Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, February 19, 1890

     5.10 P.M. W. reading the paper. I had quite a long talk with him. Just after his dinner he always seems in rising humor—the blood flowing to more animation, speech given a consequent freedom.

     Developed considerable talk of old actors. Jefferson said in his January Century talk: "There are many good actors that have this peculiar raw quality who have been on the stage for years; and it is because they begin their careers by acting leading characters. Mrs. Mowatt and James H. Hackett were examples of many in our profession who have committed this fatal error." W. objected: "That would give an entirely false idea of Hackett. I doubt if Jefferson knows—doubt if he ever saw him. At any rate, while I read these articles—and some of them have an interest—it is all superficial—gives none of

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those significant side-lights and deep touches which are almost necessary to the true understanding of old dramaticism. Hackett was not appreciated by some, as the best things always are not appreciated by some. He may not have been popular after the modern sense, but he was a man who could hold his audiences—and high-class audiences they were, too. He and Henry Placide and Mrs. Vernon and Charlie Fisher—these were the true creatures of the time—the highest-born of all to their work! Yes, I knew Don—Sir William Don: he was a tall, slim fellow—with an irresistible comic power. I was going to say genius—and genius it was, of a sort. I more and more question if the modern men can enact such comedy as had the boards in my young days. There is a new sense of humor abroad—the Byronic taste, that craved for whiskey of vitriolic intensity—whiskey that bites the throat as it goes down—not whiskey that laves every spot as if balm. Such men—men formed on such a taste—could not repeat the old comedy. I know people will say, yes, the old is best, is always best to the old: but no—no—I think there is more than that to the story—I feel sure I am an exception to the rule of those who declare, feel, that all goes with age. I never think of [Emma] Alboni but I think of the finest voice, organ, that ever was. Her contralto—what a purity! what a range! And whatever her change of pitch, there was no loss of power, of integrity. After Booth was Forrest—a masterly man, with a voice strong and true and musical beyond all about him. Forrest was a man of parts, too: there was a time when he was in much demand—was a sort of social elegante, and proved his right to be thought it; and again, was in demand for lectures—what we call addresses, now. Of all the persons, events, of those times, Jefferson's perspective is full of defects. His writing is much less interesting—true to the life—than Siddons', or Fanny Kemble's—yes, even than McCready's."

     Asked me where I was going. "Up to Tom's?" But no—I

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was going to Philadelphia. He added: "I intended asking you to bring me more whiskey. I am quite out of whiskey and Tom's is the bestest ever was! Oh! it is genuine stuff. I know nothing near so good anywhere else."


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