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DORA KNOWLTON RANOUS 

AUTHOR— EDITOR— TRANSLATOR 

A Simple Record of a Noble Life 



BY 

ROSSITER JOHNSON 



Where'er she came she brought a spell 
That lightened all the commonplace. 

Whene'er she went a silence fell 

And something shadowed every face. 



NEW YORK 

PUBLISHERS PRINTING COMPANY 

1916 






ONE HUNDRED COPIES PRINTED 

BY THE COURTESY OF JOSEPH GANTZ. PRESIDENT 
OF PUBLISHERS PRINTING COMPANY 



No. 



^Z^Jf 



// 



DORA KNOWLTON RANOUS 



A SIMPLE RECORD OF A NOBLE LIFE 

In the city of New York on the nineteenth day of 
January, 1916, passed from this life a woman whose 
abilities, accomplishments, achievements, and gen- 
eral character merit a permanent record — such a 
narrative as one may write with satisfaction and 
many may read with pleasure. 

Alexander Hamilton Thompson married Augusta 
Comfort Knowlton, of Ashfield, Mass., in the 
eigh teen-fifties. Colonel Thomas Knowlton, who 
fell in the battle of Harlem Heights, and whose 
statue stands before the State-house in Hartford, was 
Mrs. Thompson's great uncle. Washington, in his 
report, declared that Colonel Knowlton "would have 
been an honor to any country." Her father was 
Charles Knowlton, a physician well known in his 
day, who published in 1833 a book entitled, "Fruits 
of Philosophy," which may be called a corollary of 
Malthus' famous essay. This subjected him to in- 
temperate criticism from many strictly conventional 
thinkers. 

To Mr. and Mrs. Thompson were born two 
daughters — Grace, in 1857; Dora, August 16, 1859. 

5 



6 A Simple Record 

Their birthplace was the Knowlton homestead, a 
house of Colonial design, in the main street of Ash- 
field. The sisters had the advantage of a learned 
and judicious governess (afterward the wife of 
Henry C. De Mille, the dramatist), who taught them 
French and music at an early age. After that they 
attended the common school, where Dora was noted 
especially for her ability to "spell down" the class. 
Then they were graduated at Sanderson Academy, 
in their native village, and their schooling was com- 
pleted at Packer Institute, in Brooklyn, where their 
parents had a winter home. 

The family were Episcopalians; but Dora attended 
Henry Ward Beecher's church, attracted by his elo- 
quence, and was a member of the famous Bible-class 
taught by Thomas G. Shearman, eminent as an 
advocate of free trade and as a writer of law books. 
Under his tutelage she read the Bible from Genesis 
to Revelation, and found pleasure in the study of it. 

In their summer home the sisters were peculiarly 
fortunate; for in Ashfield were also the summer 
homes of Charles Eliot Norton and George William 
Curtis, who naturally attracted such visitors as 
James Russell Lowell, Francis Parkman, Charles 
Dudley Warner, and John W. Field. The last- 
named was a retired merchant of Philadelphia, who 
was learned in the languages and in love with litera- 
ture, and had become an intimate friend of Lowell 
and of Robert Browning. 

The great beauty of that village and its sur- 
roundings may be imagined from a passage in one of 



of a Noble Life 7 

Lowell's letters to Professor Norton: "Why I did not 
come to Ashfield, as I hoped and expected, I will tell 
you when I see you. Like that poor Doctor in the 
'Inferno,' I have seen before me as I sat in reverie 
those yellow hills with their dark-green checkers of 
woods and the blue undulation of edging mountains 
(which we looked at together that lovely Sunday 
morning last year), I can't say how often. Perhaps 
I do not wish to see them again — and in one sense I 
do not, they are such a beautiful picture in my 
memory." And some years later he wrote: "I may 
be back before you leave Ashfield next summer, and, 
if so, shall next see you there — as good a place as I 
know of this side heaven." 

Dora Knowlton also had a loving appreciation of 
those natural beauties, and in her mature life in New 
York, when the day for vacation came round, she 
invariably fled as a bird to her mountains, there to 
rejoice once more in the strength of the hills, the 
song of the stream, the freshness of the breeze, and 
the dreaminess of the summer clouds. And when, 
after her return to the city, she spoke of her visit 
there, it was usually with specific mention of some 
features that forever interested her — Mill-Hill Woods, 
the walk around the pond, climbing the hillside for 
berries, and the White Sisters. The last-named 
were a double row of birch trees with a path between, 
which, from some fancy or perchance some actual 
experience, she called the Lovers' Walk. This was 
just across the way from her early home. She also 
entertained her associates with animated descriptions 



8 A Simple Record 

of the cleaning to which the village is subjected 
every May, and the feast and frolic that follow in the 
Town Hall. Those famous American authors, who 
occasionally were guests at Mrs. Thompson's dinner- 
table, gave to the place an air of scholarship and to 
the conversation a literary flavor that had an educat- 
ing effect on the young sisters and showed its in- 
fluence in Dora's after life. Their portraits, with 
autograph notes addressed to her, hung on the wall 
of her living-room to her latest day. 

Mrs. Thompson believed that her daughter Dora 
had dramatic ability, and wished to test that belief 
by putting her on the stage. Dora wrote in her 
journal (the original of which is before me) that 
they tried for three or four years to get her an engage- 
ment. Then she took a course of lessons from 
Frederic C. P. Robinson, an English actor, who had 
played in New York theatres. "He was an ad- 
mirable teacher and a perfect gentleman, and I 
liked and admired him very much. He is an ex- 
cellent actor and has an enviable reputation in the 
profession. His wife is charming, and they were 
both very kind to me. They told me how to procure 
an engagement, and Mrs. Robinson took me to a 
dramatic agency and introduced me. This was in 
June, 1879. I then returned to my home in Ashfield 
to await results. After I had been there a week I 
received a summons to New York to meet Mr. 
Augustin ])aly, who was making up a company for 
his new theatre at Broadway and Thirtieth Street." 
Mr. Daly gave her an engagement, and she signed 



of a Noble Life 9 

a contract to play in his company through the 
season (which began in September), for a weekly 
salary of ten dollars. 

From this point the story is told in her published 
"Diary of a Daly Debutante." 

In that unusually fine company, under one of the 
most skilful of managers, she received an initiation 
into the profession that was at once pleasant and 
effective. Of that company, two members — John 
Drew and Ada Rehan — became stars, with a long 
and brilliant career. And Dora made there a few 
lifelong friends. Among these were Margaret 
Lanner, who became Mrs. Thomas L. Coleman, and 
Georgine Flagg, who became Mrs. Brainerd T. 
Judkins. Two of the pleasantest episodes in the 
last year of her life — reunion of friends long parted 
— were her visits to Mrs. Coleman in Washington 
and Mrs. Judkins in Nantucket. Another was a 
casual meeting in Broadway with John Drew, when, 
at his suggestion, they stepped aside from the crowd 
and talked over old times. 

With an ambition for more rapid advancement in 
the profession, she left Mr. Daly's company, and 
shortly afterward was engaged by the Kiralfy 
Brothers to play in their spectacular drama made 
from Jules Verne's popular novel, "Around the 
World in Eighty Days." 

When her "Diary of a Daly Debutante" was 
published, she received numerous letters asking that 
the story be continued, saying that it ended too 
suddenly, and demanding to be told "what hap- 



10 A Simple Record 

pened next." Accordingly, when she had leisure for 
it, she once more opened her old journals and wrote 
a narrative of her adventures with the Kiralfy 
company. This manuscript has not been published, 
because it is not long enough to make a salable 
book; and therefore some of the most entertaining 
passages are transcribed here. So far as they go she 
tells her own story better than I could tell it; and 
her experiences in the Kiralfy company were very 
different from those on the Daly stage. 



Once there was a somewhat conceited young woman, 
who became discontented, since she didn't know when she 
was well off. So she resolved to leave the home nest — the 
pretty little theatre at Broadway and Thirtieth Street, 
New York — ^because she fancied she was not rising in her 
profession as rapidly as she deserved! Being tempted, 
through a friend, by the prospect of playing " a really good 
speaking-part" in a big, spectacular play that had been 
*'all the go" for a season or two, this venturesome damsel 
cut loose from the ties that held her to the wholesome, if 
somewhat strict and severe, routine of a two years' ap- 
prenticeship at Daly's Theatre, and joined the "aggrega- 
tion of talent and beauty" (I am quoting our playbills) 
conducted by the Brothers Kiralfy, and set out on the 
road once again. Crowded houses were the rule with 
"Around the World in Eighty Days." 

My mother gave a reluctant consent to my new venture; 
but I was quite sure that, with my experience to guide me, 
I should do very well, and perhaps rise to dizzy heights 
of glory — possibly become leading lady — one never could 
tell. I joined the large company (after an interview with 
the business manager) at a rehearsal of "Around the 
World in Eighty Days." 

We were to rehearse for two weeks, before leaving New 



of a Noble Life 11 

York, at the queer old theatre known as Niblo's Garden, 
Broadway and Prince Street. The region behind the 
scenes opened directly into the bar of the Metropolitan 
Hotel, in those days a fashionable resort, and the patrons 
of the bar found it easy to penetrate to the back of the 
stage of Niblo's Garden and become acquainted with the 
ladies of the ballet (they had not to face a martinet like 
old John at Daly's) in such plays as the famous "Black 
Crook." This was told to me by a veteran dancer of 
those days, who assured me that she had been one of 
Lydia Thompson's British Blondes. 

I had heard about that company before, and, having a 
taste for studying unusual types and picking up notes as I 
went along, I used to talk quietly "out in front" with some 
of these graduates of the Lydia Thompson school, often 
being much amused at their confidences and becoming 
very worldly-wise, as I fancied. 

There are three Kiralfy brothers — Arnold, Imre, and 
Bolossy. The latter is a swarthy, black-eyed little 
Hungarian, all fire and vivacity, with a keen eye for 
artistic stage effect, for color and beauty, and an ear 
equally keen for harmony and euphony. He plays the 
violin beautifully, and rehearses his ballet capering around 
like a mad grasshopper, half-singing the air he is playing 
as he goes. He has the orchestra to accompany him, too, 
but he chooses to play the lead on the first violin. His 
every-day speech is a weird polyglot of all the languages of 
Europe, and a few of Asia, I think. 

Among the more interesting members of the dramatic 
cast is a funny man, well known as "Mose" Fisk, a "low 
comedian," to speak technically, who plays the part of 
Passepartout, the valet of Phileas Fogg, the hero, who lays 
a wager of £5,000 with his fellow members of the Eccentric 
Club of London that he will make the tour of the world in 
eighty days. This character is played by a tall, good- 
looking, dark man named Keane, slow, deliberate, and 



12 A Simple Record 

very English in manner, never angry or excited at any- 
thing, nor ever in a hurry, which is quite befitting the 
character of Fogg as Jules Verne presents him. 

The girl who plays the Princess Aouda, the leading part, 
is handsome, with bronze-red hair, brilliant black eyes, 
and a fine figure, though she seems to me a rather tame 
actress for so good a part as that of Aouda, which she 
takes much too coolly. She is rescued by Fogg and 
Passepartout, who save her from death on the funeral pyre 
of her old rajah husband, for she is to be burned alive with 
his body, after the cheerful custom of the India of a former 
day. Passepartout has disguised himself, following his 
master's orders, in an old robe of the dead rajah, whose 
body he has hidden behind the funeral pyre, which 
Passepartout mounts himself, and, lying down, covers 
himself with a white sheet and awaits the moment when 
the doomed Princess is led to the pyre by priests, chanting 
and praying. Just as the girl begins to ascend the fatal pile, 
which fakirs are waiting to light with flaming torches, the 
disguised valet springs to his feet, looking very like a 
ghost in his white drapery, and shouts: "Down on your 
knees, every one of you!" The superstitious Indians, to a 
man and a woman, believing he is really the departed 
rajah come to life, plump down on their knees and hide 
their faces, and there they lie gibbering and wallowing. 
Meantime Passepartout, with surprising agihty for so fat 
a man as Mr. Fisk, seizes the Princess, and, flinging her 
over his shoulder with no more ceremony than if she were a 
bag of flour, makes off through the woods in the darkness, 
and to the river, where presently he is joined by the wait- 
ing Phileas Fogg. 

The fair victim is very good-looking. In her youth she 
was educated by an English-speaking governess, which 
accounts for her familiarity with the English language, 
and also for her sister Nemea*s knowledge of it. Both 
girls have accepted the custom of suttee for the widowed 



of a Noble Life 13 

Aouda; but she appears very glad indeed to be rescued 
even in that rough manner by the Enghshman. 

This gentleman's mind is set chiefly on getting around 
the world on time, yet he smuggles Aouda and her sister out 
of India and takes ship for the United States. The sisters 
accompany him through various exciting scenes, but in the 
end Aouda actually has to propose herself as a bride to this 
phlegmatic Englishman, and all turns out happily. 

The Princess is Miss Georgia Raymond, from Boston. 
She does not take much interest in her part, and her 
temper seems none of the sweetest. Several little set- 
tos between herself and the stage-manager have already 
promised lively times to come. Her stage sister, Nemea, 
is played by a beautiful and interesting girl, Marie Lewes, 
who has violet-blue eyes and a voice like music. I see 
that she reads very good books while we are waiting 
at rehearsals. 

Miss Susie Kirwin is another attractive girl, piquante 
and graceful. She plays Bessie, the sweetheart of Passe- 
partout. She has a lovely contralto voice, and dances 
like a fairy. [In later years. Miss Kirwin became the 
star of the well-known Wilbur Opera Company.] 

Other persons of some interest are William H. Fitz- 
gerald, the assistant stage-manager, and William V. 
Ranous, who plays the difficult part of Fix, a Scotland- 
Yard detective, who believes that Phileas Fogg is a much 
wanted criminal. So he gets on Fogg's trail and follows 
him all round the world. For myself, I am to play the 
part of Nakahira, a favorite handmaiden of the Princess 
Aouda, whose heart is nearly broken at the terrible fate 
impending over her young mistress. 

One morning we were informed that there would be a 
rehearsal of the ballet in costume. The stage was cleared, 
and at a signal the girls filed out. They were a sight! 
All sorts of duds are worn for ballet rehearsal, it seems — 
anything goes; and this was surely a motley array. The 



14 A Simple Record 

most deluded youth that ever dangled after the dancers 
at the stage door would take to flight if he could gaze at 
this crowd. Their costumes consisted of soiled tights, 
faded with much washing, worn ballet shoes, different 
from any other kind of shoe worn by woman, voluminous 
tarletan skirts, by no means in their first crisp freshness, 
over an underpinning of somewhat soiled and worn 
lingerie — a far from fascinating spectacle! Atop of the 
skirts were old, worn corsets, sometimes with a corset- 
cover, sometimes not. A few wore little, short dressing- 
jackets instead. 

Pretty well up stage was a plain little woman dressed in 
a rather prettier and more decent costume than the other 
women wore. She was holding fast to a projecting flat, 
and against another she was rubbing her toes to and fro — 
first one big toe and then the other. I asked who she was 
and why she appeared to be trying to wear holes in the 
scenery. Little Miss Parker — "one of the Parker Sisters, 
you know" — told me she was Signora Adela Paglieri, our 
Italian premiere danseuse, and that she was "toughening 
her toes," which she has to do for fifteen minutes several 
times a day, to make them hard enough for her to stand 
erect on their tips and whirl round like a teetotum. 

Finally the ballet was ready to begin. The orchestra 
went into their places, and enter Bolossy, who, violin in 
hand, and, bowing to the ladies, announced that they 
would dance the "Dance of the Serpents" first. He 
taps with his bow and the music begins. Immediately 
there was a vision of waving legs and arms, and one was 
fairly compelled to inspect the array of faded lingerie 
and passe tights. The girls danced well, with a high 
degree of ease and finish, but Bolossy was not altogether 
pleased. His sensitive ear and eye detected that one or 
two were not in strict time with the music. He tapped 
again, then waved the bow frantically like a baton — down, 
left, right, up! 



of a Noble Life 15 

"Now watch me and lissen, laties," he cried: *'Vony 
two, tree, four — von, two, tree, four — voriy two, tree, four 
— von, two, tree, four [profanity thrown in, keeping time 
with the music], /adies! Von, two, tree, four [and more 
bad words]. He shouts his profanity in strict time with 
the orchestra, while the men play away unmoved. In 
fact, no one seems shocked but myself. I couldn't help 
remembering Augustin Daly in his more impetuous 
moods; but he never said anything like this, and to 
women, too. No, Augustin was a Sunday-school teacher 
compared with Bolossy. 

Presently Bolossy flew to the line of startled maidens. 
"You girl here," he exclaimed, stopping beside a young 
woman, " vy do you not bring your feets up ven ze music 
goes up? Ve haf not electrics in our stage floor to hold 
zem down. See — zis vay!" And, bending over, he 
seized the offending foot and elevated it to the angle he 
wished it to describe. Then he went on: "Vonce more, 
plees, laties." 

No member of the dramatic company ever speaks to, 
or in any way associates with, any member of the ballet, 
with the exception of Signora Paglieri, who is so evidently 
a lady of education and refinement that she is much ad- 
mired by every one. Besides, she is a premiere; the others 
are only coryphees — it makes a big difference in their 
social standing. I fancy that the actresses look at me 
rather curiously, after I have been talking to some of the 
ladies of the ballet, which I occasionally do, for I find them 
interesting and very odd, naive, and amusing. Once I 
said something to one of the actresses about Miss Somer- 
ville, and she answered, with a shrug, "I don't know her — 
she belongs to the ballet, you know." "Yes, I know," I 
replied, "but I thought you might have talked to her." 
"My dear girl," she said, with a hateful little laugh, "you 
can't have been in this business long, or you would know 
that the dramatic people never talk to the ballet." And 



16 A Simple Record 

the ballet don't wish to talk to the dramatic people, any 
more than those superior beings desire to get chummy 
with them. But they are always good-natured and never 
are rude to me, though their manners toward one another 
are not exactly those of Lady Clara Vere de Vere. 

My new costume is most becoming — a pretty, warm- 
colored Oriental dress, with a sort of bolero jacket of 
black velvet embroidered with gold over a loose white silk 
sort of shirt, and a deep crimson, gold-fringed, very wide 
scarf round my waist, hanging low in front. I look like a 
character in an Arabian-Nights story, only I haven't any 
veil. I wish I could wear one. But I am not a grand 
lady in the play, so am not supposed to wear a veil, as the 
Princess Aouda does. We had a dress rehearsal yester- 
day, with scenery and props. Aouda wears a lovely 
costume, and the ballet is quite gorgeous. 

Here we are in Boston again — good old rural Boston! 
The company assembled at the pier in New York, and I 
was astonished at the gorgeous get-up of the ballet. The 
dramatic ladies wore simple traveling-dress, but several 
of the dancers sported long, real sealskin coats, quantities 
of jewelry, and imposing hats, with a profusion of towering 
feathers, and glittering rhinestones. As soon as we were 
on board, our nice little business manager, Mr. Fitzgerald, 
introduced me to Miss Marie Lewes, asking whether we 
would be willing to share a stateroom, since accommoda- 
tions on the boat were limited. I had no objection, and 
pretty Miss Lewes smiled graciously, so we took possession 
of a good stateroom and proceeded to get acquainted. 
There was no such easy time with the leading lady. At 
the proposal that she "double up" (as they call it) with 
Miss Kirwin, she flew into a tantrum and said she ex- 
pected, being leading lady, to have a room to herself. 
After some argument, in which Miss Kirwin kept her 
temper admirably, the leading lady consented ungraciously 
to admit the soubrette. 



J 



of a Noble Life 17 

I found Miss Lewes cultivated and well mannered as 
well as pretty. She is a cousin of George Henry Lewes, 
the writer, husband of George Eliot, and she took out of 
her bag a book entitled "The Impressions of Theophrastus 
Such," by George Eliot, which Mr. Lewes had given her, 
and which she prizes highly, for it has George Eliot's 
autograph. We talked books a while, and retired early. 
She is a most agreeable companion. Evidently, Mr. 
Fitzgerald thinks so, for he calls often at our door on 
little errands : to bring us letters, or the New York papers, 
or just to inquire again whether we are comfortable. On 
Sunday, when he came, it seemed to Marie rather in- 
hospitable to keep him standing in the doorway, so she 
invited him in to sit down, which was all right, for our 
room was in perfect order and we were dressed for the day. 
Marie has a way of making our room look attractive, 
even for a day or two, by putting upon the mantel framed 
photographs, and throwing an old camel's-hair shawl 
across a couch, and slipping the bed-pillows into two hand- 
some silk covers that she carries in her trunk. I suppose 
he was lonely and was glad to come in on a dull Sunday. 
While he and Marie were talking, I tried to get a few 
"impressions" from "Theophrastus Such," which, to tell 
the truth, I found rather dry. But I saw that they 
wanted to talk by themselves, so I felt obliged to play 
"gooseberry," as the English express it. 

Little Miss Parker walked into the green-room one 
night with a big workbag, from which she took out several 
pairs of men's stockings, a darning-egg, needles, and 
darning-cotton. Thrusting her little fist into one of the 
stockings, she held it up, displaying a large hole, and said : 
" I expected to find these in Mose's stockings, as he hasn't 
had me to look after them for some time, and he does wear 
such awful holes in his heels!" Then she proceeded to 
darn the stocking very neatly. I laughed, but she 
assured me that she always darned Mr. Fisk's stockings 



18 A Simple Record 

when they were on the road together, "or his poor feet 
would be on the ground," she said. It appears that Mr. 
Fisk used to be a "variety sketch" partner of Httle 
Parker's father, and she had known him from infancy. 

My dear Marie left the company when we reached 
Brooklyn. She does not like this company or the play 
very well. With the exception of me, she says, she does 
not like any one in the play ; and she has had an offer of a 
much better part in a regular dramatic company with no 
ballet. The only thing that consoles me for her going is 
the fact that I am to play her part of Nemea — not that I 
like the part particularly; but it is the second juvenile 
part, next to that of the lead. Princess Aouda, and has a 
little more pay. Little Miss Parker is to take my part of 
Nakahira. I shall go on as Nemea to-morrow night in 
Philadelphia, where we open at the old Walnut Street 
Theatre. Nemea hasn't much to say or do, except to 
trot around with Aouda and get in everybody's way. 
She is a lady in the play, and of course has to wear a veil. 
Miss Lewes draped her veil on me before she left; it 
is very becoming, and I look quite Oriental, with my 
black eyes, my brunette complexion, and my long, dark 
hair, which I shall wear all down in the scenes in India, 
and not put it up till we reach England (in the play). I 
got through the part of Nemea all right, and every one said 
I looked well in my new costume. We shall play in 
Reading, Pa., to-morrow night; then in Easton, Allen- 
town, Bethlehem, and Wilkesbarre, before going to 
Pittsburgh, and then we are booked to play for two weeks 
in Cincinnati. 

Well, here [in Wilkesbarre] is a great change, the most 
unexpected ! I am playing the part of the Princess Aouda, 
and am the leading lady at last! It happened as a result 
of Miss Raymond's disregard of stage rules and of her 
peppery temper. We were playing in Bethlehem, and 
Miss Raymond, with the Misses Kirwin and Parker, 



of a Noble Life 19 

occupied a dressing-room next to mine. All was quiet 
until, between the acts, there was a decided odor of 
tobacco smoke, and Miss Kirwin said: "Really, Miss 
Raymond, you shouldn't do that, you know. The rules 
against smoking in the dressing-rooms are very strict." 
"Suppose you mind your own business, Miss," snapped 
Miss Raymond. The manager came in, and rebuked 
Miss Raymond severely for smoking behind the scenes, at 
the risk of starting a serious fire. The next day she left 
the company. The house had been all sold out, and a 
puzzling situation was produced. The manager asked: 
"Miss Knowlton, how well do you know Aoudas lines in 
this play?" "Almost as well as I know Nemea's,'* I 
answered, for I had watched the whole play night after 
night, and I had a wonderful memory. Therefore I was 
advanced to the place of leading lady, and after one 
rehearsal I filled it to the manager's satisfaction. When 
Bolossy saw me play the part he shook hands with me 
and said: "Leetle Miss NoUton, I sank you for coming 
to our help, and congratulate you on your performance. 
I did not sink you had it in you. You do ze Princess 
vair' well. A leetle more lady-like veekness might be 
better — ^not qvite so mooch strengt'. Remember, you 
are sheared!'' 

In Cincinnati a circus was laid up in winter quarters, 
and for their performances in that city the Kiralfys were 
able to borrow an elephant named Chief, on which Aonda 
should ride to the sacrifice. I went to the theatre at the 
usual time, and as soon as I entered I heard my name 
called in loud stage whispers all over the place. "Here 
I am. Who wants me?" I called, running out on the 

stage. Mr. M came to meet me with outstretched 

hands. "Come here!" said he, solemnly, leading me 
across the stage, which was set for the first act. "There 
he is! Look at him!" I gasped with amazement, and 
looked up, and up, and up at the biggest elephant I have 



20 A Simple Record 

ever seen. His head was up among the flies; he is like a 
young house — an enormous creature! Beside him stood 
a much smaller elephant — ^his wife, named Alice. "He 

never will go anywhere without his wife," said Mr. M ; 

and I felt a wild sort of hysterical desire to scream with 
laughter at this domestic devotion, and with terror at the 
idea of being expected to ride that monster. 

"Now," said Mr. M , as easily as if he were pro- 
posing that I get into a carriage, "it's early yet, but we 
haven't time for a rehearsal, so I'll just call the keepers, 
and we'll tell you how to manage the escape." "Why, 
surely, you don't expect me to get on that huge beast .f^" 
"Sure, why not? It'll be very easy. You see, he's 
trained, and knows what acting is. You do the farewell 
act just as usual, standing in front of Chief when you make 
your speech and give away your jools, and then cross 
over to the funeral pyre with the priests and torch- 
bearers, and climb up on the wood-pile. Chief will stand 
right in the middle of the stage, and Alice next to him. 
She ain't got to do anything, but she'll look well, and 
it'll be a grand scene. You do everything just as usual, 
only when Passepartout rises and shouts "Down on your 
knees," instead of picking you up himself he will lead you 
down to the foot of this little ladder — see.^^ — and you must 
run up it quick, while Chief stands still, with a keeper on 
each side of the ladder to hold it steady. When you get 
to the top, you just scramble into that elegant palanquin; 
the keepers will lead Chief off left — and you see it's as easy 
as falling off a log!" "I see," I said; "that sounds very 
well; but suppose I should fall off the ladder?" "Oh, 
you won't! The boys will look out for that." 

I began to dress just as the orchestra went on. Oddly 
enough, they played De Kontski's Le Reveil du Lion. If 
they had called it "The Awakening of the Elephant," it 
would have suited the case better. To add to my dis- 
traction, the ladies came flocking around the door of my 



of a Noble Life 21 

dressing-room, with expressions of horror and warning, 
and Miss Lejoie offered her smelling-salts. I slipped out 
to the stage at last. Right in the middle of the stage space 
stood the two elephants. A gorgeous sight they were: 
Chief with his crimson and gold blanket and that gaudy, 
glittering palanquin on his back; beside him his faithful 
Alice, embodiment of all the wifely virtues. 

By and by the curtain rose, and the procession formed, 
after the few preliminary speeches. The priests marched 
on first, followed by torch-bearers and musicians, banging 
on tom-toms at regular intervals — boom! boom! boom! — 
while a deep-toned bell rang behind the scenes. Then 
came the dancing-girls, chanting a farewell hymn, followed 
by miscellaneous slaves and the people of my palace, these 
last being weeping damsels. Then came my sister 
Nemeay and finally I brought up the rear of the train, 
walking between two priests, accompanied by torch- 
bearers. I paced along slowly, with downcast eyes, like 
the bride at a church wedding, trying to remember 
Bolossy's injunction that I was "sheared'* and trying 
to act so, though supposed to be drugged with opium. 
Chief was quietly swinging his trunk, and looking very 
huge and dark; and the others filed off right and left, 
leaving me planted right in front of his nose — or his 
trunk — and I began my farewell speech. I removed my 
sparkling tiara and my necklace of priceless jewels, and 
handed them to my weeping maids, asking them to keep 
them for my sake. My rings and bracelets came next, and 
I flung back my beautiful veil and my long hair, which 
rippled down to my knees, feeling that I made a very 
picturesque and pathetic figure. 

Suddenly Chief lifted his trunk and made a tremendous 
trumpeting. I started violently, but thought in a flash 
that probably he did not want to kill me, so that, unless 
he should take a fancy to wind his trunk around me, 
lift me into the air, and shake "a day-day" with me at the 



22 A Simple Record 

audience, I would stand my ground. Then I perceived 
that the great moment had come. I ghded swiftly to the 
funeral pyre, arranged my hair and veil effectively, 
folded my hands on my breast, trying to look meek and 
resigned, and waited for the torch-bearers to advance. 
They were about to apply their flaming torches to the 
pile, when up sprang the faithful Passepartout with his 
alarming cry, which sent everyone to his knees. Passe- 
partout rushed down the pyre, sweeping me along with 
him, and hurried me to the foot of the ladder, giving me a 
sort of "boost" to the first rungs. Up I clambered, when 
suddenly that wretched elephant, not knowing what was 
expected of him, took it into his head to turn half-way 
around, leaving me almost hanging in mid-air. He felt 
like an earthquake moving under me, and I expected to 
be dashed to the ground under his feet. The keepers got 
excited, but couldn't make him understand what they 

wished. In the wings stood Mr. M calling to me: 

"Come down! Come off! Run for it!" and the wings 
on the O. P. side were filled with the excited stagehands, 
calling: "Come off, girl! Come off!" But the music 
drowned their cries. The audience, too, was getting very 
much wrought up, and cheered like mad. 

I stood there, deadly scared, but thought like a flash 
how tame and flat and silly I should appear if I should 
climb down and run, after all that fuss and preparation; 
so, gathering what remaining "spunk" I possessed, I 
made a rush up the ladder, and pitched myself headlong 
into the palanquin, while the audience shouted. 

Immediately the keepers, seeing that I was safe, turned 
Chief clear around, headed in the right direction, and we 
humped and heaved along off the stage to the wall at the 
left, where Chief had stood before. Alice coolly turned 
around and followed. 

Down went the curtain, and a frantic cheering and 
stamping went up from the audience. The whole ballet 



of a Noble Life 23 

and chorus and the entire company came rushing across 
the stage and, looking up a": me, clapped their hands, 
shouting: "Good! Brava! Bully for you, Miss Knowlton! 
By Jove! that was a plucky thing to do!" They kept 

this up till Mr. M came to us, saying excitedly: 

"There's a curtain-call! Let Miss Knowlton get down, 
and we'll ring up on her along with Chief. Come down, 
little girl, we'll help you on the ladder." " I'll come down," 
I cried, "only, you must drive away all those men. How can 
I come down a ladder with them standing there staring.f^" 

Mr. M shooed them all away, and I came down 

in a hurry. He ran me out on the stage, where they were 
holding the curtain, while the orchestra played, and the 
people were still cheering. The keepers led Chief close 

to the curtain, and Mr. M made me stand beside him 

and put my hand on his side, where it looked as tiny and 
white as a doll's hand. Then they rang up the curtain, 
and the enormous audience simply howled with delight 
again and again. But Chief wasn't a bit scared this 
time. He knew what applause was, and gloried in it; 
just waved his trunk from side to side and did his best 
to bow politely. Down came the curtain, and the great 
act was over. 

I rode the elephant at every performance in Cincinnati, 
and we were good friends; but afterward Chief became 
"musty" and killed two men, and he had to be shot. 



In this company Dora Knowlton (Miss Thompson) 
met William V. Ranous, a man of many attractions, 
with a remarkable voice for singing, and especially 
able as a stage manager. When they were in 
Canada, playing in Steele Mackaye's "Hazel Kirke," 
they were married at Whitby, May 26, 1881, and 
soon afterward she left the stage. Their daughter 
Alice was born in Ashfield, May 9, 1882. 



24 A Simple Record 

The marriage proved unfortunate, and after a 
few years — for the best of all reasons, the one in- 
disputable reason — she left her husband and, taking 
the little Alice, went to live with her mother. A 
few years later still, the separation was made final 
and irrevocable. She never married again.* 

In the old home in Ashfield her time was occupied 
with reading and study and the care of the little 
daughter. There John W. Field, who, with his wife, 
delighted to spend a summer in that pretty village, 
taught her Italian and was in many ways a wise 
counselor and friend. Milo M. Belding, head of a 
large silk-manufacturing firm, is a native of Ashfield, 
and came there usually to his summer home. Per- 
haps it was this circumstance that suggested to Mrs. 
Thompson the idea of raising silk-worms for certain 
entertainment and possible profit. The unused 
carriage-house was fitted up for the purpose, and 
Mrs. Ranous assisted her mother in the enterprise, 
while the little Alice looked on wonderingly and 
talked about the "vumms." The knowledge thus 
obtained enabled Mrs. Ranous afterward to prepare 
an illustrated lecture on Silk, which in the winter of 
1902-3 she delivered several times in Greater New 
York. In those days the village was enlivened with 
frequent dramatic entertainments by home talent, in 
which she sustained important parts. 

She had already lost her father and her sister, when 
in 1892 she lost her mother also. After that she 
lived most of the time in New York city, where she 

* Mr. Ranous died in California in 1915. 



of a Noble Life 25 

made new friends — among them S. G. W. Benjamin, 
the author and artist — and where she had an oc- 
casional call from Murat Halstead, who was an old 
friend of her father. Her uncle Willis Knowlton, 
who was a skilful photographer, at that time had a 
studio in Fourth Avenue. 

About 1893, through unfortunate investment, she 
lost the property that she had inherited. But this 
did not at all discourage her. She mastered stenog- 
raphy in half the usual time required, and set at 
work to earn her own living and the funds necessary 
for her daughter's education. This was completed 
in the Henry C. De Mille school at Pompton, N. J. ; 
and then the daughter, loving as she was beloved, 
also learned stenography and began to support her- 
self. She had inherited her mother's brightness and 
gentle dignity, and in addition had an artistic talent 
that showed itself in graceful and spirited drawings, 
and withal a dramatic talent for effective recitation. 

Mrs. Ranous served for some time as assistant 
in an establishment that dealt in rare books and 
autographs, and acquired much knowledge of that 
peculiar business. She had always been interested 
in autographs, and had made a small but interest- 
ing collection. 

Later she obtained employment with the firm of 
Silver, Burdett & Co., publishers of school books; 
and it was her good fortune to find there Francis 
Bellamy at the head of the department to which she 
was assigned. With his kindly instruction and en- 
couragement she learned much more than the or- 



26 A Simple Record 

dinary duties of a stenographer and typewriter, and 
began that development of her natural editorial 
powers which within a few years produced remark- 
able results. The first test of them, aside from her 
routine of oflSce duty, was the editing, in manu- 
script, of a book written by a Wall Street magnate 
who was a master of finance, but not of English 
composition, and Edward Bellamy's posthumous 
novel, "The Duke of Stockbridge." 

In the spring of 1901 she entered the school-book 
department of D. Appleton & Co., where I — being 
then the head of another department — made her 
acquaintance. I soon discovered her natural bright- 
ness, her exact scholarship, and her industrious 
tendency; and knowing that she would be glad of 
opportunities to use her spare hours advantageously, 
I assigned cyclopaedia articles to her, and she wrote 
them to perfection. Then I gave her books to 
review for a magazine of which I had that depart- 
ment; and this also she did to my satisfaction. 
Following that, it was natural for me to encourage 
her in the direction of original writing and to help her 
so far as I could in the further development of her 
editorial powers. Her equipment included familiar- 
ity with the best English literature, an accurate 
knowledge of the French and Italian languages and 
of much of their literature, a reading knowledge 
of Spanish, a full sense of humor, a knowledge of 
music, being a good performer on the piano, me- 
thodical keenness as a proofreader, and, crowning all, 
the rare gift of editorial instinct. Before long she 



of a Nohle Life 27 

was able to take up the clumsiest manuscript and, 
going through it once, change it into correct, idi- 
omatic, smooth-flowing English, amend its misquo- 
tations, and give it a logical arrangement. 

The Appleton establishment, which had gone into 
bankruptcy, fell into the hands of men who knew 
nothing of the book business and blundered in every 
possible way. At one time they thought to im- 
prove its affairs by dismissing some of the most valu- 
able employees and putting in cheap substitutes. 
By that operation Mrs. Ranous was displaced. 

But this proved to be to her advantage; for after 
a short interval she entered upon a career of editing 
and translating in which she achieved remarkable 
success. A periodical connected with the book 
trade makes it a point to say a little something, 
editorially, about nearly every book that is pub- 
lished. When the great flood of books came in 
with approaching holidays, the editor called on Mrs. 
Ranous to assist in disposing of them; and the 
rapidity with which she turned out scores of short, 
crisp notices, hitting the heart of the book every 
time, was a cause of amazement. 

In 1903 she was engaged to assist Robert Arnot, a 
learned Oxonian, in editing sets of books for the 
subscription business of M. Walter Dunne. They 
thus prepared the works of Benjamin Disraeli in 
twenty volumes, those of Guy de Maupassant in 
fifteen volumes, and those of Gustave Flaubert in 
ten volumes. By far the larger number of trans- 
lators, while understanding the foreign language 



28 A Simple Record 

sufficiently, are defective as to any mastery of 
idiomatic and graceful English; and a great part of 
the work performed by Mrs. Ranous consisted in 
correcting existing translations so as to supply that 
quality and increase the readableness of the books. 
Besides this, she read all the proofs and was ex- 
pert in managing the "make-up." 

This work extended into 1904; and on its com- 
pletion she was engaged, still in association with Mr. 
Arnot, upon a set of books known as "The Im- 
mortals." This consisted of translations of twenty 
French novels, each of which had been crowned by 
the Academy. For this set, besides doing her usual 
editorial work, she made original translations of 
Bazin's "Ink-Stain," France's "The Red Lily," 
Theuriot's "A Woodland Queen," and De Massa's 
"Zibeline," "A Turn of Luck," "The Scar," and 
"Mount Ida." This work was completed in 1905. 

Meanwhile the daughter, Alice, was married, 
December 31, 1903, to Samuel D. Chubb, a young 
business man of New York; and in the spring of 
1905 they removed to southern California, taking 
with them their little Catherine Alice, born January 
13 of that year. When autumn approached, Mrs. 
Chubb was seriously out of health, and her mother, 
as soon as possible, went to her. Every means of 
restoration was tried there, including a sojourn at 
Redlands in the orange belt. But no improvement 
resulted, and she brought the mother and child 
back across the continent to her home in New York. 
There again every expedient of medical skill was 




Alice Rdtious Chubb 




Cdlherine Alice Chubb 



of a Noble Life 29 

powerless against tuberculosis, and in March, 1906, 
Mrs. Chubb passed away, leaving her mother with 
a shadowed life and a broken heart. Mrs. Ranous 
assumed the charge of the child Catherine, and 
began all over again the task of supporting, rearing, 
and educating, which she relinquished only when the 
granddaughter was in her eleventh year and Mrs. 
Ranous's health was so broken as to forbid a con- 
tinuation. And the second parting was only less 
mournful than the first had been. The child, who 
was to her grandmother another Alice and called her 
"mother," is now in her father's house in Brooklyn. 

To me, that story, with its duplicate chapters, is 
heroic; the tears come to my eyes when I contem- 
plate the pathos and the tragedy of it. 

Mrs. Ranous had devised a set of sixteen volumes 
entitled "The Literature of Italy," to include good 
translations, with biographical sketches, from the 
time of Dante to the present day. It was accepted 
for publication by the house known as the National 
Alumni, and at her invitation I was associated with 
her in the editorship. We had some help from con- 
tributors, including William Michael Rossetti and 
Charles Eliot Norton, James C. Brogan, Evangeline 
M. O'Connor, Maurice Francis Egan, Florence K. 
Cooper, and Cardinal Gibbons; and we produced a 
beautiful set of books that has no competitor. Mrs. 
Ranous made original translations of D'Annunzio's 
"The Flame" and Serao's "The Conquest of Rome." 

The next year (1907) we were again associated, in 
producing a set of twenty volumes entitled "The 



30 A Simple Record 

Authors' Digest." This consisted of condensed 
versions (about four thousand words each) of six 
hundred of the best novels of all nations. We had a 
large staff of contributors; and our duty was to 
determine which novels should be included, assign 
the work to the condensers, see to it that they got at 
the heart of the stories and kept within bounds, and 
then carefully edit every page of the manuscript. 
While this was in progress I was obliged to spend six 
weeks in a hospital; and for that time she carried 
on her own work and a large part of mine, visiting 
the hospital nearly every day for consultation. 

In 1909-10 Mrs. Ranous was with the Pearson 
Publishing Company and edited sets of Flaubert 
and Maupassant, which carry her name on the title- 
page. And in 1910-11 she wrote a large number of 
original articles for the historical volume of the 
"Foundation Library for Young People." 

From July, 1911, to September, 1912, she was on 
the staff of the "Standard Dictionary," where she 
was entrusted with the critical and important work 
of reading the plate proofs. Immediately after that 
she was taken on the staff of the "Century Maga- 
zine," where her services were fully appreciated and 
she might have remained indefinitely; but when the 
editors resigned, in 1913, the whole staff was changed 
by their successor. The retiring editor, Robert 
Underwood Johnson, has paid this tribute to her 
memory: "Mrs. Dora Ranous, one of my editorial 
assistants for about two years, was one of the most 
intelligent and scholarly women I have ever known, 



of a Noble Life 31 

having a fine sense of style and the very highest 
literary and ethical standards. She was a person 
not only of excellent literary judgment, but of great 
personal refinement and dignity." 

Then came an interval, which she improved by 
compiling a cook-book for an Ashfield townsman who 
had become a publisher in New York. 

When the great European war broke out, in 
August, 1914, 1 was asked by Thomas Nelson & Sons 
to produce for them a book of information concern- 
ing the European countries, their geography, their 
population, and their armaments, with brief narra- 
tives of their wars since Napoleon's time, and various 
related subjects. In organizing a small staff for this 
work, I called first upon Mrs. Ranous, and she was 
the most eflScient assistant that I had, writing 
many chapters and reading all proofs. The volume 
was completed in good season, and was published 
with the title "The Clash of Nations." 

The very day after this was finished Mrs. Ranous 
was called to the headquarters of the Student 
Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, to edit 
the addresses delivered before the International Con- 
vention that had been held in Kansas City. These 
fill a large volume, containing about one million 
words, and she edited every page of the manuscript, 
and read all the proofs, her work being acknowledged 
with thanks in the General Secretary's Introductory 
Note. This done, she next edited an elaborate 
cable code for the use of the missionaries. In that 
oJBSce, as everywhere else, she very quickly won the 



32 A Simple Record 

kindest regard of her associates. The many young 
women employed there clustered about her with 
complete confidence in her rare judgment and un- 
failing kindness and used to call her their mother. 

Besides these larger literary tasks, she accom- 
plished many minor ones between times. 

In 1915, under the patronage of Milo M. Belding, 
she finished a peculiar piece of work — the "gran- 
gerizing" of Howes' "History of Ashfield," which she 
extended with illustrations till it made two volumes, 
which were sumptuously bound and deposited in the 
Belding Memorial Library in that village. Her last 
visit to her old home was to attend the dedication of 
the new Library building in the summer of that year. 

If Mrs. Ranous had not been kept so constantly 
at work as an editor, earning her living thereby, she 
might have done much in the way of original work 
that would at least have been very creditable, and 
perhaps permanent. She occasionally told me what 
she called her Apple Valley Stories — quaint episodes 
of rural New England life — and I urged her to write 
them; but she seldom found any leisure time when 
she was not too tired. Those stories were varied, 
from the humorous tale of the Gold-headed Cane to 
the pathetic picture of the old sexton on his death- 
bed, when all was gone but his subconsciousness, 
raising his weak arms and going through the motion 
of ringing the curfew bell. 

She did, however, leave in manuscript a few short 
stories and a half-written novel with an ingenious 
original plot. Friends to whom she had occasionally 



of a Nohle Life 33 

read passages from the journal that she kept while she 
was in the Daly company urged her to publish it, and 
the book was issued anonymously in February, 1910, 
by Duffield & Co., with the title "Diary of a Daly 
Debutante." Its reception by the reviewers was 
generously appreciative. There was much guessing as 
to the authorship; but all guesses were wrong except 
that which was made by two of the Daly company. 

The reviewer in Everybody's Magazine said of it : 
"The book would be a delightful bit of reading if 
only for its perfectly unconscious revelation of 
personality and its utterly naive embodiment of the 
spirit of youth — that ever attractive but evanescent 
spirit which fiction so often tries to capture and 
fails to hold. But there is more to it than this: 
there are the life and the setting and the atmosphere 
and the habitues of that famous green-room of the 
eighties miraculously arrested, preserved, and ex- 
posed to our gaze with all the color, the movement, 
and the intonations of reality. Have you ever seen 
an insect in a lump of amber.? — a bit of vanished life 
caught by chance and preserved in perfection for 
later eyes to look at through the transparent medium 
of its embalming .f^ If so, you have seen a prototype 
of the Diary of a Daly Debutante." 

The New York Times said: "The charm of the 
book is due to its revelation of the influence of 
theatrical surroundings upon the fresh mind of an 
unsophisticated girl." 

The Rochester Post-Express said: "In its way, 
this Diary of thirty years ago — revealing minutely 



34 A Simple Record 

the functions and incidents, great and small, of a 
peculiar life of which outsiders know so little — is as 
truly a 'find' as some of the famous ones." 

The Boston Transcript called it: "A piquant 
series of pictures of life in a theatrical company in 
New York and on its travels." 

The New York Evening Mail said: "The chronicle 
is artless and extremely entertaining, as it gives an 
intimate description of a great manager and teacher 
at work among his people." 

The Boston Times said: "It is a stroke of good 
luck to come into possession of this book, as it con- 
tains so much that is interesting about the vanished 
mimic life of other times." 

The Minneapolis Bellman said: "She tells every- 
thing frankly; and you come to trust her as a very 
credible witness, setting down naught in malice." 

The Chicago Dial said: "The tone of the Diary is 
good-natured throughout. The daily entries are just 
such as a well-bred and wide-awake young lady might 
be expected to write under the given conditions." 

The New York Outlook said: "The stage of the 
eighties must have been, besides a place to do hard 
work, a scene of almost idyllic good humor and 
perfect propriety." 

The Theatre Magazine said: "Written by an 
ardent young beginner, with eyes wide open, ready 
to magnify the details, the small incidents that prob- 
ably would not seem to any other worth recording — 
it is just these points in the book that give it so 
much vividness and life." 



oj a Noble Life 35 

Life said: "It is vivid with the vividness of the 
present anticipating the future, instead of with that 
of the present recalHng the past. In its Httle way it is 
that dehghtful thing, an unintended masterpiece." 

A score of other reviews, of similar import, might 
be quoted. Of seventy-three press notices, only a 
single one spoke slightingly of the book, and about 
a dozen made long extracts from it. 

In her last year she wrote for Sturgis & Walton a 
volume entitled "Good English in Good Form," and 
she lived to read the proof, but not to see a copy 
of the bound book. 

For several years she was a familiar caller in our 
home, coming in, as it might happen, to break bread, 
or look over the books, or play the piano, or have a 
nap in a quiet alcove. Every member of the family 
was fond of her. It was a pleasure to listen to her 
conversation. Whether argumentative or narrative, 
this was always animated and in correct, idiomatic, 
graceful English. She never exploited her knowl- 
edge of other tongues; and she managed the dramatic 
points to a nicety. Her literary abilities were well 
supplemented by her personal charm. Every one 
that knew her admired her — not with an awesome 
admiration, but with that which gently draws us 
toward dignified familiarity. Hers was one of the 
purest and sweetest natures that I ever have known. 

She had a cheerful faith in a future life, and ex- 
pected to be again with her beloved daughter, some- 
where, somehow, in unbroken happiness. Now she 
rests beside that daughter in the cemetery at Ash- 



36 A Simple Record of a Noble Life 

field — ^her native Ashfield, where the shelves of the 
Belding Library are enriched with her works. 

With unselfish devotion to the responsibilities that 
she had assumed, she addressed herself to her work 
with steady energy, cheerfulness, and hope. Her 
mother and her mother's mother had died of paraly- 
sis, and she always expected to go the same way. 
She had a considerable stroke in December, 1914, 
and a lighter one six months later. Then her sense 
of taste was gone, her strength declined steadily, and 
it was discovered that she had a serious heart trouble, 
which gave her constant pain. At the last, also, 
her sight was failing; and as she had not a living 
relative except the little grandchild and a cousin in 
Iowa, the sense of loneliness in its intensity over- 
whelmed her — we saw that she was losing her mind 
— and the end came. Alas! that one who with pa- 
tient courage has borne the heat and burden of the 
day should be denied the enjoyment of a calm and 
restful evening. 

Mourn we must when such a life stops far short of 
three score and ten; but thank God we may, that it 
has been and that we have known it. If, in the 
freshness of grief, we concentrate our thought upon 
a calamity like this, it seems that the spirit has 
passed away from all that is left to us — 

— "and yet 
Life loiters, keeps a pulse at even measure, 
And goes upon its business and its pleasure, 
And knows not all the depths of its regret.** . 



FROM HER LAST LETTER 




















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