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Charles E. L. (Charles Edgar Lewis) Wingate.

The playgoers' year-book, for 1888. Story of the stage the past year with especial reference to Boston .. online

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Online LibraryCharles E. L. (Charles Edgar Lewis) WingateThe playgoers' year-book, for 1888. Story of the stage the past year with especial reference to Boston .. → online text (page 4 of 8)
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certain Baron Hartfeld, he is known as a most skilful forger, and has
even been nicknamed, by those who cannot locate him, as " Jim, the
Penman." There are a number of visitors at the Ralston town
house, among them being Captain Redwood, apparently a very dull,
sleepy army swell, but subsequently shown to be also a man playing
a double part, though in his case on the other side of the fence
from his host, in fact a detective. Others to be seen at the home of
the great "financier" are Louis Percival, an American who was a
lover of Mrs. Ralston before her marriage ; Mrs. Chapstone, a good-
ly soul in labors of charity ; Dr. Pettywise, the family doctor ; Mr.
Chapstone, Mr. Wetherbee, who lives in politics, and Lady Duns-
combe. Mr. Ralston, in the generosity of his heart, aids Mrs.
Chapstone's charities by subscribing his wife's name for a good
little sum, and having thus unccxisciously thrown down a clew that is
afterwards to be picked up to his disadvantage, he listens to
Percival as the latter tells the company of his reason for visiting
England. Just as the American is about to explain that he has lost
money through a forgery supposed to have been perpetrated by
" Jim, the Penman," and that is the man that he is looking for, sleepy
Captain Redwood, nodding in his chair, falls over, upsetting a table
and making such a racket that all conversation is interrupted. Of
course the awkward man apologizes profusely and is really very much
embarrassed — to all outward appearances — but he manages to drop
a warning word to Percival that he must not divulge that part of his
story left untold. Percival considers it impertinent in a stranger to
dictate to him, but he learns the reason later on. Baron Hartfeld
calls upon his fellow-worker, and when the two are alone he urges
Ralston to another crime. The latter would refuse if possible ; he
desires now to escape from the partnership of guilt, but the old
titled scoundrel persists, promising that this shall be the last. The
robbery to which he leads Ralston is the procuring, by a forged
order, of the family diamonds belonging to Agnes Ralston's sweet-
heart, Lord Drehncourt. Meanwhile the American visitor has
learned from Captain Redwood that he, the apparently heavy swell,
is a sharp officer in the Pinkerton service, and that their host is sus-
pected of being the notorious '' Jim, the Penman." Percival, loving
still the woman whom in her maiden days he would have made his



42 The Playgoers' Year-Book. [May,

wife, for her sake stops all action against her husband. But fate
c:ontinues its work. It seems the engagement of Percival and Mrs.
Ralston had been broken off because of letters that each had
received from the other. The two, led to compare the notes, learn
for the first time that they are forgeries, and the lady further dis-
covers that the signature of the letter sent to Percival is in the same
handwriting as that subscribed in the charity book by Mr. Ralston.
Then Percival, supposing that she is cognizant of tlie entire story,
lets out all that he knows, and the climax of discovery is reached.
Disgrace, however, is turned away by the sudden death of Ralston
from heart disease, occurring just at the time when Hartfeld is
arrested and when the opening of the folding doors that lead to tl>e
adjoining room shows to the spectators the guests at the wedding
breakfast of Ralston's daughter.

The play is a thoroughly well conceived and well wrought dram-
atic construction. The interest of the spectator is captured at the
very outset and is never allowed to flag, while at the same time the
regular progressive climaxes are kept within the bounds of modera-
tion so as not to culminate in exaggeration. The plot, though
describing the life of one man in a hundred thousand, in a million
perhajis, is so naturally developed that the spectators feel themselves
for the time being one of the characters, as it were, and never think
of assigning improbability to the story. Indeed, in this very com-
pulsion of sympathetic feeling on the part of the observer lies the
strength of the drama. The acting was excellent. Mrs. Booth as
Mrs. Ralston was especially natural and forcible, and in the scene of
discovery of her husband's guilt rose to a height of superb acting.
Mr. Holland's contrast of the nonchalence and lazy manner of the
English swell with the sharp, decisive method of the detective was
a strong point in his able impersonation. Mr. Robinson was best in
the quieter passages of Mr. Ralston ; at other times heavy. Mr.
Salvini as Baron Hartfeld showed great ability, while Mr. Pitt was
dignified and manly as the generous Percival. Miss Burrough's
portrayal of Agnes was marked by simplicity and sweetness.

It is sad to note that during the return engagement of Jim, the
Penman in Boston, its author passed away in England, September ii,
at the age of 48.



1887]. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 43

The strange story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde \\'\


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Online LibraryCharles E. L. (Charles Edgar Lewis) WingateThe playgoers' year-book, for 1888. Story of the stage the past year with especial reference to Boston .. → online text (page 4 of 8)