Page images



He was soon engaged, at an advanced salary, at the Arch Street Theatre, then under the excellent management of William Wheatley and John Drew, and progressed still further in the good graces of the public. He was in the seventh heaven of delight-he floated on clouds.

One chilly rainy night I went, with a heavy heart, to fill my little part, which I was playing in the same theatre.

As I passed the back-door, the old watchman thrusting his lantern into my face to assure himself that I had a right to enter-one which I would gladly have resigned—the musty, fusty odor of the thousand and one articles used for different purposes behind the scenes, met my revolted nostrils, the paint pots, glue, canvas, gilding, wood, gas, blue fire, old dresses, some smelling of camphor, some of other things less pleasant—the humanity which was wearing them, for instance—the whole mixed up with the damp and muggy odor of a rainy night-well, those who have never smelt it, have but to guess, and those who have, have but to remember.

Whenever I hear that old conundrum, “What smells the worst in a drug store ?” and listen to the shouts of

' merriment which follow the answer, “The clerk," I al

, ways feel like saying, behind the scenes of a theatre smells worse than both drug store and clerk together.

I groped my way across the stage, in its sombre recesses, knocking against thrones, and piazzas, and Roman chariots, huddled up any way to get them all out of the way till they were wanted, when suddenly I found myself face to face with the young actor.

“Oh,” said I, with a shudder, “ isn't this dreadful ?” “ What dreadful ?” asked he, in surprise.

“Why, behind the scenes of a theatre; isn't it a nasty place ?"

“Bebind the scenes of a theatre a nasty place! No!"



shouted he, with a fire worthy of Beecher or Gough, “no, it is the most delightful place in the world. I love it! I idolize it! I hope I may pass my whole life here! and be

I brought here when I am dying !"

This same species of infatuation I have often heard expressed by many actresses and actors—nay, by sceneshifters, property men, call-boys, and, indeed, attachés of every grade in a theatre.

I never could understand it. The theatre always seemed to me the dreariest, saddest, most uncomfortable place in existence. I always recognize the beauty of a wellenacted play, a well-sung opera, or even an amusing pantomime; but the theatre in the day-time-or at night, in any place except on the stage itself - always seemed dreary, and tiresome, and depressing.

On the other hand, I have heard many and many an actor, actress and manager yearn for any other sphere of life, and blame their parents for not having fitted them for other business.

A short time ago, a New York manager, fifty years of age-a man who had been connected with theatres thirty years—said to me, with a dreary sigh, “Oh, I do get so sick of this business, sometimes, that I wish I had been a butcher or a hod-carrier, instead of a theatrical manager.”

I do not think_far from it-that this utterance was drawn from him from what some people would call the moral sense; but merely because after all these years of toil, with first overwhelming success and then overwhelming failure, and then, vice versa, back and forth through all these long years, he found himself, at fifty years of age, probably without money, and still as much obliged to undergo the ups and downs, the uncertainties of theatrical speculation, as when he first entered the business.

As a set-off to this case, I will relate that of a young woman who, some fifteen years ago, was traveling around this country as a star actress in comedy.

[blocks in formation]

She was pretty and graceful, and had a sweet voice for a song

In the course of her wanderings she got up to Canada, where she played an engagement at the theatre with her usual success.

Of course, to carry off the hearts (for a time, at least) of susceptible gentlemen, was no new experience to her. But, during this engagement, she met and captivated a young English officer, who was stationed with his regiment in Canada.

She returned his love, and accepted his offer of marriage.

Shortly after their arrival in England the gentleman's father died, thus leaving him the family title. The actress was now “My lady."

She did not, however, forget her theatrical friends. She wrote frequently to them, telling them of what a superb marriage she had made, in a worldly sense-money, position, title—as also, what was far better, in the sense of honor and love. Her husband was an honest, noble, Christian gentleman—she loved him dearly, “but, oh,” she added, "you can't think how I long to be back on the

stage !”

Her friends here hoped that in a year or two she would forget all about this idle longing. But, year after

year, letters in the same strain poured in from her, always singing the same song.

The last I heard of it was this spring, fifteen years since she left Canada to sail for England. On perfumed paper, stamped with the coat-of-arms of her husband, she wrote:

“I idolize my husband and my children. My husband's mother is an angel, if ever there was one. So good, so pure, so true a Christian as she is I never before met. I have rank, fortune, friends, amusements of all sorts—but,

[blocks in formation]

oh, Kate! I tell you truly, I would relinquish everything (except my dear ones, of course), rank, fortune, position, all—to be back once more in America, starring' around the country—the same poor little actress I was when you last saw me.”

I do not know how to comment on this case. by the Bible forbidden to call our brother a “fool,” but there is no Scriptural law that I know of which forbids us to call our sister a little goose.




The True Story of Mr. Alfred Pennyweight.—The Elegant Young So

ciety Beau.—Mr. l'ennyweight Demoralized. -He is Stage Struck.He Wants to Play Macbeth.—Besieging the Managers.-An Engagement Secured.—Cast for the Bleeding Soldier.—Pennyweight Frightened.-Procuring the Costume.—The Wardrobe Keeper. — The Padmaker Visited. — Pennyweight's Legs. — The Fearful First Night.The Curtain Rings Up, and the Play Opens. — Pennyweight's Debut. Effect on the Galleries. The Catastrophe. Good Advice to the Stage-Struck.–The Cure for the Fever.-Ridicule, the Remedy.

A very ludicrous history is that of Mr. Alfred Pennyweight-whom it was my fortune first to meet at Saratoga.

He was a gay young butterfly, and the way he fitted from flower to flower, was delightful to see.

It was a family trait, however, for Old Pennyweight made his money in flour.

Where was there to be found a gallant young gentleman with cheek more blooming or eye more bright than those of Alfred Pennyweight? He was a gorgeous youth in his attire, and he irdulged in lavender kids, and diamond pins, and flowered neckties and curling-irons, in reckless extravagance.

He was addicted to saying “By George,” when I first met him, it is true; but after only a little mingling with the aristocratic foreigners who condescend to associate with us in society, he could utter “Bah Jove, ye know,” like an Englishman to the jovial gentry born.

He was elegantly slim and genteelly tall, and he kept a man to groom him and to pick his vest pockets of his small change.

« PreviousContinue »