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Nebraska State Journal


9 December 1894
page 4

AS YOU LIKE IT.

There has been a good deal of excitement lately over Mr. Nat Goodwin and his future career Mr. Goodwin's successful work as David Garrick stirred up the dear old classicists who are forever trying to force every young man of promise into classic comedy. Mr. Barron , the talented and eminently just critic on the Inter Ocean , has fallen into a bad habit of discovering genius. He has laid genius up against Mr. Goodwin and declares that he has given the American publio a pledge which he must redeem; that the seal of greatness is upon him and that he must begin to fast and pray and play Shakespeare . Now, why in the name of the sacred nine should Mr. Goodwin play Shakespeare? Just because he is a thoroughly modern spirit, because by personal tastes and sympathy he is peculiarly fitted to represent one of the most amusing, if not one of the most elevating phases of modern American society, why should he be relegated to the shades of classic comedy? Mr. Goodwin has no particular love for Shakespeare and he is honest enough to admit it. His literary tastes are not much above Bell's life. He belongs to the rapid, sporty set of young men who have more vivacity than brains and he is the artistic exponent of his class. This is no discredit to Mr. Goodwin. He is to be respected because he has recognized his limitation and has not essayed Orlando or Bob Acres . In his sphere Mr. Goodwin is an artist. The American public has need for him and love for him. It is true that he can only impersonate one type, but that type happens to be very much in vogue. All his ac ing is strongly colored by his own personality, but he belongs to a clan that is a very real part of American life and that has a strong influence in the moulding of American society, and it has a right to a representative in the great legislature of art. Mr. Goodwin represents it on the stage very much as Mr. Richard Harding Davis does in literature, and he does it just as well. There is no reason why Mr. Goodwin should draw a long face and confine himself to hardtack and congress water to become an indifferent impersonator of classic roles. If only the dear critics would permit a man to be great in his own way and the way nature intended for him. Most of us would be rather sorry to see Mr. Goodwin a better man than he is or even a more serious actor, for it would unfit him for just the class of work that no other man can do so well. He has his sphere, a sphere of human interest, and he fills it well. In art that means success. He is not a perfect workman, and never will be. He jumps from pathos to comedy, where a man of finer grain would glide so subtlely that you could never tell just where the transition took place. But the public does not demand perfect work; it only asks for something that every other actor cannot do. Mr. Goodwin has the rare gift of reaching out to the people and appealing to them, and he can delight you a whole long evening so thoroughly that you almost forget that his art is not of the highest kind, for it is not.

          

Of course the highest kind of art, whether in comedy or tragedy, is that which has lofty types and conceptions back of it, which is elevated by high artistic sincerity, warmed by a genuine love for all things human, stimulated by some great belief. The highest kind of comedy is at bottom wholly serious it is only comic in its demonstration. Crane's impersonation of Brother John is a pretty good sample of the higher comedy, and it is still fresh in the minds of Lincoln people. Brother John is a perfectly serious man; his life and actions are staid and serious. At heart he is a sentimentalist, but his way of explaining it is comical; what he says in perfect seriousness seems comical to other people. That is what makes the best comedy in real life. The people who are professional jesters, who never have a serious thought, soon pall on us. It is the very serious people who are unconsciously funny, who make drawing room life somewhat less of a burden. It is when our callers have no sense of comedy at all, when they take themselves and the universe in the highest seriousness and never intentionally say a funny thing that we sometimes have to bite our lips o prevent our laughter. It is the same thing in literature. The youthful lover of David Copperfield and Arthur Pendennis, esq. , are only funny because they were so desperately serious. The unniest man we know is a man whose lie is one long, noble self sacrifice to his mother and sister, but who insists upon discussing his "temperament" and "soul' every time we meet him. The highet kind of comedy is that which at the same moment makes us want to cry a little and laugh a great deal. That is the comedy that has heart in it. It always has that little shadow of pathos in the background and we feel it and reverence, even while we laugh. We all remember the way Brother John hugged Bobby and afterward wiped his eyes with a red handkerchief. The genuineness, the warm humanness of that awkward embrace made a good many of us misty about the eyes. That embrace was as far beyond Mr. Goodwin as Hamlet is. We remember the way Brother John went into the ball room and cried, "Put out those lights; stop that music!" It is the occasional assertion of the character and seriousness within that relieves and elevates comedy. Contrast, rightly usd, gives the tone and shading to every artistic creation. It is the laughter and reckless gaiety that makes the first act of "Camille" so horribly pathetic, the seriousness of the poor inventor that makes "The Poor Relation" so funny. [printing error]

[Editorial note: Due to an apparent printing error, there is a gap of an unknown amount of text at this spot.]

          

sides at Wichita, Kas. He is not a particularly good man, he frequently covets his neighbor's property and sometimes appropriates it. His one redeeming feature is that he goes to the theatre. A few nights ago he was hanging around the hotel baggage room and saw some large packages marked "Jane Coombs Co. Theatre." Thinking they might be that actress' diamonds he carried them off. On opening them he discovered that they contained 2,000 bill board portraits of Jane Combs . Any body who has had the doubtful pleasure of beholding Miss Coombs will sympathize with the thief and decide that in this case his punishment was greater than his sin.

          

If Miss Lillian Russel's talent was as great as her temper Melba and Calve would not be in the ring all all. Hitherto her general disagreeableness has been reserved for her managers and husbands, but now her fellow players are coming in for their share, and she has even succeeded in disturbing the smiling good nature of Jessie Bartlett Davis . Mrs. Davis' new part, Idalia , in "Prince Ananias" has been three times married and divorced. The situation of course suggested Lillian and some mischievous reporter relieved the dullness of his "copy" by saying that she imitated Miss Russell in her costumes and manner. Miss Russell apparently retains childlike faith in newspapers and when she read that one great was her wrath. She cut out the slip and pasted it on a sheet of notepaper, wrote beneath it in a somewhat nervous hand "Thanks, awfully," and sent it to Mrs. Davis. Mrs. Davis was justly angry. She wrote an indignant letter to Miss Russell telling her that whn she descended to imitation she would at least choose a loftier model. That opened up a correspondence between the two fair dames, who are playing at theatres just across the street from each other. If the letters were published they would be spicy reading. Mrs. Davis is a good natured little woman when she is let alone and is heartily sorry for it all now, but Miss Russell continues sulky.

          

The odious "living picture" craze had run its course in New York and was dying out. People had tired of them as they tire of everything—even wickedness. The evil of the exhibition was gone, for their popularity had died out. About a week ago some very good ladies, lacking someting to do, having neither husbands nor children nor enough literary clubs to employ their time, organized a crusade against "living pictures." They wrote long articles for the newspapers and they made public speeches. Now two weeks ago the "living picture" business was a losing one. People had forgotten that they were entrancingly wicked and only remembered that they were stupid and uninteresting and had quit going to see them. Last week they appeared to crowded houses and are making money. It is a pity. "Living pictures" are indecent and senseless and a grotesque travesty on the paintings they claim to represent. Their influence is evil and is unmodified by any kind of good or any wholesome pleasure. When they were dead it was too bad to revive them. Very often in this world evil is its own doom and carries its own death with it. As Napolean once said the person who made the universe was clever, whoever he was. Who ever made human nature understood his business. There are so many seeming paradoxes in human society that will explain and rectify themselves if the reformer would only give them time. The planets continue to travel in their appointed courses without assistance, and so would human society if reformers would not attempt to hurry nature and to aid providence. For every ill in human life God made a cure, and it would all work out right some day if the reformer will only let it.



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