Returning home thus encouraged, her dramatic studies were resumed with fresh ardor. The question of the New York project was anxiously debated in the family councils. It was at length decided that Mary Anderson should receive some regular training for the stage; and accompanied by her mother she was soon afterward on her way to the Empire City, full of happiness and pride that the dream of her life seemed now within reach of attainment. Vandenhoff was paid a hundred dollars for ten lessons, and taught his pupil mainly the necessary stage business. This was, strictly speaking. Mary Anderson’s only professional training for a dramatic career. The stories which have been current since her appearance in London, as to her having been a pupil of Cushman, or of other distinguished American artists, are entirely apocryphal, and have been evolved by the critics who have given them to the world out of that fertile soil, their own inner consciousness. There is certainly no circumstance in her career which reflects more credit on Mary Anderson than that her success, and the high position as an artist she has won thus early in life, are due to her own almost unaided efforts. Well may it be said of her—
“What merit to be dropped on fortune’s
The honor is to mount it.”
Early years on the stage.
Between eight and nine years ago, Mary Anderson made her debut at Louisville, in the home of her childhood, and before an audience, many of whom had known her from a child. This was how it came about. The season had not been very successful at Macaulay’s Theater, and one Milnes Levick, an English stock-actor of the company, happened to be in some pecuniary difficulties, and in need of funds to leave the town. The manager bethought him of Mary Anderson, and conceived the bold idea of producing “Romeo and Juliet,” with the untried young novice in the role of Juliet for poor Levick’s benefit. It was on a Thursday that the proposition was made to her by the manager at the theater, and the performance was to take place on the following Saturday. Mary, almost wild with delight, gave an eager acceptance if she could but obtain her parents’ consent. The passers-by turned many of them that day to look at the beautiful girl, who flew almost panting through the streets to reach her home. The bell handle actually broke in her impetuous eager hands. The answer was “Yes,” and at length the dream of her life was realized. On the following Saturday, the 27th of November, 1875, after only a single rehearsal, and wearing the borrowed costume of the manager’s wife, who happened to be about the same size as herself, and without the slightest “make up,” Mary Anderson appeared as one of Shakespeare’s favorite heroines. She was announced in the playbills thus:—
Juliet . .
By A Louisville young lady.
(Her first appearance on any stage.)