Page images
PDF
EPUB

240

DISCUSSING THE HEROINE.

(as necessary to the lawyer as they are to the player), and, above all, his clear judgment and scholarly acquirements have gained for him an enviable and an enduring position.

Monfrère is something of a litterateur as well, and kindly said he would give me a little advice about my play of “ Eveleen,” transformed to suit the growing appetite for the sensational into “ The Felon's Daughter.” The piece had already been much changed since I first produced it in New York, and was now no more like the original play than that jack-knife was like the original jack-knife which got first a new blade fixed to it, and then a new handle fixed to that.

Monfrère said he thought the effect would be better if I were to enrich the heroine by making her authoress of a few sensation novels, rather than by the hackneyed and quite delusive plan of acquiring a fortune through acting parts.

“That's all very well, Tom," I remarked; but, under existing circumstances, it seems hardly modest in me to make all my characters talk about the wonderful genius of this young lady as an authoress, and her enriching herself by the mere power of her pen."

“Well, my dear,” said Moufrère, coolly blowing away his cigar smoke, “it strikes me it's about as broad as it's long. You made your heroine a magnificent actress, which you are not; then, why object to making her a splendid authoress, which, permit me to observe, but without wishing to give offence, you are not, also.”

This was quite true, but I had never thought of it before. Indeed, it was painfully true—and truth, you know,.is stranger than fiction. I altered the play. Eveleen, no longer Lady Macbeth, is Miss Braddon, Mrs. IIenry Wood, George Eliot, George Sand, Mrs. A. B. C. D. E. F. Southworth, Olive Logan, or “what you will.”

" It was from Monfrère I had a ludicrous account of the

CARTES DE VISITE.

241

sale of photograpnic “cartes de visite" in the front of the theatre. I had been told that "stars" realized immense profits from this source. Nevada, Colorado and Arizona paled before the gold wbich“ photographs” yielded. Several castles in the Moorish regions had been built by “stars” in this way, and a railway to Chimeraville was about to be opened to the public, on Photographic rôle-ing stock. Of course, to be orthodox, I must do the same, and the inevitable small boy, with ill-kept nose, came to me in every town, and took away several dozen of cartes de visite.

But pray mark the mode of procedure of the inevitable small boy with ill-kept nose !

In a fiendishly exultant manner, he rushes up to an inoffensive spectator, and, thrusting the picture under the visual organs of the aforesaid, cries out, in a shrill voice:

“ Have Olive Logan, sir ? Street dress and costume. Do take Olive Logan, sir. Only twenty-five cents !

And if the inoffensive spectator remains obdurate to my varied charms at such a very low figure, the inevitable small boy cries :

“What! not Olive Logan, sir? Olive Logan, the Felon's Daughterthe Robber's Wife!!

Is it extraordinary that, under these circumstances, I immediately stopped the sale of My Photographs ?

The town of Columbus, the State capital of Ohio, stood next in my line of march, and a pretty wide-awake place it is, too, especially in the legislative session, during which period I happened to be there. I was particularly pleased with the general appearance of Columbus. If I say it reminded me forcibly of an English town, I mean this as a compliment. Beautiful villas, nearly or quite surrounded by wide-spreading trees, by well-kept gardens, full of the rarest flowers, and possessing so many other attributes of

[blocks in formation]

the country as might well cause one to believe they were situated miles out of town—while, in reality, they have the very great advantage of being only around the corner from the principal street-are features of which Columbus may well be proud. There is a certain elegance about the shops, too; and, above all, a perfect cleanliness in the streets, which New York itself might emulate with advantage.

It was not because my engagement was a pecuniary success that I liked the theatre-going public of Columbus. It was because in no town did I meet with a more discriminating audience, severe as well as generous. I promise you that in Columbus no such insulting farce would be permitted as that we see enacted every night in New York, at the different theatres, and which, for want of a better name, I may call the bouquet and flower-basket nuisance. Any such attempt to interrupt the progress of a serious play by a few addle-brained admirers of pretty actresses, would be immediately and peremptorily discountenanced. But, if we analyze this thing carefully, we will find that the pretty actresses themselves are in many instances very much to blame in this unpleasant matter.

This reminds me of an anecdote which ran the rounds of Parisian salons a few years ago. We all know the fight which was carried on for so long a time between the Piccinists and the Gluckists, but a similar struggle, of a more amusing character, took place in the French capital at the time of the great success of Madame Doche in “La Dame aux Camelias.” Mademoiselle Page, who for some reason is always supposed to be the rival of Doche, was playing “La Dame de Monsereau" at the Ambigu.

But behold young Lord Viri Sappi, who has just come of age, and entered into possession of his titles and estates, finds his beloved Mlle. Page all in tears when he pays his afternoon visit.

TWO PRETTY ACTRESSES.

243

“Oh-ah,” says his lordship, using what may be called the monosyllabic “headers,” which the English take before ducking into the French language, “ Qu'est-ce que too ah mar chèrie ? What is the matter ?

“Ah, milord,” says the pretty Page, sobbing convulsively, “ that ugly Doche-oh-oh-is going to have a splendid pair of diamond ear-rings presented to her-oh -oh-to-night.”

Milord wonders where they were bought.
Mlle. names the jeweller.
Milord asks if he has another pair like them.
Mlle. thinks he has, but is rather in doubt.

Milord makes it no longer a matter of doubt, and Mlle. Page gets the ear-rings similar to Doche’s.

Now turn we to Doche's apartment.

The Prince Talloweateroff, the rich Russian, fancies his brilliant Dame aux Camelias is despondent.

“Oh, nothing now, prince,” replies Camille; “a bagatelle. But they tell me that presuming little Page is going to be the recipient of a magnificent bracelet, set with pearls, this evening.”

The prince would like to know, Sapristi, about what this bracelet cost, because, Pardieu, Doche shall have one three times as valuable, Saperlotte !

Doche gets the bracelet.
Which proves

that she has more ruse than the Russe. And Mlle. Page gets the ear-rings.

And if you think there was collusion between these two pretty actresses, you are a very naughty man, and I shall tell

you no more French stories. In fact, I have no right even to tell

you

this one, for my business is now with Columbus.

The principal newspapers of the place are very good samples of the general go-ahead-itiveness which is one of the marked characteristics of the West.

[blocks in formation]

I don't know the editors, nor the critics, nor any of the attachés of these papers from Adam-in fact, I would recognize Adam much more easily than I would them, from peculiarities of costume which, I have no doubt, are carefully avoided by the gentlemen in question. Therefore, if there is any value in an honest opinion, you have it in this. And now a line about theatrical critics in the West. A great deal of twaddle has been written in New York about the hopelessness of getting an impartial criticism from a Western editor, about the openness to bribes of Western editors, and a lot more of it. Of course I can only speak from my own experience, and that is not very extensive, as I have had but one season of “starring." But in that season I am willing to give my word, as an honest woman, that I never paid a Western editor a penny -I never invited a Western editor, or an attaché of a newspaper, to dine or sup with me, or to call on me, for the purpose of inveigling myself into his good graces; I never requested editors' favors through any third party, and yet I venture to assert that I was judged as kindly, criticised as impartially, and lauded as highly as I deserved. If it had been unconditional praise I should not say this, for it would appear like egotism; but it was sound, clearsighted, thoughtful criticism, which was eminently beneficial to me, since it pointed out faults, to acquaint me with which was to enable me to rectify them at once. As far as offering money goes, I should as soon have thought of calling a man a robber, and should have expected the same retort that such an epithet would have been likely to provoke.

I object to a practice, too common in the West, as regards the dramatic critic.

He is called a “reporter," and I resent the appellation; not that there is anything dishonorable, or in the least degree objectionable, in the cognomen, except that it is

« PreviousContinue »