We had young men in the cast, too. There was one very studious youth who could never be caught loafing. He was always reading, or busy in the greenroom studying by turns the pictures of past actor-humanity with which the walls were peopled, or the present realities of actors who came in and out of the room. Although he was so much younger then, Mr. Pinero looked much as he does now. He played Rosencrantz very neatly. Consummate care, precision, and brains characterized his work as an actor always, but his chief ambition lay another way. Rosencrantz and the rest were his school of stage-craft.
Kyrle Bellew, the Osric of the production, was another man of the future, though we did not know it. He was very handsome, a tremendous lady-killer! He wore his hair rather long, had a graceful figure, and a good voice, as became the son of a preacher who had the reputation of saying the Lord’s Prayer so dramatically that his congregation sobbed.
Frank Cooper, a descendant of the Kembles, another actor who has risen to eminence since, played Laertes. It was he who first led me onto the Lyceum stage. Twenty years later he became my leading man on the first tour I took independently of Henry Irving since my tours with my husband, Charles Kelly.
WORK AT THE LYCEUM
When I am asked what I remember about the first ten years at the Lyceum, I can answer in one word: Work. I was hardly ever out of the theater. What with acting, rehearsing, and studying—twenty-five reference books were a “simple coming-in” for one part—I sometimes thought I should go blind and mad. It was not only for my parts at the Lyceum that I had to rehearse. From August to October I was still touring in the provinces on my own account. My brother George acted as my business manager. His enthusiasm was not greater than his loyalty and industry. When we were playing in small towns he used to rush into my dressing-room after the curtain was up and say excitedly:
“We’ve got twenty-five more people in our gallery than the Blank Theater opposite!”
Although he was very delicate, he worked for me like a slave. When my tours with Mr. Kelly ended in 1880 and I promised Henry Irving that in future I would go to the provincial towns with him, my brother was given a position at the Lyceum, where, I fear, his scrupulous and uncompromising honesty often got him into trouble. “Perks,” as they are called in domestic service, are one of the heaviest additions to a manager’s working expenses, and George tried to fight the system. He hurt no one so much as himself.