Kindness on kindness’s head accumulated! There was The Tribune testimonial. I can never forget that London’s youngest newspaper first conceived the idea of celebrating my Stage Jubilee.
[Footnote 1: I am sorry to say that since I wrote this The Tribune, after a gallant fight for life, has gone to join the company of the courageous enterprises which have failed.]
The matinee given in my honor at Drury Lane by the theatrical profession was a wonderful sight. The two things about it which touched me most deeply were my reception by the crowd who were waiting to get into the gallery when I visited them at two in the morning, and the presence of Eleonora Duse, who came all the way from Florence just to honor me. She told me afterwards that she would have come from South Africa or from Heaven, had she been there! I appreciated very much too, the kindness of Signor Caruso in singing for me. I did not know him at all, and the gift of his service was essentially the impersonal desire of an artist to honor another artist.
I was often asked during these jubilee days, “how I felt about it all,” and I never could answer sensibly. The strange thing is that I don’t know even now what was in my heart. Perhaps it was one of my chief joys that I had not to say good-bye at any of the celebrations. I could still speak to my profession as a fellow-comrade on the active list, and to the public as one still in their service.
One of those little things almost too good to be true happened at the close of the Drury Lane matinee. A four-wheeler was hailed for me by the stage-door keeper, and my daughter and I drove off to Lady Bancroft’s in Berkeley Square to leave some flowers. Outside the house, the cabman told my daughter that in old days he had often driven Charles Kean from the Princess’s Theater, and that sometimes the little Miss Terrys were put inside the cab too and given a lift! My daughter thought it such an extraordinary coincidence that the old man should have come to the stage-door of Drury Lane by a mere chance on my jubilee day that she took his address, and I was to send him a photograph and remuneration. But I promptly lost the address, and was never able to trace the old man.
I have now nearly finished the history of my fifty years upon the stage.
A good deal has been left out through want of skill in selection. Some things have been included which perhaps it would have been wiser to omit.
I have tried my best to tell “all things faithfully,” and it is possible that I have given offense where offense was not dreamed of; that some people will think that I should not have said this, while others, approving of “this,” will be quite certain that I ought not to have said “that.”
“One said it thundered ... another that an angel spake.”
It’s the point of view, for I have “set down naught in malice.”