Frances Stuart Parker.

Frances Stuart Parker; reminiscences and letters online

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This book has been
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Robert O. Blissard
Class of 1957

University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign





' Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,

Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting seal"















: N















Frank Stuart, only daughter of Calvin Stuart and Dorothy
Furbush, was born in Boston, April 19, 1847. I n tne father
and mother may be traced the characteristics which blended
happily in the artistic temperament of the daughter. Quiet
and philosophical, yet full of dry wit and with a fund of mim-
icry and an appreciation of the dramatic, Mr. Stuart was de-
voted to his home and eminently adapted to make it happy.
Mrs. Stuart was a most rare spirit, and her character, both
strong and sweet, had a great influence on all who knew her.
She loved poetry and music, and was in sympathy with
nature, having great love of the beautiful and a remarkable
talent for decoration. Her strong sense of justice and the
religious bent of her mind are also to be noted.

With such an inheritance, it is not strange that we find
Frank Stuart during her school days an unusually bright
and attractive girl. One of the teachers to whom she always
felt that she owed much writes as follows :

"I can see her now, a sprightly little girl of seven or eight
years, I wish I could sketch her on paper as she is sketched
in my mind, slender, light-haired, with a look as if she
knew that she were doing better, anyway, than some of
those around her. I found her exceedingly mature, brilliant
far above her classmates in rendering the meaning of any
thing which she read a foretaste, perhaps, of her signal
success as teacher of elocution. Oh, how enjoyable it was
to teach her! I can truly say that never, among the hun-
dreds of children whom I have carried through the earlier
grades, has there been a brighter, more interesting child, in


every way, than Frankie Stuart. Next or equal to her fond-
ness for elocution was her love of flowers ; she loved to possess
them, to plant and rear them in her own little garden. She
would, when she went away on her summer vacation, exact
a promise from her parents that they would send some of the
first blooming flowers to her teacher, between whom and her-
self there was ever a most loving understanding."

As a young woman, Frank Stuart was brilliant and viva-
cious, always ready with a witty rejoinder or an anecdote or
quotation appropriate to the occasion or to the theme under
discussion. She attracted young friends in great numbers,
and the City Point house was a rendezvous for many
bright people. She was married quite early in life, and before
she was twenty was the mother of two children, Mabel (now
the wife of George Rolfe of Cambridge, son of W. J. Rolfe,
the Shakespearian critic) and Edna (Mrs. Thomas Hill Shep-
ard of Brookline).

Her devoted love for these children and their almost
adoring worship of her filled a large place in her life, and
will be recalled by all who knew her in her home. As they
grew older, she was to them a companion and a good com-
rade as well as a tender mother. Some extracts from letters
written by her to the elder daughter, while the children were
in the country for the summer vacation, give a glimpse of the
wise and loving mother thoughtfulness, and account for the
confidence which always existed between the mother and

"I am glad that you are out so much; I look forward to
seeing a great, rosy, strong girl come back to me. Is Edna
getting fat ? Don't let her play too hard. Tell her I send
her some pictures, and I want her to write a composition on

" I want so to see you both that I feel anxious for fear some
harm will happen to you. Be careful, my darlings, of your-
selves, for I should be a desolate mamma if my babies should
be hurt. Now for some directions which I want my daughter
to follow implicitly. She must be very careful to look neat



and clean always. She must not go out to walk without
some of the ladies or girls. She must remember that Mrs.

and the rest will judge by her something of what

kind of a mother she has, and if she is not polite, well-bred,
unselfish, and, above all, reserved and discreet, will blame
her mother for it. I know you are so womanly and love me
so much that I can be sure you will do nothing to grieve me."

Cottage City, Aug. 7, 1881.

My dear Mabel, Your lovely letter came last evening,
and I was delighted to receive it. I have had so few letters
from my daughter that I began to feel as if I had now only
a methodical young person, whose banker I was, and not my
loving little girl, who told me all sorts of things, and whose
precious little confidences were very dear to me. But it is
all right now, and I hope you will see to it that the young
person is repressed in the future, and that I receive letters
only from my daughter.

I should like very much to have Bessie with you. She
is a charming little lady, and I like her. There is only
one objection and that does not trouble me much, for
you begin to realize that you are a sort of a mother to Edna.
I think I half fear that you and Bessie will be so fond of each
other that you will shut Edna out of the good time. Please
remember, dearie, that she is your sister, whom you are to
love dearly, in order that she may love and look up to you,
and that you are to have her enjoy the summer as much as
you and Bessie are enjoying it, and it will be all right.
Mamma has perfect confidence that it will, and so is glad
to have Bessie go.

Now, "Lovely," I want you to romp all the four weeks
that you are gone. Romp, forget that you are Miss Stuart of
the Boston Latin School, and just put on your oldest dress
and stay out of doors all the time. Pick berries, drive the
cows home, find wild flowers, climb trees, and everything else
that you can think of, do, except read. I don 't want you to
look at a book while you are gone. You will have enough
of that next winter.


"I've had some very pleasant pupils this year. I wish
you could meet them. They will hardly believe that I have
a daughter so large, and think I must be trying to fool them.
Col. Parker called me Miss Stuart so persistently that I had
to tell him I have a daughter taller than myself. He is to be
Edna's supervisor next year. Tell her that he has new ideas
on the spelling question, and that she will probably reap the
benefit of them."

Mrs. Stuart's dramatic talent and fine literary taste had
long been recognized by her teachers and friends, and it was
suggested that she should study elocution with Prof. Lewis B.
Monroe. At the age of twenty-nine, she entered the Boston
University School of Oratory, and for three years studied
under the famous teachers of that institution, among whom
were Lewis B. Monroe; Alex. Graham Bell, the inventor of
the Bell telephone, and at that time teacher of articulation
and visible speech; Henry Hudson, the Shakespearian critic;
and Robert R. Raymond, whose Shakespearian readings
have never been equalled in this country. She afterwards
became an assistant teacher in the school. After the death
of Prof. Monroe, Prof. Raymond established the Boston
School of Oratory as an independent institution, and Mrs.
Stuart became his able assistant, having charge of the depart-
ment of Voice and Delsarte System of Gesture.

Of Mrs. Stuart at this time Genevieve Stebbins, now
Mrs. Astley, writes:

To her powerful influence on dramatic art and literary
interpretation hundreds of grateful pupils testify; no one
could come under Mrs. Stuart's teaching without having
higher ideals, clearer insight, and a lasting impulse towards
better living. She was intensely loyal to the school, admir-
ing and reverencing the genius of Prof. Raymond, the princi-
pal. She never lost an opportunity of impressing upon the
pupils the value of his illustrative work, while he, on his part,
gladly admitted the benefit derived from association with her.
He depended upon her to prepare the pupils, in awakened


observation and stimulated thought as well as in voice and
gesture, for his classes. It was an ideal association, and
pupils will gratefully remember how these two supplemented
each other in the work of the school.

Early in her professional life, Mrs. Stuart became exceed-
ingly interested in the study of voice and was for some time a
pupil of Dr. Guilmette. Possessed of a fine musical sense, she
was able so to assimilate the exercises given as to use her own
beautiful voice with perfect freedom and ease, to the best ad-
vantage, and also to impress upon her pupils the importance
of this part of the work and the essential points in the produc-
tion of a voice equal to the demands of dramatic expression.
The clearness of her illustrations, her patient persistence, and,
above all, her faith in the pupil's ability to do the seemingly
impossible thing, can never be forgotten.

This applies to all her teaching. It was inspiring, appeal-
ing always to the best and strongest in the natures about her.
Of only one thing was she impatient or intolerant insincer-
ity. This she detected at once, and, knowing that it was
fatal to all true art, she used all her tact and power, even
sometimes the surgeon's knife of sarcasm, to reach the real
self and awaken it to true expression.

Two of her characteristic observations shew her way of
impressing truth : "Egotism in a person is like a Chinese wall
built around him; it excludes all impressions from outside,
and makes progress absolutely impossible." " Self -con-
sciousness, arising from latent fear of what others will think
of us, is not modesty, but vanity."

Mrs. Stuart's influence on the stage, during this period,
was greater than perhaps was realized at the time. Her
criticisms were sought for and highly valued, and those among
her pupils who have devoted themselves to acting have
always upheld her ideal of truth in art.

The following estimates of Mrs. Parker's work and influ-
ence are from those who had the opportunity of knowing it
from different standpoints. Mary Shaw, a favorite Boston
actress, writes:


The impression Frank Stuart made on me was very
great, for my first meeting with her was at the time I
went on the stage. I was then impressionable and suscep-
tible, and Mrs. Stuart was among the very first distinguished
people I met. She was the intimate friend of people who
were greatly interested in my career, and I remember dis-
tinctly receiving a note to call on her, as she had something
of interest to say to me. It all comes back to me very
vividly. The cordial hand-clasp of a graceful, lovely
woman, who in reply to my diffident "Is this Mrs. Stuart?"
put me entirely at ease by recognizing me and immediately
transported me to the seventh heaven of gratification by
adding: "You are very talented, and I hope you will not be
annoyed, for, at the request of a friend, I am going to tell
you some grave faults you have." And she did, impressing
on me the fact of how easy it was to change them before
they had hardened into mannerisms. After that we had
many talks. I was greatly influenced by her splendid en-
thusiasm and artistic insight. My work took me away from
Boston for a couple of years, and when I returned I was
preparing to play in a Shakespearian repertoire. I again
went to her for help, and she advised me to study the plays
in which I was to appear with Prof. Raymond. No actor
or student I have ever met could compare with him in
knowledge or sympathy with Shakespearian r61es. I owe
Mrs. Stuart a debt of gratitude for interesting him in my
behalf. For I can truly say that all the impulse to study
out the truth and beauty of Shakespeare's characters was
imbibed from his matchless magnetism and knowledge. I
seldom saw her in the succeeding years, and then only for a
few moments in a social way. But I am sure there are
many who, like me, can trace much of the best and most
vital influences of their early professional life to her unerring
sympathy and love of art. And I should say that her influ-
ence on dramatic art was by reason of her fine enthusiasm,
which she made an inspiration to her pupils, teaching them
to admire and appreciate the power of expression. I am
very glad to have the opportunity of applying this tribute to



a woman who was always so helpful and generous to
women. Among the women teachers in the Temple of Art,
it seems to me we have had few so sincere and gifted as
Frank Stuart Parker.

Franklin H. Sargent, of the New York School of Dram-
atic Art, says:

Mrs. Stuart was a teacher in the Monroe School of
Oratory, in Boston, while I was a student there. I was,
from the start of my acquaintance with her, impressed with
her remarkable abilities as a teacher, the thoroughness and
unusual taste she displayed in her work.

She was one of the few elocutionists who had keen ap-
preciation of the aesthetic, and made a fine study of the
scientific. She impressed me, above all else, as a thorough
technician. In my own case, many a difficult problem she
helped solve when other teachers blinded me.

Something, perhaps a great deal, of her success as a
teacher was due to her charming personal qualities and her
responsiveness to the needs of a pupil. Her teaching was
essentially personal; I mean it showed a profound appre-
ciation of the individual pupil 's temperamental qualities and

I remember, when she became the wife of Colonel
Parker and removed to Chicago, the loss that I, in common
with many others who had studied with her, felt. I had
many communications from her, in which we discussed
questions of particularly pantomimic technique, which letters,
unfortunately, I have not preserved. I saw her but once
after she left Boston, when I called upon her at her home,
and found, in conversation, that her work had ripened even
more, and that her pedagogic knowledge had greatly in-
creased under the impulse given her at that time in that
direction by her husband.

Mrs. Parker had a wonderful appreciation of the abilities
of others, particularly of other teachers, and seemed to
infallibly know the peculiar strength or weakness of each
teacher that she came in contact with.


I am very regretful that my remembrances are of such
a general character. The old days with Professor Monroe,
while they glow in my memory, have become somewhat
covered by the mist of the past, for I am, like an actor, con-
stantly facing the footlights and blinded by them to many
of the realities and recollections of life.

Mrs. Louise Peabody Sargent, a dear friend and pupil, says:

Mrs. Parker was one of the strong influences in my life.
She chose me as a friend (I was many years her junior),
and she was kindness and devotion itself. She had the
faculty of seeing the capabilities and talents of her students,
and she always kept them up to their standard, if possible,
in a kindly, interested way. She had a remarkable mother,
who kept entirely in her home circle and yet had a wide and
beneficent influence.

Mrs. Parker had great power and dominating influence,
but it was always exerted evenly and kindly.

I never knew her unjust; she was often severe, but
necessarily so. Her insight into character was keen, and I
know of two instances, at least, where she was the only one
of many who read the true character of pretenders. Even
Professor Monroe was deceived in these cases, and I thought
she must be mistaken, but time proved her to be in the right.

I always associate her with books. She always had a
well-selected, choice library, even when it was small, and I
felt sure no valueless books could be found in the great
library she afterward owned.

Flowers, too, were seemingly a part of her. From earliest
spring to latest fall she wore flowers, had them with her in
her rooms, and gave them to her friends, to the children, and
to the sick. An immense flower garden was hers at City
Point, where the continuous bloom gave delight to all her
many friends. She got at the best always, the heart of life,
of her friends, books, flowers; hers was always the genius
for selection.

She commanded the devotion of her friends. She was
a leader. She had the courage of her convictions, and was


a reformer, always, however, in the quiet, refined way, for she
had exquisite taste and refinement. She was one, rather, who
led others to a better standard, a higher life. She was liberal
and broad-minded, and forgiving, and mourned over those
who did not keep upright in the path of life.

Mrs. Genevieve Stebbins Astley, of New York, has given
the following description of Mrs. Parker and her early work :

A great pair of eager eyes, a fine, sensitive mouth, a
broad, intellectual brow. Such is the picture living in my
memory as it goes meandering backward in thought twenty-
one years ago and sees its original image in 1878, standing up
before a class in Professor Monroe's School of Oratory, Bos-
ton, reciting a tender little Irish piece.

My coming there was to fulfil the double function of
student and teacher. James Steele Mackaye, the first
lecturer of the system of Delsarte in America, had been an-
nounced in Boston. He was unable to keep his engage-
ment, and so sent me, then his most advanced pupil, to
represent him at the School. I gave the lessons, and Mrs.
Stuart, as she was then, asked me to exchange lessons with
her. Later I went to live in her house, and the sweet com-
panionship of those student days can never be forgotten.
Long into the midnight hours sometimes we both talked,
built fairy castles, and planned and dreamed realizations of
artistic ideals, and even now these faint memories seem to
bring back once again the sweet perfumes of those Elysian
days spent in loving comradeship.

The following fall, she became a teacher in the Boston
School of Oratory, the summer having been spent with me
by the sea.

Again we worked and played and took long walks to-
gether. A picture now comes before me as she sat under a
great tree by the water bough of red berries in her hand
we were reading Browning together, and she looked so
bright and loving and full of genius that I thought such
another soul must have been Mrs. Browning.

Mrs. Stuart Parker was a rare combination of the ex-
quisite woman with the keen intellectual acumen of the man.


Her breadth of view was so large; not one atom of petty
femininity. A grand womanhood was in all her views. She
was a loyal friend, if ever she once became one, needing no

Her marriage with Colonel Parker separated us in the
body (but never in the spirit), for she went to live in Chicago,
but I always felt as sure of her spiritual love and sympathy
as if our lives still ran side by side.

Our artistic and intellectual studies together were those
of alternating pupil and teacher, she giving me elocution-
ary work, I giving her interpretation, drama, and Delsarte.
So my reminiscence is, perforce, a personal one. I know
that, in the larger class and lecture use of her fine method,
she was an inspiration to her pupils. May the future, in that
higher life, bring us again together in an unbroken, spiritual
companionship, eternal in the heavens.

To the hearts of many friends, of those who knew Mrs.
Parker as a teacher, of many others who knew her as a writer,
lecturer, and educator, comes as a great sorrow the death
of this gifted, widely-known, and beloved woman.

Her absolute sincerity and fearlessness, her scorn of
everything that savored of affectation, her broad and intel-
ligent criticism, her clear insight, added to an unusual tact and
charm of manner, gave her a wonderful influence over her
pupils an influence that must make itself felt throughout
their lives. Her study was the study of humanity. Every-
thing that she did was instinct with love of truth in its highest
forms. Although often struggling with physical weakness, her
brave spirit enabled her to accomplish a wonderful amount
of work. Her ideals were high, and she was ever critical
of her own achievements, always seeking for some better or
clearer way of presenting her subject.

It was as a teacher and friend that the writer had the privi-
lege of knowing Frank Stuart Parker, and she would here
lovingly and reverently acknowledge the great impetus and
inspiration that she owes to the wise counsel, the tender sym-
pathy and encouragement, and especially the searching
criticism of this clear-headed, strong-hearted woman.


After making her home in the West, her interest in her
husband's work led her to give herself more and more to the
cause of general education. Lecturing and reading at many
institutes and clubs, she always illustrated, in her own
attractive manner and finely-trained voice, the true principles
of elocution, and in her influence the power of the well-
poised, broadly-cultured woman.

Those who have been privileged to join an informal
home-group and listen to her reading from Browning or
Emerson, and her talk afterward about the inner meanings
of the poems, have seen her at her very best, and may well
be thankful for the remembrance.

Easter morning broke for her with the new light of divine
revelation. Now, with yet clearer insight, she rejoices in the
spiritual truth and beauty that through her earthly life she
sought so earnestly.

"On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven a perfect round."



Mrs. Parker touched life at so many points that it might
be thought she had little time and strength to give her home.
Yet it was in the home that she was seen at her best, and one
privileged to come and go freely felt everywhere the presence
of the thoughtful, loving wife, mother, and daughter.

Upon her marriage to Colonel Francis W. Parker, in
1883, she took into her heart education in all its phases.
Her love for her husband was the motive force in her life.
Theirs was an all-sided companionship intellectual as
well as spiritual a partnership of work as well as of
affection and congenial pursuits. They were friends as well
as lovers. With her he could talk over all his theories and
plans. She was in perfect sympathy with his ideals and
purposes in life and education. Their work-desks stood
side by side in the same study. She collaborated with him
in all he wrote, stimulating and spurring him on not only
by her deep sympathy, but by her suggestions and her criti-
cisms for she was his most unsparing, unflinching critic.
The folio whig dedication to "Talks on Pedagogics" is his
loving acknowledgment of his indebtedness to her:

"This book is lovingly dedicated to my wife, Frank
Stuart Parker, who has assisted very much in the preparation
of every page, as well as in all my work as a teacher."

Many of his educational battles she fought for him. In
times of trouble, when one of these annual battles was being
waged against his thought and methods by the school board,
her devotion took the practical form of personal interviews
with newspaper men and others in influence, and these were
often won over by her clear intellectual grasp of the situation
and her personal power in presenting it. Indeed, after her
death he often remarked, "She, not I, was the fighter."

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