Adelaide Ristori.

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MEMOIRS AND ARTISTIC STUDIES OF
ADELAIDE RISTORI



Memoirs of Charming Women

Memoirs and Artistic Studies of Adelaide Ristori,

Translated by G. Manlellini
Memoirs of an Arabian Princess, Translated by Lionel Strache's
Memoirs of Madame Vigee Lebrun, Translated by Lionel Slrachey
Memoirs of a Contemporary, Translated by Lionel Slrachev

Memoirs of the Countess Potocka, Translated by Lionel Slrache])
A Belle of the Fifties, being Memoirs Put into narratine form

of Mrs. Clay of Alabama, by Ada Sterling

A Southern Girl in '61 , B\) Mrs. D. Giraud Wright

Dixie After the War, Bv Myrta Lockett Avars




I'hotottrapli by Schciiibuche &• Valdi, K

ADELAIDE RISTORI AS MARIE ANTOINETTE



Memoirs and Artistic Studies



OF



Adelaide Ristori



Rendered into English

By G. Mantellini

With Biographical Appendix by L. D. Ventura

Illustrated from
photographs and engravings




New York

Doubleday, Page & Company

1907



Copyright, 1007, by Doubledat, Page & Company
Published, Ai'r.rsr, 1907



All Rights Reserved

Including that op Translation into Forkign Languages

Including THB Scandinavian



PREFACE

The Marchesa Capranica del Grillo, better known as
Adelaide Ristori, died in Rome, Italy, the 9th of October,
190Ó, aged 84. Her life was full of vivid contrasts; a
life which, even apart from its stage aspects, was more
than ordinarily full of colour. Her autobiography, I offer
rendered into English to the American public, primarily
to gratify her own desire expressed in one of her letters
addressed to Mr. L. D. Ventura of San Francisco, California,
who has graciously volunteered to add some of his Bio-
graphical Reminiscences as an Appendix to this work,
Madame Ristori says: "My intention is to have my
Memoirs published in English. Do you believe that such
a book would receive a welcome in the United States ?" A
woman of amazing personal power, gifted with extraor-
dinary histrionic genius, though possibly never revealing
the supreme gifts of inspiration, her early theatrical
powers were developed under the best conditions that
her native land afforded — she rose steadily into a position
of prominence in Italy, and carried the glory of its
dramatic art into all the civilised countries.

She became a favourite of sovereigns and all the literary
geniuses of her time, not only in her own country, but in
the lands she visited.

What a shining example is the life of this illustrious
woman who received the highest honours and who ex-
perienced the most noble satisfaction, without her ever
forgetting or feeling ashamed of her humble origin! " Both
my father and my mother were modest dramatic actors,"
thus she begins her autobiography.

When she reached the age, as she writes, "in which
the heart feels the imperious need of other affection than
that of art . . . " the Marquis Giuliano Capranica
del Grillo fell in love with her and she returned his
affection. " After a series of contretemps and of romantic
events, our wishes were able to be accomplished." So



vi MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

she writes, but in these autobiographic notes, the great
tragedienne passes over what these contretemps and
romantic events were.

Her biographies abound, however, with the particulars
of her dramatic love story publishicd during the days of
her first triumphs in Paris. Madame Ristori met the
one destined to be companion of the best years of her life,
in Rome, in 1846, while she was playing at the theatre
Capranica, owned by the father of Giuliano. As soon as
the young man fell in love, he asked formally for the
hand of the actress, but it was not to be expected that
the noble family of Capranica would consent to the
marriage of the young Marqms wdth an actress. The
noble father formally refused and in order to put an end
to this sentimental romance contrived that his son,
Giuliano, should be forbidden to leave the Pontifical
States, when Adelaide Ristori w^as called to Florence,
by a professional engagement. But Adelaide, as soon
as she was able, ran away from Florence, sailed from
Leghorn and landed at Civitavecchia where her lover met
her at the castle of Santa Severa, in which he had been
confined. The old ]\Iarquis having been apprised of
the flight of Miss Ristori, obtained an order from the
Ministry, to send Giuliano to Cesena on a mission. Not-
withstanding the difiiculties and discomforts of the trip,
the two lovers left together, he bound for Cesena, and
she for Florence. During this romantic journey, the
biographer narrates, they arrived at a small village. It
was the hour for the mass service; the church door was
open, the priest officiating at the altar. The Marquis
Giuliano del Grillo, Miss Ristori and her father entered,
knelt down before the altar and asking those present to
be witnesses, the two lovers declared that they wanted
to be made husband and wife. It seems that in those
times such a hasty form of marriage was perfectly legal.
The loving couple had, however, to separate at the
frontier. Giuliano w^ent to Cesena and Adelaide to Flor-
ence. The young husband could not bear long the cruel
separation. Disguising himself as a truck-driver, and
buying a passport from a dancing-master, for which he
paid 800 scudi, he crossed the frontier of the Pontifical




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ELEONORA DUSE



PREFACE vii

States, and arrived at Florence in the evening. Without
being noticed, he went behind the scenes of the theatre
where his beloved bride was playing, and she coming off
the stage covered with flowers and applause, found him
hidden behind the paraphernalia. The little romance
had, however, a happy ending, owing to the interference
of the mother of Giuliano, who had recognised the superior
moral qualities of the actress; and also owing to the
advice of Cardinal Pecca. The marriage was regularly
celebrated in 1847.

During her travels around the world Ristori never
forgot to be an Italian, and never neglected to circulate
through the people of foreign countries sympathy for
Italy, which was at that time divided and under tyrannical
rule. Count Cavour, was one of her friends and admirers
from the time of her first appearance. At Turin in the
Theatre Carignano, where Ristori was playing, there was
a foyer for the actors, and conspicuous politicians would
occasionally go there. One of the most assiduous of
these frequenters was Count Cavour, of whom Madame
Ristori used to tell this anecdote. She read once in
some of the papers of the opposition, some atrocious
words against his policy and also against his person.
She was astonished that Cavour was not annoyed, but
he broke into laughter, and said, " Let those fools of
newspapers say what they want, I don't mind them; on
the contrary, they amuse me."

The public, in order to love the artist, must be loved.
And Ristori loved it up to her death. Can anyone
imagine in our days that the Prime Minister of either
France or Italy should write to Sarah Bernhardt or to
Madame Duse the famous letter that Cavour wrote to
Madame Ristori in 1861? "Do use that authority of
yours for the benefit of your country, and I will not only
applaud in you the first actress of Europe, but also
the most efficacious cooperator of our diplomatic
negotiations."

Could anyone imagine a deputation of citizens who
would go to see Duse or Bernhardt, before the beginning
of one of their performances, and ask her to intercede
with King or President to obtain pardon for a soldier



vili



MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI



sentenced to death? That happened in Spain, as men-
tioned in these "Memoirs," and the pardoned soldier,
by the name of Chapado, up to a few years ago, would
write to Madame Ristori, calHng her "my darhng
mother!"

Madame Ristori knew that times have changed, and
during the last winter evenings of her life, when she
received friends in her palace situated in the heart of
the old part of Rome, after having related with regal
discretion and simplicity some anecdote of her past
glory, she would fall back in her armchair and speak
about the modem drama and the distracted audiences of
to-day. If anyone told her that the modern theatre
was sceptical and common because the audiences wanted
it to be so, she would answer with her sonorous voice,
raising her beautiful, statuesque head under its white
widow's crepe:

"The audience is what the actor makes it!"

G. Mantellini




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INTRODUCTION

The proverb which compares human hfe to a journey
seems to have been invented purposely for me. My
life has glided through continuous, long journeyings,
that I might bring my art to the consideration of all
peoples. In many countries it has been my privilege to
perform the leading roles in various immortal works. I
have observed that expression of human passion excites
intense sensations in every race and clime.

I may also add that in the vocation I have chosen, I
have exercised my artistic conscience often by over-
taxing my physical strength, endeavouring always to
enter into the nature of the character I had to represent
by studying the customs of the times and by making
historical researches. This I did in order to represent the
physical and moral personalities of my characters, whose
manifestations were gentle at times, at times terrible,
but always great. The applause with which the most
select audiences honoured me was certainly an adequate
return for my sincere efforts, but I must add that the
highest satisfaction came to me from having succeeded in
identifying myself with the characters which I repre-
sented and from having become inspired by their passions.
Many times I left the stage with contracted nerves,
overcome by fatigue and emotion, but always happy in
my success, for I adored my art.

Thinking perhaps that it may not prove unprofitable
to those interested in this art to follow the daily struggle
of an artist with the part which she had to play, I have
resolved to give a faithful account of mine without
minimising either its enthusiasms or its disillusions, its
joys or its sorrows. I shall mention almost day by day
the principal episodes of my artistic career, being grate-
ful for the kind receptions I have always met, receptions
which have constantly upheld me, and to which I owe
the perseverance and the courage that have led me to
success.



CONTENTS



Preface by G. Mantelliiii
Introduction



PART I. MEMOIRS

CHAPTER I
My first appearance on the stage inside of a basket — My second
and memorable debut at the age of three — My first perfor-
mance as "enfant prodige" — Rapid advancement — At the
age of fourteen I am entrusted with the role of leading lady —
I join the Royal Drainatic Company — Nervous restlessness
— Some consideration of dramatic art in the first part of the
last century ......... 3

CHAPTER II

My marriage — My children — Dramatic and lyric plays — Amen-
ities of the theatrical censure — My short withdrawal to
private life — My professional trip to Paris in 1855 — My
relations with Rachel. . . . . . , .15

CHAPTER III

My success in the tragedy of "Myrrha" — I attend a performance
of Madame Rachel — The artistic value of this great trage-
dienne — New attempts by mutual friends to bring me near
to Madame Rachel . . . . . . .28

CHAPTER IV

Farewell to Paris — The six francs of Alexandre Dumas — Ready
wit upon the stage — Shakespeare's dramas — An unfor-
tunate accident which happened to me in Naples — I obtain
the pardon for a man sentenced to death, in Spain — Touch-
ing gratefulness of the unfortunate man . . . .37

xi



xii CONTENTS



CHAPTER V



PAGE



A mistake of the police concerning a telegram — My professional
tour through Holland — The whiskers of the students of
Coimbra — My first performance in French — In Russia . 54

CHAPTER VI

In Germany — Among the ruins of the Acropolis — A performance
with both Ernesto Rossi and Tommaso Salvini — My de-
termination to keep the engagements I had made — Crossing
a bridge — My first professional tour in America — A night
in Havana ......... 65

CHAPTER VII

My first and stormy performance of "Marie Antoinette" at Bo-
logna — Brazil and its Emperor — Through the steppes of
Russia — A wife who is happy in being beaten by her hus-
band — I recite a scene from ' ' Lady Macbeth ' ' in English . 7 7

CHAPTER VIII

The departure for a professional tour through the principal cities
of the world — The Strait of Magellan — Peru, its revolu-
tions and revolutionary people — ' ' Cerra Puerta ! ' ' — Vera
Cruz and New York — The history of a new-born babe and
his four -legged nurse . . . . . . .86

CHAPTER IX

The king of Hawaii in dress-suit and silk hat — His cleverness and
his courtesy — New Zealand and Australia — The end of my
professional tour around the world — The uneasiness of the
artist — Stockholm, the "Venice of the North" — I escape
from a terrible danger — The students of Upsala . . . 99

CHAPTER X

I play "Lady Macbeth" and "Elizabeth of England" in English
— The difficulty I experienced in acquiring the right pronun-
ciation in this language — My farewell performance in Paris
— My second professional tour to the United States — I play
with Edwin Booth — An Italian actress who speaks English
with German actors — The American compartment cars —
Farewell to the reader! . . . . . . .106



CONTENTS xiii

PART IL ARTISTIC STUDIES

CHAPTER I

PAGE

Mary Stuart — A Tragedy by Schiller , . . . • "S

CHAPTER II

Elizabeth, Queen OF England — A Drama by P. Giacometti . 141

CHAPTER III
Lady Macbeth — A Drama by William Shakespeare . . 161

CHAPTER IV
Medea — A Tragedy by Legouvé . . . . . .175

CHAPTER V
Myrrha — ATragedyby Vittorio Alfieri ..... 194

CHAPTER VI
Phaedra — A Tragedy by Jean Racine . . . . 210

APPENDIX

Biographical Reminiscences by L. D. Ventura . . . 227



ILLUSTRATIONS

Adelaide Ristori as Marie Antoinette Frontispiece

FACING PAGE

Eleonora Duse vi

Count Camillo Benso Cavour viii

Victor Emanuel IL, King of Italy .... viii

View of Florence taken from San Miniato . . 12

Pius IX, Count Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti . 17

Francesca Da Rimini ...... 20

Fountain of Molière in Paris 23

Alfred de Musset in 1854. French poet . . 24

Adelaide Ristori as Seour Theresa . . . . 26

Rachel, (Elisa Rachel Felix) in 1856 . . . 32

Alexandre Dumas, pere 39

Alphonse de Lamartine 42

Théophile Gautier, a noted French novelist and poet 44
Madame Georges Sand, one of the greatest French

novelists of her sex of the XIX Century . . 48

Adelaide Ristori in 1866 68

Adelaide Ristori in 1862 68

Tommaso Salvini. One of the greatest Italian

tragedians of all times 70

Ernesto Rosso. A celebrated Italian tragedian, con-
temporary to Salvini 70

Adelaide Ristori as Marie Antoinette . ... 77

Rome as seen from the Dome of St. Peter's . . 102



XVI



Ml'MOlRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI



5AnNG PAGE

Famous German



Frederick Jolianii von Schiller.

poet

Adelaide Ristori as Mary Stuart

Adelaide Ristori as Queen Elizabeth .

Adelaide Ristori in 1880 .

Adelaide Ristori as Lady Macbeth

Adelaide Ristori as Medea

Adelaide Ristori in 1876 176



116
132
141

150
162

175



Adelaide Ristori at the age of 80 .
Rachel, (Elisa Rachel Felix) in 1854 .
Adelaide Ristori as Medea ....
Adelaide Ristori as Phaedra ....

Count Vittorio Alfieri

Adelaide Ristori as Myrrha

Jean Racine. The greatest French tragic poet



178
180
182
182
194
200
210



Madame Sarah Bernhardt 246



MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI



CHAPTER I

MY FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE INSIDE OF A

BASKET MY SECOND AND MEMORABLE DEBUT AT THE

AGE OF THREE MY FIRST PERFORMANCE AS " ENFANT

PRODIGE" — RAPID ADVANCEMENT — AT THE AGE OF
FOURTEEN I AM INTRUSTED WITH THE ROLE OF
LEADING LADY — I JOIN THE ROYAL DRAMATIC COM-
PANY — NERVOUS RESTLESSNESS — SOME CONSIDERA-
TION OF DRAMATIC ART IN THE FIRST PART OF THE
LAST CENTURY

Both my father and mother were modest dramatic
artists; it was naturally my fate then to dedicate
myself to their art; and, as if it had been decreed by
Heaven that such should be my destiny, it happened
that my parents wished me to experience the emotion of
the stage from my birth.

I was hardly three months old, when a babe in swad-
dling clothes was needed one evening for the performance
of a little farce called "The New Year's Presents." The
stage manager, taking advantage of the good oppor-
tunity which provided a new-born babe for his company,
caused me to make my debut upon the stage, with the
consent of my mother.

The argument of the play was a most simple and puerile
one. A young lady, whose father had forbidden her to
love the very young man to whom she had given her
heart, unites herself clandestinely in wedlock with him,
and has a child.

Not having the courage to reveal this terrible act to her
inexorable father, she decides to confide, as is customary,
in a good old servant of the house, who, moved to com-
passion by the grief of these two unfortunates, promises
to help them in obtaining the paternal forgiveness, and
invents, for this purpose, a very comic stratagem.

Then, as now, it was the custom to send presents to



4 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

one's acquaintances on New Year's day. In small pro-
vincial towns, landowners and owners of dwellings were
considered the princes of the locality, and their tenants
competed with one another in offering presents to their
landlords — their best fruits, their largest chickens, and
most beautiful eggs.

The good servant conceives of the plan of putting inside
of a large basket of eggs, fruits, and chickens, the poor little
baby of his young mistress, not however, without having
taken the necessary precautions, that the babe should not
be smothered or crushed. He then has the basket
carried to his master. The climax is thus prepared for.

All the family of the landlord and the guests of the
New Year's dinner crowd around the basket, which has
just been carried in, to admire its contents. At the rear
of the group shines the comic figure of the old servant,
wearing a smiling and quizzical countenance, rubbing his
hands, and awaiting patiently the result of his beautiful
scheme.

The master of the house opens the basket. With great
satisfaction he begins to take out and examine the dif-
ferent gifts, first, the chickens — then, the eggs — then,
the fruit — but, alas! It seems that the new fragrance,
too excessive for a three months' little nose, had distressed
me, and before the time, I begin to yell, "Huaa! Huaa!"
— Who cannot picture that startling climax ?

A general stupor arose !

The dumfounded father takes a step backward!
The good old servant, without much ado, lifts the child
from the basket and places it in the arms of the em-
barrassed grandfather. The surrounding guests are be-
wildered, while the two young parents attempt to justify
themselves. But my crying at that moment grew to such
a pitch that, between the uproarious laughter and the
great noise that the audience was making in the pit, my
shrieking voice drowned everything that the actors were
saying. They had to carry me hurriedly to my mamma's
dressing-room to give me — that alone which would
quiet me at such a time.

!My lungs never belied the splendid promise given by me
from the miraculous basket. This first and famous event



I



FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE 5

of my infancy was later a constant source of joy to my
good mother, who shook with laughter every time she
told me of the incident.

I made my second appearance at the age of three.
They were representing an old drama entitled " Bianca e
Fernando," written by a lawyer of Avelloni. Time, the
Middle Ages. I had to take the part of a little son of a
chatelaine, a widow, who is ardently in love with a gentle
knight; but the high dignitary to whom her dying hus-
band has intrusted his wife and who is invested with
supreme power over the lands, is also a rival for her hand.
This villain, angry at the continued and very sharp re-
fusals of the beautiful widow, sets up a furious quarrel
when he learns her firm resolution to unite herself at any
cost only with the man of her choice. The partisans of
the contending parties are about to come to blows, when
the young chatelaine, leaving her child for an instant,
attempts to interpose and stop the fight. Then the
villain throws himself upon the child, seizes him, and
threatens to kill him if the mother does not yield to his
own desires. In vain they try to tear me from the
arms of that, man. The cries of the poor mother reach
the sky.

These insane shouts frightened me ; the play became for
me a reality. I began to weep and to shake myself,
torturing with my little hands the face of the ugly villain,
by pulling his whiskers and scratching him until he let me
go. At last I succeeded in slipping away from his arms,
crying aloud: "He hurts me! Mama! Mama! He hurts
me!" My little legs began to run like a rabbit's and the
attempts of the actors to hold me back were unsuccessful.
They finally found me hidden behind the skirts of my
mother, while the audience were laughing so that they
were compelled to drop the curtain.

Those who have a mania for investigating the ten-
dencies of children from the age when they begin to put
words together, and who make prophecies as to their
future life — what would they have said of me after this
escapade? That the stage would prove odious to me,
that I never could take tragic parts, nor look upon bran-
dishing swords or poignards — nevertheless I had to



6 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

dedicate myself to tragedy, and swords and poignards
became for me familiar instruments !

At the age of four and a half, they made me recite in
little farces in which they intrusted to me the principal
part. Do not accuse me of a lack of modesty if, out of
respect for truth, I mention in these memoirs the good
profits that the manager realised from my appearance
upon the stage.

Noticing that I was so much liked by the public, and
understanding that I was forming an essential part of
our small company, I began to take up the tone and the
ruses of an adult. I remember at that time it was cus-
tomary for the most loquacious and popular actor of the
company, during the intermission before the last act of
the evening, to come before the footlights and announce
to the audience the performance for the following night,
mentioning which actor or actress would play the prin-
cipal part in the production. And according to the
interest which the audience showed for the actor
announced, one could hear a murmur of approbation,
or even applause.

The members of the company would remain behind
the curtain listening with interest to this manifestation
of the audience. Naturally, I also had my ambitious
curiosity and, when they announced that the short play
that would come at the end of the performance would be
assigned "with particular care" to the little Ristori, and
the audience broke into applause, all approached me to
congratulate me. Then I would move out between the
wings, my tiny hands in the pockets of my little apron,
nodding my head, shrugging my shoulders, and saying
in a vexed tone of voice, "What a bother to have to
recite always — always!" But in my heart, I was jubilant.

At the age of ten, I was intrusted with the parts of
small servants who were summoned to carry or hand
letters — a very easy task. The stage manager would
make me rehearse many times lest I should appear
awkward, too familiar, or too stiff.

When twelve years old, I was booked with the famous
actor and manager, Giuseppe Moncalvo, for the roles of a
child. Soon after, owing to my slender figure, they made



FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE 7

me up as a little woman, giving me small parts as maid.
But they soon made up their minds that I was not fitted
for such parts. Having reached the age of thirteen and
developed in my figure, I was assigned several parts as
second lady! In those days they could not be too partic-
ular in small companies. At the age of fourteen, I had
to recite the first part among the young girls and that of
the leading lady alternately, like an experienced actress.
It was about this time, in the city of Novara (Piedmont),


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