Mr. Richard Mansfield and company played "Beau Brummell" to a fair house at the Lansing last night. Sometimes, after seeing a play which has attained such a degree of perfection that it may be truly called a work of art, a part of art's self, the feeling steals over one that it is commonplace and impertinent to make laudatory remarks about it. It is easy enough to bestow gentle and encouraging words upon negative performances, but to work like Mansfield's impersonation of Beau Brummell common admiration seems unworthy incense. Mr. Mansfield's acting last night was far above the understanding of the majority of his audience. It is a sad tendency among Lincoln playgoers to measure an actor's greatness by the strength of his voice. Mr. Mansfield is one of the few actors who do not use their voices very much. He does not have to, he can make the silences speak. His Beau Brummell is a masterpiece of fine toning and shading. There are no sensational climaxes that show up like great dashes of color. The whole creation is like a picture in soft color, whose strength and delicacy is not easily appreciated by an untrained eye. A character like Beau Brummell takes one into the sharps and flats and intricate modulations of art. It is not easy to give a role foolishness and foppishness and with them elegance and manliness. In some way Mr. Mansfield always makes one side of his nature suggest the other. When he is manicuring his nails one always feels that he can do something better because he does that so well, and when he sacrifices his love and prosperity it seems perfectly natural that he should brush the dust from his sleeve while he does it. The thing that ennobles Mansfield's Beau and makes him more than a cad or a fop is the wonderful preservation of the type. There is never a suggestion of affectation, or of assuming airs, because he never drops them. He is the same elegant gentleman to himself and to his own mirror, one knows that he even sleeps with elegance and grace. If it is a role he never drops it and he wears the mask starving. It is not the cheap bourgeoisie elegance that is pinned on and laced on and tied on with strings; it fits him as easily and lightly as his own skin. His foppery is his personality. If Beau were a coal heaver he would be Beau still, would handle his coal gracefully and never blacken his hands. It was the preservation of the type that made the last two acts so pathetic. The highest kind of nobleness is when a type can survive the things that seem necessary to it, when a man can be lord of an attic as though he were lord of a manor and be luxurious without luxury. It is this strange, consistent correctness that makes him burn the letters which would blast the reputation of men and women have deserted him, and keep his honor as immaculate as his hands. It is unnecessary to mention the great points in Mr. Mansfield's presentation, their variety and delicacy was infinite, like modulations in music. No "Cardinal Woolsey's Farewell to Power" was ever more touching than Beau Brummell's reception to the snuff box that the king did not notice.
Of the company little need be said. They were like Beau Brummell's wardrobe, correct and sufficient in every way. Mr. D.H. Harkins as the Prince of Wales was especially good, and he had a sort of air about him that reminded one of Thackera's essays on the Georges .
Richard Mansfield: Richard Mansfield (1857-1907) was the son of soprano Erminia Rudersdorff, and grandson of violinist Joseph Rudersdorff. His start on the stage came in light opera, including character roles in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance. Mansfield came to America in 1882 and joined Palmer's Union Square Theatre company, making his success as an aging roué in A Parisian Romance (1883). His title roles as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1887 further increased his reputation, which was never simply that of a leading man or romantic hero; he played Richard III and Cyrano de Bergerac and Beau Brummell along with more conventional roles. His early success enabled him to form his own company, and as a manager he was noted for lavish and meticulous staging—sometimes financially successful and sometimes disastrous. He was one of the first to produce George Bernard Shaw's plays in America, playing the anti-hero Bluntschli in Arms and the Man in 1894 and Dick Dudgeon in The Devil's Disciple in 1897. Mansfield was a serious student of acting, and was one of the most important actors of his time, though a minority of critics felt he was unsuited for some of the parts he played. He married his leading woman, Beatrice Cameron (1868-1940), in 1892.
Beau Brummell: Clyde Fitch's play, Beau Brummell (1890), was based loosely on the life of the English dandy, George Bryan Brummell (1778-1840). In the play Brummell, the arbiter of society during the Regency, incurs the enmity of the Prince of Wales and is forced to flee to France. He falls into dire poverty, but retains the fastidiousness that marked him in his prosperity, and his sense of honor: he refuses to allow the woman he loves to throw away her life for him, and refuses to make use of the compromising letters that had been written to him.Richard Mansfield had the idea for a play based on Brummell's life, and found the relatively unknown Fitch to write it. The play became an important part of Mansfield's repertory, one of his famous roles, and set Fitch on a prolific and successful career as a playwright. The play was made into a movie in 1924, with John Barrymore and Mary Astor, and again in 1954, with Stewart Granger and Elizabeth Taylor.
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.
Beau Brummell: George Bryan Brummell (1778-1840) was of middle-class origins, but a brief time at Oxford and in the army gave him the contacts to make his entrée into aristocratic society of the Regency. His wit and particularly his exquisite taste in dress, which gave him the nickname "Beau," made him an arbiter of fashion. (He insisted on perfect cleanliness, bringing the idea of a daily bath into society, perfect tailoring, and long trousers instead of knee breeches.) The Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and then George IV) had been Brummell's patron at the outset of his career, but the two eventually fell out; this, along with Brummell's huge debts, compelled him to flee to France in 1816 to avoid imprisonment. He spent the remainder of his life in poverty, dying at last in an insane asylum.
Cardinal Woolsey's Farewell to Power: In Act III, scene ii, of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, the enemies of Henry's chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, betray his opposition to Henry's divorce and marriage to Anne Boleyn, as well as the extent to which Wolsey has enriched himself in office. When Henry sends Norfold and Surrey to demand the return of the great seal of the chancellorship, Wolsey soliloquizes: So farewell to the little good you bear me.Farewell! a long farewell, to all my greatness!This is the state of man: to-day he puts forthThe tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms,And bears his blushing honours thick upon him;The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surelyHis greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,And then he falls, as I do. I have ventured,Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,This many summers in a sea of glory,But far beyond my depth: my high-blown prideAt length broke under me and now has left me,Weary and old with service, to the mercyOf a rude stream, that must for ever hide me.Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye:I feel my heart new open'd. O, how wretchedIs that poor man that hangs on princes' favours!There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to,That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,More pangs and fears than wars or women have: And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,Never to hope again.
Mr. D. H. Harkins: Beginning in 1870, actor D. H. Harkins had a long career on the New York stage, sometimes appearing in two or three plays a year. He was known as a tragedian, though chiefly in supporting roles. He began appearing with Richard Mansfield's company in the early 1890s.
Prince of Wales: The eldest son of George III, George Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales (1762-1830), became Prince Regent in 1811 when his father's insanity became permanent, and king in 1820 when George III died. After an early, invalid marriage to a commoner, the Prince of Wales married a German princess, Caroline of Brunswick; the two separated after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte (1796-1817). The prince was extravagant and, according to some, dissolute, but he was a patron of the arts, particularly of architect John Nash, who designed Regent Street and Regent's Park in London, and the exotic Royal Pavilion at Brighton.
Thackeray: William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), English novelist and essayist, was born in India, and educated in England. He lost the fortune he had inherited from his father as a young man, and became a professional journalist. The serial publication of his most famous novel, Vanity Fair (1847-48), set in Regency England during the Napoleonic wars, established him as an author. It was followed by another historical novel, Henry Esmond (1852), the semi-autobiographical Pendennis (1848), and The Newcomes (1855). He was also a successful lecturer, touring the United States with talks that would later become The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century (1853) and The Four Georges (1860). He founded the Cornhill Magazine in 1860 and was its editor until his death.
The Georges: The Four Georges: Sketches of Manners, Morals, Court and Town Life 1860) was published in 1860, but the material was originally given as lectures during a tour of the U.S. in 1855.