HENRY IRVING S IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA.
PRtirTRD BY OILBERT AND RIVINGTON, LIMITED,
ST. JOHN S SQUA.BE.
IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA,
NARRATED IN A
SERIES OF SKETCHES, CHRONICLES, AND
JOSEPH H ATT ON,
AUTHOR OF " CLYTIE," " CRUEL LONDON," " THRKE RECRUIT!-
"JOURNALISTIC LONDON," "TO-DAY IN AMERICA," ETC.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
SAMPSON LOW, MAESTON, SEARLE, & R1VINGTOX,
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.
LOOKING FORWARD TO CHRISTMAS.
Interviewing in England and America Rehearsing
Richard and Lady Ann Reminiscences of a Christmas
Dinner A Homely Feast Joe Robins and Guy
Fawkes He would be an Actor The Luxury of
Warmth" One Touch of Nature " . . .1
A WILD RAILWAY JOURNEY.
A Great American Railway Station Platforms and Wait-
ing-Rooms A queer Night " Snow is as Bad as Fog "
A Farmer who suggests Mathias in " The Bells "
A Romance of the Hudson Looking for the Maryland
and Finding " The Dauites "Fighting a Snow- Storm
" A Ministering Angel" The Publicity of Private
Cars Mysterious Proceedings Strange Lights
Snowed up Digging out the Railway Points A
Good Samaritan Locomotive Trains Ahead of Us,
Trains Behind Us Railway Lights and Bells
" What s going on ?" 14
CHRISTMAS, AND AN INCIDENT BY THE WAY.
At Baltimore Street Scenes Christmas Wares Pretty
Women in "Rubber Cloaks" Contrasts Street
Hawkers Southern Blondes Furs and Diamonds
Rehearsing under Difficulties Blacks and Whites
Negro Philosophy Honest Work "The Best Com
pany on its Legs I have ever seen " Our Christmas
Supper " Absent Friends " Pictures in the Fire and
afterwards An intercepted Contribution to Magazine
Literature Correcting a Falsehood Honesty and
Fair Play ......... 39
FROM BROOKLYN TO CHICAGO.
" Fussy " The Brooklyn Ferry Crossing the North River
A Picturesque Crowd Brooklyn Bridge at Night
Warned against Chicago Conservatism of American
Critics Dangers of the Road Railway- train Bandits
An early Interviewer A Reporter s Story Life on
a Private Car Miss Terry and her "Luck" American
Women .......... 63
THE PRAIRIE CITY.
First Impressions of Chicago A Bitter Winter Great
Storms Thirty Degrees below Zero On the Shores
of Lake Michigan Street Architecture Pullman
City Western Journalism Chicago Criticism
Notable Entertainments At the Press Club The
Club Life of America What America has done
Unfair Comparisons between the Great New World and
the Older Civilizations of Europe Mistaking Notoriety
for Fame A Speech of Thanks Facts, Figures, and
Tests of Popularity, past and to come .... 80
ST. LOUIS, CINCINNATI, INDIANAPOLIS,
Sunshine and Snow Wintry Landscapes Fire and Frost
Picturesque St. Louis " The Elks " A Notable
Reception " Dime Shows " Under-studies Ger
many in America " On the Ohio " Printing under
Difficulties " Baggage-smashing " Handsome Ne
groes and Sunday Papers The Wonders of Chicago . Ill
CHIEFLY CONCERNING A HOLIDAY AT NIAGARA.
The Return Visit to Chicago "Welcomed back again
Farewell Speech Niagara in the Winter A Sensation
r^t the Hotel Requisitioning adjacent Towns for
Chickens and Turkeys Ira Aldridge and a Coloured
Dramatic Club A Blizzard from the North-West
The Scene of Webb s Death "A great Stage-
manager, Nature " Life and Death of " The Hermit
of Niagara A fatal Picnic The Lyceum Company
at Dinner Mr. Howe proposes a Toast Terriss meets
with an Accident that recalls a Romantic Tragedy . 134
FROM TORONTO TO BOSTON.
Lake Ontario Canadian Pastimes Tobogganing On an
Ice Slide " Shooting Niagara and After " Toronto
Students Dressing for the Theatre " God save the
Queen" Incidents of Travel Locomotive Vagaries
Stopping the Train " Fined one hundred Dollars "
The Hotels and the Poor Tenement Houses The
Stage and the Pulpit Actors, past and present
The Stage and the Bar-room The second Visit to
Boston Enormous Receipts A Glance at the
Financial Results of the Tour . 1 57
WASHINGTON, NEW ENGLAND, AND SOME
From Rail to River Once more on board the Maryland
Recollections of President Arthur At the White
House Washington Society An apt Shakespearian
Quotation Distinguished People " Hamlet" A
Council of War Making out the Eoute of a New Tour
A Week in New England Cities Brooklyn and
Philadelphia Re- visited 178
" BY THE WAY."
My Name is Mulldoon, I live in the Twenty-Fourth
Ward "Protective Duties and the Fine Arts" The
General Muster " A Message from Kansas City
American Cabmen Alarming Notices in Hotels
The Chicago Fire Service What a Fire Patrol
can do in a few seconds Marshalling the Fire
Brigades William Winter" Office Eules "The
Reform Club and Politics Enterprising Reporters
International Satire How a Man of " Simple and
Regular Habits " lives Secretaries in Waiting The
Bisbee Murders "Hunted Down" Outside Civiliza
tion The Bazoo The Story of a Failure A Texan
Tragedy Shooting in a Theatre Evolutions of
Towns . . 207
"THE LONGEST JOURNEY COMES TO AN END."
" Our Closing Month in New York " Lent At Rehearsal
Finishing Touches Behind the Scenes at the
Lyceum and the Star The Story of the Production
of "Much Ado" in New York Scenery and Proper
ties on the Tour Tone Surprises for Agents in
Advance Interesting Technicalities An Incident of
the Mounting of Much Ado" The Tomb Scene
A Great Achievement The End . . . . 2-57
IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA.
LOOKING FORWARD TO CHRISTMAS.
Interviewing in England and America Eehearsing Bichard
and Lady Ann Reminiscences of a Christmas Dinner A
Homely Feast Joe Robins and Guy Fawkes He would be
an Actor The Luxury of Warmth " One Touch of Nature."
THESE is interviewing and interviewing. How it
comes out depends upon the interviewer and the inter
viewed. Every phase of the difficult art is shown in
American journalism. Mr. Yates, in the World, has
given us the best modern form of interviewing in
" Celebrities at Home/ Mr. Blowitz, of the Times, and
other foreign correspondents have frequently shown
England how admirably the American system fits a
certain class of news. The Pall Mall Gazette has
lately adopted the method of our cousins more in
detail than has been hitherto popular with the London
VOL. n. D
2 Impressions of America.
press. I have always held that interviewing, con
ducted with discretion and a sense of journalistic
responsibility, would be a valuable and entertaining
feature of English newspaper work.
I am prompted to these remarks by the contents of
this chapter. Said Mr. Stephen Fiske, the dramatic
editor of The Spirit of the Times, and the author of
a clever book on England, " I am anxious to have Mr.
Irving write a short story for our Christmas number.
Wilkie Collins, as you know, is a constant contributor,
and we have the assistance of some of the best pens,
English and American. Irving has written for several
English publications. "
" He has a wonderful amount of energy, and can
do more mental work in a given time than any man
I know ; but when he is going to get an opportunity
to sit down and write a Christmas story is more than I
" I only want a personal reminiscence, an anecdote
or two," said Fiske ; " but I must have him in the
(( Why don t you interview him, with Christmas as
the pivot of your interrogations ?" I asked.
" He has been interviewed almost to death, I should
1 The trouble touching some of the " Interviews" that appeared
Looking Forward to Christmas. 3
c Oh, no ; I believe lie likes it. I am sure he does
when a really bright, clever fellow comes along and
engages his attention. Though he does not say so,
and, perhaps, has not thought about it, he is doing
good every time he has a real earnest talk to a reporter
about the stage and its mission. No actor ever set
people thinking so much in England, and he is proving
himself quite an art missionary on this side of the
That s true/ said the dramatic editor ; " but for
my purpose I only want him to be simply entertaining,
a bit of personal history, apropos of Christmas.-"
"Play the role of an interviewer, and write the
stories yourself," I suggested.
" I will/ 7 said Fiske. " Your plan has this advan
tage, I shall get the copy in proper time for the
And this Christmas chat is the result of the dramatic
editor s decision.
" It was a gloomy, rainy, miserable day. The
in the journals was that they were not all genuine. Fiske
suggested this fact as discounting a " Christmas chat ;" but I
undertook to endorse his work by annexing his "interview " to
these pages ; and I have to thank him for his bright contribution .
4 Impressions of America.
theatre, always a dreary place in the morning, seemed
even more depressing than usual. Mr. Irving was re
hearsing the first act of Eichard III./ possibly with
a view to Baltimore or Chicago.
With that infinite patience which some philosophers
define as genius, Mr. Irving went over and over
the lines of Eichard and Lady Ann, and acted all the
business of the scene. His street costume and tall
silk hat appeared ridiculously incongruous with his
sword and his words. He knelt upon the stage and
showed Lady Ann how to take hold of the weapon
and threaten to kill him. He rose and repeated her
speeches with appropriate gestures. He knelt again,
gave her the cues, and watched her from under his
heavy eyebrows, while she again rehearsed the scene.
1 Eepeated a dozen times, this performance became as
monotonous as the dripping of the rain without, or the
slow motions of the cleaners in the front of the theatre.
At last, with a few final kindly words, the Lady Ann
was dismissed, and Mr. Irving sat down wearily at the
prompter s table.
" Where shall you eat your Christmas dinner ? I
" At Baltimore/ replied Mr. Irving. Several of
my company have brought their home-made Christmas
puddings over with them, and are to carry them about,
Looking Forward to Christmas. 5
with the rest of the luggage, until the day arrives. I
have determined to try the American Christmas pud
dings,, which, I am told, are very good indeed, like
most things American.
" Oh, our people manufacture them by thousands.
After all, a Christmas pudding is only a mince-pie
" f Just so/ said Mr. Irving, laughing in his silent,
interior, Leatherstocking manner. f l am thinking/
he exclaimed, of the Christmas dinner I gave last
year in the room o the old Beefsteak Club, which,
you know, is now part of the Lyceum Theatre. We
had talked the matter over, a few friends and myself,
and decided that we were tired of professional
cooks and conventional bills of fare, and that the best
stimulus for our jaded palates was a return to plain,
" You can fancy Stoker saying that. He said it over
and over for at least a month, and kept humming,
<c There s no place or no dinner like home/ in the
most disquieting way, whenever the matter was men
tioned. He also undertook to arrange the whole
" Well, it was arranged. There were to be no pro
fessional caterers, no professional waiters, no luxuries
of any kind, except the wines, which I took under
6 Impressions of America.
my own care, being cast for the part of the butler.
Stoker was to buy the material. The property-man s
wife was to roast the beef and the turkey. The mis
tress of the wardrobe undertook to boil the pudding.
An usher, born with a genius for cookery, who was
discovered by Stoker, had charge of the soup, fish,
and vegetables. We were to wait upon ourselves, a
genuine family party. A suggestion to order ices
from Gunter s, in case the pudding was a failure, was
voted down indignantly.
" As Christmas approached I became quite in
terested in this home dinner -hungry for it da}^s in
advance, as one may say. I began by inviting one
friend who had a reputation as an epicure; then
another asked to be allowed to share our homely feast.
Presently our family party grew to thirty. I began to
have forebodings. You see, a small family can wait
upon themselves, but not a family of thirty.
" However, Stoker appeared cheerily satisfied and
mysteriously complacent, and seemed to think that our
motto should be " The more the merrier ! " I imagined
that he had secretly tested some of the home cooking
beforehand, and rather envied him his position as
" The guests were met ; the table set. I had made
sure that the wines were all right. As I looked along
Looking Forward to Christmas. 7
at the happy, friendly faces I felt that a home dinner
was the most pleasant, after all. The soup-tureen was
before me, and I lifted the cover with the anxious
pride of a Wellington firing the first gun at Waterloo.
" The chance simile of a battle holds good ; for the
soup was awfully smoky. Somebody said that it tasted
like a chimney on fire. The fish was worse. The roast
beef was uneatable. Persistent as I naturally am, I
gave up the attempt to carve the turkey. The pud
ding was as hard as a stone. What little appetite
remained to us was lost while carving the meats and
passing the plates around. I had felt like Wellington
before Waterloo ; but when the dinner was over I
could appreciate the despair of the defeated Napoleon.
" Had we been only a family party the fiasco would
not have been so fatal ; but, as I told you, I had in
vited epicures ; I had dragged my friends from their
comfortable homes on Christmas Day to partake of
this terrible repast. Some of them have never quite
forgiven me. Some have forgiven me, because I had
a chance to take them aside and put all the blame
upon Stoker. But nobody who was present can ever
have forgotten it.
Like Napoleon, I retreated to Foiitainebleau ; I
fell back upon the wines. One of the guests won my
heart by loudly eulogizing the cheese and the crackers.
Impressions of America.
They were not home-made. They had not been cooked
in the theatre !
<( Here comes Stoker/ continued Mr. Irving, re
lapsing into his curious solemnity of manner ; let us
ask him about it.
<( I say, Stoker, do you remember the home dinner
you gave us at the Lyceum last Christmas ?
" Mr. Stoker stopped on his way across the stage,
and stood like a statue of amazement, of indignation,
of outraged virtue. ( The dinner J gave you ? he
at last exclaimed. Then his loyalty to his chief
triumphed, and he added, Well, you may call it my
dinner, if you like; but I have the original copy of
the bill of fare in your own handwriting/
" Ah ! resumed Mr. Irving, quite placidly, as his
acting manager dashed away, I thought Stoker would
remember that dinner !
" This Christmas you will dine upon roast canvas-
backs, instead of roast beef, and stewed terrapin,
instead of smoked soup/ I observed.
l Yes/ replied the English actor ; I am told that
Baltimore is the best place for those delicacies. But
they will not seem strange to me ; I have eaten canvas-
backs at Christmas before/
In England ?
" ( Certainly. My first American manager Papa
Looking Forward to Christmas. 9
Batemau you used to call him had many good friends
in this country, who kept him liberally supplied with
almost all your American luxuries. Under his tuition
I learned to like the oysters, the terrapin, and canvas -
backs, upon which my generous hosts are feasting me
now, long before I ever thought of coming to America.
" e But perhaps the most remarkable Christmas
dinner at which I have ever been present/ continued
Mr. Irving, after reflecting for a few moments, f was
the one at which we dined upon underclothing/
" Do you mean upon your underclothing or in your
underclothing? queried the astonished Spirit/ con
juring up visions of Christmas dinners on uninhabited
islands, at which shipwrecked mariners had been known
to devour their apparel, and of the tropical Christmas
dinners in India and Australia, at which scanty cos
tumes are appropriate to the climate.
" c Both ! replied Mr. Irving. ( It is not a story of
wonderful adventure ; but I ll tell it to you, if you
have five minutes more to spare. Do you remember
Joe Robins a nice, genial fellow who played small
parts in provinces ? Ah, no ; that was before your
" Joe Robins was once in the gentleman s furnish
ing business in London city. I think that he had a
wholesale trade, and was doing well. However, he
io Impressions of America.
belonged to one of the semi-Bohemian clubs, asso
ciated a great deal with, actors and journalists, and
when an amateur performance was organized for some
charitable object, Joe was cast for the clown in a
burlesque called " Guy Fawkes."
( Perhaps he played the part capitally ; perhaps
his friends were making game of him when they loaded
him with praises ; perhaps the papers for which his
Bohemian associates wrote went rather too far when
they asserted that he was the artistic descendant and
successor of Grimaldi. At any rate, Joe believed all
that was said to him and written about him, and when
some wit discovered that Grimaldi s name was also
Joe, the fate of Joe Robins was sealed. He deter
mined to go upon the stage professionally and become
a great actor.
" ( Fortunately Joe was able to dispose of his stock
and good-will for a few hundred pounds, which he
invested so as to give him an income sufficient to pre
vent the wolf from getting inside his door, in case he
did not eclipse Garrick, Kean, and Kemble. He also
packed up for himself a liberal supply of his wares,
and started in the profession with enough shirts,
collars, handkerchiefs, stockings, and underclothing to
equip him for several years.
" The amateur success of poor Joe was never re-
Looking Forward to Christmas. 1 1
peated on tlie regular stage. He did not make an
absolute failure ; no manager would entrust him with
parts big enough for him to fail in. But he drifted
down to general utility, and then out of London, and
when I met him he was engaged in a very small way,
on a very small salary, at a Manchester theatre.
" His income eked out his salary; but Joe was a
generous, great-hearted fellow, who liked everybody,
and whom everybody liked, and when he had money
he was always glad to spend it upon a friend or give
it away to somebody more needy. So, piece by piece,
as necessity demanded, his princely supply of haber
dashery had diminished, and now only a few shirts and
underclothes remained to him.
" Christmas came in very bitter weather. Joe had
a part in the Christmas pantomime. He dressed with
other poor actors, and he saw how thinly some of them
were clad when they stripped before him to put on
their stage costumes. For one poor fellow in especial
his heart ached. In the depth of a very cold winter
he was shivering in a suit of very light summer under
clothing, and whenever Joe looked at him the warm
flannel undergarments snugly packed away in an extra
trunk weighed heavily upon his mind.
" Joe thought the matter over, and determined to
-ive the actors who dressed with him a Christmas
12 Impressions of America.
dinner. It was literally a dinner upon underclothing ;
for the most of the shirts and drawers which Joe had
cherished so long went to the pawnbroker s, or the
slop-shop, to provide the money for the meal.
f: The guests assembled promptly, for nobody else
is ever so hungry as a hungry actor. The dinner was
to be served at Joe s lodgings, and before it was
placed on the table, Joe beckoned his friend with the
gauze underclothes into a bedroom, and, pointing to a
chair, silently withdrew.
" On that chair hung a suit of underwear which
had been Joe s pride. It was of a comfortable scarlet
colour ; it was thick, warm, and heavy ; it fitted the
poor actor as if it had been manufactured especially to
his measure. He put it on, and, as the flaming flannels
encased his limbs, he felt his heart glowing within him
with gratitude to dear Joe Robins.
" That actor never knew or, if he knew, he never
could remember what he had for dinner on that
Christmas afternoon. He revelled in the luxury of
warm garments. The roast beef was nothing to him
in comparison with the comfort of his undervest ; he
appreciated the drawers more than the plum-pudding.
Proud, happy, warm, and comfortable, he felt little
inclination to eat, but sat quietly, and thanked Pro
vidence and Joe Robins with all his heart.
Looking Forward to Christmas. 13
" You seem to enter into that poor actor s feelings
very sympathetically/ I observed, as Mr. Irving
I have good reason to do so/ replied Mr. Irving-,
with his gentle, sunshiny smile ; for I was that poor
actor ! > "
14 Impressions of America.
A WILD RAILWAY JOURNEY.
A Great American Eailway Station Platforms and Waiting-
Rooms A queer Night " Snow is as Bad as Fog " A
Farmer who suggests Mathias in " The Bells " A Romance
of the Hudson Looking for the Maryland and Finding
" The Danites " Fighting a Snow- Storm "A Ministering
Angel " The Publicity of Private Cars Mysterious Pro
ceedings Strange Lights Snowed up Digging out the
Eailway Points A Good Samaritan Locomotive Trains
Ahead of Us, Trains Behind Us Railway Lights and Bells
" What s going on ? "
" THE Irving train is expected to arrive at Jersey
City from Boston at about seven o clock/ said a tele
graphic despatch which I received in New York on
Sunday. I had left the great New England city two
days before Irving s special train, with the under
standing that I should join him at Jersey City, en
route for Baltimore.
A Wild Raihvay Journey. i 5
At half- past six I was on the great steam ferry-boat
that plies from the bottom of Desbrosses Street, New
York, to the other side of the river. A wintry wind
was blowing up from the sea. I preferred the open
air to the artificial heat of the cabin. In ten minutes
I was landed at the station of the Pennsylvania Kail-
" Inquire for the steamer Maryland," continued
that despatch which I have just quoted. " She con
veys the train down the Harlem river to connect on
the Pennsylvania Road."
The general waiting-room of the station, or depot,
as our American cousins call it, is a characteristic one.
Seeing that I was allowed plenty of time to observe it,
I propose to describe it. A large square hall, with a
high-pitched roof, it has more of a Continental than
an English or American appearance. As you enter you
find a number of people waiting for the trains. They
include a few coloured people and Chinamen. The
centre of the room is filled with benches, like the
stalls of a London theatre. You wonder why two
marble tombs have been erected here. They turn out
to be heat- distributors. The hot air pours out from
their grated sides. In case you should be in danger
of suffocation a drinking fountain is in handy proxi
mity to the blasts of heated air. The right-hand side
1 6 Impressions of America.
of the hall is filled with booking-offices, and a clock
bell tolls, indicating the times at which the various
trains start. On the left is a cafe, and an entrance
from Jersey City. Opposite to you as you enter from
the ferry are two pairs of doors leading to the trains,
and the space between the portals is filled in with a
handsome book-stall. The doorways here are jealously
guarded by officials who announce the departure of
trains and examine your tickets. One of these guards
sits near a desk where a little library of city and
State directories is placed for the use of passengers.
Each volume is chained to the wall. Near the cafe is
a post-office box, and hanging hard by are the weather
bulletins of the day. A ladies waiting-room occupies
a portion of the hall on the booking-office side. The
place is lighted with electric lamps, which occasionally
fizz and splutter, and once in a while go out altogether.
Nobody pays any attention to this. Everybody is
used to the eccentricities of the new and beautiful
Obtaining permission to pass the ticket portals, I
reach the platform, where I am to find the station-
master. The outlook here reminds me of the high-
level station of the Crystal Palace. A dim gas-light
exhibits the outlines of a series of long cars, fenced in
with gates, that are every now and then thrown open
A Wild Railway Journey. i 7
to receive batches of passengers from the waiting-
The Irving train has been delayed. She is reported
" to arrive at the Harlem river at half-past eight/
In that case she may be here at a quarter to ten.