He could always give his whole great mind to the matter in hand. This made him one of the most comfortable people to talk to that I have ever met. In everything he was thorough, and I don’t think he could have been late for anything.
I contrasted his punctuality, when he came to see “King Lear,” with the unpunctuality of Lord Randolph Churchill, who came to see the play the very next night with a party of men friends and arrived when the first act was over.
Lord Randolph was, all the same, a great admirer of Henry Irving. He confessed to him once that he had never read a play of Shakespeare’s in his life, but that after seeing Henry act he thought it was time to begin! A very few days later he pulverized us with his complete and masterly knowledge of at least half a dozen of the plays. He was a perfect person to meet at a dinner or supper—brilliantly entertaining, and queerly simple. He struck one as being able to master any subject that interested him, and once a Shakespeare performance at the Lyceum had fired his interest, there was nothing about that play, or about past performances of it, which he did not know! His beautiful wife (now Mrs. George Cornwallis West) wore a dress at supper one evening which gave me the idea for the Lady Macbeth dress, afterwards painted by Sargent. The bodice of Lady Randolph’s gown was trimmed all over with green beetles’ wings. I told Mrs. Comyns Carr about it, and she remembered it when she designed my Lady Macbeth dress and saw to its making by clever Mrs. Nettleship.
Lady Randolph Churchill by sheer force of beauty of face and expressiveness would, I venture to prophesy, have been successful on the stage if fate had ever led her to it.
The present Princess of Wales, when she was Princess May of Teck, used often to come to the Lyceum with her mother, Princess Mary, and to supper in the Beefsteak Room. In 1891 she chose to come as her birthday treat, which was very flattering to us.
A record of those Beefsteak Room suppers would be a pleasant thing to possess. I have such a bad memory—I see faces round the table—the face of Liszt among them—and when I try to think when it was, or how it was, the faces vanish as people might out of a room when, after having watched them through a dim window-pane, one determines to open the door—and go in.
Lady Dorothy Nevill, that distinguished lady of the old school—what a picture of a woman!—was always a fine theater-goer. Her face always cheered me if I saw it in the theater, and she was one of the most clever and amusing of the Beefsteak Room guests. As a hostess, sitting in her round chair, with her hair dressed to become her, irrespective of any period, leading this, that and the other of her guests to speak upon their particular subjects, she was simply the ideal.