i r ■ n t U
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.
7H -2 . -2.2-7
Chap... Copyright No.._„_'__.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME
NATHAN HASKELL DOLE
ESTES AND LAURIAT
By T. E. Marr
By Estes and Lauriat
Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, U. S. A.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Crow's Nest, Showing Family Group on Piazza . Frontispiece
j Joseph Jefferson Telling a Story to Sol Smith Russell,
His Youngest Son Standing in the Centre Listen-
ing, and His Little Grandson Sitting on Arm of
Chair . . . . . . . . 13
■ Joseph Jefferson and Sol Smith Russell at Crow's Nest
Reception Hall, Crow's Nest .....
Parlor, Showing Carved Figures in the Play of <f Rip
Van Winkle " under the Mantel .
Down-stairs Library, Showing a Painting by Joseph Jef
Dining-room, Crow's Nest .....
Mantel, Brought from India, in the Dining-room .
Upper Hall, Crow's Nest .....
Joseph Jefferson in His Studio ....
Landscape, by Jefferson, '96 (Painting) .
Marine, by Jefferson, '97 (Painting)
The Mill, by Jefferson, '97 (Painting) .
Back View of Jefferson at the Easel
Jefferson's Stable, Showing His Youngest Son on Pony
Electric Plant .......
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
A painter lives in the legacy of his pictures ; the
poet goes down to posterity in his verses ; the musi-
cal composer wins immortality by his operas or sym-
phonies, which live on in the possibilities of the printed
page; but the singer and the actor, however great their J p h if emeral
contemporary fame, quickly become only a tradition. acto°r.
We read of the triumphs of the Siddonses and the
Ristoris, of the Grisis and the Marios, and there is
nothing to bring them before our imaginations, except
the extravagant encomiums of their day.
The praise and applause which crown the efforts of
the popular actor is his compensation for the temporary
character of his work.
Fortunate is the actor who lives in this later genera-
ation. The gulf, so artificial and unnecessary, that in
former times separated him from society, has been practi-
cally closed ; the narrow and bitter prejudice which has, l^uice.
indeed, always existed and in all countries, against those
who cc show themselves for money," who pretend to be
what they are not, has largely died out. Occasionally,
I O JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
some popular preacher will rail against the theatre, or
bring odium on the church by refusing Christian burial to
the buskined son of the Muses ; but the world, as it in-
creases in knowledge, recognises more and more openly
that prejudices are ignorant and unreasoning; they are
now mainly confined to bigoted sectarians. We know
that the " stage- villain " may be in his private life the
pattern of propriety. The actor is not only " admired,
applauded, highly rewarded, loved, envied, the object
of the most flattering (not to say the most impertinent)
curiosity," but, what is better, he is weighed on his own
merits, and if his character and behaviour be blameless,
his profession is regarded as in no respect derogatory ;
he is everywhere received in the most exclusive cir-
cles ; he is decorated with the ribbon of the legion of
honour ; he is granted titles and honours ; he is wel-
comed for his own sake,
character It is undeniable that the standard of character among
of actors. °
actors has been constantly rising. Whereas the glare of
publicity may seem to bring out into prominence the
failings of certain erratic geniuses, on the other hand,
the search-light of criticism finds that many of the most
popular actors and actresses of the day are without re-
proach, that they lead perfectly exemplary lives, and
have all the virtues of humanity. Many are those
whom one might select as object-lessons of this worthi-
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. 1 1
ness ; one would, perhaps, think most naturally, at the
very first, of the name of Jefferson, borne irreproachably
through five generations, and culminating in the fasci-
nating and admirable personality of Joseph Jefferson, the
Rip Van Winkle so dear to thousands. It is with
Joseph Jefferson, the third to bear that honoured name,
that this unpretentious monograph has to deal, not so
much for the purpose of defending the stage, as to
gratify a laudable desire on the part of many to have
a compact sketch of the life, and particularly of the
home life, of an actor who has been so long before
the footlights, and secondly, to lay an humble wreath
at the feet of one whom we all are proud to honour.
Joseph Jefferson was born in Philadelphia, Feb. 20,
1829, at the southwest corner of Spruce Street and Sixth
Street. In his autobiography, he says that he could
almost claim to have been born in a theatre ; his earliest
recollections were connected with one ; his first play-
house was, in both senses of the word, a playhouse;
5SL u behind the scenes " he could amuse himself with
" those sure tokens of bad weather, the thunder-drum
and rain-box," or play hide-and-seek in the " Tomb
of the Capulets," or Ali Baba's robbers* cave ; or behind
the green bank, from which stray babies " were usually
stolen, when left there by affectionate but careless moth-
ers." Even when he was in long clothes, at a time
before which his memory is a blank, he was carried
on the stage to add realism to the scene. His earliest
passion was for theatricals ; he says that as he had a
theatre stocked with scenery and properties, he could
indulge his passion at small expense, especially as his
stock company were volunteers, consisting of two little
boys and their sister, who used to play with him on
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. I 5
This early passion for the stage was not merely the
result of environment. Inheritance, reaching back nearly t^* 8 -
a hundred years before his birth, must be also called in
to explain it. In 1746, a youth of eighteen named
Thomas Jefferson, the son of a Yorkshire farmer, rode
to London, mounted on a thoroughbred horse, and was
by a happy accident immediately thrown into the society
of David Garrick. He was a jovial young fellow, and
so charming that he was admitted into Garrick's inti-
mate friendship, and by his advice adopted the stage.
His earliest recorded appearance at Drury Lane was
in October, 1753. He took the management of sev-
eral theatres, and was an actor of sterling merit in
some sixty parts, and passed a highly successful life,
dying in 1807, after sixty years of connection with the
stage. His first wife came from a family connected
with the Navy, and opposed to her becoming an act-
ress, but she succeeded in overcoming her father's scru-
ples, and went on the stage, playing with her husband
at Drury Lane in 1753. One of their two sons became
a clergyman, and went as a missionary to Africa; the
other, Joseph, born in 1774, became an actor, and hav- ]°|^ on
ing some difficulties with his father's second wife, he thefirst *
came to America in 1797, for a salary of seventeen
dollars a week, and the payment of his passage, offered
by Charles Stuart Powell, the first manager of the Bos-
1 6 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
ton Theatre. By the time that Jefferson reached Boston
Powell had failed, and the Federal Street Theatre was in
other hands. It is possible that he played as one of the
witches in " Macbeth," in December, 1795, but his first
important appearance in this country was in February of
the following year, when he played the part of " Squire
Richard " in " The Provoked Husband." He was de-
scribed as small and slender, with a Grecian nose, blue
eyes full of laughter, and an unrivalled capacity for
we e of ted exciting mirth. He seems to have inherited his father's
love for a good joke, — a characteristic that has been
handed down, like a Toledo blade, from generation to
generation. Joseph Jefferson found lodgings in New
York with a Mrs. Fortune, the widow of a Scotch mer-
chant. Her house was next the John Street Theatre,
where he made his first successes. She had two daugh-
ters; one, Euphemia, became the young comedian's wife;
the other, eleven years later, became the second wife of
William Warren, and the mother of no less than six
children, all of whom find mention in the history of
the American stage ; the fifth was William Warren,
who for over forty years was the mainstay of the
Boston Museum company, Boston's especial pride and
favourite in many varied parts.
Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson both accepted an engagement
at the Park Theatre, his service lasting five years, hers
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. I J
lasting three. It is said that his greatest successes were
made in the delineation of old men ; and one of his fa-
vourite autobiographical anecdotes relates how a philan-
thropic lady once called at the Park Theatre with a ^ r ^f a "
subscription blank, and begged the managers to with-
draw that poor old Mr. Jefferson from the stage. She
had seen him as "Item," in " The Steward," and she felt
that it would be only Christian charity to provide for
such an aged and feeble person. She herself had headed
the subscription with a generous sum, and was on her
way to increase it, in order to provide a home for the
infirm old man in his declining years. Thomas Cooper,
a fellow actor, listened to her generous scheme, and
assured her that the management would gladly cooper-
ate in relieving Jefferson's condition. At that propi-
tious moment Jefferson himself came in, and Cooper had
the pleasure of presenting him to his benefactress, who
was amazed to see such a handsome young man, and
could hardly believe her eyes. She tore the subscrip-
tion-blank into pieces and went away, not sadder, but
In 1803, the Jeffersons moved to Philadelphia, and Jegersons
joined the company playing at the Chestnut Street deiphia.
Theatre, with which their fortunes were identified until
the theatre was burned down in 1821. After that
Jefferson's popularity gradually declined. His wife died
I 8 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
in January, 1831, and he himself, disappointed and suf-
fering from the disease of gout, which he had inherited
and vainly struggled against, "closed his pure and
blameless life " in Harrisburg, eighteen months later.
William Winter sums up contemporaneous opinions of
him in the statement that "he was a man of original
mind, studious habits, fine temperament, natural dignity,
and great charm of character, and his life was free from
contention, acrimony, and reproach. " He had the gift
of making people happy. The very sound of his
voice compelled laughter. " Alas ! Poor Yorick ! "
He appeared in upwards of two hundred characters,
but all his talents could not save him from waning popu-
larity. Edwin Forrest spoke once with deep feeling of
" that beautiful and gifted old man ; what poverty and
what purity and high morality were in his household;
how he had educated his children, and how at last he
had died among strangers, heart-broken by ingratitude."
Not wholly unappreciated ! For Chief Justice Gibson
^itoph! 11111 composed an epitaph for his gravestone, in which he
called him " an actor whose unrivalled powers took in
the whole range of comic character, from pathos to soul-
shaking mirth ; his colouring of the part was that of
nature, — warm, pure and fresh ; but of nature enriched
with the finest conceptions of genius."
He had nine children, all but two of whom adopted
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 21
the profession of acting. His second son, Joseph JefFer-
son II., was born in 1804, in Powell Street, Philadelphia. Jfj^Sd.
He inherited his father's talent for drawing and painting,
and he showed some proficiency in architecture. When
he was a boy of ten, he appeared at the Chestnut Street
Theatre, and played such parts as the First Murderer in
" Macbeth." Like his father, he was excellent in play-
ing old men. In 1824 he was a member of the Chatham
Garden Theatre and met Mrs. Thomas Burke, whom he
married, though she was eight years his senior. She was
born in New York, the daughter of a French gentleman
named Thomas, who, with his wife, was on his way to San
Domingo, to take possession of an estate. M. Thomas
lived on the island until the rising of the negroes in
1804, when they were assisted to escape by a faithful
slave. He arrived penniless at Charleston, S. C, and,
through the favour of the athlete and rope-dancer, Alex-
andre Placide, then managing the Charleston Theatre, he
found humble employment behind the scenes, but not as
an actor. His now motherless daughter, Cornelie Fran- ^^^f*
coise, first served in the ballet and afterwards in minor
parts in regular plays. She became well known as a
singer : Ireland says that she had " a pleasing face and
person, and an exquisite voice, which, in power, purity,
and sweetness, was unapproached by any contempo-
rary." She was early married to the handsome, talented,
11 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
but dissipated Irish comedian, Thomas Burke, who died
of delirium tremens in 1824, leaving one son, Charles St.
Thomas, who gave great promise, but died at the early-
age of thirty-two. Even then he had appeared on the
stage in upwards of fifty parts, and was the first to dram-
atise and to act the part of " Rip Van Winkle."
Joseph Jefferson III. well remembered how his half-
brother spoke the line, " Are we so soon forgot when we
are gone ? " and, out of sweet loyalty to that lamented
genius, pronounces them in a different tone. He is
quoted as saying of him :
" Charles Burke was to acting what Mendelssohn was
to music. He did not have to work for his effects, as I
do. He was not analytical, as I am. Whatever he did
came to him naturally, as grass grows or water runs. It
was not talent that informed his art, but genius."
Such was the ancestry and inheritance of the future
An unsullied cc Rip Van Winkle," an inheritance of unsullied character
through five generations ; of varied talents ; and finally
those blended strands of nationality — English, Scotch,
and French — which so often result in original genius.
Mr. Jefferson gives an amusing account of his first
conscious public appearance, when, " in a white tunic ^ p a p r ^ rance
beautifully striped with gold bands, and in the grasp and
on the shoulders of an infuriated tragedian," he was car-
ried across " a shaky bridge amid the deafening report of
guns and pistols and in a blaze of fire and smoke. To
me," he goes on to say, " the situation seemed perilous,
and in order to render my position more secure, I seized
* Rolla ' by the hair of his head. c Let go,' he cried, but
I was obeying the first law of nature, not c Rolla,' so I
tightened my grasp upon his tragic topknot. The
battle was short but decisive, for in the next moment I
had pulled off his feather-duster head-dress, wig and all,
thereby unintentionally scalping the enemy ; and, as he
was past the prime of life, the noble Peruvian stood
bald-headed before an admiring audience."
When he was three years old, he was taken to witness
a new entertainment in the shape of " Living Statues,"
and his imitative genius impelled him to copy the tab-
leaux. He posed for his own amusement before the
green-room glass as " Ajax defying the Lightning," or as
24 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
" The Dying Gladiator." His family also had the bene-
fit of these amateur performances, and it was but a step
to transfer the gifted child to the stage, to repeat them
for the amusement of the public.
His aunt Elizabeth, in her recollections, 1 recalls how,
anf the 0n when little more than two years old, he gave an imitation
statues. f Fletcher the statue man, and his grandmother, chanc-
ing to notice him in a corner of the room trying that ex-
periment, found that he had caught all the " business "
of the statues, though he could not have pronounced the
name of one of them. She made him a dress similar to
that worn by Fletcher, and that he made somewhat of a
sensation is proved by a statement quoted from an inter-
view with an eye-witness who recollected how little Joe,
"in white fleshings, white wig, and chalked face, was,
placed on a small round table and gave imitations of
Fletcher's statuary, — c The Discobolus/ 'Ajax Defy-
ing the Lightning/ etc. He was hardly longer than
the legs of the table, but so admirably he struck the
attitudes, and so perfectly proportioned was he, that the
audiences were charmed with the graceful, lovely boy."
He himself says :
" I am in the dark as to whether this entertainment
was c the talk of the town ' or not, but I fancy not ; an
attenuated child representing Hercules struggling with
1 Printed in Mr. William Winter's " Life and Art of Joseph Jefferson."
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 2J
a lion could scarcely excite terror ; so I presume I did
no harm if I did no good,"
When he was four years old, he likewise imitated Pj^" g
T. D. Rice, one of the first to delineate negro charac-
ters. That fantastic " knight of the burnt cork " saw
his imitation of "Jim Crow," and insisted that the boy
should appear for his benefit. Mr. Jefferson, in his
autobiography, says : " I was duly blacked up, and
dressed as a complete miniature likeness of the origi-
nal. He put me in a bag, which almost smothered
me, and carried me upon the stage on his shoulders.
No word of this proceeding had been mentioned in
the bills, so that, figuratively speaking, the public were
as much in the dark as I was. After dancing and
singing the first stanza, he began the second, the fol-
lowing being the two lines which introduced me :
" ' Oh, ladies and gentlemen, I'd have you for to know
That I've got a little darkey here, that jumps Jim Crow ; '
and turning the bag upside down, he emptied me out
head first before the eyes of the astonished audience.
The picture must have been a curious one ; it is as
vividly before me now as any recollection of my past
life. Rice was considerably over six feet high, I was
but four years old, and as we stood there, dressed
exactly alike, the audience roared with laughter. Rice
28 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
and I now sang alternate stanzas, and the excitement
increased ; showers of pennies, sixpences, and shillings
were tossed from the pit, and thrown from the gal-
leries upon the stage. I took no notice of this, but
doES. * suddenly the clear, ringing sound of a dollar caught
my ear, and as the bright coin was rolling from the
stage into the orchestra, I darted forward, and secured
my prize. Holding it triumphantly between my finger
and thumb, I grinned at the leader of the orchestra,
as much as to say, c No, you don't/ This not only
brought down the house, but many half-dollars and dol-
lars besides. At the fall of the curtain, twenty-four
dollars were picked up, and given into my delighted
hands." That was not the last golden, or rather sil-
ver, shower that fell at the feet of the young actor.
That performance took place in Washington. Mr.
Jefferson's childhood was a kind of an Odyssey, and
his wanderings were many and full of adventures.
4nSft e Combats were not lacking; thus at his first appear-
ance "out of the juvenile supernumerary ranks:" He
was dressed to represent a Greek pirate, and Master
Titus, the son of a City Hall official, represented an
American sailor. They had a fierce encounter, but
young Jefferson was magnanimous, and allowed his
opponent, for whose benefit the fight took place, to
overcome and slay him. The fight was redemanded,
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. ig
and the Greek pirate " had to come to life again, —
quite a common thing for stage pirates, — and die
twice/' Mr. Jefferson recalls that he rather delighted
in being the slain foe, and having a star-spangled ban-
ner waved over him, but he is at a loss to know why
Mrs. Ireland refers to that combat as celebrated. " In
the accounts of our last war with the Greeks," he says,
" there is no mention made of this circumstance. If,
therefore, the combat was celebrated, it must have been
for historical inaccuracy. "
The JefFersons' stay in New York could not have
been very long or very successful, for though they
were there in 1835, two y ears later, or at the end of
the season of 1837-38, having received an invitation
from a brother-in-law, Alexander Mackenzie, to go
to Chicago and take part in the management of a new
theatre in that enterprising little town, they were in
such straitened circumstances that they had to sell cer-
tain cherished articles to procure " necessary comforts
for the trip/ 5 and in order to pay their fare on an
Erie canal-boat, they depended upon such precarious
receipts as they might get by acting at Schenectady,
Utica, or Syracuse. The captain of the canal-boat ona°cS ce
had conscientious scruples against attending the theatre,
but not against taking the entrance fees. But, un-
fortunately, at Syracuse it rained in torrents, and the
30 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
attendance was light. They still owed ten dollars
passage-money. So the captain, having an inward han-
kering for the forbidden, offered to call it " square " if
the actors in the company would give him a private
show in the cabin. They declined, with a pride worthy
of the Baron de Sigognac. But Mrs. Jefferson was not
averse to show off the abilities of her son, and he was
permitted to ransom the rest. Mr. Jefferson, in his
amusing account of this episode, says :
^ s s aiL Sfor "The captain turned it over in his mind, — being, I
am afraid, a little suspicious of my genius, — but after
due consideration, consented. So he prepared himself
for the entertainment, the cook and my mother com-
prising the rest of the audience. The actors had wisely
retired to the upper deck, as they had been afflicted on
former occasions. I now began a dismal comic song,
called c The Devil and Little Mike.' It consisted of
some twenty-five stanzas, each one containing two lines,
with a large margin of c whack fol de riddle/ It was
never quite clear whether the captain enjoyed this enter-
tainment or not ; my mother said he did, for though
the religious turn of his mind would naturally suppress
any impulse to applaud, he said, even before I had half
finished, that he was quite satisfied."
Many years later, Mr. Jefferson is said to have had
another opportunity to turn an honest penny by giving
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME, 33
a strictly private performance. He was out on the tran-
quil waters of Buzzard's Bay, when a fisherman's craft
slowly drifted alongside of his boat, and the owner,
seated amid the debris of his conquests, growled out :
" Be you an actor ? "
xta# Fifty cents'
" Wal, here's fifty cents, and I want you should make £«*. °
up fifty cents' worth of faces for me."
Accordingly he flung a silver piece over into Mr. Jef-
ferson's boat !
From Buffalo the gay emigrants, hope beckoning on,
took steamer for the long and beautiful sail through the
Great Lakes, a leisurely voyage, with delightful experi-
ences of Indians and primitive life for the impressionable
young Thespian. At that day Chicago contained only
about two thousand inhabitants, and everything was new,
even the theatre — new and crude. " Don't you think
your angels are a little stiff in their attitudes ? " asked
Jefferson of the scene-painter of his Chicago rival.
" No, sir, not for angels," was his reply, evidently, like
the ancient bishop, mistaking angles for angels. " When I
deal with mythological subjects I never put my figures in Natural
natural attitudes ; it would be inharmonious. A natural
angel would be out of keeping with the rest of the work."
There may also have been a hidden sting of sarcasm in
that memorable reply, reflecting on the work on the stage.
Their season in Chicago was short, and the golden
prospects which the ever-hopeful hoped for in vain led
them on into still newer fields. Often, says his son,
when the roads were heavy and the horses were jaded,
a hopeful ne W ould see his father " trudging along ahead of the
wagon, smoking his pipe and no doubt thinking of the
large fortune he was going to make in the next town,
now and then looking back with his light blue eyes, and
giving the mother a cheerful nod which plainly said :
( I'm all right; this is splendid, nothing could be finer/
If it rained he was glad it was not snowing ; if it snowed
he was thankful it was not raining. This contented
spirit was his only inheritance ; but it was better than a
fortune made in Galena or anywhere else, for nothing
could rob him of it."
They travelled from Galena to Dubuque on the frozen
Mississippi, but a warm spell had set in, and they could
see the ice bending under the horses' feet. The passen-
gers arrived safely, but the sleigh containing their bag-
gage, their scenery and properties and all broke through.
" My poor mother," says Mr. Jefferson, " was in tears,
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. 3 5
but my father was in high spirits at his good luck 5 as he
called it, — because there was a sand-bar where the sleigh
went in ! "
He, poor man, had painted the scenery, and its appear- i^Sf 7
11 • 1 \ Mississi ppk
ance was not improved by a six hours cold bath ! " A
wood scene had amalgamated with a Roman scene painted
on the back of it, and had so run into stains and winding
streaks that he said it looked like a large map of South
America ; and pointing out the Andes with his cane, he
humorously traced the Amazon to its source." This
accident delayed their opening for a week, and the soaked
helmets of pasteboard were beyond repair.
What humorous memories such episodes must recall
in better, if not happier days ! Here they acted in a
court-house, there in a large warehouse ; in one place
they routed an army of pigs out of their barracks on the gweet 16 '
prairie at the edge of the town, and, having thoroughly pig-house? a
cleansed and whitewashed it, they played there in " Clari,
the Maid of Milan," by John Howard Payne. Mrs.
Jefferson sang the popular ballad of cc Home, Sweet
Home," which was a part of that now-forgotten drama.
The banished pigs, who had collected under the flooring,
were so affected by the music that they set up a pathetic
wail in the midst of the song, and quite ruined it. Mr.
Jefferson says that his mother was in tears at the unex-
pected failure ; but his father, with his usual fund of
$6 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME,
philosophy, consoled her by saying that, " Though the
grunting was not quite in harmony with the music, it
was in perfect sympathy with the sentiment."
At Springfield the two managers resolved to build a
new theatre. When it was completed it was forty feet
wide and ninety feet deep, looking like "a large dry-
goods box with a roof." No sooner was it completed,
however, than a political shyster, taking advantage of a
religious revival then in progress, and working on ram-
pant prejudices, got the town to pass a new law calling
for a heavy license for cc play-acting." Ruin stared them
Smefto * n tne f* ace - But a young lawyer came to their aid, and,
by a masterly argument full of characteristic humour,
completely turned the tables on the bigots. " That law-
yer," says Mr. Jefferson, with pardonable pride, " was
At Memphis the Jeffersons, who had parted company
with McKenzie, were stranded ; and, as an ordinance
had been passed requiring all carts, drays, and public
vehicles to have the names of their owners painted on
them, young Jefferson went boldly to the mayor and
represented that his father was an artist as well as a com-
edian, and that, as the theatrical season was over, he was
devoting his time to sign and ornamental painting. The
result was that the contract was assigned to the stranded
actor, and he and his son spent a month in carrying on
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 39
this artistic and lucrative avocation, while their leading
man manufactured genuine Havana cigars in the same
studio. He was also engaged to decorate a billiard-
saloon and bar-room, and then a house, for a Scotch
saloon-keeper. For this work no pay was forthcoming,
and, after waiting in vain for two weeks, they took steer-
age passage down the river in order to reach Mobile in
time for the fall season. But at the last moment Mrs.
Jefferson resolved to appeal to the wife of the unjust
debtor. She succeeded and returned to the boat with
the hard-earned wages. This would have enabled them
to travel first-class, but she persuaded her husband that
it would be better to save the money and go as they had
at first intended. Misfortunes
This showed the contrast between the two natures of
Mr. Jefferson's parents ; " she was content to bear present
humiliation for the sake of future good ; he would will-
ingly have parted with all his money for the sake of
giving his family present comfort/' So they went by
steerage, and reached Mobile, to meet with worse mis-
fortune than ever : yellow fever was raging there, and
in less than a fortnight after their arrival, on the 24th
of November, 1842, Joseph Jefferson II. fell a victim
to the dreadful disease. Instead of going to school,
young Jefferson and his sister were engaged at the
theatre, to act in fancy dances and comic duets ; and
40 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
employments more menial, such as grinding paints in
the paint-room, were put on the young artist. They
received, each, a salary of six dollars a week, and were
made to understand that it was given to them as a
charity. Mr. Jefferson adds grimly to his account of
these troublous days, that if there was any charity in
the matter, it was on their side, considering the numer-
ous duties imposed on them. Mrs. Jefferson undertook
to open a boarding-house for actors, but the season was
disastrous for u the profession,'' and so she found herself
in debt. Fortunately, a benevolent lady had taken an
interest in her enterprise, and volunteered to get up a
benefit for the two talented children ; it was a success.
Jefferson At Mobile, Jefferson acted with both Macready and
the elder Booth. He got into disgrace with Macready,
however, by accidentally setting fire to his wig. Mac-
ready chased him all over the theatre. The papers the
next morning declared that Macready had never in his
life acted with so much fire ; but poor Jefferson was
temporarily banished from the stage, although the fault
was clearly the actor's.
After the Mobile season was over, the company,
including the Jeffersons, went to Nashville, and trav-
elled through the State. On their return to Nash-
ville, they found the river so low that steamboats
were not running ; so, although the season had been
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 4 1
very bad, they managed to buy a barge and fit it up,
. r A i ourne y
and sailed down the river " in the queerest-looking craft down river -
that ever carried a legitimate stock company of the old
school." Jefferson declared that it was heaven; to stand
his watch at night gave him a manly feeling. He helped
supply the larder with wild game, and, no doubt, when
they got farther down the river, and there was a fair
wind blowing down stream, he took the keenest delight
in their swift progress, rendered possible by unfurling a
drop scene as a sail. " The wonder-stricken farmers,"
he says, " and their wives and children would run out
of their log cabins, and, standing on the river bank, gaze
with amazement at our curious craft. It was delight-
ful to watch the steamboats as they went by. The pas-
sengers would crowd the deck and look with wonder
at us. For a bit of sport, the captain and I would
vary the picture, and as a boat steamed past, we
would first show them the wood scene, and then
suddenly swing the sail around, exhibiting the gor-
geous palace. Adding to this sport, our leading man
and the low comedian would sometimes get a couple
of old-fashioned broadswords, and fight a melodramatic
combat on the deck. There is no doubt," he adds,
" that at times our barge was taken for a floating lunatic
Later the next season, he was called upon to grace
42 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
a patriotic occasion by singing the " Star Spangled Ban-
fri S ht ge ner " at St. Louis. His own account of his first attack
of stage fright is so delightfully humorous, that I can
not resist quoting the whole of it :
" I had studied and restudied it so often that I knew
it backwards ; and that is about the way I sung it. But
I must not anticipate. The curtain rose upon the com-
pany, partly attired in evening dress ; that is to say,
those who had swallow-tail coats wore them, and those
who were not blessed with that graceful garment did
the best they could. We were arranged in the old
conventional half-circle, with the c Goddess of Liberty '
in the centre. The c Mother of her Country ' had a
Roman helmet — pasteboard, I am afraid — on her
head, and was tastefully draped with the American flag.
My heart was in my mouth as the music started up,
but I stepped boldly forward to begin. I got as far
as ' Oh, say can you see,' — and here the words left
me. My mind was a blank. I tried it again : c Oh,
say, can you see — ; Whether they could see or not,
I am quite sure that I could not. I was blind with
fright ; the house swam before my eyes ; the thousand
faces seemed to melt into one huge, expressionless
Behaviour physiognomy. The audience began to hiss, — oh, that
dreadful sound ! I love my country, and am, under
ordinary circumstances, fairly patriotic ; but at that
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 45
moment I cursed our national anthem from the bot-
tom of my heart. I heard the gentle voice of the
Goddess of Liberty say, c Poor fellow ! ' The remark
was kind, but not encouraging. The hissing increased.
Old Miiller, the German leader, called out to me, c Go
on, Yo ! ' But ' Yo ' couldn't go on, so c Yo ' thought
he had better go off. I bowed, therefore, to the jus-
tice of this public rebuke, and made a graceful retreat.
My poor mother stood at the wings in tears ; I threw
myself into her arms, and we had it out together."
Mr. Jefferson thinks that there has been a vast im-
provement in public behaviour since he was hissed and
jeered for so slight an offence as a momentary lapse of
memory, and he attributes the improvement in manners
to the free school.
Perhaps the darkest hour in voung Jefferson's life P ark .
•t J a * . hours in
occurred a few months later, when, having been stranded lsslssippu
for several weeks in the town of Grand Gulf, Miss., and
having been found by his half-brother, Charles Burke,
they started for Port Gibson, where Burke's little com-
pany were to play the same evening. Burke had engaged
a wagon and team to take his mother and the two chil-
dren there, but when they were half-way the driver re-
fused to go any farther until he should be paid. Burke
had no money, but expected to settle the man's bill
from the evening's receipts. Mrs. Jefferson's famous
46 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
stocking had been emptied of its last coin, and there was
nothing left for them but to bundle themselves uncere-
moniously out of the wagon and wait until Burke found
some substitute. There is no little pathos in the pic-
ture that Mr. Jefferson draws of his mother, who had
been cc one of the most attractive stars in America, the
leading prima donna of her time, reduced through no
fault of her own to the humiliation of being put out of
a wagon with her two children, in a lonely road in the
far-off State of Mississippi, because she could not pay
a wagoner the sum of ten dollars."
It was raining, and they had to wait under the shelter of
a tree. But after a long time the sun came out, and soon
afterwards Burke put in an appearance mounted on an
ox-cart driven by an old negro. It took four hours to
Genuine go the four miles to their destination, but once there,
their fortunes began to mend. One night they acted in
a barn, all the neighbours for miles around coming and
gladly paying a dollar apiece to see a real play. Their
supply of candles held out for them to give the " Lady
of Lyons," but they played " The Spectre Bridegroom "
by the light of the harvest moon. Mr. Winter tells a
somewhat similar story, but in this case the farmer, of
"more than commonly benevolent aspect," claimed all
the receipts as a fair rental for his barn, and the poor
actors had to walk all the way to the next town hungry
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. ^TJ
and footsore. In Mr. Winter's story the distance from
the sheltering tree to Port Gibson has grown to fifteen
miles, but in either form the picture of the trials of stroll-
ing actors fifty years ago is just as vivid. They certainly
served the young Jefferson in good stead of a more for-
After some weeks of this precarious existence, Mrs.
Jefferson was called to Galveston, and at the end of the
season there they went to Houston, where the remnant
of their company acted with just enough success to keep
" their heads above water." They were there at the Jn e warf"
outbreak of the Mexican war, and their manager decided
to follow in the wake of the American army. They
embarked in May, 1846, for Point Isabel, where they
arrived in time to hear the firing at the battle of Palo
Alto ; and the following morning Jefferson saw the
ambulance bringing in the wounded Major Ringgold.
After the capture of Matamoras, they entered the town
in the rear of the army, and obtained permission from
the commandant to occupy the old Spanish theatre,
"acting," says Jefferson, "to the most motley group
that ever filled a theatre," — soldiers, settlers, sutlers,
gamblers, and adventurers. But by the middle of MoSerey! n
September the army had moved on to Monterey, the
town was deserted, and the manager, disbanding his
company, disappeared, leaving their salaries unpaid.
48 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
The Jeffersons and one other actor, named Badger, from
Philadelphia, alone were left, and being penniless, they
were in desperate straits ; so they called a council of war
and determined to open a coffee and cake stand for the
benefit of the gamblers with which the town was still
swarming. There was a magnificent gambling and
reSSSLt. drinking den, called " The Grand Spanish Saloon," the
proprietor of which allowed them to start their restaurant
at one end, on condition that he should be paid ten per
cent, of the gross receipts. Two boards placed between a
dry-goods box and the counter and draped with Turkey
red served as their " stand," and here " a large and elab-
orate tin coffee urn," heated by alcohol, and surrounded
by a glittering array of cups, saucers, and German silver
spoons, looked down upon their stock of pies, sand-
wiches, and cheap cigars. They counted much on " the
large, round, burnt-sienna-looking cakes, called ' mandil-
los.'" These were glazed on top with some sticky sub-
stance, and served the double purpose of man-enticers and
fly-traps. The stand became a great success, especially
after the mandillos had been banished from sight. But a
terrible murder that took place in the saloon, when three
Mexicans attacked the famous Buck Wallace and stabbed
him to the heart, made the young actors realise the precari-
ousness of their calling, and they sold out.
At Matamoras Jefferson met his first love, a Spanish
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. 49
girl with merry black eyes and pearly teeth. She taught
1 r o • 1 1 11 .A Mexican
him to speak a few Spanish words, to play the guitar, beauty.
and to smoke cigarettes. At first their communications
were conducted only in the language of smiles and eyes,
and Mr. Jefferson says that it was all for the best, for
otherwise he might have astonished his mother with a
Mexican daughter-in-law. Through an interpreter he
told her that he was going back to his own country,
but that as soon as he had made his fortune he should
come back and claim her for his bride. Alas ! it was
the old story of the Blue Alsatian Mountains : he never
saw her again, or any of her sixteen brothers and sisters.
Young Jefferson returned to New Orleans on a brig,
civilisation, and eagerly scanned the first newspapers to see what
theatrical attractions were on hand. He went to the
theatre and witnessed " King Richard III.," with Mr.
and Mrs. James W. Wallack as the stars, followed by
" A Kiss in the Dark," with John E. Owens as " Mr.
Pittibone." It was a night to remember, for Mr. Jeffer-
son not only conquered himself and extinguished the spark
of envy that he confessed to have felt at sight of such a
brilliant success, but, moreover, he felt stirred up to the
great ambition and resolve to equal Owens some day.
Mrs. Jefferson and her daughter decided to remain in
New Orleans, but Joseph accepted an invitation from
his half-brother to join him in Philadelphia. He
£ e theTig C e! crossed the Alleghanies by stage-coach, and gave a
travelling performance for the benefit of the passen-
gers. He declares that he should have felt offended
if they had not pressed him to do so. He sang a
comic song, about " The Good Old Days of Adam
and Eve," the passengers filling up the chorus. Then
he indulged his auditors with what he calls "bad imi-
MANTEL, BROUGHT FROM INDIA, IN THE DINING-ROOM.
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. 53
tations " of Forrest and Booth. Probably, however,
his later personations on the stage were not more
kindly received than these impromptu ones in the
At Philadelphia, Jefferson found a warm welcome
from his brother Burke, who enabled him to take
parts, that he now thinks were far beyond his reach,
but were not beyond his ambition. He must have
made considerable strides in his profession, for when
Burke joined the Bowery Theatre in New York, Jef-
ferson took his place at the Arch. One of his most
amusing experiences was where Burton, the manager,
revived the perennially unsuccessful " Antigone " of Jefferson
Sophocles (probably for the pleasure of having the " Antlgone -
audience call for the author), and Jefferson was one
of the quartet that played the chorus, " done up to
the chin in white Grecian togas," and crowned with
laurel wreaths that continually threatened to fall off.
After acting with the stock company all winter, Mr.
Jefferson took delight in going on the summer circuit as Going as
a star. It happened on the eve of one of these theat-
rical tramps that the people of Cumberland made the
opening of their first telegraph-office a holiday, and so
they crowded the theatre, and his receipts were nearly
three times as much as usual, — in other words, over
a hundred dollars, all in silver. As the town contained
54 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
only about five hundred inhabitants, they had to change
the bill every night, and as their finances did not at first
allow them the luxury of a bill-poster, he and his part-
ner put up their own bills. Mr. Jefferson says :
" No one who has not passed through the actual
experience of country management, combined with act-
ing, can imagine the really hard work and anxiety of
it, — daily rehearsals, constant change of performance,
and the continual study of new parts ; but for all this,
there was a fascination about the life so powerful that
I have known but few that have ever abandoned it for
thlrSTe ° f That is true ; the public, thinking only of the suc-
cessful actor, feted, and winning great rewards, has
little realisation of the long, hard hours of work, the
dreary rehearsals, the late hours, and the perpetual
risks of failure that oppress the actor. No wonder
that the stage-struck boy or girl, overpowered by the
glamour of the footlights, finds the reality a dreadful
Marriage^ Mr. Jefferson, contrary to the advice of his brother,
Lockyer? — his mother had died in 1849, — married before he
was twenty-one. Knowing that his friends, the other
actors, would be likely to be present at the ceremony,
cc not so much out of compliment as for the purpose
of indulging in that passion for quizzing, which seems
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 55
to be so deeply planted in the histrionic breast," he
boldly told the company that he was to be married at
church, the following Sunday, after the morning ser-
vice, and invited them to be present. The wedding
took place with extreme privacy, at the Oliver Street
Church, New York. His groomsman, Barney Williams,
expressed his amazement, stating that he had supposed
the whole company would be present. Mr. Jefferson
confessed that he had sent them to the wrong church !
When Jefferson was twenty-two, he was assigned the
difficult part of " Marrall," in Massinger's "New Way
to Pay Old Debts," with the elder Booth in the part
of " Sir Giles Overreach." Booth took much pains to J*f|J™ h
teach him the business of the character, though Jeffer-
son thinks that the great actor must have been disap-
pointed, if not shocked, to have a stripling supporting
him with so little physical or dramatic strength. But
Booth's assistance and good nature were of great assist-
ance to him. Two or three years later, he went into
partnership with John Ellsler, and took a company
through the South. At Macon they had good luck,
but at Savannah misfortune pursued them until they
happened to enlist a live baronet, the tall Sir William
Don, who, though a bad actor, was intensely comical.
His society connections, however, saved the season for
his managers, and they ended with a blaze of glory.
56 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
The next year they repeated the experiment, sending
their company on a sailing vessel from New York to
Wilmington. Mr. Jefferson gives an amusing account
of the vessel's departure :
"It was an ill-shapen hulk, with two great, badly
repaired sails, flapping against her clumsy and fore-
boding masts. The deck and sides were besmeared
with the sticky remnants of the last importation, so
that when our leading actor, who had been seated on
the taffrail, arose to greet his managers, he was una-
voidably detained. The ladies and gentlemen of the
company were uncomfortably disposed about the ves-
sel, seated on their trunks and boxes, that had not yet
been stowed away. . . . It was a doleful picture. The
captain, too, was anything but a skipper to inspire con-
fidence. He had a glazed and dishevelled look that
told of last night's booze. Our second comedian, who
was the reverse of being droll on the stage, but
who now and then ventured a grim joke off it with
better success, told me in confidence that they all had
been lamenting their ill-tarred fate."
But they reached Wilmington, after a week's voyage,
looking jaded and miserable. On their second evening
^en* 1 . 00 * 7 tn - ev g ave " Romeo and Juliet," and for the balcony
scene Mr. Jefferson had built up with great care a tipply
construction made out of empty boxes, painted a neat
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 59
stone colour. The immortal love-scene was proceeding
with due warmth when the quick ears of the manager
heard the audience beginning to laugh ; the hilarity
increased. " Juliet retreated in amazement, and Romeo
rushed oft in despair," and when the curtain was rung
hastily down Mr. Jefferson discovered to his horror that
one of the boxes had been set in with the unpainted
trade-mark side out, advertising a choice brand of
At Charleston, S. C, they found a treasure in the
beautiful Julia Dean, with whom Jefferson had acted
in Mobile seven years before, and who had now risen A JJ£2g? ul
to be the leading juvenile actress in America. So suc-
cessful was her alliance that Jefferson and his partner
shared $1800 for their first week's profits. With a part
of this money he bought a blue enamelled watch with
a diamond in the centre of the case, for his wife, and a
patent lever for himself.
The following season he was attached to the Chestnut
Street Theatre, under Mr. John Gilbert, and played
"Doctor 011apod ,, and "Bob Acres," as well as "Doctor
Pangloss." In order to represent that learned character
he took his first lessons in Latin and Greek, and suc-
ceeded in pronouncing the words to the satisfaction of
his audience, if not to his own. In 1853 he became
stage-manager at the Baltimore Museum, and more
60 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
than once went over to Washington with his company,
stage which contained some of the best comedians of the day.
Curiously enough, the " School for Scandal," produced
with such an exceptional cast, was an artistic failure.
Mr. Jefferson says, cc Harmony is the most important
element in a work of art. In this instance each piece
of mosaic was perfect in form and beautiful in colour,
but when fitted together they matched badly, and the
effect was crude. ... A play is like a picture : the actors
are the colours, and they must blend with one another
if a perfect work is to be produced/ '
After another year's experience as manager, — this
time in Richmond, Va., where Agnes Robertson, Dion France.
Boucicault, and Edwin Forrest were among his stars, —
he went to Europe and had a chance to see and study
many of the able comedians then acting in London.
His delight in visiting the native land of his mother's
parents was unbounded. He could now add French
to his other accomplishments, " getting off the French
pronunciation pat and glib, as if he had lived there for
years !" He also used much of the savings of two years
in replenishing his theatrical wardrobe at the second-hand
shops in the Temple. What a fascinating account the
old actor gives of that royal expedition ; of his attempts
to appear cool and indifferent, of his queer misunder-
standings in conversing with the little old women who
had armour and robes to sell, of his solicitude lest his
guide should walk off with his purchases ! At one
place he surprised a vivacious little flirtation between
a pretty young girl, the daughter of the dealer, and two
sprightly young French actors. Madame presented
him to the trio as an actor from America. One of the
62 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
men, hideously ugly, with a turned-up nose and a wide
fromVai gash in the middle of his face for a mouth, and the image
of a monkey, assumed a grotesquely tragic air, grasped
Jefferson by the hand as if he were his long-lost brother,
then, pointing despairingly at the lovers, made it evident
that his life was blasted by unrequited affection. Then
he fell on his knees before the girl and implored her
love. Her scornful laugh pricked the comedian to
heart; "with a sudden spring he picked up a Roman
helmet, cocked it sidewise on his head, seized a poker,
and rushed upon his rival. Then he paused, and, burst-
ing into tears, relented, and taking the lovers' hands he
joined them in wedlock, invoked Heaven's blessings on
them, stabbed himself with the poker, and rushed out
into the front shop." It was a very gay party, but
Jefferson saw plainly enough that a good deal of their
fun was at his expense.
On his return to New York he joined the forces
which Laura Keene had gathered for her new Broadway
Theatre, and made a hit as " Doctor Pangloss," in " The
Heir-at-Law." He took many liberties with the text,
but in reply to a critic who charged him with "making
a number of curious interpolations, occasionally using
the text prepared by the author," Mr. Jefferson rightly
defended his method :
" Old plays, and particularly old comedies, are filled
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 65
with traditional introductions, good and bad. If an
. . . . Propriety of
actor, in exercising his taste and judgment, presumes to innovations.
leave out any of these respectable antiquities, he is, by
the conventional critic, considered sacrilegious in ignoring
them. And, on the other hand, if in amplifying the
traditional business he introduces new material, he is
thought to be equally impertinent ; whereas the question
as to the introduction should be whether it is good or
bad, not whether it is old or new. If there is any prefer-
ence, it should be given to the new, which must neces-
sarily be fresh and original, while the old is only a copy."
That remark well illustrates the simple common sense
so characteristic of Mr. Jefferson. An actor once rated
him for curtailing some of the speeches in one of the old
comedies. Jefferson replied that he had his own ideas on
those matters ; " that the plays were written for a past age,
that society had changed, and that it seemed to him good t ^ urgated
taste to alter the text, when it could be done without
detriment, to suit the audience of the present day, partic-
ularly when the lines were coarse and unfit for ladies and
gentlemen to speak or listen to."
The actor insinuated that Jefferson was audacious in
setting himself up as authority in such matters; that his
course was a tacit reproach to older and better judges, and
that " some people did that sort of thing to make profes-
sional capital out of it."
66 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
No one now will doubt that by just such scrupulous
conduct as that, Jefferson has done his great share in
elevating the tone and morale of the stage, and it never
really injured him either with the public or with the pro-
fession that on account of it he was for a time called " the
His dictum that a man has no more right to be offen-
sive on the stage than in the drawing-room might well be
The gP anic the motto of every theatre.
During the panic of 1857, Mr. Jefferson tried his
hand at concocting a melodrama from a Revolutionary
story entitled " Blanche of Brandywine." It was so full
of " battles, marches, countermarches, murders, abduc-
tions, hairbreadth escapes, militia trainings and extrav-
agant Yankee comicalities," that it made audiences forget
their anxieties caused by falling stocks and failing banks.
It has been said that during panics theatres are gen-
erally well patronised, but at this time, Mr. Jefferson
says, " the public despondently stayed at home, the
theatres were empty, the managers depressed." But
he notes that the actors were always in the best of
spirits when business was bad and salaries were un-
The year 1858 brought great good fortune to Joseph
Jefferson. Tom Taylor's comedy, "The American Trenchard -
Cousin," was presented for the first time. It had been
offered to several experienced managers, who rejected it,
and it was reserved for an inexperienced business-man-
ager to discover its latent possibilities. It was recom-
mended to Jefferson, who was greatly taken with the
naturalness of the love-scenes and instantly saw the
chance of making something out of the leading part.
It made the fortune of three of the actors. At the
rehearsal, and indeed for the first fortnight, E. H. Sothern
found everything to depress him in the part of " Lord
Dundreary," but as he began to add all sorts of extrava-
gances to his acting, the originality of the character began
to dawn on him, until he made it a personation of world-
wide fame. Jefferson, as "Asa Trenchard," took his place
instantly as one of America's leading actors. Mr. Win-
ter says :
"Seldom has an actor found a medium for the expres-
sion of his spirit so ample and so congenial as that part
proved for Jefferson. Rustic grace, simple manliness,
68 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
unconscious drollery, and unaffected pathos, expressed
with artistic control, and in an atmosphere of repose,
could not have been more truthfully and beautifully
The play ran for the whole season, — one hundred and
forty nights,— and in the summer, having parted from
Laura Keene's company, Jefferson took it through the
"Caleb His next great success was as "Caleb Plummer" in
an adaptation of Dickens's "Cricket on the Hearth,"
which was played at Boucicault's " Winter Garden."
After the first night Boucicault said to him: "If that
is the way you intend to act the part, I don't wonder
you were afraid to undertake it." Jefferson, who had
expressed his fear that he could not act a part requiring
Bouckauit pathos, was nevertheless willing to learn, so he asked
hint. a e the experienced actor what he meant. The reply was :
" You have acted your last scene first ; if you begin in
that solemn strain, you have nothing left for the end
of the play."
Jefferson declares that the common sense underlying
this remark so appealed to him that he acted upon it,
and so achieved success. He learned not to anticipate
strong effects, but to lead the audience up to a proper
climax. He succeeded in raising the part to such a
degree of perfection that the critics said of him, " The
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. J I
gentle old man of Dickens's story lives again in him and
touches every heart by his sweet self-sacrifice. Jeffer-
son's sensibility makes him sympathetic with the char-
acter, while his admirable art enables him to embody it
with thorough precision of detail."
He was also successful in the parts of " Newman
Noggs," <c Salem Scudder," " Granby Gag," and others,
and when Boucicault suddenly withdrew, Jefferson's ver-
sion of cc Oliver Twist " was presented with immense "Oliver
success with J. W. Wallack as cc Fagin " and Matilda
Heron as " Nancy." He was not so successful in the
humorous portraiture in Mrs. Bateman's version of
" Evangeline." He declared it was the worst comic
part he had ever played.
The actor who has had success in a part, the actor
who has written a play, cannot fail to keep his eyes
open for further possibilities ; his ambition will be stim-
ulated to create some character that shall be his, and his
alone. Jefferson says that when the curtain descended on
the first night of " The American Cousin," he then and
there resolved to be " a star." He had made his audi-
ence both laugh and cry. That great marriage of dra-
matic powers, the Humorous and the Pathetic, is the
source of all success.
One rainy day in the summer of 1859, while he was
"The reading the " Life and Letters of Washington Irving,"
in the hayloft of a barn in Paradise Valley, at the foot of
Pocono Mountain, in Pennsylvania, he happened to come
across his own name in a passage where Irving had noted
that the younger Jefferson was like his father in " look,
gesture, size, and make." He had never seen Jefferson's
father, and of course meant his grandfather. By a
natural transition he was led to think of " Rip Van
Winkle." An American story by an American author
for an American actor ! He hastened into the house
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 73
and got "The Sketch-Book," but on re-reading the
story of " Rip," he was disappointed to find it so un-
dramatic. In Irving's placid narrative it is merely the
old story of the Cretan poet Epimenides (whom St. Paul
quotes in Titus), believed by the ancients to have been
sent out by his father after the sheep and to have fallen
fast asleep (like the likewise mythical little Bo-Peep),
only to awaken at the end of fifty-seven years, and find
the whole world changed.
Within nine years after the publication of " The SS5 to
J L . "RipVsm
Sketch-Book," Thomas Flynn had made a poor dramati- winkle.*
sation of " Rip," and several others had followed. In
1829, Jefferson's aunt Elizabeth had played in one,
supposed to have been a version made in England.
Charles Burke made still another in 1 849, and Jefferson
acted the part of the innkeeper, Seth. There were no
less than seven predecessors to Jefferson in the part of Anideal
" Rip Van Winkle. " Mr. Winter, who gives an inter-
esting account of the various versions, says :
"All the salient extremes of a representative picture
of human experience are found in it, — fact and fancy ;
youth and age ; love and hatred ; loss and gain ; mirth
and sadness ; humour and pathos ; rosy childhood and
decrepit senility ; lovers with their troubles, which will
all be smoothed away, and married people with their
anxieties, which will never cease ; life within doors, and
74 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
life among trees and mountains ; the domestic and the
romantic ; the natural and the preternatural ; and through
all, the development and exposition of a humorous, cheer-
ing, romantic, restful human character. Such a theme
cannot be too much commended to thoughtful consid-
eration. It is prolific of lessons for the conduct of life.
It teaches no direct moral ; but its power is in its influ-
ence, — to lure us away from absorption in the busy-
world, and to make us hear again the music of running
water and rippling leaves, the wind in the pine-trees, the
surf upon the beach, and, under all, the distant murmur
of that great ocean to which our spirits turn, and into
which we must vanish."
Some persons would go even further than Mr. Win-
ter, and argue that in Mr. Jefferson's presentation of the
henpecked tippler he taught a lesson in temperance
more powerful than any temperance lecture ever de-
^fpr^rmg Mr. Jefferson remembered several of the versions of
the story, but none of them seemed to give him what he
wanted. He went down to the city and got together
Cf Rip's " wardrobe before he had written a line of the
play. He does not recommend this way as the ideal
method of writing a play, but tells the story to illustrate
the impatience and enthusiasm with which he entered on
his task. He got the three printed versions of the play,
for a play.
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. J J
and compared them. They were in two acts, and in all
of them the spectre crew was introduced as speaking and
singing. Jefferson divided the play into three acts,
and made the second act wholly a monologue, while
Sir Hendrik Hudson's companions merely gesticulate.
Though it took considerable thought to arrange the
questions so that the answers might be made by ghostly
nods, yet, within a few days, he had his version of the
play all ready, and he learned and rehearsed the part, so
that in the early fall he was enabled to present it to the
public in Washington. It won sufficient success to
prove to him that the character was what he was after : "mpVan
nevertheless, the play was not satisfactory. " The ac-
tion," he says, " had neither the body nor the strength
to carry the hero ; the spiritual quality was there, but
the human interest was wanting."
In i 86 i, Mrs. Jefferson died, and the New York
Antipodes. e home was broken up. Leaving three of his children
at school, he started with his eldest son for California.
He states that his engagement in San Francisco was an
unmistakable failure, and he attributes the cause of it
to the overzeal of his manager, who had raised expecta-
tions too high, or, in theatrical parlance, had "overbilled"
him. However that may have been, he acted there, ac-
according to Mr. Winter, for nearly four months. In
September, — Mr. Winter says November, — he sailed
for Australia in the clipper-ship Nimrod. On board
ItheoKgiS. ship he had great success as a theologian, and his
arguments were so powerful in favour of marriage, that
his fellow-passenger, Father O' Grady, had not been in
Sydney three years before he renounced his orders,
and married, though he still remained faithful to his
church. Mr. Jefferson came to the conclusion that
it was the beauty of the lady, rather than his good
advice, that had overcome the " good St. Anthony's "
In Australia, Mr. Jefferson depended for his support
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 79
on talent there assembled, and as he brought a num-
ber of fresh plays, such as cc Rip Van Winkle," " Our
American Cousin," and " The Octoroon," he made a
great sensation. At Melbourne his engagement reached
one hundred and sixty-four consecutive nights. At
Castlemaine, he was introduced to the notice of the
inhabitants by a town crier, who, dressed in a high
white hat and seedy black suit, stood on a barrel in
front of the theatre, crying :
" Oh, yes ! Oh, yes ! Oh, yes ! Step up, ladies and
gentlemen ; now or never is your honly chance to see
the greatest living wonder of the age, Joseph Jefferson,
the great hactor from Amerikee. His power of pro-
ducing tears at vun and the same time is so great
that he caused the Emperor of Roushia to weep on
his weddin' night, and made her gracious Majesty, the
Queen, bu'st out laughin' at the funeral of Prince
Albert. He is the bosom friend of the President of
Amerikee, and the hidol of 'is Royal 'Ighness, the
Prince of Wales."
That was too much for the modest and truth-loving
Jefferson, and he declared that he would not act unless
the little bell-man should be suppressed. This was
more of a job than the manager had expected. Mr.
Jefferson describes the scene with that delightful humour
which always enlivens his conversation :
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
"The little fat man now stood with his arms folded,
glaring defiance at the manager and his myrmidons,
but they seized him, and a tremendous struggle ensued.
The tall white hat was completely mashed over his eyes,
and in stamping violently with his rage, the head of the
barrel burst in, letting him through, till only a fat head
just appeared above the top. They tipped the barrel
over, and rolled him off inside, to the great amusement
of the bystanders, who had been roaring with laughter
all the time."
Mr. Jefferson not only toured through the various
large cities of Australia, but visited the interior, and
saw a good deal of interesting life among the natives ;
but he confesses that he never learned to throw a boom-
erang with native skill. He gives an interesting pic-
ture of himself, sitting with the great English actor,
Edmund Kean, on a bench in St. Kilda Park, watching
a party of blacks throwing the boomerang.
In Hobart Town, the capital of Van Diemen's Land,
Mr. Jefferson played " The Ticket-of- Leave Man " for
the first time. The city had a large element of former
convicts, and the announcement of the play aroused
great excitement among the Tasmaniacs (as H. J. Byron
called them). Mr. Winter says that upwards of six
hundred ticket-of-leave men were included in his audi-
ence on one occasion. Mr. Jefferson says :
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 83
"At least one hundred ticket-of-leave men were in
the pit on the first night of its production." Before
the curtain rose, he looked out, and thought it the
most terrible audience he had ever seen. " Men with
low foreheads, and small, peering, ferret-looking eyes ;
some with flat noses, and square, cruel jaws ; some with
sinister expression, leering, low and cunning, all wearing
a sullen, dogged look, as if they would tear the benches
from the pit and gut the theatre of its scenery if one
of their kind was held up to public scorn upon the
The impersonation of "Bob Brierly" was an immense
success ; the audience rose to him and " cheered to the
very echo." Jefferson was more than once accosted in
the street by less innocent congeners of poor "Bob," who
would tell him some touching story of their early days.
He also visited New Zealand, where the old comedies
proved most successful, and then, after a short return Jefferson as
engagement in Australia, he sailed from Melbourne in a
clipper-ship for South America. It had taken him fifty-
seven days from San Francisco to Melbourne; it took
fifty-seven days for him to reach Callao. On the first
voyage the only excitement was religious discussions with
Father O' Grady ; on this voyage a Northern man and a
Southerner were among the passengers, and Mr. Jeffer-
son had to act as peacemaker, so belligerent were their
84 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
discussions of politics. It was during the sixties, and the
result of the war of the Rebellion had not yet been
Atcaiiao. announced. A Callao ship-calker, formerly from the
States, recognised Mr. Jefferson as soon as he set eyes
on him ; he brought ttoem the tidings, "The war's over:
the South caved in and Richmond is took."
This same theatrical connoisseur offered to enable Jef-
ferson to see the " Spanish fandango " danced, but as
the place was rather dangerous, he declined. He was
amazed at the beauty of the ladies of Lima, at the horse-
back-riding beggars, and at the religious fervour and the
religious democracy of all classes, as they mingled in
the dingy cathedral.
He was kept a week in Peru before the ship sailed for
Panama, and it was not until June, 1865, that he reached
The new London. There he met Dion Boucicault, who, without
winkle." much enthusiasm for the subject, agreed to rewrite Jef-
ferson's " Rip Van Winkle " for a consideration. Mr.
Clarke Davis says that many of the suggested changes
came from Jefferson ; the impressive ending of the first
act was Boucicault's, while the climax of the third act —
Menie recognising her father — is merely the reverse of
King Lear recognising Cordelia. Boucicault also intro-
duced the scheme of the second marriage and many of
the now familiar details. Boucicault told Jefferson that
it could not possibly keep the stage more than a month,
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 85
but Billington, one of the London cast, told Paul Bed-
ford, the original "Nick Vedder," "There's a hundred
nights in that play."
A quarrel between Boucicault and Webster, the man-
ager of the Adelphi Theatre, nearly resulted in the play
being withdrawn before it was presented, but Mr. Jeffer-
son's tact prevented this calamity, and the fateful night
approached. Mr. Jefferson gives an amusing description
of his last private rehearsal. It was Sunday evening, and
he was alone in his lodging, and had got out his new wig
and beard for the last scene. He put them on and be-
gan acting and posing in front of the mirror.
In about twenty minutes there came a knock at the
door. This dialogue ensued :
" Who's there ? " a public
" It's me," said the gentle but agitated voice of the
chambermaid. " May I come in ? "
" Certainly not," replied Mr. Jefferson, for he had no
desire to be seen in his disguise.
" Is there anything wrong in the room, sir ? " she
" Nothing at all. Go away."
" Well, sir, there's a policeman at the door, and he
says as 'ow there's a crazy old man in your room, a
flingin' of 'is 'ands and a-goin' on hawful, and there's a
crowd of people across the street a-blockin' hup the way."
86 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
Mr. Jefferson turned to the window and discovered to
his horror that he had forgotten to draw down the cur-
tain. At first he was mortified at having thus uncon-
sciously acted before an audience of deadheads, but
afterwards the comicality of the situation so overcame
him that he laughed till he was cured of a sharp attack
The London critics hailed Jefferson as one of the most
genuine artists that had ever appeared on the British
stage, and large audiences made his engagement a trium-
YorkTgain. After playing a farewell engagement in Manchester
and Liverpool, he took a sailing vessel for New York,
and on the third of September, 1866, appeared at the
Olympic Theatre, where his performance of "Rip" won
immense applause. As Mr. Winter says, " The fame
of its beauty soon ran over the land." He also revived
"The American Cousin " and other old comedies, in each
winning the heartiest commendation. At the close of
that management he went West, and in December, 1867,
was married in Chicago to his second wife, Miss Sarah
Isabel Warren, the niece of William Warren, his father's
cousin. He now used some of his savings in buying
homes. In 1869 he purchased an estate near Yonkers,
another at Hohokus, N. J., on the Saddle River, and a
third, consisting of a ruined plantation on a lovely island
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 89
in Louisiana. His relative, John B. Rice, of Chicago,
rated him for his extravagance in buying cc a large planta- Profitable
tion in the South, with nothing left of the sugar-house
but the chimney, all the fences and everything in a di-
lapidated condition," and calling it an investment ! Jef-
ferson suggested that in time the orange groves might
pay him ; but when, some years afterwards, his son in-
formed him that the only profits on a large consignment
of oranges, after deducting the expenses, were three two-
cent postage-stamps, he concluded that cc Uncle John "
was about right.
The plantation is situated on an island of about two
hundred acres, high above the sea, and covered with
splendid live-oak and magnolia trees, as well as with the
oranges and pecans that were in bloom when he bought pirates'
it. Formerly a famous buccaneer had made the island
his haunt, and the natives of the region imagine that
there are hoards of precious treasures buried along its
shores or under the trees. The gold and silver that
is hidden by pirates during the last century on our
seaboard would pay off the national debt. From New-
foundland to Ogunquit, and from Cape Cod to the
Mississippi, the whole coast, if one may judge by the
mounds that one sees near Bald Head Cliff, must have
been dug up a score of times, — at night, too, with weird
incantations. No wonder that Mr. Jefferson objects to
QO JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
the disfiguring of the picturesque shores of the Bayou
Teche. His description of their arrival at his Southern
home is a picture in words ; it must not be forgotten
that Mr. Jefferson is a painter of pictures as well as an
" At Brashear, the terminus of the railway, we used to
get on board of a little stern-wheel boat, so small that,
contrasted with the leviathan Texas steamers anchored
in the bay, it looked like a toy. Our route lay west-
ward, up the Bayou Atchafalaya to where it met the
Bayou Teche. This is the point where Gabriel and
Evangeline are separated in Longfellow's poem. Our
passage up the Teche was extremely picturesque. The
stream is narrow, and the live-oak and cypress trees
stretch their branches over it till in places they fairly
meet and interlock. When the darkness came on, pine-
knots were burned in the bow of the boat, and as she
steamed up the narrow river a strong light fell on the
gaunt trees that suddenly started out of the black night
like weird spectres. The negro deck-hands, some bare
to the waist, and others in red and blue shirts, would
sit in lazy groups chanting their plantation songs, keep-
ing perfect time with the beat of the engine."
And the pleasure of the arrival at this paradise of
leisure, where, amid a kindly population, the kind-
hearted owners would enter into their season of rest !
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. 9 I
Mr. Jefferson reports one amusing conversation with ^ owman > s
a coloured boy, who had paddled him out duck-hunting
on the bayou. This was the dialogue :
" Mr. Joe, will you be mad if I ax you somefen?"
" No, John ; what is it ? "
" What does you do in a show ? "
" That is rather hard to explain."
" Well, does you swallow knives ? "
" No ; I have no talent that way."
" Why, your son tole me that you swallowed knives
and forks and fire and de Lawd knows what all ; I
b'lieve he was jest a-foolin' of me."
" He's quite capable of it."
" Well, dere's one thing certain ; you don't act in the
" How can you be sure of that ? "
" Oh, no sah, — oh, no sah ; you cain't fool me on dat.
I've seen you get on your horse ; you ain't no circus
By taking long vacations in this enchanting Southern
home, by making his seasons comparatively short, and short
by reserving several off-nights each week, Mr. Jefferson
diminished the monotony of acting his great part. And
when he once more came back to the boards, he was as
fresh as at the very beginning. He played it for the
first time in Boston in the summer of 1869, and shortly
92 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
after Booth's splendid theatre was opened he began a
triumphant series of seasons there. It has been esti-
mated that upwards of 150,000 persons witnessed his
Rip at that one theatre.
The Httie ^ n I ^7°' tne veteran actor, George Holland, died, and
around the Mrs. Holland's sister desired the funeral to be held at
her own church. Mr. Jefferson, as an old friend of the
family, went to the minister with one of Holland's sons.
Mr. Jefferson told the rector that his friend was an actor,
and the rector replied that in the circumstances he should
have to decline holding the services at the church. The
boy was in tears at such a reply. Mr. Jefferson was too
indignant to say a word, but as they left the room he
paused and asked if there was any other church from
which his friend might be buried. The rector replied
that there was a little church around the corner where it
might be done. Mr. Jefferson said, "Then if this be
so, God bless 'the little church around the corner."'
From that time forth the Rev. Mr. 's church
bore that famous appellation. In the following January
Mr. Jefferson played the part of " Mr. Golightly," in the
amusing farce of " Lend me Five Shillings," given, with
other plays, for the benefit of George Holland's widow
and children. His personation of that fascinating and
laughable character was regarded as one of his most
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 95
When Mr. Jefferson was about forty-three, he was
attacked by glaucoma and threatened with complete biSS?*
blindness. The oculist assured him that unless he
submitted to an immediate operation his case would be
hopeless. It was performed at his home at Hohokus
and proved entirely successful. In August he was enabled
to write to a friend, " All traces of the disease have
entirely disappeared. I no longer wear glasses, and in
fact am as good as new. ,,
By the following January he reappeared on the stage
with greater popularity than ever. And he soon trans-
ferred his conquests to England. The summer before
his season opened in London he spent with his family in
Paris. He gives an amusing account of his attempts to Learning
learn French, — " the pure, solid mother tongue, with a painting
full Parisian accent." He pictures his celebrated teacher,
who came dressed in the extreme of tawdry fashion, full
of flounces and frills, with a large head decked out in an
enormous bonnet and smothered in a flower-garden in full
bloom, hugging three or four big books under one arm,
and flourishing a formidable blue cotton umbrella. His
progress was so rapid that, he says, at the end of the first
month, by hard study and close application, he knew less
about it than when he began. So he abdicated in favour
of his children, and spent the happy days painting pictures
of old chateaux or picturesque cottages embowered under
96 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
tall poplar trees. It was during this visit that Mr. Jeffer-
son gathered together some of the beautiful specimens of
French art that were later destroyed when his summer cot-
tage was burnt down. His criticism on the French school
is very interesting. He says :
Art " I am of the opinion that the greatest landscapes are
works of the imagination rather than transcripts of reali-
ties. Nature refuses to be imitated, but invariably rewards
the artist who has the modesty to suggest her. The
painter who attempts to give an exact picture of a natural
scene will find himself surrounded by insurmountable
difficulties. As an example, let us suppose that he takes
for his subject a certain view with which we are familiar ;
the sky, water, foreground, trees, and distance may be
painted in the exact form, colour, and perspective propor-
tions of the original, and yet fail to give one idea of the
spot. What is the reason of this non-resemblance when
all the details have been so carefully imitated ? What is
it that has no existence in the picture, and that so pervades
nature ? Where are the sweet sounds of the woods ?
Where is the singing of the birds, the hum of busy insects,
and the murmur of the brooks ? Where is the movement
of the clouds, the graceful bending of the trees, and the
perfume of the pines and woodland flowers ? He cannot
paint these, and so his realistic work is cold and lifeless.
But if in modest truth he suggests his work, omitting hard
JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. 97
details and impertinent finish, the simple picture will lead
us in our imagination to supply the artistic impossibili-
ties of sound and movement."
These suggestions are extremely interesting, for Mr.
Jefferson has won no small success in the art of land-
scape painting, and some of his pictures well illustrate
this very quality of which he speaks.
Mr. Jefferson spent two winters in London at the
Princess's Theatre, and ended his London engagement
with a brief season at which he played " Mr. Golightly "
and other light comedy parts. His London life was made
memorable by his friendship or acquaintance with some
of the greatest men of the day. He was invited to make
a visit at a splendid estate in Scotland, and there he had a
coilrteous. memorable encounter with the daughter of an English
earl. She was radiantly beautiful, " witty, aristocratic,
haughty, and satirical," and she amused herself by quizzing
the American actor. At first he took her questions
seriously, but soon perceived that she was making sport
of him, and when she asked him with apparent innocence
if he had lately met the Queen, he replied with equal seri-
ousness, " No, madam, I was out when her Majesty
called." He was revenged.
Before he came back to America he played " Rip " in
Dublin and Belfast. In the one the engagement was a
flat failure ; indeed, he was asked at the first rehearsal to
make the character Irish instead of Dutch, and he was
told that if he would do so the Dublin audience was such
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 99
a rare one that he might defy the world. He declares
that if the scarcity of spectators was a test of its rareness,
it certainly was.
After his return to America he confined himself prin- versatility,
cipally to his two great parts. Assuredly, he who had
won his laurels in over a hundred distinct characters did
not deserve the reproach of lacking versatility. In ref-
erence to this charge, — that he has been remiss in learn-
ing new parts, — he quotes a conversation with Charles
Mathews, in which that clever comedian rallied him as
" the prince of dramatic carpetbaggers," carrying all his
wardrobe in a gripsack. But Mr. Jefferson retorted
that he was confounding wardrobe with talent, and as-
sured him that c< it requires more skill to act one part
fifty different ways, than to act fifty parts all one way."
For his own sake an actor needs some change, and
Mr. Jefferson, who had come upon " Rip Van Winkle "
after long search, found the part of " Bob Acres " obsess-
ing him in somewhat the same way as cc Rip " had done.
He says : " Bob was an attractive fellow to contemplate. A^s^aa
Sheridan had filled him with such quaintness and eccen- * ea part *
tricity that he became to me irresistible. I would often
think of him in the middle of the night. At odd times,
when there was apparently no reason for him to call, he
would pop up before me like a new acquaintance, — for
I had acted him before, — but always with a new expres-
IOO JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
sion on his face. The variety of situations in which the
author had placed him ; his arrival in town with his shal-
low head full of nonsense and curl-papers, and his warm
heart overflowing with love for an heiress who could not
endure him in the country because he used to dress so
badly ; a nature soft and vain, with a strong mixture of
goose and peacock ; his aping of the fashion of the town,
with an unmistakable survival of rural manners ; his
swagger and braggadocio while writing a challenge ; and,
above all, the abject fright that falls upon him when he
realises what he has done, — could the exacting heart of
a comedian ask for more than these ? "
So he fell to work, condensing and revising, and, in
fact, largely rewriting " The Rivals," just as Sheridan
himself had altered and renamed Vanbrugh's comedy of
cc The Relapse." He condensed the play from five acts
to three, he cut several of the characters out of it, and he
expunged the few lines that had any shadow of coarse-
ness about them.
At the first rehearsal at Philadelphia, Mrs. John Drew
introduced some novel business in the part of "Mrs.
Malaprop," and asked him if he thought the innovation
was admissible. Mr. Jefferson replied that he thought
it was ; moreover, that he was convinced that Sheridan
himself would have done the same thing, if he had only
thought of it. The revised play was warmly received,
am *<■} v -*r . - ^ • " : ^§
~«€£J jig ^
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 103
but of course some of the old actors felt called upon to
indulge in harmless sarcasms. Jefferson's cousin, Wil-
liam Warren, remarked that it reminded him of Thomas
Buchanan Read's poem, " And Sheridan twenty miles
away." John Gilbert predicted that the shade of Sher-
idan would haunt him. At a Christmas tree, when his
manager received a bundle of railway guides, his gift was
a book of <c The Rivals," with all the parts but his own
cut out. But all this was innocent fun. Mr. Winter,
in a long and careful analysis of the part, says, " The
spirit of Jefferson's impersonation was humanity and
sweet good nature, while the traits that he especially
emphasised were ludicrous vanity and comic trepidation.
He left no moment unfilled with action, when he was on
the scene, and all his by-play was made tributary to the
expression of these traits."
Since 1880, then, Mr. Jefferson's life has been one A de ii ghtfu i
which any actor might set for himself as an ideal. Lim-
iting himself to a repertoire of not more than a dozen
characters, and for the greater part of the time to only
two, — " Rip " and " Bob Acres," — he has made short
seasons, and played to full and profitable houses. Age
has not dimmed the fervour of those immortal impersona-
tions. During the hard months of winter he has sought,
and apparently found, Ponce de Leon's fountain of
eternal youth on his beautiful estate of Orange Island.
1 04 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
Here is the picture of him, painted by himself, in his
serene old age :
"In Louisiana the live-oak is the king of the forest,
and the magnolia is its queen ; and there is nothing more
delightful than to sit under them on a clear, calm spring
morning like this. The old limbs twine themselves in
fantastic forms, the rich, yellow foliage mantles the trees
with a sheen of gold, and from beneath the leaves, the
gray moss is draped, hanging in graceful festoons, and
swaying slowly in the gentle air. I am listening to the
merry chirp of the tuneful cardinal, as he sparkles like a
ruby amid the green boughs, and to the more glorious
melody of the mocking-bird. Now, in the distance,
comes the solemn cawing of two crafty crows ; they are
far apart ; one sits on the high branch of a dead cypress,
wo?£° rein while his cautious mate is hidden away in some secluded
spot ; they jabber to each other as though they held a
conference of deep importance ; he on the high limb
gives a croak as though he made a signal to his distant
mate, and here she comes out of the dense wood and
lights quite near him on the cypress branch ; they sidle
up to each other, and lay their wise old heads together,
now seeming to agree upon a plan of action ; with one
accord they flutter from the limb, and slowly flap them-
" I am sitting here upon the fragment of a broken
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 105
wheel ; the wood is fast decaying, and the iron cogs
are rusting in their age. It is as old as I am, but
will last much longer. Most likely it belonged to
some old mill, and has been here in idleness, through
generations of the crows ; it must have done good ser-
vice in its day, and if it were a sentient wheel, perhaps
would feel the comfort, in old age, of having done its
" Over my head the gray arms of two live-oaks stretch
their limbs, and looking down into the ravine, I see
the trees are arched, as though they canopied the aisle
of a cathedral ; and doubtless they stood here before
the builder of the mill was born. Behind a fallen tree
there stands another ; and on the trunk, from where I
sit, I plainly see the initials of my wife's name, cut
there by me on some romantic birthday, many years
We can see Mr. Jefferson surrounded by members of
his family in this Southern paradise ; his genial, shrewd,
expressive face beaming with happy thoughts. One
can fill in the figure painting in addition to his own
When the summer breezes blow too torrid across the
waters of the bayou, Mr. Jefferson flits like the birds
to the North. He has a charming estate called Crow's
Nest, near the upper waters of Buzzard's Bay. The
106 JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME.
house which was built in 1889 was filled with many
choice works of art, — a portrait of Mrs. Siddons, by-
Sir Joshua Reynolds, a portrait of himself by Wilkie,
and other pictures by Lawrence, Corot, Daubigny, Tro-
yon, Rousseau, Diaz, and others. By the explosion of
a gasolene tank, Crow's Nest was set on fire, and burnt
to the ground, with all its precious contents, in April,
1893. The following year it was rebuilt, and here, in
summer, Mr. Jefferson lives a delightful life, in inti-
mate association with ex-President Cleveland and other
congenial friends. Buzzard's Bay offers every enticing
sport, with its bluefish, and a safe expanse for boating.
Not far away are the charming ponds of the Cape,
The where trout and bass abound. The scenery is not
Buzzard's magnificent, but the quiet landscape is full of charm ;
in driving over the hard shell roads that cut across
the sandy soil, there are fascinating glimpses of blue
water, and there are wild tracts, where not a house can
be seen. The air is peculiarly soft and balmy, and
the daily breeze from the Bay tempers the extreme
heat of the equinox.
Here Mr. Jefferson gathers around him, not only his
own children, — of which ten have been born to him, —
but also his children's children ; and any one who has
ever seen Rip with the children of Falling Water will
not hesitate to believe that Mr. Jefferson is fond of
JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. IOJ
children, and some of the most attractive portraits
of him show him with children at his knee or climb-
ing over his back.
He still paints enthusiastically, and some of his pic- hereon a
tures have been shown in exhibitions, always attracting
great interest, not merely because they are the work of
the popular actor, but because they have intrinsic merit.
Their dominant quality has been described as being akin
to his acting : " marked by tenderness of feeling, com-
bined with a touch of mystery," — an imaginative
quality, reminding of the works of Corot. It is no
small privilege to be admitted to the sanctum of Mr.
Jefferson's studio, where he so skilfully wields the brush
and mahlstick. It is certainly an instructive sight to see
a man who has won fame and fortune in a calling that
tends to unsettle domesticity, thus utilising his pleasant
leisure with an avocation so ennobling and satisfactory.
His residence in Louisiana is so far away, and in
so large a domain, — Mr. Winter calls it six hundred
acres, — that he seems to disappear from sight when
he gets there. But at Buzzard's Bay he is in the eye hospitality.
of the world. His noble mansion stands out prom-
inent on a breezy height, overlooking the Bay ; and
here he may be seen with his family, or entertaining
the guests who delight in his genial hospitality and
ever-fluent store of anecdote, reminiscence, and wit.
108 JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
The house itself is filled with valuable relics, with art
treasures brought from all parts of the world. His own
atdws 8 pictures hang upon the walls, and hold their own in
comparison with those of men who have made paint-
ing their life-work, rather than a diversion. The man-
telpiece in the dining-room was brought from India, is
richly carved, and is in itself a work of art. Under the
mantel in the parlor is a panel representing, in relief,
scenes from "Rip Van Winkle." The electrical lighting
is furnished from a power-house situated on the premises,
and, typical of its owner, keeps the whole establishment
in a glow of brilliancy. Ample stables furnish recreation
in riding and driving. In fact, Crow's Nest is a home,
— a home of wealth and comfort and cosiness.
Four of Mr. Jefferson's sons have either adopted the
stage, or shown talent for the drama. One of his daugh-
ters is married to the distinguished English novelist,
Benjamin L. Farjeon, author of "The King of Noland"
and " Miriam Rozella." She lives in London. His
youngest son was born in 1885.
One might fill many pages with analyses of Mr. jeffers
Jefferson's impersonations. They have been so many
times described that it will not be hard for those of
another generation to get some idea of his powers. Yet
even the present generation will remember him chiefly
as the creator of " Rip Van Winkle" and " Bob Acres."
These two parts, so dissimilar and yet with somewhat
the same strength and the same lovable weaknesses,
have amused and delighted unnumbered thousands.
Mr. Jefferson's success in working out an original con-
ception for these parts teaches a lesson to persons of
every age and every profession ; it is to have an ideal,
and constantly to strive to reach it. To be sure, Mr.
Jefferson seems to have inherited peculiar talent for the
profession into which he was born, and circumstances
favoured his training in it in a school not by any means
easy, but nevertheless adequate to bring out his best
qualities. Throughout his course, he shaped every
change and possibility so as to bear on his coming
mastership. It was, therefore, something better than
"Good Fortune" that brought him such an immense
I IO JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME.
measure of reward. No one can grudge him the good
things that have fallen to his share. He has preserved
in all circumstances the sweet and wholesome sense that
acts as a salt against conceit. His friends are unanimous
in their praise of his simplicity, cordiality, and frankness.
To have reached to the serene old age of fourscore " so
unspotted of the world," is as fine a lesson of genius as
history can afford.
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