“The Medicine Man” was, in my opinion, our only quite unworthy production.
From my Diary.—“Poor Taber has such an awful part in the play, and mine is even worse. It is short enough, yet I feel I can’t cut too much of it.... The gem of the whole play is my hair! Not waved at all, and very filmy and pale. Henry, I admit, is splendid; but oh, it is all such rubbish!... If ‘Manfred’ and a few such plays are to succeed this, I simply must do something else.”
But I did not! I stayed on, as every one knows, when the Lyceum as a personal enterprise of Henry’s was no more—when the farcical Lyceum Syndicate took over the theater. I played a wretched part in “Robespierre,” and refused L12,000 to go to America with Henry in “Dante.”
In these days Henry was a changed man. He became more republican and less despotic as a producer. He left things to other people. As an actor he worked as faithfully as ever. Henley’s stoical lines might have been written of him as he was in these last days:
“Out of the night that
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods there be
For my unconquerable soul.
“In the fell clutch
I have not winced nor cried aloud:
Beneath the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.”
Henry Irving did not treat me badly. I hope I did not treat him badly. He revived “Faust” and produced “Dante.” I would have liked to stay with him to the end of the chapter, but there was nothing for me to act in either of these plays. But we never quarreled. Our long partnership dissolved naturally. It was all very sad, but it could not be helped.
It has always been a reproach against Henry Irving in some mouths that he neglected the modern English playwright; and of course the reproach included me to a certain extent. I was glad, then, to show that I could act in the new plays when Mr. Barrie wrote “Alice-sit-by-the-Fire” for me, and after some years’ delay I was able to play in Mr. Bernard Shaw’s “Captain Brassbound’s Conversion.” Of course I could not have played in “little” plays of this school at the Lyceum with Henry Irving, even if I had wanted to! They are essentially plays for small theaters.
In Mr. Shaw’s “A Man of Destiny” there were two good parts, and Henry, at my request, considered it, although it was always difficult to fit a one-act play into the Lyceum bill. For reasons of his own Henry never produced Mr. Shaw’s play and there was a good deal of fuss made about it at the time (1897). But ten years ago Mr. Shaw was not so well known as he is now, and the so-called “rejection” was probably of use to him as an advertisement!
“A Man of Destiny” has been produced since, but without any great success. I wonder if Henry and I could have done more with it?