Charles Frederick Holder.

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questions, and they fall apart perma-
nently when a question is overshadow-
ing and time is required for its ultimate-
solution ; such was the slavery ques-

Mr. Bryce has been quite industri-
ous in endeavoring to get at the
bottom of our methods, but he 1ms
fallen into error by relying too much
upon surface indications. It is the
habit of our partisan newspapers to
attack opponents unsparingly, and
stump speakers are inclined to fall
into the same vein. From these
sources he has evidently acquired the
idea that our practices are loose* and
corrupt. He has read the newspapers
and has talked with politicians, and
especially with those who have more
party malevolence than intelligence.
Reading the Democratic organs, a
stranger would be led to believe that
the Republican party and its leaders
are corrupt and dangerous to the
country, and the same impression
would be made as to the Democratic
party by reading Republican papers ;
and if our own people believed what
the newspapers and politicians say, it
would be doubtful if any one could
be found who really loved his country.

So much vilification is practiced, that
quite a percentage of our own people
affect to believe that all officials are
dishonest. It is not to be wondered
at that foreigners, who do not go to
the bottom of conditions, should be
misled, but one who investigates, for
the purpose of putting his views in
writing and for publication, should
look beneath surface appearances, and
study the character and conduct of the
body of the people. If Mr. Bryce has

done this, his perceptions are defective,
or he has given more weight to ' ' tri-
fles light as air " than to "confirma-
tions strong as proofs of holy writ."
He has gleaned everything bad and
criticisable to sustain his views, but
he has. failed to note conspicuously,
that our whole history discloses con-
tinuous and successful efforts to
remedy defects, remove abuses by
punishing official delinquency, and
to improve conditions. If he had
gone among the masses for informa-
tion, he would have discovered a virtue
and solidity of character nowhere
on earth excelled, and probably not
equaled. If he had investigated thor-
oughly and adjudged with the fairness
of an impartial author, he would have
arrived at the conclusion that though
dereliction, fraud, and crime h&Ve ap-
peared occasionally and in localities,
the people have promptly and effect
ively applied the corrective, and that
generally the country has been free
from political or official abuses. He
has made bad things prominent, and
kept that which deserved commenda-
tion in the background, illustrating
the truth of the saving of Marcus
Antonius that " the evil that men do
lives after them, the good is oft in-
terred with their bones.'

Mr. Bryce speaks of our methods as
devoid of system, and our legislation,
in considerable part, more particularly
that of the new States, as crude and
unassimilated ; and ascribes this to
the want of leadership and to the
prevalence of bossism. There is not
such system and well-adjusted legisla-
tion as could be desired, but the want
of leadership and the prevalence of
bossism are not the causes of these de-
fects. They are the results of condi-
tions which people in old Europe can-
not easily comprehend. We are yet a
comparatively young nation, and a
large part of the country is new. We
have not fully passed out of the condi-
tion of colonization into that of organi-
zation. Our people have been busy in
the settlement and development of new
regions. To perfect a system requires


time and experience — we are yet but a
century old. Crudeness is a more
prominent feature in the new than in
the old states, for the latter have had
more time to devote to public affairs.
Progress, however, is disclosed in
every part of the nation. That
there are differences in the legislation
and institutions of the several States,
is not necessarily proof of defects or of
crudeness. We have no positive stand-
ard of excellence, and it was never de-
signed that we should have. Each
State is free to adopt its own local
policy. Conditions and environments
are dissimilar, and it should not be
expected that methods would be the
same. The States have sole power to
legislate on the subjects of marriage
and divorce, the descent and distribu-
tion of estates, sale and conveyance of
property, and many others within
their respective territorial limits. The
British Parliament has legislative jur-
isdiction over states, territories and
provinces, but our Congress has not.
Our system is dual and distributive,
while that of Great Britain is single
and central. It is difficult for Euro-
peans to understand this, and that
uniformity is not necessarily the
measure of excellence.

It is true, as this author says, that
we may have suffered from the fact
that those who wish to engage in pub-
lic life are not sure of a career. A
public career is more certain in Great
Britain than in this country. There,
men are under the patronage of leaders
and party committees, and the people
are very little consulted as to whom
the candidates shall be. The percent-
age of men capable of filling high
places is less in that country than in
this, and hence competition is greater
here. Population in this country
changes through immigration, as well
as accretion ; there it is unchangeable,
comparatively. We have a greater
variety of questions, and new ones
more frequently arise. The people
here take sides in accordance with
their convictions, with less restraint
from party organizations and leaders.

It is true that there is an idea, more
or less prevalent, that favors dioni
passed around, and to confer an «
is supposed to be a favor, and then
there is some sentiment bo the effect
that it is advantageous to a community

to have numbers of men experienced

in public affairs, even though thej

have gained but a smattering of ki;
ledge. There is no doubt that the
greater the experience, the better
man fitted for public position, and that
it is unwise to change a capable and
faithful officer, more lly a re-

presentative to a legislative body.
all constituencies have made the mis
take of frequent changes. The South
has been more devoted to contim
service than the North, which in large
part was the secret of its almost
tinuous domination during the fust
seventy years after the adoption of the
Constitution. Upon this subject a
favorable change has been and is tak-
ing place, and there is better assurance
of careers to those who display ability
and demonstrate their devotion t<>
public interests. Rotation in office in
the past was not due to the fickleness
of the American people, but to the cir-
cumstances and conditions which ex-
isted in the country.

There can be no doubt that is
the support of bossism. Men. devoid
of principle, can be massed in a 1
to support the pretensions of a man
for sinister objects. At the beginning
of the government, and for forty \
thereafter, appointments to office \
rarely made on partisan grounds.
There was a radical change about
sixty years ago, and for thirty years
the idea was dominant among political
leaders, that success of party was
assured through providing places for
partisan workers. During the SUM
conflict, fidelity to the "peculiar in-
stitution " was deemed the paramount
qualification for official position by the
supporters of that institution. That
serious demoralization followed, is un-
deniable. That we have suffered at
times from extreme party feeling, and
the false idea as to the best means of


party success is undoubted, and the
country has become very largely ad-
vised of that fact. Public opinion has
changed, and now the prevalent view
is that party success is best assured by
giving the people the best possible
government. To destroy the spoils
system is to sap the foundations of
bossism. The favorable change that
has taken place is not made prominent
in the volumes of the American Com-
monwealth. Cities, the world over,
are the ' ' sores upon the body politic."

The country is the seat of
stability, virtue and patriotism, and
ours is also the abode of general
intelligence. If Mr. Bryce, instead of
holding up the cities as illustrations of
our methods, had left them out, and
given the bucolic population its de-
served prominence, he would have pre-
sented quite a different picture of our
institutions and practices, or if he had
placed the two side by side, showing
how small the areas are where bossism
and corruption prevail, as compared
with those free from such defilements,
the European reader would be able to
gain a correct impression and a j uster ap-
preciation of conditions in this country.
He should have made more conspicu-
ous the fact that individualism has been
developed, until it embraces the largest
percentage of the voters ; that crimes
against the ballot are generally deemed
among the most heinous ; that legisla-
tion to prevent political frauds and
official corruption, is fast approaching
perfection ; and that investigation of
misconduct in all classes of govern-
ment is frequent and searching, and
that punishment of the guilty is un-
sparingly inflicted. The history of
the country demonstrates that the
people are equal to any emergency,
whether in combating national perils
or in correcting abuses.

This author indulges in classifica-
tion, and points out a few spots as
oases in the general desert of bad
practices and neglectful indifference.
The most favored localities are, in
his opinion, some of the New England
States and Northern Ohio, and there

are others which are neither so good
nor so bad as to be especially notice-
able. He names New Orleans as the
worst place, and New York and San
Francisco as good seconds. He is
correct in his idea that where bossism
most prevails, political corruption is
greatest and government is the worst.
There can be no doubt that in the
haste and hubbub of colonization and
development of a new region, the mass
of the people are less watchful of
public affairs, and governments are
founded and administered with less
regard to system and economy than is
really requisite. California is illus-
trative of this, its government being
inordinately expensive from a super-
fluity of offices and excessive salaries,
and in this respect there has been but
little improvement, though it has been
a State more than forty years. Condi-
tions in California have been unusual.
The output of gold, in the first decade
after its cession to the United States,
was sufficient to enrich the world.
Wealth was easily acquired, wages
and prices of property were high. The
lauds were remarkably productive,
large ranches resting upon Mexican
grants were purchased for a song, the
construction of transcontinental rail
lines and general development greatly
enhanced values. The population was
sparse, and all earned livelihoods and
gained more or less wealth with facil-
ity. They thought less of taxation,
or the character of the government,
and more of their private affairs. The
public burdens were scarcely felt by
the masses. Under such circum-
stances, it is fortunate that a more
expensive and irresponsible govern-
ment was not established.

New conditions have arisen, popula-
tion has vastly increased, and though
wealth in the aggregate is immense, yet
per capita it is very much less. There
is a larger percentage who earn their
living by toil in the work shops and
upon the farms ; and taxation is more
sensibly felt, especially by these clas-
ses. They are intelligent and disposed
to look into public affairs, and to



exact of officials the utmost economy,
and of legislators such action as will
improve the machinery of govern-
ment, and lop off unnecessary expend-
itures. In future their wishes will be
heeded, and favorable changes may be
confidently expected.

In respect to future progress, Califor-
nia is not exceptional. A similar
feeling prevails throughout the coun-
try, and more especially in the newer
States. The masses of the people see
the necessity to develop a higher
degree of political morality, and to
reform systems of government by the
removal of excrescences, crudities,
and extravagances. Such movements
were on foot when Mr. Bryce investi-
gated and wrote, and they have
grown immeasurably since that time.
The American people have ever mani-
fested a tendency to reform, and have
continually progressed in all respects.
These important facts, having been
kept in the background, render the
objectionable features pointed out in
the "American Commonwealth" un-
justly conspicuous. The author has
already retracted some of the state-
ments which appeared in the first
edition, by leaving them out in the
second, and if he will impartially rein-
vestigate and rewrite, he will afford
more accurate information to his Euro-

pean readers, and remove the injustice
that he has done to this country.

To contrast American methods with
those of Great Britain docs not tend
to demonstrate the defects of the one.
nor the excellencies of the Other,
because systems of government
so dissimilar. Our constitution is
written, and contains a 1 and

succinct declaration and limitation of
powers, in which the boundaries
between the three branch* . in-

ment are clearly defined. Then
comparatively little discretion con-
ferred, the autocratic principle has no
lodgment in the instrument, and p
ers and duties are so clearly and
specifically defined that there is little
danger of irregularity, and positive
usurpation is impossible. A d<
nated leader is unnecessary, and the
waves of temporary bossism beat with
comparative harinlessness upon the
rocks of the Constitution and the laws
enacted thereunder. The British c
stitution is an ideal more than a
tangible thing. It is unwritten, and
to discover and comprehend its prin-
ciples one must delve through the
musty records of parliamentary le.
lation of centuries. The so-called
British constitution is flexible, ami
be distorted into any form cnu 1



Like some imperial fortress dark and lone,
With frowning walls, the cliff o'erhung the sea ;
And little waves caressed it tenderly,
Yet each advance was coldly backward thrown.
Then angry grew the sea, and on the stone
Heaped mighty waves that struck with thundrous shock-
Yet all in vain they beat upon the rock,
And wind and wave subsided with a moan.
Then spake the sea in deep and sullen roar
That echoed far along the rocky strand
" Behold ! My waves shall break upon this shore,
And I will lash the cold repellent land
Until this cliff that proudly towers me o'er
Beneath my feet shall be but grains of sand."


7 <^Jf s&&5>

*&** /*" ^

The accompanying letter is of special interest as referring to the frontispiece, which is
considered an extraordinary example of artistic work.



WITH the passing of Edwin
Booth, the American stage has
lost its only great serious actor.
While we have Joseph Jefferson we
can still claim a representative of
comedy, who holds his own even
against the house of Moliere, but
while Edwin Booth lived, we could,
with fair show of reason, dispute with
England the possession of the greatest
Shakspearean actor. When we consider
the round of characters in which Ed-
win Booth was notable, it is not diffi-
cult to believe that the history of the
stage will rank him with the greatest
of those whose names have been
handed down from generation to
generation. It will be written of
him that, in a period of quite un-
precedented interest in the theater, and
of advanced education in the greatest
of poets and dramatists, he reached
the height of his fame coeval with
that development. His death leaves,
without dispute, on both sides of the
Atlantic, the palm to Henry Irving.

In this brief article the writer
does not propose to enter into
any deep analysis of the English
as compared with the American
actor. Such comparison, between
two men so widely different in tem-
perament, character and method, could
be of little practical value. Their
positions, in relat on to the drama in
their respective countries, have little
resemblance to one another, although
they might have been the same, had
Edwin Booth succeeded in his am-
bitious scheme when he built Booth's


Theater. It was fate that Henry
Irving should be- as conspicuously

successful as Edwin Booth w
spicuously unfortunate in the MUM
ambition. Henry Irving i>. to-d
one of the most prominent figures
fore the world ; but the Aim i
actor who has just been laid in his
grave amid the mourning of a mighty
nation, need not envy him, if envy Im-

There appears to have been only one
great actor whose success was almOBt
instantaneous. Garrick made from the
first a triumph ; but the history of the
others is a record of years of obscure
toil, of discouraging experience. There
is such a thing, apparently, as the de-
velopment of genius ; yet it seems
strange that men and women can work
for years without impressing upon the
public their exceptional ability, then
suddenly spring into fame and uni-
versal acknowledgment.

Henry Irving was born in 1838. on
February 6th, at a small place called
Glastonbury, in Somersetshire. He
assumed the name of Irving, his real
name being John Henry Brodrih. His
parents did not intend him for
the stage. It may be said, in
general terms, that nobody has
ever succeeded who was intended
for the stage. Actors and actre-
alike seem generally to oppose their
children taking op their profession ;
and when Henry Irving was bom, the
stage was by no means a pursuit
looked upon with favor by people like
his parents. They gave him a good



education and then found him a desk
in an East India merchant's office,
from which he ran away and became
an actor. He made his first public
appearance at Sunderland, and, per-
haps, felt the usual disappointment
upon achieving no immediate fame.
He played minor roles, but he was in
the best of company, for he supported
such artists as Miss Cushman, Helen
Faucit, Vandenhoff, Robson, Charles
Mathews, the younger, Ben Webster
and Wright. This was variety
of work and study, surely. Miss
Cushman and Helen Faucit were both
serious, as was also Vandenhoff. Rob-
son and Wright were two of the best
low comedians ; the memory of Charles
Mathews stands yet unrivaled as a
light comedian, and Webster was a
character comedy actor of note. In
1859 Irving made his first appearance
in London, at the Pioneer's Theater ;
but it does not seem to have been a
notable debut. He revenged hi in sell"
by going to Manchester and playing
Hamlet, for which he appears to have
been let off. In 1866 he had begun to
assume some importance, and from
then till 1869 he played in the St.
James' Theater, the Queen s and
Drury Lane, in London.

Perhaps the most memorable event
of Irving' s career was when, on June
4th, 1870, a new comedy by James
Albery, called " The Two Roses," was
played at the Vaudeville Theater. In
the cast with him were Thomas
Thome, Amy Fawsitt, and H. J.
Montague, afterwards an idol of
Americans, who was taken ill on his
benefit night some years after, at the
California Theater, and had to leave
the stage, to which he never returned.
The part taken by Irving was a singu-
larly clever study of character, called
Digby Grant, Esq. It suited the
actor, who found all his peculiarities
useful and decidedly effective. Al-
though it did not at once place him in
the front rank of success, it attracted
a great deal of attention to the actor.
It was a notable performance, and
many, who had never noticed him, be-

gan to say he was exceptionally clever.
It was a year and a half later that he
made his triumph. The Batemans
managed the Lyceum Theater, and be-
lieving in Irving, they secured an
adaptation of Erckmann- Chatrion's
story of "The Polish Jew," made by
Leopold Lewis, and called "The
Bells." The story is a strong one,
and the character of Mathias, the well-
to-do innkeeper who, in the story, has
murdered the Jew, and whose con-
science has worked him up till he dies
in the agonies of a dramatic recital of
the murder, in a dream in which he
supposes he is being tried and mes-
merized, brought out so wonderfully
Irving's intense dramatic force that all
London was talking about it. People
crowded to see the tremendous scene,
and Irving'* standing as an actor was
established. He was materially aided
by a fierce discussion. One of those
inexplicable excitements arose, and
one clique called him the genius of the
age and another called him a mere
trickster on the stage. Lady Burdett-
Coutts, always a warm admirer of
theaters and theatrical folk, took an
interest in the new actor, and with her
patronage Irving very quickly rose
into social and artistic prominence.
He followed up his success by taking
the Lyceum himself and producing
' ' Hamlet ' ' in an elaborate way. Once
again the fierce fight broke out, and
his opponents sneered at his Hamlet
and his friends declared it the greatest
Shakspearean performance they had
ever seen.

It is hardly doubted that the first
season at the Lyceum Theater left a
heavy loss ; but it established Irving
as a manager. The newspaper critics
were not all kind to him. He had
many virulent attacks to endure on his
Shakespearean performance ; but by
degrees he won them over, and now
no actor is treated with so much
respectful interest in London by the
critics, as Henry Irving. His en-
thusiastic, careful and elaborate pro-
ductions of Shakespeare undoubtedly
compelled admiration ; but a few



years ago there were accusations of

'• chicken and champagne," which the
critics laughed down. The series of
great Shakespearean productions,
which have now come to be of world-
wide interest, included "The Mer-
chant of Venice," "Romeo and
Juliet," "Henry VIII," "King Lear,"
and others. His Hamlet met with
adverse criticism, but his Shy lock
was admitted to be a revelation. The
Jew had always been played in ding)'
gabardine, and with repulsive charac-
teristic. Irving dressed Shyloek in
handsome, picturesque robes, and made
a new point out of the character. He
gave him dignity and address, and
raised a sympathy for him, which the
part had not drawn before. His
Romeo, as any one would expect, was
not a success. The character was
altogether out of the actor's line.
Other productions at various times
were "Faust," an adaptation of the
1 ' Bride of Lammermoor, " " Louis
XI," "The Vicar of Wakefield," and
"Charles II." The latest is "Becket,"
Tennyson's drama. The criticisms of
"Henry VIII" credit Irving with
giving a decidedly strong Cardinal
Wolsey. His Mephistopheles has
been ranked with his best work, and
he is unquestionably the greatest
Louis XI the stage has seen. His
King Lear met with some violent
attacks, and stirred up quite a feeling.
He was accused of taking liberties
with the text, and his performance of
the first night was so criticised that
he changed it immediately.

But whatever may have been the
difference of opinion as to the artistic
merit of Irving' s performances, there
has been, from the beginning of his
managerial career, but one ex-
pression of praise for his brilliant pres-
entation. Historical accuracy, con-
sistent with stage effect, artistic taste,
elaborate costuming and magnificent
scenery, with wonderful attention to
detail, have been noted in everything.
The best artists have been engaged by
him ; experts on all subjects connected
with the plays have been consulted,

and it is conceded freely that he is the
best stage manager on record. lb
has carried stage presentation to a
point of perfection of taste and of

detail that leaves little room for
further development.

Almost since his commencement at

the Lyceum, Henry Irving has held
his envied position. Such was the
effect of his work that he drew to the
stage a kind of attention it had ft
attracted before. He gave to the
eral public a revelation of new phases of
its artistic possibilities, and illustrated
the pictorial as well as the lite
and dramatic value of the great pi
which, it may be said, had np to his
time been looked upon as fanciful
stories and studies of abnormal char

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 78 of 120)