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Forrest, W. E. Macready, or knew their successors, Edwin Booth, John Brougham, William Wheatley, E. L. Davenport, James E. Murdoch, John S. Clarke, E. A. Sothern, Charles Fechter, will not say that in all that constitutes true gentlemen they were and are the peers of any equal number taken from any other vocation in life? In scholarship, in conversation, in manners, in personal integrity, in broad humanity, their example may be quoted fearlessly in comparison with the example of others. How often you hear of criminals among the learned professions, even among the clergy! How few among the actors! It is true that dramatic eminence is more frequent among the men than the women; and sometimes I think the modern stage is not half so prolific of female genius as the stage of past times; but then in every play the leading characters and the majority of the dramatis persona are men, and the women are generally secondary and always few. And as every comedy or tragedy is but a reflex of society and government, in which the men always figure most prominently, the ladies must be content with the fact that if they are not so numerous or so conspicuous, they are more loved and obeyed.
The actors I knew best were Mr. Forrest (of whom I have written at great length elsewhere), William Evans Burton, William Rufus Blake, William Wheatley, Joseph Jefferson, James E. Murdoch, W. S. Fredericks, E. L. Davenport, John Brougham, James W. Wallack, E. S. Conner, and Barney Williams. Of this list. Burton, who was born in London, England, September, 1802, and died in New York, February, 1860, and Brougham, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1814, and is still living in New York, were famous as writers and actors. Everybody recollects Burton's Gentlemen's Magazine, in Philadelphia, in 1837, a most successful monthly, and yet before he came to America he wrote the play of “ Ellen Wareham,” which was played at five theatres in London on the same evening. I have now before me his “Encyclopædia of Wit and Humor,” pub
lished in 1858. At the age of eighteen he had learned his father's trade of printer, and edited a monthly magazine. He wrote on many subjects, was a fine Shakespearian scholar, and died possessed of a splendid Shakespearian library, several of the best editions of which were purchased by Mr. Forrest. As a comic actor he was unrivalled. His Worinwood in the "Lottery Ticket," his Dogberry in "As You Like It," his Graves in “Money,” his Aminadab Sleek and Toodles, both his creations; his Grave-digger in “Hamlet,” and a host more, equally wonderful—who that ever saw can ever forget them? His face would set the house in a roar. And as a boon companion, he was witty himself and the cause of wit in others. John Brougham is also a fine littérateur. Born in Dublin, May 9, 1814, he entered the profession in 1830, and in 1840 appeared as an author. He has written one hundred and fourteen dramatic pieces--comedies, farces, and sketches, including inimitable burlesques of " Metamora" and "Pocahontas," and, with him as the delineator, never surpassed; and has contributed to many periodicals, including the editorship of a comic paper called The Lantern, twenty-one years ago. Dr. Mackenzie, who wrote the sketch of Mr. Brougham in the first volume of the plays of the latter, published in 1856, once related to me a striking anecdote connected with the authorship of“ Pocahontas,” which illustrates, in a remarkable manner, the triumph of mind over matter. Mr. Brougham, who was a member of the brilliant company then performing at Wallack's Theatre, Broadway and Broome Street, had engaged to write a burlesque, to be produced by Mr. James Wallack, as the Christmas piece for 1855. Before he had been able to do more than roughly sketch the plot, he had to undergo a painful and dangerous surgical operation, which confined him to his bed for weeks. Under these circumstances, he suffered much mental excitement, from the dread that he would be unable to carry out his contract with Mr. Wallack. Dr. Mackenzie offered to act as his friend's amanuensis. Accordingly, he wrote down with a pencil the whole of “Pocahontas,” dictated amidst the greatest bodily suffering, the composition being frequently interrupted by paroxysms of pain; but mind was triumphant. The drama, which overflows with wit and extravagant humor, was dictated, from first to last, without alteration or hesitation, just as if it were the recitation of a piece committed to memory. Dr. Mackenzie said, “Since the time when Walter Scott, also suffering intense bodily pain, dictated the most striking scenes in ‘Ivanhoe'to William Laidlaw, there has been nothing to match this.” A few days before Christmas the play was finished, Mr. Brougham and Mr. James G. Maeder, the composer, making the musical arrangements between them; and when the piece was produced, Mr. Brougham, although still suffering so much that he ought to have been in bed, appeared as Powhatan, one of the most effective of his many lively characters. His versatility in early youth, when, in 1830, in his seventeenth year, he appeared in one night as a countryman, costermonger, sweep, gentleman, sailor, and jockey, in the old play of “ Tom and Jerry,” has marked his whole after-career on the stage; and there has been no better Cassio, Don Cæsar, Charles Surface, Dazzle, Rover; no finer Sir Pertinax MacSycophant, or Sir Peter Teazle, or Doctor Syntax, or Rory O'More, or Wilkins Micawber, or Captain Cuttle ; no more genuine sailor or soldier; no better singer of Irish songs, in the modern theatre. A handsome, dashing, humorous, educated gentleman, he has shone in every, and is equal to any, social circle. But, unlike many less-gifted men, John Brougham lias gathered no riches, save the love and confidence of thousands of friends.
But I cannot tell you, in this hurried sketch, of the many happy hours I have spent with Blake (who died, aged fifty-eight, in April, 1863), Jefferson, Barney Williams, Murdoch, Wheatley, Conner, Fredericks, and Davenport, or of the great parts they have played. I can only tell you that Jefferson was born in Philadelphia, February 20, 1829; Williams, in Cork, Ireland, in. 1823; Conner, in Philadelphia, September 9, 1809; Wheatley, in New York, December 5, 1816; Murdoch, in Philadelphia, in 1812; Davenport, in Boston, in 1816; W. S. Fredericks, in Dublin, in 1802. Of these, Williams, Wheatley, Davenport, and Fredericks are gone.
Let me close this sketch with a reference to Charlotte Cushman, whom I first saw in my native town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania-shall I say it?-in 1840, in company with her lovely sister, Susan (who died at Liverpool, May 10, 1859, as Mrs. Sheridan Musprat), as one of a little company of players who dropped in upon us that summer. She was then about twentysix, and she died in Boston, February 18, 1876.
Miss Cushman almost entirely retired from her professional labors, and with a fortune well won by her great and acknowledged genius, a genius which bears the approving stamp of both sides of the Atlantic, built for herself an elegant and tasteful villa in Newport, where she dispensed her hospitality, as she did in Rome, with a grace which is seldom equalled. A friend who passed some weeks at her beautiful mansion during the summer tells us that as hostess she is even more admirable and charming than when on the stage she held her audience spell-bound by the mighty powers of her transcendent talents. The home circle seems her natural place, for there she is more than a star-a radiant sun, dispensing light and smiles impartially to all of her household, her relations, and friends, by a crowd of which she is always surrounded-and holds the place, in the estimation of high and low, more like that of a retired queen than a retired artiste. Born in Boston, July 23, 1816, her first professional trial was as a contralto in a social concert, March 25, 1830. That was her choice; but, losing her voice in 1835, she turned to the stage and soon reached a high rank as Lady Macbeth, Lady Teazle, Lady Gay Spanker, Lydia Languish, Emilia, Queen Katharine, etc. But it was only when she appeared in Europe that her countrymen began fully to appreciate her. February 15, 1845, she made her debut in London as Bianca in “Fazio,” and afterwards supported Forrest and Macready with brilliant success. Her independent engagement was marked by her personation of Romeo to her sister Susan's Juliet, an experiment that took the great city by storm. She repeated it eighty nights in London, and many times in England, Ireland, and Scotland. Her varied accomplishments gave her the entrée to the best society in all the British capitals. She was welcomed at the famous Sunday breakfasts of the venerable Samuel Rogers, meeting everywhere statesmen, scholars, clergymen, artists, and the eminent ladies of the realm. Fortune followed her European fame rapidly. She began to tread that path of triumph at home which has ever since been strewn with flowers. She alternated between the Old and the New World, adding to her reputation and her riches. At Rome her residence was the resort of the best culture of all countries. If Charlotte earned money like a well-conducted bank, she spent it like a prin
At the Roman capital she was distinguished for love of her country during the war; and in 1863 she played for the United States Sanitary Committee, and paid $8267.29 as the proceeds of five performances in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, New York, and Boston.
Preserving her faculties in a remarkable degree, Miss Cushman was undoubtedly the leading woman of her profession. She had no equal on the English stage, and no superior in any other country. In her sixtieth year, she was the best living interpreter of the best characters in Shakespeare; the only Nancy Sykes and Meg Merrilies; the real Mrs. Haller in “The Stranger;" while in certain high-comedy pieces she stood alone. As a reader she was superb; and even in home ballads, like those by Carleton ("Betsy and I Are Out"), none approached her.