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Full text of "The Life Of William Terriss Actor"

The Life of 
William Terriss 



THE LIFE OF 
WILLIAM TERRISS 

Actor 



BY ARTHUR J. SMYTHE 

WITH AN INTRODUCTION 

BY CLEMENT SCOTT 



WESTMINSTER 

ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE & CO 

2 WHITEHALL GARDENS 

1898 



PROPERTY O* 

CARNEGIE INSTITUTE OF 0011101011 




WILLIAM TERRISS 

"KING HENRY Vlll ." 



BUTLER TANNER, 

THE SELWOOD PRINTING WORKS, 

FROME, AND LONDON. 



Table of Contents 



PAGE 

An Appreciation ix 

Chapter I 

EARLY DAYS I 

Chapter II 

ON AND OFF THE STAGE 27 

Chapter III 

AT LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY 47 

Chapter IV 

TO ONE THING CONSTANT 56 

Chapter V 

HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 124 

Chapter VI 

HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 154 

Chapter VII 

HIS DEATH AND BURIAL 178 

Chapter VIII 

BREEZY BILL 193 



List of Illustrations 



William Terriss as King Henry VIII . Frontispiece 

An Early Photograph . . . . . . . 3 

The School, Littlehampton, 1858 7 

At Sea 13 

One of his First Public Appearances . . . .29 

At the age of 22 33 

At the age of 26 57 

"Romeo" in Romeo and Juliet 61 

"Squire Thornhill" in Olivia 65 

" Mercutio " in Romeo and Juliet . . . . .71 
"Don Pedro" in Much Ado About Nothing . . 75 

"Earl of Moray" in Charles I 77 

"Squire Thornhill" in Olivia 85 

" David Kingsley " in The Harbour Lights ... 89 
"Frank Beresford" in The Bells of Haselmere . . 93 
" Jack Medway " in The Union Jack . . . - 95 
A Souvenir ......... 98 

An American Playbill 99 

" Hayston of Bucklaw " in Ravenswood . . . .103 
"Claudio" in Much Ado About Nothing . . .105 

" Henry IL" in Becket 109 

"Don Pedro" in Much Ado About Nothing . . .115 
The Girl 1 left Behind me 125 



viii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

"Lieut. Keppell" in One of the Best . 

" Lieut. Dudley Keppell " in One of the Best . 

"Lieut. Dudley Keppell" in One of the Best . 

" Gerald Austin " in Boys Together .... 

" Gerald Austin " in Boys Together .... 

A Voice from the Past 

"Gerald Austin" in Boys Together .... 
"Comte de Candale" in A Marriage of Convenience 

In the Days of the Duke 

" The Cottage," Bedford Park 

Mrs. Terriss 

Terriss's Youngest Son 

The Late Mrs. G. H. Lewin 

The late George Herbert Lewin, Barrister-at-Law . 

William Terriss 

William Terriss 

At 30 . 



AN APPRECIATION 
BY CLEMENT SCOTT 

A FTER a roving, adventurous life, here, there, 
^ ** and everywhere, now on board some trad- 
ing vessel bound for the far east, now exploring 
the Falkland Islands of all places in the world, 
William Terriss, the best and most loyal friend 
man ever had, found himself eventually on the 
boards of a London theatre, determined, if pos- 
sible, to distinguish himself as an. actor. His 
early career, which combined the frank reckless- 
ness of the sailor with its breezy good nature, 
which he retained to the last, with the daring of 
the impulsive discoverer, will be recorded else- 
where. He was fond of relating one pathetic tale, 
which proves how sudden and quick were his im- 
pulses. He was the owner of a small cottage in 
a pleasant London suburb, and suddenly resolved 
to be off and away on one of his harum-scarum 
expeditions. His mind once made up, the pro- 

ix 



AN APPRECIATION 

ject was instantly carried into execution. Break- 
fast over one morning, he promptly packed up 
his traps, sick to death of the confinement of 
London life and its want of freedom. He left 
the place just as it was, closed the shutters, 
locked the door, and gave the key of the tenant- 
less house to a neighbour. In due time the 
wanderer returned again, opened the cottage door, 
found the breakfast things just as he had left 
them, but on the now soiled tablecloth a skele- 
ton ! A skeleton of what ? Well, the skeleton 
of a poor hungry cat, that he had accidentally 
locked into the empty house when he went away. 
The wretched creature had lapped up the last 
drop of milk and then lay down to die of starva- 
tion. It was said that my old friend was an 
unemotional man, but he never told this story 
without the tears coming to his eyes ; for, like 
all good and brave fellows, he was passionately 
fond of animals. 

But to return to the theatre. It was in 1868 
that I first saw young Terriss on the stage, in 
the very small part of " Lord Cloudwrays" in 



AN APPRECIATION 

Robertson's Society, but the character was in- 
significant, and it was no test of his power. But 
at the opening of Drury Lane Theatre, on Sep- 
tember 2ist, 1872, I saw and appreciated on the 
other side of the footlights a young actor who 
was destined to become one of the most deser- 
vedly popular artists of my time. The play was 
Sir Walter Scott's Lady of the Lake, dramatized 
by Andrew Halliday. E. L. Blanchard briefly 
records of this production: " Beverley scenery very 
good ; the rest very bad." In the cast were 
Harry Sinclair (" Roderick Dhu"), James Fer- 
nandez ("Fitzjames"), Maria B. Jones (" Helen "), 
Mrs. Aynsley Cooke ("Lady Margaret"), J. Dew- 
hurst (" Douglas "), Rosenthal ("Brian the Seer"), 
and "Malcolm" William Terriss. 

I was at that time writing for The Observer 
as well as in the Daily Telegraph. I find the 
following words recorded in the former paper in 
connection with the first important performance of 
Terriss, and they are interesting as showing that 
even then, six and twenty years ago, one of my 
favourite hobbies was stage elocution. Having 

xi 



AN APPRECIATION 

described the play and the mounting of it, ] 
said : 

"It would be ungracious to pick the acting tc 
pieces, because all the artists had such scant 
opportunity of exhibiting their talent. They were, 
from first to last, subordinate to and hard pressed 
by the scene-painter, the carpenter, and the cos- 
tumier. But fresh and pleasant, active and intel- 
ligent, enthusiastic and natural, stood out among 
all the rest the * Malcolm Graeme' of Mr. W. 
Terriss, a young actor, who has now made a very 
fair start, and will, no doubt, do uncommonly 
well. The contrast between the natural and 
manly declamation of this young actor and the 
old-fashioned stilted style of some of his fellows 
was very striking, and it is really pleasant to 
find any one determined to speak as ordinary 
people speak, on the boards of a theatre, 
wherein strange tones and emphasis prevail." 

Poor Terriss has often told me that it was 
this criticism and this first praise that settled 
his vocation in life. He never forgot it He 
never ceased to be grateful for it, and when in 

xii 



AN APPRECIATION 

course of time we met outside the walls of a 
theatre in those delightful Bohemian days, we 
formed a firm friendship that was never broken 
for a single hour. It has recently been said, 
with some emphasis, that this example is by 
no means exceptional, that actors and actresses 
never forget kindnesses done to them, always 
treasure the memory of the helping hand, and 
forget the awkward and occasional blame when 
contrasted with the almost continuous praise. I 
regret to say that has not been my experience 
after a career of forty years. I say emphatically 
that the attitude of a frank, outspoken, fearless 
man like Terriss was extremely exceptional in 
fact, quite unique in my experience. The 
critic, however enthusiastic when he can con- 
scientiously praise, must at odd and rare times 
be the natural enemy of the able, conscientious, 
and disappointed actor. But in no other career, 
untarnished by egotism and vanity, is there so 
much treachery. To our face we are angels ; 
behind our back, devils. We are offered the 
loving cup, and as we drink the dagger ; and 
it is the assassin who dies. 

xiii b 



AN APPRECIATION 

During his theatrical adventures, I did not 
always agree with the methods of my friend, 
particularly in a character that either did not 
suit him or which I had seen better performed 
by others. One cannot obliterate memories. 
I had seen both Alfred Wigan and Walter 
Lacy as u Chateau Renaud," in the Cwsuan 
Brothers, and I thought ami said that they 
were both more convincing 1 to me than Terriss. 
No doubt he did not like it at the time*. But 
he did not go into a corner and sulk, and tear 
his hair and swear or curse me by all his gods 
as others have been apt to do. A difference 
of opinion in court made, no ''kink' 1 in our 
friendship. The case over, however murh as 
we differed, we could go along the Strand 
arm-in-arm, as opposing harristrr.s ami others 
continually do. The "Chateau Renaml " at the 
Lyceum was no doubt a bitter draught to 
swallow, but this genuine, manly fellow never 
forgot my appreciation of ** Malcolm Graeme." 
I heard afterwards of his disappointment, his bitter 
grief, when the " Chateau Renaud " was end- 

xiv 



AN APPRECIATION 

cally treated. He had said, "This will be the 
success of my life!" But it was not. He 
treated the comparative difficulty with philosophy. 
He did not go into the nearest club, curse his 
critic, and make a fool of himself. I never 
met a man in any class of life who in every 
action showed such thorough contempt for 
toadying or backbiting, and the terrible artistic 
habit of saying one thing to your face and 
another behind your back was unknown to him. 
He stood no nonsense from anybody, and that 
was why he was respected and loved by the 
majority of men and women. He recognised 
that courtesy and discipline are requisite in 
every theatre. He would show the one and 
regard the other. But he would stand no non- 
sense from the highest actor or the greatest 
person in the land. Had Terriss been old 
enough to act with Macready, and there hap- 
pened to be any difference of opinion between 
them, I don't think the younger actor would 
have come off second best. In society, at 
country houses, even at a very ceremonial court, 

xv 



AN A1TRKCIATION 

this popular and during Jellmv soon estnblis' 
his independence and power. His attitude: 
received with a stare of astonishment at i', 
but as there was no impudence in it. hut n: 
dare-devilry, the Terriss manner soon won 
him the very wannest friendships in every c 
of society. 

The one day of the year that was especi, 
dear to this young-hearted and en^a^in^ 1 creai 
was in the glow of summer time when the 1 h 
Lane Fund gave its annual outing. 1 have o: 
been privileged to be the guest of William Trr 
on these occasions, and no matter when* we \\ 
or found ourselves, in the buttercup fields ro: 
Stoke Poges Church, on the river on a lau 
going upwards from Maidenhead to Henley, 
at dinner afterwards at Skindles, or at the Gi 
hound at Richmond, Terriss was always the 
and soul of the party, and we, had some* bri 
and merry times when Charles Warner, Jai 
Fernandez, and our old friend wen: prime offn 
of this distinguished gathering. It was at 
of these yearly festivals that old Benjamin Web 

xvi 



AN APPRECIATION 

Dok the chair at the Sunday Richmond dinner. 
iis age was great, his memory failing a little, 
nd his once powerful mind occasionally wandering, 

remember well how, to the astonishment of us 
11, the grand old man stood up, raising his wine. 
lass with a feeble, faltering hand, and said : " The 
Cing! God Bless Him!" lie imagined he was 
ving in another age and in another reign. 

The next year, as we. were driving Kennington 
ray one lovely Sunday morning in the summer 
!me, Terriss, in his genial fashion, proposed that 
rt should all stop and pay our respects to the 
enerable Master of the Fund, who was fading 
lowly away. Benjamin Webster lived and had 
,one so for years in an old-fashioned house in 
secluded garden at the back of Kennington 
Church. There we found him sitting with a little! 
hild ou his knee -his last born. By a curious 
oincidence the veteran comedian was sitting under 

picture of himself when a child on his mother's 
:nee. The two children might have been painted 
rom the same model Whilst they went all shak- 
ig hands with and congratulating the tl Master, 1 ' 

xv i i 



AN APPRECIATION 

Terriss nudged me and proposed an explorati< 
into the old garden. A curious sight present 
itself. The grass and herbage came up to o 
knees, the trees were tangled and twisted togethe 
reminding us of the wood where "Sleepi: 
Beauty " rested when discovered by her lover, a: 
in an out-house we found an old-fashioned carria: 
that had probably not been used for years. T. 
mud was still on the wheels caused by sor 
forgotten journey from the old Hay market 
Webster's Adelphi. 

William Terriss was a popular actor in eve 
sense of the word. He was beloved by you 
and old alike. In his thoroughly English meth 
there was perhaps not much subtlety or insig 
into the lights and shades of character ; in ] 
honest sentiment, displayed so often in melodran 
the pathos and heart throbs may occasiona 
have been considered superficial, but he broug 
on to the stage a buoyant individuality, a joyc 
manner, the essential spirit of good nature, 
handsome face, a light active figure, and a resons 
voice that could be heard in every corner of t 



xviii 



AN APPRECIATION 

largest theatre. Such a voice is a temptation to 
any actor, for he loves to hear it echo around 
the theatre and to feel its influence. I somehow 
think that the finest thing he did in his career 
was his " Squire Thornhill," in the Olivia of 
W. G. Wills. He might have walked out of the 
text of the Vicar of Wakefield, handsome, reck- 
less, cruel, cynical, assertive, the very man that 
an Olivia would have loved, for it is one of the 
privileges or eccentricities of good women to fall 
in love with dare-devil, handsome, unscrupulous 
men. Some women, like the Irishman's car 
horse, " love to be oppressed/' His " William " 
in Black-Eyed Susan was a wonderful perform- 
ance for a man of his age. He danced the 
hornpipe like a lad of eighteen. But his soul 
hankered after serious parts in solemn plays. I 
was partly responsible for providing him with 
such a character in The Swordsman s Da^lghter.. 
In it there were fine moments for Terriss. But 
the public refused to accept their favourite as an 
old man, and shuddered at the thought that this 
bright fellow should be paralysed even in a play. 

xix 



AN APPRECIATION 

They wanted him as he was, ever young, and did 
not care to see a line on his handsome, expres- 
sive face or a grey hair in his shapely head. He 
was indeed a bitter loss to the English stage, 
and at present he has no successor. 

Of the cruel and dastard blow that with such 
awful suddenness deprived my dear and faithful 
friend of life, I forbear to speak. I had seen him 
but a short time before in his dressing-room at 
the Adelphi, where we had many a confidential 
chat between the acts, or when his favourite 
dresser was rubbing him down after the hard 
work was over. He looked like some splendid 
young athlete, with not one superfluous ounce of 
flesh about him, and with a fair, smooth skin like 
satin. A more symmetrical man for his age I 
have never seen. And he was doomed to depart 
before his oldest friend. I was in Paris in great 
trouble when I heard the news. The shock I 
felt then, I have not recovered to this hour. 
And I lost my friend at the very moment when 
I could have counted on his brave and loyal 
championship to counteract much that was mean, 

xx 



AN APPRECIATION 

ungrateful yes, and unmanly too. All that was 
opposed to the temperament of William Terriss 
the actor and gentleman ! Terriss was not the 
honest fellow in an instant to turn friendship into 
loathing and contempt. He certainly would have 
been the last man in the world to countenance 
the strange acts of some of his vainglorious com- 
panions. But, although we were to have gone 
down into the country together a few days 
after what proved to be the fatal one for him, we 
were destined never to meet again. Lightly rest 
the turf above him ! 

A few of the letters written to me in the days 
of our early friendship, and some of the very 
last he ever penned to me, may be of interest 
to all who admired his outspoken candour, his 
honest friendship, and his splendid manly nature. 
Some of these will show how, in a mysterious 
manner, the knowledge of death sudden or 
otherwise was ever present to him. No end of 
a year, no anniversary ever came to me without 
some affectionate greeting from this staunch and 
loyal friend. God rest his soul ! 

xxi 



AN APPRECIATION 

HAY.MARKKT TUKATKK, \V. 
DEAR SCOTT, 

You ask me, have I //*v/*/*'</y////r ? I regret to say 
it does not rest in my /V^rr to decide ;tt all. Otherwise 
you know the best of my inclinations only ton we'll, I 
went to see Clarke ai^ain on receipt of your letter, and 
the only answer I can <jet from him is that "he can 
give me no decided answer either aye or i\>\\\ as he 
will most likely want me, etc.' 4 

Pm afraid that you must look upon my coming as a 
hope forlorn. You know how I must regret it ? 

I think I shall finally decide to 1*0 to " Wai lacks " in 
the autumn, unless you will take the trouble to i*ct me 
to the " Prince of Wales." 

My part in the Crisis, as you say, Is so va;ue and 
undefined that I can do nothing for It or with It. 

Wishing you and yours a merry Xmus and many of 
them, 

.Believe me, yours always, 

W. Ttfkuiss. 

Please send me a cartc-de-visite of yourself, If you xvill 

spare one. I should much esteem the favour, 



'HI TllKATHK. 

[A fiw months //;/*' w ///> //*v;/^.'j 
MY DEAR CLEM, 

Will you kindly write on this picture something more 
than your autograph, so that my children may, when I 

xxii 



AN APPRECIATION 

id you are gone, know the many years the poor actor 
id great critic were ever friends, 1870 to 1897. 

To me last night your not coming was a bitter dis- 
ppointment. I personally care not a "curse" for the 
pinions of any one but yourself, good or bad, and 
our absence was a great loss to the whole thing as 
tr as acting was concerned. 

I do not alter my opinion one iota about the play as 

work of dramatic interest it's the " poorest ..." all 
>und I have ever heard, and it ... The piece is 
sautifully dressed and mounted, but the stuffing is bad 
id ... You'll judge for yourself some day, and bear 
le same opinion as I do. 

I am sorry seeing about your good wife's father. I 
3pe it's nothing serious. Commend me to her and all 

Dod wishes, 

Always sincerely yours, 

WILL. 
I'll., send for the picture to-morrow night. 



LYCEUM THEATRE, 

April 15, 1894. 

It is useless, dear Scott, my ever writing to thank you 

>r your kindly thoughts, which you always express to- 

ards me in my work in the Telegraph, but it pleases me 

) do so. Again, thanks ; I appreciate it. 

We are travelling along the road of life together, and 

is a ray of sunshine to know one has always a well- 



AN APPRECIATION 

wisher and a friend. Life is not like a game of pool, for 
we can't star one, yet in my transient theatrical career I 
am ever glad that I merit your good opinion. 

All good wishes. 

Sincerely yours, 

WILL TERRISS. 



LYCEUM THEATRE, 

June 14, 1893. 
MY DEAR OLD FRIEND, 

I send you a few lines to welcome you home again, and 
with the sincere wish that your future and your wife's will 
be one unalloyed pleasure and happiness. 

I send herewith a "Theatre Magazine," where in an 
interview with me you will see I refer to the fact that 
you were the cause of my being an actor. It may 
interest you. God bless you ! 

WILL TERRISS. 



LYCEUM THEATRE, 

December 31, 1890. 

Life is a railroad with many stations and a terminus. 
We have travelled a long way together, and may it be 
our good fortune to travel together a long way yet But 
I pause for a moment on the threshold of a New Year 
to send you Greeting and sincere wishes for a happy and 
prosperous time in 1891. 

WILL TERRISS. 

xxiv 



AN APPRECIATION 

ADELPHI THEATRE. 

Why, certainly, dear Clem. Thursday supper, I shall 
i with you. With you and Johnnie it is indeed Old 
imes, Old Friends, and I trust till the curtain rings down. 

WILL. 
October 21, 1896. 



27, GREAT QUEEN STREET, W.C., 

October 14, 1882. 
!Y DEAR SCOTT, 

To me it is always a double pleasure to acknowledge 
our very kind notices of my performances. For this 
sason that I have received your praise and likewise 
our condemnation. I have always felt that your criti- 
isms are just ; and whether you praise or condemn me 
bow to your decision, because I respect your ability, 
.nd have always firmly believed in practical as well as 
heoretical knowledge, which you so undoubtedly possess 
vith regard to all things appertaining to our profession. 

I have noticed, however, that I have always received 
it your hands the minimum of condemnation and the 
naximum of praise ; and it Is really to me, when I 
lave been fortunate enough to please you, a sincere 
pleasure to read your very kind remarks on my poor 
ability, but it is a far greater pleasure to find myself year 
after year penning you my heartiest and warmest thanks 
for your kind and generous praise. 

It would be absurd for me to simply thank you in 

XXV 



AN APPRECIATION 

words only, without they came from the heart; and I 
can assure you in this, as in every other instance when 
I have written to you, they have done so. 

Thus respect for your criticisms gradually has given 
way to regard to the being, and I sincerely hope that 
I may long be numbered amongst those who can grasp 
you by the hand, and may lay claim to that word 
"friend" in all its true meaning. 

Believe me, dear Scott, 

Yours most sincerely, 

WILLIAM TERRISS. 



ADELPHI THEATRE. 
MY DEAR OLD SCOTT, 

If I owe much of my success to my own earnest 
endeavours, I owe still more to the ever-generous and 
loving support you have ever tendered me. Words do not 
convey the gratitude I feel for the favours you have ever 
conferred on me since my earliest efforts, fifteen years 
ago. 

I am deeply sensitive of your generous sympathy and 
encouragement, and have much to thank you for. Perhaps 
the day may yet corne when I may repay you. I hope 
it will 

A Happy Christmas to you and yours, and every 
blessing. 

WILL TERRISS. 
xxvi 



AN APPRECIATION 

ADELPHI THEATRE, 

December 31, 1894. 

Only a grasp of the hand, old friend, and happy to 
enow, as year passes year, that your kindly feeling is un- 
iiminished. May you and (I now add) your charming 
Adfe enjoy, in the year which dawns this morn, every 
lappiness, and health and prosperity. Such is the wish 
}f your friend, 

WILL TERRISS. 

ST. MILDREDS HOTEL, 

WESTGATE-ON-SEA, 

KENT. 

July 23, 1894. 
MY DEAR OLD FRIEND, 

I thought it would be interesting news for you that 
nay girl Ellaline will sustain the part of " Elaine " when 
King Arthur is produced at the Lyceum Theatre at Xmas, 
Mr. Irving having specially engaged her so a member 
3f the name of Terriss will still be associated at the 
liistoric Lyceum. 

I hope ere many weeks elapse to see your face across 
the footlights at the Old AdelphL With regards and 
compliments to Mrs. Scott, 

Believe me, sincerely yours, 

WILL TERRISS. 

I am staying down here for three weeks. Need I say 
how delightful it is once more to breathe the ozone for 

xxvii 



AN APPRECIATION 

why should life all labour be ? Time onward driveth fast, 
and in a little time our lips are dumb. 
Let us alone I 

But, alas! that is just what Fate would not allow. 
Let us alone! They never will, for our trusted 
friends become our enemies and the best of men 
falls to a dastard, and so-called murderous knife. 
The hand that we have clasped in friendship, and 
into which money has been poured in abundance, 
takes up the butcher s knife and slays ! It was 
the experience of William Terriss, and it is 
that of all who have studied the bitter life into 
which such generous creatures are flung and 
killed ! 



XXVlll 



CHAPTER I 
EARLY DAYS 

"M-IERE is an old saw whose specious ring of 
truth has furnished it with a certain amount of 
lity, which states that " the boy is father to the 
i "; yet if any proof were needed to show how 
rustworthy these same old saws sometimes are, 
better could be found than that provided by 
early life of the subject of this memoir, an early 
that gave little or no promise of its possessor 
r attaining the honourable and well-deserved 
ition he subsequently held among the histrionic 
sis of the closing years of the century. And yet 
spirit of wandering, the love of change and 
:itement, and the constant seeking after some- 
ng new, were but the means working to the end ; 
ce few there are who will not admit that travel, 
perience, a deep insight into human nature both 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

good and ill, gained in many quarters of the globe, 
accompanied by a due share of adventures, are a 
splendid stock in trade for one called upon to 
portray in his own person the attributes, the 
characteristics, the manners, and the idiosyncrasies 
of a hundred diverse personages, either culled 
from the pages of history or mere creations of the 
writer's brain. 

William Charles James Lewin was born at 7, 
Circus Road, St. John's Wood, on 2Oth February, 
1847. His father, George Herbert Lewin, though 
called to the Bar and having chambers in Pall Mall, 
practised but little, and died when his third son, 
William, was ten years old. His grandfather, 
Thomas Lewin, was private secretary to Warren 
Hastings in Calcutta, and he was by family ties 
connected with George Grote, the eminent historian 
of Greece. Thus it would appear that there was 
no lack of brains in the family ; and though this 
particular feature was not exemplified in the early 
years of the future actor, yet in his case they were 
undoubtedly present, it may be lying dormant and 
maturing, until he discovered his real vocation in 




AN EARLY PHOTOGRAPH 



EARLY DAYS 

life, when they asserted themselves, and enabled 
him to win the position he subsequently enjoyed. 

The life of William Terriss (or as we shall 
continue to call him, for the present, William Lewin) 
commences, for the public, with his entry on the 
stage ; but it may not be without interest to glance 
briefly at the years preceding this, and learn some- 
thing of his doings, wanderings, and adventures 
which so eminently aided him in the career he 
subsequently adopted. 

His early years were passed at St. John's Wood, 
Lewisham, and Clapham, and at seven years of age 
he was a Blue Coat boy, migrating two years later 
to a school at Littlehampton. It was from this 
establishment that he wrote to his elder brother, 
Dr. Friend Lewin, one of the very few early 
letters of his that remain. 

" LlTTLKIIAMPTON, 

"Sept. 29/4 1857. 
"DEAR FRIEND, 

" I hope you are quite well. I received your 
letter quite safe. Will you send me a Picture of 
your Collage, because I want to show it to the boys. 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

Hopeing that you will receive my letter. I am verry 
happy. I have lots of stamps, so i can wright to 
you. I have sent you a shilling. I hope you will 
have it quite safe with my best love. And belive 

me your affectionate Brother 

" WILLE." 

The writing is decidedly good for a boy of ten, 
and beyond a slip or two in the spelling there is 
nothing to find fault with, while the gift of the 
shilling a large sum to a lad of his age shows 
an affectionate kindly feeling towards his brother, 
and marks a trait in his character which was ever 
present throughout his life quiet generosity. 

From Littlehampton, he went to Windermere 
College, then presided over by a Mr. Puckle, a relation 
of the Lewins. Here his brother Friend, known to 
his intimates as Bob, and two cousins were among 
his schoolfellows, and here it was that he engaged in 
his first regular fight, which might be described as 
quite a family affair, since the antagonists were the 
cousins William and Mortimer, with their respective 
brothers Friend and Lionel as seconds. The scene 
of the encounter was a space behind some bushes at 

6 



EARLY DAYS 

the far end of the playground, and the fight was 
carried out with all due formalities. Round after 
round was contested, and it was only when it 
became apparent that neither could gain any 
material advantage that the seconds interfered, and 
brought the contest to a close ; and, as is usually 
the case in school fights, the combatants were the 
best of friends ever afterwards. 

A second letter of young Lewin's exists, and, as 
will be seen, it was written when at this school. It 
bears no date, but being addressed to the same 
brother as the previous one after he had left the 
establishment, it must have been a year or two 
later than the first one. The handwriting is more 
formed, and the spelling is correct. It is a true 
schoolboy's letter. 

" WlNDERMERE COLLEGE, 

" WESTMORLAND. 
" MR DEAR FRIEND, 

" We have begun cricket, and I am in the fifth 
eleven. I have a good lot of marbles, and and I 
have got a nice little flask. I don't think I told you 
that I had a fight with Farie, a new fellow, about 

9 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

as big as Rushton, and Jip Gibson was m} 
second ; and I think I fought very well, consider 
ing you were not there. Jump (his cousin Lionel 
and Morty backed me, and I nearly got my heac 
broken. I wish you had been there. I am getting 
on pretty well, and how are you ? Is your tutoi 
a good one? 
" Love to all. 

" And believe me, 

" My dear brother, 

"Your affectionate Brother, 

" WILLIE. 
" Write soon." 

From Windermere Lewin went to Bruce Castl< 
School, Tottenham, an establishment which ha 
turned out a number of well-known public men 
and his education finished by his running away 
on getting into some boyish scrape, in which th 
arm of one of his fellow-scholars was broken, an< 
appearing in the evening at the house of his life 
long friend, Mr. Graves, in Bayswater. 

School days having ended, it now became 

10 



EARLY DAYS 

question what profession he should adopt ; and the 
mercantile marine having been decided on, a brrth 
as midshipman was obtained for him on one- <i 
Messrs. Green & Co.'s ships. An idea has got 
about that he was at one time in the Royal N;ivy, 
but this was not so. It probably arose, from thr 
fact that for a fortnight before he sailed he usnl 
to parade Bayswater in the* glory of his nr\v 
middy's uniform. His relations went down in 
Gravesend to see him off, and the next new; his 
mother received of him, as she was congratulating 
herself that her somewhat erratic and wayward boy 
was safely under strict discipline for a timr, \v,ts ,i 
telegram from Plymouth, saying lie hail IHi his 
ship, as seafaring life did not suit him, Th* rr.il 
facts of the case wen: that, after beating down 
Channel for a fortnight, lie had heroine tirrd of 
the monotony, and when the: ship anchored for the- 
night in Plymouth harbour, he had managed to 
come to terms with a boatman, who, undrr mvrr 
of the darkness, put him ashore. 

With this escapade ended his very short <.'**nnrr- 
tion with the sea, and what may be called his 

I ! 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

boyhood a boyhood which has been described by 
one, who probably knew him better than any one 
else at this period of his life, as restless. He was 
no reader, as some boys are ; the bent of his mind 
was action. He must be doing something ; he 
could not rest quiet for long ; and if there was no 
handy legitimate safety-valve for his spirits, then 
mischief was equally acceptable. And to the end 
of his life this trait was ever apparent. His litera- 
ture consisted of the daily and theatrical papers, 
and beyond books which were recommended to him 
as possible aids to the conception and representa- 
tion of the characters that fell to his lot, there 
were very few indeed that he read. He would 
sit smoking and chatting to you for a time, but 
very soon he would propose a game of chess or 
cards, or it may be a stroll. His mind must be 
at work on something, it mattered not what. 
Even in his early days he did not seem to know 
the meaning of fear ; it had no place in his nature. 
As a proof of this, in order to bring his mother 
to what he considered reason, he, one day, lay full 
length, swaying backwards and forwards, almost on 

12 




AT SEA 



EARLY DAYS 

the edge of a very steep slated roof, a fall from 
which meant certain death. 

It was now clear to those most interested in 
his welfare that little was to be looked for in the 
way of a seafaring life. The ocean could not 
offer sufficient inducement to charm this wayward 
spirit, and a hope revived that he might settle 
down to a quiet home life. His ideas, however, 
ran in the opposite direction, and notwithstanding 
the wise counsel of those dear to him, he cast in 
his lot with the gay, frivolous world, deeming it 
somewhat prosy and absurd to commence a hum- 
drum existence at so early a stage of his life. Just 
about this time, when he was seventeen, he came 
in for a moderate legacy from an uncle, and as if 
under the impression that it would last for ever, he 
spent money freely, and enjoyed the life of a rich 
young man about town. Among other luxuries 
he set up a trap of his own design, which has 
since been described by one who knew it as "a 
kind of glorified milk-cart/' But the legacy he 
had received could not bear this strain for long, 
and there came a day when he discovered the 

15 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

exchequer was low, and that something woulc 

have to be done. He was level-headed enougl 

to know that an absolutely new field offered hin 

the best chance of success, so breaking up hi 

establishment, and taking leave of his old com 

panions, he went abroad to his eldest brother, wh 

at that time was Deputy Commissioner at Chii 

tagong, in Assam, and he placed him with a tec 

planter near there to learn the business. H 

remained in this occupation some four or fiv 

months, but eventually found the monotony of th 

life even more trying to his restless nature tha 

that on board ship, and gradually becoming coi 

vinced that the occupation was not suited to hin 

he turned his back on tea-planting, and made h 

way to Calcutta. 

The experiences he had undergone now con 
menced to bear fruit, and on his return home tl 
young man seems to have displayed a little re 
anxiety as to his future welfare. It became cle; 
to him that the lines he had hitherto follows 
would not lead to success, or even to mere con 
petence. At this time his second brother, Frien< 

16 



EARLY DAYS 

was house-surgeon at St. Mary's Hospital, and it 
may have been this fact that suggested to his 
mind that a medical career was perhaps the one 
Fate had mapped out for him ; at any rate, he was 
constantly at the hospital, mixing with the students, 
among whom were several, such as Dr. Edmund 
Owen, Dr. George Field, and Dr. Malcolm Morris, 
who have since become famous in the various 
branches of the profession. With some of these 
he formed friendships that lasted as long as life 
itself. He joined heart and soul in their amuse- 
ments and games, and those with whom he played 
at the time are unanimously of the opinion that 
he was a remarkably clever and capable half-back 
in Rugby football. But at their work he drew the 
line. It has been stated that he was a medical 
student, but such is not the case ; he never was 
entered on the hospital books. At this period of 
his life he seemed physically incapable of giving 
his mind to anything which involved serious 
thought or responsibility. One of his then com- 
rades, Dr. Edmund Owen, thus speaks of him : 
" He had a fancy for surgery, which, if en 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

couraged, might have caused him to develop into a 
dashing, if somewhat reckless, surgeon. But this 
was not encouraged, though it never entirely left 
him, inducing him to perform various little opera- 
tions such as vaccination upon those members of 
his household and his theatrical friends as would 
offer themselves as patients. 

" He liked also to prescribe medicines to his 
friends, though there is no evidence to show 
that these were ever made up. Rather the con- 
trary seems to be the case, for it is not on record 
that a death occurred among those for whom he 
prescribed. 

" Sitting in his dressing-room at the Adelphi, 
observing him 'make up/ I have said to him, 
* Billy, you are a marvel! How do you manage 
to keep your figure and your face so youthful ? * 
His reply was invariably the same. 'Ah, dear 
boy, I take care of myself/ 

" And so he did. He was proud of his clear-cut 
face and his slim, manly figure, and rightly so. 

"There was one thing about Terriss which 
should be known widely he was a very careful 

18 



EARLY DAYS 

and abstemious man in his eating and drinking. 
He had a sort of * nursery dinner' late in the after- 
noon, and when his acting was over at night he 
went home to bed, taking for supper a rice 
pudding, or something of that sort. 

" But whether Terriss was off the stage or on it, 
whether he was digging in his garden or being 
falsely accused before a sympathetic Adelphi 
audience in short, whatever he was doing, or 
wherever he happened to be, he was always the 
same dear breezy fellow, and I loved him.' 1 

His idea of a doctors life, if it ever had been 
anything more than a passing fancy, faded as 
quickly as it had sprung into being ; but his com- 
panionship with the young "meds" provided him 
with the equally brief career that quickly succeeded 
it, namely that of engineering. Dr. George P. 
Field, the present Dean of St. Mary's Hospital 
Medical School, is happily able to throw some light 
upon this particular point. He says : " I well re- 
member his asking me one day, * How does your 
brother like engineering ? ' and when I said that 
it just suited him, how he immediately replied, 

19 



LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

ust suit me.' Next day he was duly 
d to be with my brother, and I think at 
emium, to a firm of engineers in Oxford 

shall never forget meeting him, shortly 
, walking down that same street, in the 
an engine-driver, with face and hands 
1 clothes which had once been white, 

with grease and tar. Engineering 
m for a while, but he soon threw it up, 
I his attention to something else." 
at this time, just after his engineering 
3 had received their quietus, that he par- 
:n a huge joke that brought ridicule on 

of Weston-super-Mare for years after- 
t is true that at the outset he was an 
party to it, but directly he saw the way 
nd he entered into the matter heart and 
played his part in such a manner as to 
ccess, as long as the joke lasted. He 

able to render a considerable service to 
i somewhat eccentric relative of his, and 

and his friend Mr. Graves proceeded to 
uper-Mare to join a yacht, on board 



20 



EARLY DAYS 

which they were to sail for a pleasure cruise in 
the Mediterranean. Money was no object with 
his relative, and they travelled from Town in a 
special saloon carriage attached to the night mail. 
But let the adventure be described by the daily 
Bristol Times and Mirror of Wednesday, March 
ist, 1865, merely premising that, in view of his 
sea trip, Lewin had arrayed himself in the uniform 
he wore during his fortnight's apprenticeship to 
Messrs. Green & Co. 

AN EXTRAORDINARY SCENE AT WESTON-SUPER 

MARE. 

Weston-super-Mare was yesterday under a 
strange influence, which made hundreds of the 
usually exceedingly wide-awake inhabitants the 
victims of mistaken identity. Early in the morn- 
ing the startling intelligence was circulated that a 
Prince of the Royal blood had honoured the 
town with a visit! At a little before two o'clock 
yesterday (Tuesday) morning, on the arrival of the 
London mail at the railway station, the officials, 
with mingled feelings of astonishment and joy, 

21 



OF 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

observed that, attached to the train, was a saloon 
carriage, approximating in its exterior and interior 
fittings to the comfortable travelling houses which 
Royalty uses when on a railway journey. 

This carriage had been started with the train 
from Paddington station, and conveyed a gentle- 
man, his nephew (a lad, apparently about seventeen 
or eighteen years old), and a neat-looking valet. 
This was certainly an incident beyond the com- 
mon run a phase in the railway officials' existence 
that undoubtedly does not occur every day. The 
passengers who were they ? Alighted from the 
train, the distinguished travellers proceeded at 
once to the Bath Hotel. 

From its being without doubt a Royal train 
carriage in which the gentleman had arrived, the 
youngest of the party (the nephew), a good-look- 
ing young gentleman, was presumed nay, stated 
unhesitatingly to be no less a personage than 
His Royal Highness the Prince Alfred. The 
party went to bed, got up in the ordinary course, 
and were partaking of breakfast, when, to the 
extreme surprise of the valet, all sorts of inquiries 



EARLY DAYS 

were made as to the arrival of one of the Royal 
blood. The valet was astounded, and scarcely 
knew what reply to make, save to deny that the 
rumour was true. But this would not satisfy the 
inquirers, who were determined that a Prince was 
among them, and would not be convinced of their 
error. During the morning rounds of one of our 
principal medical practitioners, he had occasion to 
call at the hotel to see a former patient. This 
gentleman had the good fortune to meet the 
senior of the party whose arrival had created so 
much excitement, and he was consulted as to 
what steps had best be taken to abuse the expec- 
tant public of their mistake. From that hour 
the news which before had been confided only 
to a favoured few spread rapidly over the town, 
that a member of the Royal Family was staying 
at the Bath Hotel. The authorities and the 
public were at once on the qui vive. A small 
list of official personages, including magistrates, 
police, tradesmen, and members of other portions 
of the Great Western community, met, we under- 
stand, to discuss what shape a demonstration in 

23 c 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

honour of the Imperial visitors should assume. 
The doctor recommended that nothing at all 
should be done, as the occasion did not demand 
it, and requested that all inquirers should be told 
that they were entirely misinformed. It was 
subsequently arranged that, in order to escape 
further annoyance, the gentlemen should order 
a carriage to take them to the railway, prior to 
leaving by the 3.30 p.m. train. This carriage 
was ordered, and it was hoped that nothing more 
would be done in the matter; but no, a Royal 
visitor does not visit Weston-super-Mare every 
day, and it was too good an opportunity for future 
distinguishment to be lost. The church bells were 
set a-ringing in honour of what was everywhere 
talked of as " the auspicious occasion," and a 
spirited fly proprietor furnished a wonderful "turn- 
out" four spanking grey tits and a resplendent 
carriage, with two well-dressed postillions. This 
elaborate vehicle conveyed the distinguished per- 
sons to the railway station, the doctor being one 
of the party. In front of and around the approach 
to the station was congregated an immense crowd, 

24 



EARLY DAYS 

the component and not over-select parts of which 
immediately surrounded the visitors and pressed 
forward to see "the Prince," treading on their 
neighbours' toes, elbowing them mercilessly, and 
taking particular care of themselves. 
Our correspondent was informed that a chemist 
of ultra-patriotic feelings forwarded to the Bath 
Hotel a bottle of scent for " the Prince," as a 
small but sincere mark of esteem, accompanying 
the same with an epistle couched in the most 
glowing terms, and complimenting His Royal 
Highness on his illustrious descent from a long 
and royal line of ancestors. When the party left 
the Bath Hotel for the railway station, numbers 
of people congregated, and in the most respectful 
manner bowed them out ; and when going down 
the High Street, a shop lad threw into the 
carriage another scent bottle, crying with immense 
fervour, " Long live Prince Alfred ! " 

Lewin long preserved the scent bottle as a me- 
mento of the joke, which he was never tired of 
relating, and added this further incident, not men- 
tioned in the newspaper report that, while on 

25 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

their way to the station, the carriage was stopped, 
and an enthusiastic lady presented him with a 
large bouquet, accompanied by a lengthy address, 
couched in glowing terms. 



26 



CHAPTER II 
ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

T TIS pleasure trip over, young Lewin returned 
* to London, and the question of adopt- 
ing some profession again exercised his mind. 
He had previous to this frequently taken part 
in amateur theatricals in various localities, the 
honour of having been the first to introduce him to 
the stage being claimed by Dr. George Field when 
house-surgeon at St. Mary's so to that institution 
may be accorded the distinction of being the birth- 
place of the latent talent which in after years 
made such a mark in England and America. He 
says : 

" I used every year, with the assistance of 
Dr. Milner Moore, now of Coventry, to get up 
private theatricals, followed by, a ball, in aid of 
the hospital funds, which were always benefited 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

thereby in a sum of from ^150 to ^180. On 
one occasion I was the King in Bombastes Furioso> 
and Lewin, an ignominious super, had nought to 

say but 

1 What will your Majesty please to wear 
Or red, blue, green, or white or brown? 
Will you please to look at the bill of fare?' 

To which I sternly replied, 

1 Get out of my sight, or I'll knock you down. 3 

" Of this his first appearance on any boards 
Lewin was never tired of talking." 

The programme of one of the young actors 
early appearances is given opposite, and it is a 
curious fact that, during the compilation of this 
book, this illustration came under the notice of a 
gentleman who was present at the performance, 
and wrote the notice of it for the Co^trt Jotirnal, 
and he remembered how on this occasion Will 
Lewin made a slip when, as " Augustus Burr " in 
The Porters Knot, he returns home to find his 
father at his old trade ; and in answer to Mrs. 
Burr's inquiry, " Have you seen your father?" 
he exclaimed in ultra heart-broken tones, "Yes, I 

28 



ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

have I have painfully wheeling a strength too 
great for his load," and how he very coolly cor- 



To commmcft *t 



A Sa,-B, ritlt the PittCR. 



14,' REGENT STREET, 



" TD. auV, rf Ourfty brook. aUdojr." 

On Saturday, 27tH Aril, 1867, 



o. 1, 



THE 



FUPfKR . 

tfOBUusa . 



.\it. ir. r-\r,.Ki. 



TEE- 



To be followed by tlia Sflrio-comic ORA.M.I. 
By J. Otmfard, K* f . 



\&>w <&$Wiimm grsjmns 

10. OtV*.TKmi 

ST, SAVIOUR'S SCHOOLS' BUILDIHfi FUKD, 


CAPTAIN OAlCL'it . 
SAMSOM BUUR .... 
AUGUSTUS BUEIt . . . 
SMOOTHLY SMIRK 
STEPHEN SUATTKtt ' . . 
BOB 
MKd. BUWt 
' ' (1/crorigi! 


Mr. ('.. t;..iicRT 

Mr fKAKK How > 
Mr. IL l\ Vf"t*i 
Mrs. I.mrclt MWUU.J 
ixt <ftracti 


JCA1DA JffILL, 
On whuS necii<xr tha following Gentlemen hato kindly 




c!ic'J% < f ; v i 7''" """*'""*"' 


Sir DANIKL OOOCH. Brt.. M.P.. Wrwidf.Bod. W 
Li-wt-Col. WKITEIIEAD. 2S. Clifton Garden.. W 
Mtjox EULAM. WandiworUx, S W. 
Dr. BUCHANAU. 2. St. Leeawrl'i VUlaj, W. 


*L 


^IPJfi: 


HOWARD ROBERTS. Kq.. F.6.A., 30. Ulmflld Rp0. W 
ALGERNON I1AUUE. Eq.. Poor Uw Bourf, S.W. 
LEEDHAU WHITK, E<].. 39, Clifton Oardoiu. W. 
0. A DICK2K-CAARTEN. Esq.. 2. Wamngton CUr,U, M . W 
WILLIAM. E. A1*LEN. S*j.. Orwnbrd. HiddtnMi. W 
LAXGTON THOJtJNUILL. Ewt. .10. Wsrwl.-k R M d. W 
C. TBBnjtJtN, j, 33. Cirrton Villw. W 
K. OXENTORD. Ei .. 8. Howlcy Plata. W 
K MASSON. Cq.. J. Ritodolph RoJ. W 


FRA DtAVOLO . 
MATTE* . 
LORENZO . 
BEJPPO 
CIACOMO- 

ANTONIO . 
7.ERUNA . 
X.AUV ALLCAHH 


Mr. W. Lewis.. 
Sir. C. TKUtsBj*. 
Mr. R. Lmrrv. 
Mr. W T. RO.MW 

frCr. K. OXKXrOHD. 

JCr". T. AvaBLL. Ji 
Mr. N. E. Door. 
Mi<u> l.v SKTEH:-. 
ilrt- Uio MCRS. 



KH T ROBERTS, 



Stalls, 5s ; Essorved Seats, 3s ; Area, la. 



Director VLr. K 
Maasra. KATHAN. Ticixboruo Strict. 
r-Mr. WICKJENB, 3rydg Btr^at. 



ONE OF HIS FIRST PUBLIC APPEARANCES 

(From Mrs. CUSHMAN DIGNAM) 

rected himself, repeating the sentence, but this 
time as the author wrote it. 

Lewin very soon showed he had something in 
him, and his appearances were marked by so much 

29 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

success that his services were a good deal sought 
after in many parts of London, and this it was 
which probably induced him to take up acting 
seriously as a means of livelihood. 

It was in 1867 that Lewin got his foot on the 
first step of the theatrical ladder. He was at 
Birmingham at the time, where the late James 
Rodgers was playing the leading role in Arrak-na- 
Pogue, though, owing to his immense proportions, 
he experienced considerable difficulty in negotiating 
some of the scenes. Lewin made his acquaintance, 
and as the result of his expressed determination to 
go upon the stage, Rodgers deputed him to make 
up in his own costume, and play his double in the 
ivy-covered tower scene. This young Lewin did 
with considerable dclat^ being honoured with a call. 
It was during one of those performances for 
Rodgers that he dropped a valuable diamond out 
of a ring he was wearing. After the performance 
he searched high and low for it, but without success. 
On the following morning one of the working staff 
restored it to him. Lewin rewarded him, and told 
him to order a good suit at his tailor's, and he 

would pay for it. 

30 



ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

n 1868 he obtained at the Prince of Wales 
eatre, Birmingham, his first remunerated cn- 
remcnt (not a very lucrative one, uSV. per week) 
"Chouser" in The / y 7)'/>/- Scud. In this he 
1 a most important speech to deliver, which, in 
nervousness, he forgot, lie managed to blurt 
:, u Lady Wuodbee has come to town"; and 
en told by a fellow-actor to go on with his 
t, he said, "and the rest/' and retreated. From 
.t clay lie was known among his comrades by 
i sobriquet, 4i The Rest." 

Birmingham did not seem to hold out any great 
)spect of money-making, and Lewin determined 
take the bull by the horns and try his fortune 
London. In conjunction xvith his brother the 
ctor, and with the help of a directory, he evolved 
> subsequent stage name of Terriss (the name 
which we shall henceforth continue to speak of 
11), and, thus armed, lie set out to interview Mn 
incroft. The incident of this interview, and the 
suit, may be told in Mr. now Sir- Squire Ban- 
Dft's own words, taken from his Reminiscences. 
" During the previous summer we were con- 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

stantly told by a maidservant that * a young gentle- 
man had called J who seemed very persistent about 
seeing us. One day, on returning from a walk, 
the girl informed me that c the young gentleman 1 
had brushed past her and walked into our little 
drawing-room, where he then was. I joined our 
visitor rather angrily, but was soon disarmed by 
the frank manner of a very young man, who, within 
five minutes, in the course of conversation pointed 
to the window of a house opposite, and said, 
' That's the room I was born in.' (We then lived 
in a little villa in St. John's Wood.) Of course 
* the young gentleman ' w^as stage-struck, and 
'wanted to go upon the stage/ adding that 'he 
was resolved we should give him an engagement/ 
His courage and, if I may say it, his cool perse- 
verance both amused and amazed me ; the very 
force of his determined manner conquered me, and 
the upshot of our interview was that I did engage 
him. His name was William Terriss, and ' Lord 
Cloudwrays ' in Society was the part in which 
he made his first appearance on a London stage." 
It was, of course, at the old Prince of Wales 

32 




AT THE AGE OF 22 
From a Photo by WINDOW & GROVE 



ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

Theatre in Tottenham Street that his dtbut took 
place, and the fact that he was to appear gathered 
many of his former colleagues to the first night. 
They distributed themselves over the house, and 
the entry of their friend was the signal for such 
an outburst of enthusiasm as almost amounted to 
a riot, which, instead of furthering the end they 
had in view, very nearly caused him to lose the 
position he had obtained. As was only natural, 
one of his brothers was present to see how he got 
on, and after the play they met and strolled home- 
ward together. Conscious of the brilliant success 
he imagined he had achieved, he was constantly 
expecting his brother's congratulations, but that 
gentleman was silent on the point until Terriss 
ventured to ask his opinion. He thereupon whis- 
pered in his ear, 

" Chuck it up, dear boy ; you'll never do." 
At the Prince of Wales Terriss was a 

-walking gentleman/ 1 boyish and bright, with a 
somewhat hurried method of speech, and con- 
siderable restlessness of manner. It was 
this engagement that he married Miss 

35 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

Lewis, who, as Miss Amy Fellowes, had been a 
member of the Vaudeville company when Mon- 
tague, Thorne, and James reigned in the little 
Strand house. The first meeting of the young 
people took place at Margate, where the attention 
of the lady was attracted by some of Terriss's 
swimming feats. The admiration was mutual, 
and an introduction having taken place, the pair 
sauntered on the promenade. But it so happened 
that on this day the lady wished to go back to 
London by the three o'clock train. This arrange- 
ment did not suit Terriss, who was anxious to 
have her company for a longer time ; he left her 
for a moment and put his watch back a couple of 
hours. Very shortly after rejoining her she asked 
him the time, and he replied, " One o'clock." She 
expressed her surprise that the time had passed 
so slowly, but on glancing at his watch was con- 
vinced. They went for a drive, and had lunch, 
after which they drove to the station, when by 
the clock there it was 5.30. The lady declared 
she had been grossly deceived, but Terriss was 
able, after a long argument, to make her believe 

36 



ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

his watch had stopped without his being aware of 
the fact, and she eventually forgave him. 

The marriage took place at Holy Trinity Church, 
by Portland Road Station, and was a very quiet 
and unconventional function. Terriss had merely 
told his brother and his old friend, Mr. Graves, 
that he was going to be married at such a church, 
on such a date, and at such a time, and the various 
parties interested arrived for the most part by 
'bus, and in every-day costume. The ceremony 
was performed, and the happy pair set out for 
their honeymoon at Richmond on a 'bus. 

The part entrusted to him in Society was a 
small one, and as the other artistes included such 
well-known actors as Hare, Montague, Blakeley, 
John Clarke, Bancroft, and Montgomery, Terriss 
had naturally very little chance of shining. It may 
have been that he felt this, or that, even though 
he had found an opening in Town, theatrical life 
did not seem exactly to suit him ; at any rate, there 
suddenly came another change in his programme, 
and a .wild determination again to try his luck 
abroad -having seized him, he made preparations 

37 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

for a departure to the Falkland Islands, with the 
view of becoming a sheep farmer. 

He and his young wife started from Southamp- 
ton on a Brazilian mail packet bound for Monte 
Video, but on reaching that spot they found it in 
a state of siege. However, they w r ere allowed to 
land, and reached their hotel, only to be detained 
there a far longer time than they had anticipated. 
Their stay was one of anything but pleasure, and 
both Terriss and his wife regarded themselves as 
in imminent danger of losing their lives. They 
had not a single weapon of defence, and in view 
of the strange commotion, and the determined 
efforts of the natives to effect an entrance, Terriss 
could only block up the doorway of their apartment 
and wait for more quiet times. 

Under these exceptionally trying conditions they 
remained for at least a week, when matters assumed 
a more peaceful aspect, and they were enabled, and 
not too soon, to turn their backs upon the place, 
and in a small coasting steamer, which had pre- 
viously been Lord Dufferin's yacht, the Foam> 
proceed en route for the Falkland Islands. 

38 



ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

The outward voyage, however, was by no means 
of a pleasant character. A few days after leaving 
Monte Video the yacht encountered exceedingly 
foul weather. A pampero arose, and raged with 
its accustomed ferocity for nine days, in the midst 
of which the vessel ran into a British barque ; but 
the collision was not sufficiently powerful to cut 
her down. 

For five days Mrs. Terriss remained in her bunk, 
and the crew and passengers every moment felt 
they were destined for a watery grave. 

The vessel was waterlogged, the pumps refused 
to act, and all hope seemed to be gone. Terriss 
and his wife at this time had a very anxious talk. 
The question at issue was whether they should 
die together ; whether he should first shoot his 
wife and then himself. 

Happily this design was not carried into effect, 
for Xerriss, looking ahead, sighted the desired 
haven, and hope revived. For the moment Fate 
seemed to favour them, the pumps again worked, 
and a speedy termination of their troubles appeared 
at hand ; but very soon the gale arose once more 

39 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

with increased vigour, and caused the yacht to 
drift more than two hundred miles out of her 
proper course. 

Terriss now for the first time in his career stood 
forward as a leader of men. In their dilemma he 
urged all on board to the greatest exertions. His 
instructions were obeyed. Again and again he 
renewed his request to those around him not to 
lose heart. Signals of distress were hoisted, and 
in due time the entire crew and passengers were 
rescued, after having endured keen privations 
which had almost been their death. 

On landing at the Falkland Islands Terriss and 
his wife received quite a royal greeting. Especially 
was this the case with Mrs. Terriss, who was the 
first white lady to step upon the shore. In honour 
of this event the natives crowned her with tufts of 
woven grass, and declared her queen, if not of the 

island, " of their hearts." 

Having settled at Stanley, Terriss entered into 

partnership with Captain Pack in the business of 

sheep farming, and a very extensive trade they did. 

While in pursuit of his business Mrs. Terriss was 

40 



ON AN1> OFF THE STAGE 

of mves'.ity leii a great deal to her own resources, 
in the: liul % rotuge which they made their home. 
IIrrc% surrounded by ;i goodly number of the native, 
p< >pulatit ui she* became intensely nervous. The 
people fmreil their attentions upon her, and 
honoured her in such u way as to be distasteful 
to her. Her husband was apprised of this on more 
than one occasion, and, while sympathizing with 
her in her loneliness, he endeavoured to impress 
upon her that these overtures were made out of 
t!ie kindest <>f motives. She failed to appreciate 
his n-niarks, and asked him to pitch his tent else- 
where, if possible somewhere nearer home, and 
amid more eungemal surroundings. 

Terriss was next found training wild horses. 
Dressed in a must picturesque costume, he got on 
famously, not only with the horses, but also with 
the. men whom lie. employed. He manipulated 
the lasso with much dexterity, and was specially 
marked out as an expert in the craft One 
particular animal was voted untameable. Terriss, 
however, mastered him, but not without experi- 
encing considerable difficulty. His success or 

41 r> 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

rdour declined by degrees, and he gave up the 
;ame. From taming wild animals he tried his 
land in the same direction with wild fowl. In 
his he was not encouraged by success, although he 
nade the most elaborate arrangements in order to 
idequately carry out his scheme ; so he gave up the 
experiment, and filled up his time by making little 
:rips of discovery in the vicinity of his settlement. 
About this time H.M.S. Speedwell put into the 
uarbour. Terriss, "got up" as a lieutenant, paid 
the captain a visit, and led him to believe he was 
somebody of great importance. He related the 
fact that his wife, on her landing, had been crowned 
queen of the island ; and that being the case, he 
argued, he must be the king. The story was evi- 
dently believed by the captain, as the Speedwell, 
on leaving the harbour, dipped her flag thrice and 
fired her guns in honour of the pair. In response 
Terriss made for his cottage, which stood in an 
elevated position hard by, and, having secured a 
red silk handkerchief to a broom handle, got on 
the roof, waved his "flag" three times, and then 
fastened the staff to the chimney-pot. 

42 



ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

For the purpose of making observations, Terriss 
built a punt, which to his mind appeared seaworthy. 
Under ordinary circumstances perhaps he was right, 
but on one occasion she was put to a very severe 
test. All went well enough until out in the open 
sea, when a gale arose and knocked her timbers 
asunder, leaving her skipper to the mercy of the 
waves. He, however, managed to reach the shore, 
and this experience put an end to any similar 
excursions in the future. 

Before making that adventurous journey he had 
planted in his garden a number of radishes, and, 
in order adequately to describe the force of this 
gale, Terriss told his friends that some of the plants 
were blown far, far away. One of these, he de- 
clared, was found on the rigging of a ship anchored 
at the distance of two miles. 

Terriss tarried at the little station for about 
twelve months, when he and his wife returned to 
the settlement " Stanley," where his daughter was 
born. The ceremony attending the christening of 
the child was one of pomp and grandeur. The 
sponsors were the governor of the islands (Colonel 

43 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

D'Arcy) and his wife, with whom the Terriss's were 
on the closest terms of friendship. 

He now earnestly spoke of his desire to re- 
turn to England, and notwithstanding the warm 
entreaties of the governor and the numerous 
friends he had made on the island, he determined 
to take his departure at once. Owing to the very 
heavy harbour dues, a first-class vessel seldom came 
into that port. He refused to wait for the arrival 
of the next, and so booked passages on a whaler 
hailing from Honolulu, which a Swedish captain 
had been sent out to purchase. 

Terriss, his wife and the child, who was but a 
fortnight old, were taken alongside the whaler on 
the governor s yacht. The crew of the homewarcl- 
bound vessel was a mixed lot, and the captain 
turned out to be a most undesirable fellow. In 
consequence of this officer having reduced the 
.allowance of the crew to three biscuits and "a pint 
of water a day, mutiny broke out among them. 
For some reason the men rallied round Terriss, 
and made him their captain pro tern., ordering the 
mate to render him every possible assistance. The 

44 



ON AND OFF THE STAGE 

course thus adopted increased the enmity of the 
captain towards the crew, and also embittered him 
against the three passengers to such an extent that 
he had recourse to most extreme measures regard- 
ing their food. 

Naturally Terriss would not allow such a state 
of things to go on. He stoutly protested against 
this injustice, and declared that he would force open 
the provision locker and dole out eatables as they 
were required. He was, however, prevented from 
carrying out his purpose to the fullest extent, and 
seeing that the health of his wife and baby was 
suffering from the want of proper and regular meals, 
he was, in order to obtain sufficient food, obliged 
to kill a pet goat which the governor had given 
him to provide milk on the voyage. 

Upon learning what had been done, the captain 
became almost frantic, and threatened to take the 
carcass from him. Overhearing the altercation be- 
tween the two, Mrs. Terriss intervened, and suc- 
ceeded in pacifying the master. Terriss was highly 
amused at the wrangle, and afterwards, by way 
of jest, promised to give the captain the kidneys. 

45 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

From this time both the quantity and quality of the 
provisions improved all round, and upon the cap- 
tain again taking command, matters went on more 
smoothly and pleasantly ; but the whole voyage 
was of a most dull and dreary character, extend- 
ing over four months, and the passengers arrived 
at Falmouth more dead than alive. 



46 



CHAPTER III 
AT LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY 

TN September, 1871, having settled in a plea- 
^ santly situated cottage at Barnes, Terriss ob- 
tained an engagement at Drury Lane, and appeared 
as " Robin Hood " in Mr. Andrew Halliday's 
drama Rebecca, and after that as " Malcolm 
Graeme" in The Lady of the Lake, Mr. James 
Fernandez being " Fitz James." It was not until 
this engagement that he began to be regarded as 
a coming "juvenile lead" of very high attainments. 
Mr. G. R. Sims thus writes of him at that time : 

" My earliest reminiscences of William Terriss 
carry me back to the early seventies. In a queer 
little house in Holy well Street a few theatrical and 
newspaper men had started a club. It has long 
since disappeared, but it was famous in its day. 
The old Unity Club flourished in the palmy days of 
the Strand Theatre, and the Swanboroughs were 

47 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

its constant patrons. At the Unity Club day after 
day a few actors and journalists met and dined 
together at three o'clock. Among the men who 
dined frequently were Edward and Arthur Swan- 
borough, David James, Thomas Thorne, Walter 
Joyce, H. B. Farnie, George Honey, George 
Barratt, James Albery, Harry Leigh, and William 
Terriss. Terriss, when I first met him at the 
Unity, was playing at Drury Lane in The Lady of 
the Lake. In those days Terriss was looked upon 
as a promising young actor. He was immensely 
popular with all of us, and it was a rare thing to go 
to the Unity in the afternoon and not find young 
Terriss the life and soul of a merry little party. 
We all prophesied that he had a great future before 
him, and our prophecy was speedily fulfilled. Im- 
portant engagements were offered to him at the 
leading West-End houses, and he became a great 
London favourite." 

But by-and-by his restless, roving spirit once 
more asserted itself, and again throwing his chance 
of success on the stage aside, he arranged to join 
one of his old schoolfellows, Mr. Percy Tattersall, 

48 



AT LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY 

nephew of the head of the firm at Knightsbridge, 
in a horse-breeding venture at Lexington, Ken- 
tucky. It was a sudden impulse, and little time 
was spent in consideration. Mrs. Terriss was 
asked to pack up what goods and chattels they 
would require on the voyage and afterwards, and 
once more to become a traveller. She naturally 
felt loth to leave her newly-made home, but having 
implicit faith in her husband she resigned herself, 
and they and their daughter set off together; 

Arriving at Lexington in due course, safe and 
sound, they failed to discover the golden streets, 
picturesque villas, and love-birds so much talked 
of before they left England, but instead had to 
encounter the greatest irregularity, rudeness, and 
confusion. They made their abode in a wooden 
shanty, which consisted of three small rooms, and 
a yard in which the cooking operations were 
carried on ; a somewhat spacious tree - trunk 
served as a cooking-range. This yard was the 
rendezvous of rats, and it can be readily imagined 
with what difficulty the most important domestic 
offices were carried out. Mrs. Terriss, who had 

49 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

so far displayed much heroism, was determined 
not to show the white feather now. Nor did she, 
but pluckily faced and conquered all the many 
difficulties by which she was surrounded. 

Brimful of the delights and anticipations of his 
new vocation, Terriss rose with studied punctuality 
at five o'clock each morning, and spent the first 
two or three hours in horse-doctoring. He was 
in his element again, but before very long his 
ardour began to wane, this time principally by 
reason of his vanishing capital, and his thoughts 
once more reverted to the stage, and to the friends 
he had left behind him in England- 
Speaking some years afterwards of his past ex- 
periences, he mentioned an incident which took 
place at this time, and it may not be uninteresting 
to record his words. He said : 

" I have been knocking about the world for 
over twenty-five years, as most people know, and 
although I am simply known as an actor, I have 
by turns been a midshipman, tea-planter, engineer, 
sheep-farmer, ^and horse-breeder, and in pursuit of 
these occupations I have naturally visited all sorts 

50 



AT LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY 

and conditions of places, hobnobbed with every 
kind of queer folk, and found myself in extremely 
queer predicaments. 

" I have been baked by tropical suns, drenched 
and frozen by icy-cold waves, parched with thirst, 
devoured by hunger, placed in peril of my life 
scores of times, and in turns kindly and unkindly 
treated by the people with whom I have come in 
contact ; but I have always recognised the fact 
that life is. too short to bear enmities : I have 
never lost a friend. 

"Owing, I suppose, to a certain waywardness 
of disposition, and a dislike of staying in one 
place or doing one thing for any length of time, 
I have roamed perhaps more than I should have 
done. All my ventures, other than those pertain- 
ing to the stage, have met with little or no success. 
I have, therefore, known what it is to want a friend 
with a warm heart and a ready hand. 

" But I am now going to tell you a tale 
about a friend not of this sort. He was one of 
those kind-hearted individuals who never allow 
themselves to lose faith in human nature, and 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

of whom, alas ! the world possesses far too 
few. 

" In 1871 I went to Kentucky, accompanied 
by my young wife and daughter, Ellaline, who 
was at the time twelve months old. I soon found 
that the road which I had been led to believe 
was paved with the * almighty dollar ' was a 
thoroughfare where this coin was unknown, at 
any rate to me. 

" After I had, in conjunction with Mr. Tattersall, 
expended all my money on horse-breeding, I 
found myself absolutely stranded and penniless, 
so decided to return to England, and follow once 
more in the footsteps of Thespis. 

" And then came the question, ' How am I to 
get home ? ' Fortunately, on my arrival, I joined 
the Masonic lodge at the place, of which the wor- 
shipful master was a Mr. Oliver, who was a large 
coachbuilder of Lexington. To him I narrated 
my misfortunes. With the courtesy and good 
fellowship which ever characterizes the brother- 
hood, he then and there lent me what I asked, 
and in giving me the money he said, i Pay me 

52 



AT LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY 

back when you can, my boy. God speed and 
God bless you ! ' 

" I accepted the help gratefully, and, travelling 
steerage, returned to England. I need hardly 
say I remitted him the amount before I had been 
at home twenty-four hours, at the same time 
thanking him very heartily for his generous kind- 



ness/* 



It may be added that, on the way home, Terriss 
became such a favourite with the saloon passengers 
that he spent most of his time in their company, 
and after dining with them he would invariably 
bring to the steerage passengers a host of dainty 
morsels. His kindness to them was much appre- 
ciated, and on leaving the ship he was the recipient 
of many good wishes from all those whom he had 
befriended. 

During one of his professional visits to America, 
many years afterwards, he happened to be playing 
within a hundred miles of Lexington, and, taking 
an early train one Sunday morning, he entered that 
beautiful city as the church bells were ringing for 
afternoon service. 

53 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

" Lighting my pipe/' he said, " I leisurely 
strolled up to the well-remembered spot, and as 
I approached Mr. Oliver's house [it will be re- 
membered that Mr. Oliver was the gentleman who 
had befriended him in a moment of need] I 
noticed that the blinds were closely drawn, and 
that everywhere were manifestations of mourning. 

" I knocked at the door, and an elderly lady 
opened it. I inquired if Mr. Oliver, the coach- 
builder, were within. Her eyes moistened, and in 
tremulous tones she told me that only the day 
previously had he been laid to rest in ' God's 
Acre/ 

" The lady was his wife. I recalled the circum- 
stances of my former visit to the house, and she 
recognised me. A few words of kindly sympathy, 
a pressure of the hand that spoke more than any 
words could have done, and I departed, happy to 
think that I had done what I thought to be a 
duty to a benefactor, but regretful that I had been 
too late to clasp once more that hand which had 
been held out to me in my hour of trouble. 

" And, as I walked back to the roadside station, 

54 



AT LKXINGTON. KENTUCKY 

I could not rrfnun from repeating those beautiful 
words of Longfellow, which stunned to me. to 
have been written specially for such occasions as 

this : 

"'Ships that pass in the night, ami speak cadi other in passing, 

Only a .signal shown and a distant \vwv in the darkness ; 
So in the* otvan of life we pass and speak one another, 
Only a look awl a voia% then darkness again and silence* ' " 



CHAPTER IV 
TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

/~\NCE more safe back in England, the wander- 
^^ ing, unrestful spirit of Terriss seems to have 
died out of him, and he settled down to work in 
earnest, having found, and from that time keeping to, 
his real vocation, which was that of an actor. By 
this time he had probably learnt that a Jack of all 
trades and master of none was not a very lucrative 
employment, and besides this he \vas married and 
had a family, so that the free, harum-scarum, ad- 
venturous, and almost hand-to-mouth life he had 
lived up till this time could not be followed so 
easily. He now had others beside himself to think 
of and to work for. 

It was in 1873 that he made his third attack on 
the stage, and from this moment his success in life 
may be said to date. He obtained an engagement 
at the Strand, and appeared as "Doricourt" in The 

56 




AT THE AGE OF 26 
From a Photo ly WINDOW & GROVE 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

Belle's Stratagem, which ran for 250 consecutive 
nights. The success he obtained furnished the 
encouragement which had hitherto been lacking, 
and fortified him in his determination to win a name 
as an actor. He went to work with a will, and left 
no stone (or study) unturned that might assist him 
in attaining his ambitious goal. Those who wit- 
nessed his early appearances in London may 
doubtless remember that although he evinced great 
promise, he did not possess that ringing and beauti- 
fully balanced delivery which afterwards proved of 
so much service to him. He himself was evidently 
aware of this deficiency, for he commenced studying 
declamation carefully, and in secret, being not 
unmindful of the sage advice given him by many a 
veteran elocutionist, who liked "the lively young 
spark/' and wished him well With some, it is 
probable that such advice would have influenced 
the recipient in such a way as to lead him to cling 
to certain traditions and mannerisms even then 
expiring ; but Terriss had his head screwed on the 
right way, and was shrewd enough to select from 
these counsels all that might be useful to him in the 

59 E 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

new era, while retaining most of his own more up- 
to-date methods and ideas. 

On the conclusion of his Strand engagement 
he returned to Drury Lane, to appear as "Sir 
Kenneth" in Richard Cosur de Lion, and on its 
withdrawal Miss Wallis found in him a picturesque 
"Romeo"- to her "Juliet." 

During the long run of Dion Boucicault's third 
great Irish play of The Shaughraim (the Colleen 
JBawnx&diArrak-na-Pogue being the first two of the 
trio), he was " Captain Molyneux," both at Drury 
Lane and the Aldephi, to which house it was 
transferred ; and it was this character which sug- 
gested to the late Henry S. Leigh a charming set 
of verses, in which " pretty Miss " from the country, 
seeing Molyneux from her seat in the pit, is moved 
to a confession of love for the handsome officer, 
and of jealousy of fortunate Claire. Poor country 
miss ! Charming, darling Molyneux can never 
be hers, he is not even Claire's. Says the culprit 
himself in the envoy, 

"A thousand darlings round me seek 
For one sweet smile; but I'll be true 
To Chatterton's twelve pounds a week, 
My kids, and Mrs. Molyneux." 

60 




'ROMEO" IN ROMEO AXD JULIET 
From a Photo by W. & D. DOWNEY 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

One of the actor's early engagements was to 
play the " Brigand " in a certain piece, of the blood- 
and-thunder type, at Astley's Theatre. In one of 
the scenes the " Brigand " appeared with his steed 
"Teddy." . In this, having finished with the animal, 
it was his duty to exclaim, " Get thee to the moun- 
tains " ; and at the sound of these words " Teddy " 
would move across the stage and exit. Terriss had 
got accustomed to " Teddy " ; but unfortunately just 
before one of the performances the animal departed 
this life, and the management hired one of his 
species from the stables of the Omnibus Company 
which were hard by. Every available moment be- 
fore the show was utilised in rehearsal, but little 
satisfaction could be got out of Teddy II. He was, 
however, led on to the stage at the proper time. 
Terriss gave forth the usual exhortation, and the 
scene-shifter held out, as an inducement to the 
beast to go in his direction, a handful of provender 
or a bunch of carrots. He would not, however, 
budge an inch. The words were repeated, and his 
tail twisted, but to no avail. Then what turned out 
to be a happy idea dawned upon the actor. He 

63 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

remembered that he was dealing with a 'bus horse, 
and that the conductor's signal to move on was 
Invariably a few sharp stamps on the footboard. 
With considerable emphasis he again repeated the 
sentence, and imitated the action of the conductor 
on the boards, and this had the desired effect. 

Both at the Adelphi and the Princess's he 
appeared in several revivals, and once more 
returning to The Lane, was selected for " Julian" in 
Mr. Wills's version of Peveril of the Peak. 

It was in the year 1874 or 1875 that he made a 
success in the title role of " Nicholas Nickleby " at 
the Adelphi, when the late Miss Lydia Foote 
appeared as " Smike " and the late John Clarke 
as "Squeers." In 1876 he appeared as "Beamish 
MacCoul" in J. C. Williamsons revival of Arrah- 
na-Pogite, which will be remembered as the first 
play in which he trod the boards professionally, play- 
ing double to the late James Rodgers as the hero in 
the tower scene at the Prince of Wales, Birmingham. 

He was the "Earl of Leicester" in the revival 
of Amy Robsart, at Drury Lane, in 1877. But it 
was on the 3Oth March, 1878, at the Old Court 

64 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

Theatre, that he first represented one of those 

characters by which he will be more generally 

remembered, viz. " Squire Thornhill," in W. G. 

Wills's play of Olivia. Associated with him 

was Ellen Terry in the title r$le, and Herman 

Vezin as " Dr. Primrose. 1 ' In this year he was also 

" Fawley Denham" in The Crisis, by Albery, 

"Captain Absolute" in The Rivals, and " Sydney 

Sefton " in Conscience Money, by the late H. 

J. Byron. 

A lady journalist thus writes of him about this 
time : " But I must not allow myself to be drawn 
into reminiscences, for here I mean where 
Terriss is is a matter more attractive. I wonder 
if you have heard much of this charming jeune 
premier who plays quite too bewitchingly, and in 
a series of bows, the part of ' Captain Absolute/ It 
is difficult to define the winning personality of this 
well-pleasing lad. But I think in the first place 
that he must have provided himself with a newly- 
invented patent hinged back, which enables him to 
personify the very embodiment of gentlemanly 
grace. It is in the true spirit of Sheridan's gallant 

67 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

day, this facile bowing, and is relieved by a proud, 
sweet, manly bearing, unmistakably indicative of 
the well-born youth of noble England. This, 
with his languid eye and expirante manner, makes 
him the predestine hero of many a gentle heart's 
romance ; it is inevitable. Repudiating any spark 
of sentimentality in my own admiration of him, 
do you think but perhaps I'd better put it in 
confidence do you think that if a highly moral 
American lady like myself, wife of an officer in 
the Civil Service of the United States Govern- 
ment, above suspicion of folly in every way, 
and quite unacquainted personally with the young 
actor, were to quietly kiss him the next time she 
meets him in the street, it would be considered 
at all peculiar ? Well, then, whatever is he so 
pretty for ? C'est de sa faute, aussi" 

1879 found him at the St. James's, scoring 
largely as " Jack Gambler" in The Queens 
Shilling^ '" Count de la Roque" in Monsieur le 
Duc y and also in Still Waters run Deep. 

In this year also he was playing " Romeo " to the 
"Juliet" of the late Miss Neilson, and being his 

68 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

first appearance with her in the part, he wished to 
make the best impression he could, and attended 
the dress rehearsal fully equipped with a dagger 
and a Damascus blade, sharp as a razor. He was 
about to begin the duel with " Mercutio," when 
Miss Neilson stopped him, and entreated him not 
to proceed further save with a blunt weapon. He 
followed her advice, but a few years later he evi- 
dently forgot her counsel, and was wounded when 
playing the same part with Miss Mary Anderson, 
for in falling upon the dagger it pierced his side. 
On 2Oth September, 1880, he commenced his 
long connection with the Lyceum Theatre, playing 
"M. de Chateau Renaud" in The Corsican Brothers. 
This ran till 3rd January, 1881, when The Cup, 
by Alfred, first Lord Tennyson, was produced, and 
in this Terriss was " Sinnatus." On i6th April 
The Belles Stratagem was mounted, and he was 
now seen as " Flutter," a part which was always 
assigned to him in the various later revivals of 
the play. On the i8th May in the same year 
commenced the famous series of performances of 
Othello, a series unexampled in the history of the 

69 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

stage, seeing that the parts of " Othello " and 
"lago" were alternated each week by Edwin 
Booth and Henry Irving. In this Terriss played 
" Cassio." The prices of the stalls were raised to 
two guineas, and fabulous sums were given for 
boxes to witness the greatest tragedians of the 
sister countries unselfishly and harmoniously play- 
ing on the same stage. Othello was only played 
three evenings a week, the remaining three being 
filled by the regular company in The Cup and 
The Belle s Stratagem. 

In the revivals with which the lessee of the 
Lyceum always brings his season to a close, Terriss 
appeared as "Laertes"' in Hamlet, "Christian" in 
The Bells, " Bassanio" in The Merchant of Venice, 
and "Richard Houseman" in Eugene Aram. 

Boxing Day of the same year saw him still at 
the Lyceum, personating " Jack Wyatt " in James 
Albery's Two Roses, a revival which served to 
introduce George Alexander to a London audience 
as "Caleb Deecie." He also played "Viscount de 
Ligny" in Planchd's Captain of the Watch. On 
8th March, 1882, Romeo and Juliet was produced, 

70 




1J t I . 



IN ;'*M;/I> j.v/ 

<', W. u i), lurt 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

:l ran to the end of that season, and well into 
5 autumn one. In this Terriss was " Mercutio," 
ring an admirable, and even a perfect, interpreta- 
n. No praise was too high for his death scene ; 
sank to the real level of nature, and died with 
* airs and words with which Mercutio Shake- 
fare's Mercutio should pass from the world. 
s was now making real headway in his profession, 
d about this time a critic wrote of him : "It is 
ftcult to imagine an improvement more rapid or 
Dre distinct than that of the young actor since 
; quitted melodrama for comedy." 
It was during this year that, while playing in 
ublin, and lodging with Mr. Tyars, of the 
yceum, in a small inn on the outskirts of the 
:y, he found out that a section of the " Invin- 
bles " held their meetings in a room in the house, 
his knowledge put an idea into his head, and one 
rening he made his way alone into the room, and 
arching boldly up to the table, brought his hand 
>wn upon it sharply, at the same time exclaim- 
g in a tone of authority, "In the name of the 
|ueen this meeting is dissolved." This statement, 




'DON PEDRO" IN MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 
Fr;m a Photo by W. & D. DOWNEY 




I A 



'EARL OF MORAY" IN CHARLES I 
From a Photo by W. D, DOWNEY 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

delivered by a perfect stranger in the stronghold 
of treachery, seemed to paralyse the conspirators 
present ; they gazed at him in silent astonishment, 
but did not offer to move. Seeing this, Terriss 
repeated the assertion with more emphasis than 
before, and this time it had a curious effect, for 
the whole of those present silently rose, and taking* 
their hats, filed out of the room, leaving the dare- 
devil originator of the joke unharmed, to make his 
peace with the terrified landlord, who declared he 
would be simply ruined through the occurrence. 

Another long run commenced on the 1 1 th 
October, 1882, when in Muck Ado aboitt Nothing 
Terriss took the part of " Don Pedro," and played 
it till the piece was withdrawn, to make way for 
the usual series of short revivals which brought the 
season to a conclusion in July, 1883. Among these 
he appeared as " Courriol " in The Lyons Mail, 
" Charles " in Robert Macaire, " Earl of Moray " 
in Charles /., and the " Duke de Nemours " in 
Louis XL 

In the autumn of this year he went with the 
Lyceum company on their first American tour, 

74 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

which commenced on igth October, 1883, and lasted 
until 26th April, 1884, during which they played 
most, if not all, of their London successes. It was 
on the outward voyage in the City of Rome that 
a rather bragging man, seeing so many landlubbers 
present not clad like himself in yachting rig, pulled 
out a ten-pound note, and offered to wager it that 
there was not one of the passengers who would 
take his cap off the top of the mast. Terriss in- 
stantly covered the note, and throwing off his coat 
and tightening his belt, said, " Done ! Up with 
you, and put it on ; I will follow, and take it off." 
The offer was withdrawn. 

During the tour several well-known members 
of the company joined in an entertainment given 
at Chickering Hall. It was a great success, and 
the rare talent exhibited won unlimited applause. 
Terriss's share consisted of recitations, among 
which may be mentioned Queen Mab's speech, 
The Wreck of the Hespems, and The Life Boat. 

While on this tour the company was rehearsing 
The Two Roses on the stage of a New York 
theatre, Terriss playing the difficult part of "Jack 

79 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

Wyatt." Irving was sitting on the stage, watching 
the performance. As on its conclusion he found 
no fault, Terriss ventured to go up to him with a 
" Well, governor ; will that do ? " and a sort of air 
as if he expected a compliment. Irving quietly 
wiped his glasses, as his habit is, and replied, 
"Yes, very good; but not a d d bit like it." 

But the chief result of this visit to America, as 
far as the general [public is concerned, was the 
introduction to London by Terriss of the famous 
Daly company, who since that time have continued 
to pay us visits at varying intervals, and are now 
so much at home here that they possess a theatre 
of their own. 

In the summer of this year Terriss became lead- 
ing man to Miss Mary Anderson during her visit, 
playing in Pygmalion and Gaiatea y The Hitnchback, 
and as " Romeo" to her "Juliet." In connection 
with this it was remarked that none remembered a 
Romeo who in years and good looks was so likely 
to take captive the heart of Juliet at first sight. 
There had been Romeos of the namby-pamby 
order, but there was nothing of the kind about 

80 




TUESD-AY. APKU. isth, at 3.30 

SPB6l8b 



Irj-cr 



C'fVfN FlY THE f'AVOWtrt ATIST^, 

MR. FREDERICK LESLIE, 

OF THK CAS1MO, 

By permtvs'on of Mr, John A, McCsulit 
List appearance previous to his departure for Europe. 

MR. J. ROBERTSON, 

OF THE LV< ECJM THEATRE, 
tONTDON, 

?/ perfn'SS'on of Mr. Henry Irving* 

MR. WILLIAM TERRISS, 

OF THE LYCEUM THEATRE 
LONDON, 

By permission of Mr. Henry frying, 

KINDLY ASSISTKD BY 

MISS EILY COaHLAJi 
l - /iff 3*ctcfi vc 



W. VV. KEENAN, 
J. H. PHrPPS, 




TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

Terriss. His Romeo, although in love, could 
be manly as well as tender. He played the 
balcony scene with wonderful fervour; he took 
the measure of his new-made grave in a way that 
for once did not provoke a smile at Romeo's ex- 
pense ; he talked to the apothecary like a desperate 
lover who was very much in earnest, and he went 
through the business of the final sorrowful scene 
with splendid inipressiveness. He, however, made 
a great hit in the encounter with Tybalt after 
Mercutio's death : 

" Alive ! in triumph ! and Mercutio slain ; 
Away to heaven, respective lenity, 
And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now! 
Now, Tybalt, take the villain back again, 
That late thou gav'st me \ for Mercutio's soul 
Is but a little way above our heads, 
Staying for thine to keep him company; 
Either thou, or I, or both, must go with him." 

This passage Terriss delivered with electrical 
force, and his elocutionary skill, coupled with the 
grandeur of the subsequent onslaught, was fairly 
irresistible. 

When Irving played the part so successfully, 
Terriss as the " Mercutio" has already been re- 

83 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

ferred to. Every one was compelled to give him 
commendation. When he represented " Romeo " 
the commendation was not less hearty, for it was 
an impersonation of the very highest merits, and 
one which added greatly to the popular actor's 
already high reputation. 

On 2;th May, 1885, Olivia, by W. C. Wills, was 
revived, and ran into the autumn season, Terriss 
and Miss Ellen Terry taking their old characters, 
while Henry Irving chose that of " Dr. Primrose." 
In writing of this revival, a critic says : 

"In the suggestive acting of Terriss as ' Squire 
Thornhill/ and of Miss Ellen Terry in the title 
role, there was such a grasp of meaning and wealth 
of variety that it was said the audience anticipated 
what was to follow. Clear in voice and distinct in 
utterance, he never lost sight of one essential con- 
sideration ; viz., that although Squire Thornhill was 
morally contemptible, he was by birth, education, 
and position a gentleman. 

" Stage villains at times come to mean those who 
are not only morally, but also physically contemp- 
tible ; yet had Thornhill been of this pattern he 

84 




"SQUIRE THORNHILL" IN OLIVIA 
From a Photo by WINDOW & GROVE 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

would never have been loved by Olivia. It was 
a most difficult part to play, and it was grasped 
from first to last with singular intelligence, a bold 
front, and subtle meaning/ 1 

On the first night of Olivia, at the close of the 
second act, Terriss did not take a call, and the 
general audience quietly accepted his refusal. Not 
so an infatuated young miss in the dress circle. 
Finding the applause had died away, and her 
favourite would not exhibit his goodly presence 
before the curtain, she rose from her seat, and, 
almost choking with excitement, and clapping her 
hands wildly, cried, "Ter rr iss ! Terriss ss ! " 
She repeated her obvious indiscretion at the final 
descent of the curtain. 

He next made a move to the Adelphi, where he 
opened at Christmas, 1885, as " Lieutenant David 
Kingsley " in Harbour Lights, by G. R. Sims and 
Henry Petti t a piece that ran without interruption 
for 513 nights. A well-known critic thus happily 
describes the impression made upon the vast 
audience, which nightly crowded the theatre, by 
the most perfect impersonation of a British sailor 

87 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

that the stage has ever seen since the days of 
J. P. Cooke : 

" The acting of the new play is as good as 
it well could be. As * David Kingsley,' Mr. 
William Terriss has a part after his own 
heart. He does not act ; he is the handsome, 
frank sailor whose joyous laugh, bright eye, and 
sturdy, ringing voice brings life and hope into the 
darkest hour. The fine presence, boyish handsome 
face, and free fearless gestures, suit the rSle to 
perfection ; and in the pretty apostrophe to the 
bright eyes of his sweetheart the ' Harbour 
Lights' that have shone so steadily for him in 
storm and darkness and in the fanciful little * ring 
speech* 'Little ring, I've looked at you, and 
you've bidden me hope during many a long, dark 
watch at sea. Now we're home again, little ring, 
and we're going to part Somebody else is going 
to have you, and to keep you for ever ; but you 11 
make Dave Kingsley's sweetheart Dave Kingsley's 
wife ' his masterly elocution was of the greatest 
service. I have seen Terriss in many parts, but 
in none that has left so pleasant and bright a 

88 




DAVID KINC.SI.KY" IN T//K HARBOUR LIGHTS 
From a Photo by W. & D. DOWNEY 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

emory as handsome, manly David Kingsley." 
One of the authors of the play thus writes of 
and its hero : 

"Its long and lasting popularity was largely 
le to the buoyant breeziness of Terriss's young 
ival officer. His portrait in uniform appeared 

every shop window, and men and women 
ike spoke rapturously of him, and hailed him as 
e ideal hero of melodrama. In 1886 his photo- 
aph as * David Kingsley * was even issued as a 
hristmas card. In private life Terriss spoke and 
>re himself very much as he did upon the stage, 
is frank, buoyant manner and his cheery style of 
Idress earned for him the title of ' Breezy Bill ' ; 
id his breeziness was not assumed, but was natural 

the man. Downright, hearty, outspoken, and 

dependent, William Terriss was invariably umi- 

)le ; and even at that trying* time to actors and 

ithors alike, the last rehearsals, he always kept 

s temper and his cheerfulness.'' 

It was during the run of Harbour Lights that 

fairy-looking, precocious little thing one night 

tracted much attention. During a short lull in 




'FRANK BERESFORD" IN THE BELLS OF HASELMERE 
Front a Photo by WINDOW & GROVE 




"JACK. MUD WAY" IN THE UX ION JACK 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

one of the scenes she startled all around her by 
exclaiming, "Wai, I'm clean mashed on that Mr. 
Terriss." 

Following The Harbour Lights came The Bells 
of Haselmere, and in this he represented the 
hero, " Frank Beresford," winning for himself the 
honours of the run among the actors. The open, 
engaging sympathy of the young Squire was happily 
rendered at his hands; frankness and courage in 
his every action and tone. It was, however, in the 
scene in which the fugitive struggles against death 
in the tangled cane-brake that the artist rose to the 
highest level of dramatic power. Weary and faint, 
fighting for life, sustained by the hope of restoration 
to his love in England, Terriss held the audience 
in silent admiration at the striking exhibition of 
his skill. 

In The Silver Falls, which was afterwards given, 
Terriss played the hero with his accustomed vigour 
and conviction. Honour, courage, truth, and all 
the higher moral sentiments found In him a 
fearless and uncompromising champion ; and he 
had the satisfaction of feeling that, despite the 

92 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

adoption by the authors of an unconventional 
story, his career remained what it had already 
been in Adelphi melodrama, a shining axiom that 
honesty is the best policy. 

On the reopening of the Adelphi after restora- 
tion, July 2ist, 1888, The Union Jack was 
produced. Into his character of "Jack Medway," 
who wore the smart uniform of a petty officer in 
the navy, Terriss threw extraordinary power; "the 
true breath of passion breathed into the play, 
enabling him to grip the house, so to speak, by 
the throat. The grace and dignity with which he 
wore his simple uniform, the resonant effect of his 
mellow tones, and the bright intelligence of his 
piercing glance, won for him half the battle of 
success. And the triumph was grand and cumu- 
lative. The truth and delicacy of his scenes with 
Miss Millward in the first act of the play, the 
simple chivalry of his behaviour, and the suggestion 
of just germinating affection in his voice, were 
admirable enough. But Terriss rose beyond the 
region of melodrama in the scene outside the 
cottage, where Rose Medway confesses to her 

97 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 



brother the sad secret of her fall. Here his acting 
was truly elevated. His agonized start, as if physi- 
cally wounded, as the terrible truth struck home, 
the manly recoil after the momentary collapse, the 
bitterness of the strong man's supposed grief, were 
all admirably depicted/' 




A SOUVENIR 



Following this, Terriss, in conjunction with his 
old artistic ally, Miss Jessie Mill ward, paid a pro- 
fessional visit to the States in 1889-90, appearing 
in Othello, JFrou Frou, The Marble Heart, The 
Lady of Lyons, Ingomar, and last, but not least, 
in Roger la Honte, better known to us in Eng- 
land by the name of A Mans Shadow. The 
general American idea of the piece was that it 
was a strong play of popular interest, and one that 

98 



CHESTNUT 

STREET 




OPERA HOUSE, OMM| MONDAY. DEC. 9. 

c.Mu!afc f& 




J-H 



AN AMERICAN PLAYBILL 



QQ 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

had all the elements requisite for securing a gratify- 
ing profit to its owners. It was a decided success, 
viewed from the standpoint of popular melodrama. 
And, referring to Terris, it was said that "of the 
picturesque, swinging elocutionary type of the 
romantic actor he was particularly effective. He 
never pained his audience. He showed much re- 
finement of method, and his work was indeed high 
class. As ' Laroque ' he was graceful and easy 
in his movements, his bearing was manly, and his 
face was the index of honour and high principle. 
As 'Luversan/ an instant later, his features bore 
the impress of recklessness, dissipation, and hate." 
At the conclusion of this tour he returned to 
the Adelphi for the revival of The Plarbour 
Lights, and then once more found himself at the 
Lyceum, engaged for " Hayston of Bucklaw," in 
Herman Meri vale's adaptation of Ravenswood, 
with which the season commenced on 2Oth Sep- 
tember, 1890. This character he played exactly 
in the right spirit, assertive, but never vulgar ; 
domineering, but never loud; conceited, but never 
foppish. The play required all the relief possible, 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

and Terriss provided the welcome tone of chan; 
from persistent gloom. On 5th January, 185 
M'uck Ado about Nothing was revived; and t 
Lyceum company, released from the somb 
Ravenswood, which had fallen somewhat she 
of the hundred representations deemed in da 
of long runs the minimum test of a decided succe< 
returned to the bright and merry scenes 
Leonato's house and by the blue waters of the B; 
of Messina with a manifest zest. Henry Irvir 
appeared as "Benedick," and gave, not the restle 
Benedick of the Lewis tradition, nor the mood 
saturnine Benedick which old lovers of Macreac 
were accustomed to, but the sprightly, courteou 
quick-witted gentleman, whose intellectual pric 
and sensitiveness to ridicule alone delay the mar 
festation of love for "Dear Lady Disdain," whic 
holds him captive in the end. Miss Ellen Terr 
as " Beatrice," was assuredly never brighter < 
fresher in her wilful moods, nor more sweet ar 
womanly in her more tender movements, than ; 
she now revealed herself to the never-failing deligl 
of the spectators. 



102 




"II, \VSroN OF miCKLAW" IN RAl'fiNSU'OOD 




CLAUDIO' IN MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 
From a Photo by WINDOW & GROVE 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

Terriss lent the support of his noble bearing 
and excellent elocution to the part of "Claudio." 
In this he looked handsomer than ever in a most 
becoming costume. It will be remembered that 
in the original production he was " Don Pedro," but 
his " Claudio " was even more admired. His share 
of the banter of Benedick, and of the trick by 
which he is caught in Cupid's net, was lightly and 
effectively done ; and he was magnificently in 
earnest in the scene at the altar, where Claudio 
rejects his bride and denounces her as a wanton. 

On 2nd June, 1891, he appeared for the first 
time for a good many years in the opening piece, 
the well-known farce, A Regular Fix, and the 
character of "Hugh de Brass" was one after his 
own heart, affording him ample opportunity for 
the display of his lighter talents. 

The 5th January, 1892, found him filling the 
title role in Henry VIII., a character which had 
been specially marked out by the profession as 
one of his most successful renderings. A better 
Henry than Terriss was not to be desired, so far 
as all externals went (see Frontispiece). But this 

107 




"HENRY II." IN BECKET 
from a Photo by WINDOW & GKOVB 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

observation is not intended to imply that his in- 
terpretation of the character was not excellent as 
well. Yet it was, of course, the outward resem- 
blance and bearing that at first appealed to the 
audience, and as represented by him, the King 
might have stepped from a canvas by Holbein 
The manner, too, was good ; there was all the pro- 
verbial "bluffness," with command as well; anc 
as Terriss and Irving took their places, a striking 
study was provided of King and Cardinal. 

In the production of Richelieu on the 7th May 
1892, he appeared as the " Chevalier de Mauprat " 
and on the loth November, as "Edgar," in King 
Lear. 

When, on February 6th, 1893, Becket, by Alfred 
first Lord Tennyson, was produced, Terriss wa< 
"'Henry II. ," and in this he met with his accus 
tomed success. It was in this year that the entire 
Lyceum company appeared, by command, before 
Her Majesty at Windsor Castle. During th< 
progress of the play the Queen repeatedly led th< 
applause, and after the drama was over sent fo 
Henry Irving, Miss Terry, Miss Ward, anc 

1 08 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

Terriss, and congratulated them upon the success 
to which they had contributed. The Queen 
furthermore was pleased to express her pleasure 
at witnessing the play itself. 

On one occasion, when a big rehearsal was 
taking place at the Lyceum, and the air was get- 
ting rather blue from the severity of the inde- 
fatigable actor-manager, Terriss by his ready wit 
prevented an explosion. So exactly and con- 
scientiously are the actors trained on the Lyceum 
stage that, in certain situations, the lessee insists 
-on the various characters keeping the same num- 
ber of feet apart on each representation. A minor 
scene was being rehearsed, and one ingenue, who, 
quite unable to remember and keep in her proper 
position, was on the point of hysterics, was checked 
in time, by Terriss coming forward and saying in 
his characteristic way, " Now then, guv'nor, leave 
it. to me"; and he then proceeded to pace out the 
steps in a mincing way, that was such an outrage- 
ous caricature of Sir Henry, that even he laughed 
more heartily than the others at the libel, and the 
situation was saved. 

in 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

At the conclusion of the London season Terriss 
once more accompanied his chief on an American 
tour. The company visited most of the more 
important cities, playing Much Ado aboitt Nothing, 
Charles /., Becket, The Merchant of Venice, 
Nance Oldfield, The Bells, etc., and meeting with 
an enthusiastic reception wherever they appeared. 

Writing during this visit, a member of the com- 
pany said : 

" We have travelled thousands of miles, 
from San Francisco to the borders of British 
Columbia, passing up valleys and round the sides 
of the Sierra Nevada mountains, enjoying at every 
turn the most beautiful scenery, the grandeur of 
which beggars description. I can now see the 
summit of Mount Shasta, covered with eternal 
snow, rising 16,000 feet above the level of the 
sea, the ascension of which, when we arrived at 
the very high altitude, made the eyes ache and the 
blood rush to the head. 

" Night closes in as our special still speeds 
along, shutting from view this mighty work of 
Nature, and we wake the following morning to 

112 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

find ourselves on the shores of the Puget Sound 
of British Columbia. Thence onward along the 
course of the mighty Columbia River, upon whose 
banks are the encampments of the Red Indian 
and the home of the grisly bear, and here salmon 
are so plentiful that a twenty-pounder can be 
bought for sixpence. 

" Onward again for three nights and days, 
through the gray alkali desert, where not a living 
thing is to be seen indeed, nothing but man can 
exist during which time we have lived in an 
atmosphere of dust dust in our food, dust in 
our drink, dust in our coverlet dust everywhere. 
At last we reach the twin cities of St. Paul and 
Minneapolis, which are situated at the source ot 
the mighty Mississippi, thence onward to the great 
western metropolis, Chicago, where the rag-tag 
and bob-tail of humanity of the Western Continent 
are mingling with the eastern millionaires. Here, 
amidst murders, assassinations, strikes, and anarchy, 
we dwell for a month, and once more return to 
the welcome city of New York, where a hearty 
greeting awaits us. Here it is that we opened 

113 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

the New Abbey's Theatre with Tennyson's Becket. 
It was certainly a gala night in the annals of 
theatrical and social circles, the members of the 
diplomatic corps and men of letters and science 
honouring the occasion by their presence. 

" Miss Millward (who has made such a marked 
impression as f Queen Eleanor ' in Beckef) had the 
honour of speaking the first words in the new 
house, her first lines being, * Dost love this Becket, 
this son of a London merchant ? ' etc. ; and at 
the termination of the play there was little doubt 
that they did love it, for of the enthusiastic manner 
in which the piece was received there was not 
the slightest doubt, Henry Irving, Miss Terry, 
Terriss, and Miss Millward receiving call upon 
call for their admirable impersonations. 

" Our stay in New York was made doubly 
pleasant by the social entertainments which were 
given everywhere to the leading members of the 
company; and the beautiful drive along the 
Hudson River and Central Park, the innumerable 
trips across the harbour, and the visits to the 
thousand and one places of interest which 

1 14 




'DON PEDRO" IN MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 
From a Photo by W. D. DOWNEY 



TO ONK THING CONSTANT 

abound in i!u- n -i^'hlx mrhoocl were thoroughly 
enjoyed. 

" llic hand oi the clock was upon midnight, 
ushering in th<' Nrw Year, as our special once 
more was speeding un its way to Boston, and it 
was with forluu'-; oi love and affection, thinking of 
the old folks in Kiujlund, that we burst into the 
refrain, ' U<mr, Sweet Home/ and many a silent 
tear was hurriedly wiped away as kindly thoughts 
and wishes ruse in our breasts for those we loved/* 
Terriss wrotr Ins impressions of America as seen 
through the actor's spectacles. lie said : 

** I consider that Americans are a play-going 
race, fonder, far fonder, of all that pertains to the 
drama than we in Great Britain. They are quicker 
in seeing a point. There is an earnest spontaneity 
about their applause, and the actor must certainly 
be troubled with a sluggish liver who is not stirred 
to something like reciprocity when an American 
audience ' rises * to the occasion. 

"In England and only those who have passed 
some years before the footlights can speak with 
certainty on this matter it is very difficult to 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

gauge whether you have the true ear of the 
house. 

" Not to put too delicate a point on it, one is 
not always sure whether one is playing to the 
gallery, to the stalls, to the pit, or to all three. 
Divided sympathies are by no means uncommon. 
I have before now seen Olympus in ecstasies, 
while the pit has yawned and the stalls frowned ; 
and again in the same rSle I have noted another 
actor reverse the process, while yet a third has 
secured the suffrages of the entire 'front/ 

" In America this splitting of interests is rarely 
met with. The Theatre as a whole either madly 
dotes on you, or coldly and impassively sits you 
out once. 

" Socially the actor in America is received every- 
where, though, for the matter of that, the actor 
in England, so long as he preserves his self- 
respect, holds pretty much the same position now 
that education has swept away class prejudices. 

" The fair sex in America appear to be dominant 
in matters theatrical. If the ladies, for example, 
approve a play or a certain actor, they seem to 

118 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

join hands and support their opinion with such 
tenacity of purpose that failure is impossible, and 
a momentary success is guaranteed. The men, 
too, tacitly accept the position, and seem to take 
it for granted that the acumen of the feminine 
brain is, histrionically speaking, superior to their 
own. They follow dumbly in the wake of the 
dear creatures, and I am not aware that they 
could do very much better. Once having gained 
the right side of the ladies, an actor can leave 
the rest to Providence and the checktaker. 

"In England, I need hardly say this is all re- 
versed ; the genus komo is consulted by his wife 
and daughters as to where to go, and the defer- 
ence to his judgment where ' mumming ' is con- 
cerned is all but universal. 

"I found the American race one of the most 
hospitable and free-hearted folk of the world's 
teeming millions I have met; and as I have ex- 
plored a good many corners of our planet, I can 
conceive of no finer pleasure excursion for an 
actor at least a juvenile actor than a short 
playing" tour from New York to San Francisco. 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

"The broad burly arms of America's Bohemians 
are held out, and there are hand-grips and pleasant 
greetings from jolly good fellows you have never 
met before. They mean all they say; the large 
class of Society eagerly welcomes you, and makes 
much of you, and what is better than all else, 
you feel that it is not the * lionizing ' sentiment 
which is actuating your hosts, but the wish to 
make a fellow feel at home three thousand miles 
from his own hearth. 

" Now a word as to the theatres themselves. 
These are all round more perfect play-houses, 
both structurally and acoustically, than our Eng- 
lish houses, and the general air of comfort about 
them is, I take it, one strong reason for the ex- 
istence of the extensive community of American 
playgoers. 

" We were travelling by special train from New 
York to San Francisco, and when we arrived at 
Cheyenne, a station at the foot of the Rocky 
Mountains, we found that we were twelve hours 
behind time. Fearing that we should be late 
for our opening performance, I thought our only 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

chance was to try an application of the * Almighty 
Dollar/ I did this to the driver in the shape of 
a ten-dollar bill, asking at the same time to be 
allowed to ride on the engine. The result was 
that we ascended and descended the Rockies at a 
far greater speed than had ever before been at- 
tained, and when it became known that the in- 
creased oscillation, as we spec! through the rugged 
defiles, across the slender bridges that spanned the 
yawning ravines, and through the snow sheds, was 
due to the erratic driving of a Thespian, prayers 
were offered up for the safe arrival of the troupe 
at San Francisco. Crossing the suspension bridge 
over the Niagara Rapids by night, the mists from 
the mighty falls falling like myriads of sparks 
from the water as the rays of the white winter 
moon played upon it after its leap of 700 ft., and 
glittering in every direction, was decidedly a novel 
and exhilarating experience. So, too, was sleighing 
at lightning speed in ice-boats over the splendid 
Lake Ontario, and flying like birds upon the wing 
also in ice-boats over the frozen surface of the 
mighty St. Lawrence River, Toboganning, too, 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

at the rate of a hundred miles an hour is a luxury 
one must go to America to fully appreciate. Then, 
when we were travelling, the temperature was 
sometimes thirty degrees below zero, and petro- 
leum had to be burned under the engine to pre- 
vent the joints from freezing. For more than 
a week at a stretch we were in the train day 
and night without even alighting, so that you see 
even starring in the States has its hardships. 

"As we travel through the States the immensity 
of the country impresses one. In Great Britain the 
run from Aberdeen to E us ton makes one feel that 
the right little, tight little island is a bit of a mis- 
nomer after all, and that the 'little' is an adjec- 
tive that might with safety be omitted ; but in 
the States the distances are appalling. Of course, 
one knows the actual linear measurement in miles 
and furlongs between New York and Chicago ; 
but try the journey, and the feeling of space be- 
gins to grow on one until the mind can dwell on 
little else. 

" Every man should Jove his native land and feel 
proud of it. The American does this and more ; 



TO ONE THING CONSTANT 

lie revels in the vastness of his country. No 
one who has traversed it can wonder at the trans- 
parent boastfulness which sometimes makes a full- 
blooded Yankee believe that the world begins at 
Manhattan and ends at the Port of Monterey. 

" The engineering feats appear marvellous. One 
is absolutely lost in wonderment when contem- 
plating the Brooklyn Bridge, those gigantic struc- 
tures thrown across the Mississippi at St. Louis, 
the truly marvellous bridge across Niagara, and 
the monster hotels everywhere, which surpass the 
highest caravanserais of fairydom. 

"The go-ahead characteristics of the nation speak 
out in every city, street, and side- walk, Nothing 
is old everything fresh and delightful Can I 
put the matter more forcibly ? Everything they 
do is great ; their chief trait a trait I admire like 
all people who possess but little of it energy." 



CHAPTER V 
HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 

A FTER seven pleasant years' association with 
^ ^ the Lyceum, Terriss left the company, and 
for the future made the Adelphi his headquarters. 
But he was not allowed to leave his old compan- 
ions without some tokens of the good fellowship 
which existed between them. The company gave 
him a very handsome loving cup, while the stage 
hands presented him with a gold-mounted riding 
whip. 

It was in September, 1894, that he again 
assumed his favourite character of Adelphi hero, 
in Messrs. Haddon Chambers and B. C. Stephen- 
son's drama, The Fatal Card, and his old ad- 
mirers found him as much to their liking as 
ever. His grand acting in the terrible murder 

124 




THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME 
From a Photo ty WINDOW & GROVE 




'LIKUT, KEPFKLL" IN OXK OF T11R 11KST 
From a Photo by the C mo tint l\)rtnrit Co, 



HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 

scene in this play will not readily be forgotten. 
In The Girl I Left Behind Me, the play which 
followed, he was described as being an object- 
lesson to melodramatic actors. " Flow clear and 
distinct fell every sentence ! How modulated, 
careful, and unexaggerated was the trained style ! 
How picturesque was the actor's bearing and every 
gesture ! There was a grip and command in each 
sentence. He was vigorous and virile to the 
backbone/' 

The next production was the Swordsman s 
Daughter, by Clement Scott and B. C. Stephen- 
son, in December, 1895, and it will be remembered, 
if for nothing else, as affording Terriss an oppor- 
tunity for the grandest display of histrionic power 
he had as yet given. In the third act, in which 
the father, previously paralyzed, regains strength 
at the news of his daughter's disgrace, by mere 
force of will, in order to avenge the dishonour, 
Terriss rose to the sublime. Following this came 
One of the JSest, by George Edwards and Seymour 
Hicks, and it did not require days, but merely 
hours, before all London was rushing to see their 

129 




"LIEUT. DUDLEY KEPPELL" IN 0.\ T E OF THE BEST 
From a Photo ly the Craotlni Portrait Co. 




'LIEUT. DUDLEY KEPPELL ' IN ONE OF THE BEST 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

favourite as the handsome young officer " Lieu- 
tenant Dudley Keppell." 

The character of the hero is such as must 
appeal to all. Those who witnessed the perform- 
ance will never forget the debonair, bright-natured, 
romantic, loving boy of Terriss in the first two 
acts of the play, and the crushed man with the 
bleeding heart, the man grey with grief, yet firm 
and resolute in his terrible despair, in the third 
most dramatic scene. It seems, as every honour 
and medal is stripped and wrenched from him, 
that it is his very flesh which is being torn 
and lacerated. Involuntary sobs of stifled anguish 
rise to the throat at such cruelly degrading treat- 
ment of so splendid a soldier ; and then the last . 
superbly triumphant entrance, when the dark clouds 
of sorrow have been swept away, and there 
is nothing left but silver one shining, radiant 
gleam of silver for the troubled path is cleared 
of thorns and pitfalls, and in their place stand 
roses. It is all very human, and distinctly beau- 
tiful in sentiment. 

4 * Terriss was not William Terriss. He was 

130 



HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 

young ' Lochinvar ' suddenly and mysteriously 
he changed himself into a handsome Scottish lad 
of five-and-twenty. By his presence, by his bear- 
ing, by his voice, by his courtesy, and by that 
one word so important on the stage charm he 
breathed into this drama that spirit of romance 
which the crusty, soured pessimists and 'cynics so 
much deride." 

In 1896, Boys Together was put on. The critic 
of the Daily Mail, writing on the first perform- 
ance, says: 

" Messrs. Haddon Chambers and Comyns Carr 
have written a play so thrilling and exciting that 
the tension at times was almost painful. If it 
be the province of the dramatist to grip an 
audience in a vice, to make it hold its breath till 
the curtain falls and the strain is released, and a 
great shout of pleasure comes from pit and gallery 
and stalls, then Boys Together has proved its 
authors to be dramatists indeed. To have written 
a play in which the ability of Mr. William Terriss 
has such scope as it never had before is a triumph 
of the writers ; to . have grasped to the full the 

135 




'GERALD AUSTIN" IN BOYS TOGETHER 
From a Photo by W. & D. DOWNEY 




'GERALD AUSTIN" IN BOYS TOGETHER 
From a Photo by ALFRED ELLIS 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

splendid moments that the authors have provided 

is a triumph for Mr. William Terriss. Never had 

dramatists finer interpreter never had actor finer 

chance. Mr. Terriss's success, the authors 7 success, 

came from no subtle introspection, no acute analysis 

of character, no Meissonier-like minuteness. It 

came from splendid force, bold colour, an attack 

that was masterly in its uncompromising directness 

and strength. Boys Together is melodrama naked 

and unshamed ; as melodrama let it be judged. 

The new Adelphi play was written to interest and 

amuse ; it fulfils this, its primary purpose, to the 

full. But it has another and a more important 

effect even than this. The great shout that went 

up when Major Villars a prisoner in the Soudan 

hears of the fall of Khartoum and refuses to- 

believe the news to believe that England has 

consented to desert Gordon, the bravest soldier 

that ever breathed ; that, if his country has played 

so mean a part, English blood and treasure will 

sooner or later have to be spent to repair the fatal 

blunder the great shout that went up was an 

object-lesson in patriotism. The British public 

136 



, HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 

does not forget, and fortune has favoured the 
Adelphi management ; for the desert scene they 
have given us with such truth and completeness, 
the period they have revived, the time when 
Gordon died, is to-day in the minds of us all. 
Villars is bound, helpless, almost dying, to a rock ; 
then conies one of the great scenes of the drama 
Forsyth twits and insults him ; Villars prays to be 
released; Forsyth leaves him to die, but his cords 
are cut by Maryam, and he swears to her an oath to 
be avenged. Here it was that Mr. Terriss roused 
his audience to the supreme pitch of enthusiasm, as 
well he deserved to do. Passion overcame his 
weakness ; the voice that had been harshed and 
cracked rang out again ; the frame that had been 
bent by torture was straight once more. No more 
startling a denunciation has been heard from the 
stage than that delivered by Mr. William Terriss, 
ere overcome by his weakness he faints. It may 
safely be said at this moment the actor touched a 
higher point than ever before. He carried the 
house with him ; the curtain had to be raised again 
and again. There were no half lights here no 




''GERALD AUSTIN" IN 0KS- TOGETHER 
From a Photo by t!u> Crartini Portrait Co. 




'COMTE DE CANDALK" IN A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE 
Front a Photo by ALFRED ELLIS 



HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 

Many of those who have sat in the comfortable 
stalls of the Adelphi Theatre and seen Terriss 
battling with the stormy surf, left alone on rafts, 
and undergoing the various vicissitudes incidental 
to descriptive dramatic action, perhaps little knew 
that he had passed through all these things in 
real life. He could play the sailor to the life. 

Perhaps no other actor known to this genera- 
tion could have brought back to the Adelphi 
such an antiquated example of theatrical produc- 
tion as Black-Eyd Susan, yet Terriss' breezy air, 
his rough-and-ready method, his ability to sing a 
nautical ditty and to dance a hornpipe, and his 
command of feeling, secured for the piece a long 
run. On its withdrawal an American company 
took possession of the theatre, and Terriss being 
at liberty appeared at the Haymarket, in the 
adaptation A Marriage of Convenience. In this, 
as the " Comte de Candale," he showed he had 
lost none of his gift of comedy, and after his 
long course of melodrama it came as a relief to 
him to appear once more in a part belonging to 
his former line. The younger generation knew 

147 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

restrained force. Mr, Terriss rose to the situation, 
and carried everything before him." 

Black-Eyd Susan was the next production, a 
play which in these days has an old-fashioned 




i-V' 

.XtV 

(From the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News) 

aroma, and yet a certain amount of charm for the 
sea-loving inhabitants of England. 

One of the greatest of our nautical writers has 
said, "To know Jack you must have eaten with 
him, slept with him, worked with him, and shared 
in his hardships and in his joys." 

142 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

him only as a melodramatic hero, and he was 
pleased to have the opportunity of showing some 
of his other talents. But his contract with the 
Messrs. Gatti entailed his return to the Adelphi, 
and In the Days of the Duke, by H addon 
Chambers and Comyns Carr, showed him as an 
elderly man in the prologue, and his assumption 
of age won him a large amount of commendation. 
This was his last original part. When the piece 
failed to draw, a revival of the American play 
Secret Service took place, and in this, as " Captain 
Thorne," he made his last appearance. He had to 
follow the successful feature in the original produc- 
tion of the play, the author and actor, Mr. Gillett, 
who is a master in the arts of pantomime and ex- 
pression. He acquitted himself admirably. " He 
could not, and he would not, forget the English 
style that has endeared him to the public," says 
the Daily Telegraph. " He was strong, powerful, 
virile, dogged, and determined as ever; but he 
scouted the idea that 'Captain Thorne/ plucky 
devil as he was, had nerves. Never on his English 
face it cannot be anything else was the worn, 

148 




/.V /7//i />./J.S (>/' fit!-. /TAVi 
/Vvv// <z J'/ti>.\> I'y ALI-KKD ICi.i.is 



HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 

rassed, nervous expression of a man who turns 
f for the love of country. William Terriss is 

frank that he cannot suggest intrigue in any 
m or shape. His ' Captain Thorne ' is a 
wnright, determined, devil-may-care fellow, as 
xmg as a lion, but with no suspicion of the 
ake about him. Yet ' Captain Thorne ' must 
: in some remote way connected with a snake, 
r is he not a spy ? But these delicacies of criti- 
>m did not affect an Adelphi audience in the 
ist. They had got their Terriss, and he loved 
. honest girl, and he was shot in the hand by 

rival, and like Jim Bludso, he did his duty 
id 'went for it thar and then/ and that was 
lite enough for the pit.' 1 

It was during the run of this piece that his 
reer was so suddenly, so tragically ended, and 
the waves of regret, horror, and sorrow that 
fept over England, aye, and America as well, on 
ceipt of the sad news, none was more sincere 
id more heartfelt than that originating in the 
iarts of his old friends the Adelphi audiences. 
y them he was simply adored; he was their 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

hero, no matter what character he was playing, 
and for him they chiefly looked, no matter what 
the play might be. In stalls and boxes, pit and 
gallery, it was the same thing ; they one and all 
pinned their faith on Terriss, and Terriss did not 
disappoint them. He had been the recipient of 
rings sent round by infatuated ladies, and bunches 
of flowers had been thrust into his hand on his 
way to the stage-door by servant-girls, with timid 
requests that he would accept them. Nor was 
the devotion to be wondered at. 

He was cheery, he was electric, he was sym- 
pathetic ; when he came upon the scene he 
brightened everything. If the audience had lapsed 
into lethargy, he was the one to arouse it, and 
to stir his colleagues to impulse. He felt what 
he did, and meant what he said. He was held 
in good faith by the public ; he never took a 
liberty with them, and never let his interest flag 
the last night as well as the first, to good houses 
or to bad, he never lost the grip of his part. 

He might have played one character better than 
another, but he was never known to scamp his 



HIS LAST ENGAGEMENTS 

work, or to fail to give any part in which he 
appeared nerve, muscle, and fibre. 

He never seemed destined to bid farewell to 
youth in any character he impersonated. He was 
the embodiment of health, life, sparkle, and manly 
vigour. 

To the public he was an ideal. Somehow he 
had the knack of bringing into the atmosphere 
of our daily and sometimes disheartening life a 
vitality and a fascination that were absolutely in- 
fectious. 

Terriss was a host in himself. He was one of 
our most typical English actors, and the familiar 
adjective of " Breezy " bestowed upon him was 
characteristic of the man and the artist. Such a 
temperament as this, buoyant and optimistic, was 
of great value to a popular theatre. He was an 
actor incapable of pulling a long face. 

An audience was instinctively the better for 
an Adelphi play with a deep draught of Terriss 
thrown in. 



153 



CHAPTER VI 
HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

npERRISS would often tell his friends that 
* he found the chief source of enjoyment in his 
tranquil home life. "The Cottage" in Bedford 
Park savours of rusticity and repose. It is a little 
building, with red gabled roof and latticed win- 
dows, situated "far from the madding, crowd." 

The interior is a perfect picture gallery. Close 
to the porch door hangs a portrait of the host 
as " Squire Thornhill," flanked by photographs of 
Mr. Henry Pettitt and Messrs. Agostino and Ste- 
fano Gatti. The stained glass barely allows you to 
decipher the inscription, " To dear Terriss, in kind 
remembrance of old times, Sincerely yours, Henry 
Irving," on an engraving of Hamlet, which seems 
to guard the staircase ; and in two groups hard 
by you recognise " Dear Terriss " again, not in 

154 




"THE COTTAGE," BEDFORD PARK 




MRS. TERRISS 




TERRISS'S YOUNGEST SON 




\ 



THE LATE MRS. G. H. LEWIN 
(TERRISS'S MOTHER) 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

any famous character, as you might reasonably 
suppose, but firstly in his shirt-sleeves as an 
active member of the West London Quoit Club, 
and secondly with his friends the late Sir Augustus 
Harris and James Fernandez, as the life and 
soul of an autumn outing of the Drury Lane 
Fund to Burnham Beeches. 

When you paid him a visit, and your name 
was announced, there was no waiting to be 
ushered into his study, but he came out to greet 
you himself, and would hail you and welcome 
you to Bedford Park in that melodious voice which 
has given pleasure to thousands. 

He would carry you off with him for a tour 
round the back garden, where you would meet 
with a series of surprises. 

When Terriss first located himself at " The 
Cottage " he planted an apple tree, in which he 
manifested the greatest interest. It blossomed in 
profusion, and he predicted that it would be a 
prolific tree. But a bitter frost played such havoc 
with those blossoms that, to a great extent, his 
interest relaxed for a time, but was restored on his 

157 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

finding a sample of fruit thereon. This, the only 
apple, ripened, and was at length placed on the 
table ; and those who partook of it (he shared it out 
equally) were more than once reminded by Terriss 
that " I grew this in my own garden, and don't 
you forget it." 

A visit to his cherished aviary of singing birds 
might probably follow ; thence your steps would 
be directed to the cosy drawing-room, and on the 
Chinese cabinet being opened, he would show 
you his medals, faded portraits of himself as a 
Blue Coat boy, midshipman, etc., and miniatures 
taken in early days. He would ask you to go 
over his picture gallery, containing portraits of 
Clement Scott, G. R. Sims, and a host of friends 
unknown to the stage and literature. You would 
admire his paintings by some old masters, and 
he would not forget to point out the Loving- 
Cup, which occupies a prominent place on the 
mantelpiece. Passing from this apartment he 
would manifest considerable pride as he referred 
you to his family group and ancestors which hang 
in the hall. 

158 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

Ascending the Queen Anne staircase, he would 
take you to his tiny study and hand you the cigar- 
box. Here you were prepared for a stroll round 
Bedford Park. To the inhabitants of this resi- 
dential suburb he was a familiar figure. Terriss 
on the stage was most elegant in clress, but off 
it a thorough Bohemian in attire. As often as 
not he wore a tweed suit with a soft- crowned hat 
resting lightly on his head ; and not one in a 
hundred of his admirers would have recognised 
in him the spruce and dainty-looking hero of the 
Adclphi. 

In half an hour or so you were seated in the 
snuggest of parlours. Here he kept his books 
and papers. Terriss had many irons in the fire, 
and up to a certain point was a remarkably shrewd 
business man ; but by some he was considered too 
cautious in his dealings to be a really successful 
financier. He took care always to be on the 
safe side. You could seldom get him to talk 
" shop. n If you happened to catch him in the 
right humour, he would tell you that he took 
an eminently business-like view of his profession, 

T59 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

and that he would do his best to amuse in the 
capacity of a clown, if fate were to cast him for 
such a part. 

He owed everything to his own perseverance 
and hard work. He had no favours shown him, 
and no one to help him to achieve popularity. 
His motto was " Carpe diem" 

Speaking of the art, he declared that his sym- 
pathies were entirely with the late Sir Augustus 
Harris, and that he thoroughly believed in the 
motto, " A fair field and no favour. " Art as a 
means to the end was all very well. It was 
useful, like the fourth wheel of a coach, but It 
would not of itself drive the coach. Give him 
a theatre worked on a sound commercial basis, 
interspersed with art occasionally if you liked 
as a dressing he believed it to be useful. 

He also held that there was as much art in 
portraying the feelings in melodrama as in the 
most classical drama. He considered Harbmr 
Lights as important a play and as difficult to act 
as many others deemed more classic. 

At the same time he was a great lover of his 

160 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

profession, although he was constantly speaking 
against it. He had a kind, soft, generous heart, 
even if he sometimes put on a hard, selfish 
appearance. His great horror was to be thought 
sentimental. After his death, among the many 
hundreds of letters of sympathy and regret which 
were received by his family was one from an 
unknown woman, telling how he had met her 
one night, and by his kindly aid and advice she 
had been saved from premeditated suicide, and was 
then earning her living in a respectable manner. * 

A needy actor, with a parcel, under his arm 
to whom Terriss had often shown acts, of friend- 
ship, cannoned against him one day in the 
Strand. 

" Hullo, dear boy, what the devil are you doing 
now ? " asked Terriss. 

" I've done with the stage and am travelling 
in wall papers." 

" Why, are you still out of an engagement?" 
asked Terriss. " Come to my office, and I'll 

give you a note to take round to M ," naming 

a well-known actor-manager. 

163 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

A note was written, and the other prepared to 
take it. 

Terriss glanced at his appearance, which, to 
put it mildly, lacked an air of prosperity. Taking* 
off his gold watch and chain, and detaching the 
button-hole from his coat, 

"Put these on; they'll smarten you up a bit/' 
he said. 

And as the impecunious one was going out of 
the door, Terriss added, 

" Here, you can't go round with the parcel of 
wall papers. Leave them with me. I'll look 
after them. Perhaps I'll book you some orders/' 

The applicant was successful in obtaining the 
desired engagement, and having returned and 
thanked Terriss for his kindness, the elated man 
was about to leave the dressing-room, when 
Terriss yelled out, 

" Hi, you're not going to purloin my personal 
property ! Give me back the watch and chain, 
and the button-hole/' 

The watch and chain were at once returned, but 
the possessor was reluctant to part with the button- 

164 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

hole, and asked if he might keep it. Terriss 
turned to his confreres who were with him, and 
remarked, good-naturedly, 

" I got the man an engagement, became a com- 
mercial traveller in the wall-paper line on his 
behalf, lent him my personal property, and now the 
bounder wants to sneak my button-hole." But he 
gave it him all the same ; and the man still has 
it in his possession. 

He was very unostentatious in his generosity, 
and above all things endeavoured to spare a poorer 
mans feelings. He often had friends, not so well 
off as himself, playing cards with him at Bedford 
Park, and though he would adapt the stakes to 
their means, still if he thought they had lost more 
than was convenient to them, he would quietly put 
half a sovereign or so under their plates when 
they afterwards sat down to supper. And in the 
case of others, who perhaps had some way to go 
home, he would slip some silver into the pockets 
of their overcoats, "just to pay for the cab," so 
that they might find it afterwards, and not know 
where it had come from. 

165 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

He was a most methodical man, and at home 
would have everything in its proper place. He 
considered confusion a heinous sin, and would treat 
the party guilty of it accordingly. 

A true Bohemian, he found the usages of the 
most polite society just a little irksome. 

He revelled in chess and cards, and excelled in 
both, while in later years he took up cycling as an 
outside pastime. In his youth he was a " sprinter" 
of very high calibre, and few men could beat him 
at a hundred yards. His fame as a swimmer is 
pretty generally known, but the following cutting" 
from a local paper may not be without interest : 

" A swimming handicap, which created consider- 
able interest, took place on Thursday, September 
9th, 1869, at the Marylebone Baths, the prize being 
a handsome silver cup, which, after a spirited con- 
test, was won by Mr. William Terriss. Since the 
race the gentlemen frequenters of these baths have 
formed themselves into a club, to be called * The 
Leander,' and which already numbers sixty mem- 
bers." Terriss was their first captain. 

He all along sought to drill into the minds 

166 



hOMT LIFE AXD CHARACTER 

il. i s *~\ .\t >:^ r:i~:i f their be- 
,; ^ 1 - < . :i -: :: 1 v.h>tVr they agreed 
*li ,; ' : i r: * 1: t. h -r-lsttj J in having 

. V" k *: :*: . ' y- \\ - rjr^ young, he 
.::." - * r v -t - i^lL'y w::.! th*-i object of 
: . : :r .:. }Li\ : ij ^ t well out to sea, 
, . : 1 ^ : tl, Ir I> ^-rg/ \VIti reluctance 
y ^ M ' ": -: T .ry -.1 rt.y f 11 1 themselves in 
i . " ; . ^':t, f ^rrl>- A^S :r l ;.- clement, and 
i' -* It- ; r: 4 w ty f *hyvln l; : s offsprings 
i * : . - t ' * 1 * -v - 1 ..i.l^r t % circumstances 
u!V :. t } \\ >* n-n ;!^trl H^ was, how- 
^ , *r 1'^ .1 u : 1 t" r, t > ,;i thr ^jgh the lesson* 
: " :* \\ A - c *llj; 1 ,: ^i tj r^s-j'j tn^ pair, who 
:: :..* .r f.tl & -e rel^se J their hold of 
^:^L itwis r t ,.nt:l positively 
4,h^t hj \\ *j!d ii/:v them to 
s :n the b *t ^r.J nake tracks 
lit? t jj^lit his daughter in the 
* stc..rL j d th* vjiin^: lady bv a 









On** d.} in August, iSSf, uff the South Fore- 
nu t three lads were bathing, one of whom got 

167 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

out too far, and was seized with cramp before he 
could reach the shore. He cried out for assistance, 
which his two companions were not able to render. 
It so happened that Terriss and his son Tom 
were yachting in the vicinity, and Terriss, seeing 
the poor fellow in distress, lowered the lugsail, and 
without divesting himself of clothing", jumped over- 
board. He seized the lad just in the nick of time. 
A gallant rescue of two children from drowning 
by Terriss was also reported from Barnes. It 
appears that a child fell into the river, and a lad 
jumped in to endeavour to save it. Both were 
sinking, when Terriss swam to them and got them 
out. He was the recipient of two medals from 
the Royal Humane Society. 

In connection with his aquatic performances, it 
may not be but of place to recall one of his many 
jokes. He and a brother, who was also an expert 
swimmer, were spending the week-end at one of our 
favourite watering-places on the South Coast, and 
while on the pier Terriss induced his relative to 
do a little gymnastic exercise on the rail, with the 
result that the gentleman, somehow or other, fell 

168 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

overboard. Terriss appeared greatly distressed, 
and called loudly for help. Naturally a large crowd 
soon gathered round the spot, and numbers of 
people were exceedingly active in lowering life- 
buoys to the man in peril below. " I will save 
my friend, if I die in the attempt," cried Terriss, 
at the same time divesting himself of his coat, and 
plunging in. He soon reached his brother, bring- 
ing him ashore in triumph. The Humane Society, 
it is said, heard of what they considered an act of 
bravery, and would have made their usual presen- 
tation had not Terriss disclosed the premeditated 
joke. 

Terriss was justly proud of his clear-cut face, 
and also of his slim, manly figure. A few days 
before his death he told Dr. Edmund Owen that 
he had recently received a violent shock. As he 
was coming up Regent Street in the bright light 
of a morning sun, two ladies passed in front of 
him, and 9ne of them said, loud enough for him to 
hear, " That's Terriss ! Goodness me ! How old 
he looks!" 

For racing he did not seem to have the least 

171 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

taste, and when any one asked him what horse he 
was going to back, he would say, "I'm going to 
back a little filly I've often backed before ; I've 
never won anything on it, yet, strange to say, 
I've -never lost a penny." " Oh, whatever horse 
is that? "might have been the inquiry. "A little 
filly called Common Sense, ridden by Tommy 
Let-it-alone/' was the invariable answer. 

He was exceedingly slow in studying a part, 
and always did the work in bed, late at night, or 
early in the morning. 

Another peculiarity of his was that he would 
never have a play read to him, but on a MS. 
being submitted, he would carefully go through 
it, and write his opinion on the outside. One of 
the last letters, if not the last, he ever wrote, 
was to an old friend in connection with this very 
subject. 

"ADELPHI THEATRE, 



" Glad to hear from you. I would not have 
a MS. read to me if there were millions in it. 



172 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

end it on, and I will run through it. Wishing 
DU every success. With love. 

" Your old friend, 

"WiLL TERRISS." 

Of course round such a popular actor as Terriss 
lany a story and romance grew up. For instance, 

was said he had been in the Royal Navy, had 
een shipwrecked, had been at Oxford, had been 

doctor, and many other fictions, and it was his 
leasure to foster them, rather than deny them, 
ntil he grew almost to believe them true him- 
::lf, and many a good story he told, fitting the 
ap to himself, whose origin, had it been sifted 
ut, would have been found to be rather more in 
ction than fact. But of the romances woven 
round his name by others than himself, the fol- 
:>wing, overheard one evening in the Adelphi, is 
fair sample. The narrator was a lady, who, 
Bearing her neighbours speak of Terriss, intcr- 
osecl with : " Yes, is he not splendid ? So good 
Doking ; but such a sad life, my dears, such a 
ad life is his. Some years ago, when he was 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

quite young, he was in Paris, gazing at the 
Venus of Milo, when a young girl came up and 
also gazed at the same object. Terriss turned, 
and then started, and looked earnestly at her, for 
she was the most beautiful being he had ever 
seen well, it was the old, old story. He managed 
to get an introduction, and before a fortnight had 
passed they were engaged. Soon he had to go 
back to London to fulfil his engagement ; she 
stayed behind to study art under one of the great 
French masters. Six months elapsed, and Terriss 
received a note from her, breaking off the en- 
gagement, but giving no sufficient reason. He 
hurried off to Paris, but could find no trace of 
her or her guardian. He never saw her again, 
for within a year she died, sending him a letter 
explaining all. She was the daughter of some 
great criminal, and had never known this until 
the day she wrote to him, saying she loved him 
too well to bring him dishonour. Terriss has 
never married ; he will never speak to a woman 
if he can help it ; and he never acts upon the 
day she died." 

174 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

" Thoroughness was the dominant quality in 
the nature of William Terriss," writes a very old 
friend of his, "in his business relations, artistic 
connections, friendships and affections that one 
word covered all thoroughness." 

If he had not genius in the sense we under- 
stand it, he had the capacity for taking infinite 
pains, and he was ever ready to listen to suggestions, 
and try his best to carry out the ideas of others. He 
did not, as many actors do with small ability and 
self-confidence, "pooh-pooh" an author or manager's 
wishes ; and I well remember the late Mr. W. G. 
Wills, saying to me of Terriss after a rehearsal 
of Olivia at the Court Theatre : "He will do ; he 
listens to suggestions, and tries to work out what 
we want/' 

Now and then Terriss put his spoke into the 
wheel of an academic controversy, and mostly a 
good sound workmanlike spoke it was. When the 
conduct of the demonstrative " first-nighters " was 
the subject of discussion in the Era, Terriss ranged 
himself on the side of the "first-nighter," de- 
claring frankly that he liked to be applauded, but 

175 i 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

also he admitted the right of the " first-nighter " 
to hiss. " It's all very well," he said, "to claim 
the indulgence due to ladies and gentlemen; but 
artists should remember that they are actors 01 
actresses when they are on the boards ; and ii 
they wish to be treated as ladies and gentlemen 
only, they had better remain in that privacy witli 
which the public have no right to interfere, anc 
where they will be alike free from public applause 
and public censure." A sentiment which Mr 
Punch labelled "" Number One Adelphi Terriss.' 
And he hit the right nail on the head in a lette: 
of his to the Daily Telegraph on the Shakespeare 
Bacon controversy, in which the lines of Terriss' 
argument might have had for their text the word 
which Thomas a Kempis wrote long ago : " Searcl 
not who spoke this or that, but mark what i 
spoken. u Terriss argued sensibly and bluntly t 
this effect, that it did not matter a sou wh 
wrote the marvellous collection of plays whic 
have been handed down to us through such 
length of time as the works of William Shake 
speare ; and that if it could be proved to-morrov 

176 



HOME LIFE AND CHARACTER 

beyond the slightest possibility of doubt, that 
they were written by Bacon or Burleigh or 
Queen Elizabeth, we should not be really one 
jot the happier or the wiser. We have got the 
plays ; they were our precious, imperishable pos- 
session. Why should we care two straws as to the 
precise nomenclature of the dead-and-gone man 
of genius who penned them? As well waste our 
time in bewailing" the MSS. from Shakespeare's 
hands that may have perished in the flames 
through the carelessness of a general servant ; as 
well hunt after the authorship of the Book of 
Job, or weary our spirits in seeking to identify 
Kohclcth. 



177 



CHAPTER VII 
HIS DEATH AND BURIAL 

npERRISS had laid down his plans for the 
* future. He contemplated a twelve weeks' 
tour of the suburban and provincial theatres, to 
be followed by a tour through South Africa and 
Australia. 

He often said that after this was accomplished 
he would retire from the stage. He had made 
the proverbial golden egg, and it was his de- 
sire to enjoy the rest of his life in country 
surroundings. 

He did not believe in lasting glory, but rather 
that, whatever a reputation an actor might make, 
and to what summit he might rise, both he and his 
work would soon be forgotten. 

An actor's popularity being of such an ephemeral 
nature, so short lived, he held it better to bid adieu 

178 



HIS DEATH AND BURIAL 

to a generous play-going public whilst still fresh and 
in favour, instead of lagging on until he became a 
decrepit old gentleman. 

On the other hand he considered that the results 
of the work of a great actor, like Henry Irving for 
instance, would always be felt, but such as his own 
could not possibly leave behind a mark for good or 
evil. 

He was not, however, permitted to carry out his 
plan, for his career of adventure and honest good 
work closed with awful suddenness on the evening 
of the 1 6th of December, 1897. ^ e an d a friend 
were about to enter the private door of the Adelphi 
Theatre, where he w T as playing in Secret Service, 
when a maniac's stab put an end to this gay, this 
generous, this admirable life. 

Nature in mournful unison with man responded 
to the keynote of sadness struck in countless hearts 
by the last solemn rites accompanying the inter- 
ment, which took place a few days afterwards 
at Brompton Cemetery, where so many of our 
popular heroes and heroines of the stage sleep in 
peace. 

181 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

It may be said with truth that the funeral was 
the occasion of one of the greatest public demon- 
strations of sympathy and respect that London has 
ever seen. 

Not only the heads of the dramatic profession, in 
which he was so universally loved, not only the 
representatives of literature and journalism, but 
members of every art and craft passed through 
those mournful gates to pay a last tribute of respect 
and veneration at the grave of one who, if not a 
comrade, was at least a friend. 

Her Majesty the Queen expressed her sympathy 
in an eloquent autograph letter addressed to the 
family as follows : 

" The Queen sends her condolence and deep 
sympathy to Mrs. William Terriss and family in 
their sad bereavement. She deeply feels the loss 
which has robbed the English stage of one of its 
brightest ornaments/' 

^His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales con- 
tributed a wreath, while other floral tributes num- 
bered over one thousand, the forms and colours of 
which were as striking as their number and beauty. 

182 




THE LATE GEORGE HERBERT LEW1N, BARRISTER-AT-LAW 
(TERRISS'S FATHER) 



HIS DEATH AND BURIAL 

There were a ship, and a steering wheel, a globe 
resting on a Union Jack, and bearing the words, 
" All the world's a stage," a ladder typical of fame, 
shields, harps, lyres, cushions, anchors, broken pil- 
lars, and innumerable crosses. 

The coffin bore the simple inscription : 

WILLIAM CHARLES JAMES LEWIN, 

Died 1 6th December, 1897, 

Aged 49 years. 

When the last solemn words of the ritual had 
been spoken, the chaplain delivered a brief but 
eloquent address in praise of the departed actor, 
and of the profession of which he had been so 
worthy an ornament. Coming through the streets, 
the speaker said, he had passed through the ranks 
of a great crowd animated with a single thought 
one of deep respect for the dead, and affectionate 
sympathy with the friends of him who had gone. 
It would afford consolation to those whom William 
Terriss held dear to realize the heartfelt sorrow 
with which all London the whole country re- 

185 




p^^t^-* > 




From a Photo by ALFRED ELLIS 



HIS DEATH AND BURIAL 

" Which of us who are gathered together could 
by any possibility have dreamt that such a call 
would have summoned us here ? It is all so 
sudden and so cruel. One of us, in the very midst 
of life, health, usefulness, and the esteem of 
those around him, has been struck down by this 
cowardly hand. The horror of it flashed through 
London from east to west, and linked east and west 
in one common sorrow. The very irony of such a 
thing appalled us. I think, among all the great 
testimony which has been pouring out in his 
memory and honour, there are two passages you 
must have seen one, * I did not know that he had 
an enemy in life, 1 and the other, 'I would have 
risked twenty lives to have saved him.' These 
sayings are typical of those who knew and loved 
him best. The manner of it, too, it seems as if we 
cannot get it out of our minds. The word assassina- 
tion is, thank God, almost unknown in this England 
of ours. May it ever remain so. But it Is not that 
of which you would have me to speak in addressing 
a few words to you this morning. It is rather of 
himself. A generous, kindly soul has gone. No 

189 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

garded their loss. Those who were the late actor's 
comrades in art those who worked with him in 
" the same great profession" knew all and more 
than he could tell them of the dead man. If they 
were doing their duty in that noble calling, they 
would feel that their reward was always to be found 
in the appreciation of the public. They must needs 
derive great satisfaction from the approval of those 
who called them to the portrayal of the complexities 
of human life. Their dead friend they were now 
leaving in the hands of the Almighty, and that was 
the only keeping to which those who were left 
behind would entrust him. 

Words like these, spoken with deep feeling and 
conviction, drew their inevitable tribute of tears. 
It was with moist and trembling eyelids that women 
and men alike turned from the grave where they 
had laid their departed brother. Sorrow sat upon 
each brow as the great congregation slowly dis- 
persed and left the dead actor to his long rest. 

A beautiful and impressive memorial service was 
held at the Chapel Royal, Savoy, at which the same 
clergyman spoke the following appreciation : 

186 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

longer shall we have those splendid, manly repre- 
sentations of life as it is, as it may be, as 
imagination may picture it before us. There is 
something that has always very much interested 
us in his work. We all at heart have a great 
regard for that old Adelphi and the pieces we have 
had there for years past, since the time when we 
became playgoers, and we know how careful and 
good all his efforts were in his own great profession. 
But outside that, it is always said of you members 
of the dramatic profession that you are a warm- 
hearted, enthusiastic, and generous people. From 
my own experience I can testify how true it is. I 
know what you do when some of you go down in 
the battle of life. I know what ready help you 
give, and know that at the moment of your success 
you think of the dark days which life may have 
in store. I know your estimate of each other ; it 
is as generous as it possibly can be. I know that 
the brotherhood and sisterhood which exist 
between you are of the closest and kindliest ; and 
it must be a delight to you to see the outside 
public recognising all this in connection with one 

190 



HIS DEATH AND BURIAL 

f the well-known and leading members of your 
ody. It must be a delight to you that the gifts 
rfiich he possessed carry with them their impres- 
ion on the public mind, and raise the whole status 
.nd dignity of the actors profession. He is not 
lead. He doth not sleep. He has awakened 
rom the dream of life. I grant you that, as men 
ind women, and as Christians, it needs all the 
>ower that is within us to rise to the full measure 
>f our faith at such a moment. It is very hard to 
;ay, ' It is well/ We can only do it in the sense 
hat we leave our dead friend in the hands of the 
jreat Father who loves and pities each one of us, 
;he God who measures the value of each life as no 
nan or woman among us can ever measure our 
icts, wishes, deeds, and intentions. And I think 
:hat from this gathering, to which you have come 
with hearts full of sorrow and sympathy, you will 
;*o away strengthened. It seems to me only the 
other day we sat here together, and that I was 
privileged to address a few words to you on the 
death of poor Charles Riley. Even if I repeat 
what I said then, I say you must go back 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

strengthened after such a gathering as this, feeling 
that your art has such a power in it, that in the 
steady adherence to duty and the best interpreta- 
tion of those wonderful dramas and scenes which 
are in the hands of modern players, you have a 
great trust, and that if you carry out that trust as 
a real thing you have a most generous public to 
witness your work. You will then ever have most 
appreciative audiences, because they know that 
there is the best teaching to be found in those 
scenes of human life which you portray. You 
feel, not only that sympathy and interest, but the 
obligation you have to the public. That public 
is ever ready enough to give you back generously 
to give you back your measure running over. Go 
back to your life, strengthened in the sense that 
this dead man's kindly life has made a deep 
impression, not only upon all of you who have 
been his partners in the work, but has sunk deeply 
into the hearts of our English people. " 



CHAPTER VIII 
BREEZY BILL 

his fellow-actors and companions the above 
was one of the familiar names by which he 
r as known, and he appeared to do his best to 
eserve it ; but there were a few, a very few, to 
r hom he displayed the other side of his character, 
side the world at large knew nothing of. He 
r as not always the merry, jovial, restless spirit 
eople imagined him ; there were times when he 
Ilowed the inner side of his character to be seen, 
r hen he gave way to strong emotion, and when 
e suffered his deeper nature to come to the sur- 
ice. But these occasions were rare. He thought, 
nd he felt deeply, but those thoughts and feelings 
e kept, for the most part, to himself. It seemed 
Imost as if he were anxious that the world should 
:now him only in his lighter moods, and as if 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

strengthened after such a gathering as this, feeling 
that your art has such a power in it, that in the 
steady adherence to duty and the best interpreta- 
tion of those wonderful dramas and scenes which 
are in the hands of modern players, you have a 
great trust, and that if you carry out that trust as 
a real thing you have a most generous public to 
witness your work. You will then ever have most 
appreciative audiences, because they know that 
there is the best teaching to be found in those 
scenes of human life which you portray. You 
feel, not only that sympathy and interest, but the 
obligation you have to the public. That public 
is ever ready enough to give you back generously 
to give you back your measure running* oven Go 
back to your life, strengthened in the sense that 
this dead man's kindly life has made a deep 
impression, not only upon all of you who have 
been his partners in the work, but has sunk deeply 
into the hearts of our English people. 5 ' 



CHAPTER VIII 
BREEZY BILL 

T^O his fellow-actors and companions the above 
was one of the familiar names by which he 
r as known, and he appeared to do his best to 
eserve it ; but there were a few, a very few, to 
rhom he displayed the other side of his character, 
side the world at large knew nothing of. He 
ras not always the merry, jovial, restless spirit 
eople imagined him ; there were times when he 
llowed the inner side of his character to be seen, 
'hen he gave way to strong emotion, and when 
e suffered his deeper nature to come to the sur- 
ice. But these occasions were rare. He thought, 
nd he felt deeply, but those thoughts and feelings 
e kept, for the most part, to himself. It seemed 
Imost as if he were anxious that the world should 
.now him only in his lighter moods, and as if 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

his somewhat mournful and sombre moments were 
intended for himself alone. His daughter's very 
serious illness, and the death of her baby, affected 
him deeply; and as the little coffin was being; 
lowered into the vault where his mother and he 
himself now rest, he said to his brother, "Ah, 
Bob, I feel it won't be long before I shall join 
her" (meaning his mother). 

The Sunday before his death, while at dinner 
with his family, he told them of a man who had 
died suddenly of heart disease. By the dramatic 
way in which he acted the last motion of the man 
he frightened his wife, and more so when he 
added, with much emphasis ".A splendid death 
to die; no lingering illness, no bedside agonies, 
no doctors, no cries, moans, or tears, heartrending 
to all ; but peace, perfect peace." 

Death was a subject on which he would fre- 
quently converse; he had no horror nor fear of 
it, though he seemed to be shadowed by presenti- 
ment, and was a thorough believer in predestina- 
tion, In connection with this his old friend Mr. 
B. Fargeon writes : I never heard him utter an 

194 




From a Photo by WINDOW & GROVB 



BREEZY BILL 

unamiable word, and it often struck me that in 
his views of life and death, which I may mention 
was a theme upon which he constantly spoke, 
there was a greater depth than he was generally 
credited with." Some few weeks before his death, 
Mrs. Terriss was reading the notices of Charlotte 
Corday in the Daily Telegraph, and she happened 
to say she thought the part of " Marat" would 
suit him excellently. 

He shuddered at the idea, and said: "Ah, no! 
horrible ! I could not bear that scene with the 
knife ; to be stabbed like that seems terrible. I 
should not like to take that part" 

And this sober side was not merely the out- 
come of mature years ; even in the careless days 
of his youth it was present, if not often visible. 
One of his very old friends supplies two incidents 
that well illustrate this. He says : 

" My very first recollection of him (Terriss, 
dating about 1865) gives me the picture of a 
handsome and decided young man stepping be- 
tween and separating two working-men engaged 
in fistic encounter. There must have been some 

197 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

magnetism about him, for a moment after he laid 
his hands upon their shoulders and said a few 
quiet words to them, one combatant silently de- 
parted in one direction and the other by another 
route. 

" Another incident I well remember. It oc- 
curred in 1869; I think it was 1869. A pair- 
oared race, a friendly contest, had been arranged 
between two crews. Dr. Friend Lewin (Terriss' 
brother), a very powerful oar, and Mr. William 
Dawson, one of Terriss 1 oldest and most valued 
friends, manned one of the boats, whilst poor 
Terriss (stroke) and myself (bow) were their 
opponents. 

" In preparation for this race we were accus- 
tomed to take a daily pull over the course. One 
morning, a bright morning in early summer, we 
landed for a few minutes, leaving our boat beside 
a landing-stage. When we had returned, and 
were re-seated with the small boy who steered 
us, trimly prepared for his responsibilities, the 
young man who looked after the boats gave us 
a push off. Such a push off that it nearly upset 

198 



BREEZY BILL 

the boat. Terriss turned to me and said, 'Pull 
in, old man.' 

" This done, he stepped from the boat, and, 
seizing the man by the collar, exclaimed : 

"'You scoundrel! because you were not satis- 
fied with the money I gave you, you tried to 
upset our boat. That would not have hurt my 
friend or myself, but it might have drowned that 
little boy/ 

" The man turned deathly pale, whilst the ex- 
pression of his countenance and faltering attempt 
at a denial of the charge left little room for doubt 
that his guilty intention had been seen through, 
though for charity's sake I cannot bring myself 
to believe that he contemplated a fatal catas- 
trophe to crown his malignancy. 

"With a superb movement of disdain, and a 
gesture full of expression, Terriss released his 
hold of the churl with the words : 

" ' I spare you this time. Live and learn to 
be a man.' 

"As I recall this incident, I cannot resist the 
reflection that Terriss 1 success upon the stage was 

199 K 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

in considerable measure due to the fact that he 
had not in heroic situations to 'assume a virtue. 
What has been termed ' sublimated' Intonation 
and gesture was really natural to the mart himself 
"In no scene subsequently played by him on 
the boards was there finer treatment of a situa- 
tion shown than on that summer's morning when, 
long before the day of his theatrical successes, his 
own individuality, then histrionically untrained, 
gave so effective an object-lesson in those indis- 
pensable symbols of the greatest histrions, vi^:., 
facial expression, voice, and gesture." 

But it was in the brighter side of his character 
that Terriss was best known to his friends and 
acquaintances. Above all he was a terrible practical 
joker ; even his intimates and relations never felt 
safe. His own brother said : " I never knew what 
he would be up to next ; he was certain to have you 
before long." And the more completely he d& 
have you, the greater was his delight. Dr. George 

Field thus relates one of his early freaks : 

"When we were one day walking out together 
he remarked, < You see that nice old lady with the 



200 



BREEZY BILL 

diite curls coming along. I am going to kiss her.' 
\nd without more ado, he went up to the old 
lame and kissed her. To the naturally indignant 
exclamation, * How dare you, sir ! ' Terriss, not 

whit abashed, and with the self-command of a 
>erfect actor, replied, 

" 'Your name, I think, is Jones.' 

"' Nothing of the sort/ she cried; 'my name 
3 Smith.' I forget now whether this was her 
:xact cognomen. 

" ' Oh/ said he, ' I have made a most unfortunate 
mistake. I quite thought you were my grand- 
mother ; you are the very image of her.' 

"Whereupon he took off his hat, and was so 
>rofuse in his apologies that, before he left her, 
he old lady beamed with smiles, and appeared 
[uite enchanted with his politeness/' 

His brother Bob (Friend) was the constant 
ictim of his jokes, and the following are only 

few samples out of a large stock : 

" I and Will had one day occasion to go up to 
lie Agricultural Hall at Islington, and we travelled 
y 'bus. The interior was pretty full, but there was 

201 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

one seat at the far end which I took possession of, 
while Will seated himself close to the door. Away 
we rumbled, and whether it was that I was tired, or 
that the 'bus was close, I don't know, but I felt very 
drowsy, and commenced nodding*. I ought to 
mention that I was anything but smartly dressed 
that day, having on a rough suit of tweed, and wear- 
ing a cap. I had not been taking my ease very 
long before I heard the words, ' My Lord F uttered 
in well-known tones. A cold shiver ran clown my 
back at the sound. Heaven only knew what was 
coming next, and I felt my one course was to feign 
sleep. But it was no good ; I might have saved 
myself the trouble. Again the words were repeated, 
this time somewhat louder, * My Lord ! ' and on my 
refusing to take any notice, I heard the request : 
' Might I trouble you, sir, just to touch that gentle- 
man in the corner.' There was no help for It now \ 
I had to wake, which I did in as natural a manner 
as I could assume, with the query, Eh, well ; what 
is it? Eh? 5 I merely wished to inquire, my 
Lord, whether it was at The Angel public house 
you wished to get out?' replied Will, with the 

202 




AT 30 
From a Photo by W. & D. DOWNEY 



BREEZY BILL 

aost gravity. Imagine my feelings, dressed as 
;hen was ! 

:t On another occasion my brother and I were 
veiling in a third-class smoking carriage from 
Dolwich to Charing Cross. The compartment 
s quite full of workmen. Will was sitting 
Dosite me, and apparently in the best of health, 
en I suddenly saw his eyes close, and his 
uth begin to twitch. I was horrified, for I 
*w only too well what was coming ; but I 
:tended not to notice anything, and gazed out of 
; window. But almost immediately I received a 
Ige in the side, and my next-door neighbour said, 
>ay, your mate's took bad, I think.' I was forced 
look then. ' Oh, it's nothing/ I replied ; ' it will 
>n pass off ; leave him alone.' Will probably 
ird this, for the facial contortions were redoubled, 
1 the other occupants of the carriage were seri- 
;ly alarmed. ' Here, I say,' exclaimed one, 
>u must do something for him ; he's dying.' I at- 
ipted to make light of it, but general opinion was 
dnst me, and I was compelled, while leaning over 
I shaking him, to whisper : ' For heaven's sake, 

205 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

Will, come to again ; it's getting beyond a joke.' 
And my brother acceded to my request, and in the 
most natural manner recovered his senses. I was 
congratulating myself on having thus got out of an 
unpleasant predicament, for the workmen, misjudg- 
ing my indifference, had summed me up as an 
unfeeling brute, and were inclined to be nasty, when 
to my horror I saw Will feigning a second and 
a far more violent fit. It was one of the 
truest pieces of imitation I have ever witnessed. 
I had to become a most unwilling actor myself 
now, in order to restore him to consciousness, and 
the end of it was that, instead of continuing our 
journey to Charing Cross, our fellow-travellers 
compelled me to take my brother out at Cannon 
Street, in order to convey him as quickly as possible 
to the nearest hospital. 

" Another time I was travelling with him on the 
Underground, our only companion being an old 
gentleman busily engaged with his paper opposite 
us. We hadn't proceeded very far, when Will, 
with a glance at our companion, leant towards me 
and said in a loud stage whisper, ' It's Snodgrass.' 

206 



BREEZY BILL 

' Oh no, it isn't/ I replied, nervous as to what was 
coming. ' Oh yes, it is ; Fm sure of it It must 
be ' ; and then, as I endeavoured to stop him, he 
bent forward towards the gentleman and said : 
f Pardon me, sir, but your name's Snodgrass, I 
think?' ' No/ said the old gentleman; 'you've 
made a mistake ; it's So-and-so.' ' Not Snodgrass ! 
Really. Well, I never saw so remarkable a likeness. 
He was an old schoolfellow of ours. I could have 
sworn you were he. It is curious ; you must allow 
me to shake hands with you.' This the gentleman 
did. * Now, Bob, you must shake hands with him 
too ; isn't it a remarkable likeness ? ' And I had to 
go through the farce of shaking hands with a 
perfect stranger I had never seen in my life before. 
And when we arrived at our station, Will would 
not leave the carriage before we both had once 
more gone through the performance, on the 
strength of an imaginary likeness to a visionary 
schoolfellow named Snodgrass of all names. 
Whether the old gentleman saw through him, I am 
not in a position to say ; but I know I felt very 
thankful when I had left the carriage. 

207 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

" I and my brother together visited the Paris 
Exhibition, and the fancy took him to parade the 
building in a bath chair, and occasionally give a 
life-like representation of a severe epileptic fit." 

Railway carriages appear to have been favourite 
arenas with Terriss for the display of his powers. 

When the new indicator was first placed in the 
trains on the District Railway system, he regarded 
it as a novelty, but complained of the name of 
the advertising firm being placed in bolder type 
than that of the next station. On one occasion 
he travelled in a third-class smoking carriage, and 
disguised himself as a Frenchman. The carriage 
was well filled with members of the artisan class, 
who were somewhat amused, if not concerned, 
at the utterances of the Frenchman. Terriss, who 
was with one of his sons at the time, spoke in 
broken English, rolled his eyes, and asked whether 
the next station was " Mellin's Food, or K eatings." 
The fellow-passengers appeared to think he was 
a madman. His son pacified them by saying 
he was in charge of the lunatic, and he was harm- 
less. Presently, on arriving at his destination, 

208 



HUM /V !H!d, 
a hi . di .,;aiv. I'll** \t 'I'kmen ap- 



pivt iat'd tli'* j"h'\ aad iVnL- h.uid'-d them rav h 
thr prii e ft a p~liv .h.-r. 

Tin:, w.i * K'I ih- .n!\ * k i;>u *n whu.h he 

iu;/. ai K' h uapit'i:, ha\ in,* ( h* rl thai a luu.ilu: 
h.td e-.t,ij'! ( li- , 4 ,i it .in* il uh. I h*' \va-. like aiui 
did hi-, he-, i t<> repp- ,'-tii hmi, Admirahly ilir>- 
v'uised, h- ran pa'O* l!i ? - p. !ur' ".tafhin, and the. 

i r ' I * 

ulfii ei"% n^tii m,; hnn, and I-ii' i \m,; him it* he the 
hm.ilii , i h.f,''d lain a f'.re.il di-.tan^<\ 
Well ahead >J them, h f ' '.''l/ed the ppoj 
tjuit kly ;; (% ltinjj nd t ln% tli-.^ui.v, aiul 
liaek in ihe !ireiiin they weie inninj,..;. 

them, he { 'pped them alit'l \plaineil Ui.ltlei'S ; 

iiut il wunld not have been TeiTiv* it hin viirliins 
ciid Util part wilh him agreeably fali:*lied. 

Alluilier til hi'* jk-"., whiih, ala-- ! lia' lately, 

iu part, li^en paiutully re.tli/el, i-i i<*ld by Mrs, 

IVrri:,:-*. Sin- and lh- family were vKiling Mailame 
TuNviUil'.s, when her hu'Jninil, nuliiitij; an empty 

hlaild tiuVrfril With ihe M:,iul I'ed li,li/,t*, immedi . 

atiily tt^ok up hi: pa;.tli^u up* in il. lit; :trtu:k 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

an attitude, and remained still and apparently life- 
less. Presently visitors came that way, and 
passing before the presumed effigy, could not 
discover from the guide book what it represented. 
In the midst of their wonderment Terriss stepped 
down and caused them much consternation and 
surprise. The joke is by no means an original 
one ; but seeing how it has recently found its 
counterpart in reality, it is worthy of mention. 

And now this brief, disjointed, and all unworthy 
memoir of a "good fellow" and a general favour- 
ite must be brought to a close ; and it cannot 
end better than with some beautiful verses which 
appeared years ago above the name William 
Terriss. 



210 



15KKKXV BILL 



Oh' ,i \*.nd*TU:I %tirun i-, thr nvrr of Time, 

A% if JUM-, tin.*' thr. ir.dm of tears; 
\\ilh frirntl-v, tl, ,w and monotonous rhyme 
If \\it-r\i*. .it w;ih ,i \v,tvr Mi!i!mif, 



And w:n f '-r, tin!: onward like Hakes o 

And th>- vr.n , t ili>- -.h, n yrar; t they eome and they go 
Un th.- nv.-i\ -,tt:u iid", with its ebb and ils How, 
A-i it /lid'--, m tiif -.hadnw and shern, 

Theie's .1 m,i.;- .d r,lr up the* nvrr u| Time, I 

Tht-N-'-. .1 lMudlr,\ %ky and a liopieal dime, 
In -,jnn^ \vh-a we lii*.t \vtitit a maying. 

Aw! the name <t t!t<* r.tmd is Long Ag<.) 3 

And we fjnd our lost trea-.ures there; 
'1'heie aie bi>w. 1 , of beauty, and bosoms of snow 
(N*\v h*-,ip", .il du-.t, lliiHii'ji we loved them so); 

is and tresses of hair : 



Th'r air Mjatt ht-. of .songs that nobody .sings, 
Tiirir ;ur wtinls IVr.Hn an infant's prayer ; 

Thrfr ,ur lutes uinwrpt and liarps without strings, 
Thru- aii- broken vows and pieces of rings*, 
lluit tur luwd ones used to wear: 



THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TERRISS 

There are hands that waved when we parted last, 

There are eyes never dimmed by tears; 
There are heads never bowed to misfortune's blast, 
But still stood erect while the storm went past, 
In the long-forgotten years. 

But the sunlight is fading for weal or woe, 

And the waters onward pour; 
And Time, the destroyer, with one fell blow, 
Has sunk our island of " Long Ago " 

In the ocean of " Never More." 



Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing: Works, Frome, and London. 



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