The Story of My Life eBook

Ellen Terry
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 455 pages of information about The Story of My Life.

Rachael’s sentiments were of the same type, I think.  “Back to the circus!” was his cry, not “Back to the land!”

I hope, when he felt the sawdust under his feet again (I think Charles Reade sent him back to the ring), he remembered his late master with gratitude.  To how many animals, and not only four-footed ones, was not Charles Reade generously kind, and to none of them more kind than to Ellen Terry.





The relation between author and actor is a very important element in the life of the stage.  It is the way with some dramatists to despise those who interpret their plays, to accuse us of ruining their creations, to suffer disappointment and rage because we do not, or cannot, carry out their ideas.

Other dramatists admit that we players can teach them something; but I have noticed that it is generally in “the other fellow’s” play that we can teach them, not in their own!

As they are necessary to us, and we to them, the great thing is to reduce friction by sympathy.  The actor should understand that the author can be of use to him; the author, on his side, should believe that the actor can be of service to the author, and sometimes in ways which only a long and severe training in the actor’s trade can discover.

The first author with whom I had to deal, at a critical point in my progress as an actress, was Charles Reade, and he helped me enormously.  He might, and often did, make twelve suggestions that were wrong; but against them he would make one that was so right that its value was immeasurable and unforgettable.

It is through the dissatisfaction of a man like Charles Reade that an actress learns—­that is, if she is not conceited.  Conceit is an insuperable obstacle to all progress.  On the other hand, it is of little use to take criticism in a slavish spirit and to act on it without understanding it.  Charles Reade constantly wrote and said things to me which were not absolutely just criticism; but they directed my attention to the true cause of the faults which he found in my performance, and put me on the way to mending them.

A letter which he wrote me during the run of “The Wandering Heir” was such a wonderful lesson to me that I am going to quote it almost in full, in the hope that it may be a lesson to other actresses—­“happy in this, they are not yet so old but they can learn”; unhappy in this, that they have never had a Charles Reade to give them a trouncing!

Well, the letter begins with sheer eulogy.  Eulogy is nice, but one does not learn anything from it.  Had dear Charles Reade stopped after writing “womanly grace, subtlety, delicacy, the variety yet invariable truthfulness of the facial expression, compared with which the faces beside yours are wooden, uniform dolls,” he would have done nothing to advance me in my art; but this was only the jam in which I was to take the powder!

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The Story of My Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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