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Nebraska State Journal


April 15, 1894
page 13

Between the Acts

Drawing of the words "Between the Acts" with a theater box, curtains, and figures.

It is too bad that romantic ideals can never last in this world. The most un-matter of fact personage on the stage has been Elenora Duse . She was so white and distant and delicate that she hardly seemed a thing of clay, but someone apart engrossed wholly by art and consumption. The latest dispatches from Rome say that she stopped there on her way to Naples, and that she is fat and florid and has begun to lace and has to make up for her death scene in "Camille." German cabbages evidently agreed with the signora.

          

Among her many talents, Mrs. Kendal seems to have a remarkable faculty of calling forth the personal dislike and spleen of the public. As a rule the public accepts or rejects an actress or an artist, admires or dislikes her, as a woman, but it is seldom moved to strong personal feeling over her. The dislike of Mrs. Kendal seems to be universal, from her chambermaid to the people who sit in the largest boxes. The hotel people do not like her, all the dramatic critic in the country cordially detest her, and even photographers refuse to take her pictures because she is so hard to please.

          

Probably very few of the ardent admirers of Watts, the great English artist, or of Ellen Terry , the Shakespearean actress, know that in their youth those two tried to worship art and each other at the same time. The fact is Watts was the first of Miss Terry's many husbands. They were both very young at the time and had very little money and very large enthusiasm. They went, of course, to Italy. Love and consumption always go to Italy. They lived in Florence, and they both liked Royhead and they both liked Shakespeare and they fancied they liked each other. It was idyllic while it lasted, but it could not last long. The end came about in this way. One day Mr. Watts had a dinner for his gentlemen friends and Miss Terry was not to appear. But Miss Terry was not then the sober Shakespearified artist she is now, and she got very much bored waiting around upstairs all alone. She dressed up in her tights and adorned herself as cupid and went down into the dining room and danced for her husband and his friends. Mr. Watts was as near a Bohemian as an Englishman ever gets to be, but his pride and his sense of propriety never got over the shock.

          

Gilbert & Sullivan's new opera "Utopia Limited, or the Flowers of Progress," is being played at the Broadway theatre in New York with only moderate success. The general opinion is that the satire is overdone. The story tells of a certain King Paramount , the dusky ruler of an island in the south Pacific, who, having heard of the greatness and power of England, is desirous of remodeling the institutions of his kingdom and making its manners, customs, laws and dress conform to the English model. He is, however, embarrassed by the limitations put upon his power, he being under the necessity of acting in accordance with the wishes of two ministers of state, who practically control his acts. Should he displease these two magnates they have the power to denounce him to a dreadful functionary, the public exploder, whose duty will then be to blow him up with dynamite. These ministers compel him to write articles for the publication known as the Palace Peeper, in which, over various signatures, he is made to describe himself as a monster of immorality, and they likewise have compelled him to write a comic opera in which he is sadly travestied. The king in his state of perplexity is eagerly awaiting the return of his daughter, the Princess Zara , who has been educated in England, and is a model of learning, virtue and culture. His two other daughters have been educated at home by an English governess upon the strictest principles. Zara returns, bringing with her as exponents and exemplars of British institutions a lord chamberlain, a naval captain, a company promotor, a queen's counsel, a country councillor, and a Captain Fitzbattleaxe of the First Life guards, with an escort from that regiment. These are "the flowers of progress," the types of the highest civilization the world has ever known, and with the efficient aid the princess hopes that the regeneration of her native land may be speedily accomplished. The company promotor soon evolves a scheme by which the government of the land is committed not to an individual, but to a company, "Utopia Limited." The English visitors are installed in office, much to the discontent and disgust of the king's former ministers. King Paramount is, however, delighted, and desires to celebrate the new era by court ceremonies, among them being a state council and drawing room. The council is convened and conducted upon the plan of a minstrel entertainment in which the several ministers play upon various musical instruments and the king acts as interlocutor. His majesty has, however, a suspicion that the affair is possibly not exactly in perfect form, but is reassured by his new ministers that councils in England are conduced in precisely this fashion. In the meanwhile Princess Zara and Captain Fitzbattleaxe have mutually fallen in love, and everything wears the rose tinted hues of prosperity and success. Beneath the surface, however, the caldron of discontent is simmering. The people are not satisfied with the new era of prosperity and happiness. Those who trade upon the follies and vices of mankind have no field of labor. Prisons and workhouses are empty, the doctors have, in a double sense, lost their patients, speculators and financiers are idle, and in order to prevent a threatened revolt the princess suggests that there is one English institution, hitherto not copied in this regenerated kingdom, that will set all matters right, and that is party government. Anxious to avert the threatened danger, the king at once adopts the system. Thereupon his late ministers wish to denounce him to the public exploder, but he defies them and calls their attention to the fact that they no longer have to deal with an individual, but with a company, to the board of directors of which he flippantly refers them. He bestows the hand of the Princess Zara upon Captain Fitzbattleaxe, his two other daughters likewise find English husbands, and the king proposes to the governess, for whom he has long cherished affection and whose ready assent is scarcely audible amid the din of the jubilant chorus of the multitude.

          

The story of "She" tells of the queen of the land of the Amhaggar, a warlike race of swarthy cannibals, whose territory was confined within the great crater of an extinct volcano located in an unexplored section of the interior of Africa. The outsides of this mountain were too precipitous to be scaled even by wild animals. Their place of abode was therefore only accessible by a secret underground route familiar to but few of the race and totally unknown to the foreign world. Between the mountain and the sea there existed a deadly swamp that reeked with a poisonous atmosphere and was invested with repulsive and venomous reptiles. "She" was a woman of surprising beauty, who had attained the incredible age of 6,800 years at the time of appalling death. During her maidenhood she discovered the fountain of life, a flaming bath that possessed the great vital force of nature. In this living vapor she had bathed and the result was her perennial beauty was well nigh eternal life. Leo Vincey , her last adorer, was the sixty-eighth lineal descendant of Kallikrates, a former lover whom she had slain in the year 339 B. C., because he would not return her passion. It was Leo's extraordinary resemblance to the murdered man that led her to believe that Leo was but Kallikrates born over again. She sought to atone for the death she had visited upon Kallikrates, centuries ago, by claiming Leo for her spouse, and endeavoring to confer upon him, through the living bath, that almost immortality that she herself had acquired by the same means. But this ambition ended fatally to her, for the mysterious fire almost instantly shriveled up her form, obliterating her remarkable loveliness, and reduced her to the hideous condition of a mummy. Horace Holly had been Leo's guardian since the latter's fifth year. The boy's mother had been dead three years when his father, entrusting him to Holly's care, ended his own life by poison. The suicide bequeathed to Holly a strong iron box which was not to be opened until Leo had attained his twenty-fifth year. On that day the box was duly opened and the contents disclosed a curious ancient parchment bearing the record of sundry futile exertions on the part of Leo's ancestors, one after the other, to seek out the woman She, and slay her for killing Kallikrates, the original source of the family. But it was first essential to learn the secret of She's indefinite life. It was now Leo's turn to take up the avenging sword of the family name that generation after generation had hopelessly or else irresolutely handled or indifferently neglected. Forthwith Leo accepted the hallowed challenge that came to him from ages back, and persuaded his guardian to accompany him. They accordingly sailed from England to the African coast and then continued their journey in an Arabian dhow. The dhow was wrecked and its little crew and passengers were, by a singular coincidence, cast ashore on the very headland, bearing the huge face of a negro, referred to in the ancient parchment. The party were taken prisoners by a body of Amhaggar, and conveyed inland across the fatal swamp to the hidden land within the crater. After the succession of all ventures shown in the early part of the play, they are conducted before She. It was in the course of this judgement that she recognized in Leo the Kallikrates whose life she had so jealously sacrificed over 2,000 years ago. Here follows the love episode between She and Leo and the final incident of the fatal bath. The curtain falls on the death of She.



Notes

Go back Eleonora Duse: Eleonora Duse (1859-1924) was born into an impoverished Italian acting family and began performing at an early age; when her mother became ill, Duse had to take over her roles. Her first success was as Juliet in 1873, though her career did not take off until 1879, after performing in Zola's Thérèse Raquin. She toured Italy and by 1885 was acclaimed as Italy's greatest living actress. After a tour in South America, Duse formed her own company in 1886, with a large repertoire ranging from classical and contemporary French drama to Shakespeare and Ibsen. She met with great success in Paris, where she was considered Bernhardt's only rival. In 1893 Duse came to the U.S., where the restraint and naturalism of her style (for many years she wore no makeup on stage) were also acclaimed. She became the type of the actress who subsumes herself in her art. Her health was fragile, and she retired from the stage in 1911, returning to it in 1921; she toured Europe and then the U. S. in 1923. She collapsed and died in Pittsburgh in April 1924; her body lay in state there and then was taken to be buried in Asolo, Italy.

Duse became known for her love affairs, both with men and (perhaps lesser known at the time) with women. She was married to actor Teobaldo Checchi in 1881, with whom she had a daughter; they were divorced in 1885 after an affair with another actor. The most famous affair was a tempestuous one with Italian poet and playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio, whom she met in 1895; he wrote several verse dramas for her.

Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Eleonora Duse Eleonora Duse

Go back Camille: The English play Camille is based on the play La Dame aux camélias (1852), based on the novel (1848) by Alexandre Dumas the younger (1824-1895). In the play, Armand Duval, a poor young man of a good family, falls in love with a famous courtesan, Camille (named Marguerite Gautier in the original). Skeptical of his love at first, she comes to return it and the two retire to an idyllic life in the country. However, Armand's father comes to her and begs her to set Armand free for the sake of his reputation and for the marriage chances of Armand's young sister. Camille pretends to be tired of Armand and returns to Paris and her old life. She is, however, dying of tuberculosis, and the two are reunited before her death. The role of Camille was also a favorite of Sarah Bernhardt and many other tragic actresses.

Verdi's opera La Traviata (1853) is based on the story of Camille, and the play has been made into films as well, notably one starring Greta Garbo (1936).

Go back Kendals: Madge (née Margaret Robertson) Kendal (1849-1935) was born in an established English theatrical family (her brother Tom Robertson was a well known playwright), and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1929. Her husband, William Hunter Kendal (1843-1917) was less celebrated than his wife; as a shrewd actor manager, he produced plays to showcase his wife.

Go back Watts: British painter George Frederick Watts (1817-1904) was born in London, son of a piano maker and tuner. He won a prize for an historical picture that enabled him to study in Italy from 1843 to 1847. Back in England he became an influence on the Pre-Raphaelites, though he was not one of them. He specialized in historical and allegorical subjects, often on a large scale, though he produced fine portraits and landscapes as well. Some of his later works are symbolic, sometimes approaching the abstract, as he sought to embody a synthesis of spiritual and scientific (Darwinian) ideas. Many of his paintings, such as Hope (1885) and Sir Galahad (1862), were frequently reproduced. In 1864 Watts married the sixteen-year-old actress Ellen Terry; he was forty-seven. She eloped a year later, and their divorce was finalized in 1877. In 1886 he married Mary Fraser Tytler, who was thirty-six years younger than he; she was devoted to Watts and his work, and to his reputation after his death.

Go back Ellen Terry: Ellen Terry (1847-1928), considered the greatest nineteenth century English actress, was born in a theatrical family and went on stage as a child, performing mostly in provincial theaters. She met painter George Frederick Watts, who painted her and her sister Kate as The Sisters in 1862; they were married in 1864, when she was sixteen. The marriage lasted less than a year; Terry returned to the stage, appearing for the first time with Henry Irving in The Taming of the Shrew in 1867. The following year she left the stage again to live with architect Edward Goodwin, by whom she had a daughter, Edith Craig, and a son, Edward Gordon Craig. The relationship with Goodwin was breaking up when Terry returned to the stage in 1874. She made a great success as Portia in The Merchant of Venice in 1875, and by 1878 she was the leading lady in Henry Irving's company at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Their partnership lasted over twenty years, and their productions were particularly noted for lavish, historically based productions of Shakespeare, as well as modern plays. The Lyceum company broke up in 1902; thereafter Terry managed her own theater for a time, then toured England and the U.S. doing lecture-recitals of Shakespeare. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1925. Terry published her memoirs, The Story of My Life, in 1908. She was married three times: to Watts; to actor Charles Kelly (Wardell) from 1878 until his death in 1885; and to an American actor, James Carew, twenty-three years her junior, from 1907-1909.

Go back Florence: Florence, Italy, was a favorite destination for British artists.

Go back Royhead: As yet, "Royhead" has not been identified.

Go back Gilbert: W. S. (William Schwenck) Gilbert (1836-1911) was born in London, but spent much of his youth abroad. After trying careers in government and the law, he turned his comic talents to journalism. His first play was produced in 1863, and over the next decade he wrote librettos for many burlesques and operettas, as well as farces, adaptations of French plays and of novels for the stage. His first collaboration with composer Arthur Sullivan was Thespis (1871), followed by the more successful Trial by Jury (1875). Gilbert's witty, satirical librettos and Sullivan's witty, infectious music made for a series of international hits: H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1880), Patience (1881), Iolanthe (1882), Princess Ida (1884), The Mikado (1885), Ruddigore (1887), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), and The Gondoliers (1889), all still performed. Both men grew tired of what had become a formula, and their last collaborations, Utopia, Limited (1893) and The Grand Duke (1896), were less successful. Gilbert went into retirement, where he continued to write in different veins: his last play, The Hooligan (1911), was a short grim study of a condemned man. He was knighted in 1907.Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Go back Sullivan's: Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) was born in London, and showed his musical talents very early, mastering musical instruments and composing his first anthem at the age of eight. He won a number of scholarships to study music abroad; at the age of twenty he became famous as the composer of the "Tempest," becoming, over the next ten years, Britain's leading serious composer. Among his various choral works, he wrote the music for many hymns such as "Onward, Christian Soldiers," "Rock of Ages," "Nearer, My God to Thee," and "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night." In the mid-1860s, Sullivan collaborated with F. C. Burnand on several comic operas, the best known of which is Cox and Box (1866). His collaboration with W.S. Gilbert began in 1871 with Thespis, and was at first sporadic. Despite Sullivan's chronic ill-health, the two turned out a string of hits that are still popular: H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1880), Patience (1881), Iolanthe (1882), Princess Ida (1884), The Mikado (1885), Ruddigore (1887), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), and The Gondoliers (1889). Sullivan was knighted in 1883.

Go back "Utopia Limited, or the Flowers of Progress,": Utopia, Limited, or The Flowers of Progress, opened October 7, 1893 at the Savoy Theatre, long the showcase for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in London. It ran for 245 performances, and was the second-to-last of their collaborations.

Go back King Paramount: The king of Utopia, a south Pacific island in Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia, Limited (1893). He wants all his people to adopt British customs and institutions. Nominally an absolute monarch, he is controlled by two Wise Men who have the power to have him exploded by the Public Exploder if he deviates from accepted customs.

Go back Princess Zara: The eldest daughter of King Paramount, the king of Utopia, a south Pacific island in Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia, Limited (1893). She returns from college in England with six representatives of British institutions, the "flowers of progress," to help reform her country.

Go back Captain Fitzbattleaxe: One of the "flowers of progress" whom Princess Zara brings from England in Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia, Limited, or The Flowers of Progress (1893).

Go back First Life guards: The first of two elite regiments of the British sovereign's household cavalry. In the nineteenth century the officers were drawn from the aristocracy.

Go back She: She: A History of Adventure (1887), by H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925), is a fantasy adventure novel set in Africa, where Ayesha ("She who must be obeyed") is the white queen of an African tribe in a mysterious, almost inaccessible land. She had fallen in love with an Egytian priest, Kallikrates, and killed him when he refused to leave his pregnant lover, Amenatas. When Kallikrates' descendant, Leo Vincey, finds Ayesha after many adventures, they fall in love; Ayesha, wanting to share the secret of her immortality with Leo, bathes in the Flame of Life, and is killed. Haggard wrote a sequel, Ayesha: The Return of She (1905) , and two prequels, Wisdom's Daughter (1923) and She and Allan (1921). This popular novel was made into a film many times, including an 1899 version by film pioneer George Mèliés, and versions in the U.S. and Europe in 1908, 1911, 1916, 1917, 1925, 1935 (with Randolph Scott), 1965, and 2001.

Go back queen of the land of the Amhaggar: Ayesha rules the fictional tribe of the Amahagger, some of whom are cannibals; she lives in the ruined mausoleum city of Kôr, an inaccessible part of an unexplored part of Africa.

Go back Leo: Leo Vincey is the foster son of Horace Holly, a Cambridge don, in H. Rider Haggard's She (1887). The two discover that Vincey is the descendant of Kallikrates, an Egyptian priest, and Amenartas, an Egyptian princess of two thousand years ago. Amenartas had charged her descendants with the task of avenging her lover's death, a task Vincey undertakes. However, he when he finds that his ancestor's killer is the beautiful and powerful Ayesha, he falls in love with her, and she with him, as she believes he is Kallikrates reincarnated.

Go back Kallikrates: In H. Rider Haggard's She (1887), Kallikrates, an Egyptian priest, was forced to flee Egypt with his lover, the princess Amenatas. He refused to leave to leave her even when Ayesha fell in love with him, and was killed. Ayesha has slept beside his mummified body ever since, waiting for his return.

Go back Horace Holly: Ludwig Horace Holly, a Cambridge don, is the narrator of H. Rider Haggard's adventure novel, She (1887). He and his foster son, Leo Vincey, and their servant, Job, go to Africa to find the killer of Vincey's ancestor, Kallikrates.


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