“What have you
to fear from me for such a masterly performance!
assured nobody can appreciate your value and Mr. Kelley’s as I do.
It is well played all round.”
EARLY DAYS AT THE LYCEUM
It is humiliating to me to confess that I have not the faintest recollection of “Brothers,” the play by Coghlan, in which I see by the evidence of an old play-bill that I made my first appearance under Mr. Hare’s management. I remember another play by Coghlan, in which Henry Kemble made one of his early appearances in the part of a butler, and how funny he was, even in those days, in a struggle to get rid of a pet monkey—a “property” monkey made of brown wool with no “devil” in it, except that supplied by the comedian’s imagination. We trusted to our acting, not to real monkeys and real dogs to bring us through, and when the acting was Henry Kemble’s, it was good enough to rely upon!
Charles Coghlan seems to have been consistently unlucky. Yet he was a good actor and a brilliant man. I always enjoyed his companionship; found him a pleasant, natural fellow, absorbed in his work, and not at all the “dangerous” man that some people represented him.
Within less than a month from the date of the production of “Brothers,” “New Men and Old Acres” was put into the Court bill. It was not a new play, but the public at once began to crowd to see it, and I have heard that it brought Mr. Hare L30,000. My part, Lilian Vavasour, had been played in the original production by Mrs. Kendal, but it had been written for me by Tom Taylor when I was at the Haymarket, and it suited me very well. The revival was well acted all round. Charles Kelly was splendid as Mr. Brown, and Mr. Hare played a small part perfectly.
H.B. Conway, a young actor whose good looks were talked of everywhere, was also in the cast. He was a descendant of Lord Byron’s, and had a look of the handsomest portraits of the poet. With his bright hair curling tightly all over his well-shaped head, his beautiful figure, and charming presence, Conway created a sensation in the ’eighties almost equal to that made by the more famous beauty, Lillie Langtry.
As an actor he belonged to the Terriss type, but he was not nearly as good as Terriss. Of his extraordinary failure in the Lyceum “Faust” I shall say something when I come to the Lyceum productions.
After “New Men and Old Acres,” Mr. Hare tried a posthumous play by Lord Lytton—“The House of Darnley.” It was not a good play, and I was not good in it, although the pleasant adulation of some of my friends has made me out so. The play met with some success, and during its run Mr. Hare commissioned Wills to write “Olivia.”
I had known Wills before this through the Forbes-Robertsons. He was at one time engaged to one of the girls, but it was a good thing it ended in smoke. With all his charm, Wills was not cut out for a husband. He was Irish all over—the strangest mixture of the aristocrat and the sloven. He could eat a large raw onion every night like any peasant, yet his ideas were magnificent and instinct with refinement.