so obvious that there was no intelligence behind his reading. He did not know what the part was about, and all the finer shades of meaning in it he missed. Yet the majority, with my political friend, would always prefer a Terriss as Romeo to a Henry Irving.

I am not going to say that Henry's Romeo was good. What I do say is that some bits of it were as good as anything he ever did. In the big emotional scene (in the Friar's cell), he came to grief precisely as he had done in Othello. He screamed, grew slower and slower, and looked older and older. When I begin to think it over I see that he often failed in such scenes through his very genius for impersonation. An actor of commoner mould takes such scenes rhetorically--recites them, and gets through them with some success. But the actor who impersonates, feels, and lives such anguish or passion or tempestuous grief, does for the moment in imagination nearly die. Imagination impeded Henry Irving in what are known as "strong" scenes.

He was a perfect Hamlet, a perfect Richard III., a perfect Shylock, except in the scene with Tubal, where I think his voice failed him. He was an imperfect Romeo; yet, as I have said, he did things in the part which were equal to the best of his perfect Hamlet.

His whole attitude before he met Juliet was beautiful. He came on from the very back of the stage and walked over a little bridge with a book in his hand, sighing and dying for Rosaline. In Iago he had been Italian. Then it was the Italy of Venice. As Romeo it was the Italy of Tuscany. His clothes were as Florentine as his bearing. He ignored the silly tradition that Romeo must wear a feather in his cap. In the course of his study of the part he had found that the youthful fops and gallants of the period put in their hats anything that they had been given--some souvenir "dallying with the innocence of love." And he wore in his hat a sprig of crimson oleander.

It is not usual, I think, to make much of the Rosaline episode. Henry Irving chose with great care a tall dark girl to represent Rosaline at the ball. Can I ever forget his face when suddenly in pursuit of her he saw me.... Once more I reflect that a face is the chiefest equipment of the actor.

I know they said he looked too old--was too old for Romeo. In some scenes he looked aged as only a very young man can look. He was not boyish; but ought Romeo to be boyish?

I am not supporting the idea of an elderly Romeo. When it came to the scenes where Romeo "poses" and is poetical but insincere, Henry did seem elderly. He couldn't catch the youthful pose of melancholy with its extravagant expression. It was in the repressed scenes, where the melancholy was sincere, the feeling deeper, and the expression slighter, that he was at his best.

"He may be good, but he isn't Romeo," is a favorite type of criticism. But I have seen Duse and Bernhardt in "La Dame aux Camélias," and cannot say which is Marguerite Gauthier. Each has her own view of the character, and each is it according to her imagination.

According to his imagination, Henry Irving was Romeo.

Again in this play he used his favorite "fate" tree. It gloomed over the street along which Romeo went to the ball. It was in the scene with the Apothecary. Henry thought that it symbolized the destiny hanging over the lovers.

It is usual for Romeo to go in to the dead body of Juliet lying in Capulet's monument through a gate on the level, as if the Capulets were buried but a few feet from the road. At rehearsals Henry Irving kept on saying: "I must go down to the vault." After a great deal of consideration he had an inspiration. He had the exterior of the vault in one scene, the entrance to it down a flight of steps. Then the scene changed to the interior of the vault, and the steps now led from a height above the stage. At the close of the scene, when the Friar and the crowd came rushing down into the tomb, these steps were thronged with people, each one holding a torch, and the effect was magnificent.

At the opening of the Apothecary Scene, when Balthazar comes to tell Romeo of Juliet's supposed death, Henry was marvelous. His face grew whiter and whiter.

"Then she is well and nothing can be ill;
Her body sleeps in Capulet's monument."

It was during the silence after those two lines that Henry Irving as Romeo had one of those sublime moments which an actor only achieves once or twice in his life. The only thing that I ever saw to compare with it was Duse's moment when she took Kellner's card in "Magda." There was absolutely no movement, but her face grew white, and the audience knew what was going on in her soul, as she read the name of the man who years before had seduced and deserted her.

As Juliet I did not look right. My little daughter Edy, a born archaeologist, said: "Mother, you oughtn't to have a fringe." Yet, strangely enough, Henry himself liked me as Juliet. After the first night, or was it the dress rehearsal--I am not quite clear which--he wrote to me that "beautiful as Portia was, Juliet leaves her far, far behind. Never anybody acted more exquisitely the part of the performance which I saw from the front. 'Hie to high fortune,' and 'Where spirits resort' were simply incomparable.... Your mother looked very radiant last night. I told her how proud she should be, and she was.... The play will be, I believe, a mighty 'go,' for the beauty of it is bewildering. I am sure of this, for it dumbfounded them all last night. Now you--we--must make our task a delightful one by doing everything possible to make our acting easy and comfortable. We are in for a long run."

To this letter he added a very human postscript: "I have determined not to see a paper for a week--I know they'll cut me up, and I don't like it!"

Yes, he was cut up, and he didn't like it, but a few people knew. One of them was Mr. Frankfort Moore, the novelist, who wrote to me of this "revealing Romeo, full of originality and power."

"Are you affected by adverse criticism?" I was asked once. I answered then and I answer now, that legitimate adverse criticism has always been of use to me if only because it "gave me to think" furiously. Seldom does the outsider, however talented, as a writer and observer, recognize the actor's art, and often we are told that we are acting best when we are showing the works most plainly, and denied any special virtue when we are concealing our method. Professional criticism is most helpful, chiefly because it induces one to criticize oneself. "Did I give that impression to anyone? Then there must have been something wrong somewhere." The "something" is often a perfectly different blemish from that to which the critic drew attention.

Unprofessional criticism is often more helpful still, but alas! one's friends are to one's faults more than a little blind, and to one's virtues very kind! It is through letters from people quite unknown to me that I have sometimes learned valuable lessons. During the run of "Romeo and Juliet" some one wrote and told me that if the dialogue at the ball could be taken in a lighter and quicker way, it would better express the manner of a girl of Juliet's age. The same unknown critic pointed out that I was too slow and studied in the Balcony Scene. She--I think it was a woman--was perfectly right.

On the hundredth night, although no one liked my Juliet very much, I received many flowers, little tokens, and poems. To one bouquet was pinned a note which ran:

As a mark of respect and Esteem
From the Gasmen of the Lyceum Theater."

That alone would have made my recollections of "Romeo and Juliet" pleasant. But there was more. At the supper on the stage after the hundredth performance, Sarah Bernhardt was present. She said nice things to me, and I was enraptured that my "vraies larmes" should have pleased and astonished her! I noticed that she hardly ever moved, yet all the time she gave the impression of swift, butterfly movement. While talking to Henry she took some red stuff out of her bag and rubbed it on her lips! This frank "making-up" in public was a far more astonishing thing in the 'eighties than it would be now. But I liked Miss Sarah for it, as I liked her for everything.

How wonderful she looked in those days! She was as transparent as an azalea, only more so; like a cloud, only not so thick. Smoke from a burning paper describes her more nearly! She was hollow-eyed, thin, almost consumptive-looking. Her body was not the prison of her soul, but its shadow.

On the stage she has always seemed to me more a symbol, an ideal, an epitome than a woman. It is this quality which makes her so easy in such lofty parts as Phèdre. She is always a miracle. Let her play "L'Aiglon," and while matter-of-fact members of the audience are wondering if she looks really like the unfortunate King of Rome, and deciding against her and in favor of Maude Adams who did look the boy to perfection, more imaginative watchers see in Sarah's performance a truth far bigger than a mere physical resemblance. Rostand says in the foreword to his play, that in it he does not espouse this cause or that, but only tells the story of "one poor little boy." In another of his plays, "Cyrano de Bergerac," there is one poor little tune played on a pipe of which the hero says:

"Écoutez, Gascons, c'est toute la Gascogne."

Though I am not French, and know next to nothing of the language, I thought when I saw Sarah's "L'Aiglon," that of that one poor little boy too might be said:

"Écoutez, Français, c'est toute la France!"

It is this extraordinary decorative and symbolic quality of Sarah's which makes her transcend all personal and individual feeling on the stage. No one plays a love scene better, but it is a picture of love that she gives, a strange orchidaceous picture rather than a suggestion of the ordinary human passion as felt by ordinary human people. She is exotic--well, what else should she be? One does not, at any rate one should not, quarrel with an exquisite tropical flower and call it unnatural because it is not a buttercup or a cowslip.

I have spoken of the face as the chief equipment of the actor. Sarah Bernhardt contradicts this at once. Her face does little for her. Her walk is not much. Nothing about her is more remarkable than the way she gets about the stage without one ever seeing her move. By what magic does she triumph without two of the richest possessions that an actress can have? Eleonora Duse has them. Her walk is the walk of the peasant, fine and free. She has the superb carriage of the head which goes with that fearless movement from the hips--and her face! There is nothing like it, nothing! But it is as the real woman, a particular woman, that Duse triumphs most. Her Cleopatra was insignificant compared with Sarah's--she is not so pictorial.

How futile it is to make comparisons! Better far to thank heaven for both these women.


Saturday, June 11, 1892.--"To see 'Miss Sarah' as 'Cléopâtre' (Sardou superb!). She was inspired! The essence of Shakespeare's 'Cleopatra.' I went round and implored her to do Juliet. She said she was too old. She can never be old. 'Age cannot wither her.'

June 18.--"Again to see Sarah--this time 'La Dame aux Camélias.' Fine, marvelous. Her writing the letter, and the last act the best.

July 11.--"Telegraph says 'Frou-frou' was 'never at any time a character in which she (Sarah) excelled.' Dear me! When I saw it I thought it wonderful. It made me ashamed of ever having played it."

Sarah Bernhardt has shown herself the equal of any man as a manager. Her productions are always beautiful; she chooses her company with discretion, and sees to every detail of the stage-management. In this respect she differs from all other foreign artists that I have seen. I have always regretted that Duse should play as a rule with such a mediocre company and should be apparently so indifferent to her surroundings. In "Adrienne Lecouvreur" it struck me that the careless stage-management utterly ruined the play, and I could not bear to see Duse as Adrienne beautifully dressed while the Princess and the other Court ladies wore cheap red velveteen and white satin and brought the pictorial level of the performance down to that of a "fit-up" or booth.

Who could mention "Miss Sarah" (my own particular name for her) as being present at a supper-party without saying something about her by the way! Still, I have been a long time by the way. Now for Romeo and Juliet!

At that 100th-night celebration I saw Mrs. Langtry in evening dress for the first time, and for the first time realized how beautiful she was. Her neck and shoulders kept me so busy looking that I could neither talk nor listen.

"Miss Sarah" and I have always been able to understand one another, although I hardly know a word of French and her English is scanty. She too, liked my Juliet--she and Henry Irving! Well, that was charming, although I could not like it myself, except for my "Cords" scene, of which I shall always be proud.

My dresser, Sarah Holland, came to me, I think, during "Romeo and Juliet." I never had any other dresser at the Lyceum except Sally's sister Lizzie, who dressed me during the first few years. Sally stuck to me loyally until the Lyceum days ended. Then she perceived "a divided duty." On one side was "the Guv'nor" with "the Guv'nor's" valet Walter, to whom she was devoted; on the other was a precarious in and out job with me, for after the Lyceum I never knew what I was going to do next. She chose to go with Henry, and it was she and Walter who dressed him for the last time when he lay dead in the hotel bedroom at Bradford.

Sally Holland's two little daughters "walked on" in "Romeo and Juliet." Henry always took an interest in the children in the theater, and was very kind to them. One night as we came down the stairs from our dressing-rooms to go home--the theater was quiet and deserted--we found a small child sitting forlornly and patiently on the lowest step.

"Well, my dear, what are you doing here?" said Henry.

"Waiting for mother, sir."

"Are you acting in the theater?"

"Yes, sir."

"And what part do you take?"

"Please, sir, first I'm a water-carrier, then I'm a little page, and then I'm a virgin."

Henry and I sat down on the stairs and laughed until we cried! Little Flo Holland was one of the troop of "virgins" who came to wake Juliet on her bridal morn. As time went on she was promoted to more important parts, but she never made us laugh so much again.

Her mother was a "character," a dear character. She had an extraordinarily open mind, and was ready to grasp each new play as it came along as a separate and entirely different field of operations! She was also extremely methodical, and only got flurried once in a blue moon. When we went to America and made the acquaintance of that dreadful thing, a "one-night stand," she was as precise and particular about having everything nice and in order for me as if we were going to stay in the town a month. Down went my neat square of white drugget; all the lights in my dressing-room were arranged as I wished. Everything was unpacked and ironed. One day when I came into some American theater to dress I found Sally nearly in tears.

"What's the matter with you, Sally?" I asked.

"I 'aven't 'ad a morsel to heat all day, dear, and I can't 'eat my iron."

"Eat your iron, Sally! What do you mean?"

"'Ow am I to iron all this, dear?" wailed Sally, picking up my Nance Oldfield apron and a few other trifles. "It won't get 'ot."

Until then I really thought that Sally was being sardonic about an iron as a substitute for victuals!

When she first began to dress me, I was very thin, so thin that it was really a grief to me. Sally would comfort me in my thin days by the terse compliment:

"Beautiful and fat to-night, dear."

As the years went on and I grew fat, she made a change in the compliment:

"Beautiful and thin to-night, dear."

Mr. Fernandez played Friar Laurence in "Romeo and Juliet." He was a very nervous actor, and it used to paralyze him with fright when I knelt down in the friar's cell with my back to the audience and put safety pins in the drapery I wore over my head to keep it in position while I said the lines,

"Are you at leisure, holy father, now
Or shall I come to you at evening mass?"

Not long after the production of "Romeo and Juliet" I saw the performance of a Greek play--the "Electra," I think--by some Oxford students. A young woman veiled in black with bowed head was brought in on a chariot. Suddenly she lifted her head and looked round, revealing a face of such pure classic beauty and a glance of such pathos that I called out:

"What a supremely beautiful girl!"

Then I remembered that there were no women in the cast! The face belonged to a young Oxford man, Frank Benson.

We engaged him to play Paris in "Romeo and Juliet," when George Alexander, the original Paris, left the Lyceum for a time. Already Benson gave promise of turning out quite a different person from the others. He had not nearly so much of the actor's instinct as Terriss, but one felt that he had far more earnestness. He was easily distinguished as a man with a purpose, one of those workers who "scorn delights and live laborious days." Those laborious days led him at last to the control of two or three companies, all traveling through Great Britain playing a Shakespearean répertoire. A wonderful organizer, a good actor (oddly enough, the more difficult the part the better he is--I like his Lear), and a man who has always been associated with high endeavor, Frank Benson's name is honored all over England. He was only at the Lyceum for this one production, but he always regarded Henry Irving as the source of the good work that he did afterwards.

"Thank you very much," he wrote to me after his first night as Paris, "for writing me a word of encouragement.... I was very much ashamed and disgusted with myself all Sunday for my poverty-stricken and thin performance.... I think I was a little better last night. Indeed I was much touched at the kindness and sympathy of all the company and their efforts to make the awkward new boy feel at home.... I feel doubly grateful to you and Mr. Irving for the light you shed from the lamp of art on life now that I begin to understand the labor and weariness the process of trimming the Lamp entails."



Our success with "The Belle's Stratagem" had pointed to comedy, to Beatrice and Benedick in particular, because in Mrs. Cowley's old comedy we had had some scenes of the same type. I have already told of my first appearance as Beatrice at Leeds, and said that I never played the part so well again; but the Lyceum production was a great success, and Beatrice a great personal success for me. It is only in high comedy that people seem to know what I am driving at!

The stage-management of the play was very good; the scenery nothing out of the ordinary except for the Church Scene. There was no question that it was a church, hardly a question that old Mead was a Friar. Henry had the art of making ceremonies seem very real.

This was the first time that we engaged a singer from outside. Mr. Jack Robertson came into the cast to sing "Sigh no more, ladies," and made an enormous success.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson made his first appearance at the Lyceum as Claudio. I had not acted with him since "The Wandering Heir," and his improvement as an actor in the ten years that had gone by since then was marvelous. I had once said to him that he had far better stick to his painting and become an artist instead of an actor. His Claudio made me "take it back." It was beautiful. I have seen many young actors play the part since then, but not one of them made it anywhere near as convincing. Forbes-Robertson put a touch of Leontes into it, a part which some years later he was to play magnificently, and through the subtle indication of consuming and insanely suspicious jealousy made Claudio's offensive conduct explicable at least. On the occasion of the performance at Drury Lane which the theatrical profession organized in 1906 in honor of my Stage Jubilee, one of the items in the programme was a scene from "Much Ado about Nothing." I then played Beatrice for the last time and Forbes-Robertson played his old part of Claudio.

During the run Henry commissioned him to paint a picture of the Church Scene, which was hung in the Beefsteak Room. The engravings printed from it were at one time very popular. When Johnston was asked why he had chosen that particular moment in the Church Scene, he answered modestly that it was the only moment when he could put himself as Claudio at the "side"! Some of the other portraits in the picture are Henry Irving, Terriss, who played Don Pedro; Jessie Millward as Hero, Mr. Glenny as Don John, Miss Amy Coleridge, Miss Harwood, Mr. Mead, and his daughter "Charley" Mead, a pretty little thing who was one of the pages.

The Lyceum company was not a permanent one. People used to come, learn something, go away, and come back at a larger salary! Miss Emery left for a time, and then returned to play Hero and other parts. I liked her Hero better than Miss Millward's. Miss Millward had a sure touch; strength, vitality, interest; but somehow she was commonplace in the part.

Henry used to spend hours and hours teaching people. I used to think impatiently: "Acting can't be taught." Gradually I learned to modify this conviction and to recognize that there are two classes of actors:

1. Those who can only do what they are taught.

2. Those who cannot be taught, but can be helped by suggestion to work out things for themselves.

Henry said to me once: "What makes a popular actor? Physique! What makes a great actor? Imagination and sensibility." I tried to believe it. Then I thought to myself: "Henry himself is not quite what is understood by 'an actor of physique,' and certainly he is popular. And that he is a great actor I know. He certainly has both imagination and 'sense and sensibility.'" After the lapse of years I begin to wonder if Henry was ever really popular. It was natural to most people to dislike his acting--they found it queer, as some find the painting of Whistler--but he forced them, almost against their will and nature, out of dislike into admiration. They had to come up to him, for never would he go down to them. This is not popularity.

Brain allied with the instinct of the actor tells, but stupidity allied with the instinct of the actor tells more than brain alone. I have sometimes seen a clever man who was not a born actor play a small part with his brains, and have felt that the cleverness was telling more with the actors on the stage than with the audience.

Terriss, like Mrs. Pritchard, if we are to believe what Dr. Johnson said of her, often did not know what on earth he was talking about! One morning we went over and over one scene in "Much Ado"--at least a dozen times I should think--and each time when Terriss came to the speech beginning:

"What needs the bridge much broader than the flood,"

he managed to give a different emphasis. First it would be:

"What! Needs the bridge much broader than the flood!" Then:

"What needs the bridge much broader than the flood."

After he had been floundering about for some time, Henry said:

"Terriss, what's the meaning of that?"

"Oh, get along, Guv'nor, you know!"

Henry laughed. He never could be angry with Terriss, not even when he came to rehearsal full of absurd excuses. One day, however, he was so late that it was past a joke, and Henry spoke to him sharply.

"I think you'll be sorry you've spoken to me like this, Guv'nor," said Terriss, casting down his eyes.

"Now no hanky-panky tricks, Terriss."

"Tricks, Guv'nor! I think you'll regret having said that when you hear that my poor mother passed away early this morning."

And Terriss wept.

Henry promptly gave him the day off. A few weeks later, when Terriss and I were looking through the curtain at the audience just before the play began, he said to me gaily:

"See that dear old woman sitting in the fourth row of stalls--that's my dear old mother."

The wretch had quite forgotten that he had killed her!

He was the only person who ever ventured to "cheek" Henry, yet he never gave offense, not even when he wrote a letter of this kind:

"My dear Guv.,--

"I hope you are enjoying yourself, and in the best of health. I very much want to play 'Othello' with you next year (don't laugh). Shall I study it up, and will you do it with me on tour if possible? Say yes, and lighten the drooping heart of yours sincerely,


I have never seen any one at all like Terriss, and my father said the same. The only actor of my father's day, he used to tell me, who had a touch of the same insouciance and lawlessness was Leigh Murray, a famous jeune premier.

One night he came into the theater soaked from head to foot.

"Is it raining, Terriss?" said some one who noticed that he was wet.

"Looks like it, doesn't it?" said Terriss carelessly.

Later it came out that he had jumped off a penny steamboat into the Thames and saved a little girl's life. It was pretty brave, I think.

Mr. Pinero, who was no longer a member of the Lyceum company when "Much Ado" was produced, wrote to Henry after the first night that it was "as perfect a representation of a Shakespearean play as I conceive to be possible. I think," he added, "that the work at your theater does so much to create new playgoers--which is what we want, far more I fancy than we want new theaters and perhaps new plays."

A playgoer whose knowledge of the English stage extended over a period of fifty-five years, wrote another nice letter about "Much Ado" which was passed on to me because it had some ridiculously nice things about me in it.

SAVILE CLUB, January 13, 1883.

"My dear Henry,--

"I were an imbecile ingrate if I did not hasten to give you my warmest thanks for the splendid entertainment of last night. Such a performance is not a grand entertainment merely, or a glorious pastime, although it was all that. It was, too, an artistic display of the highest character, elevating in the vast audience their art instinct--as well as purifying any developed art in the possession of individuals.

"I saw the Kean revivals of 1855-57, and I suppose 'The Winter's Tale' was the best of the lot. But it did not approach last night....

"I was impressed more strongly than ever with the fact that the plays of Shakespeare were meant to be acted. The man who thinks that he can know Shakespeare by reading him is a shallow ass. The best critic and scholar would have been carried out of himself last night into the poet's heart, his mind-spirit.... The Terry was glorious.... The scenes in which she appeared--and she was in eight out of the sixteen--reminded me of nothing but the blessed sun that not only beautifies but creates. But she never acts so well as when I am there to see! That is a real lover's sentiment, and all lovers are vain men.

"Terriss has 'come on' wonderfully, and his Don Pedro is princely and manful.

"I have thus set down, my dear Irving, one or two things merely to show that my gratitude to you is not that of a blind gratified idiot, but of one whose intimate personal knowledge of the English stage entitles him to say what he owes to you."

"I am

"Affectionately yours,


In 1891, when we revived "Much Ado," Henry's Benedick was far more brilliant than it was at first. In my diary, January 5, 1891, I wrote:

"Revival of 'Much Ado about Nothing.' Went most brilliantly. Henry has vastly improved upon his old rendering of Benedick. Acts larger now--not so 'finicking.' His model (of manner) is the Duke of Sutherland. VERY good. I did some parts better, I think--made Beatrice a nobler woman. Yet I failed to please myself in the Cathedral Scene."

Two days later.--"Played the Church Scene all right at last. More of a blaze. The little scene in the garden, too, I did better (in the last act). Beatrice has confessed her love, and is now softer. Her voice should be beautiful now, breaking out into playful defiance now and again, as of old. The last scene, too, I made much more merry, happy, soft."

January 8.--"I must make Beatrice more flashing at first, and softer afterwards. This will be an improvement upon my old reading of the part. She must be always merry and by turns scornful, tormenting, vexed, self-communing, absent, melting, teasing, brilliant, indignant, sad-merry, thoughtful, withering, gentle, humorous, and gay, Gay, Gay! Protecting (to Hero), motherly, very intellectual--a gallant creature and complete in mind and feature."

After a run of two hundred and fifty nights, "Much Ado," although it was still drawing fine houses, was withdrawn as we were going to America in the autumn (of 1883) and Henry wanted to rehearse the plays that we were to do in the States by reviving them in London at the close of the summer season. It was during these revivals that I played Janette in "The Lyons Mail"--not a big part, and not well suited to me, but I played it well enough to support my theory that whatever I have not been, I have been a useful actress.

I always associate "The Lyons Mail" with old Mead, whose performance of the father, Jerome Lesurques, was one of the most impressive things that this fine actor ever did with us. (Before Henry was ever heard of, Mead had played Hamlet at Drury Lane!) Indeed when he "broke up," Henry put aside "The Lyons Mail" for many years because he dreaded playing Lesurques' scene with his father without Mead.

In the days just before the break-up, which came about because Mead was old, and--I hope there is no harm in saying of him what can be said of many men who have done finely in the world--too fond of "the wine when it is red," Henry use to suffer great anxiety in the scene, because he never knew what Mead was going to do or say next. When Jerome Lesurques is forced to suspect his son of crime, he has a line:

"Am I mad, or dreaming? Would I were."

Mead one night gave a less poetic reading:

"Am I mad or drunk? Would I were!"

It will be remembered by those who saw the play that Lesurques, an innocent man, will not commit the Roman suicide of honor at his father's bidding, and refuses to take up his pistol from the table. "What! you refuse to die by your own hands, do you?" says the elder Lesurques. "Then die like a dog by mine!" (producing a pistol from his pocket).

One night, after having delivered the line with his usual force and impressiveness, Mead, after prolonged fumbling in his coat-tail pockets, added another:

"D---, b----! God bless my soul! Where's the pistol? I haven't got the pistol!"

The last scene in the eventful history of "Meadisms" in "'The Lyons Mail" was when Mead came on to the stage in his own top-hat, went over to the sofa, and lay down, apparently for a nap! Not a word could Henry get from him, and Henry had to play the scene by himself. He did it in this way:

"You say, father, that I," etc. "I answer you that it is false!"

Mead had a remarkable foot. Norman Forbes called it an architectural foot. Bunions and gout combined to give it a gargoyled effect! One night, I forget whether it was in this play or another, Henry, pawing the ground with his foot before an "exit"--one of the mannerisms which his imitators delighted to burlesque--came down on poor old Mead's foot, bunion gargoyles and all! Hardly had Mead stopped cursing under his breath than on came Tyars, and brought down his weight heavily on the same foot. Directly Tyars came off the stage he looked for Mead in the wings and offered an apology.

"I beg your pardon--I'm really awfully sorry, Mead."

"Sorry! sorry!" the old man snorted. "It's a d----d conspiracy!"

It was the dignity and gravity of Mead which made everything he said so funny. I am afraid that those who never knew him will wonder where the joke comes in.

I forget what year he left us for good, but in a letter of Henry's dated September, 1888, written during a provincial tour of "Faust," when I was ill and my sister Marion played Margaret instead of me, I find this allusion to him:

"Wenman does the Kitchen Witch now (I altered it this morning) and Mead the old one--the climber. Poor old chap, he'll not climb much longer!"

This was one of the least successful of Henry's Shakespearean productions. Terriss looked all wrong as Orsino; many other people were miscast. Henry said to me a few years later when he thought of doing "The Tempest," "I can't do it without three great comedians. I ought never to have attempted 'Twelfth Night' without them."

I don't think that I played Viola nearly as well as my sister Kate. Her "I am the man" was very delicate and charming. I overdid that. My daughter says: "Well, you were far better than any Viola that I have seen since, but you were too simple to make a great hit in it. I think that if you had played Rosalind the public would have thought you too simple in that. Somehow people expect these parts to be acted in a 'principal boy' fashion, with sparkle and animation."

We had the curious experience of being "booed" on the first night. It was not a comedy audience, and I think the rollickings of Toby Belch and his fellows were thought "low." Then people were put out by Henry's attempt to reserve the pit. He thought that the public wanted it. When he found that it was against their wishes he immediately gave in. His pride was the service of the public.

His speech after the hostile reception of "Twelfth Night" was the only mistake that I ever knew him make. He was furious, and showed it. Instead of accepting the verdict, he trounced the first-night audience for giving it. He simply could not understand it!

My old friend Rose Leclercq, who was in Charles Kean's company at the Princess's when I made my first appearance upon the stage, joined the Lyceum company to play Olivia. Strangely enough she had lost the touch for the kind of part. She, who had made one of her early successes as the spirit of Astarte in "Manfred," was known to a later generation of playgoers as the aristocratic dowager of stately presence and incisive repartee. Her son, Fuller Mellish, was also in the cast as Curio, and when we played "Twelfth Night" in America was promoted to the part of Sebastian, my double. In London my brother Fred played it. Directly he walked on to the stage, looking as like me as possible, yet a man all over, he was a success. I don't think that I have ever seen anything so unmistakable and instantaneous.

In America "Twelfth Night" was liked far better than in London, but I never liked it. I thought our production dull, lumpy and heavy. Henry's Malvolio was fine and dignified, but not good for the play, and I never could help associating my Viola with physical pain. On the first night I had a bad thumb--I thought it was a whitlow--and had to carry my arm in a sling. It grew worse every night, and I felt so sick and faint from pain that I played most of my scenes sitting in a chair. One night Dr. Stoker, Bram Stoker's brother, came round between the scenes, and, after looking at my thumb, said:

"Oh, that'll be all right. I'll cut it for you."

He lanced it then and there, and I went on with my part for that night. George Stoker, who was just going off to Ireland, could not see the job through, but the next day I was in for the worst illness I ever had in my life. It was blood-poisoning, and the doctors were in doubt for a little as to whether they would not have to amputate my arm. They said that if George Stoker had not lanced the thumb that minute, I should have lost my arm.

A disagreeable incident in connection with my illness was that a member of my profession made it the occasion of an unkind allusion (in a speech at the Social Science Congress) to "actresses who feign illness and have straw laid down before their houses, while behind the drawn blinds they are having riotous supper-parties, dancing the can-can and drinking champagne." Upon being asked for "name," the speaker would neither assert nor deny that it was Ellen Terry (whose poor arm at the time was as big as her waist, and that has never been very small!) that she meant.

I think we first heard of the affair on our second voyage to America, during which I was still so ill that they thought I might never see Quebec, and Henry wrote a letter to the press--a "scorcher." He showed it to me on the boat. When I had read it, I tore it up and threw the bits into the sea.

"It hasn't injured me in any way," I said. "Any answer would be undignified."

Henry did what I wished in the matter, but, unlike me, whose heart I am afraid is of wax--no impression lasts long--he never forgot it, and never forgave. If the speech-maker chanced to come into a room where he was--he walked out. He showed the same spirit in the last days of his life, long after our partnership had come to an end. A literary club, not a hundred yards from Hyde Park Corner, "blackballed"' me (although I was qualified for election under the rules) for reasons with which I was never favored. The committee, a few months later, wished Henry Irving to be the guest of honor at one of the club dinners. The honor was declined.

The first night of "Olivia" at the Lyceum was about the only comfortable first night that I have ever had! I was familiar with the part, and two of the cast, Terriss and Norman Forbes, were the same as at the Court, which made me feel all the more at home. Henry left a great deal of the stage-management to us, for he knew that he could not improve on Mr. Hare's production. Only he insisted on altering the last act, and made a bad matter worse. The division into two scenes wasted time, and nothing was gained by it. Never obstinate, Henry saw his mistake and restored the original end after a time. It was weak and unsatisfactory but not pretentious and bad like the last act he presented at the first performance.

We took the play too slowly at the Lyceum. That was often a fault there. Because Henry was slow, the others took their time from him, and the result was bad.

The lovely scene of the vicarage parlor, in which we used a harpsichord and were accused of pedantry for our pains, did not look so well at the Lyceum as at the Court. The stage was too big for it.

The critics said that I played Olivia better at the Lyceum, but I did not feel this myself.

At first Henry did not rehearse the Vicar at all well. One day when he was stamping his foot very much, as if he was Matthias in "The Bells," my little Edy, who was a terrible child and a wonderful critic, said:

"Don't go on like that, Henry. Why don't you talk as you do to me and Teddy? At home you are the Vicar."

The child's frankness did not offend Henry, because it was illuminating. A blind man had changed his Shylock; a little child changed his Vicar. When the first night came he gave a simple, lovable performance. Many people now understood and liked him as they had never done before. One of the things I most admired in it was his sense of the period.

In this, as in other plays, he used to make his entrance in the skin of the part. No need for him to rattle a ladder at the side to get up excitement and illusion as Macready is said to have done. He walked on, and was the simple-minded old clergyman, just as he had walked on a prince in "Hamlet," a king in "Charles I.," and a saint in "Becket."

A very handsome woman, descended from Mrs. Siddons and looking exactly like her, played the gipsy in "Olivia." The likeness was of no use, because the possessor of it had no talent. What a pity!

"Olivia" has always been a family play. Edy and Ted walked on the stage for the first time in the Court "Olivia." In later years Ted played Moses and Edy made her first appearance in a speaking part as Polly Flamborough, and has since played both Sophia and the Gipsy. My brother Charlie's little girl Beatrice made her first appearance as Bill, my sister Floss played Olivia on a provincial tour, and my sister Marion played it at the Lyceum when I was ill.

I saw Floss play it, and took from her a lovely and sincere bit of "business." In the third act, where the Vicar has found his erring daughter and has come to take her away from the inn, I had always hesitated at my entrance as if I were not quite sure what reception my father would give me after what had happened. Floss in the same situation came running in and went straight to her father, quite sure of his love if not of his forgiveness.

I did not take some business which Marion did on Terriss's suggestion. Where Thornhill tells Olivia that she is not his wife, I used to thrust him away with both hands as I said--"Devil!"

"It's very good, Nell, very fine," said Terriss to me, "but believe me, you miss a great effect there. You play it grandly, of course, but at that moment you miss it. As you say 'Devil!' you ought to strike me full in the face."

"Oh, don't be silly, Terriss," I said, "she's not a pugilist."

Of course I saw, apart from what was dramatically fit, what would happen.

However Marion, very young, very earnest, very dutiful, anxious to please Terriss, listened eagerly to the suggestion during an understudy rehearsal.

"No one could play this part better than your sister Nell," said Terriss to the attentive Marion, "but as I always tell her, she does miss one great effect. When Olivia says 'Devil!' she ought to hit me bang in the face."

"Thank you for telling me," said Marion gratefully.

"It will be much more effective," said Terriss.

It was. When the night came for Marion to play the part, she struck out, and Terriss had to play the rest of the scene with a handkerchief held to his bleeding nose!

I think it was as Olivia that Eleonora Duse first saw me act. She had thought of playing the part herself some time, but she said: "Never now!" No letter about my acting ever gave me the same pleasure as this from her:

"Madame,--Avec Olivia vous m'avez donné bonheur et peine. Bonheur part votre art qui est noble et sincère ... peine car je sens la tristesse au coeur quand je vois une belle et généreuse nature de femme, donner son âme à l'art--comme vous le faites--quand c'est la vie même, votre coeur même qui parle tendrement, douleureusement, noblement sous votre jeu. Je ne puis me débarrasser d'une certaine tristesse quand je vois des artistes si nobles et hauts tels que vous et Irving.... Si vous êtes si forts de soumettre (avec un travail continu) la vie à l'art, il faut done vous admirer comme des forces de la nature même qui auraient pourtant le droit de vivre pour elles-mêmes et non pour la foule. Je n'ose pas vous déranger, Madame, et d'ailleurs j'ai tant à faire aussi qu'il m'est impossible de vous dire de vive voix tout le grand plaisir que vous m'avez donné, mais puisque j'ai senti votre coeur, veuillez, chère Madame, croire au mien qui ne demande pas mieux dans cet instant que de vous admirer et de vous le dire tant bien que mal d'une manière quelconque. Bien à vous.

"E. DUSE."

When I wrote to Madame Duse the other day to ask her permission to publish this much-prized letter, she answered:

BUENOS AYRES, Septembre 11, 1907.

"Chère Ellen Terry,--

"Au milieu du travail en Amérique, je reçois votre lettre envoyée à Florence.

"Vous me demandez de publier mon ancienne lettre amicale. Oui, chère Ellen Terry; ce que j'ai donné vous appartient; ce que j'ai dit, je le peux encore, et je vous aime et admire comme toujours....

"J'espère que vous accepterez cette ancienne lettre que j'ai rendue plus claire et un peu mieux écrite. Vous en serez contente avec moi car, ainsi faisant, j'ai eu le moyen de vous dire que je vous aime et de vous le dire deux fois.

"A vous de coeur,

"E. DUSE."

Dear, noble Eleanora Duse, great woman, great artist--I can never appreciate you in words, but I store the delight that you have given me by your work, and the personal kindness that you have shown me, in the treasure-house of my heart!

When I celebrated my stage jubilee you traveled all the way from Italy to support me on the stage at Drury Lane. When you stood near me, looking so beautiful with wings in your hair, the wings of glory they seemed to me, I could not thank you, but we kissed each other and you understood!

"Clap-trap" was the verdict passed by many on the Lyceum "Faust," yet Margaret was the part I liked better than any other--outside Shakespeare. I played it beautifully sometimes. The language was often very commonplace--not nearly as poetic or dramatic as that of "Charles I."--but the character was all right--simple, touching, sublime.

The Garden Scene I know was unsatisfactory. It was a bad, weak love-scene, but George Alexander as Faust played it admirably. Indeed he always acted like an angel with me; he was so malleable, ready to do anything. He was launched into the part at very short notice, after H.B. Conway's failure on the first night. Poor Conway! It was Coghlan as Shylock all over again.

Henry called a rehearsal the next day--on Sunday, I think. The company stood about in groups on the stage while Henry walked up and down, speechless, but humming a tune occasionally, always a portentous sign with him. The scene set was the Brocken Scene, and Conway stood at the top of the slope as far away from Henry as he could get! He looked abject. His handsome face was very red, his eyes full of tears. He was terrified at the thought of what was going to happen. The actor was summoned to the office, and presently Loveday came out and said that Mr. George Alexander would play Faust the following night. Alec had been wonderful as Valentine the night before, and as Faust he more than justified Henry's belief in him. After that he never looked back. He had come to the Lyceum for the first time in 1882, an unknown quantity from a stock company in Glasgow, to play Caleb Decie in "The Two Roses." He then left us for a time, returned for "Faust," and remained in the Lyceum company for some years playing all Terriss's parts.

Alexander had the romantic quality which was lacking in Terriss, but there was a kind of shy modesty about him which handicapped him when he played Squire Thornhill in "Olivia." "Be more dashing, Alec!" I used to say to him. "Well, I do my best," he said. "At the hotels I chuck all the barmaids under the chin, and pretend I'm a dog of a fellow for the sake of this part!" Conscientious, dear, delightful Alec! No one ever deserved success more than he did and used it better when it came, as the history of the St. James's Theater under his management proves. He had the good luck to marry a wife who was clever as well as charming, and could help him.

The original cast of "Faust" was never improved upon. What Martha was ever so good as Mrs. Stirling? The dear old lady's sight had failed since "Romeo and Juliet," but she was very clever at concealing it. When she let Mephistopheles in at the door, she used to drop her work on the floor so that she could find her way back to her chair. I never knew why she dropped it--she used to do it so naturally with a start when Mephistopheles knocked at the door--until one night when it was in my way and I picked it up, to the confusion of poor Mrs. Stirling, who nearly walked into the orchestra.

"Faust" was abused a good deal as a pantomime, a distorted caricature of Goethe, and a thoroughly inartistic production. But it proved the greatest of all Henry's financial successes. The Germans who came to see it, oddly enough, did not scorn it nearly as much as the English who were sensitive on behalf of the Germans, and the Goethe Society wrote a tribute to Henry Irving after his death, acknowledging his services to Goethe!

It is a curious paradox in the theater that the play for which every one has a good word is often the play which no one is going to see, while the play which is apparently disliked and run down is crowded every night.

Our preparations for the production of "Faust" included a delightful "grand tour" of Germany. Henry, with his accustomed royal way of doing things, took a party which included my daughter Edy, Mr. and Mrs. Comyns Carr, and Mr. Hawes Craven, who was to paint the scenery. We bought nearly all the properties used in "Faust" in Nuremberg, and many other things which we did not use, that took Henry's fancy. One beautifully carved escutcheon, the finest armorial device I ever saw, he bought at this time and presented it in after years to the famous American connoisseur, Mrs. Jack Gardiner. It hangs now in one of the rooms of her palace at Boston.

It was when we were going in the train along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Rhine that Sally Holland, who accompanied us as my maid, said:--

"Uncommon pretty scenery, dear, I must say!"

When we laughed uncontrollably, she added:

"Well, dear, I think so!"

During the run of "Faust" Henry visited Oxford and gave his address on "Four Actors" (Burbage, Betterton, Garrick, Kean). He met there one of the many people who had recently been attacking him on the ground of too long runs and too much spectacle. He wrote me an amusing account of the duel between them:

"I had supper last night at New College after the affair. A---- was there, and I had it out with him--to the delight of all.

"'Too much decoration,' etc., etc.

"I asked him what there was in 'Faust' in the matter of appointments, etc., that he would like left out?'

"Answer: Nothing.

"'Too long runs.'

"'You, sir, are a poet,' I said. 'Perhaps it may be my privilege some day to produce a play of yours. Would you like it to have a long run or a short one?' (Roars of laughter.)

"Answer: 'Well--er--well, of course, Mr. Irving, you--well--well, a short run, of course for art, but--'

"'Now, sir, you're on oath,' said I. 'Suppose that the fees were rolling in £10 and more a night--would you rather the play were a failure or a success?'

"'Well, well, as you put it--I must say--er--I would rather my play had a long run!'

"A---- floored!

"He has all his life been writing articles running down good work and crying up the impossible, and I was glad to show him up a bit!

"The Vice-Chancellor made a most lovely speech after the address--an eloquent and splendid tribute to the stage.

"Bourchier presented the address of the 'Undergrads.' I never saw a young man in a greater funk--because, I suppose, he had imitated me so often!

"From the address:

"'We have watched with keen and enthusiastic interest the fine intellectual quality of all these representations from Hamlet to Mephistopheles with which you have enriched the contemporary stage. To your influence we owe deeper knowledge and more reverent study of the master mind of Shakespeare.'

"All very nice indeed!"

I never cared much for Henry's Mephistopheles--a twopence colored part, anyway. Of course he had his moments--he had them in every part--but they were few. One of them was in the Prologue, when he wrote in the student's book, "Ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil." He never looked at the book, and the nature of the spirit appeared suddenly in a most uncanny fashion. Another was in the Spinning-wheel Scene when Faust defies Mephistopheles, and he silences him with, "I am a spirit." Henry looked to grow a gigantic height--to hover over the ground instead of walking on it. It was terrifying.

I made valiant efforts to learn to spin before I played Margaret. My instructor was Mr. Albert Fleming, who, at the suggestion of Ruskin, had recently revived hand-spinning and hand-weaving in the North of England. I had always hated that obviously "property" spinning-wheel in the opera, and Margaret's unmarketable thread. My thread always broke, and at last I had to "fake" my spinning to a certain extent; but at least I worked my wheel right, and gave an impression that I could spin my pound of thread a day with the best.

Two operatic stars did me the honor to copy my Margaret dress--Madame Albani and Madame Melba. It was rather odd, by the way, that many mothers who took their daughters to see the opera of "Faust" would not bring them to see the Lyceum play. One of these mothers was Princess Mary of Teck, a constant patron of most of our plays.

Other people "missed the music." The popularity of an opera will often kill a play, although the play may have existed before the music was ever thought of. The Lyceum "Faust" held its own against Gounod. I liked our incidental music to the action much better. It was taken from many different sources and welded into an effective and beautiful whole by our clever musical director, Mr. Meredith Ball.

In many ways "Faust" was our heaviest production. About four hundred ropes were used, each rope with a name. The list of properties and instructions to the carpenters became a joke among the theater staff. When Henry first took "Faust" into the provinces, the head carpenter at Liverpool, Myers by name, being something of a humorist, copied out the list on a long thin sheet of paper, which rolled up like a royal proclamation. Instead of "God save the Queen!" he wrote at the foot, with many flourishes: "God help Bill Myers!"

The crowded houses at "Faust" were largely composed of "repeaters," as Americans call those charming playgoers who come to see a play again and again. We found favor with the artists and musicians too, even in Faust! Here is a nice letter I got during the run (it was a long one) from that gifted singer and good woman, Madame Antoinette Sterling:--

"My dear Miss Terry,--

"I was quite as disappointed as yourself that you were not at St. James's Hall last Monday for my concert.... Jean Ingelow said she enjoyed the afternoon very much....

"I wonder if you would like to come to luncheon some day and have a little chat with her? But perhaps you already know her. I love her dearly. She has one fault--she never goes to the theater. Oh my! What she misses, poor thing, poor thing! We have already seen 'Faust' twice, and are going again soon, and shall take the George Macdonalds this time. The Holman Hunts were delighted. He is one of the most interesting and clever men I have ever met, and she is very charming and clever too. How beautifully plain you write! Give me the recipe.

"With many kind greetings,

"Believe me sincerely yours,


My girl Edy was one of the angels in the vision in the last act of "Faust," an event which Henry commemorated in a little rhyme that he sent me on Valentine's Day with some beautiful flowers:

"White and red roses,
Sweet and fresh posies,
One bunch for Edy, Angel of mine--
One bunch for Nell, my dear Valentine."

Mr. Toole ran a burlesque on the Lyceum "Faust," called "Faust-and-Loose." Henry did not care for burlesques as a rule. He thought Fred Leslie's exact imitation of him, face, spectacles, voice--everything was like Henry except the ballet-skirt--in the worst taste. But everything that Toole did was to him adorable. Marie Linden gave a really clever imitation of me as Marguerite. She and her sister Laura both had the trick of taking me off. I recognized the truth of Laura's caricature in the burlesque of "The Vicar of Wakefield" when as Olivia she made her entrance, leaping impulsively over a stile!

There was an absurd chorus of girl "mashers" in "Faust-and-Loose," dressed in tight black satin coats, who besides dancing and singing had lines in unison, such as "No, no!" "We will!" As one of these girls Violet Vanbrugh made her first appearance on the stage. In her case "we will!" proved prophetic. It was her plucky "I will get on" which finally landed her in her present successful position.

Violet Barnes was the daughter of Prebendary Barnes of Exeter, who, when he found his daughter stage-struck, behaved far more wisely than most parents. He gave her £100 and sent her to London with her old nurse to look after her, saying that if she really "meant business" she would find an engagement before the £100 was gone. Violet had inherited some talent from her mother, who was a very clever amateur actress, and the whole family were fond of getting up entertainments. But Violet didn't know quite how far £100 would go, or wouldn't go. I happened to call on her at her lodgings near Baker Street one afternoon, and found her having her head washed, and crying bitterly all the time! She had come to the end of the £100, she had not got an engagement, and thought she would have to go home defeated. There was something funny in the tragic situation. Vi was sitting on the floor, drying her hair, crying, and drinking port wine to cure a cold in her head!

I told her not to be a goose, but to cheer up and come and stay with me until something turned up. We packed the old nurse back to Devonshire. Violet came and stayed with me, and in due course something did turn up. Mr. Toole came to dinner, and Violet, acting on my instructions to ask every one she saw for an engagement, asked Mr. Toole! He said, "That's all right, my dear. Of course. Come down and see me to-morrow." Dear old Toole! The kindliest of men! Violet was with him for some time, and played at his theater in Mr. Barrie's first piece "Walker London." Her sister Irene, Seymour Hicks, and Mary Ansell (now Mrs. Barrie) were all in the cast.

This was all I did to "help" Violet Vanbrugh, now Mrs. Arthur Bourchier and one of our best actresses, in her stage career. She helped herself, as most people do who get on. I am afraid that I have discouraged more stage aspirants than I have encouraged. Perhaps I have snubbed really talented people, so great is my horror of girls taking to the stage as a profession when they don't realize what they are about. I once told an elderly aspirant that it was quite useless for any one to go on the stage who had not either great beauty or great talent. She wrote saying that my letter had been a great relief to her, as now she was not discouraged. "I have both."

There is one actress on the English stage whom I did definitely encourage, of whose talent I was certain.

When my daughter was a student at the Royal Academy of Music, Dr. (now Sir Alexander) Mackenzie asked me to distribute the medals to the Elocution Class at the end of the term. I was quite "new to the job," and didn't understand the procedure. No girl, I have learned since, can be given the gold medal until she has won both the bronze and the silver medals--that is, until she has been at the Academy three years. I was for giving the gold medalists, who only wanted certificates, bronze medals; and of one young girl who was in her first year and only entitled to a bronze medal, I said: "Oh, she must have the gold medal, of course!"

She was a queer-looking child, handsome, with a face suggesting all manner of possibilities. When she stood up to read the speech from "Richard II." she was nervous, but courageously stood her ground. She began slowly, and with a most "fetching" voice, to think out the words. You saw her think them, heard her speak them. It was so different from the intelligent elocution, the good recitation, but bad impersonation of the others! "A pathetic face, a passionate voice, a brain," I thought to myself. It must have been at this point that the girl flung away the book and began to act, in an undisciplined way, of course, but with such true emotion, such intensity, that the tears came to my eyes. The tears came to her eyes too. We both wept, and then we embraced, and then we wept again. It was an easy victory for her. She was incomparably better than any one. "She has to work," I wrote in my diary that day. "Her life must be given to it, and then she will--well, she will achieve just as high as she works." Lena Pocock was the girl's name, but she changed it to Lena Ashwell when she went on the stage.

In the days of the elocution class there was still some idea of her becoming a singer, but I strongly advised the stage, and wrote to my friend J. Comyns Carr, who was managing the Comedy Theater, that I knew a girl with "supreme talent" whom he ought to engage. Lena was engaged. After that she had her fight for success, but she went steadily forward.

Henry Irving has often been attacked for not preferring Robert Louis Stevenson's "Macaire" to the version which he actually produced in 1883. It would have been hardly more unreasonable to complain of his producing "Hamlet" in preference to Mr. Gilbert's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern." Stevenson's "Macaire" may have all the literary quality that is claimed for it, although I personally think Stevenson was only making a delightful idiot of himself in it. Anyhow, it is frankly a burlesque, a skit, a satire on the real Macaire. The Lyceum was not a burlesque house! Why should Henry have done it?

It was funny to see Toole and Henry rehearsing together for "Macaire." Henry was always plotting to be funny. When Toole as Jacques Strop hid the dinner in his pocket, Henry, after much labor, thought of his hiding the plate inside his waistcoat. There was much laughter later on when Macaire, playfully tapping Strop with his stick, cracked the plate, and the pieces fell out! Toole hadn't to bother about such subtleties, and Henry's deep-laid plans for getting a laugh must have seemed funny to dear Toole, who had only to come on and say "Whoop!" and the audience roared!

Henry's death as Macaire was one of a long list of splendid deaths. Macaire knows the game is up, and makes a rush for the French windows at the back of the stage. The soldiers on the stage shoot him before he gets away. Henry did not drop, but turned round, swaggered impudently down to the table, leaned on it, then suddenly rolled over, dead.

Henry's production of "Werner" for one matinée was to do some one a good turn, and when Henry did a "good turn," he did it magnificently.[1] We rehearsed the play as carefully as if we were in for a long run. Beautiful dresses were made for me by my friend Alice Carr. But when we had given that one matinée, they were put away for ever. The play may be described as gloom, gloom, gloom. It was worse than "The Iron Chest."

[Footnote 1: From my Diary, June 1, 1887.--"Westland-Marston Benefit at the Lyceum. A triumphant success entirely due to the genius and admirable industry and devotion of H.I., for it is just the dullest play to read as ever was! He made it intensely interesting."]

While Henry was occupying himself with "Werner," I was pleasing myself with "The Amber Heart," a play by Alfred Calmour, a young man who was at this time Wills's secretary. I wanted to do it, not only to help Calmour, but because I believed in the play and liked the part of Ellaline. I had thought of giving a matinée of it at some other theater, but Henry, who at first didn't like my doing it at all, said: "You must do it at the Lyceum. I can't let you, or it, go out of the theater."

So we had the matinée at the Lyceum. Mr. Willard and Mr. Beerbohm Tree were in the cast, and it was a great success. For the first time Henry saw me act--a whole part and from the "front" at least, for he had seen and liked scraps of my Juliet from the "side." Although he had known me such a long time, my Ellaline seemed to come quite as a surprise. "I wish I could tell you of the dream of beauty that you realized," he wrote after the performance. He bought the play for me, and I continued to do it "on and off" here and in America until 1902.

Many people said that I was good but the play was bad. This was hard on Alfred Calmour. He had created the opportunity for me, and few plays with the beauty of "The Amber Heart" have come my way since. "He thinks it's all his doing!" said Henry. "If he only knew!" "Well, that's the way of authors," I answered. "They imagine so much more about their work than we put into it, that although we may seem to the outsider to be creating, to the author we are, at our best, only doing our duty by him."

Our next production was "Macbeth." Meanwhile we had visited America three times. It is now my intention to give some account of my tours in America, of my friends there, and of some of the impressions that the vast, wonderful country made on me.


The first time that there was any talk of my going to America was, I think, in 1874, when I was playing in "The Wandering Heir." Dion Boucicault wanted me to go, and dazzled me with figures, but I expect the cautious Charles Reade influenced me against accepting the engagement.

When I did go in 1883, I was thirty-five and had an assured position in my profession. It was the first of eight tours, seven of which I went with Henry Irving. The last was in 1907 after his death. I also went to America one summer on a pleasure trip. The tours lasted three months at least, seven months at most. After a rough calculation, I find that I have spent not quite five years of my life in America. Five out of sixty is not a large proportion, yet I often feel that I am half American. This says a good deal for the hospitality of a people who can make a stranger feel so completely at home in their midst. Perhaps it also says something for my adaptableness!

"When we do not speak of things with a partiality full of love, what we say is not worth being repeated." That was the answer of a courteous Frenchman who was asked for his impressions of a country. In any case it is imprudent to give one's impressions of America. The country is so vast and complex that even those who have amassed mountains of impressions soon find that there still are mountains more! I have lived in New York, Boston and Chicago for a month at a time, and have felt that to know any of these great cities even superficially would take a year. I have become acquainted with this and that class of American, but I realize that there are thousands of other classes that remain unknown to me.

I set out in 1882 from Liverpool on board the Britannic with the fixed conviction that I should never, never return. For six weeks before we started, the word America had only to be breathed to me, and I burst into floods of tears! I was leaving my children, my bullfinch, my parrot, my "aunt" Boo, whom I never expected to see alive again, just because she said I never would; and I was going to face the unknown dangers of the Atlantic and of a strange, barbarous land. Our farewell performances in London had cheered me up a little--though I wept copiously at every one--by showing us that we should be missed. Henry Irving's position seemed to be confirmed and ratified by all that took place before his departure. The dinners he had to eat, the speeches that he had to make and to listen to, were really terrific!

One speech at the Rabelais Club had, it was said, the longest peroration on record. It was this kind of thing: Where is our friend Irving going? He is not going like Nares to face the perils of the far North. He is not going like A---- to face something else. He is not going to China, etc.,--and so on. After about the hundredth "he is not going," Lord Houghton, who was one of the guests, grew very impatient and interrupted the orator with: "Of course he isn't! He's going to New York by the Cunard Line. It'll take him about a week!"

Many people came to see us off at Liverpool, but I only remember seeing Mrs. Langtry and Oscar Wilde. It was at this time that Oscar Wilde had begun to curl his hair in the manner of the Prince Regent. "Curly hair to match the curly teeth," said some one. Oscar Wilde had ugly teeth, and he was not proud of his mouth. He used to put his hand to his mouth when he talked so that it should not be noticed. His brow and eyes were very beautiful.

Well, I was not "disappointed in the Atlantic," as Oscar Wilde was the first to say, though many people have said it since without acknowledging its source.

My first voyage was a voyage of enchantment to me. The ship was laden with pig-iron, and she rolled and rolled and rolled. She could never roll too much for me! I have always been a splendid sailor, and I feel jolly at sea. The sudden leap from home into the wilderness of waves does not give me any sensation of melancholy.

What I thought I was going to see when I arrived in America I hardly remember. I had a vague idea that all American women wore red flannel shirts and carried bowie knives and that I might be sandbagged in the street! From somewhere or other I had derived an impression that New York was an ugly, noisy place.

Ugly! When I first saw that marvelous harbor I nearly cried--it was so beautiful. Whenever I come now to the unequaled approach to New York I wonder what Americans must think of the approach from the sea to London! How different are the mean, flat, marshy banks of the Thames and the wooden toy lighthouse at Dungeness to the vast, spreading Hudson with its busy multitude of steamboats, and ferryboats, its wharf upon wharf, and its tall statue of Liberty dominating all the racket and bustle of the sea traffic of the world!

That was one of the few times in America when I did not miss the poetry of the past. The poetry of the present, gigantic, colossal and enormous, made me forget it. The "sky-scrapers"--what a brutal name it is when one comes to think of it!--so splendid in the landscape now, did not exist in 1883, but I find it difficult to divide my early impressions from my later ones. There was Brooklyn Bridge though, hung up high in the air like a vast spider's web.

Between 1883 and 1893 I noticed a great change in New York and other cities. In ten years they seemed to have grown with the energy of tropical plants. But between 1893 and 1907 I saw no evidence of such feverish increase. It is possible that the Americans are arriving at a stage when they can no longer beat the records! There is a vast difference between one of the old New York brownstone houses and one of the fourteen-storied buildings near the river, but between this and the Times Square Building or the still more amazing Flat Iron Building, which is said to oscillate at the top--it is so far from the ground--there is very little difference. I hear that they are now beginning to build downwards into the earth, but this will not change the appearance of New York for a long time.

I had not to endure the wooden shed in which most people landing in America have to struggle with the Custom-house officials--a struggle as brutal as a "round in the ring," as Paul Bourget describes it. We were taken off the Britannic in a tug, and Mr. Abbey, Laurence Barrett, and many other friends met us--including the much-dreaded reporters.

They were not a bit dreadful, but very quick to see what kind of a man Henry was. In a minute he was on the best of terms with them. He had on what I used to call his best "Jingle" manner--a manner full of refinement, bonhomie, elegance and geniality.

"Have a cigar--have a cigar." That was the first remark of Henry's, which put every one at ease. He also wanted to be at ease and have a good smoke. It was just the right merry greeting to the press representatives of a nation whose sense of humor is far more to be relied on than its sense of reverence.

"Now come on, all of you!" he said to the interviewers. He talked to them all in a mass and showed no favoritism. It says much for his tact and diplomacy that he did not "put his foot in it." The Americans are suspicious of servile adulation from a stranger, yet are very sensitive to criticism.

"These gentlemen want to have a few words with you," said Henry to me when the reporters had done with him. Then with a mischievous expression he whispered: "Say something pleasant! Merry and bright!"

Merry and bright! I felt it! The sense of being a stranger entering a strange land, the rushing sense of loneliness and foreignness was overpowering my imagination. I blew my nose hard and tried to keep back my tears, but the first reporter said: "Can I send any message to your friends in England?"

I answered: "Tell them I never loved 'em so much as now," and burst into tears! No wonder that he wrote in his paper that I was "a woman of extreme nervous sensibility." Another of them said that "my figure was spare almost to attenuation." America soon remedied that. I began to put on flesh before I had been in the country a week, and it was during my fifth American tour that I became really fat for the first time in my life.

When we landed I drove to the Hotel Dam, Henry to the Brevoort House. There was no Diana on the top of the Madison Square Building then. The building did not exist, to cheer the heart of a new arrival as the first evidence of beauty in the city. There were horse trams instead of cable cars, but a quarter of a century has not altered the peculiarly dilapidated carriages in which one drives from the dock, the muddy side-walks, and the cavernous holes in the cobble-paved streets. Had the elevated railway, the first sign of power that one notices after leaving the boat, begun to thunder through the streets? I cannot remember New York without it.

I missed then, as I miss now, the numberless hansoms of London plying in the streets for hire. People in New York get about in the cars, unless they have their own carriages. The hired carriage has no reason for existing, and when it does, it celebrates its unique position by charging two dollars (8s.) for a journey which in London would not cost fifty cents (2s.)!

I cried for two hours at the Hotel Dam! Then my companion, Miss Harries, came bustling in with: "Never mind! here's a piano!" and sat down and played "Annie Laurie" very badly until I screamed with laughter. Before the evening came my room was like a bower of roses, and my dear friends in America have been throwing bouquets at me in the same lavish way ever since. I had quite cheered up when Henry came to take me to see some minstrels who were performing at the Star Theater, the very theater where in a few days we were to open. I didn't understand many of the jokes which the American comedians made that night, but I liked their dry, cool way of making them. They did not "hand a lemon" or "skiddoo" in those days; American slang changes as quickly as thieves' slang, and only "Gee!" and "Gee-whiz!" seem to be permanent.

There were very few theaters in New York when we first went there. All that part of the city which is now "up town" did not exist, and what was then "up" is now more than "down" town. The American stage has changed almost as much. In those days their most distinguished actors were playing Shakespeare or old comedy, and their new plays were chiefly "imported" goods. Even then there was a liking for local plays which showed the peculiarities of the different States, but they were more violent and crude than now. The original American genius and the true dramatic pleasure of the people is, I believe, in such plays, where very complete observation of certain phases of American life and very real pictures of manners are combined with comedy almost childlike in its naïveté. The sovereignty of the young girl which is such a marked feature in social life is reflected in American plays.

This is by the way.

What I want to make clear is that in 1883 there was no living American drama as there is now, that such productions of romantic plays and Shakespeare as Henry Irving brought over from England were unknown, and that the extraordinary success of our first tours would be impossible now. We were the first and we were pioneers, and we were new. To be new is everything in America.

Such palaces as the Hudson Theater, New York, were not dreamed of when we were at the Star, which was, however, quite equal to any theater in London in front of the footlights. The stage itself, the lighting appliances, and the dressing-rooms were inferior.

Henry made his first appearance in America in "The Bells." He was not at his best on the first night, but he could be pretty good even when he was not at his best. I watched him from a box. Nervousness made the company very slow. The audience was a splendid one--discriminating and appreciative. We felt that the Americans wanted to like us. We felt in a few days so extraordinarily at home. The first sensation of entering a foreign city was quickly wiped out.

The difference in atmosphere disappears directly one understands it. I kept on coming across duplicates of "my friends in England." "How this girl reminds me of Alice." "How like that one is to Gill!" We had transported the Lyceum three thousand miles--that was all.

On the second night in New York it was my turn. "Command yourself--this is the time to show you can act!" I said to myself as I went on to the stage of the Star Theater, dressed as Henrietta Maria. But I could not command myself. I played badly and cried too much in the last act. But the people liked me, and they liked the play, perhaps because it was historical; and of history the Americans are passionately fond. The audience took many points which had been ignored in London. I had always thought Henry as Charles I. most moving when he made that involuntary effort to kneel to his subject, Moray, but the Lyceum audiences never seemed to notice it. In New York the audience burst out into the most sympathetic spontaneous applause that I have ever heard in a theater.

I know that there are some advanced stage reformers who prefer to think applause "vulgar," and would suppress it in the theater if they could. If they ever succeed they will suppress a great deal of good acting. It is said that the American actor, Edwin Forrest, once walked down to the footlights and said to the audience very gravely and sincerely: "If you don't applaud, I can't act," and I do sympathize with him. Applause is an instinctive, unconscious act expressing the sympathy between actors and audience. Just as our art demands more instinct than intellect in its exercise, so we demand of those who watch us an appreciation of the simple unconscious kind which finds an outlet in clapping rather than the cold, intellectual approval which would self-consciously think applause derogatory. I have yet to meet the actor who was sincere in saying that he disliked applause.

My impression of the way the American women dressed in 1883 was not favorable. Some of them wore Indian shawls and diamond earrings. They dressed too grandly in the street and too dowdily in the theater. All this has changed. The stores in New York are now the most beautiful in the world, and the women are dressed to perfection. They are as clever at the demi-toilette as the Parisian, and the extreme neatness and smartness of their walking-gowns are very refreshing after the floppy, blowsy, trailing dresses, accompanied by the inevitable feather boa of which English girls, who used to be so tidy and "tailor-made," now seem so fond. The universal white "waist" is very pretty and trim on the American girl. It is one of the distinguishing marks of a land of the free, a land where "class" hardly exists. The girl in the store wears the white waist; so does the rich girl on Fifth Avenue. It costs anything from seventy-five cents to fifty dollars!

London when I come back from America always seems at first like an ill-lighted village, strangely tame, peaceful and backward. Above all, I miss the sunlight of America, and the clear blue skies of an evening.

"Are you glad to get back?" said an English friend.


"It's a land of vulgarity, isn't it?"

"Oh yes, if you mean by that a wonderful land--a land of sunshine and light, of happiness, of faith in the future!" I answered. I saw no misery or poverty there. Every one looked happy. What hurts me on coming back to England is the hopeless look on so many faces; the dejection and apathy of the people standing about in the streets. Of course there is poverty in New York, but not among the Americans. The Italians, the Russians, the Poles--all the host of immigrants washed in daily on the bosom of the Hudson--these are poor, but you don't see them unless you go Bowery-ways, and even then you can't help feeling that in their sufferings there is always hope. The barrow man of to-day is the millionaire of to-morrow! Vulgarity? I saw little of it. I thought that the people who had amassed large fortunes used their wealth beautifully.

When a man is rich enough to build himself a big new house, he remembers some old house which he once admired, and he has it imitated with all the technical skill and care that can be had in America. This accounts for the odd jumble of styles in Fifth Avenue, along the lakeside in Chicago, in the new avenues in St. Louis and elsewhere. One millionaire's house is modeled on a French château, another on an old Colonial house in Virginia, another on a monastery in Mexico, another is like an Italian palazzo. And their imitations are never weak or pretentious. The architects in America seem to me to be far more able than ours, or else they have a freer hand and more money. It is sad to remember that Mr. Stanford White was one of the best of these splendid architects.

It was Stanford White with Saint-Gaudens--that great sculptor, whose work dignifies nearly all the great cities in America--who had most to do with the Exhibition buildings of the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. It was odd to see that fair dream city rising out of the lake, so far more beautiful in its fleeting beauty than the Chicago of the stock-yards and the Pit which had provided the money for its beauty. The millionaires did not interfere with the artists at all. They gave their thousands--and stood aside. The result was one of the loveliest things conceivable. Saint-Gaudens and the rest did their work as well as though the buildings were to endure for centuries instead of being burned in a year to save the trouble of pulling down! The World's Fair always recalled to me the story of Michael Angelo, who carved a figure in snow which, says the chronicler who saw it, "was superb."

Saint-Gaudens gave me a cast of his medallion of Bastien-Lepage, and wrote to a friend of mine that "Bastien had 'le coeur au métier.' So has Miss Terry, and I will place that saying in the frame that is to replace the present unsatisfactory one." He was very fastidious about this frame, and took such a lot of trouble to get it right. It must have been very irritating to Saint-Gaudens when he fell a victim to that extraordinary official puritanism which sometimes exercises a petty censorship over works of art in America. The medal that he made for the World's Fair was rejected at Washington because it had on it a beautiful little nude figure of a boy holding an olive branch, emblematical of young America. I think a commonplace wreath and some lettering were substituted.

Saint-Gaudens did the fine bas-relief of Robert Louis Stevenson which was chosen for the monument in St. Gile's Cathedral, Edinburgh. He gave my daughter a medallion cast from this, because he knew that she was a great lover of Stevenson. The bas-relief was dedicated to his friend Joe Evans. I knew Saint-Gaudens first through Joe Evans, an artist who, while he lived, was to me and to my daughter the dearest of all in America. His character was so fine and noble--his nature so perfect. Many were the birthday cards he did for me, original in design, beautiful in execution. Whatever he did he put the best of himself into it. I wrote to my daughter soon after his death:--

"I heard on Saturday that our dear Joe Evans is dangerously ill. Yesterday came the worst news. Joe was not happy, but he was just heroic, and this world wasn't half good enough for him. I keep on getting letters about him. He seems to have been so glad to die. It was like a child's funeral, I am told, and all his American friends seem to have been here--Saint-Gaudens, Taber, etc. A poem about the dear fellow by Mr. Gilder has one very good line in which he says the grave 'might snatch a brightness from his presence there.' I thought that was very happy, the love of light and gladness being the most remarkable thing about him, the dear sad Joe."

Robert Taber, dear, and rather sad too, was a great friend of Joe's. They both came to me first in the shape of a little book in which was inscribed, "Never anything can be amiss when simpleness and duty tender it." "Upon this hint I spake," the book began. It was all the work of a few boys and girls who from the gallery of the Star Theater, New York, had watched Irving's productions and learned to love him and me. Joe Evans had done a lovely picture by way of frontispiece of a group of eager heads hanging over the gallery's edge, his own and Taber's among them. Eventually Taber came to England and acted with Henry Irving in "Peter the Great" and other plays.

Like his friend Joe, he too was heroic. His health was bad and his life none too happy--but he struggled on. His career was cut short by consumption, and he died in the Adirondacks in 1904.

I cannot speak of all my friends in America, or anywhere, for the matter of that, individually. My personal friends are so many, and they are all wonderful--wonderfully staunch to me! I have "tried" them so, and they have never given me up as a bad job.

My first friends of all in America were Mr. Bayard, afterwards the American Ambassador in London, and his sister, Mrs. Benoni Lockwood, her husband and their children. Now after all these years they are still my friends, and I can hope for none better to the end.

William Winter, poet, critic and exquisite man, was one of the first to write of Henry with whole-hearted appreciation. But all the criticism in America, favorable and unfavorable, surprised us by the scholarly knowledge it displayed. In Chicago the notices were worthy of the Temps or the Journal des Débats. There was no attempt to force the personality of the writer into the foreground nor to write a style that should attract attention to the critic and leave the thing criticized to take care of itself. William Winter, and, of late years, Allan Dale, have had their personalities associated with their criticisms, but they are exceptions. Curiously enough the art of acting appears to bore most dramatic critics, the very people who might be expected to be interested in it. The American critics, however, at the time of our early visits, were keenly interested, and showed it by their observation of many points which our English critics had passed over. For instance, writing of "Much Ado about Nothing," one of the Americans said of Henry in the Church Scene that "something of him as a subtle interpreter of doubtful situations was exquisitely shown in the early part of this fine scene by his suspicion of Don John--felt by him alone, and expressed only by a quick covert look, but a look so full of intelligence as to proclaim him a sharer in the secret with his audience."

"Wherein does the superiority lie?" wrote another critic in comparing our productions with those which had been seen in America up to 1884. "Not in the amount of money expended, but in the amount of brains;--in the artistic intelligence and careful and earnest pains with which every detail is studied and worked out. Nor is there any reason why Mr. Irving or any other foreigner should have a monopoly of either intelligence or pains. They are common property, and one man's money can buy them as well as another's. The defect in the American manager's policy heretofore has been that he has squandered his money upon high salaries for a few of his actors and costly, because unintelligent, expenditure for mere dazzle and show."

William Winter soon became a great personal friend of ours, and visited us in England. He was one of the few sad people I met in America. He could have sat upon the ground and told "sad stories of the deaths of kings" with the best. He was very familiar with the poetry of the immediate past--Cowper, Coleridge, Gray, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and the rest. He liked us, so everything we did was right to him. He could not help being guided entirely by his feelings. If he disliked a thing, he had no use for it. Some men can say, "I hate this play, but of its kind it is admirable." Willie Winter could never take that unemotional point of view. In England he loved going to see graveyards, and knew where every poet was buried.

His children came to stay with me in London. When we were all coming home from the theater one night after "Faust" (the year must have been 1886) I said to little Willie:

"Well, what do you think of the play?"

"Oh my!" said he, "it takes the cake."

"Takes the cake!" said his little sister scornfully, "it takes the ice-cream!"

"Won't you give me a kiss?" said Henry to the same young miss one night. "No, I won't with all that blue stuff on your face." (He was made up for Mephistopheles.) Then, after a pause, "But why--why don't you take it!" She was only five years old at the time!

I love the American papers, especially the Sunday ones, although they do weigh nearly half a ton! As for the interviewers, I never cease to marvel at their cleverness. I tell them nothing, and the next day I read their "story" and find that I have said the most brilliant things! The following delightful "skit" on one of these interviews suggested itself to my clever friend Miss Aimée Lowther:--



"Yes, I know that I am very charming," said Miss Ellen Terry, "a perfectly delightful creature, a Queen of Hearts, a regular witch!" she added thoughtfully, at the same time projecting a pip of the orange she was chewing, with inimitable grace and accurate aim into


"You know, at all events, that you have charm?" I said.

"What do you think, you idiot! I exercise absolute power over my audiences--I cast over them an irresistible spell--I do with them what I will.... I am omnipotent, enthralling--and no wonder!"

I looked at her across the table, wondering at so much simple modesty.

"But feeling your power, you must often be tempted to experiment with it," I ventured.

"Yes, now and then I am," replied Miss Terry. "Once, I remember, when I was to appear as Ophelia, on making my entrance and seeing the audience waiting breathlessly--as they always do--for what I was going to do next, I said to myself, 'You silly fools, you shall have a treat to-night--I will give you something you will appreciate more than Shakespeare!' Hastily slipping on a


which I always carry in my pocket, I struck an attitude, and then turned


"Ah! the applause, the delirious, intoxicating applause! That night I felt my power, that night I knew that I had wished I could have held them indefinitely! But I am only one of several gifted beings on the stage who are blessed with this mysterious quality. Dan Leno, Herbert Campbell, and Little Tich all have it. Dan Leno, in particular, rivets the attention of his audience by his entrancing by-play, even when he doesn't speak. And yet it is


precisely that does it."

At that moment Miss Terry's little grandchild, who was playing about the room,


most dismally.

"Here is a little maid who was a charmer from her cradle," said the delightful actress, picking up the child and


it out of the third-floor window. Seeing me look relieved, though somewhat surprised, she said merrily: "I have plenty more of them at home, and they are


every one of them! If you want to be charming you must be natural--I always am. Even in my cradle I was


And now, please go. Your conversation bores me inexpressibly, and your countenance, which is at once vacuous and singularly plain, disagrees with me thoroughly. Go! or I shall


So saying the great actress gave me a


which landed me outside her room, considerably shaken, and entirely under the spell of her matchless charm.

* * * * *

For "quite a while" during the first tour I stayed in Washington with my friend Miss Olive Seward, and all the servants of that delightful household were colored. This was my first introduction to the negroes, whose presence more than anything else in the country, makes America seem foreign to European eyes. They are more sharply divided into high and low types than white people, and are not in the least alike in their types. It is safe to call any colored man "George." They all love it, perhaps because of George Washington, and most of them are really named George. I never met such perfect service as they can give. Some of them are delightful. The beautiful, full voice of the "darkey" is so attractive, so soothing, and they are so deft and gentle. Some of the women are beautiful, and all the young appeared to me to be well-formed. As for the babies! I washed two or three little piccaninnies when I was in the South, and the way they rolled their gorgeous eyes at me was "too cute," which means in British-English "fascinating."

At the Washington house, the servants danced a cake-walk for me--the colored cook, a magnificent type, who "took the cake," saying, "that was because I chose a good handsome boy to dance with, Missie."

They sang too. Their voices were beautiful--with such illimitable power, yet as sweet as treacle.

The little page-boy had a pet of a wooly head. Henry once gave him a tip--"fee," as they call it in America--and said: "There, that's for a new wig when this one is worn out," gently pulling the astrakhan-like hair. The tip would have bought him many wigs, I think!

"Why, Uncle Tom, how your face shines to-night!" said my hostess to one of the very old servants.

"Yes, Missie, glycerine and rose-water, Missie!"

He had taken some from her dressing-table to shine up his face in honor of me! A shiny complexion is considered to be a great beauty among the negroes! The dear old man! He was very bent and very old; and looked like one of the logs that he used to bring in for the fire--a log from some hoary, lichened tree whose life was long since past. He would produce a pin from his head when you wanted one; he had them stuck in his pad of white wooly hair: "Always handy then, Missie," he would say.

"Ask them to sing 'Sweet Violets,' Uncle Tom."

He was acting as a sort of master of the ceremonies at the entertainment the servants were giving me.

"Don't think they know dat, Miss Olly."

"Why, I heard them singing it the other night!" And she hummed the tune.

"Oh, dat was 'Sweet Vio-letts,' Miss Olly!"

Washington was the first city I had seen in America where the people did not hurry, and where the social life did not seem entirely the work of women. The men asserted themselves here as something more than machines in the background untiringly turning out the dollars, while their wives and daughters give luncheons and teas at which only women are present.

Beautifully as the women dress, they talk very little about clothes. I was much struck by their culture--by the evidences that they had read far more and developed a more fastidious taste than most young Englishwomen. Yet it is all mixed up with extraordinary naïveté. The vivacity, the appearance, at least, of reality, the animation, the energy of American women delighted me. They are very sympathetic, too, in spite of a certain callousness which comes of regarding everything in life, even love, as "lots of fun." I did not think that they, or the men either, had much natural sense of beauty. They admire beauty in a curious way through their intellect. Nearly every American girl has a cast of the winged Victory of the Louvre in her room. She makes it a point of her education to admire it.

There! I am beginning to generalize--the very thing I was resolute to avoid. How silly to generalize about a country which embraces such extremes of climate as the sharp winters of Boston and New York and the warm winds of Florida which blow through palms and orange groves!