Page images
PDF
EPUB

18

THE GOLDEN MEAN.

intermixed; the other tinging it with rose-color, tipping it with gold, perfuming it with a fragrance to which violets and new-mown hay are nothing in comparison, and berating violently such persons as would not or could not look upon it as an earthly paradise.

I saw that, as usual, between extremes, there was a middle ground, where truth and justice lay; that the theatre—either Before the Footlights, or Behind the Scenes—was not all black, nor all white; that actors and actresses, who have long felt the social obloquy which frequently greets them, as outrageously undeserved, cruel and libelous, were not so perfect as they deem themselves, although far from being as imperfect as many of their critics deem them.

In this spirit of justice, fair play, and candid judgment, I have written occasional articles for some of the leading magazines in the country, in which I have treated the state of affairs as they really existed, both for good and for evil.

I cannot say that the result was in all respects pleasant to me, though in the knowledge that I had done what was rightthat I had told the truth, and nothing but the truth, without extenuating or setting down aught in malice, I had my reward for the vials of wrath which were poured upon my head by both parties.

Religionists assailed me with the cry, “You have told so much that is wrong, why do you not be brave enough to admit that all is ?” I replied, “Because that would not be true."

Theatrical people clamored with ten-fold the violence of the religionists, “Why expose our frailties, which are no whit worse than those of other people, who get off without any abuse? Why not give unequivocal praise to the life behind the scenes ?" I reply, “Because that would not be true.”

WHAT THE BOOK PROMISES.

19

Taking this stand, it will easily be seen that I brought about my ears a swarm of enemies from the violent ones of both parties. Letters by the score, denouncing me in unmeasured terms, poured in upon me. Anonymous communications, accusing me of the wildest and vilest motives, appeared in some of the newspapers.

But I did not allow myself to be affected by this unreasonable tornado. I pursued the course I had marked out for myself, and continued my writing.

In this book I shall continue as I have begun. I shall try to honestly lay bare the mysteries of life behind the scenes; shall tell the truth without fear or favor, overestimating nothing that is good, and glossing over nothing that is bad.

I shall try to bear in mind the great truth that in order to set public opinion to coursing in healthy channels, you have but to inform it. Show the people the truth-let them examine details for themselves, give them the opportunity to see the picture on all sides, its comic aspects, its pathetic aspects, its amusing as well as grave aspects,—and trust to the spirit of American fair play, backed by American intelligence, to form its own opinions, and form them on the side of Right.

I have read numberless newspaper and magazine articles bearing on theatrical subjects, listened to many sermons which had for their object the denunciation of the stage, heard many learned people discourse on dramatic topics, but to read a line or hear a word which vibrated with the real truth concerning what passes behind the scenes, was the exception, and a rare one.

The reason is very simple; the authors of these articles, the speakers of these words, were usually outsiders, some of whom had never even been inside of a theatre, Before the Footlights, much less Behind the Scenes. Often it so happened that fierce denunciators of the theatre

20

THE SHOW BUSINESS.

boasted of this fact, blind to the irresistible inference which at once suggested itself to their hearers or readers, that if they had never been to a theatre at all, they were very unfit persons to pass judgment on the merits or demerits of an institution which has enlisted the efforts of some of the finest and noblest intellects the world has ever known,-whose partisans both in the past, and in the present, include among their number some of the purest and best men the world knows, or has known,-its most polished scholars, its truest gentlemen, its most liberal minds, and its most Christianly Christians.

This, however, is not the place to discuss the question of the merits or demerits of the stage. These will come under consideration, to some extent, in the course of the chapters, as they progress.

A word of explanation regarding the technical term “The Show Business." In a former work I have explained, in brief, the meaning of this curious term, which is in common use among professionals, and embraces in its comprehensiveness all sorts of performances.

In this term is included every possible thing which is of the nature of an entertainment, with these three requirements: 1. A place of gathering. 2. An admission fee. 3. An audience.

This remarkably comprehensive term covers with the same mantle the tragic Forrest, when he plays; the comic Jefferson, when he plays; the eloquent Beecher, when he lectures, and the sweet-voiced Parepa, when she sings. It also covers with the same mantle the wandering juggler, who balances feathers on his nose; the gymnast, , who whirls on a trapeze; the danseuse, who interprets the poetry of motion; the clown, who cracks stale jokes in the ring; the performer on the tight rope, the negro minstrel, the giant and the dwarf, the learned pig and the educated monkey.

PUT ASIDE PREJUDICE.

21

So the book will find place, in some of its pages, for illustrations of all these phases of the “show business." But, at the same time, the chief concern of the book will be with the theatrical world proper, the stage, the drama, actors and actresses, theatres and those who are employed in them, in various capacities.

Here, at the gates of the subject, I have only one request to make of my reader,-namely, that he or she will put aside prejudice, either for or against the “show” world, in any of its branches, remembering that between the two extremes of extravagant denunciation and servile flattery there is a golden mean of truth and justice.

This honest middle ground I shall try to occupy as fairly as I can. And of one thing the reader may rest assured, namely, that throughout this book, whether dealing with lofty themes or with little ones, the aim of its author is to furnish the truth in everything. Whatever faults these pages may exhibit, one virtue I am determined they shall possess,—the virtue of truthfulness. For the truth is the one thing in the world of literature which is the rarest. Of critically excellent books, of entertaining books, of books which do credit to the intellectual powers of their producers, the world has no lack; but of books which tell the straightforward truth, there have never been enough, I take it, for the world's good.

1

[blocks in formation]

Recollections of Early Life.-Cornelius A. Logan, Comedian, Critic, and

Poet.--Vicissitudes of a Strange Career.—How a Family of Girls took to the Stage. — Reminiscences of Cincinnati. — Floating down the Ohio.—Residence in Philadelphia.—The Comedian as his Contemporaries Saw Him.-- The Critic and the Poet as his Works Show Him.His Defense of the Stage.

My earliest recollections are of the city of Cincinnati, whither I was borne while yet an infant, and where I spent the “happy days of childhood.”

There are many magnificent monuments at the cemetery of “Spring Grove,” in Cincinnati, but for me it contains but one grave. A simple headstone, with name and date of death, and then only the solitary line :

“Our Father who art in heaven." This is the grave of Cornelius A. Logan, “Comedian, Critic and Poet."

My father's domestic circle was a large one, and composed principally of those troublesome members of the human family,-girls. Six girls, two boys, father and mother,—ten persons whose livelihood was to come from the dusty precincts of behind the scenes ! It is not, perhaps, in the best taste to put forward biographical details when one is not writing a biography, but my father's history bas always seemed to me so full of romance, so very much out of the beaten track of ordinary life, that without further apology I will here jot down some of its salient events.

My father's family were people of rank in Ireland, who had once owned large estates, and held important offices in Church and State; but misfortune having overtaken

« PreviousContinue »