Barbour's dramatization of Rider Haggard's "She" was presented to a weary and yawning audience at the Lansing theatre last night. The play opened with a prologue in which the first Kallikrates , the "Original Jacobs" vascillated between the wily Egyptian and the Queen of Kor , and in which Anemerates stood pleading for the effervescent affections of her husband, who, when under Ayshea's charms, resembled butter that is subjected to the influence of solar rays. Finally the susceptible priest died from too much affection. The ladies, after a good deal of cursing, disappeared and at last the prologue was over. After an interval of one thousand four hundred and forty years the curtain rose again upon some very illegitimate and uncalled for comedy. When the reincarnation of Kallikrates appeared it was not hard to believe that he had lived for some hundreds of years. He showed traces of wear and looked as though after he quit the pulpit he spent most of his time acting in melodrama. Mr. Edwin Browne was an insufferable cad last night; in the prologue he was a Greek cad, in the drama he was an English cad, and he was a living illustration that cads are the same the world over. He was corpulent and stagy, he could not even read his lines intelligently. The lines Mr. Barbour meant to be funny this beefy Leo delivers in tones both tragic and tearful.
As to She herself, we saw very little of her. Because of the fearful and wonderful construction of the play she did not appear until the last part of the third act, when she did deign to grace the stage for a few moments. She was quite pretty—when she had her veil on. She likewise was utterly incapable of reading her lines. The only person in the cast who at all, either in make-up or acting, portrayed anything of Haggard's novel was Mr. Fred Summerfield as Horace Holly . He was not offensive. The whole performance was "one barren waste lit by no single star." One sat and longed for the Holdens and high art.
The play is as awful as the people who play it. All the good situations were left out and the unimportant ones made use of. The scene in the catacombs of Kor was omitted and the pot dance treated trivially. A dramatized novel is generally a thing to be feared and distrusted. In this play all the weird suggestions of unknown lands and peoples, of mystery and awful age, of reckless daring and of careless love which lend Mr. Haggard's book its charms are lost. The effect of the performance was to disgust one with the world and make one long for the time "When the Rudyards cease to Kipling, And the Haggards Ride no more."
Barbour's dramatization: No dramatization of Rider Haggard's Sheis listed in WorldCat. Perhaps Cather's comment in her April 22, 1894, column, that the dramatization was done by "an illiterate man" accounts for its failure to survive.
Rider Haggard: British writer H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) is best known for his tales of adventure set in places all over the globe. As a young man, he spent six years in southern Africa, first as secretary to a colonial governer, then as registrar to the High Court of the Transvaal. Returning to England in 1882, he studied for the bar, but spent most of his time writing. His first great success was King Solomon's Mines (1886), and its sequel, Allan Quatermain (1887), followed by She (1887); his novels were prototypes for what became the "lost world" genre of science fiction and fantasy. Haggard was a prolific writer, sometimes publishing three or four books a year until late in his life. In the early 1890s his recent books were Eric Brighteyes (1891), a Viking tale, Montezuma's Daughter (1893), and People of the Mist (1894).Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
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.
Lansing Theatre: The Lansing Theater, on the southwest corner of 13th and P Streets, was built in 1891, displacing the Funke Opera House as the largest and finest theater in Lincoln. The owners were J.F. Lansing (b. 1842), a Lincoln real estate man, and his brother-in-law Henry Oliver (b. 1857); Edward A. Church was the manager. According to the program of the opening week (November 23-28, 1891) the auditorium consisted of the orchestra and parquet seating on the main level, with dress circle at the rear and sides; three tiers of five boxes each and six loges were at the sides. Above were the balcony and the gallery. With standing room, about 2500 people could be present.
The building also housed offices, including that of Cather's friend and fellow reviewer, Dr. Julius H. Tyndale. It was renamed the Oliver Theater in 1898.
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.
wily Egyptian: Cleopatra; Fanny Davenport starred in Victorien Sardou's Cleopatra in 1890 and it became part of her repertory. The New York Times said her performance was marred by her "too majestic proportions."
Anemerates: The Egyptian princess Amenatas in H. Rider Haggard's She (1887). The Egyptian princess Amenatas flees Egypt with her lover, the priest Kallikrates, who is killed by Ayesha. Their descendant is Leo Vincey.
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.
"one barren waste lit by no single star.": This exact quotation has not been located. Cather ofter quoted (and sometimes misquoted) from memory: she may perhaps have been thinking of a phrase from "The City of Dreadful Night" (1870-74) by James Thomson (1834-82). In part IV, Thomson writes, "As I came through the desert: All was black,In heaven no single star, on earth no track."
The Holdens: The Holden Comedy Company was owned and managed by brothers Charley (1859-1925) and Harry (1867-1944) Holden, sons of William W. Holden. They were based in Rochester, Indiana, resting there during the summer and setting out to tour the central U.S. in the fall and winter. By 1900, they sent out two companies, managed by each of the brothers; by 1905 they had five companies. However, Charley went into movie theater management about that time, and Harry went into the movies, appearing in smaller and smaller roles in dozens of films between 1916 and 1938; he had a bit part as a guard in Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936).Other members of the company included Charley's wife, Maude McCain (1865-1946), and his sister and her husband, Ona and Ralph Ravenscroft. Silent film actress Clara Kimball Young was born in 1890 when her parents, Edward and Pauline Garratt Kimball, were actors with the Holden company. Marion Gibney, vaudeville actress in the 1920s, was once with the Holden company, and her father was their leading man for several years. A film actor named John Preston was also once part of the troupe.
scene in the catacombs of Kor was omitted: In chapter 16 of She, Ayesha shows Holly the catacombs where the bodies of the inhabitants had been preserved, even better than the Egyptians preserved their dead, for thousands of years; Holly notes particularly the body of a mother with her baby and a pair of young lovers, both with stab wounds, under the inscription, wedded in death. Ayesha also shows him the great pit where the unpreserved bodies of the last inhabitants of Kor had been thrown during the great pestilence that destroyed their civilization.
When the Rudyards cease to Kipling,/ And the Haggards Ride no more.: In the poem "Lapsus Calami" (1891), dedicated to "R.K.", James Kenneth Stephen (1859-1892), a cousin of Virginia Stephen Woolf, wrote:Will there never come a seasonWhich shall rid us from the curseOf a prose which knows no reasonAnd an unmelodious verse:When the world shall cease to wonderAt the genius of an Ass,And a boy's eccentric blunderShall not bring success to pass:When mankind shall be deliveredFrom the clash of magazines,And the inkstand shall be shiveredInto countless smithereens:When there stands a muzzled stripling,Mute, beside a muzzled bore:When the Rudyards cease from KiplingAnd the Haggards Ride no more.