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Full text of "Joseph Jefferson at home"



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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. 

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Chap... Copyright No.._„_'__. 

8heH_..irifJU fe 



UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. 



JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME 



JOSEPH JEFFERSON 
AT HOME 



BY 



/ 



NATHAN HASKELL DOLE 



ILLUSTRATED 




BOSTON 
ESTES AND LAURIAT 

1898 




2nd COP' 
1898, 









5843 



Copyright. i8gy 
By T. E. Marr 

Copyright, i8g8 
By Estes and Lauriat 



Colonial Press: 

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 
ferson ........ 

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 ....... 



*9 

25 

3i 

37 
43 
5 1 
57 
63 
69 

75 
81 

87 

93 

101 



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, 

9 



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. 



I. 

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 

passion 

" 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 
Saturdays. 

12 







5 ° 



JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. I 5 

This early passion for the stage was not merely the 

Inherited 

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- 



humour. 



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 " 

scheme. 

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 
wiser. 

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 





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Pg« 




1 



JOSEPH JEFFERSON AT HOME. 21 

the profession of acting. His second son, Joseph JefFer- 

Joseph 

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 

inheritance. ■*■ 

through five generations ; of varied talents ; and finally 
those blended strands of nationality — English, Scotch, 
and French — which so often result in original genius. 



II. 

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 

23 



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 

living 

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." 



Crow" 



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 ? " 

"Yes " 

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. 



III. 

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, 

34 



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 
Abraham Lincoln." 

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 



their rescue. 



Art in 
the West 



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 

m Mobile. 

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 



Macready. 



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 
asylum." 

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- 

An attack 

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, 

barn-storm- 

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 



lDg. 



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- 
mal education. 

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. 



IV. 

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- 

50 




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 
stage. 

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 
any other." 
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 
awakening. 
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. 



A theatrical 
voyage. 



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 
candles. 

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. 

manager. J 

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 

61 



A scene 

fron 

life. 



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 
Sunday-school Comedian." 

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- 
certain. 



Asa 



VI. 

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, 

67 



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 
combined." 

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 

" provinces." 

"Caleb His next great success was as "Caleb Plummer" in 

Plummer." ° 

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. 



Twist." 



VII. 

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 

72 



Sketch- 
Book." 



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- 
livered, 
^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 

r Winkle." 

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." 



Early 
defects of 



VIII. 

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 " 
scruples. 

In Australia, Mr. Jefferson depended for his support 

78 



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 : 



A town 
crier. 



8o 



JOSEPH JEFFERSON A T HOME. 



A comic 
scene. 



Kean and 

the 

boomerang. 



A convict 
play played 
to convicts. 



"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 
stage." 

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 

* peacemaker. 

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 

"Rip Van 

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 

rehearsal. 

" 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 
asked. 

" 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 
of indigestion. 

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- 
phant success. 
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 



investment. 



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 



A picture 
in words. 



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 
actor : 

" 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 

duties. 

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 
circus." 

" 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 
rider." 

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 



corner. 



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 
brilliant successes. 



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 



criticism. 



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. 



A retort 



IX. 

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 

98 



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- 



Innovations. 



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 . - ^ • " : ^§ 






- -nun 


~«€£J jig ^ 




v ,:tt^ 



ELECTRIC PLANT. 



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. 



old age. 



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- 
selves away. 

" 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 
duty. 

" 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 
ago." 

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 
landscape. 

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 



Crow's 

Nest. 



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 

an artist. 

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. 



X. 



son 
re- 
membered. 



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 

109 



An amiable 
character. 



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. 



THE END. 



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