The California trip may be said to close the first period of Mary Anderson’s dramatic career. With some draw-backs and some rebuffs she had made a great success, but she was known thus far only as a Western girl, who had yet to encounter the judgment of the more critical audiences of the South and East, as years later, with a reputation second to none all over the States as well as in Canada, she essayed, with a success which has been seldom equaled, perhaps never surpassed, the ordeal of facing, at the Lyceum, an audience, perhaps the most fastidious and critical in London.
The career of an American star.
Mary Anderson returned home from California disheartened and dispirited. To her it had proved anything but a Golden State. Her visit there was the first serious rebuff in her brief dramatic career whose opening months had been so full of promise, and even of triumph. She was barely seventeen, and a spirit less brave, or less confident in its own powers, might easily have succumbed beneath the storm of adverse criticism. Happily for herself, and happily too for the stage on both sides of the Atlantic, the young debutante took the lesson wisely to heart. She saw that the heights of dramatic fame could not be taken by storm; that her past successes, if brilliant, regard being had to her youth and want of training, were far from secure. She was like some fair flower which had sprung up warmed by the genial sunshine, likely enough to wither and die before the first keen blast. Her youth, her beauty, her undoubted dramatic genius, were points strongly in her favor; but these could ill counterbalance, at first at any rate, the want of systematic training, the almost total absence of any experience of the representation by others of the parts which she sought to make her own. She had seen Charlotte Cushman; indeed, in “Meg Merrilies,” but of the true rendering of a part so difficult and complex as Shakespeare’s Juliet, she knew absolutely nothing but what she had been taught by the promptings of her own artistic instinct. She was herself the only Juliet, as she was the only Bianca, and the only Evadne, she had ever seen upon any stage. In those days she had, perhaps, never heard the remark of Mademoiselle Mars, who was the most charming of Juliets at sixty. “Si j’avais ma jeunesse, je n’aurais pas mon talent.”
Coming back then to her Kentucky home from the ill-starred Californian trip, Mary Anderson seems to have determined to essay again the lowest steps of the ladder of fame. She took a summer engagement with a company, which was little else than a band of strolling players. The repertoire was of the usual ambitious character, and Mary was able to assume once more her favorite role of Juliet. The company was deficient in a Romeo, and the part was consequently undertaken