Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday morning, January 5, 1890

     9.45. W. in his room reading The Press. "The papers are full of stuff, and yet one keeps on asking, what is there? What is there? Nothing, that I see."

     He has a great way of asking, if you have a bundle in your

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hands— "What have you there?" This time it was [J. Vila] Blake's essays. "That is good—the paper label—not but that the label itself could be better, but the label because a label is a good idea—is not amiss. I remember a farce, when I was a young man, theatre-going—'The Captain's not a-Miss'—not a bad pun, as puns go, on the word—seized from some point in the play. Yes, it is quite dead now, I suppose. At that time it was the custom to close an evening—even a tragedy evening—with a one-act farce. There were always two sets of theatre-goers—one that came late, one that came early: by the insertion of the farce, both ends were pleased." And then he went back to the book. "So this book is by the preacher-man. It is well printed—goes back to the old style—not that the old style is good or bad, but that it is old, is the significance."

     I asked W. about the Booth pictures in Jefferson's Century article. "They are quite good—have merit. I don't think anyone who ever saw the elder Booth in his prime—at his best—could believe our present man to hold a candle to him. In fact, to one who has seen [James Henry] Hackett's Rip Van Winkle, Jefferson seems very much smaller and narrower. Hackett did not play it often. Jefferson's is modelled a good deal on the formal theatrical rules—he makes too much of the farcicality of the play—like Byron, who was said to like the rum that cut his throat as it went down. Not but that it was good and I have enjoyed it, for I have. I have seen him many times—liked him best in the plays he plays least, or now not at all—did play in his early days—as Noggs, for instance, in the little piece from Dickens."—And then he commented directly on Jefferson's article. "These fellows do not seem to know as much as is supposed—if I had it in mind to write an article about the acting of those early days, I should certainly get nearer the heart of the matter than Jefferson does—of the marrow, what-not, he knows little or nothing." I told him I was glad to see a picture there of Harry Placide, of whom I

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had heard so much. "The picture is pretty good but not very good. Placide was not what would be called facially a handsome man—he was a man of the old style—by that I do not mean that the old style is to be preferred to the new—only, that the man of the old style—say, Zachary Taylor—with whom I one time rode north from New Orleans—or Henry Clay—or Abraham Lincoln—men who on the Greek principle would be considered ugly—had yet a positive magnetism, attractiveness not to be gainsaid. Placide had this power, if not the gift of beauty." Jefferson lacked the highest touch by being "to inclined not to reserve anything." W. knew Salvini was intense— "but to Italians, the Spanish, the French,—to Oriental natures—this is the necessary and fit thing."


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