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Nebraska State Journal

11 November 1894
page 13


The trumpets of fame, when they are loud enough, are sometimes heard even in Lincoln.  Of course many good actors come and go in the east whom we never hear of out here.  But almost everyone has heard of Olga Nethersole , the young English actress who has made the New York critics revile each other and call each other uncomplimentary names.  One week ago last Monday night Miss Nethersole appeared in "Camille," and the wheezy old fish horns of fame set up set such a clatter that the echo has reached us even here.  "Camille" is to the modern drama what "Romeo and Juliet" is to the older; it is the test which mercilessly and unerringly divides talent from genius.


Miss Nethersole is of a nation which is not productive of great tragediennes.  Her nationality is heavily, heavily against her.  She comes from a country that is shut out from the sun's face all the year around by clinging clouds of wet mist.  A country where society is entirely formal, where coldness is esteemed a virtue among women, and where demonstrativeness is almost a crime.  It may be highly to Miss Nethersole's credit that she "is an Englishman," but it is certainly a disadvantage to her art.  However, nationality is not always fatal.  It influences and limits physique, character, temperament, talent—everything but genius.  If Miss Nethersole can either rise above or sink below the conventional standards of her country's art, she is indeed a great actress.  I have noted with pleasure that in one thing all her critics are unanimous in lavish and enthusiastic praise of her first act.  They say that in abandon, in recklessness, in the touch of pitiful bravado which characterizes Bohemia, in the true demi monde idea of Dumas , in the hundred details of that first act she is unsurpassed.  If Miss Nethersole is really powerful, realistic, original in that first act, she has genius, and God has been very good to the English stage.  In her case that act is the crucial test even more than the more powerful ones which follow.  Any woman with great talent, great feeling and great earnestness could not fail to be moving in the third and fourth acts.  After the first act Camille is a woman, like other women who loves.  But if Miss Nethersole can play the Camille of the first act, can overcome her traditions, nationality, instincts, and be thoroughly and entirely a French coquet and a woman of the demi monde of Paris, then she has the ability to take unto herself the spirit of all times and lands, the power to "live in all lives that are and love in all loves that be."  Let us hope that in this instance the critics are right, that Miss Nethersole is all this, and that the world is richer by one genius more, for with all its splendor and magnificence this world would be very poor were it not for the memory of its great.


One of the amusing features of literary Lincoln is the "exclusiveness" of some of the private libraries.  There are quite a number of educated and seemingly cultured people who are fortunate enough to possess large libraries and who boast that among all their books there is not one novel.  Now, back in the days of the Puritan papas of Plymouth that condition of things may have indicated culture, but at present it savors very much of narrowness and pedantry.  It is almost laughable in this century, when the best talent has almost all gone into the novel, that people should be ashamed to put Meredith or Balzac on their book shelves.  It seems that illustrated books are considered frivolous and that ponderous volumes with formidable bindings and uncut edges and paper labels are the correct thing.  Libraries should be only exhibition rooms filled with matter to impress the beholder with the rigid intellectuality of the family.  As a rule these people, like their libraries, have more prose and poetry in their lives and they are generally unillustrated, in very formidable bindings, with rough and uncut edges and paper labels of a very assertive character.  Yet many of these same people, who talk like the data of ethics, who dance like the origin of species, who wear their hats in a holy Roman empire sort of way, will go down to the city library and draw out the works of Mary J. Holmes and Augusta J. Evans and read them with gusto and delight. 


Town Topics is fond of discovering anything new, from scandals down.  Its latest discovery is a poet, presumably a female, one with the suggestive nom de plume of Bliss Carmen .  In a lengthy and enthusiastic review of this poet's works, the "Journal of Society" neglects to say whether it is to a man or woman that the world owes the seraphic and sapphic productions called "Songs of the Sea Children."   Here is one of them: I was the west wind over the garden, Out of the twilit marve and deep: You were the sultry langourous flower, Famished and filled and laid to sleep. I was the rover bee, and you— With the red-hot mouth where a soul might drown, And the buoyant soul where a man might swim—  You were the blossom that sucked me down.

This is certainly very wonderful poetry, but there are a few incongruities.  In the first place we object to a mouth where anything could drown, and our souls at least would not care to be fluttering about a mouth of such proportions.  Even Clara Morris' mouth is not so bad as that.  The next line is still more wonderful.  Poets, long ere this, have been bathed in smiles and laved in tears, but swimming in souls is a privilege which has hitherto been denied erring humanity.


Of all the malicious and contemptible slanders that have emanated from the clergy, one of the most disgraceful was set afloat in Sioux City last Sunday by Rev. D. Jenkins of that city.  Pauline Hall was billed to appear there that night in "Dorcas," and the reverend doctor, who objected to Sunday amusement, set out to prevent her.  When everything else failed he resorted to the press and published an article in which he stated that "the character of Pauline Hall is such as to prevent respectable women from associating with or meeting her in a social way, and she certainly is not a woman that men should go to see at a Sunday performance.  I take it that the show is of the 'Black Crook' order, as she belongs to the gang."

Of course the assault was as ineffectual as it was cowardly and the only result was that there was not standing room in the theatre that night.  Just where the reverend doctor got his information concerning Miss Hall's character it is hard to say.  The world and the profession have always considered her one of the best and kindest little women who ever made blue people merry.  Socially and artistically Miss Hall has been noted for her delicacy of speech and charm of manner.  The most sensational newspapers, the blackest blackmailing sheets have never dared to utter a word against her character.  It was left for a minister of the gospel to do that.  It is strange that this minister should know objectionable things about Miss Hall which other people do not.  If her reputation and honor were not above question and suspicion, this divine would appear in rather a bad light. 


This is the second time this year that the pulpit has been disgraced by men who fill it unworthily.  The first time it was by a gentleman who had, as he supposed, Mrs. Potter and Mr. Bellew in his church and proceeded to publicly insult them.  Fortunately the supposed stars were only a couple of specialty people who had respect enough for their calling to get up and leave the church in the midst of the minister's tirade.  But in so far as the minister was concerned, the assault was just as coarse and just as brutal as though Mrs. Potter had been before him.  If she had indeed been there, it would have been a great opportunity for a good minister, and he would have prayed before he entered his pulpit that morning, prayed that there might be given to him some word, some look whose tenderness should melt through the stony defiance which this woman had wrapped about her against the world.  He might not have changed her, but he might have touched her, and it would have been much to have brought back one holy thought to a mind that had forgotten holy things.  Instead of this, he arose, one miserable human puppet, one contemptible, sinning man, and tried to revoke Christ's edict of salvation, tried to scourge this sinning woman from the sanctuary which the Son of God died to build for sin.  And yet this man calls himself a follower of Christ, of the Christ who wandered the length and breadth of Palestine to find one soul who had lost its way, never heeding the ninety and nine circumspect sheep who lay demurely in the fold. 


And all this recalls what an emotional actress, who is considered better as an artist than a woman, said as she was hurridly dressing for her next act one night when a visitor who happened to present laughed a little at the silver crucifix which hung around her neck: "Yes," she said simply, "I go to church because I need the church more than other women who are better than I, and I am a Catholic because the Catholic church is the only church into which one can take sin."  And it has been always.  Whatever else the Church of Rome has been, or has not been, it has never been afraid of evil.  It has not stood back and watched the fray; it has gone right to the front where the battle is fought and has offered hope and comfort to those who had got the worst of it.  Rome knows humanity so well.  It has forgiven so many sins through so many centuries; it has heard the confessions of kings and peasants and montebanks, and it knows so well how wicked and miserable humanity really is.  It has been cruel, but it has also been tender; it has deceived, but it has also comforted.


The Chicago newspapers are greatly agitated over Felix Morris' new play, "Behind the Scenes," and where it came from.  They remark vaguely that it has been played before, but not much was known about it.  On the contrary it was successful enough to be played in three languages.  The original title of the play was "La Debutante" and it came from France, where the majority of good plays come from.  Then it was translated into German and played in Germany under the title "Der Vater der Debuetantin."   In England and the United States it was played as "The First Night."  Later it was remodelled by E. L. Southern and played with great success under the title, "The Crushed Tragedian."   Mow Mr. Morris calls it "Behind the Scenes."


If anyone is inclined to doubt the fact that Napolean was considerable of a fellow, the late Napoleonic revival certainly proves to the contrary.  Bonaparte had ceased to interest the practical world and had become pretty much of a myth to everyone except school boys, when suddenly he becomes a potent, living reality again.  All the magazines and newspapers are full of him, Richard Mansfield and Madam Rhea are playing him and all the painters in Paris are painting idealizations of him.  Fame has its regular orbit and it comes and goes in cycles.  Napoleon will always have his worshippers.  This planet has a great and overwhelming respect for any man who is able to play football with it and has always enjoyed being "taken in."


The renewal of enthusiasm is perfectly natural in France; indeed enthusiasm never dies there.  The French have the most remarkable talent for embalming their great and trotting their mummies out to every feast.  France is the most adoring of nations.  It arises at 7 and says early mass to Moliere until 10, then worships Victor Hugo until noon.  Then it bows at the shrine of Balzac and Racine and Dumas until night, then it goes into the theatre and worships a ballet dancer until morning. 


"As Mr. Booth once said to me," began the faded leacing man, as he brushed his battered silk hat carefully with the sleeve of his coat.  Heavens! what talker he must have been, the great Edwin.  One cannot meet a comedian, a trapeze performer, a clog dancer, a horizontal bar artist who does not preface his remarks by that phrase, "As Mr. Booth once said to me."  Booth was beloved for his genial kindness toward others and lesser members of his profession, but really if he held long conversations on art and ethics with every rope walker in the country it is hard to see where he ever found time to study his parts. 


One of the most civilizing things that has been instituted at the state university for some time is the series of student's recitals.  These informal recitals are given in the university chapel every Friday afternoon at 4 o'clock, and are open to any one interested in music.  This ought to have a very beneficial effect upon the raw students "just in" from the country who have never heard any better music than the dulcet strains of "Marching Through Georgia" performed by a country band on the Fourth of July.  If the students attend these recitals regularly it would not be surprising if they should have a better and more civilizing influence on them than a good many of their classes.  The process of education is mostly one of civilization anyway; of cultivating other needs and other pleasures than those of eating and sleeping, and music will do this about as quickly as sodium chloride or the iota subscript.  If it were not profane I should almost say it would do it quicker.


It is peculiar how church music leaves its stamp.  A singer who sings anthems will never sing anything else quite as it ought to be sung.  There is always that peculiar "churchiness" of tone and that immobility of feature.  He may sing other music correctly enough, but his love songs will always savor of "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates," and his death songs of "As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be."  Put a church choir into an opera and every chorus will be an anthent.


It may be highly necessary for so cultured and elegant a sheet as Vanity Fair to be published in a community, but there are some features about the manner of the distribution which are not necessary.  It is uncalled for to have little boys who are scarcely out of kilts vending literature of that sort about the streets.  Some of the prettiest little fellows in Lincoln, not over six years old and in their first trousers, trot up and down every Saturday with those aesthetic rose-colored bundles under their arms.  Whatever may be the rights of grown men in the matter of being as tough as they please, every child ought to have, say ten years of blissful ignorance of the contemptible character of the world about him.  He will have ample opportunity to learn all about it after he is ten years old.  If he knows very much about it before he will never be very brilliant in anything, even in evil.  It is not well to begin the classical education for "all around toughness" too young.