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MY YEARS ON THE STAGE




From a portrait hy Joseph Be Camp in the collection of The Players.

JOHN DREW



MY YEARS ON THE STAGE



BY



JOHN DREW



WITH A FOREWORD BY

BOOTH TARKINGTON




NEW YORK

E. P. BUTTON & COMPANY

681 FIFTH AVENUE






Copyright, 1921, 1922,

By the CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY

Copyright, 1922,

By E. p. button & COMPANY

/ill Rights Reserved

First printing October, iq22

Second " October, iq22

Third " November , IQ22



Prlnteft In the tTnltefl States of America



• • • . t. t ., . . , , -, ,.

• CtC«IC •' « >•«( «4



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FOREWORD

How long ago is it, old schoolmate, since two
"middlers" from Exeter rollicked down to New York
for an Easter vacation, and on an imperishable evening
glamoured their young memories permanently with
Augustin Daly's company of players at Daly's Theatre
and The Taming of the Shrew?

What a good and merry town was brown-stone New
York then, when one stood at the doors of the Fifth
Avenue Hotel to see the pretty girls from all over the
country parading by after the matinee; when the
Avenue was given over to proud horses and graceful
women; when there were no automobiles and only a
few telephones; when Ada Rehan was playing
Katherine at Daly's and when those two Exeter school-
boys got the impression that the whole place belonged,
in a general way, to the Petruchio who tamed her,
John Drew!

The earth must have swung round the sun a few
times since then, my schoolmate, for now comes that
gay young Fetruchio before us with his Memoirs ! He



211619



vi FOREWORD

feels that he has memories to entertain and to enlighten
us; he has now lived long enough to have seen some-
thing of the stage and of the world, it appears. For
one, I am willing to read him. I have listened to him
so often since that ancient night at Daly's; and though
the words I've heard him say were words suggested by
some paltry fellow of a playwright, yet I've had such
entertainment of the man, so much humor and delight,
I am even eager to hear him, now that he will speak
in his own words of himself and of his life, his art and
his friends. As to this last, though, he will have to
select with care; he could never tell us much of all his
friends, were Methuselah from birth to grave his
diligent amanuensis.

What he has played most congenially, and with the
manliest humor of his time, have been the roles of
gentlemen; and there is a certain thing about his book
of which we are already sure before we read it : therein
he cannot fail to add one more to the long, fine gallery
of portraits of gentlemen he has shown us ; and this one
must necessarily be the best gentleman of them all.
And it will be the one we have liked best, ever discern-
ing it behind the others; for it was always there, and
turned many a playwright's shoddy outline into a fine



FOREWORD vii

fellow. John Drew would play Simon Legree into a
misunderstood gentleman, I believe.

The reason is a simple one: he was born with a
taste for the better side of things and the cleaner
surfaces of life. He has found them more interesting
and more congenial than mire, and if he should ever
deal with mire he would deal with it cleanly. Here
was the nature of the man always present in his acting;
and I think it has been because of that and because of
his humor — his own distinctive humor — that he has
charmed the best American public throughout so many
fortunate years. John Drew has been an actual feature
of the best American life ever since his youth — indeed,
he is one of its institutions; and there is a long grati-
tude due him. His Memoirs may properly be greeted,
in fact, as we should greet a birthday speech at the
banquet we are too numerous to make for him ; that is,
with cheers as he rises to address us. And then as we
settle down to listen we may be sure we shall hear of
many an old-time familiar figure besides himself, for
John Drew has known "pretty much everybody" of
his generation. His generation still continues, it is
pleasant and reassuring to know; for he admits us to
the intimacy of this autographical mood of his long



viii FOREWORD

before the fireside years claim him. And he may speak
to us freely, with as good assurance as he has always
had, that whenever he speaks at all it is "among
friends."

Booth Tarkington
Kennebunkport, Maine.
July, 1921.



ILLUSTRATIONS

John Drew Frontispiece

Playbill, John Drew's First Appearance . Page 3

The Mother and Father of John Drew Facing page 6

The Earliest Picture of John Drew . " " 6
A Daguerreotype of Mrs. John Drew, Senior, as

Ophelia Facing page 10

"The Hero of Gettysburg" .... " " 14

The Old Arch Street Theatre, Philadelphia Page 20

Playbill, The Arch Street Theatre, Philadelphia

Pages 24-25

Playbill, The Arch Street Theatre, Philadelphia

Pages 30-31

John Drew Before He Went on the Stage

Facing page 34

John Drew at the Time of His First Appearance

Facing page 34

Ada Rehan When She Appeared at the Arch Street

Theatre Facing page 34

Josephine Baker (Mrs. John Drew) . " " 38

James Lewis and John Drew in Augustin Daly's

Play "Pique" Facing page 42

Playbill of John Drew's First Appearance in New

York Page 44

Mrs. Gilbert, Miss Davenport, Miss Jeffrys Lewis,
James Lewis, Augustin Daly, and John Drew,
at the Entrance to the Consolidated Virginia
Mine Facing page 48

Fanny Davenport " " 48

Playbill of Booth in "Hamlet" .... Page $$

ix



X ILLUSTRATIONS

An Early Picture of Maurice Barrymore

Facing page 62

Ada Reran and John Drew in "Dollars and Sense"

Facing page 70

John Drew and William Gilbert in "Red Letter

Nights" Facing page 74

Playbill, Daly's Theatre, "Needles and Pins"

Page 82

Otis Skinner, Ada Rehan, James Lewis, Mrs. G. H.
Gilbert, and John Drew, in "The Railroad of
Love" Facing page 84

Ada Rehan as Katherine .... " " 90

Ada Rehan as Rosalind, John Drew as Orlando, in

"As You Like It" Facing page 96

John Drew as the King of Navarre in "Love's La-
bour's Lost" Facing page 100

Otis Skinner, Edith Kingdon, and John Drew, in

"Nancy and Company" .... Facing page 106

John Drew and Ada Rehan in "The Squire"

Facing page 110

Ada* Rehan and John Drew in Farquhar's "The Re-
cruiting Officer" Facing page 1 14

John Drew as Petruchio in "The Taming of the

Shrew" Facing page 118

Playbill of "The Taming of the Shrew" at Strat-

ford-on-Avon Page 120

John Drew, Mrs. Gilbert, and James Lewis in

"7-20-8" Facing page 124

Playbill, "A Night Off," in Germany . . Page 129

Edith Kingdon Gould as She Appeared with the

Daly Company Facing page 132

John Drew as Robin Hood in Tennyson's Play

"The Foresters" Facing page 138

John Drew and Virginia Dreher in "The Country

Girl" Facing page 142

Cartoon from Punch " " 146



ILLUSTRATIONS xi

John Drew, James Lewis, Ada Rehan, Charles
Fisher, Virginia Dreher, Mrs. G. H. Gilbert,
Otis Skinner and May Irwin, in "A Night
Off" Facing page 152

Georgie Drew Barrymore with Ethel, Lionel and

Jack Barrymore Facing page 156

Maude Adams and John Drew in "Butterflies"

Facing page 164

Elsie De Wolfe and John Drew in "A Marriage

of Convenience" Facing page 170

Arthur Byron and John Drew in "The Tyranny

of Tears" Facing page 170

Maude Adams and John Drew in "Rosemary"

Facing page 174

Maude Adams, Arthur Byron and John Drew in

"Rosemary" Facing page 178

Maude Adams and John Drew in "Christopher,

Jr." Facing page 184

Playbill, Maude Adams and John Drew in "Rose-
mary" Page 187

Mrs. John Drew, Senior, as Mrs. Malaprop in "The

Rivals" Facing page '188

John Drew and Frank Lamb in "The Liars"

Facing page 192

Ethel Barrymore as the Rustic Maid in "Rose-
mary" Facing page 200

John Drew, Guy Standing and Ida Conquest in

"The Second in Command" . . Facing page 204

John Drew and Billie Burke in "My Wife"

Facing page 208

Scene from Maugham's Comedy, "Smith"

Facing page 212

John Drew, Reginald Carrington and Lionel
Barrymore in "The Mummy and the Hum-
ming Bird" Facing page 216

John Drew at Easthampton, Long Island

Facing page 222



xii ILLUSTRATIONS

Kyalami, John Drew's House at Easthampton

Facing page ill

Pavlowa and John Drew at the Time of the Re-
vival OF "Rosemary" .... Facing page lid

John Drew " " 230



JM. .



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.V - V ^'



MY YEARS ON THE STAGE



MY YEARS ON THE STAGE

CHAPTER ONE

WHAT a dreadful young man! I wonder what
he will be like when he grows up."

The friendly audience that had come to the theatre
on the occasion of a benefit for my sister, Georgie
Drew, was thrilled with merriment when my mother,
referring to me, interpolated the speech above. The
play was Cool as a Cucumber^ by W. Blanchard Jer-
rold, a one-act farce, and I was for my first appearance
playing the role of Mr. Plumper, The time was
March 22, 1873; the place, the Arch Street Theatre,
Philadelphia, then under the management of my
mother.

Before my debut the Philadelphia Inquirer printed
an armouncement that I was to appear for the first
time on Saturday night. The article ended:

John Drew (my father) belonged to a school
of actors that is passing away rapidly and leaving
no copy behind, we fear. Of that school Mrs.
Drew (my mother) is a noble representative, and



2 MY YEARS ON THE STAGE

we would like to hope that her daughter and son
are also representatives of it. Miss Drew has
appeared but two or three times upon the stage,
and the impression she then created was favor-
able. Her worst faults are her youth and inex-
perience, and both these time will overcome. Of
Mr. Drew we know nothing. But remembering
with profound gratitude the pleasure that the
mother and father of these children have given
the public, how great and conscientious an artist
Mrs. Drew is, and John Drew was, we trust for
their sakes that the old playgoers of Philadelphia
will unite on Saturday to give the young players,
just entering upon the career by which they are
to live, a substantial, hearty welcome. It may
be that for their own sakes they deserve such
welcome; but whether this be so or not they de-
serve it for the sake of those great artists whose
children they are, and who for so many years gave
of their best to the pleasure and entertainment of
the town.

We know of no opportunity so favorable for
the public to show its respect for the memory of
the great dead comedian, or gratitude to his wife,
who survives him, as that which will be presented
on Saturday night.

The first lines that I spoke on any stage give an idea
of the self-possession of the character of Plumper that
I played in Cool as a Cucumber^ even if they do not
indicate my own self-possession and confidence. I
was ushered on by a maid, a part played on that night
by my mother. I addressed her : "My name, did you



MliS. JOH3V DREAV'S

ARCH STREET THEATRE.

BEUIMS AT UOARTEKUEKOttE EIGHT tCClXHJIC

biMJti^ Mkiuiger and Treiviurer Jos. D. Muhphy

Stage Msoager :..•....-.. Bakton Hill
UtntaU DlrMior, I'jioF. Chas. Webkb

SATURDAY EVENING, MARCH 22d, 1873,



M18S&E0B&IE MBEW



On uliirli o<Tfl»ii>ii lit-r Ilrotlifr,



Will niukt-liis First Aiippnraixe onJiny Sinse.



Tlifr Hfrfurmiini.'e will ronuneiice w lili tln' Couiwly, hi Two Arts, catlert

MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD:

|ji<ly Louetlale „ _„ MRS. JOHN DRKW

IJIIlfin, her ilungliler_„ .._. _ Miss Oeorgle Drew

Mri Ulnckmore .^..„ „..MiHs Mary XlaiMern

8Jr Charles Rocket _ _ „. Harton Hill

Lora lx»ne<lale „ „.„ Mr. Cieo. Melklff

.\ner wbidi, Mr. Charles Mathews' Coiunlfeltu or

[email protected]©L As ^' rt'TfnTF-M^-p.ini^ o



Mr. Plamper ._ „ JOHN DREW

(His FIntI .Vupenriiiice ou any stnge.)

Mr. Btirklr.s .. „ _ „ Mr. .S. Hemple

KreileiHck Hnrkina „. . „..„ Mr. A. Lawrence

Jeiutie Uoilltuit...„„._ _ .„.„ .._ __ _ „ .M1S.S Rosalie Jark

\Vtg<ln«..„ - „„.Ml{S.JOHN l)Rt-;W

To eonoluile with the Melo-Drniiia. in Two .Acts,



TSS Sil€iMf '



OR. THE VISION OF THE MURDER.

LIxette, the Sergennt'H Wife._ _ __ „ .Miss BlaiichR De Bar

Margot _ „ -MissG. DlclCMiu

OJil Cartouche ..„..._..„...„ „ _...__ Mr. Johu Parxelle

HergeaDl Ki'etlerlck _ ^ : Sir. Atkins Lftwroiu-c

Kerif<>«nt Ia>iiIs ..._ _ Mr. NuKle

s«rgt«iit Oeurge„..„„ _ _ _ „ Mr. V. Kninlit

(iuKpiu-do ._._..„_ _._ „....„ Mr. Cieo. .MPtliirt'

|i»iiuts.„.^ ._ ^ Mr. K, Wilxoii

Itot>ii|._..._.._.». .„. - _....Mr. Mark i^iiiiilnn

Solillert. Pfiisaiils. Ac

3IOXl>A.Y EVRNJNO, MARCH :>Jlli, llio BonulU^iI llraiDn rrom (be Fr<>ii<-li ufM. M.
D'En.vf.kv <t Ploumkh. b.v M Hakt Jackson, entitlctl



IS WHICH

MB. MABK SMITH

WIU nsiiUo hb GreAt Orlgloal C'h.ir:i<-icr, JACQUES FADV'EL, the Centenarian.

PXlZCEia OF ^.I^S^ISSZON- r
Oialn Jo orebeitm Boxej - • ■ ?L50 1 Orcbeslra Circle Tlckett • - 75 Cents



OrriiMm 6eata l.uclDre»t circle Tickets .... .10 Cents

lUcrrveil S*aU In tither Clicle • - l.OO | Family circle Tickets •' • • ^SCent.i
frivmeBoxM -....: <»,oe

4«iiic J. HuLxca. • Uox Book Keepeb.



%Wi



From Theatre Collection, Harvard University.
MR. PLUMPER JOHN DREW

(First appearance on any stage)

3



4 MY YEARS ON THE STAGE

say? Oh I your master doesn't know my name. I say,
you don't keep the stairs very clean in this establish-
ment, Susan — your name is Susan*? You look like a
Susan."

I had approached my first performance with a great
deal of apprehension, but when the actual time to go
on came, I took the whole affair lightly and without
the nervousness that accompanies and should accom-
pany a beginner. In my case this is all the more
remarkable since I had never at any time played in
amateur theatricals, and I had not, even as a boy,
played at theatre.

My mother, who had picked out for me the charac-
ter of Plumper for my first appearance, went on in the
part of the maid that Plumper addressed as "Susan,"
just to give me confidence. She was greatly annoyed
that I took the whole thing so lightly. She said that I
was too good. I could not see what she meant, but she
gave me to understand that I thought too much of
myself.

As a matter of fact, I did think at that time —
though I kept the belief to myself — that Joseph Jef-
ferson would have just about three or four years more
as a comedian. Hard experience, countless rehearsals
and the playing of many parts, in which I was very
bad, soon dispelled any such idea. My mother, who



MY YEARS ON THE STAGE 5

had been acting continuously since she was eight, knew
that in the theatre success is not easy, though at times
it may seem a matter of luck. To do what she could to
save me from my self-esteem she interpolated at my
expense: "What a dreadful young man I I wonder
what he will be like when he grows up."

The papers sensed that though the part of Plumper
called for coolness, suavity and assurance in all situa-
tions — not that the situations were so very remarkable
— I was a little too confident, in fact, a little too
"Plumperish."

The Philadelphia Morning Inquirer, after saying
nice things about the family, recorded : "He must be
judged, if at all, as an amateur, and, so judged, his
performance of Mr. Plumper was a very respectable
one. If Mr. Drew had been a little more nervous, a
little less sure of himself, we would have been better
pleased, but he carried off the easily won plaudits of a
most friendly and sympathetic audience rather too
jauntily."

The same paper compared my performance to that
of Charles Mathews, the great comedian, who had
played the part of Plumper in the same theatre. I was
accused of smiling at my own jokes and the comic
situations in the part. The Philadelphia Transcript
said: "He never lost his self-possession," and the



6 MY YEARS ON THE STAGE

Evening Bulletin: "Considering the circumstances,
his self-possession was remarkable."

Of course I had known the theatre almost from in-
fancy. Early among my recollections are conversa-
tions between my mother and my grandmother about
changed conditions in the theatre, and that what was
going on then at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadel-
phia and Wallack's in New York was very different
from the old days. These conversations between the
two actresses would always end with some such dis-
cussion as to whether it was the spring of *29 or *30
that they had played in Natchez, Vicksburg and other
places in the South.

This Southern tour seems to have been made in the
spring of 1829, for I have a volume of Shakespeare's
plays in which is written on the fly leaf: "This vol-
ume, comprising the entire works of the immortal
dramatist, is presented to Miss Louisa Lane as a feeble,
though an appropriate and sincere testimony of her
extraordinary genius and intellectual worth by C.
GrifHn, of Natchez, March, 1829.'*

At the time that inscription was written my mother,
Louisa Lane, was nine years old. The act. Twelve
Precisely^ which she played so successfully, seems to
have been a protean sketch or skit in which she as-
sumed five characters. There is a lithograph published





From Tlictitre Collection, Harvard Uvircrsitii.
THE MOTHER AND FATHER OF JOHN DREW




THE EARLIEST PICTURE OF JOHN DREW



MY YEARS ON THE STAGE 7

in Boston in 1828, which depicts Miss Lane, eight
years of age, in the five characters in Twelve Precisely .
Of this performance at the old Chestnut Street Thea-
tre in Philadelphia one of the newspapers said :

This astonishing little creature evinces a talent
for and a knowledge of the stage beyond what
we find in many experienced performers of merit.
The entertainment of Twelve Precisely is well
adapted to the display of the versatility of her
powers ; and in the Irish Girl she may, with truth,
be pronounced inimitably comic. Her brogue and
manner are excellent. The Young Soldier was
also admirably assumed.

In February, 1828, Louisa Lane appeared as Albert
to Edwin Forrest's William Tell. The latter seems
to have been so pleased that he presented my mother
with a silver medal on which is inscribed: "Presented
by E. Forrest to Miss L. Lane as a testimonial of his
admiration for her talents."



CHAPTER TWO

I WAS born in 1853, and my birthday was Novem-
ber 13 — the same day as Edwin Booth's. I was
christened January 10, 1854, in St. Stephen's Church.
This was my mother's birthday. My godfathers were
William Wheatley, who was associated with my
father in the management of the Arch Street Theatre,
and William Sheridan, who as William S. Fredericks
was the stage manager of the same theatre. My god-
mother was Mrs. D. P. Bowers, one of the best known
actresses on the American stage and a great friend of
my mother's. She played Lady Audley, East Lynne
and Camille through the country with great success.
I was bom at 269 (according to the new numbering
709) South Tenth Street, Philadelphia. Later we
moved to Buttonwood Street, and when my mother
took over the management of the Arch Street Theatre,
which had earlier been managed by my father and
William Wheatley, we lived first on Eighth Street and
then on Ninth, so that my mother might be near the
theatre which was at Sixth and Arch.

I vaguely remember the Buttonwood Street house



MY YEARS ON THE STAGE 9

and I know that it was to this house that my father,
a successful portrayer of Irish comedy roles, came back
from one of his several trips to Ireland, bringing with
him an Irish donkey that was allowed to roam for a
short time in our back yard and was then sold. This
donkey seemed to me to be a huge steed and is, I think,
my earliest recollection.

I cannot remember a time when I was not interested
in games. Riding was always my favorite sport. At
a tender age I was sent to Madame Minna's Riding
Academy. I had only had one or two lessons when I
was thrown, and the horse stepped on the crown of my
hat. Before I had time to be frightened the riding
master put me back in the saddle, cramped my leg
down and said : "You're all right now." I think this
kept me from losing my nerve.

I do not remember when I learned to swim, nor do I
remember a time at which I did not row. I rowed on
the Schuylkill River and belonged to the Malta Boat
Club, of which I am still an honorary member. The
boys in my day played baseball, and, of course, we
played cricket, being Philadelphians. I was very fond
of fencing and took it up long before I decided to go
on the stage. In the Arch Street Theatre there was a
large space back of the balcony where we held fencing
classes. In my early years in the theatre fencing was



lo MY YEARS ON THE STAGE

a very necessary part of the actor's equipment, for it
was supposed to lend grace to the carriage as well as
being necessary in so many of the plays. In later years
I won a fencing championship of the New York Ath-
letic Club.

It is the house at 119 North Ninth Street that I
associate with my boyhood. It was a conventional
Philadelphia house, with white shutters and white
steps. We were not in an exceptional or fashionable
neighborhood. A great many of our neighbors were
Quakers. My chief playmate was Isaac T. Hopper,
named for his grandfather, the great abolitionist.
Next to us in Buttonwood Street had lived the Quaker,
Passmore Williamson, who was much interested in the
underground railroad by which slaves were escaping
to Canada.

Passmore Williamson figured in a sensational case
in the late fifties. Colonel John H. Wheeler, the
United States minister to Nicaragua, was on a steam-
boat at one of the Delaware wharves. Three slaves
belonging to him were sitting at his side on the upper
deck. Just as the signal bell was ringing Passmore
Williamson went up to the slaves and told them that
they were free. The slaves did not wish to leave their
master but a negro mob took them ashore. The legal
action and arguments resulting from this consumed




From Theatre Collection, Harvard University.



A DAGUERROTYPE OF MRS. JOHN DREVV^ SENIOR, AS

OPHELIA



MY YEARS ON THE STAGE ii

much time and filled a volume. During part of the
time Williamson was defended by Edward Hopper,
the father of my playmate.

Young Hopper's mother was a daughter of Lucretia
Mott. I remember so well that wonderful woman, and
how much she impressed me even then. With my play-
mate I used to visit her country place, which in those
days seemed so far out of town. It was at City Line,
and the Mott place was called Roadside. First there
was a long ride in a horse car to the North Pennsyl-
vania train. Here on one occasion I saw Lord and
Lady Amberly, who were interested in abolition and
the reforms to which Lucretia Mott devoted so much
time and attention. While I do not recall now any
of the conversations, I remember that it was very dif-
ferent from what I heard at home and most of these
people talked what the Quakers called the "common
language."

I was taken to hear Wendell Phillips by the Hop-
pers and the Motts, I was impressed because they were
but I was really too young.

One day I came back from Roadside and told my
mother and grandmother that I had seen women sew-
ing on Sunday. In our own household the toys and
books of my sisters and myself were put away on Sun-
day. My grandmother was somewhat surprised that



12 MY YEARS ON THE STAGE

people would sew on Sunday. Her own idea of Sun-
day occupation was the Spirit of Missions, which she
read literally from cover to cover. My grandmother,
Mrs. Kinloch, had played in a number of theatrical
companies in this country and England, and had been
forced to withdraw from a company in New Orleans
because she refused to act on Sunday. Sunday per-
formances were then as now the custom in New Or-
leans. As a very young boy I can remember going to
St. Stephen's with my grandmother, who gave the re-
sponses in a very loud voice which seemed to me the
height of religious fervor.

Before I was ten I went to a school at a place called
Village Green, which was made a military school while
I was there. I hated to leave home, but going away got
me out of one difficulty. I had the greatest trouble
with my speech. I talked with that same accent or
intonation that Philadelphians, no matter of what de-
gree, always seem to have.

I can remember the extreme annoyance of my grand-
mother. She would protest to my mother: "Louisa,
I cannot understand a word the boy says."

I would try and pronounce words as they told me to
at home. It was no use, and while I probably im-
proved somewhat under the instruction of these two
actresses, who had been trained in the old school of


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Online LibraryJohn DrewMy years on the stage → online text (page 1 of 13)