[Illustration: “A FLASHY YOUNG CAD, IN A VERY LOUD SUIT.”]
Replying to a question I put to him as to his theatrical experiences, Mr. Grossmith told me that it was in the November of 1877 that he received the following letter:—
“King William Street,
“Dear Mr. Grossmith,—Are you inclined to go on the stage for a time? There is a part in the new piece I am doing with Gilbert which I think you would play admirably. I can’t find a good man for it. Let me have a line, or come to Albert Mansions to-morrow, after 4; or Thursday, before 2.30.
“This was a great moment in my life, although at the time my father, whose good judgment I valued much, was of opinion that I was not very successful as an actor. Sullivan, however, who had heard me give a musical sketch at a dinner party, was of the contrary opinion, and felt sure that I should suit him. It appears he and Arthur Cecil were both writing letters at the Beefsteak, when the former said, ’I can’t find a fellow for this opera.’ Cecil said, ‘I wonder if Grossmith—’ Before he had finished the sentence, Arthur Sullivan said, ‘The very man!’ And so I was engaged. I am much indebted to these two Arthurs,” continued the bright little man with a laugh. “I reverence the very name of Arthur. I remember when Gilbert wanted to engage me for the part of John Wellington Wells, though I saw the part would suit me to perfection, I said to him, ’I should have thought you required a fine man with a fine voice for the part of a magician.’ I can still see Gilbert’s humorous expression as he replied, ‘That is just what we don’t want.’ I played Sir Joseph Porter in ‘Pinafore’ every night for nearly two years. Long runs don’t affect the nerves of the actors nearly as much as they affect the performance. Constant repetition begets mechanism, and that is a terrible enemy to contend against. I make a point of playing my best to a bad house; for it is a monstrous thing to slur through one’s work because the stalls are empty, and thereby punish those who have come for the fault of those who have not. Still, I repeat it, constant repetition is a dreadful thing. Fancy playing ‘Pinafore,’ as I did, for 700 nights without missing a single performance!”