Catherine Mary Reignolds Winslow.

Yesterdays with actors online

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94 Boylston Street


Second Edition.

Copyright, 1886, by

Catherine Mart Reignolds-Winslow.

Copyright, 1887,

By Cupplks and Hitrd.

All Rights Reserved.

Che f?ijt>e IPark 33rtB8.

To Helen Morton, AID.,

Good Physician, Faithful Friend, True Woman ;

to whose

Skill, Constancy, and Courage,

I owe

Health, Hope, and Inspiration ;

these Memories are affectionately inscribed.



Introduction vii

i. Charlotte Cushman 17

2. Edwin Forrest 29

3. John Brougham 45

4. Laura Keene — Agnes Robertson ... 62

5. -£. ^/. Sothern 79

6. ifew. Be Ear — Matilda Heron — J. H.

Hackett — Mrs. John Wood — James

E.Murdoch — Mrs. Lander . . . 100

7. Boston Museum 122

8. Boston Museum, continued 143

9. Travel in America 162

10. Canada and England 184



William Warren frontispiece

Mrs. Win slow title-page

Charlotte Cushman 17

Edtvin Forrest 29

John Brougham 45

Laura Keene 62

E. A. Sothcm 79

Matilda Heron no


William E. Burton 62

. Ignes Robert sou 64

J. A. Smith 84

Mr. Buck stone 90

J. H. Hackctt 114

Mis. John Wood 115

James E. Murdoch 116

E. F. Reach 123

R. M. Field 133

Mr. Barrow 135

Airs. Barrow - 135

Kate Bate man 136

John Wilkes Booth 140

Mrs. Vincent 143

Oriana Marshall 155

Josephine Or ton 155

.iuiiie Clarke 156

Mine. Anna Bishop 1S7


**„. To Mr. Frank Hill Smith for his tasteful design
for the cover of '' Yesterdays with Actors,"

*% To Mr. F. P. Vinton, for the kind permission to
copy his portrait of Mr. Warren.

T'N the memories of theatre-goers, a gen-
ii eration is said to count no more than ten
^r years, and we are reckoned old folks
by the public after a comparatively short ser-
vice. But I was startled to find in a recent
book of dramatic biography a statement that
my father was killed at Waterloo ; whereas it
was my grandfather who died there, when my
father was eight weeks old.

This seemed to crowd me rather cruelly into
an historic period, and the incident has been
the spur to jot down a few trifling recollec-
tions that may be of some slight interest to
those who share them ; before their subjects
are forgotten, and the writer has become "the
idle singer of an empty day."

My earliest remembrance was keeping the
anniversary of this same grandfather's death ;
certainly a meaningless attempt at sentiment
on my part, but a mournful observance on my
father's, with which my mother early taught
me to sympathize.

Major Reignolds came from Germany to
England in the suite of the Duke of York,


VI 11

and, acting as aide-de-camp to Sir William
Ponsonby, fell in the battle of Waterloo. The
portrait of my grandfather, standing by the
horse that was killed under him on the field,
was a discipline in my early days — partly, no
doubt, on account of the reverential manner
with which I was used to see it treated. But
the slightly knitted brow, large, deep-set gray
eyes, and sensitive truthful mouth, were in
themselves a reproach to me more than once,
and well do I remember hesitating to make a
selfish complaint of my sister in the room
where that stern pleader silently looked down
upon me.

I never knew a military man who was not
more or less of a fatalist, and I have often
thought of the morning when the note of war
sounded, and the young husband and father
answered the roll call for what he might have
felt to be his last battle. It must have been,
indeed, " an unaccustomed spirit " that could
lift him " above the ground with cheerful
thoughts " at such a moment.

My grandmother, too, had a premonition of
woe, and, while looking upon the faces of her
four little children, she remembered the hap-
piness of the last few years, only to tremble
for the future. Her grief at the prospect of
parting from her husband was so uncontrolla-

ble, it was at last decided that she, with her
infant and nurse, and some dear friends,
should travel to Brussels, and there await the
news from Waterloo.

Suspense is torture to us all, and what the
hours were to that poor wife in the little inn
at Brussels, who can say ?

The tender hearts about her made the
most elaborate plans for getting news after
the fight began, and, early in the day, almost
before they had dared to hope — it came. The
first messenger was the last; he brought all
the news they waited for. There was no more
to tell — her hero was dead. Bearing orders
across the field, he had been one of the first to
fall !

Who, among the kind friends telling the
sad tidings, offering tears and love and sym-
pathy, could have been prepared for the dry-
eyed sorrow they encountered, silent and rigid,
a long and piteous sigh the only sign of life
from the bereaved one ?

Long before Lord Tennyson wrote the
words of " Home they brought her warrior
dead " was the poem lived over, for, when the
days went by, still "she neither wept nor
moved." The old nurse put the fatherless
baby into her arms, but with no such happy
result as the poet describes. There came no


tears "like summer tempests," no struggle
for her helpless little children. She moved
mechanically, never spoke unless questioned,
and silently drooped and faded. The pulse
grew more feeble, the breath less and less,
until they whispered she was dead, dead of a
broken heart ! Six weeks after the battle of
Waterloo she was lying in the same grave
with her lover-husband at East Cowes, in the
Isle of Wight, and my father, with his sisters
and brother, were orphans.

Under able guardianship these children
were reared. My aunts had a certain native
dignity, and, leading the ordinary lives of
English gentlewomen, they were preserved
from rough contact with the world.

My uncle, Colonel Rcignolds, must have
known his share. But he was so entirely
the soldier that, in despite of sorrows and af-
flictions that well-nigh crushed the man, he
rose up at the call of duty, and won honor
and forgetfulness in the East.

My father had not his brother's strength,
and passed from the timid studious lad to
the reserved and sensitive man, who, while
he read and wrote several languages, spoke
only what he must. Although receiving
his education at Woolwich, his commission
offered no all-absorbing interest for the



younger son, and, at the same time that he
did not want courage to face the fire of the
enemy, he grew coward at the cold greeting
of a friend, so that, when worldly misfortunes
fell upon him, he could make no more headway
under the cruel load of life than the mother
before him.

As it became necessary for my mother to
take up the task of maintaining her children,
she very naturally profited by the only means
in her power, an unusually lovely voice ; and
the pursuit which she then adopted, may, in-
deed, have been shaped by hereditary in-
fluence. Her family were not only possessed
of rare musical and artistic gifts, but traits of
character less conventional than those of my
German ancestry.

When I was in England, my uncle, John
Absolon, the artist, pointed out in the record
of the "Issue Roll" of Edward III., the
name of the first John Absolon, who figures
there as " King's Minstrel " with a pension
of "twopence a day," along with Geoffrey
Chancer, " King's valet, pension two-pence-

My own debut was at the age of four, and
brought about in the following accidental
way. On the occasion of a drawing-room
concert, a carriage was sent for my mother,



also conveying the tenor singer of the night.
Not liking a long drive with a stranger, she
hastily concluded to take her little daughter
as chaperone. During the evening I was
handed from lap to lap, and petted by all, as
a child is in a circle of grown people, when at
last some one asked if I would sing. I
promptly responded, "Yes, I know one song."
Upon the ladies submitting the request to
my mother, it was at first denied — neverthe-
less she was at last urged to help me with a
leading chord, and standing on the top of the
piano, I twittered out, in pretty fair time and
tune, " My mother clear."
"There was a place in childhood that I remember

And there a voice of sweetest tone, bright fairy

tales did tell,
And kindest words and fond embrace were given

with joy to me,
When I was in that happy place upon my mother's


This I addressed, very properly, to the

audience gathered about me, but in the refrain


" My mother dear, my mother dear,

My gentle mother dear,"

I turned from the little group, and, looking
at my idol, sang to her alone, and, stretching



across the key-board, ended with my arms
around her neck.

By great exertion I was kept for some few
years at an excellent school near London, until
my mother was led to come to America. In-
stead of finding her way easier, no opportu-
nity presented itself in the career she had
chosen, and the influence of friends, and pro-
tection of family at home, were painfully
missed. There seemed no opening but the
stage, toward which she had already made a
half step, to support her children, my sisters
being seven and nine years of age.

It was now, in all the sanguine confidence
of fourteen, possessed by the common youth-
ful passion for the stage, I demanded my
right to share the burden.

So while my mother was playing Cinderella
in an engagement at Mr. JoJin Rices Thea-
tre, Chicago, I persuaded her to let me try a
small part.

We all recognize the especial importance
of a high standard and pure example to those
just starting in the world, for it is then we
are most impressionable and likely to take
color from those set above us. And let me
here offer a handshake over time and space
to Mrs. John Rice, and express my very
grateful remembrance of my first manager,



his wife and all of his family. I had a watch-
ful, loving mother by my side, but if ever
there was an atmosphere where guardianship
could be dispensed with, it was where Mrs.
Rice lived her simple, lovely, womanly life,
true help-meet, true mother, a blessing in her
own home and an honor to her profession.
As a man, an actor, a manager, mayor of
Chicago, and in every other office he ever
filled, John Rice also proved himself sterling
metal, and the respect and confidence of his
fellow-men in every walk of life bore witness
to it.

For the sake of encouragement to others,
let me say that my novitiate was an utter
failure, most awkward, unpromising, and un-
inspired. Any success I afterwards met,
followed as hopeless a year or two of uninter-
mitting effort and struggles as ever human be-
ing spent. Only duty, affection and necessity
held me up, my one comfort the being speed-
ily enabled, with my most generous and devo-
ted sisters' help, to release our mother from
a thoroughly uncongenial occupation.

In what follows, I have purposely refrained
from touching upon that which belongs to
the inner life either of myself or my subjects.

While constrained to say a few words of
family circumstances which led me to the



theatre : to violate the domestic privacy of
other actors would be impertinent and out
of taste. The veil that shelters home should
be sacred. Indeed it has always seemed to
me the very gift of so much of ourselves be-
hind the footlights ought to make them a
more absolute barrier between the world and
the rest of our lives.

Of course charlatans seek every form of
notoriety, but the great actors I have known
"dwelt apart " far more than other people.

These then are only a few wayside notes
culled from a public career, which, by reason
of its hard work, knew but little pleasure
save the blessed one which bread-winners,
toiling for those they love, alone can under-
stand. As they are written, so must they
be read, as one would listen to a voice in the
gloaming — not in the spirit of criticism — for
that they are beneath it no one knows better
than the story-teller. Lacking even a spice
of gossip, these trifles may be without flavor,
but, such as they are, Nil nisi bonum. In-
nocent and wholesome, it is hoped they can
be read by young eyes, and upon young ears
fall harmless.

C. M. R. W.

Boston, April, 1887.




Charlotte CusJiman.

I was once asked by some philanthropic The theatre as
people what I thought of a young lad going aschooL
into a theatre as assistant carpenter. I said
I should consider him in the best of schools,
and that an apprenticeship so spent could not
but serve him well in any condition of life.
Many hundred children may be educated in
the same building and by the same teachers,
and yet few of them may truly profit by their
opportunities. I do not say, therefore, that all
who spend a few brief years in the theatre
come forth reflecting credit and honor on their
chosen profession, but I do say they cannot
but be the better, if they choose to benefit
by the education of a theatre ; and here are
some of the lessons taught : Punctuality, in-
dustry, self-control, endurance, concentration,


iS Yesterdays with Actors.

self-reliance, silence, patience, obedience and

Balzac tells us that man is neither good nor
bad, but born with instincts and capacities
that self-interest develops. The theatre is a
little world within itself, with all the varying
phases of good, bad and indifferent, like any
other and every other condition of life, and
the stage, like society and empires, has its days
of rise and decline. It has been said of painters
and authors that they live in their labors.
The standard Why not actors ? Would it be strange if,

of actors' lives. , . . , , -, i r i • i

living as they do in an atmosphere ot higher
and better thoughts, their lives were "tuned
to a higher key ? " Certain it is that you find
many such. Some, not in the front rank,
are never recognized beyond the footlights,
scarcely even by those about them. They
pass through the various scenes of duty with
such delicacy as to leave no trace, until they
themselves are no more and the place they
filled is empty. It is only the spot of muddy
water that leaves the stain. The snowflake
Pre-eminence Foremost among actresses and women was
of charlotte Miss Charlotte Cushman. Clever people have
already told of her life — its trials and its
triumphs — and all that may be added are
but a few old memories.



Charlotte Cuskman. ig

The first time I ever looked upon Miss My first meet-
Cushman was in Washington, where she was lnR Wlth her "
to appear in Guy Mannering, in which I
was intrusted with the small part of the Gipsy
Girl — a very insignificant line or two — but at
rehearsal I had been expressly told to carry
a table off the stage at a certain "cue" to-
gether with some other little details of "busi-
ness," rather important to the action of the
scene, as every minute particular is indeed,
however trifling it may appear. All was
clearly impressed upon my anxious mind until
the time of its fulfilment, when, at the entrance Entrance of
of Meg Merrilies, I could not say "four of mv Me £ Merrilies -
five wits went walking off," for that would
have left me " one to be known a reasonable
creature," whereas mine went, all, every one,
scattered like leaves before the gale. And
looking back from this standpoint, I under-
take my own defence, for to a person totally
unprepared I can imagine nothing more
frightfully startling than Miss Cushmati s Mis
" make-up " in that character. I only know I man's wonder-
have never witnessed anything approaching u ma e * up '
it. The work of the artist was so perfect,
close study only made it the more wonderful.
It could not be surpassed. Not only from
head to heel was the observance complete,
but in action, speech, carriage, voice, even in


20 Yesterdays with Actors.

the old nurse's lullaby, there was an unbroken
realization of a truly masterful creation. And
the entrance of the witch, as Miss Cushman
made it, added to the horror a thousand fold,
with her hurricane-swooping rush to the mid-
dle of the stage, where, as her glance fell
upon her foster-child, she reminded you of a
wave arrested at its very crest. She stood at
her topmost height, as it seemed, without
drawing her breath, partially holding her posi-
tion by aid of the forked bough she carried for
a staff. Though the attitude strained every
muscle, she was absolutely motionless.
An imitation I once saw a very clever girl give an imita-

ofMissCush- . • r ,1 . T i • i

tion of this scene. In endeavoring to make
her entrance with the speed and force of the
original, she forgot her slippery footgear and
the slope of the stage, and never stopped at
the point of making her halt until she hur-
riedly sat down just, and only just, short of the
footlights. Ah ! that's twenty years ago, but I
can seem to see the big, beautiful black eyes
turning mournfully back from the past upon
me, bidding me go on with my own shortcom-
ing. So here they are. All went well upon
the night in question, up to the point
where my "business" should have been re-
membered, when after "a wait" there re-
mained the table I should have taken off, and



CJmrlottc Cushman. 21

there the gipsy girl, blind to all but the one
hideous figure, and deaf to everything ; for
muttered "go's " and "comes," I was told of
afterwards, were all unheard at the moment ;
my only remembrance is that the face glared
down upon me, the brown turbaned head tow-
ered above me, the bat-like wings of drapery
enveloped me, the bony hand clutched me.
Yes ; hand ! — for in the other, they said, re-
mained the staff, but that one hand lifted me
like a rag doll from one place and set me
gently down upon my feet in another ! Miss Miss Cushman
Cushman had "cleared the stage " for herself ; clearsthesta s e -
the volley of angry words fired at me in the
entrance, from stage manager, prompter and
everybody else, made my remissness and dis-
grace stand in their true enormity before me
and broke the witch's spell.

On the same evening poor Miss Cushman Another disas-
suffered from another mistake far more dis-' e /" lGuy


astrous than my own. In the last scene the
characters are all in the front of the stage,
and a crowd of supernumeraries at the back.
At a grand crisis Meg Merrilies points to
Henry Bertram, and bids them " shout for
the Laird of Ellangowan," and the crowd

Now, like most other stage directions, this
looks simple enough, but its fulfilment re-

22 Yesterdays with Actors.

quired intelligence and watchfulness. Ac-
cording to Miss Citshmaris rendering, strug-
gling in her death agony, she said, "shout"
three times before the cheer was really given,
and then it was given in earnest.

In all the rehearsals preceding the star's
arrival, the prompter had hastily murmured
the lines, as is the custom — indeed, in origi-
nal manuscripts it is only the last words of
the principal part that are even written,
which gives to such copies in theatrical no-
menclature the name "skeleton." So the
"shout" had only been said once, to which
the crowd had been in the habit of respond-
a tedious re- Though Miss CusJiniau gave the proper
directions at the last rehearsal which she per-
sonally conducted, it had been very long ; it
was late in the play when the scene occurred ;
everybody was tired and hungry — the crowd
of unimportant people was as usual inatten-
tive and indifferent. At night a general con-
viction was felt that something had to be
done and something left undone. But as out
of a group of supernumeraries there will
always be found some interested leaders, each
one made up his mind to do what the next
man did. So when Meg Merrilies gave her
first feeble cry of " shout," a lusty voice roared

" Hur— "


Charlotte Cushman. 23

" Hur — ," and the groaning "not yet," The triple
from Miss Cushman just held back the sl
" rah," only, however, to remind all of their
duty; so that with the next "shout" the
whole crowd burst forth with a loud
" Hur — ." With a stride and a menace she
once more froze the "rah" upon their lips,
and when the " shout " for the third time
came, only one wee body in all the band was
found to say " Hurrah," in a falsetto voice so
shrill and with an advancing gesture so ex-
aggerated that poor Meg Merrilies died to the
sounds of smothered laughter.

Dear lion-hearted, loyal-hearted Charlotte
Cushman ! I may not esteem myself among
her friends, for with such a woman friend
meant something more than a mere acquaint-
ance, but later I was brought near enough to
love and honor her.

Five years after my Washington experi- MissCushman
ence, she came to the St. Charles Theatre, Orleans
New Orleans, and, finding me biddable, obe-
dient, and unfeignedly glad to adopt her cor-
rections, she graciously taught me not only
what concerned her own scenes, but
the whole part of Juliet, and everything
else I played with her. When the engage-
ment was drawing near its close, she desired
most earnestly that I might be allowed to


24 Yesterdays with Actors.

travel with her, and, unknown to me, tried to
induce the manager, Mr. Dc Bar, to find a
substitute and give me up to her for the re-
mainder of the season. Home ties prevented
the fulfilment of any such plan, although I
felt very proud of her election, and very grate-
ful for her most generous appreciation and
invaluable help.
Miss Cush- I wish people who think acting so easy had

man's patience r ,,, -i T ■,-, , ■% • .v •

in rehearsal, seen one little lesson 1 call to mind in this en-
gagement. With my faulty memory I can
think of neither plot nor names of charac-
ters. I only know the play was The Actress
of Padua, and.that Miss Cttskman told me to
stay, that after the regular rehearsal she
might drill me in some particular business
she required. As far as I remember, it
was one woman forcing another to kneel
at a shrine which was placed on an
elevation of three or four steps. But the
tremendous crescendo with which it must be
reached, and the picture then to be formed of
the two figures grouped one above the other,
was not readily accomplished. The whole
action in the representation was probably not
more than thirty seconds. But not seconds,
nor minutes, but hours were spent before the
lesson was pronounced perfect by the patient
teacher, who had her reward later on in


Charlotte Cushman. 25

the deafening applause that followed the

New Orleans in those clays, with its criti- xew Orleans
cal French element, had, I think, the most audiences -
exacting audiences I ever played before, but
also the most generous. You could not help
acting well to them. In the first place, they
listened. No society buzz, except between the
acts, when the French opera especially rep-
resented a fashionable party — every one in
full dress, — gentlemen and even ladies visit-
ing from box to box. There was no chance
with them for covering up an imperfect sen-
tence or bungling error. They were listening,
and then, upon the silence their satisfaction,
when aroused, broke forth in that especially
local, sharp, quick, hearty recognition, and
the " Brava" that rang through the house, as
on this occasion, was inspiration.

In all great successes we can trace three The three quaii.
qualities : the power of concentration — rivet- ties rec i UISlte to

1 ■ success.

ting every force upon the one unwavering
aim — perseverance in the pursuit of our
undertaking, — and the courage to enable us to
bear up under all trials, disappointments and
temptations that assail us in this life of pro-
bation. As I remember the friend Miss
Harriet Martineau tells us of, who, "at the age
of eighty, renewed the lease of her house for


26 Yesterdays with Actors.

fourteen years," I marvel at the strength of
that woman's heart; for surely "there's the
rub." Bone and sinew may hold out against
the wear and tear of life. At the worst, they
have seasons of rest, more or less imperfect ;
but the never-ceasing heart and brain, with
their delicate mechanism, must be tough
withal that can last out the allotted span and
retain hope and courage.
MissCushman Miss CusJunau was a most helpful and

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Online LibraryCatherine Mary Reignolds WinslowYesterdays with actors → online text (page 1 of 11)