Charles F. (Charles Frederick) Forshaw.

In memoriam; tributes to the memory of the late Sir Henry Irving online

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Surgeon-General Daniel James O'Callaghan, of the
Indian Army. The two sons of the marriage are both
distinguished as actors and authors.

The year 1871 is a landmark in the history of
Irving's life, because in that year he went to the
Lyceum theatre, and because it was at the Lyceum
theatre that the highest successes of his hfe were
attained. In the "Bells," "Jingle," "Charles L,"

"Hamlet," "Othello," "Macbeth," "Philip II.,"
" Becket," " Louis XL," " Dubosc and Lesurques,"
" Mephistopheles " and " Dante," the great and versa-
tile actor had many and varied opportunities for the
display of his genius ; and these plays were one and
all either represented there for the first time by Irving,
or were there elaborated and perfected in such ways
as to afford scope for the manifestation of his powers.
The earliest experiences of Irving after going to the
Lyceum were, no doubt, disappointing. Failure, indeed,
is the only word which adequately describes the fate
of " Fanchette," the first piece in which he took part
there, but that was not Irving's fault but rather that
of Mr. Bateman, and of the overestimate which he
had made of his daughter Isabel's dramatic power.
In " Jingle " and " Pickwick " he made, however, a
striking success, his mobile face and agile and yielding
figure exemplifying the audacity and villainy of the
part with admirable ease. Parts like these seem to
have suited Irving's genius best. Admirable and all
round as it was, it may perhaps, be said to have shone
more brightly in impersonations of villainy than in
other parts. The writer does not claim to be an
authority, since over his visits to the theatre there used
to hang for many years the apprehension, caused by

too severe an upbringing, as to what would be the
probable fate of visitors to such places, were the last
trump to summon them to judgment at such a time.
There are disadvantages no doubt, in such an up-
bringing, contracting and narrowing to the mental
and moral vision, although it may fairly be questioned
whether they are as great or damaging as those caused
by^ the re-action into the too unrestrained pursuit
ofjpleasure and the unscrupulous strain for the ac-
quisition of wealth as a means of pleasure, to which
thejpresent generation is too plainly tending. All
extremes are to be avoided. If the ascetic and puritani-
cal extreme abolishes grace and elegance and laughter,
and light amusement from life, contracting the soul to
too narrow an outlook, at least most of the evil vents
itself on the cramped spirit of the sufferer himself.
But the other extreme of extravagance and lavishness
and useless pursuit of excitement and change and
unsatisfiable desire for pleasure, ruins not only the
soul and fortunes of the person so affected, but involves
in widespread ruin all those connected with it in an
ever increasing circle of wider and wider extent. And
the defects of the former vice can at least be gradually
corrected as the narrow influences of early training
gradually relax, with the widening experiences of

maturer life — but after extravagance has wasted
the substance and ruined the health, there is too often
no place found for repentance, although it be sought
bitterly and with tears. With this deprecation
of his critical powers, however, the writer would venture
to suggest that the horrible fascination of the character
of a villain suited Irving's genius best. As Jingle,
Irving wore his audacity and villainy with ease. But
it was as Mathias in the " Bells " that his histrionic
power reached its climax. Here, indeed, he had the
opportunity of exemplifying the horribly fascinating.
TheJ^ haunting prickings of conscience, the mental
disturbanceMhat no outward or superficial ease could
conceal, and the recollection of crime that no material
comfort could banish, till even in dreams the crime
must be gone through again — it was in the demons-
tration of scenes and incidents and characters like
this that Irving's genius was supreme. It was in No-
vember, 1871, that the " Bells " was first played,
put on by Mr. Bateman at Irving's strong request,
although against Bateman's own judgment. But the
result was never in doubt. The actor's powers were
reflected in the piece ; the powers were adapted to
the piece and the piece to the powers, and the actor
became a celebrity, because he played the character

as if to the manner born. The play ran to a hundred
and fifty-one consecutive performances.

But Irving's genius, if it was seen perhaps, at
its greatest in Mathias, was fit for other parts, and
exemplified them well. Kingly dignity, human pathos,
family affection, the effort to steer a straight keel through
political intrigue, and the struggle, constantly under-
lying the varied emotions of hfe, of the weak and strong
phases of character to which every man is susceptible,
were all represented in his Charles I. There had been
some doubt expressed as to Irving's power to represent
such a role. It was acknowledged that he could im-
personate grotesque comedy. His success in melodrama
could not be disputed. But regal dignity and kingly
state, the impersonation of the character that lived
and died for the cause of the divine right of Kings
— these things were believed to be beyond his power.
Nevertheless, for a hundred and eighty nights this
play ran, attracting to see its performance all that
was best and highest in the intellect of England, and
drawing thousands of the representatives of commerce
besides, although at that time, the commercial mind
Wcis being bolstered up and inflated by the Franco-
German war, an expansion which so deceived the

vaunted commercial shrewdness as to induce the behef
that the prosperity was to be perpetual. It is always
a little difficult to discover whether the crowds who
go to fashionable entertainments are the cause or
the effect of their success. The thousands and thou-
sands of sightseers went, at least, and it is pleasant
to acknowledge the fact and to assume that they were
attracted by the force and dignity of the acting rather
than to inquire too closely into the hidden reasons for
their going. Following on "Charles I.," "RicheUeu" was
revived for a hundred and twenty nights. It is
doubtful whether in any performance Irving ever
drew more vehement or more frenzied applause. But,
indeed, the character of the Cardinal was well suited
to evoke the highest powers of the artist as he rose
to the exemplification of the large statesmanship,
the astute intelligence, intrigue and the efforts at
ecclesiastical and moral consistency which characterised
this ruler and enigma among men.

The character of Miraflore which Irving played
in 1874, did not particularly suit his genius, although
the passion of jealousy which was later to be so well
represented in the noble Moor of Venice, was well

Of Hamlet, what is to be said ? The excitement
as to whether Irving could achieve a success in it,
was intense. Even early in the afternoon of the
day, when the resuscitation of Shakespeare's great
play was expected, dense crowds had assembled before
the theatre doors. As in the case of all great men,
a great diversity of opinion was expressed. Some
felt that his success was assured ; while others were
equally certain that he would fail. The play had
few accessories to recommend it. Part of the staging
had already been used in the representation of Eugene
Aram. If it was to succeed, " Hamlet " would succeed
because of Irving's acting ; and if it failed it would
be because Irving failed to please. His reception was
most cordial. That, of course, was to be expected.
The actor who had achieved so many triumphs, and
who had played for a hundred and eighty consecutive
nights in the same play was, at least, sure of a cordial
reception. But the reception had in it an element
of hesitation, of expectancy, of silence even, during
the first two acts. Someone said of the battle of
Marengo that it was lost up to the third act. So
it was with Irving's " Hamlet." After the first cordial
reception, dead silence seemed to overtake the audience ;
but the third act produced a complete change. The

play within a play lends itself to effect. A murder
perpetrated in a play in presence of the murderer
himself, and copied in essence from the scene that
the affected madman had realistically represented in
his own imagination, was well calculated to prick and
goad into the anguish of feared discovery that which the
murderer had fondly hoped was for ever concealed within
the recesses of his own heart. From this stage onward,
the progress of the piece was a continual triumph ;
and the Shakespearian resuscitation was an assured

In 1875, after Bateman's death, Irving played
Othello under Mrs. Bateman's management. He scarce-
ly achieved the same success as in Hamlet — his genius
was not so much en rapport with the character of the
noble Moor — and yet his success, if achieved at an
earlier period of his career would have been termed
great, for the performance was repeated on eighty
nights. " Kean, in the height of his triumphs," wrote
one who was present, " awoke no greater enthusiasm
than is now displayed ; and Macready, during his
best days, inspired no equal interest."

Irving's acting in Tennyson's " Queen Mary " and
" Becket " need not detain us long, although the latter

play was the one in which he took the part of the
Archbishop on the melancholy 13th of October, when
the great actor, who had so often died on the stage,
at last died off it. In playing the part, he had been
accustomed when the archbishop is done to death,
to fall on the floor of the stage, but on this last occasion
he merely sank on to the steps of the altar with the
words :

Through night to light ;

Into Thy hands, O Lord, into Thy hands.

In this position he remained longer than was
customary after the curtain had fallen, and one of
the attendants, assisting him to rise and thinking
he was cold, asked, " Is there anything wrong, sir ? "
But there was no answer. Irving went to his dressing
room, and in a few minutes later appeared before
the audience, who would not be satisfied until he had
in a few graceful sentences acknowledged the warmth
of their reception and appreciation. He left their
presence apparently as well as usual, although it had
been matter of general remark that all through the
Bradford performances he had seemed very feeble
and overdone. The same night he died at his hotel
immediately on arriving from the theatre, it having

been the melancholy duty of the writer of these lines to
see the great actor immediately after he had expired.

But to resume our narration, it may be said that
the general success of Tennyson's plays was not great ;
and "The Bells" and "The Belle's Stratagem"
succeeded them. As Dorincourt, Irving had already
succeeded ; and he naturally passed from the cold,
proud, unimpassioned Philip II. of Tennyson, to his
former part, and to Mathias.

It is unnecessary to go at great length into the
remainder of Irving's career. His greatest successes
had been attained by this time. But two other
impersonations must be mentioned. It is doubtful if
Irving ever appeared to greater advantage than in
" Richard III." Even his Hamlet did not, in the
opinion of some of the best judges, reach a higher
level than this. The force and subtiUty of the character
suited him admirably.

As to his " Dubosc " and " Lesurques " in the
" Lyons Mail," it has been universally, or all but univer-
sally, acknowledged that nothing could have been finer
than the double representation of the real and the
alleged criminal. And some of those whose memories

went back for nearly a quarter of a century and remem-
bered Kean's impersonation of the same character,
judged that Irving's was the better of the two. In
1878 Irving became in name the lessee of the Lyceum
on Mrs. Bateman's retirement, although he had been
long in reality the chief actor on its boards.

In 1883 and 1885, and on two other occasions,
Irving visited America, to repeat there the triumphs
he had deservedly obtained in England. Of the
impressions he made on the trans-atlantic cousins
space forbids us to speak. To do so would demand
an article of its own. The interest taken in him by
reporters, the humour on the one hand with which
he received them, and the shrewdness on the other
with which he answered their queries, a shrewdness
often taking the form of the affectation of extreme
simpHcity — these things are graven in the memory of
those who take an interest in the actor's Hfe. Naturally,
the parts he played in America were those in which
he had already won renown in England. And the
quahties which had recommended him to native au-
diences enabled him equally, or more emphatically,
to win his way to American hearts. On his second
visit he addressed, by invitation, the students of Harvard

University on "The Art of Acting." He dealt with
the subject under the following heads : (i) The occasion ;
(2) The Art of Acting ; (3) The practice of the Art ;
and (4) The rewards of the Art. The man of whom
in i860, George Henry Lewes had said that in twenty
years he would be at the head of his profession, and
of whom George EHot had said, " He is there already,"
had more than fulfilled the appreciative prophecies
concerning him. He might have had a title sooner ;
but, as a fact, he was Knighted in 1895, and in honour
of the event, no fewer than four thousand members
of the dramatic profession presented him with their
signatures in a volume, which was enclosed in a gold
and crystal casket, designed by Forbes Robertson.
Irving naturally filled all those honorary offices which
fall in rotation to distinguished members of his pro-
fession, all those offices of social, philanthropic and
professional interest to which actors aspire, or which
a sense of duty compels them to fill.

It is, perhaps, too soon yet to sum up the stage life
of Sir Henry Irving and, indeed, the writer is not quite
sure whether he is entirely fitted for the task. But one
or two things may be said. No man succeeds in any
department of life without work and without hard work.

It goes without sa5dng that Irving manifested this char-
acteristic in its fullest extent. Nothing could exceed the
care and painstaking which he expended on the prepar-
ation of his parts. The repetition which he insisted on
at rehearsals was often very distasteful to those who were
later to perform on the stage — although the gracious
character of the chief, and the knowledge on the part
of his subordinates that all the labour was being
undertaken for the furtherance of the common interest
of the company, and for the success of the piece, com-
pelled them to yield. In private life nothing could
have been more genial or considerate, nothing more
gracious or sympathetic than Irving's character. Num-
berless acts of kindness are described as having been
done by him, and perhaps he was as free from jealousy
as any professional player ever was. A characteristic
act of kindness to a brother actor deserves to be
recorded. Edwin Booth, the American actor, had
been playing at the Princess's Theatre, and had not
met with the attention which his ability had merited.
Irving deranged his own plans, to invite him to the
Lyceum, where they alternated the parts of OtheUo
and lago, with Miss Terry as Desdemona.

Irving's sense of the importance of his art as a
national educator, and his acquaintance with the

practical difficulties in the way of achieving success
in it, led him to the belief expressed on more than
one occasion, that the stage ought to be municipally
or nationally supported. This is very likely a sound
view. If it were carried into effect an impetus would
probably be given to the civilising powers of the
stage. In the future, when more urgent matters
shall have been dealt with by our municipalities, and
after, perhaps, the first steps shall have been taken
to diminish unemployment and starvation among the
people, it may be possible to give some attention to
the elevation of their taste and to the cultivation
of their power to appreciate histrionic representation.
Very likely such a state of things would be an improve-
ment, although there are possible objections to every
plan. It has to be pointed out, however, that even
on the present plan, or want of plan, in which each
actor and actress makes his own appeal to the public
favour, Irving himself succeeded, although not favoured
by any of fortune's gifts. A noble people will make
a poor plan succeed, and an ignoble people will degrade
a lofty one. Still, this consideration should not prevent
us from improving a poor system or make us think
lightly of a lofty one. But when in the representations
of the future, the British nation shall have taken Art

to its bosom, and under the inspiration of a national
theatre, spells Art with a capital "A," plays will not
turn on Kings who reach the throne through murder,
nor on the vagaries of heirs apparent feigning madness
under the terror of being sent abroad, nor yet under
the fear that they in turn may not be able to ascend
the throne of their ancestors. Law will be strong
enough to punish even Kings who do wrong, if, indeed,
there will then be any Kingship which inherits ancestral
thrones by mere virtue of descent from a royal line.
Milk and water Ophelias will play no trancendently
interesting parts, simply because the matrimonial
destiny of royal princes is in question, although love
and its play of passion and human emotion will always
compel the interests of a human audience moved by
its humanity, but not specially because the humanity is
royal. For all royalty will be human, and all humanity
royal. No future Shylock will arouse our interest or
compel the play of emotion because his bond demands
its pound of flesh, whether with or without its accom-
paniment of blood nearer or further from the debtor's
heart. If usury is permitted at all, it will have to be
an interest limited by strict law, as imperative as any
law of nature, compelhng its own consequences in
reward or punishment inevitably accruing, as the law

is kept or broken. The law like that of nature will
be formulated in order to bring hire or salary, not
revenge. Such consequences as sufficed to stir emotions
three hundred years ago will be an entire anachronism
in the plays of the future, when neither gods nor pit
will be found to shew any excitement over such utterly
impossible conditions and no sensible manager will
be found to stage them. No Portia of the future will
be able to excite or sustain human interest in such
a cause. But if in the exercise of legal rights, one
man evicts a whole series of families of liis brothers
in order that he may empty the countryside of men
and fill it with deer, then audiences will be profoundly
moved by such representations, and may be induced
to attempt to alter laws which allow such things to be.
Or if the exaction of interest should lead to disparities so
excessive, and inequalities so great as we have seen
in the Victorian Era, when one man owns, let us say,
hundreds of thousands of acres of the land of the
country, the while that hundreds of thousands of
men are wandering homeless and workless about the
same country, then the stage will not want for oppor-
tunities of stirring its audiences. Even those who do
not desire equality will be stirred to the depths of their
being by inequalities so disproportionate. But even

a stage in private hands might surely make a Mke appeal,
without the possible disadvantages of interference
with private life and individuality which too much
officialism has the great demerit of inducing. Truly,
the stage, whether public or private, will never be
short of motives through which it may make its appeal
to a sympathetic pubUc. But until too general and
heart-breaking evils are removed from our midst,
more urgent questions will for some time to come
occupy public attention, and before we can sit down
to enjoy the airy grace of the flight of the gossamer
wings of Ariel, and the elegance of Puck and Oberon
in fairy land, we should surely proceed to remove,
as far as we can, those blots on the civilisation of the
Victorian and its succeeding Era, those frightful dis-
parities in the conditions of men which are so character-
istic of them. To the great actor who has so worthily
upheld and who has elevated the traditions of the
stage, purifying it, at the same time that he calls upon
us to remember what a noble instrument of good and
what a lofty stimulus to human instruction that in-
stitution offers us, our hearts must respond with
gratitude. And, whether sooner or later we accept
and carry out his ideal of nationaUsing the institution
of the actor, or prefer for a time to continue as we have

hitherto done in contenting ourselves with making a
private appeal, we shall feel that Sir Henry Irving
has worthily exemphfied the best traditions of British
acting, and has even been able to carry them to a
higher level. And what the future may have in store
for us, what imagination at present fails to grasp,
will have been evolved, as one of its factors, through
the work he has been able to accompUsh.

Sir Henry was a Doctor of Literature of both
DubUn and Cambridge Universities, and a Doctor of
Laws of the University of Glasgow. In 1895 (the year
of his Knighthood), he was elected an Honorary Fellow
of the Royal Society of Literature.





. 69

Aylward, Rev. A.F., M.A. .

• 70

Bairstow. Herbert


Barber, Henry

• 73

Barlow, George . .

. 75

Barraclough, W. H.

. 77

Barrington, Rutland

. 78

M. J. B.

. 79

Bassetti, R.


Bathe, W.

. 84

Beddoes, Charles


Bell, J. J.

. 91

Bennett, Arthur , .


Bkntlev, Joseph . .


Blunt, Henry B., M.B., C.B


• •

. 96

Bramston, Rev. F. T.. M,A.


Brownsword, Lydia


Bull, Amy C.


BuRGOYNE, Florence


Burns, Thomas, F.R.S.L. . .


Calmour, Alfred C.

.. no

Carey, Rev. Peter, B.D. . .

. . Ill

Clarke, E. Wearne, M.D. . .

.. 114

Cochrane, Mrs. W.

.. IIS


.. 117

Corbett, Rev. F. St. John, M.A.

.. 119



Crockett, Andrew


Dabbs, G. H. R., M.D.


Dalby, G. Bewlay


Davies, J. S.

.. 128

Duval, Denis


F. D. ..


Eastwood, J. R. . .


Edlin, Harry


EssBANK, Jay


Fellows, Fred

.. 138

Gallagher, Frank


Gibson, Rev. J. G., D.D. . .


Gomersall, Rev. W. J. F.R.S.L.


Gordon, Mrs. E. M., LL.D. . .


Gray, Eleanor


Greening, Claude

.. 152-153-154

Grundy, Sydney . .


Halliday, Laura . .

.. 157

Hebbington, James, LL.D.


Hill, J. S.


Hook, Elsie


Inglis, T. L. S.


IsHERwooD, Nellie

.. 165

Jacob, Israel Thomas

. . 167

Lane, J. T., F.R.S.L.


Lawton, David


Legge, Francis E. . .

.. 171

Leigh, Andrew G. . .


LoGiE, Alexander

.. 175

Mackintosh, Jas. . .

.. 176

McConnell, Rev. J., M.A. , .


McMaster, W. F. . .


Mee, Arthur

.. 181

Morgan, Rev. W., B.A.


Murray, D. G.


H. R. M. ..

.. 187

NicoL, James


NoRTH.\LL, F. A. . .


O'Brien, John


Oliver, Rev. F., D.D.


Owen, Elias


Phillips, Rev. Canon, D.D.


PoE, J.W.. B.A. ..




Rabagliati, a., M.A., M.D...


Ratcliffe, Thos., B.A.

. . 199

Rawlings, Alderman F., F.S.S.

. . 200

Rennie, p.

. . 202

Rhoades, James

. . 204

Roberts, R. Ellis

. . 205

Ross, Rev. R.. F.R.S.L.

. . 206

RowE, Louisa Jopling

. . 207

Rowlands, J., F.R.S.L.

. . 208

Sargent, Maude L.

.. 210

Seaman, Owen

.. 213

Sheard, Virna

.. 213

Silvester, Rev. James, M.A.

.. 2IS

Sinclair, Clarence, M.D. . .

.. 216

Smith, W. Hamlet..

.. 217

Smylev, Rev. W. A.

.. 219

Spencer, Richard . .


Stones, John W. . .

. . 22a

Talbot Arthur Bass


Turner, Alfred . .


Turner, W,

. . 227

Vasey, Richard

. . 230

Verte, Olive

• 233

Victory, Louis H., F.R.S.L.

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Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Frederick) ForshawIn memoriam; tributes to the memory of the late Sir Henry Irving → online text (page 2 of 8)