Lavender is still associated in my mind with everything that is lovely and refined. My mother nearly always wore the color, and the Taylors lived at Lavender Sweep! This may not be an excellent reason for my feelings on the subject, but it is reason good enough.
“Nature repairs her ravages,” it is said, but not all. New things come into one’s life—new loves, new joys, new interests, new friends—but they cannot replace the old. When Tom Taylor died, I lost a friend the like of whom I never had again.
A YEAR WITH THE BANCROFTS
My engagement with the Bancrofts lasted a little over a year. After Portia there was nothing momentous about it. I found Clara Douglas difficult, but I enjoyed playing her. I found Mabel Vane easy, and I enjoyed playing her, too, although there was less to be proud of in my success here. Almost anyone could have “walked in” to victory on such very simple womanly emotion as the part demanded. At this time friends who had fallen in love with Portia used to gather at the Prince of Wales’s and applaud me in a manner more vigorous than judicious. It was their fault that it got about that I had hired a claque to clap me! Now, it seems funny, but at the time I was deeply hurt at the insinuation, and it cast a shadow over what would otherwise have been a very happy time.
It is the way of the public sometimes, to keep all their enthusiasm for an actress who is doing well in a minor part, and to withhold it from the actress who is playing the leading part. I don’t say for a minute that Mrs. Bancroft’s Peg Woffington in “Masks and Faces” was not appreciated and applauded, but I know that my Mabel Vane was received with a warmth out of all proportion to the merits of my performance, and that this angered some of Mrs. Bancroft’s admirers, and made them the bearers of ill-natured stories. Any unpleasantness that it caused between us personally was of the briefest duration. It would have been odd indeed if I had been jealous of her, or she of me. Apart from all else, I had met with my little bit of success in such a different field, and she was almost another Madame Vestris in popular esteem.
When I was playing Blanche Hayes in “Ours,” I nearly killed Mrs. Bancroft with the bayonet which it was part of the business of the play for me to “fool” with. I charged as usual; either she made a mistake and moved to the right instead of to the left, or I made a mistake. Anyhow, I wounded her in the arm. She had to wear it in a sling, and I felt very badly about it, all the more because of the ill-natured stories of its being no accident.
Miss Marie Tempest is perhaps the actress of the present day who reminds me a little of what Mrs. Bancroft was at the Prince of Wales’s, but neither nature nor art succeed in producing two actresses exactly alike. At her best Mrs. Bancroft was unapproachable. I think that the best thing I ever saw her do was the farewell to the boy in “Sweethearts.” It was exquisite!