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The Theatre, New York

December 1906 Vol. VI, No. 70

Arthur Hornblow, Editor

New Dramatic Books


PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF HENRY IRVING

By Bram Stoker

Two volumes. The Macmillan Company: New York, London, 1906.


In the nature of the case various authoritative books about Henry Irving were to be expected, and no one can speak by better right and with better information than Bram Stoker, Irving's business manager and intimate associate during the entire period of his independent activity. There is much in the pages that is unnecessary for permanent record and some information, particularly of an artistic kind, might have been elaborated, but the volumes are exceedingly interesting and valuable and of a kind that could have been written by Bram Stoker only. The first impression that one gains is of the enormous energy of Irving, his unceasing labor, his earnestness and unsparing lavishness in securing artistic results. Incidental to this was his personal prodigality in the recognition of the services of others, either by way of sentiment or business. While he spared no expense in production the receipts were enormous and, for many years, prosperity was uninterrupted.


Mr. Stoker does not give the exact figures of every production, but is explicit about many of them. There was always, of course, much speculation concerning the financial affairs of the great actor. Exact figures were accessible only to Irving and Stoker, the head of no one department seeing the reports from any or at least all of the others. Acknowledgment is made that friends were always ready with money in case of need, but obligations of all kinds were met to the penny. There was no private subsidy. There was one gift of five thousand pounds by the will of Mrs. Brown, a wealthy woman of advanced years, who, from the beginning of his career, manifested a personal interest in the actor that was strengthened by his uninterrupted successes. Stoker tells of a curious incident when this money was paid to Irving. The executors of the will, strangely enough, paid the legacy in bank notes at his room. On being told of this, Stoker opened the safe to deposit the money. Irving had left it in his room. Where? in a hat box that had been left half open as a precaution of safety.


There is a passage concerning the vast number of plays submitted, which will enlighten amateurs as to the difficulty of procuring suitable dramas or good acting plays of any kind:

"Only those who are or have been concerned in theatrical management can have the least idea of the difficulty of obtaining plays suitable for acting. There are plenty of plays to be had. When any one goes into management—indeed, from the time the fact of his intention is announced—plays begin to rain in on him. All those rejected consistently throughout a generation are tried afresh on the new victim, for the hope of the unacted dramatist never dies. There is just a sufficient percentage of ultimate success in the case of long neglected plays to obviate despair. Every one who writes a play sends it on and on to manager after manager. When a player makes some abnormal success every aspirant to dramatic fame tries his hand at a play for him. It is all natural enough. The work is congenial, and the rewards —when there are rewards—are occasionally great. There is, I suppose, no form of literary work which seems so easy and is so difficult—which, while seeming to only require the common knowledge of life, needs in reality great technical knowledge and skill. From the experience alone which we had in the Lyceum one might well have come to the conclusion that to write a play of some kind is an instinct of human nature. To Irving were sent plays from every phase and condition of life. Not only from writers, whose work lay in other lines of effort; historians, lyric poets, divines from the curate to the bishop, but from professional men, merchants, manufacturers, traders, clerks. He has had them sent by domestic servants, and from as far down the social scale as a workhouse boy.


"But from all these multitudinous and varied sources we had very few plays indeed which afforded even a hope or promise. Irving was always anxious for good plays, and spared neither trouble nor expense to get them. Every play that was sent in was read and very many commissions were given and purchase money or advance fees paid. In such cases subjects were often suggested, scenario being the basis. In addition to the plays, in which he or Ellen Terry took part, which he produced during his own management, he purchased or paid fees or options on twenty-seven plays. Not one of these, from one cause or another, could he produce.

Some of the chapters on the stage management of certain plays are as interesting as they are instructive. In fact, details of Irving's acting and stage management are greatly to be desired. A book from Loveday, the stage manager, on this subject would be of inestimable value and, it is to be hoped that we may have some authoritative study of the kind. Henry Irving entertained constantly at dinners, many notable ones being held on the stage of the Lyceum Theatre itself. These suppers are notable in the history of the stage. Stoker's reminiscences of many of these distinguished guests are largely personal experiences of his own, but that gives them no less value, the atmosphere is that which surrounded his chief and properly belongs to the record. Sarah Bernhardt's expressions against the conventionality of tradition are notable. While waiting in Irving's dressing room for Irving to come from the stage Stoker was left alone with Gounod:


"I asked him what in his estimation were the best words to which he had composed music. He answered almost at once without hesitation:

"'Oh, that we two were Maying!' I can never think of those words without emotion! How can one help it?

He spoke some of the words—the last verse of the poem from The Saint'sTragedy:

"Oh! that we two lay sleeping.

In our nest in the churchyard sod,

With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth's breast,

And our souls at home with God."


As he spoke, the emotion seemed to master him more and more; at the last line the tears were running down his cheeks. He spoke with an extraordinary concentration and emphasis. It was hard to believe that he was not singing, for the effect of his speaking the words of Charles Kingsley's song was the same. His speech seemed like —was music. Later on I asked him who, in his opinion, was the best composer. "Present company, of course, excepted!" I added, whereat he smiled.

After a moment's thought he answered:

"Mendelssohn! Mendelssohn is the best!"

Then after another but shorter pause: "But there is only one Mozart!"


Stoker's account of the last years of Irving is simple and direct, and all the more feeling by reason of it. While Irving kept his indomitable energy to the last, his failing strength and waning opportunity wore on his pride and spirits. Mr. Stoker thus describes his last moments:

"The actual cause of Irving's death was physical weakness; he lost a breath, and had not strength to recover it. Sheppard told me that when Irving was leaving the theatre he had said to him that he had better come to the hotel with him, as was sometimes his duty. When he had got into the carriage he had sat with his back to the horses; this being his usual custom by which he avoided a draft. He was quite silent during the short journey. When he got out of the carriage he seemed very feeble, and as he passed through the outer hall of the hotel seemed uncertain of his step. He stumbled slightly and Sheppard held him up. Then when he got as far as the inner hall he sat down on a bench for an instant. That instant was the fatal one. In the previous February at Wolverhampton, when he had suffered from a similar attack of weakness, he had fallen down flat. In that attitude Nature asserted herself, and the lungs being in their easiest position allowed him to breathe mechanically. Now the seated attitude did not give the opportunity for automatic effort. The syncope grew worse; he slipped on the ground. But it was then too late. By the time the doctor arrived, after only a few minutes in all, he had passed too far into the World of Shadows to be drawn back by any effort of man or science. The heart beat faintly, and more faintly still. And then came the end. Before I left the hotel in the grey of the morning I went into the bedroom. It wrung my heart to see my dear old friend lie there so cold and white and still. It was all so desolate, as so much of his life had been. So lonely that in the midst of my own sorrow I could not but rejoice at one thing; for him there was now Peace and Rest.

Contemporary Reviews

Page updated 23 January 2013

Bats, Bats
The Vampire-Franz-Flaum

"The Vampire"

Sculpture ca. 1904, Franz Flaum

"The Athenaeum"

Literature-New Novels
11 July 1908

Lady Athlyne. By Bram Stoker. (Heinemann.)

We soon divine that the American heiress of Mr. Stoker's story will fall in love with the Scotch earl whose title she indiscreetly assumes in playful moments before they have met. But practised readers will be unable to predict with confidence the author's solution of the problem whether her father, a Kentuckian gentleman of old family, quick to avenge in duel any offence against his punctilious code of honour, will or will not turn her romance into tragedy. The Earl may be shot for presenting himself under an alias adopted in consequence of the heroine's indiscretion. As a title has no special attraction for the lady, while the peer does not want a fortune, and as also the speech of the Kentuckian family is excellent English, there ia no reason to expect a commonplace ending. Frequent change of scene, ardent love-making, and several tense situations make up a narrative which will enhance the author's popularity.

"Punch, or the London Charivari"

"Our Booking Office"

June 29, 1895

    The Shoulder of Shasta is not a new joint from an entirely new animal, as those who are tired of "the Shoulder of Mutton" may be sorry to hear; but, it is a charming romance, in one volume, written by Bram Stoker at his best. The heroine's name is "Esse"; and the whole interest of the story lies in the question, "Esse or non Esse" —" to be or not to be " the wife of " Mr. Hick." For there is a " Mr. Dick"—not in any way related to Dickens's "Mr. Hick"—who is a kind of Buffalo Bill among the Indians. There is a Miss Gimp, a governess, whose peculiarities certainly do recall those of Mrs. Nickleby. Mr. Bram Stoker's plot is a boite d surprise, and yet a most simple and natural story. Go to your butcher's and order The Shoulder of Shasta, to be served up a la Stoker." N.B.—For "butcher's'' read " bookseller's"; 'tis published by " A Constable" who "knows what subjects to take up, says the thoughtful

Baron Sb Book-Works.


A Monthly Survey Of  General Literature

Volume IX, September 1890 to August 1891

Philadelphia, John Wanamaker

Book News


Philadelphia Record

The Snake's Pass. A novel. By Bram Stoker, M. A. Franklin Square Library.

l2 mo, paper, 30 cents; by mail, 32 cents.

Bram Stoker will be remembered as Mr. Henry Irving's manager and fidus Achates when the tragedian visited this country. The scene of the story is laid in the west of Ireland, and it has in it a shifting bog, a buried treasure, two high-minded and self-sacrificing heroes, a villain of the deepest dye, a pretty Irish girl and a witty car-driver. All of these characters, including the bog, constantly move across the stage, the bog in the end moving to such good purpose that it swallows up the villain and rewards virtue. Mr. Stoker shows much sympathy with the phases of Irish character, and his story is told with animation and vigor.


Publishers' Circular

Apart from his skill in construction, the author possesses marked powers of

character-portrayal. He has evidently studied the Irish people very closely; and the cleverness with which he has imparted the requisite coloring to their language and actions elicits our warm praise. There is a true spirit of Hibernian fervor prevading the narrative; there is also, naturally, much humor, chiefly exhibited in the person of Andy, the car-driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                             

The New York Tribune

21 June 1902

Some New Novels

The Mystery of the Sea.

By Bram Stoker.  

Doubleday, Page & Co.

The mystery of the sea to which Mr. Bram Stoker compels our attention is one which no reader will put aside undiscovered. The story is not saturated with the weird horror that held us in “Dracula,” but it has enough of the supernatural for due glamour and thrill. A great treasure of the Armada, hidden in a sea cave and sought not only by the  hero but by the descendant of the Spaniard who shipped it, provides a starting point of excitement. A gang of ruthless murderers, thieves, and kidnappers in pursuit of the bewitching American heiress who is the heroine furnish forth enough suspense and terror for three ordinary tales. One parlous episode succeeds another; ancient documents, secret passages, rising tides, play significant parts; the lovely girl is always brave  and sweet, the splendid hero always full of resource, though sufficiently careless to allow the scoundrels their necessary innings. Bride and bridegroom, alone in the treasure cave, search the heaps of coin and jewels while the icy tide unheeded surrounds them. Roused at last, they clamber to the highest point, piling up the precious ingots of the Armada to lift them a little further beyond the the line of death. The air becomes less and less fresh--the light must be sacrificed.


    And now  in the darkness the terror of the rising flood grew worse and worse. The chill water crept up and up and up ; till at last it was only by raising her head that Marjory could breathe. I leaned back against the rock, and bending my knees outward lifted her so that she rested her feet against my knees. Up and up rose the chill water till it reached my chin, and I feared the last moments had come. There was one more chance for Marjory; and though it cut me to the soul to speak it, for I knew that it would tear at her very heartstrings, I had to try it.

    “Marjory, my wife, the end is close! I fear we may not both live. In a few moments more at most the water will be over my mouth. When the time comes I shall sink over the pile of treasure on which we rest. You must then stand on me; it will raise you sufficiently to let you hold out longer.” A dreadful groan broke from her.


Out of this unpleasant situation dawns a way of escape, else what would become of that other moment of breathless agony when hero, heroine and stately Spanish don fight through an enveloping fog a whole deckload of base kidnappers? Was there an escape from this danger also? We counsel the reader to seek an answer in an uncommonly spirited and entertaining book.

Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving, Bram Stoker
Lair of the White Worm- cover

NEW NOVELS & NEW EDITIONS. The Literary World Vol. 52 (1895)

In The Shoulder of Shasta Mr. Bram Stoker has given us a genuine romance of the Californian mountains, filled with Indians, a picturesque cowboy, and real grizzly ' b'ars.' He has hit on the idea of sending an American society young lady away for her health, and by means of this device he is enabled to make the girl's mother purchase a ranche on the Shoulder of Shasta Mountain. Having thus got his characters together in the desired locality, Mr. Stoker proceeds to make them act after their kind; the girl in a mild and unconventional flirtation with the picturesque cowboy before mentioned, and a certain Miss Gimp, an elderly maiden lady who acts as Ease's companion, in a romantic attachment for the same fortunate individual. And then the girl goes sketching, and is saved from being killed by a bear by ‘Grizzly Dick,' who chances to arrive on the scene. How he saved the girl and the girl saved him by way of reciprocating we may leave it to the book to describe, though we must protest that the author puts our credibility to a stern test when he would have us believe that a delicate girl could carry a man six feet high and of massive frame up a mountain, and deliver her burden within reach of home. Of course, a period of sentiment succeeds this adventure, and in the midst of it the girl goes back to San Francisco, fancying herself sick with love for the handsome cowboy. An injudicious friend sends for him, and he comes. In a drawing-room crowded with high-class society folk the cowboy loses something of his attractions in the girl's eyes, and she straightway marries in her own class. He remains very good friends with ' Little Missy' after he is disabused of her love for him, and at the close we have him a striking and attractive feature in San Francisco society.

The  Shoulder of Shasta.  By Bram Stoker. (A. Constable and Co. 3s. 6d.)

ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE & CO
WHITEHALL GARDENS WESTMINSTER

Crown 8vo, 3s.6d.

The Shoulder of Shasta

By BRAM STOKER

Author of " Dracula."

“Will be one of the most popular romances, in one volume, of the season now opening. It is chiefly remarkable for the very marked and superior descriptive power displayed by the author in his rich and inspiring picture of the scenery of the Shasta Mountain. . . . So entirely unconventional, humorous, and bizarre, as to be quite unique. . . . The composition is bold and lucid . . . . He is an accomplished artist, and shows here at his best. . . . Mr. Br am Stoker will add widely to his reputation by this."—Irish Times.

"A pure and well-told story.” —Glasgow Herald.

"The story is charmingly written, and deserves to be read for its brilliant open-air passages, and the portrait it contains of Grizzly Dick."—Daily News.

"Mr. Bram Stoker has given the reading world one of the breeziest and most picturesque tales of life on the Pacific slope that has been penned for many a long day."—Daily Telegraph.

“Mr. Stoker seems quite at home in picturing the wild beauty of Californian scenery. . . . 'The Shoulder of Shasta' is eminently fresh and readable."— Globe.

"It is a capital story."—Bristol Times and Mirror.

"The story is gracefully conceived, and wrought out with considerable skill. . . . A readable and entertaining work."—Scotsman.

" ‘ The Shoulder of Shasta’ may fairly be classed among the books to be read and enjoyed."—Yorkshire Post.

"A pleasant story of life in Western America. . . . Fresh and unconventional. "—Publishers' Circular.

"Mr. Bram Stoker's new book is a peculiarly bright and breezy story of Californian life . . . . There is nothing laboured in this description, no straining after undue effect. . . . The language is simple, yet the effect is always satisfying, and the word-picture is complete."—Liverpool Daily Post.

"The narrative is entertaining throughout, with eloquent descriptions of scenery."—Academy.

"Mr. Bram Stoker's story is unflagging, full of vigour, and capital reading from end to end; moreover, it conveys a vivid picture of life and manners in a corner of the world better known to him than to the majority of those who will read his book."—Standard.

Hampshire Advertiser 05 June 1897

Image © The British Library Board

Morning Post 03 June 1897

Image © The British Library Board

 

Derby Mercury 23 June 1897

Image © The British Library Board

"The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction", Dorothy Scarborough(1917)

In The Lair of the White Worm, Stoker tells of a woman who was at once an alluring woman and a snake thousands of years old. The snake is so large that, when it goes out to walk, it looks like a high white tower, and can gaze over the tops of the trees.

These illustrations for The Lair of the White Worm were done by Pamela Colman Smith, "Pixie" - Bram's friend who is perhaps best remembered for her drawings on the Rider-Waite Tarot Cards. She was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, one of the many links between Bram and the group.

"Out West" Vol. 11 & 12 (1899)

“That Which is Written”


It is economically certain that Mr. Bram Stoker is a sober man. Drunkenness would have no charms, nor delirium any news, for a person of his imagination. His novel, Dracula, is a most surprising affair—and not its least surprise is that of finding yourself clutched and dragged along by so grisly an impossibility. Mr. Stoker has a steady and rather adroit hand to steer and display the paces of his hasheesh fancy; and though the story never convinces, it never loosens its peculiar grip on the reader. "Dracula" is a human vampire —literal vampire of the folkmyths—and with this repellant motif, the author has spun a web of horrors I do not remember the mate to. Perforce, all turns out well in the end; else one would have every right to resent so persistent racking of whatever nerves one may have. Doubleday & McClure Co., New York. C. C. Parker, Los Angeles. $1.50.

 


THE INDEPENDENT, Vol. LXX New York, January 12, 1911

Literary Notes

    Bram Stoker is evidently a believer in Barnum's dictum that the people—or was it only the American people?—love to be humbugged. At least, he has written a thick volume with this title: Famous Impostors (Sturgis & Walton Co., $2) ; and in his preface he writes:

"The subject of imposture is always an interesting one, and impostors in one shape or another arc likely to flourish as long as human nature remains what it is."

    We took it for a display of purely British humor when we remarked his offering of a portrait of "Queen Elizabeth as a Young Woman"' for frontispiece, but it seems a legend has it that the Virgin Queen of history was a channeling; and a male at that. Mr. Stoker's cases include examples of the faker's art as practised in many forms: by impersonators, pretenders and swindlers; by seekers after wealth, position, fame and simple adventure. The story of Perkin Warbeck carries us into English history, that of La Voisin into the France of the grand siecle. We have the Wandering Jew, and John Law, and the false Dauphins of France, and a variety of witches and magicians. A diverting volume for an idle evening, the stories being told with a certain rapidity, tho without distinction of style.