There is a great mistake being made by certain warm adherents of the legitimate drama in trying to force every actor of prominence into Shakespeare and the classic comedies. Just as soon as an actor achieves a pronounced and signal success in modern drama, just as soon as he demonstrates his fitness to play the best productions of modern playwrights, his friends all straightway beseach him to take his Shakspearian degree. The question of Shakespearian productions is entirely one of fitness. No one doubts or disputes that Shakespeare was the greatest of all dramatists, but the world is not always ready for the best. Sophocles certainly wrote better plays than Henry Guy Carlton , but the greatest tragedian of France played "Antigone" and "Oedipus Rex" to empty houses in New York last winter. We can not always sing the old songs because they are the best, nor should we despise the new because they are not perfect. "Old order changeth, yielding place to new And God fulfills Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
The people of this century have a right to demand something that is close to them, something that touches their everyday life. The drama is not for nor supported by students of literature. No actor has been pre-eminently successful in Shakespearian roles since Booth , no actress since Anderson and Mather . Most of them have tried it, and after losing money and prestige have given it up with a sigh. People do not go to see "Twelfth Night" or "The Taming of the Shrew;" they go to see Julia Marlowe or, Ada Rehan with their great abundance of pretty costumes and stage settings. The old comedies grow old quicker than the old tragedies.
If Mr. Goodwin and Sol Smith Russell relegate themselves to classic comedy they will find that the public will gradually grow cold toward them. They will be respected more, perhaps, but certainly less beloved. Mr. Crane made the venture only a few weeks ago, but he found that he could never come as near to the hearts of the people in "Falstaff" as in "The Senator." Some way nowadays, coats of mail and iron breastplates seem to keep from us the living man beneath them. We do not want old wine in new bottles nor new wine in old bottles, we want the tragedy and comedy of life as we find it, in the clothes we wear and in the language we speak.
The Shakespearian people need not mourn. Wherever there is a great Shakespearian actor there will be a revival of Shakespeare. At present there are none, and it is folly to try to mould common clay into classic marbles.
It used to be "Sol Smith Russell in the "The Poor Relation;" now his card reads: "Mr. Russell as Dr. Pangloss ."
"Mr." sounds dignified, but there are thousands and thousands who like "Sol" better. It is not probable that Mr. Russell will ever be in classic comedy what he has been in the simple, homely roles that the people have laughed and cried over for ten years and more.
There is a new school of stage realism which undoubtedly rather startles even the most enthusiastic advocates of things realistic. Formerly a great deal of time and talent was expended in making the villains of melodrama, and clever actors labored assiduously to acquire the carriage, looks and speech of the bold, bad men who shake a mortgage in the face of the bankrupt fathers and pursue the daughters with their unwelcome attentions. Now, there is a much shorter and more expedient method. Stage managers simply import a villain from real life and trick is done. Today the rising school of art is that of Steve Brodie . John L. Sullivan . Jim Corbett , Duncan B. Harrison , Peter Jackson , Bob Fitzsimmons , Jim Root , Hunt, the train robber, Tom Gould, the bartender, Angelina Allen , Eva Ray Hamilton , Lowery, the crook, they are all there, and alas, some of them making money. Sometimes it looks as though the theatre were going to descend to the level of the old gladiatorial shows again. In that case any of us who are unfortunate enough to have any interest in it or any real love for it had better speedily transfer our affections elsewhere. Just now prize-ring training counts for more than a course in the most rigid dramatic school, and to have been in prison insures artistic success. It is useless to complain. The only thing to do is to have faith in humanity and wait. There must be a regulating power somewhere and it must take an interest even in the footlights at last.
The reason for this influx of rascals is simply this; two years ago actors were making money. Vagrants went on the stage for the same reason that vagrants went to the Cherokee strip, to get rich without work, by a turn of the hand to come[?] into the millions of Monte Christo . That is the dream of the vagrant's soul. Anyone who could get a play, a soubrette, a manager and an advance man went on the stage. These hard times are good for the real actors if they only knew it. The scarcity of money is bound to strand most of these combinations, which make every self-respecting professional blush for his profession. The vengeance of heaven is frequently tardy[?], but[?] it generally comes at last. The "Swanee River" company went to pieces in Beatrice, the "Derby Winner" is losing money steadily. Another hard year will do the stage more good than harm. True, some of the leading men may have to cut down their tailor bills and wear fewer neckties, but they can afford to endure some discomfort to rid[?] the stage of prize fighters and horse thieves[?]. The stage needs a financial [obscured] ais[?]. It has been soaring to a height of opulence that was never meant for it. There are too many men acting for money and too few for love. There must be a sort of last judgement in the box office in which the elect shall barely be saved. Even the wholesale cutting of salaries is not so bad a thing as it seems. It is not good for an actor to be rich, any more than to be courted by society. The salary cut will cool the ambition of young men who want to leave the counters and yardsticks for the cap and bells. Players have always been treated by society with something of contempt and their life has always been something of a vagabond's. For their own sakes it is fortunate that this is so. It would be better to have the conditions such in every art that a man must be willing to be poor and despised for its sake. Artist's lives would be freer from vanity and falseness, richer in creation and success.
"Yes," said Madame Helen von Doenhoff , of the Tavary opera company, as she bustled wildly about her dressing room, speaking of music in general, "to always want to sing, to be always young and in love, to keep up the enthusiasm, to sustain the ecstacy, that is what it means to be a singer. Of course Tavary and I are no more sixteen, but," as she gave her satin slipper an impatient toss, "art does not come at sixteen."
There are a large number of people who are fond of attributing a deep and hidden personal meaning to every paragraph in a newspaper. Now, when a newspaper paragraph is fortunate enough to have any meaning at all, it is very seldom personal. To be frank, most reporters and editors are very busy, much too busy to spend time digging individuals, unless the individuals chance to be no less persons than that of Edward E. Rosewater , or the governor elect. If reporters were guilty of all the sly and crafty malice with which they are accredited, they would be combinations of Richelieu and Louis XI . It is unwise to seek for hidden motives. If Susy or Sammy is omitted from the society column it is not because their grandfathers neglected to pay the editor's grandfather for a tallow candle, nor even because they forgot to pay their subscription. It is more likely that the reporter's memory was at fault, or that his information was not correct. If a silver tongued orator makes a two hours' speech and it is reported in ten lines it does not mean that the paper "has it in" for him, but that a newspaper has a great many things to look after and can not devote itself entirely to oratory. A paper's main object is to look out for itself, and not to mutilate people's feelings.
There is a new and very exquisite perfume called Lillian Russell . If one is fond of perfumes that quickly pass, let him invest in that brand and trust to the fickleness which the name suggests.
One interesting member of the Tavary opera company whose name did not appear upon the program is Madame. Tavary's little dog, Folie. He was given to her by the late Ludwig II. , king of Bavaria, and has been all over Europe three times and had adventures that could only fall to the lot of an opera singer's dog and confident. He is just about four inches long and madame invariably extends him to a stranger to be caressed. If you don't happen to fancy dogs and draw back she says, with pathetic seriousness, "Indeed he vill not bite." Madame Tavary always takes the dog and a novel to the theatre with her to amuse her between acts. She carries the dog and the maid her novel. Folie is well along in years now and cannot crack lumps of sugar soaked in brandy so well as he used to in the late king's day, nor go through all the antics that Tavary and his royal highness used to teach him. He has had a romantic history. He has known what it is to be a royal favorite and envied by all beholders. He was very intimately acquainted with his majesty, more so perhaps than anyone else except the favored prima donna herself. He knows all about royal whims and royal music and royal suppers laid for two. He knows more about Ludwig than all his biographers, and a large part of Bavarian history will die with his little tan dogship. He carries all the burden of state secrets and court intrigues still. When the king of Bavaria died all the old court favorites were scattered, Folie among them.
Now he travels about playing one night stands and sputtering over hotel brandy like any other operatic dog. He is not at all ambitious. He goes to the theatre and conscientiously performs his duty by amusing madame, but the brilliant part of his career closed when death put out the lights of the gay and reckless court of Ludwig. Folie regards that he has lived his life, this is only existence. He endures it because it is necessary to do so, and he would not care to leave madame to endure and remember alone.
Paris is now agitated over whether it shall decorate Bernhardt with the legion of honor. It is the most sensible agitation that Paris has had for some time. There are indeed a few who oppose it, but they are greatly in the minority. Their argument is that Bernhardt is great enough without a crown and is above such recognition. Artists are seldom above recognition. They are made with an abnormal craving for it. It is their grand passion, the supreme love of their lives. They can never have enough of it, for triumph is the one thing which does not grow stale. If it will be any pleasure to her, let Sarah have her crown. Who has done more for the art of France?
Last Sunday's World was even more strictly classic and conservative than usual. It devoted a column to a discussion of Frohman's new play, "The Masqueraders," and three columns to the description of the costumes. The World will soon have its dramatic criticism on the hang of a gown and the colors in a bonnet. The reputation of an actress will rest solely with her dresses, and the milliners and dressmakers will make a play or strand it.
As You Like It: Cather's column title is taken from that of Shakespeare's play, As You Like It (1600).
William Shakespeare: William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born in Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire, England. Documents of the time show his father, John Shakespeare, to have been a well-respected tradesman who held office in the town. His mother, Mary Arden, came from an old land-owning family. He was probably educated at the grammar school in Stratford; at the age of eighteen he married Anne Hathaway, by whom he had three children. Not until eight years later, in 1592, does his name start to appear connected with the London stage. By 1594 he was a part of the Lord Chamberlain's company, which by 1598 had their home at the Globe theater. His plays were successful with both the public and royalty, enabling Shakespeare to buy various properties in London and Stratford. He retired to Stratford about 1613, where he died.
Many anecdotes and legends grew up in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries about Shakespeare's life, whose authenticity cannot be now be proven, but some of which have been widely accepted: that his father was a butcher, that Shakespeare as a youth got into trouble poaching deer, that he held horses at the stage doors when he was trying to break into the London theater, that he was lame, or that he caught the fever of which he died in a drinking bout, for instance.
Some of his fellow actors collected his plays in 1623 in what is now known as the First Folio. The only works Shakespeare himself seems to have published are the early poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594), both dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, a young nobleman who may also have been the subject of many of Shakespeare's sonnets, apparently written over the decade from 1593-1603.
Shakespeare's authorship of the plays ascribed to him began to be seriously questioned only in the late eighteenth century, largely on the ground that he was too humbly born and poorly educated to be capable of writing such great works. The most serious alternatives—and the question was warmly debated in the nineteenth century—put forth were Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and the Earl of Oxford.
classic comedies: Classic comedies included those of Shakespeare, Sheridan, and some of the early nineteenth century playwrights such as Sheridan Knowles; their plots were held to turn more on character and wit than on situations and gags.
Sophocles: Greek playwright Sophocles (496 or 497-406 B.C.) was born near Athens. His first recorded prize in the playwriting competitions associated with the festival of Dionysius occurred in 468; only seven of the 123 plays he is said to have written have survived in complete form. He is best known for the three Theban plays, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, and Oedipus at Colonna. The other plays include Ajax, Electra, The Trachiniae, and Philoctetes.
Carleton: Henry Guy Carleton (1856-1910) was one of the relatively few American writers of original plays, rather than adaptations of foreign ones. His Victor Durand had appeared in 1884, and he had some solid successes in the 1890s, including A Gilded Fool (1892), written for Nat Goodwin and made into a silent film in 1915, and Butterflies (1894); That Imprudent Young Couple (1895), however, ran for only two weeks. He was the son of General James Henry Carleton, commander of the Department of New Mexico during the Civil War, who forced the Navajos on the disastrous "Long Walk" to Bosque Redondo. Henry Guy Carleton married actress Effie Shannon in 1890; they were divorced in 1892; in 1894 he married actress Olive May, whose family lived in Beatrice, Nebraska, in the 1890s.
Cather devoted much of a 4 August 1895 column to discussing Carleton and his integrity as a playwright.
Mounet-Sully: Tragedian Jean Mounet-Sully (1841-1916) was considered the greatest tragic actor of the nineteenth century French stage. He made his debut in 1868, but had his first real success in 1872. He soon became one of the stars of the Comédie Fran?aise, renowned for his work in tragedy and romantic drama, playing such roles as Oedipus, Achille, Hamlet, Ruy Blas, and Hernani. He became a chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1889, and a street in Paris is named for him.
Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Antigone: Antigone, a tragedy by Sophocles, was written first of the Theban trilogy, in 442 B.C., though chronologically it comes last. As the play opens, Oedipus' two sons are dead, killed by each other in fighting for the throne. Their uncle, Creon, now king of Thebes, decrees that Polynices, the rebel, should not be buried. Antigone, sister of the two brothers, believes that it is her duty to the gods and her brother to bury him; her sister Ismene agrees, but is afraid to take part. Creon leaves Antigone to starve to death in a cave, but the blind prophet Tiresias eventually convinces Creon that he was wrong. He goes to the cave to release Antigone, but she has hanged heself (as did her mother Jocasta). At this discovery, Creon's son, Antigone's fiancé, takes his own life, as does his mother, Creon's wife Eurydice.
"Oedipus Roi": Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the king, is one of the best-known and most performed of Sophocles' tragedies. The play begins as a plague strikes Thebes; Oedipus, the king, vows to find and punish the person responsible for bringing the gods' curse on the city. Although warned by the blind prophet Tiresias, Oedipus does not realize until late in the play that he had, as prophesized, killed his father, the former king of Thebes, and married his mother, the queen. The audience was expected to know that after Oedipus's birth, his mother, Jocasta, had tried to get around the prophecy by exposing the infant to his death on a mountainside. The infant was found and raised in a neighboring court, not knowing of his adoption. As a young man, Oedipus met a traveler on a road, and kills him after a dispute; the man was his father. Oedipus goes on to become king of Thebes. When they learn the truth, Jocasta kills herself and Oedipus blinds himself and goes into exile.
"Old order changeth . . .": In Tennyson's The Idylls of the King (18), the last section, "The Passing of Arthur," describes how the mortally wounded King Arthur is taken onto a barge by three black-robed queens. The faithful Sir Bedivere cries out that "the true old times are dead" (37), lamenting the dissolution of the Round Table. Arthur replies with these words (l. 48-50).
Edwin Booth: Edwin Booth (1833-1893) came from an acting family; his father, Junius Brutus Booth (1796-1852), who came to America in 1821, had been acclaimed in England as a rival of the great Thomas Kean. The elder Booth's other sons were Junius Brutus Booth, an actor-manager, and John Wilkes Booth. At first it seemed that Edwin had not inherited much of his father's talent, but he toured with his father's company in secondary roles. His father's death in 1852 while on tour in California left Edwin in charge, and he toured the West and Australia before returning to New York in triumph, where he was soon acknowledged as superior even to Edwin Forrest. He became manager of the Winter Garden Theatre in 1862, producing Shakespeare in productions notable for their magnificence and great acting; he became particularly identified with the role of Hamlet. The assassination of President Lincoln by his brother John caused Edwin Booth to retire briefly, but audiences welcomed him back. Booth built his own theater in 1868-69 and organized his own stock company. Although this enterprise was successful in many ways, Booth went bankrupt in 1874 and thereafter appeared under others' management—notably with Lawrence Barrett in the 1880s. He toured England, playing opposite Henry Irving, and Germany as well. His last performance was as Hamlet in 1891, when he retired to live in his apartment in the building he had given to the Players' Club when he founded that organization. He died June 7, 1893.
Otis Skinner played in his company in 1880; he says Booth "was in the flower of his artistry and at the height of his power. At the age of forty-seven he had not yet begun to exhibit that weariness of work that overcame him after his return from Europe. His ambition was dauntless; his body flexible and obedient to his will; his face, beautiful and melancholy, showed nothing of its later traces of lassitude, and the music of his voice which held to the very end, was never more harmonious. No actor of his time so completely filled the eye, the ear, and the mind with an ideal of romantic tragedy as Edwin Booth" (Footlights and Spotlights 91).
Mary Anderson: Actress Mary Anderson (1859-1940) was born in California before her parents moved back to Kentucky, where her father died while serving in the Confederate army. She was educated in convent schools in Louisville, and at the age of thirteen decided to become an actress; her stepfather encouraged her ambition, and she made her debut in Louisville in 1875 at the age of sixteen, as Juliet. She played in stock companies managed by John McCullogh and John T. Ford, then formed her own company in 1876, making her New York debut in 1877. In 1883 she made her debut in London, where her beauty and dedication to her art made her one of the first American actresses to be acclaimed in Europe; she played Rosalind at the newly opened Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford. Her Hermione, in A Winter's Tale, ran for a phenomenal one hundred consecutive performances. In November 1888 she returned to America with A Winter's Tale, but she fell ill the following March, and retired from the stage. Returning to England, Anderson married Antonio F. de Navarro in June, 1890, by whom she had two sons; they lived in retirement at a country house in Warwickshire.
Cather refers to Anderson's success in A Winter's Tale in My Ántonia (177), and to her fame in The Song of the Lark; in "Two Friends" Trueman and Dillon talked for years of having seen Anderson in St. Louis, and Dillon calls her "our Mary" because she was a Catholic girl (181).
Margaret Mather: Margaret Mather (1860-1898) was born in Quebec but came as a young child to Detroit, Michigan, where she supposedly sold newspapers in the street before going on the stage and becoming one of the most well-known Shakespearean actresses of her day. Her 1890 production of Cymbeline was supposed to have cost $40,000, a fabulous sum in its day. Mather died of tuberculosis while onstage, and was buried in her Juliet costume.Cather saw Mather as Juliet in Lincoln in 1892 and admired her voice, but when she saw Mather in the mid-1890s, she condemned her as superficial.
Images available at Northeastern Illinois University, Louisville Digital Library, and again at Louisville Digital Library.
Twelfth Night: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night; or, What You Will (c. 1601) follows the misadventures of the shipwrecked twins, Sebastian and Viola. Viola disguises herself as young man and serves the Duke Orsino, with whom she falls in love. The duke, however, at first loves the countess Olivia, who falls in love with Sebastian. In the end Viola reveals herself as a woman and the duke realizes his love for her.
"The Taming of the Shrew": Shakespeare's early comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, was probably written and performed in the early 1590s, though not published until 1623. The wealthy merchant Baptista declares that his beautiful daughter Bianca cannot be married until her fiery elder sister Kate is married. Bianca's suitors induce Petruchio to tame and marry Kate, while they assume disguises in order to court Bianca. In the end, Kate wins a contest as the most submissive wife.
Julia Marlowe: Marlowe (born Sarah Frost in England in 1866) made her stage debut in 1878 and first appeared in New York in 1887. Her beauty and refinement made her immensely popular with audiences, and she toured frequently with her own company, with both her first husband, Robert Taber (married 1894, divorced 1900), and her second, the almost equally well-known actor, E. H. Sothern (married 1911). She was considered a romantic rather than an emotional actress, especially famous in Shakespearean roles. She retired in 1924 and died in 1950.
Ada Rehan: Ada Crehan (1857-1916) was born in Ireland, but grew up in Brooklyn. She went on stage when she was fourteen; when she played in Mrs. Drew's Arch Street Theater company her name was misspelled as Rehan on the program, and she adopted it as her stage name. She played in stock companies before making her New York debut in 1875, but continued to play supporting roles until Augustin Daly invited her to join his company in 1879. There she achieved her greatest success, becoming the leading lady of his company, playing opposite John Drew. A European tour in 1884 confirmed her stardom. She excelled in Shakespearean comedies as well as roles adapted from the French drama; her greatest role was said to be Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew (first played in 1887). After 1893 she divided her time between New York and London, but when Daly died in 1899, her career floundered, and she retired in 1905.
Nat Goodwin: American actor Nathaniel Carl Goodwin (1857-1919) was born in Boston; he discovered his ability to mimic as a boy and determined to go on the stage. After several false starts in the early 1870s, he was discovered by Stuart Robson and gave his imitations of serious actors on stage (though he refused to do Edwin Booth). He appeared successfully in several burlesques, such as Rice's Evangeline, and organized his own touring company in 1877. His roles in Henry Guy Carleton's A Gilded Fool (1889) and The Nominee (1890) were among the greatest hits of his long career. He appeared occasionally in classic comedy, such as Sheridan's The Rivals, and in Shakespeare, notably his elaborate productions of The Merchant of Venice (1901) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1904). Late in his career Goodwin played in a few silent films, appearing as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1912) and in four films in 1915-16.
Goodwin was married five times. In 1877 he married actress Eliza Weatherby; after her death in 1887, he married Nellie Baker Pease (known as the Belle of Buffalo) in 1890; they were divorced in 1896. In 1898 he married Maxine Elliott, known as one of the most beautiful actresses of her day; they were divorced in 1908. A marriage to actress Edna Goodrich lasted from late in 1908 to 1910. He married Margaret Moreland in 1912 and they were divorced in 1918. Goodwin wrote an article in 1912, "Why Four Beautiful Women Married Me."
Images of Nat Goodwin are available at Shakespeare and the Players at Emory University.
Mr. Russell: Sol Smith Russell (1848-1902), an actor, singer, and drummer, arrived in New York in 1871, where he joined Daly's Company. He became well known for his comedic performances and for his comedy, A Poor Relation, and he toured widely throughout the United States during his career of nearly 40 years. He became paralyzed in 1900 and died two years later.
Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery and also at Northeastern Illinois University
William H. Crane: William H. Crane (1845-1928) was one of the best known comic actors of his day. He partnered with Stuart Robson from 1877-1889, then took off on an independent career. Popular as he was in the 1890s, his greatest success was yet to come, in the title role in David Harum (1900), a role he recreated in the silent film (1915). He appeared in other silent films, notably as Buster Keaton's father in Keaton's first starring role, The Saphead (1920).
Humorist George Ade, classing Crane with such actors as Joseph Jefferson, said, "William H. Crane is another veteran of the stage who holds the regard of the public. It knows him as the kind of man we should like to invite up to our house to meet the 'folks'" (Century, December 1910). Critic Lewis C. Strang, who also compared Crane with Jefferson, said "He is a character comedian, whose one character is himself. His is a whole-souled, frank, and genial personality . . . that suggest shrewdness and generosity, keen good sense, and tender-hearted chivalry. . . . His command of pathos is not so sure" (Famous American Actors of the Day in America  149, 151). Crane wrote a volume of reminiscences, Footprints and Echoes (1927).
Image in the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Mr. Crane made the venture: W. H. Crane mounted an elaborate but unsuccessful production of The Merry Wives of Windsor in New York on September 24, 1894, with himself as Falstaff.
"Falstaff": The character of Falstaff appears in Shakespeare's Henry IV, parts I and II, and he is central to The Merry Wives of Windsor, but there is no Shakespearean play bearing his name. However, both Salieri and Verdi wrote operas called Falstaff (1799, 1893) based on The Merry Wives of Windsor.
"The Senator": David Demarest Lloyd (1851-1889) is best known for The Senator (1890), one of W. H. Crane's big hits. Crane played Senator Hannibal Rivers, who helps the father of the girl he loves in a claim against the government, even though the senator thinks she loves another. He helps to foil the machinations of the railroad interests, restore a wandering wife to her husband, and unite a young couple before achieving a happy ending for himself as well.
old wine in new bottles: In the Bible, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell of the parable Jesus tells of the old garment with the new patch, and the wine; Luke's version is the fullest: "And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better" (5: 37-39). Both versions of the proverb—new wine in old bottles and old wine in new bottles—are old.
"The Poor Relation": Sol Smith Russell made one of his big hits as Noah Vale in A Poor Relation (1889) by Edward E. Kidder. The complicated plot concerns an invention stolen from Vale, who has fainted from hunger. A jealous stepmother attempts to pin the theft on her stepdaughter, with the help of the real thief, a junior partner in her husband's firm.
A silent film was made of the play in 1915.
Poster image can be found at The Library of Congress.
Dr. Pangloss: Dr. Pangloss in George Colman the Younger's play, The Heir at Law (1797) is a poor but conceited pedant, very proud of his degrees. The name means "all-tongue," and was earlier used by Voltaire for the philosophical tutor in Candide (1759).
Image in Strang's Famous Actors of the Day, in America at Google Books
Steve Brodie: Stephen (Steve) Brodie (1863-1901) was born in New York, and as a boy worked as a bootblack and a newsboy. A strong swimmer, he became a member of Capt. Ayer's Life Saving Corps on the East River, and is credited with a number of rescues. He became famous on July 24, 1886, as the man who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and lived. (However, it was alleged that this jump and a later one over Niagara Falls were faked.) He opened a saloon on the Bowery that featured a mural of his famous jump. Later he played himself in Stephens' melodrama, On the Bowery (1894), which toured for several years. An ad for the play called Brodie the "King of the Bowery." By 1899, Brodie was living in Buffalo, NY, where he opened another saloon featuring his jump.
Samuel S. Cohen recorded that as a boy in the early twentieth century, "We would still ask anyone about to take a big chance on something, 'What are you trying to do, take a Steve Brodie?'"
John L. Sullivan: Irish-American boxer John L. Sullivan (1858-1918) was born in Boston, and was sometimes known as the "Boston Strongboy." By the early 1880s he was touring the U.S. in exhibition fights, sparring with a partner and then offering a prize (fifty dollars at the start of his career, a thousand dollars by the mid 1880s) to any man who could last four rounds with him (his motto was "I can lick any sonofabitch in the house"). He made a triumphant tour of England and Ireland in 1887, but in 1888, the English champion Charlie Mitchell held him to a draw over thirty-nine rounds. In 1889 he defeated Jake Kilrain in seventy-five rounds in the last bare-knuckle championship fight. In 1892, Sullivan, hitherto essentially undefeated, lost to James J. Corbett. He appeared sporadically thereafter, retiring from the ring in 1905.
When the British publishers of The Song of the Lark (1915) asked Cather to withdraw a passage describing a picture that linked Lily Langtry and the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), she substituted a picture of John L. Sullivan.
James J. Corbett: American boxer James J. Corbett (1866-1933) was born in San Francisco, where he began to make his name as a boxer, first as an amateur middleweight. He became heavyweight champion in 1892, when he knocked out champion John L. Sullivan in the twenty-first round, in the first championship fight under Marquess of Queensbury rules, with three-minute rounds and padded leather gloves. He made his first defense of his world heavyweight boxing title on January 25, 1894, against Charles Mitchell, the English champion. Corbett, using his speed and knowledge of his opponent, helped to make boxing a 'scientific' contest, instead of a brute force fight. However, he lost his championship in 1897 to Bob Fitzsimmons. Several of his fights were filmed, including an exhibition match for Thomas Edison's kinetograph in 1894.
Corbett was known as "Gentleman Jim" because of his good looks, education, and manners; he used his fame to go on stage, playing the lead in Shaw's Cashel Byron's Profession, and later into films. He divorced his first wife, Olive Lake, in 1895 and married actress Vera Stanwood (born Jessie Taylor) that same year. His autobiography, The Roar of the Crowd, was published in 1924; Hollywood made a movie of his life, Gentleman Jim, starring Errol Flynn, in 1942.
Duncan B. Harrison: American actor-manager-playwright and sporting man Duncan Bradley Harrison (1862-1934) starred in some of his own plays, such as the "military melodrama" The Paymaster (1888)—the young Maude Adams was also in that company. He formed a company to showcase boxer John L. Sullivan as a blacksmith in Harrison's Honest Hearts and Willing Hands. Harrison, also a powerfully built athlete, fought in the Spanish-American War with the 9th U.S. Volunteer Infantry, a regiment of African American soldiers. He later developed a hunting resort in Maine.
Peter Jackson: Australian bare-knuckle boxer Peter Jackson (1861-1901) was born in the Danish island of St. Croix, although he came to Australia as a youth. He was a dockworker when his fighting ability came to the attention of a manager. He became the Australian heavyweight champion in 1886, and the world champion of black boxers in 1888, and was known as the "Black Prince." He visited the U.S. in 1888 and periodically thereafter. When then-champion John L. Sullivan refused to fight him, Jackson fought against James J. Corbett in a sixty-one round match that ended in a draw in 1891. He toured in vaudeville in 1891-92, giving exhibition matches; in early 1894 he toured in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Bob Fitzsimmons: British boxer Robert Fitzsimmons (1863-1917) was born in England, but his family immigrated to New Zealand, where his first middleweight championships were won, followed by championships in Australia. He came to the U.S. in 1890, and defeated Jack Dempsey for the middleweight world championship in 1891; afterwards he sparred with Billy Woods on tour in a play, Fashions. Fitzsimmons was never a large man, but he was unafraid of bigger opponents: one night in Chicago in 1893 he defeated seven opponents, all of whom were over 200 pounds. In October 1894 he appeared briefly in a theatrical production. Fitzsimmons' lasting fame is as the man who defeated James J. Corbett for the heavyweight world championship March 17, 1897. Fitzsimmons later toured in a play, The Honest Blacksmith (1898), and in vaudeville exhibitions in 1910.
Jim Root: American train engineer James Root (1843-1911) was driving a passenger train south to Hinckley, Minnesota on September 1, 1894, when he encountered about 150 people desperately fleeing the firestorm that would destroy four towns, 350,000 acres of forest, and kill more than 400 people. He got the refugees on board, threw the train into reverse, and despite his burns got through the fire six miles to a lake into which the passengers plunged before the fire passed over. He was a national hero for a time, with offers to lecture and appear in a play that featured his heroic feat; he returned to his railroad job, retiring in 1907. He had been born in rural New York and served in the Civil War; he came to Minnesota in 1865 and worked for the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad.
Hunt, the train robber: This train robber has not been identified.
Tim Gould, the bartender: Possibly notorious saloonkeeper T. Edmond Gould of New York (best known as Tom Gould, according to the New York Times [21 December 1893]), owner of the Utopia Restaurant. He was tried in 1893 for violently assaulting one of his bartenders, professed innocence, but was fined $150.
Angelina Allen: Angelina Ely Allen was born about 1870 in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Newark, New Jersey; her father was reportedly a well-to-do judge. She married while still in her teens and divorced her husband about 1890. She claimed to be the first woman in America to wear bicycle bloomers, and both the New York Times (21 November 1893) and the Police Gazette (15 September 1894) noted the sensation she had caused in 1892 by appearing at Asbury Park in a very tight-fitting bathing suit. Allen announced that she was forming the Angelina Allen Amusement Company, with Frank Earl as manager, in November 1893; however, the Police Gazette had found her posing in “living pictures” under an assumed name in the summer of 1894. Allen said she was there to show off her figure--she had the nickname “Curves”--and to practice for her stage career.
Eva Ray Hamilton: On July 5, 1894, Eva (or Evangeline) L. Mann Brill Steele Gaul Hamilton, in return for $10,000, signed a quitclaim deed in the name of Lydia E. Gaul to any dower right in the estate of Robert Ray Hamilton, a Republican assemblyman and scion of an old New York family (New York Times, 8 July 1894) . He had married her after she said she had borne him a daughter; then in 1889, a Joshua Mann appeared, claiming that Eva Hamilton had never been divorced from him. She attempted to stab Hamilton, and instead wounded a nurse who came to his aid. She was sentenced to two years in prison, while Hamilton sought an annulment and claimed that the child had been obtained from a midwife and foisted upon him; he was found drowned in the Snake River in Idaho, where he had a ranch. Eva Hamilton obtained a pardon in 1890 and brought suit against the estate, saying she would not settle for less than $75,000; however, the courts decided that she had never been legally Hamilton's wife (1 March 1894). The Times said afterwards "She became an actress, but did not make a success upon the stage" and was keeping a boarding house in New York (1 May 1895). A Sullivan County paper reported that she used to work at a cigar store in Tioga County (2 Aug 1894).
Lowery, the crook: The would-be actor Lowery or Lowry has not been identified.
Cherokee strip: The Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma was an area 226 miles long (east to west) and 58 miles wide, originally given to the Cherokee tribe when they were forced from Georgia to northeastern Oklahoma; it was known as the Cherokee Outlet, as the Cherokee were allowed to cross it to their hunting grounds further west. In 1866, the US government forced the Cherokees to sell tracts of the land to other Native American tribes. In 1893 the area was opened to white settlement, precipitating the last great land rush, as 100,000 people gathered to lay claim to 42,000 parcels of land.
The Count of Monte Cristo: This novel by the elder Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), published in 1844, has had an immense and lasting celebrity, and has had various stage and film versions of it made. The plot concerns the betrayal and imprisonment of a young sailor, who escapes, finds treasure, and returns to France as the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo to seek vengeance on all who have betrayed him.
"Swanee River": A play about the South, named for Stephen Foster's song, "The Old Folks at Home," better known as "Way Down Upon the Swanee River;" neither Odell's Annals of the New York Stage nor the New York Times drama review index mention a play of this name.
Beatrice: Beatrice, on the Big Blue River, is the county seat of Gage County, Nebraska, and is about sixty miles south of Lincoln. The town was first settled in the late 1850s and became a prosperous small city, with various manufacturing concerns.
Cather's college friend Katherine Weston was from a prominent Beatrice family, and Cather visited her there several times.
The Derby Winner: The Derby Winner, a racing play by Alfred H. Spink of St. Louis, featured a cast of 42, six real race-horses (running on a treadmill), a stable scene, specialty numbers, and songs. The play had a local success in St. Louis, and although it was still touring in late 1895, Spink, who also produced it, went broke and lost his interest in the paper he had founded, The Sporting News.
counters and yardsticks: Many young men started their careers as clerks in stores, standing behind counters to serve customers, and using yardsticks to measure fabrics in dry goods stores or ropes and chains in hardware stores.
cap and bells: The cap with bells is a traditional apparel of the jester, and by extension, the actor.
Madame Helen von Doenhoff: Singer Helen von Doenhoff played Lucia in the first New York production of Cavalleria Rusticana in October 1891, under Rudolph Aronson. She sang with the Marie Tavary Opera company in 1894, and then became part of Henry W. Savage's first Castle Square Opera company for the 1895-1896 season.
Cather admired the work of this contralto and discussed her in several reviews and columns (see 9 and 16 December 1894 and 27 January 1895); Cather regretted the singer's decision to marry and retire from the stage.
Tavary Opera company: The Marie Tavary Grand English Opera Company toured for several years beginning in 1894, managed by Charles H Pratt. Marie Tavary was the leading soprano, with Thea Dorre, mezzo-soprano; Nina Bertini Humphreys, soprano; Helen von Doenhoff, contralto; Albert L. Guille, Payne Clarke, tenors; William Mertens, baritone; William Hamilton and William Schuster, bassos. All of these singers had been members of Gustav Hinrich's Opera company in Philadelphia. Other members included Emma Mariani, Dora Escott, Sofia Romani, and Karl Clause, William Warren, and J.C. Cheviot. Their repetoire included Cavalleria Rusticana, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, Martha, Carmen, Bohemian Girl, I Pagliacci. Emerico Morrealle was the conductor.
The company visited Lincoln in December 1894 and April 1896.
Marie Basta Tavary: German-born soprano Marie Basta Tavary was singing leading roles with the Minnie Hauk Grand Opera Company by 1891. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni on March 4, 1893; she sang with Campanini, Eames, Scalchi, and others. She also sang with Gustav Hinrich's Opera Company in Philadelphia, from which she would draw many members of her own company in 1894. Her company toured the U.S. and parts of Canada for about three years. In October 1899 she appeared for a week at a vaudeville theater in Omaha.
Images available at the State Library of Victoria and also available here
little editor: Edward Rosewater (1841-1906) was born in Bohemia and came to the United States in 1854. He worked for Western Union as a telegraph operator; when the Civil War broke out, he enlisted and was assigned to the Telegraph Corps. He was serving in Washington, D.C., in 1863, when it became his responsibility to send out the text of the Emancipation Proclamation. He moved to Omaha in 1863, where he served as Western Union's manager and as the western correspondent for several newspapers. An ardent Republican, he founded his own newspaper, the Omaha Bee, in 1871. He ran twice for the U.S. Senate but was defeated both times.
the governor elect: Governor Silas A. Holcomb (1855-1920) was born in Indiana and came to Hamilton County, Nebraska, in 1879. He studied law and was admitted to the bar c. 1882; he moved to Broken Bow, Nebraska, in 1883. In 1891 he was elected district judge. Running on the fusion Democratic and Populist ticket, he was elected governor of Nebraska in 1894, succeeding Gov. Lorenzo Crounse, and was elected to a second term in 1896. He became a member of the Nebraska Supreme Court in 1900 and served as its chief justice 1905-1907.
Holcomb married Martha Brinson of Cass County in 1882.
Richelieu: Armand-Jean du Plessis, duke and Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), known as the Red Eminence, was the chief minister of Louis XIII, from 1624-42. In turbulent times, he valued order above all, and worked to establish the absolute power of the monarchy in France and to establish France as the dominant power in Europe. He was considered charming, pragmatic, and ruthless.
Louis XI: King Louis XI of France (1423-1483) was six years old when Joan of Arc placed his father, Charles VII, on the throne of an embattled France. He rebelled against his father and was exiled to Dauphine, where he developed the practices that he would use as king of France after his accession in 1461: he formed alliances with the bourgeoisie against the nobility and drew his advisors from men of talent of whatever rank and country. His aim was to unify France under his crown, putting down the powers of the great dukes and counts. He fostered commerce, but his taxes bore oppressively on the lower classes. He spent the last few years of his life in isolation in one of his castles, the "spider's nest." He was succeeded by his son, Charles VIII.
The role of Louis XI, in Dion Boucicault's tragedy Louis XI, King of France (1854), was one of Henry Irving's most notable.
silver tongued orator: "Silver-tongued" was an epithet applied to many orators; here it may specifically apply to Nebraska Congressman William Jennings Bryan of Lincoln. Bryan's "cross of gold" speech at the Democratic convention in Chicago would lead to the first of his three nominations for president in 1895.
Lillian Russell: Lillian Russell, born Helen Louise Leonard (1861-1922) in Clinton, IA, was educated in Chicago, and then in New York, where her mother took her to study in hopes of an opera career. Her first appearance on the New York stage was in the chorus of a production of Pinafore in 1879; Tony Pastor, owner of one of the best variety theaters in New York, gave her the new name, Lillian Russell, and billed her as "The English Ballad Singer." Her blonde beauty, lovely singing voice, and fashionable figure quickly made her a star, one of the highest paid in America. She starred at the Casino Theatre from 1888 to 1891, when she headed her own company at the Garden Theatre. In 1899 she joined the Weber and Fields company, staying with them until 1904. Her voice had suffered over the years, so she toured in comedy from 1906-1908.
Russell was famous for the number of her husbands and for her long liason with "Diamond Jim" Brady. Her first husband was the Pinafore company's orchestra leader, Harry Graham. Her second husband, composer Edward Solomon, was arrested for bigamy in 1886, after two years of marriage. She married her third husband, John Chatterton, known as Giovanni Perugini, in 1894; they were divorced in 1898. Russell retired from the stage after marrying her fourth husband, Alexander Moore, owner of the Pittsburgh Leader. She wrote columns and articles on love and beauty for women, and advocated woman suffrage.
Lillian Russell epitomized the stage beauty of the 1890s. A movie was made of her life in 1940, starring Alice Faye, with Henry Fonda as her fourth husband. Her character also appears in various other movies about the theatrical life of the time.
Image available at New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Ludwig II: Ludwig II (1845-1886), king of Bavaria, ascended to the throne when he was eighteen. He sought to keep Bavaria independent, but his chief legacy is to the arts: he was Richard Wagner's chief patron, and was a notable builder of fantastic castles and palaces. He was deposed by his uncle on charges of insanity, arrested, and found floating in Lake Starnberg a few days later, officially a suicide.
Bavaria: Bavaria, the southernmost state of the united Germany, was an independent duchy in the Middle Ages; it was ruled by the Wittelsbach family from 1180 to 1918. Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806, but was incorporated into the emerging German Empire, dominated by Prussia, in 1871.
Sarah Bernhardt: Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), generally acknowledged as the greatest actress of her time, was born Rosine Bernard. She made her debut at the Comédie Française in 1862. By the mid 1870s her position was secure; though critics were divided as to her beauty, they agreed on the power of her golden voice, her realism, and her magnetic personality, which she cultivated off-stage as well. She owned her own theater in Paris and toured throughout the world in the 1880s and 1890s; Cather saw her in Omaha in 1892. Bernhardt played most of the great roles of the 19th century theater, and American and English emotional actresses such as Morris and Fanny Davenport frequently followed her lead, since a role Bernhardt made popular had a good chance of success elsewhere. University of Pennsylvania Library
legion of honor: The Ordre national de la Legion d'honneur was established by Napoleon in 1802. There are five degrees, or orders, from the highest, the Grand-croix, Grand-Officier, Commendant, Officier, and Chevalier. The decoration is given for "eminent merit" in military or civil life.
let Sarah have her crown: After years of debate, the French government finally awarded Sarah Bernhardt the cross of the Legion of Honor in 1914. She was the first actress to receive it.
World: The New York World was a newspaper founded in 1860. It was bought by Joseph Pulitzer in 1883 and with it he began a new type of aggressive journalism, especially in his battles with William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal American. Nellie Bly did sensational investigative reporting for the World. Pulitzer built the tallest building in the world in 1890 to house his paper (it was torn down in 1955); he also was the first newspaper to use four-color printing and publish a color Sunday supplement with cartoon strips. The paper was sold and closed in 1931.
Mr. Charles Frohman: Charles Frohman (1860-1915) became the most important theatrical manager of his time; he was one of the founders of the Theatrical Syndicate which for a time controlled U.S. theaters. His first big success was with Bronson Howard's Shenandaoh in 1889. He developed the star system when he engaged John Drew in 1892 for his Empire Stock Company, and later managed many other of the top stars; he encouraged many playwrights such as Clyde Fitch and David Belasco. Frohman died in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915.
"The Masqueraders": Henry Arthur Jones's play, The Masqueraders opened in New York at Charles Frohman's Empire Theatre on December 3, 1894. It starred Viola Allen as the former barmaid married to a profligate (William Faversham) who forces her to take money from the man who truly loves her (Henry Miller). The most famous scene came in the third act where the husband and the lover cut the cards for possession of the wife.
The play was made into a silent film in 1915.