The JOURNAL'S "ardent and talented" dramatic critic has been receiving a good deal of kindly advice from equally troublesome friends and foes, but has not yet lost as much sleep over it as might be expected. Written personalities are as unworthy of retort as spoken ones, and for the same reason that men who use them are not gentlemen and cannot be approached as such. They cannot be appealed to, for they have no standards of either good taste or good breeding. The only one of these attacks that had either dignity or fairness or literary tone enough to make it answerable was one entitled "Clara Morris and Her School," in last Sunday's JOURNAL, in which the same unfortunate critic was handled with gentle and kindly irony along with Clara Morris and Miss Craigen and Carlyle and Ruskin and several other people of more or less notoriety. For myself I have nothing to say, but I must ask respect for my little tin gods. It is a score of years too late to say that Clara Morris is not a great actress. Time and the world have decided otherwise. That she is past her prime no one denies, but she has done her work and she will go down in stage traditions as one of the greatest actors of all time. That she is no longer beautiful is also unfortunately true, but beauty is not an absolute essential in an emotional actress. As to Clara Morris ranting, she has too fine a sense of humor to make that possible. An actor only rants when he does not make the effort to control himself; after that effort is once made every inch that an actor's emotion overflows its barrier is his gain, it is just so much emotional power that conquers his physical strength and heightens and colors his intellectual conception. Clara Morris is undoubtedly a loud actress; she uses freely both noise and intensity; but she plays only loud and stormy roles. She has never offended public taste by shouting the lines of Juliet, nor sobbing those of Marie Stuart. She has never even attempted to portray refined characters on the stage. She plays roles that are altogether outside of the drawing room atmosphere and utterly devoid of drawing room manners. She has always impersonated women who live harder, love harder, hate harder and die harder than the women of our world. She is coarse grained mentally and spiritually. She dresses gaudily and in bad taste. She is rather awkward; her favorite literature is the heavy, massive school of Tolstoian realism. Like George Sand she has the temperament of an unbalanced woman and the imagination of a great artist. Of Clara Morris' "school" I do not approve. Sometimes in art there can be no "school," but only an individual. A school of Kipling would be tiresome, but Rudyard himself is very otherwise. It is not every actress whom the world will allow to weep and gag Morris fashion, but in her case it is so great and so genuine that even William Winter, the follower of Ada Rehan , the devotee of "suppression," says of her with humble reverence: "All that I can say of her is that she is surpassingly great."
The curse of every school and phase of modern art is the guild of drawing room critics; critics who sneer at the great and powerful, and adore the clever and the dainty. They refuse to read any thing more stimulating than Howells' parlor farces, and to hear any play more moving than "The Rivals." This race of critics has declared Ruskin and Wagner and Turner and Modjeska blasé and have taken unto themselves new gods in the very airy and fragile shapes of Whistler and Jerome K. Jerome and De Koven and Julia Marlowe . They take the books that look well on their tables; the music that is not too loud for their parlors; the pictures that hang well on their walls; the actresses who most gracefully adorn their receptions, and say, "This is art, and these are artists; everything else is overdrawn, coarse, stagey, unnatural." It is no new phase of criticism for people with a poverty of emotion and imagination to say that everything more pronounced is overdrawn and unnatural. Whatever they cannot feel they claim is beyond the range of human feeling, and whatever they have not experienced they claim is beyond the limit of human experience. These critics have had a wonderful effect upon the authors and playwrights of the Nineteenth century. A playwright cannot write without presenting emotions any more than a painter can paint without laying colors. The world in which playwrights are born has no emotions; it furnishes its parlors in dull grays and cold blues and has society and guests to match. Following the creed of realism, the playwright can no longer create knights and ladies, but tells of the things that are. Artists of every nation have escaped from the chilling atmosphere of their own world, and have gone to the so-called crust of society for types which at least have the all redeeming virtue of sincerity. The greatest play that has been written to amuse society is "Camille;" the greatest book that has been written to instruct it is "Anna Kerenina." One would think Mephistopheles' sides would ache with merriment over the satire of it.
However, the parlor people have a right to run their parlor world the way they want to, but let them leave the stage world alone. On the stage let people love and hate each other to the death. Your driveling lover and hater are not worth an actor's exertions. On the stage friendship must be something more than "intellectual sympathy;" hatred something fiercer than a lack of affinity. Make your own world as moderate and proper and conventional as you wish, but behind the footlights let people love with kisses and suffer with tears.
The author of "Clara Morris and Her School" states that "the ardent and talented dramatic critic on THE JOURNAL suggests that Maida Craigen is following in the footsteps of Clara Morris; if this be so, would that the young actress would pause, for in that way lies deserved oblivion." Now even a dramatic critic may rightly demand and expect justice and the truth. The truth is that Clara Morris' name was only mentioned once in connection with Miss Craigen, and then it was not to "suggest" a similarity, but to emphasize a difference. The sentence ran as follows: "Her work in the insane scene is not so finished as that of the great Clara, but neither was it so painful. It is a question just how far realism ought to go in stage insanity; perhaps Morris might be better with a little less, Miss Craigen with a little more." I that language is obscure I will say that on seeing Miss Craigen the third time in the "Duel," I was convinced that her acting of insanity was less repulsive and heartrending and more effective and artistic. A critic suffers enough indignities without that of direct misquotation.
The author of "Clara Morris and Her School" evidently debased Clara Morris to exalt Julia Marlowe. That is fair enough; we all do it. Never are we so zealous and tireless in idol breaking as when we have some new idol of our own that we want everybody to worship. But in blind worship this devotee has not considered Marlowe as Juliet, but Juliet as Marlowe. I do not deny that Julia Marlowe can play Marlowe and play it beautifully. Someone has said that if Shakespeare were alive he would write Marlowe for Julia to act. Juliet was certainly the most girlish of Shakespeare's heroines, but she is more than a girl. No one can read the "Gallop apace" scene (scene 2, act 3) and say that Shakespeare did not mean Juliet to be a woman. Great love and girlhood cannot exist together. "Modjeska is stagey when compared to Julia Marlowe;" well, that is a doubtful compliment to Marlowe. "She (Marlowe) is altogether piquant and charming;" the final word of doom to any great artist. One could not breathe that fatal word "charming" anywhere near even the pictures of Siddons, Modjeska, Rachel, or Bernhardt . In literature, painting or acting charmingness means agreeable mediocrity. Miss Marlowe's admirer goes on, "The present writer would be honored and delighted to know her. I think this a final test." Not at all. Most of us remember the first time the woman as an actress spoke to us and made us feel that she was something more than a professional. Most of us know that feeling which sometimes creeps to us across the footlights and makes us long to know and love a human personality behind them. This is a final test of womanhood, perhaps, but not of art. Very few of the world's great artists have been desirable acquaintances. I would ask no greater boon of heaven than to sit and watch Sarah Bernhardt night after night, but heaven preserve me from any very intimate relations with her.
Hermann , the magician, once met his match and thus pleasantly tells how an innocent looking young man cleverly outwitted him:
"We were at a private room in a hotel one evening, and there I met some friends, and was introduced to a simple looking youth of the dude persuasion, whose face was as vacant in expression as a pound of putty. This youth had been bragging of his powers as a poker player, and had made the others so tired that they whispered to me to take the conceit out of him for the fun there was in it. I was ready and we sat down. Well, when we began the games I allowed the youngster to win in order to get him interested; and the better to enjoy the circus, the others dropped out, and my victim and I had the table to ourselves. Of course I was to give back whatever I won from him — that was understood. We made the game a quarter ante and a dollar limit, so that we could use money without making any awkward change. Every time my callow friend won a pot he put the silver and bills in his pocket and would chip in the money as he needed it. After he had won a respectable pile, I began to get my work in, and, by handling and dealing the cards in my own peculiar way I soon had his pile considerably diminished. Occasionally I would let him win, just to keep the fun up; and I don't know but I enjoyed my opponent's innocence as much as did my friends. But all things must have an end. Finally I cleaned him out, much to his surprise; and then my friends could not keep it in any longer.
" 'I say, old man,' said one, 'do you know with whom you've been playing?'
" 'Yes,' replied my victim calmly, 'Herrmann, the magician, and he's a good player.'
"This was somewhat of a surprise all around. But I laughed and handed him back the money I had won. He wouldn't take it. No, sir. Said I had won it; had he won mine he would have kept it, and under no circumstances would he take it back; that was not his way of playing poker. It was no use for me to protest and tell him that I had deliberately robbed him. He was sorry that he had got in with a man who didn't play a square game, but said it was his lookout; he ought to have seen that he was being fleeced, and with his eyes wide open, too, but he was not the man to squeal.
"I tell you I felt mean. I did not think it half so funny as I did before. But all I could do or say made no impression on my victim, and, with a dignified bow, he left us.
" 'All I can do,' I said to one of my friends, 'will be to give this money to some charitable institution.' Then I gave the waiter one of the bills I had won to pay for some wine. He came back with it and the information that it was a counterfeit. Yes, sir, that guileless youth had won my good money and rung in over a hundred dollars, worth of paper on me that wasn't worth a cent a pound. I'm pretty good on handling cards, but poker is a very uncertain game — very uncertain."
A new star has been discovered who will one day take the place of some of the many great luminaries who are waking. Her name is Olga Nethersole and she has been playing in "The Transgressor" in London. It is said that even the London public is quite excited over her, and that is saying a great deal. London don't often get excited. She is playing in an exceedingly weak and unpopular play, but even that does not seem to count against her. The plot recalls slightly "Jane Eyre." Mr. Eric Langley's wife had been in a madhouse for many years. He met Miss Sylvia Woodville , a modern woman, an educated, independent, high spirited young woman, and he loved her. She felt the strength of the love the melancholy widower (so he was supposed to be) gave her. She loved him and wished to bring happiness to him. He, poor creature, was jealous of a curate and asked Sylvia to consent to a secret marriage. She did so. He asked her down to his place as a guest. The curate was there, and Sylvia, finding it unpleasant, besought her husband to declare their marriage. This scene is pronounced beautiful and womanly. He refused, giving no reason, and soon, accidentally, Sylvia learned the truth. Then follows the great scene, the acting which makes the critics hail this young woman as the coming actress.
It comes in a flash — the knowledge that she has been deceived: that her idol is unworthy.
"And there she stands — stiff, stricken, listening, paralyzed and petrified. You can feel the woman getting cold. You can hear her shiver. You can see how the distracted brain is reeling, how the world seems tottering under her feet. She is blanched, she is pale as death; her features are hidiously distorted with the mental pain. The beautiful woman has become positively ugly with grief."
Into this anguish surged the thought of how she loved him. Her "come to me" is the great point in the play. She was so strong, her love was so protecting. She comforted him, she strengthened him, and the play ends with Eric Langley giving himself up to be punished for the crime of bigamy, with the knowledge that Sylvia's love will always be his; that she will always be waiting for him.
Mediocrity is of all things the most hopeless. In every profession the conscientious, painstaking people who can never be anything more than good are to be pitied. That is what is the matter with Lewis Morrison. He is fairly good. To be an actor that must be the most exasperating of all things. One can never get out of it or rise above it. There is no known means by which one can pass out of the carefully imitating sphere into the creative. Mr. Morrison stops just where elocution ends and acting begins. He is a very much better and more gentlemanly actor than Keene and he is not so offensive. Yet once and a while through all Keene's barn-storming there is a ring of genuineness which Morrison lacks. Mr. Keene might have made a good actor, but he has sold himself for the beloved dollar of his country. He has aimed too high, not at a star, but just three flights up. He has lost his head, not in the clouds, but in the third gallery. When an artist forces the public to take him at his own worth and with his own standard the public resents violently for a while, but in the end it worships, for what the public wants is new standards and new types. But if an actor panders to their taste he gets only a cap and bells for his crown of fame. The public likes a man who is larger than it is and who will not be belittled.
The London Theatre has had the heroism to say that though Daly's "Twelfth Night" is very well, Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" is not a playable play. That it lacks action and interest and is out of date and out of touch with modern audiences. However that may be, surely the plot of "Twelfth Night" is a little old. Twins have had their day in dramatic literature. As a rule they are not very interesting and they are no better because there are two of them. From the days of Plautus to the days of Pinafore playwrights seem to have had a most unconquerable impulse to "mix those children up."
Miss Arlington is fragile, pallid and intense. She lives in the clouds, has premonitions and can feel no happiness in the loyal affection, handsome rent roll, title and political celebrity of Lord Dewsberry, her robustious fiancé. Moreover, she suffers from disturbing memories. One is of her father, an adventurous explorer in Thibet, good news of whom is now almost past praying for. The other is of a love passage in Calcutta years ago. Its nature is soon learned. While singing — very prettily and touchingly — in the glow of a saffron sunset, a visitor glides stealthily into the darkened room. It is her rejected Eurasian lover of long ago. He bears a different name, is now a shining light of the sham theosophists and is there to work out a vile revenge for her (not undeserved) past disdain.
He knows that Colonel Arlington lives, and to lure the impressionable girl into his net proposes to use that knowledge in a startling way. With the help of a rather too obvious Russian adventuress, a famous theosophist, also a guest of the earl's, a séance is given, during which a vision of the missing traveller is by a trick made to appear to skeptics and believers alike immediately prior to the arrival of a telegram from the explorer himself announcing his safety and return. This cruel jugglery is merely the first step, however, in Phillip Woodville's scheme. Since Miss Arlington will not and cannot marry him he resolves that she shall marry no one else. To this end he employs his hypnotic influence over her as Joseph Balsamo used his over Lorenza in Dumas' "Memoirs of a Physician." From his quarters in the turret room at the dead of night he wills the poor girl to leave her bed and come to him. Obedient to the summons her white-robed figure glides along the terrace and enters his room. In hypnotic sleep, again like Balsamo's victims, she avows her love for Woodville. But her virginal presence calms his passion. Her avowal of love disarms him. His better nature is aroused, and he awakes her only to soothe her wild fears and confess his whole course of treachery and baseness. This confession, strong in his resolve to make amends, he repeats next morning to his host and fellow guests, as did Mr. H. A. Jones' Judah before him. But his ignominious departure for his native land does not take place before Miss Arlington has let him know that his remorse and atonement have brought her happiness, not sorrow, and that eagerly she will look for his return when the new life just begun has completely effaced the old.
Of course the play is risky and exaggerated, but Mr. Tree's acting is enough to save a much poorer play. Woodville's character is so interestingly drawn, and above all this hypnotic Hindoo is so superbly played by Mr. Tree that no amount of criticism of this kind can diminish the effect of the piece. Full of "picture," glowing with color, the drama is an admirable composition of memorable scenes, and in the hands of other actors would no doubt be impressive enough. But Mr. Tree, most cleverly assisted by Mrs. Tree, makes far more of it than that. The romantic glamour they cast over the well-poised, skilfully contrasted central figure is a very triumph of imagination and skill. Their handling of the third act — the dangerous scene of the sleep walking and Woodville's startling volte-face is quite masterly. On the one hand the suggestion of turbulent passion beneath an almost unruffled exterior, the throes of moral anguish, the bitterness of the man's voluntary humiliation; on the other, the impression of girlish innocence, of childlike fear, of touching indifference to her own peril in the face of her lover's shame, could hardly have been more simply or more powerfully conveyed. Indeed, Mr. Tree's impassive, dignified oriental, sparing of gesture but lavish of facial play, commanding in manner and look, sallow and sleek, with raven hair and strange lustrous eyes, must rank with the most striking creations which even he has accomplished.
Richard Mansfield leaves for England next month.
The New York papers are rather down on Stuart Robson and don't scruple to say so.
In spite of the "violent abuse" of American newspapers Mrs. Kendal will return next season to scorn Americans, but not their ducats.
Realism may congratulate itself. Lincoln J. Carter has produced a new melodrama, with a dissecting room scene in which the hero comes near cutting up the heroine by mistake.
A serpentine dancer now performs in a lion's den in London and comes forth daily without harm and "no manner of hurt is found on her." This is certainly a very modern version of Daniel, but no doubt the lions enjoy it fully as much as they did the original Daniel episode.
Madame Janet Patey was stricken with paralysis while singing on the stage in Sheffield, England. She was considered the best contralto singer in England. The immediate cause of her death is said to be excitement from the intense applause she had just received when she fell. It is not permitted to many actors to die that way.
At a recent dinner in the Imperial hotel, Jessie Bartlett Davis placed at the plates of her twenty guests pencil sketches on cards of each from memory and when they filed into the dining room they were requested to select their places by identifying their portraits. It was a compliment to Miss Davis' artistic ability that no confusion followed.
Miss Julia Marlowe a few weeks ago read a paper on actors and acting before the Kansas City high school. The youthful audience was so carried away that they made a perfect stampede for the stage and all insisted upon shaking Miss Marlowe's hand. If Miss Marlowe should read a paper in Lincoln we are not at all sure that her many admirers here would be satisfied with shaking her hand.
L. W. Washburn and Dave B. Levis will produce "Lost in Egypt," a spectacular melodrama next season. A street parade, with camels, dromedaries, Arabian horses, donkeys and a troupe of Soudanese Arabs in native costumes, together with a uniformed band, are among the features. The scenery, costumes and printing will be entirely new and the time has been all filled in the best houses.
January 21 Miss Olive May married Henry Guy Carleton, the author of "Butterflies," in which Miss May has made such a great success. Miss May and Mr. Carleton first met two years ago when she was playing in the "Henrietta." Mrs. Carleton will remain in Mr. Drew's company until the close of the season. After that she may appear occasionally in New York in productions of her husband's plays.
Robert Cutler, well known to the theatrical profession as the originator of much of the stage mechanism seen in "Superba," "Fantasma" and other spectacles, has been in Washington, D. C., for several days. In conjunction with Schrode Brothers, the clowns, he has composed a spectacle to be known as "The White Cat." The piece is a pantomime and is filled with new mechanical effects, the invention of Mr. Cutler, whose business in that city is to patent his devices.
The following notice is from the New York Clipper: Among the people engaged for the summer season at the Lincoln Park theatre, Lincoln, are O. D. Woodward and wife, Kate Woods Fiske, Minnie Dehn, Robert F. Parkinson, Ferd Phillip Sites, Dave Seymour, Harry C. Long and Will Davis. The company is being organized by Pressley B. French, and is under his management. He will do his own leads. The season opens June 10 and continues eleven weeks, two plays being presented each week. Arrangements are being made for a presentation of Mr. Parkinson's plays, "Two Americans," and "The Man in Black."