Frank Frankfort Moore.

A garden of peace, a medley in quietude online

. (page 9 of 18)
Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 9 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


brought the first act to the Lyceum conclave. It
opened in the banqueting hall of some castle, with a
score of the usual cavaliers having the customary
carouse, throwing about wooden goblets, and tossing
off bumpers between the verses of some stirring songs
of the type of " Oh, fill me a beaker as deep as you
please," leading up to the unavoidable brawl and the
timely entrance of the King.

" It was exactly the opposite to all that I had in
my mind," Irving told me, " and I would have noth-
ing to do with it. I wanted the domestic Charles, with
his wife and children around him, and I would have
nothing else."

Happily he had his own way, and with the help of
the fine lines transferred from Ninon, the play was
received with acclamation, and, finely acted as it is
now by Mr. H. B. Irving and his wife, it never fails
to move an audience.

I think it was John Clayton who was the original
Oliver Cromwell. I was told that his make-up was
one of the most realistic ever seen. He was Cromwell



A GARDEN OF PEACE 145

to the wart! Some one who came upon him in his
dressing-room was lost in admiration of the perfec f ion
of the picture, and declared that the painter should
sign it in the corner, " John Clayton, pinx." But
perhaps the actor and artist was Swinburne.

Only one more word in the Bateman connection.
The varying fortunes of the family are well known
how the Bateman children made a marvellous success
for a time how the eldest, Kate, played for months
and years in Leah, filling the treasury of every theatre
in England and America how when the Lyceum was
at the point of closing its odors, The Bells rang in
an era of prosperity for all concerned; but I don't
suppose that many people know that Mrs. Bateman,
the wife of " The Colonel," was the author of several
novels which she wrote for newspapers at one of the
" downs " that preceded the " ups " in her life.

And Compton Mackenzie is Mrs. Bateman's grand-
son!

And Fay Compton is Compton Mackenzie's young-
est sister.

There is heredity for you.



CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH

IT was melancholy but Atheist Friswell alone was
to blame for it that we should sit out through that
lovely evening and talk about tawdry theatricals, and
that same tawdriness more than a little musty through
time. If Friswell had not begun with his nonsense
about having seen my Temple somewhere down
Oxford Street we should never have wandered from
the subject of gardens until we lost ourselves among
the wings of the Lyceum and its " profiles " of its
pines in lolanihe, and its " built " yews and pome-
granates in Romeo and Juliet. But among the per-
fume of the roses surrounding us, with an occasional
whiff of the lavender mound and a gracious breath
like that of

" The sweet South

That breathes upon a bank of violets
Giving and taking odours,"

we continued talking of theatres until the summer
night was reeking with the smell of sawdust and
oranges, to say nothing of the fragrance of the poudre
de. ninon of the stalls, wafted over opera wraps and
diamond-studded shirt-fronts diamond studs, when
just over the glimmering marble of my temple the
Evening Star was glowing!

146



A GARDEN OF PEACE 147

But what had always been a mystery to Friswell
as the extraordinary lack of judgment on Irving's
part in choosing his plays. Had he ever made a suc-
cess since he produced that adaptation of Faust?

Beautifully staged and with some splendid mo-
ments due to the genius of the man himself and the
never-failing charm of the actress with whom he was
associated in all, yet no play worth remembering was
produced at the Lyceum during that management.
Faust made money, as it always has since the days
of Marlowe; but all those noisy scenes and meaning-
less moments on the misty mountains only allitera-
tion's artful aid can deal adequately with such di-
gressions from the story of Faust and Gretchen which
was all that theatregoers, even of the better class,
who go to the pit, wanted seemed dragged into the
piece without reason or profit. To be sure, pages
and pages of Goethe's Faust are devoted to his at-
tempt to give concreteness to abstractions. (That
was Friswell's phrase; and I repeat it for what it is
worth) . But in the original all these have a meaning
at the back of them ; but Irving only brought them on
to abandon them after a line or two. The hope to
gain the atmosphere of the weird by means of a pano-
rama of clouds and mountain peaks may have been
realised so far as some sections of the audience were
concerned; but such a manager as Henry Irving
should have been above trying for such cheap effects.
Faust made money, however, and helped materially
to promote the formation of the Company through
which country clergymen and daily governesses in



148 A GARDEN OF PEACE

the provinces hoped to advance the British Drama
and earn 20 per cent, dividends.

I was at the first night of every play produced at
the Lyceum for over twenty years, and I knew that
Irving never fell short of the highest and the truest
possible conception of any part that he attempted.
At his best he was unapproachable. It was not the
actor who failed, when there was failure; it was the
play that failed. Only one marvellously inartistic
feature was in the adaptation of The Courier of
Lyons. He assumed that the sole way by which
identification of a man is possible is by his appearance
that the intonation of his voice counts for nothing
whatsoever. He acted in the dual role of Dubosc and
Lesurges the one a gentle creature with a gentle
voice, the other a truculent ruffian who jerked out his
words hoarsely the very antithesis to the mild
gentleman in voice, in gait, and in general demeanour,
though closely resembling him in features and ap-
pearance. The impression given by this representa-
tion was that any one who, having heard Dubosc
speak, would mistake Lesurges for him must be either
stone-deaf or an idiot. But each of the parts was
finely played; and the real old stage-coach arriving
with its team smoking like Sheffield, helped to make
a commonplace melodrama interesting.

Personally I do not think that he was justified in
trying to realise at the close of the trial scene in The
Merchant of Venice, the tableau of Christ standing
mute and patient among the mockers. It was an
attempt to obtain by suggestion some pity and sym-



A GARDEN OF PEACE 149

pathy for an infamous and inhuman scoundrel. In
that pictorial moment Shylock the Jew was made to
pose as Christ the Jew.

Mrs. Friswell had not seen Irving's Shylock, but
she expressed her belief that Shylock was on the
whole very badly treated; and Dorothy was ready to
affirm that Antonio was lacking in those elements
that go to the composition of a sportsman. He should
not have wriggled out of his bargain by the chicanery
of the law.

:t They were a bad lot, and that's a fact," I ven-
tured to say.

" They were," acquiesced Friswell. " And if you
look into the history of the Jews, they were also a
bad lot ; but among them were the most splendid men
recorded as belonging to any race ever known on this
earth; and I'm not sure that Irving wasn't justified
in trying to get his audiences to realise in that last
moment something of the dignity of the Hebrew
people."

" He would have made a more distinct advance in
that direction if he had cut out the ' business ' of
stropping his knife a few minutes earlier, * To cut the
forfeiture from that bankrupt there,' " I remarked.

" If he had done that Shakespeare would not have
had the chance of his pun the cheapest pun in litera-
ture and it would not be like the author to have neg-
lected that," said Mrs. Friswell.

They all seemed to know more of the play than I
gave them credit for knowing.

It was Heywood who inquired if I remembered



150 A GARDEN OF PEACE

another of Irving's plays at the close of which a sec-
ond greatly misjudged character had appealed for
sympathy by adopting the same pose.

Of course I did I remembered it very distinctly.
It was in Peter the Great, that the actor, waiting with
sublime resignation to hear the heart-rending death-
shriek of his son whom he had condemned to drink a
cup of cold poison, is told by a hurrying messenger
that his illegitimate child has just died then came the
hideous shriek, and the actor, with his far-away look
of patient anguish, spoke his words,

"Then I am childless!"

And the curtain fell.

He appealed for sympathy on precisely the same
grounds as were suggested by the prisoner at the
bar who had killed his father with a hatchet, and on
being convicted by the jury and asked by the judge
if he could advance any plea whereby the sentence of
death should not be pronounced upon him, said he
hoped that his lordship would not forget that he was
an orphan.

In this drama the first act was played with as much
jingling of sleigh-bells as took place in another and
rather better known piece in the repertoire of the same
actor.

But whatever were its shortcomings, Peter the
Great showed that poor Lawrence Irving could write,
and write well, and that he might one day give to
the English theatre a great drama.

Irving was accused of neglecting English authors ;
but the accusation was quite unjust. He gave several



151

of them a chance. There was, of course, W. G. Wills,
who was a true dramatist, and showed it in those plays
to which I have referred. But it must not be for-
gotten that he produced a play by Mr. H. D. Traill
and Mr. Robert Kitchens, and another by Herman
Merrivale; Mr. J. Comyns Carr took in hand the fin-
ishing of King Arthur, begun by Wills, and made it
ridiculous, and helped in translating and adapting
Madame Sans Gene. Might not Lord Tennyson also
be called an English author? and were not his three
plays, Queen Mary, The Cup, and Becket brought
out at the Lyceum? Irving showed me how he had
made the last-named playable, and I confess that I
was astonished. There was not a single page of the
book remaining untouched when he had done with it.
Speech after speech was transferred from one act to
another, and the sequence of the scenes was altered,
before the drama was made possible. But when he
had finished with it Becket was not only possible and
playable, it was the noblest and the best constructed
drama in verse that the stage had seen for years.

I asked him what Lord Tennyson had said about
this chopping and changing; but he did not give me
a verbatim account of the poet's greeting of his off-
spring in its stage dress he only smiled as one smiles
under the influence of a reminiscence of something
that is better over.

When he went to Victorien Sardou for a new play
and got Robespierre, Irving got the worst thing that
he had produced up to that date; but when he went
a second time and got Dante, he got something worse



152 A GARDEN OF PEACE

still. Sir Arthur Finer o's letter acknowledging the
debt incurred by the dramatists of England to M.
Sardou for showing them how a play should be writ-
ten was a masterpiece of irony.

The truth is that Irving was the greatest of Eng-
lish actors, and he was at his best only when he was
interpreting the best. When he was acting Shake-
speare he was supreme. In scenes of passion he dif-
fered from most actors. They could show a passion
in the hands of a man, he showed the man in the hands
of a passion. And what actor could have represented
Corporal Brewster in Waterloo as Irving did?

About the changes that we veterans have seen in
the stage during the forty years of our playgoing, we
agree that one of the most remarkable is the intro-
duction of parsons and pyjamas, and of persons with
a past. All these glories of the modern theatre were
shut out from the theatres of forty years ago. When
an adaptation of Dora by the author of Fedora and
Theodora was made for the English stage under the
name of Diplomacy, the claim that the Countess with
a past had upon the Diplomatist who is going to
marry really marry another woman, was turned
into a claim that she had " nursed him through a long
illness." The censor of those days thought that that
was quite as far as any one should go in that direc-
tion. It was assumed that La Dame aux Camelias
could never be adapted without being offensive to a
pure-minded English audience. I think that A Cleri-
cal Error was the first play in which a clergyman of
the Church of England was given the entree to a



A GARDEN OF PEACE 153

theatre in London. To be sure, there were priests of
the Church of Rome in Dion Boucicault's Irish plays,
but they were not supposed to count. I heard that
Mr. Pigott, the Censor, only passed the parson in A
Clerical Error on the plea of the young nurse for
something equally forbidden, in Midshipman Easy,
that " it was a very little one." But from that day
until now we have had parsons by the score, ladies
wearing camellias and little else, by the hundred. As
for the pyjama drama, I don't suppose that any man-
ager would so much as read a play that had not this
duplex garment in one scene. I will confess that I
once wrote a story for Punch with a pyjama chorus in
it. If it was from this indiscretion that a manager
conceived the idea of a ballet founded on the same
costume I have something to answer for.

But in journalism and literature a corresponding
change has come about, only more recently. It is
not more than ten or twelve years since certain words
have enjoyed the liberty of the press. In a police-
court case the word that the ruffian in the dock hurled
at a policeman was represented thus " d n," telling

him to go to " h " ; no respectable newspaper

would ever put in the final letter.

But now we have had the highest examples of
amalgamated newspapers printing the name of the
place that was to be found in neither gazette nor
gazetteer, in bold type at the head of a column, and
that too in connection with the utterance of a Prime
Minister. As for the d n of ten years ago, no one
could have believed that Bob Acres' thoughtless as-



154 A GARDEN OF PEACE

sertion that " damns have had their day," should be
so luridly disproved. Why, they have only now come
into their inheritance. This is the day of the damn.
It occupies the Place* aux Dames of Victorian times ;
and now one need not hope to be able to pick up a
paper or a book that has not most of its pages
sprinkled with damns and hells as plentifully as a
devil is sprinkled with cayenne. I am sure that in the
cookery books of our parents the treatment of a
devilled bone would not be found, or if the more con-
scientious admitted it, we should find it put, " how to
cook a d bone," or, " another way," as the cook-
ery book would put it more explicitly, " a d d bone."

" It is satisfactory to learn that the Church which
so long enjoyed the soul right to the property in these
words, has relinquished its claim and handed over the
title deeds of the freehold, with all the patronage that
was supposed to go with it," said Friswell. " I read
in the papers the other day that the Archbishop had
received the report of the Committee he appointed to
inquire into the rights of both words, and this recom-
mended the abolition of both words in the interpreta-
tion accepted for them for centuries in religious com-
munities; and in future damnation is to be taken to
mean only something that does not commend itself
to all temperaments, and hell is no more than a pic-
turesque but insanitary dwelling."

" I read something like that the other day," said
Dorothy. " But surely they have not gone so far as
you say."

" They have gone to a much more voluminous



A GARDEN OF PEACE 155

distance, I assure you," said he. " It is to enable us
all to say the Athanasian Creed without our tongue
in our cheek. Quicunque vult may repeat ' Qui-
cunque Vult ' with a full assurance that nothing
worth talking about will happen."

" All the Bishops' Committees in the world cannot
rob us Englishmen of our heritage in those words,"
I cried, feeling righteously angry at the man's flip-
pancy. " If they were to take that from us, what can
they give us in its place tell me that? "

" Oh, there is still one word in the same connection
that they have been afraid to touch," said he cheer-
fully. ' Thank Heaven we have still got that to
counteract any tendency of our language to become



aneemic."



CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH

I HAD been practically all my life enjoying gardens
of various kinds, but I had given attention to their
creations without giving a thought to their creation;
I had taken the gifts of Flora, I would have said if I
had been writing a hundred years ago, without study-
ing the features or the figure of the goddess herself.
If I were hard pressed for time and space I would
say directly that I lived among flowers, but knew
nothing of gardens. I had never troubled myself to
inquire into the details of a garden's charm. I had
watched gardeners working and idling, mowing and
watering, tying up and cutting down, but I had never
had a chance of watching a real gardener making a
garden.

It is generally assumed that the first gardener that
the world has known was Adam. A clergyman told
me so with the smile that comes with the achievement
of a satisfactory benefice the indulgent smile of the
higher criticism for the Book of Genesis. But people
who agree with that assumption cannot have read
the Book with the attention it deserves, or they would
have seen that it was the Creator of all Who planted
the first garden, and there are people alive to-day
who are ready to affirm that He worked conscien-

156



A GARDEN OF PEACE 157

tiously on the lines laid down by Le Notre. Most
gardeners whom I have seen at work appeared to me
to be well aware of the fact that the garden was given
to man as a beatitude, and that agriculture came later
and in the form of a Curse; and in accordance with
this assurance they decline to labour in such a way as
to make the terms of the Curse apply to themselves.
If they wipe their brows with their shirt-sleeve, it is
only because that is the traditional movement which
precedes the consulting of their watch to see if that
five minutes before the striking of the stable clock
for the dinner hour will allow of their putting on their
coats.

A friend of mine who had been reading Darwin and
Wallace and Lyell and Huxley and the rest of them,
greatly to the detriment of his interpretation of some
passages in the Pentateuch, declared that the record
of the incident of the Garden Designer in the first
chapters of Genesis, being unable to do anything with
his gardener and being obliged (making use of a
Shakespearian idiom) to fire him out, showed such a
knowledge of the trade, that, Darwin or no Darwin,
he would accept the account of the transaction with-
out reservation.

The saying that God sent food but the devil sent
cooks may be adapted to horticulture, as a rule, I
think; but it should certainly not be applied indis-
criminately. The usual " jobber " is a man from
whom employers expect a great deal but get very
little that is satisfactory. That is because employers
are unreasonable. The ordinary " working gar-



158 A GARDEN OF PEACE

dener " does not think, because he is not paid to think :
he does not get the wages of a man who is required to
use his brain. When one discovers all that a gardener
should know, and learns that the average wage of the
trade is from one pound to thirty shillings a week, the
unreasonableness of expecting a high order of intelli-
gence to be placed at your service for such pay will be
apparent.

Of course a " head " at an establishment where he
is called a " curator " and has half a dozen assistants,
gets a decent salary and fully earns it; but the pay
of the greater number of the men who call themselves
gardeners is low out of all proportion to what their
qualifications should be.

Now this being so, is the improvement to come by
increasing the wages of the usual type of garden job-
ber? I doubt it. My experience leads me to believe
very strongly in the employer's being content with
work only, and in his making no demand for brains
or erudition from the man to whom he pays twenty-
five shillings a week pre-war rates, of course: the
war-time equivalent would, of course, be something
like 2 5s. the brains and erudition should be pro-
vided by himself. The employer or some member of
his family should undertake the direction of the work
and ask for the work only from the man.

I know that the war days were the means of devel-
oping this system beyond all that one thought pos-
sible five or six years ago; and of one thing I am
sure, and this is that no one who has been compelled
to " take up " his own garden will ever go back to the



A GARDEN OF PEACE 159

old way, the leading note of which was the morning
grumble at the inefficiency of the gardener, and the
evening resolution to fire him out. The distinction
between exercise and work has, within the past few
fateful years, been obliterated ; and it has become ac-
cepted generally that to sweat over the handle of a
lawnmower is just as ennobling as to perspire for over
after over at a bowling crease ; and that the man who
comes in earth-stained from his allotment, is not
necessarily the social inferior of the man who carries
away on his knees a sample of the soil of the football
field. There may be a distinction between the work
and the play; but it is pretty much the same as the
difference between the Biblical verb to sweat and the
boudoir word to perspire. The pores are opened by
the one just as healthfully as by the other. And in
future I am pretty sure that we shall all sweat and
rarely perspire.

I need not give any of the " instances " that have
come under my notice of great advantage accruing
to the garden as well as to the one who gardens
without an indifferent understudy every one who
reads this book is in a position to supply such an
omission. I am sure that there is no country town or
village that cannot mention the name of some family,
a member or several members of which have been
hard at work raising flowers or vegetables or grow-
ing fruit, with immediately satisfactory results, and a
prospect of something greatly in advance in the
future.

I am only in a position to speak definitely on be-



160

half of the working proprietor, but I am certain that
the daughters of the house who have been working so
marvellously for the first time in their lives, at the
turning out of munitions, taking the place of men in
fields and byres, and doing active duties in connection
with hospitals, huts, and canteens, will not now be
content to go back to their tennis and teas and " dis-
tricts " as before. They will find their souls in other
and more profitable directions, and it is pretty certain
that the production of food will occupy a large num-
ber of the emancipated ones. We shall have vege-
tables and fruit and eggs in such abundance as was
never dreamt of four years ago. Why, already potato
crops of twelve tons to the acre are quite common,
whereas an aggregate of eight and nine tons was con-
sidered very good in 1912. We all know the improve-
ment that has been brought about in regard to poul-
try, in spite of the weathercockerel admonition of the
Department of the Government, which one month
sent out a million circulars imploring all sorts and
conditions of people to keep poultry, and backed this
up with a second million advising the immediate
slaughter of all fowls who had a fancy for cereals as
a food; the others were to be fed on the crumbs that
fell from the master's table, but if the master were
known to give the crumbs to birds instead of eating
them himself or making them into those poultices,
recommended by another Department that called
them puddings, he would be prosecuted. Later on
we were to be provided with a certain amount of stuff
for pure bred fowls, in order that only the purest and



A GARDEN OF PEACE 161

best strains should be kept; but no provision in the
way of provisions was made for the cockerels! The
cockerels were to be discouraged, but the breeding of
pure fowls was to be encouraged!

It took another million or so of buff Orpington
circulars to explain just what was meant by the De-
partment, and even then it needed a highly-trained
intelligence to explain the explanation.

When we get rid of these clogs to industry known
as Departments, we shall, I am sure, all work together
to the common good, in making England a self-sup-
porting country, and the men and women of Eng-
land a self-respecting people, and in point of health
an A 1 people instead of the C 3 into which we are


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 9 of 18)