Page images
PDF
EPUB

not be allayed. All his feeling for and against his much-encompassed, devilishly ensnared wife is physical and personal; it is a reproduction of Orosmane's hunting down. and sudden slaughter of Zaire. It is not the awful divorce of a once worshiped soul, thought to be false and tainted, from a generous, trusting, vehement nature; nor is it, at the end, a solemn, harrowing sacrifice in the cause of purity and sacred marriage. Nor is Rossi's Moor the Moor that Shakspere drew, as we, born to speak his language, are pleased to conceive. Shakspere was not a historian, a copier, or a realist; he was, first and last, a poet, and whatever he touched he transmuted into poetry.

The Italian artist's Lear, Macbeth, and Coriolanus are admired by Latin audiences, but not, as a rule, by the Germans and English, who think them inadequate, deficient in true tragic power. They have plenty of passion, ample sweep, remarkable vividness; they lack largeness, self-sustainment-what we, to whom Shakspere is indigenous, consider fidelity to the poet's ideal. Romeo, in which Rossi has been extolled without stint, properly, was-finely suited to him, as was he to it. His grace, fervor, romanticness, and emotionalism found full scope there, and must have made the part radiantly picturesque. He has, I learn, seldom played it of late years. Romeo being so completely, so irredeemably youthful, a Romeo of fiftytwo seems little less than grotesque. Nevertheless, if the Italian should do it now, he would be pretty apt to preserve most of the illusion; for he is as flexible in understanding as he is supple of limb, and would never be associated with years. His is plainly the temperament of genius, which is always young, and his every instinct is so artistic as to throw a glamour upon most of his auditors.

No actor of the age has a richer treasury of characters. He draws from Shakspere, Goethe, Schiller, Corneille, Voltaire, Alfieri, Goldoni, the master minds of four nations, and from later German, French, and Italian authors. Many of the parts which he performed early in his career he has surrendered, finding them shallow and meretricious, because, in the maturity of his intellect and reputation, he aims only at the lasting and the best. During his American engagement, we shall have, in addition to "Hamlet," "Othello," and "Macbeth," "Don Carlos," "Francesca da Rimini," "Faust," "Orestes," the "Cid,”

66

Saul," and "Louis XI.," with other pieces less known to the native stage.

closely observing the actor's varied and
variable demeanor, reflecting every shade of
thought and feeling. He may be consid-
ered, in his most serious efforts, as an illu-
minated artist. His personation of Hamlet
includes a key with the best notes and com-
ments, in rare histrionic form, that are pro-
curable. He is said to consider the char-
acter in many respects Italian, although
totally unlike the average type-a consid-
eration that aids him to explain what he
thinks to be his entire sympathy with its
spirit and manifestations. This is not
strange. Many serious students of the
wonderful tragedy see, or fancy they see,
in Hamlet a reflex of their own nationality.
French scholars have discovered in him
many French traits. The Germans esteem
him to be German to the core. The Span-
iards have been rash enough to declare that
only a Spaniard can understand him. Rus-
sian authors have found a clear parallel
between him and their educated, brooding
compatriots. Learned Brahmins perceive
the Hindu and the trace of their mystic
theology in his temperament. He is cer-
tainly the reverse of the mass of English-is-or,
men, albeit an Englishman has created him.
may seem preposterous to mention Ham-
let as American in outgiving and constitu-
tion. But how many Americans there are
to-day in our great cities, having no concern
with commerce, and no aim in life, who
read in him an autobiography! All this
reveals Shakspere's universality. He is the
world's bard, and mankind is fused in the
fire of his limitless imagination. He is the
macrocosm that comprehends, as micro-
cosms, all other minds.

It

Rossi's Othello is not nearly so impressive or satisfactory as his Hamlet; and yet it might be thought that an Italian would play it better, with its burning love, its fierce jealousy, its terrible vengeance. Some portions he does admirably-for example, the address to the Senate, the meeting at Cyprus, all the love passages with Desdemona. But he is deficient in the grandeur and glory of the Moor, as we understand him. His jealousy is white heat; it is frenzied, but it wants balance and dignity; it has too much of the quality of disappointing kisses, of baffled desire. He kills her through hurt vanity-because she has been disloyal to him-from bitter consciousness of what he believes to be her violated vow. When he talks of his great love for her, it seems like mockery; for we see that she can never regain his confidencethat his suspicion has been aroused, and will

[blocks in formation]

rare insight, with the fire and finish of a congenital player. His person is in his favor; he has a good figure, somewhat stout of late, dark, luminous eyes, wellproportioned features, and a singularly mobile, expressive face. He is cosmopolitan in mind and taste; he speaks four or five languages; he has traveled and played all over Europe and in South America ; he has secured the ardent admiration of the leading theaters of civilization. A liberal in politics, long a lover of America, he comes at last, on his own account, to this broad commonwealth, with good wishes, sincere sympathies, and a laudable ambition to see if our people will declare that his copious laurels won elsewhere have been worthily bestowed.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

“PRIMEVAL CALIFORNIA was inscribed on the knapsack of the Artist, on the portmanteau of Foster, the Artist's chum, and on the fly-leaf of the note-book of the Scribe. The luggage of the boisterous trio was checked through to the heart of the Red Woods, where a vacation camp was pitched. The expected "last man "leaped the chasm that was rapidly widening between the city front of San Francisco and the steamer bound for San Rafael, and approached us-the trio above referred to-with a slip of paper in his hand. It was not a subpœna; it was not a dun; it was a roundrobin of farewells from a select circle of

admirers, wishing us joy, Godspeed, success in art and literature, and a safe return at last.

The wind blew fair; we were at liberty for an indefinite period. In forty minutes we struck another shore and another clime. San Francisco is original in its affectation of ugliness-it narrowly escaped being a beautiful city-and its humble acceptation of a climate which is as invigorating as it is unscrupulous, having a peculiar charm which is seldom discovered until one is beyond its spell. Sailing into the adjacent summer,-summer is intermittent in the green city of the West,-we passed

into the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, the great landmark of the coast. The admirable outline of the mountain, however, was partially obscured by the fog, already massing along its slopes.

The narrowgauge of the N. P.C.R.R.crawls

like a snake from

[graphic]

the ferry on the

bay to the roundhouse over and beyond the hills, but seven miles from the sea-mouth of the Russian River. It turns very sharp corners, and turns them every few minutes; it doubles in its own trail, runs over fragile trestle-work, darts into holes and re-appears on the other side of the mountains, roars through strips of redwoods like a rushing wind, skirts the shore of bleak Tomales Bay, cuts across the potato district and strikes the redwoods again, away up among the saw-mills at the logging-camps, where it ends abruptly on a flat under a hill. And what a flat it is!-enlivened with a first-class hotel, some questionable hostelries, a country store, a post-office and livery-stable, and a great mill buzzing in an artificial desert of worn brown sawdust.

I remember the day when we had made a pilgrimage to the coast, when from the rocky jaws of the river we looked up the still waters, and saw them slowly gathering strength and volume. The sea was breaking upon the bar without; Indian canoes VOL. XXII.-65.

|

Here, after a five hours' ride, we alighted at Duncan's Mills, hard by the river, and with a girdle of hills all about us-high, round hills, as yellow as brass when they are not drenched with fog. In the twilight we watched the fog roll in, trailing its lacelike skirts among the highland forests. How still the river was! Not a ripple disturbed it; there was no perceptible current, for after the winter floods subside, the sea throws up a wall of sand that chokes the stream, and the waters slowly gather until there is volume enough to clear it. Then come the rains and the floods, in which rafts of driftwood and even great logs are carried twenty feet up the shore, and permanently lodged in inextricable confusion.

swung on the tideless stream, filled with industrious occupants taking the fish that await their first plunge into salt water. Every morning we bathed in the unpolluted waters of the river. How fresh and sweet they are

the filtered moisture of the hills, mingled with the distillations from cedar-boughs drenched with fogs and dew!

MOUNT TAMALPAIS AND RAILROAD THROUGH THE WOOD.

Lounging upon the hotel veranda, turning our backs upon the last vestiges of civilization in the shape of a few guests who dressed for dinner as if it were imperative, we were greeted with mellow heartiness by a hale old backwoodsman, a genuine representative of the primeval. the primeval. It was Ingram, of Ingram House, Austin Creek, Red Woods, Sonoma

County, Primeval California. It was he, with ranch-wagon and stalwart steeds. The Artist, who was captain-general of the forces, at once held a consultation with Ingram, whom we will henceforth call the Doctor, for he is doctor-minus the degrees-of divinity, medicine, and laws, and master of all work; a deer-stalker, rancher, and general utility man; the father of a clever family, and the head of a primeval house.

In half an hour we were jolting, bag and baggage, body and soul, over roads wherein the ruts were filled with dust as fine as flour, fording trout-streams, and winding through wood and brake. We passed the We passed the old logging-camp, with the hills about it blackened and disfigured for life; and the new logging-camp, with its stumps still smoldering, its steep slides smoking with the friction of swift-descending logs, the ring of the ax and the vicious buzz of the saw mingled with the shouts of the woodsmen. How industry is devastating that home of the primeval!

Soon the road led us into the very heart of the redwoods, where superb columns stood in groups, towering a hundred and even two hundred feet above our heads! A dense undergrowth of light green foliage caught and held the sunlight like so much spray; the air was charged with the fragrance of wild honeysuckle and resiniferous

trees; the jay-bird darted through the boughs like a phosphorescent flame, screaming his joy to the skies; squirrels fled before us; quails beat a muffled tattoo in the brush; snakes slid out of the road in season to escape destruction.

We soon dropped into the bed of the stream, Austin Creek, and rattled over the broad, strong highway of the winter rains. We bent our heads under low-hanging boughs, drove into patches of twilight, and out on the other side into the waning afternoon; we came upon a deserted cottage with a great javelin driven through the roof to the cellar; it had been torn from one of the gigantic redwoods and hurled by a last winter's gale into that solitary home. Fortunately no one had been injured, but the inmates had fled in terror, lashed by the driving storm.

We came to Ingram House in the dusk, out of the solitude of the forest into a pineand-oak opening, the monotony of which was enlivened with a fair display of the primitive necessities of life-a vegetable garden on the right, a rustic barn on the left, a house of "shakes" in the distance, and nine deerhounds braying a deep-mouthed welcome at our approach.

In the rises of the house on the hill-slope is a three-roomed bachelors' hall; here, on the next day, we were cozily domiciled. There were a few guests in the homestead. The boys

slept in the granary. The deer-hounds held high carnival under our cottage, charging at intervals during the night upon imaginary intruders. We woke to the

[graphic]

MOUTH OF THE RUSSIAN RIVER, LOOKING UP-STREAM.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ical sections of the face, and made up for its want of compass by multiplying one or another feature. We never before ate at the hour of seven as we ate then; then a pipe on the front steps and a frolic with the boys or the dogs would follow, and digestion was well under way before the day's work began. Then the Artist shouldered his knapsack and departed; the lads trudged through the road to school; the women went about the house with

[graphic]

We were waked at 6:30, and came down to the front "stoop" of the homestead. The structure was home-made, with rafters on the outside or inside according to the fancy of the builder; sunshine and storm had stained it a grayish brown, and no tint could better harmonize with the background and surroundings. In one corner of the stoop a tin wash-basin stood under a waterspout in the sink; there swung the family towels; the public comb, hanging by its teeth to a nail, had seen much service; a piece of brown soap lay in an abelone shell tacked to the wall; a small mirror reflected kaleidoscop

untiring energy; the male hands were already making the anvil musical in the rustic smithy, or dragging stock to the slaughter, or busy with the thousand and one affairs that comprise the sum and substance of life in a self-sustaining community. We were assured that were war to be declared between the outer world and Ingram House, lying in ambush in the heart of our black forest, we might withstand the siege indefinitely. All that was needful lay at our hands, and yet, a stone's-throw away from our shake-built citadel, one loses himself in a trackless wood, whose glades are still untrodden by men, though one sometimes hears the light step of the bronco when Charlie rides forth in search of a strong bull. All work was like play there, because of a picturesque element which predominated over the practical. Wood-cutting under the window of the best room, trying out fat in a caldron or an earth-oven against our cottage, dragging sunburnt straw in a rude sledge down the hill-side road, shoeing a neighbor's horse in a circle of homely gossips, hunting to supply the domestic board at the distant marketis this all that Adam and the children of Adam suffer in his fall?

At noon a clarion voice resounded from the kitchen door and sent the echoes up and down the creek. It was the hostess, who, having prepared the dinner, was bidding the guests to the feast. The Artist came in with his sketch, the Chum with his novel, the Scribe with his note-book, followed by the horny-handed sons of toil, whose shoulders were a little rounded and whose minds were seldom, if ever, occupied with any life beyond the hills that walled us in. We sat down at a camp board and ate with relish. The land was flowing with milk and honey; no sooner was the pitcher drained or the plate emptied than each was replenished by the willing hands of our

« PreviousContinue »