During my struggles with my refractory, fragmentary, and unsatisfactory memories, I have realized that life itself is a point of view: is, to put it more clearly, imagination.
So if any one said to me at this point in my story: “And is this, then, what you call your life?” I should not resent the question one little bit.
“We have heard,” continues my imaginary and disappointed interlocutor, “a great deal about your life in the theater. You have told us of plays and parts and rehearsals, of actors good and bad, of critics and of playwrights, of success and failure, but after all, your whole life has not been lived in the theater. Have you nothing to tell us about your different homes, your family life, your social diversions, your friends and acquaintances? During your life there have been great changes in manners and customs; political parties have altered; a great Queen has died; your country has been engaged in two or three serious wars. Did all these things make no impression on you? Can you tell us nothing of your life in the world?”
And I have to answer that I have lived very little in the world. After all, the life of an actress belongs to the theater as the life of a soldier belongs to the army, the life of a politician to the State, and the life of a woman of fashion to society.
Certainly I have had many friends outside the theater, but I have had very little time to see them.
I have had many homes, but I have had very little time to live in them!
When I am not acting, the best part of my time is taken up by the most humdrum occupations. Dealing with my correspondence, even with the help of a secretary, is no insignificant work. The letters, chiefly consisting of requests for my autograph, or appeals to my charity, have to be answered. I have often been advised to ignore them—surely a course that would be both bad policy and bad taste on the part of a servant of the public. It would be unkind, too, to those ignorant of my busy life and the calls upon my time.
Still, I sometimes wish that the cost of a postage stamp were a sovereign at least!
* * * * *
In 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, I find that I wrote in my diary:—“I am not yet forty, but am pretty well worn out.”
It is twenty years since then, and I am still not worn out. Wonderful!
It is commonly known, I think, that Henry Irving’s health first began to fail in 1896.
He went home to Grafton Street after the first night of the revival of “Richard III.” and slipped on the stairs, injuring his knee. With characteristic fortitude, he struggled to his feet unassisted and walked to his room. This made the consequences of the accident far more serious, and he was not able to act for weeks.
It was a bad year at the Lyceum.